Tag Archives: publishers

Obstacle Course For Writers

I’m sure you have done an obstacle course at least once in your lifetime. An obstacle course is defined as a series of challenging physical obstacles an individual or team must perform while being timed.
Today, I present to you an obstacle course for writers. It will be more mentally challenging than physical but you might find it effective. Instead of racing to get done within seconds or minutes, you will be allowed hours, let’s say three to be exact.
Each task will be allotted a time slot of one half hour. I’m sure you will find that in some cases a half hour is not enough but that is what a challenge is all about.
This course will involve reading, brainstorming, writing, editing, visiting and platform building.

Ready, Set, Go!

First 30 Minutes- Read– You can choose to read anything, a favorite book, the newspaper, a magazine (save blogs for later when visiting). Reading for thirty minutes will jump start your brain and hopefully inspire you to write something of your own

Second 30 Minutes-Brainstorm- Start jotting down anything that comes to mind. Random thoughts can become great pieces of work. Write down story ideas, blog topics, favorite words, character descriptions or outlines. Write whatever comes to mind.

Third 30 Minutes- Write- Writing will be different from brainstorming. Now you are going to take those ideas and turn them into something. A half hour is plenty enough time to write a rough draft for a blog, start a new paragraph for an existing manuscript or outline an idea that’s been walking around your mind.

Fourth 30 Minutes- Edit- Take this thirty minutes to edit something entirely different from what you just wrote about. Pull up something that has been sitting in a desk. Looking at it with fresh eyes will allow you to discover errors. Are you in a critique group? This would be a great time to edit a fellow writers work.

Fifth 30 Minutes-Visit– Take a break and surf the web. Stop by your favorite blogs to say hello. Visit an author’s page and let them know what a great job they are doing. Pop into a writer’s chat room and join the conversation.

Sixth 30 Minutes- Platform Building -Now it’s time to get your name out there. Head on over to Twitter and tweet some thoughts. Check your facebook page to see if you can add any updates. Join writer groups. Get yourself known.

Three hours might sound like a long time, but I assure you they will fly by. This obstacle course is sure to exercise your mind.
Is there anything else you would include?

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Why Writers Needs To Be Like The Bear

When I was a little girl, I spent time singing songs with my father. One of my favorites was “The Bear Went Over The Mountain.” I loved the tune of the song but didn’t understand why we had to keep singing the same lyrics and why the bear never saw anything other than another mountain. The other day I found myself singing this song and for the first time, I realized exactly what I was singing about and how it could pertain to me the writer. A writer is constantly climbing mountains only to get to the top and see there is another mountain to climb.

Think about the process of writing. An idea is sparked (Woo-hoo! Something is brewing), you feel inspired. You are thrilled that you have found something to write about. You take that idea and begin creating a story. All the thoughts that percolate in your head are exciting and you think this will be easy. But then, you hit a snag. The idea that seemed so simple is not flowing as effortlessly as you imagined. You come to the realization you have just climbed your first mountain. The only view from the top is another mountain.

You scribble down an outline. Fill in the blanks (High five the imaginary editor in your mind) and bang your story out. Seeing your thoughts manifest is thrilling. You complete the story and let it sit for a few days.

After some time has passed, you pull back out your work in progress and see errors that must be fixed. You edit, reedit (Try to shut up the loud shouts of self doubt echoing through your head and attempt to give yourself your millionth pep talk). When all is said and done you pat your self on the back for reaching the top of that mountain.

It’s time to start querying. You replenish your dehydrated mind and begin submitting. You feel pumped. Surely, someone will see the brilliance in your work and offer you representation. Days turn into weeks which turn into months. The smile that was decorating your face has been replaced with a frown. Rejections pour in and self doubt revisits. You are about to give up when an unexpected e-mail arrives and you are invited to send your full manuscript to a very cool agent. Where are we at? The bottom of another mountain getting ready to climb back up hoping when we do we will finally see that magical land we have been searching for.

When the “super cool” agent ends up rejecting your manuscript, you feel like you just fell off a cliff. You pick yourself up and begin scaling again.

A writer is never done. Their journey is long, the hills are endless, and the destinations are not known. Once you reach one goal you immediately must set another one. We must be like the Bear. We must keep climbing.

Share with us a moment when you reached a goal in writing. What happened once that goal was met? Did you climb another mountain?

