Monthly Archives: August 2018

How to Get Past Excuses and Finish Your Writing!

Do you struggle with finishing? Believe me, I’ve been there.

Perseverance has never really been my thing.

I was the one in school that could easily write papers, finish assignments, and obtain excellent grades with very little effort.

But as soon as something difficult came along, I would give up. Any iota of resistance would stop me in my tracks.

Sound familiar?

In 2008, I decided to write a book.

I was fairly young and had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but I managed to eke out a completed manuscript. It took me about a year to figure out what I wanted to write about and get past the first page, then another year to complete the first draft. It was hard, but fun-hard, and I loved it.

Then the editing began.

And it was just plain hard-hard. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to crawl in a hole, pay someone vast sums of money to edit it for me, then have a bunch of people pay me thousands of dollars to read my perfect words.

Sounds like a dream, right?

But here’s the thing: it’s not that easy.

Though I labored over the manuscript for eight years (eight years!) through multiple revisions and changes and got absolutely frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking, the time spent was absolutely necessary to the process. I was honing my manuscript, discovering what it was meant to be, similar to Michelangelo sculpting David:

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo

My book was inside me; I just needed to write it. Even though it wasn’t what I first wrote (or even what I wrote second or third), eventually the story was exactly what it was supposed to be.

I had people telling me I wouldn’t ever finish it, had my own voice inside my head telling me it wasn’t worth the hard work, had family who wouldn’t read a single word.

Yet I managed to keep going—the person who would never stick with anything—and somehow ended up with a completed manuscript.

But it wasn’t by accident, and it doesn’t have to be for you, either.

So how did I get past all the excuses I made up in my head and the doubts others threw my way to stick with it until it was done?

I stopped letting the negativity and the doubts take hold in my mind, taught myself to follow these five excuse-eliminating tenets, and finally stepped into the writer I was meant to be.

  1. Believe in Yourself and the Work Only You Can Do

Even though it sounds cheesy, a strong belief that I was given this story and needed to get it out into the world helped me through many hard days. If you have a passion for writing, don’t let other people or excuses you make up rob you and the world of your voice. Somewhere, someone needs to hear what you have to say in the way only you can say it.

Be brave, and believe in yourself and your work.

  1. Let Go of What Others Think About You

I know this is a hard one, but too often we give in to the opinions that others speak into our lives. When we do this, when we let this poison enter our minds, we eventually find ourselves living lives we don’t recognize. Show love to others, but don’t let their opinions of who you should be dig roots in your mind.

Only you truly know who you should be. So live YOUR best life.

  1. Give Up Your Feelings of Inadequacy

You are enough. Just you. Hone your craft, develop it like any other muscle, but you are a writer the moment you write a single word. Don’t let anyone—most importantly, yourself—convince you otherwise.

  1. Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

There will be minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months you won’t feel like writing. Do it anyway. You won’t get any better by not writing. The book won’t get done any quicker, either. I wish I would’ve taken this to heart sooner!

  1. Learn as Much as You Can

Writing may feel like a lonely profession, but there are scores of writers on social media and in your community who you can connect with to develop a network of like-minded people. Learn as much as you can from each other. Learn the craft, the community, the best practices, take the courses and then… learn how to break the rules. That’s my favorite part.

Have you let the excuses you make up in your head hold you back from completing that blog post, that manuscript, that series? Have you listened to the voices of others telling you you’ll never finish?

Resolve today to give up that mindset, ignore those lies, and step into the truth that you are a writer, you are enough, and you have a story that the world needs to hear.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Your Book Isn’t for Everyone

Think for a moment about your work in progress. How should your book be marketed? What kind of reader do you want to attract? Who is your book for?

Why, it’s for everyone! you exclaim.

After all, who wouldn’t want to read your fabulous plot, compelling characters, and engaging writing voice? Perhaps a few doltish persons on the fringe, but anyone with good sense and a love of good story would like your book.

Sorry, but nope.

Some people won’t want to read your book. In fact, some people might hate your book. And that’s a worthwhile reality to consider when we writers send our manuscripts into contests, open ourselves to outside critique, and read through reviews. Sometimes you’ll get feedback that you can simply shrug off with, “My book wasn’t for them.”

It isn’t personal (even though the comment might sting), but rather a mismatch between author and reader. We simply can’t write a story that every single person will adore. Your book, and my book, is not for everyone.

Yet that simply puts us in good company. I like to turn to the world of authors and see what wisdom they can offer. Check out these reviews, followed by the book that sparked them.

“…no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that…” – The Chicago Tribune

“…an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” – The Saturday Review

THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald

“…no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.” — in The New York Times

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Mark Twain

“The book as a whole is disappointing, and not merely because it is a reworking of a theme that one begins to suspect must obsess the author. [The main character] who tells his own story, is an extraordinary portrait, but there is too much of him.” – The New Republic

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, J.D. Salinger

“These are one-dimensional children’s books, Disney cartoons written in words, no more.” – The Guardian

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, J.K. Rowling

“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery.” – Graham’s Lady’s Magazine

WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Emily Bronte

“the plan and technique of the illustrations are superb. … But they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story.” — Publisher’s Weekly

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak

But you know what? Just take that last one. Sendak didn’t write this book for everyone. It found its way into the hearts of children, of all ages, over the years.

