Tag Archives: writing tools

Story in the Human Psyche

After my brief hiatus (life got busy and I got overwhelmed), I’m back and excited to bring you a series of posts that will be part of a book I’m writing. Harness Your Reader’s Psychology is going to all about understanding what draws readers to your story, what fires their psychology, and how we can harness that.

The first part of the book will focus on why readers read. Four chapters will explore where story can be found, why we’re so drawn to it, how story impacts us, and what it is readers are really looking for. So this week, we’re going to discover exactly how pervasive story is.

Most writers can tell you that story lives in other places outside of books. We understand that everyone does story in one form or another, even those that don’t read. I devour books, my husband loves to watch TV, my son absorbs himself in games of breeding dragons or building pixelated forests. In fact, gossiping is story, seeing a psychologist is all about telling your story, marketers know that a good story will invest you in their product.

Story’s roots are so deeply embedded and woven through our humanity, that it is, quite literally, everywhere. Yep, story is everywhere.

The proof that fiction is deeply embedded in humanity’s psyche is simple—story is everywhere. Story was with the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime thousands of years ago, it’s stamped in the hieroglyphics of the pyramids and was carried in the beaded necklaces of the American Indians. And yes, we are reading less than we used to, and oral story telling is an art on the brink of extinction. But that isn’t because we’ve forsaken fiction. Story now thrives in chart-busting love ballads, Call of Duty games, and generates billions of dollars in movies about blue-skinned, long-tailed Avatars.

Many of us understand that most of those examples are stories. But story is deeply embedded in our psyche, as evidenced by the stories we tell ourselves. Whether you aspire to be a writer or not, we are all storytellers in our sleep. Dreams are the places where we fly, commit adultery, witness murders, save lives. We spend hours (some scientists believe we may dream all night) scripting and screening fantastical theatre in our mind. Asleep, everyone of us is a storyteller.

Nor do we stop dreaming when we’re awake. Daydreaming is the mind’s default state. We daydream when driving, when walking, when mopping the floor, when listening to Uncle Joe regal us with the golden years. The reality is, that if our mind isn’t focused on a task, it will skip off to wondering what would happen if you interrupted Uncle Joe and began discussing the joys of cross-dressing.

In fact, our mind can’t help but create stories. This point is beautifully illustrated by an experiment conducted by psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel. It was the mid-1940’s when the researchers made a short film, a simple black and white animation that lasts about a minute and a half. Essentially, there is a big rectangle that is motionless, except for a flap on the side that opens and closes. There’s a big triangle, a small triangle, and a small circle. The animation starts with the big triangle inside the big rectangle. The small triangle and circle then move onto the screen. As the big square’s flap opens, the big triangle moves out. The three shapes move around the screen, in and out of the rectangle. After ninety seconds or so, the little triangle and little circle leave the screen again.

heider-simmel

When I watched the film, I didn’t see basic geometric shapes. Instead I saw a father (the big triangle) inside his home, comfortable that he is lord and master of his domain. His daughter (the small circle) enters the scene with her newfound love, the little triangle. The father exits the house, and is furious to discover who his daughter has chosen. He instantly attacks the boyfriend, using his size to aggressively push and shove the smaller triangle around. He fires insults at the poor fellow, never giving him a chance to defend himself, then orders him to stay away from his daughter. The daughter runs to the house, cowering from behind the door as she watches in horror. But as she sees her love be bullied, the indignation has her approaching them. But her father berates her, being brutish and dominant. The couple try to flee, only to be chased. Eventually, they manage to escape. There’s a possibility the father may never see his daughter again.

It was all very Romeo and Juliet, angst-filled teens fighting for identity and love and independence. In truth, it was a silly story my mind created in the moment from ambiguous stimuli.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. After showing the film to their research subjects, Heider and Simmel gave them a simple task.

Describe what you see.

It’s fascinating (and relieving!) to discover that less than three percent of participants gave a truly subjective answer. The majority were like me; they didn’t see inanimate objects, they saw characters and drama and emotion driven action. (The link to the animation is at the end of this article.)

We can’t help but create story.

