My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don't Overthink This Post

Have you ever found yourself stuck at a certain point in your story? Even when you walk away from your writing utensils, you are still obsessed with what the character should do next. You question if the plot is going in the right direction. You wonder if the setting has been expressed clearly enough. You revise and rewrite the opening line until your fingers start to bleed.

This, my friend, is not healthy. While it is good to be involved in the story you are telling, it is important to remember when to let go. Sometimes, you just have to let things flow and stop worrying. If you keep revisiting that one line and stress that it just isn't right, you are going to overload yourself and might even get burnt-out before you are even close to finishing your story. The best approach is to write your first draft in its entirety, then go back and make any changes. At some point, however, you need to make a decision and stick with it, instead of revisiting the same passage a hundred times. Allow yourself some wiggle room!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Don't write like some people talkt

Have you ever been browsing Twitter or Facebook and come to a tweet/status that just made you take a double take? You sit there and wonder, did this person even look at what they were writing before they posted it? It doesn't make sense, the spelling is atrocious, and the grammar is even worse. You want to believe that they are being funny and don't really write lIKe thiiiiiiiiissssssssssss, but in your heart, you know they are serious.

Now that you are fully aware of the situation, here is the mission I present to you: Take your writing and use it to make the world a better place. Write so well that people will forget about the idiotic things they see online. Be so creative and wonderful that the world will instantly become a better place. Use your intelligence to help others remember that they are not alone it wondering what is wrong with people today.

Remember, writing is a powerful gift.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Guest Post by Cynthia Ravinski

For today's post, Cynthia Ravinski (@CynthiaRavinski) has generously offered to share her writing experience and provide advice for people struggling to start their own writing journey. Dig in!

Visuals, Imagery, and Crafting Story from Dream

I’m a part of the EmotoBook Revolution Let me tell you how that happened (I’m a story teller, that’s what I do). Writing an EmotoBook changed the way I look at writing. So let’s start there.

For me, a story starts with a dream--vivid color and poignant action streaking across the movie screen of my resting mind with abstract gravitas. I think the strangest thing is that there are never any words.

If I decide an Idea is worth turning into a story, it’s usually because it has haunted me for days and I’m thoroughly mad like the Hatter about the thing. And then, I only face the task of crafting it into something intelligible to other humans. Let me step aside here to say that without an Idea no writing can be done, there is only that familiar blank, white screen with a blinking black cursor. With an Idea, I at least have something to hang some words on, from which I will shape my story.

Crafting a story is a very technical thing, and is separate from the story Idea. Simply relating events is not truly Telling a story, it misses a lot of resonance. A writer’s job is to craft a story so that black and white text creates an internal cinematic dreamscape for a reader. There are many tools a writer uses to do this. One of the most important, I think, is visual imagery. When readers look at text, all they see are black lines on white. I’ve always been completely seduced by a brief chain of words that can slip a ravishing scene into my head.

The idea of EmotoBooks as a literary form lodged in my mind and haunted me for days after I’d first heard of it. Using abstract imagery to enhance the reading experience tackles multiple areas of the brain, and appeals to my vivid dreamscapes that have no words. Louis Sullivan, an American architect, put it perfectly, “form ever follows function.” EmotoBooks have a unique style and structure. They are all fast-paced, imagery-heavy short stories or serial novels containing abstract, emotionally provocative illustrations to depict what characters feel during peak moments of tension. These expressionistic elements provide both a cerebral and visual stimulation, which enhances the experience.

When I began the editing process for my EmotoSingle, Lingering in the Woods, it was glaringly obvious that my instinctive use of imagery was not as effective as I would have hoped. I’ve always tried to keep my stories visually balanced, like in my dreams, but it became apparent that in doing so, I reduced the impact of important scenes. Encouraged by my editor at Grit City, I intensified the imagery in the most powerful parts of the story as a seat for the abstract artwork going into the story. Through this craft element, I added a texture to the story I wouldn’t have found before, visually highlighting the peaks and valleys of the plot.

Writing stories is a grand puzzle with no absolute solution. Trial and error is the best way thorough that maze. I only hope that my work’s images burn lively in the minds of readers.

Cynthia Ravinski writes, among other things. From her coastal northern setting, she crafts stories in impossible worlds and dreams up crafty characters to occupy them. She’s been an athlete, a co-pilot, and a world traveler. She’s basked in the light of great poets, and has been educated to high degrees at UMaine Farmington and Seton Hill University. To say she is obsessed with drinking tea is an understatement.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Reflecting on my Job

This week marks my fourth year of working in retail. To celebrate this small anniversary in my life, I thought I would write an equally small post to share the things I have learned from my job.

