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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Moody Writer Vs. the Writer’s Mood


Moods…oh how I wish they would not dictate how I feel about whether or not I will write today. But let’s be honest, they do. I am one of those writers who has to have a mood that is “Goldielocks”, not to good, not too bad…my mood has to be just right. Or at least I used to think so, until I realized that I wasn’t getting much done and that would just not do.

As a writer, mood swings is something that we have to master. I’m not saying that we have to figure out how NOT to have them; I mean we have to figure out how to make them work for us. If we don’t, we won’t do much writing because, let’s face it, most people’s moods change like the March wind…all the time and wildly in different directions.

I have learned to make whatever mood I am in work for my writing instead of against. If I am in a dark mood, so is my story. If I am angry, someone in my story is going to take a beating. (or lose their lottery ticket) If I am sad, my characters tend to be more emotional so I work within that framework. The bottom line is that our characters are supposed to be real people and real people have mood swings so why not just use what we are feeling and make them more “realer”. (I wrote it down so it is now an actual word now…ah ha!)

The thing is, writers are naturally emotional beings so to assume that we will have wild mood swings from time to time is not a far leap, but if we take the days’ mood and use it to our advantage, we win! So when you get up in the morning, rather than trying to make yourself fit into the writer mood you “think” you should be in, try writing to your mood. This morning I was an angry writer because one of my sons did something stupid. Right now I’m a relaxed writer because I am home alone and it is quiet for the first time in a month. Who knows what kind of writer I will be an hour from now, but whatever it is, I will make it work for me and not the other way around.

 

 

© 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 August 30, 2012 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

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Editing Gone Wild…No Sir, I Won’t Change that…….


Editors can be your best friend or the guy that you want to beat to death with your kids LEGOLAND sky scraper or Transformer Bumble Bee, which ever happens to be closest. It all really depends on a few things, how well the editor “gets” you, how good an editor they are and how adapt you are at saying “no thank you”. With these traits in tow, an editor can be the Chainsaw Massacre guy and he’d still be a good editor. (Horrible party guest but good editor)

I have a writer friend who has an editor she hates. Clyde (let’s call him Clyde) has been her editor for over 20 years. Yep, you heard me correctly; she has hated Clyde for over 20 years…. Now you may be asking, why they crap would she still have Clyde as an editor if she has hated him all this time? I know, I ask this every time my friend goes on yet another rant about just how bad Clyde is. She says he cuts the good parts, he doesn’t listen to her, he tries to rewrite her work, he is a pompous ass most of the time…AND he likes Cosmos. (How dare he) I could go on, but you get the picture. My friend really “hates” Clyde…yet…here they still are, 20 years later…why?

The truth is, Clyde has the important three things I mentioned in the first paragraph…Clyde gets her. He understands that my writer friend is an impossible drama queen who happens to be a good writer. She needs an editor who will take her wrath and turn the other cheek, Clyde does. She also needs an editor who is good and Clyde is a good editor. He knows where a piece needs to be reworked and he can get my friend to change it. (That takes talent all in and of itself) Finally, and perhaps more importantly, Clyde gets the word no when my friend says it and means it. There are a lot of editors out there who don’t get the word no. It’s like being in a relationship with a stubborn child, you say no and they stick their tongue out and cut it anyways. There is nothing worse than getting your galley copies back to find changes that you did not approve. When Clyde hears “no, absolutely not”, he gets it and leaves well enough alone. Clyde is a good editor.

In the writing landscape, editors are the cops on Segway’s following you around making sure that you don’t get yourself into so much trouble that you end up in the prison that is the slush pile. They are there to help you but they have to be good editors who follow the guidelines. There are a lot of editors out there who don’t follow these rules and they will end up leading your work astray. Know that, editors don’t always know best. Sometimes the writer knows best but then, that relationship should be a partnership in the first place. Your editor should be working with you, not trying to “fix” you. So before you go following the advice of an editor, make sure that they too know what they are doing, “get you” and understand the word no. If not…go looking for another editor…your writing soul mate is out there somewhere, 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 August 29, 2012 in Edting

 

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Look Universe….I’m Paying Attention!


Life is messy. This has never been so evident for me as it is right now. We have had a hectic year with grown children coming and going, grandkids introduced to the household then ripped away, gas prices, food prices, and prices in general, raising so much that, there are times when I have to make decisions between my medicine and food for the family. It’s enough to make you scream, and not write.

There is a silver lining too. This year has taught me a lot about myself and my writing. I believe that, for all the strife, I am also a better person and creative. There were lessons and I am finally at an age where I am actually taking note of those lessons. (When you are younger and in the, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do mode, let’s be honest, the lessons often fall on deaf ears) I wanted to share some of those lessons, or realizations if you will, as they relate to my writing. Here are 10 things this year has taught me so far and how they have made me a better writer.

