Tag Archives: writers’ group

Miss Having Coworkers? Here’s How to Start a Writing Group

Writing can be a lonely road.

Though working solo has many benefits, everyone has moments when they wish they could stop by a coworker’s desk to ask a question, get feedback on an idea or simply share a crazy client story.

I worked on my own for several years before going in-house as a staff writer for a personal finance website. And, while I missed the freedom of working remotely, I loved the daily banter with my colleagues. Not only was the camaraderie enjoyable, it often sparked my creativity.

So, when I returned to freelancing a year ago, I wanted to bring a bit of that feeling along with me — and I started a writers mastermind group.

What is a mastermind group?

Napoleon Hill, author of The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich, is largely credited with introducing the word “mastermind” in the 1920s, though the concept has been around far longer than that.

Organized by entrepreneurs across industries, a mastermind is a group of peers who meet regularly to set goals, overcome challenges and use their collective brainpower to accelerate business growth.

Famous mastermind participants include Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates — even the Knights of the Round Table!

And they’re still very much in vogue today. As the legendary online entrepreneur Pat Flynn writes: “A mastermind group is mandatory to achieve online success… I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups that I’ve been a part of.”

My mastermind consists of five female freelance writers. We meet once a month over Google Hangouts to share highs and lows, resources and encouragement.

I always look forward to our call, as it’s one of the only times I get to have honest conversations about writing with people who understand what I’m talking about. I also learn so much from my fellow group members, and love the support we provide each other.

5 steps for starting a writers’ mastermind group

Becoming part of a writers mastermind can certainly be a boon for your career — and your mental health.

So, rather than waiting around to be invited to one, why not start one yourself? Here are five steps to follow.

1. Outline your goals and rules

The first thing to figure out is what you want to gain from your mastermind. Collect your thoughts in a Google Doc that you can share with potential members.

For example, here was my mastermind’s main goal: “To grow our writing careers while traveling the world — and without going crazy.”

In the document, I also included secondary goals about accountability, perspective, support and inspiration, as well as the proposed schedule and rules. Some examples: “Show up every month (if you miss three calls, you’ll be asked to leave the group)” and “Listen openly and without judgment.”

Though I’m generally not a stickler for rules, I thought they were important to mention. That way, potential members would take the group seriously, as well as understand the type of environment I hoped to create.

2. Determine your meeting cadence

Most mastermind groups meet once a week or once a month.

My mastermind meets from 3-5 p.m. EST on the first Wednesday of every month. Having a regular time makes it easier for us to fit the meeting into our schedules (and to remember when it’s occurring!).

Determining your meeting cadence will also determine your meeting structure. In many weekly masterminds, for example, each member offers a brief update, then one person is in the “hot seat” with the rest of the meeting focused on their business and goals.

Since my mastermind only meets once a month, we all take turns sharing our highs, lows and goals, then it’s an open floor for any member to discuss challenges they’re facing.

3. Choose your tribe

This is the most important step in creating a writers mastermind: Who are you going to invite?

Here’s some common advice for choosing your mastermind’s members:

  • Invite three to five other people: Any more, and your sessions will go too long; any less, and it’ll be overly detrimental if someone can’t make it.
  • Choose peers: Try to find people in similar stages of their careers. If someone’s significantly further along, it’ll probably feel more like a coaching session for them — rather than an open exchange with peers.

In terms of the type of writing your members do, I’ve found it helpful that all of my mastermind’s members are freelance writers. I purposely also chose people who enjoy traveling, since it’s something we can all bond over.

To find my members, I turned to my personal network: Three were writers I’d met at conferences, and one was a friend of another member.

4. Create a shared space

You’re going to need somewhere to record the ideas generated during your calls and continue the conversation in between.

For my mastermind, I created a private Facebook group where we ask questions and share resources. We also have a few documents where we’ve written out successful pitches (though, to be honest, we don’t use this as much as we should).

If you’re not into Facebook, you could do this via Slack or another platform; choose what works best for you.

5. Get going

Now all that’s left to do is get started! It probably won’t be perfect, but you’ll be able to fix any bumps along the way — with the help of your new mastermind buddies.

Or, as those in the tech world would say, “Ship fast and iterate.”