What’s more, not only do we think in story, but our interactions are driven by story. When we meet another person, the simple question of ‘how are you?’ sparks a description of our current state; the why we feel like that, and the how of how we got there. Discussing the news, our workmates, the latest reality TV craze is natural and normal. It’s all underscored by story. In fact, some scientists believe that one of the reasons story has stayed with us through the centuries is because of its importance in helping us function as individuals, but also in groups.

So not only is story everywhere, we’re incapable of being without it.

As writers, this is a something we want to harness. Our readers are drawn to our narratives for a reason; an unconscious one, a deeply rooted one. To do that, to grab them by the neutrons and not let go, we need to understand why story has become such a staple of our psyche, the how of what we’re trying to harness, and ultimately, what readers are really looking for.

For that, stay tuned to the upcoming posts in this series.

By Tamar Sloan
Source: psychwriter.com.au

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How to Get Past Excuses and Finish Your Writing!

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

Perseverance has never really been my thing.

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

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

Sound familiar?

In 2008, I decided to write a book.

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

Then the editing began.

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

Sounds like a dream, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be brave, and believe in yourself and your work.

  1. Let Go of What Others Think About You

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

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

  1. Give Up Your Feelings of Inadequacy

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

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

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

  1. Learn as Much as You Can

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

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

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

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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The Winning Edge That Moves Any Writer to Center Stage

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

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

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

Friend, you’ve come to the right place.

But My Dream Seems So Out of Reach

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

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

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

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

Think about that for a minute.

Let that sink in deeply.

Audacity.

That’s the secret sauce!

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

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

Why You’re Not Audacious

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

Excellent question.

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

You don’t know what to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to dive in?

Act as if your crazy ideas are possible.

The world of imagination has no limits.

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

The real world wasn’t quite so exciting.

But what if it was?

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

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

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

Maybe your ideas aren’t that crazy after all.

Talk about your ideas with people you trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do ten times more than you think you should.

Love to write?

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

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

Make ten pitches to the biggest blogs in your niche.

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

Write ten minutes  longer than you planned to tonight.

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

Focus more on audacity than talent.

Talent will come by doing.

Growth comes by being audacious.

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

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

Others will cheer.

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

Can you live with that?

I hope not.

Shout out your truth – and do it proudly.

Be willing to fail until you succeed.

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

Not exactly.

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

That you.

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

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

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

Then you’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Treat other artists as peers.

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

Don’t be.

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

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

Maybe you will!

Trust your calling.

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

Maybe you don’t feel like you do.

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

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

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

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

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

I guarantee it.

Now Go Be Audacious

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

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

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

By Frank McKinley
Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

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

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

The first paragraph read,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurt Vonnegut once observed,

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

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

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

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

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

The 8-Step Checklist to Writing Conversationally

1. Write to a single reader

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

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

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

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

I learned this tip from John Steinbeck who advised,

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

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

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

2. Use the words “You”, “We”, and “I”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Eliminate passive sentences

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

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

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

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

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

So how to fix it?

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

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

4. Use as many contractions as you can

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

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

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

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

5. Engage your readers with rhetorical questions

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

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

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

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

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

6. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short

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

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

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

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

7. Choose your words carefully

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

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

In his Six Rules for Writing, George Orwell observes,

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

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

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

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

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

8. Become a storyteller

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway: Inject Personality Into Your Writing

The novelist Elmore Leonard once noted,

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

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

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

Or maybe you can drop some pop cultural references?

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

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

By
Source: nicolebianchi.com

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Fiction Writing Exercises: Narrative Arcs

Today’s fiction writing exercise is an excerpt from my book, Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises. This one focuses on story structure and examines narrative arcs within stories and across multiple scenes and installments of a story. Enjoy!
Narrative Arcs

An arc has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The events within an arc result in some kind of change for the story world, characters, or direction of the plot.

In serial or episodic storytelling, a story arc is an ongoing story line that spans multiple installments. An arc might last through several episodes of a television show or several issues of a comic book. In literature, an arc might stretch across multiple books in a series.

A narrative arc (or dramatic arc) is similar to a story arc, except it doesn’t have to occur across multiple installments of episodic storytelling. A narrative arc is any arc within a story, including the central plot and any subplots. Narrative arcs can occur within a single scene or span across a sequence of scenes.

Characters also experience arcs when they undergo a progression of transformation.

