Writing Workshop: What Are YOU Working On?

Photo courtesy of TheAlieness GiselaGiardin

One word expresses the pathway to greatness: voice. Those on this path find their voice and inspire others to find theirs. The rest never do.
– Stephen R. Covey

What are you working on right now: A bestseller? An ode to your cat? Your best article ever? A poem that’ll rock the world?

Maybe you’ve just finished something you’re really proud of?

Here’s your chance to showcase your writing and celebrate with each other.

Whet our appetite with the opening paragraph of your future bestseller, give us a link to your best article, or tell us what you are writing at the moment.

Who knows, your piece might even attract the notice of a major publishing house!

Here are some guidelines:

A. Writers:

  • State what aspect you’re working on. For example, you might want to say, “Here’s a link to my article Whatever. I’m currently working on eliminating superfluous words.”

B. Commenters:

  • When commenting, first list everything you really like about a piece.
  • Only then offer careful suggestions.
  • Treat each other with respect, friendliness, caring, and honesty.
  • Remember that we are all still learning.

Now it’s over to you. Take a deep breath. Then jump into the comment section and bring out your treasures!


Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at Write to Done. Grab her FREE report How to Write Like an A-List Blogger. Mary has helped thousands of students successfully create outstanding and profitable blogs at A-List Blogging and is the blogger behind Goodlife ZEN.

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60 thoughts on “Writing Workshop: What Are YOU Working On?”

  • Mary Jaksch says:

    Hi friends,

    What I’m working on in my writing is trying to eliminate a preachy tone that seems to slip into my writing… I suppose that’s an occupational hazard for a Zen master 🙂

    Here is an article I wrote recently:

  • writer dad says:

    Hello everybody,

    My writing can be a bit too enthusiastic. I get giddy with the words, and sometimes don’t allow ideas to breathe.

    Here is an example of my verbal fever:


  • Stuart says:

    I’m a beginning writer. I’m working on telling a story that flows.


  • Dave Navarro says:

    I’m writing blog articles exclusively these days, but I’m considering shopping around for a publisher for my eBook, “What’s Holding You Back?”

    I had a reviewer tell me I should take it over to Hay House a few years back, but I wasn’t ready to see myself as a “published” writer at the time, so I just kept it an eBook.

    If anyone has any leads on publishers who are taking first-time self-improvement authors, I’m all ears.

    Since I sell the book right now, I feel a little hesitant to post a link here and look like a spammer … but the first chapter’s available to read for anyone who clicks my name above and grabs my RSS feed. 🙂

    What makes you think you’re being preachy?

    I notice you have plenty of comments on your latest article. Are other people telling you you need to be “less giddy”, or are you just thinking that yourself? (If it ain’t broke, why fix it?)

  • Mary Jaksch says:

    Hi Dave!

    Where’s the preachiness? Have a look at this earlier post and you can see it clearly:


    I think it’s something to do with not putting whole human self into my writing. When I’m in ‘preachy’ mode, my stuff seems a bit remote and elevated. As if I’ve got all the answers and am not part of the questions.

  • Amy says:

    Must it be a link? If it’s a novel, most of us haven’t put it up on places. Would a paste in the comments do?

  • Maxwell says:

    Hey, this is nice.

    I’m currently working on the first draft of my first screenplay. I’m about 2/3 of the way through, but I’m currently revising what I’ve done so far because I’m not sure how it should end. I have an idea though… It’s not much to share yet. Another project I have going is a short story I’m working on adapting to a novella. I put the first two paragraphs up to read here: http://maxwellwho.wordpress.com/the-first-impressionist-first-two-paragraphs/

  • Dave Navarro says:

    @Mary –
    “When I’m in ‘preachy’ mode, my stuff seems a bit remote and elevated. As if I’ve got all the answers and am not part of the questions.”

    Here’s a way out of that … have your posts discuss some of the answers you know but create open-ended questions for your readers. Ask them if they agree/disagree with your experiences, or be transparent about your own challenges, and I think you’ll feel it flow more.

  • Mary Jaksch says:

    Hi Amy!
    Maybe not paste the whole novel into a comment 🙂

    A paragraph or 2 or 3 would be great!

  • Annie Binns says:

    I am suffering from the lingering effects of Blogger Block as described here:


    I am very frustrated with myself that I took an Elance job that is sucking up my time and energy instead of trying to break through on my blog and actually write more than one post a week.

    @Nog – the mouse story was interesting. I hope it’s fictional.

    @Dad – I read your stuff because I like to feel giddy. Don’t change!

    @Max – The second paragraph made me laugh out loud!!

    @Mary – Girl, you are SO not preachy, although I admit that example you shared was missing some of the Mary-ness I’ve come to know! If you were to write that again today, I think it would actually come across very different.

  • Dana says:

    I’ve been trying to write one short story per week, to keep myself in the writing habit between NaNoWriMos.


    A couple of ones that I’ve had fun with:

  • Dana says:


    Naaaah, I don’t see any preachiness there 🙂

  • Steve says:


    A few sample paragraphs of a short story I’m currently finishing up. Seeking comments on my writing style here:

    1) It had come to this. My endless search for her, the person that I longed for, had ended at a hotel, off a busy highway, with a smattering of cars in front. I sat in my car and looked at the succession of white doorways extending to my right.


