Do you enter writing competitions?

 

Have you thought about entering writing competitions?

Have you been considering entering a writing competition but something is holding you back? Is it the time and effort of finding a legitimate competition, writing an entry, the entry fee and the wait for results that puts you off? Whilst it sounds like a lot of hard work (and it can be), I am here to tell you it is worth it!

Benefits

There are so many benefits to entering a well-reputed writing competition.

 Prizes:

Lets face it, who doesn’t love to win! When you win a writing competition, or at least place in one, you may receive a cash prize. How much you receive will obviously depend upon the competition.

Publication:

Some writing competitions may offer publication in conjunction with a cash prize, or instead of money. In my opinion publication is just as good, if not better than cash! Having your name on a written piece that won a competition is a great way to gain publicity and get your name out there!

Esteemed writer reading your work:

When you are investigating writing competitions, make sure you look at who the judges are. There may just be a writer who you have long respected and held in high esteem judging the competition. Imagine one of your literary heroes holding your story in their hands and reading it! For me, that is enough motivation to enter.

Equal footing:

In most writing competitions, your name is withheld from the entry piece. This means that even if you are competing against well-known writers you are all on equal footing. The writing piece the judge is holding in their hands is the single most important thing, not who wrote it.

Publicity:

When you win a writing competition that publishes your work, it is a great way to build your portfolio and attract attention. It is practically free publicity and marketing, if the entry free for the completion isn’t too steep! Who can say no to an opportunity like that?

 Portfolio.

Adding a winning story to your portfolio looks great and helps attract attention. It is like being able to add a prestigious job to your resume. Again, why wouldn’t you want to jump at any chance for publicity and creating a name for yourself?

Cons

Just like with anything, there is a downside to writing competitions.

Entry Fees:

There are some writing competitions out there that do not require an entry fee, however the majority will require payment to enter. To a struggling writer who wants to make ends meet, this can be a huge drawback to entering a writing competition. My advice is to screen the competitions you want to enter, make yourself a budget and make sure you stick to it.

False sense of rejection:

Due to the many submissions you often do not receive any feedback on your piece if you do not win. This can create a sense of rejection and disappointment. However don’t lose heart, it is simply because the judges cannot possible provide feedback for every single contestant.

Tips

Are you ready to give writing competitions a try? Then keep these practical tips handy:

  • Keep track of upcoming contests and their deadlines.
  • Familiarise yourself with the competitions aesthetic by reading previous winning entries, and the runners-up.
  • Ensure you read the rules and eligibility requirements of the competitions thoroughly.
  • Have a budget in mind for how much you want or can spend on entering writing competitions and ensure you do not go over.
  • Make sure you research the writing competition to ensure it is legitimate. Yes, there are dodgy ones out there!

Some writers’ love writing competitions, some don’t bother with them at all. I find that they help to improve my writing and also serve to help me shrug off rejection. And as an aspiring author I have to get used to rejection until I hit gold.

Have you entered a writing competition? How did you go? I would love to hear about your experiences, whether good or bad!

 

 

 

Should you participate in an online writing course?

Have you been considering participating in an online writing course? Are you unsure whether it is worth the time and effort to study? Keep reading for why a writing course can be beneficial to you as a novice writer.

Ways an online writing course may benefit your writing:

You should keep in mind that studying a creative writing course is not a prerequisite for becoming a writer. However, there is the belief that it can increase your odds of getting published.

  • It can improve your vocabulary.
  • You develop your creative thinking and problem-solving skills through analysis of different styles of writing and developing your own projects.
  • Many online courses that are offered can teach you how to give and take constructive criticism.
  • You can learn how to organise your ideas and write clearly.
  • Provides a community to share and debate ideas with fellow classmates.
  • It can help reignite your passion, or lead to inspiration, for writing.
  • You will meet new people who share common interests.
  • Many courses will give you tools and knowledge to plot, plan and develop your writing projects.

What kind of online writing course should you do?

This is really up to you and what you want to achieve. There are so many out there, it is a matter of reading up about the course, what it has to offer and working out if it is the one for you.

You can do anything from novels (including specific genres) and childrens’ books to screen writing and plays. What is your passion? What is your niche? You can study them all, or none. The choice is yours.

There are also courses out there for specific things like character development, plotting and using different programs such as scrivener and word for your writing projects. These can be useful if you wish to know more in-depth the tiny elements that go into a writing project and the tools that can make it easier and more time effective.

The best things about online writing courses?

Many online courses have a learn-at-you-own-pace style, where the lessons are posted on a weekly basis, and you get to them when you get to them. This is great for those people who are trying to fit their writing in around other employment, family, kids and chores.

I have taken several different online writing courses now, and can recommend them as a way to build confidence and skills. You may well be thinking to yourself, “but you still aren’t published”! And that is a very good point. I am not saying taking an online writing course is a sure way to publish your work, however due to the confidence, knowledge and tools you gain through online courses it can increase your chances. Online courses are also a fantastic way of forcing you to actually put pen to paper, rather than simply thinking about it!

You can do a simple Google search for online writing courses and you will have thousands of results pop up. I am a fan of any Australian ones, but I am sure that is no surprise seeing as I am from Australia! I personally have found that the Australian Writers Centre offers some fantastic courses, online and in person. They are generally affordable too (always an added bonus)! I am bias of course, but it is a great starting point for anyone out there looking for writing courses.

If you have found a great online writing course I would love to hear about it!

 

What is active and passive voice?

Do you constantly hear about writing in the “active” or “passive” voice? Are you confused by what this actually means and how it could impact your writing?

Read on for what the difference is between the active and passive voice and why it is important to know.

What Is Active Voice?

