Ghostwriting Lessons Learned

CindyCarrollEGhostwriting isn’t for everyone. I avoided doing it for a long time even though I signed up for a few freelance places. I fell into ghostwriting in November due to necessity. I needed a way to earn money that would pay me faster than my book sales at Amazon. Not to mention the book sales weren’t doing great so they weren’t really paying the bills. Even though I jumped into it pretty quickly once I decided to do it, I did some research. Luckily I have some friends who had a friend who is a ghostwriter and they got me in touch with her. She gave me some good advice. One piece I had already decided on was having a contract, one with a confidentiality clause. Other things I had decided before I posted my availability for ghostwriting was my price, how many words I would devote to ghostwriting a month, the contract service I would use. The business side of it seemed simple.

First Lesson Learned

When I need money I’m willing to go over my allotted word count limit for ghostwriting. I had originally said I would write 20,000 words a month for ghostwriting leaving the rest for me and my books. But when a client wanted me to hire me to write eight 5,000 word short stories I said yes. The money would come in handy and I can write 5,000 words in two days.

I ended up devoting most of the month to those short stories though and didn’t write any of my own. That was for NaNoWriMo. So even though I won National Novel Writing Month I did so with stories that belonged to someone else.

Second Lesson Learned

There is no shortage of jobs for ghostwriters. Non fiction, biographies, fiction, corporate writing – jobs abound for all of them. It comes down to what you’re willing to write. So I had to decide what I would write and what I wouldn’t. So far I haven’t found a genre I wouldn’t write as long as I have an outline. I haven’t bid on any of the non fiction or corporate writing jobs yet but that will come later.

Purchased from DepositPhotos copyright gunnar3000
Purchased from DepositPhotos copyright gunnar3000

Third Lesson Learned

If you give me an outline I will write. I state in my contract that the author (my client) must provide me with an outline. I write to that. For some I add more if the outline is brief. Other outlines are detailed chapter breakdowns. I like those. They make it very easy to get the words written in a timely manner.  And it helps me to write to the word count the client wants. I’ve written to word count before when writing stories to submit to anthologies so that wasn’t new. I was surprised that I could write so tightly to word count. Only one story ventured into the 5,100 word range. All the other stories were under 5,100 words.

With a story mapped out for me I can write even in genres or tropes that I don’t usually write. And that can help me expand my writing horizons. One of the stories was in a genre I’d thought about writing but hadn’t tried yet. Didn’t know if I could write it. Turns out I can. Of course my client gave me a detailed outline with chapter breakdowns and a book description. Being able to write the genre for myself won’t be the hard part. The hard part will be coming up with an outline that fits the genre.

Fourth Lesson Learned

Coming up with ideas for me is easy. Coming up with ideas for someone else is hard. I had a client who wanted me to come up with one of the short story ideas I would then write for them. I thought, no problem. I come up with ideas all the time. I have so many I’ll never get to them all. Problem is, I like those ideas, all of them, and want to write them one of these days. Coming up with an idea I was willing to give away, have no claim to at all even though I wrote the story, was super hard. That story took me the longest to write out of all the ones I did for that client. Even the ones in sub genres I’d never written in before.

Fifth Lesson Learned

Even though I despise reading first person point of view I like writing it. A lot. When I put up my listing saying I would ghostwrite I said I was basically open to any genre which was true. I didn’t mention I didn’t like first person. All three of my initial clients wanted their stories (or some of them in the case of one client) in first person. Thanks to my clients I have now written in first person past tense, first person present tense and first person male. I think it’s helped me grow as a writer. And all writing means more practice on my craft.

Sixth Lesson Learned

When assigning my time for ghostwriting I should take into account that life can intervene. Without a buffer I could get behind. Also without a buffer I couldn’t write my own stories. I didn’t want all my words for the month to go to ghostwriting. I still want to publish my own stories but to do that I need to write for me. Ghostwriting has taught me to be a little more realistic in my word count goals as well.

Will I Keep Ghostwriting?

A final lesson I learned is that I like ghostwriting.  When I reach a point where my novels are making enough to make a full time income I will probably still do some ghostwriting. Maybe get to a point where the ghostwriting is the day job and my novels also get written. Ghostwriting isn’t going away. Lots of people use ghostwriters. Celebrities who want to release their own biographies, people who want to write their memoir but can’t write the book, corporations, websites. I like the variety, the learning experience, getting words on the page.

