Guest Post & Giveaway: HELP! FOR WRITERS

I am a fan of Roy Peter Clark‘s The Glamour of Grammar because he makes grammar fun. He has a new book out next week called Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces (one says you should reward yourself after your first hour of writing so I’m all over that). I was very happy when he agreed to do a guest post about:

Three fun things to jumpstart your writing that won’t get you arrested.

1.  Steal magazines from the doctor’s office or barber shop.

Don’t feel guilty. Chances are you have been waiting for more than an hour for a grumpy nurse to call your name. All you get for your inconvenience is a stack of crispy or soggy magazines, some that are months and months old. Get some payback and a good story idea at the same time. Flip through some of the mags, especially ones in a category that you may not often read. Look for something that grabs your interest, a surprising trend that can be localized. If you feel bad about snatching the magazine, quietly rip out the relevant pages.

2.  Read an alternative weekly newspaper, from the back to the front.

The back has the best stuff: ads for adult businesses dominate (so to speak), but they mix gloriously with ads for astrological readings, pain management, outpatient drug detox, cheap rooms to rent. Pay special attention to items you don’t understand at first glance: What is Bhakti Massage or Watsu? Bingo: “Lingerie models needed for Comedy/Horror videos. No nudity required. No thongs or g-strings. Ladies with large visible tattoos need not apply. $200 cash for 5 hours.” Hmm. With Halloween approaching…

3.  Go to an event and watch the audience instead.

Take any event, from a campaign speech, to a high school football game, to a recital for young musicians, to a church service. We are so used to seeing events from predictable vantage points that we miss the opportunity to check the rear view mirror. It bugs my wife when I turn around in church and watch the congregation behind me. I’m sure it puzzles others in the pews. But what a revelation to see churchgoers in all their variety: teenagers whispering and flirting; farting oldsters lost in their rosaries; the guy wearing the golf pants checking his watch.

Roy’s tips are fun and creative, and if you think you could use a copy, you’re in luck. Hachette has allowed me to give away three copies. Enter by leaving a comment about something you often struggle with in your writing. I’ll take entries until next Friday, September 23, 5 p.m. PST. US & Canada only.



  • Reply
    Kathy P
    September 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Would love to win this book!!!

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Ooh, now I’m going to have to look up his grammar book! Sounds like fun, and my kind of creative inspiration — I’m a natural born people-watcher.

    One of the things I struggle with is how to make my characters move like real people without over-choreographing scenes (for lack of a better phrase). Dialogue comes easily enough, but if I don’t work at it, sometimes all I’ve got are a bunch of talking heads. Watching how people move, who’s fussy and finicky, who’s klutzy, who’s careless, etc., in their body language, is a huge help.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth J Duncan
    September 16, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I struggle with breaking up dialogue (she took a sip of tea), avoiding repeating “she looked at him” (she shot him a glance) and these days, with where the story has to go next.
    I also struggle with not eating too much while I’m struggling.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Love Elizabeth’s comment!

    The last good writing book I read was Writing Down The Bones. I still pull it out every now and again when I’m blocked and can’t even write my name on a blank page. lol. It only becomes less frightening in hindsight. So what I call going blank is what I struggle with mostly. Sometimes I get over it and sometimes months go by with me blowing bubbles on the back porch.

    I could use anything that would help.

  • Reply
    September 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I would love to win this book! One of my favorite books is called The Comic Toolbox–great even if you’re not writing comedy.

    There’s many things I struggle with–grammar being one major thing. Another major battle I face is that I get stuck in the plot and though the wheels are still spinning, the car goes nowhere. I need help finding a way to get past the mid-point stall. Even with outlining my novel, I still seem to always hit this point.

    Thanks for offering the contest! Fingers crossed…

  • Reply
    Ronnie Sowell
    September 21, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I believe this book would be helpful as I work on revising my first novel. Trust me, I need all the help I can get!

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