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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Read to Me Baby………………….


I discovered a nifty new piece of software that I am just over the moon about. (Okay, I admit it…that was the dumbest saying EVER….I had to try) This piece of software does something that has put a new little spin on my editing process. It reads to me.

The software is for the iPad and it’s called Write & Say. I cut and paste a piece of my work into this little baby and just like that I have a woman (or man, you can pick) reading what I just wrote to me as though she (or he) were reading my actual manuscript. Coolest….thing….ever…..

Now, before you panic because you don’t own an iPad, don’t despair…there are other versions of this software for the MAC, PC, Kindle and any other number of gadgets that yanked all that money out of your wallet. All you have to do is locate it on the internet and most of them are downloadable for free. Here’s the thing, this is a great tool for all you writers out there. I know that MS Word has always kind of had a text reader but it was always stiff and the words always sounded like Robby the Robot was reading them. The Write & Say program is smoother and sounds more like an actual reader. I like it because it gives me a chance to see how my work actually sounds to a reader.

Those of you who follow me know that I am a huge gadget guy. Anything that can make my work easier, I am all for it. This little cheap piece of software ($1 on iTunes) makes the grade in terms of helpful-little-cheap-software-I-can’t-live-without.

Again, there are other text readers out there but this is by far the coolest with the little switch that allows your reader to have a British accent. (Everything sounds better in a British accent, try ordering a hot dog some time in one…I swear they will give you extra mustard without you having to ask) Its fun and it’s helpful in terms of being able to listen to your manuscript. Being able to listen to your manuscript, by the way will help with a number of things, not the least of which is your sense of rhythm within your story.

So take the time today to download a text reader and give it a try. I’m telling you its fun…and it’s alright if you get a little goofy and type in cuss words too….I won’t tell anyone.

 

 

© 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 June 30, 2012 in Writing Tools

 

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My Feelings….OMG…My Feeling…..


If you read the title of today’s blog and you didn’t feel totally stupid…you should have. Unless you are 2 years old and dad just ran over your favorite truck with the backhoe, you really have to let this phrase go if you are going to be a writer.

I get my feelings hurt from time to time. And sometimes it doesn’t even have to do with who may have drunk my last beer. Sometimes it has to do with something I wrote. Imagine that, a grown-up…smittering over some stupid verbiage…..what’s the world coming to?

The world of writers revolves around emotion. The very stories that we write have to be fraught with emotion because, if they aren’t, they aren’t very good stories. Emotion is the target for those of us bearing a pen and wielding it like a Ginsu Knife in the middle of a Chainsaw Massacre family reunion. Emotion is what sells, emotion is what leads the stories that we write down the path of, oh-I’ve-read-that… We NEED emotion BUT…..wait for it….wait for it…we don’t have to BE the emotion.

Yes emotion is important but if we allow emotion to take over our work and even our lives, we will accomplish nothing except finding a new way to blow our noses on printer paper. Writing is hard but criticism is harder….it will hurt at times. Having to pass up a family get together because you have to write…it will also hurt at times. Missing a movie you really wanted to see because you have editing to do…well even that hurts to some degree but I’m here to tell you…get over it. We writers need to learn to USE our emotion not be enslaved to it. If you run around telling everyone how much your “feelings” hurt, how the heck are you gonna get anything done?

So be friends with emotion, talk to emotion, hell even jump into bed with emotion from time to time…but once you’re through with it…walk away to feel another day. Our emotions are important but keeping them in check is essential to becoming a better writer.

 

 

© 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 June 29, 2012 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

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Remember Me…I Was a Really Good Writer


Nora Ephron put her best writing foot forward. She wrote, turned that into books, screen plays, scripts, movies and even a column where she bashed other idiot columnist who had no clue what they were talking about. She put her best out there and even though she “Hail Mary-ed” a few times, for the most part, her stuff was all really, really good. Nora passed away yesterday at 71 but that’s not the most important part of her life…her writing was.

So what’s my point, you may be asking. Well, I wanted to send props out to Nora of course, but I also wanted to use her passing to make a point about us writers….writing is our legacy and we can’t forget that…ever. Our writing is what we do throughout our lives and it is also who we are, but it is also what we leave behind. One of the really cool things about writing is that it stays in the atmosphere long after these bodies we are borrowing, for the short time we are here on the planet, have become worm food. The writing lives on and that is really something to be proud of.

I make a point to keep a journal for my kids. I want them to know, someday, after I have joined the rest of the energy in the Universe, that I was human. I went through a lot of the things they did and it mattered. In today’s hurry-up-and-do-everything-fast world, we hardly really get to truly know anyone, including our kids. I think leaving a record behind is a good thing…it will one day help people understand a little bit of me, just as I hope my writing will do.

So keeping that in mind, we, as writers, need to make sure that what we leave behind is our best. I know, I know, I have a few stinkers in the hopper too but that is okay, those stickers will fall away if we write other things that are better. My advice to you all is, don’t hold back….write and write a lot and write well. Someday, someone will look back on your work and that is important, even if we aren’t Nora Ephron.

