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Monthly Archives: April 2013

In the Name of Tragedy Today’s Blog….Oh Give me A Break…


shameLet me start by saying that my heart goes out to the folks in Boston and China…last week was an obvious challenge for these people for a number of reasons. People died and that sucks…always, no matter what the reason, no matter what the country. Now, having said that, let me speak directly to some of you writers out there….you know who you are…the ones who are using these tragedies not to write…get over yourselves.

I don’t know how many blogs I came across last week that simply read stuff like, “Due to the tragedy in Boston, this column is delayed” or “In Honor of the People who Died in China, This Blog is Taking a Breather”…really? Do you really need ANY reason not to write?

Tragedy in our society is a way of life and, let’s be honest, if you really want to avoid writing you could literally find something to use every, single day. (And some writers do, hell, sometimes I do) In my opinion, and it is my opinion, a writer should be taking the alternative route and using the things that we face every day as a springboard to making some valid and important observations about our world. It has long been our lot in life to be the watchers, those who record history as opposed to those who record history as the politicians and those who need to spin it do. Today, thanks to the internet, we are more prominent than ever and more people read our words than ever before….do we really need to hide from our duties within an event that, by and large, needs to be acknowledged?

I didn’t post a column last week either but I had the flu. It had nothing to do with the events around the world and frankly, I would be ashamed to use those events as an excuse. Keep in mind, this column isn’t geared towards those writers who may have actually lost family members or friends in the Boston or China events, you guys get an obvious free pass, but if you live in Aloha, Washington (yes there is such a place) and you don’t even know anyone in those two places, yet you evoked the tragedies to skip a column…shame on you. We have a universal duty to those who aren’t communicators and as far as I am concerned, every time we use human strife as an excuse to shirk those duties, we are giving the universe the finger and you know what…that just sucks.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. 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 April 22, 2013 in Writing

 

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Sometimes Common Sense isn’t so Common


CommonSenseWriters are not supposed to be stupid people. We are usually fairly intelligent and very well read…at least that’s what we want people to believe. Oddly, although most of us are fairly intelligent and well-read we seem to tend to lack a certain common sense. I have seen writer after writer trying to make their way along the pen and paper highway who seem oblivious to what is right in front of their noses. I’m not sure why this happens…I blame it on my parents, but then again I blame everything on my parents like any good baby boomer would. (Curse you mom for…well…everything…)

I can’t really tell you the actual reason we writers tend to leave our common sense at the door but I can offer some basic tips that might just help you look a little less challenged when living the life of a writer. Feel free to add to these, although…and I have to say it…these really should be common sense.

1. Try and leave the crap in the virtual toilet – We all scream through that first draft like every word we write will be the next twitter trend. We throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into our first drafts and that’s okay, for the first draft but after that go back and cut the crap. As writer Elmore Leonard once said, “try and leave out the parts people skip”.

2. And speaking of elimination…unnecessary words…you are the weakest link…goodbye – Okay I am totally guilty of this because I also like to talk. Those of us, who are, as my grandmother used to call me, wordy, we have to be very careful not to fill up the page with words that are simply not necessary. When you read through your first draft ask yourself…was that really necessary and if the answer is no…toss it.

3. Show me the story! – (Imagine that in a really bad Tom Cruise imitation) – We are writers – yes. We write words – yes. But just because we are word mongers it doesn’t mean we aren’t also painters of the cerebral kind. The story is all about the picture that you paint in the readers mind. I know that in order for me to really enjoy a book I have to be there, in the story. Tell me the story in such a way that I can actually see it.

4. When’s it NOT the perfect time to write? Many writers will tell you that they have the “perfect” time to write. They will say that they get up early, stay up late, do it standing on their heads in the closet at exactly 3 p.m. every day…I call BS. If you are a serious writer you try and write all the time. There is no time when you shouldn’t be writing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to necessarily have to be stuck at the desk but at least in your mind your story should never be far away.

5. Don’t worry about “knowing” – Many writers will also tell you to “write what you know”, again I call BS. Sure, use what you know but also be adventurous enough to write what you don’t know too. Any good writer doesn’t try and fit what they know into their writing, it would be too limiting, write about whatever you want and if you don’t know it…research it. Write about whatever you want…

These are just a few “common sense” writing tips and many of you should already have realized them, however, sometimes in between writing and the next Twinkie, we all forget the basics. (Those damn Twinkies are so distracting…)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. 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 April 16, 2013 in Writing

 

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Nobody Scares Me Like I Scare Me


scaredFear is a staple for most writers. Because we live such a self-sustained existence we don’t get the encouragement, pats on the back or supportive talks that other people get when it comes to their careers. In my family I have no one to really talk to about what I do. Most of them don’t understand what I do and the rest of them find it really boring. So most of the time I am left to my own devices, and more often than not, my own imagination, which can be very, very bad….

