Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Brilliant Writing Tips From Paul Harding

All right, I have a lot of fun sharing the worst possible writing advice.  But occasionally I stumble upon writing advice that is actually brilliant, and this is it.  Five tips from Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding.  And against my better judgment as a purveyor of dreadfulness,  I am sharing the link.

This is the URL in case you have to cut and paste:


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: How To Be A Writer While Not Writing Your Book

Those of us whose efforts to write an entire novel during the month of November have met with the same success as our efforts to write an entire novel during any other month -- which is to say, um, limited success -- are now grappling with a new challenge to our credibility as writers.  Which is to say, if I am not actually writing, if I am, say turning out a grand total of 6,000 meh words in three weeks, what can I do that will allow me to announce to the world that I'm writing a novel with a straight face (Footnote #1)? 

Apart from writing.

I have culled the best-ever hints from a cyber-world replete with splendid suggestions, and here they are:

1.) Immediately term your failure to produce this novel "writer's block."  This is completely credible and writeresque as long as you're angsty enough about it.  Hence, you cannot spend the time you're not writing zipping around Bloomingdale's with a smile on your face or doing lunch unless you also bang your head on the table and drink a lot during said lunch.  Indeed, you get to spend inordinate amounts of time with friends and family calling yourself a writer's blocked writer as long as you whine a lot.  

2.) Writing exercises.  Just google "writer's block" and "jump start" and you will find enough writing exercises to keep you not writing your novel for years, or possibly a lifetime.  

3.) Writer's conferences.  Consider the cognitive dissonance factor.  You pay the enormous enrollment fee.  You get a name tag.  You gossip about agents and editors and the collapse of publishing as we know it.  You're too busy being a writer to write. 

4.) Research.  This is especially good for YA writers who might actually die if they don't get to Bloomingdale's, assuming they are willing to stalk young adults up and down the escalators, eavesdropping assiduously the whole time they're (Footnote #2) loading up on new sweaters.  Also, who can claim to possess even a passing familiarity with popular culture if she hasn't watched TV for four or five days straight?

5.) Study grammar.  This is tedious and extremely time-consuming, but it could permit you -- should you ever get around to writing -- to produce prose that doesn't require footnotes with Grammatical Hints.

(Footnote #1) Grammatical Hint: The announcement would entail the straight face.  The writer can have any kind of face she wants due to the fact that she's supposedly sitting alone in a room writing so nobody knows what kind of face she has.

(Footnote #2) Other Grammatical Hint: The so-called writer loads up on the sweaters; it doesn't matter what the young adults load up on as long as you're creeping around behind them analyzing their sentence structure.


Friday, November 15, 2013

What You Should Absolutely, 100% Be Doing While Not Writing

Dear Clueless,

I am so sad and miserable!  What shall I do while not writing.  My time is so empty and I am at wit's end, listlessly making birdhouses out of used popsicle sticks and home-made glue, and stalking people.  Which is hard, because all the people worth stalking are inside writing.

Go On, Order Me Around


If you lack a blog, you must immediately get one.  This will eat up no end of time.

If you have a blog, then you must participate in every blog event imaginable. 

Oh look!  Starting 11/19, there is an international signed ARC giveaway of Afterparty that bloggers can join any day of its 2 week duration.  This is to celebrate S&S releasing the first 3 chapters of said book online. 

You should click here!!!!!  You should sign up!!!!  Only think how much happier you will be now that you have something to do!

Shameless (sitting in for Clueless who is too busy promoting to order people around)

P.S. Thanks guys!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Afterparty ARC Giveaway on Goodreads!

Dear Clueless,

My beloved publisher is graciously doing another Goodreads giveaway of the ARC of my new book.  Is it too self-promotional and icky to carry on about this on my blog?  Again.  Or perhaps constantly?

Promotionally Challenged

Dear Promo,

Yes.  Do it anyway.


And good grief, blog followers, this is actually relevant to my life because (!!!!!) Simon & Schuster is giving away 3 ARC's of Afterparty, in a Goodreads giveaway ending on Dec. 7, 2013, one month before the book is released.  Go win Afterparty!!!  (And, as your back-up, you could always preorder dozens and dozens of copies for your friends, neighbors, relatives near and far, underfunded library and letter carrier.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNo: So How Behind Are YOU? * or * The 5 Top Reasons You Don't Have TIme to NaNo

So, doing a modified #NaNoWriMo seemed like a pretty good idea.  Not actually doing NaNo, mind you.  But the idea of having 30,000 pristine (as in unedited, un-reread, and very likely dreadful) words in hand on Nov. 30 was pretty damned appealing.

