Monday, March 16, 2015

Tuesday's Tips and Tweaks

This week author Susan Berliner joins us with her tip. Susan Berliner, author of the supernatural thrillers, DUST, Peachwood Lake, The Disappearance, and Corsonia, lives in Yorktown Heights, New York, where she's writing a collection of short stories and a two-part doomsday novel.

Susan’s Tip on Writing - Finding the "Write" Time

"It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer." – Gerald Brenan

Although people ask me for writing advice all the time, I find it impossible to tell someone else how to write a novel because there are no rules for creativity. Some authors outline their stories; others (like me) let the characters dictate the action. Some novels are plot driven (like mine); others are character driven. Some books have short chapters (like mine); others have long chapters. The options are endless. That's why the only suggestions I can give a wanna-be writer involve time management.

Since becoming a novelist, I've had many people tell me—in person and online—that they've "tried" to write books, but couldn't do it. I remember one woman who said she had written 100 pages and then stopped. Another woman said she wrote a chapter of a novel, put it aside, and never looked at it again. "I just can't find the time," numerous men and women have told me.

So how do you become a "real" author—one who finishes writing a book? The answer is very simple: You force yourself to write—and that means you must find writing time. How do you find the time? You treat writing as a job—something you have to do—by getting into a writing routine and disciplining yourself to write for a certain amount of time every day. And it doesn't have to be for a long period; you don't need to lock yourself in a room for eight hours a day to produce a book.

Here's what I do: Each morning, even if I don't feel like working, I go into the den, remove the phone, close the door, and tell my family not to bother me. Then I sit at the computer and write. But I only write for about an hour a day. Although it doesn't seem like much time, the words add up. I estimate I produce about 300 words a day, which becomes 2,100 words a week, and 9,000 words a month. In six months, writing just one hour a day can generate over 50,000 words—enough for a short novel.

And if you have a full-time job and can't spare an hour each day for writing, you can set aside a shorter amount of time—half an hour or even fifteen minutes. It really doesn't matter how short a period you designate for your writing time. What's important is that you stay disciplined and stick to whatever writing schedule you've established.

The secret to becoming a writer is to write. So, if you want to be a writer, don't procrastinate—just write!

Excerpt from “Corsonia” 

