Monthly Archives: December 2017

How to Achieve Goals: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Actually Accomplish Your Goals

The end of the year/beginning of the next one is always exciting. It’s a time to reflect on your accomplishments and prepare for the next ones. But often times, the newness and anticipation of New Year’s resolutions lasts for just a few months before fading away, checklists long forgotten in a dusty drawer. Here’s how to achieve goals and actually maintain your motivation throughout the new year.

acheive goal

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Achieve Goals

If you want to stay strong throughout the entirety of 2018, here are five tips to help you achieve just that.

1. Set goals for the month rather than the year

That’s not to say year-long goals aren’t important, but “smaller” goals that are easily finished in a short amount of time will give you that rush of positive energy everyone needs in order to keep up the good work.

Think about your long-term hopes and dreams for yourself, such as writing a novel, and break them down into more manageable chunks that you can spread out over twelve months, like writing 10,000 words per month.

2. Write a checklist

Who doesn’t love checking off boxes when a task is completed? Make your list of goals something large, aesthetically pleasing, and visible.

It must be placed where you’ll see it often to remind yourself what still needs to be done and what you have already finished. And if you don’t enjoy looking at it, you won’t necessarily enjoy doing anything off the list, either. Keep it positive!

3. Create consequences

First decide if you are the kind of person who works better under the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. Maybe you work well with both, in which case, even better because you have plenty of flexibility with which to work.

If negative consequences are the way to go, give yourself deadlines for each of your goals. Writers have to work under deadlines all the time, which is a great way to boost productivity when you know someone is counting on you to pull through. But if you are your own boss, you have to come up with your own punishment, too. If you don’t reach the deadline, maybe consider pulling the plug on the television for a while.

If rewards cause you to race to the keyboard with glee, set concrete promises for yourself, such as, “If I finish editing this short story by the end of the month, I will treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie.” When you have a specific incentive in mind, you will be that much more determined to finish what you started.

4. Switch up your setting

If I ever start to feel bored with my usual routine, I pick up my laptop and move somewhere new. This can be as drastic as sitting yourself down at a coffee shop or library or as simple as moving to a new room in the house.

A different view and a different seating orientation can do wonders for your enthusiasm for your work.

5. Envision your future

What kind of writer do you want to be? When you picture yourself ten years in the future, what do you see for yourself?

Don’t be afraid to dream big. Imagining your future can be exciting and terrifying all at once, but it always helps when it comes to deciding what your next move should be.

But if you do, be ready to put in the work. The amount of effort you put into a task will match the outcome.

How to Achieve Goals and Make Changes in the New Year

Don’t sell yourself short. If you want to be somewhere else a year from now, figure out what you need to do to make the change and do it.

One more tip for how to achieve goals? Ask for help, if you need it. Having a community standing behind you in support is one of the best ways to drum up the courage to achieve your goals in any way possible.

You’ve got this.

What are your goals for the New Year? Do you have other tips for how to achieve goals? Let us know in the comments.

By The Magic Violinist

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Writing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell

The first time I heard the advice “show, don’t tell,” I was young and it confused me.

Show what? Isn’t writing all about telling a story?

At the time, I shrugged it off as some kind of mysterious double-talk, but the phrase kept popping up: show, don’t tell.

It rolled off my teachers’ tongues. I spotted it in books and articles on the craft of writing. A couple of times, it appeared in red on my papers with an arrow pointing to a specific sentence or paragraph. Then I took a poetry class and had a big aha moment where show, don’t tell became abundantly clear.

In poetry studies, we talk a lot about imagery. This poem has vivid imagery. What a great image! The images in the first stanza don’t go with the images in the second stanza. This kind of talk didn’t make sense to me either. Images in poems? We’re supposed to be writing, not drawing!

The irony, of course, is that my writing was packed with imagery; I was more prone to showing than telling. Nevertheless, the phrasing of these writing tips perplexed me.

Since then, I’ve worked with plenty of young and new writers who have expressed embarrassment at having to admit they’re not sure what show, don’t tell means.

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell is often doled out as writing advice, and it frequently appears on lists of writing tips. It even has its own Wikipedia page! Along with the advice write what you know and know your audience, it’s one of those writing-related adages that deserves some explanation because it seems counter-intuitive and raises a bunch of questions.

Yet it’s actually a simple concept. Ironically, the best way to explain it is to show, rather than tell someone what it means, and I don’t think anybody’s done that better than Anton Checkhov:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekhov (source: Goodreads)

Oh, I Get It

I once heard a lecturer give a talk about love, and he made a good point: it’s not enough to tell someone you love them; you have to show people that you love them through your actions.