Here’s how the Library Journal described it: “This is the kind of story that many adults will question and for many reasons, but the child will accept it wisely and without inhibition, as he knows it is written for him.”

Knowing who your book is for can help you figure out how to distribute and market it to the right audience, as well as how to handle the negative reviews that inevitably come in. When that happens, remind yourself that you’re in the same circle with the likes of Twain, Rowling, and Bronte. Not such a bad place to find yourself.

By Julie Glover
Source: writersinthestormblog.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The 3 Secrets to Addictive Fiction

In today’s unbelievably competitive industry, how can you make your fiction the best?

Addict your reader.

Make reading your stories and novels an addictive experience. The reader who is addicted to your writing will plunge into your fiction and then fight to stay there forever.

But how can you addict your reader to your stories?

Use the secrets that all great authors have used throughout the ages to give the reader exactly what they want. There are literally thousands of these secrets, but in my work as an independent editor I have prioritized them and categorized them into the simplest possible arrangement—three basic categories.

I teach fiction through its three aspects:

1. character
2. plot
3. prose

However, beyond than that, I teach the secrets to making these three aspects addictive:

1. unforgettable character
2. inescapable plot
3. mesmerizing prose

 

Secret #1 Unforgettable Character

The most fundamental truism of fiction is that all great plot grows out of character.

You can design any type of plot you like. However, if it’s not grounded in the character of your protagonist, it will be nothing but a mish-mash of events from which the reader can disengage at any time and walk away.

On the other hand, you can design almost no plot at all, and if it’s grown entirely from the character of your protagonist, the reader will not only be addicted to your work, they’ll convince all their friends and relatives to become addicted as well.

Ask yourself:

How did James Bond become a cultural icon, although his plots are repetitive and he must frequently be rescued by a young woman he’s just met? What made Agatha Christie a phenomenon of her genre, although her mysteries so often hinge on her villains’ implausible acting skills and even authorial cheating? Why do we still love Cathy and Heathcliff, although Wuthering Heights is so bizarrely organized and consists almost entirely of a laundry list of inhuman behavior?

Because Bond, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Cathy and Heathcliff are the unforgettable characters from which their plots grow.

This means that character is where we always start.

So how do we make this character unforgettable? That work is based upon the character’s conflicting internal needs. These needs must be internal or they won’t be powerful enough to fuel an entire novel. They must conflict, or there won’t be any climax to this story. And they can be explored most effectively through the three basic human needs: love, survival and justice.

There’s a lot to discuss about a protagonist’s conflicting internal needs. And I’ll teach you all about them in my 2nd guest post for Write to Done: The 2 Steps to Creating Unforgettable Character.

Secret #2 Inescapable Plot

Now what is this unforgettable character going to do?

A story—short fiction or novel—is, at its most fundamental, simply an opportunity for the reader to spend time with your unforgettable character. To make friends with them. To bond. To allow this character to become a part of their life.

This means you must design a plot that gives the freest possible reins to the protagonist’s character—exploring it, exposing it, delving into it to reveal its most intriguing and hidden facets.

The paperback genre industry of the early 20th century can teach us everything we need to know about how to design plot. Those authors cranked out their genre novels regularly and reliably, treating fiction as a day job to which they showed up and worked five days a week, 45-50 weeks of the year.

What do readers get out of genre fiction?

A plot that hooks them quickly, takes them for a thrilling whirl, then throws them off a cliff.

This is rooted in our human addiction to things that come in threes: the simplest construct that exists that also retains a crucial layer of complexity.

And this is why I teach three-act structure: Hook, Development, Climax.

Within these three acts, we can refine our design based upon the importance of climax. Each act has a unique purpose, to which we can devote a full half of that act. And each act also needs a climax, to which we can devote the other full half of that act. That’s how important climax is.

Once we have these six structural pieces, we can refine our design even further by breaking each piece into six more pieces. In this way, we can quickly and easily design a plot of 36 pieces along a specific pattern.

I call this holographic design.

The reader has already unconsciously adopted this pattern through the reading of their first great story. It’s what they expect. Because it’s great storytelling. And, through proper design, it’s what we can regularly, reliably give them.

But how do we turn this simple design into a rollercoaster ride, one that will keep the reader addicted on every single page? There’s a counter-intuitive trick to this that gives your plot the essential contrast that throws your entire design into three-dimensional relief, gripping your reader, meeting their unconscious expectations, and making your plot inescapable.

I’ll teach you all about this in detail in my 3rd guest post for Write to Done: The 4 Steps to Designing Inescapable Plot.

Secret #3 Mesmerizing Prose

Finally there is the writing of this character-grown plot.

How do you turn a brilliant, well-developed idea into a novel of some 70,000-100,000 words—a novel that the reader can’t forget, can’t escape, can hardly put down even for a minute? Because 70,000-100,000 are a whole lot of words. And the reader has a life to live.

How do you write a novel that’s mesmerizing? One to which the reader is addicted?