When you use “active voice”, the subject is performing the action.

What Is Passive Voice?

In a passive sentence the subject (or the person doing the action) is right at the end. Using passive voice tends to slow your writing down and distances your reader from the action.

Examples of active vs passive sentences:

Active: I love you.
Passive: You are loved by me.

Active: The woman read her book.
Passive: The book was read by the woman.

Active: He rode his motorbike over the jump.
Passive: The motorbike was ridden over the jump by him.

Can you see the difference in these sentences? Which sentence is more powerful?

Is it wrong to use passive voice?

It is not wrong. However, it is not the best way to phrase sentences as it can be awkward and hard to understand. Using the passive voice can also create lengthy sentences (as evidenced by the examples above).

When can you use passive voice?

In your writing it is a good idea to use the passive voice if you wish to place emphasis on the action, as opposed to the person performing the action. Many crime and mystery writers use this technique to highlight certain events that are pivotal to their story.

Example: The dog was stolen (passive).
Somebody stole the dog (active).

The mystery writer wanted to highlight the missing dog that is central to the plot, thereby used a more passive style of sentence.

How do you change your sentences to active voice?

Generally speaking, changing a sentence to be more active is easy. You simply bring whomever, or whatever, is performing the action of the sentence to the beginning. This usually fixes most issues with passive sentences.

Fixing passive sentences can happen when you are revising and editing, however it is handy to be able to spot them as you write.

Lost yet?

Try reading your sentences out loud. When you write sentences with active voice, your story moves faster. When you use the passive voice, you tend to use more helping verbs and it slows the action down. How do your sentences sound? Is it the focus you were going for?

I hope this helps you with your writing. If anyone else has advice on passive and active voice I would love to hear it!

 Useful links:

 https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-3/verbs/lesson-11/active-vs-passive-voice

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice?page=3

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/tip-active-voice-versus-passive-voice/

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/passive-vs-active-voice/

 

 

 

 

What dialogue can do.

Writing dialogue is an important tool to add to your writing arsenal. Dialogue gives your characters a voice, can help immerse your reader in the story and develop rapport with your characters. However, poor dialogue can be jarring and frustrating. It could even see your reader put your book down and not finish reading it. So it is important to know how to write great dialogue that improves and enriches your novel.

What dialogue should do.

Dialogue moves the story forward.

Dialogue can move your plot forward in a more direct manner then having a narrator explain it. It is harder to read a whole paragraph from a narrators’ point of view, then to have dialogue communicate the same things in a few simple lines of conversation.

Dialogue can speed things along and help build suspense, tension or any other emotion. It puts your reader into the middle of a conversation and pulls them in closer to the action so they feel a part of it all.

Dialogue helps develop your characters.

Characters can evolve through dialogue, and by making your reader a participant in their conversations you provide valuable insight into how they think, feel and react.

Dialogue is a great tool to help depict your characters and how they relate to each other. The way a character speaks and their tone can provide a lot of information about the person they are. The way characters speak to each other can also reveal what kind of relationship they have and how they get along. This helps your reader to feel like they really know your characters.

Dialogue provides realism.

Dialogue shows what is happening in your novel, as opposed to telling your reader. You can portray a scene more vividly through your characters’ dialogue. It engages your readers, as there are no lengthy explanations or descriptions by the narrator.

Dialogue provides vital information.

Effective dialogue provides information about character relationships, personalities, moods, feelings and reactions.

Dialogue should also provide specific information about your plot and drive it forward. It is important to remember that most conversations in the real world often have no point to them, but dialogue in your novel is different. It must serve a purpose and enrich your novel, not make it boring! When writing dialogue, question its purpose. If it doesn’t add anything to your characters or story, then delete it.

Dialogue should have action to accompany it.

Watch people around you have conversations. It is not often they will sit perfectly still and talk to each other. Often, they will be drinking a coffee, eating, cooking dinner, or walking etcetera. The point is people will usually be doing something whilst talking, so make sure you incorporate this into your dialogue when writing a scene.

Break dialogue up.

Do you ever watch a crowd of spectators at the tennis? Their heads going left, right, left, right. By writing continuous dialogue, one line after another, your reader can feel like they are at a tennis match. This is certainly not ideal.

The simple solution is to pause the conversation and take a few sentences to interrupt that pinging back and forth dialogue. You can use this pause to insert some interior monologue, describe the actions of your character, or the setting of the scene.

Dialogue should be concise.

To write good dialogue you should be concise and to the point. It isn’t realistic, as everyday conversations in the real world we have a lot of fluff in our dialogue. However, your readers do not want to be reading a lot of empty words. They want action and emotion. Writing short dialogue sentences will make the conversations between your characters more realistic and drive the story forward.

An important tip to note is that you shouldn’t write dialogue in complete, grammatical sentences. This is not how people generally speak in their conversations.

For example:

“Do you want to go and get a cup of coffee?” – a complete sentence.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” – how people are more likely to speak.

All your characters should sound different.

Just like all your characters have unique personalities, so to should the way the talk and think when conversing. Their tone, vocabulary, voice, accent and knowledge should all be consistent with their personality and character description.

I mean, if a 5-year-old child suddenly started talking like a 60-year-old highly educated professor of physics it wouldn’t fit in with their personality or character. Be consistent, and use dialogue to build your character further.

Revise your dialogue.

Reading your writing aloud is always an effective way to edit your work, but especially so for dialogue. When you read your dialogue out loud you will get a sense of how the conversation flows and if it ticks all the boxes for great dialogue. You will hear your character’s voice and whether or not it is consistent with their personality.

Other forms of “dialogue”.

