What do baseball players do to get better? They practice. They listen to advice. They watch others they admire play.
What do guitar players do to become the best? They practice. They learn from the best. They breathe the chords in their sleep.
What do actors do?
I think you can see where I'm going with this. As writers, we have to do these same things. We write, even if it's nothing but a journal entry. We think of fabulous stories. We attend seminars. Most important, we read. Without reading, we cannot write.
If you don' have to time read, you don't have the time to write. ~Stephen King
I used to be the world's worst on reading about writing. If I wasn't writing my own stories, I wanted to read what I wanted to read. Then an author friend asked me, "How do you plan to learn if you don't study?" Good question. So, I began to read books on writing. And boy, did I learn a lot.
Reading about writing is a powerful tool. It enhances your mind and gives you the knowledge you crave to be a better writer. Here are my top 5 recommended books on writing.
1. On Writing by Stephen King
Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.
“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Day by day, little bird.
2. Bird by bird by Anne Lamott
Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.
You are only an underdog if you let yourself think you are. ~Amy Miles
3. Nailed It by Amy Miles
Today’s writers deal with pressures from all sides: to publish quickly, to stay seen in an over flooded market, to keep their readers happy and to find a way to earn enough money to keep following their dreams.
Writing is not easy. It can be lonely, disheartening and it is easy to feel buried by the very thing you were once passionate about. NAILED IT is 150 inspirations, mantras, mottos or quirky sayings that I have used in my personal bouts with burnout. I hope that they will encourage you, inspire you and remind you that although writing is many times a solo endeavor, writers all around the world understand the pressure you feel to succeed.
You are not alone.
Even the most well-regarded pros struggle sometimes. ~Annie Dillard
4. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek shares her words of wisdom in this handy book where she discusses the difficulties of writing. She writes about how hard it is to write and how sometimes it is necessary to destroy and paragraphs, phrases, and words to re-form them as something even better.
She doesn’t pull punches about how difficult writing can be, which is valuable for any writer to hear: Even the most well-regarded pros struggle sometimes. Her book shares this wisdom in enjoyable prose.
5. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
How does plot influence story structure? What's the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that's gone off course?
With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you'll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:
How many authors or business enterpeneues have been told it's best to blog? I have read many articles and watched several webinars that scream, "To be a successful writer, you need to blog your little heart out. Share your experiences, give advice, make some how-to columns."
Unless you're needing advice on how to not go in a caffeine coma or how to survive one in the event it happens, I'm of no use. And a how-to guide? Yeah, unless you're needing a how-to guide on how not to strangle your kids while trying to finish a deadline between work, sport practices, and taking a moment to do this thing people call sleeping, again I'm no help. A how to successfully write a novel article, perhaps? Let me sum that up for you here and now; sit down and write. That simple.
Am I bashing bloggers? No! I love bloggers of all kinds. I love being able to google a topic and find what I need by reading several different articles on the subject. It's great!
What I am saying is, we are all not cut out to be bloggers. I've tried. Honestly, I have. I'm one of those get pumped up and I'm going to do this, yes I am, kind of people only to lose my drive for so many reasons. Not all of us have fantastic how-to articles to write, or advice on how to stay on top of a growing trend. The few times I've written articles, I was coming from a conference and was really inspired by the events that transpired while there. Unfortunately for my wallet, I can't go to every writing/book conference across the nation, or lord-what-a-dream overseas. Trust me, I'd be swiping plastic in a heart beat if I could.
However, sometimes it's bashed into our heads to blog blog blog. And yes, there have been times it's made me feel like I'm not doing enough. Perhaps these people are right. But the truth is, I write to escape. I write to tell the story that haunts my thoughts. I write for me. It's what I love to do. I believe it's why most writers write. It's in their blood.
The whole point of this is to officially declare 'I am not a blogger.' And that's okay. I share books I love, write stories that won't leave me, and spread word as I can as I go. And to you authors/aspiring writers out there who can't seem to find the time to keep up with a blog and feel guilty for it because someone wrote an outstanding article that made you feel you should be doing these things, it's okay. I promise! You're not failing in any kind of way! Small steps can equal big results.
To those of you who can accomplish this; many, many thanks and congratulations!
All walks in life are different. Know that! Own it! Own what you're good at and know it's enough.
It's a new year. A chance at a new start. Who doesn't like getting a chance to start over? I know I do. But before Sunday, I thought, "Hey, each day is a new beginning so why make a resolution or plan a yearly goal? I try and do that every single day."
Then I had a huge eye opener on Sunday.
But before I tell of my revelation, I'd like to add a disclaimer. If you don't hold the same spiritual beliefs as I do, that's completley okay. This has nothing to do with God, although on a personal note I do thank him every day. I did, however, realize this truth in church and realized it could be applied to my daily life.
