Famous Authors Insulting One Another’s Work

The Bronte Sisters by Patrick Branwell, c. 1834I’m all for civility and kindness, but honestly, this was too funny not to share. It takes a real wordsmith to craft some of these clever critiques. One thing worth noting is that almost every insult addresses a specific aspect of the writer’s work and phrases the critique in bitingly concise prose. If you must critique someone, this is a good way to do it.


Ten Rules for Writing First Drafts

Since I’ve been writing all day and have only two finished paragraphs and a whole lot of messy stuff on my page, I thought this poster was an appropriate reminder of what the beginning steps of writing look like.

The main thing to remember is that the first thing you write will not be wonderful, no matter how miraculous it seems after you’ve worked all day to produce it. You’ll arrive back at your desk in the morning and catch logical absurdities, unclear grammatical constructions, and blatant typos, then you’ll go on to commit more.

Keep typing. Keep revising. Eventually you may have something wonderful, but it will all start with that rough draft. Write on!

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts
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The Publishing Process as Seen in GIF by Nathan Bransford

Erasmus by Hans Holbein- 1523Writers sometimes sound lofty themes of Purpose and Art in talking about the writing and publishing process. And then there’s Nathan Bransford. A former literary agent turned author (Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow and other erudite titles), Bransford uses a series of animated GIFs to tell it like it is.

Even if you usually avoid flickering, flashing, animated anything online, The Publishing Process in GIF Form is funny. And it’s probably a lot more true than the lofty, artsy version. Enjoy!

P.S. The take-away from his overview seems to be that patience is the quality most needed to survive the life of an author. Which, if you think about it, is probably one reason our instant-gratification culture is increasingly turning to alternative publishing. That, and a desire (for better or for worse) for increased creative control of intellectual property.

Writing Advice from Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury has done it all– novels, non-fiction, short stories, and more. In “Telling the Truth,” the 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, he shares frank, practical writing advice. He’s laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally profane, but his advice is profound and well worth absorbing.

Here is a quick outline of a few primary points. Don’t miss his talk, though. It’s peppered with wonderful anecdotes, interesting people, good humor, and vivid language.

  1. Write short stories, not novels, first.
  2. You may love another author, but you can’t be them.
  3. Study high-quality short stories by classic authors (he provides specific recommendations).
  4. Stuff your head with good stuff.
  5. Fire the friends who don’t support you.
  6. Live in the library, not in front of a screen. He “graduated from the library.”
  7. Fall in love with old movies.
  8. Do what you do with love, and write with joy. If writing starts feeling like work, scrap it and start something else.
  9. Don’t focus on making money, but on writing. The story of his trip to New York City and the sale of his first two books is inspiring.
  10. You can deal with the ten things you love, hate, fear, or almost remember by writing them into stories.
  11. Surprise yourself. Type what comes into your head–intuition and word association can spark many ideas. You don’t know what is in you until you test it. Bradbury said his first film wasn’t good, but it was a beginning.
  12. You write for readers. What you’re writing for, even if you don’t know it, is for at least one person to love what you do. And you must love it too.

I love his opinionated commentary about short story writers, perhaps because he shares my taste for classic authors, metaphors, and stories that go somewhere.

If you've never read anything by Ray Bradbury, my pick for "must read" is Fahrenheit 451.

My favorite tip is to “stuff your head with good stuff.” He suggests that if you read one short story, one good, classic poem, and one essay before bedtime for the next one thousand nights, you’ll have a wealth of material to work with. I’ve been teaching for years that “input must come before output,” and Bradbury offers concrete examples of how to make it happen.

Bradbury’s joy in reading and writing are contagious, and mental snapshots of dandelions, King Kong, Bill Gates (“I don’t do Windows”), an enthusiastic barber, a destroyed face, and Gene Kelly are vivid reminders of his gift. This video is part of the University of California Television (UCTV) series.

Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries . . . I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. (Ray Bradbury)

5 Good Reasons to Go to a Writers Conference

I enjoyed the James River Writers Conference in Richmond last weekend, and am combing through my notes for all the good ideas I wanted to apply. There are a lot of them, but they’re all lining up after the non-fiction proposal I have to finish and send. The best part of the conference was just being around so many other people who loved to write. We could talk writing morning, noon, and night, and no one started yawning after the first sentence!

Whether you’re an established writer or just getting started, a writers conference is a great place to be. Here are five good reasons to go: (Read more…)

New Writers: What To Do If You Think You Want To Be Published

If you’re not a professional writer, but think that you might want to be, where do you start? How do you get something published?

Here are a few tips for where to start when you have something to say and want to see it in print.

  • Know your goals.
  • Join a writers’ critique group.
  • If you’re not sure of your writing mechanics, hire an experienced copyeditor to show you how to improve.
  • Learn about the writing, editing, and publishing industry.
  • Accept the fact that there are standard procedures and timetables in the publishing industry.
  • Get involved with writers’ groups and professional associations.
  • Enjoy the process.

You can read the full post at Words Into Books.

National Picture Book Writing Week: May 1-7

National Picture Book Writing Week 2010It’s officially NaPiBoWriWee (type that a dozen times!), and I’m enjoying the freedom to just write. Of course there are a million things I really ought to be doing–all the stuff that feeds the body, not the soul. But for this week, I’m trying to complete 7 picture book drafts in 7 days. I hope you’ll try it too!

You can read more about NaPiBoWriWee at Words Into Books, my writing blog. The next post here will be back to business, but for now, let’s just write!

Is Silence Necessary for Writing?

Storyteller Louis L’Amour said he could write in the middle of a busy intersection with his typewriter on his lap. Not necessarily a good idea, I would think, but I envy his concentration. Once started, I can focus like nobody’s business. My family knows that if I’m writing, they have to work hard (aka “be obnoxious”) in order to derail me. However, it’s the getting started that’s occasionally a challenge. Read more…

Final Thoughts on the SCBWI Winter Conference 2010

I enjoyed my first national SCBWI conference in NYC a couple of weeks ago. It was exhilarating to be in the same room with so many creative people–writers, illustrators, publishers, agents, editors, and other children’s book enthusiasts (Jane Yolen!!!). While there, I was conscious of the fact that just being there conferred an advantage on each hopeful writer or editor in attendance. There’s nothing quite like the synergy of being present, networking in person, and hearing first-hand from others in the field.

I tweeted many of the tidbits I picked up during the conference, but several things have lingered with me. Here are a few of them: Read more…