Thursday, January 31, 2013

Question of the week

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I usually give writing tips and advice. Today, however, I’d like your opinion on a polemical issue. I read “somewhere” that in today’s writing world, we as writers must be true to ourselves. The article said writers should fight conformity and avoid following the rules (the word used was confinement); a bit extreme if you ask me.
Furthermore, the article mentioned that “Writing is a zero-sum game; someone else’s gain is your loss.” I was somewhat perplexed when I read that we should not listen to the wisdom of other writers, whether found in a classroom, a writer’s group, a craft book, a writer’s magazine, or another blog.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree? I’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


2013 has brought some changes to my life. Change can be good if seen from a different perspective. That’s why I’ve decided that if I cannot change the cards that I’m dealt, then I should at least change my attitude. Only I have the power to do so.

Last night I was talking about life, death, and changes with a dear friend of mine. I pondered over his words and this is why I chose this Neruda poem. Our conversation is beautifully explained in this poem.

You start dying slowly By Pablo Neruda

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice…

Have you gone through some changes lately? Do you identify with Neruda's words?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Procrastinate no more

I bet this word is very familiar not just to writers but everyone in general. I imagine we’ve all been there at one point or another, especially when life gets in the way.

I read a column by Judy Christie, author and consultant, who writes inspirational fiction and nonfiction.
She says that she noticed bestselling authors had something in common. Despite differences in genre, style, voice, settings, or characters, they developed a writing habit.

A writing habit, that’s the secret! (It’s not really a secret, most writers know this). I hate to admit it, but I am a procrastinator. Hello. My name is Claudia and I’m a procrastinator.
Ms. Christie's experience, however, helped me rid of that sense of guilt I had. I am entitled to procrastinate as long as I don’t make it a habit.

This is what she had to say:
After years of procrastination and fear, that lesson helped me write my first novel and five since.

When I flounder as a writer, it’s because I’m inconsistent with my daily writing discipline. When I produce my best stories, I rely on that basic lesson from the masters – words on the page.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that on my most rewarding and productive writing days, I use a kitchen timer, set for an hour at a time. I track how many hours I actually write — as opposed to time spent Tweeting, Facebooking or wandering around my friends’ blogs.

You’d think at age fifty-five I wouldn’t need such a trick, but, after all, it took me fifty years to write a novel.

Are you a procrastinator? Have you overcome this habit?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ten Quick Steps to Fix your Story

Over the weekend I got inspired to start a story I had concocted in my head a long time ago. It finally came to fruition.

Then last night, a fellow writer and dear friend of mine called me to share some news regarding a project. She also informed me that after a long hiatus she was ready to tackle her writing. And since I had started writing again, we agreed on giving each other feedback. Sometimes a little push is all you need to get motivated again.Based on our current editing process, I realized we need to apply what we learned in our writing workshops.

In general, the active voice is stronger because it is more direct and cuts down on the number of needed words.

Use simpler words—whether verbs, nouns or adjectives— replace a less familiar word with a more readily understandable one to avoid misunderstandings.


Sometimes nouns make sentences longer and weaker. For instance, “The passing of time was…” Why not say, “Time passed…”  


One way to make your writing clearer is to limit the use of long sentences.

At times, qualifiers will serve their purpose but overdoing it can weaken your writing. Excessive qualifiers add bulk without adding substance.


Parallelism is an important element of style because it builds clarity and power.
A story can become tiresome when a writer needlessly repeats a word or an idea.

Avoid such unnecessary phrases as "I believe," "I feel" and "in my opinion."

The masculine generic refers to the sole use of the pronoun “he” or “him” when referring to situations involving both genders. Opt for gender-neutral language, instead.


Vague language weakens your writing because it forces the reader to guess at what you mean instead of allowing the reader to concentrate fully on your ideas and style.
Do you usually apply these rules when writing? Do you sometimes need a reminder?