You’ve probably seen the ads– Writing Retreat on Maui! Escape to a cabin in Vermont to write! It sounds amazing– a dedicated time and place to focus on your work in progress. Unfortunately for most writers, these retreats are inaccessible– they’re either too expensive, too far away, or too long to fit around other obligations.
I decided to plan my own writing retreat– one within my budget (thanks to a gift from my husband for mother’s day!!), 45 minutes from home (far enough to feel “away” but not so far that my whole trip was spent traveling), and for two days– long enough to get some writing done but not too long away from my husband and young kids.
Here are my tips for planning your own DIY writing retreat.
Pick a Cool Spot(but not too cool) You know that place nearby that you’ve been meaning to check out but haven’t yet? That’s Temecula for me– Southern California Wine Country. Though it’s less than an hour away and people say it’s cool, I hadn’t spent any real time there. This seemed like a good chance to see what the hype was about. If I was a huge wine person, though, this probaby wouldn’t have been a good pick. This isn’t an ordinary vacation! Find somewhere you’d like to visit but where you won’t feel pulled to spend the whole trip sight seeing.
AirBnB is Your Friend AirBnB is a writer’s dream when planning retreats. You can find much more affordable, much nicer accomodations, often in a unique setting. I stayed at the Rusty Fork Ranch, and it was absolutely perfect. The hosts were wonderful, the view was incredible, my room (The Cash Room– each room has a cool theme too!) had a comfortable writing desk, and there was coffee and tea available in the morning! Plus, there were real miniature writing goats!
Plan Your Eats Ahead of Time You don’t want to spend hours pouring over menus and reading reviews when you could be writing. Scope out good food before you go. I ate at Gentle Grill, E.A.T. Marketplace, and a couple coffee shops.
Pick Goals Ahead of Time I knew before I set off on my retreat that I wanted to edit and rewrite ten chapters. This was a big goal as I usually get through one chapter every two to three days. Big goals are good, though, as long as they’re realistic! Know when and how you’ll get your work done. I wrote up a schedule for each day saying how many chapters I would get through at the coffee shop, how many I would do after lunch, and how many I would do before going to sleep.
Move Your Body Intensive writing marathons mean a lot is going on in your mind and your fingers, but not so much the rest of you. Take breaks to move! When I started feeling sluggish, I would stop for a few minutes and stretch or do some yoga. I also maaaaay have had a mini dance party.
Don’t Forget to Relax This is about writing but it’s also about retreat. Find some ways to treat yourself and do nothing too. I tried to enjoy my yummy food, rewarded myself for finishing chapters by playing a little Harry Potter Wizards Unite, did a face mask, meditated before starting in the morning, and read a book before bed. Allow space for activities that will leave you feeling refreshed enough to be productive when you get home too!
Planning your own writing retreat? Tell us about it in the comments!
THE SUBMISSION PERIOD CLOSED AS OF MAY 2, 2019—STAY TUNED FOR FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES TO SUBMIT YOUR WORK!
Below is the process for the submission for your own viewing, as the process will be similar for future submission periods.
Writing Bloc is taking short story submissions NOW!
Writing Bloc’s annual short story anthology is taking off with its second edition, and we’re looking for amazing stories incorporating the theme of “deception” in five thousand words or fewer. The submission period is open now through May 1st, 2019. Announcement of the accepted stories will take place on May 31st, 2019. The non-refundable submission fee is $10 (US) for all writers. To submit your story, use the link below to sign the acknowledgment of the Submission Guidelines and use the other link to pay the submission fee. Once both are received, you will receive a confirmation email within 48 hours. All major questions are answered within the guidelines, so please read them in full prior to submitting.
Additional questions? Ask us in the comments section below.
Fill out the submission form below and submit it with your attachment of your story. (Microsoft Word documents preferred.) Your story should be no longer than 5000 words in length, utilize the theme “DECEPTION” in some way, and have your name and contact information on the front page. You will get a confirmation message when your form has been submitted successfully.
Return to this page and click below to pay the $10 submission fee. Billing information will be kept private and will only be used for the purposes of validating the payment. You will also receive a confirmation message when your payment has been processed successfully.
You will receive an email to the address you provided within 48 hours to confirm that we received both your submission packet and your payment.
Submission form and acknowledgment of official guidelines CLICK HERE: using the form located at (link expired).
On January 1, 2019, Writing Bloc published its first short story anthology, comprised of stories from twenty authors. Writers were given a theme – Escape! – and each submitted a story centered around the theme. The result? An inspiring collection of western, sci-fi, fantasy, and genre-bending stories that demonstrate how vastly different the imaginations of 20 authors can be. You may check out ESCAPE! on Amazon by clicking here.
The publishing process was entirely cooperative, as authors banded together to critique and edit each other’s stories. Everyone involved worked diligently to improve their own craft, as well as provide constructive feedback that spurred the growth of their fellow authors. It is this cooperative editing and publishing process that Writing Bloc would like to build on as we work on expanding our collection.
