Tag Archives: The Writer Practice

Capturing an Unhappy Relationship: A Writer’s Roadmap

Relationships are a complicated beast, and if you write romance like me, then you’re wed (pun intended) to the HEA (happily ever after) ending. But the reality is, we have a divorce rate of around 1in 2 marriages; so as much as it’s fun to delve into the romanticised ideal of soulmates wandering hand-in-hand into the sunset, the challenges of relationships can just as equally lead to hearts broken and relationships fractured.

Which is what this week’s article’s about.

Capturing the unwinding of threads of a relationship is complex. Just like the real world, our characters have a history of weaving those threads together in little steps and big steps, usually with the intent that their fabric will be as tight as Egyptian cotton. But people evolve, circumstances change, and sometimes a relationship isn’t strong enough. Usually these ruptures don’t happen quickly; they involve little tears and big tears over days, months and sometimes years.

If you’re looking to capture this heart-breaking (or cathartic) process in your story, either with your main characters or with those memorable secondary characters (your MC’s parents, best-friends or children), then consider these four predictors of relationship breakdown (they are a wonderful way to capture ‘show, don’t tell’ and to create some interesting moments into your story):

  1. Contempt

Far more toxic than frustration, contempt is a virulent mix of anger and disgust which involves seeing your partner as beneath you. Apart from its direct consequences of either belittling or angering a partner, contempt involves one character closing themselves off to their partner’s needs and emotions. If you constantly feel smarter than, better than, or more sensitive than your significant other, you’re not only less likely see his or her opinions as valid, but, more importantly, you’re far less willing to try to put yourself in their shoes to try to see a situation from their perspective.

If one or both of your characters are contemptuous of the other as they interact, you’ve just captured one of the cornerstones of an unhappy relationship. Consider these examples:

  • Jane sends Jo a list of groceries for tonight’s dinner. When Jo gets home, Jane realises that Jo picked up self-raising flour instead of plain flour. Jane becomes frustrated, asking Jo what sort of idiot doesn’t know the difference between the two. She even posts it on Facebook so her sisters can see what she has to live with.
  • Barry is organising his next fishing weekend with his two sons. Daria laughs as they are packing their tackle boxes, pointing out to their sons that she caught the biggest fish last time she went out in their godforsaken tin-can-of-a-boat.
  1. Criticism

Like contempt, criticism involves turning a behaviour (something your partner did) into a statement about his or her personal character (the type of person he or she is). As many of us have experienced or observed, fault-finding and belittling behaviour adds up. Over time, darker feelings of resentment and contempt are likely to brew.

  • Alex has a habit of leaving her cereal bowl—soggy, uneaten weeties and all—on the coffee table every morning. Sam makes sure she makes note of it each day as she collects them, pointing out what a lazy and inconsiderate partner Alex is.
  • After a sleepless night, Jake overheats baby Bobby’s mashed pumpkin. When Bobby spits it out and starts screaming, Sally scoops him up, shouting over the top that when it comes to parenting Jake couldn’t raise a sweat let alone a child.
  1. Defensiveness

Defensiveness involves a sense of protectiveness and guardedness about our thoughts and feelings. A character who is being defensive will often play the victim in tough situations with their partner; at times that may be justified, others not so much.

  • A couple are late to a cousin’s wedding. Ashleigh is the first to say, “It wasn’t my fault!” as they slip into a back pew.
  • Jane is online to her best friend, typing furiously that she never got a chance to tell her husband about the dint in the car door because all he does is watch YouTube. If he gets upset about it, he can’t say she didn’t try to tell him.
  1. Stonewalling

If your character can sense an argument brewing, they feel the tension tightening between their shoulders, notice their voice amping up a few decibels, and their response is to shutdown or walk away, you’ve got a stonewaller. Stonewalling can be just as toxic for a relationship as criticism or contempt because it keeps your characters from addressing their underlying issues. When perspectives don’t get a chance to be explored, then frustration is likely to morph into resentment.

  • Ian and Sarah are arguing about their credit card debt. When Ian asks Sarah exactly how much those shoes cost, she turns and walks away. Picking up her phone, she retreats to the bedroom.
  • During a parent teacher interview, Jacqui suggests that maybe their son isn’t succeeding in math because of the children he’s sitting next to. Her husband, Jed, rolls his eyes at the teacher, shifts his seat forward, and tells the teacher that their son just needs more challenging work as he’s obviously bored. Jed starts enquiring about extension work.

John Gottman, the guru of relationship therapy and founder of the Gottman Institute, has said that these four factors are tell-tale signs that all is not well with a married couple. In fact, when the frequency of these four behaviours are measured within the span of a 15-minute conversation, Gottman and his fellow psychologists can predict which marriages will end in divorce with striking precision.

By Tamar Sloan
Source: psychwriter.com.au

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8 Ways To Balance A Writing Career While Making Family A Priority

Note: This is a guest post by Lisa Hall-Wilson, she’s an award-winning freelance journalist and author. She teaches writing classes online and writes historical and speculative fiction. Visit her website at LisaHallWilson.com. You can also find her on Facebook.

I have been a stay-at-home mom off and on for eighteen years. For the last twelve years, I’ve also been a writer.

I went from knowing nothing to having my own freelance business and being a national award-winning freelance journalist and author. One thing I had to learn was how to carve out time for my writing career while keeping my family a priority. You can, too.

I think “balance” isn’t the right concept. I don’t balance my priorities, I set priorities for short seasons.

For me, trying to keep all the balls in the air all the time was exhausting and inevitably I failed at all of it.

By making writing and family a priority for a short season (I’m talking a few hours, days or a week at a time), it all seems to balance out. My kids understand that I have deadlines and wordcounts to make and will hang out later, and sometimes I don’t touch my laptop for four or five days because it’s family time. I never neglect one or the other for very long.

