Tag Archives: writing career

12 Nature-Inspired Creative Writing Prompts

Today’s post includes a selection of prompts from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy!

Creative writing prompts are excellent tools for writers who are feeling uninspired or who simply want to tackle a new writing challenge. Today’s creative writing prompts focus on nature.

For centuries, writers have been composing poems that celebrate nature, stories that explore it, and essays that analyze it.

Nature is a huge source of inspiration for all creative people. You can find it heavily featured in film, television, art, and music.

Creative Writing Prompts

You can use these creative writing prompts in any way you choose. Sketch a scene, write a poem, draft a story, or compose an essay. The purpose of these prompts is to inspire you, so take the images they bring to your mind and run with them. And have fun!

  1. A young girl and her mother walk to the edge of a field, kneel down in the grass, and plant a tree.
  2. The protagonist wakes up in a seemingly endless field of wildflowers in full bloom with no idea how he or she got there.
  3. Write a piece using the following image: a smashed flower on the sidewalk.
  4. A family of five from a large, urban city decides to spend their one-week vacation camping.
  5. An elderly couple traveling through the desert spend an evening stargazing and sharing memories of their lives.
  6. A woman is working in her garden when she discovers an unusual egg.
  7. Write a piece using the following image: a clearing deep in the woods where sunlight filters through the overhead lattice of tree leaves.
  8. Some people are hiking in the woods when they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies.
  9. A person who lives in a metropolitan apartment connects with nature through the birds that come to the window.
  10. Write a piece using the following image: an owl soaring through the night sky.
  11. A well-to-do family from the city that has lost all their wealth except an old, run-down farmhouse in the country. They are forced to move into it and learn to live humbly.
  12. Two adolescents, a sister and brother, are visiting their relatives’ farm and witness a sow giving birth.

Again, you can use these creative writing prompts to write anything at — poems, stories, songs, essays, blog posts, or just sit down and start freewriting.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Archetypal Characters in Storytelling

The hero, the mentor, the sidekick. We’re all familiar with archetypal characters in storytelling. We’ve seen them before. We know the roles they play.

Archetypal characters shouldn’t be confused with stock characters or stereotypical characters. Although we’ve seen all these characters before and will surely see them again, stock and stereotypical characters are based on character traits; archetypes are based on the characters’ function or purpose within a story.

Characters’ Function in Story

Archetypal characters fulfill a specific function a story. The herald signals change or the beginning of an adventure. The mentor imparts gifts, skills, or knowledge to the hero. The threshold guardian tests the hero or blocks the path forward.

Stock characters feel familiar because they embody a personality type — behaviors and attitudes that we’ve seen in similar characters before. The tough guy, the girl next door, and the wise old man or woman are all examples of stock characters. They may serve a purpose in the story (somebody has to serve the main characters at a restaurant), but what stands out is their personality, which sometimes feels cliché.

Stereotypical characters reflect social stereotypes, which are widely held and often inaccurate or misleading beliefs about groups. Stereotypes occur when traits, behaviors, and attitudes are assigned to an entire group. They often based on race, religion, gender, or geographical origin, and they are usually negative. Stereotypes make irrational assumptions about individuals based on the group to which they belong.

How can we tell the difference between an archetype, stock character, or stereotype? Let’s use the Knight in Shining Armor and a Damsel in Distress as examples. The damsel functions as a plot device, providing the hero with a goal (to save her), and the knight functions as a hero whose primary goal is to rescue the damsel. But the function these characters perform within a story (to save or be saved) need not be assigned to a damsel or a knight. A child could save a puppy. A witch could save a wizard. Or a lifeguard could save a swimmer.

If we remove the personality traits, we’re left with the function: give the hero someone or something to save, i.e., an archetypal function.

Archetypal Characters from The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell discovered archetypal characters that exist in stories throughout time and across space. He presented his findings in the Monomyth (or Hero’s Journey), and Christopher Vogler later adapted Campbell’s findings in his book, The Writer’s Journey. Let’s take a look at the eight archetypes of the Hero’s Journey:

  • Hero: Protagonist who undergoes a meaningful transformation over the course of a story and who often changes the conditions of the story world for the better.
  • Herald: Signals that an adventure (or change) is imminent.
  • Mentor: Teacher and guide.
  • Threshold Guardian: Blocks a threshold that the Hero must pass; tests the Hero.
  • Shadow: The villain and other characters that stand in the Hero’s way; often they embody the Hero’s negative or undesirable traits.
  • Shapeshifter: A character or entity whose motives or intentions are unclear.
  • Trickster: Comic relief; Tricksters are often catalysts for change.
  • Allies: The Hero’s friends and helpers.