© 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 June 27, 2012 in Writing

 

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The Buck Stops Here…No There…Wait…Over There….No…Hang On Darn It…That’s my Money


Writers write and we hate to ask for money. No…come on now…stop shaking your head…you know it’s true. We are, by nature, wimps when it comes to asking to get paid. We’ll give you a quote (usually way under bid), we’ll do the work, but when it comes to asking for the money…I’ll meet you in the Top Ramen isle.

I am horrible at asking clients for money. I don’t have a problem doing the work but when it comes to putting a price on it, forget about it…I suck. I’m not sure if we writers do this because we are embarrassed to ask for money for our work or if we are ultimately afraid of rejection more than starving, but we all do it. I know plenty of writers who could have written their own ticket during the sale of a book only to have walked away with so little that it hardly paid for the cab fare to get to the publishing house and back home. It is frustrating.

We do the work but there are a number of reasons we don’t actually expect the money that a story is worth. I have several reasons:

I don’t like asking for money – For me the money part is the prostitution part of the business. I feel kinda dirty asking.

I am afraid of rejection – I am always afraid that I will set a price and the client will scoff at me and then laugh with his fellow employees after I leave. Kind of a “what-the-hell-was-he-thinking kind of a thing.

I am never sure how much to ask – Setting a price on a piece of work is tough. In my mind, it’s priceless so how am I going to set a price less than a gazillion dollars?

I am afraid I won’t get the job – I tend to underbid in fear that another writer will come along and grab the assignment out from under me. I will often bid a project and actually call back to lower the price. (I know….I’m an idiot right?)

Whatever your reason for having a hard time with the money aspect, I get it. I understand what the problem is and so do a lot of other writers even though they won’t admit it. We all want that grand payday but we also all have to eat. It’s what makes us grab the measly $25 bucks for the 500 word article and run like hell….fear sucks. The thing we, as writers, have to do is get over the fear and set a price that will allow is to at least buy tacos instead of tuna and cheap mayo. If we start stating our worth within our prices the money will flow to us instead of away from us. Clients will catch on eventually and you can move on up to steak….trust me.

 

 

 

© 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 June 27, 2012 in Business of Writing

 

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The 7 Deadly Sins of the Writer


Okay, let’s start by agreeing that, to some degree, sinning is fun. Maybe not altogether right, but fun just the same. Here we aren’t talking about that kind of sinning. Here we are talking about the kind of sinning that can kill a writing career. We all do them from time to time but just like regular sinning, i.e. greed, murder, sloth….all that stuff…(I don’t keep up on what the actual big 7 are, the less I know, the less likely I am to…well…you understand…) if you do them too much…well all hell will break loose.

 

 

 

Here are the 7 deadly sins of writing:

  1. Not Writing – No doubt the biggest sin a writer can commit is, well, not writing. We all do this from time to time. I am notorious for getting involved in other things and allowing my writing to fall by the wayside. (What is the wayside by the way?)  The only way to be a writer is to write. So not writing…huge sin!
  2. Not being Honest – Not being honest, especially with yourself, is so self-defeating for a writer. In the words of country singer Kenny Rogers (whom my mother still pines for) you gotta know when to hold em and know when to throw them away. If we aren’t honest about how our writing is going, we are wasting our time.
  3. Throwing punctuation to the wind – Let’s be honest here…(see number 2) punctuation is important no matter how you choose to write. I know, I know, what about that artsy fartsy way that folks are writing these days, you know, without the proper punctuation? Honestly? (see number 2) It’s crap. Some critic somewhere said, hey this is cool and others followed like lemmings over the cliff. Punctuation is important folks…use it.
  4. Not sticking up for yourself – Okay, I know…many of you are tilting your head sideways at this one and saying, “huh?” Hear me out…we, are writers, work hard and we work long hours trying to do what we do. Most people don’t get this. Ask my family…I have a son who thinks that he can drop his kids off with gramps any time because I work at home. The other day my middle son had the nerve to tell me how tired he was from bagging groceries for 6 hours when all I did was sit and write. My 12 year old daughter is pretty sure that whenever she needs something she can waltz into my office and announce that need and I am supposed to drop everything and make it so. These folks think that I am the Sulu of the household. (Star Trek reference there for the clueless or very young) It’s frustrating and one of the worse things I can do is give in. Once you give in, it’s all over. When everyone else is poo-pooing what you do…tell them to cut it out.
  5. Not believing in your work – Here is the thing, as with anything else; if you don’t believe in your work it will turn out to be crap. You, the writer, have to believe that the stories you tell are the stories people need to hear. You have to believe in what you do, if you don’t know one else will either. Be your own cheering section.
  6. Organize damn it – One of the worse things you can do to yourself is ignore organization. I truly believe that God (disclaimer here…or whatever you believe in) had a pie chart, a white board, an outline and backstories for everything already done before he ever said let there be light. He’d have to right? Not being organized and throwing everything on the table hoping that it will resemble something is just plain ignorant. Organize your writing life and it will love you for it as well as be productive.
  7. Not living like a writer – This is by far, in my mind, the largest of the 7 sins. I am here to tell you folks, if you don’t live like a writer, you’ll never be a writer. What do I mean by “live like a writer”? Simple, guys who are cops live the life of a cop. You won’t find them hanging out in the bad parts of town picking up hookers….they are cops for Pete’s sake. Medical people live the life of medical folks…choking in a restaurant? A medical person will save your behind no matter what happens because they are compelled to. You are a writer…don’t make excuses for it…do it and then make people respect it by respecting it yourself. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m a writer”…sure most folks follow that answer up with a look of skepticism but I don’t care…it’s what I do, it’s who I am…and I dare anyone to argue the point with me. You have to be like that too. I love book stores; buying pens and software that makes my writing more productive and that’s okay…I’m a writer. So put up all that writing stuff in your home office and watch The Shipping News as many times as you want….it’s okay.