I’m not talking scary, nightmare on the street over scary, or someone’s coming to get me scary…no, I’m talking about my own personal powers of self-prophesy. You see, when I write a book I go through a process that, when I think about it when I am not in it seems, well, kind of stupid, BUT in the midst of it, it is as real as my grandmother’s inability to make pancakes. (they were really bad) You know what I am talking about…you write a book, you edit that book, it’s all ready to send out into the world…but before you can hit the send button or lick that last stamp it hits you…OMG what if it sucks!?

I get the what-if-it-sucks really bad. I imagine the editor throwing the book out after reading one page. I imagine the publisher and his friends laughing at my book over drinks. I imagine getting a letter back from the intake person asking me to never write another word. I scare myself right into hesitating sending the book out. Fear grips me and I stop where I sit and ponder getting a job as a pizza delivery guy. (How hard can it be, right?) I literally talk myself out of being a writer for a short time. And you know what…I do it every time I finish a book. Over the years I have gone through the what-if-I-sucks hundreds if not thousands of times…I can be quite pathetic….

So what does one do when a case of the what-if-I-sucks hits? I have developed a bit of a routine to help me through and I thought I would share it with all of you in case it might help. You might develop a routine of your own but feel free to use mine as a guide…

  • See if for what it is…fear – You have to realize that every writer gets cold feet (or in my case frozen body) and that they all get over it. It is natural to question yourself, just don’t let it paralyze you.
  • Move on – You have to move on from your current project once it is done. Shoving it out into the world is the best thing for it and for you. It’s what you are supposed to do…so shove away.
  • Talk yourself through it – Remember those pats on the back that you aren’t getting from others? Give those to yourself and don’t feel bad about it. As a writer you have to be your own cheering section and that’s okay.
  • Develop a support crew – It took me a long time to admit that I needed other writers in my life. I wish I had done it 20 years ago; it would have helped me though a lot. With the internet handy, it is easy to develop a team to cheer you on. Find other writers and connect.

These are just a few ideas for those of you who have issues with the what-if-I-sucks….there is hope. Remember, you are not alone…all writers go through this even if they lie and say they don’t. Fear of failure is human nature but just like the guy who crawls back into the cannon at the circus, you have to crawl back in there too. It is, after all, the only way to ensure that the crowds keep coming back to read the next book, and the next, and the next….

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. 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 April 15, 2013 in Publishing, Writing

 

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The Write Time to Edit


577956_511727248860504_1505904713_nA lot of you have been asking me lately how I feel about the editing process. I would like to say that editing is a pure joy, a semblance of bliss within the writing process…but I’d be lying.

For most writers the editing process sucks. Let’s face it, it’s not really writing…it’s editing. To some degree editing is counterintuitive for writers. (look Ma I used a big word…) We write, we aren’t geared towards editing. Editing is the slaughterhouse of manuscripts. It’s where you shoot a bolt gun into your masterpiece and then tear it down in steak-like portions. (Suddenly I am no longer hungry) BUT, editing can’t be ignored. Like the brother-in-law who calls himself a preacher after getting ordained online…you have no choice but to put up with it, no matter how ridiculous it feels.

I know that most of you have heard the advice, put your manuscript down for a bit before editing, edit it backwards, let someone else edit… And all of that might be great advice but here’s the rub…you wrote it. No matter who you are editing your work is a painful process so for that reason it is doubly important that you come up with an editing process that works for you.

Some writers hear of a process and can adopt it just fine but in my opinion I think it is easier to find your own groove and then stick with it. I edit after the story is complete. I read it through on my own and then I have a text reader read it to me in a sexy British accent. (The software program I use does that, its kinda cool) I admittedly cut the fluff but I also add to more than not during the editing process. What helps me most? Not thinking of it as “editing” but instead I am “refining” my work. You know, bringing out the coolness.

