Tag Archives: creative writing

Why You Don’t Need To Put Everything In Your Book

One of the main reasons beginner writers don’t finish their books is because they try to put everything into the story.

If you want to write a novel, you need to follow some basic rules. You need to limit the number of your characters. You need to give them story goals. You need to limit the number of settings. You need to include necessary dialogue and leave out unimportant conversations.

If you don’t do this, you run the risk of overwhelming your readers. Readers who feel lost are likely to abandon your story and find another one where they feel more comfortable.

Too Many Characters

Readers read to live vicariously through a fictional character. You cannot expect them to fragment into 10 characters and empathise with everybody.

We follow the rule that you should concentrate on the four main characters, with special emphasis on your protagonist. Allow them to bond with this creation so that they can identify with them.

Suggested reading: The 4 Main Characters As Literary Devices

Too Many Settings

The same goes for settings. Readers like to feel that they know where the story takes place. They become comfortable with the world you’ve created. If you continuously add new settings, you will distract them and you will interrupt the flow of the story.

We follow the rule that you should introduce most of your settings within the first quarter of your book. You should also limit them to the worlds of the four main characters.

Suggested reading: 12 Crucial Things To Remember About Setting

Too Many Plots

Readers also don’t want to feel confused by too many story lines. Again, look at your protagonist’s story goal and use this to figure out your plot and sub-plot.

Readers are comfortable with one main plot and one or two sub-plots. Remember that this is not the only book you will write. Keep some of the plots you want to include for other novels – or maybe a sequel.

Suggested reading: 6 Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story

Keep It Simple

This does not mean that you are dumbing down your story, but you are following the rules of fiction writing. Choose your characters. Give them clear story goals. Write the book.

If you do this, you are more likely to be published. Editors are more likely to give you a chance. More importantly, readers are more likely to enjoy your book,

Good luck with your writing!

By Amanda Patterson

Source: writerswrite.co.za

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Keeping the Writing Love Alive

You are not alone.

This week is Valentine’s Day and, all over America, hearts and flowers are on many people’s minds. Perhaps you are worrying about your secret (or not so secret) love: your writing love. Have you lost that loving feeling? Do you find excuses to avoid your manuscript?

Cosmopolitan magazine is known for their articles on keeping love alive, right? So I looked up what they have to say.

Crazy Cosmo offers advice like “Flash Him,” “Do the dishes together,” and “Outlaw Grunge Wear.”

This is not helpful, even if we’re talking about a human. However, this gem made me smile:

Share a Secret Code
Pick a word that’s likely to come up occasionally in conversation (heat, midnight, bedroom, whipped cream…) and agree that every time someone uses it, you have to touch—anything from a kiss to a lingering thigh stroke under the table.

The Real Advice

Cosmo love expert, Esther Perel, had some real advice that can work for writers:

Forever used to mean “till death do us part.” These days, though, it seems many people interpret it as “until love dies.” It just takes work, self-awareness, and communication.

Here’s what long-haul couples [like you and your glorious manuscript] know:

1. They’re practical about what matters.

In other words, see your schedule as it is. Don’t try to shoehorn writing in without a plan. If there is literally not a single hour in your schedule, then don’t write that day…and plan for that. Or wake up an hour early. Give up your lunch break at work. But making a plan is better than feeling guilty over missing a vague goal.

2. They check in with each other…often.

Even if you don’t have an hour to sit down at your computer, do SOMETHING related to your manuscript every day.

  • Look up photos of your main characters and bookmark them.
  • Write down a description for something in your scene.
  • Do some research.
  • Write a snippet of conversation.

3. They take responsibility.

This is your dream. It is your responsibility to achieve it. To take the time and do the work. It’s hard. Some days it is wonderful and some days it sucks. But a dream is still important, and it is up to you to achieve it.

You can do this.

Ms. Perel made a point in her article that hit home with me. She recomends you work toward self-awareness to ensure that your relationship (in this case with your book) is successful.

In her book Loving Bravely, Alexandra H. Solomon writes about “relational self-awareness,” or recognizing how you act within your relationship. You know your vulnerabilities, strengths, and fears. If you want a long-term bond with the person you’re with, you’ll want to see evidence that they have self-awareness too.

4. They’re direct communicators.

I took a class once by Susan Squires where she talked about how to successfully talk back to your own brain. That you must ask yourself and your characters short, direct questions.

Not “so why does the hero fall in love with the heroine over coffee at her mother’s soda fountain?” Rather, you’d ask, “What most attracted the hero to the heroine in the first place?”

You can ask yourself a simple question, and your brain will actually work on it. Let your brain do the work it can do, instead of demanding a bunch of details. That’s how you get your characters to talk to you. Complaints and complexity never made anyone want to communicate better.

Perel says, “To get their needs met, lasting duos ask for what they want. They make requests instead of complaints. ”

5. They try not to feel entitled.

Relationships are not always easy, and if you think yours will be, then you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and resentful of your partner. You don’t want to resent your writing. You love your writing.

The article says, “You need to deal with your insecurities and find ways to feel good.” (Duh.)

6. They reinvent their relationships.

Instead of thinking of forever as being rooted in the same partnership until death, think of it as having two or three relationships with the same person throughout your lives.

