The Writers Circle: Seeking Inspiration

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We all have our favorite places to write, whether it’s a special spot at home, a specific corner table in the nearby coffee shop, the non-fiction stacks at the local library or a grassy hill overlooking a quiet lake.  What places inspire you to write and where do you go when you need a place that you can just keep writing?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

The Writers Circle: Gifts for Writers 2016

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

With the holiday season upon us, thoughts turn to gifts for us or for our loved ones. What do you, as a writer, wish someone would give you as a gift this holiday season? What are you planning to give to the writers on your gifting list? If you’ve been shopping this past weekend or today for Cyber Monday, did you come across any great writer-oriented gifts?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Creative Anxiety

It’s been a month already, huh? As you may or may not recall, last time I rambled for a bit on Today’s Author, it was about the differences between the writing process and a writing cycle. The short version looks like this:

The Writing Cycle

I think that with some very minor revisions, we could view any creative output through a similar lens.

Of course, this is just how one guy thinks about it (that’s me). And I admittedly think about creativity a lot—maybe too much. I am inherently curious about what triggers creativity and why it happens the way it happens for the people it happens for. But that’s for another day.

Today, I want to look at anxiety in both the creative process and the creative cycle–creative anxiety, we could call it. I think that artists are, on average, a pretty anxious breed. We worry about almost everything it seems, but in my experience the anxiety is worst at the beginning of the writing process and at the end of the writing cycle.

When I start a new writing project, I freak out in the early going. Are the ideas good enough? Does the story have enough going on? Are these characters interesting? As a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” writer for a good chunk of the process, this anxiety hangs around for a while. As a writer of general fiction, the anxiety starts to fade when I get up around 40,000 words. It’s almost all gone by the time I finish my outline of the last half of the book. That’s when I know, for better or worse, the book will be finished. The momentum takes over.

Writing poetry was similar. At the inception of an idea for a new poem, I was nervous about writing. I would struggle through the lines for a while, and eventually, if the poem was meant to be, some line or couplet or stanza would snag me and the anxiety would fade away.

I enjoy the early stages of the process, though—in spite of the anxiety. It’s new and exciting and I’m learning about these new people, so there is a chance that some of that anxiety comes from the excitement of starting something new.

 

We’ve established that the writing cycle encapsulates all of the movements of any writing project—from its planning, to its editing and revision, to cover design and layout, all the way through publication, if that is the goal of the project. Of course, a creative cycle can end when you put the binder clip on and shove it in the back of a drawer. Once a writing project is abandoned for whatever reason, that cycle is done.

I’ve learned that I feel the greatest anxiety at the very end of this process. When I’m out promoting the book, I’m anxious about two things:

1.    My creation doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to the world. Will they take care of it? Will they love it? Will they hate it and burn it? Will they understand it?

Not that any of that really matters. It’s up to readers to read and draw their own conclusions. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a source of anxiety.

2.   What will the next project be?

This is different from the anxiety felt at the beginning of the writing process. Here, we worry if we will have another idea worth pursuing with the same vigor as the one that just wrapped. Will we always have stories to tell? For some people, it may be alright to imagine a world where they don’t write anymore. But for me? I don’t know what that looks like.

There is a great scene in Salman Rushdie’s autobiography, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, where a young Rushdie meets Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut asks the young writer, who was fresh off publishing Midnight’s Children, “Are you serious about this writing business?” When Rushdie responds that he is, Vonnegut says, “Then you should know that the day is going to come when you won’t have a book to write, and you’re still going to have to write a book.”

That scene sticks in my head for a couple of reasons. First, it would have been super badass to be in that room. Second, what if I run out of stories?

What are your experiences with creative anxiety? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Interview with Author Ferris Robinson

ferrisFerris Robinson’s new novel, Making Arrangements, was released yesterday, on July 5, 2016. She’s written cookbooks and articles for years, but this is her first work of fiction. In this interview, she answers my questions about writing and publishing and talks about the book.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? Do you consider yourself trained or self-taught?

I have always written – I made little books out of cardboard and scratch paper when I was a child, and they were pathetic. The first time it occurred to me I may actually be good at it was during an entrance exam for a private high school in Chattanooga, GPS. I failed miserably at math, science, history, general reasoning… everything EXCEPT the writing portion. I had described a section of Woods Creek in Marion County where I grew up – I just pictured the tree limb hanging over the water and imagined the sound of the water and an occasional car over the old wooden bridge. Anyway, my description gave me a shot and I graduated from there.

I took a few writing classes in college, and wish I’d majored in it. After college, the lifestyle editor of our daily paper gave me freelance assignments, and eventually a column, but I still didn’t call myself a writer. Lots of ‘less than’ feelings there I suppose. I write regularly now at my job at a monthly community newspaper, The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror, and although I am confident writing articles, it’s hard to say “I’m a writer.”

I suppose I am a combo of being taught and self taught, and am still learning lots and lots.

