Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Making Your Writing Life

As mentioned in previous blog post about the book, Making a Literary Life, Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, by Carolyn See, where she says ‘don’t write what you know, write what you care about.” Which as I mentioned in my post, I’m not sure I, or a lot of writers I know, agree with.

But she does talk about writing 1,000 words a day, every day, 5 days a week, which she says is about 4 pages a day, which is achievable for most people, and pretty easy. So she says. She does caveat that with a few other thoughts, but I’ll leave that to you to read the book. She also talks about writing notes To people too, but you’ll need to read the book and decide on your things yourself.

Basically it’s just getting in the habit of writing. Turning off the awful critic in your head and going with the words that are churning around in there. And probably everywhere else in you if you’re like a lot of writers I know.

Here, Maggie does a great post on it here - http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com/172898.html

It doesn’t matter what the routine is, just that you make the decision to write, and you do. And then keep it up, even after the flush of that first passion wears off and other insanely better ideas begin waving and offering you skittles. And remember…”

I don’t really like skittles all that much but Maggie does make a great point in what she’s trying to say.

There aren’t too many writers I know that haven’t at some point been lured away from their current amore that they are hard at work writing on, or hopefully hard at work on, to dabble with a new idea or story line. Thinking that this new love is very possibly The one that we should be working on. Instead of that very familiar, possibly stale, one we’ve been living with for awhile, and probably what seems like ages. I think most of us will tell you, don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for the stranger, no matter what candy he’s holding out to you. Maggie’s skittles or not. Didn’t your momma even tell you that?

What seems to work with most of us, again, hopefully, is to jot down that lovely new idea and character thoughts, and then give them a deep meaningful stare and quick kiss, and get back to your long-time, and probably neglected love, hopefully before they know you’ve been gone for any length of time. You’ll be better for it. Perhaps even your story will. And at the very least you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do when your current love affair with what you are currently writing comes to its inevitable ‘The End’…. You’ll be ready to pick up a new one with that lovely dish that is just waiting in the wings. The waiting makes you both grow stronger you know. Since I know you’ve added thoughts to that file here and there along the way, when you’ve slipped out away from your current. That’s okay as long as you don’t abandon your current for a fling that ends up coming to nothing. Most writers have more than their share of woes there. Stay the course. Finish what you’ve begun. You’ll be glad. Especially since I’m going to give a couple of other things I did like from the book.

Here’s couple of other quotes from the book that I liked - …’Australian Aboriginals say if you don’t “sing your world into being,” no one else will’…. ‘No one else has your information.’

But my favorite from the book – “Roger Simon, a fine mystery writer, once gave a wonderful speech, in which he said: The success of any of your friends is a genuine cause for rejoicing, because it brings you closer to the charmed circle of people who are doing their best work and having a good time.”

That sounds like a good reason for everyone to come and hang out and support all the great people that are James River Writers, doesn’t it?

And if you make plans to do it this Thursday night, August 26th, at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, you can also learn about how to reach out and touch people on the internet as well. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cold Waiting blues

While awaiting knights in their trusty vans to come and rescue me from the cold water blues – literally – and waiting, and waiting…. Yesterday I spent the day waiting by working on a short story, I think it probably is. It’s still in formative, development stage, but it’s funny and touching. And since I was still slapping down scenes and such, it was easy to jump up and run to the window to ‘let my hair down’ to my rescuers when they came. Okay, not. Since my hair got chopped. Everybody probably knows by now, it’s been HOT around here, and hair is Hot. In more ways than one apparently. And they didn’t come.

So I was eager to see them first thing this morning. And eager and eager. And waiting and waiting. I decided my mind wouldn’t be ‘calm’ enough to work on thrashing around with characters – and thinking about thrashing errant not-showing-up-knights - so I picked up a book I’d checked out from the library on someone’s blog recommendation – so if it’s you, stop and say ‘hey’ – the book, Making a Literary Life, Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, by Carolyn See, is interesting. Didn’t get it finished before I was Finally rescued and could go luxuriate in a hot shower. I like hot water. Even in Hot summer, I like Hot water. It’s very nice having it. I like it. A Lot.

But back to the book. It was interesting. I didn’t finish it but made it over half way through before the errant knights found their way past trolls or whatever – by that time I didn’t really care what they had to slay to get to my rescue.

One of the interesting comments she makes in the book was just posted about in lovely Lexie’s recent blog post,


about writers, especially beginning writers, are always told to write what you know. Lexie disagrees. Carolyn See disagrees. As do I really. In her book, Carolyn See says “Don’t write what you know, write what you care about.”

I found that interesting. And interesting to mull on.

But I still think I heard it put best like this – Don’t write what you know – write about what you Want to know.

And do the research to get you there.

Sortta similar to what she says. But feels different to me somehow. What do you think?

As she goes into in her book, like most writing students, if we just write about what we know….well, I mean really, who wants to read about sitting around waiting for guys to come bring you a new hot water heater so you can shower. Not all that important or interesting to read about, except to me, and probably the people around me perhaps. I have hot water, I have hot water……

But I’m probably stretching your patience even writing about it here, huh.

So I still like mine best. ;) I don’t remember where / who I picked it up from but it has stuck with me.

So what do you think? Better question – What do you do? Do you write what you know?

Only what you know?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pick Up Lines and Firsts

I’m actually talking about first lines of books and queries to pick up an agent. It seems to be coming up a lot lately. From things that seem to keep appearing to read, to a brief discussion with another writer.

In Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages, A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. He says right at the beginning of the book that really it should have been called The First Five Sentences. Since they are so critical in getting your audience hooked in, especially first hooking an agent.

As those of us who have attended the James River Writers Conferences – coming up in October if you want to check it out and come see us all – and sat through the First Pages session, aka American Idol of Writing session. Well, it doesn’t take long to realize how Critical that first page is. And according to Lukeman, how critical those first five sentences are.

And, gulp, according to something I read recently, how critical the first line is!

The First Line.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, it did leave me blinking a little blankly. Then I think a bit of terror set in. Then I went racing to current works-in-progress….yes, I have a couple going right now, the YA is ‘main’ one but when that gets a bit tough for me there I go over and look at couple of short stories or whatever they turn out to be, and dabble a bit on them. Whatever I can write on that will keep some kind of flow of words going. It’s been a very hot and dry summer.

I mean, like I said, from going to the James River Writers Conferences and doing a lot of research and all, I ‘knew’ the first few pages were important. Well, technically, All the pages are important, the first couple, Critical. But as you’re mired in the grit of slapping down words and trying to get them to stick to the paper….it just helps to have a remind sometimes of how important each word is. Especially when you are just starting out. Both as a writer, And your first pages / first sentences.

So, how are your first sentences going? Need to take another look at them perhaps?

And once you get your sentences in your manuscripts tight, then there’s comes the honing of the pitch line.

So, Kris, this one’s for you. ;)


Selling Books in One Line or Less

Elizabeth Bluemle

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Growing as Writers - Mingling and Meeting

It's Late, I'm in a Hurry. I admit it.
I'm still trying to figure out where all the time is going, let alone that White Rabbit. Maybe he's taking it.....hmmmm.....
But that's for another time. When there is more time. dratted Rabbit.

But one thing Everyone should spend their time on - is the gathering of yourselves together. Does anyone Ever feel comfortable being alone All the time?
I don't think that's how most people are made. Or sewn up anyway.

And one thing a Writer can be doing for themselves is mingling with other writers. As agent Chip MacGregor gives advice below. If you notice #2, #3, and even a bit of #5 if Kris and others manage to talk you into doing NaNo in November, can all be covered by being a part of James River Writers. And coming out and meeting and mingling all the great people, great writers, at Writers Wednesday, Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - that's today by the way. Later this evening but today none the less.

And while you're at it, put down the Writing Show on Thursday, August 26, 2010. Will be talking about using social media. And since that's probably not a lot of mainly-mingle-with-made-up-characters writer's strengths, thought I'd mention so you can get it on your calendar in time.

Not to mention the great James River Writers Conference, in October. So you have lots of opportunities to take the advice below, and mingle up with us.
And add to your growth as a writer.

For more information on the Writing Show, and Writers Wednesday, as well as the Conference, check out the James River Writers site -


And do check out this great advice that you should be taking ;) -


March 20, 2010

Sue wrote to me and asked, "What is the one thing I can do that would most help me grow as a writer?"

May I offer more than ONE thing, Sue?

1. Write a lot. Most writers are really wannabes -- they talk about writing a lot more than they actually write. But if you wanted to be a better pianist, would you TALK about playing the piano, or would you sit and PRACTICE? The same goes for dance, or painting, or singing, or baseball. Or writing. The best thing you can do to improve is to write more. (You want real-world advice? Set a goal of 1000 words a day, 5000 words a week, and get busy.)

2. Find experienced writers. For some, that means joining a writing group, in which you all write something and share it with each other every month. The critiques of others will hurt, but they will often help you improve. For others, that means finding a mentor -- someone who may not have hit the bestseller lists yet, but he or she is a bit further down the path than you are. A mentor can offer advice, perspective, and wisdom to help you grow. For still others, it means simply making friends with a writer who is more or less on your own level and asking him or her to be your accountability partner, reader, and sometime counselor/shrink/psychic/motivational speaker.

3. Hang out with writers. We all get better by spending time with a diverse group of people who share our interests. Here's a suggestion: If you're a novelist, consider signing up for the ACFW conference in Indianapolis this September. ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) offers some of the best training in craft outside of personal coaching or college classrooms, and spending a week with them is a great investment. If you're a nonfiction writer, consider going to one of the big summer conferences like Write to Publish at Wheaton College. You'll find good instruction, lots of friends who share your passion for writing, and one of the few remaining chances to be face-to-face with editors and agents. (And while I've taught at both of those conferences, they're not paying me anything to plug them.)

4. Read widely. Don't settle for the same stuff all the time. Introduce yourself to new, young writers. Check out a bestseller. Pick up classic books. Try your hand at Twain or Dickens or Austen. If you're a fiction writer, read a great nonfiction book (try Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm or John Krakauer's Into Thin Air). If you're a nonfiction writer, buy yourself a great novel and dig into another genre (have you read Lisa Samson's Quaker Summer yet?). Stretch your reading boundaries this summer.

5. Do one thing to improve your craft. Buy a book on writing and try the exercises. Take an online class, or sign up for a writing workshop at your local community college. Check out one of the software programs designed to help you get going on your novel. Enter a contest. Give yourself an assignment to write an article for your local paper. (If you need suggestions for books on craft, I recommend Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life, Patricia O'Connor's Words Fail Me, and Les Edgerton's Finding Your Voice.) And yes...I've recommended all of these books in the past. I'll start recommending new things tomorrow!

So get thee to a James River Writers gathering. While there's still time.

And there goes that Rabbit scurrying off with my time again......