Monthly Archives: September 2017

7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio

You have just opened your email from the magazine you submitted your article to. You read the email you have been hoping for and dreaming of: “Hey there, we want to publish your article. Please reply with a fifty-word killer bio. We will post it at the end of your article. You can include up to three links.”

Wow, your writing has been accepted! Now you have to say who you are.


Writing your biography can seem almost as challenging as writing the piece you submitted. But it is a necessary part of publishing your writing. How will your readers know who wrote your wonderful article if you do not tell them?

7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio

A good place to find examples of other writers’ biographies is right here on The Write Practice. You can meet the Write Practice team on the About page. The Write Practice also includes bios with all guest posts (you can click on any post on this page to read the author’s bio).

But you do not need a bio from the About page of The Write Practice. You need a bio for your own amazing article that is being published soon. So now it is your turn to write a killer bio.

Let me share with you seven tips on how to write a bio.

1. Write your name

Start with your name. Might seem obvious, but you want to make sure readers know who you are.

2. Share your accomplishments

Don’t be shy. Say what you have done. You can mention things like where you went to school and where you have been published. This is not a time to brag or list every award you won since grade two. Pick the ones that are relevant and recent.

For example:

Mary Jones, a graduate of ____________, had been published in____________ and ______________.

If this is your first publication, you can say:

Mary Jones, a graduate of _______________, writes about ________________ and ______________.

3. Use third person

Write in the third person, even if you are the one writing it.

Instead of saying, “I have lived in Tokyo and have six cats,” say, “Pamela has lived in Tokyo and has six cats.”

4. Say something personal

End with a personal statement about you. See the ending of these examples.

Here is Stephen King’s biography from the back of his book On Writing. It has 65 words.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are 11/22/63, Under the Dome, Lisey’s Story, Duma Key, Cell, Dreamcatcher, Hearts in Atlantis, and Bag of Bones. He was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Stephen King’s biography begins with his name and then lists his accomplishments. But it ends on a more personal note. Now you know that he lives in Maine and his wife is a novelist. This helps you to connect with him as a regular human being, not just a very accomplished celebrity.

(His biography is long, though. If you were Steven King, and they said, “Mr. King, you have only fifty words,” what would you take out?)

Or read this biography from the back of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This one is 42 words.

Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, The Afghan Campaign, The Profession, The Warrior Ethos and Turning Pro, among others. He lives in Los Angeles. In 2003, he was made an honorary citizen of Sparta in Greece.

If I wanted to know what books Steven Pressfield wrote, I could look up his page on Amazon. But I would not know to look up whether he was made an honorary citizen of Sparta in Greece.

Take a look at this one, from the back inside cover of Jon Acuff’s new book Finish. This has 49 words.

Jon Acuff is the New York Times bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Do Over, among other books. He is a popular public speaker, blogger, Tweeter, and the creator of the “30 Days of Hustle” online challenge. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jenny, and their two daughters.

Jon Acuff’s biography tells me about his accomplishments. Then it ends with a note about his family. It is a good idea to share a piece of personal information about yourself so readers can connect with you.

5. Be funny

Include humor if it fits the publication you are submitting to. Remember, you don’t want to make off-color jokes in your biography, so pretend your mother is reading it.

Unless, of course, it is for an adult magazine. Then you can write humor that fits that publication.

6. Link to your writing

Use only one link. Decide what is the most important place you want your readers to find you. Twitter? Instagram? Your blog signup list?

If you only have one link, have it go to your blog signup page. An email list is the most important, as it gives you direct access to make friends with your readers. You own your blog; you don’t own Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Unless, of course, you are Ev Williams, the director and co-founder of Twitter, or Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

7. Follow the rules

Follow the rules. If they ask for a fifty-word biography, don’t give them 324 words. Stick to fifty.

Bonus Tip: Be Yourself

It can seem intimidating to write a killer bio. But you are a writer. You have already written an article or story so amazing that someone wants to publish it.

Do not stress about this. Now you know how to write a bio, and you will write an amazing one.

Do you have any tips for how to write a bio? Let us know in the comments.

Source: thewritepractice
by Pamela Hodges

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing


How to Write a Book in 100 Days

Let’s start with the obvious: You don’t know how to write a book. I’ve written seven books, and I don’t really know how to write a book either. I have a process that works, sure, but with writing, as with many things in life, it’s always when you think you know what you’re doing that you get into trouble.

So let’s just admit right now, you don’t know how to write a book, and definitely not in 100 days, and that’s okay. There, don’t you feel better?


There’s this one moment I think about all the time. I had just finished work—I had this horrible desk job at the time—and as I was getting ready to go home, I felt this urge come over me to become a writer. I had felt like I wanted to become a writer before, for years actually, but in that moment, it was all-consuming. Have you ever felt like that before?

And so, instead of going home, I got out a blank piece of paper, and I stared at it. I stared at that blank piece of paper for a really long time. Because I was looking for a book. Ifif only I could come up with the perfect idea, if only I could write a book, then I’d finally feel like a writer.

But I couldn’t think of anything, or at least nothing worthy, and after staring at that blank piece of paper for an hour with nothing, I gave up. In that moment, I felt like I was further from my goal to become a writer than I ever had be. I was so discouraged.

I was discouraged because I didn’t know how to write a book.

Honestly, I might still be there today if I hadn’t had a few lucky breaks and several mentors to teach me the process of how to write a book.

9 Writers Who Finished Their Books in 100 Days

You might say you’re not able write a book in 100 days. You might worry that you’re not able to write a book at all. But I don’t believe that. I honestly believe that everyone can write a book, and I’m not just saying that. I believe it because I’ve done it.

In fact I wrote my first book in fewer than 100 days. I wrote my latest book in just sixty-three days.

