Learn it, breathe it, live it: The Writer’s Creed …

This week has been a good one filled with interesting posts and comments. For those of you following, commenting, “liking” or just plain stopping by, I really appreciate it. I’m humbled that you took time out of your hectic schedules to take a look. We all have gifts and I believe a blog is one social medium that helps us share them.

Thanks for allowing me into your world. 🙂

The other day I blogged about creating obstacles for our characters that will result in a satisfying ending, and I wanted to share this post then. However, it would have been outrageously long.

So I’m ending the week (TGIF!) with author Clint Johnson’s  Writer’s Creed,  which states (more or less) that we, as writers, are obligated to give our characters hell, so they might emerge happier and healthier people. Kind of like life!


Here’s Clint Johnson’s hysterical take on the writer’s oath, law and slogan. I have it hanging in my office as a reminder, for inspiration and most definitely a good laugh. Visit Clint’s site for his complete take on why he wrote this version of the writer’s creed and how it is vital in achieving our goal as writers.

Have a great weekend.  See you Monday.

The Writer’s Creed

The Writer’s Oath

On my honor, I will do my best to create havoc on every page and to leave neither peace nor happiness in my wake; To cause problems at every opportunity;  To abuse characters I love, always aspire to the worst, and sleep unburdened at night.

The Writer’s Law

A writer is…

– Duplicitious (Never Trustworthy!): A writer never lets her characters know everything that is going on. The more you can mislead and confuse your characters, the more enjoyment you give your reader.

– Traitorous (Never Loyal!): A writer is always looking for ways to undermine characters and foster betrayal in her stories.

– Hindersome (Never Helpful!): A writer makes trouble; she does not solve problems.

– Curmudgeonly (Never Friendly!): A writer begrudges every moment of happiness and prosperity in her story. Contentment is offensive to her–discontent, ultimately pleasing.

– Rude (Never Courteous!): A writer has no regard for her characters’ egos or positions within society. She finds humiliation ever-desirable.

– Vindictive (Never Kind!): A writer causes trouble because she can, not because it is deserved. Every success of a character is worthy of retribution.

– Mutinous (Never Obedient!): A writer upturns all her characters value and depend upon. She fashions those in her story with the specific intention of capitalizing on their weaknesses.

– Profligate (Never Thrifty!): A writer never holds anything back. She seeks to expend every resource and emotional reserve of her characters, and only constrains the extravagance of her imagination by the furthest reaches of plausibility.

– Licentious (Never Clean!): A writer collects all her characters’ dirty little secrets and yells them out to anyone willing to listen.

– Profane (Never Reverent!): To a writer, none of her characters’ beliefs are sacred; their faith exists to be challenged, and wrong must sometimes be portrayed as right.

Despite common perception, yes, there are admirable characteristics of writers as well (though we make mighty poor Boy Scouts). We must be…

– Brave: Obeying the Writers’ Law can be difficult, uncomfortable, and wearying. Have the courage to be sadistic enough to write good stories.

– Cheerful: Engaging in antisocial, uncivilized behavior–at least in imagination–is the primary obligation of a good storyteller. You can’t avoid it. So don’t feel guilty. Write great stories, don’t apologize or get ulcers, and live cheerfully and well.

The Writer’s Slogan

Cause trouble on every page.

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Thursday Toss: Which literary wish would you choose?

The other day, I and a group (writers and non-writers) of friends and associates had a highly charged discussion about a simple question I posed to everyone:

If you were granted one wish by the literary fairy godmother to advance your writing career, which would you choose?
A) Be granted all the readers I wanted no matter how or what I wrote.
B) Be granted the talent to write a phenomenal book

The choice, along with the explanation as to why they chose it, was interesting to say the least.

One woman (a non-writer) chose option A and received a few raised brows. She backed up her choice by stating that she, “was about the money and readers brought in revenue.”

Another person counteracted her choice by pointing out, “you bring dirt in the house if you walk through it outside.” We weren’t quite sure where she was going with that analogy, but it kind of, sort of made sense at the time. Still the Option A woman, stood her ground and added, “Look at the Fifty Shades of Grey author.”

As you might imagine the intensity in the air rose a tad higher, after the “oohs and ahhhs,” followed by the pros and cons of the now notorious book.

After the dust settled, (somewhat) someone else (a dabbler in writing) chose, Option B stating that they rather be known for writing a good book than for garbage, even if only five people read it. “It’s about quality, not quantity.” They went on to say that if only five people read their book, those five would have something meaningful etched on their brain, and that would be okay with them.

Author Chinua Achebe’s book, “Things Fall Apart,” was their justification. The book started out with little following or readership after it was published, and is now required reading by many English professors.

That was the discussion more or less, with a lot of debating in between. (It would be a long blog if I retold it in its entirety.)

But I wanted to toss it out there on this rainy (where I am) Thursday. Any thoughts?

Oh, and be wary if your fairy godmother is the one from “Shrek 2.” Your wish may be subject to a little underhandedness. 😉

Volunteers: the true superheroes …

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”
John Ruskin

Most of you know me as an aspiring romance author. But from 9 to 5, I dash into my car and come out wearing my day job disguise as a volunteer and employee programs coordinator. One of the best things about my job is that I come in contact with a group of amazing people. Volunteers.

