Friday, November 12, 2010

11 Tips from Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson is best-selling author who has published over 100 novels.  He participated in a conference call with the members people who belong to a writing site, and gave a list of techniques he's compiled to increase writing productivity.  I wasn't able to listen to the conference call in real time, but I listened to a podcast later and this is the information he gave. 

1-Shut up and write.  If you have a job you have to do it whether you like it or not.  You do it.  Your job, your career, you actually have to do the work.  Make time and schedule it and don’t be interrupted.
2-Defy the empty page.  If you’re stuck, just move on.
3-Dare to be bad at first.  Just because it’s bad doesn’t mean it has to stay bad.. Crash through and write.  Tell the story and don’t worry about fixing it.  You have time.
4-Work on different projects at the same time.  Different stages.  Research for background.  Outlining, character development, chapters.  First Draft.  Editing.  Proofreading.  Promotion.  When you get tired of stuff, move on to something else.  Never get writer’s block, go do something else with another project to use every minute by switching channels.
5-Know the difference between writing and editing.  Writing is creating, envisioning, describing the battle or adventure. Telling the story.  Editing is analytical.   Studying the structure and the words.  Look up your little details.  When you’re writing and charging straight through, turn off the editor.  Look it up later.   Don’t lose momentum.  Cruise right along at full speed and get your draft down.
6-Use every minute.  When you get time to write, figure out how to use every minute you have.  Ten minutes, an hour, a day.  You don’t need large blocks of time.  Teach yourself how to write in half hour blocks.  2-3 sentences at one time, is 2-3 sentences you don’t have to write later.  John Grisham—full time attorney, busy and wanted to write.  1 page a day.  In a year he would have  a novel.  Use every minute that you’ve got and dive into it.  Use ten minutes, twenty minutes.
7-Set goals for yourself and stick to them.  Set realistic goals that are challenging. 
8-Create the best writing environment for yourself.  Try to pay attention to what happens when you’re the most productive?  What happens to make you that way?  What time of day are you best at it?  Do you need sound?  Music?  Silence?  Some people like a coffee shop.  Some people like silence and isolation.  Look at your office set-up.  Is it comfortable and good for your head, arms, and neck?  What works for you?
9-Think outside the keyboard.  As a writer your job is not moving your hands on the keys, it is to capture things from your imagination.  Pen & paper.  Longhand works better for some people.  Some people like to be outside in a park or a coffee shop.  Some people dictate.  Hiking in mountains or on a trail, dictate 20 pages… Inspired by that around you. 
10-Get inspired.  Write what you know.  The more you know, the more you can write.  To improve writing and writing productivity, learn more.  Learn dancing, take classes, woodworking, take trips.  Everything adds to what you can converse about and write about. 
11-Know when to stop.  When it’s done, it’s done.  Finish it and send it out someplace.  There is a point of diminishing returns.  After 4-5 edits, it’s as good as it’s going to get.  Send it out. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writers are Egomanics

I decided today that writers must be egomaniacs... at least from personal experience.  We kinda consider ourselves gods.  Now before you protest with uproarious uproars, hear me out.  We're like the flawed gods who lived on Mount Olympus, toying with people's lives for amusement.  Here we are creating worlds and breathing life into characters, and then we string them along, manipulating circumstances so our characters will do what we want them to do, all in the name of entertainment.  You, like me, are a sick, twisted egomaniac.

Oh, well.  Go string that poor, unsuspecting sap along.  Weave some magic and entertainment for the rest of us.

-Just Do It Write Now

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing Groups

I've never been part of a writing group before, online or otherwise, but I've recently joined one.  I was curious to see what I could learn from them and how I might improve my writing.  They posted a writing exercise today that I thought was very intriguing, because as simple as it is, it was something I never would have thought of doing.

The writing exercise was:

Write the first three paragraphs of your story five different ways: 
o Shocking
o Logical
o Peaceful
o Action-Packed
o (you choose)

Then the writer's would counsel you on which one they liked best and the strengths or weaknesses of each.

I loved this because it made me realize how differently the exact same story can be depending how you write.  It's very important to take into consideration the effect or emotion you are trying to elicit in your reader.  So, in the future when you are writing, pay attention to the goal of your writing.  Do you intend to shock your reader?  Try to make them fearful?  Make them fall in love?  Pay attention to how you''re writing, not just what you're writing.  

Just do it write now!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing A Book

"I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. "
--Steven Wright

I'm always amazed by how many people tell me they wished they could write a book.  As mystical and mysterious as writing seems, it's very simple:  it's just a matter of doing it.  Sometimes I wonder about the reasons people don't write when they are moved to do it.  I think primarily the reason is fear.  Fear of failure, fear of doing poorly, fear that others will find the fantastic notions and realms in their head worthless, fear of exposing their souls...   

