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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How many can you identify??

funny facebook fails - One-Sentence Classics

How many of these descriptions can you match to their titles? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments, but don't cheat and look down there!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

City Life

Ever since I moved to a small city in Pennsylvania, I have always been intrigued by the habits and movements of my neighbors. Trampolines seem to occupy almost every yard and it is easy to imagine the children jumping from one to another, bounding over fences and visiting every house in the neighborhood. I enjoy seeing the older crowd sitting on their front porches, waiting for the world to go by as they lounge. This is especially true for the house across the street, where I think the little old lady in the rocking chair is slightly out of her mind.

The thing that amazed me most, however, occurred during my first summer here. I heard annoying, distorted music floating through the surrounding streets. In mid-June, Christmas music was trying to enter my ear drums! Soon enough, around the corner came a plain white van. With no visible speaker, signs, or any other way to distinguish it from a work van, it was like a wheeled music box. Suddenly, all the children went running as fast as their little legs could carry them, running in front of the ridiculously slow-moving vehicle. I was confused! Why would these parents let their children run off like that to a strange, unmarked van? Then, the top of the side door swung to the side, displaying a menu full of cold treats. It was the legendary ice-cream truck!
Living in a rural area until I moved to this city, I had never seen an ice-cream truck in real life. I thought they were a legend of days past, when the world seemed a bit safer and smaller. I had no idea that they still existed, let alone roamed the streets of my new home. I was absolutely fascinated from that moment, and I still enjoy listening to the slightly-creepy music every summer. I never seem to have any cash on me when I have a chance to buy from the truck myself, so I still haven't experienced that, but part of me doesn't want to. For me, the truck still has that magical quality that it would have for a child, and I don't want to ruin that by finding out that ice-cream truck goodies are no better than their store-bought counterparts. I just enjoy watching my dream drive by.

Have you ever had a similar experience, where moving to or visiting a new area revealed something to you?

Sunday, July 15, 2012


For today, I decided I would open up my iTunes (which has quite a wide array of genres in it), put the songs on random, and comment about the first song that came up.

Today, that lucky song is: Psycho by System of a Down.
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho groupie coke 
Makes you high makes you hide 
makes you really want to go, STOP 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho groupie coke 
Makes you high makes you hide 
makes you really want to think and stop 
stop your eyes from flowing 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho groupie coke 
Makes you high makes you hide 
makes you really want to go, STOP 
Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho groupie coke 
Makes you high makes you hide 
makes you really want to think and stop 
stop your eyes from flowing out 
so you want the world to stop 
stop in and watch your body fully drop 
from the time you were a 
psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
so you want to see the show 
you really don't have to be a ho 
from the time you were a 
psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
Psycho groupie coke 
Makes you high makes you hide 
makes you really want to go STOP 
psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy 
psycho groupie coke 
do you really want to think and stop 
stop your eyes from flowing out 
so you want the world to stop 
rushing to watch your spirit fully drop 
from the time you were a 
psycho, groupie, cocaine crazy 
so you want to see the show 
you really don't have to be a ho 
from the time you were a 
psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy

When you attempt to look up the meaning of this song, you will find two interpretations. The most popular is that it is about groupies that try to get in with the band by doing drugs and basically stalking them. The second is about the music industry itself; about the life and times of being a rockstar.

At first, I was going to comment on the meaning of the song that came up first. But, this song doesn't really have a strong meaning to me. I think it has a fun beat and I love to listen to it, but I don't really have a personal connection to the lyrics. So, it's just about the pleasure of listening!

Guest Post by Jason D. Bryant

For today's post, Jason D. Bryant (@Jason_D_Bryant) has generously offered to share his writing experience and provide advice for writers plagued with negativity. Dig in!

Entertain Your Inner-Reader

Have you asked yourself these questions or made these excuses:

“I don’t know what to write!” “I can’t think of anything good!” “I want to write this story but will anyone care for it?” “Is this going to be a great seller or will it be a waste of my time?” “Oh, I am so suffering for writers block!” “I want everyone to like this story but know one knows me.” “Am I good enough to write?”

I have an opinion on each one of these questions, concerns, and comments that bring down each and every author, famous and unknown. There is a solution to every writer’s block case, for each person who wishes to write but fear stops them, and for every shred of self-doubt that all artists have. And here it is:

Write for the audience of YOU!

There is an old politican quote, “Fling enough bullshit on the barn wall, and eventually something will stick.” This technique actually works but this is for desperate people who are seeking an audience. Being an author or an artist of self expression, this should never be the case. George Lucas didn’t make Star Wars for an audience of a grandscale, and 20th Century FOX didn’t see it going anywhere at all, ever. (That’s why they let him keep ALL the rights!) He did it because it was the story he enjoyed and he wanted to tell. And look how history & the world has changed because of one man’s simple story that became a universal phenominan!

George Lucas, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Eli Roth, Wes Craven, R.L. Stein, Stephenie Meyer, James Cameron, Steven Speilberg, Stan Lee, Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells, Dav Pikley, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Patterson, William Peter Blatey, Margaret Mitchell, Ray Bradbury, & Gene Roddenberry: every single one these artists/writers had a simple idea and wrote what they enjoyed reading about, dreaming about, thinking about, or just plain had an interest in the topic. (History did the rest.)

