The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are up there, throw rocks at them.
A story without challenges is just plain dull. Nobody wants to read that. Readers want an escape, and it’s your job to give them that.
There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.
This kinda made my head explode (in a good way). My eyes were opened. I realized that we want – as readers – a roller coaster ride, twists, turns… and as a writer, we have to challenge ourselves to deliver them.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
If you have ever been in a critique group, you’ve heard this a thousand times. This is the essence of “show versus tell” and it’s the main thing lacking in your writing. This is what immerses a reader in your story.
All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.
This is very liberating for a writer to realize. Once you get it, the doors are open to a lot of stuff – if you have the guts to write it. Willing accomplices. They want you to do it. That’s huge.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
It’s also been said as, he who tries to please everyone with a story pleases no one. Find your muse and write to her. Not every story is for every reader.
Great writing isn’t safe.
It’s not gratuitous to include myself on this list because I work with a lot of new writers and this is what they’re afraid of: someone I know might read this! Put that aside and write in a way that will grab the reader, about any topic. If it feels real enough and you put the emotion in, readers will laugh with your characters and cry with them, and thank you afterward. But it’s a lot of effort, and you really have to put your bare soul on the page. Go there.
It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way ‘atcha write it.
Your writing voice is yours, not a copy of someone else’s, and you must use it as a tool to deliver the goods. In that, style counts.
The best stories don’t come from “good vs. evil,” but “good vs. good.”
For the bad guy’s point of view, he’s probably not the bad guy. Mind = blown. And understanding that, your writing just went to a new level.
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
Pour emotion onto the page. Have tears falling into the keyboard as you create the drama. You can, and when you do, your reader gets it because it reads true.
Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once
What can I say? We all love/hate to be teased. We all love a good surprise midway through. We all love a good twist. We all… well, you get it.
(It’s okay to have a few more, for after the writing, for the editing, the publishing, the motivation to start, the evaluating afterward…)
A good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.
I love this quote, and not just because I messed it up while texting from a jacuzzi with a friend. If it’s seen as life, it’s relatable. But it’s not everything from life. That’d be boring. Just the good stuff. That’ll make a nice foundation for a good story.
Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.
Do not deprive the world of your story. Don’t polish it forever, because at some point it’s not better, it’s just different. Publish it and get on to your next one. You have more than one great story in you.
If you wait for inspiration, you’re a waiter, not a writer.
That hurts to read, doesn’t it? Yeah, so don’t expect the Great American Novel to find you. It won’t. It will come as a result of a lot of hard work and days where you didn’t feel like writing but did anyway.
If it’s funny enough, you can do anything.
I have covered the most egregious topics imaginable by being funny when I did it. And as a rule, this totally works. Think court jester, speaking truth to power, but without the silly hat thing.
If a book is well written, I always find it too short.
I think everyone does. Don’t worry about the length of your story, worry about how engaging it is.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
This gives you permission to have early works. Everyone will expect you to get better with each story you write, because you are constantly learning and improving. Your next book is you best one, and none will be perfect, so stop expecting that and stop denying the world of your stories.
SPECIAL THANKS TO DAN ALATORRE – AUTHOR! (for compiling this list)
My cumulative list of “words commonly confused” continues with ten that begin with the letter S. The confusion relates to spelling or meaning.
1. sight / site
Both words function as nouns and verbs.
As a noun, sight is a thing seen. Ex. The Pont du Garde is an astounding sight.
As a verb, sight means “catch sight of something or to take aim.” Ex. The lookout sighted land at dawn. Ex. The surveyor sighted the compass.
Site is from Latin situs: place, position. The principal meaning for web users is probably “a web address.” Ex. Daily Writing Tips is one of my favorite sites.
The context in which site is frequently confused with sight regards physical location.
Examples of correct usage:
• A small Iron Age settlement was found during excavations at the site of a new housing development near Swindon.
• Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching may develop at the site of the injection.
2. stationary / stationery
Stationary is an adjective meaning fixed or unmoving. Ex. All of his traffic violations involved stationary vehicles.