These are the 7 deadly sins and trust me; if you continually breech any of them…you will fail as a writer. Take heed fellow writers…if you are a writer and you are not doing it…you will actually go to hell…well the writer’s hell anyways…the one where the world passes you by while you sit drowning in your beer watching someone else get published.

© 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 June 25, 2012 in Writing

 

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Reset Sunday – DON’T DO IT MAN! DON’T KILL THE PLAN!


We writers are planners. We have to be to some degree because we are, after all, creating whole new worlds. It is easy though to get caught up in all of the “planning” and forget that we need time off too. I have often found myself planning for time off only to “kill” that plan just before it happens….my advice to you….stop that!

We have Reset Sundays because, as writers, we do tend to plan everything out and we need one day with no actual plans. All I ever count on for Sundays is that I might, possibly, maybe, sort of get out of bed, but if I don’t, that’s okay too….it’s Reset Sunday after all.

I don’t know about all of you but my normal work day involves getting up at the butt crack of dawn, sitting down at my desk for eight hours (although I do have a clock set on my desk top for forced breaks and feedings) and then laying back down after the vampires are out. I can’t help it really…writing is what I do and this is the way my soul has chosen to do it. It is because of this that Sundays are so important but if I am killing my plan not to make plans…well…then I am cheating the writer in me of the chance to reconnect with the fact that, while I am writing, there is a whole other world out there just going about its business. It is my chance to remind my spouse of what I look like (and how annoying I can be) and it gives my kids a chance to stop referring to me as the parent who is actually kind of a desk.

If you don’t stick to any of your plans…stick to the Reset Sunday one because you need it as a human being as well as a writer. Plan for Reset Sundays and then actually do it…..the writer in you, and your family, will thank you 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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Just the Tip of the Tips


Editor’s Note: Due to a computer glitch. (i.e. I drank with an old buddy and was too tired to write yesterday…) This is yesterday’s column today. Today’s column will also be posted.

Writing tips are a dime a dozen. Well with inflation over the years they are more like $100 a dozen but still, there are at least as many writing tips out there as there are writers. First off, we all learn as we go, second, we are writers, so we love to share and third…well what does third matter…any way you lay it out we, as writers are advice-ist (new word alert) we like to help where we can.

The following are some of the writing tips that my fellow writers have imparted upon me over the years, whether it came from some friend who writes or some editor screaming it in my face…all of these little tidbits are worth noting.

1. Pay attention to punctuation- We all know how a misplaced commas or period came make a reader crazy. Rather than push some poor guy over the edge with a comma in the wrong place, why not just pay extra attention and not make stupid punctuation mistakes. When you do make these mistakes, no one will ever let you forget.

2. Try not to edit while you’re writing your piece through the first time. Creating and editing are not bedfellows; in fact, if you allow them to get into bed together your novel will leave and never come back due to the trauma. Writers who try to edit and write at the same time, often find that they never actually finish the story. Write first, then edit.

4. Learn the rules of good writing… then learn how to break them….a lot. I know, I know…the rules are there for a reason…but the long and short of it is that someone, somewhere, put those rules into place because they made sense to them. Don’t go all crazy with the rules; I mean stick to the basics, but don’t stay so steadfast that you take all the fun out of writing.

5. Learn to take criticism. Now let me be honest on this one and say that, I hate criticism, especially from a non-writer. The times over the years when I have had actual dreams about doing away with someone, it has been some yahoo that has never written a word novel-wise but had the gonads to tell me that something I have written “needed work”. I hate those people. But I do appreciate the criticism of my fellow creative folks. Criticism is a fact of life for those of us who write down what is in our heads and then show it to other people. You can be like the woman who asks how she looks or the guy who wants to know what “long enough” is…people are never honest with those people for a good reason. You have to be willing to hear the truth and handle it. (no that’s not a Jack Nicolson reference…but it could be)

These are just a few tips I have picked up along the way….trust me there are a crapload more out there. While I think it is a good idea to pay attention to writing tips, don’t get overwhelmed by them either. Pick and choose what you use and throw the others back.

© 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 June 24, 2012 in Writing

 

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