We can apply the same concept to writing.

You can tell your readers that two characters met and were instantly attracted to each other, or you could show the characters meeting, making eye contact, and checking each other out. He gulps, she bats her eyelashes, and readers get the picture.

When you show, you’re using words to create a scene that readers instantly visualize. Instead of intellectually registering what you’re telling them, they fully imagine what you’re showing them.

We can turn Checkhov’s explanation into a writing exercise in which we show, don’t tell readers our ideas:

Tell Show
Kate was tired. Kate rubbed her eyes and willed herself to keep them open.
It was early spring. New buds were pushing through the frost.
Charlie was blind. Charlie wore dark glasses and was accompanied by a seeing-eye dog.
Sheena is a punk rocker. Sheena has three piercings in her face and wears her hair in a purple mohawk.
James was the captain. “At ease,” James called out before relaxing into the Captain’s chair.

Now you try it. Think of some simple ideas that you could show readers instead of telling them. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Are there any writing tips that you hear frequently but don’t quite grasp? Share your thoughts and questions by leaving a comment, and make sure when you’re writing,
you show, don’t tell.

By Melissa Donovan

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

3 Steps to Complete Your Writing Goals in the New Year


For the last two weeks I have received emails from over eight different companies offering to teach me how to have a wonderful and amazing year next year. Their premise is that I will have a wonderful year if I complete a goal. Since I am a writer, perhaps I should complete some writing goals.


The companies offer to give me practical advice to assist me. Some of them even offered to give me a certificate of completion when I finished their course. The least expensive offer was close to five hundred dollars.

Today, I will give you my three steps to complete a goal and have a great New Year. And, I won’t charge you five hundred dollars.

3 Steps to Complete Your Writing Goals

I will give you a preview of the three steps. Beware, the next three lines contain spoilers:

Step One: Decide what you want to do

Step Two: Write down what you want to do

Step Three: Do what you wrote down.

1. Decide what you want to do.

Step one may seem simple. The most important word in step one is DECIDE. Yes, make up your mind.

You are creative, right? A writer. You have so many story ideas, which one should you do first?

Pick one. Just one. Work on this idea until it is finished. Focus. Finish.

But first you have to make up your mind. You can never finish something if you don’t start. So for now, make up your mind.

(If you are not sure what you should decide to do, consider these writing goals.)

People cannot hit what they do not aim for.

― Roy T. Bennett

2. Write down what you want to do.

Step two is essential. Well, all three steps are essential. Don’t skip a step.

You have to write down what you want to do.

Don’t rely on your memory. When you wake up the next day and your six cats are meowing to be fed, if you haven’t written down what you want to do, you might never remember. You have bills to pay and cats to feed. If it is not written down, you might not remember what you want to accomplish.

How many pages will you write today, this week? Decide, then write it down. Find a friend who would be willing to receive weekly updates from you. Send them at the end of the week how much you have written.

If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal — you have a wish.

― Steve Maraboli

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University of California, after studying two hundred and sixty seven people, discovered you are more likely to complete goals if you write them down or share them with a friend. Seventy percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend achieved their goal or got more than halfway there. But of the people who didn’t tell a friend or write down their goal, only 35 percent made it that far.

3. Do what you wrote down.

Step three is an action step. You do what you wrote down.

You can control your future if you always obey what is written down. Before you go to bed tonight, write down what you want your future self to do. Such as, “Write three pages today.” When you wake up you will see the note you wrote the night before, and you will do what it says.

Last night I had my husband decide what time he was going to get out of bed this morning. First he wrote, “I want to get out of bed at seven.” I had him change it to “I will get out of bed at seven.” Then he signed the statement and I signed it as a witness to his promise. He made up his mind: step one. He wrote it down: step two.

This morning at seven, he hit the snooze button. Dr. Matthews’s suggestion to tell your goal to a friend helped my husband this morning. I opened the blinds, turned on the shower, and ripped off all the covers on the bed. Then he did step three and got out of bed.

The Gift of Writing Goals

In twelve more sleeps it will be the first day of a new year. A day of hope; a day where we can begin again. We can have that feeling every day, but the first day of a new year feels like a gift.

So, as you start your new year, think of the three steps. You don’t have to buy a fancy course. You can write. You can complete your goal of writing a first draft, editing the novel you wrote in November, or writing the story of why you flew to Asia in 1983 with a one-way ticket to Bangkok.

Decide what you want to do, write it down, and do it. I believe in you.

Tell your story.

Do you have trouble completing your writing goals? What do you do to help you complete them? Let us know in the comments.

by Pamela Hodges

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Finding Meaning in Poetry

We humans are programmed to find meaning in everything. We find patterns where none exist. We look for hidden messages in works of art. We yearn for meaning, especially when something doesn’t immediately make sense.

