Category Archives: Writing Tips

Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

book-Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net(image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

WRITERS: GET & STAY INSPIRED!

Writers write, obviously, and most of the time we do it with passion, excitement, and a love for our craft. But there are times when we need a little extra inspiration . . .

Useful ways writers can accomplish this:

JOURNALING. Journaling our thoughts and feelings is a great way to cleanse the mind and give our ideas a clearer “space” to flow. Aside from personal topics, we can journal specifically about our writing, what we’re struggling with in our manuscripts, what we’re researching, ideas we have but aren’t sure about, any fears we have about our writing (maybe we’re questioning the topics we’ve chosen or our craft skills), certain obstacles we believe might be slowing our progress, things in our lives or writing careers we’d like to see changed, and on and on . . . Journaling is a great method to clear our heads, ease our hearts, and allow for new paths of clarity to show up, so that our focus becomes fine-tuned once again.

ENGAGE IN OTHER TYPES OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Drawing, painting, sculpting, scrap-booking—really anything that engages our creativity in a visual way—helps awaken our muses. Some may want to create art inspired by something they are writing about specifically, such as a character or setting. Some may want total freedom to create whatever comes to mind. Either way is fine, as is any style of artistic expression. Even doodling works wonders to keep our fingers moving while our minds are allowed to relax and find new inspiration.

TALK IT OUT. Bantering, brainstorming, talking out our story ideas in a free-style way with a writing buddy or two can lead us to solutions we might not otherwise have found. The trick is not to get too serious (at first), letting anything/everything flow freely, so that we can eventually arrive at the real “heart” of our projects with a new/deeper outlook. As an alternative to working with a buddy, writers can also go solo by using voice recorders (voice recorder apps work great) to talk things out on their own until those golden ideas click into place. I do this while taking a walk or driving (nowadays nobody ever thinks you’re talking to yourself).

WATCH A MOVIE. Structure-wise, movies and books share many of the same rules. For extra insight, watch a movie in the same genre in which you write. Pay attention to when and how the story-structure points occur (inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, climax, etc.), observe the settings shown, the focus of the camera on particular objects, listen carefully to dialogue between characters for uniqueness or interesting styles of banter. Writers can learn a lot from cinematic art, and it’s definitely a fun way to get inspired.

READ. Perhaps the most effective way to re-charge ourselves as writers is to read. Read books in the genres you love—the ones that get you excited—no matter if they match the genres you write in or not. The point is to inspire and re-ignite your passion for the written word. Reading helps us stay in the world of “story” while also helping us to relax. It allows us writers to stop focusing so hard on our own manuscripts, and at the same time, fills us with motivation that we can take back to our writing. Whenever anyone asks me what one thing I would suggest for writer’s block, my answer is always: READ!

Want more tips? Check out my board over on Pinterest with tons of articles, quotes, pictures, etc. to help Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

 

head shot image extra crop colorChristina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She is also a once-upon-a-time CPA and the author of Bean Counting for Authors. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

 

Are Writers Introverts?

Alone for hours at a time and often oblivious to the outside world, authors are solitary souls working with pen or computer in a quiet room, an isolated bungalow, or even an attic loft.

When you see images of the lonely writer perpetuated in photos, television, and movies, do you ever wonder if authors write because they want to be alone?

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If you ask them, they often say they feel perfectly fine creating stories in the isolation of their own minds. Why are they comfortable working alone when many people need others around to get anything accomplished?

So, are writers introverts? Do introverts choose to become writers so they can work by themselves? Or is this all a myth?

What are You?

Here is a quick test. Which of these statements best describes you?

  • I work better in an environment with people around me. I am outgoing and get energy from others. (Extrovert/Extravert)
  • I work better in peace and quiet. I need to be alone to get anything done. (Introvert)
  • It all depends on the situation. (Ambivert)

What is Your Answer?

Now that you have decided what you are, do you really think it’s that simple? Of course it isn’t, and recent studies and science explain why.

According to most research, no one is purely extrovert, or introvert, or ambivert. We are all a bit of each. However, everyone has one tendency that is predominant in his or her personality. And, as it turns out, that single component does affect us, our activities, and our creativity. Once we understand this about ourselves and about people in general, we should also be able to portray our characters more accurately.

Myths About Introverts

A cultural bias against introverts has existed for a long time. Even today, they are perceived as more reserved, quiet, shy or insecure, afraid of social situations, and highly intelligent—even nerdy,—and of course, they like to work alone.

