Monday, January 17, 2022

Growing Your Writing Practice


By Deborah Lyn Stanley

We’ve been writing and developed certain habits. Maybe this is a good time to improve our practice, or even call it our custom: our personal way of working.

First, let’s list the reasons why we write.
1.    To explain what happened and why it matters,
2.    To hold dear things that would otherwise be lost through the passage of time,
3.    To embrace the writing process for personal discovery, to make sense of things,
4.    To stretch our imagination and write more creatively,
5.    We make connections as we write and see more clearly, because it’s greater than just us.

Second, what stalls our process, or what holds us back?
1.    Expectations of perfection break our stride,
2.    The critic inside cripples with thoughts of  “you’re just not good enough”,
3.    Creativity is a vulnerable place, under attack it breeds anxiety and then we flounder at the keyboard’s blank page

To grow confidence and build a stronger writing life, let’s further develop our everyday custom and practice of working.
1.    Give yourself a special place to write, for just writing: A place of quiet, a place to listen, and a place of inspiration with a view window.
2.    It’s a place that speaks of “well-being” that surrounds you with your favorite books and reference materials.
3.    Include a keepsake that grounds you in the positive, to reflect on the best moments of life.
We need that positive energy to spark our creativity and develop our thoughts.

What changes can you make to your writing space to give you more energy and creativity?


We want to share our work. Only do so to the right person, ideally someone of similar nature, who respects and appreciates you.

It seems a common occurrence with writers to think they are in good company. You share your article or story, and the crusher follows. It happened to me too. I read my essay in a quaint critique group and the leader crushed, distorted and joked as feedback. I quit writing for a few weeks until I realized what was going on, pulled up my bootstraps, bowed out of the association graciously, then continued writing. It seems we need these kinds of experiences to discern what, why and with whom to connect.

Consider joining a group or organization of writers for support, companionship, and ideas, while nurturing your writing. It has to feel right, chemistry matters. Then be specific when you share your work by asking for exactly what you want. Some feedback is on point and strengthens your work; others are just bad advice or resemble a “takeover”. Learn, by experience to judge what is of value to you and what is not.

It’s A Journey We Are On, A Journey Of Discovery,
Practice and Process, Always Learning  

 

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories

 

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Avoiding Stereotypes and Cliches in Writing

 


By Mindy Lawrence

The old woman had long black hair and wore a conical hat. She had a black cat named Esmeralda and friends she practiced with at midnight in the forest.  Tell me, is there any other kind of witch? Not according to many people.

Books, plays and movies all have a habit of stereotyping different groups. The writers who produce the words for these works sometimes use cliches and stereotypes to advance their stories. When this happens, characters become the same old same old, and not accurate. Every witch isn’t an old woman with warts in a black dress. She can be a he. She can be a scientist, or a teacher, or a mayor.

An archetype and a stereotype are not the same. An archetype is a template (prototype) on which to build your character. Stereotypes tend to show a lazy writer who is not sure how to let a character develop his/her own way. They are oversimplified, overused, and preconceived. These are generic and have no creative punch.
 
According to New York book Editors (https://nybookeditors.com/2019/04/6-tips-to-avoid-writing-cliched-characters/), you can do these things:

•    Focus on your characters origin story.
•    Deeply describe your characters.
•    Allow you character to bare more than one emotion.
•    Let your characters have motivation for their actions.
•    Show your character’s fears and flaws.
•    Give your characters strengths.

Make your characters more than one dimension. Flesh them out and make them breathe.


Interesting Articles Online:

6 Tips to Avoid Writing Cliched Characters
https://nybookeditors.com/2019/04/6-tips-to-avoid-writing-cliched-characters/

Stereotypes to Avoid When Writing your Next Book
https://www.bealubooks.com/avoid-stereotypes-when-writing/

3 Stereotypes to Avoid
https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/fiction/w/character-development/2874/3-stereotypes-to-avoid---article

The 8 Worst Cliches in Fiction
https://ryanlanz.com/2016/06/02/the-8-worst-cliches-in-fiction/

Strong Female Character Cliches to Avoid (In Writing and Beyond)
https://samanthaheuwagen.com/strong-female-character-cliches-to-avoid-in/

How to Write Diverse Characters (without Stereotypes)
https://pshoffman.com/character-creation/write-diverse-characters/

How to Write Non Stereotypical Characters
https://www.wikihow.com/Write-Non-Stereotypical-Characters

5 Ways to  Break Stereotypes in your Writing
https://www.inspiredlinesediting.com/blog/5-ways-to-break-stereotypes-in-your-writing


Mindy Lawrence is a writer, ghost blogger, and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and moved to Farmington in 2020.

