Sunday, August 24, 2008

INTO WORDS: An Itty Bitty Column on Writing

"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
August 24, 2008 _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/


A group of retired men met weekly in the small café on Saturday morning for breakfast. They crowded around the same set of tables to talk and to escape from women. They didn’t quite succeed. I usually sat at a nearby table where I could overhear their discussions – usually on sports, politics, family or cars. It occurred to me how wonderful it was to sit there and get a male perspective on life, so I started listening more closely and taking notes. I became a well-trained eavesdropper.

If you want to develop dialogue for your book or short story, take a notebook to a café or other public venue, sit with a cup of coffee or a glass of tea and listen. Listen to the servers, to the men, to the women, to the children. You will learn the rhythms of their speech and the topics of their conversations.

I pray you never hear something illegal that has occurred, but eavesdropping, politely of course, is a great way to learn how to write dialogue and develop characters.

Conversations aren’t the same as dialogue but they help in its development. Be discreet, but tune those ears of yours onto conversations.


Writing Dialogue: Elizabeth Rose
Writing Dialogue, Fiction Writing: About.Com

Baylor University, Writing Dialogue

Arts Edge, Kennedy Center (PDF)

Writing Great Dialogue: Rob Tobin

A Cultured Breakfast

When I used to live less than a mile from a Steak and Shake, I’d often go there for breakfast on Saturday mornings. The waitresses knew me and exactly where I’d want to sit – near the two tables scooted together where all the retired men had their conversations. I’d sit there with my cup of coffee, a notebook and a pen trying to catch snippets of their conversation. It made good background for dialogue.

As I sat there one Saturday, a dark-haired man took the small booth in front of me. I noticed that he contemplated the menu more than usual and then called a waitress over. As I listened in, he asked her what might be on the menu that contained no pork and that wasn’t cooked in a container where pork had been prepared. The waitress shook her head, confused, and tried to help him work it out. I didn’t hear what he ordered, but it made me curious.

As I was leaving I said, “Hello. Are you a vegetarian? I overheard you ordering.”

“No, I am Muslim,” he said. “Would you like to sit with me and talk?”

“Yes,” I said and took the seat across from him at the small booth. In a post-9-11 world, this might have been considered strange but I didn’t consider it anything but solving my curiosity. We talked about many things. He had a lovely smile. Eventually, he asked, “Do you feel uncomfortable sitting with me.”

“No,” I said--and I didn’t. But I remembered it.

As the conversation closed, he scooted my bill to his side of the table and bought my breakfast. I thanked him for his kindness and never saw him again. Later I learned he owned a motel in a nearby town.

The entire experience came about because I eavesdropped. I learned a bit about his culture, had a very interesting conversation and a good breakfast thanks to a very kind man.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

INTO WORDS: An Itty Bitty Column on Writing - Time, Oh Time

"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
July 15, 2008


Forgive me, for I have sinned against time!

My client, Dan Skelton, started writing his novel RENASCENCE in October 2007. The completed manuscript is around 100,000 words. While he was writing it, he taught classes at two different universities, commuting to one of them several times a week. He and I bounced sections of his book back and forth almost daily over e-mail during this period, which took a great deal of his time. He finished the manuscript on June 21st, just before midnight on Summer Solstice. Aside from teaching and writing, he also took time to be a grandfather to his two grandchildren (including going to soccer games) and help around the house. He read deeply.

What is truly amazing is that this busy man who still essentially teaches full time and continues commitments to his family, can, and did, produce a rich and wonderful novel while living his regular life. He wrote mostly on weekends and completed the book over summer break – although he taught a summer class.

I have whined for years about not having the “time” to write. Now, through the example of this former professor of mine, I see the error of my ways. It’s not that I don’t have the time, it’s that I don’t make an appointment with myself to do it. There’s always something else to do, as there always will be. It’s the time commitment that Dan Skelton made to RENASCENCE that produced a completed manuscript and put it in my hands to sell.

