Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ooh, I Made That Teacher Mad

"Mr. Dodds, make it complicated!
My students are very bright."

A few years back I was speaking on writing at a private school that went from kindergarten through eighth grade. The big kids were my last classroom visits and, as always, I said pretty much what I had said to the younger kids.

The teens paid attention and seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I did.

Later, I found out at least one of the teachers for that older group complained that what I had been saying was just too simple. Somehow, it was "beneath" their level. The school threatened to not pay my fee and the publisher had to step in and sort things out. (I think he just paid me out of his own pocket. He was a good guy.)

My point here is the basics are the basics are the basics. Whether I'm talking to third-graders or adults, I tell them pretty much the same thing when it comes to writing.

If you stick with the basics, you'll do fine.

You'll finish your novel.

Just keep writing.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spare Your Readers the Sermonizing!

I remember a sitcom from some 20 years ago that I liked watching until one of the main characters would launch into a long monologue on some topic that, obviously, was near and dear to the producers' hearts.

It ruined the program for me.

If several characters had talked about the issue as part of the plot, and in character, it would have been okay. But this was a lecture. A sermon. A finger-wagging scolding to all who dared to disagree with the producers' point of view. (I don't blame the writer. A TV or movie writer does what he or she is told or has the rewriting done by others higher on the food chain.)

That kind of heavy-handedness can hobble a novel, too.

If you want to write lectures or essays or op-ed pieces or sermons, do it.

But don't drop them into the middle of your novel, or worse yet string several together and call that a "novel."

Tell. A. Story. And . . .

Just keep writing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why write?

This morning I was pleased to see Nine Week Novel is in a number one spot and Great-grandfather has a one and a two on a couple of Top 100 Amazon lists.

Those little bits of affirmation, like a "nice job" from someone who reads part of your manuscript, are always pleasant but can be few and far between. Or at least seem that way.  It can be tougher to keep writing every day if you're writing for them.

Write for you.

Write because you're a writer.

And if you write today, you are.

(And let's be even more honest here, those Amazon rankings this morning are in very obscure categories. But still . . . On the other hand, Atheist is at 5898. In the Top 10,000.)

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Delayed Gratification

Wait for it!

This is an older video of writer Elmore Leonard but I really like what he says in the first minute about getting up early to write and delaying his first cup of coffee until he's written for a while.
I don't have that kind of willpower. I can, however, not get a second cup until I've cranked out some stuff.
On the other hand, I don't have a problem with using a verb besides "said" to say that someone . . . said something.

Here's Elmore:

Just keep writing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Free Kindle Books

My goodness it's been a while since I posted an update here. I've been pushing to get a novel done by Christmas and I made it. (First full draft.) A gift for my wife, Monica. (What a cheapskate I am.) Years ago I would give her a manuscript for Christmas and it was wonderful to do it once again.

It's been a tough year here, but one filled with many blessings.. Monica is in hospice for stage 4 cancer and we didn't think she'd make it to Christmas.

So many people have been so very good to us.

Ah, yes, but what about the free Kindle books? I'm giving away three books during this season, from Monday, Dec. 24, through Friday, December 28. (And if you get one, read it, and like it, I would appreciate a review on Amazon. Well, that and buy some of my other books. The new one will come out in early 2013. That's the plan anyway.)

These are the freebies:

How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks

The World's Funniest Atheist

And, for kids: My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today

Merry Christmas!

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


This is good, and I hope encouraging, information if you've been less than pleased with your writing.

Just keep writing!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Love, Love, Love, Hate

I'm forced to follow my own stupid rules for novel writing so I can't go back to the manuscript today and write another 500 words or so. I already did my word count for today.

So... I'll post a little more here. has three new reviews for My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today:

--I think everyone will love this book. I almost didn't get this book when it popped up as a freebie, thinking it was for young children and that it might be smarmy. After reading part of the first chapter I ordered it and am so glad I did. It was a great adventure story, also appealing due to the insight into what life was like long ago. I rarely give five stars. This book deserves them all. Fun, fast read for everyone.

--I loved this book. What a fabulous book for all children to read. A way to breach the generation gap. I wish my grandparents had been willing to share their stories.

--I read this just to see what types of books are being written for children. I loved it. I hope there are more authors doing this type of story. Makes me think about grandfather's, that I never met and their fathers before them. Makes me wish I knew more about them.

