Jul 4, 2008

Jul 3, 2008

Jul 1, 2008

Tips My Reader’s Digest Editor

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Networking Writers

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Jun 30, 2008

No Editorial Contract

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Jun 27, 2008

Just Write Blog Carnival

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Here's a link to a "writing carnival" on Missy Frye's most excellent blog The Incurable Disease of Writing -- it's full of writing tips, writing links, and writing advice.

On her blog is this week's Just Write Blog Carnival - a list of blogs offering encouragement for writers, thoughts on the writing life, writing resources, and writing tips....there are some amazing writing blogs out there!

Writing Failure

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Jun 24, 2008

Build Your Writing Platform

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Writing Tips

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Jun 23, 2008

Writing Distractions

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May 29, 2008

writing faster

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May 21, 2008

writing newsletters or mentors

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May 9, 2008

new slants from old ideas

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Apr 25, 2008

No 10 Easy Steps to Writing

I read a lot about writing, and sometimes I wonder how much I’m actually learning. Since I don’t take notes, highlight, or even buy the books so I can reference them later – is reading a waste of my time?

A professional, published, seasoned writer says, “No!” (but not in so many words)

Writing quotation: “In the end, writing skills are mostly absorbed, not learned. Like learning to speak as a native speaker, learning to write well is not just learning a set of rules or techniques,” writes Philip Martin in The New Writer’s Handbook 2007 (Scarletta Press). “It’s a huge, messy body of deep language, inspired by bits of readings, conversations, incidents; it’s affected by how you were taught and where you live and who you want to become.”

That’s good – and there’s more:

“For every convention, there is another way that may work better. For every rule, there are mavericks who succeed by flaunting it. There is no right or wrong way to write, no ten easy steps.”

Writing tip: I think the most successful writing mavericks or renegade writers (Linda Formichelli!) are those who don’t try to be different. They just are. They trust their gut, they take those little glimmers of inspiration and nurture them into blossoms of orange and yellow and red. Writing mavericks tap into their personalities and souls, and let themselves be vulnerable.

It may sound easy, but it takes a lot of courage not only to be who you are, but share it with your readers.

PS – I’ve now been on the radio twice, talking about my articles! I really should blog about it……

Apr 19, 2008

Writing Great Beginnings

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Apr 13, 2008

Erica Jong on writing problems

What’s your writing problem? Whatever it is, Erica Jong has the answer.

Writing quotation: “All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged,” says Erica in The New Writer’s Handbook. “If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.”

Writing tip: Fear is the root of many writing problems. Fear of making mistakes, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of vulnerability. (Fear’s actually the root of many struggles in live, I daresay).

My most recent fear is of misattribution of sources. I’ve been writing a fair amount for Reader’s Digest online (and the print version too, but those pieces aren’t published yet) and Spirituality & Health, and I’ve dropped the ball on attributing sources correctly. I sort of called someone a “psychologist” instead of “psychiatrist”, and gave someone else the title of “Dr” when she’s not – and it happened more than twice. I hate making those mistakes! And I hate getting my knuckles wrapped for them. (But if I didn’t get my knuckles wrapped, I wouldn’t have realized it’s a problem).

Okay, my fear isn’t misattributing the sources; my fear is really about losing clients. I love writing for Reader’s Digest and Spirituality & Health, and I want them to stay with me! I don’t know if they’ll shrug off my mistakes as normal writer error, or if I’m black listed or slightly tarnished now.

So now, I keep pitching my queries to them – even though I’m embarrassed that I didn’t submit perfect work in the past. I’m red-faced, but I want to push through that because I’m learning and growing and becoming a better writer all the time. They’re helping me do that!

And you? What’s your writing problem? What’s your fear? Sometimes digging out the roots can open the floodgates to both self-awareness and a new writing resolve. Bringing your fears out into the open can make them less harmful, less destructive.

Apr 8, 2008

establishing your writing habits

I’m on a Julia Cameron kick, even though she’s not my all-time favorite writing writer. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great – but I like reading practical stuff about writing, like how to write query letters and how to take all those old ideas and twist them into something new. Morning Pages never really did it for me.

Anyway, on to Julia’s advice about artists and trainers…

Writing quotation: “In order to succeed as an artist we must have two well-developed functions: our artist and its trainer. The trainer is steady and adult. It keeps its eye on the course and the long run. It coaxes, wheedles, begs, cajoles, and occasionally disciplines our artist, which Westie-like, proceeds in spurts and sometimes not at all,” Cameron says in Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.

“The trick is setting the jumps low enough that our artist can be lured into action. If I am writing nonfiction, I set my goal at a modest three pages. Almost anyone can write three pages of something and my artist knows that.”

Writing tip: Julia Cameron's writing habit includes 3 pages. Yours can be 3 paragraphs or 3,000 words. Or, you can write for 3 hours – or just 30 minutes. The trick is to do something every day that moves you forward.

I’m a freelance magazine writer, and right now I have 5 articles due (yay!). The deadlines vary from this Friday to two months from now – and I get scared. Insecure, and anxious, and pressured. I want the articles to be fantastic, and I want to keep my editors happy.

What works best for me is to work a little on each article every day, whether it’s writing the sidebar or emailing sources or researching or finetuning the lead. My ideal goal would be to spend an hour a day on each article – but I tend to get lost in the article I’m working on and I run out of time for the others.

What works best for you? It doesn’t matter how I work, or how Julia Cameron writes, or how Mark Twain wrote. What matters is finding what works best for you, and making that a habit.

And tossing back a shot of espresso or whatever suits your fancy every once in a while never hurts, either.

Apr 2, 2008

"How to Avoid Making Art" by Julia Cameron

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Mar 27, 2008

The skin of a rhino & the soul of an angel

“The skin of a rhino and the soul of an angel” is Albert Schweitzer’s advice for being a great leader. It’s also perfect advice for being a great writer, poet, novelist, journalist, or essayist. It’s necessary if not required to have the tough skin of a rhino when you’re writing, because the rejections outnumber the acceptances (for most of us).

And I know I’m not supposed to call it a “rejection.” It’s an “opportunity to do it better” or an “ignorant decision of an editor” or “business decision.”

Anyway, if you have the skin of a rhino, you don’t take things personally and you don't let the rejections knock you down. And if you have the soul of an angel, you've got enough spirit and wisdom and courage and creativity to try again. You also have imagination, hope, faith, goodness and light, too.