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She’ll Be Coming

For the last few months I have waited with bated breath to hear back from my dream agent on whether or not she liked my manuscript and if she would be offering representation. It was a three step process. First, she liked my query and asked to see the first three chapters. I hurriedly sent her the requested material and crossed my fingers. I waited a few months. I was thrilled when the e-mail came and she asked me to forward her the full manuscript. I was so close to having an agent of my own. But, instead of getting an offer I got rejected. It was a very helpful rejection but nonetheless a rejection.

So, here I am back to square one. There has been one song that keeps playing over and over in my mind, it is…

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Not Everything Can Be Made Up When Writing Fiction

Writing fiction can be extraordinary fun. You get to create worlds, explore myths and dabble with creation. You can write about a Stratabear (completely made up) living on a cloud drinking raindrops while sprinkling rays of sunshine on unsuspecting guests. You can make this rare bear have a super long tail, cat like whiskers and tye-dyed eyes.

Yes, fiction can be fun but it is important to remember not everything should be made up if you want to be taken seriously as a writer. If you are writing about how the Stratabear only comes off of the cloud to feed his honeysuckle sucking habit, you cannot say that his favorite month to suck the sweet flower is December. Why not? Because, Honeysuckle does not grow in December. (If you want it to be December, you must come up with an explanation of why it is growing in December so if the reader questions this you have an answer ready)

You can have the most imaginative piece of work but if the facts are wrong, your highly fantastical tale may get dismissed.

When I began writing fiction, I thought every thing could be made up and nothing had to be checked. Thanks to several writing courses I learned that lack of research is a quick way to get your work dismissed.

Below is a list of things to think about when creating fiction.

• If you are writing a period piece, familiarize yourself with the era. Eg. What names were popular? What style of clothing was worn? What was going on in the world?
• If you mention a plant or flower make sure you are in the right month. (See above, Honeysuckle does not grow in December)
• If you mention a real town, make sure you know facts about that town such as the weather patterns, schools, landmarks etc.
• If you mention a famous piece of literature make sure you have read it and know who wrote it. (Imagine saying something like Stephanie loved Romeo and Juliet, it was one of her favorite stories by Hemingway) Something like this might get your manuscript tossed into a paper shredder
• If you are writing about a character with a specific occupation, be sure you know what that occupation entails.
• If you are writing about natural disasters, make sure you are in the right State. E.g. Pennsylvania is not known for large Earthquakes. It doesn’t mean that PA can never have an earthquake, but it does mean that the characters won’t be complaining that they are sick of living in PA because of the Earthquakes (Unless of course you make up a futuristic story that explains why all of the sudden PA suffers from frequent quakes).

I can go on and on but I think the point has been made. Writing fiction does not mean that you never have to research. Get your facts straight. Don’t jeopardize your career because you didn’t feel like doing the legwork.

Are you a fiction writer? What do you love about writing fiction?

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Thinking about Writing is Not Writing, but…

Too often, I find myself thinking about writing while driving, thinking about writing while working, thinking about writing while sitting on the couch which leads to me telling myself Hey Mar, thinking about writing is not writing.
Thinking about writing is not writing but it may be just as important. I have found that a lot of my best ideas came at my laziest of moments. There have been times where I sat down to write only to come up with nothing. I’d feel sorry for myself and decide that instead of wrestling with the emptiness of my mind, I’d go take a nap. Sure, the first few seconds I’d curse myself and call myself some unflattering names but then something almost magical would happen. As I lay there in a stupor a blink of an idea would flicker. A character I’d never met would introduce itself. A scenario I hadn’t imagined would dance across my thoughts and before I knew it, I was jumping off of the couch.
Why didn’t the ideas come to me while sitting in my writing chair? Why didn’t these characters say hello when my fingers were tapping the keyboard? Why didn’t the scenario shout to me when I was sitting there staring at a blank page?
I have come to the realization that our brains need rest and much like a baby sometimes they don’t act on command. It is easy to think about what you will write when you are not writing because nothing is expected of you in that moment. Your mind is free to roam. It’s not in the spotlight so to speak therefore it is filtering out junk without you even realizing.
I think I figured it out. We have to trick our minds into thinking we are not going to write. We have to play reverse psychology with our own psyches.
If you make mental notes when you are thinking about writing, you might find a plethora of material waiting for you when you sit down to actually write.

Do you think about writing more than you write?
Where are some places you find yourself thinking about writing?
Do you agree that once you walk away from writing that your mind fills with great writing material?

