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Ready to Write: A Special Person, and Doing It
by Sandy Tritt
Much of becoming a proficient writer is based upon experience (actually
doing the writing) and on learning the craft of writing. However, it is
difficult to see our own writing with the same clarity that an outsider
can see it. So, there comes a time when we need to seek advice from
Many writers turn to their spouse, lover or best friend.
While this person may have our best interests at heart, he or she (unless
also a writer) will rarely have the insight we need to make our writing
better. So, what is a writer to do?
• Join a writer’s group. Check your local library, check the listings in
the Arts and Humanities section of your newspaper, or check the Internet
to see if a writer’s group exists in your area. A good writer’s group will
consist of at least one or two people who are knowledgeable in the art of
writing and who are interested in sharing that knowledge with others. The
members of a good writer’s group will be constructive in all criticism,
and never sarcastic, egotistical or jealous.
• Create your own writer’s group. Join up with a couple of your writer
friends and meet regularly to review one another’s work. Use the same
precautions in creating this group as listed above.
• Take a Creative Writing class at your local college.
• Attend as many writer conferences and workshops as possible. Again, pay
attention to notices at libraries, art centers and schools for information
about upcoming events. Also watch for advertisements in writing magazines,
or scan the Internet.
• Submit your writing for a professional edit and critique. Find these
services in the classified section of writer magazines or by scanning the
Internet for “manuscript critique.” These services most often charge, and
the rates can vary greatly. Some things to look for: does the fee include
both line-by-line editing and an overview critique? Are follow-up
conferences provided? Are references available? What are the
qualifications of the provider? Do you feel comfortable with the person?
In the best of all worlds, every new writer would have a
special mentor—someone who is knowledgeable in the art and the craft of
writing, someone who has already gone through the growing stages, someone
who has a special interest in the new writer, and someone who is willing
to encourage, challenge and teach that new writer. Keep your eyes open,
and don’t be embarrassed to ask.
Getting Ready to Write: Doing It
Okay, all the preparation in the world, all the good
intentions in the world, all the thinking in the world, doesn’t write a
book. The only way to write a book is to put pen to paper or finger to
keyboard and write. Do it. And do it regularly.
End of sermon.
(from Section 1, Workbook)
Want more great tips and techniques? Our
Inspiration for Writers
Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more
topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and
much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.
(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. December be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article
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for the Writer
by Ken Mulholland.
Imagine a boxing ring and both gloved men sitting in
opposing corners, waiting for the bell. It rings and fighter A dances
forward to meet fighter B They begin to exchange blows, dodging and
weaving to avoid retaliation as best they can.
You can now begin to describe the bout; fighter A lands a
blow to fighter B Labelling them A and B is not enough. They require names
and some background, so that the reader can get a grasp of who is who. Are
they both beautifully matched Olympians? Or is one the 'Good Guy' and the
other, the 'Nasty Bad Guy'? Alright, some thought needs to be applied here
to give the protagonists life and personality.
Now imagine that the boxing ring is a battlefield and the two
fighters are two opposing armies. They charge and lock together in mortal
Right. So far so good. However, if you want to describe a
battle, or even a minor skirmish, there are quite a lot of things to
consider before you begin.
Or, you can simply launch into your description without
having the faintest idea as to where the action is going and how it will
end; much alike to a foot-soldier caught up in the press of scores of
other soldiers all fighting hand to hand, and seeing no further than those
immediately around them: comrades, enemies, wounded and dying, all caught
up in an intense, personal struggle for survival.
That would be 'flying by the seat of your pants', and sure,
you can go at it like that and see how it all comes out. But there are
other ways to look at battles.
And here we come to the old Newspaper-Man's five questions:
Who, How, What, Where and Why?
Who? Who are your combatants? Are they militia,
hardened soldiers, bandits, tribal war-lords, guerrillas, Royal Marines,
Navy Seals? You, the writer of course, will know this because you will
have prepared the way in advance.
How? How do you want to portray this encounter? Events
before the battle, the battle itself, or the aftermath? Or all three?
There are times when the reasons for the conflict are where you may want
to express the initial impact, and there are times when the result; the
deserted battle-ground scattered with the dying and dead might be the all
'A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!' Richard the
Third, Act 5,
What? What is the basis for your battle? What reason
draws these peoples together, ready to sacrifice their lives to win,
and to win what? Again,
you the writer will have prepared us with information about the conflict.
Where? Day or night, on land, sea or in the air? (As in
Dog-fights.) Here, conditions really do apply. Is it raining? A beautiful
sunny day? Where do you want to set this? Just imagine a battle taking
place as a thunder storm rages above.
Why? Ah yes! Why are you attempting to write a Battle
Sequence at all? And after reading this, you may wonder. But let me assure
you, some of
the principles can be applied in many and varied ways.
Now if you are writing about say, two fencers
delicately touching rapiers, you might approach the description with a
picture of two dancers in mind; poised, lightly moving on their feet,
swift and fluid, graceful, yet deadly, as blood rips across a heaving
chest. (Flowery - but you get the idea.)
