Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts for the Coming Week

September 24

Birthdays: Horace Walpole (1717), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896), Robert Lewis Taylor (1912), John Brunner (1934), Eavan Boland (1944), David Drake (1945), John Kessel (1950), Richard K. Morgan (1965), Eleanor Catton (1985),

Robert Tayloer won the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters”

John Brunner won the 1968 Hugo Award for “Stand on Zanzibar”

Quote: “All fine prose is based on the verbs carrying the sentences. They make sentences move.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tip: Figure out the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) in your story. Every story should have this. In fact, each scene should have this. Try: (who) wants (what) because (why) but s/he can’t because (why not). For instance: Dorothy wants to go home because there’s no place like home but can’t because she needs to defeat the wicked witch and learns running away doesn’t help.

Jumpstart: “I’d never have done that with you if I’d known…”

September 25

Birthdays: Charles Edward Russell (1860), William Faulkner (1897), Robert Laxalt (1923), Shel Silverstein (1930), Bell Hooks (1952), Luanne Rice (1955), Kristin Hannah (1960), James Ransome (1961), Jim Murphy (1963), Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1964)

Charles Russell won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for “The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas”

William Faulkner won the Pulitzer (twice) and the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Shel Silverstein is best known for his children’s books and poetry- most of which have made the “banned books” lists. He also wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue”, sung by Johnny Cash.

Quote: “Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of writers come and go — published and unpublished — and what I’ve learned is that the ones who make it keep writing no matter what. When life is tough, they write; when the kids are sick, they write; when rejections pile up, they write.” – Kristin Hannah

Tip: Don’t make enemies of other authors by doing selfish things that benefit only you and hurt others. It will come back to haunt you and only give you a bad reputation among your peers.

Jumpstart: You’ve been named in the will of someone you didn’t even know. A very rich someone. You will inherit everything, but only if you…(what?) and why did they leave it all to you?


September 26

Birthdays: Max Ehrmann (1872), TS Eliot (1888), Minette Walters (1949), Jane Smiley (1949), Will Self (1961), Mark Haddon (1962), Bernice McFadden (1965),

Bernice McFadden was the winner of the 2017 American Book Award and the 1917 NAACP Award for Outstanding Literary Work for “The Book of Harlan”

Jane Smiley won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “A Thousand Acres”

Quote: “Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.” ― Jane Smiley

“At the beginning of my writing process I feel like I have people coming to visit. Like one or two people. When I am really engrossed in the writing my house is full… All I’m doing is recording what I hear. As I get close to the end my house starts to empty out. It feels melancholy and lonely without the characters‘ voices.” – Bernice McFadden

Tip: Remember that setting can reveal character. There’s a big difference between someone living in squalid conditions and a posh high rise. The setting helps define the character. Especially if there is a disconnect—someone raised in luxury now living on the streets or someone living in a mansion who grew up in squalid conditions will have very different opinions than someone who’s been there all their lives.

Jumpstart: You’re listening to the local news while cooking dinner. A news flash comes up about a dangerous criminal who’s wanted by the police…and it’s your name and picture they’re flashing. What do you do?


September 27

Birthdays: Grazia Deledda (1871), Jim Thompson (1906), Nicholas Mordvinoff (1911), Louis Auchincloss (1917), Ernest Becker (1924), Bernard Waber (1924), Paul Goble (1933), Katie Fforde (1952), Martin Handford (1956), Irvine Welsh (1958), Jonathan Evison (1968),

Grazia Deledda won the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature for “Reeds in the Wind”

Nicholas Mordvinoff won the 1952 Caldecott Medal for “Finders Keepers”

Ernest Becker won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for “The Denial of Death”

Paul Goble won the 1979 Caldecott Medal for “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses”

Quote: “If you are prepared to persevere, listen to good advice, recognise bad advice, read a lot and accept it may take many years, you probably will get published, eventually.” – Katie Fforde

Tip: Different types of editing include: Developmental (checks for weak scenes, boring parts, plot inconsistencies, structure—the big picture); line editing (word choice, sentence construction, tags, etc.); copyedit (nitty gritty of grammar, punctuation, spelling, trademarks, etc.), and proofread (final overall look). If you hire an editor to go over your work, be sure you know what you’re getting.

Jumpstart: You wake up one morning, ready to start the day, but when you go into the bathroom, there’s a message on the mirror in your handwriting. It tells you not to go out. There are more notes over the house warning you not to go out. But it’s a beautiful day and you’ve been cooped up for days. What do you do? When did you write the notes and why?


September 28

Birthdays: Prosper Merimee (1803), Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856), Simon Leys (1935), Rosario Ferre (1938), Marcia Muller (1944), Simon Winchester (1944), Piper Kerman (1969),

Prosper Merimee was a French author who wrote the novel “Carmen” on which Bizet based his opera.

Kate Douglas Wiggin is best known for her book “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”

Piper Kerman wrote the memoir “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison” on which the TV series is based.

Quote: “This may sound silly, but I attach a little counter to the corner of my computer so I know I have to produce, say, 100,000 words by December. If I’m ahead one day, I take a break; if I’m behind, I keep working.” – Simon Winchester

Tip: If you must use brand names in your story, be sure they’re used in a positive light and acknowledge the trademarks in the front matter. When possible, use generic terms instead of actual brand names. For instance: sports drink instead of Gatorade.

Jumpstart: You were in a horrible accident and have been in a coma. What nobody knows is that you can hear everything they say. What do you hear from various friends, relatives, doctors?


September 29

Birthdays: Miguel de Cervantes (1547), Elizabeth Gaskell (1810), Herbert Agar (1897), Oscar Handlin (1915), Stan Berenstain (1923), Elizabeth Peters (1927), Colin Dexter (1930), Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi (1934), Stuart Kaminsky (1934), James Fogel (1936), Donna Leon (1942),

Herbert Agar won the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book “The People’s Choice”

Stan Berenstain (along with his wife Jan) is best known for his children’s series “The Berenstain Bears”

Quote: “I think, for me, it’s always been the initial business—just getting a word down, any words down, on a blank piece of paper. Once I’ve done that, I’m away. Beginning is one half of the deed.” – Colin Dexter

Tip: Finishing your first manuscript is an incredible feeling. Go out and celebrate, but remember this: first drafts rarely sell. Be sure to polish your draft so it’s the best it can be.

Jumpstart: You’ve gone to a hypnotist to get help with anxiety. While under, he discovers you’ve been hypnotized before… specifically to forget something. What were you supposed to forget and why?


September 30

Birthdays: Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (1898), Eileen Chang (1920), Truman Capote (1924), W.S. Merwin (1927), Elie Wiesel (1928), Carol Fenner (1929), Jurek Becker (1937), Laura Esquivel (1950), S.M. Stirling (1953), Nicola Griffith (1960), Margie Orford (1964), Ta-Nehisi Coates (1975), Tea Obreht (1985), Cecelia Ahern (1981),

W.S. Merwin won the 1979 and 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was the 17th US Poet Laureate

Elie Wiesel was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace

Laura Esquival is best known for her novel “Like Water for Chocolate”

Quote: “I say write what moves you. Write what you feel compelled to write about. Unless they come naturally to you, ignore trends such as vampires and erotica just because they’re popular and focus on what you feel your heart has to say. It’s important to write for yourself, move yourself and then the reader will hopefully feel your passion and identify with those emotions.” – Cecelia Ahern

Tip: Tighten your manuscript by cutting adjectives and adverbs, wordy passages, and personal opinion.

Jumpstart: You’re on your way to Bermuda for a vacation, complements of your boss for a big deal you finalized. Then a strange storm comes up out of a clear sky and…