Finding and storing character names can be a fun yet fruitful way to spend some downtime. I use index cards to capture great names. Each card is dedicated to one letter—with one side listing first names, and the other side listing last names. I lump female and male names together since many can be interchangeable, but you could certainly have separate index cards for males and females. I then store the index cards (alphabetized) in a clear, quart-size Ziploc bag. Not only will the plastic protect the names from spills, smudges and muddy cat paws (you know what I’m talking about!), but it also provides portability so you can take them with you in your purse, briefcase, backpack, diaper bag—or right on the couch as you’re watching TV.
Without further ado, here’s ten ways and places and I’ve mined for great character names. I hope you find my list helpful!
1. TV/Movie Credits – My number one favorite way to find character names is via movie and TV credits! You know, those long lists naming the principle actors, casting directors, hairstylists, assistants, producers, propmasters, key grips and so on. If you’re looking for British names, look through the credits of shows like Poirot, Downton Abbey or Wallace and Gromit. Cartoons, anime and CGI movies/shows usually feature a plethora of Asiatic names in the artistic departments. Shows/movies filmed in Canada often have lots of French surnames. Unusual or old-fashioned names can often be found in the credits from movies/shows ranging from the 1930s-1970s. The credits from ABC’s Once Upon a Time filmed in both the U.S. and Canada, has a whole host of interesting, culturally-diverse names.
2. Public Spaces – Names are posted literally everywhere—bulletin boards, breakrooms, posters, marquees, billboards, you name it. Employee of the Month, missing person flyers, military honorees are often found on the walls of Wal-Mart, grocery stores and other shops.
3. Phone Book – Arguably the mother lode, if you don’t mind wading through thousands of names, you’ll likely find some suitable character names in your local phone book. Even better if you can get your hands on ones from other towns, states and even countries (for variety’s sake).
4. Name Books – Often consulted for baby names, but also for other moniker uses, name books are a treasure trove for fiction writers. My favorite catch-all name book is Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names by K.M. Sheard, but you can also acquire books on African names, Chinese names, Welsh names, Magickal names, baby names using numerology, British surnames, Yiddish names, Cornish names, Irish names, Armenian names, Arabic names, Russian names and more.
5. Magazines and Newspapers – Bylines, editorial lists, quoted experts, pundits, criminals, political leaders—even ads and classifieds—magazines and newspapers burst with names of all sorts.
6. Books – When it comes to both non-fiction and fiction books, you’ll find lots of fascinating names in—of all places—the Acknowledgements section. That’s right: all those relatives, friends, colleagues and publisher’s employers—thanked to high heaven—offer dozens of catchy names for the sharp eye. With non-fiction, you’ll find additional names in cited sources and bibliographies. And, don’t forget that you can use author names, as well as combinations of fictional character names, too! (Just don’t rip off entire names, which goes without saying.) And what about encyclopedias, dictionaries and Who’s Who directories? Names galore!
7. Houses of Worship – Church bulletins, cookbooks, photo yearbooks—houses of worship often publish weekly, monthly or annual newsletters, announcement flyers, fundraising cookbooks, prayer lists and get-to-know-you photobooks. What great ways to find some cool names!
8. Mythology, Fairytales and Sacred Texts – From Greek mythology to the Bible, Hindu scriptures to Norse legends, cultural and symbolic names derived from these texts permeate literature—and we, too, can borrow from these rich sources when naming our characters.
9. Genealogy and Family Papers – Recently, one of my distant cousins did some extensive genealogical research—and shared her findings via a 20-page print-out that she distributed during a family reunion. Hundreds and hundreds of names were listed, not only revealing hidden family history gems, but also providing unusual ancestral names for fiction use. Some family members love to hoard letters, bills, pamphlets, newspaper announcements and other papers with sentimental value. Ask one of your older relatives if she has any saved papers from family members (sometimes, these are found in a huge, old family Bible)—or raid your grandma’s dusty attic (with her permission!). You never know what intriguing names you’ll come across in the process.
10. Everyday Conversations – Whether it’s your husband telling of crazy co-worker antics, Mom relating neighborhood gossip, your kids talking to their friends or an old school chum sharing “remember when….?” tales, name-dropping often occurs in such situations. Sometimes, you can even catch wind of an awesome name just by “accidentally” eavesdropping at the coffee shop, post office or hair salon. Just make sure you have a notebook with you at all times to jot them down before they vaporize! Or, better yet, that plastic bag filled with index cards dedicated to character names…
If you happened to miss my presentation at the Business of Tarot TeleSummit on Writing and Pitching a Tarot Proposal (which also applies to most non-fiction books), here it is below for your listening enjoyment. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Do you have a non-fiction book ready to burst inside you? How would you like to get your creation out in the world--preferrably, to a traditional publisher?
What about a Tarot deck that you've scripted and would love to see get into print?
This Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 4 PM EST, I'll be presenting a live, free seminar on Writing and Pitching a Tarot Proposal as a part of The Business of Tarot TeleSummit. But, Tarot doesn't have to be your "thing" for you to benefit from my presentation, because what I'll share with you applies to all book proposals--especially non-fiction.
In this live presentation (yes, you can ask me questions!), I'll cover the seven crucial "knows" to increase your chances of landing a book or deck deal. Here's a sneak peek (yep, showing you what's up my sleeve!):
Know Your Brand
Know Your Topic
Know Your Readers
Know Your Elevator Pitch
Know Your Competition
Know Your Colleagues
Know Your Marketing Plan (Influencers, Outlets and Publicists)
Want to join me? Visit this link to register (again, it's free--and includes fourteen different presentations lasting from March 5 - 12, 2014). Can't make it live? Good news! Our hostess with the most-est, Heather Woodward, will be archiving them all for you to listen to later (again, all for free).
Why free? My colleagues and I want you to succeed! We're cheering you on to be the best professional you can be in Tarot--or any other service-oriented endeavor.
Will I see you there? I hope so! Click here to find out all about it (including amazing freebies and discounts for registrants--including two sample book pitches that landed me contracts...both within months of one another, and from the same publisher!).
Ever see individuals on Facebook posting that they’d love to author a book “someday”—or perhaps create a chapbook of poems, write a play or pen a movie script—but then, in the next breath, lament they “have no time”?
These same people can be found posting (at all hours) about what they ate, what they bought, what their kids did, current weather conditions and the latest cat memes.
But that’s not all.
They also post about the dozens of shows they watch—the actors, the characters, the plot, who’s hot, who’s not.
Imagine how many hours are wasted on a daily basis just on watching TV…let alone time spent on social media babbling about it.
And you don’t have time to write a poem, a blog post or a book?
Give me a freaking break.
Note: If you’re one of those people, just consider this a gentle kick in the butt to write that novel, screenplay, poem or short story you’ve been dreaming about. Unplug from the gadgets and dance with the Muse; we need your Voice!
"Do what brings you life. Do not do what deadens you." – Alan Cohen
It’s been said that shiny baubles and sparkly objects attract magpies. Apparently, they thieve such items to weave into their nests, perhaps to attract a mate.
While this can apply to hoarders, collectors and obsessive consumers—as well as dabblers and dilettantes—I’ve come to believe that this syndrome can apply to writers, too.
And I think I may be suffering from it.
Books with the prettiest covers, widespread attention and commercial success are fiction. And, having read my share of poorly written fiction, I’ve concluded “Hell, I can do better than that!”
But after three novel attempts—with encouraging feedback and “I want to see what happens!” (even from seasoned readers and published mentors)—I’m beginning to suspect that I’m deluding myself.
I’m enamored with brainstorming and new ideas. Although I’m a finisher, starting is so much more fun for me. That, and the immediate gratification of instant creativity. My husband suspects that is why I love blogging so much: I think it, I write it, I select pictures to accompany it, and BOOM! it’s out for public consumption in under 30 minutes. Same with reviewing.
There is no laboring with these types of writing, no angsting over rewrites. Come to think of it, there’s little labor or re-writing with my non-fiction books, too. The inner editor keeps me on track as I write, for the most part.
As I was talking to Ron before he left for work, he made a remark that jolted me more than he realizes, “For someone whose path is so clearly marked, you sure have a hard time figuring out what to do.”
What he meant by that is that I love writing Mind/Body/Spirit books—especially Tarot—and it’s easy for me. I mean, every part of it. Easy to come up with ideas, easy to innovate, easy to write, easy to query, easy to propose and easy to cinch yet another book deal. (Sure, it took a lot of labor to GET so proficient, but I pretty much sail through things now). If you love it, and you’re good at it, it’s your path…right?
See, I have a strong Warrior Archetype in my psyche and I think this pattern—which has served me well in overcoming major obstacles—has convinced me that any worthwhile path must be uphill. A difficult challenge. Laborious.
It’s no secret that I detest the lazy, the slackers—and the mindless who don’t question anything, especially their own assumptions.
Perhaps I’ve erroneously assumed that if something is easy for me (forgetting that it wasn’t always), I’m somehow “lazy”, or that my endeavor isn’t worthwhile.
I’ve been asking myself some hard questions about writing. Questions like:
As I’m re-reading what I wrote, I feel a bit silly. It’s like being handed bliss on a platter (which my life is, outside of writing-related angst) and saying “Oh, no. I think I’d like to forage for my own food in a dense forest 1,000 miles from here, which I’ll arrive at on foot, and then cook my meal when I get there”.
