Category Archives: Writing

Creative Juice #47

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Creative Juice #47

A baker’s dozen of inspiring ideas to enhance your creativity:

Monday Morning Wisdom #107

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Monday Morning Wisdom #107

You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. ~Tina FeyMMW

Photograph of Tina Fey by Mingle Media TV

Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #59

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Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #59

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sundayshare 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the links to see the full lists.

From Gabe’s Garage of Goodies (picture book): Gabe has too many power tools, and his efforts to help always end in disaster. Can Mike ditch Gabe without hurting his feelings?

Picking up from the scary barbecue scene from last week:

Finally, he [Gabe] adjusted the flames to a reasonable height and scraped incinerated food off the grill. “I’ll get some more burgers and dogs,” he said, turning to the back door. In a moment, he reappeared with a platter piled high with hamburger patties and frankfurters—many more than two people could possibly eat.

In answer to Mike’s raised eyebrow, Gabe said, “I just want to be sure we have plenty. Would you like your rolls toasted?”

“NO!” said Mike, thinking about Gabe’s lack of skill with the grill.

In no time at all, the hot dogs and burgers were done to perfection. The men carried them over to the picnic table, where Gabe had laid out an assortment of condiments, rolls, side dishes, and Mike’s chips and onion dip.wewriwa2

“Wow, this is a lot of food,” commented Mike.

“Yeah, but we can handle it,” said Gabe as he ladled ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, chili, and sauerkraut onto his hot dogs and hamburgers.

I know it’s short, but what do you think of this small excerpt? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

Have you taken the ARHtistic License Survey yet? Help me make this blog a place you want to visit often.

In the Meme Time: Success for All

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In the Meme Time: Success for All

Author success

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Guest Post: CAN MINDFULNESS BE APPLIED TO WRITING? by Sheree Crawford

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Guest Post: CAN MINDFULNESS BE APPLIED TO WRITING? by Sheree Crawford

A big ARHtistic License thank you to Sheree Crawford for this wonderful article, which first appeared on A Writer’s Path. Be sure to read the exercises at the end of the article–they’re dynamite!

 

Mindfulness is the hot thing right now; it’s being talked about, summed up, and debated in all corners of society, and so it’s reasonable to ask whether or not mindfulness can be applied to writing. Well, the obvious answer is of course it can! How is another matter.

If you’re one of those still in the dark there are plenty of resources which will help you to get a grip on it. At it’s heart, however, mindfulness is about self-awareness; being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and  our bodies, and recognising how these things affect our behaviour, moods, and even mental well-being (you can use mindfulness to control anxiety, for example.

For writers the effects of anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion are just as, perhaps more, disastrous as for those in more “mainstream” employment, but while mindfulness can help you with all this I’d argue it can help with things like lack of focus, writers block, proofreading, and even serial abandonment of writing projects. Here’s how:

1) It helps you to remain present

Mindfulness is largely about being present, being in the moment, and choosing to be that way. No-one is 100% focused, but when we are mindful we can steer our trains of thought into productive directions. It’s not about ignoring the tangents your brain takes you on (these can be key when you’re writing), but rather about learning when to abandon them.

Much like with meditation you should not aim for “nothingness” when you practice mindfulness in writing (in this case, nothing but your goal rather than blankness), but instead be aware of when and how you stray. Follow the train of thought to the end, if its useful, but be aware of where it’s leading you; if it becomes entirely unrelated or of no use remove yourself and refocus on your writing.

frustrated-writer-2

2) It can help you circumvent writers block

Old school gamers will get me here; remember when your console used to overheat after a full day of playing, and suddenly it wouldn’t do anything and you were worried it would never ever work again….

That’s writers block, but the overload happens in your brain.

Mindfulness can help you to combat this in a few ways. Firstly, if you practice mindfulness you will learn to recognise when you need a break; take breaks, it is allowed. Secondly, when you choose to be fully in the moment you can remove yourself from the fear of underproduction (or non production) because very often it is this fear which creates the block. Thirdly, you can also use this to distance yourself from internal judgement.

“Waiting for the muse” is one of those things that stems from consistent judgement of unfinished work; not everything you commit to paper must be gold, and you’re not actually, you know, committed to it. Mindfulness can help you to de-clutter your brain; when you’re aware of your thought processes and the ideas floating around you it’s easier to order them efficiently.

