Unblock Writer’s Block

Unblock Writer’s Block

By A. R. Silverberry

I wrote this several years ago, and it remains one of my favorite posts. Time to re-publish it!

What is writer’s block, and what can you do about it? First off, the term writer’s block is too vague. It specifies symptoms but nothing about the cause. It’s like saying you’re suffering from soar throat, cough, and fever. But what’s the cause? A cold? Flu? Strep?

Same thing with writer’s block. All we can say is that the words are not flowing from brain to page. But why? Until you can answer that question, you won’t know how to get things flowing again.

Here’s a short list of some possible causes:

  • Procrastination
  • Fear of failure
  • A harsh critical inner critic
  • A lack of ideas
  • A lack of time and space
  • The story isn’t ripe
  • A combination of two or more of the above

Let’s look at each separately and see what the solutions might look like.

A Lack of Time and Space.

Suit up and show up! Commit to a regular writing schedule. Write in a regular place, which then becomes a trigger for your words to flow. This can be anywhere. I wrote my novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, while commuting on a train! If the goal of writing a quota of words stifles you (it does me), choose an amount of time you’ll write. When your time is up, no matter where you are, make a note of what you want to do next and stop. You’ll be itching to get back to it!

Procrastination.

I don’t believe there’s a lazy gene. Ditto lazy people. There is only ineffective behavior. Personality is hard to change. Behavior isn’t. When people procrastinate, they often anticipate something will be hard or unpleasant. (Think about doing your taxes!) The problem is that we’re often poor predictors. When we’re procrastinating, we’re usually predicting the avoided task will be less fun than something else, or will be more difficult. Two things you can do to counter this:

  • Grandmother’s Rule: Eat your dinner before your desert. In other words, write first, no matter how it comes out, and then do the thing you would have done while procrastinating The second, preferred activity reinforces the first!
  • Test your assumptions; fill out an Anti-Procrastination Sheet. Space doesn’t allow me to describe it here, but you can find it in David Burns’ famous book, Feeling Good.

Ideas not Flowing.

Try speed writing, without consideration for what comes out. Try stream-of-consciousness writing, without consideration for punctuation. Here’s a favorite of mine: write in a different document, someplace away from what you’re working on, someplace that doesn’t matter. I do this in a journal, or in a document I call Sketchpad. My father—a screenwriter and playwright—did it on a paper bag or the margin of a used piece of paper. Once he came home with a poem on a napkin.

Another reason why ideas might not be flowing is there’s a lack of sufficient stimulation. Stock the idea pond. Go on what Julia Cameron calls an artist’s date (see her book, The Artist’s Way). You’ll be surprised how quickly your mind starts making connections between your story and what you’re seeing.

Ideas might not be flowing because you need something concrete as a starting point. I always have photos of my main characters and most of my settings to spur my imagination.

Stimulate your creativity. Challenge yourself to come up with twenty ideas, without judging them. Try merging these ideas, or vary them. Add something smaller. Add something bigger (think of chocolate chunks instead of chips in cookies or ice cream!). Close your eyes, open the dictionary at random, run your finger down the page, and stop. Brain storm how the word you’re on might relate to your story. I did this at a School Visit to a middle school class, with amazing results. It’s like being dropped in an unfamiliar part of town. You always find your way home! (Method and analogy courtesy of creativity pioneer, Edward De Bono.)

The story isn’t ripe.

Ideas might not be flowing because the story isn’t ripe. The characters may not be sufficiently developed. The theme may be unclear, or there are too many of them. The plot may be mired somewhere in the great unknown of the middle. Try developing these areas. If that fails, let it incubate. Work on another section, or set the whole thing aside and write something else. Some stories take years to ripen. Larry McMurtry took a vacation from Lonesome Dove to write Desert Rose!

Inner Critic.

The inner critic is one of the wettest blankets we can throw on our creativity. The critic is all left brain, and when you’re trying to be creative you need to be more in your right brain, drawing on your imagination and the pictures in your mind. Try talking back to the critic, but not harshly. An easy going, “Hi! I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to focus on this right now. I’ll get back to you later when I’m revising,” helps! As does mindfulness: “Those thoughts are just fish, swimming by in an aquarium, and no more significant. They’ll pass.” Humor helps: “Oh, pipe down you wascally wabbit!” said in the most Elmer Fuddish voice you can.

Fear of Failure.

Depending on the severity, fear of failure may be one of the more difficulty problems to tackle. Try writing down your fears. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen, and if that thing happened, why would it be so bad? Ask yourself how likely that outcome is? Ask yourself what is the evidence for your fears, and what evidence you can think of to the contrary. Try replacing your fear thoughts with more realistic thoughts. How much do you believe the new thoughts? If you believe them, you should feel less fearful. If not, talk to a trusted friend or relative, and get some perspective. If all else fails, consider working with a therapist to help move you forward. It worked for Rachmaninofff. After seeing a hypnotist to overcome writer’s block, he penned his famous Second Piano Concerto, one of his greatest works!