    2) Both she and her son looked up, and I knew the true way to her, to her emotions, to her heart and maybe into her life, was to pay attention to him, look at him.
    But I couldn’t. I was riveted to her. Her tight, light blue tank top, tight denim shorts, and all the darkness that was her skin, hair, eyes, and all the colors etched on her visible body, in all that sun and warmth, were the most fatal combination at the shore.
    She was the most beautiful human being I had ever laid eyes on.

    Thank you!

  • Wanted to also mention that I just came back from a writing workshop in Martha’s Vineyard given by Nancy Aronie – Writing From the Heart. It was 4 mornings from 9-12, writing and sharing from our hearts. Incredible experience. I highly recommend it to all. She gives it every week in the summer. She’s also doing a 1 day workshop in New York at the Open Center in October. Check her out on the web – http://www.Chilmarkwritingworkshop.com

  • Here goes again, for the third time. Not sure why my post isn’t appearing.

    I started a blog back in November. Can’t seem to get a focus on where to go with it, so I’ve gone nowhere. Haven’t written. HELP, I’m stuck – blogger stuck. And I was so proud of myself for getting it up there myself (I’m not the most computer able).
    I have a couple of published essays on my web site –
    You can also see my blog through my web site.
    Thank you for any suggestions/feedback you offer.

  • writer dad says:

    @Mary- I didn’t feel any preachiness in the first example at all. The second example felt like it was from the vantage of a cloud, but I wouldn’t necessarily use the word preachy. I think what made the first one different, was putting yourself in the situation with the partner. It made it a warm story.

    @Stuart- Your story has a good punch line at the end, but you have too many adverbs. Drop the words ending in ly. Example:

    “I know we both wanted to scream, but we just shockingly stared at each other for 32 seconds.”

    This is stronger:

    We both wanted to scream, but we just stared. Thirty-two seconds passed.

    @Max- Your second paragraph is funny. You want to cut about 10% out. It’ll be easy to do if you look at it with hard eyes.

    @Annie- That post is really funny. It’s conversational, which really makes it work. When you sit down to write a post, picture someone. Then just write as though you were speaking to them. Write without a filter, then go back and edit. It’ll be brilliant.

    @Steve- What you’re building is nice, just trim the fat a bit.

    Try this:

    I couldn’t. I was riveted. Her blue tank top was tight, and so were her denim shorts. The darkness of her skin, hair, eyes, and all the colors etched on her visible body, in all the sun and warmth, were the most fatal combination at the shore.

  • Glenn Song says:

    Earlier this year, before I hit crunchtime at work, I was writing a serialized story on my blog called “Tales from a Mechanical Bird.” It’s set in a Grimm fairytale/steampunk world and the stories surround a young woman who builds the very first airplane (the mechanical bird). This is one of the stories:


    They’re adventure stories and I’m more concerend with how the action of the stories flow from scene to scene and keeping it interesting and concise. I also planned to post a new chapter every two weeks, but yeah, totally failed that part. I will return to it soon!

  • Karen says:

    The only novel I’ve ever attempted was during the 2006 NaNoWriMo, but it went all over the place, and I haven’t considered another book-length project since. Till now. It just occurred to me that a short story I’ve written, which still needs a lot of work to stand alone, might be a basis for a romance and friendship novel.

    The past two years, writing for the first time for publication, I’ve mostly written nonfiction–essay, articles, blogging, the like. And dabbled in poetry.

    Here’s the short story premise: A young teacher, Kate, headed for spring break at the beach sees a sign that compels her to turn down a dusty dirt road. She meets a sarcastic disabled woman, Valerie, about Kate’s age, but in spite of the friction, they begin to connect. As the Kate leaves, she promises to return in a week, and Valerie invites her to lunch.

    Novel idea (or is it?): In the short story, Valerie mentions her brother. In the novel, he might drop by when Kate returns. I’m having trouble working up a compelling plot except that one barrier to the brother and Kate’s romantic involvement would be Valerie’s jealousy, because she’s lonely and would prefer her new friend to like and pay attention only to Valerie.

    An important element I’ve left out is that this is inspirational fiction, so Valerie’s bitterness and cynicism about her disability keeps her from the God her brother and Kate embrace. So Kate naturally–and the brother, for that matter–does not want to endanger the new interest Valerie shows in spiritual matters and living life to the fullest.

    So I guess it’s a matter of how you act when you’re attracted to someone, yet you know it’s not a good idea, at least for the time being, to get involved.

    Am I making sense at all? Plotting is new to me, while characters and dialogue seem to come more naturally.

  • Karen says:

    I liked what WRITER DAD said to STEVE about trimming the fat. Sometimes I get more excited about revision than writing the first draft, because it’s as if the scales fall off my eyes and I get a vision of what it could be. First draft should flow out unedited, for me at least, while I enjoy being meticulous when I start combing that part of the manuscript.

    Too sleepy. I’ll try to comment more on others’ writing later.

