Friday, February 27, 2015

Saying No to a Home Office


By Debby Mayne


My husband and I recently moved from Florida to South Carolina, and we downsized in the process. Our children are grown, and my husband officially retired from his position as a financial advisor. As we searched for the perfect "retirement home," my husband kept asking, "Are you sure you don't want an office?"

I've had offices in the past, and they served their purpose when I relied on my old desktop. But for the past four years I've had a laptop that can go anywhere, there was no point in paying more for a house just because it had an office. I thought I'd share my opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of a home office for a novelist or freelance writer.

Here are some advantages of having a home office:
·      
      You can have all of your supplies at your fingertips.
·      
      The familiarity of the same room, same chair, and other things same can be comforting to some people.
·      
      You can announce that when the "office door" is closed, you're at work, and no one is allowed to bother you unless fire, blood or protruding bones are involved.
·      
      The home office is a great tax write-off.

The disadvantages include:
·      
      You're sitting in the same position all the time, looking out the same window, facing the same walls, etc.
·      
      If you become too comfortable in sameness, you can lose your freshness and edge.
·       
      Sitting in the same chair is hard on the back.
·      
      People always know where they can find you.

Things I like about not having an office and being mobile with my laptop:
·       
      When you have back issues or other health problems that are exacerbated by sitting for too long, you can move your laptop around to different chairs, your kitchen counter, the breakfast bar, or even a board balanced on your treadmill. 

      When the urge strikes to visit your grandchildren, it's easy to take the work with you and do it after they go to bed.
·      
         You can check your email and do administrative tasks without isolating yourself from your spouse or family while they watch football games or other sporting events on TV. (Exactly what I'm doing right this minute.)
·       
      Wherever you are becomes your office—from your La-Z-Boy recliner to a choice table at Starbucks.
·       
      When the weather is nice, you can go outdoors and sit at the cute little patio table or kick back in the chaise lounge.
_______________________________________________________________________ 
Debby Mayne has published more than 30 books and novellas, 400 print short stories and articles, more than 1,000 web articles, and a bunch of devotions for women. She has been a managing editor of a national health magazine, product information fashion writer for HSN, creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and etiquette expert for About.com. Most of her stories feature strong, southern women who overcome all sorts of obstacles. She is currently working on "Belles in the City," a 3-book series of Christian romances with southern heroines who move to New York City. She also writes southern-set, quirky, cozy mysteries under her maiden name Deborah Tisdale. Her social media links are Website: http://debbymayne.com Blog: http://debbymayne.blogspot.com



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Begin Again and Be Selective


Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


You have heard it said, “I’m spread too thin, I’m running on empty, I’m burning my candle at both ends and the harder I work the farther behind I get”. We all have at one time or another come to the realization we are not performing to the best of our abilities. What can you do about this when it happens to you?

I have a friend that is a psychologist and he is always asking “How’s your day going?” If I ever speak negatively of my day he will say, “You know you have the right to start your day over. Begin again.” Since he first spoke those words to me I have indeed started my day, many days, over. It seems to give you a new attitude and greater expectations for the remainder of the day.

The same is true for our lives. I recently had a friend faced with a terminal illness. He was given a short amount of time to live and immediately gave up on life. 3 days later he was on top of the world and optimistic about his future. The change came after he began again. He sought other opinions and made connections with the world’s finest doctors specializing in his disease. The big difference was his priorities had changed. His objectives were narrowed down to what really matters. The 101 things he had been trying to accomplish had fallen away and he now had only a few major objectives in his life.

I am familiar with this scenario. I and another family member experienced near death health issues. We came through not only healthy but focused on our priorities. Many things we were trying to do, people we were trying to please and objectives we were attempting to reach were no longer a priority. They have now been narrowed down to just a few.    

Author Richard Koch said, “Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.”  As Koch stated a multitude of things can demand our best effort but with so many objectives only a few of us can do better than average. If we were to be more selective in our objectives and give them superior thought and effort we would achieve more.

