Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quotes about Writing

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.” - Alfred Hitchcock

“If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.” - James J. Kilpatrick

“Sure, it's simple, writing for kids… Just as simple as bringing them up.” - Ursula K. LeGuin

“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?” - Marcell Marceau

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write.’ - Somerset Maugham

Featured Link of the Day: Writer Beware

Featured Link of the Day: Writer Beware

Warnings about literary fraud and other schemes, scams, and pitfalls that target writers.
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Ray Bradbury on Writing

David W. Silva's More Senior Moments

More Senior Moments—A Book For Seniors

More Senior Moments is a companion book to David W. Silva's Senior Moments. It was a finalist in the National Best Books 2007 Award. It contains strategies and stories that help seniors deal with the problems of aging such as depression, loneliness, loss of independence, self identity and chronic illness. The book contains well though out and simple advice to help seniors accept aging as a challenge instead of a negative burden.

More details can be found at:
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Six Writing Tips from Author Chris Pash

1. "Then" and "suddenly." Who needs them? Action happens or it doesn’t. (And then) an action (suddenly) creates a reaction and (then) leads to another (sudden) action.

2."Said" or "says" are preferred. For a trained reader, these words fade into the background and are hardly noticed. This enhances flow of the story. I once saw "he exhorted" used by a well known, and best selling, author. An assault on my eyes, I chucked the book down the stairs and later tried to palm it off on someone else but they knew better. The book sat on the stairs for some time before resurrection as a doorstop. The dog refused to chew it.

3. "Shouted" can look natural. "Yelled" may be accepted, grudgingly. Once or twice per 50,000 words or so would be an acceptable ratio.

4. All others such as "recalled" or "voiced" will be eliminated.

5. "At about" will not appear. It is either "at" or "about." It cannot be both. One is precise, the other an approximation. Together they conflict.

6. Dashes – shall be used sparingly – overuse – hurts – and causes eye stumbles – annoying. Journalists like them because they add a jerky, breathless drama. Reporters need them to make a story appear more important than the facts allow.

Please visit Mr. Pash's blog on his upcoming narrative nonfiction, THE LAST WHALE:
Click here

Why I Write

A short trailer from a full-length documentary film about the art and activism of The Twin Poets.

Quotes about Writing

“Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” - Robert Frost

“The writer who cares more about words than about story – characters, action, setting, atmosphere – is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream; he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't tell the cart – and its cargo – from the horse.” - John Gardner

“We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.” - John Gardner

“It's better to write about things you feel than about things you know about.” - L. P. Hartley

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thompson Writing & Editing

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Professional Writer?

Find out with A Professional Writer’s Ladder to Success!
If you’ve…
•dabbled in writing and wondered whether you should pursue it as a career,
•been struggling with some aspects of your writing business,
•decided to make a mid-life career change and have thought about being a writer,

This e-book series is for you! Find out more at:
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Author Lia Scott’s Writing Tips/Part 2

Words of Wisdom

Oliver Wendell Holmes:
A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.

Omar N. Bradley:
Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

Oscar Wilde:
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.

The truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.

Pearl S. Buck:
The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.

Ralph Ellison:
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.:
Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.

Ray Bradbury:
Life is "trying things to see if they work."

Raymond Charles Barker:
The principle of life is that life responds by corresponding; your life becomes the thing you have decided it shall be.

Robert Byrne:
The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

Robert Frost:
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.

Robert Louis Stevenson:
The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.

Roy H. Williams:
Lives, like money, are spent. What are you buying with yours?

Sarah Ban Breathnach:
An authentic life is the most personal form of worship. Everyday life has become my prayer.

Sarah Bernhardt:
Life begets life. Energy becomes energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.

Sean O'Casey:
I have found life an enjoyable, enchanting, active, and sometime terrifying experience, and I've enjoyed it completely. A lament in one ear, maybe, but always a song in the other.

Our care should not be to have lived long as to have lived enough.

Stephen Covey:
Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

Theodore Rubin:
There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.

Thich Nhat Hanh:
Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.

Thomas Jefferson:
It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.

Tom Lehrer:
Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Toni Morrison:
Birth, life, and death -- each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.

Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

Ursula K. LeGuin:
If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.

Victor Frankl:
A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."

Victor Hugo:
Life is the flower for which love is the honey.

Wallace Stegner:
Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus.

Will Rogers:
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

William James:
These, then, are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create that fact.

Winston Churchill:
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.

What are your favorite writing things?

What are your favorite writing books?

What are your favorite pieces of writing advice?

What are your favorite writing resource sites?

What are your favorite writing sites?

What are your favorite writing blogs?

What are your favorite quotes about writing?

What are your favorite writing groups?

Can't wait to see the answers!

Please feel free to note your feelings here in comments.

Thanks so much,


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Murrow Speech From Movie "Good Night, and Good Luck"

Edward R. Murrow’s Famous 1958 Speech on Media & Substance

Edward R. Murrow’s Famous 1958 Speech on Media & Substance


RTNDA Convention
October 15, 1958

This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.

I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard that produces words and pictures. You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other. All of these things you know.

You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before Congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily-by invitation-that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor a director of that corporation and that these remarks are of a "do-it-yourself" nature. If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor new sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot well be disappointed. Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television. These instruments have been good to me beyond my due. There exists in mind no reasonable grounds for personal complaint. I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television. But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done--and are still doing--to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry's program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is--an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

Several years ago, when we undertook to do a program on Egypt and Israel, well-meaning, experienced and intelligent friends shook their heads and said, "This you cannot do--you will be handed your head. It is an emotion-packed controversy, and there is no room for reason in it." We did the program. Zionists, anti-Zionists, the friends of the Middle East, Egyptian and Israeli officials said, with a faint tone of surprise, "It was a fair count. The information was there. We have no complaints."

