You don’t have to write every day but you should.

Two Questions –

What is a Pantser: A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of their pants. They do not plan a thing or they plan very little. 


What is a Planner: A planner takes the slow approach. Drawing out everything from characters to scene until they get it right.

A few years back I had two completed novels.

My ego took off like a rocket. I saw my name in lights and I even had the actor picked out. The late great River Phoenix would have been perfect, I remember thinking.

I still hold true to that thought by the way.

But there was one tiny problem – both of my novels were complete disasters. Just ask my writer’s group, my beta readers, my so-called friends…..and me.

In an instant my name in lights crashed and burned. Along with my sorry ego and the manuscripts.


Back then I was a Pantser. I sat down with a notebook, my favorite pen and went to work. It was the ultimate rush.

It felt like a road trip at night. No headlights, no map and no destination. It was dangerous and fun. A curved road next to an icy cliff.

And then I missed the curve.

So much for my Panster career.

Not all Pantser’s write bad novels. Stephen King is probably the greatest Pantser of all unfortunately I am not him which explains the mess I created.

But on the bright side I wrote every day. Every morning to be exact. Three hours, non-stop. It created a positive habit and I learned how to overcome mistakes.

So that leads me to a question – What do I mean when I say you should write every day?

For me, as you have already guessed, it doesn’t mean writing a novel. At least in the Pantser sort of say. But it does mean concentrating and working on your craft.

Last summer while attending the Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon I bought a book on writing a novel.

In the past I never saw the need for such things but after my two failed attempts I was desperate. Not to mention I liked the characters I had created and I felt bad for what I did to them.

I began to take notes. Soon I was taking my failed books apart like a giant puzzle. Some of the pieces were rearranged while others were tossed in the fire.

Was I writing? – Kind of and kind of not.

I wasn’t writing a novel but I was creating an outline and learning what the story was really about. I was preparing, determined to do it right and taking my time while at it.

I didn’t have the talent to be a Panster but I did have the talent the break the story apart and study the pieces I had created.


In the meantime to cure my writer’s itch I created my blog, I wrote short stories, I joined twitter and I found some excellent on-line writer groups.

There are many ways we can write every day. It doesn’t always have to be a novel, just as long as we write.

Think of the novel as the big prize. While everything else is practice and a wonderful practice it is.

So I guess that’s why I’m not too bummed with my two failed attempts. I was writing. I was learning and in the end I figured it out.

We are all blessed with an amazing gift. It would be a shame if we kept it to ourselves. So write every day.

It doesn’t matter if its social media or a text to a friend across town or in my case breaking down my two busted novels .  

Whatever you do find a way for people to hear your writer’s voice. That certain charm, that spark that you were blessed with is unlike anything anyone has ever heard.

People need to hear it and they need to hear you.

And that is why you should write every day.

Thanks for stopping by. 


WRite Every Day

Spontaneous Friday

Searching for Characters

Searching for Characters

You and I are always finding ways to create. Story ideas enter our minds like a flash of lightening. We are never given a warning. We see something that catches our eye and presto…..instant story.

We are an interesting bunch with our interesting ways of gathering bits and pieces in order to entertain.

We take rocks, frogs and a rain socked leaf, give them a toss and a swirl and presto…..a romance made in heaven.

Trust me. I’ve seen it.

The other day I came up with an idea. Instead of waiting for the stories to come to me I would go to them and I would find them inside our local Cost-Co.

For those unfamiliar with Cost-Co think giant warehouse with endless everything at your fingertips.

Cost co

A perfect place for character shopping.

My plan was simple: Find characters for a story. Look for things that stood out. Find adventure even if I had to look deep.

 Here are the characters I found:

  • A young man working in the pharmacy flirting with his co-worker. She politely listened but it was clear her work was more important. Does she regret working with him?


  • Two people running the food sample section. One was a natural at convincing people to try a bite. The other wasn’t. I wondered if the quiet one regretted her job.


