Articles tagged "writers"

Top ten errors writers make that editors hate

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.40.50 PMHelga Schier, independent writing and publishing consultant and founder of Withpenandpaper.com, recently gave a brilliant presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference covering the trials and tribulations of book editors.  More specifically, she eloquently and succinctly outlined a list of the top ten errors editors hate — and often see — the most. For the writers in the room, this was a gold mine of valuable information and I would like to share what I learned.

First and foremost, there are three levels of editing and they should all build upon each other.

  • Editing that deals with the surface structure of the words on your page – copy-editing.
  • Editing that deals with style and voice, as well as, tightening your manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary sections – line editing.
  • Editing that deals with ways to make your world come to life, including ways to create your characters, build your world, and write good dialogue  – conceptual editing.

Before you hand your book to an editor, you should have already gone through these three levels of review…

The Basics: Writing

1. Editors hate it when it’s clear that you never ran that spell-check.

These are things everyone can fix.  This level deals with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your words are your tools so make sure they are in good working order. Some may argue that editors should care more about the story and characters. This is true, but these kinds of mistakes greatly distract readers from understanding and absorbing the book.  Your job as an author is to take the reader by the hand and take them on a journey through the story.  Bad grammar or spelling mistakes detract and sway from that journey.

2. Editors hate it when you serve leftovers.

  • Plot or character inconsistencies
  • Timeline issues

A good way to keep this from happening is to run a second reader check. Give your book to someone who will critically read it and ask them to report on things that don’t make sense to them.

Beyond the Basics: Writing in Style

3. Editors hate it when the writing is heavier than a ten-ton-truck.

  • Inflated sentences – polish your sentences, don’t use unnecessary lead-ins. Get to the point or meat of the sentence quickly.
  • Stilted language – you want to meet your readers through your work and you want to call the readers attention to your story or argument.  Unnecessary language reminds readers that they are actually reading and takes them away from being immersed in your world.
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs – makes a story feel cumbersome and lazy.  Most adjective and adverb phrases don’t do the description justice.

4. Editors hate it when style isn’t really style but writing in your comfort zone.

  • Repetitive use of vocabulary
  • Repetitive sentence structure and length

Every writer has a set of words that they fall back on and don’t often notice unless they specifically go looking for them.  Remedy: make a list of your most used words/phrases and go through your manuscript hunting them down.  Make sure your characters use their favorite words not yours.

Vary the length of the length and structure of sentences to provide a unique mix for the readers. Also, allow your characters to use varied sentence structure depending on their personality, background, and environment in which they find themselves. Step outside your comfort zone and find your voice.

5. Editors hate clichés. Except when they don’t.

  • Innovate and personalize clichéd images and comparisons.
  • Use clichés and stereotypes as character markers.
  • Turn stereotypes upside down to define a personality or relationship.

Leave trusted clichés behind. Clichés are predictable and writing should never be predictable.  Replace established clichés with your own creative ones. These images should be new and personal but, not obscure to your readers. You want your readers to turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what is beyond the next paragraph.

Far Beyond the Basics: Writing to make your world come to life

6. Editors hate it when characters resemble cardboard cutouts.

Don’t let your characters be predictable and don’t give your character’s entire back story all at once.  Readers can’t digest that volume of information and the story comes to a screeching halt with all suspension of disbelief gone. Giving the character’s back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. You want fully developed characters with their own psychological make-up, who have a past, hopes for the future, and most importantly, a motivation or reason for their actions.

7. Editors hate it when the narrative tells rather than shows.

  • Scenes need to show how characters act and interact.
  • Narrative needs to observe, not comment.

Show don’t tell, but this does not mean that you should shy away from the description. “Show don’t tell” refers to the way your characters should interact. Scenes cannot happen in a vacuum. Your narrative must develop the scene.  Don’t simply say, “the restaurant was loud”, rather describe the conversation at the bar, the waiter dropping the tray, the phone ringing off the hook at the host stand. If you show something well enough, there is no reason to tell the reader.

8. Editors hate it when dialogues turn into speeches.

  • Dialogue requires that people interact with each other verbally and non-verbally.
  • Dialogue passes on information.
  • Dialogue defines characters and their relationships.
  • Dialogue exposes tension and conflict.

