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Monthly Archives: October 2013

My Chance to be The Leading Man


WRITER-CARTOON

There are some perks to being a writer. For instance, I can kill off people I don’t like or who slight me. I can live anywhere in the world and the plane ticket doesn’t cost me a cent. I can be an expert at any number of things including cool stuff like bomb disposal and international spy. I can be good at anything I put my pen to…AND I can be the lead in any story I choose.

I think that we writers are lucky because we get to create worlds at will. I can sit down at my desk and create a whole world where the possibilities are endless. Sure I need to make those worlds believable because I don’t want to lose my readers but with just the right amount of detail, I can make the reader believe just about anything.

I think of writing as sort of a therapy most days. If you read my books (and I think everyone should) your will discover that, over the years, I have worked out quite a few things through the pen and paper. I have dealt with child abuse, bad marriages and relationships, death, my feelings of insecurity and even redecorating my office, all through stories. I have also dealt with not having been one of the pretty people in the world.

In high school I was the clown. I was the one who made everyone laugh and so I was accepted into just about every group of people that populated the school yard. One thing I was not however was the charming, always-know-what-to-say, good-looking guy that the girls fawned over. I was charming enough but I was also “funny” and you know what happens to the funny folks, they are forever stuck in the “friend zone” when it comes to dating. That was me…always the friend never the one with filled Saturday nights; being a writer changed all that for me though and now…well…folks think I’m pretty cool both within my stories and in the real world.

Writing can be a lonely occupation but it is also what you make of it. Writing should open up the world to you in such a way that you don’t have to feel like the wallflower any more. You can get the girl and so much more. So I said all of that to say this…realize that writing has it’s perks and that no other job in the world can make you feel like you can have it all with the exception of writing. Use the story pages to work out your life…it’s okay…working things out gives your writing that human element that draws readers into your story. Don’t be scared to pour your emotion onto the page…use that emotion, wield it like a sword fighting your way off the wall at the school dance to become the leading guy. It’s one of the perks after all…it’s your story and it can go anywhere you want it 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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STOP YELLING AT ME


1383997_10153354398325207_557417490_nMy mom is almost 70 years old. For most of her life there were no computers, e-mail, Facebook or any of the other technical advances that our generation was born into. When someone needed to get ahold of you they called the “house phone” and hopefully your brother or sister was not on the phone at the time or the caller would get a busy signal and have to “wait” until the phone was free. (Don’t think for a second that “call waiting” changed that because we all learned to ignore the beeping in our ear when someone else tried to call in) And when someone needed to have an actual conversation they had to actually meet face to face for lack of texting, blogging or IM-ing. For folks like my mom technology is both good and bad for all sorts of reasons.

When Mom discovered e-mail and Facebooking she waded into it with the caution of a bomb disposal team. She started by texting “hi” and waiting for a response and then she graduated on to actual sentences. Now, she over texts, meaning that often, while having a conversation with her, she will actually talk over me by texting before I can answer her first question.  But perhaps the most annoying thing that my Mom does, and no one can seem to make her stop, is messaging in all caps.

I don’t know what it is about my Mom’s generation but they all text in caps at some point. Does my Mom realize that it makes me feel like she is yelling at me? She probably doesn’t. Does she realize that texting in caps conveys a tone? Nope, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get that either…but I do and therein lay the point of this column. As writers we have to watch our tone.

We can convey a “tone” with the way we write. My Mom does with her all caps but writers do it also in various ways. Tone can be found in the way a character speaks or in the actions he/she takes. Often times we can change a characters tone and never even realize it until someone else points it out. My spouse and I have a long running conversation going on about the “tone” I often take with our kids…I say things like, “that’s not what I mean” or “they misunderstand” a lot when if I just listened to my spouse I would realize that often what I say comes out in a tone that does not convey my true emotion. This can easily happen within your writing too.

So remember…when you are building those characters or giving them dialog watch your (or rather their) tone within the story. You don’t want your characters or your story misunderstood.

© 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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Over Thinking It


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Have you ever written something only to go back over it like 900 times and rewrite it every way imaginable? I do it all the time. I have been known to even do it when writing something as simple as a list or a note for my daughters’ school. One of the reasons why is because, as a writer, I don’t want other people to read something I have written and say to themselves, “This guy is a writer…really?” Another reason is because I have a compulsion to make everything I write as clear as possible; no misunderstandings here. Perhaps the most important reason though is because I over think absolutely everything…including my writing.

Over thinking our work is a condition that is an ailment within the writing community. Like any disease it invades writing groups across the nation and makes us all question our work and then rework it until it is a fraction of the idea we began with. It can start with something as simple as a character and a single trait. Does Bill really walk with a limp? Why should I give him a limp? What if he has to run later? What if he dies all because I gave him a stupid limp? Do you see what has happened there? My obsession over Bill’s limp has stopped all story flow. I could feasibly spend hours, even days, on Bill’s limp.

