People are addicted to a lot of different things; I’m addicted to writing.
In fact, I’m so addicted, that I spent my entire career as a writer and newspaper reporter, and later, an editor.
How addicted was I?
So addicted, that when I retired five years ago, I kept right on writing: stories, essays, memoir, and poetry. Once an addict…
Some people keep their addictions down to a reasonable level – after all, if you only indulge a few times a week, or once or twice a month, who’s going to notice?
But I’m not that laid back; I write almost every day. I’ve tried all the usual things, even going cold turkey, but no matter what I do, I always go back to my addiction.
I have one major piece of advice for my fellow addicts; give in. Admit you’re an addict. As the old saying goes, when they give you lemons, make lemonade. For example, here’s a poem I wrote recently about my addiction:
Writers write: Right?
I’ve learned some wise words that I heed
On how a writer can succeed.
Work hard; the formula will prove
The way to get you in the groove.
Distractions woo us from all sides;
Excuses roll in like the tides.
For best results, here’s what I say:
Do some writing every day.
Sit right down and write a sonnet;
Good or bad, don’t dwell upon it.
The lazy man will take a fall,
But enterprise can conquer all.
Or, start a novel, fiction’s fun,
Your words will flow while writing one.
The true joy’s in the work itself,
Not just some book upon a shelf.
It’s lonely staring at a page
That’s white and empty at first stage,
But think how happy you will feel
When your own words are down for real.
One caution, though, and you’ll agree;
Life gives you choices; nothing’s free.
Ideas may sparkle, shine, and gleam,
But work alone, fulfills your dream.
If you’ve finally surrendered to your addiction, and you plan to use it for positive outcomes, here are a few practical tips about starting:
First, find a quiet place to work; successful writers thrive in solitude, away from the distractions of family, the day job and noise, including music. Silence is a friend to ideas, and their development through writing.
Use the best technology available, making sure that you have a comfortable chair, and plenty of light; sore butts and tired eyes are the enemies of creativity. You can write anything, anywhere and any place, but why set up obstacles for yourself?
It’s time to get serious: Topics
All right, you say; so far, so good, but what should you write about? Where do you find your subject?
Write about what you know. If you teach, you know about the satisfactions and disappointments of your profession. Your personal history is filled with people, and events. If you are a sales person, you know all about selling yourself, to sell your product; if you’ve been looking for a job, write about that.
What you’ve learned in life can be a source of inspiration for all sorts of fiction, from detective novels to fantasy. If you decide to write poetry, the gamut of emotions and events you’ve experienced will serve you well.
And don’t be put off by comparing your efforts to those of successfully-published writers. Remember, they started from scratch, just like you. They learned how to deal with rejection letters from publishers, and became successful in spite of rejections; in fact, the experience only made them redouble their efforts; it strengthened their determination.
Once you’ve settled on a topic (Let’s say, for example, you decide to write a short story about your five-year-old’s first day at kindergarten), Stay on topic!
Many new writers get distracted by side issues. You’re writing about your kid; what happened, what he did, what he felt. Don’t start inserting your opinions about the state of education in the United States, or go off on a rant about the relative virtues of home schooling, or go completely nuts, and start writing about a totally unrelated subject.
Dozens of style guides are available, and many of them give conflicting advice. New writers are often confused and discouraged after reading some of them.
Here’s my advice, based on decades of experience:
Keep it simple. That means, use short, declarative sentences and the simplest words you can find to adequately describe a scene or situation. Where possible, stick to nouns and verbs; nothing messes up a narrative more than strings of adjectives and adverbs.
The whole point of writing is communication. Whether you are writing fiction, or reporting a news event, the aim is to let the reader know what he needs to know, as economically as possible. If you adhere to this, the story will almost tell itself.
A lot has been written about “voice”; has the writer found it, does he have a genuine one, what are the nuances of his “voice,” what is his “voice” trying to convey? Does it succeed?
Pundits on all things literary, like to freight “voice” with semi-mystical qualities, and use it to rank writers to make pronouncements about their chances of immortality.
