Category Archives: writing

How to Write About Culture for a Living and Not ‘Sell Out’

The term ‘sell out’ is used a little too liberally these days. People expect artists (and, yes, writers are artists) to do everything for the sheer love of creation and the moment they make a bit of money, people start to call them ‘sell outs’; but it’s not true and it’s not fair! Everyone has to eat. Here’s how you can write about culture for a living and avoid the dreadful ‘sell out’ label.

Collaborating with Local Artists

You yourself, as a small-time writer, are a local artist and local artists have to stick together! If you can get in touch with other artists, you could perhaps help one another out. Have you got quite a following on your blog? Speak to a local musician and ask if you could review their next performance for a fee. Let them know that it would be good exposure. Meanwhile, you could genuinely pay for a ticket and encourage other friends to come with you.

Once you’ve built up that relationship, you could offer to do a bit of “marketing” for their next job. You could offer to report on an upcoming performance and use your social media presence in order to tell lots of people in the area that it’s a gig worth going to. You’ll be writing about something which is genuinely cultural and helping out an independent artist.

You could make some kind of agreement where you get 10% of the revenue from these events because of your contribution to the event’s marketing. Make arrangements like this with a few musicians and you’ve got a nice little income as well as a supply of relevant content for your readers. You can use the site Musicians Database in order to get in touch with local musicians in your area. (And you can use this strategy to collaborate with painters, sculptors, poets….)

Maintaining Integrity

If you are promoting an event — be careful about what you can/can’t say. It’s important you still give an honest opinion, even if you’re being paid. If it’s an event which is totally at odds with your worldview and not at all relevant to your blog, you’d probably have some moral qualms about promoting it anyway. In a worst case scenario, you could promote something you personally are not interested in, but which your readers might like. In these instances, just keep your writing completely neutral. Quote other reviewers and just generally tip toe around directly saying anything you do not agree with.

Another idea is to make sure that for every promotional blog post that you write, you also write two posts from the heart. Blog posts like this one, really reflect the human side of bloggers and people love a bit of emotion and sentimentality — it’s important to keep things personal and connect with readers with real stories of your life, rather than just covering the pros and cons of your interest area. As long as you continue to provide this kind of content alongside your promotional work, your integrity will never be lost.

Selling Arts and Crafts

Use your writing to help launch your very own product line, or use your writing as springboard for other artists and creatives.

Do you do anything besides writing? Like, maybe, knitting? Or sculpting? Maybe you even make your own CDs? If there’s anything else that you do, then you might like to start up an online shop to run alongside your blog. You’d keep running the blog and it would work as content marketing for the ecommerce side of the site, which would be where the money is.

These days, getting an ecommerce website off the group is easier than ever. There are so many websites out there which have been designed to help you start up an online store. WordPress’s Woocommerce is one of the most popular, but by all means look around until you find whichever one you think is just right for you — you’ve got newcomers like Shopify to test out, and don’t rule out the possibility of selling through your social profiles, or through social media groups.

If you don’t make anything of your own, perhaps you could still start an ecommerce site in conjunction with your blog, but with the intention of selling the products of any artsy friends that you have. Again, collaboration is always going to be very important for independent creatives. It’s a great way to galvanize a whole community around your business.

Comfort Before Commenters

At the end of the day, it is more important for artists like you to be living comfortably than it is for you to appease the odd troll who’ll get mad at bloggers for “selling out.” Even if you go down the more corporate route and do some affiliate work, it doesn’t mean that you’ve completely changed your attitude — affiliate marketing is just about making natural and relevant product recommendations, not spamming people.

Amazon have a large affiliate scheme and the fact that they’ve got so much to offer on their site means that you’ll be able to always find a relevant product recommendation! All you need to do is include special links to Amazon products and then they’ll give you a commission for every sale made by people who come from those links. Buy you can also be an affiliate for any of the services you use to manage your business (like hosting companies, email platforms etc) — this is a very natural place to start as your audience will naturally be curious about ‘how you do it’.

So do what you want to do, and if some people call you a “sell out” don’t worry about it. They’ll be a tiny minority. For every person who criticizes an artist and calls them a “sell out” for daring to try and support themselves, there’ll be another person who’s more than happy to try and support you. What plans do you have to monetize your writing?

Patrick Foster (Guest Contributor) 

Ten years of ecommerce know-how as a consultant and marketer. Time to share my knowledge with the world and help other businesses and entrepreneurs grow and thrive.

The Ultimate Guide to Book Publishers by Jeff Herman

jeff-herman-guide-to-book-publishers-2017

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents: Who they are, What they want, and How to win them over

Jeff Herman knows the publishing world and is dedicated to share that knowledge with fellow writers. He tells the story of how he got into the business and provides advice for writers on how they can crack into a world that can seem impenetrable.

Herman has been producing this book for over twenty-five years. He writes, “Much has changed and much has remained the same since my journey in publishing began in the 1980s.” That is why he continually updates and improves this reference book every year.

There are 600 pages of up-to-date information, contacts, interviews, and advice that are invaluable for any writer wishing to get their work published. Besides providing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails for publishers, editors, and agents, Herman provides insider tips so we can make the most of our inquiries, query letters, and pitches.

This is one of my favourite guidebooks for writers. It is well written, excellently organized, and offers advice that any aspiring writer can follow. I recommend picking it up and following through to make your publishing dreams come true.

I need to do just that. It’s well past time that I take some of the advice offered in this book and work on getting my fiction published. That is something I have been procrastinating on for way too long.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

The Kick-Ass Writer

Kick-Ass Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

This is a book for writers who don’t have time to read a book for writers.

You can dive in and out of the book with ease. If you want to learn something about the fundamentals, the craft of writing, or about presenting your final work, just go to that section and find some tips and advice.

Wendig admits thagt his book is “just a bucket of ideas that are at least half-nonsense. A bucket of ideas that serve as tools. And not every tool is meant for every job. And not every craftsman finds the value in every tool.”

Basically, take what you can from this and apply it how you see fit. Ignore the parts that don’t fit with your methodology. And get writing.

Here are the notes I took when reading it . . .

From 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story

Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climatic culmination of events and the ease-down denouement (Act III)

I don’t normally plan or outline my stories, but I like to go back and make sure these things are apparent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Dialogue

You can use dialogue to set the pace of your story or scene.

If you want your story to read faster, you use dialogue to move it along. . . dialogue reads easy . . . a reader gets to it, they zip forth fast, fancy and free. Want to slow things down? Pull away from dialogue. Speed things up? More dialogue.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Editing, Revising, and Rewriting

Wendig advises that you don’t start your rewrite or edit without a plan.

How do you know what to fix if you haven’t identified what’s broken?

He also suggests only fixing one thing at a time. Go through your work in progress and do a dialogue pass. Then go back and look at your use of description. Then take a pass for plot, sentence variety, and anything else you need to look at.

Tracking revisions is also important.

