May 13 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Alphonse Daudet (1840), Daphne Du Maurier (1907), Roger Zelazny (1937), Francine Pascal (1938), Norma Klein (1938), Bruce Chatwin (1940), Armistad Maupin (1944), Charles Baxter (1947), Stephen R. Donaldson (1947), Alexander Keyssar (1947), Manning Marable (1950), Koji Suzuki (1957), Masha Gessen (1967)

Quote: “I can’t write at all unless I know two things about the story in front of me: where I’m going (the eventual climax of the story, my reason for telling it), and the general shape of the path to that destination.” – Stephen R. Donaldson

Tip: The latest guidelines from the Chicago Manual of Style (and if you don’t know what this is—learn about it!) is to simplify abbreviations so places like Washington DC no longer have the periods in DC.

Jumpstart: You’ve just found out that your entire life has been a lie. You are not who you thought you are. So, who are you? What happened? What do you do next?

May 12 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Edward Lear (1812), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828), Leslie Charteris (1907), Farley Mowat (1921), George Carlin (1937), L. Neil Smith (1946), Paul Starr (1949), Rafael Yglesias (1954) Jennifer Armstrong (1961)

Paul Starr won the 1984 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction for his book “The Social Transformation of American Medicine”

“Whether you want to entertain or to provoke, to break hearts or reassure them, what you bring to your writing must consist of your longings and disappointments.” – Rafael Yglesias

Tip: If you have a long passage in italics and there’s something you want to emphasize or something that would regularly be in italics, make that passage plain text to show that it’s different.

Jumpstart: Your character is playing in Vegas. He has stacks of chips—almost enough to pay off all his debts. Does he quit? Or bet it all on one more roll of the dice? What happens next?

May 11 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Irving Berlin (1888), Camilo Jose Cela (1916), Sheila Bumford (1918), Richard P. Feynman (1918), Gene Savoy (1927), Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1927), Stanley Elkin (1930), Rachel Billington (1942), Peter Sis (1949), Mike Lupica (1952), David Garrow (1953)

Camilo Cela won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature

Zilpha Snyder was a three-time Newbery Honor winner.

David Garrow won the 1987 Pulitzer for Biography for “Bearing the Cross”

Quote: “Just looking at the outside of the library made Robin lose herself for a minute, remembering the feel of libraries. There was that special smell made up of paper, ink, and dust; the busy hush; the endless luxury of thousands of unread books. Best of all was the eager itch of anticipation as you went out the door with your arms loaded down with books. Libraries had always seemed almost too good to be true.” ― Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Velvet Room

“Ideas? My head is full of them, one after the other, but they serve no purpose there. They must be put down on paper, one after the other.” – Camilo Jose Cela

Tip: Check the house style for the publisher you’re submitting to. Most use the standard Times New Roman, 12 point, double spacing, left only justification. But some prefer 1.5 spacing. Follow their guidelines. Yes, it may mean you have multiple copies of the same manuscript in different formats, but that’s better than ignoring their rules.

Jumpstart: It’s five years after your story ended. What are the characters doing now? What has happened in that five years?

May 10 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Ariel Durant (1898), Bel Kaufman (1911), Monica Dickens (1915), T. Berry Brazelton (1919), Barbara Taylor Bradford (1933), Richard Peck (1934), Arthur Kopit (1937), Wayne Dyer (1940), Caroline B. Cooney (1947), Christopher Paul Curtis (1953), Rick Steves (1955), Suzan-Lori Parks (1963), Jon Ronson (1967), John Scallzi (1967)

Richard Peck won the 2001 Newbery for “A Year Down Yonder”

Christopher Curtis won the Newbery Award for “Bud, Not Buddy”

Quote: “First and foremost, you need to be serious about your desire to become a published author. It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and dedication to hone your skills and produce a work worthy of publication. But like anything else, if you possess the talent and the determination, you will likely succeed.” – Barbara Taylor Bradford

Tip: DO NOT USE ALL CAPS OR BOLD unless absolutely necessary. If you want to stress a word, italicize it: We were supposed to meet at nine.

Jumpstart: Your character has exactly twenty-four hours to… what? Does she do it? Why or why not? What happens in twenty-four hours if she doesn’t?

New Reviews are Here!

Under Nonfiction:

Crochet for Beginners by Arica Presinal – 5 Sparklers for this How To book

The Essential Diet for Fatty Liver by Andy de Santis – also a 5 Sparkler on this informative book.

Under Mystery:

Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine by M.S. Spencer – a 4 Sparkler story based on a real treasure hunt.

Ashes of Death by G.L. Didaleusky – 3 Sparklers for this mystery.

