I think Banker Without Portfolio: The Ugly Truth Everyone Needs to Know, by Philip P. Gbormittah is meant to be inspirational. Certainly, Gbormittah proclaims his love of Jesus loudly and attributes the little success he has had and all of his upstanding morals to the grace of God, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The author makes himself out to be altruistic and morally unblemished, praying for God to meet all of his needs, but after a decade at a banking institution, to still not have received a raise in grade and income makes it seem as if his prayers aren’t really being answered.
The book cover is misleading, or perhaps misrepresentative of the true content, since this memoir is written by an author whose skin is a different color than that on the cover photo. Gbormittah might be missing out on a huge opportunity here, for had he played up his discrimination in the work place as an issue of color in today’s market, he might have had a best seller, even without improvements in writing style.
On the last pages, the author summarizes, “My love life suffered. My nuclear family relationships suffered.” But I have to ask why we didn’t see any of this throughout the story? It wasn’t until almost half way through the book that we learned he was married, and we never get to meet his wife or get a description of her.
Discrimination in the world of high finance is the theme, but the two dimensional character we get here doesn’t allow us to really care about the injustice of it because the character doesn’t feel human, and that’s bad because he is a real character. Although the story is about the author’s professional life, to get a glimpse of his personal life would have made for a more well rounded character, who we could actually care about. Let us meet the wife instead of just hearing about her? How did he feel toward her. We don’t know, because Gbormittah doesn’t allow readers to be privy to this information.
We don’t get to see him as a loving, indifferent, or abusive husband. He could be any of them, and it might have made a difference in how much we readers are willing to invest in the character, how much we care about what happens. The only side of him we do see a little of is his professional side, how he interacts in the workplace, and even then we’re only allowed a small glimpse. But even then, the majority of what we know, we only know because we are told, rather than shown, these things.
As it is, Banker Without Portfolio: The Ugly Truth Everyone Needs to Know does a lot of telling us what happened, but very little showing. There is lots of conflict, but very little resolution and no reason for readers to care. I can only give it two quills.
Kaye gives honest book reviews and she does not charge for them. If you have a book you would like reviewed contact Kaye at kayebooth[at]yahoo[dot]com.
This will be the last reflective post of the year. Next Monday’s post will find us in 2017. For my writing career it has been a slow take off, but I’ve seen progress. In July, I completed my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. With emphasis in both genre fiction and screenwriting, and two completed novels, Delilah and Playground for the Gods Book 1: In the Beginning, two full feature film scripts and one comedy series pilot script in hand, I eagerly jumped right in to get my feet wet in either the publishing and/or screenwriting industry. I began submitting my work to agents, publishers, and competitions like crazy. I received mostly rejections, as expected, and although I still haven’t found a home for either novels or scripts, I did manage to find a home for two poems and two short stories. Not too bad. While the poems, Aspen Tree and Yucca! Yucca! Yucca!, appeared in print, (in Colorado Life (Sept.-Oct. 2016) and Manifest West Anthology #5 – Serenity and Severity, respectively), my short story, I Had to Do It was published on Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, and my not so short, short story, Hidden Secrets was published on Across the Margin.
2016 has been a pretty good year for Writing to be Read. The revamping of the blog site was completed in March, I’ve managed post things on a fairly regular basis, we were honored with guest posts by my friend Robin Conley, and my visits and page views have risen, with almost 2000 visitors and over 2,500 page views. Looking at this, makes me feel pretty good about the blog, as a whole. Another good change is the addition of screenwriting content, which I believe has drawn a larger audience by widening the scope of the content.
The top post of 2016 was my book review of Simplified Writing 101, by Erin Brown Conroy, which is an excellent tutorial on academic writing, including writing advice that every writing student should know. After that, the reflective post Writing Horror is Scary Business would be second in line. Other popular posts include my four part Making of a Screenplay series,( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4), my Tribute to My Son, and What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean for Writing to be Read. More recently, my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing gave me the opportunity to interview some awesome names in the publishing industry: self-published authors, Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch; traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw; independently published author Jordan Elizabeth; and children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published under all three models; as well as Caleb Seeling, owner of Conundrum Press and Curiosity Quills Press – with the final installment summarizing the conclusions made from those interviews.