Keep a record of them all. . .  Any time you make a revision change, mark the revision and save a new file. I don’t care if you have 152 files by the end of it. You’ll be happy if you need to go back. 

And last but not least in this list, you should read your work aloud

When you read your work aloud, you’ll be amazed at the things you catch, the things that sound off, that don’t make sense, that are awkward or wishy-washy or inconsistent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Getting Published

Even if you want to go the traditional route, Wendig suggests self-publishing one thing that might not be the best fit for conventional publishers.

Walk both paths to gain the advantages of each. 

Know your story very well so you can explain it in a variety of ways.

Learn how to sum up your work in a single sentence, a single paragraph, and three paragraphs. 

The publishing industry cares about genre, so figure out what you story is so it doesn’t get mislabeled or misrepresented.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing

Find ways to experiment with format such as “transmedia initiatives, app-novels, stories told across social media,” etc.

Do not me constrained by the formats that exist. Story does not begin and end with a physical book. It doesn’t stop at e-books either.

That was me

I bet if you read this book, you will take away different things from it. So, if you do read it, please write about your experience with it, and link to it in the comment section.

Happy Writing!

My Detailed Reading Log for 2016

Great Advice on Becoming a How-To Writer

How to Write and Sell

How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit by Robert W. Bly

Here are a few of the notes I took while reading this book . . .

A how-to writer is a teacher in print. However, instead of teaching in a classroom, the how-to wroter does most of his teaching in written format.

I’m a teacher, this could be right up my alley.

4 Ways of Learning

The four basic learning modalities are:reading (books, e-books); listening (audio CDs, downloadable MP3 files, podcasts): watching (DVDs, TV programs, online video); and doing, also called “experiential learning” (workshops, seminars, courses).

By publishing in different media addressing all four of the major learning modalities, you can reach the broadest audience possible.

How Many Topics Should You Cover?

Three niches seems to be the most you want to tackle, at least according to the author of this book. In my blog, I cover teaching, hip-hop, reading, writing, skateboarding, comics, deejaying, and running. Clearly I have more than one area of expertise that I could write about. Not all of them would work in the how-to realm. Maybe I can trim it down to three.

Niche Size?

Your niche must ideally have 100,00 people in it to be profitable. . . it is a realistic goal to sell to 5 percent of your total market.

Doing the math, to sell 5,000 books at that rate, you would need an audience of 100,000 people.

The 2X Rule

The 2X rules says you should gather approximately twice as much research material as you think you will need to write the peace. You can [then] be selective and use only the research that best supports and illustrates your points.

Organizing Your Research

Bly suggests organizing your digital files in a logical way. That could be folders within folders, but basically keeping everything in place.

If you plan to print out your material, he suggests “typing the file name in the upper-left corner of page one. That way, when you have a hard copy in your hand, you always know the file name and can quickly retrieve it from your hard drive with the file search feature.

Cite Your Research as You Go

Also, always indicate on the file the date the content was created and, if taken from an outside source, details on the source. Without theses attribution details readily available, you may not be able to use the material.

Back-Up Every 24 Hours

Back up your entire hard drive to a mirror device (a hard drive of duplicate configuration) every 24 hours.

You can set your computer to do this automatically.

Give Clear Instructions

Experienced how-to writers strive to write clear instructions with sufficient details to enable the reader ti perform the function or complete the task. 

8 Steps To Getting Your Book Published

Bly suggests following this route instead of writing the book out beforehand. Publishers of non-fiction often want to see a proposal rather than a finished book. It saves both of you time, after all.

So here is his proven method. You might want to read this book to get all the details for each of these steps.

  1. Come up with a good idea
  2. Evaluate your idea critically
  3. Create the outline
  4. Write your book proposal
  5. Get an agent
  6. Send your proposal to publishers
  7. Negotiate your contract
  8. Write and deliver the manuscript

Some of the advice in this book seems dated, which is strange considering it is less than ten years old. His pricing guides, for example, seems a bit off considering that e-books have fallen in price since 2010. However, there is a companion website available to you if you purchase the book. And I am sure it will offer a more up-to-date picture of the how-to-market today.

My List of 2016 Reads – Every book I read over the course of the year is here!

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue

Fiction Writers Guide to Dialogue

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue by John Hough, Jr.

As a teacher, I keep coming across posters that declare, “Said is Dead!”

Said is Dead

To me, these alternatives are just lazy. A good writer doesn’t need them. Said says it all. John Hough explains . . .

“Said” isn’t  intrusive, at all. It’s invisible. The reader reads it again and again and again, and never notices it. The dialogue, then, stands on its own, This forces you, the writer, to write dialogue that needs no help, and dialogue that needs no help is good dialogue.

He also suggest that exclamation points should rarely be used. There’s an oft-repeated rule in writing that “you are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” Once again, this is all about letting the writing speak for itself. Wise words indeed!

Keep it Brief

It’s best not to let your characters drone on. Hough suggest speeches be “one to three sentences, preferably no more that two, per speech–whenever possible.”

Avoid the Quirks, Tics, and Habits of Real Life

In real life we ask questions a lot that are really insignificant. We should never do that in our writing.

Dialogue should be abrupt. Every question, however benign, should be direct. It should demand an answer. With every question your characters are putting each other on the spot, which is why their answers are revealing.

The Paradox of Dialogue

In everyday speech, we start and stop abruptly. We repeat ourselves, we grope along for the right words, and we don’t always say what we had meant to say. Fiction dialogue needs to be a lot cleaner but still sound realistic. Here is the paradox . . .

The better the dialogue, the less realistic it should be, and the more realistic it will sound. Think of dialogue in fiction as  what is left after the extraneous verbiage is stripped away. It is what we mean to say, what we do say, in essence, Think of your written dialogue as a form of shorthand that preserves the most vivid and succinct lines of an exchange or conversation.

Invent a Spoken Language

Here is some great advice for all us writers out there . . .

Invent a spoken language–dialogue–that is a synthesis of what you read and what you hear, and that is appropriate to your characters and their time and place. 

The author suggests that we can be on the lookout for great tidbits of dialogue. We can borrow a line from here and there and focus it better in our own writing.

My 2 Cents

These are just a few of the notes I made while reading this book. I hope my dialogue will improve because of the tips that Hough points out.

I know that I need to work on this part of my writing. I plan to do a rewrite of some of my work focusing only on dialogue. Then I will be ready to query it and release my works to the world. I know, it’s long over due.

My 2015 Reading Log (25 books and counting)

Come on Writers, Use Your Wild Voice!

Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves

Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness by Judy Reeves

I love the subtitle of this book, “Writing from Your Authentic Wildness” and I really want to see exactly what that entails. Part of me had to put away the actual title when it read it though because I am not a woman. I am, however, a feminist and a writer, and I do have my wild side, so I guess it fits.

Write By Hand

Reeves recommends writing by hand and she’s a big proponent of timed writing assignments. She believes that is the best way to get to our wild voices out and on to the page. I write by hand only when I am journaling, but I can see how doing creative exercises could also benefit from this tactile way of writing.