Do not be afraid to branch out into other forms of communication between your characters. In today’s age writing text messages or emails is commonplace, and can be classed as dialogue.

Just be sure that it has a purpose, and are not just empty words trying to fill space.

Useful links:

http://www.aliventures.com/writing-great-dialogue/

http://www.literautas.com/en/blog/post-675/reasons-for-using-dialogue-in-a-story/

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/writing-dialogue.html

I hope you have found this post helpful in writing great dialogue for your novel. It is an invaluable tool that will serve to enrich and develop your story. If you have any other tips around writing dialogue I would love to hear them!

Are you stifling your creativity?

What does creativity mean to you?

I believe that creativity is being open to your ideas and thoughts. It is to create a piece of writing without your internal critic constantly making you edit, judge and delete parts.

Creativity, for me, is being able to get all my thoughts out onto paper without my own head getting in the way telling me the rough draft and my ideas are no good.

 So why is creativity so important?

When writing your first draft, it is just that. A first draft; not a final copy. A first draft should be rough, unedited and uncensored. Spew forth your ideas. The challenge is to type or write fast enough to keep up with the flow of thought in your mind and capture the essence of your story before it flies away.

Your creative side is what you tap into in order to write this first draft. Don’t get me wrong; you do need a critical component as well. But that should come later, when it comes to reviewing and editing your writing project. For now, let your creative side reign free and produce that masterpiece I know is hiding in your mind.

Stifling your creativity.

Creativity is easy to suppress. More often then not, our habit is to review and judge as we write. This restricts our creativity and creates a lot of difficulty when attempting to write your first draft. You worry that it is terrible, your ideas are lame, you are anxious because you don’t know which direction your book will take and that all the effort is pointless. You constantly judge and review before you give yourself the chance to capture those great ideas.

You need to learn how to silence this inner critic and editor during the initial writing stage. You need to trust in your inspiration and ideas, instead of rejecting them before they have time to evolve into a story. You must learn to embrace that vision and let it explode out without restriction.

A great way to loosen up and learn to shut out your internal critic is to “free-write”. Give yourself 5 minutes to jot down everything that pops into your head without editing or backspacing. It is a great way to let go of your inhibitions and loosen you up.

Creative vs. Critical Side

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to suppress your inner critic forever! You will need that critical thinking when it comes time to review and edit your novel. However, once again, you need to be able to tap into that creativity. As you write and revise you will need your creative side to produce better and stronger images and words. Editing and reviewing your novel will take a fine balance between your critical and creative sides, and the only way to become better at it is to keep practicing! The more you do it, the better you will become.

 
The moral is, don’t let your own self get in the way of that great novel hiding inside of you.

 

What is cathartic writing?

What does cathartic writing mean to you?

Cathartic writing to me means to cleanse or purge, to pour your heart and soul out onto paper as a form of healing. I draw on past hurts and experiences to create more emotive and powerful writing. I am not saying that everything I write about has happened to me. However, perhaps it has happened to a family member or friend, or I have read a story somewhere that resonates with me. You can put yourself into their shoes, use that powerful imagination we all possess to engage your reader and open their eyes to these experiences. Your readers want to be engaged, they want you to draw them into your story and form connections. The most effective and powerful way to do this is to tap into your readers feelings, empathy and experiences. The more emotion and vulnerable your writing is, the more you can create a relatable story for your readers.

We, as humans, have a powerful defense mechanism to protect ourselves from ridicule and criticism by over thinking our writing. We want it to be perfect and correct, but in so doing we can strip it of all emotion and feeling. However, your audience doesn’t want this. Your reader wants to see your vulnerability, they want raw emotion that resonates deep within them. By embracing the human imperfections of strong emotions and situations, you create the best stories. I promise if you write using raw, hard emotions it will shake your reader up and engage them so they want to keep reading and will remember your story long after they put it down.

What about you?

Enough about your readers, what about you? Why do you write? Is it simply to make money? Or because you love writing? Do you find it calming? Do you find it cathartic? Are you planning on publishing, or is it for your own personal benefit?

Do you keep a journal?

Do you keep a journal? I write in one, although not as often as I should. Journaling is a form of cathartic writing. You take the jumbled mass of emotions, thoughts and ideas in your head and purge them out in a tidal wave of writing. Not only does this help to clear your mind, it releases all those pent-up feelings. I love reading back through my journal and seeing what I have written. I find I can draw inspiration from certain events to put into my writing projects.

You never have to show your journal to anyone, it is for you and you alone. It can be as dark and negative, or as light and happy as you are feeling. It is a powerful tool to cleanse your heart and soul. You will find that you will write things in there you may never say aloud, but feel better for getting out. This to me is true cathartic writing.

Whatever cathartic writing means to you, tapping into the strong emotions behind it is what helps you create powerful and great writing. Whether or not you ever show it to anyone is up to you. But I can guarantee that the whole process can be healing and freeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers Block: Myth or Real?

Do you suffer from writer’s block? I used to think I did too. One day, when I had wasted my time producing nothing of value yet again, I had a brutally honest conversation with myself. I asked myself, do you want to be a writer? Yes. Then what is stopping you from simply writing? Writers block? The answer was no, not writer’s block. When given a deadline for my freelance writing by clients I had no problem starting and finishing those projects. So why couldn’t I do the same with my own writing?

The truth is, I no longer believe in the phenomenon of the so-called writers block. I used it as a convenient excuse to procrastinate and waste time, and perhaps even to avoid failure. However all it took was an honest pep talk, and a few simple tricks, and now any time I write I use my time much more effectively. So long “writers block”.

To overcome “writers block” I asked myself a number of questions, and answered honestly.

Question One

What was holding me back?

