Time to Stop Writing!

How many times have you heard the expression “Writers live a solitary existence” (or words to that effect)? 

The fact of the matter is, most writers need to be alone in order to write. A quiet place, free of distractions from well-meaning family and friends, is one of the most important tools in a writer’s arsenal. But what about when you’re not writing? 

What writers also need is to find lives beyond their desks and computers. After all, fresh experiences feed the creative process. If we do nothing but sit at a desk all day, staring at a blank page or a flickering screen, we soon run out of ideas. 

Here are just a few ways you can rediscover the world beyond your desk: 

1.    Pick up a new skill by taking a course--and not online. Sign up at your local community college. Learn to make crème brulée or find out what an f/stop is and how it’s used.

2.    Go for a walk in the park, taking your time and taking in your surroundings with each step. With each visit, you’re bound to find something new.

3.    Make a lunch date with a friend. Try a restaurant that neither of you has gone to before. And order a dish you’ve never tried before, either.

4.    Join a bowling team or a book club or some other social group. Shy around strangers? Drag a willing (or even slightly unwilling) accomplice along for moral support.

5.    Now here’s the really scary option. Go on a date! If you’re married, make a date with your spouse. Just give yourself permission to take the evening off and have some fun.

The best part is, you don’t have to write about any of it when you get home. But you can if you want to. Better yet, repeat any of the above and/or make a new list of things to do. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination--as a writer, you have plenty on which to draw.


Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which is always open to submissions and queries.

Books in the Hall: Relocated by Margaret Fieland

Books in the Hall: Relocated by Margaret Fieland: Please welcome author Margaret Fieland on her tour with Bewitching Book Tours today. We're featuring information about her book, "Relocated"...

Overwhlemed? Do the Next Thing.

Elisabeth Elliot is a lovely elderly woman and has authored many books. More than once her timeless words of wisdom have helped put things into perspective for me.

One common area we all share is feeling overwhelmed with too much to do. Where to begin?

Here is some wisdom from Elisabeth:

Have you had the experience of feeling as if you've got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can't possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself. 

Well, I've felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I'm told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea ... a poem which was written about that legend ... "Do The Next Thing." 

Can we live a simple life in a complicated world? Yes.

When you are overwhelmed with too much to do, remember to just do the next thing. It's amazing how those simple words can calm your mind, help you prioritize, and eliminate what does not need your attention.

American culture is driven for success. We can find ourselves being pulled along, not realizing that life can be simpler if we want it to be, and still be successful.

We can't fit everything in one day. We can't always take a vacation. We must learn to manage our lives. In Mediterranean and Latin American cultures, siestas are common. Maybe a power nap is your "next thing"!

One time, I had several tasks to do and I didn't know what to do first. I stopped myself and thought, do the next thing. I went and took a shower! (how many of us have put that off if we work from home?)

Or maybe, you've been so busy you haven't taken time for breakfast or lunch? 

We read, learn, think, plan, and then busy ourselves to accomplish our goals. Ultimately, we will become stressed and overwhelmed.

Slow down. And the way to begin a calmer life, is to approach it more simply: just do the next thing.

Photo Credit: lichtempfindlich / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Kathleen Moulton has a passion to bring hope to hurting people of all ages who are facing disappointment, discouragement, and loss. You are invited to read When It Hurts - http://kathleenmoulton.com


Utilize Your Resources

One day not long ago my sister called me in tears of sheer panic. It turned out she was taking a course with .which she was having problems. It was a subject that was difficult for me to help her with from long distance, so I asked her, "Have you utilized your resources?"

This is also true for writers. I think most writers have or will at some time have something or someone they know nothing about, and it can be very difficult to write about that thing or person with some basic knowledge. You run the risk of being unconvincing. For instance, your leading character is a lawyer. That fact may not really have any impact on your story, but lawyers do have a certain way of thinking, a certain way of talking. That needs to come through in order for your character to b convincing. But you are not a lawyer so it is necessary to research him or her.What do you do?

Look around you. Look to see what resources you have available to you. There could be a neighbor or someone in your church who is a lawyer. Or you could go sit in on a trial at your local courthouse. Observe their characteristics, how they talk, even (if possible) what their interests are. There may be certain phrases they use frequently, or a particular motion of their hand they do when they talk. Do they have the habit of looking past you or directly at you when speaking to you? Is their voice strong, firm, confident, or hesitant?

