Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Write With Enthusiasm

Put enthusiasm into your writing.

Writing that lacks passion and fervor is dull and uninteresting. The writer will be short of the desire to make the work the best it can possibly be. Of course, that will show through in the writing; readers cannot be fooled.

What is this enthusiasm? It is an expression of the writer’s worst fear, greatest anger, or deepest passion. These feelings must be apparent in the writer’s work. It can be in nonfiction and fiction. A sports writer must be devoted to athletics as a participant as well as an observer. A novelist must believe in the premise of his or her story.

This passion for the idea must be deep-rooted and original. It must flow from the writer’s experience and knowledge, but that does not mean that it cannot be cultivated and nurtured. With this affinity and empathy, the writer must dedicate him or her to development of the focus by continual practice. Nor does this mean that the subject matter must be narrow and circumscribed; it means that the writer must expose his or her worst fear, anger, and passion.

Where does this passion become apparent in a writer’s work? It appears in the interests of the author—his or her beliefs, convictions, culture, and life-style. From this comes the choice of record: article, essay, short story, novel, etc. Once the form is chosen, and then it is a matter of style, syntax, grammar, etc.

This becomes a love of expression, subject matter, issue and conviction. A writer must be devoted to words, their meanings, their denotations, their connotations, and their resonance. Through words the subject matter is expressed with the biases and the partiality that is the author’s passion. Without it writing lacks conviction.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Taking Risks

If a writer is to succeed he or she must take risks. What are these risks?

One of the first risks is the usage of time. If the idea of success is to write for one’s own satisfaction only, then writing is but a hobby, but if one is interested in being recognized as a writer, and then other risks must be addressed.

The first one is the fear of rejection—rejection by peers, rejection by editors, and finally, rejection by readers. The first can be the most important: if a writer presents his or her work to fellow writers and they are too critical, it can have a detrimental effect on the author, often to the point that the writer abandons his or her dream.

An important rejection is that by editors, but it must be realized that the editor has not rejected the writer, only that particular work. Many reasons are possible: not appropriate, not needed at the time, overlooked, and many others. All writers have their work rejected so one must look for another market.

If the work is published, then the reader comes into play. Will they buy and read it? If they do, will they consider it or simply snub it?

Another risk is writing what you believe in. If the writer is to succeed, one must be convinced that what he or she says is important to them. Otherwise, the writing will lack sincerity and authenticity.

Once the work is written, it is important to get it out to readers and that can involve sending it to appropriate publications whether in the trade online or otherwise. Do not give up. If the writer believes that the work is significant then it must be placed before readers.

This mean that the writer must promote it with every means at his or her disposal, and many exist: newspapers, word of mouth, business cards, brochures, web sites, blogs, etc., to name a few.

Probably the greatest risk is believing in one’s self. Most writers have vulnerable egos thus it’s important to develop a positive attitude to one’s work. If the writer believes in his ability and effort then the battle is won.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Mode of Transportation

Great writing transports one vicariously to realms that the reader would not otherwise experience.

One of these areas is physical: ancient, modern, or futuristic. A great writer can bring the past into the present and make the reader experience the culture, the locale, the people of the time. Jean Auel’s great novels come to mind.

Another region is the pschological realm: Again great writing conveys us into the minds of characters giving us a better understanding of our motives, our passions, our wants, and our needs. Crime and Punishment is a good example.

Then there is the sociological realm where great writing gets the reader involved in the world of crime, or romance, or poverty, or wealth, and many other social situations, problems and solutions. Charles Dickens was such a writer.

The cultural region is another area where great writing has an impact, particularly authors from other ethnicities that help us to understand the mores and viewpoints that are different.

Finally we enter the political sphere. Here again, great writing points out the good and bad of different ideologies, political parties, governments. It introduces us to the search for power and influence, the good and the bad, the acceptable and the unacceptable.

Great writing occurs in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. Great writers abound, and each reader has his or her favorite.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


All writers should use a plan whether written or reflection. This includes the initial idea, the content or main points, and the conclusion whether it is an article, a short story, a chapter, or a complete novel.