That’s a lot of different types of arcs. To make matters more confusing, the terms for story arcs, narrative arcs, and dramatic arcs are often used interchangeably.

Study:

You can use any type of story for this exercise: books, comics, TV shows, or films. Find a series that you’ve enjoyed, and examine a small sample of installments. For example, you can look at five episodes from a TV show or three novels from a series. Make sure you’re using serials, which use ongoing stories across multiple installments, rather than episodic installments, which are separate but loosely connected.

Make a list of three to five story arcs found across the installments you examined. Do the arcs intertwine? Are they occurring simultaneously, or are they consecutive? How does each arc relate to the central plot?
Practice:

Create a set of three story arcs that would span multiple novels in a series. If you’re already working on a series, feel free to create arcs within your project.

For example, start by writing quick summaries of at least five novels in a series (about one paragraph each, highlighting the central plot of each installment). Then come up with the three arcs, each of which would span multiple novels.

As an alternative, you can develop ideas for a television or comic book series.
Questions:

What is the difference between a story arc and a dramatic arc? Why are story arcs effective in serial storytelling? How is a character arc different from a narrative arc? What types of arcs are most important in storytelling?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Stay Motivated When You’re Not Making Progress

Writer’s block is real. Every writer, at one point or another, has experienced this debilitating inability to make any real progress in his or her work.

Note: This is a guest post by Jordan Conrad, he’s the founder and publisher of WritingExplained.org. With free articles on English usage and basic grammar, Writing Explained is an essential resource for editors, freelancers, and authors alike. Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @Writing_Class.

Like a 17th century galleon in the equatorial doldrums, we endure a bout of creative stillness, when productivity starves to death in a windless mental seascape where nothing is visible on any horizon.

Well, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. Nevertheless, a lack of progress can be discouraging for anyone, and sometimes it’s difficult to maintain the motivation needed to complete a long project.

If you’re not feeling motivated, it’s not a reflection of your abilities as a writer. Creativity can seem to ebb and flow according to its own schedule, and we all have to find a way to cope with the slow periods in anticipation of the next big spark.

What to Do When Progress Eludes You

Let’s take a look at a few ways to deal with writer’s block. Whenever I feel less than inspired, I start here.

I hope you can use these same strategies to stay motivated in your own writing when it seems as if you aren’t making any progress.

Strategies for Staying Motivated

Take it one day at a time.

Try to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. It doesn’t have to be your best work—you can always go back and revise it later.

Sometimes it only takes one tiny, unexpected breakthrough to get back on track. These breakthroughs will come much easier if you’re actively writing.

Remember that progress is a relative term.

You don’t have to write an entire book in a single day. Progress can be measured in small amounts.

Even if you only write a few words or sentences, you are still making progress. Those are sentences that you hadn’t written at the beginning of the day, so even if it’s only a little bit, you’re that much closer to being finished.

Set manageable goals.

Too often, writers get bogged down by word counts and page numbers. If you wanted to be at 3,000 words and you’re only at 750, those last 2,250 probably aren’t all going to come at once.

Likewise, the page number indicator at the bottom of your word processor window can sometimes do more harm than good. If your page count is far behind where you expected, it might be better not to look at it—or to find a way to turn it off.

You can’t finish an entire project in one sitting, so set small goals for yourself. You’ll get a confidence boost when you achieve them, and that little boost can keep you motivated to reach your next goal.

Try writing 500 words instead of 5,000, or a single page instead of ten.

Try working on something else for a while.

This works best if you, like many writers (including this author), always have multiple projects running at the same time.

Stuck on one project? There are probably five or ten more that could use your attention. Pick one you’re excited about and work on that one for a while. That should get your creative juices flowing again, and you might be able to transfer that excitement back over to the one that has you at a standstill.

The new project doesn’t even have to be in the same medium. Are you also a photographer, a musician, or a maker in addition to being a writer? Take a break from writing and shoot some portraits, or learn a new song, or 3D print something.

Take a break and do something fun.

Your brain is like a muscle—if you strain it for too long, you will use up your cognitive resources. It’s important to take breaks every so often to give your mind a chance to recharge and rebalance.

Try doing something you enjoy, even if it’s not productive. If you enjoy video games, devote half an hour to one of your favorites to reward yourself.

Breaks can quickly become distractions, though, so set strict time limits and stick to them.

