Inspiration can be hard to come by. More often than not, it is what writers strive to find. Gain inspiration from these words of wisdom. Let them inspire and inform you. And most of all, let them motivate you to write and keep writing!
- "One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from the experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." – James Baldwin
- “The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- "We don't write what we know. We write what we wonder about." - Richard Peck
- “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” - Winston Churchill
- "You see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I dream of things as they never were and ask, 'Why not?'" - George Bernard Shaw
- "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
- “Read, read, read. Read everything- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write." - William Faulkner
- "To produce a mighty work, you must choose a mighty theme." - Herman Melville
- No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." - Robert Frost
- “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl
Photo by: this lyre lark
by John F. Harnish
Many writers have a special personal file tucked away in a little used directory or saved to a disk that holds an assortment of short stories and other things they’ve written over the years. Well, as they say, there’s gold in them there files! More than likely you have enough of a collection of short stories, some essays, perhaps a few essays, a rambling perchance, maybe a couple of odes, and of course a sprinkling of poems that you could publish a collection of your work.
My first published book, Enjoy Often! is a collection of my work. The collection is a real mix of this and that so there’s something there to delight everyone.
Enjoying being involved in the whole creative process is another beautiful part of doing a collection of your work. In addition to writing, you also get to figure out the selection of the work you’ll be including and the order they’ll appear in your book. You also need to think about your cover design. Some authors like to pick one piece and feature it in the title and on the cover art.
Now the odds are, you have a few pieces of work that you’ve finished or maybe a couple of works-in-progress that could be finalized when you yield to the pull to work on something you love working on. That’s part of the beauty of this new kind of publishing—you get to enjoy doing the creative work you enjoy doing. Oh sure, we know it’s hard work and at times it stretches your gray matter most nicely—but you also have the reward of feeling that what you’re doing is feeling so very right with you because you love what you’re doing. It’s a win, win!
So dust off those files holding your work, and clean away the cobwebs of your mind so your creativity can come out and play with your new project. This isn’t like writing a whole new book because you’re having fun writing all the various individual pieces that will make up the whole of your new book.
Yield to your creative urging and visit with some of your writings that you’ve been saving.
Photo by: koalazymonkey
Director, Author Services, LinDee Rochelle, November 17, 2010:
I stare out my window at the giant sycamore tree (that’s the only tree name that came instantly to mind other than pine) at another gorgeous San Diego day and contemplate the CD I opted to enjoy while writing. The inimitable Janis Joplin*.
I choose Janis’ “Greatest Hits” (1973) when feeling particularly defiant, bawdy, irreverent, vulnerable … singly, or all at once. Janis was all about people. “Piece of My Heart,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Get It While You Can” – she loved us, hated us and spoke for us. A voice silenced much too soon.
And yet … Janis was labeled a loner; a talented island in a sea of creative camaraderie. Something writers can definitely identify with. Are we too alone? If Janis had felt more connected to an intimate network of friends or family – if she’d had the Internet – would she have lived longer?
Cry, cry, baby … It’s been proven that from infancy, we need each other. We reach for the touch of skin on skin as we’re pulled from the womb. Even as we age, often pulling back from intimacies, we can’t help ourselves; before we know it we’ve formed new friendships, met the neighbors, joked with the neighborhood grocery store clerk, and become part of a community clique.
Most authors go through periods of self-imposed isolation, especially when we’re writing. But is it healthy and truly conducive to your best creativity? Tell me, in order to write, do you avoid your neighbors, shun your family, or regularly kick the dog? Then find you still can’t write a cohesive sentence? Writer’s block is no joke, but may not be internal. Take yourself outside … that doesn’t always mean “out.”
Are you registered on Facebook? How about MySpace? Do you boogie with your old chums on Classmates? Maybe you prefer a more creative community like AuthorNation, or GarageBand for recreation? Do you dabble in a heartfelt hobby with other like minds? Quick breaks in fun forums can refresh the mind and juice up your creative inspirations.
Even “way back” in 1997 Businessweek (05/05/97) magazine saw the neighborhood graffiti hit the Internet wall, “Instead of flitting from site to site dabbling in the gobs of information and latest news flashes, this new class of Netizen is settling in, staying put, making a home away from home.”
We thought at first that the computer and Internet cocoon would isolate us and swallow us up, with no contact to the “outside world.” The more it has grown and matured, however, we’ve learned the Internet is about as “outside” as you can get! Your vast new cyber communities (CC) are nothing more than virtual neighborhoods.