Writing is a skill and it must be practiced like any other craft.  This includes rewriting and revision, but the only way books happen are when people work on them.  Now that you've got your page numbers done, work on your book.  No, really.  Stop procrastinating and go work on that novel you were always going to write.  Are you still reading this?  Stop that.  

Just do it write now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Open a Vein

There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

For some people, writing is apparently painful and hard.  A bit like pouring their souls onto a page for people to read and possibly ridicule.

For me, writing is more like seeing movies inside my head, and I write them down so others can watch them too.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Good Advice

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."
~Elmore Leonard

Excellent advice!  We all know how we slave away for our writing and we become attached to it.  However, there is a time when you just have to let parts go.  I know you worked long and hard on that paragraph (or page, or chapter), but if it's not relevant to your story or project as a whole it ends up being unnecessary filler.  I know it's painful-but your story and your readers will thank you.  You gotta let it go, man.  Leave out the boring parts that people are going to skip anyway. 

Prompt?  The Gym...

Just do it write now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gotta Have Clay Before You Can Sculpt

"Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction." ~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938

If your writing is bad, celebrate. Bad writing means you've actually gotten something out onto the page. Everything has to start somewhere, and sometimes it turns out better than you anticipated. To me, you've gotta have clay before you can sculpt. This means that you have to have something to work with before you can make it into something beautiful. So if you're postponing writing while you figure out how to get it down just right, throw caution to the wind. Don't let the lack of perfection prevent you from writing. Just do it write now. Be committed--and "if things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction." Don't fail because you never try. If you're going to fail, go down in glorious flames (and as we discussed you'll actually have something to work with).

Want a prompt?  Flames

Just do it write now.

Invisible Words

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible."  ~Vladimir Nabakov

Anyone who is feeling a lack of control in his or her life ought to try writing.  If you didn't have delusions of grandeur before you began, you may develop a God Complex in the process.  I know of nothing that bestows more power upon the individual than the process of creation with limitless possibilities, which writing is.  The stories are there--the words are at your fingertips.  Your job is merely to make the visions in your head real to everyone else.

Need a prompt?  


Just Do It Write Now.

Friday, May 28, 2010


"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."  ~E.L. Doctorow

Instead of thinking of writing as a chore, just remember how fun it is to be schizophrenic in a socially acceptable way.  If you write of an incredibly evil, chilling, mastermind villain, people will praise you.  You're an excellent storyteller, an incredible writer...  You can write about crime and murder without people wondering whether they need to put you in a straight jacket.  You can be a supermodel, a teenager, an alien, a villain, and a hero all in a days work.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.  Imagine the possibilities!

Today's Topic:  Does the first line of your project (novel/paper/short story) pass the "Airport Test?"  That is, if someone was browsing an airline bookstore and read the first line of your novel, would they buy it?  Make your first line the hook that snags your reader, and don't let go until the end of your story.

Just do it write now.

Monday, May 10, 2010


"Don't let anybody tell you you're wasting your time when you're gazing into space.  There is no other way to conceive an imaginary world.  I never sit down in front of a bare page to invent something.  I daydream about my characters, their lives and their struggles, and when a scene has been played out in my imagination and I think I know what my characters felt, said and did, I take pen and paper and try to report what I have witnessed."  --Stephen Vizinczey

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Importance of Knowing Your Characters

One of the most important things in writing is to know your characters.  This means that  you need to know you character like you know your friends, your significant other, or yourself.  When placed in a certain situation, how would you react?  How would your friends react?  Your character must be real enough and developed enough in your mind that you can answer the following question:  How will my character react, and what will he do? 

A writing colleague of mine was having trouble one day getting her character to the point in the plot she needed her to be.  We determined that she was trying to make her character get to a certain point, when what she needed to do was manipulate the circumstances in her book so that the character would choose the path she wanted her to go.

I feel that this technique of allowing your characters to choose their path (albeit one you have manipulated) is essential to good writing.  If your writing is mainly plot driven it can be a good story, but if you have characters who remain true to who you have made them and combine that with an intriguing plot, then the story will be doubly engaging, and ultimately more real.  

Today's Topic:  What does the word "diet" mean to you?

Just do it write now.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Writing Is Like Exercising

Writing is like exercising.  It's not so bad, once you start doing it.  Usually you end up liking it.  The problem is getting started.  Anyone who regularly exercises knows that it doesn't just happen.  You have to plan for it, and you have to do it!

Like excercise and most other things, it needs to be done regularly and consistently.  If you don't work out and then go on a marathon run to try to make up for what you haven't been doing along the way, chances are you'll get burnt out or not enjoy the experience (both of which will make you want to procrastinate once again!).  Whether you are working on a project or not, consistent and regular writing of some type is essential.

The cool thing about writing is that everyone is so different.  The same topic to different individuals will produce drastically different results.  Even assigning different individuals to write something with the same plot would result in two separate stories.  Need an idea about what to write? 

Today's Topic:  Describe Your First Brush with Danger

Just do it write now.