Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Art of Rewriting

Soon after my novel "O Father" won the 3-Day Novel Contest in 1990 and was published the next year I began working on a sequel. I liked the characters and story and, apparently, the readers did, too.

Turned out publishers . . . not so much.

I tried my best to get it published but it just didn't happen. As I continued to pitch the manuscript I moved on to other books. The sequel, or the second book in a series, sat in a box in the attic for a long time.

Then along came the Internet, self-published e-books, and Kindles and Nooks.

These days I'm working on a new novel and, at the same time, editing and revising that sequel. I much prefer creating something new to editing something not-so-new. I mention all this because maybe you have a completed manuscript or one that partially done and 2012 is the year for you to dig it out, look at it objectively, and decide whether or not to publish it yourself or finish it and then publish it.

Whether you've just finished a new one or have a long-ago-completed one on hand, it's going to need another round of editing (and proofing) before you send it to a publisher or publish it yourself.

Finish editing the new. Finishing writing the old and then give it another edit. At that point let some people you trust (ones who will be honest with you and whose opinions you value) take a look at it. It could be it's not publishable but then again . . .

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Welcome, New Kindle Owners!


I have five self-published books available on and, I'm happy to report, thousands and thousands of them were given away in a five-day promotion that concludes today.

The top choice was "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks."

I hope next Christmas you can have your own promotion and give away your book! (And then jack the price back up.)

Just keep writing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolve to Write in 2012

A new year is a great reason, a wonderful excuse, to begin a new writing project or get back to one that's been sitting a while.

Years ago I often gave myself a book on writing for Christmas as an added push to write, edit, and publish in the coming year.

This year I'm so pleased hundreds of you picked up "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks" when it was offered for free at I hope it, and the podcast, give you the little boost and bit of encouragement you need to begin, or finish, your own book.

It's a wonderful and rewarding feeling when you get into that daily writing rhythm. That's my wish for you in 2012.

(And Happy New Year from Little Willie and me.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Tips for Writers 005

Self-editing is a waste of time. You're a writer not an editor.

Make your motto: Second drafts are for losers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Back to Your Book

It's great when a book comes together day after day with few interruptions. But that's the exception. Most of the time, with most books, there are starts and stops, and even some long intervals between periods of writing.

No matter how you complete your book, completing your book brings a wonderful sense of satisfaction. Yes, the "journey" is part of all of this but arriving at the destination is pretty sweet.

If you're moving right along, day after day, good for you!

If you're in in the middle of a brief break, for whatever reason, that's okay. Your manuscript will wait for you. And while it doesn't offer you unconditional love, it doesn't ever blame you either. ("Where have you been!") We writers tend to do that to ourselves. Maybe some guilt is deserved. Often, not as much as we heap on our own shoulders.

And if it has been a long, long time since you've worked on your novel, pick it up, dust if off, read through it, and continue. If that's your decision. Or review it and then shelve it with other writing lessons and move on to a new book. The one you really want to do now. Your book.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bad Tips for Writers 004

Don't waste your time reading! Just write. You already
know how to read.

Make your motto: Shakespeare is dead. Get over it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perseverance Beats Talent... Most of the Time

I'm at a stage in my writing career where it's easy to forget what it was like starting out. Back then it seemed almost impossible.

There were thirty-four students in my high school freshman class. (A seminary. All boys.) By the time graduation rolled around there were only twelve of us. Some left voluntarily, deciding this wasn't the right spot for them. Others were... invited to leave.

All twelve graduates went on to professional careers. (Two were ordained.) And among those twelve there were some good writers. As talented as any seventeen- or eighteen-year-old can be. So why am I the one with a string of published books going back decades?

Part of the answer is the idea of a "vocation." A person is called to do what he or she loves to do and is good at doing. And by doing it over a long period of time, gets better at it.

When I left the seminary after my sophomore year in college I began taking classes in short story writing and novel writing at the University of Washington. After I graduated from U.W. I continued to write novels. To complete novels. To get better at writing and completing novels.

I don't mention this to brag. There's nothing to brag about. Some classmates did the same in the field of theology or law or counseling. They studied, they learned, they worked.

It takes work to become a priest, a lawyer, a counselor.

To become a writer.

To become a better writer.

To become a published writer.

I'll say to you what I would say to myself during some of those long years of not getting published, no matter how hard I tried: "I can't guarantee that I'll succeed but if I quit now I can guarantee that I fail."

Just keep writing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Method for You Is the Best Method for You

The best way for you to write is whatever best helps you write and finish the piece you're working on. And that can vary from writer to writer.

When I was editor of a weekly paper I wrote a family humor column and would sit down at a computer and do a month's worth at a time: four or five of them. (I already had my topics and angles in mind, and the column was very short.)

There was a columnist there who do his with a pen and yellow tablet, scratching out and rewriting, getting up in the middle of the night to consider a word or phrase. Neither of us could undertstand the other one's method. We agreed our own seemed best and the other . . . awful!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bad Tips for Writers 003

Don't waste your time trying to write
anything -- including a particular assignment --
until inspiration strikes, instantly filling you
with insights and emotions.

Make your motto: "I'm waiting for the Muses."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Will NaNoWriMo Work for You?

I've been reading up on National Novel Writing Month (which is November). It promotes writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.

(You can read more about it here.)

I know some people have done it, and will do it this year, but . . .

