Tag Archives: writing advice

The Match (Part 8) The Ride To Mother’s

Daily Prompt: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Tell us your tried and true techniques for focusing when that deadline looms and you need to get work done. In other words, how do you avoid wasted days and wasted nights?

If it is writing we are speaking about than I don’t think one can be a writer without enjoying each step of the process.  If it requires research there must be a certain amount of joy and satisfaction attached to it. Certainly keeping in mind the finished product is important, but it is like a carpenter; he may relish seeing the house finished, but he has to enjoy driving nails also.

Yet there are times when something is or has become a drudgery. I say nothing else gets started until this is finished. Also often when throwing myself into something that appears to be a  drudgery in the beginning, it often becomes something of which I’m quite fond of in the end.

Here is such a project. It is my 8th episode of The Match. I really enjoyed writing and I hope you enjoy reading. We are nearing the end.

The Match (Part 8)

(Continued from yesterday.)

The Ride To Mother’s

Not much was said beyond that until they reached Lucinda home. It was a small place, cottage like. An elm graced the front yard next to a flagstone walk that led to a small front porch.

Sam and Rusty hesitated before leaving the car.

“I hope this doesn’t blow up in our face,” Rusty said.

“It won’t,” Sam said. “She’ll be shocked.”

“That can be expected,” Rusty said. “I’ll let you handle it.”

“You’re my older brother,” Sam said and smiled, “this will be the last time I’ll handle something first for you.”

“Our relationship is not quite two hours old and there’s already a sibling rivalry,” Rusty smiled.

“Let’s do this,” Sam said and they got out of the car and walked to the door.

Sam slowly opened the door and stepped inside. “Hey, Mom, it’s me. I got company.”

“Anybody I know?” Lucinda called from another room.

Rusty and Sam looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

“I just met somebody I want you to meet,” Sam said.

“I’ll be out in the minute,” Lucinda said. “Can a I bring something to drink?”

Rusty shook his head at Sam.’

“No, Mom,” Sam said, “we’re fine.”

They waited for a minute. Rusty looked around the living room. It was neat and orderly. It was a cheerful room with pictures of Sam and his family.

“Two children?” Rusty said quietly.”

“Boy and girl,” Sam said.

“Nice looking family,” Rusty said.

“Thanks,” Sam said.

“You didn’t have any children, right?” Sam said.

“Never good at relationships,” Rusty said. “After my divorce I had relationships long enough to remind me why I shouldn’t have gotten married to begin with.”

“Maybe the right gal never came along,” Sam said.

“Thanks,” Rusty said, “but I don’t think that was really the problem. I just don‘t know how to… well let‘s leave it at that; I just don‘t know how to.”

Sam reached over and touched Rusty’s knee. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” Rusty said.

The sun shined on the entrance Lucinda entered the room through. Her face was full and happy. Her stature was strong and proud; not at all like a person who might be facing life’s end. She wiped her hands on the apron around her and shoved her hand forward to shake. “I’m Lucinda Collins.”

Rusty rose from the chair. “Pleased to meet you.” Rusty said. “I’m Rusty Collins and I pray to god I’m your match.”

(Continued tomorrow.)

 

 

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There’s Nothing There & Professor Hamilton’s Advice To Writers

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Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

When it comes to travel I’m of the opinion that half the fun is getting there and that leaves the other half for there and getting back home. I can drive any place and have more fun with the travel rather than the destination.

A few years ago some friends from Ohio visited us (in Idaho). “How can you stand it? There’s nothing here! There’s miles of nothing upon nothing.”

Six months later another friend visited, took the same route. “That was one of the best drives I’ve ever had. You could see forever.”

I’ve been to a few places and less than impressed once I got there, but the best part of the trip is being able to share it with someone. My travels are time well- spent with my favorite traveling companion, my wife. I love looking next to me in the car as I drive and seeing nothing or gorgeous scenery stream by, but it mean nothing without seeing my wife in the foreground.

Today’s short story is about writing advice. I hope you enjoy it.

Professor Hamilton’s Advice To Writers

Professor Hamilton stood before his last class of the semester.

Hamilton himself was moderately successful as a writer. While a professor he’d slowed down his production, but wrote three novels in the last ten years and a nonfiction work on writing.

Professor Hamilton smiled at his class. “Fifty-two students this semester, some serious, some not, most who are serious show promise. And those who don’t show promise, don’t give up. If you don’t you will likely succeed where those who show the most promise don’t?”

“This is the last day of class,” Hamilton said. “What is it you want to hear? Any questions?”