Writing quotation: “In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, “If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination” & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.” – from Brian Andreas’ “Imagining World.”

Writing tip: Writers imagine, and writers fail. (Here’s a good opportunity for me to talk about my recent mistake regarding sourcing for an article, and my ulcers and lost sleep and that awful stress hormone cortisol running through my veins, making me fat and gray haired and anxious and afraid that that magazine won't hire me again. But no – instead I will talk about writers who have soul.).

Imagine an angel – one who shrugs and dismisses failure – has placed the world in the palm of your hand. All you have to do is summon the courage to figure out what to do with your world.

Mar 21, 2008

Stephen King likes to resonate with readers

If this doesn’t work for freelance magazine writers, novelists, poets, and journalists, I don’t know what does.

Writing quotation: In On Writing Stephen King says, “What I want most is resonance, something that will linger for a little while in Constant Reader’s mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf.”
Later in the same paragraph, King says, “I’ll also want to delete stuff that goes in other directions.” (this actually goes in a different direction, and I shouldn't have included it here).

Writing tip: Resonance in my magazine articles means finding something that readers can talk about later, at cocktail parties or on first dates or in the lobby after church. That's one reason I love writing about scientific research – such as the discovery that yawning cools the brain. I want my readers to remember the information I gave them, and talk about it later.

Resonance for you as a writer could be emotional, spiritual, or intellectual. Resonance is the “take-away.” What image, thought, or opinion does the reader hold after reading your stuff?
And then (and this is the stuff that goes in another direction that I shouldn't have included here -- but it's a "teachable moment") get rid of all the fluff. The more focused you are, the more captivated readers will be. If you're juggling different ideas and scenarios, readers may get confused and distracted. Weed out the extra words.

Mar 16, 2008

Mentoring for writers

Writer Julia Cameron realizes the importance of mentoring relationships for artists. To keep inspired and motivated, Cameron urges artists to find a biography or autobiography that details an artist’s life. Here’s what she advises regarding mentoring.

Writing quotation: “You are on the look out for experience, strength, and hope. You want to hear from the horse’s mouth exactly how disappointments have been survived,” she says. “It helps to know that the greats have had hard times too and that your own hard times merely make you part of the club.”

Writing tip: Julia Cameron doesn’t just look for mentors who are alive and able to converse with her. She’s also into mentors in non-fiction books (autobiographies or biographies) who offer guidance when she’s sitting quietly and listening. “Very often you will find that there is a wisdom available to you that does not seem to be your own,” she says.

"In writing musicals, I look to books about Rodgers and Hammerstein. Their success is laudable but very hard won. Rodgers once faced such discouragement that he almost quit the music business to become a lingerie salesman." (From Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron).

To learn more about the benefits of mentoring relationships, read 8 Ways to Find a Mentor.

Mar 10, 2008

Inspiration for freelance writers

I tell you, I’m actually getting used to sending out 147,258 queries for every article I sell. It’s just part of the job – but what keeps me going is tracking my long-term success. This week, I’ve got articles due for Woman’s Day and Reader’s Digest. In a couple weeks, I have a deadline for Flare.

So even though I get rejected all the time, I am hitting it every now and then. And, boy, is it sweet! That's what keeps me going.

Writing quotation: “Is freelancing hard work? Sure – damned hard. But it’s not harder than any other profession. Like every job, it requires a combination of skill, thoroughness and dependability,” says I.J. Schecter in the 2008 version of Writer’s Market. “The difference is you don’t have anyone defining the parameters of the job for you or providing incentives to succeed.”

Writing tip: You have to define your own parameters when you’re freelancing. That means setting your goals, staying disciplined, and taking risks. Above all, it means NOT waiting until you feel creative before you get to work. Freelance writing means NOT waiting for inspiration to strike.

Instead, you have to hunt inspiration like the beast it is.

Mar 6, 2008

Elmore Leonard’s writing advice

Writing quotation: Novelist Elmore Leonard disapproves of “Thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.”

Writing tip: I’m not 100% sure what “hooptedoodle” is, but I can guess. Elmore Leonard is talking about those neverending paragraphs of prose that don’t add much to the action and that lose most readers fairly quickly. Instead, dialogue and short bursts of information should weed our writing so only the most important, vibrant stuff remains.

The above paragraph probably has 20 unnecessary words. Though my blog may not show it, I have learned to write tightly through my magazine writing. When they give me 200 words to summarize a long-term scientific experiment that described multiple important findings and a list of possible implications as well as future plans, I had to learn to write short and snappy prose.

Again, the above paragraph has about 20 extra words. The best way to apply Elmore Leonard's writing advice is to edit until you use one word instead of three to make your point.

Feb 29, 2008

how to use writing quotations to succeed

Writing quotation: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” said Richard Bach.

Another quotation about not giving up: “You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price in disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft – then you can add all the genius you like.” – Phyllis Whitney.
I don't know about genius, but I do know about disappointment, discouragement – and success! Today, Flare magazine accepted a piece from me, and that almost makes up for my fear that Woman's Day might change their minds about the article they accepted last week (they sent me an American W-9 to fill out but I'm Canadian and they're still "looking into it." Surely they must have employed Canadian writers before, no?!).
But I digress.

Writing tip: These inspirational quotations about writing are more important than you know. The more your thoughts focus on persevering despite rejections or writing blocks and the more you focus on your dreams, the more likely you’ll achieve your writing goals.

Here's how to use writing quotations to succeed: Find 3 or 4 writing quotes that motivate you to achieve and to produce. Post them near your computer, in the front of your notebook, or on your fridge -- anywhere you'll see them regularly. When you get used to seeing them or have memorized them or have moved beyond what they offer, switch them out for new writing quotations.
Another great way to stay motivated is to visit writing sites or blogs regularly, but don't get sucked into surfing or reading posts for longer than a few minutes! Internet distractions can be the death of any dream.
Write on, fellow writers. Write on.

Feb 26, 2008

Writing tips from Barbara Taylor Bradford

This writing advice from Barbara Taylor Bradford comes from the book Bestsellers: Top Writers Tell How by Richard Joseph.

