How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur Author... and How to Avoid Them

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

STOP RESEARCHING AND START WRITING

How to Know When to Stop Preparing and Just Do It


I recently quit my job. Just last month. I was the marketing assistant for a one-woman office. The job was okay, but the boss was NOT. Five weeks was all I could handle.

You want me to write a blog post for you? Sure! Not so fast, Christie. Little did I know she would be worse than a flock of mosquitos at the Bayou in summer, waiting to pounce on the first sight of human flesh at the break of day. She definitely wins the "Worst Boss Ever" award.

"No, you can't use the word cleanse! That's a gypsy word. You have to use the word clear. Never cleanse." My, oh, my. And that was seriously just the beginning.

STOP Researching & START Writing || How to know when to stop preparing and just do it, when to start writing, when to stop writing, when to begin research, how to know when you're finished researching

Stop Learning and Start Doing


But today, we're talking about a different kind of beginning. How to know when to stop researching and when to start writing. Or in my case, how to stop taking a hit and learn when to duck!

I have to admit that part of this analogy actually comes from the business/education world(s). They say, "Stop learning and start doing." People who want to start their own business are "all in" when it comes to the learning aspect. They (myself included) can become caught up in the learning mode and keep learning and learning and learning. It's easy to let research become your crutch to not face the fear of action. Research can become a form of procrastination.

Modes of Research


While you might not be conducting formal research for a term paper, both fiction and nonfiction require a certain amount of research. Every project is different. There's research for how to write, research for how other writers accomplish the craft, and research for the minute details you'll include.

Maybe you're researching setting, a time period, types of characters, a particular career, details of a certain person (biographies), or anything else you need to know. Here are some popular modes of research.

  • Reading. Perhaps you are studying the nuances of your favorite authors. Reading is a great way to do this. 
  • Travel. Maybe you need to travel to learn more about a setting, or to research a particular document held in a certain locale. Travel is a great way to feel more connected to those details.
  • Interviews. Interviewing the experts in the topic you need help with is an easy way to get inside the mind of a certain character, or simply to learn information in a more accessible way.
  • Studying. This likely involves reading, but it's more intense than a pleasurable novel. This includes books about how to write, in all the different varieties. It also includes blog articles about anything you need to know to get the job done.

Start Writing

So, how do you know that you have enough material for your book? What if you miss an important detail? Here's the thing. Once you have enough information to fill in the gap for why you're researching, you can go ahead and write that part, whether it be a character, the setting, a few details about a trip to the zoo, or something else. But if it's overall research you're doing, you'll probably be in research mode for a bit longer. Like if you're writing a biography. Either way, when you're able to explain what you're researching without your notes, then you're ready to start writing.

Sometimes quitting is a bad thing. Like when you're running a race and you're tired. Your lungs are burning and your legs and feet ache, but you want to cross the finish line, so you refuse to quit. But sometimes quitting is a good thing. Like when your boss is a Voodoo Lady. Or like when you want to give up binge-watching TV. Or when you have enough research to start your business or write your book. It's time to stop learning and start doing.

What project are you working on right now? What did you need to research? Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...

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Monday, September 4, 2017

12 BEST WORD GAMES FOR WRITERS

The Best Non-Digital Games for Writers


If you want to keep your word prowess sharp, whether you're a writer, a teacher, a parent, or a child, this list is for you. Games engage the mind and when the game is FUN, you're likely to remember new knowledge. So choose a game from this list, grab some friends, and have a wonderful WORDY time!

12 Best Word Games for Writers || writing games, word games, popular games for writers, board games for writers, verbal word games, word games to play with writers

Board Games


While their are dozens of games to choose from, these games are likely to be your best bet when it comes to gaming with words. Some are classics, but the rest should be.