I’m not alone, either. I’ve worked with hundreds of other writers to write their books, too. Here are just a few:

Sef Churchill decided to write her book in 100 days “on an impulse one Thursday night.” She followed my process, and by Sunday had committed to an idea. How did it go? “Now I have a book,” she says, “a book which before that first Sunday, I had not even dreamed of.”

Ella J. Smyth wrote two of her Romance novels in a little over a 100 days. She talks about her experience, and the power of accountability, here.

Nathan Salley set aside one day a week to write his book, and in that restricted amount of time he was able to finish his book in less than 100 days. You can read about Nathan’s experience (and his next steps into publishing) here.

When Margherita Crystal Lotus told me her sci-fi/fantasy mashup novel was going to be over 100,000 words, and that she was going to do it in 100 days, I had a few doubts she would be able to finish it in time. But she did finish in time, a few days early in fact. And now she’s about to publish the finished book. You can read more about her novel The Color Game here.

Kira Swanson rewrote her novel, which she finished in NaNoWriMo, expanding it from a 70,000-word first draft into a 100,000-word second draft. She recently pitched it to agents and had five of them ask to see the finished manuscript.You can read more about her novel revision experience here.

Sandra Whitten was feeling lost and unprepared in the midst of her first book. But after she signed up for our course, she began writing every day for the first time and finally finished her book. You can read more about Sandra’s experience here.

Fran Benfield said that before she signed up for our program, she was “drowning in a sea of words” (I can relate to that feeling!). But she did finish, and found her voice through the process. You can read about how she wrote her memoir here.

Uma Eachempati had been wanting to write about her father’s experience as a prisoner of war during World War II for years. She finally finished it in August, writing it in less than 100 days!

Doug Smith told me he had been thinking about his idea for a novel, Phoenix Searching, “for more years than I care to admit to.” By following our process, he finally finished his novel in May! “What I thought was a long shot,” he says, “turned out to be totally doable.”

These writers have finished their books in less than 100 days, and the reality is you can too. You just need to have the right process.

How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 5 Steps

What did these writers do differently? How do you actually write a book in 100 days? There are five steps:

1. Commit to an idea.

Having an idea is easy. Committing to an idea isn’t, especially if you’re like most writers I know and have dozens of them!

The first step to writing a book is to commit to executing—no matter how you feel about your writing during the process, no matter how many new ideas you come up with in the meantime, no matter what other important things come up. You have to commit to finishing no matter what.

2.  Create a plan.

I’ve found that the people who have planned are much more likely to finish their books. A plan doesn’t have to look like a detailed outline, though, so if you’re not into plotting, that’s okay.

Here are a few things your plan should include:

  • Word count. How long will your book be? Divide that by how many days you have to write: e.g. there are about 71 weekdays in 100 days.
  • Intention. Where will you write each day? How long will you write each day? Visualize yourself writing there for that long.
  • Publishing and Marketing process. Not because you need to know that now, but because by thinking about it and visualizing it, you improve your chances of actually getting there.

If you think through each step of your book, from your initial idea through the writing process to the publication and marketing of your book, you’ll be much more prepared when the writing goes wrong (because it will).

3. Get a team.

Most people think they can write a book on their own. Most people think they don’t need support or encouragement or accountability to write a book. And that’s why most people fail to finish their books.

That was me. I used to think that I could do it own my own. Honestly, I thought I had no choice but to do it on my own. And I failed again and again and again.

Don’t be most people. The great writers throughout history wrote in the midst of a community of other writers. You need a community, too.

A team might look like:

  • A writer’s group
  • A writing course or class
  • An editor or mentor

When you get stuck, as you inevitably will, it’s your team who will help you get unstuck. Don’t start writing your book without one.

4. Write badly every day.

Your first draft will not be perfect. Far from it. You may not be able to stand how bad your writing is. Your sentences might come out as deformed monsters. Your story or logic might go off on strange tangents. You may feel like everything you write is stupid, shallow, and boring.

Write anyway.

It always starts out like this. Writing is iterative. Your second draft will be better than your first. And your fifth draft will be better than your second.

Write badly all the way to the end. You can fix it later.

5. Get accountability.

I had been writing my latest book for two years, two unproductive years of feeling bad about myself all the time for not writing. This was my seventh book. I should have known how to write a book by now. I didn’t.

It took two writing friends calling me out (see step 3) for me to finally realize I needed to take drastic measures.

And so I wrote a check for $1,000 to the presidential candidate I disliked the most (this was during the 2016 election), and gave it to a friend with orders to send the check if I missed my deadline. I’ve never been more focused in my life, and I finished my book in sixty-three days.

Pretty good accountability, right? Most writers need deadlines and accountability to stay focused and do the hard work of writing.

You Can Try to Do This on Your Own, But You Probably Won’t

Have you ever tried to write a book and failed? I have. Many many times over. My biggest mistake was trying to do it alone.

Honestly, it wasn’t until I hired a coach and found a writing mentor that I finally finished my first book.

If you want to write a book, I would love to help you. Tomorrow, I’m launching a new program called the 100 Day Book program. Over the course of 100 days, I’ll guide you through the writing process, and by the end of the 100 days, you’ll have a finished book.

Have you finished writing a book? What was the most important thing that enabled you to finish? Let us know in the comments!

Source: thewritepractice
by Joe Bunting

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing


Where Do Successful Authors Get Their Most Brilliant Writing Ideas?

When it comes to developing worthwhile writing ideas, it’s either feast or famine for most of us. Some writers have so many ideas, we can’t decide which one to pursue. Other writers struggle to find something worth writing about; they don’t have enough ideas.

And even if you have a compelling idea, the idea itself might not sustain a story or a poem. It’s not enough to have a concept: you need characters, settings, plots, subplots, and themes.

When writers are at a loss for ideas, they often self-diagnose with writer’s block. I believe that’s a misdiagnosis. People struggling with writer’s block aren’t at a loss for ideas. Many are merely dismissing their own good ideas (often because they aren’t perceived as original enough), or they don’t want to put a lot of effort into looking for ideas. I also think that poor health or stress are sometimes misread as writer’s block, in which case the only cure is to take better care of oneself.

