#Cliches are not good, but… #writing

 

www.LisaHaganBooks.com

from Keep It Short by Charles Euchner

#CLICHES

To give clichés life—to make them fresh and original again— find something surprising to add to them.

Too often, we use familiar ideas without really under- standing their meaning. We repeat phrases and ideas carelessly.

When we overuse expressions, we live in a fool’s paradise. We cannot hold a candle to the halcyon days, our salad days, when we suited the action to the word and revealed the naked truth. But we give short shrift to language, writing with neither rhyme nor reason. And we lose such stuff as dreams were made of, at’s neither here nor there, since these expressions are dead as a doornail. Coming full circle, we realize, more in sorrow than anger, and it’s a foregone conclusion that overuse of such terms is a fatal vision. So, in one fell swoop, we throw cold water on it.

All of those expressions come from Shakespeare. ese expressions once expressed ideas with freshness and originality. But used over and over, they have lost their vitality. Too o en, we use these clichés not because they express ideas well, but because they o er a simple way to say something. ey let us say something without thinking.

Remember you want to make the reader see, feel, helpless, harmless. Milo’s dead.” By using the slack, disinterested tone of a gumshoe, Lynch moves us away from sickly sentimentality.

 

Samuel Beckett uses clichés in playful ways to make them fresh. He writes: “Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards.” And then, describing the odor of graveyards, he added that he will breathe in the smell of corpses “when take the air I must.” In her memoir of family suicide, Joan Wickersham freshens a stale image: “Cal may have had pots of family money, but my husband didn’t even have a small saucepan.”

Whenever possible, though, avoid clichés. Lush detail—observation of sights, sounds, smells—helps to create original expressions.

Nack could just say, “I thought about that horse day and night. I couldn’t get Secretariat out of my mind. It popped up no matter where I was or what I was doing” Zzzzzz. Instead, Nack uses compelling images to show how Secretariat shaped every minute of his life.

Write like Bill Nack. Always look for the fresh images—ideas that are familiar, but which other writers have not used before—to help the reader experience the scene –

smell, taste, touch, imagine—and think of more familiar the images, the less you will engage your reader.

“Cliches,” Geoffrey Hill notes, “invite you not to think.” Cliches give use easy, lazy was of expressing our- selves. As Hill notes, “you may always decline the invitation.” When you feel tempted to use a cliché, stop. Get in the habit of considering how to state a point simply—or think of a fresh, original way of making a point.

To avoid the dreariness of clichés, play with them. Start by looking at its literal meaning. Porter Abbott explains:

When the orator urges his or her auditors “to strike while the iron is hot,” how many of them see the sweating blacksmith at his forge and feel his magical transmutation into new meaning? The answer is none. But when one tramp suggests to another that “it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes” the original vehicle is revived in its literal state.

Taking words literally reveals the cliché’s original insight. When you do a genealogy of clichés, you discover vibrant images that can be revived.

When you change the context of cliché, you can give it new life. In a memoir of his life as an undertaker, Tomas Lynch writes about the death of a neighbor: “Milo is dead. X’s on his eyes, lights out, curtains.”

 

For more details on Keep It Short, click on the title.

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams  

Chat on Facebook at Shadowteamsnyc

We Serve Writers #ThursdayWrites

th-1.jpeg

/bethwareham

Lisa Hagan Books

We are a publishing company owned by writers and agents, a new experience in a new world order. The internet made it possible. The writers make it fly.

Our ideas are simple:

  1. Help writers write.
  2. Connect writers with other professionals that can help them write and publish.
  3. Put books together with core readership.
  4. Live in the world of ideas.

Yup. Four things we want to achieve. Just 4. These 4 ideas were formulated after decades in the biggest publishing houses in the country, an experience that drew us FURTHER away from the reasons we got in this business in the first place. We love hands-on work with creative minds. We love the joy of seeing those ideas made manifest in two covers and a bunch of nicely trimmed pieces of paper. Or, better yet, tiny pixels that allow us to take a library anywhere we go.

We use a distributor based in Chicago for those works that need traditional distribution. Still others are tailored to work solely online. Depends on the subject and what the author hopes to achieve.  In today’s world, more is possible and we are reaching further to offer different types of reading experiences that suite different needs.

Talk to us, we’re always here.

