Category Archives: Guest Post

Spiralling Out of Control

attachmentToday I’m having a guest on my blog: Michelle Dennis Evans. She’s an Aussie mum and writer like me who I met a few years ago through online writer’s circles we were both part of at the time. I’m so excited for her as she’s just released her debut novel, the first book in her ‘Spiralling’ series. What makes me even more excited about this particular series is that I got to read parts of two of the books, including this one, back when I was Michelle’s critique partner.

Stephanie’s story in Spiralling Out of Controlis one to which most teenagers can relate. Stephanie faces all kinds of pressures and questions who she is and what she values. I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out how Stephanie’s story would end; I got so drawn into the character. Michelle wrote her with such a clear voice. It’s currently sitting in the top 20 on Amazon under Social Issues in young adult fiction. If you have a teenage girl, this is a book they will feel a connection with. (Warning: There are references to sex, alcohol and other hard issues, I would recommend parents read first.)

Enough from me, though. I’m very pleased to welcome Michelle to my blog.

Hello!
Thank you so much, Jo, for hosting me today. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be finally releasing my debut novel, Spiralling Out of Control, a YA Contemporary story about Stephanie who makes one crazy decision after the other and finds herself heading down a very dark path.
 
On my blog, I love to play a game called 5 Favourites so I thought I’d pop over here and play it because I never get a chance to play when I’m at home!
 
Favourite food – Cheese (and a glass of red), hummus, vegies (I am the sugar police – sugar is poison LOL)
Favourite colour – Greens (from the trees to the grass to the ocean) and purple
Favourite author – I don’t have a favourite. I do enjoy books by Jody Hedlund, Lisa Schroeder, Tracey Hoffmann, Rose Dee, Andrea Grigg – and now that I’ve started listing authors I’m scared I’ve missed a couple of others I love!
Favourite pastimes – hanging out with family or friends, reading, writing.
Favourite places – My family farm (Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy), Rainforests, sandy beaches – anywhere with a magnificent view or outlook.
 
Hehehe that was fun!
 
I’ve loved visiting Jo’s blog and I’d love to invite you all over to mine – pop in and say hi at MichelleDennisEvans.com
Mich2 - Copy
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Interview with Steve Rossiter

Today I’d like to welcome Steve Rossiter to my blog. Steve runs The Australian Literature Review (www.auslit.net) and Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) and is the editor of various anthologies, including Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories (featuring one of my first ever published stories) and the recently released The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. Steve offers great opportunities to emerging writers through his programs and he has played a big role in my own writing journey. It is a pleasure to have been able to interview him and pick his brain.

You wrote the final story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, can you tell us a little bit about it (without giving away any spoilers)?

The final story takes place around Chester Lewis’s 100th birthday and is told from the POV of his granddaughter. It marks the end of Chester’s life story but raises new implications for the Lewis family.

I wanted to create a final story which would spark readers’ imaginations rather than, say, wind down and have Chester reflect on the past 100 years of his life.

You were also the editor for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, how did you balance your two different roles? Was it difficult switching between writer and editor?

Since I wrote the final story, my main role for the most of the process was as editor.

It wasn’t difficult to switch between the two roles at the end. I wrote my story with pen and notepad then did my first full edit of the story as I typed it onto the computer.

As well as the various short story anthologies you have published, you also run The Australian Literature Review, which often has short story competitions. You must be somewhat an expert on what makes a short story stand out after all the stories you’ve seen! What are your biggest tips for writers of short stories?

In a previous interview, I was asked what makes a compelling character and I responded that it is a combination of purpose and personality. This would be a good place to start for developing a short story idea. I mean developing a character in the full context of that fictional person and the story-world in which they are situated – not just to pick a goal and label a few personality traits in an abstract way. A character’s sense of purpose and their personality will, of necessity, draw from the story-world in which they are situated.

A simple but important tip is: create a story concept before you start writing. Many fiction writers just write with no story concept in mind and hope a story will emerge, or they write about the setting and/or character relationships with no clear sense of purpose or story momentum. This is fine if you’re writing something as a brainstorming exercise to help trigger an idea to adapt into a story concept, but many writers write without clear purpose and use the result as the end story.

The basic components of a story concept could be summarised as:

1)    A character (in the full context of being a fictional person situated in their story-world) actively pursues a goal.

2)    That character and other characters care about the outcome, but for conflicting reasons.

Readers will care about the outcome if they relate to why the characters care and what they do to pursue their desired outcome.

There is a fan fiction writing competition running on chesterlewis.net, do you have any advice for those hoping to enter?