  • An exhausted mother attempting to shop with an infant and a toddler. Meanwhile the father busied himself with a giant book containing civil war photos. What is on her mind?


  • A little old man carefully analyzed the ingredients on a large can of tomato paste unaware he was blocking the only exist in the aisle. He wore a wedding ring but was all alone. Is his wife still alive?


  • Making my way around the bottleneck I spotted a red face man trapped inside the bottleneck, glancing nervously at his watch. He was clearly running late but to what?


  • I spotted the mother with the baby removing the book from the father’s hands and pointing to the runaway toddler escaping down the bread aisle. Will the father join him in a race?


  • As I circled past the pharmacy I noticed the young man gave up on his co-worker. On the other hand another co-worker found him interesting. I’m curious if he noticed.


  • I caught up with my wife and daughters at the checkout. I noticed the little man had passed on the tomato paste but decided on the large pasta. Why didn’t he buy both?


  • The bearded man stood impatient in line. Looking at his watch, credit card in hand. Will he make it on time?


  • The father held the squirming toddler along with the giant Civil war book. The mother quietly removed the items from the cart as a sleeping baby rested on her shoulder. Why was he so fascinated with the book?


So there you have it. A tiny slice of life captured at the local Cost-Co. Do you think a story is in the works and if so what would it be?


Happy Friday Everyone! 

Writing and Surviving


Be You

My crazy ‘20’s

I’ve always felt that the decade known as my 20’s was my classroom. That crazy decade where at times I felt like an out of place shoe.

My 20’s gave me a lot of things but there are three that I’ll remember most – Love, Loss and Death.

We all have that one moment in our lives where everything happens at once. I’ll bet mine was no different than yours.

It was as if I was on a non-stop emotional roller-coaster ride that never seemed to end.


Something was missing

My 20’s grounded me in many ways, forcing me to grow up. But at the same time I remember having a feeling that something was missing.

An odd sort of feeling in the pit of my stomach that I should be doing more. I felt restless, bored and lost and I didn’t know why.



Looking back it’s easy to see why I was feeling these things. But many of us wear blinders at certain times in our life.

Caught up in the moment where life is traveling at the speed of sound and there’s no time to listen.

When I was 24 I went back to college. On a whim I signed up for a creative writing class. The teacher was Ms. Keil. She had a reputation for being strict and demanding and boy, was she ever.


A 1000 Words

But Ms. Keil and her demanding ways are not what I remember. What sticks out to me after all these years is a 1000 word short story she assigned on our first day.

We were told to write a silly story. Her words not mine. We were given 20 minutes and not a second longer.

I can still see her staring at the time on the clock and giving us all a long stare. A panic rose from within.

I hadn’t written in years and was worried her long stare would soon be aimed at me. But on that day something happened and I was never the same again.


20 Minutes

I wrote a silly little story about a used car and all the people who owned it. The protagonist was the car.

He explained to the reader the owners who came and went and how they treated him.

When I finished I had the strangest feeling. I was no longer restless or bored or lost. It was as if the floodgates pushed away all the bad stuff I could never seem to shake.

And it all happened in 20 minutes.


Writing and Reading

In that moment a domino effect occurred. I wrote more and I read more. I began to understand a need that I had ignored.

I had no idea that creativity was a huge part of who I am.


Be You

In the coming months my anxiety lowered and my ability to branch out and meet new people increased. Some might say it was all a part of growing up but I knew better.

Does writing a short story really change your life?



Be Weird

Never be afraid to create even if you’re the only one who does. Be the weird one, the oddball or any other name you may hear. It’s okay to be all those.

All you’re being is you.  


Be Weird


















Spontaneous Friday

When my daughter was 18 months old she threw up on me. Now I’m not talking about a tiny little spittle on a shirt sleeve, I’m talking a full blown Linda Blair ala The Exorcist.

On the bright side my daughter wasn’t cursed by a demon. It was just one of those stomach-throw up issues every 18 month old gets. On the other hand one can never be one hundred percent certain when it comes to Linda Blair head twirling thingy’s. On the bright side not once did I find her floating north of her bed.

