Voice and the need to fine tune it

In a recent Funds for Writers post, Hope Clark stresses the need for a writer to be unique. “The more someone else can write your piece, the less valuable it is,” she said.

That’s why writers need to establish and fine-tune their writer’s voice, the cadence and word usage that defines them just as surely as a friend’s voice on a telephone that your recognize before they say who they are.

Not you? Then don’t try to sound like her.

When I write a story, I am very much fact based. That’s my nature and research enhances it. I also hear the “song” of the words on the page, the songs that transforms the facts into magic and/or meanings that transform the facts into something more important than data.

As Clark suggests, anyone can write the piece your considering. But you don’t want to sound like just anyone. Careful research a a unique voice take you out of the “just anyone” category.

Personally, I don’t think voice and or should be faked. Like a bad spy who can’t keep his/her cover story straight, you’ll slip sooner ot later because the your voice isn’t you. It has to come from the way you think and see the world, how you tend to express yourself, and seeing the parts of the story or feature article that stand out as the most meaningful.

Obviously, voice gets out of hand from time too time. That is to say, you pushed the envelope too far. That’s probably why the rejection slip showed up! So, if your voice rides on the edge of insanity, you need to rein it in and not sound totally crazy. “Crazy” is for blogs like this one, not the Atlantic or Publishers Weekly.

So there it is. When you sing, stop trying to sound like Elvis or Emmylou Harris. Find out who you are, and be that person in your writing.



Find Your Happy Place to Write During COVID 

COVID is changing a lot of people. I have seen a range of emotions coming out of folks craving normalcy.

What started off as families coming closer has turned into families tiring of the confinement and frustration. People who fear going out and about turn angry at those who have decided they’ll return to pre-COVID normal and continue on. Parents and teachers are fussing with each other over how children will return to schools, with both sides scared.

Source: Find Your Happy Place to Write During COVID | | FundsforWriters

Even if you’re not a writer, you need a happy place. If you are a writer, you need a place where you can block out the slings and arrows and polarized politics of the day and write stories that may ultimately help others cope with the world.

Hope Clark writes great novels. She also has great advice in her Funds for Writers website and her free weekly newsletter. Her words are always comforting, yet pragmatic. When it comes to happy places, we need to find one and keep writing.


Your writing: business or hobby?

Gurus–and, let’s face it, they’re a dime a dozen–are always telling writers to decide whether we want a career or just want to tinker. In part, we don’t always have a clear choice.

Most authors aren’t living off their writing income. They have 9-5 jobs doing something else, often teaching. Many also have families with the usual responsibilities that implies. So writing often gets shunted into the hobby category where it’s wedged into the weekly schedule by hook or by crook.

Clark is the author of “The Edisto Island Mysteries” and “The Carolina Slade Mysteries”

In her latest Funds for Writers newsletter, Hope Clark wrote, “You’ve decided you are a writer. Like any profession, part-time or full-time, you have to map out your days, weeks, and months for better efficiency. Same goes for writing. ” In part, she focuses on realistic goals and organization. So, in one respect, writing is like any other business: you can’t just wing it.

As far as I can see, the more successful we become at the writing part of our career, the more we’re going to need to treat it as a growing business–or, at least, as a money-making portion of our multiple careers.

Clark suggests that we stay away from what she calls “pie-in-the-sky goals that are, in essence, fluffy resolutions.” Instead, look at what’s possible in your schedule as it is now. Can you write and publish one book a year and possibly submit five short stories to competitions? If so, that can be the foundation for a sound business plan.

Without that plan, it will be hard for any of us to evolve into full-time authors, in part, because we don’t really see what it takes to make that happen or we treat our writing as a hobby and allow everything else in our lives to take precedence over it.

Like a lot of things, becoming successful depends on how badly we want it.


P.S. Thank you for the ideas for solving my POV problems with my work in progress. I’m tending toward an omniscient narrator who sees everything that happens but who doesn’t know anyone’s thoughts.



Perhaps I’ll Write Today

You don’t stop brushing your teeth during the holidays, so don’t stop putting a few words on paper. It’s your habit. It’s your mission. Unless it’s a hobby, which in that case you only write when you feel like it. Only you know the difference. – Hope Clark

So, what do you think about this quote?

