Archives: Writing

I like Blackwings…

I like Blackwing pencils. They write very smoothly. They can’t roll off a table. The pencils have their own slogan, “Half the pressure, twice the speed.” You can even replace the eraser. All of that is great.

The reason I really like them is the story behind the company. No, I’m not going to tell you the story. You’ll have to go here to find out about it.

Including stories in your writing and public speaking makes a big difference. Stories make things interesting and sell.

Stories make a difference…even with pencils.

What color are you up to?

Yes, writers write. However, successful writers also revise, or edit, what they have written. Rarely is the first version the best. When movie scripts are revised they print the scripts on different colored paper so that everyone knows if they are using the same up-to-date version. Generally, the colors used are:

  1. White (unrevised)
  2. Blue
  3. Pink
  4. Yellow
  5. Green
  6. Goldenrod*
  7. Buff
  8. Salmon
  9. Cherry
  10. Second Blue Revision
  11. Second Pink Revision and so on…

Whether you are writing a novel, short story, magazine article, or anything else…you need to revise it until it’s ready. When it’s ready…submit it.

2 Ways To Tell If Your Book Is A Success

There are only two accurate ways to tell if your book is a success. No, best seller lists will not help. They can be manipulated easily. The two real ways are simple.

  1. How many books did you actually sell?
  2. Are you happy with the way your book turned out?

That’s it.

Alternatives to the Résumé in the Hiring Process

How valuable are resumes in the hiring process? No one is going to say bad things about themselves. Most will describe themselves in the best possible way. Some lie about themselves. So, what can be used as an alternative?

Many years ago, I answered a want ad in the Sunday New York Times. They were looking for an editor for one of their photography oriented newsletters. Instead of asking for a résumé, they asked three factual questions about picture taking. Since this was long before the advent of the Internet it wasn’t as easy to look up the answers. You had to actually know the subject matter. I answered the questions, via snail mail, and waited for an answer. About six weeks later, I got an interview. Although I didn’t get the job, they did offer a book deal. The Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography was the result.

By asking questions, instead of requesting a resume, they were getting information about my writing ability and knowledge of photography. A résumé would not have been the same.

Could asking questions work for all jobs? Probably!

Instead of asking questions about facts that are now easy to look up, questions would be asked such as, “What would you do if…?” Another question might be, “If a customer complained and it was our fault, how would you answer the complaint?” Finally, I would ask, “How would you improve our company?”

Unfortunately, not all who apply for a job can write a basic sentence or paragraph. Asking questions is also a subtle way of judging the literacy of a potential candidate.

If I were hiring, I’d also call the candidate and speak to him or her, before a potential face-to-face interview. Again, this is a way of checking the verbal abilities of a potential worker.

A resume is helpful, getting a writing sample and hearing what they sound like makes more sense to me as a way to begin the hiring process.

Looking Over the Shoulder of a Genius

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I didn’t know Picasso. I didn’t know Einstein. I didn’t know Jim Henson. But, I was recently given the chance to look over the shoulder of Jim Henson!

My wife gave me the first season DVD of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock…a program that appeared during the 1980s that I used to watch with my then little boy (who isn’t so little anymore). Aside from the video’s this boxed collection is truly unique. It includes a replica of a notebook that Henson used when he was thinking about creating the program. It’s his real notebook, handwritten in various colors. When could one have a chance to almost literally look over the shoulder of a genius as he was thinking about his new venture. Wow!

Dumb is Good … or how I got started as a writer.

Contrary to what they teach you in school, dumb can be very good for you. My writing career started because I was extremely dumb. If I were smart, I would have never done any writing. It all started when I applied for a job that I was not qualified for at all.

At the time, I was a teacher who was also working part-time as a wedding photographer. My wife noticed an ad in The New York Times seeking an editor for a newsletter about Nikon cameras. Since I was a photographer, owned Nikon cameras, and was looking for ways to make extra money, it seemed ideal. Never did I think that one should have any writing or editing experience before applying for such a job. The ad was somewhat unusual. Instead of asking for a resume, it asked three technical questions about photography. I answered them all and sent off my answers. This was back before email or even faxes.

