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Guest Post: Nurture Your Relationship With Your Imagination

I’m delighted to welcome author, speaker, and transformational coach Theresa Nutt to the blog today! Read her wonderful post below, and then be sure to check out her website–and her new book! Take it away, Theresa:

Theresa Nutt eyeballNurture Your Relationship With Your Imagination

Once you have created a sacred space in your internal and external world to call your creativity home (read my previous post Calling Your Creative Home), it’s time to discuss how you can nurture your relationship with your imagination.  Nurturing a relationship with anyone or anything requires tending.  I like to think of it like tending to a small child, a pet, or a special plant you love.

Speaking from experience, I can forget and neglect myself, and therefore, at times a pet or special plant in my life.  But there are ways to make it easier to remember to tend to the intentions we have for our lives.  Here are my top tips for nurturing your relationship with your imagination.

Top Tips to Nurture Your Relationship with Your Imagination

  • First, it helps to create a routine that fits into how you already go through your day. What can you marry your relationship to your imagination with that you already do?  For instance, when you brush your teeth, can you ask your imagination if there is anything it needs to let you know?  Or maybe as you are showering, you check in with your imagination.  It’s not necessarily about doing something new, but about changing your attention when you are doing routine activities.  This way you never send the message that your imagination is the one more thing that you just can’t find time for in your day.
  • Second, consider mapping out time on your calendar.  If you do best when you have appointments or to do lists, use what you know as a connection with your imagination. I have appointments for creative expression on my calendar and I treat them just like any other appointment.  A little tip here – if you see your creative time as negotiable and keep cancelling your creativity appointments to do “more important things,” you are sending a message to your imagination that it is not valuable.  This may not be the right technique for you if you keep bumping up against this challenge.  Or you may need to ask yourself how you can strengthen your commitment to your relationship with your imagination if this is a technique you want to use.
  • Third, create a list of commitments that you can review each day.  How will you have your imagination’s back?  The more you review this list of commitments, the more you will live them out in your daily life.  Here’s a sample of my commitments to get you started.  “I will always value the voice of my imagination by making time daily to check in.  I will make routine time that is nonnegotiable to connect with my imagination in ways that make it feel loved and supported.  I will give my imagination just as much weight and understanding as the louder voices of responsibility and the need to care for others.”
  • Fourth,invite more fun and playfulness into your life and let go of the need for specific outcomes.  Here’s where it gets joyful!  Imagination thrives when you make space for fun and playfulness and let go of the need to produce a specific outcome.  Even starting your day by asking, “How can I invite more playfulness into my day?” is enough to get this process flowing.  Imagination will thrive in an environment where play and experimentation are welcome guests.
  • Finally, stay inspired and seek support.  Here are 2 of my favorite links on the topic that will give you additional ideas for staying connected to your imagination. Tending the Neglected Side Yard, and Nurture Your Creative Life.

It’s Simple to Nurture Your Relationship with Your Imagination!Theresa Nutt stairs

It really is simple.  Take the time to nurture your relationship with your imagination.  A daily practice of some kind is going to help you create a life that gives you the inner spark and sense of feeling alive inside that you crave.  There are as many ways to do this as there are people to come up with the ideas.  Be creative, be inspired, and have some fun with this process while being consistent.  Do something every day to signal to your imagination that it is super valuable!  You are tending a delicate and new relationship and it will serve you well.

Please share your favorite ways to stay connected to your imagination in the comments below.

theresa nutt headshotTheresa Nutt is an Author, Speaker and Transformational Coach.  She helps very competent and capable women who feel empty and disenchanted with the daily grind to become vibrant, imaginative, and unforgettable.  Her favorite topics of discussion and exploration are transformation, feminine presence and power, and creativity.  Her creative pursuits include writing, singing, pastels, dancing, and cooking.

Her new book, “30 Days to Reignite Your Inner Creative Genius” can be found at www.theresanutt.com/resources/

 

 

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Guest Post: 5 Apps for Writers

I would like to thank Charlotte Rains Dixon for having this guest post on wordstrumpet.com. I find her to be a phenomenal writer with a lot of wisdom to impart on her readers. In addition, the website is fantastic and I would recommend this article on basic writer mistakes, because it is important to review the fundamentals every once in a while. (Editor's note: I did not pay her to say this, I swear!)

Depending on your niche, freelance writing can be a very competitive career path or an extremely competitive career path. Either way, you need every edge you have that is coming out and that means to be a successful freelance writer these days you need to be in the know when it comes to apps and technology.

One of the benefits of having the smartphone you almost certainly need for your career is its customizability and versatility. Has your smartphone replaced your notebook and pen? Has your smartphone even replaced your laptop in certain instances?

Phone in hand

Here are 5 apps you should be using to make sure that you have the technological advantage in your freelancing career:

TeuxDeux

One of the best calendar and to-do list applications out there, TeuxDeux is great for freelance writers that have a lot of trouble organizing their busy lives and managing their deadlines. This app is probably the closest to pen and paper out there, and editing tasks is easy and moving them around is even easier.

