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Archive for January, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from Emerald Barnes, author of Piercing Through the Darkness.

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There are days when it feels like the world is against you, when you can’t find any inspiration for your writing.  It feels like every word you type is garbage and you even doubt edits will fix the garbage you’ve written.  But is it really garbage or is it you thinking it’s garbage?
Inspiration at times is the hardest thing to find.  You have these ideas running around your brain, but they aren’t coming out right.  You know how the story is supposed to go, but on paper, it’s turning out completely different.  You resist the urge to toss your laptop across the room and never write again.
When this happens, take a break!    Distance yourself from your writing.  Take a brisk walk outside and clear your head.  Put on a movie or some music and focus on it.  Take that break and gather your thoughts.

Focus on the good of the novel.  Once you’ve taken a break, focus on the good parts of the novel you’re working on it.  It doesn’t even have to be what you have written.  It can be something you plan on writing, but focus on the good.  Nothing good ever comes from dwelling on the bad.

Find the love for your work again.  We all fall in and out of love with our work.  If you’re frustrated, you’re probably falling out of love with your novel, but you had some good times with it.  Don’t lie.  Think about those.  Think about the characters you have written.  You created them.  You know their ins and outs; their loves and hates.  You know them.  Surely you haven’t fallen out of love with them.  Rekindle that love.

Move on with the work.  Try again.  Start over if you have to, but don’t abandon it yet.  Don’t give up so easily.
If you can’t move on with your work just yet, try starting another project.  Write a short story, poem, essay, anything.  Then try working with that frustrating piece again.  Maybe you’ve had some time to reevaluate the work after you’ve focused on something else.

Find your muse.  Find the very thing that motivates you to keep writing.  What is it?  Is it the thought of success?  Knowing you’ve finished your work?  It is the glory you feel when you’ve met your word count goal of the day?  The feel of writing a scene brilliantly? Whatever it is, just keep writing.  Focus on what keeps you going when all else fails.

Talk it out.  Seek out a trusted friend.  They can be a fellow writer or your best friend.  Virtual friends or real life friends.  You’ll be surprised how well you’ll feel when you’ve had a conversation about the characters, the plot and the overall story once you talk it out with someone.
Most importantly, don’t give up!  Whenever it feels like your writing is letting you down, face it head on and keep writing!  After all, you can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write.

How do you find inspiration?

~*~

Emerald Barnes resides in a small town in Mississippi, where she writes novels and short stories as well as blogs about writing when she isn’t spending time with her nieces and nephew.  She has self-published an e-book, Piercing Through the Darkness, and has been published by Phyllis Scott Publishing in their book Blue Legs and Other Coming of Age Stories.  She works diligently to finish more works for publication.  Read Me Dead, a YA suspense/thriller/romance will be available soon.  You can follow her blog at http://ebarnes23.wordpress.com.  Follow her on Twitter @emeraldbarnes and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fanpageforemeraldbarnes

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Today’s guest post comes from Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening.

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I’m going to knock on wood as I say this. I’ve never had writer’s block. Because a lot of writers struggle with feeling like they simply can’t get many pages written even when they carve out time to write, I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic. I’m hoping these thoughts will be helpful to other writers when facing the blank screen.

My first serious career ambition was to make a living as a singer/songwriter. I started getting up on stage, first at open mikes, then at coffeehouses and festivals, when I was 16, within just two years of learning to play guitar. One thing I found right off about performing — if I hadn’t practiced recently and repeatedly, I’d forget words and chords even to songs I’d known for years. Including songs I’d written myself. Lack of practice also significantly increased my pre-performance sweaty hands, nausea and dry mouth.

Because I’m not a fan of feeling nauseous, or of stumbling in front of an audience, I practiced an hour a day, usually from six to seven a.m. before school or work. (My parents were amazingly tolerant of this and probably should get a medal for not complaining, especially when I also decided to learn the banjo.) When I started to write seriously, I thought of writing the same way I’d thought of practice. I set a schedule of when I would write, and when the time came, I wrote whether I felt like it or not. If I didn’t have a story or novel on-going, I wrote journal entries, or I wrote about what I might like to write about. Some days when I felt inspired and thought I’d written something fabulous, I read it later and found it clunky, wordy, and boring. Other times I trudged through each line and was sure I’d have to toss out the pages, only to find it was some of the best writing I’d ever done. And vice versa.

The second reason I’ve been fortunate enough to keep writing regardless what else is happening in my life is the courses I took in college. Ironically, the fiction program at Columbia College disappointed me in many ways. I’d hoped to learn plot, theme, and characterization, and I found the fiction courses and teachers rarely touched on those. Instead, what seemed like forever was spent on exercises. Sometimes the teacher went in a circle and had us each say a word, any word. Without saying why, the teacher might then reject the word and make a student try another. I’m guessing now the rejected words were too closely related to the last person’s word or didn’t evoke much emotion or imagery, such as “the”. Another exercise was person-action-person. The first student chose a person, meaning a man, woman, boy or girl, an action verb, and another person. An example is “man holds girl.” The next student chose another combination, and so on. Yet another was to sit in complete silence and listen to the sounds from the room, the building, or the street below. Sometimes I suspected just making us sit still in silence for endless periods (the class lasted 4 hours) was what generated the ideas, as you’ve got to entertain yourself somehow.