Conclusion.

You may notice other causes for writer’s block. Follow the steps above. Identify the root of the problem. Devise a solution. For most people though, simply sitting and starting will do the trick. Just write. Do it daily. The story is inside of you. Get out of its way and let it flow!

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

The Stream, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry


An Unexpected Exploit: Cover Reveal and Guest Post

An Unexpected Exploit, by Kandi J Wyatt

An Unexpected Exploit, by Kandi J Wyatt

Cover Reveal and Guest Post

An Unexpected Exploit

As an Indie author, I know how difficult it can be to find readers. That’s why I open up my blog for Cover Reveals, Guest Posts, and Excerpts from other indie authors. Today I bring you all three from fantasy author Kandi J Wyatt. People often ask writers where their ideas comes from. Read on as Kandi shares the poignant origins of An Unexpected Exploit.

Guest Post: Footprints Across the Sand and into a Book

By Kandi J Wyatt

 

Growing up in a Christian home in the early ‘80’s I saw the poem Footprints in the Sand repeatedly. It was on mugs, magnets, posters, calendars, and everywhere I looked in the Christian bookstores in our area. I fell in love with the poem. It was so awe inspiring to realize that during those dark times in my life, God had come alongside, picked me up and carried me. Not until later on in my adult life did I realize why it resonated with me so well. At the time, all I knew was I could relate to a loving father who picked up a small child and carried her in his arms.

 

One summer at church camp, we had a guest speaker. His name was Paul Powers. Paul wasn’t his original name. After he came to know Christ, he legally changed his name to Paul to show the transformation that had occurred in his heart. He said he had been like Saul before he met Jesus, and a name change was in order. I remember him as a very dynamic speaker for teens, but one night, he allowed his wife, Margaret, to speak.

 

She shared how when she’d first met Paul he was still struggling with trying to be the person he should be, and yet he asked her to marry him. As they stood on a lakeshore as a young couple, she wavered in her answer. What would life hold for her, especially, if he turned away from the Lord? In answer to her indecision, Paul scooped her up in his arms and began to carry her. He told how he’d be there for her through thick and thin.

 

Later, Margaret went home and wrote a poem about that moment. The paper was placed in a box in their attic and one day, their house was broken into. The thieves took their belongings, including the box with her poem. Life passed on, but one day she was in the store and saw her poem on an item! It stated, ‘author unknown’. She fought to receive the credit for her poem, but even to this day there is dispute over who wrote the poem.

 

As I sat last summer writing An Unexpected Exploit, I remembered Margaret and Paul’s story, at least subconsciously, and wrote something similar into the story. Franklin’s at his wit’s end, unable to keep running as he trains to be a keta-manisa. His trainer, Ladaku, physically picks him up and lifts him onto his shoulders and keeps jogging, while telling Franklin that when he can go no further, he needs to trust Sirjanakarta to help him. The scene is brief, yet potent and happens right before Franklin meets fairies for the first time.

 

I said earlier that I didn’t know why Footprints in the Sand resonated so well with me. That’s because when I was ten an event happened that I shoved into the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind and left there never to uncover again. Or so I thought. Nineteen years later, circumstances conspired to bring to light what I had suppressed, and I had to face the fact that I had been abused by a foster brother. Facing it was one of the hardest things I had to do. I wrestled with God, with why, and with how I could have lived a lie saying it hadn’t happened. Yet, through it all, I saw God work and truly carry me through it all—just like in the poem I loved so much.

 

Excerpt from An Unexpected Exploit

Author’s note: Ladaku is the creature on the cover and Franklin’s mentor, a sanraksaka, or as we would call him, bigfoot. Franklin has brought his friends, Will, Karis, Harley, Ana, and Agent Raleigh into Ladaku’s realm, Shinwano, when Franklin was supposed to have protected the realm. Ladaku has confronted Franklin about his actions. Franklin gives a partial answer, and this is Ladaku’s response.

 

Ladaku paused to consider that, rubbing his chin. “I do not think so, but Sirjanakarta’s ways are wiser than my own. I will trust him to direct us all.” As he spoke the words, his face cleared, and he called, “Now, run, Keta-manisa, run!” Ladaku slapped Franklin on the back and pushed him forward, on toward the sandy shore.

“Is this punishment?” Franklin called over his shoulder.

Ladaku’s laughter followed him along the shore. The sanraksaka had one wicked sense of humor; if only Franklin wasn’t on the receiving end of it. Before long, he had no energy left to consider any problem other than his sore legs. Why Ladaku insisted on having him run in the loose sand, Franklin had no idea, but it was enough to make a saint swear, and Franklin was no saint.