This being Nov. 8th, that would make me 8,000 words behind.  Give or take.

And given my goal of being the last writer standing after wiping out everybody else with my spectacularly bad advice, here are the top 5 reasons you shouldn't be writing either.

1.) Social networking is vital to your survival as a writer.  Even years prior to publication, you need to be building a platform assiduously by tweeting, posting on Facebook, documenting the minutia of your every breathing moment via embarrassing selfies, pinning*, embracing Tumblr, and blogging at least every 2.5 minutes.  Conservatively.

2.) Social media has to be interactive.  How can you be expected to engage with others every 2.5 minutes if you aren't spending the other 2.499999 minutes perusing all of their tweets, Facebook posts, embarrassing selfies, pins and edifying blogs?

3.) All writers need fun facts.  How dirty your hair is and how peculiarly earthy you smell due to the fact that you are Nanoing obsessively does not count as a fun fact.  How the hell are you going to be amusing on panels with a life devoid of fun facts?  Obviously, you need to learn to do magic tricks and fly a single engine plane after making said plane out of papier mache and refurbished vacuum cleaner parts in your basement.

4.) Assuming you are writing YA -- if not, just ignore everything I say; I have no interest in destroying your career -- you need to have your plane-making fingers on the pulse of popular culture.  Even the most super-duper NaNo playlist is a woefully insufficient connection to life outside your NaNo chamber.  You must go to movies, clubs, 4-H club meetings and the mall.  Immediately.

5.) You need new shoes.

*Oh no, another footnote: Yes, I'm pinning.  You should immediately go spend several hours admiring my many really nice pins and follow all of my boards.  Repeatedly.  This would be highly interactive of you.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To NaNo or Not To Nano

Well here it is, the tail end of October, and here I am, staring down NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated -- when thousands of would-be* novelists commit to turning out the first draft of an entire novel.

Yes, thousands.  More than 150,000 are signed up on the official website.  And a bunch of us participate under the radar, too.  And there's even a Young Writers program that encourages 16 year olds to eschew A.P. Bio homework in favor of The Greater Good.  The NaNo motto, after all, is "The world needs your novel."

I think that NaNo purists actually start their novels on Nov. 1, but I am staring down a partial novel, and my thought is, let's do this thing! (With a gung-ho all-American "yee-ha!" plus a nod to all the chocolate chip ice cream this is going to entail.  Note that NaNo is not a slimming experience.)  Or not.

Here's the thing: I already have a way that I write novels, and having been raised as a somewhat superstitious person (somewhat? my grandma tied red ribbons on me to ward off the Evil Eye) I'm terrified to screw with it.  I mean, I tried NaNo once and I ended up with a bunch of prose that I was hugely excited about.  Until I had time to read it.

On the other hand, my way of writing novels involves rereading pretty much everything I've written daily before I write new stuff.  It involves putting my hands over my ears and going "neeeny-neeny-neeny" whenever anyone utters the word "outline."  It involves coming up with new and improved ways to tell the story up until moments before the book is printed.

There has to be a better way.

So all right, I'm spending every weekend in November other than Thanksgiving on the road at book festivals.  All right, so I can't finish the thing until I've talked with a hacker, a private detective, and someone driven out of Homeland Security due to a propensity to spill state secrets to eager YA writers.  All right, so hope springs eternal, and that spring does not feed the water park at the corner of Realistic and Sensible.

But the idea of having an entire draft finished by the end of November is just so appealing.

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question...

Does it work for you?

*1. (Yes, it's a footnote.  I'm an English major, sue me)  I'm two novels down (Afterparty will be here January 7th, huge squee!!!! moment) but when I have a blank piece of paper or screen or pristine Starbuck napkin in front of me, I am back to would-be and I stay would-be until I'm putting the final touches on a book.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Get A Million Blog Followers Without Really Trying (Yes, it's more really bad writing advice. Seriously?)

Dear Lunatics,

Face it.  There is something about marketing that turns the mildest mannered writer, previously obsessed with the cadence of each exquisitely wrought sentence, into a publicity-crazed doofus prepared to follow any old ridiculous promotional advice on the bouncy path to self-destruction.