However, for the rest of us who are struggling to find the right ideas, there’s no shortage of sources we can turn to for inspiration. Why not start at the top? Why not find out where some of the most successful authors have gotten their brilliant writing ideas? If that doesn’t inspire us, I don’t know what will.

No Imagination Necessary

First, let us dispel the myth that if you want to be a writer, you must have a vivid imagination. Plenty of writers have found success by being simple observers.

Mark Twain is a shining example. His idea for Huckleberry Finn wasn’t an idea at all; he simply based the character on someone he knew from real life. It turns out that the beloved character was practically a replica of Twain’s childhood friend, Tom Blankenship:

“In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us.” — Mark Twain

Have you ever known someone with a standout personality? Such a person can influence your work in the same way that Tom Blankenship influenced Mark Twain.

Political, Religious, and Social Commentary

Of course, Mark Twain is not the only author to successfully draw from real life. During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of people migrated from the Dust Bowl to California and other western states. John Steinbeck (one of my literary heroes) told their story in The Grapes of Wrath, which was developed from a series of articles that ran in the San Francisco News in 1936.

But it was more than a story about people struggling with poverty in a downtrodden economic climate:

“I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects].” — John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is a thoughtful commentary on social injustice and the forces behind poverty and oppression.

In today’s world, which is rampant with political, religious, and sociological commentary, one need not look far for writing ideas. If you can find an issue that matters to you, just look to the news and documentaries for true stories that you can use for inspiration.

Dreaming Things Up

Creative people from all walks of life from artists to inventors have found answers and ideas within the magical world of dreams. One of the most successful living authors of our time, Stephen King, attributes a dream as the inspiration for Misery, a novel that was also made into a film and an off-Broadway play:

“Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream…I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer’s skin. I said to myself, ‘I have to write this story.’ Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel.”– Stephen King

Unfortunately, many of us don’t remember our dreams, and if we do, they’re hazy at best. Luckily, there are some proven techniques to help us learn how to remember our dreams. Try a few of them and see if you can’t get your next big writing idea while you’re sound asleep.

Making Connections

Suzanne Collins broke the mold with The Hunger Games, arguably the most successful post-Harry Potter series to date. The books captured the hearts and minds of untold millions of young adult readers, and the films turned the story into a cultural phenomenon. So how did she do it? Where did Collins get the idea for a dystopian, young adult novel set in a future where citizens are required to tune in to an annual reality show so they can watch teenagers fight to the death in an oversized arena?

“One night, I was lying in bed and I was very tired, and I was just sort of channel surfing on television. And, I was going through, flipping through images of reality television where there were these young people competing for a million dollars or a bachelor or whatever. And then I was flipping and I was seeing footage from the Iraq War. And these two things began to sort of fuse together in a very unsettling way, and that is when I, really, I think was the moment where I really got the idea for Katniss’s story.” — Suzanne Collins

Look at the world around you. There are unimaginable things happening everywhere. Some are horrific; others are endearing or bizarre. What connections can you make in the world today to prompt yourself to imagine what the world will be like tomorrow?

No Excuses! Writing Ideas Are Everywhere

So much for writer’s block — and so much for imagination. We writers need only be influenced and inspired by the world (and the people) around us.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” — Neil Gaiman

You know what that means: no more excuses! You’re a writer, so go out there, find your writing ideas, and then write. Write your hearts out.

Source: writingforward

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Got Writer’s Block? 23 Creative Writing Activities That Don’t Involve Writing

Writer’s block happens. And let me be clear: I don’t believe in writer’s block as an excuse for not writing. Most of the time, when a writer self-diagnoses writer’s block, it’s really a case of I-should-be-writing-but-I’d-rather-be-doing-something-else or my-muse-has-left-the-building-and-I’m-too-lazy-to-look-for-her.

There’s never an excuse for not writing, but there are times when the best course of action is to take a break and do something else. If you’ve been writing all day, then you deserve a break. If you pumped out 10,000 words this week, then you deserve to put down your notebook or step away from that work-in-progress, give your writing muscles a good rest, and engage in non-writing activities.

What you’re about to get are a bunch of writing activities that don’t require you to sit at your computer staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end.

But you’re still a writer, so here’s the catch: you tackle these activities in a way that only a writer would.

23 Writing Activities That Don’t Involve Writing (but Involve Thinking Like a Writer)

Leave your keyboard, notebook, and pen behind, but keep your writerly head on your shoulders as you scoot through these creative writing activities. The idea is to engage in actions that can shape and inform your writing, so try to look at everything through your writer’s lens.

