Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing Quotes to Think About

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938

I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer Writers at Work, 3rd series, PMB

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~Arthur Polotnik

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~G.K. Chesterton

Monday, August 16, 2010

Four Great Words--I'm a Published Author by Peggy Clement

After about ten years of beginning my children’s chapter book, I can put those four words together- I’m a published author. (Ah, finally!) I must admit, not all those years were spent writing on the book. I actually lost it for about a year or two (that’s another story for another time). My husband was quite ill for several years which reduced my time to work on it. And despite even the setbacks with the publishing company once the contract was signed, I am proud to say that I just recently received the first complimentary copy from my editor.

It’s difficult to put into words the feeling of holding your published book in your hands for the very first time. To see something which started as a spark of one’s imagination come full circle is quite exhilarating. Despite the joy it brings me now, I know firsthand it can be discouraging at times because it can be a long and even lonely process.

If writing is your passion and your dream, I urge you to not give up. It was my dream for a long time. It wasn’t for the fame, and it certainly wasn’t for the fortune. But because I have been a reading teacher for over thirty years, I wanted to offer children who like reading one more book they could enjoy, and just maybe create a little change in attitude for those children who don’t like to read. With all the hurdles I had to jump, it would have been easy for me to give up and give that job to someone else. But I didn’t want that job to go to anyone else. I wanted to be the one to do it. The marketing and self promoting part is upon me now. This is a whole new avenue for me. I am getting guidance through my publisher, but it’s true what they say.

The ball is in the author’s court when it’s time for promotion
to begin. Being rather shy, “tooting my own horn”, is not something I am comfortable with. I am stepping out of my comfort zone, however, and tackling this endeavor head on. The love and support of my family, friends, and fellow writers is a huge help. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Continue your writing and make it happen so that one day you too can use those four great words: I’m a published author.

Good luck with it!

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up-The most certain way to succeed is
always to try just one more time.” Thomas A. Edison

Peggy Clement is the author of her newly released book, “Queen of the Castle.” She is a contributing author of an upcoming anthology, “It’s in the Gulf.” Peggy is a member of Bayou Writers’ Group, Golden Triangle Writers Guild, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a teacher and lives with her family in southeast Texas. Visit her website @

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hey, What a Great Idea!

At St. Davids Christian Writers conference this past June, I attended a storytelling workshop led by creative and inspiring author David Pierce. As writers, we often struggle to come up with good story ideas. Where do good story ideas come from? Pierce offered the following suggestions.

• Write about things you know. A doctor might write medical mysteries, a lawyer might write legal thrillers. If you’re an alien, write sci-fi.

• Study billboards and other advertising. See a good-looking model on a Calvin Klein underwear ad? Might it inspire you to write a romance story? View a commercial that makes you laugh out loud? Mull it over and write a humor essay.

• Think about your possessions. What do they mean to you? What can you do with them? What if someone stole your favorite (fill in the blank). Stand in your garage and randomly focus on a garden tool, a woodworking saw, a tattered beach chair. Allow your mind to wander.

• Ever come across a new word that fascinates you? Look it up. Can you write a story based on the definition?

• Have you recently been impacted by a concept – truth, justice, love, insanity -- and you can’t stop thinking about it. Can this concept inspire a story?

• You’re driving down the road or strolling along a sidewalk when you see something that causes you to do a double-take. A man pushes a grocery cart carrying everything he owns. Children giggle and shriek as they run through a gushing fire hydrant. A woman sits on a park bench and feeds her dog with a baby spoon. Unusual unique sightings can spark an idea for a story.

• Think about current fads. Pierce used the example of the “ . . . For Dummies” books. What if there was a book called “How to Kill Your Spouse for Dummies”? What might a character do with that?

• Take an established story and change the point of view. For example, tell Cinderella’s story from a step-sister’s perspective.

• Re-tell an old tale in modern day times. What would The Great Gatsby look like in 2010?

• Combine concepts from two different established stories. Think Robinson Caruso meets Hansel and Gretel. Would you dream up Island of the Witch Doctor?

• Watch the evening news, read magazines and newspapers. Current events provide continual story fodder.

• Sit in a crowded restaurant, an airport gate, a doctor’s office waiting room, or a hotel lobby and listen to the dialogue around you. Nonchalantly zero in on your children chattering away in the backseat of the car. Cell phone conversations can be especially interesting as you imagine what the other person is saying. Eavesdropping can be a most rewarding avenue for story ideas.

• Above all, in any situation or potential idea for a story, play “what if.” What if a chef at Kyoto loses control of his knife at a crowded table? What if you miss your exit on a highway in west Texas and the next exit is 235 miles away? What if, what if, what if . . . you get the idea?

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Editing Machete by Lori Hebert Leger

My WIP needs work. I have to admit I’m pleased with it. I’m hoping to launch it as the first in the sequel WHEN some bright, talented, agent/publisher with excellent taste realizes what a gem he’s got.

First I have to shorten the word count. This first draft is around 116,000 words – 16,000 to many. So, should I use the highlighter method where you highlight conflict and dialogue scenes in yellow, characterization in pink, and setting in blue? Then go back and delete or cut back scenes with too much pink or blue. That should eliminate any pages that don't contain enough white space/dialogue, right? Not as easy as it sounds.

I've adopted my own method of eliminating words. Once I finish the first draft, I read the entire thing again from the beginning. At first it’s difficult to switch gears from the create/write mode to the slash/edit mode. The first edit pass is where I find the obvious mistakes I've made; those pesky typos that my selective dyslexia seems to allow over and over again. You know, typing a V when I need a B or vice versa...agian instead of again, or God forbid I have to type the word Calcasieu. Inevitably, I'll type a y instead of a u…Calcasiey Parish? Must be a case of lazy fingers. That’s what my old spinster high school typing teacher, Miss Nora Saltzman would call it. Yes, I said TYPING classes…on a real electric Olivetti typewriter. ddd aaa ddd, dad dad dad. I’m that old.

Sometimes my laptop conspires against me. If my thumb touches the pad, the cursor will jump four lines and cause me to delete text I shouldn’t have deleted or add dialogue where it doesn't belong. A big problem, especially if I get distracted before I fix it. I go through the entire thing, and make the obvious corrections. When I’m done, I do it again. I start from the beginning and go all the way through it to catch even more wasted words and typos. Then what? I go through the whole thing at least one more time and read it aloud. If it doesn't sound natural, I fiddle around with it until it does. Or I cut it out, whichever gives me the best results.

It used to kill me to cut out complete sentences, but trimming two manuscripts of 140,000 words down to 95,000 and 100,000 words cured me of that little problem. Now when I edit, I eagerly look for paragraphs, or better yet, entire scenes that I can delete using my editing machete. There's nothing more torturous than getting rid of 40,000 words by deleting 4 or 5 at a time. I must admit it’s made me a better writer. It forced me to tell the story without all the extra weight and wasted space. I now find editing to be a piece of cake. Need to slash 5,000 words? Easy cheesy, folks; just let me get my machete.

Happy Writing…and Editing,
Lori Hebert Leger
Lori Leger has only been writing seriously for two years. In that time she's completed five full length novels in the Women's Fictional Romance genre. Visit her website HERE.