Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Holiday Gift for Writers With a Dream

My wife and I have been brainstorming how to handle this Christmas Eve post. We’re thinking it should be something akin to a gift, though I hesitate to label anything smacking of counsel a gift.

But this is different. This particular sparkling gem of a tip can be the difference between your writing intentions and your writing reality.

Because if you ignore it, chances are your writing dream won’t come true.

What I’m about to share with you may seem obvious, perhaps even trite. So please, resist the urge to shrug it off and, instead, study these words closely.

Think of it as a gift to yourself. One you’ll thank yourself for later.

Here is just possibly the most important truth that you’ll ever hear about writing:

When developing your stories, you have two choices:

– you can bend the principles of storytelling to fit your story…

– or you can bend your story to fit the principles of storytelling.

Only the latter will get you published.

You may not be sure what those storytelling principles even are. If that’s you, I invite you to dive into the archives and/or stick around in 2010, because that’s all we talk about here at Storyfix.

Or, there are a million other places you can look for them. Literally.

Just don’t listen to anyone who claims – who even hints – that there are no rules, no principles, of storytelling. Especially if that someone is you.

Both you and they couldn’t be more wrong.

That particular lie is the great killer of writing dreams. If you catch yourself tempted to buy into it, realize that your writing dream is teetering on the brink of writing disaster.

You simply cannot write a story any old way you please and expect it to get published. It just won’t happen.

Like an athlete or a musician or a pilot or a surgeon or any other professional, you must practice and apply your talents within a given and largely inflexible set of principles that comprise the physics of your craft.

Physics that are as universal, eternal, dependable, essential and inflexible as gravity, taxes and death itself.

Step off a cliff and you’re going to die.  That’s physics.  Step off a cliff with the right set of wings and you’ll soar. That’s physics, too.

A pilot who in mid-flight says, hey, think I’ll rip off a wing right about now, see what happens, is going down.

A surgeon who says, hey, think I’ll administer the anesthesia after I slice this guy open, will end up with a career washing dishes.  In prison.

This is not a joke.  There is no humor in physics.

You’d be shocked at how many writers approach storytelling with a similar naïve defiance of the truth — the pure unmitigated physics — of today’s gift of writing wisdom. Don’t be one of them.

Give yourself the gift of surrendering to this truth. To the principles of storytelling.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. Enjoy your gift, and use it well.

And then, dream on.

The Get Your Bad Self Published Series will resume after Christmas.

If you are enjoying Storyfix, please nominate us as one of the 101 Best Writing Websites, by sending an email to   Be sure to put “101 Best Writing Websites” in the “Subject” line. Then just write one or two sentences that identify by name, and why you believe it is worthy of your nomination.

Sure, Writers Digest Books is publishing my Core Competencies book, but those folks work on a different floor. I appreciate your support.


Filed under getting published

Cleavage: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Now you’re confused. 

Cleavage is a great new website by Kelly Diels, a writer I recently mentioned as someone worth reading and getting to know.

Now you can.  What follows here is a guest blog from The One And Only Ms. Kelly Diels, one of the brightest new writers — she may argue how new she is, but she’s new to me — I’ve come across in a long time.  Check out Cleavage and see.

Quick note first: ARE YOU A ROMANCE WRITER?  I have an in-your-face guest blog up today on the Romance Writers of America: Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranomal Chapter website.

And now, enjoy Kelly Diels of Cleavage.

Voice.  The Beginning

by Kelly Diels

Voice. What else do you have?

Mechanics. Craft. Structure. Story. I’m not there yet.

But I do have a voice that gets attention. It might be a Jennifer Tilly voice – and oh, how I wish to identify with Jennifer Tilly – or the dulcet stammer of Elmer Fudd or the I-don’t-even-know-what-to-call it of Janice from Friends. Pray that it is not Janice from Friends.

How did I get that voice?

Online dating. You haven’t persuaded with hot copy until you’ve tried internet dating. I am the mistress of enchanting e-mails. It might be my super power but then you should see what I can do in a phone booth.

A few men into my online adventure, I thought: I better start a blog. This is too damn good to waste on these plentiful fish who are just gaping at my breasts, anyway. (No judgment. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve got ’em.)

Even before the online baiting of wayward men, I understood voice. I roared out of bed and into English literature classes and proceeded to purr about Harlequin romances. If I was feeling particularly upscale, I’d quote a lil’ Margaret Atwood. Highbrow, I am not. Pop culture owns my ass.

So does poetry. Especially poetry that masquerades as prose. Even more so poetry that reaches into your chest to rake its dirty nails across your chalkboard heart and then stumbles off to bed for drunken sex with Japanese tourists.

I heart Charles Bukowski who proves that poetry will get an ugly guy laid. Well.

Historically, that’s why a lot of famous poets were men (that and institutionalized sexism). Ugly women can get sex any time (thanks, institutionalized sexism!) but unattractive men need to cultivate a talent or a bank account. (Replied the nymph to the shepherd.)

And then there’s Clark Blaise. I don’t know if he’s layable or not but his short stories screw with voice and point of view. His “Eyes” is disconcerting. You talk to your audience like this and as a reader you resist. You surrender. You become the story. Hello.

The second person is new but the convention itself is an old address. Think Clarissa. Jane Eyre. Dear Reader, I married him.

Possibly that’s the key to voice: you will only be heard if you talk to your people. Directly. If you talk at them, you’d better sing.

Chant like Muhammad Ali, who famously scatted ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. Ali is an anomaly: he is so pretty that he didn’t need pretty words to be memorable.

And yet, here his words are, thirty years later. Serenading us.

That’s poetry. That’s voice. The sting, the slap, the sweet ‘n sour. The subway rumble disintegrating beneath a lingering high note.

Sometimes, when the fat lady sings, what you’re hearing is the beginning.


Filed under Guest Bloggers