Category Archives: Tips

20 Advice from Great Authors


I stumbled upon this post by Writer’s Digest on 20 writing tips from great authors. If you’re a “struggling” writer, or just in need of some guidance, then you should read this post. I especially loved #19.

Here’s the link: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/the-rules-of-writing-according-to-famous-writers

What advice would you give writers today?

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Four Questions Every Novelist Needs to Ask Himself


Everyone wants to write a book. Everybody has thought about it at one time or the other. People have different motives for doing it (fame, telling a story, money…). The truth is, however, few succeed. The number of people who manage to write a novel is scarce, much less is the number of those who publish one. Therefore, before writing any book, a novelist needs to ask himself several questions.

Creative business

1. Why Do I Want to Write this Book?

“Why?” is one of the most important question a person can ask himself prior to doing anything at all. In this case, knowing why you want to write a novel puts things in perspective. Are you in it for the money? Fame? Love of the written word? Or are you trying to prove something to yourself?

Knowing why you want to do something helps keep you motivated all the way till you finish that book. And, if the motivation is strong enough, it will help you power through the editing process and the long wait for an agent’s or publisher’s reply.

The key here, however, is to be realistic. Tone down your expectations and focus on your book. Writing a novel is a great learning experience; however, it may not be a great “earning” experience.

2. Can I write this book?

This is not meant to question a writer’s physical ability to type 55K+ words. It is, however, meant to help a writer take an honest and realistic approach at his or her ideas. Many people are struck with ideas that seem brilliant at first. Sometimes the ideas turn out to be ridiculous when reevaluated; other ideas still seem genius. However, there is a difference between a good idea, a great idea, and an idea that can be developed into a novel.

The difference is simple. It lies in the plot, characterization, and the subplot. Yet, many writers make the mistake of assuming that a good idea is all it takes to write a good book. Wrong! Ask yourself, can I write this book with the mere idea I have in mind? Can I stretch this idea for 300 pages and still make it interesting? If the answer is no, don’t give up. Simply spend more time plotting.

3. How Much Do I Know About the Subject?

Another important thing is to be sure you have enough information about the subject. A book, like any other piece of writing, requires extensive research. What does your protagonist do for a living? Is he a detective? Do you have enough information about how detectives work? And I don’t mean information you learned from watching movies… Researching sometimes requires traveling to the location of your story, interviewing people in the same line of work as your characters’, and reading several fiction and non-fiction books.

So before you tackle that novel, ask yourself: do I have enough information about the subject I’m writing about? If the answer is ‘no’, then do more research. The better you research your book, the less time it will take you to write it, and writers’ block is less likely to catch up with you.

 

4. Can I Commit to It? 

Like everything else in life, the flare of the new dims after a while; that’s why it is best to write that novel as quickly as possible. That, however, doesn’t mean putting pressure on yourself to write it in a month. It just means that you need to commit to your project.

This is easier than you think. Pick a time in the day when you are usually not working, cooking, or taking care of your children. No matter how little time in the day you think you have, believe me, it’s enough. An hour spent effectively is better than eight hours wasted staring at a screen.

During the day, think of what you’re going to write, let the plot progress in your head, and take notes so you won’t forget. When the time comes to write, take a quick look over the notes and commence typing.

Writing a novel is a BIG project. Like any other project, it takes motivation, planning, knowledge, and commitment. Chances are, if you have the motivation and commitment, you will find a way to achieve the other two. The most important thing is to take your time with the process. And remember that great things take great sacrifices.

Photo Credits:

http://nlpworks.com/what-motivates-you/

http://mag.uchicago.edu/alumni-books

http://emmamwhittle.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/committment-issues/

Audio of the Day: A Writing Life


Instead of talking about my personal experience as a writer, today, I’m sharing with you the experience of someone else. I heard A. L. Kennedy’s A Writing Life on BBC Radio 4Extra. This section is called The Author at Home. I listened to it with great joy, and felt myself nodding at every sentence. I hope you enjoy it while you can, for it will only be available for two more days.