You’ll often see these archetypes in various combinations in storytelling. Some stories may not use a shapeshifter while others might have more than one trickster. A single character can embody multiple archetypes. For example, the character that performs the function of the Herald might also be a Trickster. The Mentor could act as the Threshold Guardian.

Other Archetypal Characters

The Hero’s Journey isn’t the only source of archetypal characters. There are other types of stories and other archetypes in fiction. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Anti-hero: This is an inverted hero, the protagonist is not likable or engages in despicable or immoral behaviors.
  • Audience surrogate: A stand-in for the audience, to inject questions and thoughts on behalf of the audience.
  • The Chosen One: A type of hero who is destined for greatness or tragedy rather than earning it.
  • The Cynic: This untrusting character often provides skepticism or challenges the status quo.

This is just a small sampling of archetypes you might find in fiction. You can have a lot of fun identifying archetypes, but make sure each one performs a function rather than represents a behavior or personality type. A common archetype I’ve noticed is The Oppressor, a character who uses their power to rob other characters of their rights, freedoms, and justice. The Misfit is a character that doesn’t fit in with mainstream society and either learns to fit in or eventually learns to be true to who they are.

Using Character Archetypes

Character archetypes can come in handy during the story development process. You might write a draft or outline and feel that it’s missing something. Maybe your story needs one of the character archetypes to mark the stages and progress of your protagonist’s journey.

Have you ever intentionally used archetypes in your stories? Are there any character archetypes you’ve noticed in fiction that aren’t mentioned here? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Poetry: Making Music with Words

Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?

But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry.

Poets use various elements of music to compose a poem. But because the written word is read and not heard, some elements of music aren’t available, like pitch and timbre.

Spoken word and performance (or slam) poetry are exceptions, because these works are designed to be heard and can incorporate musical elements that aren’t available to authors who write to be read. But most poets rely on a variety of literary devices and techniques to bring music to their work. Foremost among these are meter, sound, rhyme, repetition, and structure.

Meter (Rhythm)

In poetry, meter is a syllabic pattern, which is determined by stressed and unstressed syllables. We’ll use bold to denote stressed syllables in the first line of “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich:

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

Let’s see what happens when we strip away the language, so we can see the raw meter of the line:

da-da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-da DUM DUM da-DUM

As you can see, the meter gives the poem rhythm, an underlying drumbeat. This demonstration shows why it’s important to review the syllables in the lines of your poetry to check the meter.

Sound (Melody)

A song’s melody is determined by the sequence and length of notes played or sung by musicians. In poetry, melody is driven by the vowel and consonant sounds within the words of the poem. Consider this simple tune: la de-da, la de-da, la-la-la. 

Now compare it to this: doo-da, doo-da, doo-de-da.

We don’t know the exact notes or melody just from reading these sounds, but there is an implied tune when we read them aloud. We can bring a little rhythm to the sounds as well by placing stress on select syllables:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.

So how do we put it all together? By choosing words that match the melody and meter that we’re aiming for:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 
On the dock, six o’clock, stomp on rock

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
Stooping, drooping, boorish king

You’ll notice that in addition to rhythm and meter, we introduced some rhymes.

Rhyme

The most common rhymes are perfect end rhymes–words that appear at the end of lines in poetry and that rhyme perfectly. Here’s an example from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

The words lot and not rhyme perfectly and are placed at the end of the first two lines, respectively. The placement of rhyme in a poem, coupled with its meter, can give the lines a sing-song quality. We can use different meters, sounds, and rhyme placements to pull different musical qualities into our poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood, which shows internal rhymes:

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite

Try reading these lines aloud to hear the inherent music contained within. Notice that the lines do not use a metrical pattern, but the layered internal rhymes give it rhythm:

  • away and breaks
  • hot and rock
  • bones, open, and flows
  • The word point appears three times in these five lines, but the repetition of this word is barely noticeable.

It’s worth noting that some poems don’t rhyme at all. Rhyme is important in poetry, but it’s actually a subset of a broader and even more important poetic device that is essential in both poetry and music: repetition. After all, rhyme is just repetition of sounds.

