Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Writing Tip Site Worth Viewing

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment

I love it when I stumble upon a great writing site.  If you are a writer, especially one that is trying to break in the field, this site might get you on track.  Well written, clear and to the point, this site gives you strategies that you can implement immediately. book pile

17 Reasons Book Manuscripts Are Rejected lets us in on the inside of the editors’ heads as they wade through pages and pages of material.  This site is well organized; each post offered something I hadn’t thought of or am now looking at a topic in a different light.

Don’t forget to bookmark this site, because you will not be able to read all the entries in one sitting.  The title of the blog is Quips and Tips for the Successful Writer

Are You Satisfied With the Status Quo?

May 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Half- written stories, rejected submissions, and possible story lines found their way to my desk drawer graveyard through not understanding a couple of rules of the road in this craft.

The first rule is not to take a sabbatical while working on a project.  It is the kiss of death for many a project.  The obits of my characters read:  Died before I lived.  Everytime  I start writing a story and put it down for a few weeks, inertia takes over and I cannot resume. 

If I drop writing, even for as little as six weeks, I see more subtle changes in my characters as they adopt the influences or viewpoints that came into my life during that short time span.  The differences may be subtle, but nevertheless there.   Once changes are made, they, no doubt, alter other parts of the story line, and sometimes it means starting from scratch.

Consistency is the key.  It may take only a three day break to lose interest.  If you write everyday, even if it is for a short period, your interest will not wane, your momentum will not sag.  It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and perseverence to dust off an older piece of work and rework it.

Another observation I made about my writing is that if I don’t know my characters well enough at the onset, I lose interest.  I have to be emotionally engaged to keep the writing from being dull.   If I am not familiar with my characters, they never materialize on the page.  They aren’t bigger than life. Since they never seem involved in their own lives, they all appear to have self-esteem issues.  How boring is that! 

These characters maybe a stereotype without depth, without uniqueness.  They move through their lives aloof, controlling their space without connecting with anyone on or off the page.  Just like a marriage license doesn’t make a marriage, a character even though connected to another character may still have the reader  screaming into the page:  What about passion?  What about love?  What about sacrifice and honor?  Damn it.  Say something.  Do something.  This is exactly what results when your characters are not well established in your head.

So, if you find your characters a little lackluster, do your homework.  Etch out everything about this character.  Create a backstory to establish a reason for his/her behavior.  Add a quirk or two for interest and make it points of challenge in the character’s goal.

I posted a question on a  group asking whether established writers prefer to develop character over plot or vice versa when beginning a novel.  One respondent likened it to playing the piano.  You can play the melody with your right hand, the harmony and chords with your left, but eventually, you will want to play them together. Together the music is whole, rich and filled with texture.

If I was happy with the status quo, my writing could never get better.  Writing is one craft that you can be learning something new every day of your life.  This is why writers keep writing.

What did you learn last?  Care to share it?

Tired of Rejection? — Must Read Book

April 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Front Cover   If you write fiction, everyone tells you rejection is part of the process.  If you were selling a hammer for instance, how is your no name hammer different from the Sears, True Temper, or Stanley model?  What makes yours better?

This is the very same question publishers and agents ask when you submit your novel.  Why this novel and not the next one lying on the slush pile? 

Noah Lukeman is a literary agent in NYC.  He has written a book called The First Five Pages – A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. 

This is a book for both novices and seasoned writers.  It is about the craft of writing, but unlike Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style, this book will increase your chances of staying out of the rejection pile.  As a literary agent Lukeman shares with us exactly what agents and publishers look for in a manuscript. 

The First Five Pages covers common manuscript errors, gives solid advice on what attracts agents and editors, and provides writers with the tools to take their craft to the next level. 

The topics range from listening to how a writer puts words together to creating effective dialogue, to designing a more holistic picture of getting all the other elements working together (viewpoint, narration, characterization, hooks, tone, focus, setting and pacing).