Of course, art is open to interpretation, and some of the best works of art have produced a fountain of ideas about what they mean. From the nonsensical children’s story Alice in Wonderland to the complex historical fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, we wonder what a story means, what it’s really about, at its core.

Poetry is no exception. When we come across an abstract or vague poem, we look for meaning in it. We might even impose meaning on it.

Finding Meaning in Abstract Poetry

The literary canon is home to countless poems with abstract meaning. One of my favorites is “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by E.E. Cummings.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Whenever I read this poem, I see a lot of imagery: bells; the changing of the seasons; people; the sun, stars, and moon.  Phrases like “up so floating many bells down” are enigmatic. Cummings takes great liberty with grammar and punctuation, using all lowercase letters and eliminating spaces in some lines, which intensifies the poem’s ambiguity.

But what does it all mean? I can’t be sure. This uncertainty imbibes the poem with a sense of wonder. Each time I read it, the meaning changes ever so slightly. It’s almost an ethereal experience to revisit the poem every couple of years to see what it will be like this time.

Maybe Cummings had a particular idea in mind when he wrote this poem, or maybe he wasn’t sure what he was trying to say. Maybe the poem has no meaning and it’s just a nonsensical romp through language and imagery. I don’t think any of that matters. What matters is the act of Cummings writing the poem and the experience a reader gets from reading it. With a poem like this, each reader probably has a different experience. That’s quite a gift — one poem that can mean different things to different people.

Vague Meaning in Poetry

A poem’s meaning can be vague without being abstract or nonsensical. Consider “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It’s one of the most famous poems in world, and the lines above are often quoted and interpreted to promote individualism: think for yourself; be your own person; forge your own path. But an earlier stanza says that both roads are equally traveled:

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same…

Did the poet really take the road less traveled? Were both roads equally traveled and only in later tellings of his adventures did one become less traveled than the other? Did the poet believe the roads were equally traveled until the journey was completed? Is the narrator unreliable?

Although the poem is often interpreted to promote individualism, we never learn whether taking the road less traveled turned out to be a good or bad decision. What was the outcome? The reader is left to draw her own conclusions.

Meaning Can Be Clear or Nonexistent

Plenty of poems make their meaning clear. Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” comes to mind:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

The poet then takes a carriage ride with Death, ending their tour at a gravesite. The poem is clearly a statement on mortality and an examination of the big question: what happens after we die? There’s nothing ambiguous or cryptic about this poem. It might prompt you to contemplate the inevitable, but it’s not likely to confuse you or take on new meaning each time you read it.

Meaning in Poetry Writing

Meaning isn’t only found in the act of reading (and re-reading) poetry. Sometimes we start writing a poem with one idea in mind, but by the time we reach the end of the first draft, another idea or theme has emerged, maybe even something surprising or profound. Other times, we might write a poem and realize years later that there are layers of meaning in it; perhaps our subconscious produced something we weren’t aware of at the time the poem was composed.

The very act of writing poetry opens us to the meaning of our experiences and ideas, especially if we’re willing to give up control when we write and let ideas and words flow freely.

Freewriting is an ideal practice for generating enigmatic raw writing material. Sometimes a freewrite produces nothing but junk. Other times a freewrite contains a few captivating phrases, an interesting rhyme, or an unusual idea. Occasionally, if we’re lucky (and do a lot of freewrites), something almost magical emerges: a piece of writing — perhaps abstract, or maybe vague, possibly clear — worth polishing and sharing with others.

Analyzing poetry is always a good exercise for the mind, and searching for meaning is certainly an important part of poetry analysis. We cannot always know if we’ve inferred the correct meaning of a poem — or at least the meaning the author intended — but perhaps that doesn’t matter. If ten people come away from a poem with ten different interpretations, do we think a poem has failed to communicate clearly, or has it done something remarkable — provided ten different experiences from one source?

How often do you find yourself searching for deeper meaning in the poems you read? When you write poetry, how important is it that there’s a deeper meaning? Do you ever write a poem and later discover hidden meaning within it?

By Melissa Donovan

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Philosophical Journal Prompts

What is philosophy?

Let’s turn to Wikipedia for a simple, straightforward definition:

“Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language…It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.”

Today’s journal prompts encourage you to ponder and challenge your own beliefs and ethics. 

While these journal prompts will inspire you to think about your own ideas and ideals through critical thinking and discovery writing, they can also be applied to other writing projects. For example, use these prompts to write a poem or to answer questions from the perspectives of characters in a story that you’re writing.