Huffing and panting, Franklin finally came to stop. “I- can’t- go- on.”

The sanraksaka’s large hands clasped around Franklin’s biceps and lifted him into the air.

“Wh—what?” His voice cracked.

“Hush, Keta-manisa.” Ladaku settled Franklin on his shoulder and stretched his stride into a jog. “There comes a time when every warrior must realize that he cannot do it all on his own. When he is at his lowest, and he calls out to Sirjanakarta, that is when Sirjanakarta steps in and carries the warrior. Keta-manisa, you have yet to learn this.”

Franklin pondered Ladaku’s words, but wondered more how the sanraksaka could run with his added weight and still speak normally. It wasn’t fair.

Synopsis: An Unexpected Exploit

Protect a mythical realm or his family?

Sixteen-year-old Franklin follows a Sasquatch through a portal to the realm of Shinwano and discovers a world full of mythical creatures he never expected to actually exist. Upon returning to Myrtle Beach, Oregon, he vows to protect the land, not realizing how difficult it will be to keep his promise, especially when a poacher, a NSA agent, and his friends are interested in the portal—and all for different reasons.

 

When the poacher threatens his family, Franklin must reconsider his vow to protect this new world to keep his family safe. The consequences of his decision reach further than just a rift in the space-time continuum.

 

Can Franklin live up to the trust placed on him and save this new world from an even greater danger?

Pre-order Gift!

Kandi J Wyatt has a special gift for anyone who pre-orders An Unexpected Exploit. To collect your gift, pre-order the ebook, snap a screenshot of your receipt, and fill out this form: http://bit.ly/preordergiveaway

Purchase links:

An Unexpected Exploit

Other books in the series:

An Unexpected Adventure: https://books2read.com/u/3yDLX6

An Unexpected Escapade: https://books2read.com/mythcoastadventures2

 

Bio:

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt, had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that’s her own five or the hundreds of students she’s been lucky to teach. When Kandi’s not spinning words to create stories, she’s using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

Where to find Kandi:

Website: http://kandijwyatt.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/kandijwyatt/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/kandijwyatt/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/kandijwyatt

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13817774.Kandi_J_Wyatt

Bookbub: https://bookbub.com/profile/kandi-j-wyatt

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kandi-J-Wyatt/e/B00ZTC4T10/

 

Other books by Kandi J Wyatt:

Dragon Courage series

Dragon’s Future: https://www.books2read.com/u/bzpDq9

Dragon’s Heir: https://www.books2read.com/u/47YQE3

Dragon’s Revenge: https://www.books2read.com/u/b5qvGb

Dragon’s Cure: https://www.books2read.com/u/47kxJa

Dragon’s Posterity: https://www.books2read.com/u/4DA8og

Dragon’s Heritage: https://www.books2read.com/u/3neVN6

 

Middle Grade Fantasy:

Journey from Skioria: https://www.books2read.com/u/4AwJee

 

Biblical Retellings:

The One Who Sees Me: https://www.books2read.com/u/mdrRlb

To Save a Race: https://www.books2read.com/u/49PG5k

An Unexpected Exploit, by Kandi J Wyatt

An Unexpected Exploit, by Kandi J Wyatt


QueryTracker: A Must Tool for Querying Agents

QueryTracker: A Must Tool for Querying Agents

If you’re an author or illustrator and would like a literary agent to represent your work, there’s a fantastic software program that will really help you zero in on the right agents to approach. Five years ago when I was querying my second novel, The Stream, I wish I’d known about QueryTracker. I queried after doing painstaking research, looking for agents who handled Magical Realism. I had to organize all my information and tracked responses on a spread sheet I created. It wasn’t bad, but it was cumbersome, and I have since learned that there are many more agents I could have submitted to. Using QueryTracker to help me find agents for my latest novel, I’ve more than doubled the number of agents I’ve queried, and I had a tremendous amount of information about each agent at my fingertips. Below, I outline many of the key components you’ll find on QueryTracker.

What Does QueryTracker Cost?

While QueryTracker is free, I highly recommend paying the modest fee of $25 for the Premium membership, good for a year. When you query agents, you’ll need anywhere from three to six months for the first stage, submitting the query. Of course, if you’re asked for the full manuscript of your work, you may need another three to six months. Either way, a year membership is more than sufficient for a single project. In my case, I revised my manuscript after the first round (I explain why in my post, Query Rejection, What now?), so after a year, I purchased a second year. It’s well worth every penny.

 

But What Can Query Tracker Do?

QueryTracker is a powerful tool, offering a data base of over 1659 vetted agents. That means that the agents included meet the highest standards of their profession and follow professional guidelines, such as not charging a reading fee. But of the 1659 agents, who is the best for your project? That’s where the power of QueryTracker comes in. You can set up search criteria. For example, let’s say you want to find all the agents who handle science fiction and fantasy, QueryTracker will winnow away all those agents who don’t handle SSF and leave a list of those who do. But maybe your novel is young adult. Again, you can refine your list and take out all the agents who only handle adult titles. Other handy search criteria are agents who are not open for submission and agents in the US. When you’re done, you will have a targeted list of agents to begin researching. For my latest project, I ended up with about 129 agents.

