A Better Toolkit: The Value of Practice Writing


by Christine Hennebury

Note: I know that a lot of people don’t like to do writing exercises, or in fact,do any writing that isn’t their WIP. If that’s the case for you and things are going well, carry on! However, if you are finding it hard to get your writing done, you might want to consider the benefits of practice.

Writing is like any other skill, it improves with practice. You can get practice by regularly producing stories and articles, but there is also value in deliberate practice for practice’s sake.

I’d like to see more writers carve out a little time to write for the sake of practicing, without a ‘product’ in mind. Writing for practice sharpens our skills, hones our ability to write on demand, and improves our regular writing habits.

Practice gives us better tools. When we use those quality tools in our stories and our articles, we will be far more effective as writers.

If the idea of writing for practice seems odd to you, consider how practice works in another context. In Taekwondo, for example, I spend a lot of time practicing.  For patterns,  I break them down  into smaller ‘fundamental’ movements and do them over and over again. Then,  I slowly go over the whole thing, figuring out how the different sections fit together. For kicks and punches, I end up doing each one hundreds of times and I work on specific parts of the motion.

In the last few years, I have come to accept the value of doing the same thing with my writing. When I joined the 10 Minute Novelists 365 writing club, I got into the habit of writing every day which felt great. Despite feeling great, I still had some frustration because I felt that I wasn’t doing anything with my writing. It was just sitting there.

That’s when I realized that ‘doing something’ with the writing was not where the value of daily writing was for me. it was about establishing a pattern, it was about practicing. It was about learning how to get my brain into writing mode.

Ever since that first year with the group, I can now ‘force’ myself to write. I can choose to bring my focus to the page – a skill I developed in the 365 group – and just start writing. No matter what the topic,  the skills I developed though practice always see me through to a finished product.

That’s just one benefit of writing practice.

Practicing All The Pieces

Being able to choose to get down to work is not the only way that practice is helpful. When I write for writing’s sake, I practice things like character development, opening sentences, descriptions, and transition lines.  It’s just like when I break down my TKD patterns into chunks – that kind of practice is not intended to be visible to others. I never write a story by saying ‘Here is my opening sentence, here is my transition, now I will add my character.’ I don’t need to consciously choose each of those story aspects because my practice has made me confident about them.

It’s much like when I do my patterns for a competition, I don’t name each move in my head. I just let my body take over and pull the practiced pieces together. When I’m writing, my practice with the bits and pieces means I have lots of skills to apply quickly to a story or article.

“Writing is like a sport – you only get better if you practice.” – Rick Riordan

 

Good Use of Writing Time

I know that a lot of us are strapped for time. When you are short on time, it might seem counterproductive to use some of it practicing. However, any time that we spend practicing makes us better at our craft. That, in turn, means that, we will be able to write more quickly and be more effective  in writing our WIP. We will have a sort of ‘muscle memory’ for better writing.

 

Ways To Get Some Practice In

  1. Substitute – Pick one of your short writing sessions each week to dedicate to practice instead of your WIP.
  2. Warm up – Start each writing session with a few minutes of practice.
  3. Pick a Time – Choose a specific time each week/month/quarter to practice your writing. Choose exercises ahead of time and dive in.
  4. Find the cracks– Keep a ‘specific practice notebook in your bag or in your car.  Do practice exercises in little crevices of time in your day.
  5. Talk it out – Try describing things aloud as you drive. Dream up good opening lines and say them to yourself while you make supper. You are still practicing, even if it’s not written down.

 

Writing for practice is a very different thing than writing for a specific purpose. Practice writing may not produce publishable material but it will make you a sharper writer.

When you get lots of practice, you will find it easier to get down to work, and you will have a very effective set of writing tools at your disposal.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

 

Persistence, Perspective, and Fun: Working Through Writing Challenges


by Christine Hennebury

Writing can be a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of hard work. If you find ways to add fun while sticking to your project, you’ll be a lot more satisfied with your progress.  

When we first imagine ourselves as writers, we envision fun things like best-selling books, talk show circuits, and piles of cash. Or, at least, we imagine ourselves triumphantly writing the perfect scene.  We don’t envision the days that we sit in front of the computer struggling with a single sentence.  

When we do consider those days, the ones where writing is hard but we have to do it anyway, writing becomes a job instead of a hobby.  That can be helpful for taking ourselves seriously but it can take away some of the fun.

When our fun levels drop, we start to avoid writing.

 

Since the world needs our words,  we need to find ways to add more fun and to increase our persistence. Here are a few tips that can help:

 

1) Add Something Fun

When you reach a part of your writing process that doesn’t thrill you, see what you can do to make it more fun. For example, you may not enjoy editing but there may be ways to make it more fun.  Perhaps you could print your manuscript  in your favorite color, or by using a colored pen. Or  you could play special music,  or have a specific snack (or drink) while you do certain tasks.  You could even try doing  those tasks in a different place – my hammock makes an excellent revision spot.

Some writers even find it useful to have one specific spot for writing and another one for revising. And they have both decorated to match the ‘mood’ of the task.

The key here is to add a layer of enjoyment that helps bring you back to a challenge task. It doesn’t matter how weird that layer is, as long as you enjoy it!

2) Change Your Perspective

I’m not going to suggest that everything will become magically fun as long as you have the right attitude. However, if you consider certain aspects of writing to be dreadful, and you dwell on it, you will keep dreading them. So, you have to find a way to change your approach and make things easier on yourself.

When I need a change, I often find it useful to ‘reframe and rename’ my frustrating tasks. For example:  I like to think of reviewing my first drafts as part of my ‘montage’ – you know, the series of quick scenes in movies between the ‘before’ and ‘after’- it helps me keep that part of the work in perspective.

If you think of revising as ‘cutting through the jungle’ or editing as ‘polishing your brilliance’, it gives you a new way to look at it. If you call your plotting process ‘my evil plan’ or ‘drawing a treasure map’, it can help you have a bit more fun.

 

3)  Plan Lots of Rewards

When my coaching clients are struggling, I tell them to reverse their reward ratio.  So, instead of earning a 10 minute break after an hour of writing, they give themselves an hour off after 10 minutes of writing.  It seems counterproductive at first but it keeps you moving forward until you reach a part that you enjoy.  Just make sure to pack that hour full of things that make you happy.

If time off doesn’t motivate you, pick another reward that will draw you through the work process. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it serves you well.

 

4) Alternate (Or Take A Day Off)

While there is a sort of virtue to be found in slogging through the hard stuff, you don’t have to do all the hard stuff at once. You can alternate between challenging work and the more enjoyable pieces on any given day. Or, you can just take a day off from whatever tasks you struggle with and only do the fun parts of your writing project that day.

Feel free to add unnecessary fun bits when you can, too. If you enjoy imagining what your characters would do in a restaurant, or, at a party, feel free to write that. Even if it doesn’t make it into your final manuscript, it still gives you information about your characters and moves you forward. Anything that keeps you writing is a good thing.

 

5) Accept That There Are Hard Parts (I Know, I Hate That, Too)

Good writing is work. There are lots of fun parts and there is victory at the end, but it is work. Even once you made it more fun, you still might not want to work on some parts. That’s when acceptance can come in.

This is the point where you say ‘This is boring and I am doing it anyway.’

Usually, once you get started, you will find it is not as awful as it seemed. I find the *idea* of some aspects of writing far harder than the actual task. Once I actually start working, the task is far less intimidating.

Another aspect of acceptance is to remember that this frustration just might be part of *your* writing process. To use an example from another context: I like to travel but all the preparatory work. Ensuring that I have all the details in place is stressful, no matter how fun the trip will be. There is a point in every travel plan in which I decide that it would be easier not to go at all.

I used to think that the feeling was a sign that I shouldn’t go but now I know –  it’s part of my preparation process. This is a feeling that surfaces for me when I am trying to work on something that has a lot of detailed parts. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a sign, it’s just part of the process. That means that when it arises, I can recognize it, take a deep breath (or seven) and keep working until it passes.