This one is awesome. What I hear them saying here is:

It’s okay to change a process that isn’t working for you. Don’t cling to your old ways that aren’t working and do the whole “break up and get back together” dance.

Take the time to find out what work for you, so you can enjoy your writing time.

No article on writing love is complete without quotes, right?

Keep your writing passion (quotes)

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” — Stephen King

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” — Wally Lamb

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” — William Carlos Williams

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank

and last but not least…

“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” — Chinua Achebe

So, I’ll leave you with that Achebe quote. The best way to keep your writing love alive is to NOT QUIT. Keep going, learning, doing, striving. At the end of that, you will have a book that you love.

I promise.

How do you keep your writing love alive? Do you have rituals or practices? Times of day when you write the best? Share them with us down in the comments!

By Jenny Hansen

Source: writersinthestormblog.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be this Year? (Let’s Find Out)

We’re already a whole month into the New Year, which can be a tricky time for people as we start to get busier and our carefully made resolutions start to drop off. Life gets in the way, and suddenly our good intentions become just that—intentions. Consider this your friendly reminder to remember what your goals are,

Not only should you remind yourself what goals you’ve set, but you should also try to think about what kind of person you want to be. What kind of writer you want to be. If you decide who you want to become, then you can make sure that all of your actions line up with your aspirations.

So what type of writer might you want to strive to be this year?

(You can pick more than one and mix them up however you like!)

A more productive writer

A productive writer makes the most of whatever time they have. Sometimes that time is four or five hours and sometimes it’s only a few minutes in the pickup zone at school. If you want to be more productive this new year, you’ll want to focus on carving out time in the day for yourself that’s for writing and writing alone.

It can help to have multiple projects in the works at once. If you only have a few minutes, you can continue working out a new idea in your head. If you have hours to yourself, that might be the time for heavy edits. Either way, a productive writer takes every opportunity to get things done.

A kinder writer

If you have the tendency to be hard on yourself, maybe this year is the time to be gentler. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you make. Try not to worry about the things that are out of your control, like whether or not you win a contest or how long it takes for an agent to respond to your query letter.

Writing is rewarding, but it’s also difficult. If you get bogged down in the hardships, it’s easy to forget why you started writing in the first place. Remind yourself why it makes you happy by writing what you’d love to read.

A more honest writer

I think we’re all guilty of falling into that trap of writing whatever we think is going to sell well. But the hard truth is, trends change all the time. It’s impossible to predict whether people are going to want to buy stories about vampires, societies in outer space, long-lost royalty, or feuding families. By focusing on what’s best for the market, we lose sense of who we are at our core.

Write what’s meaningful to you. There’s a reader out there for every book. Write for that reader by writing for you first. First drafts are meant to be creative and fun and low-stakes. Once you get into revisions, then you might look at your story with more of an eye toward publishing, but by staying true to yourself, your story will have that special spark.

A more disciplined writer 

Writers are always waiting for that elusive muse to come to them with a full-fledged story, but unfortunately, inspiration isn’t something we can wait for. When so much of publishing is centered around deadlines, we can’t afford to let inspiration come to us. We have to seek it out ourselves.

If you have a difficult time getting your butt in a chair or resisting the temptation of mindlessly scrolling through social media (and I’m guilty of this, too), make this the year you decide to be more disciplined about your writing. Create daily habits, even if it means you only get a little bit done each day. Commit to completing those half-finished projects sitting untouched in your files. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do with a little effort.

A braver writer 

For some, showing work to others comes easily, but for others, the very thought has them crippled with fear. If you write just to make yourself happy and you’re perfectly content to never share it with anyone, then there’s no need to go any further than that. But if you have publishing aspirations of any kind, then at some point you’ll have to take the plunge.

Writing isn’t a solitary activity, though it may seem that way. Once you’ve written a story, it takes a team of several people to help you revise and polish your work, and that requires sharing it with other others. It will potentially be uncomfortable at first, but it will be ultimately rewarding once you’re able to collaborate with someone and make your writing better. Take it step by step. Share your story with a trusted friend first, then work your way to opening yourself up for criticism.

Always work toward the better

No matter what your area of focus is this year, remember that with every word you write, you’re growing as an artist. Practice will never make perfect, but it will get you pretty darn close. Set those lofty goals and do everything in your power to reach them. I know you can do it.

What kind of writer do you want to be this new year? Leave a comment!

By The Magic Violinist

Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

8 Great Writing Tips for Kids

I’m 33 now (which feels very old!) but I’ve loved writing since I was a kid myself. The very first story I remember writing was about a mouse, when I was five or six. I spent a lot of time writing stories throughout my childhood, and I had a go at my first novel when I was thirteen.

Writing has always been one of my favourite things to do … and for the last ten years, it’s been what I’ve done for a living.

When I was at school, a lot of the writing I did was as part of my school work. At school, your teachers are probably keen for you to know lots of things about writing – like where to put commas, and what nouns and verbs are, and so on.

There are lots of great tips out there about how to get things like that right, and I’ll link to some of those for you in this post. I wanted to focus on some tips, though, about enjoying writing and having fun with it … and about becoming a better writer overall (not just a better speller)!