To be honest, it was fear of failure and criticism. It is a scary thing to put your writing out there to be rejected and judged. All those hours of research, planning and writing, you pour your heart and soul into your project. So, even though it isn’t, when you are rejected it feels very personal. An attack on you, not simply your writing. It is much easier to never write anything, then to risk being ridiculed and rejected.

Question Two

Why do I feel stuck? Why do I feel like I have hit the mythical writers block?

I felt that there were several reasons that I was stuck. First, and foremost was that I simply did not know where to start. I knew what I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. How much planning should I do? Should I start at the beginning, middle or end? How do I develop characters? Settings? Conflict? Dialogue? I put so much pressure on myself to write an amazing story from the get go, that it paralysed me and I ended up writing nothing.

Another reason I felt stuck was lack of confidence, which ties in with the whole fear of failure that most of us suffer from at one time or another. I kept asking myself, “am I really up for this? Will anyone want to read my writing? Can I earn enough to justify all the time and effort?” I was continually second guessing myself, which made me reluctant to write anything.

Finally, I believe I felt blocked as I didn’t know enough about the main theme and topics I wanted my novel based around. If you don’t know enough, or don’t feel confident about your subject then how can you write about it?

Third Question

Why do I feel I am so stressed and pushed for time?

I am a work-at-home mum, as well as part-time nurse so the time I have to dedicate to writing is limited. I believe these constraints and pressure led to me throwing up my hands and saying it is all too hard. So I didn’t write.

 Overcoming those barriers

So, how did I overcome all these barriers?

Fear of failure and rejection:

To overcome fear of rejection and criticism is probably the most difficult. I don’t know if that fear ever leaves you, but if writing and being published is something you really want to do then you need to grow a thick skin. Look at every rejection, each piece of criticism, as a lesson. Take these lessons on board, and use them to improve your writing or admission process. The point is to keep putting your writing out there; eventually it will be accepted somewhere, and with every acceptance your confidence will grow. In the mean time….a glass of wine and some chocolate whilst reading rejection letters really helps!

Not knowing where to start: 

The issue of not knowing where to start is quite common. The easiest way I found to overcome this is to write a rough outline or sketch of my novel and characters, and then simply begin writing. If I draw a blank on a certain scene or chapter then I move on and find one where the writing flows. Once again, it is just about writing. I use writing warm-up activities to loosen me up and get those creative thoughts flowing before I start writing my novels, and also during if I find I am staring at a blank page for a few minutes. They really do help. By releasing myself from the pressure of having the perfect plan, character sketches and settings from the get go, I wrote a lot freer and they developed naturally as my novel grew.

Lack of confidence:

The lack of confidence in your writing is really only something you will overcome with time and effort. As more and more of your writing is accepted and published, your confidence will grow, as will your skills and expertise at writing and applications.

Lack of knowledge:

Not knowing enough about your theme or topics is very easily overcome. Do your research. With the Internet at your fingertips there is no excuse for not researching and knowing your topic. If you don’t have Internet access, then use your local library. The more you know about your topic the easier it will be to write. If you want to write about a particular event, setting or activity in your novel then go out and experience it!

Perfectionism: 

Most importantly, I came to the realization that my writing does not have to be perfect the first time round. There is a reason it is called a first draft, or a rough draft. This first draft is to get all your ideas onto paper before you forget them, and then you review, re-write and re-create from there. It sounds so logical, right? But we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect from the get go, we forget that writing is a process of reviewing, re-writing and re-creating over and over again until you are happy with it.

Time constraints:

Time is a valuable commodity. As a work-from-home mum and registered nurse I found it hard to juggle everything. I find a solid writing routine, not wasting time with procrastination and always ensure I put aside time to spend with my precious family helps. I write a to-do list each week, and highlight those things that are an absolute priority for that week. It helps me keep things in order, and achieve those tasks that have to be done. The most important thing is to not waste the time you have. Do not procrastinate when writing, sit down and get the job done!

I hope these ideas help you to overcome any fears or difficulties you have with writing. I would love to hear of any more tips you have of overcoming your own hurdles. Feel free to comment below with them!

30 tips to spring clean your writing.

30-tips-to-spring-clean-your-writing

SPRING TIP #1: Keep a journal.

Journaling everyday helps to improve your writing, is great for reflection and is a fantastic tool for ideas and inspiration.

SPRING TIP #2: Add a writing warm-up exercise to your writing routine.

I challenge you to add a writing warm-up to your writing routine for 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference to your productivity and creativity. Let me know how you go!

SPRING TIP #3: Write everyday.

It doesn’t matter if it is only 10 minutes here and there around all your other responsibilities; the point is that the only way to be a better writer is to write. Writing everyday improves your practice, inspires ideas, and sparks creativity. Learn to take advantage of any down time to capture some of those words floating around in your head.

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SPRING TIP #4: Organization.

To run a successful writing business organization is keen. And what better time to get organized then the season of spring-cleaning! Make sure all your files are up to date (and backed up), clean up your computer, buy some lovely stationary and diaries to keep dates and projects organized, and keep your work area as clutter free and neat as possible.

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I love spreadsheets. Spreadsheets for timelines, projects, income, invoice trackers, publications….pretty much everything! I find them an easy way to keep track of what I am doing, and where I am up to. I am also a huge fan of to-do lists. The main key is to be organized, in whatever fashion that is for you.

SPRING TIP #5: Develop a writing routine.

Forming the habit of writing everyday helps to improve your writing and productivity. However a writing routine is not just about writing, it is about how you write, and how you organize your time to ensure you make the most of each moment.

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SPRING TIP #6: Take regular writing breaks.

