Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Going Places


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine
 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679805273?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0679805273&linkCode=xm2&tag=southwritemag-20
A few years ago I accepted the occasional invitation to be a guest reader at elementary schools for Community Reader Day. Upon arriving, the teacher would have a book already picked out for me to read to the kids.  I was surprised at how often the book of choice was Dr Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!

It was always a pleasant surprise, since I enjoyed revisiting this pint-sized pep talk by the good doctor, and the kids seemed to get a lot out of it too.

I was even more pleasantly surprised to learn recently that Oh, the Places You'll Go! is popular not just with grade school children, but is a perennial favorite of adults who give it as graduation gifts, wedding gifts, and to others embarking on any new path of life.

In this classic tale, the protagonist (you) get to take a symbolic trip into your future, a land of unfamiliar trials and triumphs and ups and downs, always with the assurance that you will emerge the conquering hero.  In the encouraging words of Dr Seuss, "And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!"

The most famous and powerful scene is one in which you come to a land called The Waiting Place, where everyone is just ... waiting.  Waiting for the mail, or for Friday to come, or for a yes or a no, etc.  In this city of stagnation, nothing ever happens because nobody takes action.

As we look back at the past year, how many of us can say that we didn't waste time in that Waiting Place?  Did we stay true to our commitment to write every day?  Did we keep regular submissions going out?  Did we stay connected through writers groups and conferences?  Or did we put off our writing goals, waiting for conditions to be just right (which of course they never are)?

With many of us coming up with new year's resolutions this week, I can't think of a better premise than to promise ourselves that we will not be victims of self-imposed inertia.  Action does speak louder than words, and when we writers combine action with words, great things happen.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679805273?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0679805273&linkCode=xm2&tag=southwritemag-20
Southern Writers will do our best to help keep you motivated in 2014, beginning with this week's new January/February issue.  Bestselling authors like p.m. terrell, Bob Mayer and Haywood Smith are just a few examples of those who make their writing dreams reality by perfecting their craft, and they gladly share their secrets with you.

This year we'll also be introducing an exciting new way for authors to enhance their online presence and attract new readers. Like Mic Nite, Must Read TV and Take Five, this new promotional tool will be free to all subscribers.

Each of us at Southern Writers wish you a new year filled with joy and success. Together we'll make great things happen in 2014. And that is 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Making an Emotional Connection with Readers


By Laurence O’Bryan 


Making an emotional connection with readers is critically important whatever type of fiction you are writing. If you don’t, readers can easily stop reading. That’s the last thing we want. Without emotion, what we write can become dull. If we add emotion reader engagement pulls the reader forward.

We are all familiar with emotions. They are, typically, what makes us have a great day or a bad one. But how can a writer use emotion to connect with readers?

One of the most basic emotions is desire. If your characters are motivated, if they have desire, if only for a glass of water, then readers will feel more connected to that character. And the more they want something, the more interesting your story becomes, as the reader is left wondering what the character will do to achieve their goal.

Desire is the basic emotion, which keeps us involved in a story. If your main character wants something bad enough, you are, according to the logic of story, obliged to put obstacles in their way too. Why? Because obstacles create conflict and difficulties. And conflict will inspire an emotional response in your reader and keep them turning the pages.

In The Istanbul Puzzle, my mystery novel released by Harper Collins worldwide in 2012, my main character, Sean Ryan, wants to find out what happened to a good friend, who has been murdered. He feels responsible. This mixes both desire and danger into the story early on.

Some other ways to build an emotion connection with the reader are:
* Creating embarrassment for a character. By making the reader feel that embarrassment you will build a connection with them.
* Having a character abused in some way. Natural sympathy will be evoked if you do something terrible to a character we have come to know. I use this technique quite a lot in The Istanbul Puzzle.
* Placing opposing characters in the same situation. There’s a natural tension when opposing characters meet. Your readers will feel it if the opposing characters views have been shown to them. The climax of The Istanbul Puzzle features two deeply opposed characters.
* Fear creates tension in the reader too. If we know the murderer is coming up the stairs, and the woman is having a shower, we fear the outcome. In The Istanbul Puzzle, Sean and his friend Isabel get trapped in water filled underground tunnels filled with giant eels!
* Anticipation. If you foreshadow, occasionally, without explaining exactly what is going to happen, readers will anticipate something happening. I use an occasional piece of foreshadowing to heighten tension.
* Surprise readers. Readers will enjoy your writing if something surprising happens. They won’t have any idea what is going to happen next. I try to make my stories as surprising as possible with something unexpected happening regularly.
* Excitement is a powerful writing tool. You can move the plot fast, anticipate, and spell out what might happen, and then keep the reader waiting. All the above methods combined will produce excitement in your reader.

