Showing posts with label writing process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing process. Show all posts

Internet Distraction

I heard a quote by author Jonathan Franzen today:

"It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."

Do you agree?

I think it's a bit strong, but there's certainly truth behind his words.

I admit I can be prone to distraction and the internet is a huge one. I sometime use a computer program to block all websites for a certain amount of time to help me focus on writing.

If you're interested, I use Stay Focussed, a Google Chrome add-on. You can also use it to block only certain websites, to block everything but certain websites, or to give yourself only 5 or 10 minutes per day on time-suckers.

When I'm suffering from writer's block, I like to work on paper. Sometimes I'll send my current document to my Kindle, where I can read it for reference if I need to but can't edit. I have to do everything by hand and though it takes longer, it often gets me unstuck.

As for being influenced by other people, other ideas, other's constant flood of input can dilute your own style and make you doubt what is your own idea and what is not, but you can also use it to gain inspiration and deeper understanding of the human race and the world we live in. Just try to be aware of which way you're using the information overload that is the internet.

I think the most important thing is to analyze how resistant you are to internet distraction and negative influence and plan accordingly.

Melinda Brasher's most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in Nous, Electric Spec, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

Writers: Think Outside the Blank Page

Throughout the journey of writing my first book, I’ve found sketches, pictures and notecards, have helped when composing has fallen short. Just this week as I continue to fine-tune my story—completed many months ago except for revision checks that continue to this day—I made two new sketches: How my main character has grown and How the theme is shown. But I get ahead of myself. Through much trial and error, I finally have found a process that works for me, saves time, and gives me confidence that I’ve covered all the bases.

Keep Track of the Basics in a Three-Ring Binder
  • Notes: I make notes all the time on many different kinds of paper, some on small scraps by nightlight in the wee hours of the morning. These notes are stapled, taped and punched into a binder section.
  • Drafts: The latest draft is punched in after the note section so when I edit, I can make sure I’ve covered the ideas on the notes, so that they can then be discarded. When the draft has too many marks, I make a new copy. Note: I go back and forth between editing on the computer and editing on paper.
  • Basic information: On blank green sheets of paper, I have stapled and taped index cards that contain basic information that informs my story. This information includes, but is not limited to:
             List of characters and their descriptions: Including magazine photos and impressions of people I know who have helped form the characters.
            Statements: The theme, story problem, concept sentence – story description in as few words as possible, and my favorite: a longer version of what my story is about. This latter version helps me know what to say to people when they say What is your book about? I used to get tongue-tied trying to explain.
           Story arcs: The main story arc, an arc for each character, an arc for each important story element, such as in this story, a key, a cloud, and a deed. This is important. A dog named Star, who is important to the story, disappeared for about 35 pages. I went in and found places to add him that didn’t feel contrived, but made his presence consistent.

            Lists: Animals that appear in the story; clues and red herrings; scenes, to make sure the scenes were placed properly and also to delete any scenes that didn’t add to the story--the scene list also helped me rearrange some parts of the action that fit better; subplots; items to research for accuracy. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but research is so important. 

Recently, I discovered that I had my character wishing on Sirius, the Dog Star, during the summer in Virginia. Oops, Sirius can only be seen in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter; during the summer Sirius is only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. Did you know the colors of hard hats depict certain jobs? How small buildings vs large buildings are demolished?

Work Out the Plot on Post-it Paper

Plotting began with long, single-spaced outlines which became defunct as soon as I started writing. Next I tried an outline-sketch, which worked better. The sketch was a mere skeleton that propped up the story. Still, the writing invariably changed the outline-sketch beyond recognition. 