I’ll let you in on a little secret; everyone has a “voice.” Some are pleasant, some not; some, gentle; some sharp. A writer’s voice is nothing more, or less, than the way he or she puts words on the page; if the voice is clear, you’ll understand what he or she is saying, and enjoy the way he or she says it.
It’s a job
One reason why new writers fail is their misunderstanding of what they are trying to do. If you approach writing as a hobby, something you spare half an hour for when you’re not mowing the lawn, or catching a football game on TV, you’ll fail.
No matter how creative you are, no matter how well you write, always keep one thing in mind; like anything else in life that’s worth doing, successful writing takes hard work, and requires commitment.
Set up a routine
Every writer worth his salt has a routine which he follows religiously. It doesn’t matter how you arrive at that routine; without it, you’ll just be wasting your time, and anything you produce will show it.
Carve out a block of time each day when you’re most rested and alert. If you’ve paid attention to me so far, you’ve already set up a place to work, and have the tools you need ready at hand.
Before I forget: Solitude is the writer’s best friend; turn off the TV; Shut off the music; have your partner take the kids to the playground; let the robot answer the phone; ignore the doorbell.
When is enough, enough?
Once you’ve established your routine, you have to decide how many hours to devote to your writing. The maximum time to stay focused on a task varies from individual to individual. You’ll have to experiment to discover what that time is for you.
Nothing is more crazy-making than forcing yourself to stay at a job past your ability to perform it well. That’s why airplane pilots, who perform potentially life-endangering jobs, have limits placed on the number of hours they’re allowed to fly.
How will you know when you’ve reached your limit? When you start to squirm in your chair, when your mind starts to wander, when your neck starts to hurt, it’s time to stop and do something else.
Go in the kitchen and make some coffee; take the dog for a walk around the block; or, if you need more than a fifteen minute break, shut off the computer and walk away. When you return to your desk later, or even better, the next day, you’ll be refreshed and ready to go again.
And one more thing: writing is a job that requires work, but work is supposed to be rewarding. Work is not a synonym for torture or drudgery. If you equate writing with those words, then it’s not for you, but if you find pleasure in telling a story well; if you love words, and their power, than sit right down and start to write.
What are you waiting for?
Marc Leavitt is a retired newspaper reporter and editor. These days, he writes poetry on, Marc Leavitt’s Blog, at: marcleavitt.blogspot.com
Earlier today I posted an argument against authors writing for shorter attention spans. I argued that attention spans weren’t actually getting shorter; instead, readers will stick with a book which interests them no matter the interruption. I still think that is a good argument, but it’s not the only one I could make. An article… Read More »
Books are great escapes
By Kara Cronin
As a single, adventurous 20-something, I have found books to be the greatest companion and reading to be the best escape from my current reality: Job searching, Netflix and constantly attempting to navigate the balance of being a fun, carefree postgrad and a serious young professional.
I have found comfort in plopping myself down at a coffeeshop, opening a good book and escaping to an alternate universe where I can forget about my troubles and spend time acquainting myself with fictional characters.
When I find a book in which the words on the pages come to life, I know I’ve found a keeper.
Something about experiencing the characters’ ups and downs alongside them makes me feel connected, like I’m getting to go on their adventures with them.
In attempt to help my fellow Millennials add a little spice to their lives while expanding their minds, I put together a reading list of my 10 favorite reads from the past year.
These books will make you laugh, cry, smile and question. Click here to see Kara’s list>
“My father gave me this book when I was getting into trouble in high school,” says Franco, whose story collection, Palo Alto, focuses on several delinquent teens, including one on probation for drunk driving. “I was spending a lot of time alone at home,” he continues, “and that’s when I really started reading.”
By Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, is back with Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Here, Rubin shares 10 tips for becoming a better reader.
Reading is an essential part of my work, it’s an important aspect of my social life, and most importantly, it’s my favorite thing to do. I’m not a well-rounded person.
