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Anthology News News

The Submission Period for 2020’s DECEPTION! Anthology NOW OPEN!

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.

To Apply:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

Then click below to pay the submission fee:

More about Writing Bloc’s anthology series:

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.

Cover for Escape! An Anthology by The Writing Bloc

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:

I. Who

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.

II. What

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.  

III. Where

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.

IV. When

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.

V. How

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.

VI. Why

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.

E. Our privacy policy is openly visible at writingbloc.com/privacy-policy/

F. Any and all questions regarding Inclusion and Diversity at Writing Bloc may be presented to [email protected]

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Guest Post Writing Help Writing Life

Free Writing Workshop Available on the Hubbub Blog

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!

Get started here: Kickstarts! (Week 1)

Brittney Cassity is an Author and Illustrator based out of West Virginia. Be sure to check out her website in the breaks during your workshop: https://brittneycassity.weebly.com/

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Software Review Writing Life

Why I Love Using The Hemingway Editor App

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 9.51.47 PM.jpg

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.

New 2.jpg

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:


Before

 


After

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:

Related Links:

Hemingway editor App

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Writing Life

Writing Bloc’s New Year’s 2019 Writing Resolutions

It’s a new year, and at Writing Bloc we’re taking the opportunity to set some intentions for 2019, both as a group and individually as writers. Expect Writing Bloc to grow throughout the year as we continue to find additional ways to support the writing community. We checked in with a few of our contributors on what their goals are for 2019. Also, don’t forget to check out Becca’s Writers as Readers Challenge.

Becca’s 2019 Writing Resolutions

My writing resolutions are to finish the edits for Rock of Ages, do a second draft of my second novel or draft a third, and read– a lot. The edits bit is hard since it depends on pleasing someone else. It’s not something entirely in my control. And I know it will be hard to pull myself away from RoA to focus on something else but I’m sure it will also be refreshing. I learned last year how important keeping up my reading habit is for improving my writing, and I’m upping my goal to 24 books this year.
Having three big goals is a bit overwhelming, so I’m really just pushing myself to work every day, even if it’s just a little bit. I think (and hope) that if I just keep going, I’ll get to everything.

Cari’s 2019 Writing Resolutions

At the end of 2018, I learned that my adjunct professor gig for spring 2019 was going to a doctoral student. While I hope to be teaching again in the summer or fall, I’m trying to look at this as an unexpected gift of time. I am on my third draft of How to Remember, and I’d like to turn that in during the first quarter of the year. I’m also finishing the first draft of my second novel, The Enigma Variations. I signed up for a “Book in a Week” challenge – actually, that’s next week! So we’ll see how many words I can knock out then. I’m looking forward to editing another anthology with Writing Bloc as well. On a personal note – I’m kind of a workaholic, with a plate that’s more than full most days. My goal is to be easier on myself this year, leaving some space for discovery and wonder.

Jacqui’s 2019 Writing Resolutions

2018 was a big year for me as a writer. My first novel The Seclusion hit shelves, I completed NaNoWriMo in November, I started co-hosing WordPlay Radio in Asheville NC, and I teamed up with five of the most authentic, amazing people I’ve ever met to play a hand in starting Writing Bloc.  From beginning to end, 2018 felt like a whirlwind. A positive whirlwind, but still one that left me struggling to remember what routine looks like. In 2019 I would like to slow down, and bring more intention to my writing. I am going to aim to read every day for ten to twenty minutes before I begin to write, and write by hand every day. I’m easily distracted…. sorry let me log off of twitter here and finish this thought…. and I find that when I write by hand the words flow more easily. On a personal note, I’m also going to strive to cut down on the whole caffeine addiction thing.

Michael’s 2019 Writing Resolutions

After allowing myself a good reflection on 2018, I realized that it was an enormous year that started with struggles but finished strong (I’ve detailed it somewhat in my most recent blog post). The reason I finished strong was thanks to gathering a great group of positive friends and influences around me with Writing Bloc. Thus, my first resolution is to keep that momentum going. I will stay heavily involved in Writing Bloc and push this thing to be as big and helpful to other writers as I can make it. Of course, my major writing goal is to finish my novel, The Man Who Stole The World, and I’m pushing myself with that already. Otherwise, I will continue to read a ton, write even more, and push away the negative. 2019 will be a great year, I have no doubt.

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Uncategorized

The 2019 Writer’s Reading Challenge

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!