How long were you writing before publishing your first book? Did you try the traditional publishing route — sending queries to literary agents? What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

Four years ago I sent out about 75 queries for my book, and waited on a few bites for partials and one full, which were rejected at the end. But I ended up with an agent for Making Arrangements. She was with a respected NY agency and I got her because her brother dated my niece and she agreed to read my manuscript. She ended up leaving the agency for another career with a tech company, and wasn’t able to sell it. That was in 2013. I put it away for a few years. A friend who had read it said, “Of all the things you’ve written, I like your novel the best,” and she urged me to publish it. I pulled it out of the drawer and reworked it mightily. I added/changed/deleted/deepened all different parts of it, and decided I liked it as well.

I thought about trying to find an agent again, but it’s such a long shot and I wasn’t up for the inevitable wait. I was excited about my book and wanted to get it out there. Kindle Scout was new to me, but a few folks I know online in writing communities gave me their opinions and I went for it. The campaign was nerve-wracking, but also fun in a way. And I was beside myself to be chosen!

I think the publishing industry is definitely changing.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Lee Smith, Lolly Winston, Claire Veye Watkins, Rick Bragg, Ann Patchett and Anne Lamott among others.

What’s your latest book about?

Cancer patient Lang Eldridge spent her supposed final year of life making sure her soon-to-be widowed husband could manage without her. Ha! After he drops dead on the tennis court, Lang, alive and well, discovers a secret that could ruin her life. If she lets it.

Making Arrangements is the story of the perfect arrangements going completely awry, and the consequences of that. The protagonist must decide whether that particular fall-out is going to change her life, or if it isn’t.It deals with themes of forgiveness and friendship, and champions women who are strong, yet don’t know it yet.

How do you plan to celebrate your book release?

I hope to go out to dinner with my husband (who thinks it’s ironic that my protagonist’s husband dropped dead of a heart attack – he had open heart surgery 23 years ago, at the age of 34, and thinks this story is Freudian on some level! He jokes that all those years of healthy cooking to keep him alive made me snap.)

To learn more about Ferris, check out her website: http://www.ferrisrobinson.com/

The Writers Circle: Gifts for Writers 2015

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

With the holiday season upon us, thoughts turn to gifts for us or for our loved ones. What do you, as a writer, wish someone would give you as a gift this holiday season? What are you planning to give to the writers on your gifting list?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

How to Talk to People Online

social media chatTalking to people online is nothing like talking to them in person. You realize quickly how much communication is transmitted by body language, pacing in speech, facial expressions–all characteristics that can’t be conveyed with the black-and-white of words. That makes sarcasm challenging. Even humor–how often do you know someone’s being humorous because of their grin, exaggerated expressions, or laugh. None of that comes through online.

As a result, online conversations need to be sorted differently than in-person conversations. Consider these quick rules:

  1. Always consider the perspective of the person you’re talking to. They can be anywhere on the planet, with a world view entirely disparate from yours. Not better or worse, just different, with cultural norms that could make your comments insulting or intimidating (never good when you’re trying to make new friends). Sure, you can’t catch all of those, but you can start by avoiding comments you know could be misunderstood and adding details about your background to provide context to your conversation.
  2. Be international in your conversations. After all, you’re writing to the world, not your home town. Include international references (like Happy Canada Day on July 1st). That might take research, but that’s fine, especially for writers who hope to sell books in multiple countries.Children's drawings idea design on crumpled paper
  3. Don’t talk politics. Best case, you’ll annoy half of your readers. Few people understand the intricacies of foreign governments (few understand their own rulers). Most people believe the axiom, ‘Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t’. Here are two examples:
    • Most Americans think our education system is broken but think their local education is great.
    • This second is an opinion: While democracies (like America) value freedoms, lots (and lots) of people around the world don’t. They want someone else to make those big decisions for them. They believe having all those choices makes life too complicated. Be sensitive to that.
  4. Use good grammar and spelling. Lots of people conflate ‘texting’ with ‘online writing’. Not true. Texts are private, not intended for the world to see. Every online communication has the potential to go viral, bad grammar and spelling errors included. As writers, we don’t want to risk that.
  5. Where weather used to be a safe (albeit boring) topic, it isn’t anymore. Now, it’s political and could blow up into an insult-charged scream-fest about global warming. Don’t talk about the weather. Talk about books instead. Or dogs and children.

I’d love to hear what innocent online conversations you’ve been part of that have become toxic. What should I avoid in the future?

Check out this article from Wikipedia on the ‘online disinhibition effect‘ for an better understanding of online chats. Or this one from Jeffrey Lin on the toxicity of some online games.

More on social media:

Writers Tip #48: Have a Web Presence

27+ Tips I Wish I’d Known About Blogging

15 Tips Picked Up From Twitter


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor of technology in education, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Improvements and Changes for Today’s Author

Here at Today’s Author we are have been working to build a community of aspiring writers since December of 2012. We’ve accomplished a lot in the first couple of years of working toward this goal and we are constantly seeking new ways to improve what we bring to the community.