Let’s face it, if you write you have to edit; there is no way around it. In the end the editing process IS a part of the writing process – sort of like having to dry the dishes after washing them….it just has to be done or mom (or your potential publisher) will ground you. So find an editing process that works for you and run with it. I don’t care if you have to edit while hanging upside down eating spaghetti through a straw…as long as you have a process.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. 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 April 11, 2013 in Editing, Writing

 

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Reset Sunday- Pick Up A Darn Book Please….


ws_Read_a_book_1024x768It’s been a while since I have written a Reset Sunday…my apologies; I’m back at it now. For today’s Reset column I wanted to mention a thing or two about how Sundays are the perfect “reading day”. You aren’t, after all supposed to do any writing…you are “resetting” right? But you can still read which is what I plan to do for a good part of today.

Yesterday I started keeping track of the food I eat and the activities I do for the purpose of weight loss. (stay with me…I have a point) I am discovering quite a few really disturbing things about my own habits. For instance, I snack (or graze as they call it which makes me feel sort of like a cow) a lot. I have to stop that. I don’t drink enough water…I have to fix that. And, perhaps the most disturbing of them all, I watch way too much television. I didn’t think I did, I mean I write all day long and knock off at 5 or 6 in the evening but then I have dinner and sit down in front of the idiot tube telling myself that I am “spending time with the family”. On Saturdays I knock off work at 3. So yesterday I sat down in front of the television to watch some movies with the family and I didn’t go to bed until 11 p.m. Can anyone tell me how long that is in front of the television…please raise your hands…you, there in the back with the funny hat on…what’s that? Yep, you are correct, that’s 8 HOURS!

I was shocked. 8 hours of mindless TV. I could have been doing anything else at all but there I was, snack in hand, sitting like a lump in my easy chair contributing to my early demise. It was quite the wake-up call. I hadn’t always watched television like that. I use to read more, get out of the house more, play more but at some point, over the last 10 years I had migrated into that easy chair.

So I said all of that to say this….don’t watch television today….read, then get up and do something, then read some more, then get up and do something. We as writers sit all the time anyways so more sitting time in front of the television can’t be good. And once we give up our souls to television replacing reading we are giving up our imagination, our will to create story in our minds and our sense of self replacing it with the lives of actors. So today….pick up a book and turn off the television; this is your Reset Sunday mission. Who knows maybe you will once again discover the joys of books and find that it is much easier to put down that remote control.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. 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 April 7, 2013 in Reset Sundays

 

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I’ll Have a Latte and a Side of People Watching


peoplewatchingThis morning I had a meeting set for 10 a.m. at the Barnes and Noble nearby. As I sat waiting for the guy I was supposed to meet I got the chance to sit and watch the comings and goings of the patrons of this particular coffee cafe…I have to say, it was interesting for me as a human as well as a writer.

In streamed a seemingly endlessly array of those looking for something. There was one guy who was obviously trying to feel a bit more important than his “real” life allowed. You could tell because he came in, ordered a large coffee and then stared the room down as though he was daring someone to question him on why he was here. Then there was the older couple who sort of slinked in and quietly set up their laptop at a near by table looking as if they had just stolen the laptop….they were here for the free WiFi. And there was OCD guy who walked in, ordered a very specific coffee – latte, soy, half an extra shot and only two pumps of chocolate, about 180 degrees – he then laid his stuff out on a table by the window setting each thing down one piece at a time, each in it’s own spot. After arranging his stuff he then tried first one side of the table and then the other obviously looking for just the right lighting. He made me tired by the time he settled in and I had to fight the urge to walk over and mess up his stuff just to see what he would do.

I could go on, lord knows there were many, many others but that’s not the reason for today’s column. (Although it would have been entertaining) I described the patrons of the Barnes and Noble cafe to show you just how much material is in a trip outside of the house. If you are anything like me, and most writers are, we live a bit of a mushroom type of life. We stay at home, chained to our desk ignoring the rest of the world in the name of getting down one more page….we have to stop doing that. You have to live in order to be able to write about life. Let me say that again….you have to live, in order to write about life.

So take that trip, travel to places you have never been, head down to the nearest mall and people watch…it’s all research and it can be invaluable. In fact, the above B & N scene is going to make it into one of my books….it’s too full of characters not to.

 

 

© 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 April 4, 2013 in Inspiration, Research, Writing

 

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Help Me with an Experiment!


Dark-Corners5Don’t forget to support my Kickstarter Project! I began it because readers kept asking me if it was a good idea…I guess we will find out….

Donate here…

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/310052489/dark-corners-could-use-a-little-light

 
 

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