Over thinking your story can keep you from ever finishing it at all. It is for this reason that many seasoned writers will tell you to write your first draft completely through before even really “thinking” about the story at all. I think this is great advice but it does not stop the possibility of over thinking; it just delays it. Now you have your finished first draft but if you are an over thinker you will just do it on the first edit. The key to not over thinking is to not do it at all.

Let’s call it what it is…over thinking is the byproduct of low writing self-esteem.  Those of us who over think are not actually over thinking the story but instead we are over thinking ourselves. We need to recognize what is happening in order to correct it. We are not actually questioning the story but our own ability to write the story. It is not unusual to self-doubt as a writer…it is a lonely way to work and often times we don’t get positive feedback and when that happens it is easy for our minds to run amuck. You have to stay on top of how you are feeling about your writing and if need be, you must do all you can to boost your self-confidence. I have a friend who I can call if I am going through it. We boost each other out of the mire of self-doubt. I know that if I don’t deal with it, the story I am working on will never get finished.

So find a friend, be aware of what is really going on and fight self-doubt head-on. If you don’t you will never finish your story and all you will end up with is a guy with a limp and nowhere to go.

© 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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Every….Single…..Day


2010-04-15 writing cartoon-Pardon My Planet

I don’t always want to write. There are some days when I get up and the last thing I want to do is sit down at my desk let alone actually hit the keyboard. The ideas seem to run away from me and the desire to tell a story is right up there with flaying my skin. So do you know what I do on those days when I’d rather be a plumber? I write anyway…..

There are a lot of supposed rules for writers but by far the most important not-to-be-ignored one is to write every day. Writing is like a muscle, if you don’t exercise it after a time it gets fat and lazy and doesn’t want to work at all; I know I’ve been there many times over the years. The discipline of writing is what makes the difference between being that guy who writes as a hobby and being that guy who gets published.

I went through a period in my early 30’s where I decided to try on a few other occupations because writing was just no fun anymore. I had lost sight of why I wrote in the first place so I stepped away. I worked some other jobs, got into human resource management thinking that it was “people” I was missing and after a year of realizing that I prefer the people in my head I came back to the desk. Coming back after a year was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I hadn’t realized that not writing every day was shoving my skills to the dark recesses of my brain where I would have to send out a search party in order to get them back. I literally had to force myself to write something every day in order to coax my muse out.

If you step away from your writing I guarantee that you too will find it difficult to return. Here are a few things I have heard from other writers in terms of finding your way back by writing every day. When the story doesn’t come easy you can:

Write in a journal – Journaling can help a writer get back on the horse. You are writing what is instead of having to create but you are still writing.

Try short stories – You don’t have to jump into a novel because that can be daunting. Start with a short story, like 1500 words; who knows your short story could lead to a novel.

Create characters – Start by just creating characters. There are lots of great examples of character building forms out on the web, download one and create people for future stories. Who knows, one of those characters might find a starring role in a new book.

Rewrite – Sometimes when I am blocked I will rewrite work I have done before. I pull an old story out of the drawer; rewrite some of it until the story catches up with me.

These are just some of the many ways you can jump back into bed with your writing. Don’t beat yourself up too badly for stepping away, it happens, but if you have stepped away know that there is a road back albeit sometimes long. Just remember that writing is something that has to be cared for. Your muse may not leave for good but he/she will make it hard to coax them out if you ignore her/him long enough so write….every….single….day.

© 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 October 18, 2013 in Writing, Writing Tools

 

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How do You Know You Are a Writer……


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When did you know that you were a writer? This is a question I get within the first few minutes of every book reading I have ever done. It is an interesting question albeit sort of annoying after the 100th time. I use to wonder why people feel they need to know the answer to that question. I mean if they are asking are they just being nosey or are they thinking that they too may still yet have some moment of clarity where they can declare that they too are a writer and want to know what that moment might look like? Whatever the reason, it has made me look in the mirror once or twice and ask myself.

I don’t remember a moment when I realized that I was a writer. I can honestly say that I have just always been one. I have never desired to be anything else nor have I apparently been capable of being anything else. I tried bartending, retail sales, radio hosting; I even did a stint at McDonalds as a French fry cook  in my early years (got fired from that one for stopping a robbery with hot French fries but that’s a story for another time)but I have always come back home to the pen and paper.

I think that many things can make you a writer but I also believe that if you are a writer, you know in your heart that you are a writer. I have always been long-winded when it comes to story-telling. I have never been able to leave a “simple” note for anyone; mine are always at least a half a page….”went to the store and while I’m gone I’m going to…” I read books like most people eat Lay’s Potato Chips…never just one but the whole book shelf.

