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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Over Achieving – Too Much of a Good Thing


I enjoy writing. I enjoy writing so much so that, if I am not careful, I will overdo thus bringing myself to a point where I find myself sitting at my desk, coke in one hand, Twinkie in the other…doing….nothing at all.

We writers have to be very careful about how much we take on. I am a freelance writer as well as a novelist and there are times when I over extend. I will accept a job knowing darn well that I have one book to edit, one book I am writing and 12 other articles in the hopper. Do I stop, rearrange and then say, sorry…there’s no way I can do all of this? No…I do all of it, even if it means working through the weekend. I need to stop doing this and if you are like me…so do you.

Just because you enjoy writing doesn’t mean you should be doing it 24-7. I am often a writer first and a person second knowing it is not supposed to work that way. I have a full life, a spouse, two young kids at home, one about to graduate high school, a boomerang kid (23 years old) who came home recently with his family of four, an older son who is thinking of moving home while he gets on his feet, two young grandkids all while working for several magazines, writing a book, editing a book and trying to stay sane. It isn’t always easy handling these things and so I tend to “hide” in my writing, taking on a lot so that I can use the excuse that I am writing to skirt everything else. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work…the extra writing just adds to the stress.

It is important to always pace yourself as a writer. Don’t be afraid to tell people no or that a project may have to wait. It is easier to tell that publisher to wait than it is to fight with the night nurse at the hospital because you ended up there with a heart attack. (They don’t make midnight snack runs and the meanest nurses are on at night…trust me) You are only human and we humans only have so much we can give right? I can go for a while at break-neck speeds but eventually it catches up with me as it will you.

Take the time to set your schedule in a way you can see it so that you don’t mistakenly over extend. Be mindful of what you have already taken on and set your deadlines in a way that is “you friendly”. And finally, despite the fact that you enjoy writing, understand that you can burn out no matter how much you love it. Pace yourself….in the end you’ll be saner for it.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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That’s it! I am not Reading Ever Again!


No silly…not me…but recently I had a writer friend tell me this because he was so outraged that Kindles and Nooks have replaced actual books for a lot of people. He was outraged…outraged in the way you should be when someone torches your beach home…it was more than a little overboard in my opinion.

So what is my opinion when it comes to Kindles, Nooks, iPads and the like? Should e-readers replace paper books? This is a question I get asked all the time. I guess because I am a writer it is supposed to make me some kind of paper book loving radical but it doesn’t….e-books are kind of exciting as far as I am concerned…if you don’t think so…you might be old….or just plain stubborn.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a certain loyalty when it comes to books. I grew up reading those little bound paper collections, often in the dark, after bedtime, with a flashlight; I love books. But let’s call the e-readers what they are…advancement…the future of books…not the end of books. I have never understood the hollering folks are doing about electronic books being the end of books in general. I don’t know when the last time you picked one up was, but my iPad and my Kindle (yes I have both) use a program that, when I turn them on, tada….the novel that comes up looks like…oh my…a book!  E-readers aren’t killing reading unless all those naysayers who claim loyalty to paper products stop reading because of a stubborn makes-no-sense idea that somehow reading on anything else is not reading. Seriously….

So how do I really feel about e-readers? Well….

  • I can carry around my entire library any time I want.
  • I have a backlight on my e-readers so I don’t have to worry about book lights at night.
  • I can see a book while I am out or be discussing one at dinner and instantly purchase it.
  • E-readers are getting better and better at what they do as they are being developed and that’s cool.
  • I have the Kindle software on my iPad, my computer, my phone, my Galaxy Tab…oh yeah…and my Kindle…so I can read anywhere, anytime.

I think technology is cool and anything that lights up or makes my life easier is okay with me. I am also handicapped (in a wheel chair most of the time) so being able to carry a Kindle as opposed to four paperbacks is great! Do I still buy paper books? Yes I do, because there are still some publishers who aren’t converting to e-readers. Do I think that e-readers are going to kill reading or hurt writers? No, absolutely not…I think that there are some bugs to work out but in the end I think that writers are going to enjoy a wider audience because of e-publishing. I also think that we, as a society, are going to be subjected to a lot more crap writing but that’s the price you pay for being more accessible.

Grow people and stop seeing technology as the big bad of the reading and writing world. Instead seize the opportunity and run with it….get your work out there and get it into the hands of more people…it’s simple math the way I see it…better technology=more readers=more money…..simple.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

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The Very Definition of a Fiction Writer – One Who Makes Crap Up (according to my daughter)


My 11 year old daughter recently had an assignment given in class that required her to write about what her parents do for a living. My spouse is a nurse…that was easy enough. But when it came to defining what I did for a living she was perplexed. I was going to help her out with it until I realized that it was just as important for her to define what I do herself as it was for me to see what it was that she thought I actually did. I should have helped her.