One year into our writers mastermind, we’re still figuring out how to improve our processes. For example, we recently began assigning one notetaker per meeting, since so many good ideas are shared in the moment (and it’s tough to remember them all).

Bumps aside, starting a writers mastermind group was one of the highlights of my year.

It’s been so helpful to chat with these fellow writers; to know they’re on my side when I’m having a rough day (or month), to know they’re there for my silly questions and to know we’re all helping each other progress in our writing careers.

This may be my first mastermind — but I can tell you with confidence it won’t be my last.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

By Susan Shain
Source: thewritelife.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Finding Writing Inspiration In The Present And The Past

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
~Ray Bradbury, Writers Digest~

When Anne Frank said “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn”, she perfectly summed up why countless individuals turn to writing both as a career choice and a hobby. The USA, in particular, is a writer’s hotspot with more than 44, 000 authors and writers reportedly working in the United States in 2016 according to the United States Department of Labor.

If you are a writer, whether a blogger, freelancer or seasoned novelist, you will know how important finding the right inspiration is. It is easy to write when you are inspired, making the task at hand so enjoyable that you may even find yourself forgetting to eat or sleep. On the other hand, when you are lacking inspiration, you can become so discouraged and disheartened that you can’t write at all.

If you are a writer, whether a blogger, freelancer or seasoned novelist, you will know how important finding the right inspiration is

Take a trip down memory lane

There are numerous ways through which you can find inspiration by exploring the past with reading being just one of them. It is perfectly acceptable for a writer to draw inspiration from reading the works of others.  One activity that can prove to be particularly beneficial is the reading of old books and newspapers. Spending a couple of hours reading through the classic literature of authors such as Mark Twain, Jane Austen, George Orwell and J.R.R Tolkien can you inspire you to greatness, and even if it doesn’t it will end up giving your vocabulary a boost. Visiting your local library to view old newspaper archives is a good way to jog your memory and get your creative juices flowing, especially if you are looking to base your written piece around real-life events.

Looking through old photographs or listening to people telling tales of bygone times are other superb ways of finding inspiration by examining the past. Be sure to harness the emotions evoked by these trips down memory lane as they can turn out to trigger some of your best ideas when it comes to writing a possible award-winning piece.

Looking through old photographs or listening to people telling tales of bygone times are other superb ways of finding inspiration by examining the past.

Embrace the present

As much as we can be inspired by the past, the present can offer its own share of inspiration, often courtesy of modern-day technology such as movies & television, music, and the internet. Many conventional writers think of movies and television as a curse to the creative spirit when in fact they could both spark some pretty good ideas in an artistic mind. Browsing the internet can open up a whole new world of inspiration. There are countless of resources available to aspiring writers on the internet ranging from virtual scrapbooks such as Pinterest to motivational blogs, vlogs and writing communities on various social media platforms and independent sites. Taking the time to read interesting articles and explore new web pages can help you add a fresh perspective to your written work. Whatever research you need to conduct is just a couple of click away thanks to the internet.

Regardless of how much you love writing there will be days that you need added inspiration.  While the above guidelines can help you enter an inspired state every writer has to find his own unique source of inspiration. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t draw inspiration from any of the suggestions mentioned as true motivation often stems from the most unlikely of sources.

By Jane Sandwood

Source: twodropsofink.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

 

 

How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

So you want to start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your book or find new freelance writing clients.

But where do you begin? Though you’ve got the writing part down, the rest of the process can be overwhelming. Hosting, themes and all that other techy stuff can stand in your way for years.

Well, today is the day that ends. We’re here to help you navigate every step of starting a blog, from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

Here’s how to start a blog as a writer:

1. Pick a domain name

First things first: Where are people going to find you online? As a writer, you are your brand, so we recommend using some variation of your name. To check availability, simply visit Bluehost and click on “new domain.”

Or, search this handy domain-name checker!

https://www.bluehost.com/web-hosting/domaincheckapi/?affiliate=thewritelife/startablogURLbox

If none of the obvious options are available, try tacking a “writer” onto the end of your name, as in susanshainwriter.com. You could also use a “.net” or “.biz” domain, but keep in mind that most people automatically type in “.com” before thinking of other endings.