You can do the same thing with your reluctance to do certain types of writing work. If you don’t give the feeling any extra meaning, you can accept it and keep writing.

We all have parts of the writing process that are challenging for us. It’s completely normal. Once we make those challenging parts easier on ourselves, we will be able to get through them more quickly.

The next time you are staring down your writing nemesis, try some of the tips in this post and they should help you keep working, and, turn your nemesis into one of  your allies.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

Prompts Are Everywhere: Using Writing Prompts to Spark Creativity

Have you ever needed that spark to write? Try writing prompts.

A blank page glares back at you, taunting you to write something. Anything. A minute passes. Then another. Three cups of coffee later, you find yourself on social media watching cats riding Roombas and the page remains woefully blank. Ideas are everywhere, but sometimes we need a kick in the brain to notice them. Writing prompts provide something the bottom of your caffeinated beverage cannot: a fresh idea. Prompts can help you out of a rut and trigger new creativity.

Let’s say you been “adulting” all day and your brain is full of kids, bills, and work. Maybe your muse took a nap because you’ve been agonizing over where to put commas as you edit. Or you woke up extra groggy this morning and that third cup is a joke because you know you need the whole pot. A prompt is a great way to start a writing session when your brain if in the wrong mode. Take 10 minutes and sit down to write. Find a prompt that triggers at least one spark for you, set pen to paper (or whatever your preferred method) and write. Don’t stop until the timer dings. Let the ideas flow and give your brain permission to play. It wants to play, so let it. There is no right or wrong way to use a prompt. It’s whatever strikes you in the moment.

The most basic prompt is a short list of words.

A good list will have at least three words that don’t fit together at first glance. Random prompt generators typically give a character, place, and object. Some include additional elements like time and weather. Your creative job is to connect the ideas. When you find the right prompt, your brain will begin building a story around them without asking you permission. First, connect two items, then add in the next. Ask questions, be curious and, most importantly, find a way to the chocolate.

The words hat, rose, and chocolate might be connected first by a hat with a rose on it. Expand upon the idea by asking the ‘W’ questions— who, what, where, why. Who is wearing the hat? A woman. When did it come from? A store, maybe not important. Where is the hat? On the bench next to the woman. What is that hat doing there? Well, this is where it gets really good…remember that guy she met in line for hot chocolate? The words don’t have to be used verbatim. If chocolate gets you thinking about Mayan conquerors and the quest for gold, go with it. It’s a prompt, not a law. The best prompt is the one that takes you in an interesting direction and won’t let you NOT write it.

Writing prompts come in many shapes and sizes beyond three-word combinations. All provide an entry point to a story.

  1. First lines
  2. Dialogue
  3. Character based
  4. Setting based
  5. Photo
  6. Ripped from the headlines

Writing prompts are everywhere.

A Google search yields dozens of writing prompt sites. The 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest page has a curated list. If that’s not enough, the app store for your phone contains several dedicated prompt apps. Canned prompts are great, but you can also make your own. One photo prompt can be worth a thousand words or more and this style of prompt is also readily available when you search on the term, but consider following photographers on social media or using stock photos.

An adjustment to your viewpoint or a narrowing of focus results in a different way of seeing the mundane.  For example, a storm passed through knocking down chairs and tables at an outdoor cafe. In panoramic view, the closed cafe sat at the end of a row of shops abutted to a huge parking lot. Like any old downtown. By narrowing the focus to see only the knocked over chairs and tables and asking questions, the scene is transformed. Who caused all this damage? There was a struggle. They were waiting for her. Was anyone hurt? He got there too late, so he didn’t know what happened to her. Why would anyone take his one and only love? Oh, right the gambling debts.

Searching for an even more exotic source for prompts? Try news headlines. Science news covers everything from medical testing to planetary discoveries to the amount of wine we should all drink. Headlines from foreign countries bring you concepts that are just that— foreign. Controlling the kangaroo population, mobile hospitals, red ants floating in pools. What if you built a world where the constraints of the headline were the rule? Everyone must drink a glass of wine a day for longevity, but otherwise, they wither away. And maybe it isn’t wine, but some other government supplied an elixir of doom. Two steps from the headline becomes a conspiracy laden dystopia. Add a character who can’t get his elixir and you will probably need more than the prescribed ten minutes.

Allow writing from prompts to be sloppy.

The sentences don’t have to make sense but do let the ideas flow. Where you start may not be where you end and it’s ok. Stories have a character in a setting with conflict and prompt may give you only one of these elements of story telling. All writing is progress and you never know when you can use the ideas from a simple prompt. Do you have a favorite style of prompt? Has one led you to a larger work? Leave a comment if you’ve benefitted from prompts.


Sara Marschand has been writing Urban Fantasy and Science fiction since she ended her full time career in engineering. When not writing, she enjoys everything produced by Marvel studios. Sara lives with her spouse, 2 noisy kids, a frog and a goldfish that spits rocks. Visit her blog here.

Ditching Self-Doubt – Change Your Focus and Get Your Writing Done



                                                                                                                       by Christine Hennebury

Self-doubt is one thing that all good writers have in common and it’s what causes us to get stuck. Even though many of us interpret getting stuck as a sign that we aren’t ‘real’ writers, it’s actually a sign that our writing practice is focused in the wrong direction.

Luckily, by figuring out where our self-doubt is springing up, we can change our focus and get back to our writing.

A lot of the time, we don’t even realize that self-doubt is the problem. We struggle to get started, we find it hard to keep writing, or we hate what we have written, but we don’t realize that these feelings spring from doubt.  Instead, we decide that we aren’t good enough or that we lack discipline.

However, if we can turn our attention to our writing practice, give ourselves a little freedom, and, be kind to ourselves in the process, we will be able to see self-doubt for what it is.

Here are three ways you can identify self-doubt and start to change your focus:

1) Think Process, Not Results

We measure our writing in words, in chapters, in articles, and in books.  We get an endpoint in mind, and we make it our entire focus.

But when we focus on the results instead of on writing, we make things harder on ourselves. We start thinking about who is going to read it and whether they will like it. We start comparing our rough drafts to other people’s published work. There is no good result from this. Either you will get intimidated and stop writing, or you will hate what you have written, or you will try to get the whole project done at once and end up baffled and confused.

You can’t finish writing projects that way. You must write them word by word.  It’s your job to develop a writing practice that enables that process.

So, instead of focusing on your endpoint,  work on developing behaviors that will lead to where you want to go.  Sure, it  can be fun to envision yourself as a best-selling author, but if you don’t have a process that gets your words on the page, you won’t sell a thing.

2) Give Yourself Freedom to Mess Up

Help yourself to keep writing by allowing yourself more freedom to do things wrong. Recognize when you are in draft mode and that you need to make mistakes to go forward. So, go ahead and put in a placeholder word or too. Put in a sentence that says ‘Add science-y stuff’. Call your character ‘Waserface’ until you figure out what her name should be. If you keep the story moving, all of the pieces will fall into place.

In addition to those kinds of mistakes, feel free to decide what success means for you for each writing session. Decide what will be ‘enough’ writing. Decide what methods you will use to get to ‘enough’. Your job is to get your words on paper, it doesn’t matter how messy things are in the meantime.

Finally, feel free to be terrible. Terrible writing is part of the writing process. After all, you can’t revise a blank page – you have to start somewhere. Go ahead and write something awful right now, you are just trapping ideas. Polished writing will be in your future.

One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.

                                     ~ Lawrence Block

3) Go Easy On Yourself

Most of us think that the only way to be self-disciplined is to be very tough on ourselves. We put ourselves down and judge ourselves harshly because we think it will make us get down to work.  Somehow, we think that being gentle with ourselves will result in sloppy habits and messy work.

Yet, if being hard on ourselves produced results, we’d all be best-selling authors by now. Clearly, we need a different approach.

I recommend finding ways to be kind to ourselves. Ideally, we would could find ways to make our writing process as interesting and fun as possible and to forgive ourselves when we get off track. And, when we come to the challenge parts, we could take them in small doses and give ourselves rewards for our efforts instead of just for our accomplishments.