“Block parties” occur every time you enter a forum. You talk about the kids, a misunderstanding with your mate, or an upcoming dreaded birthday. You’re offered “food for thought” from your neighborhood chums, and may adventurously dive into a new community pool (forum) – oh, and don’t forget to abide by the community CC&Rs! Break ‘em and you’re evicted!
A balance is imperative, though; CCs can isolate you from your real world family and friends. While you may have found a boatload of new, exciting cyberbuddies on the ‘Net, don’t forget to venture out into the “real” sunshine! Share your Internet escapades holding hands with someone special, while enjoying a leg-stretching walk, or spectacular sunset.
Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. This is a great time to give thanks for what you have, including of course, your passion, potential, and positive genius for writing. And minimize the importance of all else.
Then while family and friends are neighboring with their cyber buddies or greeting the dawn for the sales on Black Friday, make the most of your creative solitude with a refreshed and rejuvenated mind, to write. And with Janis,
One of these mornings
You're gonna rise, rise up singing,
You're gonna spread your wings, child,
And take, take to the sky*
Peace & Love … LinDee
P.S.: That said, when you feel the need for neighbors and have not yet found your niche on the ‘Net, below are a few intimate communities where you might fit right in ... join cyberhands with folks in your city, state, or on the other side of the world … and while you’re chatting, don’t forget to mention your book.
http://forums.womansday.com/ for women by Woman’s Day Magazine
www.hipforums.com/newforums/forumdisplay.php?f=5 Hip Arts & Culture
http://thepetsforums.com/forums/index.php pontificate on all pet issues (and equine, etc.)
www.small-business-forum.com/ mix it up, business-style
www.AuthorNation.com intellectual home for Authors AND Readers
* Janis image on KHJ-Los Angeles radio station music survey, 02/17/1971, Blast from Your Past collectibles. Lyrics from “Summertime”; you haven’t heard this iconic George & Ira Gershwin (with DuBose Heyward) tune ‘til you’ve experienced it with Janis on her album with Big Brother and the Holding Co., “Live at Winterland ’68” (recorded April 12-13, 1968).
by LinDee Rochelle
Are you certain that what you’ve written is understood as you intended?
“Seriously, he said that?!” Be it by a friend, colleague, journalist, or other well-meaning author, we’ve all wondered aloud at some of the inane, painful, or infuriating words we’ve read. With e-mail and texting, not to mention eBooks and our printed tomes, the written word today, is more powerful than ever!
Whoever originated the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” was stoically defensive and possibly aiming for courageous. In reality, his head was stuck in the sand and he just couldn’t hear them.
Words can hurt – a LOT. And they can be horribly misconstrued. What came from your brain in easy, humorous scribbles or even pointed, but carefully chosen prose, is not necessarily consumed by the reader in the same context. Wars have been started over a few carelessly written words.
Once you’ve clicked on Send there is no body language, voice inflection, or opportunity to explain further – until after the words are ringing in the reader’s head.
Will he understand exactly what you said?
Apparently that question still floats around our schools – much to my satisfaction. As you know if you read WWYC = Write When You Can – Will Texting Change the World? I’ve recently been concerned that grammar and the finer points of English have fallen by the wayside of texting. Consider:
Parade magazine’s Q&A section recently responded to the query, “Why do we spend so much class time on parts of speech?” I love Parade’s response, “You need to learn every single principle because less-than-great grammar dooms you to a life of being misunderstood.”
I’ve never heard a better reason for learning grammar! Of course, you can be a Pulitzer Prize winner and still write a misleading or misconstrued missive. Even fickle moods play a part in altering our perceptions of what we read.
Consider: “It’s up to you what we do tonight,” vs. “I don’t care what we do tonight.” Are you angry today? How’s that second option going to sound to you? Fine! I don’t care either, let’s just stay home, you jerk!
Reader reviews can put your writing in perspective.
Spotting a blog reviewer’s inane comments, I was reminded this week of our writers’ fragile egos and the power of those who review our works. C’mon, admit it. When anyone comments on your writing, you hold your breath until you’re certain it’s complimentary – and inwardly crumble, when it is not.
Sad to say, but some book reviewers especially, have a “sticks and stones” agenda – to discover (or in some disreputable cases, fabricate) a flaw in your writing that they can exploit – because as you know, controversy sells.
