ARE YOU A WRITER?

 

“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever” wrote 19th  century writer Martin Tupper, a sentiment almost universally shared.

 

But what about the author?  Whenever I’ve had a new book published, along with some congratulations, you’d be surprised at some of the comments.  “You’re so lucky” from a fellow-writer, meaning that talent had little to do with it.  Several readers have told me that they have thought about writing a book “but I just don’t have time” as though that’s the only thing needed, and they are far too busy to waste it, as I have obviously been doing. I had one phone call from a lady who gushed: “I was delighted to read that you have a new book out, as I thought you’d died years ago!”

 

Such is fame!  But what about if you seriously want to write your first book.  What are the chances of having it published?  Think positively and remember no-one was a famous author before writing that first novel.  There is always the fear of “will I be good enough?” because writing a book demands an enormous commitment in time and energy, with no guarantee that it will be successful.  You do need an almost demonic compulsiveness to invest perhaps years in such a project.  You should choose a theme which reflects a way of life with which readers can identify.  If a book doesn’t move you, if its characters don’t arouse your compassion and the emotional progress of the story isn’t fascinating, then the writer has failed.

 

This applies to every genre, even to children’s books, where a lack of sincerity is immediately spotted.  Each book, like each life, is unique – the rites of passage of courtship and marriage; the birth of offspring; the onset of old age; personal tragedies and triumphs; the painful losses we accrue, and the people we meet and learn to love.  This doesn’t mean that every book we write is an autobiography, yet in a way it is for every work of creation is a self-portrait.  To be a writer, you must autograph it with excellence.

 

How do you get a book published?  In practical terms, you write it – or a large part of it – and then send it out in the market-place.  If you can’t do it alone, you try to find a literary agent to represent you, although for unknown writers, this can sometimes be more difficult than finding a publisher.  Study successful books of the same genre you are writing, and see who publishes them.  Then you might write to the publishing house, asking for permission to send them a synopsis and three sample chapters (never the whole ms. unless they ask for it).  Don’t send anything without a query letter first – if it just comes across the transom, it will be consigned to the dreaded slush pile.

 

If your letter, which should be very creative, triggers their interest, you may get a reply – especially if you send a stamped-addressed return envelope, or the equivalent postage in International Reply Coupons (obtainable at main post offices).

 

 

With non-fiction, such as popular “How to….” Titles, send a Book Proposal consisting of a cover letter outlining your idea and your personal expertise in the area, plus clippings of anything you’ve had published on the subject.  You should also include a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, with the title of each chapter, plus a brief summary of what it will contain.  Make the Book Proposal as attractive as possible, even using some computer graphics.

 

The bottom line for all publishers is how many copies they anticipate it will sell, for publishing is, after all, a business.  There are publishers, the so-called vanity press, who will publish your book for a price and you must decide if you want to follow this route, which may be the only possibility for a first novel if you are unknown.  However, there are some publishers who will take a risk if they see great potential and talent, or if they believe the author will enhance their prestige (it helps if you are a famous politician, military general or rock star).

 

With fiction, whether in the realm of novel or short story, to be effective you need a compelling plot, a hook opening, a successful and satisfying ending, and a middle that keeps the reader hoping, guessing and involved.   Don’t overlook short stories as a break from your novel. In American and British magazines they pay very well and are a good way to give yourself short term rewards while you’re working on that full-length novel.

 

Very few authors become rich from writing books, unless you’re another John Grisham or can invent a Harry Potter, who is a phenomenon. Usually after your initial triumph, your book will only have a short shelf-life – some of mine disappeared a few months after I finished a book tour across America.  Remember, there are thousands of new books coming out every year that you will have to compete with.

 

That said, being a writer is an exciting life.  You don’t need capital to begin; you can write at your own speed; you can work from home and, as a male colleague once informed me, “you don’t even need to shave every day!”

 

The one quality you need to develop as a writer is the ability to accept rejection, because no writer can escape it.  Insults are also par for the course.  William Faulkner once wrote of Ernest Hemingway: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary”; while Hemingway replied: “Poor Faulkner.  Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”  But the greatest put-down I’ve ever heard came from someone called Moses Hadas:  “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book;  I’ll waste no time reading it!”

Happy writing!  Several of my books, including my latest novel “Searching for Sarah” are available at discount from me . Write to dwaysman@gmail.com

I am always happy to hear your comments and to help you with any writing problems.

