Oct 20
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Create the Universe

Creativity is a force far greater than you or I. The only thing we know for sure about the force behind the universe (call it what you will) is that it is creative. Each leaf, each snowflake, each hair on your niece's head, the pen in your hand, is a creation. There is infinite creative power. That means you can have some. Actually you can have as much as you want, it's everywhere, and it won't run out.

When you draft, quit trying to sit on or control the creativity coming through you. Give up some control. Be an open faucet. Let your first drafts flow and freewheel. Don't censor, don't judge; trust the process. Poet John Keats called this state of receptivity "Negative Capability" -- "when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason." Being a poet, or any kind of artist, requires some level of receptivity, of trust, the same kind you had as a child.
Sep 08
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I Get Critiqued

Eagerly I went to the workshop meeting with the first five pages of my novel, which nobody has read and I haven't talked or written about. The readers had five minutes to read their first pages--those make-or-break pages--and then got a five-minute critique from the audience. I was eighth on the list. Nerves crept up on me. I told myself, "Fear is not real. Fear is all in the mind. Don't buckle. Don't let it win."

As the writers took their turns I saw that each criticism had validity and value. Ergo, that'd be true of the critiques of my work. And I grew nervous again, not for myself but for the transition about to take place: My story and characters have been so much fun to write, but the finished book is not mine anymore. It belongs to readers, and has a whole new face.

Jul 01
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Reasons Why I Am Buying / Not Buying Your Book

book blue 300I’m buying your book because:

  • You are my close friend.
  • You are my former student or client.
  • The subject interests me.
  • I’ve read the first page and want to read more.
  • I’ve got the cash on me.
  • I want to encourage you to write more.
  • No one else is buying it and I’m embarrassed for you.
  • You’re selling it at a discount.
  • I was present at your reading and enjoyed the reading.
  • A pity purchase might put me in your good graces.

Jun 24
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School Can Help You Write a Good Novel

There's a myth that writing a novel is very easy. In Peanuts we saw a dog writing a genre novel. Erase that idea; you are now in the Sanity Bubble. It's novelists, the long-distance runners, who most need education in the craft and the business.

May 20
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Almost Done with That Novel

I notice that many authors bail out, or want to, when their books are 95 percent of their way into reality. It's not writer's block; it's a more insidious self-subversion rooted in stress and exhaustion, like that of a mother who feels she can't summon the strength for one last big push to bring her baby into the world. True-life examples:

Apr 26
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Talking With: Poet Ben Moeller-Gaa About Today's Haiku

At a recent reading I met Ben Moeller-Gaa, well-published poet who writes only haiku. I had to ask what that was like.

-Tell us about your interesting last name.

My wife is a Moeller and I am a Gaa and when we got married we decided to join our names. The name Gaa is German, and it’s really that short. My family comes from the town of Hockenheim, where there are still Gaas today. I have no idea what the name means. It is a historical question mark.

Mar 23
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"Unfelt Words" in Written Dialogue

Writer Carol Bly had a trick for improving and tightening dialogue in fiction and nonfiction. Take a page of dialogue from your manuscript, lay a one-inch-wide ruler on the left margin of your writing, and pencil a line down the ruler’s right side. Everything in front of the penciled line must go.

Mar 17
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Why Writers Hate Their Publishers

It is normal for writers to hate their publishers: They don’t promptly return emails or calls. The book, they said, would be out in May but now they say August. You tear out your hair. They choose the typeface and cover, the fun stuff, while you collect copyright permissions and back-of-the-book blurbs (isn’t that their job?), and they demand that you have an author platform and a marketing plan. They want images at 300 dpi. Awful. This is as true of self-publishers as it is of commercial publishers.

Feb 25
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Quoting Song Lyrics in Your Book?

The "John 3:16" of rock lyrics is that "Hotel California" line: "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Authors like to quote song lyrics and are often surprised to learn that to avoid being sued for copyright infringement they need written permission from the song's owner, traceable through one of three sources: www.ascap.com , www.bmi.com and www.sesac.com.

Feb 12
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Proud of My Authors

I collected all the hard-copy books I've edited or worked on. In press are The clientbooks2014Devil Came to Town (nonfiction) by Bonney Patterson, spring 2014, and Icarus Flees the Garden of Earthly Delights (poetry), by Tim Leach, scheduled for publication in May 2015. Two more client manuscripts are out seeking publishers; one is on an agent's desk right now. Eleven of these books were published by established presses with the authors acting as their own agents. I love when that happens.

Feb 09
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Bye, Jay: What Jay Leno Meant to a Writer

I will miss seeing Jay Leno; seeing him each weeknight reassured me, as if he were a friend or, God help me, a husband, a good one: worked hard,  talked to me for 12 minutes on weeknights, liked laughter, didn’t cheat, maintained his hair, paid for his own expensive hobby of car-collecting – dependable, and devoted (his last words on Tonight were “I’m coming home, honey”), and that added up to a chick magnet for women of his demographic, average age 57.8.

So I was always glad to see him and devoted to him, up to a point. I switched off the TV after Jay performed what had been written or engineered for him: the monologue and the comic segues that preceded the interviews with celebrities--who were as interchangeable as cold cuts, too often flogging their new books.