Destroy Everything But The Books

parenting and writing

I haven’t written a blog post in about two weeks now. Partly I was in a slump about the recent rejections by literary agents for novel #3, but mostly I was in a slump because my kids were on their mid-year break…and apparently my brain doesn’t work when they’re home. But, they are back in school (hurray!) and my brain is back on (hurray again!). I do feel like something is missing when I don’t get the chance/brain space to write. I think that must be one of the qualities of most writers: we feel incomplete when we’re not writing. God bless my kids always, but writing while parenting is a tricky business. Actually, anything while parenting is a tricky business, even just keeping your home habitable…

While the kids were on vacation, I recognized something about myself which I haven’t quite decided how to take. I recognized that I don’t get attached to anything materialistic. It isn’t that I’m such a deep, spiritual person that I shun materialism. I’d love to say that’s the reason, but it isn’t. The real reason is that I have kids. And my kids can ruin anything. Annnnyyyything. Seriously. And they totally believe that if they can, they should. Well, they probably don’t actually believe that, but with how they act, that’s totally what you’d think.

So I’ve stopped getting upset when they break more pieces off the chandelier. Or when the glass on the entertainment system cabinet crashes…again. Or when they rip my rug. Or smash my once-favorite mug. Or stain the couch. If it can get ruined, it will…and I have learned to just accept it.

I have mixed feelings about my lack of anger at all the ruined things. On the one hand, being unattached to all things material is really the best way to live. I completely acknowledge that. On the other hand, isn’t it a bit sad that I find nothing material to be precious? I love that chandelier. It used to be beautiful. And the stain filled couch, it was the best couch ever. But now they remain in a dying state, still useable but quite clearly no longer in their prime. And I’m totally fine with it. Have no plans of refurbishing or re-upholstering or anything. They’ll stick around until they fall completely apart. And so what, no big deal. Everything has a limited lifetime; my kids were put here to make sure all the things in my home die an early, painful death.

The one thing I do still find precious is my books. By ‘my’ I mean all those that I possess as well as the ones that I myself have written. About a year ago my son made the tiniest mark on the inside cover of my only copy of Normal Calm. I totally flipped out. “Why don’t you respect anything?!” And I went on and on. Just thinking about it now makes me livid.

I’m not sure where the discrepancy comes from. Is it just that I’m a writer, so books are valuable in my eyes? Is it that I’m a reader, so the written word is special, sacred almost? Or is it simply that this is my weakness?

I think it’s probably all of the above. And I have no intention of changing my book-protective mentality. I will shrug off the stained couch, chipped walls (their doing), and broken door frame (also their doing), but I will beat their asses if they come near my books!


Are you a writer and a parent? Do you feel the same way? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Bad Day for a Writer

writing rejections impostor syndrome
From the moment I woke up on Saturday, I knew it was going to be a bad day. When I got up for the pre-dawn prayer, I was greeted by the reemergence of a bug I was sure we had gotten rid of. And with that little pest, I knew the day was going to go all wrong.

The next thing was the realization that a certain someone hadn’t renewed his ID—despite my reminding him to do it months ago!—and we need a valid ID for an important appointment on Wednesday. (Your prayers that the people in charge don’t notice the expiration date and that the appointment goes by quickly and smoothly are greatly appreciated.)

Those two things put me in a foul mood all day. But the big one came late that night…

I was sitting reading Quran when my phone beeped, notifying me that I had a new email message. Even though I’ve been waiting for an important message and have been jumping almost every time I get an email notification, this time I didn’t. I figured the message I was waiting for would come on a weekday, and since it was Saturday, I thought I was safe. I was wrong.

Over the summer I started querying literary agents for my third novel. One asked for my full manuscript four and half months ago. I had put a lot of hope in her. A lot. On Saturday night when I saw the email was from her, I took a deep breath, said ‘bismillah’ and clicked the message open. I knew she was rejecting me even as I opened it. Still, I held on to that last thread of hope.