The QueryTracker List

Let’s take a quick look at your list. Across the top, you see the following categories: Query Status, Agent, Agency, Query Age, Query Methods, Country, Comments, and Query Details. Most of these are self-explanatory. Query Age is handy, so you know how long your query submission has been out. Query Methods tells you the ways that agent/agency will accept submissions. Query Details includes lots of other info we’ll get into below.

 

My Query List

 

 

Researching Each Agent

Here’s where the fun starts. If you click on an agent on your list, a new window comes up with lots of useful links, such as they’re twitter handle, current clients, manuscript wish list, and agency website. In short, these are links that will help you research the agent to see if they are a good fit for your project. There’s even a place to keep notes about the agent, which I found incredibly useful. I usually noted things I liked about the agent and the agency, the kinds of books and genres she represented, what kind of deals she negotiated, etc. Based on my research, I was able to organize agents into separate folders. As I heard back from agents, I noted also what the result was and moved the agent into an appropriate folder.

 

Agent Information

Agent Research

Authors Helping Authors

Another useful feature is that QueryTracker keeps track of how long it took for agents to respond and what percentage of queries result in a manuscript request or signing an author. Further, users can post questions and comments, which can be incredibly useful. For example, I submitted to one agent using Query Manager (learn more in Managing Query Manager), but when I hit submit, the screen went gray and never came back to normal. I wasn’t sure if the query went through. I posted a question to the QueryTracker community following that agent. Another writer reported that the same thing happened to them, but confirmed that the query went through, as ultimately I found out mine did also. There’s good support from other writers here!

Is QueryTracker Hard To Use?

Query tracker provides excellent videos and Help menus for learning how to use the program, and I found that I was quickly able to come up to speed and get rolling making my lists, researching agents, and sending out queries.

In Conclusion!

I’ve only scratched the surface here for what QueryTracker can do. If you are serious about finding an agent, it’s an indispensable tool for researching, organizing, and tracking agents through the process, start to finish.

Happy Querying To You!

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry


Reading for Writers

Reading for Writers

To improve your writing, pretty much everyone agrees that you should write a lot and read lot. Some people maintain that you should read both good writing and bad writing. The argument for the latter is that it will help you recognize what doesn’t work. The premise goes that if you can identify what’s wrong in someone’s writing, then you will avoid making similar mistakes. I think this approach has limited value. Knowing what isn’t working tells you little or nothing about how to produce something that is working. The only way you can identify what does work is … (trumpet fanfare) … to read good writing. The underlying principle for this goes beyond writing. If you want to do anything well, you want a model of that thing. A model of what isn’t that thing is no model at all!

What Psychology Says About the Matter.

I’m a practicing psychologist as well as a writer. When I work with clients, I ask them what their goals are. They might tell me that they want to be less depressed or less anxious, for example. Unfortunately, that’s rather vague. If they can’t see how they will look when they change, it will be hard for them to do the things that will help them act differently and achieve the goals they’re seeking. It would be like trying to hit a target with an arrow, but not knowing where the target is. One of the first things I ask them to do, then, is to see what their goal looks like in the positive. So we flip what they’re saying around, and they define what they will look like, how they will act, what they will do when they are no longer depressed or anxious.

Turning Negatives into Positives

In writing, rather than saying, “I won’t have weak characters,” instead say, “I will construct characters that have a secret, a powerful inner yearning, or flaws that hinder them from their goals.” Rather than saying, “I won’t write boring descriptions,” say, “I will write descriptions that sets a mood, conveys subtext, or adds a symbolic or metaphorical layer to the story, as I’ve noticed my favorite writers do. Or, “I will right descriptions that are tight and spread out across a scene, because I’ve noticed that keeps the action moving.” (Faulkner provides a good example of this technique.)

Who’s Got Time?

For most people, reading time is limited. Even if you’re a full time writer and can find two to four hours to read, do you want to spend those precious moments during the day suffering through bad writing? I’ll read twenty percent of a book, giving it every chance to hook me in. But if I’m bored, uninterested, uninvolved, feeling nothing for the characters a fifth of the way in, I chuck it for something else.

Conclusion!

So read the best work you can get your hands on, the great writers, the great books, new and old. Learn from the masters, and your writing will improve. Read what inspires you, enchants you, what shows you a new way to do something. Read what you love—not what you hate—and that love will infuse your writing with excitement and energy.

P.S. For an inspiring presentation for young writers, I’m available for school visits. Learn more here.