Repetition

Repetition is the technique that really sums up how we make music out of words in poetry. All of the techniques mentioned above ultimately use repetition:

  • We create a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables — and a pattern is really just repetition.
  • We choose words and arrange them in such a way that they create a pseudo melody, which is achieved primarily by patterning (or repeating) certain sounds.
  • And we use rhyme — maybe end rhymes that ring like cymbals or internal rhymes that jingle like a tambourine. Rhymes are, by nature, repetition.

Layering the repetitions of these elements creates greater musical dynamics in a poem.

As you can see, a poem’s musicality really comes from the repetition of various elements within the lines and stanzas. And there are more elements that we can repeat. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity: prickly pears. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in close proximity: hat rack.

Some poems even use repetition in their very structure.

Structure

A poem’s music also comes from its structure — the length of lines and stanzas, placement of line and stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. All of these elements contribute to the poem’s structural sounds and therefore contribute to its musicality.

In music, a rest is an interval of silence. In poetry, these intervals are indicated by line breaks, stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. Rests are similar to the concept of white space in art.

For example, punctuation provides indicators for pausing (or resting) with commas and periods or inflections for questions and exclamations.

Do You Make Music with Poetry?

Plenty of excellent works of poetry aren’t especially musical. But musicality is an important aspect of poetry.

How do you infuse your poetry with music?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Keep Writing!

When life gets hectic, it’s impossible to get your creative writing done. Inspiration might be knocking, but the house is so full, you’re not sure you can open the door and let it in. How can you keep writing?

What if all you need is sixty seconds?

We all have responsibilities to fulfill and obligations to meet. We’ve got bills to pay, jobs to do, children to care for, and pets to play with. The lawn has to be mowed, garbage taken out, laundry done, dishes cleaned; the list goes on and on and on.

How Do We Find Time for Creative Writing?

Our writing happens when the muse is happily seducing our imaginations — when new worlds magically appear on the page and when fictional characters seem more real than some of the people we know in our day-to-day lives.

Creative writing is one of those pursuits that, for many people, is a dream. Like music, dance, acting, and art, it seems unattainable. Like athletics, entrepreneurship, and leadership, it seems meant only for the chosen few. Every day a writer is born. And every day, a writer gives up, overwhelmed by all the things in life that require time, energy, and attention.

Every day, another blog is abandoned, another novel shelved, another poem left unfinished. “I just don’t have time anymore,” a writer says, then deletes a file that was going to be the next great American novel, or crumples up a poem that would have inspired the next great world leader and throws it in the trash.

Don’t Give Up

What if J.K. Rowling had given up on her fantastical story? What if George Lucas had given up on his groundbreaking film? What if the Beatles hadn’t taken a chance on that new sound everyone was calling rock and roll? What kind of world would we be living in?

I almost gave up on my creative writing. For several years, I rarely wrote, other than the writing I had to do for work, which was technical or business writing. It was only by sheer luck that the company I worked for closed, forcing me to find some other path, and only by an odd combination of chance, drive, and a willingness to take risks did I return to my writing so that I could sit here years later amazed that now I make (part of) my living doing it.

And I’m willing to take the dream a little further, do a little more. Whether it’s this year, next year, or in five years, the dream is mine, and I’m not giving up on it.

Neither should you.

Keep Writing!

If you don’t have time to write, then make time.

You don’t have to sit down and write ten pages a day. In five minutes, you can jot down a few paragraphs. In fifteen, you can run off a page. Some days, you’ll get lucky and be able to steal an hour or two. Other days, you’ll have to crunch just to get a couple of minutes.

All that matters is that you keep writing, no matter what.

A Little Tiny Writing Exercise

A few years ago, I came across this website called One Word. It’s one of those sites you save and then forget about but rediscover every few months when you’re cleaning out your bookmarks. Every time I visit, I use it (because it’s interactive), and by the time I leave, which is maybe a minute and a half later, I feel strangely refreshed and revitalized.

One Word gives you just that — one word. Then it gives you something else. It gives you time. You get sixty seconds to write whatever you want, inspired by that single word, that gift.