There are different seasons with raising kids, so I’ll try and point out the adjustments I made in each stage.

  1. Make use of empty time

Empty time is all those soccer practices, swim lessons, auditions, rehearsals, and music lessons that you’re stuck waiting around for. I’m not talking about games or meets where you need to pay attention – that’s family time. But, in those multiple hours a week where I’m just waiting it out, I bring a printed manuscript, my laptop, my phone, or a notebook. Whether I’m editing, emailing, writing, reading/studying, or brainstorming, making use of those 20 min to 1 hour time slots is a game changer.

Now my are older and are into different activities so I spend more time in the car waiting and working and make sure my devices are fully charged before I leave. In winter, (I live in Canada, it gets cold in the car) I look for a nearby library or coffee shop. Bring some headphones and music that drowns out the noise of the crowd and get to work!

  1. Make use of play time

When my kids were younger, we lived in an apartment so I had to go with them when they went outside. In these times I brought interruptible work, so what I mean by that is work that I could pick up and set down and still accomplish things. This works even if you have to sit by a window or on the deck while the kids play. I would do a lot of editing or reading/highlighting moreso than writing at these times. I made sure I set aside one play time a day where they had my full attention.

  1. Write while they sleep

Whether we’re talking about toddlers or teenagers, making use of quiet time in the house when you have it is essential. The times of day they sleep will change so you have to be flexible. I am more likely to stay up late than get up early, so I’ve done that lots.

There was a season where I would work from 10PM to 3AM, sleep until 8AM and get up with the kids for school, go to a part-time job, sleep for a few more hours in the afternoon, do the supper/hang out with the family until 10PM or so, and start over. When they were in bed by 7PM, I wrote from 7 – 9PM each night because I had to be alert during the day and then spent time with my husband. It’s important when you’re writing in the outlier hours to take at least two days off a week from that schedule. If I didn’t, I was miserable and so was everyone else.

  1. Set aside time for your work

You need to set aside dedicated time to write. If you have a spouse or partner, work out a mutually-agreed upon arrangement where they will take the kids or help guard the quiet of your workspace for a determined amount of time. I had a couple of hours here and there during the week where everyone was home, but I could shut myself in a room and get work done.

It’s important to take those moments like play time and sports waiting to plan your writing time. Nothing is worse than getting those two hours and then lose a half hour staring at a blank screen. What was it Churchill used to say? If you fail to plan you plan to fail. This is not time to reread everything you wrote the day before and edit, you have other times for that. This is dedicated writing time.

  1. Weekends away

This was a game changer for me. My writer’s group splits the cost of an Air BnB rental, we bring our own food, and write. We don’t eat meals together, plan side trips, any of that. This is not a social time for me, it’s writing time.

I can get 20,000 to 25,000 words down (original stuff – not editing) on a novel between a Friday evening and Sunday noon. But I also make sure I am prepared with an outline, character sketches, etc. to make the best use of that time.

  1. Office Hours

In the seasons where I’ve been home full-time, my office hours are school hours. This is not time to clean, volunteer, lead groups studies, spend time on Facebook. I treat those hours like an outside job as much as I can. I try not to work outside my office hours, but it’s hard if I’m neck deep in a story or facing a deadline – and there will be those seasons.

Summer holidays are hard because I don’t have a door on my writing space and I’m constantly interrupted. But at the end of the day, I’m OK with losing writing time because my kids want to talk with me. They’ll be out of the house soon, so I’m not going to rush that. Always make time for life.

  1. Go on an adventure!

I do my best to take my kids on “an adventure” a few times a month. When they were younger, we’d go for a hike and look for caterpillars. We’d collect leaves and see how many different ones we could find. We walked everywhere. We built snow forts and snow slides or went tobogganing (sledding). Now we go to the mall, a bookstore or movie.

When we get home, all they want to do is play quietly, rest, or read. We had family time, and now they’ll give you writing time usually without complaint. Setting priorities for a short season. This is how it works.

In the summer, I’ll take a whole day and go on an adventure (like the beach), and then they’re OK if I spend a couple of evenings writing. I focus on them entirely for that whole day, and they give me the freedom to focus entirely on my writing for a couple of evenings.

  1. Be kind to yourself

Sometimes life throws you a curveball and you have to step away from the keyboard. Someone gets sick, money is tight and you have to take a part-time job – whatever. Life happens. Resist the urge to feel guilty about this and sneak in time to write when you can. Write every day, even if it’s ten minutes while locked in the bathroom with a notebook. It all counts and keeps your passion for writing alive.

Also, take care of yourself physically and mentally. Go outside – fresh air always helps when I’m stuck on a story. Reliving traumatic events to write authentically requires that I take care of myself mentally and take breaks. Talk it out with a friend or spouse.

Some of these ideas may seem like they’re just a few drops in the bucket when you want to write full-time, but these snatches of time add up cumulatively.

Source: positivewriter.com
By Bryan Hutchinson

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Top 3 Reasons Censoring Your Writing Is Holding You Back

There will be tough love today, and even a bit of cursing. If it’s too much for you, feel free to leave now.

Do you worry what others think about you? Do you sit at your computer screen, paralyzed to type what you desperately want to say for fear of what your mom, husband, brother, friend, or best friend from second grade might say? Truth is, most of our family and friends won’t read our books or give them much thought. We only THINK they will.

Stop censoring yourself!

Maybe you have shared your writing and been burned, relationships severed, friendships or family relationships strained or even ended. It’s terrifying, all those what if’s.

Others people’s problems are other people’s problems. Don’t take that shit personally. #WriteWhatScaresYou

Fuck that shit. As Cheryl Strayed says, you need to write like a motherfucker. What does she mean by that? Does she mean to write with papers everywhere, cartoon balls of trash flying across the room, keys tapping to the beat of Copacabana? (Let’s hope not. We’ll never get that song out of our heads.)

