Monday, April 29, 2013

Holidays That Writers Deserve

Writers don't take days off. Even on holidays or between books, we're always plotting, observing, percolating that next story. Forget Labor Day, Memorial Day, or even our birthdays. What we need is a bunch of holidays just for us. 
To take advantage of some of these, a writer might need to show proof of vocation (a published book, a contract, membership in a writing organization, etc.), but it would be sooooo worth it! 
In the U.S., most workers get ten paid holidays, standard. I'd be happy with these six:

1. Coffee Day. All writers get free coffee all day from their favorite shop.

2. Supply Discount Day. Black Friday for writers. Ink, paper, Post-Its, promo materials, etc. all at a 40-60% discount for one day a year. Open early, stay open late to accommodate our crazy hours.

3. Chocolate Day. Forget breakfast in bed on Mother's Day! On Chocolate Day, family members must provide the writer in their lives with that special elixir that makes our Muse hum.

4. Celebrity Day. One day a year, writers get to pitch their best work to the celebrity of their dreams who embodies their main character. Who knows? Johnny Depp might jump at the chance to play Luc Asante in Eternally Yours.

5. Author Support Days (12 in all). One day a month, readers choose an unfamiliar author's work, read it, and post an honest review. 

6. Escape Day. Send that writer of yours away for the day. Book a B&B, a hotel room, a camping site--whatever gets the creative juices flowing. Pack a laptop and other writing necessities. Put him/her in the car and wave bye-bye for one day and one night minimum so (s)he can escape the distractions of life for twenty-four hours of pure writing pleasure.

Did I miss any? Tell me.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: Need editing services for your manuscript? Gina is proud to announce the launch of Excellence in Editing:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ten Things All Writers Need to Succeed

Lots of people have stories in their heads. Not all of them put them down on paper. Fewer still publish them. Want to be one of the few? Be prepared to do the work! Here are ten things you absolutely must have in your arsenal to conquer the publishing business.

1. An idea. Start there. You don't have to know every nuance of your plot, but, like you need transportation for any trip, you need a way to transport your reader to your world. You'll need a scene, a character, or a location. From that one idea, the journey begins.

2. A working knowledge of writing basics. Have no idea of the difference between a participial phrase and a prepositional phrase? No problem. You don't know that sentences end in periods and questions have question marks? Big problem. Get yourself some grammar books and start studying. You can't drive a car if you don't know the difference between the gas pedal and the brake. Learn.

3. The art of mastering time. How many people say, "Oh, I'd love to write, if I had the time"? Writers don't have the time. We make the time. Get up early. Stay up late. Turn off the television and turn on the laptop. Ignore the dust bunnies (okay...maybe that's just me) and welcome the plot bunnies. 

4. A drive for completion. You can't just start a story. You have to finish it. Writing a story through to completion--no matter what the length--leaves a writer emotionally wrung out, sleepless, and probably subsisting on coffee and red pencil shavings. Can't deal with that? Get out now. This isn't a career for wimps.

5. Self-confidence. New to the writing game? When you tell people about your goal, you might hear some negative feedback. Shopping that completed manuscript around to editors and agents? You'll definitely get rejections. Don't let the bad juju override your faith in yourself. Be strong. Believe.

6. A day job (or a revenue stream). Million-dollar-earning authors are as rare as lottery winners. Sure, it could happen. But you could wind up homeless and starving--or six feet underground--if you don't have a way to pay the bills while you're striving for that big payday. I always say my day job "feeds my writing habit." But it also feeds me and the kids.

7. A strong support system. I'm grateful to so many people who've helped me along the way: critique partners, beta readers, writer friends who understand when I whine that my characters won't tell the story the way I want to write it, and a family who adapts to deadlines and creative spurts. Make sure you have people firmly in your corner. Writing is a solitary craft, but  requires a team behind the scenes.

8. Tough skin. Rejection letters, bad reviews, jealous counterparts. They're all just waiting to rip you apart. Build up your rhino hide, cookie. You're going to need it.