Many of my posts were reflections of my own writing experience. These included: Why Writing is a Labor of Love; Fear is a Writer’s Best Friend; I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby; Writing the Way That Works For You; Creating Story Equals Problem Solving; What’s A Nice Girl Like Me Doing Writing in a Genre Like This?; Acceptance or Rejection – Which Do You Prefer?; A Writer’s Life is No Bowel of Cherries; Write What You Know; Discouragement or Motivation?; What Ever Happened to Heather Hummingbird?; How You Can Help Build a Writer’s Platform; and Why Fiction is Better Than Fact.
Sadly, I only attended two events that were reported on, on Writing to be Read in 2016 – the 2016 Ice Festival in Cripple Creek, and the 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, Colorado. What can I say? I’m a starving writer. This is something I hope to improve on in 2017 by attending more events to report on. One possible addition to the 2017 list that I’m very excited to think about is the Crested Butte Film Festival. The details are not ironed out yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Screenwriting content included this past year seemed to be popular. In addition to my Making of a Screenplay series and Writing Horror is Scary Business, Writing to be Read also featured Writing Comedy for Screen is a Risky Proposition, and a book review for Hollywood Game Plan, by Carole Kirshner, which I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone desiring to break into the screenwriting trade. Robin’s Weekly Writing Memo also included several writing tips that could be applied equally to literature or screenwriting.
Another project I’m particularly proud of is my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing, which I just finished up last week. In this series I interviewed nine professionals from within the industry to get the low down on the three different publishing models. My interviews included self-published authors Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch (children’s books) and Mark Shaw (nonfiction), and independently published YA author Jordan Elizabeth. To balance things out a bit, I also interviewed children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published with all three models, Clare Dugmore of Curiosity Quills Press and Caleb Seeling, owner and publisher at Conundrum Press.
One of the great things about doing book reviews is that you get to read a lot of great books, in with the okay and not so great ones. In addition Simplified Writing 101, my five quill reviews in 2016 included Jordan Elizabeth’s Runners & Riders, Mark Shaw’s The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, Nancy Oswald’s Trouble Returns, Carol Riggs’ Bottled, Jeff Bowles’ Godling and Other Paint Stories, Janet Garber’s Dream Job, Art Rosch’s Confessions of an Honest Man, and Mark Todd and Kim Todd O’Connell’s Wild West Ghosts. I don’t give out five quills lightly and every one of these books are totally worthwhile reads.
Of course, not all books get a five quill rating. Other books I reviewed that I recommended with three quills or more include three short story anthologies: Chronology, Under a Brass Moon, and Cast No Shadows; two poetry collections: Suicide Hotline Hold Music by Jessy Randall and Walks Along the Ditch by Bill Trembley; Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Treasure Darkly, The Goat Children, and Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth; Dark Places by Linda Ladd; Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson; Wrinkles by Mian Mohsin Zia; Full Circle by Tim Baker; The 5820 Diaries by Chris Tucker; The Road Has Eyes: An RV, a Relationship, and a Wild Ride by Art Rosch; Hollywood Game Plan by Carol Kirschner; Keepers of the Forest by James McNally; 100 Ghost Soup by , and A Shot in the Dark by K.A. Stewart. I also did two movie reviews: Dead Pool and Point Break.
I feel very fortunate to have had Robin Conley join us with her Weekly Writing Memo and her guest movie reviews. The useful writing tips in her Weekly Writing Memos covered a wide range of topics including critiquing, using feedback, ways to increase tension, Relatability or Likeability?, 3 Types of Plot, story research, what to write, making your audience care, world building, handling feedback, writing relationships, establishing tone, editing, word choice, How to Start Writing, endings, queries, Parts of a Scene, making emotional connections, the influence of setting, Building a Story, Inciting Your Story, movement and dialog, Writing Truth, time, Overcoming the Blank Page, Networking, character names, theme, set up, cliches, parentheticals in screenwriting, horror inspiration, and Learning to Write. Robin’s guest post movie reviews included Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Batman vs. Superman, Miss Perigrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Neon Demon.
