STEPHEN KING’S TOP 20 RULES FOR WRITERS

Originally posted on Creative Talents Unleashed :

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STEPHEN KING’S TOP 20 RULES FOR WRITERS

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or…

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Words/Phrases that should be banned

The use of clichés (unless your character uses them) is considered poor writing.  I avoid clichés like the plague (cliché intended).  There are many phrases that make me cringe when I hear them; I will share my Top 10:

  1. “That went well.”  People say this whenever the opposite is true.  I don’t know why this is funny.  It’s mean to be sarcasm, but it’s a cliché of sarcasm.
  2. “Bless this mess.”  Cleanliness is next to godliness, so I’m not sure how God is supposed to bless a mess.  That makes about as much sense as saying a blessing over a McDonald’s “cheeseburger”.
  3. “In harm’s way.”  I hear this whenever people talk about the troops.  I’m tired of hearing it.  “On the battlefield”, to me, sounds better.
  4. “Purple people.”  Whenever people talk about race, they tend to mention imaginary purple (or green, blue, etc.) people.  It is ridiculous.
  5. When people say “N as in Nancy” (to cite one example).  When people feel they must spell out a word because it is easy to confuse a B with a D, they could use a little more imagination.  How about “N as in Nightingale”?
  6. “Have a blessed/blest day.”  I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, and I’ve heard this many times.  I don’t like this saying; “Have a good day” is sufficient.
  7. “I don’t read fiction.”  When someone says this, it comes across as snotty.  I want to ask, “Do you watch movies based on fiction?”  Chances are, they do.  I think it’s a little more intellectual to read fiction than it is to watch it where you don’t have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  Furthermore, it is insulting to say this to someone who writes fiction.
  8. “Step up to the plate.”  I hear this on reality cooking shows.
  9. “In English, please.”  People often say this when a doctor isn’t speaking to them in layman’s terms.  Just ask for the doctor to use simpler language instead.  They are speaking English, whether you understand it or not.
  10. “Hook, line, and sinker.”  Too wordy.  Just say they swallowed it whole, or fell for it completely.  Something along those lines.

What are certain words or phrases that are so cliché, they make you cringe when you read/hear them?

 

What I learned at my local writer’s group meeting (and then some)

All writers need a platform.  I’d never heard the word pertaining to authors before, just politicians.

Because I’d read an article in the Writer’s Market that an author should have an online presence, I started this blog.  A writer now, has to do more than just write.

I am a somewhat shy, introverted person, so if it was up to me, I’d have someone else market my writing instead of me marketing myself.  I’d love to just be responsible for the creative end and have someone else do what I think is the grunge work.  However, in this modern era, such is not to be.

When I watched “Return to Peyton Place” (a worthless piece of celluloid that didn’t even pick up where its predecessor ended–I don’t refer to “Peyton Place” as a prequel, when it was such a fine, stand-alone film), watching Allison Mackenzie’s editor helping her edit her book, I remember thinking to myself, That would not happen today. 

There are so many ways to promote ourselves now (even from our mother’s basements), for instance, through YouTube videos (I’ve considered doing a series of reading my own nursery rhymes; if you’ve never seen the nineties TV-movie, “The Story Lady”, with Jessica Tandy, I highly recommend it).  Personally, I’d much rather scan a blog than have to sit there and watch a video, but that’s just me.

I am seeking out guest blogging gigs, and it was suggested to me that because I am a mother of a young child, writing for a motherhood blog would be a good fit.

Life experiences are the most fun things to blog about, because that’s where inspiration comes from, and I am always seeking to have more experiences, even if the new experience is nothing more than playing a new board game or trying a new recipe.  Going back to school in my thirties, I think, will be a more fun experience than the first time around, because I know what I want to do with my life, career-wise.

When I was twenty, I felt like Jenna Rink in “13 Going on 30″, but now, with thirty-three (which is considered someone’s prime, as Jesus was at His prime when He sacrificed Himself) coming up in less than a month, I feel I’m finally on the path that will lead me to becoming my best self.  At our writer’s meeting, we discussed self-actualization, and how so few people achieve it.  I’m not there yet, because I’m what you would call a constant work in progress.  I’m always trying to improve myself (or at least accomplish more).

Right now, I’m juggling a part-time job outside the home, a more than full-time job inside the home, and now school three-quarters time.  I’m still trying to get used to getting interrupted while engaged in a task, which often makes me feel less focused and less accomplished; I just can’t get into “my zone”.   I have never had to be so aware before.

I’m not where I want to be in my writing career; my problem isn’t that I don’t produce (I’m not the stereotype of the writer who goes away to some cabin and just sits there staring at his typewriter), it’s that I don’t submit enough.  I am committing to submitting at least one piece a month, but I often write whatever I want first, then try to find a market for it, rather than the other way around.

I am also setting aside at least twice a week to blog, write, edit, etc.  I’ll need the mental release from dry, medical classes, though at least I know studying hard will pay off.  I dropped my Intermediate Algebra class in favor of Anatomy and Physiology because that will give me a year to find out whether or not I have a learning disability when it comes to math.  I wouldn’t mind studying hard if I knew I was going to “get it”, but I could tell the instructor was going to be going too fast for me, and I knew I was going to have to devote all my time to that class, to the detriment of my others.

