Monthly Archives: April 2017

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wake up your writing

Wake Up Your Writing With This Fun Exercise

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Every writer faces times when their writing seems dull and uninspired. If your prose needs a wake up, you might need to loosen your collar, let down your hair and have some fun.

Yes, it’s that simple: being playful can make you a better writer.

Before you go running down to the closest big-box to buy a set of rollerblades or, God forbid, start pranking everyone in your social circle, let’s look at what defines playfulness in relation to creativity.

Many studies point to the strong connection between playfulness and high levels of creative output, exemplified by geniuses like Mozart and Picasso who were notorious for playful hijinx. Mozart was particularly sassy, writing scatological lyrics about his morning worship service (“Quarter past nine-y, blow one out behind-y in the church”) and incorporating bawdy double entendres into some of his serious musical pieces.  But play needn’t be silly, sexy, or involve other people. In fact, anyone can wake up their own creative genius by incorporating a boost of outside-the-box thinking to their day.

The kind of play that can help boost your writing to the next level, heave you out of a writing rut, or inject a little sass into your scribblings can be as simple as shaking up your routine, following your heart rather than your head, or trying something new.

Six Ways to Wake Up Your Creative (Writing) Genius

I’ve listed a few ways to move yourself outside of your daily grind and get your creative engines revving. Try one or more and watch the impact it has on your writing. You may find words coming easier, ideas flowing more naturally, and your writing moving in new and exciting directions automatically.

  1. Wake up at a different time each morning for a week. Sleep on the “other” side of the bed so you get out on the opposite side as usual.
  2. Go to a movie theater and buy tickets to the same movie as the person in front of you or let the ticket person choose your movie for you. Go even if you don’t think you’ll like the film.
  3.  Take a new route to a usual destination, or use a different form of transportation.
  4. Wear something uncoventional (for you) in public.
  5. Cancel plans you feel obligated to and do what you want instead. Give yourself permission to feel no guilt. After all, it’s in the name of experimentation. You can explain later, if you feel you need to.
  6. Give a complete stranger a compliment.

I’m a pretty unconventional human being, having always danced to my own beat, but even I fall into ruts now and again. It’s hard not to. And in our busy lives with limited free time, we tend to gravitate toward those things we like and eschew events and opportunities that we *might* not like. This tendency keeps us homogenous and, quite frankly, stagnant in all areas of our lives, even writing.

So shake it up a little! Do you like opera? Go to a Metallica concert instead! Do you play video games in your free time on a Saturday? Try hiking with friends, playing touch football, or surfing. You get the idea — playing outside your box can help you write outside your box, too.

See you on the next page!

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your writing career struggle

Nix This Word and Watch Your Writing Career Skyrocket!

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Did you know you can change the course of your writing career by removing one word from your vocabulary? Sounds too good to be true, but it’s pinch-me-and-I’ll-feel-it real. And I promise if you’re willing to pay attention and eradicate this pesky career-stopper, then you’ll undoubtedly see progress toward reaching your writing goals.

What’s the magic word? Struggle.

If you’re located on planet Earth, you’ve heard it plenty. A common theme running through current books, memes, and talk shows is, ‘The Struggle is Real.’ The term can refer to weight loss, mental illness, menopause, unemployment, job changes, parenting and more–just about any topic under the sun. And there’s plenty of this struggle business directed with laser focus at writers. It’s on Buzzfeed, in writing blogs (this one is particularly rife with struggle, having posted an article detailing 11 Struggles of Being a Writer just two months after posting 10 Struggles of Being a Writer). This online magazine has an article about struggles only unpublished fiction writers can understand, while information marketer Jeff Goins chimes in with the 3 Struggles of Creative People.

What’s with all the struggling in your writing career?

Is this the perception you want to give, that you’re a struggling writer? If not, stop calling yourself one. Stop talking about what a struggle it is to get an idea, submit a query, get noticed, or get paid for your work. Quit the existential whining, pull up your big girl (or big boy) panties, and get to work. That’s all there is to it. Importantly, stopping the talk about ‘the struggle’ will stop any struggling going on in your writing life. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but the longer you go without negative talk about your writing career, the more productive, profitable and gratifying it will be.