This doesn’t mean that we give up when things get hard or that we only do fun writing, it means that we are kind to ourselves when things go wrong. Treating ourselves with kindness will help us find ways to stick to our practices and get those words out into the world where they belong.

Ditch the Self-Doubt

The first step to solving any problem is correctly identifying it. When you struggle to get your words out, take a gentle look at how you are approaching your writing practice. Perhaps, self-doubt is getting in your way and it’s time to change your focus and get back to writing.

No matter what your specific writing issue involves, taking a moment to focus on the practice of writing, giving yourself some freedom, and going easy on yourself will help you to feel better about writing. Any words that come as a result will be a bonus.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her storyfying at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

Your Author Platform: Four Key Strategies from a Marketing Professional

by Linda Thompson

I’ve seen the questions come across the 10 Minute Novelists’ feed:

  • What is this thing called “platform”?

  • Should I be building one?

  • How would I do it and what would I even say to the world?

I’m well familiar with the angst behind those questions. I’ve also sat squirming in front of an editor at a writers’ conference who seemed intrigued by my story, but wouldn’t take the next step because my platform metrics failed to impress. So I know that angst too!

I’m in the “pre-published” stage myself. I definitely do not have all the answers—although I have a stumbled and bumbled my way to a few tactics that are generating consistent growth for my platform. And since I’ve spent a couple decades as a marketing professional, perhaps I have a slightly different vantage point on this subject that might be worth sharing.

As a marketing professional, I see fellow authors investing their marketing effort in ways I’m pretty confident are mistakes.

“But, Linda,” I hear you say. “I don’t even have a book. Why should I worry about building my platform?”

Because social media is a bit like investing.

Your nest egg grows over time. So the earlier you start, the more time you have for your following to snowball to the point where it can give you needed momentum for your book launch. Start building your platform now then later, when it matters more, you’ll have something to brag about. 

Your Author Platform: Four Key Strategies from a Marketing Professional

First, Some Fundamentals

“Marketing” can be a scary term, especially for the introverted writer-type! But in truth marketing is the art and science of finding the best fit between a product and an audience who will delight in it. When it’s done right, the result is the proverbial “marriage made in heaven” and mutual joy!

That’s the result we all want, right?

There was once a misconception that marketing consisted of slick people sitting around in conference rooms coming up with clever slogans designed to manipulate the public into buying stuff.  Perhaps marketing looked a little more like that in the days when the main avenues to talk to buyers were mass-market channels: TV, radio, newspaper or magazine ads.

But if that was ever really the model, the Internet has largely done away with it.  Today you can micro-target your exact customer. For most businesses, that makes way more sense than blaring a message out to a broad audience.

Which leads us to…

Strategy #1: Be Clear About Your Audience

Marketing today is about defining your audience as precisely as possible so you can speak directly to your highest-probability customer. I recently heard a social media maven go so far as to state that, if someone’s not your ideal customer, your marketing efforts should scare them off—so you won’t be tempted to waste time with them!

I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think of my potential platform audience as a bullseye with my highest-probability reader in the center. And where am I aiming my outreach efforts? At the center of the bullseye, for the most part. The people who not only are likely to enjoy my story, but who will also identify with the passion behind it. My “why” for writing. Those will be my “lifers” who will follow me book after book and might even be prepared to forgive me the occasional awkward sentence or flat stretch of dialog.

Which in turn leads us to…

Mistake #1:

Here is the biggest point I hope you’ll take away. I see a lot of writers who seem to spend the bulk of their time and effort talking to… other writers. Writing blog posts focused on writing. Putting up writing-themed updates on social media, tagged to #amwriting and #amediting. Exchanging follows with other writers on Instagram and Twitter.

This is a great strategy if you’re hoping to sell craft books or editing services to writers. But if you’re hoping to sell books to readers, you need to spend most of your effort developing relationships with them

Do we need some time to recharge around Katharine’s invisible snack table with our 10 Minute besties who understand our secret struggles in our writers’ garrets? Sure. Plus, relationships with influential writers will be important when it’s time to seek endorsements.

But at some point, we need to leave the space where the (virtual) coffee is warm and the donuts are fresh, and get out there and talk to readers.

My novel is based on a true story. In 1942, my protagonist watched her little brother die on the street, a casualty of the first Allied bombing raid on Japan.

By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame. The U.S. airman responsible for her brother’s death returns to Japan as a Christian missionary. She resolves to restore her honor by avenging her brother’s death—even if it will cost her own life. 

An author friend of mine put it this way. My best reader will be someone who cares about three things—Christian faith, military aviation history, Asian culture. My second-best reader will be someone who’s passionate about two of the three, but I can convince them to care about the third.

So my “bulls-eye” reader will be a passionate Christian who is also interested in military history and in Asian cultures. They’re going to skew middle-aged or older and conservative in values. They might well be veterans or members of military households. I believe my storyline has appeal for both men and women, but women read more fiction, and more historical fiction, so on balance, I expect more female readers.

Wow, that’s pretty specific. Is that audience big enough?

According to Facebook’s ad manager, that audience has hundreds of thousands of English-speaking members. Definitely enough to make my li’l old book a success, if I connect with them.

I certainly hope these will not be the only people who will read my novel—it’s a bit like preaching to the choir. But the choir is the best place to generate some volume. These should be the people who will line up to buy my book at launch and give it awesome reviews so other readers will discover it. This is another great way to build my platform. 

Strategy #2: Show Up Where Your Audience Is

Understand how they shop for books. Understand how they read—print, Kindle, iBooks etc.

Above all, understand where to find them on social media. I try to make myself visible on Facebook groups for people who fit my target audience—in fact, it’s been my most productive tactic so far. I started by friending a few people who post regularly in each group. I get notifications when those friends post, so I get reminded to go see what’s up in the group.

Quite a few of those folks have supported my author page and my blog.

Katharine Grubb’s wonderful eBook, Conquering Twitter in Ten Minutes a Day, has some great strategies for finding your people on Twitter.

Mistake #2: Focusing Marketing Efforts on Avid Readers

What? Didn’t you just tell me to focus on readers?

Yes, but there are readers and then there are those who identify as avid readers. And this one is probably not a mistake, but it’s a tactic many writers appear to rely on too much. The right strategy will make all the difference in your platform. 

Let me expand on what I mean. Goodreads, Bookbub, Facebook groups like “Books Place” are all tools for reaching the avid reader. Unfortunately, in our day and age, those readers are a small percentage of the total audience. Absolutely, we should reach out to them. But viral sales won’t happen there—and to be honest, I’m actually suspicious authors outnumber readers on those venues!

Our best sales success will “only happen when we mobilize that fat part of the bell curve—those who aren’t avid readers but will read one or two books per year—yet these people are, by definition, the hardest to impress.” (Kristen Lamb, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. Awesome book on book marketing if you haven’t read it.)

Classic book marketing strategies won’t work for these fat-bell-curve readers. If they ever even see our “buy my book” ads, they’ll take one glance, think, “Fair enough, if you’re one of those readers” and move on.

That’s why you need to be hanging out where your targeted, non-avid reader hangs out. Because they’re way more likely to choose your book for their one or two a year if they have some kind of relationship with you.

Strategy #3: Be Clear about Your Message

You don’t have a novel yet. But the goal is to start collecting a “tribe” who’s interested in the kind of stories you tell. Your novel is about something bigger than that specific story. You can start collecting an audience around your stance on that something bigger—your big themes.

Trust me, you don’t have to “be someone” to garner an audience on Twitter or Instagram. There are tons of accounts with big followings that we don’t even know who they are in real life! All you need is to be able to curate content that:

  • Interests and engages your target reader and
  • Makes you likeable and trustworthy to them

Post content on Twitter a LOT—it doesn’t have to be your own content, it can be retweets—and then look at Katharine’s book for ways to identify your target readers. Go out and introduce yourself to them by following aggressively. As long as your tweets resonate with your target reader, your following should grow over time. (People are more grudging with their “likes” on Facebook. Maybe Katharine will let me cover some details of the tactics I’ve picked up there in another post.)