Dialogue in a novel is polished speech that serves certain functions…it shows relationship, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc.  None of your characters should ever lecture or pontificate. Dialogue should always have at least two people interacting verbally and non-verbally. The words a character chooses says a lot about the character’s background, personality, and status. Again, words should be theirs, not yours. Dialogue words must also fit the situation. Someone will speak differently given a different situation.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. There is often a subtext. Do the characters have a relationship? Trust each other? Hate each other? Have a secret crush? This all can come through in the subtext of the dialogue.

9. Anything goes! But just because you say doesn’t make it so.

  • Events must be caused by earlier events and lead to the next.
  • Natural story development depends on the interplay of plot and character.
  • A character’s natural behavior must be motivated by his/her psychological disposition.

Remember, in a novel one event must lead to the next and the interplay of your characters and events should create the plot…in other words, it is the characters that write their own stories.

10. Editors hate hangnail writing.

  • Everything in your story has an impact on your readers.
  • Show and tell your readers only what is relevant. No more.
  • Show and tell your readers everything that is relevant. No less.

An extra scene, banter, subplots, or characters that don’t drive the story forward create boredom and distrust of the author.   Show the readers what is relevant, no more and no less. Readers take in everything about the story, so you must follow through. You absolutely must show everything that is relevant as readers only see what you show not what you may know.

Quick but hugely important tip:

Take time off from your manuscript, a step back, and gain distance. In that time…READ, READ, READ (other people’s work) then, reread your work.  First, start looking for the big picture stuff. Before you edit, read it again and look at style and genre. The third time, go for typos, spelling etc. DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO REVISE!

For access to Schier’s slide deck, click here.

 

 

 

Writing the breakaway self-published book…words of wisdom from Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMIvory Madison isn’t only  the RedRoom.com CEO and Editor in Chief, she is an accomplished writer and author coach with numerous years of experience.  I was fortunate enough to catch her session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, where Madison shared her “Red Room Method”, which helps authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop into razor-sharp writers.

Her opening question to the audience and what you should contemplate while reading this post: is your book as good as it can be already?

A lot of people jump the gun.

One thing learned in teaching writing is that most people are doing it wrong.  They are trying to do too many things at once…worrying about marketing, if the structure is correct, do they need an agent, etc.

The Red Room method separates what you are doing into different buckets: Writing, Editing, and Marketing and focuses on getting your book done faster, easier, and at a better quality.

Writing (words of wisdom)

  • Writing comes from passion and processing. First drafts WILL be bad…they are supposed to be. A writer should  focus on the writing ONLY at first. Stop trying to do two things at the same time, “It’s like trying to run a marathon and you keep stopping and saying ‘Oh, I got the first steps wrong’.” Your first draft has to be imperfect so that your can productively edit.
  • There is a level of self awareness that is required for writing…it is a shift of self-perspective.  Stop trying to write like a writer and write like yourself!
  • Ann Rice once said that the great thing about writing is that it can be an expression of you without any special training or access. In other less eloquent words, writing is about yourself and marketing is about everything else.
  • If your goal is to finish your book then, schedule your hours with other people. Sit down with the group and dedicate the full hour to writing. People won’t show up for appointments with only themselves. Just remember that you can’t win a Nobel Prize in an hour BUT, you can write about 1,500 words. Relish that accomplishment.
  • Quit worrying about the quality. A baby’s first few steps aren’t fantastic but, they are still wonderful.
  • Remember to not write.  Don’t forget the other things in your life and relax and don’t always worry that you should be writing. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy the other parts of your life and let your brain process it.
  • Some people have “blocks” and only think about all the reasons they aren’t finishing their book: I don’t have enough time, money, knowledge, etc. Bottom line is you make time for what you make time for. Don’t feel like you SHOULD be writing…GO WRITE!
  • Some people believe the myths about being a writer. Remember, every brilliant, successful author was told by someone somewhere that they were terrible. Perfectionism is the opposite of high standards.  High standards means getting it done, perfectionism means never getting it done.

 

 

 

Editing the breakaway self-published book with Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMI just had the pleasure of sitting in on Ivory Madison’s session on writing and editing breakaway books at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Madison is CEO and founder of Redroom.com, the “Facebook for authors”.  She was also named “Best Writing Coach” by San Francisco magazine and has been a guest lecturer to the faculty and writing coaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Stanford Publishing Course.