Now, back to my eye opening experience Sunday. Looking back on a year ago, I thought the same thing as I thought this year. I don't need a resolution. I have my goals. And while I still believe that, I also realized I was robbed of my life goal. So now, I've set a life resolution to make sure I never rob myself again.
What about you? Did you rob yourself? Look back to the beginning of last year. Okay, now look back to the year before. Now, look to the end of 2016. Did life get in the way of your goals? Maybe the election got you riled up. Maybe a medical illness got the best of you or someone you love. Maybe the year slipped by, while each day you said 'tomorrow'. I'll be the first to admit I did. My depression and anxiety kept getting the best of me. My grandfather passed away. More hours at work. Family. I kept putting off the goals I wanted for myself.
Now is the time to reclaim and engage.
If you still want to reach those goals and get back to where you were a year ago, or where you planned to be by now, it's time. Reclaim it. Set aside time each and every day for you. You may be thinking, "Yeah, right. My schedule." I thought the same thing, but if we can make time for football or shopping or social media, we can make time for ourselves.
Here are 3 steps I'm taking to ensure this for myself:
1. Take away something.
What I mean by this, take away something you enjoy or that is a "time suck" until you reach your goal for the day. For me, I do not get on social media until I have reached my hour of writing time a day. If I can get more, of course I give myself that time. But if it's the end of the day and I haven't wrote a single word, no social media for me until I at least try and give it my best effort for an hour. No word count. I don't do that. Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they don't.
2. Ask myself every day "How are you doing?"
It's okay to check on yourself. You are the one who knows what you want, no one else. So stop and take a minute to ask yourself, "Is this what I want?" "How's my progress?" "Don't worry, we've got this." May sound a little crazy to some, but we are our own best cheerleaders.
3. If you can, keep what you need handy.
I keep my writing journal with me at all times. Writing is my goal and the best thing I can do for myself is keep the journal handy so I can write when given the chance. I'm always on the go during the day, like most, but I also have waiting time during the day here or there. Maybe while waiting for a meeting, or in the school line, etc. Keep what you need accessible if possible.
Now that you've seen what you need to reclaim, never forget to engage your time in the goal. Engage with those in the writing community, readers, reading, writing, social media. Engage with your goals and keep it alive. Don't let another year rob you of your dreams. Set a resolution to check on yourself and your goals. We are the ones who allow life to rob us, but we are also the ones who can put our foot down and reclaim, then engage to keep it alive.
Wishes for the best in 2017!
So, it's the end of nanowrimo and you didn't meet your word count goal. Good news, you're not alone! Know what else? You're still a winner!
That's right, a winner! How?
Let me rewind to the beginning of November. Like so many others, I felt the buzz of nano. I signed up, got prepped and ready for day 1. It was all great. The words were flowing and I was meeting my daily word count, plus more. Then came the dreaded missed writing day. But it was okay, it was only one day and I could catch up. No worries, right? Wrong. There came another missed day, and another, and... well, you get the picture. Before I knew it I was six days behind and the pep of nano no longer excited me. I had lost my nano spirit.
As is accustomed to today's society, I posted about my horrible nano days on my social platforms. My post circulated and it took the reminder of friends and complete strangers for me to see the bigger picture. And I'm here to tell you the same thing.
You're further today than you were yesterday.
Sure, I wasn't staying on schedule and my chances of getting a winner certificate was slim and none, but I was still winning on my own terms. My current work in progress was further than it was at the beginning of November. That's a win!
So, if you participated in Nano but didn't finish with 50,000 words, it's okay. It doesn't matter if finished with 2,000 or 45,000. The point is that you made it further than you did a month ago. Your writing will come along and if you keep at it, pretending that every month is nanowrimo, then you'll have that novel finished in no time.
For me, this word was 'Awesome'. Yes, that's right. Awesome. I used this word for everything it seemed like. In comments on social media, in conversations, and even in my writing. Did I know this? Not at all! It wasn't until a complete stranger remarked that my phrase of 'awesome' was way overused.
Talk about an eye opener. Nothing slaps you in the face harder than someone you've never met before criticizing a simple comment. Ha!
Now that I've pointed this out, has that overly used word popped into your mind? I bet it has.
Since this has been brought to my attention and I've done some research on commonly overused words. This week and next week I will be sharing my findings. Feel free to comment with words you've seen overused and repeated.
A lot: Copious, Myriad, Several, Plentiful, Countless, Numerous.