“How long did you write before you published your first novel?”

Hamilton grinned. “Forever, or so it seemed. I wrote for ten years. Finally I wrote something good. Than I wrote a couple of things good. And then I was able to sell all my bad stuff.” He chuckled. “Somebody had to pay for all those years. I had people to pay back.”

The class laughed.

“Another question,” Hamilton said delighting at the opportunity.

“What was the best writing advice you ever received?”

“It was all good,” Hamilton said seriously. “Of course, you can’t use all of it, because some of it is conflicting. So here it is: find your own voice, write your own story, write it honestly, if not sure about grammar make it a quote, bad spelling justifies the existence of proof readers and now days we have spell-checks, and don’t try to be fancy; write simple.”

“Another question,” Hamilton beckoned.

“How much do you take the advice of editors?”

“Listen to them,” Hamilton said. “Then listen to yourself. You are the author. That word eventually becomes authority. Think of it this way; if you write 500 pages and edit it yourself to 400, the editor will edit it down to 300. If you started with 300 hundred they will whittle it down to 200. If you hand them something less than 200 they’ll say that’s not enough. Write your best. Keep a little in there for the editor to feel good about himself, but if you are sure of something stick to your guns. Remember, editors are jealous of your ideas.”

“Any more questions,” Hamilton said.

That seemed to be all the class had.

“Write good stuff,” Hamilton said. He waved and winked.

The class stood and applauded.

Hamilton stopped and held his hands up to quiet the students.

“There’s one more thing,” Hamilton said. “Some of you will write and sell. Likely my words will go unheeded. Careful what you write. Your writing may awaken demons in people or make goodness arise. When I was young my mother had me read nothing but good. That’s why I always tell my students to write good stuff. Don’t allow your minds to wander into the perverse and call it creativity. Write a story that is good rather than one that will titillate. Write about virtue, character, principle, and goodness. Your work influences people. If you have that special gift to write well, write about good.”

Hamilton nodded politely and exited the side door.

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A Nice Place To Write (Short Fiction)

thP4OG20PGNovelist Malcolm Livermore spoke for about 30 minutes on constructing experience and inspiration into words and how to write a great novel. For another 30 minutes he answered questions from students, writers, and his readers. It was an intellectual feast for all.

There was a brief intermission highlighted with wine, cheese, and dashes to the bathroom.

Malcolm bask in this sort of exchange. It was where he was at his best. He could stand toe to toe intellectually with anyone. He moved with grace and ease amongst the attendees. He was the one whom they adored and there to see.

Mitch Ward, a young writer was slated for a brief reading and for some question and answer. This was really his first time at such an event. He’d written two critically acclaimed novels, but met with little commercial success.

The main event was over and many would have left except that Livermore would read and stay to autograph his latest novel.

The master of ceremonies summoned everyone back into the small auditorium. After everyone was seated. “Our next guest, Mitch Ward.”

There was a polite applause. One could not miss the feeling that all wished Ward would quickly complete his reading, field a couple of questions, and turn things back over the real star; the reason why they were there.

As Mitch read some whispered, others looked about the room for amusement, and few listened.

Mitch finished a five minute reading; a short story named Nimble Ed. Not everyone applauded. And for Mitch’s part he really wasn’t expecting much especially after Livermore’s brilliant presentation.

“Any questions,” Mitch begged.

It was silent other than a couple of coughs.

“I’m not leaving,” Mitch graciously smiled. “Until I get one question. I know you’re here for Mr. Livermore, but I’m getting paid too, not as much as Livermore.”

“Your not the writer,” a voice said from the crowd.

“If you could pose that in the form of a question,” Ward said. “I answer it, sit down and enjoy Mr. Livermore.”

There was silence and then a young lady stood. “Mr. Ward can you tell us what your writing space looks like?”

“It’s a beige room with a window. The shades are always pulled. It has a desk, a chair, and computer.”

“That’s it?” she said. “How do you get inspiration from a drab room such as you described?”

“I shut my eyes and go to wherever my imagination takes me,” Mitch said. “Sometimes I stay there for hours and I return to write about where I’ve been, who I’ve met, and what happened.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ward,” she said. “You have a wonderful writing space.”

Mitch nodded politely. “Thank you. My wife Elsie,” he gestured to the young lady that posed the question. “My agreement was question and answer; she wanted to make sure I got paid.”

(Posted as a Daily Prompt.)

(Posted as 365 Writing Prompts.)

