Announcements.

Will be offline for a few weeks in early September.

For the time being all my books are available on Amazon exclusively. Nothing personal. This is a financial decision, but it is not set in stone. I will be evaluating the situation daily.

One of these days I shall get around to telling the my story. In the meantime, keep writing. It’s food for the soul.

Julia

To describe or not to describe? That is the question.

My personal opinion?

Say what you have to say in as few words as possible.

I’m not a big fan of flowery language in modern literature.

Flowers are fine for Shakespeare and Emily Bronte. Homer can be a bit wordy, but then his stuff is really old. As is Flavius Josephus. He’s kinda hard to get through. He’s relating factual history as he knows it, but his language is pretty stuffy by our standards. I’m sure his contemporaries understood it just fine.

What makes me DNF a book? Too much description. Too many unnecessary details. Unless it is essential to the story I don’t need a detailed description of, say, a desk. If a particular desk is integral to the story, well then yes, by all means provide a detailed description. If it’s just a desk, then it’s just a desk.

I don’t need to hear an endless recitation of the beauty, depth, color, or whatever of the heroines eyes.

Think of Brendan Fraser. Think of Brendan Fraser as The Most Sensitive Man in the World. (Bedazzled.) You get my drift. He’s too much.

What is essential to the story. That’s all I need. Use your words sparingly and if you use them right, you can make beautiful metaphors out of scarcity.

Haiku is the simplest most beautiful form of poetry, IMO. There is value in spare.

In the cicada’s cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die.

– Matsuo Bashō

What are you waiting for? Like I tell my dog, 1, 2, 3… Write!!!

Go ahead. Write. What’s the worst that can happen?

Well, let’s get this over with.

I’ll tell you the worst– you fail. You fail miserably. Few people read your book. Those who do say you suck.

Done.

That’s it.

Don’t give up your day job… yet. (And never ever ever respond to bad reviews.)

I kept my day job for five years after I published my first book. And if I still had three kids in college at once I’d be working at least half-time.

If readers say you suck, keep writing. You will improve. Practice doesn’t make perfect but it makes better.

Write your book. Get some help with editing. Get some help with formatting. Get a cover. These things are not expensive. I know, I do it all the time. Uploading to D2D and Amazon is easy as pie. If I can do it, you can do it.

One, two, three… Write!

Read a short story. Write a short story. Why?

Because a short story teaches you to economize. How to write a succinct beginning, middle, and end with no or minimal fluff.

Fluff = Unnecessary filler.

Assignment: Write a 5000 word short story.

Assignment: Write a 10,000 word short story.

Assignment: Write a 25,000 word short story.

Short story writers I recommend:

Me. I have a number of short stories which you can find in my book list. 🙂 (Look left.)

Believe it or not, Pistol Pete Maravich~ I swear he wrote a collection of short stories. Read ’em when I was a kid. Good luck finding them. I sure as heck cannot.

Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame).

O. Henry (William Sydney Porter).

Edgar Allen Poe.

John Steinbeck.

Ray Bradbury.

Henry James.

John  Cheever.

Sandra Cisneros. (I consider her novellas to be interconnected shorts.)

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. (Again, her novel,l Mistress of Spices, gives one a sense of interconnected shorts.)

Nadine Gordimer.

I’d like to include more female short story writers, but women, at least according to traditional publishers, tend to write long. Or perhaps they aren’t published and promoted until they write long. But it’s more than that. It’s not sexism. You’ll notice most of those men are dead or old dudes.

It’s this~ in America the writing of a short story has become a lost art. To our literary detriment.

It’s also this~ The interesting thing? Over the past ten years erotica writers have mastered the art of the short story. Concise writing. Beginning. Middle. End.

Tell a story in your head.

When I was a kid, I put myself to sleep every night by imagining myself as a character in a superhero comic. Sometimes I was the superhero (a girl regardless of the sex of the superhero), sometimes I was the villain (again, a girl), and sometimes I was the Polly Purebred heroine who needed saving. It was fun and, more important, it exercised the storytelling synapses of my brain. Keeps brain muscles from atrophy.

To this day (or night) I put myself to sleep by creating a story in which I am one of the main characters.

Do you do this? If not, do you want to do this?

It’s easy.

Pick a story, any story. Could be a Nancy Drew mystery, could be The Hunger Games, could be Outlander. Pick a body, or rather, a character, for yourself– either a preexisting character or make up an entirely new character and insert her/him into the story. Now, rewrite the story in your own words. Tell the story you would tell had you written that particular story.

I’m not suggesting you write fanfic. Except in your head.

I’m suggesting you grow your writing chops by learning from other genre writers. I prefer genre work because genre writers generally create more compelling, more romantic, and more relate-able characters. I’m not about to insert myself into War and Peace, although I’ve stuck myself into The War of the Roses plenty of times. (That Edward the IV was a hottie in his youth!)

Heroic books that make for great imaginary fanfic – Jane Eyre. Shogun. Outlander. Your favorite romance novel- insert title here ______________________________________________. Historical fiction. Norse mythology. Comic books– great for beginners. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want to fly or become invisible or shrink or make crazy weather? And Thor? He’s the best! Always been one of my faves.

Go for it. Like choose your own adventure. Rewrite your favorite stories in your head. Work those abs! Uh, I mean brain cells!

One Writer’s Manifesto– for my dear friend, Penny Watson.

Listen up, girlfriend, because I’m about to spill a writer’s most sacred secrets.

The cardinal rule of writing: and this little gem is going on my tombstone~ Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

A writer’s world is personal. First and foremost. A good writer writes her truth. Her truth will resonate with a certain audience precisely because it is truth, a universal truth if you will, and her particular audience will see and feel her work for what it is. The secret to every compelling story? A kernel of truth.

Can you please all the people all the time? No. Can you please some of the people some of the time? Yes.

Rule number two: Writing is like believing in God (God is most definitely a verb.)– it is, was, and will always be a leap of faith. Scary shit, right? Do it anyway.

Rule number three: Never take advice from other writers. Except me, and even then take my advice with a grain of salt. Other writers have their own styles and their own agendas and agendas tend to rule the day. Write your story in your voice. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The small stuff is easy to clean up.

Rule number four: Writing is hard. Good writing is especially hard. A writer must do the hard thing. I’d love it if my books wrote themselves, but they don’t. The way to do this hard thing? And here’s a real piece of advice~ write in the present moment. Do not look ahead. If you consider how much you have left to write you will grow discouraged. Therefore live in denial. I repeat, do not look ahead. To paraphrase Alcoholics Anonymous – write one word at a time. In the end you will be at the end. Seriously. The End comes at The End.

Rule number five: Do not fear the story. I know… I know. A story is like Frankenstein. A serious monster. But Frankenstein lives because of us. Or, if you prefer, think of your story as The Golem. You create a man (Golem- an unshaped form) from clay and give him life or shape. How do you give him life? Well, in one version you write the word EMET, or TRUTH, on his forehead. So we’ve come full circle. Truth gives life to the otherwise unformed story.

I’ll end with the following words of wisdom~ A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, and There’s a sucker born every minute. (Attributed to P.T. Barnum, but he didn’t really say it.)

Love you, Pens! Julia