This app is useful for the freelance writers who merely want to get other aspects of their lives under control as well, as the recurring tasks feature allows you to set up weekly tasks for yourself (for example taking out the trash or doing laundry). Great for carving out a balance between work and other things in your life, or for managing time and making personal business decisions.

Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Not too much needs to be said about the Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus app, as the value of a good dictionary is self-evident. While you can always look online for words, with this application you won’t have to worry if you can’t get a connection. Another bonus is that you won’t have to deal with ads, and this app goes a great deal deeper than most thesauruses out there. This is great to have by your side when writing on paper.

Evernote

Evernote is probably the best note-taking app out there in general, considering the great range of ways you can put notes into your device. In addition, writers will like that the account can sync up from anywhere you input information. This way, you won’t have to fish around for information you wrote on your phone late at night in a moment of inspiration when using your laptop. It even allows for alarms and different file types other than text.

While there are subscription options out there which allow for greater data usage within the app, a lot of users won’t need to bother with them and just stick to the basic application. Even if the limit is met for some users, the premium options are not all that expensive.

A VPN

If you are a freelance writer you will at some point deal with client data that is sensitive and should not be released to the public. If this data were compromised it would cost you the client and a good deal of your reputation, not to mention the time you already spent on the project. In addition to this, your own personal data is just as important to maintain your brand and your financial stability.

To protect this sensitive data, you are going to want to get a Virtual Private Network application on your smartphone. It will connect your smartphone to a secure server via an encrypted connection and guard you when you use public networks (where your important data is most vulnerable). In addition to this, it will mask your location data and your browsing to anyone who wants to take a look at what you are doing or any website with regional restrictions. This can be extremely beneficial to a journalist or a travel writer of any sort.

WordPress

WordPress has a mobile app, and of course you should be using it if you have a blog. You should most certainly have a blog. It is a way that you as a writer can connect with an audience all your own and a hub that people who are interested in your work can travel to in order to find your other work.

While no app is perfect compared to the website that it is based on due to the limitations of a smartphone, you can expect a great deal of options from the WordPress application. In fact, you won’t really be slowed down much at all other than having to deal with a smaller screen than you are normally used to and your typing speed on a smartphone. This is an absolute recommendation for any serious freelance writer.

Untitled

Thank you for reading, and keep on writing!

CassieCassie Phillips is a technology enthusiast and blogger. She enjoys writing about all kinds of technology and gadgets but has a special interest in internet security.

Do you use any of these apps?  Have any other favorites?

11

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #50

Here are the prompts for the week from my Tumblr blog.  Have at it!

#343 When the party ended…

#344  He walked and walked and walked until he couldn’t walk anymore because….

#345  A nun, a cowboy and a CEO dressed in a fancy suit walked into a bar.   You write the rest.

#346  What is your main character’s happily ever after? Does he or she attain it?

#347  Escape! You are free at last!  What have you escaped from and why did it bind you for so long?

#348  Happy Hour.  What does your character drink: wine, beer, hard liquor, tea, coffee, water?  And why?

#349  The best day of your life.

How's your writing going this week?  What are you working on?

 

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Guest Post: How to Write a Novel Without Even Realizing It

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago in which I trumpeted the value of writing for even a few minutes every day–and Amanda commented on her success in following that prescription.  I was emailing her to write a guest post before I even finished reading her comment!  And here it is, and I find it very inspiring.  Amanda has appeared on these pages before–you can read the interview I did with her last year here.  Scroll down and read more about her wonderful novels!
 
Clock-clocks-alarm-546827-lWrite before you wake up…or, how I got so far into my next novel without even realizing I was writing it.
 
Recently, Charlotte wrote a post about writing every day. In it, she said, “So, how important is it to write every day?
 
Well, I think its every thing.  Every damn thing.  I do.  I believe that writing every day is what we should all strive for. … And that is what it really boils down to.  Whether or not you actually want to write.”
 
I’ve read similar articles before. I’ve heard similar advice. I usually reply with “but…but…but…”
 
I want to write every day, but I have 2 kids.
I want to write every day, but I have two other jobs.
I want to write every day, but I volunteer.
I want to write every day, but it’s the weekend.
I want to write every day, but the last season of Mad Men is finally on Netflix.
 
A week before Charlotte’s article I watched a webinar with the founder of The Organized Artist Company, Samantha Bennett (she’s also a former SNL writer!) and she gave a lot of similar advice. Just. Do. It.
 
That week, with my husband away at a conference and my children running around like the banshees they are, and my first week in a brand new job at a company, where everyone was away for the same conference my husband was at, I thought I was losing my mind. I hadn’t been writing in my journal, much less working on any creative writing. I was in the place in between projects where it’s easy to get stagnant: waiting for feedback on one manuscript but not sure how to start the next. Sam said that all creative work can be accomplished in 15 minutes a day, as long as you’re consistent with it. In the morning, before you check your email, before you turn the TV on, before you see Facebook or any part of the internet…15 minutes. Before your brain has time to think.
 