One of the hardest parts for a writer is in creating authentic emotional scenes.

The ability to understand how it feels to be in an emotional situation and to express that feeling in a genuine and new way, without resorting to cliché or to simply naming how characters feels, is vital to creating truly engaging emotional writing.

People look for writing that truly explains how it feels to be in each situation. And they can tell if you haven’t represented the reality in a way that’s believable.

I wish you well with this. This is one of the hardest challenges of becoming a good writer in the 21st 
or any century.
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Laurence O’Bryan is a top selling Irish crime author in many categories and has ranked #1 in Amazon charts twice, in two categories. His book,The Istanbul Puzzle is a series of mystery-thrillers. He visited Istanbul 6 times to research it. The second in the series, The Jerusalem Puzzle, is available. It continues the story from The Istanbul Puzzle and features the same characters. The third in the series, The Manhattan Puzzle, arrived October 10, 2013. His roots go back to a small estate deep in the Mountains of Mourne, near the Silent Valley, in County Down, Northern Ireland. He attended school in Dublin, drank way too much, studied English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University. While a student, I worked as a kitchen porter in a club near the Bank of England.He has also published a guide to social media called, Social Media is Dynamite. In 2007 he won the Outstanding Novel Submitted award at the Southern California writer's conference.
Find out more at http://www.lpobryan.com  



Friday, December 27, 2013

The Writer’s World—A Beginner’s Journey


By Martin Wiles


With the exception of weekends, every morning I head to my computer to write devotions. I’ve been repeating this action for four years, but periodically I ask why.

I've written sporadically since college, but I wasn't serious about it until my father died in 2009. Why this became a demarcation line I’m not sure. He wasn't a writer...except for his sermons and Bible studies. As far as I know, he didn't publish anything. His writings were shared only with the college students he taught and congregations he preached to. But for me, it had to be more. Dad taught me to use God’s gifts.

Though I’d love to be a famous writer whose books sell millions of copies, I’m realistic enough to know that probably won’t happen (none of my four books have made the best sellers list yet). What I have learned, however, is that I need to do the best I can.

When beginning your writing journey, expect rejection. If you assume some of your short pieces—or even a manuscript, will be turned down, the hurt won’t cut so deeply when it actually is (and it most likely will be). My rejection letters far outnumber the acceptance letters, but the “We appreciate your interest, but…” letters make the “We’d like to purchase your work” correspondence even sweeter. Aim for the sky, but don’t expect to be a “name-brand” author immediately—or perhaps ever.

Once you've decided to pursue having your work published, search for venues that accept beginning writers as well as your theme of writing. Most periodicals will state in the first few pages whether or not they accept unsolicited manuscripts. And many don’t. The Internet is a good place to start when making your search. I’m largely a devotional writer, so I typed “Where can I send my devotions?” in the search bar. Several options appeared, and I started there.

Don’t expect pay for all your writing. You will find many more opportunities to do freebie writing than you will contract assignments, but the writing for free assignments make good references on your biography page and give a prospective publisher something to look over when considering you for a paid assignment. Even when you begin receiving paid contracts, continue to write some for free. This keeps your focus on why you’re writing.

When possible—even if the assignment is a freebie, find a publication where an editor will look over the work before it’s published. And perhaps even let you correct the edits. Editors may seem harsh—especially when their name is signed at the end of a rejection letter, but a conscientious editor will help you hone your skills.

