First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Inspiration for Writers

Writing inspiration Catharine BramkampDon’t Write Like You Talk

What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Some people work with prompts to start their ten minute write.  Which I think is a wonderful idea, it’s like warming up before a run, or something.  I don’t run.  Don’t listen to me.

In Don’t Write Like We Talk, we include a prompt in every show.  To stream line the process, here are a few writing prompts.  Feel free to print them out, share them, use them.   

  • Writer’s Block:  When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.
  • Write about writer’s block.  Believe it or not, when you are really stuck in your work, try writing:  I am really stuck, over and over.  Or try writing non-stop for ten minutes.  The act alone can help you break through.
  • I love holiday letters that chronicle perfect families,  wonderful lives, but gloss over some of the rough parts: the latest arrest, another  job loss, the school record for detentions served.
  • What would happen if we sent our friends and family holiday cards that spoke the absolute truth? Would our year look different from what  we post on Facebook?  Would our holiday missives sound  different if they weren’t mailed to elderly aunts and cousins we still want to impress?
  • What does that look like?
  • Write a holiday letter that only tells the truth.
  • Don’t mail it.
  • Have you ever not said something and were later glad you didn’t?
  • Write about the times you wished you kept your mouth shut.
  • If you need to increase the tension in a fiction  chapter or lift a sagging story line, allow your  character to blurt out some inconvenient truth to the wrong person.  It will keep things lively.
  • Ever do that yourself?
  • What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What was the worst job your character ever had. How did it shape her character, how did it shape yours?
  • Write down a memory from your grandparents.  Did they have a story they told and re-told?  And your initial reaction was “not the story about Grandpa and the bear again”.  This time, remember that old story and write it down.  See what happens from there.  I know, maybe nothing.
  • What have you done recently that was memorable but has no accompanying photos?
  • is it possible to experience something and not have a photo of it?
  • Write about an adventure that managed to happen without any photos.
  • Write out your favorite joke. Now write it as if it went horribly wrong.  Wrong set up, wrong punch like,  just wrong.  If that too funny?  Or just horrible?  Write a story about someone telling a joke badly.  Or someone telling a bad joke.
  • What is stored in the garage right now, gathering dust?
  • What part of your life does it represent?
Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Why Inspiration is So Difficult

 

Inspiration for writingDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

How do you get inspired?  And why is it so difficult to wrestle that inspiration into words let alone into something as coherent as a poem or a novel or a self-help book?  And how do you court inspiration?

Part of the problem we have with inspiration  is that inspiration is often depicted in cartoons or novels or film  as fun, fast and fantastic.  The lightbulb pops up over a character’s head at exactly the right time (thus moving the plot along).  It is delivered in a song, it floats down to characters during a dreamy afternoon paddling on a lake, it is easy.

So what the heck right?  What if we don’t  sing, and there is no lake nearby, and the only light bulb I have access to is on my emoji keyboard.

Inspiration does not necessarily work like magic. But it does work.

Inspiration, delivered by  a perverse Muse often arrives at seriously  inconvenient times, like when you are driving.

Or when you are scrubbing the toilet.

Here’s the good news:  We all drive and we all have toilets.

Inspiration is often not up to you, it is, I believe, a product of successful courting of the capricious  Muse.  Inspiration is often a result of input: books, films, theater, conversation. 

Inspiration comes when you’ve learned so much, the material finally reaches critical mass and you get inspired.   

While you are negotiating heavy traffic.

And you think – now?  Now you visit me oh Muse who is not paying attention to my daily schedule.

And the Muse puts her hands on her hips and says “well do you want it or not?  Because there’s a guy in the lane behind you who will take this great idea and run with it if you are too lazy to pull out a napkin from Starbucks and that pencil stub from yesterday’s golf game and scribble this down.

And so you do.

And because you stuffed your brain with images and ideas and both good literature, great literature and bad literature, you are prepared to know what it is, what the difference is, and you see that yes, yes it’s original and wonderful and inspired.

That’s often how it works.  So read something, watch something.  Go scrub the toilet.  If you don’t get inspired for your writing – at least the bathroom is clean.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Why Bother Writing?

Why Bother Writing?Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

We feed blogs, we write tweets, we compose witty Facebook posts. Why bother writing a whole book?

Because like Half Dome, it’s there.

