Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Do You Really Want to Write?

When I was at school in London, England, studying for my masters in communications at Antioch University's London program, many of my fellow students would talk up their stories, but never sat down to write.  They spent their time pubbing and seeing the sights of the great city.  They felt that they would sit down and write when the muse hit them.
Now, I had no problem with visiting the tourist areas.  I did plenty of that in the two years I lived there, but I was also focused on my craft.  I spent most of my free time at the British Museum Reading Room - a wonderful place similar to our copyright library -- with original manuscripts from Richard, the Lionhearted and William the Conqueror.  (You have to get special permission ahead of time if you want to use the Reading Room, but it's well worth the effort if you are serious about researching the time period of your story.)
I learned quickly that the muse didn't just hit you, you had to train it.  I did that by writing every day - it didn't matter if it was good, it didn't even matter if it pertained to the story I was working on - but I wrote.  I set up a time for my muse to visit and was religious in following that.  Soon, "she" not only visited when I asked, but stayed on for longer than my anticipated writing schedule.
While many of my fellow students in the master's program wasted their time, I was one of the few who not only had my work published, but who managed to make a decent living from my writing after I graduated.   In fact, I don't know if any of the others achieved their goals or not.
The important thing I learned was that you had to be focused on your craft and be willing to make mistakes.
I remained focused even later when I had to return to a day job.  On the bus going to work, I read and took notes, at lunch - instead of going to the cafeteria I brown bagged it and ate quickly using the rest of the 45 minutes to write (this was helped greatly by having an outline for my story and knowing where I was and what had to be put into that new chapter or scene), and rather than going for drinks with my co-workers afterward, I went home and wrote.  The muse found me all during that time and rather than flitting in and out, came at my beck and call. As a result, I seldom suffer from writer's block.
We can all carve time out of our busy schedules and train the muse to come to us.    Be focused and persistent, outline your stories so that you know what you are saying in that chapter or scene, plan your writing time - even if it means getting up a half hour earlier or not watching television that evening.  If you really want to write, there are no real excuses.  You, too, can train the muse to come to you when you need her.
Happy Holidays to you all and may your writing be wonderful this year and for many years after.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An interview

Tomorrow at 4:30 pm,  I am being interviewed by Joan Reeves at slingwords. Please check out Http://slingwords.blogspot.com/2014/from-film-to-books-meet-writing-teacher.html Thanks.

I hope my readers are taking advantage of my offer to read and critique your first ten pages.
Have a happy holiday.

Monday, December 1, 2014

7 Foolproof Strategies to Engage Your Reader
by Serita Stevens

#1 Creating Compelling
Your characters need to be well-rounded.
 It is not enough to know their eye and hair color, you have to know their
education, their attitudes and their flaws.  No character should be all
good or all bad.  The same goes with villains - there needs to be something
good about the, anything - so that we understand why they want to defeat the

#2 Outline Your
Many new writers balk at outlining because
they think it takes away from the creativity of their work.  It actually
enhances the process because it helps you to see the flaws and know where you
are going.  This doesn't mean it's set in stone, the characters
can come alive and talk back to you.  Listen to them, but have an idea of
where you are headed or you will hit the middle sag sooner than you

#3 Understanding Point of
Know who the protagonist of your story is.
 Who is the action happening to and why and who changes the most in the
story?  Keep focused on your main character, even if you are doing an

#4 Setting the
Know what's important to describe,
especially if you are setting up a whole new world. This is crucial in
historicals or science fiction, but even in a modern day story.  Understand
the necessity of details to create the world.

#5Establish Atmosphere and
Word choice is crucial here.  If you
are writing a thriller, set the mood and establish the problem. If you are doing
a comedy, make it light.  Use the right metaphors to describe where you are
and what is happening.  Don't switch genres in the midst of a book.

#6 Write Active And Not
Go over your sentences and eliminate lame
words like "is, are, was, that is" Use active words.  Instead of
he is running, he runs.  Use the right word.  He walks can be he
strolls, struts, shuffles, etc.  Keep away from bland words like nice,

#7 Shorten Your
Shorter sentences make for a quicker read
and faster pace.  There is a place for the longer, more elaborate sentence
structure, but pick it carefully. Readers today don't have the time to wade
through paragraphs upon paragraphs of mundane description.

Serita Stevens is the author of The
Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books And Scripts. Get your copy today at

Friday, October 31, 2014


I get upset with my students and others who tell me they are aspiring writers.  If you are writing, than you are a writer, if you are putting your tush to the seat of your typing or writing chair, if you are in front of your computer (or maybe still writing by hand as some people like the feel the flow of the words), than you are a writer, plain and simple.  Just because you have not yet been published or produced yet, does not mean you are "aspiring."
It took me eight books, with my eighth being my first published book, to get my work out there. I was later able to go back and revise four of the seven for publication.  When I went back to some of those earlier works, I couldn't believe I had written so poorly. The fact is I learned with each progressive book how to mold my words, create better characters and suspense.
Like a brain surgeon, you don't graduate medical school and go immediately to being a top surgeon.  It takes time, it takes practice and it takes persistence.  We learn from others..constantly.  Even though I am multi published and produced I still take classes because the Torah says you can benefit from everyone and I find that while listening, even though I might know what the instructor is saying, it refreshes me and reminds me - Oh, have I done that with my characters?. Sometimes, even though I teach, I am in a hurry to get my writing out and I forget to do a complete character bio, or to do pay off and set ups.
Yes, we are all in a hurry, especially in this day and age.  Some people don't have the patience to wait to perfect their craft.  I took a class once from Harry Mark Petrikus, the Chicago writer in residence.  Someone asked him "when do you quit?"  His response was "honey, if you can quit, do so.  If it's in your blood, than you cannot quit."  I knew then that writing was in my blood and that I had to continue at all costs - even if it meant a failed marriage from someone who did not understand what writing meant to me, even if it meant isolation because I didn't want to hang with my buddies from work.  I wanted to write.
Write because you love it, not because you believe it will make you a lot of money. /Write what you are passionate about.   Very few writers make a living off their writing.  Announcements of a writer signing a multi-million dollar deal is put in the paper because it is rare.
Learning is an active process and it takes a lot of effort.  The fact is, if you are trying than you are.
So the next time someone asks what you do, don't say you are aspiring, just say you are a writer with works in progress.  Keep writing, even if it doesn't sound good to you, keep reading, keep taking classes and learn from everyone.  You will get there...one day.  And maybe you will be among the 2% that makes a living at their writing.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Characters Are Important

At a recent networking meeting, I was asked by a new writer how to get past his middle act slump.  I asked if he had done a character bio on his main people.  Of course, he had not.  Many new writers forget to do this.
I told him when he did, he had to know what the character wanted and how important it was for her to achieve her goal.  What was her inner goal and what was her outer goal? Then he had to find out who was against her and why?  How far would they go to stop her.  He even needed to do a character bio on the antagonist - who feels just as righteous as your protagonist.
In my book, The Ultimate Writers Workbook for Books and Scripts, I have a form that you can use for your character bios.  It's important to know specific details about your protagonist and antagonist.  Why did they become what they now appear to be?  How?
If you go to my web site www.seritastevens.com, you will find not only a link for the book, but a special offer for my readers.
Good luck and keep writing.