How to Avoid Author Burnout – 5 Tips: a guest post by Dave Chesson
Most of us have probably been there. Perhaps it started as a few weeks of massive productivity, followed by even more weeks of exhaustion.
Perhaps it simply came as a form of depression, where we wouldn’t even feel like getting up in the morning, or we would sit at a computer and the words just would not come.
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Whether we have experienced this or not, chances are we will encounter burnout at some point in our author career. In fact, I’d say that’s more than a guarantee.
So, what can we do? Well, there are a few things that we can do to improve our recovery from burnout. But far more effective are the techniques we can use to avoid getting burned out in the first place.
In this article, I will examine five of these.
Tip #1: Work Smarter, Not Harder
If you’re burnt out, work is the last thing you want to talk about.
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That said, a lot of us still need to continue working even if we are burnt out.
So, one strategy to get over this problem is to work smarter, not harder.
Imagine if you could get the same amount of work done in half the time. Would that make you feel better? Would you have more time to spend on self-care?
That’s what I’m talking about here, not working more, but getting the same amount of work done in less time so you have more time for yourself.
For authors, there are some proven ways to write faster, which can include:
Choosing the right music
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Keeping a consistent writing schedule
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Waiting to edit until you are finished
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All of these will help you in the long run, but just one or two quick changes can make a huge difference. Try picking one technique and mastering it to see how much time you can save, and you will be amazed at what you are capable of.
Tip #2: Schedule Time Off
This is probably the first thing that most people think about when we discuss avoiding burnout. But in reality, it works. There are several types of time off that you should consider. In addition to your typical vacation once or twice a year, I recommend you have at least one day off on your weekend, one extended weekend per quarter (3-4 days), and at least two half-hour breaks throughout your day. This will not always be possible, but the more you can make time for yourself, the more likely you are to avoid burnout in the first place.
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I especially recommend taking breaks throughout the day, because the more tired you are every day, the more likely you are to have a tiresome week. Which brings me to my next point…
Tip #3: Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a method I have been using for a long time. Put simply, it's a technique where you spend 25 minutes of your time in an intensely focused state, followed by a five minute break. This technique helps with focus, but also helps you stay mentally grounded.
What's most important is that you plan your brakes effectively. This is not a time to check social media, or watch five more minutes of your favorite TV show. During that five minute break, you want to get a drink, go to the bathroom, take a few deep breaths, and move around a little bit.
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Doing all this will refresh your mind and give you the energy you need to continue going for the next 25 minutes, and so on, and so forth. I found it to be extremely effective at helping me get a lot of work done without the burnout.
Tip #4: Go Ergonomic
You may not know this, but part of the reason why you’re having trouble with burnout might be physical.
For that reason, you might want to consider investing in some ergonomic hardware.
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I personally invested in an ergonomic chair, and found that it helps so much with my level of comfort while I’m working. An ergonomic mouse orkeyboardis another great option. Even better, you can try dictation so that you don’t wear out your wrists and hands.
Tip #5: Know When to Say No
Lastly, I think it’s important to remember that sometimes we take on more work than we should. It’s easy to say yes to everything that people ask of us, but we need to understand our limitations.
If we don’t do this, we are likely to end up with far too much on our work plate than we can realistically handle.
So make sure that you know your workload, and that you only say yes to a new request if it is urgent and coming from someone important in your life (such as a boss or a spouse), or if you know for certain that you can get it done in the time allotted.
Remember that you are a writer, and your job is to write. All other tasks are secondary.
There are a lot of other ways to avoid burnout, these are just a few. But I also don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information. So I recommend you pick one or two of these that speak to you, and really try to give them a solid trial run.
If you do, I can promise that you will experience increased success, a rested mind, and you will hold burnout off for a little while longer.
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Guest Blogger Bio
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Dave Chesson is the creator of Kindlepreneur.com, a website devoted to teaching advanced book Marketing, which even Amazon KDP acknowledged as one of the best by telling users to “Gain insight from Kindlepreneur on how you can optimize marketing for your books.” Having worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and more, his tactics help both Fiction and Nonfiction authors of all levels get their books discovered by the right readers.
Explore the A to Z's of Writing: an admin article by Marie Lavender
This week, I thought I'd take a moment to go back to basics. I would like to explore some terms we use in the writing industry. For newbies, you'll hear these from fellow writers or editors at your publisher at some point. Or, you might see them on how-to articles. And if you've taken a writing workshop at all, you've probably heard most of them. Even if you're a seasoned writer, it can't hurt to reacquaint yourself with these words or phrases, as well as to keep the following advice in mind. So, without further ado, let's explore the alphabet of writing...
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1. A for Antagonist - The villain in a story, or at least a concept/obstacle which stands in the way of the main character (protagonist) reaching his/her goals or happiness.
Writer Tip: Always include an antagonist, or at least a barrier preventing the protagonist from getting what he wants, in any work of fiction. This automatically creates conflict, which heightens tension and moves the plot along.
2. B for Book - a published volume which includes a single manuscript, or a collection or anthology of several works. Such work housed within the book can be fictional in nature, fact-based, or even include poetry. There are full-length books in the industry, as well as shorter ones. A published 'book' may be in digital (ebook) or physical format (such as a trade paperback or hardcover). A 'chapbook' is often a shorter book written by one author, with numerous poems or short stories included.
