Oct 292015
 

Guest Post by Jo Linsdell

Photo Jo Lindell on November Writing Challenges

Author Jo Lindell presents advice on preparing for the November Writing Challenges

Just as the calendar year winds down, three November writing challenges help writers jump-start their creativity. You can choose between NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November) aka NaNonFiWritMo (National Nonfiction Writing Month), and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).

 Not everyone, it turns out, is choosing just one. Guest poster Jo Linsdell, of WritersandAuthors.info and organizer of the annual online PromoDay event plans to do all three. She takes “plans” literally, so we’ve asked her to share how she preps to “put a jet pack” on her productivity.

 Even if you’re “just” doing one challenge, or partially participating, you can learn from her attitude and pre-challenge tactics.

I love a good challenge. I’ve never been one to do things lightly though. I have a go big attitude when it comes to setting goals for myself, and this year is no different. I’ll be taking part in, not one, but three different challenges this November. I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, WNFIN, and PiBoIdMo.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself “Is she crazy?!” The honest answer here is probably “YES”. Continue reading »

Oct 202015
 
why I write what I write twitter screen capture

Is there a disconnect between why you write about what you write and what made you want to write in the first place?

As part of The National Day On Writing, via the #WhyIWrite Twitter meme, writers express why they’re willing—even anxious—to confront empty pages. Fellow writers’ 140 –character insight into what drives them makes inspiring, thought-provoking reading.

You’ll notice that very few of the #WhyIWrite tweets mention readers—particularly not the need to attract them. Which makes me think there’s a disconnect between what motivates us to be a writer and what we actually write about.

To succeed—whatever that may mean to each of us—experts tell us repeatedly that we need a winning concept. We also have to develop the ability to sell that concept. Which can lead us down a convoluted path of writing which has nothing whatsoever to do with what made us want to become a writer.

Why I write morphs into the more difficult to articulate, Why I write what I write.

Why I write what I write?

It’s not an easily contemplated question. Ideally, the same answer would apply to why you write, why you wanted to write in the first place, and why you write what you write.

Reality, for most of us, conjures a more complicated landscape. Many came into the field hoping to change the world with our words. We dreamed of our story taking root in hearts across the world, making it a better place, even if only infinitesimally so.

Some of us were driven by the need to create, but no one is paying for virgin creative juice. Like club soda on grocery store shelves, creative juice gets relegated to the mixer aisle instead of the main beverage aisle. Creativity’s market is dependent on bundling it with a trendier product, the ubiquitous yet damnably ethereal “winning concept.”

The problem with some of those winning concept beverages is that they’re not heart healthy. Perhaps that’s why blogging is so hard for many “emerging” authors. We’re blogging to build (or reinforce) our platform, but platform building ranks pretty low on our list of things we’re passionate about.

Your answer?

Even if I knew it, I couldn’t provide anyone with the right completion to ”Why I write what I write.” That answer comes from introspection. Despite all the “unleashing the stories in my head” responses that we read, it’s not usually that simple. Few of us have complete stories that are simply waiting for a romp off-leash. We’re creating, massaging, molding and editing for a reason. Perhaps it’s a personal one, such as understanding history or processing internal emotional turmoil. Perhaps it’s a need to inspire or to provide a glimpse of an alternative reality. Perhaps that reason hasn’t yet made itself clear.

But it’s a question worth asking, even if it doesn’t change anything that you do. The better we understand our inner workings, the higher the likelihood that we’ll be able to change gears if an attractive turn in the road presents itself.

You know, that road less written.

Oct 022015
 
podcasting play button

Is podcasting for you?

You may have noted that TRLW writers have literally been on a road less written for a few weeks.  Hopefully, we’ve been conspicuous by out absence.  Laura took a month to travel and John is taking a couple of months to change day-jobs and move across the country.  There are, of course, stories in that, but Justin has been up to something that might be interesting for a lot of us: podcasting.

As any “emerging” or veteran author knows, you can’t do it all.  Authors have to decide where to focus their energies. Writing their book, blogging, generating an income, promotion, speaking, and staring into space all vie for their time and creativity.  Justin is currently focusing on podcasting (in addition to being a family man, screen writing FOR PAY, promoting his books, and the other things that we all juggle.)

Personally, I think Justin’s decision to let others literally hear his voice is a great fit. If you listen to the podcast embedded below or have heard any of his radio interviews, you’ll note that his voice has a warmth and openness that’s hard to convey in non-fiction blogging.  Self-Publishing Answers (SPA) podcasts at www.writehacked.com allows him and his entertaining cohorts, Kevin Tumlinson and Nick Thacker to present helpful advice in a friendly, mentoring tone.