Have you read a book that’s been ghostwritten? You might have and never knew it.

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ReflectionsFinal2A road trip without a plan sounded like a good idea when Lena and her friends hit the road. After hours of driving in the heat in a cramped car they’re all ready for something to eat and a good night’s rest.

Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror. A curse that replaces people with their repressed alter egos forces the friends to fight for their lives. Duplicates who lack restraint, crave gratification emerge from the mirrors. Too late they realize they didn’t know each other as well as they thought.

One by one, Lena’s friends learn the truth about their repressed emotions, their suppressed violent urges.

What doesn’t kill them can only make them stronger.

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Doris McCrawPost copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw


I thought I’d take a break from writing about individual women doctors and investigate a related topic, grooming the cat. If anyone has tried this exercise, you know it is filled with challenges, frustrations and maybe a bit of laughter. Okay a lot of laughter; after the scars have healed.

I can hear you saying, the cat grooms itself. Yes, they do, but sometimes they can use a bit of help. Just ask the cat owner who cleans up after a hairball has landed on the floor, bed cover or your shoes. Because the cat is used to grooming itself, they don’t like their owners manhandling them, unless of course you started when they were really young. How many people have done that?


Just like grooming a cat, anytime you try something new or challenging, there is that learning curve. The pain of getting scratched or worse, being disliked. Like the cat, you will get over it. No, you may not like it but once it’s done you do feel better.

When I started researching ‘my’ doctors, I ran into a lot of stuff, much of it did not even contribute to the overall information I was looking for. I had to clear the excess away and get to the basics. Even as I worked through the ‘women had a hard time’ scenario to get to the actual information, I found myself worrying about whether I would ever find the truth. I’m not saying women didn’t have a difficult time, but back then everyone had a difficult time compared to our lives. When we try to put our lifestyle against another it will always fall short of the other persons truth.  The fiction writer can get away with some of those comparisons, but for historians it can cause problems.


So as I groom my cat, and he starts purring, then wanting to play with the comb, I find pleasure in his response. As I groom away the excess in my research, I also find a great deal of pleasure. But lest you think that excess fur, and excess information are a total waste, you can use the excess to create something new. No, I don’t usually use cat fur, but it would be fun to glue onto something creative. The excess information I don’t use, well it can end up in a story. which is what I did with my latest short.  That titbit of information help me create Tom’s story, a follow up from my first novella, which will appear in an upcoming anthology.


So you see, even grooming the cat has rewards. Until next time, here is to your own joy in grooming your ‘cat’.

home for his heart angela raines

also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

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Is Cursive Writing Being Cursed?

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

In the Casper Star Tribune, Sunday, November 25, 2012, p A2, a headline by Christina Hoag, Associated Press, blared: “Penmanship still rules in Calif. Schools.” A subtitle read: “Most states erase cursive writing from their curriculms (sic); keyboard skills become higher priority.” Do you find it ironic that the person keyboarding that title misspells curriculums?

“Bucking a growing trend to eliminating cursive from elementary school curriculums or making it optional, California is among the states keeping longhand as a third-grade staple,” said the article.

The article also stated, “Dustin Ellis, fourth-grade teacher at Big Springs Elementary School in Simi Valley, said he assigns a cursive practice packet as homework, but if he had his druthers, he’d limit cursive instruction to learning to read it, instead of writing it. Out of his 32 students, just three write in cursive, he noted.” (If no one writes in cursive, what will there be to read of it?)

The article adds…“Many younger teachers aren’t prepared to teach cursive or manuscript, said Kathleen S. Wright, national handwriting product manager for Zaner-Bloser Publishing, which develops instructional tools.”

So what have we gained by eliminating cursive writing? While, “some see it as a waste of time…others see it as necessary so kids can hone fine motor skills, reinforce literacy and develop their own unique stamp of identity,” said the Tribune article.

According to an article in the New York Times, by Maria Konnikova, June 2, 2014, “Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.”

The Common Core standards call for teaching keyboarding and dropping cursive by third grade or maybe even earlier. Will this delay learning and brain development?Common CoreJPEG

In a 2012 study, “The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex,” according to the Times article. This activity was not shown while typing or tracing a letter.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how,” said this article.

While I would not wish to return to writing articles and stories by hand, I am thankful I had that skill taught and used throughout much of my life. And I see another reason for humans to learn cursive writing as well as keyboarding.

