Why Writers Need to Recharge

Have you ever felt burnt out? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that way. As an introvert it doesn’t take much to burn out. Sustained interaction with co-workers, family members and the general public day in and day out can drain us out. Add that to the grind of everyday life and responsibilities (family and secular) can leave you with very little energy for yourself or the things you enjoy the most. Most people including writers are not immune to the pressures of life. Every now and then you need to recharge your batteries.

What is recharging?

What comes to your mind when you think of recharging? For some they may think of their phone or some other device that you plug up to a power source to extend the battery life. However recharging can mean different things depending on who you ask. For many it means getting away from the hustle and bustle of life and taking time for oneself. Recharging could entail anything from listening to music, reading a good book, hanging out on the beach, or sleeping!

Why important?

Going back to the illustration of the cellphone, if you don’t recharge your phone, it will eventually shut down and become unusable. While humans don’t run on batteries we do have physical, emotional, mental limitations. While stress is not necessarily a bad thing too much of it for long periods of time can damage one’s mental and physical wellbeing to a critical level where you can’t function anymore.

While the thought of near mental breakdown may sound exaggerated the warning is still very pertinent to all of us in particular writers. As writers we wear many hats. Most of us still have to support ourselves with a “regular” job. And if you’re a published writer, especially “self-published” you’re not only the writer but the “copywriter,” the “editor,” and “marketer.” And if you’re feeling very ambitious you’re also the “cover designer” and “formatter” on top of that! Or you may have other writing gigs (i.e. blogging) where you’re expected to put out new content every week or even daily. Regardless, the time and energy involved in such projects can be taxing after awhile. While we may not physically die,  our passion for writing could die. Soon the very thing we enjoyed doing becomes a burden!

This post is not meant to discourage anyone from being a writer. Nor is it my intent to tell anyone to take things easy and success will fall in your lap. Oftentimes to get results we have to put in the work. After all if I took the easy route I would have never published in the first place! What I am saying is that with all things in life we need to be balanced. We wouldn’t want to needlessly sacrifice our personal relationships or responsibilities at the expense of trying to make it at the top of some bestseller’s list. Writing is not the easiest endeavor to make money. But I think when we start comparing ourselves to more successful writers,  worrying about profits, sales rank, getting more reviews and churning out more books that we think others want to read we can quickly lose our inspiration and joy for writing.

When we find ourselves losing sleep or even losing our motivation we need to realize it’s perfectly OK to take a break at times. That could mean a lot of different things to different people. It could mean slowing down your efforts for a day or even taking an indefinite break altogether. However long the length of time, it’s important to reconnect to the things that bring you peace and joy.

Just like we wouldn’t wait till our phone is near 1% to charge it, similarly we recognize the value in recharging our batteries on a more regular basis. It’s important to allow yourself the time and space at least once a week if not once a day for some downtime. You don’t have to be doing much of anything. That’s OK too. Speaking from personal experience after having a busy day at work, having time where I’m doing little to nothing can be very relaxing because I can unravel from the stressors of the day and reconnect with my thoughts. It’s the simple things in life that help me feel grounded, calm, and ready to take on the next day.

Just like a newly charged phone, you are of more use to those around you. As a writer there are some unique benefits to recharging that will not only help your personal wellbeing but also have a positive effect on your writing. This includes but not limited to:

  • Overcoming writer’s block
  • Regaining our joy for writing

Let’s examine the first point. If we find ourselves in a rut or in a mental block, sometimes taking a break from your writing can help you get unstuck. When I’m not overthinking things and just enjoying the moment, I find that inspiration comes more organically. Whether you’re listening to music, taking in the sights of nature or vacationing with family and friends, inspiration may strike at unexpected times, triggering your creative juices to flow. With new ideas from the sights and experiences you surround yourself with, you can finally finish that half-written draft or start something entirely new.

Secondly recharging can help you regain your joy. Time spent away from your writing could help you gain some mental clarity and reexamine the “what” and “why” behind your writing. When our writing is treated less as a chore and more as a hobby we will likely rekindle the joy we may have lost.