@Shadowteams  or @GiantSweettart on Twitter

@ShadowteamsNYC on Facebook

Or, send us an email: Beth@LisaHaganBooks.com or Lisa@LisaHaganBooks.com

We mean it. And join the conversation every Thursday when writers, agents, and publishing professionals chime in about their projects, tell you what they are searching to publish, and solve writing problems right there in the twitter feed. #ThursdayWrites 

 

 

 

 

 

Why him? How to choose a writing partner.

www.shadowteams.com wp_ss_20160402_0003-3

As a white middle-aged housewife, I can bore myself pretty silly. Yup, I’ve tangoed with Cuban mops,  rode Swifter picker uppers around the house and done battle with the vacuum bag. I tried to ride the iRobot and broke it. Too heavy I guess. (Me, not it.) I know my world and I know my challenges. I chose a co-writer as different from me as I could. I also know that to handle hot potato race topics, a needed that balancing voice that made the use of the word “nigger” acceptable.

I am a publisher who owns a publishing company. Who doesn’t, right? I also work in film (the slowest drip of a Chinese water torture in modern business) and philanthropies that strike my sense of equality. I help people write. They help me. We thrive.

And I do what I call BRIDGE WORK. Above is Jason Davis, my co-author in HAIR CLUB BURNING, a riot of a ride through racism, bad behavior, stereotypes of ALL kinds, systemic racial prejudice, interracial friendship and love. I believe the government wants to keep black and whites apart. Our future lies in our bonds and all lives matter. Everyone knows that but ISIS. I wanted to know Jay’s story, his heart, his experiences as a Blood in America and there was no better way to understand than through writing.

I published Jason’s poetry 10 years ago when he was on the run for attempted murder. He was under the radar, banging hard and making babies. The call arrived asking for poems and he said, “you’re kidding, right?” He did write them and they were great. You can read them in The War of the Bloods in My Veins by Daushaun Morris, another book I published.

Jason and started writing Hair Club Burning as a way to capture the hilarious reactions of people to the middle-aged white Texas housewife and the gang banger. That is the genesis of the book.

But really, I want you to know who Jason is and how far he has come. He is now a novelist, a book seller, a philanthropist and a teacher. He is raising his 4 kids as a single dad, working the graveyard shift to pay his family’s way. He got his group of Harlem Bloods to lay down their arms and become a group with a civil purpose, a purpose to keep other young people out of gangs. He recently received  an award from Harlem Hospital for his work in the community.

I want you to know Jay. He is the stuff of White nightmares….or is he?   Twenty years of Catholic school training could not keep him from banging on the streets. Banging on the streets led to grave physical and mental distress. Jay entered the care of Dr. David Grand, one of the world’s foremost PTSD researchers who works with populations in Syria, the Balkans, anywhere there is mass murder, war and natural disasters. These gang members where suffering so – threw their actions and the scenes they witnessed together – and  PTSD became the treatment that allowed them to overcome and proceed with their lives.

I am Jay’s bridge. I brought him into the world of writing and publishing and he will soon start his own imprint, OG BOOKS. I am so proud of him and cannot wait to read more black voices in publishing. We’ve heard plenty from the white ones.

Watch here for the continue story of an OG Blood becoming a man of letters. It a beautiful thing: GUNS FOR INK.

To purchase Jay’s book, HAIR CLUB BURNING, click here. IMG_0012-2

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams or @giantsweettart

Chat on Facebook at Hair Club Burning   Jason Davis   Shadowteamsnyc    or Beth Wareham

To watch the book trailer, click here

To watch the Hollywood pitch, click here:

WE CAN DO THIS.

PASS YOUR KNOWLEDGE ALONG.

 

 

 

BLOODS TO INK

www.shadowteams.com 

/beth warehamth-2.jpeg

While working at a medium-sized publisher, I published a book called The War of the Bloods in My Veins by Dashaun Morris and Jason Davis.  My bosses were not pleased at my authors’ blackness that I was bringing into their temple of arts and letters.  (See Publishers Weekly hard-hitting expose – and yes, my words are ironic – entitled something like “Why is Publishing So White?” Well, It’s white because the white people in charge like it that way.)

My bosses were also not pleased because these were young black gang members and THEY would do the writing. No Yalie would be looking and studying them from afar; the voices would be raw, rising from the street. The point of view would be real, the authors had walked the walk through the violence and horror. They had generated a fair amount themselves.

This, I felt, was the way for the book to have real meaning for others. To create understanding. Even perhaps a little empathy. Anything else, at least to me, was more academic masturbation. It’s easy to feel less fear about a group of people if you categorize them like, say, insects or bacteria strains.

