Do you suffer from F.A.P. ???

Fear and Procrastination. Two nasty little words that obliterate a writer’s craft before it’s completed.

I’ve written blogs before on inspiration and keeping that perseverance going. But what happens when you just don’t think you have it in you to write one more page, write one more word? Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean the words come easy. It’s not like our pens become magic wands, making all our dreams come true in five seconds. So, what if your “small break” ends up being two months of pure nothingness?

You start having that fear creep inside you. That voice that says, “you’ll never get there. You were so close, all that work, and now its just collecting dust, like all your other projects you never finished. Good job, buddy. Don’t quit your day job.”

And there it starts. After fear catches you, then procrastination keeps you. He’s the little thief in the night that watches your every movement until…BAM…he’s in your house while you’re asleep, grabbing all your precious things.


Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”  ~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


How does a writer move on from that? At times, procrastination can almost be debilitating. It’s similar to how depression is described in some people, the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. Some of the best pieces of work have never left a writer’s mind because of that robber who steals our time and thoughts. We make excuses saying it’s our spouse, our full-time job, friends, or our kids that need our time more. “Life is just busy right now.” We say to ourselves. “I’m moving, changing jobs, my daughter has basketball practice, I’m getting married, I’m getting divorced, the holidays are coming up, etc.”

FAP


The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”  ~ Alan Dean Foster


Sometimes, it’s as simple as guilt from a family member. You know the person I’m talking about. The one that says your writing is just a “hobby” and really it should come behind everything else. Before we know it, days, weeks, months, maybe even years have gone by. We feel like we’ve missed our moment.

Other times, it’s the discouragement of comparing ourselves to other writers. “How did Suzy Smith write and edit her 100K word manuscript in six months? She’s going to be published in the Spring!” You gaze at the piles of crumpled paper that surround your desk. The red ink smudged all over your 40K word rough draft that you’ve been working on for nearly two years. “She even has a husband and three kids! She does carpool and works for an attorney! How is that even possible!? I might as well just hang in the towel. If I was meant to be a writer, I’d be where Suzy is at.”

I went through some of this, just recently. Thankfully, I had a fantastic editor who didn’t give up on me. Shout out Katelyn Stark! She showed me that I could do it. I could finish, and that yes, life happens, but not to let it take all the reasons from me that caused me to start writing in the first place. Life is always moving and changing around you. But all you have to do is take that one step. Plug in that USB to your laptop, punch those keys with your fingers, take that paper out of your desk and pick up your pen. You’ll find that when you start again, it’s like an old friend the you thought was gone, but in fact, never left.

This blog is probably the most important one so far that I’ve written. Mostly, because it comes from a very dark place that I’ve been in with my writing. I’ve feared so much of not being able to cut it, never getting published, seeing others around me write faster or better, believing that maybe all the signs I thought I had seen, were just a mistake. Maybe, I really wasn’t a writer. I just got caught up in the moment. Maybe it had been just a lie I had wanted so badly.

I’ve written about patience in the writing industry on my blog. Every part of it is true. Sometimes you must have it with agents, editors, publishers, but more often than you think, we need it for ourselves too. It’s amazing how we start out with this drunk euphoria when we begin a new project. The OOOH’s and AAAH’s of our family and friends. “I can’t believe your writing a book! That’s amazing! This story is fantastic!” How quickly in diminishes once we’ve been at it for a while. The cheerleading that we once were given fades away, and we realize that we need something else to carry us through. Emotions are fleeting. It sound cliché, but still true.

It’s amazing how each one of us have this internal time clock that makes us feel like we need to go faster in our writing. We focus so much on reaching that end mark of success, that we let the joy of writing slip past us. We forget, making it become just another check mark on our list. Just another task we finished for the day. Don’t let it be that!!

I never understood the importance of the question, “Why do you write?” At least not, until recently. What’s the significance of it? I’ll tell you. We need to know and understand what our driving force is to write. This is the key that will deepen ourselves and our writing into breaking free of that dark time of fear and procrastination. We must hold on tight to those reasons of why we write in the first place.