In this particular session, she provides some amazing advice and insights on editing your next book:

  • Once you have finished your writing, having said everything you have to say, in all it’s sloppy glory, you will want to get through your editing quickly, painlessly, and efficiently. Now, imagine a giant bulls eye.  Each ring is going to represent a stage and focus in your editing journey.
  • The outermost ring is very big picture questions: What type of book is this?  What are the themes? What are the cast or characters? How do they develop?
  • Then, we get into the inner structure ring (this is also the hardest part). Can you write a one-page hero’s journey? Does it flow and follow correctly? These aren’t necessarily templates but, rather insights into how people tell stories. Structure is also where you look at point of view, tense, pacing, and what kind of voice the story has.
  • Story Fractiles: scientific concept that posits that everything is ultimately a repeating pattern. Applying this to writing, you need to ask yourself “is this all the same book?” If you took a small piece of it, does it still reflect the overall work?  Does each chapter reflect a short story of the book? Your writing should ultimately sound like YOU speaking at your most eloquent…it must be real and authentic.
  • Copy-editing Ring: is everything fluid and in the right word? Is everything true? This is also where you look at metaphors…do your metaphors make enough sense to have an impact?
  • Mechanics Ring: Looking at each word, grammar, formatting, and punctuation.

Madison’s final editing words to live by, “it’s worst to not get published than cut things out of your book”.  Finally, sit down and have someone read the manuscript out loud at full volume, you will be surprised by what you find.

 

Authors using Helix Review: Protasio Chipulu

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 1.47.40 PMNext up in our ongoing Helix Review series, we have Lulu author Protasio Chipulu, author of Living with Cerebral Palsy:  A Parents’ Guide to Managing Cerebral Palsy. Helix, powered by The Book Genome project, allows authors to upload a manuscript and receive an incredibly in depth analysis of the book.

Tell us a bit about your book:

In this book, we (father & mother) have given details on our daughter with cerebral palsy and how we have been managing the condition.   Our experience compels us to plan for the establishment of a center of excellence for children with disabilities.  We have also given stories on CP starting with our own story with the challenges and coping mechanisms of disabilities.  Our experiences are not exhaustive and it does not attempt to answer all the questions related to the management of CP.  This is our personal experiences as a family. All the short comings in the management of our daughter with CP are our responsibility.  Our experiences may be different from other families and some of the information may be outdated but we shall endeavor to update the information.

How would you describe your writing style:

My style is of high density writing and it is descriptive and this makes the reading a bit of a challenge because it takes longer to read.  The pacing is relatively high making it easier to browse through pages.    The motion in the book is relatively low and dialogue is very low.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

First, to improve the writing of my current book so that I have higher sales.  Second, to improve my writing in the future.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

The comparison of my book to other books in my category was very beneficial because I can use the comparisons when writing my next book.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

When I write an another book, I will improve on my writing style (motion, density, dialogue, description and pacing). I will try to balance styles so that it is easy to read and provides excitement, suspense and education.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

I was not certain at first about the Helix Review but after ordering was happy with the overall results. For the price it was a great way to get feedback that can help me understand my book and how it fits into the genera and along side other books.  I can also take the feedback and apply it to my future writing to create better and more full enjoyable creations.

For more information about Protasio Chipulu and Living with Cerebral Palsy:  A Parents’ Guide to Managing Cerebral Palsy:

Author Blog

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Dr. Oluwagbemiga Olowosoyo

For the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, we recently spoke to Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 5.47.32 PM, a pastor, head of a Christian ministry, and author of “God’s General.” Patterned after real events in a front-line Christian ministry, the book tells the story of a pastor who became so powerful, highly anointed and popular, but ultimately came to his demise. Dr. Olowosoyo turned to the Helix Review to gain insight into how “God’s General” compares to other similar work and shared his thoughts with us.

How would you describe your writing style?

[It] is very simplistic and sincere. [I] write from the Christian and biblical perspective.

Why did you decide to submit “God’s General” for a Helix Review?

I wanted to have a second opinion about my books.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I learned that my writing is unique to me, but could compete very well with the best in the market. It has given me more confidence in writing.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

It’s worth it!

For more information about Oluwagbemiga Olowosoyo and “God’s General,” please visit:

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

- See more at: http://www.lulu.com/blog/#sthash.mEHSR4zO.dpuf

Authors using Helix Review: Cristina Archer

As part of our ongoing series on the Helix Review and how authors are using the tool to analyze their work, we recently interviewed Cristina Archer, author of The RecidivistScreen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.47.33 PM, a speculative fantasy fiction book that is an exploration of religious, moral, and political ethics throughout history, and across alternative worlds.

How would you describe yourself as an author:

“I have long been fascinated by philosophy especially ethics, and have been writing fiction in my spare time since I was a teenager. I write speculative and fantasy fiction as these genres offer wide scope to explore many a “what if” question.”