 

 

 

 

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BACKGROUND RESEARCH

The first step when you begin a new writing project, is background research. This is the process of mapping out  a particular subject area to gain an overview and understanding of the subject. It helps you become familiar with the vocabulary relating to the topic and narrow the focus.

Begin by studying materials that are introductory by nature. Different kinds of reference works and textbooks, both in print and online.   Textbooks should probably be your first port of call. They have an educational agenda and help you learn new things.  Different types of reference works can also be helpful. Encyclopaedias  are a good source, and many can be accessed today on-line.

If you are doing historical research, use chronicles and chronologies. They present timelines of events, people and places in specific contexts.  Atlases help you understand your area’s geographical contexts. As well as maps, some include information of the climate, economy, population and even statistics.  You will find textbooks and reference works either in libraries or on the internet.  Wikipedia is very helpful or Infoplease (www.infoplease.com), and there are many others.

As you immerse yourself in research, keep a record of the texts you’ve read and any useful facts you discover.   When I began writing my bestseller “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a movie “The Golden Pomegranate”) I was completely ignorant of my subject matter which was the first immigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the 19th century.  As well as extensive reading, I visited the Israel Museum’s Ethnography Department to study how the Yemenite silversmiths made their beautiful filigree jewellery.  I ate in a Yemenite restaurant called “The Yemenite Step” to study their food, and copied down all the menus;  I listened to records of Yemenite singers; and finally asked friends to introduce me to any Yemenites whom they knew.  I did 6 months’ research until I felt I knew my subject intimately before I wrote my first word.  Of my 14 novels,  this was the first and is still selling well today all over the world, in different languages.  After 6 months of intense research, I felt completely sure of my facts and my characters came alive on the page with no effort.   This was really the only time I undertook a subject I knew almost nothing about, at the request of the publisher, who gave me a generous advance to write it, as it was of special interest to him.  But whenever you write, even if it’s fiction, make sure all your facts are true, your settings authentic, your dialogue the way people spoke at the time.  It is a bonus when your work is not only enjoyable, but also educational.  Happy writing!

I am always glad to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems. You can contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com  Some of my books are available direct from me at discount prices, including my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”.

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ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS

I’ve had a lot of queries from readers of my Blog lately, and would like to share some of them which might be helpful to you also.

“How important is the submission letter?”  It is important to be clear and concise, giving a clear outline of what your work is about.  Clarity, perfect English, brevity and an engaging style are all required. Don’t be cute with emojos .

“What do you think of publishers that ask you to pay some of the costs?”  Look at the publisher’s website and have a look at one of their books.  Publishing is a very expensive business, and if books  are professionally edited and proof-read, you may have to pay for this, also if they supply the cover design.   It can be money well spent if the end product fills you with pride.

“I get writer’s block and it makes me very depressed.”   It’s like any job. If you’re given targets , it’s a case of getting on with it. You would lose any kind of job if you said you couldn’t do it because you had a “block”.  However, when you work in isolation, you have to cope with lack of company, lack of stimulus – factors which decrease energy.   Try a break for a few days – do something you enjoy, and then get back to work.

“If I attend a cookery course abroad, with the intention of writing a feature about it, should I tell them first? Would they give me the course free or at a discount, for the publicity?”  It’s unlikely a cookery school would turn down the publicity. It depends if you are writing for a definite, assigned market. I think you should advise the school of it, since other students will be taking the course. They may be uneasy, knowing there’s a journalist among them. They may offer you the course free or subsidized, or may not. I’d start by trying to get a magazine interested, and go from there. But you can’t write about the course, or the other students, without their agreement.

I hope some of the above queries might be helpful to you too.  You can send queries of your own to me at  dwaysman@gmail.com; or buy my books at discount direct from me. My latest novel (no. 14) is: “Searching for Sarah.”  Happy writing.

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ENDING YOUR ARTICLE

A follower of my Blog recently wrote to me that she was having trouble ending her articles in an interesting way.  I hope I helped her with these tips:

YOU CAN ASK A QUESTION. This helps readers to continue thinking about the topic.  e.g. Ending a travel article:  Now that you know what’s waiting for you on this lovely Greek Isle, isn’t it time for you to start packing?

STATE A LITTLE KNOWN FACT.  An article about a World-War II sinking of an American Navy’s smallest aircraft carrier by the giant Japanese fleet.e.g. speculation by both U.S. and Japanese naval experts has been indefinite and  confused.   When Japanese admiral Kurita  was asked why  the Japanese fleet withdrew Kurita remained silent and merely smiled a wry smile.”