I am thankful for Robin’s valuable content and am glad that she will still be contributing Memos on a monthly, rather than a weekly basis. Although I was sad to lose her weekly content, I am happy for her as she moves forward in her own writing career and I wish her well in her writing endeavors. For those of you who looked forward to her weekly posts, you can catch more of her content on her own blog, Author the World.
2016 was a great year for Writing to be Read, even if it was kind of rough for the author behind the blog. You readers helped to make it a good year and I thank you. Now it’s time to look ahead and see what’s in store for 2017 Writing to be Read. I mentioned some of the things I hope to achieve above: more posts pertaining to the screenwriting industry, and coverage of more events throughout the year are two of the goals I have set for my blog. I also plan to add some author, and hopefully, screenwriter profiles into the mix. I had good luck with author profiles during my Examiner days, and I think they will be well received here, as well.
I also hope to bring in some guests posts by various authors or bloggers, or maybe screenwriters, just to give you all a break from listening to me all the time. I believe Robin plans to continue with Monthly Writing Memos, which will be great, too.
I look forward to all the great books that I know are coming my way in 2017, too. The first reviews you have to look forward to are a short memoir, Banker Without Portfolio by Phillip Gbormittah, a YA paranormal romance, Don’t Wake Me Up by M.E.Rhines, a Rock Star romance, Bullet by Jade C. Jamison and a short story, How Smoke Got out of the Chimneys by DeAnna Knippling.
I hope all of you will join me here in the coming year. Follow me on WordPress, or subscribe to e-mail for notifications of new posts delivered to your inbox. Have a great 2017 and HAPPY WRITING!
Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 5): Interview with Traditionally Published Author, Mark ShawPosted: November 14, 2016
Those who remember traditional publishing prior to the digital age, recall an industry which was not easy to break into, but with persistence, it could pay off with large advances, and a contract from one of the “Big Five” publishing houses. Your publisher took care of the rest: editing and proofreading, cover and/or illustrations, publicity and marketing. In many ways, it is the same today, but one thing self-publishing and independent publishing have changed, is that they showed traditional publishers that authors were capable of doing their own promotion and marketing. Today’s authors, it seems, are now expected to carry the weight for these tasks no matter which model is chosen.
The rise of digital and self-publishing also brought about a rise in publishing scams, designed to take advantage of aspiring authors and empty their pocketbooks. In the 1990s, when I began writing, they called them vanity presses.An author would send in their work and receive a very favorable response, praising their work and offering to publish it for a fee. As the author moves through the publishing process, the fees keep adding up. Today they are called subsidy publishers. As with traditional publishers, subsidy publishers hold the rights to the book, although the author is paying them to publish it.
So far in the series we’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and we’ve heard from traditionally published author Stacia Deutsch. Join me today to get more of the traditionally published POV in my interview with author Mark Shaw. Among his 25 published works are books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing as The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner: The Mask of Holiness, a biography of Thomas Merton, and Stations Along the Way, a biography of former Hitler youth leader, Ursela Martens. In addition to being a traditionally published author, Mark is a literary consultant and entertainment attorney, so he knows of what he speaks.
Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Mark: I’m a former criminal defense lawyer and I never considered being an author until I covered the Mike Tyson rape trial for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today. I believed Tyson was denied justice and so I wrote my first book, Down For the Count.
Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?
Mark: I was able to find a literary agent to represent the Tyson book and he found a traditional publisher. I had enjoyed the writing process and the book sold well so I looked for new subjects to write about and within a few years I had published several traditionally published books. Looking for a theme to weave through new books, I landed on “justice denied” and the last four or five I have written including my latest “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” are symbolic of the type of books I write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this book will be my 25th since I never had any formal training as a writer but I’m blessed that people have enjoyed the “stop and think” aspect of the books and continue to praise my body of work.
Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?