Our experience was similar with two half-hour programs dealing with cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Both the medical profession and the tobacco industry cooperated in a rather wary fashion. But in the end of the day they were both reasonably content. The subject of radioactive fall-out and the banning of nuclear tests was, and is, highly controversial. But according to what little evidence there is, viewers were prepared to listen to both sides with reason and restraint. This is not said to claim any special or unusual competence in the presentation of controversial subjects, but rather to indicate that timidity in these areas is not warranted by the evidence.

Recently, network spokesmen have been disposed to complain that the professional critics of television have been "rather beastly." There have been hints that somehow competition for the advertising dollar has caused the critics of print to gang up on television and radio. This reporter has no desire to defend the critics. They have space in which to do that on their own behalf. But it remains a fact that the newspapers and magazines are the only instruments of mass communication which remain free from sustained and regular critical comment. If the network spokesmen are so anguished about what appears in print, let them come forth and engage in a little sustained and regular comment regarding newspapers and magazines. It is an ancient and sad fact that most people in network television, and radio, have an exaggerated regard for what appears in print. And there have been cases where executives have refused to make even private comment or on a program for which they were responsible until they heard'd the reviews in print. This is hardly an exhibition confidence.

The oldest excuse of the networks for their timidity is their youth. Their spokesmen say, "We are young; we have not developed the traditions nor acquired the experience of the older media." If they but knew it, they are building those traditions, creating those precedents everyday. Each time they yield to a voice from Washington or any political pressure, each time they eliminate something that might offend some section of the community, they are creating their own body of precedent and tradition. They are, in fact, not content to be "half safe."

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy, overt and clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored, requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials would not be profitable; if they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use the money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

So far as radio--that most satisfying and rewarding instrument--is concerned, the diagnosis of its difficulties is rather easy. And obviously I speak only of news and information. In order to progress, it need only go backward. To the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial in a 15-minute news report, when radio was rather proud, alert and fast. I recently asked a network official, "Why this great rash of five-minute news reports (including three commercials) on weekends?" He replied, "Because that seems to be the only thing we can sell."

In this kind of complex and confusing world, you can't tell very much about the why of the news in broadcasts where only three minutes is available for news. The only man who could do that was Elmer Davis, and his kind aren't about any more. If radio news is to be regarded as a commodity, only acceptable when saleable, then I don't care what you call it--I say it isn't news.

My memory also goes back to the time when the fear of a slight reduction in business did not result in an immediate cutback in bodies in the news and public affairs department, at a time when network profits had just reached an all-time high. We would all agree, I think, that whether on a station or a network, the stapling machine is a poor substitute for a newsroom typewriter.

One of the minor tragedies of television news and information is that the networks will not even defend their vital interests. When my employer, CBS, through a combination of enterprise and good luck, did an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the President uttered a few ill-chosen, uninformed words on the subject, and the network practically apologized. This produced a rarity. Many newspapers defended the CBS right to produce the program and commended it for initiative. But the other networks remained silent.

Likewise, when John Foster Dulles, by personal decree, banned American journalists from going to Communist China, and subsequently offered contradictory explanations, for his fiat the networks entered only a mild protest. Then they apparently forgot the unpleasantness. Can it be that this national industry is content to serve the public interest only with the trickle of news that comes out of Hong Kong, to leave its viewers in ignorance of the cataclysmic changes that are occurring in a nation of six hundred million people? I have no illusions about the difficulties reporting from a dictatorship, but our British and French allies have been better served--in their public interest--with some very useful information from their reporters in Communist China.

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the coporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time-- frequently on the same long day--to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.

Sometimes there is a clash between the public interest and the corporate interest. A telephone call or a letter from the proper quarter in Washington is treated rather more seriously than a communication from an irate but not politically potent viewer. It is tempting enough to give away a little air time for frequently irresponsible and unwarranted utterances in an effort to temper the wind of criticism.

Upon occasion, economics and editorial judgment are in conflict. And there is no law which says that dollars will be defeated by duty. Not so long ago the President of the United States delivered a television address to the nation. He was discoursing on the possibility or probability of war between this nation and the Soviet Union and Communist China--a reasonably compelling subject. Two networks CBS and NBC, delayed that broadcast for an hour and fifteen minutes. If this decision was dictated by anything other than financial reasons, the networks didn't deign to explain those reasons. That hour-and-fifteen-minute delay, by the way, is about twice the time required for an ICBM to travel from the Soviet Union to major targets in the United States. It is difficult to believe that this decision was made by men who love, respect and understand news.

So far, I have been dealing largely with the deficit side of the ledger, and the items could be expanded. But I have said, and I believe, that potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse. I do not suggest that news and information should be subsidized by foundations or private subscriptions. I am aware that the networks have expended, and are expending, very considerable sums of money on public affairs programs from which they cannot hope to receive any financial reward. I have had the privilege at CBS of presiding over a considerable number of such programs. I testify, and am able to stand here and say, that I have never had a program turned down by my superiors because of the money it would cost.

But we all know that you cannot reach the potential maximum audience in marginal time with a sustaining program. This is so because so many stations on the network--any network--will decline to carry it. Every licensee who applies for a grant to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity makes certain promises as to what he will do in terms of program content. Many recipients of licenses have, in blunt language, welshed on those promises. The money-making machine somehow blunts their memories. The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the F.C.C. But in the view of many this would come perilously close to supervision of program content by a federal agency.

