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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Say it With Me Now…..Noooooooooo………


10minutesnointerruptions

If you are going to be a serious writer you have to master one skill above all others…the art of saying NO! This is perhaps the hardest of skills to master for any writer, especially if you are one of those part-time partner – parent types.

Personally, my days get hijacked often. I set a schedule, grab my morning coffee, sit down at my desk, and lift my fingers above the keyboard…..and the phone rings. I know in my heart that I shouldn’t answer it. I often spend several rings sitting, staring at it like I am making a life or death decision – answer or not answer. In my head I hear, “cut the red wire, cut the red wire” and then my mind goes to that place all parents go when a phone rings…maybe one of them is hurt, maybe they are being held hostage at the local Starbucks and all they need to be freed is my Gold card. Maybe, maybe, maybe eventually wins out and I pick up the phone….my day has then officially been hijacked.

Yesterday went very much that way. My middle son called to complain about the ex, my friend Tara then called to say she saw my youngest son pushing his car through an intersection because it had stalled, my oldest son called to discuss a roommate problem and the spouse rang through to tell me that today was the worse day EVER at work. As soon as I got through all that, the mother of my grandkids called to see if I could sit them. (They are 3, 2 and 6 months) At the end of the day yesterday I had clearly lost….family drama -10, writing – 0.

Here’s how yesterday should have gone….I should have never picked up that phone the first time. At the end of the day my son’s ex is still his problem, the youngest got to work after all, the oldest has to work out his own issues and my spouse could have texted me the statement, “worse day EVER”. As for the grand kids…well, I have to set some ground rules there too. The problem most of us writers have is that our families see two major things when they see us and what we do…(a) that we are at home, making us accessible and (b) that we have all the time in the world, because we are accessible. Either way, being accessible is the problem.

The key to solving this problem is simple…just say no. Don’t answer your phone between the hours of ? and ? and let everyone know that unless someone is bleeding, actually gushing blood, you aren’t accessible. If you don’t control the situations, the situations will control you and your writing which makes for no actual writing at all. I do understand that some of you have small children and it’s a bit harder but, once again, if you choose your writing time carefully and then set the parameters in such a way that everyone else “gets it”… you will be a much happier and productive writer. So say it with me folks…..noooooooooo……

© 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 August 27, 2013 in Writing

 

The End – Now Try Something New


End-of-Summer1It’s here. The days are trickling to a shorter length….the smell in the air has gone from heat to that sort of smoky scent that reminds us of brightly lit fireplaces and mom is hauling out the crockpot and the big chili pot. Summer, my fellow writers, is coming to an end.

I don’t know about you all but Fall (autumn in some places) is my favorite time of the year. I love the fact that the world changes from broad daylight to the dusk that is the Fall season. I love the coolness in the air and that skip most parents get in their step because school is back in session. Yep…Fall is my time of the year…and you know what else it is? It is the perfect time to begin a mystery.

Admittedly I am a mystery writer by nature but I know a lot of writers who get into the Fall season and suddenly get the urge to write a story about something mysterious or even scary. It’s because this is the perfect time of the year for it. The ghost and goblins come out to play and everything dark gets to come out and play.

I know that many of you think that you are stuck in your own genre…I’m here to tell you that just ain’t so. A writer is a writer and a story is a story. When you pigeon hole yourself into one genre it’s like going to the playground and making yourself play only on the swings…that’s no fun….you have to at least try out the monkey bars.

So my challenge to all of you this Fall season is to step out of your comfort zone and play on the monkey bars. Invite some mystery into your life and play off the season…who knows…you might actually enjoy it. BUT you will never know if you don’t at least get off the sing for a minute.

© 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 August 22, 2013 in Writing

 

Hopping Up on My Soapbox to Fight Technology Zombies from Spreading


zombie-pc

Our brains are turning to mush. Not, hey it’s the weekend and I’m on my 15th beer mush but the bad kind of mush; the kind of mush that causes dementia and other brain disorders. We are losing our memories and our ability to write in long-hand. Face it people we have become the laziest bunch of humans I have ever seen and it is our fault.

Our lives have become a constant whirl of electronic backwash. Computers, tablets, GPS and smart phones, all of it is designed to make our lives easier, us lazier and somewhat dumber. I have begun to realize that I personally need to take some time away from all those electronics from time to time. If I don’t I’m going to become one of the tech zombies that we all see on the streets texting instead of watching where they are going, hooking into the grid instead of hooking up with other humans…it’s all rather disturbing.

On the one hand, they are great tools but, on the other, we are losing some of our mental capacity by becoming dependent on all those gadgets. Consider that we are now currently raising an entire generation who will not know how to read a map or remember a phone number. In a few short years no one will need to know how to spell, computers already pretty much do that for you. And handwriting? Won’t matter if yours is good or bad…no one needs to do that anymore.

