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Posts Tagged ‘writers’

Written by:
Wendi Friend
2004

A critique is a person’s opinions and suggestions regarding an author’s work. Critiques can answer elemental questions regarding plot, character development, believability, and more. As such, they can provide insights into an author’s work and help to correct technical errors. But having others comment and make suggestions for your writing is only one way to draw benefit from critiques. The best way to benefit from critiques is giving them.

When a writer is serious about presenting their work for publication, they research the markets and writer resources, continuously improving upon their craft. When they do, they come across a myriad of advice. Among all the advice available, certain suggestions have become common factors. The leading offer of advice is to involve yourself in writing groups and opportunities to “exchange” critiques with other writers. By critiquing the work of other writers, one gains exposure to the variety of writing styles and subjects flowing about the realm of writing in search of recognition. Regularly reading the writing “hot off the presses” from both aspiring and established writers, common habits or “mistakes” can be identified. Once identified, they can be eliminated from your own writing. In essence, you’re learning to write better by editing the work of others. We learn by editing because we read the work of others with a more critical and less familiar eye than we do our own work.

For example, in reviewing the work of an associate, I noticed the tendency to start sentences with the word “so”. On one hand, it shows the author’s ability to write as he would have spoken. In his speech, he often does start his sentences with that word. In speech, extra words often go unnoticed because our focus isn’t only on the words, but on the way they’re being spoken. On paper, however, those habits stand out. When you spot these types of tendencies in the work of others, you will begin to see some habits in your own writing. When you can identify and eliminate habits during your own editorial process, you save yourself — and others — from having them pointed out when the piece is offered for critique!

Just the knowledge that critiques are helpful is a fantastic tool to writers, but useless tool when not applied. A hammer in a toolbox can’t pound a nail. It takes action. What stops most people from getting associated with other writers to review and edit each other’s work? Fear. Many of today’s writers don’t have college degrees, or in some cases, even high school diplomas. We then have underlying fears that we’re not “smart enough” to give advice to others, particularly if they’re already published writers. Heck, that’s intimidating!

Giving a critique isn’t as difficult as you may think. Just think of the questions you’d want answered about your own work, then offer those answers to the writer whose work you’re reading. Are you interested in the story? Was the reading smooth? Vocabulary, was it simple enough to understand, yet not so elementary it bores readers? Did the plot captivate attention? Do the characters feel real and believable?

Writers often read their own work so many times, they miss little misprints that most spell checkers don’t catch, such as “this” where “his” should have been, or “there’s” where it should have been “theirs”. Every writer has their own misspellings, punctuation habits, and style. If there’s a sentence you find difficult to read, point that out to the author. We don’t often trip on our own words, but others can and do. Most of those sentences can be easily clarified by the addition, removal, or relocation of as little as one word. The author just needs to know where the bumps are located.

In some critique groups I’ve been involved with, I’ve noticed some members have an abrasive style. Sugar coating is not required, although a bit more than “I liked it” is generally appreciated. But some people cut right to the chase with razor sharp opinions and total lack of empathy. There isn’t a need to slaughter anyone else’s writing, writing style, education, or lack of. Everyone needs encouragement; no one appreciates insult. Writers of every genre and experience level should offer encouragement and support to each other. We’ve chosen a difficult field that leads down an often lonely road.

There’s still even more benefit to be obtained from involvement with critique groups. You never know who you’re going to meet! People from all walks of life have merged into the Internet melting pot. From every culture, country, background, religion, etc., writers are coming together. In one group, you may find a young writer experimenting with his newly found muse, coupled with an author who has published multiple articles and books. You also never know whose needs your undiscovered talents may fill. It is not uncommon for editors to lurk in such areas to find fresh writers who’ve not yet been “tampered with” by the reality of the publishing world.

All things considered, if you’re still not ready to dip your toes into the reality of giving or receiving critiques, then if nothing else, READ THEM! You’ll learn more than you can imagine by watching how writers interact and communicate with each other.

