Writing Tools and Information

Advice on Submitting Your Poems

Photo by  Frame Harirak  on  Unsplash

For those who are looking for a little bit of guidance in finding a home for their poems, I have dusted off and reposted an awesome resource. Check out “How To Submit Poems To Literary Journals And Magazines” at Writer’s Relief. Follow these seven steps and you’ll find your work in the limelight in quick fashion.

http://writersrelief.com/2010/01/11/how-to-submit-poems-to-literary-journals-and-magazines/?fbclid=IwAR0dNHqY4hVS6MmrpmWSdFLpDo1sbr00EBYK9J_h8NSgNokW0XwXEYTt0hQ

Author Website TIps

Photo by  Raul Varzar  on  Unsplash

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Poets and writers are always looking for a way to “pop” and appear vivid against the blah backdrop of the internet. Creatives are attention whores – me included - and the only way to make an impression and find greater success is to stand out.

As part of my endless/obsessive pursuit of improvement, I discovered this new-ish article by Robert Lee Brewer about “five things author websites need to find more success.” There are some solid takeaways that both experienced and novice writers with websites can put into practice and find results. Enjoy.

https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/5-things-author-websites-need-to-find-more-success

+

Closing the Deal.

Writers spend a lot of time focusing on the craft of opening lines. This is true for fiction, poetry, essay, and even speeches. But what about endings? Aren’t they important, too?

Of course they are. And in this piece from the Washington Post, Ron Charles gives some much-deserved love to some of the more impactful closing lines in literature.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/entertainment/books/best-last-lines/?utm_term=.662e77c2e80c

Three Mistakes.

wrong way.jpg

Whether we admit it or not, we all make mistakes. This article by Kyle Massa on the ProWriting Aid website will help you correctly use some of the most commonly misused words. Full disclosure – I’m guilty of number two on this list, but now I know better.

https://prowritingaid.com/art/722/3-commonly-misused-words-(and-how-to-use-them-correctly).aspx?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=misused

 

Process: Improving Through Editing

Improvement comes from practice & process. And when I think process, I focus more on editing rather than the writing itself. A clear process has helped me make consistent strides in my writing skills.

  • Write first, then edit. I don't combine them or I'll run in place.
  • Use spell check, but don't completely rely on it as a defense for errors. I have to recognize the difference between "pubic" and "public."
  • Step away. I see screw-ups clearer if I let a piece "breathe" and then come back to proofread.
  • Change viewing formats. For me, reading things on paper helps me catch more mistakes than on screen.
  • Change locations. I often take the format change concept further by printing a piece and then reading it elsewhere. If it's a nice day, I print my work and edit it while outside. It may seem quirky but a location change can make a difference.
editing.jpg
  • Read aloud and change anything that sounds like gibberish. If I have to repeat something a few times to comprehend it, I usually tweak it to add clarity.
  • Read all the way through. I consider things as a unit before I make sweeping changes. I also note where I repeat myself, then consider sprinkling in synonyms rather than overusing key words or phrases.
  • Macro edit. I first consider the larger picture. Is there fluff that needs to be removed? Is key info missing? Does the piece flow? I try to get the big stuff right, then dive into the details. Otherwise, I’ll waste time carefully editing things that I’ll later cut.
  • Micro edit. Once I'm broadly happy, it’s time to trim. People tend to use more words than necessary. So I pretend each word costs a dollar and I want to save money. I analyze the relevance of every sentence and each word. And I tweak sentences so they're using active voice whenever possible.
  • Reread. Sometimes I accidentally edit in mistakes or delete key information. So I print again, move to another location and read aloud. Then I do all the steps again until I think it's polished.
  • Spell check again - just in case. There are a lot of moving pieces when writing & editing. It would be foolish to believe these changes happen without a single misspelling.

I think real improvement can be found through stronger editing...and maybe that overall concept can work for you.