Volunteers have a special place in my heart. They’re ordinary people doing extraordinary things not because they have to, but because they choose to.

For the past six years, Anderson Cooper has done a segment called “CNN Heroes of the Year,” where the global public chooses to recognize 10 extraordinary people who devote their lives to making the world a better place. A recent announcement on CNN revealed the 10 heroes for 2012.

I love this segment. It’s touching, and makes you remember the good in the world–not just the horrific, the upsetting and the ugly.

I’m fortunate to come in contact with many of these extraordinary beings on a weekly, if not daily, basis and my life is richer for it. Although I volunteer on a couple of non-profit boards, my efforts seem minimal compared to the CNN heroes and a few extraordinary people I know personally.

One such volunteer rescues Labrador Retrievers from all parts of the country, and he’s nicknamed, “The Dog Whisper.” He has such a way with dogs, that the most frightened and abused dog, trusts him almost immediately.

Another volunteer, reminisce of Sally Field, in “Norma Rae” and Morgan Freeman, in “Lean On Me” led the charge to rid her neighborhood of drugs, and crime to provide a safe place for children to play, study and live.

One woman, who as an unbelievable rapport with children, donates her time by helping them deal with the grief experienced by the death of a parent.

These are just a few of the amazing people I meet during the course of my job, and I’m honored to know them.

As with the volunteers I meet everyday, I wanted to pay tribute to all these heroes in some way. So sharing this story with all of you seemed like a good way to start.

Batman, Superman and The Avengers step aside and meet the real superheroes.

Is life too easy for your characters? Bring on the obstacles …

When writing fiction, particularly romance, we have been taught that readers want a heroine or hero who experience tragedy and then rise back from the depths of hell to claim (or reclaim) their true love. My words, but you get the gist.

Short and sweet, a character must overcome obstacles (and many) if your story is to have a satisfying ending, or for romance writers, the must have happily ever after.

If you’re having trouble doing that, an article, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters” from Writing World may help you get started. This is one of the best writer’s reference sites around. I keep a binder filled with a plethora of articles on the craft and business of writing that always come in handy.

Case in point.

I’m working on my second book, and for some reasons I didn’t think my heroine, a pediatric nurse and single mother, who is afraid of getting involved with another man after a mentally abusive relationship with the father of her child, didn’t have enough obstacles. So I went back to my trusty binder and reread, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters.”

So far, the list of obstacles in my wonderful heroine’s life goes like this. While camping with the new love of her life, she falls off a ravine, sprains her ankle and gets bitten by a snake. At some point in the story, when she finally finds true love, she loses it. She chooses not to believe the hero when he tells her that her ex-lover, who has slithered back into her life, isn’t sincere and has ulterior motives for coming back. And if a separation isn’t enough, the ex-lover kidnaps her son (and his) to force her hand into marriage. Nice guy, huh?

Oh, and did I mention that professionally, my heroine comes under suspicion for aiding and abetting a criminal in an illegal prescription drug ring?

Hmmm … I think I need more obstacles.

Embracing the positive: The best outer body experience ever

It’s a general rule of thumb that artists, writers and anyone with a dream should surround themselves with positive energy. That’s a relatively easy thing to do. However, once you do that, sharing your work and talking about your dreams can be another thing entirely.

There was a time when I had such a hard time sharing my work or inner most thoughts—even with friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know. I was afraid they’d think I was crazy or worse. 😉

I quickly discovered, however, that if you don’t put yourself out there for the world to see, no one will know what you do. I also learned that support shows itself in the least expected ways.

In addition to writing, I dabble in photography. Mind you, my work isn’t as brilliant as Leanne Cole’s , whose site you have to visit, but I occasionally get a nice shot off every now and then!

I’ve taken a few photography courses, learned about f-stops and apertures, and studied the work of master photographers. My favorite photographer was Gordon Parks—the ultimate Renaissance man.

In addition to being one of America’s most renowned photographers, Parks was a film director, of the “Learning Tree” and (a little movie called “Shaft”, which is now a classic) writer, and musician.

Anyway, let me get back to sharing our work. We’ll talk about Gordon Parks in a bit.

A dear friend of mine, who I’ve know for well over 15 years now, knew all about my writing and photography. We talked about it occasionally, only because I never wanted to take over the conversation with writing talk.

First, let me tell you about my friend. She’s a former model. She, Beverly Johnson, and the late Naomi Sims, used to work the catwalk in Milan, and Paris. She left the business and went on to pursue a career in the corporate sector, where I had the pleasure of meeting her. We became fast friends.

One day we were discussing photography, and I casually mentioned (again opening up) my artistic obsession with Mr. Parks. She glanced at me over her red-frame glasses and smiled.

“I know Gordon,” she said. “I met him when I was modeling.”

“Really?” I tried to sound nonchalant, but it wasn’t working.

She smiled again, knowing good and well I was about to burst with excitement. “Yes, he lives in New York still. We used to hang out all the time.”