This is the same concept that Julia Cameron uses for working on Artists Pages right away in the morning— you’re not awake enough to self-sensor. First-thing Artists Pages don't work for me, because I’m not engaged enough with it and fall back to sleep. But, with two days left until my hubby got home, I decided to give actual writing a shot. 15 minutes, immediately, before I did anything else. Which meant I had to write long hand, because if I’m near my computer I must check email and Facebook, just as I must breathe.
 
I woke up, stumbled down the stairs, told my son to go back to bed, it was too early to be up (when he asked why I was up I said I was writing. In our house, this is code for leave me alone. I’ve trained them well.) and I started to write. 
 
I did it again the next day.
 
And the next. 
 
After about a week, started waking up before my alarm, knowing what I was going to write. I had my first book dream, in which I was one of the characters. 
 
It’s been a little over a month now, I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve done it almost every day since. I have a full notebook of handwritten scenes. As I’ve re-read them, I’m kind of amazed. They’re a lot better than most of my first draft stuff. More direct. Less tangents. I have to wonder if it’s because I was more focused while I was writing. This isn’t the fastest I’ve written, but it feels different. More complete in some way. And I’m in a MUCH better mood each day for getting the words on the page, first thing.
 
It’s not hard to get up 15 minutes earlier. If you’re not a morning person, (I’m totally not one) it will feel hard, I know, but just tell yourself it isn’t. You can program your coffee pot so it’s ready when you get to the kitchen, pour your cup, and go. Or sleep with your notebook or computer next to your bed, so you don’t even have to get up to get writing. It’s just 15 minutes. You can totally do it. 
 
Amanda_Moon_Headshot-Smaller_FileAmanda Michelle Moon writes novels inspired by real events. Her first two novels, The Thief and The Damage, tell the true-life unsolved mystery of a pair of Wizard of Oz worn ruby slippers from the perspective first of a fictional criminal, and then of the people affected by the theft. In May she is launching her first audiobook! Both books can be found at www.stealingtherubyslippers.com. When she’s not writing, she lives with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and works for NoiseTrade Books. Connect with her at www.amandamichellemoon.com.

Alarm clock photo from alan_cleaver2000.  Author photo from Amanda! 

What do you think?  Can you find 15 minutes in your day to write? Can you rise a little early?

8

Guest Post: Who Will Read My Writing?

Please welcome my friend and fellow writer Anthony J. Mohr to the blog today.  This post made me laugh out loud–probably because I'm all too familiar with the sentiment behind it.  And I've been an admirer of Anthony's essays about growing up in Hollywood back in the day when it was still truly glamorous for quite some time now.  (He does write about other things, too, and just as gracefully.)  Enjoy!

Sometimes (okay–all the time) when I’m writing, I wonder who will read my work. Not just whether the audience will consist of millennials or astronauts, but whether an old friend or a long lost crush will happen to see it thanks to a Google search or, better yet, because someone will tell her, “Hey, you used to know that guy Mohr? You’ve got to read what he just published in the Left Toe Review.”

That hasn’t occurred yet. Everything I’ve published seems to have vanished, passing by the earth’s seven billion souls without touching anyone. I understand. After all, how many people subscribe to the Left Toe Review? But I did make it, once, into the Christian Science Monitor and, twice, into Chicken Soup for the Soul. And still nothing from the long losts.

Twenty-five years ago, I walked by a news truck that was parked along a West Los Angeles street. When I stopped to see what they were doing, the reporter asked for my view on some issue of the day. Of course I agreed to say something on camera. I was a lawyer, then, and thought the exposure would land me a client. I answered the question; they broadcast five seconds of my brilliance; and that night, my phone began ringing. At least ten friends saw me. So did a potential client, who never paid his bill.

For years my friend Amber has been struggling to escape from her reporting job at one of those tabloids, the type that runs headlines like “Cheerleader Becomes Dear Leader’s Sex Slave.” Amber longed to write something meaningful, an essay that would spark debates across the chattering class. It took four years of research and at least forty drafts, but one of the nation’s most cerebral journals accepted her piece about – if I remember right — the transformation of Asian society and its impact on post cold war diplomacy. The day it hit the newsstands, Amber stayed home by her phone, waiting to hear from the world.

Her phone rang once.

It was the wimpy nerd who had bothered her through high school, a kid who’d been too dense to take a hint. She hadn’t been able to shake free of him until graduation. Now, twenty years later, thanks to Amber’s assiduous efforts, he was back, still trying to cadge a date.

So I ask once more: why do I bother to write? Other than attaboys from close friends to whom I send links to my stuff, I’ve resolved to hear from precisely nobody. I use my imagination – the same imagination I call on to write — in order to envision someone reading my story. I imagine that person showing it to her spouse, who at the end blinks back a tear or falls asleep thinking about my stunning last line instead of his kid’s dental bill. I refuse to imagine that person tossing my pages on the floor before he turns out the light.