I know we all have that mentality of wanting to do all and be all but we must consider, “Why not be more and do more with a few things?” It can be done as Koch says by being more selective and determined. If you seem frustrated or lacking in your results you may want to begin again and be more selective with your objectives. You have the right to start over and prioritize.  

   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Houses and Books


By M. Sakran

That house – it took me eight years to build. I redid the foundation a few times. I went back and forth between having four and five bedrooms. I built the fifth bedroom three times, but tore it down each time. I actually tore the whole house down twice and started over now that I remember. I spent a lot of time thinking. It took me four months to pick the color of grout I wanted in the guest bathroom.  And you don’t even want to know how long I spent deciding if I wanted the house wrap to be blue or green. Sure, it would be covered up by brick later – but I would know it was there. I ended up choosing orange.
Sound a little odd? It does doesn’t it. You would never hear someone talk about building a house like this, especially with a sound of pride. And if you did, you certainly wouldn’t buy the house from them (you might not even go inside it). 
But isn’t it strange – isn’t this exactly how writers sometimes talk about their books? 
They say the book took them eight years to write, that they changed the entire plot a few times, that they spent months deciding a character’s hair color. You hear this often. Writers even talk about it with pride. They love to tell you how they spent four months deciding if a character should be called Angie or Angela.
Why is writing a book different than building a house? If we heard someone talk about a house like this we wouldn’t buy it, but when we talk about our books like this, we expect readers to buy them?  Why, when a house is being built, do we want builders to be decisive, efficient, and do things only once, but when we write books we start over, change things, and spend hours over little points – and think it is good? Why are books different from houses?
Houses and books have more in common than both being made of wood products. Houses are products. Books are products too. They both give something to a consumer. You may say that books are different. Books are creative, books are expressions, details in books matter. But houses are creative, houses are expressions, and details in houses matter. But we don’t build houses like we write books.
Often as writers we feel the need for perfection. We think that if we call the town Ellesfield instead of Elesfield that everything will be wrong. We sometimes labor over connections and symbolism– the shirt in chapter five is light blue, because the woman at the diner in chapter three had a light blue ribbon in her hair, and light blue expresses a sense of calm, and ….
As a writer, ask yourself some honest questions the next time you read a book:
  Could you tell how long each part took to write?
  Could you tell how long the whole book took to write?
  Would you care if you knew?
  Did you notice countless symbolisms and connections?
  Would the book have been ruined if the main character was named Louis instead of Lewis?
  If you learned some small detail in the book was labored over, or a chapter was rewritten eight      times, would you think the book was better?

If you answer no to these questions, you might expect that readers of your books feel the same way.  When someone reads your book they can’t tell how long you took to write it (unless you tell them).  They can’t tell if a really good paragraph took ten minutes or ten hours to write (they probably wouldn’t care, and if they did, they might wonder why it took ten hours). They most likely didn’t notice the light blue shirt in chapter five. And if all the symbolisms, connections and labored points were explained to them – they wouldn’t read the book.  
As writers, we often labor over our books. We feel the need for “just right." We value effort. This has down sides though.
It’s inefficient (think about taking eight years to build a house).
It might not be noticed by readers (no one noticed the character walked twenty-three steps to the front door).
Readers probably don’t care. If anything, they might be more impressed that something took a short amount of time and flowed naturally, than was an arduous trek of expression.
Taking a long time to write a book and laboring over nuances isn’t necessarily bad. If writing a book is about something emotional and about fulfilment then it may make sense. If the idea is to fully express all that is inside you in three hundred pages then it is perfectly fine. You probably should spend a lot of time and focus on small points if the purpose is to have it culminate in something that expresses you. 
However, if the point of writing your book is to write as a writer – someone who writes multiple books, that get published, and sell, then this might not be the way to do it. There is not much purpose in doing things that slow the process, won’t be noticed and don’t add value for readers. 
If you want to write books as a writer, then you have to realize that books are like houses. Both are creative, both are about expression and both have important details – but both need to be made efficiently.
_______________________________________________________________________
M. Sakran is the author of a collection of poetry entitled First Try and has also written over forty items for magazines and websites. M. Sakran’s poetry related blog can be found at msakran.wordpress.com.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

That's Not What I Asked


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


 
In a conversation with another writer last week, I was reminded of the fine line between necessary details and too much information. We were discussing how often an exchange like this happens:

Person 1: When are you taking your vacation?
Person 2: Well, we were planning on going in May, but our youngest has soccer tryouts and we need to be here for that. Then my nephew and his wife are coming for a visit so we can see the new baby, and...