  • Andrea says:

    I’m working on a series of short stories for children. I’ve written a few, now I need to do some editing. Here is the first paragraph from the first book:

    Radburn is a small neighborhood of family homes that surrounds a large park with trees, picnic tables and playgrounds for the children. In this neighborhood live six special children that have been friends their whole lives. They call themselves the “Six Pack.”

  • This is a great idea, Mary.

    I am mostly writing at my blog http://she-power.com these days n an effort to explore and gain confidence in my writing voice. I do post some of my short fiction there as well, but my novel is my real passion. This week I pulled out the second draft and read it, along with my notes. It’s time to start rewriting the third draft, cutting back all the flab to let the story shine. That’s going to be the hard part because some of my current word choices are so repetitive it’s cringe worthy.

    The following is an extract from my novel. My protagonist, Claire is trying to get help for her lover, Luke, who has been shot. The scene is set in a small town in Mexico.


    “You.” She swung the gun towards the frightened father and took a step towards him. “Pick him up and carry him outside.”

    The father looked at her blankly, then turned to the nurse and her assistant, who was fast trying to sink behind the counter.

    “Que dije?” No entiendo.”

    “Fuck”.” Claire tried to think of how to tell the man what to do in Spanish, but the words wouldn’t come. She searched her mind, but there was nothing, only blind screaming panic.

    She grabbed for the father’s arm. He resisted and started to babble incoherently in Spanish. Claire couldn’t focus on the words, tried not to see the terror in the man’s eyes.

    Then the boy started crying. Claire steeled herself to ignore him and pushed the father over towards Luke. The father tried to make the boy stay back, but the boy hung off his trousers and wailed. It occurred to Claire that anything good she had ever done in this life was instantly being undone in this moment. She was going to hell as surely as her murderous sister.



  • (Hmm…my original comment was never posted. Oh well, here it is again. If it ends up posting twice, go ahead and delete which ever one you see fit.)

    I am working on a free ebook I will release later this year. It is about finding out for oneself; the essence of spirituality, oneness, liberation, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it.

    Here is a link to one of my latest articles:

    Where is the Door?

    Thanks everyone. There have been wonderful submissions thus far, and I am looking forward to many more.

  • You gals and guys have inspired me to post an excerpt, as well.


    It is seeing your face for the first time.

    Walking to the mirror, someone is seen staring back. Those features are familiar, but the recognition cannot be built into an experience to be had, or a static sheet of info for later reference. It is a unique being that stares back. It is always new, always surprising.

    It is approaching a roaring fire.

    As you near the flames, you feel the reaction of every cell in your body, moving in sync with the fire. This movement of fire, the aliveness of the flames, the symphony of the conflagration, is everything it means to be a human being. White hot at its source, it moves with great energy, until the diffusion kills the entirety of what once was. It is the movement of life.


    I won’t post the entire thing, but if you want to check it out, you may do so here:

    Living Anew

    It is a short piece.

    Thanks again, everyone.

  • @Mary
    I would love to have something constructive to say, but I don’t actually think your recent articles are preachy. I think some of your earlier posts in the first half of the year were a little distant with not enough personality in them, but I think you’ve gone a long way to rectifying that.

    @Writer Dad
    You have a colourful and enthusiastic writing voice, but I see that as a strength, not something to be fixed. I liked your style enough to subscribe and my reader’s already overloaded, so you must have something.

    Like Writer Dad said, cut adverbs and minimize adjectives. Look for strong verbs and nouns. When you are writing a story this short, I think details like what vitamins you’re taking distract the reader. I do like this sentence: “Then I did the equivalent of handing him a gun loaded with one bullet and putting him on a deserted island”

    I think you have some good bones to this story, but I would cut it back to emphasize plot. There’s too much narrative for my tastes, but that can be personal. I would ask yourself if every sentence serves a purpose. It’s the tough call for us writers. is everything in the story absolutely necessary?

    Love this article and I have already stumbled it at some point. Did I find you through Monika Mundell maybe…

    I’d second Writer Dad again, and also say remember the golden rule “Show, Don’t Tell”. For example, describing the woman could have been done a lot more evocatively if we had details of what was beautiufl about her (her eyes, the swing of her hair?) and how her body looked in the clothes, rather than just details of the outfit.

    Sorry if I have missed anyone else but I really must go and cook dinner for my small child. He’s ready to chew on my leg and the whining is turning to snarling.

    🙂 Kelly

  • My best article was the very first one I posted on my blog. It’s called Birthday Bashing and was picked up by two South African news websites and published in the University of Cape Town student magazine.

    Check it out at http://www.varsityblah.com/birthday-bashing/

  • James Carson says:

    It’s an entry for a writing competition.

    Rome’s a great city: monumental architecture, wall-to-wall sunshine and ice cream to diet for. What’s not to like? So when Michelle, my cousin in Kildare suggested a trip to the Eternal City, I had my flights booked faster than you could say La Dolce Vita.

  • Jayme says:

    I just finished posting this article in my passion blog:


    It took me almost a whole day to write it because I always feel the need to perfect this paragraph or that sentence.

    I’m working on writing posts that are easy to read, simple to understand, conversational yet makes a positive impact to anyone who reads it.

  • Jayme says:

    @Mary: Reading your posts make me feel like you’re talking to me. No preachiness at all.