Writing quotation: “Basic writing ability is not enough. A would-be novelist must also observe what I call the five ‘Ds’:

D for desire – the desire to want to write that novel more than anything else.
D for drive – the drive to get started.
D for determination – the will to continue whatever the stumbling blocks and difficulties encountered on the way.
D for discipline – the discipline to write every day, whatever your mood.
D for dedication to the project until the very last page is finished.

Finally, there is a sixth D – to avoid! This is for distractions – perhaps the most important D of all, the enemy of all writers, whether would-be or proven.”

Writing tip: Since I can’t really add to the infamous Barbara Taylor Bradford’s writing advice, I’ll tell you that Woman’s Day magazine accepted one of my proposals! Woo hoo, it’s time to celebrate (well, it will be after I write the article and they publish it hopefully with little or no edits because those make me nervous even as they teach me how to be a better writer).

You know, it’s an upward spiral: the more I write, the more I want to submit proposals and ideas. Be ware the downward spiral: the more distractions we allow, the less discipline we have, and down we go.

Here’s to using our D’s to take us up, up, and away!

Feb 22, 2008

Getting published involves a bit of luck

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Have you ever wondered how some books ever got published? Sure you have. As a writer, you see those words and books and articles and cringe. And you know you could've done better.

So what do those writers have that you lack? Maybe it's something beyond your control.

Writing quotation: “Luck was one of the most important factors in my success. I was in the right place and at the right time. There could be a thousand people who could have written that first novel equally as well, or as badly, as I did, but I had the good fortune to send it in at that specific time,” says Penny Jordan, author of over 100 (published) books.

Writing tip: To tap into Penny Jordan’s kind of luck, writers need to send their stuff out, right? I mean, Penny not only wrote that first novel – she also sent it in.

Send in your proposals and manuscripts, fellow writers. Do your research, yes, and write as clearly and descriptively as you can, for sure. But send it in or you’ll never have a shot at publication.

Feb 19, 2008

Getting ahead in writing, by Agatha Christie & Anne Lamott

It’s daunting, starting that article, poem, or book. I know, because I have an article for Reader’s Digest due in a week, and I’m more interested in blogging or writing for Suite or checking out various forums or Googling my name than actually getting down to work.

Are you the same way? Just think how much work we could get done if we actually worked constantly! Since that seems impossible, especially at the beginning of new pieces, here’s some writing advice from Agatha Christie and Anne Lamott to get things moving.

Writing quotations: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started,” said Agatha Christie. That’s good, but let’s hear what Anne Lamott has to say…

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper,” says Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” She suggests various ways to quiet those voices, including putting them one by one in a mason jar and closing the lid.

Then, you write.

Writing tip: Agatha Christie says you need only get started in order to get ahead. Why? Because getting started will build momentum, and before you know it the article or poem is half written, or the book outline is finished. Just get started, even if you only have 15 minutes.

Okay, I’ll go work on my article. You write your stuff. And we’ll both get ahead...

Feb 16, 2008

Finding the right publisher

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Feb 12, 2008

writing quotation from Toni Morrison

Writing Quotation: “It seems to me there’s an enormous difference in the writing of black and white women. Aggression is not as new to black women as it is to white women. Black women seem able to combine the nest and the adventure,” says Toni Morrison.

Question: Is it really an adventure if you’re still in the nest?

Toni Morrison’s writing quotation continues: “[Black women] don’t see conflicts in certain areas as do white women. They are both safe harbor and ship; they are both inn and trail. We, black women, do both. We don’t find these places, these roles, mutually exclusive. That’s one of the differences.”

Comment: In my Inspirations for Women blog, I do tend to separate finding yourself/pursuing your dreams from staying safe in your cocoon. It sounds like Toni Morrison is saying that black women writers pursue both adventure and security at the same time.

Toni Morrison’s writing quotation continues: “White women often find if they leave their husbands and go out into the world, it’s an extraordinary event. If they’ve settle for the benefits of housewifery that preclude a career, then it’s marriage or a career for them, not both, not and.”

Writing tip: Whether you agree with Toni Morrison or not (myself, I think it's a little stereotypical, a little too "black and white"), think about her ideas. Different cultures - even in the same province, state or city - give us different mindsets and perspectives. This is why kids raised by the same parents in the same household grow into totally different people.

When you're writing, consider how culture affects your readers. Culture can be narrowed all the way down to family, and broadened all the way out to country or even continent.

Feb 11, 2008

writing advice from poet Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton was a poet and writer who struggled with bipolar disorder for most of her life. Suicide was her final escape.

Writing quotation: “Until I was 28 I had a kind of buried self who didn’t know she could do anything but make white sauce and diaper babies. I didn’t know I had any creative depth. I was a victim of the American Dream, the bourgeois, middle class dream. All I wanted was a little piece of life, to be married, to have children,” said Anne Sexton.

Why didn’t she know she had any creative depth? Maybe a better question is: what’s holding you and me back from our creative depths? Answering that may provide insight into Sexton’s writing life. Even if it doesn’t, it could help us understand ourselves as writers.

Anne Sexton goes on to say: “I was trying my damndest to lead a conventional life, for that was how I was brought up, and it was what my husband wanted of me. But one can’t build little white picket fences to keep nightmares out. The surface cracked when I was about 28. I had a psychotic breakdown and tried to kill myself.”

Writing tip: Revealing and accepting yourself – what you really think, where you’ve really been – is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. It’s not just about rejection, though that’s huge. Since elementary school we’ve been conditioned to be quiet, tamp ourselves down, stop crying, colour in the lines, and wear big boy pants (some families are much more “stiff upper lip” and reserved than others). Letting ourselves go in writing is really, really hard.

When we expose our true selves in writing, we’re vulnerable to rejection, teasing, mocking, and labeling. But if we let fear stop us from writing, we’re vulnerable to things that are much worse: losing ourselves, breakdowns, and burying our dreams in food, booze, shopping, and bad relationships.

Feb 9, 2008

writing inspiration from Ernest Hemingway

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Writing Quotation: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you’re rewriting a novel you will never be stuck,” says Ernest Hemingway.

Writing Tip: Hemingway’s writing advice isn’t just about rewriting a novel – and it’s not just about writer’s block. It’s about productivity, flow, and creativity. Stopping writing when you’re on a roll will help you pick it up easier the next day, or the next time you write.

