Category Archives: Pensamentos / Just Thoughts

Your creativity is endless!

One of these days, I was talking with my husband about something our daughter had made. He was surprised about how creative she was. So we started to discuss the importance of creativity in her future life. At some point, he said something like, “It’s good she took to her mom.”

I was astonished by this and said, “What are you talking about? Don’t you think you’re creative?”

“I was. Not anymore.”, he answered, as if creativity could simply disappear out of you. Later, my 6-year-old daughter, who was apparently listening to the conversation, came to me and asked, “What if I stop being creative?”

This question is way scarier than it looks and kept me thinking.

“Creativity is a special sort of internal conversation.” (Seth Godin)

Creativity doesn’t come from an exhaustible source that could dry out at any moment. It isn’t something that simply disappears, but rather something that we stop working with.

In truth, my husband wasn’t the first adult that said to me that he wasn’t very creative anymore. Many adults believe and fear their creativity sold out, or at least, that it could happen at any moment. That’s far from reality, but most adults tend to, indeed, be less creative than children. Why?

What is stealing our creativity?

After realizing that so many adults feel this way, one question remains: why?

What happens in our minds while growing up that ends up with us not feeling so creative? There are a couple of theories.

Fear of being ridiculous

As we grow up, we gain self-conscience and get too conscious of ourselves, other people, and judgments. As a result, a kid’s freedom in doing whatever comes to mind is lost, and society molds us to fit a particular pattern.

Unfortunately, that pattern isn’t full of creativity. For example, drawing is a children’s activity unless you’re the next Da Vinci. And the same kind of thought goes on and on in any artistic activity.

This is a very good and logical explanation, but is every creativity connected to art? And, what’s art?

As a writer, I heard many times, “Oh, I used to write when I was a teen.” The tone is critical and often followed by “But I need to work now.” Perhaps these sentences have something to do with that feeling. This doesn’t make us feel very comfortable, does it?

Lack of practice

When you think about a muscle, you know you have to exercise it to make it better. It doesn’t go away by use. It improves. The same happens with mental activities, like creativity.

Finding different solutions for your problems will help you keep that little creative spark active and ready to act.

Being creative is not connected (not only) with the so said artistic activities. You can be creative in almost every activity of your day. Sometimes you are, indeed, being creative, and you don’t even notice.

Even if you consider you aren’t being creative at all, keep in mind: it didn’t go away, you’re simply not using it!

Lack of opportunity

Most adults consider their jobs boring and with zero opportunities to be creative or think outside the box. If you are one of those, remember that your life is more than your job. There are still other opportunities to develop your creativity. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by others.

It didn’t go away

Many people still look at creativity as something that can turn away from you. Writers and artists of many sorts fear the day their source will dry out.

The good news is: it doesn’t. You may have bad days, days when you’re not feeling that well, but they will end eventually. So put your fears aside and keep working.

Why can’t I finish my novel?

You just had a good idea for a plot, and you start writing your story. Yet, at some point… it seems to reach a dead end. Perhaps, you’re not as passionate about it as you were before.

Why does that happen? Wasn’t your idea good enough? What are you missing?

I’m stuck

It often has nothing to do with the story. You still are passionate about it, but procrastination wins you. You’ll continue tomorrow. You find a lot of things to do, a lot of excuses. When you go back, if you ever do, those lines don’t make much sense anymore.

Despite its importance and how it impacts your writing, it is not about procrastination that we’ll talk about in this post. Instead, it is about to get stuck. Sometimes a tiny mistake prevents us from continuing. A page, a line, or even a word that doesn’t feel right…

This may happen because you didn’t plan the novel or, instead, you planned too much and killed that flame inside you. As a result, you miss the passion and intensity of discovering your own story as you’re writing. So, maybe, your issue is to know which one works better for you. It is time to find out.

Two main issues

There are usually two situations responsible for this feeling of getting stuck. They are the usual suspects when you can’t finish your story.

Revision

Revising your text is hell sometimes. It will never be exciting, but you don’t need to make it harder than it should be. It is not supposed to destroy your story. If you’re feeling that, then stop what you’re doing! Something is wrong.

It can be the story, of course, it may have flaws, but probably you’re just being too much! Stop, take a deep breath, and start over. Then, perhaps, ask someone to read it and give an opinion. A fellow writer would be a good choice.

