Posts Tagged With: writer resources

The Daily Duty of a Writer

If you want to be a successful writer, you need to make sure you are doing two things that are so detrimental to your career, you should consider them your duty. Without these two things, you will never be able to progress your skill, and you will be hard-pressed to expand your ideas. What are these two things, you ask? They are writing and reading. Every day.

Writing Every Day

In order to improve your skills as a writer, you should write every day. The old saying “Practice makes perfect” is a mantra that is applicable to every aspect of life, including writing. There are several ways that writing every day helps you build your skill level, and I can testify to them:

  1. Writing every day helps you figure out how you can improve. If you write every day, you’ll quickly learn the strengths and weaknesses of your abilities. You might be a pro at writing dialogue, but you can see that your imagery usage is sub-par. You can work on being more descriptive if your writing. Do you find yourself drawn to only one type of character so that your story seems flat? Now that you’ve identified a weakness, you can strive to make it stronger. Learn how to make diverse characters, and use them. Have you noticed that you have a common theme in everything that you write? Good! Central themes in writing can help give you the drive to write by giving you ideas of what should happen in your stories, so why not trying to expand that theme? Did you realize that your word usage is very mediocre? Amp up your internal thesaurus and use powerful verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Don’t settle! There is a very big difference between “Susie caught the ball” and “Susie plucked the ball out of the air” or “Susie snatched the ball just before it hit the ground.” If you write every day, you’ll be able to see what you are doing that is awesome and what you are doing that needs work. Now that you’re able to identify what needs help, you can improve!
  2. Writing every day helps you overcome writer’s block. Yes! It’s true. The most annoying and life-sapping phenomenon in which aspiring writers are unable to express their ideas can be beaten by a simple task. By giving yourself 20 minutes a day to freely write, your brain will become less inclined to ‘freeze’ when you really need it to run smoothly. There are a few ways you can do this; you can journal, you can blog, you can freewrite, etc. Just as long as you give yourself time to write, you can train your mind away form writer’s block.
  3. Writing every day helps you focus on your goals. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I plan on letting writing be my main source of income one day. By writing every day, I am reminded of my ultimate goal. I know that every time I pick up a pen (or open a blank page in a program) to get my writing in for the day, I am helping myself towards who and what I want to be.
  4. Writing every day confirms who you are. We all know of those ‘writers’ who claim that they have hundreds of story ideas and thousands of character designs and aspirations of making it big, yet…they have nothing to show for it. The ones who are willing to tell the world of their current story’s plot, goals, themes, etc. but don’t have hardly anything written down. I’ll admit it. I used to be that person. I used to jot down story ideas, map out the plot, design amazing characters and then blather about it to anyone who was willing to listen. The only problem was that I never wrote anything downSure, I wrote the idea and detail stuff down, but I didn’t actually have a manuscript saved to my computer with the story neatly typed up inside it. Most of the time, I didn’t even have anything other than a few scribbled notes inside my binder. I found myself telling people, “I want to be a writer.” By not actually writing, I felt that even though I had all these ideas, I wasn’t a writer yet. And that’s the truth. I wasn’t a writer! I was a talker, a dreamer. To be a writer is to be a person who writes! If you want to be a writer, you have to write! Now that I make sure I write every day, I can honestly tell people, “I am a writer!”

Even though this might seem a little hard to add to your schedule if you’re working a 9-5 job or if you’re in school, or if you have children, just remember that with a minimum of 20 minutes a day, you can reap these benefits. It also helps if you look forward to your own personal writing time. If sitting still with some paper and a pen or a computer seems a little boring to you, make it interesting. For example, since I get distracted easily, I use a leather bound notebook and a dip pen—you know, the old fashioned ones that you actually have to dip into ink. Give yourself some unique, intriguing pizzaz. If you like the outdoors, set up a little writing area on a patio. Not enough? Get a lap desk and lounge under a tree. Pen and paper too old school? Grab a computer or an iPad. Make your writing time fun for you so that you look forward to it every day.

