Monday, March 30, 2020

How to Prepare Yourself as a Writer

When you start anything in life you need to begin on the right foot, and writing is no different.

Start as you mean to go on.

This means your thoughts and habits must be right to begin with.  It's no good writing if you don't think you're a writer to begin with.  You're probably doing this already, but for those writers who may be just starting out, or may need a little extra help, let's start at the basics.

Preparation is Key

In order to prepare yourself properly you need the right equipment.  Any photographer will tell you you need a good camera to take pictures, just like a cyclist needs a bike.  Otherwise it's a non-starter.

The first step is taking yourself seriously.  Then you need the right kit, before you take the plunge and start writing.  Once you've got this part sorted, then you can start thinking about your mindset. 

Writing Tool Checklist

If you're fortunate enough to have been given a lot of your writing equipment, still try and assign some kind of monetary value, like reading more books, or buying yourself a journal. 

Let's get started.

1. PC or Laptop

There was a time the writer's would have used nothing but ink and paper, or even a typewriter.  But these days most writer's use a laptop or PC to get their work done.  You don't need to spend a fortune.  But you might want to think about spending a little bit extra on a good keyboard.  A good keyboard should respond to your fingertips hitting the keys immediately, and shouldn't feel uncomfortable to type on. 

A lot of writer's use more than one machine, often purchasing a PC and Netbook.  This is because Netbooks are cheap and easy to carry around. 

A lot of author's have gone old school, and have bought typewriter's or word processors to write their first drafts.  Machines like the Alphasmart NEO Word Processor allow you to see a few lines at a time, and don't include spell or grammar checkers.  It's a great little device because it runs on AA batteries and can be easily carried around with you.

2. A Location to Write

Wherever you choose to write make sure it won't affect your health permanently.  Sitting in a bad position can have serious health consequences that can be easily solved by having the right office set up. 

I use a simple desk and chair as my current writing location, and also give myself time to stretch in between typing.  There are plenty of things you can buy to alleviate any discomfort when you type.  Such as an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, desk and chair to help you sit in a better position. 

Something else to think about is how much time you spend writing.  You could try an hour long session with plenty of small breaks in between so you can get up and stretch your legs.  

3. Read Regularly

Stephen King is a firm believer that all writers should read a lot and write a lot.

There are so many ways you can read these days, everything from e-readers to magazines, papers to books.  The list is endless.  One thing I should mention is that you love what your reading.  If you're not a big reader, start small and grow your reading habit so that it becomes second nature.  For many writer's, particularly nonfiction writer's, reading comes through research.  There are plenty of places you can purchase or borrow books in your local area.  You could try joining your local library (if you haven't already done so), or look for books in a local charity shop.  Always remember to keep a hold of all of your receipts, especially if you've started writing books.  You may need those receipts to claim against tax.

4. Articles and Books About Writing

Reading about writing is a key part of being a writer, although there are some writers who feel it can be jading to do so.  Don't panic if you fall into this category, continue with your writing process because it's evidently working for you.

For those who love learning from other bloggers and writer's online, there are certain principles you can follow.  Don't think you ever have to use every bit of advice you read.  Only use what you need and disregard the rest.

Often it's good to refresh your memory by looking at particular information, such as story structure, or character development if you're writing fiction. 

There's no harm in seeing how other authors produce their work, this may also help you in your writing development. 

5. Take a Writing Course that Suits You

Not an essential part of the list, but something that may be beneficial to you and your writing community.  With any point I've mentioned it's always good to do your homework first before jumping straight in.  Make sure the course covers all of the points you need, and isn't overly expensive.  Check out reviews from students, and always investigate the teacher or course provider before you spend your money.

6. Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are free and can be found through any device, such as laptop, PC, Iphone.  Here are ten of the best podcasters to get you started:

  1. The Creative Penn
  2. Ann Kroeker
  3. Writing Class Radio
  4. I Should be Writing
  5. Writing Excuses
  6. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips
  7. The Writer Files
  8. Portfolio Life by Jeff Goins
  9. The Story Grid Podcast
  10. Helping Writers Become Authors
A Quick Word of Warning

Podcasts, courses and books can all become a hindrance in your writing process if they aren't used properly.  Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with learning something new once in a while, but don't let it hamper your writing process. 