What about you, dear reader? What causes you angst in your writing life? Have you ever been torn between genres? Or wondered where the hell the “best path” for your creative life lies?
Some even advocate ingratiating on Goodreads, lollygagging at LibraryThing or swimming down the deep, dark Amazon Forums.
But once you have one or two books under your belt, with others under contract, do you really need to “do” social media? What about if you pen a column, sell a steady stream of articles or publish stories on a regular basis?
In all honesty, it depends.
It depends on four things, as I see it:
If your authorial goals involve networking with other writers, hobnobbing with industry pros (if they’ll even talk to you), securing an agent and (trying) to stay current with publishing trends, remaining active in social media may very well be beneficial to you.
However, you can get a similar experience (arguably, a better one) by choosing to opt out of real-time socializing and, instead, subscribing to informative blogs and industry mags, as well as joining supportive, professional groups organized by genre, topic or skill. In addition, some authors swear by writing conferences.
And if you’re trying to reach more readers, allow me to let you in on a secret: you attract more (and better quality) readers by continuing to publish great work. Another way to attract more readers? Getting interviewed on radio shows or podcasts. Go to BlogTalkRadio.com, for example, and search topics relevant to your writing, books and expertise.
On Twitter, for example, what you mostly find are other authors clamoring for readers, many who sound like carnival barkers. Good luck being “heard” above the herd, even if you don’t happen to be one of these obnoxious types. In fact, you’ll likely have to do some major brownnosing and ass kissing over a long period just to get people to RT you.
If your authorial goals tend towards writing more books and publishing more articles or stories, then beware of the social media time suck. Do you really want to be spending your time chatting about what you had for dinner, the latest internet meme, your mile-high TBR list or some smoke-and-mirrors scandal?
If you’re spending more time on social media than you are actual butt-in-chair writing (that is, writing towards publication), the health of your writing life may be flat lining. Some signs that your writing life needs attention STAT include:
The very act of unplugging your computer and avoiding internet access for at least a week (yes, it’s doable) can be enough to refocus your attention, recharge your batteries and resuscitate your writing life. The question is, do you have the courage to do so? Is your writing life worth it? Or would you be hunky dory with keeping things exactly as they are?
While our writing life is important, our personal life is just as important (arguably, for many, it’s more important). Some of us are wives, husbands, mothers and fathers. Others are taking care of aging parents or disabled siblings. Some have enjoyable “day jobs” with no intention of quitting despite publication success. Then there’s volunteering, spiritual/religious involvement, homeschooling/school-related events, domestic duties, close relationships, hobbies and so on.
For many writers, these enriching “personal” aspects of our life trump writing success every time. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice, unless something interferes with our happiness.
If you feel “torn” between a satisfying personal life and a rewarding writing life (especially if, for some reason, you’re finding it difficult to have both), then it’s time to do a values clarification inventory. You must ask yourself these hard questions:
Nothing sharpens our focus faster than clarifying values. (If you don’t even know what your values are, how do you expect to maintain them? Or live a satisfying life? In this case, take the time to discover and determine your values, then take steps to live in alignment with them. One of the biggest causes of personal dissatisfaction is living out of alignment with deeply held values.)
For example, if you say your kids are a priority, but you spend 5 hours a day on social media—and lay your head down every night wracked with guilt for neglecting to spend time with them—then your personal life is suffering. In this case, you do not value your kids as you say (we spend both time and money on what we truly value), or you value social media more than you value your kids or you’re caught up with internet addiction and can use some professional help.
Lastly, there’s the issue of our emotional life. If you think about it, every goal and ambition we have is—at core—the desire to feel something. As Tony Robbins points out, men don’t really want a shiny new red Ferrari. What they want is to feel virile and youthful. The Ferrari is merely a symbol or catalyst for that feelings state.
Authors want book deals, syndication and sold articles in order to feel successful, accomplished, smart, worthy, productive [fill in the blank]. Writers write for various reasons, and seek publication for a host of (sometimes) different ones.
Thus, if hanging around on social media distracts, irritates, upsets, discourages, bores or angers you, then you need to ask yourself if spending time tweeting or +ing is worth the time and aggravation.
After all, no one is guaranteed another minute of life, let alone another day or year.
Do you really want to spend your valuable time on social media, especially if the negatives outweigh the positives? If it’s contributing to living out of alignment with your core values? If it’s taking time from creating, writing and publishing? If it’s making you miserable?
Only you can answer these questions—not an industry expert, a social media guru, an internet marketer or a well-meaning fellow author. After all, they’re not living your life…you are.
And, let’s face it, 99% of the virtual people in your life right now sure as hell aren’t going to be with you on your deathbed where you’ll either be proud of who you are, how you lived and what you accomplished…or end up regretting all the mindless time sucks, stupid flamewars, jockeying for position and flailing for attention you’ve participated in online.-- Janet
In 111 Quotes for Writers, I’ve culled encouraging, motivating, inspiring and instructional passages from over 100 authors, all from source material; that is, print books, magazines and eBooks (not copy and pasted from online). While there are a dozen or two pithy quotes in this eBook, most passages are around 60-100 words…meaty chunks for you to contemplate and apply to your writing life.
Almost all of the quotes in 111 Quotes for Writers address the nuts-and-bolts of writing life, both non-fiction and fiction: how we write, why we write, where we get ideas, what we read and what it takes to make it as a working writer, as well as how we deal with anxiety, fear, guilt, envy, shame, perfectionism and other gremlins that accompany the creative temperament. Some quotes capture the emotional urgency and authenticity that needs to be present to elevate our fiction from “Who gives a damn?” to “I can’t stop reading this book!”, as well as the need for discipline, perseverance and courage. After all, writing isn’t for sissies!
So dive in at any point when you need inspired, encouraged or motivated in your writing life.
111 Quotes for Writers
1. Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do. – Stephen King (On Writing)
2. Read those authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think he way you would like to think. But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years. – Ray Bradbury (Zen in the Art of Writing)
3. Overwriting is irritating to read because oftentimes it’s a way a writer has of showing off, and of making herself too much present in her own material. Most readers want a kind of intimacy only between themselves and what’s being written about, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. – Elizabeth Berg (Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True)
4. The well-made sentence transcends time and genre. A beautiful sentence is a beautiful sentence, regardless of when it was written, or whether it appears in a play or a magazine article. Which is just one of the many reasons why it’s pleasurable and useful to read outside of one’s own genre. – Francine Prose (Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them)
5. A pro views her work as craft, not art. Not because she believes art is devoid of a mystical dimension. On the contrary. She understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique. The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods. – Steven Pressfield (The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles)
6. In writing, or any creative endeavor, removing yourself from the process for a while can have great benefits. Your brain literally gets an opportunity to make new neurological connections, which are going to take the form of new, inventive ideas, and writing that is very inspired. – Joseph Sestito (Write for Your Lives: Inspire Your Creative Writing with Buddhist Wisdom)
7. Your life will teach you which stories to tell and which details to notice. If you are faithful to the story, if you develop your intuition, prick up your ears, look for the telling details, the detail worth telling, you will be able to condense it all down into wabi sabi words filled with beauty. Then your reader will love you for telling what is real and authentic and moving. – Richard R. Powell (Wabi Sabi for Writers)
8. Too many writers avoid their own strongest feelings because they are afraid of them, or because they are afraid of being sentimental. Yet these are the very things that will make beginning work ring true and affect us. Your stories have to matter to you the writer before they matter to the reader; your story has to affect you, before it can affect us. – Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter (What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers)
9. Good criticism is necessary to any art form, but the unsolicited, negative variety is poison. If comments are unhelpful, ignore them and boldly warp into the next galaxy. – Anne R. Allen (How to Be a Writer in the E-Age…and Keep Your E-Sanity!)
