10 Non-Writing Suggestions for Writers

# 10 ALWAYS carry and use recording devices

Fine Lines LogoPaper and pen are the most obvious and low-tech tools to collect random thoughts. Many cellphones have a built in voice recorder; some have “note” capturing capability. (See your owner’s manual. Find it online if you don’t have the hardcopy booklet, or go to your cell carrier’s store and give the poor trainee check-in person the thing they crave the most; a chance to show how techy superior they are to us mere mortal users). You can also text or email yourself. There are many “apps” that can be found to record and organize your thoughts and your time, which is also important for you to schedule writing sessions.

I’m jealous of writers who carry a beautiful journal and nice pen. My thoughts are often recorded on receipts, coupons and napkins. The jottings are thrown into a container that is sifted through, occasionally. Eventually some of the legible concepts are transferred to my computer and cellphone, where they buzz around like mosquitos at a screen door. This blog originated as scribbles of words that stuck fast, before they could be slapped away by the flyswatter that clears my mind quickly for the next unattached swarm of thoughts that riddle my over active brain. # 3, 4 & 5 were written on an empty junk mail envelope. # 1, 6, & 9 were fitted on to a small corner left on a yellow legal pad. Some of it was lost on a fast food napkin. If it’s found and the original ideas were better than the culmination here, I’ll do an update to this blog entry.

My perpetual disorganization is so frustrating. I hope that you are not plagued with this horrible affliction and that you have a beautiful journal and fancy pen that never leaks and always marks on any surface!

 # 9 Read, Read, Read

Reading is to a writer the daily jog of a marathon runner. You must be in shape, inspired, and practice a lot to have the endurance required to complete the race, a book, a poem, etc.

Reading makes me want to write. Reading anything stimulates the brain and provides information that can make your writing more complete. Reading best sellers can help with “market research.” Plus if you love to write, you probably already love to read, the trick is finding the balance between the two.

 # 8 Invest in a formal education

Take writing classes, find a writing group, or come to Fine Lines Summer Camp. Invest time, if not money, because you need to never stop learning to develop your craft.         Informally planning time to write is good but a degree or certificate from a learning institution can add credibility as well. It tends to build grammar skills and enhances your vocabulary, thus making your work more interesting and pleasant to read.

 # 7 Create

Writers are artists. Our form of expression is in the written word but we should not limit ourselves to one medium. Paint, sculpt, do photography, dance, sing… You may find that releasing your creativity in a variety of ways clears your mind. Then the next time you sit to write you will be ready to fill your empty canvas with fresh words.

 

# 6 Absorb the works of other types of artistscellist

Dancers say it with movement and music. Sculptors use their hands and tools to express themselves. Painters and photographers convey messages with colors and textures. Each of them speaks as clearly as a writer, but more importantly can speak directly to a writer and inspire continuation of the original conversation.

 

# 5 Listen

Children have the best ideas. They tend to lack the filter that disregards silly thoughts. Silly thoughts can turn into brilliant works. Old people are full of it! Seriously, they are filled with knowledge, experience, real perspective that can only be gained over time.

Eavesdrop on strangers; even ask them for clarification if you hear something that needs some backstory. People tend to enjoy talking about themselves, especially if you tell them you area writer.

That’s what friends are for; they encourage us when we feel the words aren’t flowing. They will often remind us of our wins in the past and usually have a good stuff to share too. Interact and take note while you are with family. Many comedies have been developed by this practice. Interact with animals. My bunnies have the cutest tails, their so soft and fluffy – they make me laugh, sometimes they make me cry. Most parent parents will light up when given a chance to tell stories of their critters. Listen, be inspired, then share.

# 4 Talk to yourself

Really. It’s okay. And you should even answer. We must process our thoughts to have a beginning, middle and an end to a story. Some people process best by talking it out. If no one else is there to converse with, you must not let that hinder your creating. Remember we are artists, we are allowed to be eccentric.

 Balloon # 3 Watch for inspiration – It’s everywhere

Do not dismiss mundane events. Other people identify with the observations of everyday. They will relate to your works better if they can relate to your experiences.