The thing is, I was ready to hear suggestions. I was prepared to hear “This isn’t working, change it and let me consider it after.” But all I got from her, like from every other agent who has bothered to send me a rejection, is “I didn’t connect with the voice. Hope you find an agent soon.”

She had my entire manuscript for four and a half months, and that’s all I got. I was disappointed for getting rejected…again. But I am more disappointed that—unlike other authors I’ve heard about who get suggestions from agents rejecting them—they’ve all left me with no actionable feedback. “I didn’t connect to the voice.”

Rejected. Again. With no feedback to use to try to improve. It seems I write well, just not the type of stuff that is representable. Or is it the name? I often wonder if I used a less ‘ethnic’ name, if my chances at finding representation would be better.

No, I’m not giving up. But it was a shitty day. Yes, I know others have it much worse. And I do say Alhamdulillah for everything, for the good and the bad, because I do know that this, too, is a blessing. But I can’t help feeling disappointed.

Yes, perhaps this rejection will leave room for something better. But perhaps it won’t. Perhaps I’m striving for something that isn’t meant for me. Not every artist is good; we know that by watching all the auditions for those reality dancing and singing shows. Some of those auditions simply suck. And they get up there, totally confident in themselves, but their performances are atrocious. Yet they say, “I won’t give up! I’m going to keep trying.” And maybe they go take a few voice lessons or dance lessons, but when they come back the next season, they still suck.

I don’t want to be them.

But I don’t want to be the dancer who just missed getting on the show by that close vote either. So how do you know you suck? Your tribe, if they are truly your tribe, will continue to encourage you to keep writing, keep improving and go out there and send out more queries. They can see the goodness in you and your work. But they may not see, may not know, what others in the field see and know. Just because your tribe tells you to keep it up, doesn’t mean you should. That is simply the truth. But the dilemma lies in not knowing when (or if) you are supposed to give up. The dilemma lies in not knowing if you’re supposed to keep trying.

I have no answers. For now, I’ll keep writing… and querying. Maybe I’ll get a sign. Or some real feedback that I can actually use. I’ll keep you posted.

Think You’re Ready for an Editor? Think Again.

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As any writer knows, in order to be published, one must first employ the expertise of an editor. As she reads over your manuscript, an editor will point out issues with grammar and syntax, highlight plot holes, change the organization of the piece to make it more fluid, or even give you an idea for that subplot that kept escaping you. If she does her job well, an editor will point out the changes you need to make so that your writing will shine. But what many writers fail to realize is that if you give your work to an editor too soon, before you’ve run your own rounds of self-editing, you may not get optimum results the first time around, and will have to spend more money on subsequent edits. For efficiency, an editor should get your very best work; it shouldn’t be riddled with typos or unfinished scenes or nonsequential events. You may still have a couple of issues throughout the manuscript that you can’t quite figure out how to handle, but the entire piece shouldn’t be like that. Implementing some self-editing tips will help you produce a presentable draft.

I’ve been a freelance editor for about four years now and the Content Editor for Dallas, TX based Djarabi Kitabs Publishing for the past six months. My clients have written children’s books, YA, adult fiction and non-fiction. And over and over I find that some of the common mistakes I catch could have easily been caught by the writer herself. So I’ve put together these self-editing tips for writers to help them produce their best draft, one worthy of being sent to an editor.