Hope Clark tries for a thousand words a day. But if something gets in the way, she tries to put as many words down as possible. Maybe it’s a hundred, maybe it’s a thousand. It’s something, though, because she’s a professional novelist and that means putting words on the page is just as important as an otherwise employed worker showing up at the office every day.

She’s the author of “The Edisto Island Mysteries” and the “Carolina Slade Mysteries.” They read well and she’s developing a platform and a lot of satisfied readers. I mention all this, not to promote Hope Clark, but to note that while many of you may not have heard of her, she’s a successful novelist.

Many of us are not successful novelists, as the industry views the phrase, because we don’t write every day. We may have a few published books out there via small presses or self-publishing, yet we write more from the perspective of hobbyists than professionals. I suppose that if a writer’s books have never made money, then s/he finds it hard to see himself/herself as a professional. If you’re not making money or slowly gaining a list of satisfied readers, there’s no incentive for writing 200 words or a thousand words a day.

So, we rely on bursts of creativity and sooner or later we finish a book or a collection of short stories and then it gets published and appears on various online bookseller sites. Sure, we wish either that Oprah would call and tell us our latest is her next book club selection or that a Hollywood studio found our latest and has put down the cash for an option on the material. But, the chances of that are slim to none, so there’s no reason to try and turn out as many novels per year as James Patterson.

Perhaps writing when we feel like it is an expensive hobby, but more exciting than collecting stamps and coins, taking photographs of every national park, or joining a quilting club. Early on, we decided we are who we are and so that’s the way we’re going to write. If you’re young, maybe you want to keep pushing. If you’re not young, maybe you don’t.

I have no regrets about being who I am. I hope you feel the same about yourself and the number of words you write per day. We need to follow our hears when it comes to who were are and how often we write.


Hardcover, paperback, and e-book



Housekeeping (after all, it is Saturday)

Since I’m not a fan of housekeeping, I procrastinate on the housekeeping chores that go along with having a website and a blog. On the website, I’m likely to let pages sit for a while without a constant supply of fresh material so that return visitors have something new to read. Here, I’ve uploaded quite a few posts, but didn’t touch the pages that display on the menu across the top of the screen for a long time.

Now, the website is looking better and I have two new pages–replacing two out-of-date pages–that I’ll try to keep current with excerpts and pictures.

My view of websites and blogs is that, other than talking about my books and related subjects, they are all about you rather than all about me. I wrote an article for a magazine for nonprofit organizations in which I said that many of them were missing the boat when they advertised events and exhibits. Like commercial advertising, nonprofit news releases which appeared in the newspaper should be about the reader, that is, showing him/her why the event would be fun, entertaining, and otherwise worthwhile.

Author C. Hope Clark, who sends out a weekly newsletter from her Funds for Writers website said that author newsletters seldom do much good because instead of talking about books and interesting subject matter, they often degenerate into monthly updates about the authors’ kids and pets. That’s not what the readers want to see. As Clark but it, they didn’t subscribe to be a buddy, they subscribed to find out about exciting new releases and, in some cases, book signings and other events the author would be attending. So, I try to use my website to show prospective readers why they might enjoy my books rather than having, say, a page about what my cats are doing.

This blog is a bit more relaxed. Since I’m disorganized, I’m likely to talk about anything here and sometimes it is about what my pets are doing.  Sorry about that, if you’re not a cat person.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the improving website and the two new pages on this blog. And, if there are certain kinds of posts you want to see more of, let me know in the comments section


Briefly Noted: ‘Writing Contests with Hope’

C. Hope Clark has been advising authors through her weekly newsletter “Funds for Writers” for twenty years. I’m a long-time subscriber and look forward to Fridays and the arrival of the newsletter in my in-basket because it contains nuts and bolts tips, writing ideas and inspiration presented with a positive can-do attitude, and lists of upcoming writing opportunities.

Clark, who is also a novelist (The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries) brings the best contest-related ideas from her newsletter to Writing Contests with Hope that was released in paperback and e-book in February. “This book has been a long time coming, “said Clark. “It speaks of the myths of contests, and shows how amazing contests can be for your career.”