Photo Judge MohrAnthony J. Mohr’s work has appeared in or is upcoming in, among other places, California Prose Directory, The Christian Science Monitor, DIAGRAM, EclecticaFront Porch JournalHippocampusThe MacGuffinWar, Literature & the Arts, andZYZZYVA. Three of his pieces have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. By day he is a judge on the Superior Court in Los Angeles. Once upon a time, he was a member of The L.A. Connection, an improv theater group.

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Guest Post and Giveaway: Tamara Holland

Update, Winner Announced:  The winner of Tam's book is…..Alexia Stevens!  Alexia, I will give your name to Tam and she will make arrangements to get you the book!

It is my privilege to introduce you to my wonderful cyber-friend Tam Holland!  She and I met on Twitter over a conversation about raisins.  Yes, raisins.  Rumor had it that eating raisins before bed prevented trips to the bathroom.  Anyway, we've been buds ever since we debated that notion (I still claim it works).  And once we discovered we each had a granddaughter about the same age, our friendship was sealed.  And here's the exciting part–she has a new book out!  It is historical fiction of the sort you've likely never read before and is already getting rave reviews. And…..drum roll….we have us a giveaway!  Tam has agreed to give a copy of the Ebook to one lucky reader.   So read her brilliant thoughts on Twitter and I'll give you details of the giveaway at the end. 6 Reasons Writers Need Twitter TamHolland

by Tamara Holland

I got on Twitter in 2011. Reluctantly.  Up til then, I'd been looking cynically, judgmentally, unfavorably upon all of social media.

Since then?

I've sent nearly 60,000 tweets.

Why?

Because Twitter rocks for writers.  Here are six big ways it does.

1.  Immediate support, instead of delayed rejection.

This is the thing that grabbed me first and hooked me instantly. Twitter is responsive, immediate, interactive.  How much better does that feel to writers than what we've done traditionally: toiled away alone on a piece, sent it somewhere to see if someone liked it enough to publish  it, waited forever to hear back . . . and then usually heard, "Sorry."

You know how much better instant positive feedback feels? Tons better. Life-saving, spirit-saving, enthusiasm-producing tons better.

On Twitter, when you follow and are followed by cool and supportive people, you will get immediate responses to the 140-character missives and questions that you send out. This feels wonderful. It feels like someone is listening. Like someone cares. Which can make all the motivational difference in the world to a writer.

 2.  Tribemates

I believe whole-heartedly that when you tweet authentically (as in, not just canned/automated tweets about your book-for-sale, and not in some "branded" form that does not really express who you are and what you're actually dealing with), you end up communicating on Twitter with wonderful, like-minded folks who become your tribemates. The people who say, "It's okay, I've been there, too," about the hard parts. Who say, "Want to meet for coffee?!?!?!" when they read you've just tweeted about landing in their city.  (This has even happened to me at the Copenhagen airport during a lay-over on a flight from New York to Rome!) Who say, "I would LOVE to review an advance copy of your book, if you'd be willing to send me one." Who, like Charlotte, say, "I'd like to feature you on my blog." Folks with whom you become fast friends and meet in real life when you can. Folks who  know you for how you tweet about your life, and like you for it.  And you, them.

 3.  Creative play

Twitter was made for writers. Tweets are 140-character bits of writing.  Over and over and over again. You can do all kinds of things with them. The possibilities are endless. Communicate with your friends in little "walkie-talkie" tweets back and forth. Or blast out your take on how things are going in any particular situation. Dream out loud. Send people inspiring messages.  Chronicle something cool or interesting or frustrating.  Participate in any number of "microfiction" groups — like when I play along on Fridays with "Friday Phrases," using the #fp hashtag.

Aside from being fun as hell, what's also great here is that they are all easy, low-stakes, fast-paced ways to keep practicing and practicing and practicing the art of writing. And, because the character -length of tweets is relatively short, they are especially great brevity-training exercises.

 4. Business opportunities

It's on Twitter where I've bonded with several fellow authors who publish serialized fiction at the very cool jukepop.com. (Check it out . . . vetted fiction of many different genres, which readers access for free and support with their votes.) JukePop itself has a strong, author-supporting Twitter presence, which is still relatively rare in the Old World publishing houses. Even better, many JukePop authors are also big tweeters, and support each other . . . offering words of encouragement, passing along news about your writing in their own tweets, and becoming "behind the scenes" friends who do even nicer things like reviewing and writing blurbs for your books and pulling for each other in life-outside-the-fiction activities.

 5. Style liberation Photo (37)

For the three years before I began drafting  The Road Presents Itself, I read about life in ancient Rome. Visual snippets of scenes would pop into my brain. I had a sense of many of the characters, and a bit of the plot.

But I had absolutely no idea about how the story was going to tell itself.  

On the plane to the writing workshop where I was going to do drafting, I got the sense it was going to be the protagonist talking. He did. When Tiberius started talking through me as I wrote, he talked like a 21st century guy. And in the present tense. And often in sentence fragments. In a story that ripped along.

 I'm pretty sure Twitter hatched that.

Because I think that two years of reading and tweeting tens of thousands of tweets changed the way my brain's neural pathways  hear, process, and expect narrative.

