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Monthly Archives: February 2013

There Are No Rules – Get Over It!


Rule bookWho ever said that rules were made to be broken was probably about to get grounded by their mom when they said it in a fleeting defense for some moment of idiocy. However, they were not far off, especially when it comes to writing.

I have been writing most of my adult life in some form or another. Because I have always had a pen in one hand as I carried on there has also always been some publisher or editor standing just over my shoulder espousing “rules”. It’s been quite annoying at times. When I was younger, I would listen, nod my head obediently and then change my behavior to fit the “rule”. Well, I’m pushing the 50 mark now and you know what I have learned after all these years? Rules be damned…(most of the time)

The “rules” tend to change with the venue in our line of work. I recently had a magazine publisher who thought that the “AP” in AP style meant “ass protection” (I kid you not) so he wanted his writers to be sure of their facts and ensure that his ass was protected. You just have no idea how hard I laughed about that one on the drive home from our first editorial meeting. Just a few days ago I had a blogging client tell me that they wanted me to always, always spell out the time in columns. Yes, as in one o’clock…all I could do was shake my head.

The “rules” of writing have literally left the building in terms of any kind of consistent “style”. Lost is the art of “AP style”. (for those of you still scratching their heads, AP stands for Associated Press and no, I have no idea who made them the style nazi’s…most of us just rolled with it through the years) Also lost is the art of proper formatting. With all of the new printing options, e-book, traditional, digital…formatting is a whole other evolving aspect of the publishing world. (It’s often hard to keep up) Let’s face it, we, as writers, are now in a profession where there are no real rules, only moments of clarity provided by often bi-polar editors and publishers who change their eating hands for fun.

So what is a writer to do in a world where the road signs change so often that the only thing you know for sure is that you are lost most of the time? The answer is simple, always read the guidelines. Every publisher has them; that set of rules whose reason for existing is known only to the guy who actually owns the publication. And once you have read those guidelines, follow them, no matter how stupid they are. I know, I know…it’s hard but it has to be done if you want to work for those publishers. Sadly there are more of them than there are the ones who follow the “rules”.  I have had to swallow a lot of really stupid styles over the years but I have also made a lot of money off those same publications.

I do realize that the writer in some of you seasoned writers wants to stand up on a desk top and demand that the publisher/editor adhere to the AP style or at least something close but don’t do it…you are wasting your breath. Get your head out of the rules fellow writers…cause there are none…there are just crazy editors/publishers who believe that they are “right” and no amount of arguing will change their minds…BUT…if you shut up and write, there is money to be made and your revenge will be in knowing that, in the end, the publisher is the one who ends up looking stupid. You just need to move on to the next assignment.

 

 

© 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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Healthy Writers Produce Healthy Writing


healthy-eating-pie-chartAs many of you know I have been struggling with some major health issues as of late. I survived a heart attack and now am on the road to better health for the sake of myself, my family and…well…in the general best interest of continuing to live. It has not been easy. I recently realized something else about being healthy…my writing depends on it. Not just because, as a zombie, I might not be as good a writer but because, in the end, if I’m not healthy, neither is my work.

Case in point…this blog. Before the heart attack I was able to post an article a day but since the health scare, it’s ben harder to do. Some days my mind is willing but my body screams, I need a nap, and I have to listen to the body. (This is tough for me because I am not a napper) This week my doctors have released me to go back to doing regular work but with the warning to “pace myself” and it sucks. I can’t help but have some days when I admonish myself for ever having let myself go in the first place. Everything has suffered because I haven’t taken the time to take care of me.

So how is a writer supposed to take care of themselves? I asked around, did some research and here are the suggestions I have discovered…

Eat right – I am horrible at this. I tend to graze until dinner and then dinner is the only actual meal I eat. I had to stop that. Several smaller meals throughout the day are better.

Sleep – I also am bad at this. As a writer my head is going 24/7 and so at times it is hard to sleep. I tend to stay up late and I have to get up early with my daughter. It is important to get the rest your body needs. That 8 hour rule…follow it.

Healthy Snacking – Okay, admittedly, until the recent Twinkie debacle, I was a Twinkie junkie and that was not a good thing. I would buy unhealthy crap and store it in my desk so that I had a ready snack and I didn’t have to get up to get it…both bad things. I no longer keep crap at my desk. If I want a snack I have to get up and get it and I no longer buy junk food by the box.

Exercise – So if there was one thing that has been my kryptonite, it has been exercise. I was caught in a vicious loop. I couldn’t walk because my legs were bad but if I could lose some weight it would allow me to move more… I have had to endure some pain to get past that. My exercise routine is a work in progress. I now set an alarm for every hour so that I get up and move around. Remember that as writers we tend to work and forget about the world around us. Set that hourly alarm, it will help.

These are just the basics but at this point in my writing life, they are helping. It’s not easy by any means but if you want to be around to see that latest novel hit the book list, you have to take care of yourself. Join me folks and make this the year of the healthy writer….it’s important…if all the writers dies off books will be written by guys with names like Earl and Tad who are plumbers and cow milkers and that is never a good thing….