Be determined when you begin your writing journey. The publication world is a dog-eat-dog world, but there’s always room for one more clear voice. With determination, education, and the right kind of help, your voice can be heard on the printed page.
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Martin Wiles is a “preacher’s kid,” author, speaker, and freelance writer and editor currently living in Greenwood, South Carolina. He and his wife Michelle are founders and editors of Love Lines From God, a devotional ministry to help those who want to enhance their spiritual journey with Christ. Dr. Wiles holds degrees from Baptist College of Florida and Southern Baptist School. Wiles has authored Morning By Morning, Morning Serenity, Grace Greater Than Sin, Authentic Christianity, and Grits, Grace, and GodHe has also served as Regional Correspondent and Sunday School lesson writer for the Baptist Courier. He has also been published in Proclaim, The Secret Place, Light From The Word, Word Magic, Fires of Genius and Catapult Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Christian Devotions, Christian Writers, PCC Web Daily, Faith Writers, Yahoo Voices and Mustard Seed Ministries. He is a regular columnist for the Dorchester County Eagle Record and Common Ground Herald newspapers, and is a lead writer for WOW blog and Christian.org. His website is www.lovelinesfromgod.com




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blank Mind Writing?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Does this ever happen to you? You have "nothing" to write about, or so you think. Your publisher, agent, fans, readers, and followers are waiting for your next story or book. Nothing springs to mind. Your mind is totally blank. The excuses abound. It's the holiday season, and life is on fast forward, but that still doesn't change the fact a deadline is looming. You promise yourself the next deadline, you will do better. However, that is not solving this year's problem. 

Here is my solution to this issue: power up your computer and Google any date of your choosing. Check Wikipedia, yes I said Wiki under "events." It is a good jumping off point for inspiration to get the writing juices flowing. 

My date is December 26. Here is one event that occurred on that date and would make for interesting writing, in "1776 during American Revolutionary War, at the Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army defeats a garrison of Hessian mercenaries." Sounds like one of the episodes on the successful new FOX television show "Sleepy Hollow." All you screenwriters get busy. This could work for you. 

Another writing-worthy item that occurred on Dec 26,is a funeral in "1799 for the father of our country, George Washington. Over four thousand people attended and Henry Lee III said of Washington, he was "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Can you imagine if your story character attended his funeral? Your story could open with the funeral and move forward or backward from that event. All you Historical writers get busy this could work for you. 

Another event that would make for a great book occurred in, "1862, Four nuns serving as volunteer nurses on board USS Red Rover. They were the first female nurses on a U.S. Navy hospital ship." I wonder what their stories were and how they came to be nuns/nurses. Did they stay nuns after this event? This could be a non-fiction or fictional account of an historical event. All you Biographers or Romance writers get busy this could work for you. 

This is my favorite, in "1900 – A relief crew arrives at the lighthouse on the Flannan Isles of Scotland, UK, only to find the previous crew has disappeared without a trace." They were never found. What? All you Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Mystery, and Paranormal writers get busy this event could be the basis for your next best-seller. 

Have no fear "blank mind writing" doesn't really exist as long as you can research any date on Google Wikipedia. Have fun checking out your particular date. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why Do I Teach About Contemporary Women Poets?


 By Sara M. Robinson


I was asked this on the first day of my second fall UVA-OLLI session. The easy answer is because I like so many of the contemporary women poets. But that’s too easy; and I’m skirting around the issue. The issue is that women poets have not always received the recognition they’ve earned. I’m not sure I know why, but I can tell you that when I read bios of well-known women poets(i.e. Anne Sexton, Rae Armantrout, Maxine Kumin) I learn that most were influenced by well-known male poets(i.e. Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams). You get the drift.

In one source, I did learn that Gertrude Stein mentored Ernest Hemingway through her famous Paris writing salon. I read in scarce commentaries of the influence of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop; I do find comfort in that. However, it’s not enough for me. I want to see more of our spectacular women poets being cited and mentioned more frequently in journals and literary magazines. Even anthologies need to step up and increase the exposure. For example, I use the 2nd edition (2003) of the Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry in the course I teach. This text contains seventy-five outstanding poets, but only twenty-two are women! Not even half! In the Best of the Best of American Poetry (25th Anniversary Edition, 2013) there are one hundred poems, of which only thirty-eight are written by women. What gives? I could continue with my count, but again you get the picture. We have Pulitzer Prize winning women poets and yet one had to work pretty darn hard to find them in years past. And, by the way, out of ninety-one Pulitzer Prizes given for poetry, only twenty-five have been given to women. Having said that, to be fair, starting with 2010, all the poetry prizes have gone to women. So, maybe something is happening.