No. She means that you need to own it. Own your shit. Write your shit. Ignore the voices of others, get in your head, your heart, grab your soul and write the shit out of that shit. This resonates with me because that’s how I wrote Broken Places (my latest release) and Broken Pieces. Let’s deconstruct.

Censoring Your Writing 

Why are you censoring yourself? If I came up to you, stood over your shoulder, read your latest paragraph, and told you, “You can’t say that!” what would you say to me? Because if you said that to me, I’d tell you to go the hell. Not only because this is my book, but because who are you to tell me what to write? Isn’t this my book? My work? My story? My name?

This person telling you what to write — does their name go on that book cover? Are they the ones spending countless hours writing and rewriting the work? No. So, fuck em.

I get it, though. People attempt to tell us daily what we should or shouldn’t write about, right? It amazes me, to be honest, that others who don’t know our story, or who think they know our story intimately but can’t possibly because they don’t live in our heads and don’t feel our emotions or live our lives, want to censor us for what we may or may not say. What makes them so scared? That’s the real question, isn’t it?

Scenario #1:

I shared a Brené Brown quote the other day about having courage and vulnerability when sharing your story, and someone replied that when she’d done so, people had chastised her, she’d lost good friends (and even family members) because her truth upset them too much, so she’s done. She’s ‘taking a break from truth.’

This saddens me deeply. I’m not judging her — she’s had enough of that. What saddens me is she’s allowing others to make that decision for her, letting them dictate what is okay or not okay to share, because they are embarrassed she shared her abuse story; now others know and can’t deal, which is another form of censoring her and shaming her for something she didn’t do.

Censoring: The Loop of Shame

When someone abuses us, we often don’t tell because we are ashamed. When (or if) we do tell, we are shamed because it’s embarrassing and shameful to us — what child (in many of these cases, as was the case with me) wants to say that an adult used our body for physical pleasure? It’s sick and twisted, and yet here we are, alone, forced to wrap our young, innocent minds around these confusing acts, with nobody to talk to, nobody to help us understand that we did nothing wrong.

Fast forward to adulthood: we choose to write about it as a form of catharsis, healing, therapy, or simply sharing so others will know they are not alone, only to have our loved ones shame us for sharing, or further chastise us for going public in some way. Shaming a survivor is one of the most selfish acts there is.

We survived the abuse — dealing with your discomfort isn’t our issue. It’s yours. If you can’t get over yourself, oh well. Survivors don’t have to accept that. We have a basic human right to speech. We have a right to tell our story.

Scenario #2

One fellow, T, shared his story in a public Facebook post, and with his permission, I’m sharing his story here with you today. T’s sister immediately chimed in to scold him for ruining the family name, embarrassing her, accusing him of lying, of creating current drama when all that happened in the past, and on and on. I complimented T on his courage and she came after me, warning me to “keep my mouth shut, to stay out of their family business, etc.,” even though this was all on his public wall.

What I love about the survivor community is that we support each other, and we understand that many people don’t understand that we have a right to tell our stories. We don’t do it for pity or attention (more on that in a moment), but as a way to heal and bond with others who have also survived, and to help educate non-survivors what it means to live the lives we do, to deal with all this on the daily.

Real or Imagined Censorship and Risk

Sure, there’s risk involved in opening up those dusty doors of honesty. I’m not immune to the coughs and sputters of family and friends, even strangers who may or may not judge me for my words, or who place blame on me for their behavior. I’ve been called a liar, an opportunist, one person even went so far as to accuse me of ‘prostituting myself for profit and attention,’ and I’m told often to just move on (as if I haven’t).

I find it interesting that people equate sharing my story with victimhood, or ‘being stuck in the past,’ when that’s not the case at all, yet they are determined to tell me that yes, that must be so. It’s sadly comical, the judgments people make about survivors.

Truth is, those are not my issues.

Scenario #3

I wrote a guest post recently as part of my Broken Places blog tour and the host shared it, as hosts kindly do. Someone on Twitter replied that basically I am ‘playing the victim’ by sharing my story, that I’m somehow magically compelling people to “feel sorry for me.” Fortunately, people supported me without me saying a word (I don’t respond to those types of comments). If you know me at all, you know that I am anything but a victim…yet, these comments aren’t uncommon for survivors.

I’m not offended. I’m not religious. If anything, I want to thank this person for reinforcing I’m on the right path to help remove the stigma of childhood sexual abuse (or any abuse survivors) have to face. This person is a light for me — further helping me realize I still have a lot of work to do. In a strange way, I find comfort knowing my advocacy work is not done, and I have many more people to reach with my story, giving voice to others’ stories, and sharing my platform so other survivors can share their stories.

Ignorance needs an audience so sexual abuse survivors have one, too.

By
Source: rachelintheoc.com

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How to Show and not Tell Intelligence

Although the concept of intelligence and what exactly it means for a person to be intelligent are the subject of considerable controversy and debate, it’s widely accepted that intelligence is valued in our society. In fact, if you’re a sapiosexual, you find intelligence as the most sexually attractive feature in a prospective partner. I’m not going into the evolutionary theories for this (including that intelligent men have a higher sperm count and women intuitively understand this and so are drawn to them), so you’ll have to take my word for it. Intelligence is attractive, and a trait we see in many a hero (and villain in fact). In the landscape of writing, this is a trait you can harness to add layers to your character.

Although every psychologist who has endeavoured to define intelligence has come up with their own definition, intelligence is broadly understood as the ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviours within an environment. The key as a writer is to create a character who presents as intelligent in a plausible manner. Sure, you can slip in their above average IQ scores as they munch over breakfast, or point out they have seven PhD’s, but what if your character is an adolescent? Or what if they live on the planet X where IQ tests aren’t used because the sentient species have acknowledged the limitations of cognitive testing?