What does all this have to do with my current installment of Spontaneous Friday? Absolutely nothing. The memory simply floated to the surface of my memory bank causing an incredible need to share. You’re welcome.

On the plus side of this throwing up story, if you’re a parent chances are you’ve been there. On the other hand if you’re not a parent but you’re seriously considering it I may have changed your mind into believing wine, solitude and bookstores are the best way to live.

Tsunami Books

Speaking of bookstores, the other day I was walking through my favorite store when I noticed a little boy standing near a row of books. His eyes were as big as saucers, his mouth curled into a grin. If his thoughts were to suddenly appear like subtitles in a movie I have no doubt they would have read – I’m in the greatest place ever!

When I was little we didn’t have a bookstore. We had a mall. I remember one of the stores had a row of books and magazines. I also remember they were located near the records. I was allowed to pick one and sometimes the choice between a song and a book was close to impossible.

On the day I became a dad I already had a day in her future planned. There she was, less than an hour old and I knew one day her and I would share a day in a bookstore.

What I love about bookstores is the feeling I get the moment I walk inside. I love the smell, the creaking floors and the sound of the rain. Sometimes the owner will open the door allowing the sound and sight of be seen and heard. If I could bottle it up I would take it home.


Luckily our town is blessed with several bookstores. You can go to every corner of our town and find one nearby. Google Eugene, Oregon bookstores and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s one of the few experiences in life where I’m a child again. I’m a little boy with eyes as big as saucers. My imagination runs wild. A little too wild to be honest. Once I caught myself pretending the characters were standing in the aisle talking to one another.

I just gave you an idea for a story. Use it!!!

I can still remember the first time my daughter stepped inside a bookstore. She gently touched every book she saw and carefully moved on to the next. In her young mind I wondered if she understood everything she touched was a piece of magic. I remember her big blue eyes looking up at me and in that moment I knew she did.


When you think about it nobody has ever created what we do. Our characters are unlike any character anyone will ever read.

The stories we discover in bookstores and the ones you and I write are one of a kind. They are a part of us. They are bits and pieces unlike anything anyone has ever seen. We create magic every day and someday our magic will find its way in a little bookstore with creaky floors and dusty carpets.

 So if you’re having a day where your ideas are stuck, the words all wrong, your imagination on hold, try to imagine if you will a small child or a big child like me holding the magic that you created.

Bookstores are not only a place full of stories they are full of dreams that come true. Not only for the writer but the reader as well.

Black and White Books

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bookstores I need to visit. It’s a nice rainy day and a perfect day for magic.



Enjoy your Friday, everyone. Thank you for stopping by.

Why do we write when it’s so damn hard?



If you’re in this writing gig long enough you will see a lot of things. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, being rejected by agents will become a routine. So will self-doubt, story problems and a constant whisper in the back of your mind telling you to try something new.


So what is it that makes us drawn to something so incredibly hard? Why did we choose a career where the odds of succeeding is difficult? Why do so many of us forfeit prime sleeping hours or skip a day of play all for the glory of being told no? Raise your hand if you’re the one who passed on a night out because of a badly written chapter. Don’t be shy. My hand is raised to.



Before I try to answer that question lets go over some of the things you and I face on a weekly basis:

Agents: A few weeks ago I received a nice letter from a really nice person. She is an agent from the east coast who I got a chance to meet last summer at the Portland, Oregon writer’s conference. She read my query, read my sample chapters but in the end it wasn’t for her. She could have easily sent me a form letter or nothing at all. Instead she took the time to explain why she passed and by doing so she reminded me that being rejected isn’t always a bad thing. It’s simply part of the process.


Speaking of Rejection: For many writers hearing that word causes mass panic. If you look quick you may notice a dozen or so running deep into the safety of their writing dens. But if you look a little harder, dig a little deeper you’ll discover that rejection is just a word.