Her questionnaire on my spouse looked like this;

Job: Nurse

What does your parent do: Helps people and saves lives. (twice this year my spouse has been instrumental in ensuring someone made it through a heart attack…this really impressed the rest of us)

What do you think is exciting about your parents’ job: Get to save lives, and draw blood like a vampire.

Overall impression: It’s a cool job.

Her Questionnaire on what I do looked like this;

Job: Writer

Most does your parent do: Makes up crap

What do you think is exciting about your parents’ job: Nothing, it looks boring.

Overall impression: I’d rather do anything else…I hate to write.

Yep…in the coolness realm I totally get an “F” from my 11 year old for being a writer. (My sons, however, they tell people that I kill people for a living…so I guess once you get to be a teenager it’s at least fun to use for the surprise factor.) I know that she loves me and that she realizes on some level that what I do pays some of the bills…but because it is so hard to “see” what I do…it was hard for her to define. I didn’t take offense…she’s 11…but it does bother me a little that there are a lot of adults out there who think that I don’t do much for a living either.

So, why share all of this? I want you writers out there to be proud of what you do even if your 11 year old thinks that you just “make crap up”. What we do is timeless if we do it correctly. Our work will long outlast the accountants, the bureaucrats and the house painters of the world and there will come a day when your kids will appreciate what you do. My adult sons have copies of my books and they often speak about proud they are now that they are adults…although…I think I still hear them say from time to time that I “make up crap” for a living…that’s okay…at least I make a living….and that’s something they can be proud of.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Business of Writing, Writing

 

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If you don’t write…Your Fingers will have nothing to live for….


Writing…for writers…is about so much more that the act of writing. Any yahoo can write, but a writer…now that is a different kind of animal. A writer HAS to write. A writer has NO choice. A writer writes with every part of their being.

I have been a writer for over 30 years…which is interesting since I am only 27…ahem… Writing is all I have ever known. I tried to do other jobs…I was a bartender, I worked for an answering service…I worked at a liquor store…I worked at a 7-11 for two whole days…I tried other stuff; but the writing always came back around. It was like I had been cursed with this malady that would never go away.

Even when I wanted to do something else because writing had frustrated me, I couldn’t get away. I would take a job doing everything but writing and end up writing in that very same job. Case in point…I took a job with DHSH in California answering phones…within two weeks I was designing their information pamphlets. I once took a job at a hotel, working the front desk…in a week I was head of their marketing department and designing menus for the hotel restaurant…it was just crazy…I couldn’t NOT write.

I am not unusual; (at least not in that way) all writers can’t help but write. Here are a couple of ways to tell if you are an actual writer and not just someone who happens to write….

  • If you find yourself looking for a scape of paper in a bar to write down something the bartender said while being hit on by a pretty girl…you are probably a writer.
  • If you sit at the dinner table tapping your fingers as though there is a keyboard in front of you because you have to eat at the dinner table tonight…you are probably a writer.
  • If your butt is in the permanent shape of your office chair…you are probably a writer.
  • If your spouse looks bored or their eyes glaze over when you are telling them what happened in the 7-11 parking lot (because it is a two hour story now)…you are probably a writer.
  • If your Christmas list includes things like, pens, notebooks, Twinkies, a flask and printer ink…you are probably a writer.
  • If you heard the phrase lap dance and got excited because you thought your friend got a new lap desk…you are probably a writer.
  • If you are glad that Bluetooth headsets have come out because, now, no one will realize that you are actually talking to yourself in the car…you are probably a writer.
  • If you are keeping track of the people you have killed over the years and it I so detailed that the FBI might get involved if they find it…you are probably a writer. (or a very stupid serial killer)
  • If you find your mind taking notes during sex and then you use that experience for a book…you are probably a writer. (a divorced writer if you admit to it, but still a writer)

If any of these things describe you stop apologizing to everyone for writing at the least opportune times and stop making excuses for your writing because, frankly, you can’t help it. A true writer is a person who can’t help but write and when they try not to…writing finds them. It’s okay…the world needs us to tell their stories…no matter where we try and hide. So sit down at that keyboard and wear the badge that says “writer” proudly….yes, it’s a compulsion, yes, you can’t help it, but, damn it…it’s who you are so enjoy it.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Writing

 

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Reset Sunday – Just Hangin Out Alone


How much time do you spend alone? No, not writing, not editing…just by yourself….I hardly spend any time alone at all and, to be honest….I could use more of it.

Time alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. We live in a world where everything demands our time. As writers, this can get even worse because not only do you have real, honest to Pete, living, breathing people demanding your time but there are those characters too…the ones you breathe life into.  A writers’ time can get cramped really fast. We need time to ourselves to do whatever for our health.