Why did you decide to try Helix:

“I wanted to be more precise about where my style of writing fitted in the general market so assist me with pitching the book to agents and publishers.”

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

“I learned that, while the ideas were comparable to books I had been comparing my work to, my actual style was quite different to those books. Correcting this misunderstanding has been very useful. I now have a better understanding of the most likely target audience for my work.”

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

“The Helix review has assisted me in tailoring my pitches to prospective agents.”

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

“It is a valuable service for improving the design of a marketing strategy for your work.”

For more information about Cristina Archer and The Recidivist:

Author website
Author blog
Facebook Page

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review featuring Kay Gossage

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 5.31.25 PMAs a part of our ongoing series looking at self-published writers who have used Helix Review, we interviewed Lulu author Kay Gossage, who wrote the fantasy fiction novel: The Sword Of Ages: The Tallah Trilogy. Helix, powered by The Book Genome project, basically allows authors to upload a manuscript and receive an incredibly in depth analysis of the book. 

Tell us a bit about The Sword of Ages:
This is a telling of one heroic cycle. When myths and legends are reborn. A time heroes and born as they battle against living myths from the grave. The evil Warlock Lord has reemerged out from the darkness of the past. His reign of fear and shadow long forgotten in his absence over the long years.    The Princess Katar of Tallah is loved by all. She is kind hearted and very beautiful. She is captured by the Warlock Lord to be his bride, thus setting in motion her path to destiny, and the young handsome knight Ridge’s as well.     In the castle of the Warlock Lord, Katar acquires knowledge that will drive her to set off on her journey to her final destiny. It is one she never imagined or wanted.     Ridge is called by fate as well and he sets out to rescue Katar. Along the way Delwin the Knight Master meets young Ridge and takes him to claim the mythical Sword of Ages. It is only yielding this legendary sword can one beat the Warlock Lord. Wilax joins the men and they set forth to rescue the princess.    Along the way friendship is found, respect earned, battles won and lost and truths revealed.    In the end, Ridge and the Warlock Lord battle and …

How would you describe your writing style:

I start with an idea and write a short form of the story, as complete or incomplete as I can in this first idea creating process. From there then I fill in the blanks and see where it goes. The Tallah Trilogy was a dream I had while pregnant with my first two children. Each book continuing from the previous. I generally write for the younger reader (middle school aged) but the books can be enjoyed by all ages.  I try to be descriptive and use dialogue to get points across versus narration.  I cannot say I have any one particular style of writing as I allow the story to form and take me along where it goes.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

I was interested in how my book ‘The Sword Of Ages’ flowed and compared to others in the Fantasy genera. I also wanted to see areas where my book excelled as well where I could improve my writing and promotion attempts.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

The Helix Review of my book ‘The Sword Of Ages’ showed me words, concepts and ideas unique to my book as well as my books strengths and weaknesses. The Helix Review provided me with several books comparable to mine and allowed me to see not only how it compares to these other books but in several specific areas.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

To hopefully become a better writer by strengthening the areas that scored lower in my future writing, creating a better and more enjoyable experience for both my readers and myself.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

I was not certain at first about the Helix Review but after ordering was happy with the overall results. For the price it was a great way to get feedback that can help me understand my book and how it fits into the genera and along side other books.  I can also take the feedback and apply it to my future writing to create better and more full enjoyable creations.

For more information about Kay Gossage and The Sword of Ages:

Lulu Author Spotlight
Kay Gossage Website
Kay Gossage on Facebook

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

 

Jerry Martin on the Helix Review

From now until the end of October, Lulu is featuring authors who have used the Helix Review to gain insight into their writing style and explore new marketing opportunities for their book. Today’s interview is Jerry Martin, author of Moving Sideways, which he describes as mystery and drama. For the full schedule of upcoming interviews, click here.

An Interview with Jerry Martin

Jerry Martin, Author of Moving Sideways

 

Give us the Moving Sideways pitch

Follow Detectives Debra Thomas and Eugene Willis through a dangerous world of biker bars, drugs, and guns as they search for the wife, Kari Cole, of a prominent Fort Worth lawyer, Tyler Cole, after she goes missing. Is he guilty or the victim of an elaborate scheme?

How would you describe your writing style?

For me, a mystery is just another story without a compelling romance with the hero overcoming a villain that seems unstoppable. The conflict the story is built on must have the elements of danger, love, and action.

Why did you decide to submit Moving Sideways for a Helix Review?

