Guest Post: Write What You “No” – by Paul Douglas

Today’s post comes from Paul Douglas of Words & Pictures.  In the post below he takes the common writing phrase – Write What You Know – and gives it a good thrashing. Enjoy!


No, that’s not a typo. All my life (OK, maybe not all, but a good percentage of my life) I have heard that a writer should write what they know. Well, think about that for a moment. If we all subscribed to that line of thinking there would be no Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea or Frankenstein (or Dracula) or even Harry Potter. One of my favorite writers, Raymond Chandler, was born in Chicago IL but was raised and schooled in England. At age forty-four, Raymond Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. And thus was born Philip Marlowe. Alongside Sam Spade, the character of Philip Marlowe is foremost within the genre of hardboiled detective fiction! What did Raymond Chandler know about hard drinking, tough talking detectives? Probably as much as I do. Did he let that stop him? What do you think?

“The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.” ~~ Benjamin Disraeli

I know very little about Disraeli save that he was a British Prime Minister in, I believe, the late 1800’s. That has absolutely nothing to do with what I- or he- is saying here. This quote is a direct corollary to what I stated above. Why write only what you know about? That can be so confining. Let your imagination run wild. Isn’t that what writing is all about? Whatever you need to know you can research, especially nowadays where anything can be found in the matter of a few minutes on the internet. The novel I am currently working on is (of course) a detective novel. Do I know anything about detecting? What do you think? Do I let that stop me? What do you think?

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” ~~ Robert A. Heinlein

Don’t let anything or anybody deter you from writing if that’s what you want to do. I remember writing my first novel by longhand. When it came time to get it into shape I asked someone (who will go unnamed) to type it for me. When they completed it, they handed it to me amidst gales of laughter. That was their critique of my writing. Did I let that stop me? What do you think? (P. S. the unnamed person was my own mother!)

“Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” ~~ Thomas Berger

Well I don’t agree at all with this quote. Sorry, Tom. It is there. Every single word, every single plot, every single theme. I’ve heard that every story that will ever be told, has already been told. All we can now do is to vary it in the retelling. How about the Holocaust? Done to death? Then try reading The Book Thief by Australian author Marcus Zusak (and what does an Australian- not an Austrian, but an Australian- know about the Holocaust? This man was born in 1975. What does he know about an event that took place 30 some odd years before he was born?) The narrator of this book is Death himself: a benign and sympathetic Death, who has a tendency to define moments by their color. Try it, After the first few pages you will not be able to put it down.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” ~~ Thomas Mann

Besides childbirth, writing is the single, most difficult activity I have ever experienced. Well, OK, I haven’t actually experienced childbirth. But I was there when my first son was born. (Well, come to think of it, neither my wife nor I were there when our first child was born as he was adopted. And when our second child was born they wouldn’t let me in the room, but that’s another story.) But I can imagine how painful giving birth can be. And I know how painful writing is. So why would anyone want to be a writer? Why does anyone want to be a mother? Maybe it has something to do with leaving something behind, a part of yourself. In a way, we achieve immortality by having a child, writing a book. So maybe that’s the answer.

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.” ~~ Woody Allen.

Yes, well, I have it on pretty good authority that we’re all going to die sooner or later so you’d better have plan ‘B’ ready for that eventuality. Immortality is not really why I write, though. I don’t really think it’s why any of us write. We do it because we can’t help it.

“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” ~~ W. Somerset Maugham

See you next week. Thanks Paul!

Write Flash Fiction at Julia’s Place

For the past few months I have participated in a short story contest of sorts. There is no prize besides being a better writer. The flash fiction contest I am talking about is the 100 word challenge at Julia’s Place.

She gives you three to four words which you then build a story around using only 100 total words. If you have heard of William Faulkner’s saying (or whomever coined it) kill your darlings, this is a great exercise to do just that. When writing a story of 100 words there is no way to have excess. You must trim the fat.

I have found that working in small bursts like this has helped me in other areas of writing. Whether working on my novel or writing a short story, I am more concise and clear. I wish I would have found Julia’s place much earlier in my career.

If you wanted to participate just go to Julia’s Place and look for the 100 word challenges on her site. Here are the instructions. They are usually open for a week and you can also view other stories to help you get the idea.

Keep writing, keep refining.



100 Word Challenge for Julia’s Place – Goodbye Jimmy

Here is my entry for this weeks 100 word challenge from Julia’s place. Enjoy:

“I’m hungry!” cried Jimmy.

“You can’t go out in that rain!”

“Mom, it’s been raining for days! Ouch! My stomach is growling.”

“Jimmy, remember what happen to your father. Don’t be a fool. Nobody survives in rain like this.”

Jimmy ignored her. She tried to block his path but he slid over her and out the door amidst a tirade of scolding.

The branch was slippery but he could see It. He stretched from the branch to the apple. A gale of wind brushed the branch, detaching the fruit.

As the apple fell into oblivion, Jimmy took an enormous bite.



Guest Posts Wanted

Happy Early Birthday Girls!

There are times in life when you need a vacation. It could be a vacation from work or from writing. Next week I will be taking a short holiday from my blog. In seven days my family will celebrate three birthdays. Clara will be one! June will be three! And my wife will be more beautiful, even if one year older.