The Truth About Introverts

As far back as the 1960’s it was assumed in many sources that introverts were a minority, perhaps only 10-20% of American population. However, according to a random sample study done in 1998, people who are predominantly introverts make up about 51% of the American population while 49% are primarily extroverts. Recent reports suggest that the number of introverts may still be increasing.

Introverts are not necessarily shy, as both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Mistaking introversion for shyness or social awkwardness is a common error made by people outside of psychology circles. Shy people avoid social situations primarily out of fear of negative judgment, whereas introverts just prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

The Science of Introversion

So what causes someone to be an introvert if they aren’t shy? The answer is the dopamine reward system in our brain. The difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how their brains are wired and how the person gets rewarded and recharged.

There is more gray matter and more blood flow to the frontal lobe of the introvert’s brain, the area involved in abstract thinking, decision-making, and problem solving.

Introverts are re-energized by their internal mental lives and by their solitary quiet time. Social situations consume their energy. After any social activity, introverts need alone-time to recoup.

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The first clue to children who are introverts is that they often love to read. Early on, they discover that reading is a socially acceptable way to get their much-needed solitary, recharging time. Parents and teachers should not force them to constantly be involved in social activities, but allow them time where they have the opportunity to think, dream, and digest what they have learned, or just recharge. They don’t give quick answers because they need time to think about the question first.

On the other hand, the extrovert’s brain has more blood flow to temporal lobes, the posterior thalamus and the anterior cingulate gyrus. Those parts of the brain are involved with actions, emotions, social attention, risk-taking, and the senses. An extrovert is re-energized by being around exciting people and by stimulating activities and environments. They often act and make decisions easily and quickly. Quiet time zaps their energy and they need stimulation to recharge.

Then, there is the third category, not often included in studies or statistics—ambiverts. By definition, ambiverts move easily across the spectrum of possible situations. They have a tendency to be comfortable in social groups, but also, equally comfortable working alone, and seem to recharge either way.

To sum it up, the difference between individuals is based on the environments they thrive in. Extroverts get their energy from the outside world and introverts gain theirs from within.

So, if you want to be a writer and actively pursue the writer’s life, knowing whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert is important.

Is There a Correlation Between Creativity and Introversion?

Studies on creativity show that anywhere from 10 to 25% of the general population is considered creative or engaged in creative pursuits. Both introverts and extroverts can be creative. Some studies break it down more, suggesting 60% or more of introverts are involved in creative pursuits, while only 20% of extroverts are. ‘Happiness’ seems to increase creativity for both groups.

Charles Dickens at Writing Desk -PublicDomainPictures.net

Charles Dickens at Writing Desk
PublicDomainPictures.net

Creative people need time alone to work on their projects, whatever they might be—writing a novel or poem, painting a picture, or doing scientific research. This seems to be right in the introvert’s wheelhouse.

How Does Being an Introvert Affect the Writing Life?

While the basic challenges facing all authors are similar, how introvert writers handle them is unique to them.

 When writing, introverts enjoy research, gathering and analyzing information, and get satisfaction from their efforts. Because they store the information in their long-term memories, it takes longer for introverts to access the information when they need it. They need to think about things before they can write.

If you’re both an introvert and a writer, you’re lucky for a number of reasons:

  • You can focus and think deeply about any subject you choose.
  • Thinking about your project recharges you.
  • You like research and its challenges.
  • You are content when you need to work alone.
  • You can concentrate for long periods of time.
  • You are self-motivated and persistent.

So, an introvert writer can spend long hours alone writing. Walking and thinking is a perfect exercise for introverted writers. In fact, after a party or social outing, returning home to read or write will recharge them.

But, there are disadvantages:

  • You don’t like to be pushed or rushed.
  • You hate deadlines.
  • You procrastinate because you never think you have all the information you need.
  • You never believe that your current draft is the final one.
  • You are not easily motivated to market your work.
  • And, finally, by spending too much time alone, you can lose contact with the outside world.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, once you know your personality type and understand how to best recharge yourself, you can become a more productive writer.

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Do you have any thoughts about introverts and the writers’ life?

img_3925_2Kathryn Sant is a retired obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she is a co-author of the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series. Curse at Zala Manor is Book 1, Secret of Haunted Bog is Book 2, and Legend of Monster Island is Book 3. She is currently working on two middle-grade boys’ adventure novels and the next Monster Moon book.

Her interest in adventure, research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, exotic adventures, and museums of all kinds. But she also enjoys quiet evenings reading with her dogs at her side.

