Japanese willow in spring

Get over yourself. You’re a writer. So write. Need some help getting over a desire for perfection? Self-doubt, seen in an obsession to perfect your prose in fears of being exposed as an unworthy imposter (we’ve all felt that, right?), can be debilitating. Here are some tips from great writers that have proved helpful to me. “No matter how hard you work on your writing, there will always be other writers who are better, faster, deeper, more popular, richer. And that’s fine.” – Jane Yolen “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.” ~ Albert Einstein “A bookRead More →

If you really want to try to write a novel in a month, I am not going to stand in your way. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to commit, sitting side by side (virtually) with thousands of other avid fictioneers, to pen a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days, starting at midnight on Nov. 1 with 0 words written. Sure, a few of the impulses behind this zany idea are valid. For instance: It’s good to set goals. It’s good to create a specific timeline in which you commit to reaching a specific goal. It’s good to tell others your goals.Read More →

“There is time for everything.” – Amish saying. 1. Ask the right question: What is possible?  I’m starting a new writing project and want to make good progress this month. A motivational phrase that floats through my mind, one that resonates for me (as a busy person), comes from an Amish source: “There is time for everything.” Although this may produce an initial snort of derision, it holds a deep truth. What happens is the everything. What doesn’t happen . . . well, those ideas and wishes were merely figments of our imagination. We might envision writing an ambitious work. We might break it downRead More →

In emerging-writer discussions, I often hear versions of this question: How long do I keep trying if I’m not seeing any results in my pitches to agents or publishing houses? There are many ways to approach the answer. You can just buy into Winston Churchill’s advice to youngsters: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Yes, there’s a part of me that appreciates that kind of bulldog stubbornness. I’d definitely want it if, say, I needed to defend Great Britain from invasion from foes. ButRead More →

zen fountain

Writers, how patient are you? Do you really listen to what your stories are trying to say before you try to tell them to others? Do you give your stories enough time to grow creatively, to blossom into their fullest form? I run into plenty of newbie authors who have written a trilogy, zooming on to sequels full of plot twists and further adventures . . . before having contemplated and fulfilled the potential of their first (and most important, career-wise) novel. In contrast, accomplished authors know the importance of taking time to reflect, to put work aside for a time, to come back laterRead More →

“Thanksgiving with a Twist,” by Moira Allen (reprint from www.Writing-World.com) It’s traditional, at this time of year, to write an article about the importance of “giving thanks.” If you searched the web or browsed the blogosphere about now, you’d probably find an endless array of articles explaining why it is so important to be thankful for what we have. (. . .) However, there’s another side to “thanks-giving” that isn’t talked about so often: The issue not of giving thanks, but of receiving them. (. . .) And while reams have been written about the importance of thanking others, very little has been said, itRead More →

What is NaNoWriMo? A great surge of literary energy? Or a Feast of Fools? From their website: National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. In 2011, NaNoWriMo claimed 256,618 participants and 36,843 winners (i.e., those who finished the challenge successfully). As an earlier press release said: “They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.” As one of the participants wrote: Every year of NaNo, I feel like a winner, just for takingRead More →

“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.” Author of that quote, George MacDonald (1824–1905) was an 19th-century Scottish fantasy writer and Congregationalist minister; his novels had an enormous influence on C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle among others. I’m just back from a bit of sacred idleness myself, a week-long vacation across the big pond (Lake Michigan) to the other side: the State of Michigan’s dune-swept, sunset-prone western shoreline. I’ve been recharging the batteries of creativity, trudging around Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore, through a sparse beauty of dune flowers and grasses, looking out at horizons blue with waterRead More →

What is the calling of a great writer? To write. To celebrate. To see how everything is connected and equal. To be open to the smallest epiphany, and then to show how it is part of the largeness of the universe. “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” said Walt Whitman. Here is the job description of the poet and the writer, according to Walt Whitman in his extravagant, effusive, ecstatic rant on poetry and bold expression in his 1855 preface to Leaves of Grass: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, giveRead More →

I got a copy of this book recently, and I immediately found myself in the next several days recommending it to several authors who were considering self-publishing. The book is The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine. The brilliant thing about this practical volume (4th edition): it looks in considerable detail at key differences in the publishing contracts and basic options offered by the leading self-publishing companies. The companies analyzed include the big players: CreateSpace, Lulu, Outskirts Press, and others—a total of 24 self-publishing operations from Aventine to Xulon. Levine looks at them through a magnifying glass, discussing the pros and cons of each.Read More →

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