She explains, “Sometimes when I’m doing timed, focused writing and the time is up but the writing is too hot to quit, I’ll set my timer for another seventeen minutes and continue writing. And still again if the urgency to continue persists. This way I sustain the tension and intensity of the times writing, which for me keeps the pen moving and me pretty much out of the way.”

Her last thought there highlights the fact that we often make excuses, throw up blocks, or stifle our own creativity. We all have an inner-critic that we need to push out of the way to be effective writers.

Cultivate Your Wild Voice

Reeves says, “Wild voice is natural to us all, but even the most experienced writer will tell you it doesn’t always come naturally. Like a garden, sometimes it requires our attention, and sometimes we have to get out of its way and let it do its own wild and natural thing.”

  • Here are a few tips on how to develop and nurture your wild voice . . .
  • Write often; practice daily
  • Freewrite
  • Take risks. Don’t stop when your hand gets shaky
  • Remember to breathe

Make Lists

“Lists – to-do, shopping, notes-to-self – are kind of practical shorthand that most of us use every day . . . Explorations, gets the ‘thinker’ out of the way and allows the deeper, more intuitive thoughts to arise. It’s here we’re given access to material that we mightn’t have come up with if we’d tried to think our way into what matters to us. The more we work intuitively, free of conscious purpose, the more meaningful images and impressions come to us. Also, on the practical side, making a list helps us to compile prompts for additional writing sessions. If it shows up on your lists, there’s likely a story that longs to be told.”

A list can be an effective brainstorming technique. It can give you ideas that you wouldn’t have normally come up with otherwise. And by writing with a pad and pen quickly, you can get your inner critic / censor out of the way.

Pick One Item and Expand on It

“After you rest your fingers from that flurry of writing, choose one [item] from your list and do an extended writing.”

Listen to Your Inner-Voice

“Too often it seems that our rational, orderly mind tells us to accomplish something, check something off our to-do lost, to be productive. On the other hand, our wild nature may be telling us to go and play, or to be lazy, to sit under a leafy tree and daydream. Follow the direction of your inner guide; it knows what you need.”

I like that thought. We can’t always be productive. Sometimes we need down time. We should listen to what our body is telling us and be lazy without guilt (occasionally, of course)

Trust Intuition

“For eons men, and sometimes women, too, have made light of ‘women’s intuition.’ Yet a more powerful, knowing force does not exist. All humans are gifted with this sixth sense . . . but intuition is strongest in the feminine.”

Writing Exercises aka Explorations 

Reeves offers up several writing exercises that you can try. She calls them “Explorations.” I tried one a few days ago, Voice of the Body and it was quite fun and illuminating. I will most definitely be trying more in the coming weeks.

Win a Copy!

If you’d like my copy of this book (complete with pencil underlines and notes,) please contact me and I will send it your way (Canada and USA residents only) If I get multiple requests, I will choose a winner at random. Good luck!

My List of 2015 Reads – my annual reading log with links to every title I read

Artists Don’t Have a Never-Ending Well

Artistic WellProducing art is taxing. It is a process that needs to be rewarded. Yet many people think artists don’t need to be compensated for their work. They erroneously believe that there is an infinite well from which we draw. Art isn’t valued the way it should be in this day and age.

Tina Welling sums it up beautifully in her book Writing Wild . . .

“. . . as if artists can keep producing more and more art as cows produce milk – it’s assumed at no cost to them – and therefore don’t need reimbursement for their efforts.”

This musician does so in a smart response to an ad for free musicians.

musician-ad

So let’s remember this and make sure we compensate our artists. What they do is valuable and doesn’t come at no cost.

4 Ideal Apps for Creative Writers

Ideal AppsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, the employment opportunities for writers and authors is projected to grow 3 percent from by 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Despite this fact, strong competition is expected for full-time jobs because of the attraction of the occupation.

Writers and authors provide written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, and online publications. Although it sounds fun, creative writing is one of the most challenging jobs out there. Even the most professional writers still struggle to think of story ideas to put down on paper.

Thanks to the rise of digital technology, various apps have been developed to make everyone’s jobs easier even that of a creative writer’s. This article will give you a roundup of some of the most amazing creative writing apps on the market.

Some of them are being used by teachers to support and enhance creative writing lessons for their students.  Teachers can also use them to stay organized in all aspects of their career and personal life as well.

Here are 4 Ideal Apps you can try . . .

EVERNOTE (Android, iOS, Windows)

Evernote is the perfect app for storing research. It syncs audio recordings, photos, scans, and text notes between devices making them searchable. Evernote is the ideal for your on-the-go needs. The free app has many features but if you want to keep a history of your notes, it is best to purchase the premium account.

INDEX CARD (iOS)

Index Card is for writers who believe in outlining and jotting down notes. You can also quickly shuffle them around a virtual corkboard to fix structural problems.

GOODREADER (iOS)

This editing app puts an end to the traditional way of editing a manuscript that involves massive amounts of paper. Through GoodReader, all you have to do is save a PDF and mark up the document with a stylus. It lets you interact with the text as if it were a printed page.

BRAINSTORMER (iOS)

The Brainstormer is an app that spins a wheel to randomly combine plots, subjects and styles. For fun, you can even add your own scenarios, if you don’t like the included wheel options.

QUICK TIP

When using these apps, it is important to make sure to check your battery life to avoid losing essential data. According to experts from mobile gaming app pocketfruity.com, it is ideal to adjust the brightness of your screen to a more suitable level, to lessen the energy consumption. This way you can prolong your mobile device’s battery power.

If you have other writing app suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.

GUEST BLOGGER TODAY – Evie Barton

TEACHING TIP TUESDAYArchive

Writers – Catch Ideas and Be Receptive to Chance

Writers Catch IdeasAs writers, we need to be open to new ideas, even when we feel like all of our focus should be on our work in process. There is an easy way to do this without getting distracted.

I know that there are times when a new idea takes hold and it’s tempting to abandon our current project and start working on it right away. That is never a good idea. Jumping from idea to idea isn’t a productive strategy. Having multiple ideas and letting some of them marinate though is.

Here is what author Tina Welling has to say about . . .

Catching Ideas

“Most birds lay between two and six eggs; that’s a good range of writing ideas to incubate at a time . . . Jot down ideas for writing projects, put each one in a folder, and allow the ideas to become magnets for related material . . . Those ideas that continue to engender interest and passion will gather enough material in the folder for us to begin a writing project.”

I know that I need to get better at this. Being organized is paramount for any writer. The problem is that I like to do a lot of work in my head. I also don’t get back to ideas unless they really take root. The folder idea is a great way to store ideas and to revisit them. I’m going to try it out.

On Downtime . . .

I take a long time off between writing projects. I feel bad about that too. I know I should stop procrastinating, stop worrying about the process, the myth of the muse, and just start writing. I was never quite sure why I needed this downtime before. But Welling writes . . .

“Writers need long, deep periods of stillness and awareness in order to express themselves in language that captures the pulsing truth.”