So it seems that we cannot rely on philanthropic support or foundation subsidies; we cannot follow the "sustaining route"--the networks cannot pay all the freight--and the F.C.C. cannot or will not discipline those who abuse the facilities that belong to the public. What, then, is the answer? Do we merely stay in our comfortable nests, concluding that the obligation of these instruments has been discharged when we work at the job of informing the public for a minimum of time? Or do we believe that the preservation of the Republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated.

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once said, "No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch." I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won't be, but it could. Let us not shoot the wrong piano player. Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their networks. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market.

And this brings us to the nub of the question. In one sense it rather revolves around the phrase heard frequently along Madison Avenue: The Corporate Image. I am not precisely sure what this phrase means, but I would imagine that it reflects a desire on the part of the corporations who pay the advertising bills to have the public image, or believe that they are not merely bodies with no souls, panting in pursuit of elusive dollars. They would like us to believe that they can distinguish between the public good and the private or corporate gain. So the question is this: Are the big corporations who pay the freight for radio and television programs wise to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do? The sponsor of an hour's television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or "letting the public decide."

I refuse to believe that the presidents and chairmen of the boards of these big corporations want their corporate image to consist exclusively of a solemn voice in an echo chamber, or a pretty girl opening the door of a refrigerator, or a horse that talks. They want something better, and on occasion some of them have demonstrated it. But most of the men whose legal and moral responsibility it is to spend the stockholders' money for advertising are removed from the realities of the mass media by five, six, or a dozen contraceptive layers of vice-presidents, public relations counsel and advertising agencies. Their business is to sell goods, and the competition is pretty tough.

But this nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects and fill those minds with slogans, determination and faith in the future. If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. We are engaged in a great experiment to discover whether a free public opinion can devise and direct methods of managing the affairs of the nation. We may fail. But we are handicapping ourselves needlessly.

Let us have a little competition. Not only in selling soap, cigarettes and automobiles, but in informing a troubled, apprehensive but receptive public. Why should not each of the 20 or 30 big corporations which dominate radio and television decide that they will give up one or two of their regularly scheduled programs each year, turn the time over to the networks and say in effect: "This is a tiny tithe, just a little bit of our profits. On this particular night we aren't going to try to sell cigarettes or automobiles; this is merely a gesture to indicate our belief in the importance of ideas." The networks should, and I think would, pay for the cost of producing the program. The advertiser, the sponsor, would get name credit but would have nothing to do with the content of the program. Would this blemish the corporate image? Would the stockholders object? I think not. For if the premise upon which our pluralistic society rests, which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision--if that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image but the corporations are done for.

There used to be an old phrase in this country, employed when someone talked too much. It was: "Go hire a hall." Under this proposal the sponsor would have hired the hall; he has bought the time; the local station operator, no matter how indifferent, is going to carry the program-he has to. Then it's up to the networks to fill the hall. I am not here talking about editorializing but about straightaway exposition as direct, unadorned and impartial as falliable human beings can make it. Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information. Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up in their wrath and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore the future of the corporations? This method would also provide real competition between the networks as to which could outdo the others in the palatable presentation of information. It would provide an outlet for the young men of skill, and there are some even of dedication, who would like to do something other than devise methods of insulating while selling.

There may be other and simpler methods of utilizing these instruments of radio and television in the interests of a free society. But I know of none that could be so easily accomplished inside the framework of the existing commercial system. I don't know how you would measure the success or failure of a given program. And it would be hard to prove the magnitude of the benefit accruing to the corporation which gave up one night of a variety or quiz show in order that the network might marshal its skills to do a thorough-going job on the present status of NATO, or plans for controlling nuclear tests. But I would reckon that the president, and indeed the majority of shareholders of the corporation who sponsored such a venture, would feel just a little bit better about the corporation and the country.

It may be that the present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it. Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex-it doesn't matter. The main thing is to try. The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the mouthings about giving the public what it wants. It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests at the top. Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated. And it promises its own reward: good business and good television.

Perhaps no one will do anything about it. I have ventured to outline it against a background of criticism that may have been too harsh only because I could think of nothing better. Someone once said--I think it was Max Eastman--that "that publisher serves his advertiser best who best serves his readers." I cannot believe that radio and television, or the corporation that finance the programs, are serving well or truly their viewers or listeners, or themselves.

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

We are to a large extent an imitative society. If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small traction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure would grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure--exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, "When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival. is a developing public service website for aspiring writers and industry professionals.

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I think I've become addicted to Facebook. Anybody know a cure?

Bukowski on Writing

Words of Wisdom

Katharine Hepburn:
Without discipline, there's no life at all.

Leo Buscaglia:
What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.

Madame de Stael:
The mystery of existence is the connection between our faults and our misfortunes.

Marcus Aurelius:
The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Marcus Aurelius:
Remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses.

Marcus Aurelius:
And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last.

Margaret Fuller:
Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.

Maria Mitchell:
Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.

Marian Wright Edelman:
Service is what life is all about.

Marie Curie:
Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain:
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Mary Oliver:
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go. Blackwater Woods

May Sarton:
A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.

Mohandas K. Gandhi:
Where there is love there is life.

Norman MacEwan:
Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Norman Vincent Peale:
Live your life and forget your age.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Five Memorable Interviews

I interviewed President Nixon twice, for around 10 minutes each time, once at Yankee Stadium, the other at Shea. It was surreal, like talking to Mount Rushmore. We talked only about baseball, not politics. And once he knew your name, he'd repeat it in his answers. Old political trick, I surmised. To get me to like him, feel comfortable with him.