6 Literary Road Trips Across America You Can Actually Take

There are few things more quintessentially American than a road trip. The sheer size of the country, an abundance of connected highways, diverse regions and incredible landscapes of our national parks make a cross-country road trip the ultimate bucket-list experience. Discovery is ingrained in our culture. Recognizing that many Americans are descendants of immigrants who left their home countries, John Steinbeck wrote, “Every American hungers to move.”

road trip.jpg

Naturally, it makes sense that so many of us yearn for the open road. One might even say it’s symbolic: the vehicle being the visual representation of freedom, a drivers license the ticket and the route the destination. Road trips go far deeper than simply a travel experience, which is why literary lions like Tom Wolfe, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck documented their adventures by car in the form of novels. 

Inspired by some of the most popular travels in American literature. CarRentals created this guide to literary road trips. Only, instead of living these adventures through the pages of a book, they re-created the author’s routes to give us a list of road trips you can actually take.

https://www.carrentals.com/blog/your-guide-to-literary-road-trips-across-america-infographic/

 

Writing a Killer Essay Conclusion.

Crafting conclusions to essays can be challenging. It takes skill to end on a good note and drive your points home one last time. It’s the final chance to impress and give readers understanding as to why your essay matters. The style of the conclusion that's most effective will vary depending on the tone and point of view of your essay. However, there are some key points that apply no matter what style of essay you're crafting.

A good essay conclusion restates, not rewrites your thesis from the introduction. It usually consists of three sentences minimum. And it concludes thoughts without presenting new ideas.

rawpixel-586682-unsplash.jpg

One standard structure I've used is to Restate, Review, Connect, and Combine (I remember it as R-R-C-C):

Sentence #1: RESTATE the thesis by making the same point with other words.

Sentences #2-4: REVIEW supporting ideas; summarize how they prove the thesis.

Sentence #5: CONNECT back to the essay's main premise and relate your closing statement to an opening thought; make it relatable to impress a reader and give them something to contemplate.

Lastly, COMBINE these sentences into a conclusion. Eliminate redundancy. Add a transition word or phrase to make it clear you're concluding. Just try to be more inventive than the standard "In conclusion..." or "In closing..."

There are pitfalls to avoid. Resist the temptation to write any new information; focus on summarizing the thesis and statements. Try not to share personal thoughts unless it's a first-person opinion piece. Don’t attempt to restate every detail - that's what the body paragraphs are for. And finally, don't use boring, mundane words. Choose concise but vivid language instead.

To end an essay in a strong manner, consider its type and audience. A conclusion is your last chance to impress readers. R-R-C-C can be effective, but don't be afraid to take a more creative approach if it presents itself...just avoid the pitfalls I mentioned.

Finding Places to Submit Your Work

angelo-pantazis-180828-unsplash.jpg

So let’s say you’ve been diligent in writing every day. Now you have a huge pile of poems, stories, and essays that you’re ready to show the world. But how do you take your creative works from your hard drive and get them onto the pages of a literary journal?

One place to start is by reading Nausheen Eusuf’s “Where to Submit Your Work” on the Submittable blog. It provides an awesome list of places where you can find journals to submit all your brilliant stuff. Good luck in finding homes for your literary darlings!

https://blog.submittable.com/2018/04/where-to-submit-your-work/

What are some tips for writing articles or blog posts quickly?

Save the introduction for last. This tactic helps. I don’t write the intro until the rest of the article or blog post is finished. By doing this, I push right into the info readers want, and I don’t waste words on a long intro that’s often expendable anyway.

Focus on what readers want. If a piece is supposed to provide “5 ways to do X”, the bulk of the text must be about those 5 ways. Don’t spend too long on your intro or explanations. Drill down on what readers need, and don’t give too much extraneous info.

galymzhan-abdugalimov-181-unsplash.jpg

Formulate an outline. It doesn’t need to be extensive. Often I create a quick-and-dirty one such as:

  • Introduction
  • What Is X?
  • 5 Methods (list each solution)
  • Conclusion

Research to find support for the meat of your article or blog post, and then list those sources in the outline before you start writing. It will help you write faster by linking the sources to the point they are supporting.