By the time Person 2 gets around to "What was the question again?", Person 1 is sorry they asked.

Let's not even get into those folks who take the greeting "How are you?" as an invitation to go down the laundry list of ailments and aches they've been having.  Granted, there are times when we genuinely seek a real answer when asking, "How are you?", like when Person 2 is coming out of a coma.

Watching the entertainment awards shows in recent days, one couldn't help but notice the tendency of some winners to give more information than is appropriate.  "And the Oscar goes to..." is not asking the question, "What are your thoughts on the human condition?"

Those on the receiving end of extraneous dissertations are not getting what they asked for.  When something takes a turn out of sync with our expectations, there is disappointment and often resentment.  As consumers, we are especially prone to expect a product to be that product with no undue surprises.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from friends who read a lot is their annoyance with books that go into unneeded backstory or detail about the industry, profession or region where the story takes place.  When it gets to the point where they're skipping pages at a time, they already know they're not going to read that author again.

More than one bestselling author in Southern Writers has told us that although they may do voluminous research, they make it a point not to put it all in their story.  When it's in their head, the essential information will filter onto the page organically, without force feeding it to the reader.

Giving the audience exactly what they're asking for (a well-worded story that doesn't waste their time) will generate the preferred response when you ask, "What did you think of my book?" That's an answer you'll actually want to hear.





Monday, February 23, 2015

Freely Give: How to Build Your Newsletter


By Jessica R. Patch


Hello, my name is Jessica Patch and I am unpublished author. This statement begs the question: How can I build a platform and grow a readership when I have nothing to offer? You may be unpublished and wrestling with the same question.

Facebook only lets so many people read your posts and with new changes, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to reach the people you’ve struggled to engage and bring on board.
I’m convinced the biggest way to ensure that readers receive your information is through the newsletter.

Over a year ago, I wrote a Christmas novella for fun. Just for me. I’d never written a novella before and they’re popular, so I knew at some point I would have to. Could I do it? Why not try it now when I have no deadlines? So I did.

Summer approached and the idea of building a newsletter continued to tug at me. That’s when I decided to give freely. I would give away the novella exclusively to newsletter subscribers.

This is what I did:

I found a cover designer. For a sweet Christmas novella, I didn’t need some big design and my budget wouldn’t allow it. For $40, I bought a premade cover from James at GoOnWrite. (If you use him, tell him I sent you!) He was great and I had my cover in 48 hours.

I learned how to convert my manuscript into a mobi file (Kindle compatible). This took some time. It’s overwhelming if you know nothing and aren’t tech savvy like myself. I formatted my manuscript according to the freeSmashwords Style Guide. I used calibre free software to convert the manuscript into the right file, and I created a PDF version for readers who might not have a Kindle or any Kindle apps.

I set up a newsletter in Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp is easy, but it does require some reading and watching tutorials to create links and automation. Take time to prepare and plan for glitches.

I created a fun Pinterest board and found creative ways to share the book without annoying Facebook friends every day with, “Hey, come get my book. I wrote a book. Download my book.”

The benefits of freely giving are:
    
    Readers have the chance to finally read your work, experience your voice and become part of your future audience.
     
  Readers feel like they’re in on something no one else is, and they are! If they could download it on Amazon or other book sites, why subscribe? It builds your newsletter list so you can make sure that each reader receives important book information later on. (My newsletter grew 6 times larger in one month than trying to promote it without an exclusive offer.)