3) It makes you a better editor and proofreader

Mark Twain famously and aptly said that when you think you are reading “proof” you are really reading your own mind; we fill in what we thought we wrote, or what we intended to write with our minds when we proofread our own work. This is why mindfulness is so key to efficient proofreading and editing.

Proofreading is a complex, draining, and time consuming process which requires you to be focused at all times. Now, there are many tips and tricks as to how you can make it easier (I’ve written one blog post about that myself), but at the heart of it all is being mindful. You need to realise when you’re getting fed up and skimming, skipping, or filling in from your mind, and when you catch yourself you need to either re-focus or tale a break.

Editing, too, is intensive, and practising mindfulness is useful here in many of the same ways it is when proofreading, but additionally it can help you to recognise sections in need of cutting or editing. Focusing on how each section makes you feel, and how it engages you will make you a better editor. Are you tempted to skip because you’re tired, or because it’s poorly written?

Mindfulness exercises for writers:

The Flush; this is a really simple exercise that I call the “flush” because it’s literally designed to wash out all of the detritus first thing in the morning/when you first sit down to write. This is simple; sit down with a notepad and a pen or pencil ( there are plenty of claims regarding writing by hand, but I say this just because it works your hand and wrist muscles, and eases the eyes into focusing before hitting the harsh light if a screen).

Now, whatever has been rattling in your brain, whether its a scene, some dialogue, or just a word, write it down and let that lead you. It might be nonsense, of course, but follow the train of thought to its natural end point. Et Voila! The Flush.

The Clapback; if you get completely derailed by negative thoughts or doubts, as we all do at some point, get yourself a fresh document or piece of paper and jot down positive responses to the worries/fears/criticisms you’re plagued by. This will let you exorcise them, and might even make you feel better.

Block-Be-Gone; when writers block makes a scene impossible to finish close your eyes, take three deep breaths (cliche, I know) in through the nose and out through the mouth s l o w l y… and root yourself in the scene. Write your own reactions as the characters, or the description as you see it in your mind as best you can; it might not be “Just Right”, but it’ll act as a placeholder until you have something better to replace it with. This lets you move on without skipping.

The Duracell Bunny; another block-buster (not in the Hollywood sense, obviously) is what I call the “duracell bunny”. Pick the part of your scene that most interests you and write from that point, perspective, or about that thing as fast as you can, ignoring spelling, grammar, and sense, for two minutes. Let your excitement carry you, and you’ll be surprised how much can change in 120 seconds!

Guest post contributed by Sheree Crawford. Sheree is a UK based content writer and ghostwriter and often writes about the art of writing.

Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #58

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Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #58

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the links to see the full lists.

From Gabe’s Garage of Goodies (picture book): Gabe has too many power tools, and his efforts to help always end in disaster. Can Mike ditch Gabe without hurting his feelings?

After last week’s snippet, Mike tried to discourage Gabe from vacuuming his truck by insisting he had to leave for the supermarket. Gabe tries to convince him to come over for a barbecue (edited for brevity):

“But you gotta eat–might as well eat at my house. You bring the chips; I’ll whip up some hot dogs and burgers on my brand new GastroAtomic Grill. What do you say?”