If you have a short story you would like us to consider for submission in our next anthology, we would love to hear from you. Submissions for Deception! A Writing Bloc Anthology are due midnight PST on May 1st, 2019.
The anthology will be published both in e-book format and in print in January 2020 (subject to change).
Contributors will be offered the opportunity to order print copies at wholesale prices, which they can then resell at retail value for profit. Please review the full publishing guidelines carefully before submitting your short story. This is a cooperative short story anthology, and authors will be expected to critique and edit a group of 3-5 stories other than their own. Only those who are willing to participate in this collaborative process will be considered.
Writing Bloc will be accepting short stories, each related to the theme Deception. The number of short stories will depend on the final editorial staff decision. Though the last anthology consisted of 20 stories, the DECEPTION! Anthology could be any number of stories. If your story is not accepted into this year’s anthology, we encourage you to try again in the future and to request to join our Facebook page and/or Our Newsletter for more collaborative opportunities.
To submit a short story, follow the directions above.
-The Writing Bloc Team (Michael, Becca, Robert, Chris, Jacqui, and Cari)
Public copy of official guidelines:
A. Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team is publishing a cooperatively-produced anthology of short stories to be released in January of 2020. Contributing authors will have the opportunity to be involved in production, promotion, marketing, and distribution of the finished work. The cooperative nature of the project is intended to be a group effort with tasks assigned and managed by the Heads of Writing Bloc.
A. The stories to be published in this edition of the anthology are to use the theme of “DECEPTION!” in some manner. There is open interpretation to the theme, and the theme is open genre. For a reference, you may look to our last published anthology titled “ESCAPE!” available on most digital formats and also available through physical formats via Amazon, but a link to download the book in both .epub and .mobi formats will be provided upon receipt of the submission fee.
B. Stories submitted should be no more than 5,000 words in length, and an original work of fictional prose. The target audience is adult, and there is no restriction on language or content, aside from the requirements in II.C:
C. Content Guidelines:
No hate speech (language or action that promotes or encourages racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, religious discrimination, ableism, or ageism).
Though sex can be a part of the story, it should not be explicit or the central action of the story. Stories may not glorify or normalize sexual assault or any non-consensual sexual acts. Any questions regarding what would be acceptable can be directed in an email to [email protected]
D. A story can be removed from the anthology at any time during the production process at the discretion of the Heads. Any cause for story removal will be discussed prior to any action taken and reasonable efforts will be made to resolve the issue prior to removal.
A. Stories should be submitted using the form located at (link expired) between now and May 1st, 2019, at which point the selection process for inclusion will begin. If there are any questions about the story and its acceptability as far as content guidelines stated above are concerned, please contact [email protected], but expect at least 5 business days for a response. No one will receive any indication that their story will be accepted into the anthology prior to May 31st, 2019, and no story will be considered without the submission fee paid in full.
B. The process of editing and a schedule for design and publication will be established after the selection process. This schedule will be determined after May 31st, 2019.
C. Any collaboration or discussion of stories with other members of the Writing Bloc on the group Facebook page is encouraged, but copyright ownership of each final story will remain with the individual author and plagiarism will not be tolerated.
A. All stories to be considered should be submitted using the form located at (LINK EXPIRED) starting now but no later than midnight PST May 1st, 2019.
B. The anthology is planned to be published in January of 2020 in both ebook and paperback formats.The schedule may be adjusted to accommodate unforeseen problems related to writing, publishing, or distribution. Contributing authors will be notified of changes to the planned schedule ahead of time through the valid email address they provide through the submission process.
A. The anthology at this time is to be published by Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team. The book will be available for all major e-readers and available to purchase as a paperback through Amazon. Cost of the end product will be determined at time of publication, and prices are subject to change at the discretion of the Heads.
B. All marketing and publicity is the responsibility of the authors being published within the cooperative. Basic marketing efforts will be made through Writing Bloc’s website (writingbloc.com), Twitter (@Writing_Bloc), and Facebook (facebook.com/writingbloc), and Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team will direct efforts to market the final product.
C. Each selected author will receive a feature and short interview to be published on the above stated outlets in section V.B of these guidelines.
D. The submission fees and profits from sales of the anthology will be collected into a single account to be maintained by Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team. The balance in the account will be used to pay all costs associated with publication first. Any remaining balance will be used to offset any management costs of the organization. Contributing authors can purchase printed copies of the anthology for their own distribution and profit. Any profit from physical copies sold directly by the authors are theirs to keep. Opportunities to purchase paperbacks at lower cost than the general public will be presented after publication.