  1. 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?
  2. Craft book
    My favorite is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  3. Reread a book that inspired you to become a writer
  4. A “bad” book
    Don’t spend a lot of time on this one, but it can be nice to both give your brain a break and remind yourself of things you don’t want to do.
  5. A comparable title to your work in progress
  6. A fiction book with a similar setting
  7. A nonfiction book with a similar setting
  8. Read something out loud
    This is a nice way to really slow down and absorb the language of a book.
  9. A recent bestseller or breakout title in your genre
  10. A classic of your genre
    Something you’re embarassed not to have read yet. Maybe the book everyone says, “Oooh, like ______?” when you tell them about your own work.
  11. Something independently published
  12. The published book of a writer friend
  13. A book that’s been on your to-read list for a long time
    Get rid of the block that’s been stopping you from reading other things!
  14. A book by a woman of color (1)
  15. A book by a woman of color (2)
  16. A book by a woman of color (3)
    Don’t skimp! I want you to read (at least!) three of them!
  17. A book by an LGBTQ author
  18. A book renowned for beautiful language
  19. A book renowned for its social message
  20. Something out in 2019 that you preorder
  21. Something out in 2019 that you buy on publication day
  22. A book recommended by, or named as an influence on, a favorite author

You get an extra point for each review you write and each tweet or email you send to an author! Share your progress with #WritersReading2019 and Have fun!

 

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Lists Software Review Writing Life

How Learning Another Language Will Improve Your Writing

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.

duolingo mobile app interface, three screens

2) It will challenge your perspective on language.

Nvidia StoreWhat 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.

Related link:

http://www.duolingo.com

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Software Review Writing Life

Review of Flowstate: “The Most Dangerous Writing App”

Writing and editing are two different things.

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…


Enter Flowstate.

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:



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So You’re a NaNoWriMo Revision Rebel?

Though you’ve likely heard of NaNoWriMo, you may not know about NaNo Rebels. These are writers who participate in the month-long writing marathon, but don’t follow the rules. They may write essays or nonfiction instead of novels, they may set a word count other than 50,000. They may work on more than one project at once. Or they may revise instead of writing something new. Since I’m knee-deep in the edits for Rock of Ages, if I participate in NaNoWrimo this November, it will be as a rebel. I love the excitement of the month and the tools the program offers, but other than posts on the site’s forums and a few blog posts, I haven’t found tons of resources for participating as a rebel. If you’re planning to use the month to revise, read on for my plan.

Using the Word Tracker

This is the main topic of discussion amongst revision rebels. How do you translate 50,000 words into editing? People tend to do one of a few things:

  • Words processed- Count each word of your old manuscript that you go through
  • Words in the new version- Count the words in your revised work, even if some are copied and pasted or only changed a little bit. These first two are useful if you’re working on a new vomit draft.
  • Daily work- Some people aim to work on their revisions each day for the month. Each day you work, add 1667 words to your count.
  • Time- 1 hour= 500 words, 1 hour= 1000 words, 1 hour= 1667 words, etc. Since I’m trying to slow down and be more deliberate for this draft, this is likely the way I’ll go, though I haven’t decided my time to words ratio yet. A bonus to using this method is that you can count things like research toward your goal. It also leaves room to go over the same passage multiple times without hindering your word count.

Word Sprints

Word sprints are one of the most helpful tools for me when I’m aiming for quantity. These timed sprints often take place on Twitter, but you can do them with a writing friend, too! They help you circumvent your inner editor and get the words flowing. If you’re trying to summon your inner editor, though, you don’t want to suppress her. Here are some ways to harness the energy of a word sprint if you’re revising:

  • If you’re counting words processed or words in your new version, go ahead and race! You can always go back and edit your edits whe the sprint is done.
  • Use it as a focus tool. Ban yourself from looking at or doing anything else for the five, ten, or twenty minutes of the sprint. Even if you just sit there staring at your manuscript, don’t give in to distraction for the set amount of time. Maybe you’ll get something done, or maybe you’ll give your brain enough of a rest that you’ll be able to focus more afterwards.
  • Use it as a break. Give yourself the time of the sprint to work on something new or to do some stream of consciousness writing. You won’t feel guilty that you aren’t getting your revision done because, hey, it’s just a few minutes, and the excitement of writing will likely re-energize you when you return to your draft.
  • Use it for character or world building work. Use the time to write freely about a character’s arc, a scene from their childhood, or a discussion between two of your characters. Write a scene from your world that isn’t in the book. Describe how part of it looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes. Write one of your scenes without people. Write one from a different character’s point of view. All of this will help you shape your actual manuscript even if it doesn’t end up in the final version of your book.

Rejoice, Rebel!

Don’t feel guilty about being a revision rebel. NaNoWriMo is a tool to help with your writing. If it’s working for you, then you’re participating, even if you aren’t doing the classic 50,000 new words in 30 days. One of the best parts is the community! So gather your friends, attend a write in, enjoy the forums and the Twitter chat. Sense the buzz in the air that is the worldwide writing community feeling motivated and excited. Happy Almost NaNoWriMo!

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Review: Margaret Atwood’s Master Class

When Masterclass.com offered me an all-access pass, I was thrilled! I’d had my eye on the Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing course for a while and was so excited to take it! Atwood is a legend, and especially as a woman novelist, a role model.

I was not disappointeded– her Master Class is an amazing opportunity to glimpse her creative process and hone your craft.