A contemplative A. R. Silverberry at SacCon

A contemplative A. R. Silverberry at SacCon

 


Managing Query Manager

Managing Query Manager!

If you’re querying agents in the hope of representation, you will find a percentage of them now use an online submission form called Query Manager. Heads up, there are a couple of issues you need to be aware of, or you might end up inadvertently harming your chances with an agent.

The Query Manager Form

First, a bit about the Query Manager form. You’ll be asked to provide all the usual information: name, book title, genre, word count, query letter, and sample pages. Some agents request additional information, like your pitch, synopsis, website, social media links, and the target readers for your work.

Technical Issues With the Form

You’ll be asked to either type or paste info in the spaces indicated. The form warns that several problems can occur when pasting and urges you not to panic! First, large blocks of text may take several minutes to paste in. I’ve filled out a number of these and never saw that happen, though once my screen darkened when I submitted, and never came back to normal. In my case, and one other person I communicated with, the query went through, as indicated by a confirmation email.

Formatting Changes

Another issue that can occur when pasting in blocks of text is that your formatting might change. For example, paragraph indents are lost. The form urges you to not bother with trying to indent paragraphs. Instead, they advise you to separate paragraphs with a single blank line. Font size and color will also be lost, but bold, italics, and centering can be restored using the editor’s tool.

They Won’t Warn You About This!

They tell you that no one expects word-processor formatting to work in an online form; that every one understands the issues inherent in the technology. This call to relax was my undoing. My manuscript was edited and proofread multiple times. With the exception of the paragraph indents, everything should’ve been fine, right? Wrong! Much to my horror, I found two other things occurred no one warned me about. First, a space can be eliminated randomly between two words, merging them into one word that will look like a typo to the agent. Also randomly, a space can be eliminated between two sentences, again, looking like a typo.

What To Do?

My advice? Either scan your submission carefully line by line or proof read it a final time. This can be daunting for long samples. I know! Some agents ask for up to fifty pages, but the alternative of leaving in errors that occurred while pasting (and are not in your manuscript!) is like sabotaging yourself. Converting your text to a simple text file may also help, though I haven’t tested that. Personally, too many conversions sounds risky to me.

Conclusion

Query Manager is a great service for both agent and author. Agents have an easy to way to organize and respond to queries, and the software helps authors track their submission, whether it’s been considered, and what the final outcome is. Just be aware that you’ll need to proof everything one final time.

Good luck, and happy querying!

A. R. Silverberry at SacCon

A. R. Silverberry at SacCon

A. R. Silverberry at SacCon

A. R. Silverberry at SacCon


Creativity: Supercharge Your Writing, Part II.

Supercharge your creativity.

Last week, I outlined nine ways to enhance your creativity and supercharge your writing. Today I offer three more ideas. As you’ll see, they work synergistically to help you.

Trigger Your Creativity

Just as day follows night, you can trigger your creativity using a learning procedure called classical conditioning. Remember Pavlov and his dog? For those of you who don’t know him, Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who did pioneering work on understanding behavior. In a classic experiment, he presented a dog with some powdered meat. Immediately, the dog began to salivate. Powdered meat is yummy to dogs, and therefore was an unconditioned stimulus. In other words, Pavlov didn’t need to train the dog to salivate on seeing the meat. The dog did it automatically. But Pavlov did something else. When he presented the dog the meat, he also rang a bell. He did that a number of times until the dog associated the bell with the meat. Later, Pavlov only rang the bell. You can guess what happened. Right, the dog salivated!

You can trigger you creativity the same way. Here’s how. Write at the same time and in the same place every day. Your brain will automatically respond to all the cues that surround your writing. For example, I wrote most of Wyndano’s Cloak commuting on a train. It took about 75 minutes to go from home to work, and that was on a good day! The train starting to move, the sound of the wheels on the tracks, the clang of the couplings, the conductors walking by and clipping tickets, the hum of the other passengers talking, flipping open my laptop—all these acted as cues to my brain, triggering me into a state of creative flow just as readily as that bell triggered Pavlov’s dog. When I disembarked, I walked twenty-minutes between the train station and work, giving me additional time to reflect and take notes on whatever was happening in the story.

After work, the walk back to the train station triggered me back to writing mode. Again, I took notes. Ideas were flowing. By the time I got to the train, I was raring to go, and once again, the sound and vibrations of the train further slipped me into the process.

So it went, almost three hours on the train, round trip, five days a week, plus forty minutes walking, catching snippets of dialogue, a line here and there, a metaphor, a simile. By the end of a year I had the first draft completed. Sadly, we moved. I sure miss that train!

But the same principal can be applied anywhere. All it takes is consistency. Did you ever see a picture of Ray Bradbury’s writing area? It’s filled with posters, bottles, miniatures, bric-a-brac, and all of it acted as a cue to trigger the flow of his creative juices. Another example is writer and director Guillermo del Toro’s residence, “Bleak House.” He’s got all kinds of oddities—monster memorabilia, props, first-edition books, mannequins displayed in every room. They stimulate his unconscious and creativity.

