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.

Weekly Drabble Contest for May 19! Submit Yours!

Can you write a 100-Word Story? Can you add in these three words?

Every week on this website, we offer budding writers a chance to get really creative. Before the weekend is up, submit your entry! You never know what kind of feedback you’ll get!

Can you write a story in 100 words?

The Rules:

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.
  9. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 

This week’s words!

 

Gift Ideas For The Writer In Your Life

By Pam Humphrey

Do you need a gift idea for the writer in your life?

Gift Ideas for the Writer In Your LIfe by Pam Humphrey

Do you have a writer in your house, your life, or on your street that you want to surprise with that perfect something?

I asked writers all over the interwebs what they wanted, and I received fabulous feedback. Here is a long list of ideas, broken down into categories: Time, Support, Tools, Space, and Goodies.


I hope you find the perfect gift for your writer somewhere in this list. I used the $, $$, and $$$ to represent the following budgets.

$ - up to $20

$$ - $20 - $100

$$$ - $100 and up

$$$$$$ - Make up a very, very large number

The next time you are buying for your writer, for any occasion—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Arbor Day, Christmas or just because—keep this list in mind.

  • TIME – This was the most common answer. I’ll break down suggests by budget.


  • $$$$$$$ – These options may be out of your price range.

      • A year of solitude to write, meals provided. – Don’t laugh. More than one writer requested this.
      • A luxury yacht as a writing space. – Only one requested this.

$$$ – Want to splurge on your author? These are sure to please.

      • A garden shed, nicely decorated, with a lock on the door.
      • A few days away in a quiet space.
      • A night in a hotel (room service included).
      • A writer’s retreat (This was mentioned a lot) on the beach, in the Welsh countryside, or anywhere beautiful, inspiring.

NOTE: Recently, my husband was scheduled for two days of training in a different city. He asked if I wanted to accompany him. YES! We arranged for our kids to stay with grandparents, and while my husband spent the day in class, I wrote. After class, we had date night—two nights in a row! Be creative with the getaway.

$$ – For the cost of a dinner out, you can show love to an author with these great ideas.

      • Make arrangements for them to get a morning, afternoon, or full day away, either for writing or inspiration.
      • Deliver dinner or give gift cards to restaurants. If writers don’t have to cook, they have more time to write.

FREE – You don’t have to spend money to gift an author with time. These were some ideas I loved.

      • Coupons for quiet writing time that your writer can redeem when they want solitude in a room in the house.
      • Letting them disappear into a different room and lock the door (not for a year, just an hour or so.)

NOTE: One writer mentioned how her husband would fix dinner and clean up to give her time to write. LOVE THIS! And on Saturday mornings, he would keep her mug filled with hot coffee. That’s love and support… which brings us to the next category of gifts.

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!
  • SUPPORT – Want to make a writer cry? (Or feel the swell of emotion that leads to tears in others?) Show them support. Investing in what they are doing says that you value their talent.

$$$ – These are big ticket ways to support your writer.

      • Conference Registration – Pay to send them to a writer’s conference.
      • Money or gift certificates toward editing, cover designers, marketing.
      • Paying for (or saving up for) them to take a writing course or workshop – Want to surprise them, but don’t know how to find out what classes? Ask on of their online writing buddies.

$ or $$ – These ideas can be scaled to fit your budget.

      • Babysitting – Pay for a sitter. This is closely tied to time, but your writer will appreciate it however you frame it.
      • Gift Cards – For dinner, for housecleaning. This is worth mentioning again.

FREE – You don’t have to spend money to show your writer support.

      • Neck and Shoulder Massage – Absorbed in their words, writers sometimes sit until their muscles ache. Loosen those muscles with helpful hands.
      • Read Their Stuff – Writers spend hours crafting in hopes that people will read what they write. Read it and offer helpful feedback.
      • Motivation – Ask them about their story; show genuine interest.
  • Support 10 Minute Novelists
  • TOOLS – Every good craftsman needs tools.

$$$ – Some tools are more expensive than others.

      • A Computer or Laptop – There really isn’t much more to say about this. (And if you’re techy, you can offer SUPPORT when the writer needs tech help.)
      • Scrivener or other writing software.
      • Typewriter – More than one writer listed this.

$$ – Not all writers want the same thing, but there is likely something in this list that will put a smile on their face.

      • Chicago Manual of Style
      • Bluetooth Keyboard – With a smartphone or table, this makes anywhere a writing space.
      • Leather-bound Journals or Notebooks – Based on the response, I learned writers have a thing for notebooks.
      • A Visual Timer – Changes from green to yellow warning that little time is left, then to red when time is up.
      • Subscriptions to Writer Magazines

$ – Not all tools have to cost a lot.

      • Craft Books (Book on Writing) or Gift Cards for the writer to choose their own.

NOTE: These are a few that were mentioned by name:

  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron,
  • WriteMind Planner by Perry Elisabeth,
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne,
  • Nail Your Story: Add Tension, Build Emotion, and Keep Your Readers Addicted by Monica Leonelle,
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction: Your Blueprint for Building a Strong Story by C.S. Lakin,
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing and Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland,
  • Any (or all) of the Thesauruses by Angela Ackerman,
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler,
  • The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel by Robert J Ray,
  • On Writing by Stephen King, and
  • Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day by Katharine Grubb.
  • Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day!
    Click on the image to get your copy!
      • Books with quotes
      • Books full of writing prompts
      • Journals and notebooks
      • Planners
      • Time Management Software or gadgets (Maybe like a timer?)

NOTE: When the Timer Dings: Organizing Your Life to Make the Most of 10 Minute Increments by Katharine Grubb is available for pre-order and will be released in June.

      • Gift cards to Amazon, Office Depot, or Bookstores – seeing a pattern with the gift cards?
      • Pens and Pencils – Pens in an array of colors was mentioned by more than one writer.

NOTE: These brands were mentioned by name: Black Warrior Pencils; Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Retractable Gel Ink Pen (in assorted colors); Pentel Energel Pen.

      • Fountain Pens
      • Click-style Highlighters
      • Post-it Notes
      • Aquanotes Notepad – This allows a writer to jot down notes in the shower.
  • SPACE – Having a dedicated space to write is important for some writers, but wherever they write, some of these gift ideas might spruce up their space.

$$$ – Gifts that require a little more green.

      • Bookshelves – They need a place to put their craft books and the books they write. Besides, most writers are readers who like books.
      • An Office or Craft Room – A writing space decorated for maximum inspiration and productivity.
      • An Espresso Maker – For writers who turn coffee into words.
      • A Stand-up Desk
      • A Comfy Desk Chair

$$ – Gifts for their space that are a little easier on the pocketbook.

      • A Water Dispenser
      • A CD Player
      • Noise Cancelling Headphones

$ – A little money can go a long way.

      • A Cool, Colorful Cactus – Beauty and inspiration are great ideas for a writing space.
      • Motivational & Inspirational Artwork
      • A Fountain Pen Holder made of laser-etched wood.

FREE – Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

      • Make a pen holder
      • Paint a rock to be a paper weight
  • GOODIES – Here are fun and inspirational gifts to inspire your writer, not divvied up by price.
      • T-shirts with cool writer sayings or other nerdy/geeky fun
      • Click the image to go to the merchandise website for 10 Minute Novelists

NOTE: 10 Minute Novelist Gear can be purchased at https://www.zazzle.com/10minuteoutfitters

      • Mugs for Coffee or Tea
      • Writer Jewelry – It’s a thing.
      • Scented Candles – One writer specifically requested vanilla.
      • Herbal Teas
      • Bath Salts – This would be the stuff you put in the bathtub.
      • A Fidget cube
      • Author Finger Puppets
      • Literary Action Figures
      • Starbucks Gift Cards
      • A Pretty or nice-looking laptop bag
      • Wine
      • Scotch
      • Writer’s Tears Whiskey – It’s a real thing!
      • And did I mention CHOCOLATE?
      • A Basket loaded with a selection of goodies listed above.
      • My Favorite goodie was a Christmas ornament one husband gave his wife, an historical fantasy writer in Maryland. He made the ornament out of a miniaturized version of her debut book’s cover, with First Book and the date added.

Writers are not that hard to buy for. Leave them alone, keep their coffee mug filled and the interruptions minimal and you can make them happy.

But for that little something extra, this list is full of great ideas.


Do you like this post? You may also like:

#Top10Tuesday Top 10 Reasons Why You Need To Buy “Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day” or

Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!


 


Pamela Humphrey is the author of Researching Ramirez: On the Trail of the Jesus Ramirez Family, a family history of her great great grandfather’s family, and The Blue Rebozo, a fictional account of her great grand aunt’s life. Her latest book, Finding Claire, is a mix of mystery, genealogy, and romance. She is currently writing the next book in the Hill Country Secrets series. She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who enjoys many creative outlets: sewing, paper-crafting, jewelry-making, practicing her bass guitar, reading, and conversing with imaginary characters (what most call writing). She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, sons, black cats, and leopard gecko. Check out Pamela’s website at http://www.phreypress.com 

Follow her on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/phreypress  Facebook http://www.facebook.com/phreypress Interested in her books? They’re available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Pamela-Humphrey/e/B018D5UKLWFinding Claire is also available from other eBook retailers. https://www.books2read.com/u/bP1LLY

More Questions To Ask After That First Draft Is Done

Your first draft is done!

And trust me when I say this, it is not ready to be published! 

How do you know this? No one writes a perfect first draft. You don’t either. Before you let your mom, your best buddy or the pizza guy read this draft, make sure it’s the best you can make it.

15 More Questions To Ask After That First Draft is Done by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

Here are questions you can ask about this draft.

Go on! Take your time to think about it! Make notes!  Each change you make will probably be for the better. And if you are serious about getting this published, then you’ll be far more marketable and competitive in this saturated markets. Your pizza guy? He probably won’t notice the changes precisely, but he probably will enjoy the pacing, characterization, and conflict. Make sure you tip him well.

Are there believable surprises in your story?

Your reader needs to be surprised, so think of ways to put the unexpected in. What if the sidekick decides to betray our main character? Or what if the getaway is interrupted by a car crash? What if the protagonist is recognized by the guard? Or what if the love interest is really that bully from her childhood? What if his food allergies give away his identity? It’s hard when you’ve read your work a million times to see a surprise (that’s where a beta reader could come in) but keep thinking! Surprises keep your readers turning pages long after they should be in bed!

 

Do the supporting characters contrast the main character enough in what they do or say?

When creating your cast of characters, think of the supporting cast as an ensemble. They should have different personality types, different life experiences, different points of view. And they should never get along perfectly. The main character could take turns listening to each one and yet changing his loyalties. What do you have in this draft? Consider each one carefully and make necessary changes.

Is every supporting character necessary?

Can you cut any out? When creating characters, think about variety and roles that each character plays. Just like our main character, each of the supporting cast should have desires and objectives. To make good conflict, you don’t want them to perfectly align with your protagonists. But if they are too similar, you may have a problem.  If you have characters that are too much the same either make one an extreme exaggeration or eliminate one altogether.

Do you have a subplot or two that can divert the reader from the main story, just for a moment?

A good subplot harmonizes with the main plot, it doesn’t compete with it. If you don’t have one in this draft, now’s the time to add one.  That’s why a romantic subplot often works in books that aren’t necessarily romances. Cutting away to the subplot, right when the tension in the main plot is high, is a good strategic move for story telling. Your readers will be invested in both if you do this right, and they’ll keep reading.

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!

Is your antagonist too much of a cartoon?

It’s really easy to take a villain and put a mustache, beard and black hat on him. You can do that in the first draft. But the more you make him like a cartoon the less serious he will be to your reader. Have you taken the worst of your antagonist and exaggerated it to the point of caricature? It may be better to work with their nuances, their personalities, and their worldview rather than their quest for “one meelion” dollars.

Is your antagonist’s objective clear?

Does it oppose your protagonist enough? Do you want to have your antagonist monolog to reveal all of their intentions to your good guy? Or would it come up some other way? Antagonist development is really important. The richer you make this conflict between him and the protagonist, the more interesting your story.

Is your dialogue distinctive between characters?

The voice between the characters should be so distinctive that you could remove the dialog tags and still know what’s going on. If you don’t see any distinction, this could mean that you have too many characters or too many that are alike. Consider merging a couple together or killing a few darlings.

What do all of the characters learn by the end?

Every character needs to have some sort of arc. This means that by the end of the story everyone has had a change for the better or for the worse. The change could be a physical change, or it could be financial, spiritual, emotional, academic or professional. The point is that growth is evident to the reader.

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Do you add in touches of sensory description in each scene?

Sensory descriptions can make the scene come alive. Consider using three descriptors, but not too many more. A scene that’s too heavy handed with description can be boring, so take care that you don’t get carried away.

Is the mood and tone of the story consistent with the theme and the genre?

Tone is the emotional weight of the narration. For example, thrillers are mostly serious. Romances are more light-hearted. Comedies, regardless of their setting, are the lightest of all. If you’re writing genre fiction, you want to sound like all of the other books in your genre. If your tone is too different from what is expected, you may turn off some readers.

Do your scenes feel like they build with excitement like the tension is increasing as the story plays out?

Each scene requires a push or a pull, toward the main character’s objective or away from it. There should be a sense of more gained than lost, and each scene is more treacherous than the last.

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Do your protagonist and antagonist have a final conflict where something unexpected happens?

This should happen late in the second act. There should be a point when all hell breaks loose and your protagonist and your antagonist are at each other’s throats. You’ve seen this scene in countless movies — the final showdown. Now, if you do this well, you don’t make it last too short or too long, you give the villain the upper hand for just a second and then BAM! Something unexpected helps the protagonist out and your bad guy gets the Disney accidental-death-by-falling-which-technically-doesn’t-make-your-good-guy-a-murderer. Okay, maybe that’s a big much for your romance, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Does your protagonist make a choice between two mutually exclusive desires?

This conflict is one of my very favorite things to create for my characters. They’ve have wanted to get to A for a long, long time — say 250 pages — and here they are, just about to touch it and have what they want but then, THEN, they realize they’ll lose B if they do! B?? B?? Oh, not B! This is good conflict. Set your characters up to make them choose!

Is your ending predictable?

This is the funny thing about endings: the need to be believable and probable, but not completely predictable. Before you write that conclusion, make sure you’ve considered all of the options. Make a list, if you have to, of what could happen and then choose the most ridiculous, most mind-boggling or most odd. Your reader would prefer a good surprise rather than an “oh, I saw that coming!”

Does your third act bring all the characters to a new, permanent place that makes sense?

Your third act is where everyone cleans up the mess of the climax and goes on about their lives. If you’ve done your job well, then each character has a new, permanent change in their life. Third acts should be much shorter than the second act, and maybe even shorter than the third. Don’t over do it. Just sum it all up in a tidy bow and write The End.

Your first draft is certainly something to be proud of, but a well-crafted novel is even moreso. Use these questions to make your draft the best it can be.


Did you like this post? You may also like:

Twelve Questions To Ask Yourself After That First Draft Is Done and 16 Questions About Body Language & Appearance For Your Character


 


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.

Using An Archetype To Make Your Character Richer

Not sure how to develop a character? Start with the archetype.

What is an archetype?

 An archetype is a stock character that often shows up in common stories. The helpless princess, for example, is an archetype. So is the prince that rescues her, the old fragile king who sent him on a mission and the witch down the lane who enchanted the last hero into a toad.

Archetypes are one dimensional.

Left to themselves without development, they are predictable and dull. A character left at the archetype stage would never tap into their inner thoughts and feelings. He may be as bland as yesterday’s oatmeal. Some of the most famous archetypes in literature include the swashbuckler, the crusader, the waif, the nurturer, the superhero, the loner or the professor.  You know you’ve come across an archetype when I can say a word like, vamp, and every reader knows what you’re talking about.

You’ve read your share of archetypical characters in fables and fairy tales, and in that context, they are expected. But 21st-century writers should never keep their characters at this stage if they expect to be marketable and compete with currently published books.

I’d like to suggest that you can use archetypes as your baseline.

Need a complete list of archetypes? Check out this link, this one or this one.

How can you use an archetype to develop your character? Try asking yourself these twelve questions.

How Archetypes Can Make Your Characters Richer by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelists

What role does your main character play in the story?

You should ask this question when you start out in your first of first drafts. And I recommend not re-inventing the wheel when it comes to character development. Start with one of these archetypes — say a professor. You can already see the horn-rimmed glasses. You can picture the tweed jacket with the patches on the elbow. Now if your role in your story is to have your main character, let’s call him Fred, solve the puzzle using his treasury of knowledge, then this archetype would fit perfectly. But you are a good writer and you have no intention of stopping there. To stop with the archetype is lazy and uninteresting. Let’s go a bit further.

What do you do with this archetype choice?

I like to think of my archetype choice as a paper doll or a mannequin. The rest of the choices I make about the basic description, the inner characteristics, and the desires are the things that make this character come alive. An archetype has some familiar touches and expectations. There’s no need to not use them — in fact if I don’t use them, I may make it harder for my reader to relate to the character.

What would be unpredictable about this archetype?

This is where I would get to add twists. What if there were a librarian type who was blind?  A swashbuckler who was a 6-year-old girl? What if I had a crusader who didn’t have a cause to promote? Before I get in too deep with the character, I should explore these possibilities, listing as many as I can and choosing the most unusual or most interesting.

How would he/she respond in a particular circumstance?

Fred, the professor, with glasses and elbow patches, is at a coffee shop when he accidentally trips the waitress and knocks coffees out of her hands. This archetype would clumsily try to help clean up the mess, possibly make things worse. What would your character’s archetype do when faced with a fender bender in the parking lot? A spilled drink at a pizza restaurant? Meeting a big dog on the Rail Trail? Getting carjacked at WalMart? If you’ll look carefully at each of the archetypes, you’ll see that each of these would react in a distinctive way. This is good news for you!

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What weaknesses can you give this archetype?

A weakness can be something physical, emotional or intellectual. Weaknesses often are what we have when our strengths go bad. For example, a driven Leslie Knope type of organizer, (who could be a crusader or librarian type)  may also neglect her own health, boss people around too much or overextend her time. By using the predictable features of an archetype, I can often see the weaknesses of the character clearer.

What secret can you give them?

Each of these archetypes may have different types of shame. For example, the professor may read comic books for fun. The nurturer may hide from her children occasionally.  Or perhaps their secret is something more critical to the plot. Ask yourself, what would be the end for this character if everyone found out  . . .

What would be their biggest fear?

And this has to be very specific. Fears are funny things. I believe that fears are not born in a vacuum. I think that most phobias have their roots in something and often it’s childhood trauma. A preference is something that your character doesn’t like, but a fear is something that drives them into anxiety or panic. The archetype can give you a clue as to what kind of fear your character could have. The natural leaders fear losing control. The bad boys and girls fear intimacy. The generalities are already there, it’s up to you to make the specifics.

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!

What would be their quirk that helps them survive?

A quirk for the sake of having a quirk isn’t that helpful, nor that interesting. But if they had a quirk that turned out to be a necessary survival skill, or helped them face the antagonist, then it would add a richness to the character that could be a hit with readers. Choose your quirks carefully. You may even want to wait until you have that first draft finished before you see what they need to really kick butt late in the second act.

How would they act in a Starbucks?

I rarely visit a Starbucks. (I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts girl, but that comes with living in New England.) So, if I am in one, I order something simple. Your character, however, may know the complexities of the coffees, their roasts, their blends, various styles, the dairy products added and the difference between a venti and a grande. Even if a Starbucks isn’t mentioned in your book, think about how savvy your character could be in situations like this. Are they pleasant to the barista? Do they always use their debit card or cash? Do they get the pumpkin muffin to go along with it? Our true character is often revealed in how we handle little day-to-day stuff like this, so put thought into what your character is like when coffee is involved.

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”
G.K. Chesterton

What offends them?

All of us have these little pet peeves that get us going. My children, for example, will not shut up about the need for solar roadways, the elimination of the penny, and why tomatoes should be a fruit. Your character should have a couple of rant worthy issues too. If they are a Crusader type, then they could be fighting for justice. If they are the Librarian/Professor type, then they could be adamant about certain scientific discoveries or the Oxford comma. An archetype can be used to point to issues. The more specific, the more unique your character is. And then it’s up to you to use these passions and repulsions for the sake of the story.

When do they feel the most threatened?

If you’ll look carefully at the differences of the archetypes, you’ll see that in a generalized way, you can predict how they will act in a crisis. You are not slipping into cliche if you put your Nurturer in a position where her first concern is the little ones around her. What you’re doing is making her nurturing tendencies a foundational part of who she is. Every time you give her personality and character details, you’re taking her another step away from cliche. Your Bad Boy could be threatened by religious structures. Or your Waif could be threatened by abusers. Your Free Spirit is threatened by a dress code. By understanding and using the archetype, you can create conflict and make your character more interesting.

What two mutually exclusive needs to they have?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Your character absolutely must have goals and objectives or there is no story.

In addition to the goals and objectives they say they have, they also have more fundamental needs shared by the rest of humankind. If you’ll take a quick look at Maslow’s pyramid, you can see how all of these needs line up. By studying your character’s archtype, you may be able to see clearly what specific needs, both stated and unstated, that your character has in the story. And if you work this just right late in the second act, your character will have to choose between two very important needs. This is your story’s climax. Use your archetype to broaden your perceptions of the needs your character has so you can make this point a real page-turner.

Archetypes are but one of many ways that you can find inspiration for a character.

You can spot someone who has an unusual appearance, overhear a conversation or read about a local scandal. Building a character from the ground up is fun and the more thorough you develop your characters, the easier it will be to create their dialogue, develop their strengths and help them achieve their goals.

Archetypes are your friends.

By using an archetype, you can use a template and take it in a million different directions, so don’t be afraid to start there. You’ll probably be pleased with what you create.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

The 9 Things Your Main Character Needs From You or,

Five Character Types That Make Great Antagonistic Forces


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.

Submit to the weekly Apples to Apples Drabble Contest!

Can you write a 100-Word Story? Can you add in these three words?

Every week on this website, we offer budding writers a chance to get really creative. Before the weekend is up, submit your entry! You never know what kind of feedback you’ll get!

Can you write a story in 100 words?

The Rules:

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.
  9. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 

This week’s words!

Five Steps To Building A Regular Writing Routine

By Bethany Perry

There’s so much advice out there about writing.

A lot of it is obvious. For instance, I read an article yesterday that suggested two things about how to write. One, sit down (optional). Two, write. Yes, two is required.

Thinking about writing is not writing.

Reading advice columns like this one is not writing.

Doing all the things I am about to relate to you is not writing.

Writing is writing, period.

Honestly, however, just because reading about writing is not writing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, I think (and I’ve read) that continuing your education in writing is essential to growing as an author. So let’s get on with it.

Five Steps for Building A Regular Writing Routine

  1. I keep a writing journal

Yes, I got this suggestion from another article. Yes, it has worked for me. I modified it to meet my specific needs. What I do is, I write down things like what time I sat down to write and what time I finished, my beginning and ending word count, if my football team won or lost, whether or not I’ve had caffeine recently, the days this year when I lost two good friends. Why do this?

It helps me see several things. It helps me keep up with productivity, AKA my word count. It shows me what affects my productivity. Death absolutely does, I knew that. But the time of day does too. I write best at night. That’s just how it is. I’m too easily distractible during the day. I’m a night owl. Makes sense I’d be more able to focus the darker it is outside.

Knowing when and how I’m most productive gives me a better opportunity to be at my most productive. And when I’m on, I’m on. I only get about an hour on an average day to write. When I do it at my most productive time, I can crank about 1k to 1500 words regularly.

But there’s more to that story.

  1. I listen to music with headphones.

After I work all day, spend time with the kiddos and the boyfriend, the munchkins go to bed and I write. But the boyfriend is a night owl too, sometimes the kiddo wants water or whatever, the dogs bark, you know, normal house stuff.

So when it’s time, I put on my headphones and go to my writing place. Instrumental music is best because it’s been proven that your language center cannot decipher two inputs at once. So if I listen to music with lyrics, maybe my brain is working on those words instead of the ones I’m putting down on the page. Even if those aren’t the words I think I’m focusing on, I might not be able to instruct my brain to do otherwise without some effort of will. That affects my productivity. I don’t want that. So for me, it’s instruments only or instruments mostly with some wordless vocalizations. And then I sink into my little world of words.

  1. I have a routine

If you have kids, you’ve probably discovered that routine is wonderful for keeping them happy. They might complain about it, but if things are presented to them in the same way each day – breakfast at 9, lunch at 11 followed by a nap, snack at 2, dinner at 6, bedtime at 8, for example – I’ve found things go so much easier. They know what to expect and when, and they are comfortable within those boundaries.

Funny thing is, I’ve found adults are the same way. I might complain about going to work every morning at 6:30, especially since I’m a night owl, but without that routine, I get a little lost. Routine soothes me. It’s the same for most of us, so I’ve read.

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So when it comes to writing, I have created a routine.

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind. After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind.

After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

The water is boiling! Great. I put in the tea and set the timer for steeping. It’s at this point I go to my writing place. I turn on my lamp. I power up my computer. Bust out my journal. Fill in the journal. Beep! Tea is ready.

All these things, in the same order, tell my brain it’s time to write. On to the next step.

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  1. Turn off the internet

This is not a joke. This is not a maybe. This is a must. If you live alone, you can turn it off altogether straight from the router. If not, you can turn it off on your computer.

Place your phone in another room. Or at least out of arm’s reach. Just get rid of the internet. Research is for another time. Checking your facebook is for another time. Reading about writing is for another time. You don’t need the internet to write. Even if you use a cloud based service, you can save offline and upload at the end of your time.

  1. Write

Ah, here we are. Now is the time. I plug in the headphones, start up my music, put the screen in front of me, and write.

So there you have it. I’ve added my voice to the proliferation of voices that tell you how to do this writing thing. But here’s the thing about it. This is what works for me. Take what you like, leave the rest. Find what works for you! That’s the way to truly be successful at getting that writing done. Writing is just as personal as anything else you do, and how you do it is up to you.

But however it is you do it, I hope you have fun doing so.


If you liked this post, you’d also like:

What to be a Better Writer? Think Like A Sculptor! or

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing


Bethany grew up in the South, transplanted to the West, and has visited just about anywhere in between. She’s got a day job, and a family, and at night she writes and writes and writes. And sometimes in between, she writes. She enjoys traveling down the road of the macabre, but mainly in order to discover the beauty hiding within the human spirit when it is pushed beyond normal boundaries.She has completed, finally, after all these years, two novels. She is currently working on editing the second for future publication and is neck deep in writing the third. She has published some poems in literary publications and has several works of short fiction published online.

6 Must-Haves For Nurturing Relationships With Readers

I love my readers! 

They say such nice things about me, like:

“Grubb thinks big. And it comes across in her novels. They’re packed with action and romance and great dialogue. But she never compromises. There’s a moral line she doesn’t cross…but they aren’t stuffy or stilted in any way.”

Or, “Entertaining and made the time fly. Hard to put down. I normally read 50-75 novels a year and most of them I read and forget. This one has stayed with me. Quirky romantic hero, well-defined characters, and a great story. There were a few typos and other grammatical issues, but easy to overlook when the story is so good. Highly recommend!”

Six Must Haves For Nurturing Relationships With Readers by Katharine Grubb

There isn’t a better feeling than having readers get you!

Now I know that I can’t please all of them. I do have my share of 1-2 star reviews. But if I look at my body of work in the big picture, I want to nurture this relationship with my readers. I want to love my readers and strengthen our relationship for the long term.

These are six great must-haves for me if I’m going to love my readers.

1.  AN ATTRACTIVE ATTITUDE  I think that generally speaking, people are attracted to lightheartedness. And while there is a place in this world for controversy and strong opinions (perhaps in the books I write), I think our persona as authors should be one of cheerfulness. (This means NO COMPLAINING. EVER.) I know how much I’m turned off by bad attitudes, so I can imagine my readers would feel the same if I were whiny, condescending or rude.

2. AUTHENTICITY Writers are ordinary people who spend a lot of time thinking. We’re not some pretentious, chain-smoking, cat-loving hermits who substitute our stories for actual human intimacy and wear a lot of black. (At least I’m not.) I believe that writers who can show their humanity to others, who can allow non-writerly life to be seen by the public (within reason), who don’t isolate themselves or create a lofty image will be able to identify with their readers. I like to meet people who are real and if they aren’t afraid to show their weaknesses, then I love them all the 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!

3. ACCESSIBILITY  We are so lucky in this age to be able to communicate with our readers. It used to be that readers wrote letters to authors and there were no reviews on Amazon and no one could tweet you. Wise writers should take advantage of these communication methods and figure out what works. This would include, among other things, having an email address on a blog and engaging in conversation.

“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”
Napoléon Bonaparte

4. AN INSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE  So, what was your favorite love song from the ’80s?  Our readers can provide all kinds of answers to questions, but we need to ask them! I found while I was writing, that my Facebook fan page readers have great insight, they have good ideas, they know exactly how feasible it would be to hide a laminating machine in a dorm room. Because I’m asking them questions, I’m starting some interesting conversations, think about things in a different way and outsource my research (all of this adds to my authenticity and accessibility!) My readers know I’m up to another story and so when it comes out, they’re all the more excited. Win-win!

5. APPRECIATION Readers are why I do this. Every time I find out someone read my book or left a review, I am a little humbled. My readers are taking a chance on me. A $3.99 ebook isn’t a very big chance, but still. Out of the millions of things these readers could read, they chose my book and from the response, I’m getting, they are willing to fork over even more. I can’t take this for granted. Perhaps fame and fortune are part of my future. I never want to be so big that I don’t forget who loved me in the beginning. I thank my readers often. You should too.

6. EXCELLENCE (and thus ends the A Alliterative point. Sigh.) If we go to the trouble of writing a book, then we must be diligent in all areas of it. We must take care to make it mechanically sound, not cut corners and not disappoint our readers with sloppy, unprofessional work. Poor editing communicates to the reader that we don’t care about them. I would hate for my reputation to be tarnished because I didn’t take the time to be excellent.

Granted, ten, fifteen years from now my own experiences may change this a little, but for now, I want to cultivate these qualities as a habit, so that I can continue to have great relationships with my readers.

 What else can you think of that readers want? What do you want as a reader? Which of these is hardest for you? Which of these is the easiest?


Did you like this post? You may also like:

Top 10 Ways To Get Your Readers To Fall In Love With You or,

Top 10 Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful


 


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. 

12 Reasons You Should Go To a Writers Conference

 

One way to grow as a writer is to attend a writers conference!

Now, I’m not a writers conference junkie, but I’d like to be. I know enough about them to understand that if you are in a climate controlled hotel ballroom, surrounded by writers from all over the world, with speakers and experts in front of you, then you’re in a great place to grow.

12 Reasons To Go To A Writers Conference by Katharine Grubb

Why?

You need to meet other writers in person.

In my limited conference experience, I’m always amazed at the diversity of the writers that I meet. They all aren’t bloggers like me. My writer friends don’t all have tendencies to publish quirky comedies like me. They may not know the first thing about writing a novel in 10 minutes a day. Because I do get the honor of meeting them, I expand my horizons. I’m encouraged by what they tell me. I’m interested in their projects and check them out. And I alway come away with new friends.

You need to practice your pitch.

Even if you never sit down with an agent or publisher, you will meet other writers who want to know what you write. You’ll need to be able to tell them in just thirty seconds. This takes practice. At a conference, you’ll have plenty of it.

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!

You need to learn at the feet of experts.

Any conference worth the price of admission will have speakers there who know more about the various aspects of writing than you do. Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to ask questions of these experts. You can find out how they came to their conclusions and what advice they may have for you. Take advantage of any down time that you get to pick their brains and learn.

You need to get away from your life for a while.

At the last conference I attended, I got to spend fourteen glorious hours alone in a hotel room. I really loved it. For the first time in history, I ordered a pizza and ate it alone. I watched a Hitchcock movie and I wrote 3000 words without anyone interrupting me. It was heaven. I felt so refreshed the next day when I had to fly home.

You need to get some perspective.

If you are discouraged about your writing for whatever reason, a conference may have the people you need to encourage you. Many times we need to know that we aren’t alone in our professional struggles. Sometimes we need the brutal truth. Sometimes we need to look at our careers, not our current project. I think that getting out of one’s own setting can make a big difference in how we see ourselves.

You need to have one on one time with an agent.

Agents often don’t sign authors unless they have met them first. This is, in reality, a business relationship and many agents want writers that they can click with. Even if you aren’t quite ready for an agent, it wouldn’t hurt to get to know them, practice your pitch and get some questions answered.

You need to get advice.

Conferences are great places to get advice. Sometimes this advice comes from the speakers and workshops. Sometimes it comes from who you sat next to at lunch. None of us are so together that we can’t use a little insight. You can also eavesdrop if you want. Your neighbor may have asked the question you’ve always wanted to ask.

Support 10 Minute Novelists

You need freebies.

Depending on the size of the conference, sponsors will hand out swag. At the last conference I attended, there were t-shirts, coupons to local businesses, and other things that were given to the coordinators just for the attendees.

You need to find out more about your genre.

Conferences are great places to buddy up with people who know your genre inside and out. You may gain fresh insight and advice for your genre in a way that you could never have online. Some genres have their own conferences — like ACFW or RWA. Check out this list of conferences and see if your genre has an event you can go to.

You need to be a bit more humble.

Besides wading through the endless bins of used books at my local library’s annual sale, nothing makes me more humble than meeting a bunch of writers. Many of them have been writing longer than I have. Many have bigger platforms than I do. When I’m at a conference, especially a big one. I’m a pretty little fish. This is good for me. The day that I’m too big to go, or too important to engage, or too accomplished not to attend will be a sad, sad day.

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

You need to get feedback.

Many conferences have contests or critique opportunities. These are good for you! You can learn where your weaknesses lie. Also, you can gain wisdom from the more mature and experienced. And you can even win something grand if you’re good enough.

You need to feel that you are not alone.

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. Do this with online groups, local groups or conferences.

Conferences have the potential of making you a savvier, stronger writer. As you plan your 2017, make a commitment to get better and invest in yourself.


If you liked this post, you’ll like:

Free & Not-So-Free Writers’ Conferences For The Poor And Anthropophobic and

Top 10 Pro Tips For Attending A Writing Conference


 

a href=”http://www.10minutenovelists.com/img_7013/”>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.

Twelve Questions To Ask Yourself After That First Draft Is Done

You’ve finished your first draft!

You are so, so, so proud. This is an accomplishment worth celebrating!

And in the midst of your hard work, you’ve fought all kinds of self-doubt and torment. The quoted author was right, you really did just open a vein and bleed. 

But you’re not done. Please, for the love of all that is super easy publishing, please don’t think you’re done. If your goal is to be a serious writer, to be a viable literary force in your genre, to be a legitimate player in the world of books, please don’t stop with your first draft. You’ll need to improve on it.

Here are twelve questions to ask yourself as you go back and improve.

12 Questions To Ask After That First Draft is Done by Katharine Grubb

 

Have you captured the readers’ attention from the first page?

You know that you do if your main character takes action. The scene needs to be active and visual so that your reader can see well what is happening. If you have an inciting incident, then you’ve created a trigger that will get the story flowing. If you introduce an idea to your main character, one that could be interesting and adventurous, then you’re getting him ready for launch into the next couple of chapters.

Have you created a picture within the first two pages that the reader can visualize?

You can do this with specific description abut not too much. Also, you can do this by adding in sensory details, but not too much. You should also give plenty of clues to the time and place of the story so that the reader can be intrigued.

Is your inciting incident obvious and require the main character to react?

This is an event that begins the story. Everything that happens could be a result of that event. This incident may reveal the character and desires of the main character to the reader. You may not have done this with the first draft. No worries! Now’s the time to fix it!

What mysteries did you introduce in the first act that have been revealed in the third?

This could be something obvious, like ‘who killed Kevin?’ or it could be something more subtle. This will depend on your genre. Your main character may want answers and spend the whole book getting them. But this unanswered moment can potentially capture the reader and draw them in enough so that they want to know the answer the question and they keep reading. And now that you’ve completed a draft, you know where you’re going. You can go back to the beginning and scatter hints in the first act that will lead up to the third.

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Does your protagonist go through a literal or figurative gateway about one-third of the way in?

This can be the set off to a grand adventure. It can also be taking a chance on a new romance. It could also be literal– your character flies to Bermuda. Everything that happens before this point is an introduction. Everything after is really what the story is about. Not sure if your draft has three acts? You can brush up on story structure here. 

Does your protagonist go on a literal or figurative journey after that point?

In this type of plot, a character needs to be curious too. He/ she needs to discover the world around them, get lost, misunderstand some sign posts and correct himself. This journey is the gist of the second act. Don’t hesitate to give him a lot of conflicts, dangers and moments in which he has to make decisions. All of this is what makes up the meat of the story!

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Do you have a character that exposes your main character’s secrets?

We are not angels. Our characters should be either. You could either give this job to the antagonist, which of course would make the reader love/hate him all the more. Or you could give the job of secret-revealer to a trusted friend who doesn’t realize what they are doing. Either way, allow exposure to be a problem for our main character. This will amp up the conflict and that’s what good storytelling is all about.

Does your main character have enough hindrances to their goal?

Besides the secrets exposed, you should also throw in a lot of obstacles in their way. Make some of it physical, like the car won’t start, they ran out of Omega 3 crystals for the transponder, or Hurricane Katrina is barreling into New Orleans any day now. But you could also make it from their own inner lives: they have a PTSD episode, the ex shows up with an engagement ring, or they get the call from a casting agent at the totally wrong time. All of these things add more layers of conflict!

Is your main character blind to major character flaws that are holding them back?

What if your main character has intimacy issues and pushes others away? What if they can only talk about themselves? What if they hate their appearance? This also can create some good conflict especially if the people they are pushing away are the very people they need to meet their goals.

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Does your main character make mistakes that cause the reader to want to read more?

You want to bring your reader to that happy balance of them cheering for your main character and then also wishing they get it right next time. This is tough to do, and in my humble opinion, likable protagonists are overrated. What ISN’T overrated is the need for a reader to want to follow a character’s choices without getting exasperated by them. If you want to get me started, ask me about my love/hate relationship with Rory Gilmore!

Does your main character show something positive in their personality within the first two or three pages?

Blake Snyder calls this the Save the Cat moment. In the first few pages, your reader needs to see your main character do something really good — like saving a cat. This moment should be altruistic, humble, kind, and compassionate. Your readers need this so that they know that your main character is not just the good guy (he isn’t, necessarily) but that he’s worth following on an adventure. This goodness should be enough to get your reader motivated.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Toni Morrison

Have you revealed to your reader what your main character fears most of all?

Personally, I think that real honest to goodness fear isn’t tapped into enough with main characters (but that could just be me, the PTSD survivor talking.) I think that well-drawn main characters have a foundational fear — if this should happen, then they believe that their whole world will fall apart. A good author should figure this out, have it revealed subtly in the first couple of chapters and then put their poor main character through the wringer as they face that fear over and over again in the story.

Now, these are just a handful of the questions that you should ask.

And ideally, the questions should prompt you to make a few notes in your first draft and fill in holes, move things around add in stuff and take stuff away.

Don’t freak out.

You’re supposed to have more than one draft. Some writers have dozens. Do what you need to do to make your story sing, even if it means getting to eight or ten drafts.

It’s well worth the time and effort to make your story great.


If you like this post, you may also like:

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your First Draft and Five Signs To Keep Writers From Going Wrong


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.

Weekly Drabble Contest! Apples To Apples Cards!

Can you write a story in 100 words?The Rules:

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.
  9. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 

How to Get Up Early to Write (7 Tips From a Former Night Owl)

by AprIl Davila

Get up early?

I started getting up early to write when I was working full time and my kids were little. I didn’t want to do it, but I absolutely could not find any other time to write.

As a die-hard night owl, the adjustment was rough. I’m not gonna lie.

It took me about eighteen months to settle in, but that was because I went about it all wrong.

Here are seven things I wish I had known when I started:

1. You don’t have to be a morning person.

I was absolutely NOT a morning person when I started. It was painful, no question about it, but eventually, I got used to it because I had to. If your writing is important enough, you’ll get used to it.

2. Coffee.

If you own a coffee maker, it probably has a delayed start function. Take 10 minutes, google the make and model to find the owners manual, and read up on how to set it to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off. You want the coffee to be ready to drink when you drag yourself out of bed. Hot coffee can be a powerful motivator.

3. A quick foot massage.

I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, when I was too tired to get up and even the promise of hot coffee wasn’t enough, I would pinch and roll each toe between my fingers for a few seconds. Somehow this quick little foot massage helped drag me into consciousness. Try it. I swear it works.

4. Do it (almost) every day.

For the first year, I thought I was going easy on myself by only getting up early to write every other day. What I know now is that it is actually much harder to do every other day. Do it every day, or at least every workday. Just put it in your head that this is how you start your days. It will be a drag at first, but eventually, you will adjust. It will get easier.

I struggled terribly with early mornings until I started waking up at 5 am six days a week. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s easier to settle into it if you do it (almost) every day. (For the record, I’m a big believer in having one or two mornings a week to sleep in. It gives you something to look forward to. Trying to wake up at 5 am every morning forever will just lead to burnout.)

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
Lemony Snicket

5. Establish a routine.

When you wake up super early to write you will be groggy. You will not want to think about anything too much until the coffee kicks in. To overcome this, you will need to establish a routine and make time for it. So if you only need ten minutes, you can’t just set the alarm to go off ten minutes earlier than usual. You have to figure out what routine will bring your head to your writing and then set the alarm so that you have enough time to do the whole thing. 

My routine consists of pouring my mug of coffee and sitting down with my journal. I aim to fill one page of the journal with whatever comes to mind – seriously anything. It usually takes me about half an hour, and I notice my pen starts to move faster as the coffee kicks in. Then, I close the journal, set the mug aside, and attack my writing. This means that to get an hour or writing in, I have to get up an hour and a half before my kids. I just do. If you’re only writing for 10 minutes, you may still have to set the alarm to give you a full 40 minutes. Accept this as part of the deal.

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6. Go to bed early.

Depending on how old you are, and how demanding your days can be, getting up super early on a regular basis will start to wear you down if you don’t compensate by going to bed a little earlier. As a night person by nature, I never used to get tired until after midnight. But I knew I needed sleep, so I started brushing my teeth and getting into bed earlier. For many weeks I would sit up and read until my usual crash-out time, but eventually, the exhaustion caught up and I started falling asleep earlier. It’s embarrassing for a self-proclaimed night person to admit to going to bed at 9, but you’re a writer, dang it, and you’re doing it for your art.

7. Set an end time.

For me, writing time ends at 6:30 or when the kids wake up. Whichever comes first. If you’re a mom, and/or if you’re working a full-time job, you will need to set an end time. Write as much as you can in your allotted time and then pat yourself on the back. Whatever else happens that day, you wrote. And that is a glorious thing.

