Monthly Archives: December 2015

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recording and writing

Create Powerful Writing by Writing Out Loud — Part II

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In Part I, I examined how reading your work aloud can help energize your copy by picking up on inconsistencies in reasoning, skips in logic, poor grammar, and even misspellings. Today’s lesson is on harnessing the power of voice to help carry you through even the toughest case of writer’s block and get your words flowing for the most powerful writing of your life!

Steps to Powerful Writing:

Step One: Choose your subject.

Do you have a particular assignment you are working on? Articles, essays and non-fiction personal development books lend themselves well to this technique. Let’s choose a sample topic for the purposes of this example — I am going to choose (drum roll here) writer’s block!

Step Two: Line up some questions.

If you have a friend of family member with an interest in your subject, now’s the time to recruit their assistance. If you have an outline of your piece already, you can formulate some questions from this or you can simply ask your friend to write down some questions of their own about your subject matter. Here are some samples:

  1. What is writer’s block?
  2. How often have you experienced it?
  3. Is there anything in particular that seems to trigger it?
  4. What techniques do you recommend to overcome it?
  5. Which has worked the best for you and why?
  6. Which is your favorite?
  7. Which is your least favorite?
  8. Is there one that you feel doesn’t work at all?
  9. What would you recommend if none of these works for me?

 

microphone to record powerful writingStep Three: Chat

Now you’re simply going to record a conversation between you and your friend as he or she asks you the questions they’ve come up with. Make sure you have either a tape recorder or a recording app (there are many available for iPhone or Android) that can document your convo. This informal interview will be a springboard for your new piece of writing. You can conduct the interview in person, through Skype or FaceTime, or even over the phone — you just need to get a good recording of your answers to the questions.

Sometimes questions other than your original ones will naturally arise as a result of your responses — that’s good! It gives an even more organic flavor to your responses, resulting in a fluid and more casual session.

A smooth, conversational tone is important in many types of writing — non-fiction is one that immediately springs to mind as being improved by writing that is as easy to follow as a chat with a friend.

Step Four: Transcribe

After you’ve conducted your interview, you’ll need to transcribe the results. You can hire this done very inexpensively through eLance or Fiverr or you can do it yourself. I invariably choose the latter because I am a) cheap and b) in need of instant gratification. If you go the DIY route, you can either listen and type, or try out one of the various voice-to-text programs like the one embedded in Apple software for Mac users or Dragon or Nuance Dragon if you want to invest in one for future use.

I am old school and a pretty quick typist, so I do my own transcription by replaying the voice files while I type.

Get everything down just the way it was spoken, but feel free to leave out any “ums” “uhs” or “erms” that may be peppered throughout. It’s bad form in speaking and even worse in writing. Powerful writing (and speaking) is clear, clean, and concise.

Step Five: Rewrite and Reorganize

You’re nearly there! Now you have a pre-written piece with which to play. Remember what I said in the first article — that it was much easier to edit your way out of writer’s block? Well, ta-da! You have something to edit. What’s even better, it is already in a conversational format. It will no doubt need some reorganizing and will definitely need rewriting, but you are no longer blocked! No one’s ever complained of editor’s block, so please don’t be the first.

I know people who’ve written entire books this way, successfully!

A NOTE FOR FICTION WRITERS:

fiction books filled with powerful writing
This technique works great for writing fiction as well. In fact, I just finished a short story this way where it saved my sanity and a lot of time as well.

This particular tale consisted of almost non-stop dialogue between eight characters. That’s pretty difficult to manage without some of it sounding stilted or the story getting lost. But when I put my characters in an (imaginary) room together and spoke each of their parts out loud, the results were magical! I think it was the best dialogue I’ve ever “written”. I was definitely in the flow and writing the story took about 2/3 less time than usual.

I simply recorded my characters’ interaction as I went through it aloud, then transcribed the result. Believe it or not, I hardly had to edit this one at all. Now that’s powerful writing!

In all honesty, this doesn’t work for me when I am dealing with the prosaic parts of fiction: settings, descriptions, and such. But I think that’s a “me” thing — others have found great freedom of expression in being able to speak their entire story into existence. Perhaps you’re one of them — try it and see!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 


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horror writing prompt

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sci fi writing prompt

December 21, 2015: Sci-Fi

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Write a scene using this prompt:

 

She sighed and turned away. His bar code might look the same as hers, but he was a whole different animal.


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writing a draft novel christmas gift

Just the Write Gift — Writing a Draft Novel in No Time!

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“The Write Gift”. Very punny, hmm? I couldn’t help myself—I’ve broken into the nog of the egg a tad early this season! Around this time of year, I crave delicious eggnog with great, billowy swathes of heavy cream, freshly grated nutmeg and just a nip (or two!) of rum. And the weather at least looked wintry from here in my little office with gray skies and brisk winds (okay, so it’s actually 70 outside, but a girl can dream, can’t she?). It was a perfect nog-type day in my book.