But reading takes time, and most days, I can’t read as much as I’d like. As I was writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I adopted many new habits to help me get more good reading done. Consider whether these habits might work for you – click here to read the rest of the story.
Recognizing the best in Digital Storytelling
The Wattys are Wattpad’s official annual awards that celebrate the best in digital storytelling. Be it fanfiction, romance, urban, sci-fi, poetry, or short stories, we acknowledge stories of all genres and styles.
Good News for Authors
A new study by Publishing Technology finds U.S. millennials—defined as people currently between the ages of 18 and 34—almost twice as likely to read a print book as an ebook.
That finding squares with similar print preferences Pew researchers found among older readers as well. Among adults 18 and up, 28% read an ebook in 2014 as compared with the 69% of those who read at least one print book.
Results from the Publishing Technology survey also suggests young readers are equally comfortable with digital and analog modes of book discovery. 45% of millennials report learning about new titles by word-of-mouth recommendations, 32% by online browsing and 25% by browsing through a physical store or library.
What Writing Has in Common With Happiness
24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing
Ten years ago, my first novel Prep came out. Three novels later, here’s what I’ve learned about the publishing industry and writing since then.
- When it comes to fellow writers, don’t buy into the narcissism of small differences. In all their neurotic c, competitive, smart, funny glory, other writers are your friends.
- Unless you’re Stephen King, or you’re standing inside your own publishing house, assume that nobody you meet has ever heard of you or your books. If they have, you can be pleasantly surprised.
- At a reading, 25 audience members and 20 chairs is better than 200 audience members and 600 chairs.
- There are very different ways people can ask a published writer for the same favor. Polite, succinct, and preemptively letting you off the hook is most effective.
- Blurbs achieve almost nothing, everyone in publishing knows it, and everyone in publishing hates them.
- But a really good blurb from the right person can, occasionally, make a book take off.
- When your book is on best-seller lists, people find you more amusing and respond to your emails faster.
- When your book isn’t on best-seller lists, your life is calmer and you have more time to write.
- The older you are when your first book is published, the less gratuitous resentment will be directed at you.
- The goal is not to be a media darling; the goal is to have a career.
Read the rest of the reasons>
A WRITING RETREAT ON TOPSAIL ISLAND, NC
Winter is a good time to write – less distractions, less daylight and less to do because of the colder weather.
Warm up your writing this winter with a long weekend at quiet Topsail Island in NC at the Winter Beach Writeaway with Mimi Herman & John Yewell.
Because sometimes writers just need to get away.
Spend a long weekend in a cozy house right on the beach, perfecting your poetry or prose with the help of other brilliant writers. The Winter Beach Writeaway is designed for writers of all genres and abilities, from beginner to MFA to professional. $400 per person includes double occupancy lodging, all meals, and wine.
Topsail Island, NC, Feb 27- Mar 2, 2015
Not a beach lover? Give your writing a romantic touch – write in France.
WRITEAWAY IN FRANCE
Is your writing missing a certain je ne sais quoi? Experience a week of great writing, authentic French food, and unforgettable ambiance in a 15th century French chateau, complete with 300 acres of vineyards, rose garden, and world famous topiary. Tour Loire Valley wineries (during la récolte!) and celebrate the equinox (Sept. 23) under a harvest moon!
Writeaways are designed for writers of all levels–beginner to MFA to professional. $2,250 per person, double occupancy, full board (including wine and after-dinner drinks), writing consultations and daily classes.
Chateau du Pin, Champtocé-sur-Loire, France, Sept. 21–27, 2015
“One must be ruthless with one’s own writing, or someone else will be.”
Now have “Breakfast” on the Publisher with a special pre-launch discount of $8.99, regularly $15.99 until Feb. 15, 2015 only from Outer Banks Publishing Group. Order yours here.
It has been two years since the death of his wife, and Frank Watson still struggles with the loss. Every morning, he meets with his friends at the local diner to talk and to exchange gossip, but inevitably must return to his farm that remains undisturbed since his wife’s death.