The podcast page is embedded below. (Scroll down to find the play button.) This one happens to be about where to focus your energy as a first-time author. Give it a listen (as you do your work) and see what you think.  Could podcasting work for you?

Aug 052015
 
eye chart and orange proving visualiation isn't just visual

Visualization isn’t just visual. Writers engage all the senses as well as the imagination.

The term “visualization” is a misnomer. And so is “visual aids.” Visualization isn’t just visual and visual aids aren’t just for speakers.

The more my writing life intermingles with my speaking life, the more the lines between the two skill sets blur. (See How Public Speaking Can Make You a Better Writer.) There are more similarities than differences when it comes to sparking audiences’ imaginations. And, though it sounds counter-intuitive, there’s a lot writers can apply from the concept of a visual aid.

Visualization Isn’t Just Visual

We think of ourselves as painting pictures with words. Again, the bias towards our audience’s sight obstructs the meaning. For instance, if you want readers to think of a campfire, do you want them to form a mental picture of logs arranged in a radius with orange flames licking out of them? Or would you rather them to remember sitting by a campfire with the acrid smell stinging their nostrils or eyes? The smell of something delicious cooking? The taste of s’mores? The warmth of the flame during a chilly night? The magic of being away from all the indoor pursuits and enjoying the company of family or friends? Visualization isn’t just visual.

Visualization manages readers’ expectations.

When I was known as “The Science Lady” at my kids’ elementary school, I would go in classrooms to demonstrate fun scientific principles to the kids. My favorite involved blindfolding a volunteer, cutting an orange in half, and letting them smell it. Then I’d offer them something to drink—milk. The kids would always respond with surprise or even disgust. When they were expecting an orange, most kids hated the milk.

Just as our olfactory sense prepares our taste buds for what is to come, our words to manage our readers’ expectations of what they are about to digest. Writers can present the landscape much like a screenplay, letting them see every detail or focus their “visualization” on the part of the story we want them to conjure up. Our words become precision optics.

Visualization engages the imagination.

Good visual aids, like good writing, engage the imagination. In one of my favorite books, Talk Like Ted: the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the Worlds Top Minds, Carmine Gallo asserts that “It is all about storytelling.” Since storytelling is my passion, I didn’t need much convincing, but Gallo backs up his premise with new brain research. Through functional MRI scans, researchers have discovered that our brains are more active when we hear stories.

I believe that’s because stories activate the imagination. Readers wonder what will happen next. They wonder what they would do, or how the facts apply to their situation. That engagement is like a hook, but not just for its ability to grab. As we engage readers’ imaginations, their neurons fire, embedding that hook (in a nice, painless way) and keeping them with our stories.

Good visualization engages the emotions as well.

Engaging the imagination can engage emotions as well. Take, for instance, neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Taylor, one of the first TED Speakers to have her talk go viral. She uses a visual aid, but it’s far from visually appealing. Dr. Taylor uses a human brain, complete with 17” on spinal cord attached. It affects listeners’ visceral sense and their emotions much more than it affects their sight. Though she disgusts her listeners, she grabs their attention as well as their emotions. Particularly with teens, it makes a memorable moment, as she holds that brain aloft and tells them, “This is your brain. This is your instrument. This is your power.” (See Dr. Taylor’s TedEx Youth talk.)

When her listeners’ emotions are involved, her words, like that brain she holds out, have power.

It goes beyond “Show Don’t Tell.”

Without question, “Show, Don’t Tell” makes writing better. In fact, Dennis G. Jerz does a great job of illustrating how showing engages not only the senses, but also readers’ emotions in his Show, Don’t (Just) Tell post

But it’s not all craft. That kind of writing comes naturally when we write with passion. That passion, like an attention grabbing prop, engages readers’ senses and their imagination. As important as all the craft of writing well is, so it the art of pouring a bit of yourself onto the page.

Words act as visual aids.

We can’t hold a human brain under our readers noses, but, through our words, we can accomplish what good visual aids do. We can engage our readers’ imaginations–and  that can be quite a gift.

Jul 092015
 

Capture In spite of all the complaints you hear out there, Amazon’s KDP select may still be worth it. And as the title suggests, that’s for one reason – advertising.

I’ve played with ads for my books on Goodreads and Facebook, but the success has been unimpressive. Amazon, however, makes sense. Only KDP books can be part of it, so you know right there who your competition is.

So how does it work? Continue reading »

Jun 112015
 

339181-hourglassLast week, I turned 42. In a society as age-centric as our own, you’d think I’d be freaking out about it. After all, the half-century mark is creeping ever closer. The faint etchings of age around my eyes are slowly becoming fault lines. And the old knee injuries of youth have come back to haunt me. It ain’t all bad, though. I’m actually in better shape now than I was 20 years ago. My vision is still 20/15. And when I look at turning 42 as simply having seven 6th birthdays, I trick myself into thinking it’s not such a hard thing to deal with.

