Archive for February, 2016


February 25, 2016


Many writers assume that you need a library of books and writing tools by the bushel before you begin writing.  In truth you need paper and a pen or pencil.  If you want to make your writing easy, a computer is a valuable asset, but you can manage without one.  Using a computer will save you some of those books you might think you “have to have.”  I may be the first person, but I won’t be the last to tell you that your computer has a built-in spell checker, dictionary, and thesaurus, but I wouldn’t recommend that you rely entirely on the computers tools.  The computer spellchecker is very much like that one on your SmartPhone®; it can and will some really bad mistakes.

Now that we’ve discussed what you need, there’s one more thing you will need and I’ll venture to say, you must have.  That is a place to write.  Whether it’s a converted closet or your own home office, a writing place is important.  The dining room table won’t cut it. (Your spouse might want to have company for dinner at some point which will mean “Cleaning up” your mess.  Most writers don’t want to have a writing space where they are required to put everything away every time they quit for the day.   I recommend a place where you can close the door.  The door will prevent the cleaning problem and also cuts down on interruptions.  I used to tell my children that unless the house was on fire, they weren’t to interrupt me when I was writing.  It was a good threat and it worked most of the time.

Start writing now if you are compelled, but accumulate the things necessary for looking and acting like a serious writer.  You won’t be sorry you look like you are serious about this endeavor, it will probably make yourself feel like a writer, too.



February 18, 2016


Last time we discussed deciding what to write.  I hope you’ve taken a few moments over the last few weeks to ponder that question.  I can’t stress enough that deciding to write a “bestseller” is a path headed for destruction.  Write what you know and want to know, DON’T write science fiction, or romance, or a mystery because you think it will sell—it probably won’t.

Now that you’ve targeted your genre, let’s take a few minutes to talk and think about ideas.  If you are like most writers, you have a million ideas.  You have ideas for plots, characters, scenes, and maybe even dialogue.  How are you going to keep all of those ideas for future use?  Sometimes carrying around a college rule notebook is a bit awkward.  Note cards may look a bit quirky, too.  My purse always contains a small 2 X 2 inch notebook.  You aren’t going to get novel on it, unless you write really, really small, but you can jot a few notes.  If you observe a beautiful sunset, or hear a particularly clever piece of conversation, the notebook is the place to jot it down.

Do a little housekeeping when you go to your writing place.  Tear that note out and file it in an envelope, or other place labeled descriptions, or dialogue, or whatever.  I usually keep one of those larger files with the Velcro sealer to hold the envelopes for my current project.  The big folder is labeled with the working name of the book.  I recently dug out a note I needed for my current project in the folder of another similar book.  The larger folder has save me on occasion when I needed an obscure Census page or a handwritten note by one of my long gone relatives.  It really works.

Whatever works for you, keep at it.  Losing an idea can be a major time-waster as you spend your precious writing time digging through piles of paper for that one little note.

I also keep a small notebook (this can be the college rule notebook) beside my bed.  Some of the best ideas show up at three in the morning.

Start keeping your ideas now; it will be a valuable resource for your writing.


February 11, 2016


It has been a while since I’ve discussed your writing goals and choices.  Since I’m trying to start a video blog for beginning writers, which can also act as a refresher course for intermediate and advanced writers, I thought I’d take a few minutes this blog to discuss the all-important decision of deciding “what to write.”

This aspect may be one you’ve kicked around and “sort of” decided.  I’d like to suggest the obvious here and tell you to go with what you enjoy reading.  If you don’t like reading fiction, you’re going to be dreadful at writing it.   That’s not to say that you shouldn’t throw in a few facts into your fiction work.  Also if you are writing a period piece, be sure you get your setting in the correct era.  There are some great reference books out there which will give you a basic timeline for what was and wasn’t available at certain points in history.

If you enjoy reading Malcom Gladwell and Mark Victor Hanson, don’t stray too far from the nonfiction genre.  Well-written nonfiction is highly respected and in demand.  Some nonfiction writers can be deadly dull, so with some luck and perseverance you could land a job as a ghost writer for a well-known celebrity. Or write your own book.

Consider your choice with care, but remember you can always change your mind.  I’ve written for children, newspapers, and both fiction and nonfiction books.  All of my work is under my own name, so you can always change your mind if you decide you don’t like what you are doing.

The most important part of setting your goals is to finish what you are writing.  If you are working a job or have a busy schedule, remember all it takes is one page per day.  So take this week and decide what type of writing you want to do.  Write that decision on a piece of paper and join me next week while we start your writing career.


February 4, 2016


In the last few months, I’ve been exposed to more fiction writing with problems than I really cared to experience.  Since a large portion of this poor presentation has been from self-published works, I’ve been tempted to scream from the rooftops that self-publishing authors need to take a class.

Any well-published author will agree that writing the middle of your book is the most difficult part.  The middle is murder.  Once you’ve set up your hook, you have the published book in site. Then about page 100 a terrible thing happens. You don’t know how to get to the end.  Your enthusiasm wanes.  Your initial excitement fades.  You are left slogging through the verbal swamp with no direction.

Many writers and teachers would suggest that an outline of your story will prevent the middle letdown.  Others will suggest that you just hike up your socks and walk through to the end. For some the outline will work and still others will be able to divine a way to the ending.   However one-hundred and fifty pages do not a novel make, so here is my suggestion.  If the middle is leaving you with a bad case of pre-writer’s block—stop and start editing.

Leave that murderous middle and go back to the beginning.  Chances are pretty high that there’s a character or scene that you just dropped back there.  Make some notes as you edit and use them in your ending.  Keep up the pace, slow pacing is a big problem, so use those characters and scenes to get that energy back up.

One writer I encountered dropped a short story into the middle of the novel—don’t do that.  The novel had a bang-up hook which really needed resolution and more explanation. It could have happened in the middle.

If you can’t find a character or scene that needs more face-time, add one.  The addition will add more depth to your work and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If the murderous middle doesn’t resolve itself, put the manuscript aside; not forever, but long enough to gain a new perspective.