So there’s your reasons to give yourself permission to recharge when needed. I know I needed a recharge which is why taking a trip overseas proved to be beneficial.  not to mention fun! Even though I can’t afford to vacation every time life gets hectic or mundane, I still carve some “me” time throughout my week. So go ahead pursue what you enjoy doing without going overboard. And remember it’s OK to relax.

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Question to readers: How do you recharge?

Beach in Guaruja Brazil

 

 

 

 

 

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Show Don’t Tell

In case anyone’s wondering about my long absence from blogging, one of my side projects I’ve been working on is editing my last and final installment to my story series: Chasing Blue. Besides fixing the dialogue and making sure it flows better, one of the things I hoped to improve upon was to do more showing vs. telling in my writing. What does it mean to show as it relates to writing? Why does it matter? How can you “show” in your writing? This blog post will attempt to answer all three of those questions.

To tell someone is to state what happened. I could tell someone about my trip to New York City this past summer. I could relate how I did a Bethel tour in Warwick, did wine-tasting, went to the Metropolitan museum, or visited the WTC memorial by ground zero. I’m stating what happened on the trip. And frankly there’s nothing wrong in itself about telling someone what happened if they ask a question and want a simple explanation of what happened. However oftentimes merely telling someone what happened may not always be suffice. For my older sister who didn’t make it on the trip to New York she insisted on seeing pictures of the trips.

It’s similar with our writing. It’s much easier to tell the reader what happened to your characters. To tell the reader that your character is feeling angry, sad, or happy. The  reader will get a surface overview of events without having to engage with the characters and the plot. But showing requires more effort. It’s more than just stating the obvious. It forces the writer to show what’s happening by means of descriptive language that captures the scene in a way that the reader can picture what’s happening. Instead of passively reading your story, the reader is able to engage with the story on a sensory level. It helps the reader put themselves in the scene and make it truly come alive.

How do we show?

With our descriptions it doesn’t have to stop with our sense of sight. It can and should when possible engage multiple senses. After all we have five senses. When describing a scene in your story, think about how something in that space looks, feels, sounds, smells, and tastes. Use one or more descriptions that captures the senses you want to convey. It will make the scene come alive for the reader because they can reference what you’re describing. For example they can imagine the aroma of homemade apple pie wafting from the oven. You can still taste the cinnamon that dust your fingertips while you peer into the oven, its golden crust browning to a finish. From this example alone you can point out multiples senses used in that description of that scene. You can also infer based on the descriptions that the pie is about ready to be eaten!

 

In the spirit of this post I think it’s best that we show examples of telling vs. showing.

Example 1:

The crowds went wild.

The crowds jumped to their feet to cheer.

Example 2

The second lap came as quickly as the first lap had gone. All of it was surreal. I tried to tune out the loud chants, the curses thrown out from disgruntled fans, the dust that spewed in my eyes and just focus on keeping to a steady pace.

I pinched myself only to remind me all of this was really happening. My head was still in a jumbled blur trying to catch up to the rest of my body. Loud chants of praise were mingled with the curses thrown from disgruntled fans. To me it was all noise. Kicked up dust stung my eyes, forcing me to ignore everything around me. Now all I could think about was the burning in my eyes. Stay calm, Troy. I blinked to find my horses had veered slightly to the left. With the reins latched around my waist they followed my motion…

Example 3

“There is Troy!” Marius exclaimed cheerfully. “I was looking all over for you two,” he smiled.

“There you are Troy!” Marius exclaimed with glee in his voice. “I was looking all over for you two.”

Example 4

“Well I apologize,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, I am so terribly sorry I disturbed your match. At least I came at the exciting part,” he said, grinning.

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Look again at the examples. Which ones told you something? Three out of the four examples used this part of speech.

Adverbs.