Under Romance:

Prophecy by Victoria Smith – 5 Sparklers for this dystopian paranormal romance

It Had to be You by Mike Owens – 4 Sparklers for this paranormal romance.


Quote: “The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times, one sometimes forgets which.” – J.M. Barrie (born 5/9/1860, known for creating Peter Pan)

May 8 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Edward Gibbon (1737), J. Meade Falkner (1858), Edmund Wilson (1895), Irene Hunt (1907), Milton Metzer (1915), Mary Q. Steele (1922), Louise Meriwether (1923), Gary Snyder (1930), Thomas Pynchon (1937), Peter Benchley (1940), Pat Barker (1943), Roddy Doyle (1958), Robin Jarvis (1963), Naomi Klein (1970)

Mary Steele received a Newbery Honor for “Journey Outside”

Peter Benchley is best known for his novel “Jaws”

Quote: “If you are a writer, you’re at home, which means you’re out of touch. You have to make excuses to get out there and look at how the world is changing.” – Roddy Doyle

Tip: Conflict of some sort gives the best kind of story. Without it, the story is flat. Create conflict, but with a reason. Give your characters goals, then put them at odds with each other.

Jumpstart: You’ve just found out you’re a mutant, as in the X-Men. What is your mutation? Is it obvious or hidden? What can you do?

May 7 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: David Hume (1711), Robert Browning (1812), Rabindranath Tagore (1861), Wladyslaw Reymont (1867), Archibald MacLeish (1892), Gene Wolfe (1931), Nonny Hogrogian (1932), Angela Carter (1940), Peter Carey (1943), Deborah Wiles (1953),

Rabindranath Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wladyslaw Reymont won the 1924 Nobel Prize in Literature for “The Peasants”

Archibald MacLeish was Librarian of Congress and three-time winner of a Pulitzer Prize.

Nonny Hogrogrian was a two-time Caldecott Medal winner.

Quote: “Writers live with doubt and failure. Most days we don’t succeed. Most days we know we have to rewrite, that we haven’t yet arrived. This is not always unpleasant, but it can be.” – Peter Carey

 Tip: Decide what tense you want your story to use and stick with it. Whether you go with first person/present tense (the hardest to do) or third person/past tense (the most common) doesn’t matter. Sticking with it does. Go through your work and make sure you use the same tense throughout.

Jumpstart: You have to describe the taste and uses of a lemon to someone who’s never tasted or used one before. What do you say? Remember, if you turn them off by talking only about how sour it is, they’ll never try lemon meringue pie or a tall glass of fresh lemonade. Think about how to put a positive spin on something negative.

May 6 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Sigmund Freud (1856), Gaston Leroux (1868), Harry Golden (1902), Harry Martinson (1904), Leo Lionni (1910), Randall Jarrell (1914), Theodore White (1915), Orson Welles (1915), Ted Lewin (1935), Barbara McClintock (1955), Jeffrey Deaver (1950),

Gaston Leroux, a French author, is most well known for his novel “The Phantom of the Opera”

Harry Martinson won the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Leo Lionni was a four-time Caldecott Award winner.

Randall Jarrell was the US Poet Laureate from 1956-1958.

Ted Lewin won the Caldecott Honor in 1994 for “Peppe the Lamplighter”

Quote: “Outlining is the most efficient way to structure a novel to achieve the greatest emotional impact. The most breathtaking prose and brilliantly drawn characters are wasted if the plot meanders and digresses. Outlining lets you create a framework that compels your audience to keep reading from the first page to the last…Best of all, once the outline is finished, you can write the book very quickly and in any order.” – Jeffrey Deaver

Tip: Don’t forget to get up and move every thirty minutes or so. It refreshes your brain and gets the blood flowing in your body.

Jumpstart: You’re at a large, unfamiliar hotel and get off the elevator on the wrong floor. Just as the doors close behind you, you see something you shouldn’t. What do you see? What happens next?

May 4 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Thomas Kinsella (1928), Amos Oz (1939), Kim Edwards (1958), Robin Cook (1940), George Will (1941), Don Wood (1945), Graham Swift (1949), David Guterson (1956), Kristin Harmel (1979)

Quote: “Words create conceptions and self-conceptions and ultimately nations. They can start and stop wars. They can wound and heal. Choosing words carefully is a moral responsibility.” – Amos Oz

Tip: Always carry a notebook or have a note app on your phone for those “brilliant idea” moments.

Jumpstart: You’ve been tapped to be the new Grim Reaper. You’re presented with the cape, the scythe, everything. Do you take the job? Why or why not? If you don’t, what happens to you?