It doesn’t sound like much, but every time I’ve visited that site and cranked out a minute’s worth of words, I’ve always felt good when I finished, like my right brain just got a little massage and the rest of my body is thanking me for it. And whether it’s been hours or days since I last took time to work on my own creative writing, One Word always reminds me that my passions need to have a priority in my life.

It’s a lot like the way I feel when I hear an inspiring, uplifting speech that motivates and moves me, except at this site, the words aren’t someone else’s; they’re mine. Well, except for that one.

Feed Your Soul

Here’s the thing about creativity: it is food for the soul. It’s the one thing that has a guaranteed return on investment. The more creativity you spend, the better you feel, the more creative you become, and more nourished is your spirit.

People like us need to feed the fire to keep the passion burning. Giving up on your creative writing isn’t an option because if we give up, we dry up. When you feed your right brain, your whole body benefits, and when you feed the fire that is your passion, your whole life and everyone in it reaps the rewards.

So make some time, take some time, to write. Go to OneWord.com and write for just a minute (surely you can spare sixty seconds — how about right now?) or close all those windows and open up your word processing software or turn off the computer and pick up your journal and just write.

And then keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

7 Ways to Bring More Artistry to Your Writing

The killer and the poet — ideally both in balance.

That’s our theme for writers in 2018:

To sharpen up your “killer” side with strategic, analytic, and technical skills, without ignoring your “poetic” side that has the talent to create fascinating content.

Today’s post is about nurturing that inner poet — and adding more artistry to your posts, podcast scripts, and video content.

I use each of these every day, to shape each piece of writing with as much craft and care as I can.

The first is one of the great pleasures of being a writer …

#1: Read widely

A good writer should be a compulsive reader.

Cultivate the habit of reading anything and everything that interests you. If you only read other blogs about marketing writing, your voice is going to stiffen up.

Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read biographies. Read poetry. Read anything that turns you on.

Reading about various topics gives you perspective. (Which has a funny way of sparking some of your best ideas in your main topic.) And reading various voices gives you words, phrases, and verbal music to inspire that inner poet.

From time to time, it’s a fabulous idea to listen to audiobooks as well. You’ll experience the language differently, and notice turns of phrase and writing rhythms that can start to spark new ideas for your own work.

#2: Speak it aloud

If you want your writing to have more music, you need to know what it sounds like. You need to read it aloud.

This is the fastest way to find missing words, typos, clichés, awkward phrases, and confusing passages. You’ll also often discover logical problems, or content that’s trying to address too many ideas at once.

I like to read an entire piece of content through at least once. I’ll also read a phrase or two out loud in a later editing pass, if I’m not sure it’s as clear as it should be.

For even more fun, read some of your favorite writers aloud sometimes, as well. You’ll notice all kinds of things about their writing that you’d missed before.

#3: Follow the Rule of 24

Larry Brooks wrote a post for us about this, and it’s a terrific rule of thumb.

Once you’ve finished your post — including what you think are all of your edits — let it rest for 24 hours before you publish it.

Then take a final look. You’ll find odd, embarrassing, or just bland words and phrases that you missed, no matter how careful your earlier edits.

Fresh eyes are perceptive eyes. Give yourself a good night’s sleep, then look at your work with those fresh eyes.

#4: Look for analogies

One of the best ways to add texture, voice, character, and persuasive power to your writing is to use more interesting analogies.

Keep your eyes open for these, and add them to your creative journal or content idea file whenever they occur to you.

While you’re at it, watch for compelling quotes, fascinating stories, and juicy data points that will add richness to your work.

Don’t have a journal or system yet to capture those? Start one.

#5: Select the thoughtful detail

Too much detail makes writing feel overstuffed and indigestible.

But a few details, carefully chosen, bring writing to life.

Details shine more brightly when they’re set, like perfect gemstones, all by themselves. Cram too many into one sentence and they start to look cluttered — and cheap.

Specific, sensory details add resonance to your writing and make it more memorable. Milton Erickson’s African violet story would be much less memorable if the woman had merely grown “flowers.”

Look for a color, a texture, a smell, or another sensory detail that can be added — sparingly.

By the way — if your topic doesn’t necessarily lend itself to sensory detail, your interesting analogy may uncover some opportunities.

#6: Exfoliate

When I edit content, whether or not I wrote it, the first thing I do is read through the piece and get rid of unnecessary words.

Here’s an example from one of my podcast scripts. There was a lot of verbal filler that could be trimmed without losing meaning.