When we use adverbs in our writing we’re telling the reader how an action was done. For example 3 above, “exclaim” was the verb and “cheerfully” was the adverb. Just to be clear adverbs are not “bad.” I still use them on occasion. But they can be overused to the point that our message becomes redundant.  “She banged her fists angrily” is a good example of this point. If you’re banging your fists, there’s a good chance you are angry. No need to state the obvious.

Let’s look at example 3 again closely…

“There is Troy!” Marius exclaimed cheerfully. “I was looking all over for you two,” he smiled.

“There you are Troy!” Marius exclaimed with glee in his voice.

To show how the character made this exclamation without resorting to adverbs,  I added a tag line to describe the quality of his voice. The reader can then infer that the character is in a cheerful mood.

While showing may not spell out everything to our readers as writers we have to trust that they are smart enough to figure out what our characters are feeling. If we provided enough context on how an action was carried out readers can infer the rest. Still though we need to be balanced in showing. In some instances too much description can bog the pace of the story down. If you’re writing a fast paced action scene you’ll have to be smart in how you use descriptions.

In conclusion balance is needed when writing. At times we’ll need to state the facts. Other times we can show. Granted, telling something is much easier than showing. But I think showing it speaks louder.

This Criteria Makes For a Good Book Review

Timely advice for readers (and writers) to keep in mind when thinking about leaving reviews.

A Writer's Path

by Doug Lewars

Book reviews are a fact of life. If it’s your book being reviewed, they’re nice if they’re positive and decidedly unpleasant if they’re negative. Every book is going to have a few negative reviews. That’s a fact of life because people are different, have different interests, enjoy different things, and will relate to your work in different ways.

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Writers are Courageous

I return from my long absence  from blogging to say I haven’t given up writing or this blog. At least not yet. At least not with unedited projects sitting on my hard drive. Or the countless half-baked stories floating in my head. Most writers like myself lead a relatively quiet life. And if you’re an introspective type such as myself you find yourself tuning into your rich inner world inside your head to escape the chaos of the outside world. However I had this running thought in my head since last year when I had this epiphany after writing a letter to government officials in Russia to rethink a decision to place a ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country.

Writers are courageous.

However what makes writers courageous? Usually when we think of the word “courage” we think of synonyms such as brave or fearless. We often associate those terms to high risk or dangerous occupations that involves putting your life on the line as well as others. Good examples are firefighters, paramedics, and police officers just to name a few. It may seem absurd to class writers in that same category. While writers are not running into burning buildings or apprehending criminals, they’re courageous in their own way. Here’s why I think writers are courageous.

  1. It takes courage to follow your dreams. The act of writing a story takes a considerable amount of imagination, craft, and heart. You may have started with an idea, then visualized the characters of your story before that vision finally found it’s way on paper or your computer screen. As the story progresses it’s natural to become emotionally invested. Once you’ve neared completion you already poured your heart and soul into the story and now you’ve made the biggest decision to have the outside world read it. Will they accept it (editors/ readers)? Will they like? Can I actually sell this? These are factors you have no control over. Oftentimes our insecurities are the biggest hurdles to cause us to shrink back from taking that step. Coupled with negativity from family and friends, we may feel our story is not good enough or that writing is not a practical, worthwhile pursuit. It takes inner courage to push through our own insecurities and fears and take that plunge into the unknown.
  2. It take courage to deal with criticism. This one is probably the hardest for most writers. When you crafted your story it’s almost become your baby as some writers have likened their writing pieces. Now you’re offering that “baby” (which has all the sweat, tears, and heart you put into) to the outside world for judgement and you have no control how readers respond to your story. I don’t care what nobody says, deep down you want someone to like what your write. Nobody likes to hear their book/story sucks. Even if those very words aren’t used, we may take any criticism against our book as a personal attack. After all the story is a collection of your ideas and vision. Such fears are not unfounded as I’ve seen books I liked torn apart by reviewers on Amazon or Goodreads. It takes inner strength as a writer to not lash out and reply to a disgruntled reviewer. It takes strength to digest the good and the bad and not let it break your spirit but to grow from it. It takes strength to stay true to your vision even if few people get it.
  3. It takes courage to tackle deep subjects. If you’re writing a comedy or a happy-go-lucky children’s book this may not apply to you. Unless your writing something like a satire. But if your writing books, or even essays or letters that touch on sensitive, hard-hitting, controversial subject matters this can be particularly challenging. Again this is similar to point #2 because you don’t know how people will take it. Will you be able to convey your message or will it be lost on your listeners because they got offended or they couldn’t process the information. After all you want your intended message to be heard and understood by your listener. You also want them to think critically about the issues at hand and if it’s your intention move them to action. Even if the message gets lost in translation or worse upsets some readers in the process, having the guts to stand by your words take courage whether you’re writing to readers or powerful government officials.

