Showing posts with label Are You a Real Writer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Are You a Real Writer. Show all posts

Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

Writers just starting out might wonder: Can I call myself a writer, say, if I’m not published? If all I write are my thoughts, wishes and dreams in a journal? If letters, texts, and emails are all I write?

Well, I have the answer. I heard it once from an editor (so it’s got to be true). You can call yourself a writer if you enjoy looking up words in the dictionary. There you have it. It's that simple. So, are you a writer?

Not only do I like, no relish, looking up words in the dictionary, I also enjoy finding just the right word to use to express an action, emotion or to jazz up dialogue, in my thesaurus. Also, I’m sure every serious writer has Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style at their elbow. It’s a big help, though not with every rule. I’ll get to that in a minute.

And what would I do without my Chicago Manual of Style? My “Chi Man” looks like a bird on a cold winter morning who has fluffed up its feathers to stay warm. That’s because I’ve had to look up so many rules, the same ones, mind you, so many times that I finally labelled my most troublesome rules on Post-it page markers for easy access. There are twenty-two of them. I just counted them. Guess what the biggest one is: Punctuation.

It’s okay, though. I once learned from yet another editor that writers can’t possibly remember every grammar rule and have to look up many. So, although some might think it’s tedious if they’re told “go look that up,” genuine writers like you and me know they’re not writers and we are.

Take Lay
Lay is one of the trickiest irregular verbs. The word is categorized simply as "Lay" in Elements of Style, and is explained in this way:
A transitive verb. Except in slang (“Let it lay), do not misuse it for the intransitive verb lie. The hen, or the play, lays an egg; the llama lies down. The playwright went home and lay down.

Lie; lay; lain; lying (I made a note in my book here: Past tense of lie is lay)
Lay; laid; laid; laying

As much as this explanation is helpful, I still ponder the correct usage and have four different explanations for Lie and Lay in a Grammar file I keep on my computer. I finally found the most helpful explanation for Lie and Lay at Professor Malcolm Gibson’s website, “The Wonderful World of Words.” This site is fun for anyone who loves words.

The principal parts (most-common verb forms) of lie are:

lie (present,) lay (past) and lain (past participle).
     The principal parts of lay are:
lay (present), laid (past) and laid (past participle).
     As an aid in choosing the correct verb forms, remember that lie means to recline, whereas lay means to place something, to put something on something.

Correct Usage:
Present tense: I lie down on my bed to rest my weary bones.
Past tense: Yesterday, I lay there thinking about what I had to do during the day.
Past participle: But I remembered that I had lain there all morning one day last week.
Present tense: As I walk past, I lay the tools on the workbench.
Past tense: As I walked past, I laid the tools on the workbench. And: I laid an egg in class when I tried to tell that joke.
Past participle: . . . I had laid the tools on the workbench.

The professor has discovered an easy way to remember the rule so that it is used correctly every time. He has named it after one of his students who invented her own way to remember the rule. He calls it The Michiko Sato Rule.
Write these six words and then try them out:
                                Lie         Lay         Lain
                                Lay        Laid        Laid

Sometimes when I'm stuck on correct usage of a word, after I've researched and chosen what I think is correct, I go to Google, type in my sentence and see what comes up. Oftentimes I see the same passage in other works and feel assured that I'm using the word correctly.

Don't get me started on swim, swam, swum. Swum just doesn't sound right to me. Normally, I avoid it by tiptoeing around it. There are other ways to describe your characters while they're swimming than using the word swum, right?

Do you have a method for keeping track of word usage that you'd like to share? Please leave a comment and tell us about it. After all, anyone who reads this post must care about words and therefore is qualified to call himself or herself a writer.

Clipart courtesy of:
Photo: by Linda Wilson

We writers need to put
all our ducks in a row.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

You Know You're a Writer When . . .

