If you just want to criticize something, write a letter to the Editor. But if you want to write an op-ed article, be constructive. We all have opinions and most of us like to express them. Next time an issue comes along, that you feel you must comment on, write an op-ed. Most newspapers don’t pay for them, but they are very satisfactory for the author.
Choose your topic well. Column space is at a premium. Give careful attention to the subject matter. Be relevant by choosing a topic that touches on a large issue. For example, if you are responding the a local library’s decision to filter its Internet service to prevent children from accessing pornographic sites, don’t just offer an opinion on the decision – a Letter to the Editor would suffice. Instead, address the larger issue – personal freedom versus a desire to protect our children.
Address the events of the world around you through your unique perspective. Let your areas of expertise color it – as an attorney, a psychologist, or maybe as a parent. Watch the news for items suitable for your unique commentary. Keep abreast of local, national and world-wide events. You won’t be qualified to write on every issue, but find those you are qualified to write on.
An op-ed differs from a Letter to the Editor – while the former can be filled with angry rhetoric, an op-ed must present a reasoned argument. Don’t be merely critical. A good opinion piece will challenge readers to find a solution.
Usually the acceptable word count is between 500 to 800 words. You don’t have unlimikted space to make your point. So learn how to focus. The narrower your focus, the better.
Don’t forget to document any references or quotations. You must be able to back up any statements you attribute to others. Writing op-eds is a wonderful way for a writer to express an opinion in a powerful forum – and you may even be paid for it.
Happy writing. I am here if you need any help (free) with your writing problems. I have some discount books available of the latest of my 14 novels – “Searching for Sarah.” You can contact me at dwaysman.com Good luck.
Recently I read about a group of seven ex-patriate British women, living temporarily in the Far East. They were all facing new challenges, meeting new people and having new adventures. They had something else in common …. they were all experiencing a sense of loss for what they had left behind. For some it was friends and family, for some it was the familiarity of places that were as comfortable to slip into as the folds of an old overcoat. They were all feeling vulnerable.
They wanted something more than the superficial expatriate relationships. They decided to form a writers’ circle. It began casually after they heard a talk by a writer on the benefits of speedwriting, or what is known to writers as “stream of consciousness”. The speaker explained how this kind of writing can be used to free inspiration and find out who you really are. Sometimes, while writing on one topic, another will come into your mind as if by accident. Natalie Goldberg, in her book “Writing Down the Bones” explains it as: “Shake the apple tree and you get oranges.”
You don’t need to be a professional writer, or even have ambitions in that direction, to benefit from this kind of writing. You just sit down with a pen and some blank pages and start writing about whatever comes into your mind. Let it flow without worrying about grammar, spelling or syntax. When you write in this uninhibited way, your internal critic and censor doesn’t get a look in. You can write on a particular topic (the women I mentioned chose “home”) or you can make up a heading like “Morning Pages” and see what happens. Random thoughts will flow on to the paper and some of them may surprise you. You’ll find that you peel away protective facades and allow yourself to express your vulnerabilities. Whether you decide to do this on your own or with a group of friends as the women in the Far East did, you’ll discover honesty and maybe it will be cemented in tears, letting you come to grips with sorrows you had buried in your subconscious that needed to be expressed before you could move forward with your life.
If you form a Writers’ Circle, to meet for this kind of speedwriting, it can develop into a closely bonded group. Members can take turns to think of a topic but it should only be disclosed at the last minute when everyone is ready to write. I tried the experiment once with a group of my students and the subject was, believe it or not, “door handles.” It was amazing what they came up with when they let their imaginations flow unimpeded. Door handles were turned to enable them to step into magic gardens; to new and better lives; to entering places that were forbidden to them until then. The important thing to remember is confidentiality must be assured when you open up your secret imaginings and fantasies, judgments are never made, all emotions are admissable and both laughter and tears are held in equal esteem.
To those who want to write and are just taking their first steps, “stream of consciousness” writing is a wonderful way to overcome writers’ block. It lets loose intense emotions that can come to the surface and provide inspiration. In such a safe environment, it is easy to be honest with yourself.