A. The goal of the cooperative press is to have direct control over publication efforts and distribution, and all authors involved are expected to contribute in some way to the success of the publication. While there is no specific guideline for minimum contribution to the success of the publication, exerting no effort toward marketing or success of the published anthology is not in the spirit of the publication, and therefore might affect involvement in future publications. Enthusiastic and cooperative participation in this anthology may influence acceptance of future manuscripts for publication with the cooperative. Enthusiastic and cooperative participation may include helpful and supportive communication within the group Facebook page, assistance with marketing, distribution, project management, finance, and editing as requested by the Heads of these teams, or voluntary financial contribution not to exceed $100.
B. This is not a project with the expectation of high profit. This publication is collaboration-minded with the idea to cooperatively increase exposure and marketing efforts for all authors involved.
C. For this current run with the theme “DECEPTION,” there is a basic non-refundable $10.00 (US) submission fee. This cost is intended to offset the time and effort required to give each and every submission proper attention. For the submission fee of $10.00 (US), the author submitting will have their story considered for inclusion in the DECEPTION! anthology, a place in the closed Facebook community page (subject to obedience of established rules and regulations within that community), and a link to download free ebook copies of the previous ESCAPE! anthology.
D. All authors retain the rights to their work and may publish them elsewhere or use them for other publications and submissions.
E. No profits are to be distributed to any authors at this time. All monies made for the anthology will be pooled into the creation of subsequent publications in hopes of offsetting all costs and creating greater marketing and distribution for subsequent runs.
F. Every effort will be made to market each individual author equally, including access to place their other works into the store on writingbloc.com for extra exposure.
VII. Statement of Inclusion and Diversity
A. Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team does not exclude any writers for any reason. We encourage writers from all walks of life to reach out and become a part of our community and/or our anthology.
B. The deciding process for inclusion in this anthology is based upon a blind read of all works by our editors. Final decisions will be made purely based upon writing quality, creativity, and inclusion of the theme. There will be no knowledge of the author when making final selections for the anthology. The author’s name will be replaced with a random number prior to assessment by the editorial team.
C. Writing Bloc Indie Publishing Team strives to create opportunities for every writer, regardless of cultural background, skin color, sexual orientation, disability either visible and invisible, religion, spirituality, and/or state of health. We focus on helping all writers embrace and expand upon their passion and their abilities. We insist upon an open culture of equality in all of our dealings and want all writers to feel free and safe to bring their authentic, complete selves to our organization.
D. Should any author or member of Writing Bloc decide to behave with a lack of tolerance or respect for the culture of Inclusion and Diversity we strive to maintain, that author will be met with removal from any contract or publication in process as well as removal from all public groups associated with Writing Bloc. We have a zero tolerance policy on hate speech, both within and outside of the Writing Bloc organization.
F. Any and all questions regarding Inclusion and Diversity at Writing Bloc may be presented to [email protected]
The Kickstarts! Writing Workshop is for: Reluctant writers, stumped writers, writers who think they are blocked, bored writers, writers just looking for some extra practice, even writers who don’t know they are writers…yet. Kickstarts! is for any kind of writer who wants to get some words on paper! And it’s FREE! Bounce on over to Brittney Cassity’s website and visit The Hubbub Blog every Thursday from Jan. 24th through May 23rd for a new, fun writing adventure!
This article is part of a series by Writing Bloc written to help indie authors put their best work forward when self-publishing.
Disappointment with ebook appearance? We’ve been there.
When Writing Bloc released our first anthology, Escape!,on January first, I couldn’t wait to download the ebook to my Kindle and read the finished product. We had worked hard and twenty different people pored over the manuscript to produce the final draft, so it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. When we uploaded the finished product to Draft2Digital and Amazon, we were confident and proud of what we had accomplished. So many eyes, so many corrections. The final product had to be perfect. I was beyond excited.
So imagine my surprise when the first story looked all wonky on my Kindle. The cover, copyright, and table of contents pages were all fine, but the manuscript was the bread and butter, and it just looked odd. The paragraphs all started at different places in their indentations. The line spacing felt strange. The quirks and problems in this “final product” were off enough to distract from immersion in the story. What had gone wrong?
The problems weren’t even consistent throughout the book. Some stories came out perfectly aligned. Others only askew in a few places. Then the last story was just as jagged-looking as the first. Seeing as how we all spent months making this book gorgeous in its editing, I was frustrated with this digital publishing experience. And honestly, I blamed the format. I’m not the biggest fan of ebooks. I will read them, but generally I much prefer holding a printed book in my hand. As our next step was to format the paperback version (which is available now!), my concerns hit a fever pitch when approaching formatting. If a print book comes out looking strange, then you really can’t blame the medium of delivery unless the ink itself is smeared across the page. I combed through the manuscript as I prepared the print version, and soon enough, I found that the problem with the ebook wasn’t the technology at all, it was the way we told the technology the book should appear.