 

© 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 February 27, 2013 in Healthy Writers

 

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Procrastination vs. Finding Your Groove


1356720728_6008_Procrastination-procrastination-263982_750_644(Writers’ Note –This is the Friday column)

I know a lot of writers who whine about being procrastinators. They put writing off, find it hard to get started or just plain don’t ever start on the next project because, “they aren’t feeling it”. My friend Kal asked me just yesterday if I thought he was truly a writer because he tended to put his writing off for so long. (Kal is a deadline guy…give him time on a project and he will wait until the last moment every single time) I asked him if he was procrastinating or if he just didn’t understand his groove and he looked at me, head sideways and made the Scooby Doo sound…(Wrut?)

We writers are creatures of the groove. What’s “the groove”? The groove is the result of a set of things that allow you as a writer to do your thing in the correct fashion. For instance, one of my non-writer friends recently asked me if I write all the time. I don’t write all the time because I don’t “feel it” all the time. I have to be in the groove….you writers understand what I mean.

So what then does a writer do to ensure that he/she is experiencing a “in the groove” issue and not just procrastinating? You have to know your writer self. First off you have to understand when you peak writing time is. I know that a lot of new agey folks talk about biorhythms and such but I happen to think that there is something to it. I know that personally, I have some times of the day when I can sit down and churn it out and other times I just fizzle. I think there is a natural rhythm to things…find your rhythm.

Second, how’s your focus? We live in the age of instant everything and it is easy to lose focus. My oldest son is very fond of the little dog on the movie “Up” because of the scene where he is talking but when a squirrel comes into his view he instantly loses focus. That is many of us.  You have to focus on the work in order to get it done.

Finally, do you have a plan? As many of you know, I am not a fan of outlines and such but I do make lists. I have to, I am creating a whole new world, community, actual people…I have to have some kind of plan or I lose sight of the story and I suddenly don’t want to move forward…it’s too overwhelming. You have to have some kind of plan even if it isn’t detailed.

If you are finding yourself reading through this column and tilting your head sideways like Kal did, you may not be a procrastinator…you may just be missing the groove train. So take a few minutes and ask yourself these questions. If you discover that you really don’t know when your peak times is, aren’t focused or don’t have a plan, maybe procrastination isn’t your issue….

 

 

 

© 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 February 23, 2013 in Writing

 

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I Just Can’t Support You Anymore Book – Get Out!


letting-goYesterday we talked about sending a book project on its way to the real world…today let’s talk about what to do when a book just isn’t holding up its end of the bargain anymore. Today, we are talking about letting go.

I can’t explain how much I loved my very first book. When I finished that little gem, I was like a proud papa holding his first born boy. After all creating a book is akin to being pregnant or at least dealing with a pregnant wife. There are all those sleepless nights, all the complaining about how crappy you feel, all that staying in because no one wants to go out of the house looking haggard. There’s all that late night snacking, packing on the pounds….yep, being pregnant is just like writing a book. And just like giving birth to a human child, giving birth to a book makes you proud and scared all at the same time.

And just like when that baby grows up and moves on, so does your book, but there is one huge difference….your child goes on living and you go on supporting them no matter what…but that book…well…it has a shelf life of sorts. There comes a time, even when it has gone on to grow up and be published, when you have to let it go.

My first book was published in 1983. That’s over 30 years ago. (Yep feeling pretty old right now) And although you can still find it in some bookstores and on Amazon, let’s face facts, it’s been 30 years. So at what point to we, as writers, let go of a book that has been long ago published? When do we stop pounding the walk to sell it or brag about it to our friends and family? The answer is…never but now. Let me explain…

Although I don’t advocate letting a book go, ever…I also don’t want to give you the impression that you should still be putting a lot of energy into marketing that 30 year old book. To be honest, by now, in 30 years, you should have produced many other projects that get to stand at the head of the line in terms of marketing and promotion. If you haven’t, you may want to take another look at that postal worker job. (no, wait, not the post office, they are dying too, how about Burger King…don’t like horsemeat? Ok, how about opening that thrift store?) Whatever you decide you should not be still actively promoting that older book because if you do you are taking time away from the stuff from today’s work and that isn’t a good thing.

If your earlier works are good, they will continue to live and breathe in the hands of readers. At 30 years old, they no longer should need your help; they should stand on their own. (much like your kids) So let that first work be out there and go ahead and continue to create, adding more of your works to the fray. You don’t have to kill it, that first book, but you do have to allow it to move on thus allowing room on your marketing ticket for new projects. You have to take it off your list of priorities and be satisfied that it is out there in the world still showing its best face for you.  I know, I know, you are a writer and letting go is like shooting one of your kids…so don’t shoot it, just let it be…Your time is better spent on the top of your works list, not the bottom.

 

© 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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Moving on – Kicking the Novel out of the Nest


2332So here I am…I have submitted my latest project to the publisher. I dressed it in its Sunday best, fed it as much editing as possible and then sent it off into the world to see if it can find a home. And you know what??? I miss that damn book.