What if you want to show, not tell?

Well, you’ve come to the right blog post. I undertook some research, and along with my professional understanding of intelligence (IQ testing is a regular part of my practice in schools), I considered it in terms of character development. If you’re looking to craft an intelligent character, then check out the following traits (quick caveat: they don’t all have to be present for a person to be considered intelligent, but each of these traits are understood as strong indicators of above-average cognitive capacity):

High Verbal Functioning

People with a high IQ have strongly developed verbal skills. Your character is likely to be able to verbalise meaningful concepts and express themselves articulately and maybe even eloquently. This means dialogue, internal and external, is going to be important in representing an intelligent character.

Strong Reasoning Capacity

A person with high intelligence is able to detect underlying concepts and relationships, and use reasoning to identify and apply rules. Abstract thinking is a strength, as is attentiveness to detail. Many detectives in crime novels demonstrate strong reasoning capacity, and every time they solve the murder by linking the dots that seem to live in different postcodes we’re wowed by their intellect.

Good Memory

Intelligent people not only notice this nuanced information in life, but they also maintain this information in conscious awareness. This process, which requires attention and concentration, allows them to manipulate and play with said information in their mind. I’d rather not recollect the amount of times I’ve looked like I’ve lost valuable IQ points because I can’t remember the of age of my firstborn child!

Fast thinking

Smart people are fast thinkers. They can do all of the above, and they do it quickly. They are able to scan information accurately, make decisions, and implement those decision rapidly. These characters will drop one-liners in the blink of an eye, or be the first to recognise that the name of their victim isn’t on the list of missing people following the earthquake that levelled New York.

 

But it’s important to note that high intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean your character is any of the following;

Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional intelligence; the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically, is quite different to cognitive intelligence. Whilst people who do well on standardized tests of intelligence tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace, emotional intelligence is correlated with better social relations, better family and intimate relationships, and better psychosocial wellbeing.

Think of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory—with his borderline autistic tendencies, he’s an accomplished physicist, but he’s socially inept and emotionally naïve, which has been mined over 11 series of hilarious interactions. It’s worthwhile to consider whether your character has both of these qualities.

Wise

You’ve probably heard the saying there’s knowing that a tomato is a fruit…and understanding a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad. In the same way, intelligence (knowledge of information and using it adaptively) isn’t necessarily wisdom (the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, and insight). Your character may have acquired the knowledge (impressively and quickly), but wisdom is the proper use of that knowledge. Whilst trawling the internet I found this little nugget: Intelligence is knowing that Frankenstein was the doctor. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein was the monster.

Nice

Just because your character is smart, it doesn’t mean they’ll be nice. In fact, intelligent people can be less trusting and less compliant with rules (think of Tony Stark in Ironman; he’s brilliant, but socially irreverent to the point of egocentrism). Intelligence can give rise to suspicion (and if were to extrapolate that, to conspiracy theories), selfishness (you just need to read Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene to know selfishness is smart), and subversiveness (which could be a good thing in your story, but also may make them unlikeable).

Emotionally Stable

Intelligence doesn’t equate with emotional stability, in fact, it’s possible that higher IQ is linked with higher incidents of some mental health diagnoses (including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia). Although the link isn’t clearly understood, it’s probably not important to our story building motivations. What is important, though, is to understand that your character may be in the top two percent of the IQ bell curve, but their physiology and environment (e.g. a traumatic childhood) will also play a factor in their emotional life.

By Tamar Sloan
Source: psychwriter.com.au

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Is It Unhealthy to be a Workaholic Writer?

If you’re a hard-working writer, are you a workaholic?

And if you are, is that necessarily a bad thing?

With all writers have to manage today, including consistent marketing, maintaining an online presence and oh, yeah, writing and editing, it’s important to step back every once in awhile and say, “Am I overdoing it?”

What is Workaholism and How Does it Apply to Writing?

If you’re under the spell of workaholism, you may feel guilty when you’re not working, and tend to neglect your own well-being because you’re over-focused on work.

Not sure if you qualify? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel compelled to write or work on writing-related tasks while on vacation?
  • Do you cancel social plans so you can catch up on writing-related activities (such as blogging, posting to social media, marketing, etc.)?
  • Do you regularly engage in writing work during meals?
  • Do you work on writing stuff even when you’re ill?
  • Do you sacrifice sleep or exercise to get your writing work done?
  • Do you feel compelled to work on writing-related activities even when you’re all caught up?
  • Do you feel like your work-life balance is out of whack?
  • Are you neglecting your hobbies and other enjoyable activities so you can get your writing work done?

We’ve all experienced insane working periods in our writing careers, perhaps around a book launch or when wrapping up edits for a publisher. Sometimes, you have to let other things slide to get the writing done or the book out, but then the question is: Do you slow down after that, or do you continue to work at the same pace?

How Workaholism Can Damage a Writer’s Health

The problem with workaholism is the more you work, the less time you have for other things in your life.

That means you’re likely to skip out on important stuff like your daily exercise routine, preparing healthy and wholesome meals, or taking time out to relieve stress. Overwork is also likely to interfere with your sleep, depriving you of that important 7-8 hours you need each night.

All of us can survive a few weeks under these conditions, but longer than that and you’re putting your health at risk. Lack of exercise, grabbing meals on the run, and regular sleep deprivation all increase risk of overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that workaholics experienced more sleep problems than non-workaholics, and were also more at risk for cardiovascular disease. A separate review of 25 studies involving over 600,000 people found similar results, with those working longer hours having a higher risk of stroke.

Workaholism has been linked with an increased risk of mental and emotional health problems, too, like burnout and depression.

Don’t We Have to Work Hard to Be Productive?

There’s no doubt that a successful writing career requires hard work, but there is a fine line between putting in the time and overdoing it to the point you’re no longer productive.