Journal Prompts

Each of the journal prompts below asks a question. Answer one or answer them all.

  1. What are the origins of the universe? Throughout history, many stories have been told about the genesis of the universe. Some people rely on religion to answer this question; others look to science. What do you think?
  2. Do you believe in a supreme being or higher power? Are you atheist or agnostic? How did you arrive at your spiritual beliefs? Have you always held the same beliefs on this issue or has your perspective changed over time?
  3. Why are we here? Is there a purpose or meaning to life? If so, what is humanity’s role in the greater context of the universe? If there is a purpose to human life, does it stand to reason that there is also a purpose to animal and plant life?
  4. Fate or free will? Do you believe in destiny or do you believe that life’s outcome is strictly the result of choice and circumstance? What experiences or evidence has led you to your position on free will vs. fate?
  5. Do you believe in absolute good and evil? Are good and evil counterpoints that are constantly striving to balance each other out? Do good and evil both have to exist or can one eliminate the other permanently?
  6. Are your morals and ethics circumstantial or static? For example, if you believe it’s wrong to kill another person, is it always wrong or are there exceptions? Is it unethical to kill a mass murderer? What other moral beliefs do you hold and what are some exceptions that would cause you to put those morals aside?
  7. Dystopia is an imagined world in which humanity is living in the worst possible (or most unfavorable) conditions. One person’s dystopia is another person’s utopia: what would the world look like in your version of dystopia?
  8. Utopia is the opposite of dystopia. It is an imagined world in which humanity is living in the most ideal and favorable conditions. What does your utopia look like?
  9. What happens when we die? This is a question many people don’t like to think about even though it’s the only certainty in life and the one thing that happens to every single living thing. Do you believe in an afterlife? Is the jury still out? Where did you get your ideas about what happens at death?

You might be able to get several writing sessions out of each of these journal prompts. After all, some of the greatest thinkers throughout history have dedicated their lives to pondering and writing on these questions.

Did you find these journal prompts helpful or inspiring? How often do you use writing prompts? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

By Melissa Donovan

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Five Things Your Characters Need

Many writers and readers will agree that the most important element of any story is its characters. There are certainly exceptions: some plot-driven stories are quite compelling and successful. However, readers form their deepest connections to stories through the characters by developing relationships with them and caring about what happens to them.

Naturally, we want our characters to be realistic. We want them to resonate, to come alive in readers’ imaginations. We work to give them distinct voices and personalities, extensive backstories, and vivid descriptions. We do all of this so readers will develop an emotional bond with our characters.

All of these aspects of characters make them seem more like real people. But there are five essential things that often get overlooked, and these are the critical ingredients of the characters’ function within a story.

1. Goals

What is the point of any story if the protagonist isn’t working toward a goal? It can be a simple goal, like getting into the best college or falling in love. It can be a meaningful goal, like making a deep and lasting personal transformation toward becoming a better person. It could be a momentous goal, like saving the planet.

Almost every story involves a goal at the heart of the plot. The main characters on the protagonist’s side are working toward this common goal, but things get interesting when they each have their own personal goals too.

Let’s imagine a story about a team of mercenaries on a mission to take down an enemy combatant. That’s the central plot, the common goal shared by the main characters. But what if the enemy once saved the life of one of these mercenaries back when they were serving together in the military? What if that mercenary feels an obligation to return the favor? Things get infinitely more interesting.

When characters have a combination of common goals and personal goals, there are more opportunities for conflict and challenges, and a story becomes more dynamic.

2. External Conflict

It’s only interesting to watch characters work toward a goal if achieving it is a struggle. The external conflict might be the cause of the goal (aliens are invading, so we must save the planet). But external conflict can also interfere with the goal (the protagonist wants a promotion, and her best friend wants the same promotion). External conflict can also change the goal (a high school graduate was about to study engineering at college, but now he must fight in the front lines of a war, and he wants to survive).

An external conflict is often the driving force of a plot. But characters can experience external conflicts independent of the plot. Consider a mystery story in which the plot’s external conflict is a serial killer on the loose in a big city. Meanwhile, the lead detective on the case is dealing with his own external conflict…his teenaged daughter is being stalked by a creepy kid at school, which is distracting the detective from the serial-killer case.

External conflicts make it difficult for the characters to achieve their goals, including the central goal of a story’s plot and the characters’ individual, personal goals.

3. Internal Struggle

An internal struggle pits personal values, goals, conflicts, or challenges against each other. A scientist developing a cure for a devastating disease stumbles upon a formula for a virus that would cause a pandemic. The company she works for is actively working to produce biological weapons. Her goal is to cure this disease, but her moral compass urges her to keep the formula secret, lest it be used as a biological weapon.

