Tag Archives: talent

ISWG – Diffusion, Best Sellers, and Strong Will

InsecureWritersSupportGroupPurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! (Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG)

Alex J. Cavanaugh’s awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Sheena-kay Graham, Suzanne Furness, and Laura Eno.

Everyone knows about rejection. Writers live it, in fact, all artists do. We all talk about that nature of what we do. The problem is no one, and I mean no one, but another artist understands what we do. The average reader thinks books appear through some bizarre act of diffusion from the brain to the page in their entirety and ready to sell. They believe every talented writer finds an agent immediately and sells their books quickly. They believe writers make a lot of money. They believe everyone with talent is on top of the Times Best Seller list.

Therefore, if you are a writer and haven’t seen that level of success, you are obviously without talent. I suppose in a way this is another form of rejection, back-handed as it is.

Like any job seeker, writers find themselves getting to the last interview and not making that final cut. Now, obviously talent took them that far, but to the outside world…nada. When the outside world assumes you’re a failure, it can be all to easy to succumb to their assumptions. It’s what has left many a talented writer behind. In fact, what really leads someone to publish is much different. Luck or strong will. The ones who publish easily had luck on their side. The others had to keep up the fight long after others fell.

As one of my favorite writers, Nancy Pickard, once said, “Show me a published writer, and I’ll show you a stubborn son of a bitch.”

As writers, those are words to write by.



Filed under The Life, Writing

I Just Can’t

The few times I’ve been unable to find a topic to blog about, the culprit was grief. Today I find myself in that position again. Unable to write or focus for the sorrow so instead I’ll direct you to something that made me laugh when I saw it. Maybe it will bring you the same amount of joy it did me.

The Three Little Pigs


Filed under Writing

Blog Chain – Facing the Keyboard After Rejection

Like all writers I face rejection constantly. It’s as consistent as the bills. The question for those of us who do this is: How do you stay motivated at your most unmotivated?

For me rejection brings to mind torture devices from the darker paths of history. Put me in stocks. Pull out the thumbscrews. Chain me in the tower. Stretch me on the rack. Just don’t make me write when it feels like my dog writes better prose than I do. No offense, Moses.

Motivating myself to write when things are as dark as they can get is beyond difficult. It’s like hunting for a man after a painful divorce. Demeaning, devastating, deplorable. How do you force yourself to sit down to the keyboard after someone rips your work to shreds? The obvious answer is you sit your butt in the chair, and you do it because as a writer you have no other option. For most of us that’s true but it’s also true that each rejection makes it harder to repeat the process. .

It’s not like I enjoy being eviscerated. (And no matter how many times I tell myself it’s not personal, those words are mine and therefore, it’s very personal.) However, I can’t stop the voices in my head, and I can’t stop telling stories just because they aren’t perfect on the page yet or because I haven’t found the right editor or agent to read them yet.

In all honesty, sometimes the blistering criticism is accurate. My work is not done. And I’m not totally surprised by the criticism as some place deep down, I knew something wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew something was wrong. However, some of it is BUNK. A reviewer rushed, skimming rather than reading.  Or makes suggestions that aren’t helpful or fitting to the work at hand.

The issue for a writer before they pull out the thumbscrews is to figure out which criticism is worth pursuing and which can be burned in effigy or placed on the rack and stretched until shredded.

Unfortunately, you have to let go of the pain of the rejection first. Having a support system can help. My critique group provides that. They provide a balance for me. Honestly agreeing with the reviewer when the advice is right and telling me to ignore it when it’s off the mark. But mostly, by acknowledging that this is part of the process, and we all go through it as writers. A form of hazing to find who has the wherewithal to keep going in the face of constant rejection. That is what gets me back behind the keyboard and willing to keep trying.

What keeps you in the game? Check out Natasha’s blog to see what she has to say about rejection.



Filed under The Life, Writing

First Lines

By Les Edgerton

As a writer I’m constantly looking for that great first line. The one that will hook the reader the minute they read it. As a reader I constantly admire – okay, sometimes on an almost pathological level – the first lines of other writers. Man, why didn’t I think of that line? I’m reading Hooked by Les Edgerton so this is on my brain a lot. All the best first lines I’ve read. Some from the great classics:  

Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” Simple, direct. I love it. So did a slew of writers who went on to emulate it making it cliché to try today.  

Gone with the Wind: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it.” Another incredible line which characterizes Scarlet in ways another writer would have taken pages to accomplish. Amazing use of brevity and wit.  

A Farewell to Arms: “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.”From Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, this line sets the stage for us.  

Huckleberry Finn: “YOU don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” Mark Twain’s reference to his signature story is a move of bravado that most wouldn’t get away with. It worked for him and the dialect sold us on the youngster named Huck whose plight is not so far removed from many of his time. The need for family and belonging yet the desire to remain free of a society that would cookie cutter them.  

See Jane Run: “One afternoon in late spring, Jane Whittaker went to the store for some milk and some eggs and forgot who she was.” I’m a long time fan of Joy Fielding’s thrillers, but this is one of the first I read and definitely one of my favorites. She hooked me with this line and Jane’s blood-spattered clothing. Blood she didn’t know who it belonged to. Again a great set up, character, setting, background, and conflict. So much in one sentence.  

