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The Productive Writer


Never Let a Blank Page intimidate you again!

I was listening to a commercial for an interview the other day, and a woman said that a her writer friend “never had a blank page”, in other words he always had something to write about. It is another way of saying that he never has writer’s block.

Nora Roberts once said that a poorly written page is better than a blank page. I totally agree.

I Never Sit In Front of a Blank Page

I am like that myself. I never have writer’s block. I always have plenty to write. Sometimes I have too much. For instance, I just finished a month long project of writing a first draft of a fiction book in   30 days. This program is called NaNoWriMo.

I finished this project on November 29 and spent the next two days distancing myself from that project and didn’t write anything for those two days. The reason I took the break is not because I didn’t have anything to write. Last year during December, Every day I started a new book. So I have numerous projects I could work on. The fact is, I simply needed a break from writing. I took the break because I needed to evaluate where I should go next. Sometimes just helps to stop and think things through. That’s what I did the past two days.

I currently have three NaNoWriMo projects that are still unpublished. One of them is Sunrise on the Mississippi which I just finished its first draft. I have one book ahead of it in The Locket Saga series called Two Rivers which I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. I plan to publish that this year. Another book that is in the series which is actually much later is On Mercy’s Wings which is set during the American Civil War.

One of the things that I was thinking about was projects that I have in the works. For a couple of years now I have been working on two nonfiction books that address the phenomenon of “writer’s block”. One addresses tips to nonfiction writers writing and the other addresses tips to fiction writers. I may be working on those books and work to get them published this year. Neither book will take long to complete. I just had projects that I thought that I needed to finish first.

However, what I thought about most during the past few days is something that has been bothering me for a while and that is, I have not had the sales on my previous books that I know I could have if I spent less time writing and more time marketing what I have already written.

A Tip for Getting Past the Blank Page

If you have trouble writing anything, the first thing I would suggest is to get away from the blank document and think about what it is that you want to say. Take about fifteen minutes to do this. Write down what comes to mind.

If nothing still comes, sit down in front of the document and whine on paper about how you are unable to write anything and then start writing down all the reasons (or excuses) that you can think of for not being able to write anything. Spill everything that comes to mind out on paper even if it has nothing to do with your current project. Write down things that you need to research before you write. Write down people that you need to see before you can write. Write down ideas about your project. Write down all of those things that you have to do that do not relate to your writing project but are on your mind. Do this for fifteen minutes.

This is called a brain dump. Now look over what you have written and delete your rants. Put those things that don’t relate to this project on a list and promise that you tell yourself that you will get to after you have spent time on this project.

Now you no longer have a blank page. You may not have much, but you will have something left that relates to this project. Organize the information related to your writing project into a logical sequence and start filling in some of the material that you know. Include questions that you need to research. You may find that you are no longer blocked.

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Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One Bite at a time.

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was great! My husband was home. My son came to visit from Washington, DC and the food was great! However, I find that I have not been doing as much as I had in the past. Lately I be getting fewer and fewer projects finished. I am sure that a lot of it has to do with my second job as an elementary after school tutor. Then came NaNoWriMo, my husband became sick in the hospital, and then my son and his girlfriend came for Thanksgiving. Now Thanksgiving is in the past and I can start thinking about getting back on track.

Using Fifteen Minute Sprints

I haven’t been doing this all the time, but when I know that I have a lot of work to do on various projects from housework to writing to editing to marketing, I like to prioritize the projects that I have to finish. Next I set a timer for fifteen minutes, focus and get to work at whatever I have to do that day.

 

Take Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, for instance. I had a number of projects to do. I had to clean house for the weekend. I had this blog post to write, and since it is NaNoWriMo month, I had to make a specific word count for Saturday and every day this month.

 

I started first thing in the morning by sorting out a load of clothes and set the alarm for fifteen minutes. During that fifteen minutes I took dishes out of the dish washer, cleaned off counters, took a few things upstairs, cleaned the coffee maker, cleaned the microwave, and took out the trash. I made a serious dent in getting the kitchen clean. During the next fifteen minutes I wrote long hand a scene for my book. The fifteen minute task completions went on for the rest of the day. I got a lot done, including taking my daughter to and from a school activity.

