Saturday, October 29, 2011

Literature on Writing: The Bacon

Complementary to any breakfast is a side dish of bacon just as literature on the industry and craft of ones interest pairs well with an internship.
I will start this off by apologizing for the adorable pig picture, but it was 100% necessary. The blog begins:

There is a rule of thumb for selecting books on writing. Don’t choose a book entitled, “WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 5 DAYS!!!” for the same reason you wouldn’t choose a business book entitled, “MAKE MILLIONS IN 5 DAYS!!!” Per the advice of Amanda Hocking’s blog/website I decided to check out Stephen King’s, On Writing. I picked it up on audiobook and not only was it really informative it entertained me while I folded my laundry. (Plot Spoiler: Did you know he was nearly killed in 1999 after being hit by a van?)

One great positive of books on writing is that often they reveal an author’s entire writing process and sometimes their personal struggles in the course of doing so (such as Stephen King’s, On Writing). Not only can they be informative but encouraging as well knowing that even the writers who seem to do it without struggle, don’t do it without struggle.

Don’t just stick to one book, try a couple of different ones by author’s who’s work you enjoy and use what feels natural and useful to you. Remember that the point of this ‘internship’ is to seek out a variety of methods and opinions. My creative process is a hodge-podge of the processes of other writers who have been generous enough to share their experience with the rest of us. Following one other author’s method of the writing process exactly could end up putting a damper on your creative process.

One easy way to build a varied collection of these processes is mixing books with magazines on writing because they feature multiple authors. There are some great magazines on writing out there. Writer’s Digest is the biggest, most common, and also my preference, but dig around at your local bookstore. There are many that cater to specific genres. Don’t forget to check for e-zines online as well.

Other books include grammar, punctuation, and language reference books whose infinite benefits and advisories are far too many to fit into this post but will be enumerate in a post in the near future. What I do have to say is pick up one now. (I selected Strunk & White’s, The Elements of Style.) To fit its benefits into one sentence, it will enhance your writing’s readability.

Tip: While you’re reading the books and magazines you’ve selected, have a stack of sticky notes handy. Bookmark the pages you found particularly relevant, or those that you’d like to revisit. Write a small summary of the advice on the note. It will help you remember to practice it, and it will make it easy to return to it.

Tip#2: If you find a strategy you plan to implement, write it on a sticky note and paste it on your computer for motivation. For example, when I first read that I should set a “words per day” goal, I pasted a sticky note that read, “1000 words today” at the top of my computer. It was a great reminder that I had a commitment with myself to fulfill.

Readers, please post in the comments books or magazines on writing that you have found particularly helpful.

Next post I’ll cover Networking: The Fruit Bowl

*No animals were harmed during the making of this blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Well Rounded Breakfast

Believe it or not success in the writing industry doesn’t depend alone on your god-given ability to put words on a page. If that were true, hundreds of unpublished authors would have been published and vice-versa. Success depends on preparation; you have to eat your Wheaties. If you deducted from the above statements this blog is the beginning of a 5 part series listing basic elements to include in a hearty, success-boosting breakfast, you may have read ahead.

Just as a well-rounded meal at the start of the day boosts energy, preparedness, and alertness, having a well-rounded knowledge base of the writing field can better your writing, your understanding of the industry, and spare you from making the naive mistakes some writers make. For most writers, if we could do nothing but type on our laptops all day, the computer would burn out before we would. Fortunately for our computers, success in writing requires us to change out of sweat pants. In short, writers who want to make a career of their craft have to seek out the same pre-professional training generally undertaken in other trades.

Similar to an internship one might enter into at the beginning of a career in the medical field or law practice, writers have to spend some time to gain basic know-how of practice and tailor that new-found knowledge to what works best for them.

In this five part series, I’ve included elements that have been crucial in my development as well as resources I have known to be useful for others. Although this series is slanted towards those in the ‘pre-publication’ stage, keep in mind we never stop growing as writers until we decide to. Rest assured these elements will be just as much a part of your career as your ‘internship’.

(Note: I had I very hard time choosing a particular order for this series to be posted in, as a result, they are in no particular order.)

Part 1 of 5: The Internet: The Iced of Coffee of Your Breakfast

The internet and its infinite supply of information on the writing field is like the Dunkin’ Donut’s iced coffee of your breakfast. Sure, the writing field survived for years without it, but now that we have it, America runs on it as does the industry to the internet.