Then, Pepper Ledley breezed into his life. She was the new waitress in town nearly half his age and offered Frank something he had never before considered, a new beginning. However, it somehow didn’t seem right to Frank.
As he struggles with his new feelings and the memory of his beloved wife, Frank faces the biggest crisis of his life. A large foreign corporation needs five hundred acres of land to build an egg factory and Frank alienates himself from the rest of the town when he, steadfastly, refuses to sell.
What transpires is a web of deceit, manipulation and murder.
Get a taste of “Breakfast” – download a free sample – A taste of Breakfast
or order a full copy from our bookstore.
Outer Banks Publishing Group
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Amazon wants to be the publishing dictator of the world
From The New York Times
Authors are upset with Amazon. Again.
For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e-books.
Now self-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.
One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self-published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.
Read the rest of the story>.
We are currently seeking Young Adult novels to add to our list of ever-growing titles.
If you have a completed manuscript you would like to submit for consideration, please email the first 1-3 chapters to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include the following information with your submission:
- Short description of what your book is about no more than five pages
- Word count
- Contact information
Thanks. We look forward to hearing from you.
ISIS spawned by the People’s desire to control their Destiny
Publisher’s Note: Doug Roberts lived and almost died under the tyranny of a brutal dictatorship in Tehran in the 1970s when he was stationed there as a US Serviceman in Administrative Services office in the U.S. military advisory unit to Iran, ARMISH/MAAG. He knows first-hand what it is like to live in fear of Tehran’s secret police monitoring his every move, especially when he carried out a daring escape for his girlfriend and her mother and reuniting them with their exiled father and husband.
His story comes alive in his dramatic retelling of the events in his book, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK, available at our bookstore for $9.99, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in ebook versions. Here is his POV on ISIS and the current situation in the Middle East.
As the world watches each new horror ISIS creates, I think it is instructive to note that the forces which shaped ISIS and similar movements began a long time ago after the end of World War I when the old Ottoman Empire was carved up to artificially create six brand new nations: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine (now Israel).
As Andrew Torre [mostly] correctly points out in his recent column for The Manchester Journal, the motives were for economic exploitation by western interests. To that end, governments were put in place to foster economic exploitation.
“Clearly, this was not a good deal for the masses of Middle Eastern people, who have predictably been fomenting revolution ever since. Their unceasing attempts to overthrow the exploitative system reached new heights immediately after WW II and have been regularly squelched by Western power ever since. England constantly repressed Iraqi uprisings; Nasser’s Pan-Arabism of the 1950s was successfully opposed; in 1948 Israel was established as a foil against Soviet influence on Middle Eastern revolutionary movements; and in 1952 the U.S. successfully conspired to overthrow and assassinate the first democratically-elected president of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, who had the audacity to claim Iranian oil for the Iranian people, rather than foreign interests.”
(Despite his committing one small factual error, I invite the reader to study his entire column as it is highly instructive. I am including a link to Mr. Torre’s article)
But let me follow up on what happened to Mossadegh. Though he was tried for treason, (a capital offense) he was placed under house arrest, and was not assassinated as many have claimed. His treasonous act? Let me quote from the wiki:
“Mossadegh had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation (now BP) and to change the terms of the company’s access to Iranian oil reserves. Upon alleged refusal of the AIOC to cooperate with the Iranian government, the parliament (Majlis) voted to nationalize the assets of the company and expel their representatives from the country.”
Heaven forbid Iran actually being in control of its own oil! The end result of all this was the CIA and MIA installed The Shah of Iran as an autocratic repressive leader for many decades. The relationship worked for a while. The U.S. helped Iran keep the Soviets at bay and strengthen Iran’s Ministry of Security. The U.S. got a lot of oil out of Iran in the process and also sold the Shah an enormous amount of weapons.
I lived in Iran during part of his reign. The year was 1971, the 2500th anniversary of Iran as a nation. Unseen to most people, the seeds of revolution were brewing. One reason was because the Ministry of Security began spying, arresting and torturing its own citizens. The Shah’s secret police were notorious. I got a few clues because, while serving in the U.S. Army, I worked in the classified message center of Sitade Buzurgh (similar to Iran’s version of the Pentagon.)