I used to worry about how well my book would be received or not getting reviews. For writer’s dismayed they’re not on the best-seller’s list or their writing hasn’t been picked up for a movie deal just know there are perks and downsides to increased notoriety. With increased exposure,  this opens your book to new readers from vast backgrounds and viewpoints. This opens you to all opinions, good and bad. But as a writer that’s something you have to mentally prepare for and being willing to accept getting into this business.

Frankly though I never wanted to be famous. For me it was never about becoming famous. It was simply sharing my story for others to read and enjoy. It was a courageous act to put in the hard work to follow-through with the self-publishing process, and to put myself out there for others to judge you. This is all in the quest to make readers get lost in the world I created. Make them feel something. Inspire. Granted most of are not heroes. Writing alone doesn’t give us that designation. But we should never forget the power behind our words. There are books that have literally changed lives for the better. There are books to this day that have forever changed how I viewed the world. I would have never known some of the things I learned now if those writers kept their writings to themselves. Yes using writing as a platform to convey a message, inspire, and move others to action is a powerful thing. Never forget that words are powerful and so do the writers that pen them. So choose your words carefully.

 

 

Six Sites That Pay For Flash Fiction and Poetry

Aspiring writer looking to earn a few extra bucks from your writing? Here are 6 great ways to earn cash from your writing that I encourage all indie writers to check out.

A Writer's Path

by Robert Turner

List is current for July 2017.

If like a lot of struggling authors you are desperate to get your work sold, why not downscale a little? Try your hand at writing flash fiction or short stories.

The sites listed below will pay you for your submissions if they are accepted, you’ll get yourself published and you might even be able to afford ribbon for your typewriter.

The sites vary in their submission requirements, so do spend the time looking through these carefully before you submit. Up to 20 percent of submissions don’t comply and get binned immediately. The links will take you to the submission pages.

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What you should know about Historical Fiction

What’s your favorite genre? For some it’s romance, others it’s fantasy, sci-fi or maybe a mystery/thriller. For those that know me well I enjoy reading a variety of genres, so it’s hard to pick one genre over another when I enjoy different books spanning across the many genres of fiction. However if you were to ask me what genre is your favorite to write- in my answer would be a bit more concise.  I’ve had a keen interest in history particularly the Roman era. My knowledge and fascination with the period is what inspired my first story which gave birth to a series spanning 4 books total. What I didn’t know when I started out writing historical fiction is how the genre is perceived by the populace at large and the expectations placed on those by the avid and casual fans of the genre.

#1: Historical Fiction is not popular

I must clarify this point because there are books that fall within this umbrella that have experienced a great measure of success and even notoriety. While there is definitely an audience for it, it has a much smaller audience than per say romance or thrillers and that’s to be expected. Unless a reader is an avid fan of historical fiction, the genre is often ignored by mainstream readers. I came to this painful realization when I first published my book to the public on the fiction-sharing site called Fictionpress. The #1 common consensus of those not fans of historical fiction is that it’s boring. True some historical fiction books bore me. It’s no wonder than that it’s tricky to attract new readers who typically don’t seek out historical fiction books. This is the dilemma you’re faced with especially if you’re ready to publish your book for sale. Because you have a smaller market it’s imperative that the book you publish is not only well-written but marketable.

