Friday, August 28, 2009

Write Strategy: Think, Believe, Attack

by: Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Think of writing like's about DISCIPLINE.

Writing, like other forms of art, work or talent, requires discipline. It won't ever be enough that you say to yourself that you are a writer. Only when you write and write with discipline can you call yourself one. Before you can earn a black belt in karate, you have to dedicate yourself, practice and instill discipline in yourself to learn the moves and techniques.

The same goes for writing. Don't just read books. Devour them. Ray Bradbury, author of Zen in the Art of Writing, suggests books of essays, poetry, short stories, novels and even comic strips. Not only does he suggest that you read authors who write the way you hope to write, 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." He continues, "don't let the snobbery of others prevent you from reading Kipling, say, while no one else is reading him."

Learn to differentiate between good writing and bad writing. Make time to write. Write even though you're in a bad mood. Put yourself in a routine. Integrate writing into your life. The goal is not to make writing dominate your life, but to make it fit in your life. Julia Cameron, in her book The Right to Write, sums it best: "Rather than being a private affair cordoned off from life as the rest of the world lives it, writing might profitably be seen as an activity best embedded in life, not divorced from it."

Believe that EVERYONE HAS A STORY -- including you.

Extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. As a writer, your job is to capture as many of these things and write them down, weave stories, and create characters that jump out of the pages of your notebook. Don't let anything escape your writer's eye, not even the way the old man tries to subtly pick his nose or the way an old lady fluffs her hair in a diner. What you can't use today, you can use tomorrow. Store these in your memory or jot them down in your notebook.

Jump in the middle of the fray. Be in the circle, not outside it. Don't be content being a mere spectator. Take a bite of everything life dishes out. Ray Bradbury wrote, "Tom Wolfe ate the world and vomited lava. Dickens dined at a different table every hour of his life. Moliere, tasting society, turned to pick up his scalpel, as did Pope and Shaw. Everywhere you look in the literary cosmos, the great ones are busy loving and hating. Have you given up this primary business as obsolete in your own writing? What fun you are missing, then. The fun of anger and disillusion, the fun of loving and being loved, of moving and being moved by this masked ball which dances us from cradle to churchyard. Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain. But on the way, in your work, why not carry those two inflated pig-bladders labeled Zest and Gusto."

Attack writing with PASSION.

The kind of writing you produce will oftentimes reflect the current state of your emotions. Be indifferent and your writing will be indifferent. Be cheerful and watch the words dance across your page.

Whenever you sit down to write, put your heart and soul in it. Write with passion. Write as if you won't live tomorrow. In her book, Writing the Wave, Elizabeth Ayres wrote: "There's one thing your writing must have to be any good at all. It must have you. Your soul, your self, your heart, your guts, your voice -- you must be on that page. In the end, you can't make the magic happen for your reader. You can only allow the miracle of 'being one with' to take place. So dare to be you. Dare to reveal yourself. Be honest, be open, be true...If you are, everything else will fall into place."

About The Author

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free -

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How To Find Freelance Jobs - Writing About Food

by: Niall Cinneide

Did you know that jobs writing about food are available? These opportunities are available in a variety of areas. Employment in these fields is an exciting concept. For many, getting their foot in the door is the most important and most challenging first step. In order to succeed, a wide range of knowledge is needed as well as a good base of experience.

These jobs are available in all sorts of media. The internet is full of postings for good quality writers in a variety of fields. Some in this field write for magazines, newspapers, or even books. Others work right online. There are several avenues a prospective writer can take.

The first step in getting into any of these, though, is getting a good base of knowledge. There are courses that can be taken to give a good base of knowledge for the food aspect of the business. But, for the writing, grammar, and compiling of the articles and pieces, you will need at least a few years of schooling. Writing is the foundation of the work you will do, after all.

To start out in freelance writing though, you need to know how to get experience.

You can take your career to the next level by expanding your knowledge, getting your experience into a portfolio, and presenting yourself to the prospective employers. Try small, local newspapers to start. Or, submit an article to a magazine asking them to review it for consideration. Present yourself to the companies you want to start with, but always keep striving for other levels of opportunity. There are hundreds of companies that are looking for a new, fresh face in writing. You’ll find them throughout the internet posting on message boards and websites. Or, you can contact all of the organizations that you would like to get your start in by sending resumes and samples of your work.