She proofread the Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and wrote “An Itty-Bitty Column on Writing” there for ten years. She has been published in Writers' Digest magazine and interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered.



Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: 5 Ways to Use a Timer for Success


It's a brand new year. And you are determined to start - or finish - one (or more) of your writing projects. Success is top-of-mind. But how do you set yourself up for success? 

To help you start your year off right, I am sharing one of my favorite productivity tools, as well as some of the best ways to use it: A Timer!

You can get a lot done in focused blocks of time. That's the beauty of setting a timer ... you don’t even need to keep an eye on the clock. Concentrate fully on your work. Then, when your timer goes off, finish what you’re doing, and move on to the next thing. 

Here are Five Ways to Use a Timer to Increase your Productivity 


1. Block Time. Look at your calendar and block time to creative or project-time in the form of appointments. This is especially helpful when you have a book or article deadline. But it's also great for prioritizing ongoing commitments. During time blocks, close out your social media, silence your email, put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Then, set a timer so you can give the project at hand your full attention. 

2. Avoid Social Media Tangents. Let’s face it, although important for marketing your business, social media tends to be a time-suck. You log on in the morning to do a couple of things, you get distracted, and the next thing you know, it’s almost noon. Set a timer for your 15-minute social media appointments, so you receive a reminder to not fall into the social media abyss. 

3. Force Inspiration. Every so often you encounter a project that you can’t quite get into. So instead of spending a bit of time to get it started, you avoid it. This results in stress, not to mention a potential failed project. Set a timer for 15 minutes and force yourself to concentrate on what is perplexing you. Then, when the timer goes off, if you’ve figured it out, start your project. If not, take a breath, move on to something else, and try again the following day. At least the project will be in your head, which will make it easier to tackle when you try again. 

4. Take a Break. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day, whether it’s for a walk, a bite to eat, or an online conversation. However, if you are spending your downtime checking your watch or the clock on your smartphone, you are not actually disengaging from work. 

5. Limit Time-Consuming Tasks. This trick works well for emails and phone calls. Set a specific amount of time for something where time can spiral out of control. When the timer goes off, it’s time to wrap it up and move on. 

Final Thoughts 


In the age of technology, everyone has a timer at their fingertips, because their mobile phone is usually no further than an arm’s length away. 

Ready to get things done? Put your phone on silent, turn off your notifications, hit the start button, and you are ready to go. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you accomplish in short bursts of time. 

* * * 
For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter and Linkedin for your #Start2022Now Goal of the day! 

* * *

How do you use a timer? What's your favorite productivity tool? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Trusting Your Own Instincts: Rules Vs. Passion


Trusting Your Own Instincts: Reaching for Your Star

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the
multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers


Advice divvied out to authors by fellow authors often makes me uncomfortable It is, after all advice. Really. Advice almost never applies to all authors, all genres. Even what we think of as “zero-tolerance” disciplines like punctuation and grammar “rules” offer style choices and exceptions. I don’t blame the authors. Many are operating on what they learned decades ago. The things is, the publishing industry is always morphing and that’s especially so in the age of the internet.  And language itself?  It’s a living entity. Shakespeare himself probably knew that the rules for sonnets he followed (or made) would one day be different. He also may not have realized that one day they would be considered sacrosanct.

For instance, nonfiction authors—well respected nonfiction authors—suggest that authors research the need for a topic among their presumed audience, that they check out competitive titles, agents who are looking for a specific topic, and on and on.  Some of it is pretty good advice. What it overlooks is passion. And the joy that passion brings to what we do.