She also helps illuminate the reason why we all need downtime and explains that we shouldn’t feel guilty about it . . .

“Our culture doesn’t honor the times of rest and restoration in a person’s life, which is the earth’s autumn and winter seasons, as much as it does the productive periods. But we must have these periods for growing deep roots and restoration energy in order to sustain flow.”

On Being Receptive to Chance . . .

“Chance is a wonderful force in our lives. Yet how chance works is a mystery to us. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Creativity and Flow, states that the definition of chance events is ‘ favorable convergences in time and place open to a brief window of opportunity for the person who, having the proper qualifications, happens to be in the right place and right time.’

So chance involves the convergence of three parts: the right time, the right place, and the right person. We don’t usually have control over the first two – time and place – but we can learn to be more often the right person, thereby giving chance a more open invitation to enter and create a favorable event. As writers this helps us at every level of our creative process.

So how can we be the right person for chance to find?

Three Ways of Being Receptive 

I break the process down into three ways of being in the world: receptive, intentional, and actively engaged:

Receptive: . . . set aside opinions, expectations, even hopes and, as much as possible, fears.

Intentional: . . . . have a goal in mind

Actively Engaged: We must be actively engaged in pursuing dreams. And we must make this engagement an exchange with life around us.”

That is simply brilliant!

Good things come to those who are able to seize opportunity and follow through. Maybe chance isn’t as random as most of us think.

Quotes and Inspiration for this post come from . . . 

Writing Wild - Tina Welling

Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature by Tina Welling

A Great Writing Guide: The Creative Compass

creative-compass

The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada.

I took quite a few notes as I read this book. Here are some of the passages that really spoke to me.

On the importance of giving ourselves time to think . . .

“Dream. Set your mind loose to roam when you’re stuck in traffic, for instance, or in the shower, cooking, or eating lunch at your desk. Let waves of ideas and images break over you. Every now and then, you’ll connect with a sticky idea, the tightly coiled germ of a personally meaningful story poised to expand dramatically.”

On improvising . . .

“I’m not the kind of writer who can put a sheet of paper into a typewriter and improvise . . . . only by experimenting can you determine how familiar you need to be with your story before you’re truly prepared to draft.”

I am the opposite. I love to work with a blank page and discover my story as I write. Improvising is pretty much the way I work.

Every writer works differently . . .

“The questions we pose throughout the book have no right answers, only those that work for you.”

and  . . .

“Your ultimate goal should be to identify your current capabilities, along with the routines that enable them, and to surpass them both, continuously expanding those situations in which you can dream. . . Ask yourself: What do I do regularly now that once seemed impossible? What made it possible?”

I love that passage. Writing a book can seem like a huge task. It can seem impossible. But we do impossible things every day, things that our younger selves would never have been able to do.

So, if in the process of writing, you start to feel like you aren’t good enough, and that you want to quit . . .

Just remember this . . .

“We choose to stop writing, or not to begin, because we don’t believe our words are good enough, which must mean we’re not good enough. And never will be good enough. Ever.”

Of course, that simply isn’t true.

I marked up quite a few more passages in this book. It’s a great read for beginning and tried authors alike. I especially like the advice they give about getting open and honest feedback from peers.

They suggest including a questionnaire for your readers that will help you revise and polish the manuscript. This way, you will get some useful information and opinions that you can work with.

So, when you send your manuscript for someone to read, make sure to include . . .

“a printed questionnaire for readers, intended to accompany your manuscript like a cover letter. . . Instruct your readers to peruse these questions before they start reading your manuscript and to return them afterward.

  1. After you’ve read the full manuscript, please step away for a few days. Now, presuming you’ve done so: What do you recall of the story’s events? Please summarize in writing all that you can recall of the major events of the story—including its beginning and ending—without consulting the manuscript.
  2. On returning to the manuscript, imagine that you’d come across it, not knowing who wrote it. Out of idle curiosity, you flipped it open and read the first line—would it make you want to read on of you had no other reason to do so? Does reading the first paragraph make you more likely to want to continue? Why or why not?
  3. At which points in the text, if any, did you have to stop and go back to reread?
  4. What did the story make you feel and at what point? With which character did you sympathize? Whom did you want to succeed? Who did you dislike? Why?
  5. At what points, if any, did you have trouble believing what happened? what do you think made you doubt?
  6. Did the story world (or setting) feel like a real place to you? If yes, do you recall any particular description or details that made it so? If not, where in the text did you find a clear sense of place lacking?
  7. Did any specific words or phrases detract from the story, either because you couldn’t understand them or because they pulled you out of the text and slowed you down? Please mark any such sections in the manuscript.
  8. I welcome any general impressions or feedback that you have. The above questions were to guide your feedback, not to restrict it. Please add anything suggestions or comments that you have about this story below. Thank you for everything!

I really enjoyed this read. I even found inspiration in it to use in my teaching of instrumental music. It’s amazing to see where inspiration can come from.

My 2014 Reading Log – will continue to be updated every time I read a new book this year.

Fast Fiction – A Guide to Novel Writing

Guide to Writing a First Draft in Thirty Days

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden

National Novel Writing Month is a huge event that happens every November. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It sound nearly impossible, but I have done it before.

Denise Jaden has written a book that is bound to have you be a successful fast-drafter and complete your novel in a month as well.

I really enjoyed reading this book and taking in all of the advice that she imparts along the way. Here is what she has to say . . .

On developing your characters . . . 

“Every character in your book should have multiple wants and desires. This will help them feel human . . . Your characters’ motivation and believably will spring from how strongly their wants and desires are and how well they are conveyed for the reader.”

On dialogue . . . 

“Dialogue should always be smarter, more interesting, wittier, or more powerful than its real-life counterpart. Great dialogue should work to reveal your characters and their motives without the help of adverbs.”

On setting . . .

“Always look for ways you can tighten the space within which your characters interact . . .

Is there one specific area that your main character could keep returning to throughout your novel? Perhaps your main character’s perception of that area could change as he or she changes, so that returning to the area will allow the reader to see that character’s growth firsthand.”

On seeing and hearing your story world . . .

Jaden suggests creating a visual collage or diagram of the various scenes or locations for your work in progress. She takes it a step further by asking us to think of sounds or songs to accompany the story.

This is one of the many “SImple Tasks” Jaden has us doing throughout the course of this very practical writing manual.

She says, “Don’t skip this step! These visual and audio tools are quick ways to help you battle brain sluggishness or writer’s block during your drafting.”

Free resources to help you along the way.

Denise even provides authors with some graphic organizers, charts, and documents that help in the drafting process.

Online help and encouragement. 

Denise Jaden runs a yearly writing challenge on her blog every March. 

She is also an active Twitter member and likes to check on the hashtag #wipmadness, which is a way to track writers who are deep into their work in progress (wip)

A Great Writing Manual.

I really enjoyed this book. I have written several novels so far and I have won the National Novel Writing Month. That was a great feeling!

