Category Archives: Someone Else’s Words

Guest Post: Wayne Avrashow

The Nerds are happy to welcome debut author Wayne Avrashow to the blog today to talk about the writing process for his  book, “Roll the Dice.” 

wayne aIt was not a simple task to write my first novel, locate an agent, and then have the agent sell the book to a publisher. I’m proud that my first novel Roll the Dice will be published. The novel’s main protagonist is a rock ‘n roll star who exits the stage to campaign for the United States Senate.

Although there were delays, false starts and bumps; having Roll the Dice published provides immense satisfaction.   I salute anyone embarking on that endeavor.  I enjoyed the process, I never had “writer’s block,” never stared at a blank computer screen with a blank mind.

As an attorney, I am comfortable writing documents, but had no clue on how to start writing fiction. My process began by taking writing courses at UCLA Extension’s program.  My writing teacher at UCLA talked about all writers having a, “creative dream.”  Here are a few ideas for you to pursue your creative dream:

Write What you Know.  It is a cliché, but an accurate one.  My novel is centered around the political world.  I volunteered in my first political campaign when I was 18, served as political campaign manager for two successful Los Angeles City Council campaigns and was Deputy/Chief of Staff at City Hall for those two Councilmen.

Write Your Passion.  Beyond writing what you know, your book should reflect your passion.  A couple of years ago I saw Paul McCartney perform at Dodger Stadium.  In his early seventies, Sir Paul performed for a blistering two hours.  How?  This is his passion!

The Blank Palate.  The beauty of fiction writing is you have the unlimited freedom to create your own world.  Each character is your own.  If you’re a lawyer, you can write legal thrillers, or, if you are skilled enough create a fictional world of your choosing.  There is no world similar to Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, but someone opened their mind to develop that world.

Study Your Craft.   Take advantage of the wealth of information available on writing. Go on-line, attend writing classes, read books on writing, watch Michael Levin’s YouTube videos, or others, designed for writers.

Be Selective on Feedback.  Feedback from others is critical.  However only seek feedback from supportive and knowledgeable sources.  I would prefer no feedback than negative, non-constructive responses.   The best persons are those who share a creative dream.  A writers’ group is a great source.

Keep Writing.  The prolific author John Grisham advises aspiring writers to write at least a page a day.  A simple rule—keep writing.

Be Aware.  Every character needs depth.  Your workplace, family, neighborhood and in various social interactions are populated with people with mannerisms, quirks, and habits that are adaptable for  your use.  Do not mimic, but exaggerate, combine, and mangle those interesting qualities to create your characters.

The Pursuit of the Perfect Kills a Lot of Good.  Drafts are Drafts.  You should re-write each chapter, but pursing a perfect chapter one will never allow you to commence chapter two. Write, rewrite it and re-write it again. Then move on!   I rewrote Roll the Dice many times, but I kept going.



Vonnegut Confessions

Bethany here.

For the day job, I manage the blog section of the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award website. Since I blog here, I don’t usually blog there, instead finding great guest bloggers with ties to the literary arts in Indiana.

This week though, I’m the guest poster on the blog I manage (yeah, I’ll wait while you bend your mind around that one…)


I’ve always wanted to be a guest star, though I as a kid I dreamed it would involve Muppets.

Since I can’t dance and am not really as good of a singer as I think I am while belting out tunes in the car or the kitchen, I shall leave my guest appearances to blogs and today, I’m explaining that These are my (Vonnegut) confessions.

Maybe that deserves Muppets too.


Good-bye to a great author: Elmore Leonard

You’ve been influence by Elmore Leonard, even if you never heard of the guy.  He’s the author of over 50 novels, of which a startling 26 were made as movies.  He passed away at the grand age of 87.  He was behind Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky, and 3:10 to Yuma.

I’m pretty sure I have a book that is based on columns he wrote about writing, but most of it can be summarized in his 10 rules for writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Originally posted at the NYTimes.  Click the link for the full version.


Writing like

Ever wonder who you write like, which famous author they will compare you to, stylistically?