Now look a little closer and you’ll see that this particular word is telling you something. Once the whisper grows a little louder it becomes quite clear, it’s telling you to grow a thick skin. Like it or not rejection is part of everyday life and running for cover will only make it stronger. Who needs that?

Doubt: Last year my editor and I worked on my novel. We wrote, we rewrote, we argued, we made up and in the end we created a kick-ass story. Of course I’m bias. Wouldn’t you be?  Every week I shook off doubt the way the family pet shakes off a flea.

For a while it would leave but it always returned and sometimes it brought friends. But I kept going. I knew if I stopped doubt would win and that wasn’t going to happen. By the time December rolled around my editor and I put the finishing touches on my novel Dempsey’s Grill. The hard work paid off.  


Story Problems: How many of you have written a first or second draft and came to the alarming conclusion that you wrote junk? Wow! That’s a lot of hands. Newsflash – We have all written junk but the stubborn ones were able to pick out the good stuff and try again. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the story that’s screaming to get out.


Listening: Guys have a hard time listening and I make this claim for one reason – I’m a guy. We love the sound of our voice and we can’t wait for you to stop talking so we can hear it again. But I learned something along the way when I realized I wanted to create quality work – I had to listen.

I have always been of the opinion that women are better listeners and I do my best to follow their lead. Listening while someone trashed my work was one of the hardest things I ever did but it had to be done otherwise the only reader in my future would be me.

What does it all mean?

So I go back to my earlier question – Why are we drawn to something so incredibly hard? Why do we stay up to late or get up way to early? Most of all, why do we care?

I can only think of one word: Persistence.



You and I are a stubborn bunch and we will stop at nothing until we get it right. So get up early or stay up late and do what needs to be done. We are a rare bunch and that makes me smile. It’s the kind of crowd I want to belong to.


Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Have yourself a great day.

Spontaneous Friday

Way back in 1986 a really cool movie came out about a high-school kid who decided to take the day off. He talked his girlfriend and his best friend into joining him and together the three had a wild and crazy day. Sound familiar? I sure hope so. If not than you are missing out on one of the greatest movies ever told.


What I loved about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is how it reminded us to put on the breaks and take a look around. In fact I believe it went something like this:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. 

Thank you Ferris. Music to my ears.

But how many of us really do it? How many times have you had a free day? Now I’m not saying you need to steal your friend’s dad’s fancy car and race it all over town but imagine taking a day, just you and a friend or two and doing whatever you please. Tempting isn’t it? But for many, impossible.

Or is it?

The other day I was at the kitchen table writing a scene to novel number two. My eyes were getting blurry, my mind a tad frustrated and my creative juices riding on fumes. I took a thirty second break and glanced out the window.

Outside I noticed my cats trying and failing to intimidate the neighborhood squirrel. I smiled as they chased the squirrel from fence to tree and back again. In that moment it occurred to me that I hadn’t been outside for days. True, February in Western Oregon isn’t the best of days. But still…was life passing me by?

So I did the impossible – I put novel number two on hold, grabbed a jacket and stepped outside. At first a rush of guilt rushed through my veins. I could hear my characters ordering me to get back to work but I kept walking until soon their complaints were lost in the wind.

For a tiny moment I was Ferris. True, I was only gone an hour and I wasn’t ditching school, but it was spontaneous and fun and refreshing. Minus the sports car….sadly.

 I walked down the street and said hello to our 95 year old neighbor, Virginia, who walks a mile a day. I walked past an old cat sleeping on top of a rusty mail box, I said hello to the man who collects chickens and finally I spied the squirrel who was messing with my cats.

Most of all my one hour escape cleared my head and reminded me that life does move pretty fast and sometimes it’s easy to miss things.

You and I get caught up in our daily routine. We outline, we write, we delete and we start over. A writer’s mind never stops creating but that doesn’t mean it can’t create while we’re enjoying the world around us.

I plan on making a habit of this. My little sneak away was actually a lot of fun. I had no idea my neighbor’s chicken’s all had names nor did I realize Virginia walks five miles a day not one. She quickly corrected my error, by the way.