Alice Hoffman “I wrote to find beauty and purpose, to know that love is possible and lasting and real, to see day lilies and swimming pools, loyalty and devotion, even though my eyes were closed and all that surrounded me was a darkened room. I wrote because that was who I was at the core, and if I was too damaged to walk around the block, I was lucky all the same. Once I got to my desk, once I started writing, I still believed anything was possible.” (August 2000)


I write this blog now, in hopes that it will help other writers know that they aren’t alone. If you’re not a writer, you can’t understand the mental battle that takes place every day in a writer’s mind. The fears, the hunger, the courage, and determination that each of us must possess to finish our work.

What separates us from the people who only desire to be a writer isn’t our work or its completion, that it’s published, or that we were asked to be a speaker at a writing conference. Our choice and what we do with it is what divides us. The choice to give in to those dark lies, or the choice to believe that we were created to write something no one else could. No other can write the same words we put on the page. It’s our own distinct and unique fingerprint on the world, whether it get’s published, or simply, that you take a stack of papers from a desk drawer one day and give them to your grandkids to read and cherish. Either way, it’s yours, and yours alone.


I found this great blog article that talks about the daily routines of 12 famous authors. http://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers  It’s pretty amazing to see the differences in what each of them do, and how they find their own success in writing.

Last but not least, I leave you with a few quotes that I hope will encourage you in your writing journey.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Japanese Proverb

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ” Ray Bradbury

 

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!

Tips on Writing a Page Turner

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge advocate of Writer’s Digest. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just by reading the articles they have available on the internet. Not to mention, some of the books they have as well. If you haven’t checked them out yet, here’s the link! http://www.writersdigest.com/

Anyway, I found this great article by, Chuck Sambuchino, on 5 steps to write a page turner. There’s some really good tips in here. Enjoy!

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a quiet novel about old age, a historical romance, or a spy thriller. All writers face the same challenge: how do you keep a reader turning the pages of your novel? Imagine you’re rushing to work when you see a crowd of people, film cameras and lights. Some people say it’s Tom Cruise, others insist it’s a car commercial. Now you’re curious, and you stop to watch, even though you’re going to be late for work. As a writer, the most powerful emotion you can tap into is curiosity. You want the reader to stick around and see what happens in the end. How do you do this?

  1. Create a question in the reader’s mind right at the beginning.

This might seem like a cheap trick, but even a literary writer like Marquez uses it at the beginning of a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

(Can you re-query an agent after she’s rejected you in the past?)

What? The Colonel is facing a firing squad? How did he get there? Will he survive? And notice the secondary information: ice in this world is a novelty. Where is this place? How long ago is it?

In my own first novel, the beginning is tighter: “The Senator’s wife was late. Very late.” Hopefully the reader is intrigued: Who is this woman? Why is she late? Will she show up? And as the protagonist of my novel waits for the Senator’s wife, the reader waits, too, and gets sucked into the story.

  1. Little questions can lead to larger ones.

You do not have to start of your novel with something dramatic: an explosion, a body dropping, a woman standing on a window ledge. It takes time to build the world of a novel. If you introduce the main conflict of the novel too soon, the reader may not care: your characters are strangers, after all.

Instead, you could start with a quieter situation: your main character wakes up with a hangover, and doesn’t remember what happened the night before. A child searches the house for his missing candy bar. A cab driver picks up a beautiful woman who he thinks he recognizes.

These everyday situations will all pique the reader’s curiosity, and while they wait to find out what happens, you can develop complex, sympathetic characters and create a vivid setting. Then, when your main character goes on an epic journey, the child’s mother dies, and the cab driver is accused of murder, the reader will be fully invested in them, and read on to see what happens.

  1. Identify the main question at the heart of your book and don’t answer it till the end.

Ask yourself: What is keeping the reader intrigued? What is the most important question that remains unanswered till the end?

This central question of the book is often called the ‘narrative engine’. It is what keeps the reader turning pages, waiting to find out what happens. Once this question is answered, all the mystery drains away, so keep it alive till close to the end of the book.

Here’s the engine that powers my second novel, in one sentence: “When an Indian cab driver in New York City is accused of the murder of a Bollywood actress, he has ten days to find out who did it.”

Other classic narrative engines that keep entire novels chugging along: Do the lovers get together in the end? Do the travelers make it to their destination? What really happened in the past? Does he/she recover from a broken heart, a death, an illness?