(I won’t get started on the eBook battle, but JA Konrath has had some amazing guest post lately on the subject. Read and believe if you still think eBooks are eBull.)

Aside from the amazing strides eBooks authors have taken, the internet is host to a variety of sources which won’t even begin to be covered in this 600 word blog. (Rest assured, more blogs are coming.)

When I began seeking out advice to develop my writing career, I started on the internet. What I found there led me to every other element I’ll cover in this blog series. If you don’t already have a list of sites you regularly visit for advice, I’d recommend starting at the websites or blogs of the authors you read. They can turn out to be your best source. Most of the time they offer up their own stories to publication, advice they have found true, and links to sites they regularly visit themselves. was one of the first places I looked and got lucky. Marcus provides some great info in his FAQs as well as links to outside sites. One is to the blog he belongs to, The Outfit, which is a collective of Chicago crime writers. I read The Outfit regularly. It’s always interesting as well as relevant.

Another author site I’d suggest is Denise Tompkin's site. Her blog is very well written (one of the best I’ve read) and contains great advice, especially for new writers.

I regularly visit both of these sites and have found both authors are great at responding to readers.

Aside from author websites another great source is online thesauruses and reference books. I like to use which has a thesaurus, dictionary, and encyclopedia.

In my beginnings as a writer, as much as I do now, I picked up a lot of advice from They have content from numerous authors on various topics. If you have a question, a lot of times the answer lies here. They also put out a magazine I enjoy, which is (in part) the next element of your breakfast/internship.

What are some of the websites/blogs you have found particularly helpful?

Next Post: Books and Magazines On Writing: The Bacon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Part 2: My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality

After giving up on a career in writing at age nine, I decided to pursue a more grounded aspiration.

I’d settled into a harsh reality I’d been forced to accept; if I didn’t make a change I was destine to become one of the broke and lonely on-screen portrayals of a writer. I was approaching the most important time of my life; middle school. It was time to get serious. It was time to focus on one of the more solid, promising aspirations; a singer or a famous paleontologist whose claim to fame was discovering her first dinosaur fossil in her backyard.

It was time to put down the pencil and start digging.

As middle school progressed, I was forced (yet again) to give up my ‘new dream’ of becoming a paleontologist whose claim to fame was finding a dinosaur bone in her back yard. It became very uncool to spend large about of time excavating in your back yard alone, so I was forced to abandon this dream as well. I resulted to my safety net profession of becoming a famous singer. It was through this outlet that my writing resurfaced. Singers made money and they also wrote songs, perhaps this was the career that was truly my calling.

In my seventh grade year of middle school my friends were into watching horror movies, so naturally, I was too. Around this time movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer were the hot new thing on video tape. This spurred me to write my own horror flick, in short story form. My inspiring story of a murderous scarecrow, whose victims all had the names of carefully selected members of the student body, spurred a group of my friends to compose their own short stories of their own murdering madmen, whose victims’ names were derived from their own selection of members of the student body. The domino line didn’t stopped their; my friends stories were also inspirational. Their stories inspired teachers to assign numerous in-school suspensions and after school detentions. My story was long gone by the time the others stories circulated around the student body and moved on to the staff.

Life continued on through middle and high school. I survived on a diet of songs and poetry, sticking to my aspirations of a famous singer. It wasn’t until after graduation that I finally gave that up.

My reality check came when most do; when I became completely miserable with the route my life had taken. I was twenty years old, not in college, and working a job that I had long since begun loathing. Cleaning my boss’s house, my mind often went other places, as one could imagine why. I was, literally, scrubbing the floors of my boss’s house when I decided that I wanted my life to mean something and then and there decided to figure out what held meaning for me.

I thought about my childhood. The things that used to make my happy: dinosaurs and writing. It was in those degrading moments of sweeping up dried dog poop from my boss’s floor and chipping dried food from dishes that inspiration would return in more ways than one. 

Since focusing myself on my chosen path, I found a number of people at the college I now attend, in the same path I was. They're outing their dreams and wishes. I’ve found myself giving a lot of advice, and getting a lot in the process. I wanted to extend that to beyond those who I see daily, for myself as much as others.
Now, after my extended introduction, I welcome you to my site, my blog, my mishaps, my mistakes, my misunderstandings, all spelled out. In hopes to provide direction, encouragement, inspiration, and a little entertainment to those in the process of cooking up their own Fiction Dish. 