    @Writer Dad: Your writing is so poetic. I feel like gliding smoothly over your words.

    @Stuart: I almost cringed when you described what you did to the mouse. Allow some breathing space in your paragraphs though. And just keep on writing and practicing, you’ll be a good writer in no time.

    @Dave Navarro: If I remember it right, HCI Publishers took in Chicken Soup for the Soul when nobody else would. I’m pretty sure they felt so grateful that they did after the Chicken Soup series flew off the shelves. Maybe you should try submitting your manuscript to them. You may just be the next author they’re looking for. 🙂

    @Max: Let us know when the screenplay is finished. I’d love to read how the story unfolds.

    @Annie: I can relate to your blogger block post. “You subscribe to more RSS feeds than the total number of your blog posts.” Felt like you were talking to me. Haha… 😀

  • Mary Jaksch says:

    Hi everyone!
    I’ve worried about WTD all day. I’ve been tied up with other work: my partner is running tango workshops and I’m assisting, and my lovely ex-husband has come to stay with us.

    So I couldn’t grab a moment to check in to see what was happening on WTD. ‘What if nobody is posting in the Writing Workshop?’ I thought. You see, I’ve been a bit nervous about initiating the Writing Workshop.

    Then I checked just now and found a wonderful conversation in progress! That’s just great…phew!

    I’m still busy for another day and a bit. But then I’ll read every single comment – promise! Can’t wait to read all your offerings…

  • Jayme says:

    @Mary: Tango workshops sound fun! 🙂 Don’t worry, we’ll still be here even if you’re away for a little bit. Thanks for this great idea, I’ve been adding more blogs to my feedreader because of this WTD workshop. Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

  • Alan McCoy says:

    I’m an aspiring screenwriter and am currently working on the story outline for my second screenplay. I also run a blog which I update on the rare occasion I have something intelligent to say.


    @writerdad: Nice bumping into you here! Keep up the great work on the blog.

  • Mary says:

    I am working on two projects right now. One is a small e-book to give away to my subscribers to my e-zine at my site. The other is a more substantial work that I will put up for sale. Both have to do with career planning.

    The first is affirmations and other encouraging material for job hunters and employees. The second is a career planning guide to help people map out a career path that they can be happy with. It will work no matter what stage of your career you are at, too. That’s the real challenge.

    Neither piece is ready for public view yet. But the smaller project will be very soon. On the larger one, I will be looking for beta readers to give me feedback and/or testimonials sometime in the next two weeks.

  • My ongoing goal in my writing is to stay grounded in my body, in the sensory information that will make a moment real to my readers.

    Having just published my first book, I am also working self-promotion–getting the word out about the book and bravely asserting its literary merit as well as the value of its message. Here is a link where you can learn more about Between Two Women:


    @Harriett, I think you solve your own problem in your most recent blog post, i.e. be more specific, give more direct examples, as you did when explaining your daughter’s condition. On your home page, you assert the value of your coaching without giving specific examples that a reader might identify with. One other thing about the homepage: I recommend editing for more sentence variety. The sentences are all about the same length giving a choppiness to the read. Vary the length of the sentences and the fluidity will improve.

  • Dave Navarro says:

    @Jayme –
    Thanks for the lead. I’ll check it out. 🙂

  • Hi kids. I’m working on magazine articles.
    I’m curious to keep going 🙂

    Here’s one:

    Here’s another one:

  • SpaceAgeSage says:

    @ Mary — I like how you present things with examples, stories, and food for thought.
    When I feel I’m getting “preachy” I have to eliminate words like “should,” “need to,” and “must.” Writing more as “we” instead of using “you” helps me, too.

    @Writer Dad — your enthusiasm comes through, not giddiness. The flow makes it go. Fluidity is a good thing!

    @Stuart — you recognize the value of detail with a writer’s eye. Now the trick is to know when to put the detail in and when to let it go. It takes practice and reading writers you admire to get a feel for it.

    @ Maxwell — I agree the punch is in the second paragraph. It brings me into this man’s life with an immediate sense of who and what he is. I guess I would like to see the critic’s review through his eyes more.

    @Annie — I enjoy your humor! Always good to laugh through some of the tough stuff. For writer’s block — go to local book store and randomly pick up five or six books that catch your attention. Randomly open and read parts of them. This can often jog the brain a bit.

    @ Steve — Ditto what Writer Dad wrote!

    @Harriet –Your matter-of-fact writing cuts to the point you want to make quite well. I think as a reader I would like to “see” more of you than “read” it (show, don’t tell). I struggle with this one all the time, constantly re-writing to bring readers into my writing instead of just telling them what I know or feel.

    @Glenn — You have a good sense of detail and story flow. I want to know more about this world through Alicia’s eyes, heart, and mind, though, not from what she does. This will make her and the story more real.

    @Andrea — I find myself intrigued by the name Six Pack. It makes me want to know more. I am always working on “show; don’t tell,” so I would add this suggestion: “The Radburn neighborhood of family homes wrapped itself around a large, tree-filled park that always rang with the loudness of children…”

    @Kelly — the dialogue pulls me in. Claire’s emotional pain comes through nicely (or painfully, as it were.) I guess I would add tension with Luke’s condition worsening or her doubts about him making it. Make her sword’s edge a little sharper.

