Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exciting News!

My short story, "Throw a Gem" will be appearing in Every Day Fiction ( later today free for you to enjoy. Here's the link: "Throw a Gem"

In addition, my novelette My Friend Jack will be released today on Amazon for the Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook and as an E-Pub or PDF for just $2.99.

Here's the Amazon link: My Friend Jack


Monday, March 24, 2014

On Giants' Shoulders..

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

- Sir Isaac Newton

Writing, by nature, is a solitary action. It's just the writer and a keyboard and screen (or pen and notepad). But as you'll see, for a vast majority of writers out there, you will be a better writer if you do not take the entire journey alone. Thankfully, my journey did not begin alone.

At Glen Rock High School (over two decades ago, *gasp*!), I was inspired by two English Teachers: Mrs. Linda Rossi and Mrs. Linda Tomas. I know I was a class clown and probably gave Mrs. Rossi migraines daily. I'd like to think I matured when I reached Mrs. Tomas, but the jury's still out on that one (and they've been deliberating for two decades.) Regardless, I know I wasn't dedicated to writing, but they planted the seed in my head. I learned to read often, and appreciated what I was reading. I'm sorry if I was a nuisance.

I figured those things you gave me were just pills to calm me down or shut me up, but they were seeds; thank you for planting them.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself at William Paterson University sitting in as a timid underclassman in Dr. Corri Wells's Creative Writing class (she always wanted us to call her Corri.) It was during her courses that I learned how to write, and that I could write, and even write well on occasion (as I often say, even the blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.)

And to this day, a few hundred thousand words later, I can proudly say my favorite (and probably best) short story was written in Corri's class. Although the story, "There She Goes" now renamed  "Slip Slidin' Away" is still collecting rejection letters, many are personalized rejections from prestigious literary journals. I'm confident the story will find a home some day soon (and until then, I'm blaming the risque plot as the reason they "loved the story, but it's not a good fit for us.") 
Thank you, Corri for watering the seeds. They sprouted.

Then I took about 8 years off, until I found myself unemployed, broke and bored. I still read frequently (a free hobby), and found myself with time and a few stories that had been simmering in my mind since college. So I joined and found a writers group (writing is free! Don't blame me, I was broke, and I'm Dutch). ::ENTER John Adamus::

John ran the North Jersey Writers Group, based out of the Barnes & Noble in Paramus. Every week or so he would host small critique groups or give us lectures on various elements of writing (you'll see me referencing his work often in the future.) Anyways, John must have seen something in me, as he immediately "took me under his wing" (I haven't posted my topic on Avoiding Cliches like the Plague yet, so this one's allowed) and mentored me. And mentored me hard. I'd text him with a question, and he'd devote hours of his time with a detailed phone discussion or email response.

"John, why is internal dialogue sometimes italicized but not always..." - silly stuff like that. If he didn't know the answer, he'd research it, ask colleagues, anything, everything. John would go out of his way to give me the best possible answer he could, and provide me with detailed comments and analysis on every story submission I'd make (and these questions and stories were frequent.) John is one of the truest, most generous men I know. And I would not be anywhere close to where I am today, with out his mentoring and friendship.Thank you John. It took longer than both of us expected, but doot's a bloomin'!

The most important advice I can offer to my readers and fellow writers is this: don't do it alone. Find fellow writers, companions, future friends, people in the same boat as you to share your highs and woes. Follow this blog. Ask questions. Make comments. Let others help you along the way.

If I can inspire or teach any one future or current writer out there the way my Rushmore of Mentors (Mrs. Rossi, Mrs. Tomas, Corri, and John) have taught me, this blog will be worth the time and effort.
You four are giants to me; and the view is grand.

Thank you. Sincerely. Thank You.

"At the end of every road lies a path."
- from a fortune cookie read to us in class by Corri circa 2001?

On Making Time to Write..