Of course, there must also be caution. There are always those who prey on others with less experience. Not many people are interested in stealing the work of others, not blatantly, anyway. But there are cases in which writers are taken advantage of — situations where writers are offered bogus contracts, conned out of “reading fees”, suckered into contests, etc. You always want to use common sense and do your homework. Protect your writing, be careful who you give personal information, and do not pay to have others read or critique your work. There are several free writing groups available with other writers just like you who want to know if they’re on the right track.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend
2005

You know what writers’ block is, don’t you? There are so many articles available online, and support groups of fellow writers who can pick you up, offer encouragement, and give advice on how to overcome the beast. When the well of inspiration seems tapped, writers and other creative minds become frozen and fear-filled. What if the muse never comes back? What if a good sentence couldn’t be found if life depended on it, and what if the perfect word would never again be embraced with enthusiasm and adrenaline? This fear isn’t just career related. The panic stretches far beyond the reaches of employment, deep into the core of a writer’s very soul. Writing is an escape, a “get out of jail free” card in a world where there are no rules or realities. What if the writer’s block lasts forever then where will the soul of the writer go for release?

Not to worry, writer’s block isn’t always terminal, and there are “cures” for the condition. What you may not realize, though, is that writer’s block isn’t the only reason a writer finds themselves inked dry. Another reason writers are prone to dry spells is that they need to re-fuel and allow the muse to rest. Consider it a forced vacation from the Universe letting you know your tank is empty and you’re on the verge of being considered a slave driver for the way the Muse is worked overtime with little recognition or compensation.

How is this type of “block” different from writer’s block? Writer’s block occurs when the writer is expecting something profound with every stroke, when they write for reasons other than their own, or when outside influence prevents time or space for tapping the well of creativity. When the writer tries too hard or can’t concentrate consistently, their wheels tend to spin – and for as much as they want to create something and move forward, they’re stuck in the sludge of everything around them. Writer’s block can also occur when the writer heads off in the wrong direction with their words. Stories tend to want to write themselves once the muse has lit the path, but writers tend to want to show control over the story and force it in the direction they “think” would be best. The best writing isn’t ever “thought” of in the process. Instead, the best writing is nothing more than an accurate translation of deep feeling. As the writer stops “feeling” and starts “thinking” about how the story should unfold, a block is created. All of these blocks can be overcome through exercise (prompts, group support, research, music, and organization. On the contrary, the type of block I’m referring to doesn’t have a cure, nor is it triggered by an outside influence. Instead, it’s an uncontrollable, involuntary, desperate need to rest, rejuvenate, relax, and restore the muse and the mind to balance.

Writers love nothing better than to find their “zone” and follow the wings of inspiration, regardless of the genre, style, or pay. Journals, diaries, poetry, song lyrics, articles, fiction, non-fiction – These all take on a life of their own once the writer submits to their influence. But writers also have a tendency to block out reality and get so wrapped up in their own plots and characters that they forget to live the life of their own. “I’ll be there in two minutes; just let me finish this one thought.” Two hours later, supper is cold, the kids are in bed, and the spouse is asleep in the Lazy Boy chair with a disappointed expression. You wonder for a moment how two minutes turned into two hours, but you don’t linger long on the thought because the answer is obvious to you.

Even better, the writer will not feel guilty long, but will instead feel the perk of the ears when the thought occurs, “Oh, this means I can go get more work done!” The writer will remember deadlines and statistics more often than birthdays or scheduled appointments.

Keeping our eye on the goal has given us a bit of tunnel vision and all we can see before us is the “next step” that will put us one step closer to reaching “it”. Sadly, most of us don’t even know what “it” is, nor do we realize that our concepts of time differ greatly from those around us. We seem to think in a way that suggests, “Oh, one day, I’ll make it, and then everything will be so much better.” But writing is like laundry: you can do it every single day and yet never be done doing it! There is no “there” we’re trying to get to; there is no “finished”; there is no “last” piece to write. We’re simply doing what we enjoy or that we feel “called” to do – and hoping the experience will be lucrative in recognition and compensation.