Making an early decision to enter the competition is a good idea, so they have plenty of time to write a good story, then get some reader feedback and refine it before submitting. It runs until August 31st 2013, but writers can sign up early and they have until August 31st to send their story in. There is a $10 entry fee before March 31st(or $15 for those who sign up between April 1st and August 31st).

Participating in the private Chester Lewis Fan Fiction Group on Facebook is a good idea. Once signed up, the private Facebook group is available for entrants to discuss story ideas and their writing, to meet other writers, to receive fiction writing tips, and where authors from the book and some of their publishing industry friends will drop by from time to time.

Can you tell us about some of your current favourite authors/books and what makes them stand out for you?

I don’t so much have a few authors who are my absolute favourites as I have a range of reading interests and like various authors for different reasons.

Off the top of my head, some Australian authors whose novels I like include Fiona McIntosh, Rebecca James, LM Fuge, Tony Park and Jaye Ford, and some international authors whose novels I like include Stephen King, Gregg Hurwitz, Jodi Picoult, Thomas Harris, Cynthia Voigt, April Henry and Bernard Beckett.

If I was to lump the authors together and describe some things their novels tend to have in common, I would say they have characters with purpose and personality, they have a story with clear stakes, they have an easy-to-read style, and they explore interesting subject matter with intelligence and originality.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently writing a novel set in 1939 Poland with a teenage main character, intended for publication in 2014. My aim is for the novel to be entertaining for teen readers and a serious historical novel for adult readers.

I have Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) undergoing a big expansion from January 1st to feature daily posts throughout the year from a great mix of established novelists from around the world. There will be more than 20 novelists with a post per month throughout 2013 and guest novelists each month.

I will be launching Writing Historical Novels from January 1st along similar lines as the expanded Writing Teen Novels site.

The line-up of authors for these two sites will be announced in December. There will be numerous New York Times bestselling novelists as monthly contributors on each site (including one with more than 75 million copies in print), as well as novelists who are also professors, historians, feature film directors, screenwriters and producers for film and TV, scientists, non-fiction authors, documentary makers, teachers, journalists (including a Pulitzer Prize winner), and more.

I also have Writing Novels in Australia (www.writingnovelsinaustralia.com) – initially a place for members of a writing program I ran in the first half of this year to put down some thoughts about their writing and to reach readers – relaunching from January 1st with a mix of Australian aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelists, including authors such as Helene Young (published by Hachette and Penguin) and Greg Barron (published by HarperCollins).

Any parting words of wisdom?

Write the kind of fiction you find personally rewarding. If your aims for your fiction include commercial publication or to be read by other people (and most writers want their writing to be read by other people in some capacity), find some overlap in what you find personally rewarding to write and what others find personally rewarding to read.

 Thank you, Steve, and good luck with rest of your blog tour!

If anyone would like to see Steve’s blog tour schedule or read some of his previous interviews or guest posts on his tour, please follow this link.

Book website: www.ChesterLewis.net

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheLifeandTimesofChesterLewis

Why Writers Should Blog on the Side (Guest Post)

As writers, most of us have heard the advice that blogging is a great way to help build our author platform, but today’s guest blogger, Debra Johnson, offers some other good reasons why writers should blog.

Why Writers Should Blog On the Side

Whether you are writing the next big novel or writing a column for work, all writers should have a personal blog that they write for on a weekly basis.It sounds like a lot of work to be writing more but there are many benefits to writing a blog on the side:

  1. Practice makes perfect: The more you write the better your professional writing gets. Just like the old age saying ‘practice makes perfect’ still rings true through your adulthood and creative career. When you write a blog, your readers and their comments are a wonderful way to gauge your writing process. Not only do positive comments propel you to continue down the correct writing path but negative comments are beneficial. Don’t allow negative comments get you down;they are wonderful constructive criticism for you to edit and mold your work into something better. Personal blogging can help you learn from your mistakes and grow from them, as well as find the good in your writing and further improve it.
  2. Helps with future ideas and creativity: Keeping a personal blog is a key to your future writing career. So many ideas, phrases and themes from your personal blog can be used in your professional work. When we write personal blogs the pressure is off and the creativity is on. There are no boundaries and rules when writing a personal blog; therefor your ideas are unhindered and inhibited. When you are working on your professional piece, look back through your blog posts and archives to gather ideas.
  3. Stress relief and writers block: Being a writer you know that you have your off days and your on days. It seems that more often than enough, you tend have to several off days more than your on days. Writing on a personal level can help you get through your professional and paid project. Keeping those creative juices flowing by writing on the side will help decrease that worry and frustration that come with writers block. Writers block hits us when we least expect it and the only way around it is to charge it full on with blog writing.

