Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Quest To Be A Better Writer

Like a lot of other aspiring writers, I search the internet for anything having to do with writing.  Advice on how to write your first novel, finding a publisher or making the decision to self-publish abound with some of this advice being free and others available for a subscription, the purchase of an e-book or tuition for a course.  Any of these avenues can provide knowledge to those who seek it.  When the advice or tips are free, it’s great, but not everyone has the financial fluidity to sign up for a subscription here, buy a couple of e-books there and take a couple of courses.  There are the fortunate few that begin this career with a head start so to speak.  They may have an English degree, work in education or are already in some capacity working in this field – be it publishing, marketing, media, etc.
Well, that’s not me and I’m sure it’s not most of you.  Still, my internet search continues every day in the hopes of finding that which can help me write better.  My persistent determination paid off one day.  No, I didn’t hit the jackpot; I’m still not a multi-million dollar lottery winner.  What I did come across was an advertizing for how to write a book in 14 days or less from writeabooknow.com by Steve Manning.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t write a book in 14 days.  Will all due respect to NaNoWriMo entrants, I’m sure that a large majority of them aren’t even close to completing their novels in the 30 days required.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are quite a few talented people who can do this.  NaNoWriMo is a great endeavor and perhaps one day, I too, will participate.  In the meantime, however, most of us ordinary human beings need a little bit more time than 14 days or even 30 days.  So, I don’t buy the hype of this ad.  However, the ad mentioned a subscription to his free online course.  Free?  I like free, this works for me; I entered my e-mail.  I figured that if this sucks I can always unsubscribe.
Lesson 1 was basically about writing faster, writing more and of course at the bottom of the page it prompts to click if you want to order.  Order? Pay Money? Not me!  Well, not today at least especially since I’m not convinced yet that I can learn something from him.  Okay, on to Lesson 2.  This lesson caught my attention because he had an exercise.  This exercise consists of three words and five minutes.
As Steve Manning described, he would give you three words and ask you to write for five minutes straight without stopping to think or second guess your writing.  The first word is to be used at the beginning and the other two can be integrated anywhere in the body of your writing.  I figured this to be a simple exercise anyone can do.  I stopped reading his lessons and began using this exercise from time to time.  Perhaps his methods work, I don’t know because I didn’t invest in his program and I stopped looking at his lessons.  I’m not interested in writing faster or writing more.  My interest lies in the quality of my work not the quantity of it.  Since first learning of this exercise, I’ve adapted it to my own needs.  The number of words I use is five and I never time myself.  I write and let my story unfold as I incorporate my five words and I don’t force the story to go in any direction.  It can end up being a vignette or a short-short.  This exercise opens the channels of creativity for me and since I’ve been experiencing writer’s block, this is as good an exercise as any.  Try it for yourself and see if it helps.
Another method to writing that I’ve been wrestling with is The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.  His premise is that you start small and keep building until it looks like a novel.  He suggests creating a spreadsheet to detail the scenes that emerge from your outline.  He also has software for The Snowflake Method, which of course I didn’t buy. In my opinion, his approach on writing seemed more structured.  I’m going to practice this method to see how it works for me.  Often, I write short stories that I hope would be novel material.  Perhaps using The Snowflake Method will help me build the short story into a full blooming commercially viable novel.  On that note, I read a post on writerlylife.com wherein Blair Hurley, the author, writes a brief post about how to turn a short story into a novel.  I like the way she pinned it down by saying “choose a story with unfinished business”.  
I’ll keep these insights in mind as I regroup from my writer’s block and try to incorporate all the tips and exercises, as well as advice from friends and family.


  1. OK, here's 5 words for you.


    now write something

  2. interesting post! I wish you well with your writing endeavors. -laura

  3. Hello Laura,

    Thank you very much for your well wishes! I will continue to work hard on my writing.

  4. This reminds me of what a lot of new York teachers tell you to do in between Eighth and Twelfth grade. Don't buy those weird programs. It's all crap.