Whether you’re an unpublished author or an established author, a newsletter is important to reach your readers. I highly recommend freely giving!
_____________________________________________________________________ 

Jessica R. Patch writes inspirational romantic suspense and contemporary romance. A passion to draw women into intimacy with God keeps her motivated, along with ice-cold Perrier and adventurous trips in the name of research. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or teaching the new & growing believer's class at her church, you can find her sneaking off to movies with her husband, embarrassing her daughter in unique ways, dominating her son at board games, and collecting recipes to wonderful dishes she'll probably never cook. Her book is titled Hope Under The Mistletoe. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Managemen Subscribe to the Patched In and receive Jessica’s novella for FREE! Connect with Jessica on Facebook, and remember to hover over the “liked” button and click on “Get Notifications” so you’ll be sure to see all her updates! If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow and engage in conversation at @jessicarpatch.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Organizing Your Simmering Stories – The Four-Burner Method


By Marian P. Merritt


At any given time, most authors have hundreds of stories and characters running through their thoughts. Sometimes with the myriad of characters and stories it's hard to pin down which one to write and how to move forward to get them all written.

How does a writer stay focused and EVER get any of those stories actually finished?

I realized my writing life would be filled with perpetual ideas with none published if I didn't get a system that worked for me. Too many times I'd start a story only to get waylaid by the next idea that entered my thoughts.

In order to keep some semblance of organization, I developed a method that works for me.

It's the Four-Burner Method, as in like a four-burner stove. Okay, I'm Cajun and everything has to relate to cooking or food. J

It works like this. I have four stories in varying degrees of completion simmering on my four-burner writing stove.
·        Large burner bottom right – My completed manuscript. It's in the EDITING phase.
·        Large burner bottom left – My current works-in-progress. It's the story I'm WRITING.
·        Small burner top right – Idea I'm developing with DETAILED character analysis and plot ideas.
·        Small burner top left – Idea I'm LOOSELY developing with characters and vague ideas for a plot.

I'm a character first author. Which means that I develop my stories with a character in mind then create the plot around that character.

To capture those fleeting story ideas, I have a notebook with a subdivision called, STORY IDEAS. Yea, I know, real original.

 Anytime I think of a new idea for a plot or character, I jot the idea in my notebook. An electronic file works for this as well. I like the notebook, because I can carry it in my purse or next to my bed and quickly write the idea before it eludes me. Yes, I'm at that age.

Here's a flow chart to illustrate how the Four-Burner Method Works. Using this method makes goal setting easier because the writer has four stories to advance and has an idea of when each story will move to the next phase. What's nice about this structure for me is that I must get the edited story complete and submitted first. Then complete my works-in-progress so it can move into the editing phase before I start writing the next story.


This would not work for all writers because we're wired differently, but it has kept me moving in a forward direction. And for this easily distracted writer, it's been a blessing.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. She is an author and freelance writer with over ten year’s experience. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online websites and garnered a first place award in ACFW's Genesis contest.Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association. Her first fiction title, Southern Fried Christmas, released in 2012. Her other books include A Cajun Christmas Miracle, Deep Freeze Christmas. Her latest book is The Vigil, releases today. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle. Connect with her through Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Don't Panic You're a Writer


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine



Valentine's Day 2015 found me still writing a piece as a contributor for an anthology book with a deadline of midnight. Yes, I was pushing the envelope, but that's how it is sometimes. That afternoon I was making progress and feeling accomplished. 

Working with the Notes app on an iPad, I was zipping along. Then it happened. 

First mistake: I was trying to correct as I write. I know better. Every writer knows to just write, get the words on paper. Only then, is it time to self edit. You know what I was doing? Yes, self-editing as I went. I had 800 words of a 1500 word piece.

Second mistake: not emailing various versions to myself as I completed each paragraph. A form of saving. It's why I love writing on paper. It's always saved. Alas, like most, I find myself on the go, the Notes app is on my iPhone, and is a convenient way to write. Normally, I love it.

When it happened I was stunned to say in the least. Yes, in an effort to edit, my finger slipped on the keyboard and 800 plus words were gone from my iPad. I had inadvertently hit the trash can in the upper right hand corner of the screen. My words I'd been crafting since Christmas were gone. There is no retrieve function on this app. There needs to be, but there is not. 