Because a book will sit on your shelf and remind you, every day, that you are a real author. A book is the mute testimony of a Herculean effort that few accomplish.   A book proves something.  To you and to the world at large.

Books come in many irritations, but most would agree that there is nothing like the real thing.  There is power in holding a book in your hand. 

That’s why you sweat and toil and try to figure out this weeks version  of the publishing system.

(Once you learn about the big publishers, you will run screaming from your computer, cower in a corner, suck your thumb, then realize it’s much easier to publish the damn thing yourself.)

Books are not  lightly cast aside.  Books are important. They wouldn’t be burned if they weren’t.  Kindle books can be erased, but for drama?  Fire. – 451  Fahrenheit for the home game.

We write books because we believe in our words and what we have to say.

We bother writing a book because it’s real.

And we know that being real is not only the ultimate goal of every  Velveteen Rabbit, it’s ours too.

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Writing is Imporant

Don't Write Like You TalkDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Writing a book is important. But before you get all puffed up, so is knitting.    

Writing is an art.  Writing is also a hobby.  My friend Myrna  knits beautiful socks as holiday gifts to family.    My friend Terry cooks amazing meals and share them with lucky me. My mother makes greeting cards.  My sister in law creates an elaborate Halloween scene for the local trick or treaters. A number of my friends travel and happily share their experiences with me so my trip will be even better.

What do I do?  I write.  Sometimes I share, but more often than not, I don’t.  Because unlike socks, writing isn’t a really welcome holiday gift.  Wine is better.  Bourbon is much better.

I write because it’s important to me, to my health and well-being.  Writing is my way to organize the world.  It can be yours too. 

I officially give you permission to write for love.  Write because describing the sky makes it bluer.  Write because detailing the grass makes it softer.  Write because it feeds you like  twice baked potatoes.

Why is it important to write?  Because you are making sense of  the   world  and if you do a good job, you’ll help others see what you see, and make some sense themselves. 

 

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Being A Beginner

Beginning is just like starting.  Just start!

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

“Each moment is a place you’ve never been.” – Mark Strand
Are you a beginner? Good. We all are. You’ve no doubt read countless sincere articles about beginner’s mind, the whole zen profound thoughts on beginning and starting fresh.
It doesn’t need to be that hard.
It’s just about starting – and more important, not over analyzing the project before you even start.
Beginners are curious.
Beginners ask, What if?
Beginners block out that pernicious quote: If I knew what I was getting into, I would never have started. Start.
Start the story of your aunt like Julia Park Tracey did. Finish with a best selling series.
Start your story of your mother, like Linda Joy Meyers did. Finish as the head of the Memoir Writers Association.
Start by recording the crazy character who keeps talking in your head.

Beginner’s mind,is another way of expressing – starting.

You probably have read countless articles on starting – how to start an exercise program, how to start a successful diet, how to start a family. Starting a novel is much like starting a family. You do not give birth to a five-year-old. You give birth to a baby with, if you’re lucky, a small head.

Writing is just like that. You start small.
You begin small.

Here is how to start:
Don’t start by working on a big novel, all day. Don’t even start writing for an hour.
Write on anything at all for 10 minutes.
Now stop and walk away. (You know, I tried pushing out that last baby for ten minutes and then volunteered to quit and just walk away. Obstetric nurses don’t have much of a sense of humor).

If it’s not a baby, you can return to your project the next day feeling rather refreshed. Feed that beginning effort with more words. Don’t rewrite, just add. In a few months you’ll have a respectful number of words that once organized and edited, may reveal a theme and plot.

But small, start small. Because trying to give birth to a fully formed novel in one go, is very painful indeed.

To learn more.
Visit us on Itunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
And @CBramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp, thank god there is only one of me

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Next Steps after Finishing Your Book

Next step after finishing your book

Chocolate

Wander through the local book store
Observe how many shelves in the local book store
Notice the many books on the shelves  Many books
Pick up the hard covers, the trade, the bargain
Hate john Irving because he published at 26 and you are 56
Resent the writers who are always short listed for a Pulitzer
Detect a trend in the prize lists
Notice you are not part of that trend

Decided to distrust any book described as luminous
Promise not to buy any book described as a brilliant first foyer into the literately field.
Wish you had a better marketing team
Realize you are the marketing team

Order a dirty martini
Be pleased the olives are served on the side –
So there’s more room for the gin

Drink

Either feel grateful there are so many wonderful stories to buy
Or depressed that you are merely part of the problem

Finish the drink
Eat the olives
Send the book to your publisher anyway.

