Ten Things Not To Say To A Writer

When people find out you’re a writer, what do they say to you?  Do they offer encouragement?  Do they try to give you advice?  Or do they say ridiculous things like, “It must be nice to have all that free time on your hands.”

I’ve compiled a list of ten things I’ve heard people say to my fellow writers or things they’ve said to me.  Hope you enjoy.

  1. We can’t pay you, but the exposure might be good.
  2. So, have you written anything I might have heard of?
  3. You’re a writer?  What’s your real job?
  4. What do you mean you have to write another draft?  Why didn’t you just write it right the first time?
  5. It’s pretty impressive that you spend so much time on something that has so little chance of success.
  6. Real writers want readers, not money.
  7. When is the movie coming out?
  8. You should write a (fill-in-the-blank) book instead of what you’re working on.
  9. Can you send me a free book?
  10. Oh you’re a writer?  My aunt’s friend’s gardener’s plumber is a writer.  You should ask them for some advice.

Here’s a whole list of #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter tweets from authors.

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The Creative Blogger Award

creativebloggerawardI am pleased to announce that I have been nominated for the Creative Blogger Award.   This honor was unexpected and humbling, to say the least.  I would like to thank Toni Umbarger for this nomination.  Her poetry is beautiful and inspiring.  Find out for yourself at Flutterings.

Here are five random facts about me:

  1. I have been in the education field for over 20 years.
  2. I am a cat lover.  I own three.
  3. Aside from the novel I wrote (as well as three other books in this series and two more I am in the process of writing), I also write poetry.  One of the books I am working on is a children’s fantasy adventure and the other is a crime novel.
  4. I read from many different genres.  Among my favorite books are Seize the Night by Dean Koontz, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, and On Writing by Stephen King.
  5. I am an introvert.  I am uncomfortable around crowds and would rather stay at home with my family than go out.

Check out these creative blogs:

Jason B. Ladd (an inspiring blog by author, father, and marine who wrote a book called One of the Few)

Elan Mudrow (beautiful poetry blog)

Leaf and Twig (where nature meets poetry)

Thanks, everyone, for your creativity and your continued support.  Keep on writing!

A Writer’s Journey

i-love-to-writeWriting has always been a part of my life, and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  Throughout my youth I kept a journal where I wrote diary entries, song lyrics, poems I made up, cartoon sketches, and facts about animals I liked.   I created characters, wrote stories, drew maps of imaginary worlds, and doodled conversations using speech bubbles.  Aside from the contents of this journal, I also wrote letters and notes to family and friends, had a pen pal in New Zealand that I kept in touch with for nearly ten years, wrote lists to Santa asking for gifts I wanted for Christmas, made up movie scenes, and wrote out scripts for my friends to act out.  In school I took pages of notes and wrote creative stories, research reports, informative and persuasive papers, chapter summaries, and literary analyses.  Unlike most kids, this kind of writing didn’t bother me.  I actually enjoyed it.  In fact, in seventh grade I won a trophy for writing the best term paper of the year and my High School History teacher displayed my research paper in the hallway for months.  I never wrote anything to gain recognition, win awards, or make money.  And growing up, I never wanted to be an author. I wrote simply because I loved to write.

The first piece of writing I ever had published was a poem I wrote my Junior year of High School.  It was included in my school’s literary magazine.  I had two more published a year later, one of which earned me a college scholarship and a national publication in a book of collected poems.  While working toward my teaching degree, I continued to write poetry and jotted down story ideas and drafts in a spiral notebook.  All through college I wrote many research papers, thematic units, lesson plans, lab reports, article summaries, critical book reviews, child case studies, and persuasive papers explaining my philosophical insights about various topics.  For the brief time I was in grad school, I co-wrote an article that was published in a state educational journal.

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After graduation, my writing focus switched a bit.  I wrote mostly for professional purposes.  As a teacher I write every day, and most of the writing I do involves curriculum, lesson planning, newsletters, data analysis, short and long-term units, student files, and behavior initiatives.  I am also the department chair and lead teacher in my grade level, so my professional life is consumed by paperwork.  But when I’m not at work, I go into creative mode.  Part of this creative writing involves taking the many notebooks I have written story ideas in and turning them into books.