You’ll hear a lot in the writing community these days about how to make time to write, how to write faster and more efficiently, how to get your manuscript finished. This advice is mostly about time management, on the assumption that your life is not set up for endless hours in front of the keyboard. However, focusing upon time management misses a crucial element of writing: you write because you love to.

Truly, if writing is not the one thing you love to do above all else, then go find out what is and do that. Life is too short for wasting on doing things you don’t love.

And if writing is the one thing you love to do above all else, then you don’t need time management. You need stamina. You need to stay in touch with your passion. You need, especially, to know what you’re doing.

Only through a combination of your passion and an understanding of your work can you make your time at the keyboard as productive as humanly possible. Only in this way can you produce manuscripts full of life, while also devoting yourself to the life that is your own.

Your first goal, of course, is to get a draft written. But there are tricks to the efficient writing of a first draft. And there are certainly techniques to editing that draft into polished prose.

I’ve developed a set of guidelines that I use for writing quick first drafts and then turning my clients’ drafts into powerful professional prose. And I often teach my clients these guidelines. Of course, I never teach them all—those are my trade secrets. But I learned them all from the published works of great authors. And you can too.

All you have to do is study in-depth hundreds novels line-by-line and practice for thousands of hours in order to discover what makes writing clear, strong, and vivid. Mesmerizing.

To which authors and stories are you addicted? Why?

By Victoria Mixon
Source: writetodone.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The Winning Edge That Moves Any Writer to Center Stage

Are you a writer who yearns for a shot at the big time?

Do you dream of being in the spotlight – adored by a crowd of raving fans?

Are you looking for that one magic bullet that will make these dreams come true?

Friend, you’ve come to the right place.

But My Dream Seems So Out of Reach

It’s not an impossible dream. After all, aren’t others doing what you want to do?

So how did they start doing it? Does fortune favor the few and overlook the rest of us?

A friend gave me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for Christmas. Since I’m a writer, I got lots of books for Christmas. A few weeks ago, I started reading it and this quote leaped off the page, grabbed my attention, and wouldn’t let go.

All too often, it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stage.

Think about that for a minute.

Let that sink in deeply.

Audacity.

That’s the secret sauce!

I often wondered how someone like Bruce Springsteen became so popular. I mean, his voice is not the greatest by far. It does have emotion infused into it, though. And the things he sings about are things many people resonate with.

Beyond all that, he had the audacity to believe he would make it big one day.

Why You’re Not Audacious

You might be saying to yourself, “That’s a great idea. I love it. But how do I do it? How can I be audacious? Where do I start? And how do I know if I’m being audacious or just stupid?”

Excellent question.

First, let’s see what’s holding you back.

You don’t know what to do.

When something goes wrong with my car, I’m like a traveler without a map. I have my suspicions as to what the problem is, but until I get in there and fix it, I really don’t know.

Since I’m not mechanically inclined, it’s less expensive to let someone who knows what they’re doing fix it.

That doesn’t mean I can’t learn how the car works.

You know what to do, but you aren’t doing it.

You know if you want to live a healthy life, you need to exercise. But since you don’t like running or lifting weights, you don’t do anything.

You know that if you want to get the word out about your work, you’ve got to write on popular blogs. But you’re afraid they won’t say yes, so you hold back. You could take courses which teach you exactly how to get attention for your work or become a better writer, like Bryan’s Writer’s Toolbox, but then what excuse would we have?

We can plan forever to take the world by storm, but until we do something about it, the world will remain unchanged.

You don’t do enough of what you need to do.

I understand this challenge. I work a full-time job that keeps me away from home as much as 75 hours a week. I write every day but I can’t always finish what I start in the same day. That’s discouraging, so I look at it as building something bigger rather than an all-or-nothing must-do task.

Getting attention is a huge task. It can seem like eating an elephant the way a snake eats a rat. You want to swallow it whole but there is no way in the universe your jaws will open that wide.

After you read this post, you’ll know 7 powerful strategies that will radically multiply your effectiveness as an audacious writer.

Ready to dive in?

Act as if your crazy ideas are possible.

The world of imagination has no limits.

I spent a lot of time with my imagination growing up. I could kill evil wizards with only my human powers. I could enter the deepest caves and find all the biggest treasures in  the universe, despite the efforts of a million enemies I had to fight along the way. I could rescue the most beautiful girl I could imagine and she’d be forever grateful.

The real world wasn’t quite so exciting.

But what if it was?

What if you could vividly imagine yourself winning the big award, getting the national byline, and writing this year’s breakout bestseller?

If you’ll take 30 minutes every day to think deeply about this, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Your mind is a lot like a director making a blockbuster movie. Much of what you can see there is possible in reality. The more detail you can see, feel, and experience, the more likely you’ll be able to make it real where it matters.

Maybe your ideas aren’t that crazy after all.

Talk about your ideas with people you trust.

When my wife and I were dating, we talked for an hour and a half about what our wedding would look like.

We were just doing it for fun. We had only been dating for three months. And honestly, it was too early to tell if we’d really go through with it.