In spite of increasing ways humans can now communicate with each other, I see less meaningful communication, and more of the “attachment disorder” I feel our culture is culturing! Connecting in the presence of eye contact, facial expressions, emotive gestures, and maybe even touch seems to be going the way of cursive writing. Are we learning to connect emotionally or physically in the presence of someone else only to satisfy selfish desires? (Such as in physical gratification?) And text at all other times? It is not uncommon to see teens walking beside each other, or sitting in a restaurant booth together, concentrating solely on texting to someone or each other.

Cursive writing gives a piece of self to the reader. It is a tangible illustration that someone felt strongly enough about the reader to personally shape letters into words of meaning.

There’s a warmth that settles in my heart when I see a handwritten letter my mother wrote to my father in 1926. I feel a connection to them just holding the paper that their hands made marks on.cursivewritingJPEG

We need to feel emotion, to be a connecting link who cares about those we link to. Yes, I can type “I love you” as I just did. But “I love you” in my own handwriting seems to me to carry more emotion.

What do you think?

Aging and Learning: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


He sleeps on the multitude of dog blankets which we’ve bought for him and spread throughout the house. He stands and his back legs wobble, oftentimes collapse, and he falls and struggles to regain his footing. In dim light, he walks into corners and simply stands and stares, as if confused. His appetite has decreased so we often coax him to eat using hamburger and chicken. Despite the struggles of aging, he looks at me with adoring, trusting eyes and cuddles next to me on the couch as I watch TV.

Cody_PlaidBlanketCody, our 16 ½ year old cocker spaniel, came into our lives when he was nearly 10. Used as a stud dog all of his life, his previous owners declared his services no longer needed and left him at the local Humane Society. I noticed him immediately as I leafed through the “Dogs Available for Adoption” book at the shelter’s front desk, four days before my birthday in 2008. By week’s end, Cody was still in a cage, and the shelter manager, a friend of mine, said, “You know, his chances of adoption are slim. Even though he’s a small dog, his age is against him.” That statement sunk in, and it was “happy birthday to me!” Neither Cody nor I have looked back.

“His age is against him ….” A sad testimony to how we view and value (or de-value) the elderly. Both humans and animals are seen as “less than” after a certain age. True, as we age, we begin to lose functions – in fact, sometimes I’m like Cody: I walk into a room and forget why I’m there (stand in the corner and stare); I’d rather sleep than go out, especially on cold, snowy days; and, my legs aren’t as steady and sturdy as they once were (the knees creak when I go up or down stairs unless I’ve taken my glucosamine). I sometimes forget the word I’m looking for when I’m talking or writing (more gingko, please!). But, with age comes wisdom and opportunity – to learn, to share, to grow and to give.

Gayle speakingDespite getting older, I’m still learning as a person and a writer. My Cody dog – well, not so much! He still doesn’t come when called – but he’s deaf, so that’s a good reason! – and he still raids the cat food dishes if I’m not vigilant (but then, at least he’s eating!). However, he does remind me to take more resting opportunities and that I don’t have to race around like a stock car on the NASCAR track nor do I have to try to do everything myself. Cody looks to me for more help now than he did even three years ago, and I, too, need to recognize my limitations. Yet, my limitations don’t have to include no longer learning. For example, I’m starting a fiction writing class at the community college this week from which I hope to produce that romance story I mentioned in another post. Also, I’m doing more speaking engagements this year, including speaking to a group of seniors today and another group of senior citizens in a few weeks. I have vast experience talking with students in a classroom, but during the past year I branched out and began conducting more speaking engagements with adult groups. I also began teaching a community education class at our local college last year and hope to again next spring, a course on writing and publishing for people 50+ years of age.

Just because we age and things begin sliding south doesn’t mean we can’t do some fun things or learn new things: old dogs can be taught new tricks! So, whether you challenge yourself as a writer, a worker, in a hobby or personally, take those steps to learning something new. You will grow in many ways.

Cody FaceAnd you and I can give back. November (which is just around the corner) is National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month – maybe an older furry friend can help you along that pathway of learning something or doing something new. After all, studies show people with pets are healthier mentally and physically, so consider adopting a senior pet to help you age more gracefully … and maybe you will help it do the same. With age comes wisdom … and opportunity – make the most of all three while helping a senior pet who just wants a home and love – and gives so much in return.

What new things are you learning and/or doing as you get older?


Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageLearnsShareFront-small    SageBigAdventureFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Can I hear the birds singing?

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

Little children really are amazing. As a grandmother of a very energetic almost two year old, I had forgotten how funny they can be when they’re learning to talk, but it does remind me just how very important it is to learn the art of proper speech.  I don’t in any way mean ‘talking posh’ as would be said in the Glasgow I grew up inI just mean making well constructed sentences.

WARNING ALERT: You’ll probably find it’s a subject I feel strongly about!

Giving pre-birth advice I told my daughter to talk to her child- a LOT! She did, and it’s definitely paid off in bucketfuls. Did it help my granddaughter’s early speech learning? I’m utterly convinced it did.  Just as I was convinced that my two daughters spoke very well at an early age because of the effort put in to ensuring they had a lot of practise, that effort made by all the relatives and adults they came in contact with.

My granddaughter talks like a bubbly jock, all day long.  At 23 months old, she’s almost past the stage of repeating what you say- though she still does it when she’s tired. I listen to her putting her own sentences together, her speech clear even to strangers, and I’m quite amazed and totally proud of her. The constant repetition from birth by all the adults around her has given her a very wide vocabulary already – and the words really do match the object- they are not coming into her speech as random words.

“Grandma’s pushing Annalise on the green swing.”  It was a clear 7 word sentence at 22 months, including a verb, which was a new development at that time.  She knows her colours pretty well.  When she said her first proper 4 word sentence (with a simple verb) I was clapping like mad. Soon it was 5 words, and now even more words appear in her sentences -though to be fair she makes more shorter than longer sentences on a daily basis. How did she get to that 7 word sentence above at the age of 22 months? Bit by bit and slow but sure.

Image credit: kennykiernanillustration / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: kennykiernanillustration / 123RF Stock Photo

I’m an ex primary teacher so I really do think it’s so important for a child to vocalise properly as early as possible– even if it takes a lot of repetition and patience on the part of the adults involved. Sure, she’s going to drive me mad very soon when she starts asking her own questions, but I’m also sure there’s going to be a lot of fun along the way.

Between 2008 and 2011 I was teaching in the nursery (kindergarten) of my local school. Having spent the previous 20 odd years teaching the 11-12 year olds I was quite shocked to find quite a few of the new ‘already-4 -year-old’ entrants to nursery school could NOT string a proper short sentence together, or that their speech was still peppered with ‘baby talk’ words. I’m a great advocate of allowing children to be children, and not trying to force them to adulthood too early but there’s a huge difference between playing and having fun and speech development. These children were bright and had no physical speech or language difficulties but were not communicating well orally. Being in a nursery class of sixty children meant that frustration was too often evident when adults and their peers didn’t immediately know what they were talking about.

It was not lack of ability on the part of those kids.  It proved to be lack of practice since, after some patient weeks spent by all the nursery staff (teachers and assistants), the speech use of those kids had improved immensely. That adults had NOT been speaking enough to those kids, and correcting their speech, really bothered me since I knew it could affect their progress in the first years of primary school education. Knowing how to properly construct a sentence in their head helps a child to write their first sentences – beyond the pure copying stage of letters or simple word recognition copying. Television and DVD’s can be educational, but they DON’T replace the benefit gained from direct adult/child, or even older child to younger child interaction. I’m sad to think that the pace of life nowadays, with both parents out working, might mean a child is not getting enough of that ‘quality’ time to get past that transitional ‘babble into proper speech’ stage. (Please excuse me using that term which I’ve always hated the concept of)

During our fDivining 2orest walk two days ago, I was astounded when my granddaughter piped up,  “Forest got no birds singing” My granddaughter was right.

Although it was a pleasant day, it was a bit cloudy (not hot as you’ll see from our jackets). As we went through the Bennachie Forest (about nine miles from my house), it was incredibly quiet. There were plenty of cars in the car park and we had seen other walkers there, some with dogs, but as there are a number of different designated routes through the forest, we realised that they had chosen to go elsewhere.  It was only Annalise’s chatter and our replies (granddad or me) which rang around the area. She picked up all sorts of things and wanted words for them if she had none to hand, and added some new ones to her vocabulary –heather; ling; sapling; fern; pine cone…you get the picture.

At the wooden sculpture, she was more fascinated by a curved broken branch.  I talked bows and arrows -even though the concept was a bitty too obscure for her. Her answer was to say – ‘No owl’ as she looked towards the empty trees. Bows and arrows don’t mean anything yet, but owls do and they’re supposed to be in the trees like they are in her books.