And here's one from a few months back that says Pope Bob was horrible:

--A book that requires a real Catholic knowledge base for many of its details, and apparently an AA familiarity and research, that is extremely repetititve as the main character deals with his alcoholism--over and over-- and test of faith. The ending is very abrupt, rather strained in its reality, and the whole concept of the world being without a pope for months/years without more of a miracle description of the curia and the ongoings in Rome is just a gigantic plot hole. I see where Bill Dodds won an international 3 day Novel contest...maybe if this was written in three days it would qualify. As for a Kindle book on line and for sale at $2.99, it was not worth it. Makes an Amazon reader wonder why they should select a Prime book for borrowing.
If you want to go back to a good Catholic read, go back to Black Patent Leather Shoes from the 60s. Hardly anything here about what makes a pope--especially the supposed first American Catholic pope. If it were a movie, it would last about 5 minutes! I am not that familiar with alcoholism, but this may reflect the process that "alkies" face; but the writing does little to make that struggle come alive.

One star!

Just keep writing.

First Things First

I'm always a little surprised at how much time passes between my posts on this blog. I mean to write them more often but...

When my time or energy are at a premium I choose writing a novel over writing about novel writing.

I hope the same is true for you. Given the choice between reading about novel writing or working on your own novel, choose your novel first. You can read about novel writing after you've completed your daily word count.

And, yes, I've completed mine for today. I'm about two-thirds of the way through my latest, the point at which -- you may recall -- I begin to have serious doubts about the book and how it's being written. (Stupid idea, poorly done.) Not too much of that this time. Yet. I assume it will come.

And, it's at this point I begin thinking about what I'd like to write next. The idea, a character or two and a "what if?" came to me the other day (a kids' book) and it's been enjoyable considering them, but...

First things first.

Like you, I need to finish the one I'm working on now.

That's always the case. Even after dozens and dozens of books.

Just keep writing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ever Notice People Who Agree with You...

...are really smart? No, more than that. Wise. Really wise.

The Seattle Times had a recent interview with author Ivan Doig who said:

I write a given number of words a day, currently about 400, and I do it five days a week when I'm working full strength on a book.
And when asked, "Age-wise, is it ever too late to become a writer?", he answered:
No. It's never too old if you're game to write some every day, whether it's a journal or a memoir. The point is to make the material pile up into something meaningful.

You can do it! Never too old, never too young. Always just right. Always...

Just keep writing. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Personal Highlights and Government Censors

As I recall I wasn't much of a text-book highlighter when I was in high school or college. ("Gee, Bill, maybe that's because you're so old the only felt-tip marker color was black and using that would make it look like most of the chapter had been redacted by some government censor.") I suppose I did some underlining. With a pencil.

One of the (many) strange aspects of the brave new world of e-books is a reader can highlight a passage from your book and you -- and the world -- can see what he or she chose. Here are the top three for Nine Week Novel:

--Week One: 300 words per day for six days. (Take the seventh day off. You’ll have completed 1,800 words. Good for you!) Week Two: 400 words per day for six days. (And another day off. Now you’ll be up to 4,200 words.) Weeks Three through Nine: 500 words six days a week and that seventh day off.

--abandoned the comfortable, theoretical world of “writing a novel” and entered the uncomfortable,
real world of “novel

--A word count works much better than a time requirement. (No doodling on the paper or dawdling
on the Internet and calling it

I like all three. If you stick with those you can end up with a novel. You can end up with a novel.

Just keep writing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Homeschooled? Write a novel!

I received an e-mail earlier this month that said:

"I just wanted you to know that we are using your book, How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks, and podcast as part of our homeschool curriculum this year.  My daughter, age 17, has always wanted to be a writer.  She has written many books, but hasn't finished most of them.  Her genre of choice seems to lean to middle/upper school, no vampires or sexual content.  I think this is a much forgotten demographic. Thanks for making available this writers program."
If you're homeschooling, include novel writing.  If you know a homeschooling family, suggest they try it.
A young person can write a novel. You can. Really.
Just keep writing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Free Fortune and Mystery

From today through Tuesday The Hidden Fortune and O Father: A Murder Mystery are free at (I suppose I could call this a back-to-school special. Little late for that. Or perhaps a "do your Christmas shopping early this year" theme.)