  1. You can answer the main question right at the beginning and still create a page turner.

This completely contradicts what I’ve just said! Yet, the novel ‘Tinkers’, which won the Pulitzer Prize, gives everything away in the first sentence: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”

This might feel like a real spoiler. But, unlike a thriller or a mystery, this novel doesn’t hinge on knowing whether the man lives or dies. Instead, it explores how he came to be dying in his bed. If you are writing a quieter novel, it turns out how something happened can be just as compelling as what happened.

You could start a novel by revealing that the ship sinks, the marriage ends in divorce, the movie star ends up an alcoholic. Then the entire novel becomes a gradual unfolding of how it all happened. And the reader will stay with you for the ride.

(Learn how to protect yourself when considering a independent editor for your book.)

  1. Create a layering of questions.

While there is an overarching question that keeps the reader turning pages till the end of the book, 400 pages is a long time to wait for answer. If you, the writer, withhold all information throughout the book, the reader will get frustrated, and stop reading.

It is your job to introduce smaller questions throughout the book, and to answer them at different times. In my second novel, as my cab driver struggles to find the actress’s murderer, he takes up with a nightclub hostess; but what is she hiding from him? What exactly is happening at her nightclub? And do they end up together? While the main question remains shrouded in mystery, these smaller mysteries keep the book moving from chapter to chapter.

To conclude: please note that I started this post with a question, and you’ve read this far to find out the answers!

If you want to know even more, you can check out this website on Writer’s Digest as well – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/how-to-make-your-novel-a-page-turner

Happy Writing Ya’ll!

Last Minute Conference Tips!!

Your-First-Writers-Conference

Well…10 more days till the Writer’s Digest Conference. How’s everyone feeling? I’m sure some of you are a tad anxious. Especially, if you’ve never gone to a writing conference before. This is a great one to start with, believe me.

Anyway, I just wanted to wish everyone luck, particularly the ones who are involved in the Pitch Slam. Again, deep breath, you’ll do great!

Here are a few last minute tips:

1. Don’t be shy.

If you asked my friends if I was shy, they would say, “Heck NO!!” And that would be the truth, at least to them. But when I’m with a bunch of strangers, it takes me a little while to let my guard down. So if you’re like that, do your best to open up. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to just let myself kick back, and not be afraid to join in the conversation. Quite honestly, it’s how I learned some things and got more comfortable talking about my own book.

2. Make friends.

Again, this goes back to not being shy. This is a HUGE opportunity for you to meet all types of people. Writers, editors, agents, and others who have a part in the writing industry. Form friendships, and celebrate in the fact that you’re not alone. Learn from one another, and bond over the things you have in common. I met a great group of people while I was there, and I know some of them will be life long friends. When I have writer’s block or when I just can’t seem to get my seat in the chair to write, I’ll text them and they’re great at motivating me back to where I need to be. Writing is about so many other things, than just the words that come from you. I’ve said it before, WE are a tribe. We celebrate each other’s successes, and are there for support during rejection.

3. Take it in strides.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information given to you. But don’t feel like you have to remember everything, or know it all by the time you leave. Writing is a continual learning process. If you feel like you’ve reached an end to that process, well, that means you’re not doing something right. It’s forever moving. Your mind will be so full, that when you leave the conference, you’ll almost be in a daze. Don’t fret, it will all come together.

4. Be prepared.

What do you do with all that information? Well…you’re a writer. Write it down. Or tap it in your IPAD or laptop, whatever you’ve brought to take down notes. Just make sure you have a pen and notebook. Anything. I guess, unless you’re an audio learner, but even then, it’s so much, you’re bound to forget something. I actually brought a messenger bag with pens, highlighters, notepads, my business cards (those are to hand out to fellow writers that you want to keep in touch with. Not agents.), the first few pages of my manuscript, and that was about it. Just make sure, to be prepared.

5. Take a chance.

One great thing I have found at the Writer’s Digest Conference, is how interactive they make it. From the guest speakers, to the agents, editors, etc., they encourage you to ask questions and give you time to actually ask them. DON’T BE SHY!!! I can not stress this enough. Get up there, take that microphone, and ask whatever question your little heart desires. This could be your only chance to ask your question, so do it. I promise you’ll regret it if you don’t. A lot of times I found that someone would ask a question, and it would be the very one that was on my own mind. You’re helping other writers around you, just as much as you are yourself. It gets easier too, after you do it a few times.

