More writing wisdom you won’t actually find in my book

imageWith my new book coming out in little more than a month, it seemed like a good time for another sneak peak at a passage of writing wisdom that isn’t actually in it.

That’s right! If you like what you read here, there’s more where that came from!

Just not in my book.

You may be asking, “Why is he even doing this?”

I know my publisher is.

My hope is that you’ll read what I didn’t include in my book and think to yourself, “Man! If this is the kind of stuff he left out, imagine how much he must be kicking himself for the @#%& he left in!”

Or something like that.

Anyway, as I wait for the final edit to arrive, here’s an excerpt I didn’t include for one reason (beer) or another (vodka)  — but which I wanted to share with you because, as writers, we all need a little encouragement sometimes…  Continue reading

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

imageI have a file full of rejection notes and letters from editors and publishing houses. Many are for my column when I was first starting out.

Others are in response to a murder mystery I wrote back in the late 1990s.

And one is from Miss October 1978.

In spite of the negative connotation a rejection letter conjures up in the mind of most authors — fine, every author — don’t overlook the more important aspects of what it represents.

To begin with, it means you’ve completed a written work. Given a choice between writing a 500-word essay or being tased in the buttocks, the average person would rather drop their pants than pick up a pen. The fact that you aren’t rubbing a bruised rear means you are a writer (Depending on your genre, of course). No number of rejection letters changes that. Regardless of whether its a 400-page novel or an 800-word opinion piece, you have honed and polished your words to the point you are ready to send it out to the world, either in the form of sample chapters, a query or by pushing the “publish” button on your blog or website.  Continue reading

Writing is like weightlifting: If you’re not careful, you’ll pull something

imageIt struck me this morning at the gym while diligently pumping iron from a seated position at the smoothie bar. There are a number of similarities between reaching your fitness goals and writing goals. In both cases, you will likely fail if you attempt too much too fast. Especially if you’re trying to show off and accidentally flatulate while attempting a power lift.

OK, now that the obligations required by my Gas-X sponsorship have been met, we can move on to how the same principles that make up a good fitness regimen can be applied to achieving your writing goals.

(Make sure to stop in next week, when Trojan will sponsor tips on expanding your readership.)

Just like many people who enter the gym for the first time and see the dozens of different torture devices designed to make you look weak and destroy your self esteem fitness apparatus that can sculpt your body into lean muscle capable of opening even the most stubborn mayonnaise jar, those entering the world of writing often find themselves being crushed under the weight of their own lofty goals by not building up literary muscle first. And by this I don’t mean technique, style or developing your writing voice. I’m talking specifically about easing into writing project(s) and commitment(s) in a way that strengthens your writing endurance so you can avoid “injuring” yourself creatively.

This isn’t to be confused with creatively injuring yourself, which I also know about. But that’s a totally different, embarrassing post.  Continue reading

Want to keep your writing fresh? Start with regular flossing

image I’d like to thank the American Dental Association for sponsoring this week’s writing tip, which brings me to a startling statistic: 4-out-of-5 dentists have never recommended or even heard of this blog. The fifth dentist only heard about it when, moments after my lips went numb, I was trying to say “Ben Roethlisberger’s lob” and he thought I said “Ned’s worthless blog.” Regardless, there are many similarities between keeping a fresh feeling to your writing and avoiding gingivitis. So think of me as your “literary orthodontist” as I take you through a quick writer’s check-up. Please remember I don’t have a saliva vacuum…

Flossing:
A good dentist will tell you it’s important to floss between meals, and will demonstrate its importance by flossing for you during your visit. That’s unless he also happens to be your proctologist, in which case I’d like to welcome you to the new National Health Care Plan. Continue reading

Giving a good interview means revealing yourself (and other reasons I won’t be in Playgirl)

It’s time once again for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, a weekly feature in which I utilize my 15 years as a columnist to offer advice that has been heralded by Oprah Winfrey as “possibly someone in our Book Club, I think.” This week’s NWOW is going to be a bit of a departure. Not because Oprah is flying us all to Chicago, but because I had the privilege of being interviewed by A Drip of Truth, a blog about writers and writing, hosted by the talented R.G. Dole. It’s also a departure because, after looking back over this interview, I realized I actually said some things that could be interpreted as helpful…

image 1) What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Without question, the introduction part of this interview would be a lot better if I had a really cool name like “Blaze” or “Vin.”

My name is Ned, which doesn’t set an exciting tone.

However, if all goes well, we’ve just passed through the low point of this interview. I’ve been a newspaper humor columnist for 15 years, the last year of which has been in syndication through News Media Corporation. A began blogging a little over a year ago and, after careful consideration and meeting with a team of marketing analysts, titled my blog with the compelling name: Ned’s Blog. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. To be honest, I’m still not sure why — but I’m told it will help me establish a media empire rivaling our local public access channel… (Read more here)

To be heard above the crowd, a writer needs to establish their voice

Typewriter at mic It’s time once again for my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I utilize my 15 years as a columnist to offer writing wisdom some of today’s most successful authors have called “Full of…words,” “Utterly…complete,” and “Total…advice…”

Or as Stephen King described, “The place I go to scare myself.”