I no longer care for, or even "trust," most third-person narratives.  I just don't.  Because so much of my writing and reading is social media-based — where we read and write in the "I" — my brain now resonates to "I," instead of to the removed "he" or "she" or "they" in older narratives. Now when I read most third-person fiction, I feel an impatience.  (There are exceptions, of course.)  But usually, I feel irritated that I don't know the imaginary person, the omniscient third, who's telling the story. We don't know THEIR backstory, their predilections, etc.  They are god-like. Removed. They make choices about  how the story goes, without us having access to knowing why. Which at this point in my life and writing career seems to bug the heck out of me. I'm looking for more transparency.  When a first-person narrator is telling you the story, you are also knowing them through what they are doing themselves in the tale. This is what feels comfortable and right in narration to me now.

And there's more.

I no longer want to put up with being explained in too much detail what happened. That's right — happened. As in, in the past. Already occurred. Which is what past-tense is. And, unfortunately, most fiction (especially historical) has too much detail for my mystery-based, thriller-based brain. What I want is characters I love, and a story that moves. That's it. The very fact that something's told in the past tense builds in a distance, a layer of removed-ness, that makes it feel far away . . . which makes me feel like I'm missing something. It's not happening now.  It already happened. And inside, my brain asks, "SO?"

In short, writing in first-person present tense is the way fiction feels right to me now. It never would have, before. And that is because of Twitter.  

 6. The "traditional" business model

 "Tradition" is in quotes here because selling your fiction via social media is still, of course, very new compared to the Old World models of publishing and publicizing.  Still and all, there are already experts and ("experts") who will be happy to tell you the "ways you must" (read: traditionally) market your fiction on Twitter.  With certain hashtags. Through certain groups. At certain times. With certain kinds of tweets. Etc. But because I am more of a "make up your own rules" writing and marketing gal, I'll  leave  that to them, and to you to find in ways that help you best.

You can follow me on Twitter @tamholland. I'd love to follow you back!

Tamara Holland is a writer, mixed-media collage artist, bartender and former post-conviction death penalty attorney. Her previously-published books include two non-fiction books about the art business, and a children’s book. For the past six years, her art company Bean Up The Nose Art has been where she’s played and marketed six greeting card lines as her own distributor and with national licensing deals. She tweets almost non-stop as @tamholland, and posts on Instagram as @tamholland123 and @tiberiusroad. She's the happy mother of two now-grown-up married people, and grandma of Zoe Rose. 

And now, for the giveaway.  All you have to do is leave a comment, answering the following: what's your favorite social media site?  Add a few words about why if you like.  We'll give you until next Monday, December 8th, to enter.  I'll draw a name that day and let Tam know the winner!

12

Guest Post: One Would Think

Please welcome my friend, Kayla Dawn Thomas to the blog today.  She is the author of Swept Up, and the newly released (today!) Narrow Miss.  I love her thoughts on publishing the second time around and I know you will, too!

One Would Think     

by Kayla Dawn Thomas Headshot 6-14

One would think that by the time she publishes her second book, the experience would be old hat. The writer could press publish on Amazon with a confident smile and stroll into the kitchen to pour a celebratory glass of wine. Maybe then she’d take a peaceful, barefoot walk on the beach hand in hand with her lover, the wind blowing gently through her hair.

Ha! I wish! I just released my newest project on Amazon, and I’m still in my pajamas at noon after being up most of last night fretting about it. Never mind that I published a novel last April, and it’s done quite well for a debut. Never mind that I had two delightful book signings this summer. I’m not trying to brag here, just point out that nothing has happened in my first year as a published author to strip me of my confidence as I prepared to launch the Jenna Ray series.

As I was polishing up Narrow Miss, I saw this video of Sandra Brown talking about how after all these years of writing bestsellers she gets more intimidated with each release. Great, that’s just what I needed to hear. But, after some thought and going through the process a second time, I understand.

The first time I published all I could think was, “What if everyone hates my book?” That didn’t happen, so I relaxed after a few weeks.

Now I find myself thinking, “What if this book isn’t as good as the first? What if I disappoint my readers?” That still remains to be seen, so until then I will sit on my yoga mat and breath into a paper bag.

There is an upside with the second book, as least in my limited experience. The process as a whole came easier. I was no longer doubtful about whether or not I could write a book, so the writing came easier. I knew my way around the Amazon publishing ropes, so formatting and uploading my work was simpler. This time around I knew what I wanted and needed from my team (my editor and cover artist), so I could communicate more effectively with them. I pump my fist at these victories.

Reflecting on these little wins pushes me to open a blank document and take a deep breath because it’s time to start again—type the words for the next piece, because I have to. Despite the anxiety and nausea every time (so far) that I release one of my babies into the world, I have to write. It’s the only thing that’s ever felt like my calling. Like Sandra Brown said, “I have a fire in my belly.” There’s something about knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. And if one of my stories gives just one person a release from this hectic world, then every moment was worth it.

Kayla Dawn Thomas is the author of Swept Up and Narrow Miss: A Jenna Ray Story, which releases today!. To learn more about her books and indie author life, please visit her website .