Personally, I have something going on right now 24 hours a day. I have extra people in the house, I have a son graduating, I have a pre-teen daughter whom we may need an exorcist for soon…there is a lot going on. When the weekend comes I often feel guilty for NOT wanting to spend more time with the family…but I have to put that where it goes…I need time too.

Today I am going to go for a walk and then maybe for a drive…alone….I won’t spend too much time away because then my spouse feels neglected and there is all new drama to deal with BUT, I will take a moment or two just to be…for a minute…alone. I will also do some meditating a bit later outside in the backyard, away from the noise. I have to…for my own peace of mind.

Its Reset Sunday and you know what that means….you have a writer’s obligation to take some time to do something that helps you reset your body, mind and spirit for the coming week. So today your mission, if you choose to accept it…and you should, is to take a bit of time alone. Not be lonely but to be alone with your thoughts and your psyche… You have all week long to be with other people…both real and imagined… (that sounds bad) so take a moment on Reset Sunday to be with the person you need to pay attention to most …you. (Trust me…you deserve it)

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

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The Importance of a Good Writing Partner


Let’s talk writing partners….not the ones who actually help you by writing along with you…but the other ones…the ones who stay married to you or living with you despite the fact that you are a driven, harried, neurotic human being with a keyboard in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other. Yeah, THAT writing partner.

I have a wonderful spouse. No matter how crazy I get, no matter how many times I announce that I am losing it and am a horrible writer who obviously couldn’t pen a good cereal box description…my spouse sticks it out. Let’s face it, most of us writers are whiny and seriously parked in the handicapped zone of self-loathing much of the time. We need a person to balance us out. This is why two writers can’t live together…can you imagine…it would be neurotic chaos.

My spouse serves as my editor,  makes sure I eat my veggies, runs interference when others don’t observe my writing time, makes me go to bed when I am knee deep in a story that is obviously frustrating me more than getting written AND tells me I am a good writer most days. (Although some days my spouse reads a passage, looks at me and says, it’s a good thing you don’t do drugs…neither do most of your readers…rewrite it.) My writing partner makes sure that the writer in me is cared for; I couldn’t ask for better.

Having the support of a spouse or significant other is important. I do realize that there are some single writers out there…hang in there…your day will come…but for the rest of you…if you have a good writing partner in your significant other…good for you. You really can’t beat the support of someone else in your life who feels like you are as important to them as your writing is to you. Take a moment today and hug that person in your life that supports your crazy writing schedule, listens to your moments of self-doubt and feeds you when you are hunched over the keyboard….the process of being a writer would be so much harder without them.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
 

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My Writing is driving me Crazy!


Ever have one of those books that just drive you nuts? You know the story…you had an idea, it was a great idea, but once you started writing the idea got further and further away from you until the idea is a tiny little speck on the universe that is your writing mind? I’m there right now and it sucks.

I started the story I am currently working on in 1987….yep, 25 years ago. I never finished it, so it never published. I figured I’d haul it out and revisit it. Problem is, times have changed and for me to make this a viable, sellable story, I’d have to practically rewrite the entire thing. The core of the story is still good, the characters are still fresh, but the storyline details would need a lot of tweaking. Still, I want to finish it. Why? Because I am a writer and writers, by nature, are gluttons for punishment in the worse way.

There is another reason why I need to finish this book too….I need to finish it. For me, this story is a loose end in my writing world. The characters in the story are standing around, waiting for something to happen, waiting for me…I have to show up, otherwise they have no closure and frankly, neither do I. Every writer has one or two stories that they spend their writing lives chasing down…my current work is one of mine. I know I will finish it, but right now I am trying to force myself to finish it and that isn’t working. So what is a writer to do…with a runaway story…that demands an ending…but won’t get up and go there? Here are a couple of ideas that other writers have offered;

Put it back away – One of my writer friends told me the other day to just put the book back in the drawer. While some times that is a good idea, this story has already been “away” for 25 years. I’m not sure this will work for me but, maybe it will for those who have less drawer time on a story.

Change the main character – I like this idea but it is a lot harder than it sounds. As a writer, you invest a great deal in your main character…to change mine now, changes the entire story. I won’t do this but, it might work for a newer story.

Update the story – This one I may go with. The original story takes place in 1987….if I bring my characters into 2012; it might help put a cap on it. It will take a lot of rewrite but perhaps this is what I need.

Throw the whole damn thing away – This is out of the question for me. I have invested too much in the story to let it go and I know that it is a good piece. But if you have a newer story…this could be an option for you.

These are all good pieces of advice and I may use one or even two of them, however, in the end, it has to be my decision because it is, after all, my story and that can be very personal. One thing is for sure, I put this story down for far too long and if there is a lesson to be learned from my frustration…that’s it…don’t wait 25 years to revisit a story. If too much time flies by it is hard to recover.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Plot, Revision, Writing

 

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