Incubation

At work, after leaving the train, the novel left my mind. I was completely focused on the task at hand. But the eight-and-a-half hours on the job allowed the story to incubate. Time away from your writing can be an important part of the creative process. Have you noticed how if you take a break and then come back to your computer, problems you were having with a scene often melt away. That’s because your brain never stops thinking—even when you’re sleeping—you’re just not aware that it’s working on whatever is important to you. If you’ve ever woken up from a dream with a word, phrase, or idea, for your story, you know what I mean. So be sure to allow periods of incubation, during the day, the week, the months you’re working on a project. For many people, it may be good to complete a draft, and then stick it in a drawer. I know that conventional wisdom says to get your work out as fast as possible, so you can keep your readers engaged. But if you let some time pass, you will often see your writing with fresh eyes, and you might not be as protective of your darlings.

Limit Your Writing Time

In my last post, I discussed the idea of writing fast to bypass the critical brain. That same writing teacher also had us put limitations on our time. This may seem counter intuitive. When you’re in the flow, who wants to stop writing? Here’s how the technique works. You decide ahead of time how much time you want to allocate to writing. It could be just a little, like twenty minutes. It could be several hours or most of the day. Whatever you decide, you must not go past your assigned time. An interesting thing happens when you do this. You feel an urgency to get back to your writing. Your writing is more intense, more concentrated. Plus, you benefit from that incubation period. At the end of your time, don’t worry about losing something you’re hot on. Make a few notes about what you want to do next. When you return for your next writing session, it will come back to you. My uncle, Irving Adler, wrote or co-wrote eighty-seven books that way, writing between 9 and 11 a.m. every morning. His approach worked for me. It didn’t matter what I produced, as long as I put in my time. And lo and behold, books got written.

There you have it, three more tips for supercharging your creativity. In case you missed part one, you can find it here.

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

The Stream, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

 


Creativity: Supercharge Your Writing, Part I

Creativity: Supercharge Your Writing, Part I

Many years ago I had the good fortune to attend a number of workshops designed to increase creativity. My father taught two of them, and one was with Sidney Parnes, one of the founders of the Creative Problem Solving Institute in Buffalo New York. Through their influence and my own experience, I’m convinced that everyone can increase their creativity. Over the years, I’ve noticed a number of techniques that have been particularly useful for me as a writer.

Write Fast.

When I was in graduate school, I had a wise writing teacher who encouraged us to write as though Death were riding on our tails. To help us generate this feeling, he made us limit the amount of time we had to write. We just wrote full tilt, getting everything out, not worrying about good sentences or bad sentences. We could always go back afterwards and revise all we wanted. The limitation inherent in this approach paradoxically helps ideas flow, bypassing the left-brain and allowing the creative part of your brain to speak.

Brain Storm.

The brainstorming method is based on the idea that quantity yields quality. We often limit ourselves to the first few ideas that come to us, which are often clichés. As my watercolor teacher put it, you don’t find originality until you reach the twentieth idea. An overstatement—but there’s something to it. Here’s the method:

  • Generate as many ideas as you can without judgment or deciding whether they will work. As soon as you apply criticism to ideas, it hinders the flow of them. Brainstorming is like turning on a spigot of hot water. If you apply judgment you mix in cold water and end up with something lukewarm. To release your creativity, ask your, “In what ways might I …” Notice that word “ways.” It asks your brain for lots of ideas, not one or two. Your brain will respond.
  • One outcome of not judging is that a bad idea can often lead to a good idea. Maybe a variation of that bad idea is exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Look at how you might change an element. For years we all ate chocolate chip cookies. Then someone had the brilliant idea of putting chunks in there, and a whole new product was born. In what ways might you apply making something bigger (chips into chunks) or smaller into a scene—a character, a sci-fi technology, etc?

Use Prompt Sheets to explore scenes, characters, and emotions

Over the years I’ve collected a nice set of prompt sheets. Before writing a scene, I fill these out. Generating a multitude of questions, they help me think about scene, character, setting, and plot from a lot of angles. By the time I’m done exploring, the scene is ripe and ready to write. Afterward, I rarely refer to the sheets. I don’t need to. It’s all inside and ready to come out.

Stock the pond.

Julia Cameron, in her fabulous book, The Artist’s Way, encourages artists to regularly go out on artist’s dates. This might be a hike, a trip to a museum, a concert, a play, a poetry reading. The point is that creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum. We need input and stimulation. We need to see things from new perspectives. If we sit at home staring at our computers all day, we deny ourselves a mother lode of creative energy.

Read.