You can combine this technique with setting manageable goals to build a contingent reward system that will keep you motivated. Alternate periods of productivity with enjoyable activities, so that you make progress without wearing yourself out. Like a carrot on a stick, contingent rewards can help you boost your productivity without burning out and getting discouraged.

End Note

There are times in every writer’s life where progress seems to come only in short fits and spurts, and projects come grinding to an unexpected halt. This is part of the natural creative cycle for many writers, and it’s usually just a matter of time before the juices start flowing again.

Still, a lack of progress is never enjoyable, and there are strategies you can use to stay motivated when your work isn’t going how you planned.

The above are all strategies I use personally, but there are many more out there. Don’t be discouraged if progress eludes you—if you’re patient for long enough and keep these tips in mind, it’s only a matter of time before you’re up and writing again.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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6 Tricks to Help You Finish Your Work in Progress (WIP)

We all want to finish the books or short stories we start, but sometimes we struggle. We could spend months or even years working on the same project and feel as though we aren’t making any headway. I did a poll once in the Goodreads book club I run for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and “I won’t ever finish WIP” tied for third place as the biggest insecurity our members had.

Note: This is a guest post by Chrys Fey, she is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication and an editor for Dancing Lemur Press. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips and connect with her on Twitter. Enter her Rafflecopter giveaway by July 6th for the chance to win a writer’s notebook, coffee mug, and tote bag.

Many writers share this fear. It’s normal until it becomes a serious fear and doubt weighs you down.

Don’t let doubt extinguish your sparks!

If this sounds like you, here are five tips to help you finish your WIP.

1) Set a daily and weekly writing goals.

With a manageable weekly goal, you’ll be able to strive toward a specific page/word count by the end of that week. The key, though, is to set a realistic goal. I see many writers beat themselves up for not meeting a goal that was rather grand and out of their scope to begin with. This isn’t healthy.

Set a goal you know you can meet. Then tack on an additional 10% to that page/word count to give yourself a little bit of a challenge, which is always good practice. I can usually write 1,000 – 2, 000 words in a single day. For a week, that could be 7,000 – 14,000 words. Incredible, right? And that’s not even tacking on the extra 10% to give myself a push.

In the beginning, it will be difficult to write each day and meet your goal, but as long as you stick to it and DON’T GIVE UP, it’ll become easier. And, believe it or not, your daily/weekly writing goals will suddenly seem too easy. Yes, really.

If something crops up that makes it impossible for you to write one day, that is okay. I’ll say it again…THAT IS OKAY! Don’t punish yourself for not writing because of other responsibilities. And some days, you may only be able to write a few hundred words. If that happens, pat yourself on the back, because although your day was crazy or you were mentally exhausted, you still WROTE.

2) Schedule Writing Time

I know you’ve heard this tip before, but it’s an important one.

Whatever your writing goals are, schedule writing time to get some work done. Do you have a lunch break? Pack your lunch and bring a notebook to work so you can write. Can you write after dinner? Or while yours kids are doing their homework or after you tuck them into bed? What about early in the morning? Find the perfect time for you and stick to it. All you need is a good thirty minutes here and there throughout your day.

However, you don’t need to write EVERY day. I know people suggest that and I often say it, but some writers only have the weekends. Great! Follow these tips so you can make the most out of your weekends. If you can slot out time every day, give yourself a day or two to relax and rejuvenate. This is important. You don’t want to burn yourself out.

Maybe you are a full-time writer and have long chunks in the day that you can dedicate to writing, like I do. Something that a full-time writer can struggle with is getting started. Those long stretches of time when you “should” be writing can be daunting. Start by sitting down telling yourself you only need to commit to thirty minutes of writing. That’s it. And who knows? You could end up writing long past that.

But what if you draw a mental blank, you ask?

Let’s see tip #2.

3) Be a plotter.

Pantsing, sorry to say, can slow your progress if you don’t know what to write next. Try plotting out your book. Or be a pantser who plots. At the end of every writing session, plan out what you need to write next. This will help you to get back into your story faster and provides you clear map of where you need to go.

4) Limit how much you edit as you go.

So, you have your word count goals, you schedule writing time, and you plot out what you need to write next, but you still write too slow. Let me ask you one thing…do you edit as you go?

