Tag Archives: writing process

To Hone Your Craft, You Need to Delve into the Worlds of Others

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Everyone can write, if they triy, but that doesn’t imagenecessarily mean it’s going to be good, something that others will enjoy reading. There are plenty of ways to improve, from daily writing and using prompts to listening to constructive criticism and being willing to edit.

I firmly stand behind the idea that one needs to read in order to write well and I’m not just talking “How To” books, although those are helpful too. I can’t tell you how many pieces of writing I’ve seen in crit groups that don’t have proper dialog, thought or flashback formatting, that have stilted dialog with outdated or too old for the character vocabulary, that don’t know how to keep the plot flowing or how to build the tension to the climax.

Reading books in the genre in which you write can be helpful to teach you how to handle formatting and how to better build a world or well rounded characters.  Not only will reading help your writing, but it will show you what’s trending in your genre at the moment and the kinds of topics publishers are picking up (although that’s not to say you need to follow the trend because by the time you publish, the trend could have changed.)

I’d have to say I’m not sure I’d trust someone who claimed to be a writer and then told me they don’t read. To me that would signify that the person was more a hobbyist who writes for fun but isn’t really looking to improve upon themselves to hone their craft. There’s nothing wrong with that if they’re just writing for enjoyment, but if they’re looking to publish, gently point them in the direction of your local library and tell them to get readin’!

Do you think reading is an important aspect to writing? Why or why not?

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Ideas Don’t Stop Coming to the Creative Mind

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I think most writers have suffered from  writer’s block at some point in their career. It’s frustrating and can be a IMG_6669blow to one’s confidence, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. When we’re stuck, we need to change tactics to overcome the wall our brain has built to hold all those glorious ideas at bay.

Try your hand at free writing. Grab a crisp sheet of paper or a nearby napkin and jot down any and all thoughts that come to mind, regardless of whether or not they relate to your work in progress. You never know what’s going to come out. A turn of phrase or an odd idea can knock a hole into that wall and commingle with those previously repressed ideas, getting the words flowing again.

You can also try outlining. If you’re stuck on a specific area, skip past it and outline future chapters. If you’ve got ideas for those, mark the spot in your manuscript and move ahead. When you come back later, it will be easier to figure out how to connect the two.

Start re-reading. Go back to the beginning of your story and re-read it.  I find it helps reacquaint me  with the characters, their motives and smaller plot points I may have forgotten along the way.

If you’ve got a writing buddy, ask them to write up a few interview questions and answer them as your characters.  You might be surprised that the answers you come up with may move your story in a whole new directions, skirting around that wall or taking the secret tunnel underneath it.

When you’re the creative type, the ideas may get sidetracked, or seem elusive, but they never really stop coming. Our minds are turned on by the things around us: a beautiful landscape, an unusual looking person, a song, a television show, etc. When your pen runs out of ink, you don’t just throw your hands up and say “I’m done!”, you get another pen. When you’re struck by writer’s block, you find that other pen! You change your tactics and go about the writing process in a different way to work past it.

What tactics do you use to get past the dreaded writer’s block?

Don’t Overfill Your Plate

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IMG_6623It’s not unusual for a writer to be knee deep in a manuscript when they’re struck with a brandy new sparkly idea.  That idea will sneak up on you in the shower. It will invade your dreams and try to work its way into your conversations.  It will use its literary wiles to try and lure you away from what you’re already working on.

Should you do it?

I know it’s tempting and it has certainly worked out for some, but I know others who have this problem chronically and therefore they never end up finishing a story.  It’s a shame but avoidable!

You need to focus, follow through and finish up that original project before you go back to that overflowing idea plate for more. Definitely take the time and jot down all the ideas and thoughts you have for that new idea and then put it into the freezer of your mind to be thawed and heated up when the time is right.

If you decide it really can’t wait, then focus on that idea alone and come back to your original project once you’ve finished. There are certainly people who can handle more than one project at a time, but I feel your writing can suffer when you’re trying to eat everything off that plate at once. You don’t want to choke! One at a time is best. Give it your all and then be fresh to finish up other projects.

How do you handle new ideas that pop up during current projects?

Step Out of the Comfort Zone

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As I mentioned last week, I recently participated in Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Going in, I was ComfortZoneconcerned because you don’t know in advance what your parameters will be and there is not a whole lot of time to plot, if that’s your thing.

I got dealt the hand of a ghost story and thought okay, I’ve written paranormal, that’s not a big stretch. Then the subject of agoraphobia. I had to do some research but figured I could handle it.  Then the character was a divorce attorney. Well…I don’t typically write adult stories.  That’s not to say I didn’t think I could, but it was definitely out of my “teen love and awkward phases of self discovery” kind of realm.

The time limit, 8 days for the first round, was a little daunting as well. I don’t typically do a lot of plotting but I knew I couldn’t totally wing it because I’d never make it to the end of the story without knowing where it was going. Add in the 2,500 word word count meant that I couldn’t over develop ideas or themes because it could slow down the pace.

Writing it was definitely a challenge for me, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It’s good to flex your under used muscles and branch out of the comfort zone. You might be surprised at what you create.  It could tell you that you can write outside of your genre or typical age group. It could tell you that perhaps where you are is best for your talents, but if you don’t try to spread your wings, you’ll never know if you can fly beyond your home “town”.

Find a writing contest and give it a try. Join writing.com and pick up some of their daily writing prompts to try. We should be constantly growing as writers whether it’s polishing what we already do or by learning new techniques, forming new ideas or dipping a toe into different genres. As a writer most, if not all, of us are avid readers as well and a good story can prompt us to make changes in our own styles as well. We should be constantly evolving and becoming masters of our craft otherwise the writing could get stale and predictable. Step outside your comfort zone and take the chance. It certainly can’t hurt.

What do you do to push yourself outside of your writing comfort zone?

The Importance of Writing a Blurb

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A blurb is typically what is printed on the back cover your book. It’s purpose is to entice the reader into buying the book or taking it out of the library.  It’s got to be precise, well written and engaging. At two hundred words or less, it’s a quick glimpse into your story that’s probably 50k+ words.  

Why put so much emphasis on it? Well it’s for more reasons than you may think.

A well polished blurb can be pared-down even more and used in your query letters.  Think about it, the blurb was written to catch a reader’s attention and an agent or publishing house is who you want to read the book the most (at first anyhow!).  A blurb can be too long for a query letter but you should already have the good bones. You can work off that.

I belong to a writing group that meets weekly. We often have new people stopping in or people who can only make it on occasion. Several of our members give rambling ten minute long descriptions of their story before they read their pages. It’s repetitive for those of us who are there regularly and it takes up a lot of time.  If you have a blurb, you can read it and give them some info on the story without taking a whole lot of time.

Have you ever told someone you’ve written a novel and when they ask what it’s about, you find yourself with verbal diarrhea, telling them every piece of witty dialog you’ve written, every sex scene and all the plot twists? Not even your bestest friend or mom wants to sit through all that (and if they do, then they won’t need to read the book, you’ve given it all away!). While it would be unnatural to recite your blurb to them, you can use the blurb to give them a much more condensed version to pique their interest.

It may feel like a chore, trying to take your long story and explain it in a couple of paragraphs, but it will be well worth it in the long run and help you have a better handle on explaining your  work.

Share your blurbs with us!