Or, picture two men dressed as pirates, clashing
cutlasses, heavy sea-boots clomping back and forth as they lumber at each
other, or two women, circling, cat-like, daggers held in their hands, eyes
shining, waiting for that moment to pounce. Now put the women into the
clothes and boots of the pirates and see in your mind how that might
change their feline aspect.
So, as there are many and varying themes to a
two-hander, are there even
more themes and variations to anything larger. A skirmish between enemy
patrols, involving maybe twenty men each, takes quite a bit of
choreography to make it work, so when you go up to a full scale battle the
whole process escalates accordingly.
As an example, in chapter 62 of Varlarsaga (a chapter I
wrote over twenty years ago, by the way.) I wanted to portray exactly
that, a full scale battle between two large armies comprised of a number
of different peoples. For this exercise I was armed with two
weapons, apart from my own imagination, which were Homer's 'Iliad' and
'Enemy of Rome,' by Leonard Cottrell. The first is the epic tale of part
of the siege of Troy and the second is the story of the military genius
Hannibal and his campaigns in Italy against the might of Rome. From these
two books I took some fundamental ideas and attempted to weave them into
Here it is timely to mention the 'Voice' that you use
to describe a battle. That of course will be the 'Voice' you have already
chosen for your entire story, be it in the first person, etc. But, if you
going to write a tome that you know will have such vast scenes of
conflict, then you'd better think about this before you begin. So, will
you describe this battle through the eyes of your hero or heroine, or
through the eyes of a number of people on either side, or through the
eyes of company commanders or, as I chose, an overall narrative. Now I
decided at the beginning of Varlarsaga that it would require a
narrative form to make it work the way I wanted the entire story to work,
since it encompassed so many characters, places and events, and I desired
the freedom that narrative would give me to do exactly that.
So I looked again at Homer, to see how he had set the
scene for his oncoming battles. Near the beginning of the 'Iliad Homer
names the Captains of the Achaeans and the number of ships they brought
with them to the shores of Illios. Why does he do this? At first glance it
could be considered that this is his way of showing what tremendous forces
were converging on the Scamandrian plain, but later it becomes
reasonable to suppose that with his thumbnail sketches of these
he is familiarizing the reader with their names and some small indication
of their many and varied backgrounds.
Then, when the battles rage, these names are revisited,
and the reader can faintly recall something of them. They are no longer
just a list of numbers of tens of thousands of combatants; they possess
lineage and titles and, more importantly, the reader begins to identify
them as singular human beings, so that when they do deeds of valour or
the heat of the fray, they have vaguely insinuated themselves into the
reader's mind. The battle is no longer just a conglomeration of
nameless men at arms; it has become, on a grand scale, a more intimate
conflict where the reader identifies and feels an empathy, however
moderate, for the hapless and the victorious.
Thus does Homer shepherd his armies, keeping an overall
eye upon the
vastness of men resonating with the lust of combat, and at the same
time picking the eyes out of individual situations that dot the
This then, was the principle I utilized for Chapter 62.
I had already done the spade work much earlier, and it was time to draw
the strings of this character-seeding together.
It is to be noted that I chose to occasionally visit
the enemy camp, and take a glimpse from the viewpoint of their
Captains, and here I must signal a warning note. There are rules in
writing. That is a given. However, rules are set to guide, just as laws
are made to govern.
Without them we would face anarchy. And yet, sometimes rules, as laws, can
be reviewed, revised, re-invigorated or at least, questioned.
The rules of writing should never constrain or cramp a
writer, nor drive she or he into some imagined corner where there is no
room to manoeuvre.
When I write, I do not allow myself to be restricted by
the strictures of others. I decide how I want the work to appear. I write,
because I can.
And so, can You.
Legend of Ron
as told to Ken Mulholland
by Robbie T. Robot
His name was Earp, Ron Earp.
At birth he was called Ronnie by his nanny,
Especially when they whacked him on his Mother's
When he finally gave out a burp they whacked his mother
Oh-ho-ho, quiet Earp! Quiet Earp!
Strange, vexatious and bald.
Long live his name and long live his chickens And long
may his story be told.'
As he grew up, quiet Ron numbered but a few friends,
And Harry the hoarse amongst them.
Eventually, after a completely uneventful childhood, he
found a working
Position in the ' it's mine! All mine! ' Bank, which was run by one
Phineas Hogg, a veritable porker of a man whose nose was perennially in
the trough of other people's money. You know, the kind that is
described as ' happy as a pig in the hand is worth a pick in your pocket!'
Now every morning at the 'all mine' you could see him
Ron stood four foot eleven and didn't give a damn.
He seldom said much, kinda quiet and shy, and if you
spoke at all, you didn't say hi to small Ron,
'Small ro-on,' he took it as an insult,
'Small ro-onn!' Didn't say lo either, same reason, 'Small, short Ron,
small Ron... '
One day at the bank there was a hell of a scuffle,
Phineas Hogg had done the white-collar shuffle with all the cash he could
extract, by crikey, He erected a giant sign that read, ' it's mine!
All mine! ' I likey!