Reading Every Day

Before you jump the gun and declare that reading is a waste of time for a writer or that daily reading negatively impacts your own writing style (yes, some people use these arguments), here is a really important and interesting fact: When you read something that does not have pictures, your mind instantly uses your imagination to envision what is going on. The more you read, the more you utilize your imagination. This is something I learned while reading How to be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play by Barbara Baig. (This book was so influential to me, I added it to my Recommended Readings and Doings page.) When you exercise your imagination daily, it becomes easier to envision and create your own world through detail and description—even if the setting is an area that you made up 100%! So, it is crucial to all writers to read everyday in order to exercise your imagination and enable you to imagine your own stories. I know that this has helped me in several ways:

  1. I find myself more able to accurately describe action scenes cohesively. There was a time when I read back over some stories I had written in junior high when the flow of the scene went something like this: Samuel glared at Scarlet, his knife gripped in his hand. He made the first move and suddenly, she was on him. He pushed her to the floor and climbed off the table… Yeah. It was that bad. I wasn’t able to envision what was happening, so I tried to throw things together in the hopes that the reader would figure it out. Now, however, I would be more inclined to write something like this: Samuel glared at Scarlet, his knife gripped in his hand. He sprinted forward in the hopes of killing her quickly, but she pushed his weapon aside and flipped him onto a nearby table using his momentum against him. As he struggled to catch his breath, she threw herself on top of him, grabbing at his throat. He pushed her to the floor and climbed off the table… Much better. Now that I am able to imagine the event, I can describe the sequence of it without confusing the reader.
  2. I am able to describe things that do not exist. What does a city that is underground and made completely out of crystal look like? I can tell you (using a city from an old story of mine) that the city is fashioned like a giant stalagmite. It reaches up to the cavern ceiling as the people who live there continue to build up and out. Firelight flickers everywhere as it is reflected off of the crystal walls and doors. You can tell the wealthy from the poor, because the wealthy have cut and shaped crystal supports that fracture the light into thousands of gleaming rainbows, but the poor are left with the dirty, uncut raw crystal used to initially build their city. See? I can envision this place even though it does not and probably never will exist.
  3. I am able to incorporate clothing details that I’ve never been able to incorporate before. This one might seem like an odd one, but bear with me. When a person runs in my mind now, I can see not only their form running, but I can see their hair blowing out behind them and their clothing flapping in the wind. I used to only write my characters as running through forests without so much as a scratch. However, now I’m able to see them running and their hair getting caught in bushes and branches. Their clothing catches on the underbrush and tears. Depending on how fast they are going, they will have green wispy lines across their bodies and their faces due the  the leaves smashing against them, releasing their chlorophyl.

Hands down, reading every day helps my imagination be more active, which helps me when I write my stories. If this seems tedious to you as well, read things that you enjoy. I find that when I read books the same genre of what I am writing at the time, I get a better understanding of how that particular genre operates. You don’t like that? Read what interests you. Bring out the YA novels or the steamy romance. Crack open an adventure novel or slink into the shadows of a mystery. Make sure you’re reading things you want to read because you enjoy them, and not because it’s just for work or just for writing. I don’t call my reading time my “I-need-to-read-so-I’ll-read-something Time.” I call it “Relaxation with a Book Time.” Read what interests you, and make sure it’s enjoyable. Just be sure that there are no pictures. Don’t cheat your natural ability to imagine what people and places look like by looking at someone else’s representation of it.

That being said, it’s important that a writer both writes and reads every day in order to hone your skills to be the best you can be.

Thanks for reading!

Do you get these two things in a day? How do you write every day? What do you read?

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Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey, Freelancing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update III

Hello, everybody!

First of all, I would like to apologize for not being able to post for a long time. My senior year of college swallowed up my life, chewed it up, and then spat it back out. Though, as tedious as it was and how painstakingly long it took, here are the updates on my life for the past few months:

  • I GRADUATED COLLEGE WITH MY DEGREE IN ENGLISH WRITING!!!! Not only did I manage to survive my final year at Oklahoma Christian University, but I managed to snag a 3.64 GPA, which put me graduating as Magna Cum Laude! So, I hope you’ll forgive my absence, but take this information knowing that my time away was being put to good use.
  • I HAVE 8 MONTHS UNTIL MY WEDDING! After having been engaged since December 2010, it feels so nice to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, even though I graduated and have plenty of free time (until I get a job, but even then I’ll still have evenings), I will be working on planning the wedding of my dreams.