Some writers even stop in the middle of a sentence.

Similarly, the worst part of my writing day is figuring out what to work on next: article queries, new ideas, or assigned articles. I’m now getting into the habit of setting up my writing goals the night before. When I get to the computer in the morning, I have a plan or to do list, and that keeps me focused. No more staring at a blank computer screen or surfing endlessly for writing inspiration.
Be good to yourself, writers. Stop when the writing is flowing.

This writing quotation came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Feb 7, 2008

write what you DON'T know

Have you heard that old writer’s saw, “write what you know”? If that’s your mantra, here’s something new to chew on from experienced writers Linda Formichelli and Ralph Keyes.

Writing Quotation: “If Linda had to write only about topics she’s had personal experience in, the possibilities would be limited to writing, Slavic linguistics, karate and how to peel a banana,” says The Renegade Writer. “Instead, she’s taken the idea “Write what you don’t know” to heart, and has published articles about artificial intelligence, game theory, what astronauts eat on the space shuttle, migrant health care, trolley parks, customer relationship management, natural health care for pets, and much more.”

In a similar vein, Ralph Keyes says “If you're not scared, you're not writing (anything of consequence, that is).” Keyes thinks this is probably the key comment in his book The Courage to Write – though you can bet there are more gems (writing tips) to mine there!

Writing Tip: Writing what you know may be a good way to start writing, especially if you’re scared of rejection or nervous about feedback. But once you establish yourself as a writer – whether you’re published or not – you may want to start challenging yourself. Write about what you don’t know. Wrestle with your ideas, characters, themes, and plots. Write about what scares you, what makes you nervous -- what gets your heart pumping. That's when you know you're writing something of consequence.

This little article called Leaving Your Comfort Zone may help push you out of the nest.

Feb 6, 2008

a writing quotation about rejections: writers, stop wallowing!

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Feb 4, 2008

finding new writing ideas

Writing Quotation: “Article ideas are everywhere,” says Julie Ovenell-Carter, a journalist and author whose vast writing credits include Canadian Geographic, The Georgia Straight, and The Globe and Mail. After our lunch together, I gathered up to go back to work at the Recreation Office. I casually mentioned that the “ballet for boys” class was full and had a waitlist. Right away, Julie was all over it: “See?!" she said. “There’s an article idea right there. Why are boys signing up for ballet? Why are the girls’ classes empty? Write about that!”

Writing Tip: Just because something is familiar to you doesn’t mean it’s familiar to your readers or editors. Conversely, just because something is new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to your readers or editors.

Check out New Ideas for Writing Articles for 10 effective ways to create copy for magazines, websites, and blogs.

Feb 3, 2008

writing advice from Ernest Hemingway via Natalie Goldberg

For how long do you pursue your writing goals? For instance, my goal is to earn a living as a freelance writer (at least $30,000 per year). Do I send out article queries and book proposals for a whole year? Two? Ten? Fifty? I’ve already been trying for almost two years, and have barely earned 10K.

When do I give up for my own good?

Writing quotation: “Hemingway writes in Green Hills of Africa about young American men who went to Paris for two years to try out being artists. If they weren’t successful, they planned to go home and work in their fathers’ businesses,” writes Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. “Hemingway said that that is the wrong attitude, that you have to be willing to give as long as it takes.”

Writing tip: On “giving up for your own good”, Ernest Hemingway says (via Natalie Goldberg): NEVER. You don’t give it a year or two, or ten. You give it as long as it takes.

Luckily, “as long as it takes” is up to us as individual writers. For me, as long as it takes could mean I keep pursuing my writing goals until my husband insists I get a paying job and stop neglecting him (at least 10 years). For Hemingway, it could be until…I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s profound.

What is “as long as it takes” for you? Tapping into that clarity and determination will make you a better writer, and perhaps spur you to stick with your writing goals.

Feb 2, 2008

the top 10 fiction books of 2007

Writing tip: These top 10 fiction books of 2007 (as deemed by Time) were once just the glimmer of an idea in the writer’s mind. I don’t know how the writers came up with the ideas for these books, or how long the books took to write, or how many rejection letters the writers received and burned or filed.

But I do know that these books represent hard work and dedication. Even if a book doesn’t make it to the bestseller list or someone’s top 10, it still required mountains of discipline, hope, and faith. A dash of self-confidence and courage probably didn’t hurt, either.

If Diaz, Ferris, Hosseini, Petterson and the other six writers on this list can do it – then so can you. And so can I.

The top 10 fiction books of 2007:

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

  2. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  4. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

  5. Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

  6. The House of Meetings by Martin Amis

  7. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Dallows by J.K. Rowling

  9. Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard

  10. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

These books represent writing hope, writing dreams, and writing goals. These writers followed their hearts and listened to their editors, and wrote through their insecurities and fears.

Feb 1, 2008

Elizabeth Gilbert on discipline

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Jan 31, 2008

a writing tip from Chris Bohjalian

Writing quotation: “Writing is as much discipline as it is desire. Don’t wait until you’re inspired, because if you do, you’ll never finish anything,” says Chris Bohjalian, author of several books including Midwives (loved it) and Trans-Sister Radio (wasn’t inspired to take it out of the library, but I can’t remember why).

Writing tip: Bohjalian's quote isn't just about writing. It's about exercising and staying fit, not giving up on finding a kindred spirit after a dozen bad dates, finally buying the right house, and scoring the perfect job.

Writing quotation: "This seems to surprise those who think they might give [writing] a shot: get inspired, bang out a book, do some signings, get interviewed, appear on talk shows. Those activities, of course, comprise one half of one percent of a writer's life," says Ralph Keyes in The Writer's Book of Hope. "The rest is just hard slogging, alone, with little encouragement and dubious prospects of success."

I don't believe in the writing muse. I believe in great ideas, and working really hard, and never ever giving up no matter how many times your work is rejected. One big difference - and perhaps the only difference - between published writers and wannabe writers is the discipline, hard work, and perserverance.

Okay, make that three big differences.

Jan 30, 2008

a brilliant writing quotation from a rabbi

Have you ever looked at your writing and cringed because it’s not the way Oscar Wilde or Anne Lamott or Adria Vasil would’ve written it?