  1. Ask yourself: Is this your first or second draft? If so, then you can be sure that you are not ready to commission an editor or submit for publication. First and second drafts should be seen by no one but yourself. The first draft will likely be some prose mixed in with random ideas that need proper grammar and placement. The second draft will likely be much more cohesive, but still buzzing with mistakes. As a writer, I never submit the first or second draft of my project for publication or to a professional editor. (Actually, with my last project, I submitted the fifth draft.) I don’t want my editor to do the work that I can do myself; I want her to point out the things that I simply can’t see. There may be something not quite right with it; and while I know something isn’t right, I just can’t figure out how to fix it. That’ll be her job. But in order for her to do her job well, I need to give her my best work. Keep editing and rewriting until you get your piece as good as you can make it.
  2. Once your piece is as perfect as you can get it, leave the project for a while (a week or two for novel length manuscripts, a day or two for article length pieces), then come back to it with fresh eyes. Not only will you be more likely to catch those annoying typos that slipped past you before, you’re likely to be able to reword sentences or even paragraphs for clarity or aestheticism.
  3. Make sure your dialogue is authentic, but not boring. It is a tricky balance, but with some practice and research on writing dialogue, you can get it right. One of my own personal pet peeves is using too many dialogue tags. If there are only two people in your scene, readers won’t necessarily need dialogue tags to know who’s speaking; if they can understand without the tags, then leave them out.
  4. Read your project out loud. This is really a must. When you read it out loud, your ears will catch the mistakes your eyes missed. Not only that, but you’ll get a much better feel for the readability of the piece.
  5. Return to the ‘why’ that made you begin writing this piece in the first place, and analyze your piece with respect to it. Does each paragraph of your manuscript work to answer your why? If so, great. If not, then it’s time for a rewrite.
  6. For fiction, analyze your character arcs. If your character remains unchanged from chapter one to chapter two and on, then your readers will get bored. We read on to see the progress or regression of the character, and thus, the overall story. If there is no change, then your manuscript needs more work. You may be sick of it, so leave it for a week or so, then come back to it with the plan of strengthening your character arcs.

Once you’re happy with a third or subsequent draft of your piece, then you’re finally ready to commission an editor. Search around for an editor who both specializes in your genre and fits your budget. Some editors charge by the hour, others offer a per word rate. Ask to see a sample of their work. Once you’ve found someone you’re comfortable with, make sure you read your author/editor contract carefully. The agreement will tell you the cost, method, and means of payment (a pre-payment and final payment are the norm), the time frame for the conclusion of the editing, and the type of editing the author can expect (copy editing, substantive or developmental). I recently had a client who was under the impression that I would edit endless drafts until the piece was perfect. This is in no way common practice. I pointed out to her that the very first paragraph of our agreement stated that the agreed upon fee and time table were for the first draft only and did not include subsequent drafts. I felt bad that she had misunderstood—and disappointed because it meant she was left unsatisfied and I lost a long-term client—but my terms were written clearly in the agreement.

Always remember to self-edit before commissioning a professional editor. And if you’ve gone through the steps and are searching for an editor, I’m currently taking clients. I’d love to hear from you.



The Trouble With Memoir

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This past November, I was fully planning on writing a memoir for NaNoWriMo. I changed my mind at the last minute because the perfect idea for my next novel dawned on me on the last evening of October. Well, that’s the lie I told myself anyway.

The truth is that yes, I did get a great idea for my next novel and I did spend November writing that story. But that isn’t really why I didn’t write a memoir. I didn’t write a memoir because I simply wasn’t ready to write it. And my discomfort had nothing to do with being open about things that are personal; my reservations were firmly grounded in how my audience would see some of the other characters in my story.

In my search about how to write about sensitive topics that could depict loved ones in a negative light, I listened to a TED talk given by world renowned author Anne Lamott. She said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” And while I do believe that we own our individual stories, I also believe that those stories are closely intertwined with the stories of those who share our lives, and we cannot always detangle our story from theirs.

So taking into consideration that entanglement, do we really have the right to tell only our side of the story? The fact of the matter is, we all make mistakes. We all say or do things at some point in our lives that we end up regretting. So if you write about the injustice that I did to you regardless of whether or not I have made amends, is that fair? Is that fair to my story? Is it fair to your story? Keep in mind that your reader will not love your loved ones as much as you, no matter how true-to-life you draw them. So while you may have accepted their apology and forgiven them, your readers won’t feel the same way. It is very possible that, for them, the poignant moment in the memoir will be the moment of betrayal not the moment of repentance. So forever in your readers’ minds, that father will be abusive, that child a druggie, or that wife a cheater. Is that how you want the world to see those people who mean(t) so much to you?