1. Perfection cannot be obtained –Trying to be the perfect writer takes something away from the process. It makes us feel inferior and desperate to “do better” instead of always doing our best. There is no perfect novel in the terms set forth by the industry, there is only unique and unique is good; it’s what we should all strive for.

2. Writing is an individual thing- There is also no perfect process to writing either because it is a very personal thing. While I might enjoy writing at 5 a.m. after a breakfast of Mountain Dew and Twinkies, you might not and that’s okay. (Although my cardiologist might disagree) Writing is an individual thing and sometimes you have to fit it into an already busy life…that’s okay. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

3. Other people will judge – Doing our best is what it is all about but, as a writer, we also have to accept that people will form opinions and some of them we won’t agree with. Judgment of others appears to be a condition of human nature and often times those judgments can be hurtful. We writers just have to accept the idea that people are people and they will judge; sometimes harshly. The key is not to allow their judgments to take away from who you are as a writer. Don’t take bad reviews or opinions personally; often times it’s the other person’s problem but, because we put ourselves out there by writing, we are easy targets.

4. No one else knows what’s right for you – I hate the word “should”. There is always someone else out there who thinks they know what we “should” do.  “Should” is often another way of saying, do it my way.  If you have a person telling you what you “should” do, use your noggin folks; think before you traipse into “should-land”. Once you get there, you may just find that you need to be in the land of I-knew-better-than-that” instead.

5. Tomorrow isn’t promised – My grandmother used to say this all the time and, I have to be honest, as a kid, it was annoying. She would see one of us putting off something that we were supposed to do and then she would smile knowingly and say, “you’d better do it now, tomorrow isn’t promised” and we would feel instant guilt and go do whatever chore it was that we wanted to put off. When I was a kid this was a tactic to get me to do chores, after my grandmother passed away it became a reality that couldn’t be ignored. I now apply this to my writing too. I write every day, even if it is for just a few minutes because tomorrow isn’t promised and once it is gone, it’s gone…no redo’s.

6. Learning isn’t a process; it’s a lifestyle- You’ve heard people say it throughout your life. Everyone from Oprah to Nelson Mandela has proclaimed it, learning is important and something you should never stop doing. I agree. As a writer learning is not only necessary but imperative. The day you stop learning, you may as well stop writing because writing is a process that becomes a part of who you are. Stop learning and you’ll find yourself with nothing to write about…guaranteed.

7. We are worthy- Value in one’s self is one of the most important parts of writing. Sound strange? It’s shouldn’t, because it is true. If you have no self-worth how are you expected to write anything that you believe someone else will want to read? Belief in ones’ self is step one to being strong enough to tell your story. A confident writer is a good writer. You are worthy of the respect you should get for doing what you do.

8. We are going to age and redefine ourselves– 365 days; that’s what we have to work with, every year. As the years pass we age, hopefully we mature, and along with learning to accept the fact that some guys never learn to put the toilet seat down, our writing should mature too. That doesn’t mean that a 50 something writer can’t write young adult novels, it just means that, as we mature, so should our understanding of what we do. We will also redefine ourselves throughout those years over and over again…and that’s okay. Today, I am not my 20 year old self, nor would I want to be and when I look back on my 20 year old writing, well…I’m glad that has grown up too. Embrace the changes that come with age; they are awesome!

9. We always have a choice on how we respond – I tell my kids that although I have raised them to the best of my ability, they always have a choice as to whether they go left or right, and that applies to every decision they will ever make. We writers will also have that choice in our writing life. We dictate how we respond. Just as no one can “make” you feel something; the term you make me mad is inaccurate, you “choose” to be mad. Mad is a reaction to what someone has done, how you react is on you. When someone is critical of your work, how you respond to that can make all the difference. Will you use it to be a better writer or will you allow it to stop you in your tracks? The choice is yours.

10. What we do matters- I watch this show that comes on Sunday nights, it’s called Prophets of Science Fiction. It is one of the coolest shows I have ever seen. Although I am not a sci fi writer, the show speaks to the writer in me. It showcases some of history’s greatest sci fi writers and how their writing could often be considered prophetic. Writers like Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov wrote about technology that wasn’t even in existence during the time of their writing. We could go into the whole art vs. life debate but I relate this to my last point, what we, as writers, do matters. People read what we write, whether it is articles in the local newspaper, a snippet in a newsletter for the Elks or a novel, write it and someone, somewhere, will read it and be affected by it. This is why being a responsible writer is so very important. Just as parents have to be conscious of what they do because there are little eyes on them emulating them, we writers have to be conscious of what we write too, because the eyes of the world are often on us. What you do matters folks…..