When the writer is so trapped in tunnel vision they’ve gone cross-eyed, then the Universe steps in with an, “Okay, enough is enough”, forcing you into a time out so you can step back into your skin and enjoy your real life. Don’t describe sights, sounds, and smells – but experience them for yourself! Don’t write about passion, stop clicking the keyboard long enough to be passionate toward those you love. No amount of writing exercises, games, trips, triggers, or supports will allow you to write again until you’ve been back in your own life long enough to remember how to appreciate it. Appreciation for life is the signal to the Muse that it’s safe to come home.

So the next time you find your muse has gone silent, don’t cry “writer’s block” as an instinctive response and try to cure it with writing prompts or journals. Seriously consider your reason for being blocked, and then ask yourself how involved you’ve really been in your own life. You may not need to be flexing your creative muscles, but rest and relax with the people, places, and things you love. Honor the seasons of your muse and your life by knowing when all that’s needed to cure a “block” is for you to step back, for a time, into reality. Play with kids, walk your dog, swing, enjoy a sunset. Live every season and you’ll live in harmony with the Seasonal Muse.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

Blogs, otherwise known as online diaries or web journals, are the hottest thing on the Internet today. Virtually everyone surfing the net on a regular or semi-regular basis either has a blog themselves, or has spent time reading blogs. There’s just something about the raw exposure of this “reality internet” that is attractive to people. But the other hand, there’s a vulnerability involved with baring your essentials for the world to feed on in their spare time.

Plenty are the numbers of scorned souls, bleeding hearts, and wounded spirits who have fallen prey to online predators with negative intent. One of two things usually happens to set back or scare off those who are new to the blogging scene. The blog won’t “take off” and isn’t popular and doesn’t stand out in the multitude of seasoned blogs, or the new blogger will get caught up in the excitement of it all, get too comfortable, expose a secret, and then live to regret it when the wrong person finds the post on the web. But the seasoned blogger will tell you: you must find your own creative flavor, and then merge it with good common sense in order to deliver an enticing enough blog to the public without jeopardizing privacy or self-respect.

The first problem new bloggers generally face is what to write. They have read and been entertained by other blogs, and they want their blog to be just as interesting and entertaining, but don’t want to expose anything personal, don’t have any creative insights to express, and aren’t sure how to get the words moving. Here are a few ideas for subjects to get you started that are “safe” concepts to explore and display in public forums, such as blogs:

-Find a quote generator or use a quote book to find random quotations. When you find a quotation that strikes your fancy, copy it down, and then write 400 words or 20 minutes about what your thoughts are regarding the quote.

– Write about books you’re reading and how they make you feel.

– Write about movies you’ve seen recently, and whether or not you liked them.

– Write about your favorite music.

– Write about your funniest moments.

– Write about favorite childhood memories.

The second problem new bloggers encounter is frustration when there’s not enough traffic or response to their blog. There are things you can do to improve public interaction and invite comment.

Make sure you use catchy titles that will change people’s attention from mere initial curiosity to recognition or identification with the subject matter. The title is the first “taste” the viewer gets of the flavor of your blog. A catchy title reels them in.

Your first paragraph should further entice the reader and draw them in to the post. If the first paragraph is boring, confusing, or somehow offensive, the viewer will close the screen and move on to the next blog.

Try posting questions within the body of your blog entry, such as, “Can you believe this guy?” or “Is she for real?” It may seem like an innocent, rhetorical question to self, or “cyber-space”, but the viewer is more likely to answer if a question has been stated somewhere in the post.

Make your blog attractive. Dress it up with bells and whistles while at the same time making it easy to navigate. Adding photos, colors, designs, favorite quotes, jokes, favorite links, or other trinkets and treasures make the viewer want to stay and play.