1. There are many things that can be improved simply by smiling, talking in a pleasant tone, and genuinely caring. Many times, when people are upset, they need to vent about a bad experience and be assured that this is not the norm. By taking an interest in what has upset the customer and promising to correct the problem, many scenes can be avoided and can lead to the customer going home with a happier memory of their experience.
2. Some people will never be happy. They will complain that there was no one to help them back in aisle 12, so  you offer to help them find what they were looking for. When you come back with the item, they will complain that it took too long. They will complain that the lines are too long, so ring them out personally. Then, they will complain about the price of the item that they wanted so desperately. Then, they will complain that the bags are too flimsy and lament that they forgot their own reusable bags in the car. No matter what you do, these people will never be happy with the service. But, because it is your job, you have to try again and again and again.
3. Adaptability and flexibility are your two greatest assets. If you work on one side of the store but the boss asks you to help out an associate on the other side, agree and help them complete the task in record time. Being willing to help out anywhere you are needed will show your managers that you are serious about your job and, in turn, they will think of you as a good work and keep you on their radar.
4. Don't be afraid to speak up. If you see a problem or have an idea on how to increase productivity, let your bosses know. If something isn't working, let them know and bring up a suggestion that might make things easier. If something doesn't make sense to you, ask for an explanation. If you never let your voice be heard, they will never know what you are thinking.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Character Vs. Plot

A lot of people that give writing advice focus on the plot. What is it? Is it strong? How many points and arcs does it have? Basically, what is the progression of your story? Many make it out like plot is the most important thing to focus on when writing your short story or novel. I, however, disagree.

While plot is still important and definitely in the top 5 things to keep in mind when writing, I believe the number 1 focus should be on characters and their development. Think about when you are reading a novel. What makes you connect to the story? What makes you want to read more, even when you have to put it down to do something else? What  The characters. Through believable characters, the readers make a new friend (or, in some cases, a new enemy) that they are passionate about and can relate to in some way or another. Watching the character change and grow is one of the biggest draws a novel can have.

Many writers are guilty of developing a great character in the first few chapters, then turning away to focus on the actions themselves. While there still needs to be movement and adventure in the plot, it can't take over your story. People don't relate to events; they relate to emotions, thoughts, and personal actions. Through triumphs, trials, and failures, your audience becomes hooked on your character. Therefore, this is where you need to channel most of your energy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Press Release Help

The other day, I ran across a useful post on the Wise, Ink. blog, which was actually a guest post by Kenneth J. Thurber ( I found the information extremely helpful, so I wanted to pass it along today.

The post described six steps for meeting your press-release goals. I have rewritten them in my own words, but the idea is based off of the original post.

1. Get a great title for your press release. This will help the reporters distinguish your release from the countless others they receive every day and will, hopefully, make you stand out enough that they will give it their full attention. Once they agree to spread it around, this increases the chances that others will grab onto it and spread the word for you.
2. Make your press release timely. Find current events that relate to what you are talking about. If your novel is based on the hardships of being a teenager, it is better to release your message when everyone is talking about the flaws in state-mandated testing instead of during the middle of summer, when everyone is pretending that school doesn't exist (at least for another month or two).
3. Make your book a prominent part of the "timely" element. Indicate how the two topics are related. Give them a reason to care about what you are selling. Allow them to take a peak into your story and hook them with an issue they are already curious about.
4. Make the material quotable. News media rarely prints a press release word-by-word. Instead, they take the information within the document and shape it into a document that fits their own style and needs. By providing easily quoted passages, it makes their job easier, which in turn makes it more likely that they will run with your story.
5. Relating to your timely event, if you are taking a position with an issue, make sure your position is clear. To continue with the example I mentioned before, make it obvious whether you think teenagers really do have a difficult time or if you are mocking their definition of hardship. This way, you can't be accused of misleading a potential reader or misrepresenting your book.
6. Link to everything. Your Twitter, Facebook, blog, website, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Goodreads accounts. All of it! This will let anyone who picks up on your press release easily access more information about you, your previous work, and your current novel. They can follow your thoughts on your blog and see what inspires you on Pinterest. They can share the connection of a good book through Goodreads and chat with you on Google+. By sharing your links, you are opening yourself up to making connections with readers and fans.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Choosing a Title

When you think about marketing your novel, one of the first things you need to consider is your title.

It needs to hint at the content within the covers without giving it all away.
It needs to catch the attention of readers in your target audience.
It needs to be short and sweet.
It needs to make sense.
It needs to be original.

I understand how difficult this can be. Sometimes, it can seem like all the good titles are already taken by popular works. It can even be the only time your writer's block kicks in and leaves you stranded. The best thing to do is to dedicate a notebook page (or two, or three) and just start writing down whatever comes to mind. Even the silliest titles can lead you to a diamond in the rough! If you have a hard time even getting this part started, try writing down key words that describe your novel, including setting elements and character traits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How are they different?