O Father is the book I wrote for the International 3-Day Novel Contest. The Hidden Fortune is a middle-grade novel. The setting for the mystery is the suburb where I was living at the time. (And still do.) And the kids' book takes place in a Seattle neighborhood where I lived in late grade school up until I got married. (At the tender age of 21.)

Write what you know and . . .

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Two (Blush) Reviews

Two recent reviews of Pope Bob:

--Pope Bob is one of the most touching stories I have ever read. The author, Bill Dodds, is a fine story teller, a more than capable writer, and obviously, a man of faith. As I read the book, I clearly identified with the parts of self-destruction, of putting my faith on the back burner in order to "enjoy" life. As Bob hit his bottom, I was right there beside him. And when Father Pete showed up, I wanted to cheer. What a winner!
Thank you, Bill Dodds, for an incredible journey with your characters. I can't remember the last time I sobbed at the end of a book. A wonderful and worthy read.

--Kudos to Bill Dodds for writing this book. Pope Bob takes a nearly impossible to believe scenario--the secretly alcoholic first American Pope getting lost and waking up on skid row--and makes it plausible. But really this book is about redemption, hope, addiction, friendship, love, and surrender, with quite a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. This is a beautiful book, with a universal message of the human condition and the struggles we each face as we navigate our lives and face our fears and our weaknesses. The dialogue was crisp and believable, the characters likable and very human. I smiled a lot while reading this book, and as I read the last page I was left with a feeling of warmth, very glad Pope Bob had come my way.

Thank you "Kufans4ever" and Jim Brumm.

As Goofy would say to Mickey: "Garsh."

Just keep writing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

We're #2

This has been a free long weekend (Friday through Tuesday) for Pope Bob and My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today.
I'm happy to report I've given away almost 5,000 copies of Pope Bob and it's in the #2 spot on the top 100 humor Kindle books.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 018

If your family and friends say
something you wrote is very good
then you can be sure it is very good
and should be published immediately.

Make your motto: Pointing out to the editor
"my family and friends say this is very good"
will seal the deal!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 017

Remember you don't have to see a publication
before submitting an article to it. Often, just
knowing its name is enough.

Make your motto: If they don't use this kind of article,
they should.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'But I only write . . . '

It's good to recall the life and work of author Ray Bradbury (who died yesterday at the age of 91) when you fall into the but-I-only-write trap.

But I only write . . . science fiction. Fantasy. Westerns. Romance. Short stories. Poems. Mysteries. And on and on and on.

When it comes to writing, when it comes to your writing, there is no "I only."

Writing is writing. No matter the genre.

I highly suspect those who write so well in one form wish they could write as well in another. The mystery writer would like to pen a fantasy. The fantasy writer wishes she could do a literary novel. The literary novelist would dearly love it if as many people read his work as looked forward to the next children's book about a wizard boy in England.

Writing isn't a one-genre-fits-all talent. The gift you've been given, and are nurturing and strengthening, is uniquely your own, just as that developing (or developed) voice is.

Little Willie and I talk about that in this clip.

Just keep writing.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Top Ten Reasons a Child Can Write a Novel

10. He's never told himself he can't.
9. She isn't slowed down by concerns about punctuation, spelling, grammar or style.
8. He has a story he wants to tell.
7. She isn't hung up on what size a "real" novel has to be.
6. He has no doubt he can finish it.
5. She thinks it sounds kind of fun to do.
4. He's blissfully clueless about publishers, agents, and such.
3. She's read some novels.
2. He's not worried about what others will think of it.
1. Instead of doing a bunch of other stuff, she can choose to sit down and write!

Just keep writing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

'No One Owes You a Reading'

Crisis Magazine has a an interesting and encouraging article titled "On Being a Catholic Writer." The author is Ralph McInerny, who's generally best known as the creator of the Father Dowling murder mysteries. (The article's a reprint of a 1995 piece. McInerny died in 2010.)

He has some solid advice and encouraging words for writers:

The difference between a serious writer and a dilettante lies in their contrasting attitudes toward technique. The dilettante writes to amuse himself, an easy task, but the serious writer seeks to interest a reader. Over my typewriter I pinned the legend: No one owes you a reading. It has to be earned. The old-fashioned way — with plot.

