Tag Archives: On Writing

4 Inches More? You Never Expected This!

What is your worst writing habit?

Mine is feeling overwhelmed with my novel.

We’ve wrestled, sorta, and the pages have won.

Here’s what I figure. On a good day I can write a thousand words in an hour. That’s 5,000 a week. 5,000 words per week X 52 weeks = 260,000 words. An hour a day, 260,000 words in a year. For me, that’s almost five and a half novels. Good novels? Maybe not. But drafts.

So why not do that?

Stephen King does. 2,000 words per day. Every day. Seven days a week.


Write a list of everything that gets in your way of writing, no matter how small.

Write a list why you deserve to write. Write everything, even your secret desires.

Now go through list number one. What things on this list are more important than you being happy? Cross those things off. Some stuff will be left, that’s the way it should be. There ARE things more important than writing. (Who knew?)

Last of all, pen a note to yourself saying why it’s okay to write even the hard stuff.

Now go write your dreams.

1 Comment

Filed under CLW, Uncategorized

Three Things Thursday

From Cheryl Van Eck

In rereading ON WRITING by Stephen King, one passage really stood out to me.  He spoke about “killing your darlings,” or getting rid of any words or sentences that don’t work. For me, that always meant cutting out the parts you liked, but weren’t actually any good. However, for him, it means cutting anything that doesn’t contribute effectively to the story, whether it’s good or bad. 

“Certainly I couldn’t keep it in on the grounds that it’s good,” he writes, “it should be good, if I’m being paid to do it.  What I’m not being paid to do is be self-indulgent.”

This struck me in a new way. If I’m expecting to be paid, everything I write should be good. Instead of finding ways to rationalize why a certain passage should stay in (“But my writing group thought it was funny!”), I should be focused on making every word worthy of payment.  Each word needs to submit to a higher power…which, in this case, is the almighty Story.

As Carol always says, “Pretend you have to pay a dollar for every word you use…then see how carefully you choose your words.”

Speaking of the devil–From Carol

Writing a novel in poetry (THE BRAID) or short choppy lines (my novel GLIMPSE) means thinking of all the words you use. Each is weighted. Each plays an important part. There is very little to throw away.

Take an important section of your book.

Rewrite in short sentences.

Think Ann Dee’s work EVERYTHING IS FINE.

Play with structure.

Cut excess words.


What do you have when you’re finished? Do you like it? Does the novel lend itself to this kind of style? What have you learned?

From Brenda Bensch

A couple of months ago in an issue of Writer’s Digest, I saw a photograph of three people – at least two of them were children – walking hand-in-hand along a snowy path between trees. The misty air in front of them obscured whatever may have lain at the end of their path. Readers had been invited to write the first sentence of a new story based on the photo, where the ten “best” openings were published.
It made me think of a good exercise: using an old favorite painting, print, or photograph hanging in your home (or something from an art book, magazine, newspaper, whatever) write ten one-sentence beginnings to new stories. Which three sentences are the best? If you’re brave, show them to relatives, friends, or your critique group, and get their votes. Which one fires the most interest in you, the writer? Which one could be a good short story, poem or even the beginning of a novel?

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW, Exercises, three thing thursday, Voice

New Ideas for a New Group: Memoir

As you know from last week, I’ve been thinking about writing a memoir for some time, maybe putting some of my mom’s memories in my collection of stories.
This morning Ann Dee and I sort of chatted about starting a group that gets together and shares bits of memoirs we have written.
If we do this, we can share some insight on what we learn, here, as we go.
So here’s a definition from dic.com:
Mem-oir    [mem-wahr, -wawr] Show IPA


a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.

Usually, memoirs.


an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography.

the published record of the proceedings of a group or organization, as of a learned society.

a biography or biographical sketch.
1560–70;  < French mémoire  < Latin memoria
2a. journal, recollections, reminiscences.
While we can’t all be in a group together–you know–meeting physically–we CAN focus on memoir here, twice a month, with writing exercises and etc.
What do you think?
Would you like to play?
Let’s Start with Some Good Reading
Here are some good memoirs, just for the fun of it.
Of course, we have to go with Stephen King’s memoir and book on the craft of writing called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I love this book! It’s smart and funny and revealing. And it teaches good writing, too.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
My friend Lance Larsen (keynote at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers [www.wifyr.com]–this keynote is open to the world, free of charge. Come to it. Lance is a great writer and will give us some terrific pointers on writing like  poet.) told me for years to read Zippy. One day at a garage sale I saw a copy of the memoir for .75 and I couldn’t believe it. That is SO MUCH for me to spend on a book. But I remembered Lance telling me to read Zippy. So I circled the memoir (laying on a blanket–the book, not me) and finally decided since Lance said I should, I would buy and then read this. I did. It’s great! Well worth .75 (though I wish I could have gotten the book for a half dollar instead.)
Angela’s Ashes by  Frank McCourt. I loved just about everything about this book. I loved the voice, the way McCourt puts the words on the page, how he paints a picture. I didn’t love the end of the book, but that is just me.
So, if you wanted to play the memoir game with us, I would start with these three titles. And I know Ann Dee has HER favorite books. She may share.
Many of you know that I am a Latter-day Saint. For those interested, here is a quote by Elder B. Henry Eyring. He’s talking about writing a journal or a memoir. He says, “My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies.” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/o-remember-remember?lang=eng)
It seems when I have sunk as low as I can go, when I tell Heavenly Father, “I am done!” He answers me.
If I write a memoir, it will be for the spiritual times, and the funny times and the heart-breaking times.
For me.
For my girls.
My girls always tell me to be happy. And I try.
Maybe a memoir will help them understand me more.
For sure, a memoir will help me understand me more.
And maybe it will help me become a better writer.
And that’s a good goal.


Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, writing process

Three Things Thursday

1. I sort of feel better today even though it’s almost 8 am and dark outside. This is SAD. I don’t love the weather when it turns cold. In fact, now that we are headed into the cold season that Utah offers, I’m wishing for hot, beachy, delicious weather. The crash of the waves, the way the water looks when it runs up onto the shore, the smell of the salt and the cry of the gulls. I love the way the wet sand sounds when you walk on it, the way you itch after the salt water dries on your skin and how a tumble in the waves makes your nose burn. I love the way the sun feels on your eyelids, how hard it is to walk through sand dunes and crunching on grit when you’re eating that hotdog with relish and mustard.

Mr. S. King (Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining etc) says something like this about description in his memoir On Writing. I’m paraphrasing here. Description is the opportunity for the author to make place become real for the reader. He says we must use the perfect amount of description and that takes practice.

You know the drill. Look through your novel. Does the reader know where she is in every scene? Are you using the five senses so your reader is grounded? If not, YOU’RE grounded.

2. In class yesterday, one of my sweet students said, “I love adverbs.” After I woke up from my faint and begged her not to use them in my class (she said she wouldn’t), I thought I needed some fun quotes about adverbs. So here are a few:

Going back to our good friend Steve– “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
― Stephen King, On Writing

“In order to write good stuff you have to hate adverbs.”
(Theodore Roethke, quoted in The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke, by Allan Seager.)

“I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. … There are subtleties which I cannot master at all,–the confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me,–and this adverb plague is one of them. … Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won’t.”
(Mark Twain, “Reply to a Boston Girl,” Atlantic Monthly, June 1880)

“Do not over-write. Oftentimes novice writers (and I have been guilty of this) tend to use way too many exclamation points, far too many adjectives and adverbs, and they want to show off their vocabulary. Less is more. Stick to the meat of the story. Understatement is powerful.”
(Marvin D. Wilson in Meet the Editor.)

“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”
(William Strunk Jr., E B White in ‘Elements of Style’)

“In order to write good stuff you have to hate adverbs.”
(Theodore Roethke, quoted in The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke, by Allan Seager. McGraw-Hill, 1968)

“Most adverbs are unnecessary. You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don’t tell us that the radio blared loudly – “blare” connotes loudness. Don’t write that someone clenched his teeth tightly – there’s no other way to clench teeth. Again and again in careless writing, strong verbs are weakened by redundant adverbs.”
(William Zinsser in On Writing Well)

“Minimize words ending in -ly; these are usually weak adverbs. Instead, use specific nouns and verbs.”
( Dr. Myron, Shippensburg University in Useful Manuscript Preparation)

I could keep going on this, but I won’t. You get the picture. When we write we want each word to play its part. We want our stories to be strong.

3. I find it interesting that people will read a well-written book and love it, but don’t know why they love it. You want to be a good writer? Figure out WHY you love what you love. And another thing–I’ve heard it said–and I’ve said it myself–that reading poorly written books can teach you to be a better writer. This is only true if you are reading fine literature as well. Otherwise, you will fall headfirst into the bad writing category because your teachers–the books you are reading–are teaching you the wrong way to write.

It doesn’t matter if the genre YOU write for has a million adverbs per page. YOU write the best, cleanest, strongest writing you can.
It doesn’t matter if all the best sellers in the world of children’s writing have weak plot, poor writing or flimsy characterization. YOU decide your writing will NOT be anything but your best.
Maybe we will be the starving artists that Ann Dee talked about on Tuesday. But at least we will know that we’ve done the best work–not the easiest–for those who trust us with their minds for a few hours at a time.

Here we go–one last adverb quote–from a movie this time.

“It’s an adverb, Sam. It’s a lazy tool of a weak mind.”
Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman in “Outbreak”

(It’s SLEETING now?????)


Filed under CLW