Stationery is a noun meaning writing and office materials, especially writing paper and envelopes. Ex. She’s old-fashioned enough to write letters by longhand on monogrammed stationery.
Tip: An easy way to remember which is which is to be aware of the er in stationery. It matches the -er at the end of paper.
3. storey / story
This distinction concerns British speakers, although some older Americans were taught to observe the difference between storey, “the level of a building,” and story, “a tale.” Younger generations of Americans are accustomed to using story for both meanings.
• I live in a one bedroom second-storey walkup in Chelsea.
• Children derive comfort as well as vocabulary from a daily bedtime story.
The plural of storey is storeys. The plural of story is stories.
4. sometime / sometimes / some time
Sometime is an adverb that means an indefinite, unstated time in the future. Ex. I’ll clean the garage sometime.
Sometimes is an adverb that means “continually, off and on, occasionally.” Ex. Sometimes she reads in the evening instead of watching television.
Some time is a phrase that refers to a period of time. Ex. My web design took some time to complete, but was worth the wait.
5. shear / sheer
Both words function as different parts of speech with numerous meanings. The confusion is that of misspelling sheer as shear when the meaning of sheer is “thin, fine, diaphanous.”
INCORRECT: She bought some shear curtains for the living room.
CORRECT: She bought some sheer curtains for the living room.
Shear is a verb meaning “to cut” or “remove wool by cutting.” Ex. We watched the men shear the sheep.
6. set / sit
As a verb, set means, “to place.” Ex. Please set the hot dish on a pad.
The verb sit means, “to be or remain in that posture in which the weight of the body rests upon the posteriors; to be seated. Ex. Are you going to sit at that computer all day?
7. sale / sell
Sale is a noun meaning “the act of selling.” Ex. He regretted the sale of his old Encyclopedia Britannica.
Sell is a verb meaning “to transfer ownership of something for a price.” Ex. When are you going to sell your golf clubs?
Sell functions as a noun in the expression “hard sell.” Ex. Jones has mastered the art of the hard sell: he can bully a customer into buying anything.
The error with these words is to use sell in place of sale, as in this example from a site about garage sales:
INCORRECT: I had a garage sell and I only made 5 dollars! .
CORRECT: I had a garage sale and I only made 5 dollars! .
8. straight / strait
Both straight and strait function as more than one part of speech. The error with this pair is one of spelling.
In all its uses, strait conveys the ideas of “tight,” “tightly fitting,” and “narrow,” whereas straight connotes the idea of “not crooked.”
Here are some examples of both strait and straight:
• What the British call a “strait waistcoat,” the Americans refer to as a “strait jacket”: a garment for the upper part of the body, made of strong material and admitting of being tightly laced, used for the restraint of violent lunatics or prisoners.
• One meaning of strait as a noun is “a comparatively narrow water-way or passage connecting two large bodies of water, like the Strait of Gibraltar.
• A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
• The old soldier stood straight and tall as he saluted the flag.
9. statue / statute
A statue is “a representation in the round of a person, animal, etc., which is sculptured, molded, or cast in marble, metal, plaster, or a similar material. Ex. One of the most famous statues in the world is the Davidof Michelangelo.
Generally speaking, a statute is a law. Ex. The perpetrator was identified just before the statute of limitations ran out.
The usual error with this pair is to write statue for statute, as in this comment on a legal site:
INCORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statue of limitations on this type of crime?
CORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statute of limitations on this type of crime?
10. sensuous / sensual
Both adjectives relate to the senses and are often used interchangeably.
Sensuous, however, contrasts with the adjectives spiritual and intellectual. Although often equated with sexuality, sensuous can describe anything that appeals to the bodily senses, producing an agreeable effect conducive to physical comfort or contentment. For example, the touch of a cat’s fur, the aroma of bread baking, the warmth from a cozy fire, etc. are sensuous in nature.