6. Don’t put pressure on yourself.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, that you forget to enjoy the time at the conference. I know it feels like this might be your only chance to find an agent or to sell your book, but it’s not, I promise. This is simply another step. It opens the door for many more things. Yes, there are writers who get signed from the conference. I know of three of them personally, from last year when I went. But the conference is not just about getting signed by an agent. It’s about learning the skills and industry as well. Don’t be so focused on signing with someone that you miss out on some other really good stuff. You’re time is still coming. Don’t get discouraged.

6. Have fun.

This will probably be one of the greatest experiences in your lifetime. Revel in it. If I could go to a week long writing conference like Writer’s Digest, I would do it in a heart beat no matter the cost. There are no words to express how refreshing and how liberating it is for a writer to be surrounded by people who love it just as much as you. Sure, your friends and family are supportive of your writing and dreams, but it isn’t the same when you can talk to someone about how freaking scared you were during the Pitch Slam or that you received 50 rejections from 50 different agents. Nobody understands that better than a fellow comrade in paper. They don’t look at you crazy when you want to just talk about writing for hours, cause they want to do the exact same thing! I’m telling you, I didn’t want to leave. 🙂

And, just a word of advice. If everyone seems a tad anxious on Friday. I promise after the Pitch Slams on Saturday, everyone will be like college kids who just finished their graduate exams. They all breathe a sigh of relief and go, “Oh…that wasn’t so bad.” LOL!

Happy Conference Ya’ll!

And please please, when ya’ll get back, let me know how everything went! Can’t wait to hear!

 

Agent Interview on what they REALLY want…

1950s-chimp-in-overalls-sitting-in-chair-at-typewriter-with-pencil-and-steno-padI came across this article by Natalie R. Collins, and I thought it would be really good to share since we’ve been talking so much about literary agents lately. Let me know what you think!


“I wish I knew what agents are looking for,” a writing friend of mine said the other day. “If I could only read their minds, I’d be in!”

In today’s tough publishing climate, most big commercial presses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries from authors, and instead use agents to sort through the slush pile and bring them the best work around.

This means the most important contact a writer can or will have is with his/her agent. There are many things to consider when choosing an agent, including their sales record, affiliations, reputation, and client list. As you query the agents that meet your criteria, you will undoubtedly meet with much rejection.

Once you have an agent, don’t imagine you’re on easy street. Most agents will tell you to put aside that dream of instant success and royalties that pour in unchecked, and prepare to go to work. New writers must be willing to actively market their work, a job that is both time consuming and tedious. No agent wants

a client who thinks once the book is written, the job is done. Since I’m seriously short on psychic skills, I decided to do the next best thing and ask a few successful agents some questions. I asked four questions of three agents:

Jeff Kleinman of Graybill and English, LLC [JK], Liza Dawson [LD], and Felicia Eth [FE].

All three are successful non-fee chargers with proven track records and good reputations. One fact came out loud and clear: Writers are making the same mistakes over and over again. Here’s your opportunity to learn what an agent is looking for, directly from the source.

  1. What is the worst thing a writer can do in a query letter?

JK: Hmm, that’s a tough one. How about three things: ramble for more than a page and a half; sound desperate; and make grammatical, punctuation, or spelling mistakes.

LD: Here are two worst things. One, write the letter like it’s a promo piece for Publishers Clearinghouse, i.e. “Dear Ms. Dawson: I’d like to offer you the opportunity at a sure bestseller. I’ve heard you’re brilliant and so successful and that’s why I’m sending you and the other fifty agents on this e-mail submission this letter.” Two, beg me in hysterical language to pay attention because you’ve never written a letter to an agent and you’re really scared and you know that no one will ever listen to you.

FE: Bore me. If the letter does, probably the manuscript will too. Boast about it — tell me it’s sure to be a bestseller, tell me I’ll make lots of money. Send it to me, but address it to another agent. You’d be amazed how often this happens. Make it clear it’s a form letter, where my name is hand-written in. It makes me think it’s been to a million other agents.

  1. What catches your eye and makes you want to read someone’s work?

JK: A tightly-crafted letter with a great single- or two-sentence description of the work, and an author with very good credentials — published in national magazines, or with a national platform; winning awards, and so forth.

LD: One, a recommendation; two, a clear description of the work with few superfluous sentences; three, previous publications.

FE: Pizzazz in the query letter. Good, maybe great credentials — either on the person’s expertise, or publishing background. An original approach without being overly corny; sometimes writers cross the line in making something way too cute. It’s strong, original writing that catches my eye.