  1. Read. This is the most obvious non-writing writerly thing you can do. Catch up on your subscriptions, pick up a good novel, or take a stab at reading a book on writing. Don’t forget to put your feet up!
  2. Observe. Do a little people-watching at your favorite café or at a park. Listen in on some interesting conversations and get ideas for dialogue. Notice people’s body language so you can bring it into your narrative.
  3. Get up and move that body. Yes, the writer’s creed in the 21st century is butt In chair, but if you want to keep that butt in shape, you’ve got to get off it every once in a while. Go for a walk, do a little dance, make a little love.
  4. Cook and/or eat. But here’s the catch — make it something special: one of your favorite dishes or restaurants or that new recipe you’ve been dying to try but just haven’t had time. Cooking and eating are sensual activities (because they engage your senses!), so think up descriptions for the food. How does it look, taste, sound (sizzle), and smell?
  5. Watch a movie. There are tons of great films about writers. Here are a few to get you started: Misery, Stranger Than Fiction, or Throw Mama from the Train.
  6. Do a crossword puzzle. This is kind of a cheat because you sort of have to write to fill it in (unless you’re using a digital crossword). Word puzzles are a great way to build your vocabulary!
  7. Play a game. I love logic games. Clue is my favorite because it’s a thinking game and you get to make a matrix (f only making a matrix was as cool as it sounds!). In any case, there are lots of brain-games that promote thinking. Play them.
  8. Take a stroll down memory lane. Have you ever set aside some time to go through your old notebooks and files? It’s enlightening on many levels. You’ll come across that poem that you always thought was so profound only to discover that now it sounds like a tween rant. You’ll stumble over a short story you thought sucked but now makes you laugh. You’ll realize how much your writing has improved, but you’ll also find treasures that showcase your raw talent. You might even find some old projects that are worth resurrecting.
  9. Remember your other hobbies? Now would be a good time to pick one of those back up, even if it’s just for the day.
  10. Fix your website. I mean it: fix your website. Log out of your site and then check it out as a visitor. I guarantee you’ll find something to add or update. Compare it against some of your favorite writers’ websites. Are you missing anything? Got too much going on?
  11. Work on your five-year plan. Some novelists spend a decade writing a single book. Surely, you can work out your writing (and non-writing) goals for the next five years.
  12. Geek out. You know that thing you used to be obsessed with (and maybe still are)? You know what I’m talking about. You bought the action figures. Yeah, go enjoy that some more.
  13. Try something new. Do something you’ve never done but have always wanted to do.
  14. Try something even newer — something you’ve never dreamt of doing. Maybe even something you’re a little scared of doing. Take a risk.
  15. Spend some time supporting fellow writers. Promote them on social media, buy their books, post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Head down to your favorite indie bookstore and buy a book.
  16. Attend an event. You know, a writing event. A poetry reading, a book signing, a lecture. Trust me, these events are a lot more fun and interesting than they sound.
  17. Watch a video on writing.
  18. Sharpen your pencils.
  19. Join a book club.
  20. Rearrange your office or writing space. Sometimes a change in your environment recharges your drive and creativity.
  21. Get some fresh air. Take that book or your iPod outside and soak up a little vitamin D.
  22. Learn a new skill. There are lots of skills you can master to give your writing career a boost: blog technology, social media strategies, query letter guidelines, copyright laws, marketing, and interview techniques.
  23. Read aloud. Let’s say you get published. You might have to do a book tour; you’ll probably do local signings. Even if you self-publish and do all your marketing online, you might have to do a phone or video interviews. So practice.

Pick and choose from any of these activities, and if you have any creative writing activities to add to this list, leave a comment. And keep writing.

Source: writingforward

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Creative Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Lovers

Today’s post includes a selection of prompts from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy!

In the world of creative writing, we’ve only begun tapping the possibilities in speculative fiction, a genre that includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, and superhero stories, as well as anything that ventures beyond known reality.

Speculative fiction is an under-recognized genre: academia and literary elitists traditionally haven’t given it much credence, although it has been gaining acclaim in recent years.

But the genre’s fans are rabid. In fact, you won’t find a more dedicated group of readers anywhere else, which makes reading and writing speculative fiction a delight.

Plus, it’s a lot of fun to step outside of reality and see just what your imagination can do.

You can write about knights and dragons, spaceships and far-off planets, the apocalypse, ghosts, or strange islands with magical properties. In the world of speculative fiction, anything goes.

The creative writing prompts below can be used in any way you want. Have fun with a freewrite, compose a poem, or draft a short story. Who knows? Maybe one of these prompts will inspire an idea for a novel. And if you’ve never given science fiction or fantasy a shot, this is your chance to test the waters and find out just how deep they are.

Creative Writing Prompts

The Speculative Fiction Edition*

  1. As passengers disembark from a transatlantic flight, they start to experience amnesia—all of the passengers except one. The farther they go from the plane, the more severe their amnesia becomes. Will they risk forgetting everything?
  2. Four friends on a nature hike discover a deep cave, complete with running water. As they go deeper and deeper into the cave, they find strange objects–human skeletons, an old computer from the early 80s, a gas mask, and strange mango-sized orbs that emit a glowing blue light.
  3. The earth has been ravaged by war, famine, disease, and devastating natural disasters. In less than a decade, the population has dwindled from seven billion to less than 42,000. There is no law or order. The grid is gone. Everyone is struggling to survive.
  4. The year is 1623. A visitor comes to a small, tribal village. The visitor is wearing blue jeans, an old rock-band tee shirt, and a fedora and is carrying a pack that contains a solar-powered laptop computer.
  5. Two children, a boy and a girl, decide to make a time capsule and bury it at the edge of a farm, under a big oak tree. While digging, they unearth a metallic object the size of a shoe box. It’s shaped like a bullet and has the number 8 engraved on it. It appears to be a container, since it rattles when they shake it. But there is no obvious way to open it.
  6. A man who sees ghosts checks himself into a mental institution, oblivious to the fact that the facility has been closed for almost thirty years.
  7. A surgeon who does not believe in miracles is diagnosed with an aggressive terminal illness and is given six months to live. Three years later, the surgeon is alive and perfectly healthy.
  8. A con man who convinces people they’ve been abducted by aliens and takes their money… is abducted by aliens.
  9. A deadly virus hits a highly populated metropolitan area, killing thousands of people. After it passes, those who survived start realizing they have acquired bizarre talents and abilities.
  10. A traveler picks up a souvenir, a strange and colorful rock with one side that is completely flat. As she goes about her travels, she realizes that when she has the rock with her, she can understand any language that people are speaking but can only speak her own native language.
  11. While on vacation on a tropical island, a young couple spots a strange bird that speaks their names. When the bird takes off, they decide to follow it.
  12. A sixteen-year-old growing up on a ranch is out in a storm, gets hit by lightning, and survives. After that, the kid can hear other people’s (or animals’) thoughts.
  13. A young girl starts having recurring dreams about a dragon. In one of the dreams, the dragon says, “You made me.” The girl becomes obsessed with dragons and decides her life purpose is to become a genetic biologist so she can, indeed, make a real dragon.
  14. A team of researchers in a submarine is caught in a deadly sea storm. The instruments on board go haywire. The submarine submerges deep into the ocean in search of calm waters until the storm passes. Afterward, the submarine surfaces, but the instruments are still not functioning properly. They can’t get a fix on their location or find land, which should be nearby. When night falls, the researchers realize there are two moons in the sky and the constellations are completely unfamiliar.