Now, to make sure that you’re doing it right, ask yourself: is the story getting better? Yes? Great! Then, the whole revision process, as tiring as it is, will, in the end, fulfill you with a sense of accomplishment.

One last piece of advice on this: don’t try to revise before finishing the story. That’s usually a bad idea. However, if you really feel the need to do it, then follow this simple rule: if it is to improve a point in the story, then do it. On the other hand, if it is only in your way, keeping you from writing the rest of the story, stop yourself and keep writing.

Planning

Some authors plan their stories as they go, while others are careful planners. The last ones take a long time to decide on every detail before they start writing. Both methods are correct, but you can’t use both. At least, not at the same time.

You need to know what kind of writer you are. If you’re a planner, you’ll get stuck with no plan. If you’re not, planning will be boring, and you’ll feel like losing time. Eventually, you’ll lose all interest in your story.

There is no right and wrong; it is a matter of preference. Find out how you work better. Try both if you don’t know yet, maybe with a short story first, so you don’t lose so much time.

Old Writing

Many of us have a lot of old writing lying around. Journal entries, ideas with no context, scenes without a story, story beginnings, and so many other pieces of writing. Something that made sense to us at the time but was left aside.

Does this mean you were stuck? What to do with it? It depends! You can do nothing. If they stopped making sense, why do you have to do anything about it?

If there is an idea that still makes sense and you want to, then pick it up, read it and start writing again. You can start where you stopped. You can rewrite everything, change some things… It is up to you. Your creativity is endless! Besides, even if you end up with nothing, it is worth it. Experience and practice is the only way to improve your writing.

How to overcome?

What drives you is motivation. It is what makes you start a story, and the lack of it makes you stop writing. Take a moment to remember your motivation. What led you to write that story in the first place? Why did you want to write it?

The best way to overcome your procrastination or lack of motivation is to move on. There is something at that point that you don’t like, it is okay; keep writing. Later you can go back and find a better solution. If there isn’t a significant hole in the plot, it won’t be a problem.

Keep in mind: writing should be fun. If it’s not, then stop and find out why.

Less Pressure, Better Writing – my personal experience

“Less Pressure, Better Writing.” Sounds obvious, right? But who among us can say that you practice what you preach? Not many, I’m sure.

When you’re trying to be a writer (or any other profession for what matters), you put additional pressure on your shoulders. Besides the obvious one that you have to provide for yourself and your family. The bills can’t wait for you to be a renamed author, and you start to feel ‘the pressure of real life’. The anxiety grows inside you while the blank page in front of you… remains blank.

Today, I’m not giving you any advice, nor trying to tell you what you should do or how to deal with any problems. Instead, I just want to share a bit of my own recent story.

Keep trying

I am one of the few fortunate people who have someone by my side, always motivating me. Motivates me to believe in myself and fight as much as possible to get what I want. So, one day I quit my job and came home to write. All-day.

The first months were amazingly productive. So many things in my head to put down on paper! But that feeling of accomplishment slowly vanished. Other problems became more relevant – and an obstacle to writing. Writing is not a very well-paid job (if it is paid at all), and small children (I have one of those) don’t give us much time either. So, a decision had to be made.

I wasn’t sure of what I should do. I definitively needed to find a job, but when would I write? With a full-time job and my baby girl and all other responsibilities in life I couldn’t ignore, I would be forced to give up. Or so I believed.

Made it a pleasure, not a job

Then I was confronted with a sweet reality. Do not have the obligation of writing made me more relaxed regarding it. That allowed me to write more than I thought. Those 5 minutes between finishing my job and picking my baby at school are somehow more productive than an entire hour sitting in front of the PC with the single purpose of writing.

I don’t force myself to write and still write every day. This might not be the path to be a successful writer, but it brought back to me the true joy of writing. In my case, that’s what I needed.

Just be… a writer

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to give you any advice or tell you how to behave. I wanted to share this to let you know that there is hope.

I now have a job as a writer (content marketing writing) that I love, aside from having my own projects. I’m a writer not because of my job but because I write, regardless the results of my writing. Things are not always perfect, but feeling good… is priceless.

How to keep the interest in your readers

A writer’s biggest desire is for their readers to keep reading the story until the very last page. The scariest thing? Readers losing interest somewhere in the middle of it.

What can you do to make your readers come back to your story after they put the book down for some reason? How do you keep them interested?

