Writers’ Three Hats



I “completed” my fantasy novel, The Returning, a few months ago. Having given the manuscript ample time to cool, I am re-reading it, “Again” (in my best Forrest Gump voice). The process with which the novel grew from a seedling to a mature tree with its many branches is, to me, a fascinating process of nurturing like one would raise a child, with ample chastising and correcting thrown in to create the whole.

I have walked this world I created, interacted with the 30+ named characters (especially the 4 viewpoint personages) and listened to their tales of triumph, woe, and regret. Each person is (hopefully) different and varied, arising from unique backgrounds and thrown into a melting pot of love, conflict, and war—lives lost amidst blossoming love, terror tempered with steadfast acts of purpose, triumph and defeat. I know the people intimately, but I wonder, will my readers?

Characters make stories, plot only a device to build a relationship between the persons of the story and the reader.

In between re-reading The Returning, I am also writing the first draft of the second novel in the trilogy. The process—jumping back and forth between the two entirely different aspects—started me thinking of the different roles a writer takes. I call it the Writers’ Three Hats, each worn at separate intervals during the process: the Creator, the Reader, and the Editor (also known as the Critic).

Each hat is worn during a unique phase of building a story, separate though connected to each other like siblings vying for attention. And I have learned that only one hat can be worn at a time.

When building characters and stories, the Creator introduces, the Reader attempts to connect, and the Editor fleshes out the personalities to make them and their world real and whole. The hats are aspects of the craft that repeats, each donned several times from beginning to end, and each with a specific purpose and goal, and likewise, requiring a singular focus.

Next week, I will delve into ideas, the germs of the story that requires wearing the hats in the first place. From there, I’ll be discussing how and why the Hats are different, and how to use each to its own distinct advantage.

If so inclined, comment on the processes with which you create your people and your worlds.

Until next time, write . . . .


This Week’s Quote:
“Writing a novel is like a newly turned field; full of hope and dreams of harvest.”
Rick “C” Langford


Living as a Social Slug


I am a Social Slug. Although I operate this blog—love writing about the craft and interacting with other creative people—I have very little use for the whole “connecting” thing. I am on Facebook, but only at the behest of my children so we can stay-in-touch. That still sounds weird to me; what happened to phone calls or letters? (I can hear the bemoaning now: “What, actually write a letter by hand, put it in an envelope and mail it. Oh, how quaint.”)

I do not do text messages (an annoying process on my flip-phone; I abhor the idea of getting a “smart” phone when the current cell phone dies), am only on Twitter because . . . well, I really don’t know why I am on Twitter except I kept reading it was the “thing.” I signed up for Twitter the same time I signed up for Goodreads and Google and a couple others because it was spoken of over and over again in writer’s forums and blogs, writer talk-groups, at writer’s conventions, etc. Sigh—I succumbed; I doubt I will continue.

I have had no TV cable or satellite for nearly a decade, and cutting the cable remains one of the best things I did for my writing. Nor do I “stream” anything, but I do receive weekly NetFlix DVD’s through the mail.

I’m saddened that what now passes as News was once the fodder of The Enquirer, The Globe, and other inflammatory rags once giggled at when in the check-out line. I have no interest in the lives of the celebrity people whose faces and entitlement personalities bombard the media, nor do I understand how they have millions of “followers” who, to me, seem like lonely people living vicariously through the lives of others. I do not get it, nor do I care to.

I can hear people now: “What a fuddy-duddy; so sad what Rick is missing, losing out on the wide array of things he could become involved in; what a pity.” Pity me not, for instead of reading about other people who have “made it” with each selfie posted for the posterity of their posteriors, I read books and write my own. That, to me, is so much more entertaining, so much more rewarding, and infinitely a better way to spend my time.

Time is precious, and like ice in a glass of tea, melts away far too soon; unlike ice, time can never be re-made.

I encourage you to lessen the ties to the media frenzy. Sure, check your email—maybe therein is an acceptance of a short story or novel you sent—or even check the news, but lessen those ties that bind and threaten to strangle us as surely as a noose. nooseYou and your writing will be much better for it.

Go ahead, disconnect—even if for a little while—and write that story that vies for your attention; it will be time better served, and leave a Comment on what you have distanced yourself from for the betterment of your craft.


This Week’s Quote:
“Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.” Jeb Dickerson

Finding The Right Place to Write

Awoke this morning flummoxed regarding this week’s post. Oh, I had a few ideas, but no more than notes and scratches—no concrete topic I yearned to pursue. I paced while downing my two cups of coffee allotment, sat down, typed a few words, rose, and paced some more.