Revision.

Writing is a process that goes through many stages. Revision is the catalyst that helps it progress from stage to stage. It’s not just changing a few words, adding a sentence here or there, or deleting material that’s unnecessary. Revision is a chance for a writer to actually re-vision a piece…in other words, to see a piece with new eyes and visualize it in a different way, all with the hope of seeing improvement.

michal-grosicki-228588.jpg

Seven Questions.

question 2.jpg

There’s a short list of questions I ask myself when I’m writing and editing, whether it’s poetry, fiction, essay, or other. These questions help guide me towards clarity.

  • What is it that I’m really trying to say?

  • What words will express my thoughts without ambiguity?

  • What analogy, metaphor, or simile might make this concept clearer?

  • Are the images vivid & fresh enough to have an impact with readers?

  • Can I say all of this more concisely?

  • Am I using big fancy words just to use them?

  • Have I said anything that’s offensive? If so, can I eliminate it or soften it and still get my point across.


It’s not a perfect list, but I believe maintaining the habit of going through these questions improves each piece of my writing.

Motivation & Writing

My motivation comes from acknowledging my writing has value, making a commitment to write, and making sure I find time to do it. This has culminated in me building good habits that help me write consistently, whether I feel a surge of inspiration or not.

It’s easy to blab about writing you’re going to do someday. I’m guilty of talking about a novel I claim I want to write, but doesn’t exist even in outline form. But if you’re always yapping about writing and never actually doing it, then your goals will never get accomplished. You must sit down and write consistently to build a habit.

clark-tibbs-367075.jpg

Some experts say you need to write daily. That’s a good idea and one that makes it harder to forget to write, but it isn’t easy. Other habits can also work. Choose to write every other day, on a half day on a weekend, for thirty minutes of weekday nights after everyone else is in bed, or as part of a lunch break at work.

It’s not about following someone else’s concept of when and how much you should write. It’s more about building a routine that works for you and keeps you writing consistently. Once you build this habit, writing gets easier, and you’ll fall into a productive mode more quickly and easily – which is a beautiful thing.

At times motivation arrives with fanfare and magical forces guide my pen or keystrokes. But those times are fleeting and rare. If I waited around for that blessed inspiration, I’d never produce new material or content. My advice is to develop an ongoing habit as a substitute for an emotional flurry, then take advantage of your uber-motivated moments when they do happen. Developing a consistent routine is a practical form of motivation that pays dividends.

Is Writer’s Block a Warning Sign?

adam-birkett-486736.jpg

I sometimes discover having writer’s block is a caveat that I need to fix some other aspect of my life.

Writer’s block is horrible and unproductive. We all hate it and bitch about it. But part of it could just be that your mind or spirit is in a really bad place at a certain point in life. If you’re in a shitty mental state because of money problems or relationship issues or day-job drama, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into writing or creative endeavors. You have to fix bigger things than your writing and then go back into it with the passion it deserves.

Work Backwards from the Precipice.

julia-caesar-15080.jpg

"When I write, I imagine a particular precipice and then work backward. I ask myself: What kind of journey would find its meaningful end here?”

I stumbled upon some interesting writing advice from Naima Coster, author of Halsey Street, over at the Poets & Writers Writers Recommend feature. She has a pretty cool perspective on constructing good fiction by starting with a worthwhile ending and building the story backward from there.

https://www.pw.org/writers_recommend/naima_coster

What to Look For…

There’s no shortage of lists or newsletters available to writers. Some of them are invaluable resources that authors will go back to time and time again, while others aren’t quite as useful. So how does one decide which of these resources are worthy of attention? In this insightful article on the Malahat Review’s website, Erika Dreifus provides some personal guidelines she uses to better understand what makes some these offerings better than others.

http://malahatreview.ca/tips/dec2017.html

nick-morrison-325805.jpg

Free Time Calculator: Do You Really Have Time to Write?