  1. Scrabble. This is the epitome of the classic board game for writers. Of course, millions of non-writers play this game too. Build words and win points. The most clever wordster will win.
  2. Boggle. A noisy option for a word game. Shake the plastic container and let the letters fall in place. Race against others - and the egg timer - to see who can make the most words from the letters you're dealt.
  3. Upwords. Similar to Scrabble, but you can build on top of previous words. And the scoring is different. Growing up, I played this game with my mom all the time. So, this is one of my personal classic favorites.
  4. Bananagrams. If you haven't heard of this game, you're missing out. A little yellow pouch shaped like a banana holds all the letter tiles. Each person shouts SPLIT, PEEL, and DUMP in a race to build words crossword puzzle style. The winner gets to shout BANANAGRAMS.  
  5. Balderdash. This game is a trivia and bluffing game. Be prepared to laugh out loud with this one. The trivia categories are weird words, movies, notable people, incredible initials, and laughable laws. You are using your "storytelling" skills to convince others of the right definition, especially when you don't have a clue. With categories that have to do with words and initials, a writer could really fall in love with this game.
  6. Apples to Apples. Even teachers use the Apples to Apples for Kids version in classrooms to help children learn the value of comparisons. You have to stretch your mind to find the best description from a handful of cards to match a different - perhaps seemingly unrelated - item on a another card. This word game is sure to make you laugh!

Paper Games


While there may be many more word games out there that only use paper and pencil, these seem to be among the most popular, even iconic.

  1. Crossword Puzzles. This is the iconic symbol of writers everywhere. What writer has never worked a crossword puzzle? If you're a writer and you've never done a crossword puzzle, I'd LOVE to know in the comments. When I was a kid, I got a giant wall crossword puzzle for my birthday one year. I spent many, many hours working on that puzzle, with my nose stuck in a dictionary. Unfortunately, I never did finish it. I got pretty close, but honestly, I think there were lots and lots of errors (and no solution available). At least I couldn't "cheat" right?
  2. Word Search Puzzles. Another favorite among wordsters. You can buy books with a theme. Cats. Dogs. Animals. You name it. Not as rewarding to some as the classic crossword, but it still passes the time and your brain learns to look for patterns.
  3. The Daily Jumble and Cryptoquips. These two games are typically found in the comics section of your local newspaper (along with crosswords and word searches). They are both forms of unscrambling. The Daily Jumble scrambles up common words and there's a puzzle at the end to describe an illustration. Cryptoquips are coded messages that you must figure out what each letter stands for. For example: P XT X SLPBOL would decode and read "I AM A WRITER."
  4. Word Lists. Another fun one, especially in classrooms, is when a long word or a short phrase, such as HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY is used as a "letter bank" for children to create as many words as possible. It's a fun little challenge and usually the one who writes the most words wins a prize.

Verbal Games


Finally, here are two simple games you can play, even if you don't own one of the board games above or if you don't have pencil or paper handy.

  1. Alphabet Trip. Remember the looooong "list" game? "I'm going on a trip to _______ and I'm going to take with me an A_______ (apple)." Then the next person repeats from A, B, C, etc. and fills in with the next letter on their turn. "I'm going on a trip to _______ and I'm going to take with me an Apple, a Bear, a Candy bar, and a Dinosaur." You can even make it more challenging by limiting it to only food, or fruit, or animals, or office supplies!
  2. License Plates. This is a game if you really ARE going a trip, even if it's just to the office supply store down the street. There is no winner in this game. It's just to see who can come up with the funniest phrases the fastest. License plate: WHB. Of course you can use any words you like, but to challenge yourself, try for adjective, noun, then verb. For example, Watery Horses Blubber. 

Sooooo... the next time you're trying to think of a word game to play, choose one off this list. They're some of the best games for writers out there!

Got another favorite word game? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

CLOVER ME GREEN

Well, I'll Be! Clover Me Green! I Really AM a Good-Luck Machine!


Did you know that one of my super powers is finding 4-leaf clovers? I LOVE 4-leaf clovers! I collect them in little decorative boxes. Once, I found 17 4-leaf clovers in an hour! That averages to a mere 3.5 minutes per genetic mutation!



Plants I Love


I love 4-leaf clovers, the purple-bearded Iris, dandelions, sunflowers, wild roses, gardenias, daisies, and buttercups. But I hate the smell of a Lily. They give me a headache. What's your favorite and/or least favorite flower?

Clovers and Shells


When I was in 3rd grade at Candler Elementary School, my teacher was Mrs. Comer and her assistant was Ms. Allen. Ms. Allen collected 4-leaf clovers in a barrel of water on her front porch. Anytime someone found a 4-leaf clover, she'd trade a seashell for it. That's how I began my collection of seashells. Though I had never been to the beach before, I had collected dozens of shells. I was the best 4-leaf clover finder in the 3rd grade! And I finally got to visit the ocean when I was in high school.