I have. I sent an eco-friendly living book proposal to a publisher or two, and I’m not really happy with it. It’s okay, but I could’ve done better – maybe the way Adria Vasil did Ecoholic or Anne Lamott did Traveling Mercies.

But, I must tease out the difference between not giving my work my absolute best effort, and not being happy with the way I write. There’s a big difference – and I may have erred on the side of not giving it my best.

Ouch. Anyway, here’s a great writing quotation about finding your writing style.

Writing quotation: “In the world to come I shall not be asked “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked “Why were you not Zusya?” said Rabbi Zusya. (Okay, the rabbi was actually talking about life and being himself – but this quotation works in any capacity of authentic living!).

Writing tip: Not only must we give it our absolute best, we must remain true to our own personalities, thoughts, and dreams when we write. This means writing it all down with freedom and wild abandon, and editing out the fluff later. Our writing styles emerge naturally when we ignore the critical voice and just write the best we can.

Jan 28, 2008

writing suspense like Stephen King

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I don’t create suspense well because I like to blurt it out right from the start. I never was any good at keeping a secret, and I may not be that good at keeping people reading. Stephen King is definitely a master of suspense; he hooks readers from the first sentence.

Writing quotation: “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last,” said Oscar Wilde.

Another writing quotation about suspense: “To create suspense, what you do is withhold information. You don’t need a crime or a violent death in the lead to hook your reader, to get your reader to read on,” says Ted Kooser and Steve Cox in Writing Brave & Free.

Writing tip: Suspense is exciting, even if it goes away in a few words – such as in a newspaper or magazine article. Even a low level of suspense can keep people reading.

Simple ways to create suspense include:
  • Describing an action, but not explaining it right away.
  • Triggering curiosity by withholding information.
  • Setting up a controversy that you don’t immediately resolve.
For example, in the January 2008 issue of Oprah Magazine, Emily Yoffee wrote, “Sandra Blakeslee reentered her body one afternoon about 15 years ago.” That’s low level suspense. Was Sandra dead for 15 years? Where was her body? How did she reenter it? What makes this article even more suspenseful is its title: "Can You Think Yourself Fat?" You wouldn't think an article about size and shape would begin with "reentered her body" - this in itself is suspenseful.

Your readers love suspense because it keeps them curious. Your editors love suspense because it keeps people reading. You may already love writing suspense because it's easy and fun for you -- or perhaps you're like me, and you find it difficult and cumbersome. Either way, try to steep your work in suspense and your readers will clamor for more.

Jan 26, 2008

accepting your writer's mind

Writing quotation: “We need to learn to accept our minds. Believe me, for writing, it is all we have,” says Natalie Goldberg. “It would be nice if I could have Mark Twain’s mind, but I don’t. Mark Twain is Mark Twain. Natalie Goldberg is Natalie Goldberg.”

You know, I don’t think it would be nice if Natalie Goldberg had Mark Twain’s mind. Then we’d have less originality, less creativity – and we’d have more writers doing the same thing. Don't get me wrong - Twain is amazing - but maybe it's better to have different minds creating different worlds.

Writing tip: When you compare yourself to any other writer – whether it’s Joan Didion or Stephen King – you chip away at your self-confidence. You smother your writing style.

When you accept your mind, you express your thoughts without judging or censoring them. You write, and send out your ideas, and participate in the writer’s life. When you accept your mind you realize your originality and creativity: nobody has ideas like yours. Develop them.

This writing quotation came from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.

Jan 24, 2008

writing quotations about rejection

I discovered this fantastic book at the Vancouver Public Library: The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting From Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes. It’s exactly what I need as a writer.
Every week, I send a dozen query letters for my non-fiction articles. Once a week I’ll get a “no thanks, it’s not in our editorial line up.” Mostly I get no response. Once a month I’ll get an assignment. In December, I actually received 4 assignments, and last September I sold 5 articles.

But mostly I hear nothing, so I keep sending article queries out. It’s really really difficult to keep meeting my writing goals when I see minimal growth – but I remind myself there has been growth. That counts for a lot.

Sometimes, writing rejections motivate me to write better. Other times I just want to give up and go kayaking. Luckily, I found The Writer’s Book of Hope!

Writing quotation: “To working writers, rejection is like stings to a beekeeper: a painful but necessary part of their vocation. They understand that the return of their work isn’t meant as a personal rebuff (or seldom is, anyway). It just feels that way,” says Keyes.

Keyes described Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield’s rejections from twenty major publishers (the Chicken Soup for the Soul series). Their agent, Jeff Herman, says, “[Hansen and Canfield] instinctively understood that all those rejections were simply an uncomfortable part of a process that would eventually get them were they wanted to be.”

Writing tip: See rejection an unavoidable part of being a writer. It’s uncomfortable, and it can distract you from your writing dreams and goals, but it’s simply part of the process.

Another writing quotation about rejection: “No rejection is fatal until the writer walks away from the battle leaving dreams and goals behind,” says Jeff Herman (Hansen and Canfield’s literary agent).

Still another writing quotation about rejection: “Writers often feel…that repeated rejections accompanied by reasoned letters mean that in the end there’s no hope. This is simply not true,” says John Gardner.

Don't walk away from the battle, friends.

Jan 22, 2008

a writing quotation about “keeping going”

Do you ever feel empty of writing ideas or motivation? I’m sure you do – I’m sure even Stephen King or Margaret Atwood sometimes feels empty. At least I hope they do, because then I wouldn’t feel so bad.

Today, I need a writing quotation about keeping going despite all these rejections and silences from editors and publishers. Today, I’m discouraged (but the day isn’t over! I have this thin streak of hope and expectation that Today, I Could Get an Assignment). But how do writers keep going after so many rejections?

Writing quotation: “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror,” says Margaret Atwood. “What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?”

Writing tip: Well, that’s not really lack of writing motivation. That’s fear of failure, or fear of revision. It’s a good writing quotation, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Let’s try again.

Writing quotation: “I got so discouraged, I almost stopped writing. It was my 12-year-old son who changed my mind when he said to me, “Mother, you’ve been very cross and edgy with us and we notice you haven’t been writing. We wish you’d go back to the typewriter,” said Madeleine L’Engle. “That did a lot of good for my false guilts about spending so much time writing. At that point, I acknowledged that I am a writer and even if I were never published again, that’s what I am.”