Writer Tip: Whether you decide to get published traditionally or on your own, do your homework on your intended genre and make sure your manuscript is properly edited and formatted in advance.
3. C for Creativity - A type of self-expression for a writer or artist which may result in the form of writing, painting, sketching, or designing a work of art. Creativity is the act of turning new ideas into reality. Some businesses might ask an employee to implement creative problem-solving just to come up with a unique solution to an issue.
Writer Tip: Stretch your creative muscles by trying different mediums. Start writing in a separate fiction genre, go for an essay, or construct a poem instead. Another option would be to paint or draw a scene or element from your story. Some fantasy writers like to expand on the idea of world-building by making a map of that fictional world, a fun detail to include inside the book when it gets published. Create a shadowbox for a room in your house (use a specific theme), or even paint the wall in a new color.
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Any of these creative endeavors can open your mind to new writing ideas.
4. D for Development and Dialogue
Development - You'll usually see this in reference to 'character development' or 'characterization'. A character is a person represented in a fictional tale. The story can be told from this individual's perspective.
Dialogue - The speech patterns and discussions between characters. This is separate from the internal thoughts (monologue) of a main character. Dialogue in a book should be as natural as possible.
Writer Tip: To exhibit realistic dialogue in a story, take some time to recognize the flow of conversations in real life. How do people talk? What gestures or sounds do they make during specific parts of the discussion? How do they emote or express themselves?
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5. E for Empathy - A sense of fellow feeling for another person, or putting yourself in their place. This is a key component for any writer who intends to create a believable character. It's also necessary to add enough emotion which translates on the page so that readers will start to care about what happens to your character. The way you do, right? ;) If you have begun to wonder where you're going wrong, then try to connect better with your character. Learn more and imagine how they'd respond to situations.
I know I've done my job when I'm feeling the emotions that the character is going through. If he or she is sad, tears are probably streaming down my face, too. No, I'm not really crazy. This is just the writer's journey as the story progresses. It's no different than getting choked up while watching a dramatic film. When we write, the story plays out in our heads like a movie. So, why wouldn't we respond to that in kind?
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Writer Tip: Know the plot and main character well enough to express those facets within the story. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Readers will come back for more if you evoke the same emotions in them. Make the story and characters relatable.
6. F for Fiction - Often told in story or novel form, fiction is a creative work, concerning people, places, or events. It is not based in fact, though certain objects, historical figures, and actions which are mentioned can appear real. The key elements of fiction include character, theme, plot, point of view, setting, conflict, and tone. Fiction can be divided into different areas or 'genres'.
Writer Tip: Unfortunately, some parts of reality must off-set an imaginary world. The more of a relatable quality you can add to any story, the more likely a reader will connect with the characters and the events happening therein.
7. G for Genre - This describes the category that a specific book falls under. Some examples are romance, mystery, science fiction, and horror. You've likely been on Amazon and noticed all the sub-genres listed there as well. So, that leaves a lot of room for writers to put their stories.
Rain came down in sheets, a hard battle against each window, while lightning struck nearby. The raging storm outside, though, hardly compared to the one within.
Continue the story on your own from where the last sentence started. At the same time, think about the separate tones you can add to the tale to make it more romantic, mysterious, supernatural or spacey, and even creepier. Write four different versions, one for each genre - romance, mystery, science fiction (feel free to substitute asteroids for rain, as I know it doesn't rain in space), or horror. They don't need to be long stories or even finished, just enough to establish tone. Then, decide which one you like best.
8. H for Hook - A 'hook' is a sentence in the first paragraph of a scene or chapter which compels the audience to keep reading. If this is done well, the pop, so to speak, usually falls in the first sentence. Similarly, a 'closing' positioned at the end of a scene or chapter, should make the reader want to find out more. That means they're in it for the long haul, prepared to continue diving into the reading experience.
Writer Tip: Do your best to avoid losing the audience in the first chapter, but especially in the first paragraph. Draw someone in with a leading sentence that makes them wonder what happens next. If you effectively use the same technique for opening and closing each scene and chapter, you'll have nailed a big part of the author job description. The most challenging portion of landing a good hook, however is doing it for the whole project, in the first sentence of a story or book.
9. I for In the Middle of Things - This is a direct translation for the Latin phrase 'en medias res', a term we use in the industry for stating the best place to start a story - in the midst of some action. Sometimes, as writers, we don't realize the beginning until we've written other leading sections. For example, if your project entails a woman getting fired and how she handles it, breaking out on her own and finding a new career, you wouldn't want to start the story at breakfast time, right? No, you'd begin when she's hauling her butt - perhaps complete with a speeding ticket - to get into the office without being late, just to find out she's been let go. Or, you might start it right at those fatal words.
"Sorry, Julia. We've decided you're no longer a good fit for this company."
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Exactly. Do you see how those punches to the gut can hook a reader into wondering how the character will react? Oh, no, she's been fired. What now?
Writer Tip: Take some time to decide where your story starts. Better to do that now than to be forced to cut out a whole section - one you thought was the beginning of the tale - later on.