You can, of course, opt for a creative blog name, but remember that your interests and target audience may change as the years go by. When I started blogging in 2012, I focused solely on adventure travel and named my blog Travel Junkette. Since then, I’ve expanded my niche and recently switched to susanshain.com — because my name won’t change, no matter what I’m blogging about. I wish I’d started out using my name as the domain, and would advise you not to make the same mistake I did.

Once you’ve settled on your domain (or domains, if you’re like a lot of us writerpreneurs!), don’t wait to buy it. Even if you’re not ready to start a blog right now, you don’t want to risk losing the domain you want.

Before you actually click “purchase,” though, you might want to read the next step; we’re going to tell you how to get your domain name for free.

2. Purchase a hosting package

Now that you’ve picked out your domain name, it’s time to choose a web host. Your hosting company does all the technical magic to make sure your site actually appears when people type your newly anointed domain name into their browser. In other words, it’s pretty important.

We use MediaTemple to host this blog, but it’s typically better for blogs with lots of traffic, so you probably don’t need that if you’re just starting out. For a new blog, try Bluehost. It’s used by top bloggers around the world and is known for its customer service and reliability. Bluehost’s basic hosting plan costs $3.95 per month — and as a bonus, the company throws in your domain name for free when you sign up.

Be sure to put your purchase (and all the purchases listed in this post) on a business credit card and keep those receipts; they are investments in your business and are therefore tax deductible.

3. Install WordPress

We’re almost through with the techy stuff, we promise! You have several different choices for blogging platforms, but we like WordPress best. Not only is it totally free, but it’s easy to learn, offers a wide variety of themes, and has an online community and lots of plugins that make blogging accessible to everybody.

You can read comprehensive instructions for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve completed that, you can officially log into your blog and start making it look pretty.

Still too techy for you? Try WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org). It’s a cinch to set up, but won’t allow you as much control over your site’s design and functionality. If you choose to go this route, you can skip steps one and two of this post. Simply visit WordPress.com and click on “Create website.” Though the free default inserts wordpress.com into your domain (susanshain.wordpress.com), you can pay to use your own domain (susanshain.com).

4. Put up an “under construction” sign

While working on your blog’s appearance, you might want to put up an “under construction” or “coming soon” sign to greet visitors. You don’t want any potential clients or readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (And you may think you’re going to finish setting up your blog tomorrow — but we all know how badly writers procrastinate when there are no looming deadlines!)

To set up a little sign that says “under construction,” just download this plugin. You could even include a link to your Twitter or Facebook page so visitors have an alternate way of getting in touch with you. When you’re ready to share your blog with the world, simply deactivate and delete this plugin.

5. Choose a theme

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! Your theme determines what your blog looks like, and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Yes, there’s a wide range of free themes, but if you’re serious about blogging, the customization and support offered by paid themes can’t be beat.

Here at The Write Life, we use Genesis, which is one of the most popular premium themes available. Another popular and flexible theme is Thesis. For my personal site, I use Elegant Themes, which has a wide selection of beautiful themes at a reasonable price. All of these themes come with unlimited support — essential when you’re starting a blog.

6. Create a header

If you truly want your blog to look professional, it’s worth getting a custom header. You can ask your favorite graphic designer or create something yourself with Canva.

My favorite option? Order one on Fiverr. I’ve had great luck getting headers and other graphics designed in this online marketplace, where thousands of people offer their services for $5 per gig.

7. Write your pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:

About

The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a photo and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — blogging is a personal affair!

Contact

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a contact page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”

Portfolio

It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work. You can see examples of great writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.

Resources

Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a way to earn income from affiliate sales. Check out The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is crucial. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like Sarah Von Bargen does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, but they’re especially useful for those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things but who’ve managed to set up a self-hosted blog. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Better Click-to-Tweet: Encourage readers to share your content by including a click-to-tweet box within your posts; this plugin makes it easy.

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your contact page, use this contact form plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.

QuickieBar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.

Mashshare: These “Mashable-style” share buttons are like the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another popular option is Digg Digg. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just essential you make social sharing easy for your readers.

WP Google Analytics: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.

WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster — pleasing both your readers and Google.

Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, which are small boxes with different functions.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a simple — yet excellent — example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Here’s a basic tutorial for adding custom social media icons.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and not remember until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include VaultPress, BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know — you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletter earlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For great examples, check out The Write Life’s How to Land Your First Paying Client or Grant’s social media strategy checklist.

Our favorite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are lots of other tools you could choose, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, entice your readers to subscribe by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even installing a plugin like PopupAlly.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to… start blogging.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar — even if it’s just you blogging. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw the readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers. Keep SEO in mind, but don’t make it the focus of your writing.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is one of the most surprisingly time-consuming aspects of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually reading your work.

One of the best ways to attract new readers is guest blogging on more popular blogs. To help you out, here are seven writing blogs that want your guest posts, plus seven more. (And don’t forget about guest posting for TWL!)

It’s also essential to interact with other bloggers. Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

Social media is another great way to get more traffic to your new blog. In addition to sharing your posts and networking with fellow bloggers, make sure you’re constantly trying to grow your author following on social media.

14. Get help if you need it

If you feel stuck at any point, don’t be afraid to invest in a course or ebook, like these ones:

Sometimes a little outside help is all the boost you need.

Other than that, creating a successful writing blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content, optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Guess it’s time to get writing!

Do you want to start a blog? What stood in your way until now?

By Susan Shain
Source: thewritelife.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How Long Should A Book Be? Word Count Guidelines by Genre.

A constant complaint I hear from agents, editors, writing teachers, and reviewers is that they see too many manuscripts with inappropriate word counts.

If you’re getting a lot of form rejections or simply silence from agents, reviewers and editors, this may be why.

Word count guidelines have been trending down in the last decade. Most editors won’t look at a debut manuscript longer than 100K words—a little longer if it’s fantasy or a non-romance historical. They were not so rigid ten years ago.

Now publishers—and many readers—won’t take a chance on any long book by an unproven author.

While readers will happily plunk down the big bux for an 819-page book by George R. R. Martin, they’ll turn up their noses at a book that long—even if it only costs 99c—if it’s written by Who R. R. You.

I know the “accepted wisdom” in the indie world is that if you self-publish, you can write whatever the heck you want and people will buy it. But that’s no longer the case. The wrong word count for your genre red-flags you as an amateur, and most readers don’t have time for amateurs.

Not when there’s so much professional-level stuff being self-published.

A decade after the beginning of the “Kindle Revolution,” too many readers have been burned by self-published bloated rough drafts. A reader is not likely to pick up a book that screams “I’ve been writing this in my spare time for the last 8 years and I refuse to rewrite and would never let an editor tamper with my genius.”

So don’t be that guy.

Word Count Guidelines By Genre

Word counts are generally agreed to be the count provided by MS Word’s “Word Count” tool. Some extremely old-school agents prefer that you use the formula of 250 words per page (double spaced, 12 pt. font) and calculate it yourself, which seems a silly waste of time, but always check agent websites for guidelines.

For debut authors, following these rules will seriously improve your chances of traditional publication and/or establishing a readership, no matter how you publish.

In other words, get famous first and break the rules later.

If you are a household name, you can publish a compendium of your shopping lists from the past two decades and your publisher will happily promote it and people will buy it.

Unfortunately, that’s not true for the rest of us.

Here is a summary of current word count guidelines. This is a composite taken from a number of publishing industry websites, so nothing is set in stone. Take these as target word counts.  Some publishers will accept longer or shorter books, so always check the website of an agent or publisher before you submit.

Note I say these are for “debut” fiction. Once you have a loyal fan base, you can break the rules with abandon.

Word Count Guidelines for Debut Fiction

Picture Books—text: 500-1000 words (32 pages is ideal.)

Middle Grade fiction—20K to 40K. (Yes, we all know about Harry Potter. And when you’re as famous as J.K. Rowling you can write MG tomes, too.) “Upper Middle Grade” can be a bit longer.

Young Adult fiction—25K to 80K.

Chick Lit—60K-75K.

Cozy Mysteries—55K-70K. (BTW, Agatha Christie’s mysteries sometimes came in at 40K words. I think we may be going back in that direction.)

Fantasy—90K-110K. Definitely down from the epic tomes of yore. Self-publishers can get away with more. Fantasy readers like big books and they cannot lie. 🙂

Historical fiction—80K to 110K+. (You can still wax verbitudinous in this genre.)