Editing as you write can hinder your progress, and this is coming from someone who does edit as she writes. Restrict how often you do this. Don’t read back through a paragraph you just wrote. Instead, wait until you complete a whole page, and then don’t read the entire thing but rather the last few sentences you added. By doing this, you’re not slowing your progress. And reading over the last few sentences you did can help you to figure out what to write next.

5) Dedicate a month to finish your WIP.

You can join NaNo, National Write a Novel Month in November, or pick another month that is more convenient, and challenge yourself to write anywhere from 20,000 words (which is about 100 pages) to 50,000 words (which is a good-sized novel). Or if you have a certain number of chapters left, aim to complete them by the end of the month. Whatever you need to write to finish your WIP, that’s your goal. Before you begin, create detailed chapter outlines, write don’t edit, and schedule time each day to pound away at your keyboard.

If a month is too much, dedicate a week to writing. This was what I did at first when I had to get back into writing after a heavy doubt of depression. I focused on writing every day for one week. That single week turned to two weeks. And in those two weeks, I wrote over 20,000 words!

It is possible, which leads me to…

6) Believe you will.

Mind over matter, right? If you believe you’ll do something and do whatever you can, you will achieve it. So many of us doubt ourselves. No wonder we struggle to write or meet a goal when we’re always knocking ourselves down, saying we write too slow, we’ll never finish, our writing is awful, and worse. Work on developing the right attitude. Repeat mantras daily to motivate yourself and especially when negative thoughts creep in. A simple mantra like “I will finish my book” can boost your confidence. Eventually, when it’s meant to be done, you will finish your book. Believe it!

Sometimes, the reason we struggle to write is completely out of our control, such as a health issue or depression. Last year, my depression went to an all-new level, impacting my health and my creativity. I couldn’t write and didn’t write for 7 months. That is a long time for a writer to not do what brings her life and joy. First, I had to get back to a positive state of mind and wrestle my way out of depression. I did this by reading a lot of non-fiction books, feeding my mind, and seeking new faith. When I finally felt like myself again, I still struggle to get words down.

So, what did I do to finally write? Well, I started with tip #1. Then I worked my way down the list until I was incorporating all of these tips.

With these tricks under your belt, you’ll surely be able to finish your WIP.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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Grammar Rules: Fewer vs. Less

It’s a battle between words: fewer vs. less. Are they interchangeable? Do these words have different meanings? How can we use them correctly?

Many people don’t realize that these two words do not share the same meaning and therefore cannot be used interchangeably. As a result, both fewer and less are often used incorrectly.

The difference in meaning may be subtle, but it’s significant and remarkably easy to remember. Let’s see what Dictionary.com has to say about these two words:

fewer: adjective 1. of a smaller number: fewer words and more action.

less: adjective 1. smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed.

The grammar rules are clear; let me break them down for you.

Fewer vs. Less? Which is Correct?

Fewer and less respectively refer to a number of items or an amount of something. The easiest way to remember which of these adjectives to use in a given situation is this:

Fewer should be used when the items in question can be counted:

He has fewer books than his best friend has.

Less is used when the amount of something cannot be counted:

He has less interest in reading than his best friend has.

Note that books can be counted item by item. However, interest is not a thing that can be counted, although we can discuss how much of it someone has.

The basic difference here is countability. Use fewer for countable nouns like individuals, cars, and pens. Use less for uncountable nouns such as love, time, and respect.

Do note, however, that there are some sticky spots to watch out for when determining whether you should use fewer or less. For example, you might need less paper but you will need fewer sheets of paper. You have fewer pennies but less money. You want fewer chocolate bars but less candy.

Fewer or Less

Now you know how to tell the difference between fewer vs. less.

Do you have questions about correctly using fewer or less or any other word
pairs? Maybe you have something to add to this linguistic look at tricky adjectives. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and let’s discuss.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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36 Tips for Writing Just About Anything

There’s a lot more to writing than typing words.

Writing well takes years of study, practice, and experience. It requires diligence, attention to detail, and dedication to the craft. Each project has a unique set of requirements and different types of writing have different rules.

For example, when we’re writing fiction, we have one set of concerns (character, plot, and setting, to name a few), and when we’re writing poetry, we have en entirely different set of issues to deal with.