I interviewed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who absolutely loathed the media, for 10 straight days, seven of them in California (including several days in the living room of his Beverly Hills home, all the way on top of a hill)and three in Arizona. He was so incredibly moody, and those moods could shift suddenly, in a matter of minutes sometimes. From friendly to angry. From likeable to defensive. Very challenging interview. Very hostile environment most of the time. Felt like I was walking on eggshells. Still, I came away thinking he was the most intelligent athlete I'd ever met.

I interviewed the actor Dennis Hopper on a golf course in Simi Valley, as well as in the limo that drove us for 40 minutes there. Met him very early in the morning (around 5 am) at his home in Venice. He made me coffee and was very nice to me. In fact, I was so unprepared for the rare California frigidness (it was around 40 degrees, if that much, and I had only packed short sleeve shirts)that he loaned me a sweater and jacket (which were so small on me). He was giving in the interview, but tough to keep on track. He'd go off on these wild tangents and never come back to question I asked. Plus, about some recollections, he'd go totally blank. Loved him, though. He was funny and bright and intense and loved talking about James Dean and Natalie Wood, as well as his obsession for golf.

I interviewed Joey Pants (Pantoliano) in a resturant in Connecticut. Crazy guy. Another guy who went off on tangents, never to return. One thing: he was passionate about everything. Politics. Acting. Whatever. In fact, at one point during our interview, he suddenly began talking to me not as Joey but in character--as psychopath Ralphie of the Sopranos. I thought I was about to get whacked!

And I interviewed Ozzie Smith for a week in St. Louis, at a time when the Cardinals were trying to make him go away. He was not the back-flipping Oz, I can tell you that. He was surprisingly very little fun at all. A guy who turns on the dazzle in public, but turns it off completely in private.

Anyway, those are five quick ones that come to mind right now, as I battle another night of insomnia. LOL

I'm going to write a how-to on interviewing for the newsletter, where I'll go into these memorable interviews in depth.

Robert Towne on Screenwriting

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Words of Wisdom

George Santayana:
Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.

Germaine Greer:
Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.

A useless life is an early death.

HH the Dalai Lama:
What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.

Harry Emerson Fosdick:
Nothing else matters much -- not wealth, nor learning, nor even health -- without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep zest in living. This is the creed of creeds, the final deposit and distillation of all important faiths: that you should be able to believe in life.

Helen Keller:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Henri Frederick Amiel:
Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.

Henry David Thoreau:
However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.

Henry James:
Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

Henry Van Dyke:
Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
and things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art; to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Immanuel Kant:
Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

Isaac Asimov:
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.

James F. Bymes:
Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem to be more afraid of life than death

Jean-Paul Sartre:
Everything has been figured out, except how to live.

Joan Baez:
You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.

John Dewey:
Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

John Lennon:
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

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Enter the third annual Writing Show First-Chapter-of-a-Novel Contest! First prize $1000. Late deadline June 20, 2008. Details at
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The Author’s Repair Kit is a NEW ebook designed to help you breathe new life into your faltering or failing book. Use Patricia Fry’s post-publication book proposal system and heal your publishing mistakes. The Author's Repair Kit, only 27 pages: $5.95.
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Call for Submissions at Cowboy Logic Press

• Short stories between 2500 and 5000 words on “Uncommon Sense”
Select a favorite quote and expand to a story:
Example: “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”
• Flash fiction using humor on “A funny thing happened on the way to the rodeo”
See details in the Submission forum at the following links:
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Free registration required.


The 2008 Hollywood Book Festival is set for July 11-12 at the Grove at Farmer’s Market in conjunction with Barnes & Noble. The festival spotlights books for the film/television communities. More information at
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The 2008 New York Book Festival will be held June 27-28 in Central Park. Author readings/signings, children’s activities, vendors, food, music, with awards at the famed Algonquin Hotel. More information at
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Conversation: Philip Roth

Words of Wisdom

I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer.

Corita Kent:
Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.

Dorothy Thompson:
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

Edith Wharton:
Life is the only real counselor; wisdom unfiltered through personal experience does not become a part of the moral tissue.

Edna St. Vincent Millay:
My candle burns at both its ends;
It will not last the night;
But oh, my foes, and oh, my friends --
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Life is a quest and love a quarrel...

Elbert Hubbard:
Life is just one damned thing after another.

Elbert Hubbard:
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.

Eleanor Roosevelt:
I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

Elie Wiesel:
The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

Elizabeth Drew:
The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.

Emily Dickinson:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson:
That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.

Ernest Becker:
The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.

F. Forrester Church:
Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die.

Franklin P. Jones:
Love doesn't make the world go 'round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

Frederick Buechner:
The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.

Friedrich Nietzsche:
And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.

George Bernard Shaw:
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

George Eliot:
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?

George Sand:
Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.

Author Leanna Renee Hieber discusses her short story "Seafound"

Author Leanna Renee Hieber discusses her short story "Seafound" available at Crescent Moon Press.

Leanna Renee Hieber's DARK NEST


A futuristic fantasy novella by Leanna Renee Hieber
E-Book now available from Crescent Moon Press!
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Praise for DARK NEST: “Fabulous read! Once I started, I couldn’t stop until I reached the very satisfying end.” – Isabo Kelly, award-winning author of MARSHALL’S GUARD

Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.

Visit the author at
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mike's Writing Workshop Named to WD's 101 Best List!

