The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘writer

Everyday I wake up thinking how I can best slice my 24-hour pie. A myriad of tasks stream through my mind including how to deepen my main character, amp up the tension of a scene, why there so many calories in lemon olive oil. I jump out of bed convinced that all the “to-dos” in my head will magically become “to-dones” by the end of the day. A fantasy rarely achieved.

But as John Lennon sang: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The car won’t start. The dog is hacking. An article deadline looms and a key resource hasn’t returned my email. Spin life’s wheel and each day you can substitute “life happenings” pre-empting coveted writing time. Surprisingly, I’m not alone in my struggle.

I read Katrina Kittle’s post Keep the Faucet On: Slow and Steady Fills the Ocean. After commiserating with every writer’s plight, Kittle offers simple, real-world suggestions to those scheduling conflicts/time management issues.

I’m starting by letting go of my belief that a writing schedule must look the same every day. What a relief. Her words of encouragement got me back to the keyboard.

Maybe, with a little pre-planning and realistic expectation, time really is on your side.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Every author — whether he writes  novels, essays or how-to articles —  wonders about their readers. Where did they find my work? Did they like it? Did they pass it along to a friend? Is it lining the bottom of their bird’s cage?

Well, as it turns out, readers are just about as organized as writers!  I enjoyed this post “Your Audience is Unorganized” by Dan Blank on the Writer Unboxed site about how to reach readers of every shape and size.

I hope you find it as useful, entertaining and informative as I did.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Never mistake activity for achievement. —John Wooden

It’s true. I used to confuse motion with action. As long as I was busy in the motion of writing a novel (taking classes, attending workshops, reading how-to books), I thought I was getting closer to my goal. The reality is, while I was in the motion of writing, I wasn’t truly engaged in the action of writing a novel. The possibility of producing an actual book was slim. I liken it to constantly going to the grocery store buying the ingredients for a delicious cake, but never actually baking it.

I was happy — highlighter in hand — with my nose in the latest or time-tested how to write books. I garnered every tip, idea, theory and tidbit imaginable. And I read every writer’s blog. Actually that last one may have been what saved me.  Thanks to a post from James Clear, I learned the folly of my ways.

Don’t get me wrong. It is important to learn about writing. The knowledge I’ve gained through my critique partners is invaluable. But after gathering ideas from other writers, wannabe writers, editors and agents, there comes a time to put all that learning to the test – or in my case – to the page.

I talked a lot about how hard it is to write fiction. Anyone who would listen, heard my lament. It is a much tougher task than writing a magazine article, where the challenge is to uncover the facts and put them into a readable prose.

One my critique partners, Sharon C. Cooper, called me out on my penchant for hovering around the idea of writing a novel . “You’ve taken more classes than any other writer I know,” she lovingly said. “Girl, you need to start writing.” Those words hit home. I got the message. I needed to stop preparing to write and start spending my  time getting words on the page.

Bum glue, butt-in-the-chair, chained-to-the-computer. It all amounts to the same thing. A writer writes. So get writing.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

A creative mind may be the most important tool for a writer, but nimble fingers run a close second. Fingers that dance across a keyboard, keeping up with the author’s thoughts as she develops characters, describes settings and fine-tunes dialogue.

But fingers, hands and wrists are just like any other part of your body. They have to be cared for, pampered and maintained. As cold winter mornings approached, I was reminded of these facts when I sat down to let the writing flow and my fingers decided they weren’t ready to join in.

Joints were stiff, and my fingers felt prickly. My brain was warmed up but my hands were not. I asked my yoga instructor, Linda, about this dilemma. She said it all about blood flow and shared a few hand exercises, to get the blood moving again in my fingers, hands and wrists. One of my favorites is placing my hand in namaste (prayer) pose, spreading my fingers wide, and then pushing the fingers away from each other. (see photo).

If your fingers are fighting back, craving a bit more circulation, check out these three yoga videos (links below) that offer great yoga exercises you can do sitting at your desk, sitting at a red light or on the couch while you’re waiting for the next great idea to appear.

Something as simple as opening and closing your hands slowly can get the joints lubricated. Don’t forget to occasionally, wrap your arms around yourself and give your self a hug. It’s a great way to stretch your back and shoulders after hovering over a keyboard.

Namaste.

Three youtube videos to get you started.