My next stop is the University of Oregon. Imagine Ferris taking a trip to that part of town. John Hughes would have had a blast with that scene.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Ben Stein.

Ben Stein

He said it best. Not only about the film but about life.

“…the most life-affirming movie possibly of the entire post-war period. This is to comedies what Gone with the Wind (1939) is to epics. It will never die, because it responds to, and calls forth such human emotions.”

“It isn’t dirty. There’s nothing mean-spirited about it. There’s nothing sneering or sniggering about it. It’s just wholesome. We want to be free. We want to have a good time. We know we’re not going to be able to all our lives.”

“We know we’re going to have to buckle down and work. We know we’re going to have to eventually become family men and women, and have responsibilities and pay our bills. But just give us a couple of good days that we can look back on.”

You’re a poet, Mister Stein.

Have a great day, everyone!

Writer Groups: The Good – The Bad and….do I have to say ugly?

Writing Groups

The Good

One of these days you will have to give serious thought of joining a writer’s group. The idea can be a scary thing and don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a huge step to make. It takes a lot of courage but it’s a step forward and in the end you’ll be happy you did but most of all you will be proud of the step you made.

Writing groups are an important part of a writer’s life. They give you valuable feedback, a chance to bond with other writers and a perfect excuse to get out of the house.

A group may meet in a member’s home, a bookstore or a secluded room adjacent to an apartment complex complete with a mini kitchen, a couch and a vintage 1996 TV/VCR comb. Trust me, I’m not making that up.



If you’re new to a group the challenge is presenting your work. I use the word challenge when I could easily use the word horror. I once read that speaking in front of an audience is one of our greatest fears. If that’s true I have sneaking hunch handing your work over to a group of fellow writers comes a close second.

Thinking back to my first experience the hardest part was the silence. That dreadful moment before the first person speaks. I remember doing my best to study their faces and failing miserably. The hair on the back of my neck started to do strange things, I was feeling defensive and I’m pretty sure I forgot to breath. Thankfully I took a deep breath and avoided an embarrassing blackout.



One of the hardest things a writer must do is listen. When you think about it listening is a struggle for all of us. We want everyone to hear our thoughts not theirs and if they would only stop talking they’d hear it, damn it!

But if a writer wants to take full advantage of a group they have to learn how to listen and sometimes it requires listening to things you do not want to hear. It requires training yourself to shut off the emotion switch and concentrate on every word. If you do it enough you will be able to pick up a handful of important feedback. You will be able to detect if it all comes down to the writer is simply not your reader. One the other hand a writer may highlight sentences or paragraphs that drag or confuse. Teach yourself to listen and it will take your writing to another level.


The bad and ugly

For all the positives a writer’s group can be sadly there are bad ones in the mix. On one hand you have a chance of connecting with talented people, making gobs of friends and networking. But sometimes a bad egg is tossed into the mix. There’s the intimidator, the egomaniac and the Sci-Fi junkie who snaps and snarls at anything less than Sci-Fi. Sorry Star War fans, sometimes we just want a romantic comedy here on Earth.

The challenge is finding the right fit and if you live in a town where writing groups are slim pickings a perfect fit is not a guarantee. If there aren’t any in your town or the ones available aren’t your thing there are two ways of handling this. One is to create your own group or two find one on-line.


On-Line Groups

I’ve been pretty lucky with the group’s I’ve been in. Nothing is perfect but I made the most of it. I found my editor in a group and the payoff was huge. I also belong to an on-line site – Scribophile – you need to pay to join but it is excellent. I would highly suggest you take a look.


Find a group. The sooner the better

No matter what you do sooner or later a writers group will be in your future. The feedback, the friends, even the bickering are worth. Yes, I said bickering. It does happen. After a while the group becomes a family. You have the quiet one, the loud one and the funny one. Most of all it builds your confidence, it teaches you and as I mentioned above you learn how to listen. So go out there and find yourself a group. You are now a professional and this is the first step.


Good Luck and Happy Writing!!!!!