Look out for invisible problems
Writing in the modern age is much more than the words and letters you put on the page. It’s actually a little more musical than that, if you’d like to think of it that way. Music isn’t just the sounds, it’s also the silences. Writing in the digital age is definitely not just the words, it’s all the keystrokes. A few extra keystrokes caused our ebook to look off in many places. The problem is now solved, and after I solved it, I immediately thought I should share what I learned with the independent author community as soon as I could. Mostly because I’ve seen similar problems in other self-published manuscripts, and like so many other readers, I blamed the ebook itself. No matter who is receiving the blame, the end result is that the reader experience is worse for each and every error in a final product.
Specifically to Escape!, the problem was all the different styles of writing. We had twenty different authors from varying backgrounds contributing to the manuscript, and as it turned out, we had many different styles of starting a new line and indenting a paragraph. First, let me tell you the “right way”. If you can get into the habit of starting each new line of your story by simply pressing ENTER-TAB, then you will save yourself a ton of hassle down the road when you go to format your manuscript.
This might seem like a silly thing to worry about, but it will turn out to be a big deal when publishing your book. Ebooks are just mindless computers displaying information exactly as they have been told. To your e-reader, all you have written is a series of keystrokes. It doesn’t really care about words or grammar. It’s been told to display something based on the information it’s been given, and hitting the space bar several times is different than one tap of the tab key. Pressing enter when you just want the same paragraph to continue on the next line means something completely different than just writing your sentences back to back.
Your published ebook is meant to be dynamic
Despite my distaste for ebooks, I realize their benefits. They have the ability to alter text sizes for different visual abilities. They can change the font for reader preference. Links to websites, blogs, and other works with which the author wishes to associate can be plugged directly into the script. Pictures can change placement and size depending on screen size. And the final product can be read on something as small as a cell phone and as large as a television screen. With print, what you see is what you get.
So when you’re producing the final manuscript for your ebook, remember that you aren’t actually giving your publishing program of choice your final product, you’re giving it the starting point for how you generally want your ebook to appear when readers open it. You don’t have control over what words will and will not wrap around a paragraph because you don’t know how large every reader will make your text appear. You don’t have control over how far your paragraphs indent because you don’t know how large of a screen each user will have. While formatting, you will have access to simulators (most often displayed as a “Preview” button) that will give you a general idea of what your final product will look like, but these simulators don’t cover everything. The best thing you can do is make your manuscript as clean and well structured with as few keystrokes as possible. Make sure your links work. Make sure your pictures are the right quality. These are things you have control over. But also make sure your paragraphs are consistent in their formatting. And keep it simple. ENTER for a new paragraph. TAB for an indent. One space in between sentences. Nothing more.
Another good, sneaky double-check is to publish your ebook and not tell anyone. Then, download it yourself, or better yet, get a few beta readers with different e-readers to download it, and then search for errors in formatting that would distract your reader. If you find nothing, then congratulations! Tell the world about your ebook! If there are errors, go back and fix them, repeat the process with your betas downloading an updated ebook (by removing the old version from their device and downloading it again). Once it looks great, then you can go on selling your ebook with confidence.
The video below is a great place to start with how to format and upload your book to Amazon, as it points out a few tricks for keeping track of your keystrokes and spacing:
No matter what, take your time. No one becomes a bestseller overnight, so the publication day isn’t something to rush. We here at Writing Bloc want to make the indie publishing experience as great and painless as possible. In that spirit, we will continue this series, giving you any tips and tricks we’ve learned from our own experience and mistakes. Is there anything you need help with or have questions about? Let us know in the comments.
Like anything else, becoming a good writer requires practice. There are no rules for how to practice, but sometimes a little direction feels nice. Books and websites filled with writing prompts help, and there are contests and other challenges that are easily found as well, but far too many of these “services” cost money. I’ve thought for a while that it would be a great resource for writers to have something to inspire practice; an outside source of inspiration and challenge in order to build up those writing muscles.
The Writerly App is free and available for iPhone and iPad only at the moment, which is my only argument against the app. Otherwise, Writerly is a fresh take on writing assistance software. They are a self-advertised “one-stop source of inspiration and information to get your ideas flowing.” It was developed by award-winning fiction writers, creative writing instructors, and literary consultants. The app is filled to overflowing with prompts, information, and guidance for writers of any level of experience.
Writerly takes a fun approach toward developing your writing while using an educated background. The entire app is built on the concept of writers working with two fundamental elements during the writing process: Creativityand Craft. Creativity is the basic flow of ideas, the burst of inspiration, the transformation of thoughts into words. Craft is taking the work accomplished during the creativity phase and analyzing it, transforming it into a developed piece of writing that is more enjoyable to the readers. Writerly acknowledges this mental struggle between creator and editor in the writer’s mind.
By separating these concepts, Writerly aims to improve your writing by offering exercises, games, and quests in order to help stimulate your inner creator, and then offering other exercises to help you get the most out of your inner editor. The app blends these exercises together in order to get these two parts of your mind to cooperate, the result being an improvement in your ability to express those amazing story ideas you get on a daily basis.