And here I am, offering the most ridiculous advice ever!  Is this perfect, or what?

For those sceptics among you who cry, "Wait, Clueless One, you have 79 people following your blog.  Why in the name of all that is holy -- or (backup plan) reasonable -- should I listen to you on this critical topic?"

To which I reply, for Pete's sake, dog, since when is the dispensing of really bad writing advice limited to people who actually write?  Extrapolate.

Anyway, these are not original ideas!  No indeed, they are ripped off from actual gurus of book promotion, some of whom have even formulated their own ingenious pyramid schemes.  Top that.

1.) You should trade follows (or membership, or friendship, or whatever) with vast numbers of random strangers who blog.  You can find them everywhere: Conferences, Linkedin, accosting old ladies on street corners.  Soon you will be following 600 blogs in which your interest level is somewhere between zilch and nada, and 600 similarly indifferent followers will swell your ranks.  (BTW, this single piece of advice is worth at least bazillion dollars , but I will expand on it for free if you'll purchase my handy dandy book promotion boot camp kit.  Yee-ha!)

Helpful hint: Anyone who searched for a link to the aforementioned handy dandy kit should immediately turn off the computer and get a friend to tie you to a tree for your own good.

2.) Express your desperation on every platform known to man.  Tell everyone on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Tumbler et al that they must join up immediately.  Hyperventilate as best you can in writing.  It helps if you express a lot of bitterness, as obviously you would have thousands upon thousands of follows already if only a.) people weren't prejudiced against indies; b.) your publisher gave you a modicum of support; c.) people weren't so busy reading trash about vampires that they don't appreciate the beauty of zombies (reverse if you write about zombies).

3.) Offer a large bribe.  Promise that the second you reach some totally reasonable six figure number of followers, you will do a giveaway of a classic Bentley/ your first-born child/ the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  People love a large bribe.  Oh yeah, definitely put your publicity budget into that.

4.) Post comments on other people's blogs that don't actually have much of anything to do with whatever the hell they're nattering on about, which you are to praise in a fulsome yet generic manner, given that you didn't actually read said nattering.  Be sure to mention how they and all their followers should head on over to your blog and join up.  Be sure to post a bunch of links and explain how your blog was once called the most moving and insightful thing he'd ever read while driving by J.K. Rowling's cousin's podiatrist when he was visiting Chattanooga.

Be sure to return often and post repeatedly with teensy weensy variations.  There is no telling how many people will join just to get you to shut up.

But then, the more people hope and pray you'll shut up and go away, the better job you're doing!

Happy trails, and be sure to join my blog early and often if you want to win your very own exotic Middle Eastern country!

My work here is done.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: Promotion Made Easy *or* The 3 Top Rules for Not Being Made Fun of on the Internet

Dear Aficionados of Really Bad Writing Advice,

Let's say that (not unlike me) you have finished the book!  Let's say that (not unlike me) you are now obsessed with promoting the book.  Here is the simple rule of thumb for doing that promoting: 

If it makes people clutch their throats and moan "Oh my God!" (not in a good way), you shouldn't do it.

I have scoured the internet for examples of really good promotional advice, and here are the three top, inexplicably popular things you can't do, lest you leave potential readers moaning and uttering sacrilege.

1.) Do not post anything, anywhere, ever that tells your fans, followers, or friends something on the order of "This is the cutest thing in the whole, entire universe/ the most shocking revelation in the history of man/ a book that would no doubt be attributed to the Messiah were He walking the earth with lace-up sandals and a laptop" followed by a link that leads to a video of you reading your book.

Or a trailer for your book.

Or any page that raises even the faintest possibility of buying your book.

You are welcome to say and do any of the above for someone else's book. You will sound like an over-enthusiastic slob with no judgment, discernment, or sense of proportion, but at least you'll look magnanimous.

2.) Do not post a blurb or snippet of a review of your book that is even slightly ungrammatical.  Or that uses any word, be it ever so short, so breathtakingly incorrectly that your more, uh, language-oriented potential reader is too busy gnashing her teeth to click through.

"I have never in my longitudinous previous past undergone an exhileration of such enormity as wading through prosedy of hitherto untold notoriousness," for example, would be a poor choice of comment to share with a cyber world of picky, picky tooth-gnashers.