Here are my best tips on how to keep growing and improving as a writer, however young you are:

#1: Have a go at some writing exercises – you can find lots of these online, or you could have a go at them in workbooks or school books. Lots of adults find writing exercises helpful, too, so that they can get better at writing. You can find some great ones to try here.

#2: Read a lot. Almost every writer I know is also a keen reader. Try to read a wide range of different things – like classic story books as well as modern ones, non-fiction (factual) books, magazine or newspaper articles, and so on. You’ll come across lots of different ways to write, and you might learn some new words.

#3: Keep a little book of new words you learn. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand a word the first time you read it. Sometimes you can guess from the rest of the sentence what it means, but if not, you can just look it up in a dictionary. You might want to ask an adult how to say the new word, too – you could write down how it sounds. For instance, “matron” is pronounced “may-tron” (with a long “a” sound) not “mah-tron” (with a short “a” sound), which is how I thought it was said when I first read it in an Enid Blyton story.

#4: Try writing stories for children younger than you, or stories that involve children younger than you. This is a great thing to do when you’re still quite young yourself, because you can remember what it’s like to be six or seven. (Adult writers find it hard to remember, and often they create young children characters who are too babyish for their age.) If you have a little brother or sister, or a younger cousin, you could read your stories out to them.

#5: Remember that even adults don’t get things right first time. Sometimes I get a spelling wrong, or I write a sentence that’s confusing for my reader. And I’m a professional writer! It’s fine to make mistakes, so don’t worry about getting everything perfect in your first draft. Just make sure you leave a bit of time to go back and edit afterwards (just like adult writers do) so that you can fix any mistakes.

#6: Have a go at different types of writing. When I was young, I like to make pretend magazines or newspapers. That’s something that children have enjoyed doing for a very long time – in one of my favourite classic children’s books, The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit, the children in the story make their own newspaper filled with things they’ve written. Maybe you could have a go at making a newspaper to share with your family and friends – or maybe you’d like to write poetry or a play script, or something else entirely.

#7: Keep a journal about your day to day life. There are lots of ways to do this – you could write a sentence or two each day, for instance, or you could write a longer piece once a week. You could write about what you’re learning at school, who your friends are, the games you’ve been playing … even what you had for lunch! Details that might seem boring now could be really interesting when you read your journal when you’re 20 or 30 or even 80!

#8: Ask for help if you get stuck. If there’s something you don’t understand in what you’re reading, or if you can’t work out if something you’ve written is quite right, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most adults will be very glad to give you a hand. You could try a teacher, or a librarian (either at your school library or your local library). If you get to meet any adult writers, perhaps through school or at an event, think up some good questions for them too!

I hope you have lots of fun with your writing. It can feel like there’s a lot to get right, but (outside of school time) the most important thing is that you enjoy writing. I hope the ideas above help you to get even more out of writing. If you’ve got any tips of your own, why not share them with us in the comments?

By Ali Hale

Source: dailywritingtips.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Writing What You Don’t Know

New authors often hear the phrase, “Write what you know.” But what if you’re led to write a story you know nothing about? Oh, you know the characters, their goals and motivations, but what if there are elements within the story that you’re not only clueless about, they make you uncomfortable and you fear you won’t be able to do them justice?
Almost three years ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing up a five-book proposal. All I lacked was a blurb for the final story in the series. I knew a good bit about this brother but had no idea what his story would be about. So, I just started writing. The next think I knew, I had one heck of a blurb. A wonderful story full of conflict. There was just one problem. It involved childhood cancer, a subject I knew zero about, nor did I know anyone who was familiar with it. But, since that last blurb was the only thing stopping me from sending off the proposal, I kept it in there and sent it anyway.

 

Now, I’m tasked with writing that book just the way I first proposed it. And while I’m still intimidated by it, an interesting thing happened along the way. God intervened.

Nearly two years ago, more than a year after I sent off that proposal, we moved from the suburbs of Dallas-Ft. Worth to a rural area west of Houston. We moved our membership from a church of about ten thousand members to one with around three hundred. And there, in our new Sunday school class, we became friends with a couple who had lost their son to childhood cancer. God was on the move.

Another element of my story I wasn’t familiar with was youth cancer camps. After casually mentioning that to another friend one day at lunch, I received a text from her a few days later telling me that a mutual friend of ours had a grandson who was working at a youth cancer camp and he’d be happy to put us in touch.
I was blown away. God was providing exactly what I needed to get this story written. Yes, I would still need to do some research online, but now I would also be able to add a personal touch to the story.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I think there are things in here both readers and writers can glean.

If He calls us, He will equip us.

Have you ever noticed that God often likes to take us out of our comfort zones? Some would say God is testing us. However, I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to exercise faith.

I didn’t fret about that story after I sent off the proposal. No, I simply figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I’d hit the internet to see what I could learn and pray that God would give me the discernment I would need. But God was already at work, putting those people in my path that He knew I would need to help me write a better story.

Has God ever called you to a task you felt ill-equipped for?

 

Don’t put God in a box.

 

Sometimes I forget how big God is. He created the universe and everything in it. He parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross over on dry ground. If He’s big enough to do those things, isn’t He big enough to provide whatever we need at any given moment in any circumstance?