A number of studies have actually linked workaholism to decreased productivity, finding that those who work longer hours typically complete fewer projects. The more hours we work, the less effective the brain is, and we’re likely to make more mistakes that we have to fix later. We also make poor decisions (about plot and characterization, perhaps?).

Worse, workaholism can lead to a drop in creativity—definitely not something writers want. Stress itself is a creativity killer, and if you add overwork to it, your ability to create an original and inspiring story declines rapidly.

In a 2008 study, researchers found that compared with working less than 40 hours per week, working more than 55 hours a week was linked with lower scores on a vocabulary test (bad news for those working with language).

Of all things the mind needs for creative thought, it’s space, and when we fill all our time with work (and other activities, like perusing social media), we fail to give it that space, leading to dull thought.

When Workaholism Might be Okay for Writers

Despite a plethora of research on the potential negative effects of workaholism, we also have some recent studies showing that under certain circumstances, workaholism may not be as damaging as we thought.

What circumstances are those? The main ones involve your attitude about the work: Are you enthusiastic about it? Do you enjoy it? Do you love it?

In one recent study, for example, researchers questioned about 750 employees. They found that yes, workaholism was related to high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol (risk factors for heart disease), but only when work “engagement” was low—in other words, when the employees felt they were wasting their time on projects they didn’t care about.

In those participants whose engagement was high, on the other hand, the opposite was true—they were actually less likely to suffer from these sorts of health risks. These were the participants who enjoyed their jobs, got absorbed in what they were doing, and felt like their tasks were worthwhile.

Interestingly, researchers also found that highly engaged employees:

  • had more support at work and at home for the work they were doing,
  • were skilled at time management,
  • and had a high level of intrinsic motivation for their work—they loved doing it regardless of the outside rewards.

Help for Overworked Writers

Looking at the results of these studies, we can conclude a few things that are likely true for writers.

  1. Working hard at what you love is more likely to help you than hurt you.

When you love writing, you’re unlikely to suffer from negative consequences by spending a lot of time on it, as long as you make sure to take care of yourself and don’t neglect the other things that matter in your life. Indeed, if writing is your calling, you’re more likely to suffer from not pursuing it wholeheartedly than you are from working some extra hours on it.

  1. When writers feel overworked, it likely has something to do with projects other than writing.

I think the reason why more and more writers are feeling overworked these days has little to do with the writing itself, and a lot more to do with the marketing responsibilities we’re now faced with. Most writers don’t like marketing and feel uncomfortable and out of their element when trying to do it, which puts this task squarely in the “don’t like” category mentioned above—the one that can lead to negative health outcomes if we pursue it too heavily.

Yet marketing can take a lot of time, particularly if we’re really trying to get some attention on a book or on our careers in general. There’s not only the work itself, but the education that’s involved—we have to learn how to do it, and since it doesn’t come naturally to most of us, that can take longer than we’d like.

Trying to complete all our marketing tasks on top of our writing can lead to overwork, burnout, depression, and all the other negative effects of workaholism. What are the solutions? Every writer has to find his or her own way, but I’ve found the following five tips to be helpful:

  1. Write first: Since writing is the thing that energizes and engages you, it must be your top priority. Sometimes marketing can take over, but if you find yourself getting depressed or exhausted, take a step back. Return to the writing, and let the other stuff go. You can always get back to it later.
  2. Try to make marketing fun: Instead of feeling pressured to market in certain ways, try to find methods you can actually enjoy. Be open to a wider variety of marketing techniques. This will help increase your engagement so you’re less likely to suffer the negative effects of working long hours.
  3. Always put self-care first: Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep need to come first. Make these things a priority in your life, and you’ll be more likely to stay productive and creative…and healthy!
  4. Take more time off: America is a country that leaves vacation days on the table. Don’t be a part of this statistic. Make sure you take your vacation every year, and schedule at least one writing getaway in addition to help recharge your batteries.
  5. Find the support you need: Writing groups, book clubs, writing friends, and understanding family members give us the support we need to make sure our lives don’t go totally off the rails, balance-wise. Getting out to lunch with friends, taking the weekend for the family, or enjoying some wine and treats with the members of a book club can be like fresh air on an otherwise busy, busy week. Cultivate these relationships and keep them strong!

Read more about workaholism and how it affects writers, and how you can improve productivity and time management, in Colleen’s book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Get your free chapter here!

Colleen M. Story
Source: writersinthestormblog.com

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Why Having Grit is So Important for Writers … and Three Ways to Improve Yours

This is a guest post from Tamar Sloan, registered psychologist, and author of Grit for Writers, plus several romance books.

You can find her website at TamarSloan.com and her blog about writing at PyschWriter.com.au


Writing can feel wonderful. There’s the indescribable sense of flow when the words pour out oh-so-effortlessly, there’s that stroke of brilliance when a plot twist strikes out of nowhere, there’s the feeling of creating something that no one else has before. Every one of those feelings is rewarding … and necessary for our long-term writing mojo. They drive us to keep on creating.

But the road to publication is littered with unfinished manuscripts, dejected hearts, and writers wondering if they should turn around and head home. Success in the writing game is more of a marathon than a sprint, and our motivation tends to wax and wane.

Rejection from agents and publishers, slow sales, negative reviews, and that most insidious underminer, self-doubt, are all hurdles every writer will face.

Despite what some of the loudest voices out there are promising, it’s not an easy industry to succeed in. In a flooded, competitive market, how do you live your passion and keep reaching for your dream?

Grit.

Grit is the ability to stick with things that are important to you—through hell and high water, thick and thin, through thousands of words and hundreds of pages.

Luckily for you and me, grit isn’t simply something you’re born with. It’s more like a muscle. With targeted effort, we can build it, grow it, and benefit from it. And you don’t just have to take my word on this; research has shown that to achieve success (across countless contexts), abilities like persistence and determination are more important than innate talent or intelligence in the long run.

