Category Archives: Inspiration

Never Give Up (Or Why New Writers Feel A Little Nuts)

It’s FALL here in beautiful New England!

The trees are showing off their magnificent colors. October is magical. It’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring. It’s glorious and crisp. October is the best time of year.

Unless you’re an acorn.

I am not an acorn, but I would imagine that if I were, and if I were sentient and anthropomorphic, it would be very difficult for me not to feel sorry for myself in October.

Where would acorns like me go? If not eaten by a squirrel, then I and my friends could be buried in a hole somewhere, forgotten under the brutal snow that New England’s prize for loving autumn too much.

Poor me. All alone in the darkness. Decomposing. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll germinate in the spring. If we ever have spring.

Ah, but this is where I get to sermonizing, so I need to get back to October.

If you are a beginning writer, you are much like a wee acorn.

Small, seemingly insignificant, a bit nutty, occasionally accosted by squirrels. If you are a beginning writer, you may look at those towering, more experienced, more successful writers (a tree in our analogy if you haven’t got it already) and think that you should just give it up and become squirrel fodder.

Don’t!

Don’t believe for a minute that you are less because you are just beginning. Please don’t believe that your future is bleak because it’s dark in your squirrel hole. Don’t believe that their strength should be compared to your weakness.

Writers can feel this same way. They may feel that because the market is huge and saturated, they don’t have a chance. Or they may feel that because writers around them are more successful that there’s no room for another voice. They may be so busy looking at the circumstances around them that they forget to plow through.

Instead? Do this:

1. Write every day.  Even ten minutes will keep you going in the right direction. If you can’t write every day, write as often as you can.

2. Remember everyone was a beginner sometimes. If you have to, research your favorite authors and study their early years. Go back to this list of famous rejections. Make it a game to collect your own

3. Worry only about you, and no one else. Writing isn’t a game for the insecure. It’s a quest for those of us who look straight ahead and stick to our convictions and our determination.

4. Hang on to the dream. George R.R. Martin said, “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.” How did he get to his level of fame and success? One word at a time. Now, you can always take a break. You will always have drier seasons, but that doesn’t mean you should quit altogether.

5. Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, compare yourself to another writer. Either you will compare your strengths to their weaknesses and come out looking like a smug know-it-all (and no one buys books from smug know-it-alls) or you will compare your weakness to their strength and give up entirely.

It’s autumn in New England. There’s beauty everywhere. In the grand and in the small.

Keep writing. You will have the glory someday.


 

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.

Top Eight Things Future Best-Selling Authors Are Doing Right Now

 

Someday in the future, maybe five years, maybe ten years, maybe twenty years from now, the best-seller lists will name authors that no one has heard of now.

Those future best-selling authors don’t spring up out of nowhere, they’re alive and breathing as we speak. They’re out there, right now, getting kids ready for school, driving to the day job or composing another blog post.

Future best-sellers also working on their craft. They’re hard at work, making the most of the time they have to create the art that someday will be acknowledged by the world.

Top Eight Things Future Best-Selling Authors Are Doing Right Now by Katharine Grubb

What exactly are they doing then?

They probably write every day. If they don’t, then at least they write regularly. They treat their art with respect and understand that it takes a lot of practice to be excellent. The most successful authors of the future aren’t afraid to put in the hours to achieve their dreams.

They take their social media seriously. The future best-sellers understand that engaging with others on social media is important. Social media connections aren’t as important as writing, but it is important to meet reader after reader, to learn the ins and outs of various media platforms, and to update it regularly. The publishing teams behind these authors will be more enthusiastic  about supporting these future successes because they’re active now.

They’re reading craft books. If they’re not reading craft books, future best-selling authors are reading craft blogs, or taking classes or looking for ways to improve their art. Future best-sellers understand that there’s always something to learn and they’re looking for as much wisdom from the world of writing as they can. This diligence will show up in their art. They’re counting on it.

They aren’t afraid of criticism. Tomorrow’s best selling authors are sitting in critique groups today asking for feedback. They are pondering word choice, point-of-view, how many adverbs are too many and which dialog tags to drop. Future best-sellers are willing to listen to other authors around them and make necessary changes. A  writer who can’t handle constructive criticism won’t go far in this industry, and certainly will have trouble becoming a future best-seller.

What else do they do?

They’re learning how to be organized. Future best-selling authors take care of business well. Even though this may not come naturally for them, they keep good records. Successful writers need to file taxes, track expenses and stay on top of invoices. If you are a writer and you aren’t willing to take care of the business end of things, you probably can’t hope to be nothing more than a hobbyist.

They don’t make excuses. The best-selling authors of the future make writing a high priority. They don’t wait for “inspiration to strike” or “the perfect two hours”.  These writers push themselves when they don’t feel like writing, when the words don’t come or when their confidence is shot. This willingness to override excuses gives them a perseverance that often separate the professional from the amateur.

They are accessible to their readers.  I’m not a prognosticator, but I’d guess that in five, ten or twenty years the book market will be even more saturated. That means that it will be all the harder for writers to stand out. One of the ways that they can is to engage with readers now. A wise author builds relationships with their readers and in the future, these readers may turn into raving fans.

They don’t dwell on failure. Every single one of us is going to fail, that’s a given. But the most successful of us will look at our failures as opportunities to learn and become stronger. Future bestsellers will have a history of ups and downs, piles of rejection letters, embarrassing anecdotes, and spelling mistakes. But the best of us will refuse to let those failures become our identity.

Future best-sellers are all unique and have their own figurative and literal stories to tell.

Some future best-sellers will have to write thirty books before their big national break. Others will break-out with the second or third book. Some will become commercial hits. Others will find notoriety in more critical circles.  But all of them worked hard, all of them overcame obstacles and all of them weren’t afraid to learn.

I may never be a world-wide best-seller, but even if I’m not, I’m going to do everything on this list. My goal isn’t fame nor fortune, it’s being the best writer I can be.

Are you a future best-seller? Do you know what it takes to get there?

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 is 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. 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.

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.

 

Filling Up That Uninspired Empty Feeling

 

Feeling empty as an artist?

When people say that you need to fill up, they are tapping into a well-loved metaphor about the artist. The artist, we’re going to assume, has a lot to say. They have emotions and connections, stories and accounts, worldviews and interpretations,  images and sentences. An artist pours out their art for the benefit of the hearer, the viewer, and the reader.

But in order for them to pour themselves out, they must have something in their heart, mind, and souls first. They need to be filled up before they can empty themselves out into their art.

Where do they get their inspiration?