But ten minutes turned into twenty, and then an hour. We talked about how the church would look, what her dress would look like, and how many groomsmen and bridesmaids we’d have. We even picked who we would ask to sing and what songs they would sing.

9 months later, we got married. And every detail matched what we talked about.

Find a friend you can trust and share your dreams. Go in deep about how it will all work, what you want to accomplish, and what problems you’ll face – and overcome. Leave no detail unspoken about.

I guarantee this technique will make your dream come true. Any dream.

Do ten times more than you think you should.

Love to write?

Post every day if you can. At least fill your journal with words every morning and every night.

Share your blog post on social media ten times this month.

Make ten pitches to the biggest blogs in your niche.

Come up with ten ideas for blog posts, books, or courses.

Write ten minutes  longer than you planned to tonight.

When you do more of  what you know you should, great things can happen. People will pay attention. Your books will sell. And you’ll be a far better writer by doing more of it.

Focus more on audacity than talent.

Talent will come by doing.

Growth comes by being audacious.

Go ahead and take that risk that thrills you, scares you, and makes you wake up at night with a cold sweat. Chase that big idea that can change people’s lives for the better. Dare to say what needs to be said – and accept the consequences.

Some may criticize you for it. Every strong stand brings out the haters. Don’t worry too much about it.

Others will cheer.

That’s who you’re writing for – the people who want and need to hear your message. This is your calling. If you don’t follow it, those people will miss out forever.

Can you live with that?

I hope not.

Shout out your truth – and do it proudly.

Be willing to fail until you succeed.

Am I saying you should just act crazy and not worry about the outcome?

Not exactly.

What I am saying is you should show the world the real you. Not the fake you that hides her genius or tones it down for fear of looking like a braggart. Not the fake you that you parade in front of others so they’ll leave you alone. Show us your authentic self – full of passion, ready to love others, and with a world of value to offer.

That you.

Show us the person you are when you’re hanging out with friends and throw off your inhibitions. Tell us your best stories, your most powerful lessons, and your deepest insights.

If you fail being yourself, so what? Learn from it. Refine your message a bit. Chances are you just haven’t found your ideal audience yet.

Keep on trucking.  You’re here for a reason. Don’t rest until you find it.

Then you’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Treat other artists as peers.

Are you afraid to approach someone who’s had more success than you?

Don’t be.

You’ll find many of them are surprised at the level of success they’ve attained. Some will gladly share what they know with you if you ask.

The key to getting any successful person to talk with you is to approach them as a peer. Your talent has value, so act like it. You’re not a pauper asking for crumbs under the king’s table. Be bold and make your request quickly, confidently, and with full assurance that you’ve got a decent shot at getting a yes.

Maybe you will!

Trust your calling.

I’ve said this again and again. You have a reason for being here.

Maybe you don’t feel like you do.

That’s because you haven’t discovered it yet. No human being is a waste. Sure, we can make bad choices and waste our humanity, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’ve got something valuable to share. Somebody needs what you have to give.

Don’t withhold your gift just because it’s not for everybody.

Write from your heart. Be vulnerable. Connect your story with someone else’s by sharing it. Your calling is your responsibility, your obligation to those you’re made to serve.

So serve it up with joy and reckless abandon. The right people will find you at the right time.

I guarantee it.

Now Go Be Audacious

What will you do this week that you know you should but still fills you with fear?

Pick one of these strategies and commit to do it all week. Ask a friend to hold you accountable. Become a better writer, audacious and unstoppable.

Share your commitment in the comments if you dare. We’d love to hear your story and cheer you on!

By Frank McKinley
Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Write Mythology for Fantasy and Science Fiction

Most writers probably don’t appreciate enough how much of an impact mythology has on our modern-day storytelling. No matter what genre you write in, mythology has played some role in shaping it, even if you don’t realise it.

It stems all the way back to ancient times before written language was even invented when myths formed the first stories told around campfires. Each of the basic story types listed in Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots can trace their origin back to ancient myths somehow. Homer’s Odyssey is a literal ‘voyage and return’ story. Most of the Arthurian legends center on a knight going out on a quest then returning to Camelot for their reward. In a sense, we are still adapting and building upon the stories invented by our ancestors.

But mythology does much more than just inspiring stories. It also gives books more substance and expands the fictional worlds of speculative fiction.

Why mythology in stories is important

Myths have inspired much more than just stories. They have influenced everything from the names we give to planets to the morals we pass down to children.

It makes sense that since mythology makes up an important part of our real-world culture, it should also be an important part of world-building or fiction writing as well. Adding in a fictional mythology makes a created world more believable and makes a fictional story in a real-world setting more realistic.

Other genres won’t rely upon it quite as much, especially contemporary fiction, but it can be useful there too. Ancient stories which stand the test of time can provide writing prompts or inspiration. Modern-day adaptations of old fairy tales or folk legends may have been done a lot, but there is still a lot of original ideas you can get from them, particularly if you choose a story that isn’t quite as well known. The Golem and the Djinni did this well by taking two completely unrelated and lesser-seen mythological creatures and placing them together in late 19th-century New York.