Yep, I was sitting at my desk last night, enjoying a lemoncello (my new obsession) trying to figure out why I was feeling so down when it hit me…I was pining over the baby bird I had just kicked out of the nest. Yes, that’s the whole point of writing it, sending it out to be enjoyed by others thus proving that I really am not as crazy as I feel for having spent all my time with make-believe folks…but still…I miss it. I spent 6 months or more on that project, we got to be friends, I got used to having those folks around, and now…they are gone. It makes me kind of sad.

Here’s the thing though…you can feel that sadness, it’s understandable, but you need to feel it and then let it go or you will never start another book. I have a friend who wrote “a” book, once. He’s a good writer but he could never get over having sent that first book out. Fear set in and he started asking questions like, “will I ever be able to do it again” and “what’s going to happen to my “first” novel”? These questions are good ones to mull over but you must not allow them to “take” you over because they will. You have to allow yourself a grieving period and then move on much in the same way you do when your kids finally move out. (Unless you are like me and they never seem to move out, or if they do, they keep coming back…) You have to let go and give birth to a new project that you will also build until it’s time for it to move on.

I’d like to tell you that letting go gets easier the more projects you take on but, it doesn’t. It will always feel a little bit like taking a new baby to the local fire station and leaving it on the steps…the guilt and fear for what will happen to it once you turn your back and walk away is tremendous, but, walk away you must. So don’t get stuck on letting go…actually do it and then move on to the next project. You owe it to yourself and to your readers….and to your book.

 

© 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 February 20, 2013 in Business of Writing, Writing

 

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I Submit For Your Approval…Please Handle my Self Worth with Care


manuscript-submissionI am in the middle of the submission process for one of my novels and you know what….I hate the submission process. I always feel dirty after having done so. After the letter introducing myself and then my work, the synopsis that I never feel is quite an accurate portrayal of my story and then the “sampling” of my novel. It all feels so very please-leave-the-money-on-the-nightstandish…

As a writer I enjoy the writing. That is, after all what I got into this for, but I don’t like all the selling of ones work and self. There was a time (and I will be dating myself here – not in the, hey can I take you to dinner way, but in the, OMG you are old way…) when a writer could submit their work and they didn’t have to feel so needy about it. Those times are long gone now.

Let’s be honest, the competition is fierce. There are a gazillion writers out there now and even though some of them should be drawn and quartered for ever having picked up a pen…they still manage to get published. I feel like the killer who can’t get caught in a line up where the victim is holding my actual photo…it sucks. I feel looked over and sometimes I feel like the invisible guy who wants to date the pretty girl but can’t because…well…I’m invisible.

These days submitting to a publisher is less like part of the art and more like part of standing in front of the firing squad hoping like hell that the lead solider screams “wait…we want to publish rather than shoot. But, it is a necessary part of the process if you want someone other than your mom to read your book. Yes you will feel kind of dirty afterward but if you wake up in the morning and there is money on the nightstand at least you’ll have a little confirmation that you were sort of good.

Try and remember that you can’t take the submission process so personally…they aren’t rejecting you personally, just your work and that’s okay because maybe they aren’t the right publishing house for your work either. Move on…it’s okay but for Pete’s sake actually move on…submit again, and again and again, if need be until that money is on the nightstand….

 

© 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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You Are a Writer, Not a Juggler…NOW STOP IT!


JugglingMultipleProjectsI have a story that I am editing, a story that is half way done, a story that I just started and two stories that I am thinking about writing…I’m also thinking about painting my office…I’ll probably just get around to taking out the garbage though. Taking out the garbage is my default task when I am overwhelmed and I am overwhelmed, but it’s my own fault.

How many times have you done this to yourself? It’s tough being a writer with all those potential storylines rattling around in your head. Everywhere I go I get a new idea for a story…it’s like that old movie where the clairvoyant keeps hearing the voices of the dead people….it’s downright nerve-wracking, everyone talking at once….my head is often like that.

So what’s a writer to do? You don’t want to pass up on the really good ideas and sometimes you don’t know if they are really good ideas until you write a few chapters. And then there is the excitement that comes with the realization that the idea that just popped into your head very well could be the next big thing…you don’t want to be the reason the next big thing never gets out there do you?

The bottom line is that it is a lot of pressure. Some of the pressure you put on yourself and the rest of it, well, it’s the expectations of others. You want to be that writer that is always working, always producing but here’s the thing…you aren’t a juggler…so put the balls down and deal with one project at time. If you do, you’ll actually find yourself “finishing” something. (what a concept eh?)

As writers it is very easy to put all those irons in the fire. (Note: I always wondered what the heck that means, “too many irons in the fire”, why is that a bad thing? I mean what was the original meaning…if you know…tell the rest of us please, cause it’s kind of a goofy saying) You have a lot to do, writing, editing, marketing and so on which is why it is that much more important to pace yourself so that all of those things get done. Personally, I have pared myself back to editing one book, writing one book and then keeping an idea log for future projects. If I do this, stuff gets done and that is the important thing.

So put down those balls and choose just a couple to work on at a time…you will find that it is much easier to see results if you aren’t worried about not dropping all those other balls. You are, after all, a writer….leave the circus acts to the clowns.

 

© 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 February 13, 2013 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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