As a writing coach I’ve seen it, and as a writer I’ve lived it: grit is what enables writers to succeed in the publishing industry.

The foundation of grit is the right mindset. Our writing success depends on the framework in which we view ourselves and our writing.

A “gritty” mindset reframes and focuses the thinking we need to adopt, the passion we need to tap into, to keep reaching towards our dreams.

I’m going to take you through three key ingredients of grit. Get these right, and you’ve got a foundation of resilience and willingness to work towards your goals of writing success.

Think about which of these you’re already doing well at … and which you might want to work on during the next few weeks.

Ingredient #1: A Sense of Purpose

We feel a sense of purpose when what we do matters to people other than ourselves.

Our short stories, poems,books, scary, moving, funny, touching fiction are all for the reader, not just for ourselves (otherwise we’d be happy for them to remain in our computers). Ultimately, we create them to entertain, to inspire, to provoke what-ifs, to elicit emotions, to broaden horizons, to challenge perspectives.

That drive is about touching others.

Connecting to why we write allows us to be persistent in our goals and resilient when we experience setbacks because we feel inspired by something bigger than ourselves. Ask yourself—how does my writing contribute to others?

Ingredient #2: Optimism

Optimism is the expectation that tomorrow will be better than today. But grit takes the vague ‘here’s hoping tomorrow will be better’ and moves into the sphere of our control.

Hope within the framework of grit is based on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. And the area that we have complete control of is our perception.

As we experience the ups and downs and highs and lows of any writing journey, it’s important to remember that psychology has consistently demonstrated that how we view a situation will make a difference to how we feel, and how we act.

Optimists – those that hold onto hope – see events differently. What’s more, they see failure differently.

I always encourage people to reflect on where they sit on the pessimism-optimism continuum, and how it makes a difference to their writing success. This type of hope targets our perception and locus of control when it comes to our writing success.

Ingredient #3: Growth Mindset

Discovering and implementing a growth mindset was a game-changer for my writing career.

Those with a growth, rather than a fixed, mindset believe that their abilities can grow with effort. They understand that when they are learning or doing something new and challenging, that hard work can help them accomplish their goals.

Growth mindset is empowering and motivating, and the key to many a successful writer (possibly all?). Ask yourself this—when you last experienced a setback, did you think it was a sign that you didn’t have what it takes, or did you see it as an opportunity to learn?

(For more on growth mindsets, try Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.)

Source: aliventures.com

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Grammar Rules: Capitalization

Proper capitalization is one of the cornerstones of good grammar, yet many people fling capital letters around carelessly.

Not every word deserves to be capitalized. It’s an honor that must be warranted, and in writing, capitalization is reserved only for special words.

Most of the grammar rules are explicit about which words should be capitalized. However, there are some cases (like title case) in which the rules are vague. 

Capitalization of Titles

There are several contexts in which we can examine capitalization. When writing a title (of a blog post, for example), almost all the words in the title are capitalized. This is called title case.

Title case is used for titles of books, articles, songs, albums, television shows, magazines, movies…you get the idea.

Capitalization isn’t normally applied to every word in a title. Smaller words, such as a, an, and the are not capitalized. Some writers only capitalize words that are longer than three letters. Others stretch it to four.

There is an exception to the rule of using lowercase for short words in a title: Words that are important should remain capitalized, even if they are shorter than three or four letters. For example, the word run is only three letters, but if it appeared in a title, it would be capitalized, because it would be the verb (or action) within the title: “Would You Run for Office?” Similarly, important nouns (subjects of objects of a title), such as me, would retain capitalization: Marley and Me.

There’s no fixed grammar rule for which words aren’t capitalized in a title, although they tend to be smaller and less significant words; you should check your style guide for specific guidelines to ensure that your capitalization in consistent.

Capitalization of Acronyms

Every letter in an acronym should be capitalized, regardless of whether the words those letters represent start with capital letters:

  • The acronym for Writing Forward would be WF.
  • WYSIWYG is an acronym that stands for what you see is what you get. Although the words in the original phrase aren’t capitalized, every letter in the acronym is capitalized.
  • Most people use acronyms heavily in text messaging and online messaging. In common usage, these acronyms are rarely capitalized: omg, btw, nsfw. However, if you were using these acronyms in a more formal capacity, they would be entirely capitalized: OMG, BTW, NSFW.

First Word of a Sentence

As I’m sure you know, grammar rules state that the first word in a sentence is always capitalized.

Capitalization of Proper Nouns

To keep things simple here today, we’ll refer to a noun as a person, place, or thing. You need not worry about the other parts of speech because only nouns are eligible for perennial capitalization.

There are two types of nouns that matter in terms of capitalization: proper nouns and common nouns. Proper nouns are the names of specific people, places, and things. Common nouns are all the other, nonspecific people, places, and things.

When considering whether to capitalize, ask whether the noun in question is specific. This will tell you if it’s a proper noun, which should be capitalized, or a common noun, which remains in all lowercase letters.

Proper Noun Capitalization Example

The word country is not specific. It could be any country. Even if you’re talking about the country in which you live, which is a specific country, the word itself could indicate any number of nations. So keep it lowercase because it’s a common noun.

Conversely, Chile is a specific country. You can tell because Chile is the name of a particular land in which people reside. When you discuss the people of that land, you won’t capitalize the word people. However, if you’re talking about Chileans, you definitely capitalize because Chileans are a very specific people, from a very specific country, Chile.

Hopefully that makes sense. If not, keep reading because I’m about to confuse you even more.

Capitalization of Web and Internet

Have you ever noticed the word Internet capitalized? How about the word Web? The linguistic jury is still out on these newfangled technology terms, but generally speaking, the Internet is one great big, specific place. The Web is just another word for that same place.