So, why do I teach a course on Contemporary Women Poets? Because I want to do my part in getting their voices out there. I don’t buy into the line that there are not as many as men. They are out there all right. We shouldn’t have to dig with a backhoe to find them either. I want to see shelves filled with Tracey K. Smith, Jane Hirshfield, and Sharon Olds books, Lesley Wheeler and Charlotte Matthews, too. I want to see more community-based readings where the list is balanced between the men and women. I want to read more essays about the influence of women poets on our current literature.

While many of the general anthologies omit the presence, never mind neglecting the importance, of women poets, here are several books with women featured: Innovative Women Poets(2007), an anthology of contemporary women’s poetry and interviews; Fire on Her Tongue(2011), a ground-breaking eBook anthology of women’s poetry(1st electronic collection of poems by women who are writing to day!); When She Named Fire: AnAnthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women(2009),the mother lode: 461 poems by 96 American women poets.

Can I hear a call for more?
_____________________________________________________________________ 
Sara M. Robinson is Poetry Matters columnist for Southern Writers magazine and author of TwoLittle Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), a book of poetry; A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013) a chapbook; and Stones for Words (2014) a book of poetry.           


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And All Through the…Whoops!


By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine


Christmas Eve. If you’re like me you are still scurrying around shopping for those last few gifts and the few food items forgotten that will be needed Christmas morn.

I must admit, I won’t get any writing done today or tonight. (However, I will make mental notes of things that happen that might create a good scene in a story.) My priorities will be my family and what this time of year is about.

We will cook many pies and cakes, cookies plus fudge today, and prep a few dishes for our meal tomorrow. And yes, we will still be wrapping presents and putting them in their proper place under our tree. But into the evening, we will leave and go to church. That for us is a special time where we fellowship with friends and all come together to pay homage to our Lord. This time at church brings our lives back into focus and reminds us what is important.

After church, the family heads off to Bonefish for our usual Christmas Eve dinner where we gather for fun, laughter, and remembrances of other Christmas times.

When we arrive back home, we gather around the Christmas tree with eggnog and hot chocolate, still enjoying each other and resisting the temptation to open a present. Soon we will retire for the evening, who knows we may just hear those reindeer upon our roof.

I wish for all of you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing a YA Coming of Age Novel


By KC Sprayberry


Until 2012, I was an active participant in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month contest. 

The only prize I received after seven years was a certificate for each year, having completed at least a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Those days were filled with writing at a pace I ignored the rest of the year. Each novel had the same theme – a young adult faced with what seemed like an insurmountable problem and overcoming it.

That's what is called a coming of age novel, although I never thought of these stories in that way. To be honest, they were always nothing more than a story that appeared in my head, with characters that never let up until I put fingers to keyboard and let loose.

Coming of age books cover a large area of interest. They can be books about coming to grips with the reality of war, violence, death, racism, or hatred. Others will deal with family, friends, or community issues. The characters in my books dominate. They are in charge, and their family issues mirror those of most teens in this day and age.

Perhaps the most well-known modern coming of age author is Judy Blume. Her books burst into the burgeoning young adult field long after I was that age, but I read each one and sympathized with her characters, cheered for them, and cried with them. Not one of her novels is my favorite; they all are in the same position. So you can imagine how flattered I was when one reviewer compared my work to hers.

One thing has changed significantly since I was a teen in the years after the turbulent sixties. Today's teen is far more connected with the world. Their realm no longer consists of how far they can go and still hear their mother or father's voice calling them to dinner. Their eyes point to the stars, as they know so much about this planet where we live and their literature should reflect that change.
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KC Sprayberry started writing young, with a diary followed by an interest in English. Her first experience with publication came when she placed third in a Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge contest while in the Air Force, but her dedication to writing came after she had her youngest child, now a teen getting ready to enter his senior year of high school. Her family lives in Northwest Georgia where she spends her days creating stories about life in the south, and far beyond. More than a dozen of her short stories have appeared in several magazines. Five anthologies feature other short stories, and her young adult novel Softly Say Goodbye, released in 2012. During 2013, more young adult stories have been released: The Ghost Catcher, Who Am I?, Family Curse … Times Two, and Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates. Twitter Facebook Goodreads Website Blog




Friday, December 20, 2013

The Cup Speaketh


By Carol G. Stratton 


I held my Carmel latte in my right hand, savoring a few sips of creamy goodness before I practiced my speech. I had only one day left until I hopped onto an airplane to a writer’s conference and my first opportunity to teach in front of other writers. This talk had to be perfect.

