Quick-Tip Tuesday: Deadlines!

As the year winds down, and I start considering all the work I need to get done in the next few weeks, my mind naturally turns to the topic of deadlines. Deadlines are one of the harsh realities of life as a professional writer. We are always working under one deadline or another; often we face several at once, some of them external, some of them self-imposed. I am looking at four looming deadlines right now, one that I established myself, one that is contractual, one for a short story that I promised to a friend [waves at Misty], and another for an anthology to which I’d like to submit another story.

Writing to deadline is something pros do. Ask any writer what he or she feels is a defining characteristic of a professional writer and s/he is bound to mention hitting deadlines. If we can’t hand in work on […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Taking Stock and Soldiering On

It’s been a hard fall, at the end of a tough year. At times like these, when we mourn lost friends, or deal with fears and unexpected disappointments of any sort, it seems that even sitting down to write a page or two is more than we can manage.

On occasion, we here at MW urge you to take a day or two away from writing to enjoy life, to immerse yourself in the pleasures of family and friends, of beloved hobbies, of the simple joys of taking a walk, or reading a book. But at other times, writing can actually be our escape. The world isn’t always a friendly place; real life just sucks now and then. So write. Dive into your worlds, your characters, your storylines. Draw upon the emotions evoked by the real world, but live in those places you’ve created. It helps. Or rather, it helps […]

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A Quick-Tip Post For Melanie

Last week, the Magical Words community lost one of its own. Melanie Otto, known to many of you, died after a sudden and severe brain bleed that left her in a coma.

I knew Melanie for several years and was privileged to join her and and the other Roaring Writers of The Million Words blog for a week-long writing retreat. I was the instructor for the week, and Melanie and her life partner, Judy, were my contacts for the event. In the planning stages, and then during the retreat itself, they treated me like family, made me feel welcome and at home, made sure that I was comfortable in every sense.

Melanie was a talented writer and a skilled professional photographer. But more, she was a wise and kind soul, a gentle spirit with a wicked sense of humor, a generous and caring friend. I cannot begin to imagine the […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Lessons From a Concert

A little over a week ago, I saw Edgar Meyer in concert. Edgar Meyer, for those of you who don’t know, plays double bass, the HUGE acoustic bass that you see in jazz bands and classical symphonies. And saying that Meyer “plays bass” is bit like saying that Willie Mays “played baseball.” Meyer is a virtuoso, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and someone who has excelled in classical, folk, bluegrass, and jazz circles. You might know him from the Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.

This was a solo concert. He opened with the Bach Suite for Solo Cello no. 1, which he adapted for double bass. Brilliant. Then he played a work in progress — a concerto he’s composing. He had the first and third movements just about complete, but he was still working on the middle of the […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: More Fixes For a Broken Manuscript

In my last Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I wrote about fixing a broken manuscript by setting it aside for a good long time — months — and then reading it through fresh, with an eye toward finding that place where it went off the rails. That was what I did with my work in progress, and it worked amazingly well.

Today I have a couple of additional suggestions for dealing with a broken or recalcitrant manuscript. These grew out of a conversation I had recently with a student I’m mentoring. She is struggling with her manuscript right now, and she’s at that point in the writing process — 60-70% done — that has always given me fits. Seriously, stalling at the 2/3 mark in a book is so much part of my routine that it became a joke of sorts in my household. It has plagued me since my first book […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Fixing a Broken Manuscript

Confession time: There are times when I will find myself ignoring advice that I have given here on Magical Words, or in other teaching situations. For whatever reason — convenience, time, laziness, the sense, right or wrong, that I’ve “outgrown” some of the things I believe writers with less experience ought to do — I will cut a corner here or there. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. For instance, despite what I’ve said here recently about self-editing being most effective when I separate myself from the writing experience in all ways, including reading from a paper copy of my manuscript, I don’t always do this. Paper and ink are expensive. Printing out a book-length manuscript is time consuming. Sometimes — most time, if I’m being honest — I will simply edit on the screen.

But this past week I took my own advice in a couple of […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Challenge Revisited, and Setting Our Work Goals

Back in February, in a post called “A Challenge to All — Time to Take the Plunge,” I issued a challenge to readers of Magical Words. Take that novel that you’ve been working on, the one that you know is almost done, but feel needs one final tweak, and get it ready for submission to some publisher by October 1. Remember?

Well, we’re in the dog days of summer and fall begins in less than a month. So how’s it going?

Setting goals of any sort can be a tricky business. I had goals for this year, and while I’ve met many of them, I still have several more that I’ve yet to address and, frankly, I don’t know if I’ll complete all of them before year’s end. Sometimes life gets in the way, as it has this year for me. Issues come up that we can’t possibly anticipate, family […]

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