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Write What You Know

You’ve heard the saying, “Write what you know.” I know I have. But what if you don’t know anything? Now you’re thinking, “Well that’s impossible! Everyone knows something!” I thought so too until I tried to write what I knew. I don’t know computers so scratch technology off my list. I don’t know plants or cars or cooking either, so scratch, scratch, scratch. So what do I know that I can put in my books that will ring true? What do I know?

Don’t let this question plague you when  you start to feel down about your writing. Often times, and sadly, more times than not, you won’t feel confident about your writing. As sad as it is, I know I’ve never tried harder or dedicated  more time to my writing and I couldn’t feel less confident. But I do feel passionate, and that is enough for now.

Do you know love? Do you know fear? Do you know disappointment? You’re nodding your head right now because you know all of that. But do you know friendships? Do you know commitment? Do you know how it feels to lose someone? What about passion or success? What about failure? Yes! You know all of these things, or at least 90% of them. So write about them! Remember the time you lost someone dear or the time someone told you they loved you or when you were the most scared you’d ever been? Now take those emotions and that passion and use it to make your characters come to life. Make your scenery that much scarier or more depressing. Use your emotions if you don’t know anything else. You might find it’s more powerful and your readers can relate to it more than the other stuff.

This is what I’m working on now. Making my characters’ emotions feel real and justified. Your challenge is to do the same. Fuel your novel with raw emotion. Nothing else will bring your readers closer to you and your characters than an emotion they understand.

Put the fire back into your writing

I am currently reading Writing the Breakout Novel by literary agent Donald Maass. As I am going through this I am not only highlighting like a mad woman but I’m going through my own writing as I go along.

Before I went to bed last night, I had some thoughts. It was a good thing I keep a notebook on my nightstand. And as fellow writers, I’m sure you know the importance of that too. What? You say you don’t keep a notebook by your side? Shame on you. Some of the best inspiration come in the middle of the night or right before falling asleep. So get a notebook! And a pen! The worst is fumbling around in the dark for a pen and then a minute passes and the thought is gone.

I have found that not only do I sometimes feel writing is a chore, I often put it off. Shame on me! I need a little guy on my shoulder to lecture me when I’m slacking. But why am I slacking?

Some ideas I’d like to share that I’m going to apply to my own writing and was sparked from Writing the Breakout Novel is about my novel as a whole. Why isn’t it finished? Why aren’t I submitting it to Lit Agents? Why aren’t I doorbell ditching my novel just in hopes that someone will read it?

I have discovered and come to the resolution that if I don’t get excited to write my book, how can I expect my readers to be excited to read it? If I don’t cheer for my character, cry with/for my character or fear for them, how can I expect my readers to? The point is, I want to write a book I want to read. I want to write a character I like and can relate to and want to succeed.

Do you scramble out of bed in the morning just to find out what is going to happen to your protagonist? Do you stay up late to see what your Villain is plotting? Me either! Am I being a little dramatic? Yes. Are all great writers like this? No. But I want to be. And you should too.

Why do I write? It used to be because I enjoyed it. Now its because I want to have written. My joy for writing is going with the wind as my need for having written hardens. That’s just not right. Read any writing self-help book and different authors will say different things. One told me that if you want to be an author, you must treat it like a job. You must set hours, not have fun and just do it. I also read that to write you need to want to write and as a newbie author I should want to write. I’ve also read that writing is a chore to writers and most writers don’t enjoy writing.

What the??? What sense does that make? Yet somehow I’m that writer. Yet I’m a newbie. It is a little comforting that another author has validated my odd lack of desire to write. I’m not crazy. I’m a writer. But I tell ya, not wanting to write doesn’t make me feel like a writer. It makes me feel like a loser.

So here is my plan- maybe one of my New Year’s Resolutions: I want to enjoy my books. If I’m not enjoying writing them, why not? How can I enjoy them more? If I were reading this, what would I want to happen next? What would I hope would happen next?

More to come on liking what you write and how to do that … once I figure out the secret. In the meantime, pick up the book Writing the Breakout Novel and get out your trusty highlighter.  Now take what I’ve gathered and assess your own novels/short stories. Do you like to write them? If you do, you’re awesome and I fully expect to see you on the book shelves soon. If not, find out why and fix it.

If your characters don’t suck you in or you can’t connect with them, now you know what to work on. If your setting just doesn’t envelope you, work on that! If your stakes just aren’t high enough for you to care, raise those babies!

Go get ’em! Let’s change the way writers are. Let’s make it “writers love to write” instead of that they don’t. Cuz after all, you should only do what you love. We want people to go “Man, you’re a writer. Lucky duck!” and have us think, “Yes I am,” not “Ugh, if you only knew”. Focus on the writing and not the payoff, the completed project or being published. Write for the readers. Write for you! If nothing else, at least you’ll have a book you’ll read over and over again. And that should be a comfort.

Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate Program – Enrolled

I enrolled in the Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate Program and my first lesson is tonight. I will keep you informed on how it all goes. I expect to learn everything I need to and start working after the first class, as it promises

Why  I chose Media Bistro over UC San Diego Extension Copy Editing:

1.       Less expensive. $1500 for 6 classes, as opposed to $1580 for 4 classes.
2.       Classes include classes on freelance and writing/editing for the web if desired.
3.       No textbooks to buy
4.       No required live sessions/discussion. There are live if you can make it, but the discussion is saved in case you can’t.
5.       Focus on getting work, not just something to add to your resume.

I will keep you posted on if this lives up to my expectations. I plan to use what I learn immediately.  UPDATE: See post for a final verdict after completing the course.

Copy Editing Certificate Programs

I lettered in English, was an English Sterling Scholar, and went to college for 2 semesters majoring in English. It was as I was sitting in Written Works 1800-1860 that I realized: How will this help me write my books? Do I need a degree to publish my books? Will all this debt be paid off once I’m published? So I stopped. Creative Writing would help. But Renaissance writing? No.

Since then I have discovered I would love to make Editing part of my career. Yet most Editor jobs request a Bachelors in Journalism, English or Communications. Now if you look at the courses you’d be taking, how much can you use in  your writing? To me I’d prefer to use the classes I’m paying for rather than just have the title to get me the job. So I am looking at online Copy Editing Certificate courses. I am stuck between 3 programs. I’ll post the best ones here that I’ve found based on cost, types of courses, and they are all completely online (so I am not looking at ones on campus). I need one I can do on the go whenever. So if you have an opinion share it! I’ll be picking one within the next month and I’ll post more later.

Here are the contenders:

Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate

$1500

Copy Editing I

Copy Editing II

Copy Editing III

Grammar and Punctuation

2 Electives (2 included, others $350-$425 ea)

Advanced Grammar

Writing and Editing for the Web

Develop a Freelance Career

InDesign for Writers & Editors

Online Research for Journalists

UC San Diego Extension Copy Editing Certificate

$395 a class ($1580 for 4 required. Extra $ for electives)

Copy Editing I

Copy Editing II

Copy Editing III

Grammar Lab

Recommended Electives (unkn prices)

Editing as a Business

Marketing for Copy Editors

Web Skills for Editors

Intro to Scientific and Medical Editing

Social Media for Editors

I am torn because each program has their pros and cons. I want a certificate not only for the knowledge and confidence it would bring but also to show potential employers. Which of these would provide the most knowledge if quality were all equal (which I won’t know until I get in)? I’d say the one with the most classes? Media offers 6 classes for $1500. Not a bad deal. The program seems pretty all inclusive. Though what employers know what Media Bistro is? Where as UC San Diego is a real college (University of California San Diego) and my certificate might hold more weight. Though the classes are more expensive. Already $1580 for only 4 classes and Media Bistro claims to offer the same courses. So there they are. I’ll let you know what I end up picking and how the class goes. I’ll also let you know if it helps in my writing career so stay tuned!

14 Best Gifts for Writers

With the gift-giving season right around the corner, I figure I’d offer everyone a couple items to add to their wish list. I always ask for gifts to help me write. I admit I’m a procrastinator. I always say “I hate to write, I love to have written”. Course that isn’t entirely true. I don’t hate to write. It just takes a while to get me motivated. These are always great reminders that you have writing to do. Plus the more writer’s related gifts you get or the more items you get for any holiday the more you’ll feel like a writer and thus: you’ll write more! Yay!

Here are the Top 14 Gifts for Writers

14.   iPod + speakers
13.   Laptop Cooler
12.   New laptop bag
11.   Writer Mug (any mug with “Writer” printed on it)
10.   Writer T-Shirt (self designed with own clever writer saying or favorite quote)
9.   Book Signing Pen in Case (Reg pen in glass box for inspiration)
8.   Writing Self-Help Books
7.   Painting Set (to get creative when they don’t feel creative)
6.   Writer’s Magazine (like Writer’s Digest)
5.   Arc Notebook (customizable notebook!)
4.   Writing Classes/Seminar
3.   Kindle Fire (to help read and research on the go)
2.   Liquid Story Binder Novel Writing Software
1.   Laptop

As the gift giver, this list is exactly what should get you started for the writer in your life You won’t go wrong with any of these itmes. As for the writer’s reading, think of what you want. Think of what the writer in you wants. Make sure you always ask for at least one thing for the writer in you. Reward her/him too for all the work they do.