The Importance Of Being Reviewed & Quizzing Your Reviewers

writing 2Being an author takes a lot of courage—but receiving feedback from your readers takes more than that. It takes an iron constitution. Have you ever found yourself faced with a one-star review? How about face-to-face with a reader who didn’t like your book? How did you react? This blog article is all about turning your readers, with opinions, into writing enhancers.

Be Curious About What Your Reader Has to Say

When we speak about listening with curiosity, we’re talking about showing genuine interest in what others are saying to you. All too often we listen without really showing interest. We are impatient and truly show a lack of attentiveness, which in turn hampers constructive conversation. We are too focused on our own agenda. Be genuinely curious. Don’t do all the talking, and keep interruptions to a minimum.  Pace the conversation, and don’t be afraid to keep it focused and on target. Be involved and your reader will be involved, too.

Learn, Learn, Learn

Sometimes you can project all the necessary nonverbal cues to give the other person a sense that you’re listening with curiosity, but you could still be failing to take in any information. While projecting a sense of curiosity, don’t forget to absorb and register what is actually being said. You need to hear the words, read the gestures, and take in the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of the other party. To take in what you hear, you need to pace the conversation and put yourself in the shoes of the other party. If you aren’t listening—you aren’t learning. If a reader picks up on the fact that you are listening—they will share more information with you.

Notes Are King

Reflecting back with interest shows the person you’re really listening and confirms that you have digested the information they wanted to share with you. It also allows the person to hear back what he or she has said and to check within him or herself: Is it exactly what he or she meant to say? Try to take notes, and refer back to them often. Don’t be afraid to ask your reader to delve deeper into what they’ve said. Try to get to the root of their issues.

Ask Questions…

Asking questions extends the conversation and allows for a more productive dialogue. Ask open-ended questions that allow more exploration to take place. By asking open ended questions, you give your protégés an opportunity to find answers within themselves. When someone actually discovers the answers for themselves, it empowers them. When you question for exploration, you reinforce in their minds that you believe in them, and that their opinions, knowledge, and experience are worthwhile. You build their confidence. Look to build the confidence of your reader to say the things about your book they really want to say.

Don’t Be Afraid to Give Back

Feedback is often thought of as being inherently critical, but that need not be the case. Successful authors are careful and discriminating about how they employ feedback, knowing that poor or incomplete feedback could stifle their projects or even cause feelings of inadequacy in them. The successful author avoids the common mistake of using feedback as a vehicle for asserting expertise.

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Do You Need Help With Keeping Your Concentration On Your Writing?

thinkinOne of the biggest problems many writers face is keeping concentration. This blog post is all about concentration, and keeping your eye on the ball. If you find your attention slipping, or your mind wandering—why don’t you give some of these simple techniques a try?

Understand Concentration

It’s really important for people to understand what concentration is. Concentration is taking your mind off many things and putting it on one thing at a time.

Decide what you want to concentrate on

In many ways, you become what you focus on — that is, you take on some of its characteristics. Have you ever noticed how couples who have been married for many years start to look like each other, or how people often come to resemble their pets, their cars, their hobbies, or their work projects?

Learn From Others

Go see a good movie. In the middle of it, look around at the people in the theater. What are they doing? They are probably still, eyes barely blinking, and their breath slower. It would take a really major distraction to break their attention stream. These signs may give you a hint about ways to increase your own concentration abilities.

Avoid constant sensory input

Multi-tasking, loud noises, and visual stimulation make concentration much more difficult, and being around them or doing them too much can put you into a habit of non-attention which can be hard to break.

Make Your Mind Up

Make it a point to put your full concentration on whatever you are doing. Don’t let anything distract you. It really helps to be in a quiet place, but you can learn to block out noise if necessary.

Stay calm…

Deep concentration is a matter of increasing or directing your life-force or conscious, cosmic energy. The more of this kind of energy you have, the better. Scattered energy doesn’t help. It must be calm, focused energy. Learn to be calmly concentrated.

Increase Your Control

Learn techniques to increase and control your energy. Energization Exercises. Controlling your energy is an important first step toward the ability to concentrate deeply.

Take breaks

Go outside and breathe deeply or take a brisk walk. Make yourself do this often and you’ll be able to return to your task recharged and ready to focus more creatively.

Watch Your Breath

Don’t control your breathing in any way, just observe. This teaches you to focus your mind on one thing at a time. As you observe your breath, it will slow down, along with your mind (this is scientifically well-documented), and you move into a dynamic, peaceful state of being. Your mind will become recharged and creatively receptive.