These are just some of the lessons 2012 has taught me and I’m sure there will be more to come. (That’s part of the whole “learning” thing) I welcome the chance to soak up the lessons in life and I would encourage you to do the same. While we enjoy our writing, it also has a lot to show us if we will only listen…….

 

© 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 August 28, 2012 in Writing

 

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Cut it Out! The Meaningless Parts that is….


As many of you already know, I hate the editing process. Editing is not what I got into writing for. I got into it for the writing part of it…editing is a bi-product that I wish I could avoid. But, alas, every writer has to endure the editing…we simply have no choice.

So how does a writer find the silver lining in the editing process? The answer is that we have to find something useful about the editing process that makes it, in our minds, worthwhile. For some it is the chance to check your spelling. (Okay, so this might be important) For others it might be the chance to fill out your characters. (Okay maybe fleshing those guys out may have some merit)For me, it’s the chance to “cut it out”….to cut out all the boring, pointless areas of my story that flooded out during the writing process but have no place in the actual story.

Writers are emotional people and because of that, when we write, we tend to ramble at times. It’s like talking to your Aunt Imogene…she talks but often times you have to weed through what she is saying to find the useful part of the conversation. Somewhere, in between the comments on how bad her bowels are and what kind of flowers she wants Uncle Hank to plant in the garden, there are little tidbits of information that help you see Aunt Imogene clearer. You have to endure those other comments because you don’t want to be rude and, well, Aunt Imogene is old and family AND your elder. (In my family, that last part regarding respecting your elder is important and can get you smacked across the back of the head even at 48 years old if you don’t do it) As a writer however, rambling will get you only one thing…the reader will put your book down.

The editing process is a good place to weed out all those parts where you rambled. You can take out the part where your main character has decided that he doesn’t enjoy chocolate Twinkies more than the regular ones. In fact he thinks they are kinda gross. (true story, when I was trying out the new choco Twinkies I really did put this into a story. Thank Pete for the editing process because THAT was lame) We often tend to flow parts of our own lives into a story, especially when we are angry or frustrated and half the time we hardly realize that we have done it. The editing process give us a chance to see what we have done, kind of like stepping back and looking at a room you’ve just painted and realizing that there are some places you may need to paint over a second time.

So before you decide that the editing process really doesn’t need that much attention, take a second gander…it’s more important than you realize. I know, it’s not “writing”, but it is a part of the writing process that is important…especially when you want to make sure that your story doesn’t include Twinkie comparisons.

 

 

© 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 August 27, 2012 in Edting

 

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Reset Sunday – Spend Time with Your Favorite Person


It’s Sunday…time to sleep in, time to relax, time to just be quiet. A lot of people get to Sunday and they want nothing more than to catch up. My parents use Sundays to catch up on lawn work, house work and stuff they feel like they didn’t finish during the week. I have friends who use Sunday to catch up on writing, paperwork and even get a head start on the week to come. All of them are missing the point…

Sunday’s are for you. Sundays are for hanging out with the one person that you hardly ever take time for…that’s right…that person in the mirror, that person who gets shoved to last during the week. You know what I am talking about, the person who is constantly bent to the will of the kids, the dog, the spouse, the world. The person who says, “it’s okay, I got it” on the other 6 days of the week. That person deserves at least one day.

I spend my Sundays truly “resetting”. I play with my trains, (I love trains) or I watch movies. I take Sundays by the nads and I don’t let go until midnight because I need that time for me. When I first started doing this I met resistance of course. Sure my family would insist that I needed time of my own but, those same people who will tell you that you need time for yourself leave out the end of that sentence, which is “unless it interferes with me”. I don’t think they mean to, I just think that we, as humans, are, by nature, a bit selfish.

Despite what the family says, your mission for this Reset Sunday is to, take it by the nads. (my 18 year old has become fond of this saying…I find it silly but useful in this instance) Do for you today. Play, read, hang out, heck, take a nap if that’s what you want to do but whatever you choose, make it all about you. All that other stuff will wait one more day…and if it doesn’t, maybe you didn’t need to do it in the first place. The bottom line is, you deserve the day to do whatever your heart desires…come tomorrow, they will all be back asking for a ride, your help, your time….today, however, is all about you!

 

 

© 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 August 26, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

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Sir…I Reject You……….or at least your work….


Rejection letters suck. I know, I know…they are a necessary part of the process…but they still suck. Every time I get one I want to march over to the office of the guy or woman who sent it and get in their face. How could you reject ME, I want to scream. I worked so hard, I want to reason.  Anyone see what I am doing wrong here? Yep, I’m personalizing something that really wasn’t about “me” at all.