Hint: if your content is mostly “let me tell you about my writing,” it’s probably not going to be as effective as you might wish, especially if your book is further out on the time horizon! A little of that is okay… you want people to know you’re hard at work on your novel. But mostly, you want to post about those big themes we discussed earlier.

In my case, I post about bold Biblical Christianity; about patriotism and WWII history; and to a lesser degree about Japanese culture. That might not make me interesting, likeable or trustworthy to your reader, but it seems to be reaching mine.

Strategy #4: Relax. It’s Actually Fun!

I thought “building a platform” would be scary and a huge time sink. And to some extent it is. But on the other hand, you’re probably writing for your audience because you like them. So it’s not actually that hard to put out your “I’m an Author” shingle (or do the modern equivalent—put up your Facebook author page 😊 ) and get out (virtually speaking) and mingle with them. In essence that’s what you’re being asked to do.

Happy interacting!

Linda


Linda Thompson

Linda Thompson has spent decades as a marketing professional, solving business strategy and awareness problems for technology companies. She’s published a long list of trade-journal articles and marketing literature, but The Plum Blooms in Winter is her first novel. Based on a true story from the pivotal Doolittle Raid of World War II, the manuscript won the 2016 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest in the historical category. Linda is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of WordServe Literary. Linda blogs on the topic of Five Stones and a Sling: Stories of Reckless Faith at lthompsonbooks.com/blog.

Must-Haves For The Time-Crunched, 10 Minute Novelist

Are you time-crunched and your dreams are nearly forgotten?

Only read this if you want to get serious about your big, big dreams. Read this if you have no idea how you’ll find a way in your time-crunched day. Only read this if you’d call yourself a 10 Minute Novelist.

I believe that you can be time-crunched and still pursue your dreams.

This blog post (and the website, and the Facebook group) is for the people who will do what it takes to pursue their dreams, who are willing to think through their lives, their responsibilities and their fears to come up with a practical plan to work slowly, ten minutes at a time, to accomplish it.

If you think that novels just kind of write themselves, please, for the sake of all that’s beautiful, go to this blog instead. 

Writing a novel takes hard work

It takes order, discipline, and planning. Writing a book takes courage and determination and tenacity. Anyone can do it, even if they have only ten minutes a day. (How do I know this? I wrote a novel in ten minute increments. Hence the name of this blog!)

So, if you’re serious,  then you MUST HAVE these things. Ready? 

1.  You need a consistent place to work. (Your office? Your home computer?) My workspace used to be the end of my kitchen counter, which was perfect for watching the kids while I worked, but not so perfect when the spaghetti sauce went flying. Now I have a beautiful corner office in my bedroom. This is where I go to work. And I can work for longer than ten minutes at a time!  Why do you need a consistent place to work? Your space is the place that you find the concrete reassurance that your dreams are worth it. Also your space should be yours and only yours. Your space, no matter how small, tells your brain, your will and your family that this is yours and it should be respected. If you don’t have a space of your own to work, drop everything and create a space now. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be yours. 

2. You need a timer.  If you can only work for ten minutes a day, then you need to time yourself. Use your phone, your microwave, an egg timer, three songs on Pandora, whatever it takes. Why? You’re time crunched. And your timer is that little tool you can use to track yourself. It’s likely you waste time during the day. If anything your timer will remind you to stop playing Farmville and get back to work. And when the timer dings? Organize your whole life better so you can make the most of your time. 

3. You need a vision. What is your raison d’etre for writing?  Is it a cozy mystery? A romantic comedy? A Amish vampire dystopian series? Take more time to study your genre, learn craftsmanship, and be a student of writing, so can accomplish this big, big dream of yours. I want to be a novelist (actually I want to rule the world, but I’ll start with the world of fiction) so I have to set aside ten minutes daily to take one more small step toward my big vision. Why is this important? If you sit down to write and you don’t know what you’re going to write, or why you’re doing it in the first place, you’ll just sit there. Take the time to think through the whys of your writing desires. Then think specific titles. Then open a new page and get to it.

4.  You need some sort of organization.  You need a document file or a notebook or something that you can find easily when it’s time to write again.  If it takes you 20 minutes to find the file, you’re kind of missing the point. You need to be able to sit down, type like a crazy person, and then get back up again. Why? Because one of the biggest time wasters we have is disorganization. You are already time-crunched, don’t add negligence or sloppiness to the mix.

5. You need community. This is perhaps the most important thing on this list. You need to know other writers. In a community you can learn from them. You need to be encouraged. You need to share in each other’s defeats and victories. How do you get into one? Oh, it couldn’t be easier! (Click here to join my group, 10 Minute Novelists). 

6. You need to put your butt in the chair and work. Sounds daunting? It’s okay. All you need is ten minutes! The why  of this should be obvious. But there is something about momentum. More than once, I haven’t felt like writing a word, yet because I forced myself to go for at least ten minutes, I was productive. I had primed my creative pump enough that I wanted to keep going when I finished. A little something is way better than nothing.

This is how it begins. Little by little, you work at that goal and someday, maybe not too long from now, you’ll have a story, perhaps a novel. Then beta readers, then you’ll be talking to graphic designers and posting your reviews. You’ll be a novelist! 

Your big, big dream can be accomplished if you have those six things and you’re willing to work. 

And it is so worth it. 


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

10 Ways To Be A Happy Writer

By Michele Matthews

Can you be a happy writer?

You’ve come home from a tiring day job. You try to sit down at your laptop and write a few words before relaxing for the evening. But the words won’t flow. Or maybe you’re one of those lucky people who get to write full-time for a living. You sit in your home office day after day pounding out the words. Are you a happy writer? Is it possible to be one?

Here are ten ways to be a happy writer.

Take breaks

Whether you’re writing an hour or writing full-time, you need to take a short break of 10-15 minutes each hour you write. Your body will thank you. Sitting for very long isn’t good for you.

Better yet, you could set a timer for 10 minutes, write, set the timer again, and wipe down your kitchen counter or do some other house chore. Katharine Grubb wrote a book called Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day. She outlines this process in this book, which is a must read if you’re a writer.

I have used both methods for taking breaks. Which method I use depends on where I am. If I’m at Starbucks, my normal writing hangout, I take a break each hour. If I’m at home, I use Katharine’s method. You have to use what works best for you.

Exercise or meditate

Exercise is good for you. It helps you strengthen the muscles in your body, keeps excess weight off, and gives you energy. While it will help your brain, too, meditation works as well for your brain. Meditation increases your happiness and improves your mental ability. You don’t have to get fancy with it. All you have to do is sit there and be in the moment.

I started working out a few months ago, and I’ve noticed a huge change in the way I feel. Not only am I am losing weight and inches, I feel good about myself for the first time in a long time. I’ve noticed my energy level is up as well, which means I’m writing more and hitting those goals.

Socialize with other writers

One way to improve your writing skills and make you a happy writer is to go where other writers are. You can attend a writing conference or a workshop. You can join writing groups online or find one close to where you live. Other writers understand how important writing is to you when you may not have support with family and friends.

I haven’t gotten the chance to attend a conference or a workshop yet, but I’m planning to go to the 10 Minute Novelist Conference in 2018. I used to belong to a local writing group. Unfortunately, the group quit meeting. However, I get plenty of support and encouragement online in the 10 Minute Novelists.

Share experiences

You don’t have to do things by yourself. Sharing experiences helps make you happy, and you should share those happy times with other people, like family and friends.

You could do an activity that will help your creative side. Go on a drive through the country where you’ve never gone before, go to a public place and watch people, or visit a museum.

I used to do all kinds of fun activities when my kids were younger, but now I do things with my nephew and nieces when I can. That’s so much fun seeing watching them.

Do good things

You can use your writing skills to volunteer in your local community. By doing good things for others, you’ll be happier. You could offer to teach a writing class at your public library or read a story to elementary students. You could also tutor reading and writing to students of all ages.

If you need help finding a place to volunteer in your area, go to volunteermatch.org and do a search.

