Learning To Be A Better Writer



The Bay To Ocean Writers Conference sponsored by The Eastern Shore Writers Association, held at Chesapeake College on Saturday, February 22, 2014 from 7:30 AM until 5:00 PM, was everything I expected and more. I met writers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia  and Washington, D.C. over breakfast and lunch as well as at the four workshops, I selected out of a possible 24.


I began by looking for honest, forth-right and open-hearted writers. They weren’t hard to fine. I found a man sitting by himself at a breakfast  table with two women at the other end. Once introduced by using only our first names we began talking. He didn’t need to tell me what he did for a living, nor did he need to know what I did for a living which was good because; I’m a pastor which can cause acquaintances to become pious. Seeing his last name, Sean, on his name tag, I questioned, “Irish”. He nodded with a smile and thereafter, we hardly had time to eat our breakfast as we gave one another undivided attention and told hilarious stories colored by our common Irish ancestry. It was hard for us to break away to attend our chosen workshops.


I met and conversed with six other congenial writers who inspired me with  their varied nationalities, backgrounds, interests, experiences, hopes, and dreams. Bay To Ocean is a mecca for writers overflowing with Interesting, enjoyable, encouraging, invigorating, inspirational and courageous   conversations. They all want to learn and help one another to be better writers.


By attending workshops, I learned…..

……To state the purpose of my writing with indisputable clarity. I realized that I stated my purpose in my vocational endeavors but had not applied purpose to my writing. A huge difference in the my writing has occurred by knowing what I’m trying to accomplish in my writing and why. I want my writing to enable characters to live out core values and personal discords and attractions which might help the readers to redeem their own villages of discord.

…….That my writing requires daily discipline and sacrifice of time and effort. Since I’m retired, it’s easier for me to write  than writers preoccupied with a vocation or employment. I don’t consider it a sacrifice for me to write.  I don’t watch TV, listen to radio, read newspapers, play games, answer the phone, entertain guests or even eat breakfast from 6:00 AM until 12 noon when I am writing. The only thing that I take with me to my computer affectionately called, Mackey,  is hand written notes of ideas that have occurred to me anywhere or anytime and fresh coffee. And since my mind works best while I‘m asleep and I’m not trying to control it, I begin writing with fresh ideas. Obviously, I’m a morning person. Writing’s my current chosen vocation which I enjoy five mornings a week. I spend afternoons, evenings and weekends with my wife, family, friends and volunteering to help others, especially  when I’m writing, so I end up feeling that I’m not giving up anything or neglecting other people, who  are important to me. Writing, like sailing and biking, is a rewarding avocation for me. It ranks high on my vocational list but not at the top, being a pastor, I retired, so I could accomplish writing. It’s equally rewarding and freeing for me, particularly in this stage of my life, to be writing.

…….To intensify my characters’ dialogue in my writing, by having them speak for themselves. I’m privileged to stand back and listen to them. I often feel they’re talking not for me, but with me. I listen and learn from them.

…….To read my stories, paragraphs, sentences and words aloud. This practice, overlooked since I was a child learning to read, has proven to be exceedingly helpful. It puts the dialogue outside of my head and in the open for me and readers to see, hear, feel, understand and appreciate character’s emotions. Since I write from emotions which I feel occurring within me as I write, this suits me fine.

……..To allow characters to speak, think, feel and act for themselves without me, the author, getting in their way, I purposely have learned to hide their thoughts and feelings to give the reader a chance to introduce their own thoughts and feelings  for characters, too!

……..That blogging is writing, too! I also learned to use seller headlines, format color, short paragraphs, white space, images with clear, bold subheadings and to check my blogging effectiveness by charting and grafting hits and comments. Learning to blog may be helping me generally to be a better book writer, too!

……..That conflict (not necessarily murder or cruelty but differences and opinions) and suspense (changes, challenges, victories and the unknown) are critical to under girding my major and sub plots to gain and keep readers engaged. Consequently, I struggled but I’m learning to include conflict and suspense. I’ll probably in another blog write the story of  how difficult it has been for me to apply this learning.

…….That protagonist and antagonist may engage the reader’s involvement ethically, morally, financially, politically and relationally, and when a conflict is about to be resolved, additional conflicts occur which usually leads up to the big one. Writing with this practice in mind, enables me to extend my writing to include another book or even a series of books. Consequently, I’m now writing my second book which features the life of the brightest star in my life, clearly outshining all other stars, my wife, she’s the most significant person in my world.

……..To be an advocate for my reader by choosing first, second or third person  point of view helps me to identify which character(s) lead. This also helps the reader to identify and express his/her own ideas, opinions and decisions in response to, with, for or against the character. It’s all required when writing to help the reader.

………To put whatever I’ve written, edited and corrected aside to give me time to read it again and again before publication. It may take hours, days, months, years or never be ready for publication. I’ve learned to  not allow undue pressure of a publisher or any other circumstances or situations to breath down my neck thwarting creativity . For instance, I delayed in posting this blog for over a week which enabled me to delete much of the distracting and irrelevant.


……..With the help of other writers who attended, and my learning gained from the workshops, I’m learning to be a better writer. Being an unabashed opportunist, I’ll be one of the writers, limited to 250, who will register early to make sure I can attend the next Annual Bay To Ocean Writers Conference to be held February 28, 2015.


Don Hurst, author of LIVING IN HARMONY an Eastern Shore village redeems discord,  already rated nearly five full stars by Amazon is  learning to be a write better.

A Native Eastern Shore Author

His gripping stories in LIVING IN HARMONY: an Eastern Shore village redeems discord are all true, and happened in Harmony where he grew up.

Don Hurst, the author, a Western Kentucky University and Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. graduate, who specialized in counseling and church growth, pastored United Methodist Churches in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He also guided foreign tours and took people sailing over the world to gain wisdom through his years before writing about Harmony which strives to live up to the meaning of its name.
Filled with heart-warming childhood, family, friends’, Native Indian, pastoral and  sailing stories, he avoids the trap of simply listing chronological events of his life by weaving together personal memories with Maryland’s Eastern Shore history. He includes a gun dual, the murder of a young girl, and other atrocities, such as bigotry and slavery in which patriotic heroes and others stepped up to create harmony, when discord tried to reign. He highlights his family and friends, who helped shape his life and development as a pastor and sailor, and guided him as he built healthy faith communities throughout his career and gathered sailing friends to find peace and wonder in families, churches, communities and the beauty of nature. No matter where or when readers were born and reared, his stories inspire readers to think of how their childhood history and environment  may play a significant role in developing harmony in life.

His book published at authorhouse.com, is also available at Amazon.com, and BN.com or postage free for $19.95 mailed with your address to Harmony Hurst Books, 3202 Greenbriar Lane, West Grove PA 19390 or at book signings, where he is appearing at Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania book stores, news centers, businesses, history societies, county summer festivals, school reunions, churches, conferences and family events.