But don’t worry; I’ll try my hardest to keep up with the blog! However, that being said, I need to go through and make some renovations. I have a few series’ that I started but never finished–these will be removed from the blog until I can continue them properly and not in the haphazard fashion that I had been adding to them. I’ve removed the CCNF series from my site because it needs some serious work, but once I work out the kinks, I’ll repost it as a new series (even the name needs work).

I also want to make the blog more interactive with you guys! So, I’ll be putting up a new page called Freebies located under the “For Your Own Journey” tab that will have links to all content that is free for you guys to download that I’ve posted to the blog. This is in part because I realized that even though I gave you guys a free copy of my character bio sheet, you have to dig for the link by sorting through older posts. So, I’ll put it in the page for you guys. To make it even more interactive, I’ll probably end each post with either some questions that you all can answer in the comments, or I’ll stick up a poll and start up a conversation in the comments.

Also, I’ve been thinking about hosting some writing contests and such.

Tell me what you think! Do these changes sound good to you? Do you have any suggestions that I can consider about changing the blog or adding to it? How have you spent the past few months?

Categories: The Journey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

3 Things You Should Be Doing (Are YOU?)

There are many things that we, as writers, can do to improve our writing. Unlike many professions, ours is one that changes in dynamic and criterion. So, in order to be a top-notch writer, we need to actively be improving. There are many things you can do to improve including going to lectures, taking classes, attending conventions, etc., but these three things, you can (and should) do every day.

Write Every Day

It is imperative to write every day. Why? Because it stimulates your brain and gets your creative juices flowing. It is always a good habit to have. I’ve found that when I devote some of my time to writing, I hit writer’s block less often. If you’re at a loss at how you can write every day, there are several things you can do:

  • Blog–blogging is a great way to write every day. You can make a blog about virtually anything. A good tip is to make a blog about something that you’re passionate about so that you don’t get bored with it. 
  • Journal–I keep a journal for all of the adventures I go on. Whenever I travel, whenever I eat new foods, and whenever I do something I’ve never done before, I jot it down in my journal so that I can use my experiences in my writing.
  • Work on a project–I always keep a project open to work on be it a manuscript or a new idea or an outline.

You can do any of the above, just as long as you make sure that you write every day. It also helps to set aside a time to write in which you will not be disturbed. The amount of time that you write is up to you. Some writers suggest 2 hours, some say increments of 10 minutes at a time–I honestly prefer setting aside at least 2 hours that are devoted to writing. And, no, Facebook conversations don’t count.

Read Every Day

In order to stay on top of your writing, it’s a good idea to read every day. Not only is it fun, but reading expands your mental horizons and can give you an idea of where to begin. For example, if you’re thinking about writing a science fiction piece, pick up a science fiction novel or short story. Are you trying to figure out how to write a mystery novel? Grab one and read it. Wondering how characters would react to a certain character? Examine how other writers have written the interactions in their works.

Just be sure that you aren’t taking ideas from others. That’s a literary no-no. The purpose of writing every day isn’t to rip off other’s works but only to keep ideas flowing through your minds that you can adapt to fit into your own writing.

Connect

An easy way for people to follow along with your writing journey is to connect with the cyber world. Now-a-days, nearly everyone has a Facebook or Twitter. Posts, ideas, stories, and much more are shared all across social networks. Here are some examples that you can do to utilize these opportunities and stay with the times:

  • Set up a Facebook page for your writing. Be it a page of you as an author or a page dedicated to your blog; it’s up to you. I have a Facebook page for my blog, and my blog only, but I know a lot of writers who have set up pages for themselves to promote their writings. 
  • Set up a Twitter account. As many of you know, Twitter is a nice way to connect to other writers and to share your latest writings.
  • Sign up with Google+. Since Google+ is one of the newest social media sites, not many people really understand it. I like to think of it like this: You use Facebook to connect with people you know and use Google+ to connect with those you don’t know but would like to. It’s pretty useful to add people to different circles, and you can join communities that share the same interests as you. I’ve heard from many writers that they’ve actually been given freelance jobs because they contacted other writers and publications that were on Google+ (and trust me–there are a lot).
  • Get a LinkedIn account. It’s free, and it’s professional. This is where you can make connections with others in your profession. It can help you get connected with those that you need to such as publishers and agents. Think of it like a modern-day Rolodex. You can keep the contact information of job sources and agents on one nice, professional site.