“They can’t yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him.”
 -Ernest Hemingway

If I was standing in line somewhere and someone told me Scarlett Johanssen wants to go out on a date with me, I’d first pick myself off the floor, make sure my buckled knees weren’t permanently damaged, get an okay from my girlfriend, then say, “Just give me a time and a place.” 

These are two essentials for writing your masterpiece.  But it’s not easy. Afterall, most of you have a life (I hope). You probably have a job, maybe a hubby or a wife (or maybe both..if so, have a sandwich..writing can wait), maybe kids, friends who enjoy your presence, maybe a bowling club or a knitting league, and of course TV shows to watch. How could you possibly find the time?!?!? Short answer: anywhere you can. One of my clients wrote his novel on a train en route to and from NYC for work. Some write during their morning coffee and oatmeal. Some write before they go to bed. Heck, if you work a 9-5, you probably get a half hour for lunch. If you’re lucky, you get an hour. Does it really take 30 minutes to eat a sandwich and apple? Can’t you eat it while scribbling in your notebook? 

My writing mentor John Adamus proposed to me the 30/60/90 method.  Basically, you commit yourself to writing blocks each week based on that time-table (if that time table doesn’t work for you, adjust it to fit your available time. 30 minutes 3 days a week, and an hour on Sunday mornings. Anything. Whatever you like. Whatever suits your needs. But the essentials are to Find the time (it’s there, no matter how busy your life is. If you want to be a serious writer, or even an infrequent writer, you MUST make the time.) Do you really need to watch The Biggest Loser every week? If Jared or some dude or lady can lose 100 lbs. during a 6 month season, you can write 300 pages within that time. One pound at a time. One page at a time.

For me, my mind starts churning as I’m about to fall asleep (you can tell if you’ve ever seen my face - my beauty sleep has been severely compromised.) This leads to some scribbling on the notepad or a voice recorder on my night table, or a 5 hour writing session 'til the sun comes up and I realize, crap, I've gotta get up and work in a few minutes.) By the way, keeping them on your night table is awesome for dreams too. More on dreams in a future post.

Now that you’ve found the time, let me ask, where you gonna write? That’ll be addressed in next week’s blog post. 

I’ve got Friday night open for writing, with one exception…if Scarlett calls.

Thanks for reading, Now Get Writing!!!

On Saaaaave, and a Beauty..

So Jesus and Satan are sitting in the café sipping coffee bragging to one another. Satan says, “Dude, I’m a much better writer than you.” 

Jesus laughs and says, “Hell no! I’m a better writer.” This goes on for a few minutes until Satan proposes a challenge.

“It’s 1pm. I bet I can write a better story than you by the end of the day.”

“You’re on! Be back here at midnight with your work.” Jesus answers, and they both leave.
Both diligently begin tapping away at their keyboards and both make great progress through the course of the day. But a well-timed thunderstorm (blame Zeus) rolls in at 11pm and knocks out power for a few minutes. Jesus is back at the 24-hour café at 11:30 patiently waiting and enjoying a divine slice of I don’t know, let’s say….angel cake. The devil bursts in the door at 11:59pm grumbling to himself and sits down at the table across from Jesus.

“All done?” Jesus asks and leans back with a smile.

“Yeah, had to rewrite it though, god-damn *badumbump*storm knocked out power. Only got 900 or so words, and it’s crap.” 

“Wow, what a shame. A travesty I’d say,” Jesus says, and plops down a 5,000 word masterpiece.

“How the hell *badumbump* were you able to write so much since the storm?!?!?” Satan yells, steam bursting out of his nose and ears.

A patron sitting behind Satan leans in and answers. 

“Jesus saves.”

The point of the story is simple. Save your work. Save early. Save often. Save the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then back it up and save it again. USB Flash drives (aka thumbdrives) are available practically anywhere for under $10. Buy one and when you’re done writing for the day, save your work on the thumb drive. Save it on your computer’s hard drive. Then log into your email and send the file to yourself. Dropbox it to yourself. This way, you’ll have it on your computer, your thumb drive, and “off site” on your email account or dropbox.

