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News podcast

Approaching World-building: Part 2 (Writing Bloc Podcast)

On the most recent episode of the Writing Bloc Podcast, hosts Christopher Lee and Jacqui Castle continue their conversation on world-building, this time with featured award-winning fantasy authors Maximian Held and Joshua Robertson.

In this resource-heavy episode (be sure to jot down some of the great, free resources for world-building we discuss) we dive deep into the nuts and bolts of building a fictional world. Listen below as we discuss everything from drafting habits and organizational styles, to our favorite map-building software!

Resources/links

Joshua Robertson’s website: https://robertsonwrites.com/

Max Held’s work: http://bit.ly/MaxHeldBooks

Aeon Timeline: http://aeontimeline.com/

Archivos: https://www.archivos.digital/

Visit Writing Bloc to sign up for our newsletter, find a copy of our short story anthology, “Escape,” and read detailed articles about the indie author experience: https://writingbloc.com/

Get your very own comfy Writing Goat T-shirt here: http://bit.ly/WritingGoatShirt

Continue the conversation!

Chime in with resources, tips, tricks, and questions on one of our channels: SlackFacebook, and Twitter.

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News podcast

Crowdfunding a Novel (Writing Bloc Podcast)

Have you ever thought about crowdfunding a novel? Are you curious what the process is actually like behind the scenes? Listen to the latest episode of the Writing Bloc Podcast in which authors Becca Spence Dobias, Cari Dubiel, Jacqui Castle, and guest Jason Stokes talk honestly and openly about their experiences crowdfunding – the good, the bad, the inspiring, the deflating. ALL OF IT! Listen below:

Resources/Links

The current projects from Jason’s Gestalt Media: http://gestalt-media.com/projects

The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Becca’s successfully funded book, Rock of Ageshttps://www.inkshares.com/books/rock-of-ages

Cari’s successfully funded book, How to Rememberhttps://www.inkshares.com/books/how-to-remember

Crowdfunding platforms: Inkshares, UnboundKickstarter, and Indiegogo

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podcast Writing Help

Approaching World-Building: Featuring Author Rachael Sparks (Writing Bloc Podcast Episode 3)

The third episode of our Writing Bloc podcast is now live over on Podbean (or via the embedded player below). This time, the amazing Rachael Sparks, author of the hard sci-fi thriller “Resistant,” discusses the art of world-building with your hosts, Christopher Lee and AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR Jacqui Castle. There’s plenty in this episode to enjoy, from a discussion of different world-building approaches and resources to another appearance from the Writing Goat.

Resources/links

Digitized resources from the New York Public Library: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/

The Novel Factory: https://www.novel-software.com/

World-Building Warrior: https://www.well-storied.com/worldbuilding-warrior

Get your own Writing Goat T-Shirt HERE: http://bit.ly/WritingGoatShirt

Continue the conversation!

Chime in with resources, tips, tricks, and questions on one of our channels: Slack, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Guest Post Writing Help Writing Life

An Idea is Born: Guest Post by Author John Jamison

Good news! I am about to give you permission to sit down, watch movies, and spend time wandering around on the Internet. The best part? You can call the entire time “research.” And I am going to answer the question I am asked more than any other: “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s something anyone can do who is willing to spend that time watching movies and web pages.

Yesterday after lunch, I turned on the television and came across the 60’s movie, “Psych-Out”, featuring a very young Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasburg, and Gary Marshall. Gary Marshall? Yeah, that caught my eye, too, so I opened the IMBD page on my iPad and started reading. One paragraph explained how Strasberg and Nicholas had been nervous about some of their scenes and calmed themselves down by discussing Reichian therapy which they had both experienced. Apparently, it was some kind of cosmic, bio-energy thing, but new to me. I opened a new window to the Wikipedia page for Reichian Therapy.

I read that William Reich was a student of Freud, but had then developed theories about a mind-body energy related to sexuality. My highly oversimplified understanding was that Reich believed that our mental and physical health was connected to a ‘cosmic’ energy that Freud called the libido, or sex drive. Repression of our sexual urges led to illness, mental and physical. It sounded like one of those things that would be in a 60’s movie. Reich built on his theory, identified that cosmic energy as something he called ‘orgone’, and created devices called “orgone accumulators” that would help us decrease our sexual tensions and improve our overall health. He also created a form of therapy called “Vegetotherapy”, which I’ll simply say violated the established ‘distance’ between patient and therapist. His work was banned in Germany, and in the U.S. he was eventually determined to be a fake, was thrown out of various groups, had his books and research confiscated, was arrested, and died in prison in 1957.

No, nothing much so far. Interesting stuff, but not the kind of material that great ideas come from. Then, I opened this morning’s New York Times obituaries.

I read that Mary Boyd Higgins died at age 93, after serving for sixty years as the Director of the William Reich Trust, the William Reich Museum, and the Orgone Energy Observatory that is on the National Register of Historic Places in Maine. As I read the obituary, I recognized things from what I had read yesterday, but there was more detail. For example, it explained that the reason Reich’s material had been banned in Germany was that he explained that Fascism and dictatorships were the result of sexual repression and not at all a healthy thing. Nazi Germany did not agree. And I read that, in 1954 in the U.S., after reviewing Reich’s 789 page FBI file, a Federal Judge wrote: “any journal or pamphlet that mentioned orgone “shall be destroyed,” that all orgone accumulators be destroyed, and that all copies of Dr. Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld” from circulation until such references were redacted.”