I didn’t understand then that we would all become friends; I would see both young men end of their gang-banging careers. They are now both deeply engaged in raising children, working, and creating. They write a lot about what happened, what they did, what they can’t undo.

We can call many things a “gang.” Banks and corporations are now thought of as “gangs” by many Americans (I like cabal or cartel better). Wars are simply one large gang against the other. Every continent with people has them. Asia and North Africa just gave the world’s gang culture a doozy in ISIS.

Before you read my interview later in the week with my co-author Jason Davis,  you may want to check out the book and/or the newest book trailer.

It’s time we see what this gang thing is really all about. And change it, just like Jay.

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams and @giantsweettart

Post on Facebook at Hair Club Burning   Shadowteamsnyc   or  Beth Wareham

 

 

 

 

 

Wife. CEO. Cat Lover. Boxer. Hendrix Freak. NOVELIST.

images-3

www.shadowteams.com

/Beth Wareham

I am a writer by night (yes, like a vampire) and a vampire by day (yes, I’m a publisher) and I try to keep the two separate. I cannot publish myself – it’s too much like public diddling – nor can I let my authors see me pulled off working their books to work mine. Tacky.

What to do. What to do. At the moment I’ll do nothing but let a few friends read it and see if they liked the sex. I’ll excerpt the blow job scene and email it to my 86 year old friend Ruth. I’ll sit around thinking “dear lord above I finished a novel” and reach for candy, which I surely deserve.

I’ve written oodles of books, most without my name. All non-fiction. I’m not a pornographer. I am a ghost. (You go think about that for awhile.) This is the first time I have thrown my sizable being into fiction and come out the other side. If I end up putting it in a box under the bed, I’ve still accomplished more than I ever imagined.

‘cuz listen everybody. This fiction-writing is hard stuff.

The mighty, the Few, the Novelists.

Off for some more champagne.

Follow us twitter @shadowteams @giantsweettart @skinnysmoothies
Yap on Facebook @Shadowteamsnyc

Chop Chop Writers

images-1

by Beth Wareham

www.shadowteams.com
So, this meat clever is kinda scary. Blood. Animal? Human? Ha!

This is writer’s blood. From the way the red rises in the middle of the cleaver, forensics tell us someone was killing whole paragraphs. (Little splatters on the end suggest adverb and adjective removal.) Consistent smears along the blade tells us it was a sentence hunting mission. CSI for Writers: The Cleaver Tells All.

Every writer must be a ruthless editor, meat cleaver worn on a tool belt as he or she types. This editing is one of the hardest aspects of writing – we all think our words should be carried around on little velvet pillows – and that thought often embarrasses you later when you have an overwritten, indulgent book no one wants to read.

So, in a wildly simplistic list, here are the things your clever should do for you to progress in your life as a writer:

1. Adverbs and adjectives: CLEAVER THEM. AS MANY AS POSSIBLE.

2. Vary sentence length for dramatic affect. Consider these two scenarios:

“Walter walked in the back door, throwing his jacket to the floor, and commenced his feral wandering from room to room, beer in hand, waiting for a child or slow moving aunt to verbally ambush.”

“The door slammed. Walter threw his coat on the back of the chair. He immediately walked over to the refrigerator, pulled out his customary beer, and began to pace the first floor of the house. The living room was empty as was the front porch. He really wanted someone in his family to appear so he could burn off some of his darker feelings.

3. Don’t go down alleyways. Writers have curious minds and it is easy to write yourself off course. The cleaver must come out if you go on, say, a two page chat about derivatives in a South American love story. Stay on story or it’s the cleaver for you.

4. Don’t say the same thing in a bunch of different ways. We all assume a writer has the skills to tell us a story using different devices. Have enough faith in yourself to pick one story and tell it the way you want to….no hemming and hawing.

5. Write a book of appropriate length. You are writing in the age of the internet, not the 19th Century when entertainments were a bit slower moving. Keep it tight. Test yourself. Use the poet’s skill of distilling words to write prose. Practice writing short on twitter. Write to your time. Word selection is the 21st Century game of the highest importance. Just look at Search Engine Optimization. 🙂

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams @giantsweettart

www.shadowteams.com

Tough Writer’s Manifesto: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Never Stop

images

www.shadowteams.com
/Beth Wareham

Richard Bach, author of that 20th century pop icon, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said a mouthful with “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard – who once let me fly his plane – would not like what I have to say about much of his writing. But his work on aviation is magnificent. He was also based in the same squadron as a really professional writer – one James Salter – during the Berlin crisis. Salter, author of A Sport and A Pastime, among others, never chose a wrong word in his life.