Readers on the other hand, generally dive enthusiastically into your book and offer heartfelt comments – although, if your writing needs work, they may be no less critical than the worst reviewer. Oh, that I could teach the world to offer only constructive criticism! Alas, some people have the tact and diplomacy of a stinging bee snarled in your hair.
If you’re an emerging author not yet published, readers’ forums are a great place to wander into with your writing. Author Nation for instance, gathers writers and readers together in a lively exchange of ideas, imaginations, and yes, critiques.
Posting your writing in readers’ forums offers instant gratification and conversely, immediate criticism, good and bad. But they’re helpful to test the waters before you formally publish. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot!
You don’t need to offer your whole book or article up for grabs – most writers make the same mistakes throughout, so comments on a few pages in a well-presented excerpt is all that is needed.
L’s Seven Suggestions for … clarification and critiquing:
1. polish your writing as if for retail publication before you offer it up to readers
2. A good book goes through many rewrites; if possible, “finish” your book and put it away … for at least a day or two … read it again when you’re fresh, and pretend you’re someone else, not the author
3. Be a reader of your own work – test your wordsmithing powers and take for instance, one crucial paragraph of your book – rewrite it using different key words; did it skew your meaning? – If it did, do you have a problem?
4. Seek out book discussion clubs online and off – ask if they’ll read an excerpt of your fabulous new book and offer comments (an incentive might be autographed copies at a 10% discount when published)
5. Seriously consider any critical analysis – especially those presented as constructive criticism, as their point may have validity and could be the turning point in your book
6. If you receive 4 comments, don’t consider them separately – consider them a “reader poll” – 3 out of 4 said this, or hopefully, 4 out of 4 LOVED it!
7. With any important communiqué try not to “push that button” to e-mail, post, or publish immediately after you’ve put the final touches to it – you’ll be amazed at what you may have written that will evoke, “He said that?!”
by John F. Harnish
That’s really the basics of writing fiction. You take your conjured Who, What, When, and Where, then you embellish the stated facts with the twists of How and sprinkle in the speculative Why, to explain the relativity of the facts in the story you’re telling with your creative wordsmithing skills.
Journalists have an acquired advantage when it comes to writing novels because they are accustomed to reporting the facts of the news that makes the story into a compelling read. The details of Who, What, When, and Where are what frame the story, but it’s the juicy dashes of How and Why that makes the meat of the matter sizzle with the full flavor of the whole story.
It’s often been said, Dog Bites Man ain’t news; however, Man Bites Dog is, perhaps, news – you want to know How and Where did the man bite the dog. The reported unusual event begs for an explanation as to Why. Why did the Man bite the dog?
So here are two tail tales for the rest of the biting story.
Saturday afternoon Mark was at the ballpark watching the Phillies in a playoff game. He was captured on a live TV camera with his mouth wide open biting into a hot dog with mustard and lots of onions. Aha, you hooked folks in with an assumption the dog had four legs! Mark eating a ballpark frank on national TV isn’t news except to his family and friends. The details are there, but it’s a so-what story.
However, you’re writing this segment in a novel and there’s no sizzle making Mark a hero – until you add – Mark had just taken the first bite of the frankfurter when the first hitter of the inning hit a high fly ball. Holding the dog in his left hand while watching the flight of the fly, he easily reached out and caught the ball with his right hand. Mark was speechless as he displayed the ball for the camera, taking another bite of the mustard covered dog. His feasting feat made the network news and attracted millions of views on YouTube.
The second sizzler is in the style of creative-nonfiction.
Wolf-dog Aurora was a young pup discovering her full set of canine teeth when there was the first hint of a biting problem. My concern was she’d get so into biting and chewing on things in destructive and painful ways that this would surely become a difficult habit to break. She’s a beautiful husky-lab-chow with a big touch of wolf – meaning she can be very contrary and territorial.
One winter evening we were playing on the rug in the family room when her sharp puppy teeth painfully nipped my index finger – not enough to break my skin, but enough to evoke a very loud “Ouch!!!” Now I’ve always believed that turn-about is fair play, and the way Aurora was positioned I was able to quickly bite the tip of her puppy-dog tail just hard enough to beget a corresponding “Yip!” My “Ouch” and her “Yip” indicated we were communicating effectively on a primal level. From that day on, biting wasn’t a problem, except for a few of her gentle attention getting nibbles on my arm. However, from time to time she’s still prone to chew on shoes – but that’s another story.
