Tag Archives: Writing hurdles

FIVE WRITING RULES AND HOW/WHEN TO BREAK THEM

I found a statement in an old copy of Writer’s Market on line by Jessica Strawser (Feb. 13, 2012 issue) that made me laugh out loud, and I quote: “As wordsmiths, many of us rejoice in a single fact every day: “Writing is not math.”

The reason it hit my funny bone is that I know a number of writers who would agree. I, on the other hand, loved math when I was a kid in school — probably from early junior high school on — Oh, not even! I remember maybe in upper elementary (?) whenever we hit fractions, both dividing and multiplying. I got an old steno-notebook and filled a page, top to bottom, with a straggly column of fractions. I moved over an inch or two and made a second column. Between the two I placed a “multiply” or “divide sign”; then moved over another inch or two, and I’d see how fast I could write the answers. My form of playing “Angry Birds” or some other “game” on an android, or even a phone, before those were invented.

What does all that math have to do with writing? Actually, it has to do with the “rules” imposed on us. Math has rules. So does writing. And every conceivable language, whether written or spoken, has rules. In math, formulae and protocols must be strictly adhered to . . . I wonder if anyone told Einstein that? Or Newton?

We writers “know” our rules too, and sometimes understand how and when to break them:

  1. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.
    But does that yield “bland protagonists? “Sleepy settings?” “Mild plots?” Instead, think “Write What You Know means Write What You See Differently, Feel Profoundly, Know is Important, Where You Find the Extraordinary in What is Universal.” Don’t limit yourself to what you know: use your imagination, exercise your human potential, stretch beyond your “borders.” And “The Rules.” Go ahead: Natalie Goldberg has advised writers to “lose control,” say what they want to say, break structure, and sometimes assigns them to write “what they’re not thinking of” or “what they don’t remember.” It’s the writer’s job, Goldman maintains, “to give the reader a larger vision of the world.” She claims everything — every person in Portugal or darkest Africa, the grass, bees, a horse, even a rock — all have different languages. And Donald Maass adds “. . . you can always research what you don’t know. But you can’t fake what’s in your heart. Say what matters. That’s writing what you know.”
  2. HOOK YOUR READERS ON PAGE 1.
    “Most experts advise starting with or quickly getting to an ‘inciting incident,’ or at least something that implies a main character’s status quo has been interrupted,” says Jerry B. Jenkins. Above all, he says, “it’s not gunfire, murder or mayhem,” but something wherein you want to know what’s going on — and you’ll stick with it until you find out. But, can we break even this rule? Steve Almond says most “student authors” refuse to orient the reader by providing “basic dramatic circumstances, such as where we are and what’s happening, and to whom. Instead we’re plunged into “[an] ectoplasm of vivid descriptions and incisive observations. I refer to this style of writing as hysterical lyricism.” All because they’ve been told over and over that they have to “hook readers on Page 1.” What the reader seeks to learn above all is “whom she should care about, and what those characters want or fear. Readers deserve clearly told stories, not high-watt histrionics.”
  3. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
    What, exactly, does that mean? Your job as the writer is to “transmit experience so the reader also experiences it. Details. We need details to let us envision. Back to Goldberg, “Writing is a visual art — and a visceral, sensory art. The world is not abstract, it is full of particulars.” Later, she says to “Lay out all the jewels for us to behold. To only tell about them is to hide the emeralds from view.” Donald Maass argues that, generally speaking, this rule is sound, but asks that we “make it concrete. Externalize . . . [what] is internal. Use a slap instead of a slow boil. A single four- letter word in dialogue can do the work of a whole paragraph.” But, he argues further, sometimes, “what you want to capture on the page is intangible. You can’t see it, weigh it, smack it or lick it. You have to trap a wisp in words. Trying to turn it concrete only causes it to evaporate.” He compares it to the change of mood in a stadium when fans know “with bitter certainty, that their team is about to lose.” There’s “the buoyancy of . . . new spring fashions . . . or the intuition . . . for no solid reason that she’s going to leave me.” So how do we break this rule? Maas says “Realize there can be tension in the invisible. . . found inside he who’s experiencing that which is vapor.” So the trick to telling is to base your passage “in emotions. Less obvious emotions are good. Contrasting emotions are better. Conflicting emotions are best. If moving beneath the surface, then you’re cooking. Fold into these feelings whatever outward details are at hand in the moment . . . Telling doesn’t ignore tension, it just snatches it from the air.”
  4. WRITE “SH*TTY FIRST DRAFTS.” (REALLY, DO YOU HAVE A CHOICE?)
    Nope. No choice in the matter. So “let it rip. You have nothing to lose as long as you make a deal with yourself: NO ONE will ever see it,” says John Smolens. “Here’s the thing about writing fiction : You’re alone. You work on your sentences, again and again. You have a chance to seem smarter in your final draft than you were in your first. Your character may not have the right rejoinder today, but by next Thursday she may come up with something . . . witty, urbane and wise and, despite your hours of labor, it may even appear to be spontaneous.” Musicians can jam — it’s not solitary, and what you hear is what you get — goofs and all. For writers, the first draft is a Solo Improvisation, “littered with sour notes and botched chords.” You’re just trying things out, what works, what fits. It’s the reason you write that “sh*tty” first draft: to see what you can’t/shouldn’t do before you discover what you CAN do. And with revision, patience, no one will ever know your first draft existed.
  5. WRITE EVERY DAY.
    John Dufresne believes in writing every day: says that writers want to write, but there’s the world beyond the writing room, intruding. And all those books to read! But “the doing, the intense activity of the mind . . . fascinates the writer . . . allows her to shape order from chaos. Writers write. Writing is work. And you go to work every day. It’s not a choice. If you don’t punch in, you lose your job.” He goes on to say “if you’ve tried to quit and catch yourself back at the desk — well, then don’t give up. Give in.” Good news: all the writing doesn’t go on at your desk. It goes on while you’re out in the world. So he advises carrying a pen, notebook; (today it’s more likely to be an Android or your phone). Whatever works. Gather evidence. With pen in hand (or other recording devise, perhaps), you think differently, observe more keenly, learn to pay attention, keep your senses alert. The note is repository, source of material, and refuge. “Go there when you need to think. Writing . . . engenders more writing. “And everything you write today informs everything you will ever write. James Scott Bell, on the other hand, is a big believer in word quotas. He claims the best advice he ever got was to set a quota and stick to it. He started doing a daily count, but life would intrude, and he’d miss a day (who hasn’t done that?), but when life intruded and he missed it, he became “surly and hard to live with.” He switched to a weekly quota, and has used it ever since: doesn’t have to beat himself up if he misses a day. He just writes a little extra on other days, uses a spread sheet (I, personally, let 750words.com keep track of my daily writing, and my total. Long ago, I passed a million words, and I’m almost 200K beyond that one now. And I can go look at any specific day since I started at ANY time!) Bell also intentionally takes one day off each week, his “writing Sabbath”. That seems to recharge his batteries. Meanwhile his projects are cooking away in his subconscious (like Stephen King’s ‘boys in the basement’ hard at work while King takes a day off). Bell also suggests taking a week-long break from writing each year. Use the time to assess your career, set goals, make plans — because “if you aim at nothing, there’s a very good chance you’ll hit it.”

