Guest Post: 5 Ways to Go With the Flow and Beat Writer’s Block

By Josh T.

Are you currently suffering from writer’s block? If so, don’t worry. Even the most talented writers in the world suffer from writer’s block. In fact, Stephen King once suffered from a writer’s block that spanned four months and resulted in him lounging at home, drinking beer and watching soap operas.

However, we aren’t suggesting using Stephen King’s method to overcome your writer’s block. There are plenty of productive strategies you can implement anytime you get stuck. What are these strategies? Keep reading to learn the top 5 ways to go with the flow and beat writer’s block.

Break Your Routine

Where do you do your writing? Do you sit at the same desk in the same spot every single day? If so, a change of scenery may be what you need to unblock your mind. So, pack up your laptop and move to a new setting.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be across the country. Try going to a local coffee shop, sitting outdoors, or even just moving to a new room in your house with a different view. Your new surroundings may help you drum up new ideas and new topics.

Brainstorm

Of course, we can’t forget about one of the most old-school methods for curing writer’s block- brainstorming! Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down every single idea you have in mind for a storyline or character. Even if an idea seems completely far-fetched or useless, still write it down. It may lead you to a golden idea eventually!

Soak Up Others’ Creativity

Sometimes, creativity can be contagious. You were probably inspired to write in the first place after discovering your favorite author’s work, so why not go back to your roots? Get your creative juices flowing by diving into a book by your favorite author and see where it takes you.

Take a Break and Relax

Writing can easily put your brain into overdrive. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply give it a rest. Allow yourself to totally unwind by taking a hot bath with essential oils. According to doTERRA, lavender is one of the best essential oils for relaxation while rosemary is excellent for concentration.

5 Minute Exercise

This one is similar to brainstorming, but with an even simpler concept. Take a pen and a piece of paper and spend 5 minutes writing down every single word that comes to mind. This will certainly help get the brain juices flowing again!

Writing is a very primal process – as if it was written into the human spirit at birth. There is just something about forcing the abstractions of our minds and hearts to coalesce into concrete words that we can then articulate with a pen and a paper. It’s cathartic – doing to our brains what spring cleaning does to our attics. Don’t let bogus brain blockage beat these brilliant benefits. The world needs your voice far too much.

Advertisements

A List of 194 Tools and Resources: Apps, Trends, Marketing Tips, and More

By Heffloaf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Heffloaf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s about that time again for another roundup post. This time I’ve got a bunch of tools and resources that cover a wide range of topics, from freelancing to marketing to reading and more. Continue reading

Guest Post: Six Apps Indie Authors Should Take Advantage Of

By Megan F.

Working as an indie author can be quite a challenge. You often don’t have the backing of big organizations to keep you on track or to help you out when the going gets rough. Luckily, most everyone today has access to technologies that can easily take the place of those institutions. As the kids say, there’s an app for that.

This applies to writing even in ways you might not have considered. While it may seem counter-intuitive to put helpful apps on your number one distraction device, using your phone/tablet for your writing may actually help you use it more productively. Take a look at these six apps recommended for indie authors to help take your writing to the next level. Continue reading

Indie Authors: Getting Your Book Discovered

By Santjo2011 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Santjo2011 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

With hundreds of thousands of new books being published each year, it’s hard for indie authors to stand out.

One strategy I’ve written about before is going permafree, meaning you set one book in a series to permanently free, as a way to entice readers to buy the rest of the books in the series.

To add fodder to that idea, M. Louisa Locke writes about how using the permafree strategy freed up more of her time for actually writing (instead of working to constantly promote all her books). And Bacon and Books shares their experience with giving away books for free, at least temporarily.

If you’re looking to promote your book (whether you’re having a sale, offering it for free, or making it permafree), here a few websites you can try:

Additionally, check out my post, “7 Strategies and 110 Tools to Help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers.”

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared April 2016.

Indie Authors: Editing Tips to Attract Readers and Save Money

By Digital-Designs (Red Pen, Yellow Pen....) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Digital-Designs (Red Pen, Yellow Pen….) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

No first draft is perfect. That’s why editing is such an important step in the writing and publishing process.

There are a few types of editing:

  • Developmental editing
  • Line editing
  • Proofreading

In a nutshell, developmental editing looks at the big picture of a story, and makes sure the tone is consistent and things make sense. Line editing is more granular, and looks at improving sentences and paragraphs. And proofreading is the last step, making sure everything is grammatically correct.