I thought that what I had seen was important enough that I wrote my first novel, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK, loosely based on what I had experienced.
By 1979 I was watching on television the rise of Iranian militants against western imperialistic interests, and the overthrow of the Shah by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his extremist supporters. They were not called Islamist back then, but in retrospect that is what they were. What else can would you call a group who overran the U.S. Embassy and took 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days, in flagrant violation of international law? My second novel deals with this period.
People can tremble at the thought of ISIS making good on its threat to become a bona-fide nation state of radical religious extremists, but that is exactly what happened in Iran in 1979. To appreciate it fully one needs to understand that the extremism we saw from the militants who overthrew Iran was fueled by a deep resentment of western meddling in its affairs – a fact all to easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
Had anyone bothered to ask the question if such a thing could happen in any of the nations artificially created by western powers after World War I, the answer of course would be a decided ‘yes.’ And in fact that is exactly what we see today in Iraq and Syria.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq as a response to 9/11 in 2001 to overthrow Saddam Hussein, those who were against it correctly warned of unleashing a Pandora’s Box of unwanted consequences. With the repressive dictator gone, old ethnic rivalries were unleashed which, added to the the deep resentment of how Iraq was artificially created in the first place, and this only compounded the chaos.
When the United States invaded in 2003, Shiites made up nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s population of 25 million. But members of the Sunni minority had ruled Iraq since its independence in 1932. That is until the U.S. created a Shiite-led government, which was famously corrupt and repressive in its own right. Not a recipe for success, I think.
So complete is the chaos in Iraq today, one could argue that Iraq as we knew it no longer exists. The civil war in Syria, and the following disastrous collapse of law there allowed Sunni militants from Iraq to regroup and set up a safe haven from which to gather their forces. In its current form we know it as ISIS/ISIL.
Though the entire world, including every known Muslim group, sees ISIS as a threat, including most ironically, Iran – the U.S. response has been to drop bombs on ISIS in Iraq – over a billion dollars worth and counting. But wait. ISIS is actually headquartered in Syria, where the U.S. “supports” ISIS efforts to overthrow the Assad regime. Say what?
The folly of this approach seems obvious to anyone willing to ponder it, I think. Dare I say, that if continued, it will have an impact on the 2016 presidential election?
A better approach, in my opinion, would be to do everything possible to strengthen the one remaining island of stability remaining in the region: the area we call Kurdistan. The Kurdish army is known for its fierce fighters and the Kurdish population has a vested interest in keeping this stable and prosperous area (rich with its own oil reserves), stable and prosperous.
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
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BISAC: Fiction / Espionage
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Curl up to a warm fire with these blazing titles
Two great titles from OBX Publishing Group author Mary L. Tabor are now reduced through Outer Banks Publishing Group. Visit our bookstore to order.
WHO BY FIRE – Fiction. Print version $7.99; Kindle $5.99
WHO BY FIRE breaks new literary ground: A complex tale of love, betrayal, and the search for self. A male narrator tells the story he does not actually know but discovers through memory, through piecing the puzzles of his marriage, through his wife’s goodness and her betrayal. He confronts paradox with music, science and a conflagration he witness in his native Iowa. Underlying his search is the quest for heroism and for his own father. WHO BY FIRE has earned its places among books that matter.