Next week, Five More Writing “RULES” and How/When to Avoid/Circumvent Them.

Deep Writing Dreams

Natalie Goldberg, in her Writing Down the Bones, noted that some of her students had been doing what she calls “practice writing” — some of them for as long as three years. So one night, she asked them “Where do you want to go with writing? You have this strong creative voice; you’ve been able to separate out the creator and the editor. What do you want to do with it?” She told them that “There comes a time to shape and direct the force we have learned.”

Then she re‑couched her words: “What are your deep dreams? Write for five minutes.”

I haven’t read every short chapter in her book, but I always leave a marker where I’ve left off. I DO like many of her ideas. I opened to my marker this morning on p. 59 on which I’d highlighted, some time ago, “What are your deep dreams? Write . . .”

In other words, I wasn’t about to write for “only” five minutes.

I was literally shocked to see this particular exercise pop up as the next thing to do. For the last several weeks, I’d been collecting my thoughts on where I want all my UNfinished writings to go. In fact, to facilitate my dreams of writing, I’d already given notice to one writer’s blog, that I would stop writing my weekly blog for them by June 1, because here were (some of) my Deep Dreams:

Before the end of the year, I will finish the first full draft of my historical novel, which I have done many, many hours of research on, written one full screen‑play, and a 36-verse (rhymed & heavily accented “Celtic”in iambic pentameter) poem about my MC’s full story, to be printed with intermittent verses dividing chapters within the novel. All I need to do is re‑read extant copies of historical documents, past writers’ critiques, my poem, invent a new “order” of events to fit the story as it now should appear, and BEGIN WRITING. That’s a lot to do between now and Dec. 31, 2016.