That is why we are pleased to unveil today a new feature at Today’s Author: our Discussion Forums! Our goal with these forums is to provide a more open and interactive place to discuss our collective journey with writing. We’ve put some forum categories together to start things off and these will continue to grow and change as the community grows and changes.  I hope everyone in our community will create an account in the forums and that this will enable a new level of interaction and growth within the community. Since we are just getting this started, there may be a few kinks to work out with it, but I hope you will give it a try today!

Secondly, we are looking for a few new contributors to write for Today’s Author. Do you feel you are ready to commit to writing a post or two each month, sharing your techniques, strategies, goals and dreams with respect to writing? If so, please fill out the contact form on the Contact Us page and let us know.  We look forward to hearing from you.

The new Forums are just the first of several exciting things coming to Today’s Author.  In the coming months we hope to be bringing you even more tools to help you in your writing journey. Thanks for being part of our community and remember to just keep writing…

The Writers Circle: Gifts for Writers 2014

What’s with all the red?

Today is December 1st–World AIDS Day. The fight against AIDS is very personal to me, and my co-owner/editor has agreed to let me make this change to show support for World AIDS Day.

I lost my father 25 years ago when the disease was a death sentence. Today because of the hard work of hundreds of thousands of people, that’s no longer the case. In a few more years we might even have a cure.

Here are some quick links:
Learn more: http://www.worldaidsday.org/
Learn more: http://www.red.org/en/learn
Do Something: http://www.worldaidsday.org/act-aware.php
Do Something: http://www.red.org/en/act
Donate: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/natnationalaidstrust
Donate: http://www.red.org/en/act/donate
Buy something (charity gets a cut): http://www.red.org/en/shop/

Thank you for your taking the time to read this. And if you used any of those links to support, or learn more about, a cause that’s important to me, I thank you for that, too.

And now, I’ll turn your attention back to writing and today’s topic of Holiday gifts for writers.

–Dale

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

With the holiday season upon us, thoughts turn to gifts for us or for our loved ones. What do you, as a writer, wish someone would give you as a gift this holiday season? What are you planning to give to the writers on your gifting list?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

At times, writing seems impossible. I wonder if I have what it takes or if there’s some critical piece I’m missing that means it just won’t ever happen. I do a lot of the right things-writer

  • I read, a lot
  • I’m observant
  • I’m a loner (or, the flip side–I don’t mind being alone)
  • I bloom where I’m planted

But is that enough? I went in search of other traits friends who I consider successful writers have that might inform me in my endless quest to succeed in a craft that few can. I found that more is required to become that person who can proudly, eruditely consider themselves a writer:

  1. Writers have a selective memory–they forget the bad stuff people say and remember the good. Otherwise it’s depressing.
  2. Writers are conversant with their muse. Anywhere, at any time, on any subject. It doesn’t matter. When s/he starts talking, writers listen.
  3. Writers are tethered to their voicemail in case that Big Call from an agent comes through. If there is no call, they check the machine to be sure it’s plugged in and working properly.
  4. Writers understand the importance of taking a break to do something fun, like read a book. If they are one of those unlucky folk who get writer’s block, this will suffice.
  5. Writers never show fear in front of their computer. It’s like a dog–it smells fear. It’ll then do nasty things like eat your manuscript or freeze in the middle of a scene.
  6. Writers embrace the words of Winston Churchill: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
  7. Writers can be categorized as plants or sharks. Plants take whatever life throws at them, hoping to survive long enough to publish. Sharks never stop moving, always hunting. Successful writers are sharks.
  8. You can tell a lot about a writer by the way he/she handles three things: rejection, fame, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  9. Talking about a WIP is almost like writing it, but not as frightening.
  10. In golf, one of 14 clubs has to be the right decision. In writing, all 14 are wrong because readers want unique.
  11. Don’t judge a writer by what he does between the lines.
  12. Writers believe in the impossible, miracles, and Santa Claus. They will spend hours trying to literarily square the circle and consider it time well spent.
  13. To rephrase Voltaire: No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking from a thriller writer.
  14. Where the engineer thinks of his equations as an approximation to reality, and the physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations, the writer thinks it doesn’t matter if the prose are elegant.

And #15: The most prevalent trait: We are dreamers, positive thinkers, and don’t know how to quit even if it would be in our best interests to move on. That above all else was part of the heart and soul of so many writers I admire.

How about you? What makes you a writer even if your job title says Accountant?

More about writers:

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she writes technology training books for how to integrate tech in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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The Writers Circle: Gifts for Writers

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

With the holiday season upon us, thoughts turn to gifts for us or for our loved ones. What do you, as a writer, wish someone would give you as a gift this holiday season? What are you planning to give to the writers on your gifting list?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.