 

God is in the details.

 

The Bible tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head. If that’s not detail oriented, I don’t know what is. Just look at God’s instruction for building the tabernacle and all of the items within it. He didn’t simply give the Israelites an overview, He gave them specifics. Everything from measurements to what types of wood, precious metals and stones were to be used. God is not into mass production. He’s molding each and every one of us into His perfect design. Our job is to remain moldable.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

 

In my book Falling for the Hometown Hero, there was something that God kept nudging me to write, but I repeatedly ignored it because I knew it was going to be difficult. It wasn’t until my third round of revisions I finally gave in and did what God wanted me to do. The result, a note from my editor saying she loved it and had no revisions. God may take us places we really don’t want to go, but in the end, His way is always better than ours.

 

Don’t shy away from a task God has given you just because you think you can’t do it. Instead, choose to believe that He is already at work preparing your way as you set out to tackle the challenge that He’s laid before you.

Source: seekerville.blogspot.com

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A Writer’s Manifesto

Imagine sitting down at your desk to write on a day when you’re just not feeling it.

You know you have to write this scene, or reach a certain word count, and it just feels like a grind. You light a candle, or sharpen your pencils, and begin to type, hoping to find that ‘flow’ eventually by dint of sheer will.

Now imagine sitting down at that same desk with those same goals.

You pick up a single sheet of paper and read it. Suddenly, you remember your purpose as a writer: why you wanted to do this, what you hope to achieve. You see the touchstones that shape and define your voice. You have a vision of your current project as one drop in the river that is your writing life, all of which is changing the world in a particular way. You remember what, at your best, you wanted that change to look like.

A little tingle of excitement begins to build. And you begin to type.

What was on that piece of paper?! And how can you get one?

Read on!

MANIFESTO OR GOALS?

A few months ago, I realized my writing journey had become like a clifftop walk where I was only looking at my own two feet and completely missing the amazing view all around me.

I lifted my head up and decided it was time to look beyond the next goal, the next deadline, and create a manifesto for my whole writing life.

That manifesto has helped motivate, target, and unify all my writing efforts, from the articles I pitch to the individual scenes I write. I helps me get excited about where I’m going, but also about where I am.

I’d like to help you create your manifesto, too.

WHAT IS A WRITER’S MANIFESTO?

A writer’s manifesto is a highly personal document that,

  • Is about your identity as a writer.
  • Gives you a unified sense of what you want to achieve in all your writing.
  • Transcends genres and projects.
  • Is more motivating than individual goals.

Here’s mine:

In my work and my life I will be

OPENHEARTED

OPTIMISTIC

Always looking for the HUMOR, even when it is dark.

SKEPTICAL, but not cynical.

FORGIVING of my work’s flaws.

PROLIFIC and POSITIVE and always producing the next thing.

Committed to the CRAFT (read lots, analyze and share, put into practice)

Committed to the COMMUNITY (past, present and future. Part of a lineage.)

UPLIFTING (this doesn’t mean Pollyanna-is. Remember my mentors.)

A BELIEVER that ART MATTERS.

I create worlds I want to live in, and inspire others to do the same (not just on the page).

Dated & Signed

Some of that won’t mean much to you, because it is so personal to me. In fact, it may make you cringe. Yours will likely look much different, and it should.

But looking that list, I remember the process of selecting each of those values and statements, and it takes me back to a moment when I was my best self. That’s what you should be aiming for, too.

HOW MY MANIFESTO HELPED ME WRITE A SINGLE SCENE

I had goals for my recent novel: I was to write a particular scene by the end of the week.

Only I couldn’t make myself do it.

My scene dealt with important issues and the mood of the piece kept skewing somber. I was depressing myself (and, I assume, my reader) and I kept stalling.

When I pulled out my manifesto the first three qualities were: ‘open-hearted’, ‘optimistic’, and ‘always looking for the humor’. My manifesto reminded me that, for me, art is a way to create the kind of world I want to live in. And that world is not somber.

No wonder I was stalling when I was trying to write a ‘serious’ scene. That realization gave me permission to write the scene in a much lighter way, which broke my block entirely.

For you, remembering your manifesto might give you permission to go deep, to make readers cry, or to scare the pants off them.

Or it might remind you that you have no patience for wasted time, so why are you trudging though this scene, trying to describe everything from the lighting to the drapes, instead of getting your character to the fight scene?