After that? Write my three non‑fiction books (shorter and much easier): My journey through 30 years of ever‑changing cancer treatments; My Spiral Life, where my students, for 50‑plus years, taught me how to be a Teacher; THE Trip, illuminating how I managed to survive, and return to Utah from a trip in 1967 which took me to California, Hawaii, then by cruiser to several ports in Oregon, California (again), Mexico, through the Gulf, into the Caribbean Islands, onward to Portugal, France, eventually England. Which was where I bought my mo‑ped and traveled England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Spain before flying to Copenhagen, then on to NY, and eventually Utah, for my one‑and‑a‑half years of Grad School.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on trying to sell small pieces (already completed, and sitting in my files): a little poetry, humorous essays, and scholarly articles.

When that’s done . . . I may have to write down my next Deep Dreams.

 

 

Distractions and Interruptions

Looking in a roll‑around case I used when I was teaching writing classes, I noticed a folder where I’d saved two magazines, put out as special editions, by Writer’s Digest, and another three or four published in a like manner by The Writer. And, even after 3 or 4 years’ time, they STILL have GREAT advice. For instance, one of the Writer’s Digest tomes, was entitled “1,082 TIPS TO WRITE BETTER AND SELL MORE!”

I’ve written lately about often feeling obsessed with one thing or another. It keeps me under a lot of pressure when I’m trying to work that way — and it’s not necessarily good. As I flipped through this old issue (and, BTW, I feel pretty sure, that they’ve culled most —if not all —of their 1,082 “tips” from who knows HOW many years’ worth of even older issues. Still, it’s worth paying attention.

So for today’s blog I offer you an article entitled “8 Ways to Handle Distractions and Interruptions,” by Leonard Felder. As a person who obsesses all on my own, without ANY help from others, “distractions and interruptions” can become just one more thing to obsess over. Here are his eight major ideas:

for Preventing Interruptions and Distractions Ahead of Time:

1. Get up early and write when there’s no one to interrupt you.
2. Ask people ahead of time not to interrupt you, rather than waiting for them to make you angry.
3. Put up physical barriers to prevent distractions and interruptions.
4. Take care of potential distractions before you sit down to write.

for Handling Interruptions That Occur Despite Your Best Efforts:

5. Delay the interruption until a better time.
6. Have a sense of humor about interruptions (this could keep them from taking on too much importance).
7. When interruptions, occur, keep their impact to a minimum and ease back quickly to writing.
8. Use each interruption as an opportunity to preclude the next interruption from this source.

And I LOVED a Barbara Kingsolver quote at the edge of this article. “There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.”

 

A Story to Explain Metaphor

Last week I offered some of Natalie Goldberg’s ideas from her book, “Writing Down the Bones,” on her “rules” for practice writing and a list of ten ideas you could use for starters when you practice morning pages a la Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” or you’re writing for the 750words.com, which I have recommended multiple times, or you just want a few moments to get things out of your head and onto a page, real or virtual.

This week, re‑reading into yet another chapter, I laughed to remember a story I’d forgotten, and felt I’d like to share it here, from a segment entitled “Man Eats Car.” Besides, it’s SUCH a good explanation of metaphor!

“There was an article in the newspaper several years ago — I did not read it, it was told to me — about a yogi in India who ate a car. Not all at once, but slowly over a year’s time. Now, I like a story like that. How much weight did he gain? How old was he? Did he have a full set of teeth? Even the carburetor, the steering wheel, the radio? What make was the car? Did he drink the oil?

“I told this story to a group of third‑graders in Owatonna, Minnesota. They were sitting on the blue carpet in front of me. The students looked confused and asked the most obvious question, ‘Why did he eat a car?,’ and then they commented, ‘Ugh!’ But there was one bristling, brown‑eyed student, who will be my friend forever, who just looked at me and burst into tremendous laughter, and I began laughing too. It was fantastic! A man had eaten a car! Right from the beginning there is no logic in it. It is absurd.

