Is writing difficult or easy?

I’ve been asked a writer question: Is writing easy for me or hard?

My answer might not make sense because I didn’t approach writing with the thought of it being hard or easy. I just decided to make it my job and figured out how to do it.

It read books and articles. I took classes. I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. And slowly and gradually I figured out how to craft a story. I’m still learning.

As I see it, difficult or easy isn’t important. What’s important is whether a writer wishes to put in the time and effort. Because, if they do, they will eventually become a writer.

As an aside, I sometimes must remind myself of this when I find myself looking for excuses to not write. At such times I remember that writing is like any other job. Put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and do it. The rest will happen.

What’s the big deal with word count?

I’ve been asked a writer question: Many writers obsess over word count because publishers require a specific number of words for manuscripts so they can plan for a specific number of pages to be printed and figure the costs involved to be sure they don’t lose money.

A short story normally is approximately 4,000 words, though they may occasionally be less and may run as high as 10,000 words. Depends on the publisher and how much space they wish to allocate to each story.

A novella is normally 10,000 to 40,000 words.

A short novel, such as the typical mystery, western, or romance, is 40,000 to 60,000 words.

A long novel is more than 60,000 words and can go as high as the publisher will allow.

If a writer comes in with the wrong word count and wants to be published by a publisher, their manuscript will be rejected without being read.

If the writer, on the other hand, plans on self-publishing, then word count becomes irrelevant except for the convenience of readers who have come to expect the usual word count for whatever type of story they are buying.

I don’t know the specific word counts for non-fiction but I’m fairly certain that they exist.

Where and how to find peace and quiet to write.

I’ve been asked a writer question: Where and how to find the peace and quiet to write?

There are two answers to this question.

The first answer is to create a space and a time in which you are guaranteed silence and no interruptions. If you are able to do this in your life and your home, good for you because not everyone is so fortunate.

If you can’t have physical peace and quiet to write then you can learn to write without either if writing is important enough to you to be worth the effort.

Western author, Louis L’Amour once said that he could write at the kitchen table with a hoard of noisy kids running around. I suspect that’s because he knew what he wanted to say and how to say it so well that he didn’t need a special place and time to bring it out.

If writing is important enough, you’ll figure out what works for you. External or internal.

How can a writer avoid cliches when describing characters?

I’ve been asked a writer question: How to describe characters and avoid cliches?

That’s a rather common question, usually by newish writers because writers with a lot of experience know that almost all fictional characters are either cliches or archetypes of real people.

Every writer wishes to avoid cliches. Every writer hopes to have their character be seen as an archetype.

So what’s a character that’s a cliche? A character that readers quickly recognize as a specific type of person in a few descriptive sentences.

And what’s a character that’s an archetype? A character that readers quickly recognize as a specific type of person in a few descriptive sentences.

The only difference between the two is in the quality of writing.

A well written character description will elicit that feeling of recognition by readers that brings out a feeling of knowing that kind of person well. And they go on to read more because the character is so well drawn that it comes to life and brings the story to life. That’s an archetype.

A poorly written character description will elicit a feeling of recognition by readers that brings out a feeling of knowing that person well but, instead of liking the character and the description, they are bored and perhaps disgusted by the flat, monochromatic person being portrayed and are taken out of the story.

So, you writers out there, your work is cut out for you. Archetype or cliche? It’s up to you.

How to use action to break up dialogue without disrupting the flow of the story?

I’ve been asked a writer question: How to use action to break up dialogue without disrupting the flow of the story?

It’s easy to do and hard to explain. The short answer is that you blend the two together throughout the entire story so there are few if any scenes that are entirely one or the other.

Yes, there are times that you must do either dialogue or action but it’s surprising how seldom it happens. Most scenes work well as a combination of the two.

So how do you accomplish this feat? You use the action as ‘dialogue tags’ to show the reader who’s doing the talking. In the process, you can also describe the scene and pull in anything else that the reader needs to know.

The following isn’t major action as in something that changes the direction of the story, but it gives you the idea:

Jake dropped the axe and considered his friend, who he’d ignored until now as he worked out his anger with the axe. He’d reached the point where he could talk without screaming, so he asked, as nicely as he could manage, “What were you saying about the fire?”

His friend walked a few steps one way and then a few more back, delaying the bad news as long as possible because he knew what Jake had been through. How one more piece of bad news would hit him. “It’s coming. Soon. We must leave immediately if we are to get out of here before it reaches us. Consumes us. Kills us.”

“Damn!” Jake closed the distance between them in two strides, everything forgotten except the moment. The past and all the bad things it had done to him disappeared. The future was all that mattered. He grabbed his friend with one hand and his discarded shirt with the other. “Why didn’t you say so earlier? Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Should an author have a writing portfolio blog?

I’ve been asked a writer question: Should an author have a writing portfolio blog?

I suppose a writer can exist without writing credits to pull out whenever the occasion requires, but it’s a lot easier to show prospective clients and publishers what you can do if you have samples of your writing at your fingertips.

