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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