Mark: As noted in my book about the publishing process, “How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication,” as long as it’s what we call “traditional self-publishing (no subsidy publisher) then okay, but the career of any writer who uses a subsidy publisher where they pay to have the book published (Dorrance, iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, etc.) is doomed with many who have come to me for consulting telling horror stories of losing their life savings, their homes, etc. Subsidy Publishing is the absolute kiss of death and so many writers fall prey to subsidy publishers that promise the moon and end up with boxes of books in the basement they can never sell since libraries and most bookstores won’t touch them. This is unfortunate since aspiring authors can use a combination of Create Space and Ingram Spark to publish a book with very minimal cost and this traditional self-publishing method is a badge of honor and libraries and bookstores will be interested in purchasing and stocking the book.
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?
Mark: There seems to be confusion as to what this term means but as long as it doesn’t include subsidy publishing, I’m all for it.
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?
Mark: I encourage writers to try the traditional publishing route by using query letters and book proposals and a good strategy for landing a literary agent or publisher and if that doesn’t work, then use traditional self-publishing. The advantages of traditional publishing include the publisher paying for all aspects of the publishing process, editing, layout, cover, etc. without the writer putting up a cent but most importantly traditional publishing includes distribution (my new book has Simon&Schuster distribution) which traditional self-publishing lacks since the author must do the distribution. One disadvantage these days for a first time author is that unlike ten years ago, many traditional publishers will not do much toward promotion and thus the author is expected to do the major part of the work.
Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models?
Mark: You are talking about completely different subjects here. With marketing and promotion, regardless of the method of publishing, an author has to understand that he or she must be the guiding force behind book publicity. With illustrations and book covers, etc. traditional publishers will handle this task while the author of any traditional self-published book is responsible for handling these matters and there are several outstanding consultants who can help with this tasks. Again, writers should stay away from subsidy publishers many of whom produce inferior books that cause problems right away with the authors’ reputation.
Kaye: Do you recommend traditional publishing for today’s aspiring authors, and why or why not?
Mark: Absolutely but writers must proceed with a well-developed strategy such as the “10-Step Method” outlined in “How to Become a Published Author.” There are no shortcuts possible here and most writers don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to secure a literary agent so their chances of securing a publisher are optimized.
I want to thank Mark for sharing his thoughts with us. Also, I’m excited to be reviewing his latest book. Be sure and catch my review of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much on November 25, right here on Writing to be Read. To learn more about Mark Shaw or his books visit his website.
Don’t miss next Monday’s post and my interview with independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, and get her thoughts on today’s publishing industry on Writing to be Read.
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Wednesday the 21st is the 8th anniversary of the death of my son, Michael Daniel Lee Booth. Since his death, September has always been a pretty difficult month for me. His birthday was the 9th. He had just turned nineteen when he took his own life. I relate well to the song by Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, but of course, I can’t sleep the whole month away. It’s just not practical. So, instead I try and find some way to cope by honoring him in some way.
Since his death, I’ve talked a lot about how I want to write a book that will tell his story, and mine too I suppose, or at least the story of how his death affected me, and changed my life. When I first began thinking about it, I referred to it as a memoir, but it has to be more than that because there are so many others his death affected. I keep putting off writing it because I’m not sure I’m ready to dredge up all the memories that writing his story would bring. Some of them are still so painful it seems as if they only occurred yesterday.
For a long time after Mike died, it seemed that he was the only thing I could write about, and many of those writings will eventually be incorporated into the book. For now though, I’d like to make this blog post in honor of him, and share with you the eulogy I wrote. I stood up and read it at his funeral with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking inside of me. People said it was brave of me to get up there and read it in front of all those that attended his funeral, and there were a lot. But for me, it was just something that I had to do. After all, I am a writer and he was my son.
Michael Daniel Lee Booth
When Mike Booth said, “I love you”, it was forever. And when he called you his friend, you knew you could depend on him to stand by you, no matter what. He loved to try new things, to explore and to learn. He had a love for life and for all that he held sacred. Mike strove for excellence in all that he did, and lived by a code of honor that was extremely tough to uphold. His Christian upbringing was intermixed with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs to make up the tapestry of his own personal belief system that was disciplined and unyielding. When he made mistakes, Mike was harder on himself than anyone else ever could have been.