Read, read, read. Many writers even say to read bad writing. Personally, I find that has limited value. And my time is also limited. I say, read the best writing you can. See how other writers render a similar scene as one you’re working on. Look at the ways they artfully portray characters. This doesn’t even have to be a very conscious process though. You brain knows what you’re looking for. You’ll suddenly make parallels and connections, and solutions will come to you. Nothing is more exciting than finding just the right word you’ve been searching for.

Learn where you get your ideas.

I get my best ideas, and solutions I’m looking for, away from the computer. For me it’s usually while walking. For my wife, she’s often in the shower. For her, there’s something about water. Point is, start to notice where and when your ideas come. Build such activities and times into your day.

Keep a notepad on you.

Ideas can be ephemeral. If you don’t write them down, they can be gone within thirty to sixty seconds. That can be devastating when you finally nail just the right line of dialogue. I never go anywhere without a pen and a small notepad in my pocket. Sometimes I’ll stop every few minutes and frantically jot down a word, a phrase, or a sentence.

Keep a journal.

One of the most useful things I’ve done is keep a writing journal. Sometimes I write about my frustration with a particular chapter or character. Sometimes I write about things that are far more personal. Often I’ll brainstorm or work out what direction to take my WIP. Or I’ll pull away from the manuscript file I’m working on and write a scene in the journal. Because anything can go there, I’m free from restraint and let it all hang out. Some of the best writing I’ve done has started in my journal.

Dig deep within your own experience.

The most powerful writing is writing that rings true. If you delve deep into your own loves and hates, your triumphs and disappoints, and yes, your traumas, you will reveal truths about the human experience. When they pick up your work, readers long to resonate with that.

These are just a few of the many tools writers can use to increase creativity. Develop your own. Learn what works for you.

In the words of Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Hopefully the above techniques will put that club in your hands.

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry


Query Rejection: What Now?

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

Query Rejection: What Now?

You’ve worked hard on your manuscript, writing and rewriting, submitting it to beta readers, then polishing it some more. You’re editor has given it several passes. The manuscript is as good as you can get it, and now you’re ready to try to find an agent. You send out query letters and wait for a response. Flash forward three months. No one has requested your manuscript. Some agents declined by not responding. Others sent a form rejection letter. Still others were kind enough to send a personal rejection.

It hurts. There’s no way around that. But what now?

The above scenario captures my process last fall. My novel seemed ready. I didn’t know how I could improve it. So why did no one bite?

The truth is, you may never know. But let’s look at some possibilities. First, the competition is fierce. Agents are bombarded with one thousand or more queries a year. At those numbers, the chances of getting a manuscript request—much less a deal—are extremely low.

Keep in mind the reasons an agent doesn’t respond favorably to your query. They may be looking for something specific. They may already have a similar kind of story they are representing. They may feel your idea and your writing is good, but that it will be difficult to sell to a publisher.

Another reason for a rejection is that your story may not have adequately engaged the agent or the agent’s assistant. Remember that 1K-plus figure above? They will make a split decision as to whether they want to keep reading. They may not get past your first sentence or your first paragraph, let alone your first page.

Here’s what I did with the rejections I got. First, going into the querying process, I told myself that the worst that can happen is that I’ll self-publish. I did that with my first two novels, and it worked out well. I built an author platform. I’ve got readers who enjoy my writing. So continuing on that road isn’t a bad thing. Adjusting my expectations from the get-go took a lot of the sting out of those rejections.

Next, I looked very closely at the rejection letters that were personal. They were actually quite encouraging. One said my writing was solid. Another said that the concept for the novel was strong. What I take from this is that my query and synopsis weren’t the problem. In fact, there may have been no problem at all. It just might not have been their thing.

But I had a feeling that if I’d really grabbed them by the lapels, I would’ve gotten a different result. So I scrutinized my opening pages. After all, that’s all an agent has, the first five, ten, or twenty pages.

After taking careful stock of the opening—Act I, if you will—I decided to pull the existing chapter one. In it’s place, I wrote three new chapters, and significantly revised the fourth, which previously had been chapter two. Then I went back to my editor, and we polished the new beginning, ironing out all the rough spots, clarifying and tightening the prose.

Is any novel perfect? I don’t believe such an animal exists. (For some reason it does in movies, but that’s another story!) But I believe the rejection process encouraged me to dig deeper and find more to say, to create a stronger set up, to deepen character development and the inner story.

Bottom line? Don’t take rejection as rejection. Take it as an opportunity to improve the story, if you feel you can. I still may not get a positive response from my queries. But I sure feel good about what I’m sending out. Either way, I have a better novel to share with readers, whatever route it comes to them.

Comments welcome, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

The Stream, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry


Call of Elespen: Keepers of the Wellsprings

 

 

Call of Elespen

Call of Elespen

Announcing Call of Elespen, the Epic Conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings Series!