IngramSpark has an article with nine common questions and answers about editing, if you’d like to read more. Some things to keep in mind are that you, as the author, do not need to blindly accept whatever changes an editor recommends, editors specialize in genres so you want to work with editors who have worked in your genre, and using a style guide is important.

There are a lot of things that indie authors can do on their own, but editing should not be one of them. That said, most of my budget for my self-published books goes to editors, and it can be on the expensive side. To help save some money upfront, it’s good to go through a few rounds of revisions, by either going through a checklist yourself, or asking for feedback from beta readers, or both.

If you’re looking for some help in this area, it may be worth considering joining an author collective or co-op. According to Jane Friedman, “Typically, author collectives are groups of writers who meet for the purposes of workshops, education, and networking. Some require members to pay yearly fees, and some, like the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, have a board that arranges events and provides services to the community.” The article goes on to recommend author collectives and give tips on how to start your own.

If you want to try doing a round of edits yourself first, BookBub offers a list of 12 editing mistakes that authors often make, which can be a good starting point. The first thing is the common adage, “Show, don’t tell.” However, also keep in mind that you don’t want to over describe things to slow down the pace. Also make sure you have believable conflicts, a consistent point of view, and good grammer.

On that note, HubSpot has a list of 10 edits that will improve your writing. A lot of the tips apply more to copywriters, but copywriting is important for indie authors too (think book blurbs). Tips include, making sure your benefits stand out (great for non-fiction books), using active voice, removing adverbs, and keeping paragraphs short. Most of these tips can apply to creative writers as well.

Last, many authors write informative blogs where they share their writing process and other helpful tips. Writer’s Write has a list of their favorite author blogs, as well as group blogs, blog directories, and other blog resources.

Happy writing and editing!

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared June 2016.

Guest Post: 7 Essentials of Ebook Publishing You Should Know

By Maximilian Schönherr (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Maximilian Schönherr (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The main facets that a writer should consider while creating an ebook

By Andrea Burke

Do you feel excited about writing, and that is your daily inspiration? Then you should try and write an ebook! It takes time and preparation, so in order to be prepared, here are some tricks that you should consider before writing a masterpiece that will wow every reader. Continue reading

Earning Money From Writing

Writing is work. It takes a lot of time and effort to brainstorm, outline, research, and then finally put into words a topic or story. Then afterwards there’s a lot of editing, revising, and proofing. Electric Literature published an essay about how writing is a job, even if it doesn’t really pay:

The fact that writing is hard and there are many hobbyists doesn’t mean it isn’t a job either. It is very hard to be a professional athlete or a head chef, and many people practice sports or cooking as hobbies. But we would not pretend an NBA player or a head chef doesn’t have a job.

The argument is that if we think of writing as a hobby, it will be treated as a hobby, and then only people who can afford to write as a hobby will be writing. This reminds me of when I was in college and went to see Jeffrey Eugenides give a talk. I remember he told a story of how people don’t really think of writers as having a real job. He meets someone new and they find out he’s a writer, and the reaction is, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a novel, I just haven’t had the time.” And Jeffrey said he thought that was strange, because you’d never go up to a heart surgeon and say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to operate on someone, I just haven’t had the time.”

Obviously, the two are not the same, but both take a certain set of skills that take time to develop. So in the spirit of treating writing as a job, here are some tips and ways you can earn money from writing:

Indie Authors: Tips for Writing Characters That Resonate

By Stagg Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stagg Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Characters are an important element of every story. So how do you make sure your story has characters that stand out? That readers find interesting and believable?

Writers in the Storm posted an article about becoming your character, so that you don’t make mistakes like head hop or have multiple viewpoints for one character. The best way to do that is to become your character. That way, Marcy Kennedy explained, we can better remember that we only know our own thoughts and feelings, not someone else’s, we can only experience things within our eye sight or within our ear shot as they happen, and our past and personality determines how we react and interpret things.

According to Marcy, who wrote the book Point of View in Fiction:

Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand—or fall. It’s the opinions and judgments that color everything the reader believes about the world and the story. It’s the voice of the character that becomes as familiar to the reader as their own. It’s what makes the story real, believable, and honest.