Many authors, like Virginia Woolf, have even published their stream-of-consciousness writing. Psychologists have often used it in therapy for anxiety-ridden patients or those experiencing traumatic nightmares. The very act of writing down one’s secret fears helps to banish them. You should not try to do it on a computer, because the technology interferes with your unimpeded flow of words. I have tried this kind of speedwriting sometimes, and when I’ve read it over later, have occasionally found an unexpected poem hidden among the words.
When asked why I write (and I write a minimum of 3,000 words a day) I usually reply that I do it to clarify things for myself, to help me understand my life and put things in perspective. I find this happens even when I am writing fiction and different events are happening to characters I’ve created in my mind. My motto, printed on my letterhead, has always been: “Every act of creation is a self-portrait. Autograph your work with excellence.”
Godfrey Howard, speaking to the Authors’ Club in London, said: “Writers write because they love language, because they want to share their visions, and because they want to throw a bridge across the void.”
I believe writing is one of the most therapeutic things you can do. If you have never done more than write letters, try it. If you want to get rid of writers’ block, try it. Lose your inhibitions and let the words pour out unimpeded. You may be surprised and delighted where they will take you.
Happy writing. I am always glad to hear from you, and help you (free) with any writing problems. I now have some copies of my novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” that was made into the movie “The Golden Pomegranate” , as well as 2 other novels “Searching for Sarah” and “In a Good Pasture” – available direct from me at discount. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure. Are you ready ti pay the price? Isolation; open to criticism; iof you’d rather socialize, watch TV etc., it’s not for you. It takes commitment.
Be determined. Practice until you become at least a part-time professional. Write and keep on writing.
Be patient. Persistent. A solid writing career usually arrives later in life. This is an age of instant gratification … you won’t find it in writing, except for the joy of the work itself.
Be open. You must be willing to have all the flaws in your work exposed, so that you can fix them. A good editor will criticise your weaknesses . Runners say “No pain, no gain.” If you can’t accept criticism, you won’t last the distance.
Be curious. Read everything. Don’t strive for attention. Strive to go unseen in a crowd and WATCH people, the sky, a baby’s repertoire, how shadows lengthen. Everything eventually contributes top what you write.
Be serious. Give unstintingly of yourself – 110%. Every work of creation is a self-portrait. Autograph your work with excellence. But don’t take yourself too seriously – be able to laugh at yourself.
Be yourself. Let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through. Not to preach, but to be sincere. True opriginality lies not in saying what has never been said, but in saying what you have to say.
Happy writing. If I can help you with a writing problem, contact me directly at email@example.com My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount price. I’m always glad to hear your comments.
A few writers have recently contacted me, and said: “I really want to write a book, but I just can’t get started. ” So let’s talk about it. It’s sad that the only thing preventing you writing is actually sitting down and doing it. In this corona period, you don’t have the excuse that there’s not enough time.
Writing is good therapy. Putting thoughts on paper , especially when stressed, can be calming. With creative writing, engage the imagination and call into use your inner skills. We all possess the instinct to present facts in a way people will understand and enjoy. That is storytelling. If you have to entertain and inform, you can varnish the truth. Experience and invention – the secret to being a writer..
If we have an abiding interest in, say, romantic fiction and read it often, then you can use that sense of familiarity. If it’s thrillers or mysteries, then stick with that. But fiction is not the only form of story-telling. Whatever we read is, in essence, a story. Even if it’s about travel, or a human-interest piece about someone with an unusual job , it’s entertainment because it engages the reader’s interest and tells them something they didn’t know.
Settle down with coffee. Lots of coffee. And biscuits. Begin with structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. Look on it as a journey. Some planning is essential. Who are the main characters? Will the locations be real or invented? Contemporary, historical, futurist or fantasy? Do you need to do initial research?
Fiction engages the use of emotion, humor, drama and invention. It differs from writing features, which require a more ordered approach. That’s what makes writing fiction exciting – your imagination can take you anywhere, at any point in time. Just write the first line – a piece of dialogue or a dramatic introduction, let it take you where you will. Just let it flow … editing can come later. Write at least a page, and put it away for a day or two. Allow it to ferment in your mind. Then go back and read it. You may be surprised at what you’ve accomplished. And you’ll want to do more. That’s writing!
If I can help you with a writing problem, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org My services are free. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available from me at discount. Happy writing.
Many people find just the idea of writing a book frightening. I’ve heard it described as putting out to sea in a rowing boat, hoping you’ll eventually reach land, but aware of the dangers of storms and disasters on the journey.