With a deadline looming, I was slowly simmering to a panic mode. My daughter walked in and asked what happened. She suggested I check the same app on my iPhone and email it to myself immediately upon opening the app. I clicked in the app on my iPhone and the old version was still there. I emailed the Note to myself and within 1 minute the story disappeared off the Note app on my iPhone. 


The email went through, and I was able to continue the piece and meet my deadline.

One lesson learned from this experience is you may want to unlink your iPad and iPhone from each other, despite its convenience, if you work on the devices interchangeably. In this situation it was almost a disaster because they were linked via Cloud technology. 

Another lesson was to stay calm and think through the tech problem. There is often a solution if you don't panic. Always ask a tech savvy person who may have a quick fix. 

Worst case scenario if it's lost...remind yourself...I am a writer and just write using pen and paper.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Self-Publishing Journey


By Gabrielle Songe


Publishing a book with more images than words requires considerations unnecessary for a 50,000 word novel with no illustrations.

Since my book, Whippoorwill Calls, has 22 sketches and drawings with only 900 words of poetry, I sought a publisher specializing in the presentation of images.

Initially planning on producing an eBook followed by a print version, I researched and selected an author service. Stumbling blocks arose with the eBook format which allowed free flowing poetry content to meander without defined endpoints across pages.

Simultaneously the author service with its personnel layers kept me from speaking directly with the image handlers during pre-press after I had spent months photographing and adjusting the images.
Through working with the author service I discovered all my photographs were in a size too small for sufficient resolution to produce a quality piece in even a small print edition. Pulling the project I returned to re-photograph all the drawings in a medium size format.

Six months after beginning my publication journey I hired a printing company in my town to prepare the pre-press layout and the staff allowed me to spend a couple of hours at a time going over the production process. Together we submitted the final cover and interior to the printing and global distribution company, a firm headquartered in Tennessee.

The process is entirely automated and I received electronic proofs within a few days. There were a few revisions and finally a paperback proof copy was ordered. After receipt of the paperback Whippoorwill Calls was approved for publication, distribution and sale, and a hardcover edition in premium color followed which is now available in Europe and Australia.

Friends, who received gift copies, asked if they might purchase prints of the drawings. Several prints in 5x7 and 11x14 were given as Christmas presents. Since then I have spoken with the company that prepared the pre-press layout about offering prints in the gift sizes plus an 8x10.

_____________________________________________________________________

Starting as a stringer covering local politics for a niche press, Gabrielle Songe branched out becoming a general assignment reporter and photographer. She covered government and law, and wrote occasional features. As her charge of rescued domestic animals grew Songe moved further out into the countryside. After accepting a position as the feature editor and photojournalist for a small town newspaper she began writing a weekly column in which she described her life on a farm. Years later the weekly column evolved into a blog as her care of livestock and domestic rescues expanded to include 10 cats, two dogs, two horses and three pet cattle. Songe has had several short stories published in anthologies. In retirement the poet artist posts essays and photos at her blog site: The Brahma and me. Most of the drawings in Whippoorwill Calls are available for purchase. For information about the drawings people may contact me through my email address: gabrielle.songe@gmail.com 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Authors Autographing Books


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


Authors continue to look for more places to get their book in front of people to sign autographs and sell their books.

We decided to look for more ways to promote authors and their books too. And this is our first event.
Press Release for Immediate Release
Southern Writers Magazine to host “Lunch with the Authors” April 22nd

Southern Writers Magazine, a Tennesssee-based publication with a national subscription base,announced it will be hosting a luncheon meeting on Wednesday, April 22nd from noon – 3:00. 

The heart of the luncheon will feature authors reading excerpts from their book and participating in a Q&A. They will lend their expertise in a variety of topics including plot development, dialogue, the publishing process and the mental attitude for success. There will also be on site book signings by the authors with books available for purchase. 