A good novel tells a good story.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The View from the Keyboard

Earlier this month the family rented a house and spent four days on the Washington state coast. This was the view from most of the rooms.

Even more amazing, we had four consecutive days of warm, cloudless weather.
At one point I was staring out the window and thinking how great it would be to have my desk and computer right there so that every time I glanced up I'd see...

I knew I was kidding myself. The view would be great but it would just be one more excuse not to write. One more distraction.

That had a familiar ring to it so I rummaged through How to Write Your Novel in Nine weeks and sure enough Little Willie pointed out:

In the same way, you can write a great book without having that “cabin by the lake”—your holy of holies, your retreat, your sanctuary—in which to write it. That’s good news, isn’t it? I assume you’re not at that lake right now. Not looking out the huge picture window to gaze on a vast expanse of lake and forest and . . . . No! Wait. French doors. Looking out those french doors, which are open just a few inches so you can feel the breeze, take in the pine-scented fresh air, listen to the . . .

Blah, blah, blah. If you did own that “perfect” cabin, you’d have to worry about taxes and insurance and a leaky roof and . . . . Does that cabin have indoor plumbing? No? Then you might end up doing some suffering there on a cold, dark night when nature calls and you have to head for the outhouse.

Writing a novel (beginning, middle, and end) means overcoming a lot of distractions. Day after day.

You can do that. And get better at it, day after day.

Just keep writing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nausea and the Novel

Many thanks to Bob ("Robert P.") Lockwood for a great review of The World's Funniest Atheist in Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. It means a lot when an old -- that is, longtime -- colleague and friend says your work is good and that person is a good enough and knowledgeable enough colleague and friend not to lie about that. In print.

Bob confesses he often likes novels that begin with someone throwing up.

Fortunately for me, that was the opening scene.

It's high-class literature.

Obviously not.

It's a good story.

I hope.

And I hope that's your goal, nine-week novelist. Tell a good story!

Just keep writing.

(Hmm. I realize now Pope Bob begins with someone throwing up and O Father: A Murder Mystery has someone going winky-tink in the bushes. Fortunately, my two novels for kids open at a baseball game and in a bedroom with a young fellow just kind of hiding from his family. G-rated material.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Lovely Review of 'Atheist'

Thanks, Elu Oberon, for the great review of The World's Funniest Atheist on

This was a fine read. The chapters were almost shockingly short to me, but I would not call this bad, just different. Possibly even better, reading on my Kindle or iPad, at work and on the go. Heavily weighted towards dialogue, but in a quick paced and vibrant way, rather than being plodding or tedious. The characters drew me in, to the point where I felt the triumphs and losses of the protagonist. I recommend this as a fun, fast read, and a good value.

The chapters are between 500 and 600 words. I wrote it that way so I could complete one chapter each day. (You know . . . daily word count.)

Dialogue, as you may have read in How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks, is what I love. Putting two characters together and just listening to them talk is a delight. And, often, surprising.

Try it.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cover Art That Says It All

"It's all right there: the odd and unrelated Shakespeare quote, the crazy looking old man - grinning like a fool - and the athletic sock on his hand."

It's wonderful when the cover art comes together.

(And captures the true essence of the book.)

Thank you, Emilie, for the plug.

(It was that gave Little Willie top billing. He must know someone there.)

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

3,000+ Books in Five Days

The numbers are in on the five-day give-away for two of my Kindle books. More than 2,000 copies of My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today and more than a thousand of How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks.

Thank you so much David Masters for the great review of Nine Week Novel and "Irish Bill" for what you said about Great-grandfather. Thanks, too, to Janis Brunson Hogg for your comments on my Facebook page.

It's always lovely to hear encouraging words.

The Myth of the Muses

Let’s get a little theological today. In the past, if you’ve been waiting for the Muses—in Greek mythology the goddesses that inspire creativity—you’ve been doomed to failure.

Yes, there well may be a spark within you that says “Write!” but . . . the Lord helps those who help themselves.

I got serious about all this in 1972 when I transferred to the University of Washington and began my junior year with classes in novel writing and short story writing. Many books, articles, columns, poems and plays later, I can tell you the Muses have yet to show up when I’m working. And, I can tell you, that writing spark is still there.

If you've been giving How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks a try, what you’ve been doing is becoming a better writer by writing. Over time, it will be easier for you to say what you want to say in the way you want to say it. I could tell you writing will become easier but it would probably be more honest to say writing won’t be as hard.