Look at the resources available to you and use them. Build your character from the real thing. If it is something like a special type of car, go to the library or even to the dealership and learn about the good and the bad points of that car. There may be a little quirk about that car that you can use to make the one in your story seem special or (no laughing here) have character/personality. It may have the habit of choking down at the oddest time, causing your character some aggravation or to add some humor at a point in your story that works for you.

You may be amazed at how many resources you have around you that are just waiting for you to take advantage of them.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                  Writers on the Move

Writing and Assessment

Assessing Your Writing

Quality assessment is now one of the most important strategies in education. Good assessment techniques are in play from the start of every course or project undertaken by students. And the intention behind this is to promote learning rather than to demoralise by testing before a student is ready.

To explore what benefits this could bring to writers, consider the methods of assessment commonly in use and see how some might help improve technique and time management.

Decide on the Criteria.

This may be self assessment but we need standards to aim for, standards to attain.

Goal setting for writers usually focuses on words per day. If the focus is moved to the standards you want your book to reach, you can create SMART targets (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) to ensure improvement scene by scene, chapter by chapter, book by book.

The SMART target could be to cut down subject-verb sentences by two per chapter.

Try varying sentence structure till it becomes automatic not to start too many sentences with he did, she did subject-verb sentences. 

I'm a participle starter...love my -ings lol. Realising this is one of my many defects, I try not to do it too often. Let's hope that's the last example in this blog.

Yes, writing tricks and habits may be part of your author's voice, but repeated too often they bore the reader through familiarity.

How many authors did you once love but now don't follow? Ask yourself why.

Question and Answer

Fiction writers use question Q&A from the start when creating their characters' biographies, when asking "what if....?" to move their plot points forward.

In the main, the questions are closed--asking and expecting straightforward answers...Where was the hero born? What is the inciting incident?

But if you read through the day's work and ask more open-ended questions, then stronger solutions may appear.

What is the underlying theme of the scene? And make no mistake, each scene should be locking on to one of the themes of your book.

What other possible outcomes could there be? Take time. Ensure you have the best possible outcome.

How is this scene similar to the ones before? Vary the scenario,vary the emotional tempo, the pacing if you like. Vary the outcome to give an unexpected player the upper hand.

Key Principles

With so many e-books now outsourced to ghostwriters, your book will have the advantage of authenticity. If you've adhered to your self-imposed targets, it will be valid in assessment terms. But is it sufficient?

In education-speak, this means it covers all the assessment criteria. In reader-speak, this means it tells the story, the whole story and nothing but the story.

In today's fast-read world, there is no advantage to padding out books unnecessarily. Prune viciously. Harlequin and many other romance publishers look for novels around 55,000 words. They're still in business. They know what sells.

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution was to blog with helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2011. Could do better--much better. :-(

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

The Muse Online Writers Conference recently ended. There were many workshops to choose from to help you be a better writer. The workshops were also helpful for NaNoWriMo participants. Some of these workshops included topics such as: research, dialogue, characters, tension, creating fantasy worlds, and point of view. (Mark your calendar for next year’s conference, which is October 7-13. http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/)

Some of the things I have been doing to get ready for NaNoWriMo:
-Writing down ideas for my novel/outlining for my novel/outlining

-Cutting photos from magazines

-Downloading lists and forms from various writing websites 

-Downloading novel writing software

-Talking to my writers group 

-Stocking up on food, beverages, and lots of chocolate 

-Making homemade meals to fill the freezer 

-Perusing books on fiction writing 

I also have a zippered binder filled with paper, pockets, dividers, etc., where I keep hard copies of anything I want to save. It’s my story bible (something I learned at the Muse Online Writers Conference last year). 

Will I make the 50K word minimum before the deadline? Will I survive NaNoWriMo? Will I write a best-selling novel?

How about you? 

What are you doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo? 

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is currently working on her first children’s book.

Writing Rituals: An Invitation to Your Muse

I recently taught a week long online workshop on writer’s block.  I asked the participants to share their writing rituals.  I was surprised (though I probably shouldn't have been) by the number of writers who sit down at their computers to write and first check their email and Facebook.  Responding to your emails and checking Facebook before you write is not a ritual--it is a routine. 

A writing ritual is a type of ceremony or rite.  It helps facilitate the transition between your everyday life and your writing life.  It is a specific set of activities designed to signal your subconscious that this is a special time set aside just for writing.  It is a call to your muse. It might be ringing a bell, putting on soft music, or saying a prayer. It does not have to be elaborate, but it should be something done with intent.

My ritual includes a short meditation and filling my writing coffee cup—my “Do North” coffee cup. So, as I sip my coffee out of my DO North mug, I embrace the action or the Doing of my true North and then I start to write.  It’s simple and quick, but helps me slip into the writer in me.