Writing a personal blog is healthy for your creativity in your personal and professional writing career. It’s a win-win for all, first you help your writing, entertain others and your career is heightened. So head to your nearest online blog spot and start blogging today! Happy blogging!

About the Author:

 This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of nanny payroll.

She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @ gmail.com.

Writing Secrets You Won’t Learn in Class (Guest Post)

Phew! These past two weeks of school holidays have been busy, busy, busy! Now that school holidays (and the plethora of illnesses that have plagued our household) are over, I can hopefully get back to some regular blogging (plus look out tomorrow for a new anthology launch).

I’ve had this guest post lined up for a few weeks and I’m so glad to be back on the blog so I can post it for you. Thanks to Melissa Miller for writing it.

Writing secrets you won’t learn in class

Many creative writing workshops offered in high school and college operate under a certain set of rules and guidelines. These are meant to help a young writer shape their prose or poetry to a fine point so they can produce the best work possible. You know the conventional wisdom offered in many of these courses: write what you know, build a compelling narrative, create a multidimensional character, and use appropriate grammar. If some of these tips seem like common sense to you, you’re not alone.

While many writing classes offer a stellar introduction to creative writing, many more offer run of the mill advice that won’t do much to impact that career of a burgeoning writer. While no one expects any one class to fit all the complexities of writing in their syllabus, there could stand to be a more varied conversation. There are so many things that college writing courses and fiction seminars don’t teach you about the writing process. Allow me to share a few unconventional bits of wisdom that I’ve learned in my experiences as a writer.

Embrace new experiences as future writing material

This bit of advice is instrumental for those writers who have yet to travel. I can tell you from experience that a little sightseeing—whether it’s a weekend trip to a new city or a months-long trek across Europe—will do wonders for your writing. The richness of travel simply lends itself to great storytelling. There’s something about the experience of putting yourself in an entirely unfamiliar setting that just gets your creative juices flowing.

It’s also commonly believed that the more experiences you have to draw from, the more depth that you can then add to characters as you flesh out a story. Think about the range of experience the separates a writer who’s traveled the country from one that has lived in their hometown all their lives: there’s a good chance than one’s writing will be far more varied and diverse than the other’s writing. of course, traveling doesn’t’ make you a good writer, but it can certainly help you develop ideas and expand your worldview.

Don’t be afraid to write poorly

I advise any writer to avoid whatever slows down their writing. in my view, one of the biggest roadblocks to productive writing is the editing process. I’ve met far too many writers who were worried about perfecting the words, grammar, and overall structure of every sentence to the point where it interfered with their actual story. Yes, editing is a critical part of the writing process, but it’s by no means the most important part. You have to have an actual story before you can edit it.

In this vein of thought, I advise writers to continue writing a story, chapter, or section of their work without paying much heed to the overall look of their work. It’s much better to get your thoughts written on paper (or on a Word document) first, no matter how messy that jumble may turn out to be. There’s plenty of time to edit once you’re done with the first draft. Just write!

Sometimes it’s alright to tell rather than show

It’s the hallmark of any advanced creative writing class: show, don’t tell. While that device will certainly make aspects of your narrative more compelling, it’s by no means the only way to tell a great story. That’s right, I’m telling you that sometimes it’s acceptable to tell, not show. The appeal of “showing” in a story is that the author doesn’t spell out salient plot points or character developments for their readers. They drop subtle hints and show the characters and situations for what they are, hoping that the reader will pick up on the nuances.

You might be surprised to learn that a writer can be equally poignant if they tell the reader certain details of a story. Perhaps the narrator tells a reader certain things about a character which interestingly contrasts with the actions they carry out in a story. Or perhaps you simply want to tell some details for the sake of expediency—it’s not a writing sin, no matter what your teacher tells you.

What are some unconventional writing tips that you’ve learned along your writing journey? Let me know!

This guest post is provided by Melissa Miller. Many of Melissa’s other articles aim to help you understand the challenges and benefits involved in earning an online associates degree, and show you a way through the often confusing process. She welcomes questions and suggestions at melissamiller831@gmail.com.

Storytelling Secrets to Make Your Novel Unforgettable (Guest Post)

Freelance writer Lucy Faraday is back guest posting again today with a post on secrets for an unforgettable novel (you may remember her recent guest post on Poor Man’s Copyright).

Storytelling Secrets to Make Your Novel Unforgettable

If you’re an author you’ve likely been given countless tips and techniques to make your stories really shine. The reality is that there are (unfortunately) no magic wands that you can simply wave to create the next Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire series. There are, however, a few well-kept secrets that many authors already employ without some people even realising it. These concepts, ideas, and tips help to keep a story not only going along at a lightning pace, but also keep the readers glued to the pages, eager to know what happens next. The aim is to keep your readers laid back and glued to their seat desperate to continue reading simply by creating characters and situations that really bring your story to life. And it’s probably much easier than you think. So without further ado, here are the storytelling secrets you need to make your next novel truly unforgettable.