The recommendation when sitting at a computer is to stand up, walk around and stretch hourly. You should do this when writing too. And not just a brief 5 minute break, a walk outside in the fresh air can help clear your head and improve your concentration and productivity when you return to your writing.

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Make sure you eat at regular times. It can be easy to forget, so I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat and drink if I am having a long writing day.

Taking regular breaks away from your writing helps clear your mind, refresh you and ensures you don’t become stiff and sore sitting hunched over your computer!

SPRING TIP #7: Motivation.

How do you find your motivation? What motivates you? How do you maintain motivation? If you can find the answers to these questions it is half the battle!

SPRING TIP #8: Inspiration.

The search for inspiration can sometimes feel endless. I find spring is a great time for sparking new ideas. Have a walk outside and see the buds of new growth, the sun breaking through the clouds and your ideas and creativity will sparkle!

SPRING TIP #9: Read, read and read!

Reading exposes us to other styles of writing, other forms, genres and voices. The more you read the more your writing will improve, and you will be exposed to more ideas and inspiration.

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SPRING TIP #10: Make time for your family and friends.

Whilst writing may not be a regular job with normal hours, it is still important to make time for your family and friends. You don’t want to miss making precious memories with your loved ones because you always have your head buried in your computer…and you know what they say, all work and no play turns you dull!

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SPRING TIP #11: Stick to time frames!

If you tell a client you will have a writing project to them in 2 weeks, make sure you stick to that. I tend to over-quote on how much time I will need in order to avoid the stress of not having work done on time.

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SPRING TIP #12: Social Media.

Social Media is an important tool to promote your writing business, network with other writers, build your reputation and to research other writers. However, it is a black hole that can suck us in. You may find that instead of spending valuable time writing you are surfing through various social media mediums for hours on end. The trick is to limit the time you spend on social media, and to ensure you use that time efficiently and effectively.

SPRING TIP #13: Develop a work/life balance.

One of the best things about being your own boss is you can choose how much work you take on. However one of the hardest is also saying no. Keep in mind that you need to maintain a healthy balance between work and living your life. One of my favourite sayings is you need to work to live, not live to work.

SPRING TIP #14: Do not rely on spell checkers to catch all mistakes.

Never trust a machine to do all the spelling and grammar checks! Nothing beats good old human interaction and checking of your work. It is a great idea to check your work on paper and on your computer, things may look different and show mistakes you missed before!

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SPRING TIP #15: “Rest” your writing.

When you have completed your first draft, “rest it”. Put it away for a few days before you take it out again to start the lengthy editing and revising process.

Once you feel you have a finished project, “rest it” again. After a few days, weeks or a month (whatever time frame you choose), take it out again and read it one last time before sending it to a friend, family member, editor or if you feel 100% confident you are completely done then send it to a publisher.

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The point of these “rest periods” is to take a break from your project and come back to it with a fresh perspective and clearer mind. This way you will catch mistakes you may not have noticed otherwise, and will recognise changes that need to be made easier.

SPRING TIP #16: Read other writers websites/blogs/articles.

Think of it as research! To find out what other writers are writing or reading about, then the easiest way is to research by looking at their websites, Facebook, google+, blogs, twitter etcetera. Not only will reading about what and how they write help you with your own writing, it can inspire your own blogs, posts and writing projects. One of the best ways to learn is from those who are more experienced and knowledgeable.

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SPRING TIP #17: Write yourself a schedule.

You are running your own writing business, and you must treat it as such. If you are writing for others, such as freelance projects, then obviously it is important to ensure you stick to the time frame you negotiated with your clients.

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If you are writing for yourself, however, then it is still important to develop your own schedule and stick to it. Such as, by this date I will have the outline completed; by this date I will have a first draft finished, etcetera. This way you will ensure you will actually get your writing projects finished, and it is a great feeling when you tick off a to-do list!

You can use a spreadsheet, calendar or good old-fashioned diary. Whatever works for you, but make sure you create an achievable schedule and STICK TO IT!

SPRING TIP #18: Avoid “overwriting”.

“Overwriting” is a wordy style of writing, wrought with repetitions, figures of speech and convoluted sentences. Try to avoid using too many words to describe something, if one word will do. Go for simplicity to convey your writing and I guarantee it will get your point across just as effectively without hitting your reader in the face with all those words.

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SPRING TIP #19: When undertaking large writing projects, turn off your internal editor for the first draft.

When you are writing a long first draft the best way to get all your ideas and thoughts out is to simply write, and keep on writing. Do not stop and correct or edit as you go. Turn off that little editor and judgmental voice in your head so you can get all those words out initially before you forget that great idea.

This can be difficult. I know I find it quite hard due to my innate need for perfectionism. However, the more time I spend writing long projects the better I am at simply sitting in front of my computer and letting the words and thoughts flow out of me. You will spend more time editing and revising, so this first draft is all about capturing your ideas on paper no matter how poorly they are written!

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SPRING TIP #20: Plot!

When writing a novel, developing an interesting plot is essential. It helps to ensure your story unfolds in a logical manner, whilst building tension and suspense to draw your reader in and keep them interested.

SPRING TIP #21: Read your old work.

If you are feeling lost, unmotivated or have lost confidence in your work then have a read through your old projects. It is a great way to see how far your writing has come. I know I have read back through some of my very first blog posts and cringed.

Reading back through your old work can also help inspire you and spark new ideas, or thoughts on how you can improve upon it and re-release it.

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SPRING TIP #22: Keep a list of all your publications.

I find it easiest to do this on an excel spreadsheet, with columns for dates, genre, format and publication type. It helps so that you can see how many of your projects have been published and also if you ever need to refer back to a project you can quickly find where it was published and those other details you choose to input into your spreadsheet.