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Overcoming Writer’s Block; Waiting For The Bolt Of Lightning

thBLSKC47KDaily Prompt: Moment of Clarity

Tell us about a time you’d been trying to solve a knotty problem — maybe it was an interpersonal problem, a life problem, a big ol’ problem — and you had a moment of clarity when the solution appeared to you, as though you were struck by lightening.

Writer’s block can be a problem for some. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it.

Some will walk away and do something completely unrelated to what they are writing. Others my have mental exercises that put them back on the track. Some may pick up something to read hoping that will trigger an idea. Some try whisky.

They all work and some never work. Each writer must find their own way.

For a fiction writer it is often getting from point A to point B. Sometimes an unusual twist is written in the story. It was so intriguing it could not be left out, but it takes you down a dead-end street. If it takes you someplace you can’t get out, leave it out. But don’t discard the twist. Pull it out some other time. Don’t waste it. Write another story around that discarded twist.

I liken writer’s block to painting yourself into a corner.

When that happens to me, I write my frustration into the character or event placed in the corner. That can be the needed conflict or dilemma that adds a layer to the story not envisioned.

If you write a character into a dead-end simply say:

“Toby was out of ideas and had nowhere to turn. (This is the point in the story where writer’s block occurs. So you wait for that spark of creative genius or bolt of lightning. So create one.) A bolt of lightning struck him dead. Toby’s problems were now over.”

Come on now, that’s better than Toby dieing of old age. If that’s not what you wanted at least it started you thinking. Are you willing to accept anything short of that?

Writing anything will open possibilities to new things. It keeps you moving forward.

Writing is as much a grand adventure as reading. Often a story will start out one way and end another.

The key to writer’s block, at least for me, keep writing.

If you paint yourself in a corner. Simply turn around, paint a window, and what is seen beyond. Maybe by the time you’re done the floor will be dry. Or you could just curl up in the corner and die.

Bloggers With Clarity 

  1. Moment of Clarity Haiku; Friday, December 27, 2013 | LisaRosier.com
  2. Moment of Clarity | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  3. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity | Awl and Scribe
  4. The Best Book I’ve Ever Read | Sued51’s Blog
  5. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity – Awestruck by the Christmas Lights | littlegirlstory
  6. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity | confusingdaze
  7. The Ghost of Christmas future | overdoneit
  8. Strengthen your mindset and you build self-confidence | Feel & Rebuild Your Self Confidence
  9. S. Thomas Summers | Daily Prompt: Awestruck
  10. daily prompt: moment of clarity | aimans…..
  11. Daily Prompt: Awestruck | Better Than Reality
  12. Overcoming Writer’s Block; Waiting For The Bolt Of Lightning | The Jittery Goat
  13. Clarity | Dancing with the Wise Women
  14. Free Fall | Finale to an Entrance
  15. Eureka! I Got It! | meanderedwanderings
  16. Moment of Clarity | Nicole Sloan’s Books
  17. Knotty problems | A mom’s blog
  18. Moment of Clarity: In Examination Time | life at random outlook
  19. What to Eat? | Flowers and Breezes
  20. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  21. Idea ‘Ting!’ | Retrofocus
  22. Moment of Despair to Clarity | Hope* the happy hugger
  23. Clarity | Bullet holes in the wall
  24. While Taking A Photograph -A Moment Of Clarity | Shadows Of The Divine
  25. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity | Basically Beyond Basic
  26. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity « Mama Bear Musings
  27. Daily Prompt Challenge – “Awestruck” | soletusknow
  28. SAVING MYSELF | hastywords
  29. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity, or Not? | Buzzy Beez Giftz
  30. Daily Prompt: Like Sand Through the Hourglass | One Starving Activist
  31. Wandering Graduate | Moment of Clarity
  32. A Memory from the Kitchen Years | As I please
  33. Being Struck By Lightning Helped Lighten Their Loads
  34. The ONE ! | Dreams to Reality !
  35. A moment of clarity in the pursuit of happyness | The Nameless One
  36. Going to College is a Choice | Saskia Bünte + UnCollege = Gap Year
  37. Sleeping for Clarity – Lipstick and Lithium – Bipolar/Beauty Blog
  38. “Eureka”! I’m Addicted And Need HELP! | Just A Recovery Author Learning To Be A Better Writer
  39. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity | Making Life an Art
  40. Moment of Clarity | Geek Ergo Sum
  41. Piloting the Space Shuttle: A Moment of Clarity http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/prompt-clarity/ | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  42. Piloting the Space Shuttle: A Moment of Clarity | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  43. Daily Prompt: Moment of Clarity: Home is Where… | New Orleans New Girl
  44. Moment of clarity… coming soon to a theater/life near you. | The Birds Inside My Head…
  45. The Script | johnny ojanpera
  46. THINKING CLEARLY? THINK AGAIN | Emotional Fitness
  47. Striking Clarity | Muddy River Muse

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Writing Advice; “Good Writing Is Persisting” (short fiction)

Daily Prompt: Sad But True

Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’ve ever gotten. Does it still apply?

