Writers need tough skin but shouldn’t forget to moisturize

image Welcome to a free, unsolicited (perhaps even unwanted) excerpt from my latest book, “Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist,” a book Publishers Monthly has called, “The last word in writing advice. Or so we hope.” And what 50 Shades author E.L. James has refered to as “The inspiration for most of my safe words.”

But enough accolades!

This excerpt was originally inspired by a good blogging friend who, like many of my friends, has asked to remain anonymous. So we’ll just call her Michelle, a talented writer who emailed me after experiencing her first truly negative response to something she posted.

The reader in question was somewhat offended by what was essentilly a lighthearted post about accidentally being seen naked by a stranger. I felt Michelle’s approach was tasteful and humorous. Regardless, the reader’s response caught her off guard and caused her to momentarily question her judgement as a writer — something that readers of this blog question each day. Continue reading

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Exciting tips on how to fail at your New Year’s writing resolutions!

imageNo doubt, many of you have embarked on your New Year’s resolutions:

“I’m going to lose weight!”
“I’m going to drink less!”
“I’m going to change careers!”
“I’m going to stop referring to myself in the third person!”

Ok, maybe that last one was just me.

Regardless, I think we can all agree resolutions are a great way to jump-start goals for personal improvement and life changes. At least until the end of February, at which point we often “re-evaluate” our goals and make “more realistic” adjustments to those goals by “dropping them completely.” For this reason, as writers, we need to be careful about the resolutions we make regarding literary goals, and in some cases we shouldn’t make them at all.

Many of you are probably saying, “Sure Ned, that’s easy for you to say!”

Oops, sorry — That was me speaking in third-person again.

Still, I think it raises a good point: I’m fortunate enough to write full-time for a newspaper, so who am I to tell you not to set lofty goals for yourself when I’m living the dream my publisher coincidentally calls her nightmare? Continue reading

If you’re a writer, join the club! (At NSNC, I mean)

imageHey, let’s be honest.

Being a writer is weird.

Most people, given a choice between writing a 200-word essay or being taised in the bare buttocks, would drop their pants before you can say “It was a dark and stormy nigh-AAAAAggghhh!”

Particularly in today’s faced-paced, text-speak oriented world of social media shorthand, the thought of spending hours toiling over words in order to convey an idea, feeling or moment is — in the words of Master of Horror® Stephen King — “A little creepy. But I like it.”

Several years ago, I let my membership to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists lapse. As a result, publishers stopped taking my calls; I entered into a period of writer’s blockage similar to eating a two-pound brick of cheddar; thousands unfriended me on Facebook; I burned my pizza; the list goes on.

Ok, fine. None of that happened, although I did burn a pizza.

Coincidence? We’ll never know for sure.  Continue reading

Not even bad Tofurkey will stop you NaNoWriMo writers!

imageLet’s be honest: No one is going to read this.

Why?

Because everyone is busy working on their novel this month! Who has time to read a blog post — even if it’s about writing — when they have 30,000 words remaining in their 50,000-word manuscript, no to mention a 30-lb. Thanksgiving turkey already thawing in the sink?

Plus, in just a few weeks, many NaNoWriMo participants will be following up their day of giving “thanks” by attacking fellow shoppers on Black Friday for the last pair of “Walking Dead” slippers! What if their fingers get broken during a tussle at Target? Or they get walloped at Walmart? Mauled at Macy’s? Shanked at Sears? Body slammed at Bloomingdales?

You get the idea.

Even though it’s less than a week into NaNoWriMo, a lot of writers are feeling the pressure to finish their manuscripts before Nov. 24 because anything can happen once Thanksgiving Day arrives. No one wants to take the chance of being within 500 words of finishing their manuscript, only to have it consumed in a sudden turkey flashover fire thanks to the combustable nature of aunt Renee’s new whiskey stuffing recipe.  Continue reading

Reading my book is like having that first talk about sex

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Canadian humorist and screenwriter Randall Willis reacts to my “Pearls of Writing Wisdom.” Possibly after eating too much poutine…

When I saw the notification on Twitter that Randall Willis had posted a review of my new book, it was the first time in a while that I’d felt nervous about my writing. Not so much because he’s Canadian. Or because he’s a hilarious, award-winning writer and screenwriter. And not even because he knows a lot of guys who play professional hockey and carries a hockey stick in the trunk of his car “just for emergencies.”

