Following up with self-proclaimed best-selling author Ima Knowitall!

image With the release of her highly anticipated online novel Time-Traveling Vampires of Love just a few days away, I held little hope of getting a second interview with Ima Knowitall when I called her private number this morning. As I mentioned in my first interview, she is the author of more than 40 online novels this past year, and has received multiple awards, including the coveted Prolific Speller Award, the Hemmingway Award for “longest run-on sentence of 2012 and 2013” (same sentence) and, most recently, was honored by the Society of Illiterate Columnists (SIC) for her contributions to “…the advancement of people who write without the shackles of proper grammar.

Despite knowing I had almost no chance of landing a second interview with an author of Knowitall’s caliber on the eve of her latest release, the fact that she had given me her private number meant I had to at least try. During our initial interview a month ago at a nondescript Del Taco location, she explained that her secret phone number is part of an elaborate system of security measures to protect her from hoards of overzealous paparazzi and fans. Nervously, I called the number and was ready when a man who identified himself as “Shizzle” answered from what sounded like the inside of a phone booth. Continue reading

Tips to jump-start your writing (unless you’re in Arkansas)

They say change is good, especially if there’s a nickel involved. Why a nickel? Because that’s all you need each Friday for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! For newcomers, this is the day I share my collective wisdom from 15 years as a columnist and share it with you, at half the price of my hourly wage! Here are a just a couple of testimonials from regular readers of Ned’s NWOW…

I discovered this website totally by accident — I haven’t slept since
Thanks to what I’ve learned from Ned’s NWOW, I’m now pursuing a rewarding career cleaning hazard cones!

Enough accolades! Let’s get to it…

image There’s nothing quite like staring at a blank page, knowing that with a few strokes of the keyboard you will transform a landscape devoid of life into a living, breathing thing of your own creation. There’s also nothing quite like finishing that fourth cup of coffee only to find that same blank page staring back at you. Sure, you may have typed several sentences — or maybe even the same sentence several times — in hopes of gaining some kind of momentum to carry you over that first hump, but the cursor repeatedly stalls out in the same spot, leaving you with the same blank page after riding the “delete” button back to the beginning.

That’s why it’s called a “cursor.” Continue reading

Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on… Gumbo?

image I know what you’re thinking. But we can’t talk about that without changing the rating on this blog. So instead, we’ll talk about what I’m thinking, which is how I failed you this morning. For those loyal readers who checked for this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, I’d like to apologize to the both of you. The good news, however, is that you won’t have to cough up a nickel this week; the bad news is that I will not be dispensing any sagely advice, although I did use a pinch of sage while spending the day in the firehouse kitchen making gumbo, dirty rice and chocolate lava cake for the annual firehouse cook-off tomorrow.

The other bad news is that if you literally have been coughing up a nickel each week, stop immediately and go see your physician.

In order to take today day off from the newspaper, I had to work approximately 42 hours, seven minutes and 13 seconds yesterday to finish what I would normally achieve in eight hours. Stephen Hawking, if you’re out there, please explain the science behind this phenomenon. Especially when you consider that seven of those hours are spent getting/drinking coffee, using the restroom and getting/drinking more coffee. As a result, I didn’t have time to write this week’s NWOW. Continue reading

Coming out to the ones you love about your alternative (writing) lifestyle

(Quick! Search your pockets! Or Between the couch cushions at home! or The ashtray/change holder in your car! Or even the seat next to you on the bus, keeping in mind you may get slapped if someone is still sitting there! Why are we doing this? I mean, aside from the obvious aerobic benefits? Because it’s Friday and time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! If this is your first time here, Ned’s NWOW is when I share the collective wisdom of 15 years of column writing experience. Join us now for a weekly feature that has been described as “literary pearls from a diver who needs more oxygen,” and “Worth every penny! As long as it doesn’t go over five cents…”)

Coffee knocked over copy It began with my parents of course, who held hands as I explained that I had always felt “different,” and that I wanted to embrace who I was, without shame, hopefully with their acceptance and approval. They both exchanged glances, my mother squeezing my father’s hand and offering him a worried smile before turning back to me. She knew what was coming and slowly blinked, nodding her head ever so slightly, encouraging me.

I cleared my throat. Took a deep breath.

“Mom… Dad… I think I might be a writer.”

It’s been many years since I came out of the closet. Or, in my case, the laundry room, which is where I did most of my writing until becoming a columnist in 1998. But before that — before I actually started getting paid to write — that conversation replayed itself many times over the years with family, friends and co-workers, most of whom thought of my writing as something akin to collecting salt and pepper shakers; a “unique” hobby that I was asked not to talk about at parties.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but for people who don’t know you — it makes them uncomfortable when your eyes light up like that.” Continue reading

More tools for thought… or food for your toolbox… or something like that

(According to my blogging friend Ross Murray, who lives on the edge of a sink hole in Canada, my weekly Nickels’s Worth on Writing is actually worth 8 cents over there thanks to the exchange rate. Which sounds great at first, and potentially like a good reason to move there since I could increase the net worth of my writing by nearly 50 percent! That was until Ross explained how, because of international law and a complicated revenue formula involving the metric system, it actually meant I owe Canadians three cents every time they read my NWOW. Because I have a lot of readers in Canada, this could add up to… uh… if I understand Canadian currency correctly… about 100 centimeters every week. For this reason, my Nickel’s Worth on Writing is now called “Ned’s Duty-Free Thoughts on Writing, Eh?” in Canada. My thanks to Ross for the heads-up on this before anyone at the IRS found out…)

image In one of my first columns at Gliterary Girl, I talked about three of the most important tools a writer wields when it comes to establishing their voice. Does anyone remember what they were?

