Do You Use Music to Help You Write?

Do You Use Music to Help You Write? explores whether or not music can help you with your writing.

I’ve been up since 4 AM. (I knew I had that last coffee too late in the day yesterday but can take no satisfaction in being right about that now!)

Fridays can be chaotically busy here at my desk, so much so that even with a full and restful night of sleep, getting through them with all my jobs completed some weeks can be challenging. But, somehow I’m managing to stay awake today though I suspect once I move away from my desk I may collapse into a sleeping heap on the floor!

My trick to consciousness under these circumstances is music—loud and upbeat. (If you’re interested, I’ve got Chicago cranked with all their hits from the 70’s and the 80’s. And, YES, I know I’m dating myself but there’s something rousing about the likes of Questions 67 & 68 and their other songs from that era that seems to be keeping me going.)

So, I know that music can keep me awake, and when I’m particularly stressed, I know that classical music can be somewhat calming. I also have a couple of CD’s here from the Through a Dog’s Ear series and have witnessed their calming effect on everyone here in my office including the dogs and the foster kittens down to the point of napping after a couple of bars. I don’t dare turn that on today!

Music For Writing

But, today, I’d like to explore whether music can help you with your writing.

Have you ever noticed that while we, as fiction writers, can sometimes struggle to accurately relay the thoughts and intense emotions in a scene involving our characters, with paragraphs and sometimes pages and pages of text, song writers seem to manage to nail the same sort of idea or theme in a three minute song? Of course, there’s no denying that the actual tunes, and the angst in the voices of the singers contribute to that raw emotion.
Continue reading “Do You Use Music to Help You Write?”

Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words

Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words provides examples to explain the concept of show, don’t tell when writing.

You hear it all the time in fiction writing courses, and you can read about it in books on writing and on blog posts online. Show, don’t tell.

I can be kind of dense sometimes but I have to say that that often left me scratching my head. Huh? Show? Don’t tell? Whatcha talkin’ about?

But I get it now–I think!

Examples

I think a couple of examples are the best way to show you want I mean.

Example #1

Tell:
The boy walked slowly across the street to his house. He knew he was in trouble.

Show:
He was short for his age and looked even smaller in his older brother’s hand-me-down blue jeans rolled up at the legs so he wouldn’t trip. He shoved his hands into the tattered pockets and trudged across the narrow street. With hunched shoulders, he walked into the house and braced himself for the whipping his father would surely give him.

Example #2

Tell:
She was an old woman. She looked him in the eye and said thank you.

Show:
Her wrinkled skin had been damaged by the sun over her many years on this earth. She brushed a long strand of grey hair from her forehead and tried to adjust her stooped frame to look him in the eye. “Thank you,” she said, her voice barely audible.

Be Specific

Give details. Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Avoid adverbs. (They usually end with “ly” if you’re confused about which ones are the adverbs!) Close in the gaps so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about and can picture it!

Do you see the difference? Do you have any other suggestions to help writers show and not tell? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Be Writing Your Book in Longhand?

Writing Your Novel in Longhand explains why some writers prefer to writing longhand and debates the pros and cons of this approach.

I started journaling again about two months ago. I’ve written diaries periodically through the years. I wrote one when I was a teenager and journaling was mandatory at the start of every English class. I’ve written travel diaries when I travelled. These assorted journals are scattered around the house, in my cedar chest, and boxes stored in the basement, but I’ve never consistently and willingly, without grades depending on it, written a journal.

But, now, every morning through the week, after eating my bowl of cereal and before I fire up the computer, let the dogs out and start into the business of my day, while the house is still quiet and I can only hear the ticking of the grandfather clock, I sit in my sunny living room and write in my journal. I write about the weather, my hopes, my dreams, my thoughts and my memories. The words just flow freely from my heart and my head onto the paper of a spiraled notebook purchased at the dollar store, so freely that I’m now considering writing the rest of the first draft of my novel the old fashioned way, with pen in hand on paper.

In high school I wrote my first serious attempt at a novel with a pencil on three ringed paper. I’d lock myself in my room for hours at a time and write and write and write until the callous on my finger was thick and tough and my fingers were cramped. The writing process was undeniably slower than typing away on a keyboard, but my focus was practically unbreakable.

But now when I try to write on the computer, the whole world is literally at my fingertips. When my concentration slips for just a minute, I find myself checking for the latest news headlines or the weather forecast or checking email. And, sometimes I find that I’m re-reading and editing my work excessively, just because I can and it’s so easy to do so.

There are a variety of websites and programs that promise to eliminate distractions. Some are free and some are paid or subscription services. I always convince myself that I don’t need to use them, that I have control and that I can write without a program to babysit me and block my access to the internet, and I don’t even realize until I’m suddenly surfing that I do need a program to babysit me and block my access to the internet—until the next time!