Jamie Shane (7 minutes)

Yoga for Arthritis: The Hands & Wrists–KimMcNeilYoga (7 1/2 minutes)

Bridget Briant (4-1/2 minutes)  

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Some people think being a freelance writer is a dream job. You set your own hours. Write about fascinating topics. Meet interesting people. Rake in the big bucks.

Did I say rake in the big bucks? Hardly. Most freelancers I know barely make minimum wage if you divide the amount of time it takes to write a publishable 1,000-word article.

But that’s OK. We choose this path because of our passion for words. Everything we see is a potential article or novel.

What gets me, though, are the publishers and editors who print our work–sometimes without our knowledge and permission–then refuse to pay our fee. They’re the ones putting the FREE in freelance. We may work cheap, but we’re definitely not free.

I continue to nag, cajole and beg some magazines to pay my modest fee. Some are slow payers. My only weapon is to refuse to send them any other manuscripts until they catch up on their past-dues.

I’m at a loss on how to get payment from those one-timers who use you in a pinch and now can’t seem to find the time to cut a check for $35. Many of these pubs don’t require contracts and the amounts are so small that incurring the expense for a certified letter seems impractical. On their web site, the American Society of Journalists and Authors offers a few suggestions.

Short of sending their names out into the universe as deadbeats, I’d love to hear how other freelancers deal with this issue.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

If you’re like me, you’re looking for words of advice–any kernel of wisdom to help you transform 250 pages of prose into a published novel.

Writing a book is a long journey and the trek isn’t for the weak of heart. E.L. Doctorow likened it to “driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I see it more as trudging through the darkness with only a flashlight to illuminate the way — and your batteries are low.

Along our writing path, we stop and talk to other writers. Ask their opinion, question their methods and delve into what system works for them. We read the pages of published authors, hoping to uncover a secret or two. We’re learning, bit-by-bit, how to persevere. Not to give up the quest. And maybe, hopefully, some day be published.

During my journey, I’ve uncovered a few nuggets — manna for my writing soul . . . some more useful than others:

“Read. Read. Read.”

“Minimize the back story. Less is more.”

“Use active verbs.”

“Limit exclamation points!!!!”

“Put your butt in the chair.”

“Show, don’t tell.”

“Make sure you back-up your work on an external drive.”

“Get real familiar with story structure: Set-up, Response, Attack, Resolution”

“Up the stakes for your protagonist.”

“Stick to one POV.”

“You need more POVs.”

Obviously, I add to this list regularly.

This week, my shout-out for “the best writing advice I’ve ever received” goes to Anne Lamott. Her book, “Bird by Bird” is jam-packed with worthwhile, real-world information, advice and guidance she has shared with her students. For nearly two decades, writers have eagerly dipped their spoons into this book and scooped tasty tidbits of enlightenment designed to keep them at the keyboard. Among Lamott’s most famous advice is permission to write that “shitty first draft.”

The gem I’ve mined from her book is: “…sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.”

I’ve put her concept into practice and within a few weeks, my writing has improved, not just in quantity, but in quality. Amazing how showing up for work actually works. Thanks Anne.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received .. at least up to this week?

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

I’m fortunate to have two critique partners who pour over my work with a commitment to make me a better–and published–novelist. The three of us have been on this journey for a couple of years now and I know how valuable it is to have writers I trust comment on my work.

I often think of Randy Pausch’s words in “The Last Lecture” when he refers to a football coach who cared enough to keep on him to make him better. After a particularly tough practice an assistant coach told Pausch why criticism is a good thing. “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.” My read-and-critique partners never give up on me. And I’ll never give up on them.

 “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”

When I spend time reading their pages, I want it to be of value to both of us. I’ve learned the more I critique, the better I get at it and the more my own writing improves. (Funny how practice always makes perfect, just like Mom said.)

There is a big difference between critiquing and providing a line-by-line edit. If I see glaring grammar, spelling or punctuation issues, I’ll comment, but GSP is not the focus of my critique.

I’m spending my energies determining if the story world works.

Is the tension in each scene enough to make me want to turn the page?

Does the pacing of the book feel right? Not too fast, not too slow?

Am I asking myself, what will happen next or are things dragging along?

Do I care about what’s happening to the characters? Am I invested in the outcome?

Are there enough visual images? Are there too many? (As far as I’m concerned that’s just as bad.) Do I want to skip sentences, paragraphs, entire pages?

What information you look for when you receive critiques from your critique partners? What information to you supply?

–Claire Yezbak Fadden


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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