I suspect a lot of would-be novelists give it a try and quickly get discouraged because the goal is too big. Especially for someone who doesn't write a lot of words every day on a regular basis. (Like telling a wanna-be runner to start with a daily 10-K. For a month.)

I write a lot but 1,500-plus words every day for a month? No way.

The organizers do emphasize it's output not content that matters but . . .

A smaller, workable word count over a longer period of time will produce a better novel, and give you a more accurate experience of what it is to write one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bad Tips for Writers 002

It's silly to be concerned about spelling errors
if your computer has a spell-check program.
Unless your software says a word is misspelled,
feel free to assume there's no problem.

Make your motto: "Spell check means
I never make miss steaks."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Write Exactly What You Know

It can be a mistake to write what you know if you try to include exactly what you know.

I'll give you an example.

I'm working on a novel now that includes a scene in a small chapel. It would be easy to get off track by trying to describe that room as it truly is (at a local church near here) but the book doesn't need that. I can move a door or change the seats to pews or make a dozen other modifications if that's better for the story.

Being too exact, too precise, with reality can clutter up what you're really trying to do. And, as Willie and I point out in "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks," if you try to get all the details 100 percent correct, you'll never finish the book.

The reality changes. Takes what's useful and make up the rest.

The sock and I talk about that in this podcast:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Is Simple Not Easy

Writing isn't as complicated as some would-be authors make it out to be. But, on the other hand, it's not at easy as they want it to be. (As all writers want it to be.)

I was shocked -- and pleasantly surprised -- a few years ago when I was speaking at a grade school and I spotted a "How to Write a Story" poster on a classroom wall. The list had everything any writer needed, from outline/notes to "publishing."

There is no secret.

Whether you're 8, 18 or 80-plus, it's a matter of work. Day after day.

Rats! Little Willie says I should be more dramatic when I say that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bad Tips for Writers 001

Never hesitate to use a really big or obscure word,
even if you aren't sure what it means. Really big
and obscure words tell the reader,
"Hey, I'm smarter than you are!"

Make your motto: "Shun those who eschew

Preaching and Practicing

I'm finding one of the drawbacks of this blog is I have to do what I'm telling others to do, especially would-be authors. (Whether fiction or non-fiction.)
This morning the first draft of a national column came before any blogging. (The monthly column's on family. For it.)
I suspect "national column" can sound impressive unless you've been writing one for a while. My wife and I have been doing one for 20 years and I've had other national columns going back another 10. I won't say the thrill is gone (I still like seeing my name in print, whether in ink or on a screen) but . . . the honeymoon is over.

Falling into a Good Rut

Falling into a rut can be one the best things you can do as a writer if it's a good rut.

What would that be?

1. Writing daily.
2. Not getting distracted by so many of the lovely distractions the Internet has to offer. (Not an infinite number but a lot!)
3. Ignoring the little inner voice that says, "I don't feel like writing. I'll wait until . . . " (I suspect most writers on a daily regimen don't "feel like writing" as they begin each day's word count.)
4. Writing first and editing later. (It's harder to write when you're tired than it is to edit when you're tired.)
5. Accepting the fact that writing takes effort and there's no way around that.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Willie Takes Top Spot

Perhaps it was only a coincidence but we made "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks" available on on Sept. 27 and the next day Jeff Bezos announced a new lineup of Kindle devices.

You can find the book here.

Notice that Mr. Bezos put Willie's name first. Pushy little sock puppet.

And I'm continuing to upload the podcast to my YouTube channel.
Here's a sample:

Monday, September 26, 2011

First the writing, then the packaging

Years ago I volunteered at a Goodwill center to tutor someone who was interested in writing fiction. In his mid-twenties, this young man had thought a lot about the novel he wanted to write without thinking much about the writing.
"It's a horror story," he said.
"Uh huh."
"And it will have black pages with white ink."
"Uh huh."
And that was it.
Packaging matters but that comes later. Without the writing, there's nothing to package.
I think of him now and then when I see a website or blog featuring a black screen and a white font. Or one loaded with so much . . . stuff . . . it's hard to find the writer's words.
If you want to write your book (and here I mean complete your book) , forget the packaging and the widgets and focus on the writing. You can fiddle with all that other stuff after the manuscript is done.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Willie, Bill, Hamlet, and Mrs. Stein

I now have a channel on YouTube: BillDoddsBooks. Willie is a wee jealous. I'm uploading the podcast edition of "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks." (All 60 episodes.)

Here's a sample. Willie yaps through this one. (Well, through all of them but . . . )

The sock puppet mentions "Mrs. Stein."A teacher has posted it here. It's become a big hit on the grade-school-speech-tournament-circuit. Here's one young fellow giving a perfomance:
Take that, Hamlet-Author!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Sample of the Podcast

Here's a sample, Week 0 Day 2, from the podcast for "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks."
(Yes, one needs to click the play button but you know that. I don't want to insult you.)
You can find all 60 episodes here. Ready to play, download, or both.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Amazon author page

Having completed some writing for the day, it was time to fiddle.
I've posted an author page on
It was interesting to see what books come up as "mine." I had to add a few the computer missed and delete one by a different "Bill Dodds."
Or perhaps I am the different one.
Odds are.

Write . . . first

New to blogging I'm finding myself spending a lot of time fiddling with how to make the page look better or place photographs on one side or steer visitors to my author page on
All worthy goals but that's not writing, is it?
If you want to be a writer, if you want to remain a writer, right first.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Almost There

If all goes well, the book and podcast should be up by October 1. You can find a sample of the podcast here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011