Posts Tagged With: writing

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

An Awesome Mini-Conference You Should Attend

Hi, all!

I know that this is not a part of my series that I’m working on, but I feel that you should all be aware of a wonderful opportunity in the writing world.

On Oct. 19, Karen Ball will be the featured speaker at Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, OK at an all-day mini-conference. For those of you who don’t know, Karen Ball is a literary agent for the Steve Laube Literary Agency–a very prestigious agency! She also worked as an executive editor for various publishing houses over the past 30 years, and she’s also an author.

She is going to speak on four different subject: Write Your Passion & the Spiritual Side of Writing, How NOT to Get Rejected, Taming Fiction Dragons, and Everything You Want to Know About Editors, Agents, and Publishing (Q&A).

The mini-conference will start bright and early at 8:30 am and will continue until 4:30 pm. It is open to the public, but you must register to attend. Online registration is $50 and at-the-door registration is $60. The mini-conference will also allow you to submit a 20 page segment of your first chapter for local authors to take a look at and give you hints and tips for an additional $15 fee. Here is the event schedule:

SCHEDULE
 8:30am – Registration opens
8:30am – 9:30am Meet & Greet with Karen
9:30 – Welcome address
9:45-10:45am – Session One
10:45am – Break
11:00am-12:00pm – Session Two
12:00-1:00pm – Lunch on your own
1:15-2:00pm – Genre-Specific Discussion Groups
2:00-3:00pm – Session Three
3:00 – Break
3:15-4:15pm – Session Four

For those of you who are interested, here is the site with all of the information and the page with the registration link.

I hope you can all attend! (And, yes, I will be there!)

Thanks for reading!

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

A Word of Encouragement

Hello, my lovelies!

A thought occurred to me as I ate my dinner: I’ve spent a whole lot of my time telling you how to write, what to write, and giving you tips and such, but I haven’t given very much encouragement regarding hardly ANYTHING I’ve been telling you about. It severely displeased me that I had so obviously fallen short on this important task–after all, encouragement can be incredibly beneficial to a writer who is either stuck or second guessing their journey. So, here goes…

YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL AT WHAT YOU DO!

I’m not just saying that. You are doing what you are doing because you are good at it. Think back to the reason why you wanted to become a writer. It was probably because you felt at ease with writing. Or your friends and family gushed over how well you wrote. Or you had the determination to write about an idea from beginning to end because you wanted to.

I know every now and then things can get pretty tough for writers. We either hit writer’s block, the bane of our existence, or we are in some sort of financial distress be it big or small, or we just flat out don’t believe in ourselves. I know. There was a long time when I was sure that my writing skills would never get better from the cringe-worthy sappy mush I started out writing when I was younger. I was so convinced, I hid the stories I wrote from my family because I felt they were too stupid to see the light of day. And now I’m planning my wedding, and I’m a poor college student who recently thought that being a writer would never be able to be financially supporting. And don’t even get me started on writer’s block–I get that far too often.

But you know what I realized? I was writing not to prove my writing worth. Not to give me a steady income. Not to be an easy feat. I was writing because regardless of any of the three issues above, I could rise above it. And…I loved it. My fiancé pulled me aside when he noticed that my effort to create written art was getting pretty slack, and I confessed that I wasn’t sure that it was for me. He took my shoulders and looked me in the eye saying, “You know I don’t read hardly anything, but I love reading your stuff. You are so passionate about it that it just makes everything better. It doesn’t matter that you may not make the big bucks, it doesn’t matter that you may get writer’s block. You are good at what you do because you love doing it.”

YOU ARE ABLE TO DO WHATEVER YOU SET YOUR MIND TO

If you want to have your novel published, YOU CAN! That article you want to write for your favorite magazine? SEND THE QUERY! Not to sound pretentious, but take me for example. I was a closet writer for the vast majority of my writing career (like it ever was a career), and one day, I decided to sign up for the Professional Writing class the writing department that my college began to offer. After all, I had the wisp of a dream to be a published author, and that was professional, right? So, I attended to class, gladly soaking up all the knowledge that I could. After a semester of learning about all types of professional writing options, my wispy dream morphed into a more tangible dream to be a well known author through writing helpful articles for anyone who was looking for tips. That’s the same reason why I began this blog. Now, I’ve decided that I was to follow in my professor’s footsteps and not only write as a freelance writer and author, but I want to be a writing professor just like her.