Remember, these creative writing prompts are meant to be inspiring. If one of them gives you an idea, run with it. You don’t have to stick with what the prompt says. Change the characters, the situation, or the setting. Just go with the flow, and keep writing. And if you have any creative writing prompts of your own, feel free to share them in the comments.

Source: writingforward


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6 Revealing Characterization Prompts to Know Your Character Better

Hi, fellow writers! I’m currently in New York City in the middle of a move, so this post will be short, sweet, and (hopefully) helpful. I now present six prompts to help you tackle characterization and get to know your characters better.

6 Revealing Characterization Prompts

Here’s the underlying principle: your characters are people. People are complicated; I suspect you might know a few. Characters are much the same way. Your reader will relate to them if they behave like people, and for characters to behave like people, they need to be built like people.

You need to know your characters like you do other humans, and these six prompts will help you pull that off.

Prompt One: Parental Relationships

Write about your characters as children responding to parental authority.

It doesn’t matter if your characters are children, adults, orphans, witches, fairies, or warriors. It also doesn’t matter if the “parents” are actual parents or just nuns and teachers, or military generals, or even just the Village Wise Woman Who Knew Everything And Had Old Gnarled Hands.

The relationship your character developed with those in loco parentis goes a long way toward determining how they respond to authority figures for the rest of their lives.

Did your character respect authority? Resent authority? Obey authority or rebel against authority? Were there some authority figures your characters loved and others they hated? Why? Why not?

Figure this out, and you’ll have an idea why your characters mouth off to their boss, or cringe away from the local magnate, or absolutely insist on treating the prince like just another guy.

Prompt Two: Sibling Relationships

Write about your characters as children responding to peers closer than friends.

Your character may be an only child, but that doesn’t matter; this is about always-there relationships, the other youths who influenced their lives. Siblings can be best friends or best enemies. They can be mild bullies, only to turn protector when real bullying is at stake.

They are a constant presence, and the development of that relationship influences the way your characters respond to people in their lives as adults.

How quickly do your characters let people in? Sibling relationships have a lot to do with whether they think anyone else can be trusted.

Prompt Three: Enemy Relationships as Children

Write about your characters as children responding to a bitter enemy.

Enemies look very different from childhood to adulthood, but that makes them no less serious. Kids have very distinct ideas about bad people. Those may be serious bullies, or terrible schoolmates, or even someone in their home. This is the person who would, your character knew, leave them to drown in an accident.

The way your character dealt with enemies in their youth has a lot to do with how they deal with them as adults because it involves assumptions about other people’s thoughts and emotions.

It also involves how your characters prepare to defend themselves, emotionally and physically, which is a whole other kettle of fish. “They always___” what? What does your character assume?

Prompt Four: First Love (or Near Miss)

Write about EITHER the first time your character fell in love OR the moment your character realized romantic love was not for them.

Did your character fall in love? Did it end badly or well? Was it returned? What did your character make of that whole mess?

Ah, but not everyone falls in love. Some folks are aromantic or asexual; it’s important to consider that when developing your character’s emotional path. Did your character not fall in love, in spite of expectation? How did that make them feel? What conclusions did your character draw from the experience?

Figuring this out will help you see how and why your characters respond to other people.

Prompt Five: First Grief

Write about your character’s first experience with death.

This doesn’t have to be a person, but it needs to include finality. The shock of being mortal; the loss of whoever or whatever died. The way your character wrestles with this can affect everything from their view on God to their personal level of paranoia or fear.

Knowing this will show you what your characters fight to avoid or run toward without hesitation.

This can be a hard topic to write about. Don’t pull away; let your character swim deep.

Prompt Six: Counting the Cost

Write about the moment your character realized what it would take to get the thing they want.

The goal itself can be as simple as a high school diploma or as complicated as another human being’s affection, as big as control over a country, or as small as a single blue diamond. This is the crossroads: when your character has the choice to pay the price and go after their goal, or not pay the price, leaving that goal behind.

This is important to know—especially since your character might not have thought this through before embarking on the quest.

Jumpstart Your Characterization

These six prompts are hardly all there is to your knowing your characters, but they’re a start, and if you follow them, you’ll have a much easier time writing a vibrant, relatable story. Remember, characterization is revealed through what your characters do, so put them in these tough situations and see how they respond. Good luck!

How do you get to know your characters? Let me know in the comments section.

by Ruthanne Reid

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Podcasts Vs. Audiobooks: Threats or Opportunities for Authors?

Audiobooks may be the fastest-growing format in book publishing, but podcasts are now the unexpected competition that the industry is being forced to battle. In 2015, there were 3.3 billion podcast downloads, and that number has been growing ever since. Podcasts, often filled with well-placed musical cues and documentary-style sound clips, make a worthy competitor for spoken books that could be a bit more cut and dry.

So, what’s an indie author to do in this environment? Should writers consider podcasts threats or opportunities? General Manager of, Ian Small, addresses the issues of the fast-growing category of audio formats. Small has a unique perspective on the way authors can evolve to keep up with the fast-paced growth of podcasts.

QUESTION: What are the key differences between audiobooks and podcasts in regard to who listens, how they listen and why they listen to each?

IAN SMALL: Podcast and audiobook listeners are a very similar audience: typically young, educated professionals who listen from their smartphones during in-car commutes. We’ve found that our audiobook listeners skew slighter older and female compared to the podcast audience, with a more disposable income: podcasts are free while most audiobooks are not.