“In a sense, this is how we should write. Not asking ‘Why?,’ not delicately picking among candies (or spark plugs), but voraciously, letting our minds eat up everything and spewing it out on paper with great energy. We shouldn’t think, ‘This is a good subject for writing.’ ‘This we shouldn’t talk about.’ Writing is everything, unconditional. There is no separation between writing, life, and the mind. If you think big enough to let people eat cars, you will be able to see that ants are elephants and men are women. You will be able to see the transparency of all forms so that all separations disappear.

“This is what metaphor is. It is not saying that an ant is LIKE an elephant. Perhaps; both are alive. No. Metaphor is saying the ant IS an elephant. Now, logically speaking, I know there is a difference. If you put elephants and ants before me, I believe that every time I will correctly identify the elephant and the ant. So metaphor must come from a very different place than that of the logical, intelligent mind. It comes from a place that is very courageous, willing to step out of our preconceived ways of seeing things and open so large that it can see the oneness in an ant and in an elephant.

“But don’t worry about metaphors. Don’t think, ‘I have to write metaphors to sound literary.’ First of all, don’t be literary. Metaphors cannot be forced. If all of you does not believe that the elephant and the ant are one at the moment you write it, it will sound false. If all of you does believe it, there are some who might consider you crazy; but it’s better to be crazy than false. But how do you make your mind believe it and write metaphor?

“Don’t ‘make’ your mind do anything. Simply step out of the way and record your thoughts as they roll through you. Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear. We can step through moons right into bears. You will take leaps naturally if you follow your thoughts, because the mind spontaneously takes great leaps. You know. Have you ever been able to just stay with one thought for very long? Another one arises.

“Your mind is leaping, your writing will leap, but it won’t be artificial. It will reflect the nature of first thoughts, the way we see the world when we are free from prejudice and can see the underlying principles. We are all connected. Metaphor knows this and therefore is religious. There is no separation between ants and elephants. All boundaries disappear, as though we were looking through rain or squinting our eyes at city lights.”

So. Now, go write something.

Write Anything.

Write EVERYthing.

 

“Loss”

I don’t really think my father ever understood me very well. He was an outdoorsy type, and a business man. He kept himself busy, in spare moments, making, designing, or inventing things. He invented what the family always called his “Gold Machine”. He took his schematic, with all its specifications, to a machinist shop in Hawaii, where we were living at the time, and asked them to manufacture the prototype, which they did. This was some time before I’d turned ten. For the rest of his life, he traveled ‑‑‑ for business ‑‑‑ all around the western states, and sometimes even farther. He would stop by a river and take a sand sample from the banks, have it assayed to determine possible gold content, etc. He never was able to get a patent, as the Patent Office claimed that every part of his machine was already covered, piece by piece, by other patents. Nothing “original” here (but nothing copied either), it’s just that he put all the parts together for a different purpose. It became his life‑long hobby.

He was my pal, my dad, my protector and the family jokester. He loved me. And I loved him back. But I don’t think he really “got” me.

Meanwhile, my mother liked fashion. Movies. Movie stars. She should have become a buyer for a store: she had impeccable taste in what would suit this woman or that and was never wrong to my recollection. Relatives in California kept credit cards active in Utah for stores like the old ZCMI, so that she could buy clothes for my three female cousins and have them sent to Berkeley. She loved musicals (on film, though occasionally managed to go to a live production with me or my younger brother).

When I was in grad school, in the theater department, and had already taught English, speech, drama and debate in high schools for several years, I got the lead at my college in a main stage production of “The Little Foxes.” (See the old Bette Davis movie if you’re curious.). Somehow, she managed to cajole my father into bringing her to Provo for my opening night of a two‑week run.

The only reason they could come that night was because, ill as she was, they were waiting for a “bed” to open up at the hospital, which it did the next day. She died in that hospital, at age 63, after five weeks of every system in her body trying to shut down.

I was divorced by then, from a 6‑year, uncomfortable marriage. No children. I finally remarried a couple of years later, the same year my brother got married for the first and only time. But I never got over the fact that my mother ‑‑‑ a woman meant to “mother” and nurture ‑‑‑ never got to see either of my children, nor any of my brother’s six, nor any of our combined 20‑something grandchildren, or of my four‑or‑so (or so‑far) great‑grands. What a loss for them. What a loss for all of us.