Today, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on fame.

I saw a picture online of J.K. Rowling holding up one of her Harry Potter books. It made me stop and think about the challenges and excitements involved in being a writer. What makes her, or Stephen King, or other famous writers so different from you and me?

Honestly, I have no answer for this. Are they better? Maybe. Do they have more experience? Maybe. Do they have more luck? Maybe. But was it all by chance? Or did it require a bit of talent? Possibly some marketing knowledge to land a better position in the publishing world.

I don't know the answer to this one. At least, I don't know the real reasons and the path that their lives have taken. What I do know is that it is possible to achieve their level of success. At the same time, I don't know if I would define their success by using their fame. Sure, it helps sell copies, but I think a successful author is one who can connect with his readers. Someone who reaches out to fans and shakes the hands of new writers in the field. Someone who remains down to earth and goes to the local library for small-scale book signings. Someone who can keep their roots in plain sight, no matter where their career might take them.

I think that in order to judge your own success, you can't compare yourself to these stars. Landing in the same plane might not make you happy, and for most, it is not realistic anyway. There are thousands of deserving artists out there, and only a few slots in the public eye. The real judge of your writing career shouldn't be how often you end up in the paper. Instead, it should be on how well you connected with your readers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The First Step in Editing

If you want to be an editor, or if you are a writer who needs to edit your drafts, then there is one tip that I would like to share with you today.

The most important thing you can do is approach the manuscript as a reader. If you are the writer, you need to forget that you wrote the piece and that you know what happens. Instead, you have to immerse yourself in what is actually present on the page in front of you. If you are an editor, instead of examining what you want to change or fix in the draft during the first read-through, you need to approach it as a new reader.

This point of view will allow you to evaluate the story AS a story. Did you like it? Did certain parts seem to drag? Were certain parts confusing or seem out of place? Did the characters seem believable and could you relate to them? Was the plot believable and easy to follow? Was the language and any dialectic appropriate and easy to read? Approach the manuscript as a reader and you will be able to find the holes and misprints in the story.

After the first read-through, then you can turn to the editing process. If you are the author, go back and change what you noticed needed some work. Then, read it again from a reader's perspective to see if it works. If you are an editor, now is the time to pick up that red pen or turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Word and get cracking. Yes, this means you will have to read it again to catch everything, but now you have an idea of the overall effect and will be able to improve upon the story itself, instead of just the grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Motivation Extermination

This year, in western Pennsylvania, summer has come in with a hard hit. We had a mild winter, followed by an up-and-down spring, and now summer is being ruthless. High temperatures with high humidity. It feels like we never got to ease into these high temps with some middle-of-the-road weather.

The reason I bring this up is because I love going outside. I especially love taking walks in the local state parks and generally enjoying the sun and the fresh air. However, this year, it is hard to convince myself that the heat is worth it. Because I didn't get to gradually get used to it, as I did in past years, this heat seams overbearing. On top of that, the air conditioning in my car doesn't work, so I don't have that cool-down environment to look forward to after enduring the stifling heat for the sake of taking a walk.

I guess this just highlights a bigger problem in my life right now. My motivation has, for the most part, taken a nose dive. I used to have so much energy. On my days off from work, I would clean the house, go for an hours-long walk outside, and still have the time and energy to work on creating and writing. Now, I have enough energy to perform at my full-time retail job and to do my editing work for Grit City Publications, but that's it. My clean laundry is currently sitting on the floor, waiting to be folded; my dirty dishes are piled in the sink; and my carpet could use a good vacuuming. I have been trying to convince myself for several hours to go take a walk while my night-shift fiance is sleeping, but I keep laying on the couch. Where has all my motivation and my determination gone?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse?

Today is the start of the zombie revolution. For years, they have hid from the eyes of humans, afraid of the persecution they see on television and in movies. They have lived in constant fear of being exposed and killed on the spot. But now, from this moment, they refuse to submit to terror anymore. They are going to rise up against the oppressive humans and claim their place in the world. They will show everyone that they are more than just mindless, man-eating infections. They will prove that they can be functioning members of society. Starting today, they will change the status quo forever.

This is an example of a good writing prompt. Take a commonplace situation, one that everyone usually accepts without question, and turn it on its head. This can make any mundane topic into something new and interesting. Adopt a new perspective and help your reader see the world from a different viewpoint. What other topics can you think of that could use a flip?

P.S. This is my first time doing any creative writing on my blog. I know it is short, but what do you think? If it is any good, I will try to write more in the future to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Some Calvin Advice for Writers

I don't believe in writing blocks, but this one would crush a keyboard quite handily.

Sorry, I know the image is a bit blurry, but its the best one I could find.

