Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Tips’

The Social Media Side of Writing

In NCW Writers Conference, Northern Colorado Writers, Writers Conferences, Writing, Writing Tips on May 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

Going to a conference or networking event is the three-dimensional side of social media.

How? Attendees are trying to get likes, fans and friends, and they’re trying to build an audience.

I attended the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in Fort Collins earlier this month to pick up tips on writing, editing and publishing but found myself drawn to a couple of the social media and marketing sessions.

The conference, carrying the tagline “Imagination: The Alchemy of Writing,” offered 32 one-hour sessions over two days taught by agents, editors and authors on the craft and business side of writing. More than 130 writers and authors attended the conference May 5-6.

“The small size makes it a very welcoming conference, and the people that come to this conference want to see everyone succeed,” said Kerrie Flanagan, creative team member for the conference and one of the presenters on self-publishing and magazine writing.

Some of the sessions focused on elements of writing, like plotting, developing a hero character and writing sex scenes. Other sessions gave tips on the various forms of writing, such as screenplays, personal essays and flash fiction, which are really short stories.

Social Media and Marketing

I attended a session on “Social Media & Marketing: Navigating the Event Horizon,” presented by author J.C. Lynne.

Lynne recommended writers develop a platform to increase visibility and accessibility to actual, potential and future readers and to make it authentic.

“Authentic platforms take time and are about quality relationships,” Lynne said. “You’re fooling yourself if you think you won’t have to market your book, no matter if you’re traditionally, independently or self-published. … Even big publishers aren’t willing to spend money on marketing.”

A platform demonstrates a writers’ expertise, while also serving as virtual word-of-mouth to grow an audience. It can include things like a website, regular blogs and social media channels, such as GoodReads, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Putting content on the various outlets lets readers get to know and interact with the writer and keep up to date with the writer’s activities, involvements and publications.

“People don’t go to book signings anymore,” Lynne said.

More Marketing Tips

Other sessions included a guide to creating marketing materials, building an author website and the differences among e-publishing, print-on-demand and other self-publishing options.

I attended writer and editor Jessica Strawser’s session on “How to Be a Writer Editors Love,” where I picked up additional tips on marketing and social media.

“Editors today are looking for the total package: good, talented writers informed about the market,” said Strawser, Writer Digest Magazine editorial director.

Editors look for writers with platforms and who are consistent and prolific in their work, Strawser said.

“Editors like to work with writers who are savvy about the industry,” she said.

Strawser recommended writers build their platforms through websites, social media channels and local networks to build a larger base and collect more followers. A local network can be expanded by sending emails to acquaintances or people met through networking events and by asking them out to coffee.

“It will happen organically,” Strawser said.

Fiction Writing Tips (that make writing fun)

In Outlining a Novel, Writing Goals, Writing Processes on April 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

ZoeyLollipop

Outlining a novel can be as fun as a dog with a lollipop by taking the right approach.

There are two ways to write fiction: write and see what happens, or do an outline and plan what you write.

The planning involves coming up with a plot outline, character identities and the backstory, or what occurred before the story begins. In the very least, writers need a premise, the basic concept of what the story is about, or what the characters undergo as a result of what happens in the story. It’s the underlying idea or the foundation that supports the entire plot.

8-Point Narrative Arc

To do that planning, I like using Nigel Watt’s 8-point narrative arc, as explained in his book, “Writing a Novel.”

The 8 points are Stasis-Trigger-The Quest-Surprise-Critical Choice-Climax-Reversal-Resolution. The main characters experience something that upset the status quo, sending them on a search to return to normal, but they encounter obstacles along the way. They have to make a critical choice that leads to the story’s climax and eventually their return to a fresh stasis.

In three plot points, it’s the inciting incident, rising arc and falling action.

Outlining a Novel

To outline, here are a few things to think about:

  • First, think about what your basic premise or idea is for the story. What will be your hook? How will you introduce your main character or characters? What will be the inciting incident?
  • Identify a few of the big plot moments and what character actions or settings could complicate them. What does the character want and what plot complications stand in her way from getting that one thing?
  • Think through characters and plotlines to see if you can sustain both to the end of the story.
  • Consider the point of view, and think about the character’s back story.
  • Find a setting that cannot be separated from the plot and eliminate any extraneous settings.

Just a Suggestion

Finally, think of the outline as a suggestion that can be changed as you figure out what your story actually is about. Writing is a process and not a final product until the story is written and edited. Even with that outline, there’s that element of seeing what happens until you get to the story you love and want to share.

Top 10 writing tips

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing Tips on October 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

Nature can be an inspiration for writing, such as this baby rabbit at the library.

Nature can be an inspiration for writing, such as this baby rabbit at the library.

Every writer I meet has their top tips for writing and the rules they live by to make sure they write, both in the sense of discipline and inspiration.

Writing takes both, because there has to be a little bit of the spark, as well as the willingness to show up and do the work. Granted, I’ve felt a flutter of an idea only to tamp it down, because I was busy, tired or overwhelmed. I didn’t want to write.

And then there have been times when I made myself write and produced terrible work, forcing out each word, deleting, starting over or focusing on anything that provides distraction instead of getting out the words.

But these are the exceptions.

So, too, are those occasions when I start and stop just as suddenly. I tried and then didn’t try, giving up too easily.

For example, earlier this week, I wrote for 15 minutes because I felt inspired and then stopped at 200 words, because I did enough, right? I didn’t feel like writing. I made up an excuse, because I wanted to work on editing my novel—for me, editing is work and effort, so what I want to do when it’s time to revise is be finished.