You can use these tools when:

  • You set yourself a time limit before you start writing.
  • You use them for short periods while you're writing your story.  (Don't allow it to disturb your writing time).
  • You've finished writing your book to make sure you haven't missed any big errors, or to add relevant detail to what you've already written.

Writing is your primary focus, everything else is secondary. Reading, talking and listening to other writer's won't get you anywhere unless you actually write.

Shaping Your Writing Routine

A good writing routine will keep you focussed and stay organised.  Unfortunately there are times when you find yourself stalling and avoiding your PC.  This can leave you feeling really stressed because you haven't done the work you intended to do.  By the time you do sit down to write your energy levels are low, and you just give up.  Leaving your writing for another day.

This kind of self-defeating behaviour not only creates bad habits, but also hampers your creativity and flow.  Everyone is different, some people prefer writing in the morning, and others (like me) prefer night time to write. 

The problem is that we all slip so easily in and out of these kinds of behaviours.  This becomes more apparent when the outside world starts creeping in.  If you're not doing something regularly you find yourself making it up as you go along, often adding added undue stress to your day.

Template for a Solid Writing Routine

Decisions take time and energy, and most people's days are filled to the brim, so it's no wonder that setting up a regular writing habit is so difficult.  Let's face it, it's easier to do the easy things like sit and watch TV, than sit down and write.  The self-control is there, but we've used up our daily allowance.

But don't despair!

You can bend the system to your own advantage, and reduce the everyday decisions you make.

How Do You Get Your Writing Routine Back Into Shape?

The habits you were taught as a child, such as fastening your shoe laces, or cleaning your teeth.  These are things you do on a daily basis, and are given very little thought, because you've been conditioned to do them. 

What Has That Got to do With My Writing Routine?

You're probably thinking there's a big difference between tying my shoelaces and writing a book.  And you're right, but that's why you need to start thinking small. 

Big things have small beginnings.

Lawrence of Arabia (Film).

I would also liken this to doing a workout. 

Example:

If you're new to a gym you'll be shown around various equipment, and shown a few upper body and abs exercises to get you started.  Once you get used to that routine, you then move on to something intermediate and start looking at harder things to do.  All of these things take to learn, and take a lot of getting used to.

Once you start a habit you can tailor it to your own convenience.


Starting Your New Writing Routine

I like to start small and build from there.  There's no sense in running when you can't walk.  All you need to do is sit down and set a small time limit.  For example 15 minutes writing a day.  If you want to write daily, then do 15 minutes of writing everyday.  Try setting up a specific time each week to write and make a note of it in your calendar, or diary.  This task will be clearly set, and done each week at the same time.

All you have to do is repeat this routine for a couple of weeks until it becomes a permanent habit in your life. 

Quick note:  Don't be tempted to change your 15 minute writing routine to early on, because you could become easily discouraged.  Just allow yourself to achieve this simple goal every week.

You'll know when you're ready to take it up a notch.

Takeaways:

  • Your routine will be more efficient because it will be a regular habit in your life.
  • Choose your favourite part of the day to write and stick to it.  It's half the battle when you know when your brain is the most lucid.
  • Make writing a daily routine.
Share this post with your friends! 


Monday, March 23, 2020

Why It's the Best Time Ever to be a Writer

Since the inception of the Internet, opportunities have emerged that were never dreamed of before.  You could liken this to the invention of the printing press, by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450.  People started building their own printing presses, creating work for writers everywhere.  All of these presses required books and printing materials.  Giving more people new opportunities of moving up in the world.

Several centuries later in the 1700s newspapers were the big businesses of the day due to new developments of the time.  This followed with a demand for editors and journalists, not to mention copywriters to create the ads, which brought in extra revenue for these big businesses.

Companies such as Sears benefited hugely from these further advances at the end of the 19th century.  Copywriters and editors were needed to write pages and pages of copy for their catalogues.

By the 20th century radio produced a new kind of writer, so the hunt was on for new talent to write and produce their TV shows, and write their scripts.  Included in each TV show segment was a 6-7 minute break for commercials, and more writers were needed to create material for these commercials.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Understanding the Different Levels of Editing

Different Types of Editing

When you're self-editing your own work it can be difficult to know which editing process you should be using.  When you've mastered which editing technique that is, then you can start the correct steps  of editing your work like a pro, and take your writing from good to great

In order to help you with the self-editing process we're going to look at the various levels of editing to help you understand what is required from each.