It is probably even more important in science-fiction than it is in fantasy. A story taking place across multiple planets means there will be even more cultures with their own mythologies to explore, and even more which have shaped and influenced the world and the species which inhabit it. If an alien race seems bland or unrealistic, it might well be because they don’t have any mythology or sense of history.

Good and bad examples

Terry Brook’s Shannara series is an example of mythology handled poorly. The world in this series has an interesting backstory; it is not a make-believe fantasy world but a post-apocalyptic future of our own world in which society has devolved to pre-modern life.

Yet the author doesn’t go nearly as far enough as he could have done with this concept. It could have had modern day stories become a part of the post-apocalyptic mythology, altered slightly to show how stories change as they are re-told over generations.

The Lord of the Rings would be a good example, probably because Tolkien extensively studied mythology and understood how it worked. In fact, he wrote his Middle Earth stories to give England its own mythology to rival the Greek or Roman myths. Not only are his works heavily inspired by many different works of mythology, they have their own sets of legends to expand upon the world, which makes Middle Earth feel incredibly old. There are already historical events so old that they have become myth. There are statues lying half-crumbled in the ground. The characters sing songs and tell each other stories of their own race’s folklore. It is all part of what makes Middle Earth seem so real and inviting, and a major reason why his books are so beloved and influential decades after they were written.

How to work mythology into your writing

In speculative fiction, mythology doesn’t need to be on the forefront of your make-believed world, but it should be at least partially important in some way.

There are many creative ways that you can work it in:

  • An old legend might hold a clue to the main character’s quest or motivate the hero when they need it.
  • Finding out that a myth is actually true.
  • Solving the mystery of an old story.
  • Discovering ancient ruins.
  • Characters telling stories from their homelands to each other.

Stories set in the far future can greatly benefit from having their own mythology, perhaps even using modern-day stories or real-life figures distorted over time to become legends. This can really help to give the futuristic setting a sense of place and time and make the futuristic setting more believable.

Even in contemporary fiction, mythology can be used to great effect. Your main character’s favorite fairy tale or the story they loved most in childhood can say a lot about them and might have influenced their personality or moral character. Or your character’s own favorite story can give them inspiration when they need it, just as they do to us in real life.

No matter what genre you are writing, the way you exposit these myths will be important. If it is a widely known myth such as Hercules or King Arthur then the readers will need little if any explanation, since they are already such an integral part of our culture that most people at least know the basics about them. If you choose a story or figure which isn’t quite as well known then you will need some exposition, so long as it doesn’t go overboard.

Writing your own mythology

If you are writing a speculative fiction story, one of the best parts of worldbuilding isn’t just crafting the world of your story but also inventing an entirely new set of myths and legends for however many races or cultures exist in the world of your book. Essentially, you can write stories within stories.

But it is difficult, especially when you are putting so much time and energy into constructing the main story, so many authors skip it and leave their fictional world feeling empty.

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours on it or devote pages of exposition to explaining these myths. But the more attention you do give to worldbuilding, the more realistic and tangible your fictional world will feel, especially if you have given attention to its mythology.

Expositing fictional myths should be done like the example given above – only when it is needed without going overboard. An entire chapter of characters sitting around a campfire and telling stories can provide an important moment of character and relationship building, but the stories they tell should become relevant at some point later in the story.

But how exactly do you write mythology in a world which is already fantastical? Just as with most other parts of world-building, taking clues from real world mythologies is an excellent starting point.

This goes far beyond copy-pasting the Greek or Roman myths and changing the names around. It means looking at the types of stories and characters that make up mythology and their significance in the real world.

To make up your own myths, ask yourselves these questions:

  • What is the creation myth?
  • Is there a pantheon of Gods or just one?
  • Who are the key figures and inspirational heroes in these stories?
  • What are your world’s constellations?
  • What do they think causes phenomena such as the Aurora Beorialis?
  • What role does magic play in these myths?
  • Are there any people who still worship the mythological pantheon, the way neo-pagans do?

Don’t take your clues only from the most popular myths. Look into less common mythologies or stories which aren’t talked about as often outside of their own cultures, such as Aboriginal mythology or the Finnish Kalevala. Fantasy races such as elves and dwarves stem from European mythology, but races inspired by other continent’s myths would be entirely different, and much more original and creative.

Again, like real myths, fictional myths might play by different rules. Our own myths often include magic or direct divine intervention which don’t exist in reality, so your fictional myths might also bend the rules of the universe you are creating. You could even turn this into a plot point, such as characters discovering that the magic in their old stories isn’t fictional like they previously thought.

Writing mythology into a story, especially a work of speculative fiction, may be a headache, but it will be one of the most valuable pieces of worldbuilding and characterization in your entire story. You may well become just as fascinated with writing your fictional world’s mythology as you are with creating the world and story itself, or find yourself with a set of mythology you never previously knew about for inspiration.

By Jessica Wood
Source: refiction.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Write When You Work Full Time

I love that today’s theme comes from a newsletter subscriber who responded when I asked for ideas to address on the podcast or in articles. So this is a real writer with a real struggle—a reality for many writers.

This person wants to know:

How to write when you work full time?