Likewise, when I pitch articles to magazines and blogs, or brainstorm podcast topics, my manifesto helps narrow down the topic areas and the tone each piece will take. It helps me focus on the work I love.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR MANIFESTO

  1. Make a list of your current favorite writers, artists, creative people , and note what you admire about them. (In my case I wrote: Amanda Palmer, for her commitment to making the art only she can make and finding ways to get paid for it, for her commitment to openness…Mary Robinette Kowal for her pursuit of the craft of writing and storytelling, for her willingness to share, and for her ability to keep turning out stories and books, building her audience; Nick Stephenson for his calculated open-heartedness; Kim Stanley Robinson for his unique style and optimism; Neil Gaiman for the same things, and for the literary family tree he grew out of; Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for their quirky style, humor, big ideas, and the fact that what they offer I can only get from them).
  2. Make a list of the commonalities; the things your artistic godparents share. I quickly realized that ‘optimism’,’ humor’ and ‘open-heartedness’ belonged on my list, along with a commitment to the craft and to turning out work. I also saw a strong sense that art matters, that creative works can change the world, something I realized I believed too.
  3. Write: In My Work I Will Be…and then note down all the qualities that resonated most deeply with you. (I hand-wrote my manifesto, randomly capitalizing words that I wanted to stand out, and put it on my desk. You could be more or less artistic. Frame it, or simply jot it down on a post-it or in your phone. Whatever works to keep it on hand.
  4. Sign and Date Your Manifesto. This is your commitment to yourself that you are serious about creating a particular kind of writing life. The date is important too. You may find it useful to update your manifesto as you learn and grow and change. Some of the items will remain the same, but others may change.
  5. Use It. Whenever you sit down to write a new work, pitch a new idea, or continue a piece you’ve been working on, take a quick look at your manifesto. Remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve, not just today, but in your writing life.

Since writing my manifesto, I have a feeling of comfort and confidence that I never had before. I may not know exactly what I’m going to write today, but I know how I’m going to write.

I’m no longer faced with the paralyzing tyranny of freedom: I am not free to write cynical, mean or perfect drafts. I’m no longer free to imagine I can be unique, but instead must acknowledge my literary lineage. Whatever I write today—from this blog post, to a scene in my novel, to the podcast I plan to record this afternoon—I have a roadmap for it. I know what I’m trying to achieve and the kind of mark I want my work to leave on the parts of the world it touches.

When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself how you want to be writing. Not what characters or stories or subjects you’ll tackle or how you’ll make this scene perfect, but what you want to achieve with your writing. Pick up your manifesto and ask how you can make today’s writing align with your values.

If you can do that, you’ll stay true to your own voice, and you’ll create a vibrant, coherent body of work that touches the world in a way unique to you.

By Julie Duffy

Source: writerunboxed.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How do they do it? The Literary Masters of Suspense and Their Secrets

How do they do it? The Literary Masters of Suspense

As a mid-career novelist, I am attempting to forge fiction that is a hybrid of the literary and mystery and suspense genres.  And I have my role models, novelists whose work while suspenseful, also showcase in-depth characterization as well as consistently elegant and thought-provoking sentences that rival anything published in the “literary genre.”

One preeminent writer of this sort of fiction is the late Iris Murdoch, a Booker Prize-winning novelist as well as a professor of philosophy at Oxford, whose deeply thoughtful novels are often characterized by gruesome acts of violence and torture (both physical and psychological) and delicately wound in a golden thread of suspense. Two of her books, each of which involves small-town life, were particularly inspirational. First and foremost is The Word Child whose protagonist, Hilary Burde, an abused orphan, finds that his gift for language (how it works and fits together in poetry as well as prose), wins him a place at Oxford. Burde graduates with high honors, lands a teaching job at his alma mater, and at the height of his career, enters a love affair with a married woman, which is found out and causes him to lose his hallowed place in academia and bottom out.  Hilary ends up in a boring, unchallenging office job and one day learns that his new boss is the husband of the woman with whom he has had the affair.  The way Murdoch maneuvers her characters and situations with deep insight into love and relationships is intense and suspenseful, and from research into her personal life, I conclude that she has drawn the portraits of her characters from the obsessive, arguably destructive love affairs that punctuated her life—until she became afflicted with dementia.

 

Adding to this suspenseful novel is another Murdoch in the same vein, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which begins as an experiment by a sinister character named Julius who aims, through a series of false claims and lies, to undermine the loyalties of couples (both gay and straight) and wreaks havoc on the lives of people who presume him to be a friend.  The book is perfectly balanced between plot and characterization and is founded on a provocative idea: that evil is communicated throughout the world by people who suffer from it and who are willing to pass their suffering and this evil onto the next person.  And the only way evil is stopped is when the suffering person makes a conscious attempt not to pass it on.

From Murdoch I move on to an American novelist, William Kent Krueger, the author of the Cork O’Connor series of mysteries whose stand-alone novel, Ordinary Grace, paints an indelible portrait of a small Minnesota town in the early 1960s and whose first-person protagonist, the son of a preacher, recounts a summer of five deaths, some of them accidental, some of them murders, and one of them, tragically, of his older sister.  This potent coming-of-age novel rivals similar novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird and A Separate Peace, and takes its title from how the narrator’s father handles all sorts of difficult situations with ordinary grace.  This book won the Edgar Award for best novel for a work of fiction published in 2012 and in many ways is remarkably similar to Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, another first-person coming-of-age novel set in the same part of the world portrayed by the winner of the National Book Award in the same year.  Having read and admired both of these novels, I would be hard-pressed to choose which one is better, and I have no doubt that Erdrich and Krueger probably read one another’s novels and admired them as much as I did.

Source: strandmag.com

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4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier

 

Why Do We Say that Writing is Hard?

 

I don’t think writing is hard – wooden tables are, gemstones are, and sometimes my head is, but writing? No.

It’s as simple and complex as having an idea, putting words together, adding the thoughts or feelings, linking to the research, and using keywords for SEO.