It’s seldom if ever easy. It can, if you work at it, get less hard.

Part of the myth of the Muses is the misguided belief, the sad hope, that at some moment, in a frenzy, you’ll easily dash off of a complete novel. Yes, O Father was written in a three-day frenzy but it wasn’t easily dashed off. It was a lot of work concentrated into a lot of hours over only a few days.

There’s a flip side to this. If you wrote your novel in a Muse-induced state, if a goddess merely channeled herself through you, it wouldn’t really be your novel, would it? But, nine weeks from today, it could be your novel. Your completed novel.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 016

If you hit a rough patch immediately start a new writing project.

Make your motto: Writing is always fun!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quotes from Authors on Writing

This has been around a while but it offers a good variety of perspectives. Needless to say, I most like the authors who agree with my point of view. (Or is it the ones with whom I agree?) The advice to write, write, write!
Thank you, Pam. (Who lives in Omaha, where I used to live. I was on North 42nd St., just down the hill from St. Cecilia's Cathedral, which I used in my novel Pope Bob.)

Just keep writing!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 015

If you get more than two or three rejection slips, quit writing.

Make your motto: They don't want me? I don't want them!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seven Lessons Dorothy from Kansas Can Teach a Novelist

1. One way or another, you’re a character (if not the main one).

2. A good story needs a villain.

3. A good plot needs some form of good vs. evil

4. Little details make a big difference. (Ruby slippers? Flying monkeys?)

5. It’s okay to create characters based on people you know but make them different enough so there’s no danger of a lawsuit. (“I’m just a tall, skinny farmhand, Your Honor, and for most of the story she calls me stupid.”)

6. Let the reader see behind the curtain.

7. When in doubt, kill a witch.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's the Best Time Ever to Be a Novelist

When I started full-time freelancing in the late 1980s a publisher advised me that more money was to be made in periodicals than in books. He was right. And when it came to books, non-fiction was a better choice than fiction. That was true, too.

That was then. This is now.

Yes, the Internet has decimated magazines and newspapers. Over the last decade I've lost a lot of (paying!) customers as periodicals get tinier or blink out of existence.

What I hadn't realized is the same thing is happening to non-fiction books. A (relatively) recent article in USA Today points out that fiction is now the genre because if folks want something non-fiction they look for that topic online. For free. They can't do that with a novel, with a unique story, but can get that story in an e-book format for less than the price of a cup of coffee or Hallmark card. (A what?)

Just as the public flocked to the movies during the Great Depression of the 1930s to have a bit of an escape from their challenging daily (real) lives, now readers are choosing fiction for an escape from the Great Recession (and all the challenges of our own era).

There's an audience looking for new novels. And there's a way (e-books!) you can get your novel out there that won't cost you a dime.

It's the best time ever to be a novelist.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Advice on Writing from Sinclair Lewis

I've mentioned I wasn't a reader-for-fun when I was a kid. I must have been a young teen when Dad handed me an old paperback of a Sinclair Lewis novel. For a long time, Elmer Gantry was my favorite book. I still love the opening sentence: "Elmer Gantry was drunk."

In college, in an awful course of nineteenth-century British novels, the professor asked what authors we liked. I said Lewis. He brushed that aside because he "only" tells the story.

Seemed like a good idea to me then. And now.

I'm sure he influenced my own novel writing. (Two ways that come to mind are his use of dialogue to tell the reader something about the speaker and the way he made up a Midwest state for his books. I have a made-up Central American country in the novel I'm working on now.)

Today when I did a Web search of Sinclair Lewis and writing tips I was startled to find a blog post about his advice and amazed that he advocated writing one hour a day six days a week. Lewis' piece is titled "How I Wrote a Novel on Trains and Beside the Kitchen Sink."

That formula sounds very familiar. At that rate, using a word count instead of daily time requirement, one could write a novel in nine weeks.

This is the blog post from Jason Hayward.

I'd be delighted to find out where Lewis' essay is available online. Please let me know if you come across it. And . . .

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm an Iowa Boy

My family moved from Iowa to Nebraska when I was eight and to Washington state when I was eleven. It wasn't until many, many years later that I found out the University of Iowa is famous for its writers' program. (I learned a lot at the University of Washington, thanks especially to Lois Hudson, a writer (and teacher) who agreed to work with me one on one. And earlier in the seminary, thanks to Lois Selmar. God bless them both.)