And now, this week, my husband of not‑quite‑four years and I have lost HIS lovely and loving mother in Alabama. That lovely 88‑year‑old “Honey,” nurturer, model, stalwart is gone from our lives. Which brought all the above to my mind again.

What has your MC lost? Parents? Siblings? Dear friends? An important job? A limb or two?

Which of his or her losses hurt the most? Hurt for the longest time? Have NEVER been overcome?

How can that part of that‑which‑is‑humanity be expressed in your book? As a memory? As an ache? As a gut‑wrenching loss which can never be fully overcome? As a block to his her progress? As the ONE hurdle he or she MUST overcome?

How can you show your reader the REAL character of your MC? What can take the reader’s breath away with it’s beauty, or simplicity, or pathos, or humanity?

An Hour at a Time is MY Time

When I’m really on a roll, I can get a lot of writing done in an hour. But where do I find the hour in the first place? They’re all over the place, like a kid’s lost marbles.

I saw a fun article about writing for an hour a day in this December’s issue of The Writer (and it’s only November!). While touting the rewards of a STEADY one‑hour per day, the author, Libby Cudmore, suggested 4 simple rules:

  1. “Guard your writing time like a dragon’s gold.” I suppose that makes ME the “dragon.” OK. I can breathe fire at anyone who tries to interrupt. Or, better still, put up a sign like “Writer at Work” or wear a special hat (your “thinking cap”) that warns family/friends off.
  2. “Develop a ritual” ‑‑‑ anything that says to your head “NOW is my writing time.” A specific piece of music, a relaxing beverage of choice, a zen moment’s time to adjust your brain to what you’re about to do: WRITE!
  3. NO EXTRANEOUS ELECTRONICS! ! ! “Seriously,” Libby says, “no Internet. Turn off your cell phone, too.”
  4. “Figure out your best time to write.” I’m a morning person. Someone who works full time, may write on his/her lunch “break.” Busy moms often find kids’ bed time is their writing time.

Whenever it is, ensure that you WRITE during that one hour. I am on a wonderful computer site called 750words.com. But, of course, you may write as long, or as many words as you want. I’ve mentioned it before: it’s free for a month. After that, $5 per month gets you onto the site which sends a daily (EARLY) reminder to write AT LEAST 750 words. You can set your own goal, both in word count and time. It saves your work ‑‑‑ no one else can access it ‑‑‑ pretty much in perpetuity. You can earn little on‑line “badges” for various achievements like starting, continuing for X‑number of days in a row, doing a NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) of 50 K in ANY month of the year, etc. It keeps your total, monthly and daily word counts and even analyzes what mood you were in as you wrote, which words you used most, etc., and you can see a timeline of when you were typing, when you took breaks, etc. I can generally pound out 750 words or even more in 20 minutes of concentrated writing ‑‑‑ often more. That could easily translate to 2,250 an hour, which could add 67,500 words a month.

So, what are YOU doing with one stray hour a day?

 

Taking Your Office With You

Years ago, when I was living in the Bennion‑Taylorsville area, but teaching high school In Park City, I spent a lot of time in my car. Some days I had an evening rehearsal with my students, PTA, or other meetings in the evening. It hardly seemed worth while to drive all the way home, only to drive back two or three hours later.

I met and was impressed with a workshop presenter, Shirley Kawa‑Jump, who had written How to Publish Your Articles. Among other ideas, she talked about the possibility of establishing a mini‑office for your car. Bingo! That’s what I needed!

One Christmas I received a small lap desk with two small drawers: perfect for pens, pencils, discs or (now) a thumb drive or two. The bottom of the desk was a cushion, but the top, a hard wood which could be elevated to the “slant” you wanted while reading, or correcting papers. Flat, it was the perfect platform for a laptop computer.

I checked out Kawa‑Jump’s book for what other items I’d need for my “in‑car office”. A plastic container could become a mini‑post office with scale, stamps, different sizes of envelopes, address labels and a free postal rate card for things which needed to be sent by snail mail (does anyone do that any more?). It was suggested that you could also carry a few pencils, pens, paper clips, sticky notes, lined pads of paper, etc.

That box, or another ‑‑‑ maybe even slightly larger ‑‑‑ could become a “file drawer” for a few folders, research materials, your business and/or tax‑related info, contracts, response letters, etc.