No, this Man Bites Dog first-hand report isn’t a fast breaking news item – no video camera captured the moment and it occurred almost 11 years ago – long before YouTube. It does demonstrate, however, how the Who, What, When, and Where can be enhanced to tell the Why and How of solving a common problem in an unusual but direct manner. After all, that’s what telling a good story is really all about. And – it’s very effective for posting online on a pet site, for instance, with your name, website, and book title attributed.
Photo courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski.
by Dave Giorgio
So you’ve written a book. That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. But if you’re a writer and an aspiring author of books, then you are compelled. That’s a pretty great thing.
But what happens after you’ve written a book? Aside from that huge exhale that comes from reaching closure, what comes next? Many authors will tell you what the next step is: Rewriting.
I often write articles, releases, web copy and other documents for my work. There hardly ever comes a time where I will not read through my carefully written work the first time to revise or rewrite it. And I find that the longer the document, the greater the revision process.
This is because a longer document is going to have longer thread. Writing is about taking a thread from beginning to end-- you want to optimize all of the nuances in between as you go from the very beginning to the very end.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Rewriting is an introspective process. It’s a chance for you to look at your book with someone else’s eye, sort of. In other words, as you read through your book, judge it as if it were someone else’s writing.
2. Ask yourself tough questions throughout the reviewing of your text. Things like “Is this dialogue or scene necessary?” “Am I using more words than I need to convey a message?” or “Am I wandering off point?”
3. There are many other similar questions you can ask to make your book better. Make a list of the aspects of a great book. As you go through your review process, ask yourself, “Is this writing meeting those aspects?”
Don’t think this is a new or foreign process. It’s likely that all of your favorite writers ask themselves similar questions, and many more, as they go through a process of critiquing their work in order to tighten it up.
Photo courtesy of mihow.
Director, Author Services, LinDee Rochelle, November 3, 2010:
While I sometimes become agitated at the flagrant commercial solicitation of our youth – as if the over-50 population has dropped into an ever-widening sinkhole – I also know that our planet’s future is in the sweaty palms and wild imaginations of those young’uns.
To be fair, I’m not anti-youth – I have a couple of young’uns myself. And every aging generation has faced the formidable wave of change they bring – it’s the inevitable regeneration of society. No industry is unaffected, including writing and publishing – like it or not, it’s (loosely) called progress.
What concerns me now is that we’re on the cusp of something more than just an obvious trendy updating of the dictionary. Like our insistence in the 1960s that “ain’t” is a word, and “groovy” has nothing to do with deep ruts, a new breed of words and phrases have materialized. “Cloud computing,” “webisode,” and “fan fiction,” are all products of new technology, created largely by twenty-somethings.
Throughout previous millennia of the written word, new words and phrases have been added to the bursting dictionaries, refinements have skewed other definitions, and some have dropped out of sight altogether.
What’s different in this generational turnover, however, is we wordsmiths are faced with a language revolution that threatens to alter the very core of English, as it’s been known since the emergence of Modern English around 1550.
Today, we are challenged by our youth to keep up with their “Newspeak” or drop like flies into the sinkhole. Though Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984 (1949) was politically motivated, its shortened, simple, and truncated vocabulary principles, as were his philosophies, were way ahead of its time. In theory, Texting is today’s Newspeak.
For example, in the texting world, “?4U” = I have a question – I maintain we can accomplish the same meaning and still remain literate, with “??please” – not only does it still convey we want to ask the receiver a question, but it’s polite!
However, I have a confession to make – yes, I too, have left out vowels and abbreviated words while texting. Only in the interest of saving time, though, I swear! I have no desire to write that way elsewhere.
Is that true of the young’uns? 21st century Newspeak is beginning to seep into everyday writing. I’ve seen it in email messages (what’s the excuse, there?), and in blogs, and while most have been used “in passing,” will we begin to see more and more?
Common usage is what changes dictionaries. In twenty years will we be writing in a greatly modified version of today’s English? Or will we assign one language to the left side of our brain and the other to the right, and hope they can co-exist peacefully? Although often change is good and needed, it isn’t always in our best interest.
In response to my blog, “Monday, November 1 – National Authors’ Day,” Infinity author John Wolf recently declared November “authors’ month,” so go out today, tomorrow, next week – and not only hug an author, but commend them for preserving our language! If you must text, be a rebel, and abbreviate your sentences, but please, use whole words!
Think about it. LEMENO .02 HAG1 (Let me know your two cents worth. Have a good one!)
Ciao for now … LinDee
by Brittany Lavin
NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an online phenomenon that has taken the writing world by storm. Founded in 1999 by a group of writers, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 175 page, 50,000 word novel in one month—November 1st -30th to be exact.