I began composing my first book fresh out of college.  As the story progressed, I became so invested in the research, storyline, and characters that the original novel I intended to write ended up being a four book series instead.  Of course I didn’t write it all at once.  With a full time job and trying to raise a family, it took me many years to write this series.  At the time I wrote it I had no intention of ever getting it published.  So I sat on this series for years, tweaking it here and there, before I finally allowed some friends and family members to read it.  They loved the characters and tried to convince me to pursue publication.  I was very hesitant.  Being a published author was never in the game plan for me.  After all, I was a teacher and a mother with a busy schedule and didn’t have time for anything that complex in my life.  Publishing a book was something I’d always hoped to achieve, but it was a dream I never thought would see the light of day.  Finally, after much coaxing, I bit the bullet and pursued publication.

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The entire process leading up to publication was time consuming and extremely stressful.  Researching publication options to decide which route to pursue, developing a book synopsis and author bio, writing query letters, reading and re-reading the manuscript over and over again, finding an editor, designing a cover, revising, cutting, editing…the list goes on.  It’s enough to make your head spin.  After months of prep work, the first novel of my series was released.   Scrubs has only been out for about two months now.  I’ve sold a few copies here and there.  But whether I sell copies or not, I find great satisfaction in knowing that I’ve spent years working hard on this project.  The frustration (almost to the verge of tears) associated with the whole process– editorial debates, feelings of self-doubt, wanting several times to bag the whole publication idea, nightmarish formatting issues and marketing woes, exposing myself to the public (which, being an introvert, is extremely difficult to do), and enduring criticism from strangers– has been worth the time and effort.  It’s been a wild ride to say the least.

Even though my first novel is out for the general public to read, I don’t write to reap any benefits, gain rewards, win prizes, or earn money.  If I sell copies of my book and gain readers, I’m ecstatic.  But if I don’t, I will continue to write.  Nothing will deter me from doing what I love.

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My four book series is complete.  The first one is on the market.  The other three need to go through revising and editing before they are printed.  I’m hoping to have the entire series out within year and a half, but with life and work responsibilities, we’ll see how that goes.  Aside from this four book series, I still write poetry and am currently working on writing a children’s fantasy book and an adult crime novel.

Writing is something I love to do and will continue to do.  Writing is my life.

I’d love to hear about your journey as a writer.  Comment below or contact me to share your story.

Why Do Writers Write?

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At a recent book signing event, I was asked, “Why do you write?”  With the millions of books out there, most of which will never reach beyond 500 sales, I guess that’s a legitimate question to ask any writer.  Authors spend countess hours writing, with little to no hope of making a substantial amount of money for their writing.  It is pretty unlikely that a writer will earn a living or become famous through their craft, so if you are writing with hopes of bringing in big bucks, I hate to burst your bubble.  There really are no significant monetary rewards gained from writing.

Then why do writers write?thCDO5RH7Z

I think the answer to this question is personal.  Writers write for various reasons, and the writing experience is different for each of us.  For me, I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t write.  Writing is a part of me, and I can’t imagine not writing.

I write because I love to write.

I write because there’s a story that needs to be told, that inner voice inside my head that has something to say.

why I writeI write because it’s my voice.  Writing allows creative freedom. When I write, there are no rules, no one to tell me what I can and can’t do.  I write what I want to write.

I write because often times the written word says what spoken words cannot.

I write to touch lives.  Somewhere in the world, someone is experiencing the same challenges my characters are facing.  I write to encourage and inspire my readers.

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I write to breathe easy for a while.  Life can get stressful sometimes.  Frustrating things happen.  People say or do things that bring about discord.  What better way to push the craziness aside than to write about it?

749f1c8c39c9d89726d045a5de73f30fI write to open doors.  Writing expresses thoughts and feelings.  Not everyone in the world sees things the way I do, and not everyone holds the same opinion I have.  But writing allows thoughts to be expressed and doors to be opened that might have otherwise remained closed.

I write to be the characters I am not and experience lives I don’t have.

I write because I have to write.  Writing is a huge part of my life and a part of who I am.  I write because I’m a writer.