I want to talk about something that seems to me to keep that keeps so many folks who could be doing great work from getting recognition.

Then, I usually do a second pass and look for even more unnecessary words. These critters are sneaky — they like to hide out in your writing, often camouflaging themselves as conversational style.

After that, I’ll do a third pass looking for phrases that are too long or just clunky, rewriting as I go. (The read-aloud nearly always finds a few of these.)

In a fourth pass, I look for overly “fancy” words that can be replaced with simpler or clearer ones. By this time, I’ll also have noticed any words that have been overused. For example, when writing this article, I used the word fantastic four times in the original draft.

Our Editor-in-Chief Stefanie Flaxman calls this process “writing exfoliation.” Every pass through the piece will reveal little rough spots that can be smoothed.

Once you have more experience, you’ll often catch multiple problems at once. A single pass might reveal a long sentence that can be cut into two, a pile of unnecessary words, some clunky phrasing, and a few Fancy Nancy words that can be simplified.

But no matter how experienced a writer or editor you are, the more passes you make, the smoother the writing will get. Four or five passes is typical for me, and I have no problem going to eight or nine (or more) if I feel a piece needs it.

By the way, it’s possible to exfoliate a sentence so much that it gets vague or confusing.

What blocks recognition?

That one went too far, if it’s intended to convey the idea from the original sentence above. Your read-aloud step will catch those and give you the chance to restore any lost clarity.

#7: Write every day

I’ve saved the most powerful for last.

If you want to be a much better writer, the wisest thing you can do is cultivate a habit of writing every day.

It doesn’t need to be thousands of words. It might be a paragraph or two, or even a thoughtful (and carefully edited) social media post.

Writing every day doesn’t mean publishing every day. Journal writing counts. So do drafts or sections of content you think you might publish later. Or rough sketches of ideas that you may or may not develop.

When you write every day, something funny happens in your brain. What Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement” start to get more active.

They start sending you more ideas, more turns of phrase, more metaphors, more stories, more fascinating details, more words. They notice more, and that means you start to become more creative — and more productive.

You don’t have to reach your mythical 10,000 hours to be a damned fine writer.

But the more often and consistently you practice, particularly if you spend plenty of time shaping and refining your work, the better you’re going to get.

How about you?

What are your favorite tips to hone your craft? Let us know in the comments!

Source: copyblogger.com

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Things You Should Never Say To A Writer On A First Date

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By Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Source: inkygirl.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books

Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said,

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will…

When I first found this quote of Buffett’s two years ago, something was wrong.

It was Dec. 2014. I’d found my dream job. Some days, I would be there, sitting at my dream job, and I would think, “My god what if I’m still here in 40 years? I don’t want to die like this…”

Something wasn’t right. I’d followed the prescription. Good grades. Leadership. Recommendations. College. Dream Job. I was a winner. I’d finished the race. Here I was in the land of dreams. But something was terribly, terribly wrong.

Every day, from my dream job desk, I looked out into their eyes. Empty, empty eyes.

There were no answers.

In January of 2015, I found Buffett’s quote. I decided to read. I was going to read and read and read and never stop until I got some damn answers.

I didn’t quite make 500 pages a day, but, in these last two years, I’ve read over 400 books cover to cover. That decision to start reading was one of the most important decisions in my life.

Books gave me the courage to travel. Books gave me the conviction to quit my job. Books gave me role models and heroes and meaning in a world where I had none.

I want to say reading 200 books a year is an amazing thing. But the truth is, it’s not. Anybody can do it.

All it takes is some simple math and the right tools.

1. Do not quit before you start

When average Joe hears the advice “Read 500 pages like this every day,” his snap reaction is to say, “No way! That’s impossible!”

Joe will then go on to make up reasons to justify his belief without doing any deep thinking at all. These might include “I’m too busy,” “I’m not smart enough,” or “Books just aren’t for me.”

But what if we go a little deeper? For example, what does it actually take to read 200 books a year? Two years ago, I stopped to do the simple math. Here’s what I found: Reading 200 books a year isn’t hard at all.

It’s just like Buffett says. Anyone can do it, but most people won’t.

2. Do the simple math

How much time does it take to read 200 books a year?