You will enjoy a career with the freelance food writer jobs that you do get. You certainly will love the opportunities that are available!

About The Author

Niall Cinneide

Visit for more Articles, Resources, News and Views about Freelance Copywriting Opportunities. Copyright © All rights reserved. This article may be reprinted in full so long as the resource box and the live links are included intact.

Copyright © All rights reserved. This article may be reprinted in full so long as the resource box and the live links are included intact.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For Beginners: 10 Ways To Prepare To Get Published

by: Jill Nagle

(Skip directly to ten for the fastest shortcut!)

Like any field, excellent writing requires study, practice and mentorship. Very few successful authors ever published their first draft of their first work. Nearly all had to expend considerable effort to improve their craft. Here are some ways to prepare for that moment of publication. These tips also help keep you on your toes after publication for better and better writing results as your career develops.

1) Read, read, read in your field. You can never read too much when you’re trying to excel as a writer. Reading in your field helps you develop a discerning eye. You need this discerning eye for when you step back and look at your own work.

2) Cultivate role models. Know who the top-selling authors are in your field. Find out more about them. How did they get to where they are? Do searches in the Internet (available in most libraries-ask your librarian how to use a search engine) for information about particular authors whose careers you admire. Let your role models inspire rather than daunt you. There is no competition, only inspiration, potential teachers and opportunities for cooperation. That author you envy this year may be writing a blurb for your first novel next year.

3) Research your markets. If you want to publish in periodicals, whether literary fiction, journalistic writing, or anything else, realize publication standards serve a purpose other than to frustrate new authors.

4) Take classes. Many cities offer writing classes through community colleges or local writing groups. Online writing classes are popping up everywhere. If possible, choose a writing teacher who has published in a field you’d like to enter. Even better, find someone you already consider a mentor. Not every published author has what it takes to offer beginning writers what they need, but many do.

5) Join or start a writer’s group in your area. We teach best what we most need to learn. There is no better way to improve your own writing than to help others with theirs.

6) Find a writing buddy with whom to check in on a regular basis. The two of you can be each others’ inspiration, accountability market, guidepost and reality check. Having structure and someone to check in with may help you look forward to your otherwise lonely writing sessions.

7) Play with changing voices. Copy other writers you admire. How does that feel? Pretend you suddenly got an injection of creativity serum or I.Q. booster, then write like mad for ten minutes. What happens to the quality of your words? Is this a possible new direction for you? As creative and intelligent beings, we have so much more within us than we could ever dream.

8) Accept the reality of rewriting. Unlike other professions who get to rest on their milestones, for writers, a completed manuscript often represents a beginning. The best writing comes after lots of rewriting, even for seasoned authors. You needn’t throw any of it away, but not every sentence belongs in every work. Save the scraps, but don’t get attached to where they go, or the integrity of your project will suffer.

9) Get clear on what you want out of getting published. Many writers move forward without knowing where they want to wind up. As a teacher once told me, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” The answer to what you want out of getting published will help you determine the best route to take. And in publishing, those routes are many and varied. You can use our Twenty Questions as a self-help guide.

10) If what you want is to get published in the least amount of time, considering hiring a ghostwriter. An extremely common but rarely discussed practice, many successful authors talk to ghostwriters, who put their skills to work on an author’s behalf. Although some such ghostwriters get a cover credit, many do not, hence the “ghost” terminology. If you have more money than time or inclination to toil, ghostwriting may be the option for you. To learn more about ghostwriting, send an email to

About The Author

You are welcome to reprint this article any time, anywhere with no further permission, and no payment, provided the following is included at the end or beginning:

Author Jill Nagle is founder and principal of GetPublished,, which provides coaching, consulting, ghostwriting, classes and do-it-yourself products to emerging and published authors. Her most recent book is How to Find An Agent Who Can Sell Your Book for Top Dollar

Wake Up Your Writing Spirit

by: Shelley Wake

The Blogfest 2005 Writing Contest has only been running for two weeks and already the results are overwhelming. And not because we’re getting far more entries than we expected. It’s because along with entries, we’re also getting heartfelt messages from writers all over the world. I’ve run a few contests before and received quite a few entries, but I’ve never been personally emailed and thanked by so many writers.