Inspired by the afternoon after I finished the third round of edits for Future Sky, the fourth in the Future Girls series.

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Final

She found herself on the web her legends lifted and retoldDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Badly.
Can I fix these? She complained.
There isn’t enough electricity. Sam squinted at the turbine slowly turning
She nodded and continued to look for her gods.

As they labored over the Sierras, they passed
the bone yard of wrecked trains, accordioned against the base of the mountain
on the sides of the narrow trail, blackberries
and poison oak
gold bars, black cooking pans, red parkas in summer, sandals in winter
The air was as thin as a myth
She felt she could melt her wax wings against the implacable sky.

She squatted down and ran a finger over a solid bar
so pretty; so insistent
But after a few miles, too much.
You could exchange the notebooks for it: it’s valuable.
She thought of the notes fluttering like the hawks
after hitting a turbine
No, no, the stories stay.

She slid the bar out and it landed with a thump and puff of dust
He bent and shaved off a handful of wrinkled foil
lighter than air
heavy as greed.

The Drummer was not as kind to the preacher.
He shot him mid-step.
Damn evangelical, thinks one rhythm works for all songs.

In San Francisco there is gold.
In San Francisco there is stripped copper wire.
In San Francisco ship masts litter the bay
Goblins call, chatter and unload boats with scary speed.
Mangos, green nail polish, knives.

The bars served more food than bread
More drinks than only beer
The Westin Hotel and Cabaret
An Official joined them and for a crease of yellow foil
Told them new stories.
Sam knew in wine there would be truth.

There was no elegant solution the Official admitted
no one says that of course
they sent me out here right before.
Goblins? The girl asked.
The Official grimaced, a practiced gesture
anyone who is different is a Goblin.

But you. I’ve heard about you.

They all flocked to her.
A mermaid singing each to each
she sang to them.

The crowd chanted knowing she could
break open their world
Howling through the night
on the corner of Columbus and Fillmore
jugs of wine passed through the group.

The Drummer sidled up to Sam.
She’s going to need a name.
It would be good for her act Sam agreed.
The Drummer shook his head keeping his eyes fixed on the girl
The battered hat, the ragged edges of her pink tutu thin as a memory
That is no act.

The girl looked better – eyes shining
I’ll tell you about the great mother; you are sitting on her skin
You need to caress her more often and stop hitting.

I will tell you the story of the three-hour cruise
How many of us start – believing
we have only three hours and it turns into
The girl lifted her hands – a natural gesture – the crowd roars.
A lifetime?

She insists they throw shoes as tribute
Size 8

I know how it ends. Sam patted the Drummer’s arm
And turned.
I never thought
I’d see how it begins.

Thank you for following the adventures!

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Part V

Wasted hills, as if the apocalypse had arrivedDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
ahead of time – swept through
stranding the survivors: rocks, dried creeks,
chunks of asphalt road
haphazardly fitted together
like a jigsaw puzzle no one cared to finish
because the final picture wasn’t very compelling

No, he squinted against the big savage sky,
the blue washed out to faded denim
I think it always looked like this.

The rails blew
scattering Goblins like rubber toys.
Sam pushed the girl behind him
They were too close to the explosions, but not the target
the Goblins muttered and gathered fruit and baskets
and determinedly marched forward.

With a whoop copied from old films
the terror gang roared in throwing
more hard explosions into the crowd,
the girl and Sam hid among the dust and chaos
down, down, Sam hissed, reached for her hat.

The Drummer recognized her hat and distracted
With blown out parts of cucumbers and zucchini
Look here! The Drummer patted down the dead:
gold shavings, lumps of coal
he hefted a hand size lump – wasn’t there a story about this too?

Hey, a brother cut off a goblin head and pulled off a necklace.
did you hear the one about the people on the boat?
What about the boat?
They sailed for three hours then ship wrecked and never got off
The point? The Drummer asked. He knew Legends always had a point.

Don’t get on a boat. He laughed and twirled the necklace
Un-cut stones glittered in the setting sun.
Who would buy?
The Drummer shrugged and absently cut off a hand

Bring out your dead
Bring out your dead
But there were no grocery carts for the Goblins.