Collect interesting names

One of the biggest challenges facing authors is naming their characters. Some writers are able to simply pluck them out of the air and have them sound great first time, but others need to take a little more time over it. Many famous novels feature unforgettable character names (examples include Albus Dumbledore, Jon Gatsby, Tyrion Lannister, and so on). If you have a hard time generating memorable character names on the spot, here’s a handy tip: keep a notepad (or your smartphone) handy, and whenever you come across a good name in your day-to-day life, jot it down. Then, when you come to name your creations, you’ll never be at a loss for words.

Give your characters a signature

In order to leave a lasting impact on readers, writers need to make the characters as memorable as possible. Not just in terms of name as we discussed above, but also in their mannerisms and the way they talk. To make your characters really stand out, one good idea is to give each of them a signature of some kind. This could be a limp, an eye patch, a noticeable scar, a vocal tick – the list goes on. The aim is to make the reader feel like they really know a character and could recognise them anywhere. That way, your book will be much more memorable.

Give your readers mental landmarks

In much the same way as you’ll want to make characters recognisable, you may also do the same with setting and environment. For example, if you were writing a yarn about pirates and two of the characters were having a swashbuckling sword fight, would you simply place them on a ‘sandy beach’? If you do, your reader doesn’t have much to go on. But put them instead on the edge of a cliff teetering above a rock formation that resembles a human skull and you’ve created an instantly memorable mental landmark. It’s things like this that turn a good book into a great one. Mental landmarks work anywhere, not just during action sequences. They allow readers to truly build the world in their mind, and their immersion in the story gets a boost at the same time.

As Faulkner said, “Kill your darlings”

William Faulkner was one of the proponents of the great American novel, and he was also a font for writing knowledge. One of his most famous quotes is “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” – but what does this mean for modern authors? Well, simply put, it means that you mustn’t become too heavily attached to characters. If you do, your story runs the risk of becoming stale. By building up a character and really falling for them, then dealing them a fatal blow, you’ll throw a spanner in the works and create tense moments that will remain with your readers forever. If you need any tips on how best to eliminate characters that you may have spent hundreds of pages creating, take a leaf out of George RR Martin’s book. In A Song of Ice and Fire, he kills more main characters than we can count!

So there you have it: just a handful of ways you can make your next book unforgettable. The same rules apply whether you’re writing a 1000-page tome or a short story, so don’t feel like you have to write a novel to try these out. With a little work, and a little effort, you’ll find your writing (and the immersion it offers readers) will only grow in time.

The Myth of Poor Man’s Copyright (Guest Post)

This week’s guest post comes from freelance writer Lucy Faraday. I found the topic to be quite interesting. I’ve never posted my work to myself, but I do email work to myself quite often. I’d love to hear the thoughts of others on this topic in the comments.

The Myth of Poor Man’s Copyright

There is a prevailing myth that a simple way of establishing copyright of your work is to send a parcel to yourself containing a copy of your manuscript and leave the envelope unopened. Known as poor man’s copyright, this is an unfounded and potentially dangerous misunderstanding that is often maintained amongst inexperienced writers. The belief has absolutely no basis in reality for a number of reasons, as well as perpetuating the falsehood of the necessity of establishing copyright in the first place.

Why You Shouldn’t Believe It

Put simply, a manuscript in an unopened envelope proves nothing except that it was written before the date of the postmark. Ignoring potential issues such as the possibility of envelopes being steamed open or the postmark becoming smudged and illegible, if the envelope were presented as supposed proof of copyright, a number of counterpoints would be immediately raised.

Principally, simply being in possession of a manuscript does not in any way prove that you are the author of it. Sure, you might be able to give a detailed explanation of its contents and quote extensively from it, but that doesn’t prove it didn’t come from somewhere else. For all that can be established, you could have been memorizing from another copy taken before this one was posted in preparation for such a performance.

If such a manuscript were produced as evidence of plagiarism after the publication of a book with suspiciously similar content, it still doesn’t prove you are the original author. It might cast suspicion upon the author of the published work, but it doesn’t do you any good. You could just have easily stolen it from the same person the author did.

Why It May Be Unnecessary

It’s perfectly understandable to be cautious about protecting yourself against plagiarism and theft, but if you are concerned your work being stolen by publishers, you’re worrying for nothing.