I plan on using Jaden’s day-by-day approach for my next novel. Hopefully, I will be ready to start working on it in March. I will be checking with her blog at that time. I hope to see you there and on Twitter. We can encourage each other and accomplish a great deal.

My 2014 Reading Log – continually updated with every title I read this year

Writing by The Seat of Your Pants Can Work Wonders

There are two trains of thought when it comes to writing – Planning and Pantsing. The former involves writing outlines and breaking down all the elements of a story before putting pen to paper to begin the first draft. The latter involves flying by the seat of your pants and making things up as you go along.

Stephen King is a big proponent of the pantsing method. He likes to discover his stories like they were artifacts.

In his book On Writing, he states, “…knowing the story wasn’t necessary for me to begin work. I had located the fossil. The rest, I knew, would consist of careful excavation.”

I love to write this way too. I have an idea of where I want to go but I never have the ending written in stone. I discover it along the way.

The best advertisement for pantsing that I can think of is Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad is quite simply brilliant television. I just finished watching the final episode and the bonus content from the DVD.

Creator, writer, director, and show runner, Vince Gilligan explains how he is a big proponent for pantsing and how it paid off in the final scene of his epic series.

Warning: Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen this series, do yourself a favour and buy the DVDs, rent  or borrow them from your local library. You’ll be glad you did. This is compelling television that is so well-written, performed, and produced that you will be glued to your television.

I cut up this “Making Of” featurette from the DVD just to show you how the creator of Breaking Bad is a pantser and how this method of writing is just as, if not more, effective as planning and outlining.

Enjoy and happy writing!

Juliet Lives – A Play Written by My Students

Romeo and Juliet (Claire Danes and Leonardo Di

I worked with a group of students in my class to write and produce a short dramatic work.

We were brainstorming ideas and one of my students suggested doing a version of Much Ado About Nothing. I thought that was a great idea but the rest of the students in her group weren’t exactly excited about it. So, I suggested Romeo and Juliet and for a different spin on it I said, “What if Juliet didn’t die?”

I originally was thinking that she would stab herself like she did in the original play but it wouldn’t kill her. So then she goes skydiving without a parachute and still doesn’t die. She then tries killing herself in all sorts of novel ways.

Admittedly, there isn’t much a story there to perform on the stage. Thankfully, my students realized this problem and didn’t entertain my original idea for very long.

They knew that Romeo poisoned himself over his grief in the original play and they decided to riff on that for their version. This time, Romeo gets poisoned and Juliet’s friends try to discover who the murdered him.

I was so impressed with their story. It works so well on the stage. It is full of suspense and humour and gives them nice parts to act out. They even played music between all of the scene changes. It was a beautiful performance and they were so into it because they wrote it.

Here is the opening scene . . . 

Narrator: “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene. This time though, Verona is the name of the small café where Romeo and Juliet are having a nice date. But unbeknownst to the young lovers, someone poisoned Romeo’s drink while he was indisposed and while Juliet was distracted on the phone.”
(Romeo enters, takes a drink, and falls down dead.)
Juliet: “No, Romeo!” (She tries to revive him)
Narrator: “When Juliet can’t revive him, she takes a knife from the table and . . .”
(Juliet stabs herself and falls down beside Romeo.)
Narrator: “And never was there a tale of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo”
(The surgeon enters, checks Romeo’s pulse, and moves on to Juliet and starts attending to her.)
Surgeon: “She’s still alive.”
Narrator: “Is he?”
Surgeon: “Who said that?”
Narrator: “Me. I’m the narrator.”
Surgeon, “Oh, okay”
Narrator: “Is he still alive?”
Surgeon: “No, no. He’s long gone.”
Narrator: “This isn’t the Romeo and Juliet story I remember.”
Surgeon: “This is a modern spin of the famous tale. They didn’t have the best medicine back then.”
Narrator: “That makes sense. So moving along. Juliet wakes up at the surgeon’s office.”

Want to Read More? 


Try Guided Script Writing with Your Students

Try having your students write and produce their own short plays. It’s a great way to tie in Language Arts and Drama, while having your students work cooperatively in small groups.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive (over 100 useful tips, tricks, lessons, and resources)

A Podcast of Inspiration and Encouragement for Writers (Barbara Abercrombie Interview)

We’re talking with Barbara Abercrombie, author of A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement.

It definitely is a great book for anyone interested in writing. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a privilege to be able to talk to her about it.


This is the second part of the transcript. If you missed Part 1, you can go back and read it now. You can also download the entire interview as a free podcast, or stream it with the player below. Enjoy!

Barbara Abercrombie teaches at the ULCA Extension Writer’s Program and we are picking up our conversation about teaching writing.

Chase: “If someone wants to write, you can’t simple say, ‘Here’s how to do it.’”

Barbara: “As a teacher, all I can do is bring in wonderful writing as examples. I always start each class with reading a poem, whether they like poetry or not. Some students just look at me cross-eyed like, ‘Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? She’s gonna stand up there reading poetry’ but I love poetry. I read them one poem at the beginning of each class. One of the most exciting things that I’ve had as feedback from students is that they’ve started reading poetry and started appreciating it. I think to write prose, studying poetry is very, very helpful and inspiring,

I don’t think there is any cut and dried way to teach writing. It’s giving people prompts, introducing the notion that there really are no mistakes in writing. You are writing your way into whatever you have to write. And like you were saying before, some people don’t necessarily want to become writers, they just want to write. And that is wonderful too. If you have a journal and you just want to keep track of your life, I think everybody should do that. There are so many other opportunities for people to write, like whatever your interest, you could create a blog and write in that every day or once a week.

There is also self publishing. It’s amazing and it has changed so much in the past ten years. You can write stories about your family, you can write your autobiography and you can publish it for your family. There are lots of new opportunities for people who want to write but nit necessarily become writers.”

Chase: “I have to find another quote. I took so many notes in this book. There it is. It’s from Day 78 – Dimes in Ivory Soap. There’s an anecdote about your family finding dimes in bars of soap. We don’t need to spoil that story for anyone listening but basically, if you don’t write down your stories, they’re gone. I think that is your point here, that we can write journals and we can write down these stories.

I’ve been reading up on Indian Residential Schools this summer. A lot of people who went through that experience didn’t want to talk about it because it was painful, but it’s starting to get written down now. There are some stories available now and I think that is very important to have those narratives out in the world so when the Elders pass away, we still have their stories behind them.

Barbara: “You can have videos and photographs and albums, but if people don’t write down the stories, they are gone. I think stories are valuable and precious. I encourage everyone to write down their stories and to keep track of their lives. It’s important.”

Chase: “Not only our own lives. In Day 306 of A Year of Writing Dangerously, you mention how we can borrow other people’s stories.”