Writerly is for everyone
There is no restriction on who would benefit from writerly. It is an open-ended app. The app does not offer a word processor, meaning it does not force you to be restricted. If you prefer to type in Word, you still can. If you prefer to use a beautiful fountain pen on expensive parchment, the app still works for you. It is intended to accompany your current preferred method of creation, not replace it.
Part of Writerly encourages you to abandon the keyboard in favor of pen and paper, and I find the reasoning interesting. The creators argue that our electronic devices connect us with other people on a constant basis. We are often interrupted by other things and other needs when we are using a phone or computer as a creation tool. Paper, they argue, allows us to have a direct and uninterrupted connection with our own thoughts. Additionally, electronic devices have delete buttons that are far too tempting to use during the creative process. Deletion is technically editing. By writing with pen and paper, the writer still has access to his or her “mistakes,” just in case they become useful later on. They call using the delete button “censoring your work in its early stages,” which is a painful yet glorious truth to learn. It makes me wonder what ideas I’ve errantly tossed aside while creating.
The creator’s request to use paper is quite specific, actually. They suggest getting three notebooks: one legal sized, one half that size, and one that can fit into your pocket. The large notebook is for ongoing projects, such as stories, projects, or all of your writerly exercises. The medium notebook is for notes and quick ideas, or even dreams and random thoughts. They recommend keeping this notebook at the bedside. The small notebook is so you don’t miss any random inspiration or fragments of ideas while away from your writing spot.
Give your storytelling an exercise routine
Writerly App is a free app with a noble cause: to inspire and hone the craft of writing in anyone interested. It is well organized, easy to use, and the information and exercises are supported by years of experience. I plan on using the app as often as possible, as it will only serve to make me better at my craft.
While on the subject of writing, I found this video on “The Mystery of Storytelling” to be quite enriching. It is told from the perspective of a literary agent. Enjoy:
We all need an editor. Sure, asking friends or family can help, but sometimes you need an impartial set of eyes to look over your work. Having someone else to catch those simple errors or mistakes in flow is necessary for any writer. Many apps have arrived online over the past few years to help. A mainstay has been the Hemingway App, and with good reason.
The homepage of hemingwayapp.com greets you with beautiful simplicity. Everything the app does is explained in neat text on one screen. Read everything there, and you know how to use the app. Proceed, and begin editing.
Hemingway Keeps it Simple
At its core, the Hemingway App is a simple word processor. You can turn off all its editing tools by clicking on “write” in the upper right-hand corner. Once you do, the app gives you a simple distraction-free place to compose. Simple formatting tools line up across the top of the screen, and the composition area is in the center. The simplest options are the only ones available, though. No extensive font choices, no limitless point sizes, no colors. If you want more extensive for your writing process, you are welcome to copy and paste the text from any other file. Once you do, though, your text will revert to Hemingway’s font and size. This may annoy you, but it shouldn’t. The editing process is about the words, not the frills. You can reinsert all the fancy stuff after you pass through this process.
Once you finish writing, no matter where you do it, it is time to click on the “edit” button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This will engage the real power of the Hemingway App.
The Power of Editing Mode
With editing mode engaged, your text becomes colorful, and a stats bar appears on the right side. This area of the screen displays the value of the app. The first thing you see is the “readability” of your writing, measured in grade level. This is based upon sentence structure and level of vocabulary used. Contrary to what you might think, the lower the grade level, the better. Ernest Hemingway’s own writing and books have been analyzed, and the consensus is that his most popular works are at a 4th to 6th grade reading level.
Why is this important? Why not try to make your writing be at a 12th grade level? The answer lies in your audience. Just because you are writing at a simpler level to read does not mean that your message has to be simplified. For example, why say “I am attracted to you in such a manner that is virtually unidentifiable in description other than to say that I feel this way toward no other human being on this or any other planet in the universe, past or present,” when you can say “I love you”? Keep it simple. If more people can understand your writing, then more people will read your writing. It’s as simple as that. The app only gives you a warning when your writing is at the 12th grade level, which should be reserved for academic papers.
A Plethora of Useful Stats
Below the readability analysis, a drop-down box of basic stats appears. This gives you facts about your writing that you may or may not find useful. If you do not find these stats useful, everything but the word count can be hidden from view.
Below the stats area is the bread and butter of the Hemingway App. A legend of five colors appears, corresponding to the highlighted portions of your writing. These are five important areas to focus on when reviewing and editing. The app can discover adverbs, use of passive voice, phrases or words with simpler alternatives, hard to read sentences, and very hard to read sentences. These areas are highlighted in your text, and the color-coded boxes on the right display statistics with suggestions inside.
For example, the app is not telling you to cut all adverbs, but it will suggest that you bring your count of adverbs down below a certain number relative to the length of your writing. Sometimes, the app misses things. Other times, the app highlights words that end in “ly” that are not adjectives. It’s not quite perfect, but it catches at least 95% of these typical problems in writing.
