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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stuck in Traffic - Freeing Yourself from Writer's Block

Stuck In Traffic
Freeing Yourself from Writer’s Block

Being trapped on the interstate in bumper-to-bumper traffic is not the way I like to spend my time!  Can you relate to being stuck in traffic at the most inopportune times?  It usually happens when under a deadline of some sort, or when running late for an important meeting, right?

Once stuck, it’s difficult to move over to an exit ramp. No one is paying attention to your predicament regardless of how fast and furious your rear blinker flashes.

I have often felt this way when it comes to writing. Finding myself ‘stuck in traffic’ time and time again as my fingers are held hostage on the keyboard. Creative flow is suddenly forced to stop in the midst of bumper-to-bumper plots and storylines trafficking through my head.  With my creative flow stuck, clarity of content becomes crippled, threatening to block the message I am trying to convey.

Being ‘stuck in traffic’ is metaphorically something familiar to most writers.  There is nothing worse than being on a good roll in your writing only to find yourself suddenly STUCK mid-stream with writer’s block.
I am excited to share a few ideas that have helped me move beyond writer’s block.  Each of the following will equip and help to avoid being ‘stuck in traffic’.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Writer’s Guide to Stop Panicking and Get the Most from a Critique

by Emily Wenstrom

Even when you ask for it, when people critique your writing it can feel like a dagger to the gut. It can knock out your confidence and even cause you to question whether you should ever bother picking up a pen again.
how to stop panicking and get the most from a critique
Photo by star5112
When a group of beta readers critiqued the manuscript for my first novel, I felt like I was on the cusp of a true panic for days. Was my manuscript too problematic to be fixed? Was I a terrible writer? Maybe I wasn’t really a writer at all and should just give up.
But critique feedback can also help you make your work even better—not just in this manuscript but in general. Once I calmed down, I realized that there was a lot of positive in the feedback I’d gotten, too. My manuscript was definitely fixable, perhaps even pretty good—it just had some areas where it could be even better. And then I actually excited to make those improvements and started coming up with even more creative ideas to add into it.
You can get past critique panic too—what makes the difference is how you handle it. Here’s some tips on how to move past the fear and get the most from it:

Accept the critique

The worst thing about feedback is what we imagine it will be. Don’t let the fear of your feedback stop you from moving forward. Bite the bullet and read it through all the way. It’s okay if at first it makes you angry or if you don’t agree with any of it. Just read and take it all in.

Take some space to think about the critique

Once you've read through all your feedback, step away from it for a few days and just let the feedback marinate. It’s hard to hear criticism and alternate ideas about something you've created. During this time, remember the positive comments you got, too–just because there’s ways to improve doesn't mean you’re not a good writer!
But if you let yourself have the time to mull on that feedback, you may be surprised to find you agree or that it triggers new creative ideas. Other suggestions you may decide not to take.

Get a game plan on how to act on the critique

Even when you you've had the space to calm down and decide what to do with your feedback, it can be overwhelming to think about the work required to execute on them. What you need is a game plan.
Write a list of all the things you want to address, and order them from the biggest plot-level changes to the smallest detail changes like word choices. Addressing changes in this order will eliminate some unnecessary effort fixing things that need to change anyway.

Butt in seat.

Then, the only thing left is to put in the work and plug through your to-dos. Stay focused and don’t let this last stage of hard effort get you down. You’ll be working your way into the publishing stages soon.
Receiving a critique on your manuscript can be deeply personal and extremely difficult. But don’t let that fear or insecurity hold you back from getting all you can from constructive feedback. Keep a cool head and a critique can make your manuscript even stronger.

About Emily Wenstrom

Lit addict, movie junkie, geek. Emily Wenstrom is a professional writer working in PR. She blogs about creativity at Creative Juicer and is editor of short story zine wordhaus.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Good Writing or a Good Storyteller?

Good Writing or a Good Storyteller?
by Peter Quinn

Shakespeare was a good writer, “Her flesh barren and pure, his desires it did beckon.” Jackie Collins is a good storyteller, “She stood before him her bare shoulder begging his attentions.”

Okay, I made the quotes up. I didn’t want to deal with copyright laws and, yes, I am being lazy.  My point is that both are successful in their genres, selling millions of copies and starting just as many conversations.  Both are good writers and storytellers, but I am certain that we will probably never see a Jackie Collins novel on a high school summer reading list where, to the chagrin of many students, we do find William Shakespeare. 

Why isn’t Jackie on the summer reading list?  The PTA banning her books for high school consumption is not the answer I’m looking for. What makes the difference between a classic and a best seller?  Not all best sellers are classics and not all classics are best sellers.  Case in point, “Snookie” from Jersey Shore wrote a best seller that no one read and is in no danger of becoming a classic.

Is a good writer necessarily a good storyteller?  Can every good writer set a scene and draw out emotion through only the written word? Does every good writer spin a good tale that makes the book a page tuner? How many writers inspire people to read their whole book in one day?

I believe that given the opportunity both Will and Jackie would attend the conference, although  “Snookie” wouldn’t, to share their thoughts on what makes a good writer versus what makes a good storyteller.  Are the two totally separate, like Ms. Collins and Mr. Shakespeare who seem to live on different ends of the writing spectrum?  Or, do they meet somewhere in the middle?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Exercises For Your Write Brain

5 Exercises For Your Write Brain
by Lisa Heidrich

  As writers we are sometimes cooped up, prisoners to a keyboard and computer screen for hours… resulting in muscle stiffness, fatigue, decreased circulation and the possibility of other health issues. Prevention is easy if we keep the following in mind. Our bodies are engineered to move, crave refreshment, (washed, filled with good nutrients and water, moisturized and massaged) and require exercise (stimulate muscle growth, circulation and strength). Incorporating an EASY exercise program that fits into our writing schedule entails one decision,DO IT. Exercises for writers begin from the top down and here are a few suggestions to push you in the WRITE direction.