And speaking of books: My gift to you this season is a formula that will have you writing a draft novel in just one year! And I hate to admit this, but it’s actually a re-gift. This little calculation was given to me by a dear friend who also happens to be very allergic to writing and words in general, truth be told. Only numbers, please. And logic. She got a little weary of her wordy friend complaining about having no time in the day to work on a novel. There were two blogs to maintain, articles to write, courses to create, and so on.  So just a week or so ago she sent me the following calculation, which I prettied up a bit. After all, all numbers and no glitter makes Jack a dull boy. All joking aside, this was a gift of fabulous proportions, as you can see!

writing a draft novel calculation

After she gave me a minute to look at the numbers (because I am more allergic to numbers than she is to words) she asked me one question:

How long does it take you to write a page?

My writer friends know that this can’t be answered easily. If I am inspired, I might whip out a page in fifteen minutes, but if I am feeling a little blocked — hoo boy! That page could take eons. Well, maybe not literally. But it could take a very, very, very, very long time.

The more I puzzled through this, the more I realized that we’re not talking about Stephen King-esque final draft wizardry here. We’re talking writing a draft novel — first draft. And a first draft is all about getting something down on the page that I can work with later. Plus, I needed to follow my own advice and treat it like a Jay-Oh-Bee (JOB, for those of you with allergic worditis), so no slacking allowed. In that case, I thought it would be safe to consider that I could write a page in some span of time between 15 minutes and 1 hour. No excuses.

time for writing a draft novelSo, if I only need ONE HOUR at most to crank out my magnum opus in one year, what do I need to do to make that hour available to me? Do I need to get up earlier? Stay up later? Do I need to write a draft novel during lunch?

My first thought was to get up earlier because I am, after all, the very morning-est of morning people. Those little cartoon birds in Cinderella swoop in at first morning light and we are all ready for the ball in just a few moments. But I have also promised myself that I would partition off some morning time to get my blood moving. Writing all day can be great for the intellect, but it can be very hard on the physique. I do have a standing desk, but none of my body parts are in motion while I work there except my fingers, and they have kept their shape quite nicely, thank you. Afternoons are less controllable than mornings for me, and my brain tends to turn off past 9:30 p.m. so night-owling it will probably not work out well.

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided try a combination of getting up earlier AND incorporating the “Writing Out Loud” technique that I’ll share with you next week into my morning walk. It might take some extra coordination, but I think it can help me keep both of my promises to myself: that I will exercise more and that I will complete at least a rough draft of a new novel by next December.

Whatever holiday you are celebrating, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Shabe-Yalda, Omisoka or one of the many others that are honored at this time of year, may peace and happiness be yours this season. If you want to give me something back, leave a comment telling me how you’re going to find time to write your daily page. I can’t wait to hear!

 

Holiday Cheers!

 

 

Nikki Bee

 


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colorful speech bubbles that show writing power

Create Powerful Writing by Writing Out Loud — Part I

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 box of ideas for powerful writingDo you feel your writing is sometimes more blah than brilliant? If so, I am going to share one of my solutions to this widespread writer’s woe and I guarantee it will give you more powerful writing every time you use it.

As writers, we are either in the throes of wild inspiration or slogging through what many creatives term “downtime”. While it’s easy to write with flair when we are balanced on the peak of a creative high, it’s not as effortless when we’re writing from the valley. What’s good to know is that even if it isn’t easy, it’s still possible to write well regardless of your level of inspiration.

What’s more, it is necessary. If you have a blog, your followers can’t wait for inspiration to hit you–they are looking for consistent postings upon which they can rely. Same goes for clients for whom you write articles, web content, or other publications: “I am not feeling it today” is not a good way to get repeat writing business. Even if you are simply writing for yourself— your memoir, biography, historical fiction, romance, fantasy, or fiction is not going to happen if you have to wait for your muse to come calling. Powerful writing can happen even without inspiration!

So what’s a writer to do when there’s no flow?Why, follow my three-step program for overcoming stilted, uninspired writing, of course!

POWERFUL WRITING in 3, 2, 1!

Step One: Write

Write something. Anything. Pen to paper, finger to keyboard, blood to parchment — do whatever you must to get words on a page. Don’t worry about if it sounds right or even if it makes sense. Just. Get. Them. Written.

Step Two: Rest

Now step away your writing for a few hours. Twenty-four is good; 48 is even better. If ideas come to you during this rest period, write them down for safekeeping — we don’t want to waste any spark of genius. In the meantime, move on to something else and just forget about what you’ve written.

Step Three: Hear

Now for the fun part: Go somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Using a voice recording app (iPhone or Android) on your phone, the recording capabilities on your computer, or a good old fashioned tape recorder read your writing slowly and clearly out loud.

Reading out loud will help you amp up the power in your words in several ways. First, you’ll begin to notice unnecessary words that are cluttering your prose. Like the “uhs” and “uhms” we hear during a speech, words like: just, that, perhaps, very, quite, really, actually, and more often clutter up written discourse and lessen its impact. What do you think sounds like more powerful writing:

I just want you to stop talking.