    @Takuin — Your blog post on the door is interestingly deep. This post has lots of questions — 22 of them or so. Are they too much for a reader to digest?

    @Eugene — nice job of showing (not telling).
    BTW — there is no thing as too much sushi!

    OK enough for now …..
    a.k.a. SpaceAgeSage

  • SpaceAgeSage says:

    THANKS for any comments:
    This is the opening to my novel, now at 84,000 words. Does it grab you and draw you in?

    As two invisible forms walked undetected past his outer Secret Service perimeter, President of the United States Kenneth Jackson drank deeply from his hot rum toddy and gazed at the fireplace crackling just beyond his bare feet. Unaware of the danger drawing near, Jackson snuggled closer to cuddle half naked on the couch with the equally undressed love of his life, his wife Mary.

    As he shifted his weight to nuzzle her ear, he let out a low moan, but there was nothing romantic about it.

    “I thought I was in better shape,” he said ruefully, seeking wifely pity. “Every muscle hurts!”

    “I know,” Mary responded, equally in pain, “but that’s what we get for trying to outdo our hot-shot, snowboarding daughter on the slopes.”

    Although the rum, the fireplace, and the snow-covered mountains nearby brought out the romantic urges, a day on the slopes of Aspen Mountain left them both feeling every bit of their 47 years. They had tried valiantly to keep up with their daughter Michelle, but her snowboarding skills kept taunting them to push themselves even harder.

    The President smiled as he recalled how the Secret Service agents spent the day respectfully glaring at them in their reckless attempts to outdo each other — aging skiers against college-aged snowboarder. The glares had lasted until the trio made their last run of the day and returned to Colorado Senator Bill Quaid’s huge ranch house estate on the Roaring Fork River.

    Well, to hell with them and protocol, the President thought, we rarely get to see each other these days anyway, especially with the craziness of the past year.

  • writer dad says:

    @Harriet: I understand where you are. You just need to start writing. Put on some classical music and let your mind wander. Stay away from the keyboard and let your hand glide across the page. Write for an hour or so without stopping. Then look back at your work and see what you think. You’ll probably be surprised.

    @Glenn: “A strange whirling noise passed across Alicia’s back. She jerked her head to the side and caught the sight of a boy with a basket. He marched like a toy soldier going down the street. She studied each rigid step and scrutinized the back of his head. Did his skin look somewhat paler than everyone else’s? The boy stopped at a cart, produced a list for the shopkeeper, and stood by silently to receive his wares. After he paid, the boy raised his arm and waved it side to side before marching away.”

    Try: Something whirled across Alicia’s back. She jerked her head and caught a glimpse of a boy with a basket, marching down the street like a toy soldier. She scrutinized the back of his head. Was his skin paler than the others? He stopped at a cart, produced a list, and stood in silence. He paid, then raised his arm with a wave before marching away.

    @Karen: One of my favorite pieces of writing advice came from Quentin Tarantino. He said, “I just put my characters in a room and get them to talking.” This is true. Just set your characters to talking, then trim the fat later. The story will come from what they say.

    @Andrea: Give the reader a reason to read from the beginning.

    Try this: In this neighborhood live six special children that have been friends their whole lives (insert a compelling sentence explaining why the reader should be instantly interested). They call themselves the “Six Pack.”

    @Kelly: I like this. I would keep reading to see what happens.

    Try: The boy started to cry. Claire ignored him and pushed the father towards Luke. He tried to keep the boy back, but the boy hung off his trousers and wailed. Claire thought that all the good she’d ever done in was being unraveled in the space of a moment. She was going to hell, as surely as her murderous sister.

    @Takuin: I love the imagery of fire.

    Try: As you near the flames, every cell syncs with the fire. This movement, the life in the flames, the symphony of the conflagration, it’s everything it means to be human. White hot, it moves with undeniable energy, until the diffusion kills all of what once was. It is the movement of life.

    I’ll be back with more later. Good luck everyone.

  • yvette says:

    Mary – I don’t think it’s preachy. You’re giving advice… you aren’t making judgments or generalizations. Maybe one way to appear more ‘human’ and less ‘perfect’ (and bring yourself down to the level of your readers, who may *want* to do all the stuff you mention but feel bad that they can’t squeeze it in their day) would be to talk about your own struggles with your suggestions… ie “I try to meditate each day for an hour, but sometimes it is difficult because” etc. Does that make sense?


  • writer dad says:

    Eugene: Great post.

    James: Sounds good, but not enough text to tell.

    Jayme: Your site looks great. Your message is terrific as well. The average reader, however, will skip most of what you put so much time into drafting. Think munchable chunks.

    Alan: The site looks good. Do you have any screenwriting samples you want to show?

    Patricia: The book sounds interesting. Good luck!

    SpaceAgeSage: I’m there, but if you tighten it a bit, I might be breathing faster.

  • This is part of the first chapter of the book I’m writing at the moment. I’m not utterly married it it and the first chapter has already changed a lot. My main character is Gregory Button who is “The Button Man.” A button man is an assassin, a killer for hire. The working title of the book is “Death at Your Side.”

