Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts for the Week Ahead

October 8

Birthdays: John Cowper Powys (1872), Walter Lord (1917), Frank Herbert (1920), Faith Ringgold (1930), Michael Korda (1933), William Corlett (1938), Harvey Pekar (1939), R.L. Stine (1943), Benjamin Cheever (1948), Steve Coll (1958), Bret Lott (1958), Claire Messud (1966), Jaclyn Moriarty (1968), Lincoln Michel (1982),

Walter Lord is best known for his account of the Titanic’s sinking “A Night to Remember”

Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series is a science fiction classic

R.L. Stine is an author of children’s horror stories like “Goosebumps”

Steven Coll won two Pulitzer Prizes. One of them for the 2004 book “Ghost Wars”

Quote: “Many adults feel that every children’s book has to teach them something…. My theory is a children’s book… can be just for fun.” ― R.L. Stine

 “Everything I write is different, so I can’t really generalise about where I begin. But character is very important to me – it’s why I write, I think; that and language. And if you really know a character, then you figure out how they would behave in a given situation. And the plot comes out of that, really.” – Claire Messud

Tip: There are lots of reasons to quit writing. Come up with reasons to keep going.

Jumpstart: Finish this: The day I disappeared… (using: cemetery, weed, greenhouse)


October 9

Birthdays: Mihaljo Pupin (1858), Edward Bok (1863), Ivo Andric (1892), Bruce Catton (1899), Belva Plain (1915), Jill Ker Conway (1934), Johana Hurwitz (1937), John Sutherland (1938), Jean-Jacques Schuhl (1941), Michael Palmer (1942), K.A. Applegate (1956), Guillermo del Toro (1964), Jacqueline Carey (1964), William Alexander (1976), Sophie van Llewyn

Mihaljo Pupin won the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography “Immigrant to Inventor”

Edward Bok won the 1920 Pulitzer for his autobiography “The Americanization of Edward Bok”

Ivo Andric won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bruce Catton won the 1954 Pulitzer for “A Stillness at Appomattox”

William Alexander won the 1912 Nat’l Book Award for Young People’s Literature for “Goblin Secrets”

Quote: “t’s hard to give advice on writing, because the best way to learn is through doing. No two writers work the same way, and everyone has to find their own path. So… write. Write a lot. Build a world and explore it. Create characters and break their hearts.” Jacqueline Carey

“If you get bored with nothing to do, you are not a writer… We are in the business of reproducing reality from nothing. We are the biggest liars in the world, seeking truth.” – Guillermo del Toro

“The point of being over 40 is to fulfil the desires you’ve been harbouring since you were 7.” – Guillermo del Toro

Tip: You’re never too old to write (or too young). This is not like athletics. You can write for as long as you want. For as long as you can. Do not let age hold you back.

Jumpstart: You’ve been infected with a truth virus. It causes you to tell the absolute truth. What do you do until you can find a cure?


October 10

Birthdays: R.K. Narayan (1906), Claude Simon (1913), James Clavell (1924), Sheila Walsh (1928), Harold Pinter (1930), Lily Tuck (1938), James Marshall (1942), Frederick Barthelme (1943), Robert D San Souci (1946), Daniel San Souci (1948), Nora Roberts (1950), Rumiko Takahashi (1957), Jonathan Littel (1967)

Claude Simon received the 1985 Nobel Prize in Literature

Harold Pinter won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature

Lily Tuck won the 2004 Nat’l Book Award for Fiction for “The News from Paraguay”

Quote: “All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and if they’re any good, the ending is a beginning.” – James Clavell

“Life is not only full of sound and fury. It also has butterflies, flowers, art.” – Claude Simon

Tip: Be sure you keep good financial records for the IRS. Yes, you will have to pay taxes on your royalties. But they can be offset by your expenses (sorry, but coffee at Starbucks doesn’t count).

Jumpstart: Pick ten random words from the dictionary (close your eyes, fan the pages, and point – that’s one word). Use these in a scene.


October 11

Birthdays: Francois Mauriac (1885), G.C. Edmondson (1922), Elmore Leonard (1925), Russell Freedman (1929), Saul Friedlander (1932), Daniel Quinn (1935), James M. McPherson (1936), David McFadden (1940), Anne Enright (1962), Richard Paul Evans (1962)

Francois Mauriac won the 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature

Russell Freedman won the 1988 Newbery Medal for “Lincoln: A Photobiography”

Saul Friedlander won the 2008 Pulitzer for Nonfiction for “The Years of Extermination”

James McPherson won the 1989 Pulitzer for Nonfiction for “Battle Cry of Freedom”

Anne Enright won the 2007 Man Book Prize for “The Gathering”

Quote: “The writer has to have patience, the perseverance to just sit there alone and grind It out. And if it’s not worth doing that, then he doesn’t want to write.” – Elmore Leonard

 “It’s the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It’s seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can’t watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbor’s tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.” ― Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Tip: Get a good headshot taken for your author picture. Note: most photographers copyright their work so be sure you can use it for promotional purposes.

Jumpstart: This is the story my father told me. When he did, my mother…


October 12

Birthdays: Aleister Crowley (1875), Eugenio Montale (1896), Lester Dent (1904), Paul Engle (1908), Anne Petry (1908), Robert Fitzgerald (1910), Alice Childress (1912), Logie Bruce Lockhart (1921), Robert Coles (1929), Marina Lewycka (1946), NoViolet Bulawayo (1981), Julie Kagawa (1982),

Eugenio Montale won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature

Quote: “First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.” – Lester Dent

“Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.” ― Alice Childress

Tip: There is no perfect time to write. There is only now. So get writing. Even if it’s only a page. A paragraph. A sentence. Just start. No ideas? Start with one of the jumpstarts on these pages. There’s a new one every day.

Jumpstart: Grams told me “sweet dreams”, but I knew that would never happen…


October 13

Birthdays: Mary Kingsley (1862), Conrad Richter (1890), Arna Bontemps (1902), Richard Howard (1929), Dalene Matthee (1938), Mollie Katzen (1950), Colin Channer (1963), Emily Gould (1981)

Conrad Richter won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Town”

Richard Howard won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “Untitled Subjects”

Quote: “To some extent the shorter the writing assignment is, the harder it is to accomplish, and a blurb is 200 words max.” – Emily Gould

“Give your teachers the respect they deserve, because they are the ones who can help you get where you need to go.” – Richard Howard

Tip: If an agent or publisher is charging you to print your book—run in the other direction. You should not have to pay, unless you’re getting the printing done by yourself.

Jumpstart: One Saturday in the fall, it finally happened… (use: peppermint, library, clock)


October 14

Birthdays: e.e. cummings (1894), Katherine Mansfield (1888), Lois Lenski (1893), Hannah Arendt (1906), Rick Boyer (1943), Katha Pollitt (1949), Kate Grenville (1950)

Quote: “Two pieces of advice: One, write out of an urge to write, not a desire to be ‘a writer’. That is, write about things that are important to you rather than things you think will ‘find a market’. Two, find some kind of paid work that will free you from the need to make a living from your writing, while giving you some time to write.” – Kate Grenville

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – e.e. cummings

Tip: If an agent you’ve never heard of comes to you out of the blue and asks for your stuff, be wary. Check them out carefully. Agents get enough requests that they don’t have to come looking. The same goes for book reviewers.  

Jumpstart: Today is National Dessert Day. What kind of dessert would your character eat when alone? On a date? Why?