8

Guest Post: Naked Writing

Stop your dirty little minds, this post is not what you think its about.  And put your clothes back on! This is not about sitting at the computer writing while naked.  No, its much more valuable, it is about no-frills writing can deliver action and excitement better than its ruffly, prissy sister.  It's good stuff.

And, as excited as I am about sharing this post from my wonderful friend, fellow author J.D. Frost, I'm even more thrilled to announce the august news that accompanies this guest post: J.D.'s mystery novel, Dollface, was just published!  You should take one second and go buy it right now.  Seriously. Because I just finished it and the novel is a great read. DollfaceCover

Okay, okay, on to the guest post, but read more about J.D. at the end.

Naked Writing

by J.D. Frost

In the opening of The Client, John Grisham uses sentences with no frills, just action and excitement. I call this non-decorative method naked writing. Let’s examine the first 40 pages of this great thriller. Follow along.

It begins with a description of the protagonist and his brother. Mark is 11. His brother is 8. That’s it. That’s the description. Does Mark have eyes as pale blue as the September sky or the deep rich hue of sapphires? We don’t know. Is he cute … big? No clue. On page 24–twenty-four!–we discover the color of Mark’s hair with the following passage from Ricky’s viewpoint: “But he knew his brother was alive because he had darted behind trees for fifty feet until he caught a glimpse of the blond head sitting low and moving about in the huge car.” This sentence is a far cry from “He had blond hair.” Look at the movement. Nothing static. We have identified with Mark and Ricky. Things are happening. We don’t have time for looking in the mirror.

Is it hot? Cold? Is the book set in spring or fall? Don’t know. Number One in Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing is “Never open a book with the weather.” On page 7, the sun hid behind a cloud just before a sinister turn in the action. A little cliche but hardly noticeable. The sky darkens again on page 24. Why doesn’t he tell us that it is … summer? Would it add anything? The cloud over the sun hints at a dark turn. The tension increases again when a cloud blocks the sun on 24. That’s all the weather we get. This is Mark’s story. A lot is going on! He’s not gazing around at the sky. Maybe you could make a case for the weather if Mark were 74.

And another thing: Where are we? Are we in New York? Los Angeles? Our first clue comes on page 15 with this absolutely great passage: “I’ve never shot this thing, you know,” he said almost in a whisper. “Just bought it an hour ago at a pawnshop in Memphis. Do you think it’ll work?” Brilliant.

So he gives us no description of Mark or Ricky. But he’s inconsistent! On page 28, he describes the bad guy–in detail. “The shoes were shark and the vanilla silks ran all the way to the knee caps … The dark green suit had a shine to it and appeared at first glance to be lizard … The hair was black and full, colored to hide a bit of gray, slicked down, laden with gel, pulled back fiercely and gathered into a perfect little ponytail that arched downward and touched precisely at the top of the dark green polyester jacket.” I love this. This is a bad dude! But why does Mr. Grisham give us more of this guy’s appearance than the main character? Maybe because this is Mark’s p.o.v. He is not in this scene, but this is his world and he is examining this man who has stepped into it. Luckily, we get to tag along.

I don’t propose we write without adjectives. Grisham’s sentences are full of movement and action, and the description we need comes from the movement of the characters through the scene. After I read this opening, I couldn’t help but continue. I hope this has been helpful. I have learned a bit. I thank John Grisham for giving us this great legal thriller. And may you write the stories in your head, my friends, exactly as they play in your mind. J.D.

Jdfrost 1 (1)J.D. Frost is the author of DOLLFACE. Two of his short stories have been published, one in NUVEIN magazine and another in CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON! 2009. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He lives near Huntsville, Alabama, where he is at work on the 2nd Moses Palmer mystery.

What do you think of J.D.'s naked writing theory?  Do you prefer stripped-down scenes or more flowery ones?

Photos courtesy of the author.  

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Guest Post: Being a Writer Is More Than It’s Cracked Up To Be

Please welcome Angie Dixon to the blog today.  We share a last name and also a passion for writing and creativity! I know you'll enjoy her post. (And be sure to check out the free report she's offering here.)

Being a Writer is More Than It’s Cracked Up to Be

by Angie Dixon

I’ve been a working writer long enough to know that I didn’t get exactly what I signed up for with this gig. I did get the people looking impressed and asking, “What do you write?” I got the people saying, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” I got the callouses on my fingers and palms from typing all day. I got some of the money and all of the satisfaction. I also got a lot more than I expected in terms of the way my writing has impacted my life for the good. I can say without a doubt that were I not a writer, my relationships, my relationship with myself, my spiritual life and my perspective on the world would be far different and far less than what they are now. Forget about the work for a moment. Let’s talk about the life writing gives us.

When I decided I wanted to write for Word Strumpet, the phrase “Writing is More Than It’s Cracked Up to Be” popped into my mind, and I knew I had to write it because I needed to know what that meant. It’s like Toni Morrison said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

So I sat down to write about how writing is more than it’s cracked up to be, and this is what I discovered. I went into this post thinking along the lines of, “Writing gives you more than you signed up for.” But the truth is, I didn’t sign up for anything.