This being my first Master Class, the first thing I noticed as I began the first of the 23 video lessons was the production quality. The videos are much like short documentaries and include music, photos from Atwood’s life, drawings, and visuals of her books as she speaks about them. These are no simple tutorials, but rather high quality mini films.

The next thing I noticed was Atwood’s laugh. Equal parts wise, mischievious, innocent, and reassuring, her thin lipped grin accentuates her cheeks in a way that makes it impossiblle not to smirk with her. It appears at the best moments throughout the course, when Atwood imparts wisdom that feels a bit conspiratorial. I loved it.

Things slowed down a bit then, and it took me a while to ease into the flow of the course. As I watched the first two lessons, the information felt basic, not unlike other writing courses I have taken before. I wondered if the course would just be several videos of generic writing advice and frankly, felt a little disappointed.

As she began lesson three, on story and plot, though, I realized that the issue was not the course but rather my expectations. Since finishing graduate school in 2011, I’ve approached learniing from a pragmatic standpoint. I want information, steps, and practical tips. Much of this Master Class, though, is more like my liberal arts background. Atwood discusses a technique and then suggests examples of literature, everything from her own work to classics to modern works, that you can read to get a sense of that technique.

I quickly realized that this was not a Ted Talk, meant to expose a quick secret to improve my writing, but rather a channel for deep study and contemplation, guided by, that’s right– a master. Once I understood this, I fell in love with the course– I hadn’t realized how much I had missed this kind of learning– the reading and discussing kind.

Further into the course, Atwood does get into those technical, more straightforward details, so those who really are just looking for that will be happy too.

The class workbook, with a chapter for each lesson, is a fantastic addition. The PDFs summarize the lesson and offer exercises and readings. The student discussion area is active and supportive, though at the time I took the course, it seemed Atwood had not yet responded to any questions submitted in the “Office Hours” section.

Really, I’d suggest taking this course at least twice– once to take it in, to get a feel for it, and then again more slowly, taking the time to do the assignments and the suggested readings, as if you were taking a college level course.

I finished the class a few days ago and already, after a chat with my editor this morning, I’ve thought, “Oh, I need to go back to the lesson on descriptive prose. And the one on switching points of view!” These are lessons you will return to again and again as a writer.

In her farewell video Atwood tells us, with one of her signature smiles, that she is nearing the end of her trajectory. She hopes her class is a way to collect and share the knowledge she has learned over her career. I am so grateful to get to learn from her.

 

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Motivation, Accountability, and Bribery: How I Get My Writing Done

I’ve always been a responsible person. I was a conscientious student from preschool, completing extra worksheets at home with my mom just because I wanted to. This personality train persists today, and is essential for my success as a writer. After all, no one is telling me I have to write a blog post each week other than me. No one has set any deadlines for the rewrite of my novel. It would be next to impossible to write without some amount of self-directed motivation and accountability, and though these seem to come naturally to me, I know they’re really hard for some people. I decided to intentionally consider the roots of these habits and how I cultivate them.

Motivation

At the heart of all of it, is motivation. If you don’t know why you’re writing, you won’t keep writing. For me, it’s a few things: Stories come up from somewhere inside me and I can’t think about anything else until I get them out. The stories need to be told. I want to be recognized as a writer– to have people read my work and be moved, to feel like it speaks to them. I want to hold my own books in my hands. And of course, now that people are waiting for my book, the desire not to disappoint them is a motivator too. If you don’t know why you write or paint or study, or do whatever it is you’re trying to do more of, spend some time thinking about it. Verbalize it. Imagine it. Really let yourself picture what it would feel like to achieve it. Studies show our brains respond the same way to things that are vividly imagined as they do to things we really experience. Get used to the feeling, so that it really feels possible, and come back to it any time your motivation is low.

Accountability

I give myself deadlines and I treat them like external deadlines. I only let myself compromise on them in rare circumstances. Writing down goals is essential for me. I write “write” in my planner every day and cross it off when I meet my goal. If something comes up and I don’t get to my 1000 word goal in the morning like I planned, I stay up that night until I do, even though I’m the only one checking. Investing in yourself requires holding yourself accountable. Don’t give yourself excuses. That being said, make sure your goals are reasonable. They should be challenging yet realistic. If it’s a struggle to meet them every day, they’re too difficult. If you’re meeting them easily every day, they aren’t hard enough.

If you really struggle with keeping internal deadlines, make them external. Sign up for NaNoWriMo or 750Words. Get a writing buddy and check in with each other.

Bribery

Don’t be afraid to bribe yourself. Before I started the rewrite for Rock of Ages, I made a list of milestones in the book and how I would treat myself when I reached them. Everything from coffee at your favorite place to bigger gifts can do the trick.

Is self-directed work hard for you? How  do you keep yourself motivated and accountable? What would you do if you could just make yourself do it? 

 

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