Rejecting What Doesn’t Work

I have tried other techniques that didn’t work for me.  It might work for others, but they just weren’t a right fit. For instance, I have tried the Pomodoro technique where I would work for twenty-five minutes on a project and then taking five minutes off to get away from it for a few minutes. As I said, I tried, but I really never was able to get into it. since I’ve tried it and it didn’t work, I am letting go of the idea of using it and going back to what I know does work.

I have decided that  I will go back to the fifteen minute sessions because they are short, and I am amazed at how much I can get done in that length of time.

 

Eating the Elephants

Goals are like elephants that have to be eaten one bite at a time. I have found that goals have to be broken down into projects that have to be broken down into smaller and smaller segments until I have bite size tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes. I have learned that if I have something on my to-do list, it needs to be broken down into something that I can do in fifteen minutes.

I start out the first fifteen minutes deciding how I am going to break the goal down into projects and use subsequent fifteen minute sessions to break the projects down to tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes.

Making Plans for the Future

November is coming to an end this week, and I am almost finished with NaNoWriMo. (Just 3 more days left!) Next month is coming up fast and my goal for December is to make plans for next year especially in the area of book marketing.


The other day I was talking on twitter with a novice novelist about how I am able to write and publish eleven books. (Two of those books coming out the twenty-third of this month.) Since I am working on yet another book this month for NaNoWriMo, writing fast is my own focus this month, so I gave her a couple of tips. I decided that this would also be a good post for this blog. I therefore expanded those couple of tips to a full ten tips for writing a novel quickly.

 

  1. The first tip that I would give a novelist who is new to the genre is to never call him or herself an “aspiring novelist”. Begin to think of yourself as being rather than aspiring. You either write novels or you don’t. You’re either a writer or you’re not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never made a dime from writing. You write, therefore you are a writer. You write novels, therefore you are a novelist.

 

You may wonder how being called a novelist helps a novice write faster. It all comes down to “it’s not what people call you, but what you answer to”. I believe that fast writing can only be done by those who believe that they can. They don’t make excuses not to write fast. They do it.

 

  1. If you don’t know how, learn to touch type. I was amazed at how much faster I could get information down since I have been able to type directly from my thought process. Until then, you could use google docs’ dictation feature.

 

  1. Start writing promotional material as soon as you have our idea for your book. Begin writing the book description or blurb. Write your short, medium and long length author bios, determine words that have high ranking search engine optimization. Begin researching and pinning down a title for your book. Create a full synopsis for your book.

 

  1. Research local events where you can promote your books. Connect with other authors online and offline both in your genre and out. Start a blog. Review books by other authors within your genre. Interview those same authors.

 

  1. Let your muse play most of the writing session, especially when writing your first draft. If you have to edit, limit your editing time to five minutes immediately after fifteen minutes of writing.

 

  1. Get to know your characters, the better you know your characters, the better the flow of the story. Your characters will dictate the story to you instead of the other way around.

 

  1. Create a main plot outline and then outlines for subplots and put them in proper order. Taking time to create a map of your story through an outline will help keep you from going down too many rabbit holes that steal writing time.

 

  1. Schedule time to write every day. Even fifteen minutes a day adds up over time. Use Parkinson’s second law which says that you will fill up time with the activity that you give to it. In other words, focus your time by limiting your first draft writing to sprints of fifteen minutes or if you’re just starting out, try five minute sprints. Stop for five minutes, edit a little of what you just wrote if you have to and do another sprint. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done using this method.

 

  1. Know when you do your best writing and optimize that time. Work the rest of your schedule around that rather than your writing around the rest of your schedule. Making writing a priority will make your written pages pile up like nothing else can.

 

  1. Evaluate your progress and look for ways to improve your writing process. If you’re not satisfied with the progress that you are making in your writing, figure out ways that you can increase your writing speed. Go over these tips and see where you can improve your writing speed. Take a speed typing class. Google, “write faster”. Don’t let yourself make excuses for not being able to write better copy, faster.

