The Good Writer

April 27, 2012

I am not a good writer.  Yes, my fiction and nonfiction pieces have won awards and a few have been published.  But that does not make me a Good Writer.  Yes, my stories have had occasional bursts of originality, humor, and even a bit of profundity at times.  But all of that does not add up to being a Good Writer.

You see, the Good Writer drops his or her butt in the chair in the wee hours and writes the whole day through, or at least until that chapter or article is complete.  The Good Writer, we have been told by many credible speakers at conferences and gatherings, has a work ethic that requires daily progress.  Don’t worry about the quality of the first pass writing, these credible speakers urge.  You can always go back and clean the mess up once your ideas have flowed down your arms and onto paper (or more accurately these days – into your laptop memory).  How are you ever going to write if you don’t – you know – WRITE?

This advice has posed a psychological dilemma for me.  I consider myself a writer, and I associate with talented, published writers who think I am a writer.  Some are convinced I am a good writer.  But my writing habits do not conform to the Good Writer I frequently hear about .  You know, Good as in, “Be a Good Boy and eat your peas”.

Sometimes I sleep in, enjoying the liberty of my vivid early morning dreams.  Often, I attend to other matters that the non-writing world considers “life”.  I spend too much of my time in my large garden, listening to my musical chimes sing in the wind, pulling weeds rather than spraying, lugging large quantities of homemade compost to the planting beds.  And then there is my family, both furred and non-furred.  All require my attention, it seems far more insistently than my writing muse – uh, named herbert, or sherbert, something like that. My hearing fails me sometimes, but he speaks in such hushed tones as well.

Why am I confessing to the fact that I am not a Good Writer?  Because I feel guilty about it, yes I do.  But also because I suspect I am not the only writer in this big writing community that feels guilty about less than ideal writing habits.

I need to feel inspired by a thought, idea, or theme to write.  I have tried to plop my butt into the writing chair at 6 A.M.  All I do is a lot of staring.  My mind at that time of day is as creative as a rusty water pump.  The ideal of the Good Writer does not work for me.  Am I the only one?  Let me know that there is still hope for me nonetheless.


SCBWI Golden Gate Conference

April 1, 2012

At the beginning of March, I attended the Golden Gate Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) at the Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. I went knowing that I would not be pitching my work since I had recently acquired an agent for my novel, Between Shadow’s Eyes (

I have attended SCBWI events in the past with the goal of meeting an agent or editor, but this time I had no agenda. It was great to sit back and listen to the speakers and absorb knowledge without the distraction of a scheduled critique or pitching session. I was free to take notes or browse the grounds if I wasn’t interested in a topic, whatever my heart desired.

On the last day of the conference, the editors in attendance announced what kind of books they were seeking. To my surprise, one of the editors seemed like a good match for my novel. A quick email to my agent, and viola! a query letter was submitted. Another fun outcome of the conference included a sidebar conversation with agent Josh Adams on blogging.  His advice- don’t blog if it takes you away from other writing projects.

Posting Stories: Make Your Writing Public

November 22, 2011

Last month I went to a Wattpad MeetUp in San Francisco.  Wattpad is basically a website for Young Adults and their stories.  It was started out of someone’s garage in Ontario, Canada, but the response has been fabulous.  Today, Wattpad has grown to over 1 million registered users with approximately 2 million stories to offer.   A Wattpad MeetUp is a social event for all Wattpadders, family, and friends to get together in person. 

I had no idea what to expect.  When the meeting was announced, comments came in from Africa and England begging the organizers to come to their neck of the world.  So I was intrigued, but also a little shy.  Would I fit in?   Would it all be young adults? 

The event was smaller than expected and a round table format.  The majority of the participants were teens and the parents that drove them to the event.  Nina led the event and was warm and gracious.  We had a good discussion and I enjoyed the event.  Nina indicated that Wattpad was interested in attracting professional writers and I even received a follow-up email for her, encouraging me to post my work on-line.

I have always been hesitant to post excerpts from my novel on Wattpad or any public form before it is published.  My logic is three-fold.  Why send out teasers and potentially spike reader’s interest in the book when I can’t deliver an option for my readers to finish the story?   On Wattpad, writers often publish the whole book over time.  However, this to me seems counterintuitive.  If you give your readers the whole story, why would they buy the book when it goes to press?   Lastly, and maybe most importantly, novel writing is organic.  What may seem like a critical component of the story during the development of the novel may end up in the circular file before the novel is completed.  

When I explained my hesitation to post on Wattpad, Nina indicated that agents have been known to troll posts on their website looking for new talent and for popular stories that have gotten a lot of hits.  She also said that writer’s often get valuable feedback on their work.  So there could be perks to making your work public.   While the idea of writing just for social media does hold some appeal, for now, I’ve decided to keep my novel nestled inside my computer and get input on my work from my critique group.  But, I am interested in hearing your viewpoint on this issue.

Have you ever posted your work on a social media website?  If so, have you shared excerpts or published the whole novel?  Was your work already published or did you use your posts to create interest before you had an agent/publisher?

Do Writers Need Book Clubs?

June 28, 2011

The Avid Readers Book Club celebrated its 15th year last month. In that time, we have read a mix of fiction and nonfiction. We’ve explored classics, mysteries, thrillers, romance, memoirs, and science fiction. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve suffered through.
Book groups offer two invaluable tools to writers. First and foremost, these sessions provide the reader’s perspective on a book from a variety of viewpoints. My group’s tastes are diverse and often opinionated. Our meetings can be emotionally-charged debates or more about the food and wine depending on how successful the writer connected with the reader. From these discussions, my writer persona has gleaned what works and what doesn’t.
The other advantage a book group offers a writer is the book selections. I am of the opinion that to write well, a writer must read. I have read books I would have never picked up. Being in a book club has forced me to persevere through novels I’d never have finished. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as valuable to a writer as what does.
Of course, my book group is more than a study in reading and writing. These are my friends and I value their thoughts and perspectives. Some people have come and gone throughout the years, some founding members remain, others went to one meeting and didn’t stick, but every person has taught me something about reading, writing, and even about myself. I wonder what the next 15 years will bring?