When he got mixed up with the wrong people and things, he made some poor choices. He did not deny what he had done, but instead stood up and accepted the punishment that was given to him. He tried to make amends for his wrongs and was on his way to accomplishing that goal. He expressed great sorrow for his errors, and inflicted emotional punishment on himself over and above what the law could ever require of him.
He had a strong will and could accomplish anything that he set his mind to, including learning to speak Japanese and perform martial arts skillfully, all on his own. Mike had a love for Japanese culture and he could have lived off of green tea and sushi. His knowledge and skills were gladly shared with those who wished to learn. Mike had a love for nature and enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing, hunting, fishing and hiking. His imagination was endless and he created stories and drawings that reveal a talent far beyond his tender youth.
Mike was so much to so many people; a loving son, a dependable big brother, a doting little brother, a respectful grandson, a loyal friend and a devoted husband. He loved his dog, Zaar, who was a companion and loyal friend to him. Mike was sensitive, and hurt so easily and so deeply, yet he was too strong willed to ever let it show outwardly. Only through his writing, can we glimpse the love that he embraced or the pain that he felt. When he loved, he loved with all of his being. Mike was fun loving and enjoyed spending time with those that were important in his life. He had beautiful curls and the most wonderful smile that could light up my heart whenever I saw it. Mike turned 19 three weeks ago. He had a whole life ahead of him. He was much too young to be called home to God.
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More than any other industry, the film making arena is a world where connections are everything and success may depend on who you know. Breaking in takes persistence, determination, and maybe even a dash of creativity. Oh, and talent helps, too.
Hollywood Game Plan, by Carole Kirschner, is a must read for anyone trying to break in to the entertainment business. This book gives you the lowdown on what jobs there are in both the creative and the production areas and tells what it takes to land each position, all the way to the top of the Industry.
Much of the advice found within its pages, basic things like being on time, working hard, dressing appropriately, or listening and following directions, could apply to any industry. But, it also contains tips and tricks that are Industry specific to the world of film making, and pays heed to the rules of Hollywood etiquette, which should never be broken unless you’re trying to commit career suicide. From how to use your Industry contacts to move your way up the ladder, to when it is appropriate to seek out advice or assistance from higher-ups. Among the list of cardinal rules not to be broken are:
- Start at the bottom and work your way up – everybody has to pay their dues.
- Be willing to do any chore your boss requires, even the most menial, or most nerve racking, tasks with a smile.
- Never talk badly about an employer, even if he’s the boss form hell.
- You’re going to get fired. Everyone gets fired. Don’t take it personal. Move on.
- Be nice to people. You never know who may turn out to be a future boss.
- Network, network, network. Keep a record of contacts and follow-up appropriately on all.
- Work for free, if you can afford to, and do the best job possible. You never know where it could lead.
- Work harder than anyone else and anticipate your employer’s needs.
Hollywood Game Plan helps you create a solid plan for launching your career as a screenwriter, even if you must begin in a job other than the one you aspire to. This book outlines the step by step approach to laying the groundwork for your new career, from honing your resume and crafting a solid cover letter, to landing that first job, making preparations to make the move to L.A., to working your way up the Hollywood creative or production ladders, and into your dream job.
I give Hollywood Game Plan four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
The guidelines set forth in Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets for College Success, by Erin Brown Conroy, pave the way to good academic writing that will improve grades on college assignments. This book is not your usual writing tutorial. Most academic writing tutorials are dry and boring, just laying out the “rules” as law, and making readers struggle to get through the material. Brown Conroy’s relaxed writing style sets readers at ease, perhaps allowing for better retention of the information. It’s like an old friend or respected cohort sharing bits of wisdom, imparting knowledge in easy to understand language that won’t put readers off.