Comedians always encounter people who tell them to “say something funny.” As a writer, I am often told, “You should write about that.” “That” being some little thing that inspired me to share it as a verbal topic of conversation. A few recent topic suggestions: a children’s series about my bunnies, stories about my job as a master poop scooper, and the funny things the dogs do while I try to figure out who left the pile, because we have to keep track of the number 1s and 2s, sometimes 3 (the hardest to detect), experience of mothering while trying to let our college freshman be a grown up (So scary, I had to call my parents), shopping – the adventure of the hunt, squirrels…

# 2 Share your work – celebrate your wins

Insecurity holds us back. Sharing will build your confidence. It also toughens the skin. A carpenter’s hands will hurt until they develop calluses, likewise a writer’s ego can easily bruise until a few tough but fair critics have shown you how to make your work better.

Celebrate your wins with the critics that were encouraging while correcting. They deserve kudos.

# 1 Go to camp!

What do you want to be when you grow up? The only definitive answer to that question is, “I never want to grow up.” Kids can dream, they can join gangs, they can go to summer camp and they don’t have to worry about the consequences. They can just be…It still makes me feel giddy to call myself a “writer.” It’s what I want to be but I only really feel like a writer when I’m hanging with my gang of pencil wielding writers. Attending regular meetings with a positive/encouraging writer’s/editing group is the best non-writing habit every writer should practice.

Fine Lines Summer Writing Camp is the bonus. It’s a great place to find and form your gang.

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[author] [author_info]Guest Post by Rhonda Buckhold. Rhonda is currently working on a novel, Booted, about workplace bullying in the military. Instead of sleeping she writes about life experiences, of being a military family, marriage, motherhood, dealing with adult ADHD, growing up poor in Western Nebraska, and even her pet rabbits. She has a degree in Interpersonal Communication from Creighton University. As the future unfolds, she plans to continue staying up at night working on a website and blog, “survivorspouse” for teaching and sharing better communication and relationship skills for the challenges of life; failure is not an option![/author_info] [/author]

 

5 Tips Your Written Work is “Done”

Today’s Guest Blogger: Abigail Hills

Am I done?

the endA lot of us writers are perfectionists. We want to make sure every single letter; every comma is flawless. When do you know you’re done working on a piece? When do you distinguish the time to put down the pen, or stop clicking away at that keyboard? “I’m finished.” Are you able to say that?

Many writers are not. One published novelist told me she only knows she’s done when her editor tells her she has written enough. Most writers believe they are never done. Even after something is published, a lot of writers still feel their work is unfinished, and that’s okay! Here are some helpful tips from me, another writer, to get you to a place where you can say “I’m done.”

 

  1. When you’re sick of working on a particular piece, you’re done. You started out with something you really loved, but now you dread going back and editing. That piece has reached its finale. Send it to someone else to edit. You’re done.
  2. Remember that you may never feel your piece is “done.” You might always think you could have done better. We all feel that way sometimes. That doesn’t mean you aren’t finished.
  3. As you mature as a writer, your tastes will also change. Spending too much time on one piece can often do you more harm than good. You could spend the rest of your life on one single piece of writing, and never feel it’s finished. This is sometimes called the “Black Hole of Revision.” If it’s been a long period of time, too long for the amount of pages you have, you’re done.
  4.  Ask yourself these four questions: Did I complete all the necessary story points? Have I taken out parts of the writing that I simply don’t like? Does everything make sense? Are my characters believable? If the answer is yes to all four of these questions, it’s likely you are done.
  5. Ask a friend. Ask someone whose opinion you trust to read your work. If they have some major things you need to change, you have work to do. If they only have small comments, it’s time to submit!

 

Remember, you don’t have to be 100% confident in your piece to submit it to an editor. Sometimes the pieces writers are the least sure about are the first ones to get published. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revise. Revision can be your best friend! However, at some point, enough is enough. Carry on writers… but not for too long.

How do you decide you’re work is done?

 

Bio: Abigail Hills is a published writer and editor for Fine Lines. She is getting her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is also a public speaker and advocate for those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Follow her at @AbigailHills on Twitter.

