Welcome to my blog, Write To Live. This is a blog dedicated to the literary works of Michael Beers as well as an informational blog about writing.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Things I Learned from Writing for One Year

As an active member of the Writers of the Future Forums, newcoming writers are always flooding in to share and learn.  I, too, was one of them long ago, wondering when my next story would sell or win.  However, I notice a lot of them are doing the same mistakes I used to.

So, since I'm not a pro writer giving pro tips, here's a rookie writer giving rookie tips.

1. Submit Early, Submit Often - I often finish off a story and send it out to publishers as soon as I could.  The more I sat around not having it working, the more I wanted to work with it.  There are times when touching it up can ruin a story.  Get it out there so it has the most potential to get sold.  No one sells a story sitting on their flash drive.

2. No Limits - Okay, so the publisher says "We like dark fantasy" and you have this great fantasy work you want to submit.  What do you do?  Submit it.  It may not be dark, but one of two things can happen.  Either your story will wow them enough they will overlook their conceptions and buy your story or they may like your writing talent, but want something more to what the market is targeted for.  In either case, you will get the "send us more of your work" response, urging you to submit to them.

3. Set Goals - I set a goal for myself to have 25 stories out to market at one time.  I also set a goal to receive 100 rejections or to sell a story this year.  8 days left in the year and no story sold yet, but I do have 100 rejections and had 25 stories out to market.  It pushed me to write better stories and to write a lot of stories.  Trust me, it may do you good in the new year to set those kinds of resolutions.

4. It's All in the Timing - Okay, you want to know "When should I revise a story?"  The answer: When you feel like it.  But, don't do it every day or after every rejection.  You may end up revising it way too much then.  The best advice I give is to revise when you feel the stories you are writing are better than the stories you have out at market.  Then, go back and see if you can rework the story.  If you still think it's not half bad, stop.  You can only make it worse.  Go back to it when you say, "My God, no wonder the slush readers couldn't get through it."  The difference between the two can save you time.

5. Write to Live - Yes, I know, it's corny.  But, follow Asimov's addage: "I write for the same reason I breathe.  If I didn't, I would die."  That's the kind of drafting you need to do.  I'm not saying let writing take over your life.  I'm saying write when you have the time to write.  And, if you don't have the time, make the time.  I'm writing this at 3 in the morning because this is my creative time for that very reason.

6. Jot it Down - We've all been there.  Working on the job, taking care of the kids, driving somewhere, shopping, when suddenly, BAM, the greatest story idea comes into your mind.  If you have the opportunity, that's the time to jot everything you get in your mind about it down.  Character development, themes, ending, and everything inbetween.  Then, when you get back home, you can recall that vision and start the drafting process.  There have been times I've stopped watching TV mid-show to get writing.  Didn't care about the ending of the show, just about how the story was going to end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thematic Theatrics - Are you doing it right?

I was reading a story for critiquing the other day and I came across a problem I commented on regarding a theme using imagery.  They're great to use for a writer as it is a creative way to get your point across.

However, there is a fine line when writing out your stories with them.  Too little and the theme fails to get the point across.  Too much and your story is oversaturated.  Granted, many would say it's better to be oversaturated and remove as you go along, but how do you know you're removing too much...or removing the wrong part.

Therefore, writers, you need to follow these simple rules.

1. KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid.  The more involved you make your theme, the longer your work will get.  If you're writing a novel, that's great.  But, if you're writing a short story and try to go into depth about the sunset, chances are you're going to lose you reader somewhere in the mix.

2. Through and Through - Your thematic device should be used throughout the story.  So, if you want to have a recurring line come into the reader's minds, you should use it...over and over again. (hense the name recurring).  Don't drop your theme anywhere as it helps to keep the reader tied into what you mentioned before.

3. The Big Finish - Denouement should be when everything (at least) feels completed.  But, are you making sure to use your thematic device at the end as well?  This is a point where if you wanted to really hammer the image home, you should.  Show why the image is especially relevant at the end.  If you don't, you fail to grab the reader's attention.

4. Keep it Light - Don't try to overfill your story with tons of images (unless that's your theme like the modernists of the early 1900's).  If you bombard your reader with too many images, it will become a sensory overload.  Granted, you want a touch of sensory overload, but don't shoot at them from multiple sides.  Chances are they'll just surrender.

Random Sentence of the Blog
I have always kept to myself...that is, until I saw her.

"All of this stress gave me something to write on
While pain gave me something to set my sights on"
Linkin Park - "Nobody's Listening"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Revision - A Key to Better Writers and Better Stories

I have been posting on the Writers of the Future forums for the past few months and one thing I have noticed is everyone seems to be falling in love with the words of Dean Wesley Smith...wherein revision helps to kill stories.