What’s the difference with this contest? I think the main reason is that the idea actually came from writers. Even though the writers at our company work in publishing, they find it a little sad that there’s so much focus on writing what can sell instead of writing what truly matters to you. They wanted a contest that would allow people to write whatever they wanted to write.

From that idea came Blogfest, a contest designed to encourage all writers to get the project of their dreams done. Unlike most contests, we decided not to offer publication and not to pay the prize for a completed work. Instead, we decided to offer the prizes based on how much the writing project means to the writer. This is one contest that isn’t about whether or not your work can sell or about what your writing will mean to someone else. It’s about what it means to you.

To enter, we asked writers to tell us about the one thing they’ve always wanted to write and to tell us what it would mean to them to write it. Now, after only two weeks, we have an inbox full of emails from people. Entries so far have included grandparents wanting to write their life story for their grandchildren, aspiring novelists, professional writers looking for the chance to write something for themselves and not for money, and a young woman wanting to capture and preserve her mother’s family recipes.

These people have entered and then sent us an extra email just to thank us for the opportunity. They’ve told us how just writing about the project has made them so excited and full of joy. They have enthusiasm and feel delight just for thinking about finally writing. And we’ve started reading the entries and the joy is there too. As a publisher, I’m used to reading submissions and contest entries. It’s often a joy but there’s rarely as much life as there is in these submissions. Reading them, I can feel that people have that spark of excitement that is only motivated by something much greater than money or even publication. It’s the joy of doing what your heart’s always wanted to do.

There is more to writing than publication and money and this competition is bringing out the real spirit of writing.

My message to all writers is to think about what matters to them. Think about that one thing you’ve always dreamed of writing. I challenge you to write down what completing that project would mean to you. If you feel that spark, I challenge you to commit to your project and get it written. Not because you can make money from it, but because it means something to you.

This contest has made me see more clearly than ever that there is far more to writing than making money. There will only be a few winners to Blogfest, and choosing them is going to be the toughest job we do all year. But I hope this idea can reach further than that. I hope all writers will listen to their hearts and complete their projects. I hope that just thinking about actually doing it will wake up that writing spirit that is in so many people.

About The Author

Shelley Wake is one of the organizers of Blogfest 2005 and the manager and editor of Writing Stuff.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Succeeding in the Business of Freelance Writing

by: Amber McNaught

Something that's always surprised me about the freelance writing business is just how many writers there are out there who don't seem to realize that they're running a business.

Succeeding in the Business of Freelance Writing

Of the freelance writers who send quotes to prospective employers through my website,, it never fails to surprise me just how many make no effort whatsoever to try and "sell" themselves. Some simply post a quote and nothing else: no information about themselves, no indication about their skills and experience, nothing. Others post a quote with a short message saying, "I don't know what a 'search engine optimized article' is, but please pick me anyway", or "I have no experience in this, but hopefully I'll be able to do it."

Needless to say, the writers who don't bother to sell themselves never get the gigs. So why don't they make the effort? Because they fail to realize that they're running a business.

Some – not all, but some – of the freelance writers we encounter seem to have somehow picked up the idea that all they have to do to succeed is to be good at writing. Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that: to really succeed as a freelance writer, you have to be good at selling yourself. And you have to be aware that you're running a business.

Marketing Your Freelance Writing Business Online

If you really want to run a successful freelance writing business, think about getting a website. Most businesses these days have websites: they're the ideal way for customers to find you, read more about your services and get in touch.

This is another area, however, where a lot of freelance writers fail. Because not just any old website will do. Sure, there are some very professional looking websites out there, run by freelance writers – but there are just as many sites which seem designed to frighten away clients rather than attract them. Amateurish design, tacky animations, clashing colors and even, God-forbid, music, are all the sign of the amateur freelance site.

Getting Your Freelance Writing Website Up and Running

While it's tempting to try and put together a website yourself, unless you have a really sound grasp of website design, this tactic can really backfire. An amateurish website tells your visitors that you're an amateur business, and that you don't have enough faith in the viability of your business to invest in a professional website. All of these things are red flags to clients, who'll go elsewhere in a heartbeat.