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Strange Dreams Lead to New Ideas

Last night I had some vivid dreams. I dreamed about my husband. I dreamed that he was at work with me and we were working with young children. He seemed to enjoy the time with them better than I did. Then I started\ dreaming all over the place and my mind was trying to make sense of it all. I became suddenly confused about what was real and what wasn’t. I dreamed that I lost my phone. When I awoke for real, the first thing I did was look to see if my phone was on the side table and it was. Now I knew I was out of dream world and into the real world. So what was going on in my dreams that they were so vivid yet so confusing?

I think what my dream was trying to do was to try to help me find a good topic for this blog as well as give me some fodder for my current NaNoWriMo project. The hours I slept did both. After finding my phone, I had the ideas for what I was going to write for both. I have ideas for two scenes in my next book that I now call Sunrise on the Mississippi (book 8 of the Locket Saga). The dream sequences are no direct part of this blog nor of the book. What they did do was remind me the value of the muse in the writing process, especially writing the first draft.

Yesterday I wrote a scene in my book, but realized that I also needed an earlier related scene. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it happen. Also I started two topics for this blog that didn’t seem to be exactly what I wanted to write for this blog today. So I slept on it and the dreams were the result of allowing my muse to take some time to play.

What Made the Muse Rebel

I think it all started with something I did a few days ago. I was teaching some students about metaphors and similes. We worked on poems about feelings.

They went something like this:

Love is pink.

It smells like apple blossoms on a tree.

It tastes like chocolate in my Easter basket.

It sounds like birds twitter-pating.  (a term from the Bambi movie)

It feels like a baby bunny’s white fur.

It looks like a field of white clover.

It makes me feel alive again.

I believe this triggered my muse to complain that I haven’t allowed her to play for a while. The past few months I have been neglecting her. I have been editing old material, researching historical events and writing nonfiction. Even as I started writing this new book, I haven’t given the muse much room. I have been organizing the material that I researched, but not allowing my creative juices to flow. Today that ends.

Today I take heed of my muse’s complaint and give her a chance to play. Today my NaNoWriMo project turns a page and I will allow my muse free range on the pages of my manuscript. Today she can play all over that book’s draft by allowing her the ability use the five senses to create metaphors and similes and most importantly, emotions for the reader to experience.

Can I Allow the Muse out more often?

I think it a shame that I have kept my muse under such a short leash for such a long time. NaNoWriMo is a great way to give the muse a chance to do her think, but I really need to find ways of allowing her to play more often. One of the areas where I can utilize her talents is in identifying with my readers. Most people buy books not because of need or rational thought, but because they are moved by emotions. When this NaNoWriMo project is done (at least for the day), I am going to look into how I can create emotion for potential readers that encourages them to purchase one or more of my books.I am sure there are more ways to tap into the muse for better writing results.

When and why do you let your muse out to play?

 

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October 9, 2017

Is Your Year on Track?

I am certainly trying to keep mine on track! Can you believe that three-fourths of the year has already passed? Have you done three-fourths of everything that you wanted to get done this year or are you behind? As far as my writing schedule goes, I am still on track for getting what I intend to finish by the end of this year. However, regarding my business and book marketing, I am not where I want to be right now. I have improved since the beginning of the year on almost every level.

Now here it is already the second week in October. This week I start a new part-time job. In addition to substitute teaching, I am part of an afterschool tutoring program for elementary children. I could put my writing goals aside to spend all my time into teaching, but I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to see how much I actually can get done in the time I have left.

Gearing up

In November NaNoWriMo starts again. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month. It is a month long event that occurs every year where storytellers write down the first fifty-thousand word first draft of their first or next novel in just thirty days. This year will be my ninth year and I intend to win again. (Everyone is a winner who writes the 50K)  If you too have ever thought of writing a novel, participating in NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to make amazing progress in a single month by finishing the first draft.

Start the Pre-writing Process Now

Though there are a lot of people who start their novel from scratch on the first day of November, I personally like to do some prewriting in October in preparation for getting the actual event in November. The two most important aspects of the novel writing include developing characters and the plot. Although I think that it is important to develop realistic characters, I like to start with a basic plot with which to give those characters something to do.