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

1. The Idea is the Starting Point

 

If you’re writing a blog about a particular subject, you’ve always got an idea. Can you present it from a different perspective? Are you an expert on the topic? Do you have credibility when it comes to that subject? If you’ve answered, “Yes”, then maybe you’re just bored with the idea.

That happens. How many times can I write, “Recovery works” to try and encourage someone struggling with their addictions? So far, I’ve filled a lot of pages on my other blog with exactly that same message.

In all fairness, not more than 5% of the posts literally include the words, “Recovery works”, but in each of these 185 posts, that’s the underlying message or idea.

Yet, each post is presented from a different viewpoint, or for some, it’s because I wrote from the perspective of depth rather than breadth.

Breadth and depth each had distinct advantages. With breadth, I can write an overview of the idea. With depth, I’ll isolate one key element after a general statement of intent and elaborate on that aspect.

 

2. What are the Thoughts and Feelings about the Idea?

 

Much of that writing entails describing thoughts and feelings; it’s personal to me, but judging from the comments, my experiences with the topic are commonplace.  So the idea of addiction and recovery have an already established audience. Now, it’s my job to take the idea and make it fresh and new.

One of the easiest ways to get readers interested is to ask questions. So far, I’ve asked four and will ask more before I’m finished. Why? Because I know that what I think, feel, or know is limited to my experiences and there are other people out there who can supply additional information that I might find useful.

So now that boring, “Been there, done that” idea is open to others, and sometimes the What’s In It For Me principle factors here – the readers get to let me know how much they know about the topic.  I don’t know how many other posts a reader’s comments have generated, but a fair number.

Beyond my interest and a reader’s interest, there’s always room for research.

 

3. What Are Valuable and  Interesting Research Links?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

For some of us, the idea of research sounds like the library desk with musty, dusty tomes all opened to various pages, sticky notes protruding from them, and 3 x 5 cards littering the table.

Not today. Research is a key element in any post. Why? Because it validates your argument, presents reliable information by experts on the topic, references a quote that summarizes your topic, or lends credibility to your idea.

But too many people get careless in their links – the old Wikipedia will have something about it. Delve deeper than that. If you’re going to use Wikipedia, research the references and see where that leads. I’ve used the referenced sources before and been pleased with the linked information.

Links within also lend authority to any post.  They can be external or internal. If you write on a collaborative site, like Two Drops of Ink, then see what your co-writers have to say about the topic.  You’ve added a valuable link and given them some additional exposure for their writing.

I know that two of our monthly contributors, Noelle Sterne and Peter B. Giblett will always give links that let me know more about their chosen topics. I’ve yet to find a link in any of their posts that didn’t add value.

All of these links help with your SEO as well. And while we may not always understand the algorithms that Google uses, SEO is always a factor in getting your post noticed. Click To Tweet

 

4. Can You See Me Now?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

How many of you have searched for yourself or your blog? Confession, I have. And if I’m simply looking at Marilyn L. Davis, boy do I rate. However, that’s not really how most people know me. It’s the same for your blog or business. You may find yourself, but is that how the average person is looking for your site or posts? Probably not.  Granted, some names are forever embedded in our brains. Think of all the major brands.

But since most of us aren’t a major brand, how do you get your name or blog to rank on the first page of Google? Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital simplifies the problem.

“Google algorithm updates in 2018 revealed that Google is intensifying its focus on evaluating the content quality and at the depth and breadth of a website’s content, said Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital.

“We tracked the SEO performance of a number of different sites,” Enge said. “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

It’s critical to understand your readers wants and needs, and to write posts that satisfy them. Jesse McDonald, SEO specialist and director of operations for Fully Integrated Enterprise SEO Agency – TopHatRank.com. states, “It will be more critical than ever for SEOs and content specialists to focus heavily on the user intent of the keywords they are targeting while creating content,” McDonald said.

But how do you attract new readers? By understanding how people use Google, Bing, Quora, or other search engines.

Expanding on the Keywords

A big trend now is the Keto diet. Google that and you get inundated with hits. So that’s a safe keyword. But a better site will include Keto:

  1. Recipes
  2. Hidden pitfalls (of Keto)
  3. Foods allowed  (on Keto)
  4. Foods to avoid (on Keto)
  5. The science (of the Keto diet)
  6. Lose weight (with Keto)
  7. … and more.

In the WordPress editor, you can add categories and tags. So for the above, I’d add all the other aspects and probably attract readers who wanted more in-depth information, not just Keto diet.

Yoast Plug-in is a Second Set of Eyes

Yoast is a plug-in for a WordPress site. It also has an editor that gives you insight or frequently used words in your post. This also helps you determine keywords and where to strategically place them:

  • In the title – near the beginning
  • Throughout the post
  • Only where relevant

Check all the features of Yoast before you publish. There’s a lot of tips, edits, and suggestions that help improve your writing, as well as giving you a list of internal links from your site that would add value to the post.

And it’s always nice to get the little green dots – means something is right.

Will They Understand This Post? 