Mike's Writing Workshop was named in this month's issue of Writer's Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2008!
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Kenneth M. Tingle's The Girl in the Italian Bakery

If you read one book this year…
...make it The Girl in the Italian Bakery!
By Kenneth M. Tingle

Go to:

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Anne Sexton Reads Her Poem "Her Kind"

Writing Tightly

Writing Tightly
By Paula Bernstein

One way writers can dramatically improve their work is by putting their prose on a diet. Every word must count. One bit of extraneous flab will weigh down the whole piece. That means substituting a word for a phrase, eliminating redundancies, and cutting material that doesn’t move the piece along. Common mistakes include saying the same thing in different ways; using throwaway words like “very,” “quite,” and ”certainly;” sticking in words that are understood, as in “the car’s headlights” (what other headlights would they be?); and using extra words (“some seven or more hours later” rather than “a few hours later;” “without a moment’s hesitation” rather than “without hesitation”). A quick way to check is to look for long sentences, although junk can lurk in the shortest as well. Write tightly, and all your work will seem poetic, even the most utilitarian.

Paula Berinstein, producer and host The Writing Show,
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Julia Cameron: Weathering Challenges to our Creativity

Demystifying Literary Agents by Jill Nagle

Demystifying Literary Agents

Seven Essential Points on Literary Agents
By Jill Nagle

(An excerpt from "How to Find A Literary Agent Who Can Sell Your Book
for Top Dollar.")

As an aspiring author, you may have heard, "if your work is really
good, you can get an agent. Getting the work into shape is the hard
part. If you get the work into shape, the right agent will follow".
Is it really that simple? Well, yes and no.

The seven essential points below prepare you for what to expect when
seeking an agent, or literary representative.

Point 1: fiction or nonfiction? Differences in approach

As a novelist, or fiction writer, you need to complete your whole
book, format it properly, and find an agent who specializes in
selling novels. If you write nonfiction (self-help, how-to, memoir),
forget about writing the whole book, unless you want to self-publish.
Instead, write your book proposal.

A book proposal is like a business plan for your book. Its job is to
convince the publisher to part with money so you can get paid to
write your book.

In either case, to minimize your chances of rejection, you'll need to
have your proposal or manuscript polished before approaching an agent.

Point 2: That someone calls themselves an agent says nothing about
what they can do for you

Some things haven't changed in the century since the first literary
agent was born. Today, anyone can still hang out a shingle and say
they're an agent—many people do. Not all agents are effective,
ethical, or even sell any books.

Jill's Guerilla Caveat
Don't settle for just any agent. Agents vary tremendously in their
effectiveness and in what they sell well. Get your proposal (for
nonfiction writers) or manuscript (for novelists) into tip-top shape,
then go for the agent who has a proven track record selling work
similar to your own.

Point 3: Membership in the Association of Author's Representatives
(United States) indicates that the agent has agreed to abide by the
AAR's code of ethics

This professional guild for agents requires, among other things, that
an agent:

* has sold at least ten literary properties (i.e. books) in the
eighteen months prior to application for membership; and
* does not charge any fees for reading or evaluating authors' work.

However, not every legitimate US agent belongs to the AAR. Many
extremely successful agents opt out of AAR membership. A comparable
agency called the Association of Author's Agents operates in Britain.

Point 4: Legitimate agents earn their living by selling to legitimate
publishers the rights to publish authors' books

In return for writing your book and granting a legitimate publisher
the rights to print it, the publisher gives you, the author, a
percentage of whatever the book makes, otherwise known as
a "royalty". In return for brokering the deal and acting as your
advocate, you in turn give your agent a percentage (usually 15 per
cent) of this royalty.

This is how legitimate agents make their money. They pick good
literary prospects for the publishers to consider, who rely on them
to reduce the time and energy it would otherwise take to wade through
the enormous amount of submissions the publishers receive.

Publishers know the legitimate agent's living depends on being able
to separate the wheat from the chaff, so they tend to look more
seriously at submissions from reputable agents.

To reiterate, legitimate agents get paid through commissions on book
rights only, period. If an agent charges you any money, except a
small fee for expenses (and many people believe agents shouldn't
charge authors even for those; they should simply be considered the
cost of doing business), they have little incentive to sell books.

Successful agents use a well-established network of relationships
with editors in legitimate publishing houses. They know the right
editors to call for the particular projects that come their way. They
don't have time to do anything but sell book rights, because selling
book rights is how they make their money.

Aside from selling the rights to publish your book in your own
country, many other possibilities exist for making money from your
book both within your own country and abroad. These include
translating the book and selling it overseas, making an audio
recording of the book, or having the book used as the basis for a
movie. The legal permission to do these things is called foreign
rights, subsidiary rights and options, respectively.

To help you make the most money possible from your book, your agent
should be able to negotiate for the subsidiary and foreign rights to
remain with you, and then work either on their own or with someone
else, to help you sell and make yet more money on sales from those

Jill's Guerilla Caveat
Apart from those agents who are simply mediocre, watch out for
scammers – there are plenty! Apart from trusting your gut, and not
paying an agent, avoid any agent who:

* insists you hire a particular editorial or consulting service
(this is different from making a referral, or even better, two or
three referrals and letting you interview them and make up your own
* refers you to a publisher who wants to charge you money;
* suggests representing multiple works of yours simultaneously
(unless they have a really good reason for thinking this is a good
idea – see Q&A below).

Agents who profit from upfront fees for reading or handling
manuscripts, who affiliate themselves financially with editorial,
coaching or publishing services, or who claim to need your money for
any other purpose probably aren't selling the rights to your book for
a living.

Why should they, when aspiring writers who don't know any better are
kind enough to bankroll their other enterprises?