The Seven Universal Story Lines

Do you know that all plots fall under seven universal story lines? These universal story lines include: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, the voyage, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. Every story line you could imagine falls into one of these seven categories. If you can’t think of a plot, examine these story lines and take your imagination and run with it.

Overcoming the Monster

Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it. Many war stories, apocalyptic stories, or political thrillers fall into this category.

Rags to riches

Surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate. Oliver Twist and The Prince and The Pauper are rags to riches stories.

The Quest

Hero learns of a great MacGuffin (a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose) that he desperately wants or needs to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions. Go no further than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to understand this universal story line.

The Voyage and Return

Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out. The Odyssey would be an example.

Comedy

Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form. Every romance novel ever written falls into this category.

Tragedy

The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Our protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are examples.

Rebirth

As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a 180 degree turn to avoid inevitable defeat Think of a character like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol or The Ginch in How the Ginch Stole Christmas.

Not Sure Which Universal Plot to Use?

There’s a good chance that you have either a plot idea that you want to use or you have started to develop a couple of characters and a setting. You might already see which universal story line you want to use. However, perhaps you don’t. There’s nothing to keep you from playing around with several different story lines.

 

As I am reading this, I realize that with The Locket Saga series, I could fall into a predictable pattern of using just one or two of these story lines. However, as I look over the list, I see several different ideas that I could use to create some variety. I hope you do too as you consider your first or next work of fiction.

 

 

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Beat the drum and help potential readers find your book with a better than average book description

In my upcoming book: Write a Book to Ignite your Business, I demonstrate not only how writing a book  can provide an awesome marketing tool for your business, but I also show business owners how to actually write the book. One of the first things I recommend they do is to write their book description.  The seven elements needed to nail it include: having a compelling hook, having a great thesis statement, putting it in present tense, writing in the third person (most of the time), using the right key words, using power words, and making the reader want  to read more by providing a cliffhanger.

  1. The Narrative Hook

Whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction, a hook draws the reader in, encouraging the reader to invest time in reading your book description.

Here are fourteen types of hooks:

Advice

Words of advice that will make an impact on your reader.

 

Anecdote

A short and amusing story about an incident or a person, usually famous.

 

Bold Statement

A statement or assertion that arouses an opinion or response from your reader.

 

Contradiction

A pair of concepts that don’t go together.

 

Definition

A definition (Caution—don’t quote the dictionary) of a term or concept that is relevant to your work.

 

Dilemma

A situation where a choice must be made between two or more, usually undesirable, outcomes.

 

Fact

An interesting fact from a reliable source.

 

Famous quote

A quote from a famous person that is relevant to your work.

 

Humor

A joke, quip, or scene that arouses laughter or amusement in your readers.

 

Personal experience

A short story about an experience in your life that is relevant to the writing topic.

 

Rhetorical question

A question that inspires curiosity, but that cannon be simply answered (but it should be addressed in your essay).

 

Setting

A description of a scene or setting that stimulates any of the five senses.

 

Simile or metaphor

A comparison of one thing to another, usually unrelated, thing.

 

Statistic

A startling statistic from a reliable source.

 

 

  1. The Right Thesis Statement

The right thesis statement is essay 101 and is basically being able to say in one sentence what your book is all about. If you can’t, then you don’t know your book well enough.

 

  1. Present Tense

Present tense means the action in the description is happening now and you want your reader to actively feel that your book is relevant now rather than in the past or even in the future.  Use words like “is” rather than “was” and “what people are saying rather than “what people have said” to emulate the idea that this book is a book for today.

 

  1. Third Person

In the case of most books, write in the third person “he” or “she” is doing this rather than” I did this” or “you did this”.  One exception is the how-to book where you might want to use second person in your description.

 

  1. Key Words

Do you know which keywords are frequently put in the search bar but are seldom written and that relate to your book’s topic?

 

Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.

 

It’s not always about getting visitors to read your book description, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated; with keyword research you can produce the content that web searchers are actively seeking.

 

Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

The key though is not to just throw in keywords that just have the best scores however. It is most important that the key words relate directly to what your book description (and book!) is all about.

 

  1. Power Words

Power words are words that excite the reader. The most powerful word is because. We will be more successful at doing whatever it is that we say because  we offer this reason.