A tough writer, amateur or check-casher, doesn’t quit. A tough writer works through problems, wipes out pages, starts over. A tough writer knows how you can get inside a book and slip and slide in it, failing to accomplish much of anything. A tough writer understands the words “begin again.”

Below is some pretty interesting advice I’ve heard from authors and editors in a 20-year career in the larger publishing houses of New York. Some of it will depress you and some will set you free.

You must remember, though, that part of the extreme joy of reading and writing is the discovery of the new voice, seemingly from nowhere, who changes your point of view.

What you also must remember, sitting glumly at your keyboard, is that voice just might come from you:

TOUGH WRITERS MANIFESTO

1. No one is watching you.

The great Ilene Beckerman, author of Love, Love and What I Wore, confessed that what she liked about writing was that nobody saw when she wrote a sentence like “She carried the steaming tureen to the table.” Allow yourself all the mistakes you need until it feels right to you.

2. Plan and destroy. Plan and destroy.

Map a plot. Change it. Flush out characters, modify, remove, add more. Throughout the process of putting a book together, you need the plan of a soldier who is ready to shift positions at any moment for a more effective line of attack. Rigid flexibility. Think on it.

3. Who are you writing for?

Too often, especially in non-fiction, authors are writing for peers. That’s fine, if you want to sell books to the 200 other forensic accountants in California. Who is your reader? Who do you see in your mind’s eye as you work on the book? Act accordingly. Don’t use technical words if you trying to reach the layman. Choose communication over showing off.

4. Feed a fever; Starve a cold

If you don’t believe in the muse, then you don’t believe in Faulkner, Mozart and Beethoven. Whole chunks of finished passages just appeared in their heads and the test was to write it down quickly enough they didn’t lose it. This is true of you as well. If you become deeply engaged in writing a scene, stay with it. Sitting down at a computer and doing 500 words a day is the drip, drip of sinuses disengaged from the passion of writing. Stop word counting and start throwing your soul into it.

5. Facts are not the truth.

In fiction, there are no facts but abundant truths. Since all writing is autobiographical to a degree, never got bogged down in the actually memory of a room or character. Remake them anew to meet the truth of what you are writing. You owe no one an explanation for your art.

6. Raw is good.

The closer you can get to the bone, the more you feel what you write, the more your reader will too. This is what Hemingway meant by his comment that being a writer was no big deal, you just sat down and bled on a keyboard all day. Readers know when they are being kept at arms’ length and most don’t like it. Bring them in to you and the story.

7. Detail isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.

Every detail you choose should further your plot or give us more information about your characters and the “truth” of your book. Here’s a simple example of how you might or might not choose detail for a character:

Meyer’s suit was blue and his shoes were brown.

Meyer’s blue suit shined at the elbows, leading the eye downward to a pair of brown crepe-soled
work shoes.

Simple, right? And no one ever talks about the writer’s eyes; the painters get all that public relations.

8. Simple formulas make powerful books.

A) Tell your story from the beginning and end at the end. Simple. Never fails

B) Try the song form: A,B,A. Used for thousands of years, you can see this form best in a series
like Lord of the Rings: A is the Shire, B is the adventure, C is a return to the Shire with
lessons learned and evil vanquished.

9. Edit like Stalin.

Everyone, EVERYONE, uses too many words. Edit yourself ruthlessly. Any word that is not absolutely necessary to further your story should go. You owe this to your reader: don’t waste their time with overwriting. Proust covered that already.

10. Let the manuscript rest before final carving.

Polishing a manuscript brings up an interesting combination of anxiety and joy. You are close to a finished book. Give it that last read and polish it up. Remove the final unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Tighten descriptions. People will read it soon, thus the anxiety. People will read it soon, thus the joy.

Some will judge you positively, some might not. But somewhere, someone will read your book and it will change his or her life.

And that, my friend, is why you do it.

Stay tough.

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams @giantsweettart

www.shadowteams.com

Stuck? Walk Away. #amwriting

images-1

 

www.shadowteams.com
/Beth Wareham

I have heard and read so many discussions about writer’s block, it feels like the commercial about “Going and Going” that air on all three network news broadcasts each night.

Creativity, being a function of your brain, is mysterious. Maybe it’s best to have the same respect (or nearly) for it as you do for love.  I’ve read so many books about creativity that I’ve come to the conclusion that no one else understands it either.  Without it, life is grim.