USE A QUOTATION:  In an article about how to use your word processor, William Zinsser =- a former editor of the Book-of-the Month Club, wrote:  “The word processor will help you to achieve 3 cardinal goals – good writing, clarity, simplicity  and humanity, if you make it your servant and not your master.”

LOOK TO THE FUTURE: This is an effective way to tie up a topic.   Something like “The future of (your topic) is looking very bright indeed.”

MOTIVATION:  You want readers to take some kind of action, after reading your piece.  It might be to join an organization, make a donation, mail a letter, or simply think more seriously about a topic.  So tell them what you’d like them to do.

SUMMARIZE YOUR ARTICLE:  If it might be difficult to understand at first reading, give a brief summary of all the points you want to make.

Don’t change the tone of your article at the end – be consistent.   It should stimulate readers, and leave them with a positive attitude towards whatever subject you covered.  Opening paragraphs get more attention (especially from editors) but the writer of Ecclesiastes knew the way to satisfy readers: “Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shall never do amiss.”

If I can help you with a writing problem, contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com  At the same e-mail address, you can purchase copies of my latest novel at discount:  “Searching for Sarah.”   I always enjoy your comments.

 

 

 

 

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TRY A WRITING WORKSHOP

Lots of new writers start out by attending a Writers’ Workshop.  I gave workshops for about 30 years, and I always enjoyed them and learnt as much from my students as they learned from me.  Their enthusiasm sparked mine;  their ideas gave birth to new ones for me; and many of them went on to become published writers and lifelong friends.

To get the most out of your  workshop, and really feel you’ve had your money’s worth, here are a few tips:

Have something short prepared before you arrive. You can read it, as others will, as you are introduced to the group. Practise reading it aloud before you arrive.

Once students start talking, try to say something in the first 5 minutes. If you keep putting off contributing, you may never say anything.

If invited to read your work aloud, bite the bullet and go for it.

Don’t get too friendly with your neighbor too soon – it may distract you from the workshop content.

If you don’t understand something, ask the tutor to clarify it.

Collect all the handouts you are given – take a folder ready for them.

Join in the exercises, even if they’re not ideal for you.

Stay focused, and be the one to thank the tutor for the session.

Arrange a treat for yourself that evening. If it went well, you’ll feel on a high.

Before you attend, make sure you’ve got the following, and have them packed ready to take the day before:  Pens and a notebook; any work you want to take with you; directions for getting there; a small bottle of water; a banana or lunch you’ll enjoy (if no refreshments are provided); your personal cards for networking; reading glasses and tissues.  Make sure you’re dressed warmly enough.

Check out what the tutor has published before you choose whose workshop to attend.   Have a lovely time!

My latest novel, “Searching for Sarah” and several more of my 14  published books, are available direct from me at discount prices, including “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a film titled “The Golden Pomegranate”). You can contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com    I am always happy to hear your comments and to help you with any writing problems.

 

 

 

 

 

