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‘Behind the Writer’s Curtain’ Category

  1. A Motivational Trick for Writers

    December 29, 2019 by Diane

    You may be wondering where I’ve disappeared to these many weeks, and why I haven’t chronicled my squirrelly thoughts on this blog.

    Contrary to what you might suspect, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, tempting though that may be. I’ve been here, behind the writer’s curtain, churning out fiction. Daily. Lately, a short story a week.

    I accomplished this astounding feat because I took five steps. Five teensy-weensy steps, which I share with you now.

    Step 1: Hang a calendar on the wall

    Hang it where you’ll see it every day, where you can’t ignore its presence. I hung it next to the front door.

    Step 2: Set a goal, and break it down into baby steps

    I knew I could spare fifteen minutes a day to write. In fifteen minutes, I could write five hundred words quickly. No time to pick apart what I wrote as I wrote it, no time to stare out the window pondering what to write. If I spent fifteen minutes a day clickety-clacking on the keyboard, at the clip of five hundred words a day I’d have thirty-five hundred words in seven days, which adds up to (whips out the calculator) one short story. Fifteen minutes was doable. And do it I did.

    Step 3: Set a timer

    Show up at your keyboard (or notebook or legal pad), set the timer, and dive in. Don’t think about the dinger. Don’t let your inner editor fill your ear with his nasty breath. Just play in your writer’s playground for your allotted period of time. I often spent more than my allotted period, but that 15 minute goal got my rear in the saddle.

    Step 4: Buy some colored markers

    Use them to mark an X on your calendar for each day you complete your task. The more colorful the markers, the better.

    Step 5: Don’t break the chain of X’s

    That’s your motivational cue. If you’re like me, that calendar with those brightly-colored X’s will keep you going. When you don’t feel like writing or you’re too tired to write, when you don’t have a blasted idea of what to write or you’re just too lazy to write, even when you feel unwell and would rather sleep than write, you’ll write anyway because you want to reward yourself with that cheery pink, blue, or green X on the calendar. For three months straight, I haven’t broken the chain.

    To prove that I did indeed write a smattering of short stories, I present the first paragraph, a sneak peek if you will, of five stories which I will be submitting to literary journals for publication. Without further ado, here they are, with their titles, in no particular order.

    Mama’s Hands

    The day Sally Wilson turned eighteen, in spite of her mama’s objections, she packed an old suitcase and drove off with the twenty-three-year-old cowboy who had reeled her in but good.

    The Evidence

    Late on a Saturday afternoon, in the shadow of the police building, I sat in a donut shop reading the paper and drinking coffee when Ronnie Deuce rapped on the window and gestured for me to come outside. He wore a yellow plaid suit and pink tie and looked like he’d stepped out of a Damon Runyon story. I was familiar with the two-bit gambler. We’d crossed paths when I was down to my last hundred and had to visit the tables myself. Deuce cleaned me out, not that I held a grudge. It was beyond my capacity. I refolded the paper and kept reading.

    Whatever Happened to Carl Hogan?

    Carl Hogan walked downstairs with a plate of wet cat food and was never seen again.

    Passing Through

    Tunia jolted awake in the back seat when her father pulled into a gas station and asked the attendant for directions to Beaker’s Pass. They’d been on the road for a day and a night, the first time she’d been anywhere with just her Pops, and she didn’t want the trip to end. The pimply-faced boy pumping gas said they’d found it, sure enough, and her father said, “What, this scraggly stretch of dirt?” He wheezed when he said it. The same sound her mother had made.

    I Won’t be Here Forever

    We were doing what married couples do on Sundays, reading the newspaper, sipping coffee, savoring a late breakfast of bacon and eggs, taking a drive, and in the car at the stoplight you straightened and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I want a divorce.” Just like that. The light turned green and I stared at you, open-mouthed, and thought, who will I eat brunch with on Sundays? That’s what sunk into my head. The driver behind us tooted his horn and I floored it. Floored it. Went sailing through a red light, took the blind curves up the hill too fast, and when that sheer drop to the lake came into view I headed for it. At the last moment I squealed to a stop so we both bobbed forward and slammed back against the seats. Dust swirled around the car. Your lips were white. You didn’t say a word. I knew, then, you were willing to die, you were that miserable.


  2. I’m Famous. You Might as Well Know the Truth.

    July 28, 2019 by Diane

    This week, I was featured on WriterCEO.com, a website which offers inspirational interviews from professional writers who share their secrets to success. Why me?

    Because I actually make money as a writer.

    I know, right?

