Wednesday, January 21, 2015

5 MUSTS For Successful Writers

Please excuse our small departure from the normal content of this blog. We will resume our regularly scheduled programming next week. What can I say? When satire strikes, you must obey. 

You've got a really awesome idea for a book. You know your screenplay is a billion dollar hit. Maybe you just like words. Whatever the reason, as my friend Anna would say, you wish to be a writer. The only problem is, you're not sure how to do it. Don't worry! I've got 5 MUST-DO tips for you that will turn you into a huge success:

1. Start Fast and Give Up Faster

Everyone knows that if you're going to be successful in publishing, it'll happen overnight. This industry moves fast, so you have to move faster. Got a rough draft done? Good enough!! Slap together a query letter and send that puppy out. No one expects you do have a polished piece; there'll be plenty of time for that once somebody writes you a big check.

If you've sent one query, though, and it got rejected, best to give up right away. One rejection is enough: as everyone knows, all agents and publishers like the exact same thing, so if one said no, they'll all say no. No big deal, though, since you can write another one in the next couple of hours!

2. Write Only What You Know

You know the old writing adage, write what you know? Well, it doesn't go far enough! Write only what you yourself have seen, felt, touched, or experienced. Driven a Ford but not a Toyota? Then your characters should only drive Fords. You can never imagine anything else to any degree of accuracy. This means that your stories will be populated by you, yourself, and you, but that's totally OK: who doesn't love a navel-gazer?

3. Put Everyone You Know In Your Work

The best way to make sure everyone you know buys your work is to put them in it. Don't disguise - how else will they know it's them? Don't tell them ahead of time, either, because that'll spoil the fun. Make sure you bring out their worst qualities and share their deepest secrets, because drama sells.

Also, who is your main character going to talk to if you don't put in your family and friends? See #2 above.

4. Never Read

Ever! It'll waste precious time you need in this speedy, ever-changing field. You read in school, right? That's enough. You can figure out what sells and what's good by looking at covers and thinking about it.

5. Get Sensitive

Feedback works best when you're too defensive to hear it, so make sure you can't stand to hear a word against what you've created.

And besides, everyone - and I do mean everyone! - is going to LOVE you and your work! Writers are great at pleasing everyone. What better way to enjoy it than to soak it all up? So shed those protective layers and make sure your skin is good and thin; that way all of the universal adoration will sink right in.

That's it! That's all you need to know. If you follow these, I fear for you know you'll be a HUGE success!

Got any more great tips for becoming a successful writer? Share them in the comments!

Disclaimer: no writers were hurt in the making of this post, but then. no writers were made in the making of this post, either. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Re-Entry Problems, and A Cloudland Excerpt

I'm having one of those days.

You know the ones. You have a vacation, you tear yourself away from writing and blogging and work and chores and everything screaming for your attention - not without some effort, mind you - you immerse yourself in the joy of doing nothing, and then, eventually, you have to come back to the real world. But in the process of coming back you find you're moving about 3 gears slower than usual, and you're not really getting all that much done...

...and this is where I am. I'm fully back in the real world by now, but last week was one of those slooooow re-entry weeks. Meaning I have nothing new to report in the world of writing. Except re-entry. Which is boring.

SO, I will report OLD things instead. Those of you who've been following along since the A-Z Challenge know I have a novel-in-progress that's now on hold, but I also have a finished novel that's on hold from querying. It's called Cloudland, And Other Stories, and it's about a little boy named Jake who loses his mother; the social worker assigned to his case, who recently lost her father; and the strange, wild journey they end up on together as they try to find their parents.

I blogged about it quite a bit when I first started posting, but it's been a very long time since then, so I thought I would post an excerpt from it. This bit is the beginning of the book. I hope you enjoy it:

Jake settled himself deeper into the cloud-nest of his bed, top-bunk, high and lofted, closer to the sky and the Stories. When mom came in, she would have to climb up the ladder to reach him, and he would have time to watch the darkness under her eyes crinkle up and break apart, and there would be humor and soft pillows to lean on instead of the edged cliffs her face had earthquaked into, ever since she started school. School and work and him and dad and church and still somehow the quiet spaces she needed to fit herself into, he knew, were too many things pushing together. It was like the tech tonal plate things under the ground they’d talked about once in school, that made big earthquakes where houses scrunched up like people who are too cold, and roads flew up in the air, to the sky, to nowhere, toward the Stories. He didn't like either kind of earthquake; he liked the windy open sky, the soft pillowed clouds, both here on the earth, and in the smooth light brown of her face. That’s where the Stories were.
How's your re-entry going? Better than mine, I hope? What are you working on?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Insecure Writers: The Year Of Big Good Things

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Happy New Year, everyone!! I hope you all had joyful, festive, delicious, cozy, and bountiful holidays.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two-week (sort of) media vacation, which was coupled with a one-week staycation from my day job as well. It was my first ever staycation, believe it or not, and it was wonderful. I was worried about it, because I kept expecting to feel obligated to do useful things around the house, and to bang out lots of chores and other onerous duties, but I can happily say that the week ended without my having done one. Damn. Thing. At least, not one useful thing. I read a ton of books, cooked and ate too much food, drank a little too much, spent time with friends, and vegged out. And that was it. It was glorious, and exactly what I needed.