So my recent success with journaling has reminded me of how enthusiastic and focused I was about writing, just for the sake and pure joy of writing, without interruptions, so many years ago when I wrote with a pen and paper, and I’m seriously thinking of trying to repeat that experience. I’m thinking that I might edit it when I transcribe it on the computer. And, maybe, after doing this for a while, I will be more engaged with the creative process of writing a book and less distracted by the Internet and all that it offers, and can go back to working on a computer to write my first draft?

For More Information

It seems I’m not the only one who recognizes the joy of writing in good old fashioned longhand. For more perspectives on writing your novel in longhand, check out these articles:

Why creative writing is better with a pen
Writers Who Don’t Use Modern Technology
The Mighty Pen – The Benefits of Writing Longhand
Write or type?
Writers Writing Longhand
8 Ways Writing Longhand Frees Your Muse

So there you have it, the argument for writing without the benefits of modern technology. If you think about it, modern artists don’t make a point of using Paint Shop Pro to paint their pictures, do they? Maybe we shouldn’t be using word processors to write the first drafts of our books?

Would you consider writing your next novel in longhand? Please tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

The Writer’s Knowledge Base: A Free and Valuable Resource for Writers

The Writer’s Knowledge Base: A Free and Valuable Resource for Writers discusses an amazing free resource for writers created by Elizabeth S. Craig and Mike Fleming.

Today I thought I’d share a great resource for writers. It’s called the Writer’s Knowledge Base and it’s been put together by author Elizabeth S. Craig and Mike Fleming, creator of Hiveword, a web-based novel organizer.

Elizabeth had the idea for a knowledge base based on tweets and discussed this in a blog post in 2010Writing Links Archive—an Experiment. Mike had an idea for a collecting links to great articles mentioned in tweets and between them they came up with the Writer’s Knowledge Base: The Search Engine for Writers was born.

Elizabeth collects the links from the hundreds of writing-related websites she monitors and tweets them out. Mike does the behind the scenes technical stuff to make the knowledge base site accessible to everyone online. And, we all benefit from this collaboration!

So What Can We Find in the Knowledge Base?

Lots of good stuff!

How about 3189 articles on author platform? Or, how about 5825 links to articles on point of view, 571 links for ghosts, or 187 articles on forensics for crime writers?

This is just a sample of what’s available through the database and remember, it is continually growing.

Writer’s Knowledge Base Links

Here are all the links you need to follow Elizabeth and Mike:
Twitter:
@ElizabethSCraig
@Hiveword

Facebook:
Writer’s Knowledge Base page

Blogs:
Elizabeth: Mystery Writing is Murder
Mike: Hiveword Blog

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Photo: Pixabay

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing — Consider these ten suggestions if you need a fresh perspective to see where to make changes and improvements to your writing.

Yesterday was a warm and sunny day, the warmest of the year so far and we spent a great deal of time working outside in the yard, trimming bushes and the dead stalks from perennials that we hadn’t managed to do before winter and that sort of thing.

It’s always interesting to see the yard after the snow has melted, to see what survived the cold temperatures, and what plants are already poking above the surface with new growth. We have a huge yard, nearly a third of an acre, in the suburbs and I love walking around it at this time of year, envisioning how lovely the gardens will look and making plans for changes and improvements—a new plant or tree here, maybe a trellis with a climbing rose bush there, etc.

Springtime offers a fresh perspective. It’s almost like seeing the yard for the first time.

How Writers Can Gain a Fresh Perspective on Their Writing

A fresh perspective is important to see where we need to make changes and improvements, but, as writers maintaining blogs and cranking out books, how do we gain that?

Here’s some ideas that might help:

  1. Read it out loud.
    Sometimes we can hear the errors and weaknesses in our writing easier than we can see them.
  2. Read a book about writing.
    For example, if you’re writing a thriller, read about how to write thrillers. You might find some advice that you can implement or recognize a weakness in your own writing that you need to correct.
  3. Take a writing course.
    Learning new things can alter your perspective and as an added bonus, build your enthusiasm.
  4. Work with beta readers.
    Feedback from others can be very helpful and can provide you with a fresh perspective.
  5. Walk away from your writing for a while.
    You don’t have to physically walk away from it of course, but put it in a drawer or close the file on your computer for a while—a day, a week, a month—whatever it takes for you to gain a fresh perspective.
  6. Have your writing read to you.
    There are numerous text-to-voice apps available. Many of them are free. Microsoft Word offers this with its latest versions. Find one that works for you as some of them sound more natural than others and listen to your book.
  7. Review your writing in a different environment.
    Sitting in the same spot, at the same computer, can be like wearing blinders. Shake things up a bit and take your laptop into a different room before reviewing your text.
  8. Review your writing on a different computer or device.
    Your writing will look somewhat different on a different device and sometimes that subtle difference is enough to give you that fresh perspective.
  9. Print out your writing.
    I don’t like to review things online for errors and I will often print out my documents and grab my trusty red pen to mark them up.
  10. Change the font, text size or line spacing in your document.
    It’s amazing how much of a difference something so simple can make!