And lets be honest here, the longer that list gets the better you feel! Think of it as a brag sheet if you want. It is a great way to see where you have been, where you have published and the footsteps you have left behind with your writing.

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SPRING TIP #23: Ask friends and family to read your writing.

If you have friends or family members who you know will be able to provide constructive criticism you should ask them to read your work before sending it to a publisher, or self-publishing. Their eyes will help to pick up on any mistakes or plot flaws that you may have missed in your editing and revising process. They can also provide feedback and encouragement before the intimidating process of sending your work out in the big wide world.

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SPRING TIP #24: Time management.

A concept I feel most people struggle with! Juggling your own writing business, especially if you are still working another job whilst attempting to get your business up and running, with family, home life and chores is a difficult thing to master. You need to work efficiently in the limited time you have, whilst ensuring that you leave time in your busy schedule for family and friends. I have found the best way to manage your time is to stick to your schedule and timeframes for work, whilst penciling in time for family, friends and most importantly, yourself!

SPRING TIP #25: Join an online or in person writers group.

Writing groups are a fantastic place to meet like-minded people, find sources for ideas and inspiration, and as a free source for constructive criticism and feedback. Whether you join a group online or in person, or several groups, doesn’t matter, the point is to find a group of writers in your niche and to actively participate in discussions with them. I challenge you to find a group of writers and to join them. Most importantly…..ENJOY!

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SPRING TIP #26: Don’t forget why you write.

Why do you write? What do you get out of writing?

I write for the love, passion and enjoyment I get from creating a great written project, no matter how big or small. I always get a small thrill upon completing a written piece. Never forget the positive reasons behind why you write. Always write for impact, and not income.

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SPRING TIP #27: Draw inspiration from your surroundings.

Look around you. What is happening nearby? What conversations? What characters? What scenery? Use your surroundings to form pictures and characters in your mind that you can translate to paper.

Where do you find your inspiration?

SPRING TIP #28: Do not procrastinate.

Your time is at a premium, do not waste it procrastinating! Learn to recognise when and how you procrastinate, and identify strategies to overcome it.

SPRING TIP #29: Keep your end goal in mind.

When your energy wanes, you lack motivation, and you feel as though you have lost your creativity and inspiration focus on your end goal. The sense of pride and achievement from seeing your name in print, being a published author, a successful freelance writer. What ever your end goal is, allow it to guide you through the tough times and keep your focused and writing!

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SPRING TIP #30: Never stop writing!

The final tip for this lovely spring month is to never stop writing. Writing promotes writing, and the more you do it the better you will become. Just like practicing at a sport or cooking, the more you practice the more adept you will become.

So never stop writing.

 

Learn How to Edit Your Next Writing Project.

Learn how to edit your next writing project.

Some people believe the first draft is the hardest to write. Coming up with the idea, maintaining motivation and seeking inspiration to complete a first draft can be daunting, however I still believe the hardest part comes after this. The revising and editing process. This is where you will generally spend the majority of your writing time.

I have developed an editing process I find works well for me. I apply it to everything I write; short pieces, long projects, blogs, articles and more. You may find you adopt some of my practices into your own, you need to simply find what works the best for you to produce a high quality and well edited writing project.

This first thing I do when editing any writing projects is to make a list of everything I know that will need to be checked (such as spelling names correctly and consistently, timelines, plot points, theme and character arcs), fixed and assessed. This list helps lessen those feelings of overwhelm when looking at your rough draft, as well as provide direction when the daunting task of editing is at hand. Once I have finished my list I break the revision process down into sections that I refer to as the “Attack of The R’s”: Re-read, Rest, Re-arrange, Re-word, and Re-check.

attack of the r's

Re-read

This re-reading stage is about identifying flaws and holes in your plot (if writing non-fiction or creative fiction), as well as double checking facts, figures and research (fiction, articles, assignments etcetera). You can make another list, if you wish, of all the finer details that will need further researching and checking to be sure they are accurate and fit in with your story.

Cut out whole chapters, sections, dialogue or pages that do not fit with your story. It is ok to be brutal here. When you have done that once, then read through again and cut out smaller sections such as paragraphs, sentences and phrases that once again do not suit your story and what you are attempting to convey. I save both copies of the draft, the first draft and the reduced draft, so that I can always go back and see what I have cut out. You may also find that some of the things you cut out spark an idea for a different story or even a sequel.

Once you have fixed any major problems and culled down your word count then it is time to move onto the second process in editing your project.

Rest

After I have cut down the original draft, I let it “rest” for a while. I put it away for a few days or even for a week or so (as long as there are no deadlines looming) so that when I return to it, I do so with fresh eyes and a new perspective. It also saves you from not only becoming sick of your story, but from missing any mistakes.

Re-arrange

This process is once again reading through your project and thinking about the flow and arrangement of your work. If you find that it doesn’t read well, try re-arranging sections, paragraphs and sentences around until you are happy with the flow of words. You should also be double checking that your plot develops in a logical and understandable manner, if it doesn’t then you will need to re-arrange plot points until it makes sense and flows seamlessly.

Re-word

Now we are getting down into the nitty gritty finer details. I always put this process near the bottom of the list as there is no point spending all that time and effort finding the best words if you only end up cutting that entire section out.

Re-read your work again (yes again!). You may find you re-read your work 100 times or more when it comes to the final processes of editing and perfecting. This stage is where you polish and fine-tune your whole piece. Dissect every paragraph, every sentence and every word. Are you consistent with names, dates, personalities, spelling, tense, and point of view etcetera? Do you use your active voice, not passive? Have you picked powerful words? Re-word and re-write until you feel you are done and couldn’t possibly do any more re-writing. Then read it all again!

