PATRICIA BARNES-SVARNEY            Science Writer/Editor/Weaver
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About Writing


        For those of you interested in writing, here are a few tips, ideas, and kick-starts to get you to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or finger to iPad…


LESSON #1 – PART ONE: It’s All in the P’s

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there… Will Rogers

        Perhaps you want to write non-fiction or even fiction; or maybe you’ve already written an article, novelette, or full-blown novel. What does it take to write and sell your words to the huge machine they call “publishing”? Here are a few perceptive hints:

PICK – Find topics that interest you—your enthusiasm will definitely show in your writing. Should you write about only the subjects you know? Not necessarily. Sometimes your enthusiasm about a new subject—that you extensively research—brings out the best in your writing. Sometimes you see it with “new eyes” that others close to a subject just don’t see.

PERCEIVE – Look around you. Notice what people are talking about with friends, family, and even business associates. Watch what they’re doing, wearing, and even their movements (it’s great fodder for fiction stories); notice what books they read (it will show you certain trends); and even ask your favorite librarian—or even check out online bookstores—to see which books are the most popular. It’s not that you want to write about what is popular at the moment—by the time your potential book comes out that trend may be over. But such understanding of what people are interested in will help you “see” how trends begin.

PONDER – Let your ideas summer like a good stew on the stove. The more the creative juices flow together, the better the writing. And when you sit down to write, get rid of that editor on your shoulder—at least until you’ve written the first draft.

PENS, PAPER, AND PUNCTUATION – Always, always, always be neat. Send in clean copies, if you are sending in hard copy. If you’re sending via e-mail, make it clean, too—no typos, really bad grammar, or punctuation. Don’t send any peripheral things—like a picture of your dog or cat, or even bribes of chocolate chip cookies to the editor. Send your well-prepared manuscript with what the submissions guidelines request, which is usually a cover letter and/or short, one-page synopsis of your proposed article or book idea. In short, “short” is a very good word to remember when it comes to proposals.

POLISH – No, this does not mean the people of Poland. It means that after you write your query letter, proposal, or manuscript, go over the text. DON’T BE AFRAID TO REWRITE! Sometimes reading the text out loud—or asking someone else (with the promise that they will not comment on the writing because you just want to hear how someone else reads the pacing of your words) to read the text to you (I don’t mean novels here, either—be kind to the person reading your text aloud). If you or the reader trips over a sentence, word, or phrase, take a harder look at the text. Does it need more explanation? Need to be rewritten? Need fewer words? Again, DON’T BE AFRAID TO REWRITE!


LESSON #2 – PART TWO – It’s All in the P’s

    Now where were we????... Ah, yes, what else starts with P that pertains to publishing…

PART – Yes, there comes a time when you have to let your writing go. The manuscript is your best at this moment in time. You have to send it out, to let it go, and to give it a chance to be looked at by an editor (or a teacher, if you’re taking a class or mentor, if you have a writing buddy). Remember, you can write forever… but if you want to have your words out there, you have to let them go.

PRACTICE – Practice, practice, practice isn’t only for getting into Carnegie Hall or on American Idol—it’s also necessary in writing, too. Write every day—even if it means a grocery or to-do list (they can be very creative!). Just the act of writing keeps you in the habit. And the more you write, the better your writing will become—and the more you will enjoy writing!

PATIENCE – Don’t watch the clock, mailbox, e-mail, telephone, cell phone, iPad, Blackberry, Blueberry, or any other fruit or instruments of communication! After sending out their proposals, queries, or manuscripts (after following the guidelines), many writers insist on getting an answer fast! This is not a fast field… well, sometimes it is when the rejection comes via e-mail the same afternoon. But in general, you have to be patient. Publishing is truly a dichotomy—slow at times, much too fast at other times. You have to have the patience for both.

PROFESSIONALISM – Be professional at all times. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly to editors (especially those you’ve worked with before), interviewees, and other writers. But remember, first and foremost, this is a business. The people you meet along the way should be considered business associates—and some will even become friends. But know the difference.

THE OTHER P’s – There are other P’s to writing: Possibilities (be open to new ideas, no matter what type of writing you do); Perseverance (don’t give up if you really want to write—you really have to believe in yourself); and Peace (keep balanced, mentally and physically—it’s truly a necessity in this crazy world of writing).

And finally: POSITIVENESS – Ah, what a word. But it’s true: Keep a positive attitude—and a sense of humor. Both will come in very, very handy as you write!

Good luck—and happy writing!



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