 

The Rabbit Hole of Naming Characters

*Today’s guest post is by author Chris Mandeville

How Do You Name Your Characters?

Some writers don’t worry much about naming.  They slap a label on a character and run with it.  Other writers dive down the rabbit hole and put excessive amounts of research, thought, planning and creativity into naming.  I’m in the latter camp, so thought I’d share with you some of the things I consider before attaching a moniker to a new character.  I don’t recommend you join me down in the rabbit warren—especially not during NaNo—because it’s far too easy to lose all sense of time and purpose while exploring the wonderland of names.  Instead I offer you a few categories, resources, and suggestions to help you quickly choose the names you need and get on with the business of the story.

WARNING:  once you go down the Rabbit Hole of Naming, it can be hard to climb back out.  For safe exploring, always attach a lifeline — a kitchen timer or a trusted friend to rescue you at an appointed time should do the trick.

CONNOTATIONS

As far as I’m concerned, the primary consideration when selecting a name is the connotations that come with it.  Unfortunately connotations are for the most part an individual thing.  Take the name Charlie, for example.  If that’s the name of your favorite grandpa, your best friend, or the family dog, you will have a much different feeling about that name than if Charlie was the bully who beat you up in the third grade.

So how do you get a handle on connotations if it’s such a personal thing?

Donald Trump

Try to weed out the truly personal associations and look at the more general, cultural connotations.  Take “Trump” for instance.  Because of “The Donald,” most American adults immediately think things like tycoon, businessman, wealthy, powerful, mogul.  The cultural connotations of Donald Trump are bolstered by the definition of the word trump:  a card of a suit that outranks the other suits; to excel, surpass, outdo.  Note that I didn’t put a “good” or “bad” value on it because not everyone likes Donald Trump.  The good/bad connotation will differ from person to person (along with various other associations, like crazy hair), but the impressions relating to Trump being a business tycoon are fairly consistent.

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What Do You Write?

As a writer, the subject of writing tends to find its way into introductory conversations. Even if not your full time profession, even if you consider writing a hobby, or an uneconomical passion, you are still a writer and when the subject comes up, as it often does, the inevitable question that follows is: “What do you write?”

Uh, oh. If you’re like me, suddenly every genre I’ve touched on dances around in my head waiting to be mentioned, my current projects and old projects clamor for status and then, worst of all, suddenly nothing feels worthy to mention. The impulses to justify and yet downplay my passion begin duking it out while the innocent inquisitor stares politely at me waiting for an answer.

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Market-Write Tip –

When asked, “What do you write?” Have your answer ready.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term elevator speech. This is the idea that a short 3 minute “pitch” is ready and prepared for any occasion, but especially for the opportunity to sell to a new prospect. In publishing there is also the logline. A logline is a one or two sentence summary of your written work primarily used to sell to an agent or publisher. Both of these examples are important for when you’re selling your work.

 

Today we’re not talking about selling, we’re talking about answering a question in a conversation. Why is this important if you’re not selling? Because, as writers, we should always be connecting: connecting to readers, connecting to writers and connecting to community. This question is the most commonly asked and the best starting point for making connections.

 

Also, it’s a hard question to answer. That is why the answer is important to think about ahead of time and even practice. To make it easier, put your answer into 3 short parts.

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Five Tips to Jump Start Your Writing

Today’s tips come from UNO student and Fine Lines special editor and intern, David Waller

Sometimes

Sometimes life throws you incredible opportunities as a writer: calls for submissions to literary journals, writing contests, or the discovery of new magazines featuring material you love. You see these golden chances and think, “Yeah, I could write something for that.” You get out your pencil and notebook, word processor, or whatever medium you use to capture the visions the muses have granted you, only to discover one small problem.

keyboard workThere are no visions. You stare at a blank page and realize that you have nothing. There are few things worse to authors than writer’s block. No matter how desperate you are to get something out, ideas will not come. You cannot force yourself to be creative; you have to coax your brain and stoke some mental fires if you want to get anywhere. But how? Well, first of all, counterintuitive as it may seem, you are going to want to step away from your writing for just a little bit. If you keep thinking about it, you are just going to wind up grinding your gears. Once you have put some space between yourself and your work, here are some strategies to help the creative process along:

                #1 Pay Attention to Your Conversations.