What I like about this book is that it is more than just a text defining what constitutes good story telling.  Lukeman isolates the problem, illustrates and defines the writing technique and offers a better solution.  He adds exercises at the end of each section to help the writer identify weaknesses.

Yes, I am guilty of breezing through exercises without doing them.  However, Lukeman’s suggestions were different.  He didn’t burden you with “assignments”.  He asks you to take the work you have already created and examine it from a different perspective. 

Lukeman’s writing style is easy and conversational.  He talks to us in the lowest common denominator, which really helps if you are reading this past midnight.

Perhaps, my only real criticism may not be with the content as much as the publisher. All his excerpts were difficult to read because of the size of the type.  Passages looked as if they are in 8 pt., New Times Roman, italic.  Anyone in the business knows that comfortable reading is  10 pt. or higher.

This book gets a thumbs up from me for its content and usefulness.  Noah Lukeman may not have all the answers to keep your first novel from being rejected, but if you practice what he outlines in his book, your work will surely show promise. A Networkers' Goldmine

September 4, 2008 Leave a comment

Are you a writer that seeks the company of other writers?  Can’t find a group nearby?

I came across a great site for people who want to connect with others with similar interests.  Try  Although I have not joined it yet (my cup runneth over), I did surf through the site and read comments.  Since it is a self-directed site, you can be in control.  You either join an existing club or form your own.  You can search by topic or geography. 

Group members often leave their comments about the group.  It seems whether you are there to make new friends in the area or joined to talk about a specific topic, almost all the comments were a strong endorsement. 

Here’s a review from Bryan-Carey on

So if you are interested in spreading your wings, try something different.  Wouldn’t this make a great venue for a mystery novel?

Staring at the Brick Wall

August 25, 2008 Leave a comment

brickwall-2  I have hit a brick wall.  I haven’t posted in two weeks…or has it been longer?  So I do apologize for being absent.  Unlike some writers, I’m not stuck for ideas.  Or ability.  Or skill level.  It’s just plain poor time management. 

In Victoria Schmidt’s book, a self help book for the miserably time challenged (Book In A Month), she identifies several self defeating thoughts.  The one that I identified most was “I feel like I have no control over my time and how I spend it; writing is always pushed to the wayside.”  I don’t blame anyone but myself.  

Here are some strategies that I am employing to see if I can get over the brick wall:

1.  I started blogging to see if just the act of writing daily would morph into writing more substantive material.  Result:  It turns out I like blogging, but as you can tell by the last two weeks, I haven’t had much time. Results:  Blogging keeps me sane and as focused as I’ve ever been. 
2.  I have been searching for a writing buddy.  I’m not thinking about writing collaboratively, just someone to talk about writing, critiquing each other’s works, and to keep me from sliding into the nonwriting abyss.  Results: The first three people whom I approached wanted to be a writing buddy, but time management got in their way.   A little disappointed, I figured it was  better to know early in the game than later…and if they have more time issues than I do, how was I to ever improve?  I have a new writing buddy.  I am ever hopeful that this will be the one that helps me push through my writing dormancy.
3.  I have set deadlines for small assignments.  Results:  These have come and gone…and another deadline for a short story at the end of this month looks like more of the same. 
4.  I have daily to-do lists.  I have started listing writing at the top of the list instead at the bottom as an afterthought.
5.  In my spare time, I am always reading.  Results:  I’m enjoying the reading.  Am I more a spectator when it comes to writing?
6.  I’ve mapped out every hour of my day to see where I could be amiss.  The last two weeks I was sidetracked by the Olympics and now the political conventions are full steam ahead.   Results: No excuses.  I shouldn’t have given television a priority over my time with the computer.  
7.  Part of my problem may lie in the fact that I am working in front of a computer 8 hours a day.  I try not to hop back on the computer right after dinner.  I get a little exercise and then write.  Results: Obviously, this area could use some improvement.  Is my job the large elephant in the room?  Would I be more productive, if the best energy hours of the day were open to personal writing?  Do I have to wait until retirement, because I’m too undisciplined to make any progress?
8.  I am trying to say “NO” to people, but I often slip up.  Results:  When I do say no, which cuts down the level of noise that runs through my head, I am able to sit and write and enjoy myself.

