Category Archives: Writing Tips

Do you want to be a writer?

This goes out to anyone who dreams of being a writer, and especially to those tortured souls doing NaNoWriMo each November.

Follow the Great Nike Way: Just do it.

If you write something, even if it’s unpubished or unpublishable, you are still writing. That’s what writers primarily do. They write.

If you are writing, and you say you are a writer, then you are a writer. You don’t need a permit, or certificate, or a degree that states you are a writer. You don’t need anyone’s approval — in fact I would hazard to say the more disapproval you get from others, the more legitimate your claim. You are a writer because you say you are a writer, and you actively write things.

If you want to be a writer, then just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It could be fanfiction — it doesn’t matter.

That’s what the yearly NaNoWriMo craziness is especially useful for: jumpstarting your lifelong love/hate relationship with writing things.

If I never audaciously made the claim, to just about everyone’s amusement and scorn, that I am a writer, I would never have been published, and I wouldn’t be making my living right now as a working writer. It’s not my title, but it’s a big part of what I do, and I wouldn’t be able to do it if I were not, in fact, a writer.

But even if I wasn’t earning my keep as a writer, I would still say I’m a writer because that’s what I am.

It’s a chicken and egg thing. One of the two has to have come first, otherwise there would not be any chickens. You will not become a writer until you decide you are one. Once you decide you are one, start typing words. And then make the commitment and tell someone, “I’m a writer.”

Expect people to guffaw. “Really? Are you published?”

That’s usually when your face turns red. But guess what? It matters not. If you keep writing you will be published. And, an unpublished writer is still a writer. Publishing, especially in this day and age, is inevitable, because you now have a number of options, only one of which is traditional publishing. Your goals should only be two-fold at this point:

    1. Start writing and keep writing.
    2. Do everything you can to keep learning how to make your writing ever more enjoyable for your reader.

Notice I didn’t say anything about making your writing better. “Better” is extremely subjective. No matter what you do, someone will hate your writing. Accept it. Shrug it off. It’s true in everything in this weird thing we call “life.” You can never please everyone. Someone will always look down their nose at you.

You goal cannot be to please everyone otherwise you are guaranteeing failure. Your goal is to find and cultivate a core group of people who “get” your writing, and make it ever more enjoyable for them to read you.

I’ll cover that, and lots of other stuff, in future blogs … so stay tuned!

Better yet, enter your email address at the top left of this website, and subscribe! :-)

Further reading:


Using the Pomodoro Technique to Battle ADD while Novel Writing

When my ADD is in full swing, like it has been over the past week, I fall back to using a method called the Pomodoro Technique. It really works for me if I can force myself to do it.

Original uploader was Erato at it.wikinews - Transferred from it.wikinews; transferred to Commons by User:Fale using CommonsHelper.The practice is very simple. Using a timer, you set it for 25 minutes and work on something (in my case, a novel) without allowing anything to interrupt. No email, no checking Ello, no texting my girlfriend — nothing in those 25 minutes but work on my novel. After the 25 minutes is done, I set the timer again to 5 minutes and can do whatever the hell I want. This is my payoff. Then it’s another 25 minutes followed by another 5, etc. After four periods of 25 minutes (these time periods are called pomodori) I give myself 30 minutes to do whatever I want.

The big payoff.

Somehow, knowing you’re getting these payoff time periods helps circumvent interrupting yourself to check email, etc., while trying to work on the thing your ADD is trying to keep you from working on.

I thought I’d share this in case anyone else has this problem, and hasn’t heard of the technique.

There’s a plethora of apps for it, by the way, many of them free. It helps automate the process.

Avoiding the Awkward “Ego Character”

A common mistake fiction writers make is to over-identify with a main character, and endow him or her with all the traits the writer would wish for personally. They never make mistakes, always have a snappy comeback, and often exhibit superhuman intellect. Characters of the opposite sex will fall at their feet in worship.

This is the writer’s ego character.

No matter how much fun you have writing this character, beware of it. More times than not your readers will find the character embarrassing and awkward to read. As a fiction writer, you want your readers to identify and cheer your characters on, but this will not happen when they do everything right and never make mistakes.

People don’t fall in love with the perfection in people, they fall in love with the imperfections. The mightiest heroes have flaws and weaknesses. Sherlock Holms was always broke and suffered addictions. Superman succumbed to kryptonite and had romantic problems. Captain Kirk was an egomaniac and a sex addict.

The best thing you can do for your character is give them lots of faults and problems, and have them succeed despite their handicaps. Remember, everyone loves a Cinderella story. Everyone loves an underdog.

Note: This was originally posted here on October 16, 2006. I brought it back up to the top feeling it was relevant for National Novel Writer’s Month.

No Mercy

Working on A Wild and Untamed Thing

I’m well into the last quarter of this manuscript and it’s now time to mercilessly beat up on my main characters. It has to seem like there’s no way for the bad guy to lose.

No pain, no payoff.

Killing the Second Space after a Period

Setting in Microsoft Word 2010ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a very well researched article refuting the Slate article: Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong

UPDATE: Nearly two years ago I made the switch from two spaces after a period, to one space. It was not easy, and it took a long time, but its finally reached the point where it feels natural and I don’t think about it. I thought I’d bring this blog post up to the top to, I suppose, commemorate this feat.

About an hour ago I finished reading an article on Slate called “Space Invaders” that calls for the death of the second space after a period.

It pissed me off and I wanted to write a scathing rebuttal, but thought – no, someone in the comments must have beaten me to it.  Everyone in publishing knows that there are two spaces after a period.  It’s standard form.  Strunk and White said so.  Right?

Wrong.  I’m glad I checked.  No one brought up an example from The Elements of Style in the comments that showed proper spacing after a period, and so I had to go and look myself.  I went through the book front to back and came up empty handed.  So I consulted my other handy writing guidebook, the Yahoo Style Guide for online writing.

Nothing.  I have nothing to back me up, but Farhad Manjoo – the author of the Slate article – has plenty to back him up.  And so I am wrong.

This sucks.  First my astrological sign changed (apparently I’m no longer a Scorpio) and now I find that everything I’ve ever typed is wrong?

Including this article?

Apparently.

So I thought, and thought, and thunk and thunk, kind of like Winnie the Pooh wandering back and forth trying to remember where his secret stash of honey is, and finally came up with where I learned the golden rule of “two spaces after a period.”

1974.  Webster Junior High School.  Typing class.

Oddly enough this came to my attention a few weeks ago, because I’d noticed that on one of my websites if a line breaks at the end of a sentence, the next line has an errant indent from the second space.  I’d assumed a problem in the formatting, but now I have to come to accept that the problem is not with the website template.  The problem is that I’m using typewriter rules in a world where typewriters all sit unused behind glass museum displays.

This is going to be hard.  Over 35 years of touch-typing reflex tells my thumb to bounce twice on the space bar after touching the period button.  Like just now.  And here too.

The funny thing is that if I type a period in Microsoft Word and follow it with only one space, Microsoft helpfully puts a squiggly underline below it to remind me to add the second one.  I found the setting in Word – it defaults to two spaces.

With some sadness I set it to one.