Articles tagged "writing"

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.

 

How to Find a Writing Group

Join a writer's group to share your workWe writers can work anywhere with a horizontal surface on which to rest our laptops or pads of paper. But, the process of turning what we imagine into text is a singularly solitary effort. We know what we want and mean to write. We clearly see it in our mind’s eye. Yet our mind is a tricky place. It tends to fill in the blanks we left on the page resulting in under developed characters and unresolved plot lines.

Joining a writing group is one way to fill in those blanks.  Not only can a group make your writing more of a collegial experience, but a group of like-minded writers can also help you meet your writing goals, work out the kinks in your plot lines, and point out any inconsistencies in your work.

So where do you find these mythical people? Here are a few places to look:

1. Local writing centers and communities

The first place to start is the internet. A quick search using your city name and “Writing Group” will get you started. If you get too many results, include the genre in which you write to narrow down the list. Once you find a promising group, send a message to the group leader or attend a public meeting / class to determine if the group is a good fit for you.

2. Conferences and Retreats

While you are at it, search for any local writing conferences or retreats to attend. Sharing your contact information with other writers at these local gatherings is the best way to make contact with authors who can recommend or introduce you to an existing group.

3. Bulletin boards

Despite living in the digital age, that old school means of finding like-minded people can still be effective. If you are interested in starting a writing group post a notice at your local public library, coffee house, or arts center. You can even post a notice on your city’s Craigslist > Community > Groups section.

4. Writing associations

Professional associations such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America have chapters throughout the country. Check their sites for directories to find members in your local area.

Lulu Joining a writing group

5. People you already know

We all have one good book inside of us – or so we would like to think. So, why not build a writing group from your friends and acquaintances. Most of us don’t live among authors and poets, but that’s not the point. The key is establishing a routine for a regular exchange of work. A word of caution may be needed here. Remember, criticism – even constructive criticism hurts. So choose carefully from those friends who will welcome your suggestions – and vice verse.

6. Online critique groups

Multiple online services are available and are often set up as an exchange: you must critique others’ work to have your own critiqued. Though they are often free, you may need to pay for full access or pay for an unlimited number of critiques. Some groups to to check out: Critique Circle, Review Fuse, Scribophile and Ladies Who Critique. One thing to keep in mind is that the readers in each group may or may not be your target audience and may not be a fan of the genre in which you work.

Meetups are a great place to share your writing

7. Meetup.com

This online service connects local people with similar interests ranging from Spanish literature to Scrabble. If there isn’t a writing group in your city, for a small fee you can start your own – or hold virtual meetings and exchange work via email.

8. Social media

Social media is now the most common way to connect with like-minded individuals and to find potential writing group members. Try these to get started: LinkedIn Groups for Writers, Facebook Groups for Writers, Goodreads Writing Groups and Twitter Lists for Writers.

Another options to just put out a call on your own social networks that you’re starting a writing group. You might be surprised who responds!

As you can see, finding a writing group takes time but it is well worth it to have the support, feedback and encouragement a group provides. Are you part of a writing group, or do you have tips of your own on finding people to share your work with? Let us know in the comments!

5 More Apps Every Writer Needs

5 Apps For Every Writer

Your writing time is precious. Last year we gave you five apps that every writer needs to check out. We’re back with five more apps to help you stay organized, stay on track, and make writing that much easier. Or maybe they’ll help make your life easier. Either way, you’ll thank us.

1. Evernote

We’ve talked before about the importance of using the cloud in your writing, and we called out Evernote in particular. Whether you’re using it for writing, note-taking, or research, Evernote is great at pulling everything together. You can save websites for quick reference, snap photos, and even chat with someone if you’re collaborating.

Best of all, Evernote syncs between every device it’s installed on. So type on your phone while you’re on the go and take a quick picture, and it’ll be at you laptop when you get back home. When you don’t have to worry about where you’re writing, it makes it a lot easier to actually get to writing!

Available on Android, iOS, and desktop.

2. Simple Pomodoro

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s as a time management system, named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The basic idea is that you focus for 25 minutes at a time, punctuated by 3-5 minute breaks.

