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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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”: email@example.com
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.” firstname.lastname@example.org
“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: email@example.com or an earlier novel “In A Good Pasture”. My first novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” has been made into a movie, titled “The Golden Pomegranate.”
“”I am a writer!” When I dirst started writing, I read somewhere that one should say it to yourself every morning, as a way of validating yourself. As you come to believe it, you will have more motivation and success.
You don’t need to say it to anyone but yourself, if it feels like bragging, although lots of people say things like “I am a lawyer” or “I am a computer programmer” and no-one thinks it’s boastful. But “I am a writer” evokes a response in people that’s often hard to answer. “What have you written?” is the automatic response, and the truthful answer might be: “Not much!”
When I first began, I’d been writing ever since I was a child, but very little had been published. I had a desk drawer crammed with essays, half-developed short stories, some novel outlines and opening chapters I hoped to develop. All that had been published were some poems, some Letters to the Editor, and some fillers that I’d actually been paid for – not big sums, but useful to pay for postage and stationery. But I kept going because I’d read that success is where preparation and opportunity meet, so I took advantage of whatever opportunities came my way, hoping they’d lead to bigger things.
To be a writer, you must be optimistic. My favorite Chinese proverb is: “Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps the singing bird will come.” When inspiration does come, you need to embrace it and take advantage of it in every way possible. In the beginning, the only poems I got paid for were verses for a Greeting Card company, and they didn’t print my name. But real poems exist by the dozen, usually written in periods I felt highly emotional … when I thought I was in love; when I felt betrayed; when Nature turned on one of its spectacular displays in Spring – walking through the garden or a park and the air is fresh with a gentle breeze , and you see rows of daffodils and tulips in colours that make you gasp; or there is a border of freesias that perfume the air and send your senses reeling.
Roger White wrote: “When life touches us
Poems appear like bruises”…
Never a truer word has been written. The words should flow spontaneously, , being in love with the moment and letting it flower in the form of a poem.
The really 9important thing is to convince yourself that you are a real writer and repeat the mantra to yourself every night before you go to sleep, and every morning when you wake up. You’ll get there some day. So, in the meantime say it again: “I am a writer!”
I’m always happy to hear your comments, or to help you free of charge with a writing problem. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy writing!
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!
When we reach a certain age, often our children tell us it is time to write a memoir, a short history of our lives. Usually the family are happy even to pay for the printing for you. They know, as you do, it’s not likely to be of interest to anyone outside the family circle, and it doesn’t need to be a great work of literary merit, but it is to be valued and even cherished among your children and grandchildren. I am saddened that when my late father told me stories of Portuguese forebears a few generations ago that he had heard from his parents, I barely listened. Now I would love to know more about them, but there is no-one left to ask. Even if young people have little patience to listen to these old stories now, the time will come, as it did with me, when they will realise that these past generations helped to shape them and will hunger for all the information that is available.
Why does one write a memoir? There’s an old saying that to die without leaving a record is to die without an inheritance. In my religion, every Passover, throughout all the generations, Jews are instructed to tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Our personal memoir also tells the story of where we came from and how we got here … to this place in life, wherever it may be.
We read and write memoirs to find meaning in life, and as a kind of cry for immortality. The research begins with a paper chase, often difficult when those who know your history are no longer alive. You collect photos, anecdotes, records of births, deaths and marriages, anything that will shed light on your distant roots. A memoir is an impression of life, from which gradually a portrait emerges. It is a testimony of the life you have lived told in the most compelling, vivid and brave way. You should not only tell the events of your own life, but those taking place in the larger world around you that influenced your choices. Instincts and desires are also part of the equation.
It’s something like the old song: “What’s it all about, Alfie?” When we write a memoir, we attempt to put our lives in perspective. It takes perseverance to reach your goal of writing every day (if you’re really serious about finishing the job), but a dream is like a boat. To sail, you need some work and skill, but if you make the effort , your dream can eventually take you to a wonderful destination. There will be painful stops along the way, failures as well as triumphs, setbacks and achievements. Sometimes it’s not easy to admit to weakness, but everyone makes mistakes and your readers will empathise with your candour.
In your personal memoir, you will be able to examine who you are and where you sprang from. It will be necessary to choose a road between honesty and discretion, so as not to hurt those in the family who may still be alive. This record of a life lived will be a legacy that may help your descendants one day to charter their own journey through life.
Happy writing! I am always happy to hear your comments or to help you free of charge with any of your writing problems. E-mail me at:
email@example.com My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is now available direct from me.