Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writers Need A Special Set of Tools


Carpenters may carry their tools in plain sight but writers keep theirs hidden away deep within themselves. Go to a book signing or a lecture by an author and you won't see that person's writing tools in a bag next to them.

Some writing tools we either have or want to acquire are:

1. Good sentence structure

2. Use of action verbs more often than passive

3. Organized thoughts

4. Transitions between paragraphs when needed

5. Clarity

6. Memorable phrases

7. Use of sensory details

8. Showing time and place

9. Good dialogue

10. Emotion

11. Development of characters

You can't run to Home Depot to purchase these tools. You can't borrow them from a next-door neighbor. You can't rub the magic lamp and ask for a full set from a genie. A writer acquires this set of tools little by little.


1. By reading books on writing

2. By reading books by other writers

3. By writing on a regular basis

4. By doing writing exercises

5. By having writing critiqued by others and paying attention to what they say

6. By attending workshops and classes on writing

It is evident that a writer does not acqure a full set of tools for his/her trade in a short space of time. Instead, a writer gathers these tools little by little. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Not All Writers Pen Novels

When we are beginning or new writers, we nearly all want to write a book. The Great American Novel! It's a wonderful goal to set but not everyone reaches it. Many don't even come close. It's perfectly alright.

Why? Because there are many other forms of publication for writers who write shorter pieces. I've shown a couple above next to the book. Newspapers buy from freelancers. Magazine editors are always looking for good articles and essays.

Ezines online need content. There are many kinds of internet sites that are looking for fiction, poetry, personal essays as well as nonfiction articles. Some bloggers pay for posts written by others. Some online publications pay, but many do not. It's up to the writer to make the decision as to which they will submit to. Then, it's time to sift and sort.

Technical articles are used in trade magazines. Small presses look for material for anthologies or a short story collection.

What kind of writing should you pursue for your shorter works? Here's a partial list.

1.  short fiction for adults

2. fiction and nonfiction for kids

3. creative nonfiction

4. memoir

5. essays of all kinds--personal, technical, opinion, and more

6. nonfiction articles

7. How-To guides

8, crafts and recipes

I believe in starting out with short pieces and working your way up to the full book. Your odds of being published with this type of writing are much better than in selling your novel. I don't mean to put down the novelists at all. I truly admire anyone who can write a complete book. But I do want to emphasize that writing shorter things is just fine, too. Besides that, it's very good pracatice for the bigger projects.

A man I know asks me on a regular basis if I've published a novel yet. To him, that is the ultimate goal. And no, he is not a writer himself. Maybe someday, I can answer yes to his question but in the meantime, I'm very satisfied to have shorter pieces published now and then. We who are not novelists shouldn't ever feel like a second fiddle.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Time To Confess

Month of August Summer

OK, so this is still July but it's the very last day of July and tomorrow we welcome the 8th month of the year--August. Hot, crammed with last of summer activities, schools beginning in many parts of the country and back-to-school shopping--that's what we think of.

For me, this August is going to be filled with something else. Submissions! I was looking at my Submission Record for 2015 yesterday and was startled to see that I had not submitted anything since early May. Me! The woman who is constantly hounding readers to submit their work. I've said things like It can't be published if you don't submit. Keep the submission ferris wheel going. 

I should blush a bit but I'm not embarrassed. Instead, I'm disgusted and a little bit angry with myself. I am the one who slacked off. Life's been pretty busy in the past three months, more so than usual, but I could and should have done a better job of keeping up with my writing and submitting. 

I let life get in the way of my writing journey. It happens to nearly all writers now and then. I kept up with writing the blog posts and my requirements in my online writing group so I didn't let writing go completely.However, I neglected to check markets and submit stories I had on file or write new ones. 

So what's the solution? I'm going to devote more time to writing and submitting this month. It will mean that I have to cut back somewhere else. Maybe my social life or maybe cleaning projects that can be put off awhile. I can get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later. Maybe I won't be reading as many novels as I have recently. There are ways to get snippets of time to use for writing. 

How about you? Do you find yourself slacking off a bit more in the summertime? If you have children at home, that's got to cause an increase in attention to them and a decrease in writing time. 

If you do less and less writing, is it easier to let it go than to pursue your writing goals again? Want to join me in spending more time this month on the writing path? 

I hope to have several submissions listed under August 2015 by the end of the month. Am I challenging myself? Absolutely! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sounds Easy But....

Every writer has a dream of being published, maybe being the author of a bestseller. Dream a little more and you might see yourself as a household name someday. But the dream is only the beginning.

You must have faith in yourself with an I think I can attitude like the hero in The Little Engine That Could. Self-doubt has no place here so push it aside. 

By writing on a regular basis--your action--you make writing a part of life that you can no longer do without. It's you! It's your pleasure and it's your pain at times, too. 