10. J for Justice - My own term for the moment when a story's 'climax' and 'resolution' have produced a fitting end. For me, it usually comes when I'm reading a mystery, thriller, or romance novel. Book lovers both dread and relish this moment. They get peace, at long last, for everything in the story finally has reached a positive outcome. However, the story is over and the reader must move on, which is a regrettable conclusion.
Writer Tip: Make sure your own story has a sense of 'justice' by wrapping up all the loose ends in a satisfying way.
11. K for Knowledge (Research) - Your grasp of information which you've gleaned through an educational experience. With writing, the term we use is 'research'. It's a sometimes dreadful yet rewarding challenge. Some newer writers feel that research is a waste of time. Believe me, it isn't. There will undoubtedly be facts you need to learn just to fill in a character's personality or background. For example, we can't all know what it's like to be a firefighter, or how to describe a cottage in Somerset, England. That's what research is for. I promise you this is not a time-waster. Let's face it, your audience is intelligent. They 'know stuff', for lack of a better phrase. For example, historical fiction writers rely heavily on their understanding of past events, and how they can use them as a main backdrop for a story. The characters might be fictional, but the way the people interact with what really happened then offers the audience a sense of how some individuals must've responded to it at the time. Research is key here. Greater authenticity in a book attracts more readers. It's supply and demand, that's all.
Writer Tip: Break your large research tasks down into smaller ones. Look up one fact per day, or spend an hour per week filling in all the details you procrastinated about. Then, stop and continue next week. It might not look like it at first, but these little jaunts of research add up over time. Plus, once you have everything organized, you can just do a quick search for what you wanted to know. So, pull on your big kid pants and get to researching.
12. L for Literary Fiction - This sub-genre still includes all the rules of fiction, while invoking a deeper character study. The focus then moves toward conveying a message about the human condition, and sometimes an overall political or environmental statement. In literary fiction, the character must evolve in some way, perhaps even have an epiphany by the end of the story. A small population of readers tend to get snobby about this genre, calling it 'true literature'. Though some elements of each story may reflect other fiction categories, the intense depth of character portrayed in these books make them 'literary fiction'. Some examples of literary fiction are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, amid countless others. Many of this genre's popular titles have been adapted into film.
Writer Tip: If you're more of a character-driven story writer, literary fiction may well appeal to you. You might find you're more comfortable writing here. Try it out...what can it hurt?
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13. M for Motivation - This is what drives a character to keep going. It's about the thing they want the most in life, and the actions taken to reach their goals. Motivation is a key element to recognize when learning about your main character. It will help that person attempt to circumvent the antagonist, or big obstacle, which is standing in their way. And sometimes, at least internally, the problem could be their own misconceptions about the world or themselves. Motivation can also be subconscious - a deeper dream - something that person has always wanted, even though they might not have thought it was possible. Perhaps they came from a foster care situation and always wanted a real family.
Writer Tip: Identify what motivates your character. What does he or she fully desire? What is the most important thing to them? What are they willing to do to get it? Also, what exactly is the problem in the story? What prevents them from reaching their aspirations? Eventually, it will all be buttoned up by the end of the story. But for now, what is driving your character forward?
14. N for Non-fiction - A written work which is distinguished by the very fact that it is, well, not fictional in any way. Usually, you'll find biographies or even autobiographies, covering real people in the world, whether he or she lives currently, or was instead a historical figure. Either way, that person has existed at some point, and they're the sole topic. Memoirs fall under this category. Creative non-fiction, or 'narrative non-fiction' as the more popular term, is when a writer constructs a story about a real person yet adjusts small details - names, personal traits or appearance, perhaps even smudges some dates - to protect those identities. The events that happen are real, and so are the emotions which stem from them. Yet, creative license allows the writer to embellish on certain facets of the tale, while still diving deep into characterization and finding out how someone ticks. The artist at the helm of a non-fiction work becomes the conduit for a real-life story to be told.
Other types of non-fiction include reference materials on various subjects - informational resources for those who might require them. Such resources can also include travel guides, books on philosophy, self-help or instructional guides of any kind (books on dieting, cookbooks, business success titles, and how-to manuals, among others). Journalism and humorous non-fiction are a part of this overall category as well, at least as long as the commentary relates to current events. Just for fun, I'll list several names of authors featured here on Writing in the Modern Age over the years who published works of non-fiction (some write in multiple genres). Some of those writers are Wayne Neely, Kathryn Elizabeth Jones, S.A. Soule, Cindy Fazzi, Dougie Brimson, Lance and James Morcan, Stefan Vucak, Mark Iles, Jim Anders, Rhonda Cratty, J.L. Smith, Lisa A. Snidernman, and so many more.
Writer Tip: Try your hand at non-fiction. Write an essay or an article for a blog. Keep track of your sources and make sure they're legit. Or, if you're truly passionate about a topic, maybe you'd like to write a non-fiction manuscript and submit it to a publisher.