Get yourself a professionally designed website – and if your budget can't stretch to an entire website, consider signing up for a personal profile at, where for only $25 per year you get your own page, complete with downloadable resume, writing samples and client testimonials.

Your profile also gives you your own WritingWorld URL, which you can give to prospective clients, or even market in the same way you would promote your own website, using pay per click ads or other methods.

About The Author

Amber McNaught is the owner of, where a one-page personal profile costs only $25 per year.

Amber also runs Hot Igloo Productions Ltd, which offers affordable website design: visit

How To Make Real Money From Writing?

by: Linda Correli

The significance of writing skills is emphasized far and wide over and over again. Writing skills are called mandatory, indispensable, crucial and drastic ability, a ticket to the thriving future of the person.

The overwhelming majority of instructors and employers which were surveyed recently stressed that writing skills are critical both for academic and career success. The survey carried by Lin Grensing revealed that 79 percent of respondent executives cited writing as one of the most neglected skills in the business world, yet one of the most important to productivity. They also admitted that approximately 80 percent of their employees at all levels need to improve their writing skills.

To master good writing skills means not only to become well-educated and competent person, but as well taps you into the wealth of lucrative opportunities. It exactly means that you can turn your gift of eloquence into sideline and perhaps steady income. The money earned from writing can become a good support for you, so you can spend them on different insignificant trinkets, which will significantly reduce your general outcome.

Practically anyone can make fortune writing and selling simple information. The only question is how to market your skills for profit-making results. The best advice for those who are willing to earn extra money and have the ability to express their ideas coherently is turning their writing skills into regular decent income and enjoining the independence and freedom everyone can earn in addition to the tidy sums of money.

Here are some easy-to-follow techniques and tested principles, which will reveal you how to make money from writing immediately and on regular basis. So let’s single out top 7 winning principles of how to make money from writing.

P1. Become a freelance writer. Perhaps someone thinks that making money from freelance writing is a lottery and he’ll never enter the game without having a famous name. Indeed when you take the risks of freelance writing you don’t jeopardy really. If it is your subsidiary income you can afford yourself to try making some extra money. First, you work at home and spend very little time to get started. In any case you can indemnify yourself from the unrequited labor by specifying all the details with the client preliminary, checking up the reliability of the company or client you are dealing with or solicit for the prepaid part of compensation for your work.

P2. Figure out the markets that pay and might be interesting in something you are willing and able to write. Always remember that whether you have yen writing about evolution and reproduction of mollusks or about data communications there is an audience hungry for your articles. Thus, the best thing the newcomers can do is to search for the topics which enjoy the popularity of the audience. Hence, you should try to swim with the current and write the articles which are in demand.

P3. You can start selling your services through the service agency, so that to leave your resume and wait for the call. Large and even small companies often apply to such agencies looking for the writers. It can be a good chance for you to start and develop a circle of potential clients.

P4. When you build up a vast network of clients, you can cut out the agencies and offer your services to the clients before the agencies do.

P5. You can query the editors and offer them an interesting article idea you think you can write for them. Also you can suggest the editors articles which you have already written and which are related to the subject-matter of their journal, magazine or bulletin, so that to have a chance that your article will be published. Compose press-releases, short stories or reviews and submit them to the targeted publications.

P6. You can write postcards both humor and verse for sure if you feel you can do it and suggest them for card publishers. One more winning and quick strategy is slogan writing. It takes minimum time, but brings good awards. So you can offer your slogans to the advertising agencies and become their permanent slogan writer in case if your slogans really work.

P7. Writing and selling jokes is not only money making, but pleasant and fun strategy of earning extra cash. You can compose short comedy material, radio comedy sketches and scripts for comedians, radio or TV.

With these tested principles you will make big dividends from your part-time writing. As well as making money you’ll be having fun, socializing, meeting new people and boosting your self-confidence and self-esteem. And if you wish, you’ll be well on your way to a full-time career as a well-paid freelance writer.

Technical Writing in India

by: Nithya K

Technical Writing in India: Is it as good as anywhere else?

Technical Writing generally translates to a piece of writing that conjures up an image in the mind of a layman about any device or software application.

In other words, the job profile of a technical writer involves writing and designing user guides, brochures and white papers for a plethora of products.

