November 26, 2014

Writing 101

By Barbara Weitzner

God created the heavens and the earth, but even He realized He needed some kind of plan instead of just creating stuff willy-nilly.

Before you begin to type, read “Stein on Writing,” available at the library or Barnes and Noble. This is an easy to read guide for beginners with lots of practical advice.

Join a writer’s group at your local church or library. Don’t rely on family advice. They think everything you do is wonderful.

To help your creative stimulation, arrange a set time agreed by family to allow you uninterrupted silence.

Develop your own original style, or “voice.” When you have finished a chapter, read it aloud— you will hear your awkward sentences, repetitions and lack of cadence.

Listen to people— note their inflections. This will help you to write, “People speak,” and well-forged identities so your characters don’t all sound alike. This will also help you to eliminate “he-she said,” and develop distinct personalities.

Read Elmore Leonard, a master of dialogue. He also authored Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.

Avoid stiff, overly literary sentences with too many commas. Keep index cards with each characters statistics. This will avoid Susie having red hair on page 20 and blonde hair on page 200. Mentally put your arm around your protagonist and say, “I hear you, man. Because this is how I feel when I’m creating you. When I’m not typing I miss us hanging out together, and it gets lonesome.”

Keep a note pad with you all the time, yes, even at your bedside. Good ideas can be forgotten by the time you are able to sit down and record them.

Don’t try to impress your editors with big words. If you have to look it up, delete it.

Enter as many short story contests as you can. Start with the no entry fee college literary magazines. I found the editors favored themes with people who were unbearable, insurmountable or inscrutable. Ordinary folk didn’t cut the mustard. (But this is strictly my observation.)

When you are certain your story is complete, invest in a professional editor. Unless you are Phillip Roth, you need your work evaluated and polished. Be sure to verify his (her) credentials.

Last but not least, develop an interesting query letter. This is not a synopsis of your plot. The opening paragraph should be short and tempting. Editors read thousands of queries, so make sure yours will immediately catch their attention. My query for “The Most Glorious Thing Ever,” began with, “A couple meet in a bar. He buys her a drink. He can hardly believe his luck. She’s gorgeous and fun. Where could it lead?”

My query received twenty-two replies.

Don’t become discouraged. Believe in yourself and keep at it.

Good luck!
Barbara Weitzner's novels, The Most Glorious Thing Ever, The Parradine Allure and A New Start have been published by Solstice Horizons. Her short story, Please Wake Up was published in Soundings Magazine. Her article, Never Too Late appeared in the September issue of Southern Writing. Her articles have appeared in Breezes, a South Florida Magazine. Her short story, First Love appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Gemini Magazine. Her short story, On The Veranda will soon be published by Crimson Cloak Publishing. Her short story, An American Christmas will be published in November.

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