 

Some words have been overused, however. “New and improved”, “more”, “free”, and a few others have become spam because they have been written a little too often and are no longer as powerful as they used to be. This is because of their over use and abuse.

 

One of the greatest ad campaigns simply used the ‘if then’ duo to sell its message. If you spend only five minutes a day then you will…..fill in what ever success you could imagine. Surely your have five minutes you could spend every day?

 

Simply put if and add an appropriate reasonable action with a resulting then. Use this power word duo and take note of how it improves your power of persuasion.

 

Let the evidence or the authority speak for you. Let the higher authority leverage what you say. Use the power words to act as the pry bar to give you that leverage. Use an anecdotal authority story as a group of power words in your book description to create a set of power words.  A story about how you did something that is in your book or a story about how something didn’t work and how you had to fix it.

 

More power words exist. A study of these words by googling “power words” can help you develop stronger reasons in your description for readers to buy your book.

 

7. Cliffhanger

Just as the hook draws the reader in to invest time in reading your book description, the cliffhanger encourages the reader to purchase and read your book. Put a cliffhanger at the end of your description that leaves the audience in suspense, wanting more than what the description offers and looking to the book to provide the answers that the description doesn’t .

Different Types of Books Require Different Applications of the above elements, therefore it makes sense to study how effective other authors have used these elements in their descriptions of the books within your genre and good luck your book!


Book V of the Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Millpond is nearing completion!

I am looking for help in two areas. The first is that I would like you to check out my book’s description. Do you like it? Even more important, how would you change it?

 

Fifteen-year-old Lacey Mayford has been infatuated with Matthew since she was a little girl, but Matthew doesn’t see her as anything more than a little girl cousin. How can she convince him that she is not only not his cousin,.she is also growing into a beautiful young woman.

In the frontier town of Pittsburgh, PA near the turn of the century,  Matthew Thorton is blamed for Luther Hannibal’s murder because of an altercation that Matthew had with the man over some stolen furs. As a half-breed Indian, Matthew seems to have a chance to defend himself so Lacey with the help of a teacher at the Pittsburgh Academy, Felix Grackle, look into other suspects who could have killed Luther Hannibal. At the same time, Matthew’s father Luke and Luke’s best friend Jacque Pierre is looking for whoever it was who stole the furs because they believe that this person might have something to do with Luther Hannibal’s murder.

A  vigilante group heightens the danger. They are seeking to do everything they can to avoid a whiskey sales tax that has been imposed on them from stealing the US mail to tarring and feathering US government officials attempting to collect those taxes.

Will Lacey be able to clear Matthew’s name? Will Luke and Jacque Pierre find the man who stole the furs? Will the vigilantes stop the Whiskey Rebellion without bloodshed? The truth is far more sinister than anything that anyone could imagine.

 

What do you think of this description? Would you read this book? What do you think would improve it? Now that you’ve checked out the description, check out these book covers. Which book cover do you think best fits this book?

 

 

Which Book Cover Do You Like Best?

Comment below about which of the following seven book covers do you prefer that goes with this description? Which one is best? (Please refer to the book cover(s) you prefer by the corresponding letter).

A

A) In the Shadow of the Millpond

A) In the Shadow of the Millpond

 

B

B) In the Shadow of the Millpond

B) In the Shadow of the Millpond

 

C

c) In the Shadow of the Millpond

c) In the Shadow of the Millpond

 

D

in-the-shadow-of-the-millpond-03

D) IN the Shadow of the Millpond

 

E

in-the-shadow-of-the-millpond-04

E) In the Shadow of the Millpond

 

F

in-the-shadow-of-the-millpond-06

F) In the Shadow of the Millpond

G

G) In the Shadow of the Millpond

G) In the Shadow of the Millpond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which is your favorite? Which book would you be likely to pick up? Please share your answer in the comment section below! Please share with your friends! Please help me make this the best book of the Locket Saga!

 

As Author Cygnet Brown, Donna Brown is the author and publisher of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga,  Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag! Her next book Book V of the Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Millpond will be out later this year!

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and buy her books, check out her website at http://www.cygnetbrow.com

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