The good news is that you don’t need a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (after which the method is named), because you can time yourself from your phone or tablet. One of the best is Simple Pomodoro; like the name implies, it’s simple and straightforward. Tap to start the countdown, and when time’s up your break will start automatically count down, too. You’ll be amazed at how your time management improves once you get into a rhythm.

Available on Android.

3. Trello

Sometimes getting things done isn’t the problem – it’s keeping track of everything that gives you a headache! A little management can go a long way in keeping tasks straight. Trello is a project management system, but it works just as well for writers.

At its most basic, Trello works like this: you have boards for big projects, lists for groups or related tasks, and cards for individual tasks. This will let you break up your writing process however you wish: by chapter, by theme, by characters, and so on.  Once you get organized and don’t have to worry about figuring out where you left off, you can get past the planning and onto the writing.

Available on Android, iOS, and browsers.

4. Coffitivity

You have an issue: you have trouble working when things are too quiet, but turning on music or the television distracts you. What you really need is the perfect amount of background noise to keep you grounded. After all, studies have shown that ambient noise can spur creativity. Try Coffitivity as an easy way to keep those creative juices flowing.

Coffitivity lets you use the mild hustle and bustle of a coffee shop to keep you on track. Choose from ‘Morning Murmur,’ ‘Lunchtime Lounge,’ or ‘University Undertones’ and start listening. It’s that easy! Give it a try and see if it helps you get over that bout of writer’s block.

Available on Android, iOS, and web browsers.

5. IF

Ever wish you could automate the little things in your life? IF, the app from IFTTT (If This Then That), lets you connect the other apps in your life to try to make things a little easier.

The way it works is all in the name: “if something happens, then do something else.” You define the “somethings.” For example, if you favorite a tweet, then save it to Evernote. Or if you miss a call, then respond with an automated text. There are tons of supported apps and devices, from Facebook to Fitbit, and crossing even a few things off of your to-do list with automation will save you a lot of time in the end.

Available on Android and iOS.

Have you used any of these apps? What do you think of them? Do you have any favorites of your own that you think help make your life and writing a bit easier? Share your experiences in the comments below!

10 Quotes to Spark Your Writing

10 Quotes to Inspire Authors

Writing can often feel like a solitary endeavor: you sit down at your computer or notepad, take a sip of your coffee, and do your best to shut out the rest of the world as you put words to paper.

But you’re not alone! Some of the most successful authors in history know the struggle you’re going through and have persevered. Check out these quotes to make you smile, think, and get inspired as you get ready to write this weekend.


 

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” – Jane Yolen

 

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

 

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

 

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

 

“Don’t be a writer; be writing.” – William Faulkner

 

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.” – A. A. Milne

 

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

 

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” – C. J. Cherryh


 

Have some of your own favorite quotes on writing? Share them in the comments!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Kicks Off: Tips for Success

It’s late. Your heart-rate is elevated. The coffee is still percolating. Your hair, unwashed, is now reaching skyward as you tug on it almost every minute. You look over at your wall calendar, but you don’t need to be told what month it is: it is November. It is National Novel Writing Month. 

Started in 1999 by Chris Baty and “20 other overcaffeinated yahoos,” the write-50,000-words-of-a-novel-in-a-month challenge started with 21 participants and 6 winners. In 15 years it’s grown exponentially. Last year, over 310,000 writers attempted the feat.

The word count threshold, 50,000 words, means that a writer must commit to writing just a little under 2,000 words a day, or, to us writers, A LOT OF STINKIN’ WORDS. While some established authors take months or years to craft a narrative, writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), have just one month to commit to a draft. Several best-sellers have emerged from NaNoWriMo including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

We could not be more excited to be sponsoring NaNoWriMo again this year and hope everyone will take advantage of our 2014 Wrimo offerings. We also totally understand that finding the time and creative energy for this 30-day challenge is a huge feat, so here are a few ways to make the words flow!

Writing and work ethic

A dear friend of mine told me the other day that she couldn’t understand how I was able to write. “I just sit down at my computer and, well, eventually I start writing,” I told her.