Literary fiction—65K to 100K, trending away from the higher numbers. “Spare and elegant” is the mark of literary chic these days.

Standard Mysteries and Crime Fiction—70K to 100K.

Romance—55K-75K. For subgenres of romance, check publishers’ guidelines. Word counts for specific romance lines can be very strict. Some historicals can be longer, although Regencies tend to be short.

Science Fiction—75K—100K. When there’s world-building involved a book generally needs to be longer.

Thrillers—80K to 100K.

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance—70K to 90K.

Westerns—50K-80K.

Women’s Fiction—70K-100K. The women’s fiction family saga has gone out of fashion recently, but they’re generally on the longer end.

Around 80K seems to be the magic number for most adult fiction. So if your ms. goes way over that, it may be time to put on your editor hat and get ruthless.

Word Count Guidelines for Nonfiction

Nonfiction books have shrunk drastically in the last decade. A study done last spring showed that the average length of a nonfiction bestseller has dropped 42% in the last seven years.

In 2011, the average length of a best-selling non-fiction book was 467 pages, but that dropped to 273 pages in 2017.

Nonfiction books get queried in the form of book proposals, so you don’t submit a complete manuscript (except for memoir, which you query like a novel.) That’s probably why word count guidelines for nonfiction are so hard to find. I’ve also found wildly different word count suggestions between agencies.

So treat these as word count “guestimates.”

Biography—80K-110K. These can be pretty long. Especially if your credentials are good.

Commentary—40K-60K. Not much info out there about word count guidelines for political and other opinion books. If you have appeared on cable TV news, you can probably get away with more verbiage.

Humor—20K-40K. For humorous memoir, follow memoir guidelines, and for funny novels, follow fiction guidelines, but for books like John Hodgman’s The Areas of my Expertise, Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys or the classic 1066 and All That, (only 128 pages and still in print after 80 years) keep it to 40K words or less.

Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction—40K-70K. You’ll probably want to prune a memoir if it goes over 70K. Books in this genre tend to get bloated without heavy editing. Remember you can write many memoirs about different aspects of your life.

Self-Help & How-To—20K-50K. In the age of ebooks, these are getting shorter all the time. My publisher had me cut my book The Author Blog down from 40K.  (And these days some ebook how-to’s are only 3500 words long.)

Travel and Nature—40K-70K A lot of these books blur boundaries with memoir.

What if Your Ms. Doesn’t Fit Word Count Guidelines? 

With both fiction and nonfiction, it’s best to err on the side of brevity these days. To quote Chuck Sambuchino, editor of the Guide to Literary Agents:

“Agents have so many queries that they are looking for reasons to say no. They are looking for mistakes, chinks in the armor, to cut their query stack down by one. And if you adopt the mentality that your book has to be long, then you are giving them ammunition to reject you.”

If your word count goes over the limit:

  • Consider splitting it into two books.
  • Or a trilogy. You’ll triple your income. 🙂
  • Are the extra words in there for world-building? Consider cutting some details and putting them on your blog.
  • Do some ruthless editing. Are you repeating yourself? Can you say something with one word instead of ten?
  • Can you condense some of those conversations with indirect dialogue?

If your word count is under the limit:

  • For literary fiction: Flesh out characters.
  • Thrillers: Weave in another subplot.
  • Crime fiction: Kill off a few more victims.
  • Or…maybe you’ve got a novella.

Novellas are hot.

Yes, old-school Big Five publishers (and Bookbub) still aren’t much interested in novellas, and some agents will reject on low word count alone.

But readers love them! Jane Austen fan fiction authors have been practically minting money with 140-page or less “Pride and Prejudice variation” Regency novellas in the last few years.

And forward-looking agencies like Fuse Literary offer “assisted self-publishing” for their authors to write novellas in between big novel releases. Their Short Fuse Publishing produces digital-first novellas in a number of genres.

For more on the popularity of the novella, check out Paul Alan Fahey’s post for us on the subject. Next June we’ll have a post from actress and bestselling author Mara Purl on the difference between writing a novel and a novella.

What about you, scriveners? Do you have a problem keeping to word count guidelines? Do you tend to write over or under the standard word count? Have you ever turned a long book into two or three?