  1. As writers, we hear stories of the “good old days” where agents and editors would nurture a promising writer with two or three books until they reached top form. In your opinion, was this ever the case, and if so, what changed it?

JK: I think that’s still the case with agents and editors. It’s all about nurturing and building up a brand name.

LD: It was true a long time ago. Agents will nurture for longer than editors will. Editors now must justify their salaries in a way that they never had to before. Unless that writer gets fabulous reviews and there’s a whiff of a Nobel prize in the air, then that editor has to maintain a wall between himself or herself and the writer — or else the editor will end up standing next to the writer, looking at the publishing house from the outside rather than the inside.

FE: I’ve been around for a while, and though things were never ‘great’ still there are definite differences today. People used to buy a book they loved but didn’t think would be a great commercial success, for small money, publish it well and hope that it would help establish a writer for his/her next book. Today no one (of the major houses at least) wants to spend small money on a book with small expectations. They just can’t buy those books; they need to meet minimums in terms of the number of copies they can get out. Also, previously if someone was a good writer, credentials and platform weren’t nearly as important as they are today. Now, without that, it’s a long, difficult, uphill battle and most editors aren’t willing to fight that fight. So yes, things are different.

  1. If you could give a new author one piece of advice to help advance his/her career, what would it be?

JK: Build up your credentials! By that I mean: One, learn to make your writing as solid, tight, and wonderful as possible; and two, become an “authority” on your subject, with some kind of very strong regional, or national, platform.

LD: Cultivate a following on National Public Radio. Come up with a high concept gimmick.

FE: Build credentials — short stories or magazine and newspaper pieces. Contests, supportive quotes from any major name you know. Build up a good case for why your work needs to be taken seriously, and then, amazingly enough, it will be. That’s no guarantee it will be bought, but at least it will be read and that’s an important first step.

I also asked one final question, half-jokingly: “When you become a literary agent, are you automatically required to use the word ‘subjective’ in your rejections?” Liza Dawson says yes: “Every time we send out a rejection notice we’re afraid that we’re going to spark a suicide, or reject a fabulously successful novel and the author will then make merciless fun of the agents who rejected the book and post the pompous rejections on his web site.”

Felicia Eth had this response: “You know, I do use ‘subjective’ myself, because it is. In fact, I don’t love ‘commercial’ novels, with all that implies, and probably reject a fair number of them that are good and likely to sell. But that’s not what I do, not what I like, and though other agents probably think I’m nuts, that’s my criteria. Authors should know that. I told someone this week that I don’t do Mob novels — and said, ‘yes I probably would have rejected the Godfather.’ So that’s how subjective it is.”

An important thing to remember is that this ruthless business is also difficult from the agent’s perspective. The goal of an agent is not to crush the spirit of a new writer, who often has great potential but simply is not ready to seek publication. The only way to succeed is to write, rewrite, edit and write again, until your work is perfectly polished. At that point, remember the business of publishing is, indeed, subjective. What one agent hates, another may love.

More of What Agents Really Want

Dear Author: Your work sounds intriguing. I would be interested in seeing the first fifty pages, along with a synopsis and your original query letter.

Best, Joe Agent

Now what do you do? Page fifty leaves the heroine dangling precariously from the outer tip of

See my point? Should you send forty-five pages, which ends a chapter and has a better breaking point, or should you send seventy-five pages, which ends the chapter you started on page forty-six?

For this question, I went straight to the source. I asked six agents exactly how they felt about the following questions:

  1. If you ask someone for the first fifty pages, and they send you fifty-two, because that is where a chapter breaks, are you going to disregard their work because they didn’t follow your guidelines?
  2. Should a writer automatically send a synopsis? If so, how long should that synopsis be?
  3. How long should a query letter be?

Overwhelmingly, the agents I asked stated that a writer sending extra pages or a few less than requested would not really affect how they look at the work. They had differing opinions on whether or not to send a synopsis and how long it should be. From their answers I believe that you should only send a synopsis if the agent requests it. All were in agreement again, however, when it comes to a query letter being only one page long. Keep it short.