Anyone have any suggestions that I can employ?  Giving up my day job is not one of them. 

Btw, writing is a great cheap form of therapy.  Try it.  I understand that writing also aids good health.



Lucky Bamboo

August 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Lucky Bamboo

 I took a photo of three bamboo stalks a while back.  What interested me was the curling.  As I looked at the stalks, I realized that in its simpleness there is much symbolism. 

Bamboo is a Chinese symbol for longevity.  It earned this distinction because if you ever had bamboo grow in your yard and tried to get rid of it, you realize that bamboo is hardy.  It springs back even when you have pulled all the stalks year after year.  The bamboo root system is extensive and prolific.  Despite my efforts to eradicate the plant, every year the tender stalks poke their way through the underbrush.  Its endurance and adaptability are a lesson to us all that the secret to a long, happy life is to go with the flow.

It is significant that there are only three stalks in this vase.  You’ve heard people say that “things happen in three’s.” 

Three seems to have a completeness about it.  Many phases of life and other references exhibit how three is important in understanding higher concepts of life.  Take these for example:

  • child/adult/senior
  • mother/father/child
  • life/death/rebirth (meaning life after death).
  • birth/life/death
  • red, blue, yellow – the 3 primary colors with which all other colors are created
  • three phases of the moon
  • three wishes for a genie
  • three wise men
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • physical, mental and spiritual
  • thought, word and deed
  • animal, vegetable and mineral

In writing combinations of three also appear:

  • beginning, middle, end
  • creating a scene: goal, conflict, disaster
  • creating a sequel: reaction, dilemma, decision
  • three acts in a play
  • rising action, climax, denouement

If you are looking for some real insight, I don’t have any.  I’m just writing whatever comes to my head in the early hours of the morning (1:22 AM).  I could go on and make some connection to the fact that the stalks remain green all year round.  And maybe there is something symbolic in that the leaves, which are much more tender than an oak, are few and appear at the end of the stalk. 

This exercise shows what can happen when you let your mind wander, connecting the dots between the universal truths and that which is real and concrete.  Every writer needs the ability to dream, because that is his or her well of inspiration.


Blogging Expectations

July 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Sorry about the hiatus.  I was contemplating in what direction I was taking this blog.  I am debating whether introducing more of me into the content would dilute the content.


So, I have been scouring other writing blogs to see what other bloggers say on the topic.  A couple of them have two individual blogs.  One dedicated to writing and the other dedicated to more personal perspectives. 


I can barely find time to write this blog (I work full time).  So sustaining two blogs is not happening. And while I could blog at work, because I am often alone in the office, I do not.  No, I don’t consider myself a goody two shoes (I wonder where that strange expression came from?) by any stretch of the imagination.  I just think that I can accomplish more if I try to keep my activities confined to blocks of time. 


Okay, I also think that when you are hired to do a job and you do your own thing on company time, you are in essence stealing from the company.  It isn’t traditional stealing in tangible goods, but nevertheless, it impacts the bottom line.  How does a small business truly grow if everyone on the payroll takes undue advantage of the situation?


I began this blog on a whim.  Writing daily was my first goal.  I know that if I keep the channels open, writing becomes easier.  It’s like playing piano.  You lay off the keys for awhile; you get rusty.   It also builds a readership.


During my hiatus, I have been learning about search engine optimization and working on writing projects.  I sense that I am spreading myself thin, so I’m paring down again.


I will stick with this blog, because I have things about writing to share.  I will work on my writing. 


And while we are on the topic of knowledge and sharing….did you ever notice that as we grow older, we seem to know less? 


Visit again and learn what I just noticed about aging and learning.  Sometimes, it is painful to be that observant.