Re-check

If it is a long project I am editing I let it rest for a week or so again. If it is a small project such as an article or blog then I skip the “rest period”.

This re-check is simply a last thorough reading of your project to ensure it flows smoothly, reads well, all mistakes have been fixed, and that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors. I also double-check the list I wrote at the very beginning to confirm I have ticked everything off. If you are confident, you can send it on to a friend, family member or editor for a final check. A new perspective is handy to spot any errors you may not notice after reading your writing project copious amounts of time.

And there you have it. Editing and revising using the “Attack of the R’s”! It is a simple process that can be adapted to any project, big or small. Below is a list of other tips that I use throughout the whole Attack of The R’s process.

 Editing and Revising Tips:

  • Read and edit on your computer and in paper form
  • Read your writing out loud. Is it easy to read? Does it have a smooth rhythm? Does it flow?
  • Be brutal and cut out parts that do not suit your project.
  • Make sure your writing flows, is logical, and the story line is easy to follow.
  • Double-check all facts, figures, quotes, and citations etcetera to ensure they are accurate.
  • Have a family member, friend or professional read through and check your work.
  • “Rest” your work before a final read through.

 

How to Create Powerful Writing

How to create Powerful Writing

Creating a powerful and memorable piece of writing is so much more then simply knowing proper spelling and grammar. You want to convey emotions and portray a picture, to draw your reader into your story so they can see what you see, and feel what you feel, when you write. You want them to be thinking about it long after they have finished reading.

I want you to take a moment and close your eyes. Think about a piece of writing that truly engaged you, that made you want to keep reading, that evoked emotions and passion and made it hard to put down. I want you to analyse what it was about that particular piece that resonated with you? What made it so memorable for you?

When you have roughed out a first draft, think about the following points to create powerful writing as you re-write and edit. They may help your writing to go from mediocre to emotive and gripping.

1. Know your audience

As a writer, your job is to know whom you are targeting with your writing. You need to know what will hold their interest, what language they will understand, what will appeal to them and the beliefs and knowledge they hold. This will help you to write a book that resonates with your target audience and will also help when it comes to marketing strategies.

2. Flow and readability

You need your writing to be readable and flow seamlessly to create powerful writing. The readability of your work is determined by sound grammar and clear writing that your reader will find easy to understand. Flow is created by consistency of tone, style and tense as well as logical transitions between scenes, dialogue, paragraphs or chapters.

3. Focused

Powerful writing has a goal in mind, an intended point. It may be that you are selling something, attempting to convince someone of something, explaining how to do something, or instilling a belief or moral through telling a story. It does not matter what your goal is, but you must have it clear in mind when you are writing so you remain focused and clear.

 4. Compelling

Powerful writing reaches out and grabs the readers’ attention. Find that one thing that is unique to your story and expound upon that, use it to create interest and intrigue, to cause readers to pick your piece or writing over others.

 5. Passion

You cannot make your reader care about something unless you care about it yourself. If you wish you could make a list of topics you are passionate about and develop writing projects from there. You can use your passion to make your intended audience care about your topic, or to heighten their emotions in regards to a topic they are already passionate about. Great writing grows from passion and emotion.

 6. Multiple Senses

You use your full range of senses of site, sound, touch, taste and smell when experiencing events in the real world. To create powerful writing, you need to evoke these senses in your readers through great description.

 7. Characters

A great tool to create powerful writing is to develop intriguing and complex characters that your readers will either love or hate. You must also give your audience insight into your characters. What makes them tick? What are their motivations and aspirations? What are their likes and dislikes? What sets them apart from others? The more your audience knows about your characters, the more they will relate to them and what you’re putting them through.

 8. Strong Emotions

Evoking strong emotions will keep your reader interested, and will ensure they want to know what happens next. Humans are emotional and for the most part social creatures. We want to feel like we are part of something; we want to feel empathy and sympathy. Our job as a writer is to make them feel happy, sad, angry, triumphant, and everything in between.

9. Point of View and Voice

The point of view and voice you choose to convey in your writing piece can have a strong impact on your audience and how they relate to it. Point of view will change how close or removed your reader is from what is happening in the story, and voice is how the story is being told. Is it humorous? Sarcastic? Matter of fact? Is it told from a childs’ perspective, therefore a childs’ voice? You must answer all of these questions and have them clear in your mind when writing. How you want your story to sound and to be conveyed will determine point of view and voice.

10. Less is More

Don’t use two words when one more powerful word is available. It helps to keep your sentences easy to read and avoids the pitfall of “overwriting”.

 11. Use an active voice

There is a big difference between passive and active voice, and how it will affect your writing. Powerful writing uses active voice to draw the reader in and evoke potent emotions. Be wary of being caught out by the passive voice!

Useful Articles on Powerful Writing:

 “8 Qualities of Powerful Writing” – Dustin Wax

“5 Powerful Writing Techniques That Bring Stories To Life” – Henry Herz

“Follow These Rules For Stronger Writing” – Writers Digest

 

Where do you find your Inspiration?

Where do you find your Inspiration?

Following on from last week’s post “Was Thomas Edison Right?” I started thinking about inspiration. I want to know where you find your inspiration? When your well of idea’s dries up, you are staring at a blank page with no creative flow, or you hit writers block during a project, where do you go or how do you spark those creative thoughts again? How do you overcome the dreaded idea drought?

No matter how much you love writing, and are enjoying your current writing project there will always be times when you suffer from a lack of inspiration. I know I do. I have a myriad of different sources for re-sparking the idea process to help the words flow again. For me, it depends on the mood I am in and also why I am suffering from the so called writers block, which technique I use. Every person is different, so will find different means and ways to find inspiration. Below are a few of my favourites that I have found invaluable during my writing journey and career.