Consider posting quizzes and fun games that can be interactive with readers, such as online quizzes they can take themselves, or “games” they can play along with you. One woman kept a blog and communicated with those posting on her blog message boards. After she’d identified her following, a group of people who were staying with her and revisiting the blog, she hosted a “jeopardy” type game in which she quizzed the viewers on facts disclosed in former diary entries. All the participants had a great time and continue to go back to her blog.

Update your blog often, adding new interesting topics, conversations, and interactive activities. People have a tendency to stop visiting a site that looks the same every time they visit. Keep it active, mix it up.

Take the time to visit the blogs hosted by people who frequent your blog. It’s only polite and spreads the love around. If someone has been to your blog and has posted to you a few times, it would only be right for you to visit their blog and make a few posts. If they don’t have their blog information listed where you can find it, such as in a user profile, and then ask them directly if they have one. They’ll be honored you reached out to them personally. If you don’t repay the kindness and show courtesy to your fellow bloggers, they’ll get bored with you and go elsewhere. Many bloggers intentionally seek out friendships in this way and for this purpose.

A seasoned blogger will tell you that there are risks involved with keeping blogs. Blogs are often used for raw expressions, venting, or for working through difficult situations. In many cases, things are stated that are later regretted. When the blogger has an unidentifiable screen name and no personal information disclosed, the risks are less, but the blog is less interesting to users. However, many people host blogs that have their first and last name, hometown, and other personal information that identify them to viewers. In cases where your identity is not hidden, there are things you can do to help protect yourself from internet dangers.

Use common sense and never post your home address or telephone number in a public forum.

Use nick names or pseudonyms for every person of whom you speak in your blog entries, including kids, spouses, friends, and the schmuck at work who pissed you off this morning. Don’t use real names when talking about other people online. It can and will come back to haunt you.

Learn to speak or write in ways that use metaphors and imagery to explore subjects that can’t be disclosed but need to be expressed.

If your real first and last name are appearing on or can be discovered within the content of your blog, do not confess to doing anything illegal or immoral. It can be used against you.

There are plenty of free blogs available online, and an immeasurable amount of how to articles or opinionated prose on blogs, online diaries, and web journals. What are you waiting for? Get yourself a free blog, deck it out with the bells and whistles, adorn it with groovy titles and fun challenges, produce it with common sense, maintain it with integrity, and enjoy the “reality internet” wave of blogging. Before you know it, you, too, will be a seasoned blogger.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

Writing, in my opinion
Is like an incredibly intense orgasm

Not all the time, of course
But there are powerful sensations
In penetrating inspirations
That tickle you to the very core of your soul
Not every stroke of the pen
Brings such a pleasurable liquid release
Not all breaths are cut short
With disbelief or overwhelming affection
But there are such pieces
That do bring such releases
And while it empties you, it makes you whole

Swollen with anticipation
Riding the waves of ecstasy
As they cause you to quiver
And quake
Hoping that those receiving
Can feel the tremor too
It moves you through and through
With a climax as the goal

That’s what writing is, in my opinion.
Writing is like an incredibly intense orgasm

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

Through experience I can tell you that writing, trying in and of itself, can be quite the challenge when there are children on hand demanding attention. To be hot on the heels of a fantastic thought process only to be interrupted by a two year old who needs to go potty is the most frustrating experience a writer can have.

Just as your main character comes into focus, nearly transparent and quickly fleeting, the baby wakes from her nap for her afternoon feeding, chasing your character far beyond reach. Arrgh! Writing a hot love scene for a romance novel can be cooled quickly by a pre-teen who wants to know what he can have for a snack and when dinner is going to be ready! One might think that balancing two loves – the love of children and the love of your writing career – might be a far fetched fantasy. However, with a few good tricks and a whole lot of patience (with yourself and your children), it is possible to reach the dreams of being a great parent AND a great writer!

Without tying them up in a closet or placing them in front of the insta-sitter television set, there are ways to occupy your children for reasonable amounts of time while you get in touch with your muse. When children are in their infancy stages, a writer can plan writing increments while the baby is sleeping. But, once that baby hits the terrible twos, you’d better have a back up plan!

