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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stupidity Drives Me Crazy – Especially When it Comes From a Writer


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As a writer there are a lot of goofy things that drive me kind of nuts. I hate it, for instance, when people ask me if my writing is a hobby. I also hate it when I tell people that I am a writer and they ask me when I’m going to get a “real” job. Let’s face it…most people do not understand what it is that we do. But what happens when another writer doesn’t seem to get the process? For me, it makes my head explode.

Here are few things that I have either heard or read that actual writers have said over the years….

-I want to tell my story, please write it for me and I’ll just take a cut of the royalties: Seriously, this was a Craigslist ad. It amazes me that, #1- so many people think that their story is sell able, and #2 – that they actually think that another writer will do all the work so THEY can have a cut. Really?

-I wrote my novel and the only editing it needs to commas: Wow. I am the first person to admit that I am comma challenged, however, if you have written a book and you are arrogant enough to believe that the only editing it needs is comma placement…well…good luck with that.

-I am going to demand that the publisher give me a larger cut: ROFL…okay…It amazes me that so many writers, especially first time writers truly believe that they are in a position to demand anything at all. Folks, if you have actually gotten the attention of a publisher, be grateful…thousands of others haven’t gotten that and are at a corner bar somewhere drinking and explaining to the other patrons that they are being slighted by the universe. Demand nothing…instead kiss that publisher’s behind.

-I’m not doing any marketing, that’s the publisher’s job: Ummmmmm…okay….so you don’t actually want to sell books? Today’s publishing world has changed…long gone are the days when the publishing house was willing to dump a zillion dollars into a PR campaign. If you want to sell book you have to get out there and stump. So unless you live in Maine and your mailbox reads, “S. King” get off your ass.

These are just a few of the things I hear stupid writers say and, trust me, the list goes on. I’d like to invite you all to share some of the goofy crap you have heard your fellow writers say. Comment below and share with us…I know that you ALL have stories to tell.

© 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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Autumn Electric – On the Road to Making Music History


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 As a writer I am always looking for music that will spark inspiration when I need it most. Recently a friend suggested I give Autumn Electric’s “Make Me a Tree” album and I have to admit I was impressed. The album is a collection of songs that obviously were written with aspiration of making their mark on the world of music. Released June 28, 2012, this album offers the listener a song writer who is as apt in vocals as he is guitar and flute. Lead vocalist Michael Trew leads a band of talented and determined musicians on the album including Naomi Smith who commands the piano, synths and melodia as she supports Trew with backup vocals. Percussion specialist Daniel Desrosiers sets the beat of the band along with lead guitarist Barton McGuire who also specializes in the saw, accordion and harmonica which lends to an undercurrent of folk sounds that can be heard in strains of the song “Spaghetti Western”. The group is rounded out by Johnny Unicorn who serves as producer, engineer and lead bass. Special guest Lauren Zeck added string arrangements on the album.

               This album is a strong showing for this talent group of Washington artists. “Make Me a Tree” was introduced at a tour in early Feb 2013, where this talented band dedicated most of the proceeds from their shows to benefit Grief Recovery Centers. Shows benefited causes such as The Dougy Center in Portland, and the Sacred Heart Hospice in Eugene. Currently the band is working on their next album while continuing to promote their early work. Autumn Electric currently includes Michael Trew, Naomi Smith along with Max Stiener on Lead Guitar and Bass, and Chris Barrios on Drums.

               If you would like to sample or purchase “Make Me a Tree” visit http://autumnelectric.bandcamp.com/. More information about Autumn Electric can be found on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theautumnelectric or by viewing an interview at www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_TZGfSjdcg.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Writing, Writing Tools

 

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THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN HERE! When You Have Too Many Characters


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Creating characters is fun. I know that personally there are times when I get all excited because the writing is really flowing and I start over creating characters. Over creating? Yep, I start over crowding my story and you can no longer truly see the story, much like the train in the photo above.

Sometimes a story can appear to require a lot of people to support it. We have all read that epic novel that has a gazillion characters in it and seems to work well but the truth is those are rare. A story that can carry all those characters has to be epic and long and, well, extraordinary; most of us don’t do extraordinary on a regular basis. So what is a writer to do when they are pecking along on the keyboard and suddenly realize that there are way too many people in their story?