Writing tip: Take Madeleine L’Engle’s writing advice and let go of your publishing expectations. Instead, just be a writer. (That doesn’t really work for me because my goal is to be able to support myself with my writing. For me, what helps is to keep focused on my ideas and plans despite fear of rejection and failure. I get discouraged when I’m bopping from one idea to another, one project to another – I can get too scattered and that makes me feel discouraged. So, I need to focus on one goal for the next hour: sending out 3 queries. Fine.)

One last writing quotation: Gloria Steinem said, “I do not like to write. I like to have written.”

The only way to enjoy having written is to…write.

Jan 21, 2008

a writing tip about judgment

This writing quotation isn’t really about writing. It’s about not stifling your life force (or writing muse). It’s about loving something for what it is – whether it’s a person, animal, house, poem, research short, or manuscript.

This works because excellent writing advice is often found in wise quotations about life, not just quotations about writing.

"Writing" quotation: “The life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than by disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression,” says Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom. “Unfortunately, judgment is commonplace. It is as rare to find someone who loves us as we are as it is to find someone who loves themselves whole.”

Writing tip: Don’t judge your writing, or your painting, or your thoughts, or your actions. Express yourself fully without hurting others. Be clear and direct – and be authentic. Do your best to write well, but don’t judge the content of your writing. Maybe you’ve already learned to discern the difference between editing yourself wisely versus judging yourself harshly, or maybe you didn’t even realize there is a difference. Either way, practice writing well and not judging your own uniqueness and creativity.
Stand out in red while everyone else wears white.
This writing inspiration came from Rachel Naomi Remen’s book called Kitchen Table Wisdom.

Jan 20, 2008

writing quotation about self-acceptance

Natalie Goldberg offers writing inspiration to gazillions of both emerging and established writers. The following writing quotation is from Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. Goldberg also wrote Writing Down the Bones and Thunder and Lightning. She has a new book, out in February 2008, called The Great Failure. She’s an amazing role model. She and Anne Tyler and Annie Dillard rock, man. So does Martha Beck and Robert Bly. And Stephen King has some pretty good writing tips too.

Anyway, on to Goldberg's writing advice.

Writing quotation: “We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance,” says Natalie in Wild Mind.

Writing tip: We can’t wait for life (or ourselves) to be perfect before we pursue our writing dreams. For me, this means I can’t hold off until I have the ideal office before I set my writing goals. I can’t wait until I accept myself or even love myself before I send out those article queries and book proposals. All I can do is take my writing ideas and inspirations, and put them on paper (or the screen), and send them out there. That may increase my self-acceptance. Or maybe it won’t. It doesn't really matter.
What's holding you back from setting and achieving your writing goals? The sooner you figure it out and practice self-acceptance, the sooner you'll be writing the way you want.

Jan 19, 2008

writing tips about brainstorming

After reading the first couple chapters of Think Better by Tim Hurson, I brainstormed 60 article ideas – sixty – and really 11, which I will write and send to magazines soon. Sixty writing ideas is huge, because finding new ideas can be the bane of a writer’s existence. It's the bane of mine, anyway.

Here's two of Hurson’s ideas about brainstorming: write or say all the ideas that pop into your heard no matter how crazy and, more importantly, keep going after you’re positive you have no more ideas. That’s the secret to fresh new plot twists, themes, characterizations, book ideas, and general writing ideas.

Writing quotation: “What if? What if? My mind raced, and my emotions kept pace at the sidelines, the way it always happens when a story idea arrives, like a small explosion of thought and feeling. What if? What if an incident like that in the park had been crucial to a relationship between father and daughter? What would make it crucial? Well, what if the father, say, was divorced from the child’s mother and the incident happened during one of his visiting days? And what if…” Robert Cormier's writing advice could make you a better writer.

Writing tip: Even if you don’t have the same passion and intensity as Cormier, you can sit down and brainstorm. In Tim Hurson’s Think Better, he urges readers to drop the judgmental censor and generate ideas that aren’t conventional. “It’s in the digging for more that your thinking becomes truly creative and novel,” he says.

Dig for more, fellow writers. It’s hard work to go deeper – and it’s infinitely more rewarding.

Jan 18, 2008

writing quotations about editing

“Revision is a lot like housecleaning. It’s dirty and overwhelming when you face off with the entire job. It would be easier just to dust the surfaces and sweep the dirt into the corners rather than do a thorough job,” says Jordan E. Rosenfeld in the February 2008 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Writers such as Joan Didion and Roald Dahl describe the writing process in a slightly different way.

Writing quotation: “My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. In the rewriting process you discover what’s going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point. Sometimes you’ll just push through, indicate a scene or a character, leave a space, then go back later and fill it in,” says Joan Didion.

Roald Dahl puts it this way: “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”

Writing tip: Even though editing your writing is worse than housecleaning (it’s a common habit to get distracted with housework to avoid actually writing), revision is obviously imperative to good writing. Approach it like you do with any task you dislike: promise you’ll only do it for 15 minutes or half an hour. If you’re still into it, keep going.

Before you know it, your first or second draft is revised. Then you can begin polishing the next one. C'mon, you know you wanna.

These writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 17, 2008

Dillard’s writing quotation about extraordinary states

Writing quotation: “But how, if you are neither an Aztec maiden or Zulu warrior, do you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning?” asks Annie Dillard.

Sarah Ban Breathnach has a practical answer. “By showing up. Day in, day out. By not judging how it’s going. If it’s going at all, that’s enough. You can’t afford to think about how the work will be received when you’re finished. That’s not your job. Remember, we’re learning to surrender the delivery details of our dreams. Our job, then, is just to do it.”

“It can’t be published, produced, performed or purchased if it doesn’t exist,” says Breathnach.

Writing tip: Set a schedule that will propel you towards your writing dreams. You don’t have to “feel” like writing and you don’t have to “feel” creative. All you have to do is show up. After you show up and work for half an hour, reward yourself with something you love to do. Don't reward yourself until you've worked for some predetermined amount of time.

These writing quotations came from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance.

Jan 16, 2008

learning from great writing quotations

Writing quotation: “Writing is not an unintelligent art. Writing is a craft before it is an art, and writers can and do discuss their craft in terms we can understand. There are good reasons teachers and students of writing should hear what writers say about their craft,” says Donald Murray in Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers.