Currently, I’m reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This is a complicated, multi-layered book. To say it’s about two black dancers in England in the ’80s is ridiculously simplifies it. Our main character is inspired by a childhood obsession with early dance by African Americans in film. She fills herself up with these images and the facts behind them so that later — much later — it turns out, she can pour them back out into other art. Her values, worldview, passions, emotions, and drive all come out in this artistic expression. The original influence was accidental, yet life-changing. And while this character is fictional, the process is the same for us.

We are filled with all kinds of things.

Our stories come, whether we want to admit it or not, from the things that we know. Our subconscious is at work with each word we put together, collecting the images and memories and values into our artwork. Sometimes when we’re in the zone we can see how beautifully all our inspiration works with us.

And when we’re not in the zone, then we may be facing writer’s block. We may be empty.

Empty? You could be.

Maybe you’re burned out or exhausted. Maybe you don’t have any good ideas. It could be that the idea of writing at all makes you nauseated.

What to do to fill up?

Practice good self-care.

I’ve noticed that if I’m especially cross or grumpy, I may just need a sandwich and a nap. But if the anger goes deeper than that, then I need to get to the bottom of it.

Fill up by reading; you should always be reading anyway.

I’d suggest that if you are empty that you read things you don’t usually read — try something new. I go to my local library’s digital catalog and download a bunch of books I’d never think of picking up and go through them on my phone. It’s hardly inconvenient and if I hate the book, it’s easy to replace it.

Expand into other art forms.

You can be creative in other ways besides putting stories together. Try a new recipe. Find a cool craft on Pinterest. Make something — anything. I believe that this will stimulate your creative process enough. It may even prime the pump. You never know. you may find something just as rewarding to do as writing.

Watch a live performance.

Go to your local theater, or check out what your local community college is presenting. Go without an agenda. Go just to listen to the dialogue and to enjoy the story. The interpretation of the play will seep into your subconscious and help inspire you later, perhaps in an unexpected way. If you can’t see a live performance, go to the PBS.org site and check out one of their performances. You’ll be glad you did.

Listen to live music.

Music feeds the soul. I believe that art is art. And that the creative expressions of one kind of artist will feed the creative needs of another.

Relax.

if you stress out that you don’t have an idea, or that you’re just a hack or that you’re a has been, or the best days are behind you, then you’ll be so tied up in knots that you’ll never receive the good ideas that are out there.

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Show up.

Make an appointment with yourself to write a specific amount of time or words daily. And the muse will find you.

Enjoy life.

Look for positive things around you. It may be that you need to be more deliberate in your practices of mindfulness. Maybe you need to meditate or do a little yoga. Even 10 minutes a day could make a big difference.

Watch different genres of movies.

Streaming allows us to have access to varieties we may never have tried. The next time you’re Netflix-ing, try something new, even for a few minutes. Pay attention to the details of the storytelling. You may come away inspired. My new favorite is Broadchurch. It’s inspired me to write a mystery someday!

The FIRST EVER Conference for 10 Minute Novelists will be held August 9-11, 2018 in Cincinnati, OH. We’re featuring Donald Maass, James Scott Bell and Janice Hardy! Come and learn with us!

Write poetry.

Without freaking out about this, think of poetry as the connection of words. You could look for inspiration from other poets, collect words you like or listen to poets read their work aloud.  I find this very inspirational.

Watch people.

I never get enough time watching people. Today I saw a stocker in the grocery store who walked with a floppy gait as if he were wearing clown shoes. At Costco, I saw a man who looked just like Christopher Lee when he played Sauraman in The Two Towers.  If I had my notebook with me, instead of my shopping list, I would have spent more time writing down everything I saw.

Mentor a younger or more inexperienced writer.

Even if neither of you has that much experience, you’d probably find the relationship rewarding. Sometimes just having someone to bounce ideas off of is extremely helpful. My teenagers are especially good at this.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON THIS LIST! It could be that the reason you’ve stalled is because you don’t think you’re as good as your friend, or you are intimidated by another’s success. Nothing paralyzes a writer more than comparing himself to another writer — she will most often sell herself short. Instead, focus only on you; your strengths, your talents, and your abilities.

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Become less dependent on your rituals.

Admittedly, my Tito Puente playlist tells my brain that it’s time to get busy. I’d also like to always have next to me an iced coffee, a savory snack, hand lotion and a gentle breeze from my open window.  I could also have a nice sans serif font, at 18pt, in a fun color for my document. I could. While these “must-haves” are all lovely, I know that I can write just fine without them. If you tell yourself you can’t write unless your ritual is perfect, then you won’t be writing much. Instead, tell yourself that you can write anywhere and then do it for ten minutes. I think this will build your confidence and help you break out of that block.

Lower your expectations.

I’ve been calling myself the 10 Minute Writer or 10 Minute Novelist for over a decade and still, daily, I have to remind myself that my allotted writing time will not be perfect. Instead of expecting a nonstop hour of work, I should expect a few ten-minute increments and then be happy that I got something at all. This blog post was written in a ten-minute increment. When the timer dinged, I decided a nap was the best use of my time. But that ten minutes, no matter how small, still matters in my writing.

Take heart!

That ebb and flow of your writing? That is normal. Every writer oscillates from being inspired to being dry and back again. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling empty, think about ways you can fill up. And don’t expect one trip to a museum to do the trick. It may take weeks to rediscover your muse. In the meantime, filling up is fun, it’s good for our souls and often it’s not too expensive.

You do have a lot to say. You’ll say more when you fill up the empty spaces.

So go out into the world and discover its marvels and mysteries. Then come back and tell us all about it.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat or

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page


 

 

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.

Five Reasons Why I Would Write Series Fiction (And One Reason I Wouldn’t)

What to read?

I’m at the library, looking for something to check out and I see a row of similar-looking spines, books all by the same author, some with numbers on them. It’s a little army of series fiction! (And almost always one of those numbers is missing!)

Five Reasons Why I Would Write Series Fiction (And One Reason I Wouldn't)

I have an irrational insecurity around serial fiction as a reader.

I feel like I have to start at book one if I’m going to start at all, and then, I wonder, will I feel compelled to read all the books in the series? What will I miss out on in the literary world if I get to the end of Adam Dalgliesh’s career?  I skip over the series and go to a stand alone instead. As a reader, I think I want the whole story wrapped up in one tidy package. And I want my literary diet to be broad. If I pick up the first Harry Potter, for example, I feel, and I’m sure that’s just me and my neurosis, that there’s an expectation that I have to read all of them. I don’t want that kind of pressure. Maybe I’m not a series type of reader? Not all of us are. But, if I’m going to be a successful novelist, then there’s some good reason why writing a series is a great idea.

Series novels are good fits for plotters who love details.

Every successful series writer must plan their little hearts out. They aren’t planning the events for 300 or so pages, they are planning for 3-8 times that amount. All that planning allows for the plot bunnies to come around to book five. This planning allows for the backstory to weave its way in and out across many plotlines. This is a complicated process and there are some authors who love the freedom that comes with many books in a series.