Unlike my first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, which was a collection of newspaper columns I’d published over the last 16 years, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist is more personal because it’s written for writers. Seeing my book in the hands of other writers I know and admire made me nervous in the same way I’d imagine it must feel to host The Oscars; standing in front of an audience of talented peers and hoping to be worthy of their time and attention. Except in this case there’s not even an open bar to loosen things up first.

At least I don’t have Stephen King staring me down from the audience.  Continue reading

For the first time, I wasn’t chosen last!

imageWhen D.G. Kaye (aka the wonderful Debby Gies) asked me if I’d be the first in her new Friday authors and books series, it was just just like when Ricky Overbite chose me first for kickball, or Sarah Getlost asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance, or Mrs. Flunkem requested I say the Pledge of Alliegence in front of the classroom: I said, “Weeeellll, let me think about it.”

That’s usually when someone snapped their fingers in my face, breaking me out of my daydream to realize I was either the only one who hadn’t been picked for a team, was dancing with the janitor’s broom after the dance or had actually worn my pajamas to school just like in the nightmare.

So, needless to say, when Debby asked me to be her guest today to kick off her new Friday series, I said “OhHeckYes!”

If you aren’t familiar with Debby, you probably need to get out more. She’s the author of several books, a tireless supporter and inspirer of authors, and a gifted humor and memoir writer.

I’m very honored to be her debut guest and hope you’ll join me over at her place, where she asked me a lot of terrific questions that, in some cases, may have been even more interesting than my answers.

To hop over there, just click HERE! (No, not HERE. Back there where it says HERE)

 

Returning to normalcy (but consider the source)

imageAs you probably noticed (if not, please pretend you did) that I have been absent from my blog the last few weeks.

While I’d like to say it’s because my vacation spot in the Caribbean was too remote for Wi-Fi, it actually had less to do with banana drinks and tanning lotion, and more to do with a “perfect storm” of life-changing events that I am just now getting a handle on.

The short version? Over the last three weeks I was promoted to Editor at our newspaper (See the card? That makes it official!), my new book was released and I become Membership Chairman for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC).

Oh, and somewhere in there I turned 50.

So what does all of this mean? Essentially it means I’ve been getting my butt kicked. For example, just moving into my new office meant going through 17 years of accumulated crap important journalistic files, moving furniture, painting, hiding graffiti about the previous editor, etc…  Continue reading

My pearls of writing wisdom are now totally shucked

Now available by clicking here! Or I can drive to your house with a copy...

Now available by clicking here! Or I can drive a copy to your house…

Yesterday afternoon it became official! Any typos that I, my publisher or book editor may have missed are now on their way to the printers, where they will live forever in black and white to haunt me at book festivals, workshops and conventions.

“Hey Mr. Hickson! Will you sign my book on page 50, right above where it says ‘If you want to be a writer, you can never give up dope?'”

All joking aside, after reading through it for the final time before signing off on it for my publisher, I pushed the “send” button feeling truly excited to share this book. While my weekly columns and blog posts are certainly an extension of me, this book is even more personal because it’s an opportunity to take what I’ve learned over the last 16 years and share it directly with other writers (as opposed to just sitting in a bar and mumbling to whoever’s next to me).  Continue reading

Finding the good in rejection (especially as a writer)

Keep your tank full; you don't want to run out of gas here.

Keep your tank full; you don’t want to run out of gas here.

When I fell for Sarah Getlost in the fourth grade, I was taking no chances. My father explained to me that women couldn’t resist a man in uniform. He told me this while wearing a white T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and drinking a beer, so I had to take his word for it. My plan was to wait for our little league candy sale and go to her house dressed in my new baseball uniform.

In theory, it was a good plan.

In reality, Sarah Getlost answered the door wearing her new cheerleader outfit, effectively neutralizing me. So, to impress her, I gave her my candy, a new baseball and all of my money. Although I wasn’t immediately rejected, it came swiftly once my mother found out and forced me to return to Sarah’s house to ask for all my stuff back. I don’t remember exactly what I said, only that it was awkward and involved a lot of gulping to keep the bitter taste of rejection from coming back up.

Although I think all that chalk I swallowed in the second grade helped a little.

Rejection is a part of life, particularly for writers. We set ourselves up for potential rejection every time we send out a query, have an article published online or in print, or post something to our blog or social media page. Thanks to the digital age, we have more ways than ever to receive rejection!  Continue reading

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