In Behind Picket Fences, one of my characters poses the question, “Don’t those we love… or loved… or those who have shared our lives, don’t they deserve to be forgiven for their mistakes?” And really, that is the main question I think a writer has to consider before writing about the bad behavior of people who are or were precious to her.

I tend to think that the answer to that question is, generally, yes. And I can’t very well claim to have forgiven someone if I’m still hashing out how they wronged me, no matter how true the story is. And if it’s not about a wrong done to me personally but a societally accepted wrong, what do I hope to gain by outing them? Perhaps that’s the main question.

A memoir can be about a great deal of things. It can be about sharing life experiences that teach valuable lessons. Or just about healing. Often, to do these things, we need to re-live those negative moments in our lives, re-live the process which brought about the hurt. And to do that, we need to be honest to the story.

Being honest, though, doesn’t mean the story needs to be published. The healing memoir can take the form of a personal journal, reserved for the eyes of only the author. Because I can’t very well claim to publish a memoir to heal if in doing so I will hurt others, especially if those others have been important to me.

I don’t know. I’m still torn. I know that one day I’ll write a memoir, but I also know that it won’t be the one I thought I would write. It will be about hurt and strength and compassion and forgiveness, and I hope to write in such a way that you, my readers, will love my loved ones as much as I do.

But I know I can’t count on that.


What do you think? Do you have the right to tell your story no matter how it affects others? Is it always your story to tell? Is there ever a time when it isn’t? Would love to hear your thoughts…


A Peek Behind the Pen


A couple of days ago, I posted on Facebook about my eldest turning 15. It was—by far—my most successful, most engaging post. The truth is, people don’t scroll through social media to learn new recipes or about happenings in the world; they can search for recipes on Google and they probably have news delivered right to their email. But people do scroll through social media in hopes of having some sort of connection, learning more about you, sharing in your life.

So, despite being a private person, this post is about me…in the hope of connecting with some of you. The questions were posed as an interview during my book blog tour for Behind Picket Fences earlier this year. (Oh, and that’s me in the picture above…nearly 18 years ago.)

 Where did you grow up? Siblings? Locale? Were you considered a “bookworm” or a jock? Married, single? Children?
I was born and raised in Attleboro, Massachusetts. I grew up the middle child between two brothers. I enjoyed swimming (still do) but after the first season of swim in high school, I began to wear hijab, so I opted out of the swim team in subsequent years. (The burkini had not yet found its fame. I was never fast enough to compete anyway, although I had ‘good form.’) I enjoyed being on the tennis team, but didn’t pursue it after high school. I attended Smith College, hated it my first couple of years then loved it. I graduated in 2000 with a degree in biology and a minor in religion (because a minor in chem was simply too much lab time!). I was enrolled in optometry school in Boston when my plans changed due to a sudden death in the family. I dropped out during the first week, then worked for a year as a chemist (go figure!) in a pharmaceutical lab on the outskirts of Boston. I worked for about a year, then I moved to Egypt (against my parent’s better judgment) to be with my now husband. We’ve been married for just shy of 16 years, and we have four kids ranging in age from 7 to 15. I’m the kind of person who acclimates easily to her environment, so moving here wasn’t too difficult, especially since the culture is the same that my parents raised us in. Nevertheless, there are some things I simply can’t adjust to (the crazy traffic is the first thing that comes to mind, followed closely by the atrocious educational system, just to name a couple).

Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
My favorite author is Khaled Hosseini. And while I enjoy many different genres (from paranormal to crime fiction to the classics), my favorite is probably contemporary fiction. I relate easily to the issues contemporary fiction explores as well as the emotions it challenges us with.

Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?
I don’t have a favorite quote, but I used to. It was ‘A baby’s being born,’ meaning that despite all the hurt or ugliness going on, right at this moment, a beautiful, innocent, pure soul is being brought into the world. That used to ease my heart, even temporarily. But now, that exact same quote increases my anxiety; the world is getting uglier by the day, and the children will be the ones who will (are already??) suffer the most. Unfortunately, I have become a bit of a cynic.

Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
I definitely need quiet to write. Usually I sit at the dining room table in the morning, while the kids are at school. I prefer to handwrite into my notebook; yes, it takes much longer (because eventually everything must be transcribed onto the laptop), but I like the feel of the pen in my hand, I like not being tied down to the computer.

Are you a plotter or a panzer?
I am a pantser, but I have sticky notes all over my notebook and comments all over my documents that guide me. I find outlines stifle the creative process. I am planning on writing a memoir in the near future, and for that, I will probably prefer the organization of an outline.

Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?
My characters are never replicas of real people, but they almost always have adopted characteristics from real people that I’ve met. For example, Morgan, one of the men in Behind Picket Fences, was modeled after someone I know and don’t particularly care for. With his inferiority complex and depreciating tendencies, you’ll find that readers won’t like him too much. Hassan, on the other hand, also adopted characteristics from real people. Despite his faults, readers will probably have increased compassion for him.

Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?

My writing goal is to write for about two hours per day. Somedays that means quite a few pages, other days, it means staring at a blank page for an hour and a half and writing only one page.

What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

I hope that my books teach people a bit about forgiveness and love. I hope that my characters—the ones who seem at first glance to be irredeemable—will, thorough their humanity, arouse a sense of compassion from my readers. I also hope that my books will teach people that, despite our different colors and religions, we all yearn for the same things: love and compassion. I hope that my readers will learn a bit about what it means to be Arab American, and begin to feel that reading about Muslim characters is just as normal as reading about characters who are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, or anything else.

What long-term plans do you have for your career?

I’ve finished my third novel and hoping to find an agent for it. During November, I wrote the bulk of novel number four, and am currently finishing up the first draft. I hope to continue writing fiction, maybe with a memoir thrown in there somewhere along the way.
What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
OWN it! I don’t mean the pieces of writing that you produce, but your craft. Once you start calling yourself a writer, you start taking your writing career seriously; until you take it seriously, no one else will.

Share a fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you.

I hate my handwriting. Weird, right? I mean, you’d think a writer, and one who tends to write with pen and paper rather than on a computer, would have developed handwriting that she’s proud of. But no. I hate it.

Share something about you that would surprise or shock readers.

I tend to be a quiet person, preferring to listen than to talk. I’m not really a trouble maker, never was. But…when I was a senior at Smith, one of my friends and I TP-ed our hallway! My friend was even quieter, more soft-spoken, and even less likely to start trouble than myself! As you can see from the picture, we zigzagged the toilet paper, using tape to secure it all through the hallway. Our other housemates were surprised by the masterpiece that awaited them the following morning when they got up. We cleaned it all up, of course, but it was such fun creating it.

(Thank you for liking this blog post. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my books and read the first chapter of Behind Picket Fences for free, please click here.)

Recognizing is not Ridiculing

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We live in a beautifully diverse world. Our brothers and sisters in humanity come in all colors and shapes and sizes. There are skin tones of black and brown and white and yellow. Some of us are thin, some are fat, some are tall, some are short. Some of us have straight hair, some have big-curl hair, and some have tight-kink hair. And every description, every variation is a testament to God’s Power and Grace and His Mercy on us—that we are so blessed to be given the opportunity to experience these differences, so that we can learn from them.

So why is there a sensitivity to some of the terms I used above? Why did you wince when I said fat, but not when I said thin? Why are some of you reading on, waiting to see how I plan to use black and if I might use it in a demeaning manner?