Series books don’t wrap things up neatly.

This is also a good thing for novelists who like to meander. Most novels have restrictions to them: that every little tangent needs to serve a purpose. But not a series. What is left undone in book 1 can be explained in book 2. If this is done well, then the reader is interested and wants to find out more.

The FIRST EVER Conference for 10 Minute Novelists will be held August 9-11, 2018 in Cincinnati, OH. We’re featuring Donald Maass, James Scott Bell and Janice Hardy! Come and learn with us!

Series books can provide rich character arcs.

If the main character is a teenager in book one, and a father of six in the very last book, then you can assume some changes happened in their life. This long arc creates a beautiful canvas on which the author can create some interesting art. The character development itself becomes as important as the plot. And it’s this character that the reader may fall in love with and want to know more with subsequent books.

Series books can show off all the characters, not just the big stars.

Sometimes those secondary or tertiary characters are appealing in their own right. A series allows a writer to delve into their secrets and experiences. Complicated characters that intertwine together can make for some great stories. These background characters are perfect for creating new plot lines, falling in love with and making framing for a murder. What is your protagonist’s ally in the first book could be their betrayer by book seven.

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Series books do require a great deal of commitment.

Series books are challenging for the author! But the best reason of all to stick with it create a series is that once the first book is successful, the subsequent books have built-in readers. These are the fans you can reward with consistent references and hints of the past. Multi-book ideas can be a rich experience for the writer and the reader. Maybe I’ll get over my literary neurosis and commit to writing (and maybe even reading) a series.

And that one reason? I’m afraid to be tied down to one genre.

I’ve hopped around the genre spectrum to know that there’s fun in creating a fantasy world, developing a romance and crafting a mystery. It’s all the fear of missing out, see, and maybe that’s what makes me a neurotic human.

So, if you’re a reader or writer, consider series fiction.

You may find it well worth the hard work.


If you like this post, you may also like:

Four Reasons Why Authors Shouldn’t Be Nice In Their Stories


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.

What To Do When Darkness Keeps You From Writing

I have a section in my book called Facing The Darkness.

Most writers I know have a resistance. This is usually an antagonistic force that they need to deal with before they put words on paper. This darkness has been misunderstood — at least by my readers — in that some think that it’s about the thriller or horror genre (nope) or that it’s an excuse not to write. This darkness is deeper than a lack of motivation or lack of creativity. The darkness I’m referring to are the penetrating lies that are keeping you from pursuing your dreams.

If you don’t have darkness, then consider yourself blessed.

What to do When Darkness Keeps You From Writing

Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way,  calls this darkness “core negative beliefs.” She writes:

None of these core negatives need be true. They come to use from our parents, our religion, our culture, and our fearful friends. Each one of these beliefs reflects notions we have about what it means to be an artist.

Once we have cleared away the most sweeping cultural negatives, we may find we are still stubbornly left with core negatives we ahve acquired from our families, teaerhs, and friends. They are are often more subtle -- but equally undermining if not confronted. Our business here is confronting them. 

My darkness was over forty years deep.

My own core negative beliefs included: “My dreams aren’t worth the trouble.” “I’ll probably never succeed, so why try?” “I’m not good enough.” “I’ve failed before, so I’ll probably fail again,” and “shouldn’t wifehood and motherhood be enough?”

It took me many years to completely free myself from these. And even though I am pursuing my dreams (and have published books to show for it) I still wrestle with this darkness occasionally. I understand that my darkness is a powerful force and has the ability to paralyze me and keep me in anxiety and fear.

I understand that my darkness is a powerful force and has the ability to paralyze me and keep me…

What you can do to fight your darkness:

Find someone to talk to. Best scenario? A licensed therapist is a really good bet and most insurances will cover it. Even if you can’t find someone, try a support group, look at meet up or search an online group.It’s likely that you’ll find someone who has been in your similar circumstances.

Write your frustrations out. I highly recommend using the exercises in  The Artist’s Way as a good place to start. Even if you don’t pick up that book, you can still find mental and emotional benefits in writing our your pain. And lucky for you, science is on your side with the therapeutic benefits of writing.  

Know yourself. If you’re agitated, you need to figure out why. If you’re angry, you need to own up to it without feeling guilty about it. Clarifying your emotions is the best way to know how to deal with them. Through talking with someone or writing, be honest with what has upset you and deal with it appropriately.

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Know that everyone has dark days. It took me decades to realize that if I were having a tough day, either emotionally, physically or creatively, that it was normal. Once I started being aware of sleep patterns, hormone cycles, how often I exercised, and what I ate, I could do something about it. I didn’t know how important self-care was until I was an adult. Often I start with the basics and find I can keep the darkness at bay.

Stay away from substances. Apparently, sensitive writer types like to look for stimulants or depressants in order to get inspiration. I wonder where we got this idea that this would help? As tempting as it is to drink, smoke, or shoot up to ignore or at least temporarily mute the darkness in you, it’s a poor long-term solution. But you should know this. If you’re having trouble staying away from substances, get help. You deserve to be at your best in all of your life.

Know that you’re in good company artistically. Steven Pressfield makes a big deal about The Resistance in his book Do The WorkFor some artists, it is a daily battle to make the right choices. Everything in you could be telling you that the easy, comfortable and safe paths are the way to happiness. They’re not. As he says,

“The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began. Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway. How do we achieve this state of mind? By staying stupid. By not allowing ourselves to think. A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act.” 
― Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Stop and reflect.  Meditation or relaxation tools are available to help you deal with your darkness. In my darkest times, I found that concentrating on the good things in my life was helpful. I also make a point of retelling my own success stories to myself so that I can find the courage to face the future.

You can be bigger and more powerful than your darkness.

You are worth fighting for.


Did you like this post? You may like these too:

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat

Or, 5 Hopeful Strategies For When You Don’t Have Time For Your Dream


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.

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page

Facing the blank screen can be one of the most intimidating moments of being a writer. I have a sure fire way to conquer this moment: the free write.

A free write is a word spew, or word vomit if you don’t mind a graphic image.

A free write is also a brainstorm or stream of consciousness. It is the act of putting down a word — any word — and then another, another, and another. In a free write, you conquer the blank page by the simple act of just making it not blank. That effort can make a difference in your confidence and your momentum for the rest of your writing time.

I know that for me personally, I don’t have a lot of time to stare at a blank page.

So I write the most hackneyed, predictable sentence I can write about the characters or the main points for a full ten minutes. From there, I take a break to clear my head, but I have something to edit. I can save the tiny chunks of goodness, delete the rest, and start over. I find that by “priming the pump,” I’m more productive, more confident and more creative.