What is an Editor?

What is the job of an editor of a big magazine, like Time magazine? 

These editor's are the capstone of all major newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses.  They make the big decision on what should be published in their magazine, how many words the article should have, and also help to shape and form an authors book.  Writers are commissioned to submit new stories for future issues on various topics that highlight particular themes and viewpoints.  A well-known publishing house, such as Simon and Schuster may be suggesting new edits for Stephen King's new book, or debating his upcoming book signing schedule. 

You may have seen editor's depicted on the big screen, for example, Perry White, editor-in-chief at the Daily Planet, the fictional newspaper that Clark Kent works at.  Or Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief, played effortlessly by Meryl Streep.

That could be you one day when you become hugely successful as a writer.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Other Side of Social Media

What Authors Need to Know About Social Media

For many writer's social media can seem the most annoying part of getting your voice heard online.  What most writer's don't realise is that their success on social media is determined by personality, strength, and the standard of work produced, making each writer's approach truly unique.  Over time that approach will probably change, because with success audience numbers grow and change, and strategies shift as readership expands.

Social media isn't a stationery thing, because there is no formula, or one size fits all.  It's everchanging, which means there's always something new to learn.  This makes it more challenging and fun, and means you'll never get bored.

Social media marketing is used for selling products, including books and used as a means of promotion, which can feel like a merry-go-round for new authors and writers wanting to use it to promote their writing and books.

Whatever your skill level or experience is, hopefully the following points will take the sting out of social media marketing.

The More Work You Produce, the More Your Social Following Will Grow

An essential rule of author platform development is it flourishes as your body of work grows.  Which basically means the more blog posts and books you produce, the bigger your audience will grow, reaching more readers, and followers on social media.

If you don't have a writing platform it can be really difficult to build a social media following without any work published, but don't despair there is a way around that particular problem.

Monday, March 02, 2020

The 10 Top Creativelive Courses for Writers

Leonardo da Vinci once said, Learning never exhausts the mind.  A truer word was never spoken.

As writer's we should always be learning something new about our craft, along with researching new topics to keep our writing fresh. Whilst trying to stay current with the latest marketing and social media techniques.

Learning online is one of the best ways to fit in all of that knowledge, and you can do this through CreativeLive.  Online learning allows you to work at your own speed and in your own time.  Choosing courses that suit you and your interests, bypassing the courses you don't need.

Take a look at these 10 CreativeLive courses that are perfect for all writers:

1. Starving to Successful: How to Become a Full-Time Writer

In this course Jeff Goins teaches you how to turn your writing from a side hustle into a full-time job.  You'll discover that artists don't need to starve, but instead can be profitable as a writer, you just have to get over any hang-ups.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Copywriting: Writing the Brief


What You Need to Know About the Copywriting Brief

The copywriting brief is the mission statement for your copwriting project, letting you know what you need to do and when to stop.

It acts like a barometer, and will help you evaluate your copy.  It's your benchmark for any questions you may have about the project you've been given.  It will answer questions like, 'Is this part of the brief, and does this answer the brief?' If you don't see any problems with your copy, that's okay.  If you do then you need to read your brief again.

If your client agrees with your brief upfront, then you shouldn't have any major problems further down the line.  Big copywriting projects can fall apart because different parties start disagreeing on various aspects of the brief that were never clarified in the copywriting brief.

Components of a Copywriting Brief

Do I Write the Brief?

This depends upon the client, they may prefer you to write a brief, or you may have some ideas written down already.  In some cases they may expect you to take the lead.  Either way, it's your job to obtain a valid brief, even if it means you have to write it out yourself.

You may be provided with a brief if you're working with an agency.  If not you can always talk it through with your client.  In the long-run it's fine, providing you get the information you need.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Grammar: Capitalisation and Writing Numbers

Rules of Capitalisation

In English grammar capitalisation is used at the head of a word, with the first letter in uppercase and the remaining in lowercase. 


Capitalisation for professional and academic writers is a bit more complicated than just writing names and titles with capital letters.