          Decide who the story revolves around – The first thing a writer needs to do when they discover an overabundance of characters is determine who the story is about. It sounds easy enough however sometimes it can be tricky. Your main character is the center of your writing universe. Determine who that is; it’s key to figuring out who you need.

          Cut all the fluff – We all tend to add in characters that really don’t have anything important to do in the story. I once added a woman into one of mine just because the character sounded cool. Turns out she was a character for a whole different story.

          Create your main character’s universe – This is where mapping software is cool. Center your main character and then branch out all the character’s connections. You will end up with the universe of your story.

These are just a few suggestions, I’m sure that some of you have more. The bottom line is that if your story is crowded it will be tough for your readers to see the actual story. Extra characters are a distraction for both you as a writer and for your reader. If you cut the characters correctly what you will end up with is a full-bodied story with characters who feel like they belong.

© 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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Don’t Yell at Me in That Tone


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I have had many, many discussions (ahem, arguments) over the years about tone. When I was younger my best friend used to say that I spoke in a certain “tone” when I was irritated and I would argue that I didn’t have a “tone”. For me a “tone” was a nasty inflection in one’s voice, as in my mom saying, “don’t take that tone with me” but now I know better. Now I know that a “tone” is so much more.

As a writer you have to actively set the tone for any story, short or otherwise. The reader needs a sense of what the mood of your story is. Setting the tone might be the way a character communicates or how a character sees the world around them. Sure it still describes how one might speak to another but when it comes to writing “tone” is part of the skeleton of your story.

How effective can tone be? Case in point….text messages. I often get responses from my better half telling me that they can tell how I feel about something by my “tone” in my text. A text…. At first I thought this was ridiculous. How could someone tell by a text message what my “tone” is? But the more I paid attention to how I was feeling when sending certain text messages I realized that they were right…I did have a tone.

A lot of readers will tell you that they didn’t like this book or that but can’t tell you why…my guess is the tone. If you need proof of tone in your own writing, slap it into a text reader and listen. Most text readers are fairly monotone but if you really listen, you will hear the tone still coming through. I started doing this recently and it helps. (It also helps to show you where certain scenes aren’t working)

So while you are laying the groundwork for your next story, don’t forget the tone. It may been silly to worry about it but in the end you will see that setting the right tone just might be half the battle.

© 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 June 11, 2013 in Writing, Writing Tools

 

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Oh Brush Your Teeth for Pete’s Sake


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I work from home. I get up in the morning, put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and then trudge downstairs in search of coffee. I then sit down at my desk and work for the better part of the day. This goes on every day….. and I have to stop it.

Now you might be asking why do you have to stop; this sounds like a great way to work? And it is, except it is also creating some very bad habits for me as a human. I tend to let the day pass without a shower some days, I eat at my desk, I hardly ever go out and have any contact with other humans…it is setting me up to be a non-social, overweight mushroom.

Writing is often a lonely craft as it is but if we don’t force ourselves to take care in the same way that we would if we work outside the home, we can do some damage. I know a guy who works the same way I do. He gets up, doesn’t shower or brush his teeth, heads to his desk and writes for 5 hours. After he is done writing he heads for the microwave for dinner and then parks his rather large behind in front of the television falling asleep at some point. His wife left him three months ago.

My writing friend, we’ll call him Ted, let his life slip through his fingers because he stopped caring about his appearance, going outside, developing or even maintaining any type of a relationship. Ted failed himself. I watched Ted go through all of this and realized that I didn’t want the same for myself. So…I get up and get dressed as though I have an office. (which I do, it’s just at home) I knock off in plenty of time to go out and do any number of errands AND I spend time with my family every evening. It’s easy to let is all go for the sake of the craft but if you do, trust me, the craft will suffer too. A lazy life leads to a lazy writer which leads to lazy writing….and no book sales.

So make sure that while you are working from home, you are still among the living. Ted would tell you that his life is now a very lonely place….do yourself a favor and don’t pull a “Ted”. And for Pete’s sake…brush your teeth….