So my answer to the question of when is simply always and I believe that’s a great answer because it is true. If you are a writer and you find yourself in front of a curious non-writer asking that same question answer honestly; if you have just always been, then say so. I have found over the years that many people who ask that question are in awe of what you do and that’s okay, trust me, your writing ego needs it; that validation wrapped in admiration for the craft. I believe that many of us are born to do what we do and despite those who insist that it can be taught one need only look at the successful writers out there and what they say in their interviews about why they do what they do…almost every one of them answer the same way, “I can’t not write” which is simply writer code for, “I’ve just always been a writer”.

© 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 October 16, 2013 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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Trying Not to Embarrass Your Mom


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I have written more than a few books. All of them are mystery-thrillers however buried within the mystery is often a bit of romance as well. What good story can survive, after all, without a little smooching? Any fiction novel just isn’t complete without a torrid sex scene of two. Which brings me to an age old questions most writers have to face sooner or later….how hot should I make my sex scenes?

When I wrote my first sex scene it was in the throes of the story. My main character met a lady became overwhelmed with passion and they did it, right their on the hood of 1968 Mustang. Yep it was hot and it was steamy and it got me yelled at by my mom. Keep in mind that I was 15 at the time and I am pretty sure that my mom was still holding out hope that I was oblivious to anything having to do with sex at all. She read it, yelled and then later, said that while it was a good scene, it was also inappropriate for a high school short story assignment. Needless to say I had to write a whole new story void of anything sexy.

Now days I am quite a bit older and my mom has become less inhibited so I have a little more freedom when it comes to inserting those scenes but my mom did have some advice for me that I took to heart when it comes to writing those types of scenes. She said, “Sex is okay as long as it’s a part of the story, never forget that”. What did she mean? Well it’s simple really; if the sex is a part of the natural flow of the story put it in. If you are putting sex in for the sake of sex…don’t, it won’t work.  We have all read authors who think that a chapter isn’t complete without sex; those writers bore me. Sex sells, that’s true but if you want to be known as a novelist and not a chapbook author, only use sex where appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of writers out there who write what my mother refers to as “smut books” and that’s great if it is your “thing” but it is important to draw a line in the sand if you don’t want to be known for those types of books.

So how do you gage when sex is too much? I have to go back to what my mom said; it’s good as long as it goes with the flow of the story. We all know how it works…two people meet, fall into passion, whether it is love or desire, and have sex. Afterwards how they react to each other speaks volumes of them as people, their relationship and even progresses the story along. That is the right amount of sex. Your reader wants your story to be as really as it can be and, let’s face it; most people are not falling into bed every other minute so keep that in mind when you are creating. And guys, try not to embarrass your mom too much…make sure that your sex scenes come with a little class whenever you can.

© 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 October 15, 2013 in Character Studies, Writing

 

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It’s Okay for Your Kids to Be Proud of You


1006333_675391002488224_2147200493_nI have four children and tons of “adopted” children. As those of you with teenaged kids know, they bring all of their friends home and, if you are a cool parent, they all start calling you mom and dad. I don’t mind the pasture of children we have…I like kids, and these particular kids are actually proud of what I do for a living and I have to tell you, that is kind of cool.

Let me be clear here and say that it has not always been smooth sailing in terms of my kids’ acceptance of what I do. When they were young all they knew was that I was home all the time and that meant easy access. I had to train them to leave me be until 5 p.m. Now that they are older we still have some of those issues but it is easier for them to understand. Before they were, “yeah one of my parents is a writer, it’s okay” but now that they are older I have become somewhat of a novelty within their circles of friends. Their response to what I do is now quite hilarious, and it’s gotten me in trouble a few times. For instance, all of my boys (there are 3) have gone to school on career day and told their fellow classmates and horrified teachers that their parent “kills people for a living”. I have been to the office a few times over that.

Their reactions to my writing is definitely determined by their age.

Aaron (30) –  “My mom is a writer and I did my college dissertation on her first novel. The dissertation was about how twisted the human mind is.”

Ryan (25) – “Yeah my mom is a writer….so….

Jordan (20) – “My mom is a writer and it is the coolest thing every. She once killed off a guy who was bullying me in high school. Not actually “killed” but in her book “killed”.

Jessa (13) – “Whatever”

Although they have these reactions outwardly, each of them have come to me and told me how proud they are and the youngest, Jessa, is not writing her own “book”….how cool is that? So if you think that as a parent you are failing your kid by spending so much time at the typewriter remember that they are watching you at all times and that is a good thing. What my kids see is that I work twice as hard as anyone else and I stick it out to the end; those are important lessons for a kid. If you have children and they are proud of your writing count yourself lucky and then draw them into your world. What better role model could they have than a writer?

© 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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