When my first son reached the age of two, I found that he was easily entertained at his own pseudo desk. I flipped a cardboard box upside-down and told him that was his desk, placing it next to mine. My desk had a coffee cup full of different colored pens and pencils, so it only made sense that his desk should have the same. Knowing better than to give him one of my glass cups, I got a plastic disposable cup, filling it with crayons and set it on the corner of his Box. Wouldn’t ya know he’d notice that Mommy’s desk was full of notebooks? That problem was easily solved with a carefully chosen selection of coloring books. A pair of plastic toy frames made him look just as professional as Mommy did in her glasses. Children love to play pretend, children love to play grown up and children love to mimic their parents. With a little cooperation from you, your child can play his favorite games right under your nose while you get some work done. But, be careful not to work too long. Take small breaks to play with your child, to take turns showing each other the work you’ve produced.

As my child grew, he wanted to help with everything I was doing. At first, this was frustrating for me because I wanted to write my own words in my own time. But eventually, he taught me that at times, his words and ideas were much better than mine. Children have a magical way of viewing the world, a fresh outlook on life. By taking the time to listen to your child’s suggestions, you may get the help you need in overcoming such beasts as writer’s block! Eventually, with the help of my son, I found myself writing a series of rhyming stories for children. Carrying on that tradition with my other kids, I found that we wrote excellent poetry together! Not only did my writing get the boost it needed, but my children grew to be fantastic writers themselves!

My children and I loved to go to the library together. To them, it was an outing to an adventurous place filled with more books than they could count. For me, it meant getting the research materials I needed to complete my project. For us, it meant spending time together as a family. What’s more, is that since I was in the practice of writing books for children, then reading books with my children counted as research!

Keep a notebook in the rest room, in your glove box, in your purse and wherever else you find yourself sitting still or standing in line. I used to write some of my best pieces while waiting in my car outside the school for the bell to ring and children to come running. Try keeping a hand held recorder with you. When you don’t have time to write out the inspirational flow, you can catch keywords and phrases on cassette and write them down later. When your writing flow begins to tire, try playing with your kids for a break. That way, when the inspiration returns, your children won’t feel neglected and you won’t feel like you’ve neglected them. When everyone’s too cooped up in the house, try taking the wee ones to the park! They can play and exhaust their energies while you write and exhaust your muse!

These are just a few ideas written from experiences I’ve had with my own children and career. Of course, it’s not always easy and the muse and/or children don’t always cooperate. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and the balancing act can be achieved as long as you have patience with yourself and your kids.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

Next time you’re sitting at odds with your muse, try setting down your pen and picking up a photo album. What may seem like a “lack of productivity” may actually produce a large range of benefit. Writers often try to overcome writer’s block by writing something, when actually, what we need to do is rest our creative brains, feed them, and allow them to rejuvenate. Sifting through old photos will not only occupy the writer during down time, but may also stimulate memories, characteristics, story lines and raw emotion, with which to return to writing.

One way to use old photos while writing is to pick one photo at random and begin your writing with the sentence, “I remember when….” Knowing that you’re simply strolling down memory lane for your own benefit rather than trying to create something profound for publication, you’ll be more apt to be honest with yourself and less concerned with your choice of words. Writing for and from personal experience, any number of things might appear before your pen runs out of ink, or your mind of ideas. Often times, we’ll uncover some sort of emotional blanket that has kept our creativity well covered. By exploring that emotion, we can then transfer it into a character or an article, or have it removed from the course as an obstacle. In this way, old photos can help us uncover the emotion that has been buried beneath the inner editor’s logic.

Old photos can also provide fascinating characters for our story line. For example, let’s say that you need a male character in his sixties who is quiet, but intelligent, dependable yet unpredictable and is comfortably nestled into a certain financial status. Maybe grandpa fits the bill! Maybe you have a picture of Uncle George that spawns the energy to write about an obnoxious character who smokes cigars and tells stupid jokes. We can never tell Grandma to her face how terrible her hairdo was last Thanksgiving, but we sure can slap that hairdo on a character and let other characters make fun of it for us. Using people in photos to enhance characters in fiction is a great way to keep the pen moving.