And what’s easier and more accessible than a blog? Nothing that I can think of. It’s available twenty-four seven and you can show as much or as little as you wish and if you write in different genres or fields, you can categorize your work accordingly, giving a page to each category.

I’ve had a blog for years and that’s a large part of the reason. Not many readers at any one time but my abilities are out there for the public or any potential client to see and evaluate.

It does happen and at the oddest times, usually without my even knowing anyone is checking me out until they’ve perused my blog and then contacted me because they like my writing style as it was showcased.

So go for it. It can’t hurt and it might help.

Show Vs Tell: The Writer’s Dilemma

I’ve been asked a writer question: Is it true that in fiction it’s essential to show something instead of just telling the reader what they need to know?

The answer is:  it depends —

I started my writing career writing short stories. In short fiction, you pretty much must tell because showing would take too long. The trick, of course, is to tell in such as way as to not take the reader out of the story. It’s a technique that can be learned.

In novels, however, the opposite is true. You normally show because you are allowed a whole lot of words in which to get your story across. Even short novels are thousands of words longer than the longest short story.

Novellas — those stories that I think of as ‘half novels’ — in length are between short stories and novels and so the answer for novellas can be either showing or telling, depending on what information you want to impart, how important that information is, and how interesting it would be if you show instead of telling. Lots of leeway in novellas.

So, again, it depends on what you are writing.

Is it possible to write about a situation very precisely without even going through it?

I’ve been asked:   Can you write precisely about something you’ve never experienced?

Writers do it all the time and some of them do it very well. But there’s a caveat and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a big one.

You can picture the situation and imagine what it would be like and then you can put those imaginings down on paper. You’ll probably do a pretty good job if you’re writing a work of fiction and it’ll be okay because there’s some leeway in fiction.

On the other hand, if you are writing non-fiction or if you want a work of fiction to be realistic, then in addition to using your imagination, you must put in a lot of time doing research. A lot of time. A whole lot.

I’m not that ambitious. I love research but only about subjects that I’m truly interested in and then only in those aspects of those subjects that ‘grab’ me. But I know writers who spend hours, days, weeks and even years doing generalized research in order to get a specific situation right.

Are you willing to devote a potentially large portion of your life to learning about a general subject well enough to be precise about a part of that subject when writing about it?

Or are you comfortable learning just enough to get you through your manuscript and letting your imagination take over where your research leaves off?


Is it a good idea to write an entire first draft with no editing whatsoever?

Good question.

Nanowrimo says to just get in there and write and don’t stop until you reach the end. There’s a good reason to follow that advice, namely that if you keep revising as you write, you might not ever get to the end. This is a real problem for many writers and is why many books don’t get finished.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who knows where they are going and keeps plugging on, then revising as you write may be a good idea because, when you reach the end of your manuscript, you are truly done.

No rewriting required because you did it as you wrote.

I rewrite as I write and I prefer it that way but honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t do so until I had many years of writing beneath my belt because the changes I kept making during that learning period changed everything and required entire rewrites of my manuscripts until nothing ever was finished. I had to eventually force myself to write the entire manuscript first so at least it would get finished.

Now, however, I’ve learned how to keep on task so rewriting as I write works for me.

Do whatever works for you.

The Fine Art of Piddling

Got this in an email and just HAD to pass it on:
As you will see, I have been cleaning out drawers.

the Fine Art of Piddling!!

What is a piddler??

It’s hard to explain to begin with, because piddling is neither one thing nor another, but something in between.  It is not rest, not something that can be done with your feet on a foot stool or as you recline in your recliner.

it is certainly not something for which one should ever be paid, and absolutely not something that one does while clock watching.

The whole idea of piddling is to kill time, but without any great effort, or much effort at all, or even really meaning to do it.  If one piddles correctly, time just goes away, without regret on the part of the piddler, or even any particular notice.  ONE does not march off to piddle.  ONE meanders.  And even when one heads off to piddle, one may not go to piddling right away, because one might have to loaf a little first.

But loafing is another story.

A piddler does not fix a leaky washing machine, or a slipping transmission, or a hole in a roof.  Such work as that is necessary, and the more necessary a labor is, the father from piddling it becomes.

A piddler may use tools, but only small light ones, and only on things that are not needed right now.  Changing out a car battery in the dead of winter, IS NOT PIDDLING.  that is a necessity.

But tinkering with a lawn mower in the middle of February when the grass is buried under snow, is piddling.

Doing laundry is not piddling.  Organizing your sock drawer or any drawer is piddling.

You could rearrange books, sharpen knives  — the ones you won’t use — change knobs on drawers and cabinets, but ONLY if the ones you replace are still good.  Rearrange pictures or not.

Usually men are the piddlers, but I think women piddle, too.

going out to garden and then sitting in your deck chair and just gazing out at your yard or the lake – that is piddling.

Leaving household chores undone so you can just sit and listen to the birds is a form of piddling.

everyone has their own ideas about piddling and now, as we shelter in home or on our deck, is the time to practice piddling.