Monday, January 29, 2007

To Had or to Had Not

All writers have their favorite quotes. Most of them are quotes from writers we admire, those who have succeeded at their craft. We post them around our offices, on our bulletin boards and even at the edge of our computer screens. They encourage us, making us look deeper into ourselves and what we put down on paper.

My favorite is one I hate. I love to hate it, but I hate it. The first time I read it I thought, well this guy is a jerk. He obviously doesn’t read much.

It goes like this:‘Words are like leaves and where they most abound, much fruit beneath is rarely found.”*

After reading it a few times, all the while burying myself deeper into my craft, I began to get what he meant. Writers use one thing, words. It’s all we have. Words are the tools we use to create our art. What I am coming to realize is that we tend to think the more words we use, the better our creation. We can wow our readers with all of the words we know. This simply isn’t true.

Right now I am working to take the word ‘had’ out of my writing. It’s just a little word, doesn’t take up much space and adds nicely to our word count. I call it a ‘cheater’ word. It’s an empty meaningless word that all of us ought to strike from our writing, unless it is absolutely needed.

Here’s a quick example of what I mean.

He had not given her his answer.
He did not give her an answer.

She had never seen him before today.
She never saw him before today.

The word had takes the action right out of a sentence. An entire scene can be flattened by the small, meaningless little word.

Give it a try. Look over your latest story and see how many times you have deflated a sentence by using the word. Re-word your sentence, replacing had, and see what you wind up with. My guess is you will be much more pleased with the flow of your sentence, and your scene.


*Essay on Criticism-Pope

Posted by Speck for Gwanny cause Blogger and her puter don't seem to be able to play nice together.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Hey all...

I have this posted on my office wall where I can see it. Thought I'd share with you.


Confronting the dragons
Overcoming the obstacles
Understanding the risks
Really living
Always believing
Going the distance
Expecting the best

I like this. It applies to a lot of things in life, including writing.

First, those dragons of doubt. How hard they are to deal with sometimes. Not only do we have to deal with dragons and shoulder vultures, sometimes our family and friends become obstacles. But, when we understand rejection letters and such are a normal part of the process we can write and enjoy it, really living so to speak. Success with our writing comes with always believing in ourselves and going the distance when we'd rather give up. Naturally, we should always expect the best from each submission.

I find this to be an almost daily process. Some days I'm not bothered so much by the dragons but other days they seem to arrive in a large numbers determined to have me for lunch. Life throws obstacles my way all the time but how I deal with them is my choice. By studying markets, learning my craft and becoming a better writer I can get rid of some of the risks but no matter what, I have to always believe in myself. I have to choose to not give up and to expect good things.

I hope you confront your dragons, believe in yourself and really live:--)


Monday, January 22, 2007

Working from home

When I decided to stay at home with my children and work on fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer it seemed liked paradise. Who could complain about shuffling out of bed to play with her little ones and then sauntering over to the computer in her pajamas to type out a few words?

But as the weeks turned into months I found myself upset a lot of the time. I snapped at the kids for no reason, I didn't feel like eating, and I wasted valuable writing time surfing the Internet. Life at home didn't end up being as peachy as I thought it would be. Feelings of isolation crept up on me. I didn't know how to change the way I felt, but I knew I couldn't put my girls into day care and return to working outside the house just to make me happy.

So what could I do?

Here are a few quick tips to help quell the feelings of isolation those who work from home can experience:

* Use email to chat with friends and colleagues
* Join chat rooms or forums
* Change the scenery by getting up and going out
* Attend professional conferences
* Volunteer in your community

I've used more than one of these tips over the past three years. That's how I stumbled across StoryCrafters. I find if I keep in touch with people and make a point to get out of the house at least once a week--even if it's just to the mall for lunch--I can cope with spending the majority of my time at home. There are still days when the kids are cranky and I don't feel like accomplishing much, but knowing how to push those feelings of isolation aside, helps me be in the right frame of mind to handle just about anything--like my girls getting into my craft supplies and pulling balls of yarn from one upstairs room to the other while I edited an article.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

That sounds stupid!

Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.
— Jacques Barzun

I found this quote quite recently and it hit home. Which of us doesn't have days where we stare at our computer screen, or our paper, for hours without writing a word? Or, we do write, but delete everything we say within a few minutes of writing it because it's 'so horrible'?

For the past six weeks I have been away from writing anything of substance. I have edited. I 'changed it up' (as per my last post), and wrote mindless RPG. But, I have goals to meet. I have to get back to actual writing.

For the past three days I've tried to do just that. To buckle down and begin writing again. I pulled up to my desk with a certain level of excitement at knowing I was halfway done. The upcoming chapters promised so much in my head.

I haven't managed to write one word. Six weeks of time off has made my muse run for the hills at the very thought of trying to write something that doesn't sound stupid. I can't break past that first sentence.

So, once again procrastinating, I started surfing the web. I literally stumbled upon this quote and it fairly screamed at me. I need to JUST WRITE. If the first sentence sounds stupid, who cares? I'll be going back to edit anyway, I can fix that later.

At one point in time during NaNo I got stuck on a transition paragraph. Nothing I wrote worked. So, I 'skipped' it. Literally. I wrote this in its place:

Insert transition paragraph here because I have no clue what to write and I just want to get past this block. The best way to do that is to pretend I’ve written it and come back later with a more powerful statement then what I have in my head that sounds like fluff and filler and basic crap.

It got me through the block, I wrote almost 3000 words that day, and I went back and fixed it during editing this past month.

So, today I'm going to sit down. I'm going to write the first sentence of the rest of the book, no matter how stupid it sounds.

Write through the block. Allow a stupid sentence. You're going to edit half of them away, anyway!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Funding a Writing Career

Funding a Writing Career

I’m cheap, always have been. When the kids were little, I made the Hamburger Helper type meals from scratch. A little pasta, add some vegetables and meat; you’ve a complete meal that fills their little tummies.

A writing career is a home based business and therefore, requires a certain amount of funding. There are classes, seminars, office supplies, mailing supplies, books, market guides, promotion expenses and magazines. Like any start up business you initially put out more than you take in. That’s where being a thrifty type person comes in handy. It takes a little sacrificing but in the end…

This year I want to attend a writer’s conference so I’ve brain stormed a way to save some money for one. I like going out to eat and probably do that once or twice a week. I’m giving up one night a week and putting that money in a piggy bank. That’s about $30.00 a week or $120.00 a month!

As writers, we use tons of paper every week. At an average of $3.99 per package the costs adds up. I recycle my paper. I keep a box next to my computer and after editing a hard copy of a manuscript it goes into the box. Then I use the backside of that paper for character sketches, re-writes, notes, doodling and brainstorming.

Ink is another costly expense. When I started taking writing classes I took a serious look at the cost of things and realized that I needed to cut expenses. I do most of my editing on the computer screen. This saves on ink, but for me it’s not the same as a hard copy; when it’s as close to polished as possible, I print it out on my re-cycled paper. Then edit again. I also have a rule, no printing web pages that use color unless it’s a necessity. This way I’m buying black ink only.

Writers are avid readers too. I’ve spent a fortune in books. Now I’ve put some boundaries on my spending. The library is the cheapest way to study a new genre. If you’re like me, you like owning the books you read. This way if it gets a little wet while I’m soaking in the tub, it’s no one’s loss but my own. I save money by buying books for genre study at the second hand stores. One exception to this rule is when a writer friend has a book or article published I buy that brand new. After all, we need to support each other on the way up.

With a little sacrifice and creativity, you can save a dime here and there. Trust me, it adds up.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stepping out...

Hey all...

Remember the last Indiana Jones movie where Indi has made it through all the hidden traps and is standing at the edge of the cliff? He has to continue on, but there is no visible means to cross the great chasm. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and stepped out. And his faith held him up and carried him to the other side. Good movie but what does this have to do with writing you ask?

