Category Archives: Writing

Writer School

Michael LaRocca Talks Writer School?

In this guest post, Michael LaRocca talks writer school. Is it necessary?

Here’s something from my mailbag. “Dear Michael, do you need to do good in school if you want to be a writer? I stink at school and all my friends laugh at me when I tell them I want to write, but I’m serious.” Followed by a sentence or two of “I need your words to encourage me” or some such nonsense.

Fortunately, a writing sample is rarely attached. If it is, either it’s excellent or it stinks like rancid yak butter.

Do you have to be good in school? Given what’s passing for English in some places, I’d certainly like to see more effort given to school. If you’re a student reading this, please try to learn something while you can.

If you aspire to be an author and you did poorly in school, or if you’re just plain uneducated, don’t let it stop you. What we do as authors isn’t taught in school. They teach grammar, and bless them. I can’t teach that subject. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll stumble across some teachers who teach you how to think. But thinking is the beginning of writing, not the end, and grammar can be fixed later if you find some long-suffering editor who’s willing to do it.

In other words, school can help you with the first step or two of your journey to becoming an author. Considering how many steps come after those, don’t be discouraged by test results and report cards.

To distill what you think, feel and believe from all the trash floating around in your head, and then to actually put that on paper the way you mean to put it, is a skill that only comes from years of practice. They don’t teach it in school. At least, no school I’ve ever attended.

Also, remember that you can never learn how to write books. You can only learn how to write the book that you are currently writing.

Our emailer then mentions that her friends laugh at her when she tells them she intends to write. Why does she care? I’ve lost count of how many projects I’ve undertaken despite criticism. Not just writing, either. Life. But let me narrow my focus so I can end this rant.

I shouldn’t have to tell you why you write. You don’t need my vindication or anyone else’s. If those who haven’t even read your work can discourage you, maybe you should give up. Or leave it all in a file cabinet somewhere for people to find after you die.

But I can tell you this. If you’ll let something as silly as your grades in school stop you from even beginning to write in the first place, nothing you have to write is worth finding after you die. And if you’re angry at me for saying it, good. Prove me wrong. Write a book.

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I’ve been paid to edit since 1991 and still love it, which has made people question my sanity, but they were doing that before I started editing. I got serious about my writing in 1978. Although I’ve retired more times than Brett Favre, I’m writing my 19th book. Learn more about me at MichaelEdits.com.

© Michael LaRocca 2019



Car Horns

{Author’s Note: I wrote this piece called Car Horns in 2005. I live in North Carolina now. One day I’ll write about turn signals.}

Car Horns by Michael LaRocca of MichaelEdits.com

Let’s pretend that you live in China. Let’s also pretend that, unlike me, you own a car. A Volkswagen Santana, of course. Who do you honk the horn at?

Well, you honk at everyone who’s in your way, and who you think is in your way, and who you are passing, and who you think is trying to pass you. Every bicycle needs a honk in case the driver can’t see you. Every pedestrian, most definitely, because they’re not looking at anything except their feet as they float out in front of you, or the text messages they’re sending on their cell phones.

Every car does this, and the roads become a constant cacophony of car horns. The noise is such that everybody tunes it out in order to function, so the horns are pointless. Nobody is listening to the horns. Some of us wear MP3 players cranked up to full volume specifically to block the noise, which is why we’re deaf. But honking is a habit the Chinese driver can’t break. It’s like breathing.

Okay, now here comes a legitimate reason to honk the horn, an emergency, perhaps some fool walking right in front of your car. What do you do? Flick the headlights. Just how stupid is that? If he can’t hear your horn, he sure can’t hear your headlights. Of course he can’t see your headlights, because he’s not looking at you. That’s what caused the crisis in the first place. Plus, it’s daytime. Nobody can see headlights in the daytime when he’s facing the other direction.

I offer this little tale for authors who wonder why I prefer understatement. Exclamation points and superlatives are your car horns. Save them until you actually need them.

{Author’s Note 2: I gave this to one of my Advanced English Writing classes in China. They weren’t offended. Hey, it never hurts to check. Beep beep!}

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I’ve been paid to edit since 1991 and still love it, which has made people question my sanity, but they were doing that before I started editing. I got serious about my writing in 1978. Although I’ve retired more times than Brett Favre, I’m writing my 19th book. Learn more about me at MichaelEdits.com.

© Michael LaRocca 2018/2019



Quotes About Writing

I hope you will enjoy this ever-growing list of quotes about writing. Bookmark it and come back to it often, as I’ll continue to update it for you. Feel free to click on each image and share these quotes on your own blogs. Enjoy!

“I am a writer. I write not only for a living, I write because I am a writer.” ~Gary Jennings

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” ~Winston Churchill

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ~Jodi Picoult

“Books are uniquely portable magic.” ~Stephen King

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~Terry Pratchett

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ~Louis L’Amour

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” ~Anne Frank

“If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.” ~Doug Larson

“I get a lot of letters from people. They say: ‘I want to be a writer. What should I do?’ I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.” ~Ruth Rendell

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.” ~Larry L. King

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.” ~Baltasar Gracián

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