Robert Yehling provides writing, ghostwriting, editing, marketing, promotion, and publicity consulting services to authors, editors, agents, and publishers around the world. His presentations at the 2016 All Write Now! conference will help workshop participants to learn self-editing techniques. (Bring a story with you to work on!)
Bill Hopkins - The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life looks intriguing. You're pitching the book to me (a potential buyer). Why should I buy this and, more importantly, why should I do all those exercises?
Robert Yehling - Both The Write Time and its just-released companion, Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write, are designed specifically for working and professional writers, as well as those taking an interest. The exercises are built to help writers refine their skills in specific genres, subjects, character development, storytelling and the like – things that separate casual writing from published writing. Everything is well-seasoned and well-tested through the past 20 years of teaching writing in various capacities. In fact, I met the leading publisher of these books, Paul Burt of Pen & Publish/Open Books Press, while teaching at a writer’s conference in Tucson in 2008 – and he loved the concept.
Writes of Life takes off from the saying, “Write what you know,” and shows us how to use our life experiences – no matter how exciting or mundane – in everything we write. Maybe it’s the way a character speaks. Or a zip-lining adventure that you want to talk about. I’ve used my 40 years of professional experience to boil down exactly how to draw from yourself these experiences, when you need them, and then how to shape them into your work. It won an Independent Publishers Book Award; this is the second edition, and I’ve revised several chapters.
The Write Time is in an exercise-a-day format because I believe that good writing requires the habit of writing virtually every day. Likewise, it’s important to write about different subjects, in different ways, and to become fluid so that the right words come to you automatically when it counts. I’ve taken 366 exercises I created for workshops, conferences, retreat, and college courses, and combined them. I also wrote little stories to accompany them. No matter how much we’ve written, or how many books we’ve published (or not), we dry up at times and need fresh ideas. This book is a lot of fun!
BH - Assume that I've never written a word of fiction (or, for that matter, non-fiction), but I have a burning desire to write. Where do I start?
RY - Begin with what you know: what gives you passion? What do you feel like you can talk about all day? What story do you want to tell? What story must be told? Who do you know that makes you think, “what a great character or subject he/she would be in a book?” That’s where to start. Then cut loose and write (and be sure to shut off your ‘inner censor’, that party pooper that keeps saying, ‘it’s not good enough,’ ‘it’s not a perfect sentence,’ ‘this won’t go anywhere.’) Just keep writing, and writing, and writing. Your desire will increase as you continue.
BH - Do you have a favorite movie (or television series)?
RY - For general movies, “Gladiator”, “Bull Durham,” “Network,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” would be my favorites. Within writing, most definitely “Dead Poet’s Society.” As for TV series, I’m a huge Dick Wolf fan – “Law & Order” franchise, “Chicago PD/Fire/MD”, etc. A friend of mine, Derek Haas, created the Chicago Fire/PD/MD franchise and most of the stories; he’s also a heckuva thriller author. So I’m a little biased there, but I love these shows because they combine great situational storytelling with compelling, ever-changing characters and unpredictable twists with occasional moral and ethical dilemmas. By the way, this is also the exact winning formula for a great novel or narrative non-fiction book. Which is why these series go on forever!
BH - How about favorite books (fiction and nonfiction)?
RY - “Drop City” by TC Boyle, “Blonde” by Joyce Carol Oates, “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac, anything by Elmore Leonard, and for non-fiction, “Seabiscuit” by Lauren Hillebrand, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall (I’m a marathoner), and “The Wave” by Susan Casey. For writing-themed books, my all-time favorites are “”The Language of Life,” by Bill Moyers, and “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” by Annie Dillard.
BH - What books do you have on your nightstand?
RY - I love this question! It’s amazing what we learn about people from their answer; in fact, I tell all writers to find out what’s on a subject or character’s nightstand and write it into their stories if books are in any way germane to that personal (real or fictional).
Currently: “The Heart Aroused” by David Whyte; “Education of a Young Man” by Louis L’Amour; “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird” by Patricia Walker; “The Creators” by Daniel J. Boorstyn, “Players” by Matthew Futterman; and “Cleopatra’s Daughter” by Michelle Moran.
I’m a voracious cross-reader – a great way to make your mind supple, fluid and receptive for the wonderful comparisons, metaphors and similes that “come out of nowhere” when we write!
BH - What is it that you do for writers? Who are your clients (not by name but describe a "typical" client)?
RY - Word Journeys is a full-service bank, as it were. I’ve written 11 of my own books and ghostwritten or collaborated on 9 others, so ghostwriting/collaboration would be one thing. I’m also a book editor with plenty of background working for publishing houses, so we bring manuscripts to publish quality, and we know what editors are looking for – both fiction and non-fiction. The only genres we don’t touch are those that aren’t my cup of tea – horror and romance. We also write book proposals for non-fiction writers, and help some find publishers. Finally, we offer full-service public relations and promotions services to authors, especially self-published writers.