Today I sent two applications to present workshops at a National Christian Writers Convention. Hitting that send button was like Indi stepping out from the ledge. Not only did I have second thoughts but I had to smack the shoulder vulture that kept whispering that I had nothing to say that anyone would want to listen to. But, I took that deep breath, wanted to close my eyes and hit the send button anyway. Naturally the shoulder vulture had to laugh and make a snide comment about how if they did like the idea I'd choke in front of a group of people. I smacked him again and now I have feathers all over my desk:-)

But each of us have to take that step if we want to be published. Yes, we will get rejection letters and they will hurt. That is just one of the realities we have to face as writers. Not every reader will love our writing and that is fine. Not every place we submit will want to publish our work. When that happens we just have to take a deep breath and send it right back out.

So...let's all take a deep breath and step out of our comfort zone. Try writing a different genre, you might like it. Got an idea for an article? Find a market and query or write it and then query. Either way, take that step and try something different. Got a story or article ready to go out but haven't gathered the nerve to send it? It's time to take that deep breath and send it out.

Yes, the shoulder vultures are going to make snide remarks and laugh. But who cares what they have to say...not us for sure. Smack them:--)


Saturday, January 13, 2007


Everyone has dedication to some thing in one form or another. For me, dedication means to carry through with my goals and dreams until they become a reality. My main goal is to write, second is to have a large press publish more than one of my novels. In other words, I want to succeed with my writing. Of course, when I first started, I did so not with the thought to become published. I assumed that was impossible for me. After all, the published authors were special.

Well, guess what? I’m special too. I may not write like other authors but that doesn’t make my work lesser than theirs, just different. What makes me special is the fact that I have persevered. I move forward. I no longer whisper that I am a writer. I tell everyone that will listen. I submit, receive rejections, and submit again, and I learn everything I can about my craft. Day after day, I practice to make my writing better. This is dedication.

To succeed, I have to set goals, stay focused on them and never give up on my abilities. That’s what being dedicated is all about.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Anxiety and Self-doubt

In Heather Sellers' book Page after Page she says in order to learn how to write every day, "writers have to gently embrace ambivalence, anxiety, not-sure-ness."

Usually, I have my blog entry planned a week in advance; not the words, but the idea is formed in my head enough where I can type it up with ease, edit it a couple times, and then hit "publish post." But not this week. I drew a blank. What did I have to offer of value to anyone? There are many members on StoryCrafters whose experience in the field of writing surpasses mine. These peers--can I even call them that since I am so lame compared to them--post in the Bragging Rights section about their latest sales, while I have struggled along for the past three years squeaking out only one sale, a finished novel that might never go anywhere, and another whose progress seems destined to stay at the 15,200 words I wrote for NaNo. And yet, here is Sellers telling me I have to embrace these feelings. What kinds of drugs is this woman doing, and where in the heck can I get some?

"Anyone can start writing," claims Sellers. "To keep on creating and grow as a writer, you also believe you suck." Ok, now I'm sitting here screaming, "She understands me!" but she says it's a good thing I feel this way.

What? How can that possibly be? I must read more.

Then Sellers tells me, I have to start looking at self-doubt and anxiety in a whole new way. "Being unsure," she says, "is one of the things that helps you steer in revision." So, there is a good reason to feel this way. Hmmm...

What do you know, experiencing self-doubt and anxiety doesn't make me a worse writer, it actually helps me. Who would have thought? Now, I'll have to think of self-doubt and anxiety as my friends instead of my enemies. I'll have to be careful they don't move in and take over my house, but without them hanging by my side, I wouldn't be pushed into making every article, every paragraph, every sentence, each word, the best it can be.