If you plan to use this “office” for longer periods of time, you might want to include a handy pocket‑sized dictionary and a thesaurus (in case you’re parked somewhere without access to the internet), a copy of the good ol’ standard: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, Writer’s Market (or a few copies of their recent magazines).

This office stood me in good stead, even when I was just out‑and‑about in Salt Lake. Occasionally, I took a break by leaving the house and driving up one of the canyons or to a park. Why not? I had all my “stuff” with me? I could get “away from it all,” yet still take it with me!

Here’s an added bonus: where do you “office” at home? If you have a small closet that could be cleared out, or a basement room with a little unused alcove, add a shelf or two: a nice one for your “desk” and a couple at one (or both?) sides for a few more books and magazines. Invest in a comfortable chair which will do for reading or computing Voila! Now, you have your own office at home . . . and you thought you didn’t have enough room!

Thinkin’ Lean and Mean: The Art of UNwriting

Two or three years ago I expanded on some ideas from an old issue of Writers Digest by Nancy Kress called “Wielding the Scalpel”. Sometimes, we need to write less, not more. But what if we already wrote the “more”? Then it’s time to think about what I call UNwriting some parts of what I’ve already written.

I suppose plenty of writers have first drafts so lean they could be called “skimpy”. They go back and pad the work — in college my friends and I called this “pad it and fake it.” I am not one of those writers. What I need to do is stop over‑writing: saying everything two or three times to be sure I’ve been “understood.”

Even the best of writers can get caught up in that trap. Years ago, Irving Stone (th The Agony and the Ecstasy, Lust for Life, and SO many more!) had a stop‑over in SLC, and was kind enough to speak to the League of Utah Writers just after his book, The Greek Treasure, had come out. He told us the story of publishing The Agony and the Ecstasy. He’d offered it around many times, but it was always a “no” from editors. He took it to a secretary he knew, asking her to take a look and tell him what was wrong. She said she knew nothing about writing, but he insisted her fresh eyes might be a help.

After reading the manuscript (can you imagine how long it was? It’s a huge book still!), she said to him, “You’ve said everything three times.” She went through again trying to see which time he’d said it best. He (they?) slashed it mercilessly and sent it out again. It sold right away. He took the advance and used it to marry her, and she edited all his books after that! Gotta love a love story about Unwriting!

But how to go about it on your own?

I know I love every golden word I put down. But maybe if I look at small bits at a time . . . ? I’m talking sentences, phrases, words . . . maybe even syllables.

Cut redundancy. Redundancy is irritating because it contains no new information. It might also make the reader lose trust in your story. Trust your reader. And trust yourself to be able to write with clarity. Don’t lose the readers’ trust in your authority.

Deliberate repetition for a specific effect can be good. Just be sure it adds impact to the plot on an important point. Repetition for the sake of repetition is . . . redundancy.

Get rid of over‑explanation. If you feel you have to explain or excuse something, it’s probably not on the page. In what ways do you “defend” your choices in the midst of a critique group? Instead, assume that the reader is at least as smart as you are and can figure things out. It can be tough figuring out what most people know or don’t know, but consider your target audience: if you’re writing historical romance, is the word “farthingale” going to throw them off without explanation? Probably not. In any case, they’ll probably figure it out through the context in which it was used.

Pick up the pace. “Pace” can be thought of as how much new information a reader can absorb per page or per 100 words. Fat‑free paragraphs should be clean, crisp, quick. Getting them slimmed down may even cut your verbiage by half, or more. Think of that as taking a novel from almost 170,000 words to 90,000. Look carefully at your mss. and cut every word you can — it will teach you what makes “good” writing.

Get over yourself, when it comes to “literary effect”. Finally, cut for literary effect (I often think I’m writing for literary effect, when I’m probably over‑writing and obliterating the “effect” part!). Instead of cutting the fat, this means omitting connections where you’ve pointed the way, so the reader can puzzle those connections out for himself. Get readers involved, and they’ll likely keep reading. This takes careful analysis on the writer’s part: focus on the most climactic incident, or the moment of realization. How can you cut the actions down which lead to that result in order to force the reader’s deduction of what those actions were? Is that a stronger, more enhanced version of your story?

A caveat or two: these guidelines for cutting don’t apply in the same way to dialogue. Your dialogue characterizes, not only by content, but by form. Your character may be a repetitious person, someone who over‑explains. S/he may be pompous, insecure, lonely — and such dialogue will help to show his/her real nature.