Turning the cup around, I glanced at a saying about aging. Hmmm, not particularly encouraging. Sounds like some old curmudgeon wrote this one. I brought the cup closer to my eyes to see who had authored the quote, and nearly spilled the entire contents on myself from shock.  The writer’s name dredged up from my mind’s basement brought back an ugly memory from college.

Being the idealistic new Christian, I started college with hopes and dreams of communicating my faith in every way possible. As a person with way too many words to keep to herself, I decided I’d be an English major. I loved reading and discussing books. And writing…well, it had always been a great outlet for my creativity. As a sixth grader, having an essay posted in our local newspaper’s “Youth Said It” column, I caught the bug to put my words down on paper. Becoming an English major and teaching high school students how to connect the dots between their brain and the paper excited me. I dove into my classes with gusto. The classes challenged me but I kept up with the workload.

About a year into my major, I took a class from the head of the English department. I wouldn’t say faculty thought of this man as a god, but a professor who had a Pulitzer Prize in poetry didn’t lack for a fan club on campus.

I started peeling off my essays for his class, naively proud of how eloquent I could express myself on paper. To my chagrin, Professor Pulitzer returned my papers with red marks that resembled a road map to failure. He penned little personal notes like, “I think you might reconsider your course of study,” or “Are you sure you want to be an English major?”  The comments, written in scarlet pen, whittled away my self-confidence. At the end of the semester, I caved in and sought another major. Chalk up one for the Enemy.

It took me years to gather up enough confidence to write again. Finally in my forties I started to attend writing conferences that helped me turn my passion into paid published articles and with that a speaking opportunity at a writers’ conference.

Back in my office, I deposited the white and green cup onto my desk and marveled how God had used my favorite latte to remind me of truth. Down into my spirit I heard a whisper: “You once listened to man. Now listen to Me.”

I once allowed a professor to hijack my dream. But God used a humble white and green paper cup to remind me not to listen to an expert for my life plan. Listen to The Expert.
_____________________________________________________________________
Carol G. Stratton relates moving as having a large spatula scoop up your life and flip it against a wall. As a wife and mother to four children she has become a reluctant expert as she's moved twenty-two with her family. She has a passion to help families move as she reminds them they will have a life and community at the other end. God is with them at each new address. A freelance writer for eleven years, she speaks to women's groups such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and at national writers' conferences. She is the author of Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You're Transplanted (Volume 1).


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Perfection Not Required

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

We want to do our best. We want to always present our work with the perfect grammar, spelling, wording and content. We always want to hit that mark of perfection if possible   but perfection is not required. Never has been and never will be.

Can you name an author who has yet to go back and read their work years after it has been published and dare to say it was perfection? No most go back and read it and say how they wish they had written something in a different way. They wish they had gone further with explanations or had said less with more. They wish they had changed something on every page. Is this because it wasn’t perfect? Possibly, but I think it is something entirely different.

I think we go back and see our faults or corrections we would make because we have grown as writers. I think it was perfect at the time it was written but we have grown and moved forward with additional skills, ideas or style. I think every time we write we perfect our craft a little more.

If you are now or have ever been in a writers group you have probably had someone in that group which you thought was perfection in their writing. I know of such a person. I love to hear their work read. When we have a short writing exercise   and are called on to share our work, I know we will hear the best reading from them. I never want to follow them with my work because I feel so inferior.

The puzzling thing about this writer that is so perfect in my eyes is they have never submitted a piece of work for publication. While I am thinking how superior their writing skills are, they are thinking how inferior they are. They continue to work on perfection and once it is reached it will be submitted. For me that would be never. I can’t wait and again perfection is not required.