Inevitably, however, there comes a day when the lights will go out. When the flame will get snuffed. When—not withstanding a person’s personal religious beliefs—we’ll all be spending the eternity drifting and tumbling through a moist, black void of non-existence. It’s the worst blow of all to the human ego to think of our minds—our consciousness—as nothing more than the mesh of a functioning brain; our bodies simply a bag of tissue and enzymes.

No artist can ever truly explain the drive to create. It’s a maddening, arduous process to sit there before a blank page and try to give some tangible form to artistic expression. Aside from the hours of thinking and ruminating and spelunking deep into the oft-treacherous caverns of the mind comes plenty of self-doubt and second-guessing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve championed what I thought was the perfect set of paragraphs, only to glance at it the very next day and consider it all just complete garbage. A hobby like golf or stamp collecting would be much easier on the psyche, for sure. But that’s just it: a writer, and I mean one who writes with the desperation of someone trying to take air, doesn’t see writing as merely a hobby. It’s not something you do because you have an hour to spare. It becomes something you must do. A need to be fulfilled. We write to beat the Devil and that’s the point. Whether it’s painting a canvas or writing a song, sculpting a garden or writing a story. It may sound like a stretch but the basic goal of creativity is to compete with the inescapability of our mortality. We long to create something that’s bigger than us. Leave some part of us behind that will, at least in a pragmatic sense, remain timeless. Does that mean that all artists are narcissistic? Who exactly does longevity and timelessness matter most to anyway? The writer, or the reader? On any given day it can be either.

When you nail a sentence, it takes you to euphoric heights. Flub one, and it sends you plummeting to crushing depths. But that’s how it goes. You take the good with the bad. You follow your instincts while not always knowing what the instinct is saying. Because with every valley comes a peak. Ignore the value judgments of others and write only what is truthful. For when you create something you can be proud of, then you’ve already beaten death.

Apr 202015
 

Choosing a website building platform How do you know what the best website building platform is best for your blog and author site?

For most of us traveling down the road less written, blogging and developing a website is a necessity. For many, choosing a website building platform—learning about them and figuring out which one is best—is grueling. The options overwhelm.

As you investigate various blogging and site-building platforms, you’re not looking for the “best” product available on the market. You’re looking for a best fit. Continue reading »

Mar 232015
 

The RedwoodsSociety will soon be TheRoadLessWritten.

Like the butterfly, we’re maturing and finding our wings. But the caterpillar is still crawling around in there. We’re staying with our original calling—promoting fellowship with other writers who, like us “attempt to enhance the varied experiences of life through writing.” We’re just refocusing a little. Maybe our wings will look a little prettier–which means we have a new logo.

The Redwoods Society grew out of a group of aspiring authors that met at the San Francisco Writers Conference in 2013. Since that time, we’ve supported each other as we’ve each moved from aspiring to finding our routes to publication. We’ve not only watched each other succeed; we’ve been a part of it.

In fact, we writers are lucky to work in a field where even our competitors can give us a boost. Spreading the love of another author doesn’t cost us a single reader. One good book can make them eager to buy another—by another author.

We are uniquely qualified to help each other to achieve new successes, improve our craft, and to find our voice. We help each other with tips and tricks on everything from fight scenes to social media. We encourage each other when we’re attacked by trolls or slighted by agents. We advise, cheer, challenge, console, and promote.

In short, as writers seeking to better our craft and to find our individual path, niche, and voice, we help each other along the Road Less Written, with all the rich metaphors that implies.

Your road less written probably won’t look like ours does. It might be curvier, less traveled, or more traveled. But wherever it goes, we hope you have companionship, sustenance, and someone to bounce ideas off of. And we hope it takes you to places you want to go, even if you don’t yet know where those places are yet.

Stay tuned. More good things are coming.

Feb 172015
 

Are you blogging or are you writing a book? Why not both!

This year marked another year at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and I had a great time. One topic that was raised in a conversation with some attendees was the idea of Amazon.com as a place to blog. What’s that, you ask? Amazon is a place for books! This is what I mean – I don’t mean posts blogs, but take your blog ideas, and expand them into books. Yes, but many of those books are Level 50 blogs (video game reference), as you will see especially in the $0.99 books.

Continue reading »

Jan 262015
 

The best way to irritate and alienate other authors is to brag about your accomplishments.

For most of us, however, that’s not a problem. We deplore the self-promotion aspect of marketing our books.

That’s one reason we should have tribes. We need writer cohorts, such as you’ll find here at this site, who don’t just cheer us on, but celebrate our achievements. Which is a ‘round-about way of introducing a fact that I want to scream from the proverbial rooftops of the blogosphere. Continue reading »

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