Category: for writers (page 1 of 4)

How To Overcome ‘I Can’t’

Celesta Thiessen

I attended a workshop recently by author Celesta Thiessen with this very title. It was a very practical and worthwhile session, dealing with overcoming the obstacles that many authors feel when it comes to their writing. One of the things I appreciated about the session was how she focused first on the spiritual aspect of things before moving into the more ‘practical’ applications.

She talked about the need to deal with three spiritual areas in our life: unforgiveness, sin , and lies – and even allowed quiet time for reflection to let God speak to each one about what things we might need to ask forgiveness for, confess as sin, or identify as ‘lies’ from the devil. (Example: Your writing is no good; no one will ever want to read what you’ve written; you’re not really a writer etc…) As she so correctly pointed out, these spiritual areas can have a negative affect on our ability to carry out the calling to write.

Then she moved on to some practical  ways writers can gain encouragement, such as finding and connecting with writer friends –  both local and online – and participating in writing challenges like nanowrimo.

I especially liked her list of practical tips for success:

  1. Figure out what time of day is your best for writing and then try to write during that time.
  2. Find out what length of time is optimal for you and add that to your routine.
  3. Be intentional about your writing environment. Some people write in a specific location, have certain inspirational quotes etc. around, or what have you…
  4. Develop a routine and stick to it! Routines become habits and this takes away much of the resistance to write.
  5. Look after yourself – rest, nutrition, and other healthy habits are part of writing success. She talked about using light therapy for depression or getting whatever other kind of help you might need.
  6. Using external deadlines can be a huge motivator for indie authors. Some great examples are: setting up an Amazon ‘pre-order’ – if you don’t get the final copy uploaded by the date, those who pre-ordered will get the rough draft! Another great idea is organizing a book launch date in advance, which forces you to finish it by that date. Another (which I will probably never try!) is ‘Write or Die’ – an app which starts erasing your words if you aren’t meeting your own preset goals.

In all, this was a wonderfully practical workshop. Thank you to Celesta for sharing this valuable information with us at the Steinbach WorDshop.

WorDshops Coming to a city near you

Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship* has an exciting line up of ‘WorDshops’ coming your way this spring. What is a WorDshop? Think of it as a ‘mini-conference’ – a day of speakers and workshops geared to encouraging and assisting both new and seasoned writers in their craft and calling. It’s a wonderful way to connect with other writers in your area, and you’re sure to come away inspired and equipped.

This year there are several WorDshops planned across western Canada, including events in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. (Go to the Inscribe website for specific locations and dates.) The overall theme for 2017 is ‘Write Words’, but each event has its own flair and features seasoned and award winning Canadian Christian writers as keynote presenters. As well, each WorDshop includes a variety of break out workshops.

I will be attending four of the six events this year. In fact, I’ll be doing a little ‘tour’ of western Canada during my spring break from school starting with the Steinbach, MB WorDshop where I will be the keynote speaker. Then it’s on to Regina, SK the next weekend where I will be on a panel of authors taking about time management. Finally, I’ll be heading to Blackfalds, AB where I will do a workshop on blogging. It will be a busy two weeks ‘off’ from work, but I am definitely looking forward to it. Along the way I will have the opportunity to visit family and friends, so that’s makes it a bonus!

For more information, visit the Inscribe website. Registration is online and is a two-step process. First, fill out the application form. Then, go to the online store and pay for your session. You can also register at the door, although there is a discount for registering online. Local authors that attend have the opportunity to sell their books, and there are door prizes and other incentives, too.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with other authors of faith, or if you need some inspiration, why not come to the WorDshop nearest you?

*Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship exists to stimulate, encourage and support Christians who write, to advance effective Christian writing, and to promote the influence of all Christians who write. We are a Canada wide organization with members who write in a variety of genres and range from professional writers to those just starting out.

Favourite Tools For Authors

 

Construction worker/Builder with tools. Isolated on white backgroundThere was a very informative and interesting panel at InScribe’s fall conference in September of last year which asked four different authors to share their favourite writing tools. On the panel were: Linda Hall, Rik Hall, Jane Wheeler, and Janice Dick. (And yours truly as moderator.) Here is a helpful list of tools mentioned:

 

  1. SCRIVENER

By far the most popular tool (no surprise here) was Scrivener. Everyone on the panel – including me – love it. Here are some of the reasons:

– deals with complete projects

– flexible, user-friendly

– compile feature for whatever end result is desired, also for separating character / plotlines

– character / setting templates

– linked research

– notes for scenes, document, project (always visible)

– scene categorization (date, time, POV)

– can be colour-coded

– use for any writing or organization project (blogs, recipe collections…)

if you’re not using Scrivener, yet, you should really give it a try. It is free for first month (non consecutive uses so there is no pressure) and even then it is very affordable. I bought two subscriptions (one for my Mac and one for my PC) long before the trial period was up. It’s just that awesome.

  1. THESAURUS

Some tools just never go out of style. Invest in a good thesaurus or fond one online. It’s a great tool for bridging the gap between the right and left sides of the brain.

  1. GRAMMAR BOOKS

This was a popular one as well. Here are some of the resources suggested:

Elements of Style – Strunk & White

Woe is I – Patricia W. Carr (concise and humorous)

Write! Better – Ray Wiseman (succinct)

Writer’s Digest Books (eg. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Scene & Structure, Characters & Viewpoint, etc.)

  1. SEND TO KINDLE

This is good for checking how your files will look on a kindle device before you go ahead and publish. Just drag and drop word docs and pdfs into this program and send them to your Kindle device. Another option is ‘Kindle Previewer’.