Anyway, I thought this cartoon was absolutely adorable. As writers, many of us believe in writer's block and talk about it when inspiration alludes us. It is looked at as a wall that erects itself between our fingers and our brain, a divider stuck between our ideas and our consciousness, or a steel cage that traps our creativity. It is seen as something that cannot be broken down. It is a fact of a writer's life and ruins your goal for the day.

However, this cartoon turns that idea on its head. Instead of being something that is insurmountable, writer's block becomes something physical that you can deal with. It can no longer control your fingers. You can choose to lift it and continue on with your writing. While I know it is not this easy to do, it is still possible. Shift your focus away from your big project and write a mini-story about something else. Read a book that inspires and drives you, maybe one that gave you the idea to become a writer in the first place. Keep your mind off your writer's block and on something else, and when you come back to your novel or other project, don't focus on the trouble you had before. Come at it with a blank slate and let your fresh perspective guide you to greatness.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Pain of Writing and Reading

I was recently reading a post on the Drippings from the Mind of Me blog (link at the bottom of this post) about the pain involved in writing and in reading. The blogger claims that the act of finishing a project can leave you feeling abandoned and hurt, but eager to move on. The blogger also claims that finishing the reading of a novel can feel like when a lover runs off with someone else.

Though I agree on some level, I don't know if I would take it quite that far. I think it feels more like the ending of a great day. Your trip to the zoo is over, though you wish you could spend all day watching the hyena cubs playing. Your walk is ending as the sun sets, though you wish you can keep walking until work the next morning. A great experience you had, something that made you feel happy and exhilarated and breathed new life into you, has come to a close. It doesn't change the fact that you enjoyed the day, but you are disappointed that it is over.

Now, tell me, which view do you agree with? Or, if you disagree, how do you feel when you finish a first draft or finally turn the last page of a novel?

Monday, May 14, 2012

June Idea

After last month's A to Z Challenge, I am itching to spend next month writing on a theme. I enjoyed the structure that the challenge posed, while allowing wiggle room for me to write about whatever I wanted to. Now, I am debating about what to focus on for next month.

I am thinking that I have done plenty of writing tips blog posts in the past. But, I never really introduced myself. Sure, there is a blurb about me on the side, but I don't think anyone really knows the person behind the posts on this blog. So, I am thinking about using next month to introduce myself, what I do, and what I like. Just something different each day to help everyone get to know me a bit better.

At this point, it's only a spur-of-the-moment idea, but I want to give it some more thought. What do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Your Best Idea


Have you ever come up with a brand-new idea and rushed to share it with someone you care about, only to be ridiculed? Have you ever been afraid to share a thought because it might seem stupid or unusual? Then you know what this quote is all about!

You just had an amazing story idea pop into your head. It's original, unique, and will appeal to a large group of people. You start to write it and have another writer friend look over your first draft, and they look at you like you are crazy. At this point, it can be easy to give up on the idea and move on. But, not so fast!

If you believe in your idea, if you stand behind your story and think that it has potential, then don't toss it aside just because someone disagrees. Stick with it and see where it goes. After all, the only people who can truly judge how good your story is are the readers themselves.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Helping a new reader

Recently, I was reading a new post on the Wordplay blog (link at the bottom of this post) about walking the descriptive line in order to keep a balance with clarity and the story itself. This led me to think about some fantasy and scifi novels I had read recently. While a good author keeps my interest, a great author helps me to understand without making me feel stupid. I don't read these genres very often, so I sometimes find it hard to immerse myself in a world completely different from my own. I need help from the storyteller to be able to follow the plot and picture the scenes.

Now that I think about it more in-depth, this is an important idea for every author. If you are writing about life in northern California, you have to realize that not all of your potential readers have the same background information you do. When people think about California, most imagine the sun, the ocean, and the Hollywood sign. If this is not what you have in mind, then you need to help your reader see what you want them to see.

At the same time, you have to make the story appeal to people who already know what you are describing. You have to find a balance between teaching newcomers and keeping the interest of the experienced. It can be very difficult, so feel free to enlist a friend or two. Preferably one friend who knows what you are talking about and one who doesn't have a clue. Gauge their reactions and adjust accordingly, and you will soon be able to do it all on your own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


The other day, I was reading a post over at the Grammar-ease blog ( This post was about how, when a great idea hits, your fingers can't keep up with your mind. Whether you are trying to keep up on a keyboard or with a pen and paper, it can be hard to catch every little thing as the thoughts go speeding by.

The blogger wrote about how she tries to keep up by blurring words together and picking the first version of a word that comes to mind (there instead of their, for example). When I try to do the same thing, I end up leaving out entire words so I can keep the main idea intact. How do you deal with brain overload?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What are you capable of?