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to have any kind of hobby or side hustle when you work full-time. When you put in the hours at work and come home exhausted, how can you possibly devote your depleted brain and energy to a creative project?

Don’t Ignore the Ache

I stayed home to raise our four children and we chose to home educate, so while I didn’t work full-time in a traditional sense, I had my hands full most hours of the day. Writing was extremely challenging during those years.

My dream was to have an entire day at my disposal, no interruptions, no diapers to change, no activities to organize. But that wasn’t the overall lifestyle we’d chosen. I thought if I couldn’t have the day to write—and if, in fact, my reality felt like I had NO time to write—why bother?

But I couldn’t ignore the ache. I ached to write.

Some days I felt hopeless. Some days I felt sorry for myself and didn’t bother even trying. Most days I wanted that all-or-nothing writing life.

So a lot of days I didn’t write. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the energy; or if I started, I’d only be interrupted. Why try?

But that ache wore on.

Address the Ache

I couldn’t go on like that. I had to address the ache. I suspect that’s where a lot of writers are—maybe the person who sent in this idea for a podcast.

You’re feeling the ache, that soul-ulcer chewing away at your creative impulse. You’re losing hope.

How do you write when you work full time?

Assuming you can’t quit, I hope you’re feeling something else rise up in you—something louder and stronger than the ache.

Voice It

It’s a voice, a determination within. A resolve.

You have something inside of you that must be voiced.

A barbaric yawp you’re ready to sound over the roofs of the world.

I. Must. Write.

That’s it.

You must write.

Yes, there’s writing in you, ready for the page. You can’t wait any longer.

There’s a writer in you, ready to yawp, and you know it. You can’t wait for the perfect conditions. You can’t wait until you inherit some distant relative’s fortune so you can quit your job.

No more waiting.

You must sound your yawp over the roofs of the world.

You must write.

Today.

Look for slivers of time and the occasional chunk of time here or there. Settle for less than the dream of a cabin in the woods. Whatever you can, grab it and write a few lines.

Where Will You Write?

Let me tell you a story.

Joseph Michael developed a Scrivener training course while he was working full time at another job. Scrivener is writing software, also an app, that many authors use because with it, you can manage longer, larger, more complex projects more easily than you can using Word or Google docs.

But Scrivener is a little confusing to most newbies; at least it was for me. So I grabbed his training course years ago when it was on sale and started watching, hoping to avoid bumbling around, losing important pieces of projects. I felt frustrated because I didn’t understand the system, so I walked through his short training lectures and made sense of Scrivener.

Years later, because of the success of his Scrivener course, Joseph Michael came out with some additional training on how to build courses—a course about courses. I didn’t buy the course about courses, but I signed up for a free introductory webinar, where he told how he recorded that early version of the Scrivener course.

He said he’d drive to work. On his lunch break, he’d head to the parking garage and record some of the Scrivener lessons—right there in the front seat of his car, wedged behind the steering wheel. In short sessions, hidden away in the parking garage of his workplace, he grabbed the only free time he had to himself and, over time, created the course.

He did that for as long as it took, lesson after lesson.

Would it have been more efficient if he’d recorded them all at once in one week in a studio?

Sure.

Did he have the time and money to invest in creating or renting a studio at that time?

No.

He realized he had a few minutes at lunch time, and instead of feeling sorry for himself or waiting for perfect conditions, he fit in those tiny recording sessions and trusted they would stack up over time. And they did.

Just as paragraphs will add up for any writer who realizes he or she has a few minutes at lunch in the parking garage.

I hope that picture of a man driven to create something, using the open time slot he found in his schedule, inspires you to find your own slot of time to do your work, to write—to yawp! Even if it takes ten times longer than you’d like, eventually you’ll get it done.

Find Your Quiet Writing Space

In an interview on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara, Andre Dubus III said years ago, when his kids were little, he was working on a novel. They had a tiny apartment, he was teaching at four or five campuses as an adjunct writing professor, remodeling houses as a carpenter, and sleeping only four or five hours a night.

Determined to write that novel, he’d wake up at five in the morning, drive to a graveyard not far from his house, park there, and write. He wrote longhand in an notebook.

After about 17 minutes, he had to stop and drive to work as a teacher and carpenter. On the way back, he’d stop at the graveyard once more and write for another 17 minutes. Longhand. In a notebook.

That’s it. All he could find was a total of 34 minutes of writing time per day, split into two 17-minute sessions.

He decided not to wish for ideal circumstances and wait. Instead, he decided to write. And day after day, he drove to the graveyard and wrote.

“After three years,” he said, “I had 22 notebooks, filled.”

In those twice-a-day 17-minute writing sessions, he crafted the beginning, middle, and end of a novel that would become The House of Sand and Fog, the novel that put him on the map.

“So at the height of our young, struggling family life, I was able to write an entire novel,” he said. “Anyone can do it. You don’t need all day.”

Audit Your Schedule: Where, When, How Long, How Often

Audit your current schedule. Find a time, no matter how tiny, you can commit to becoming your writing session.

Figure out where you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, how long and how often.

Where? Find your parking lot or your graveyard. Maybe it’s a back porch or a cafe or a library.