Maybe if I say “yes,” I’ll be able to convince him to leave me alone for now. “Sure.”

~~~

That evening when Mike went next door, Gabe had his GastroAtomic Grill fired up so high that the flames threatened to ignite the overhanging tree branches. A dozen burgers and hot dogs were already charred black. Gabe frantically twirled the knobs on his grill, trying to get the heat under control. Seeing the concern on Mike’s face, Gabe said, “Not to worry—I’ve got my fire extinguisher right here.” He pointed to a garden hose snaking across the patio.

wewriwa2I know it’s short, but what do you think of this small excerpt? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

Have you taken the ARHtistic License Survey yet? Help me make this blog a place you want to visit often.

 

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Guest Post: How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Book by Angela Ackerman

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Guest Post: How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Book by Angela Ackerman

Many thanks to Angela Ackerman for this guest post, first published on Jane Friedman’s website.

Today’s guest post is from writing coach and author Angela Ackerman (@angelaackerman).


As a writing coach and avid user of social media, one of the most heartbreaking things I see is when an author puts a ton of effort into writing, editing, polishing, and finally publishing a book—only to see it fail to gain traction in the marketplace. Often this comes down to a marketing misstep that’s all too common: failing to understand (and therefore reach) one’s ideal book audience.

I’ve posted about how to find your book’s ideal audience before, so I won’t wander down the same trail. Instead, I want to look at another piece of the marketing map that can greatly improve your success rate with reaching your audience: influencers.

Books on shelves

What Is an Influencer?

Influencers are the people who are already doing a great job of connecting with your ideal audience, because it is their audience too. They have a good reputation, are visible, and they interact with your potential readers every day. Hmmm, sounds like people we should get to know, right? Exactly!

Influencers are not one-size-fits-all. Each author will have different ones depending on the audience they are trying to reach. However, one common ingredient with any influencer is that they are worthy of our admiration for the trust and respect they’ve earned with their audience. And admiration is a key ingredient of any healthy relationship—but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Influencers for a fiction author might be:

  • popular authors who write very similar books
  • bloggers who are passionate about a topic or theme that ties into the author’s book
  • well-regarded book reviewers
  • bookstore owners
  • librarians
  • organizers of literacy or book programs and events
  • teachers and instructors
  • groups and organizations that cover the same specific interest featured in the author’s book
  • celebrities (hey, it can’t hurt, right?)
  • businesses that cater to the same audience as the author’s in some way
  • forums and websites dedicated to the same topic/event/theme explored in the author’s book
  • well-connected individuals (who endorse the book or author to other influential people)
  • people who are passionate about a particular topic/theme (that ties into the author’s book)
  • fans of the author and her work (if the author is established)

And that’s just the start!

Because influencers are recognized and have clout with your shared audience, they can really help you reach your readers. Not only that, but they are a living, breathing example of how to connect with your audience the right way. There is much to be learned by examining how an influencer engages with others online. In fact, if you want to see an example, check out this post by Author Accelerator’s Jennie Nash, who wrote about shadowing me online. (I had no idea, so this was eye-opening for me as well.)

When you determine who an influencer is, it isn’t just a matter of you asking them to help you. People are generally busy, and whoever you’re approaching likely works very hard if they hold a position of influence. They may already have a lot on their plate.

This might sound like a closed door, but it isn’t. It just means that, as in most things, there’s no marketing shortcut, and honestly there shouldn’t be, because we’re talking about creating a relationship with someone. Relationships, to work, need to come from a place of sincerity. Healthy ones are balanced, with each party giving and receiving.

How to Reach Out to an Influencer

Angela Ackerman

Angela Ackerman

When you’re seeking to engage with an influencer, your heart needs to be in the right place, so choose carefully. Get to know this person. Admire their work. Because if you truly appreciate what they do, you will naturally want to help them further succeed. And while of course you hope they’ll return the favor, that’s not your endgame. Creating a relationship is.

Sometimes an influencer will already know you. Maybe you are in the same circles, and have a friendly connection. In that case, it’s really just about you making it a priority to actively show you care. This can be done by trying to boost their visibility however you can (tweeting, mentioning, sharing links to their work, talking about them and their work online, recommending them, etc.), and lending a hand here and there because you want to. Think about what they need to better reach their audience, and then proactively help them do it. Tag them online. The relationship should naturally grow because they will see what you’re doing and will want to do the same for you in return. Helping each other out leads to collaboration, and with a shared audience, this becomes a win-win for both of you.

If you don’t yet have a relationship with an influencer, the first step is getting on their radar. To do this, think about what your strengths are, and what you can give. Put yourself in their shoes: what would you like help with in their position? If they are an author, a business owner, or an organization, visibility is usually welcome. So, how can you give them a shout out and help your shared audience find them? Can you blog about them, or recommend them in some way? Or what about sending a personal note to let them know you admire their work and what they do for others, and that you’d like to help if they ever need it?