3.) Even though super-helpful book promotion bloggers have convinced you that unless people see something fourteen times in a single day, they won't buy it, do not tell your followers about your book fourteen times in a single day.  Even if you are hosting an awesome giveaway.  Even if your book will change their lives.  Even if your book will bring about world peace, prosperity, and a sense of perfect equilibrium to one an all through its fun yet miraculous selenium-rich snack food recipes.  Even if anything.


Dear readers, even if you have taken my really bad writing advice to heart and therefore penned an entirely hideous book, there's no reason you should have to endure the slings and arrows you'll attract if you engage in outrageous marketing.

For once, not joking.



P.S.  Should you have the urge to share any other terrible promotional ideas, do tell.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway for Afterparty ARC's!!!

Alright, I feel slightly guilty posting this given my highly convincing if not entirely sincere list of the top five reasons writers should stop reading...but...there's a Goodreads giveaway of advance copies of Afterparty!  I'm excited, and so happy that Simon Pulse is doing this.  And you should definitely get over there and sign up immediately, if only so you can win and go, "Meh, no wonder she's dispensing all this truly rank writing advice."

Do pop onto Goodreads, put Afterparty on your to-read list, and sign on for the giveaway!


Oh, right, here's the link:

Also, international (as in non-U.S., she said U.S.-centrically) readers, apologies, this is a US only giveaway.   I promise to do an international giveaway as soon as the book is out.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: Plotting Made Easy

Dear Writing Zealots and Misguided Followers,

As anyone who lives as close to Hollywood as I do can tell you, there is only one basic plot in the entire universe, and you can learn this plot and its 514 variations in one very expensive weekend seminar where, not only do you get to pitch your variation to several authentic humans but you are guaranteed to meet your soul mate in the bar off the lobby, or, in the alternative, at the AA meeting also off the lobby.

So I thought, what the hell, why don’t I just share the plot so everyone can get on with it?

This is it, in 3 ½ easy steps:

1.) I came
2.) I saw
2 ½.) I encountered all sorts of highly unpleasant although sometimes comical complications after which
3.) I conquered.

This, of course, is the unadorned hero’s journey version of the only plot in the universe. Elegant, right?

There is also:

1.) I came
2.) I saw
2 ½) I encountered all sorts of highly unpleasant and generally not that all comical complications after which
3.) I didn’t conquer.

This would be the tragic version.

Unless, of course, you’re looking for the YA tragic version, in which case step (3) should be “I didn’t conquer, but there was still a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope, or at very least, the promise of a sequel.”

But wait, you say, this is just too simple. What about genre literature and complexity and literary merit and originality and stuff? To which I say, stuff it. You clearly lack the vision to envision the 514 simple variations. But I will try to get you started.

Chick Lit  --  I came; I saw; I encountered highly unpleasant although sometimes comical complications; I married Mr. Darcy.

Or, for Chick Lit types who are also members of Mystery Writers of America --  I came; I saw; I encountered highly unpleasant although sometimes comical complications; I baked a shitload of cupcakes and solved a strangely cute homicide.

Or, for those who wish to dabble in the lucrative world of mainstream porn-- I came; I saw; I encountered highly unpleasant yet hot complications involving instruments of torture and a severely neurotic rich guy; I came.

It’s uncanny! It works just as well for Captain Underpants as for Paradise Lost! Not only that, I have just saved you from a weekend of desultory drinking off the lobby of a tacky hotel by LAX. You can thank me later.

Love, Clueless

P.S. Do, please, feel free to post your very own variation, even if you’re a non-believer with the clearly erroneous belief that there might be, who knows, as many as 6 or 7 basic plots floating around out there.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: The Cluless One Opines on Blog Frequency 2

(With apologies to any computer wizards who managed to read this when it was posted yesterday; I'm getting email -- thank you!!! -- that folks couldn't read beyond the blurby thingy & were being asked to register, so I'm trying again. Leaving up the old, unreadable one briefly, so we can troubleshoot. God knows, I don't want to leave people shivering in the cyberworld with only good writing advice to keep them warm.)

Dear Clueless One,

Is it true that if I don't blog frequently, weekly, daily, every few minutes, seriously more than once a month which would represent a terrible dereliction of duty to the ever-updating Wonderful World of Books, I won't have a platform and I'll be a social media failure and an outcast and no one will ever read my books because I haven't been peppering them with a bunch of freaking fun facts?