I have described two situations which deal with this. One is the person that returns to their published work to critique and edit it with perfect 20/20 hindsight. The other person has yet to submit their work waiting on that perfect piece to be completed. Of the two I prefer the first. Write it, submit it and second guess yourself later. If it is from the heart it is a gift which others should see. If you are like the latter no one will ever see your gift.             

“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.” Neil Gaiman     
   
As seen on  http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/28/neil-gaiman-8-rules-of-writing/

Here are Neil’s 8 Rules for writing.
  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.


Are you waiting on perfection? Are you waiting for that piece to contain everything it should and be written in the way it should be written with the skills of a perfect wordsmith? If you are I ask you to remember this, “Perfection is not required”


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Find the Ideas That Are Right for You!


By Sharon Short


Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

To the "asker", it seems an obvious question, one that the writer should be able to answer quickly and easily.

And yet often, to the writer being asked (at least, to this writer), it’s a difficult question to answer with any kind of depth or true helpfulness.

That’s because the short answer is… “Everywhere!”

And that answer seems, on its surface, rather snotty.

Yet, it’s true. When one is a writer, or, I imagine, a creative artist of any kind, at first it seems challenging to get past the urge of knowing that one wants to write (or paint, or sculpt, or compose), to knowing what one wants to write (or paint, or sculpt, or compose).

And that challenge leads to looking anywhere, and everywhere, for ideas. This is where the ‘what if?’ question comes in handy. What if… that man on the bus, who looks like he’s bursting to tell someone a secret, suddenly stood up and yelled that secret to everyone on the bus? What if that caused a wreck? What if, unbeknownst to him, someone who isn’t supposed to know the secret is actually on the bus?

What if the events in this newspaper or website article happened here in my hometown, or to me, or to a loved one? Could that be the basis of a story, a poem, a novel, a play?

Keep asking that ‘what if’ question. Get in the habit of asking it until it’s second nature. Sooner or later, you’ll start asking it all the time… and you’ll feel like ideas are, in fact, suddenly everywhere.

Of course, solving one problem (where does one get ideas?) can lead to another (how do I know which idea is the right one for me?)

After nearly 30 years of writing professionally, getting ideas is no longer a challenge for me. They’re everywhere! The challenge is now knowing when it’s worth my time and energy to pursue one. The answer, for me, is that an idea has to, metaphorically speaking, grab me by the throat, shake me around, and demand that I DO something about it! When an idea just won’t let me go… when I find characters from the idea narrating their stories in my head, haunting my thoughts, interrupting my sleep… that’s when I know I must follow that idea, develop it, and see where it wants me to go and what it wants me to learn.

I become rather like my imaginary man on the bus; I just feel I must get this idea fleshed out on paper, and developed into a story, or I will burst!

If you’re a beginning writer and that seems strange or far-fetched, don’t worry. Get in the habit of asking of situations, articles, observations, odd bits of overheard conversation—‘what if…?’ and before you know it, you’ll have plenty of ideas. The ones that aren't going to challenge you will wander off; the ones that will help you grow as a writer and give you great material for stories will, like the man on the bus, demand your attention.
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Sharon Short is the author of the novel My One Square Inch of Alaska My One Square Inch of Alaska (Penguin Plume, 2013) in which a pair of siblings escape the strictures of the 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime. Opening chapters of this novel earned Sharon a 2012 Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant and a 2011 Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District Literary Artist Fellowship. Sharon is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, directs the renowned Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and is an adjunct instructor of creative writing and composition at Antioch University Midwest.Additionally, Sharon's book Sanity Check: A Collection of Columns includes 100 reader-favorites of her weekly humor and lifestyle column that ran in the Dayton Daily News from 2002-2012. Sharon has also published two mystery series (Josie Toadfern and Patricia Delaney) as well as short stories and essays.  Sharon holds a B.A. in English from Wright State University and an M.A. in English from Bowling Green State University. She lives in Ohio with her husband and is the mother of two adult daughters. Website and Blog: www.sharonshort.com.   Facebook:www.facebook.com/SharonShortAuthor.  Twitter: @SharonGShort