Sensual, on the other hand, implies a certain indulgence of appetite, a gratification or titillation of the senses that goes beyond what might be considered acceptable, at least in public. Ex. Madonna and Led Zeppelin Make a Startling, Sensual Pairing in “Justify a Whole Lotta Love.”
via My Books
Excerpt from my book, Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the “Bloody Fifth” in Philadelphia:
It only took Dave five minutes to walk from the station house at Third and Delancey, but the August heat took its toll. His collar and hatband were soaked through with sweat when he arrived at Deutsch’s shop.
“Mayor Smith told me to come and talk to you about how I can help with the election,” Dave said. He looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody saw him go in.
“Yes. Yes. Good. Come in, Lieutenant,” Ike Deutsch replied. The butcher wiped his palms and the backs of his hands on his blood-splattered apron, and they shook hands. He locked the door to the shop and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed” after Dave entered. “Let’s go to the back where we can talk in private.” As he pulled his apron off over his…
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Have you ever felt like too many people have their fingers in your pie?
All licking your vitality off their palms as it runs down to their wrists. They don’t stop to ask permission. They just dip into your allotted 24 hours and sop a bit up for themselves.
Of course, they don’t realize the damage they’re doing. It’s certainly not a group effort.
They are each snatching a crumb of your time without thinking very much about the cumulative affect upon you.
The question is this: Where do you draw the line?
Before the last slice?
The last bit of fruit?
The last crumb?
STAY CALM, and:
Finish shopping for your family, and 75 of your closest friends and colleagues, making sure you stay under that $200 limit you set for yourself this year;
Bake 500 dozen cookies that are so special no one has ever eaten them before;
Decorate at least three trees of varying size for inside your house with different themes, one of which must be woodland creatures;
Check batteries on all those “safe” candles you now own, so the cats and dogs, and babies don’t set themselves on fire;
Add one more string of lights outside, so TV station satellites can pick out the glow of your home from space;
Cook every kind of meat that exists so everyone (including that Uncle we all have) enjoys Christmas dinner;
Cook every vegan dish you can think of so the two people you know who are vegan don’t starve;
Watch all twenty gazillion Christmas movies in one weekend while you . . .sing along to every Carol that was ever written;
Send out at least two thousand Christmas/holiday cards to remind everyone you’ve ever met in your life that you are still alive;
And, most importantly — make sure the liquor cabinet is well-stocked, so you can accomplish all of the above!
Enjoy the holidays . . . and try not to hurt anyone.
From our castle to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The rumbling and swooshing and screeching woke me long before the alarm clock sounded.
Did a freight train jump the tracks? Was there a terrorist attack? A horrible traffic accident?
In a stumbling, drunken-like stupor, I made my way to the open bedroom window to discover the source of the fearsome cacophony . . . It sounded like a thousand needles prickling the predawn sky.
Standing there in the cool darkness, I realized, as the latest gush surrounded me and pushed past — The last of the brown, crumbling, dead leaves were being hurled and smashed to smithereens against any barrier standing in their way by . . .
Mother Nature, blowing Autumn off and making way for the entrance of Winter!
(I understand she has an important job to do . . . but, couldn’t the bitch have waited until after the alarm went off? Geez.)
He wanted to be scary…she wanted to be pretty.
She was six…he was five.
This was one of those Halloweens that seared itself into the recesses of my mind, just waiting to bring a smile upon request by my consciousness.
I make that request every year at this time.
Wasn’t it yesterday that I said, “to hell with it!” and cut a good white sheet to drape over my little boy’s frail frame? And wasn’t it that same yesterday when I taught my little girl the Roaring Twenties song, “Anything Goes?”
I can still hear him roar as he raised his stretched arms, because, to him, that would be much more frightening than simply shouting “boo!”
Placing the dark brown wig over her bright red tresses to hide her identity from her classmates was the only demand my little flapper made.
To ensure the whole Halloween experience would be absorbed into their own memory-banks — I reminded him to roar at each door . . . and her little girl voice belted out: “In olden days a bit of stocking was looked on as something shocking…now, heaven knows —anything goes!”
This Halloween season, I hope you share your own recollections with friends and family, and keep building on those “Misty, water-colored memories.”
I’d also love to read them in the comments section of this post, if you’re so inclined, Dear Readers!