About six weeks later, I got a call asking me to come in for an interview. The interview was with the editor-in-chief of Amphoto, the largest photography publisher (at that time) in the world. Of course, he asked if I had writing samples. I didn’t. After chatting for a while, I mentioned that I was a wedding photographer. He said that he wanted a sample of my writing on wedding photography. At the time, Amphoto and Kodak were releasing an encyclopedia of photography, one issue at a time. The issue that would include wedding photography was not completed. I wrote the sample and they used part of it in the encyclopedia, and gave me credit as one of the editors.

Another interview was scheduled with the editor. I thought that we were going to discuss the job that I had originally applied for. Instead, he told me that they were in the process of releasing a series of books. He asked if I could write the book on wedding photography. I instantly said, “No problem.” He said fine and would send me a contract. When I got home, my wife asked me if I could really do it. My answer to her was a little different. I said, “I have no idea!” My Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography came out a couple years later.

It doesn’t end there. The editor suggested that I write an article for a newspaper – The New York Times. I laughed. He wasn’t kidding. He told me who edited the then weekly Camera Column that appeared in The Sunday New York Times. I sent in the article and was shocked a couple of weeks later when I saw it in The Times.

If I knew that you had to be qualified to apply for a job, I wouldn’t have ever written anything that was published. Dumb was very good.

Incidentally, I didn’t get the job. They said I was over qualified for it!

25 Down to Earth Writing Tips

1. “Do not blame anybody for your mistakes and failures.” ~~Bernard Baruch

2. Switch your point of view. Would that make your story better?

3. You can re-start your life right now! If you weren’t a writer yesterday, you can be a writer starting right now!

4. Life begins every second. Don’t waste time thinking about it, start writing.

5. To be creative, you might want to do things the un-techie way (for example, postcards instead of emails).

6. Start your next short story by writing the last line first.

7. Go for perfect! Book writing has never been easier. Years ago, when I had to change a word I had to re-type (with a typewriter) the whole chapter.

8. Can you tell your “story” using a series of pictures (with and/or without captions)?

9. Try writing a short story that incorporates a line from The Story Starter.

10. Follow less, lead more (especially on Twitter and Facebook).

11. Watch less TV and write more.

12. All of the writers on the best sellers lists had (and probably still have) the same doubts as you.

13. Read a magazine you never read before. It’s full of ideas for writers.

14. Starting a sentence with an “ing” word is a great way to start.

15. Whenever you want to say “someday” substitute “today” and you’ll do better.

16. Many procrastinators masquerade as writers. If you want to be a writer write. Period.

17. Gardeners will tell you that you have to be patient to see the fruits of your hard work, sometimes it takes years!

18. Get a 2016 almanac! Read through it when you have time. You might (probably will) come up with article ideas.

19. Fine writing, like fine wine, doesn’t happen over night.

20. If you can write a 5 paragraph composition, you can write a magazine article. Same thing, just a bit longer

21. Does your character transform for the better or worse? What would happen if you switched it?

22. You can learn more going to a place you’ve never been than spending hours online. It must be the air!

23. Going to the movies is nice, reading a movie script gives you a sense of how the story comes together.

24. To learn how to write, study gardeners, photographers, poker players, pizza makers, etc. Learn from everyone.

25. Just like the tango, it takes TWO to write: one writer and at least one other person to read. I’m not big on writing for myself.

Everyone is more equal than they think…

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We sometimes forget that we are more equal than we think.

Cameras don’t make great photos. People do.

Brushes don’t make great paintings. People do.

Pens don’t make great works of literature. People do.

Everyone starts out equally. For writers, it’s the easiest. We all start with the same alphabet. What can you do with it?