You must have something in your initial drafting stage. Aim for it to be as awful as possible.

I’d like to suggest that if you are going to be productive and successful,  that you aim to be a champion free writer.

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page

If you are a champion at this, you’ve locked your self-editor in the closet.

You don’t have room for him at all. The best freewriting is fast. So if you are stopping every six seconds to edit yourself, not only are you slowing down, but you’re slowly eroding away your confidence. There is a place for self-editing — and IMHO authors don’t do enough of it — but it is NOT in the initial drafting stage.

If you are a champion at this, you’re comfortable.

Free writers have to practice their momentum. They don’t just become good at this. If you’ve never tried it before, set a timer for 1-2 minutes and then see how many words you can get down in a short about of time about your subject.

If you are a champion at this, your brain gets a workout.

If you are a free writer, you have to think fast as well as type fast. Now not everyone is a fast thinker, but I believe that you can increase your processing speed with practice. And another option is to create this first draft by hand. Julia Cameron writes, “The computer is fast—too fast for our purposes. Writing by computer gets you speed but not depth. Writing by computer is like driving a car at 85 mph. Everything is a blur. “Oh, my God, was that my exit?” Writing by hand is like going 35 mph. “Oh, look, here comes my exit. And look, it has a Sonoco station and a convenience store.”

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If you are a champion at this, you may tap into your subconscious.

With practice, and especially if you are writing with a pen or pencil, your subconscious thoughts are more likely to come to the surface. From this article in Psychology Today, “Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]

If you are a champion at this, you may pick up a pencil instead.

Handwriting is often an effective anti-anxiety treatment and can calm you down. It’s these thoughts that may be your best work, but it’s not going to come if you are to self-aware, worried about spelling or keep thinking that this is stupid. Consider ditching the computer for a while to get over that blank screen fear and free write the old-fashioned way.

If you are a champion at this, you may discover a great metaphor or connection.

While we are writing, we can often free associate unlike items and perhaps see connections that we didn’t see before. It’s also quite acceptable to take a tired and worn out cliche and rework it so that you have a fresh image in your mind. These metaphors can make your prose extraordinary.

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If you are a champion at this, your productivity increases.

If you are in the habit of free writing then you are working. You’re actually getting something done. Writers write. Those who sit around and wait for inspiration get a lot less done. By habitually free writing, you are growing in discipline. You’re creating more and more drafts. You have more to edit and potentially more to publish. This feels good and it’s a lot more fun to be published than it is to be constantly waiting for the elusive muse.

And finally, if you are a champion at this, when you do get that free write done, you have a draft.

You understand this big, stinkin’, pile of words isn’t supposed to be publishable. These words are just the raw material — a hunk of coal that will eventually be pressed into a diamond. And whether Hemingway actually said something to this effect or not, the concept is a true one: the first draft of anything is ca-ca. 

If you’re going to free write today, you’re going to open a document and just go.

You might put down what you’re thinking. You might type out what items are on your desk. If you are free writing, you are creating word after word, sentence after sentence, about nearly anything.

If you are in the habit of free writing, then you have a great tool. Use it as often as you can.


If you liked this article on free writing, you may also like,
NINE QUESTIONS TO ASK IF WRITER’S BLOCK HAS YOU BY THE THROAT,
or TOP 10 EMERGENCY PROMPTS TO HELP YOU THROUGH NANOWRIMO.

 

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.

What’s So Bad About the Advice, “Write What You Know”?

What’s so problematic about “write what you know?”

I swear, sometimes in writing circles, these are fighting words.

Mark Twain famously gave this advice. And in the context of who he was (um, very famous for his fictionalized accounts of his boyhood on the Mississippi River) and the time period in which he lived (yeah, so authors in the late 19th century were just dipping their literary toe into fantasy) this made a lot of sense. He also had his own sales figures to contend with: his books Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were commercially successful. His more fantastic stories,  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  and The Prince and the Pauper were not. If you were sitting on Mark Twain’s porch in Hannibal, Missouri in 1890, asking for good writing advice, he would have totally said, “write what you know, son!”

What's So Wrong With The Advice "Write What You Know"?

I think that most people who hate this phrase, write what you know, think that it's a command,…

I also think that the imaginative progression of literature through the 20th and 21st centuries can create literary snobs.

We write in entirely different contexts that Twain. We run the risk of taking this advice too literally, too rigidly, and too seriously.

I think we can all agree that writers should not limit our writing to only our own experiences. But if we don’t know what to write, it is perfectly okay to refer to the familiar. That neighborhood you played in as a kid. The taste of chocolate almond ice cream on a hot summer night. The smell of your sixth-grade classroom. There is nothing wrong with returning to what you remember. In some respects, your own experiences can add a vividness and depth that a fully imaginative paragraph won’t.

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And then there’s the business of emotions. Your deepest darkest emotions are part of who you are — they can show up in your prose. If you’ve felt a pain of any kind, you can articulate this pain into your prose. Of course, you lived heartache — so you can make your sad words effective ones. You probably never accidentally stabbed your friend because you thought that he was really your uncle who had recently married your mother right after your father died, right? But you have been betrayed. So you can get Hamlet. Shakespeare did too.

And then there are these little composite touches. Your heroine is a bit like your first boyfriend, but he’s also kind of like your boss and he has a gallant streak like your husband. Because you have had relationships, both bad and good, you have vast resources to draw from. If you are a wise writer, you realize that you need to make your hero more interesting than your first boyfriend who grew up to be an accountant. You make him a professional cheese sculptor instead.

In this article, author Jason Gots suggests that “write what you know” is one of the best and  most misunderstood pieces of writing advice ever.” I agree with him.  He suggests that writers fall into a trap of thinking that unless they’ve experienced it first hand, they shouldn’t tap into their imaginations or speculate on something they’re not familiar with.

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Sign up for the monthly literary newsletter, 10 Minute Novelist Insider & get your free copy of Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!

Back in 2007 or so, I was doing a little research on what it as like to be a Pastor’s kid. The main character in my book was a lonely, frustrated twenty-something who resented the fact that the only job opportunity she had was as a church secretary in her father’s church. She was hardly a believer, so I was hoping for some good conflict. I chose this topic to write about because even though I was not a pastor’s kid, I grew up in a church and my parents were active enough that I saw the ins and outs of church life. I hadn’t first-hand experience with what it was to be a PK, but I had a pretty good idea. To enhance my understanding  (and to procrastinate writing about it) I found an online group for pastor’s kids. I approached a couple of women and asked them if I could pick their brain.