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WAITING FOR THE SINGING BIRD Many years ago I read a beautiful Chinese proverb: “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.” I have spent my life trying to keep the green tree alive in my heart. Now I am past my three score years and ten allotted by the Bible, and I think, in the distance, I can hear its first faint chirping. My life has been devoted to words. I have been writing since I was a child and first learned their magic. I remember I kept a book called “My Beauty Book” into which I painstakingly copied scraps of literature, quotations and especially poems whether written in English or translated. I would sit in the massive Public Library in Melbourne, Australia, my birthplace, with piles of books in front of me, and it was like wandering through an enchanted garden. It seemed to me that there was much beauty in the world, but to capture it you needed to be a poet, a musician or an artist. I used to think: if only I were a musician, I would compose great symphonies, rhapsodies with crashing chords that would let my listeners soar to heights of ecstasy. Alas, I had no musical talent. Then I would think: if only I were an artist. My canvas would show swathes of brilliant color … scarlet, emerald, indigo. I would portray the wonders of creation, and people would be inspired to open their eyes and see for themselves all the beauty that exists in the world and ugliness could be banished forever. Sadly, I had no artistic talent. Writing, however, was something else. I could string words together like a necklace of diamonds and crystals, so they shimmered like stars in the night sky. I would repeat a quotation of just two lines that became my mantra: “Writing is dreaming, head in the skies; Reading is sharing another man’s eyes.” I could dream and I could write. I could write about all that was lovely in the world in a way that readers could share my eyes. I would let them see what I saw; touch what I touched; hear the music that I heard; smell the perfumes I smelt and taste what I tasted, even if it was the salt of tears. I have nurtured and cherished this gift. Writing has been a therapy and a consolation, allowing me to put my life into perspective. As we grow older, we sustain many losses along the way. We lose people we loved, that is inevitable, but we sometimes lose our dreams as well. We can even lose love and that is the greatest loss of all. When that happens, words can be a comfort if you focus on: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Pain accompanies us as we go through life, but a writer can verbalise it in such a way to help it dissipate; and we can use words to help others deal with their sadness. We learn so much from great writers through the ages… those poets who reveal a touch of paradise; the story-tellers who can point a moral that perhaps will light the way for those of us stumbling in the darkness. I love words. They have never betrayed me. They have been my constant companion through life’s journey and sustained me through all the rough patches. Every year that I now live is a gift from God. How fortunate I have been even to be paid for what I loved doing. My purpose has been to try to enrich my life and that of others with the power of words. In that way I have kept the green tree in my heart. I have watched it don new green lace every Spring, have seen the leaves turn to russet and gold in the Autumn. It has been a shelter to build nests. And now, I think, the bird will soon begin to sing! Spring, have seen the leaves turn to russet and gold in the Autumn. It has been a shelter to build nests. And now, I think, the bird will soon begin to sing!

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GETTING INSPIRATION FROM OTHER’S WORDS

Sometimes, when you are short of ideas, it inspires you to re-read other writers whom you have loved, especially poets.  That’s what happened when I re-read the poems of Rupert Brooke, whose work I had loved in my youth.  Suddenly, one of his poems became so meaningful to me that I wanted to share the emotions he aroused, resulting in my piece:  “The Great Lover@:

 

THE GREAT LOVER     by DVORA WAYSMAN

 

One of the most beautiful poems ever written was penned by a British poet named Rupert Brooke, tragically killed in the First World War.  During his short life (1887 – 1915), he wrote prolifically and his poems are still quoted today.  In one of the most memorable, “The Great Lover”, he details all the things that were most dear to him – from “ the strong crusts of friendly bread” , “the cool kindliness of sheets” to “the benison of hot water.”   It was his way of counting his blessings and I think that is something we all need to do now and then.

 

On re-reading his poetry recently, I was moved by the fact that although he died at 28, he lived each one of his brief years so intensely – it was almost as though he were aware that he would not be granted the time to savor and reflect.  “Thre Great Lover” inspired me to make a list of the things I take for granted in Jerusalem , but which nevertheless enrich my life.

 

These I have loved:

The sound of the siren that ushers in the Sabbath, knowing that for the next 24 hours my life will be peaceful and elevated above the mundane.    The wind sighing in the pine trees outside my window and the birds that nest there so that each morning I awaken to birdsong.  Dawn shyly creeping on my balcony when Jerusalem is bathed in pearl as the city still sleeps.

 

I love the skyline of the Old City with its domes, minarets and turrets.  Touching the stones of the Western Wall and communing one-on-one with the Creator.  The special quality of light in Jerusalem, especially sunset when indigo shadows lengthen and the sky is strewn with stars.

 

I love the quiet street where I live , the feeling “I am coming home” as I turn the corner.  Eating breakfast on my white dishes with their big splashes of blue and yellow flowers , and pouring milk from a fat clay jug.  I love the knick-knacks accumulated  on my holidays abroad and in the Jaffa flea market, where I once went with a dear friend, now passed on.  A pottery vase of flowers picked from my own balcony garden… a rose, a daisy, a simple geranium .  And in Winter,  the embrace of

my thick, blue dressing gown that hugs me in warmth.  Old photos of people we loved who are no longer with us.

 

So many things to love.  But none more so than the company of family and friends, the laughter of grandchildren and their children,  and the trusting way they offer you their tiny hands .  The things we love the most cannot be bought with gold.  They surround each of us every day waiting to be acknowledged and appreciated.   If we can take a few moments to pause and savor them , then – like the dead young poet – we can say they were lovely  and – we loved!

Happy writing! I am always glad to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is now available from me at discount. Contact me at:  dwaysman@gmail.com

 

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