Writing becomes natural with practice, but there are countless elements to deal with in any given project.

Tips for Writing

Here are thirty-six tips for writing just about anything. You can use this as a checklist when you start a new writing project and refer back to it whenever you get stuck. However, keep in mind that these tips don’t address the specifics of fiction, poetry, or nonfiction; they’re general tips for writing anything rather than specific tips for form and genre.

  1. Start with a plan. To reach a destination, you must know where you’re going. We can freewrite in our journals and jot down ideas on scraps of paper, but bigger projects will go more smoothly if there’s a plan in place.
  2. Be prepared. What do you need in order to complete this project? Set up a space and schedule time to work on the project. Gather any supplies, materials, and resources you’ll need.
  3. Eliminate distractions. It’s impossible to write if you’re interrupted or distracted every few minutes. Turn off your phone, close your browser, and let others know you’re working.
  4. Know your audience. This is one of the most common tips for writing, and while it’s not mandatory, it means less revising once you’ve completed your first draft. Are you turning in this piece to an instructor? Submitting it to a magazine? Self-publishing? Who will read it?
  5. Be familiar with your genre. Sci-fi fans don’t want to read a book written by someone who’s never read any sci-fi books. If you don’t know your genre, you can’t possibly know your audience. Besides, if you don’t read a particular genre, why would you want to write it?
  6. Choose a style guide. There’s one style guide for journalism, one for medical writing, and another for everything else. If you’re submitting this project to a target publication or an agent (or if you’re self-publishing it), make sure you know which style guide you should follow.
  7. Brainstorm and outline. Nothing ruins a good writing session like realizing you have no idea what you’re trying to accomplish. Take a few minutes to jot down all ideas related to the project, and then spend some time drawing up an outline. You don’t have to follow it to the letter, but it will come in handy as a kind of road map.
  8. Conduct credible research. Most writing projects require some research. Whether you need the population of a city or the distance to another planet, check your facts and make sure your logic lines up. Also, make sure your sources are credible.
  9. Take breaks and stay healthy. If you’re writing for long periods, take a ten-minute break every hour. If you’re working on a long-term project, make sure you stay healthy by eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of exercise. It might take time away from your writing, but it will also make your writing better.
  10. Don’t procrastinate, and reward yourself when you reach goals. Writing requires a tremendous amount of discipline. It’s easy to procrastinate if there isn’t a boss hovering over your shoulder and pointing at the clock. Establish milestones for your project and reward yourself whenever you reach one.
  11. Stay inspired. Passion ebbs and flows, and so do ideas. But you can keep yourself motivated by figuring out what inspires you and regularly imbibing in it. Maybe books on the craft of writing keep you excited about your project. Reading or watching movies in your genre might help you stay motivated and inspired.
  12. Think about voice. In writing, voice is the tone of a piece — the author’s unique style. A children’s book shouldn’t sound like it was written by a college professor, and an academic essay shouldn’t sound like it was written by a child. Is your narrative dry, witty, humorous, self-depreciating, or cocky?
  13. Complete a rough draft. While you’re drafting, turn off your inner editor and don’t scrutinize every word or sentence. Let the ideas flow and let the scenes and ideas move forward. You can fix it up later.
  14. Keep it simple: Use clear, concise writing. For some audiences, you might ignore this rule, but keep in mind that the simpler and more accessible your writing is, the more people it will be able to reach.
  15. Use the active voice. Passive voice sounds old-fashioned and outdated. Apply the subject + verb + object construction to your sentences so they are clear and direct.
  16. Use vivid language. Avoid boring, meaningless words (like nice and very) and opt instead for words with pizazz. For example, don’t write very good. Write excellent.