9. Courage. By nature, most writers are introverts. And probably insecure introverts at that. But to really succeed in this business, you have to muster the courage to break out of your comfort zone. If you're shy when talking about yourself, how will you ever talk about your new release? If you can't get over your fear of public speaking, you'll lose a lot of opportunities to connect with new readers. Even when writing, you have to dare to take a risk, to try something new and different. Dream of success all you want, but you won't find it in that safe box where you normally live.

10. A love of the written word. Writers don't just write. They read, too. A lot. Inside their genre to see what's out there, outside their genre to find fresh new ideas. We're constantly dipping into the well of creativity to replenish our souls.

Did I miss any? Let me know!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Why Writing is Like Skydiving

At this month's meeting of my local writing group, LIAWS, our guest speaker discussed how fear holds us back from reaching for our dreams.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Yes, I'm multi-published. Yes, I speak around the country (and public speaking is the number one fear for most people). I've been recognized for my leadership qualities by several organizations. But...guess what? I still suffer from fears. You can't be human and not have some kind of fear, phobia, or resistance to change.

Our brains are geared to keep us safe, to warn us of danger. But our brains don't always discern the difference between the risk of death involved in Bungee jumping vs. the risk of embarrassment from flubbing a sentence in front of a crowd. Despite the cliche, no one's ever died of embarrassment.

The trick is to retrain your brain. Instead of immediately considering the repercussions of failure when trying something new, you must envision how you will feel when you succeed! 

This past June, my daughter and I went skydiving for the first time ever. A lot of people (including my husband) thought we were crazy. We heard things like, "Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?" and "I would never do that. I'd be afraid my 'chute wouldn't open." I'll admit, we were both pumped full of nervous energy and adrenaline before the jump. The ride up to fourteen thousand feet found us both abnormally quiet, despite our instructors' jokes and chitchat. We focused on keeping our breathing even, on stifling the fears that bubbled beneath the surface, and drowning out all the questions we'd heard regarding our sanity. We reached the proper altitude, made our way to the open door and...

Dropped. The wind was intense. Imagine sticking your head out a speeding car window (like a dog), feel the wind flapping your lips and stretching your cheeks as if they were made of paper. It roars in your ears, loud and overwhelming. Now multiply that feeling by a thousand. For the first few seconds (which seem like hours), I couldn't look at the ground. I couldn't speak so I focused on the sky around me and the altimeter on my wrist. Finally, I pulled my parachute cord, and my plummet slowed to a leaf dancing on a hearty breeze. The quiet surrounded me, and I became one with nature. I was a bird--tiny--in a massive world and, yet, an inexplicable peace filled me. It's magical, life-altering. And pretty damn fun.

When we hit the ground, the first thing I did was smile. I'd done it! Despite my fears, despite the naysayers, I'd completed my first skydive. My daughter immediately began talking about going again. (Probably this summer--to a local place.) 

What does this have to do with writing? The fear and doubt can be similar. No, you're not going to die but you could fail. And as I said earlier, your brain doesn't gauge measurements of failure. The naysayers will tell you you're crazy, you don't have what it takes.

Write anyway. Open the door and drop. Be brave. Live your dreams for no one else but you.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fairy Tale Movies

I'm a sucker for fairy tale movies--not just the Disney versions, but the ones that take the fairy tale, modernize, and twist. Two movies, in particular, stand out for me (probably because I watch them every time they're on television when I'm home). 

The first I watched (for the zillionth time) yesterday: Beastly. It's an updated Beauty and the Beast, naturally, complete with the witch who casts the spell (played by Mary Kate Olsen and wow! She's perfectly creepy and yet totally likable in the role), the loyal servants (with Neil Patrick Harris as a snarky blind tutor), the requisite roses, and that grand sacrifice for love that always makes me sigh. It's sappy and predictable and I love every minute of it.

The second is Sydney White, an updated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, starring Amanda Bynes (go ahead...scoff. I'll wait.) In this version, Sydney (Snow White) finds trouble in college when she comes up against the evil Rachel Witchburn, is forced to live in campus housing with seven misfits, and falls in love with Tyler Prince. The Snow White references are thick and fast, right down to their version of "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho!" And it's sappy and predictable and I love every minute of it.

Got a favorite fairy tale movie I should check out? Tell me! I'm always in the mood. 

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