Though these procedures are not new, their categorisation under the term “Technical Writing” is quite recent. The latest entrant in the software field is not a whiz kid from IIT, but might be a journalist or an English literature graduate. This option is here to stay, what with India slowly accepting the prospect of technical writing as a full-fledged career at par with more popular contenders.

Now, the Indian technical writing scenario would seem very bleak for an onlooker who doesn’t delve deeper into the layers. This field was practically unknown till the 1990s. Tata Consultancy Services was a pioneer in creating a need for the current crop of technical wordsmiths.

Over a decade old, this profession does not have many takers, but does boast of a strong following in the various metros. In Bangalore the number is believed to be 500-600. Even by an optimistic view, the number of technical writers across the nation would be approximately 6000. These statistics prove that, corporate bosses and the software industry as a whole recognized the need for a specialized documentation team very lately.

The technical writing job has long come out of the confines of being a strict documentation-related activity. In some organisations, technical writers are asked to pitch in for test case development, product testing, creating API code, creating java documentation etc.

More recently, a technical writer has grown to don the garb of a graphic designer, web-content developer etc. Since a technical background is not a prerequisite for a technical writer, many writers foray into the field even with a Humanities background.

The one and only criterion, going by the current Indian standards, would be a firm grasp over the Queen’s language and a strong analytical mind. The prevalent need, is however to meet International standards in English usage. US companies recognise the need for a trained technical writer and that adds to the hiring and training impetus for technical documentators.

The US provides a lot of scope and opportunities for training and specialized study of the subject. In comparison, Indian universities shy away from offering unconventional and lesser-known courses aka Technical writing. The technical writers, who already exist in the industry having created a golden niche, are fast emerging as the “trainers” for this career option. Some of the Indian universities like the Calicut University and the Mumbai University have woken up to this profession and have included the subject in their curricula.

This trend, may give the Technical Writing profession the impetus it requires. The final recruiters, Corporates, MNCs need to step in boldly to hire and provide customized training to fresh technical writers.

This might beckon the golden dawn for Technical Writing in India!

About The Author

Nithya K is a India-based writer who specializes in writing fiction and has tremendous interest in writing non-fiction related to science, technology and other genre. She is also experienced in creating technical documentation. Basically a BE graduate with an MBA degree, her main focus is still writing. Nithya is also interested in Ghost writing of books and articles in the areas of business writing, technical writing, science and technology writing and fiction.

The author can be contacted at and also invites readers to visit her webpage at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seven Secrets Of Highly Creative Writers

by: Steven Barnes

The Lifewriting™ approach to your writing career demands a relatively high creative output. It isn’t designed to coddle people who nurse a single story for years before sending it out.

But students often protest that they simply don’t come up with many good ideas, and that the ideas they do generate are appropriate for novels.

In my opinion, basic ideas have no intrinsic length. The TREATMENT of an idea has an intrinsic length. The Civil War can be treated in a one-page story, on in a library of books. It all depends on the skill and intent of the writer.

Let me tell you a story:

When I was in college, I knew a woman who wanted to be a writer. She told me that she was working on a short story, and I said “great.” A few weeks later, I asked her how the story was going. She said “It’s getting a little long—I think it’s a novella.”

“Great!” I said.

A couple of months later, I asked her how the novella was going. “Well, it’s getting a little long, I think it’s a novel!”

“Wow!” I said, although a warning bell was tinkling at the back of my mind. A couple of years later, I asked her how the novel was going.

“Well, it seems to be turning into a trilogy,” she said.

Hmm. I made optimistic sounds, and left it at that.

A decade later, I was traveling on the East Coast, and knew I’d be passing the town where this lady lived. My wife and I stopped in to visit. Just because I have a masochistic streak, I asked how the trilogy was going.

There was a pause. Then, sheepishly she said, “I got tired of it, and put it away. But just a couple of months ago I started working on a new story. It’s good! But” she said, as I knew she would, “it seems to be getting a little long…”

That is so sad. My friend had encountered one of the stealthiest forms of writer’s block: to be able to write, but not be able to finish and submit. It serves the same purpose to an insecure subconscious: it prevents you from suffering rejection.

After all, the idea is so bright and appealing when it enters your mind! The process of actually slogging your way through multiple drafts can be a joy-killer.