If I go for a walk with a child, I expect her to point out the differences in the tree trunks we come across. I’ll encourage her to notice that some trunks are so thick we could only encircle them by forming a human chain around the tree, and others are so thin that one person could succeed in wrapping her arms around them. One is thin, the other is thick. Some leaves are green, some are yellow, some are red, orange, purple. I, like you, will encourage that child to see the variety, because to see the world clearly, you have to notice the variety.  We notice. Our children notice. They notice when someone is tall or short, thin or fat. They notice people of different colors and the different ways people dress. And that is a good thing. We have to celebrate diversity and we can’t do that if we pretend not to see it.

But there are certain traits that we tend to tell our children not to point out, because doing so is considered rude. Particularly, I’m referring to the term fat. Thin and fat, like tall and short, are relative. We can’t know one without knowing the other. The problem with fat is that it has often been used to demean and dehumanize. Society continues to sell the idea that larger bodies are not as desirable as thinner ones. I am not saying that is okay. I am not saying it is acceptable to laugh and point at someone and say they are ‘as large as a house’ or ‘as fat as a pig’ or any other derogatory phrase. What I am saying is that not every observation of fat is dehumanizing.

In one of my books, I had a brief exchange between the protagonist and her sons where they were brainstorming gift ideas for the boys’ grandmother. One of the kids says something like, “Grandma LOVES food.” The mom, trying to get what their gift idea would be according to that comment, says, “So we should make her a lot of food?” The kids laugh at their mom’s ridiculous suggestion and say, “No, mama, Grandma is fat enough.” It was meant to be a chuckle for readers, the way little kids say exactly what’s on their minds. It was meant to be a family moment, where the reader sees how much thought this family is putting in to finding the right gift for their beloved Grandma. It was not meant to be dehumanizing or derogatory in any way. And I still maintain that it was neither of these.

But my editor was upset by the scene and strongly recommended that I cut it. I was about to blow off her suggesting as being too PC when I asked my best friend what she thought. She, too, thought it was best to cut it. She implied that kids might not make such comments anyway.

But my kids make those comments to me all the time. It is never said in a mean fashion, they never do it to ridicule. But they often notice my fat thighs. They’ll bump my chair and tell their siblings, “Look, look how her bum jiggles!” And that is simply the truth. And I think that other kids make the same types of comments, because they come naturally from their perceptions of the world around them.

I did cut that scene from my book. Against my own desire to have that realistic, funny family moment. I didn’t want to insult anyone, so I erred on the side of caution.

I wish there was a way to remove the observations from the mocking. I wish they could be separate, because being truthful in our observations is part of the beauty of life. But there will always be that sensitivity, someone finding offense even if your intention was anything but. And so much goes into that. It isn’t just about your remark, it’s about how people have been dealing with those types of comments throughout their life. I get that. It comes from our own personal insecurities, ones we’ve lived with for years. And I believe that these insecurities are fragile and we must deal with them delicately.

I just wish there was a way to normalize these adjectives, to take away all positive and negative connotations and have them be neutral, the way we talk about the thickness or thinness of a tree trunk, or the color of a car. No one gets upset with those descriptions. I want skin tones of black, white, brown and yellow to all sound the same. I want fat and thin to sound the same, just like short and tall do.

Is it possible that we will ever come to a place where these descriptive terms do not carry negative connotations? I don’t think so. I think our personal experiences along with  historical accounts regarding skin color and body image will continue to affect how we respond to these terms.

I just wish this wasn’t so. These negative overtones do the world and all the beauty it contains a great disservice.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Honing Your Craft



There comes a time in every artisan’s life when she wonders: How can I move further? Some get stuck at this junction at the start of their journey and others even after years of experience, but it is inevitable for anyone who is sincerely interested in continuing to improve. While there are plenty of beneficial online courses, workshops and webinars, these may not be easily accessible to everyone due to cost or timing. I’ve put together six strategies that, if you continue to implement them in your work, you are sure to continue to develop. If you’ve ever wondered, Am I good enough? Will people find my work helpful? Will they like it? What if I fail?, then read on to quench these doubts and help hone your craft. Please note that while I address writers and writing specifically, these techniques can be used over a variety of disciplines.

