Is your manuscript in its eighth trimester? It may be time to induce

image Though I’m still working on the eBook version of my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that doesn’t mean I’ll be using it as an excuse to stop posting my weekly NWOW. No way! I’ll use a fictitious illness for that. Speaking of fictitious, this weekly feature was recently recognized by Publisher’s Weekly as offering “A level of writing insightfulness rarely seen outside of mental [writing] institutions…”

But enough accolades!

Let’s face it, editing the second draft of your story or manuscript is like a visit to the proctologist: You want it to go quickly; you want to avoid too much grimacing; and you know before you get started there’s going to be too much crammed in. Yet statistics show that early detection of grammatical “polyps” is the most effective way to prevent the spread of bad writing.

But apparently not horrible analogies like this one. Continue reading

Every writer needs perseverance. And maybe a monkey.

image It’s Friday, and that can only mean ONE THING! No, the other thing. The one after being payday. Ok, and the weekend, but before it being the day they show reruns of Family Ties on the Oxygen Channel…

No, I’m not talking about changing the cat box. Or cleaning the lint trap in your dryer…

Fine. I can tell by your blank expressions we have lost all momentum here, so I’ll just tell you Friday is that special day each week when I share my Nickel’s Worth on Writing!

No, that was really it, I promise. In fact, Publisher’s Weekly has called my NWOW “…writing tips worth every nickel, at least in Mexico…” and what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as “…insights every writer should know. Preferably by the third grade.”

But enough accolades!

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a project collecting the last two years of NWOW posts into an eBook that is part writing tips, part writer’s survival guide. What some of you may not know is that I have the technological IQ of a chimp. Ok, ALL of you knew that — and you’re probably right: I shouldn’t assume all chimpanzees are incapable of creating an eBook. Regardless, the process has reminded me of how important perseverance is as a writer and how, as writers, having a chimpanzee capable of tearing apart a laptop with its bare hands could be really therapeutic. Continue reading

It’s my 500th post but I swear: I don’t feel a day over 499 posts

Where the magic happens. Or so I keep telling my editor...

Where the magic happens. Or so I keep telling my editor…

In addition to the wild excitement my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing usually generates… (See? Did you feel that?) … this week’s NWOW has the added distinction of being [cue pocket drum machine] my 500th post!

WHOA LADIES! Keep those tops ON!

You too, sir.

Since pushing the “publish” button on my first post about two years ago, more than 62,000 people have stopped in at some point — mostly while Google searching “monkey butts” or “Cheeto Clog” — and 5,250 of you decided to stay. I am very thankful for that and a little surprised, especially considering there are no Cheeto-clogged monkey butts anywhere on this blog. I’ve looked. And so has PETA.

Also over that same period, I’ve shared more than 50 weekly acorns of NWOW writing insights gathered through 15 years as a newspaper columnist tending the tree of literary wisdom — all of which I am currently squirreling away into an eBook that Publisher’s Digest has already predicted will be “…writing tips that are nuts.” Continue reading

Why do we write? I’ll answer that as soon as I’m back from vacation

Me in vacation mode. Yeah, it's not pretty...

Me in vacation mode. Yeah, it’s not pretty…

Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that time each week when I scoop the coffee beans of writing wisdom that have been slow-roasted over 15 years as a columnist, grind them up, brew and filter it while making a loud “Whhhshhhhhhhhrrrrrr” sound from the corner of my mouth, scrape the resulting coffee creation into a mug, and then offer it to you to enjoy before running across the street to grab myself a mocha latte from Starbuck’s.

It’s a weekly feature Publishers’ Digest has called “…Tips similar to a triple espresso, leaving writers shaky and a little paranoid.”

Or what The Master of Horror® Stephen King heralded as “…Another reason I drink Earl Gray.”

But enough accolades!

Let’s face it, most people don’t understand why we do what we do as writers. The average person, if given a choice between writing a 250-word essay or having their bare butts tased, will have their pants around their ankles before you can say “AAAAGGGGHHHHH!” Still, thanks to social media there are more people than ever tapping on keyboards. But let’s say the Internet permanently crashed tomorrow because of some catastrophic failure — such as a leaked Brad and Angelina sex tape. Most people, once they stopped staring at a blank monitor, wouldn’t grab a note pad and keep writing without social media.

But writers would. Continue reading

Active descriptions are key to believable characters; Activia descriptions are not

image Around here, Fridays are reserved for my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the literary landfill of experience I’ve gained from 15 years as a newspaper columnist and break it down into handfuls of writing compost that Publisher’s Digest has called “…writing tips that are completely full of [fertilizer]…”

Or what The Master of Horror® Stephen King heralded as, “…literary soil that could bring back a dead cat…”

But enough accolades!

