Category Archives: Housekeeping

Spring Break, so it’s time to break things, then fix them all up

It’s spring and I’m doing maintenance on the silly blog.

Some things will get ALL BROKEN AND SUCH before emerging shiny and new, like an ugly larva spinning a cocoon before emerging as a giant, super-powered moth that battles Godzilla and stomps all over Tokyo.

If you have suggestions, ideas or requests, shout by the comment magic, the Twitter or even the magic of emails — but do not leave a voice mail, which are obsolete and annoying anyway, plus I would wonder how you got my digits in the first place, which would be creepy and such.

Also: There are crazy amounts of summer movies coming out, and yes, I’ll be dissecting the ones I see. Good times. 

Also-also: Thanks to all the folks for suggestions on (a) great books to read on break and (b) crazy bad books to bleed red on. I have a beautiful honking pile of book-like substances now. 

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot who wrote a thriller that won some award.
Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping, Uncategorized

What doesn’t kill you makes you happy FOR MONTHS

 

Have you ever avoided doom?

I bet you’ve swerved on I-5 to stop a drifting semi from turning your car into a cube of steel.

As a teenager, I bet there were times buddies dared you to (a) jump off the roof of a hotel into the pool, (b) drag race down a dark county road at 120 miles an hour in a beater that couldn’t break 80 without rattling like it fall apart or (c) chug an entire bottle of Grey Goose they swiped from Dad’s liquor cabinet.

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: these sort of things are good for you.

I don’t mean you should take up base jumping, climbing cliffs without ropes or stupid stunts involving skateboards. It never works out.

 

HOWEVER: In my experience, whatever hasn’t killed me has made me a happy man for months.

My friend Leo took me mountain climbing for the first time, and when it turned out more crazy than I expected, with white crosses marking where people died, I was insanely thrilled to get down that mountain. My wife says I was a joy to be around for months. Nothing bothered me.

So I had a little surgery yesterday, something that started out as a simple, easy trip to the doctor. Shoot a little local in me, cut it out, stitch me up.

Nope. Got sent to a surgeon, who said they’d have to put me under, because the thing was too deep.

Took all day. I’d had surgery a half-dozen times before, mostly as a kid. I think as a shorty you’re more worried about the moment. As an adult, with a wife and a kid, these sort of things matter more. You worry.

What if this tumor is some kind of crazy parasite I picked up in the deserts of Dubai?

Or what if it’s cancer, and I’ve got to go all Walter White?

Who would be my Pinkman?

breaking bad pinkman and walt animated gif

Say my name.

 

Everything should be fine. Even so, there’s that same sense, that feeling each day is a gift.

Sidenote:

This month is the anniversary for the blog, born in a haunted oceanfront cabin by Port Townsend when I needed to sell my beater Hyundai.

I believe it calls for a little celebration: a Greatest Hits compilation and a call for ideas. If you’ve got something that would be perfect for the blog, or want to guest post, give me a shout in the comments, on the Twitter or via secret emails.

Meeting so many brilliant and funny writers from around the world has been a pleasure. I can’t thank you enough.

Related posts: The Red Pen of Doom’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013).

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, 5 Random Thursday, Fiction, Housekeeping

I won some literary award, and it was awesomesauce

Every fiction writer should do three things:

1) Go to writing conferences – to learn all they can, make friends and put a serious dent in the hotel bar’s supply of Guinness (mission accomplished!)

2) Hire an editor before unleashing their 650-page epic fantasy novel about elves with lightsabers riding dragons

3) Enter what they write into literary contests

So I’ll talk about those things a little, but first: a little dance. Because I am not so jaded that winning some award makes me shrug, or throw it on the ground. No. I am a happy, happy camper.

The PNWA lit contest isn’t something run out of some dude’s garage. It’s a big shebang, and I’m happy to have been a finalist in 2011 and taken 2nd in 2013 in Best Mystery/Thriller for FREEDOM, ALASKA.

i request the highest of fives

Also, they write you a check, and checks are always good.

Why are literary awards different?

Here’s the deal: journalism awards and such are great, and yes, it was fun to win those as a reporter and editor.

HOWEVER: even if you win the Pulitzer Prize, which is like having the Gods of Journalism descend from heaven and place a solid gold crown upon your head, it doesn’t really change things that much. You don’t suddenly get showered with cushy jobs, minions and fill your swimming pool with Benjamins when you’re not on the lecture tour, giving speeches for money and wearing disguises to avoid all your journalism groupies, which don’t exist, but should.