You can find out how to do something and then do it or do something and then find out what you did  -  isamu noguchi

Most universities and colleges offer a degree in Creative Writing. They focus on teaching you the basics of many genres, including nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. They give you some helpful insight and allow you to practice while receiving feedback from your peers and instructor. I am not going to condone these programs in this post, because I do believe they offer a lot of help to budding writers. Also, I graduated from Slippery Rock University with a Bachelor's in Creative Writing.

What I do want to talk about is what these programs don't teach you. They are so focused on giving you a basis in each of the main genres that they forget to teach you how to work outside those lines. In fiction writing, you can't learn everything from one course. These classes will not teach you how to make up your own world for a fantasy novel or how to avoid predictability in a crime story. For that, you have to teach yourself.

Doing your research is important. Read acclaimed novels in the genre you wish to tackle. Read up on tips online and join some forums related to your topic. Go to the library and check out some books that focus on the main details in your story. There is no one on earth that would ever put down the importance of research.

However, it is just as important to remember that research has its limits. Eventually, you have to stop reading and start writing. Your fantasy cannot be created simply by reading the work of others; you have to put in the time and work to create your own world. Your science fiction piece has to have a beginning within you. The point is, that simply reading about what you want to write is not going to cut it. You have to sit down at your computer, at your desk with a paper and pen, or with your tablet out in the woods, and start to write. Once you let the words and ideas start to flow out of you, you will be amazed when you look back and realize you wrote a novel in your chosen genre. So what are you waiting for? Get started!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Guest Post by E. Milan

For today's post, E. Milan (@writeflyer) has generously offered to share his writing experience and provide advice for people entering the publishing world for the first time. Dig in!

I think one of the most interesting questions that exists right now for the newbie independent author like myself is, “In which medium should I publish?” There are many different ways that someone could go and, I’ll admit, it can be overwhelming if one isn’t ready for it. In my case, I feel like I didn’t research enough when looking into the self-publishing route. That doesn’t mean that I made major mistakes, but what it means is that the more I learn, the more I wish I had known when I began to process.

I started like most writers do: I wrote my book. I wrote, edited, rewrote, received feedback, and rewrote some more. In the process, I was left with a manuscript that I had read and reread countless times and was confused about where to go from there. I didn’t have friends who wrote and I really didn’t know where to start. My wife had purchased a gift card for a self-publishing website so I went with that and didn’t think much more about it. That was for the eBook formats. I had already read about CreateSpace so I used their services for the paperback release. But now, having read more and seen other avenues, I figured I’d discuss a bit about what I learned and what various opinions are out there.

First of all, the common perception that a book must be in paper form in order to be “published” is a thing of the past. As a lover of books (I honestly have no idea how many I have any more considering they’re all over the place) I hate admitting to this but it’s true. I think the budding author needs to be a bit introspective here. We would all love to be best-selling authors pumping out hardcovers that can’t stay on the shelves, but it doesn’t hurt to admit that, though you may be there one day, you’re not there yet. This doesn’t mean you’re capitulating to the challenge, only that you understand what sits in front of you. Besides, the industry is in such flux right now, who knows where publishing will be in the next few years. Just like vinyl is now a special edition release for some artists, the hardcover may become that one day.

Going back to the main point, you have to think about your audience and who you are reaching out to. And don’t forget the rationale of the reader. What I mean by this is simply, when your book is finally in front of the reader, what is he or she looking at? Is it a paperback by an author that he/she has never heard of that costs over $10 and needs shipping, or is it an ebook that is reasonably priced? Ebooks are easy to produce (they’re simply files) and easy to disseminate. The reader will have it instantly (meaning they are more fitting to the impulse buy) and it can be priced at a much cheaper rate. Augmenting the ebook with a paperback release isn’t a bad idea considering there are still many people that don’t have ereaders but, in my opinion, the main marketing push needs to be for the ebook format.

Just because the book is in electronic format doesn’t mean it’s any less of a book. I think this hang-up can also get people. There seems to be a subconscious belief that it is inferior but, the more that people read with ereaders, the more accepted they have become. I am one such person who now (I can’t believe I admit to this) prefers reading on my Kindle. In fact, I actually have two, the Keyboard for reading and the Fire for pretty much everything else. Now I’m a bit of a special case. I’m a pilot so packing books was becoming a hassle. Taking my Kindles has made my life so much easier. So my job almost forced me to get one but the more I’ve used it the more attached I’ve become. Now I could never imagine giving it up.

There are various sites that help with ebook publishing, or the writer can format the book into the appropriate files and submit it to the various sites. One thing that I didn’t do that I would recommend others do is purchasing an ISBN number. I allowed the company I worked with ( to acquire one for me but for the cost I think it’s worth purchasing one. In the end it’s an investment in yourself. Otherwise I found Bookbrewer to be decent. They worked with me when I needed it and they took care of the submissions for me. I have since then heard great things about Smashwords and I plan on doing more research before releasing my next book. In the end, it’s about accessibility for the reader and how you market the book, so take your time and go with who makes you feel the most comfortable.