I don’t want to do the work. I want to have the work done.

But to write requires work and lots of it, so:

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. Write for two hours or 1,000 words, reasonable goals I’ve heard from other writers.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Have more awareness, using all the senses when making observations and creating scenes.
  • Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that, with fiction and poetry, you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the story down, then fine tune it with details, nuances and deepening of the plot, character and setting. Revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Writing During the Holidays

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on December 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

Fitting in writing when you’re busy, such as during the holidays, takes discipline, motivation and a willingness to write at odd times.

I find myself caught up in the excitement of attending holiday parties, spending time with family and friends, and eating lots of food. So to get serious about writing, I have to treat it like a job.

Here are some ways to get writing and keep going:

  • Buy a planner (even in old-fashioned paper form) and a new calendar to mark out goals for the year and schedule in specific writing days.
  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, selecting a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Write for five or 10 minutes, using a notebook that you always have with you. Those minutes will add up.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow for risk and freedom and for imagination and play, so that writing remains fun.
  • Write a writing action plan or goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing (maybe as a reward for surviving the holidays or just before everything gets busy).

Writing can be a reward once you get started as you see what you’ve accomplished from getting words down, while also being able to engage in the holiday fun.

Top 12 Writing Tips

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on December 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

With the year drawing to a close, this is a good time to reflect on the best writing advice to get motivated and inspired to do the hard work of sitting down to write.

I’ve collected notes about writing habits and the process of writing from magazine articles and books on writing, writing conferences and workshops I’ve attended and my own personal experience.

Here are my top 12 writing tips:

  • Write as much as you can, but not necessarily every day, especially if writing isn’t your full-time job. Set a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week for two hours or until you reach 1,000 words.
  • Get rid of distractions in your life while you’re writing, and don’t invite in the critic. Both can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration. It can come to you when you’re already working. The more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Have more awareness, using all the senses when making observations to add detail to your scenes. Take notes when something strikes you to use later on in your descriptions of the setting or in dialog.
  • Write when you’re not writing by describing what you see, hear and feel as a running mental description. Write down whatever seems compelling.
  • Figure out what is most essential, most loved for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you know.
  • Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that, with fiction and poetry, you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, let the story unfold because it isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the story down, then fine tune it with details, nuances and deepening of the plot, character and setting. Revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Top 12 Writing Tips

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on July 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

Over the years, I’ve collected notes about writing habits and the process of writing that I use for inspiration, especially when I feel discouraged.

Here are my top 12 writing tips:

• Write as much as you can, but not necessarily every day, especially if writing isn’t your full-time job. Set a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week, two hours each time (which is my new goal now that I’m almost finished with my latest novel writing project).

• Get rid of distractions in your life while you’re writing, and don’t invite in the critic. Both can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.

• Don’t wait for inspiration. It can come to you when you’re already working. The more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.

• Have more awareness, using all the senses when making observations and creating scenes.

• Write when you’re not writing by describing what you see, hear and feel as a running mental description. Write down whatever seems compelling.

• Figure out what is most essential, most loved for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you know.

• Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.

• Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that, with fiction and poetry, you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.

• Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the story down, then fine tune it with details, nuances and deepening of the plot, character and setting. Revise and revise again.

• Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.

• Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.

• And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Memoir Writing (or Artistically Telling Your Story)

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

Writing a memoir, if it’s about something painful from the past, is like doing a handstand.

There’s reliving what had happened, trying to remember what the conscious mind has forgotten and hoping to make sense of it all.

But once you flip upside down, or see your world from a new view, there is the relief that comes from healing, if only a little, and letting go.

I wrote my memoir, “Michele’s Pearl,” about growing up with learning disabilities, shy and scared of the world, but I didn’t dig deep enough into my subconscious. I had forgotten a lot of my story, so I will be rewriting the memoir, or basically starting over after setting it aside for four years.

A memoir takes the writer on an autobiographical journey, but is not like a biography from birth to now. It typically follows a particular theme or subject with a couple of subplots, focusing on the part of the writer’s past that has universal appeal.

The subject can be transformational or inspirational, coming of age or overcoming a hardship. What in the writer’s life was difficult to work through and gave insight? What had some kind of emotional impact, so that readers care?

Find the theme by looking for any underlying patterns, behaviors or ways of approaching the world. Or identify what changed you, hurt you or caused you to feel, whether it was rage or sadness.

The best memoirs, in my opinion, follow a story arc or compile several short stories with a related theme.

To write a memoir, start from a riveting point in your story employing the elements of fiction, such as plot, character, setting and dialogue. Show your personality as your write, using an identifiable narrative voice. Give some resolution of the theme, so that the reader knows why you had to tell your story.

When writing a memoir, here’s some advice I find to be helpful:

  • Organize a timeline, identifying the big moments, events and turning points in your life that relate to the theme or subject. Select out and compress what you will tell.
  • Realize there may be memory gaps, but don’t fabricate what happened. Instead, remember what you can as accurately as you can. Memories can differ for those involved, so you could interview them and compare notes to come to some kind of truth.
  • Be honest and truthful, avoiding holding back a truth or the reader will detect the omission. Tell how you feel about what happened and how you changed because of it.
  • Get some distance from the painful situation and write from a position of healing. Don’t write right after the situation occurred, because insight likely will be lacking.

Finally, remember that reliving trauma or something negative from the past requires forgiveness and acceptance of the self and others.