Clover Me Green


Of course, there's a book I'm writing about 4-leaf clovers. It's called Clover Me Green. Maybe one day you can see it in print and read all about Molly and her clover hunting adventures.

What's your 4-leaf clover finding record? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DO YOUR CHILDREN KNOW WHAT A COPPERHEAD SNAKE LOOKS LIKE?

Did You Know Copperheads Are Pit Vipers?


I'm writing a book about a boy who loves snakes. So, I have to become an expert too. My husband found this video in an article on USA Today, so I thought I'd share it with you. Even though most people would kill a copperhead in an instant (and I'm no different), they are also "good" snakes because they eat mice and voles.



Art Schaeffer's Nickname is Gleek


Did you know that "gleek" is a verb? It means: to use one's saliva glands to shoot saliva a credible distance, with the intention of hitting someone or something. Also known as "snake spitting." He learned to gleek at a young age, by accident.

Growing up, my brother could always gleek on demand. I never could get it right. Occasionally, I'll accidentally gleek when yawning. What about you? Can you gleek?

Gleek's Pet Snake


In my book, Gleek has a pet snake. I'm thinking of letting it be a common grass snake, either a rough green snake or a smooth green snake. They are smaller, 2-3 feet, and a more shy species that may not like to be handled as much as some other species. But Art likes to hold his snake a lot. Do you have a favorite species? A species suggestion you'd like to see Gleek own?

10 Snake Species That Make Good Pets


Of course, some of the following snakes make better pets than others. If you want a pet snake, do your research. Here's a great site to help you.
  1. Ball Python
  2. Boa Constrictor
  3. Common King Snake
  4. Corn Snake
  5. Garter Snake
  6. Gopher/Bull Snake
  7. Grey-banded King
  8. Hognose Snake
  9. Milk Snake
  10. Mountain King

Have you (or your children) ever owned a pet snake? How long did it live? What did you name it? What kind of snake was it? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WRITERS WHO RUN 10K TRAIL RACE - 2018

Who Won the Wireless SoundWhiz Headphones?


One of this year's sponsor's, SoundWhiz, donated three pairs of wireless headphones. The top 3 winners overall were super excited to win them!!!

Writers Who Run 10k Trail Race || Top 3 Winners Overall Won Free Wireless SoundWhiz Headphones

Top Three


The top three winners of the race, overall, completed the 10k trail race in under an hour!

  1. Dave Essinger (57:58)
  2. Dave Harlow (58:19)
  3. Dylan Astrom (59:20)

And did you notice that they all have a name that begins with the letter "D"?

SoundWhiz


One of the racers, who sadly didn't win one of the SoundWhiz headphones, was ACHING to win one. It was what kept him going - the hope for such an awesome prize. He still won 3rd place in his age group, though. Thanks, SoundWhiz, for being the carrot to dangle in front of our racers!

Next Year


Next year's race will see a slight (or a not-so-slight) change. In order to more easily accommodate more runners of differing levels, there will be a 5k option added. And the course will change. It will be a flatter course, on the road, with a grand view at the base of the famous Fontana Dam, the second largest dam this side of the Mississippi. The name is changing too. Instead of the Writers Who Run 10k Trail Race, it will be called the Writers Who Run 10k and 5k Race for Literacy. Hope to see you there!

Question goes here? Share in the comments!

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF [MY] HEART

Are You an Astronomy Geek, Too?


This August 21, 2017 will the first time the United States will see a total solar eclipse across the contiguous states since 1918. I'm within 2 hours of the 100% band! I'm so excited! I even found a video about five ways to safely view a solar eclipse.



Making Memories


I don't know why I love celestial bodies so much, be it the sun, the moon, or the stars, but I do. I love the constellations and special occurrences such as solar (and lunar) eclipses. If you can, get with your children and make some memories with them. Maybe they'll turn into an astronomy geek too!