  17. Know when to show and when to tell. The most important parts of a story should be shown. Don’t tell the reader the character was tired if her exhaustion is critical to the plot; show her yawning.
  18. Choose the best possible words. Vivid language helps readers visualize the narrative. You should also choose the most precise, accurate words possible. Don’t say dark red if you mean burgandy.
  19. Let it sit. Once you complete a draft (and after every revision), let your project sit for a while. Short pieces can sit for a few hours. Longer pieces (like a book) may need to sit for a few weeks. Then you can revise with fresh eyes.
  20. Read what you’ve written. Before you revise, save a copy of your original draft and read through the whole thing once. If it’s a book-length manuscript, take notes about major changes that you need to make.
  21. Chop it up. You may need to move large portions of text around. The opening scene might work better at the end. Your thesis statement could be misplaced somewhere in the middle of your paper. Use cut-and-paste with total abandon. Tip: open TextEdit or NotePad in the background and use it to store large chunks of text that you need to move around.
  22. Delete the excess. You may need to delete entire scenes if they are not relevant to the plot. In fact, you may need to delete some of your favorite sentences and paragraphs. Get rid of anything that isn’t essential to the project’s thesis, objective, or plot.
  23. Insert. You may find gaping holes in your draft. Be prepared to add new sentences, paragraphs, even entire chapters.
  24. Rewrite. Depending on how messy your first draft is, you may need to do multiple rewrites. A lot of writers get worn out by this process, but remember — your writing improves with each revision. So dig in and keep rewriting until it feels right.
  25. Edit. Once you have the main structure and concept down, you can edit for detail. This is where you make your sentences clear and concise. Look for grammatical errors, awkward wording, and vague phrasing.
  26. Eliminate unnecessary words. If you can delete a word without affecting the meaning of a sentence, then delete it. Often, articles (a, an, the) can be deleted as can pronouns.
  27. Get rid of the clichés. Better yet, don’t use them in the first place. However, when you’re editing, do your best to weed them out.
  28. Look it up! If you’re not sure about a word’s meaning or spelling, look it up. If you’re not sure whether you’ve structured a sentence correctly or used proper punctuation, look it up. Do not rewrite to get around the rules. Just learn them.
  29. Review the transitions. Each paragraph focuses on a different idea, but each paragraph should also flow naturally from the paragraph that precedes it.
  30. Check for repetition. There’s good repetition and bad repetition. Using the same word or phrase over and over, unnecessarily, is bad. Repeating themes, symbols, and images can be powerful.
  31. Make sure the sentence structures are varied. Sentences should vary in length and structure. Don’t start every sentence with “I” (a common mistake that young and new writers make). Follow long sentences with shorter ones.
  32. Read for flow. After editing, read it again. Does everything make sense? Does the entire thing flow naturally and smoothly? If not, go back and edit some more.
  33. Format your document. Formatting can be done at the beginning or toward the end. I usually format at the beginning, except when writing a long project, like a book, in which case, I wait till the end. Tip: don’t just learn how to format documents; instead, become a master of formatting. For example, if you use Word, learn how to use the Styles feature. You should know how to set spacing, indentations, font face and size, how to align text, and apply bold and italics.
  34. Proofread. No matter how strong your writing skills are, typos will slip past you. When you proofread, you’re looking for basic mistakes and typographical errors. Recommendation: proofread each piece until you can’t find any typos at all.
  35. Get a second opinion. Even though you proofread until you couldn’t find any typos, there are probably a few lingering around. There’s a scientific reason for this, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you get someone else to check your work. If necessary, hire a professional.
  36. Final polish. Ideally, you’ll read through it one last time (after letting it sit again) and you’ll find it squeaky clean. This means it’s done and ready to be served.