Amazing/Awesome: Fascinating, Incredible, Wonderful, Stunning, Marvelous, Astonishing
Angry: Irate, Enraged, Touchy, Mad, Cross, Resentful, Indignant, Infuriated, Wound up, Worked up, Seething
Also: In addition to, Besides, Moreover, As well as, Furthermore, Additionally
Awesome: Breathtaking, Awe-inspiring, Magnificent, Wonderful, Amazing, Stunning, Staggering, Imposing, Stirring, Impressive
Bad: Awful, Appalling, Rotten, Mean, Dreadful, Nasty, Wicked, Wretched, Deficient, Inferior, Dreadful, Atrocious, Unacceptable, Erroneous
Big: Considerable, Vast, Colossal, Extensive, Substantial, Immense, Ample, Copious
Change: Transform, Modify, Revise, Switch, Transition, Adjust, Alter, Rework
Definitely: Absolutely, Undeniably, Positively, Doubtless, Plainly, Surely, Specifically
Difficult: Thorny, Acute, Pressing, Hot-button, Deep-seated, Puzzling, Challenging, Tricky, Mind-boggling, Complicated, Complex
Easy: Uncomplicated, Effortless, Straightforward, Adept, Amiable, Responsive
Good: Excellent, Amazing, Sensational, Marvelous, Terrific, Splendid, Outstanding, Fantastic, Exceptional, Legendary
Happy: Cheerful, Delighted, Pleased, Ecstatic, Content, Amused, Thrilled, Elated
Interesting: Exciting, Captivating, Engaging, Engrossing, Thrilling, Gripping, Fascinating, Absorbing, Mind-blowing, Invigorating, Electrifying
Nice: Amicable, Amiable, Courteous, Likeable, Gracious, Considerate, Agreeable, Approachable, Charming, Cute
Pretty: Gorgeous, Stunning, Exquisite, Handsome, Dazzling, Sensational, Appealing, Delicious, Mesmerizing
Sad: Miserable, Frustrated, Distraught, Downcast, On edge, Gloomy, Despondent, Distressed, Dispirited
Scared: Spooked, Agitated, Tense, Apprehensive, Harassed, Concerned, Bothered, Edgy, Unnerved, Petrified, Alarmed
Shocked: Taken aback, Lost for words, Tongue-tight, Flabbergasted, Staggered, Outraged, Astounded, Astonished, Speechless, Stunned, Appalled
To be continued.....
“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged. I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you.”
When constructing his book On Writing, Stephen King made mention of writers constructing their own toolboxes to carry with them. What could he have possibly meant? Writers’ don’t need a toolbox. In fact, they do. Our toolbox is designed a little different, though, compared to an architect or plumber. A writer’s toolbox consists of vocabulary, grammar, facts pertaining to your story, and writing essentials.
What about note taking? Is this essential to writing and constructing a novel?
Not necessarily, but I find it mighty helpful. I’ve had some people comment that note taking is a lot like outlining, but that’s not the case either. Before I begin writing, yes, I outline. Once my manuscript is complete, next comes the re-read/revision stage. This is when an outline is useless and note taking begins.
As I am reading over my manuscript, I take notes of important facts, plot twists, open questions, and more to see if these parts of the plot are addressed later in the plot or reminded over and over for buildup.
Once you’ve read your manuscript, organize your notes so they make sense to you.
3.Create a Checklist.
This will help you make sure you address everything and that nothing will be left unresolved.
4.Time for revisions.
What about taking notes before you begin writing?
This is useful, as well. This is what www.rethinkpress.com had to say about taking notes before writing.
“Take notes while you are researching, to help you embed interesting, unusual and key facts, but put all your books, pamphlets and notebooks to one side when you start your first draft. Let your imagination go to work on all the material you have absorbed. In your first draft give fiction free reign and concentrate on the emotions and experience of your characters.”
Man, all this sounds overwhelming and like a lot of work. It can be, but it’s better to put the effort into your story rather than leave holes in your plot and publish an incomplete piece of work.
Remember, before starting your first draft, read your research and come prepared with your toolbox.
Having trouble setting up a scene?
Have you done a read through on your finished draft and found some dull spots, but have no clue on how to pep them up?
Here's your solution: Have some fun with it.
When I'm having trouble setting a scene, I sit down with a pen and paper, then get to brainstorming. Begin making lists of places that would connect to your story, characters, personality, hobbies, etc. You know your characters best. If your story is lacking a backstory, do the same but you can also add other characters and their hobbies, personality etc.
Once you have 5-6 key words in each category, it's time to narrow it down.
First, pick your poison. Index cards. Dice. A spin wheel.
Then take each keyword and add it to your preferred method to the game. I like doing the index cards or spin wheel. If doing a spin wheel, write your keywords on small pieces of paper that you can tape and remove easily to the board.
Next, do one category at a time.
I'm going to stick to the spin wheel for this example. Let's say I'm doing a backstory scene and need a hobby, age, another character, and a place. First I will tape the keywords in my hobby list, spin the wheel, and let the wheel choose for me. Follow these steps for all categories.
