Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Struggle

Sometime one must coax the words out.

Each day is a struggle to sit before the computer and produce—produce words that are appropriate, produce sentences that are logical, produce paragraphs that are focused, and produce a page that is relevant to the project—whether it is a poem, a short story, an article, an essay, or part of a novel.

Once the determination is made to sit and produce, then the output seems easier even if one has to wrest the words from a blank mind. Once started, the flow becomes inevitable, although the ideas may not be what was intended or planned. At times, it implies that one is not in command, and at other times one is not.

Sometime one must dredge the words from the soul to produce something, anything, but one must strive to be in control and focused on the piece that one has under consideration even if it is nothing more than an entry in a journal, a diary, or a forum of any kind.

If the writer concentrates on communicating with the intended reader, the ideas will come, and if the ideas come, the words to express them will also come. That is the nature of writing—to share ideas with others.

So whether you have to coax, prod, or drag the words, the sentences, the paragraphs out, the important objective is to create a composition that will be an adequate expression of the writer’s thoughts.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Staff Versus Freelance

There is no doubt that a staff writer enjoys advantages not availed by the freelancer. However, there are benefits available to the freelancer that a staff writer can never expect.

A staffer must produce and on a daily basis because of frequent, even daily, deadlines. As a result the staffer learns several things: how to organize time, how to write under pressure, how to write quickly, how to plan the writing (if not on paper, then mentally), and how to meet deadlines. Perhaps this results in the loss of creativity and inspiration, but it usually produces better mechanics of writing—better sentence structure, syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, and spelling.

The freelancer, on the other hand, enjoys the freedom of choosing the time to write, the topic or theme to write about, and the refinement of language and expression. The negative side of that is that the writer must be an editor and proofreader and must possess the discipline to sit at the desk and write which, of course, sounds so simple, but which is, in effect, the most difficult responsibility of the freelancer.

Thus, it becomes the writer’s obligation to choose the kind of writer to be. No doubt, freelance writing appeals to most, but it is not always the wisest choice. One’s character, personality, and dedication come into play. If one is individualistic, able to work alone, and inspired, then the freelance route is probably the path to follow. If one is uncertain, needs association, and direction, then a staff position is probably a better choice.

Choosing correctly will result in the greatest satisfaction and happiness.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fear of Failure

You have a great idea for a poem, a story, an essay, an article, a book, or a novel, but you hesitate to write it. Why?

Fear is the key to a writer’s procrastination, hesitation, and dawdling. It is the obstacle to production and success. So, what can a writer do about it?

1. A writer can face it head on and admit it. Once admitted, it can be dealt with. Of course, writers are fearful of failure, of ridicule, and of derision. Even though they do not admit it, they are fearful of what other think of them, especially editors and even readers. Writers, like everyone, fear most those they do not know and who do not know them.

2. Writers fear their lack of ability, their capability with the English language, their understanding of subject matter, their lack of knowledge of the publishing world, and, primarily, their confidence in themselves.

3. Writers fear those who appear more intelligent than they are, those that are more successful than they are, those that seem more confident than they are, and those who have a facility that they do not have.

So, what is the answer? The answer is to attempt to put that great idea into words, to capture the essence of our concept, to forge ahead without thought of consequences.

However, the writer says, that is not easy. Right! It is not easy; it requires fortitude, perseverance, and even daring, but to succeed as a writer, it must be done. If that great idea is to come to fruition, it must be written. Writers cannot let the fear of failure become inertia.

Writers must sit at his or her desk or computer and start putting the words to paper or screen. That is the only way to overcome your fear.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Toil Produces Capability

As in all endeavors, toil is necessary to succeed and more so in writing. Work or its habit is the mother of talent. A writer must labor over his craft until it becomes strength, and the only way the writer can develop this efficacy is by working at it, sitting at one’s desk or computer and writing.

Like any work, this requires the expenditure of time—time spent writing, time spent thinking, time spent practicing the craft of writing, and time spent deliberating about what to write and how to write it. All of this requires the habit of work, the usage of time, the routine of sitting at a desk or before a computer, and the effort of writing.

