The Words of Todd

August 13, 2010

So You Want To Be A Writer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd R. Vick @ 9:06 PM

This is not a post I thought I would be writing just yet.  It’s way too soon in my opinion. In the last year, I have been fortunate enough to become a published writer. I have even been paid a little bit for some of my writing. I confess, it is a good feeling, but I still consider myself to be small potatoes in the writer’s realm. I am taking classes and working toward a Master of Arts in Creative Writing, with hopes that one day I will teach other young writers how to write. Note the words, “one day.” Not now.

Lately, however, I have had about 1/2 a dozen of my acquaintances ask for my advice on how they can become a writer. At first, I thought, “Man, are you ever asking the wrong person.” To my knowledge, there is no formula on how to become a writer. The well of my wisdom is pretty shallow compared to others.

However, I will be happy to tell you what I did, and if it helps, that’s great. If it doesn’t, then you have my permission to file this post under “Useless Information.” In the meantime, here is how I got started.

The first thing I did was start a blog, The Word of Todd. A friend of mine suggested I start one to help me process my thoughts while I was going through my divorce. It started there, but then it blossomed into a creative outlet as well. I still post there fairly often. Lately the material has been geared more toward ranting. But, hey, it’s my blog, and I can write whatever I want to! (smile)

As I was posting in my blog, it occurred to me that I used to really enjoy writing in my younger days. I kept a journal, wrote short stories, poems, song lyrics, and plays. Writing was an outlet for me. I stopped writing in the latter years of high school. I was more involved with band and chorus. They were my creative outlets.

In May of 2009 I was very unhappy in my job. So I started looking for something else. A friend suggested I look on Craigslist. As I was browsing, I came across a job posting looking for freelance writers for an online magazine. I answered the ad. They asked for samples of my writing, and all I had was my blog. I submitted links to 2 or 3 of my better posts, and waited to hear from them.

The next day, I was offered a freelance position. My first article was a commentary on Ted Kennedy’s posthumous memoirs. They loved it, and made it the lead article. Several of my pieces made lead article. For 2009, I made a total of $5.79 for my writing. Hardly enough to warrant going full-time, but I was being paid to write, and that was cool! I will address money in a bit.

After a few weeks, I began searching online for other writing opportunities. They are out there! I was offered the position of Blended Families Examiner for Examiner.com. I also procured a spot at Lexington Life Magazine as a freelance contributor. I stopped contributing to Examiner after only a couple of articles. It just wasn’t the type of writing I want to do. I enjoy writing for Lex. Life, and I have met some amazing people through them.

Well, that is my story as a writer so far. If you’re still awake, thank you. If not, no hard feelings!  Before signing off, though, I would like to offer my $.02 to those who may be interested in becoming writers. Again, this is what I did, and it has worked for me so far.  I encourage you to forge your own path, but here a few suggestions that may help you…a little.

1) Start writing. Whether it is a blog, journal, or collection of your own short stories, poems, etc., start writing. Figure out what you like to write and what you don’t. Fiction is my thing. Poetry may be yours. You won’t really figure it out until you start writing.

2) Start reading. I recommend that you start with Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It is hands down the best book on writing I have ever read. You might hate it, but I doubt it. Stephen King stresses that “good writers have to be good readers.” If you don’t like reading, you may not like writing either.

3) Forget the money for now. If that is your motivation for writing, you may want to consider something else. It is hard to get published or find regular work. I make pocket change for writing. But I don’t care. I write because I love to write. The fact that I can make a few bucks at it is just a bonus. Of course, I would love to think that my novel will one day make the New York Times Bestseller List and maybe make some decent bank. But once again, having a goal to get a big payday and nothing else will probably hinder you as a writer.

4) Find a mentor. I actually have three people who I consider mentors. I bounce things off of them and one of my mentors actually helps me look for other writing opportunities. She is well-connected and has been a great source of wisdom and information. I warn you, mentors will give you honest feedback, and if you can’t take it, you need to revisit your motivation for writing. I love being critiqued! It helps me become a better writer.

5) Find and join writers groups. I joined several. I have since trimmed down to only 2. They are both online, and they have a lot of great how-to information. Anything I can learn that will make me better, especially when it’s free of charge, is a good investment.

6) Start a website, twitter account, and/or Facebook page. Put yourself out there as a writer. You will be amazed at how many people you will meet who are trying to get established as writers too. Knowing you are not out there alone is very helpful and encouraging.