It’s magic, yes. But it’s also science, so it’ll work for you even if you don’t believe in rainbow unicorns.

Let me explain. Whatever you focus on becomes primary in your life. You attract the object of your focus and bring more of it into your sphere of consciousness. Think about what happens when you’re jonesing for a particular make of car, say, a BMW, and suddenly you see them all over town. Everyone seems to have one. Rest assured, the entire population hasn’t run out and purchased a Bimmer because they know you want one. What’s happening is that you’re paying attention. You’re now seeing all the BMWs that have always been tooling around your town, but you hadn’t noticed them because you didn’t care to.

Likewise, if you’re always noticing how much you struggle with writing, ipso facto, you’ll have more of it. You’ll start seeing difficulties everywhere, from dealing with writing software to finding time to fit writing into your day. Writing will become more and more of a struggle. Ugh.

This means in order to move your career along, you must stop struggling. Stop talking about struggling to others and to yourself. When someone asks you how the writing business is, tell them it’s fantastic. If they ask you about whether you’re published, tell them you’re in the process. It’s the truth, isn’t it? Even if you’ve received numerous rejections, you’re still moving forward. Hell, people are reading your manuscript or pitch and liking it enough to write back. That’s progress! Start noticing the things going right with your writing practice. Pay attention and before long there will be more and more of those right things populating your universe and your writing career will be on the move.

And here’s the science: this type of attention phenomenon is particularly useful when it’s directed at a specific task, goal, or thing (like that BMW). So, although being optimistic is great, directing your optimism at a very specific area of your life (like your writing practice) can work wonders. A study conducted over two years with input from more than 123 employers and published in the Journal of Positive Psychology underscores this paradox, showing that work-directed optimism impacted work engagement and career far more than simple positive thinking.

Remember, the struggle is real, but only if you make it so. And the choice is yours!

See you on the next page!



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trying to get published

How Trying to Get Published is Keeping You From Writing Success

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Besides being cute and cuddly in an uncoventional way, Yoda, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, has words of wisdom for everyone, even us writers. Famously, he told a struggling Luke Skywalker:

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Writers trying to get published should heed these words. Print them out, write them in your bullet journal, slap them on the edge of your computer screen on a sticky note. If you can see the wisdom behind the obvious in Yoda’s short admonition, you’ll be so much closer to writing success.


Because “trying” is a nebulous non-action that exists somewhere between doing and not doing, just like Yoda said. A post by Michael Hyatt referenced famous inspirational coach Tony Robbins asking a woman to “try and pick up a chair.” Every time she picked up the chair, he told her she was wrong; she was picking up the chair, not trying to pick up the chair. In a rebuttal to Hyatt, author Marcy Kennedy says that’s all wrong: sometimes all you can do is try. Her reasoning is that some things are beyond your capabilities. One of the examples she uses is this:

I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m strong for my size. But if you placed a 1,000-pound chair in front of me and told me to lift it, I couldn’t do it. I am physically incapable of lifting something that size alone.

This is true. I couldn’t lift a 1,000 pound chair, either. But knowing this, I wouldn’t bother trying. Yoda’s point is that you’re either all in or you’re wasting your time. He’s telling you to be bold, be clear, and be confident. Don’t hide behind the smarmy comforts of “try” because it will get you nowhere, just like Marcy if she tries to pick up the 1,000 pound chair.

Are you trying to get published or are you getting published? Trying to write or writing? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t reached your goal yet, you’re in the process of getting there. Every page of your manuscript takes you one step closer. Every submission to a publishing house, agent, or writing contest is taking you nearer to that goal. You’re not trying, you’re doing.

Why Trying to Get Published Doesn’t Work

Trying is a word that promotes weakness.

Anyone who’s ever made a request of a friend or coworker and gotten the answer, “I’ll try,” knows what I’m talking about. More often than not, those two words are a polite way of saying, “No.” Don’t say ‘no’ to your writing career! Say ‘yes’ with actions that take you closer to the prize. Don’t worry about magnitude: You’re getting there if you’re taking any steps in the right direction. Even rejections are moving you closer to your goal.