Here’s the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qplcy

Let me know what you thought of it! 🙂

The Benefits of Writing a Terrible First Novel


 

As some of you may know, I recently completed a novel for the first time. After two failed attempts to complete manuscripts before, just the fact that I wrote “The End” was an accomplishment to me. I took some time away from the book in attempt to return to it with a fresh perspective. What I saw upon my return, however, shocked and disappointed me. My finished book, the one I spent three months writing, was not worth reading. Many find it difficult to admit this about their own creations – believe me, it took me a while to accept the fact myself. In spite of how disappointed I was by the first draft of my book, there are invaluable lessons that I learned throughout the process.

Many might say that I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself, a first draft is never as good, and it was only the first novel I ever completed. However, when I finished writing the manuscript, my writing substantially improved. Editing didn’t take as much effort as it used to – even though there were still times when I had to rewrite a piece seven to eight times before I became satisfied with it. Therefore, when I got back to my novel, I noticed that it was written below my own standards. What I noticed, hence, was the first advantage of writing a terrible first novel: it made me a better writer.

When I started writing my book in January 2014, I had a clear idea of how the story will begin and end, the genre, and the main conflict of the plot. However, other than that, I had not much more to build on. I started to discover my characters as I went along, and the plot changed as well depending on what I had written before. It wasn’t planned, and it looked like it. Therefore, my second lesson was to pay more attention to plotting and characterization.

Initially ,I only began writing the novel just to prove to myself that I was able to write one. I was eager to finish the book since I had already failed twice at that, so the most important part of the manuscript was the final chapter. When I started reading my first draft, I could tell that I had rushed through writing it. Even in the places where I thickened the plot felt uninspired to me. The third lesson I learned was to take my time.

Research is invaluable, I came to realize. Even though the subject I tackled was familiar to me, had I not had the knowledge about that subject, writing that novel – as modest as it turned out to be – would’ve been impossible and would’ve placed the novel at an even lower standard. In fact, the most appealing part of the manuscript, in my opinion, was my description of society and places.

However, in spite of my knowledge in the subject, I felt that it was of no more interest to me after a while. Many may tell you to write about what you know; however, I learned that I needed to find a subject that flares a lasting interest in me. Writing one novel could sometimes take years. If a writer’s interest in the subject he’s tackling fades, what’s the point of writing? Sure enough, the reader will lose interest just as well.

There’s not enough time in the world to learn every tip and trick to write a great novel. Everybody has to start somewhere. Armed by the lessons I learned and the experience I gained, I continue my writing adventure. All I can do is write, and learn as I go. I wonder what I am going to learn today.

What are some of the lessons you learned in your early experience as writers?

Finding the Balance: Between Writing and Building an Author Platform


I’m one of those guilty of neglecting one aspect of my life when the other gets hectic. For instance, I ignore my friends when my job gets demanding, and stop exercising as long as my jeans fit. As a writer I unintentionally create an imbalance between writing and building a platform. Though some argue that writing is far more important than the platform itself, finding a balance between the two is critical. I know this post is directed to writers, but anyone else looking to start a career or a business can relate to this.

First of all, let’s talk about the importance of building a platform. When writing, you work your brain’s muscles to the limits to come up with a piece of art. However, after the creative work is done, writing becomes a business, and the writer becomes a businessman who needs to pitch and sell his creations. That is when building a platform comes in. It’s like creating a market to sell your product to.

Creating this market can be performed through several venues: blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook’s personal and fan pages… All are important and efficient. However, the most important of all is timing. For instance, if you wrote a novel (or developed a product), found yourself a decent publisher (or investor), your book hit the bookstores, then you decided to start building a platform, then you are a tad too late. Not that no one will buy your book if you arrive late; the thing, however, is that you need to build a lasting connection with your readers.

