This week, I’m looking for YOUR Nickel’s Worth on my book excerpt

image I’ve been talking about publishing my second book, “Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing: Pearls of writing wisdom from 16 shucking years as a columnist” since September. So guess what? That’s right!

It’s still not done.

However, please accept this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing as my doctor’s note. The truth is, I’ve been side-tracked by a lot of life-changing events the last few months, including moving into a new home, the latest season of The Bachelorette and the discovery of DubSmash. I’ve also been spending time visiting an old friend — a murder mystery I wrote 15 years ago.

They say for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Following that train of thought, the flip side of humor is drama. In this case, I’ve been delving into the flip side of my weekly humor column to work on “No Safe Harbor,” which has been collecting dust and patiently waiting for its final revision since I put it aside in 1999 to pursue my career as a columnist. I’ve decided the wait is finally over for this manuscript, which I’m preparing the final draft for in hopes of a mid-August debut. Continue reading

Advertisements

A wickedly wonderful friend this way came — and left much too soon

This view from our office's back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

This view from our office’s back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

As I walked to work this morning, the sun was still resting below distant Badger Mountain. The streets were quiet and the air was still as I made my way along the sidewalk, past the carnival that claims the visitors parking lot across from our home each year. Last night it was alive with the sounds of oiled metal grinding behind colorful facades — rocketships, dragons and race cars — as carnival-goers screamed and laughed in rhythmic cycles throughout the evening.

But this morning, the neon lights are out. The colorful merry-go-round is drapped in blue tarps. There are no screams or laughter. Only the occasional murmur of snoring from inside the narrow carnie sleeping quarters stacked side by side on tractor trailor beds. I cut through the carnival, stepping over a braid of thick electrical cables that eventually spread like veins through the park, bringing life to thrill rides, snack shacks and carnival barker microphones.

Each year, I make this walk to work through the Davis Carnival.

And each year, I think of my friend — and the memory of a warm, terrible spring evening that occured this same night more than a decade ago… 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

Something wickedly wonderful this way came — and left much too soon

(Each year when I hear the first echoes of hammering reverberating near our home and harkening the arrival of the Davis Carnival, I think of my friend — and the memory of a warm, terrible spring evening more than a decade ago…)

This view from our office's back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

This view from our office’s back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

It’s a strange juxtaposition I find myself in each year, watching the arrival of the carnival and seeing the excitement in the eyes of our children. But as the rides are hammered together late into the evening, I am reminded of the night 13 years ago when I got the call from my best friend telling me he was coming back home to Oregon — because he was dying.

He was 30 years old. Continue reading

A Nickel’s Worth from ‘The Most Outlandish Tale About Anxiety and Depression Ever Told’

image “WAIT! THE STORY DOESN’T START HERE!”
— Adam Sendek

(For those following the BLOG HOP already in progress, click HERE)

Regular readers of this blog are probably wondering why I’m starting this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing with a quote from Adam Sendek of The Chowderhead and Long Awkward Pause? Or maybe you’re wondering what a “Chowderhead” IS exactly? To be honest, I can only answer one of those questions definitively. The other I have to assume won’t clear up without frequent applications of tetracycline.

As you’ve probably guessed, this week’s NWOW is going to be a little different. That’s because it’s part of a collaborative effort between a dozen bloggers, each of whom has contributed 200 words as part of a continuous storyline initiated by Adam.

Here’s the catch: The only details each blogger receives are the 200 words that come from the blogger before them. Aside from that, you’re flying blind at the keyboard. But hey, Stevie Wonder does it, right? As I wrote my portion, I realized that incorporating it into this week’s NWOW might be a great way to experience a dozen different writing voices attempting to harmonize from 12 different rooms. Sort of like an asylum after “lights out.”

And with that, our story begins by clicking HERE

Celebrating a year of somewhat questionable writing advice

image Welcome to a special Anniversary Edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! It was a year ago this week that the first edition of my weekly NWOW was completely overlooked heralded by Writer’s Digest as “A literary hazard cone…” and by Publisher’s Weekly as “Our measuring stick for excellent writing, if we were on the metric system.” As if that weren’t enough, I received a congratulatory email this morning from The Master of Horror® Stephen King:

I consider myself an expert on corpses, so you can believe me when I say your body of work speaks for itself.”

High praise indeed.

But enough accolades! It’s time to prepare yourself. Why? Because in just a few moments I will push the button on a special remote, releasing balloons and confetti on you! That’s right! While you were sleeping, special crews (most of which were licensed, bonded and documented citizens) were busy installing compartments of spring-loaded balloons and confetti in your ceiling! And you thought it was creepy rats! Haha! So count down with me as we prepare to release balloons and confetti on 3,432 folks, some of whom don’t read this blog regularly and will be totally freaked out! Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall recently posted a beautiful poem about taking time to recognize the magic in our lives. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments. That said, my thanks to all of you for sharing the magic every day…

image He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and whats-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence.

The boy obeyed, and hugged his backpack a little closer to his chest. Continue reading

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

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

Part two: My interview with self-proclaimed best-selling author Ima Knowitall

Fifty Shades of Time-Traveling Vampire Love, is going live on self-publishing sites everywhere tomorrow. As one agent at Random Day said, “this book has caused a buzz in the publishing world louder than a circling fly…”)

image As I mentioned in my first interview, Ima Knowitall is the author of more than 40 online novels this past year, and was recently honored by the Society of Illiterate Columnists (SIC) for her contributions to “…the advancement of people who write without the shackles of proper grammar.” So landing an interview with an author of this caliber on the eve of her latest release was — as Ima described something she found in her taco — a total surprise.

For those of you who might’ve missed the first part of my interview with Ima because, for example, you just recently gave up life as a Quaker, I should explain that our breakfast interview had been interrupted by the untimely arrival of the health department while waiting for a taco omelette at Sam N’ Ella’s restaurant. Since there was no time to get anything to-go because Sam and Ella had already left through the back window, we had decided to take our interview somewhere else. Continue reading