If you’re working on different drafts of a story or doing revisions, I also highly recommend naming the file with the date of your last and revision number. And if you’re part of a writers critique community, also include your name in the filename. Here’s an example:


Doing this makes life a whole lot easier for yourself and your writing peers trying to figure out who submitted what. When editing other writers’ work, I also include my name and the date and revision of the last edit when returning work to the author. This is especially important when working with a client or editor; you do not want to be applying suggested changes from your editor while your editor is working on a different version of the file at the same time. Mass confusion and a lot of copy/pasting between different files wastes valuable time and can lead to oversights.

Trees may disagree, but it also cannot hurt to print out a hard copy of your work after finishing a draft. If you’re cheap like me, you can even cut costs by lowering your font size down a couple (standard is 12pt font, print out drafts in 10pt font, squeeze those margins a bit, condense the work to single space, and if you’re REALLY cheap like me – change your font to Century Gothic or Times New Roman, as they use the least amount of ink…true story!)

 Inexpensive software is out now that can scan printed documents and incorporate them into text with few to no errors if you somehow happen to lose all your digital files. When it comes to writing, the five minutes it takes to back up your work during each session may save you hundreds of hours down the line.

Lastly, save everything you write. The good, the bad and the godawful. Just a few months ago I was working with a fellow writer who submitted a feature length script (about 120 pages – one page per minute of screen time.) I said that due to the complexity of the story, it might be better suited for television. He then told us the original draft ran about 250 pages (waaaay too long for a feature length spec script.) He then confessed that when he cropped the script down to 120 pages, he didn’t save the work he cut. Doh!!! Major Doh!

Save your work. Save it all. It may not work for the story you’re doing now, but you never know when and where it might fit.

Okay I’m done with this blog entry. And yes it has been uploaded, and saved to my hard drive and thumb drive. Time for a slice of…angel cake?

Now Get Writing!!!

On doot's On Writing..

"Good things come to those who wait."

- Hannibal Lecter

Hello there, and welcome to doot's On Writing. Glad you decided to visit. Please, pull up a seat, we're gonna be here a while.

Actually, this entry's gonna be brief, as I've got a lot more to go over. 

I will be updating this blog weekly with a topic on writing. Probably on Tuesdays. Perhaps Monday if I'm ambitious. Possibly Wednesdays if the week's kicking my arse.

The first few weeks will probably be devoted to beginner topics, including the Rushmore of Rules (Show don't Tell, Excessive Adverbs = B.A.D., stuff like that) but as we move along, I'll delve into intermediate and advanced topics like: Narration Types; Using Mindmaps to Outline; Cumulative Syntax; and other big words... 

And I won't just be talking about writing itself, but I'll tackle topics such as the Self-Publishing Market, Manuscript Formatting, Query Letters, etc.

I've got 78 topics right now in various stages of development (kinda like my fiction In Progress list!), so this blog'll be running for at least a year and a half. Hope you're still following us in a year.

Now, one thing to remember -- what I'll be talking about is simply advice on writing. It's my opinion, based on hundred, no, thousands of hours of attending lectures and panels, participating and running writers groups, reading books on writing (two shelves worth), reading literature, and the trial by fire of writing (often poorly) and learning from the mistakes. My advice will work for some of you; it may not work for all of you. And that's okay.

One week I'll talk about Writing What You Know, and the next week I'll contradict myself with advice on Writing What You Don't Know. Take what you can from these posts, apply what you think it'll work, and post here your thoughts, opinions, and your own advice. 

I'd like this blog to be interactive. Comments are welcome and encouraged. And if you have a topic you want me to talk about, shoot me an email and I'll get it out ASAP. We've got a ways to go, but we'll get there.

 Please stick with me; I promise I'll do my best to make it worth your time. Thanks for reading.

Now Get Writing!!!