I like what the University of Iowa's program has to say about teaching and learning writing. I remember reading that one member in that program said you can learn it all on your own but it takes longer. I think that's true. A lot of writing is "self-taught." Not all.

Here's what the Iowa program points out:

Though we agree in part with the popular insistence that writing cannot be taught, we exist and proceed on the assumption that talent can be developed, and we see our possibilities and limitations as a school in that light. If one can "learn" to play the violin or to paint, one can "learn" to write, though no processes of externally induced training can ensure that one will do it well. Accordingly, the fact that the Workshop can claim as alumni nationally and internationally prominent poets, novelists, and short story writers is, we believe, more the result of what they brought here than of what they gained from us.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You Don't Need to Be a Genius to Be Creative

I'd like to think being creative means being very smart if not actually a genius, but it just t'ain't so. A writer's creativity, like a ballplayer's physical abilities, gets stronger the more he or she uses it.

Turns out, according to a recent book, there are different kinds of creativity and they . . . what? pop up? . . . in different ways.

I wrote about some of my "ways" in Week Two, Day 1 of How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks. The podcast for that day (and all the others) is here.

Wait! It's much better to buy the book, How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks. Really. Would I lie to you?

This little video is based on an article in last weekend's Wall Street Journal. (And both are based on the book, Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.) You can find the article here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 014

SASE is always optional. (Don't know
what SASE means? No problem!)

Make your motto: Publishing houses
can afford envelopes and stamps!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury on Perseverance

I'm not sure what the author takes out of the fridge (cheese?). He does grab a fresh beer. I like what he says about hanging in there, especially when you're first starting out.

In my college days I used the word "fridge" in my manuscript and my professor made a note by it: "The hell you say!"

That was a while ago.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 013

Remember creative writers
don't have to worry about getting
any facts right.

Make your motto: I'm not a reporter.
I'm a writer.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where's Elmore?

I've heard some readers were having a hard time viewing the Elmore Leonard video. I'll try again:

Elmore Leonard, part 2

As long as I'm on the subject . . .

I came across this video from 2010. (And I just finished watching season two of Justified. Leonard is executive producer.)

The video may give you some suggestions, if you use the approach he does. (He's not a plotter. He lets the characters tell the story to the reader . . . and to him.)

Notice the marketing: A Time magazine video with Time magazine showing in the magazine rack.

And, who knows why?, the interviewer isn't wearing shoes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Elmore Leonard's Rules on Writing

Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite writers. I don't agree with all of these, or always follow the ones I tend to agree with, but they do help:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Just keep writing.

Nine, or So, Weeks Later

Novelists who began their new books -- or returned to a not-yet-completed manuscript -- at the beginning of this year have been on my mind lately. (And in my prayers.) If you were using the nine-week approach you may be near the end.

Good for you!

The first one, completed!, is the hardest.

Once you know you can do it, you can do it again.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 012

There's no bad excuse for skipping
a day's writing.

Make your motto: Tomorrow. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Encouraging or Discouraging

I have some encouraging, or discouraging, words for you as you continue to write your book.

Longtime authors, such as myself, still hit some tough spots as we work on our books. I'm fast approaching the point where I'm sure "this is the dumbest idea for a novel I've ever had." (Really, Bill? Dumber than an alcoholic pope ending up on Skid Road? What were you thinking?) Fortunately (?), I've been there many times before and will just keep writing.

As you work at your writing skills (by writing) some things do get easier. And some, I suspect, never will.

But after you've written a book or two, and so you know you can write a book or two, it's less likely the tough spots will make you quit.

Don't quit.

Just keep writing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 011

Have a question about a publication? Give
the editor a call!

Make your motto: He -- or she-- will want
to hear my idea!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Kindle Advantage and Disadvantage

I've become a fan of Kindle Direct Publishing. One of its features is a constant updating of what books have sold. Last month How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks was my top one (of six books) but so far this month it's been My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today.

A disadvantage of self-publishing is it's all you. It isn't just the writing and editing. It's the cover and protional description and, truth be told, figuring out how to actually get your book up there. It took me more than a few tries to figure out how to get the cover art to show up. I took a lot of specific notes after my first success. If you're having trouble with that, just drop me a line.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 010

If your family and friends say
something you wrote is very good
then you can be sure it is very good
and should be published immediately.