One got very angry and defensive. Her claim was because I had never been there, I “had no right” to write about it. My response to her was that I didn’t believe that Shakespeare was ever a lovesick teenage girl in Verona. He still wrote Romeo and Juliet. She didn’t like my argument but said she’d help me if I promised a free book. I found someone else to help me.

My point is that I think that a good writer shouldn’t be afraid to explore new points of view and create imaginative worlds.

I also think that when we as readers start pointing our fingers to writers and claim that they are “playing it safe” by turning to the events and people they once knew, then we’re hardly helpful.

Writing is an art, so the debate of the source of where we get our inspiration is a moot one.

As you grow in your craft, you’ll learn how to twist your own experiences around to the perfect story. You’ll be inspired by those people who can tap into the fascinating things they do know. You’ll be amazed by the worlds that imaginative writers can create — what they don’t know.

So take this advice, “write what you know,” just like you take all writing advice. Take it with the smallest grain of salt. Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t look at what others do, or what others expect from you.

Just write.


Did you like this post?
Try these: Top 10 Ways To Equip Myself To Be An Expert Starer or Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful.
Thanks for coming by today!

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.

7 Ways To Keep Your Buzz & Write Drunk — By Elaine Bayless

 

“Write drunk. Edit sober.”

Easy enough, right? It means to write without boundaries, loose and wild and out of control. Thoughtful word selection and complex grammatical decisions belong in the world of editing. And yet, how often do you “lose your buzz” and start editing right in the middle of writing? How do you write drunk?

During Nanowrimo each year I see dozens of people falling into the editing trap when they should be writing. I get it: I’ve been trapped by those some concerns too. But nothing kills the possibility of finishing your work faster than accidentally falling into editing mode.

7 Ways To Keep Your Buzz and Write Drunk by Elaine Bayless

Here’s 7 ways to keep your buzz and write drunk.

7. DON’T worry about legal issues.

When was the last time a drunk person considered the legal ramifications of her actions? Not recently enough.

Every year at Nanowrimo I see people asking about the legal ramifications of using a real place, or referencing a real person, or quoting song lyrics. Go ahead, use the real place, the real company, the real person. Maybe your book will turn into speculative fiction, or historical fiction. Maybe you’ll just change the name and identifying details when publication time comes. Allow your muse to reference the real people & places for the rough draft and worry about copyright law later.

You will never finish a book if you spend your writing time researching copyright laws.

6. DON’T get stuck on names.

I don’t have to be drunk or even tipsy to mess up someone’s name. But alcohol can certainly kill our ability to learn someone’s name.

In my last Nanowrimo book, one of my characters was a high priestess. I couldn’t think of a name for her, so I labeled her “HP” in my character list. I called her HP throughout the entire 50,000 word draft. In another place, I needed a place name and couldn’t think of one, so I called it “Camp Nanowrimo.”

Now, of course names are important, especially if you are doing world-building for your work. But crafting the perfect name is not a good use of writing time: it’s a good use of planning and editing time. Writing drunk means using placeholders for names so you can keep the flow of words going.

5. DON’T do any research.

When a group of friends drinking together decide to do something, do they let a little lack of knowledge stand in their way? Heck no! They dive right in.

As writers, we often tumble into situations when we need to do a little research. Maybe you’re writing a typical day in your main character’s life, when suddenly your character decides to bake a soufflé. But you don’t know how to bake a soufflé: you just know it involves eggs and ovens and not stomping around the house.

You can spend the next 2 hours watching YouTube videos on how to bake soufflés, or you can write what you know and then insert a note that says “Research soufflé baking” in the text itself. You’ll see the note while editing and then you can plan two hours of soufflé research. Nothing kills a writing buzz faster than educational YouTube viewing, after all.

4. DO relish your inconsistent verb tenses and incorrect grammar.

Have you ever listened to a tipsy person tell a story, and get the sequence all messed up? It’s hard to keep events in the proper order when you’re intoxicated, and the same thing is true of rough draft writing.

I have the bad habit of starting a scene in the present tense, and later slipping into past tense. It drives me nuts, and makes editing a real pain. But stopping the flow of words because you need to correct verb tenses or look up the proper grammatical construction is exactly what sober editing is for. Write in whatever tense you need to use.

3. DO use personal references as shortcuts

Sometimes instead of a cliché, you have an inside joke or personal experience that works in your writing. For example, my husband and I have this inside joke: “Sad Superman flies in half circles.” Isn’t that hilarious? No? You don’t get it? That’s OK. Drunk people will tell you the entire story of the sad Superman half circles, and you won’t think it’s funny before or after the explanation! If I’m writing, and my muse tells me to write: “She knew Dogalog was sad by the way he flew in Superman half circles,” I’m going to write that. I know exactly what that means, and when I edit it, I will be able to sit down and leisurely craft a dozen accessible metaphors for my readers.  Write drunk. The humor comes later in sober editing. [NOTE TO Katharine – might be a good place to link to your post about how to write humor?]

2. DO use clichés.

Do drunk people take the time to choose pretty words? Nope, and neither should you. This is a rough draft. And if it’s Nanowrimo, it’s a rough draft that needs to be written quickly. So you’ve just written “He was as dead as a doornail” in your draft, and you are cringing (deservedly). You can either use writing time to create a different simile, or you can add those seven words to your count and keep going.

Write the cliché and move on.

1. DO write terribly.

Have you ever seen something created by a drunk person? It’s usually terrible.  Alcohol gives us confidence in our worst ideas. That’s bad for actions, but great for writing. (Remember, we’re not ACTUALLY drunk, just WRITING drunk.)

I find this works best when I’m approaching a scene I really just don’t want to write. For example: Your main character is about to get married in a big floofy wedding that is the exact opposite of anything you would choose. As you start writing, you realized that you know nothing about this kind of wedding. You can throw your hands up in despair, or just go with it. Write: “She walked down the aisle, an aisle filled with flowers and those thingys on the ends of the pews, on a burlap runner, with a long train and big Princess Diana wedding dress, watching the men lined up at the front place.” Now that’s awful. But it’s 42 words more than you would’ve written while browsing Pinterest for wedding ideas and terminology. And now you have a kernel of writing that can be edited into paragraphs of lyrical text.

To write drunk, you don’t have to consume copious amounts of alcohol. You just have to loosen up and let the words flow from your mind, not worrying about the end result. Have fun!