Gone for Good:  Harlan Coben’s thrillers are a favorite of mine. He seems to find the perfect first line every time. This is one of my favorites: “Three days before her death, my mother told me – these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close – that my brother was still alive.” How can you not want to read on from that first sentence? His prominence on the best seller lists says I’m not the only one who feels this way about his books.  

Now if finding and appreciating first lines would help me come up with some great ones of my own…hmm, not really feeling inspired. Better start chapter two and see what Les has to say about it.  


Filed under Writing

Blog Chain – Write Space

Natasha posed this question:

Where do you write? Is it quiet? Do you like to listen to music? Do write at home or away? What gets you in the mood?

My bedroom has a bay window, lots of sunlight and privacy. It also has a Victorian chair and ottoman. My treadmill is close by in case I need to pound out frustration. Also, close at hand are my writing books. The ones I use most frequently at any rate. I teach, consequently, I’m used to noise. What I’ve discovered over the years is that I need some noise when I write. What works best is to suit the noise to what I’m writing. Rock and rap work well for my YA pieces but I use more easy listening or pop for adult pieces. If I’m writing a piece with a slow tempo, I put on jazz or the blues. Classical music with a dramatic flair spurs the writing of a suspenseful scene. Matching the music to a character helps me to stay in a character’s head. One of my characters is a huge Patsy Cline fan. When I hear her music, Ramie begins to talk in my head.

If I’m having difficulty getting in the zone, it is helpful to get away from the house. I’ve gone to the mall and watched people or the boats and checked out the behavior of those who gambled and the people who work at the casinos. Studying people will bring characters to life for me faster than reading a book, watching a movie, or a host of other pastimes. Of course, when I’m creatively blocked, any suggestion is a good one.

Check out Marsha’s blog for her suggestions.


Filed under The Life, Writing


My district ‘transitioned’ this year from a three-year high school to a four-year. This means as a ninth grade teacher my job moved to the high school. We knew this would be complicated as any massive change is. For many of us, it meant a painful pay cut because of supplemental contracts  lost in the move. It has meant tremendous adjustments for everyone; teachers, administrators, students, parents.  This will be an ongoing challenge for the district. What does it have to do with writing?

Transitions are vital in writing and just as challenging. How well a writer does at moving the reader through a story will make a big difference in how successful it is. These shifts must serve a purpose. For our district, the reason was serious overcrowding. Each time a writer decides to transition in a story, she needs to first evaluate the purpose. Are you transitioning from one scene to another, from one chapter to another? Is it action or emotion? Do you want a chapter break in the middle of a scene? This kind of stark break can serve a specific purpose. Maybe you want a subtle transition from one scene to the next and an extra space from one to the next will give you that.

Perhaps a paragraph of narration that offers a hint of back story in the form of mystery will transition beautifully. Maybe action will be better? It’s your story to tell so you decide. But make sure you are asking yourself what best serves the interests of the story and the characters.

What are transitions like for you? Do find them easy to write or are they difficult to navigate?

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Parents as Teachers

You’ve heard them; inspirational blurbs titled, Everything I know about _______, I learned from/in ________.  Fill in the first blank with life, love, humor, etc. Fill in the second blank with TV, film, how to books, whatever people believe is the key component of their learning experience. My personal favorite is Everything I learned about life, I learned in kindergarten. Having given this some thought, I realized I can apply this to my writing…and my parents.

Everything I learned about writing, I learned from my parents (first):

1. From Mom: Read. Read a lot. Read all the time. Read anything and everything. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly.

2. Observe life. Don’t be a passive observer. Be a participative one. If you’re interacting, you’ll gain more in terms of what you are observing than if you merely stand by and watch.

3. Contrary to that popular adage, write what you know; don’t limit yourself to that. No matter how smart we are, our limitations are strikingly obvious. Break free of what you know and check out all the things you don’t know but would like to.

4. Remain curious. Forget the axiom curiosity killed the cat. Old age killed him. Boredom killed him. The next door neighbor may have killed him, but it’s doubtful that curiosity ever killed him.

5. From my father – when you’re on the job and “in the zone” it’s okay to tell people no. Ignore the bed that isn’t made. Ignore the dishes in the sink and the laundry on the floor. The zone cannot be denied.

6. Write from a place of strength. We all have a force within us where our strongest foundation is. Find that place when you write. It is the only time your writing will be honest and real.

7. Deny expectations. No matter what you do in life people will place their expectations on you. Don’t fall for it. The only expectations in your life that matter are yours. Follow that and the people around you will benefit as much as you do.

8. When you aren’t in the zone, don’t forget it exists. Watch the world around you with an eye for the magnificence that exists. The sights, the sounds, the smells, are pieces of history that will never take root in a text-book but only in those who are there.

9. Appreciate everything you’re given, the gifts, the challenges, the tragedies. There are lessons in all of them. Like the pearl, we will gain more from the friction of adversity than the ease of good times. Never lose sight of what you can take with you on that journey.

10. Live the life you have, not the one you wish for. It’s great to have a dream, but to accomplish that dream you must remain rooted in the reality it will take to get there. And the reality usually involves hard work. Accept that.

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Filed under The Life, Writing