Even within historical fiction it has its own subgenres which attracts its own niche of readers. Historical romance and historical fantasy are probably the biggest and most marketable of the subgenres. Alternate history or alternative history is another subgenre and is the most appropriate subgenre for my series. However alternative fiction makes up a smaller market within historical fiction. Not only do you have to factor the subgenre but also the target audience your book is aimed at. Is it aimed for children, middle grade, YA, or adult? The answer to that question can determine how marketable your book will be which in turn translates into higher sales rankings. Most historical fiction books I’ve run across are geared towards a more mature audience which doesn’t work in my favor considering Before the Legend is geared towards middle grade readers.

2#: High Expectations

Another point to consider is the high expectations that come with historical fiction. Most people expect a well-written book. That’s a given. But for historical fiction books it goes a step further. Readers will expect it to be mostly historically accurate if not 100% accurate to the time period it’s written in. From my observation, fans of the genre come with higher expectations than other genres. True, other genres require some research. If you’re writing a science fiction book that centers in space you’ll want to do your homework on space travel to make the plot more plausible. While that principle of research is also true in historical fiction, there’s the expectation that the book should fully immerse the reader in the era. Everything from their adornment,  living conditions, the way they talk,  etiquette, means of travel, morality, etc. should be accurate to the time period. It’s all about the details. Any deviation or inaccuracies will not go over well with any reader but especially those who are avid fans of HF. They are not as forgiving!

Because details are of high importance research is essential. Even if it’s alternative or touches on the realm of historical fiction readers will expect it to still be reflective of the time period. And honestly that’s a fair expectation. But living up to those expectations can be very challenging at times. Personally one of the hardest for me was the dialogue. I’ve had readers say my dialogue was too modern. On the flip side others complained it was too formal and stilted. Considering my character is living in Roman times and is of noble blood the choice to not use contractions seemed to make the most sense. However that didn’t bode well with some readers. I was confused and frustrated when it came time to edit because I felt I was given contradictory feedback from both sides.

#3: Getting Noticed

All of these factors you’ll want to take into account especially if you’re seriously thinking about publishing your HF book. If you’re going down the traditional publishing route you face even more hurdles to publishing the book. Typically you’ll have to select a literary agent who will act as the middle-man between you and the publishing company. Although I personally haven’t taken the traditional publishing route, it would be advantageous to do your homework on the agent and the publishing company they work for by delving into what types of genres they typically read and publish. Someone who has little or no interest in HF may not fully understand or appreciate your work for what it’s worth. After all the agent will often determine whether the book is marketable or not. If they don’t like it, it will end up in the reject pile. On the other hand you can increase your chances of acceptance if the publishing company is open to or even favors historical fiction.

Of course you can bypass the middleman and opt to self-publish. But that’s only half the battle. With nobody representing you, marketing and advertising will fall primarily on your shoulders. This touches on the 1st challenge I mentioned which is the smaller market you have to work with. Even if you decide your book is ready  and that there is a big enough market for the book to be profitable, you still have to find your target audience and attract them. Some important questions to ask when deciding how to get more exposure for your book are…

What regions or countries will my HF book fare better in?

What reviewers will accept my works?

What bookstores or sites will feature my book?

The answers to those questions are important because you want to know which markets will be more profitable. As a writer you want reviews especially those who appreciate HF so potential readers can decide whether to take a chance on your work. As a writer you want to expand into new markets including your local bookstore to get your books in front of new eyes.

I’ll admit that writing and publishing historical fiction series is not easy. You’re bound to get critics. I even had one person suggest I quit writing in this genre. Even more challenging is the marketing. While this post is not intended to discourage anyone from publishing HF, I believe understanding the reality of the market will help you adapt your approach to your next writing project. Granted if you choose to write for the fun of it, don’t let the popularity, high expectations, or visibility get in the way from writing what you want to write. If anything writing more for your personal enjoyment can be liberating from the stress of worrying about sales. But even if you do decide to publish your next HF book for sale, my advice is to do your homework beforehand. Find out what works and what doesn’t work for your book and the genre at large. And above all stay true to what your passionate about.