Set writing goals

If you’ve felt overwhelmed with your writing, then setting writing goals is important. Make sure you set realistic goals. Break down those bigger goals into smaller goals. Once you have your goals, make them happen. Hitting your goals boosts your self-esteem and makes you happier.

After a few years, I’m finally better about breaking down those bigger goals. I’m feeling less overwhelmed, too, which makes me a happy writer.

Have boundaries

From time to time, you must give your mind a rest. You have to set boundaries and say when enough is enough. You need sleep to rest your body and mind. If you have a day job, you can’t stay up all night writing and expect to go to work the next day. If you’re a freelance writer, you need to set realistic deadlines.

As much as I would like to write all day and night at times, I need a break. I have to take care of myself.

Put your worries away

One of the hardest things you will have to do is ignore the haters. However, you can’t worry about what other people think. People will hate no matter what you do. You can’t worry about your book’s rankings on Amazon and wherever else you published it. Focus on writing more books. The more books you write and publish the more people will take notice.

I’m only on Amazon, and I don’t even bother looking at my books’ rankings. Right now I’m focused on publishing more books. And for the haters, I haven’t had any yet, but that can always change.

Journal our thoughts

One of the best ways to feel good is journaling. You can write down your random thoughts and feelings. You can journal about those things you’re grateful for, such as getting your first book review or having a reader tell you how much she loved your book.

Journaling is one of my favorite things to do. When I can’t get the words out, I can always think of good things that are happening in my life to write about.

Write what you love

Most importantly, you need to write what you love. You will be a happy writer if you’re writing in a genre you love. Find your passion and write about that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a genre that’s popular. All that matters is that you’re happy.

For a brief moment right after I published my second book, I thought about changing to a different genre, one of the most popular ones. And then that thought was gone. I can’t write about something I don’t love. I write what I’m most passionate about — women’s fiction and nonfiction.

Which of these ways will you use to help you be a happy writer? Can you think of anything else to add to the list?


Writer Michele Mathews

Michele Mathews is an author of three books and a freelance editor. She is the proud single mom of two children, two dogs, and a cat.

 

How Using Top 10 Lists Creates Great Content

When you create a blog, it’s like you create a little monster.

You have to feed a blog content. You have to maintain it. If you blog regularly, you have to disinfect it against spam. You have to bring your friends to come and see it. Maybe you’ll have to think about SEO and tags and categories. Or you’ll have to decorate it with pinnable art. You have to broadcast it to the world with Twitter and hashtags and other things no one thought about ten years ago. And it never ends! The little monster is never satisfied!

A blog is a little beast sometimes. And it’s slobbering appetite can be intimidating.

A happy blog (and one that gains attention from others) has fresh, nutritious and good content on a regular basis.

Consistency is an important key in gaining and keeping readers. But how can you come up with fresh content? (You have other responsibilities!)

In this famously retweeted and repinned post from the Content Market Institute, author Scott Aughtmon lists 21 Types of Content We All Crave. And while all of that is true and good to know, it doesn’t help us Keepers of The Beasts do know how to do that exactly.

What do my blog readers want?
21 Types of Content We All Crave

My suggestion? A Top Ten List!

A Top Ten List is a great way to condense a lot of information into useable chunks. A top ten list can be as simple as ideas, as complicated as arguments or as thorough as links and images. Also, a top ten list can be easily skimmed for your reader. A top ten list is clear from the beginning about what is expected. It’s easily tweetable (easily hashtaggable) and has many applications.

Starting next Tuesday, I will be creating a weekly feature on this blog #Top10Tuesdays I will have a top ten list that offers excellent content  for my core readers. I’m going to have it every Tuesday so my readers can expect it, I’m going to tweet it using this hashtag #Top10Tuesday and because I always know what I’m going to write about every Tuesday, I can file stuff away in the course of the week. (Hello Pinterest? Yes, I’ll probably create a board just for this. Please hold.)

How Can You Participate in #Top10Tuesday Too?

1. Brainstorm for anything in that list of 21 Types of Content We All Crave that your readers would like to hear from you. Is it inspirational? Encouraging? Practical? Funny?

2. Write a Top Ten List (with apologies to David Letterman, yours doesn’t have to get progressively more funny).

3. Create a pinnable art so you can put it on Pinterest (or steal mine!)

4. Tweet about it. Maybe even using this hashtag #Top10Tuesday?

5. Retweet anyone else who blogs a Top 10 List and read their posts too.

6. Put a link to your post in the comments of my post so my readers can see what you wrote.

7. Collect info for your next post.

8. Remind your blog beast that you have fodder for next week and they don’t need to bite you.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? Will this idea work for you? Will you be joining me?


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Why You Need A Writers Community Like You Need Cake

How do you know if you are a rich writer?

If we are rich writers, we use words like Paula Deen uses butter and cream. We liberally pour out our ideas and our vision into our paragraphs and prose. Maybe we add in sweetness and flavor and texture who we are and what we care about in every book. We sculpt our words together like sugary icing roses along a cake and we present our final, finished projects as grand feasts for the world, allowing our readers to savor each morsel and each portion.  If we are rich writers, the solitary act of creating is a full and satisfying one.

But I’d like to suggest that more satisfaction that comes when we are connected to writer friends who are making their own sweet compositions.

 

You are, indeed, rich, if you have written books by the dozens, won awards, and sold many copies.

But you are richer still if you have close friends who coached you along the way.

Every success, every victory, every instance of #AuthorHappiness is just one tiny blip on this long writing journey, that is, quite honestly, a lonely one, but is magnified when it is shared. And the sad, dark times are so much easier with their comfort.

The rejection letters will come. Let those around us buy us a drink. 

The 1 star reviews will trickle in. Let those around us say, “They just don’t get your brilliance.”

The doors will close. The publishing house will go under. The disappointments are a given if we choose writer as our identity.

Within a group of writers, you have mentors and proteges, you have advice and warnings, you celebrations and sorrows. You can squeeze each others’ hands and say, “it is scary,” but you can do it. Or, “you are good, hang in there” or “this happened to me once!”

 

Writers, as tempting as it is to wrap yourself up in a solitary, lonely world with just your characters and your computer as your companions, please don’t neglect the importance of community. Reach out to other writers. We need you too.

1. Get a Mentor.

In Online Writing Groups, such as Facebook’s 10 Minute Novelists, you can meet people who are little further ahead of you in your writing journey. Ask them questions. Get them to read your stuff. Receive their feedback graciously.

2. Join A Group.

By hanging around writers who have the same goals as you, you will learn a lot about craftsmanship, character development, plot, and setting. Also? Hanging out with other writers is just fun. They rejoice with you when you succeed and buy you drinks when you don’t.

3. Take a Class.

Check out your local library, community college or adult education center for writing classes. Some are even online! By working with an instructor, you will be able to get important feedback and grasp concepts you might not through just educating yourself.  This link has a list of free and not-so-free writing courses!

Support 10 Minute Novelists

4. Be humble and teachable.

No matter how much you’ve written or how many books you’ve sold, there’s always room to improve. And even if you were Pulitzer worthy, you’d still need to know about publishing, marketing, and social media. Be open to learning all you can. Arrogance doesn’t go far in this field.

How do you find other writers?  There are tons of ways! But the easiest is to join my group 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook.

Your writing life will be all the richer for it.


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Great Advice for Writers of Short Stories

By Rebecca Dempsey

After more than a decade of writing short stories, here is what I have learned. 

  • Write. 
  • Read short stories. Read across genres, authors, places and times. I recommend Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur Conan Doyle, Carmel Bird, Ambrose Bierce, Etgar Keret, Tim Winton, DH Lawrence and Flannery O’Connor etc.
  • The shorter the work the keener the focus is on how it is written. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter. There could be as little as 10 words to grab and hold someone’s attention so errors are distracting.
  • Don’t have a cast of thousands, or a story crossing continents or time periods when there are only 500 words to do it in, it’s too difficult and rarely convincing. A short story is a moment, a slice of something, or an episode, or an event, yet always complete in itself.
  • Anecdotes are not stories. Real life is rarely story material, because life is just one thing after another. A story should have some kind of start, end and finish, with an arc or revelation to give it meaning or value.