As a former writing tutor, I have to disagree...to an extent.

Revision is a way in which authors help to shed their skin and grow into a new level.  If they begin to see problems in their works they submitted, it means they are beginning to see their weaknesses.  This means they can look at their story in a different light and, perhaps, change it to make themselves better.

By seeing our weaknesses with the critical side of the brain, we are able to make our creative sides better by avoiding pitfalls it may not see.  I cannot tell you how many times I have gone back to an old paper and wanted to fix a lot of the errors in it.  One mistake I often have is I use the words "After all," "has/have/had + past tense verb" and other things which slow. my. work. down.

Thus, we go into my writing tip.  Revision can be a good process, but you must use it correctly.

1-DIAGNOSE. First, follow a piece I learned from Writer's Digest.  Read through the story first without stopping.  If you find yourself hanging up on it, you know you have problems that need to be fixed.  Same with a First Reader or critiquer.  There have been stories I critiqued where I have looked at parts and have to scratch my head, wondering what the author was trying to say.  Those are the points I bring up in my critique first, which then leads me to part 2.

2-GRAFTING. If you find a part that is not working in the story, you have already diagnosed the problem.  Now, it's time to fix it.  But, DO NOT FIX IT BY MERELY REWORDING THE SECTION!  That is merely replanting weeds in a beautiful garden.  Remove the section first and see if the story works without it.  If it does, good.  Move on.  If it doesn't redraft that section of the work.  It is one area where I agree with Smith in stating many make the mistake of revising with only their critical side of the brain.  By deleting the problem area and forcing yourself to redraft it differently, you are forcing the creative side of the brain to find a solution to appease the critical side and, therefore, making both sides work together!  (Ah, what a novel idea!  Literally...like the Odd Couple! XD)

3-TUNE-UP. Now that you've fixed these points, it's time to look at your use of words and to find the extra crap that is slowing. you. down.  Common words to slow a work down are that, help, and other words that make an idea "flip-flopping" (such as seem to be, etc.)  Look at how the phrase is used and if it is working by deleting the phrase and rereading the section.  If it works, great.  Move on.  If it doesn't, you always have an Undo function on your word processor.

I recently followed these steps on a story I submitted to Writers of the Future which got rejected.  I didn't know why then, but now I understand what happened.  I diagnosed, grafted, and tuned up the language to make it work better.

But, remember.  Diagnose, Graft, and Tune-Up your stories.


A swift wind blew from the east, pushing Dawn towards the sunset.


"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."
Polonius from Hamlet, Shakespeare

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Flood of the Mind

So, ever since I got out of school, I have been having a flood of inspiration for writing.  I currently have 9 stories which I am trying to get out into the market, 2 of them in Writers of the Future.

I also have received 6 rejection letters to date.  More for me to feed on.

But, in eiter case, I finally got rid of a lot of distractions I was facing while I was in school (not saying school was a distraction, but you know what I mean)

Which leads me to the writing tip of the week...

Distractons, distractions, distractions


I know everyone likes to use Facebook all the time, but it was one of the things which was eating up all of my time.  If I didn't finally get away from Facebook, I would not have the ammount of stories I have completed.

It's not only a writing area thing, it's a thinking thing as well.  You can find inspiration from anywhere, as long as you're finding inspiration.

Try to keep your writing area clean so you can keep your mind clean.  Also, try to keep your distractions to a minimum.  If you need to or can, disable your internet connections while setting aside your time for writing.  It's one of the best things you can do for your stories.

Random Sentence of the Blog

Solar flares always interfere with my mind, but its to be expected when you're a robot.


Science fiction is a way in which we, as writers, show the future. However, no matter what the future brings, there is one unchanging constant: human nature. The question we address is do we find that frightening or comforting?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Value of Peers

I know I'm not the first one who has asked peers to review their writings, but there is one thing that I am finding irksome about the idea of peer revision.  In my college's writer's guild, we made sure to write in rules to prevent this.  And that is...

Just saying what is wrong with the writing.

Whenever I have someone read my work, I don't just want to hear what I'm doing wrong but what I should do to fix it.  This is how we can grow to become better writers, by learning from each other what our weaknesses are and how we can make them stronger.

Which leads me into my writer's tip

Whenever you read someone's work and they ask, "What do you think of it?" follow the "Good News / Bad News" style.

Good news - Tell the writer something they did good about the story.

Bad News - Tell the writer something they need to fix and how to fix it.

If you keep it simple to one or two bad news items, that's great.  You don't want to overload someone with bad news and only have one good news item.  Make sure they also stay equal (1 good news for every bad news).  This will avoid overloading as well.


