Category — On Writing
Look out the window of the room you spend the most time in. Describe what you see.
Next, write about a view you miss.
January 26, 2015 No Comments
The other day my husband said to me, “Your extra memory should be here next week.”
It took me a long moment to realize he was talking about the additional memory he’d ordered for my computer, which had been very slow; apparently you can just buy more memory if you run low. (For your computer, that is.)
But I did, for a moment, love the idea of having extra memory, or more space for memories, in my brain rather than just on my computer.
Write about a time you wish you could remember, or remember more vividly.
January 19, 2015 No Comments
Does your book title have a chance at being a bestseller? According to Lulu Titlescorer, Forgetting English has a 79.6 percent chance of becoming a bestseller. (I’m still waiting.) And apparently Everyday Writing has a 35.9 percent chance of becoming a bestseller, and Everyday Book Marketing a 31.7 percent chance. Interesting.
So how do writers know whether a title will help a book sell?
The truth is, we never really know. We simply choose the title that we think best fits our book, and then we send it out. But beware of becoming become too attached to a title: Your editor and/or publisher will likely have suggestions for changing it — and this is usually a good thing. Your editor/publisher is in the business of marketing books, and he or she not only has the background and experience most writers lack but also the necessary emotional distance from the book. Often we writers fall head over heels in love with a title, for any number of reasons, without realizing that something about it may hinder a book’s marketability. And, if publishing your book is your goal, you’ll have to be open-minded about changing your title.
I’ve always loved the title Forgetting English, and fortunately neither of its two publishers, Eastern Washington University Press and Press 53, ever suggested changing it. But, having worked in publishing for many years and having sat through plenty of long meetings in which editors, copywriters, publishers, and sales staff discussed titles, I’d braced myself for the possibility of change. And even now, I’m careful not to fall too much in love with any title I come up with, whatever the project. Even when I publish a short story, an editor will occasionally want to change or tweak the title, which so far has always been fine with me.
If you come up with the perfect title for your novel and there’s already another book out there with the same title, don’t worry; titles can’t be copyrighted. That’s not the only consideration, however — you want to avoid having the same title as another book coming out around the same time (not that this is unprecedented, but it’s certainly not ideal), and you also want to avoid replicating very famous titles. Be sure to do a thorough search before finalizing your title.
Most of all, know that titles can and do change throughout the writing and publishing process — the key to happiness with your title is being open and flexible. After all, imagine the literary world today had Fitzgerald stuck with his original title for The Great Gatsby (The High-Bouncing Lover), or if Carson McCullers had gone with her original title, The Mute, instead of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.
I’m not sure whether Lulu Titlescorer is a great predictor of your book’s potential success, but I’d suggest checking it out for fun, as well as for what it does offer: a chance for you to analyze your book’s title in a way you may not have already. It’ll ask you to note the grammar, the language, whether you’ve named your book after a character, whether your title is literal or figurative. All of these things are worth considering and playing with to discover the best possible fit for your book.
January 14, 2015 No Comments
Write about your relationship to the dark: Do you like it or fear it? Where did this attitude come from? Write about your earliest memory of darkness, and then write about a more recent one. How do these two memories compare?
January 12, 2015 No Comments
One year, when I was heading from the east coast to Southern California during the winter, I decided to try a self-tanner I’d discovered in my bathroom cupboard. Instead of giving me a healthy, sun-kissed glow, it turned my entire body the bright orange of a clementine.
Write about a time you used a product that achieved quite the opposite effect you were hoping for.
January 5, 2015 Comments Off
With a new year around the corner, write about what you’ve learned over the past year. What do you know today that you didn’t know a year ago — about yourself, about someone in your family, about an issue in the world? Next, write about something you hope to learn more about in the year ahead.
December 29, 2014 Comments Off
Write about your first set of wheels. This could be the first car you ever bought, your tricycle, roller skates, or a skateboard. Write a scene about a particularly memorable occasion when you used your first set of wheels. Describe everything, from setting to others in the scene to the weather.
December 22, 2014 Comments Off
Write about shopping. Is shopping for yourself fun, or a chore? What about shopping for your family, or for holiday gifts? Think of your first memory of shopping, and how this relates to your current views on this activity.
December 15, 2014 Comments Off
It wasn’t until I moved to Oregon and saw mistletoe growing in the wild that I realized that mistletoe, that most romantic of plants, is actually a parasite. It grows in clumps on tree branches, drawing nutrients from the host plant, and it can actually cause damage. Who knew?
Write about mistletoe. From your earliest experience of it to what you know and feel about it now, include as much detail as you can.
December 8, 2014 Comments Off
December 1, 2014 Comments Off
With all the focus on food and holiday shopping, we often forget that Thanksgiving is the season of gratitude. Each day this week, write down three things you’re grateful for, whatever these may be.
Next, write a scene about a Thanksgiving meal. This could be a scene starring the character in your novel, a poem about the Thanksgiving you spent in a train station in Guangzhou, or an essay about a childhood Thanksgiving that was particularly memorable.
November 24, 2014 Comments Off
Write about the last day you spent in nature, whether hiking or swimming in a lake or the ocean. Remember and record all the sights, sounds, smells, and textures you experienced. Next, write about how this day differs from a day spent in a city or suburb.
November 17, 2014 Comments Off
With winter on its way (perhaps already here, depending on where you live), we enter another season. Write about winter … what does this season mean to you, and why? Write about all your memories, and how these affect your current attitudes about winter.
November 10, 2014 Comments Off
When my husband warned me to avoid stepping on snails after a recent rain, I suggested the snail is probably his spirit animal (he loves them). The notion of a spirit animal its origins in traditions both specific and otherwise, but it generally refers to an affinity we have for a particular animal as well as facets of our personalities. Write about your own spirit animal — any animal that may fit your own version of what a spirit animal might be.
November 3, 2014 Comments Off
I was delighted to chat about Everyday Book Marketing with Adventures by the Book — and am especially looking forward to talking with authors on Thursday, November 6, at the AuthorPreneurs monthly Dinner Series. (Click here for more info and to register — $25 includes dinner and a free copy of Everyday Book Marketing!)
Also coming up next week is a chat with Sheila Bender on KPTZ’s In Conversation … the show will air on Tuesday, November 4, at 12:05 p.m. and on Thursday, November 6, at 5:35 p.m. Join us for a conversation about writing, environmental fiction, and small presses.
November 1, 2014 Comments Off