Science, however, has an explanation. In Dr. Herbert Benson’s The Breakout Principle, he talks about how creativity can be triggered by repetitive movement such as jogging, knitting, yoga, sewing, meditation, golf.  The repetitive motion releases chemicals in the brain.  These are the chemicals that allow different parts of the brain to communicate and make creative leaps and comparisons. It’s on.

The worst thing you can do, in other words, is to sit at the computer watching cat videos or go to dinner parties and bray at your friends that you have writer’s block.

Go fold laundry, run, sit in the bathtub, read to a kid. Release your mind from the struggle at the machine and let it solve the creative problem in its own mysterious way. It just might fall into you brain fully-formed and seemingly from nowhere.

Feed your creativity. It goes with you everywhere. Like a blue stool.

 

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams  @giantsweettart

 

www.shadowteams.com

 

 

 

10 Ways to Avoid “Beige Characters” : #amwriting

character_rotation_by_edmidt

Some characters are meant to take the air from the room and some are meant to be furniture. It is the way of the narrative. The furniture-type I call “beige characters<‘ though there is probably an academic term for them. (Literary zombies?)

“Beige characters” forward the action, appear and recede, help things along, teach something about the main character. As a reader, their names confuse me because they are so “beige,” I can’t remember. I suspected better writers are better at “beige characters.”

However, I feel I’ve missed opportunities to say something about humankind, make the book richer with detail, or just plain entertain when I create those beige characters. I’ve been lazy; I’ve neglected them. I feel terrible.

I started to study “beige characters” in a cross-section of books to see how other authors handled the challenge. I have a whole new respect for “other authors”:

1. Hint the character has a secret. You can eventually give away the secret to the reader if you choose. The simple EXISTENCE of a secret makes a character more interesting and the reader moving forward with you.

2. “Beige characters” can be made attractive to the book by having an unattractive trait. Annoying flat laughter, hairy moles, an odor, a tendency to use adjectives, anything.

3. Create a cognitive dissonance around your ‘beige characters’ – an old guy that sucks on fireballs, a girl who loves heavy metal and knits kleenex box covers – one weird image that will stick every time you have to bring in that character for a little help.

4. Add one detail about clothing that is unforgettable: a orange bra strap, prison pants with penguins on boxers, peds with a hole in the toe

5. Accents are difficult. But if you think you can give your beige character an accent different from other characters, do it. Problem solved.

6. Give a beige character a strange fear: bees, mold, spacecraft abduction, the neighbor takes their hedges while they sleep. Only you know the strange fear you need.

7. A beige character can make an interesting entrance into the narrative that the reader will remember when the beige-ness resumes.

8. A “Beige Character” can be your voice of reason in counterbalance to an unbalanced character. If you choice this route, keep your beige character fairy beige. Think Gatsby and Tom.

9. Beige Characters are often introduced early in thrillers and horror so that they may be killed in different, interesting ways. My research tells me that their introduction often hints at how they will die: example: Mary picked up the knife and said, “I’ll make the salad.”

10. Beige Characters are a lot more important than I ever thought.

WRITING’S 5 RULES OF ORGANIZATION

images-8

http://www.shadowteams.com
by Beth Wareham

This title is utter nonsense aimed at “I need to write another blog list.” There are no rules of organization in writing. Actually, there aren’t as many rules as you’d think in writing. There are just writers without the talent to break the rules and make it work. The rule breakers who make it work are usually called “geniuses.”

When writing a book of any length, it is easy to get lost in plot, idea, side discussion, subplot. Don’t get lost in anything. Your job as the writer is to DRIVE:

1. At the end of each day’s writing, make notes of what you want to accomplish the next day. That’s what Hemingway did and I’m just passing it along. It sure worked for him.

2. Make extensive notes about character and stick to your own rules. Don’t let a character slip out of voice or contradict their earlier appearance. Be consistent.

3. Books have a beginning, middle and end. Don’t forget to write an ending. (See Donna Tartt’s second book, The Little Friend)

4. Always have your reader in your mind’s eye. Describe him or her to yourself and pin that description where you can see it as you work. That’s who you are trying to reach with every word you choose. If you start selecting words to show off your big vocabulary, you’ve missed the whole point of writing.

5. Know your own focus. If it takes you a long time to get back into the story after the doorbell rings, go write in a completely silent place. Give your talent the right environment to thrive.

Follow us on twitter @shadowteams @giantsweettart @skinnysmoothies
Visit on Facebook ShadowteamsNYC