Make your motto: Pointing out to the editor
"my family and friends say this is very good"
will seal the deal!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Creative" Not-Writing

A recent review of How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks included this:

If nothing else this book will get my house cleaner than it's ever been. "I'll write after I clean out the pantry." "I'll write after I sort the linen closet." "I'll write after I wash all the dog's bedding." "I'll write after I wash all the baseboards with ammonia." You get the idea.

I think that's true for all writers. Everything else seems so interesting and so important when you know it's time to write.

The discipline does get easier. But, even then, it can be a challange.

Just keep writing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 009

A publication's writers' guidelines are meant
for average writers. Ignore them. You're exceptional.

Make your motto: I don't need to actually see
a publication to know exactly what it needs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best of Times, Worst of Times

I've finished my word count for today (about 550) and so I'm feeling pretty chipper. I've been at this long enough to know I do my best work first thing in the morning. It's easiest for me and the writing is better, too.

It may take you a while to discover your best time (and worst time) or you may already know that but just wish it t'weren't so.

Here's what Little Willie had to say about that in How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks:

It doesn’t matter if you are a night owl or an early bird. There’s probably a best time of the day for you when it comes to writing. Some writers discover, much to their horror, that they may be night owls but they do their best writing first thing in the (early!) morning. That means while they’re working on a book they have to get to bed earlier than they like in order to get up earlier than they ever wanted to.
Or it might be because of other demands—family, job, life—some writers can’t get to their manuscripts until late in the evening. That’s when the household is finally quiet and they can have that forty-five minutes or an hour to themselves. As you’re discovering, if you didn’t already know, having a block of quiet and uninterrupted time makes a huge difference in your ability to concentrate and write.
True story: When my own family was pestering me in so many ways and I had very little time to myself to work, I’d crack off a sonnet. There! At least I got something done! (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes/I all alone beweep my outcast state” . . . in the loo. Really. “Papa! Papa! I have to . . . ” “Give me a minute, Hamnet!” Yes, the little dear’s name was Hamnet.)
Find your time. Find your place. And keep it sacred.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Up to 650

Brisk "sales" for the free copies of The World's Funniest Atheist continue. More than 650 copies in the last three-and-a-half days.

Get your free copy now!

Offer good through Wednesday.


Snow here in the Seattle area. It happens about once each winter. That's enough.

As you can see, my office is covered with the stuff.

No, not really. That's the old coop in the back of our lot. My office is much smaller.

Have Faith in Yourself

If you're in the middle of your novel and unsure where it's going you have my empathy. It's where I am with my latest. I'm just not certain about a number of things when it comes to the plot but...

I'll just keep plodding along.

I suggest you do the same.

Have faith in your story. And in yourself.

Just keep writing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Five Hundred Books

I'm happy to report brisk "sales" for the free copies of The World's Funniest Atheist. More than 500 copies in the last two-and-a-half days.

Get your free copy now!

Offer good through Wednesday.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free, Free, Free Novel

Tomorrow and for the next five days The World's Funniest Atheist will be available for free.

(And worth every penny, says Little Willie.)

I really think you should get a copy, read it, and give it a five-star review. If you're pressed for time, skip numbers one and two.

Get it here.

A Little Less Social Networking

You may have noticed if you're working on your novel you have less time for social networking.

I have noticed, with a little more social networking, I have less time for working on my novel.

Frustrating, isn't it?

It's a balancing act. For a time, novel writing may be more important for you. Then, when it's done, you can go wild with the social stuff. (And, later, use it all to push your book, too.)

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 008

The best way to become a better writer is to sit
around talking to other people who want to become
better writers.

Make your motto: I'll get to the actual writing later.

Monday, January 9, 2012


You know one of the disadvantages of working on your book on a daily basis is you don't get to do other ... stuff ... that seems so interesting and entertaining and wonderful and ...

Staring at reruns on TV, racing through the video game you've played a hundred times, or almost-mindlessly Web surfing can seem especially appealing when it's time to write your daily quota. (Not to mention getting a little more sleep instead of getting up earlier to write!)

But with your daily writing, even one day's writing, you end up with something you can hold in your hand. (Print it out! Back it up!) It's something you created. It's yours and yours alone.