Simplified Writing 101 contains writing advice that can be expanded beyond Academia. Section 1 covers word choice. The list of words to avoid to make your writing clear and concise in the first three chapters aren’t just for academic writing, where one wants to sound professional, or at least knowledgeable. This list contains words that are vague or unnecessary, or that turn the readers off, pushing them away, causing them to reject the message without giving it a fair chance. It is based on sound writing principles, which can be equally applied to copywriting, where the aim is to persuade, or literary writing, where the goal is to enchant and entertain. They could even be applied to screenwriting, where, as in poetry, every word counts. Also in this section is a chapter on properly citing sources, making word choices and mastering a higher vocabulary found in well-written academic papers.
Section 2 covers structure and form, offering a closer look at well-crafted sentences. The chapters in this section cover fragments, run-on sentences, how to create rhythm by varying sentence length, and active vs. passive writing.
It also discusses the rhythm of your words and suggests that they should sing on the page. She uses an analogy with sports for those who are not musically inclined to ensure her point is understood, (using clear and concise writing, of course). Although I am not musical, nor am I a boxer, I easily understood the concept of varying sentence length and why it should be practiced. When Brown Conroy writes about active vs. passive writing, her suggestions are not limited to Academia. Active writing can be used in all types of writing to grab and hold readers’ attention.
Section 3 covers paragraphs. After learning how to create the building blocks, sentences, we’re ready to move on to the core foundation of your paper. The chapters in this section cover how to make your sentences work for you, how to keep your paragraphs focused, linear writing, how to lead your reader with well-structured sentences, how to achieve closure for each paragraph, and finishes up with connectives, transitions and connectors.
No tutorial on writing would be complete without instruction in punctuation, so that is what we find in Sections 4 and 5. Simplified Writing 101 gives the subject thorough coverage, including when and when not to use a comma, punctuating compound sentences and lists, misuse of exclamation points, how many spaces following end punctuation, use of quotations, how to use punctuation to control pacing in your writing, hyphens, en-dashes and em-dashes, semi-colons, and colons. A whole chapter is devoted to an inside look at how professors go about grading papers and the little mistakes, such as grammar and punctuation, which add up to a loss of points and bring down grades.
Grammar is found in Section 6, noting words that must go together, writing in the proper tense and correct person, and contractions. It also talks about commonly misused or mistaken words, and sticky pairs, or pairs of words that must be found together and using words that indicate tense. And Section 7 covers how to narrow your topic, creating your research question, create an outline, using your thesis statement into a blueprint for your paper. This section also includes a four step process to creating a first draft, found in Chapter 36 with multiple methods for planning, how to draft efficiently, revise for the best word arrangement, and edit for basic errors and mechanics.
Logically, Simplified Writing 101 provides sections on revision and completing the final product, to help students know what to do once that first draft is complete. In Section 8, Brown Conroy explores writing with style, the basics of good writing, and how to answer readers’ questions before they can ask them. Section 9 covers the creation of the final draft, including ways to avoid procrastination, doing as many rewrites as it takes, what to check and rewrite in academic papers, finding an editor or getting feedback, assignment submissions and email communications in Academia, and making professional connections.
A valuable reference, Simplified Writing 101 provides lists of different types of words, such as common connectives or conjunctive adverbs, and separates them into groups, depending on which type of writing they are appropriate for: academic use, mid-range academic use, or non-academic use. Each list is also separated into what job each group of words does, or what purpose they serve. There is also a list of common mistakes, the little things that drop down points and lower grades: use of brackets; dates; times; quotations and double quotations; use of slashes; proper capitalization; and rules of abbreviation, and a list of rules for writing numbers. These lists are nice because they provide an easy-to-use reference, in case memory fails us, which it is certain to do sometime during all of our writing careers, so they may come in very handy.
Simplified Writing 101 is the writing tutorial I wish I’d had as an undergraduate. As it was, I struggled through English classes, not really understanding, but Brown Conroy makes writing guidelines and rules crystal clear, and it all seems so simple. Use it as an introductory writing guide or keep it as a reference, but this tutorial is a must have for your personal library. It will see you through your academic career and beyond.