 


Elaine Bayless Elaine Bayless is a life coach, pastoral counselor, and Reiki Master in Raleigh, NC. She works with overwhelmed moms and over achieving perfectionists to help them create a delicious life of ease and joy. Elaine is a prolific writer, maintaining two blogs and publishing articles on elephant journal, Mind Body Green, and LinkedIn. In her spare time she bakes bread, reads, and gardens. She graduated from Regent University in 2009, with a Master’s degree in Divinity and Pastoral Counseling, as well as a peer coach certification. In 2016 she completed training as a Reiki Master. Check out her website at [http://www.soulcourse.com] or schedule a one hour stress relieving chat at [http://www.talkwithelaine.com]

Follow Elaine at [http://www.twitter.com/elainefbayless]

Listen to Elaine at [https://www.youtube.com/user/inspirecoachelaine]

And Friend Elaine at [http://www.facebook.com/inspirationcoaches]

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5 Super Powers & 5 Sources of Kryptonite for Abused Characters

 

Super powers always come from somewhere.

Does your main character have super powers? If your main character has a history of abuse then you may have a super hero on your hands. This isn’t just the stuff of Marvel Comics. In real life, victims of abuse — at least those that have sought therapy, identified all facets of their past, and dealt with their pain — often display super powers that ordinary mortals don’t.

These superpowers came from years of practice.

Do Your Abused Characters Have These Super Powers? By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

They’re survival skills turned up to eleven. If you have a character whose past is particularly tragic, consider using some of these characteristics to portray them. Keep in mind: all abuse victims are different. Their personalities will be just as varied as anyone else. Your superhero abuse victim could only have one of these, or even ones I haven’t thought of!

These are the super powers!

 

  1. They often are great communicators. They are used to being misunderstood so they’ve taken extra effort to say the right words, be precise and clear in what they mean. This is a superpower because the average mortal may not put as much care into it as they do. This is also why so many troubled souls are in the creative arts.
  2. They often can size up a situation really well. Sometimes they read others’ emotional cues so that they can avoid conflict. They will see body language and facial expression nuance that others may miss. They’ve been reading their abusers for years, so they know how to observe. This is a super power because of all the practice they’ve had. It can save them, but it can also cause them to be more isolated, so tomato, tomahto.
  3. They think fast on their feet. If they’ve been in an abusive situation, they’ve learned how to survive by snap decisions. They can turn on a dime. Often they’d rather make a choice, even a bad one, that sit still because it means there’s hope of success. This is a super power because their fight or flight trigger is well worn, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes they find themselves in bigger messes.
  4. They are really empathetic. Survivors of abuse are usually tenderhearted toward others. They tear up often and show compassion to others. Rejection is a fresh wound so they can identify with others’ pain really well. This is a super power because they will be one of the first people to step up to fight for justice.
  5. They are creative. Their past may have required them to come up with solutions for problems with few resources. They can think outside the box well. This is a super power because it works so nicely with the other powers. You really want someone like this on your side.

They also have weaknesses!

Does Your Abused Character Have These Weaknesses? By Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

  1. They have triggers, some that are even a bit weird. Victims of abuse have been repeatedly exposed to certain tones of voice, certain scenarios, certain patterns. If you have someone with an abusive past, not only will your character react to specific triggers — they may react and hide it from others. This is a complicated issue and if you want to get it right, study PTSD. This is kryptonite because it can come without warning and render them useless. You don’t want that in a crisis.
  2. They have trouble trusting others. Sometimes victims of abuse make a habit of keeping to themselves because they just don’t want to be hurt again. This is Kryptonite because relationships are vital to good mental health.
  3. They’re easily manipulated. They’ve been a victim of manipulators so sometimes they have trouble discerning who is trustworthy and who isn’t. However, you could have a survivor who is really self-aware and now can spot manipulators quickly. This is Kryptonite because they are the first to fall for predatory situations. Often this is a destructive and tragic pattern.
  4. They struggle with their identity and their self-acceptance. This is a life long struggle and it comes out especially in times of stress. This is Kryptonite because they may never fully see their true value, take chances or care for themselves like they should.
  5. They have bad memories associated with major events. Sometimes they may not handle holidays well. They may self-medicate around sentimental or emotional events that remind them of past pain. This is Kryptonite for obvious reasons. All of these super powers come with a severe cost. Being a hero isn’t often that great.

People with a history of abuse are complicated, paradoxical, and unique.

These ten qualities are far from a complete picture.

If you want to get into more detail about what drives them and what’s going on in their head, check out resources like these. Characteristics of Emotionally Abused People. Profile of an Emotionally Abused Victim. Abuse victim characteristics. 

 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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. 

Living With My Old Friend Laziness

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I hate laziness. And yet it’s an old friend of mine.  

Lazy slouches in the corner and asks me to go get it a drink.

 It sneaks out of simple requests, claiming that it’s just too tired. It claims that everything will get done, but when the inspiration hits, or when that condition is just right, or when it feels like it.

Living With My Old Friend Laziness

I check laziness’s work. This underside has been neglected. The corner was cut here, and here and here too. And this is the wrong technique, not what I asked. I should know better than to ask for more.

Lazy complains about the job that he is doing. Lazy sits and ponders all the ways we should find a short cut. Then lazy makes a big show over what little effort has been made.

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction. –Anne Frank

He makes excuse after excuse. Then I think about my relationship with lazy and I wonder, have I ever seen it give its best? Have I ever seen it actually break a sweat? Have I ever seen it work to completion on a job?  

Laziness is often in me. I’ve had it rub off on me, and I hear its whining come out of my mouth. 

When I see these streaks of lazy in me, I grow angry and bitter. I resist taking responsibility for my failure.  I faint with fake weakness and confess I’m just not up to much more. Oh poor me! 

Laziness doesn’t know this: that there is great satisfaction in doing your best. 

I’ve trained my own laziness with the whip and chair of small rewards.  I’ve pushed my own laziness just a little harder and been so pleased with the results that I pushed even more. When laziness uses excuses to get out of work, I just plug my ears and hand over the mop and the broom. 

My own lazy is getting better and better about taking orders. In fact, my own lazy has discarded the excuses, the sneakiness, the denial. It’s far from perfect, but my own lazy now has muscles that are toned up. It has a new motivation about it. I can actually leave my lazy alone with a job and it will get done. 

I reward it by calling it a new name. My laziness is now called diligence. I don’t even recognize it. 

The job is done. We worked hard together. Now we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. 

As you make plans for change in 2017, think about how you can prod your laziness into action. 

Think about how damaging and unproductive it would be to drag your excuses into the New Year. 

Think about how much more you could accomplish if diligence worked beside you.

But don’t just think, do. 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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. 

Wasting Time: Seven Hard Questions To Ask Yourself

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“Don’t waste your time chasing things that will never be beneficial to your future.”
April Mae Monterrosa

Are you wasting your time? Now that you are safely nestled into the routine of a New Year, it’s time to be honest about how you’d like this untouched calendar to be filled. You may have regret over how 2016 turned out for you and a possible repeat of regrets gives you the willies.

Instead of waiting to see what happens, ask yourself these tough questions about how you spend your time.