Reminising over old photos of family members and ancestors is also a remarkable mental trigger. Words fail me in attempts to describe the effects caused by stepping into the past and learning from our elders, but a thought process is stimulated in great force just the same. My favorite old photograph, as a child, was that of my great grandmother Olinger with her almond shaped eyes. She comforted me from her position in that picture. Her eyes told stories, which I could then transfer to paper with my own words and thoughts. Though the old photo was void of color and torn on the edges, to me, it was priceless. Faces trapped in time.

One of my personal uses of photos is to look at old photos of myself. By looking at where I’ve been and combining it with where I am, I have a better sense of self and direction. Sometimes, I’m blocked creatively because I’m dealing with a personal spiritual issue, having lost touch with myself. The only way to get back in touch with creativity, at that point, is to get back in touch with myself. Old photos is a great way to get that done.

Old photos don’t always have to come out of your personal collection in order to stimulate writing. Try picking up one of those seven year old magazines collecting dust on your bookshelf. Due to the dating, you’ll probably not find an article of current interest. However, by sifting through the photos, some image could stimulate a “then and now” or a “what ever happened to” kind of article or story. Seeing a picture of a flower in a gardening magazine might stimulate some creative masterpiece about nature. You just never know what ideas are waiting to happen.

Also, for a neat twist on old photos, try having your photograph done in “old west” style! There’s nothing like seeing yourself in a fancy lace gown with a wide-rimmed, flower-covered hat! Make yourself the character!

When you suffer from writer’s brain freeze, try resting your eyes from words and letting it absorb images. It changes the whole perspective. Believe it or not, there really are some pictures that are worth a thousand words.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

“If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.” -Goethe- —-

What does being a writer mean to me?

Being a writer is not about having an abundance of too-big-to-use words found in a dictionary.

Being a writer is not about knowing where to put a comma or a hyphen.

Being a writer is not about properly formatting what you’ve written to fit somebody else’s standards.

Being a writer is not about being published.

Being a writer is not about fame or fortune.

Being a writer is not about being able to lace together a few choice words with elegant style.

Being a writer is more than being able to write two poems and half a romance novel.

Being a writer is more than having raw talent.

Being a writer is dedication first and foremost to the best sense of self one can find. How does one find that distant sense of self?

By writing their way directly into the core of the ugliest, most difficult to face parts of themselves; turning it inside out, wiping it off with a sponge, hanging it out to dry in a cool spring breeze, refreshing it with a coat of creativity, then wearing it again with pride.

Being a writer is about soul-diving, finding vacant lots and filling them up; finding wounds and discovering ways to heal them. Writing is about free falling into the all that is within you…… with your eyes open, knowing that there’s nothing to hold on to but yourself and your dreams.

Being a writer is not an occupation, it’s a way of life.

Being a writer is seeing a “for sale” sign on an old abandoned house and visualizing in an instant the characters who occupied it, where they went, why they left and what each trait of each character in that house would have been, had you been there to witness that life.

Being a writer is being able to stare rejection in the face and say, “That’s okay. I knew you were comin’, I can wait ’til I’m ready. It’s not personal.”…… and then crying in bed for two days wondering why you weren’t good enough to be accepted.

Being a writer is about waking up in the middle of the night with a half thought in mid-flight out of no where heading towards unknown destinations; but stopping long enough to nag you out of bed to get a pen; and keep you up ’til it’s finished exhausting it’s purpose for waking you, whatever that may be.

Being a writer is about staring at blank pieces of paper wondering where the first drop of ink is going to come from or lead to.

Being a writer is about being honest, real, open, aware and raw. You can always spell check and have what you’ve written corrected grammatically.

Being a writer is a gift. But to write something that is clear, you must be clear about what it is you’re writing.

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