Keep a diary, but don't just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It's great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary.
JOHN BERENDT -- found on AdviceToWriters
I rode the escalator to the brightly lit, top floor of Barnes & Noble and hurried past the young adults' section. Black covers overwhelmed me, featuring pale, proud faces, half-turned in a sneer. They left me wondering what all those kids had to be so proud about. I missed Christopher Pike and Richie Tankersley Cusick and Lois Duncan with their subtle evil, and cartoonish mass market covers.
A clerk asked if I needed help. "No, thank you," I said.
I walked past the gold star stickers, stacks of elementary school workbooks, and Lego sets. When I was young there were special stores for teachers' things. They weren't crammed between the romance section and the bathrooms, like an afterthought.
I know what I sound like. This is why I usually only think these things instead of say them.
My section's location was even worse. "Reference": As close to the toilets as a section could be without falling in. I removed a scrap of paper from my purse on which I'd written a popular book title. I stepped closer to examine the spines.
A clerk pushed in beside me with a rolling cart piled with books and started shoving them in the empty places.
She glanced at me, "Can I help you find something?"
I shook my head. She filed around me, pressing into my personal space bubble, pushing me to the side. I finally stepped back and watched her for a moment. Having worked for this same chain, I knew what I had to do.
"Excuse me," I said. "Actually I do have a book you can help me find." And I told her the title.
She half-assedly scanned the shelf and said, "I don't see it. Did we tell you it was here?"
I said no. I wouldn't have bothered her, I said, except the same author had been filed in two different areas of the same section. Was there anywhere else the book could be?
She shrugged. "Things get misfiled," she said, as she shoved another handful of books into an empty place. "They can order it for you, downstairs."
I thanked her for her help, and she wandered away, leaving her cart behind. Finally I was free to examine the section in peace. If there's one thing working for a bookstore had taught me is that those offers of help are usually appended with a silent, "Please don't ask me anything. I'm off in five minutes."
The most aggressively helpful clerks are often the ones who want to help you the least.
In the end, I was unable to find the book I wanted. Just as well, since I later found it online cheaper with free shipping. And nobody, not once, tried to push me out of the way.
Thank goodness for Amazon.