“The beauty of the prose, the nuances of the characters, the ever-building plot—everything is in place for a novel that will touch you in all the right ways.”—Lee Martin
“Mary L. Tabor’s WHO BY FIRE is a lovely, innovative, deeply engaging novel about how it is that human beings make their way through the mysteries of existence.”—Robert Olen Butler
- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Outer Banks Publishing Group
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0982993145
- ISBN-13: 978-0982993149
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
(Re) Making Love – Nonfiction, Print version $5.99; Kindle $3.99
When Mary L. Tabor’s husband of 21 years announced, “I need to live alone,” she cratered and turned to the only comfort she had left: her writing. What resulted was (Re)MAKING LOVE: a sex after sixty story, a fresh, witty, funny and brutally honest memoir of everything she felt and did during her long journey back to happiness. This deeply personal account of her saga takes the reader from Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia through the good, the bad and the foolish from Internet dating to outlandish flirting and eventually to Paris where an unexpected visitor changed the author’s life forever. Her story offers hope and joy told with passion and brilliance that is highly refreshing with the single and most prominent message—it is never too late to find love—and oneself even after age sixty and beyond.
- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: Outer Banks Publishing Group
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 098299317X
- ISBN-13: 978-0982993170
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
Inspire your writing in romantic France, Italy or the Outer Banks
Writeaways founder John Yewell tells about the writer’s retreats he and business partner Mimi Herman provide in France, Italy and the Outer Banks and how they inspire writers to find their muse.
By John Yewell
Go to our Writeaways web site, with its pictures of a centuries-old French chateau and an Italian villa, and your initial reaction is likely to be: What a great vacation! And it is, of a sort. But it is so much more than that.
We created our writing getaways in exotic places to get you as far from your daily life as possible, to set you free from care while giving you the guidance you need to unlock, or unblock, the writer within. We welcome writers of all levels and genres, and now have programs in the Loire Valley, Tuscany, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
“I didn’t know until I got busy how essential to the process being removed from my regular life would be. John and Mimi took care of all the necessities, creating a space for us to write and indulging us along the way. The food was amazing!” – Charity, North Carolina
We take care of everything. Each morning in France, you are greeted with a complete breakfast, including fresh croissants purchased before sunrise at the local boulangerie. In Italy, our hosts Patrizia and Paolo serve you continental style.
Afterwards, we engage in our specially designed workshop and private consultations for two hours. Whatever your level of experience, you’ll find the constructive help you need to produce your best work in a cooperative, but rigorous, atmosphere.
“I first met Mimi and John at their writing retreat at Chateau du Pin. While I had a very interesting story I’d thought about writing for years, I did not think of myself as a writer. Thanks to their thoughtful guidance, I finally began writing that story–and I’m still at it. John and Mimi made me believe I could do it, and gave me the tools I needed. I can’t thank them enough.” – Regina, North Carolina
After lunch – buffet-style in France, Tuscan-style in Italy – you are free to write or explore. In France, the chateau is surrounded by 300 acres of topiary, rose gardens, meadows and vineyards. In Italy, you can wander in the olive orchards, sit by the pool, or explore Tuscany as widely as you like. In both locales, we offer tours of the surrounding region, including tastings at local wineries. All of this is included in the program.
In the evening we reconvene for cocktails and wine, then sit down to a spectacular dinner prepared by professional chefs. Afterwards, relax with a digestif or cocktail of your choice in relaxed reflection, surrounded by five-hundred year old walls.
Our program in Southern Shores, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, is a weekend intensive class designed to jumpstart a dormant writing project or launch a new one.
After people began coming to us and asking if they could put together their own groups of friends and families, we began organizing self-organized getaways. We expect to make the first such trips a reality in France and Italy in the spring of 2015.
We are also developing a Master Class intensive program, which would be limited to two students for a week in Beaufort, NC.
Writeaways is based in Durham, North Carolina, although our students have come from all over: Texas, Wyoming, Virginia, Canada. Our long-term plan is to create writing getaways in the kinds of places people dream about going, so that we can pair that dream with their own desire to become better writers.
Mimi and I are both writing professionals with complementary backgrounds. Mimi Herman has taught over 20,000 students to fall in love with writing, especially their own. A Warren Wilson MFA graduate, her teaching style captures students’ imagination and creates a supportive learning environment. As one student said of her time with Mimi, “It is an experience that I will hold with me throughout my whole life.”
I am a writer and editor with an MFA in fiction from San Francisco State University and twenty years of experience in journalism. I teach a memoir class in Durham and consult as a private editor and writing coach.