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Critiquing Etiquette


Today’s post will be dedicated to critiquing etiquette. In my previous post, I listed a bunch of blogs that I thought about writing but didn’t and promised to write the one that got the most comments. Jan from Crazy Jane the writing life of Jan Morrison left the first comment advising she’d be interested in reading a blog on proper critique etiquette. Jan, this one is for you. Medeia Sharif commented that she liked “Thinking about Writing is Not Writing”, stay tuned for that blog post.

Early in my writing career I learned that to become a great writer you must trust others to help you see the error of your ways. I was lucky enough to find a great critique group lead by an excellent writer. Throughout the years some of the writers left the group for different reasons but every one of them helped me learn the craft.
I believe the most important thing to remember when critiquing the work of another is to do it with class.
* Don’t be sarcastic
* Don’t critique the person, critique their work
* Don’t compare their writing to yours
* Don’t focus on negative things only
* Don’t tell them that their story will never sell
* Don’t make them hate writing
* Don’t be afraid to be honest
Where you are weak someone else is strong and vice versa. I might be weak in punctuation and grammar but strong in plot structure. I could have a great plot but if my commas are in the wrong places and my sentences are run-ons, an agent or publisher might reject me quicker than a child going down a water slide.

*Do let the writer know any spots that confuse you. Sometimes the writer thinks they are conveying exactly what walks around in their mind when they are not.

* Be honest but tactful. Always add some sugar to your words. Don’t make your fellow writer feel like they have just been punched in the stomach. Do say something like “I like the imagery in this scene but I am not sure it offers any merit to the story.”
Don’t say something like “This scene is completely irrelevant. I think my fifth grader could do better.”

*If you are going to offer a critique, don’t be lazy about it. There is nothing worst than receiving a critique that only has a comment every ten pages. If you think the story and writing is superb and needs no adjustments for several pages list something positive, like “Wow, I just read through two chapters without stopping,” or “I loved this sentence.” The smallest comment can build confidence.

*Critique someone else’s work the way you would like your work critiqued.

*Try and keep your deadlines. I have only participated in online critique groups. I have never attended a face to face critique session. The way our online critique group worked was we had six members, three would submit in the beginning of the month and three at the end. We requested that all critiques be sent in no longer than three weeks. (You can decide your own time frames).

*If you are providing a critique and sending it via e-mail, be sure that your comments are written in a different font color. Imagine how difficult it would be to search for comments if everything was in black.

*If you cannot give a critique for any reason please let the receiver know. It is not nice to make them wait only to tell them later that you didn’t get to it. Sometimes life interferes with commitments. When this happens it is okay to inform your peers that you won’t be able to offer a critique this time around due to whatever circumstance arises.
An instructor once told me to immediately start editing after receiving a critique. She explained it is better because everything will be fresh in your mind. I have found that this cannot always be done. It is okay to skim through a critique and then tuck it away for a week. Many times comments or suggestions that made me want to cry initially became much clearer and made perfect sense a few days later.

What did I forget? Are you in a critique group? What makes a good critique group?

*There are no mistakes in writing only lessons to be learned*

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Is Writing a State of Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a mental state (according to “state theory”) or imaginative role-enactment (according to “non-state theory”).

After researching hypnosis for my current work in progress (I’m really excited about this one) I have come to my own conclusion about the writing process. I believe that writers enter a hypnotic state when they are creating their written work.
Really think about where your mind goes when you write. Are you at your computer or are you far away in another land? Your body is one place but your mind is wherever it is that you take it. An interruption to a writer is just like a hypnotist snapping his finger in front of the face of the person being hypnotized.
I can only speak for myself when I say that interruptions drive me crazy, especially when I am in “the zone”. It’s not because I don’t want to talk to the person who is calling or tend to the child who needs me, it’s that I know how hard it can be to slip back into that frame of mind.
Writers block may be the inability to drift into that hypnotic state where magical lands exist and memorable characters walk. It might be that the writer with “writers block” is unable to detach their selves from the reality they are living in and enter the world they need to in order to create.
Have you ever caught yourself staring at an object but realized it was not the object that you were thinking about? Anytime our mind takes a stroll, we are in state of hypnosis. Did you ever read through your work and ask yourself “Where did I pull that from?”
Writers write under hypnosis then hypnotize readers with their words. When I count to three you will be out of my world and back into yours, 1…2…3…

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