The event will be held at the Collierville Morton Museum located at the corner of Poplar and Main, often referred to as the “Old white church building” in Collierville, TN. The cost is $38 per attendee. Reservations to be made in advance (no walk ins since space is limited) by logging onto www.Southernwritersmagazine.com  and clicking on Luncheon or www.southernwritersmagazine.com/luncheon.html 

Steve Bradshaw, author of the Bell Trilogy (a series of forensic thrillers set in the Mid-South), said, “This luncheon will be an ideal opportunity to help polish your writing skills regardless of genre. It will also provide book enthusiasts a chance to peek behind the curtain and see the craft of authorship in practice. 

It will be a great opportunity to meet some really interesting people with an impressive lineup of published authors on hand to stimulate conversation”.

“This will be a fun event open to all who have interest in the writing craft,” added Susan Reichert, chief editor of Southern Writers Magazine. We are delighted to have the support of the local library as well as the Town itself”. A portion of the proceeds will help support the Collierville library.

For more information email Annabelle@southernwritersmag.com or call 901.853.4470.

We are working on other events for this year too that will put authors and readers together. We will keep you posted. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Before About Writing for a Living


By Joyce and Jim Lavene


If this seems like a really long title, that’s because it’s a very big subject.

We had been seriously writing for about three years before we had our first book accepted.

By ‘serious’ writing, we mean that you do it every day and that you’re sending out to publishers.
Our first novel was a romance with Harlequin Books. That was even more unbelievable since we really expected to be published by a smaller press.

You notice that we didn’t say ‘if at all’. We always had faith that we would be published – the question was always when, and would we live that long?

After that, we kept writing and sending out work. We found a wonderful agent who encouraged us and helped us find a good path. We kept writing anything we could think of and kept publishing with whoever would take us.

We were finally making money at our work, but was it enough to quit our day jobs? We had reached a point where we had three mystery series with Berkley and worked for a local newspaper. We couldn’t keep doing both – there just wasn’t enough time or energy.

Finally our agent sold two new series for us. We quit our newspaper jobs amidst much nail biting and gastric distress.

At first, we’d felt like we’d jumped off a plane without a parachute. We were terrified. We questioned every penny we spent, cut back on everything non-essential, and gave up drinking coffee at Starbucks. We were in the trenches, ready to get dirty and ugly if needed.

That was two and a half years ago.

And it worked for us.

At least it has so far – anyone got some wood to knock on?

Some things that helped:

We’d always had a plan for this day, including a separate bank account for our writing money. As a writer, you are a small business. Learn as much as you can about taxes and other business issues.
Take the time now to understand your royalty statements. You know what we mean if you’ve seen one.

We began increasing our spending as funds became stable but we aren’t going to buy a new house or anything. We’re writers and by the nature of the job, funds are unstable.

We don’t drive a new car but we do have a very nice used one. You have to decide what’s important.
We do what we can to promote with a budget we don’t go over, not matter how much we might want to. Expensive conferences are fun, but we really like electricity. We bet you do too.

Is this the path everyone should take? No. But for those of you who are thinking about jumping ship, we hope this helps. Writing for a living is scary but so is any other small business. You’re taking a chance that you might not make it.

The question is – how much is it worth to you?
__________________________________________________________________
Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. Their latest book is Spell Booked. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Links: www.joyceandjimlavene.com   www.facebook.com/joyceandjimlavene http://amazon.com/author/jlavene https://twitter.com/AuthorJLavene  Freebies? Updates? Subscribe: joyceandjimlavenenewsletter-subscribe@yahoogroups.com



Friday, February 13, 2015

So You Think You Can’t Write


By K.D. Harp


The next great novel waits within you, and you’ve come down with a case of writer’s block. Join the club. Or cry in your coffee. Wail to the sun. Whatever you do, don’t complain to non-writers, who don’t understand the problem and won’t care. (The phrase ‘writer’s block’ is as meaningful as ‘tennis elbow’ is to a couch potato). Don’t complain to seasoned writers either, because we see writer’s block as a rite of passage. You’re not REALLY a pet owner until you’ve dealt with that first public puppy indiscretion unprepared, and you’re not REALLY a writer until you’ve wrestled with a Muse who is feeding the world’s worst case of PMS and using it as an excuse to give you the Silent Treatment. All the gut-wrenching writer insecurity whirling about in your psyche from writer’s block just makes it all the more authentic to us.