First, let’s look at two quick statistics:

  • The average American reads 200–400 words per minute (Since you’re on Medium, I’m going to assume you read 400 wpm like me)
  • Typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words

Now, all we need are some quick calculations…

  • 200 books * 50,000 words/book = 10 million words
  • 10 million words/400 wpm = 25,000 minutes
  • 25,000 minutes/60 = 417 hours

That’s all there is to it. To read 200 books, simply spend 417 hours a year reading.

I know, I know. If your brain is like mine, it probably saw “417 hours” and immediately tried to shut off. Most people only work 40 hours a week! How can we possibly read for 417 hours?

Don’t let your monkey brain turn you away yet. Let’s do a quick reframe for what 417 hours really means…

3. Find the time

Wowsers, 417 hours. That sure feels like a lot. But what does 417 hours really mean? Let’s try to get some more perspective.

Here’s how much time a single American spends on social media and TV in a year:

  • 608 hours on social media
  • 1642 hours on TV

Wow. That’s 2250 hours a year spent on TRASH. If those hours were spent reading instead, you could be reading over 1,000 books a year!

Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books: It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important…

All it takes to start reading a lot more is to take “empty time” spent Twitter-stalking celebrities or watching Desperate Housewives and convert some of it to reading time.

The theory is simple. It’s the execution that’s hard.

4. Execute

We all know reading is important. We all know we should do more of it. But we don’t. The main reason this happens is a failure to execute.

I’m not so perfect at it yet, but here are some tactics that have helped me get results.

I. Use environmental design

If you were quitting cocaine, would you keep it lying around the house? Of course not. Media is designed to be addictive. Moving away from media addiction can be as difficult as quitting drugs.

The biggest bang-for-buck changes here are environmental.

If you want to read, make sure (1) you remove all distractions from your environment and (2) you make books as easy to access as possible.

As an example, here’s my immediate environment:

from original
(Charles Chu)

I travel a lot. That doesn’t stop me from reading. The picture on the left is of my “bookshelf” in Thailand. I try to keep books everywhere so I can just pick one up and start reading.

The picture on the right is my smartphone desktop. Notice there are only two apps. One of them—the Kindle app—is for reading. The other is for habits… Which brings me to my next point.

II. Upload habits

Willpower is not a good tool for lifestyle change. It always fails you when you need it most. Instead of relying on strength of mind, build a fortress of habits—these are what will keep you resilient in tough times.

If you’re not familiar with habit science, my favorite book on the subject is Tynan’s Superhuman by Habit. It’s infinitely practical, and practical is all I care about.

Getting good at habit formation took me years. Many of the mistakes I made were avoidable. If I could go back, I’d find a habit coach. Here’s how I see it. One game-changing idea from a good book is worth thousands of dollars. If a coach helps you read ONE more good book a year, you already get your money’s worth.

(A shout out to Cherry Jeffs and Nathan Sudds, two coaches who have helped me out a lot.)

III. Go multi-medium

When it comes to reading, be a jack of all trades, not a specialist.

If your goal is to read more, you can’t be picky about where you read or what mediums you use. I read paper books. I read on my phone. I listen to audiobooks. And I do these things everywhere—on park benches, in buses, in the toilet… Wherever I can.

Make your reading opportunistic. If you have a chance, take it. If you don’t have a chance, find one.

I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.

— Orhan Pamuk

If I hadn’t started reading, perhaps I’d still be at my dream job. Perhaps I’d still be at my desk, taking peeks at the clock and wondering if that was how I was going to die…

If you’re looking for answers, give reading a try. You may find much, much more than what you were looking for.

Source: qz.com

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There are more than ten types of people who read books

People who read books have their own reading habits independent of the book format they like. Pages of paper books can be folded and highlighted, whereas notes can be jotted down on pages of an ebook (that don’t destroy the actual page) and highlighted as well. Someone may like to read in bath and another in bed. Riveted has identified ten types of book readers – but there are more.

Careful Page Turner. Books are so precious objects for this type of reader that even after reading a book, it looks like new.

Page folder. Books are full of memories and important things to note and remember. Every earmarked page has something to say to this reader.

Highlighter. Earmarking pages is not enough for this type of reader who wants to underline and highlight terms and lines.

Ebook user. Computers, tablets, ereaders and smartphones have users (unlike books that have readers), who read electronic books from the screen.

Paperback reader. In countries where ebooks have taken a large market share, sales of paperbacks has fallen, but there are still plenty paperback readers. Paperbacks are the classic choice of travelers, largely replaced today by ereader devices.