5 Ways to Safely View the Eclipse


In the video above, they list:

  1. solar shield
  2. eclipse glasses
  3. pinhole method
  4. pegboard
  5. lens solar filter

What have you used in the past? What's your favorite? It seems as though children most often use the pinhole method. It's probably the safest because it has the lowest risk of accidental exposure.

Storytelling


Lastly, I once wrote a picture book manuscript that will never see the light of day. It was about the constellations and the tooth fairy. Apparently, it was two different stories overlapping, much like the moon overlapping the sun. Can you write a story about the moon, the sun, or the stars? Who will be the star of your story?

Are you planning on watching the eclipse this August 21? If you had a chance to see it, what was it like? How will you (or did you) celebrate? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

HOW TO PERSONALIZE A QUERY LETTER:

3 Ways to Gain the Attention of an Editor or Agent


Before you send a query letter, hopefully you know how to look up the submission guidelines and that you need to actually follow them. Every editor is different, and every publisher is different. Sending Editor A a query letter according to Editor B's guidelines may get your query letter tossed in the trash. So, FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!!!

Once you have a list of editors to whom you'd like to submit your work, and you know their submission policy, you're ready to personalize your query letter. Whether you are polishing off your query by finally adding that personal touch, or you are just now beginning to write your query letter, it doesn't matter. Either way, it's the personal touch that may help the editor decide to actually read your query letter.

You want to make it clear that you're querying that person for a reason. If you follow one of these three ways to personalize a query letter, you'll definitely have a higher percentage of gaining the attention of an agent or an editor.

HOW TO PERSONALIZE A QUERY LETTER: 3 Ways to Gain the Attention of an Editor or Agent || writing, authors, submission process, submissions, how to submit a manuscript

Be Familiar With Their Interests


Yes, editors and agents are busy, but they have a personal life too. If you do any level of research at all, you're likely to find a few of their interests online. Whether it's their passion for all things elephant, or their interest in haunted houses, if you have a similar interest, you can use it to your advantage, especially if you've written something about that interest.

Query Example: I am writing to you because we share a similar fondness for elephants. I happen to have a manuscript about elephants that I think you might be interested in reading.

Follow Your Potential Agent or Editor to Conferences


Most editors and agents are always looking to grow their list. One way they do this is by speaking at writing conferences or retreats. If you follow your dream agent to a conference, you'll have an instant "in" to querying him or her. Often, you'll get an invitation to submit your work for a limited time. So if you want your book published with a certain publisher, follow where their editors go to speak and be sure to introduce yourself.

Query Example: I met you at the Writers Who Run Retreat last June and really enjoyed your workshop on great beginnings. I think you might enjoy reading my middle grade novel about magicians and love.

Know What Authors They Associate With


Every editor and agent has a list. They work with authors, both new and established. Be familiar with that list of authors. Know which authors you're fond of. When you mention an author or two in your query from their list specifically, they will know that you have done your research. They will be impressed with the fact that you like their work and the authors they associate with. So, do your research.

Query Example: I am querying you because you represent Author A, B, and C, all of whose work I greatly admire, especially Book 1, 2, and 3. I have a book with a similar feel to their work, though still uniquely mine. I think you might enjoy taking a look at it.

What's another way you can personalize your query letter? Share in the comments!

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Monday, June 5, 2017

THE PROS AND CONS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF WEBINARS

The Internet is exploding with webinars these days. In almost every industry, you'll find webinars being offered. Knowing the different types of webinars out there will help you face them head on when you encounter them. If you want to host your own webinar, it will be helpful to know all the different types of webinars you can choose from.

Pros and Cons: Different Types of Webinars || writing, entrepreneur, writerpreneur, what to look for in a webinar

Webinars are one way in which we consume information. It's not the only thing out there. There are blog posts, podcasts, infographics, links within social media to other articles, videos, white papers, transcripts, and more. Webinars can be categorized in four basic ways, but the combination possibilities are many.

  1. long or short webinars
  2. paid or free webinars
  3. informational or sales webinars
  4. live or recorded webinars
  5. interactive or boring (just kidding, but nobody wants to listen to a boring presentation)

Different Types of Webinars


The Long vs. Short Webinar


The Long Webinar

This type of webinar is typically an hour or longer. There is generally a vast amount of information to convey, or a specific list of steps to cover. People who attend longer webinars are obviously
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