Audiobooks bring books to life. Podcasts offer a timely content.
Today’s authors may choose to embrace both.

QUESTION: Does the audiobook industry view podcasts as a threat, or a completely separate entity in the space and why?

IAN SMALL: I embrace podcasts because they often serve as a gateway to audiobooks. Spoken word content in general has seen a recent explosion and the more people enjoying it, the better that is for the audiobook industry because it drives growth and engagement.

QUESTION: Have you seen audiobooks begin to evolve to keep up with podcasts? Or vice versa? How?

IAN SMALL: : Vice versa: podcasts are making strides to catch up to the high quality production and content that audiobooks have been offering for years. Podcasts aren’t just friends chatting in someone’s basement anymore – they’re well-produced, sometimes tightly scripted episodes, increasingly of narrative fiction. And sometimes, podcasts cross over entirely, as in the Welcome to Night Vale audiobook based on the podcast of the same name.

QUESTION: What do audiobooks offer to audiences that podcasts can’t?

IAN SMALL: : Audiobooks will always be distinct in their ability to bring pre-existing texts to life on a different medium. There’s nothing like having an author read to you the details from their memoir in their voice: it’s truly like they’re in the room – or car – with you, spilling all their secrets with an intimacy not communicated in print. And of course, the production value of audiobooks still trumps podcasts, especially considering some of the trends we’ve seen recently, like the ability to choose the gender of the narrator (e.g. Minecraft: The Island), cinematic audio effects, or choose your own adventure style books, all of which involve a significant investment from the publisher.

QUESTION: Of the two, which format do you prefer and why?

IAN SMALL: Audiobooks, of course – although I admit I’m biased! I love how audiobooks create immersive experiences and bring books to life. But I do enjoy podcasts that offer a timely take on sports, current events and pop culture; they help keep this middle-ager from feeling out of touch.

QUESTION: How has the industry changed over the past year?

IAN SMALL: The sheer volume of audiobooks produced in 2016 – up significantly from the year prior – is incredible to me, and 2017 is on pace to blow those numbers out of the park. The proliferation of media into connected spaces like the home and car has a lot to do with that, and is an exciting area for growth for this industry.

Source: digitalbookworld

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Self-Published Books in Bookshops: An Alternative View

Recently I blogged about how I believe, all things being equal, self-publishers shouldn’t bother with brick-and-mortar bookstores. If you talk to almost any mega-seller, uber successful self-published author – the kind who has made it into the headlines – bookstores don’t tend to even be on their radar, and why would they? One or two non-fiction exceptions aside, even the best outcome is just not worth the effort required. For novels, I just don’t see the point all.

But they ARE exceptions. The two most common are (1) you have a book with a local interest, (2) you have a book that only really works in physical format, e.g. a photography book. So today I’ve asked Lorna Sixsmith, an Irish writer whose books fall into the category of These Really Should Be For Sale in Shops, to tell you about her experience.

Welcome to the blog, Lorna. Tell us first a bit about your books. 

Thank you Catherine, my books are funny non-fiction farming books. Would You Marry a Farmer?, How to be a Perfect Farm Wife and An Ideal Farm Husband may sound slightly like marriage manuals of the past but they aren’t. They show what farming life is like and give plenty of tips for impressing your other half, your in-laws and your neighbours, all with tongue in cheek humor. The feedback I’m getting is that one person in the family starts to read bits aloud and before long, they are chatting about how similar they are to the circumstances in the book – usually with lots of laughter. That’s partly why they sell better as paperbacks than ebooks, they are used like coffee table books to dip into at times too. Those interested in social history enjoy them too – both for the insight into farming life but also for the research into farming lives in the past.

How did you self-publish them, i.e. did you use CreateSpace to create your stock?

While my books are available on Amazon’s CreateSpace, my own stock of books were printed locally by Naas Printing. It is a risk doing a large print run (and I know some authors use CreateSpace, FeedaRead and other print on demand services and order by the boxful) but I ran a crowdfunding campaign for my first book Would You Marry A Farmer?. It gave me the confidence to do a print run of a thousand books.

Why approach bookstores? Was that always part of your plan?

No, not at all. I had planned to sell my first book from my website and from some local farm and gift shops, and perhaps a few local bookshops. I hoped to sell the first print run and thought that would be it. Indeed, I was so unprepared that when Ryan Tubridy [ed note: host of one of the most listened to radio shows in the country] interviewed me about the first book a couple of weeks after publishing it, I never thought of contacting bookshops to say “Ryan Tubridy is interviewing me, would you like to stock my book?” Ridiculously daft especially as it was so near to Christmas. I contacted Argosy Books and Easons, Ireland’s two wholesalers, in the new year. Argosy stocked it from February and Easons from May. Once I realised that my books would sell reasonably well, it made sense to increase sales by getting my books stocked in bookshops.

Please take us through the steps involved into getting into (Irish) bookstores. 

I was lucky in that I didn’t have to visit bookshops on an individual basis as the two main wholesalers stocked my books. However, that is only half the battle as bookshop owners still need to know about your book to order it from the wholesalers. I relied on press coverage and direct emails to bookshops to increase awareness and orders.

I’d suggest that anyone thinking of trying to get bookshops to stock their book, get to know the staff in local bookshops while you’re still writing it. Buy books in there and converse with them occasionally on social media.

What do you need for the bookshop to say yes to stocking your book? It must be professionally edited and formatted with an attractive cover and well written blurb. It really should be almost impossible for anyone to tell the difference between it and any traditionally published book in that genre. I didn’t quite achieve that with my first book (my blurb and back cover was a bit lacking) but am pleased with my latter books. The book also requires an ISBN (purchased via Nielsen) and a barcode.

You also need to know that your book will sell. Bookshops won’t want it taking up shelf space if it isn’t selling. It has to earn its keep. You’ll increase your chances of getting it stocked if you can say that you have press coverage coming up such as an interview on local radio or a feature in the local paper.