Hardcover lover. Book, music and movie industries have something in common: they can sell the same product many times to same customers, only in different package. Hardcover books have retained their market share despite ebooks (or paperbacks) that often are priced lower than hardcover products.

Library Hermit. With an endless supply of free books (and nowadays also the internet), it is easy to understand why some people like to spend hours in libraries.

Story Hoarder. A reader starts reading a story, but something makes him or her jump to the next book without finishing the first one. Some readers have he ability to jump from one story to the next without difficulties. I can do it with nonfiction books, but not with fiction.

Parallel computing. It is possible to read a book and listen to radio or (kind of) watch television at the same time, but playing a video game or cooking is difficult while reading a book. If you like to multitask, here is a tip for you: audiobooks. Another option is to download an app to your phone or tablet and let it read aloud an ebook for you.

Bedtime page turner. For some readers, it may be impossible to sleep before reading a little while, at least.

I can think of many additional types of readers, such as people who take a book along to a beach or park, and people who listen to audiobooks when they drive or commute. The emergence of ebooks has made books as a medium a flexible part of our lives, allowing us to enjoy them in many ways and in many places.

Source: klaava.com

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Your Story Matters (Or… What a Reader Wants You to Know)

Hi, dear Villagers! *waves*

Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. I’m Carrie, aka MeezCarrie, of ReadingIsMySuperPower. And I LOVE STORY!! I love short stories. I love epic stories. I love in between sized stories. I love contemporary stories. Historical stories. Mystery stories. Amish stories. Even some speculative and YA stories.

But most of all? I love THE Story. The one that starts with the ultimate ‘once upon a time’ – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) – and ends with the best ‘happily ever after’ ever (Revelation 21:4)

Because we are all part of that Story.

Yes, we all have a story in progress that is our own life. But everyone we meet does, too. And all those stories-in-progress are part of the Big Story that God is telling. Let me tell you – that is SO exciting to me!

I’m one of the new Seekerville bloggers, but I’m not seeking publication. I’m content to read other people’s stories and talk (incessantly) about them. But that up there? What I just said about being part of God’s Story?

That means I’m sorta like all the rest of y’all.

In a small way.

Ok.. not at all the same.

BUT… I am part of the greatest Story in the world. And so are you. That’s pretty stinkin’ incredible. The Author and Finisher of my Faith is telling a Story about me and about you. And He has promised to keep writing it until it’s completed – not when I die or when you die, but until the day Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Back in November, I had the pinch-me privilege of speaking with Cynthia Ruchti at the Art of Writing Conference just ahead of the 2017 Christy Awards gala. We talked about the darts of author discouragement and how to dodge them. After our session, a woman came up to me in tears. She whispered, “I didn’t know anybody else knew how I feel.” And then we both were in tears lol!

Author friends – can I encourage you a moment? You’re not alone. Writing may be a solitary career but the discouragements are consistent. Fear of rejection. The reality of rejection. Fear of the  possibility of a bad review. The depths of despair over an actual bad review. Your family doesn’t take you seriously. Your friends don’t take you seriously. It doesn’t pay the bills. It barely pays for coffee.

Oh… wait… I was supposed to be encouraging you. LOL.

I really was headed here, I promise.

You’re not alone. And you’re not left defenseless.

God has given you each other, and He has given you His Word. Community and grace wrapped up in a safe place like Seekerville.

You want to know another secret? YOUR STORY MATTERS.

Yep. I went there: all caps.

Because it’s so incredibly true and so incredibly important to understand.

The story you’re writing matters.

That story you’ve agonized over. The one that’s kept you up all hours of the night. The one that may or may not currently be taunting you with a blinking cursor of ‘I got nothing’. It matters. Even if no one else ever reads it. Even if no agent or publishing house wants it. Even if your beta readers and editors send it back with more tracked changes than you had words to start with.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

But you know what? The story that God is writing in you and through you matters most of all. He is making you more like Jesus every day. He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb, and He had already had plans for your life. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1) He created you as a writer before you even had fully developed hands to hold a pen or tap away on a keyboard. Even better – He knew your role in His Story before you ever made your grand arrival on planet Earth. And that story matters on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine.