Unless the work of a first time author captures the imagination of its target audience to such an extent that it redefines the cultural zeitgeist, their books will not bring in any great profit for quite some time. There are exceptions (the high school exploits of a certain teenage wizard spring to mind) but for the most part it will take years of perseverance both on the part of the authors, the agents and the publishers before any kind of notoriety is attained. The writing industry is one that requires a lot of time, dedication and hard work for all involved, and nobody chooses to get involved with it unless they are passionate about books.

Contrary to popular belief, agencies do not exist to fleece young writers for all they’re worth by stealing their work to make millions from by cutting them out of the loop. The truth is that the work of new writer will not yield much revenue to fleece them of in the first place.

Accusations of theft and plagiarism are the nightmares of any reputable agencies and they will do all they can to avoid such allegations. With the rise of ebooks and the increasing viability of indie publishing, traditional publishing houses are slowly seeing their historical sources of revenue dry up and they would certainly not risk their trading reputation on the chance success of an unknown’s stolen work.

The scam agencies you were warned against are ones that demand up-front payment from the writers before doing any work, and they operate without caring about what you’ve written in the first place. They are in the business of fraud, not theft.

How Copyright Actually Works

Most countries nowadays follow the Berne Convention in establishing copyright, one of the basic provisions of which is that copyright protects an original work from the moment of its creation. The official copyright notice printed on authors’ works strengthens the protection only insofar as warning people against attempting to misappropriate it.

The reason that this may not be so well known is that the US did not sign the agreement until 1989, and the UK, despite signing it in 1887, took over a century getting around to actually implementing it with The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Although possessing copyright is simple enough, establishing it is another matter entirely, and one considerably more complex than simply being in possession of a self-addressed envelope.

More significant is that most court cases involving copyright infringement are not about establishing a work’s authorship, but rather violations of fair use policies or unauthorized duplication of the work. Additionally, you will only be eligible to claim either how much the infringement made or how much it caused you to lose, which either way will likely be next to nothing.

Poor man’s copyright is particularly useless in this instance as to sue someone for infringement you are first required to have officially registered your work with the relevant government office, the one thing that poor man’s copyright is used to circumvent the cost of doing in the first place. There is not a single recorded instance of poor man’s copyright ever having been used to successfully establish ownership of a work, and the sooner this myth ceases being disseminated, the better off all new writers will be.

EDITED TO ADD:

I just found this great post with information on copyright for authors, including copyrighting your work and fair use: Six Frequently Asked Copyright Questions.

~ Jo

How Not to Write an Author Business Plan (Guest Post)

Fellow writer and blogger, Carrie Bailey of the Peevish Penman is guest posting today (for long time followers of my blog, you may recall her blog shares its birthday with mine). Hopefully her post will get you really thinking about where you want to go with your writing and the best way to strive for those goals. (P.S. She’s currently seeking submissions for the second The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society anthology. You can find a link to the submissions page in her bio at the end of this post.)

How Not to Write an Author Business Plan

by Carrie Bailey

Can an author survive without a business plan? Yes, of course, they can and do every day, but they miss the opportunity to learn about, explore and refine their own business strategy through the very thing they love best. Writing.

I’ve written business plans for libraries and helped small business owners in a range of fields, from automotive to health food products to do the same. I’m not an expert at what makes them successful. People ask for my help because they believe I’m good with words. But while struggling to help great visionaries articulate how they’re going to change the world with their product or service, I have gained some insight into what prevents people from growing their business.

Here’s how not to write a business plan:

Ignore the context

If you don’t like the changes in the publishing industry and the impact of new technologies, just ignore them. They don’t matter. eBooks are just a fad.

It’s the same with genres. Just because readers in their later teens often make a beeline straight to the bookcase labeled YA in their favorite bookstore or local library, you don’t have to factor that into your business plan. Readers will just instinctively know how to find your book.

Maybe everyone has written about werewolves that moonlight as detectives this year or no-one is reading one hundred thousand word epic poems about the suicidal ruminations of massage therapists who lost a loved one in the apocalypse, but you don’t have to pay attention to trends. A true artist sets the trends.

Don’t plan strategically

Only heartless capitalist thugs use strategic planning. They start by defining what they offer in terms of their strengths, weaknesses and the threats to their business. Then, they identify their opportunities. For them, it’s about knowing where you are, where you want to go and then choosing what tactics you need to get there.

That’s evil. Don’t do it.

And don’t define what success means to you. Accept what your hair stylist believes: a successful author is mega-wealthy and a New York Times Bestseller. Like duh, she knows what she’s talking about. Do not set measurable short-term goals. If it’s not a multimillion-dollar book deal from a top publisher, it’s not worth your time.