Let us look at the article. This starts with main idea that is engendered in the title. Then the content is considered: the main points that will make up the article. All that is left to do now is to fill in the details of each line of reasoning. Leave it for a few days before editing, revising, and rewriting. The article is done.

Similarly, the short story starts with the intent and then the character who has a desire or want that is stymied by some obstacle. As the character attempts to overcome the obstacle, more complications occur until defeat seems the only possibility, but defeat is turned into success or disaster, success if the short story is a comedy and disaster if it is a tragedy.

The chapter of a novel follows a similar plan, but it is not as complete as the short story, since the tale or narrative must go on. The chapter is like one event in the short story with its aspiration, its impediment, its complication, and its achievement or downfall.

Even the novel follows a similar development. Novels can emphasize plot or character but in either case, the protagonist meets an antagonist that can be another human, an belief, or nature that encumber and frustrated him or her. The effort to overcome increases the difficulty rather than alleviate it, resulting in further complexity until a solution is found or the protagonist is overwhelmed.

Basically, all writing follows a similar scheme. Thus, only the details are different for each composition, be it an article, a short story, a chapter, or a novel.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Open a Vein

If you want to be a writer, you must write and that requires sitting at your typewriter or computer and writing although it may not be easy. That also means avoiding all distractions that will keep one from writing—visitors, friends, relatives, television, radio, and anything that will keep the writer from concentrating on the task.

Although many writers wait for inspiration before they start writing, that is a sure way to bring about writer’s block. Inspiration only comes with dedication, concentration, planning, and visualization. If one looks at the work habits of successful writers, it is one of habits, habits established by determination and persistence that require surrender to a timetable of work, a forfeit of time to write. That time must be rigidly adhered to be it an hour or several hours a day.

Setting a time each day is not always easy, but it must be done if one is to become a professional, published writer. During that time nothing must interfere with writing. It is not the time to edit, rewrite, revise, or research. It must be set aside for writing, for putting words to paper or to screen. Discipline is the keyword here and self-control must be achieved inflexibly. Sounds tough? Well, it is! Some beginning writers get up earlier and spend and hour or two before their day job; others prefer time before retiring for the night; while still others steal a few minutes several times through out the day. Whatever is chosen must be adhered to strictly.

This, of course is where dedication and concentration become most important. One must decide if they really want to be a writer since it is a lonely introspection activity, it is not for everyone. Some think it is glamorous, but that part of the profession is not; it must be done alone and isolated, alone with one’s ideas and thoughts, isolated from other people in order to express those ideas and thoughts. Those who want to be, and that is almost every person the writer meets, envy writing and writers.

Writing is not easy for most writers. It is like opening up a vein and letting the blood gush forth…or dribble out. It can be painful or exhilarating. Fortunately, most of the time it is stimulating, heady, and more so when it is published and enjoyed by others.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Writing is Desperate 'Work'

Some writers complain that writing is arduous work requiring long hours and little pay, which is often true especially for freelance fiction writers. Today, everyone wants to be a writer and with word processors and computers it is easy to put thoughts down, but it is not always effortless to be published unless one self-publishes or uses a vanity press.

Nevertheless, writing although demanding, is not life threatening. Yes, it is a lonely occupation as the writer sits alone at the keyboard and pours forth his/her ideas. Many more occupations or vocations are more dangerous than sitting before a monitor and looking at the screen as letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and composition unfold before the writer’s eyes. The most dangerous effects are eye strain, muscle fatigue, and carpal ?. Sometimes, back strain is an occupational hazard due to poor posture or poor equipment, it’s not like the military where digging a trench under fire can be common.

Writing, on the other hand, is fulfilling in some way. Some write for money, some for recognition, some for enjoyment, and others to leave a legacy, usually a book that will outlive them or be passed on to their progeny. Most write because the like to express themselves in a way that is unique and satisfying. In any case, the writer feels some need that must be satisfied.

Writing as a career does have it hazards. If it is needed to provide revenue to maintain life, it can be frustrating. Writers who are salaried find that the pay is low and usually insufficient although over time it may rise if the writer stays long enough with the employer be it a newspaper, a magazine, a trade, or other organizations that uses the services of a writer. Freelancers probably are more thwarted in their attempts to earn a satsifying income. Their earnings usually fluctuate greatly of a year.