If you're like many writers, you've probably convinced yourself that you don't have enough time. Whether it's finding time to send out submissions, edit your work-in-progress, set new writing goals, finish your novel or just about anything…we often give up before we even start because we believe it's just not possible to fit writing into our busy lives. 

Well, the interesting thing is, if you sit down and do the calculations, you'd be surprised at just how much time you really do have. 

uros-jovicic-322314(1).jpg

To make it easier to figure out how much time you actually have to write, check out the Free Time Calculator at the link below. It's a simple, but effective, spreadsheet that will reveal the time you actually have to work on things you've been putting off - such as your writing. And it will help you identify the time blocks you can use to your benefit each day.

Quick Instructions:

1. Simply open the spreadsheet and you'll see all the days of the week across the top and then 60-minute time blocks on the side. These time blocks should start from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, so you may need to make adjustments. You can also switch to 30-minute increments to be more precise if you prefer.

calculator-example.jpg

2. In each time block, mark all the times you are busy. For example, include time at your job, exercise, family time, church, meal preparation and eating, commuting, etc. 

3. Then for open blocks, write in “1” for each hour block that you have free. If you switch to 30-minute blocks, enter “0.5”.

4. Once you've completed these steps, you'll see how much free time you have each day AND the total free time you have each week.

Of course, this calculation is just the first step in getting more done with your time and possibly reaching those writing goals you never thought you had time for. From here, you'll need to connect that time to the writing goals you want to achieve.

http://www76.zippyshare.com/v/qCoImh3d/file.html

Contingency Plans.

goran-ivos-246271.jpg

It is something writers would rather not think about, even if they should – protecting your writing from a computer emergency. Most writers have faced this at least once. The struggle to recreate that perfect short story you lost because you didn’t backup your work is almost as painful as losing the story in the first place.

So check out Triona Guidry’s article “How to Protect Your Writing from a Computer Emergency” over at The Writer. It gives some great hints on how to protect your writing from that inevitable data crisis.

https://www.writermag.com/2017/10/30/computer-emergency/

A Blogging Gameplan.

Writing content for a blog isn't always simple, To make it easier, I follow a set process.

1. Decide On A Topic

Develop a list of things you’re passionate about or you can write on authoritatively. It could be a mix of not only your expert subject-matter, but also topics related to productivity, motivation, work/life balance, etc. Also, think of questions you’re constantly answering. What common problems/concerns do people have? What info do you often seek? Pinpoint areas that others face difficulties- then you can create a benefit to readers by solving their problems. Keep a list of potential subjects to write about to fall back on when you don’t have new ideas.

2. Develop an Outline

I suggest using a traditional outline like we all learned to make in grade school. Break out the primary points of a post and create a list of what you want to include in the order you plan to address it. A traditional outline helps you work out the flow of a post and organize ideas in a logical manner.

3. Fill In The Holes

Next take your outline and start filling in the blanks. Add supporting evidence, research, sources, examples, and stories. Just write. Don’t worry about how it sounds. Since writing and editing are different skills, trying to do both at the same time hinders your process. Just focus on getting your ideas out and conveying what you want to say.

4. Edit

With a first draft down, read your post out loud to help identify any writing awkwardness, typos, wrong words, sentence fragments, and anything else that hinders the flow of your post. If you have a hard time reading it, your readers will also have a tough time getting through it.

5. Create a Title

Coming up with good blog titles is hard. A title needs to not only summarize your post and hint at what you’re about to say, but it also needs to be engaging to readers and descriptive for search engines. To become better at writing blog titles, I’d recommend following some exceptional blogs and note how they come up with their titles.

6. Toss in an Image

Adding compelling images to your content will enhance your story and affect how users perceive it. If you use stock photography, select photos that add pizzazz to your content. Choose images to set the tone for your post and pull people in. One place I use for images is https://unsplash.com/, which has artistic images from amazing photographers for free.

7. Share the Post

Once you’ve done the work, post the article to your blog. Share the post via all of your social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever else you participate.

This is one process for developing blog posts that people want to read. I’m sure there are other methods, but this one seems simple enough to help anyone get started. Happy blogging!