Well, I hope that gives you some ideas for gaining a fresh perspective on your writing. If you have more ideas that you’d like to add to the list, please leave them in the comments.

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize reviews why writing characters like those in the Netflix series Bloodline is important to good fiction.

Tonight my husband and I will watch the final episode of Netflix’s new series Bloodline. The 13 episode first season premiered on March 20th.

We aren’t usually ones to binge watch TV series. Well, I should clarify and explain that I would if my husband was more keen to do so. I’m not sure if that says more about my self-discipline (or lack thereof), or his, or the fact that, if I’m reading a good fiction book, I can’t put it down until I’ve finished it and that this trait has transitioned to my television watching habits. The availability of complete seasons or series, being streamed or on DVD, makes this a modern day option, doesn’t it?

Yesterday we watched an unheard of FOUR episodes. You’d have to know my husband to understand my disbelief. I don’t think he’s ever willingly subjected himself to four episodes of one series in one day. Granted, it was a Sunday and a bone chilling cold day at that, the type of day when you want to hibernate, sit on your bum and just veg, but mostly I think we watched so many episodes because this series is just so darned good.

What makes it good? The plot is good and offers lots of conflict and I don’t think it can be disputed that the very talented actors are well cast, but to me the realism of the characters themselves takes the prize.

There is nothing black and white about the characters in Bloodline. Though some of the characters are blacker or whiter than others, or perhaps better said darker or lighter shades of grey, I have felt varying degrees of sympathy, anger and understanding for the actions of each character. They’re all very human and like the rest of us, they’ve all made bad decisions that they’ve later come to regret. It’s probably safe to suggest that these bad decisions and the reactions of others to these decisions, drive the plot.

I’m not sure that I could break my observations and praise for the way the characters of this series have been written into a few bullet points, a how-to article on writing characters like in Bloodline, other than to stress the importance of creating multi-dimensional characters. If I could document step-by-step bullet points so that we could all crank out such excellent characters for our books that would be wonderful for all concerned – you, me, and all of our potential readers, but I think my best recommendation would be to watch this series and decide for yourself, if you agree with me, what pointers you can glean and transfer to your own writing projects.

In the meantime I’m counting the minutes until we watch the final episode tonight!

If you’ve seen the series and care to comment (no spoilers please), I’d be interested to know if you agree with me or not.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A Comma! A Comma! My Meaning for a Comma!

A Comma! A Comma! My Meaning for a Comma! explains how a missing or misplaced comma can entirely change the meaning of your writing.

If you’ve been following the news this week, you know that England is going all out to rebury the body of Richard III. Much pomp and pageantry is involved with a parade and the lying in state of his coffin at Leicester Cathedral. His skeletal remains were found under a car park in 2012.

Shakespeare immortalized Richard III in his play of the same name and most of us have heard the quote from this play “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” This memorable line is used at the point in the play where Richard III is about to meet his fate at the hands of the future Henry VII, all for the lack of a horse implying that he was going to lose it all, i.e. his kingdom, for lack of something relatively insignificant by comparison.

As writers we put a great deal of thought into our work. Sometimes without even realizing it, we select wording and vocabulary that sound good and flow well together even before we commit them to paper or a computer keyboard. We research our topic if we’re writing nonfiction, our characters and settings if we’re writing fiction, usually intending to create a particular tone and/or relay a particular message.

But sometimes, sometimes we can completely change the meaning of what we intended to say, because we forget to add or correctly position a mere comma.

How’s this for an example?

Let’s eat, John. versus Let’s eat John.

Learn More About Commas

Here are a few sites where you can read more about the proper use and placement of commas:

And, a couple of sites where you can laugh at the impact a poorly placed, or altogether missing, comma can make:

So, be mindful of your punctuation, in particular the lowly comma. It’s placement can make a huge difference. “A comma! A comma! My meaning for a comma!

Photo credit: William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Quick and Dirty Resource for Writers

A Quick and Dirty Resource for Writers explores how writers may be able to utilize quickanddirtytips.com for their writing projects and author platforms.

I thought I’d share an interesting site I’ve found and tell you how as writers you may be able to make use of it.