Anyone under the age of 40 who still has a fully-functional memory?

Yes! You in the back with the “Nouns of the Baskerville” T-shirt.

Um… No. I’m sorry. Cuervo was not one of them.

Anyone else?

Yes, you — the one waving your hands enthusiastically!

Sure, the restroom is down the hall to the left, next to the drinking fountain. And yes, the reason the water gurgles when someone flushes is because it’s the same water. Help yourself, but we’re not waiting for you. Continue reading

Don’t worry! I won’t be shirtless on my book cover

(It’s hard to believe 60 cents worth of writing advice has been dispensed since Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing first began appearing every Friday 12 weeks ago. One reader described the impact of NWOW on his writing this way:

“Can you break a nickel?”

And the accolades go on. Suffice it to say, with those kids of testimonials, it’s no wonder the IRS has targeted my Nickel’s Worth for a full audit…)

image We’ve all heard the adage about not judging a book by it’s cover. And while that’s a terrific sentiment when it comes to people, let’s be honest in admitting the cover of a book is the first thing we judge. There’s a reason the heroine on a romance novel looks like a hair products model and not someone from an anti-drug campaign. Taking it a step further, from a woman’s perspective, would you want to thumb through the latest issue of Playgirl if Pee Wee Herman was on the cover?

OK, fine. Two of you would. Obviously, choosing a book is the least of your problems.

However, after conducting a random poll of 10 women in our office, they unanimously agreed, given a choice, they would rather see me than Pee Wee Herman — which doesn’t really say as much about my masculinity as it does about our need for better vision coverage. Regardless, I will claim that as a victory. Continue reading

Your publishing contract: What language is this?

(It’s Friday, and you know what that means… That’s right! Look in your car’s ash tray, or in the laundry drum of your washer, for some extra change because it’s time for this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing. Can’t find any change? No problem! We’re on the honor system here at NWOW; we trust you’ll send that nickel, and you trust that the advice you receive will be worth the gum ball you gave up. As most of you know, these are my re-posts from Gliterary Girl, a book review and writing website where I’m a weekly contributor. I am also the only male. Is my masculinity threatened by this? Ha! Ha! Of course not! Only my wife can do that…)

image So this is one of those rare posts that comes in two parts. And if you’re an astute observer, such as myself, you are beginning to realize that, yes:

This is part two.

This next sentence includes a link to Part One right here, which is my own attempt at a Hulu-like service to readers, with the added benefit of no commercials or irritating ads.

Go ahead. I’ll wait for you while eating this delicious new Chicken Wrap from a participating McDonald’s… Continue reading

Your publishing contract; time to learn a foreign language

In these times of economic instability, isn’t it great knowing each Friday, no matter what the NASDAQ is doing or how much your stock in Nike’s new Cat Sweater Division has taken a dump, that Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing is still only 5 cents?! How do I continue to keep the price so low? Simple! I guest blog on the literary website Gliterary Girl each week, without their knowledge, and pass the savings on to YOU! So until Sara O’Connor finds out, or someone realizes I’m the only male blogger on an all-women website, I’ll continue to offer my nickel’s worth of advice at this bargain price. Payment can be made by fax, email or strapped to the leg of Hedwig…

Foreign language shirtI literally just returned from my first sit-down meeting with the publishing company that wants to publish my book, Humor at the Speed of Life; a Brief Look at Bruce Jenner’s Anatomy.

OK, fine. Leave off the part about Bruce Jenner and you have the real title.

As I’ve mentioned before, after 15 years as a syndicated columnist, this is my first venture into book publishing. I am now sitting here with a cup of coffee and the contract, which I haven’t signed yet, looking at words in all-caps, such as “AUTHOR,” “GUARANTEE” and “WARRANTS.”

In my experience, the word “warrant” has never led to anything good. Continue reading

Emails from readers — and why I probably need more disclaimers

Ned's Mailbox copy It’s been almost three months since I began guest posting weekly writing advice at Gliterary Girl and, as I’m sure you can imagine, my email account has been flooded with questions and feedback.

In fact, we’re going to imagine some right now…

[Insert gauzy dream sequence of Ned, sitting at his computer, thoughtfully scanning through the hundreds of emails he receives each day for male enhancement products…] Continue reading

Learn to distill story ideas like a moonshiner

Moonshine books copy Ok, so let’s suppose you’ve read everything I’ve posted here or at Gliterary Girl on on the subject of writing. (And let’s also suppose you aren’t my mother.) That means you understand the importance of developing a voice, know the tools you need to establish that voice, are prepared to send your work to potential publishers, have established a writing routine, and are now sitting at the keyboard ready to write!

YEAH!

…um, but about what?

As a writer, recognizing and developing story ideas is your bread and butter. Or biscuits and gravy, depending on your proximity to the Mason-Dixon line. The point is, whether you are a romance novelist, sci-fi short story writer or weekly columnist, generating ideas — and recognizing the difference between good ones and not-so-good ones (There are no bad ideas in my opinion, and I’ll explain that in a bit) — is the most important skill you must develop. Continue reading