Then came the day at the bottom of the 'all mine', when
a money bin cracked and employees started cryin', Men and women were
praying and hearts beat fast, And everybody thought that they'd breathed
their last, cept Ron.
Through the dust and the smoke of this greedy hell,
walked a midget of a
man that the workers hardly knew at all.
Until one shouted, 'why it's Earp!' (Ho ho! A little play on a name.
Get It? Why it's... ' Anyway, )
Grabbed a saggin' timber and gave out a cough, when
they suggested a doctor, he said "I ain't that small, p... Off!"
A hundred or so scrambled from that would-be grave,
Now there's only two left underneath to save. Money was
spilling out into the street, notes were floating at everyone's feet, Hogg
was a scoundrel and Ron was a creep.
'Small ro-on, small ro-oon, small, shy Ron, small
With wallets and handbags they started back down,
Then came a deafening belch from outta the ground,
It was Hogg gagging on his fourth morning-tea doughnut,
Which set Ronnie laughing, poor stupid mutt!
Ron said to Phineas, with almost his last gasp, 'You
were always a pain in the financial-greed grasp. Here's where we come to
our final rest now, And get your thieving fingers out of my vest now!
Ron let go his hold and the money bin crashed, Of
course extra cash fell from where it was stashed, And the rescuers used it
to venerate Ron, Although it was too late, 'coz now he was gone.
That's the tale of small Ron, who was never called
The moral, the piggier you are, the harder it is to
live on doughnuts And five mill dollars a week.
Now at the bottom of the 'all mine' lies a Hogg who was
a swine, And beneath the 'all mine' sign lies a small, small man... Small
Small ro-on, small ro-oon! Small, short Ron!
Small Ron. Small, coy Ron. Small Ron, very small Ron, small Ron... '
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This tale is not meant to demean humans who may be vertically challenged.
(In my compacted state I am only two foot in height when cringing, but
then again I can extend to fifteen feet if required to save some poor,
frail human from inevitable death.)
No vertically challenged humans were injured or crushed to death by
falling money bins or signs in the telling of this legend.
R.T. Robot. (In the absence of Ken Mulholland.)
In Chapter 62 and a later battle sequence of equal magnitude,
I took advantage of the battle formations used by a master of such in one
Hannibal Barca; THE Hannibal. The man who caused the Romans, even
centuries later, at the threat of war to utter the cry of, 'Hannibal ad
portas!' Hannibal is at the gates!
For the major part of his campaigns in Italy, Hannibal
had to deal with the formidable legions of Rome; these were, in the main,
well equipped nfantry and cavalry.
However it was Hannibal and his brother Hasdrubal who
mastered the Romans over and again in their own back yard, and they did
it, not by superiority of numbers, but by mercurial cavalry, artifice, and
forward contemplation of the ground to be fought over. Here were tens of
thousands of men: light-armed troops, fully-armed heavy infantry,
Roman, Gaulish, Spanish and Numidian cavalry; all of them to be marshalled
to their maximum capacity. There were many battles fought by Hannibal;
notable amongst them, Trebbia, Cannae and Lake Trasimene, and it was
his ability to general his men, to husband the ever-changing situations as
they occurred in the field, to answer the opposing Romans at every turn,
that won him the day on all of these occasions. Often, he employed
theswiftest Numidian cavalry to sweep the enemy flanks whilst his own
light-armoured infantry were being beaten back by the oncoming Roman
troops who, fighting hand to hand and seeing their enemy caving in before
them, bore on without thought that they in turn were being sucked
into a vortex that would lead to encirclement and annihilation.
Not to labour the point longer, here were the tools I
required to help me complete the task at hand; namely, the battles I
envisioned for Varlarsaga. If I had been writing something else, battles
concerned with the twentieth century, for instance, I might have
turned to the writings of Winston Churchill, or Montgomery, Patton,
Eisenhower, or the stories of that great German General Rommel.
Instead I looked to the past, having been heavily
influenced by J.R.R.Tolkien to a point where I desired to write something
akin to, in size as well as subject, Lord Of The Rings. Therefore, it was
necessary to delve back into times when actual conflicts, or at least
legendary ones, were documented and accessible.
What have we learned here? First, don't get an old guy
who happens to
be hooked on History stirred up. Move the rocks and he's liable to come
By what authority does he do so? Absolutely none. Only
thirty plus years of writing, amongst those, Varlarsaga. Resolution.
All of the above are pointers. Battles can be viewed
from many stances: upon the rise where the commander stands forth and
fatal words, 'We're safe here. They'll never hit us from this dist...!'
to, 'I have here a piece of paper. Herr Hitler... ' Thank-you, Neville
Chamberlain. 'Peace in our time.'
Na! Probably, pizzas in our time, more likely.
And here I am most humbly reminded, that writing about
war and battles is not such a wonderful thing, especially at this time of
year. Of course, Dear Readers, we are only talking about the written word,
Have joy, have fun, have Christmas season in the sun
(or at best somewhere warm under blankets) and be prepared to study, to
ask, to learn in the New Year.
A/Me Australia December, 2004.