Procrastination, dawdling, delaying, and hesitating hide any talent that the writer possesses. Only by forcing oneself to write, and to write consistently, daily, will this talent develop and produce results. Of course, the amount of time spent at writing will depend on each person’s situation, desire, and goal. Learning how to use any talent that one possesses is where effort is controlled, where struggle has a purpose, and where determination to succeed is required.

Learning how to use the whole of one’s talent will result in great success and satisfaction. “Learning how to use the whole of one’s talent” is the difficult part, the part that requires a great deal of dedication, much thought and reflection, and the physical exertion of actually penning or typing the words on paper or screen. Sometimes even that can be a struggle.

Thought and reflection are two important essentials required of any writer—thought that comes from the very soul of the writer whether it is poetry or prose, reflection that develops that thinking. All writing comes from the deep within and embodies the essence of the person. Without that kind of attention, the writing is shallow and weak.

Once the thoughts are torn out and become tangible as words on the page, then it is the time to review, re-assess, and revise the ideas and polish them until they shine brightly and express truly and succinctly what the writer intended.

Thus, the labor of the writer’s craft requires three things: thought, labor, and revision.

Toil Produces Capability

As in all endeavors, toil is necessary to succeed and more so in writing. Work or its habit is the mother of talent. A writer must labor over his craft until it becomes strength, and the only way the writer can develop this efficacy is by working at it, sitting at one’s desk or computer and writing.

Like any work, this requires the expenditure of time—time spent writing, time spent thinking, time spent practicing the craft of writing, and time spent deliberating about what to write and how to write it. All of this requires the habit of work, the usage of time, the routine of sitting at a desk or before a computer, and the effort of writing.

Procrastination, dawdling, delaying, and hesitating hide any talent that the writer possesses. Only by forcing oneself to write, and to write consistently, daily, will this talent develop and produce results. Of course, the amount of time spent at writing will depend on each person’s situation, desire, and goal. Learning how to use any talent that one possesses is where effort is controlled, where struggle has a purpose, and where determination to succeed is required.

Learning how to use the whole of one’s talent will result in great success and satisfaction. “Learning how to use the whole of one’s talent” is the difficult part, the part that requires a great deal of dedication, much thought and reflection, and the physical exertion of actually penning or typing the words on paper or screen. Sometimes even that can be a struggle.

Thought and reflection are two important essentials required of any writer—thought that comes from the very soul of the writer whether it is poetry or prose, reflection that develops that thinking. All writing comes from the deep within and embodies the essence of the person. Without that kind of attention, the writing is shallow and weak.

Once the thoughts are torn out and become tangible as words on the page, then it is the time to review, re-assess, and revise the ideas and polish them until they shine brightly and express truly and succinctly what the writer intended.

Thus, the labor of the writer’s craft requires three things: thought, labor, and revision.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Writing Requires Self-Control

The only way to become a writer is to write. That requires a great deal of self-control and dedication, not only writing when the urge is upon you but even when it is not. That requires seeing the words flow onto the blank page or blank screen.

Force yourself to sit at your desk or in front of your computer screen and write something, anything until the ideas begin to flow, and flow they will. You will soon learn that what you write when the urge is not there will be as good as when the impulse is strong. Later, when you reread what you wrote, you will be unable to tell what was a struggle or what was an inspiration.

Stay before the bare page or empty screen until it is full. One page is not impossible, and once that page is full, you will find that it is easy to fill two pages or more. Write as quickly as you can think. Do not disrupt the flow of ideas and sentences with concern about grammar, syntax, and other rules.

This is not the time to rewrite. Write quickly, ignoring spelling and punctuation. That can be corrected with rewriting as is the use of the dictionary and thesaurus. The important action is to put words to paper or to screen, to explore your thoughts, to brainstorm, if necessary.

More important is the development of self-control, of dedication, of persistence, and of a work habit. All productive writers have acquired this determination.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Raiders

My latest book, The Raiders, has just been released by Chronicler Publishing. It will be launched December 1, 2006 at Vimar Books in Evansburg, Alberta from 4:00 pm to midnight during the town's Midnite Madness event.

The Raiders is the sequel to The Venturers and The Traders that tell the story of Pierre and Francoise Marin who are settlers in Acadie, New France in 1670 during the time when France and England vie for supremacy in North America.

If you are interested in historical fiction, you will enjoy these books. The fourth book in the series, The Warriors, will soon be published.