Keep the interest

The most common advice is to use cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a way to end your scene, where your character, usually the protagonist, is facing some sort of life or death situation. Something really dramatic. Is that good? Sure, especially if you are writing an action-adventure novel. In that case, it is perfect. Yet…

If it’s not the case, you may need to rethink that option.

They need to care

A good story touches the readers. They care about the characters and what happens to them. This is your main concern: to make them care.

The most important thing to make your readers care is the character itself . Bring them to life; your characters need goals, a life story, a personality!

After you build the right character, you can end the scene with it in trouble. There are also rules here. You must think of the right kind of trouble – the one that makes the reader somehow worry about the character. You need them eager to know how the character will get rid of the issue.

No one cares if the laziest guy in the office is fired. However, if it’s someone who really makes an effort, or desperately needs their income, it’s more likely that your readers will turn the page to see what happens next. If you want to apply this idea to the villain, it is also possible. Imagine the lazy guy being promoted. Your readers will probably be furious and want to see how far he can go with it.

The character in question doesn’t need to be the protagonist. There are more characters in your book, and their depth is also a good quality mark for your readers. A perfect protagonist surrounded by a bunch of flat characters doesn’t make a good story.

Another way of keeping the interest is to end a scene with your point-of-view character making a decision that might go very badly. He’s facing a difficult situation and decides to take a risk. It has everything to go wrong but still… If it works, it will change your character’s life totally. That’s something your reader will want to know how it ends.

You are also a reader

I can’t get enough of this advice. I don’t know a single author that isn’t also an avid reader. It is crucial to learn and to understand what works.

In the end, the most important is the reader. So, if you still have any doubts about your choices, just put yourself into their shoes. What makes you turn the page?

Memoirs: Is my life that interesting?

Memoirs. We all have stories to tell. Yet, most of us don’t publish them.

Back in time, it was common to have a diary, but now, not even teenagers have it anymore. Yet, we have as many stories to tell as before.

What’s the conflict?

You can find, in the book market, thousands of memoirs, some with more success than others. If this is something interesting to you, as a writer, ask yourself: what they all have in common?

Most of the successful ones are about famous people that had a profound impact on the world. Yet, there are also many stories of ordinary people that had a huge problem and solved it. Familiar? Yes, it’s the conflict in any story!

So, answering the title question: is your life that interesting? I would ask: what’s the conflict?

Is it interesting enough?

It might be boring to read someone else’s story from the very beginning. Yet, you don’t need to tell everything from the day you were born. Everyone has a story to tell or a conflict in their life. A specific moment or happening that it is, indeed, interesting. You just need to choose right.

Think about some happening that may have changed you or the way you see the world—some specific time in your life, a problematic or extraordinary phase. Eventually, you can talk about the way some big external happening had an impact on you and your family. How did you deal with it? It can be a war, a natural catastrophe, an economic crisis…

It is, indeed, a story

Telling your story is like telling any other story. It must have emotion, description, character development… Use dialogues and all the tools you use in fiction novels. It will be way more exciting and have a bigger emotional impact. Your readers need to empathize with you and understand what you went through.

Use your own voice, don’t write it as an essay for college, but rather as a beautiful novel. This way, your readers will feel closer to you and your story.

If you want to write your memoirs, it’s because you have something to tell. And you should! However, as with any other genre, it takes hard work to be good. Choose carefully what you want to tell and read other people’s memoirs to inspire yourself.

I want success, but… Do I have what it takes?

We all want to be successful. As a writer or anything else, we all like to be recognized by our work.

That recognition can also be quite scary. After all, it leaves us exposed to criticism, bad reviews, or nasty comments online. You can (and should) try to ignore them, but eventually, something will hit your nerves.

At that moment, you start to ask yourself: do I have what it takes to be successful? Stop right there!

Postponing the fear

Many writers and aspiring keep postponing their writing due to their daily responsibilities. It’s a common thought to decide to write when the kids become independent, or when you retire.

Most of the time, this decision is due to nothing else than the fear of failure.

You postpone your stories, your books, your fears… You believe you’ll deal with them later, but often, it is an illusion.

Are you talented enough?

Talent is a beautiful word to say. According to the dictionary is a “natural aptitude” to do something. You have met too many talented people in your life, and you wish you have it as well.

The first problem with focusing on talent is that it is not measurable. That makes it difficult to know if you have the gift or not. Secondly, talent is great, but it alone is nothing. Writing is what makes you a writer. Talent without production is worthless.

