Archive for March, 2011

Writing tip #16 — Don’t let your story slime you.

March 26, 2011

Recently I wrote down a bit of advice for a friend’s son who is coming of age. We were asked to pass on a piece of wisdom about growing up and becoming a happy, healthy adult. I chose to talk about friendship. I told the young man that finding and keeping friends is an art. Choose wisely. Some people you are meant to friend and others you are meant to drift away from. Hold on to those friends that encourage and love you unconditionally.  Let go of friends that make you feel slimed or diminished. The friends that make you feel great will also probably be the ones that feel encouraged and loved by you, as well.  


I think this is also true of writing projects. If you are working on a project that makes you feel like crap every time you delve into it or even think about it, if that project makes you feel like a bad writer or like a failure . . . walk away. Put it in a drawer. Turn to something else.

But, you protest, I need to write it because (choose one of the below):

I told everyone I know I’m working on it

I already told an editor or agent that I finished it

I’m writing it for my ______ (loved one)

It’s supposed to be cathartic

I told my writers support group I’d let them read it by June

It’s what publishers are looking for right now

A psychic told me I’d make tons of money from it


Believe me, if a writing project makes you feel terrible about yourself or your world, it’s not for you. Stop until a time when/if it has a different effect on you. Life’s too short to wallow in negativity. (And I’m not talking about writing projects with dark plots or characters – they can be delightful to compose and revise – they can fill the writer with glee and inspiration – I mean the gut reaction to a project is dark and that story can be anything from a sunny children’s picture book to a gritty detective novel.)

Let your emotions be your guide. Do you feel stronger when you think about writing the project or weaker? Excited or depressed?

I know we all feel a little down now and then about even our most thrilling and beloved books-in-progress, but you know what I’m talking about here, right? That’s a passing thing. What I’m talking about is the project that is like that friend you need to disconnect with, the one that always makes you feel just a little stupid or ugly or discouraged after you’ve spent a few hours with him. Gently let those friends and projects go. Turn and take a fresh breath and follow your bliss. There will always be a true friend and a new story on the path toward your happiness.


Writing Tip #15 — join a writing community

March 13, 2011

My writing tip for today is . . . join the Willamette Writers. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area it means you get to attend the monthly meetings (speaker series) for free and you get a discount on the fabulous annual conference. But even if you don’t live in Portland, you will get the Willamette Writers monthly newsletter.  Not only do I write a column for this publication, my sister (screenwriter, playwright, writing teacher and President of WW) Cynthia writes a column, too. As does popular writing guru Jessica Morrell. There are also articles on self-publishing and  info on critique groups, contests, and other events. (See excerpts below from my first three columns.) To join WW, go to – a year’s membership is only $36.00.

Another new benefit for Portlanders who join WW? The Writers House — WW bought a house in West Linn with rooms for writers to get away and get some pages down. For a low ten dollar donation you have use of one of the rooms for 24 hours. See the WW website for details. And be a joiner! If not WW than a writers group in your area. It’s great to be part of a community. I’ve been a member of mine for over a decade.

From the January 2011 column “Being Library” ~

And if library could be an adjective, was I Library? I went through my life and tried to take a reading (as it were) – I was going to the public library to check out a book. Obviously that was Library of me. And it was a collection of literary short stories – very Library — one written by my boyfriend’s cousin, David Schickler – Library by proximity. AND I was listening to an audio book in my car – more Library than listening to pop music on the radio. (But I still hadn’t figured out which station played NPR – that would’ve been Librarier.) The book on tape was a Stephen King. I know what you’re thinking — not as Library as a John Steinbeck. But it was King’s book on writing, so hah! Definitely Library.

From the February 2011 column “The Tesseract in the Writer’s Mind” ~

Maybe after a long walk and talk with a few of my favorite authors (in my dreams) the following boring sentence might be transformed.

Me:  The day was almost over and I hadn’t gotten any writing done.

Neil Gaiman inspired: It wasn’t that the computer screen was simply blank; it was a sucking white sun of blankness. If it had been any blanker, the letters from nearby documents would have been pulled into the whitehole of its blankdom. Not even a hidden tab or indent command waited under the surface. The screen repelled writing like a raging, empty-bellied blankosaurus. It sweated 60 SPF writers block, enough to ward off an infinity of Hamlet-typing monkeys.

From the March 2011 column “Beware the Coming of the Spring” ~

Do not go gentle into the light. Before you celebrate the equinox and revel in the rising thermometer, think on this: Winter is your friend. Sunshine only tempts you to put on shorts, wash the car, and do the weeding. Some part of you might be longing for fair weather, but the Dark Soul of the winter is the writer’s den.

March Give-Away

March 3, 2011


The winner of the February Give-Away (a copy of the writing book The Writer’s Guide to PLACES) is Estefania of Barcelona. The March Give-Away will be a signed copy of my writing book (co-authored with my fabulous literary agent Ann Rittenberg) YOUR FIRST NOVEL.


To enter the drawing, send me your name and physical address via the “Email Laura Whitcomb” link on my website ( and let me know if you do NOT want to be on the snail mail list for receiving bookmarks, postcards, or other freebies when I have a new book coming out.

Congrats to Estefania, good luck to all, and have a wonderful week!