Even so, all writers need to be fulfilled and satisfied by what they do whether they are salaried, freelance, or writing for personal gratification. They must feel that the writing life is a good life!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Take a Break

Writing is a strenuous creative activity, and like physical activity it produces fatigue that requires rejuvenation and renewal, so when the mind is blocked, it is time to rest it. Many writers call this ‘writer’s block’ but others claim that no such state exists.

One remedy of mental fatigue is physical activity. Most consider this to be participation in some competitive sport, but that is not necessary. Any physical activity will suffice: gardening, calisthenics, aerobics, swimming, skating, skiing, and most of all walking. Probably walking is the best physical activity for most people because it avoids injury, muscle soreness, and the purchase of elaborate equipment.

Physical activity rests the mind from the creative process of writing, at least of the mental process of placing words, ideas, and topics on the screen or paper. It frees the mind from the stress of thought that is a real tension and allows the imagination to escalate. Often, during these periods of physical activity inspiration flourishes with an epiphany effect; a writing problem is solved, a new market is realized, or a new project evolves.

So if you hate sports, take up walking, the best exercise, and one that the body is equipped to do. Unlike running, it does not jar the joints, it does not accumulate uric acid in the muscles, but it does develop the lungs and heart.

Try it, and you will see that the creative process is enhanced and developed by this break from writing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Groundbreaking Work

Every writer knows that the urge to write is not always present. As a result, the dedicated writer writes anyway. Professional writers face the task without think too much about the actual activity. They have established the habit, so they sit down and put their thought to paper whether they are relevant to the project or not. They know that they can rewrite, revise, edit, and improve. They know that the first draft is not or need be the last.

The writer forces him or herself to write, usually at a prescribed time and in a set place. Most successful writers have an office, a place set aside for writing, and so they go to that place to write. Seldom do such writer’s experience what is know as writer’s block which is a state of mind that can be changed with a conscious effort.

And interesting thing about writing—putting thoughts to paper—is that the very act clarifies one’s thinking, and fosters more thoughts. The simple act of putting thought into words, sentences, and paragraphs causes the mind to sift, to correlate, to organize, and intensify thinking. From a blank mind to one teeming with ideas is the usual process that occurs as one writes.

Thus one sees that writing is related to mood, which changes from one moment to the next. During the day, one experiences many moods from joy to sadness, from calm to anger, from activity to idleness, while state of mind tends to be less volatile. Since mood is so capricious, it is only a matter of time until the urge to write takes over, and writing becomes a joy rather than a chore.

So what is difficult writing can be excellent and worthwhile. Often, after reviewing earlier writing, it is difficult to know what was arduous and what was effortless. Often the burdensome is the finest.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

First Priority

No matter what you are writing, the first priority is write the first draft.

Most writers procrastinate. Since writing is a demanding job requiring focus and dedication, most writers delay, dally, defer, and dawdle.

How does one get that first draft completed?

  1. Plan
  2. Organize
  3. Implement
  4. Write

Without a doubt, the most important step is to plan what one intends to write, be it a novel, an article, an essay, a short story, or a poem. The writer must have something to say and a desire to say it. The need to express, for whatever reason, is important. It may be self-fulfillment, it may be economic, or it may to leave a legacy, but whatever it is it must be strong enough to force the writer to prepare and develop a way to put words to paper.

Once the idea is generated, the second important step is to organize. This usually means time at a computer or typewriter. Time must be set aside, a place of work must be established, and distractions (whatever they are) must be eliminated. The professional writer writes every day and often everywhere, but the amateur may not have the same motive or drive. Time, of course, varies from person to person; some writers have a day job to contend with, others write only when the urge comes upon them, or whenever time is available. An ideal place to write will also depend on the individual; some need noise as a background; others require silence; and still other do not care—they can write anywhere. The elimination of distractions is different for each person. Writers have written with bustle and hurry all about them; others need a special place with a special ambience. Do what you have to do.