On the up side, it is a malady as common as the cold, and remedies abound. Google the term and find suggestions for everything from changing location, getting a new look, meeting new people, listening to music, indulging in some sort of recreation, and my (sarcasm on) favorite, changing your attitude. I know, the world has become a positive thinking place which can cure anything from world hatred to panty hose runs, but I’m not this sort of person, and when I read suggestions like this for anything, I quickly tend to picture someone curing their writer ailment by plaiting their extensions into gravity defying Wendy’s logo braids, and singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” while hopscotching through a police station holding cell for fun. The image takes all the attitude actions and rolls them into one: new hair, new people, and song styling exercise guaranteed to get you a story of one sort or another…

Most of the useful suggestions involve something encouraging you to write anyway, essentially something that looks like denial of the writer’s block dilemma, but is in actuality, hard truth. You don’t really have writer’s block, dear writer. You’re not focused on the work of writingYou’re in love with the play of it.

You are the gal with the totally planned out wedding who isn’t even dating.

Denial Class suggestions involve working even when you think you can’t, i.e., has writer’s block. Commit to a set number of words per day, or better yet, a given amount of time. I like the time strategies because if your mind is truly blank after word wrestling for X minutes or hours, you’ve proven your dedication to the project. The minimum number of words strategy can work wonders too, though, especially if you set a ridiculously easy number of words, (even as low as ten if necessary), some number that your normal writer self just laughs at, and doesn’t take seriously as a goal. Even on a Writer’s Block Day, that ridiculous number is attainable, and once we’ve met the minimum, most of us are off and running down some writing path, because of the jump start it gives.

Or, READ. Read the text you were writing when the block occurred. Go back deep in the text, to the beginning if necessary. Immerse yourself in the story from a reader’s perspective. What do you want for these fake people, (sorry), characters on the page? What would be the worst thing to happen to them? …What’s that? You don’t have a text? OK, if starting the story is the problem, then read its predecessor, with the same mentality, and make note of what your mind conjures.

Oh c’mon! You’ve got writer’s block on your first book? Some would say read the book that inspires you to want to try writing and take note of the elements you want to emulate. Isn’t that sweet? So encouraging. So academic. While the Positive Penelopes amongst you are trading warm fuzzies whilst admiring a classic or bestseller, before you pragmatists run a finger down your throats at the thought, hang with me. For you folks, read the poorly written drivel that somehow got published which convinced you that you could do better, and this time, take note of all the ways to improve it.

Bingo. There’s your start, the elements you believe a good story requires. …Time to fill in the blanks. Now that you have it, don’t get sidetracked fretting over titles, character names or (some people actually DO this) a pen name. (Priorities people. You need no pen name until sometime AFTER you’ve actually penned something.) As for the story, use whatever character name comes to mind and don’t sweat it. It can be changed later with a simple Replace All, as long as you’re smart enough not to use a name like “Ike” (Guilty. This name will earn you the thrill of correcting a few hundred bizarre words that used to be ‘like’, ‘strike’, ‘pike’, etc.) If your mind’s such a blank you have to write XX and XY instead of a character name, just do it. The names will come later. Don’t slow their story as it trickles out.

The same strategy goes for impressive phraseology, extensive descriptions of people or place, and any other element that is flexible and can change. A story is a tough thing to craft, a line-up description, dismembered body, or resort’s high rollers poker room, not so much.
Bottom line on writer’s block: quit whining about how it’s hard, and write. If it were easy to craft a book, even Amazon couldn’t hold all the new titles. Write drivel if you have to, and edit it later (unless you score a three book deal from your pile of rubbish, in which case, publish and inspire someone else to take up the profession).
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Award winning author K.D. Harp writes suspense with romantic elements and strives to create characters of character in stories worth reading again. K.D.’s volunteer work with community emergency response teams (CERT) inspired the latest “Fighting for the Heart of Spencer” release, RESCUE ME, where doing good deeds after a disaster can score a date with a cop (and get ya killed.) Order any of K.D.’s titles worldwide in softcover and multiple e-formats.