When contacting either of the wholesalers, you’ll need a marketing plan with evidence of existing sales and press coverage to date. I had heard that existing sales of 250 books was a helpful starting point when approaching the wholesalers but I’m not sure if that is true or not. The chief buyer at Argosy had heard my interview with Joe Duffy [ed note: another very popular Irish radio host] – Liveline devotes one programme to self published authors just before Christmas each year – and said she was going to contact me which was nice to hear.

Authors should be prepared regarding their pricing. Wholesalers take 55% and in my experience,  individual bookshops take 35%. I think 35% is fair, they need to make money for stocking your book on their shelves and creating the sale. It’s important to know your costs so you can work out your profit if you sell via the wholesalers. There’s no point in getting the sales if selling them at a loss.

What are the advantages in being in bookshops?

Some believe that vying for shelf space in bookshops is a waste of time for self published authors and yes, perhaps many would be better concentrating on increasing sales on the online platforms such as Amazon and Kobo. Much depends on the genre though. I suspected, and as it turns out I was correct, that my books would sell in much higher numbers in paperbacks than as ebooks. My sales on CreateSpace far exceed the ebook sales.

While it is nice to be able to say your book is available in all bookshops, it’s just vanity if they don’t sell. It can be hard to get attention as your books won’t be placed on a centre table or within a 3 for 2 offer. Hence, you need readers to go in looking for your book (remember that people tend to need to hear about something seven times before they buy!) as well as browsers finding it on the shelf.

Having your books in bookshops gives them kudos and credibility. Some people do buy on impulse when they see a book in a shop, they like being able to flick through before making the purchase. A lot of readers expect to see books in bookshops. Not all like reading them as ebooks.

Approximately half of my sales have been via the wholesalers. The other half have been sales from my website, in gift shops, UK farm shops and I take a stand at the Ploughing Championships each year. I’ve been lucky with getting interviews during the Ploughing week each year which really helps.

What are the disadvantages (if any)?

I’m not sure if I’d describe them as disadvantages but there are certainly things that authors need to be aware of before they rush into it. No author wants to be left with 500 books in their attic for evermore.

The retail price of your books needs to be comparable to traditionally published books in that genre but if printing books in small volumes, it may be a challenge to make a profit if giving wholesalers 55%.

There is an element of risk in preprinting a large volume of books but there’s nothing like making you work on your marketing than seeing boxes of books in your hallway or spare bedroom. Just don’t print so many that the task seems impossible.

Much depends on the genre of your books – if you believe that your crime or romance novels will sell well as ebooks, then concentrate on marketing them as such.

If stocking bookshops individually, there’s a lot of work involved in maintaining records, invoicing, delivering books (as well as the cost of delivery). I stock some farm shops in the UK on an individual basis and some gift shops here and yes, it does take time. I tend to supply on a minimum order (as it’s just not worthwhile supplying a shop with three books given the postage costs) and on a sale or return basis. I’ve only have to take books back on a couple of occasions.

Payment isn’t as prompt as, for example, with Amazon. It’s a minimum of three months before payment is received from the wholesalers and it can vary with individual shops. Yes, sometimes I’ve waited up to nine months for payment but there aren’t any bad debts so far. To be fair, I’m not the best at sending reminders and some bookshop owners prefer to sell the vast majority of the books before they pay.

How does the profit margin compare to online sales (both of POD paperbacks and e-books)? Is it worth it?

I sell so few as ebooks that I just look on those sales as little monthly bonuses. I make the most profit on sales from my website. I’m currently offering free shipping on all website purchases.Sales to gift shops and farm shops deliver about 20%  more profit than sales on CreateSpace and sales to wholesalers deliver about 20% less than CreateSpace sales. However, of course, I don’t have any work to do with CreateSpace sales – no printing, no posting, and this is an advantage. There’s no risk of returns either.

For me, it has been worth it with about half of my sales coming from nationwide bookshops. Total sales to date are almost 3,000 of Would You Marry a Farmer?, almost all of the print run of 2,000 copies of How to be a Perfect Farm Wife have been sold and over 1,000 of the newest book An Ideal Farm Husband.

What advice would you give to a self-publisher wondering if they should approach bookstores?

Be prepared. Ensure your book is as professional as it possibly can be. Do your sums – know your retail price and what margin you’re prepared to give them. If possible, tell them about upcoming press coverage. Being a familiar face in the bookshop should help your case too.

If they say it’s not for them, don’t take offence. Be polite and gracious.

See if you can collaborate with other authors for any events in bookshops. One that worked well for me was arranging a “Rural Reads” evening in a local bookshop with other authors of rural / farm related books, we also secured an hour long interview on the local radio show’s farming programme.

Source: catherineryanhoward

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Why You’ll Never Arrive and What to Do Instead

There are three words that can kill any dream before it leaves the ground: “As soon as …” As soon as I finish this course … as soon as I get noticed … as soon as I revise … as soon as I get a marketing plan in place … as soon as the kids are in school … as soon as I ride the glitter pony of creativity … and on and on.

Yes, it is helpful to have action steps that inform your forward motion, but for too many of us who want to do creative work, we’re waiting on something that isn’t really keeping us from our writing. Our real barriers are beliefs that tell us we have to wait for the right conditions, along with the false assumption that one day we’ll “arrive” at our goal of being a successful writer and the need to create will feel satiated.

Newsflash: those “right” conditions and that “perfect” moment are not coming.

What I Thought I Needed

I spent this summer in a fundamentals of fiction course, which might seem strange since I teach a similar course. Why did I take it? I wanted to review the building blocks of fiction writing.

It’s a good idea, but a nagging thought kept surfacing: I need this because I probably missed something on my way here, and as soon as I finish this course, I’ll feel more confident about my writing.