Putting thoughts to paper or screen is the most important part of the process. Start. Write quickly letting the thoughts flow from the mind to the paper or screen. Do not be too concerned about syntax, word choice, grammar, spelling, or capitalization. The most imperative act is to get something down; rewriting will take care of the technical aspects of writing. Today most word processors have grammar and spellcheckers, but do not rely exclusively on them. They do not find all errors; if you are poor at spelling and grammar seek the services of someone who is capable in these areas—a friend, a teacher, or if necessary a professional copywriter.

That is writing: planning, organizing, and putting words to paper or to screen. It is not difficult if one has a positive attitude about it.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Expect, allow, and accept that every first draft will represent your lowest standard and have at it.

A first draft is just that, a draft with its lack of organization, lack of cogent thought, poor syntax, grammatical errors, typos and spelling slip-ups, and other inaccuracies.

So it needs revision, rewriting, spell checking, and more research.

Thus, it needs editing.

How does one go about that?

Probably the first step is to use the word processor grammar and spellchecker.

Then it is time to look at the organization of the piece: Is it logical? Does it proceed to a climax? Are all the sentences relevant to each paragraph? Is each paragraph relevant to the overall theme and topic? Are the facts accurate? Do the paragraphs lead to the conclusion you intended?

What needs to be removed? What needs to be added?

Of course, the way it is edited depends on whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and then if it is fiction, what kind: novel, short story, poetry, etc. Each genre has its own characteristics, rules, and reason. Similarly, if it is non-fiction, what kind is it: informational, expository, descriptive, argumentative, or humorous.

Next comes sentence structure. Does it have a variety of sentences as to length and type: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex? Do the sentences contain pet words and expressions? Do they contain colloquialism, slang, idioms, and trite language?

Is the language fitting to the subject matter? Formal, standard, informal, or common or avant-garde.

Finally, the work needs a re-read to be sure it is as perfect as it can be made, that it satisfies the writer…and especially the reader, the first one being the editor to whom it is sent.

If this sounds onerous, it is, but that’s what writing is all about-- to produce the best effort possible.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thinking About It

Many writers spend more time thinking about writing than they do in actual writing. This, of course, is truer of the freelancer than the salaried writer although it can deter any writer from the actual job of writing.

Waiting or one's Muse is a favorite excuse for many writers. They wait for inspiration to come to them rather and searching for it. That moment of epiphany may never come so they remain wannabes with a plethora of excuses for not facing the typewriter or the computer screen. Perhaps this is truer of fiction or poetry than non-fiction writers. Certainly it's truer of freelancers and salaried writers.

Waiting for one's Muse is the primarily excuse for procrastination. The lack of a plan or goals can produce delaying the act of sitting at the typewriter or computer and putting words to paper. Probably, then, it is wise for any writer to set out goals and an agenda for achieving these goals. Most successful writers agree that stating aspirations and then devising a plan to accomplish them is the first step to success.

This brings us to next reason to avoid writing: the lack of purpose. Many writers dream of success as fame and fortune but with little thought as to how they will bring about that. It is nothing more than a dream, a fantasy, or even a chimera. So it is very important that the writer or would be writer decides on the reason for writing: is it for self-satisfaction, is it for affluence, is it for acclaim or recognition, and is it to fulfill some enigmatic need. Whatever the aspiration, it should be well though out if the writer expects to become an author.

One of the greatest deterrents to writing is the fear of failure. Most, if not all writers, feel this at one time or another in their career. Usually, of course, this is at the beginning of their writing career. They wonder if they are good enough to succeed; they wonder if readers—be they editors, agents, or publishers—will consider their work to be worthwhile for publication because that is the prime reason that most write. Always, at the back of their mind, is this ghoul that haunts them and often prevents them from producing.

Last, but not least, is humans' tendency to laziness. Writing is hard work; writing is arduous and demanding. It requires lonely hours when the writer is alone with his or her thoughts, molding them, synthesizing them, stirring them, and polishing them into words, sentences, paragraphs, and compositions. Naturally, humans seek the easy, the satisfying, the comfortable way, so that means that writing is avoided, even abandoned.

So do not let pondering, daydreaming, or fantasizing take the place of writing. Sit at the typewriter or computer and put words, sentences, and paragraph down. Once started the flow will continue, and one will be a writer!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Prolific Writers

Prolific authors write; they don't just dream about it. A good example is Georges Simenon of Inspector Maigret fame. He writes a book quickly, at one sitting so to speak. The first draft of each chapter is written longhand in a single afternoon. The following morning he transcribes it with his typewriter, revising and rewriting as he types. The afternoon is spent writing the next chapter, but before this happens he outlines a plan for the novel.