Unless they moonlight as a TV pundit on the Sunday shows, even the best journalists don’t become (a) rich, (b) famous or (c) rich and famous. There are all kinds of world-class reporters and editors who work at the best newspapers and magazines in the world, and you wouldn’t recognize them if you ran them over with your car. Which is too bad. These folks are rock stars.

So: journalism awards look good on your resume.

Literary awards are different. They can truly change the arc of your writerly career.

Anyone who’s written a novel knows that literary agents and the publishing world in Manhattan swims in sea of slush — of pitches, queries and actual 400-page books, with 99 percent of it being unpublishable, but somebody’s got to search through all that stuff to discover the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

Mostly, though, they chew through the slush pile like it’s Snuffy the Seal.

So being able to say hey, this novel already got judged in a literary contest and was found very worthy — that’s a foot in the door. If you win and show up at the writing conference, agents may talk to you. That’s a good thing.

My sister got her start in Hollywood by winning the biggest screenplay competition, put on by those Oscar folks at the Academy, and that sucker comes with a $30,000 fellowship and a lot of prestige. Does it open doors? You bet.

Why go to writing conferences?

Fiction is tough. Writing a novel, to me, is the Mt. Everest of writing, the toughest thing we pen monkeys can tackle. Millions talk about it, and maybe even try, but few make it. And that’s fine. Nothing worth doing is easy.

If you’re going to do it, don’t use your own pet theories or simply read books about it. Get real advice and mentoring from people who’ve been up to the summit and back. Get some climbing partners. That’s why you go to writing conferences.

The great thing is writers like helping other writers. In some professions, there’s all kinds of rivalries and secrecy. Writers aren’t built that way. They’re happy to help fellow writers. You’ll see best-selling romance authors hanging out with newbie thriller authors. Nobody cares. There are no real cliques.

I’ve met all kinds of authors at writing conferences — folks like Chris Humphreys, Bob Dugoni, Barry Eisler, Lee Child and Joe Finder — and you learn a lot from listening to them speak, getting a book signed or talking to them in the hotel bar. There isn’t an author I’ve seen who didn’t take time, even if they were the keynote speaker and a bazillionaire bigshot, to talk with everybody.

Also, writing is a funny business. Some of my best writing buddies are romance novelists. That’s who I tend to work with when throwing ideas and drafts around. They rock: they’re organized, smart and know how to collaborate.

In fact, I’m gonna join the RWA and hit their ginormous conference next year to drain THAT hotel bar of its supply of Guinness.

Why enter contests?

First, because it makes you focus. There’s a real deadline, and people writing novels know how endless the slog can be. A contest kicks you in the behind and makes you start sending things out the door.

Second, because you need to test yourself, and push yourself, and get real feedback. Contests will do that. Even if you don’t place, or win, the judges will send you feedback. 

Third, because it can open doors. At some point, you’ll want to get the thing published. Being a finalist or contest winner can make you stand out a little, to show you’re more serious than the average bear, or at least more serious than these bears.

So: circle a lit contest deadline on your calendar, hit a writing conference and hire an editor. You’ll learn a lot, and thank me later. It’s a much better plan than banging on your keyboard, all by your lonesome, for the next two years.

Related posts:

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award.

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18 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Fiction, Housekeeping, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers

The Toughest Internship in the World

Are you a college student in some kind of writing major — journalism, PR, screenwriting or fiction — and think you can write? Show me. BRING IT.

I had a great time with two accidental and informal interns: Lauren Palazzo, a goddess of publicity on the East Coast, and Alex Corey, a journalistic muffin of stud on the West Coast.

So I’m turning this into a semi-formal and semi-official Thing, maybe because it warms my cold Swedish heart to give talented young writers good clips, good editing and a little boost toward a job and career that doesn’t involve hairnets or selling insurance.

The evil secret to all writing? Editing.

The evil secret to all writing? Editing.

What are the requirements?

  • You DON’T have to show up 8 to 5 every day, make copies or fetch coffee, because you’re doing this from far, far away, via the Series of Tubes, and I don’t care if you’re orbiting Mars as long as your internets work.
  • You DO have to write circles around your competitors and have a hunger to write better, because you understand everybody needs to be edited, and seeing your drafts get riddled with red ink doesn’t put you in therapy.
  • You DON’T need to do this for official credit, because I hate paperwork.
  • You DO need to write two posts a week for whatever semester or quarter system you use, and these posts can’t be recycled term papers or diary entries from your blog about the best bars in Madison, Wisconsin, because the whole point is to give you great writing clips so you can graduate and get a great job.