Barbara: “Right, the stories you hear. I used to think of it as stealing but I think of it as preserving stories now. You know what, Chase? It takes energy to do it, to write down the stories. It also takes the realization of the importance of it. Going through our lives, we all tend to think as our lives are so familiar to us, we think, ‘Who would ever be interested in that, or in that detail? Why is that important?’ But if you write stuff down and go back to it, even if it’s just a year later, it’s astonishing and you do realize the value in all those details of your life.”

Chase: “I find writing helps me to remember. I don’t have such a good memory. But I write things down. I used to journal a lot more than I do now. My blog has kind of become my journal and every month, I actually look back to what I was writing last month at that time. It really is an interesting observation every time. It helps me remember some things I probably would have otherwise forgotten just because I wrote it down and I published it on a blog.”

Barbara: “Exactly. I’ve been keeping my blog, Writing Time . typepad . com for six and half years now. I go back to some of the old posts and it’s like I’m reading it for the first time.”

Chase: “That’s very cool. Nothing New Under the Sun. Day 51. This is one of the interesting things you do in the book too, you have a little anecdote or story or piece of advice. Every day takes up a page in the book. Some of them are only a paragraph and some are four or five paragraphs long. But at the end of each entry, there is a quote from another author or writer. It’s really interesting. I like to watch Book Television just to see what the authors are saying but I don’t often read a lot of writer’s quotes. It’s nice to see those in the book.

In this one, in particular, Paul Hogan says, ‘Everything has been said; but not everything has been said superbly, and even if it had been, everything must be said freshly, over and over.’”

Barbara: “Isn’t that wonderful? I love that quote too. It’s so true. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s a paradox as our stories are very similar but the details of our stories are different and new and fresh. In that section, I was quoting a student who was always emailing me. At that point, it was about Nora Ephron who just passed away a couple weeks ago, and she felt that Nora Ephron had highjacked all her material to write about.”

Chase: “You can still explore themes that have already been written about and explored. I love comic books and if you think about it, Spiderman has been out since the 1960s, but there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of Spiderman stories but they still come out with a brand new one every week.”

Barbara: “Isn’t that amazing?”

Chase: “So, just because something has been said, it shouldn’t scare writers away from tackling that subject as well.”

Barbara: “Exactly.”

Chase: “Day 178 The Duty of Poets and Writers. I like this, ‘The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’

That quote reminds me of Joseph Gold’s Read for Your Life: Literature as Life Support System. Are you familiar with that book?”

Barbara: “No, I’m not. I’m gonna take a note of it. I love that title!”

Chase: “It’s great. He uses books in his therapy sessions with patients and they can learn a lot through other people’s stories about their own experience. He believes that reading helps us in all aspects of our lives. Stories help us reorganize thinking, help to resolve problems by reviewing situations from a different viewpoint. Reading gives us more insight into those things.”

Barbara: “That’s fabulous. As soon as we are finished, I am going to look that up on Amazon. I believe that so strongly.”

Chase: “Yeah, it’s a great book. The same day, in your book, Day 178, the quote under that entry is, “Certaintly morality should come first for writers, critics, and everybody else. People who change tires. People in factories. They should always ask, is this moral? Not, will it sell?” and that’s from John Gardner.”

Barbara: “He was such a moral writer too. It’s so true. At the writer’s program at UCLA, I teach creative writing and most of my students are really serious about exploring their lives and putting something important down on the page. The screenwriting classes are very different, I think. And I don’t mean to make any mass generalizations here, but people are thinking more about breaks and making money, etc, etc. I don’t want to put screenwriters down because I know some very serious ones.”

Chase: “Writing novels is different from writing screenplays as well.”

Barbara: “Totally”

Chase: “I write both, but I let things develop organically. I know that there are certain beatsheets and things you can get when writing a screenplay that say, ‘This should happen on this page,’ and like you said before, some people can write with those kinds of plans but I feel it handcuffing. I also don’t think each story needs to follow that rigid path. Like you’ve mentioned it the book, there really aren’t any blueprints to writing.

But, I read a book entitled Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He’s got a blog called Story Fix and he says that there are Six Core Competencies. He’s basically saying these six things need to be in your story and that you should block them out and you should figure out where they are. I read it, but I much prefer as a manual for writing Stephen King’s—“

Barbara: “His memoir book. It’s about his writing life and—“

Chase: “It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Barbara: “That’s a terrific book. I love that!”

Chase: “It certainly is, but I’ve been wondering a lot lately about my process. I keep reading blog post after blog post where it says we should plan out our stuff or we’ll have to write draft after draft to fully flesh out material that should have been in our original plan. It’s really been conflicting me lately, like am I writing wrong?”

Barbara: “You can’t write wrong, Chase. There is now way to write wrong. I think you are going to write draft after draft no matter how you start. I’m always reading those books and those blog posts like ‘5 things your story should have’ or ‘10 elements you need to tell your story.’ And they never work for me because I have to get into the story and find that for myself. It’s not like baking a cake where you are going to have a little of this and a little of that, where you are going to preheat the oven, and sift the flower. I think writing is an incredibly messy process and you just can’t be afraid of the mess to get into it.

Here’s an example. I have a grandson named Axle and I have a photograph of him at age 2 and he’s painting. He’s doing a painting that I have hanging in my house right now. He is covered in blue paint. He has blue paint up his nose and in his ears. And he’s created this beautiful painting out of the blue paint. I think that’s how we write. We gotta get into the blue paint and eventually we’ll create something beautiful.”

Chase: “Going back to what we were talking about earlier about being moral with our writing. These blogs posts that are ‘5 Ways to Write’ and ’10 Scenes You Must Have.’ Those kinds of posts sell. I don’t know why but anything with a number in it.”

Barbara: “That’s true. When I do writing articles, I always do that. I always put numbers in and push eberything into the numbers, but then you take the numbers with a grain of salt.”

Chase: “Another thing that really annoys me about Internet copy is stuff like ‘The Batman Guide to Writing’ or “The Eminem Guide to Writing Children’s Books.’ They put stuff together that doesn’t match at all and then they take some mythology from it. People searching will stumble across it and they’ll read it because it seems weird but to me, it doesn’t seem honest.

That’s one of the reasons I like your book because you say, ‘It’s messy, get in there and do it, and don’t be afraid’ and you give us all sorts of inspiration. Morally, I think that’s the better way to go.

I am so glad I got this book.

How can people find out more about you if they want to get in touch with you?

Barbara: “I have a website barbaraabercrombie.com and I have a blog writingtime.typepad.com. They can email me through my website or make comments on the blog.”

Chase: “This is your fourteenth book and I hope writers go and pick it up. Your fifteenth book is another one that writers are going to want to get as well. It has been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks a lot.”

Barbara: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you too. And by the way, you have the coolest name, Chase March. I love it!”

That’s concludes the interview. Please download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, and share it on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else you hang out online.

Thanks for listening! 

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Write Dangerously with Barbara Abercrombie (Author Interview and Podcast)

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and I have Barbara Abercrombie on the phone, author of A Year of Writing Dangerously:365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement.

Download the podcast of this interview for free, stream it with the player below, or keep reading the transcript.

