Tuesday, October 29, 2019

20 Things to Do On a Writing Retreat

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

As an introvert and a writer, I find it important to make it a point to get away from life every once in a while and take a writing retreat. A writing retreat can look like many things. A weekend alone in the mountains. A week with writerly friends at the beach. An overnight at a hotel near my home.

Whatever a writer retreat looks like to you, we must recognize the importance of taking time to ourselves and getting away from life so our creativity can flow.

What can a writing retreat do for me?

It's down time to rest. Sometimes a nap is all we need to renew our creativity.

A writing retreat can increase our creativity. Getting away from the daily grind gives our mind space to create new ideas.

If we attend a writing retreat with writing friends, we have a wealth of brainstorming genius at our fingertips.

Are you stuck in a writing slump? On a tight deadline? Maybe you just need a break from life and a desire to spend that break writing.

Here are 20 Things to Do on a Writing Retreat:

1. Take a nap.

2. Brain dump. This is putting all your thoughts on paper so you can sort them out.

3. Brainstorm with friends. This is coming up with options for whatever you need in your novel.

4. Take a walk or a hike.

5. Play a board or card game, like Scrabble or Scattegories or Balderdash or Apples to Apples.

6. Put away your electronics (except your laptop) and turn off your internet for a few hours so all you focus on is writing.

7. Cook a meal or bake a dessert. Then enjoy it. Note the flavors and scents. Use them in your story.

8. Take some photographs.

9. Find a local shop where your character would browse and visit it. Buy a souvenir.

10. Write in 30-minute sprees. Take a 10-minute stretch-and-grab-a-snack break. Write again.

11. Focus on one thing you need to improve in your storyline. Keep at that until you figure it out.

12. Read a book that's been on your TBR list for a while. Read a chapter, write a chapter in your own book. Read another chapter, write another chapter.

13. Have a cup of coffee or tea (or whatever else may help your creativity).

14. Visit a historical site. Look for inspiration for your story.

15. Go out to eat. What would your characters order off the menu if they were dining together?

16. Even if you go with friends, take a day to stay in your bed or out on a porch or somewhere off by yourself to do a writing marathon. No interruptions allowed.

17. Have a friend critique your latest chapter. Take some of their suggestions and tweak a chapter or two. Or your plotline.

18. Have a word count challenge. Who can write the most words in any number of minutes?

19. Take the time to create a playlist for your novel.

20. Watch a show or movie you enjoy and take a scene you can tweak to fit your own novel. Remember, there's nothing new under the sun. You just need to change some things to make it your own.

Click to Tweet: When's the last time you took a writing retreat? Here are 20 Things to Do on your next one!

Which one of these things would you enjoy doing on your writing retreat? Do you have any more ideas to add to the list? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Monday, October 14, 2019

What is the Definition of a Professional Writer?

By DiAnn Mills

Do we have a clear idea of what it means to be a professional writer? Is it defined by the number of publications? Is the term equated with a particular genre or how long a writer has labored at the craft? The amount of the advance? Is the definition subjective and of little value? Perhaps the easiest way to describe a professional writer is to show what that looks like in the publishing world.

An accomplished writer is one who has spent hours perfecting the craft and gained recognition through publication. The work is hard and usually a solitary process. The writing life involves developing a tough skin to accept constructive criticism, rejections, edits, rewrites, and submit again.

The professional writer strives to create quality manuscripts by being aware of what’s happening in the world. The writer is concerned and creates posts to address heartfelt needs of readers.

Professionals face the challenges of their calling by establishing and achieving goals. The writer weighs the writing project, style, voice, networking, and social media content with their brand to determine if the manuscript is a good fit.

A professional writer is an authority about one or more topics related to the craft. An expert is capable of providing knowledge to others by offering explanations and instruction that are valued. The publishing industry respects a self-confident and reliable writer.

A writer enriches a reader’s life by using words as building blocks for effective communication. It’s an art accomplished by knowing how to place words in easy to understand language. The process also includes using correct grammar, punctuation, and mastering techniques to create an unforgettable experience. We enhance our skills through life experience and training.

A student is one who takes an interest in a subject and strives to learn more about it. The professional writer who embraces student status chooses the road of seeking more knowledge about the publishing world. This focus includes enhancing our skills in the craft, marketing, promotion, and constant changes in the writing industry. A student practices the art of continuous education.

The best teachers of writing are those who are accomplished, aware, career-minded, an expert, skilled, and embraces the role of a student. These people are role models. They offer advice and sometimes mentor those who are serious about their calling.

Are you on a path to professionalism?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)


Monday, October 7, 2019

Shoot the Weasel Words

By Andrea Merrell

Pet words and phrases, more commonly known as weasel words, are a major problem. All writers have them, even those of us whose job it is to edit them out of other writers’ manuscripts. 

If you’ve been writing for a while, you're most likely familiar with your own weasel words. If not, here are a few of the most common: that, just, really, surely, however, therefore, suddenly, quickly, quietly, softly, certainly, began to … 

The list goes on and on … and on.

Recently, I discovered a few of my own hiding in my current WIP. Let me share them with you: in fact, after all, tried to, cringed, possibly, probably, and struggled. You might be asking yourself what’s wrong with these words? Absolutely nothing—unless you do a word search and find them used forty times or more. Talk about a reality check. Ouch!

Few things are more annoying to readers than redundancies, especially seeing the same words and phrases over and over. I’ve read a few books over the years that I wanted to throw across the room because of too much repetition.

So, what’s a writer to do? We have to be aware of our pet weasels, be willing to part with them, find them, then shoot them. Bang! As they say, don’t marry your words.

Let’s look at a couple of examples, and you decide if the italicized words are necessary in the sentence.

  • Suddenly, Rae struggled desperately to keep her footing as she tried to survey the damage. Instead: Rae struggled to keep her footing as she surveyed the damage.

  • After all, may I at least reimburse you for the flowers? Better: May I reimburse you for the flowers?

Here’s another one for you to untangle:

  • Scott certainly thought that Karen was really just up to no good, so he suddenly moved quickly and quietly to the window just so that he could begin to see what she was doing.

Pretty bad, right? How about this? 

  • Scott thought Karen was up to no good, so he moved to the window to see what she was doing.

Do you see how eliminating those pesky weasel words tightens your writing? Be sure to do a word search and get rid of those little varmints. Your readers will be glad you did.

What about you? Do you have your own set of weasel words? We would love for you to share them with us.

(Photos courtesy of Morguefiles.com/mensatic and FreeDigitalPhotos.net/pandpstock001.)