Spice Up Your Writing…Just Don’t Take A Day Off!

Are you meat and potatoes…or lyrical prose full of emotion and beauty? Either way, we must work hard at improving our craft. We’re not a fine wine. We don’t get better with rest in a dark, cool place. Our words need constant action and movement. Too much stillness and we rot and decay like shriveled grapes on atrophied vines. Plunk. There we fall. Squish. We become the underside of a tourist shoe.

Yep, writing…its hard work…and we never get it right the first time. We need to do the hard work it takes to make our writing better. And it is hard. Does that thought make you excited or depressed? Either way, we can only call ourselves writers if we WRITE. That means every day. I want criticism! I want someone to tell me, I love this but add MORE, say it like THIS, remove those clichés, eliminate those adverbs, show us your characters motivation…be unique.

But wait, it’s been a long week I was going to take the weekend off…no wait, I’m not. Jonathan Maberry said recently in a Write Stuff conference session I attended that he only took 3 days off from writing in 20 years.  Once was when he was in the hospital after being hurt in his bodyguard job. Yet even then, in his grumpy mood he got the idea to write sarcastic greeting cards and became the first “Maxine.”

Don’t take the weekend off or even a day off. Mr. Maberry told us to reward ourselves by putting $1 in a jar each day we make our word count. Give yourself a reasonable word count each day and reach for that. Each day we don’t make our word count we don’t get to put $1 in. Each day we don’t write we have to take $3 out (or was it $5?)! Ouch…That’s because if we don’t write, we lose our edge. If we keep writing we will get better. Practice every day. It makes our writing spicier.

And that’s not just for your creative writing. Even if you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, add some spice to marketing yourself in your own way. Practice your marketing brand as a writer.  It’s never too early to get who you are out there. Keith Strunk said in his Write Stuff session, The Art of Storytelling, we must have polished answers on-hand as an author to build our own unique brand. We must tell our own story. Yes, we can sell our own voice, not just that of our characters. We can market who we want to be and be in control of our image. When someone asks ‘Where did you grow up?’ don’t give a meandering tale of “I was born here, then lived here, then there for awhile.”  BORING.  Have your answer ready in story form.

Your book is not just your story – YOU are. Create answers about yourself that become part of your dialogue and brand. For example, my story:  “My parents moved 9 times before I was 9, from a Victorian estate in England that came with its own gardener  to running a campground in New Hampshire.  We eventually settled in Upstate New York where the purple Catskill Mountains loomed large in my window. I roamed the woods there with my two frumpy dogs and a notebook – and thus a writer was born.”

And final revelation discovered this past month at my first writer’s conference: Agents don’t bite. They are people just like us. A pitch is a conversation. No different than a job interview where I sell myself. And I DO have the right to exist across from them!  Just give me some comfort food after, like meat and potatoes….don’t forget the gravy. Oh, and pass the wine. Lots of it. I’m gonna need it on my almost-day off.



Filed under Writing Resources

8 responses to “Spice Up Your Writing…Just Don’t Take A Day Off!

  1. Another great post, Donna, thanks!

  2. Randi Sherwood

    Donna, Love the tips, writing is a lot like life. To truly enjoy it and get better at it we need to really live it.

  3. Great post! Writing definitely is hard work, but when you’re born to be a writer, you just have to keep on working and growing and learning and writing.

    Btw, Jonathan Maberry said that if you missed a day, you had to take out a week’s worth! Haven’t started my jar yet, but I think I will soon!

    • Thanks Nicole = oh, my, it was a week! I prefer 3 days – LOL

      • LOL Yep, 3 days would be much nicer! I haven’t started yet because I would be in the negative. Whoops! But I’ve been busy editing – there should be a stipulation for editing. We can’t be writing all the time, or at least, I can’t. It’s a process.

  4. Lee Lamond

    Donna… your blog is becoming a beautiful monster.

    The writing process, as I have learned, is a very personal exercise that relies on mental processes that I know are happening, but do not always understand. Lucky is the person who gets it right the first time. You talk about the guilt or pain in taking time off from writing, but in my case I have discovered that taking time off before beginning the rewriting process for any portion of my novel by perhaps two weeks, enhances the rewriting process. The time lapse helps flush out the initial mental image that I was sure was put on paper perfectly and allows an inspection without the the benefit or curse of a fresh memory. The result is sobering. My experience does not suggest that one should stop writing, but is only my person observation about the timing for rewriting. While chapter five is aging of perhaps decaying, I am deep into chapter seven.
    Thank you for being part of my vertical learning curve and my growing addiction to literary crack.

  5. Lee Lamond

    Donna… Your thoughts about making time for writing were interesting. I have often thought that one of the benefits of going to prison would be an uninterrupted life where all one could do if they wanted was to write. There would be no wife providing a list of projects around the house, no business calls, no one asking for this or that. It would be me and the many characters in my head. Unfortunately I would probably have some big angry cell mate who did not like the sound of typing or the smile on my face. For the record I have never been to prison and have no plans on going, but the chance for an uninterrupted existence is tantalizing. Perhaps I should rob a WaWa.

    • Lee, your wit, as always, is great comic relief! You should add them into your book! thanks for the post. Glad to hear you’ve never been a jailbird, but you are right – think of all the time to write!

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