If you’re not clear about the topics covered on this blog, read this post: Seven Days, Seven Categories — this is not a coincidence

How to apply?

Step 1: Pick one of FOUR ways of contacting me — (a) the Twitter @speechwriterguy, (b) emailing the traditional resume and writing clip to guybergstrom@gmail.com, (c) creating some kind of infographic or Tumblr thing about your epic skills or (d) posting a haiku about yourself in the comments. Poems can be terrible, but haikus rock.

Step 2: Send one writing sample, or two story ideas for the blog that you could write the heck out of until there was no heck left, or three ways you’d improve the blog with WordPress magic or SEO things I don’t understand.

That’s it. 

Also: If you’re out of college, or in a different country where people don’t “go to college” and are instead “at university,” and know somebody amazing who’d be a perfect fit, please forward this post to them, retweet it or share it using smoke signals and such.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping

2012 by the numbers

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

4 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping

Come closer, now, and whisper your MOST EVIL PLANS

My silly blog is now one year old, meaning it doesn’t just crawl anymore.

No. It can (a) get to its feet by grabbing the couch, (b) chase teh kitteh all over the living room, (c) scribble all over the first page of any book with a red pen and (d) make sarcastic faces at really bad movies.

So thank you, dear reader, for faithfully reading posts, writing insanely witty comments and talking smack to me on the Twitter.

I never expected this little blog to have 4,300 hits in a day (Saturday), 11,000 followers on the Twitter or 100,000-whatever hits in its first year of life.

You did NOT expect that. Little Godzilla.

Did you expect that? NO. Me neither.

My expectations were rather low. This blog-like substance was born out of fun, and to try out a bunch of things on WordPress and the Twitter.

What should happen next, in Year Two?

You tell me. I’m taking requests.

Inch on a little closer to me and whisper, softly, your most evil of evil plans.

  • What over-rated novel deserves to have Page 1 ripped apart by a red pen of doom?
  • Which movies or TV shows needs to be put on the table and dissected to see how it works so beautifully, or doesn’t work at all?
  • What insane music videos need to be shown to the world, with the lyrics translated into English?
  • Or should we just go all-in with zombies, zombies and, just for variety, more zombies?
evolution of zombies

Everything goes better with zombies.

Vote in the little poll below, or post your idea in the comment section. And thanks again.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

8 Comments

Filed under Housekeeping

Seven days, seven categories — this is not a coincidence

Librarians are literary muffins of stud, who I admire. You all rock.

HOWEVER: the Dewey Decimal System is a little too complicated for me. There are a billion places to put books. Also, there are decimal points.

Conan the Librarian

Conan the Librarian is the protector of the Dewey Decimal System, but I am not a fan. Not when seven categories can cover EVERYTHING.

I can fit everything worth writing about into SEVEN categories of awesomesauce.

Seven days of the week, seven categories. This is not happenstance. It is meant to be. As an added bonus, there are no decimal points whatsoever.

Also not a coincidence: these are the seven major categories of this blog. All other things that I post will be sub-categories of the Big Important Things — unless I screwed up and the Gods of Javascript or whatever gave me stupid categories that I cannot change or delete without destroying the series of tubes.

Obviously, the most important shebang is Writing Secret Wednesday, which will get the most reliable posts.

I may happily skip Thursday, because Thor’s Day is a holiday for Swedes like me. You do not offend the god of thunder. But skipping Wednesday would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

If I post on other days of the week, I’ll stick with the proper categories, since my promise to America and the world is that you won’t land on this blog on a Friday only to find some giant random post about the character arcs on Desperate Housewives. (Note: that was what we call a joke. I will never write a word about Desperate Housewives, except for the words I just wrote, which are possibly a mistake, now that the googles will see those words and possibly send Desperate Housewives fans here by mistake. No. Please go away.)

Here you go: seven days, seven categories.

1) SURVIVAL SUNDAY

Because if you’re dead, you can’t read or write anything at all.

This category includes things like zombies, the apocalypse, guns, surviving the zombie apocalypse (with or without guns, your choice), fighting, MMA, jujitsu, krav maga (half because it’s simple, half because it’s brutally effective and half because I like how it sounds, thus giving it an extra half when everything else in the world only gets TWO halves) and doomsday preppers — plus making fun of WATERWORLD, the worst apocalyptic movie ever.