But enough accolades already!

For only the second time in NWOW history, this week’s offering is a re-post. The reason has nothing to do with laziness or lack of inspiration, and everything to do with answering a question that many new followers have been asking since last week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing:

Have you ever considered plumbing as an occupation?

As I consider that suggestion, I thought I’d answer the second most frequently asked question since last week’s NWOW post, which was:

You have a unique writing style. How do I avoid it?

So let us begin… Continue reading

Writers who don’t talk to themselves scare me

image Welcome to this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, where some of today’s most prolific writers come to acquire the kind of wisdom Tom Clancy has called “…an example of complexity and insightfulness I generally delete from my first drafts.”

Or as Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins raved, “My measuring stick when it comes to font size.”

But enough accolades already!

Whether you’re a novelist, columnist, poet or Subway sandwich artist, talking to yourself during the creative process is important. Admittedly, I can only speak with some authority on the first three; that last example is mostly an observation based on the two Subways in our area. Regardless, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I think every good writer needs a certain level of multiple personality disorder with a dash of schizophrenia. That’s because, as a writer, you need to have the ability to do more than simply observe and notate things about people and situations; you have to be able to inhabit them in the same way that, say… Justin Beiber inhabits his role as a skinny caucasian gangster.

Except unlike Justin Beiber, you must be believable. Continue reading

Getting started as a columnist (or why I avoid Rhode Island)

I don’t know if it’s the change of the seasons, the approaching zombie apocalypse or a tainted batch of Lay’s Chicken and Waffles potato chips. Whatever the reason, a lot of folks have been asking the question, “How did you get started?” Not to sound presumptuous, but I assume they mean “as a columnist,” and not “as a father” or “turning grey” — which, I’d like to point out, are directly related. Because of this, I thought it might be a good time to revisit my very first Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which covers the basics on how to get a jumpstart your rejection letters writing career. I should point out that some of today’s best-selling authors got their start after reading this post, prompting writers like J.K. Rowling to call Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, “Just the advice I needed to realize my potential within the food service industry. You know, until the book thing came along.”

Coffee knocked over copy When I first started querying newspapers about carrying my column, I was getting one or two rejections in my email box every week. In frustration, I turned to the Internet and discovered, with a little planning and organization, I could be rejected by every newspaper in the state of Louisiana all in one afternoon.

In 2002, I began my unofficial “Internet promotional tour” across the United States by emailing a basic cover letter and a few sample columns to newspapers here in my home state of Oregon. Today, the column is running in 60 papers in 11 states and Canada. What follows are a few simple truths, mixed with some suggestions, that will help distinguish your email query from the hundreds of male enhancement offers editors receive each day. Continue reading

Zombie apocalypse or writing world: survival skills are essentially the same

image Before we get to this week’s Nickels Worth on Writing, I have been told by the U.S. Postal Service that sending me your nickels taped to postcards is not acceptable. Apparently, it really messes with the sorting machines, which mistakenly re-direct them to the “Clothes for Miley Cyrus Fund.” So, until we get this figured out, hold on to your nickels; my NWOW is on the house!

Does that mean my advice, gleaned from 15 years as a columnist and referred to by some of today’s most influential writers as “the fertilizer in the garden of writing,” will be any less insightful?

Of course not.

Money or no money, I promise you my weekly advice could not be any less insightful — which is why authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham and E.L. James receive this post in their spam email every Friday, and why this weekly feature was recognized by Writers Digest magazine as “One of the few blogs that illustrates, with absolute clarity, why writers such as Hemingway became alcoholics.” Continue reading

Why this week’s ‘Nickel’s Worth on Writing’ isn’t worth a dime

My Engine 2 crew, in position for July Fourth;  all dressed up and no where to go — which wasn't a bad thing...

My Engine 2 crew, in position for July Fourth; all dressed up and no where to go — which wasn’t a bad thing…

As everyone knows — and by “everyone,” I mean anyone who thinks today should really be Saturday — this is normally the day I post Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, my weekly feature on writing tips authors and publishers have heralded as “Insightful reading that should be a part of every bathroom library,” and “Tips that have helped countless aspiring authors establish themselves as parking attendants.

This week, however, I’m asking you to hold on to your nickels. Not just because the postmaster here is getting annoyed sorting postcards with a nickel’s worth of change taped to them; and not just because the second part of my follow-up interview with self-proclaimed best-selling author Ima Knowitall was delayed by food poisoning while eating at The Enfermo Taco; and not just because the holiday put me so far behind here in the newsroom that I may need to call a proctologist to get me out. Continue reading