Internal struggles force characters to make difficult choices. They often must choose from bad or worse options, and the right choice almost always involves a meaningful sacrifice. Often the right or best option is unclear: there is no correct choice, only a personal choice. What if the scientist’s best friend is suffering from the disease she’s trying to cure? What if she has learned that as soon as the right biological weapon is available, her company will engage in biological warfare? Now the internal struggle intensifies — the character is forced to choose between her best friend’s health and the possible decimation of large swaths of the population.

Most protagonists engage in internal struggles, but other characters can struggle internally as well. Our story gets even more interesting if one of the scientist’s coworkers discovers that she’s hiding a formula from the company. This coworker is close friends with our scientist but is also loyal to the company. He struggles internally with with whether he should protect her secret or rat her out.

4. Strengths, Skills, and Assets

In order to survive the challenges that a story throws at its characters, they must possess strengths, skills, and assets. These can be personal strengths like fortitude or loyalty, or they can be skills and abilities, like hand-to-hand combat or hacking. Material assets, such as personal wealth, are also useful in many situations.

Characters must draw upon their strengths, skills, and assets to work toward their goals and overcome the external conflicts and internal struggles that they face.

Most authors are good at giving their characters strengths, skills, and assets, but sometimes they aren’t spread around enough. The protagonist will be an almost perfect human specimen while their teammates will contribute little to achieving the central goal. Characters’ strengths, skills, and assets shouldn’t make them superhuman, and each character should make a positive contribution to the cast’s efforts.

5. Flaws and Weaknesses

A character can’t truly be human (or human-like) without flaws and weaknesses. As the saying goes, nobody’s perfect. Characters must reflect this truth. But more importantly, characters’ flaws and weaknesses often provide essential story fodder in the form of setbacks. In a political thriller, a senatorial candidate’s weakness might be a secret from his past, which, if exposed, would destroy his career. In a romance, if the protagonist’s flaw is that she’s indecisive, she might let the love of her life get away because she can’t make up her mind.

Flaws and weaknesses interfere with the characters’ progress toward their goals and provide much-needed setbacks for the plot and subplots. We want to see our favorite characters succeed, but success is sweeter if it comes after a few failures, and failures are often caused by the characters’ own flaws and weaknesses.

Some authors struggle to give their characters flaws and weaknesses (especially the protagonists). It’s understandable. We can be protective of our characters, almost as if they were our children. We want them to be strong and successful. But weaknesses and flaws make characters relatable and give readers something to cheer for — we want to see the characters overcome these setbacks.

Connecting Characters with Story

Ideally, all these things (goals, internal struggles, external struggles, strengths, and weakness) will tie in with the central plot and be woven through the story’s subplots and themes.

Do all characters in every story need these five things? No. The protagonist certainly needs them. One of the other main characters might get a goal and a weakness but no internal struggle. Another might get an internal struggle and a goal but no notable external conflict. Every character is different, but wherever possible, providing characters with these elements will intensify and strengthen a story.

By Melissa Donovan

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6 Things Writers Can Do This Holiday Season

Halloween is in the distant past (as is summer), Thanksgiving is behind us, and the Christmas season is in full swing. This is traditionally the time when the publishing business slows down, folks go on vacation, the holidays consume us, and not a lot gets done until after the new year.

I’m not sure if that still holds true or not. In this age of instant communication, maybe it’s just as easy to accept or reject a manuscript at home, on the train or bus, or even in the car (in the passenger seat, of course) as it is in the office. Needless to say, every publishing house, editor, agent, and writer does it differently. Many writers self-publish these days and can work around their holiday festivities with no worries about publishing houses slowing down during the last month of the year.

Aside from wondering if this holds true, I also want to mention how easy it is to put our writing on the back burner and take it easy for a while. If that works for you, and you don’t feel guilt or pressure, I say go for it. If, though, you’re like me and would rather know you’re on top of things in your little corner of this profession, you’ll continue doing what you always do.

You’ll people-watch. Malls are great places to watch others as they run from store to store, lugging around their latest purchases and cursing themselves for not leaving their winter coats in the car. You’ll see exasperated parents, cranky toddlers, whiny teenagers, bored middle-schoolers, frantic retail employees. You’ll see men and women who truly want to be there shopping their hearts out, and you’ll see others who gladly would give you a kidney on the spot if you would just get them out of there.

You’ll eavesdrop. Everyday conversations are interesting enough, but add in the stress and hustle-bustle of mall-shopping, and you’ve struck dialogue gold. Shopping is tough from the get-go; add in a heavy coat, bags of purchases whose handles, whether twine or plastic, are threatening to cut off the circulation to your hands at any moment, the food court and its horde of hungry humans, and the lines–let’s not forget the long lines–and you’ve got some juicy dialogue to steal.