Writing tip: Read writing quotations from authors such as Anne Lamott and W.H. Murray, and learn from their experience. They’re talented writers. They’ve put in their time, and they’re willing to tell you what they’ve learned.

Here’s Henry David Thoreau on the writing muse: “Write while the heat is in you. When the farmer burns a hole in his yoke, he carries the hot iron quickly from the fire to the wood, for every moment it is less effectual to penetrate it. It must be used instantly, or it is useless. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled…”

Writing tip: When you have a writing inspiration, get it down as soon as you can. The other day I had a great article idea, and I put it on my “to do” list, and…three days have passed and now I think it’s not such a hot idea after all. From now on, I’m heeding Thoreau’s writing advice. As soon as I have an idea, I'm writing it.

Jan 15, 2008

a writing tip about expectations

Writing quotation: “I approach my work with a passionate intensity, acting as if its success depends entirely on me,” says Sarah Ban Breathnach. “But once I’ve done my best, I try to let go as much as possible and have no expectations about how my work will be received by the world.”

If you’re afraid and anxious about people’s reactions to your poetry, stories or articles, you'll dampen or even kill your writing passion.

Writing tip: Tap into the source of your creativity, and let your thoughts and ideas flow. You can’t control how your work will be received; all you can do is write it. You don’t know if it’ll be loved, hated, or ignored -- and it really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you tried. You followed your passion and chased your writing dreams.

The rest is gravy.

This writing quotation came from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance.

Jan 14, 2008

writing quotations from Atwood & Michelangelo

When I was in Rome, I toured the Sistine Chapel with an audioguide. While I stared up at Michelangelo’s detailed, colourful ceiling of God, Scripture, and life on earth, the narrator said that Michelangelo was plagued with doubt and uncertainty. Michelangelo didn’t know how his creation would be viewed, but he forced himself to keep painting.
Writing fears work the same way.
Writing quotation: “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror,” says Margaret Atwood. “What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?” Even the great Atwood struggled with writing fears.

Writing tip: Listen to the Sistine Chapel's narrator who tells you that Michelangelo struggled with doubt and uncertainty. Listen to Margaret Atwood, who struggled with her own writing fears. Don’t listen to your own narrator who’s up to no good, who tells you your writing is flawed, weak, or stupid. Heed Margaret Atwood’s great writing quotation about feeling doubt...and write anyway. After you write, work towards your writing goals by revealing your writing to editors, publishers, or friends for feedback.

This writing quotation came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 13, 2008

writing quotations about why you write

It's time to figure out why you want to write and why you're not writing. Then, you can clarify your writing dreams. Here's why the great writers Anne Tyler, Maurice Sendak and E.B. White write.
Writing quotation: “For me, writing something down was the only road out…I hated childhood, and spent it sitting behind a book waiting for adulthood to arrive,” says Anne Tyler. “When I ran out of books I made up my own. At night, when I couldn’t sleep, I made up stories in the dark.”

Maurice Sendak said, “You write or paint because you have to. THERE IS NO CHOICE.”

“I haven’t told why I wrote the book [Charlotte’s Web], but I haven’t told why I sneeze either. A book is a sneeze,” says E.B. White.

Writing tip: Maybe you write to escape, or because you have no choice, or because it’s a natural part of who you are. But even a natural inclination to write can be smothered by the inanities of everyday life (chores, tv, self-grooming, paid employment). Read Annie Dillard’s writing quotation about not letting stuff distract you from your writing goals.
Figuring out why you write will increase your writing motivation. Me, I write because I...now that I think about it, I don't really know why I write. It just feels right, and I can't stop. Why do you write? Even more important, why AREN'T you writing?
These writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 12, 2008

a writing quotation about emotions

Do you write out of your emotions, such as passion, fear, hatred, or grief? Millions of poets and authors find writing motivation in acts of love and betrayal.
Writing quotation: “The best emotions to write out of are anger and fear or dread,” said Susan Sontag. “The least energizing emotion to write out of is admiration. It is very difficult to write out of it because the basic feeling that goes with admiration is a passive contemplative mood.”

Does this work the same way for nonfiction, which is my specialty? I don’t think so. I write service articles that show people how to do things, or feel better about themselves, or be more authentic in the world. Writing out of anger, fear or dread may work sometimes, but…curiosity and aha! and revelation work too.

But curiosity, aha!, and revelation aren’t emotions, are they?

Writing tip: Write out of whatever emotion motivates you. If it’s not an emotion – such as me writing out of curiosity – it doesn’t matter. Find your writing inspiration, and use it.
This writing quotation came from an article on Suite101: Writing Quotations That Inspire .

Jan 11, 2008

a writing tip about fear & perfectionism

Katherine Paterson said, “…the smarter you are, the more things can scare you…but to fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.”

To face your fears and keep writing anyway, remember that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to write perfectly, plot perfectly, or describe the surroundings perfectly. You don’t have to have a great idea – sometimes the great ideas have you (but not always right away).

Writing quotation: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you insane your whole life,” says Anne Lamott.

Writing tip: Write imperfectly. Anne Lamott’s writing advice to “write a really shitty first draft” reverberates in my head, whether I’m writing or exercising on the elliptical machine. Today’s writing tip is about not letting fear grab you by the tail, and writing it anyway.

Jan 10, 2008

take action with this writing tip

Writing quotation: “Action is absolutely essential for people who don’t know what they want. Action will help you think better and more clearly than if you sat still and weighed all the theoretical factors. Even action in the wrong direction is informative,” says Barbara Sher in I Could Do Anything…If Only I Knew What It Was!

Are you undecided whether you should write a book, article, memoir or inspirational essay? Take action, whether it's researching a topic or starting a journal. Are you paralyzed at the thought of writing a book proposal or contacting publishers? Take action. This writing tip will get you started - even if you're not quite sure what your writing passion is yet.

Writing tip: Start building strong writing habits, noticing writing ideas, thinking about your writing goals and collecting writing inspirations (and noting those great writing quotations). The sooner and more often you take writing action, the better you’ll feel.

Jan 9, 2008

Whitman's writing quotation about style

Writing quotation: “The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught,” says Walt Whitman.

His great writing quotation is in itself great writing. Note the pace of the sentences, the use of dashes and commas to create a faster and slower tempo. This writing quotation also contains a passive sentence (normally a no-no in most writing advice books). I think it works here.