Bloom where you're planted  Photo by Linda Wilson
You have a desire to express yourself. It won't go away. Pieces come out in your everyday life. At work. At home. With the people you know and love. With acquaintances and strangers, too. You might trek to the farthest reaches of the earth and sea. Start your own business, a new hobby; begin an exercise program, pick up a musical instrument. Go into politics or find volunteer opportunities. Yet you still want to do more. So, you sit down and write. You become a writer.

As busy as you are with your life, have you ever wondered where this desire to write comes from? You may be a physician/writer, a teacher/writer or a writer/writer. But deep down you know: Writing is your heart and you never want to stop.

The reasons one becomes a writer are as varied as life itself. Some of them are collected here, for you to ponder and perhaps to remind you of your own beginning, when you first noticed that pulse that beat so strong inside that it spilled onto the page and hasn't stopped. It's only grown. And you've grown, too.

You know you're a writer when you . . .

. . . Enjoy looking up words in the dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Speaking from personal experience, I like nothing better than to look up words. I am now in the market for an electronic dictionary/thesaurus. Any recommendations left as a comment would be appreciated.
. . . Are willing to forgo a social life, belonging to clubs, playing bridge, etc.
  • Years ago, I read an article where best-selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford (A Woman of Substance, and twenty-nine other books), was quoted as saying that you must choose between having a busy social life or becoming a serious author. In a recent article where Bradford offered writing tips she wrote: "First and foremost, you need to be serious about your desire to become a published author. It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and dedication to hone your skills and produce a work worthy of publication. But like anything else, if you possess the talent and the determination, you will likely succeed."
. . . Love the process without concerning yourself with the end result. Your mind is always working on an idea or problem for an article or story.
  • Newbery medalist and well-loved children's author Betsy Byars described one of the best things about our craft in the reference book, Something About the Author,  " . . . creativity. I can't define it, but I have found from experience that the more you use it, the better it works."
. . . Are willing to keep learning your craft and grow.
  • In the article, "Timeless Advice on Writing from Famous Authors," June 18, 2012 published  by Brainpickers, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende is quoted as saying, "Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too."
. . . Keep working and don't give up despite any odds against you, such as rejections, self-doubt and lack of time.
  • Through the years, I've heard successful writers and editors say that it's sad. Many talented writers give up too soon. They've become discouraged because of the demands that come with being a published author. If they had hung on a little longer, their work would have been ready.
. . . Want to share what you've learned.
  • A Catholic nun was the first person who encouraged me to write. I had made puppets and a puppet stage and written and adapted puppet plays for the children in our church when my daughters were very young. She told me how my project could help others if I would take the time to share what I had done. The article I wrote and photographs I included became my first published piece. Thanks to her encouragement I learned right from the start the satisfaction that comes from sharing our work.
. . . Have become a good listener, a good observer, a good student of life.
  • "A writer, early and late, does a lot of listening at doors . . ." Richard Peck, Newbery-medalist
I hope you will take the time to leave a comment about how you got started on your creative path.

Next month: You Know You're a Writer When . . . Part II


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction course. Linda has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-10 year olds. Follow her on Facebook. 

The Many Hats of Writers

With fewer traditional publishers willing to publish new authors and the overall publishing industry getting harder books published, today's writers must wear many hats by necessity.

Today’s writer has two options, DIY or outsource. Outsourcing can become expensive and some writers may not be able to afford outsourcing, so that leaves DIY.

The hats of DIY that writers must wear.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Proofreader
  4. Publisher
  5. Promoter
  6. Marketer
  7. PR person
  8. Video Creator
  9. Retailer/Wholesaler
  10. Booking Agent
  11. Web Designer
  12. Content Creator
  13. Web Manager
  14. Content Manager
  15. Social Media Manager
  16. Networking Manager
  17. Shipping Manager
  18. Bookkeeper
  19. Entrepreneur
  20. Record Keeper
So much for time to write. If you want to be a writer, you’ll find the time to write. No one ever said the writing is easy in today’s writing market.