© 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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Writing Through the Pain


thSometimes life is tough. It throws so much crap at you that you can’t see the light of day easily. I have a lot going on in my life right now and there are a lot of stressors…some good, some bad…being inserted into my days. On the good side, I’m getting married next weekend. On the bad side I am experiencing a lot of pain in an ongoing medical issue. I admit it; there are days when it is tough to get out of bed…

For a writer all of this can be magnified by the fact that what we do is such a one person deal. We don’t have a team standing behind us telling us that we can “do it”. For this reason we often have to motivate ourselves. My motivation these days has a lot to do with catching up. The heart attack I experienced earlier in the year but me behind in my responsibilities and so I am now working to get caught up. I have to say that I have had some very supportive people on my side while I do this. The owners of our home come to mind…they are incredible people.

While my current motivation has been the catch up, there are many ways that you, as a writer, can motivate yourself to push through the pain, whether it is emotional or physical. Here are some of the motivations I have learned to use over the years…

·         Remember the passion – Writers who truly are writers have an overwhelming passion when it comes to their craft; remember the passion.

·         It pays the bills – Yes this seems counter artistic but if we are honest those of us who write do so to support ourselves to. Remembering that you are personally responsible for your earning a living helps motivate you.

·         Get lost in the story – Often times I find that if I am lost in the story I tend to forget all the other crap. You are a writer, use your craft to deal with the pain

·         Put everything into perspective – In the long term the pain, emotionally or physically, will pass but your writing endures. Remember to see the big picture.

These are just a few of the motivations I have used over the years to push through the things that are stressing me and my writing. You might have some suggestions of your own…if so, share them. There will still be times when you don’t feel like writing, own that and understand that in these moments your mettle is being tested….so write…and then write some more….

© 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 June 9, 2013 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

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The Keys to Worry Free Writing


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Worry free? Did I say worry free? I’m sorry, I meant the keys to worrying less about your writing because, let’s be honest, there are no “worry free” keys. I don’t know how many columns, blogs and even books I have read over the years that offer “worry free” writing but it must be in the thousands. Each of these resources has come from well-meaning writers who think they hold the holy grail of stress free writing but truth be told you are more likely to find Noah’s Ark than the key to stress free writing.

Writing, by its nature, is stressful. Not OMG-I-work-on-a-high rise-building stress or I-test-the-electric-chairs-for-prisons stress but stress all the same. We are either concerned with making a living at it, making a deadline or coming up with just the right angle on a story to make it sell able. Stress, if you are to be a full-time writer, is written into the unbreakable contract that we all make with the All-knowing Muse of Writers….

There are things, keys if you will, that can at least tone down the stress. Some of them seem simple enough yet many writers I know don’t practice any of them. Here are a few of the keys on my ring…yours may vary because not everything works for every writer, but these are pretty basic.

·         Create a quiet place to create – This seems a no-brainer yet I know writers who still peck away at the local coffee shop. I think a coffee shop writing session is okay from time to time but by and large we need a special quiet place at home.

·         Make sure what you need is within reach – This one waffles depending on who you talk to. When I say “what you need”, I don’t necessarily mean the Twinkie box. (Although if it helps keep it close) I mean supplies, pens if you long-hand it, printer cartridges, paper, coffee…the stuff that helps you do your job. Having to stop work and search is annoying.

·         Where ever you are, be there – Best advice anyone has ever given me for life in general is this one. Often times we sit down to write but our minds are on bills, kids, house work, why the dog insists on linking himself so much…everything other than writing….stop that…be in your writing.

·         Turn off the distractions i.e. e-mail, phone, fax, television, that annoying guy with the ads on Pandora – I swear I spend more time doing other things than I do writing most days. I had to retrain myself not to answer e-mail and the phone during a session. Turn off the distractions for a couple of hours a day…I swear the world will function without you.

·         Don’t take on too much – I have two stories I am editing, one story I am writing and two more that are hounding me to get out…that can cause a lot of stress which will then affect my writing. Concentrate on one or two projects at a time. Currently I am writing one and editing one…I can juggle that.

These are just a few of the rings on my key ring and not all of them work all of the time. There are as many keys as there are writers, you just have to find yours. So remember, there is no “stress free” writing but there are ways to at least hold some of the stress at bay. Grab your whip and chair and tame those things that are stressing you…trust me…you will thank me once you’ve done it.

© 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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