Exciting news! Missy Sheldrake has released Call of Elespen, the fifth and epic conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series.

Synopsis:

A vindictive Sorcerer King with a century-old grudge has spent decades gathering an army obsessed with claiming what their master feels he’s owed. Threatened by his dark dealings and sinister followers, will the Champions of Light succeed in claiming Brindelier’s Wellspring for the Dawn, or will its vast power fall forever into the hands of the unforgiving Dusk?

Make the choice: Dawn, or Dusk, and ally yourself with dragons, fairies, mages, knights, and muses in the epic conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series.

From Call of Elespen:

“Four offerings claimed. Two left. One, I can easily get. Ceras’lain. The other, Elespen. I don’t know much about that place. Only what I saw from the ship while I escaped from Sunteri. A jungle on either side of a wide river. A city I was forbidden to enter. Forbidden, even though I didn’t even realize it at the time…” -Tib, Dreamstalker, escaped slave

“They know our victory is nearing. They know we’re the Champions of Light. They’d rather keep us here, trapped in their lair, distracted from our quest to restore Brindelier and claim the Wellsprings.” -Flitt, fairy companion to Sir Azi Hammerfel

What reviewers are saying about the Keepers of the Wellsprings series:

“…this book had nice readability and should appeal to a wide range of audiences. Too often fantasy is written far too mature, or too childish. The author does a good job of not talking down to her audience, which leads to this readability range.” Fatho, Amazon Reviewer

“Azaeli is an awesome young lady; one to watch in the role model stakes.” -T.L. Clark, Author

“…an enchanting read from start to finish.” J. Ortiz, Amazon Reviewer

“Epic, Epic, Epic, wow what an incredible book, story and entry to a fantasy realm. This has movie possibilities written all over it. Magnificent writing, adventure with good and evil and some that are in between the two. Dark forces and forces of light. It simply doesn’t get any better.” -Kindle Reviewer

About the Author:

Missy Sheldrake is an author/illustrator who has been conjuring images of fairies in one form or another for as long as she can remember. The wind in the trees and the rich scent of forest earth are her most treasured sources of inspiration, and on most mornings you will find her wandering the wooded paths of her neighborhood, dreaming of the next adventure she hopes to put to the page. She published her first novel, Call of Kythshire, in March of 2015 and intends to keep writing as long as the fairies in her dreams allow it.

Missy Sheldrake, Author of Call of Elespen

Missy Sheldrake, Author of Call of Elespen

Galleries of illustrations and excerpts from the Keepers of the Wellsprings series can be viewed on her website and blog.

Missy can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Her books are available on Amazon.

Read an excerpt from every book in the series, including Call of Elespen, at missysheldrake.com.


The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom: The Voyages of the Legend, Book 4

The Illuminated Kingdom, book four of fantasy author Alina Sayre’s masterful series, The Voyages of the Legend, is out! You can win a copy, just see rules below. Meanwhile, more about this middle grade fantasy!

Synopsis:

The Vestigia Roi has risen up to retake their home island of Rhynlyr, but all Ellie can think about is rescuing her missing brother, Connor. Guided by a dream of Connor’s whereabouts, Ellie disobeys the Council’s orders and stows away aboard the Legend. But a simple rescue mission quickly goes wrong as Ellie and her friends confront new monsters and old enemies. The crewmembers of the Legend soon find themselves waging a last, desperate battle to save not just Connor or Rhynlyr, but their entire world. As the One Kingdom hangs in the balance, Ellie and the Vestigia Roi must ultimately decide what they are fighting for—and how much they are willing to sacrifice for it.

Advanced praise for The Illuminated Kingdom:

“[An] astounding, imaginative world…” –Readers’ Favorite

Purchase The Illuminated Kingdom:

Amazon purchase link

Goodreads link

Alina Sayre, author of The Illuminated Kingdom

Alina Sayre, author of The Illuminated Kingdom

Author Bio:

Alina Sayre began her literary career chewing on board books and has been in love with words ever since. Now she is the award-winning author of The Voyages of the Legend fantasy series as well as an educator, editor, and speaker. Her first novel, The Illuminator’s Gift, won a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist in the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book competition and a semifinalist for the BookLife Prize in Fiction. All four Voyages of the Legend books have received 4- or 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite. When she’s not writing, Alina enjoys hiking, crazy socks, and reading under blankets. She does not enjoy algebra or wasabi. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library.

 

Connect with Alina online!

Website: alinasayre.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alinasayreauthor

Twitter: @AlinaSayre

Amazon: amazon.com/author/alinasayre

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7469870.Alina_Sayre

E-book Giveaway

Readers, to enter the Giveaway to win a copy of The Illuminated Kingdom, leave a comment on this post! I’ll randomly draw a winner. Rules: Contest ends 9 am, on 11/22. The winner will contact Alina’s directly for a copy of the book. Good luck!