Every writer does it, takes rejection letters so personally that they lose focus on the point the person who wrote the letter was trying to make. The reason why is because we become the writing that we do. We equate it to giving birth and when we send those little data files or stacks of paperwork out to a potential new home; we take it hard when they are rejected. I can admit that I do that, can you?

So what do we do to make it easier on ourselves? How do we combat PTMR? (Post Traumatic Manuscript Rejection) Well, first and foremost we have to see rejection letters for what they are…someone’s opinion. You submit to many publishers because we all know that getting published is all about finding the “right” home for your story. Just because one publisher rejects the work, it doesn’t mean that every publisher will do so. Acceptance of your work by another human being is subjective at best; to take it personally is…well…silly when you think about it.

Instead of seeing a rejection letter as a personal affront to your work, see it as a part of the process and a chance to take in reaction to your work by other people. Many publishers will write a small note giving the writer a reason why it wasn’t a good fit. Note whatever they say and make your adjustments accordingly…or not, depending on how you feel about them. The really cool thing about rejection letters is that they don’t come with laser guided missiles, prickly thorns or small ninjas who will attack you in the dead of night….a rejection letter can’t really hurt you unless you allow it to destroy your ego. (and even that is entirely up to you because you have to “allow” it) When you get right down to it, a rejection letter is words… on a piece of paper… written by a stranger…nothing more.

So next time you get a rejection letter, open it, read it, take note and then file it in the “things-other-people-think-they-know” file where they belong. The short of it is that you do “send” the work out so you actually want other people’s thoughts, just remember that their thoughts are about the work, not you personally. (Now put that axe away and get back to work)

 

 

© 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 August 25, 2012 in Publishing, Writing

 

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Just Publish it Already………………..


It’s hard to follow all of the changes taking place inside the publishing world…even if you are a seasoned writer. Writers now have options that they never have had before. I have been giving a lot of thought to some of those changes recently because one of my publishers assistants actually suggested recently that I think about self-publishing a novel “just to see how it goes”. She determined that I could keep more of the cut and she felt, so she said, that my work was worth me getting more. (I was starting to think that she had gone to work for a self-pub company)

I am an “old school” writer. I came up in my career during the time when you wrote like a madman, created a query letter, ran your work up the publishing flagpole to see which publishers saluted and then sold it to the one offering the most donuts. (In the old days pub contracts were often signed over coffee and donuts…now it’s granola and chi tea…geez….) Now days, a lot of writers farm their work and after the second, “we are just not the right publishing house for your work…good luck”…the writer runs out and self-publishes, tradition be damned. It used to be hard work; now it just seems kind of, well, a copout to doing the work. Personally, I think it takes away from the reward part.

Now before you writers who have self-published jump all over me, let me say, I see nothing wrong with self-publishing…if you WANT to do all the work that the publishing house is supposed to do. I just don’t like the new mentality of do or die when it comes to how a writer chooses to publish. There are now clearly two side of the fence when it comes to this issue, those who are “traditionalist” – publish the way we used to (and some of us still do) and then there are the “techpubs”-those who say traditional publishing houses be damned and publish their own.  It has clearly divided a lot of writers and that sucks.

I think that whoever you are and whatever you write, how you publish should be your choice. Us old fogies tend to hold on to the old ways for a lot of reasons. Me personally, I enjoy the contact between publishing house and writer. I also like the fact that, if your work is good, they provide someone to gravel at your feet while the book is in its marketing phase. My last book came with Sophie, a marketing agent who loved Krispy Kreme donuts and said “oh Lord” a lot. She catered to my every writing need at book signings and such.  I gained 20 lbs. with Sophie around and learned to enjoy mocha frappes. If you self-publish, you are the “Sophie” and that sucks unless you are a bit of a narcissist and don’t enjoy saying “thanks, but if I eat another I’ll bust”. Traditional publishing has its perks.

Self-publishing has its perks too. My spouse would argue that it means more of the money in my pocket. True… If you self-publish though, it also means more work. You are the marketing guy, the editing guy, the one who sets up the book signings and you have to find your own Krispy Kreme.

My point is…and I do have one, I think…no matter how you publish, a writer is a writer and we should all be a part of one big camp that respects each other as artists instead of arguing over which method is the “right” one. This is one of those things that are subject to the person…the “right” way is your way. As a traditionalist, I would suggest that you try and publish this way at least once, if for nothing else for the experience. It’s a kick. As for me, I have decided that I am not ready to self-publish yet. I enjoy the process as well as the smell of donuts and coffee too much; maybe someday though.

Here’s the bottom line though…if you have slaved over a story and gotten it down on paper and want to share it with the world, it really doesn’t matter how it gets into the hands of the reader…so just publish it already.

 

 

© 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 August 24, 2012 in Business of Writing, Writing

 

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