Wait — what about websites? Do they get capitalized? Only if you’re referring to the name of an actual site, like Writing Forward.

Capitalization of Web and Internet is not a hard and fast grammar rule. Lots of people write these words in all lowercase letters. If you’re not sure about whether to capitalize these words, check your style guide.

Common Capitalization Errors

Folks often think that capitalization should be applied to any word that’s deemed important. Here’s an example:

We sent the Product to the local Market in our last shipment. Have the Sales Force check to see if our Widgets are properly packaged.

It’s not uncommon, especially in business writing, to see nouns that are crucial to a company’s enterprise capitalized. This is technically incorrect but could be considered colloquial usage of a sort. Unless it’s mandated by a company style guide, avoid it.

Here’s correct capitalization of our example:

We sent the product to the local market in our last shipment. Have the sales force check to see if our widgets are properly packaged.

Now, in a rewrite of the example, some of the words will be again capitalized, but only if they are changed to proper nouns (names or titles of things and people).

We sent the Widgetbusters (TM) to WidgetMart in our last shipment. Have Bob, Sales Manager, check to see if our widgets are properly packaged.

What about Capitalization for Job Titles?

Ah, this one’s tricky. Job titles are only capitalized when used as part of a specific person’s title:

  • Have you ever met a president?
  • Did you vote for president?
  • Do you want to become the president?
  • Nice to meet you, Mr. President.
  • I read a book about President Lincoln.

Again, this has to do with specificity. “The president” or “a president” could be any president, even if in using the phrase, it’s obvious by context who you mean. However “Mr. President” or “President Lincoln” are specific individuals, and they call for capitalization.

Grammar Rules!

Do you have any questions about grammar rules regarding capitalization? Any additional tips to add? Leave a comment!

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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How to Write a Book in 100 Days

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

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

How to Write a Book in 100 Days 2

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

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

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

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

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

13 Writers Who Finished Their Books in 100 Days

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

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

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

Fall 2017 Cohort

These writers are just a few who finished their books in our Fall semester of the 100 Day Book program.

Stella Moreux had been “marinating” on an idea for her “southern fried” fantasy novel for more than three years, but it wasn’t until she signed up for the 100 Day Book program that she seriously started writing it. “I won’t mince words when I say this was hard,” Stella says in her post about the writing process. “However, I would not trade this experience for anything. I survived and finished! The 100 Day Book Program is a challenge but worth it!”

Jodi Elderton had written short stories, but never a novel, and with almost two jobs and young kids, she worried she never would. But she says, “This program made it doable, if you stick with it.” By the end, she finished her novel and said to her writing community, “We made it!” Read Jodi’s full story here.

Rita Harris had an incredibly hard year. After committing to writing her novel, she says she had a marriage breakdown, sold her house and moved, and then had a health scare. Any one of those things could have derailed her writing process, but she kept going, motivated by the writing team she had surrounded herself with and the accountability she agreed to. Despite everything, she finished her book, “something which I doubt I would have had even without the life challenges I faced during the course of my writing if I had not enrolled in the program.” Read her story of determination here.

Karin Weiss‘s novel, A Roaring Deep Within, had been languishing half-finished for years. When she began the process, she thought it would be easy, mostly rewriting, but the process proved much more difficult than expected. What saved her was the writing community in the 100 Day Book program. “I found there a ‘writer’s community,’” she says, “that was available night and day that gave me support and motivation to keep going when my energy dragged, or when I felt discouraged at a tough point in my writing.” Read more about how Karin finally finished her novel-in-progress here.

Spring 2017 Cohort

These writers are just a few who finished their books in our Spring semester of the 100 Day Book program.

Sef Churchill decided to write her book in 100 days “on an impulse one Thursday night.” She followed our process, and by Sunday had committed to an idea. How did it go? “Now I have a book,” she says, “a book which before that first Sunday, I had not even dreamed of.” Check out the 10 lessons she learned about the book writing process.

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

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

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

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

100 Day Book Challenge Performance

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

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 5 Steps

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

1. Commit to an idea.

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

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

2.  Create a plan.

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

Here are a few things your plan should include:

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

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

3. Get a team.

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

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

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

A team might look like:

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

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

4. Write badly every day.

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

Write anyway.

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

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

5. Get accountability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to write a book, I would love to help you. Right now, for a limited time, you can join the 100 Day Book program. Over the course of 100 days, I’ll guide you through the writing process, and by the end of the 100 days, you’ll have a finished book.

So many writers have finished their books in this program (including the writers above), and so can you. If you want to join the program and finish your book in 100 days like the writers above, you can sign up here.

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

By Joe Bunting
Source: thewritepractice.com

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4 Lies That Are Keeping You From Writing a Book

There is a book inside you.

There has to be. Why else are you reading a post about writing a book?

lies 2

Getting that book out, of course, is the extremely difficult part. The words don’t come out as we imagine. The time to write shrinks as life gets busier.

And so many questions vex us — so many lies that we tell ourselves to avoid the challenge ahead.

But you have to write your book. It’s one of the greatest driving forces in your life.

4 Lies That Stop You From Writing Your Book

Before you can get started, you have to confront and reject the four lies that have probably been keeping you from writing the book of your dreams. Tackle these lies head-on, and replace them with the truth:

1. It has to be long

How long should a novel be? Is there an exact number of words or pages for it to be a success?

This question can certainly stop us in our tracks. The idea of writing a novel always seems enormous, like climbing the world’s tallest mountain.

Yet there is no rule about how long the book has to be. That’s up to you.

Sure, there are genre-specific suggestions about word counts. The good news is that most of them are lower than you might think! Especially if you are a new author, agents and editors want to see how much story you can tell with fewer words, saving on publishing costs.

There is no absolute book length that works. Of Mice and Men is 30,000 words long, while A Game of Thrones is 300,000.