10. In fiction and memoir, the writer’s main responsibilities are to write a thick, juicy steak of a story, and make the readers care, bring us to tears or outrage or heart-thumping worry. Stories with emotional power engage the reader’s intellect, senses, and emotions as he sees and hears the unfolding action. – Jessica Page Morrell (Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us)
11. Writers—all writers, at all ages and all stages—must realize all they have is the now. Just this moment. There’s not another “time” that’s better for you to write. A certain age when it’s all going to click. You haven’t missed anything, and you haven’t started too early or too late. – Heather Sellers (Chapter after Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams)
12. Quoting Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Allen Ginsberg reminded us, “first thought, best thought”. This first thought comes from your intuitive mind, where the creative process finds its foothold and the ego holds no sway. This is the place of rich images and deep thoughts. Grasp your pen lightly and let come what wants to come. – Judy Reeves (A Writer’s Book of Days)
13. The metaphor is the strongest imagistic intimate in the writer’s bag of tricks. – Walter Mosley (This Year You Write Your Novel)
14. Like fiction, nonfiction accomplishes its purpose better when it evokes emotion in the reader. We might prefer everyone on earth to be rational, but the fact is that people are moved more by what they feel than by what they understand. – Sol Stein (Stein on Writing)
15. Don’t wait for anything to guide your work. Dig deep inside of yourself. You are the collective memory of your culture. – N.M. Kelby (The Constant Art of Being a Writer)
16. On the surface, it appears that as the author you are the dominant person in your relationship with your reader, for, after all, the book would not exist without you. But rest assured that readers are quite capable of chucking your book in the trash if they don’t feel you are speaking to them—that somehow you have listened to them, have heard their wants and needs. – Hal Zina Bennett (Write Starts: Prompts, Quotes, and Exercises to Jumpstart Your Creativity)
17. While the blank page and the lack of time are both obstacles to writing, there’s another, more insidious, threat to the beginning writer: perfectionism. – Barbara DeMarco-Barrett (Pen on Fire)
18. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing. – Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones)
19. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but impatience is definitely the most lethal attitude for a writer. – Sage Cohen (The Productive Writer)
20. Above all else, believe in your abilities to become successful as a writer. Let your love of writing and the joy you find in it carry you toward your dreams. If you keep at it, you will get there. – Kelly L. Stone (Time to Write)
21. As you craft your story, make it a point to experiment with opposites and seek out surprise: publicly fastidious lawyer has a messy closet; pious church deacon has a gay lover; bucolic setting becomes the home of a serial killer. – Nancy Lamb (The Art and Craft of Storytelling)
22. When in doubt, or wherever possible, tell the whole story of the novel in the first sentence. – John Irving
23. The writers of deep and beautiful works spend real time gathering words. They learn the names of words and tools and types of roof. They make lists of color words (ruby, scarlet, cranberry, brick). They savor not only the meanings, but also the musicality of words. They are hunting neither big words nor pompous words nor Latinate words but mainly words they like. – Priscilla Long (The Writer’s Portable Mentor)
24. Make yourself your intended reader. By writing to you as your reader, you get closer than at any other time to getting your real voice on the page. You write naturally. – Les Edgerton (Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing)
25. Writing is about honesty. It is almost impossible to be honest and boring at the same time. – Julia Cameron
26. No matter what is going on in your life, know that ideal situations are not necessary for finishing a book. People who succeed in life do so because they have grit—the ability to work toward their goals whether they feel like it or not. Laura Hillenbrand, the best-selling author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At times, she could only write a paragraph or two a day. She had to perch her laptop on books because looking down at the screen made the room spin. Yet she stuck with it. Her grit—anchored in her passion for the topic—kept her writing. – Rochelle Melander (Write-a-Thon)
27. As a young writer, I don’t think I really understood that you need to prepare for writing; I figured you could just sit down and begin. But I’ve come to see that I need to be warmed up. I need to have something gestating in my head, even it’s just a little niggling idea, unformed and unknowable until I start to lure it out. – Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes (The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World)
28. If you want to engage in a vibrant conversation with the wisdom that dwells just a hair below your conscious awareness, write. – Janet Connor (Writing Down Your Soul)
29. Getting a novel written consists not of joyous rapture but of applying your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard and grinding things out word by word, sentence by sentence. You can whine or you can write, but you can’t do both. – Todd A. Stone (Novelist’s Boot Camp)
30. The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read. – Austin Kleon (Steal Like an Artist)
31. People who are “ready” give off a different vibe from people who aren’t. Animals can smell fear. And the lack thereof. The minute you become ready is the minute you stop dreaming. Suddenly it’s no longer about “becoming”. It’s about “doing”. You don’t get the dream job because you walk into the editor’s office for the first time and go, “Hi, I would really like to be a sportswriter one day, please.” You get the job because you walk into the editor’s office and go, “Hi, I’m the best frickin’ sportswriter on the planet.” And somehow the editor can tell you aren’t lying, either. You didn’t go in there, asking the editor to give you power. You went in there and politely informed the editor that you already have the power. That’s what being “ready” means. That’s what “taking power” means. Not needing anything from another person in order to be the best in the world. – Hugh MacLeod (Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity)
32. Take the essence of your story and amp it. Add characters and pile on the emotion. Playwrights used to limit the number of characters in their stories, not wanting to crowd the stage. But when Williams crams six or eight people onto the scene at once and sets them all at one another’s throats, we get a chance to feel their emotional claustrophobia and unwanted interdependence. Amp up your action by adding cunning, vindictiveness, jealousy, fear of exposure, stupidity, even death. – Elizabeth Sims (Writer’s Digest November/December 2012)
33. If you want to be any kind of artist, you’ve got to have that tenacity to keep beating your head against the wall…The idea of the impossible is an illusion, and it will look very different on the other side. It’s a matter of persevering. – Dave Cullen (Writer’s Digest October 2011)
34. “I don’t have enough time/people/experience”. Stop whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative. Ever seen the weapons prisoners make out of soap or a spoon? They make do with what they’ve got. Now we’re not saying that you should go out and shank somebody—but get creative and you’ll be amazed at what you can make with just a little. Shakespeare reveled in the limitations of sonnets (fourteen-line lyric poems in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme). Haiku and limericks also have strict rules that lead to creative results. Writers like Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver found that forcing themselves to use simple, clear language helped them deliver maximum impact. – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (Rework)
35. No one says you have to write your book in strict chronological order. Some writers start at the end and write their way back to the beginning. Or they write one complete plot strand, getting completely immersed in all its possibilities and the personalities involved. When that’s done, they write another complete strand, and another. Then they chop them all together like rough-cutting a movie. – Roz Morris (Nail Your Novel)
36. Each piece you complete is an act of faith in the process and value of creativity, a great big Molly Bloom yes to your curious, creative, courageous side. – Bonni Goldberg
37. Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder. – Raymond Chandler
38. I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within. – Eudora Welty
39. Bam. Bam. Bam. That’s what this writing thing feels like sometimes. But you get up and keep hitting back. You have to know, going in, that you need to develop rhino skin to survive. The good news is you can develop it. Every time you come back from a setback and write some more, you create a little more of that protective coating, that inner strength. So if you can look at the big picture, with all the odds stacked against you…if you can understand full well that you will be taking hit after hit…if you can understand all that and still have that inner ferret that says, “write, dang you!”—then no, you shouldn’t quit. – James Scott Bell (Writing Fiction for All Your Worth)
40. Once we have begun it, we continue reading a novel largely because we care about what happens to the character. But for us actually to care about these actors in the drama on these printed pages, they must become real people to us. An event alone cannot hold a story together. Nor can a series of events. Only characters effecting events and events affecting characters can do that. – Elizabeth George (Write Away: One Writer’s Approach to the Novel)
41. A story must have the ability to engender a sense of urgency from the first sentence. Everything else—fabulous characters, great dialogue, vivid imagery, luscious language—is gravy. This is not to disparage great writing in any way. I love a beautifully crafted sentence as much as the next person. But make no mistake: learning to “write well” is not synonymous with learning to write a story. And of the two, writing well is secondary. Because if the reader doesn’t want to know what happens next, so what if it’s well written? In the trade, such exquisitely rendered, story-less novels are often referred to as a beautifully written “Who cares?” – Lisa Cron (Wired for Story)
42. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. There’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space. – Joan Didion (The New York Times Book Review)
43. I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. – Terry Tempest Williams (Northern Lights magazine)
44. To create a novel’s emotional landscape you must first open yourself to your own. That’s hard to do. If it’s difficult to confide your feelings to those close to you, consider how much more fearful it is to do with strangers. But that’s what you’re doing whether you’re aware of it or not. There is wired inside you a terror of exposing yourself to embarrassment, shame, and ridicule. But here you are writing fiction. Are you nuts? Or, more to the point, is that what people will think of you when they read your work? The inhibiting effect of shame cannot be overstated. It explains why some writers slide into genre clichés or literary imitation. To put authentic emotions on the page, you need to own them. When you do, readers will respect you. Its’ when you hide that readers feel shortchanged, cheated, and only minimally involved. – Donald Maass (Writing 21st Century Fiction)
45. As a man who has knocked about the arts for some time, I can only say that in the presence of a poet I am struck with awe that I should behold so courageous a man. I never felt that way about generals or admirals, for our society is organized to protect the warrior. – James A. Michener
46. Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, or hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram. – William Strunk and E.B. White (The Elements of Style)
47. Writers kid themselves—about themselves and other people. Take the talk about writing methods. Writing is just work—there’s no secret. If you dictate or use a pen or type with your toes—it is just work. – Sinclair Lewis
48. Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in a human condition. –Graham Greene
49. The art of writing cannot be taught, but the craft of writing can. No one can teach you how to tap inspiration, how to gain vision and sensibility, but you can be taught to write lucidly, to present what you say in the most articulate and forceful way. Vision itself is useless without the technical means to record it. – Noah Lukeman (The First Five Pages)
50. Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write. If it all feels hopeless, if that famous “inspiration” will not come, write. If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not—and the odds are against it—go to your desk, not matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper—write. – J.B. Priestly
51. The idea of “inspiration”, as it’s commonly understood, does a great deal of damage to writers. For one thing, it devalues craft, which I think is the most important part of writing. It also, as I’ve cautioned before, reinforces the notion that the writer himself or herself is somehow not enough. That some special talent or knowledge or divine gift—something outside of the writer—is necessary. – Dennis Palumbo (Writing from the Inside Out)
52. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy. – Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird)
53. This is the ultimate magic trick of language: to evoke in the reader not just an understanding of the thing described but the sensation of it. It’s not enough just to tell a reader the thing exists and ask him to take its existence on faith; you must allow him to experience it for himself. – Joseph Bates (The Nighttime Novelist)
54. When the conditions are right, live things creep up. The author does not need to airlift them in. No need to insert a reptile here, something symbolic over there. The most potent meaning arises indigenously. It looks like earth, like mud, like a log. The more your eyes discern the particulars of the physical world and its inhabitants, the more meaningful your work becomes. This is the meaning that, when it’s laid dormant in the sun long enough, strikes with a devouring force…To write well, we must sink into the silt of this world. – Bonnie Friedman (Writing Past Dark)
55. Every day you are afraid. Every day you move through fear to your desk, and as soon as you pick up your pen, or read the sentence left over from the night before, incomplete, needing an adjustment in rhythm—a stronger verb, a slash of color or the taste of bitter herbs—in that moment of solving the problems, all fear dissolves. You are writing again. – Sophy Burnham (For Writers Only)
56. The best time for planning a book is while you are doing the dishes. – Agatha Christie
57. In his ambrosial book Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury answers the pestering questions he gets about the origins of his ideas emphasizing the daily need to move forward. “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together”. He does this in a surprisingly simple fashion, by venturing into his museum-like writing studio and fingering one of his thousands of travel souvenirs, or opening a dictionary and choosing a single world. He then seizes the memory, emotion, or word and, as Klee said, takes it out for a walk—which invariably results in a story he didn’t even know he had in him. The operative word, again, is seize, as in the moment, our destiny as creative souls. – Phil Cousineau (Stoking the Creative Fires)
58. The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world. – Jonathan Franzen
59. Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn. – Gore Vidal
60. I’m not sure if it takes deep denial or courage to sit at one’s desk day after day doing this. In the middle of my writing career, I once studied to go into a different profession; the main lure was having a desk out of the house and coworkers. Not to mention a regular paycheck. I studied for two years and had a good time doing this job, but I couldn’t get over the sense of not being in my own skin and had to quit. – Barbara Abercrombie (A Year of Writing Dangerously)
61. Remember, nobody is born a professional. So this stuff has to be learned and practiced. Stephen King used to be some guy who had a traumatic experience in his childhood. Janet Evanovich did not always have her face plastered across a bus. There was a time when no one knew what a muggle was, not even J.K. Rowling. These writers and, indeed, all writers, were once simply somebody’s baby—a mother’s son, a father’s daughter, and then, eventually, they became writers. At some point thereafter, they became darn good writers, and then even farther down the road they became the writers we know and love today. Writing is work, just like many other kinds of work that require a certain amount of artfulness and intuition. And the more willingly you acknowledge the more well-rounded qualities of the writing life, the better you will far. – Christina Katz (The Writer’s Workout)
62. A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down… If it is a good book, nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him. – Edna St. Vincent Millay
63. When a reader fully believes our story, both intellectually and emotionally, he moves in and unpacks his bags. No longer a tourist living out of a suitcase, ordering room service and watching suspiciously from his hotel window as the natives bustle on the street below, he has become, for the moment at least, a native himself. He changes into comfortable clothes, strolls the avenues, eats in open-air cafes, even tries the local catch-of-the-day. He turns another page in the book. Anything is possible. Who knows? He might even fall in love. – Rebecca McClanahan (Word Painting)
64. If you won’t enjoy reading it, you won’t enjoy writing it. – Chris Baty (No Plot? No Problem!)
65. There’s a certain charm in what is spontaneous. I want the reader to feel that I’m telling the story to him or her in particular. When you tell a story in the kitchen to a friend, it’s full of mistakes and repetitions. I try to avoid that in literature, but I still want it to be a conversation, like storytelling usually is. It’s not a lecture. – Isabel Allende (Why We Write)
66. You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well. – Jennifer Egan (Why We Write)
67. Writers make their way toward intensity via soul-jarring themes, stories awash in peril, characters on the edge, smoldering conflict, manic introspection, inflamed dialogue, and other such strategies. But the foot soldiers along the march are words and their style of delivery: words that advance steadily until, at key moments, they gather force to penetrate the reader’s armored resistance. – Arthur Plotnik (The Elements of Expression)
68. If you feel comfortable telling people about your novel in advance, more power to you, but be aware that you might be affected by their responses. If they give you too much praise, will you feel the weight of trying to live up to their expectations? Will this energize your writing or give you writer’s block? If the response is reserved or negative, will you doubt the value of your story? Will a cool response diminish your own love for the idea? If you think the work might be damaged by poor reactions and if you can live without the instant gratification of advertising your novel before it is written, protect the process of writing your book by keeping it to yourself. – Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb (Your First Novel)
69. Seeing sharply and accurately is part of the contract the author makes with the reader. When we talk about a writer’s vision, we’re usually talking metaphorically…but we’re most persuaded by an author who literally has an acuity of vision. – Tony Eprile (Poets & Writers, March/April 2013)
70. It is an immutable law of the universe that humans simply cannot, under any circumstances, no matter how hard they try, be completely objective about what they’ve written. That’s why, once you finish a draft of your proposal or manuscript, it’s important to let it sit and ferment, marinate and settle. Move away from your work for a bit. This will help you with your objectivity. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between the amount of objectivity you can achieve and the time you spend away from your material. – Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry (The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published)
71. Every writer aims to immerse the reader so deeply into the story, to so hypnotize the reader with the details and the writing, that she continues turning the pages. You want your reader to feel like she’s literally present in your fictional world, running right alongside your characters as they get swept up in the action of the story. This is, after all, one of the reasons people read: to lose themselves in a world more interesting than their own. – Sarah Domet (90 Days to Your Novel)
72. Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. habit is persistence in practice. – Octavia Butler
73. I warm up and break through the ice called writer’s block by writing poetry. If I can’t come up with a topic for a poem, I’ll look at the headlines in newspapers or magazines and find something to write a poem about. Once I write the poem, I’m ready to return to the longer work like a short story or novel. – Lloyd Lofthouse
74. Only kings, editors, and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial “we”. – Mark Twain
75. Forget the boring old dictum “write what you know”. Instead, seek out an unknown yet knowable area of experience that’s going to enhance your understanding of the world and write about that. – Rose Tremain
76. I type in one place, but I write all over the house. – Toni Morrison
77. What to do with your dreams? Some of us mumble them to our families over breakfast or dinner. Others write them down in a dream journal. Jacquelyn Mitchard took one of her dreams and molded it into the best-selling novel The Deep End of the Ocean. Author Stephanie Meyer was a mom and a homemaker when she had a dream that became the basis for her best-selling Twilight series. – Rochelle Melander (Write-a-Thon)
78. A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives us the right to dream. – Gaston Bachelard
79. Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it. – Jesse Stuart
80. What works for one writer becomes paralyzing for the next. – Karen E. Peterson
81. One telling detail will take you further than a page of description. – Michael Connelly
82. Most beginning writers (and I was the same) are like chefs trying to cook great dishes that they’ve never tasted themselves. How can you make a great (or even adequate) bouillabaisse if you’ve never had any? If you don’t really understand why people read mysteries (or romances or literary novels or thrillers or whatever), then there’s no way in the world you’re going to write one that anyone wants to publish. – Daniel Quinn
83. Stories move people to think and act. Anais Nin said, “What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see new meanings in it.” Art, in the form of a story well told, may literally transform the reader and the culture from the inside out. “A book ought to be an ice pick to beak up the frozen sea within us”, said Franz Kafka. Stories hold the power to transform the very society they are said to reflect, making storytelling among the highest of callings. – Elizabeth Lyon (A Writer’s Guide to Fiction)
84. I’m a full-time believer in writing habits. You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. – Flannery O’Connor
85. Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. – Elie Wiesel
86. Writing longhand will help you experience your writing in a different way. Your mind will think in a different manner, both because writing longhand is a slower process and also because you won’t have the opportunity to backspace and erase the words you’ve just written. Writing in longhand is a more deliberate act. There is an elegant simplicity to writing longhand: it takes writing back to a primal and pleasing place. As an added incentive, there’s also a sense of instant gratification. The moment you make a mark, it is real. Unlike the sometimes dicey business of storing your writing on a computer’s hard drive, the handwritten page won’t disappear into a mysterious Ethernet void. – Amy Peters (The Writer’s Devotional)
87. I believe more in scissors than I do in the pencil. – Truman Capote
88. Mining the places you have lived can be a great way to unearth ideas. Too often we feel that the places we were born and raised lack the sort of exoticism that will attract readers. We think this because the places are not exotic to us. We take them for granted. I was born and raised in Ohio, which is synonymous with, even symbolic of, bland America. Of course, what is ordinary to us can be exotic to someone else. The key is being able to truly see the world around you, finding the details that evoke it. A world that is keenly evoked will be exotic to those who don’t know it well and will allow those who do know it well to see it with fresh eyes. – Jack Heffron (The Writer’s Idea Book)
89. Everything that I have written has the closest possible connection with what I have lived through inwardly. – Henrik Ibsen