I want you to stop talking.

How about the next two:

It’s a game that we play.

It’s a game we play.

See what I mean? Like disruptive blips, these words can slip unnoticed past the writer — until those words are spoken.

Plus, reading your words aloud will help you get a sense of the coherence of your work. Have you missed a salient point? Is one of your passages weak? Do you need to add some description, research, or other information to make everything make sense?

Finally, vocalizing your passage will allow you to correct unintentional grammatical errors that often slip by even the most thorough editors.

But wait, there’s more . . . 

Now that you’ve read through for your recording, play it back and listen. While you are speaking your words, you’re only half-focused on the passage. Part of your brain is being used to follow the words on the page, keep your place, and form the words. When you listen to the recording you’ve made, you can give your whole attention to the passage and focus on how the writing flows. Do this once while jotting notes on corrections and improvements on a hard copy, then follow it with a listening-only session. During the listening-only session, close your eyes and concentrate on only what you hear. Powerful writing (or writing that is uninspired) is usually quite obvious when you listen to it being read!

Try it and let me know what you think! Check back next week for Part Two and learn how this technique can help you get something written twice as fast (or even quicker!).

Cheers!

 

Nikki Bee

 


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sci-fi writing prompt

December 14, 2015: Science Fiction

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The world has become so overcrowded that people are forced to live in shifts. Entire families enter a government-regulated sleep period (by taking a government-prescribed pill) for 12 hours each day while their “co-families” (people that share their homes and are awake while the other family sleeps) get up and go about their daily business. But one man decides that 12 hour days is simply not enough…


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December 7, 2015: Horror

We all know what happens when an apex predator stalks and kills its prey, right? But what if that predator wasn’t an animal?

 

Choose an inanimate object and describe how (and why) it hunts and kills.


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writer's block cure spelling out "words"

My All-Time Favorite Writer’s Block Cure

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one twisted writer's block cure

My Writer’s Block Cure for Dummies:

Writer’s block: it happens to all of us at some point. The page is blank and so is your mind. You fidget, pace, rearrange your desk, and plod diligently through all the trite (not a typo) and true “tips” for jarring yourself out of the doldrums and back into creative mode and yet, a writer’s block cure remains elusive.

I’ve read (and tried) all of the well-meaning suggestions out there: change your environment, go for a walk, talk to a friend, distract yourself and — here’s the one that bugs me the most — “write through it”.

Ah yes, that old chestnut. In my book, it’s right up there with the premise that if you don’t write every minute of every day for the sheer joy of it, you aren’t a “real” writer. Please don’t let anyone ever tell you that –and if they do, please don’t believe it. I am a real writer. I love to write. But I don’t write every single minute of every single day. Some days I don’t even want to write at all! Does that make me less of a writer? No. It makes me real.

So what do you do when the writing fairy just won’t bless you with any creative pixie dust? You must be true to yourself. Don’t be constrained by some other writer’s exhortation to “write something…anything“ just to get through a slow patch. A writer’s block cure must be specific to the writer!

Consider this: the slow patch may be your personal writing fairy’s way of telling you that your ideas are not yet ready for prime time.

Orson Scott Card once said: “Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to “write through it,” because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t work – for you or for the reader.” 

Of course, if you are writing for a client and are under deadline, you may not have the luxury of taking some time out to let your creative ideas marinate. Then what? When I am under deadline I rely on one tidbit of knowledge that has the ability to jar me out of a blockage pronto, and it’s this:

Writing, like anything you do, is a job.

Teachers don’t get “teacher’s block”. Your friendly neighborhood police officer doesn’t get “officer’s block”. And as with any job, sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it. The first step in overcoming “block” is embracing this fact.

Some days you just don’t feel like writing.

That’s okay. If you aren’t under a deadline, put it aside. Review what you’ve done so far and see if it makes sense — something you’ve already written may be the key to jolting you out of complacency and into a new groove. But if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. Take a break. A writer’s block cure does not happen instantly!

If you are under deadline though — whether it’s your weekly blog post or an article you owe to an editor — you have a job to do. Pull up your big girl (or boy) panties and get going. Don’t whine about lack of ideas — get online and start searching. There are millions, maybe billions, of great ideas whirling around the internet waiting to be written about. Considering your writing a job instead of an art is essential for getting your writing gears moving and producing again. If thinking about it as a job doesn’t work for you, try this: When you were in high school or college and you had a writing assignment due, did you ever NOT turn it in because you didn’t feel inspired? Probably not. You may have felt sluggish, stymied, stupefied or slothful but you had to get it done — so you did. Perhaps your first draft was lackluster, but that’s why you have a first draft. After you read through what you’ve written as Orson Scott Card recommends, you will find that you have a new perspective on your words and more of an ability to be creative with them. Why? Because editing is always easier than writing when you’re in an unproductive mood.

So don’t let that blank page stare you down. Get back to work and find your writer’s block cure now!

Cheers!

Nikki Bee


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