Seriously Worried That I'm Doomed

Dear Seriously,



And may I add, Doomed People, that if you can't get your blog to function properly, Doomed would be a step up.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: When in Doubt, Stop Writing! (In which I obsess about Afterparty, because that’s why I’m not writing.)

So there you have it, the perfect solution to all that stress, self-doubt and mining the unpleasant recesses of your soul, such as it is: stop writing!

And here I am at the perfect moment to stop writing. Afterparty is about to go to copyediting! Yes, it is! (Yes, I know I said something a lot like this four drafts ago, three drafts ago, two drafts ago etc., but this time I mean it.)

I am obsessed with how many days there are until January 7th, when it comes out.

That would be 236 days, gang!!! (Did you know you could google “How many days until January 7th?” hundreds of times and get the ever-changing correct answer daily? You are open to so many new and exciting learning experiences when you’re not writing.)

Anyway, while ordinarily I have things like deadlines, commitments, and a sense of desperation bordering on chronic panic, now I am obsessed with Afterparty instead. How much I love the characters. How pretty the cover is. How much I long for a blog tour with character interviews with these characters I (quasi) channeled to the point of (quasi) psychosis. The impending ARC’s. How gorgeous the cover is.

I mean, who the hell can write while fondling a book jacket?

The point is, there are many, many things you can do while not writing that are absolutely impossible while writing, such as fondling stuff. Or watching the Sad Cat video every few minutes. Also, you can dig out your house. (This is not a metaphorical use of “dig out.” I have large pieces of furniture I can’t see because they’re obscured by even larger clumps of dog hair.) You can remove the spots where Pilot pens, yellow markers, and snack food have stained the otherwise lovely writing sofa.

You can have conversations with your husband that don’t start with, “Read this!!!”

You can be so obsessed with what you just finished that the prospect of hitting new walls seems a whole lot less attractive than it did back when you were hitting those old walls, given that this new thing is in the shitty first draft (Thank you, Anne Lamott!) stage of development. Whereas the thing you’re obsessing about is finished.

And while it may be true that winners never quit, quitters get (or at least have time to think about getting) manicures. Which you can totally get while obsessing about your finished book, but not while writing. Higher calling. Cuticles. Higher calling. Cuticles? Oh what the hell, just this once, cuticles win.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: 5 Top Reasons Revising Your Novel is Better Than Having a Life

Excuse me. I have just sent in what had damn well better be the final total overhaul of the novel I’ve been carrying on about for the last year and a half, and now I am faced with the alarming prospect of reclaiming my life.

Oh the trauma!

Never mind the fact that my dog, who tries to stay up with me when I write, is in a virtual coma and will barely even open his eyes when you wave a dog cookie in his face. Or that my entire closet has been turned into a hamper, and my washing machine barely remembers who I am. But I digress. (This tendency might be what was wrong with my novel, but I digress again. Damn.)

Anyway, here we have the 5 top reasons that revising a novel is far better than having a life.

  1. When you finally do take a break, which you shouldn’t, but you do, and your family wants to watch an Oscar-winning and also educational documentary, you get to screech, “No! I want to watch The Carrie Diaries!” and your (entirely male and entirely horrified*) family will go along with you for fear your head will explode right there, in your family room, if they cross you. 
  2. When you insist that your family not make any sounds whatsoever, including tv, music, closing the dishwasher, turning the pages of books, or hitting the keys on their laptops too vigorously, due to the fact that each sound deprives you of six seconds you vitally need in order to meet your deadline, no one will remind you that you watched 13 straight hours of House of Cards to distract you from the fact your book was falling apart. Ditto about your head exploding.
  3. You will come to realize that wearing fresh clothing on a daily basis and personal grooming are not all they’re cracked up to be. Unlike when you’re living your life and don’t leave your house without the endless and repeated annoyance of combing your hair. Revision does not require combed hair. (Also make-up, jewelry, or matching socks.)
  4. Friendship is challenging, messy, and complicated. The revision cave completely eliminates any hint of these issues, due to the fact that your erstwhile friends barely remember you after your complete disappearance.
  5. In life, your fears about other people being annoyed with you are a paranoid remnant from your unfortunate youth, and we all know how distressing it is to question your perceptions of life in general, and your life in particular. In revision, on the other hand, you can feel completely confident in your conviction that people are annoyed with you because people are annoyed with your because your freaking book is so late.