Finally, I settled on writing plot-points on post-it paper and sticking the post-its on a large poster. Not only does this method work for me, but I love the process, so important, for our writing needs to be fun and joyful, not tedious. This method has many pluses.
  • Your ideas don't have to be in order. They can simply be jotted down and stuck on your poster board, to be arranged in order when you're ready.
  • Deleting is easy--throw unnecessary post-its away.
  • Adding is easy--stick additions where they fit best.
  • There is lots of room for contemplation--This is a fun part. You can stare at your creation as long as you like. Then it seems like magic: your hand reaches for your pencil and off you go, creating and having a ball.
  • Arranging and rearranging--Oh boy, my favorite part! That's when your story comes alive and your ideas flow, making your story better and better.
  • When you're done, it's time to write!
Work Out Character Growth and Theme on Blank Paper
Recently, I decided to chart how my character grew throughout the story. I wanted to make sure I'd shown a gradual change.
  • Start with a list: The handwritten list of my main character's growth took up three lined sheets of paper. 
  •  Chart the list on blank paper: I split the paper in half. On one side I briefly listed how my character began: as a little girl. On the other side I jotted down how I showed this: she jumped up and down in her seat as her grandpa races his car up and down hills. This briefer list continued to the Turning Point, when her old ways changed to a bolder, more self-confident girl who, at the end, made new friends, solved the mystery, and is ready to go home and get to know her new baby brother.
The same process was used to show the theme. There are, no doubt, more elements that can be tracked in this way, elements which need to be mentioned consistently and accurately. One-of-these-dayz, though, I must stop editing and offer up my book for publication!

Clipart courtesy of: PD4PIC Clipart;

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Handling Rejection Letters

The best way to grow stronger is during a struggle. 

Who likes this process? But if we work through it, we will come through it, and discover things about us we didn't know were there.

Chicago Man / / CC BY-NC

Since seriously beginning a freelance writing career almost 2 years ago, I have had 4 magazine submission rejections and 1 acceptance. With each rejection, I've learned this about myself: 
  • Discourages easily
  • Takes criticism too personally
  • Sees rejection of my work as a rejection of me
  • Impatient with methods
The fact that I can list those 4 things means I have worked through some weaknesses in me! I've embraced the process of discovering myself at a deeper level, which will only help me be a better writer.

In the months I've networked with other writers, I have learned that rejection is part of the package. Not everyone is going to like what I write. Knowing that and how I feel about it are two different things. I had to set aside my feelings and accept the cold hard fact: move on to the next submission. 

So, after receiving a rejection email this morning, I did what any good writer would do. I typed in my search engine: "handling rejection letters from publishers".

I landed on a wonderful site, full of rejection but devoted to inspiration! The first thing I read: "Rejection is an imperative test of one's character".

True. Good character is important to me. My feelings are real, but they would be set aside in order to keep writing and not give up. 

But there was more:
  • After 5 years of continual rejection, the writer finally lands a publishing deal: Agatha Christie. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more
  • Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.

As I've been allowing my rejection letters to teach me, I've discovered their worth. The writing process has not only helped me be a stronger, mature individual, but they have helped develop my writing voice.

Do you have any rejection stories to share?


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -

Integrating Feedback into the Writing Process

Integrating Feedback into the Writing Process

Guest Post By Laura Bickle

Writing for oneself is a completely different animal than writing for other people. When writing for oneself, there's a freedom to explore any idea or format that one likes. There's freedom to make errors. With an audience of one, there's very little pressure to conform to the ideas of others. There are no rules.

Writing for others is different. When developing an idea or manuscript for sale, there's a certain amount of external input needed. Input comes in many forms: from beta readers, critique groups, agents, and editors. External input is invaluable: as a writer, I'm often blind to flaws and blatant errors in my own work. I can read the same sentence over and over and not see a mistake in logic that another will readily see.

But too much feedback can also be a bad thing. Each reader approaches a manuscript differently, has different tastes and desires. One reader may adore a chapter while the next may hate it. And if I've solicited feedback from many sources, that feedback can sometimes conflict. I feel that I have to address every issue raised...even when there is no way to incorporate everyone's opinion. I can sometimes fall into analysis paralysis, and never find my way out of the revision forest. The old saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth definitely comes into play.

I think that there's a balance between using our internal compasses and soliciting external feedback. To be certain, some feedback is vital and necessary. It produces a more sound work. And some of it - particularly editorial suggestions - are not optional.

But there must be limits. Writers must remember that not every book is for every reader. And creating a work that encompasses all possible feedback is frankly impossible. Over-critiquing a manuscript can sometimes be harmful...a writer can lose track of the original inspiration and voice. Being in a state of constant revision can result in disjointed, disconnected parts. The flow can get lost. When I read manuscripts for others, I can often tell when plot threads were snipped and moved around over and over, because threads are dangling.