Perhaps one should do as Charles Dickens did. Early in his life he learned shorthand as a reporter and would write many of his novels first in this manner. He also was a prolific writer, in shorthand and longhand, no typewriter or computer for him. A man of great energy and vitality, he wrote voraciously but he did many other things as well.

Anthony Trollope, another 19th century novelist was also a prolific writer who adhered to a very strict schedule for work. He invariably arose at 5:30 am and wrote until 11:00 whereupon he breakfasted and spend the remainder of the day in personal activity. As a result, he was able to write 47 novels and 16 books. He was methodical worker who considered writing as a trade, probably one of the reasons his books have lost esteem.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) is another prolific writer of the 19th century who wrote from midnight to dawn almost every day of his life, thus turning out a million words per year. Although he was prodigious, he was always poor, and that might account for his abundant output.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) like Balzac was a prolific French writer of the 19th century. He too spewed out poetry and novels at an unbelievable rate. His most famous novels are The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, but they are a small example of the many works that he produced at the amazing rate of over a million words a year.

If these writers--with paper, pen, and pencil--could effect the volume of writing they did, then writers today should easily do as much. We have computers and word processors that make writing a charm rather than a chore with spell checkers and grammar checkers, and other aids that make the process easy and enjoyable. I suppose what is lacking is the focus and vision that these writers had. Perhaps our live are to full of computers, television, films, theater, music, and other activities that impinge on the writer's time. Yet is possible with planning and discipline to put ideas to paper in poems, stories, novels, articles, essays, etc. Although the competition to be published probably exceeds that of writer of the 19th century and the 20th century, the way to publication is more varied and available.

Traditional publishers are being replaced by electronic publishers who now print books on demand or to order. Soon the publishing industry and booksellers will have to wake up to this new phenomenon and change the way they do business to satisfy the new prolific writers.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Whatever Works

Writing is a singular job that requires a singular kind of inspiration that differs from individual to individual. Since the human mind is so complex and so different from person to person, this is shown in the way writers operate. Some write best in the morning while other do their finest work in the middle of the night. Some need a quiet, dedicate environment, while others are more inspired by the greatest activity around them. Still others need certain stimuli to help their creation, a favorite pet, a favorite locale, a favorite musical score, or a favorite view.

Of course, this is different for diverse writers. Often the problem is to find the milieu, the object, or the melody that will stimulate your muse. Once you have found your incitement, you must develop and use it to produce, but do not use it as an excuse to avoid writing. This is always a danger, as most writers are great procrastinators, putting off the writing of any manuscript. They start well, but seldom finish well. Beginning a project is usually the easy part, the middle is difficult, and the end almost impossible.

If you need a quiet location to produce, then you find one. For the freelancer, this is probably easier than for the salaried writer—the reporter, the journalist, the ad writer, the press agent, etc., but usually it is possible to find some corner that is reasonably isolated and away from the office bustle. Find it!

On the other hand, if you need the stimulation of the hustle and buzz of human activity, that should not be difficult to find in the office, in the café, on the street, etc. A number of great writers did their best writing in a favorite café or bar so it’s not unusual. Artists of all stripes have used human activity as the stimulus to create great works.

So for most writers, a special time, a special place, a special ambience, or a special object sets off their imagination, their psyche, their mental processes. For some it’s a ritual that must be followed—a certain rising time, a certain procedure, a certain deadline, and a certain controller that impels them to produce. Since most humans are creature of habit, it makes sense that writers establish practices that encourages them to write and to create even if these routines appear bizarre to other writers and non-writers.

Once this routine is established, writing becomes customary, almost an addiction. Dedicated writers must write, not to make money, not for recognition, but for self-satisfaction, the need to fulfill a compulsion that exists within them. Often they do not know or understand the reason why they must write. For them, little motivation is necessary; for them, almost everything works, but they are probably a minority.

Most writers, authors, playwrights, poets, etc. must use whatever works.