The class was well-executed and the exercises and feedback were helpful. But at the end, I didn’t feel any more confident than when I began. In fact, I found there were a few more things I wanted to improve. I didn’t learn what I had expected (the magic sauce that would fix all the things, which doesn’t exist), but I did learn more about myself as a writer.

It reminded me that I am always going to be a student. Learning, like writing, has no concrete finish line. (I know, I know, there’s publication or the book deal, and I’ll discuss that in a moment.)

We have to get familiar with the discomfort of always being a work in progress.

When we see a weakness in our writing, it needn’t send us into despair and a long list of things we need to finish before we become a successful writer (or a writer at all). It is evidence that we’re growing, and that’s a good thing.

The most important thing we need? To keep reading and writing. Take the course, read the book, enter the contest, and keep writing. Don’t let anything become a barrier to your consistent practice.

But After I Publish …

Maybe you believe that once you publish, the work will get easier. Then you’ll know you’re a successful writer. I believed this once too. Let’s consider the words from a couple writing giants:

In Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he states:

“I have spent a good many years since [publishing]—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write.”

Ashamed of what he published for a time? What? That doesn’t sound like publication was ultimately satisfying in and of itself. He’s not alone either.

After the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee was shocked by the book’s success. In a 1964 interview, she said,

“You see, I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird … I hoped for a little but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

If Stephen King and Harper Lee can admit they didn’t feel like they’d “arrived” once they published, I think I can safely accept I won’t feel that way either. Publication is just one more mile marker on my writing road, and it will be in my rear-view mirror as quickly as it came.

The Successful Writer’s Substitute for “As Soon As”

Instead of waiting to be ready or to depend on some external measure of success, I need to know why I’m writing and to keep working to create work that is satisfying.

Stephen King said it best in one more quote from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”

If you’ve been waiting for something to change or putting all your worth in a single far-off accomplishment, release yourself from that pressure. It’s as simple as committing to daily practice: one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Celebrate the small wins, like investing fifteen minutes in your craft today.

What “as soon as” moment has been keeping you from writing lately? Share in the comments.

Source: thewritepractice

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3 Keys to Avoid the Rejection Pile

After spending years of your life writing a story, you don’t want it to be rejected in the first sixty seconds by an editor. Using pink paper for your novel manuscript submission or dressing like a chicken for your audition on America’s Got Talent both might get you attention, but it is not the attention you want.

How do you avoid the rejection pile and get your writing published?

Let the quality of your written work, and the richness of your singing voice, be what the editors and judges remember. Keep the pink paper for an art project and the chicken costume for a dress up party.

How to Keep Your Writing Out of The Rejection Pile

Rejection happens. Every writer gets rejected. The only way to stay out of the rejection pile completely is to never share your writing (and you should definitely share your writing).

But there are three things that matter if you want to avoid rejection (recognizing you will never escape it completely).

1. Presentation Matters

Follow the rules and guidelines: Research the publication or contest you want to submit to. Like, really research them.Find out what other books the agent has represented, and submit to the agent who represents similar work. Be specific. Your letter is not a mass mailing. You are talking to a person, a specific person.

Stick to the word count. If the publication asks for 750 words, give them 750 words. If they want twelve-point type, double spaced, in Times New Roman, write in twelve-point type, double spaced, Times New Roman.

Format your manuscript to industry standards: indent paragraphs, no line breaks between paragraphs, proper punctuation for dialogue, white paper, and black ink.

Do not send a stained, dog-eared manuscript that was rejected by a different publication. The editor receiving the document may be inclined to think of your submission in a negative way, as in, “No-one else wanted this.”

Noah Lukeman, a literary agent, gives a detailed list of writing errors that will keep an editor from reading your manuscript, in his book, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. The list includes; a weak opening, too many adjectives, and adverbs, telling and not showing, weak characterization, and lifeless settings.

The best way to improve your writing is to write and read. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Read books on best-seller lists. An agent represented them, a publisher bought the book and published it. Read more than one book, read and read and read. Then write and write and write. And read.

The best way to avoid the rejection pile is to read The Write Practice and practice. (smile, right Joe?)

2. Content Matters

When I was a child I watched my cousin Laura iron each individual paper for her writing term paper on the ironing board, she said, “It will give the paper more volume.” She never told me about how to write a strong essay, or what her paper was about. She was concerned about the presentation.

Please don’t iron your manuscripts.

If you are submitting your article online in a digital format, make sure to use the proper file format, and to write in the subject line of the text as instructed by the editor. If they ask you to say, “Hodges_Essay_2017,” then type, “Hodges_Essay_2017”

Make sure you have no spelling errors or grammar mistakes in your cover letter, and in your manuscript. I know that might seem obvious. Of course, you are going to proof your piece. I use the free software, Grammarly, it helps me catch typing errors or missed punctuation. Read your piece out-loud, and your cover letter out-loud. Does it say what you want to say? Does it sound like you? Have a friend read it.
Take time and do not hurry.

There is no such thing as a great writer; there are only great re-writers.
— Noah Lukeman, The First Five Page.

Edit your story for content and for word choice. Editing your work like a New York Times Publisher will help you write precisely and hopefully get your piece out of the rejection pile. 

3. Being Brave Matters

It is important to submit your writing. If you are entering a contest, the deadline will help you finish your piece. Every time you finish a story, you are a winner, because you are getting better as a writer with each story you write and finish.

Submitting the story is winning, because you faced rejection and still shared your story.

Right now I am taking a Master memoir class with Marion Roach Smith, we meet once a month for six months. Each of the seven students reads their 750-word piece, and then we offer comments on each other’s work. At the end of the six months, I will have a finished manuscript. I made a commitment to write three to five pages a day five days a week.

Make a plan, follow the plan, and finish an imperfect first draft. Then edit to avoid the rejection pile.

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. — Margaret Atwood

Have you ever been brave and submitted a piece and had it rejected? Let me know in the comments section.

Source: thewritepractice

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