Ultimately, the writer has to think about the audience and the reality of marketing to that audience. As popularity grows, more options will present themselves, but starting out I think the writer needs to think small and efficient. What this means is a full-court ebook press. There are people who don’t have ereaders but the population of those who do is so vast now that marketing to them should keep you occupied for some time. And with the future of the industry so uncertain I think the beauty of the independent author right now is his/her ability to ebb and flow with it. Things are less rigid then and they may, in the end, be the ones who determine the industry’s fate.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading and Rewriting

"Reading a book is like rewriting it for yourself. You bring to a novel anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms." -Angela Carter

Though we may rarely think of this, it is very true. No matter what you write, how many details you spell out, or how clear your own vision is, your writing is never concrete. While it means one thing to you, it can have an entirely different meaning to your writer. If you give over your manuscript to your best friends, they might come back with five different interpretations of what the story meant to them, that are different from your own intention. This is normal, and great!

While it might be scary to think that your work will take on a life of your own, it's more like raising a child than creating a zombie. You shape it, structure it, help it grow and give it all the right resources, then let it free into the world. You can't control what it does from there, but you hope and pray that it will accomplish great things and change a few lives for the better along the way. You can't control its personality, or direction, or motivation, all you can do is watch. You have formed this wonderful creation and now you must let it live its own life.

All authors hope that their novel will sell across borders and last through generations. Take, for example, the diary of Anne Frank (not meant to be a worldwide novel, but it has become that). At the time she wrote it, it had a certain meaning because of the context it was written and the state of the world at the time. It was raw, real, and current. Now, it is a window into history and, while the writing is the same, the meaning within the pages has changed. And it means an entirely different thing in modern-day Germany than it does in South Africa, the rural United States, or the big cities of Japan. Anne Frank could have never predicted the impact her writing would have or the various interpretations her diary would inspire, but it has done that, all the same.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Awhile ago, I was reading a post on Norma-Jean Marie's blog, "INSPIRATION… It’s out there ~~~ Go get it!" ( She writes about how inspiration is never unattainable. You just have to be open to it. I know, I know, this little tidbit is getting old, but she put a new twist on it and really inspired me to think on the subject a bit more.

For every writer, the source of inspiration is different and unique. It can also be very elusive at times. Sometimes, the writing gods are merciful and allow a wonderful idea to hit you, right when you are sitting down to write. You have an instant lead on a good storyline and the words flow right out of your fingertips. Whether that means the clicking of a keyboard or the scratch of paper is completely up to you personal preference.

However, sometimes life isn't that easy. You sit and stare at a blank page. Maybe you write a few lines, then lose focus and scrap it. Maybe you are hit by an idea but are at a loss on how to expand it. In these cases, you need to reach out and look for something to inspire you. While sitting and waiting for your "muse" to bash you over the head with a topic is certainly tempting, it isn't practical. If you do this, you are cheating yourself as a writer. The best way, in my opinion, to better your skills is to keep writing. Even if it's so awful you would never let another human being even know it existed, even if it makes no sense, you are still working on your own style and getting the creative juices flowing.

If you really, honestly cannot think of a single thing to write about, then you need to stop focusing on writing itself and focus on the world around you. Use your life and the lives of others to build a story from. If you look outside the window and see a squirrel on a power line, write about the life of that squirrel and where its life could go from here. If you are the horror type, try writing about it trying to cross the road, dodging cars and being terrified by the headlights. If you are the romantic type, think about the female squirrel waiting for the male squirrel to come back to her and their babies. I know, this sounds really odd, but it could lead you to something bigger and better! When you give it a chance, you never know where your mind will take you.

What I'm trying to say is that anything, even the most mundane of scenes or actions or places, can be your inspiration. Try to look at the bland in a new way and twist it into something that you would never expect. Don't sit and wait for inspiration to hit you in the head; reach out with the fingers of your mind and snatch it!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guest Post by B. Kent

For today's post, B. Kent (@Vesdyn) has generously offered to share her writing experience and provide advice for new writers trying to find their identity. Dig in!

Every Writer Needs to Know Who They Are: They Need an Identity

So, you are a new writer. You are passionate about reading and writing. You are ready to take on the world. You’ve written a few things and you want to know, “Is it time to submit to agencies and publishers, or even self-publish?”

To every writer, but especially to new writers, I ask: Do you know why you write? Do you know who you are as a writer? Answering these two questions can and will change everything about how a writer writes. Motivation and identity are everything.