Do you have a writing ritual or is it a routine?  I’d love to hear how you start your writing sessions.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist. She helps clients take the action to live their true north.
For more information check out  www.donorth.biz   

Or follow her at:

Watch Out for the U-Turn!

One beautiful, sunny African afternoon in 1997, my life changed forever with the words, "You have cancer." As if that wasn't bad enough, the radiologist followed with the words, "And I don't think they'll be able to get it all out."

How can I describe the experience?

It was like when you are tearing along the road, enjoying the scenery and eager to arrive at your destination, and all of a sudden the road turns back on itself. You jam on brakes and grip the steering wheel in an effort to keep the car under control as you attempt to navigate the U-turn you hadn't seen coming.

It was just like that.

I jammed on brakes, gripped my steering wheel, and sped into battle against what turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer. With the use of a skilled surgeon, an unconventional and courageous oncologist, a supportive family, and a team of praying friends, God pulled me through that dreadful year of treatment. Not only did I survive the U-turn, I found myself traveling, as you do with a U-turn, in a different direction. I went from being an RN to being a published author.

Near the beginning of treatment, I picked up an old notebook and started to journal. Not logically or neatly. No edits. No proper sentences. I just jotted down the good times (few) and the bad times (many). I didn't know why, but I knew that God promises in His Word He will  work all things for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). I couldn't see how He could do this, and I also knew that where He would probably remember the important facts, I probably would not. So I took notes. 

It took me a while to see it. But I began to realise how many invaluable lessons God was teaching me during my "cancer year," and eventually I started to make notes of them as well.

One verse that followed me throughout the whole cancer experience is found in Isaiah 40:31: "They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles."  I started to put my meditations together under the working title, Rise and Soar over the Cancer Valley, based on the picture of the eagle soaring on his strong wings.

I knew my only option for publication was to get the book to an American publisher--but how?

Then unexpectedly I received the incredible gift of a trip to the Florida Christian Writers' Conference in 2010. (If you think that's great, add on the fact that I live in South Africa!) There was one editor I knew wouldn't be interested in my book, but she was. You'll need to read the full story if you want to know more! She wasn't only interested. She took it to Revell Books, a division of the well-known Baker Publishing group, and they bought my book.   

Fast track to 2012. On October 1, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer was launched. It is now available in the U.S. and on-line and will be released here in Southern Africa on November 10. 

It all goes to show that anything--absolutely anything-- can be of value to a writer--provided we remember the facts. Oh yes, and God can use all things for good!

So when life's highway suddenly throws unexpected twists and turns at you, hang onto that steering wheel. And don't forget to journal as you navigate the U-turn ahead!

OVER TO YOU: What U-Turn have you had to navigate in your life? Are you still going in the new direction?

Further Reading:
The Right Editor!
Florida Christian Writers Conference

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook. 

How to Choose the Right Editor

From a reader’s and reviewer’s point-of-view, books need a professional editor.

Why do books need a professional editor?

Authors are too close to the project to be able to pick up everything, especially if the author is self-publishing their book. Self-editing doesn’t work; many books and author’s sites have errors in grammar and punctuation as books and a web site visited today.

How to choose the right one to work with

  1. Authors need to talk with, and ask questions of the editor they choose to work with to see if the read and understand the genre of your book
·         Have they edited in the genre?
·         Can you and the editor work together?
·         Will the editor accept your input?
·         Are they willing to keep you abreast of how the project is progressing?
·         Does the editor have an estimate of how long it will take to edit?
·         Can you agree on a price that is acceptable to both parties?

  1. The editor should send the author an edited copy for review/proofread.
·         The final say is the author’s responsibility.
·         The editor shouldn’t have changed, but strengthened the sentences.
·         The editor should have corrected any grammar or punctuation errors.
·         The editor should have used Word’s Track Changes.
·         Any questions the editor has should be addressed using Word’s Comment feature.
  1. After the edited copy is proofread by the author:
·         The author and editor should agree on the changes.
·         If the editor suggested a word change, the author and editor should agree.
·         Talking with the editor should be like talking to a friend helping your book be the best it can be.
·         Once the final edits are completed and both parties are satisfied, then the final edited copy is ready for publication.

There should never be harsh feelings about your book with an editor; the editor is there to help the author create a book that is the best copy possible. 

Readers deserve the best book authors and editors are capable of creating. From an ethical standpoint, authors need to offer only their best to their readers.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor/Proofreader/Reviewer/Marketer

Include Diversity in Your Characters

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