Peggy was absolutely crushed. Written in a red marker on the title page of her short story as if from the blood of her own heart, “Rubbish, dithering screed unfit for human consumption.” It was handed back to her by Professor Carson with all the force that impelled those words.

She stayed after class to confront him. With red eyes she approached his desk.

“Are you purposely trying to fail me?’ she said timidly.

“What you wrote was sentimental drivel,” Carson said. “Meant to somehow impress me. I’m not impressed by dishonesty. Write with passion and not weepy bleeding gobbledygook. This is stuff written by silly fourteen year old girls who lives in a make-believe world of princes, princesses, toads, and evil step-mothers. You’re trying to write something you’ve read. Do me a favor and yourself and for god‘s sake this class and go to beautician‘s school.”

“You are undoubtedly the cruelest person I have ever met,” Peggy said. “And I hope you burn in hell and you are kept burning by all the earnest papers handed to you and you wrote remarks like these. They do nothing but crush a person and make them feel worthless. You are a disgusting toad yourself.”

“Young lady, did you take this class for a pat on the back or to receive an honest assessment of your work?” Carson said. “This is absolutely the worst writing I have seen since… Well, this is the worst.”

“Could you do anything more to make me feel worse?” Peggy said.

“Certainly,” Carson said. “I could publish it as is in our school’s literary journal, but that would be cruelty beyond my burning in hell. You would be laughed from your dorm. No, I think it best to kill this brain-eating bacteria before it spreads.”

Peggy stormed from the classroom and back to her dorm. She cried the entire night and reread the short story Professor Carson disliked so vehemently. After reading it she sniffled and said to herself, “He’s right.”

The next week she handed in another assignment. The criticism was of equal measure. As the year progressed Professor Carson began to write constructive and technical criticisms.

And finally one day at the end of class Carson said, “Miss Rendell, may I see you after class.”

Peggy approached his desk ready for combat. “I’m not going to beautician’s school. The only way to get rid of me is to fail me.”

Carson ignored her and said, “With your permission, Miss Rendell, I’d like to submit your latest short story to our school’s literary journal. It is quite good.”

“For how much?” Peggy said.

“Oh, you have come a long way, Miss Rendell,” Carson said. “I can get you fifty dollars.”

“If accepted that will be fine,” Peggy said.

“Do you know how many first year students are ever published in our journal?” Carson said.

“No,” Peggy said.

“None,” Carson said. “You are the first. I have rejected seasoned writers.”

Peggy smiled. “Thanks to you, Professor Carson.”

“Honesty, Miss Rendell, honesty,” Carson said. “You could have walked away from my class and never come back. Don’t allow this truth to escape you, Miss Rendell, there are no talented writers, there are only writers who persist. Keep writing, Miss Rendell.”

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How To Write So People Will Keep Reading; Be Real

Daily Prompt: Reading Material

How do you pick what blogs or books to read? What’s the one thing that will get you to pick up a book or click on a link every single time?

There is no hard and fast rule to determine what one reads. Sometimes it’s a question of what kind of mood. Yet a good first sentence or paragraph is like a singer with a good voice or a song that starts out with a melody that is irresistible: Beethoven’s 5th, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Revel’s Bolero, The Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations, and the Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie all have that quality; it grabs you in a few notes, but, but does not let you go.

The first few sentences or even words must set you or your reader in the middle of something that can’t be left alone.

Frankly, I don’t follow that concept all the time when writing. But when conscious of it, effort is made to do so.

Let’s go back to my first sentence and paragraph. It’s not preachy, a statement is made that all can agree, and examples are given. No one will feel bad or have the feeling they’ve been doing it wrong all their lives. Each of us have a different style.

Earnest questions or a genuinely provocative sentence is one way to start a blog or story. Yet, it should not be so bold as to give a pretentious feeling to the reader.

Writers must be devoid of ego. They can’t feel as though every word and sentence is like nuggets of gold. Like the painter who thinks even his doodles and strokes of the paint brush are masterpieces. Sometimes we get so full of ourselves. Editors have a way of humbling.