You Still Have Control
The app will not correct things for you. You still have to do the work, which is how it should be. It will suggest simpler alternatives for the words and phrases highlighted in purple, but that is the most direct way in which the app will intervene. Whether to take the app’s advice is completely up to the writer. But chances are, you will perform many edits based upon the Hemingway App’s suggestions.
The app can handle a tremendous amount of script, too. I’ve copied and pasted up to 75,000 words of text into the editor and it analyzed it in seconds. Quite impressive.
The online app is free to use, as well. The only drawback is that it will not save your work. To get that feature, you can buy the desktop version of the app, which goes for $19.99 and works for both Mac and PC. The desktop app comes with many benefits, including the ability to import and export to and from the most popular types of text files. Also, the app now has the option to publish your writing directly to your account on either Medium or WordPress.
With its simplicity and power, I find the Hemingway App to be an essential tool in my writing arsenal.
Here are before and after shots of this very article, as I used the Hemingway App to edit it:
If you’re curious to learn more, here is an incredible video about Hemingway’s style and how it influenced the creation of the Hemingway App:
It’s that time of the year when reading challenges are popping up on lots of blogs. There are so many great ones and I especially love the emphasis I’m seeing on underrepresented voices. As someone who’s gotten more serious about my writing in the last year, I’ve realized that this means getting more serious about reading.
As a kid, I’d sometimes go through a book a day– Goosebumps or Babysitter’s Club. In high school, I devoured my English class reading lists, always reading ahead of the class in 1984 or 100 Years of Solitude. Though I continued to read after graduation, the demands of college, then grad school, then parenthood slowed my pace waaaay down. Now I’ve been intetionally kicking it back into gear. If you’re a writer who, like me, wants to read to improve their writing, I’ve created this challenge for YOU– I hope it encourages you to push your limits with reading in a way that maximizes your efforts and deepens your involvement in the writing community!
Beta read for another writer This will be more than worth the effort when you have a beta reader for your own book. It’s also incredibly helpful to see books in their unpolished form. Plus, won’t it be cool to be on someone’s acknowledgments page?
Want to improve your writing? Learn another language!
I know. You might be saying, “But…writing in English is hard enough. Why would I waste my time with any other language?”
It’s simple, really. Writing, as with any intense activity, is best performed after a good warm up. Your brain is about to produce a story, poem, or anything else creative from scratch. Your fingers need to warm up, your mind needs to get into writing mode, and your body needs to get used to whatever position it will stay in over the next few minutes…or hours.
I find it best not to launch right into my story or main project immediately after sitting down to write. It feels heavier and more like a chore if I don’t warm up with another activity first. Personally, I am focused on writing a novel, and I used to warm up with a quick poem or limerick – something to get the fingers moving across the keyboard and get my mind in the mood.
But now I’ve found that studying a language before writing is an excellent way to become a better writer, and here are nine reasons why:
1) It’s free.
There is a remarkable program online called DuoLingo. It is a completely free website for learning another language. Once you create an account, you can study anywhere at any time, as there is also a free mobile app. The languages offered include Spanish, German, French, Welsh, Russian, and a constantly grow number of other language courses. Users can even contribute to the construction of these courses (which is exactly why they have a Klingon course!) Each language course is packed with skills for individual practice, including writing, translating, and pronunciation (with your microphone on your computer or mobile device active). DuoLingo also offers comprehensive quizzes, immersion projects for translating articles on the internet, community clubs, and an extremely user-friendly interface.
2) It will challenge your perspective on language.
What makes writing interesting and beautiful is how each individual author manipulates language. The rules of the English language can often seem restrictive. But after playing around with the different verb tenses and sentence formations of another language, your mind begins to accept the fact that there are nearly endless ways to express yourself. Plus, while learning another language, you begin to find the words that are similar between tongues, giving your brain quicker access to synonyms and other descriptors you might not have thought about otherwise. In a similar vein, some words are so completely different in other languages that seeing and hearing a simple sentence become something 100% new will challenge your brain to rethink the basics. Never let go of your appreciation for simpler words and phrases.
3) It will demonstrate new rhythms of speaking.
Rhythm is important in writing. If the cadence is too dull or repetitive in your work, then the reader will become bored and lose focus. Making the words flow in a pattern that is pleasing to read is a talent that must be honed in order to become a quality writer. Each language has its own natural rhythm and tonal structure, and learning another language is similar to learning an old song on a brand new instrument. Everything is suddenly brand new.
4) It doesn’t have to be difficult.
With DuoLingo, the lessons are already set out for you. You just open up the program and click on whatever skill you want to either learn or improve upon. The interface is extremely user friendly, and they have rewards and achievements to keep you motivated along the way.
5) It will train your fingers to rethink the keyboard.
This seems silly to say if you are a proficient typist, however, all skills have room for improvement. Typing letters in different arrangements with new punctuation and capitalization is a good way to make typing in your native tongue seem effortless. Face it, once you’ve mastered putting um lauts and tildes in their proper places, then typing a simple English language story will become all the more simple to do.
