Tag Archives: craft of writing

Long-liners and Writers: Declare

I’m participating with fellow traveller and author, Jeff Goins.

He has challenged his tribe and fellow bloggers to put into practice “15 Habits of Great Writers.” Coincidentally, this is also the title of his most recent book. If you haven’t purchased it yet, you owe it to yourself . . . if you consider yourself a writer . . . and if you believe that you can learn from fellow writers . . . to buy it, read it, and put it into practice.


The word for today, the first day of the challenge, is: DECLARE.

The idea is to declare to others (and more importantly, to yourself) that you indeed are a writer.


Long-liners are much like writers. They fish for something they know exists but can’t be seen, swimming in the depths below. They catch a fish on line and pull it in careful to ease it in and not to lose it. Then, when it’s close enough to reach, they gaff it and together pull it aboard, shouting and rejoicing. What was once invisible below is now visible on their deck.

I declared myself a writer, a fisher of the invisible,  more than a half-century ago.  I write because I’ve got something important to say to a particular group of people. I write because I want to communicate. I write because I have a vocation to write that is God-given. I was created to be a writer. I was created to speak publicly what I hear in private. I was given stewardship over a gift to hear and see what is invisible.

Writing is making visible the invisible so that others can have a share in it. Shakespeare described the process of creative writing:

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name..

“Gives to airy nothing, a local habitation and a name” Is this what you do? Then you, along with me and others, are a writer.

The characrter of Billy Tyne (Captain of the Andrea Gail) , in the movie “The Perfect Storm” described what it was to be a sword boat Captain. At the end of his description he stares straight ahead at the sea in front of him and says, “Is there anything better in the world?”

I would have to answer “Yes . . . to be a writer.”

QUESTION: What about you . . . Have you DECLARED that you are a writer? When? How?

How to Write for a General Audience: A Review

Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen. How to Write for a General Audience: A Guide for Academics Who Want to Share Their Knowledge With the World and Have Fun Doing It.  New York: American Psychological Association (APA); 2007. 286 pages. $19.95 paper. $9.99 Kindle.

Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

If you’d like to improve in your writing, then you’ll really love Kathy Kendall-Tackett’s, How to Write for a General Audience: A Guide for Academics Who Want to Share Their Knowledge With the World and Have Fun Doing It. WOW!! What a title. And it delivers just as described . . . and MORE!! Not only does Kathy help those writing academic non-fiction for general audiences, as the title describes, but anyone can find great nuggets for whatever you’re writing.

As always, I enjoyed reading another book by Kathy. She not only informs, but entertains. I love her humor, her fresh voice. She makes what could have been a dry subject enjoyable. She writes from experience and will prove to be a great writing coach for you because she’s so practical. No froth or filler here. Lots of real help and advice from someone who’s been there. Done that!  Got the T-shirt!

Kathy is Kathy. Because I know her not only through her writing, but as a friend, I can tell you that what you see is what you get!  She’s down to earth and user-friendly. No pretense. Just plain insider helps on writing and publishing (she’s an acquisitions editor too).

BOTTOM LINE: How to Write for a General Audience should be in your personal library on the craft of writing. You do have a personal library right? If not, I invite you to read my post–“How to Build Your Personal Library.”

I also recommend another of her books–The Well-Ordered Office–in my list of  “Essential Books for Writers.” Her advice got my work-space in order. You will be greatly helped as you read BOTH of her books.

QUESTION: What books on the craft have you found helpful?

Stephen King “On Writing”: A Review

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Pocket Books, 2000. 288 pages. $14.95.

Stephen King 1947—

According to King’s own words, he had so peopled The Stand with a host of characters, that he had to explode them. He expunged them with a bomb planted in a closet. That work of fiction gave him fits. The complexity overwhelmed him. The solution grabbed him in a quiet moment after months of struggle and doubt. Not much unlike the difficulty with this book interrupted by the well publicized accident on a back road in Maine in 1999.

He considers that On Writing took the most out of him and was even more difficult to write. Not least of which can be attributed to the speeding van which broke the crest of the hill only to find King’s face—his crumpled glasses found inside on Bryan Smith’s dashboard.

King was writing a book on the craft that would not be merely informational. Writers did not need a text book. A memoir appealed more to him. Perhaps it is the way it not only tells but shows. After all, every writer or writing student knows the adage: Show don’t tell! King has shown not so much how to write as how he writes. And HOW he writes—38 novels, scores of short stories and poems, articles and now a book on the craft. His is a writing career spanning 40 years. These credentials make it clear that he has something to say and he says it well.

King has given us a fresh and helpful look at the craft of writing. How? Consider. He has arranged the book in three parts: Memoir (show), Craft (tell), and Postscript (show & tell again). Or . . .  tell them what you’re going to say; say it; tell them what you’ve said.

For the first 101 pages he shows us what good writing is. The images of his life come alive for us. We see what is in back of the writer. Excellent characterization. He has sprinkled important nuggets, principles, and axioms throughout, unfortunately they are few. He is not preachy. He shows.  Present, real, and honest—very honest best describes his writing. He shows those snapshots which he considers made him the writer he is. As one critic wrote, he whets our appetite for a full length autobiography. Such an accolade proves that his showing works. Granted in some places he throws scraps of over-cute, but we come away willing to overlook the litter for the grand view.

The second section begins at page 103, in three movements as well. First his narrative on what writing is. Second he goes over the tools of the craft in a fresh light and voice, followed by the “heart of this book,” entitled On Writing. Here he presents the book’s two theses: First, “that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals,” and that while it is impossible to make a good writer out of a bad writer and a great writer out of a good writer, it is possible “to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

He goes on to show, tell, and encourage the reader/writer.

The final section of the book is a page-turner. He shows us in vivid detail and full technical vocabulary how much damage the van did to not only his body but the progress on the book. The writing of On Writing halted for almost a year while King healed. He attributes the completion to his love of writing and his wife, Tabby. Both were there for him when even sitting was too painful to face, never mind concentrating on a challenging work of non-fiction.

King’s motive in this book (as in much of his writing) is to encourage transformation—to leave the reader a more enriched person—in On Writing’s case to encourage, equip, and empower writers, young and old.

I, for one, am thankful for King’s admonishment on page 148 regarding TV watching for writers. It was a Godsend. He prescribed an antidote—a six-hour program for reading and writing. King says that writing is discovery. I’ve picked up a novel. I read each night.

I am brushing the dirt from around the fossil of my second novel (the first is in my desk drawer). Granted I am working with a toothbrush in terms of hours I can give, but the bones still show. I’m seeing more bone every day. Thanks Stephen.

©2012, David C Alves

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