Short stories are a perfect means to combat this. A short piece employs all the same basic tools that will be used in a novel, with a crucial difference. In the time it takes you to write a hundred thousand word novel, you can write twenty to forty short stories, and you’ll learn vastly more about your craft in the process.

Also, because you are going through the complete arc of generating story, planning, researching, writing rough draft, polishing, and submitting, you find out where your technical and psychological weaknesses lie.

And yet another advantage: if you write a story a week, or every other week, you don’t need to cling desperately to an idea, thinking it is the only good idea you’ll ever have.

But how to generate ideas? Here are some suggestions:

1) Keep a dream diary. A little digital or tape recorder at the bedside works great for this. Just tell yourself before sleep that you will briefly awaken after a dream and dictate the essence. In the morning, transcribe.

2) Search the newspaper. Make an exercise of looking through the various sections of the paper, looking for odd or interesting stories. Imagine how it would be to be the people caught up in these situations. What story would capture the essence of their lives?

3) Read books and watch movies. Imagine grafting the end of one film to the beginning of another. When a book falls apart, come up with a better ending—and write it.

4) Create modern versions of favorite old fairy tales. Have fun with this—remember, it’s just practice!

5) At the next family reunion or gathering, get the old folks to talk about their youthful days.

6) Go to a playground and watch children playing. Really notice the power games, the sharing, the crying, the laughter, the struggles and triumphs. Every single child, every day, has a story to tell.

7) Mine your own life. Learning to walk, to talk, to drive, to win, to lose. Your first fight, your first kiss, your first job, the first time you got fired.

There is really no end to the possibility. All you need is a belief in your goals, and the recognition that any individual story is just a step along the way—not some soul-searing win-or-lose proposition.

Have fun!

About The Author

NY Times bestselling writer Steven Barnes has lectured on storytelling and human consciousness at UCLA, Seattle University, the Maui Writer's Conference, and Mensa. He created the Lifewriting™ high-performance system for writers and readers. Learn more at and

My Favorite Expert Advice on Writing the Stories of Our Lives, Gleaned From My Favorite Books on the Subject

by: Lisa J. Lehr

This outline is adapted from a handout I give to my lifewriting students. The points made here apply to writing in general as well as to writing our life stories in particular.

I. Why should we write?

A. Frank McCourt in Writer’s Digest, Feb. ’99, p. 19: “But now I realize that everyone has a story. Nothing is significant until you make it significant. It’s not what happens to you, but how you look at it.”

B. Frank P. Thomas, How to Write the Story of Your Life: “God created people because He loves stories.” “Humans are happiest when we are creating.” There is a revival of activity today in search of our roots and family history.

C. Strunk & White, The Elements of Style: Writing is a way to go about thinking.

D. Rick DeMarinis, The Art and Craft of the Short Story: Storytelling is how we make sense of the world.

E. Robin Hemley, Turning Life Into Fiction: Writing is a discovery process. Part of the fun is learning why you wrote what you wrote.

F. Writer’s Digest, Aug. ’00, pp. 20-21: You might find that the greatest rewards of writing…evolve during the process of bringing your ideas to the page. As you reveal more of yourself on the page, you might notice patterns in the way you think, behave, react to people and situations. This self-awareness can help you make better decisions, understand difficult situations, sort through feelings. It is a powerful way to find answers to some of your most difficult questions. And it can remind you that there are no easy answers—this is the root of wisdom. Life becomes richer, observations and senses sharper.

G. DeMarinis: Anyone will tell you his or her life story, given a little encouragement. It’s the human thing to do.

II. Why should we write well?

A. DeMarinis: Poor writing can falsify experience.

B. Various sources: Writing is rewriting. Craft moves from the back of the mind to the front during rewriting. Allow the first draft to be crude and ill formed.

C. DeMarinis: Say everything that needs to be said in as few words as possible.

D. Aristotle: “the proper and special name of a thing.”

E. Hemley: Words shape the way we view an event.

F. DeMarinis: Be conscious of word selection. Develop an ear for language. The sounds in a sentence can produce three-dimensional images in the mind.

III. Regarding truth, and the accuracy of our memories

A. P.D. James, in Reader’s Digest: “Memory is a device for forgetting as well as remembering. To that extent, every autobiography is a work of fiction, and every work of fiction is an autobiography.”