There are many other options to connect to the cyber world, but these are a few of the most popular. The purpose of having them, however, isn’t to spam your followers with just your works and inquiries. This is how you connect with others and make bonds with them. Make friendships. Get connected. They will help you with your writing if you just ask, but you have to get to know them first.

Since social media tends to have an addictive quality to it, I suggest limiting your time on the sites. Give yourself no more than 30 minutes updating your statuses and connecting with others, because it’s easy to stay connected all day and neglect the other two things you should be doing: reading and writing.

(See my About the Author page if you’re interested in connecting with me.)

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Reader’s Choice Survey

Since I’ve finished the three part series about the 3 acts in writing, now it’s your turn to choose what post you want to see next! Just a reminder: this poll will only be open for 24 hours.

EDIT: The poll is now closed. The next post I will be creating for you guys will be about Flashbacks!

Thanks for taking the time to click and submit!

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating and Maintaining Conflict

Conflict is what drives your characters down the plot. It’s what boosts your story into being a world within itself. The nice thing about creating conflict is that it can virtually be anything. The trick to make it exciting and riveting is rather simple, too. To create a substantial conflict, you must first determine what your protagonist wants. Once you have that, you need to ask yourself: What prevents my character from getting what they want? It’s that simple.

Let’s say that Character X really wants to go to a concert. That is his goal. But, the concert is halfway across the US, and he doesn’t have the means to get there. These would be pretty big obstacles for him to over come. This is the conflict of the story. This is what the entire plot is based on. This leads us through the rising action and takes us right up to the climax.

However, be sure that your conflicts are actually conflicts and not just tension. For example, Rita just bought new shoes, fell down, and scuffed them–this isn’t conflict. It would be conflict if Rita just bought new shoes for her friend’s birthday, fell down, and the shoes landed in a puddle and she didn’t have the funds to buy more and must figure out another perfect gift. Conflict has to incite action from your characters. It must drive them forwards into the plot. If it doesn’t, it’s not conflict.

There are also different kinds of conflict. There are four standar types of conflict:

Protagonist vs. Antagonist

This is your mano a mano type of conflict between two characters. Your character has a want, a goal (like going to a concert), and another character stands in the way of your character’s goal (like parents who forbid your character from going to the concert.) In this type of conflict, you get to not only create a memorable protagonist, but you also get to develop a memorable antagonist as well.

Protagonist vs. Nature

This is the story about a character vs. a natural disaster, living off of the land, or even against animals. Take The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell for example. Karana’s main struggle living on the island alone is that she must defend herself from a pack of wild dogs–the same pack that killed her brother, leaving her the only human on the island. She must also survive by taking on the traditionally male roles of hunting and providing for the herself as well as the female roles of making clothing and cooking.

Protagonist vs. Society

This is the story of a protagonist vs. a larger, collective body of people. Some examples of this type of conflict can be found in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and also in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is the story in which the protagonist rebells against society and must deal with the consequences if they wish to keep their stance. This type of conflict is helpful if you want to write a story about societal issues that are either well known or not.

Protagonist vs. Self

This type of story takes place all inside your protagonist’s head. This type of conflict can be seen in many stream-of-consciousness writing such as William Faulkner’s Barn Burning or Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. There are plenty of outside forces at work, but the story itself if focused on how the character reacts to these forces.

As you write your story, don’t be alarmed if you find bits and pieces from all of these in your writing. Diversifying your types of conflict can and will enrich your writing and help the reader stay interested in following your characters through their problems. Just be sure that you don’t go overboard to the point that the reader is lost when it comes to what type of conflict the story is about.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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