I personally think this is a fantastic way to get writers to sit down and do just that- write! What’s more- it’s a way to write without worrying about the quality, but the quantity. This contest gives you permission to write without worrying about constant editing and tweaking. Rather, it is just about creating.
And you won’t be the only one! In 2009, NaNoWriMo had over 165,000 participants. More than 30,000 of those participants finished their novel by the deadline.
I challenge each and every one of you to enter this contest. Remember, it’s not about writing the Great Novel, but writing any novel. That idea that has been spinning its wheels inside your head for months now? Write it! Stop worrying about character development and plot points and just write it! Maybe it will be terrible, but after it’s done you can go back and make all the edits and changes you like because the foundation will already be there.
So now the only question is…are you up for the challenge?
For more information on NaNoWriMo check out their website: www.nanowrimo.org
Photo courtesy of Ove Tøpfer.
by John F. Harnish
Just like writers have different styles of writing, so do copyeditors have different approaches to editing. The ideal copyeditor works with a delicate touch fixing grammatical goofs, correcting typos and generally cleaning things up to make the author look better while carefully retaining the author’s expressive voice. Certain rules of grammar and for proper spelling must be adhered to in order to achieve professional standards. There is, however, a bit of latitude regarding some possible changes and word substitution.
Back in the eons of time I was assigned a publishing house editor who was making rather arbitrary decisions and meaningless word substitutions. In my opinion, my original word was just as fitting as the editor substituted word – in some cases my words were even more befitting in keeping with the tone and flow of my writing. I boldly confronted the editor with charges of him totally wrecking my work with all his pointless changes. Why was he doing this? I was totally shocked when he agreed that most of the changes were just being made for the sake of change. Besides, he added, he had to do something to justify his job! Bummer – his justifying was trashing my hard work! As it was back then, when a publisher assigned an editor to a project they were on it from start to finish. Not so today with commercial publishers, with downsizing and mergers an author could experience working with a variety of editors in the course o f completing a project. Each brings different editing skills, experience and talent to the table. Thusly some editors will be easier to work with than others. Hopefully you won’t encounter someone more concerned with job security than professionally editing your manuscript.
Another editor I was honored to work with was Nancy Jackson, also known as Mason. She had a gift when it came to editing the hard parts – you know, like when you know what the piece needs to convey but it just isn’t doing it – close, but no cigar. She was a master at cutting and switching phrases from here to there that created crystal clarity with fabulous flow. I learned more from her about editing styles and techniques than I ever did in the many classes and workshops I’ve attended. She explained her role as an editor as working with the author to make their work sparkle, and do it in such a way that doesn’t even show the tender touch of her finger tips upon the completed piece. Leaving no marks is indeed the trademark of a skillful and talented editor.
However, don't try to break all the rules and pass it off as developing your signature style as a writer – the only thing your style will show are your shortcomings! First-time authors seem to have an urgent need to establish a distinctive writing voice and mistakenly use those crude attempts at style to disregard the rules of effective writing. Then they get bummed when a copyeditor corrects their many errors. Too many times the telling of the story gets lost in the quest for an elusive style.
Photo courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian.
by Brittany Lavin
I’ll be the first to tell you that writing a book isn’t easy. It’s anything but easy. Writing a book is time consuming and challenging. There’s character development, plot points, and denouement…oh my! Not to mention extensive critiquing and editing. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.
It’s also one of the most fulfilling feelings I have ever experienced.
It’s my belief that everyone has a writing itch. There’s always that moment where a person says “Hey, that’d be a pretty good story.” It’s time to do just that!
Here are just some of the reasons you should write a book:
- Nowadays, finding a job you really love is difficult. If you love to write- make it your job! There’s nothing like waking up and being excited to start your day doing something you love.
- “I’ve written a book.” It will become your favorite thing to say!
- It will help you realize your ideas. Perhaps you never thought you were capable of writing (or finishing) a book. Prove yourself wrong! Take that idea that has been stewing your brain and put it on paper.
- Writing your first book may just lead to another, and another, and another! Before you know it a job you love could become a career you love.
- Writing a book is like showing the world who you really are. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or self-help- it’s bringing your true self to light.
Perhaps you have already finished a book. Perhaps you are just starting. Either way, consider yourself a very accomplished individual!
However, your work isn’t over when your book is complete. If anything, it should be just beginning as you take the next step from writer to published author.
Photo by: Lidal-K.