Articles tagged "writing"

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?

How do you write?

Photo credit to @jjpacres on Flickr.

During an author interview, have you ever been asked about how you write? Do you type on a computer, use longhand, record your own voice…? This question is asked so frequently that it’s become cliché, but it does raise an interesting point: does varying your writing process add variety to your writing itself?

Writing on a mobile phone or tablet offers the portability of a pen and notebook, while also allowing writers to use the resources of the Internet or even incorporate pictures. How can a description of a city scene be enhanced by a picture of that exact scene? Should it? Tablet writers must deal with the endless possibilities technology offers — possibilities which could distract from the work itself. As the celebrated young author Wells Tower said in an interview with the Huffington Post, “My main gripe with the Web is that it’s toxic to the kind of concentration fiction writing requires. It’s difficult to write good sentences and simultaneously buy shoes.” Perhaps writers who are less focused on the Internet, and more focused on the crafting of fine sentences write better, and maybe the way they write makes all the difference.

Personally, I need to shut off the Internet if I’d like to get any writing done. There are far too many distractions on the Internet to waste the precious time I find to write. But I also appreciate the new possibilities that technology has availed us to, including the ability to write interactively, using the Internet to enhance your perception of a scene, or even allow you to incorporate technology into your writing. While writing on a cellphone or tablet is a far cry from a notebook, it does not seem like writing has changed fundamentally because of their invention. If anything, the introduction of technology into my writing practice allows my writing to be more experimental, more informed, and more current.

How has how you write affected what you write?

Collaborative Storytelling with Kids

When I was little, I took stories my parents told me and added to them as I drifted to sleep. My mind would take a story and turn it into something very different. Bedtime stories becomes so much more than just stories in the imaginative minds of children — they become worlds.

Thanks to independent publishing, children and parents are using teamwork to create polished novels that can be shared with other young readers. A profile in Wired details how a father and his two young sons were able to collaborate on a successful fantasy book for children. Nimpentoad, which the family published independently, has been a success as well as a learning experience for the two young authors, Josh and Harrison. The boys have been selling their book at farmers’ markets, participating in public speaking engagements and agreeing to interviews for profiles in Young Entrepreneur Magazine. They are learning at an early age that publishing is just one step in the process of becoming a successful author.

Josh, Harrison and their father, Henry, are part of a long history of intergenerational writers who have used writing as both a teaching experience and a way to bring generations together by changing storytelling into a more participatory process. Writing groups around the country use intergenerational writing practices to keep seniors and young people interacting with one another.

Intergenerational writing can also help children with learning disabilities by encouraging them to continue to write outside of the classroom setting. Hal and Alex Malchow wrote their fantasy novel, The Sword of Darrow, when Alex, who is dyslexic, needed encouragement to continue his uphill climb toward reading at his own grade level. Alex was able to use the confidence from writing the book to tackle his own disability.

What intergenerational writing have you done? What have you learned from young storytellers, and what is your best advice for them?

Related Services: Children’s Formatting Service

The Rise of “New Adult” Fiction

It’s everywhere you look — media about young people in their 20s, trying to figure things out. It’s on HBO, it’s in film, it’s definitely in the blogosphere (it’s also the writer of this blog post, obviously).

Image by: Pete Ashton

Millenials,” as they’re known, have become a hot commodity in the media landscape, as this tech-savvy generation learns to deal with a recession and a prolonged adolescence that includes internships, grad school, and making a million different decisions about what they want to do with their lives.

So, it makes sense that a new genre of literature might emerge about this set. And, of course, it has emerged from authors who use multi-platform publishing. Cora Carmack, who self-published her book, Losing It, saw her book rise to number 18 in the New York Times bestseller list without it even having a print edition. She was then offered a contract from HarperCollins to write more books, as well as a re-release of Losing It.

The term itself – New Adult (NA) – was coined by St. Martin’s Press as a midway between adult literary fiction and young adult books. It didn’t really take off until this year, however, as scores of independent writers began writing novels that talked about these “Millenials” in an engaging, experimental and exciting way. A new website, call NA Alley, reviews a number of “NA” titles that are popping up from independent authors.

That a new genre would explode from the ranks of self-published authors makes total sense. Publishing through an open platform allows writers to experiment as well as publish books that might not already fit into a niche market. By finding readers, they are creating their own markets, and big publishers are beginning to notice. Publishers now follow the independent authors, not the other way around. 

As readers continue to look for new books that they can relate to, novels have to change with the tastes of each generation. Unfortunately, large publishing is slow. Independent writers, always keeping their ears to the ground, can identify new genres, know what they want to read themselves, and publish it without having to wait for the market to catch up with them.

Lulu’s 13 Days of Writing Song – Day 6 Video

On the sixth day of writing my true love gave to me…

Add some joy (and discounts) to your day with our silly short video. Happy Holidays! To check out Lulu’s 13 days of deals, visit the landing page here: Thirteen Days of Deals

Tips for NaNoWriMo 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 12 years it’s grown exponentially. By 2011, 256,618 writers attempted the feat and 36,843 finished.

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 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!

Why do you write?

We’re always finding great quotes and inspiration from the people we follow on Pinterest. Here’s one for the day:

Music & Writing: A Writer’s Playlist

Maybe it’s because I live in a city filled with distracting noises — car horns, drilling, and shouting — but whenever I sit down to write, I immediately put on my headphones. Suddenly, the world evaporates, and all that is left is the screen, with my words slowly trekking across it, and whatever music I’ve chosen as the tempo. Mostly it’s something ethereal and ambient, Brian Eno or Steve Reich, but other times, when I’m trying to work through a really difficult section, or simply wanting to motivate myself, I put on something faster and more defined, like Outkast or LCD Soundsystem.

Obviously, each person’s musical preference is specific to his or her own taste, and what you want to listen to while you write might be entirely different than what you’d dance to. But how does music affect your writing in general? Do you find yourself more productive when listening to music, or more easily distracted and prone to losing yourself in someone else’s art and not your own?

A 2011 study found that listening to music dramatically increases brain function. A researcher on the study said, “Our results show for the first time how different musical features activate emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain.” However, others disagree. Geekpreneur notes: “The bottom line is that music always replaces thoughts. When you’re doing mechanical tasks — even if those tasks involve implementing creative ideas you’ve already thought of — music can be pleasant and helpful. When you need to think, though, the only sounds you should be able to hear are those of your own inner voice.”

Perhaps as more and more novels find a home on eBook, and writers begin to incorporate more media into what they write, eBooks will come with playlists that inform the story, or even let the reader in on what writers were listening to as they wrote. In that case, let’s get it started!

Post your favorite writing playlist in the comments section, and let the world in on what gets you in the creative mindset.

The Editorial Process

Photo courtesy of TheCreativePenn’s photostream on Flickr

Michael Crichton once said of revising, “Books aren’t written. They’re re-written.” As any of us who have slogged through draft after draft knows, he’s entirely on the mark, and it’s what you do during the rounds of revisions that make your book closer to finally being finished.

Editors at traditional houses work extensively with writers on everything from a book’s plot and character to title and cover design. After a book is acquired, the author will receive an extensive, pages-long editorial letter that is not for the faint of heart. It outlines a number of changes that will need to be made, thus kicking off a long revision period that ultimately ends with publishing as much as 18 months later.

As an author using an open-publishing platform, you have more flexibility in accepting or rejecting where you want the story and characters to go, and you don’t have to wait nearly two years to hold a copy of your book in your hands.