You must write to improve, that’s not an innate thing. You’ll write thousands and thousands of words, and most of them will be sent directly to the trash can. You will keep improving your skills until finally get your shot. Maybe, someday, you’ll see your work published and your skills recognized.

Do it and do it again

One of the biggest mistakes of beginners is to compare their work with published, successful writers. It’s evident that you should read them, you’ll learn a lot from them. Yet, let’s face it: your first draft will never be as good as their best novel.

This doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, or that you should quit. It only means you need to train—the most as you can.

Being a good writer takes time and practice, not talent. For some people may be easier than for others, of course, but if you really commit to it, there is no stopping you.

You’ll be a good writer, with practice.

A successful writer is someone persistent enough to keep trying.

Writing is a (good) mess

There are many myths about writing – mostly formulated by non-writers – that make beginners feeling there is something wrong with them. Many people think that writing a novel is all about having a moment of inspiration, and then it’s just sit down and write it from the beginning to the end.

This leads most of young writers and aspirants to think that if they are writing and facing problems, they (or their story) aren’t good enough.

No problems, no story

Let me tell you this: that idea is very far from the truth. Facing problems and solve them is a natural part of the process. If you write a full novel without facing any problem… Well, you’ll probably want to look at it again, because that’s very odd.

It can be something in the plot, a character that doesn’t seem that real, or some technical imprecisions with any detail. There is always something that can’t work as we thought.

Our imagination works faster than our logical thinking. Said so, the most normal is for you to have to deal with a few loose ends.

And why not?

As frustrating as it can be, the truth is that there is no point in doing it on the first try. Your readers will have no idea how many drafts you made or how hard it was the whole process. All that matters is the final version. The one that gets to the bookshelves. And between the first draft and that version, there is a lot of messy work.

You’ll find a tremendous amount of problems to solve (with characters, style, rhythm, the conflict itself). So many different things can be a problem in your novel. And of course, your personal life will not stop because you’re trying to write a book, right? For example, in my case, my daughter doesn’t stop being four years old and behaving as such, because it would help me.

You must imagine good, vivid, exciting scenes and then put them into words – beautiful and interesting ones. This can’t be done in one try! You’ll write and rewrite most of your scenes several times. You go back and forward in your story dozens of times. Many projects will be abandoned, and even more, will arise.

You’ll read hundreds of stories from other writers to analyze them and learn from them. And let me tell you, most of the time, you’ll get desperate, thinking that you’ll never be able to write like them.

Just do it again!

You face so many problems, so many issues in the process of writing, that no one could ever imagine! The only thing to do is to keep going. Keep trying. Write it again. Change everything and start over if you need to.

Writing is a long, somewhat complicated process that can drive you crazy sometimes. Yet, there are good news! You can do it and undo it as many times as you need, and no one needs to know about it.

Sharing your writing: what a scary thing to do!

One of the greatest pleasures of writing is solitude and peace when you’re doing it. Yet, at some point, you’ll need to share your writing with the world. That’s scary, but it’s also a good thing.

Sharing will give you some feedback from different people on your work. This feedback might be useful sometimes (others not so much, unfortunately) for you to improve and grow as a writer.

With sharing, comes…

When you share your writing, you’re putting yourself outside for the whole world to see. That brings bad and good stuff. That’s why sharing what you write is the biggest fear of most writers, and that’s normal. No one likes to be criticized, and you can end up hurt. So, how to deal with it?

First of all, share your writing only when you’re ready to do it. This way, you’ll be stronger to face whatever comes in your direction.

Then, there are so many things you must keep in mind. Let’s see, one person’s opinion is exactly that. It’s one person’s opinion. Writing is a form of art, and art is very subjective. The appreciation of a book depends on the readers’ personal preferences and experiences. Those will help them to identify themselves with the characters, the environment, the dilemmas.

Besides, in the end, it’s always your decision. If you believe in your manuscript, if the criticism doesn’t make sense for you and you’re sure it’s good, then go ahead! Remember that many famous successful novels had been rejected several times. Eventually, someone accepted to publish them.

Sharing options

Waiting for a big publisher to find you is definitely not the best course of action. Before you go for a big publisher, you should have already shared your writing to get feedback. Other people’s opinions and notes might help you to improve your work. Never forget.

You have many options to do this. Start by sharing your writing with your relatives and friends. Keep in mind that they are not exactly impartial, but it’s a good start.