When I was five years old I decided I wanted to write a book. I took all the paper off the communal shelf and went back to my desk.

Mrs. Carnahan told me to put it all back except for one piece. My brave best friend, Mark, stood up and said, “She’s going to write a book.”

Mrs. Carnahan said, “Well, then, she’ll have to write it one piece of paper at a time.”

I did, many years later, write a book one piece of paper at a time. And another and another and another to the point that I say I’ve written 30 books but I’m sure it’s more like 35. I’d have to take a while and make a list and I just haven’t made the time to sit down and do that, so I say I’ve written 30 books.

In the course of writing approximately more than 30 books, along with millions of words spread across articles, blog posts, white papers, guides, manuals, comments, lists and even a couple of infographics and a comic strip, I’ve learned what writing is and what writing is not.

After writing this post, throwing out the original, writing it again, losing that original, and writing it five more times, I’m ready to tell you what it means that writing is more than it’s cracked up to be.

First, writing makes us special. It also makes us deny that we’re special.

Take just a second and picture your favorite author, or your favorite five authors. Now tell me this. Did you see names on book covers, or titles, or faces? I saw all three, for several favorites including Sue Grafton, Dean Koontz, business author Brian Tracy, self-help novelist Andy Andrews and a psychologist named Robert Cialdini, author of Influence.

Think about that for a second. I’m a very visual person. If you learn in another way, you may not think of faces when you call to mind your favorite authors. You may think of something they said or something you learned from them.

But you can think about an author and call up something specific about that author and his or her work.

You can only do that with people who are special to you. You can’t do it with the person who sat behind you in kindergarten, unless that person was a good friend or a sworn enemy.

If writers are special to us, that means that you, as a writer, are special.

We have trouble understanding this about ourselves, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It just makes it something we don’t want to believe.

Second, writing changes the world.

I was going to talk about how “writer” is the ungulate-Latin-Spanish-Indo-European-Swahili (or something) word for “world-changer.” You see, I have to exercise my sarcasm muscle once an hour or I get a really bad cramp, and I have to drive six hours tomorrow by myself. I don’t want to risk driving with a cramp, so….

What I’m going to say instead is that ideas change the world. What that boils down to is that thoughts change the world. As far as I’m aware, it is impossible to read without thinking. If you read, you create new thoughts. Those thoughts change your life, even in some infinitesimal (which is a really cool word) way.

Reading changes the world. Ipso lorem, ergo sum, e=mc2, QED, therefore and all that, writing changes the world. Since you are a writer, you change the world. Which, if you’re still thinking about it, makes you special.

Third, writing helps us fit into the world.

I’ve written an entire book, The Leonardo Trait, for “Leonardos,” or profoundly creative people, about the feeling of not fitting in the world and how to understand ourselves and find where we do fit.

I can boil down that entire “Owner’s Manual for the Brains of Profoundly Creative People” by saying this. Your creativity is what makes you an important part of the world, even when you think you’re a square peg because of your creativity.

Writing creates your place in the world, a place where no one else could fit because they don’t have the words you came to say.

Fourth, writing gives us a new Why.

This section and the first paragraph are the surviving remnants of the post I rewrote more times than I can count, but probably more times than books I have written. Probably not.

Writing becomes a part of your life in ways you don’t expect and don’t understand, and it indeed gives you a new “Why.” It gives you a new why for living, for caring and for doing. It gives you a why for loving and for giving to others. At the same time most importantly and least importantly of all, writing gives you a new why for writing.

That new why goes beyond the “I can’t not write” need to write. It goes beyond the love of writing, or the hatred of it that some writers feel. It goes beyond the words.

I mentioned this new why a moment ago. Whether you realize it or not, once you accept your writerness, your deep commitment to life as a writer, you write because you haven’t yet said the words you came to say.

Angie Dixon hates bios written in the third person. She is the author of “The Owner’s Manual for the Brains of Profoundly Creative People,” The Leonardo Trait. She would like to share more with you about what writing is cracked up to be in her free report Cracking Up? No, Just Being a Writer. You can learn more about Angie on her website, LeonardoTrait.com.

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Guest Post: 15 Fixes for Your Worst Writer’s Block

Please welcome guest poster Julie Duffy today.  Julie and I connected on Twitter and I'm glad we did!  She is a writer and also the creator of A Story A Day--the extreme challenge to write a story every day in May.  (And guess what–you can start any time.  If you get going now, think how many stories you'll have by the end of the month.)  Please join me in welcoming Julie, I think you'll like her ideas for overcoming writers' block.

15 Fixes For Your Worst Writers’ Block JulieDuffyHeadshot200x300

by Julie Duffy

 Writer’s block can come out of nowhere. It can be temporary and related to one project, or it can be chronic, stopping you from writing anything creative. Sometimes, it’s important to figure out the underlying problems that are contributing to the block. Is it a technical problem with the work? Have you lost the plot? Do you hate the characters? Finding out the root cause allows you to start forming strategies for tackling the block. But sometimes you just need to knuckle down and do the work. For those days, here are 15 fundamental fixes to help you work through your worst writers' block.