From the Publisher

Everyone loves winning, but nobody enjoys losing. Writers are no exception. Contests in the writing profession offer opportunity in many forms, but so many writers fear entering. Whether they fear scans, rejection, or being judged, they hold back. On the other hand, others throw caution to the wind and enter every contest in sight, likewise winning nothing. Contests are a serious venture. They can catapult a career if entered thoughtfully with serious intent. Yes, intent. Contests aren’t a whimsical endeavor. With planning, practice, and research, writers can enter contests and genuinely improve their odds of success. 

A lot of writers I know don’t enter contests. That makes sense in they’re busy finishing their latest novel or meeting a deadline for a magazine article. Otherwise, I don’t understand why they don’t do it. Hope understands: in the book, she discusses some of the usual reasons writers don’t enter any of the dozens of competitions available each year. If you have concerns about contests, take a look at the What’s Inside feature on the book’s Amazon listing. The point of view there may change your mind. If it does, this book will increase your odds of success.


Be careful when asking for opinions about stories you haven’t started writing

“Hold off asking for opinion. The earlier you ask for feedback, the more likely you are to get deterred from what might be your best writing. The best judge of a good idea is you, but only after you’ve mulled it over for a long while, or tested it by writing a draft, or rewritten it three or four times. After you’ve read similar works to compare. After you’ve honed your writing skills to develop the chops to even write the concept.” C. Hope Clark

I can’t find the quotation now, but Hemingway once warned writers against talking their ideas away. That is, telling others the plots of stories they were about to write. After all was said and done, possibly at a table with several bottles of wine, the author would realize that in all the give and take about his or her prospective project, s/he had lost it.

In this week’s Funds for Writers newsletter, Hope Clark expressed similar reservations about rushing out and telling friends, fans, and other writers what you’re thinking about writing–all in hopes of getting feedback about its viability.

Personally, I don’t understand this at all unless, perhaps, you’re floating an idea with your publisher or agent about what you want to write next. Otherwise, early on, what the hell kind of feedback could anyone possibly offer? So, telling–let’s say–your usual beta readers that you’re starting a new series may elicit a lot of pats on the back with little useful feedback.

The more you say, the more likely it is that their comments and questions will derail the project or somehow change it into something outside the scope of what you want to do.

Personally, I don’t like or understand the concept of beta readers unless I’m writing nonfiction and am looking for an unofficial peer review of my approach before devoting too much time researching the project. So I never ask anybody what they think of a prospective story idea because any input I get is doing to be detrimental to what my muse and I are considering.

If you feel better asking for feedback, my suggestion is to wait until you have the first draft. At that point, you have enough of a story for others to understand your plot, theme, characters, and style. When you wait, you’re more sure of yourself and your story, including its focus and ending, and distracting and negative comments are less likely to derail you. Now, quality beta readers may, in fact, find holes in the story, inconsistencies, and other issues that fall far short of destroying your work in progress.





Writers, ‘If you want immediate money, get a job’

“Write because you enjoy it. Write for the long term. If you want immediate money, get a job. This writing career is about loving to tell stories. Readers want to hear about how great your story is, not how many copies you sold or how brilliant your promotion campaign was. Readers want to be lulled and drawn into a new world they love, not sold a popular fad.” – Hope Clark

If you’re on the staff of a magazine or newspaper, write news releases for a profit-making corporation or non-profit organization, write advertising copy, are among the listed writers for a television series, create computer documentation, or are employed in other positions that require you to create strings of words for pay, then you have a writing job and receive paycheck and possibly even have a benefits package.

However, none of those positions are on people’s minds when they dream of becoming a writer. They’re dreaming of the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prize or the New York Times bestseller list or of seeing the words “based on a story by. . .”in the credits of a blockbuster movie.

As Hope Clark said in a recent Funds for Writers newsletter that for most writers, sometimes it seems like nobody’s out there because few readers write Amazon reviews or comment on writers’ blogs. So that’s why she advises dreamers to write because they enjoy it.

When we’re young, and don’t know any better, we see our current novel in progress as the next bestseller published by a major New York Publisher. Subsequently, we’re depressed to learn they don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts and that most of the agents who send work to those publishers also don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts.

If you’re a Hollywood star or even a famous serial killer, you’ll probably get a contract from a major New York Publisher because they think your book will sell 50,000 copies or more. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? But then, publishing is a business. Yes, that seems unfair, too, doesn’t it? Perhaps it will seem less unfair if we acknowledge that most people in other professions don’t start at the top. They work their way up. Other than famous people, I think the same is true of writers.