Maybe you’re like me and the only thing you write is a blog post… or a grocery list. Your story matters too. God placed you in His Story at just the right time and in just the right place so that you would come to know Him (Acts 17). He pursued you with an everlasting love and has engraved you on the palm of His hand. (Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 49). Think about that for a second – you matter so much to the God of the Universe that those nail-scarred Hands have your name on them.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

I know good stories. I’m surrounded by them, à la the Dr. Seuss method of decorating. All the crannies, all the nooks, etc. This Big Story that God is telling is a good story. It’s the best story. It’s the standard by which all other stories are measured (whether they realize it or not). It’s also a true story. This fairy-tale to beat all fairy-tales – a prince on a white horse come to vanquish the enemy and rescue his bride – that’s OUR story (Revelation 19).

So when you’re tempted to throw in the towel and give up on your story – the one you’re writing or the one you’re living – remember this:

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

By Carrie Schmidt
Source: seekerville.blogspot.com

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How to Spark Your Story With an Inciting Incident

If you are planning on writing a story, there is something you need to consider besides basic plot structure. You need to determine your Inciting Incident.

What incident will compel your protagonist to act?

What Is an Inciting Incident?

I am reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and Story by Robert McGee to learn how to write a compelling story. Both Coyne and McGee emphasize the importance of writing a compelling inciting incident.

To incite means to stir, encourage, or urge on; to stimulate or prompt to action.

An inciting incident, then, is an event that forces your protagonist to act, compelling them to stop sitting around and do something.

Shawn Coyne has this to say about inciting incidents:

No matter the unit of story (beat, scene, sequence, act, or global Story) what the inciting incident must do is upset the life balance of your lead protagonist/s. It must make them uncomfortably out of sync . . . for good or for ill.

Robert McKee agrees:

If the protagonist’s toaster breaks it won’t compel her to get a job because she can afford to buy a new toaster.

However, if her bank manager steals all of the money from her account and flies to Brazil, she will be compelled to get a job. She is forced to act.

As Robert McKee says,

The protagonist must react to the Inciting Incident.

Why Do You Need an Inciting Incident?

If nothing happens to your protagonist you don’t have a story. Something has to happen.

Without an inciting incident nothing meaningful can happen. And when nothing meaningful happens, it’s not a story. —Shawn Coyne

If the story I am writing is about a toaster, but my toaster doesn’t do anything but sit on the counter, there is no story.

If the toaster catches on fire and burns down the house, then there is a story. Will the toaster get caught? Will the fire department blame the cat? Can the toaster be repaired?

How Does an Inciting Incident Happen?

An inciting incident can happen in one of two ways:

  1. By choice
  2. By accident

The protagonist might choose to adopt six cats, buy a one-way ticket to Japan, or decide to enter a hairy leg contest. All of these inciting incidents would compel the protagonist to take action.

Inciting incidents that are not by choice can happen as a coincidence, randomly, or as an accident. The protagonist meets a Naval Officer at a bar. A cat climbs into the protagonist’s lap and refuses to leave. You thought your flight left Bangkok at two in the afternoon, but it left at two in the morning, and there are no flights for another three days and you have spent all of your money.

No matter whether the inciting incident happens by choice or by accident, Robert McKee says it should occur “in the first 25 percent of the telling, no matter what the medium.”

If the writer, playwright, or screenwriter waits too long to incite the protagonist to action, the reader or audience might get bored and not continue with the story.

How Do You Resolve the Inciting Incident?

Shawn Coyne says the ending of a story must have two things:

  1. The ending must be reasonable and an inevitable result of the inciting incident.
  2. The ending must be surprising.

He gives examples of inciting incidents from different genres that have climaxes that are expected.

Murder mystery

  • Inciting incident = the discovery of a dead body
  • Climax = solving of the crime

Love story

  • Inciting incident = lovers meet
  • Climax = will the couple stay together?

Horror novel

  • Inciting incident = attack by the monster
  • Climax = confrontation between lead character victim and the monster from the inciting incident

An inciting incident creates chaos in the life of the protagonist. The story occurs when the protagonist tries to get their life back into balance. As Robert McKee says,

Characters are what they do. Story events impact the characters, and the characters impact events.

The climax or resolution of the story will put the protagonist’s life back together in some sort of new way, for better or worse. Hopefully, it will put their life back into balance.

What will your protagonist do? What is going to incite them to take action? Please let me know in the comments.

By Pamela Hodges
Source: thewritepractice.com

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