As often happens on non-work days, I packed up my laptop and drove to the park a few miles from home. There I paced some more, my mind a whirlwind of incomplete thoughts, ideas, questions without answers. I returned to the car and turned on my laptop.

The words began to appear, hesitant at first, then more rapidly like a car shifting into second gear. I breezed through the first paragraph, moved to the second, now cruising at higher speeds: I had a topic.

Finding the perfect place to write—both physically and mentally—is essential to a writer.

Before the advent of computers, Isaac Asimov had several typewriters around his office, each with paper loaded and each in various stages of a different project. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Asimov, an extremely prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, understood that the human mind is easily bored. To combat this natural tendency, he allowed his subconscious to work on many projects at once, and the typewriters loaded with paper were tools that opened his thinking and kept the creative juices flowing—he had his physical place, and thereby, his mental place.

As to the physical place where you, as a writer, are comfortable to create, the place (like Asimov’s typewriters) can change depending on the level of solitude you need. I can be easily distracted when writing. Dogs barking in the background can jerk my mind from the words in front of me as completely as my cat walking across the keyboard; then again, sometimes I can create with a cacophony of sound pounding all around me—it just depends. The important thing is to find your “place” where the creation can begin and continue unhampered.

This is my office and normal creative sanctuary . . . . 100_5983








And this is my other office . . . 100_5990








Whether on a notebook in a coffee shop (if you can handle the outside noises vying for the inner thoughts) or at your kitchen table, comfort is the key. Writing is hard enough, so finding your place at any given moment makes the difference. Search for that place where you are free to let your mind—and fingers—work, wherever that may be.

At different times I have written in a restaurant, at a nightclub with music surging in the background, under a tree in my front yard, on the beach, pretty much wherever I am when the urge to write beckons me. But when it comes down to polishing, don’t be fooled—you must have solitude. This place (or places) will be your refuge, the place where you can concentrate and do your best work. Today, for me, that place is the park.

Please leave a comment to let your fellow writers know how you found your place, and how the special place that is yours alone helps you create that which only you can create. And if so inclined, add a picture of your special place.

Now, go write,


This Week’s Quote:
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

Ambiguity and Oxford

DMEAmbiguous writing can be humorous as demonstrated by the sign in the window of our small town newspaper. Does that mean, if you buy it each week you are lucky, or you are lucky if they publish it each week?

As a writer, our main goal is clarity; confusing a reader (or editor) gets our writing immediately rejected and cast aside.

A while back my two adult children and I got into a slightly heated “discussion” about grammar, specifically the use of the Oxford—or serial—comma. (As a side note, my daughter’s fiance commented how unusual it was that we discussed grammar at all, especially with such lively back-and-forth. We all smiled and continued the “discussion” until we each realized that the horse was already dead and no one had altered their original opinion. Isn’t that how it usually happens?)

Janiene, my college-educated daughter, maintains that the use of two commas in a string of three is always required, such as: David bought hamburger, tomatoes, and lettuce. As I recall the conversation–which followed a bit of imbibing—my well-read son, Jason, stated the second comma in a three word string is not necessary.

I stood (or rather, sat) in the middle, maintaining the comma usage dependent on sentence clarity. Using the example above, I would not use the second comma as tomatoes and lettuce are similar items (vegetables) whereas the first item in the list is a meat product, thus writing it, David bought hamburger, tomatoes and lettuce. Using (or not using) the second comma in this instance does not change the meaning of the sentence—that is not always the case.

Sarah followed the bride-to-be, Elizabeth, and the flower girl from the antechamber into the chapel.

This sentence, because of the second comma, is starkly ambiguous and therefore confusing: is Elizabeth the bride-to-be (used as an appositive) or a separate person? Eliminating the second comma makes it clear that the three are separate people: Sarah followed the bride-to-be, Elizabeth and the flower girl from the antechamber into the chapel.

If Elizabeth IS the bride-to-be, recasting the sentence would remove the confusion: Elizabeth, the bride-to-be, and the flower girl led Sarah from the ante-chamber into the chapel.

The discussion does not stop there, however, nor is the use of the Oxford comma a hard and fast rule: the importance, above all, is having your words and meaning clear without the slightest bit of confusion. Simply, if a sentence can be understood more than one way, it is wrong and must be recast. The only exception is when you want to imply humor, though this is a rare instance and should be used sparingly.

(Here is more discussion of Oxford comma usage)

Have you found funny uses that made you shake your head like the sign in the window of our local newspaper? Have you read your own writing and were confused about what you had written versus what you wanted to say? If so, share so we can all enjoy a chuckle.

Above all, keep writing (revision will fix ambiguities if you know to look for them),

Rick (Me, myself, and I)


This Week’s Quote:
“The first goal of writing is to have one’s words read successfully.” Robert Brault