Monday, May 27, 2013

Set the Mood with a Playlist

Music and creativity are inexplicably linked. Both stimulate the brain, trigger emotions, and inspire people all over the world. A writing tip I discovered lately is to listen to music while you write. Compiling a writing playlist can help you get more writing done by putting you in the mood to put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper. William Shakespeare wrote, "If music be the food of love, play on." Good ol' Willy Shakes. He knew what was up.

My favorite resource for creating playlists is Grooveshark. It's easy to use and has an attractive interface and a massive collection of songs and artists. They have every song that I've ever looked up. For the sake of this post, I'll show you what the playlist for my latest novel looks like.

In this playlist, each one of the songs relates to the tone, characters, setting, or theme of the novel in some way. I have this music on in the background when I'm working on my novel. It helps me get into the writing zone, so to speak, so that I can make some serious progress.

What do you think? What kind of music do you listen to when you write?

Monday, May 20, 2013

From Daily Writing Tips: 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer

Today's post comes from Daniel Scocco at Daily Writing Tips. You can find the article in context here. I highly recommend that everyone have a look at this awesome resource.

writingtipstobecomeabetterwriter.jpgA couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed.

Now, without further delay, the 34 writing tips that will make you a better writer!

1. Daniel
Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts, and they can make your text confusing even if the words are clear.

2. Thomas
Participate in NaNoWriMo, which challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I noticed that my writing has definitely improved over the course of the book — and it’s not even finished yet.

3. Bill Harper
Try not to edit while you’re creating your first draft. Creating and editing are two separate processes using different sides of the brain, and if you try doing both at once you’ll lose. Make a deal with your internal editor that it will get the chance to rip your piece to shreds; it will just need to wait some time.

A really nice trick is to switch off your monitor when you’re typing. You can’t edit what you can’t see.

4. Jacinta 
In a sentence: write daily for 30 minutes minimum! It’s easy to notice the difference in a short time. Suddenly, ideas come to you and you think of other things to write. You experiment with styles and voices and words and the language becomes more familiar…

5. Ane Mulligan 
Learn the rules of good writing… then learn when and how to break them.

6. Pete Bollini
I sometimes write out 8 to 10 pages from the book of my favorite writer… in longhand. This helps me to get started and swing into the style I wish to write in.

7. Nilima Bhadbhade 
Be a good reader first.

8. Douglas Davis
While spell-checking programs serve as a good tool, they should not be relied
upon to detect all mistakes. Regardless of the length of the article, always read and review what you have written.

9. Kukusha
Learn to take criticism and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it.

10. John England 
Right click on a word to use the thesaurus. Do it again on the new word and make the best use of your vocabulary.

11. Lillie Ammann
After editing the work on screen or in print, I like to read the text aloud. Awkward sentences and errors that slipped through earlier edits show up readily when reading out loud.

12. H Devaraja Rao
Avoid wordiness. Professor Strunk put it well: “a sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

13. David
Write as if you’re on deadline and have 500 words to make your point. Then do it again. And again.

14. Yvette
Sometimes I type in a large font to have the words and sentences bold before me.

Sometimes, in the middle of a document I will start a new topic on a fresh sheet to have that clean feeling. Then, I’ll cut and insert it into the larger document.

I wait until my paper is done before I examine my word usage and vocabulary choices. (And reading this column it has reminded me that no two words are ever exactly alike.) So at the end, I take time to examine my choice of words. I have a lot of fun selecting the exact words to pinpoint my thoughts or points.

15. Amit Goyal
To be a good writer is to start writing everyday. As Mark Twain said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Try using new words. i.e avoid repeating words. this way we learn the usage of different words.
Do edit your previous articles.

Start with small paragraphs like writing an article for a Newspaper, and proceed from there.

16. John Dodds 
Remove as many adjectives as possible. Read Jack Finney’s tale, Cousin Len’s Wonderful Adjective Cellar for a fantastical tale about how a hack becomes a successful author with the help of a magical salt cellar that removes adjectives from his work.

17. John Ireland
I set my writing aside and edit a day or two later with the aim of making it terse. It has trained me to be more conscious of brevity when writing for immediate distribution.

18. Jai 
Try to write in simple way. Express your views with most appropriate words.

19. Mark 
Read great writers for inspiration. If you read them enough, their excellent writing style will rub off onto your dazzling blog.