The Florida exodus was not working out.
Roads did not accommodate wheels, the carts
ditched along with 15 pounds of dried soup, a gallon of mayonnaise
Enterprising goblins snatched up products
and sold them again at the trail head.
It will be fine, they assured the new travelers
Each group weaker than before.
Buy, buy, buy
You will need all this mustard, cereal, peanut butter

The refugees were wiped out by a hurricane.
We knew that, the corporation advertised
How do you feel now?
1) deluged
2) dehydrated
3) disgruntled
4) dead

Fantasies hugged the left coast, no where else to go
but the grey pacific
dreams swirled around in the tide
the directors came to shore and pick up the remains like driftwood
and captured them back onto film and computers.

Yeah, yeah, the hunched man emerged from the bed of a truck
he eyed the girl.
Sam shook his head.
I just want to hear the stories, the old man insisted.
Tell me yours, she gestured to their fire
and I’ll tell you mine.

At the Timeless Tavern
A young man grinned, his teeth knocked out
a badge of terror gang encounters
Ignored the girl. You were a Letter Man.
Sam nodded. For a time he helped the cause
he could change Terrorists to Freedom Fighters
re purpose Hackers to Liberators.
Angry to Righteous; we fight for you.

It was merely outrage and opportunity.
Just a historic confluence of Anger and Talent.
It’s not like the peasants weren’t armed.
It’s not like they couldn’t read a bus schedule
they stole into the heart of the beast
the city of walls, all breached
whole collections of CEOs disappeared in seconds
gold parachutes do not open quickly
when thrown from the highest floor.

It was a good moment, it was a glorious moment
then the tide receded
leaving beached cities, gasping for air and temporary assistance.
Too big to fail
Except the most neglected
were the most angry
and in the end – they shattered the sky
With old plutonium and new resentment.

She threw a handful of dust
the grit blew away like starlings
Fear into flying

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Part IV

Sam found a tin full of gas, surroundedDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
by skeletons with long fingered hands
Mad Max meets O. Henry
he grinned. We need a worthy receptacle.
It took hours until they found a sports car
low to the ground, fast he promised.

It roared to life cutting off every other
possible sound, she clutched the seat, the window
screaming like the demons from hell
She never moved this fast.

Sam yelled straight from his soul
They careened through the flat desert
in a more or less straight line.
Sound trailed behind them – 100 miles an hour

Took care of the next seven days, he grinned like a maniac.
Her heart was forever damaged
by all that speed. She just knew it.
Can we do it again?

Ketchup bottles red as the setting sun
Absorbing all the light
the old waitress served them ketchup and road kill
specialty of the house
The Last Café on Earth

I was in the meat freezer
I hate it in there.
So of course I was trapped for like
97 hours
All that cold meat
Her nametag read Fran
which was not her real name – just the name left

She fingered her tight neck
The pink scars growing up over her sharp chin.
Tell me again about the Mother God.

Careless children, the same children
Who cracked Pandora’s box
Unlocked blue beard’s last room
Inspired the flood
The angry god hunted and destroyed

But the Mother God patiently
gathered body parts flung across the Nile or
the whole universe
and reassembled those back into a better man
missing only an eye, back of a heel, sometimes a hand
she watches over us
The girl concluded.

The waitress sighed
Sam rolled his eyes

They grew bolder as the leaders lost
brothers, hands, teeth, brothers
no job was too awful, that was the legend right?
They quizzed the Drummer
Weren’t they the stuff of old legends?
Billy the Kid, Dillinger, the Okay Corral.
He didn’t have the heart or the balls
to describe the sacrifices legends require.

It was easier to find notebooks and pens
In the abandoned Union Station stores – than cans
Here, he tossed her a fruit pie
and Dr. Pepper because that was all that was left
eat this, you will live forever.
She clutched a new notebook to her chest.
Yes, she could live forever.

The wind turbine over the Last Stop Saloon
thrummed in the sky
Come, charge for free, called the owner
although there is little to say.

She offered a cupcake
Too fat, the girl automatically announced, recognizing the object
As a no in the magazines

Ah, the woman bit into the cupcake.
with relish.
Just so you know,
here. Along the edges of the world
we all eat dessert first.

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