7 Hard Questions To Ask Yourself About Wasting Time by Katharine Grubb

1. Are Your Priorities A Mess?

This is what it may look like: You want to be that person that everyone comes to for help so you never say no. Your calendar is bursting, you’re not getting enough sleep and you may feel like doing anything for yourself is selfish. This wastes your time because you’ve filled your calendar with stuff you don’t want to do in the first place.

The deeper problem could be that you have boundary issues. You’ve never respected your own boundaries, so you let others walk all over you. You may think that this is the way to keep everyone happy, but it’s only making you aimless and exhausted.

The solution could be:  look for ways to say no, or at least limit some responsibilities. You could also take an inventory of how you spend your time and eliminate those tasks that don’t bring you joy. You could practice saying no to others and get a trusted friend to encourage you to be steadfast in your boundaries. You may also want to read BOUNDARIES by Cloud and Townsend. Saying no now can prevent wasting time later.

2. Are You Wasting Time Waiting For The Greatest Idea Ever?

This is what it may look like:   you think that the Harry Potter series just settled in J.K. Rowling’s mind and you think that your successful future novel will appear much the same way. You may not understand that ideas are cheap and that only the ones with hard work behind them go anywhere. You may also have a unrealistic expectation of what creativity really is. This wastes your time because you could have been writing all this time, working a lame idea into a blockbuster.

The deeper problem could be that: you don’t want to do the work, you may falesly think that a discarded idea is a sign of failure or you just think that success in the arts should be easy.

The solution could be: learning all you can about the struggle authors face in creating things. It could be disciplining yourself for 10 minutes a day and just writing to show yourself you do want to do the work. You may also want to watch this video by Elizabeth Gilbert or read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. Working on your ideas, even for 10 minutes, can prevent wasting time later.

3. Are You Wasting Time by Micromanaging?

This is what it may look like:  You say that you want help, but the idea of delegating responsibility makes you stabby. Instead, you take responsibilities from others, to make sure it gets done correctly. Or you may waste a lot of emotional energy micromanaging the habits of others because you don’t think they’ll succeed. This wastes your time because your control freak tendencies will crowd out what’s really important (and they may damage relationships in the process.)

The deeper problem could be that you have a lot of fear in your life. You have unresolved anxiety. You are trying to control everything because if you don’t, you believe the worst will happen.

The solution could be: that you need to talk to a mental health professional, if for no other reason than to get some insight on what is worth fretting over and what is not. You may want to try delegating (and not micromanaging) small things once a week and reminding yourself that the world didn’t end if it turned out differently from what you expected. You may also try reading The Power of Surrender by Judith Orloff. Learning to delegate and expecting others to help can definitely prevent wasting time later.

4. Are You Wasting Time Worrying About What Others Think?

This is what it may look like: If they say you’re good, smart, beautiful, clever or wise, then you’re good smart, beautiful, clever or wise. You may use things like blog visits or Facebook likes to feel better about yourself. You may be looking for outside affirmation from a publisher or a reader or an editor, but you also may find that it’s not always satisfying once you get it. This wastes your time because instead of moving forward with a project, you keep looking behind and around you to get approval.

The deeper problem could be that: you are really insecure with who you are. You may not fully value yourself. You can’t appreciate your own awesome and this may stem from previous bad influences in your life who convinced you what they were saying was true.

The solution could be: that you talk to a professional mental health worker and be up front about your feelings of inadequacy. Keep a running list of your strengths and your achievements to remind yourself of your awesome. Consider saying positive things to yourself daily to get your focus off the approval of others. You may also want to read: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. Being confident in yourself is a great engine revver. If you worry less about what others think, you can prevent wasting time later.

5. Are You Wasting Time Ignoring The Real You?

 This is what it may look like:  you don’t think that creatives are practical people, or your first responsibility is to those around you, or dreams are for the weak. You’re ignoring your true self. You are busy doing something because it’s practical or expected or secure. You may feel you’re too old, too experienced, too committed to being one way, that you can’t possibly change. This wastes your time because life really is short! You get only one chance and you are worth pursuing your dreams.

The deeper problem could be that: you’re in a rut. You have settled for a so-so, dissatisfied life because you don’t think there are any options for you. You may also be crippled by fear to try something new.

The solution could be: that you get honest about what would really make you full of joy and provide meaning for your life. You may also want to talk to someone who has made a change in their life so they can encourage you. You may also want to read: Living An Inspired Life: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dwyer. You don’t want to come to the end of your life regretted you wasted it.

6. Are you afraid of failure?

This is what it may look like: you can’t remember your past successes, you only remember that time you tried and failed. You have people in your life who remember your failures. This wastes your time because fear is a paralyzer. Your fear may keep you from taking any action at all.

The deeper problem could be that: you’ve put far too much importance on the mistakes you made or the non-successes. You’ve allowed your past to define you.

The solution could be: go to someone who truly loves you and tell them what you’ve been thinking. Allow them to remind you of where you have succeeded. Make a list of all of your accomplishments and your strengths and think about them. Pay attention to times you make mistakes during the day and affirm yourself with “I am not the equivalent of my mistakes”. Consider talking to a mental health worker and maybe reading this book: Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Mistakes by John C. Maxwell. We’re all going to fail. Acknowledging and accepting this can prevent wasting time later.

7. Are You Wasting Time on Negative Thoughts?

This is what it may look like: your inner voice is on an endless loop of “you’re no good.” “This goof is just like you.”  “Who do you think you are?” “Why are you even bothering?” “You’ll never amount to much.” If your confidence is shaken, you won’t be able to do much at all. And that will waste your time.

The deeper problem could be: those messages have been put there by someone else in your life. It could also be that you’ve never practiced disciplining those thoughts. Or maybe you need to show someone the door.

The solution could be: paying close attention to what you tell yourself and responding nine positive things for one negative. It could also be keeping a positivity journal or surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you. And, surprise! I’m going to suggest talking to a mental health professional about this too. You could also read this book: Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance At Work by Shawn Achor. Breaking this habit will make all the difference in your life and can prevent wasting time later.

2017 can only be awesome if you make it that way.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these tough questions, address the deeper problems and find good solutions.

The next twelve months are a gift. Don’t waste them.


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread and a comedian wannabe. She is also the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. She also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Six Big Reasons No One Is Laughing At Your Comedy

Is this thing on?

Why aren’t readers laughing? Why isn’t your comedy working?

You get a ton of likes and LOLs on your Facebook posts. Your tweets have been re-tweeted dozens of times. People are always picking themselves up off the floor when they are with you, but when it comes to writing comedy, you may only hear crickets.