We really have to like what we do. And when it comes down to the words on paper, we need to enjoy putting them there and acknowledge those words are there for our prospective readers. Those readers need to find something that inspires them, takes them into exciting places with exciting characters, or provides a respite from a long days at the office.

Yes, it’s hard to know what readers might want. I think that means that we have to do the best we can as writers and hope we connect with somebody out there who enjoys reading our words. Looking at writing as a lottery where we might strike it rich usually dooms us to failure. If it happens, it happens. Until them, telling stories is what inspires us more than seeing our names up in lights.


Are You Creative? 

Writers question their creativity. They think it ought to be magic, something that travels down and strikes them out of the ether, when in actuality, creativity isn’t so esoteric. While we think it just happens, in reality, it is the culmination of our experiences, our education, and our willingness to let loose of the manacles of rules.

Source: Are You Creative? | FundsforWriters

An excellent post from author Hope Clark along with a very perceptive opening quote from Steve Jobs that you’ll have to click on the link above to see.

Hope believes we are more creative when we free ourselves from rules and other people’s logic and allow ourselves to see connections between things that weren’t obvious before. A lot of great fiction, great inventions, and innovations in many fields come from walking our own paths.

In fact, if there’s a path already there, avoid it, for it won’t take you to an undiscovered place.


Take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares

“Publishing is hard. No doubt about it. But sometimes authors get so caught up in the publishing aspect of the profession that we forget the reader doesn’t give a darn how the book was made, researched, written, published, or promoted.” – Hope Clark

 We really don’t want to tell you all that because why would you want to know that any more than you want the details about how your prospective new lawnmower was made? Instead, we much prefer you knowing that we hope you’ll enjoy a good story and then take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares.

Hope Clark wants to be persuaded a book has a story that will probably interest her more than that it’s cheap or free or the author’s hard-fought debut novel. I feel the same way.

On the other hand, unless a writer is well known and can fill his or her blog with news about upcoming book signings, conventions and other appearances, or–perhaps–the progress of a feature fill that’s being made from one of his/her books, the rest of us don’t have bookish information to provide in a weekly blog.

So, we talk about the subject matter in our books hoping, for example, that people who love mountain climbing will read a post about it and then see that the author has written a novel with a mountain climbing theme with a plot sounds interesting and a story fits within one of the genres the individual likes. The gurus say that if an author writes weekly posts–or even tweets–that say nothing but “buy my book” s/he is spamming his/her own readers. I agree.

That leaves us with talking about the subjects and genres we love and hoping that our posts attract the kinds of discerning readers who are will see possibilities in our books. However, I’ve learned a few cautionary things about this idea:


  • Murderers don’t read mystery thrillers about murder and mayhem unless the novelist includes how-to-do-it tips.
  • Using a lawnmower in your story line doesn’t attract people who mow yards or sell lawnmowers.
  • If you whine to prospective readers that writing your latest novel made you insane, they will be too superstitious to buy it.
  • Footnotes attached to everything in the novel you researched (cited with sources) or experienced (cited with names of witnesses) do not “ramp up” your story’s appeal. (I know, Lincoln in the Bardo breaks this rule.)
  • Forget about the idea of committing a sensational crime and then writing a based-on-a-true story novel about it. Most jurisdictions have laws that won’t let you profit from the bad that you do unless you only imagined it.)
  • If you put spells or subliminal messages in your books that force your readers to buy more of your books, it’s probably best not to mention it.
  • Saying your novel is just like the novel of a famous writer will cause (a) more people to read the famous person’s novel,  and (b) people to ask why your novel isn’t also on the bestseller list and the well-known review sites.

When it comes down to it, I don’t even know why I read what I read, much less how to write something that somebody else will read. My reading habits are all over the map, so how anyone would include me in their target audience is beyond me. Most advertising/promotion software has probably figured out by now that the words “free” and “cheap” really turn me off. I suppose it’s possible that the NSA/CIA/FBI track the books I read and sell that information to publishers. If so, thanks for spying because I keep coincidentally finding plenty of wonderful stuff to read.

As for my own writing, I write about what interests me and hope that I’m not the only person on the planet who finds such stories fascinating.


Since so many people love fast food, I based my latest e-book short story, “En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom” on fast food. So far, McDonalds hasn’t agreed to included a copy with each Happy Meal.