‘That’s a big bird,’  she said when she turned back to the sculpture and pointed to it. Sadly, it was the only bird around but there were plenty of distractions available. Running between the nearest trees soon became a fine game, as were her shouts of glee!

I started to speak more quietly to her and told her that we might be disturbing the creatures of the forest...and maybe that was why we couldn’t see any.

wikimedia commons
wikimedia commons

I told her that in days of yore- specifically Celtic times– people feared disturbing the forest god, Cernunnos, and didn’t squeal loudly. I said that we should respect the nature we find around us and not be too noisy.

Of course, it was inevitable that she’d say ‘No Cernunnos?’  -the question inflection matching her shaking head and sad face. 

I didn’t exactly have an answer to that one. That we found no animals and no birds around was actually quite sad. I had to compromise and find some insects on the nearest bushes to divert attention.

“Ant on Annalise’s trainers.”

Where are those darned glasses when you need them? Yes, there was the tiniest little red ant crawling slowy across what was meant to be unblemished white trainers.

Tired HikerWhen she had too much pushing of her ‘baby in the buggy’ she went into her own buggy (stroller) and soon fell asleep. The dogged stepping forward you can see in this photo told me she was in her usual ‘fighting-tiredness -mode’ not surprising since it was 3.30pm and she’d been awake since about 7 am.

The forest was really quiet with no Annalise chatter. I had to listen really hard to hear anything at all but it was so peaceful (HEY- that’s not meant to be relief you hear in that comment-honestly!) My husband’s feet crunching some debris on the path was the only occasional sound apart from the buggy wheels whirring over the uneven surface as we took the opportunity to cover some rougher pathways.

Only as we rounded a corner back towards the car park did I hear birds singing in the trees. As I listened it seemed that the chirping of one (still unseen) bird was answered by the call of another. A repetition of sounds went on for quite a few minutes. Mother bird to chick? I’m not sure, but perhaps.  Apart from many insects flying around and evidence on the path of animal droppings (not dogs), I hadn’t noticed any small animal life. I’m slightly sad to think that people like me have chased them into wee hidey holes, but reckon that’s probably true since at the weekend it’s a very popular spot to walk.

Next time our wildlife lessons will take place deeper in the forest where we’ll hopefully find some really interesting duckspecimens to whisper about.

BTW – The only duck she saw on our walk was this little guy which we bought in the Visitors Centre.

Speech is such an important skill to learn and I fully acknowledge that humans acquire it at different rates and in different ways. My own gut feelings, and those speaking as an ex-teacher, are that correct repetition of sounds, and then correct pronounciation of syllables,  at the earliest stages are crucial to the continuing successful development of speech and language.

Annalise rarely gets stuck now with longer syllabic words if they are slowed down. She’s not quite getting ELEPHANT yet, although she recognises an image of the animal. Her versions are really funny EPHOLENT, EPHLILENT etc but she can say it when broken down to EL- E- FANT. Next week when she shows me her card of an elephant she’ll probably get it right first time.

When children learn to pronounce words properly, and can afterwards use them in context, it can really help them when it comes time to formulate their own sentences in their first writing attempts. There are so many people (writers) who now have the opportunity to publish, or have their work published, It seems to me a very good thing for the future generations that spoken language is learned well and is practised as early as possible.

What do you think? Do you regard early understanding and correct use of speech as being important? 

Uesful sites on speech development;

BeltaneB 500Nancy loves to write about Celtic/ Britain and the Celtic god, Cernunnos, just happens to pop into some neat little places in her novels!

All of her writing can be found at: Amazon UK author page author page

Nancy can be found at the following places:   Twitter @nansjar   Google+ – Nancy Jardine

Girls in the Kitchen

Jennifer FlatenThis post is by Jennifer Flaten

For summer school, the girls both chose a cooking class. The first few days they made very simple things from a mix, pancakes, and muffins. This irritated my first-born daughter.

I am not sure if she expected the first day of 6th grade summer school class to resemble an episode of Chopped “Okay, 6th graders open your basket to find Reindeer, truffles and Cap’n Crunch” or if she felt that her skills were already above boxed mixes.

I had to laugh, this is the kid least likely to read the directions on the box mixes, and I’ve had her open up a box mix, pour it in the bowl and then ask me what to do next. If anyone needs practice reading and following directions on a box of mix it’s her.