15. O for Outline - A writer's outline is a little like a book synopsis, which is often submitted in a query to a publisher or literary agent. This is a detailed account of what happens in a story. Sometimes, brainstorming is used to create an outline. The outline helps to fill in some of the blank spaces for writers who are struggling to finish a book. At least, having an idea of the events that occur next gives them a sense of what to focus on during the project. Let's say that you, as the writer, have a general notion of what the book is about. But, how do you get there? Writing is rarely a linear journey. However, making an outline can benefit you, sometimes exponentially. Perhaps you know what the character wants in life, and have a basic idea of what he should do to get there. Yet, it isn't your life. This is the character's. His background, environment, and any assumptions he's made about the process will come into play. You must take all of these details into account. Look at the path like a roller coaster ride. There will be ups, downs, then twists and turns to reach the end. So, now knowing all that, what can we glean from it to make an outline?
Writer Tip: Start at the beginning, and think of possible scenarios which could happen. What might get in the way of your character's goal or goals? Obviously, you shouldn't overload the path with tragedy or anything. But, throwing in a few obstacles can't hurt. It heightens tension, and may eventually make your character more determined to get there. Try a brainstorming session to get some ideas flowing.
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Once the true course seems evident to you, write a detailed outline.
Actually, for a book project, the outline might even be longer than a polished synopsis which you'd send to a publisher. Just remember that your outline will provide a clearer route for the character's end game, and this will also make it easier to write the story. Some writers are pantsters and not knowing what happens next actually works for them - they see it as inspiring. Personally, I find it more reassuring to have an outline. That way, I can organize my approach. Cutting through the chaos makes me more productive. The choice, however, is yours.
16. P for Premise, POV, and Plot
Premise - The premise of a story is your personal pitch. It's basically the main idea for the book, often told in a few sentences. This is so foundational, as you can't move forward without it. Even pantsters need this general sense of the story to write.
Writer Tip: Let's say you have a thread of an idea, but you're not sure about it. Try this. Write five different yet basic story ideas, a sentence or two long for each one. Remember, you won't know all the details just yet. Pick the idea that calls to you most, the option that causes you to feel excited to dive in. Congratulations! You're ready to get to work.
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Point-of-View (POV) - Think of this term as a camera spanning the room. The angle portrays the character's perspective. I see third person POV (he/she) a lot in romance novels, though now and then, an author will surprise me. Romantic comedies are usually told in first person (I). Urban fantasy writers pick that approach quite often as well, perhaps to immerse the reader in a deeper perspective, which is sometimes more conducive to action-heavy tales. The point-of-view you select for a story is a personal choice, though.
Use one type of POV per story. For example, third person narrative versus first person POV. You can use both, but I wouldn't advise it. It gets too confusing, mainly for the writer. I tried it once with a mystery which I wrote (the victim in one scene, and then from the killer's perspective). It's better to choose one per book. If you're not sure which to go with, try writing a scene from both perspectives and pick the one that feels more comfortable. If you become familiar with it, the reader will sense that as well and feel connected with the story.
Writer Tip: Please avoid head-hopping. Stick with one POV per scene. If it's necessary to switch to another character's perspective, do a scene break and then change over.
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Do not jump from one character to another, and then to the next one, over and over again in the same space. You will make your reader dizzy, certainly confused, and they'll be tempted to throw the book across the room. Believe me, I've proofread nightmare stories from fellow writers. And they weren't intended for the horror genre. So, just to be safe, use the perspective of one character per scene instead of hopping around. Other characters may interact with that person, but we won't know what they're thinking.
Plot - This is the sequence of events which comprises a story. Plot includes the beginning, middle, and end. Whereas the premise is the book concept, the plot is the storyline which comes alive on the page - it's everything that happens to the characters. Plot can be told, written, sung, or come out through film. There is no good novel without a great plot, and 'action' is what drives it forward.
Writer Tip: Take the idea you just came up with and start thinking about a main character, as well as some events that could happen. Remember motivation and how certain obstacles can stand in the way of a character's goals. See what kind of plot you can create.
17. Q for Query - An inquiry from a writer, usually in the form of a letter, which is sent to a prospective literary agent or publisher. This person is addressing the agent/publisher about possibly submitting their manuscript. Included in a query is often a brief synopsis and an overview of the writer's professional experience. Guidelines for each company vary; some want to read a few paragraphs or pages from the first chapter in advance. If the agent or editor-in-chief at the publisher is interested in learning more, they may ask for a larger sample of the book to read, or even request the full manuscript. At some point, they will get back to the writer with their response. Most will say six weeks is a good waiting period, but it can last much longer.
Writer Tip: Always check the guidelines for each agency or publisher you're querying. They all have different rules. And don't be discouraged if you don't hear back from them right away. People get busy. Just turn to other tasks to get your mind off the anxiety of waiting, or you can keep querying with other agencies. Remember, rejections are par for the course. A form letter is typical. If you receive any detailed feedback, consider the suggestions. The decision to change anything is up to you, though. Don't let someone else's words deter you from your goals. Keep trying and keep writing.
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18. R for Reader - A reader is someone who peruses and absorbs books, and he or she is often a bibliophile (book lover or collector). This is your eventual audience. A good critique partner will look at your story from the perspective of a writer, editor, and reader.
Setting - This is the character's environment. It's where the story is set, whether that is a city we know, or one we've never heard about. Finer details - by using description - help to paint a clearer picture. It can be the main character's house, their workplace, or some other area where they visit.