Kind enough to respond politely to my inquiries were B.J. Robbins of B.J. Robbins Literary Agency; Liza Dawson, of Liza Dawson Associates; William Contardi, formerly of William Morris who is now with Brandt and Hochman; Pam Strickler, of Pam Strickler Literary Management; Simon Lipskar of Writers House; Linda Hyatt of Hyatt Literary Agency; Jeff Kleinman of Greybill and English; and Nicole Aragi, who recently left Watkins-Loomis to start her own agency.

If you ask someone for the first fifty pages, and they send you fifty-two, because that is where a chapter breaks, are you going to disregard their work because they didn’t follow your guidelines?

BJR: No, I would never disregard or reject out of hand someone’s work if they sent me a few pages more than I had requested. I ask for the first three chapters, which eliminates this problem.

LD: Of course not!

WC: Of course not… fifty pages give or take, this is a writerocracy not an agentatorship.

PS: No, that would be fine.

SL: Of course not. If there’s a natural break somewhere near fifty pages, then send that many pages. However, if the first chapter ends on page ninety-seven and the agent has requested fifty pages, just send fifty pages.

LH: Two pages will not break or make a writer. But, when I am overwhelmed with submissions and I respond with “I am not accepting submissions at this time” I do expect the author to heed my statement and try at a later date.

JK: I’m a completely crappy person to ask about that kind of stuff, because I frankly don’t care very much. I tend to think, though, that writers should try to follow an agent’s requests–because there are a lot of completely anal-retentive agents out there. The feeling is that if a writer can’t follow simple directions like send X, they’ll probably be difficult to work with for editing and editors.

NA No, of course not, the fifty-page guideline is just rough. I usually ask for fifty pages, or three chapters, or whatever “cut” seems most logical. Under no circumstances should they send a mix of chapters. It’s infuriating to receive a query letter with chapters twelve and thirteen enclosed. Like any reader, an agent wants to start at the beginning.

Should a writer automatically send a synopsis? If so, how long should that synopsis be?

BJR: I don’t request a synopsis, since I find them tedious to read, but if a writer wants to include one that’s fine. It should be short (those twenty-eight-page chapter outlines are a complete waste of time and I never read them) and in narrative form if possible.

LD: A short one. One to two pages. Short is better.

WC: [I’m] not that interested in a synopsis, more about the writing itself. Doesn’t hurt, but Êseveral lines in a cover letter is just as if not more effective.

PS: I think so. I prefer five pages or less.

SL: Yes. One to two pages maximum.

LH: I prefer a pitch letter, with writing credentials and the points of the story so I will be able to tell right away if it is something I can market. A synopsis should be as long as is necessary to work as a selling tool for the novel.

JK: It never hurts. I rarely read ’em unless I really like the book, and then I always want to see how the book will go. I think you should try to limit it to one to two pages, maximum. Double-spaced, of course. And make it read really, really smoothly, too. (Yeah, right–it’s far easier said than done!)

NA: It can be helpful, but is not essential. Whereas receiving a synopsis without a sample chapter(s) is distinctly unhelpful. Reading a sample of the text is the only way to make a judgment. [The synopsis] should be no more than a couple of paragraphs.

How long should a query letter be?

BJR: Query letters should be short and to the point, no more than one page. I want to know who you are, what you’ve written, where you’ve studied, and any other pertinent information that will help you stand out from the pack. Avoid cutesy, gimmicky letters or anything overly obsequious or grandiose.

LD: One page. Unless it’s brilliant and there is a lot to say.

WC: One page-ish with writer credits and a paragraph summation of the book.

PS: Short, on one page.

SL: No more than a single page. Remember, though, if you can’t write an enticing query letter, agents will invariably assume that you can’t write an enticing novel.

LH: A pitch letter can be one or two pages.

JK: Never more than one page.

NA: Again, a couple of paragraphs, not more.

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So there you have it. Keep your query letter to one page. Make it concise and to the point. Do not tell the agent his or her business. Rather, let them know what your credentials are, and why they should read your book. Don’t forget your hook. Your first line is without a doubt the most important one in the whole letter. If the agent asks for a synopsis, send one, but keep it short. Don’t send lengthy chapter outlines. Do send sample chapters, beginning with chapter one.

And if your fifty pages need one or two more pages to complete a chapter or an important scene, by all means include them. When an agent responds to your query positively, pay attention to what they are saying. Most often, they will tell you exactly what they want. Staying within the guidelines as closely as possible guarantees you the best chance of success.

Happy Agent Seeking Ya’ll!!!