I had never considered I had a learning disability till one of the advisors strongly recommend I get tested.  I thought I would give it a try (I wanted to get the algebra out of the way), but I knew by the second class I should have bought myself some time, which I have done now.  I had spinal meningitis when I was six, and lost all hearing in my left ear.  My mom is convinced that that may have impaired me in some way (I never could learn to read music either, and I’ve always heard that music is mathematically related), so I am going to find out, because if I do have a disability, no amount of studying is going to make a difference.  It is frustrating that algebra isn’t required if you have a disability, so it’s obviously not needed for the field I’m going into (Health Information Technology).

Though I am enjoying being a student, I know I’m going to have to work twice as hard to make the same grade as some other students.  I’m going to have to stretch those memorization muscles.  At least my critical thinking skills are adept.  Had I chosen to become an English major, I know I wouldn’t have had to work as hard, but I chose the practical path, rather than pursuing my passion for creative writing (which I can do with or without a degree).

Why I Write (among other things)

August has been a busy month.  My daughter’s first birthday was on the sixth.  Interestingly, my husband’s two sisters’ firstborn children were both girls, born on the seventh of August.  Tootie and Becca are only a year apart in age, but my daughter Hannah, is the true baby of the brood, with seventeen and eighteen years separating her from her eldest cousins.  I’d tried to hold out till the seventh, so as not to break with tradition, but it was so not happening.

In a way, I don’t mind so much, because it’s nice not having to share Hannah’s special day with anyone.  We had a small birthday party for her (an excuse to show her off and catch up with my husband’s side of the family).  We got a free “smash” cake from Publix, and though I rarely post pictures of my child on here, this one I have to share.

Squints

I just started school today, and this blog post is a brain break from algebra homework.  I’ve neglected my blog a bit for the past month, and all writing in general.  My friend, Mandy (who has inspired me in so many ways), has been reading my nursery rhyme collection for me; we’ve decided to see if we can find an art student (she works at a university) who would be willing to collaborate with me.

I would prefer to have illustrations to submit along with the stories (but I won’t let it stop me if I don’t); just like a photo on a blog catches the eye, it’s the illustrations that catches the eye when it comes to children’s books.  I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Seuss (story or illustration-wise), and I would be horrified if that style of garish, hideous drawings accompanied any of my work.  I prefer what I call softer illustrations–like a cross between Dick and Jane and Norman Rockwell; those types of drawings would complement my rhymes, which I believe have the charm of Mother Goose, still popular today.

However, these are the best young children’s books I’ve come across.  I never tire of reading them.

crown

They are beautifully written, and beautifully illustrated, and by the same author, too.  Someday, I hope to be talented and skilled enough to do the same.

Though I write primarily because I love it, I came up with several other reasons why I do so:

Top 10 Reasons I Write

  1. I love to make !@#$ up.
  2. I love to kill off people in my stories–people I loathe in real life.
  3. I believe an imagination is a terrible thing to waste.
  4. I want something of my own mind (if not by my own hand; no writing longhand for me) to live on after I pass away.
  5. I am naturally good at it.
  6. Writing is a way to produce something wonderful, while consuming little.
  7. One can make lots of money doing it.
  8. I love to read, therefore, I love to write.
  9. I can do it in my skivvies (and look like hell while doing it).
  10. I…can’t…stop.

32 Going On 17

schoolbooksI am doing in my thirties what I should have done in my twenties, and that is finishing college.  I have made about twenty trips to Pensacola State College over the summer (sometimes from Building 2 to 5 and back again in the same day), and my funding, schedule, et cetera, is finally in place.

I say I am doing now what I should have done then, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do then.  All I ever knew I wanted to do was write.  I had thought I wanted to be a chef, just because I liked to cook.  I would have been miserable in that field.

I look at my schedule now, fifteen years later, and see Intermediate Algebra (which I am already stressing about, and is the reason I will only be taking nine credit hours instead of twelve; I will be making up the remaining three in the summer–I will have to concentrate on the math); I will also be taking Health Care Law and Medical Terminology.  I see these courses and wonder if I am trying to be something I am not, but then the scene in “Legally Blonde” comes to mind when Luke Wilson tells Reese Witherspoon that just maybe, she is trying to be something she is.  For years, I have believed that although I am talented on the creative end, I am not all that smart, and have allowed my belief that I cannot pass algebra at the college level keep me from reaching my full potential.

The medical field is a practical choice; I can do my writing anywhere.  An English degree would have been more fun, but maybe on my own dime…someday.

I am excited to begin this new chapter of my life.  Because I am trying, I am gaining confidence in my abilities; giving up (or giving in to one’s insecurities) inspires none.  I know self-confidence comes from inside us, but this degree will give me that when I go career searching (not job hunting).  Though I was brought up to believe that if you’re good, you needn’t toot your own horn, I have come to realize it helps to toot a bit softly, and with humility (you just have to be able to back it up).  I can do that with confidence now.

The Gifting Tree–A Poem

A tree in all its forms, do I love–

living trees that give us air to breathe,

food that fills and nourishes,

and cooling, soothing shade.

~

But a tree’s life can go on,

once it’s been hewn,

for it can take many forms—

items grand or picayune.

~

The paper on which I write my letters—

the desk on which I write.

~

The violin on which I play “Greensleeves”,

the piano on which my mother plays.

~

The hope chest in which I place my linens and silver,

the hutch in which my grandmother’s Wedgwood china I place.

~

The cutting board on which I serve fruit and cheese,

the wooden spoon which, as a youngster, served me well.

~

The blocks of letters my son plays with to stack and learn,

the Scrabble letters I use to craft and play.

~

The puzzles my daughter puts together with learning hands,

the rocking horse and chair my husband put together.

~

A tree, like that of the human family’s,

dies not because its branches have broken,

but lives on as something of beauty.

horsey