Writer Tip: Try to describe a place you know or a location where you'd like to travel. Use your memory to fill in the details. Or, do some research online. Implement the tools we have at hand, such as the street view on Google Maps or through studying pictures you find online (or at a historical society), to make the setting come alive.
Sensory Detail - A more specific way of describing a person, place, or a thing. What color? What type of fabric? What brand name? It's not just a tree; tell us what kind. Writing experts will advise you to use the six senses. Try the main five first (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing). We don't need to go as far as to say that the final sense is supernatural or anything. Let's just state that the sixth sense is intuition. As humans, we all get certain vibes about a person or a place. That's what we try to tap into as authors when writing a story. Short of coming off as an omniscient narrator, you can work in somehow that the character 'senses' something is wrong, or even life-changing. You can be less vague than that, but you get what I mean.
20. T for Tension - An element in writing which is used to introduce a sort of low-level anxiety in a reader, along with the wish to find out what happens next. However, tension can be increased, depending on suspenseful or dramatic moments in the story. Tension is there to evoke emotion in the audience. You've probably noticed it with movies. In romance writing, a tense moment denoting an unspoken chemistry is often utilized. Even if the characters don't act on it, there are internal and external cues that make it obvious. Tension is used in mystery stories as well, sometimes to create a sense of dread. As aforementioned, we continue to experience tension when a character who has a goal gets thwarted by obstacles here or there. It is a simple way to add tension over time. Obviously, you can add more tension, if there is danger or by creating an immediacy to each scenario.
Here's a real-life situation we can all identify with: You need to buy groceries, but your weekly check got delayed. Do you ask a relative for a loan to tide you over, or try something else? Then...oh, great. The washer broke, so you are forced to go to the laundromat to get your laundry done.
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Well, that just made a bad day even worse. So, what actions can you take to resolve these issues?
That was rhetorical, but I think you understand the immediacy of the problem.
Writer Tip: Create ways to heighten tension for your character, or add a sense of dread for the audience. Perhaps the character is spying on someone because he needs to know the truth, but is afraid he will get caught. Write about the physical sensations he might experience. Also, what is he thinking?
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All of this will add tension for readers and they'll feel more invested in your character. Infuse a sense of urgency, so that the reader is squirming to learn what happens next.
21. U for Unreliable Narrator (or Reliable Narrator, diversely) - Reliability, or the lack thereof, is a way of measuring and declaring the quality of a story or its characters. Common sense can't hurt, either, at least with regards to a writer using it to make connections about how an individual will react to a specific situation.
Writer Tip: Write about a character who is believable, more like a real person, with flaws, strengths, and internal conflicts, rather than a typical archetype you might often see in a certain genre or in a movie.
For myself, I never base my characters on anyone in particular. I just offer the necessary information and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest. They probably all see the characters in different ways, at least until they get a look at the book cover, right? ;)
22. V for Voice - This is a fancy term for discussing a writer's individual approach to storytelling. It's basically their style. Every writer has a voice, and it eventually shows up in a manuscript. Most editors are smart enough to avoid messing with voice. There's also 'passive voice' versus 'active voice' when it comes to grammar. It's a separate thing entirely, and that has more to do with word choice and rephrasing.
Writer Tip: If you're worried that you haven't quite found your unique writing voice yet, don't be. You'll come into it naturally over time, especially with increased writing practice.
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23. W for Writer - Someone who naturally gravitates to the art of writing novels, stories, poems, essays, or is even a blogger at heart. Other people prefer journaling. No matter the medium, a writer is a unique blend of crazy, creative, ambitious, and numerous other qualities that it takes to pursue his or her goals.
Writer Tip: Never lose the joy of writing. Always remember where you started and why it feels so perfect to let the muse take over, how much freedom you feel when you're in the writing zone.
24. X for X-ray - An extra pair of eyes couldn't hurt, at least to help out with proofreading your manuscript. ;)
Writer Tip: If you're looking for a proofreader or editor, don't ask a family member to read your book. Unless your cousin is a whiz kid at grammar, that's different. But this is a very tender stage for a writer, and you can either expect people to tell you what you want to hear, or the worst criticism you've ever encountered. You don't want that from your nearest and dearest. It's best to select an impartial party, someone who doesn't know you completely, and can separate their feelings from the bigger picture.
25. Y for YOU - There is only one 'you', and you're the one directing your story.
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Writer Tip: Without you, the tale goes nowhere. Your vision will keep the plot going, and the characters will eventually find a home with your readers. You know your story best. The creative train doesn't shift without you, as the writer, who puts in all the work to keep this engine moving.
26. Z for Zest - A little pizazz or unique flair.
Writer Tip: Throw in some zest. Use your own blend of spices. Write on a topic or create a story that moves you. Go for what you feel passionate about.
There are so many more terms and phrases which we use in the industry. This was just a sampling, my take on what is significant at the moment, as well as some related writing tips. I hope it all helped! ;)
Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.
Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love, and 18 other books. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years, with more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 21 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, romantic comedy, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. An avid blogger on the side, she writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She also contributed to several anthologies. Though Marie has standalone titles on the market, her current published series are The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series, The Misfits Series, The Blood at First Sight Series, and The Heiresses in Love Series. but she has many others planned. Her Victorian maritime romance sequels are returning, and the second editions of the trilogy will be released soon under her new publisher, Foundations Books. Discover more about her and her work at the following links. List of Links: https://linktr.ee/marielavender1
Check out our latest Writing in the Modern Age book spotlighthere.