  • Work on the ending. The ‘it was all a dream’ ending should be banished to the sixth circle of Dante’s Inferno unless you make it freaking A M A Z I N G.
  • Almost always use said or says rather than he ‘exclaimed proudly’ or she ‘enunciated snidely’ – we should understand tone and attitude from the context and the words said because there should be no wasted words in a short story.
  • Give speech context:  ‘You’re always so right,’ said Evie, before slamming the door in his face. Brian heard her turn the key in the lock and something inside him turned. He pounded the door. ‘No lock’ll stop me, Evie.’  Not my best effort but the attitude and emotions of Evie and Brian are conveyed by their actions rather than me interpreting how their words are said.
  • Write how people talk but providing a taste of an accent will do. Don’t overwhelm.
  • Stories can take minutes or years to finish. They can be five words or 7,000 plus long. Time to produce does not equal length.
  • Structure is everything. It affects tone, pacing, how the piece looks on the page and how people will read it.
  • Look at sentence construction. Look at the start of each paragraph and if the first word is the same for each change some.
  • Look at point of view and be prepared to change it. Should it be from Brian or Evie’s perspective?
  • Break up long sentences if you have many, or insert a long sentence in if your writing is always punchy.
  • Make repeated phrases or words meaningful. People see meaning in repetitions because they are word symbols and readers are always looking for clues. If repetitions are accidental, cut them out, as they are a distraction.
  • Be prepared to break rules.
  • Be prepared to defend your artistic decisions to editors; however, recognize when they are right. Editors are not killing your baby but saving it. For your story to thrive, you must let it go. Really, step away and let people read it and have opinions about it.
  • Don’t trust the opinions of those who are obliged to love everything you do.
  • Nothing is original except you. Work on your voice, rather than your ideas. If you don’t know what voice is in writing then you’re probably still developing yours. And that’s ok.
  • Expect that not everyone will love your story. Expect that you won’t either if you go back to something written a while ago. The writing hasn’t changed, you have.
  • Contests can be difficult to win and costly to enter. Try sending a story to a journal and getting a response from an editor.
  • Rejections are not about you. Sometimes they are not about your work. If they are about your work, edit it. Or send it elsewhere. Maybe the publication was wrong for your story or maybe your story isn’t done.
  • Write, finish and walk away. Come back to your story later. Read it with fresh eyes. Then edit.
  • Draft. Draft. Draft. Send. Draft. Draft. Send. Repeat.
  • Keep a database of titles, submissions, acceptances, costs, dates, earnings etc.
  • Most publications will not take submissions that have been self-published. Beware vanity publishers.
  • Celebrate your publications or milestones.
  • Short stories don’t have to be training wheels for potential novels. Nobody is forcing you to be a novelist. Especially with the return of the novella and digital media looking for short form stuff.
  • For novelists, just because you can pump out 100,000 words does mean a short story is a cake walk. Short stories need a deft yet delicate touch to contain their potential for power.

Rebecca Dempsey has been writing short stories since 2003, with works in print and online from New South Wales to Nevada. She holds a Masters in Writing and Literature from Deakin University, and a Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Humanities. Rebecca has written for newspapers and journals and keeps a blog at writingbec.wordpress.com.

How to Use Showing vs. Telling Effectively

by Rachelle M. N. Shaw

There are tons of writing blogs and articles out there that offer advice on showing vs. telling. But why is that?

Why is showing so important that it automatically trumps telling? Is it ever okay to use telling? The secret is actually in the combination of the two. When you know how you can use showing in conjunction with telling, you can strengthen your writing and sharpen the structure of your pieces.

What Is Showing?

Showing can be described as an action that is happening at the moment. Even if you are writing in past tense, that definition still applies. Think in terms of watching a movie. Chances are, given the choice, you’d probably opt to watch a movie rather than have a friend recount its events to you. Reading a book is much the same way. Most readers pick up a book wanting to get lost in its story and feel things right alongside the characters. You can achieve that most effectively through the art of showing or describing the events as they unfold. This way, the readers discover things as the characters do.

Why Is Showing Often More Powerful?

The main reason is that we’re already experts at body language at birth. Don’t believe me? The art of showing is ingrained into our minds, even during development in the womb, and it blossoms from there. We’re born knowing the basics of how to show our emotions through body language and how to read others’ body language. It’s not just a means of communication—it’s key to our survival. When a baby cries, its mother is programmed to respond to it by watching for certain cues, like feeding a baby who roots or rocking a baby to sleep when they yawn and rub their eyes. Knowing both how to convey our emotions and how to decipher them is what makes us so good at connecting with people on a deeper, more emotional level. Writers can tap into that ability to create characters that are vivid and realistic, crafting stories that stick with the reader long after they’ve read it.

When Showing Works

Showing typically is best suited for the main narrative of the story, especially during intense scenes and ones where turning points in the plot happen. However, two key places to make sure you’re showing rather than telling are the opening scene and ending scene. While telling sections do serve a purpose and are occasionally the better choice, the majority of readers will connect better with vivid scenes that incorporate frequent imagery, dialogue, and most importantly, emotion.

All that is fine and dandy when you can spot a line that is telling rather than showing, but a lot of us struggle with finding them.

So here are a few tips for identifying and incorporating lines that show:

  1. Think of the scene playing out as a movie, as something happening in the moment. Cameras can’t convey emotion—only actors can. So you’ll have to rely on tone, body language, and interaction with the environment to convey those emotions to your reader in the strongest way possible. Sure, you could just tell them, but which book would you rather read: one that flat-out states the main character is angry or one that shows the main character throwing a chair across the room while veins pop out from his neck?
  2. Eliminate filter words and passive sentences whenever possible. By doing so, your sentences will automatically become more active and draw readers into the scene. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any of these, however. It just means you should use them sparingly and treat them as you would adverbs—too many, and you’re left with fluff. Sometimes you’ll need to use personification to achieve this. For example, instead of saying, “There was a door at the end of the hall,” you can go with, “A door stood at the end of the dimly lit hallway, beckoning him,” for stronger, more active wording.
  3. Strong verbs give your active lines additional spunk! A common problem I run into when editing others’ manuscripts is weak verbs. What do I mean by that? Well, verbs such as walk, run, set, and others that serve their function but don’t incorporate any emotion into the action can be classified as weak. There’s a huge difference between ambling and strutting, just as there is between dropping and slamming. So the next time you find yourself using a weak verb, do a quick search for synonyms and find one that fits the tone and pace of the scene your writing. Just remember that there’s no need to use a bunch of fancy words when a simple one will do. While synonyms can aid you when your mind blanks, they can also become a crutch. Variation in wording isn’t about using challenging terms but rather ones that infuse emotion into the scene.
  4. Sensory details are almost guaranteed to boost the action in your story. Details that clue us into the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures of a scene entice our imaginations and fill them with vivid images that stay with us. They paint such a clear picture of what’s happening in the moment that readers are automatically drawn into the story and connect better with the characters.
  5. Rework any lines with directly stated emotions, teasing them out to use body language that shows them instead. Identify telling lines doesn’t have to be daunting. Apart from the items above, you can hunt for words that are emotions themselves. Generally, tweaking lines with directly stated emotions and replacing them with body language will result in stronger, more compelling imagery. And if you combine that with the above tips, it’ll ensure your scenes and characters burst to life on the page.

When Telling Works

While there are plenty of instances where showing is best suited, there are also exceptions, places where telling will be the stronger option. Showing and telling very much work in unison to paint a clear yet concise picture that readers look for in a great story, but there are key places where telling fits in more naturally than showing.

Examples for when telling works best:

  • When you have backstory that needs to be shared in the context of the current scene without giving too much away
  • During scenes with intense emotions where you need direct information to balance out the drama
  • With high-action scenes to cut down the play-by-play recounting of what’s happening
  • To display thoughts, opinions, and the general viewpoint of the narrator—but only when it’s relevant to the current actions in the plot
  • With details that would be too complicated to show and would bog down the process of moving forward within the scene
  • For a summarization of what’s happened without retelling every event
  • When transitioning from one scene to the next (scene breaks) where detailed action isn’t needed
  • To glaze over necessary, but not crucial, details that are relevant to the current plot

It’s also best incorporated by mixing it with relevant action—and lots of it.