Writing take dedication and hard work to be successful, whatever that means to you. Only a few writers make it big, the rest work hard and with some luck and hard work can make some money writing.

Writing is a calling, not a way to get rich unless you come up with the next “Harry Potter”, which rarely happens. There is a good deal of luck in making it big. J. K. Rowling the author of the “Harry Potter” series, was rejected 12 times before a friend of her daughter read it and told to her father about how good it was. He took a chance on publishing it, we know how well that went.

If you are a writer that must DIY everything because you just don’t have the money for a literary agent, which can cost thousands of dollars, if you can find one to take a chance on your book, you will have to wear many hats and learn what you need to get your book in front of readers.

This article is to enlighten you about the uphill battle you face as you work toward publication, and getting your book into the reader’s hands.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor/Proofreader/Reviewer/Marketer

Setting Writing Goals for 2012...How are Your Goals Working for You?

Writing takes planning and implementing, reviewing and revising. In nursing we learn to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate for a patient problem. That process can apply to many things outside of delivering nursing care. It can also apply to your writing goals for 2012.

Assess: Sit down and make a list of what you have accomplished in  2011 against what you wanted to accomplish. This activity is the time for assessing what has worked for you this year and what has not related to your writing goals. Assuming we want to be published and to sell our work means the honest assessment of how much we published and how much we sold. This is crucial to setting goals for 2012. After you have assessed where you are and where you want to be as an author, list 3 or 4 major writing/publishing goals for the New Year.

Plan: Now to make a workable plan, your smaller action steps must be actions that work towards one of your major goals. The actions you took in the past year that led to more submissions and acceptances needs to be placed in the plan again. The marketing actions that you took that produced successful sales needs to be added and tweaked for the coming year. The things you assessed that did not work or that hindered your writing need to be deleted. Sometimes that means deleting an activity unrelated to writing but that takes time away from your writing. Keep in mind if the actions you want to take don't move you towards your goals, they are not part of this plan.

Implement: January 1st will be here before you know it so try to have your assessment and your plan figured out before the first of the year, or at least the first week of the New Year. Then decide what day your plan will start and begin implementing the actions you have decided on. If I want to monetize my blog for instance, I may put something in my plan that lists the actions I will take to do this. Here is a sample for January if one of my major goals would be to monetize the blog-
  • Week 1- research products to incorporate on the blog/affiliate products
  • Week 2- add links to my blog with 2-4 affiliate links with posts about each product
  • Week 3- post at least once about the products, send out newsletter to remind readers about products
  • Week 4- post at least once about how one of the products has helped me with my writing career
 This is just an example, but you get the idea.

Evaluate: Set up time in your writing schedule to evaluate your goals and your actions steps at least 3 or 4 times a year. Many writers evaluate weekly and set up a new plan for the next week. Awesome if you can do that, but realistically many of us are lucky to jot a few notes every week. In some ways we evaluate every day about what we did and what we need to do. A serious evaluation every 3-4 months includes looking at what you have circulating out with publishers, what you need to resubmit, what needs revisions, and what are the next target markets on your list. However you decide to evaluate your goals, make sure the new changes will be action steps that will make your writing soar.

Keep in mind that the rule for goals is this:

Goals should be specific.
Goals should be realistic.
Goals should be attainable.
Goals should be measurable.

Remeber that you also may need to hone your skills as one of your major goals in order to make your writing and publishing goals attainable and realistic.

Now, looking at your goals for last year, be honest in deciding what is working for you. Can you expand your career this next year? Do you need more education? Do you need to focus on submissions? Do you want to attend a conference? Do you want to become active in a critique group to help hone your skills? Do you want to publish a novel? Be specific in what you want and go for it. There is no time like the present to take actions steps towards making your writing and marketing career soar for 2012. My writing mentor, Suzanne Lieurance always tells us to write like the wind, and I will add soar like an eagle. Make this next year your best.

Authors Need to be Realistic

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Over the years, I’ve met many passionate writers. One brand new writer told me, “My book is going to be a best...