I don’t think of it that way. If I had to make a comparison, it would be like an artist standing in front of a huge, blank canvas. He has a palette of wonderful colors that he can combine to make new and exciting shades. He can paint with dashing, bold swathes or delicate strokes. He can do anything he wants with the blank canvas, and his mind is filled with exciting possibilities. So it is with starting a book, particularly a novel.
If you have a burning desire to write a book, don’t discourage yourself by believing “I’m too ordinary.” No, you are extraordinary and unique. You are the only person who can write the book inside you , because – even if it’s fiction -it is still made out of your beliefs, your prejudices, the jokes you laughed at, the songs you sang. You can create characters from the essence of people you loved or hated, admired or lost, but still yearn for. However to go the distance and write a complete book, you need an almost demonic compulsiveness. There is no guarantee that it will ever be published, but the New York Times Book Review estimates that first novels have a one in ten chance. It’s a highly competitive field, but you may be just the one.
Writing a novel differs from a short story, which usually focuses on one incident and its remifications. In the novel, with its 60,000 plus word length, you have the scope for a much more complex plot. You can span many decades or cover just 18 days as Tom Clancy did in “The Hunt for Red October.” My novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” covered almost a century in Jerusalem; my novel “Esther” close to 40 years. You get a rush of power to know that you can put any words or philosophy you wish into your characters’ mouths, any thought in their minds.
The act of writing a book need not take years. None of my 14 books took me more than six months to complete, some much less, even when I had a full-time job. Aim for a minimum of 3 pages a day. With that quota, in just 90 days you will have the first draft of an average-sized book.
Remember only 10% is inspiration, the other 90% is perspiration! Sit down. Don’t doodle. Don’t even go to the bathroom during writing time unless kidney stones would result. Don’t take phone calls. Go into a trance in which your characters come to life. They’ll take over and tell you what they want to say and do. Keep the rhythm of work going until you’ve completed your word quota. Then each day will be a triumph.
You will have rejections – all writers do, even famous ones. Just re-submit until someone likes it. If it’s finally published, and you hold a copy in your hands, the thrill is like giving birth. You have created this miracle, and readers will be able to share your eyes. And the long lonely effort (for writing is a lonely occupation) is well-rewarded.
Thomas Wolfe wrote: “If a man has talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has talent and only uses half of it, he has failed. If he has a talent and learns to use the whole of it, he has succeeded and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.”
Happy writing! I am here to help with any of your writing problems – contact me at email@example.com
My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount.
No-one knows exactly where Inspiration comes from. It can arise from another person’s words; a deep emotional experience; listening to music; admiring a painting; a walk in Nature … the list is endless. I have often found inspiration from reading something written by someone else – that took my mind down hitherto unexplored roads. I often found it after reading a poem; and after reading one translated from the Sanskrit, this was the result:
ON READING ‘BLACK MARIGOLDS’ (*translated from the Sanskrit)
I hear the mysterious tinkle of temple bells
As I walk through spicy bazaars
Where merchants buy and sell silver.
Swarthy skin sweats
And almond eyes peer
As my hands touch turquoise silk.
How musically the cadences rise
And fall, silent, like dewdrops.
Words of love, lust and longing
Purified by their beauty.
Like King Solomon’s “Song of Songs”
These images too, seduce the senses.
The poem ends too soon
And I am still.
I have never seen a black marigold,
Yet suddenly it appears before me
And its perfume, tantalising,
Lingers on the breathless air.
So, try this exercise. Read a poem that you love, close your eyes and think about it. What makes it magical? What special feeling do you have after reading it? While it is still fresh in your mind, take a pen and paper, and just see what develops. You may be surprised!
Happy writing! You can contact me free with any writing problem, and I will try to help you. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount – e-mail”: firstname.lastname@example.org
Successful writers don’t write all the time. Market research, idea development and query letters fill the remaining hours, as well as administrative tasks like sending out invoices, paying bills etc.
Take a time assessment. Schedule some time for market research to sell more articles. You should write regularly, but not always for publication. Feel free to test new techniques. Write something just for you – journal, a short story, a poem or even just a scene. This is a safe environment for you to mine your emotions.
Create a Blog or Website to promote your editing, writing services, or sell your e-books. If you’ve published a few books, update the site with information about your latest novel.