Here are examples of the first paragraphs of four novels I’ve written:

Galápagos Man (Currently writing and finishing)

“I figured it was my last chance to be somebody, to make something of my life,” Alex said. “So at thirty during the war. I enlisted. I wanted to be an officer. It seemed like it was all stacked against me.”

The New York Sewer Rats – Baseball’s Greatest Story!

“A baseball with a couple of scuffs sits alone on Pete’s bookshelf next to his desk. It is a reminder of a previous life. A life once lived in the headlines and grassy fields of the great American pastime, baseball.”

Ice Too Thin

“Dead fish.  Look!  They’re everywhere and take a good sniff. What do you smell?”  Ole man Brown said flinging his arm angrily at the lake. “It’s all to do with Herb Adams and Trinity Chemicals.  They’re polluting the lake.”

The Id And The Odyssey (Not yet published)

“I peddled north on Old Route 25 past the meadow where I once laid beneath the willows and passing clouds and dreamed of far away places.  I coasted around a curve that lead into Beaverdam and came to a four way stop. Looking west toward the grain elevator Uncle Bob’s tractor and wagon waited in a line at the scales. I followed Route 25 to Bluffton and Route 103 to Arlington. A can of sardines from my pack and a bottle of Dr. Pepper from a grocery was my meal.  I rode until just before dark. A red brick abandoned school house was where the night was spent. The bike was laid behind it out of sight from the road and my tent erected. I was used to riding a bike, but never at this pace or distance. I was exhausted. After dark the lights from distant farm houses shone across the farm fields.  They brought with them a feeling of loneliness and possibility. I wished them peace, tranquility, and love.”

Each meant to set a mood for the reader, but sometimes you just can’t change a mood. Sometimes I want Gershwin and other times I want Johnny Cash.

Write honest and not pretentious. Always remember writing is an art and not just random thoughts. You won’t please everyone.

One piece of advice I heard a long time ago was this: If a person says about your writing, “Wow, that’s good writing.” You failed, they know it‘s writing. But if they say “Wow, that reminds me of a guy I knew,” or “Wow, was that the way it really happened?” It is so real it sucks the reader in.

Write in such a way the reader is in Tuscany, not with you, but with their best friend or alone. Write in such a way the reader wants to know the character and not the writer.

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Advice To Writers; Help Me! I’m Bleeding!

Daily Prompt: I Am a Rock

Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely only on yourself? Why?

Work went into my first short story, a lot of work. The story was based on farmers. It was a labor of love. The story was rewritten several times. I knew nothing about writing except knowing what a good story sounds like.

There was a clear vision of the type of writer I wanted to be. I never took a course in writing nor did I ever pick up one of the trade journals. Writing your first story on you own and not as a class project is scary. It all comes from within, there is no prompt except for yourself.

This experience can be likened to the first time you go to a public swimming pool. There you are, that’s who you are. Everybody can now see what you really look like without your clothing.

I have this ugly scar on my abdomen. People stare at it. For the longest time I wore a t-shirt to cover it. When you write the first story the t-shirt comes off. Everyone gets to see the ugliness, the whimsy, and imperfections of your thinking.

As I got older I found that people wanted to know about the scar. I told them it was from an operation as and infant. This satisfied some, but others begged for more information. The lesson: people like to hear about scars.

“Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’“

Shakespeare’s Henry V

Scars are also criticisms. They cut deep. In the case of my scar it was from an operation, if it didn’t occur I would have died.

I ask a friend to read my story. His opinion was valued. He read, “It was springtime.” He looked up and said. “That is a weak word to start a story with.” Rather than moving closer to hear more of what he meant, I sunk in my chair.

He looked at me and said, “If you’re not ready for criticism, you’re not ready to be a writer.”

I straitened up and moved closer. “It’s weak or not. It is really up to you. It’s my opinion, but tell me what springtime has to do with the story before you tell me it’s spring time. Just a thought, but there is nothing in the pronouncement of ‘springtime!’ that makes me want to read further. That‘s one reader‘s opinion, but I think it needs to be worked on.”

Although that moment is still painful to relive I’m glad it occurred. Scars mean you’ve been battle tested. Death wounds never heal. My scars mean I got help and survived.

When I die the mortician will see that scar on my abdomen. He may wonder, but if there is someone to tell the story he will know I carried a scar my entire life and it is full of passion, meaning, intrigue, pathos, laughter, disappointment, tears, smiles, bad things, and good things. Scars are stories waiting to be told.

Scars are where blood once flowed and healed. They are reminders to be exploited not hidden. Allow scars to become your strength and not your weakness.

Rocks don’t bleed.

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