it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

Trite but true

I’m a very excitable person–a classic “P” in the Myers-Briggs model. I love to be bitten by the muse, believe that she bites regularly, and get overly excited when I come up with a new idea for a story or a theme or a title. I’m also not a particularly patient person. Now, none of these qualities make me evil, of course. They won’t keep me out of heaven if I feel as though I’ve earned a berth there; they won’t send me to hell either. They don’t even make me a lesser person.

I get so excited...

I get so excited...

They might, however, make me a less successful writer. And that’s what I thought I’d write about today, each lesson framed by its own cliche. Let’s start with mini-lesson numero uno:

Haste makes waste

Beware the hasty. The publishing world, even publishing success, is more likely to elude the hasty than those who are deliberate and those who persevere. Sometimes I get so excited with a possible submission that I rush too much and send something out before it’s ready or before I’ve done a sufficient amount of research. For instance, I wanted to submit a humorous essay today to a national publication. I wrote it for my ongoing writing contest and it fared well. I posted it on my favorite online writers’ site and got really strong reviews. So I decided to see if it had legs elsewhere in the publishing arena. I also had to run to work right in the middle of the afternoon and wanted desperately to shoot it off to the publication I had in mind before I left for work. I read it and re-read it and polished it and wordsmithed it a bit and pulled the plug on sending it.  Aspects of the piece thrilled me but I realized I needed to check the title against recent essays, to make sure it didn’t sound just like something else recently published.  The publication is important and it’s also selective. It will do me no good to be hasty whereas the payoff, at least in terms of exposure, would be fabulous were my piece to be chosen. I might have wasted my opportunity to contend for a column with this piece had I sent it off in haste.

When in doubt, cop out

When I was an undergraduate student, this was my English teacher’s favorite maxim: When in doubt, cop out. Simple to remember. Even easier to apply. Not sure how to spell something.  Don’t use it. Not certain if a word can be used in a certain context–substitute a word you know how to use.  This simple rhyming cliche can save you from embarrassing mistakes. Now, I’m not going to say I have been wise enough to follow this all the time.  It can apply to everything, but it certainly makes lots of sense for writers. I’m fond of trying out new recipes on guests. No harm done really–I can salvage almost any dish. But sometimes in publishing, you only get one chance with an audience. If you are not completely confident in your choices–words, spellings, punctuation, facts, figures–just DON’t use them. My trying to use new words and using them incorrectly has gotten me into more trouble as a writer.  “When will I ever learn? (Sing along with me.) When will I ev-er-er learn.”

Can cliches stink up your writing? Absolutely. Can cliches be illustrative? I hope they were helpful in this post. There are lessons everywhere if you have ears to hear and eyes to see.


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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.


    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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