“No,” she said. “I mean, I don’t understand how you can make yourself do something that is so incredibly frustrating to me. I hate writing — I can’t believe you do it for fun.”

I replied, “Well, it’s not always fun.”

Because as we writers know, it isn’t always fun. Sitting down to write, there are always those “no good, very bad” days where writing isn’t something that relaxes us or even something we take pleasure in. It drives us insane. We want to do anything but write. (The Internet seems like a great place to hide from writing. Talk to any writer and they can tell you all about the most mind-numbing waste-of-time websites on the Internet and how they have spent considerable time there.)

So why do we stay writing, even as day has turned to night, a long frustrating night into another bleary-eyed morning? Why do we keep writing something that might never find a huge audience, or something we know is just going to get cut in edits?

I believe that’s where work ethic comes in, and even though only a few lucky people on this Earth get to call writing a job, there is some aspect of being a writer that demands you take it as seriously as your job. You are producing art, but you are also doing “work.”

That’s the separation between people who write opportunistically and without much labor and writers who have to sit and struggle through a piece, and toss and turn all night because wow-does-that-scene-stink. Sometimes you have to force yourself to write, just because you told yourself you would. Even if nothing good comes of it, at least you put more hours into your craft, your strange and beautiful desire to translate and work through ideas on a page.

A writer’s work-ethic comes from the knowledge that it’s not that first hour where you write your best, but that third or fourth. That moment when the words (after losing all sense from endless re-reading), begin to coalesce into something extraordinary and true. A writer’s work-ethic is knowledge that the payoff isn’t always in the moment of writing itself, or even publication, but the fact that you participated in part of a long history of a phenomenon of inward-thinking and art. It’s beautiful to be a part of, even if it’s not always fun or prosperous.

So the next time someone asks you why you write, why you can’t make an event or go out that night because you have to do it, and why you can’t just write another time,  maybe it’s best just to say, “Because I need to. Because I want to.”

30 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

At some point in your writing career, you’re probably going to face it — the dreaded writer’s block. For the lucky, it lasts only a few hours or days. For the unlucky, it can take weeks or even months to get over. Most writers have their own coping mechanisms, but what may work for one person is no guarantee for another. So what can you do when you’re faced with a blank white page and an unrelenting cursor?

A while back we asked you on Facebook to tell us your secret combat weapons for fighting off writer’s block, and you had some great ones, which are here. We also have a blog post from the past with helpful tips found here. But when desperate to get over the hump more advice is better, right? So to help you find at least one method that works, here’s a list of things to try in no particular order:

Take a walk

Write through it anyway

Workout

Cook a big, good meal

Listen to music

Try another creative medium: Strum a tune or paint a picture

Pick a random topic and do a 15-minute free write

Deprive yourself of sleep for as long as you can and then write until you can no longer stay awake

Write a positive note to yourself on special paper

Start (or keep) a daily log of your day in a journal

Go to a busy street/restaurant/bar and people watch for a bit and write down everything interesting you observe

Try writing an off-the-cuff poem

Write a friend a long letter by hand

Look at photos online of places that inspire you or, better yet, take a walk down your own memory lane and look at your own albums

Write a chapter of your story from another character’s perspective

Have a glass of wine or three (or chocolate)

Research your book’s subject matter

Visit a museum or art gallery

Pick a random object in your house and write 200 words about it

Find a different place to work. If you’re at home, try a coffee shop — or vice versa

Take a bubble bath

Call a writer-friend and commiserate first, then assign one another a writing project to be completed within a few hours

Try outlining your novel/essay/article, if you haven’t already done so

Write out a to-do list of every chore you need to accomplish

Spend some time pondering life in the yogic legs-up-the-wall pose

Stop berating yourself for not writing

Play with your dog/cat/reptile. If you don’t have one, ask a friend if you can come over and give their Fido some love

Try writing during a different time of the day

Take a nap

And finally… Drink a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee

We know this list isn’t exhaustive, and there’s room for more ideas, so tell us, Lulu readers, what’s worked (or not) for you?