*My fellow female has decamped for Manhattan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: 6 Top Reasons Being an Author is So Much Better Than Actually Writing

With the author vs. writer debate breaking out in all its impassioned glory on LinkedIn lately, I thought I would impede everyone else’s writing career with some really bad advice on the subject.

1. Writing involves sitting in your room alone with only your characters and the occasional gnawing sense of doom for companionship. How much fun is that?

Being an auteur, on the other hand, involves people strewing your path with rose petals which you don’t actually get to admire because people are falling at your feet, totally interfering with your rose petal experience. (And no, I don't mean auteur the way Truffaut used it in expounding his theory of directing films; I'm just being pretentious. French is so good for that.)

2. Writing involves taking in critiques, edits, notes, copyedits, and people who point out they don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

Auteurship involves foot massages.

3. Writing involves having deadlines and roots your don’t actually have time to go get colored because you’re chained to your laptop.

Auteurship involves shopping for smashing yet artsy outfits made of silk spun by special magic silk worms to wear to your next auteurish event. (n.b. Auteurs have naturally good hair, and don’t have to worry about their roots.)

4. Writing involves a shitload of coffee.

Auteurship involves champagne, mostly on the Queen Mary, in the 1920’s, with a lot of witty repartee and bugle beads.

5. Writing requires, well, writing.

Auteurship involves status.

6. Writing is real. Actual stuff has to go onto an actual page. Then it has to be made good. And it might still not be good enough. How stultifying (and also hard) and potentially gut-wrenching. Who wants a wrenched gut?

Auteurship, on the other hand, is largely imaginary. Except for the foot massages, which you can actually go get any time you want to, except that it will take time away from your looming deadline.

Writing sucks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: Organization is Bad

All right, so the second half of my novel-in-progress is kind of a mess. All right, an actual mess. All right, so the arc kind of droops with a scoliosis kind of twist at a point when droopiness is not exactly what I was going for.

After some mean-spirited yet rational person advised it was a poor idea to demand that my Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Listserv friends send me over some writing software that would fix the problem for me upon installation, preferably while I slept, I resorted to the notecard.

There they were, a monument to hoarding, slightly yellowed, a lifetime supply from when my kid took Spanish and we spent almost an entire year laboring under the delusion that notecards help kids learn languages.

Then I bought a corkboard. (Two actually – thinking that this mess might require a vast panorama of color-coded notecards, spreading six feet across my dining room.) Then I found some flashy, multicolored thumbtacks. And some matching pastel post-its that I could use to make some really insipid pastel rainbows should I ever finish reorganizing the second half of my book.

And now, in the story arc that should culminate in the repair of my novel and the first aspiring truth ever involving Staples, we reach the premature and unanticipated horror of organization: My dog, my writer’s assistant, companion, and eater of paper (I like to think of this as editing choices from the Great Beyond) likes flashy multi-colored thumbtacks. A lot. Also notecards. I hesitate to describe the amount of chasing, cajoling, and offers of salami, brie, Puperoni, and leftover almond cookies from take-out Chinese were involved in getting my thumbtack back.

Suffice to say, not only did organization almost kill my dog, but the convincing of my dog to return the notecard with the thumbtack lodged in it was highly distracting and not conducive to unscrambling my novel.

Eschew organization. It could kill your dog.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Surprise! A Break From Really Bad Writing Advice: Auction for Agent & Editor Critiques

Hi all,

Not that I feel guilty about dispensing all the really bad writing advice or anything like that. Not me. No. Nothing like that. However, I just came upon a group of ebay auctions to benefit the charitable activities of the San Francisco Writers Conference, and they look enticing. The items being auctioned are manuscript critiques and consultations from a group of children's book editors and agents whose names you will recognize.

Only think how much of my really bad writing advice could be counteracted by three or four minutes with one of these folks!

It's hard to see anything but win-win-win-win-win here, and I thought my writer friends would want to know.

Here's the URL:

The auctions end soon. Happy bidding,


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: The Clueless One Preaches Doom

Well, here I am in physical therapy with my somewhat wrecked ankle (which is, btw, wrapped in cool, black spider-webbish tape and looks kind of Goth), and I’m still in a bad mood.   I am, therefore, going to send out into the world some of the Clueless One’s pithier messages of doom, so that I can feel more fellowship with writers who don’t have a wrecked ankle but whom I’ve nevertheless reduced to a state of unappetizing moaning.