My neurons began to fire. I found it interesting that Reich was one of the few men I’ve heard of to be banned and have his books burned in both Nazi Germany and the United States. What bothered me the most was that line in the judge’s ruling that said any of Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld from circulation until such references were redacted.” One word? What was so dangerous about one word that might cause two groups who had completely different worldviews to link arms like that? What was it about “orgone” that made it so important that Dr. William Reich be silenced?

And then my mind said, “What if…?”

And that is how ideas are born. What if Reich was right, and the repression of sexual expression and ‘orgone’ does cause people to be less independent and self-actualized and more open to authoritarianism, Fascism, and dictators? What if encouraging sexual repression does help keep people under control, keep them weaker, more compliant, less likely to resist? What if there are groups ‘out there’ who know this secret and have been the drivers behind the cultural battles relating to sexuality and sexual expression? What if our entire medical health care system could be…What if…?

I may never know the answers to those questions, and honestly, I’ll leave that task to others. My goal was to find an idea to explore. My goal was to find a “What if…?”

Some may say that this experience was all a great coincidence, and I was just lucky to have the movie, Wikipedia, and obituary show-up like they did. Yes, it may well have been coincidence. But I am convinced that the more pieces and bits of information I pick-up and store in my mind, the more frequently those little idea-creating coincidences are going to occur.

Now, I need to go see what’s on television.

John Jamison is a life-long believer in the power of stories. First as a pastor, then educator, creator of Centers for Innovation at multiple universities, Director of a national Game and Simulation academic degree program, a consultant for e-learning and brand development, John has used the power of story to bring about serious change and have some fun in the process. John grew-up in a small river-town in Illinois, and describes his childhood as “kind of Tom Sawyer-ish with a blend of Wizard of Oz.” John says, “I grew up in a family of storytellers and liars, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out which was which.”

Mr. Jamison’s Website: https://pops.jamisonbooks.com/

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Guest Post Uncategorized

Timing, Reveal, & Appeal: Genre Conventions in Mystery, Suspense, & Thrillers

Today’s guest post comes from Kimberly Hunt, freelance developmental editor with Revision Division.

Let’s set expectations from the start. I am NOT a writer. Through extensive reading, professional training, and my experience as a developmental editor, I’ve learned the essentials of genres. A novel can contain elements from multiple genres but three components distinguish mystery, horror, and suspense.

They are: Timing, Revealed clues,and the Appeal, of the story to the reader’s emotions.

Any novel needs structural elements with tension provided by formidable conflict and character growth, but when you’re ready to pass your manuscript to a beta-reader, knowing your genre will help you know how best to describe it. Use the following key components to quickly identify if you’ve written a mystery, horror, or suspense novel.

Mystery

  • It’s all about the chase. Drop the reader in after the crime and let the story unravel – revealing the why and who at a moderate pace.
  • The hook in the beginning should establish a question that must be answered by the end.
  • Solve the mystery in the end or there is no story. Even if the criminal gets away, you’re expected to solve the crime.
  • Along the way, your style of writing characters and plot should make demands of the reader’s brain to figure out the puzzle. To help them, leave subtle clues so that it all falls into place in the end. 
  • No cheating – waiting until the end to present a tidy wrap up is not satisfying for readers.

Horror

  • It’s all about fear.
  • Often, a horror story includes themes of bad people or actions (or both) and usually leans toward the morbid.
  • Shocking plot twists are great, but it should be believable. In fact, that’s what makes it so scary.
  • Character motivations are still important even if horror is usually more plot-driven than character-driven. In order to evoke a strong emotional response, the reader must strongly like or hate the character.
  • The sought after emotional response is intense whether it be from fear or shock. Readers should be screaming at the book as they see the evil plot unfold.
  • Many authors embrace disgust head-on without flinching, unafraid to turn your stomach with graphic depiction, but use grossness sparingly as this can be perceived as a lazy trick, much like leaning on coincidence to solve a mystery or fate to wrap up a romance.

Suspense

  • It’s all about tense uncertainty. Suspense involves a main character trying to prevent something from occurring.
  • A reader of suspense novels should feel tightly wound and worried about what may happen.
  • Some authors leverage time limits to increase tension and speed up the pace.
  • If Mystery is about what already happened, and horror is happening now, then suspense is danger about to happen.
  • Similar to Horror, the reader is aware of the danger, perhaps even more aware than the main character.
  • Use your biggest fears against your characters slowly and subtly, leaving a little to the reader’s imagination.

New authors often struggle to categorize their work, but these guidelines should help. A blend of genres is great as strict rules are nonexistent. However, it’s beneficial to know early in the publishing process what your target audience hopes you’re about to deliver. And it’s absolutely mandatory later for marketing effectively when you’re querying or self-publishing.