This isn’t just a story of how I effortlessly jumped into an actual career of writing. It took 2 months for me to build up the courage to send my first query letter. I put it off, put it off, put it off because I was so unsure if I was ready for it. Was my idea good enough? Are my skills high enough? What should my name be?! (Yes, this was a serious issue for me.) Finally, when my professor asked if I had sent my query, I had to guiltily say no and give the reason why I hadn’t. Her answer was eye opening. She looked at me and said, “The worst they can do is say no. That’s it.” And that’s the truth for ANY WRITING. The worst anyone can say is that they won’t publish your work or that it isn’t what they were looking for. They aren’t going to whisper to other companies that your ideas were dumb. They aren’t going to sabotage your goals. They aren’t going to make a spectacle. All they can say is no.

Yes, many times your work WILL be rejected, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s pretty normal. My professor once told me of how a fellow writer wall papered the walls of his office with his rejection letters. That’s right. The rejection letters. If it means anything to you, the same query that took me 2 months to send was rejected. I saved the letter and resubmit my query to a different magazine who also rejected it. BUT, the second company agreed to send me early notification when they were opening up their submissions for the next issue they would publish.

The point of this kind of long example is that you CAN do it. You have the ability and the integrity for it. All you have to do is try. If your idea is accepted on the first go, that’s great! If not, it’s ok. Save that rejection letter and try again. That way, when your idea is finally accepted (because it will be), you can show the world how many times you got back up and tried again.

Don’t cheat yourself because you are discouraged. Do what you love with the knowledge that you are able to do it.

I honestly hope this is inspiring to you. Some of you may not need it, and some of you may feel that this came at just the right time. Either way, thank you so much for taking the time to read my words. Believe it or not, you guys encourage me every day. Every time I see that someone has viewed my page, or liked my post, or followed my blog, it helps me believe that this is what I can do. Because I love writing just like you do. So, thank you so much.

 

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey, Freelancing | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Tips on Tone

Tone can be a bit tricky. Since it’s the product of several different things, it’s one of the more allusive tools that a writer can use. The trick is to figure out how to manipulate these different factors so that you wind up with type of tone you’re going for.

The main questions you want to ask yourself before you begin is: What tone do I want my story to give off/What tone do I want this scene to give off?

Once you’ve decided, you can begin manipulating the three key factors.

Imagery and Setting

Imagery and setting will lend themselves to the tone more than any of the other factors. Depending on how you describe what is being seen in your story, the readers will pick up on the tone you’re trying to convey. Where are they? An abandoned house? A field of blooming daisies? What’s the weather like? All of these and more will build to show the reader tone.

For example, Alexander peered out of the dust-caked window, and a chill slithered down his spine. Cobwebs floated in the corners and on the door frames, dancing in the draft of the old house. He jumped at a sudden flash of light and cowered at the resounding boom shook the panes, sounding like old bones.

Now, Sammy flung her arms out as she spun, her dress swirling like a ballerina’s tutu. The sunlight warmed the ground under her bare feet, and the bright flowers gave the sweetest smell. Her woven crown slipped over her eyes and she giggled.

See how imagery and setting lend themselves to the overall tone? Both examples were only three sentences, and you can clearly tell that the first has a creepy tone and the second has a childish joy.

Narrator

How you use the narrator will add to the tone as well. What is he like? Is he happy? Is he sad? Is he angry? What’s the POV (point of view) that you show him in? All of these things add to the tone. If the narrator is happy, he wouldn’t describe the setting to be dark and gloomy; if the narrator is sad, he wouldn’t describe the setting to be peppy and cheerful. Is the reader seeing through the narrator’s eyes, or is the reader looking over his shoulder? How you narrate the story will effect the tone. It may be small, and it may be huge; it’s all up to you.

Type of Story

The type of story that you are creating has a large part in the type of tone you will wind up with. Horror stories usually have eerie tones, Mystery stories usually have suspense tones, Science Fiction stories usually have either naive or knowledgable tones, etc. Once you decide what kind of tone you want your story to have, you can fashion your story into the style of story that would best suit it. If you’re writing a story that winds up having more suspense in it than what you were originally going for, you could refashion it into a thriller. If it winds up making you glance into dark corners as you go to bed, you may want to refashion it into a horror novel if it isn’t already.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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

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