The same should go for YOU, the writer. If the topic or genre or inspiration is enough for you to say, “Hhmmm?”, then that is where it begins. Just the interest in the story alone is the fuel that begins the artists’s fire of involvement & dedication. In Laymen’s terms: write what you would enjoy reading, create would you would enjoy seeing.

However, there is one more step in this process of easing your mind, and this is a key important factor: write what you know! If you are a die-hard racing fan and you wish to write a book, I wouldn’t recommend writing a fictional novel about some villiage civil war in 17th century China! If you are a fun-lover of cartoon & childrens books and you wish to write a children’s story, i wouldn’t recommend doing a thesis on the mind of Adolph Hilter & how Play-Doh was invented; and how they nsync! Write a story based off racing. If you have a fear and want to write a scary story, write what you fear. No one knows more about you and your interests than YOU!

In closing to this advise in self help, I leave you with a quote that many claim, both fictional & non-fictional but nonetheless, it’s a great line (…and I wish I really knew who said it first):

“Don’t be a great man, just be a man. Let history make its own judgements.”

Til next time-

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You Made It!

Congratulations! You survived another Friday the 13th! Just to honor the superstition-covered day we had yesterday, I'd like to hear from you. Did your day seem worse than others? Did your luck suddenly turn against you? Did you avoid walking under ladders, having your path crossed by a black cat, or breaking a mirror? Did you carry any good-luck charms, and do you think they helped?

Let me know what you think, dear readers!

Friday, July 13, 2012

*Insert Creepy Music Here*

Today, as everyone knows, is Friday the 13th! A day famed to be full of bad luck. A day where, if you break a mirror or walk under a ladder or have a black cat cross your path, you should pretty much just quit and stay home. It is also the haunting backdrop for a classic scary movie.

While you are loading up on your lucky rabbit's feet and four-leaf clovers to keep you safe, take a minute to write your own version of a Friday the 13th story. Is the main character terrified of the date, but then finds that nothing happens to him at all? Is he skeptical of the mystical powers and ends up having the worst possible day? Does he completely scorn the superstition and head to a casino, only to lose everything on the last table?
Or is more about murder? Romance? Adventure?
Get creative with it!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing the Shortest Story

Now it's your turn! Get creative and write your own original "shortest" story. Try writing the shortest love story, the shortest thriller, or the shortest detective story. Leave your results in the comments!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Motivational Posters

Writer's Notebook - lots of ideas

To help you keep on track as a writer, it is a good idea to make a poster like this for yourself. Come up with 4 to 6 writing goals and write it on a piece of paper or posterboard. Get creative and make it something you WANT to look at. Put it in a place where you will see it, so it can remind you that it is time to write.

It might be helpful to also make a sheet that lists the reasons why you write, and one for your long-term goals. By looking at why you chose to begin writing that short story or novel in the first place, you can keep your motivation going and prevent any ideas of slacking off.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Editing Life

I recently did a guest post for Cynthia Ravinski's blog, She is an amazing author who has published the Emotobook Lingering in the Woods, which I highly recommend. ( Anyway, the post is about my experience as an editor for Grit City Publications. Enjoy!

From a young age, it became clear that editing would be my passion. As early as first grade, I was bored with my spelling tests and my teacher let me create my own lists with harder words. Hey, when everyone else is still learning how to spell “cat” and “pen”, being advanced enough to be learning “alligator” is quite an accomplishment! As time went on, I could always be found with a book in my hand. As my family watched television at night, I would have my nose in a novel and learned to drown out all the background noise, much to my mother’s annoyance at times.

Once I entered middle school, I gained a passion for writing poetry and short stories. In high school, as I started to consider what I wanted to study in college, I didn’t even have to think about it; I knew my future was in English and writing. During my time at the university, I found that I gained a greater feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction from editing the work of my peers than I did in writing my own works. I put more focus into learning the details of proofreading and editing and set my sights on becoming an editor with a publishing company.

Now, six months after graduation, I have spent five months editing for Grit City Publications. As soon as I heard about their revolutionary approach to writing, I knew I had to be a part of it. By combining the best genre fiction (or popular fiction, if you like) with emotionally-packed abstract art, Grit City’s emotobooks present a sensory experience that heightens emotions and helps the reader create a more solid connection with the story unfolding before them. These past few months have been extraordinary, for many reasons.

The best part of working with Grit City is that the editing work presents a challenge. It is certainly a challenge that can be overcome, but it also strengthens my skills as a result. Not only do I have to worry about such physical things as punctuation, spelling, and grammar, but it is important to identify places where the emotions need to be heightened and absorbing. These five or six places in each emotobook have to be built upon in order to support the illustrations that will be created to fit the piece. It is my job to help the author anticipate these insertions and provide the best possible set-up to ensure that the illustrations and writing work together.