Kimberly Hunt is a freelance developmental editor with Revision Division, specializing in fiction for self-publishing authors. She’s happy to answer questions about writing and editing but beware as she can go on at length about her passions: reading, running, and volunteering.

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Writing Help Writing Life

Five Reasons To Power Through The Criticism And Just Write

So you’re thinking of writing a book, but you keep telling yourself that you shouldn’t. There’s always a thousand reasons not to, so I see where you’re coming from. Writing a book is hard, it takes a lot of time, it’s not a lot of financial reward for the amount of time spent, you most likely won’t get a professional publishing deal that will sweep you away from your day job, people will criticize your work, you might get writer’s block…the list goes on and on and on…

The criticism alone might stifle your first thoughts of writing and working through that story. The internet provides an endless supply of people “proving” how your favorite thing sucks. Heck, even J.K. Rowling gets dragged occasionally. Maybe you have a bunch of grammar Nazi friends who don’t realize language is ever evolving and that even emojis are an important aspect of language and communication. The world is awash with critics, and they are hungry to tear art apart. So, you might think it best not to feed them by either giving up on that story idea or not trying at all.

And hey, there is a chance that the book you’re either writing or thinking of writing is objectively terrible. But, even in this case, I am here to tell you to stop thinking that way and just get on with it. Write your book. Get your words down. Create those characters. Forget all the haters and just get it done. Why? I’ll tell you why.

1. Writing is fun.

Really, it is. And it doesn’t matter what you do with it. Want to find out how awful and agonizing the whole process is? There’s thousands of articles on that, but it’s simply not true. If you don’t like your writing, then maybe you’re writing the wrong thing. Try poetry, haikus, or FanFiction. Try writing a memoir of a favorite time in your life. There are endless possibilities, and all of them are equal, as long as you are having fun. It may seem like the novelists complain the most, but that’s only if you go searching for complaints. The trick is to just keep doing it. Don’t let the negativity stop you.

2. Giving up feels awful.

Let’s say you’ve written a few pages of something you like and you are so bold as to show someone else. And let’s say that someone else shows you all of your grammatical errors and plot holes, and even goes so far as to explain to you why your entire story won’t work and tells you to quit. Obviously, that person isn’t a friend. The truth of the matter is that your critic is trying too hard to make themselves feel better. All first drafts will have problems. All stories need editing. Every tale requires a lot of work until you “get it right.” But if you decide to give up just because it’s too hard or you’re afraid of failure, you’re forgetting that you’re writing for fun. Make your grammar errors and spelling mistakes, power through it all however you decide to do it, and get it done. Why?

3. Finishing a story feels amazing.

I wrote my first novel over the course of two months, and when I finished, I felt incredible – abuzz with the accomplishment. I told everyone I could that I wrote a book. And oh man, when I read it again, I realized how terrible it really was. You might think that discouraged me, but it did just the opposite. I tucked that book into a box and it’s still sitting in my basement, preserved. The story was so odd and convoluted that I decided not to rewrite it. But here’s the important part: I made that decision on my own, and the reason I made it was because I had another story idea I wanted to get started writing. And I started writing that story. And that story was much better and far easier to write because I knew, even though my last attempt wasn’t great, I could finish writing a novel. I got over that hump and knew I wouldn’t give up ever again. I realized that I had more to learn, but I was no longer afraid of finishing a project I started.

4. Perfection will never come.

Finding errors is easy, especially when you’re first constructing something. But here’s the thing: you aren’t writing something that has to be perfect the first time around. And what is perfect anyhow? Writing should be a freeing process. Look to the greats. Do they use sentence fragments? Run-on sentences? Odd spellings of words? Poor grammar? Sure they do. But because the stories were so great, these “errors” could be applied to that writer’s style. What would happen to countless stories if everyone obeyed the same rules and wrote the same way? As I’ve said, language is evolving. Write your story using as many acronyms and emojis as possible. If it’s what you’re feeling and what you want to write, just get it out. Story first, rules somewhere way down the line and definitely not second.

5. Because you can.

Seriously. You can do it. Don’t expect to have a bestseller float out of your fingertips on the first try, don’t try to impress anyone, don’t make the process something more than it needs to be. Just do it. You can. If you had the idea to write a book, it was because some part of your brain, a part you should listen to, said you can and want to. There isn’t something magical to it, you just have to keep at it, make it as fun as possible, and push those critics away – especially those in the other part of your brain telling you that you can’t do it. Show that inner pessimist who’s boss and get that story written, even if it ends up being terrible.

Why? Because there are no good reasons not to. Finish what you start. You’ll never regret it.

Need a little extra motivation? Check out the video below.

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Fearless Self-Publishing Self-Publishing Writing Life

Fearless Self-Publishing Part 1: Every Keystroke Matters

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?

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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.

Thank you for reading!

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Software Review Writing Life

The Writerly App Is A Must-Have For Your Writer’s Toolkit

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.

Then I came across the Writerly App.

Writerly iPad.jpg

An App Custom Made For Creativity

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 Inspiration.jpg

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:


Related Links:

Writerly on the App Store

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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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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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