This two-part NWOW is about earning a reader’s trust through effective character dialogue and active description — and how earning that trust means the difference between a reader taking a leap of faith or a flying leap. Here’s a brief re-cap from the first part of this post, which focused on three forms of dialogue: Narrative dialogue, fictional dialogue based on a real person, and “real” dialogue from a fictional character… Continue reading

If you’re a writer without a rejection letter, you’re doing something wrong

Let’s face it: It’s hard to forget Jack Nicholson when he’s coming at you with an axe. Or even a pick-up line, right ladies? So I won’t pretend that this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing isn’t a repeat from a while back. But I did bring a note from my fire captain, which reads:

Please excuse Ned from this week’s NWOW. He was up most of the night fighting a house fire. He looks like hell and smells like smoke. Usually he just looks like hell.
— Capt. Warren.

That said, my apologies for the repeat. However, I chose this piece because, as often as a writer (and even Jack Nicholson) deals with rejection, I think the message bears repeating. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled NWOW next week, during which I’ll apologize again — but not because it’s a repeat…



It’s time for this week’s edition of my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which Editor’s Weakly recently called “…something that has become an integral part of our screening process whenever we hire a proof reader.”

High prays in deed.

But enough accolades!

Let’s get to this week’s NWOW, which I’d like to open by sharing a few passages from the many rejection letters I’ve received over the years:

“You are a gifted wordsmith. Try somewhere else.”
(Were they saying I was overqualified?)

“We don’t publish new authors.”
(If all publishing houses felt that way, there wouldn’t be any new material since The Book of Genesis) Continue reading

Convince readers to take a leap of faith, instead of a flying leap

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I share writing wisdom gained through 15 years as a newspaper columnist — or as my editor calls it, “Reasons I have a cardiologist.”

But enough accolades!

As I’m sure all of you remember, the last NWOW was about the importance of honesty in all genres of writing…

Fine, no one remembers.

At least you’re honest.

In that post, I talked about how writing must ring true with readers for them to become emotionally invested. This is particularly important when it comes to fiction, where you are often asking readers to suspend their disbelief and buy into something — such as an eccentric character, over-the-top situation or random reference to the new iPad6® in hopes of getting a free one — that requires a leap of faith. I this case, your reader is making a “leap” over reality because they have faith that you, the writer, will keep them safely suspended until they land safely on the last page. Assuming, of course, your book doesn’t end with, “…Then there was a massive explosion and everybody died, including the basket of puppies.” Continue reading

Even when making stuff up, honesty is still the best policy for writers

image It’s time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when we gather together and, in a politically correct manner, sit criss-cross Indian style as I share corn-like kernels of wisdom from 15 shucking years as a columnist.

I should point out this weekly feature has been recognized by Publishers Digestion as “…Tips that often get overlooked. Usually on purpose…” and what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as “…A weekly reminder of what scares me…”

But enough accolades!

Being a humor columnist, I am often asked:

“Where do you get this stuff?”
“How did you even think of that?”
“Do you just make this [censored] up?
“Isn’t marijuana legal in Oregon?”

The answer to all of those questions is a definitive “Yes,” particularly on Ballot Measure 5. However, each of the first three include an important addendum that reads as follows:

While the consumption of humor shall be made available to everyone regardless of race, color, creed or whatever they happen to be eating that may unintentionally exit a nostril, the distributor of said humor is required to provide a basic standard of truthfulness, therefore guaranteeing consumers a more pure grade of laughter. At least until they try passing mixed-berry yogurt through their nose.Continue reading

Alligators, erotica and other interview styles (part 2)

image Welcome to another edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, a weekly feature when I utilize my 15 years as a newspaper columnist to offer writing insights that Publishers Digestion has called “…nuggets of wisdom similar to McDonald’s Dippers; in either case, we aren’t sure where they come from…” Or what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as, “…The last word in writing advice. Just as soon as my lawyers get involved…”

But enough accolades!

As I mentioned last week, this two-part series is a bit of a departure from my normal NWOW. Not only because of the kinky search-term hits I’ll be receiving due to having “alligator” and “erotica” in the same title, but also because it’s the second half of a post focusing on how different interview styles get subjects to reveal different things about themselves. In scientific terms, think of me as the “control subject” while Marcia Meara and Eden Baylee are the variables. Or put another way, see how Marcia’s threat of unleashing an albino alligator prompts a different answer than Eden’s constant slapping of a feather whip against her chair leg. Continue reading

Of alligators and erotica: Revealing myself to Marcia Meara and Eden Baylee (Part 1)

image It’s Friday, and we all know what that means… That’s right! It’s time to call in sick for a three-day weekend! It’s also time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which many bosses, especially editors, accept as a legitimate cause for illness. So go ahead and read this before making that phone call! For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain my weekly NWOW is when I take what I’ve learned from 15 years as a columnist and filter out the impurities, much like that water filter in your refrigerator that hasn’t been changed since you bought it, and offer you a refreshing glass of slightly sulfuric-smelling wisdom.

But don’t take my word for it! Publishers Digestion has called my NWOW, “…Writing advice you can’t find anywhere else. And we’d like to keep it that way…” and what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as “…Writing wisdom that keeps me awake at night…”

But enough accolades! Continue reading