You’re welcome.

Dear Clueless One,
Writing is hard, and I’ll never get this manuscript to sing.  Should I just throw in the towel?

 Might Be Incompetent

Dear Incompetent,


Dear Clueless One,

Revising is hard.  This manuscript has any number of problems that I just can’t solve.  Should I just throw in the towel?

 In Revision Hell

Dear IRH,


Dear Clueless One,

This re-revision seems to be making this manuscript worse and not better.  Should I throw in the towel?


Dear Head-Banger,

Yes. (And for the love of God, stop using hashtags.)

Dear Clueless One,

My publisher is terribly nice, but they appear to like this brilliant, well-established, multi-zillion dollar epic writer better than me.  She got to speak at ALA and I didn’t.  (Although that might be because she won the Newberry & I didn’t.)  Should I just throw in the towel?

Your friend,
 Peevishly Jealous

Dear Writer,


Dear Clueless One,

Damn the internet!  If not for the internet, I would never know that somewhere out there, there’s someone who hates my book.  A lot.  And not just one person, either.  Just after I flame this misguided Satan, should I just throw in the towel?

Best wishes (if you liked my book, otherwise not),
Judgment-Impaired Narcissist

Dear Internet Joke,


Dear Clueless One,

I don’t like your book and my publisher made me a poster.

 Anonymous For Reasons of Safety

Dear AFRS,


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice: 5 Worst New Years Resolutions for Writers

OK, so we’re halfway through January and after carefully refusing to craft New Years resolutions this year, I am now in a position to feel comprehensive, free-floating guilt about vast numbers of resolutions that I could have made but didn’t, and which I’m not keeping. 

Hence, I am the perfect person to give you, without further ado, the 5 worst New Years resolutions for writers.

1.) I will write X number of words / pages / chapters / pieces of stunning flash fiction / short stories / novels per day.

Sure you will.

2.) I will win a local award / a state award / a national award / an international award / the Nobel Peace Prize / a commendation from God that he reaches through the clouds and pins on my chest while others gasp in wonder.

All right, so maybe you'll get one or two of these.  But it still won’t be the commendation that God reaches through the clouds and pins on your chest while others gasp in wonder.  Deal with it.

3.) I will not be distracted by the glories of the internet.

Where are you reading this again?

4.) I will not be distracted by Downton Abbey.

Okay, what happened last week?  Ha!  I knew you knew.

5.) I will not give way to the sedentary aspects of the writing life, but will achieve fame, fortune, and artistic oneness with the universe while maintaining a healthful lifestyle and living, basically, on my treadmill.

Are you reading this from your treadmill? Sure you are.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Really Bad Writing Advice : The Return of Dear Clueless One

All right, so it's 2013 and I'm limping around in a livid green walking cast yet no workable instructions as to how to take a freaking shower without getting it wet.  

I am not in a good mood.  

What better time to send unsuspecting writers into paroxysms of failure, in the continuing hope that soon I will be the only writer left standing?  (Or limping, as it were.)  So there you have it!  The Clueless One has returned, graciously responding to one of the many, many heartfelt queries stuffing her emailbox.  

Dear Clueless One,

I have written the first several pages of a novel of extraordinary depth, universal appeal, and potential for a fifteen-part animated movie series that I’m pretty sure Sir Laurence Olivier will return from the dead to narrate.  It is a fun-filled tragedy of life and death, with an insouciant haiku about animal husbandry at the opening of each chapter.  

Obviously, I need no advice about my novel.  The thing is, just after I whip off the next 497 pages next week, I plan to sell one to two hundred thousand copies myself before one of the Big However-Many-Are-Left publishers offers me bazillion dollars, which I will turn down because, seriously, I’m a lone wolf genius who chuckles in the face of conventionality and the soul-numbing horror of the editorial process.

So here is the question: To sell my one or two hundred thousand copies, I plan to be invited to talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, and a gardening podcast produced by my Aunt Edith and viewed by between 14 and 76 people per week, mostly in Boca Raton. 

Also, I will expect everyone I know to send copies to at least 10 friends along with a chain letter filled with terrifying yet not entirely illegal threats to their health and welfare if they don’t do the same.

What do you think, Clueless One?  Is this a plan, or is this a plan?


Rare Literary Dynamo, Yet Not Too Hoity Toity To Eschew Unprecedented Commercial Success