Remove the word ‘try’ from your vocabulary and see what happens. Chances are, you say it a lot more than you think you do. When you use it, that word is sending a message to your subconscious that you’re not succeeding. After all, you’re ‘trying.’  It’s like driving in down the middle line of a two-lane road. If you move to the right, you’re okay. Move to the left; still okay. Drive in the middle? The next vehicle will mow you down. And that ultimately means you’re going nowhere fast.

Every writer knows the power of language. Use the language that will move you, not keep you in limbo. Don’t derail your writing career before it’s begun. Write. Get published. Start now.


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learning to edit

Learning to Edit: Simple Guidelines for Better Writing

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Learning to edit your own work is one of the most important things you can do for your writing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s recommended to always have your work edited by a professional editor before setting it free into the world. But tightening your prose ahead of this step will help you look more professional and help you learn to write better.

There are many kinds of edits. Arlene Prunkl, a professional editor, has a wonderful explanation of all these on her website.  After your work is complete, go back through your document and check for properly placed page breaks, punctuation, margins, links and so on. Here are two resources to help you determine correct manuscript format. The first is from an editors’ blog, the second is from William Shun, a writer is his own right. He has formatting resources for short stories, poems, and other literary devices as well as novels.

The crux of my post today centers on copy and line, or stylistic, editing. Most editors don’t lump these together, but I do. Copy editing is concerned with proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure and line editing concerns sentence structure and style. Those attributes are difficult to separate, in my experience, and I’ve spent years as a professional editor. Learning to edit your copy and structure will provide a window to your natural writing style and help you pick up on repetitive errors.

For example, while editing my work, I found there are two things I  do often that impede my writing. The first is using passive voice and the second is being too wordy and using filler words that don’t add value to my prose.

Learning to Edit

Not everyone is a grammar or style wizard, especially if you’re new to writing. Don’t worry, tools like these can help. Here are three I recommend.

Grammarly: This tool requires a subscription, but if you’re a new writer it may be worth it. It scans grammar, spelling, and plagiarism and makes suggestions to help you rewrite concisely. That being said, it also makes mistakes. It’s often misunderstood a word within one of my sentences and suggested an inappropriate replacement.

Hemingway Editor: I love Hemingway! It counts your adverbs and recommends maximum usage, checks for passive voice, looks for places where you can simplify phrases, and scores your writing by grade level. You can write within the application and then edit or copy and paste your text from another document. There is a free version, but I recommend you pay the $20 and own it.

Passive Voice Checker: Here’s another free tool. This site offers grammar and readability checking as well.

Recommended Editing Format

When learning to edit your own work, stick to a logical plan of action.

First, run spell-check on your document. This is free and easy with any word processing program you’re using. It won’t catch homonym mistakes (there/their), though, so be on the lookout for those as your complete your other edits.

Now, run your text through one of the helpful tools I’ve outlined. Here’s a screenshot of part this blog post before going through Hemingway. The blue is adverb use, the green is passive voice, pink is complex phrasing, and yellow and red are hard to read passages. Compare it with the actual text, above.

After you’ve cleaned up your text using recommendations from one of these editing tools, put it aside. Let it rest for a day or two or even three so you can look at it with ‘fresh eyes’ the next time you read through.

This time, you’ll read for style. Do the sentences flow? Do they transition well from one to the next or are they abrupt? This is a personal thing, but if you’re a reader as well as a writer, you’ll be able to tell if you’ve got the rhythm right.

Finally, perform  your proofreading. Do another spell-check. Look for punctuation errors. Adjust the format as necessary: Use proper margins, line spacing, and headings.

That’s It!

You’re done! The more often you use the tools, above, the more you’ll begin to notice the mistakes you make on a regular basis and be able to avoid them. Your writing will get tighter, cleaner, and more compelling.

Don’t forget to use a professional editor after conducting your own edits. Their input is invaluable. They can double-check your copy/line work, add developmental or structural comments, and make sure your manuscript is putting its best face forward to an agent, publisher, or your reading public.

See you on the next page!


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