If that wasn’t enough to make me pass out, what she did next blew me away. She picked up the phone and began to dial. I felt my lungs tightening—no air entered or escaped.

When she handed the phone to me, and said, “Gordon wants to say hello,” I almost fainted. The conversation was brief, and polite. I remembered telling him how he inspired me and how much I loved his work. Then, I handed the phone back to my friend, and sat down. Stunned.

I hadn’t seen it coming, the unselfish gesture of a friend who supported my work and my dreams. I will never forget that moment. I’m indebted to her for making something that marvelous happen.

That was in 1999, and when Mr. Parks passed away in 2006, I was heartbroken. However, I was also honored to have spoken to him, if only for a few moments.

I visited his exhibit, “Half Past Autumn,” at the New York Museum of Art, just before his death, and was blown away once again by his work. If you’re a lover of photography or beautiful things, I’d recommend adding this book to your collection.

Lesson learned? Don’t be afraid to share what you love doing. Surround yourself with positive energy and embrace the support received because you never know what might happen.

For me, I was able to speak to one of my greatest sources of inspiration and he spoke back.

Need a good kick in the butt?

A couple of this week’s blogs had a few messages of inspiration, and overcoming obstacles, which I hope helped the writer, the poet, the artist, the mother, the accountant and anyone who needed a dose of “can do.”

“Encouragement, keep plugging away, keep on keeping on, never give up, and perseverance” were a few of the affirmations that were offered in comments throughout the blog and I thank you for sharing.

Even when we’re scared or doubtful in our work, or trying to ignore the naysayers, we should remember that there will be bumps along the way. However, we need to harness our strength (because we know it’s inside us) to get over the hurdles and go after our dreams.

Writer Amy Tan did.

I wanted to share an article that I found about Ms.Tan, and the beginning of her illustrious writing career.

The Manager Who Couldn’t Write
By Gary Sledge
from Reader’s Digest | July 2005

What launched Amy Tan’s career was not a big break, but a kick in the butt.

Before the million-copy sales of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan was a writer. A business writer. She and a partner ran a technical-writing business with lawyer-like “billable hours.”

Her role with clients was largely that of account management — but this daughter of immigrants wanted to do something more creative with words, English words.

So she made her pitch to her partner: “I want to do more writing.” He declared her strength was doing estimates, going after contractors and collecting bills. “It was horrible stuff.” The very stuff Tan hated and knew she wasn’t really good at. But her partner insisted that writing was her weakest skill.

“I thought, I can believe him and just keep doing this or make my demands.” So she argued and stood up for her rights.

He would not give in.

Shocked, Tan said, “I quit.”

And he said: “You can’t quit. You’re fired!” And added, “You’ll never make a dime writing.”

Tan set out to prove him wrong, taking on as many assignments as she could. Sometimes she worked 90 hours a week as a freelance technical writer. Being on her own was tough. But not letting others limit her or define her talents made it worthwhile. And on her own, she felt free to try fiction. And so The Joy Luck Club, featuring the bright, lonely daughter of Chinese immigrants, was born. And the manager who couldn’t write became one of America’s bestselling, best-loved authors.

I’ve been dragging my feet about finishing a current story. I owe my critiquing partner a 1,000 words. And trust me, he won’t let me get away with not handing it in. But after reading the short story on Amy Tan, I have a different frame of mind. I can hand in my words. I just got my kick in the butt.

It was a tough go for Ms.Tan, but she held on, preserved and didn’t run away from her dream. In fact, she ran toward it without fear and with dedication. We can too.

TGIF! Have a good weekend and run toward your dream.

Thursday’s Toss: Would You Let Readers Watch as You Write Your Book?

Here’s an unusual way to write a novel.

An article on GalleyCat, a great site for writers,(and readers!) featured an author from the UK who was about to embark on a project that would allow readers to follow her as she writes her next novel. Apparently anyone who clicks on the link she intends to provide, can offer feedback and watch her work. The author claims she wants to “push the boundaries of the author/reader relationship.”

As a reader, I wondered who would want to sit through that process filled with edits, and backspacing? AND is there an author I admire THAT much to sit through the whole process?

I don’t think so. I’ll wait for the completed book.

Then “Ms. Snarkmeister” (yours truly) starts asking more questions, from a writer’s point of view. Is this author being lazy and hoping to spring ideas from her fans? What if she gets an idea from the solicited “feedback” of her watchers? Will she use that idea? Will she share a cut of her royalties with the reader who came up with the fabulous idea?

Frankly, I like that writing is a solitary endeavor. I’m not ready for prime time writing. There are too many ugly things involved when I write:

1. I tend to write during the wee hours of the morning 1:00, 2:00 sometimes 3:00 o’clock. The last thing I’d want to do is scare away potential readers because the hair is hideous, the makeup is gone, and the coffee is wearing off.

2. I do things with my gummy bears that I don’t really want to share with the public.

3. I’d have to fight with my dog for camera time. He’s quite a little ham.

4. I tend to use every emotion imaginable when writing, which isn’t a BAD thing. But trust me, it could definitely get out of control. (Can you say Dr. Jekyll?)

But nevermind me. Would you let people read your book as you write it? Just tossing it out there!