By Anne R. Allen @annerallen
Source: annerallen.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The Surprising Truth About Split Infinitives

Here’s a secret: I’ve never been explicitly taught not to split infinitives (or to not split infinitives?). Surprise!

If that statement’s a shocking pronouncement, or if it makes no sense at all, never fear. Let’s take a step back and look at the long, illustrious history of split infinitives.

What is an infinitive?

First off: what’s an infinitive?

When you use a verb in a sentence, you conjugate it—that is, you change its form to match the subject and the tense. The infinitive, though, is the original form of the verb, before it’s changed to fit into a sentence.

Here’s an example:

Infinitive: to snuggle
Conjugated: I snuggle, you snuggle, he snuggles, she snuggles, we snuggle, they snuggle

The funny thing about the English language is that the full infinitive of a verb is always two words: it always includes the word “to.” Without the “to,” it’s called the bare infinitive.

And that’s where all this trouble starts . . .

What is a split infinitive?

It’s exactly what it sounds like:

Want some examples? Try these:

I want to really understand what you’re saying.

She got a new alarm clock because she’s trying to not oversleep every morning.

Or this famous example:

To boldly go where no man has gone before. —Star Trek

Why shouldn’t you split infinitives?

There’s a long-standing, often-repeated rule in English that thou shalt not split infinitives. It’s generally taught in schools and many grammar nazis uphold it with unswerving fervor.

It’s a pretty archaic rule. Most scholars trace it back to the early 19th century, when modern English grammar was still being invented. Some guy named Henry Alford (who wrote the book The King’s English) decided that since you can’t split infinitives in Latin, you shouldn’t be splitting infinitives in English.

Here’s the thing: infinitives in Latin are just one word. It’s impossible to split a Latin infinitive because there’s nothing to split.

It may be an old, oft-cited rule—but it’s also pretty baseless.

When should you obey the rule?

Before we abandon the rule completely, let’s talk about the times when it’s helpful. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Take a look at this example:

He’s going to nicely, sweetly, and unexpectedly ask her to the prom.

That’s four words between “to” and “ask.” By the time you get to “ask,” you’ve almost lost track of the sentence completely. Let’s move some words around:

He’s going to ask her to the prom nicely, sweetly, and unexpectedly.

Beware of cramming too many words into your infinitives. That can get clunky, messy, and confusing fast.

On the other hand, let’s take another look at our original examples. If we were to rephrase them, we’d lose some meaning:

I really want to understand what you’re saying.

Sure, you might really want to understand, but that’s different from really understanding. One means to have a true desire to understand; the other is to want a deep, thorough understanding.

She got a new alarm clock because she’s trying not to oversleep every morning.

“To not oversleep” puts firm emphasis on her action, which we lose with this arrangement. She’s trying to NOT OVERSLEEP, okay?! Stop giving her a hard time about her mornings!

To go boldly where no man has gone before.

This loses the elegant ring of “to boldly go.” Would “to go boldly” ever have become such a famous phrase? We’ll never know.

To split or to not split? Don’t worry

Splitting infinitives doesn’t generally hinder comprehension unless you’re trying to cram fifteen words in (don’t do that!). So split away!

Enjoy being able to slowly chew your dinner! Take time to really think of your fabulous story ideas! Make it your mission to boldly go where no man (or woman!) has gone before.

And if grammar nazis or English teachers give you trouble, feel free to confidently whip out your knowledge of the history of the English language and defend your split infinitives.

Do you feel passionately about split (or not-split) infinitives? Let us know in the comments.

By Alice Sudlow and Liz Bureman
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

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

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Write a Book in 100 Days

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

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

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

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

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

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?

Occasionally, we grammar enthusiasts need to take a step back and lighten up a little bit. While there are some grammar rules that are hard and fast (I’m looking at you, comma splice), sometimes there is wiggle room (like the controversial claim that you can split infinitives). Today, we’re tackling another wiggly rule: is ending a sentence with a preposition okay?

Well, guess what? I’m here to liberate your pens and tell you that it’s okay for your protagonist to ask her cheating boyfriend who he was just with.

What Is a Preposition?

First, a quick review: what is a preposition? These cats explain it pretty well.

cats

To sum up:

The prepositions above show the cats’ locations in space. Let’s add to the fun with these prepositions that show location in time:

I fed the cats at seven this morning.