#1) POSTURE how is your body alignment as you sit at your favorite writing place?It is critical to insure proper body alignment and posture. Shoulders back, feet flat on the floor, knees at ninety degree angle, chest up and out. Take a deep breath in via the nose and count to 5, exhale through your mouth 5 seconds with eyes closed. Feel better? This breathing exercise expands your diaphragm, stimulates abdominal muscles, and rests your eyes. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat. Turn your head from side to side looking over each shoulder and hold for ten seconds, repeat keep stretching and rotating your neck and awakening every tense neck muscle.

#2) SMILE and hold. Did you know that exercising your facial muscles is important? Lift your eyebrows up and open your eyes WIDE and hold for 3 seconds, release and repeat. Pucker your lips as far out as you can then draw them back wide and over your teeth lifting your neck muscles, making an “OOO” and then “EEE” movement with your mouth repeat 10 times. No more wrinkles, just smile them away.

#3) LIFT your arms over your head and stretch fingers as far as you can reaching for the ceiling, hold for 5 seconds, repeat. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder level and make 8 big circles in a forward motion and 8 big circles in backward motion.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rushing To Publish

Rushing To Publish
Advice to New Authors
By Craig Faris

So, you are writing your first novel. That's quite a goal and best of luck with it. You may be a natural at storytelling and technique, but most of us are not. If this is your first attempt at writing, my best advice is to set the novel aside and try your hand at short stories or something easier like poems, essays, or articles. Writing is a lot like singing… we all think we know what we are doing, and some of us might be pretty good at it, but like singing, writing takes practice. Lots and lots of practice!
If you have already completed a book or a short story and feel that you already have all the practice you need, don't rush to publish. Make sure you find a "professional" editor to go through it with a nit comb before you put it out there. Why? Because people will read it and they will find and point out all of those tiny errors that you missed. My biggest errors are missing words... not important words, just those little extra words like “a” or “of” or “is.” Nothing ruins your day like seeing all of your wonderful 5-stars reviews, spoiled by that nasty one-star review that points out all of our ignorance in grammar and spelling. Unfortunately those reviews are the one's people seem to read the most and remember.
Believe me when I say that I'm not trying to throw cold water on your writing efforts. By all means, we need to write more because practice makes perfect. I’m just speaking from my own experience, so perhaps you can avoid my mistakes.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Perfect Pitch

The Perfect Pitch: Pitching to Agents at a Writing Conference

by Sue Fagalde Lick

Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, your knees shake on your way to what could be the most important meeting of your life: a 10-minute session with an agent or editor.
Is it worth the stress? Yes.
Many conferences allow writers to schedule short face-to-face meetings with agents and editors. It's a great opportunity to pitch one's book. It's also terribly nerve-wracking. After all, most of us are more effective on paper, and a bad meeting can ruin your chances with that person forever. But one successful meeting can make your book-publishing dreams come true. It can also save months of mailing queries and waiting for answers.
Preparation is the key. David Hale Smith of DHS Literary, Inc., attends six to eight conferences a year looking for "that one diamond in the rough." Smith urges writers to prepare a three-minute pitch in which they boil their project down to three to five sentences. Practice that pitch until you can deliver it smoothly. The whole point of the meeting is to get your writing read. You're not there to chat, make a new friend or list the problems you're having with your writing but to convince the agent to give it a look. "You're sitting there and the door's open."
Pitch sessions are obviously stressful. Smith admits he still gets nervous pitching books to editors, but he can handle his nerves because he is prepared. "Think of it as a business meeting," he says. "You're coming to a business meeting with a product." The writer must be able to describe his book clearly and briefly. If he can't, how is the agent going to describe it to an editor, who in turn has to pitch the book to his superiors and ultimately to the publisher's sales force, which has to pitch the book to the buyers?
Agent Jillian Manus, who spent several years as a development executive in the movie business, knows the importance of a pitch. She bought movie scripts solely on the basis of the writers' pitches, then turned around and pitched them to her production team. These days, the book publishing industry has also adopted the pitch as an essential sales tool. Writers who can't describe their work in four or five lines don't have a clear idea of what they are writing, Manus says.
For fiction, Manus suggests dividing the pitch into three points: the setup, hook and resolution. For nonfiction, the title should convey the main concept of the book. Explain what the book is about, why you are qualified to write it, who will read it and what you can do to promote it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Difference Between Bad Writers and Good Writers by Jeff Goins

The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.
Good writers keep going
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

What good writers do

Good writers practice. They take time to write, crafting and editing a piece until it’s just right. They spend hours and days, just revising.
Good writers take criticism on the chin and say “thank you” to helpful feedback; they listen to both the external and internal voices that drive them. And they use it all to make their writing better.
They’re resigned to the fact that first drafts suck and that the true mark of a champion is a commitment to the craft. It’s not about writing in spurts of inspiration. It’s about doing the work, day-in and day-out.
Good writers can do this, because they believe in what they’re doing. They understand this is more than a profession or hobby. It’s a calling, a vocation.
Good writers aren’t perfectionists, but they’ve learned the discipline of shipping, of putting their work out there for the world to see.