I guess, I could hope to be one of those writers whose first drafts are close to their published works. Maybe I would feel better if my resume had a long string of impressive writing credits. But that doesn't make me a writer. The actual art of sitting down and putting pen to paper or typing out words on a keyboard is what makes me a writer. No one can tell my articles or stories the same way I can. And that is the value behind them.

Monday, January 08, 2007

More on goals...

I've been doing a lot of reading about setting goals lately. One thing that caught my attention dealt with setting goals we have no control over. For example...I want to sell my dragon fantasy to Tor this year. Well, that is nice but it is something I have no control over. Someone else is in charge of buying for Tor. A better goal would be to submit my dragon fantasy to Tor this year. That is something I do have control over and a goal I can accomplish.

But we also need to break our goals down into bite size pieces we can chew easily. So, using my dragon fantasy novel for example, I have to look at it and decide what it needs before it can be sent to Tor. It most definitely needs some revision so if I revise just one chapter a week, it will take approximately 9 months.

I also need a synopsis, cover and query letter. That should be doable in a month. So, in ten months I should be able to accomplish the goal of sending dragon fantasy out.

By breaking down the "overall" goal into smaller pieces, I can see when I'm ahead of schedule, or behind and what I need to get done.

The most important thing about goals though...make them realistic. With my schedule I can't revise a chapter a day. Setting that as a goal is setting myself up for failure.

So, the point of my blog post is this: Take a look at the goals you set the first of the year. Are they something you have control over? Are they realistic for your situation? Do your goals need to be revised?

I posted a Writing Goal Workbook link at StoryCrafters today in the Potpourri section. It is a spreadsheet thing that is way over done for the way I work but maybe you can modify it or use bits and pieces. Check it out...check out your goals and get writing:--)


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Changing it up...

Have you found yourself in a rut? You've been writing something for so long, perhaps it's the "Great American Novel," or maybe just an article that you've written, edited, and rewritten over a dozen times. You have reached a point where you can't even bear to open up word anymore.

What's a writer to do?

Change it up. Do something different for a day, a week, a month. Whatever it takes to come back with fresh eyes.

That's what this writer is doing now. For one month I've been laid up, not able to get to the computer much. I spent hours editing the first twenty chapters of my novel. I still have ten more to edit, plus plenty more to write but (and I never thought I'd say this), I'm sick of it. I open Word to write the next chapter, and everything sounds horrible to me. I pull out the chapters to keep on editing, and all I can think is I have to rewrite from the beginning. It's not that I lack confidence in the writing or the story. It's that I'm overloaded (or bored, if you must put it like that) with it. Keep in mind, this is my second draft. I've been writing this novel, or it's sequel, for nearly two years now.

So, I change it up. I work on mindless fanfiction, I work on my FTT article...or I RPG. RPG gives me an interactive element of meshing minds to come up with a plot line (which usually wind up totally crazy and convoluted...but that's half the fun). I don't care about how WELL I'm writing it, because it's a 200 word post at most, and if I'm an adverb whore, nobody cares. It gives me an excuse to let my imagination go insane without being too harsh on WHAT I'm writing. Then, when I get back to my novel's pages, I feel like I can focus on the 'proper' way to write, and do better at it.

So if you feel overloaded, bored, or ready to pull your hair out because you can't get something perfect...Change it up. Focus on something else, even something that has nothing to do with writing, for a while. Give your eyes, and your internal editor, a break for as long as you need to feel refreshed. Then go back. We all need a vacation...even our 'great works' deserve a break now and then.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Writing Classes

Are writing classes worth the time and effort? I’m on assignment 10 of the Long Ridge Writers Course and feel I can look back over the past year and say, yes, absolutely.

I’ve lived just long enough to be skeptical of anything that seems too easy. When I took the aptitude test and passed; well, I was my worst enemy. I allowed all those negative thoughts like; oh, they accept everyone, to dampen my joy. My husband tried to convince me otherwise. Then Student’s Services called and personally praised my essay. I must confess my ego took flight.