Make a list of targets: List your target markets. Include the publications where excellent writing and top pay combine. Then targets for which you’d like to write regularly. The list will keep you focused and directed.
Study markets by reading past issues of the magazines you want to write for. Note publishers, agents and editors involved with them. Once you know the editors’ needs, you can become the freelancer that fills them. Always deliver on time, written to the specifications and you’ll have an ongoing source of assignments.
Joining a writers’ group is a good idea. Writing is an isolated career and you need to get out and hear other writers and get perspectives. Visit several until you find the right one. You want a blend of experience, including members who produce at a higher level than you do now. Find people who write regularly and are not afraid to share opinions in a constructive way.
Dream big! Best results often come from taking calculated risks. Send queries to dollar-a-word markets and don’t let the thought of rejection deter you. Set your sights high – there is always a publishing possibility. A positive attitude, savvy marketing and business basics will take your talent to the next level.
Even if you get a rejection, read it carefully, look for clues as to why it was a no-go. Pay attention to the comments, but don’t dwell on the rejection. Instead, use the information to prepare your next pitch.
Happy writing! You can contact me for free help with any of your writing problems, or to buy at discount one of my 14 books – my latest novel is “Searching for Sarah.” email@example.com
“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever”, wrote 19th century author Martin Tupper. Most of us would agree with that sentiment. A book can be a constant friend, enriching our lives. It can entertain, educate, console, move us to tears and laughter. Most of us have a favorite author whose new titles we await with eager anticipation, much as we would relish a banquet from a master chef.
Of course, everyone looks at a book from a different perspective, depending on whether you’re a reader, a writer, a publisher, a critic or a bookseller. I spoke to one avid reader. He told me: “When I select a new book, I already know what type of book it is – whether it belongs to a particular genre such as mystery or biography. Then I look for the name of the author. I go through stages – for instance, I have a whole collection of Alister Maclean’s books. When I was 15, I believed that there could never again be a novel to compare with A.J. Cronin’s “The Citadel.” Today I can be influenced by a book reviewer to read an unknown writer. I read biographies and history for education, and novels for their entertainment value.”
Every writer has a different agenda, but those who churn out books just to make money usually lose their readership eventually to authors whose novels reflect life in a way with which people can identify. If a book doesn’t move you, if its characters fail to arouse your compassion and the emotional progress of the story isn’t satisfying, 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; how one approaches the onset of old age; personal tragedies and triumphs; the painful losses we accrue and the people we meet and learn to love. This does not mean that every book is an autobiography, yet in a way it is, even in fiction, for every work of creation is a self-portrait. To be a writer, you must autograph it with excellence.
With each book I’ve written, it has been to clarify something for myself. Writing for me is always both therapeutic and a learning experience, and most writers I have met seem to feel the same way. Writing is a compulsion and the way we come to terms with the world. As our needs change, so do the books we write, just as artists and musicians also go through different phases in their lives.
How does one 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 feel you can’t do it alone, you try to find a literary agent, although this can be more difficult for new writers than finding a publisher. If your book is fiction, study books of a similar genre and see who publishes them. Then you might send a letter to the publishing house, asking for permission to send them a synopsis and a couple of 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 imagination, you may get a reply – especially if you send a stamped-addressed return envelope or the equivalent postage in International Reply Coupons (available from 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 few sentences of what it will contain. Make the Book Proposal as attractive as possible, even using some computer graphics. Today many publishers let you do all of the above by e-mail – read their Writers’ Guidelines before submitting.
The bottom line for publishers is how many copies they anticipate it will sell, for it is, after all, a business. There are many 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 if you are unknown. However, there are also publishers who will go out on a limb and take a risk with a first book if they see great potential and talent, or if they believe the writer will enhance their prestige. Like everything else, getting the first book published is a challenge, but after that it gets easier as you establish a reputation.
I read a couplet 50 years ago by an unknown writer, which still remains with me:
“Writing is dreaming, head in the skies;
Reading is sharing another man’s eyes.”
I am always happy to hear your comments, and will help you free of charge with any writing problems. My latest novel, “Searching for Sarah” is available at discount direct from me at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or an earlier novel “In A Good Pasture”. My first novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” has been made into a movie, titled “The Golden Pomegranate.”