Two important rules to remember:


Rule 1

Always capitalise the first word in a sentence and after a period.

Rule 2

Proper nouns and adjectives that have been created from proper nouns should be capitalised.

Examples:

  • London Bridge
  • War of the Worlds
  • an American song
  • the Eiffel Tower

Over time many proper nouns no longer need capitalisation, and have a life of their own.

Examples:

  • draconian - originally from ancient-Athenian lawgiver Draco
  • quixotic - originally from the novel Don Quixote
  • herculean - originally from the ancient-Greek hero Hercules

The role of captialisation is to bring to attention component within a particular group or people, place or things.  We can talk about a mountain in a particular country or we could be more precise and say Mount Everest which sets it apart from every other mountain earth.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Alternate Social Media Sites for Writers

Use Tumblr to Reach More Readers Online

Founded in 2007 by David Karp, Tumblr is a social media and microblogging website which can be used to host your poetry, short stories, images or even new blog posts.

A popular website for 18 to 29 year olds, 66% of the site is visited by under 35 year olds. 

Even though Tumblr hasn't reached the dizzy height's of other major networking sites like Instagram or Twitter it's still a site worth checking out for any writer wanting to get the writing seen.

Authors of YA (Young Adult) books might want to use it to market their books, because of its popularity with young people.

Here are some familiar author names and services on Tumblr:

  • Malind Lo - Ash
  • Neil Gaiman - Fragile Things
  • Lang Laev - Poet
  • Jane Friedman - Publishing 101: A First-Time Author's Guide to Getting Published, Marketing and Promoting Your Book, and Building a Successful Career
  • Emma Straub - The Vacationers
  • Jami Attenberg - The Middlesteins
  • Rosecrans Baldwin - Paris I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
  • Leigh Stein - Dispatch from the Future
  • John Green - The Fault in Our Stars

Monday, February 03, 2020

11 Fresh Writing Prompts for Non-Fiction Writers

Any writer will tell you that the best way to improve your craft is to practice, practice, practice.  This can be a task in it's self, but don't be discouraged.  When the tank is dry start thinking about using some of these useful writing prompts.

Fact-Based Information

As a writer you're constantly being reminded to write what you know.  Start by going back to past events in your life to help stimulate your imagination.

High Points in Your Life


Write a detailed description of the best moment of your life.

What were you doing and where were you at the time?
Was the moment a surprise or was it expected?
What were your feelings about it at the time? Why was it so noteworthy?
What in particular was it that made it so special?
Has it left a mark on your life?


Low Points in Your Life

Recount the lowest points in your life.  Use the prompts above along with the following below:

What made the event so bad?
Were you aware of negative emotions from this particular point in your life?
Did you learn anything from the experience? Were you able to move on with your life?
How do you view it with hindsight?

Meeting Someone Who Played a Pivotal Part in Your Life

Someone who made a significant impact on your life, but not necessarily a spouse or significant other.  This could be a teacher, mentor, or stranger that taught you a life lesson that has always stayed with you.

Give a detailed account of the mood at that time, and where you were.  Write about what time of day it was, and physical sensations you remember.  Write down your mood (if you can still remember it).

Monday, January 27, 2020

Blog Comments, Should You Deactivate Them?

You know how it feels to receive comments, and the connection you feel you've made with your reader.  If only all comments were like that.  Unfortunately their are a lot of people who like to leave as many spam comments as possible.

So is it worthwhile having that little box at the end of each blog post?  There are many popular bloggers and online marketers who have turned off their comments completely because of the high numbers of spammy and low-quality comments they receive.

The Great Comments Debate

When you start looking into this particular subject you realise that it's not just a one-sided debate.  Online marketers such as Pat Flynn and Everett Bogue examine the issue quite deeply in this article by Fizzle.

Pat Flynn contends that you should keep your blog comments turned on, where as Everett Bogue says that you should really consider turning them off.

Here's a rundown of both sides of the argument:

Reasons for Blog Comments

Pat's argument is:

"A successful blog does not come without its readers, so I feel that the least we can do for them as bloggers is to allow them to have their voice be heard if they choose to speak.  In a way, I find it self-righteous and smug to simply post content and disable the ability for people to voice their own opinion, as if to say "my content is good enough as it is and your opinion doesn't matter."