I didn’t grow up thinking I was a writer. Every writer’s story is different, I suppose. But, I didn’t like reading too much in my school years either. Of course, I had a few favorite fiction books. Yet, reading for school left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Then, right out of high school, I got a job with Scholastic Books, Inc., taking phone orders for book clubs from school teachers. When there was down time, the only thing we were allowed to do was “immerse ourselves in company product”. Yes—books.

At this job, I discovered a whole new world of reading. As I grew up and life got tough, I discovered that I read more and more. One day, it occurred to me that reading was an escape for me. That’s why I read books, especially fiction.

A few years later, I was reading a tremendous fantasy series and the most horrible thing happened: it ended! I was so happy to read the ending and find some relief, but I was equally sad to see the world come to an end. In that moment, I thought, “If I could write books, my worlds would never end.” That was the first thought which led me to writing.

Then, as a faithful Lord of The Rings fan, I went to the first movie release by New Line Cinema, the work of Peter Jackson. I had read the books (at Scholastic) and loved them. But, the impact of the book on the screen blew me away. It was so powerful. I was so affected…and so was the rest of the theater.

That was it! That was the day I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t want to become famous. I didn’t want to become rich. I simply wanted to have impact in the hearts and minds of people in an awesome way; the same way I had been impacted. I wanted to change hearts, open minds, and provide an escape.

This is why I write. I write only things that fall in the area of “impact hearts and minds” and “open minds and provide an escape.” It is who I am as a writer.

New authors often write for years before finding their identity as a writer. This lack of a grounding foundation leaves their writing fluffy, flawed, and forgettable (even though none of them intend to do it on purpose). Many are writing to distinguish themselves or to get praise or to make money. They are writing for all the wrong reasons. These things come with good writing, but the good writing must come first and that comes with identity.

Without a foundation for writing, authors rush to their glory and omit learning their trade. They are more excited to get that acclaim or advance on royalties than to put something in the hands of others that really draws them in or changes their lives. A lack of identity leads many others to spurn criticism, avoid rewriting, and to self-publish sub-par work (one of the reasons self-publishing gets such a bad rap).

If you know who you are as a writer and why you write, then you will be true to that identity. You will write until it’s good. You will let others criticize and offer opinions and you will really listen—waiting for the gems of good advice that will enable you to chop, operate, sever, and sew up all the loose ends of an amazing story or book.

My advice to any writer wanting to grow, learn, get better, discover, rewrite, and self-publish is to find your writing purpose and identity. Know who you are and be true.

For more writing advice from this amazing author and editor, check out her blog at or her author website at If you would like to submit to the fiction newspaper she edits for, check out

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Power Outage

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in getting today's post up. I usually post before I work my 7 to 4 shift, but this morning about 45 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off, the power went out. A transformer across the street from my apartment caught on fire. No electricity means no wireless Internet, so I wasn't able to connect to my blog. And let me tell you, getting dressed by flashlight while trying not to wake my fiance was a lot of fun too!

Anyway, now I am home from work and the power is back on, so I thought I would still post, even though it is late (by my usual standards).

I'd like to post a prompt today, for you to respond to.
Pretend you are caught in a worldwide power outage. Only, there are no zombies, no supernatural beings, only a world without power. How do you survive?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post by Beth D. Carter

About Writing Erotica and Being Published

There is perhaps no other creative outlet that bares the writer's soul quite like writing. Whether it’s writing poetry, songs, or stories, the modern-day bard has to tap into deep recesses of the soul. Writing stories can be a rollercoaster journey, full of emotional ups and downs as the writer tries to convey believable characters and situations. A writer pours their very essence into their creation, much like Dr. Frankenstein into his monster. Add a little electricity and pretty soon the author is shouting “It’s alive!”.

It is very easy to stay within the confines of what is comfortable and normal in your set boundaries, being a reader or a writer. But erotica romance writers have the double-edge sword of writing not only quality stories, but writing sex scenes that sizzle. But many of us erotica writers continually battle the preconceived notion that we write porn and that we write sub-par work. We’ve had our intelligence insulted, our feelings bruised, and our talent questioned. Some people think we even live what we write, that our moral ethics are nonexistent. But for me, for many of us, writing sex is hard. It’s perhaps the hardest aspect of my job and I do a lot of research, do a lot of interviews, and pour a lot of imagination into bringing each character to life

And then the writer turns in the manuscript, along with his or her heart, hopes, and dreams. So what happens when it’s out of the hands of the writer? The good thing about eBook publishing today is that it is opening a wide berth for non-traditional writers, but still, the only way to sell yourself is to have a wonderful, completed manuscript. A great concept, a hook, a fully-developed plot with enticing characters…this is what publishers are looking for.