It may take a tough hour or more to make, but it never existed before right now. As new as new can be.

Pretty cool, huh?

Just keep writing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 007

Take breaks often. Unless the words are just pouring
out and they're pure gold, stop for a few games
of computer solitaire or a little Web surfing.

Make your motto: I'll get back to my writing as soon as I...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Practicing What I Preach

"The World's Funniest Atheist" is available on Kindle.

I think you should go buy a copy right now. Seriously. Then come back and continue reading this. I can wait. Go head. I'll be here...

...I wrote it using the "Nine Week" method but my daily word count was a little higher and I wrote for a bit more than 54 days so I ended up with a slightly bigger novel. (It's just under 50,000 words.) The first draft took about 80 days of writing at one chapter per day. Most weeks I took my one day off and there were some stretches where I couldn't get back to the manuscript for several days.

The daily word count was low enough that I knew it wouldn't seem overwhelming but, of course, I also knew I needed to quit when I finished that chapter and not keep going on some kind of "writer's high." (Endorphins!) However, as Willie and I advised, I jotted down some notes for the next chapter or wrote a couple of lines into it. That was one reason I didn't dread coming back to the manuscript each day.

I say all this so you'll buy my books... No, wait. I say all this so you'll know I practice what I preach. When it comes to novel writing anyway.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The World's Funniest Atheist

As I mention in "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks," I tend to start thinking about the next book when I'm about two-thirds of the way through the one I'm currently working on. (On which I am currently working.)

That was the case for Nine Week Novel. I began to jot down some notes about a fellow who makes his living as "the world's funniest atheist" and then, much to his dismay, suddenly believes God exists.

Over the past couple days I've been getting that ready to publish on Kindle.

And, because "O Father" is selling well, I want to get the second book in that series finished, too. With that one, it's a matter of editing. I wrote it a while back. (Prehistoric Pre-Kindle days.)I think that's next on the list. I always liked those characters.

I apologize if this post seems like bragging. I've been at this book writing a long time and now technology is allowing more books to be published. I'm a kid in a candy store.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Right-Rail Willie

I'm not sure how Little Willie managed to get his Twitter account posted on the right rail of my blog.


His accusing me of sock-puppetism is ridiculous.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bad Tips for Writers 006

Like a diamond, the best writing is created
under pressure. Never start a project too early.

Make your motto: It's all in my head. I just have
to write it down.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Getting Ready

Not writing today? That's understandable. It's a Sunday and a holiday. Still...

It would be easy (and relatively painless) to clean up your writing space a bit and get ready for tomorrow's writing. Five minutes today? Ten? Fifteen at the most? Then tomorrow, ready to go.

Here's what Little Willie says about that:

Week Two, Day 2
LWS: When and Where You Write Best

It probably doesn’t help you much if I say the best place to write is England, unless you’re in England or can easily get there. Probably worse if I say the best time to write is the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century, unless you have a time machine.

It’s true that going on a “writer’s retreat” is lovely and having a (paid!) sabbatical can be a delight, but at that retreat spot or on that leave, each day you need a place to write and a time to write. You need those day after day after day because a book becomes a book by a writer working on it day after day after day.

Let’s talk about time first. It doesn’t matter if you are a night owl or an early bird. There’s probably a best time of the day for you when it comes to writing. Some writers discover, much to their horror, that they may be night owls but they do their best writing first thing in the (early!) morning. That means while they’re working on a book they have to get to bed earlier than they like in order to get up earlier than they ever wanted to.

Or it might be because of other demands—family, job, life—some writers can’t get to their manuscripts until late in the evening. That’s when the household is finally quiet and they can have that forty-five minutes or an hour to themselves. As you’re discovering, if you didn’t already know, having a block of quiet and uninterrupted time makes a huge difference in your ability to concentrate and write.

True story: When my own family was pestering me in so many ways and I had very little time to myself to work, I’d crack off a sonnet. There! At least I got something done! (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes/I all alone beweep my outcast state” . . . in the loo. Really. “Papa! Papa! I have to . . . ” “Give me a minute, Hamnet!” Yes, the little dear’s name was Hamnet.)

Find your time. Find your place. And keep it sacred. If only for another seven weeks and four days, when your novel will be completed.

Just keep writing!