YOU ARE what you read (and write!).

20. Caroline
I watch my action tense and wordiness in sentences when I am writing my technical diddley.

For example, in a sentence where you say …”you will have to…” I replace it with “…you must…”, or “Click on the Go button to…” can be replaced with “Click Go to…”.

Think of words such as “enables”, instead of “allows you to” or “helps you to”.

If one word will work where three are, replace it! I always find these, where I slip into conversational as I am writing quickly, then go back and purge, purge, purge.

21. Akhil Tandulwadikar
Don’t shy away from adopting the good habits that other writers use.

Do not worry about the length of the article as long as it conveys the point. Of course, the fewer words you use, the better.

Start the article with a short sentence, not more than 8 words.

22. Julie Martinenza
Instead of adding tags (he said/she said) to every bit of dialogue, learn to identify the speaker by showing him/her in action. Example: “Pass that sweet-smelling turkey this way.” With knife in one hand and fork in the other, Sam looked eager to pounce.

23. Aaron Stroud 
Write often and to completion by following a realistic writing schedule.

24. Joanna Young
One that works for me every time is to focus on the positive intention behind my writing. What is it that I want to communicate, express, convey? By focusing on that, by getting into the state that I’m trying to express, I find that I stop worrying about the words – just let them tumble out of their own accord.

It’s a great strategy for beating writer’s block, or overcoming anxiety about a particular piece of writing, whether that’s composing a formal business letter, writing a piece from the heart, or guest blogging somewhere ‘big’…

25. Shelley Rodrigo
Use others writer’s sentences and paragraphs as models and then emulate the syntactic structure with your own content. I’ve learned more about grammar and punctuation that way.

26. Sylvia
Avoid long sentences.

27. Mike Feeney 
Learn the difference between me, myself and I. For example: “Contact Bob or myself if you have any questions.” I hear this very often!

28. Richard Scott 
When doing a long project, a novel, for instance, shut off your internal editor and just write.

Think of your first draft as a complex outline waiting to be expanded upon, and let the words flow.

29. David
Careful with unnecessary expressions. “At this point in time” came along during the Nixon congressional hearings. Too bad it didn’t go out with him. What about “on a daily basis?”

30. E. I. Sanchez 
For large documents, I use Word’s Speech feature to have the computer read the article back. This allows me to catch errors I have missed – especially missing words or words that ’sort of sound the same’ but are spelled differently (e.g. Front me instead of ‘From me’).

31. Cat
Either read the book “Writing Tools 50 Strategies for Every Writer”, by Roy Peter Clark, or read the Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List on his blog. Then join a writing group, or hire a writing coach.

32. Suemagoo 
Write the first draft spontaneously. Switch off your internal editor until it is time to review your first draft.

33. Lydia
If you’re writing fiction, it’s a great idea to have a plot. It will coordinate your thoughts and add consistency to the text.

34. Pedro
Edit your older articles and pieces. You will notice that great part of it will be crap, and it will allow you to refine your style and avoid mistakes that you used to make.

After reading this article, I was surprised that I hadn't heard of many of these tips. I plan to implement Bill Harper, Jacinta, Pete Bollini, Lillie Ammann, and Caroline's suggestions.

What do you think about these tips?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Make Something Every Day.

Getting Back into the Habit of Writing


I found this post a few days ago that really resonated with me. For the past month or so, I haven't been writing every day -- shocking, I know. But I am human. If you, like me, have been neglecting your daily writing routine, here are some tips that will help you start writing again.
More than two weeks ago, I finished up a one-act play–I did the final edit, hit the deadline, then heartily congratulated myself.

In the days leading up to the deadline, I was writing 3+ hours each day in order to get the thing done (yes, I procrastinated a bit).  Once the piece was complete, a short reprieve from writing seemed to be in order.  My current internship started the following day, and now that few days has grown into nearly 3 weeks.  Not cool.

For me, writing is a lot like exercise.  When I’m writing most days of the week, and making progress toward my goals, I feel great.  When I skip days–or weeks–I grow grumpy and lethargic.  Everything is terrible and I don’t know why.  By the time I figure out that my lack of exercise is causing my terrible mood, I’ve usually reached the point where I’ve lost all motivation to write ever again.  It is only through a combination of guilt and restlessness that I finally put on my sneakers and go for a run.