6) You will gain new perspective on old idioms and proverbs.
Every part of the world has a different perspective, of course. As a writer, understanding other perspectives is invaluable. When learning another language, you start understanding another culture’s perspective as you decipher their sentence structure and word choice. It’s quite fun, actually. For example, in Spanish, “Let bygones be bygones” is said colloquially as “Borrón y cuenta nueva,” which is closer to “clearance and new account.” Interesting, right?
7) It will improve your awareness of your own language.
The skills in DuoLingo are separated mostly into the the different existing parts of speech. Because of these divisions, the user gains an increased awareness of the different parts of speech of their own language. With skill divisions such as determiners, participles, future perfect tense, and modal verbs, the user indirectly gets lessons regarding the many pieces and parts that make up the English language as well.
8) It opens up the world.
As a writer, keeping an awareness and an appreciation for multiple perspectives is imperative. Language is the basis for all communication, and communication is the basis of world interpretation. When creating characters for a story, each character must have their own voice, background, and perspective in order to seem genuine. Learning another language is an excellent exercise in perspective that is not offered any other way.
9) You will learn another language.
With time and dedicated study, you might actually find yourself being able to communicate with millions of other people around the world. Americans are particularly bad about expecting everyone else to know how to speak their own language, and American writers could benefit from the loss of a comfort zone that comes with speaking in another language. As a writer, you should feel comfortable with words. To help this, try replacing your set of vocabulary with a completely different set. I’m betting that once you start, you’ll enjoy the challenge.
The video below introduces DuoLingo, for those who are interested.
Writing itself should be a simple task. All you have to do is put one word after the other, form sentences, form ideas, and make everything you’ve done come together into one great work that is sure to express your heart and soul exactly as you intended. But that’s not really writing. That’s writing and editing put together.
With all of the details, heart, emotion, ideals, characters, love, and everything in between that is invested in even the simplest of fiction pieces, sometimes the task of writing can feel so insurmountable that simply getting started can seem impossible. Other times, continuing an idea that has already been started is even more difficult.
Some enjoy calling these difficulties “writer’s block,” and most proposed solutions involve doing things other than simply writing. What keeps those first few words, no matter how flawed they may be, from flowing onto the page is simple doubt. Doubt is the writer’s worst enemy; however, doubt is simply a large amount of misplaced energy. If the writer could take the energy being put into doubt and convert it into an outrageous stream of productivity, then that would be something.
Getting the words out is the only true form of writing. You are either writing or you are not. If you are unable to write because you want the words to be perfect right out of the gate, then you are trying to write and edit simultaneously, and this can cause writer’s block, a lack of productivity, and doubt. Staring that blank page down and allowing doubt to wash over you prevents the all too essential first draft from being born. If only there were a way to force a writer to quit stalling and dish out that first draft without looking back…
Most writers might think it insane to use an app that erases everything you have written if you stop writing for five seconds. And at its core, that’s all Flowstate does.
That’s right: Everything you’ve written, no matter how long you’ve been writing for, gets permanently erased if you stop writing in Flowstate.
It might be disguised in what sounds to be an evil premise, but I maintain that Flowstate is the first draft’s best friend. Flowstate is simple in both its layout and its function. Basically, it’s a basic, yet beautifully sleek, word processor. The program gives you five fonts to pick from and a blank page. No other frills or distractions. What makes Flowstate unique and, in my opinion, wonderful, is that there is only one other main function you must choose prior to writing a document: how long you will be writing for. The timing starts at five minutes and goes for as long as 180 minutes (for the truly crazy ones out there). So once you title your document, pick a font and a time, you are ready to go.
Simple setup, horrifying premise, but great results.
Flowstate gives you a blank page with the time you’ve chosen in the upper right corner. As soon as you begin writing, the timer begins counting down. Type away as quickly or slowly as you’d like, but if you stop making keystrokes, your entire document begins to fade away and will disappear completely if you do not press a key within five seconds. Let five seconds run out, and all of your work is gone. There’s no safety net, no autosave. It’s just gone. Forever.
Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? Because it’s brilliant. Do you need to write and you keep putting it off? Do you need to complete your first draft but you keep questioning your story? Are you easily distracted when you should be writing? Well, then Flowstate has a tremendously effective answer. As opposed to other software that simply attempts to block out distractions, Flowstate directly threatens your progress should you not keep going and get to your work. It forces you to focus by holding your work hostage.
You earn the right to save and edit.
Once the timer runs out you can continue typing, knowing that all of your hard work will (thankfully!) be saved. You can then return to it and edit it, or export your work to another format altogether. Go on, you’ve earned it.
Although being threatened while being creative might not be for everyone, I find it to be exhilarating. If I only have ten minutes to write, then I can set my timer in Flowstate and know that I will use that ten minutes to its fullest.