Writers, artists and other creative people have to make appointments with their work. Nothing creative goes on if you are not consistently in the chair writing. I’ve known Skelton on and off for forty years. He was serious about his work when he was 30 and is still serious about it at 69. He’s a great example of what it takes to be committed to the craft.

What I want to get through in my Itty Bitty column this week is – STICK WITH IT! Have a time that you write, even for thirty minutes a day. Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, Mary Oliver said in her little volume, A Poetry Handbook, that if the creative heart and the skills of the conscious mind fail to keep their appointment with one another, nothing creative happens. But, if you DO keep your appointment with your creative ability, your Muse begins to know when you will be there and starts arriving at the same time.

Below are some good links to help you make and keep your appointment with writing. Will YOUR manuscript be ready in nine months? I hope so.

A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver, 1994
Five Tips for Finding Writing Time – Michael Stelzner

Finding Time to Write – PoeWar

“Time and the Writer” – Moira Allen

Brainy Quotes – Mary Oliver

Saturday, May 24, 2008

INTO WORDS - An Itty Bitty Column on Writing - Media, Writing and Promotion

"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
May 24, 2008


The April 28th issue of Times magazine carried letters to the editor about an article on the Battle of Iwo Jima. I pointed this out to Joyce Faulkner Also, my client, Dan Skelton, writes about teenage drug addicts, horrible demonic monsters and dysfunctional families. But he sometimes writes about elves. Elves you say? Yep. Elves. You probably won’t find much in magazines about these creatures but, then, you never know. The other topics he covers are in many magazines and offer excuses to send out press releases, fodder for presentations and many other ideas for promotion.

My books are on war, peace, art, writing and the many meanings of love, devotion and loneliness. Again, magazine articles abound with articles about all of these subjects. It takes study, and maybe a library with access to EPSCO HOST or some other periodical list, but you can use what is being discussed in the media today to show the currency of your it fits into the world of NOW.

Newspapers are a great source of information as well. I suggest that you make a folder (either virtual or actual) on the topics mentioned in your books and do some research. You’ll find you strengthen your knowledge and ability to tell others about what you do.

Monday, May 19, 2008

INTO WORD - An Itty Bitty Column on Writing!

"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
May 18, 2008

Lit Pimp

I shared an article I saw on the Internet with one of my clients, the most sophisticated, intelligent person I can think of. The article talked about literary agency being a lot like acting as a pimp for someone’s books. Did my client get upset when I sent that article to him? Not at all. He told me to “pimp away.” And what did I do? I reached back in the depths of my closet and pulled out my stiletto heels and red dress. In other words, I got busy.

Pimping may be a strong term with a bad connotation, but writing is hard work. Finding someone to encourage you through that process is heavenly. That’s where a really good agent comes in. If you plan to act as your own agent, there are several books on the market that will tell you the process. One is HOW TO BE YOUR OWN LITERARY AGENT by Richard Curtis. However, only a good agent knows how to go to bat for you when contract time rolls around. Better set aside time to learn the rudiments of law associated with publication if you plan on representing yourself.

A good blog to read on the subject belongs to literary agent, Kristin Nelson. PubRant.Blogspot.Com covers a great deal of information on contracts –enough that you see that you’ll need professional help. Another is a blog by agent Terry Whalin called The Writing Life.

Or – if you’re brave – find a former student to help you like my client did. I’m finally learning how to balance in my 6-inch heels.

Hey You! That’s MY streetlamp!




How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide To Getting Your Book Published, Richard Curtis
ISBN-10: 0618380418
ISBN-13: 978-0618380411

Be Your Own Literary Agent: The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Getting Published, Martin Levin
ISBN-10: 1580083382
ISBN-13: 978-1580083386

The Writer's Legal Guide: An Authors Guild Desk Reference, Tad Crawford and Kay Murray
ISBN-10: 1581152302
ISBN-13: 978-1581152302


Blog of Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Agency

The Writing Life
Blogspot of Literary Agent, Terry Whalin

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Mindy Phillips Lawrence is publicist and literary agent for Dr. Dan Skelton and representative for the fiction work of Bev Walton - Porter. She is in the process of researching a novel titled ALONE IS WHERE WE BEGIN.