I write to allow my soul to live.  I write fiction to allow my mind to live.  I write literature to allow my body to live.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring is a time for growing

Hey everyone,

I haven't posted in a long time due to being busy with school work and such, but here's the latest update.

I am working on several stories yet again and tempted to pick up writing one of my novels yet again.  I have been finding my characterization anymore is getting weaker due to the fact I'm trying to focus on the plot too much.  So, I have been going back in some of my stories and bring some of the characterization forward, making it not just a plot story.

So, into the writer's tip...

Remember to ensure your characters are well rounded.  If your character has reservations about killing someone and is forced to shoot someone, don't just fire the gun.  Get into your character's head and let the gun shake in  his hands a little bit.  Each character you create should have a character sheet drawn up on them, telling you everything about how they look and what they do.  This will especially help when you go to write the story and the issue comes up.  I'd suggest freewriting about one character during a writing session; you may be surprised with what you come up with.


The market finally came to a close and Martin stood outside, sad to see the doors closed.


I write like I'm a detective.  Sometimes my characters don't tell me everything I should know to write their life's story, but they sure do drop a lot of clues for me to write about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rejection and Rebirth

So, I finally heard back from the Writers of the Future Contest for Quarter 1, and the news was not so good.  I was not a winner in the term and there was no mention of honorable mention or anything.

Back to where I started years ago when I first submitted to them.

But, there is new hope for this.  I have decided I'm not waiting around for Writers of the Future to make up their minds if I'm a good writer or not.  I'm submitting my works as soon as they are finished instead of sitting around and waiting for them to say I'm good enough.  It may involve a lot of rejection letters, but all a rejection letter means to me anymore is it needs one more revision.

Which leads into my writer's tip

In the words of a green wise man (since it is St. Patrick's Day and I feel like quoting Yoda)

"Do or do not.  There is no try."

Therefore, in writing, there should be a similar feeling about it.  Don't just try for one thing and see if it pans out for you.  You must constantly submit to different websites and allow it to help you grow.  Right now, I have three stories going out to publishers and one submitted to Writers of the Future.

Also, be sure to do it properly.  I've been having to go back and change a bunch of stuff on my writings because they ask for things a certain way.  You should be well versed in Manuscript Form whenever you submit to a publisher.  I wrote how I wanted it to appear first, but then realized I needed to change it later on.  And, believe me, it's harder to change it later on than to just learn how to do it the first time around.

Random Sentence
The wind blew Tyler around and around, making his head spin with possibilities.

Quote of the Week
"There is a major difference between a story and literature.  A story will entertain you while distracting you from the fact Rome is burning around you.  Literature will tell you where the fire extinguishers are located."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snowstorms Galore

Is it just me or am I going to rejoice in the end of winter?
This winter has been one of the worst I have ever remembered.  Once things have finally warmed up, we end up getting another ton of snow.  And it's on a day when I was going to be giving a presentation to our college's Writer's Guild.


I swear, I need to write a story about it.  Then again, that doesn't make for a bad idea....


Inspiration, it's everywhere.  When you get stuck, you need to look at events around you and find a way to exploit it into a story.  For example, the snow I am getting up here could be made into a great story (and I'm formulating the idea as I write this).

So, for an exercise, try to write out what is happening in your life.  Then, see if you can try to use each one as a title of a story.  If you can't seem to get started with it, try writing out more details about each event and see what stems from there.


The snow poured down upon the ground, calling young James to bed.


"You fail only if you stop writing."
~Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

It seems like my life is getting full of stuff I have to do anymore.  Between school work, volunteering, working on starting a Writer's Guild at the college, work, and writing, I am finding fewer hours in the day to work on everything I want to work on.  5 classes in 1 semester should not be considered full time here.  It's filling up my life with a lot of work and I'm just hoping I don't burn out before the semester's over.  I'm already about 1/3 of the way through.  I just need to push on ahead and finish up.


One way which has kept me sane and on track with my creative writing is scheduling out time to actually write.  I really suggest writer's do this every day so they can continue to improve their skills.  Isaac Asimov took a 9-5 approach to writing and he had hundreds of books published.

My suggestion for breaking down your scheduled time should be this way.

1/3 for brainstorming
1/3 for writing
1/3 for revising

So, for the first part of your writing time, you should be brainstorming of new stories.  This kind of stuff helps to not only build the number of stories you can write (and perhaps sell), but it will help prepare your mind to write and get the creative juices flowing.  Then, working on writing will keep the creativity going while changing your focus to a more formal format.  Finally, revision is key to ensure the story stays on track, so it goes at the end because there are times you can use new information you may have thought of before to make the story come alive in a different way.


The cloak surrounded the dark mage, almost seeming to engulf his very existence.