    I’m very open to comments and criticisms.


    “We need to hurry, the light is going . . .”

    Yes, it is, thought Gregory. Yes, Indeed. In Gregory’s plump and middle aged form, death was reaching out his hand for Mr. Matthews. Gregory couldn’t exactly say he enjoyed his work as a killer for hire, but he was good at it and he enjoyed that.

    Mellow September sunlight slanted through the trees as Mr. Matthews led Gregory through the garden to his favorite koi pond.

    “So have you been in the rare book business for very long?” asked Mr. Matthews. He was a tall and still athletic sixty-ish years old. His tan and his rough hands bespoke how much time he spent working in this garden, the largest private garden in the city.

    “About ten years,” said Gregory. “It started out as a little hobby and has become a passion.” That was almost true. The IRS had never asked why about half his books sold for exactly $10,000. Mr. Matthews’s niece, Daphne, had bought one of those special books.

    “I can understand that. I hired a landscaping company to do
    something with my big empty lawn and ended up firing them and doing the work myself. Something in the smell of the soil woke me up. It started as a hobby and ended up as a passion.” He smiled to himself as he touched a delicate crape myrtle tree loaded with heavy purple blossoms. He looked like a grandfather patting the head of a child.

    “I must say you’ve done a beautiful job,” said Gregory. “This is one of the loveliest gardens I’ve ever seen.”

    “Thank you!” Mr. Matthews almost preened.

    And one of the most secluded, Gregory added to himself. There was a busy street not fifty yards to the west but here the only sound was the breeze drifting through the rose bushes and rustling the leaves of the Japanese maples.

    The path wound through the garden flanked here and there by frothy pink azaleas and the fragrant white stars of nicotiana. The koi pond was worth the walk. It looked like something out of a Japanese woodcut with arching little trees and moss-covered rocks washed with the slanting beams of the setting sun. The water rippled when touched gently from below by silver flashes of feathery fins. The fish watched then curiously, hoping for a handout. Mr. Matthews gestured to the small bench across the path perfectly positioned to view the scene.

    Gregory slapped his wrist. Mr. Matthews raised an eyebrow.

    “Mosquito,” said Gregory.

    “Ah,” said Mr. Matthews. He picked a spent bloom from the lantana that sheltered the bench. Gregory slapped Mr. Matthews on the neck, plunging the needle directly into his carotid artery.

    “Another mosquito,” said Gregory.

    Mr. Matthews grinned ruefully. “Feels like it nailed me,” he said.

    “Looks like it did,” Gregory said softly.

    Mr. Matthews felt of the tiny puncture on his neck. “Yes, he said “We’ll have to . . .”

    Mr. Matthews collapsed like a discarded puppet.

  • Mary Jaksch:
    Though disagreed with just about every word of your post (I’m an uber-skeptic) it was very smoothly written and well laid out. I liked the mix of narrative and bullet points. I think you have an excellent grasp of how to talk to your audience.

    In the second piece you posted I see what you mean about “preachiness.” It really isn’t very but I think you can fix it by doing a word search on the word “you” and see if it can be changed to “we” or “I.” Doing that puts you in the moment with your reader. Give it a try and see what you think.

    Maxwell: That first paragraph is a turkey. Start the story with paragraph 2. It’s very strong and a good opening. Sprinkle all the info in para 1 in little dribbles throughout the first chapter.

    #1 is wonderfully visual.
    #2 repeats “her” too much. Maybe give her a name. The last line sucks. It’s telling, not showing. You did a good job showing details up to that point.

    James Carson:
    Try to find phrases that you haven’t heard before. If you’ve heard a descriptive phrase on television or casual conversation (wall-to-wall, to die for), don’t use it. It’s almost certainly a cliche.

    this is very clean and clear. Your hard work has paid off!

    There are other posts I could comment on, but I’m out of time!

    writer dad:
    rather than overheated I thought your post had a playful, humorous tone. My husband and I are stretching a point to call ourselves middle aged and we never miss a Pixar movie. I thought Wall-e was badly flawed, but so engaging I’d see it again happily. Ignore who ever told you you were “overheated.” You have enthusiasm and flair.

    There’s no problem telling that this is a beginner effort, but I think you took a fairly trivial incident and made it funny and interesting. Some things you need to pay attention to: check for repeated words. I know You repeated some phrases and sentences for emphasis and to set up a refrain but it’s not a good idea. Try rewriting the same piece, saying exactly the same things but strip out all the extra words. You’ve constructed a charming scene, I’d love to see it more polished.

  • @SpaceAgeSage

    Your blog post on the door is interestingly deep. This post has lots of questions — 22 of them or so. Are they too much for a reader to digest?

    Thanks so much for looking into my article.

    I would say not at all. Most of my work deals with questioning these things as they arise in daily life. If you check out My About Page, it goes over this very thing. (I’ll probably re-write that page before too long.)

    Thanks again.

  • @ Writer Dad

    Try: As you near the flames, every cell syncs with the fire. This movement, the life in the flames, the symphony of the conflagration, it’s everything it means to be human. White hot, it moves with undeniable energy, until the diffusion kills all of what once was. It is the movement of life.