I feel lucky that I hadn’t read this advice when I started my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. So here’s my story. I hope it gives a few authors the confidence to follow their dreams. I start this story backwards because the original going-against-advice started back in early 2004 and you, dear reader-author, may not put much stock in anything based on ancient history.  

So, this is 2021.  My series for writers has been prospering since 2004. I started thinking my books had outgrown their own britches—or I had outgrown mine. So, there was a nice person I had worked with way back then partnering with a writer-oriented organization. I had been vaguely aware he was publishing and because Dr. Bob Rich and Diana Raab, two of my online friends, had published with him. One morning when I felt overworked and underappreciated, I picked up the phone and called Victor Volkman, publisher of Modern History Press. No research. No book proposal. Yes, I knew doing it went against all publishing tradition, all common sense. I really expected a no after I gasped, “Do you remember me? We worked together on a podcast some time ago.”

“Yes, he said. And he kept saying “yes.”

The upshot was that he published a full book under his Modern History Press imprint and a slender booklet (a kind of nonfiction chapbook) in less than six months. So, he deserves credit for following…well, his instincts if not his passion. He went by the seat of his pants, here, too.  Two books, both with a September first release date? Really? And both books had been published before. Well, that was gutsy. No matter what you’ve heard about the possibilities of getting a traditional publisher for a self-published book, it is rare. That path is loaded with all kinds of dangers and I am the first one to warn a client of what she might be up against if that is her hope (all the while urging her to follow her star if the book is already published or there are other well-meaning no-nos pointing in the direction of her book, style, or whatever.).

Returning to the early days of The Frugal Book Promoter, I came to realize I had just mirrored an earlier foolish move I made when I first started writing again. It was early-internet days. E-books were just beginning. And the craziest stuff –some of it outrageously unethical—was going around the net in what we called Yahoo writers’ groups and other places. I felt I should be letting people know, maybe teaching, but knew that I didn’t have the graduate degrees necessary. But a friend at a party told me that the world-renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program valued practical experience above graduate degrees so…well, I just pitched them a new course based on avoiding the potholes I had just experienced publishing my first fiction effort. Again, no hesitation. “Yes.” And I had a class to teach that fall with no book or e-books written specifically for authors available to use as a text!

That series of books now includes six of them and hundreds of how-to articles. The joy flows. One of the most joyful aspected is helping new writers avoid the same potholes I fell into and maybe rope in successes they would never have had if they hadn’t ignored the rule-makers, the nay-sayers. We have instincts and passions that can work for us. We can be cautious about using them, but we should never ignore them.

Publishing is in big part about trusting our instincts. Publishing is intense. That means writers must learn to take care of themselves. That includes learning more so we become more confident in our own choices, can take better care of our own needs.

Because of my desire to help other authors avoid the pitfalls I had experienced with my novel, I dropped my fiction to write that text. I used a new concept—a chatty text. And I am still chatting through my nonfiction books (gasp!)—and finding some time for fiction and poetry, too. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love more than just one thing in their lives. That’s why we have hobbies—and some of us have one or more children.

And it happened because I didn’t let advice—and fear—deter me. It happened because I did what people should always do when they start something new, I asked for a whole lot of help from my friends. The publishing industry is very traditional but there are a lot of plucky souls in it. Most the authors I know are risk-takers. The authors who aren’t in that category still have manuscripts stowed at the bottom of drawers or the bowels of their computers.

Suggestion for Friends and Writers

Gifts for Writers
Everyone is a writer these days. The ones who aren’t may find my advice to write about what is bothering them helpful for their stress level. Maybe my multi award-winning The Frugal Editor  will help give them the confidence to actually send what they write to the power brokers of the world! Especially when they find that a whole lot of the rules that stifle our creativity aren’t rules at all, that we get to make style choices. Emphasis on the word choices.

The Great First Impression Book Proposal is one of the books my published by my new publisher, this one its second edition.  And now it’s an audiobook, too. I’m including it because it makes the point that sometimes doing something the easy way is the best way. (The subtitle suggests you can learn all you need to know on the topic in thirty minutes or less using this booklet.) A new book on how to make Twitter work for authors is in the planning stages. Watch for it on The Frugal Book Promoter page at Modern History Press or follow me on my Amazon author page at https://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile page for automatic notifications of new books in the series.