I sailed through the assignments until I hit number 8. The instructor wanted a rewrite! How could she possibly ask me for a rewrite? It’s funny, as a newbies, we want honest critiques of our work and on the other hand, we’re devastated when the person reading our work didn’t see the brilliance of our masterpiece. Even some seasoned writers have difficulties with this. I asked one instructor if she has a hard time letting an editor critique her work. She said she’s come to a place where she enjoys the challenge of working with the editor to make that piece the best it can be. This is the attitude I’m adopting, because it’s open and allows for the freedom of learning.

I took this course because writing is what I love. A year ago, I didn’t have a clue what show, don’t tell meant. I didn’t understand the art of writing tight. I’m still not a master, but at least now, I have a glimpse what the editors are looking for. I’ve had my share of bruising and my skin has thickening. I’m submitting more work so now the rejections will start and I’m glad I’ve had a few knocks to prepare for them.

Put your work out there for critiques and open your mind to accept them as a helpful tool. Story Crafters has many places for you to get this experience. Speck recently did a workshop on the art of critiquing, copy and print it out. When you get your manuscript back that has a line-by-line critique, full of marks, read through it quickly. Then put it away for a few days and let it simmer, pull it out and start the real work of writing… the rewrite. Story Crafters has every level of writer, there are bound to be critiques you agree with, and some you don’t. It’s the experience you owe yourself and your writing.

After a year of classes and hanging out at Story Crafters, I fully appreciate the idea of giving to other writers. Let’s help each other reach our goals. Pass it on. Study hard, good writing doesn’t just happen, it’s work and it’s a life long journey. Enjoy.

Laura A. Bethuy

Posted by Speck to get her started. Welcome to the StoryCrafters blog team:--)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolve to Resolution

I tried hard today to come up with something other than resolutions to write about. However, it’s New Years Day and resolution is on my mind, just not in the way you may think.

All over the world today people are jotting down their resolutions for the New Year. They are resolving to be better people, to give to the poor, to do their part to make the world a better place. Some resolutions are not so noble. Some folks are resolving to lose weight, exercise, eat better. There are those who will resolve to make 2007 the year they marry, go after that longed for promotion or pay off their credit cards. (good luck on that one) Regardless of what we resolve to accomplish in the upcoming year, or how vehement we are at this moment that we will succeed, there is a voice in the back of our brain whispering,

“It ain’t gonna happen kiddo…why put yourself through all this.”

I decided this morning before I got out my journal and began my yearly list of resolutions to first look into the formal definition of the word “resolution”. (by the way, I did not go back to see if what I had resolved to do in 06 had actually been accomplished), I got out my tattered old Webster’s and did a Wiktionary search on -line. Just as I suspected. Resolution is the act of resolving to accomplish a certain thing; bummer. I was hoping to find a definition that did not hold me to such a high standard. So I continued my online search of the word, hoping against hope that a definition of the word more suited to my personality might emerge… Eureka! A little research really can go a long way. Now this definition of resolution is one I can work with.


Refers to the sharpness and clarity of an image.

You know, as in the resolution of your computer screen or TV set.

I opened my journal and began to write. ‘On this New Year Day 2007, I resolve to bring into clarity the image I have always carried of myself. The image that I am a writer. I will spend this year sharpening my skills as a writer. I will not let the visual I have had of myself since childhood, that of a wordsmith, tapping out the next great American novel be muddied any longer. I will clear the snow from the screen, bring every dream of authorship I have ever had into perfect focus. I will bring that image to life.

”As soon as I closed my journal, my resolve set right, came that little voice.

“It ain’t gonna happen kiddo…why put yourself through all this”.

So I opened my journal and wrote,

“PS….turn the volume all the way down and rip the knob off.”

Here’s hoping that we all clarify and sharpen whatever resolution we may make today.

Happy New Year

Sherry (aka) Gwanny

Posted by Speck cause blogger is still giving Gwanny a hard time. I was supposed to do this yesterday but was lazy:-)