Now, add that perseverance that I so often talk about on this blog. You've heard me say over and over that perseverance is one of the key actions a writer must always strive for. When you persist, your writing dream becomes a goal to be achieved. It's a longterm goal. Not gonna happen overnight.

You've also heard me say over and over again that patience is also one of the key actions in a writer's bag of tools. It's so easy to tell a writer to be patient but much harder to practice personally. Part of patience is time, for writing success rarely comes quickly. We clilmb the ladder to writing success one rung at a time. Sometimes it seems that ladder might reach above the clouds. Stay with it and you'll not be disappointed.

The last part of the quote goes right back to the dream in the beginning. Do all these things stated it tells us and we'll achieve our dream. It sounds so easy but you and I know that there is a great deal of heard work, disappointments, time and toil involved, as well. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Pleasure Part Of Writing

Truman Capote shares something we should consider. We talk day after day about the difficulties writers face. You know the ones--rejections, finding the right title, grammar and spelling, writing with emotion and more. 

We know all the problems we encounter as writers but what about the pleasures? What in your writing life makes you feel satisfied? Or happy? Or even thrilled? Or just contented? 

Some of the pleasures in my writing life are:

1. getting an acceptance from an editor

2. finishing a writing project

3. writing phrases that sing back to me 

4. finding an idea for a new story

5. hearing from readers

6. watching a story grow bit by bit

7. placing in a contest

8. getting a critique with more positives than negatives

9. knowing that my writing may be helpful to some readers

10. receiving comments on my blog posts

11. mingling with other writers at conferences

12. chatting with other writers online

13. doing something I love

14. stringing words together that make sense

15. sharing my experiences with others

Make your own list of the parts of your writing life that bring pleasure to you. Then, the next time the negatives rear up and hiss at you, read the list to remind yourself why you continue to write.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How Do You Relate To This Quote?

Maybe some of the poster quote today relates to your writing life.

1. You might be stronger because you've learned to accept constructive criticism from others. You have had enough rejections of your work to toughen your skin. You had to be stronger if you wanted to continue your writing journey.

2. You are probably smarter because you made mistakes. After making those errors in life, you know what to do when you meet the same situation again.

3. You're most likely happier because you've put the sadness of not making the kind of strides in your writing life that you had hoped to. Dwelling on the negative parts of your journey only makes you sadder. Learning to overcome that feeling will definitely help in the happiness department.

4. Are you wiser because of what you learned from your writing life? I'm betting that you are. The keyword here is learned. Three people might experience the same situation in life but not all will become wiser.

Are you a perfect person if you can say 'yes' to all four of the above? No, but you may be a better person. You may be a writer who pursues his/her goals with a positive outlook. You may be more successful in writing publishable work than the person who puts a not before those four special words--stronger, smarter, happier and wiser. Read the quote again and insert not before each of the four words noted here. Which person are you?  The positive quote or the negative? Some of us might fall in-between or we might be positive on two or three but not the fourth one.

This quote definitely gave me food for thought. How about you?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Should Writers Write Every Day?

Maybe I could write 52 interconnecting short stories and combine it all into one large novel.I looked at this quote in a slightly different way. If one writes a story every week, it means he/she is writing consistently. I'm a firm believer in writing on a regular basis.

I'm sure there are people who can write nothing for six months, then sit down and dash off a story that is publishable. I also think that those people belong to a very small group. The rest of us need to write often.

Athletes work on their skills day after day. They exercise. They try new ways to hit a ball with a bat or get a basketball into the hoop or throw a longer pass. They work on their skills even in the off-season.

Musicians and singers don't play or use their voice only on occasion. They practice a lot. As do circus acrobats and long distance runners and artists. We writers are no different. To polish our writing ability, we need to practice it often.

One day last week, I was playing Bridge and my partner surprised me with a question out of the blue. "Do you write every day, Nancy?" she asked.

I hesitated a bit before answering because the question was unrelated to anything else we'd been talking about. I told her that I do write something almost every day. Writing this blog five days a week definitely counts. I might write a personal letter or a journal entry or a writing exercise. I also do several critiques of other peoples' writing and that counts as writing for me. Sometimes my writing for the day takes hours while other days it's minutes. But, yes, I do write nearly every day. Even when on vacation! I usually keep a travel journal so put my thoughts and the events of the day in writing on a daily basis while away from home or I write my blog in a hotel room when we travel.

One of the reasons I continue my blog is that it does require regular writing. I will admit that sometimes it takes time away from writing a story or personal essay. When I'm working on another writing project, I increase the time I write that day.

Hone your craft by writing something every day. Even if it is only 15 minutes. You won't regret it. You might even take Ray Bradbury's advice in the poster quote above. You may strike gold with some of those stories.