Be an active listener in what you say when you talk to your friends, family, co-workers, etc. What stories are you telling them? What topics do you bring up? What words do you use? Chances are, if you are willingly offering the topic for discussion, it is something that comes to you naturally, something you enjoy telling people about. Your brain has already shifted out of park, so take the wheel, drive, and see where it takes you.

                #2 Look into Other Cultures.

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Writing Advice from an Avid Football Fan

 
Today’s writing advice comes to us from
Fine Lines friend Jennifer Lovett Herbranson a loyal ‘Bama Fan.

Born into the Lessons

I was raised down South by a strong Southern woman who felt every challenge was an opportunity for character growth, and she lived by the mantra, “Hardwork gets you what you want.” In Alabama, football is like a religion and coaches are like gods. University of Alabama legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant is one of them. My father played for him in the mid-1960s and raised us on Coach Bryant’s life lessons. Combined with my mother’s strong will, Alabama football lessons taught us everything we needed to be successful in life.

I’m also a serial procrastinator

I find nothing compelling about doing something early. But give me hard deadlines and 24 to 48 hours out, I’m on fire. Recently, though, I’ve noticed something troubling among writers I’ve met. They are dissatisfied with their writing lives. They can’t find enough time in the day or they can’t wrap their heads around their ideas or they have no idea how the business runs.

If you want to be a writer, you have to accept that it is not easy. But then again, when it’s hard, it’s worth it. So get on up, dust yourself off, grab whatever tool you need to succeed and get to work. You know you want to do this and you know you can succeed. Here are three ways to help you:

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Creative Non-Fiction: What You Need to Know

There often seems to be a consensus among folks when talking about writing, that creating creative non-fiction is difficult, and only for the most expert writers. However, this is a monstrous falsehood! Anyone can write creative non-fiction; here’s what you need to know ->

The Non-Fiction in Creative Non-Fiction

The first rule to writing non-fiction is to be as truthful as possible. Yes, the word creative means you’ve created bits, but that doesn’t mean you’ve created something from scratch. For example, begin with a place you’ve visited, an interesting person you met, an experience you had, a funny joke you were told, and start your story there. The place, the people, the sounds, the smells, those are all real things you’ve experienced. Remember; the definition of non-fiction writing is a story based on real facts and information.

The Creative in Creative Non-Fiction

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Market-Write Tip #1

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it only takes one book to earn you the title of published author and all of the benefits thereof. The bad news is: One book isn’t enough.

However, back to the good news, you are an artist and the most important process you are involved in is creating. Then creating more.

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Market-Write Tip #1: Create a body of work.

 

The first thing a body of work gives you is authority.

And, in business terms, consumer confidence. Keep in mind for many authors, their first consumer is a potential agent or publisher. Having works published via literary journals, winning contests, and magazine publications are all part of the resume to garner attention and recognition.

The second point to continual creation is the mastering of the craft.

Every author wants to create a break-out first-time novel. For example The Book Thief is praised as a “sensational debut novel,” when in fact this is Markus Zusak’s 4th published book. On his website, Zusak’s primary writing goal is “I’m always trying to write a better book than the last one. I want to grow with every book.” Authors, like every artist, clarify their voice and perfect their craft first and foremost through creation.

There are certain artist who strive for fame, musicians in particular, like the legendary band Kiss who set out from the start to become rock stars. One of the many marketing tools they utilized was to aggressively create and release new albums, even early on. Before Kiss really “hit it big” they released 4 albums in less than 3 years. Kiss’s commercial success came with their live double album, something that was only possible with a backlog of original music. This live album was recorded in Detroit, Cleveland, Wildwood, and Davenport – not in giant arenas. However, the release gave the impression of longevity and stardom, just what they needed to gain the necessary momentum into mainstream popularity.

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