Sometimes, it's helpful for me just to set a manuscript aside for a while. Let it percolate. Read it some months later with a fresh eye. Sometimes, the project will not see the light of day. I take what I've learned and move on. Sometimes, I'll go forward with it after time has passed.

And I think that it's also helpful to develop a small network of folks who are able to act as critique partners. People who will be honest, who understand my genre. Folks who aren't afraid to scribble in the margins: "What the heck is this platypus doing here? And when did he learn to play the kazoo?"

I think that's valuable. I gather three or four sets of feedback, with the sources depending upon the project. With three or four recipes, I have a pretty good idea of how to improve my chicken soup. I still feel as if I have control of the project, and that the book isn't being written by committee.

With any artistic endeavor, you can't please everyone. And that's also true for writing groups and critique partners. The trick, I think, is to be able to filter feedback and integrate it into a work without losing track of what you set out to do. 
Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and a herd of mostly-reformed feral cats. THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Get the latest updates on her work at


The Gift of Feedback
Would You Make a Good Reviewer?
Writing Fiction: Character Believability and Conflict

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4 Ways Writers Can Replace Procrastination With Action

I am a procrastinator. That's not a great trait for a writer. So for my fellow procrastinators out there, here are some things you can try to replace procrastination with action.

  1. Stop trying to find time to write and make time I work a full-time job. After that job ends (and sometimes during) I'm responsible for the care, keeping and schedules of two non-licensed teenagers. Oh, did I mention I'm married, so there's also husband's needs in the mix too? Finding a consistent time is difficult. So I decided that when I have 15-20 minutes, I'll write. I can't always wait for an hour, but that's okay. I write when the time presents itself. 
  2. Just write it down Sometimes I avoid writing because I'm just not enjoying the words in my head. Consequently, I avoid writing them down. One day I read somewhere that those words were blocking the good ones. If we write down the words we don't like, it opens up our mind for better words to pour forth. So write them down and get them out of the way.
  3. Give yourself a prize Who doesn't love a treat? Motivate yourself with a small treat for each day you actually put words on paper. It works for me. Try it!
  4. Be accountable I let my accountability partner know when I'm supposed to be writing. She then has the right to quiz me to see if I stuck with my commitment. I don't want to lie to her or disappoint her, so  I make myself write. If you don't have an accountability partner, I urge you to find one.
My last piece of advice is this: Don't fail prey to the procrastination bug and not implement any of these tips. They are easy and worthwhile. You'll be glad you took action.

Marietta Taylor is an author and speaker. She is the author ofSurviving Unemployment:Devotions to Go. Marietta is a monthly blogger at the Go ask Mom Blog at Her tagline is Mom of Teens. She was also a contributing author to Penned From The Heart Vol XV. Marietta has a bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Visit Marietta at or or email her at

No Sugar-coating

I want my book on a bookshelf. That’s great, however, is your book finished? Is it contracted? Are you prepared to work your butt off to get it on a bookshelf with tons of legwork? No? Hmm…not going to happen then.

But before you get your tutu all wrinkled with worry there are other things to consider, like:

What’s your genre? Have a clue?
Who’s your target audience?
Have a particular publisher in mind? Checked their published books? Their guidelines?

Have you read several books in the genre you’re writing? Studied famous authors? Picked up on what makes their books tick?

Have you prepared your ‘pitch’ in case you are ever stuck in an elevator with a publisher or that agent you are hoping to get a contract with?

Have you prepared your query and synopsis?

Now comes the biggie: have you fully fleshed out your characters, plot, and edited to the hilt?

Answer all of the questions above and perhaps you are now ready to submit.

The next step in a writer’s life is patience. When you send out your manuscript don’t twiddle your thumbs or wait around. Begin your next writing project.

One thing before I wrap up – be patient when you do get a contract. Some publishing houses don’t release until a year, even two years, down the line. That’s why I wrote begin your next project asap because once a book is contracted comes the other fun…marketing and promotion. Tons of legwork but necessary steps in order to get the buzz about you and your book out to the general public.

Your Children's Story and the Message

  By Karen Cioffi, Children's Writer I get a lot of clients who want to tell children something through a book. These people want to sen...