Purchasing a book, like any other purchasing decision, undergoes a certain cognitive process that transports the consumer from the point of awareness of his need to point of purchase and beyond. To arrive at the purchase point, the customer needs to believe that the probability that he will regret the purchase is minimal. That’s when their familiarity with the writer (or any other professional) comes in handy. Your customers need to trust and be familiar with who you are as a writer and a person before they put money out of their pockets into yours. “[Trust] plays a vital role in almost any commerce involving monetary transactions,” says Dan J. Kim in his paper Trust and Satisfaction, Two Stepping Stones for Successful E-Commerce.

Also, many publishers (as well as investors) examine the size of your platform before they sign a book deal with the writer. Not that any book had been rejected due to the size of an author’s platform (unlike many business deals that get rejected if the entrepreneur doesn’t have a solid market platform). A decent following, therefore, is a major advantage in the eyes of investors.

Now that you know a couple of important reasons why building a platform is important, let’s talk about the balance between creating and selling. First, I’m one of those guilty of neglecting my blog on several occasions, especially when I’m too busy with writing. However, I discovered that staying active on social media was easier than I thought.

In you free time, write a number of posts for the coming week or so, and place them in a folder. Sure you will have time to post them online during the afternoon. There are also features on WordPress that helps you schedule your posts to appear at a certain time. That way you can remain active even in your sleep! In fact, this post you’re reading was scheduled to appear on your timeline from the night before. This feature can also be applied using an application like Tweetdeck for Twitter.

It’s important to know that staying connected is not just about posting, it’s also about interacting with your audience. Mingle with my followers by reading their posts and commenting on them from time to time. It’s a way of showing that you care and of saying: You’re not just a prospect buyer to me. At the end of the day, people who genuinely care about you are the ones who would support you the most. So strive to build lasting relations with those around you — even virtually.

How do you maintain a balance between doing your business and building your business’s platform?

Connect with me on Twitter: @MissBenison

Heads up: I’m changing the domain name for the blog soon. So if my posts stop appearing on your home page, then you probably need to un-follow then re-follow the blog. This is going to cost me a lot of followers, but I think it’s worth it to take my blog to the next level. Meanwhile, you can subscribe to my blog via email and stay updated.

Photo Credits: http://jarvismarketing.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/social-media-tips-for-2014/

The Unhealthy Writer


unhealthy-habits

Leading a healthy lifestyle is an essential thing for me. When I’m healthy, not only do I look better in my slim jeans, but I also write better, think better, sleep better, and feel better about myself. Last year, I started an exercise regime which consisted of me working out at least three times a week. Recently, however, I have deviated from the norm and, with swimsuit season approaching, I feel awful about it.

Ever since I started writing my novel, I no longer had much time to do anything else. My mornings revolved around writing, noons and afternoons around studying, I edited in evenings, and at nights, well, I slept. I know that the old I don’t have time excuse is invalid. However, I will say that I was unable to manage my time in such a way as to fit exercising into my daily, or three-times weekly, routine.

I still exercise; I haven’t let myself go completely. However, with the long hours sitting on a chair and typing, staying active has become more important than ever for me to keep my body, and head, in a wholesome state.

To tell you the truth, my work out schedule isn’t the only thing that was affected during the time I was writing my novel. I had two novel-writing attempts before, one of which I quit on near the end while the other didn’t even make it to the middle. I learned a lot from my experiences, and am learning every day. So when I started writing a novel for the third time, I wanted it to be a charm. I put enormous pressure on myself to finish this story, regardless of how tired I was or what it would take from me. Something was going to give. However, I’m glad that something was my waistline instead of my novel.

I’m sure as I embark on writing other novels that I will find it easier to manage my time, as finishing a novel will no longer be a ghost looming over my shoulder. For the time being, I started to get back on track, and went for walk this morning.

How does writing affect your daily routine?

The Curse of Procrastination


008.Procrastination.webIf you read my bio on WordPress, you’d know that I tend to take on more than I have the time or the energy to accomplish. This has been the case for me in the past couple of weeks, and I believe it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future.

Since I finished writing the first draft of my novel, I wanted to take a short break before I could start writing another novel or editing the first one. However, as some of you may know, April is a month plucked with writing competitions.