When? Carve out your lunch hour to create or write before heading off to work all day.

How long? Will it be 30 minutes on that lunch break? Seventeen minutes before you head to work? Can you find an hour slot in the evening when you’re currently watching a TV show?

How often or how frequently will you pull it off? Will you write every day of the work week? Or are your weekends more free and every Saturday you can commit to a writing session?

Find where you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, how long and how often.

Then do it.

To write when you work full time, you embrace the limitations and stop looking at the time not available and find time that is available.

Do an audit of your weekly schedule, find some bits and snatches—if you’re lucky, you’ll find a chunk of time here and there.

Devote those time slots to writing.

Two-Month Experiment

Try it for two months. When you first begin, it’ll feel like the entire universe is conspiring to keep you from getting to the library with your notebook and pen.

Eventually, though, the universe will adjust. And most Saturdays when you get to your cubicle in the back, over by the biographies, where it’s quiet, you’ll be able to write. Whether it’s ten minutes, two hours, or an entire morning, you’ll write.

Do that as often as possible, and you will be a writer. You will chip away at your work in progress. You will sound your yawp over the roofs of the world.

You must write. No more waiting.

There’s a writer in you ready to yawp, and you know it. So don’t wait. You must write.

Source:annkroeker.com

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How to Write in a Conversational Style That Will Connect with Your Readers

The other day, I was checking my email when I came across a suspicious looking message. It began with the line, “Dear Sir/Madam”.

The first paragraph read,

Please pardon me if I intrude into your privacy, and may I humbly solicit your confidence in this transaction. I came to know about you in my private search for a reliable and reputable foreigner to handle this confidential transaction.

Wow, that writing sounds like something straight out of a Dickens novel. I quickly clicked delete, suspecting that this was a phishing scam.

You’ve probably received emails like this too. And maybe you’ve also chuckled at their standoffish, overly formal tone. It seems to be a trademark of these types of spam emails.

However, not too long ago, no one would have laughed at that style of writing. It’s the style most people would have used if they wanted to come across as polite and professional.

In fact, your English teacher probably taught you a similar academic style when you were in school. Flowery language. Long paragraphs. Precise grammar. No contractions.

And then came the Internet. Over time, everyone from bloggers to big corporations realized that a conversational style of writing is a much more powerful way to engage and connect with your audience.

Formal writing hides your personality and can make your audience doubt your sincerity. It sometimes comes across as pretentious and is also plain difficult to read.

If you want to connect with your readers and get them to trust you, talk to them as you would to a good friend.

Kurt Vonnegut once observed,

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child…I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.

The good news is that writing in a conversational style can be a lot of fun. The bad news is that sometimes it can be difficult to unlearn the style you were taught in school.

That’s why in today’s post I’m sharing with you my 8-step checklist to conversational writing.

It’s the same checklist I use to make sure my writing sounds like I’m having a conversation with a friend at the local coffee shop, not like I’m delivering a college lecture or trying to scam my readers out of their life savings.

You can use this checklist when you’re writing a blog post, an email, copy for your website, or, really, anytime you want your writing to resonate with your readers.

The 8-Step Checklist to Writing Conversationally

1. Write to a single reader

The first step to making your writing sound more conversational is to imagine you are writing to a single reader, a close friend, not to a crowd of people.

Compare, for example, the difference between these two sentences:

  1. “For those of you who are interested, you can learn more details here.”
  2. “If you’re interested in learning more, you can get all of the details here.”

It’s only a subtle change, but the second sentence sounds much more personal and friendly than the first one.

I learned this tip from John Steinbeck who advised,

I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

And, yes, that means to never open an email with the words “Dear Sir/Madam”. 😉

Bonus tip:  Think really hard about who your audience is. What are their hopes and fears? What do they struggle with? What kind of jokes or cultural references would make them laugh? After all, you’d probably talk differently if you were having a friendly conversation with a group of retirees at a resort than with a group of young startup founders at a conference.

2. Use the words “You”, “We”, and “I”

Since you’re addressing your reader as an individual, you should use the personal pronoun “you” as much as possible and also refer to yourself as “I”.

Usually, it’s obvious where you can use these personal pronouns. But sometimes it’s a little more difficult to spot.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you wrote a sentence like this, “Often people find it difficult to move forward in situations like these.”

You could make this statement more compelling by bringing the reader right into the sentence: “Often you might find it difficult to move forward in situations like these.”

Words like “might” or “probably” can help you qualify the statement so you don’t come across as preachy or lecturing.

In fact, depending on the context of the paragraph, you might want to include yourself along with the reader in the sentence: “Sometimes we might find it difficult to move forward in situations like these.”

This makes you sound even more like a friend to your reader.

3. Eliminate passive sentences

Passive sentences are one of those tell-tale signs of academic and technical writing. If your high school grammar is a little rusty, you can read a quick review of passive sentences here.

Essentially, in a passive sentence, the subject receives the action rather than performing it.

For example, politicians and business executives like to use the passive voice when they want to avoid claiming responsibility for a mistake. They might write, “Mistakes were made.”