     Loren and Tracie reached the yard with the flopping clothes and stood quietly, watching the shirts and pants swaying in rhythm with the warm breeze.
     "I don't know," Tracie said. "It still seems kinda quiet here. If there was a bunch of people around, we'd hear something, wouldn't we?"
     Loren lowered herself to the ground, leaned against a bush, and gazed at the back of the two-story yellow shingled house. "Do you see any lights on inside?"
     "No," Tracie said as she sat beside her friend. "But it's daytime and the sun is shining so that doesn't mean anything. This whole trip was your idea so what do you want to do next—peek in the window again?"
     "Maybe." Loren slapped the pebbly grass with her left hand. "Damn! I thought for sure we'd just find some people who live here and talk to them outside. I don't want to tiptoe around and have that sheriff come back."
     "Yeah. Well, I told you this wouldn't be as easy as you said. Maybe no one's living in this place either. Maybe they don't use any of these houses anymore."
     "Then how do you explain the laundry?" Loren asked.
     "Maybe they just use this house to wash their clothes."
     "For a whole bunch of people? That's not enough clo..."
     Loren stopped talking in mid-sentence at the unexpected greeting, which came from behind the bush.
     The two girls turned and faced a boy, who looked like he was eleven- or twelve-years-old. His blond hair was cropped in a short crew cut and he wore a black oversized tee shirt that said "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a pair of men's brown shorts so baggy that they would have fallen down if he hadn't been wearing a belt.
     The boy stared at Loren and Tracie, but didn't speak.
     "Hi," Tracie finally said, smiling. "I'm Tracie and this is my friend, Loren. What's your name?"
     The boy looked puzzled and kept staring at the girls.
     "It's okay," Tracie continued, speaking slowly and quietly. "You can talk to us. We won't bite you." She smiled again.
     "Why would you bite me?" the boy asked, pausing between each of the five words. "People do not bite," he added in his strange staccato-like speech pattern.
     "I was just trying to make a joke," Tracie explained.
     "What is a 'joke'?" the boy asked.
     Tracie looked at Loren, who shrugged. "Well, a joke is something that's funny—something that makes you laugh."
     "Oh, a laugh, like from a smile. I can do that." The boy made a wide grin.
     "That's right," Tracie said. "Very good. So we told you our names. What's your name?"
     "I am called Boy 11."
     "Yes," Loren said. "But what's your real name?"
     The boy looked at her unhappily. "I do not understand. I am Boy 11."
     Tracie grasped Loren's hand, holding it tightly. "That's fine, Boy 11. Do you live here?" She pointed to the house behind the laundry line.
     "That is the school," he said.
     "Oh," Tracie said. "You go to school with teachers and other children?"
     Boy 11 nodded. "Teacher."
     "It sounds like fun," Tracie said, smiling again.
     "We do not laugh in school," the boy said, frowning at her.
     Tracie waited a moment before continuing. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, but we'd like to meet some of your family."
     Boy 11 continued to frown.
     "Do you have a family?" Tracie asked quietly.
     Boy 11 sat across from the two girls and lowered his head. "I found books in a big box on floor one," he said in his choppy speech. "I took three books to read and I learned about 'family.' There was mother, father, sister, brother."
     "Oh," Tracie said. "You don't live like the people in the book?"
     The boy shook his head. "I live with Boy 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 12."
     "What about Boy 1, 2 and 3?" Tracie asked.
     The boy shrugged.
     "Maybe they're little," Loren suggested.
     "Yeah," Tracie agreed. "But Boy 9 must be bigger. What about him?"
     "I do not know," Boy 11 said in his slow clipped speech, looking sadly at Tracie. "Boy 9 is gone."
     "You don't know where he went?" Loren asked.
     "No." The boy looked as if he was going to cry.
     Tracie quickly changed the subject. "So where do you and the other boys sleep?" she asked.
     "In a house."
     "Yes. But where is the house?"
     "I do not know. A man takes us there after school."
     "Why aren't you in school today, Boy 11?"
     The boy tilted his head downward again. "I like to walk outside so I leave."
     "And the teacher just lets you go?" Loren asked.
     Boy 11 shrugged.
     They remained quiet until Tracie continued the questioning. "Doesn't the teacher notice you aren't there?"
     "I do not know," the boy said, his head still lowered.
     "Wish I could've done that in school," Loren muttered.
     Tracie elbowed her friend softly in the ribs. "When do you go back inside?" she asked.
     "When the sun moves down," he said, raising his head and glancing at the sky.
     "Does the teacher say anything when you walk back into the room?"
     Boy 11 shook his head.
     "Okay, then," Tracie said. "Who else is in the school with you?"
     "Boy 4, Boy 5, Boy 6, Boy..."
     "All the boys you live with that you mentioned before," Loren said, interrupting him.
     "What about girls?" Tracie asked. "Are they in your school too?"
     "Where do the girls go to school?"
     "I do not know," he said, shrugging.
     "Wow," Loren murmured and Tracie poked her in the ribs again.
     "Is there anyone else in your school?" Tracie asked.
     "Woman 28."
     "And what does she do?" Tracie continued.
     "She makes the food, cleans the rooms, and washes the clothes." Boy 11 nodded toward the swaying laundry.
     "Sounds like Cinderella," Loren muttered.
     Boy 11 stood up abruptly. "I must go into the school now," he said, looking at the girls. "Do you have a story book?"
     Tracie shook her head. "I'm sorry, Boy 11. We don't have any books with us. But we can come back tomorrow afternoon and bring you a book. What would you like to read about?"
     "A family—a family with a mother and father and children."
     "Sure." Tracie smiled. "We'll find a good book for you, Oh, and please don't tell the teacher you talked to us."
     Looking confused, Boy 11 stared at Tracie. "I do not talk to Teacher."
     "That's fine then," she said, smiling again. "We'll see you tomorrow, Boy 11."
     "Goodbye," he said. Then he turned and ran to the house.

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You can find Susan at:


Thanks Susan, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.

Don’t forget to check back next week for another tip or tweak.


  1. Great advice, I love that you don't say if you want to write you need to sit for hours and hours. I agree, if you did do that you'd produce more books a year, but for those of us that can't it's good to know that's okay too.
    Jacquie Biggar

  2. Great advice, I love that you don't say if you want to write you need to sit for hours and hours. I agree, if you did do that you'd produce more books a year, but for those of us that can't it's good to know that's okay too.
    Jacquie Biggar

  3. Thanks, Jacquie. The assumption that you have to be a full-time author is what keeps many people from attempting to write. Discipline is what's most important. Good luck!

  4. Thanks for the advice. It's always challenging to find time to write but since it's a passion, we will do it!

    1. Hi Melissa:
      Finding the time is worth it. I always feel great after writing!

  5. I like how you write one hour a day. I agree. For me, it isn't how many hours, but how much I get on the page.

  6. Hi Vicki:
    My goal is to write at least one scene each day. Since my scenes are usually short, this equates to 250 - 500 words. Having a page or word limit wouldn't work for me--but I'm glad it works for you.