Writing Warm-Ups

There are hundreds of writing warm-up exercises that are designed to loosen up your creative muscles and aid flow of thought. Some of my favourites are free writing, word jar and random word link. I find that they help me to relax into my writing, so when I turn back to my current project the ideas and words flow so fast my hands can barely keep up typing.

Books

I love to read. I could spend hours and hours curled up in one spot with a good book. And one of the best things about reading is you can draw inspiration and ideas from the plot, characters, setting, dialogue or themes of the book. If you find you are stuck, try reading a book by your favourite author or even branch out into a different genre.

Movies

Much like reading, movies can inspire great ideas for your next book. You may enjoy the lead character so much you decide to model your main character on them. Or a certain scene or dialogue may set off those creative sparks and before you know it you have outlined your next book!

Art

I don’t know about you, but I find looking at photos, prints, sculptures and paintings to be a great source of inspiration. What story is the artist trying to say? What emotions are they conveying? What does the scene/character/setting tell you? What would happen next? You can ask these questions, and more. Write it down if you want, you never know your next story may start taking form.

Blogs

Reading other blogs on any topic you wish can help jolt your brain into creative mode. Whether you are stuck for ideas for a blog, article, novel, and short piece or content, someone else out there is sure to have some inspiration for you.

History

Don’t know what your next novel should be? Try reading up on some history. There are many stories waiting to be told, whether fiction or non-fiction. Sad, happy, tragic, triumph, good and evil; our history holds many different themes and rich characters that combine to create inspirational stories.

Honouring our soldiers, Australian War Memorial, ACT

Honouring our soldiers, Australian War Memorial, ACT

Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island, QLD

Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island, QLD

Exercise

I find turning my mind away from writing for a while is a great way to develop more ideas. Go for a run, to the gym, a yoga class or any form of exercise you fancy and work out your physical muscles. Sometimes the ideas hit me whilst I am working out, other times they don’t hit until I am in front of the computer or journal again. Regardless, exercise is a great way to clear your head and work out any frustrations you have with your writing.

Walking/Nature

Take a stroll outdoors and marvel at the great outdoors. Appreciate the beauty of the landscape around you, whether it is rural or city. Use it to clear your mind and as a source of inspiration. Write what you see, smell, hear and feel.

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

Cross by the Lake

Cross by the Lake

Walking along the beach at Jarvis Bay

Walking along the beach at Jarvis Bay

Journal

Writing in a journal has long been recommended as a source of inspiration and a way of keeping your ideas together. It is a great way to get all the junk clogging up your brain out. Cultivating the habit of writing in your journal daily helps to clarify your thoughts, and ensures you never forget a great idea again! Write down your thoughts, inspirations, over heard dialogue, plot ideas, characters, dreams, or anything else you want. Read back through your journal whenever you hit a slow patch or writers’ block for ideas and inspiration.

Shower

I seem to always have my best ideas when I am in the shower, which is unfortunate as there is no easy way to record them whilst showering. It is also a great way to relax tired and achy muscles from hunching over a computer.

People Watching

People are always a great source of inspiration. Find a place to sit where you can quietly observe those around you. Listen to the way they speak, walk, laugh and sit. You can develop characters from those around you. Not to mention you may overhear some great story that serves as inspiration.

And finally…good old Google!

Simply search the topic you are currently writing on and you can find tons of great resources to help you out.

 

So there you have a few of my favourite techniques to help with inspiration and creativity. I would love to hear where and how you find inspiration!

 

 

 

How To Write Great Description

How to utilise Descriptive Writing

Description is one of the strongest tools in your writing arsenal. The purpose of descriptive writing is to show your reader who, where or what you are writing about. If you are skilled enough the reader will form a picture in their mind based on your words and with a small amount of imagination to fill in any gaps. The best way to capture your readers’ imagination and pull them into your story is to utilize all five senses in descriptive detail. You need powerful verbs and adjectives, which we will discuss at a later time. All together these skills generate a sense of realism and authenticity in your writing that will leave your reader asking for more.

For example:

She raised the glass to her lips and sipped the wine.

Or.

She raised the crystal wineglass to her lips and tasted the velvety red wine.

As you can see the second example uses sight and taste to show the reader not only what the woman is drinking, but what she is tasting. Your jobs as a writer is to make your reader want that wine; describe it in such perfect detail that they can see, smell and taste it. This is the key to great description.

When talking about person and place, describing the sight, taste, feel and smell of the surroundings is the most effective way to engage your reader. However, when you wish to convey strong emotions the best way is to not mention that emotion at all. It may sound silly, but the best way to engage your reader and to help them feel what your characters are feeling is to show them.

If you simply write “he is sad,” you are telling your reader what your character is feeling. It feels flat and uninspired.

However, what if you wrote:

He sat on the couch, his bowed head resting in his hands, aching for one last hug.

Your reader will feel your characters heart ache, they will feel his sadness and hopefully be able to relate to him. This creates connection and rapport with your character and story. It is an invaluable skill to have as a writer and one that will be sure to garner the attention and interest of your readers.

Artists use different mediums to show their feelings and paint a story, we as writers do this with our words. Our goal is to involve our reader, to make them see, feel and taste what we do when we write. Our words and descriptions is what makes our stories memorable, gives depth to our characters, and keeps our readers interested and invested in the story. The Lit Candle Exercise I have discussed previously is a great way to tap into these descriptive writing skills, however there are many more out there. I would love to hear your techniques or tips for developing great description and how you use them for your writing projects.