Hate all publishers, agents, other writers or readers who deserve it

You deserve respect and you don’t have put up with people with their opinions. When you write your business plan, write anyone you don’t like out. It’s all about you and your book. Besides publishers and agents only want what the public will buy, right? And we all know people have no taste. Forget about them. Business plans are not about buying and selling. They’re about something else. Something indefinable.

Besides, everyone should want to read your work whether or not you respect him or her. It is that profound and they need it to change their lives and to make them better people. Don’t bother targeting a specific audience. No matter what age they are, where they live, what their background is or what language they speak, they should want to read your book.

Maintain absolute control

It’s also crucial that you never let anyone see your business plan, because they are going to steal your ideas. Don’t accept feedback from anyone either. That will disrupt the purity of your own artistic vision for your work.

And finally,

Never change your business plan

Just because the times change and the business of writing changes, doesn’t mean that your business plan should. Chisel it in stone. Adaptation is for losers who didn’t do it right the first time, right?

You would think that the people who held ideas similar to these-the real people I’ve met and worked with-would not be in business, but they had shops, clients, employees, products and services. They made ends meet, but they weren’t growing. They believed they couldn’t articulate their business plan effectively, because they lacked writing skills. I disagree. They simply could not articulate their business plans, because they were poorly formed in areas.

I used to spend hours having conversations that went like this:

Me:

“So, what threats to your business can you identify?”

Small business owner:

“There aren’t really any, except that sometimes I run out of money at the end of the month and I every time I train someone they leave and go into business for themselves and I can’t find anyone to do the accounts right. I think the accountant I hired is overcharging me.”

Me:

“Okay, so additional competition is one threat?”

Small business owner:

“Oh no! My product is completely different and unique to everything else available and no one else could possibly compete with it…”

Two hours later, I would often still not have identified one threat and I would have nothing written down for them, but they weren’t hopeless. Years later some have grown and developed from barely five figured enterprises to healthy six figured ones. They had passion.

I don’t try to write business plans for people anymore. Edit? Yes. Write? I can’t. Writing a business plan forces you to think through important questions about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re trying to do it. The writing process itself is a vital learning tool. My sister, Winonah Drake, the co-editor at Peevish Penman, recently shared a Winston Churchill quote with me that I believe sums it up, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

Carrie Bailey has been writing her debut YA fantasy novel for the past two years while attending graduate school for library science. She is currently seeking submissions for the second edition of The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society, an anthology.

How to Deal with Writer Burnout (Guest Post)

Before I introduce the next guest poster to the Graceful Doe’s blog, I just want to let everyone know I haven’t forgotten about April’s Helpful Writing Sites post. I will be doing another combined post at the end of May. I would also like to thank everyone who has voted for my blog so far for the 2012 Best Australian Blogs People’s Choice award. There are just 5 days left to vote! If you would like to vote for my blog, just click the ‘vote for me’ link in the sidebar; my blog ‘The Graceful Doe’ is on page five of the voting form.

Now onto the next post in my guest post series. Freelance writer Jenny Ellis has some tips for dealing with something most writers face at some point: Writer burnout.

How to Deal with Burning Out on Writing

People have this common misconception that writer’s lead these whimsical lives where they sit in coffee shops and drink coffee all day while pondering life and staring intently at their laptops. The truth though? Writing for a living is no small feat. It’s hard to churn out content day in and day out and have each and every article come out worthy of being published. As a writer I can tell you that my life is less than whimsical and I spend an equal amount of time stressed out as I do drinking coffee and staring at my laptop (because let’s be honest, the coffee and laptop scenario does happen too). In fact, after weeks of writing day in and day out sometimes I get a little burned out and it becomes rather difficult to even think about writing another article or chapter or whatever I’m working on at the time. And while I think that burning out is nearly inevitable from time to time, I have found some tools for dealing with it:

  1. Switch to editing – Sometimes it’s the mere act of coming up with new content that has become a chore, and shifting gears and doing something else related to writing can be exactly the jolt that you need. Often times I find when I’m editing a piece that I’ve let sit for a while that once I start re-reading it I’m flooded with new ideas for how to change the piece into something better. Before I know it I’m re-writing entire sections with gusto instead of dreading penning any more words.
  2. Do something different – As writers I think we all tend to get wrapped up in projects and we become slaves to our laptops. I know I can spend hours staring at my laptop with unblinking eyes as I pore over new material, old material, and proof-reading. It’s usually when I start feeling burned out that I realize that I haven’t taken a genuine break from writing in a while. So I take a walk, I get outside, I call a friend, I just take a break to let my mind recharge a little. Allowing yourself to rejuvenate can do wonders.
  3. Write for fun – Amidst projects and deadlines it’s easy to get a little flustered and just shut down. You likely started writing because you love it, right? So take a break from everything that you’re getting paid to do and write something that you feel like writing. Maybe it’s a journal or personal blog entry, maybe it’s poetry, maybe it’s a song… whatever it is let yourself take a break and have some fun with it!
  4. Bounce ideas off a colleague – If you’ve hit a wall and you’re feeling burned out it could just be that you’re only allowing yourself to view a piece in one way. Let a trusted friend or colleague read what you’re writing and be open to constructive criticism. Toss ideas around with one another. Finding a good idea or a new twist could be just what you need to ignite the passion that writing requires.
  5. Don’t stress too much – When you write for a living and you’ve suddenly reached a period of burnout it’s easy to start stressing out about getting things done on time and wondering if you’ll ever get out of this rut. However stressing is just going to make it even harder to get back into writing, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Decompress a bit and allow yourself to recognize that you’re burned out. Your writing mojo will come back sooner when you’re relaxed and receptive.

Burning out is one of those annoying things that come with any profession, though it can be especially hard to deal with as a writer because you’re so used to the creative juices running freely. Your writing will be its best when you’re happily letting the words roll onto the page, not when you’re forcing them, so don’t be too down on yourself if you end up a little burned out every now and then. Allow your creativity to return and then the words will flow.

Jenny Ellis is a freelance writer, and a regular contributor for aupair care. She welcomes your comments at: ellisjenny728 @ gmail.com.

Image by PocketAces via stock.xchng

Learning How to Plan for Your Dreams (Guest Post)

The next guest poster I’d like to welcome to the blog is poet and short story writer Lissa Clouser, whom I met through the 12 x 12 challenge. When I first read her post, I found it really struck a chord with me. She offers some great advice on striving for that writing dream.

Learning How to Plan for your Dreams

As writers we want to be trendsetters, not goal-setters. We want the right-now success while only doing maybe-later work. But there’s been a breakthrough! We have it all backwards.

The truth of it is that we’ve trained ourselves to spend all of our time dreaming. We dream up our characters, their stories, and the worlds in which they live them out. Chances are it’s the dream of the adventurous life of writing that’s led us to be more than journal keepers in the first place.

Somewhere in the middle of all that wistful dreaming however, most of us have forgotten to take the time and effort to make a plan. Plans don’t have to be complicated, but I’ve come to believe they are a necessary foundation for future success.

1)      Start by taking just one step back. Not too far from the dream, but just enough to see the big picture. I did this with my own writing life about 8 months ago. Where am I going? What do I want to accomplish? Why do I want to accomplish it? If you don’t feel like answering all of these questions yet that’s okay. But now that you’ve stepped back, how far are you from your dream?

2)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I know you just stepped back and took a good long look at how far away your dream might be, but whatever you do, discouragement is not allowed! No matter how far away you think you are, it’s still accessible. Believe and plan.

3)      We’ve dreamt. We’ve hyperventilated. Now what do we do? Evaluate. Where are you right now? Right this very minute? This is very important knowledge because if you don’t take the time to evaluate this, how do you know where to go? Don’t be ashamed if you’re just starting. We all start somewhere. Just know where to put the push pin on your mental map of the big-picture journey. You can look back and gawk at how far you’ve come later.

4)      Plot your next step. Do you have a first draft of a novel you love completed? Excellent. Revise. Maybe you’ve polished a picture book manuscript 40 times and you’re confident it shines. Fantastic. Learn how to write a query letter. Learn how to research agents who might be interested in you. Are you at the very beginning, still just grasping at the fluffy clouds of what-if? That’s awesome! The whole world stretches before you. Don’t let a story overwhelm you. Start small with poetry, short stories, or even learning how to free write ideas. Practice will not only teach you what you love about writing, it will teach you what you need to work on, help you find and shape your voice, and lead you to your next step.

5)      If you haven’t already, find your niche. This isn’t prison; you aren’t confined to it by any means, but like it or not we all have one or maybe a few areas in which we shine. I thought I wanted to be a novelist. (And deep down I still do.) But I’m finding that the more I write, the more I realize poetry is probably my strongest point. When I do write short stories I like dark themes. I love to use psychological twists and turns to mess with the reader. But what do you like? Answering this question will help to give you direction and a brand with which to market yourself. Me? I want to be a novelist, but for now I’m a poet.

6)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I feel like repeating this again. Writing is a hard road, filled with lots of rejection for most of us, rejection that comes from ourselves and the big bad world of publishing. Just remember, if you get rejected from an agent, publisher, or contest that means you tried in the first place. I’m already proud of you for that alone. So don’t get discouraged. Seriously.