Point 5: At their best, agents advocate for author interests, and
earn their commissions by:

* using their inside information, reputations and well-oiled
relationships with editors to approach just the right publishers for
your book – especially the increasing number of those publishers who
won't take unagented submissions;
* applying their contractual and negotiating expertise to
garnering higher advances, more rights and a lot of other stuff you
might not be aware of;
* helping you refine both the form and content of your book so
that it appeals to the publishers they plan to approach;
* intervening on your behalf if you get into a disagreement with
the publisher;
* assisting you with making long-term decisions about sequels,
options, subsidiary rights, next steps and other aspects of your

Point 6: Agents reject 99 per cent of all material that comes their

The best and most reliable way to up your odds of getting published
is to a) research your market, b) know and communicate to the agent
via a perfect query letter how your work fits in with and stands out
from others in its class, c) deliver an original, well-written,
impeccably formatted manuscript or proposal, then d) choose an agent
who is obviously interested in and has a record of selling work like
yours. Read that again.

Point 7: Don't initiate contact with a phone call – really. Approach
an agent with a query letter instead

Unless you are famous (and even then), approach an agent with a query
letter. A query letter introduces you and your book idea, and invites
the agent to see your book proposal or manuscript. We'll give you a
sample query letter below.

Don't email unless the agent specifically states somewhere in print
or on the internet that they welcome email queries. Also, don't call
with general questions about their qualifications.

Agents who haven't expressed interest in representing your work
generally will not consent to have you interview them unless you're a
journalist calling to give them publicity.

Once an agent has expressed interest in your work, you can and should
ask questions of them, which we'll cover below, then take up to a
week (or longer, by mutual agreement) to decide whether to accept
their offer of representation.

If you've read this far, congratulations—you now have a solid
introduction to agents, a crucial piece of the mainstream publishing
world. However, as you might guess, finding exactly the right agent
for your work, so you can beat those 99 per cent rejection odds,
takes a bit more effort.

Jill Nagle, an author as well as a writing coach and consultant, has
been helping writers get published for over a decade.

Words of Wisdom

A. Powell Davies:
Life is just a chance to grow a soul.

Abraham Lincoln:
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

Alan Bennett:
Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all looking for the key.

Albert Einstein:
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

Alice Walker:
Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?

Amelia Burr:
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

Anais Nin:
People living deeply have no fear of death.

Anais Nin:
The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.

Annie Dillard:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Ben Jonson:
A good life is a main argument.

Benjamin Franklin:
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that the stuff life is made of.

Buckminster Fuller:
Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

Carl Jung:
There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.

Carl Sandburg:
Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.

Charlotte Bronte:
Life is so constructed that an event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.

Chinese proverb:
When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.

The Spencer Hotel & Spa’s Writers’ Workshops

The Spencer Hotel & Spa’s Writers’ Workshops
Release the words inside you at the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution’s cultural learning center!
• Five days of work will involve reading, writing, sharing, and discussion
• Discuss issues that challenge writers
• Generate new material through in session writing exercises
• Become a "community" of fellow writers
• Learn how to become published on the process of submitting poems, short stories, essays
• Passionate guidance will send you home renewed-ready to write more clearly, more beautifully, more deeply than ever before
• Discover a stronger sense of story and your own voice
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William Goldman on Screenwriting

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A Quote from Screenwriter William Goldman

"Nobody knows anything."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Writer's Relief Inc.


New and established markets. Submission guidelines/leads.

You'll receive today via email Newsflash. Best for poetry, short prose, book projects. Writer's Relief, Inc. (866) 405-3003

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We'll share our know-how with you.
In our 15th Year!

50 Strategies for Making Yourself Work By Jerry Oltion

50 Strategies for Making Yourself Work
By Jerry Oltion
Copyright @ Jerry Oltion

Work avoidance is one of the major paradoxes of the writing profession. Generally, writers want to write (or want to have written), but all too often we find ourselves doing anything else but. We'll mow lawns, do the dishes, polish silverware—anything to keep from facing the blank page. At the same time we know we eventually have to get to work, so we come up with all sorts of strategies for forcing ourselves to the keyboard.

Sometimes a single strategy works beautifully for an entire writer's career (for instance: for over 40 years Fred Pohl wrote four pages a day no matter what, after which he was free to polish all the silverware he wanted), but in my own case I've discovered that any particular strategy only works for a couple of months before I learn to subvert it. As a result I have to keep inventing new ones. I've come up with quite a few (some of which I've stolen from other people), which I offer here for anyone who cares to try them. They're not in any particular order, so don't feel compelled to work your way down the list. Just try the ones that seem interesting, and remember that some of them won't work for you at all. Also, while some of them are mutually exclusive, most of them aren't, so you can mix & match all you like.


Set a quota of pages written per day. Make this realistic. The object isn't to prove anything to anybody, but to give yourself a reasonable goal to shoot for, one you'll actually be able to hit every day. If you go over it, that's cool, but all you have to do each day is hit the quota. The catch: Extra pages don't count toward the next day's quota.


Set a quota of hours worked per day/week. The same applies here as with page quotas. Make it realistic.


Write a story or chapter a week.


Promise your sweetie a steady supply of bedtime stories.


Pay yourself an hourly wage for time worked, and don't allow yourself leisure activities (movies, dinner out, etc.) unless you can pay for it with this writing money.


Have someone else pay you for writing. Use the coin of whatever realm you happen to be in: someone else cooks dinner when you finish a story, or a friend buys you a cookie, or your significant other does that kinky thing with the chocolate syrup.


Write to music. Put two or three CDs in the player and stay at the keyboard until they're done. Crank it up. Boogie a little. That's not just background noise; that's the sound of you working.


Lighten up on yourself. Give yourself the freedom to write when the urge strikes, and not write when you don't feel like it. That's one of the attractive things about the popular conception of the writing life, right? So enjoy it!


Hide your wristwatch in a drawer. (Meaning: reduce your dependence on the clock. Let your inner circadian rhythms tell you when it's time to write and when it's not.)