I give Simplified Writing 101 an A+, er, I mean, five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
As an emerging writer, I hear that advice a lot. I think we all do. But what does it really mean? Before a writer can write about a subject or topic, she must experience it. Which is not to say that it isn’t possible to research a subject and then write about it as if you’re an expert, or at least know what you’re talking about, but it is saying that when you experience something, you must own the emotional aspects associated with it, and that will come through in your writing.
Now you know why I am not a travel writer. I wish I were, but I don’t travel often. Travel writers get paid big bucks. No, I’m a prime example of a starving artist. I work menial labor jobs to scratch out a living, and seek out cheap entertainment. But I do write what I know.
When I started out freelancing, I knew one thing. I loved to write, and I wanted to find a way to make a living at it. When I filled out the application for Examiner.com, I had to pick a category to write on. I chose writing, and as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, I covered writing events in southern Colorado and wrote author profiles and book reviews for Colorado authors. I served in this capacity for six years, not because I was getting rich off it, but because I loved what I was doing. I met many Colorado authors, most of whom I’m still in contact with, I got free ARC copies of books for review and I occasionally was able to attend some great writing events, such as the 2013 Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference, 2012 Writing the Rockies Conference and Performance Poetry Readings, with wonderful poets such as word woman, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. The money was never an issue for me, (I maybe made a whole $20 during the whole six years I wrote for Examiner), but the perks were great. It may have actually played a role in my acceptance to Western State Colorado University as a graduate student in their low-residency Creative Writing program, since I had interviewed and written a three part profile on the then director of their poetry concentration, David J. Rothman. But I digress.
When I applied to write for Demand Media writing How-to articles, they didn’t have a lot of call for articles to do with writing, so I had to think. What else did I know? I started out with simple things like How to Put a Chain Back on a Huffy 10-speed Bicycle. I’ve always been an avid gardener, since I helped my grandfather plant petunias when I was a little girl, so I ended up writing a lot of gardening How-tos, like How to Grow Vegetables in a Bathtub. The topics I wasn’t as familiar with required a minimal amount of research, like The Best Potting Soils for a Vegetable Garden and I had references at hand to look up anything I needed. At $8 per article, the research had to be minimal. If I spent too much time researching, the time spent wouldn’t prove to be profitable.
As I mentioned, I don’t do a lot of traveling, and my entertainment is limited by my pocketbook, but I’ve learned to write about the things I do know. You won’t catch me writing about the Emmies, or the Oscars, or $100 a ticket charity fundraisers, because I’ll never be at one of those events and I know very little about them. What you will see me writing about are weird, off the wall things like, How Writing is Like Building a Storage Shed, or Getting in Shape for Writing, which combines my own experience, with building or exercise, with my knowledge of writing.
Of course, that doesn’t work with everything. My experiences on this day involved digging a ditch. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem as creative building a shed. But I could always write a fictional story in which the characters dig a ditch. You see, “write what you know” applies to fiction, too. My whole children’s series, My Backyard Friends, feature characters based on the birds and wildlife that frequently visit my mountain home. I wrote a short story one time that developed from a visit to Lake DeWeese, not far from my home. It was about a woman who walks naked into a waterfall and disappears. The funny thing about that story, titled, The Woman in the Water, was that my narrator turned out to be male, giving it a very interesting twist. But it was still based on the experience I had, hiking up to the top of the dam, and then sitting, gazing down into the waterfall.
It really is important to write what you know, for although some can “fake it” convincingly with just research, in most cases, the readers know. When the words on the page don’t feel genuine, like they’ve come from deep within the author, readers can’t quite buy in to what they’re being told, whether it is something being explained to them in an article, or a fictional story they’re being asked to believe. And if readers can’t buy in to the story, or feel the authority in the author’s voice, they are often left feeling unsatisfied, with the promise of the premise unfulfilled.
In short, what is really meant when someone says “write what you know”, is that you should draw from your own experiences, whether they be many or few, and inject a little bit of yourself with words that come from deep within into your writing. Let the readers feel the same emotions you feel when you write about your topic, or create your story. Write honestly, and the readers will feel that, too.
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