The site is Quick and Dirty Tips and it’s hosted by individuals deemed to be experts in their fields. The topics they cover include:

Productivity

  • Email
  • Learning
  • Meetings
  • Organization
  • Project Management
  • Time Management

Relationships

  • Etiquette & Manners
  • Dining & Travel
  • Professional
  • Friendships
  • Romance
  • Social Media
  • Pets
    • Cats
    • Dogs
    • Dog Training
    • Dog Behavior
    • Dog Care
    • Puppies

    Tech

    • Web
    • Tech News
    • Software & Apps
    • Mobile
    • Home Theater
    • Gadgets
    • Computers

    Health & Fitness

    • Exercise
    • Healthy Eating
    • Medical Conditions
    • Mental Health
    • Men’s Health
    • Women’s Health
    • Prevention
    • Trends & Fads
    • Weight Loss

    Education

    • Math
    • Science
    • Writing
    • Grammar

    Business & Career

    • Careers
    • Legal
    • Communication
    • Networking
    • Public Speaking
    • Small Business

    Money & Finance

    • Taxes
    • Investing
    • Insurance
    • Credit
    • Loans
    • Real Estate
    • Saving & Spending
    • Retirement

    House & Home

    • Budgeting
    • DIY
    • Entertaining
    • Food
    • Organization
    • Interior Design
    • Housekeeping
    • Holidays

    Parenting

    • Back to School
    • Pregnancy
    • Babies & Infants
    • Toddlers
    • School Age
    • Tweens & Teens
    • Family Time
    • Behavior

    If you have a question, you can contact the appropriate host for the topic through their host page on the Quick and Dirty Tips site. Archived tips also appear on the topic pages.

    This site is potentially valuable for anyone, not just writers, but writers often deal productivity issues, and have grammar and writing questions for starters. And, if you’re writing fiction, many of the tips found here may be helpful as you research and develop your characters and storyline.

    So, take a look and let me know what you think. Will QuickandDirtyTips.com be helpful to you?

    Photo credit: Mop via photopin (license)

  • 9 Motivating Mantras for Writers

    9 Motivating Mantras for Writers lists nine mantras to encourage writers.

    Sooner or later all writers get discouraged and need something to kick them in the butt to get them back on track.

    A mantra is “a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power.”

    So, here’s a list of mantras just for writers. If you’re at a point in your writing that you need one to help you out of a rut or to spur you on with your project, I hope you can find something here that does the trick. Otherwise, you might want to bookmark this page for a day when you need that little extra nudge to help you with your writing.

    I think therefore I am.

    Fake it till you make it.

    Just be.

    Make it happen.

    Just do it.

    If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.

    One word at a time…

    Get it down.

    And remember:

    It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. — Confucius

    Do you have a favourite mantra that helps you? Tell us in the comments.

    Photocredit: Pixabay

    Do Your Characters Pass the Test?

    Do Your Characters Pass the Test? Why not test your characters’ mental health using online mental health quizzes to see if they possess the disorders and symptoms you want them to have?

    When we create our characters, we get to decide everything about them. If they’re main characters instrumental to our plotline, we might go so far as to decide when and where they were born, if they were bullied in school, if they were bullies in school, whether they suffer from insomnia as adults, and everything in between and beyond that.

    To write convincing characters, we need to be able to get into our characters’ heads and know how they’d react in particular situations. Depending on our storyline and our characters, sometimes we need them to be depressed, schizophrenic, or suffer from insomnia or obsessive compulsive disorder for example. Perfectly normal people aren’t always very interesting to write or read about, are they?

    But, unless we are depressed (or have been), schizophrenic, or suffer from insomnia or obsessive compulsive disorder, or whatever, how do we know we’re accurately portraying our characters in our stories?

    Why not put your characters to the test—literally!

    Online Mental Health Quizzes

    There are a number of sites online offering an assortment of mental health questionnaires.

    1. Find a quiz online appropriate for your character and their mental health condition. For example if your character is supposed to have Attention Deficit Disorder try this test.
    2. Be your character and answer the quiz.

    Did your character pass the test?

    Online Mental Health Quizzes

    Here’s a list of sites where you can find mental health quizzes. You do not need to create an account to use these quizzes and can remain anonymous.

    1. Psychological Tests & Quizzes – This site offers tests to diagnose the following symptoms and disorders for OCD, PTSD, ADD, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and many other conditions.
    2. Online Psychological Tests – This site offers tests in the following categories: Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders, Addictions, Depression, ADHD, Eating Disorders, Thought Disorders, and more.

    Let me know if your characters pass the test in the comments below.

    Photo credit: Pixabay