Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Have Not Yet Begun to Write

By Len Lawson

I was asked recently a familiar question to authors...

So how do I go about writing a book?

Below I leave tips for aspiring writers to use for getting that first book from the brainstorming to the finalizing stage.

1) Start writing. Stop talking to everyone about wanting to write something and actually do it! It doesn't matter what you write or how it is arranged or organized. When I began my first book (a fiction novel), I thought I was writing what I considered to be the first chapters. After visiting with a professional editor, it turned out to be the fourth or fifth chapters. I would add to this tip the phrase

2) Don't think--just write. Don't worry about being Ernest Hemingway, John Grisham, or whoever your favorite author is. They have years of experience, and writing a first novel makes you a novice. Writers usually have to push these nagging questions to the back of their minds until the work is finished.
A. Is this good enough?
B. Will people like it?
C. Am I on the right track?

3) Don't read your favorite author's work while writing. While a common tip for writers is to "read everything you can", this can be a detriment to your individual style that distinguishes your work from millions on shelves everywhere. You are not trying to be the next Ernest Hemingway; you want to become the first [insert your name here]. Furthermore, your readers will appreciate your uniqueness.

4) Keep writing. Remember this statistic: 95% of people who begin the same writing journey as you this year will quit. Therefore, how do you maintain your stamina for an entire book? Well, it's a bit like staying in shape.

A. Write every day. Don't tell how many things you have to do in a day or how many distractions there are. Every writer faces those same temptations. Out of 24 hours in a day, you can carve out at least 45 minutes to one hour to focus on your craft.

B. Develop a plan for writing and stick to it. Whatever your plan turns out to be, don't deviate from it. If you happen to get off track, then get back on quickly.

C. Stay focused during your writing time. It is so easy to let the distractions/temptations (TV, social media, Internet, cell phone, etc.) creep into your writing time. Eliminate these during your writing time. This takes time to master, but remember your goals and just say no to the temptations.

D. Create the right environment when you write. What works for me is to play an instrumental track of my favorite music while I write so that my brain is locked into what is flowing on the pages. Alternatively, I prefer silence. Find the right ambiance for you to create your masterpiece. Also, don't be afraid to alter this space if necessary.

Finally, the one thing that has improved my craft more than anything is learning from my peers and improving from the critiques I have received in my SCWW writing groups. I hope these tips will help anyone ready for their writing journey to pursue it with confidence.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Q & A: What’s So Punny?

By Kimberly Johnson
I’m always looking for a good laugh. I tried watching Last Comic Standing on NBC. I parked my remote on the Comedy Central with no results. I found my funny a couple of Sundays ago via Youtube. CBS Sunday Morning featured the 37th O. Henry Pun-Off Championships (It was a free event, 11a -3p). Reporter Lee Cowan traveled to Austin, Texas to interview entrants and the 2014 winner Alexandra Petri. (She made puns of every US president in chronological order).

In Romania I made hotel reservations. I was so tired I had to BUCHAREST.

I’ll admit it—I’m not well-versed on puns. So, I decided to go on a fact-finding mission:

Q: What is a pun?
A: Informal definition: A play on words and their meaning. Formal definition: A joke exploiting the possible meanings of a word.
Function: A pun shapes how the reader interprets the text.

The pigs were a squeal.

Q: Are there different types of puns?
A: Yes. Homophonic puns feature word pairs that sound alike but have different meanings. Homographic puns spotlight words that have the same spelling but have a different sound and connotation. Homonymic puns use words which are homophones and homographs. A compound pun uses two or more puns at a time.

Nothing makes me SYCAMORE than some guy using all those cheezy pickup lines like a DOGWOOD.

Q: Who uses a pun and why?
A: A writer can demonstrate a character’s quick wit. William Shakespeare is a famous punster.
“Winter of our discontent” was “made glorious summer by this Son [son] of York.” (Richard III)

How to be a punster?
Listen closely when your friends are talking. Find a play on words that you can use to construct your pun. Keep it in the context of the conversation.

Want more information? Try the O. Henry Pun-Off website, It features cool stuff like Noose You Can Use and Punslingers.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Observe. Create. Write. Repeat.

By Leigh Stevenson

I am often asked by non-writer friends where I get my ideas. “Do they come from real life? Do they come from your imagination? Do you take notes? Are you always looking for a story? Do you do extensive research?” The most accurate answer is all of the above. But my truest answer, if I’m honest: I try to pay attention.

In the beginning, I scribbled ideas on scraps of random bits of paper, napkin wedges and backs of receipts. More often than not, I would promptly lose them. There were also the middle-of-the-night brilliant ideas that I was sure I wouldn’t forget but inevitably did. My solution came in buying two notebooks, one that I try to keep with me at all times and another one for beside my bed. Sometimes I go back to read these notes and I can’t decipher them. But that doesn’t matter. Mostly, I do remember and it encourages me to pay attention.