I wonder sometimes if the motivation for writers ought to be contempt, not admiration
~Orson Scott Card

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Yes, progress indeed.  I have finished up the rough drafts of two more stories, making 4 short stories now in the revision process.  This should be interesting if I can get them all finished by March (I won't know what to submit to Writers of the Future by then).  But, at least I am breaking through the barriers of writer's block and working on getting several of my short stories finished.  On the other hand, I don't want to get so back-logged it makes revisions into a damned pain.

Which leads me into the writing tip of the week...

Get organized

Yes, I hate to admit to it since I am one of the must unorganized people around, but you need to at least set a game plan on writing and revising them.  Without that, you'll end up with tons of rough drafts and an overwhelming revision ahead of you (believe me, it's not fun).

So far, I'm trying to bang out each story's revisions every week.  If they need more than one, they just go to the end of the list.  Rotation between stories will also help because they will allow your mind to remove itself from the story and, once you get back to it, have a fresh perspective.

Random Sentence of the Week

The cold wind seemed so inviting to Richard, calling him to shut his eyes.

Quote of the Week

"I don't try to describe the future.  I try to prevent it."
~Ray Bradbury 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Coming to the Midwest

So it looks like my area is going to be dowsed in snow for the next couple of days, so I figured I would end up writing my blog today instead of on the usual Tuesdays.  It will probably keep me home for a few days instead of going to class, but I know at least being snowed in will get me caught up on homework but further along on my other stories as well.  Currently, I wrote down all of my short story ideas and found I have 30 potential sales (amazing since I have only one which I felt was ready for reading by the WotF judges for this past quarter).

Which eventually leads me into my writing tip for the week.  I hate to sound like my High School English teacher in saying this, but this is very true...


It is easy for us authors to see what we have created and say, "I love this because it's like a child to me."  However, we need to remember we need to help raise that child into maturity as well.  This is why I always tell other authors there is one important rule in writing.  Revision, Revision, Revision.  It is here where you hone your ideas from the "Idea Sheet" I posted last week.

As for peer revision, it's a good idea, but do not rely on it too much.  If you keep on tapping one person to help you edit your work, it will not be your work but their work as well.  You can do it if you're a young writer to find what patterns you fall into (like my long-windedness and telling not showing).  However, ultimately you need to be in charge of your works, making the final decisions on what rules to follow and, more importantly, what rules to break.

BTW, last week's sentence caused me to write a few paragraphs on Arthur being the reincarnation of King Arthur and seeing flashbacks of his death with the rain.  So, here's next week's sentence:

As the general stood upon the hill, he smiled at the senses which surrounded him.


If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster.
~Isaac Asimov

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writers of the Future Contest

Well, I have entered the Writers of the Future Contest for the second time.  Contest regulations dictate I cannot give any details about the story I have submitted, but I can ensure you it is some of my best work.  Hopefully I'll hear the news by mid-March.

As for the other stuff I'm writing, I am waiting on one story to finish up sometime this week (I may ask for an editor's take on it, but I think I can get it from here).  I can't help it, there are so many universes floating around in this head of mine and it's taking a long time for me to sort them all out and get them down on paper.

Which leads me into my writer's tip for the week.  If you get an idea in your head, make sure to jot it down as soon as you get it.  You don't need to feel like you need to complete the story right away, but at least get the idea down on paper so it can grow in your mind.  This is typically the format I take.

Background - The basic synopsis of the story (what happens)

Setting - The backdrop of the story, such as where and when it takes place.

Characters - Don't be afraid of character names change.  A good tool is a name-searching website that gives you the meaning of the different names.  Believe me, it helped me find a good name for one story.

Message: If the story has a purpose, make sure you write it down.  You would hate to argue with yourself in the story and lose.

Symbols:  If you story is going to have a recurring theme, be sure to remember it throughout the story.  Don't drop it mid-way through or you will leave your readers (and editors) wondering why you left it out.

And, for the random sentence of the week to write on, try this one on for size.

Arthur stood waiting at the bus stop, wondering when the rain would stop soaking him to the bone.

Quote of the Week
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.  ~Ray Bradbury

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Small Step for Pen, One Giant Leap for Write-kind

Well, I finally decided to start my own blog.  On here, I may post thoughts for the week to consider from story ideas I have.

I will also try every week to help provide a possible cure for the condition of Writer's Block, or WB.  Every day, thousands of authors suffer from WB, one of the widest disabling conditions around the world.

Okay, I know, kind of humorous...but, seriously, what I will do is post a sentence and authors are urged to write a short story or poem with the starting line of what I post.  Who knows, it may help you break through the Writer's Block of other stories...

Keep on writing my friends,


Quote of the Week

"I write for the same reason I breathe.  If I didn't, I would die."  ~Isaac Asimov