And that’s not all…

This list might seem overwhelming, but it covers only the basics. If you’re writing fiction, there is a whole other set of things you need to do. If you’re writing for business or academia, there are additional rules to follow. Remember, there are many considerations for each form and style of writing. That’s why knowing your form and genre is so important.

But these tips for writing are a good start. Not only will they help you write, they’ll help you write well.

Do you have any tips for writing to add to this list? Share any tips that writers can use by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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Do You Need a Creative Writing Degree to Succeed as a Writer?

Young and new writers often ask whether they need a creative writing degree in order to become an author or professional writer.

I’ve seen skilled and talented writers turn down opportunities or refuse to pursue their dreams because they feel their lack of a creative writing degree means they don’t have the credibility necessary to a career in writing.

Meanwhile, plenty of writers with no education, minimal writing skills, and scant experience in reading and writing are self-publishing, freelance writing, and offering copywriting services.

It’s an oft-asked question: Do you need a creative writing degree to succeed as a writer? Is it okay to write and publish a book if you don’t have a degree or if your degree is in something other than English or the language arts?

Before I go further, I should reveal that although I did earn a degree in creative writing, I don’t think a degree is necessary. But there is a caveat to my position on this issue: While I don’t think a degree is necessary, I certainly think it’s helpful. I also think that some writers will have a hard time succeeding without structured study and formal training whereas others are self-disciplined and motivated enough to educate themselves to the extent necessary to establish a successful writing career.

Do You Need a Creative Writing Degree?

First of all, a degree is not necessary to success in many fields, including writing. There are plenty of examples of individuals who became wildly successful and made meaningful contributions without any college degree whatsoever: Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, and Walt Disney, to name a few.

In the world of writing, the list of successful authors who did not obtain a degree (let alone a creative writing degree) is vast. Here is a small sampling: Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, William Blake, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Beatrix Potter, and JD Salinger.

So you obviously do not need a creative writing degree. After all, some of the greatest writers in history didn’t have a degree. Why should you?

A Creative Writing Degree is Not a Bad Idea

On the other hand, the degree definitely won’t hurt your chances. In fact, it will improve your chances. And if you struggle with writing or self-discipline, then the process of earning a degree will be of great benefit to you.

A college education might indeed be necessary for a particular career, such as a career in law or medicine. In fields of study where a degree is not a requirement, it often prepares you for the work ahead by teaching you specific skills and techniques and by forcing you to become knowledgeable about your field.

However, there is an even greater value in the the process of earning a degree. You become knowledgeable and educated. You learn how to learn, how to work without close supervision, and you are exposed to the wisdom of your instructors as well as the enthusiasm and support of your peers. College is a great environment for development at any age or in any field.

Earning a degree is also a testament to your drive and ability to complete a goal without any kind of immediate reward or gratification. College is not easy. It’s far easier to get a full-time job and buy lots of cool stuff. It’s more fun to spend your nights and weekends hanging out with your friends than staying in and studying. A college degree is, in many ways, a symbol representing your capacity to set out and accomplish a long-term goal.

Know Yourself

If you possess strong writing skills and are somewhat of an autodidact (a person who is self-taught), then you may not need a degree in creative writing. For some such people, a degree is completely unnecessary. On the other hand, if your writing is weak or if you need guidance and would appreciate the help of instructors and peers, maybe you do need a creative writing degree.

If you’re planning on going to college simply because you want to earn a degree and you hope to be a writer someday, you might as well get your degree in creative writing since that’s what you’re passionate about. On the other hand, if you hope to write biographies of famous actors and directors and you already write well, you might be better off studying film (and possibly minoring in creative writing).

You may be the kind of person who needs the validation of a degree. Maybe you’re an excellent writer but you’d feel better putting your work out there if you could back it up (even in your own mind) with that piece of paper that says you have some expertise in this area. Or you might be the kind of person who is confident enough to plunge into the career of a writer without any such validation.

You might find that time and money are barriers to earning a degree. If you have responsibilities that require you to work full time and if you’re raising a family, obtaining a degree might not be in the cards, either in terms of time or money. You might be better off focusing what little free time you have on reading and writing. But there are other options if you’ve got your heart set on a creative writing degree: look for accredited online colleges, find schools that offer night and weekend classes, and open yourself to the idea that you can take ten years rather than four years to complete your higher education.

Finally, some people have a desire to get a degree but they feel they’re too old. I personally think that’s a bunch of hogwash. You’re never too old to learn or obtain any kind of education. When I was just out of high school, I attended a college with many students who were middle-aged and older. I had tremendous respect for them and they brought a lot of wisdom to our classes, which balanced out the youthful inexperience of my other, much younger classmates. I don’t care if you’re eighteen, forty-two, or seventy, if you have a hankering to do something, go do it!

Making Tough Decisions

Ultimately, the decision rests with each of us. Do you need a creative writing degree? Only you can answer that question.

If you’re still not sure, then check with a local school (a community college is a good place to start) and make an appointment with an adviser in the English Department. If you’re in high school, get in touch with your school’s career counselor. Sometimes, these professionals can help you evaluate your own needs to determine which is the best course of action for you. But in the end, make sure whatever decision you make about your education is one that you’ve carefully weighed and are comfortable with.

And whether you earn a degree in creative writing or not, keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan

Sources:

Most Successful People Who Never Went to College
Famous Autodidacts
 

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