Monday, November 28, 2005

Quotable . . .

Act as if it were impossible to fail.
-- Dorothea Brande

Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quitwhen you're tired-­you quit when the gorilla is tired.
--Robert Strauss

At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.
-- Dame Rose Macaulay

You've got to be original, because if you're like someone else, what do they need you for?
-- Bernadette Peters

I know quotes are the lazy way out. Forgive me, I was at the funeral for a 38 year old friend today. My mind is not in working order.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Free? Write for Free?

Should a writer write for free? (It goes without saying, almost without saying, that if you are the writer and someone is publishing your work, you DO NOT pay them!)

People write for a living. Those people charge for their work, and rightly so. It's a valuable service, provided by workers who have put a lot of effort into learning their craft. They don't want others to write for free, because there is a risk that the work of all will seem less valuable.

Here comes the catch-22. It's hard to land a paying writing job without clips. How do you get around that? There are some good ideas out there. Be creative. That's what writers do, right?

Some writers decide to offer free articles to promote their websites and other work. It's a choice that can drive traffic to your website and promote your name. This is a personal decision, and can work well as part of a marketing campaign.

A troublesome question for fiction writers is the 'free rewrite'. The agent/editor likes the story, but thinks it would look better with some major revisions. Remember, if you don't have a signed contract, you'll be doing this work 'on spec'. Think about it. It could be a test of your flexibility and willingness to take editorial direction. It could also be a test of your spine.

The thing about writing, most of us know the basics before we decide we'd like someone to publish our words. But think about it--most of us know the basics of breathing before we begin SCUBA diving. Would you hire yourself out as a professional diver because you bought the equipment and know how to breathe? I bet you'd learn how to do it first.

You can take courses in writing, or you can try the 'seatpants apprenticeship'. Find other writers, write, let them read your words, do your best to improve them, and move on to another project. Skill and talent are involved here. But, the biggest factors for any individual writer are time, effort and consistency. As you improve, your pay will also improve.


***the goal setting workshop will be posted beginning early in the New Year***

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Some of my favorite things

Sitting in a hot tub whilst the snow falls around me, sipping on a flirty merlot, toes brushing against the outer epidermis of someone I like enormously.

A hug.

Kitty cuddles in front of the fire on a cool evening.

The smell of freshly brewed, French press, coffee.

The feeling when a story starts to take over my mind, interfering with dinner conversation and (ahem) intimate moments (you know, he says 'what are you thinking', and you have to lie, because you were really thinking about a great line of dialogue between two characters who are having a bitchy, anti-man moment and telling the truth would ruin that fluttery little thing his lips are doing on your collar bone).

The taste of Lindt chocolate melting in my mouth. Don't chew it, let it melt. Exercise self-restraint and enjoy the richness of the chocolate as it coats the tongue.

Petting a new yarn--a beautiful merino, or a silk blend, or (ahhhh) cashmere. Believe me, you have to go to a yarn store and pet them--the feeling cannot be reproduced on the web (yet).


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Habits of Successful Writers

What is the mark of a successful scribe? Perhaps not wealth and fame, although they may be factors. Maybe it isn't even talent, which allows the brilliant among us to shine but doesn't guarantee recognition. For mere mortals like us and for household-name writers like Stephen King, the highest measure of success is often the same--self-satisfaction. Ask yourself: Is it fun? Am I improving? Could I stop myself if I wanted to? If the answers are "yes," "yes," and "no," you're on track.

But for some of us, the simple pleasure of writing isn't enough. We may dream of full-time employment as a freelancer, self-publishing a family history, or topping the New York Times Bestseller List. Either way, the process is similar. First, accept the fact that there is no one secret to success and no single path to fulfillment. Ask a dozen different writers and you will hear a dozen different stories. The one thing those writers will most likely agree on is this--the only way to reach your goal is to apply your backside to your chair and put words on paper.

What can a poor scribbler do beyond this? Writing, just like any acquired skill, takes practice and discipline. Form good habits, because that is the surest way to improve your skills and explore your talent. And the sooner you begin, the sooner you'll see results.

1. Learn the basics. Pay heed to Strunk and White. Vocabulary and grammar are essential if you want to be taken seriously. If you can't use them, you're a carpenter with no tools. There is no excuse and very little tolerance for poor use of language.

2. Read. Read. Read. Devour books. Scrutinize them and you will see that some bestsellers out there are not much better than your humble musings. Read both prose and poetry--train your ear to the hidden rhythms of fine writing.

3. Write. Write. Write. Stop endlessly polishing the prologue of that novel and compose something new. Schedule time for writing as often as you can. Ignore the dirty dishes and the overgrown lawn and just write! Dirt keeps; ideas fade.

If you need encouragement to produce something new on a regular basis, join a writing group or a book-in-a-week challenge. Look at it this way: the faster you get all the garbage out, the more quickly you'll unearth the gems.

4. Set goals and work towards them. A goal is nothing more than a dream with a deadline. If you don't set goals for yourself, who will?

Like outlining? Love revision? Drafting--not so much? Write some amount of rough draft daily--grit your teeth and excavate those words. Ideas are like in-laws: the longer you ignore them the more hopeless they seem, but if you spend time cultivating your relationship the results can be surprisingly pleasant.

If your goal is publication, map out a route and follow it. Publish non-fiction articles in your area of expertise. Break into print by entering contests. E-publish on your own or someone else's website (or in a blog). No matter which path you take, be prepared for rejection. It's part of the learning process. Don't look at it as an F, just an invitation to try again.

5. Assess your work as objectively as you can and then improve it. You've invested time and effort in producing your work. Now nourish it and bring it to maturity.

One way to evaluate your progress is to look back at your earlier work. If something you once thought was flawless now brings on nausea, you've probably improved.

6. Take care of yourself. Stop apologizing for your literary urges and foster your inner writer. Start calling yourself an author, even if it's only in the mirror. Imagine your interview with Oprah.

Surround yourself with people who support your dreams, be it a literary group, members of your own family, or a circle of nurturing friends. They'll help you keep the dream alive on those days you feel like letting it die (or even killing it).

7. Repeat steps 1-6 unceasingly. Be persistent. Where would Stephen King be if he'd stopped after his first twenty rejections? Toiling in a laundry, living in a double-wide, and telling people how his spirit was crushed by the cruel world of publishing. Imagine how many people have been entertained by his work and how much fulfillment he derives from it because he (and his persistent wife, Tabitha) believed in what he was doing.

Most important, make a habit of enjoying the process as well as the product. Success is best if it isn't only the destination but the journey as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Write, gal, write

Let's visit some writing gals:

Tess Gerritsen
She seems like the kind of lady I'd like to talk to. She's smart, she's successful (in more than one enterprise), and she has a sense of humour. I read her books and I like them.

As a reader, I want to be entertained. I don't want to have to work hard to understand what's going on, or to figure things out. Gerritsen's prose is clear.

I like clarity.

The Literary Chicks

'Cause I like the name of their site.