Oh, wait...excuse me...I seem to have veered away from this week's topic, and gotten carried away with reminiscing. Ahem. It's IWSG, isn't it??

Ok, then: Happy IWSG!!! I'm not going to focus on insecurity today; instead, I want to talk about NOT being insecure. How about that? It's like I'm a whole new person. New Year, New Me.

I've mentioned before that I am not a fan of New Year's Resolutions, and someday I might bore you all to tears and expound on that (but not today; don't worry.) So instead of making a resolution, I decide things. See the GIANT difference??? Deciding is so much more, well, decisive that resolving. This year, I decided, is going to be the year of Big Good Things Coming to Fruition. This got started a little early when I got the world's best Christmas present, and it's going to continue all the way through 2015, because I say so.

All kidding aside for a moment, I am a big believer in the power of intention (no, I haven't read the book, but I do like the title.) I do believe - and trust, and feel - that the energy we put into the world is what comes back to us; like attracting like. So when I say that 2015 is the year of Big Good Things Coming to Fruition, I am (with a small bit of silliness, because it's me) setting the intention for all of those wonderful, powerful things to happen, and opening myself up to receiving them.

We all have different Big Good Things that we want. Mine are familial, as well as career-driven. One is to start making money from my writing. I believe I'll be able to make it happen this year. What about you? What's one of your Big Good Things?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Best Gift

I know, I said I was on vacation this week and next, and I am, but I had to post, because...

...I'm published!

I'm so excited; this is the best gift I could ask for. Role/Reboot has my first published nonfiction piece! Please stop by and check it out:

It's about the weird world of online dating, and how I almost gave up - right before I met The One. Stop by and say hi!

And otherwise, have a wonderful holiday, and I'll be back for the January IWSG.

Happy Christmannukolstice and Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'll Have A 777 Straight Up, With A Twist

If this is a 777, I'll take three, please.
Photo courtesy of:
When I first started blogging, I have to confess that I didn't understand the purpose of blog hops, challenges, themed recurring posts, or awards. What are these strange, alien customs, and why do people do them, I wondered? What could be the possible reason?

Well, a year and a half in, I look back on my naivete (and yes I am skipping the accent on the final 'e' because I can't figure out how to get it into my post, dammit), and shake my head. I want to tell myself, these things are great, you idiot. When you get tagged in one you don't have to come up with an idea for your post that week!

So I owe Loni Townsend a big THANK YOU, because she tagged me in the 777 challenge last week, and now I don't have to come up with my own idea for this week. She also said some nice things about me, but mentioning them would negate the self-deprecating, snarky tone of this post, so I'll just say she's great, and you should go read her excerpt: it's from her WIP This World Bites, which is releasing NEXT MONTH, and which I can honestly say is hilarious and intriguing and entertaining, because I got to read it a few months ago. So, go check it out!

There - wasn't that fantastic?? Good. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Now on to the 777 challenge. I'll let Loni explain what it's all about: "For the challenge you have to choose a WIP, go to the 7th page, scroll down to the 7th line, and share the next 7 lines or so."

Easy enough, right? Well, Loni sort of requested that I choose one of my nonfiction WIPs, which is a little bit more challenging, because they're all fairly short (i.e. much less than seven pages long.) So I cheated a little bit; or rather, I put a little twist on the challenge, and double-spaced one of these pieces, and hey! look at that: it's more than seven pages long, and usable for the challenge!

So, here it is:
The hike we were merrily attempting with borrowed sneakers, one water bottle, and two apples was nearly six miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of approximately 2,200 feet. It was the sort of hike we usually did with plenty of water and food, proper shoes, and a detailed trail map: a bit difficult but entirely possible for the average weekend hiker, as long as that hiker was prepared.
Of course, we didn't know any of that when we started climbing. We thought we were on a short jaunt that would end in a glorious view, and as time passed and the day grew hotter and the trail showed no signs of ending, we started to privately doubt our trusted informant, then to openly question her, then to wish we’d never met her.
Isn't this out-of-context thing really confusing kind of fun?

Now I'm supposed to tag people, and free them from the requirement of coming up with a blog post. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who has done this and who hasn't, and who's been tagged and who hasn''m (figuratively, not literally) taking a page out of fellow blogger M Pepper Langlinais's book, and I'm tagging all of you. 

That's right. If you're reading this, and you want to do this challenge, I say GO FOR IT. Let me know you did it and I'll give you a shout-out the next time I post...