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Dealing With the F-Word (Failure!)

Failure.

The word can evoke as many strong reactions and emotions as another F-word that isn’t appropriate for polite company.

Why is that? We fail every day. (I just missed my mouth with an almond because I was concentrating on my computer screen too hard. Fail!) Yet, the prospect of failure can cause the very thing we’re trying to avoid, or even keep us from starting something we might find incredibly rewarding.

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I believe the fear of failure is instilled early. Parents are so afraid of damaging their children’s self-esteem, we’ve created things like participation awards and have graduation ceremonies for kindergarten.

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Now, while these things have a certain cuteness factor to them, what they don’t teach us is how to fail, or more importantly, that it’s okay to fail.

I coached youth soccer for many years and one thing I always told my players was that mistakes are good things, because they give us an opportunity to learn. Blind luck can sometimes produce a perfect result the very first time we try something, but luck isn’t reproducible. It’s only by practice — trying and failing and trying again — that we can truly master something. Even then, we are often still subject to failure.

Soccer, in fact, is what inspired this post. I was watching the Copa America championship game this weekend between Chilé and Argentina. Lionel Messi, who plays for Argentina, is arguably the best player on the planet — possibly the best player ever — yet, the game went all the way through overtime without a score for either side. When that happens, a winner is decided by a series of penalty kicks. One player places the ball on a spot, twelve yards from the goal, and has a single kick to score against the opposing goalkeeper. Now, the goal is eight feet high and twenty-four feet wide. It’s a lot of space for one person to cover and the kicker scores a goal most of the time. Piece of cake for the best player in the world, right?

Not this time.

Messi missed his penalty and Argentina went on to lose in the shootout.

The story, and lesson, however, don’t end there. How did Messi react to his failure: the first time he’d ever missed in a penalty shootout?

He RETIRED!

Yes, the pressure on him was enormous and the loss was devastating, but his failure was not the sole reason for the outcome. Other players had chances to positively impact the game and the result during the match, but they, too, failed.

Is this how we wish for our children — or ourselves — to respond in the face of failure? To quit? To give up?

How do we overcome failure?

1: Own It.

Recognize your mistake and own up to it. When confronted with failure, our first instinct is often to deny it or shift blame.

Car crash

Resist this impulse, take responsibility, and…

2: Embrace Your Opportunity to Learn

Dissect and diagnose your failure. Where, exactly, did things go wrong? What can I do to achieve a better result when I try again? Many times we will need help from an outside source with this examination. Asking for that help can often be as difficult as the failure itself, but benefitting from someone else’s experiences is usually less painful in the long run than making all the mistakes yourself! Then…

3: Define Success Before You Start Again

This sounds like it should be step one, but I think we need to try something once to establish just how difficult a task it is before we try to set goals for ourselves.

Hypothetically, let’s say a budding, not-so-young writer discovers a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and sees the success J.K. Rowling had with it, then says, “Heck, I can do that!” and sits down to pen his first novel. Well, I think we can all agree that’s a recipe for failure if we’ve ever heard one. I certainly wouldn’t know anyone who has done that. *Rolls eyes and mutters*

Regardless of how easy something looks, we have to remember one key detail: If it was easy, everyone would do it. If everyone isn’t doing it, then perhaps it isn’t as easy as it appears at first glance. Why do you suppose 80% of the populace thinks “they have a novel in them if they only had the time to write it.”? If they actually sat down and tried, most would quickly reassess the difficulty of the task.

So, set goals which take effort to achieve, but aren’t so lofty as to be impossible to reach straight out of the gate. And stop to reassess often to determine if outside help might be required, or if the bar for success needs to be adjusted.

It’s been about seven years since I published my first book, which took nearly ten humbling months to complete, and I’ve written five more, plus one novella (ghost written for someone else) to date. I’m still failing and learning from those failures and I’m sure I’ll continue to do both. Ms. Rowling’s top spot hasn’t come under much threat from my direction… yet! But, I’m not about to give up and retire.

And I hope Mr. Messi reconsiders his decision and continues to offer his services playing the beautiful game for Argentina in the future. I, for one, will mourn the loss if he does not.

_____________________

TuckerPenny1010smAlan Tucker , author of The Mother-Earth Series (A Measure of Disorder, A Cure for Chaos, and Mother’s Heart), as well as a new science fiction series, beginning with Knot in Time, is a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach. Mostly in that order. He’s had a lifelong adoration of books, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, progressing through Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx, and continuing on with the likes of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Naomi Novik, to name a few.