When writing a fundraising appeal for work:

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

When I plug in my current Advent fiction with fallen angels and a spaceship, I get this result:

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

If I do just part of this year’s Advent story, I also get Bram Stoker, Cory Doctorow or H.P. Lovecraft.

Last year’s Advent story (or at least the second part of it), a post-apocalyptic deal set in a food truck here in Indianapolis, gives me:

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. I certainly haven’t been trying to imitate these styles when I write. (David Foster Wallace was not what I was thinking when writing the December appeal letter for the frat boys.) I feel like the Dan Brown one has mostly to do with the fact that this year’s Advent story contains angels and their fallen cousins.

As for sounding like James Joyce? Lucky me, I guess.

I’m ok with my writing voice sounding different for the work stuff than the fiction stuff. That division makes a lot of sense. With the fiction coming out so differently, I can only hope its because my voice is mine and this analyzer is trying to make it fit a pre-determined pattern based on sentence length and certain words.

Who do you sound like? Does the result make sense to you?

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Jingle Tunes

On Thursday, probably around 6 p.m. or so that evening, I official will declare it Christmas time and  holiday music will dominate my playlist for the next month.

Last week, in a hunt for an actual CD on my shelf, I stumbled on a holiday CD a family at my church had given me after Christmas last year because they thought I would enjoy it. It’s choral music, and I’m excited to give it a listen.

I try to find a good, new holiday CD every year. Past winners have included Yo-Yo Ma’s “Songs of Peace and Joy” and Straight No Chaser’s amazing a capella Christmas music CDs.

My recent favorite that I’m SO excited to put back in the playlist is Pink Martini’s “Joy to the World” album, featuring their usual off-beat music. Try this track on to see if this kind of thing fits in your holiday collection

I’ve just put the She & Him Christmas album on hold at the library, to determine if this is a potential new addition.

What other holiday albums do you love?


Judging a personal library

For the weekend, enjoy this beautiful post about unearthing treasures in an unwieldy number of personal library books.


Halloween Grammar

A Happy Halloween is wished to you by the Word Nerds by zombies.

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Required Reading: Fear and Loathing

The Word Nerds are happy to welcome mystery/thriller writer Sean Chercover back to the blog today. We had the chance to meet Sean when his first novel came out and he’s been a friend to the Nerds ever since. As our first guest for Required Reading, he’s picked a great title that’s not in his genre of mysteries/thrillers. And if we were doing a “Thrillers that Make you Think” Required Reading day, his latest The Trinity Game would be on the list. 

Required Reading
by Sean Chercover

When Bethany asked me to write a short piece about a book I consider required reading outside of my own genre, the choice was easy.

The genre: political journalism
The book: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is one of the best – perhaps the best – book ever penned about American politics. Hunter Thompson covers the entire presidential race, from December ’71, through the conventions that nominated Democratic candidate George McGovern and rubber-stamped the reelection bid of incumbent Republican president Richard Nixon, all the way past the election, which of course Nixon won in a landslide.

Thompson was there for it all, seething at the hypocrisy on both sides and skewering the hypocrites and engaging in the sort of bad behavior you’d expect from the godfather of Gonzo journalism. The book is a hyper-subjective howl of agony by a wounded idealist who can’t abide the corruption, who can’t let go of what politics, and journalism – and America – should be about.

Yes, I said idealist. It amazes me that so many people call Thompson’s writing cynical. It is despairing, but it is far from cynical. To Thompson’s eye, the cynics are the politicians who sell out everything they claim to believe in their avaricious pursuit of power. The cynics are the party chiefs, financiers, lobbyists, handlers and flunkies who keep the gravy train rolling. And Thompson doesn’t spare his colleagues in the press, who cynically ditch their responsibility the truth, in exchange for access.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 gives readers a front-row seat to the destruction of American democracy. It is shockingly prescient – a perfect book to read in this election year. And of course Hunter Thompson’s writing was just flat-out spectacular, which is reason enough to read it.