90. First, there is the writing, then the exhilaration from feeling good about writing, then the guilt for the time spent writing when there are a dozen other obligations that should be met. So what’s the appeal? Why torture yourself? The appeal is that you are burning to say something, to express yourself, to make someone feel happy or sad or angry or just laugh. The appeal is that you believe what you have to say can make a difference in someone’s life, and you just might reach a bigger audience and impact several lives. You are the only one who can say what you have to say in just your way. And if it’s something powerful, something that can improve humanity or bring insights or change the world, or make people think or laugh—then why feel guilty? What are you waiting for? Get busy writing. – Nancy Ellen Dodd (The Writer’s Compass)
91. I don’t necessarily start with the beginning of the book. I just start with the part of the story that’s most vivid in my imagination and work forward and backward from there. – Beverly Cleary
92. Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph. Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about quality. Do feel anxiety—it’s the job. – Roddy Doyle
93. It’s necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. – Vita Sackville-West
94. If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster. – Isaac Asimov
95. Even with descriptions that have nothing to do with character emotion, there are ways you can show rather than tell. Rather than telling your readers that your hero’s car is an old broken down wreck, you can show him twisting two bare wires together to turn on the headlights, or driving through a puddle and being sprayed from the holes on the floor. That way your readers can draw their own conclusions about the car’s condition for themselves. – Renni Browne and Dave King (Self-Editing for Fiction Writers)
96. In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it. – Alex Haley
97. One of my theories about writing is that the process involves an ongoing interchange between Left Brain and Right. The journal provides a testing ground where the two can engage. Left Brain is analytical, linear, the timekeeper, the bean counter, the critic and editor, a valuable ally in the shaping of the mystery novel or any piece of writing for that matter. Right Brain is creative, spatial, playful, disorganized, dazzling, nonlinear, the source of the Aha! or imaginative leap. Without Right Brain, there would be no material for Left Brain to refine. Without Left Brain, the jumbled brilliance of Right Brain would never coalesce into a satisfactory whole. – Sue Grafton (Writing the Private Eye Novel)
98. If your whole reason for writing is to pontificate on, for example, the dangers of certain habits or lifestyles, you risk sounding preaching…If your theme is the danger of alcoholism, simply tell a story in which an alcoholic suffers because of his bad decisions and give the reader credit. If your story is powerful enough, your theme will come through. – Jerry B. Jenkins (Writer’s Digest, August 2006)
99. I know writers who write only when inspiration comes. How would Isaac Stern play if he played the violin only when he felt like it? He would be lousy. – Madeleine L’Engle
100. Writing genre fiction is a calling more prone to humiliation than most fields of creative endeavor. Yes, we face the same rejections from agents and publishers, the mortification of being asked if we write under our own names, the shame of events where only two people turn up. But we also face the indignity of being one of a bunch in the review section’s crime round up. And possible worst of all, the perennial question: “Have you ever thought of writing a proper novel?” – Val McDermid (Motification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame)
101. I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this. – Cormac McCarthy
102. I never knew what was meant by “finding your voice”. Not for ages. I think I now know. I believe it means finding a way to write what is comfortable for you. It’s finding the method to tell your story that seems natural and unaffected. That way you’re not going to get caught out all the time trying to keep up with some kind of style that you think may be appropriate. – Maeve Binchy (The Mave Binchy Writer’s Club)
103. And writing a book may take you the same amount of time as it does to build a house. Having a long project that will need to transpire over time has its own advantages: as it goes along, it will become a measure of your capacity to stick to this often-thankless-feeling work. It will also continually teach you new things. Your novel will tell you things you never knew about your own soul, these being those truths known so far by no one else but you. – Jane Vandenburgh (Architecture of the Novel
104. Good writing is remembering detail most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth. – Paula Danzinger
105. Carry a heavy rock around with you (in your purse, backpack, or briefcase) to represent your barriers, fears, or problems in your writing. Carry it for several days until you become really annoyed with the burden. Then—without getting caught—place the rock in the garden of someone who annoys you. Or, on a more positive note, throw the rock in a lake and enjoy watching your fears symbolically sink out of sight. – Bill O’Hanlon (Write is a Verb)
106. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. – Harper Lee
107. You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, “This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can—buy me or not—but this is who I am as a writer.” – David Morrell
108. We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. If we can’t make up stories about ordinary people, who can we make them up about? …Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting. – John Updike
109. You better make them care about what you think. It had better be quirky or perverse or thoughtful enough so that you hit some chord in them. Otherwise it doesn’t work. I mean we’ve all read pieces where we thought, “Oh, who gives a damn”. – Nora Ephron
110. In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write. – J. K. Rowling
111. The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. It’s a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can’t say you’re going to write romance when you don’t even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it. – Nora Roberts
Janet Boyer (JanetBoyer.com) is the author of The Back in Time Tarot Book (Hampton Roads) which features her innovative Back in Time (BIT) Method for experiencing the cards through memories, favorite books, songs and movies. Featuring over 100 journaling exercises and fun anecdotes from personal stories, literature, film and world events, Back in Time Tarot was chosen the #8 book of 2008 by One Spirit Book Club Editors, along with Deepak Chopra and other respected Mind/Body/Spirit authors. Her second book, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer Publishing), explains the upside down cards in a Tarot spread in an entertaining, accessible manner and includes pop culture anecdotes, hundreds of key phrases and 1,650 affirmations (20 for each card). Her third traditionally published book, Naked Tarot, is forthcoming from Dodona Books, as is her fourth: 365 Tarot: Daily Meditations. Janet is also the author of over a dozen eBooks.
The Snowland Deck, co-created with her artist husband, Ron, is available now at http://SnowlandDeck.com This frosty, child-friendly deck is a perfect companion for children, kidults, writers, creatives and therapists. Janet is also the co-creator of the Coffee Tarot, and creator of the Boyer Charming Oracle.
An Amazon.com Hall of Fame reviewer, Janet has written over a thousand reviews, articles and interviews for both print and online publications, specializing in Mind/Body/Spirit topics.
Janet makes her home in the gorgeous state of Pennsylvania with her soulmate, Ron, and their teenage son (whom she homeschools).
“Writing career growth takes root and flourishes when you give it ample time and plenty of practice. When you rush it or push it beyond its capacity, you get diminished results.” – From The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz
As a scribe in the writing game, have you ever wished for a coach to help strategize your next move, an enthusiastic cheerleader to encourage flagging resolve and a waterboy to replenish depleted reserves? What about a warm yet honest friend that, after a tough game, gently points out why you may have fumbled or missed a pass, yet is also quick to praise brilliant tackles, yards gained and sportsmanlike conduct?
Divided into 4 seasons (and 366 chapters) that can represent actual chronological seasons or the symbolic cycles of a writing life, readers can use The Writer’s Workout whenever sage advice and helpful tips are wanted and needed.
From organizational skills to restocking the creative well, establishing visibility to avoiding people pleasing, Christina also addresses the periphery of the writing life that, while not actual butt-in-seat labor, nevertheless impacts an author’s career and wellbeing.
But make no mistake, the author dispenses loads of great writing advice (peppered with humor), too. For example, periods and commas should always stay inside quotation marks lest they look like white bras worn on top of a black turtleneck or whitey-tighties on the outside of denim jeans. (Ha! That’s a grammar mistake I never make, either, but I am an unabashed overuser of the em dash…Trailing ellipses, too, as you can see.)
The two-page introduction to The Writer’s Workout alone contains some of the best writing advice I’ve come across (and know first-hand that works), e.g. “creativity should not be rushed and writing careers take time to mature”, “you are exactly where you are supposed to be”, “slow and steady wins the race” (whatever winning means to you), etc.
Here are just a few examples of the fantastic topics offered by the author:
Spring: Get Going
Summer: Find Your Stride
Fall: Become Recognizable
Winter: Coach Yourself
And the icing on the cake? 366 well-chosen quotes heading each chapter. I’m a huge fan of quotes, and more than one insightful passage has gotten me through tough times as a published author and reviewer. Right now, I’m relishing the quote Christina chose to head Chapter 84 (Don’t People Please), penned by Rachel Naomi Remen: “Approval cannot be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it.”
At 374-pages, The Writer’s Workout (published by Writer’s Digest Books) is one of the best writing books on the market in my opinion (I own well over 120 of them), addressing actual concerns and issues facing all writers—from beginners to published-for-decades veterans. I’ve had this book for several years and am currently immersing myself in the author’s timely words yet again so I can discover new strategies, remind myself of reliable tactics, embrace balanced approaches, continue growing as a writer and remember I’m not alone.
I own over 150 books on the writing craft, both in print and in digital format. I love supporting my fellow authors with coin just as much as I enjoy reading their wise insights on craft and their encouragement to keep on keepin’ on with the creative life.
Last summer, I noticed my highlights in a particular book. Wow, this is good stuff, I thought. It’s always fun to revisit inspirational or instructional passages. I pulled another writing book off my shelf, and another. A trip down Highlighting Memory Lane, I guess.
I marveled at how far I had come as an author since buying my very first writing book over a decade ago (Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg): two traditionally published non-fiction books, another under contract for this year, over a dozen eBooks, a companion book to an oracle/creativity deck I created with my artist husband, over 1,200 reviews on Amazon.com that netted me the coveted title of Hall of Fame Reviewer (there are only 125 of us), various magazine articles and more.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be where I am today, especially as the daughter of blue-collar parents in the heart of coal mining rural Pennsylvania (where I still live)—and as a parent, myself, to a special needs son (whom I homeschool).
Struck by how much I’ve benefited from writing books—and writing magazines, too—I had the idea to curate the best quotes from these books to help encourage my fellow writers…especially ones that felt alone, discouraged, dejected and overwhelmed.
Amidst other projects, including publishing our Snowland Deck and overseeing all that went with it, I’ve been working on 111 Quotes for Writers for half a year. Two weeks ago, I decided to buckle down and get the eBook finished, so I spent about eight hours a day or more—every day—poring over dozens of writing books and magazines to cull the best brief quotes to share. (Yeah, in addition to buying lots of writing books, I also subscribe—or had subscriptions to—Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, Publisher’s Weekly, Bookmarks, Tin House, Lapham’s Quarterly, Poetry and The New York Review of Books).