I am endlessly curious about people. Most every person I encounter is fascinating in some way. Everyone has a story and I believe you can learn something from each individual. Maybe it’s a piece of wisdom or just a fragment of information. It might be the observation of a baby‘s intense concentration while trying to pick up a bug or that one cheerio on a slippery tray. It could be the way someone holds their hands while listening to criticism. Notice the gait of say a minister when compared to that of a car salesman. What do your fingers look like after sticking them in a bag of Cheetos? After washing blackberries? Observation is an essential element in the writer’s toolbox. Every observation adds texture to your memory bank. Even if you are writing non-fiction or a self-help book, observation is crucial. You have to observe how your audience is doing something incorrectly, to tell them how to do it right. Right?

Every bit of information and observation informs your writing. Tuck it away. Observe. Create. Write. Repeat. Not necessarily in that order.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Author Website Bonus Materials: Online Stalking & Tasty Treats

By Jodie Cain Smith

Fred Fields pointed out in his post “Website Tips” that a website is critical to an author’s success. However, if you want to fully capitalize on this inexpensive and, in some cases, free marketing device, gone are the days that a stagnant online business card would suffice. Today’s author websites must offer readers much more than a bio and purchase links. If you want your readers to buy more, invite them through the looking glass, or rather laptop screen, to get lost in your bonus materials. After several minutes, or even hours, your customers will emerge from the rabbit hole filled with the inner workings of your brain and, hopefully, with a lighter wallet.

So, how do you turn your author website from stagnant to engaging? Add content! In addition to a regularly updated bio (Seriously, surely something has happened in your life in the last ten years. And when was that picture taken? 1993? Nice claw bangs.), available titles, contact information including all social media links, and event/appearance schedule, get creative with bonus materials.

1. Create a Virtual Inspiration Board

Allow readers to explore your world. What music do you listen to while writing? Does it change according to the specific project? Do pictures inspire you? Do you save research from past works? Share short posts and images that include anything and everything that inspire you. Divide your inspiration according to specific titles, so the reader can click on the title of the book you wrote that he is now obsessed with and dying to learn more. Feed his obsession.

2. Create Flash Fiction

Introduce yourself through short works. If the customer likes the appetizer (a brief story of 750 words or less), she may say, “Well, that just made me hungrier. Must eat more!” Before she knows it, her literary hunger pangs have resulted in binge clicking, purchasing everything she can make her little mouse icon grab.

3. Encourage Voyeurism

Emily Giffin, one of my favorite authors, includes a “Twenty-five Things About Emily” list. I read the list and decided that we should be close friends. Of course, moving to Atlanta in order to “accidentally” meet her would be costly and could land me in jail, so I downloaded her latest release instead. Our friendship may be imaginary, but her voice is part of my life regardless. Victory!

4. Blog and Share and Blog and Share and Blog and Share

Yep, this part is never ending, but it is the easiest way to keep your website fresh. And fresh content is the best kind to share. Would you offer a friend a spoiled apple, rotting and covered in fruit flies? No. So, why would you expect your readers to come back to the table time and time again for apples so old that even moronically naive Snow White would refuse a bite? That’s just gross and mean and your readers crave something new.

What other bonus materials can you think of to include on an author website? Share your ideas below.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Join Us!

By Ginny Padgett

This blog site is the domain of Columbia II, a chapter of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. During the three years I served as president of the organization, it was my joy and privilege to foster two new and successful chapters, Columbia III and Sumter.

Recently, I have been involved with the formation of another SCWW chapter in the Beaufort area. This week I received a call from the leader of the fledgling chapter. She asked, “My prospective members wonder why we’re paying dues to SCWW if I’m doing all the work of organizing a chapter?” My answer included these points.
  • Liability insurance – This is the most important advantage for groups to become SCWW chapters. If something were to happen at a chapter meeting, SCWW insurance would cover the damage.
  • Website support and information:
  • Market yourself and your work through the SCWW website
        Member website and blog site:  blogs/
        Speakers Bureau:
  • Monthly e-newsletter
  • Exclusive opportunity to be published in SCWW’s annual anthology, the Petigru Review
  • Discounted reading fee for Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards
  • Discount on conference registration - Our conference has been ranked as one of the top ten in the country.
Most of all, we’re a network of writers, novice and established, who come together regularly on a local level to critique each other’s work and provide a means of accountability. In addition, we share information that will further us on our journey toward publication and support each other in that common endeavor.
There are 18 chapters across the state, and the Board is looking into the feasibility of forming virtual chapters for those members who reside outside SCWW areas. If you’ve wanted to find an environment to nurture your creative growth, consult the website for a chapter that best accommodates you.  Don’t see one in your locale? Email me. We’ll start one.