    Thanks so much for going into my article. I am glad you liked it.

    The parts you removed are the precise things I wanted to emphasize. It seems, with too much pruning, these things become less clear. For example, on my blog I use the term movement to represent many different facets of human expression. I used the phrase, “movement of fire” simply to clarify to the reader that it is not the movement of the cells syncing with the flame, but the movement of the flame itself.

    Same with the use of “white hot.” Fire is not white hot, but it tends to burn brightest at its center, which is what I wanted to represent; a comparison with life. That is why I went with, “White hot at its source.”

    But I am grateful for your comments, because it gives one ideas about how others may see the composition. Or at least, how other writers might see the piece.

    I would say out of the 130 or so posts on my site, probably only 10 were pre-planned. My mode of working (at least, for the blog) is to sit at the computer and express being as it happens. Once it is finished, I check for spelling errors, redundancies, etc.; all of the many things any writer might check for; then hit PUBLISH. After that, the post is gone. It might as well be in the trash.

    Unless someone mentions some factual error in my writing; a date, name, place, or whatever; I never re-visit what I have written. I just do not see the point. It was an expression of what occurred in that moment and represents something that one can never get back, so to speak.

    I suppose if I were writing about how to blog, how to write, how to make money online, or any “how-to,” then it certainly would be prudent, and maybe even necessary, to go back to what is in the archives and do some work.

    But you may see a progression in my posts. My earlier writing was chunky and fat. Big clunky paragraphs were the norm, for the most part. But over time, as the language expressed through being ran more smoothly, the writing became sparse, and could only support what needs to be said. Some days are better than others, for sure, but we never really try to write badly…

    Do we? 😉

    Thanks again. You have a great site, BTW. I love the Thesis theme.

  • Nicole says:

    This is just a clip, a little exercise that I did as a character builder type thing. I’m working on expanding it, I really like these characters, and I want to tell the girl’s story, but I don’t know how to introduce the sci-fi-ish topic of these half humans…


  • Angela says:

    Hi – I’ve started blogging here: http://dontaskmeforcash.blogspot.com/ because my friends used to pass my e-mails around to their colleagues, and one has recently confessed to saving my funniest e-mails to re-read when she’s a bit low. A

  • Sheila says:

    I’ve set up a blog to talk about the process of revising my novel and (eventually) submitting it for publication.


  • Terri says:

    I am working on making disability issues accessible. I am working on dialogue, I think I am improving somewhat.


  • Vhalkyrie says:

    I’m writing a short story concept that inspired me today. I’ve always had a love of science fiction short stories, and have written tons of concepts and ideas over the years. It’s time I start developing them into real stories, and see how far I can take them. The ‘tooting your own horn’ post inspired me to get moving.

    Also writing the outline for my professional book that I hope to sell one day.

  • Terri says:

    Mary, it is easier to swallow advice if it comes from ‘one of us’ rather than from a vaunted authority. I don’t think your article sounded preachy though.

    Writerdad. I thought your tone was upbeat and active, but focused enough to follow and enjoy.

    Stuart, I think your story does flow. It could get tightened a bit (good luck with that–I have a hard time with that.) And I hope it never happens to me.

    Maxwell, your story wasn’t up anymore and I am jealous of everyone else who did get to read it!

    Annie Bins. Funny and fun.

    Dana. Well written story–definitely makes me want to know more. Was there a hidden value to the mission? What happens because this went awry??

    Steve. Good images. I know what they mean by show, not tell–which is tricky until you get it right, then you think Oh yeah, of course…

    Harriet. I liked the way your last tip is written–real and urgent. You have tons of statements in your welcome message that could each be turned into blog posts–told in light of your experiences, not just explained.

    Glenn. I loved the idea of this story–surprising turns, etc. There are many details that I want to know if we will see them again in future chapters: will we see the little yellow-haired girl again? what is up with the old man and their religion? and what about this toymaker??

    Karen, I think if you write your story with Karen and Valerie’s relationship as the central one, it will go one way. And if you write it so Karen and the brother’s is central it will go a whole different way–you may want to try both out and see what you like.

    Andrea. I definitely want to know more about these kids–do they have magical powers or disabilities? or is it something else? (You might not need to explain playgrounds are for the children…)

    Takun. Very advanced. I would do better with smaller chunks at a time.

    James Carson. I am expecting adventure, beauty, humor, and for Kildare to play into your story somehow…

    Jayme. I like what you say. I think your advice is good. I would find it easier to digest as 3 shorter posts though because I can only go out and apply a couple of tips at a time… and I need to!

    Spaceagesage. I definitely want to know what is coming next. I think what writerdad said is true–a little more spare might generate more momentum.

    Angela–so funny. Been caught in those loops in my past… If it were to stand alone it would need a touch more set-up, but I think it works as part of a blog.

    Sheila. I know that feeling of writing and losing total track of time–that is definitely the fun part!