All are available through Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Barnes and Noble, and many other bookstores. Ask for them by title or by author.

They make excellent Christmas gifts for the readers on you list.

Writing is a Discipline

If a writer considers writing to be a task, he/she is doomed to failure. Since it cannot be a task, then what is it? It is a discipline. What does that mean?


A discipline means development, and that means preparation. So a writer must prepare to be a writer and that means study, study of the English language—its words, its structure, its syntax, and its style. That is the groundwork that a writer must follow all his/her life. This implies training. Where does a writer obtain this training? From many sources—workshops, seminars, courses, reading, and connection with other writers. Every day becomes part of a writer’s training. Every moment adds to the writer’s store of information, ideas, topics, and themes.

Discipline means the cultivation of input, of broadening the writer’s outlook, of developing something to say, and of creating a way to say it. Without effort there can be no output—at least no yield that readers are willing to add to their store of thoughts and ideas.

Discipline means practice. A writer is not a writer until he or she puts words to paper or screen and this is the application of the training that preceded it. All of this implies a love of the art, and if that is not present, then it becomes a task, and writing can never succeed as a chore.

Discipline means exercise, which means action, which means the act of writing, of sitting before the blank page or screen and filling it. This is the time of labor, but it must be a labor of love, a desire, a need, an addiction, in fact, to expressing oneself. Of course, this action can take many forms—poetry, essays, short stories, articles, novels, and non-fiction books—but it must be treasured and desired for its own sake before it is presented to readers.

Without discipline, writing becomes nothing more that a job to be completed leaving the author unfulfilled and wanting.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Empty Mind

Many writers stare at the blank page or clean computer screen and wait for inspiration with a feeling of hopelessness. That white page or screen is always a struggle to fill, and it probably will always be for most writers.

Writing is fatiguing work because it is the source of great stress, great concentration, great thought, and a great expenditure of energy—mental, emotional, and physical.

Writing is stressful because it requires the writer to be aware that others will read what one writes and thus pass judgment on it. Writing is stressful when ideas and thoughts will not come to fill that blank page. Writing is stressful if the writer feels that he must write and yet cannot write. Writing is stressful because the writer is never sure of how effective the composition will be.

Writing requires thought. The writer must think of many elements as he writes: grammar, syntax, topic, theme, punctuation, spelling, and all the other factors that are required for effective, useful, and favorable writing whether it is fiction or non-fiction. In addition, this rational process must happen simultaneously as words are put to paper or screen.

Because thought requires concentration, and concentration requires effort, and effort requires discipline, the writer is under a great deal of pressure when he or she is working to express an idea in the most effective way. Writing is never easy although it may be easier at one time and not at another.

With all these impediments to conquering the blank page or screen, what must a writer do? The writer must start writing one word at a time until the flow comes, and then the page or screen can be dominated—not easily—but it can be controlled. With its filling, the agony diminishes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Iniquitous Slip

All the famous writers I heard of could paper the walls of their offices with rejection notices.

Rejection slips are the bane of all writers, yet they are inevitable. The most successful of writers had their share of them, and even get them now that they are prosperous.

Although rejections are inescapable, they should not be considered maleficent; they should be considered helpful. Though when first received, they can be disheartening, they should be contemplated as a valuable learning experience. Even if they come as form letters, they can serve as valuable lesson in determination.

Look at it this way: One more “no” is that much closer to a “yes”. Each time a manuscript comes back, the quicker it should be sent to the next market prospect, and the writer should get on with the job of writing. Hesitating will only prolong the period of time before the piece is accepted for publication.

If the rejection notice has a personal message attached with a critique from the editor it should be studied carefully and heeded. If that happens, the writer knows that the composition had merit, and with a little more work can be placed.

Once the “work of art” is further improved, it is time to send it on its way again. When the writer is confident that it is the best that can be produced, then it is ready to return to the eyes of editors, whether it is an anecdote or a mammoth saga. It must be out there to be considered.

Perseverance is the writer’s best virtue. If at first you do not succeed, try and try again.

As Ana├»s Nin says in her autobiography “Beware of allowing a tactless word, a rebuttal, a rejection to obliterate the whole sky” that should be a writer’s philosophy about rejection slips.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Daily Rite

If you want to be a writer, then you must write—you must write something every day.