At last, I finished the eBook earlier this week! I was so excited about this eBook, because I know the value of a timely quote of encouragement, inspiration or motivation to bridge the gaping maw between despair and hope, fear and courage—especially with the often solitary, angst-producing writing life.
Imagine my dismay that, within seconds, one of the writers (who I’m not going to name) tweeted back to me:
Wait, I'm sorry, are you selling our quotes?
The implication is obvious.
I went to his twitter timeline and, not surprisingly, he tweeted to his followers about “some lady” trying to make a buck off his work.
Mortified, hurt and embarrassed, I tweeted back something about “fair use” but, noting his tone, I said something like “You know what? I’ll remove the quote. I don’t want to point people to you or your work after all.”
Doing what many self-important people do on Twitter—the ultimate act of passive-aggressiveness, in my opinion—he retweeted MY tweet to his followers to involve them. Now, they knew who this “lady” was. It’s a favorite tactic of bigheaded authors: draw blood, and allow the sharkophants to finish off the individual.
Suddenly, I get an onslaught of tweets from perfect strangers, calling me a thief and plagiarist, as well as other nasty invectives.
I ended up blocking about two dozen people in an hour’s time, including the author.
Understand that when I call this author “bigheaded”, I’m not exaggerating. He used to be a pretty cool guy before he became known. But then he got some book deals, began blogging on the writing craft and—viola!—the fame gods and fairwind crowds blew favor his way. He began unfollowing people right and left. He said he could only be bothered with following the “important” people in the industry (not the readers that got him where he was, of course).
And although I stopped following him because his cockiness nauseated me, I still quoted him in my eBook because I felt a brief passage from one of his (self-published) eBooks was valuable.
Two Writer’s Digest authors that I happened to be Facebook friends with, Joseph Bates (The Nightime Novelist) and Christina Katz (The Writer's Workout, Get Know Before the Book Deal, Writer Mama , thanked me for including them in my 111 Quotes for Writers. I appreciated that, but still felt awful. Why do I even bother? I asked myself.
The next day, Lisa Cron, author of the fantastic Wired for Story, thanked me heaps on Twitter (not sure how she found out she was in my eBook—must have been the brouhaha). Also, one of my favorite Writer’s Digest contributors, Elizabeth Sims, sent me an enthusiastic email wishing me success with the eBook and thanking me for including her in such good company (I had never communicated with her before, so it was so cool to get a note from her. Yes, I’m a fangirl! And spreading the love for writers I admired was one of the motivating factors in penning this eBook, especially since I don’t have the time to write many reviews these days.) By the way, Elizabeth's coming out with a brand new writing craft book next month called You've Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams. Woohoo!
See, these professional authors don’t have a scarcity mindset. They understand that having ME quote THEIR books means dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of new readers discovering their stellar work—which was part of my intent. After all, that’s why I started reviewing over a decade go: to push great books on a hungry reading public. And in this glutted age of information overload, discoverability matters.
I gazed at all the writing craft books in my library. I pulled book after book off the shelves. Here’s just some of what I found: the books listed below all feature quotes from writers—at the beginning of chapters, sidebars, etc. Please understand that the numbers beside each book do NOT reflect passages excerpted for the express purpose of instruction, but are merely “ornamental” quotes.
Author Julia Cameron quoted several (living) authors six or more times in sidebars—with no mention of where she got the quote. Indeed, none of the books below states where the quotes are from—just who said it. However, in my 111 Quotes for Writers, I credited the book or magazine article where I found the quote (when applicable, which was most cases). Only one author was a repeat quote in my eBook, by the way (I sourced110 different authors).
The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron – 391 quotes
The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz – 366 quotes
A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie – 365 quotes
The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters – 260 quotes
For Writer’s Only by Sophy Burnham – 220 quotes
A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves – 216 quotes
Write-a-Thon by Rochelle Melander – 91 quotes
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by Editors of Writer’s Digest - 86
Do you seriously think that any of these amazing authors/editors were accused of plagiarism? Called a “thief” or worse on Twitter? Got permission from every single author to use those quotes?
I don’t, either.
So…why was I?
Is it because my eBook was self-published? Or was it simply yet another case of hyena mob rule on social media—cyberbullying at its finest?
Did you know that “Quotations” is a sub-genre of Reference? Sure is. So, according to some of those reactionary tweeters, anyone who’s ever penned a book of quotations is a “plagiarist” and “thief”, out to “make a buck” on the beleaguered backs of those they quoted.
One of my Facebook friends asked me how I would feel if I were quoted in a book.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “I’d be thrilled! More exposure for me and my work. Why in the world would I mind being quoted? It’s an honor!”
If any of the authors I quoted do NOT feel it’s an honor or good exposure, by all means email me. I’ll gladly remove your quote and name from my eBook, as well as all vendor descriptions.
P.S. In the Kindle version of 111 Quotes for Writers, I had planned on hyperlinking to every single book that I quoted from so that readers could click and discover more about the title on Amazon.com—and, hopefully, purchase it. The only reason I didn’t is that I couldn’t figure out how to copy-and-paste URLs in Word’s hyperlink box (it only allows me to type in URLs). When I realized how much time it would take me to manually type in those Amazon URLs with its convoluted strings of numbers and letters, I abandoned the idea.
Note: I had intended to write 111 Quotes for Tarot Lovers, and although I paid a professional to design my cover (as I did with 111 Quotes for Writers)—and am a dozen quotes into it—I’ve decided not to dedicate my time to an endeavor that may provoke a similar reaction among some hostile individuals. In fact, I don’t plan to pursue my Call 111! series at all after this experience.
When I stumbled on a Facebook page announcing a Next Best Fiction Author Contest, I was intrigued.
Even more so when I realized it was sponsored by Hampton Roads, the publisher of my first book, Back in Time Tarot.
In addition to my Tarot writing, I'm also working on the first book of a cozy mystery series called Scry Me a River. I'm almost done with Chapter 5 with 11,000+ words written
Hmm. I thought. Might be interesting to enter my mystery novel in this contest. After all, I had a great experience with Hampton Roads for my first book.
So after I signed up for the free contest, I asked a question on the Next Best Author Facebook page. Radio silence. Weeks later, still no response.
According to NextBestAuthorContest.com, contestants will download the first two chapters on April 15th. We were to watch for "important details" via email. Well, here it is, April 10...and no details.
I just visited the Next Best Author Facebook page to check for updates and what do I find? Several individuals asking for specific information on the contest and downloading files...with no replies to them, either.
So, I've decided to not enter the Next Best Fiction Author Contest for the following reasons:
1. Hampton Roads publishes Mind/Body/Spirit titles...not fiction. Whether they're trying to enter the fiction market is unknown, but why should I risk my fiction book on a company with no fiction traction?
2. The website appears to be secondary to an "Author Training Course" taught by Randy Davila...for a price. It appears he's modeling himself after Reid Tracy and Hay House in terms of reaching out to authors.
3. The contest hinges on "public voting", so it will probably be easy to game the system. The website doesn't disclose if popular vote snags the contract, or a combination of total votes and editorial approval.
4. Hampton Roads doesn't have a social media presence for their titles. At all. Sure, Randy Davila does--as president of Insight Events, Hierophant Publishing and Hampton Roads. But, again, these are all "how we can help you get published" campaigns that cost authors money. How is the promise of giving the winning author a "social media presence" an incentive, if the founder of Hampton Roads doesn't even have a dedicated FB page, Twitter account or blog specifically featuring--and about--Hampton Roads titles? Since Hampton Roads is now distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari--now the Red Wheel Group--it appears that Mr. Davila has allowed his titles to become folded in with the RWG's social media efforts. But, again, you'd be hard pressed to find dedicated posts or tweets about actual Hampton Roads books or authors.
Thus, why would I want to enter my novel-in-progress for the Next Best Fiction Author Contest if:
What do you think, dear reader? Does this look like an attractive contest to you? Or just a clever way to promote their "Author Training Course", hoping that authors desperate for publication (and increasing their odds for the contest) will fork over $100 or more for such "training"?
I belong to a writing group where member Jim Woods issued a facinating blog challenge:
How does faith influence your art? What role does it play? Does your faith have implications in what you write?
Since I left my life as an ordained, Pentecostal minister and cannot--in good conscience--call myself a Christian (or, indeed, any religious label), this is a provocative challenge for me, personally.
At a loss for words (at first) I looked up the word "Fath" at Dictionary.com. The first definition:
Confidence or trust in a person or thing.
Ah...this I can work with!
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have confidence in myself. I am confident that, despite what I just wrote, I will never be at a loss for words (::wink::). I am confident that one of my strengths is communication, and so I'll use it to the best of my ability. I trust that I'll always see the world with fresh, curious eyes and--in trying to capture what I'm seeing, exploring or pondering at a given time--will convey this passion using words.
Now, if we're talking about "something bigger than yourself", I believe in an Intelligent Mind. Some call it God, Higher Power, Goddess, All-That-IS or myriad other names. I believe that every person, every myth, every spiritual tradition has a piece of the "God" puzzle.
For my part, I have faith in what Caroline Myss calls Sacred Contracts. It's the idea that, before we come to this Earth, we get together with God, our angels, our guides--you know, the Big Guns--and look over our soul's growth. We confer as to what the Soul--MY soul--wants to experience this time around. Basically, we're devising a Divine Curriculum. We ask questions like: What lessons do I need to learn? What challenges do I want to face? How much crap do I want to take this time around? Who will help me achieve my soul's purpose? What family do I want to incarnate into? What will be the end of my mortal life?