Finally, see if your scene makes sense.
Think real hard about the keywords chosen. Does it make sense? Can you make it work? It's okay to be a little goofy, it can lead to one great scene.
If overall it works for you, excellent. If not, you can go through the steps again - maybe even changing the keywords - until you get a scene you are satisfied with.
It's been over five months since I started my new job as a FME Monitor at ANO Nuclear Facility. Was this a part of my dream and plans for the future? Not at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful every day for the blessing of having a job and providing for my family. But on that same note, it saddens me to a point because I feel like I'm being robbed. Robbed of my passion: Writing.
Over the last six months, I've felt like my writing has went splat. I struggled to find time to write and when I did have a few hours alone, I didn't want to do anything but sleep. This comes with the territory of being a parent, spouse, employee, and friend. Throw in those sick days and unplanned events and you've got chaos. It's something everyone goes through everyday, whether their passion be writing, sports, art, gaming, what have you.
But you see, I was the one letting myself down. No one else. Because it is possible to do what you have to along side what you love to do. Isn't that what we do when we raise our families, go on dates with our spouses, hang out with friends? We do this alongside our everyday tasks. The same can be said about our passions.
So how do you beat the rhythm of life to include your dreams into them?
It's not simple, no lie there. It's all about passion and drive.
When I was at my weakest, thinking it was over and on the verge of deleting myself from existence (not my real life, just online presence) I found inspiration. Not just from one person, but from many. I was about to let depression and self-loathing get the best of me. Then I began talking to others and reading other people's stories. Stories of their struggles and how they made it work.
So, how do you make it work?
There are no secrets. No top 10 ways. You just do it!
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving for me, when my local library was hosting a writers conference. My friend, Quinn Loftis, was one of the guest speakers, as was I. Quinn was the first to speak that morning and she spoke about how much hard work goes into writing and how you can't give up. You either have it or you don't. I left after that conference to go on vacation and her words stayed with me all the way through the winding roads of the mountains, until we reached our cabin late that night.
I talked with my husband about how I was feeling and how I missed writing, but knew that if it wasn't for my extra income, we wouldn't be on vacation with our kids. He told me he would rather see me happy and writing, than miserable. I told myself I had to make this work, for myself and my family. That's when Stephen King's biography came to me in the late night hours. He didn't start out in some elaborate office, the kids off to school, and his wife working hard while he had eight hours a day to write. No! He wrote on his lunch breaks. He got up early in the mornings and stayed up late at night. He didn't need the world to revolve around his writing. Writing had to revolve around his life. And he made it work, obviously.
So now, what do I do? I make time, every single day, to write. Some days I may only get thirty minutes of writing time. Some days I may get that whole eight hours. But it's not about the time or the word count, it's about continuing the journey until it's complete.
The whole moral of this story, and of me needing to share this post with you, with myself, is to say it's possible. It is. You just have to have the drive and want to make it happen. You have to be willing to sacrifice catching up on the latest gossip during lunch to finish that battle scene. You have to be willing to DVR this weeks latest episode of The Walking Dead and get in that first kiss.
Above all else, you have to keep your spirits high and not let life and doubt get the best of you. Lord knows I almost did, several times. And it might happen again, but pushing forward is my only option.
And if you need support, it's out there. There are a tone of writers who go through struggle, whether it be low self-esteem, finding time to juggle writing and life, or feeling at a loss on their current project. We are a community, and together we push one another forward.
I am always here to help.
Wish you all the best!
The madness never stops, so why should the laughs.
1. Poor fella!
2. There's always an exception.
3. Know the rules. It might just save a life.
4. And isn't it ironic, don't you think?
5. The strangers that make us smile.
This was my second year attending PennedCon in St. Louis, Missouri, and as expected, I was not disappointed. The event was fabulous, like always, and had a great air about it. In case you've never heard about PennedCon, allow me to tell you a little about it. PennedCon is a book conference with readers, authors, and bloggers in mind. There are panels (a.k.a. workshops) designed for bloggers, authors, and even inspiring authors. Not a minute passes without something happening. I always leave and feel as if I didn't get to do everything I wanted, which is usually the case. I missed a panel, didn't get to talk to this person, or forgot to get my signed copy of so and so's book. To be a part of a convention that leaves you exhausted but full of memories says a lot about the amazing hosts.
This year teen day was added to the list of events and was hosted on Thursday, and was a great success. I spoke with one mother who had attended with her 15 year old daughter and they both were inspired by the whole experience. To me, that should be what a conference is all about: inspiring others. And that's exactly how I felt as I traveled home from St. Louis: inspired.
For more information about PennedCon and to get your tickets for next years conference, visit there >WEBSITE<