7 Ways to Recover Your Writing Motivation:
an admin article by Marie Lavender
There are times when life just gets in the way. At the least, the chaos of it can interfere with a writer's creativity. Getting caught in the daily grind will sap a writer of his or her energy over time, eventually leading to that dreaded situation we call 'writer's block'.
Big life events can sometimes block your creative juices. Whether the dilemma comes from grief from losing a family member, significant depression, or just a general malaise after being too busy, all of these might contribute to an artist feeling like there's just no point to writing. Or, that they can no longer get things going on their own. One would consider the Covid crisis a serious motivator, but for some of us...that just didn't happen.
Yet, it is not a weakness to ask for help, at any time. There are numerous resources that can refuel your creativity, to try to get you back on the right path.
No matter which genre you usually love to write, if you're desperate to regain that motivation you used to have, some options are within reach. I will list several below.
1. Take a Break.
Jonnelle Yankovich, Unsplash.
If you're stuck on a certain scene or chapter of your work in progress, perhaps it's best to get some much needed distance and gain a little perspective. Go for a nature walk. The solution will come to you in time.
Another option would be to switch projects, even focus on another story for a while just so that you're not wracking your brain with limited results.
2. Do Writing Exercises.
If you've taken any writing workshops or classes (even if you're a self-taught writer), you are probably familiar with this approach. And at this point, it might even seem a bit sophomoric. But I would urge you to go always go back to the basics if you're struggling with writer's block. It's not that you've forgotten how writing works. That's just not possible. No, it's more important to keep an open mind, to consider different ways of thinking if you intend to regain your writing motivation.
By using an option such a writing prompt, you're retraining your fingers to write based on an idea which is given to you rather than going after a project you came up with in the first place. You're actually letting those creative juices flow instead of getting all bogged down in the notion that there is an end goal to it, such as publication. In all likelihood, most writing exercises are for your benefit alone. Maybe now and then, you'll find a snippet you can use for a future project. But this is more to practice writing, to get your head out of the game. Stop thinking and start writing. See where it takes you. You might be surprised at what comes out of a writing prompt. Or maybe you would like to take a writing class. In any case, I hope you find the joy for writing again. So I would suggest that any writer have a journal on hand, even if all you do is write down the random things that you think about.
There are other types of writing exercises as well - brainstorming, freewriting, and the list just goes on. Do various approaches, and stay open to trying different mediums or genres. If you usually write fiction, write an essay one day. Or write a poem. Doing something so out of the ordinary may make you uncomfortable, but keep in mind that other people likely won't see it, so you don't need to feel exposed. The point here is that you're trying something new, which opens your mind further and helps you regain your writing motivation.
I know this sounds rather ambitious, especially when you're suffering from writer's block. But it does help to schedule a slot which is dedicated to your writing. Even if all you do is freewrite a bunch of nonsense or only focus on the research portion of your project, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment by checking this one off your weekly list.
Try to schedule in at least some writing time. Experiment to determine which time of the day best fits your life, and especially your creativity. Perhaps you feel more of a spark in the evening. Or maybe it comes in the morning after your first cup of coffee. Some of you have probably done this before. Assume nothing. It is okay if your preferred time has changed after so many years. Whichever works for you, go for it.
Can't do it twice a week? No problem. Try for once per week, at a twenty-minute sprint. Don't push yourself too much if you're not ready yet.
Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.
4. Break It Down and Battle Your Fear.
Pare your project down into much smaller, more manageable tasks. This works for other parts of your life as well. Sometimes looking at the bigger picture can overwhelm you, which hinders rather than helps.
If I'm in the writing zone, the last thing I want to do is to look up all the finer details of a character's career or life. Instead, I jot down a few notes in parentheses. That way, I know to go back later and do some research. Unless those little facets which you need to fill in motivate you to write more (some historical photographs can be motivating for a historical writer, for instance), make a note to look it up at a future time, perhaps after the bulk of your writing is done. The muse will thank you, I promise.
But let's focus on the smaller tasks. How can we avoid letting fear paralyze us into a standstill? That's right. Some of writer's block is caused by fear of the unknown, or fear that we're not good enough. We must stop thinking of that project in terms of 'I need to finish my novel', but more along the lines of announcing these small, manageable details aloud. "Today, I will get one paragraph done on that scene I've been putting off." We also have to stop trying to be perfect. Don't edit right now, just write.
Wow...did you give yourself permission to write a paragraph? How about just a sentence? Whatever is possible for you that day, try it. If you're motivated to keep going, then write until you feel the taut string has broken. A spurt of creativity can be exhausting. It's time to rest and start all over again the next day. Or even next week. The key is to avoid placing so much pressure on yourself that you can't function. Ballooning too many goals as a writer can cause it to happen.
I tend to make lists, just to remind myself of what needs to be done. And once I've marked off two or three, I realize that I'm actually making more progress than I realized.
Goxy Photography, Unsplash.