Filling Those Dreaded Plot Holes

addictedMany writers find themselves faced with the task of trying to fill their plot holes. Even the best writers are faced with this, at times. I thought it might be helpful to pull together a few ways to fill those dreaded plot holes in an effort to save the sanity of writers around the world.

Wait

Once you have finished your first draft, put your manuscript away for as long as you can before you move in the revision stage. The longer you leave the manuscript, the better. You will need a set of fresh eyes to not only find plot holes, but to get excited again about your story and manuscript.

Weed Them Out

Work through your manuscript and get rid of what will go for sure. Keep the removed scenes in a folder. This gives you the freedom to cut without worrying about losing material. If you do delete writing you need, you know where to go to find it. Once you get your manuscript down to just the scenes that will be included, you can uncover gaps in story or character with a bit more ease, and some gaps or holes will rise to the surface during this process.

Post-It

Jot anything down on post-it notes where you see holes. Use notes pads to come back later. Don’t fix the problem then and there. Keep working in a big picture way before you drill down to writing specifics in scenes. For now, you are looking at the forest and jotting down where you need to plant trees.

Action Lines

Write one or two sentences on what happens in the action line of each scene so you can step away and get the big picture overview of what is happening. As you write this action line, keep in mind scene goal and outcome. Next, write a sentence on the character essence of what is happening in the scene. Is this the place where your protagonist realizes what must be done to solve her problem?

Motivations

Now that you have a big picture of both the action and character lines, check your character motivations. Be sure there is a reason for everything your character is doing. You don’t need to explain it, but your character’s motivations have to make sense within the story.

Four Books That Will Help Improve Your Writing

typeWriters are always looking to improve their writing. Part of that improvement comes from reading the work of others.  I thought it would be useful to pull together four of the most highly-rated books about the art of writing. Each one of this has been acclaimed by those who enjoy writing!

Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein

First published in 2005 this is the essential guidebook on how to write for today. Broken up into sections and covering both fiction and non-fiction it contains a huge amount of practical advice on issues from the writer’s job, to the Keys to Swift Characterisation, to adding Resonance.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maas

First published in 2004 this is the book that gives backbone to Mr Maas’s famous Writing the Breakout Novel training modules. Its three sections cover a wide range of topics under the section headings Character Development, Plot Development and General Story Techniques. This workbook should definitely be in your library, especially if commercial success is something you are hoping to achieve.

A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

First published in 1991 this book is a grand tour of the realm of the senses. In it she describes the evolution of the kiss, the cuisine of eighteenth century England, and a lot more. Structured into chapters for each sense, this unusual and thought provoking book is a treasure trove for those who are interested in helping readers see what they see and feel what a character feels.

The 3rd Act by Drew Yanno

This is a book that has helped many writers over the years. It’s mainly aimed at script writers and features lots of references to many of the best movies of all time. But I don’t think that makes it any less relevant to fiction writers. Plus, there are so few books about how to construct a good ending this one deserves a place on your shelf just for that reason alone.

Vacation Writing: My Tips For Turning Your Vacation Into A Writers Paradise

new yearsWith the holidays just around the corner you may be thinking about getting some writing done. I thought it would be a good idea to put together my rules for holiday writing! It’s easy to start the holidays with every intention of writing—but to forget all about it as festivities set in! Follow my five rules and have a great writing vacation!

Be Realistic

When I’m out of my regular routine, it’s harder for me to achieve. I imagine I’m not alone in this. So when I’m visiting family over the holidays, I may not have the ability do my normal full hour of writing each day.

But ten minutes? Or one hundred words? That’s always doable. Setting a reasonable goal lets you take advantage of the moments that would normally be wasted. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy your vacation without the guilt of not writing.

Start Early

Okay. I know vacation is really not the time when you want to set an alarm. If you’re a natural early riser like myself the morning hours can be very important. Why don’t you try rising early and getting down to work? You may even find that your days will be more relaxed.

Stay In Bed

On the opposite side of the coin to the above suggestion is to pretend to sleep in—but instead, work quietly in your guest room for a little while before making your morning appearance.

Be Invisible

If mornings just don’t cut it for you, why not simply slip away for a little bit in the afternoon? Figure out where the closest coffee shop is, close the door to your room, or hey, just find a good closet settle in.

Be A Night Owl

For you night owls and procrastinators! Once you snuggle into the bed for the night, take just a little time to cram in fifty words or so. Maybe those holiday nightcaps will unleash a little extra creativity.