“I wanted to write books that I’d enjoy reading. Books that I hoped my kids would enjoy too!”

Visit his website for more information about his books. View maps, watch trailers, see reviews and much more!

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Tackling Titillating Taglines…

Hit your readers hard with a great tagline
Hit your readers hard with a great tagline

You need to hit readers hard, blindside them with an awesome tagline in order to grab their attention. I cannot overestimate the importance of this. Your tagline, blurb and excerpt are the most important sales tools you have for your book. Choose them wisely.

Every author wants people to read their book, right? Well, they aren’t going to find your book unless you put it out there and MAKE them want to read it. Throwing away your tagline and blurb is just like taking your book and throwing it off a bridge in the hopes that someone will fish it out of the ocean, find it, and think it’s great. So let’s go over developing a tagline that will make readers care enough to pick up your book and purchase it.

A tagline is—or should be—one of the simplest things to create. A tagline is—plain and simply—a one sentence summation of the theme of your book. Something quick and catchy. If you’re moving on through publishing by attending conferences and conventions, a tagline is similar to what is called an elevator pitch. What you want to do is to catch a reader’s—or an agent’s or an editor’s—attention with a one-sentence description.

Remember, a PITCH and a TAGLINE are two different things. A PITCH is to get someone to buy your book with the intent to publish it. A TAGLINE is to get someone anonymous, in a bookstore or online, to buy your book to READ it. So your tagline should be about your BOOK.

Here’s the tagline for the first book in my middle grade/young adult time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis:

“Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past.”

Is it the best tagline ever? Nope, probably not. But it tells the reader exactly what the theme of the book is. Look at the points it covers—what it tells you about the book. What does that tagline cover?

Children. Keys. Future. Hope. Past.

That’s the purpose of a tagline and how to make it work for you. Therefore—homework lesson number one. Sit down and READ your book. You may think you know what it’s about, but if you’re a writer like me—you don’t. READ IT. As you read, jot down notes to yourself. One. Word. Notes. Hit the high points of your book. What themes, what high points do you think sell your book? No—even simpler: what tags or key words are IN your book? Because those are what will sell your book. Readers don’t always know what they’re looking for in something to read. Your tagline will give them clues.

A few examples of great taglines:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Remember. Survive. Run.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Two lives are bridged – and nothing will be the same.

Do you see what all of these taglines have in common? They titillated enough readers to become bestsellers.

So that’s your first job after your book is written. To sit down and read your book, and to pull a tagline from it. And this is where the elevator pitch and the tagline come together. In an elevator pitch, you’ve got maybe thirty seconds to gain the interest of an editor or an agent—just as long as it takes the elevator to get to their floor. With a reader, you have your book cover and one sentence—just one sentence—to convince them to click through and read more. You cannot afford to throw that chance away. So a tagline that’s trite or vague or boring cannot be an option.

Here’s a sneak peek at the tagline for the next book in my time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret set to be released on October 17th 2016:

“Only a true hero can shine the light in humanity’s darkest time.”

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercise, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Use your Interjections!

If you’re an American Gen X-er who’d been a zealous viewer of Saturday morning cartoons, most likely when you hear the word “Interjection” you will spontaneously break into song: “When Reginald was home with the flu, uh-huh-huh, The doctor knew just what to do-hoo…” (and experience a powerful hankering for Ovaltine. What’s up with that???).

Back in the day (the phrase my kids use when referring to that fuzzy period of my life Pre-Them), “Interjections” were an earworm that haunted me day and night. Who would’ve thunk they were actually useful in writing? Interjections convey strong emotion in cute, little, power-packed morsels. Ooh, pff, gah, bah, argh, hmphmwahaha — awwwww, huh?

So be fashionably pithy. Use your Interjections! (Yes, I also picture a wagging finger here.)

And, Gen Z-ers, if you hear your mother make a phlegmy noise that sorta sounds like “ahem,” it’s time to look up from whatever electronic device you’re using and pay attention. It’ll just get ugly from that point on.

Below are two great lists of Interjections. Tuck them away. They will come in handy.

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

Dictionary of Interjections

For those who must satisfy “The Earworm” I’ve awakened or who are looking for a new non-Taylor Swift ditty that will endlessly loop through your head >>> School House Rock! Interjections (Warning: No Auto-tune)

Elise Stokes, author of the Cassidy Jones Adventures series

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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