Writing tip: Don't wait. Just write. Another take-away of this writing inspiration is: forget your writing style. Write it all down; you can edit it later. For now, make it your writing goal to just write. Of course that's easier said than done, especially when you want to tap into or develop your writing style. But you'll achieve your writing goals faster if you forget your writing style and just write for now.

This writing tip is based on Walt Whitman’s writing quotation, found in Quotationary by Leonard Roy Frank.

Jan 8, 2008

writing quotations about waiting

Here's a writing tip from Mark Twain and E.B. White. Their two great writing quotations seem contradictory, but could actually be complementary. What do you think?

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” said Mark Twain.

Compare that with E.B. White’s writing quotation:

“Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer – he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave and which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along,” White said.

Writing tip: The writing secret is to balance risk-taking (and possible regret) with waiting for the perfect wave. But don’t wait too long, writers. You may regret it.

E.B. White's writing quotation came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. Mark Twain's quote isn't a writing quotation at all! But I apply it to my writing habits almost every day.

Jan 7, 2008

a writing tip about writing habits

Since A. A. Milne is one of the masters of great writing, I have to include a writing tip from his fictional writing.
Writing quotation:
"When you first get up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.

Writing tip: The way to get and stay excited about your writing habits is to prepare yourself for a day full of surprises – because you never know what the day holds or when writing inspiration will hit. Maybe you’ll reach your writing goals, or exceed them. Maybe a publisher will accept a pitch, and you’ll be hired to write that assignment. Maybe an editor will call with a stack of edits for you to make on your article (groan) – and you learn more about your writing, the subject, and the magazine.

Live in anticipation that your writing passion will take you farther than you dreamed.

This great writing quotation is from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, of course.

Jan 6, 2008

Updike's writing quotation about ideas

Writing quotation: “A few places are specially conducive to inspiration – automobiles, church – public places. I plotted Couples almost entirely in church – little shivers and urgencies I would note down on the program, and carry down to the office Monday,” says John Updike.

Writing tip: When you do come up with writing ideas, make sure you write them down right away.

And don’t dawdle once the writing inspiration strikes! E.B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

These great writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. The writing advice in this book comes from hundreds of quotations from successful writers.

a writing quotation about inspiration

Are you waiting for the writing muse to inspire you? Arthur Hailey thinks you should stop that.

Writing quotation: “I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind or if I’m sick or well. There must be 600 finished words – not almost right words. Before you ask, I’ll tell you that yes, I do write 600 at the top of my pad every day, and I keep track of the word count to insure I reach my quota daily – without fail,” says Arthur Hailey.

Writing Tip: Don’t treat writing like a hobby if it’s your passion. Writing habits may have to be formal and professional before they're successful.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 5, 2008

writing tip: commit to your dreams

Writing quotation: “Unless one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the Providence moves too,” says W.H. Murray.

Writing tip: When you commit yourself to move in the direction of your writing dreams, the universe will work with you. It's the law of attraction, and it's all about writing advice. Watch:

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’ ”

Thanks to my friend Maggie Raynor for this great writing quotation and writing tip! It was from W.H. Murray and his experience with the Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

To learn more about how the universe responds when you take action, try:

Jan 4, 2008

a writing quotation about hoarding ideas

It can be tempting to save your best for future articles, short stories or poems. However, Annie Dillard has some great writing advice.

Writing quotation: "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book: give it, give it all, give it now," says Dillard.

"The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water."

Writing tip: Don't be cheap. Use your writing ideas, plot twists, characters and imagery freely. When you have a writing inspiration, wrestle it until it becomes yours.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. The writing advice in this book comes from hundreds of published writers.

Ephron & Didion's writing tips about leads

Nora Ephron writes movies, articles, books and essays. If you haven't read her stuff, you've probably seen her movies, which include When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Ephron can be the source of many writing inspirations and writing tips.

About writing leads, Ephron says:

"I don't write a word of the article until I have the lead. It just sets the whole tone - the whole point of view. I know exactly where I'm going as soon as I have the lead."

Joan Didion adds her two cents with this writing quotation:

"What's so hard about the first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone."
Writing tip: If writing your lead first works for you, then take Ephron and Didion's advice. If, however, you need to write the whole piece before you write your lead, then good on ya. Yo be a great writer, you have to do what feels natural.
These great writing quotations are from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray, which has hundreds of writing ideas, writing habits, and writing inspirations.

Jan 3, 2008

Dillard's writing quotation about priorities

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Quips & Tips for Freelance Writers.

You won’t be disappointed!

Writing quotation: About writing habits, Annie Dillard said "I don't do housework. Life is too short and I'm too much of a Puritan. If you want to take a year off to write a book, you have to take that year, or the year will take you by the hair and pull you toward the grave."

This is writing passion in action. But wait, it gets better:

"Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say, I kept a tidy house, I made my own cheese balls."

Writing tip: Break free from the chains of housework, the tv, or food. Focus on your passion.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. It's busting with writing inspirations from hundreds of published writers.

Jan 1, 2008

writing great leads

Here's a freelance writing tip you've probably heard before: writing a great lead is like hitting the bull's eye. If your lead doesn't hook the editors and publishers first, or it won't ever hook readers, much less grab their attention.

A great lead:
  • brings the subject to life
  • intrigues, excites, or startles readers
  • appeals to the reader's emotions

Sometimes the article or chapter tells you how to write the lead. Other times, you need to figure out exactly how you'll hook readers. Anecdotes, questions, quotes, paradoxes, dramatic examples or startling statistics all draw people in. Real life can give you writing inspirations for leads.

Here's two examples of anecdotal leads: The Risks of Liposuction and Setting Healthy Boundaries. Are they interesting enough? If not, how would you improve them?

Writing tip: "Nothing hooks readers faster than a question that asks something they've always wondered about," writes Frank Peterson in The Magazine Writing Handbook. I'm getting ready to write a query for a Father's Day article, and I'm struggling with the lead. What have people always wondered about, with regard to Father's Day?

Hmmm.......what to give to their dads and how to celebrate are the natural answers. But what about asking a question that readers haven't thought of? For instance, what would it be like to meet your dad for the first time? I think a question like that might hook readers.

In fact, I think I'll try that writing idea right now.