Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts for the coming week

October 22

Birthdays: Ivan Bunin (1870), Doris Lessing (1919), Timothy Leary (1920), Ann rule (1935), Deepak Chopra (1946), Debbie Macomber (1948), Elizabeth Hay (1951), A.L. Kennedy (1965),

Ivan Bunin was the first from Russia to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He won in 1933.

Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Quote: “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.” – Doris Lessing

“If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.” – Timothy Leary

Tip: Does your book start in the right place with an interesting hook, good introduction of characters and the plot?

Jumpstart: This is the name I’ll never forget… (use: record, box, flower)


October 23

Birthdays: Marjorie Flack (1897), Harvey Penick (1904), Michael Crichton (1942), Antjie Krog (1952), Laurie Halse Anderson (1961), Gordon Korman (1963), Augesten Burroughs (1965), Trudi Canavan (1969), Matthew Quick (1973), Aravind Adiga (1974), James Hendry (1976), Naomi Alderman (1976),

Marjorie Flack is best known for her children’s book “The Story about Ping”

Quote: “Be nice to your parents, because if you want to be a published author, you’ll probably wind up living with them after college. For a decade.” – Laurie Halse Anderson

“Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.” – Michael Crichton

Tip: Your characters need to be multidimensional, believable, and interesting.

Jumpstart: Each year when the roses bloom… (use: garden, trophy, retreat)


October 24

Birthdays: Brenda Ueland (1891), Denise Levertov (1923), Barbara J. Robinson (1927), Stephen Covey (1932), Norman Rush (1933), David Weber (1941), Dale Maharidge (1956), Amor Towles (1964), Emma Donoghue (1969), Gabrielle Zevin (1977)

Barbara J. Robinson is best known for her children’s book “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”

Dale Maharidge won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book “And Their Children after Them”

Quote: “I like to believe, as a writer, that anybody who isn’t a reader yet has just not found the right book.” – Gabrielle Zevin

“Both art and faith are dependent on imagination; both are ventures into the unknown.” – Denise Levertov

Tip: You’re working on your story and suddenly get a brilliant idea for an entirely different story. What do you do? Write down as many notes about the new one as you can, enough to jog your brain at a future date, then get back to the original one.

Jumpstart: I lined up my lucky charms. There was the heart stone, the blue feather, the four leaf clover and all the rest. I would need them all for this.


October 25

Birthdays: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800), Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1875), John Berryman (1914), Fred Marcellino (1939), Anne Tyler (1941), Stephen Leather (1956),  Elif Shafak (1971), Zadie Smith (1975),

Carolyn Bailey won the 1947 Newbery Medal for “Miss Hickory”

John Berryman won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award.

Anne Tyler won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Breathing Lessons”

Zadie Smith won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction

Quote: “I can never tell ahead of time which book will give me trouble – some baulk every step of the way, others seem to write themselves – but certainly the mechanics of writing, finding the time and the psychic space, are easier now that my children are grown.” – Anne Tyler

“History has shown that it doesn’t start with concentration camps or mass murder, or civil war or genocide. It always starts with words: stereotypes, clichés, tropes. The fight against dehumanisation, therefore, also needs to start with words. Stories.” – Elif Shafak

Tip: Secondary characters should be necessary and not just there as place holders. Really good secondaries should grow and change like the primaries. Maybe not as significantly, but there should be something.

Jumpstart: I pulled the picture from the box. It was faded and wrinkled, but you could still make out…


October 26

Birthdays: Beryl Markham (1902), John L’Heureux (1934), Andrew Niederman (1940), Steven Kellogg (1941), Pat Conroy (1945), Andrew Motion (1952), Adam Mars-Jones (1954), Stacy Schiff (1961), Jim Butcher (1971), Shan Sa (1972), Marisha Pessl (1977), Siphiwo Mahala (1970s?)

Quote: “Young writers often confuse dialogue with conversation, under the assumption that the closer you get to reality, the more convincing you sound. But dialogue is not conversation. Dialogue is a construct; it is artificial; it is much more efficient and believable than real conversation. Just as fiction itself distorts reality in order to achieve a larger truth, so dialogue eliminates all the false starts and irrelevant intrusions of real life in order to reveal character and move the encounter toward a dramatic conclusion.” – John L’Heureux

“Politicians are better liars than writers.” – Shan Sa

“For a few thousand years, women had no history. Marriage was our calling, and meekness our virtue. Over the last century, in stuttering succession, we have gained a voice, a vote, a room, a playing field of our own. Decorously or defiantly, we now approach what surely qualifies as the final frontier.” – Stacy Schiff

Tip: Try not to use non-descriptive terms such as “it” or “thing” when talking about a particular item. Make each word work.

Jumpstart: “You kept it. All these years. Why?” (What is it? Who’s talking?)


October 27

Birthdays: Desiderius Erasmus (1466), Emily Post (1872), Dylan Thomas (1914), Sylvia Plath (1932), Neil Sheehan (1936), Maxine Hong Kingston (1940), J.A. Jance (1944), Steve Almond (1966), Jonathan Stroud (1970), Anthony Doerr (1973),

Sylvia Plath was the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.

Neil Sheehan won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for “A Bright Shining Lie”

Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “All the Light We Cannot See”

Quote: “When I write something that would have made me laugh as a 10-year-old, or would have scared me or would have excited me, I know I’m onto something.” – Jonathan Stroud

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.” – Sylvia Plath

Tip: As Stephen King says, “Love what you do.” Writing is difficult and sometimes not at all fun, but you should love what you do.

Jumpstart: I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on her back. That really surprised me. I’d never have thought it of her. What is it and why does it surprise this person?


October 28

Birthdays: Evelyn Waugh (1903), George Dangerfield (1904), Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925), John Hollander (1929), Anne Perry (1938), Joe R. Lansdale (1951), Ayad Akhtar (1970)

Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Disgraced”

Quote: “A good poem satisfies the ear. It creates a story or picture that grabs you, informs you and entertains you.” – Ian Hamilton Hollander

“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” – Evelyn Waugh

Tip: Some people say that all the good stories have been written. That’s not true. Your story hasn’t been told yet, so tell it, in your way, with your words.

Jumpstart: Five years after I left town, I returned. Nothing had changed. Nothing except me…