B. Robert Olmstead, Elements of the Writing Craft: Memoir is a narrative composed from personal experience. It depends on memory, which is somewhere between truth and how the writer sees the truth. Setting in a memoir is intensely personal and emotional.

C. DeMarinis: Story is always biased. Hidden in the fiction is need, and need is always truthful. We need sympathy and approval, and want to be understood.

D. The Write Stuff (a compilation): Memory is what people are made of. What’s remembered is never the event. Memory is faulty.

E. Hemley: What you have chosen to tell, and how, and what you have chosen not to tell reveal what kind of writer you are.

F. Hemley: Memory plays tricks. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. It’s more important for an event to work than to be true.

G. Tom Chiarella, Writing Dialog: Stating what literally happened is less important than interpretation of those events.

H. Olmstead: What makes an experience important?

I. Marcia Golub, I’d Rather Be Writing: Old memories are mysterious. A lot of what gives them narrative drive is trying to figure them out. Of everything that happened during childhood, why do we remember these things?

J. Dwight V. Swain, Creating Characters: How to Build Story People: It’s not the experience that creates the trauma, but the way the character reacts to it. (If you’re writing your life story, that’s you.)

K. Hemley: What’s most powerful is often what you most want to hide.

L. Hemley: Dig deeper—try to understand why a particular event stands out.

M. Hemley: Distance from a place enables us to see it more clearly. What you remember is what’s most important to you…the feeling it gave you. Description of a place should be anchored in the character’s consciousness; it says as much about the character as about the place.

N. Stephen Wilbers, Keys to Great Writing: “Given that all writing is to a degree fictitious—…it can only represent reality…use the elements of artifice to your advantage.”

O. Pablo Picasso: “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

IV. Getting started

A. William Zinsser, On Writing Well: Believe in the validity of your life!

B. DeMarinis: The very act of writing sentences produces more sentences. This sometimes leads to inspiration.

C. Hemley: ordering real life takes a lot of imagination and understanding.

D. Writer’s Digest, Feb. ’99: Avoid chronology as an organizing principle. Instead, free-list key images.

E. Opening should be “crisp and economical” to grab the reader.

V. See my related article, “My Favorite Errors to Correct (Don’t make these mistakes, and your writing will rise above most other writing).” Happy writing!

About The Author

Lisa J. Lehr is a freelance writer and editor with a specialty in business and marketing communications. She holds a biology degree and has worked in a variety of fields, including the pharmaceutical industry and teaching, and has a related interest in personal history. She is also a graduate of American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI), America’s leading course on copywriting. Contact Lisa J. Lehr Copywriting, for help with your writing needs.

The Write Habit: How to Strengthen Your Writing Muscle

by: Katey Coffing, Ph.D.

Writing is a muscle that needs exercise to stay in shape.

I realized how true that saying is when I took what I called "a well-earned break" after I finished my first novel. The last few days of writing that novel felt as sweet as whipped cream--I was in a writing groove, humming along. I figured I'd take a little hiatus for a few days, then start my second book. No problem.

Those few days stretched into a week. Soon two more weeks wandered by and thumbed their noses at me. I felt guilty every time I passed my PowerBook. Then I began to avoid the computer altogether, a beautifully self-defeating habit.

Finally, twitching with dread after more than a month away, I sat down at the screen and began my next novel. Trying to write after that time away was torture. My neglected writing muscle had become flabby and whiny. It protested my sudden demands and resented being drafted to work.

For many people, the key to productivity is making writing a habit. Consistent writing breeds easier writing. If that's true for you, create a new habit.

Make a commitment to a certain amount of writing every day--a length of time or a number of words or pages to reach before you lift your butt off your chair. Each day when you've reached your goal, do something nice for yourself.

One of my published clients who loves email has chosen to write five pages each weekday before she can log in. She made getting her email a reward for completing her writing goals, and every time she slows down with her writing she remembers how much she wants to read her newsgroups and see her friends' replies. That spurs her to complete her pages, and she feels doubly triumphant when she hears "you've got mail!"

Is email not a good enough carrot for you? Find one that is, then earn it. Setting goals and rewards that make you want to keep writing create a great habit that's win/win.

Write away!

About The Author

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. is a novelist and book coach who helps women delight in writing (and finishing!) their books. Visit her at

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