“Why do you write?” What would you say if someone approached you and asked you that question?  Share your thoughts.

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A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Even though it’s 99 degrees outside today with 43% humidity, I took a break from my writing world to go on a photography adventure.  Taking pictures is one of the things I do when I’m not writing.  Usually my kids rush me through the picture taking process, but today I was able to take my time and soak in the scenery.  Perhaps some of these photos will inspire your writing, or just give you a break so you can enjoy a beautiful place for a while.  These were all taken at the Tea Gardens in San Antonio, TX.

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The Japanese Tea Gardens is often used as a wedding venue, and many people have photography sessions on the grounds as well.  The flowers were all in full bloom today, which was nice.  The large amounts of rain we’ve been blessed with lately have made everything around here so green.

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The Koi pond attracts ducks and other birds to the area.  Some turtles live here too.

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But it’s the flowers and greenery that I love most.

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A waterfall trickles into the pond.  You can hear it throughout the garden.

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The Tea Gardens is one of my favorite places to go in San Antonio.

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The Tea Gardens used to be a cement factory, but when the factory shut down, they turned the quarry into this beautiful place.  During WW2 the name was changed to the Chinese Tea Gardens, as the sign at the entrance says.  But today, it is known as the Japanese Tea Gardens.  Up by the pavilion, a little restaurant serves tea, fresh lemonade, sandwiches, salads, and sushi.   Great place to have brunch.

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If you’re ever in the area, stop by the Tea Gardens.  It’s free to the pubic and open from dawn ’til dusk.

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Edit Without Mercy

The writing process consists of many stages.  According to most Language Arts and Writing curriculum experts these stages include pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publication.  (On a side note, I want to add that these stages aren’t alwayswriting-process linear and are often repeated multiple times within a single manuscript.)  My least favorite of these stages is editing/ revising, not because I have issues with grammar or sentence structure, but because it’s time consuming and forces me to drink too much caffeine.  Although I detest revising and editing, I want to focus on that stage of the writing process today.

I’m currently in the process of revising and editing my second book.  If I survive this process without losing all my hair I will be pleasantly surprised.

I want to start off with a personal disclaimer based on my experience as both a teacher and a writer.  Everything we were taught and still teach kids about writing does not apply to the real world of fiction.  Every English teacher is cringing as I say that.  The classic “said is dead”.  The five sentence paragraph.  Every sentence must have a subject and predicate.  Story boards and planning sheets.  Topic sentence and supporting details.  All of those strategies and techniques are great if the only thing you ever plan to write in your life is a research paper.  For fiction, the rules don’t always apply.

Over the years I’ve read tons of advice about writing, and listened to only a fraction of it.  I’m the kind of person who tends to take advice from people who have walked in my shoes.  When it comes to writing, I’m going to listen to people who are successful in the business.  I’ve read several books about the craft of writing.  Among my favorites are Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-Ass Writer, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.  Stephen King mentions another one called The Elements of Style written by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.  I have not read this one yet, but it is the next writing book on my “to read” list.

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These books were written by experts in the field and offer tons of advice about the craft of writing.  If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend that you do.

87ed09d60142a9bd380bb3054a3a7301Stephen King said it best.  Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.  What he meant by that was your first draft should be written to get the story out there.  Close the door to eliminate distractions and just write.  When you revise and edit, you’re clarifying meaning for your reader, smoothing out details, opening the door for them.

First drafts are crap.  Every writer will tell you that.  We all write chapters we don’t want published, but that’s what revising and editing is for.  When you are ready to re-read your manuscript and trudge through the revising and editing process, please keep one thing in mind: the worst thing you wrote is better than the best thing you didn’t write.

Let’s start by clarifying the difference between revising and editing.  Revising is adding/removing words, sentences, or paragraphs, changing a word or placement of a word (or entire chapter), and substituting words or sentences for new ones.  Editing involves capitalization, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation.

Now that that’s been clarified, we can get down to business.  I am not a writing expert and in no way do I claim to be.  But I have learned a few things from the experts, and from personal experience, that I think are worth sharing.