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

Besides the SEO, Yoast will give you a readability score. This number is based on:

  1. Flesch Reading Ease
  2. Passive Voice
  3. Consecutive Sentences
  4. Subheading Distribution
  5. Paragraph Lengths
  6. Sentence Length

And don’t forget that images offer you one more place to add keywords in the ALT text. Since search engines can’t see an image, these words act as a point of references for the search engines.

For instance, all the images for this post include the name of the post, Two Drops of Ink, and my name.  As an aside, I remember looking for an addiction image on Google, and up popped one for From Addict 2 Advocate. That reinforced the message that images are advertising in the background. Use them.

With just these four tips, you can make your writing relevant to your readers, add additional perspectives, find valuable links, and get Google’s attention.

Simplify, share your perspectives, do your research, and give your readers value in your posts.

See, it’s not hard at all.

 

By Marilyn L. Davis
Source: twodropsofink.com

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Want to Improve Your Writing? Change Your Thinking

A mental shift in how we think about our writing and process can change our perspective, and thus, help us see the things we’ve been missing.

A long time ago, when I was still fairly new to writing, I had my mind blown by a simple “change of perspective” in how I looked at writing. It was a light-bub moment that finally made me understand something I’d been struggling with at that time—point of view.

In the years that followed, I’ve had plenty moments where changing how I viewed or thought about something writing-related helped me understand it, or use it better. As I’ve spoken with other writers, I’ve seen the same lights go on in their eyes as they looked at something they’d struggled with and finally saw things click into place.

There’s a reason there is so much writing advice out there, from so many different people, and so many different approaches to essentially the same stuff. We all learn a little differently, and a technique or theory that works for one writer might fail miserably for another.

My own theory—if you’re struggling with something, come at it from a different direction and see if it helps. For example:

My struggle with point of view? I got past it because of a simple comment in a critique. In a scene where my protagonist sees a rowboat, my critique partner wrote:

“You used “the rowboat” here, which suggests she knew the rowboat was there and was looking for it. Did you mean “a rowboat,” which would suggest it was new information to her? It seems like she didn’t know it was there.”

This comment made me realize that it’s not about what the authors knows is there, but what the character knows is there, which is the essence of point of view—what information is known. I went from thinking description was about telling readers what was in a scene to showing readers what the POV-character saw. And my scenes got better overnight.

(Here’s more on understanding point of view)

Another light-bulb moment came when I mentally separated “editing” and “revising.” These words are used interchangeably all the time, and do mean basically the same thing, but for me, editing became what I did when I worked on changing specific words in the text. Revising became what I did when I worked on changing the overall plot and story.

Changing how I viewed these two words made a world of difference, because it changed how I approached the revision process as a whole. I used to get caught up with tweaking the text before I’d finished making sure the plot and story were sound. I’d polish text and end up cutting it, or worse—feel it was “done” and not cut or change it when it needed it.

Looking at edit and revise as two separate activities allowed me to focus on the part that needed to be done and ignore the rest. I didn’t worry about the text because I was revising, not editing. I focused on the text when I was editing and done revising. I no longer made every chapter “perfect” before moving on, because I didn’t need to edit until my revision was done. It streamlined my entire post-first draft process.

(Here’s more on the difference between editing and revising)

One last example made writing a scene much easier. I’d found myself thinking “What happens in this scene” versus “What are the characters trying to do in this scene?” This was inadvertently making me write scenes that lacked conflict and uncertainty, because they weren’t about a character trying to achieve a goal, but how my protagonist achieved that goal. It left no room for readers to wonder what might happen next, because everything was so obvious.

Once I shifted my thinking, my scenes got much stronger. My characters fought for their goals, my bad guys tried harder to stop them, and it opened me up to consider other possibilities in the scene that weren’t part of my outline. It let me think, “What did the characters do and how did those actions affect what others did?” Plotting became organic and natural instead of a series of described situations.

(Here’s more on looking at a scene from the bad guys’ perspective)

There’s an ebb and flow to writing, and we all have periods where we get stuck—either in a scene or in our own growth as a writer. When that happens, take a step back and think about why.

  • Have you ignored advice because you didn’t think it would work for you—even though you never tried it?
  • Are you fighting your natural process—outlining when you should be pantsing, pantsing when you should be outlining?
  • Are you trying to follow a “writing rule” too closely that may not apply to what you want to do—or could be wrong for your story or writing style?
  • Are you focused too much on the rules of writing and not enough on the process of storytelling?
  • Do you just need to try a different approach and seek out different opinions on the process or technique?

Writing is fluid, and that fluidity applies to our processes as well. Every writer is different, so it makes sense that how we write, and what helps us understand our writing, is going to change and evolve as we do. Everything we learn builds a stronger foundation under us and allows us to see writing in a new light. The more open we are to those changes, the more we grow as writers.

Looking at your writing from a new perspective can help you improve your writing and get past a sticking point—in both your skill set and your story. Don’t be afraid to try new things or adjust your thinking about old ideas or processes. You never know where those light-bulb moments will come from.

Where have some of your light-bulb moments come from? Has changing your thinking about an aspect of writing helped you?

By Janice Hardy
Source: blog.janicehardy.com

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What it Feels Like When Your Writing is Rejected – and How to Bounce Back

One reader asked me: “I’d like to know what it’s like to get rejected by a publisher or several (if that’s ever happened to you) and how you bounce back from it.”