1 – Lower Your Standards

Don't strive for greatness. Go for entertainment. Especially on a first draft. And a second. Save the sixth revision for making it perfect. For now it's enough to ask: is it fun to read (by that I mean enjoyable and entertaining, even if it's sad)

2 – Rewrite Something

Take a look at something you've written before. Don't waste time worrying about what doesn't work. Start it again, rewrite it  (or sections of it, if it is a longer work) without the use of 'cut and paste'. Just take another stab at it. Or retell a classic story, just to warm up.

3 – Start

Sometimes you literally have to put the pen on the paper and start making shapes. It doesn't matter what you write, but putting something — anything — on the page will snap you out of your terror. Keep the pen moving until you're thinking only about the story and not about yourself. Put your pen on the paper. Put your fingers on the keyboard. Make some words.

4 – Free-Write

If you are horribly blocked, don't try to write a story as soon as you sit down. Free-write. Write about anything: about what you want to do, about why you hate your project, what you're trying to do with this story. You should either solve some of your problems or get so sick of listening to yourself whine that you decide you'd rather be writing a story than complaining any more.

5 – Turn Off Distractions

Turn off the Internet. Yes you can. Unplug the router, if you're home alone, or turn off the WiFi on your laptop. If you can't pull the LAN cable out of the back of your computer without upsetting your techies, do the next best thing: turn off email notifications, Twitter pop ups and Facebook, IM or any other chat windows. Ignore your calendar. Set a timer or a word count and go. If you have an old busted laptop, use that and store your work on a USB key. Turn off your phone if it gets email alerts. Do whatever you have to do to kill all the distractions.

6 – Write From A Different P.O.V

If a scene or a story is not working for you, try writing it (again) from a different character's point of view, or in a different voice. Even if you decide not to use the piece, writing it from a different point of view may show you why it wasn't working before, or why you were resisting working on it.

7 – Work On A Different Part Of The Project

Here's a tip: you don't have to write your story in the right order. If you can't get excited about the scene right after the opening, leap over it and get into a meatier part of the story. Then at least, you'll know exactly what you need to set up in that ho-hum scene that you don't want to write today.

8 – Accept that Writing Is Hard Work

If it wasn't everyone would be doing it (and they're not. Trust me. Even though you know a lot of people who write, there are actually a larger number of people out there who aren't writing. Weird, but true.) Every professional writer who ever gave an honest answer in an interview has said some version of, "I just have to sit down and write, you know? It's a job." You have to take it seriously. No matter how much you love your job, there are days when you'd rather not be doing it. The same goes for writing. But you have to turn up anyway.

9 – Change Projects

It is OK to be working on more than one project at once. Now, don't go crazy because you'll never finish anything if you keep abandoning projects when they get hard. But it is OK to switch between a project or two when you need a change.

10 – Write A Little Then Stop

If you're having trouble writing a lot, then don't worry about writing a lot (unless you have someone standing over you with a contract and a stop watch). Write as much as you can. Write a little bit more, then stop. If you can get away with it, don't make yourself sick of a story by pushing too hard.

11 – Edit Something Out

If your story is stuck, maybe it's because your characters can't take that road trip you've been setting up. Even if you really, really wanted to write about a road trip, maybe you need to accept that this is not the story where it happens. Trying to write something when you know it's not working is a sure route to writer's block.

12 – Write First

Make writing the first thing you do, before the distractions of the day get their claws into you.

13 – Write Every Day, Even If It's Twitter Fiction

The act of writing every day proves to yourself that you are serious about this writing business. Writing something as small as Twitter fiction (140 characters) on a busy day at least means that your imagination knows it can’t go to sleep. If you know you HAVE to write something today, your imagination and your subconscious will keep looking around for ideas. In the process you will pay much more attention to the world around you — something that will pay off later, when you are working on another piece.

14 – Don’t Be Fancy

Use simple words. If you are trying to write something and it’s giving you trouble, just say it as simply as possible. Don’t worry about saying it in a beautiful way.  You can get hung up on searching for the perfect word and it can stall your whole project. Come back and change it later if it needs changed (it probably won't.)

15 – Write What You Love

Maybe you've got high-flown ideas about writing what you think you 'ought' to be writing. Or maybe you've heard that a certain type of fiction sells better, or is better regarded, or is more likely to get you an agent. Maybe all these ideas have got you writing work that isn't you, that you don't love. Take some time out and write something with no thought of publishing. In fact, promise yourself you won't show it to anyone, that it's just for you. Above all, keep writing. Even if it's bad, even if it's just OK. Words on the page can be fixed. So stop worrying and write something!

What about you? What tricks do you use to jumpstart your writing?  

Julie Duffy is a writer and the host of StoryADay May (Storyaday.org), a creativity challenge for short story writers.  This article is an excerpt from her ebook Breaking Writers' Block: A StoryADay Guide.

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