Category Archives for Writing Tips

10 Resources For LitMag Writers

Literary magazines–or litmags as they’re often called–have been around for centuries. And now that they have gone digital they’re more widespread than ever before.

Did you know that getting your work published in literary magazines will make you more appealing to literary agents and publishers?

Or that some literary agents look through the pages of litmags in search of new talent?

Or that sometimes writers don’t even realize that their style of writing is what literary magazines are looking for.

If you didn’t, that’s OK. I’ve got you covered.

Grab my free guide to dozens of literary magazines online: 10 Resources for LitMag Authors and Aspiring Authors.

And on Facebook I discussed “All Things LitMag” with Rachel Thompson, published author and former managing editor of the literary magazine Room. Her book of poetry, Galaxy (Anvil Press, 2011), won the SFU First Book Competition.

In the Facebook live interview Rachel discusses and answers questions on how to tell if your writing is appropriate for literary magazines, what the editors of literary magazines are looking for and a whole lot more. The complete interview can be found on my Facebook biz page, The Plotting Room.

Tips For Dealing With Writer’s Block

You’re flying along churning out page after page of your novel, when suddenly you find yourself stuck like lint to a lint brush. No matter how much you try, you can’t shake yourself loose. You can’t get a decent thought on the page for anything. Eventually you give up trying. You’re frustrated, puzzled, worried. What the heck is going on here?

Some call it writer’s block. Others believe there is no such thing. I won’t argue about terminology or definitions. I will say this: wherever you fall on the writer’s block belief spectrum, if you write long and hard enough you will eventually hit a slump. It may be a long one or a short one. But when it happens, the worst thing you can possibly do is hope it will soon go away on its own. No, my dear writer. The longer you let a writing slump linger, the harder it is to break free.

So get proactive. Below are 5 tips you can try to kick that pain in the ass. But here’s the thing. They won’t work unless you actually try them.

  1. Instead of a power nap, take a creative nap. How does that work? Before you drift off to sleep think about the part of your writing where you got stuck. Your mind will get to work while you’re sleeping and solve the problem for you. If a nap won’t do the trick, try this at night before drifting off. Yes, it really can work.
  2. Read nonfiction books about writing. They can be inspirational books or books on writing techniques. This often gets the writing wheels churning again, and you find yourself itching to get back to work. I use this method all the time.
  3. Try mind-mapping. In the center of a blank page write a a few words describing the scene or character you’re stuck on and draw a circle around it. Then let your mind wander, adding whatever comes up, with branches and more circles. This allows you to think freely without the confines or structure of thinking in sentences and paragraphs or trying to follow your outline. There are lots of websites and books on mind-mapping as well as software and apps to use if you prefer to work electronically.
  4. If you need a more long-term fix, learn something new. This will really shake things up and get your brain out of a deep rut. Some ideas: dancing lessons, yoga and meditation.
  5. And if the slump gets really serious, here are a couple of hugely successful books to help you cope: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, by Gay Hendricks, and The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.

You can find several more tips like these in my free writing guide 10 Tips to Inspire the Fiction Writer Within by CLICKING HERE.

3 Tips For Getting Into Your Characters

One of the biggest challenges you face as a novelist is creating believable characters who don’t all look and sound the same. Besides the usual character worksheets that can help with this, here are some quick tips and tricks that I’ve used over the years to make my characters distinct.

1) ASTROLOGY BOOKS

I’m not suggesting that you copy the traits of a Scorpio or Pisces and plop them down in your novel as the main character. That would be just plain foolish. But astrology books can be a fantastic jumping-off point when trying to create colorful characters.

One of my favorite books is an old standby, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Besides containing a wealth of ideas about personality types, Goodman’s book is a joy to read. Take her opening description of the Aries personality, for example: “Have you recently met an unusually friendly person with a forceful manner, a firm handclasp and an instant smile? Get ready for a dizzy dash around the mulberry bush. You’ve probably just been adopted by an Aries. Especially if you’ve found it a little tough to take the lead in the conversation.”

Now even if you don’t care one bit about the traits of an Aries or any other astrology sign, this description could be the seeds of a dazzling character, especially when you add your own imaginative ideas. Sun Signsis filled with goodies like this.

2) MAGAZINE PHOTOS

Trying to describe what your character looks like? If you’re like me, you’ll fall back on people you know or someone you’ve seen recently. And that’s fine–up to a point. But sooner or later you’re going to want to travel a little further and wider when it comes to portraying your peeps on the page.

Pick up a magazine and check out the faces there. I mean, really look at them. Describe them using pen and paper or fingers and keyboard. How wide or far apart are the eyes? What shade of brown is that hair? Are the features equal on both sides of the face (usually they are not)? What type of hairline it that?

This will spark your imagination and it makes for good practice when it comes to depicting the features of characters. While you’re at it, you may even find someone with the physical traits you had in mind for that villain you’ve been struggling to describe. And if you’re looking a particular lifestyle or ethnicity, just pick up a magazine that fits—GQ for fashionable men, sports magazines for athletic types, women’s magazines for homemakers and career woman, Seventeen magazine for young adults, Essence magazine for African American men and women and so on. Chances are there’s a magazine full of the types of characters you’re attempting to portray.

3) NAME DIRECTORIES

Lots of authors struggle with naming their characters. Coming up with a few names might not get you. But trying to name a dozen on more, big and small, of all types, gets to be a challenge. Especially since you likely want to stay away from using the names of close family and friends.

You don’t have to go it alone. Fortunately, a gazillion books and websites can help you with this. Sites for first names are really plentiful. Just Google “baby names” and you’ll come up with all sorts of lists, even by ethnicity. Parenting magazineonline has a list of popular names from all over the world. An article on Writer’s Digest called, “The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters” has useful tips such as “Get Your Era Right.”