Feedback is an important process to develop as an author. Writing is a passion, but it is also a skill that must be honed as a professional athlete. If you train using the wrong technique or form you will polish imperfection. The Helix Review compares your work with the best in the industry… what could be better?

How are you going to use what you learned?

Advice, feedback, and critiques from test readers or an editor are valuable, but you are limited to the perceptions of a few people. There are many dimensions of writing and multiple theories of how to improve as a writer. What the Helix Review did for me is to compare my work against the best authors in the business regarding specific dimensions with enough depth to make the feedback actionable.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

No matter how long you’ve been writing or published, there is no better way to get valuable comparisons for your work for the price of the Helix Review. This is something you shouldn’t pass up… I will continue using the Helix Review for all my writing.

For more information about Jerry and Moving Sideways

Moving Sideways on Lulu

Jerry Martin’s Website

About Jerry Martin

Jerry Martin on Facebook

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here. – See more at: http://www.lulu.com/blog/2013/08/how-authors-are-using-the-helix-review

 

 

 

 

What a rookie writer learned from Neil Gaiman at BEA 2013

Neil Gaiman answering questions at BEA

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2013 BookExpo America in New York City.  Amongst the myriad of awesome presenters there, I was particularly looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s talk, which was really more of a discussion with aspiring authors.  Gaiman has been a favorite of mine for a while and his now famous 2012 University of the Arts  commencement speech, “Make good art” has consistently been an inspiration for me.

As Gaiman dove into the crazy world of how he became a writer, it became increasingly evident that this wildly successful author had gone through many of the same trials and tribulations that even the most amateur authors experience.  He never set out to become a world renowned author, rather he simply had always shared a love for reading and a passion for story-telling; perhaps the two greatest ingredients for a writer.  From the stories he told, I snagged a few tidbits of commonality that hopefully are beneficial for all aspiring authors:

  •     An insatiable hunger for reading is a writer’s best asset.
  •     On why fiction is dangerous: Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other peoples heads and gives you empathy and shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in…Letting people into other people’s heads is amazing and incredibly dangerous.
  •     On how to handle rejection or failure:  Two different things play out…I get things back and I’m either not good, which I do not choose to believe, or I’m just doing this wrong.  I vowed to myself to try to write things that no one could reject.  I worry now that no one will tell me I’ve written a dud short story.
  •     With 30 years of success, is there still doubt: Yes, and it hasn’t been 30 years of success. There have been things that have worked and things that haven’t.  Authors are combinations of complete arrogance and self-doubt.

I wanted to share these four points to spark thoughts, or even to provide a since of camaraderie that you are not alone as you work to create your next piece. What have you learned in your time as a writer? Please share your tips below! You may inspire a fellow writer.

 

How to stay fresh when writing becomes work

When you do something professionally, whether it’s a full time gig that pays the bills or part-time work to get that walking-around money, it can become monotonous. To be honest, the odds are that it will.

In some cases, that monotony could be a welcome development. I’ve worked some pretty unfulfilling jobs where routine has provided a welcome refuge. But if you are lucky enough to be financially compensated for doing something you love, the tedium that comes from repetition is something you really have to watch out for and guard against.

I find writing to be fulfilling work, personally and professionally, and I manage a good balance of writing for myself and writing for others (now largely readers on the internet) — writing I’m compensated for and writing I’m not — but there have certainly been times when that balance has felt askew and, as a result, writing becomes not much more than work.

What to do in a situation like this? How can a writer keep their work fresh and prevent burnout? Here are three practices I’ve found that help me keep my writing personally relevant and moving in new directions.

Keeping a journal: I know it sounds like an assignment from your high school English teacher, but keeping a journal (the pen and paper kind) has allowed me an entirely reflective space for my writing. Although I write on the web and enjoy writing to be read, the opposite arrangement helps me stay sane.

Using Twitter: I thought Twitter was a pretty vapid platform initially. I mean 140 characters? Micro-blogging? My attention span is short enough as is! But the more time I spend on Twitter, the more interesting I think it is. It’s basically a super social constraint-based writing club that demands clarity and brevity and encourages experimentation.

Taking time off(line): This one is sort of the crux, but also a bit a catch-all: I write better for the internet when I take time away from it. It’s easy to get comfortable in an echo chamber, but echoes don’t make for fresh ideas. Whether it’s reading or cooking or traveling when I can, I tend to bring something back to my work when I give myself a break from the net (whatever form that takes).

Some of these things might work for you, some might not. You’ve probably got similar suggestions so let me know in the comments!