Writing for competitions is not something I’m used to, so I took on this new opportunity, regardless of the fact that I have a graduation project to finish – the only thing standing between me and my BA. Of course, I’m not planning to enter all competitions, nor am I planning to write for the tens whose themes I liked (anymore). I have selected a few, however, which I thought I should give a shot.

As the competitions’ deadlines loom, I find myself focusing more on writing for the contests than for my project. I would do anything than write for my graduation project, actually. One time, I slept for three hours in the afternoon, waking up every half-hour but the dreadful thought of having to work on the project putting me back to sleep.

To tell you the truth, I have finished writing for the upcoming contests (except one), but I’m putting off editing them just to avoid working on my project. Today alone, I checked my Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram and Klout accounts over a dozen times each, not to mention distracting myself with other mundane things, all the while only editing one out of 12 pages of a piece of writing due in 5 days!

I think it’s safe to say the writers are the best procrastinators. For me this is obviously the case. I loiter with my writing but only when I have other things to do. I’ll stick with the conclusion that I subconsciously want to fail in other things so that writing is the only thing left for me to do, or maybe it’s just all in my head.

Do you face this problem too?

Don’t Cheat on Your Ideas


ImageOne of the biggest problems we face as writers is our inability to follow through certain ideas. We would start writing a novel thinking it would be great, only to find ourselves, days later, ignoring it completely for the sake of a newer and more appealing idea. I had the same issue with novels, short stories and even articles. And I’m sure many of you can relate to this, even if you don’t work in the field of writing. So, how to stay faithful to your ideas? And how to resist, without wasting the opportunity of, a younger and hotter inspiration?

Take Notes: One of the reasons we get inclined to dump an old idea and jump to the next one is the fear of forgetting the sudden jolt of inspiration that hits us at 2:00 a.m. as we are trying to sleep. By taking notes you ensure that these thoughts won’t get that far, even if you don’t start working on them right away.
Another benefit of taking notes is that it revives that creative juice at the moments when you can’t find anything to write about. Just pull the notebook and get inspired. It’s like a little letter from you to yourself.

ImageTake More Notes: Yes, I know I already said that. It’s one thing to take notes about an idea that sprung through your head, but that’s not all it takes to write a successful article, story, book, genius meatloaf recipe, or a business plan. There is a fair amount of research involved in writing every piece. So, to make sure all those websites, statistics, medical data, and historical events are not forgotten, write them in your notebook next to the brief synopsis of your idea.
This is, also, helpful for you to feel that you’re working on the new idea, without having to throw away the old one. By the time you’re done with the old piece of writing, you can start writing the newer piece immediately without wasting time on research – which is one of the reasons people get bored with writing.

ImageNew is Always Better: Yes, this article is to teach you how to commit to your old writing, but that doesn’t mean you have to get stuck in a rut! Find a new writing location, change the scenery in the room, take a different route to work, or simply research new information on the subject you are writing about. This will help spark up your desire to write more about the old issue, while also get your creative juices flowing.

There Will Be Time for Editing: Don’t look at your first draft and get overwhelmed at how much work it needs. Don’t look at your first draft at all! Just revise the things you wrote the day before, make some adjustments, and then go on – go on until you finish. Even the greatest writers need to edit their work. So, don’t get discouraged if your first draft isn’t that great. Write now, edit later.

ImageThink of It as a Job: Your boss asks you to write a short piece about the cons of throwing toilet paper in the toilet. You don’t get picky and say: No, I’ll ignore this one halfway through and write about alien appearances in Texas.
To be able to commit to your writing you have to be your own boss. Force yourself to sit facing that screen, reward yourself when you’re done, even reprimand yourself if you have to – or find someone else to do it for you. The most important thing for you to succeed in any domain is to have an elephant-sized commitment.

Image Ideas are family; treat them accordingly. Don’t give up on them, don’t fool around, don’t be over critical, and, most importantly, commit. Happy writing!