I think this is a book that a lot of writers will be able to enjoy. You’ve broken it down so there is an entry for every single day of the year. They are vignettes or advice and things for writers. So how did you go about compiling this?”

Barbara: “I got the title first and I loved the title, and then I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it. A friend of mine, who is a writer, who has published a number of books said, ‘You’ve got to do it day by day. I’d buy a book that had something day by day.’

It took me a while to find the voice for it. This is my fourteenth book and every book I write, it’s always a struggle – How are you going to tell the story? What voice are you gonna write it in? And it was just fun because I’m a literary groupie really, and there are a lot of anecdotes of writers in the book. And so I just sat in my office and read memoir and read biographies of writers. Then I used a lot of my own experiences too as a writer.

Chase: “That’s pretty cool how you were talking about finding voice because there is an entry in there, # 8 The Voice that Chirps and Chips and that talks about the negative voices, and I’m sure all writers have this, and even people in their regular lives. The quote reads, ‘We’re so good with negative voices: You idiot, what kind of an idea is that? Who do you think you are to be writing a book?’ The thought goes on that you can actually not listen to those voices.

Which reminds me of another book I just read, Maestro’s Stick to Your Vision. He’s a rapper from Canada here and he talked about how you could trick your brain. Every time you have one of those negative thoughts, you can replace it with a positive though, then you are tricking your mind by deleting the negative thoughts and inserting the positive thoughts. He said that you don’t even have to believe them, just as long as you do that, you will start to believe them and ‘Boom, you’ve tricked your mind.’


Barbara: “I think that’s really true. I really do, or you just tell yourself to do the work. Do the work, don’t judge yourself, write, and once you get into the writing, that’s the way to get that voice to shut up. I think everybody has a negative voice on their shoulder that kicks in every once in a while. The trick is, of course, to shut it up and to replace it with a sweetheart voice that says, ‘Just do the work. It’s okay. Keep going.’”

Chase: “Which reminds me of Day 11 in A Year of Writing Dangerously. “… you don’t have to ‘like’ your own writing. You don’t have to be calm and self-assured. In fact, it’s better if you’re not. It keeps you honest.” I think that is what holds some people back. They’re afraid that their writing isn’t good enough, but as long as you do the work, then you can try to put that thought aside.”

Barbara: “You know, it’s impossible to judge your own work in the middle of it. Fortunately, I don’t know too many people who just love their own work. They just do it because I think they are insufferable probably. But you are struggling to create something. It’s a work in progress and it’s hard to write. You just can’t judge it.

I also say, ‘Put it away. Don’t ever throw it out! Put it away, come back to it and you’ll find something in it.’ I also tell my students, ‘Whatever you write is important because maybe it’s not what is gonna stay on the page but by going through your writing, you are getting to what you need to write and will write eventually.’’

Chase: “That’s very cool. I’m a teacher as well. I’m an elementary school teacher. You teach creative writing at UCLA.”

Barbara: “I do, and the writer’s program which is part of extension, which I love because I get all ages, people, from 18 to 90. My oldest student was 87. It’s such a variety of people. Many of them wanted to be a writer or started writing in school and whether the mechanics of life, they didn’t have time to do it, or a teacher said something snarky and they got scared and stopped. It’s exciting because everyone comes to class with a dream and I think they’re easier to teach than children, which I’ve done also.”

Chase: “I was an English major so I was dissecting books in my undergrad. I really wanted to be a writer but the fact that I was looking going through all these books and looking at such minute things such as imagery and symbolism, and I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do that!’ It scared me from actually writing for a while.”

Barbara: “I think that’s true of a lot of people. I went to one year of college and I was a drama major. And then I quit and went to New York to become an actress because I realized that I had always wanted to be a writer but I always thought it would be too hard. Acting seemed much more easy than writing, and I was right. It took me ten years to go back to it after my first career.”

Chase: “The weird thing is, I found that when I started writing, I always grow my story, kind of organically and let it see where it goes and just write, kind of without a roadmap. You talk about that with the headlight analogy a lot of writers know about in Day 254.”
Barbara: “I love your expression, ‘grow your story’ because that’s really what happens. I’ve never heard it expressed that way before. But stories grow and you don’t know where they’re going. There are some writers who block everything out and it works for them. I don’t know many writers like that.

And I don’t know where what I am writing is really going to go. Even this book, I wasn’t sure of the voice or the tone, or would it have an arc. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I never know what I’m doing when I start a book. But that’s why it’s exciting to write because you are figuring out what you really think and believe.”

Chase: ‘It’s like we are exploring the unknown and we’re actually coming into things. When I get an idea,  it takes a while before that idea sort of cooks in my brain before I’ll start writing it. And then when I do start writing it, I’ll write something weird and I won’t even know why, some little detail, and I’m just typing as fast as I can. I like to get the first draft out quickly. And then further into the story, I’m surprised to find out why I’d said that little thing in Chapter 1 and this will happen in Chapter 10 and I don’t know how this happens. Am I planning in my head? I don’t know how that works exactly?”

Barbara: “I think we just have a huge well of creativity, and knowledge, and experience, and feelings, everybody does, and when we write, we’re letting this out. And I think we don’t necessarily know it ahead of time intellectually. As a teacher, I do a lot of five minute writing exercises in my classes because people don’t have time to think.

If you throw them an idea to write about and say, ‘You have five minutes to write. You can’t stop moving your pen.’ They are always astonished at what can come out of them. They will be reading something they’ve wrote in five minutes and they will start to cry and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know where this came from’ and they are surprising themselves. I think the surprise element of writing is wonderful and exciting and it happens if people allow it to happen.”

Chase: “I definitely agree. And that is something you can do with every age group. I’ve done it with primary students just be asking them for a word. I write the words on the board and we have about four or five of them and I time it. I actually write with them and then we share all of our writing afterwards. It really is a great experience, like, you say, it unblocks some of that negative thought or ‘Oh, I don’t know what to write’ because you just have to do it. ‘Who cares, let’s just go. Start.’”

Barbara: “Exactly. My next book is called Kicking in the Wall and it’s 365 Five Minute Writing Prompts based on that theory. What happens is, that you get out of your own way when you do a five-minute exercise. If you tell someone to write about horses, you have fifteen minutes, people will start agonizing over what they know about horses, or they don’t know about horses and they’ll start thinking. The trick is with the five minute time limit, they get out of their own way and simply write. It’s very exciting to be in a classroom and see that happen.”

Chase: “I was reading Day 19 and you talk about how you were going to be interviewed and how standard practice was to give the interviewer questions to ask because most interviewers rarely read the book. I read your book cover to cover—”

Barbara: “Bless you.”

Chase: “—with a pencil in my hand, and I thought, ‘What? People don’t read the book?’ This is the second interview I’ve done for a book and I read both books cover to cover.”

Barbara: “You are rare and wonderful, Chase. It’s much appreciated too.”

Chase: “I love reading and I love writing. I’m probably doing more reading than writing right now, which is a shame.”