She did get her wish and they moved onto making things from scratch, again very simple, fun kid friendly things. They made spaghetti, mac and cheese, chimichangas and cheese “Danish”.

Macaroni cheese with leek & bacon
Macaroni cheese with leek & bacon (Photo credit: Great British Chefs)


Everyday, my oldest daughter brought (second daughter never had any food left to bring me) me a sample of the food-have I mentioned how much I am going to miss cooking class?

After 12 cooking classes, the girls considered themselves master chefs and insisted on making the family dinner one night.

So I, somewhat reluctantly, turned the kitchen over to them. It isn’t that I didn’t trust them; it’s just for twins they don’t work very well together.

There is always a level of competition between them. As witnessed by the frequent comments of “We didn’t do it THAT way in my class.” Followed by “Well, we did and that’s how I am going to do it. “

They also have trouble delegating and taking orders to/from each other. I won’t lie, I stood by as they made the mac and cheese and the dessert ready to put out a fire, both literally and metaphorically.

It turned out awesome, they managed to prepare a meal without breaking into a full on fight, just the aforementioned verbal sniping. The food was great and I enjoyed not having to cook…of course, they still left the dishes to me.

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The Writing Dragon…

Headshot      This post by Craig Snider

Hello readers!

This is my first blog post for WW&W, and I’m very happy to be here.

Writing. That’s why we’re here, right? So, let’s talk about it. Many people have hopes and dreams of becoming a writer, to live their lives by the power of their words alone. But, realistically, this doesn’t often happen. Does this mean those of us struggling to improve their writing abilities should give up? Never. The thing about writing is that it is an art, much like music or painting. And art is a beast to conquer. It is a great dragon capable of rendering aspiring word acolytes into smoldering piles of ash. To conquer and tame the dragon requires rigorous and dedicated practice. Lift thy sword of ink, and thy shield of paper, and head off into battle!

“Down, beast! Down I say!”

How do we conquer the beast that is writing? Simple. We write.

Well, that may seem simple at first. It would be similar to me telling a beginning painter to just paint. They are likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of techniques, subjects, and media available to them. But, the most basic and accurate advice any writer can give another is:  Write, write, write. Yet, this doesn’t really help the novice writer either. So, let’s dig deeper, let’s penetrate those shiny and steely scales of the raging beast.

Yes, writing everyday, you are bound to improve. But, the danger here is that you may solidify bad writing habits. To do this means you will have a very big chink in your authorial armor. In fact, that would be the same as going up against the dragon with only a sword, no armor, and no shield. The result? Bar-B-Q’d knight.

“Awright… Now, thrust, an’ parry an’ stuff. Am I standing up??”

So, you must couple this daily discipline with learning. Every young knight is taught by that miserly old knight who suffers from excessive libation as he shouts his wisdom from within a stupor. But, nevertheless, the advice he gives is sound. And, more importantly, essential. We learn by listening to the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you can read the works of the masters, and of those authors whose style you wish to emulate. But, you must do more than read. It is similar to the knight learning swordplay by sparring with masters, and with other novice warriors. As you read masterpieces of literature, you will begin to notice techniques and styles that are repeated from author to author. The thrust and parry of the knight is the metaphor and simile of the author. The footwork and feints become setting and theme. Though not as easy to learn as its swordplay counterparts, these skills are nevertheless essential to good writing. And, reading other novice writers’ work, or published authors whom you have no taste for can teach you just as much about what not to do, as what works and appeals to you.

Second, seek instruction on the art of writing. The easiest form of this instruction is typically at a university or college. Though a bit overly formal in most instances, a bachelors in English or Creative Writing will certainly help you develop a base of skills upon which to build your author’s tower. If you can’t afford to go to university, or if it doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, seek out fellow authors who are skilled writers. Where do you find them? The best place is at writing conferences, or local writing groups. True, many writers are not skilled enough to impart a qualified education, but I firmly believe you can learn at least one thing from every person. Learn to identify good writing. This is an acquired skill that will help you know which authors to seek out for advice. Build an army of skilled authors who can also act as discerning readers. They will be invaluable as you start your journey.

Well friends, we are a few steps closer to taming that dragon!

Until next time readers, keep writing.


“I shall teach you da ways of writing!”
“Wha’happened? What day is it? And who’s the guy with the funny hat??”

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