You’ll take notes. Neither of the above activities will be worth a hill of beans if you don’t take notes. Dictate what you hear and see into your phone (and you’ll have the added advantage of looking like a spy), so all those gestures, words, and whining you’ve culled from your day of snooping won’t be forgotten.

You’ll continue journaling, writing devotionals, free-writing, or whatever you do with your computer when you’re not actually writing or editing (and Free Cell doesn’t count) your latest work-in-progress, if for no other reason than to keep your work fresh and in the forefront of your mind.

You’ll keep up with your blog posts, or at least warn your readers that you’ll be back in a couple of weeks. While I don’t personally have as much time to read blog posts during the holidays as I do during the rest of the year, I do look forward to a few of them and would wonder where they went if I wasn’t told in advance. It’s just common courtesy. You might also want to write some blog posts, tweets, etc., ahead of time and schedule them with Edgar or some other site that will do that for you. That allows you the freedom of not having to worry about missing important obligations.

And finally, I sincerely hope you’ll remember what this season is really all about and enjoy yourself, your family, the food, fun, and parties, the meaningful church activities, and all the traditions that surround you and your loved ones. No, we can’t forget we’re writers and losing a month out of the twelve we get each year will no doubt cause you to do some catching up come January. But a little forethought and a few minutes each day devoted to what you do best will go a long way in keeping those January blues at bay.

Maintaining an orderly work life is important, but that pales in comparison to the memories you’ll make with your family and loved ones. A little bit of planning will go a long way in giving yourself the freedom to truly enjoy the holidays and all they entail.


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Waterstones to Open Five Bookstores Before Christmas – Mostly in London

UK bookseller Waterstones got a lot of press last week when it announced plans to open 5 stores by the end of the year, and several more next year.

That is more new stores than we’ve seen from anyone other than Amazon, which has opened or announced 17 bookstores (16 stores, actually , plus one that isn’t official yet) in the past couple years, but what is more interesting about Waterstones new stores is where they are located.


Image Source:

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones is to open five new bookshops before Christmas – with three named after the area they are based, in the spirit of an independent bookshop. The new locations are in St Neots, Epsom, Deal in Kent, Weybridge and London’s Blackheath.

The latter three shops are smaller in size and will be named The Deal Bookshop, The Weybridge Bookshop and The Blackheath Bookshop respectively. Stores in St Neot’s and Epsom meanwhile will carry the Waterstones branding.

At the same time, the company revealed it plans to open more shops in 2018, with one in Reigate already signed up and with “several more in advanced negotiation”.

The news means the retailer will have opened 20 new stores since it was bought by Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut from the HMV Group in 2011 and follows Waterstones’ return to profit for the first time under its current ownership earlier this year. At that point, managing director James Daunt told The Bookseller the chain planned to open at least 10 new stores in 2017.

The announcement will inspire confidence in the firm at a time Mamut is reportedly exploring a £250m sale of the chain via corporate financiers N M Rothschild, which surfaced last month.

The thing about these locations is that 4 of the 5 are located close to or in London (the one exception is located in the coastal town of Deal, in Kent). (Also, two of “new” stores were replacements for stores closed years before.)

Chris McRudden looked into the socioeconomic data for each new makret, and he noted on Twitter that Waterstones was essentially copying the same expansion plan that managing director James Daunt used when he still ran his chain, Daunt Books.

“Daunts built its business on locations in nice areas where people are rich enough to pay full RRP for books,” McCrudden tweeted. “James Daunt is rebuilding Daunts at scale with Waterstones.”

All the new Waterstones stores are located in areas with n excess of professionals with above average incomes, “a signal that Waterstones wants nice, safe middle-class consumers with high disposable incomes,” according to McCrudden.

“So it’s good news for the book business, I suppose. A stronger Waterstones is a bargaining chip against Amazon (not that Amazon gives a fuck, they build the Internet now). But I daresay it won’t reach a single new reader.”

By Nate Hoffelder

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On Writer Buddies & Ignoring Them

“Generally, art partly completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and partly imitates her.” -Aristotle, Physics, Pt. 2& 8

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” -Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying.

Although the critical theorist in me would love to join a spirited debate between two old dead guys, for the sake of brevity let’s just agree that life and art are inextricable. Then as artists we can apply those truths we’ve found in life to the benefit of our work (which will then improve our life, likely resulting in the further improvement of our work, but that’s only if imitation…wait, I said I WASN’T going to join the debate).