Barbara: “I always tell my students, ‘This is how you learn how to write’ and they take out their pencils like I am going to say something really profound.  And I say, “1, read. 2, write.’ You have to read. I think writers go through periods where they read more than write and then you write more. Reading is such an integral part. I don’t know why anyone would want to be a writer if they didn’t love reading, do you?”

Chase: “People write for different reasons. I think some people write because they have a story, some people write because they think they are going to become famous, and I think some people write just because they have good taste in stories. I think I read that in your book. I have so many notes here on it.”

Barbara: “It was Ira Glass. He says, that we get into creative work because of our good taste and one of our problems is that our own writing doesn’t live up to our good taste. I just found that quote recently when I was writing the book and I love it. It’s quite profound. The better our taste is, sometimes the harder it is to write. It never really lives up to the writers you just idolize. But, like I say in the book, if you love writers and you love to write, to just be part of literature and being part of the community of writers, I think it’s a pretty happy life to do that.” 


Please come back tomorrow to read the conclusion on this transcript. In the meantime, download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below. 

Read Part 2

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Silent Cacophony Turns 5!

In March of 2007 I started this blog with a very specific goal. I wanted to become a published author and thought it would be a great idea to establish a presence online. So I started this blog with the goal and desire to become a published author within five years.

Well, tomorrow, this little blog celebrates its 5th birthday. It feels like a great accomplishment in and of itself and it is definitely worth celebrating.

I have fallen a little short of my goal of becoming a published author. However, I am not giving up on that dream. While it looks like it may not happen by the end of 2012, I am still dedicated to getting my name in print. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.

I am still writing and perfecting my craft. I will be participating in Script Frenzy again next month and in National Novel Writing Month in November. I plan on writing a Teaching Tip ebook later this year as well. So lots of things are in motion. I am currently working on a few revisions and hope to start sending out queries soon.

What I didn’t know when I started out this little blog was that it would become a hub for teachers. I was unaware that my Teaching Tip Tuesday posts would become a popular feature here on the blog. While the posts may not get much in the way of comments, they continue to give teachers what they are looking for and I’m glad.

I also had no idea that I would become part of a radio show and a regular contributor to a hip-hop magazine website. I am having so much fun producing radio segments, doing artist interviews, podcasting, and writing album reviews and articles.

Overall, I can say that my foray into the blogosphere has been a great experience. Thank you for tagging along with me.

Please leave a comment below and help celebrate my blogging birthday!

Thanks!

I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner!

I did it!

I wrote an entire 50,015 word novel in the month of November to win my very first National Novel Writing Month prize.

It feels good!

When I first decided to take on this challenge, I only had a rough idea of the story I wanted to tell. I wasn’t sure I should tackle it though. I’d written novels before but I’d never tried to stuff the whole creative process into one month. It sounded crazy.

But I felt like I needed the challenge. I thought that it would at least get me started on a new fiction project. I’d been working on a lot of hip-hop articles and podcasts but my fiction had taken a bit of backburner and I wanted to correct that.

I spent the last week of October trying to get my blog in order. I’d pre-written posts and scheduled them all so my blog would pretty much run on auto-pilot for the whole month. This freed me up to write, write, write.

I set a goal to write 1,700 words every day and I was able to stick to it for two weeks straight. I wrote a blog post to fill you in at that point. I had planned on writing weekly updates for you but I just couldn’t find the time.

I spent roughly three hours a day writing, every day. There were a few days in the month where I didn’t write but I managed to stay right on top of my word count goals nevertheless. Sometimes I would write during my recess or lunch breaks at school. I did most of the writing at home though.

The novel is called “Outside of the Blocks.” It’s a play on words because it’s about reclusive Lego artist, who doesn’t even realize that he is an artist. He basically plays with Lego blocks all day. His young neighbour comes across his hobby and puts some photos of his creations online and this forces him out of his self-imposed exile.

Here’s my original blurb,

Eli Thomas keeps to himself. He stays at home most of the time and creates elaborate structures out of Lego blocks. His world is turned upside down when his nine year old neighbour discovers his art creations and helps him break out of his self-imposed isolation. But is Eli ready to get outside of the blocks? And is the world ready for a socially awkward Lego artist? 

I had a lot of fun participating in NaNoWriMo and I’d like to thank everyone who cheered me on. I don’t think I could have done it without the motivation. Thanks!

NaNoWriMo Update (Part 1 – The Set Up)

It is Sunday night, day 13 of National Novel Writing Month.

I was planning on writing a post every week about my progress but I simply haven’t had the time. 
It’s tough writing 1,700 words a day for two weeks straight. 
But I’ve done it each and every single day so far this month. 
I’ve been giving updates on Twitter, but thought I’d give you a quick update here as well. 
As of right now, my novel is 
  • 70 pages
  • 7 Chapters
  • 22,114 words
I feel like I am off to a pretty good start.  
I just closed off Part 1 of the book a.ka. The Set Up. 
This first portion of the novel was all about establishing the characters and showing what is at stake. I think this portion may be a bit long right now. There are things I should probably cut out of the final manuscript. I was hoping to close this act in 50 pages or so, but I can tighten it all up during the revision stage. Right now, I just have to keep hammering on. 
Here’s a brief summary of what my book is about.

Eli Thomas keeps to himself. He stays at home most of the time and creates elaborate structures out of Lego blocks. His world is turned upside down when his nine year old neighbour discovers his art creations and helps him break out of his self-imposed isolation. But is Eli ready to get outside of the blocks? And is the world ready for a socially awkward Lego artist?

Next up, is Part 2 a.k.a. The Hero’s Response. When I finish this section, I will write the second update for NaNoWriMo.

Thank you to everyone who has cheered me along on this journey. I really appreciate it. 

Tackling NaNoWriMo – Am I Crazy?

I must be crazy. I’m thinking of participating in National Novel Writing Month this year.

The goal is simple – write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

It sounds simple, but that’s 1,700 words a day for each day of the month.

I’m pretty busy with my teaching career, family commitments, and the radio show. Should I even try to complete this daunting task this month?

Why not? 

I’m afraid that I won’t be able to reach that 50,000 word goal. November isn’t the best month for me to tackle such a large project.

But . . .

It could be fun. Having a deadline sometimes motivates me in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t be. There’s a whole community of supportive people that I’ll be able to link up with.

Okay, I’m signing up.

You can find my profile for NaNoWriMo here.

If you are writing as well, please leave a comment or send me a message. It would be nice to share word counts and keep each other motivated.

The blog won’t suffer.

I’m in the process of stockpiling posts right now. I already have four Teaching Tip posts ready to go. I have interviews and podcasts transcripts sitting in my draft folder. I plan on writing a few more posts before November comes around as well.

That way, I won’t have to spend any time writing blog posts. I can concentrate on the novel but still publish new content on Silent Cacophony as well.

I can’t start writing until November 1st and there’s lots of work to be done before then. I’m excited and nervous about this journey.

Wish me luck.

Thanks!