Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts for the Week Ahead

October 29

Birthdays: James Boswell (1740), Kate Seredy (1899), Henry Greene (1905), Desmond Bagley (1923), Dominick Dunne (1925), Lee Child (1954), Ann-Marie MacDonald (1958), David Remnick (1958), Gerald Morris (1963), Liesel Schwarz (1974)

Kate Seredy won both the Caldecott and Newbery Awards. She is best known for her children’s book “The White Stag”

David Remnick won a 1994 Pulitzer Prize for “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire”

Quote: “Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed and left for dead.” – Ann-Marie MacDonald

“I’m sick of being asked to weep for killers. We’ve lost our sense of outrage.” – Dominick Dunne

Tip: Not every writer writes in a linear fashion. Some write individual scenes out of order, then put them together later. Figure out what works for you.

Jumpstart: “I hope you can hold your breath for a very long time.” (Why? What’s happening here?)


October 30

Birthdays: Adelaide Anne Procter (1825), Gertrude Atherton (1857), Paul Valery (1871), Zoe Akins (1886), Ezra Pound (1885), James Laughlin (1914), Timothy Findley (1930), Jean Chapman (1930), Louis Malle (1932), Robert Caro (1935), Eric Kimmel (1946), Andrew Solomon (1963)

Robert Caro won two Pulitzer Prizes in Biography and a National Book Award.

Quote: “If a nation’s literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.” – Ezra Pound

“Get up every morning with the set intention of writing and go to your desk and sit there for three hours, whether you accomplish anything or not. Before long you will find that you are writing madly, not waiting for inspiration.” – Gertrude Atherton

Tip: Don’t be a workaholic writer. Remember to make social plans (and not just online!), exercise, get the blood moving.

Jumpstart: I was walking along the beach when I found…

October 31

Birthdays: John Keats (1795), Julia Peterkin (1880), Dick Francis (1920), Lawrence A. Cremin (1925), Katherine Paterson (1932), Holly Hobbie (1944), Susan Orlean (1955), Neal Stephenson (1959), Mari Jungstedt (1962), Frank Bruni (1964),

Julia Peterkin won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel for “Scarlet Sister Mary”

Lawrence Cremin won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for History for “American Education: The National Experience, 1783-1876”

Katherine Paterson is best known for her book “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved”. She won two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards.

Quote: “The problem with people who are afraid of imagination, of fantasy, is that their world becomes so narrow that I don’t see how they can imagine beyond what their senses can verify. We know from science that there are entire worlds that our senses can’t verify.” – Katherine Paterson

“The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent.” – Neal Stephenson

“Most writing doesn’t take place on the page; it takes place in your head.” – Susan Orlean

Tip: Turn off social media and games. Don’t get into the “I’ll just check Facebook” or “Just one game of solitaire” mind set. Before you know it, an hour (or more) of writing time has gone.

Jumpstart: Tonight is Halloween. In going through your child’s bag, you find a note: “Help me. I’ve been kidnapped.” A phone number and partial address are scribbled on the note. What do you do?


November 1

Birthdays: Steven Crane (1871), Hermann Broch (1886), R.W.B. Lewis (1917), James Kilpatrick (1920), Gordon R. Dickson (1923), Kinky Friedman (1944), Lee Smith (1944), Susanna Clarke (1959), Karen Marie Moning (1964), James Wood (1965),

Steven Crane is best known for his Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage”

R.W.B. Lewis won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for “Edith Warton”

Quote: : To sit and pass hour after hour in idle chatter with a roomful of strangers is to me the worst sort of torment.” – Susanna Clarke

“Be clear, be clear, be clear! Your image or idea may be murky but do not write murkily about it. Be murky clearly.” – James Kilpatrick

Tip: This is the beginning of Nanowrimo (National November Writing Month) where you are challenged to write a 50,000 word manuscript in one month. Check it out—but if you consider doing this, be aware of the time constraints on your personal life.

Jumpstart: I can’t believe I forgot… (use: in a cave, web, blue)


November 2

Birthdays: Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808), Odysseas Elytis (1911), Shere Hite (1942), Lois McMaster Bujold (1949), Thomas Mallon (1951), David Whyte (1955), Dale Brown (1956), Taiye Selasi (1979)

Odysseas Elytis (Greek romantic modernist) won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Lois McMaster Bujold won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for her science fiction and fantasy.

Quote: ““I don’t want power. I just object to idiots having power over me.” ― Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar

“My prescription for writer’s block is to face the fact that there is no such thing…. Writing well is difficult, but one can always write something. And then, with a lot of work, make it better. It’s a question of having enough will and ambition, not of hoping to evade this mysterious hysteria people are always talking about.” – Thomas Mallon

Tip: When you’ve been published and are doing the rounds of book talks, etc., prepare your presentation ahead of time and practice. It can be scary to be in front of a group talking about yourself and your work.

Jumpstart: Each night, as the moon rose… (use: the smell of candles, in a bedroom)


November 3

Birthdays: William Cullen Bryant (1794), Andre Malraux (1901), Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920), Terrence McNally (1938), Martin Cruz Smith (1942), Anne Scott (1965)

Quote: :” Can anything be imagined more abhorrent to every sentiment of generosity and justice, than the law which arms the rich with the legal right to fix, by assize, the wages of the poor? If this is not slavery, we have forgotten its definition.” – William Cullen Bryant

“I don’t reread a book of mine after it’s been published. All I see is shortcomings and errors. The gap between what I intended to accomplish and what I settled for is a yawning abyss.” – Martin Cruz Smith

Tip: Are you ready for a virtual (or real) assistant? Someone who can do the social media, mailings, etc.? Research for what services they will provide and the costs.

Jumpstart: Sometimes I just stand on the bridge, mesmerized by the water flowing below, and I wonder…


November 4

Birthdays: Eden Phillpotts (1862), Sterling North (1906), C.K. Williams (1936), Gail E. Haley (1939), Charles Frazier (1950), Stephen Jones (1953), M.T. Anderson (1968), Yiyun Li (1972)

Sterling North is best known for his book “Rascal”

C.K. Williams won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Gail Haley won the 1971 Caldecott Medal for her book “A Story A Story”

M.T. Anderson won the 2006 National Book Award for Young Adult Literature for “The Pox Party”

Charles Frazier won the 1997 National Book Award for Fiction for “Cold Mountain”

Quote: “Sometimes reading other writers helps. You learn some little technique that turns out to be useful, or simply are re-inspired by the amazing things others do.” – M.T. Anderson

“We do not own the land we abuse, or the lakes and streams we pollute or the raccoons and the otters we persecute. Those who play God in destroying any form of life are tampering with a master plan too intricate for any of us to understand. All that we can do is to aid that great plan and to keep part of our planet habitable. The greatest predator on earth is man himself, and we must look inward to destroy the killer instinct which may yet atomize the human race. Our morality must be extended to every living thing upon our globe, and we must amend the Gold Rule to read: ’ Do unto other creatures as you would have them do unto you!” ― Sterling North

Tip: I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: do NOT compare yourself and your career to other writers. No two writers follow the same arc. Just because your best friend made the NY Times Best Seller list and you still haven’t found the right publisher doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Keep going. Keep trying. And believe in yourself.

Jumpstart: “Give me a whiskey,” I said.

My friend stared at me. “You don’t drink.”

“I do now.”