Another challenge in creating emotobooks is the specific formatting that must be done before a novel or short story can be considered ready for the public eye. After all of the writing details are nailed down and the perfect illustrations are created, I have to put them together and change the formatting to fit the requirements of each company, from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Apple. This is a lot to juggle, especially when it gets closer to the deadline (each company publishes on a quarterly schedule), but it reminds me how important it is to multitask.

Overall, editing for Grit City Publications and supporting the emotobooks revolution has been a far different experience than I ever imagined when I decided to become an editor. However, I wouldn’t trade a single moment, because I know it has made me a better professional and has shown me how to work with multiple genres. The unique approach to eBooks that Grit City offers has allowed me to grow as an editor and, for that, I will be forever grateful.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Creating Your Own World

If you want to write a sci-fi, or fantasy, or western, then many times you end up creating your own world within the story. This is not easy and requires a lot of creativity and deep thought. I have a lot of respect for people who can create a believable world that is entirely separate from our traditional lives.

Doing this comes with challenges. First, you must be able to remember what details you have given the reader. You can't contradict yourself, because you will confuse your audience! It is also important because, while you have this whole world in your head, you have to be sure you have explained it thoroughly enough that the reader can picture it too. If you accidentally leave out one important detail in your description, it could send them off in a different direction or throw them off completely.

If your world is very extensive, such as in the Lord of the Rings, it might be a good idea to give the reader a visual aid. This might mean including a map at the beginning of the book, including a picture of your main character, or using an introductory chapter solely for getting the reader oriented. This could also be a place to expand your book across media lines and make a website that delves further into the intricacies of the novel. While this might seem like a lot of extra work, it gives the reader a place to learn more and might hook  potential readers that happen to stumble upon it. From a marketing standpoint, it also keeps your reader focused on your work and will encourage them to learn more about you and about other titles you have published or are working on. This is why it is important to have a blog or an "about the author" section!

While there are a lot of points that can be made about making your own world, this is just a brief look into the needs of the reader.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reaching Outside The Box

Scary writing

Lacking a little in the inspiration department? Try reaching out to a genre you don't normally write in. If you mostly write romance, try delving into horror. If you normally write erotica, try your hand at nonfiction. If you are a poet, try to write a short adventure story. You don't have to worry about it being good, that will only make it harder. The purpose is to go outside your comfort zone a bit and force your creativity to start up. If you want, you can keep it to yourself, or you can share it with others to get some feedback. Who knows, you may even find you like it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Tip for History Writers

Through my college years, I was very lucky to be able to take some interesting history courses as gen ed credits. One of the most unique ones was about gender and sexuality in medieval Europe. The books we were assigned to read were, for the most part, concise, easy to follow, and helpful. With history not being my strongest ability, I was worried that the books would leave me lost and confused. These fears quickly vanished, however, thanks to the authors who kept non-history-buffs like myself in mind when they were writing. Without a background in any medieval European history, I was still able to follow every sentence, every paragraph, and every chapter and gain an understanding of the material. It was exciting!

Now, in my spare time, I am reading a collection of essays about the connection between Harry Potter and history. It talks about ancient philosophers and the beginnings of Christianity. While I am fascinated by the idea that one of my favorite series might actually have a realistic basis, I am highly disappointed in this book. First of all, it sounds like most of the writers have barely even looked at a Harry Potter book, as they use quotes that don't apply and take things out of context that don't make sense otherwise. My poor fiance has had to put up with my outbursts as I complain about the inaccuracies involving the original text.
Another thing that bothers me is that the writers don't have a clue on how to relate to their audience. I keep trying to push through, but even within one essay, the author jumps from one time period to another, from one important historical figure to another and then back again, and from one idea to the next, without providing some way of connecting them. It seems like each new paragraph (or, sometimes, each new sentence) springs out of thin air. I really want to understand, so I keep pushing through, but I wonder how much more I could be learning if the writer would simply explain what he or she is talking about instead of dropping comments as if they were leaves in autumn.

After experiencing this dreadful novel, I have some advice to give to history writers. If your subject matter is bound to be popular (such as the HP one, which involves pop culture), please write so that the general population can understand you. This doesn't mean you have to "dumb it down" or talk down to us. It simply means that we need you to stick with one thought long enough for the reader to grasp what you are trying to say. If your subject matter is for more involved history buffs, then by all means, skip over the stuff that is common sense in that area. However, if it is not, then you must take the time to explain the more common elements of your topic.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

This is what you are!


The gist of this: Don't expect writing to be easy. There is no winning formula, there is no cut-and-paste style, there is no way to master writing overnight. You have to be willing to work hard and put in the hours of practice in order to improve your skills. This shouldn't be too hard, however, if you have the passion for it. It might not always be what you want to do that day, you might want to have an easy day and relax, but in the end you need to motivate yourself to get through it. If you push yourself through the hard work, you will have that finished product in your hands that you can be proud of.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Trying Something Different

While this is a rather crude example, it accurately portrays the experiment I want to propose today. If you are having trouble coming up with new ideas, try putting a secret message in your writing.

You could write a want ad, like the one above, that uses every other line to send a message. You could write a letter that includes a code with a secret message. Find a way to make your writing serve two different purposes at one time.

If you decide to try this activity, please send your attempts, I would love to read them!