It’s up to you and your creative process, so don’t let false expectations and fear tell you that your book won’t be long enough to count.

2. I have to have the story figured out

This lie is a crippling one. It demands perfection even before we’ve started.

Yet it is impossible to know exactly how our stories are going to go before we’ve written them. Every attempt at a story runs into surprises and roadblocks. Our plans, no matter how exhaustive, always fail to materialize just how we thought they would.

This is completely natural — and it’s really, really good!

Yet our inner perfectionist makes impossible demands. It suggests that deviating from your plan is somehow failure.

But this is a lie! Creativity is deviation from the plan! It is finding solutions when logic and order don’t work!

So while it is extremely wise to have a plan, and know where your story is generally going, don’t give up on your book dream just because you haven’t created it yet!

3. I’ll start but I won’t finish

My favorite Shakespeare play is Macbeth, which features one of my favorite storytelling devices: the self-fulfilling prophecy. By resisting the witches, Macbeth brings about his own tragic doom.

Unfortunately, this trope extends into real life, especially with artists like us. We long to create, but fear that we lack the discipline or talent to finish something good.

So we give up before even starting. Hence, the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t let this lie seduce you. It  is especially seductive because it delivers a sense of false control: “If I don’t start, then I won’t fail,” the thinking goes.

To fulfill your dream of writing a book, you have to commit to finishing, no matter what. Even if you fall off the wagon for a season, you can still get back in the writing groove.

But you have to get started first.

4. No one’s going to read it

This is similar to the previous lie because it speaks a prophecy that we fulfill on our own. “No one’s going to read it, so I just won’t write it,” we think to ourselves.

What a tragic lie! Our struggling self-confidence produces tangible failure, all by doing nothing!

We can’t know who’s going to read or buy our book yet. We just can’t. By the time we’ve finished writing it, our life situation will have changed because time rolls on.

I will say this, though: Very few people actually fulfill the commitment to write a book.

Most hem and haw, mumbling about “wishing” and “someday.” Very few actually do it.

By writing a book, you will attract readers to yourself, especially if you serve those readers along the way.

One popular way of writing a book is to blog it, as Andy Weir did with The Martian. One chapter at a time, he posted to his website and slowly gathered a following. While he is certainly a rare and privileged case, it shows how giving and serving with our writing can solve our readership problem.

Commit to Your Book

There’s a book inside of you. That’s why you’re on this website, looking for help with your writing.

So commit.

Whether it’s 100 words a day, 500, or 1000, commit to working on your book every day.

Join a community, like a local writer’s group, Becoming Writer, or the 100 Day Book Program. Hold yourself accountable by joining other writers with a similar dream as yours.

But whatever you do, own the reality that you are a writer with a dream. There is a book inside of you that is longing to be written. It won’t be easy. It never is.

But it is beautiful and totally worth it.

So commit to your book today, and begin the journey that will change your life forever!

Have you committed to writing your book? Share how you’re keeping up with your commitment in the comments below!

By David Safford
Source: thewritepractice.com

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Style Guides: Essential Writing Resources for Professionals

When we’re writing, we run into a lot of technical issues. Where do the quotation marks go? When is it correct to use a comma? How should titles be formatted?

Some of these questions are answered by the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But other questions are not addressed by grammar: there’s no official rule for how to format a title.

We writers need trusted resources that we can use to resolve all these issues, especially if we want to produce work that is both grammatically correct and stylistically consistent.

That’s what style guides are for. Style guides answer grammatical questions and provide guidelines for consistency.

What is a Style Guide and Should I Use One?

A style guide is a manual that establishes rules for language (including grammar and punctuation) and formatting. Within academia, these guides also provide standards for citations, references, and bibliographies. Many disciplines have their very own style guides, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

These manuals promote proper grammar and ensure consistency in areas where grammar is unclear. Style guides answer all those burly writing questions that are absent from the rules of grammar: Did you use a serial comma in the first paragraph, but leave it out in the third? Have you used italics in one post to refer to a book title, but in another post used quotation marks?

Basically, a style guide is an all-purpose writing resource.

If you’re serious about writing, then you should definitely use a style guide. Since a style guide’s primary function is to render a work consistent and mechanically sound, every project will benefit from its application. That includes creative writing, freelance writing, and blogging!

In many cases, a style guide is not only appropriate, it’s mandatory. If you’re writing for submission, it’s a good idea to check a publication’s submission guidelines to see if they require writers to use particular style guide.

By establishing standards, a style guide will help you streamline your work. Once you are accustomed to using a particular set of guidelines, the writing process will flow more smoothly, because you won’t have to stop and deliberate on grammar and style. Your readers will be pleased too, since inconsistency causes confusion.

Which Style Guide Should I Use?

There are lots of different style guides, from the The AP Stylebook to the The Chicago Manual of Style. Which one should you use?

In many cases, the matter of which style guide to use is not up to the writer. As mentioned, publishers will provide guidelines explaining which style guide is required.

Most newspapers adhere to The Associated Press Stylebook on Briefing on Media Law (often called The AP Stylebook), whereas a small press publisher might ask you to use The Elements of Style (often referred to as Strunk and White). Professors and teachers generally require students to use the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition.

What about freelance writers, bloggers, fiction writers, and everyone else?

writing resourcesThe most popular style guide for general use is The Chicago Manual of Style, and this is also the style guide commonly used for manuscripts (i.e. novels and anthologies). Many other writing guides are based on Chicago or will defer to it for any areas of style that they do not specifically address. It covers formatting, includes rules for good grammar usage, and provides a roadmap that ensures your work is mechanically consistent.

For general use, Chicago is by far one of the best writing resources on the market, and for me, it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made for my own writing career.

Do you use a style guide, and if so, which one? Are there other writing resources that you can’t live without? Share your favorites in the comments.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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