That’s right! It’s time once again for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I draw from 15 years as a newspaper columnist to offer insightful writing tips that Publisher’s Digest has heralded as:
“Wisdom ahead of its time, assuming you’re running late…”
And what The Master of Horror® Stephen King calls:
“Writing affirmations that keep my lawyer on speed dial…”
But enough accolades!
As I mentioned in last week’s NWOW, this week’s edition was going to be a little different thanks to fellow blogger/columnist/
Canadian friend Ross Murray at Drinking Tips for Teens, who invited me to be a part of the #mywritingprocesss Blog Tour. There are several reasons I’m both excited and flattered to be a part of this blog tour, which highlights the creative process of different writers each week. I’m excited because sharing my process might be helpful to other writers; I’m flattered because Ross admitted I was “On a short list of writers, after my dog chewed up most of it.”
That kind of affirmation from a writer of his caliber is something you can’t measure, especially since I don’t understand the metric system. However, what I DO know is that, in addition to appreciating him as a writer who never fails to seamlessly weave together humor and enlightenment, Ross is on my short list of people I plan to share coffee (or possibly something stronger) with some day.
And by “stronger” I mean pure Canadian maple syrup.
In the interest of fairness, I’d like to point out I also have a list of short people I plan to have a drink with some day.
Now… on to yet another list, which consists of the four questions asked on the blog tour:
1) Do you prefer a wooden paddle or riding crop?
Um… Hold on a second.
Sorry! Wrong blog tour! How embarrassing! For Ross, I mean, who must’ve sent the wrong list. I’ll just check with Nic DiDomizio or Bill Pearse, who are bloggers also participating in the #mywritingprocess tour this week, and use a set of their questions. This will just take a second…
Ok, that’s better.
1) Why do I write what I do?
I grew up surrounded by funny people in my family. My parents, grandparents, cousins, my older half-brothers — they always had me laughing. Naturally, that humorous synergy continues to play a big part of my life at home, at work, in bed, etc. At the same time, while growing up, I was also surrounded by alcoholism that eventually led to my parents’ divorce. I learned at an early age how humor can also be a powerful force in getting through tough times and, more importantly, helping see things from a different perspective. I think it’s why I’m drawn to satire in particular; satire is all about lighting a slow fuse leading to an explosion that blows things completely out of proportion. When it’s done right, for that brief moment you’re up in the air, you see things from a different perspective. In today’s world, I think we need perspective on a regular basis — and humor is a universally accepted, non-confrontational way to offer that. Do I always try to enlighten people in my columns and posts? No. Sometimes I’m basically just making fart sounds with my armpits.
2) How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I honestly don’t think about trying to be different. As a writer, the most important thing is to establish your own “voice.” It takes practice, experimentation and — particularly for humor writers — learning how to wield the tools you have as a writer to create timing and visual cues in your sentence structure in order to get the most out of your punchlines. In the same way we recognize a friend in the distance by their walk, posture and the clothes they wear, readers recognize writers. Sure, we all have the same general appearance, but it’s the little things we do naturally that establish us as individuals. Except for Carrot Top.
3) How does my writing process work?
On the days I post to my blog, I arrive at work by 5 a.m. I prefer to write early in the morning because, in addition to fewer distractions, I’m not really awake yet. I find this is more conducive to freethinking. I flip open my iPad, plug in my headphones, turn on AC/DC and take a few sips of coffee. Though I usually have a rough idea of what my topic will be when I sit down to write, I try not to overthink it until I’m actually sitting at the keyboard. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, so I like things to develop as I write, as opposed to using an outline. I think this works well for humor because the funniest things are almost always born out of spontaneity. It’s like performing stand-up, except I get to sit down. Oh, and if I bomb, no one knows it but me. I also respond to comments or Tweets if they pop up as I’m writing. It doesn’t interrupt my flow and, for me at least, keeps the creativity flowing by maintaining that level of spontaneity.
Or maybe I just have a short attention span.
Before I post, I read the piece out loud. If my tongue gets tripped up, the piece needs more polishing. That’s also when I check for timing. Do I need to add a pause? Elaborate more? What can I cut? Those are some of the questions I ask myself before I push the “publish” button or send my column out to other newspapers. I also try to be done with my post by 9 a.m. since 1) that’s when other reporters start rolling into the newsroom, and 2) I like to write in the nude. Wait, did I mention that?
4) What am I working on?
I work at a newspaper. So if you are reading this on a Friday or Tuesday, chances are I am trying to meet my deadline by corroborating information and doggedly pursuing leads on things like “cow patty bingo ” or “inflatable churches.” Other than that, I’m either writing a post for my own blog, or the online comedy magazine Long Awkward Pause. I also have a book (far right), released in January, that is available at Walmart, Target or any other parking lot I happened to be parked in.
I truly hope answering these questions about my writing process has been helpful and provided some insight. If not, blame Ross’s dog, Bella. She’s the one who ate most of his list.
That said, I’d like to introduce you to the next bloggers who are climbing aboard the #mywritingprocess Blog Tour bus next week:
Marcia lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando. I swear her proximity to Disney World and my family vacation this summer has nothing to do with why I asked her to be part of this tour. I chose her because she is a terrific and devoted writer who knew as early as age five what she wanted to do. But after getting her fill of alligator wrestling, she is pursuing her other dream of being a published author some 65 years later. Does that mean she’s 65 now? Or 70? To be honest, I’m afraid to ask because she could probably take me down. Either way, she is now a published author of three books, including “Swamp Ghosts: A Riverbend Novel,” which was just released May 1. Visit her blog, Bookin’ It, for a look at her writing process, as well as book reviews, author interviews and how to body-slam a 300-pound gator.
Robyn embodies many of the qualities every writer must have in order to find their “voice,” and as someone who has not only survived domestic violence but speaks out against it, her voice is an important one. She also wears glasses and has really good hair, which are also important qualities to have as a writer. As I mentioned earlier, I believe humor is a powerful force in dealing with life, and Robyn embodies that quality as well, using it to share life lessons in ways that are thoughtful and funny. One of her most recent posts, Kill Me Now Karma… is just one example. Her thought-provoking piece 103 People Unfriended Her… earned Robyn her first Freshly Pressed nod. I say “first” because I know there will be more. Visit her at BLOG Woman!! to learn about her writing process and what it means to make a difference with your words.
That brings us to the end of this portion of the #mywritingprocess Blog Tour. Thanks so much for joining me and I hope you will continue the tour next week! But before you leave, would you mind giving our Volkswagen a push? I think the starter is going out and we forgot to park on a hill…