Try to celebrate each of those smaller tasks that you accomplish. Reward yourself if you can. Maybe by getting that paragraph - or even three - written, you have allowed yourself more time to go read a book for fun. And enjoying the simple pleasures in life will contribute to regaining your motivation in general.
5. Use Your Powers of Observation.
People-watching can be an inspiring pastime, and you don't have to be a stalker in the process. Covertly observing others, perhaps when you're at a coffee shop or shopping in a mall or grocery store, can offer numerous rewards. You will learn about how people actually talk and behave. Therefore, you can add these fascinating details to your story. Casually listen in on conversations - without being creepy, of course. Just observe the way people act, their gestures, and especially any emotions. Maybe they become more elated while talking about something which excites them. Or they raise their voice when they're angry. Little details such as these can inform your manuscript, and it can't hurt to make a note of them.
Try a writing exercise...
Take a conversation you heard or at least that person's behavior, and write a small scene about it. To avoid any awkwardness, you should probably pick something you noticed about a stranger. Describe everything in full detail. See where it takes you next.
6. Don't Be So Stubborn.
Try not to assume you know everything about the latest project you're obsessed with. Maybe what blocked you in the first place is a major plot hole, or you just don't know enough about your main characters to see beyond the spot where you stopped writing. Do some brainstorming to see where else the story can go from here. List possible scenarios. Listen to your characters, see what they're telling you. I find that helps immensely. Maybe the main character is trying to pull you in a specific direction. I am often not fully in control of the whole story, and I know to keep an open mind.
In any case, I often found that most of my bouts of writer's block had more to do with getting in my own way. And that can be debilitating. It's especially tough when your stubbornness has more to do with those little insecurities we don't like to think about.
"I can't write because I don't know what I'm doing."
Who does? We all start from scratch with writing, and learn along the way.
"I can't write because this genre is too new to me, and readers will notice that."
So? Don't think about the end product right now. Just get the story out. If you really feel blocked, do some research about the genre to give yourself a little background, then try all over again.
"I can't write because I don't have the time."
Make the time, even if it's five minutes out of your all-too-busy schedule.
The truth is that you're making excuses, and letting the dumb devil on your shoulder do all the talking. Get out of your own way, and jump into the story. Let your fingers write with your favorite pen, or just type without any pressure. Don't even think about where it's all supposed to go. Focus on the task at hand. Eventually, you'll get to the next page, and then the next, and so on and so forth.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Keep practicing with writing prompts or other techniques (or use the story ideas you currently have) off and on until it becomes old hat, until those random ideas for scenes or books start popping back into your head again. Don't focus on just one yet, at least until you're ready to go full force into it. And you'll know when it's time to return to your manuscript, unless you already have. The trick here is to try to recover your passion for writing again.
If you're still at a loss, I'll throw out another writing prompt here.
You discover your new neighbor is actually from another planet. How did you find out, and what will you do next? Use first person or third person point-of-view. Feel free to write a story, an essay, a poem, or whatever medium you like to answer this prompt. Add the piece to your journal. Wait a week, then go back and reread it to see if you notice anything worth saving for a story idea.
Hope that helps! :)
Feeling stuck? Consider the aforementioned solutions to bring back your writing mojo.
Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love, and 18 other books. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 21 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, romantic comedy, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. An avid blogger on the side, she writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She also contributed to several anthologies. Though Marie has standalone titles on the market, her current published series are The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series, The Misfits Series, The Blood at First Sight Series, and The Heiresses in Love Series. but she has many others planned. Her Victorian maritime romance sequels are returning, and the second editions of the trilogy will be released soon under her new publisher, Foundations Books. Discover more about her and her work at the following links.
Six Methods to Find Your Own Unique Writing Style:
a guest post by Joel Foster
Writing does not come easy to many people, and it can be hard to write down thoughts on paper. As prolific writer Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
For extra inspiration, we highly recommend any writer reads On Writing by Stephen King. Many of his films can also bewatched onlineto get a collective taste of his style of plot writing.
Where to start is always the biggest hurdle writers face. As you begin, set the intention to write in your own voice as if you are speaking to someone instead of writing.
In this article, we’ve put together some methods that will help anyone find their unique writing style.
Write about What You Know
The best way to finesse your own unique way of writing is to write about something you know well. It can be about a hobby, work, friends, or anything you are knowledgeable about.
Write about subjects that you know best. You won't have to research the topic, and the words will flow from your mind to the paper. This way of writing ensures that your voice will be the only one in the article.
You can use this as practice until you find your own writing style. Just like we all don’t speak the same way, we don’t all have the same voice when we write. When writing about a hobby, pick a very specific part of that hobby and write about it in detail.
Writing about experiences is another excellent way to practice writing and finding a unique writing style. Pick any experience from your life and write about it. It can be a non-fictional account of something you experienced with all of the details.
It can also be turned into a creative fictional story. Just by picking an experience from your past, you can embellish the story, add characters and write what you feel. When it comes to writing, imagination can be a powerful tool.
Many successful fiction writers take parts of their life experiences to use in their creative writing. Use people that you have known and use them in your stories. For example, J.K. Rowling based Professor Snape after a chemistry teacher she had in school years before she wrote the Harry Potter series.