The app is available in the Apple Mac Store for $9.99 or in the App Store for $4.99, and both apps synchronize together over the iCloud so you can edit any of your drafts anywhere. While $5-$10 can seem like a bit of money for a simple app, you are making an investment in your creativity that can certainly payoff quickly and change what you thought you knew about your writing process.
Here is a helpful video that shows how the app basically works:
Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology is available for preorder now for your favorite ebook format (the Kindle link is separate, just click here)! The ebook is only $2.99 during this preorder phase, which is a steal for all of the stories you get from the amazing authors below. On New Year’s Day, the price goes up to $5.99, so grab your ebook today! Be sure to check out all of the author bios below, visit their sites, preorder Escape! An Anthology, and get the book to download automatically to your e-reader on New Year’s Day! Keep your eye out for the upcoming announcement about the print version…details coming soon!
For now, cheers to all these wonderful authors for their contributions to this amazing collection of short stories!
Jason Pomerance, Author of “Mrs. Ravenstein”
Jason Pomerance has written film and television projects for numerous studios and production companies, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, FremantleMedia, and Gold Circle Films. His first novel, Women Like Us, published by the Quill imprint of Inkshares, debuted in 2016, and his novella Falconer was published in four parts on Nikki Finke’s site for showbiz fiction, Hollywood Dementia. He’s currently working on a new novel. Visit Jason at www.jasonpomerance.com, or on Instagram (@whowantsdinner), and Twitter (@whowantsdinner — and yes, Jason is always hungry!).
Susan K. Hamilton is the author of Shadow King, Darkstar Rising, and the forthcoming The Devil Inside. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Rio. An avid equestrian, when she’s not tapping away at a computer, chances are you’ll find her at the barn. She loves fun movies, pizza, and pretty much any furry creature on the planet, and is currently working on a new, follow-up project to Shadow King.
Michael Haase is the author of the forthcoming book, The Man Who Stole the World, to be published by Inkshares. Michael is a happy husband, father, musician, and spontaneous comedian who does nerdy stuff like study computer programming in his spare time. He lives intentionally near Cleveland, believe it or not
Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has traveled much of the world. While on the move, he has done a variety of jobs, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai.
Deborah Munro is a scientist and biomedical engineer from Oregon who recently expatriated to New Zealand. She is passionate about writing, especially hard science thrillers that engage readers on current issues.
Durena Burns currently lives in Southern California and has worked for special education in elementary. She mostly writes biographical stories about her family. Her first published book ‘Call Me Whitehead’ is about her late uncle’s experiences as a black man in the Vietnam War.
Ferd Crôtte is an Internal Medicine hospitalist physician and is the author of ‘Captiveedom’ in this anthology. His debut novel, Mission 51, is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd and his wife Gail live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Christopher Lee is the independent author of Nemeton and Bard Song. Outside of his gig as an author, he is an avid history buff, amateur mythologist, bardic poet, Holistic Life Coach, Reiki Master/Teacher, Mindfulness Practitioner, and keeper of the old ways.
Christopher lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two cats.
Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed sit-com ideas. Brought up in Scotland and England, he worked as a script analyst for gap finance company Aramid Capital, and has written many award-winning screenplays.
Born in the backwoods of West Virginia, Chris Hinkle is a country boy down to his molecular structure. He now lives in New Zealand where he works for the Government and puts forth a reasonable effort at masking his inner-hick for the benefit of those around him.
Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes.
Michael James Welch is a proud Western New Yorker, an even prouder snowflake, and above all, husband and father to a wonderful family. His first novel, PrOOF, will be published by Inkshares in 2019-20. He feasts on your derision and bathes nightly in your disdain.
Cari Dubiel juggles writing, librarian-ing, mom-ing, and bassooning in Northeast Ohio. Her novel, How to Remember, is in production with Inkshares. She is a past Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime and the co-host of the ABC Book Reviews Podcast.
Grace Marshall is an author, mother, and TV enthusiast. She writes technical documentation as her primary profession but has also been known to post randomly on her site escapeoftheinnermonlogue.com.
Daniel Lee, Author of “A Grave Ordeal”
Daniel Lee is the author of the novel AFTER DEATH, which won First Place in the Nerdist Sci-Fi Contest and is forthcoming from Inkshares. He lives in Los Angeles, where he makes his living as an editor of movie trailers. See more of his work at Dan-Lee.net
Patrick Edwards, Author of “Wendell, Wendell, & Wendell”
When he’s not busy mushing words into silly stories, Pat spends his time battling inter-dimensional shadow monsters and having tea parties with his two daughters. His debut novel, Space Tripping, is currently available wherever books are sold. Check him out on Twitter @ThePatEdwards
Kendra Namednil was born in Northern California and began writing when she was 26, publishing her first full novel at 30. She has volunteered for many organizations, though her greatest joy was working with behavior-plan dogs with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.