After whichever exercise, a few people were asked to describe the scene they’d imagined. Then we were told to “write as much as you can as fast as you can.” We could write about anything triggered by the exercise, even a scene someone else described. We later turned the pages in to meet our 4-page-a- week requirement. Grades were based on total pages for the semester and also on improvement over time. We rarely got feedback from the teacher, but our work was occasionally read in class.

At the time, I thought this process related only to first drafting. But I realized later that it really helped with two other steps in writing. First, it helped generate ideas and, perhaps more important, pay attention to what we saw, heard, and felt so that we were open to story ideas wherever they arose. Second, the process, with its emphasis on writing fast and not getting much feedback, helped disengage the editing/reviewing part of our minds. That matters because it’s the editor that stops the writing process dead. It’s that voice, which might sound like your mother or your fifth-grade English teacher, that chimes in before you type or write a word. (Mine definitely sounds like my mother. When I started my second novel after having collected a hundred rejections on the first, my mother asked why I’d bother to write another book since no one bought the first one. Did I mention there are some people you shouldn’t discuss your writing with?) The editor says that your idea is boring, no one will like it. It says that the first sentence you’re considering is all wrong – which could mean dull, clunky, too many syllables, too few syllables, too wordy, too sparse, not the way real mystery authors/literary authors/horror writers/real writers actually write.

The editor is important, in fact crucial, when it comes to revising. The editor spots sentences that are unintentionally rambling; it catches typos and makes your work polished and professional. But letting the editor out during a first draft may ensure no first draft is ever finished, because nothing you consider writing will ever be good enough for the editor. If you do manage to get a first page or even a first chapter written, the editor will make you rewrite it a hundred times before you go forward. Three years later, you’ll have a fantastic first chapter. And nothing else.

To this day, I have moments where I sit down to write and feel my throat and stomach constrict and my breathing get shallow. But I have ideas bouncing around in my head, so I have somewhere to start. I also typically outline (which is a topic for another post), so I have a map of where I’m going. And when the editor starts talking, and it always does, I ignore it and write as much as I can, as fast as I can.

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Lisa M. Lilly is the author of THE AWAKENING, a mystery/thriller about a young woman whose mysterious pregnancy may bring the world its first female messiah — or trigger the Apocalypse. She is also an attorney and the author of THE TOWER FORMERLY KNOWN AS SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR.

THE AWAKENING is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Check out THE TOWER as well, at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post about how to get started on Goodreads. Today I am at Valerie Comer’s blog discussing ways to leverage the site, as an author. Check it out!

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I have to admit, I let my Goodreads account sit for a long time. I signed up right away in April, after I read an Amanda Hocking post referencing the site, but I didn’t use it for more than six months.

I had no idea how to use it.

Tomorrow I will be on Valerie Comer’s blog with a guest post about how to leverage it, but today I just want to talk about how an author gets started on the site and obtains that little, but powerful, note next to his or her name.

Wendy L. Young (Goodreads Author)

First, sign up. Easy, right? Well you can create a fresh account or you can do like me and just connect it with Facebook, which was lazy. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing last April?

I connected it with Facebook and for the longest time my profile picture on Goodreads was the same as my FB profile picture when I signed up – my 2 year old holding a giraffe.

Not very author-ish.

You can change it, but I’d really recommend you treat Goodreads as an independent professional resource that will play a role in building your ‘brand’ as an author.

Now that you’re signed up (right?) the second step is to act like you want to be there. Make it clear that you didn’t just wander onto the site. Put a nice picture, such as the one that’s on your Author Central page on Amazon (you have that, don’t you?). Fill out your shelves. You’re a writer, which I hope means your a reader too. I have a couple hundred books up there and I know that’s just a fraction of what I’ve truly read, but it’s a start.

Once you’ve spruced things up a tad, claim your author page by jointing the Author Program. Things really change once you do this.

Cool Writer (Goodreads Author)

Now you’re ‘official’ and your books show you’re a Goodreads Author  when they pop up. Nice, but that’s only part of why this matters.

Now you have control, but you have to know how to use it.

To begin exercising a bit of that control, the next step is to fill it out! Add some more pictures, fill in your information (such as your genre), and add a welcome blog. Introduce yourselves, so that when people hit on this page it doesn’t actually look like filler.

Once you’ve got the page looking nice, and really it shouldn’t take long, then you need to get people into the party with you. Start inviting friends. Let it search your Gmail for contacts, then your Facebook. After you’ve exhausted those routes, move on to your Twitter. That will likely keep the site busy for awhile (you have daily invite limits to consider) but also bring a lot of people to your page.

That’s pretty much it – but don’t let it just sit there. Keep the ball rolling with fresh invites as your followers/connections grow on other sites and remember you now have a new page you can share for visibility! Tweet it, FB it, whatever – just don’t let this fledgling helper die off.

For tips on how to make the MOST out of your spiffy new author page, visit Valerie Comer’s blog tomorrow for a primer on how to make Goodreads work for you as an author.

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