    If you’re curious about how this miracle came to be and exactly what I do when I’m not blogging about the nutty stuff that drives me nutty, or if you’d like a bit of sage writing advice from a hack like me, then I urge you, nay, implore you, to visit the site and read my interview by clicking here. And please leave a comment!

    WriterCEO.com is the brainchild of the wonderful Colleen M Story. In addition to the weekly interviews featured on her site, Colleen also writes about writing and wellness, which you’ll find a link to here. And she wrote two terrific books: Writer Get Noticed!, and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, the latter of which was probably written for me. Because, you know, I’m famous.

    So, what are you waiting for? Skedaddle on over, peel back the writer’s curtain and unlock the mystery behind my disguise. And if you know a budding author eager to make a career with words, direct them to the site so they can poke around and learn from some of the pros.


  3. Don’t Let Rejection Extinguish Your Creativity

    June 2, 2019 by Diane

    McNair Wilson, Disney Imagineer and creative consultant to notables such as Apple, Universal Studios and Sony Entertainment, says: “Let’s guess that you are not a cupboard for the storage of God’s ideas. If that’s true, let’s open that cupboard, get that stuff out and start using it. Life is going to be scary and hard and challenging no matter what we do. Why not do you. If you don’t do you, you doesn’t get done, and the world is incomplete. So start chipping in and completing the world.”

    As a writer, I churn out material on the page, and that’s my baby. My creation. If I send a short story off to a publisher and it gets rejected, that hurts. But guess what. Whoever rejected it is only one person. One guy. It might be someone who ate pizza for lunch and had heartburn when reading my piece. It might be someone who read 50 manuscripts before mine, and felt burned out. It might be someone…we just don’t know. So it comes back. Sorry, not a good fit for us. Good luck!

    It might be just that: not a good fit.

    I send it off to someone else. It’s rejected again. That’s just another guy. Or gal. It’s not the whole publishing house of 100 or however many people work there, it’s not the 5 who work at the literary magazine. It’s one person.

    Maybe one of those someones gives feedback. Suggestions on how to revise the story to make it stronger. That’s good! Embrace the feedback. It’s how we become better writers.

    Rejection is part of the game. You’ve heard it before: the more “no’s” you get, the closer you are to “yes.” It’s the law of averages. It’s gravity. Whatever. The point is, I can’t let rejection doubt my voice as a writer. I can’t make it extinguish me.

    It’s tempting to want to write like the authors I admire. I’d love to be as literary as Louise Erdrich, as uplifting and breezy as Alexandra Franzen, as homey and wise as Robert Fulghum, as funny as David Sedaris, as concise as Raymond Carver (and Chandler), as free-flowing as Jack Kerouac, as imaginative as Ray Bradbury, as poetic as…well, you get the picture.

    As babies, we learn to talk by modeling the movement of our mother’s lips and tongue, or the lips and tongue of whatever face is bending over our cribs. We see how Mom presses her lips together to say the letter “m,” how Dad touches the tip of his tongue to the back of his upper teeth to say “No.” We model the dialect, rhythms, and word choices that surround us.

    I learned to write by modeling great writers. I learned how to play with language, set up story, pare down dialogue, master point of view. I copied lines word for word to get the feel of words in my body. I took it all in like a sponge.

    But there came a point when I needed to wring out that sponge so I was left with what makes me, me. Like the DNA from my parents that formed the blue-green of my eyes and the curve of my arms, like the genes that scrambled together to make the unique stride, temperament and laughter that makes up me, my writer’s voice is a DNA-pool of all the writers I’ve studied, all the books I’ve read, all the teachers I’ve followed. Nobody else can do me.

    Novelist and teacher James N. Frey, who wrote How to Write a Damn Good Novel, says: “The number of books that became hits after being rejected is enormous. The reason is, really good work is different, and different means risk to an editor. Having an attitude as a writer means you have to take risks, which means you’ll scare the hell out of some editors and you’ll have to suffer rejection as a result.”

    Attitude means we don’t quit. Attitude means we don’t make excuses for not doing our art. Attitude means when we get hit, we hit back. We send that story out again. And again. And again.

    When rejection comes, I need to remind myself: there are billions of people in this world. My writing will touch more than that one guy judging that one contest. My stories will resonate with more than that one gal at that one journal. When anxiety or depression set in because I’m discouraged and avoiding my art, I need to get back in the writing saddle and let my voice run free. I need to be persistent, continue to develop my craft, keep my head down and write, write, write with attitude.

    I need to open that cupboard, chip in, and complete the world.