It’s a neat little trick because this sentence avoids taking responsibility by failing to tell us who made the mistakes.

Note that you can’t fix a passive sentence by tacking the subject onto the end. “Mistakes were made by all of us” is still passive.

So how to fix it?

Just write, “We all made mistakes.” Now the sentence is active.

If you have a WordPress blog, I highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin. It will point out your passive sentences when you write your posts. If you’re not writing on a WordPress blog, you can use the Hemingway App.

4. Use as many contractions as you can

If you’ve ever wondered what English would sound like if we talked without contractions, check out the film adaptation of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges (Amazon affiliate link). The movie is set in the Old West, and most of the time the characters avoid using contractions when they speak.

It sounds unusual to say the very least. Just imagine if you tried to go a whole day without using a contraction when you spoke. Yup, it would probably be quite difficult.

So if we want our writing to sound like everyday speech and not as if we’re stuck in the Old West, we should use words like “you’re” and “I’m”.

Even if you’re already using contractions in your writing, it’s a good exercise to run through your article one more time to see if there are any more you can add.

5. Engage your readers with rhetorical questions

Imagine you’re talking with a friend. You probably look for cues that they’re listening to what you’re saying. Maybe they nod their head or murmur an approving “mmhmmm”. You might even try to get an immediate response from them by asking a question like, “Don’t you agree?”

When used correctly, questions are a fantastic way to draw your readers into your writing too.

First, don’t go overboard when you use them or your reader might feel like they’ve been hauled into an interrogation. Second, try to avoid lazy, open-ended questions. For example, if you’re writing a recipe post and ask, “Who likes spaghetti and meatballs?”, your reader can sarcastically answer, “I don’t.”

Instead, ask rhetorical questions that have an obvious ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Here’s an example: “Wouldn’t you love it if you got home after a long day at work and there was a warm, home-cooked meal waiting for you?”

One of my favorite ways to turn a sentence into a question is to just add “right?” onto the end. For example: “No one likes waiting in line for hours at the DMV, right?”

6. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short

Long blocks of text are intimidating to read, especially if you’re reading on a mobile device. I try to write paragraphs that are no more than three to four sentences long.

And, hey, that’s usually the way we talk too. Ever heard someone who just talks and talks, never letting you get a word in edgewise, and never taking a breath? It’s exhausting listening to a person like that.

Look through your writing to see if there are any long-winded sentences that you can shorten or divide into two sentences. Are there any long paragraphs that you can separate into multiple paragraphs?

In conversational writing, it’s okay to break grammar rules occasionally. Sometimes sentence fragments can give your writing an added punch.

7. Choose your words carefully

As an extension of tip #6, try to make your sentences as simple and clear as possible by carefully choosing your words.

For example, instead of padding your sentences with extra words like “by examination of the following situations we see that…” you could just write, “The following situations show…”

In his Six Rules for Writing, George Orwell observes,

Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out…Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Additionally, depending on your audience, you can use popular slang to make your writing sound “on fleek”. Yeah, you do need to be careful with that one. It might make your readers roll their eyes.

Remember that the goal is to mimic your voice, not a random teenager’s. Think about what phrases or slang expressions you use when talking with friends or that your audience uses.

Bonus Tip: You can use the Yoast SEO pluginthe Hemingway App, or Readable.io to check your writing’s readability score. A readability score tells you roughly what level of education someone would need in order to read your piece of text easily. A lower level will be more conversational compared to a higher level that would be understood only by graduate students.

Read my post here for more tips: How to Edit Your Writing: An Effective 7-Step Process

8. Become a storyteller

When we talk with our friends, we share stories about our personal lives. Even something as mundane as missing a subway connection can become a story that makes us laugh together.

Sharing personal stories in our writing helps us connect with our readers and show them there’s a human behind the screen. In the digital age, human connections are more valued than ever. That’s why sites like Humans of New York are so popular.

When you use stories in your own writing, make sure that you hone in on a theme that elevates your story from being just about you. A universal and uplifting theme will make it relevant to your readers as well. Show them how the story can apply to their own lives.

I’ve written more about how to tell powerful stories here: 8 Tips from The Memoir Project That Will Make You a Powerful Storyteller

And I recently wrote this post about how you can use stories to illustrate complex and abstract concepts in your writing: The Two Magic Words That Will Strengthen Your Writing

The Takeaway: Inject Personality Into Your Writing

The novelist Elmore Leonard once noted,

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

That’s a good rule of thumb to follow as you edit your article to try to make it sound more conversational. I recommend reading it out loud since you’ll quickly be able to see if there are any sentences that sound unnatural and stilted.

Are you using words that you’d never use if you were talking to your friends? Are there any places where you can include a bit of humor or a story? A funny gif?

Or maybe you can drop some pop cultural references?

For example, all of your friends might know you stayed up late watching the Olympics last week  — why not let your readers know that too? (Well, actually, the men’s curling gold medal match was on way too late even for this night owl, and I had to DVR it to watch the next day. 😉 ).

The bottom line: have fun with it, let your personality shine through, and try to sound like your readers’ best friend.

By
Source: nicolebianchi.com

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