  1. TEXT TO SPEECH SOFTWARE

Any software that reads back to you is very useful when self-editing. It catches those mistakes that your brain skipped over because you knew what you meant to say. Mac’s have a built in ‘text to speech’ which you can check out by going to the system preferences. My Mac will read highlighted text using the ‘Option+Esc’ keys. There are other programs like ‘Natural Reader’ that are popular. The reverse (speech to text) is also useful if you want to ‘write’ while walking or just tired of typing all the time. You can use your computer or your phone for this.

  1. POPULAR ONLINE SITES AND GROUPS

Many different sites were mentioned and I suspect this one is very much about individual preference. However, here is what I managed to jot down:

Livewritethrive by C.S. Lakin

The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn

goodreads – for leaving reviews, getting reviews, creating an author page, and interacting about books

facebook groups – too many to mention or link to!

  1. DOIN’ IT OLD SCHOOL!

A couple of people mentioned that they liked to use some ‘old school’ methods of organizing when they write. For instance, index cards for each scene help one to visually lay out a book to see if it flows. Another mentioned using coloured pens specific to each character, the plot, setting etc. (FYI, Scrivener has both of these functions as well. Bonus!)

  1. AUTOCORRECT

Linda Hall mentioned developing her own shortcuts to increase her productivity. (For instance: chc = church) To do so on a mac, go to Systems Preferences —Text—Shortcuts. (She suggested checking out court reporting for usable shortcuts.) This is very useful when using a phone, too.

  1. FOR FORMATTING AND DESIGN

Rik Hall, Linda’s husband and a professional publisher, mentioned two programs for those who are getting into self publishing:

I certainly found the panel very informative. I hope you have gleaned some useful bits of information here, as well.

To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

To ‘pseudonym’ or not to ‘pseudonym’… that is the question. 

I attended a panel of multi-genre authors at a conference  who were talking about their experiences trying to switch back and forth between different personas. One panelist used three different pseudonyms in order to keep his crime thrillers, literary work, and humour separate. It seemed to work for him. He was writing for three very different audiences and didn’t want to confuse his readers. It reminded me of another conference I had attended years earlier, where Sigmund Brower, well know author of YA fiction, talked about the difficulties of breaking into the adult market. He said people had an expectation that he only wrote for kids and it was tough to dispel that misconception. Although he persevered, he mentioned that if he were to do it again, he would probably choose to write under a different name.

Another panelist had a totally different view. Her agent advised against a pseudonym when she switched from YA fantasy to a different adult genre. He felt there might be enough cross over to merit keeping her original pen name. Presumably, young readers who enjoyed her fantasy series might mature into adult readers ready for something more. Other authors agreed, citing the well-documented case of J.K. Rowlings when she decided to write under a new pen name. When people found out that Robert Galbraith was actually the writer of the beloved Harry Potter series, sales skyrocketed.

 

My situation is a little bit different. Although I try to brand myself as a writer of ‘faith based romantic suspense with a twist of humor’, I have also contributed to a Science fiction series and I’ve written a fair bit of non-fiction. I’m not too concerned about the fact that these genres don’t necessarily mesh. My non-fiction has stemmed from speaking and blogging. I see it as an extension of my life as a Christian writer – a stream that serves to enhance my fiction writing, but not necessarily a genre to pursue beyond that.

However, writing plays for the stage is a totally separate entity. To date I have written and directed dozens of plays, mostly in my capacity as a high school drama teacher. Of those plays, eight of them have been picked up by various play publishers, which has led to performances across North America. In this instance, I am writing for a secular high school audience, mostly using comedy and parody to get the story across.

My plays and my other fiction are two parallel tracks of writing that, seemingly, will never intersect. There is nothing about my life as a playwright that has anything in common with my fiction. It’s a bit of a marketing quandary when it comes to things like my website. Should I be focusing on one audience over the other? I sometimes wish that I had chosen to use a pseudonym – or two – but I feel like I’m too far into the game now to make the switch.

On the other hand, perhaps it really doesn’t matter. While readers who like my fiction are unlikely to want to read a comedy script, those looking for a stage play might actually like to read one of my books.

I like the conclusion that one panelist finally gave. There is really no ‘right’ way to handle multiple genres. What is a disadvantage to one, works for another. Perhaps it’s more about the passion than the formula. Each author must choose his or her own path and then pursue it with all their might.

This article first appeared on ‘Gelatiscoop’ on September 24, 2015

Getting Better at Telling Lies

I couldn’t help the reference to a book I read over the holidays called Telling Lies For Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. It made me think about amping up my own productivity this year. Not that last year was a total dud. I did manage to republish my NEIGHBOURS Series, and I did a lot in terms of revamping my website. (Attested by the fact that I am posting here in the first place.) Other than that, many of my best laid plans went by the wayside.

I’m a person who enjoys setting goals, and I usually do it a couple of times a year. New year’s is the obvious one, but I also tend to re-strategize before summer hits and then again in the fall. Sometimes my goals are vague, more like ‘suggestions’ than anything specific or measurable. Sometimes they are quite detailed, which often then leads to more restructuring when I don’t meet my deadlines.

This year I’ve decided on the ‘one word’ theme, something I’ve tried in the past with marginal success. However, I have faith that this year will be different. Why? Well, the word I’ve chosen will help answer that question, I think. The word is ACCOUNTABILITY.

I’ve thought about it long and hard and this is the word that keeps cropping up. I want to become more accountable for my time, more accountable for following through with my goals, and more accountable for all the unfinished ‘business’ that I want to move into the finished column this year.

I have found in the past that I work well under pressure or when faced with deadlines. Somehow I manage to get things done. Contrast that with not having deadlines, and I find I can just as easily fritter away the hours watching mindless TV. (A terrible motivation suck!) But its time I became accountable for my own actions,

So, here’s to a year of ACCOUNTABILITY. I’ll let you know how I fare… 

Read my review of Telling Lies For Fun and Profit on amazon.

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