Read other books, learn how other authors write and notice the use of adjectives in the right places at the right time. Writers are readers and readers are writers. Give different characters different voices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read stories from friends and each character was basically the same. People are different and writing them should be the same way. Be careful of point of view. Since you are an unknown you can’t switch POV’s from person to person within the same paragraph. Once you’re Lisa Kleypas it’s perfectly okay, but until you sell 14 million books, you have to watch the POV. And lastly, don’t have your hero or heroine be something that you know nothing about! If you aren’t a genius and don’t know how to write mathematical equations, then don’t have your hero be John Forbes Nash, Jr. Characters need to be believable and if you can’t pull that off then you won’t have a wonderful manuscript.

Lastly, listen to your characters, they will usually tell you which way to take the story. I never ignore my characters or my intuition. Your novel is only as good as they are, so don’t be afraid of the voices in your head.

Erotica writers have the double-edge sword of writing compelling stories around sex scenes that sizzle on the page. But stepping outside whatever box makes you feel safe is a way of exploring a part of yourself you may have been afraid to face, whether as a reader or writer. I constantly push my own boundaries because I never want to stagnate my stories; to fall into the trap where I substitute character names but have the same plot and the same expectations. And I never rest of my laurels. I think I still have a lot more to learn on writing my full potential.

-Beth D. Carter

I am a full-time writer and stay-at-home mom, which means I watch a lot of Pixar films. Over and over and over again. I hate washing dishes but I love cooking. I hate washing clothes but I love wearing them. I try to write characters who aren't cookie cutters, ones who are full of angst but where love redeems them. I push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box. Music inspires me as do the boats and arguing seals in the marina where I live. I hate people who don't pick up their dog's crap in public places and I really hate people who are rude and condescending. I especially hate discrimination in all and every form. The perfect birthday presents are gift certificates to bookstores. And I love to hear from readers. I’m really easy to find on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Guest Blog: Pen and Paper by Dawn Lyons

There are computers and laptops. There are tablets and smart phones. But as a writer, there isn’t anything that helps me be more productive than paper and a pen.

It’s not an issue of resistance to change. I’ve used, and do use, a variety of the above-mentioned technologies and the software and applications that help a writer be organized, get the work written, perfected, published and shared. But when it comes down to it, when I’m brainstorming or writing a first draft, it’s with paper and a pen.

Here, I offer reasons why, despite the plethora of technology available today, you are more likely to find me in the notebook aisle of the office supply store than the computer supplies section.

1.   Creativity: When I began writing during my early years in elementary school, the technology we have today was unheard of (heck, some of it was probably unimagined!). So admittedly, there is a comfort level involved with sitting down with a pen and a notebook or sheets of paper. But there is also an increased ability with these simple tools to think freely that is not equal to anything that can be performed on a computer or mobile device. With notebooks specifically, I believe there is a link created when selecting a particular notebook cover – its design, material, or color, as well as the size of the notebook and the type of pages (white or not, lined or not, straight-edged or not) that directly affects the ability to write.

2.   Portability: A pen and a notebook are lighter to carry than laptops and some tablets; they are also easier to toss in a bag or have at the ready in your vehicle’s storage console or your bedside table. This is important so that the ability exists to write whenever and wherever an idea, particular word, or the perfect turn of phrase pops to mind. Another benefit? No batteries, cords or electrical outlets required. So you don’t need to worry about loss of power just when your writing is on a roll.

3.   Multiplicity: With a notebook, I can have multiple projects easily available to work on in one convenient location. While files on a computer or device may be all held in one area, having to open each file to find the desired document can be an annoyance and also create delays in getting your thoughts typed out. With a notebook, a simple flip to the appropriate page or section and grab of the pen, and the ideas are recorded. And when an idea for that other project pops to mind, a simple flip to the other section is all that is required, instead of searching for and opening another electronic file.

4.   Fix-ability: It’s tempting to think that it is inefficient to write something on paper, only to then have to transcribe it into a word processing program to submit it or publish it electronically. But by taking my notes, or even a complete first draft of a piece, from a notebook, I am able to effectively perform a first edit of the work. I am able to reorganize sections, improve sentences, and select different wording as I feel is necessary as I type.

5.   Usability: Not all thoughts, ideas, and specific wording that find their way into the notebook make it through the final edit, or even to the first draft of a project. For this reason, the use of a notebook is irreplaceable by the modern technologies that claim to be so helpful. It allows the writer to reference unused material that can often become part of a different project.

Modern day devices may offer many things but for this writer, the notebook and pen are mightier than the screen and keyboard.


Dawn Lyons is a professional writer and editor who began her love affair with words and books when she first stepped into a children’s library at the age of 4. To satisfy her passion for empowering teenagers, Dawn created ‘Write’ Steps 4 Teens, through which she teaches teenagers how the power of writing can be used to solve problems and create their own success stories. Visit her online at