In life, we have multidisciplinary evidence that it’s impossible to succeed or thrive without human contact; the same is true of art. You cannot succeed as a writer without allies and friendships. Yet the work of a writer (and I imagine most artists) is rather secluded. I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed at myself when writing a scene thinking “How would a non-socially awkward person respond in this moment… oh well, I have beta readers and normal people for that.”
There is this romantic image in the writer’s mind of a cabin in a forest somewhere which contains little besides a laptop, maybe a caffeine source, and a table near a pot belly stove. The haze of said cabin is a place from which triumphant writers emerge with completed manuscripts after the course of a week. Now, I have been to that cabin; my friend’s mom owns it and sometimes we go there for tea and the pleasant company of ignoring each other for a while. Ah…the cabin. ::sigh:: But that romantic image is not where books get made.
Isolation is the suffocating pit of self-doubt where dreams go to die. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and agree that there is a definite time to buckle your pants and close the door so you can get the work done. Managing distractions and interruptions is a skill that must be a sharp pair of scissors in a writer’s toolkit. Don’t get me started on smartphones and the “attention economy” (seriously though, google that, but not right now, you’re reading something). Some parts of the writing process are isolated and focused.  But others require external input and criticism; writers know this. I personally recommend this cool new thing the kids are doing called single-tasking (It’s pretty fringe, you’ve probably never heard of it). It’s this new wave habit where you turn of the smartphone and TV, ignore all the people that you love, and do one thing at a time. The writers that practice it, finish their books. Food for pigeons.
I’m still new at this (obviously, you should see my under-construction newbie website. Or maybe not, ha!), but there were two things that took my writing game to the next level in 2017. The first was tracking my hours. That habit showed me the limits on my “focus” time. Before tracking, I often vacillated between “I have no time to write” and “I am taking so much time to write away from my family, oh the guilt! But data doesn’t lie, and I have been averaging about 15 hours a week for 11 months because I started tracking. My two cents: Track. Analyze. See where it takes you. The second and even more helpful change I made this year was connecting with fellow writers. I’ll be honest with you; it was intimidating at first. I started out thinking, “Who am I to comment, ask for feedback, or share ideas?” Not to mention, we all have asked that dreaded question, “Am I really a writer?” I’ll let you in on an industry secret; you are. And more to the point at hand, we’ve all asked it of ourselves. That question is not so far in my rearview mirror that I have forgotten its impact. It matters; ask it; answer it.  There will come a moment when you realize how silly it is that you ever had to ask. But whether or not we admit it we’ve all asked ourselves that question. For some of us we were in junior high, but we still asked it.
Honestly, for me, connecting with authors is still intimidating. I’m writing a guest post for Author Culture today for cry-babying out loud, how cool is that? My first book is only half finished, but without the dual pedals of focused work and writer buddies, on my book-cycle (oh man that’s a terrible metaphor), my WIP would still be an intangible dream.
This writing journey, whether it’s to Canterbury, Random House, or Amazon is made better by companyae (Ha! Middle English non-conventional spelling for the win!).
I cannot stress this enough. Do the work. Write. And connect. With. Other. Writers.
Good. Now, actually show them your work. Otherwise you will likely end up arguing with Aristotle or something…
…and we all know how that ended.

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4 Movie Quotes Every Writer Needs

There are few things in the world as weird as being a writer. We pour ourselves into our work, giving it everything we have, pushing through rejection, overcoming one barrier after another, hoping our work will be noticed. In this strange and taxing pursuit, it’s important that we hold onto some truths that can keep us centered, inspirational quotes for writers that will remind us why we write.

Sometimes, the best place to find those truths is in movies.

Four Movie Moments for Writers

There are lots of movie moments that I hold in my head because they inspire me. Here are four movies and their inspirational quotes for writers that I’ve leaned on this week:

Quote #1

Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying, there’s no crying in baseball!

—Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own

Following a bad play, the coach of the Rockford Peaches, Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks), yells at one of his players. As he walks away, the player begins to cry. Jimmy turns on the player and delivers this iconic quote.

There lots of things about writing that makes me want to cry. This week, for example, one of my books was given a very honest three-star review that exposed all of the book’s flaws.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know the flaws were there. I knew they were there. I had just hoped no one else would see them. When the critic laid them bare for the world, I wanted to cry.

What I love about the Jimmy Dugan quote is that there is profound truth behind it. Tears may feel good in the moment, but wallowing in them can blind us to truths we need to hear. In writing, just like in baseball, we need to accept our mistakes, learn from them, and get back out on the field and play the next inning.

We can be sad for a moment, but there is work to be done and we are the ones that need to do it.