  • Hi!
    I’m working on a sequel to my book “Cute Little Store”. It’s non-fiction related to the retail store I started several years ago and closed earlier this year. I (finally) have a complete draft and have been editing and editing and editing for a while. I thought I would have had this book done several months ago.
    I keep a blog related to the book here: http://cutelittlestore.blogspot.com

    @Vhalkyrie: I’m in the same boat with you regarding sci-fi. I have tons of ideas and half drafted concepts and after finishing the book mentioned above, hope to get going on them too.


  • I’ve been getting back into poetry here lately. I’m still just writing for myself, but hope to one day publish. Here’s one of my latest:


  • Gianpaolo says:

    I’m working on a collection of novels about living in mountains, for my blog and the blog of a friend. And, soon, I hope to begin my third book! I’m sorry not to be able to translate my works in English, by now.



  • I am writing short stories this year. My goal is one short story every week. I have written 34 in 34 weeks.

    See at http://dwaynephillips.net/shortstories/

  • SpaceAgeSage says:

    Thanks for the feedback on my excerpt!

    @ James — I can sense the light, fun-loving touch you put to words. It can be hard to find the balance between too light and just right, though.

    @Jayme — good post on passion, and like Writer Dad, crunching it into more digestible points helps the reader absorb it all.

    @Angela — you have delightful way of writing about life and relationships.

    @Sheila — the rush of certain writing spurts is fun. Hang in there and keep writing through the less fun times, too!

    @ Terri — there is a genuineness to your work that comes from a deep heart.

    @Alan McCoy — Liked your blog. You have an easy, comfortable relationship with words that makes your reading smooth and enjoyable.

    @ Susan — I liked how you set the stage for death with talk of a garden — something filled with life. A little tighter writing will bring the reader in more.

    @Adeena – sounds like good advice you have tucked away from all your experience. I say to watch multiple word usage, such as “week” in this sentence, “If my store, The Pot & Bead, were still open, then last week would have been the last week of summer camp and with school starting in another week or so, we’d be into the slow season.”

    @ Laura Jeanette – I never thought of the writing process that way! Very descriptive.

  • Glenn Song says:

    @Dana/Dwayne: I like your idea of trying to write one story a week. Keep up the good work!

    @Stuart: “I stuck him in a sealed bucket with a mouse trap. I know it might be considered cruel, but I didn’t know what to do. I’m not a professional mouse killer.” I like these lines. Its quirky and feels just like something someone might do, not out of cruelty, but just because they’re faced with something that they have no idea how to handle. I can relate to that. To give the story more punch try removing the adverbs and I don’t think you need to list out the vitamins. I’d rather have more details about the mouse and the narrator.

    @Karen: Cool, I also did NaNoWriMo in 2006 and 2007 too. But anyway your story idea: what compels Kate to turn down that dusty dirt road? I think if you answer that question you can bring some more ideas to your story. Oh, if you’re interested in plotting, I suggest reading Story by Robert McKee. I listened to half of it on an audiobook, and in the beginning of the book he breaks down the three act story and I found it enlightening and useful knowledge. It could help you with your plotting.

    @SpaceAgeSage: The first line of your story does draw me in but then the pace slows down when we get to the characters. I know you’re trying to establish the characters, but I’m still thinking: what’s going on with those “two invisible forms.” Are they just the Secret Service guards? Or are they something more sinister? I want to get back to that and find out what happens next.

    Thanks for the feedback for my story too. To the few people I’ve shown my stories too, I’ve heard the same comment come back about it. I want to try and show those internal feelings in what they’re doing, but I think being concise tends to cut that out for me. So I’m still looking for a good balance.

    @WriterDad: Thanks for the feedback on my story. Your take definitely feels smoother than mine. I like that. It’s concise and to the point. I like that it makes the question in the middle of the paragraph stand out more. When I read that it reminded me of what SpaceAgeSage was commenting about in regards to my story – she wanted more of Alicia’s thoughts. Having the question stand out brings Alicia’s knowledge and hints at her thoughts as she’s observing the (mechanical) boy. I should use that technique more often.

    I also like that your writing is enthusiastic too, and Wall-E was a great movie.

    @Terri: You’ll definitely see the toymaker again since I choose that for the quest that Alicia would embark upon — the short stories that follow this one detail her meeting with the toymaker. I’m not sure if you’ll see the old man or the girl again, but I’ve left the short stories so opened-ended that I can come back to them later on.

    I have a lot more of my stories here: http://www.cournesupremacy.com/tales-from-a-mechanical-bird/

    I’d love to hear any comments and criticisms you have about any of them. I’ve also got a new one I’m working on, and now that crunch time is over at work, maybe I can publish that to my blog too!

  • Kris says:

    I thought the hard part of writing my ebook was the writing, but I’m finding that that was the fun easy part.

    (I’ll enjoy the writing more when I write my next one!)

    The real hard part is getting the word out.

    If anyone’s interested, the name of my book is “The Secrets to a Healthy Life.” (The link is in my name)

    The reason you should read it? It’s not the same old wrong information. It’s a strategy that will truly make you feel and look healthier than ever before!

    Thanks for the opportunity to promote my book, Mary & Leo!

  • Brian says:

    I’m in the middle of writing a novel right now about a drug addict surviving the apocalypse.

    This is first draft time right now, so I’m really concentrated on keeping the momentum and writing and stopping myself from editing.

    Two short chapters:



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