I recently went back to using a handwritten journal. I am also buying actual books instead of just ebooks. And once a week I spend a whole day without (gasp) turning on my computer at all. Don’t tell anyone but I spend those days actually reading….

Don’t let technology turn your brain into mush. If I was a conspiracy theorists (and some days I can be) I would tell you that it feels like we are being trained to literally not think for ourselves. Computers do our work, GPS finds our way, smartphones make our calls and television (media) tells us what is real. Wake up people….wake up before you find yourself in the land of I-can’t-do-for-myself.

We as creative people have a moral obligation to make sure that others around us know that, although technology is good for the most part, there is a dark side. Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” comes to mind. It is simple…the brain is like a muscle and if like a muscle you have to use it or it will just stop working. Turn off the computer and read, turn off the GPS and get lost, turn off the smart phone and enjoy the quiet….when you do quiet the buzz of today’s technology you may just discover something you haven’t seen in a while…your sanity.

© 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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New Edition of “The Write Time” Newsletter


Aug 2013 NewsletterCheck out the new edition of “The Write Time” newsletter. Starting this month we will have new editions every month. If you have a topic you want to see or if you are a writer who wants to contribute, let us know.

 

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Do Not Disturb…I’m Killing Someone


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I hate to be interrupted when I am killing folks. Nothing is more annoying than when, in the middle of offing someone, the kids come in and bug me. Seriously…don’t they realize how hard it is to kill a person?

On the one hand, I hope my kids never learn how hard it is to kill someone unless that is; they are a writer like me. One the other hand, I do wish that those around me would realize that when I am in the mode or the moment, I really need to be left alone. I live in a household with kids who have been raised to talk all the time. I was a newspaper reporter for a long time and needless to say they get their excessive need to vocalize constantly from me and, trust me, I am paying for it now.

It is really important to set boundaries when you are a writer. First, you work from home so to most folks in the family that mean easy access. Second, you are “just typing” after all, so the concept of interrupting is not as foreign as say if you were a bomb maker. (No one wants to bug that guy for some reason) And finally, because there is no way for a person who does not write to truly understand the process, well, folks just kind of sluff it off. “You aren’t really doing anything important…”

So how does a writer set these very important boundaries? Truth be told it depends on the age of your kids. If you have toddlers you can’t very well slam the door in their faces so with them set a time to write during nap time or after they go to bed at night. With teens, they get it so just simply make the rules known and then enforce them. Set your writing time and then declare it off limits. As for your spouse, they married you so they knew what they were getting into, just talk to them, they will understand. And if that doesn’t work, the next time they are taking a nice relaxing bath, go into the bathroom and go potty….this will reinforce the need for privacy, trust me.

As a writer you have to have time to write uninterrupted. Most of us either work from home or we are fitting our writing in during the time we are off the “real” job…this demands some periods of writing that can be done so that the stream of your scenes and story flow uninterrupted. So don’t be shy, demand that folks adhere to your boundaries and if they don’t there is always that bathroom thing which just may work on the teenaged kids too.

© 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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Character Study – Weight, Height, Hair Color…


Mii-character-creator

We are looking for a white male, 6 ft. 4 in., about 340 lbs. who walks with a limp and has one blue eye. Now let’s be honest, there are probably NOT a lot of 340 lb. one blue-eyed people on the planet. White males – yes, 6 ft. 4 in. males – yes, even those who walk with a limp may number more than a few but when you put the entire description together….well there is probably only one guy like that. And do you know why….because that is how the world works.

I have read many a book where the characters are like cardboard cutouts, one dimensional pretend people. The writer tells you nothing about the character, no description, no past, no reason why he/she likes to eat Twinkies in the shower or feels the need to hide when a sales person comes to the front door. You, the reader, get no insight to who the character is. It takes away from the story.

So how do you give your character…well…character? The answers lay in the condition we refer to as human nature. If you want your readers to connect with your characters you have to make those characters real and by real I mean:

  • Give them a description – Weight, height, eye color, skin tone…breathe life into your character.
  • Make him/her stand out – Does your character have a scar, a tattoo? Something that makes them different from every other person with their general description? Make them special in some way because, truth be told, we are all special in some way.
  • Mannerisms – I act differently than my brother and sister. In fact my mom talks a lot these days about the differences between is because it is part of what makes each of her kids different.

These are just a few of the ways that you can give your character, character. Part of what makes a good story is those people who populate it and make it some place your reader either wants to go or introduces them to people they want to meet. Your characters like it or not, are “the” story. Make em memorable and your reader will not only enjoy your story but will demand you tell them another story and that’s what being a writer is all about.

© 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 August 3, 2013 in Writing

 
 
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