A character’s self-sacrifice can also help pull readers in. K.M. Weiland, from Helping Writers Become Authors, said that “Self-sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love—and so, of course, it’s an endlessly powerful story catalyst.”

To make the self-sacrifice even more powerful, K.M. said that you should have a scene earlier in the story that sets up the self-sacrifice, by showing how much your character wants something. Doing that shows the reader that the character is doing something really hard when he or she self-sacrifices.

Another aspect to consider to round out characters is internal dialogue. Writers in the Storm shares in a post that internal dialogue helps show emotion, in addition to helping to pace the story. According to Marcy Kennedy, the most effective internal dialogue is not repeated in actual dialogue or action, it should be used to share important thoughts, and it should be told in the character’s voice, not the author’s. Additionally, internal dialogue should sound like dialogue, so that it sounds natural.

Author Zoo also recommends using juxtaposition, to help show a character’s motivation. Lana Pecherczyk gives two examples of using juxtaposition: as a flashback in a tense scene or in characterization, to make the reader think more about that character.

Last, if you want some advice for how to become an overall better writer, check out McSweeney’s “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do.” Colin Nissan lists tips and explains in a tongue-in-cheek way why those tips are useful. Advice includes writing every day, not procrastinating, reading a lot, and finding a muse (though he cautions, “Beware of muses who promise unrealistic timelines for your projects or who wear wizard clothes”).

Originally published August, 2016

From Grammarly: How well do you know your grammar? Affect vs. Effect

All writers know that grammar is important. And the company Grammarly likes to put a fun spin on learning grammar. How big of a grammar nerd are you? TakeTake Grammarly’s quiz to show how much you know about affect vs. effect:
affect_effect_grammarly

To learn more about affect vs. effect, check out Grammarly’s in-depth blog post that explains the difference between the two.

Writers: Going the Traditional Publishing Route

Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

Not all writers wants to go the indie route, which is understandable. Publishers have teams to help with editing, publicity and marketing, and distribution. And it’s cool to be able to say, “XYZ published me.”

It’s a tough route to go though. I have a few friends who have written manuscripts and are currently sending them out to agents. But it often takes months for agents to get back to them, and when they do, they’re sometimes vague about what they’re looking for. You definitely have to have thick skin, and be patient.

According to Huffington Post, you should limit your query letters to 20 at a time and follow up after 2 months:

If they don’t get back to you, they don’t want to represent your project. Move on. Remember that agents only get paid when they sell your book. They have a trained eye toward what publishing houses want, and they represent projects that they think they can sell for significant money. Consider that a $5,000 advance garners an agent a measly $750 (15% commission). No matter how much they might love your book, they’re financially motivated and they sell books for a living.

You could also try to directly sell your book to publishers, though this works best for niche books and if you submit to small- and medium-sized publishers.

Forbes has a list of tips for how to get a book deal. Most of the advice is geared toward non-fiction writers, but a lot of it could apply to fiction writers as well. They include the usual, be persistent, be active on social media, and write a lot tips. But they also encourage writers to book speaking gigs and become experts on their topics, as well as contributing to other books and attending conferences and other events where you can meet people who could potentially publish your book.

As a writer though, the best thing you can do for yourself is to write. John Scalzi, author of Agent to the Stars, wrote about the 10-year anniversary for the print version of his book, which started off as started off as a practice novel he wrote back in 1997 and then posted to his website in 1999. Scalzi then posted his second novel on his site, which Tor picked up (though they didn’t pick up Agent, because they didn’t think it was marketable at the time.)

Another publisher, Subterranean Press, ended up buying the rights to a limited hardcover release of Agent, which eventually allowed him to sell it to foreign markets and to Tor for paperback and audio.

John Scalzi then sums up his experience:

Occasionally at signings, people will come up with a copy of Agent and confide that it’s their favorite novel of mine, as if that’s something weird, because OMW or Redshirts are the usual suspects for that title. But I like it when they tell me they like Agent. It’s my firstborn (if second-published), and it was written not because I wanted to sell, but because I wanted to learn. Writing it was a joy, if for no other reason than the dawning awareness I had writing it that, yes, in fact, I could do this thing, and I liked doing it, and that I wanted to do more of it if I could. That’s what Agent gave me that no other novel could, or will. It’s special to me. I’m glad when it’s special for other people too.

So, no matter which route you decide to go, just remember that the important thing is that you write.