1.  Said is not dead.  Back in Elementary School, Middle School, and High School we were all given extensive lists of alternative words for said.  The funny thing about that is in the world of fiction writing, editors want you to use said.  In On Writing, Stephen King even recommends he said, she said.  Nothing more.  Go figure.

2. Avoid dialogue tags.  This is where the phrase said is dead would apply.  Don’t write “Let’s go to the park,” Billy said.  Instead use a beat.  Here’s an example.  Billy picked up his basketball and held it under his arm.  “Let’s go to the park.”  This shows action, and based on that action, I know Billy is the one speaking.  Use of a dialogue tag may sometimes be necessary to clarify who is speaking, but when you use one, stick with said.

3. Read dialogue out loud.  Does it sound genuine?  Does it sound like something your character would say?  If your character is a surfer, does he or she speak in surfer slang?  Each character has his or her own voice.  The words that come out of your character’s mouth should reflect that voice.

4. Avoid as and -ingExample:  As I walked down the street, I saw a dog with a bone between his pawsWalking down the street, I saw a dog with a bone between his paws.  Stephen King suggests you do neither of the above.  Instead get to the point and simply say,  I walked down the street and saw a dog with a bone between his paws.  He’s written and sold countless best selling novels.  Might not be a bad idea to consider his advice.

5.  Along the same lines, cut the fluff.  Don’t try to fancy up your writing with big words your reader won’t understand.  The purpose of fiction is to tell a story, not to show off your extensive vocabulary.  Use the first word that comes to mind.  If you later think of a word that better describes what you want to say, then by all means change it.  As the writer you have every right to change, add, and delete all you want.  But usually your first instinct is the best.

6. Grammar.   You don’t have to be a grammar Nazi, and language doesn’t always have to be dressed in a suit and tie.  In fact, sometimes grammatically proper sentences can stiffen a line.  It’s ok to use fragments and omit a comma if you want the line to be read without a pause.  It’s ok to have a one word paragraph.  Really.  It is.  But you need to know enough about grammar to sound intelligent.

7. Go with the flow.   Your story telling should be smooth, not choppy.  When you re-read, listen to the beat.  Can you hear the rhythm?

8.  Proportion.  Vary sentence length.  Alternate between narrative and dialogue.  Write intense action then give your reader some time to breath with a more relaxed scene before you move into action again.aee53c508b8555aa7d7fa06f5aee40d5

9.  Show, don’t tell.   Let your characters tell the story through their actions and dialogue.  Don’t tell me Mary is sad.  Show me her glossy eyes and quivering lip.  Let me hear her sobs and feel her tear-soaked shirt sleeve.  Give your reader details, but not so many that you flood the story and disturb the flow.  Show only what your characters see.  Let the reader imagine the rest.

10.  To steal a quote from Stephen King, The road to hell is paved with adverbs.  He didn’t run quickly, he sprinted.  The use of adverbs means you didn’t choose the right verb.  Find a stronger verb.  Not a fluffy one, just a stronger one.

df98c6b936ecfa537d367b6571ed209111.  If you don’t need it, cut it.  Stay on target.  If a line, sentence, paragraph, scene, or chapter doesn’t move the story forward, get rid of it.  Cut unnecessary characters.  Cut unneeded dialogue.  Revising and editing will not kill you.  It may kill some of your characters, but it won’t kill you.

Revising and editing is painstakingly time consuming and often frustrating.  You slaved for months to write this manuscript and putting it on the chopping block is hard.  Believe me, I know.  But if you take the time to revise and edit without mercy, your writing will reap the benefits.

I want to close with one last remark.  Find your voice.  Attempting to copy another writer is fake and often forced.  You have a voice and you have a style all your own.  Find it, use it, refine it.  It’s your story.  Don’t let anyone else hold the pen.

Power of Words

Indie Bookfest

10406761_1609943489238937_7753897263943418510_n (2)San Antonio will hold its first Indie Bookfest this Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. at Wonderland of America, 4522 Fredericksburg Rd, Balcones Heights, Texas 78201.  I have the lovely privilege of being included in this event.  If you live in or around this area, stop by and support your local Indie Authors.  See promo video here!

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