Remember, too, that some very successful books are heavily padded. If they were or are truly successful, they obviously have something else to offer: exciting action, thrilling characters, intriguing ideas, etc. Yet it never hurts to offer the reader clean, crisp prose, which can make the difference between sales and rejections — especially important for as‑yet unpublished authors.

So go ahead: get ready and Unwrite something today!

What Does THAT Mean?

Brian A. Klems is the Online Editor for WritersDigest.com. I always look for and try to heed his good advice. On Sept. 8, 2015, he posted a blog called “11 Common Publishing Terms All Writers Should Know.” In it he opined that if you’re a person who wants to write, sell or publish, you need to be aware of the basic terms those in the industry will recognize; he added that even if you’re reading advice articles on writing to help you understand the ins and outs of the business, you may have problems interpreting advice‑driven articles which are strictly printed to give you a hand.

He listed a few common publishing words you’ll need in order to read and/or communicate with others in the literary world.

# MANUSCRIPT (MS)

# MIDDLE GRADE (MG)

# NARRATIVE NONFICTION

# NEW ADULT (This one is relatively new to publishing jargon ‑‑‑ most others have been used for decades . . . and “we” need to know them all! BB)

# PLATFORM

# PROPOSAL (and we’re NOT talking romance here! BB)

# QUERY

# SAMPLE CHAPTERS

# SYNOPSIS

# UPMARKET (a more uncommon term, but has probably been used for a while ‑ BB)

# YOUNG ADULT (YA)

Not sure what a few of them mean? Don’t know how to use these terms with assurance? Check out his full blog (including links to a few add‑ons which may be of interest) at http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/11-common-publishing-terms-writers-know

 

Follow him on Twitter @BrianKlems.

 

Winning While We Write!

Yesterday I sent a thank you to KelliAnne and Buster who run an inexpensive online-writing spot called 750words.com. (It’s FREE for a month — after that, $5 a month if you want to keep going.) Writing 750 words a day (or more — sometimes, I wrote thousands! ) on their site, I enjoyed their incentives like online “badges” for reaching particular goals through the 750. You NEVER have to write more than 750 words to “win” for that day. I seldom (any more) write that few. I just played around with it for a while, missing a day or two, here and there. Then I decided to try to lengthen my “streak” to something more substantial. I use the 750 to write journals, blogs, book/story ideas, notes from workshops, actual chapters or sections of books, schedules, etc. Not to mention its being just a place to let off some steam about something that’s got me riled.

NO ONE ever sees what you write . . . though I suppose you could make a copy and send it to a friend (or an enemy?) if you wanted to. The idea is to promise yourself to write AT LEAST 750 words a day. Of ANYthing. How tough is that? They often post encouraging words from other site members — but only when the member has SPECIFICALLY written kudos to them, or to all the writers on the site.

Every month, they host a challenge you can sign up for to try to write your 750 for one FULL MONTH without breaking your “streak”. I have NEVER started a daily 750 without doing AT LEAST that many words, though in the first month or two there were whole days, probably even a few days in a row, when I did not write at all.

I am now running on a 566 day streak: in other words, it’s been well over a year-and-a-half since I missed a day. Now I sign up for the monthly challenge EVERY month, and haven’t missed winning that challenge either, during the last year-and-a-half. Of the often 700 people or more who sign for the monthly challenge, approximately 1/3 of the group makes it through to the end of that month. Some drop out on the first day, others — heart-breakingly — wait to mess up their streak until the last week of the month, or even the last DAY.

Your writings are available for you to access any time you want, though they are closed to everyone else, so you won’t “lose” anything you’ve written. Ever, according to them. They have an interesting run-down at the end of each of your sessions that gives you all kinds of information about your writing: what mood you were in, the weather that day, which of the senses you used most, whether you wrote mostly about the past, present, or future, which words you used most often, etc. They also keep a running total of how many words you’ve written from your first day on. (I’ll be coming up on 1,000,000 words before very much longer — who knew?) It’s a fun, easy way to examine your own writing in ways you’ve perhaps never thought of before.

Need a new challenge, coupled with new ways to examine your output? I cannot recommend this site often enough, or strongly enough. Give it a try. It won’t cost you ANYTHING but your time for up to a month. And MAYBE it will help you reach your writing goal for the day. Every day!