Set a timer for a short period of time (15 minutes or so) and stay at the keyboard—no matter what—until it dings. Then do it again. Only allow yourself to get up after the timer dings, and always set the timer again if you stay at the keyboard. This will hold you in place long enough for the first impulse toward work-avoidance to pass, and you'll often discover yourself eager to keep going when your time's up.


Schedule your day's activities—and schedule writing hours first. This doesn't necessarily mean putting them first in the day, but putting them on the schedule itself first, so they get priority. Schedule everything: bathing, eating, sleeping, telephone time (outgoing calls, at least), walking the dog—everything. Then, if it's not on the schedule, don't do it. Schedule it tomorrow.


Form a support/nagging network of other writers.


Graph your hours and/or pages against those of your support group. Post the graph where you can see it when you write. Also post it where you can see it when you don't write.


Challenge other writers to finish a story a week, losers to buy dinner (or dessert, or whatever) for winners.


Generate story ideas mechanically. Roll dice and pick characters and settings from a list. Tumble a desktop encyclopedia downstairs and write about whatever it opens to when it lands. Throw darts at your bookshelf and write a homage to whatever you hit. The goal here is to demystify "idea" as a stumbling block. Ideas are a dime a dozen once you learn how to find them. Become a supplier rather than a consumer.


If you've been sitting on an idea until you think you're good enough to do it justice, do it now! You may be run over by a bus tomorrow. Even if you aren't, by the time you think you're good enough, the passion for it will be gone. Write it now! Write all your good ideas as quickly as you can after you get them. Don't worry about getting more; they'll come faster and faster the more you write. Before you know it, you'll be begging people to take them, like a gardener with zucchini.


Outline. Plan everything you're going to write, scene by scene, all the way through to the end. Do your research while you're outlining, so by the time you start writing the actual story, you're already living in that world. With a detailed enough outline, the actual writing becomes a matter of choosing the right words to describe what you've already decided to tell. You can concentrate on style and let the plot take care of itself, because you've already done that part.


Don't outline. Don't plan ahead at all. Feel the lure of the blank page. Trust your instincts and dive into the story, and don't look back until you're done.


Keep written goals, and revise them daily. (Production goals, not sales goals, which you can't control.) Rewriting them every day helps you focus on each one and think about what you can do at the moment to further it along.


Unplug the TV for six months. This is a tough one, but it's the one with the biggest potential for shifting your priorities over to writing. You can gauge your need for it by your resistance to it. If you can't imagine giving up your favorite programs in favor of writing (or if you're more faithful to your viewing schedule than to your writing schedule), you should probably remove the TV from the house permanently; but no matter what you do, give it six months, minimum, before you even look at it. Turn the screen to the wall. Seriously. What's more important to you: your writing or TV? Find out.


Turn off the talk radio. Same as above; if you can't give it up, you're making it more important than your writing. Even if you think you need it for background noise, substitute some other noise that doesn't engage the language center of your brain. That's for writing, not for listening, when you're at the keyboard.


Remove all games from your computer. This is just as vital as reducing your dependence on TV or radio. The key to all these suggestions is to reduce the amount of time you spend on unproductive stuff. If you play games to relax, put them on another computer in a different part of the house, and play them outside your writing time.


Ditto the above for email and web surfing. Don't allow yourself to do it until after you've done your writing for the day. If you're really addicted, allow yourself to read only one email message per paragraph written. Don't count paragraphs shorter than 50 words, either. I don't mean add up all your short paragraphs until you get 50 words--I mean don't count paragraphs shorter than 50 words at all. Write until you get one that's at least 50 words long. So what if you're in the middle of a stretch of dialog? Keep writing. (And if this email-as-reward system works for you, join a busy listserver!)


Reward yourself for success. Choose the reward so you'll work hard to earn it.


Read a book a day (for inspiration).


Keep 5 (or 10 or whatever) manuscripts in the mail at all times. Choose a number that'll make you stretch a little, but one you can realistically maintain.


Use every spare moment to write something, even if it's just one sentence. An extreme version of this: don't plan any official writing time; just use the spare moments in your day—but use them all.


Carry a note pad or tape recorder with you wherever you go. Use it to record ideas as well as the actual text of stories. Make it your external memory. The idea here is to keep yourself focused on writing no matter what else you're doing.


Keep more than one project going at once. Switch to another the moment you slow down on one.


Collaborate. You'll be less likely to slack off if someone else is counting on you to perform.


Switch tools. If you normally use a computer, write with pad and pencil for a while. If you normally write hard sf, write fantasy. Get out of whatever rut you might be in.


Change your writing environment. Rearrange your study, or go write in the library or a cafe for a while.


Keep yourself constantly "on." Start another project immediately after you finish one, before you even get up to stretch your sore muscles.


Don't think; just write. Keep the writing and editing processes separate. Don't worry about clumsy bits; you can fix those later. If you're writing on paper, intentionally cross out a few lines and re-write them so you won't have to worry anymore about messing up the page.


Edit for perfect copy as you go. This one works for some people, but not for others. If you find yourself getting too critical of your new material, stop editing during your creative time. But some people discover that they build up momentum editing, and when they get to the end of what they've already written, they're eager to forge ahead into new territory.


Write an hour for every hour you read.


Spend an hour a day in the library researching new ideas.


Rewrite a story a day. (Works best if you've got a lot of unsold stories lying around.)


Jump-start your creative juices. Start your writing day with a long walk in pleasant surroundings, or gardening, or doing something else that wakes you up and gets your mind working.


Identify your best hours of the day and write during those. Let other people take the leftovers for a change.


Paper your study walls with Playboy foldouts (or whatever else is likely to keep you in the room).


Evaluate everything in your life according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Air is at the top. Food and shelter are close behind. What's next? Sex? Money? Where does writing fit in now? See if you can move it up a couple of notches. Write now, breathe later.