Then, travelling down Lethes, the River of Forgetfulness, I am born.
I believe that we can know our Sacred Contracts, which are different for each person, based on the patterns present in our lives. We find our Sacred Contracts by asking questions like, What situations do I "always" find myself in? What kind of people am I attracted to? Repelled by? What are my strengths and talents? What roles are "so me"? What behavior patterns would my friends and family say are "so you"? What am I passionate about?
This, my friends, is the foundation for my art, my writing, my work.
I communicate with words because I am compelled to. Heck, I was voted Most Talkative in my Senior Class!
The Creator archetype compels me to create with words. The Pioneer compels me to create new systems for understanding the world, ourselves and others. The Prophet compels me to convey Divine Guidance, warn people "Bridge Out" and share possible futures not otherwise accessible. The Teacher/Guide compels me to instruct individuals "how to fish" so they can "eat for a lifetime". The Trickster/Provocateur compels me to shake up organizations, groups and institutions to expose hypocrisy, highlight incestuousness, reveal control tactics and illuminate stagnation. The Warrior compels me to fight for indepedence, protect the innocent and liberate the bound.
I am convinced that if I feel to write or create something, it's because my Soul is compelling me to do so. It's because I want to experience a particular situation and, thus, I put events in motion to bring it about.
I follow my bliss, because I trust that it's the True North helping me to find my path, should I get (temporarily) lost. I allow passion to fuel me, because I know that the correspondng archetypal array will support my efforts.
I have faith that my eyes will always be open, and trust that an authentic life is the one for me.
I have found Tarot cards to be a wonderful source for inspiration for creative writing. There are literally thousands of decks on the market! Because of the rich diversity of themes, symbolism, and artistry, Tarot cards are an exciting, easy and portable way to spark the imagination.
Tarot cards can be used to originate themes in your creative writing, as well as generate character personalities, names, plot points or even dialogue.
Let’s say you’re in the beginning stages of creating a short story or novel. Or maybe you're going to dive in to the November madness known as NaNoWriMo. What do your characters look like? What are their names? Their personality? You can receive inspiration to answer these questions using Tarot cards.
Here’s an example: I want to flesh out a female character, including her name, occupation and some personality traits. Using the Universal Waite Tarot, I shuffle and draw Judgement.
For a name, I can riff on the card title: Judith? Judy? Last name of Judge? Judd? Or maybe she likes the music of the Judds? Looks like Ashley Judd?
Personality wise, maybe she’s an actual judge. Or judgemental. What kind of occupations could involve criticism or even judgmentalism? A book critic? Headmistress? Mother superior? Minister?
What about looking closer at the imagery. Could she be a mortician? Coffin maker? Trumpet player? Or maybe an exacting conductor or perfectionistic composer? Maybe she’s a no-nonsense head nurse on the battlefield (notice the red cross on the flag)?
Maybe your character is a Joan of Arc type personality, who is “sent” to be a group’s “salvation”. Or perhaps she’s an actual angel…or a woman with a messiah complex.
Trumpets usually announce important people or messages. In fact, in the Greek, angel comes from the word angelos which means “messenger”. Maybe your character is a town crier. Or the town gossip. Or she really does bear an important message that must get delivered…or else.
See how much I was able to glean from must one Tarot card within a few minutes?
Tarot cards can also be used to determine conflict–man versus man, man versus nature or man versus himself. Conflict is important in a story because it carries the plot forward, provides tension that begs for resolution and hooks a reader’s interest. You may choose the cards at random, or consciously select them based on what appeals to you.
Either way, the Tarot cards you draw can provide a wealth of ideas for characters, conflict, setting, dialogue and plot.
For example, draw a Tarot card to represent the nature of the conflict. Then, draw a card for each of your characters, showing how they are involved with, or react to, the conflict at hand.
Whether you choose to interpret the cards according to the deck creator’s suggestion, tradition, keywords, a book, a blog or according to inspiration received from the image itself is entirely up to you!
You can even perform Tarot readings as your character/s to get insights on what they are thinking, feeling, wishing or will be getting. Below are a few I've made that are posted here on my blog:
You may also want to check out my eBook Occupations in the Tarot: A Guide for Readers and Fiction Writers.
So, tell me, what are your biggest challenges with creative writing? Have you ever used Tarot to write a story, poem or book? Do you have any questions for me about the cards and how to use them--for writing, personal growth or divination? Feel free to comment!
By the way, are you new to Tarot? Here are 20 things you should know.
It's always lovely to run into a fellow smart-mouthed red head (yeah, yeah...I know I'm a blonde underneath!), especially one so big hearted and supportive of fellow writers (especially indies).
Rachel kindly answered my nosy questions about her writer quirks, and tossed in some great writing advice, to boot. Take it away, Rachel!
Thanks for asking me, sweet Janet!
Okay, writing quirks:
1) I cannot write a thing without drinking coffee first thing in the morning.
2) I listen to moody music for inspiration when I write, primarily women. My favorites are Poe's HAUNTED, Fisher's WATER (stunning album BTW), Jonatha Brooke, Imogen Heap, Heart, Grace Potter, Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes), and the quieter songs by Sheryl Crow and Madonna. That's good for now. :)
3) I'm always in black. What. I lived in NYC. It's how I roll. Bright colors distract me.
4) I like all the blinds closed when I write. If it's rainy outside, I'm happy. Gloomy is good for my writing soul.
As for writing advice: trust your vision. lots of people will have lots to say about your writing, and I encourage you to be brave and show it (via guest posts, your own blog, sharing in critique groups, whatever). But ultimately your name goes on it. It's YOUR book. Be true to your vision.
Also, give yourself permission to write the hard stuff. Don't self-edit. Get in that headspace and just go. You're a grown up. Write like it.
Ohhh, another writer that likes gloom and rain! ^5
Gah, I need to work on that self-editing thing. Comes in handy for non-fiction writing but, geez, it sure is a pain in the ass when it comes to fiction writing. Le sigh. I'm working on it!
Thanks heaps, Rachel, for sharing your writing quirks and advice with us!
Readers, Rachel is out with a brand new book called Broken Pieces. It's a raw, unflinching look into Rachel's soul and the effects of abuse. I'm about twenty pages into these essays and, admittedly, I had to put it down...only because I was feeling a bit raw, myself. When I'm stronger, I will pick it back up to read. The prose and authentic emotion is exquisite.
I adore him.
In case you don't know Chris, he's the president & CEO of Human Business Works, a media and education company providing tools and smarts so professionals can do the work they want, only better. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of four books.
When I asked Chris if he had any writer quirks he'd like to share with my blog readers, the guy shot back an email within a minute (as he always has).
I did say "accessible" and "generous", right?
Oh, and funny! My God, how could I forget that.
Without further ado, I give you Chris Brogan...sharing not only his writer quirks, but also some fantastic writing advice:
Quirks, she says. Janet wants my quirks.
Okay. Here's a list, in no particular order:
* I must edit while I write. I can't do what smart writers do and edit later. It just doesn't work. I MUST (MUST!) go back and fix typos and rewrite while I'm in the first draft.
* In fact, there's never a second draft.
* When Julien Smith and I wrote Trust Agents, we wrote about 130 pages, and then threw it away when we realized we wanted to write the book a different way. Julien wanted to save the pages. I can't do that. In my life and in my writing, I must start fresh when the mistake is too big.
* I write about 4000 words a day. Where they go depends on what I'm doing: a book, a course, some newsletter stuff. It goes all over. But I keep the habit going, so that I can produce when I have to.
* You can't wait for the Muse. Write and she'll show up when she's ready. But if you wait for her, you're not an author. You're a hopeful. You can't wait for the muse.
* Learn grammar. Then forget it.
* Look for your quirky repetitive bits and remove them. I use "things" a lot when I don't really know which word to use. That becomes like a stutter or an "um" in the larger story.
* Write a strong beginning, middle, and end. People mess up on the ends. All the time.
* Never mistake the value of storytelling. It is huge. Never leave it behind for other temptations.
* I dress pretty much like a fat Mark Zuckerberg. I wear a hoodie and jeans and a tee shirt most every day that I don't have a speech or some other reason to dress like a grown-up.
* The best book ever on writing is who cares? Write. You'll never get it from a book. (Well, King's On Writing is the best of that kind, but it's because he says what I said, only maybe nicer.)
In case you live under a rock, Chris is out with a brand new book that's sure to help writers (and anyone trying to affect or influence an audience). I bought my copy months ago, in fact. It's called The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?
And, seriously? Considering what I witness on social media every day, I really think many of you need this book. Not trying to be rude or anything, honest. Like Chris, I want you to create, thrive and make an impact.
Not be a pain-in-the-ass carnival barker lacking substance, passion or relevance. You don't want that either, right?
So don't just get yourself a copy of The Impact Equation, but also visit ChrisBrogan.com. Remember that generosity I mentioned? Chris freely gives helpful, sometimes life-changing, advice on his website, podcast and via his newsletter.
He makes an impact. And I'm grateful.
I'm super duper happy to introduce a new segment to my blog, one that's been brewing in my head for a long time. What is it? Why, Writer Quirks!
I knew I had writing quirks, so I suspected fellow writers did, too. And guess what? They do! They really do.
Without further ado, here's the first one...