Create a blog and form a writer’s group. In the first one, you’ll have the possibility to reach more people. With a writer’s group, you’ll probably get more “professional” opinions. Also, it is excellent feedback about the styles and tools you may use.

And, of course, you’re not stuck with publishers, remember? You can self-publish your work. Don’t be afraid of doing it. Magazines are also a good option, especially for short stories. Do some research, look at magazines, and find the ones that publish some work similar to your own. Look for their “guidelines” for submission and try it!

Confidence and Courage

Be brave! It is tough to deal with criticisms. They can be cruel. Yet, if you want to be a successful writer, you must get used to it. Listen, evaluate their worth, and move over. Use the good ones to improve, and ignore the others.

Be prepared and stay strong.

The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue Tags

by Ryan Lanz

Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

 

 

Why do we use dialogue tags?
The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

 

Tag travesties
There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I ‘m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 
“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.
“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Image your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

 

Alternate dialogue tags
Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.

 


Related: How to Write Natural Dialogue


 

Action beats
I have a love affair with action beats. Used effectively, they can be another great way to announce who’s talking, yet at the same time add some movement or blocking to a scene. For example:

Looking down, Katie ran a finger around the edge of the mug. “We need to talk.”

That added some nice flavor to the scene, and you know who spoke. The only caveat is to be careful of not using too many action beats, as it does slow down the pacing a tiny bit. If you’re writing a bantering sequence, for example, you wouldn’t want to use a lot of action beats so as to keep the pacing quick.

 

Dos and don’ts
Sometimes, action beats and dialogue tags have misused punctuation. I’ll give some examples.

  • “Please don’t touch that.” She said, blocking the display. (Incorrect)
  • “Let’s head to the beach,” he said as he grabbed a towel. (Correct)
  • Sam motioned for everyone to come closer, “Take a look at this.” (Incorrect)
  • Debbie handed over the magnifying glass. “Do you see the mossy film on the top?” (Correct)

 

Conclusion
Like many things in a story/novel, it’s all about balance. Try alternating actions beats, dialogue tags, and even no tags at all when it’s clear who’s speaking. By changing it up, it’ll make it so that no one method is obvious.

 

 

 

Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr

Image courtesy of Onnola via Flickr, Creative Commons.

An Artist? Yes, but professional

There was once a time where an artist was that a weird person, who did strange things, especially in seclusion. The incomprehensible one, sometimes drunk, sometimes crazy, but always different, in a way. Well, the meaning of different depends on other people’s eyes, but if you want to be taken seriously, you must be serious and be perceived as such.

Being a writer, or any other kind of artist is hard and you have so much competition (some of which you aren’t even aware of), so you must be professional, polite, respect schedules and above all else, be productive. Just do whatever it is you do, the best you can and then, try to become even better at it.

A professional writer

The way your text is presented is important. If you already had the opportunity of proposing an idea for a book, for example, without the need of having the whole story written down beforehand, you’re a lucky one, so, try to be professional and give it your all, the best you possibly can. Be detailed. Be passionate. Be more than your publisher or manager expects. Always!

Everything matters, the font, the font-size, the photos or imagery if applicable, everything will send a message about how professional you are. Use that in your favor.

Explore possibilities and use your intuition in the first drafts, but remember, these ones are meant just for your eyes. You need something more elaborate, and again, professional, for show, to publishers or editors. Use your ability to analyze and criticize your own work, as much as possible, and polish it the best you can, before sending it out to any publisher.

 

Learn, learn and learn some more

You can be some kind of genius and yet, still not know everything there is to know about a given subject you have interest in. If you were a doctor, you would be learning more things, newer things, all the time, in order to be a better doctor and help more patients. The same rules apply to other professions as well, so why not to a writer? It’s the only true way to becoming a better writer… studying and learning.

Learn a lot about the language you write in. Try to study it and learn as much as you can. Learn how to organize your work and your desk and workspace too. Every single detail can make the difference.

Do not disturb!

A writer usually works from his own home, which makes it difficult for him or her to avoid being interrupted all the time. This is especially true if you have any children, but writing needs concentration and discipline, so you must try to keep your focus.

Negotiate with your family in order to get some time alone, just for writing. No matter how small the amount of time you will have, it’s better than hours upon hours without any focus. Turn off your phone, close your browser and just let the words flow.