If possible, have an established time to write every day. Budget your time to make that period available even if it is only a few minutes. You will be surprised how much you can write in a short period of time. This writing should have a dual purpose: first, to improve your writing skills, and, second, to record your ideas.

As well, a special writing place is also helpful. It should preferably be a spot where you are free from the distractions of daily living—a corner of a bedroom, living room, or even kitchen, but it should be your writing site. Of course, an office of your own would be a preferred location. It is surprising how the mind can develop creatively if given the chance.

To write every day requires a plan; it requires a time; it requires a location; it requires a focus; and it requires a reason. The first two have already been dealt with, so what is a focus plan? A focus plan is a decision of what kind of writing one will do: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, articles, short stories, etc.

Here, the writer has to find his/her voice. Do not spend the writing time thinking about it; the important thing is to write and the voice will come.

Of course, a focus requires a reason for writing. Is it for personal satisfaction and enjoyment only? On the other hand, is it for public consumption and financial augmentation? Perhaps both. Usually, though, one writes to share one’s thoughts and ideas with readers.

What about ideas and topics? Without them, a writer is lost. In writing every day, the goal is to express whatever comes to mind—a memory, a gripe, a desire, a feeling, an incident, or grammatical exercise. It really does not matter; the important activity is the writing. Once started the words usually flow.

So, write something every day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Practice of Writing

Virgil, the great Roman poet, wrote “Practice and thought might gradually forge many an art.” From this we can assume that practice comes before thought, and so it is with present day writers.

What must be practiced? If one is to be a successful writer then one must be able to practice good grammar. In order to practice good grammar, a writer must know the rules of good grammar and therefore must study the rules of good grammar. Most editors reject quickly those writers who do not know how to construct a proper sentence with at least a subject and predicate.

Besides knowledge of a simple sentence, a writer must use compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. In order to perfect the ability to use these sentences, one must practice their use until it becomes second nature.

Once a writer—through practice—has mastered the sentence then it is time to work on the paragraph. Again, composing a unified, effective paragraph requires practice so that it has unity, coherence, rhythm and acceptable syntax.

English syntax can only be learned by practice, particularly the practice of reading. A “wannabe” writer must be a reader—one who reads voraciously and eclectically so that good syntax will come naturally. However, this reading must be done studiously with awareness of the writer’s style and composition, because syntax is the way in which one puts the words together. Now the writer must practice and develop his own style of syntax.

This brings us to the next practice: the use of the dictionary and thesaurus—not the dictionary and thesaurus that are found with most word processors. Although they are helpful, they are not as beneficial as a complete and unabridged dictionary or thesaurus. If a writer depends completely on the dictionary and thesaurus found with most word processors, one’s writing will be full of mistakes.

Finally, but not the least, is punctuation. Although most punctuation is a personal preference, there still are basic rules that should be learned and practiced.

In all case of grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and syntax, the writer must know the rules before he breaks them. Moreover, the only way to become proficient in their use is by continual practice.

Once the basics are acquired, then the writer can proceed to writing fiction or non-fiction in poetry, articles, essays, short stories, etc., again practicing until one has develop a personal voice or style.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Launch of two new novels

On Saturday, October 28, I launched my two latest historical novels at the Heritage Cultural Centre in Stony Plain, Alberta that was the scene of a Literary Event to celebrate Literacy Month, Library Month, and Book Month.

A dozen or so local writers congregated in the Pioneer Cabin for readings, signings, and launchings. The event was well received by the public and the staff at the centre who hosted it.
My two novels were Alberta: The First Man and The Traders.

The First Man
is the story of Atrebla a young wanderer from the north who comes to the now Province of Alberta through the narrow corridor between two great icesheets that cover most of North America 13,000 years ago when mastodons, mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, the great bear, and huge bisons roamed the area. It is a story of adventure, romance, and courage.

The Traders is the sequel to a previous novel, The Venturers, that continues the story of the Marin family as they struggle to survive in New France, now Canada in the late 17th century as France and England fight to dominate the North American continent.

Pierre and Francoise Marin are caught up in the strive with dire consequences to them and their young family.

As well as the two new novels, I also had copies of The Venturers for sale. I must say that sales were brisk and I was pleased with the entire day as were the staff of the centre.