I met Jenny Milchman on Twitter, and found her engaging, witty and sweet. Turns out that Jenny happens to teach at the NY Writers Workshop, co-hosts the literary series Writing Matters, and chairs the of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. She's also the author of the brand spankin' new suspense novel Cover of Snow, now out from Ballantine. (I'm on Chapter 42 and OMG! Honestly--and it sounds so cliche to say this, but--her debut novel is a freakin' page tuner!)
Anyway! I asked Jenny if she happened to have any writer quirks. She does. Here's our back-and-forth emails (reproduced because I think she's so darn funny):
Janet: I'm doing a blog post about Weird Writing Quirks of Writers. Do you happen to have any to share? (Don't lie.)
Janet: Of course you must explain! Geez...
Jenny: You mean you don't understand?
Janet: LOL :oP
Jenny: OK, short version...my husband and I met in college in a philosophy club where we debated the burden of proof. Do I have to prove a pink elephant is in the room, or do you have to prove it's not there? So pink elephants have ever since been lucky, and now I have a teensy glass one I touch every morning before I begin writing a new book...
By the way, writers, if you've ever felt like giving up, you must read this post by Jenny on She Writes. Not only did it take her thirteen years for Cover of Snow to see publication (yes, you read right--13), but she also endured rejection, discouragement, loss of an agent and more. She even decided to give up a psychotherapy practice to stay home to write (while having children, too).
To learn more about Jenny and her writing, visit JennyMilchman.com. (P.S. It was her husband who did such a fab job designing her rockin' site).
So what about you? How many of you authors out there have writing-specific quirks? Feel free to share your writing quirk here in the comments section or email it to me at synerjay (at) atlanticbb (dot) net for possible inclusion in the Writer Quirks series.
Every two weeks (or so), I gather all my Twitter #WritePrompt posts and put them in a blog post for you. Here is the first batch of my Write Prompt Tweets.
If you'd like to see my #WritePrompt posts as I make them on Twitter, follow me at @JanetBoyer. Have you used any of my writing prompts for a story or poem? Feel free to post it here or email it to me at synerjay (at) atlanticbb (dot) net for possible inclusion in a guest blog post. Don't be shy...and don't forget to include your bio/website, too!
I was just over author Lorna Barrett's blog (she's the author of the Booktown Cozy Mysteries) and noticed that she was having trouble naming Book #8 in her series. In fact, she's holding a contest for those who email her a winning title.
I just submitted a dozen titles to her that I came up with in about ten minutes. But then, it occurred to me that there are other cozy mystery authors who may be in the same boat, trying to name their first (or, like Lorna, their eighth) book.
I'm working on my own cozy mystery series (my first!) and I've amassed over 70 crime-related words to help me brainstorm titles. I thought I'd share them with you in case you're having trouble naming your mystery. After I list them, I'll also share the dozen titles I submitted to Lorna...and how I came up with them.
Crime-Related Words for Mystery Titles
So, how did I come up with a dozen titles for Lorna's 8th book? It was easy, really. First, I Googled "book related words" and found this link. (She said it had to have a "catchy 'wordy' word that has to do with writing"). I studied the "wordy words". Then, I looked through my list that I've just shared with you to see if I could do a book or word-related mash-up. I came up with:
Cool, huh? So if you're writing a series about, say, fish--then find fish-related words to match up with the crime-related words. Minnow Mortem, anyone? What about Tainted Trout? Aquarium Assault? Bury the Betta? Grave Guppy? OK, OK...I'll stop. *wink*
Have I missed any crime-related words? What words do you think are good candidates for a mystery book title?
You won't believe this, but I just whipped up this post in less than 10 minutes. What's really sad is the inspiration: SIX of these were on a writing blog I just visited. Especially sad because I enjoyed her last post!
Without further ado...10 Ways to Screw Up a Writing Blog:
Why? Because a few self-appointed loudmouths in the online Tarot world think it's awful for me to continue reviewing Tarot books and decks on Amazon after becoming an author. (Never mind that I'm a Hall of Fame Reviewer with over 1,000 reviews to my name who has helped promote many a Tarot author and deck creator via my volunteer efforts.)
Because of this mindless mob, unchallenged by others in the online Tarot community for fear of the same type of reprisals, I've soured on writing Tarot blogs, books or reviews...and am moving away from it altogether.
For you clueless Tarot twits, read what Anne R. Allen has to say about authors reviewing other authors:
If authors weren’t allowed to review, there would be no New York Times Book Review. No New York Review of Books. No Times Literary Supplement.
Can you imagine the San Francisco Chronicle asking some random tourist at Fisherman’s Wharf to review the latest Michael Chabon instead of hiring National Book Award finalist Jess Walter?
Or if the New York Review of Books had told John Updike he would be “unethical” to review Philip Roth?
Or if the New Yorker had banned Dorothy Parker from reviewing The House at Pooh Corner because they suspected she’d be “too nice” to A. A. Milne after meeting him at a cocktail party? (Her famous review under the byline "Constant Reader" said "Tonstant Weader fwowed up.")
Here's the link to the rest of Anne's brilliant, thorough post: Online Book Reviews: Games People Play.
To celebrate NaNoWriMo, HarperCollins is featuring ten of its writing eBooks for only $1.99 (just bought seven, myself!):
Here are the ten writing books on Kindle with links directly to their Amazon pages:
I’m an Amazon.com Hall of Fame/Vine reviewer with over 1, 230 reviews to my name with over 28,000 helpful votes. Some of my reviews appear in print publications, and I was once on staff at a print magazine as a paid reviewer.
In short, I’ve been doing this a long time…and I’m rather good at it.
First, keep in mind that most reviewers are volunteers. We do it because we enjoy providing a service to fellow consumers…or we’re just passionate about evaluating products. Usually both.
Some of us are also published authors, working on our own writing projects—often on top of being parents, homeschoolers and domestic gods/goddesses.
Meaning: we’re busy. In fact, I get multiple review requests on a daily basis and 80% I politely decline.
Here are some tips that will help you NOT waste our time or tick us off and, if you’re lucky, secure a review from us (especially if we’re a coveted Amazon Top Reviewer).
One: Don’t bait and switch. Recently, a publicist pitched a print book and meditation CD from an author, directing me to the product links on Amazon. The book and CD actually sounded quite good, so I replied with my physical address to send the products. She emailed back that she’d send me a eBook file and a mp3 via email.
Wait: You didn’t say anything about an eBook or a mp3 file. You directed me to a link describing a print book and a CD…not an eBook or audio download.
I told her this, she agreed that it was misrepresented…and snail mailed me the print book and CD. She’s lucky I didn’t tell her “don’t bother”. Fortunately, the products look quite helpful and nicely produced, so the product “sold” itself to me despite the poor publicity effort.
Takeaway: Don’t try to lure reviewers into “biting” by pitching a print book, CD, physical deck or other “in hand” product…then, when they agree, offer digital versions. Feel free to say that the reviewer has the option of requesting the eBook, viewing the digital deck or downloading the mp3 instead…but don’t bait and switch.
Two: Don’t pitch via a blanket Tweet that says “Hello, I'm looking for someone to review my book. You can read about it on my website at ______. Thanks!” Yes, this is an actual Tweet I received recently. When I checked the writer’s feed, he had just pitched a dozen or so others…all within minutes. Do. Not. Do. This. Not only is it unprofessional (and I can’t believe I even have to mention it), but it will NOT garner a reputable reviewer’s notice. Be a professional. Pitch via email just like you’d pitch an agent or editor. Don’t be lazy.
Three: Don’t address your email “Dear Top Reviewer”. Would you query an agent “Dear Agent”? Use the reviewer’s name…and spell it right.
Four: Research the reviewer’s interests. Don’t pitch occult titles to a Christian reviewer. Don’t pitch erotica to a children’s book reviewer. Don’t pitch a sports book to a cookbook/food reviewer. You get the picture. Investigate the last dozen or two products reviewed on Amazon or the reviewer’s blog to find out preferred genres—or, better yet, read the reviewer’s bio. It will likely tell you exactly the kind of books and products he/she reviews.
Five: Don’t send an attachment of your book in your introductory email. Most reviewers are sensible and won’t open attachments from people they don’t know.
Here’s a hot-off-the-press example of a perfect email pitch from an author to a reviewer (me)...reprinted by permission:
So there you have it, boys and girls. A perfect author pitch to a reviewer. Read and learn.
Dear Ms. Boyer, (She addresses me by my name)
I found your name on the list of Amazon Top Reviewers and thought, given your interests in tarot and divination, you might be interested in a novel I’ve written. (She's done her homework and knows exactly the type of books I review and write)
It is Intaglio: The Snake and the Coins, a romance involving players in both the Modern Art scene and the graffiti subculture with links to past life experiences.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009Z5ULFA (She gives me a succinct and fascinating hook. Bonus points for providing a direct link to her book on Amazon.com)
If you think you might be interested in reading my book and posting an honest review of it on Amazon, either positive or negative, I would be glad to send you a complimentary copy. I’m happy to send you a pdf copy for Kindle, or, if you’d prefer, a paperback if you reply with your postal mailing address. (She gives me a choice as to what format I prefer for my review copy. Bonus: She says she appreciates an honest review--positive or negative. I love it when an author is so confident about her work!)
There is no obligation, of course. (Another bonus. This is code for "I won't bug the hell out of you after I send you the review copy, begging for you to post your review.")