Pamela will clean the seven litter boxes in the evening.

After you pet the cats, wash your hands before you eat, please.

Is Ending a Sentence With a Preposition Bad?

Recently, we talked about the “rule” that you shouldn’t split infinitives and why it’s really okay.

The bottom line: a few centuries ago, when our grammar was a murky mess, some outspoken grammarians decided to apply Latin rules to English, regardless of whether that was a sensible choice.

In this case, dramatist John Dryden was the first to take up the pen against ending sentences with prepositions, way back in 1672. He claimed that since you can’t end a sentence with a preposition in Latin, you shouldn’t do it in English, either.

The Problem With Following the Rule

English isn’t Latin, though, and we structure our sentences very differently. It’s easy to construct perfectly logical and grammatically sound sentences whose only “fault” is that they end with prepositions.

Plus, when you try to “fix” these sentences, you can end up with some pretty crazy twists, like this quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill:

“This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put!”

And as we recognize how arbitrary and baseless this rule was to begin with, we’ve moved away from strictly adhering to it. So if you’ve ever written yourself into a corner fretting over the preposition rule, breathe deep.

It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition.

That being said, there are a few caveats.

When It’s NOT Okay to End a Sentence With a Preposition

If the meaning of the sentence is still clear without the ending preposition, then remove it.

In my hometown in the hills of western PA, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone on the phone asking, “Hey, where are you at?” “Where are you” doesn’t need any clarification, so cut that “at.”

Then again, it’s also not uncommon to overhear someone refer to a group of people as “yinz guys,” so I’d hardly claim my hometown as a beacon of good grammar and usage.

However, if the preposition is key to the sentence’s meaning, and moving it would cause unnecessary written acrobatics, it’s fine to end your sentence with the preposition. For example:

Carla wanted to run, but her feet refused. What was she waiting for?

Rewriting that last phrase would completely convolute the prose. No one asks, “For what was she waiting?” Come on now.

Ditch Dryden (Or Don’t)

Is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition? Yep.

Is this claim controversial? You bet.

Still . . . maybe it’s time to rethink how much we pay attention to those Latin-obsessed 17th century introverts.

Have you heard the “rule” (*cough* myth) that ending a sentence with a preposition is a grievous error? Do you ever end sentences with prepositions? Let us know in the comments section.

By Alice Sudlow and Liz Bureman
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Publish a Short Story: Write Your First and Second Drafts

Two weeks ago, I urged you to come on a publication journey with me, one where I walk you through the process of planning, writing, and submitting a short story. This is the second post in the four-part series on how to publish a short story. By the end, you’ll have a story ready to send out to publications!

If you’re a little late to the party, never fear! You can still participate. Look back at the first two steps and then join me back here.

This week, we’re going to concentrate on writing and the first edit.

NOTE: Throughout this series, DO NOT post your work in the comments. I’m going to ask you to submit to a publisher at the end of this series, and posting it here would be considered publishing it. Our Becoming Writer community is a great place to workshop your story before you submit it.

Writing Your Story

By now, you should have a publication in mind and have the answers to a couple basic questions. Maybe you brainstormed or did a full outline. Bonus points if you’ve got a draft! (But don’t worry if you don’t.)

Now pick up the pen and write the thing!

This series is focused on how to submit stories and isn’t meant to be a masterclass in short story writing, but I’ve tried to include as many basics as I can. For further information on writing shorts, check this out.

If you’ve got a draft already, this post will still be useful to you, so don’t skip reading it!

3. First Draft: Write in One Sitting

Smile. This is the fun part.

Short stories are meant to be consumed in a single sitting, so it makes sense to write them in one. This isn’t as daunting as it seems. You’ll find your enthusiasm will drive you to the end and the story will flow much better.

Sit down and write. Write quickly. Write badly. Just write.

This is not the time to worry about your word count. Wait, what? I know. I told you to pick out a publication and they’ve given you a word count to stick to. Ignore that for the moment.

Right now, your job is to tell your story. The story will let you know when it’s finished. Overwriting is fine, and actually encouraged, at this stage. On the opposite end, if you’re lacking in words, that’s okay, too. You can always fill in more description later.