Give yourself regular days off. Most people get weekends off; why shouldn't you? An important point: Days when you tried to write but failed don't count as days off. Only days you've scheduled in advance count. Conversely, now that you've got regular days off, don't use your work time for personal stuff.


Take up a hobby. A lot of writers started writing as a hobby, and it slowly became their passion. That's cool, but it left an empty niche in your life where the hobby used to be. Find something else to fill it. You'll be amazed at how much you realize you missed that kind of thing. More to the point: you'll suddenly stop resenting your writing for not fulfilling that need, and you'll start to enjoy it for what it is.


Turn writing into a hobby. Not everyone has to be a full-time writer. If you don't want to (or can't) write full-time, or if you can't find another hobby that scratches the particular itch that writing did when it was a hobby, then make it one again.


Hack-write. Put words in a row for pay. Write anything you can get a contract for, so long as there's money in it, but here's the kicker: do the best job you can on it. Even if it's something you don't care about, do a good job anyway. You're practicing two things here: writing on demand, and writing well.


Build a ritual around writing. Start well ahead of the actual act of writing, and continue the ritual after you've finished work. The idea is to make writing an integral part of a bigger picture. Let the cat out, make a cup of tea, feed the fish, put on some music, light a candle, write, check the mail, fix lunch, do the dishes. Doesn't seem quite so ominous when it's buried among all that other stuff, does it?


Light a candle. Make it a big, wide one. Write until the wax pool is entirely molten, as far out as it will go. Anything less will "core" the candle, wasting wax as the wick burns itself downward without using the wax from around the edge.


Binge! Gear up for a major writing weekend. Get your ideas ready, set a goal, and plan to work every waking hour until you're done. Cook meals ahead of time and freeze them so you can just nuke 'em and keep going. Tell your friends you'll be out of touch. Turn off the phone ringer and put a message on your answering machine telling people to send the cops if they really need to talk to you that bad. Lock yourself in your study and don't come out until you've committed fiction.


Chain the wolf to the door. Buy expensive things on credit, quit your job, etc. JUST KIDDING! (But I tried it once, and it worked, too … for a while.)

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Interview with John Updike (1995)

Part 1

Part 2

Examining Your Writing Career

Examining Your Writing Career

Are you writing enough?

Are trying hard enough to become a better writer?

Are you reaching out to enough editors, trying to build a wider network?

Are you following through on your ideas or letting them evaporate over time?

Are you negotiating with editors for more money or learning how to do so?

Are your goals well defined or out there somewhere, too fuzzy to really see?

Are you pitching enough stories?

Are you networking enough or do you have the misguided view that talent is enough to get you to the top?

Are you kidding yourself with the idea of being a professional writer or do you really mean it?

Are you critical enough to grasp your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

Are you happy with your writing?

Are you happy with your writing career?

Are you trying hard enough to be a writer?

Only YOU know all the answers to these.

Fraud: A Poem


The words

Where are the words?


In a jam

For the words

So hard


Feel like such a fraud

Then, yes

Wait, wait

Yes, yes, yes!

Coming, then flowing

A rush of coming, flowing

Feel like a god

A lightening rod

The words

There, there, there



Wait, stop, no

Oh, no!

No flow

Where did it go?


Utterly, absolutely, thoroughly nothing

A blink back to hard

Where are the words?

Oh, God

Feel like such a fraud

Poetic Expressions: Personalized Poetry for All Occasions

Poetic Expressions: Personalized Poetry for All Occasions

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Writers on Writing

Writing and Thinking


A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.
Gaston Bachelard

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.

The pen is the tongue of the mind.
Miguel de Cervantes

I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.
Arthur C. Clarke

The spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction. It is the breakthrough of appearances toward an unknown reality.
Joan Cocteau

It is not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone else with them.
Isabel Colegate

Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
Charles Caleb Colton

I don't have a moral plan. I'm a Canadian.
David Cronenberg

A writer doesn't solve problems. He allows them to emerge.
Friedrich Dürrenmatt

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
Joan Didion

Consciousness will always be one degree above comprehensibility.
Gösta Carl Henrik Ehrensvärd

In my experience, the best creative work is never done when one is unhappy.
Albert Einstein

Curiosity has its own reason for existence. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Albert Einstein

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T. S. Eliot

Writing, I explained, was mainly an attempt to out-argue one's past; to present events in such a light that battles lost in life were either won on paper or held to a draw.
Jules Feifer

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
E. M. Forster

If you are pointing out one of the things a story is about, then you are very probably right; if you are pointing out the only thing a story is about you are very probably wrong - even if you're the author.
Neil Gaiman

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The human mind is like umbrella. It functions best when open.
Max Gropius

Writers seldom write the things they think. They simply write the things they think other folks think they think.
Elbert Hubbard

Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do - not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad.
Stephen King

Authors who never give you something to disagree with never give you anything to think about.
Michael LaRocca

Stupidity is no excuse of not thinking.
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

A man who is a genius and doesn't know it, probably isn't.
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Genius is not a quality, but only a quantitative difference in a combination of attributes contained in all persons.
Dr. Ernst Jones

The only time I know that something is true is the moment I discover it in the act of writing.
Jean Malaquais

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
Anais Nin

Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.
George Bernard Shaw

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.
Edwin Schlossberg

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
Mark Twain

The brain that doesn't feed itself, eats itself.
Gore Vidal

Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.
Kurt Vonnegut

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Oscar Wilde

One of the things that draws writers to writing is that they can get things right that they got wrong in real life by writing about them.
Tobias Wolff

Writing is thinking on paper.
William Zinsser