It has indeed happened to me – as you can see from the photo above! Those are all the rejection letters I received in 2007 – 2008, for a fantasy novel that I was shipping around to agents/publishers, and for short stories that I was sending to magazines. I’ve had plenty of rejections since then, too: competition entries that didn’t even get placed, guest posts pitches that were turned down, reviews of my novels that were less than stellar.

Rejection is simply part of the business of writing. Of course, it would be great if everything you wrote was loved and snapped up by the first editor who saw it. But agents and editors are inundated with new material on a daily basis – perhaps receiving hundreds of manuscripts every week, when they might only take on one or two new authors every year.

Here’s what you need to know about rejection:

#1: Being Rejected Doesn’t Mean Your Writing is Bad

Looking back at those stories I wrote in 2007 – 2008, they were far from brilliant. But they weren’t awful, either. During the same time period, well as collecting a stash of rejection letters, I had two small competition prizes and two short-listings for my short stories. I also started freelancing for several blogs.

When you receive a rejection letter, don’t take it as a sign that your writing sucks. There are all sorts of reasons why a manuscript might be selected – perhaps the magazine had just taken an article on a very similar theme, or published a short story with the same premise. Maybe the agent you’ve written to just doesn’t click with your writing style.

All writers get rejected. Every best-selling writer you know – including J.K. Rowling and Stephen King – has received rejection letters.

#2: Getting a Piece Accepted is a Numbers Game

One of the reasons that I had so many rejection letters in 2007-08 was because that I’d decided to enter as many short story competitions in Writing Magazine and Writers’ News as I could. I wrote around 15 – 20 short stories that year, and while most of them didn’t place in the competitions, four did. I sent out the others to magazines, and managed to get one accepted.

Over the past month or so (as I write this in 2018), I’ve been sending out freelancing proposals to potential/former clients for the first time in quite a long while … my youngest has started nursery school, so I’ve suddenly got some extra working hours. Some of those pitches have been rejected; others met with no response. But some were enthusiastically accepted!

The more stories or article pitches or book proposals you write, the more chances you have of success. Create a spreadsheet so you can keep track of which stories you’ve sent where, and every time a story comes back, send it out to a new publication.

#3: Facing Rejection Gets Easier

The first few times I got rejection letters, it hurt. I’d written the best novel I could at the time, and I’d spent ages researching agents, composing cover letters, printing the manuscript in the right format, and so on. I thought that if only I could get my novel accepted, I could quit my day job (I have a slightly more realistic idea about advances now…).

But after a few rejections, I stopped minding so much. I started sending out short stories as well as the novel. I began to understand that rejections are simply part of the writing life, and that – while they might be a little disappointing – they’re just one person’s opinion.

Your first rejection will probably hurt. Your tenth rejection might sting. But every time you recover from a rejection and send something out again, you’ll find that those rejections have a little less power over you.

Moving On From Rejection

You might have noticed above that my rejection letters are from 2007 – 2008. I first wrote this post in 2012, and I updated it in 2018 … so what’s happened since?

At the end of July 2008, I left my day job. In September 2008, I started an MA in Creative Writing, and began to work on a new novel (instead of short stories).

My freelancing work – mostly for websites – wasn’t just a great way to make steady money as a writer, it was also a great way to build my confidence. Getting paid on a regular basis felt like a pretty strong validation of my writing!

My novel, Lycopolis, took three years to finish. I did approach one agent and one editor at a conference, but neither wanted to take the novel on. As the months went by, though, I saw more and more authors – new and established – bring their novels out themselves, as ebooks and print-on-demand works. I decided to bypass the rejection game and take the self-publishing route with Lycopolis (2011) and the next two novels in the trilogy: Oblivion (2015) and Dominion (2016). You can find out about all three on my author website.

(If you’re wondering about the big gap between novels, that’s because my daughter and son were born in early 2013 and late 2014 respectively!)

I also started blogging here on Aliventures back in 2009. With my blog and the weekly newsletter, there’s no one to reject my writing – and I usually get lovely comments that help me know I’m on the right track.

Today, writers have a wealth of different options. You aren’t reliant on agents and publishers to get your stories, articles, or poetry out there.

Yes, having an agent or publisher still has many benefits. When I first wrote this post, back in 2012, I’d just finished a book in Wiley’s Dummies series, Publishing E-Books For Dummies, and I certainly appreciated the advance! 😉 (As well as the attention to detail from my editors, and the opportunity to be associated with a major book brand.)

But … you don’t have to be entirely at the mercies of the publishing industry. If you wanted, you could do any of these pretty much immediately:

I’m definitely not suggesting that you should stop (or avoid) submitting your work to agents and publishers. Collect up those rejection slips and be proud: you’ve survived them! The more rejections you get, the closer you are to an acceptance.

At the same time, find a way to bypass the agents and publishers, so you can get at least some of your writing out there to the world. Having an audience – even if that’s just a handful of friends and family – is hugely rewarding, and can help to take away any lingering pain of rejection.

Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, good luck. If you’ve had any personal experience of rejection – or acceptance! – that you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

Source: aliventures.com

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