7)      Create a marketing plan, but don’t be shocked if it changes. It probably will. But having a marketing plan in the first place will steer you in a positive direction. Decide what it is you want to market. Decide where you want to market it. What are the steps to reach that market? Is it something you can already be researching in your down time from writing? My current project is a poetry anthology, and it’s still at least a year from being print-worthy. But when I’m not working on the poetry itself and I’m not blogging, I’m trying to learn my market. What small publishers fit my work? Do I want to try self-publishing? Where and how am I going to market my book? These are all questions going through my mind. As the time for publication gets closer, my marketing plan will get better, tighter. But just like your writing, having a rough draft for marketing can only improve the final concept.

8)      Write! You have it in you. I believe in you. We’re on this journey together!

Your plan for this wild ride is not going to look like mine. It’s not going to look like anyone else’s. But hopefully I’ve given you the confidence to know that planning does not have to be the ball and chain holding down your dreams. Let your plans and your dreams work together and they can take you far.

Lissa Clouser is a poet and occasional short story writer. She is currently working on two poetry anthologies. You can learn more about her and join in on the writing conversation on her blog http://quidforquill.wordpress.com.

How Writing Poetry Can Help You Be a Better Writer (Guest Post)

As well as being Aussie Author Month this month, it is also National Poetry Month. Today I have a guest post from poet and children’s writer Rena Traxel on how writing poetry can help you be a better writer. She has some great tips, particularly for picture book writers.

Writing Poetry Can Help You Be a Better Writer

When you were in school you most likely studied poetry.  When you grew up some of you left poetry writing behind.  In celebration of National Poetry Month, I created a poetry challenge, in which I’ve pushed the participants to try a new poetic form each day, except for Sundays, in the month of April.  I’ve had them write both silly and serious poems.  What is the purpose of the challenge? To help the participants grow as writers. I’m here today to discuss how poetry writing can help you.

  • To grow as a writer you must challenge yourself.  Writing poetry is different from writing prose and therefore will force you to stretch your mind. If you already write poetry try out a poetic form you have never used before (this can be as simple as including a simile in your poem).
  • Is your story not flowing? Turn to poetry. Poets pay attention to stresses and syllables that is why poems tend to flow.  Dr. Seuss wrote many of his books using trisyllabic meter (putting stress on every third syllable). Dr. Seuss’ books move seamlessly from page to page. His books are easy to remember and kids love his books.
  • Poetry can help you get in touch with your inner child.  Literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye said, “the speech of a child is full of chanting and singing and it is clear that the child understands what many adults do not, that verse is more direct and primitive way of conventionalizing speech then prose is.” There is a reason why children love Dr. Suess and Mother Goose.
  • Are you too wordy? Poems show an entire story in very few words. Poets practice the art of compression by paying attention to every single word to make sure it is absolutely necessary. Even the title contributes to the story.
  • Poets pay attention to line breaks. They use line breaks to slow down or speed up a poem. If you write picture books it’s essential to know where to break up a story so that it flows from page to page.  Even if you write novels it’s important to know where to cut a chapter.
  • Practice showing versus telling. Because poems tend to be short they rely on images to tell a story.
  • Poetry can help you express yourself. You might be surprised to learn that poetry is closer to how we speak then prose.
  • Poetry is meant to read out loud and is why poets spend a considerable amount of time thinking about word choice. If you write picture books then you know your stories will have to be read out loud.  Even if you write novels you will have to read sections out loud at a reading.  Get comfortable with hearing your words by writing poetry.
  • Poetry is fun. Poems are not bound by the same rules as prose.  You can play around with form and punctuation as along as your choices are consistent.

Every time you sit down to write you are practicing your craft.  How do you expect to get better if you don’t push yourself? Step out of your comfort zone and give poetry a try. You will be amazed at the new skills you will learn.

Rena J. Traxel writes stories and poems for kids. She is currently working on a fantasy series for tweens. To learn more about her check out her website at www.renajtraxel.com or head over to blog “On the Way to Somewhere” at www.renajtraxelblog.com and enjoy some of her poems and stories.

A note from Jo:

Looking for some rhyming picture book inspiration during Aussie Author Month? I always refer to the two masters of rhyming picture books, Australian authors Graeme Base (Enigma, The Eleventh Hour, The Worst Band in the Universe) and Mem Fox (The Ballad of Skip and Nell, Time for Bed, Where is the Green Sheep?). For poetry, check out some of the works of Banjo Patterson (my favourite is Mulga Bill’s Bicycle).