So I need to step it up as a husband and a dad. Daddy daughter dates are on the agenda and a long relaxing date with my wife Cindy. This means that my blog will have to take the back seat. I plan to take some time off from writing as well to recharge.

This is where you come in. If you would consider writing a post to bridge the gap of September 24-28th I would appreciate it. It may be previously published anywhere. I am looking for posts that encourage writers, share insight, or any helpful tip for the new writer. All you need to do is comment below and I will be in touch.



Where To Submit Your Short Stories

There are many ways to get a writing career off the ground. Some authors start by landing that big lucrative book contract. But let’s face it, that happens to .000000000000001% of authors. Most writers still have day jobs and squeeze in writing each day. If you are a part timer, it is good to ensure you have an excellent routine.

I have decided to dedicate some of my writing time to short stories. I was inspired by a Youtube clip about Ray Bradbury. When he started writing (and maybe every year since) he wrote a short story a week and sent that in to be published. Nothing happened at first because he needed to refine his skill. For many of authors the only way to do that is to keep writing and trying new things until we get the bad out.

I have found two places to submit short stories and I am going to try to write one every other week. I am close to finishing my first one. I should complete it over the week and begin refining another.

Why short stories? As I write them more and more I realize they make you limit your word count which causes me to remove adverbs, qualifiers, and other unneeded jargon almost automatically. I hope I can transition this to the large world of writing a novel.

Here are two places I plan on using to submit them. An account is free both places and it helps you save time instead of slogging through the internet. You can sort by genre and read about each publication to decide if it is right for you.

Thank to Andrew for introducing me to Heypublisher


100 Word Challenge for Julia’s Place – Those Putrid Sunny Days

Here is my entry for the 100 word challenge for Julia’s place to titled: Those Putrid Sunny Days.


Malcolm Belfore was a child of study and thus hated summers. While all his classmates celebrated the newly won summer, Malcolm pulled out his calendar and crossed off the first day of summer.

“humph!” he growled when a joyful student rushed past shouting jubilantly.

“Bah!” he barked when he saw two high five.

“Malcolm, are you alright?” Mrs. Appleton asked while eyeing him over her glasses.

“I hate summers,” he muttered.

“But Malcolm, children love summer,” she returned.

“Not all of them.” He said pouting. He lamented every single putrid sunny day until the children began returning to the routine.

Submit your entry HERE.




Kurt Vonnegut On Short Stories


My friend Josh loves Kurt Vonnegut. If you know him it should come as no surprise. I bring him up today because I recently unearthed a few short stories to submit to a local writing contest. If you are a Michigander go HERE for details.

Whenever I begin a new project whether in writing or on the house I read and watch videos about how it is done. Obviously, short stories are more compact and can even be more complicated than a novel. You have to be precise in every single word in order to avoid wasting the readers’ time.

Below is a video of eight principles Mr. Vonnegut employed to write successful short stories. I am glad for his sage advice.



3 Day Novel Throwback

Though it is done and over I wanted to share I post I wrote about the 3 Day Novel contest before I participated in it for the first time four years ago. I hope you will enjoy it. Rereading it makes me want to attempt it next year. Perhaps I will.

Sweaty palms, thoughts racing, constantly distracted, and trying to clear my mind. Sounds like a first date, but it’s actually a mental swirl occurring eight days before The 3 Day Novel Contest begins. Last night The Weaklings took a step forward into the public spotlight and my mind kicked into the “I’m late for work during rush hour” mentality. Photos were taken, interviews conducted, and soon we will be in the local newspaper. Exciting? Certainly. Terrified? Unequivocally. The panic can begin.

            The 3 Day Novel Contest is a fantastic opportunity. I have never attempted anything of this sort. My first novel, which I am currently writing, will take me at least two years to complete. Obviously, this test will be a stripped down attempt, but nonetheless daunting. My original idea was to write a thriller set in a fictional communist country. I have since scrapped it (with much encouragement from my brother weaklings) to stay close to that with which I am familiar.

            I have decided upon a prequel describing the events that catapulted my existing novel into motion. It has no overlay and is devoid of any characters pertained therein. This gives me the chance to understand the history of my novel better and practice my abilities as a writer. An outline will be posted shortly.

            Through this experience I hope other people around me (namely you who are reading this) are encouraged to write and will discover the adrenaline rush that is overtaking me. Three years ago the thought of writing a novel, much less one in three days, had not even begun to formulate in the dusty corners of my mind. Now, with discipline and constant badgering from the weaklings, I will be well on my way to completing the first two books in a series! It is not too late to register. Visit The 3 Day Novel Contest for details and start stockpiling food.

            I shall now return to pacing in front of my computer. Waiting. Thinking. Hoping, that the splendid dialogue and clever plotline that circulates in my mind will make it to the page intact.

Until next year.



Writing with Passion and Persistence

This is a short piece from YouTube about the late great Ray Bradbury. He talks about his passion for writing, how he wrote a short story a week, and slowly became a published author.

He discusses the turning point in his career – a short story titled The Lake which is based on a true story. At the end of the piece he says it took him ten years to write something beautiful. I realize now, at times, how impatient we are with our inner authors and how passion and persistence pays off.

Rest in peace Mr. Bradbury and thank you.