Sample post: Zombie movies are NOT standard horror movies

2) MUSIC VIDEO MONDAY

Because somebody has to play more music videos than MTV.

I often take a red pen to the actual lyrics of these songs, thus disqualifying entire genres (Swedish Death Metal, mumblecore, raging emo shouty-shouty stuff) from being featured on these pages. Because if I can’t understand what the singer is screaming then no, I’m not gonna write about it, even if the supposed lyrics are stuffed into the liner notes of SATAN’S BRIDE EATS YOUR SOUL.

However, it is completely fair game to post interesting music videos without lyrics at all, if people are doing something cool like a Metallica covers using cellos.

Sample post: ELECTRIC AVENUE, as interpreted by the Red Pen of Doom

3) TINSELTOWN TUESDAY

No matter what you write or read, you’re influenced by moving pictures, whether those pictures are (1) on a giant screen in humungous building where 20 cents worth of popcorn costs you $8.95 or (2) on a slightly smaller screen in your former garage, which was the only place in your house big enough to fit the 74” Samsung plasma 3d ultra-HD monstronsity.

We can learn many, many useful things from screenwriters (giant screen) and scriptwriters (Glowing Tube). Hear me know and believe me later in the week: whether you write speeches, novels about zombies or newspaper feature stories, you will be amazed at how useless books about your craft really are. I mean, beyond useless. The toughest thing is structure, not comma splices, compound modifiers and some author’s system that uses 3 x 5 index cards and such. STRUCTURE AND STORYTELLING ARE KING. And the best books on structure and storytelling are from Tinseltown.

So: go buy Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT and Robert McKee’s STORY. Then you’ll know the language I’m speaking on Tuesdays.

Sample post: Everything they taught us about stories was WRONG

4) WRITING SECRETS WEDNESDAY

This is the beating heart and soulful soul of The Red Pen of Doom.

Writing and editing. Speechwriting and storytelling.

Four sample posts, because this stuff is IMPORTANT AND FUN:

The evil secret to ALL WRITING – editing is everything

The Red Pen of Doom guts THE NOTEBOOK

Out of fairness, I destroy my favorite genre: thrillers

Romance novelists are secret, epic army of man boosters

5) RANDOM THURSDAY

Thor’s Day, right? The Norse God of Thunder would say, “Write about whatever you wish.”

That may include random videos of epic fails, or a post about whether or not we should ban Monday, a horrible day, thus giving us all 16.6 percent more weekends. IT IS A PLAN.

Sample post: Vicious alien beast battles round Earth vegetable

6) FRIENDLY FRIDAY

Guest posts. Links to amazing people you should follow on the Twitter.

Shout outs to writers, editors and funny people whose blogs you are required to visit. You know, that sort of thing. Nice posts, packed full of nicetude and friendliness. The series of tubes could use more friendliness, right? Because there is a surplus of grumpy trolls and wannabe Internet Tough Guys.

Sample post: Friendly Friday: Theresa Stevens, Glowing Mystical Being

7) MEDIA STRATEGY SATURDAY

Don’t you agree that social media means boring old mainstream media should curl up in a corner and die already? I mean, nobody needs old radio, TV and newspapers when you have the UNLIMITED POWER of Twitter-Facebook-Pinterest-LinkedIn-BlahBlahBlah.com — plus, as a secret weapon, all the loyal readers of your mom’s blog about knitting sweaters for poodles. You are invincible! Get on the phone today and hire the best architect in NYC  to start the blueprints of your  62,000-square-foot mansion with a movie theater, bowling alley and Olympic pool, because you will sell millions of books / albums / movie tickets once your latest tweet / blog post / promotional idea goes viral.

Yeah. Not so much.

I know a little about journalism, publicity, speechwriting and the whole social media thing. I HAVE DEGREES AND SUCH, and wrote 210+ posts for the NYT’s about.com as their expert on publicity. On certain special Saturdays, I will blow up conventional wisdom into itty bitty pieces, shaking your unshakeable faith in the magic of the series of tubes and making you rethink the whole idea of putting all of your eggs into that virtual basket. Social networking and media are useful, yes. But not all-powerful. Old media is not dead yet, young Skywalker – not yet.

So: this category includes Twitter, the Book of Face, social networking vs. social media (they are different) and all such things.

Also: journalism, publicity and scandals involving people who make FAR TOO MUCH MONEY.

Sample post: 11 brutally useful posts on publicity for writers

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

9 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping