Stephen King is pretty freakin cool…

 

stephen king book

So I recently read Stephen King’s memoir on writing (Stephen King/On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft). He has always been an author that’s intrigued me and after reading this book he does even more.

He’s an author of more than 50 books and all of them worldwide bestsellers. Not many authors can claim that. I thought that I would share a few things he said that spoke to me in his memoir. May I strongly suggest also, whether you’re a writer or just a fan to go pick this book up or order it online. It’s a must have.

From the King himself:

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

Although you’re the creator of your characters, they can actually teach you some unexpected things along the way. According to Stephen, Carrie White, his main character in the book, Carrie, was the one character that taught him things no other did.

“The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a shitting position.”  

“-…but I think you will find that, if you continue to write fiction, every character you create is partly you.”

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own.”

Everything matters. Even where you place your writing desk.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

You have the honor of writing a book, which is what Mr. King calls, “uniquely portable magic.” However, that comes with a seriousness of the responsibility it holds.

“Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again; you must not come lightly to a blank page.” 

“-it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.”

Words, Tense, Averbs…

“Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.”

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of the full meaning.”

“You should avoid passive tense.”

“The adverb is not your friend.”

Whether you’re a first time author or you’ve written a million books, there is still a small steady fear that whatever your writing is crap and you had no business being an author in the first place. That’s okay. Just don’t let it consume you the writing will be bad if it even gets written at all.

“I’m convinced that fear is the root of most bad writing.”

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad”, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

One of your must-have tools…Reading. You MUST read…without ceasing. Second, write. Anything…everything…just write.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

“We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience the different styles.”

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.”

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like that phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor”

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.”

Keep it fresh in your mind. Yes, some of us have other jobs, families, or responsibilities, but you MUST forge through with your writing and keep it going.

“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. Writing is at its best–always, always, always–when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle.”

“For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction.”

“I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader.”

Description is the essence for your reader. That skill does not come overnight to a writer.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot.”

“Description begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page.”

“If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.”

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.”

“Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story.”

Dialogue…truth…

“As with all other aspects of fiction, the key to writing good dialogue is honesty. And if you are honest about the words coming out of your character’s mouths, you’ll find that you’ve let yourself in for a fair amount of criticism.”

“You must tell the truth if your dialogue is to have the resonance and realism that Hart’s War, good story though it is, so sadly lacks–and that holds true all the way down to what folks say when they hit their thumb with a hammer. If you substitute “Oh sugar!” for “Oh shit!” because you’re thinking about the Legion of Decency, you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader–your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story.”

“Everything I’ve said about dialogue applies to building characters in fiction. The job boils down to two things: paying attention to how real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see.”

1st drafts…2nd drafts…and self doubt…

“I don’t believe a story or novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes to my mind, only looking back to check the names of characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”

For all writers, the act of writing is something extraordinary, a feat that cannot be put into exact words, a window that opens to endless possibilities if they can imagine it…

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink up and be filled.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adverbs…NOOOOOOO!!!!!

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We all have our struggles, our little negative habits or tidbits that we desperately need to overcome in our writing. Whether it be terrible spelling, procrastination (ME, ME, ME!!!), confusion with POV, or…using the dreaded adverb too many times (ME, ME, ME!!).

If you were like me when I first started out, I thought adverbs were fabulous! They helped with description and some just sounded better with the big ‘LY” at the end. Yeah, no. It took a little bit of research on my part, to realize how much adverbs can water down your story and that, they are not, I repeat, NOT your friend.

As Stephen King put it, “I believe the road to Hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” And he’s right. One major reason an agent, editor, or publisher might put your manuscript down and move to another, is if your writing is drenched in adverbs. Here’s a little more on what Stephen King had to say about the adverb and on the simplicity of style.

“Employ a simple and straightforward style,” Mark Twain instructed in the 18th of his 18 famous literary admonitions. And what greater enemy of simplicity and straightforwardness than the adverb? Or so argues Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft (public library), one of 9 essential books to help you write better.

Though he may have used a handful of well-placed adverbs in his recent books, King embarks upon a forceful crusade against this malignant part of speech:

The adverb is not your friend.

Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came beforeHe closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions . . . and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

King uses the admonition against adverbs as a springboard for a wider lens on good and bad writing, exploring the interplay of fear, timidity, and affectation:

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild — timidity is the word I’ve used here. If, however, one is working under deadline — a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample — that fear may be intense. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad,’ is fearful behavior.

It’s funny to me how Stephen King vocalizes that he believes that “fear” is at the root of most bad writing, when he is in fact, the author of some of the most terrifying stories of all times. His readers will probably agree with me, that in Mr. King’s case, he might have mastered “fear” to his advantage in his incredible writing.

Just remember, that some adverbs are okay when used moderately (or in moderation-see what I did there?). There will be times you catch yourself still adding an adverb where you don’t need it to be. But as you grow, just like trained singers, writers who’ve mastered technique can make magic with their voices, captivating their readers and making them turn pages. Such a writer’s voice can pulse with vitality, swing like music, create all kind of effects inside readers, compel them by sheer syntactical energy to keep turning the pages. It can only do these things, though, when the writer—like all those great writers from earlier eras—has studied, practiced, and mastered the repertoire of syntactical techniques available to those of us writing in English.

Including how to use—with precision, with care, with passion—the adverb.

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!!

Bad Writing Advice from Famous Authors

I came across this article by, Emily Temple, and it definitely caught my attention. As aspiring authors, as well as established ones, I feel we continuously crave the knowledge of writers before us. We wish to know and learn, from not only their successes, but their mistakes as well. I know when I’m in a writing rut, I enjoy finding different quotes from authors to help gain my motivation and inspiration back.

But, did you ever think about those quotes from authors that…well…might not be the best advice or statement? No one ever talks about those, but they’re out there. Here’s some bad writing advice from a few famous authors. Maybe, this will help you on what NOT to do!


Aspiring writers will never tire of reading lists of writing advice from famous authors, whether legendary or living. And why should they? These lists, the most recent of which to bubble up in our collective consciousness being advice from W.G. Sebald, contain countless encouragements, tips, and (in almost every case) directives to get to it and stop fooling about. But even famous authors can lead young writers astray — after all, not every suggestion works for everyone, or every rule for every type of writing, and we find ourselves deeply skeptical any time anyone tell us we must do something (or not do it). As Sebald himself advised, “Don’t listen to anyone. Not us, either. It’s fatal.” After the jump, a few pieces of bad — at least in our minds — writing advice from famous authors, and if you feel so moved, add to our list in the comments.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” — Saul Bellow

We have found that no one is much interested in our book of half-awake scribblings recounting our dreams.

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you are doomed.” — Ray Bradbury

Tell that to Harper Lee.

“Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” — Kurt Vonnegut

We happen to like a twist ending, thank you very much. Or at least a story that’s not so boring we know exactly what’s going to happen.

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” — Oscar Wilde

Maybe on a grand scale, but not on a sentence level.

“Don’t try.” — Charles Bukowski

Unless he meant this in the Yoda sense (and he didn’t), we’re not biting.

“Write drunk; edit sober.” — Ernest Hemingway

Well, we can support the latter half of this sentiment, or the whole thing if he meant it metaphorically. Somehow we don’t think he did, though.

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” — George Orwell

Never use anything you’ve seen before? That seems like a tall order.

“Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” and “Same for places and things.” — Elmore Leonard

Of course, it depends on what kind of writing you’re doing, but no descriptions of anything ever? That seems like a sad future of stories in white rooms to us.

“You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” — Robert A. Heinlein

Well, he’s certainly in the minority on that one.

“Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.” — Henry Miller

We think Miller just didn’t want anyone else to get anything done.

“You’re a Genius all the time” — Jack Kerouac

Now we see what was wrong with Kerouac.

“Don’t have children.” — Richard Ford

Oh, please.

“Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).” — Will Self

Again, we’re on board with the latter half of this sentiment, but advising a writer to stop reading? Maybe it works for some, but we can’t support that as blanket advice.

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” — George Orwell

But what if a long word sounds better? Also, go read some Nabokov.

“Actually if a writer needs a dictionary he should not write. He should have read the dictionary at least three times from beginning to end and then have loaned it to someone who needs it. There are only certain words which are valid and similies (bring me my dictionary) are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).” — Ernest Hemingway

The most draconian of the bunch, and very silly.


Hope everyone is having a great week! Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

Writer’s Block Caused By Stress: Ten Ways To Overcome.

I hope everyone had a fabulous time at the WD Conference this weekend. I know you learned a lot, and met some pretty awesome people. I’m sure some of you are already hard at work, critiquing, editing, and rewriting some of your manuscript, just from what you learned at the conference. Good job! Keep those words flowing!

However, a few might be a little overwhelmed, and I know at times for me, it can cause major writer’s block. Don’t get stressed! There are plenty of tips and info out there that may help relieve your writer’s block. This article here, in particular, really helped me. If you’re feeling a tad anxious or stressed from the work you know you have ahead of you, this article by, The Creative Writer’s Desk, can perhaps benefit you as well.

Some of these tips I may have touched on before, but let’s be honest, it’s never a bad idea for a review. Also, check out these great quotes by other authors, on how they combat the dreaded writer’s block – http://writerscircle.com/quotes-to-combat-writers-block/


Stress is one of the top two causes of writer’s block. When your mind is preoccupied it’s difficult, sometimes impossible to focus on creative writing. There are ways to get around it. Sometimes writing can actually be the activity that relieves your stress. Try these techniques to help you to relax and let the words flow. The top 10 ways to beat stress related writer’s block.

1. Designate one place that’s just for writing. It may seem like a simple task but if there is one place that you write every day it makes it easier for your mind to focus on writing and writer’s block won’t be as big of a problem. It’s the same concept as studying in the classroom where you have a test. You’re accustom to the surroundings so when you sit down in that area your mind recognizes that it’s time to write and it will more easily put aside the other worries of the day.

2. Write at least 500 words immediately after you wake up. The morning is when your mind is most rested and relaxed. The act of writing is, psychologically speaking, both soothing and stimulating. It sooths the mind by acting as an outlet for the stress you wake up with, allowing you to face your day with less on your mind. It’s stimulating because it gets your creative juices flowing, like mental pushups. By starting your day with writing, you’ll be facing the world with a creative mindset.

3. Give yourself enough time. Consider writing a prior engagement. If you’re serious about being a writer you have to give yourself enough time to work. Think of it as a relationship. You’ve promised writing that you’re going to devote the 5 o’clock hour to it. It’s a date. If you have to pick up the kids or go to class, pick a different time to write. You can’t write if you rush yourself. It will only add more stress and make the writer’s block worse.

4. Eliminate distractions. It sounds easy but in the world of cell phones and e-mail, it isn’t. Turn off your cell phone, disconnect your Internet or turn your wireless off, and put a “do not disturb” sign on the door. A woman I know has a sign that she puts on her door while writing that says, “If you aren’t bleeding, I don’t care.” Get rid of the clutter in your writing space and keep it that way. Your task is writing. Stick to it.

5. Keep a Journal. This is one of the classic tips of stress relief but how can writing help you with writer’s block? Writing a personal journal and creative writing for an audience are two different tasks. Put pen to paper with your problems in mind and you’ll be surprised what comes out. Sometimes there were stressors in your life that you weren’t even thinking about. Seeing these things in writing sometimes helps you to figure out solutions. Even when it doesn’t, it feels good just to have them written down.

6. Take a power nap. Most working adults and students aren’t getting enough sleep. This can lead to decreased focus and increased stress by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There are studies that show a 20-minute nap in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 more minutes of sleep in the morning. The equation is simple: more sleep equals less stress equals better focus when writing.

7. You can only change yourself. If there is someone else who doesn’t like you, or your work, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Don’t let other people’s judgments of you affect your judgment of yourself. If your writing isn’t good enough for someone else, but it’s the best your capable of doing, then it’s their problem. It’s easier to say than do but you can learn to see past their opinions. When someone tells you something that sounds negative don’t immediately respond. Repeat their words in your head and ask yourself, is this constructive criticism or destructive criticism? If it’s constructive, consider their advice and ask questions. If it’s destructive, smile at them and thank them for their opinion. Watching how annoyed they get when you don’t seem hurt is often humorous in itself (also a technique for relieving stress).

8. Exercise. Take a walk. Do yoga. Dancercise. Whatever will get your blood moving will get more oxygen to your brain and allow you to think more clearly. You’ll feel better about yourself because exercise is productive and healthy and you’ll feel better about writing when you get to it.

9. Take a break. Unless you’re on a strict deadline, whatever project you’re working on can wait. Sometimes, feeling trapped into one project can be stressful enough to cause writer’s block. If you’re working on a novel, put it to the side for a few days and try a short story or an essay. The change of pace is sometimes a relief and your mind will probably continue to work on the larger project behind the scenes. In a day or two you’ll wake up with a brilliant new direction so keep a notebook ready.

10. Volunteer. If you have the time, and be honest with yourself about the time you actually have, spend some of it helping others. Volunteer at a hospital, library, school, or community center. The feeling that you’re helping others is a simple way to overcoming stress and writer’s block. As human beings we’re naturally very self-focused. By getting out and helping others it allows us to see that our problems aren’t the only problems in the world. For writers, volunteering also adds to the material and experiences that we later turn into creative writing. Win-win-win.


I would so so so love to hear about how everyone did at the conference and what they thought about it. Feel free to comment or message me on here, or any of my social media sites! Thanks again for reading, and of course, writing!!!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

6 Ways to Hook your Reader from the Very First Line

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I’d like to take a quick second, and wish everyone a great writing conference experience this weekend! Do ya’ll have butterflies yet? Are ya’ll panicking that you forgot to pack something? It’s crazy to think that it’s been a whole year since I was doing the exact same thing as all of you. Like I said before, just relax and have a great time!!! I’ll be thinking about ya’ll! I would love to hear some experiences when ya’ll get back!

So, on to our subject today. Obviously, it’s important to keep your readers interested. Sure, not all of your book is going to keep your reader on the edge of their seat (well, unless it’s an intense thriller or mystery). But, let’s face it, there will possibly be a slow paced part in your manuscript. That’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, you need to make sure that it’s not excessive or lingers throughout your manuscript. The worst thing a writer can do, is fill the pages with words just for a word count. You don’t want your reader to start skipping or skimming over pages. It can happen in all sorts of ways, starting with too much description, or dialogue that doesn’t really have a purpose. With the snap of your fingers, it can cause your reader to sit your book down and move on to the next. Believe me, there are plenty of choices for them out there. Don’t aid them in choosing a different book.

But, before you start worrying about the middle or end of your manuscript, the valleys and peaks of it, you must concentrate on capturing your audience with the first few pages. This is very important as well, when searching for a literary agent. Agents are VERY busy, and if you can’t grab their attention in the first single page, some will simply move on to the next manuscript in front of them.

Something they said at the conference that stuck with me, is that every reader who picks up a book, goes through a process when they’re interest is sparked. The cover or title of the book catches their eye first, then they flip the book over to the back. Still intrigued, they move to the inside jacket flap, and if you’ve hit gold, igniting their interest even more, they begin to read the first page or first few pages. This, is where you get them hooked. So, the question is, how do you do that? How do you capture your readers, whether it’s a literary agent or a bookstore customer, from the very beginning?

I found this article by, Suzannah Windsor Freedom, about how to do just that.


Although I consider myself an avid reader, I must admit I have a short attention span when it comes to getting into books. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few lines, I start spacing out.

Most readers are like me. Most people don’t want to spend the first 50 pages trying to get into a book.

Here are a few things I find annoying in the first lines of a story:

  • Dialogue. Nice somewhere on the first or second page, but not in the first line. We won’t know who’s speaking or why we should care.
  • Excessive description. Some description is good, but not when it’s long winded. Skip the purple prose and opt for something more powerful.
  • Irrelevant information. The first few lines of your story are crucial, so give your reader only important information.
  • Introducing too many characters. I don’t like to be bombarded with the names of too many characters at once. How are we supposed to keep them straight when we don’t know who’s who?

The last thing you want to do as a writer is annoy or bore people. Instead, try one of these 6 ways to hook your readers right off the bat:

(N.B. One of the easiest ways to check out the opening pages of nearly any book you want is with the ‘Look Inside!‘ feature on Amazon.com.)

1. Make your readers wonder.

Put a question in your readers’ minds. What do those first lines mean? What’s going to happen? Make them wonder, and you’ll keep them reading.

2. Begin at a pivotal moment.

By starting at an important moment in the story, your reader is more likely to want to continue so he or she can discover what will happen next.

  • “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
  • “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

3. Create an interesting picture.

Description is good when it encourages people to paint a picture in their minds. Often, simple is best so it’s the reader who imagines a scene, instead of simply being told by the author.

  • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
  • “She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” ~Michael Ontaatje, The English Patient

4. Introduce an intriguing character.

The promise of reading more about a character you find intriguing will, no doubt, draw you into a story’s narrative. Most often, this is one of the main characters in the book.

  • “I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” ~Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. Start with an unusual situation.

Show us characters in unusual circumstances, and we’ll definitely be sticking around to see what it’s all about.

  • “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” ~Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
  • Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” ~Julie Buxbaum, The Opposite of Love

6. Begin with a compelling narrative voice.

Open your story with the voice of a narrator we can instantly identify with, or one that relates things in a fresh way.

  • “As I begin to tell this, it is the golden month of September in southwestern Ontario.” ~Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  • “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” ~Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

No matter how you start your book, keep your readers in mind. What will make them want to continue reading? What will potentially make them put down your book?

How does your favorite book open, and what makes it so compelling?


Hope everyone has a stupendous, exhilarating weekend!!

Happy Writing, Editing, Pitching, and Conferencing Ya’ll!!

What should I Blog about??

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So if there are any of you out there, like me, who is a complete rookie when it comes to blogging, this is the article for you! I’ll tell you that before I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference, I had no idea even what a blog was. Apologies, to all you tech savvy people out there, I just didn’t know. My bad.

When I did figure it all out, I was of course, totally overwhelmed in what to do or say in my blog. Yes, obviously, if you’re a writer who wishes to get published in the future, a social media platform is quite important. The more followers, the better. Agents and publishers look at this.

However, I wanted my blog to be more than just trying to accumulate as many followers as possible. Don’t get me wrong, followers are fantastic! Shout out and a huge thank you to all the people who are following me! Ya’ll are the best! But, more than that, I wanted to be able to help other writers in their journey. Share with them tips, information, and my own experiences to help them along the way. I know how much writers blogs and other great writing articles helped me in the beginning, and even still today. Like I said, as a writer, there will always be more for you to learn.

Hope this article by, Amy Lynn Andrews, helps some of you as you embark on writing and blogging! Happy Friday!

How to Decide What to Blog About

Unless your blog is strictly for your own enjoyment, you’re probably hoping to gain readers. So, it’s important to consider what others might want to read.

I’ve been watching the blogosphere for years. Below are five overarching areas that seem to attract the most readers. Below that are some practical tips for choosing your own blog topic.

WHAT READERS WANT

  1. Readers want to solve a problem

What do people get frustrated about? Do you have a solution? This is how my blogging took off. I talked to a lot of bloggers who loved to write but got frustrated with the techy side of blogging. I knew I could help solve this problem by sharing blogging tips, tools and tutorials in a non-techy way.

  1. Readers want to relieve their fears

What are people afraid of? How can you help ease those fears? Maybe you’re a parent who has lost a child. It’s a real and valid fear for a lot of parents. Sharing your story of hope and healing could be very helpful for many people. Or maybe you can offer help to those facing job loss or financial disaster.

  1. Readers want to learn something new

What would people love to do if only they knew how? What do you know that you could teach them? Maybe you’re a whiz at crocheting, you have a knack for writing or you have a unique way of teaching math that makes it easy to understand. A lot of people have projects around the house they would gladly tackle but aren’t sure where to start. Teach them.

  1. Readers want to reach a goal

What are common goals people have? Have you set and reached some significant goals? Can you spell out how you did it and inspire others on their journey? Fitness and weight loss come to mind here, as well as getting out of debt. Pursuing big goals can be disheartening and lonely. Knowing someone else has been there does wonders.

  1. Readers want to be entertained

Do you have a fascinating story? Do you lead a wildly interesting life? Are you outrageously funny? Everyone needs down time and plenty of blogs exist purely to entertain. I’d say this is a trickier path to pursue since there’s no shortage of entertainment to be had on the internet, in magazines and on TV, but it’s doable. The key is providing something totally unique. Of course as a bonus, you could be entertaining and helpful at the same time. For example, if your family raises llamas, talk about how you raise llamas not just that you raise llamas. Entertaining + helpful = a great combination.

Related: How to Blog: Step-By-Step Guide

BLOG TOPIC TIPS

Now that you know what others are looking for, here are some tips to decide where your interests might overlap and therefore make a good blog topic.

Is my blog idea a good one?

This is a difficult question to answer, mostly because it’s the wrong question. Unless your proposed blog topic is of interest to only a couple of people in the world because it’s so specialized, it’s likely a good idea. But two bloggers can have the very same idea, start the same type of blog, at the same time, in the same niche and have very different outcomes. The real question is, are you willing to put in the time and effort to stand out? It will absolutely take lots of both.

Write for others

A lot of new bloggers fail to think beyond their own interests when starting a blog (see above). Your blog should undoubtedly be an extension of you, but if you’re not writing for the benefit of others at the same time, you might as well just keep a diary.

Pick a niche

Instead of just writing whatever comes to mind, try to write around a general topic. (This is called your niche.) Not only will it be easier to stay on task, it’ll be a lot easier for readers to track with you.

While not required, a niche provides focus and direction, making your blog’s purpose easily understood and defined, not only by you, but by your visitors as well.

Is this niche too broad or too specific?

If your blog’s topic is too broad, it’s hard to compete with, and stand out from, all the other blogs and websites in your niche. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, the pool of interested readers will be too small to gain any traction.

For example, “photography” is a very broad topic. On the other hand, “photography in 50-Person Town, USA” doesn’t give you a very large audience. “Black and white photography” is better. “Black and white photography in National Parks” is better still. “Black and white photography in Yellowstone” might be even better. The goal is to find a topic with a good number of interested people and plenty of potential subtopics, but a topic that not so many other people are writing about. Do some research and googling to narrow it down.

Is this niche saturated?

Back in the day, when there weren’t so many blogs online, you could almost pick any topic and run with it. Now, not so much. There are definitely niches that are really, really full and therefore, difficult to break into. How do you know? If you can easily find several dozen popular blogs on the topic, you might rethink your topic.

However, just because a niche is big doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to choose it. After all, a large niche means there’s a market for it. Spend time watching the main players. Knowing your way around will help you fine-tune the “thing” that will make you stand out.

Are readers in this niche willing to spend money?

If you hope to generate income, this is an important question. Think about the intersection between your niche and your audience. For example, if you’re hoping to promote high-end clothing products, it’s probably not a great idea to target struggling college students. Another way to look at it: are other blogs in this niche earning money? Finding this out is easier said than done, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. Do those blogs have advertisers? Are the blogs active, engaging and growing?

Do you have plenty to blog about?

Choose a topic that you can write about regularly and indefinitely. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul. If you post once a week, that amounts to 52 posts a year. Three times a week? 156 posts. Five times a week? 260 posts.  And that’s just barely getting started! Don’t choose something so narrow that you run out of writing fodder after only a few weeks or months.

A good way to test this is to brainstorm possible posts or subtopics pertaining to your main blog topic. If you can easily come up with a list of several dozen with additional ideas about how to branch out, it’s probably a good sign. If, however, you can’t think of many, you might need to rethink your choice. Another way to work around this problem is to have  a multi-author blog.

Rock your ninja-ness

If you aren’t sure you have much to offer, I love what Sonia Simone says, “Even if you’re only pretty good, but not a ninja, you’re still a ninja to someone.” Find that thing about which you have a decent amount of know-how and go with it. Chances are there are others who will appreciate what you have to say.

Choose a topic you are genuinely passionate about

If you don’t have a genuine interest in what you’re writing about, it will be a drag and a burden. If you talk about the topic among your real life friends and they just want you to be quiet already, it’s a great topic to blog about.

Choose a niche in which you can be an authority

The key here is to think smaller. I’ve always been impressed with Carrie from Springs Bargains who did just this. She started a deal blog, but instead of starting a general one like so many others, she purposefully targeted Colorado Springs. She is absolutely the authority on deals in Colorado Springs.

“Niching down,” as some say, or, choosing a narrower niche, may have a smaller pool of potential readers, but you might be able to gain a following quicker too.

What kind of site do you wish you could find?

Sometimes a good way to determine a viable blog niche is to ask yourself what you’ve found to be lacking online. After all, if you’re looking for it, someone else might be looking for it too. This is how I started my first blog. Back in 2004, I was a struggling pastor’s wife. I knew I couldn’t be the only pastor’s wife having a difficult time, so I searched online for others with whom I could relate. I couldn’t find any, so I started my own. Another way to look at it: what group is being ignored online?

What’s missing on other blogs?

When I asked this question in 2010, my blog started taking off. There are a gazillion blogs about blogging and making money blogging. What I noticed though, is that a lot of them say things like, “Wanna start a blog? Great! You’ll need hosting and a domain and then here’s how to blog…” Not a lot of them explained exactly how to choose a domain and how to purchase & set up hosting in a step-by-step way. So, even in this huge niche, I decided to tackle the basics where a lot of people seemed to get lost (like I did when I first started!). Find a hole and fill it.

As you hang out in your potential niche, continually ask yourself what’s missing. What are people looking for? What are you looking for? Read comments, get involved in forums, Twitter and Facebook and keep your ears peeled for hints about what people want, but can’t find.

Be different

Bloggers tend to copy what other bloggers do. This is absolutely valuable in many ways, but it’s not so good when it puts your blog right smack in the middle of average. Brainstorm ways to do things differently.

  • Do most bloggers in your niche write long posts? Why not keep yours short?
  • Do most bloggers in your niche write words? Why not vlog?
  • Do most bloggers in your niche post a few times a week? Why not post every day?
  • Or maybe you could start a unique feature or incorporate an interesting twist — something no one else has done or something you saw someone in a different niche do that you think might work in yours.

You may have heard of The Pioneer Woman. Way back when, she was one of many bloggers blogging about their lives as a mom. But one day she started recounting the tale of how her (a city girl) and her husband (a cowboy) met and fell in love. Her readers ate it up. Coupled with her outstanding photography and love for cooking, she subsequently rose to the top of her niche…and the entire mommy blogging world.

What hasn’t been done before? Try it and see if it propels you to the top!

Be flexible

Once you choose a niche, don’t feel like you’re committed to it for life. Blogging is very fluid and changes constantly. Being flexible and taking advantage of ways to be different will serve you well. In fact, expect it.

Be you

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to find a blog you love…and then try to duplicate it. You must differentiate yourself. One of the greatest things about blogs is they afford us the opportunity to get to know the individual behind the blog. Blogging is part of social media because it’s just that—social.

Let your personality come through. If you’re goofy, be goofy. If you’re feisty, be feisty. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. Your readers will be drawn to what you have to say, but they will also be drawn to who you are. BE YOU.

Resist paralysis of analysis

Many people get stuck at this point in the process because they’re terrified of making the “wrong choice.” While a well-chosen niche is a benefit, one wonderful thing about the internet is how forgiving it is. Don’t be afraid to dive in and figure it out as you go. We all do that. Better to do that than to do nothing at all. Just start. How about right now?

Happy Blogging Ya’ll! And thank you again for reading and following!

The 10 Most Important Things Every Writer Needs to Know

It’s almost Friday! Woohoo!! It seems to me, like it’s been the longest week ever. Anyway, here’s another great article I found while surfing the web by David Cole with Bay Tree Publishing. – www.baytreepublish.com

He gives a lot of great advice for anyone who is considering writing a novel, beginner writers who have just started, or even just to serve as reminders to those of us who have done it a bit longer. 🙂

The Ten Most Important Things Every Writer Needs to Know

Following is a list of useful instructions for writing and life. They are not secrets, mine or anyone else’s, but they are helpful to keep in mind. I suggest printing them out and taping them on your wall.

  1. Beware the romantic haze

It’s easy to indulge in a romantic haze and get carried away by the sound of your own words—attractive phrases, the sensuous play of vowels and sibilants, the sly insinuation of disguised intent. These are the tools of what was called in an old song, moon glow. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had behind this curtain, but it doesn’t withstand the daylight. After all, you are on a mission. What comes of this stuff anyway?

  1. Ignore, disregard, combat, quash, or by any means at your disposal destroy nagging self-doubts

Nobody wants to hear or read about your self-doubts, qualms or scruples. Just an oblique reference is usually too much, even for your spouse. Readers want to see, smell, feel, hear, and taste your words, but they will put up with a certain amount of failure of language if you can give them a little thrill. I’m talking about myself, but you may have found the same.

  1. Nothing but the truth

Personally, I want the truth, spoken clearly and with confidence. Every week through my childhood the hardboiled L.A. detective Sergeant Friday deadpanned on black-and-white television, lips hardly moving, “Just the facts, ma’am,” and audiences salivated waiting for the line. This is what I am after, and what readers want as well. I don’t mean, of course, the facts of your own life, but the truth of human experience. This is probably harder to get at than it sounds, but between the romantic haze of self-delusion and the harping of doubt lies a narrow path, a fragile bridge. The trick is to listen to the inner voice. The trick is to listen to your heart and write what it speaks, to reinvent yourself every day, every minute, to be fully alive and not just go through the motions.

Be here now wrote Ram Dass in the 1960s. It’s still a relevant message. Don’t pull the blinds down or half shut your eyes into a comfortable twilight, and don’t poke at yourself for being imperfect in your efforts. Put your chin up, your chest forward, and step deliberately into the present, into the day. Hup, two, three, four.

  1. Don’t take advice

Actually, I’m not sure what I had in mind when I added this to the list. People offer all kinds of helpful criticism and often point out flaws that need fixing. You wouldn’t want to go through life all character-disordered because no one pointed out your narcissism for instance. If you keep taking their advice you will get stronger and stronger, and by the time you die you will be almost perfect.

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  1. Don’t worry about your mistakes

Somewhere I saw Miles Davis quoted as saying, if you play a wrong note, play it loud and everyone will think you played it on purpose. This probably goes without saying.

  1.   6. Know your audience

In my occasional role of marketing consultant, this is my first injunction. Since writing is a business like any other, I can extend this advice to you as well. If you write short stories, poetry, fiction, or anything inspiring, inspired or inspirational, you will be the first, primary, and sometimes total readership. The great thing about this is that knowing your audience is the same thing as knowing yourself, which Socrates made clear is the most important thing anyone can do. So by heeding this crucial directive to know your audience, you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. And while I have never killed two birds with one stone—I haven’t actually killed any bird with a stone—I can affirm it to be very efficient. Actually, I know there are more efficient ways to kill birds. This is just an old saying.

7. Your family and friends are not your audience

They will either love everything you have written or else pick it to death. What do they know? When I was a child they still sold bound diaries with little locks and keys. There was a reason for this. These days you have a password to protect your computer. Joking aside, if you want feedback, I recommend joining a writers group with smart people who like you, but not too much. The main thing is to be careful about the food they serve.

  1. Read everything you can

There is wisdom to be found on cereal boxes if you know how to look. Read the acknowledgements in books and find out who the author hangs out with. Often this will substitute for reading the book itself. Read the publisher’s statement in magazines and check out the circulation audit. Read things that no one else does, and you will learn things no one else knows. This won’t make you a better writer, but you will be wealth of interesting and obscure information. Depending on the kind of parties you go to, you will either be the center of attention or someone to be avoided. Would you rather go to a party where people are dancing and carrying on or one where people are earnestly discussing subjects of import? What kind of dancer are you, anyway?

9.  Speak and listen as much as possible

Both enlarge you in different ways, and both can lead to success as a writer. The main thing, although it sometimes takes a long time to realize it, is the words. The more you use words, the more real they become. When they are completely real they become a force that nothing on earth can resist. Of course, many people have said that.

  1. Ask yourself, why do I want to write?

This is the key to everything. Many years ago in the middle of a night that went on for a very long time, I found myself on a hallucinogenic drug twirling toward the edge of the universe, and I turned to one of my companions and asked, “Why do people do this?” She looked back at me and said, “When I get into that kind of place, I say to myself, it comes in a little pill, and nobody makes you take it. You swallowed it of your own accord. ”Ever since then, I have tried to share helpful advice with friends. That is why I have written this.

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!