“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
H.G. Wells

For the New Parents

As a quick side note, if you are the parent of a very young child (or children), you may have to wait a few years to implement this, but take heart, the time will come.

I remember, when I was nursing, I felt like the exhaustion would consume me. There was no predicting when those ravenous babies would wake. My advice: don’t stress. Write for a few minutes while they’re napping and know that you are in the throws of a unique and precious time. Get some audiobooks to listen to while you fold endless loads of laundry and soak up as much story as you can. As a writer, you can totally count that as honing your craft (for real).

Happy writing!


If you liked this post, you may also like 

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow) or

6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time


April Dávila lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and two beautiful children. By day she blogs and works as a freelance writer. By the light of early, early morning she chips away at her first novel. Check her out at http://aprildavila.com

What’s So Scary About Writing What You Don’t Know?

Writing what you don’t know can be scary! Creating a world out of thin air can be intimidating.

This is exactly why there is this whole, big, stupid, “write what you know” controversy.

Some who oppose “write what you know” argue that you should choose imagination over familiarity. Perhaps you should venture outside your own time or country. Perhaps you should dig around for inspiration that comes from subject matter you know nothing about.

Research-filled and imaginative writing will take more time and effort, but it could be worth…
These are all good arguments, but generally speaking, the more outside of your current life you write, the harder and more time-consuming your creative work may be.

If you decide to write what you don’t know, you may have to do these things:

You may have to do research beyond Wikipedia. If you are choosing to write about a setting beyond your own experience, it will be critical that you find accurate resources so that your details are right. Wikipedia, as great as it is, may not be enough. Instead, consider looking at libraries or reference books. Here’s a warning: you may fall down a rabbit hole! You could get so wrapped up in what life was like in 1880s Chicago, that you’ll forget what you’re looking for.

You may have to fill in the gaps of what can’t be found out. There are some things that we’ll never really know about specific time periods in history. Did slaves in ancient Rome worry about their hair? You could probably guess no and be okay. If you, in all your research, don’t come to a definitive conclusion about a specific situation, then it’s a safe bet your readers won’t know either. You can, with all honesty, take a guess, and not lose your artistic integrity.

You may have to imagine new feelings. This can be fun. You may get to fall in love all over again, but this time to an alien on Mars, a Confederate soldier or a Brazilian carnival dancer. It may be a bit troubling to write from another gender’s point of view, but with enough research, you can do it. Many times our emotions are universal so romance in one setting can often feel like romance in another. But if you’re not sure, try to talk to someone who’s been there and felt that way before.

You may have to go to some dark places. This can be scary. You may have to mentally recreate a violent act or emotional abuse. If these kinds of thoughts are new to you, consider yourself blessed. But because you haven’t experienced it first hand, you may have trouble touching authentic emotions. Personally, I’ve had enough darkness in my life. I’m not that willing to relive it for the sake of my story.

You may have to ask others about their experiences. In your research, you may find it helpful to find groups or communities who know something about your subject matter. Often they are enthusiastic about it, so they’ll be happy to help. You want to come to them prepared with questions. You also can’t expect them to do your work for you. Consider using someone in this field as a beta reader to check your accuracy.

You may have to think about physics and math. Writers, generally speaking, avoid these subjects. That’s why we’re writers. But if you are writing in complex mathematic or scientific settings, you’ll need to make sure that your science is accurate, even though your situation is all fiction or fantasy. If you are creating the world that breaks physical laws, you may have to justify it somehow. Science and math research should be able to help.

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You may have to take time away from actual writing. Research takes time! And if you’re already writing in 10-minute increments (like I wrote this blog post) then you’ll find that the project will take longer than you think. The reason that I don’t write historical fiction is that I like getting my drafts done in a timely matter. You’ll have to make a decision if writing what you don’t know is work the digging around.

You may have to document your details. The more imaginative your world, the more you’ll have to keep track of. You may make decisions on climate, geography, and architecture and for every choice you make, you’ll need to remember it later. Consistency is critical in all stories, but in a vast science fiction or fantasy world, it’s of double importance. Create a system that will make keeping your facts straight easier.

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You may have to study other genres. If you have set out to be a fantasy or science fiction writer, you should know what you’re getting into. Read all you can in these genres so that you get a feel for tone and expectation. Each genre has rules to follow and you want your book to follow those rule so that your readers know what to expect. Reading is always good for you.

You may have to travel. Sigh. If you are going to accurately write about exotic places, you may actually have to visit them. This fact, along with coffee and long periods of isolation, is the very best reason to be a writer. If you can afford it, don’t rely on Google maps and street view and your Facebook friends from Togo to tell you everything you need to know. It may be best to update your passport and pack your bags.

Ways To Be More Creative by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

You may have to make phone calls. I, for one, write, so I don’t have to talk to people on the phone. Although I cheer the concept of automatic bill pay and email, I may balk at the idea of cold calling experts about things I don’t know. Regardless of how you feel, or even if you want to show off your hairdo on Skype, the accuracy of your work-in-progress may require this. Let’s hope you’re less neurotic about it than I am.

You may have to talk to experts. Which means you may have to ask for favors. You may have to ask them for moments of their time. You may have to go so far as to buy them a coffee to get them talking. The information that a legitimate expert has will be priceless to the development of your work-in-progress. Who knows, you may even make a new friend in the process.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut

You may have to question yourself constantly. That is, you’ll have to do this more than you do already. If you are going to write what you don’t know, then you need to check and recheck those facts. This is especially true in historical fiction. The readers of your books will know exactly when the bustle made an appearance in 19th-century fashion. Don’t assume that you can get away with saying your heroine went to the ball in 1831 wearing one.

You may have to ask more of your beta readers. If you restrict your setting and subject matter to only what you know, then your early readers will assume that you were there, or you experienced it. They will look at you as the authority. But if you venture outside of what you know, then you’ve given your early readers more freedom to question you. Listen to all they have to say. They may see a flaw you haven’t noticed.

One of the biggest argument for writing more than you know is that it gets you outside your comfort zone. Writing what you don’t know is a little unpredictable: you and your readers can potentially discover something about the world you didn’t know anything about.

Go as far as you want, don’t be afraid. Make this story yours.


If you liked this post, you may also like

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative or

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


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.