For now, just let it flow.

But do remember the four questions I gave you the last time and keep them in mind as a roadmap for going forward. Don’t worry if you get a little lost or off-track. Sometimes stories insist on a life of their own. Don’t panic. That’s normal.

4. Break Time

When you’ve written the last word and are riding that rush of excitement, I need you to do something vitally important: TAKE A BREAK! This is so important, I’ve included it as one of the steps instead of simply mentioning it in passing.

Put the story away and out of your mind. I recommend a three-day hiatus at this stage. That’s just enough for you to forget what you wrote and why you wrote it that way, but not enough time to lose interest in the story.

Don’t look at it. Don’t edit it. Don’t even think about it.

Read a book, get some sleep, or work on another story. Fight the urge to edit right away!

5. Second Draft: Get Critical

This is the less fun but crucial part. Your first draft is not perfect.

Say it with me now: MY FIRST DRAFT IS NOT PERFECT!

You’ve had a break and hopefully you’ve forgotten why you loved this specific turn of phrase or that overlong description. Now you’re going to get brutal. You’re going to cut, add, and rearrange with all the mercy of a general on a battlefield.

First things first: Make sure your story is a story! This might sound obvious, but sometimes it’s not.

When I first started writing shorts, it was all nonsense. Halfway decent prose, but utter nonsense. There was no point. There was no character development. There was no climax. It took a long time for me to realize I was getting rejected because I hadn’t written a story.

A short is different from a novel. You don’t have time to ramble. But a short story is still a story and needs to read like one. It must contain all the elements I mentioned mine lacked. And it must have a beginning, middle, and end.

Here are a few short story fundamentals to achieve that goal:

Elements of a Short Story: What Should Be

  1. Start with action: No overly complicated scene setting or a ton of character inner musings needed. Get the story moving.
  2. Show, don’t tell: Telling seems like a good way to get to the point, right? Nope. A short story is still a story, not a sequence of events spat out in synopsis form by a robot. This happens, then this happens, and finally this happens, is an outline, not a narrative.
  3. Good pacing: Good shorts don’t spend too much time on description and rush through the action. They flow well from one scene to the next and none of those scenes are unnecessary.
  4. Climax and efficient build up to it: Every single word in a short story needs to drive the reader to the climax. Move toward that climax efficiently. If there’s something that doesn’t serve this purpose, chop it. And make sure your climax is in there!
  5. Satisfying resolution: Your ending must wrap up your story. It needs to be clear, there can be a twist or surprise (but make sure that surprise isn’t coming out of nowhere), and there needs to be a change from the way things were in the beginning.

Common Short Story Mistakes: What Shouldn’t Be

  1. Overcomplicated plot: Again, keep it simple. Shorts revolve around one central theme, action, upheaval, or event. If you’ve got a bunch of B plots, your story probably isn’t suited for the structure of a short.
  2. Too much backstory and world-building: Only tell us what we need to know, when we need to know it. You can know every little detail about your character’s third-grade experience or the ecosystem of your fictional planet, but is it necessary for your reader to know? This is a general rule when writing, but especially so for shorts. You don’t have the space to tell us everything. Stick to the point.
  3. Bad dialogue: This is one of the things I see the most with short stories. One way to fix this is to read your dialogue aloud, preferably with a partner. If it sounds funny coming out of your mouth, it’s not right. Remember, people rarely use another person’s name when talking to them and contractions are your friend.
  4. Head hopping: Stay in one point of view. There’s not enough time or space in a short to skip around.
  5. Abrupt ending: Make sure you haven’t just cut off your story to stay in the word count. (The climax is not the ending!) Take us all the way through.

Write, Write, Write!

For the next two weeks, concentrate on getting through the first and second drafts using the tips above. This might get frustrating at points. You may want to give up. Don’t. You’ll get through it.

And most importantly: Your writing DOES NOT suck! (We all need that little reminder now and then.)

Still wondering how to publish a short story? Don’t worry. In the next post, I’ll go over getting feedback and the nitpicky edits of the third draft. Soon, your story will be publication ready!

Which short story elements do you think you do the best? Which do you think you need to work on? Let me know in the comments.

By Sarah Gribble
Source: thewritepractice.com

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