Next post: There are five things ever new writer should be doing. Revisit Fiction Dish to find out what they are!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Part 1: My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality

At age ten I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer. My pursuit of the craft originated three years prior.

My second grade class had been assigned the task of preparing individual, fictional compositions. We were given the option to submit our prepared work to the Young Georgia Author’s contest. To inspire us, my teacher had brought assorted photographs and clip art. We could write our story based on whichever picture we selected. I remember being particularly esteemed to get a ‘good’ picture. I remember feeling, in my unfaltering seven-year-old confidence, that I could do better than anyone else in the classroom and I didn’t want a good picture to be wasted on anyone else. The picture that sent me soaring from my desk, hand-up, was the picture of a dinosaur playing the piano with a little girl.

The story I wrote was about a dinosaur who was also a piano teacher. He was being held captive in the zoo. In the story, he meets a little girl who wants piano lessons and, consequently, a pet dinosaur. It had a happy ending and placed in the contest. I have since lost the publication the story was printed in, so I don’t remember the specifics of its award. The story, however, compelled me to write more.

And I did. I wrote incessantly. When I wasn’t inspired to write on my own, I begged my teacher for an assignment. I wrote poems. I wrote songs (whose tunes only I could decipher, since I could not write music). I wrote advertisements for the contents of my family’s refrigerator. (My most memorable to date was a Jamaican influenced jingle for an alternative butter spread.)  I wrote letters and more short stories. One year, for black history month, I even wrote a fictionalized journal of Harriet Tubman. I read it to a friend, who was older than me, and she called it stupid. So I tore it up and threw it away. In retrospect, it was probably for the best. I was seven at the time, unaware of much about the world I lived in, and it’s quite possible that my work of art bore solely out of admiration for her story, might have actually been very offensive.

Although I don’t remember the exact moment it first came to me, I knew during those delicate years writing was my reason for existing and I was destine to do this for the rest of my life. It was sometime in my fourth grade year that I formulated a different idea.

I don’t remember the exact moment it happened, or the exact thing that spurred it. Scratch that. Actually, I do remember. It was in the classroom of, at the time, my most favorite teacher that I’d ever had. During that year, our classroom was overtaken by an evil student teacher, whom I was tricked into liking, because my favorite teacher seemed to like her. It was one of the worst days of my young life that she substituted the entire day for my favorite teacher who was out sick. Though I don’t recall the context, or even the reason behind her saying so, that day she told the class that writers did not make a lot of money. They were basically just starving artists.

Gasp. Panic. The world, a whirlwind around me.

So this is the awful fate I’d been resigned to? This was my destiny? To spend every waking day alone in a dimly lit room, a slave to the pen, surviving from stale bread and gruel?  (I know, the imagery I fathomed was rather theatrical, but I have an excuse; I’m a writer).

And so, I resigned from my craft to pursue my other, more realistic aspirations of becoming a famous paleontologist. (Famous being the key notion here.)

It was time to put down the pencil and start digging.

The story isn’t over, but Part One of this blog is. My next post will be Part Two of My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality.

What inspires you? What makes you sweat? Comment below!

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fiction Is A Dish Best Served Hot

In your mind, as in your cabinets, exists a store of ingredients. Words. Images. Ideas. Fantasies. Mixed together without the right recipe, they’d most likely come out an unappetizing mess, but with the right measurements and direction, your hypothetical ingredients can be turned into something real. Something that will be summed up here as your, “Fiction Dish.”

There are no steadfast rules for creating a work of fiction whether it be a short story, novel, novella, etc. However there is plenty of advice to be had for an emerging writer who has aspirations to one day be published. (Believe me, I know firsthand.) The aim of this blog is to help centralize that advice and fold in a dash of encouragement.

Measurements can vary, but the basic recipe is as follows:

One part inspiration.
One part perspiration.
A healthy dose of reality.
Blend well.

I hope to encourage all three in this blog on a weekly if not twice weekly basis.

Thank you for being one of the first to check out my blog! I hope to have you back in a few days for a second helping. My next post will share some of my personal experience with this recipe in a two-part post keenly entitled, “My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality”.

Your comments are appreciated, requests are welcome!