  1. Use the negative. You know that saying ‘you can’t please everyone’? Well this is also true in writing. You will find a few people who love your writing. You will also find some who think your work is just ok. But there will be others who completely hate your work. Get used to this. Negative reviews are part of a writer’s life and you can not allow them to hold you back from your work. When you get negative feedback, step back and take your time to digest it. When the feelings of hurt subside a bit, consider: is this opinion just spiteful, or is there any truth to it? Be honest with yourself because the negative opinions often hold the most important lessons we need to learn. Take in whatever constructive criticism comes your way and use it to progress. This does not mean that there will be no hateful remarks; there will be. With those, you must learn to brush them off and continue with your work. But never make the mistake of overlooking criticism that could make you a better writer simply because it was not tied up in a pretty bow.


  1. Play up. When I first joined the tennis team in high school, I was still learning the basics and was not very good. But the coach taught us an important lesson that can be applied to so many aspects of life: In order to improve, you must play against those who are better, more skilled than yourself. When you play against a stronger opponent, you up your game…you have to. I improved in tennis with this technique. And I continue to improve in writing using it as well: Play up by reading works that are at a higher level than your own. And when you write, use a dictionary and thesaurus to help expand your vocabulary while maintaining your voice. Always play up.


  1. Live and take notes. You should keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas that come to you or interesting characters that you meet while running errands. Note their mannerisms, speech, clothes. When you take your walk in the woods, keep that notebook close by to capture the crinkling of the dry autumn leaves beneath your boots, and how the sound differs from those leaves that your dog treads upon. Note the smell of the forest and the sounds of the birds chirping, hiding high in the trees, their colors often left to your imagination. Write it down anyway. When you go on vacation and you’re relaxing at the beach or bungie jumping down the canyon, or whatever…take notes. Well, maybe not while you’re bungie jumping, but you get the picture. Inspiration can hit you at any time, in any place; always be prepared to indulge it.


  1. Own your craft. You need not be published to be a writer. You need no degree, no permission from anyone. You need only to write and to call yourself a writer. Once you make that commitment to yourself, you’ll take your writing more seriously, and you’ll be on the road to a successful writing career. Own it. Call yourself a writer. When someone asks what you do, say, “I’m a writer.” The proclamation will give you the confidence you need to keep moving forward.


  1. Commit to your writing time. Like with everything in life, practice is needed for improvement. With the craft of writing, our practice is both writing and reading, but as we’ve already touched on the reading part, let me stress the writing part. I’m not going to tell you that I write every day. But I do plan on writing every day, it is always my intention. It should be your plan as well. Some people journal, others don’t; it doesn’t really matter the form that your writing takes—all that matters is that you do it. Some write their best in the morning, others late at night. Experiment with different times of the day to determine when you are the most productive at writing, then schedule your writing for that time every day.


  1. Be the boss of your work. Sometimes editors (or others you meet along your publishing journey) will suggest changes to your manuscript. Often, you will immediately recognize the benefit of the changes and will even feel gratitude to the editor. But sometimes, you won’t agree with the suggestions. Similar to when you receive negative feedback, step back from the piece for a bit and give yourself time to consider the suggestions. Is the editor saying that something in your piece needs clarifying? Is she saying some portion of your piece should be removed completely to make it more succinct? Would that improve it? Consider her suggestions thoroughly. Many times you will be able to use the suggestions, in your own way, to enhance your work. But sometimes, you won’t agree with the editor. That’s perfectly fine. Your work is YOURS. You owe it to your work to carefully consider all suggestions for its improvement, but you also owe it to your work to deny changes that discount your voice, style or message. You’re the boss; never forget that.


Thank you for reading and liking this post. And if you have other suggestions for honing your craft, I’d love to hear them. Please share them in the comments.