Maybe it’s not a critic making you want to cry. Maybe you lost NaNoWriMo this year? Or maybe you are dissatisfied with your own work? Or maybe life is making it difficult to find the time to crank out the words.

Whatever the stressor is, just remember the words of Jimmy Dugan. Stiffen your upper lip, look in the mirror, and say, “Are you crying? There’s no crying. There’s no crying in writing!”

Quote #2

In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.

—Fortune in Rudy

In the movie Rudy, Fortune (Charles Dutton) is a wise groundskeeper and mentor to the movie’s protagonist. In one scene, Fortune finds Rudy (Sean Astin) skipping football practice. When Fortune asks Rudy why he wants to quit, Rudy explains that he quit because he wasn’t going to be able to play in the upcoming game and therefore wasn’t going to be able to prove the world that he had made it.

Fortune responds by reminding Rudy that he has zero talent and shouldn’t even be playing the game. Then he delivers the amazing line, “In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.”

I’ve published four novels and close to a hundred short stories, and still, I see the achievements of others and wonder when I’m going to become a “real writer.” I envy the money other writers make, the acclaim they get, and the attention from our peers. I envy the speed at which they publish, the advertisements they run, and the podcast interviews they do.

In these moments, I find myself in Rudy’s shoes, feeling like I should quit because the recognition I desire feels unattainable.

It’s in those moments when I need Fortune’s quote the most. I need to be reminded that I don’t do this for the praise of the crowd. The crowd is fickle and their attention is fleeting. Pursuing it is like chasing a snowflake. Even if we catch it, it disappears as quickly as it came.

We can’t work hoping for affirmation from the crowd. We need to do our work and do it well, knowing the only person we need to prove anything to is ourselves.

Quote #3

Do you really want to get him? You see what I’m saying. What are you prepared to do? And then, what are you prepared to do?

—Jim Malone in The Untouchables

In the movie The Untouchables, Jim Malone (Sean Connery) is a streetwise beat cop in Chicago. He is approached by Treasury Officer Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and asked to join Ness’s team that is going to hunt the notorious gangster Al Capone. Malone pulls Ness into a church where they can talk quietly.

Sitting in the pews, Malone asks Ness this iconic question: “What are you prepared to do?” When Ness responds, “Everything within the law,” Malone shoots back, “And then what are you prepared to do?”

While we aren’t hunting down mob bosses, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the difficulty of the task before us. Creating art that is noticed and makes a lasting impact is hard. Few succeed. Even fewer are remembered.

It demands hard work and sacrifice. There will be late nights and early mornings no one will applaud you for. There will be pages and stories and characters you pour yourself into that no one will appreciate. And if you succeed and someone reads your stuff, there will be criticism and rejection.

This is no easy task ahead of us.

We need to remind ourselves of this so that when things get hard, we aren’t surprised. With each barrier we face, we need to keep Malone’s voice in the back of our mind.

We need the old, grizzled voice of wisdom challenging us, refusing to let us be naive. We need the questions, “What are you prepared to do? And then what are you prepared to do?” routinely put to us so that we don’t forget that, though the road is difficult, the journey is worth the sacrifice.

Quote #4

You think we need one more? You think we need one more. Alright, we’ll get one more.

—Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven

In the movie Ocean’s Eleven, after assembling ten members of their team, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) are sitting in a bar watching TV. As a boxing match plays on the screen in front of them, Danny asks Rusty, “You think we need one more?” I love this quote because it reminds me that getting the right team around us is critical to our success.

It is tempting to think of writing as a solitary thing: you and your keyboard alone in an empty room. That image couldn’t be farther from the truth.

While writing does require a lot of isolated work, it can’t be done without a team of people around us. No one makes art alone. We need other writers to bounce ideas off of and give us honest feedback. We need team members to work alongside as we strive together to get our work noticed.

Just this week I listened to an online course presented by Joe Bunting and Ruthanne Reid. Three years ago, I met them when I joined the Becoming Writer community. The impact they have had on my work by encouraging me, giving me feedback, and teaching me what it means to be a writer is priceless. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them.

I’m glad that when I started this crazy journey, I had Danny Ocean in the back of my mind asking, “Do you think we need one more?” The answer is yes.

The good news is, if you don’t have a group of writers you are working alongside, you can find them right here by joining the Becoming Writer group.

Your Writing Inspiration

Becoming and being a writer is a strange journey. We need to keep ourselves grounded with things that inspire us.

I’ve shared with you four of my inspirational quotes for writers. Now you share a few of yours with the rest of us in the comments. Give us the quote and tell us what about it inspires you.

What inspirational quotes do you lean on to keep you centered as a writer? Let us know in the comments.

By Jeff Elkins

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