Six Big Reasons No One Is Laughing At Your Comedy

Six Big Reasons Why No One Is Laughing At Your Humorous Writing

1. You may not understand the nature of comedy.

This sounds absurd in a way, who studies comedy? We’ve all laughed, we’ve all told jokes, we’ve all repeated anecdotes and received various forms of happy feedback. And even an LOL on Facebook isn’t a true indication that you understand what’s funny. I hate to break this to you, but you just may have gotten lucky a few times. Comedy is harder than you think.

Comedy, according to this theory, comes from benign violations. According to the Humor Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado (this is a very real place with very real studies) humor comes from the Benign Violation Theory.

Benign Violation Theory for Comedy
This is math, a Venn diagram to be exact, and who would have thought math was funny? Certainly not me.

Humor comes from the unusual.  That means that there’s a twist somewhere in the things that you have written. The joke, the visual image, the phrase outside the scope of normal or predicted. A funny punch line is a violation to the normal and the expected. YES, you’re saying to yourself. You’ve violated right and left, you’ve violated so many times that you’ve hurt yourself. But this is the other half of the coin: the violation must be benign. That means that the thing you said that was just a little bit off was not in the position to hurt, offend or cause pain for the listener or the reader. The best comedy is when the listener or the reader doesn’t think that the joke is on them.

Two cannibals were eating a clown. One said, “does this taste funny to you?”

Let’s look at the above joke. Is this a violation? Yes! We all believe that cannibalism is outside the scope of normal. And a clown! Clowns are comedy gold. Haven’t you wondered how they tasted? The punch line “does this taste funny to you” is a pun! And whole package, the set-up and the punchline is right smack in the dab of a benign violation. It’s funny!

It’s also benign. This joke is outside the scope of normal. But the average listener is certainly not hurt nor offended. It’s benign because none of us are cannibals and only a few of us are clowns. We can laugh safely because the oddity of this mental image is odd, but not offensive. Because it meets both of these requirements safely, it can be funny, and it is!

2. You may not know what’s benign.

 In your comedy antics, you may have crossed a line maybe not even knowing it. Your audience won’t laugh because your “violation” may not benign to them. You may have clowns in your audience. Worse, you may have cannibals with a tendency to retaliate. Yikes! This is often why some humor writers or joke tellers fall flat. They don’t have enough of a violation and they aren’t safely in the place of benignity. (That’s really a word. I didn’t just make it up to sound smart!)

The solution to this is to know your audience. If your objective is to get the attention of a particular group of people, then you should look at your words — no matter how funny — as a chance for connection. Funny people are often welcoming and attractive! You want people to want to laugh at you. The least you could do for this relationship — which could be a fickle one — is to look for common ground.

3. You may have the wrong agenda.

A benign violation may not work for you because in your heart of hearts, you don’t want to be benign! You want to get people riled up! You want them to be offended! I would argue that if you call yourself a humorist, a comedy writer, a joke teller, a stand-up comedian, if you  brand yourself as someone that is associated with humor and you deliberately choose not to be benign, then you are setting yourself up for failure. To promise one thing and deliver another is the fastest route disappointing or alienating your audience. This is especially important if you are just starting out in your career. Don’t look for ways to offend, incite or antagonize if you want to be seen as fun.

4. You may play it safe on the wrong things.

A few years ago on The Last Man Standing I saw a stand-up comedian hopeful enter a room to meet a nun. (This sounds like the set-up for a joke, doesn’t it?) His task was to get the nun to laugh so he could move on to the next level. Now, if he were humor savvy, he would have realized that because this woman took her faith very seriously that her definitions of what was funny would be vastly different from what a typical club goer would have. If he had been humor savvy, he would have said something that from her viewpoint, something that would have not just been a violation, but a benign one, then he would have had a loyal fan. He could have made fun of Protestants, priests, or people who had not taken a vow of poverty.

But that’s not what he did. Here he is, with five minutes to make a nun laugh and what does he do? He tells her the dirtiest, most sexually explicit jokes he had in his arsenal. Did she laugh? Nope. The more he talked, the more offended and upset she got. The more he talked, the more she crossed her arms and frowned. Now, he probably thought it was funny — telling dirty jokes to a nun!  He chose to lean heavily on the violation part of humor, which was probably something he was comfortable with,  and ignore the benign part and it cost him dearly.

Because the nun not only refused to laugh, but grew angry at his attempt, he lost the round. If he were a fool, he would have blamed the nun for being humorless. But he should have blamed himself. His nationally televised opportunity was dependent on being savvy responder to his audience. He did everything but that. I wonder if he regrets it. I wonder if he’s learned.

5. You may also lose a lot in translation.

This is a grim reality. Just because you are funny at the water cooler and at the family reunion doesn’t mean that you can capture those same reactions in writing. Comedy is not universally the same across various mediums. This may seem obvious to you, but then it may not. The most successful comedians, comic and humor writers know where they are the strongest. Some write situation comedy, some write stand-up, some write newspaper columns and someone has to put the jokes on the Laffy Taffy wrappers, right? If you are finding the jump from telling funny jokes to writing funny pieces to be too difficult and you’re getting unfavorable results, it may be that you just shouldn’t go there. Play to your strengths. It feels a lot better when people are laughing.

6. You may cut corners, using puns, profanity or catchphrases instead of inventive wit. 

This is my least favorite form of comedy and it’s going to be tough for me to create a clear argument for this one: but the most common types of comedy are take-offs, references, puns or the attachment of a catchphrase to a common thought or meme. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Humor of this nature is a far cry from thoughtful, well-sculpted wit. Those self-appointed “comedians” who shout-out to The Most Interesting Man In The World aren’t looking for substantial material (and may risk copyright issues).

Instead, they are going for the cheap laugh, the predictable laugh with dated and trendy material. Anyone can slap together the latest internet meme or rewrite the words to a popular song. It takes real talent and commitment to the art of comedy to consistently write jokes and sustain a solid reputation. If you are a hit among friends with your “are you telling me?” graphics and your photoshopped dancing Nicolas Cages, keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t expect to move into the world of professional comedy writing unless you can up your game.

What does this have to do with writing?

Humor writers are not stand-up comedians. We also don’t have the luxury of being in the same room with our readers, listening for their snickers and guffaws. We often don’t get feedback from what we read. You really can’t know what’s funny unless you understand your audience. Therefore, the bar is raised pretty high in humor writing. As a result, good comedy and humor writers have a lot to think about.

This is where the hard work comes in. You need to figure this out.

To sum up, to really be funny, you need to spend time narrowing down your typical reader — your market — so that you can set yourself up for the best communication and success. You may also need to study your material for its benign violations, understand that humor is tough to write and requires nuance and delicacy. Most importantly, you need to work extraordinarily hard to be seen as original. Originality is gold in the comedy world, not stealing ideas from others.

You can kill. Now work hard for it.


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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.