How to Balance the Two

Your primary goal should be to connect readers to the story being told. So if showing is stronger for that part, take advantage of it and bring to life the reader’s senses. If showing keeps the plot from moving forward and slows the reader to the point of boredom, then you’re probably better off telling. However, one thing to keep in mind is that not every scene, thought, or action will need to be included. If a scene doesn’t propel the plot or further develop a character in any way, the best approach is usually to cut it altogether.

Finding that sweet spot for blending both showing and telling takes years of practice, and many of us spend the better part of our writing careers perfecting it.

But with a little research, trial and error, and a good sense of intuition, you can use showing and telling in harmony to create writing that is both enchanting and succinct.

These two styles of writing are meant to complement one another, not compete.


Rachelle M. N. ShawAn avid reader with an incurable need to research everything she comes across, Rachelle is an author of paranormal, horror, and writing craft books as well as the occasional women’s fiction piece. Since scribbling down her first story at the age of eight, her love for language and books has blossomed into a full-time career. She currently works as an independent editor who is passionate about writing in layers and helping authors find their voice. When she’s not busy chasing her kids and two rather persnickety cats, you can catch her blogging, tweeting, or plotting her next series. Her current publications include the first two parts in the young adult paranormal series The Porcelain Souls.

Website: http://rachellemnshaw.com/  Twitter: https://twitter.com/rmnsediting         Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rmnsauthor/  

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rachelle-M.-N. Shaw/e/B00X8D3LSY/                                                                                                                                            Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13929660.Rachelle_M_N_Shaw

Tumblr: http://fmtpextended.tumblr.com/

8 Ways to Balance Your Writing Life With Little Kids Around

Is it possible to be a productive writer with little kids in the house?

I started asking myself this question about three years ago when my perfectly organized and time structured writing life disintegrated with the (very welcome) arrival of my daughter.

It took me almost 2 years and a lot of trial and error to figure out the answer.

Yes.

It is possible to find an organized balance between being a writer, running a household and being a parent with kids at home.

I admit, I sometimes still struggle to find a harmonious balance with work life and the ever changing demands of family life, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that has kept my life organized, let me keep writing, run a (mostly) functional household and stay (mostly) sane.

1. Claim a Sacred Writing Time

There is some point during the day, if it’s five minutes or an hour, that you can find to write.

It might mean going to bed a bit later so you can write after everyone else is asleep, or getting up a bit earlier so you can write before everyone wakes up. It might mean writing during your kid’s nap (if you still have that luxury in your house). It might mean giving up TV time in the evening.

Find a time. Claim it. Use it. Ensure everyone in your house knows this is your SACRED writing time, but make sure that you are especially aware that this is writing time so you’d damn well better make the most of it.

2. Write Every Day, Even Just A Bit

Connect with your work every day to keep that part of your brain activated. Just a few minutes will do. Just a few words.

It might seem pointless to just be adding a word or two but this continued connection really does help. It helps you feel like you’re still writing and making measurable progress and it helps to keep your mind in a state of readiness so that at the beginning of the next session, you’re up and ready to go without struggling to get back into the writing groove.

3. Measure Your Progress Against Your Goals

Find a goal within your project. A word count. A number of chapters. A blog posting schedule. Anything.

Every word you write and every sentence you edit takes you a step closer to that goal and there’s no better feeling than seeing those accomplishment points creep closer and closer.

4. Have a Couple of Different Projects Running Simultaneously

This doesn’t work for all writers, and I know a few writers who actively advise doing the opposite. For me, having different projects on the go simultaneously allows me to use different writing times to differing but still maximum effect. I focus best as soon as I wake up, so I’ve made a 5 am writing time for fiction (which is the most valuable thing for me to write).

I use any other sessions I can manage to write non-fiction or work on any edits, and I use any evening time I get to make notes, brainstorm, outline, and research—all of that writing work that requires a different kind of mental work without the structure and deep focus of the actual composition.

5. Don’t Work All the Time

If (when) your kids are preventing you from actually writing, it can be sometimes best to just let it happen.

Accept the gift of having a break from work and let yourself just be in the present activity. Children are masters at this.

You’re going to get back to your sacred writing time soon, so it might be just easier just to wait for that quality time rather than fighting against the reality of interruptions. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a writing session when it’s out of your control.

6. Let Your Kids Give You A Writing Lesson

Hanging out with a little kid is all about playing. Well, there’s typically a fair bit of cleaning and sometimes some crying and yelling in there too, but play time is a big chunk of the deal.

As you’re playing with your little person, look for ways to spark your own creativity. Draw pictures of scenes from your books or just random stuff. Act out plays with toys. Read storybooks and give yourself a lesson in writing for children. Make up rhymes and sing a nonsense verse. Make up your own stories to tell your children. Trust me, your kid isn’t going to notice you’re “working” during all of this super exciting play time.

7. Get Some Help

Not everyone has a support network in place to help look after the kids. If you are fortunate enough to have support, use it. Call in any willing family or friends, put partners or older children to work. If it’s an option, you might also consider a day care or hire a babysitter to give yourself a good quality writing session. Even a half day a week will do wonders for your productivity. The two days a week my kid is in Kindy, I’m an unstoppable word machine.

8. Write For You

Does writing make you happy? Does writing satisfy you in some unique way that nothing else does? Then you need to write.

It’s easy to feel guilty making time for yourself to pursue a goal or a passion and even a job outside the family circle. As if there wasn’t already enough guilt that comes with raising kids!

If writing scratches an itch for you like nothing else can, then it’s a simple necessity. You must write. Your family must let you write.

I always feel like writing makes me happier, it makes me who I am and therefore makes me a better mother, a better wife, a better me. Don’t feel guilty for writing. Ever.

Writing while raising small people is hard, but it’s far from impossible.

Sometimes sentences may need to sit unfinished for a day or two, but those half sentences are a zillion times better than the sentences never started. Those interrupted writing sessions are infinitely more valuable and productive than the writing session you never forced yourself to take. You can be a writer and a full-time parent at the same time. If you let yourself be. 


Kate Krake writes speculative fiction (as K.A. Krake) and non-fiction for writers. Kate is the author of the dark urban fantasy series, Guessing Tales. Kate also blogs about popular culture, health, wellness, and writing. Kate lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. 

www.katekrake.com  www.thewriteturn.com            www.guessingtales.com                                                       https://www.facebook.com/katekrake/                       www.twitter.com/katekrake

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

When it comes to our writing careers, does luck have anything to do with our success?

 

Sometimes our mental images are filled with gold-filled pots accompanied by rainbows. Luck often references leprechauns and shamrocks. And this writer, whose birthday is on a lucky March 17, feels lucky when she doesn’t have to celebrate her spring-ish birthday by shoveling snow. (Who am I kidding? I never shovel snow. That’s why I had sons.)

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

–Benjamin Franklin

There’s cartoon luck, and then there’s real life luck. How much does luck really play in our writing careers? I can say that I have had my share of luck. But in the same breath, I can say that I’ve worked my butt off and that all the good that happened to me came because of my own work. And I’m one of those creatures who believes that my Maker could have something to do with it too.

Is it luck or is it just cause and effect? Do I ever confuse luck with the unexpected? Do I give credit in the right place? Should I?

These are the “luckiest” things that happened to me since I became a writer:

  1. My first traditionally published book opportunity came from  a publisher that sought me out through my blog.
  2. Catholic Digest contacted me about promoting my romantic comedy Falling For Your Madness in December 2014.
  3. In April of 2016, Writer’s Digest named my website and Facebook group one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers.
  4. In September of 2016, Writing magazine bought thousands of copies of my book and included them with copies of their magazines to subscribers and in grocery stores across the UK.

There are probably more, but these are the most significant.