If it’s a librarian, a teacher, or a nonprofit group, maybe there’s some way you can use your skills to help them. Can you volunteer your time? Show that you appreciate what they are doing, be it promoting literacy or an interest you share (because it will tie into your books, remember)? Perhaps you noticed they mentioned in a blog post that they wanted to know more about something and so you do a bit of research and send along a few interesting links their way. In all things, seek to provide value.

Generally speaking, when you consistently help someone or show interest in what they do (influencer or not), they will notice and appreciate it. A relationship naturally forms—they will want to know more about you. That’s your goal: to create a friendship that feels natural and authentic, and to have the type of connection where either of you can help, ask for advice, brainstorm ideas, and possibly collaborate with in ways that can help you both. In this way, you both grow and benefit.

Remember Anyone Can Be an Influencer

Are you cultivating strong relationships with the people you interact with day to day? I hope so! It’s just as important as seeking someone “established.” After all, a writer who asked you to look over their query letter might end up selling a five-book mega-deal a year from now. Or be affiliated with an organization looking for a speaker or visiting author. Maybe that blogger you contacted as a source of knowledge on a certain topic may become a huge fan of your work and want to help the world discover you.

Bottom line, wouldn’t you just love it if one day someone came to you and offered to put your name forward because they liked and admired you? So, adopt the mindset of a giver. Ask yourself what value you can add, what you can do for others. If you can help, do, because you never know when it will come back to you tenfold. (This is coming from someone who knows this firsthand!)

How Do You Find Your Influencers?

Determine who your exact audience is. Then, pay attention to the movers and shakers who interact with this group. These might be authors, businesses, special interest groups, forums, bloggers, and other individuals that produce content or a product that ties into the same topic, interest, theme, or element that you have written about.

To help with this, I put together something I call the Influencer Hot Sheet. This will show you what to look for to find your exact audience influencers, how to break down what they do online that helps them be successful (so you can do the same), and finally, ideas on how to build a relationship with them.

You can find it and many other marketing handouts on my Tools for Writers page.

Happy writing and marketing!


You can visit Angela at her sites for writers, Writers Helping Writers and One Stop for Writers.

Monday Morning Wisdom #105

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Monday Morning Wisdom #105

Found on Twitter:

nietzsche

Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #57

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Weekend Writing Warriors, Snippet #57

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the links to see the full lists.

From Gabe’s Garage of Goodies (picture book): Gabe has too many power tools, and his efforts to help always end in disaster. Can Mike ditch Gabe without hurting his feelings?

Last week, Gabe noticed Mike washing his car, and brought over his new Car Vac Plus to show it off. We continue on:

“No, that’s okay, I’ve seen car vacs before,” said Mike quickly, trying to avoid one of Gabe’s disastrous demonstrations.wewriwa2

“Not one like this! It has the suction of a black hole! Here, let’s vacuum out your truck.”

“No, really, it’s okay, I already vacu…”

Not listening, Gabe unwound about a hundred feet of cord from the vacuum and walked to Mike’s front porch to plug it in. Then he returned to the canister, flicked a switch, and swoosh, the vac vibrated into action. Gabe grabbed the vacuum hose and, opening the passenger door, began vacuuming away. “You see that–look at this puppy pick up!”

“Yeah, Gabe, very cool, but I’ve got to finishing polishing the truck before…”

Please excuse the run-on sentences (due to my effort to stay within the 10 sentence maximum). I know it’s short, but what do you think of this small excerpt? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

Blog Birthday: Two Years Old

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Blog Birthday: Two Years Old

Two years ago, I posted my first article on ARHtistic License. Yes, I am now entering Terrible Twos territory. No, no, no!

Last year I discovered that most of my popular articles were responses to photography challenges. This year all ten of my top ten posts were photo challenge submissions. (See below for some samples of my photographs. Click on the images for a slideshow of enlargements.)

Why? Why aren’t the articles I spent days researching and writing getting the attention my random photos get?

I’m especially proud of these articles:

Do I receive more feedback for my photo posts because photographers check out other photographers and are very generous with their encouragement? (Thank you, by the way.)

Or does my writing really suck?

Or is nobody interested in the arts and the creative process?

Or do readers not want to go to the trouble of signing up for a Gravatar account just to be able to click the “like” button? (Please reconsider. There are so many fabulous WordPress blogs and so many authors just dying to hear how they touched your heart. If you don’t tell them, they’ll go to their graves never knowing that their lives had meaning. Do you feel guilty yet?)

Anyway, I really want to know how to improve ARHtistic License, so that I can inspire a large community of creative readers.

This is where you come in. Please help by doing one or more things for me:

  1. pointing-finger-right-800pxIn the sidebar on this screen, scroll through the TOPIC menu and see if you can find an article you’re interested in.
  2. If you read something you like on ARHtistic License, please hit the like button.
  3. If you have something to add, write a comment. (Other readers also might be interested in your opinion.)
  4. If you know someone who might want to read an article, please share it through social media and/or email.
  5. Please take the ARHtistic License Second Birthday Survey and let me know exactly how I can improve my blog. The survey consists of four mandatory questions, which take maybe five minutes to answer, unless you’re very indecisive. Then there are five more optional questions which you can skip if you want.

Thank you. Writers work in a vacuum. We thrive on feedback. When we don’t get it, we have no idea if we’re on the right track or missing it altogether.