...which will be in the New Year, because I'm taking the next two weeks off. So, take the challenge if you'd like, and comment here letting me know you did, and I'll visit you and then link to it when I get back.

In the meantime: Happy Holidays, everyone!! Have a wonderful Christmannukolstice and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dribbles and Drabbles and Drivels, Continued

I'm doing a tidbits and snippets post today, one more in my little Dribbles and Drabbles and Drivels series. You know, the one I started in October, and decided to make into a series. See how that works? It's nice to be the Supreme Ruler of something, even if it's just a little blog.

Here's what's on my mind this week:

1. I Literally Can't Use Any Other Word. Literally. 

I use this word a lot. In fact, too often. This is in spite of the fact that many literary and writerly types lambast the overuse of the word, lament its misuse, and mourn the loss of its original definition. I know what it means, of course. I know it doesn't mean the same thing as 'figuratively.' And yet, I can't help myself. Is there any better word to use when you really want to accentuate and exaggerate? Is there anything better for expressing hyperbole?

I think not.

And as you may have guessed, I sort of kind of like hyperbole. A little tiny bit.

So I'm going to just keep committing diction crimes and using it when I shouldn't.

Oh, and The Oatmeal has the best take on this that I've ever seen. Go read it.

2. Don't Be Such A Trope.

Because we all need more reasons to waste time, procrastinate, and get lost in the Internet Wasteland, some idiot genius (idiot-genius?) created an entire website about common modern tropes, and now I'm going to share it with you! I know, you can thank me later. Gifts are welcome, too.

What's that word again? You know, tropes: "commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich├ęs in creative works."

I dove into while doing some research (once upon a time when I used to write fiction) and could not get out again to save my life. At least I enjoyed drowning. Go on, go for a swim. You know you want to.

(Disclaimer: you probably have to be a giant movie/book/TV/creative nerd like me to enjoy this sort of thing.)

3. It's Christmannukolstice Time!

Yes, I got another table-top tree. Yes, I'm still Jewish. No, I don't care that I'm not supposed to have one. It just makes me happy.

One year, I'll get a real tree ('real' as in 'enormous', because this tree is not plastic. No, thank you.) And then the heavens will open and pigs will fly and writers will all use the word 'literally' all the time and I'll be a real girl and there will be world peace and prosciutto will be prescribed to treat headaches and heart disease and I will have a magic tool that freezes time so that I can get enough sleep AND work AND write and...

What was I talking about?

Oh yes. Trees make me happy.

What are you up to this week? Do you have a tree/bush/item with holiday significance in your house? Literally?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Insecure Writers: More Confessions

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Happy IWSG, everyone. I hope you had a great, food-full, friend-full, grateful Thanksgiving, and have recovered from your tryptophan-induced overeating-induced comas!

I have something to confess today. This is hardly new: I'm Jewish, so I often feel guilty. Weekly, in fact. I wake up and feel that squirming in my stomach, and know that it's one of the days when I'll have to figure out why I'm feeling guilty. Sometimes, there's an actual cause, but a lot of times, it's just general life-guilt. When that happens, I root around in my personal pile of vices, minor misdemeanors, mistakes, and small faults, until I come up with one I can confess about. Since today is IWSG day, I thought it was a fitting time for this particular confession, which I've been putting off for a couple of months:

I'm not working on my novel.

I know, I know, I'm sorry! I'm beating my chest in guilt and repentance. I spent an entire month talking about it and pushing it and trying to get everyone intrigued about it, and then I continued complaining about it and posting about it and whining about research, and now I'm telling you it's sitting in a file on my computer, collecting virtual dust.

Here's what happened: I got distracted. No, it's really true. I was having trouble querying Cloudland, and I realized a few things: 1) I wanted to do something (anything) to make the querying process easier, and thought a few publishing credits couldn't hurt; 2) writing novels takes a really long time (if you're me, that is); 3) so does building a writing career (that includes getting paid); and 4) I'm impatient. Really impatient.

So I decided to change my approach, and took a creative non-fiction class. And I loved it. I started working on writing, editing, and polishing personal essays; on researching places to submit; on compiling lists of places to submit each piece; and then on submitting. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It's fun and time-consuming, and for a while, I tried to rotate working on non-fiction and fiction, but it turns out, I'm really bad at switching tasks like that. Also, to be honest, I'm enjoying the non-fiction. And not enjoying the fiction. Much. Or at all.

So last month I put my novel aside, and I'm leaving it there.

FOR NOW! For now. Not for always.

I'm a firm believer that in order to be a writer, you have to write, no matter what, but I'm also a firm believer that if it's not any fun, not even a little bit, you probably need a break.

So I'm taking one.

Whew, I feel better.

Don't worry, everyone. I will get back to the novel. Just...not right now.

Do you write anything besides fiction? Do you have more than one job? How do you juggle everything?