I honestly can’t say if any of these things were the direct result of my hard work or me just being in the right place at the right time. But I do know this: had I sat on my butt and done nothing, then that’s what I would have received.

How do you feel when others look at your success and say, “You’re so lucky!” Is it an insult to say, “they’ve gotten lucky” or, “lucky you?” They may see the fruit of your success and never witnessed your toil. Are they suggesting that all success if just luck? Do they shirk their own responsibility, because of luck? Does this mean that if you remove luck from the equation, and you aren’t successful, then you’d have to own up to the fact you haven’t done your part? Are those who believe only in luck afraid to suggest that they are the ones who should take responsibility for their failures?

Now there are times when “bad luck” appears and it has nothing to do with the hardworking stiff. There’s a drought and the crops fail, the investor runs off with all the money, the publishing house gets sold and the book goes out of print. These events, which are completely out of our control, are no bearing on our character nor our willingness to work hard. At the risk of oversimplifying tragedy, could it be that these are opportunities in disguise? Is there a possibility that sowing the ashes of this tragedy could reap bounty later?

Maybe that’s too much of a stretch for some people. Maybe they’d rather blame their circumstances. Maybe they’d rather look out the window to their bad luck than look in the mirror at what they could possibly fix.

In the arts, the sowing and reaping acts are so unclear.

We’re not sure what we’re supposed to be sowing: we could grow in our skill set — which often means being teachable and learning all we can. We could always say yes to opportunities within our vision. We could try new things and keep trying new things and keep trying new things until something sticks. We could make efforts to meet people and stop viewing connections as a place to sell books.

What is cause and effect for the writer in their career?

The cause is the good habits, the discipline, the plugging at your craft day after day. The effect could be, at the very least, the becoming of a better, stronger writer.

I’ve decided that there really isn’t any such thing as luck, despite my birthday.

The success that’s come to me because of my own hard work (and the grace of God) is satisfying. If it were all luck, I think it would feel emptier.

Make a point to work hard. Try new things. Grow in every way you can.

I’m betting you’ll be pleased with the results.


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injuries As a Writer

By Dianna Gunn

When Katherine told me that she was looking for guest posts about productivity for writers, I knew right away what I wanted to talk about: repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

This includes the infamous carpal tunnel, but it also encompasses a range of other injuries caused by uncomfortable and repetitive motions.

You can get an RSI in just about any part of your body, but today I’m going to talk about RSIs in the wrists.

These injuries are particularly common for writers, especially since many of us also work at a desk for our day jobs. They are also particularly dangerous for writers. Not only can RSIs ruin our productivity, they can also cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety.

My Story

My struggle with RSI began at the tender age of fifteen. I had bronchitis throughout the entire month of November, and a new laptop. This was the perfect recipe for an astronomically high Nanowrimo word count—303,000 and change. It was also the perfect recipe for disaster.

On November 29th I woke up in the middle of the night. My wrist had seized up completely and stabbing pains ran up and down my arm.

I didn’t think much of it. I took some painkillers, and when they kicked in I went back to sleep. My original plan had been to spend November 30th trying to push out another 7K (because 310,000 sounded like a prettier number), but I promised to rest for a few days.

Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away. After a few weeks, I went to a walk-in clinic. They X-rayed my wrist, told me I hadn’t broken a bone, and sent me on my way.

This experience repeated itself several times. Looking back on it I know there were a couple big reasons why. One is that walk-in clinics don’t like referring people to specialists; they usually save that kind of thing for family doctors, and I didn’t have one. The other reason is that doctors tend to disbelieve young, healthy-looking women who complain about chronic pain.

Eventually, I got a doctor of my own and a referral to a specialist. They prodded my wrists for a couple hours, declared that I had tendonitis, and sent me on my way with a wrist brace.

The brace helped a little, but I didn’t really get better. So they decided I didn’t have tendonitis, and they had to run more tests. The final one involved tiny electric shocks to the nerves in my arm.

All they learned was that I didn’t have carpal tunnel. So I gave up on modern medicine and decided to find my own way.

My Recovery

I had already tried some things on my own here and there, but four years ago I decided to really buckle down. My initial strategy consisted of two primary tactics: daily yoga, wrist braces, and real breaks.

The Yoga

Before I start this section, I need to add the caveat that <b>some forms of yoga can actually cause or exacerbate repetitive strain injuries</b>. If you’re suffering from a repetitive strain injury, you should avoid or at least limit poses that put most of your body weight on your wrists.

But there are yoga moves and other stretches that can alleviate some of the pain and eventually rehabilitate your wrists. Many can even be done at your desk.

I started out with the daily routines listed on my daily yoga.  It took a few tries to actually make these part of my daily routine because I suck at routine in general, but eventually, I got the hang of it. After several months of consistent daily yoga, I only felt pain occasionally instead of every day.

Since then I’ve taken a couple random yoga classes and incorporated some of those moves into my daily routine. I’ll admit, I still suck at routine so some days I don’t do my leg stretches, but I do my wrist stretches every day. On particularly long work days I often do them twice.

The Wrist Braces

The brace (they only gave me one, I don’t know why) from the specialist had helped a little, so I decided to stick with it. I also got a wrist brace for my other arm. For about a year I wore them whenever I wasn’t working. I tried a few different kinds and found that the best ones use memory foam, which provides more comfort and also allows you a slightly wider range of movement.

A good pair of wrist braces can cost as much as $60, but let me tell you, they’re absolutely worth it if you’re struggling with repetitive strain injuries. The expensive ones can even be worn when you’re working.

Now I’m happy to report that I only wear my wrist braces when I’m sleeping, or on my now-rare bad pain days. I can even get away with sleeping without them for a few nights sometimes.

Real Breaks

Here’s a not-so-secret: I’m a bit of a workaholic, and a lot of that is driven by guilt. There is a strong voice in the back of my head that feels guilty whenever I am doing literally anything not directly related to my career.

Repetitive strain injury forced me to take breaks. And not only breaks in between tasks. I also had to take entire days off due to pain.

At first, the guilt was overwhelming. It ate away at my soul, pushing me deep into depression. I hated myself for not constantly producing. Every time I saw the advice to write every day, and I knew I couldn’t, I felt like a failure and a fraud.

Eventually, I realized that the guilt only prevented me from writing when I actually could. It weighed down every aspect of my life, and it had to go.

I haven’t eradicated the guilt monster, but I’ve become good at shutting it down. When it appears, I chase it away with a mantra: if I do not care for myself now, I will not be able to produce later. This is also an important mantra for avoiding mental burnout, one of the biggest things I see writers struggling with.

Gaining Strength

Of course, life without pain is only so useful if your wrists are still flimsy. I managed to reduce the pain, but I had suffered from RSI for so long that carrying a large bag of groceries home could cause a pain spike. To prevent this, I took frequent stops, even though the grocery store was only 15 minutes’ walk from my house. This made grocery shopping a terrible ordeal.

For a while, I just diverted these duties to my fiancé whenever possible, but that couldn’t work forever. And last year, I received the perfect gift to begin my next round of physical therapy—a small copper ball that weighs about two pounds.

I do 20 minutes of ball exercises with each wrist every single day, even if I’m taking the rest of the day off from writing/work/my regular routine. The exercises themselves are a little tough to explain, so let me show you:

This copper ball has completely changed my life. I’m more than just pain free now: I’m gaining strength. I have proper arm muscles for the first time in nine years. A couple weeks ago I realized that I’ll need bigger weights soon.

I have no idea where the copper ball was bought or where you can buy something similar, but I know many people have successfully used stress balls for the same things.

A Note About Dictation

Using dictation technology wasn’t an option for me at my worst because I grew up poor, but it’s become much more affordable in recent years. It’s also become a lot better, especially at things like recognizing accents. If you’re struggling with repetitive strain injury today, I suggest checking out Dragon

The Takeaways

Repetitive strain injury is a major obstacle but it doesn’t have to ruin your writing life. If you take the steps to treat it—whether on your own or with a doctor’s help—you will eventually be able to write to your heart’s content.


Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about creativity, books, and life at The Dabbler and is currently writing a book called Self Care for Creative People.