 




Gift for Readers
I’m including my newest nonfiction book of poetry because I am making a point that we needn’t give up one passion to pursue another. Imperfect Echoes won a Writer’s Digest honorable mention award. Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Wisconsin Bookwatch says, “[Carolyn Howard-Johnson is] an exceptionally skilled wordsmith, her poetry will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections . . .” Find Imperfect Echoes . And, yes, some of the poems in it are a bit risky.



Cover art by Richard Conway Jackson who is serving twenty-five years to life in a California State prison for receiving stolen property.



 

 


Sunday, January 2, 2022

Your Author Platform - Is It Ever Too Soon to Start?


 

 By Karen Cioffi

Newbies to the writing arena have many questions about creating an author platform. And, the most puzzling one is whether they need a website before they have a book published or in contract.

In fact, I’ve recently been questioned twice about whether a newbie with NO book on the publishing horizon should bother to start working on a platform and more specifically on an author website.

Both individuals felt it would be like putting the cart before the horse.

It’s important to know that this, though, is far from the case.

Creating a website at the get-go is putting the horse before the cart. It’s one of the forces that will pull you forward and help you establish your online platform, your presence and visibility.

So, the answer to the title question is NO.

It’s never too soon to begin your author platform or your author website if:

- you want to be a writer or an author
- you intend to submit manuscripts to agents and/or publishers
- you intend to self-publish a book

The time to get your online platform started is RIGHT NOW. And the foundation of your platform is a website.

Keeping up with Marketing Trends

When one author mentioned she was writing a children’s middle grade book and didn’t have a website, I responded that it was a mistake. I told her websites are an essential part of an author’s online platform.

Her reply caught me by surprise. She was advised by a well-known and respected institute for children’s writing that she should wait until she received a book contract before creating a website.

If this were 10 or 15 years ago that advice would make sense. But, today, agents and publishers want to know what the potential new author’s platform is beforehand.

The size or lack-of-size of an online platform can make or break a contract.

The powers-that-be expect you to have a website in place and be involved in social networks before you even submit a manuscript. They expect you to be a big part of the marketing involved in selling the book.

Jane Friedman, Media Studies instructor at the University of Virginia and former publisher of Writer’s Digest, advises that authors must cultivate a relationship with readers every day of your life. And she advises that you start TODAY.

Why do you need to start your online platform TODAY?

In a single word, the answer to that question is TIME. Establishing an online platform takes time.

It takes time to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. It takes time to develop a relationship with your readers. It takes time to develop trust. And it takes time to broaden your reach and acquire followers/connections.

Real life example:

One of my former clients created a website. She also created pages on two of the major social networks. She did all this way before she started to get her book written.

The results? She has thousands and thousands of followers on both social networks. I’m talking about over 30,000 followers at the time of writing this article.

You can be sure I added this information when writing the query letter for her.

Do you think this will make a difference in a publisher or agent’s view of this new author?

You bet it will.  

They’ll know she’s able and willing to help sell her books.

Since your website is the foundation of your author platform, it’s absolutely, positively necessary to get a website setup and optimized as soon as possible.

It’s from this focal point, your hub of information, that you will draw the attention of the search engines and readers. You may even catch the attention of a visiting editor, publisher, or literary agent.

Your website is also the place you will get readers to sign-up for your mailing list – further building your marketing reach. It’s the place you will begin a long-term writer-reader relationship.

Think of your author website as the launching pad of your book marketing platform.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, click the link above.

You can check out Karen’s books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/books/

 


 The Lazy Way to Be a Great Writer

Positive Thinking and the Writer

How to Write Vivid Scenes 




Saturday, January 1, 2022

HAVE A GOOD ONE!

 WISHING YOU A HEALTHY, HAPPY, 

AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR 

FROM ALL YOUR FRIENDS AT 

WRITERS ON THE MOVE!


Growing Your Writing Practice

By Deborah Lyn Stanley We’ve been writing and developed certain habits. Maybe this is a good time to improve our practice, or even call it o...