Everyone sees a scene or a picture differently. Write about a scene outside the window, or find an image and describe it in your own words. Describing a scene or picture helps you find your own unique way of writing.
A picture might evoke different memories or emotions in each person. When a writer describes a picture or scene, that person's emotions and memories will be a part of the description. Make it as descriptive as possible. The better the description, the more a unique writing style will emerge.
Talk in Your Writing
Writing should be just like talking to someone. Just because it is a written work doesn’t mean the tone of vocabulary has to be changed. When you write about your experiences or describing something, write about it as if you were explaining it to someone sitting across the table from you.
Write as if you were talking to a friend. You wouldn’t talk down to them, be dull or feel you have to use complex vocabulary for the sake of it. The narrative would be descriptive. Most people don’t talk to a friend or a group of people using big words that have to be looked up in a dictionary. And writing should be the same way.
Freewriting is sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind. It can be fiction or nonfiction. The point of this exercise is to sit down and write. Most writers like to set a time limit, but other writers write until they finish their thoughts. Those that use a timer use freewriting as a warm-up, before more focused writing. Freewriting can be done every day. A great resource is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which encourages a practice called Morning Pages where you freewrite in the morning as a way to unlock creativity.
Writers use this freewriting technique to come up with new inspirations and ideas. What you write can be as crazy as you like. It’s amazing how many new ideas can come out of this exercise! Freewriting is usually fast since there is no pre-planned topic to write about, just what comes to mind.
Freewriting is also an excellent way to overcome writer’s block. There is no need to worry about grammar or spelling. When finished, look over what was written. There could be nuggets of gold in there! Or, you might find you like the way you've used certain words in sentences. Using free writing will help writers find their own unique style of writing.
Read Out Loud
Reading your work out loud is much better than just seeing the words on paper. You will hear your style of writing and how you formed the sentences and the words you use. When you hear something you don’t like, change it until you do.
By hearing your words, you will learn to recognize what sounds good and what doesn’t. Experiment with different sentences, phrases and words. This is how to develop a unique writing style. Read books to see how other writers have developed their own particular style of writing. Some of the best writers are also avid book readers.
Guest Blogger Bio
Joel is a freelance writer who writes about entertainment, novels, technology, business and film.
Check out our latest Writing in the Modern Age blog articlehere.
For our 280th post on the blog, I thought I’d talk a little about ‘reflections’.Just as a mirror reflects your image, the transition into 2016 offers us an opportunity for reflection.
As a whole new year approaches, we often have a moment or two to reflect on what happened throughout the past year. For some it may have been all good; others probably think it was the worst, and are looking forward to changes. But, I think for most of us, we can look back on the end of the year as a culmination of both good and bad events. Maybe you had to switch jobs, and the adjustment has been difficult, to say the least. However, there are positive aspects to that kind of life change as well. The future is uncertain, for sure, for anyone really these days, but it holds more promise than you realize. Maybe that job is the right fit. You just don’t know it yet. It’s all about perspective. As you look back on the past year and make your resolutions, try not to think of whether the glass is half full or even partially empty. Instead, remember the good moments and try to balance them with the bad. I bet you can recall some moments there where you were happy. Well, what were you doing that day? And who were you with? Store those memories to be cherished now and in the future. And the bad things that happened? They’re over now, and you can look on the new year as a fresh slate.
2016 will be a fresh slate for Writing in the Modern Age as well, and opportunities abound! Who knows? Perhaps the blog will go in directions I never imagined. That has been the path thus far, uncertain yet filled with enormous potential. Since its guest author launch in 2013, Writing in the Modern Age (#WritModAge) has housed hundreds of different writers and the blog is constantly expanding. From guest articles to author interviews, character interviews, poetry spotlights, reposted book reviews, special events all the way to the upcoming ‘Author’s Bookshelf’ feature, Writing in the Modern Age has certainly taken on a life of its own! And I can’t thank our guest authors and readers enough for not only visiting the site, but inspiring me to push forward, to try new things and make it the best I possibly can. Whether authors came to the site for an interview, to talk about a new book, or simply to offer advice to fellow writers, their efforts are much appreciated! Writing in the Modern Age was a project that began as a haven for writers of any stage to visit for writing tips, and it has also evolved well beyond that to a great place for readers, and lovers of any book genre, to find a new favorite author and to figure out what makes a writer tick. Also, since its inception, the blog has earned two awards! Yay! :)
I can’t thank all of you enough, whether you contributed to the blog as an author or writer, or simply a reader who came across the site via social media. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making Writing in the Modern Age a lovely place writers can call home, and a site readers love to come back to time and time again! To further express my gratitude, let’s give a round of applause for all of your hard work this year!
Below I am including information about all the authors who were featured in 2015, either in an interview, article, book giveaway or other event. Each author or writer will be listed with a link to the most relevant website to find out more info about their books or writing. You will also see all the authors’ latest books, as well as their general location in the world. For what reader isn’t curious about where his or her favorite author hails from? And if the writer hasn’t yet published a book, an upcoming cover or simply an author picture will be included. Oh! You can also click on the book covers for a relevant purchase page.
Readers, enjoy the list and check out these great contributing Writing in the Modern Age authors!