7) Last, but not least, create a place for writing. In my house, I have a retreat off of the master bedroom that I am fixing up as a place where I can write. I have the desk in front of the window, and I can close the doors and escape to my world of writing and creating. I am looking forward to getting some good use out of that space!

I sincerely hope this has helped. A lot of people have helped me and continue to help me. It is an honor for me if this post has helped even one person find their place in the wonderful world of writing. I love it here!

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May 18, 2010

The Economy of Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd R. Vick @ 7:54 AM
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Saw a great post this morning on manuscript length and it was right on target with something I am discovering in my own journey as a writer: I talk too much.

Those who know me well are laughing right now. I hardly speak at all unless I have something to say, and even then, I hesitate to make conversational offerings. I’m “talking” about writing here.

One of the biggest critiques I have received from a number of different trusted sources is that I use too much description and back story. Stephen (the) King in his book On Writing spends a good bit of time on this subject.  He says to let the story drive itself.  In my novel (so far), I have used a lot of back story to balance the plot, and the jury has ruled that I need to say more by saying less.  So I am doing a lot of chopping and rewriting.

When I was in sales many years ago, my Regional VP, Kevin Hesseltine gave me some great advice that I have used ever since. He said to pretend that you have one million words to say before you die. Once you reach the one millionth word, that’s it, you’re dead. He explained that economizing your words is vital in sales. You don’t want to go into a sales pitch and unload everything you know all at once. Choose your words very carefully and say only what needs to be said.

I think that this principle could easily apply to writing. Say less in order to say more.

May 5, 2010

Novel time is a novelty it seems

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd R. Vick @ 11:36 PM

As most of you may know, I have been crafting my very first novel, Purple Lilacs, since June of 2009. It is now May of 2010, and I have not written a word in almost 2 months. Between school and work, I am just not finding the time I need to write. Add to that having to move (again), and the novel collects dust.

Time management with my writing has been a challenge since day one. I have a couple of freelance things going on as well, and it is tough finding time to bang those out as well. My day job consumes a lot of time, and I love it, but the novel calls to me…

On a positive note, in my current class, Seminar in Fiction, I had the opportunity to have Purple Lilacs critiqued (what I have so far anyway). I got back some tremendous feedback.  I also realized that I am not in as much of a hurry to finish the novel. I want it to be great. I want it to be finished, too, because I have another story that will actually be a series of JA (Junior Adult) novels. I am very excited about this project. I will be working with a co-author on this one, and I know it will be a fascinating series.

So, finding time to write what I WANT to write is taking a back seat to what I HAVE to write. In retrospect, this is not a bad problem to have…

March 30, 2010

Why I Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd R. Vick @ 2:53 PM
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Terry Tempest Williams once wrote a piece called, Why I Write. I recently crafted my own raison d’être for writing.

I write to escape. I write to create. When I write, I am in control of the outcome. I write to change my world. I write to make a difference. I write to open new worlds and new possibilities. I write because I love to. I write because I need to. I write because I want to. I write to unload. I write to focus. I write to quiet my soul.

It took me about 5 minutes to write that piece. I had to stop myself or I would have gone on and on. The fact is, I love writing. I would love to think and hope that I might one day write a bestseller, but that is not why I write. Even if no one ever reads my stuff, I will write. Putting words to paper keeps me going, and I will never stop.

I discovered my love for writing at the age of 14. I started writing poetry and some songs that never became actual songs. I kept a journal, and I found that I loved to write in it. My English teacher, Mrs. Richbourg, saw something in my writing and encouraged me to do more. I wrote plays, stories, and a comedy routine for the school talent show.

When I got into high school, I continued to write in my journal, and me and some of my pals wrote “Guest Journal Entries” for one another. It was fun, and I lost myself in writing and reading. In my sophomore year of high school, I put down the pen and pursued music as my creative outlet. Then the writing stopped.

A pal of mine encouraged me to start blogging a few years ago, and I rediscovered my love of writing. Since then I have branched out doing freelance stuff, and I am writing a novel. I have also started my pursuit of a Masters Degree in Fine Arts with a focus on Creative Writing at National University.

In addition to writing, I have rekindled my love for reading as well. Stephen King says if you want to be a good writer, you have to read and write a lot. I happen to love both, so that makes it easy.

Anyway, that is why I write.

March 26, 2010

Join me on this journey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd R. Vick @ 10:30 AM

Hi, I am Todd Vick. I am an aspiring author, and I want to invite you to follow me as I journey through the process of writing my first novel, learning to become a better writer, and successes and failures along the way. This journey is yet unwritten. I hope you will tag along, and we are making this up as we go!

Welcome!

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