The first days getting back into a routine are rough but necessary.  Here are some things I do to create momentum in my writing life.

  1. Forgive yourself.  Writerly guilt got you sitting at the desk; now forget about it so that you can immerse yourself in your story’s world.  Otherwise, your session will be plagued by the conviction that your writing is shit and so are you.

  2. Set a concrete, measurable goal.  ”Write.” is not concrete enough to put on your to-do list.  Give yourself a word or page count goal (“I won’t get up from this chair until I’ve written 1,000 words.”), or tell yourself that you’ll write for the next hour.

  3. Schedule it.  If you decided on a time goal, fit that block of time into your calendar, and write it down.  Don’t schedule anything else during that time.

  4. Write somewhere else.  Writing somewhere you usually don’t can be an easy fix when a blank page seems daunting.  This could mean finding a park bench or coffee shop on the opposite side of the city, or it could be as simple as moving to the couch if you usually sit at a desk.

  5. Write sometime else.  If you usually write before bed, try waking up early.  Make yourself a cup of coffee and write as the sun rises.  If you’re a morning writer, sleep in one morning, and stay up writing late that night.

  6. Re-read.  Look through your previous writing beforehand to get yourself excited about what you’ve done in the past, and to get back in touch with your characters and setting, if it’s a longer piece.

  7. Start Slow.  Ease into it by using your first writing sesh to brainstorm or outline.

  8. Start Small.  Begin working on something bite-sized first, if you’ve been away a super long time–a character sketch, vignette, flash fiction.  Try a six-word story if you’re really struggling.

  9. Minimize distractions.  Turn off the internet.  Don’t sit in the library with your friends and don’t sit in a busy coffee shop, unless those are environments that you’ve thrived in previously. Isolate yourself in a room without windows, if you must!

  10. Tunes. Listen to music that fits the tone of your piece–this can help you get into the proper mindset, and the words may flow more easily.

  11. Don’t censor.  You’re returning to writing, so your prose will not be very polished.  That’s what second (and third! and fourth!) drafts are for.  Focus on the quantity of words rather than the quality, or challenge yourself to write for fifteen minutes straight without taking a break (perhaps use a web app like Write Or Die).

  12. Start writing now.  No really, like rightnow. Write the next sentence of the story you’ve been away from, or write the first sentence of a new one.  Then write another sentence.  And another.

As you can see, getting back into the habit of writing is mostly just about getting to work. There aren't really any tricks -- just sit down and start writing.

What do you think? What do you do for your writing routine?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Merits of Reading and Writing Fanfiction


Whether you're a fan or a critic of Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no denying that the novel has a universal appeal. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally written as a work of Twilight fanfiction paying homage to the work of author Stephanie Meyer. E. L. James took her fanfiction, altered some names and book-specific details, and made a massive profit from her work. You may not be interested in reading or writing anything related to Twilight, but there are many other kinds of fanfiction out there. If you want to know why you should look into reading or writing fanfiction, let this blog post be your guide.

One of the greatest benefits of fanfiction is that it explores a wider range of issues than mainstream fiction. Fanfiction is noncommercial, so authors can write about whatever they want without fear that the subject matter will affect their book sales. The anonymity of fanfiction is another factor that allows authors to address whatever issues they want without worrying about being too controversial.

Another wonderful thing about fanfiction is that it is free. This case is one in which you get much more than what you pay for, however. No pay means that fanfiction writers aren't in it for the money. They're passionate about the craft. You could say that fanfiction is extremely cost-effective.

Fanfiction is also interactive. Thanks to the magic of the internet, readers can submit reviews and ratings for stories they enjoy. Writers receive the feedback and use it to improve their work. These reviews also serve as motivation to keep writing. You're more likely to finish a project if you know that people are interested.

If you want to write fanfiction, it's easy to get into. There are pre-established stories, characters, and settings - all you need to do is come up with a scenario. Fanfiction comes with preset fan bases. Everything is online - check out Fanfiction or Archive of Our Own to get started. Read a few stories first to get an idea for the format.

Fanfiction is a great way for beginners to practice the craft of writing. You can post stories, get feedback, and gain a better understanding of your prowess as a writer. Readers and writers alike can benefit in many different ways from the world of fanfiction. So what are you waiting for? Get out there!

What do you think? How do you feel about fanfiction?
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