Container Not, Peek Inside

“A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.”

—Angela Carter

   

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How to Organize and Develop Your Writing Ideas

 Guest Blog by J. D. Scott

 

You may have had ideas come to you in a flood, or you may labor over them until they’re fully delivered, but they all have one thing in common: they need to be developed into literature. So let’s go over some techniques to help you make the transition from a great idea into a great piece of writing!

ORGANIZING YOUR IDEAS:

  • Do you have a lot of creative ideas for writing?
  • Have you thought of more than you have time to develop?
  • So what do you do with them all?

~ Write them down: An outline or a paragraph for the more complicated ideas, or a sentence describing the simpler ones, will help you retain your thoughts later.

~ Keep them organized: Index cards, filing cabinet, files on your computer, a binder. If you have multiple categories, you may want to divide them by color-coding the subject files.

~ Choose a subject: Now you have to pick! Consider the big ideas first. You may be able to combine a few into one story, but too many will confuse your reader. More is not always better! Consider your target audience, and focus in on that one idea. I would not recommend starting several writing projects at once. You could bounce from story to story, never finishing anything—or worse, get discouraged and give up all together.

DEVELOPING YOUR IDEA:

Now that you have your idea, it’s time to get writing! But how can this small seed develop into a thriving story? Here are some ideas…

Find a Writers Group: In person, or online.

Talk it out: One of the best ways I’ve found to develop a story is to talk it over, then talk it over again, and then some more! Have lunch with a friend or spouse, and share your ideas with them. Call another writer; you could be a sounding board for each other’s work. Using a tape or digital recorder can also be helpful. The idea is that sometimes listening to your thoughts out loud can be enough to get you moving forward in your plot.

Try Visualization: Play your story out in your mind like a movie. This is a powerful and creative processing tool. Picture your characters—what they look like, the environment they’re in, and what your senses are hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and tasting. If you can picture it, it will be much easier to write. Photographs that represent settings or characters that you’re working on can also inspire you.

Sketch or Doodle: Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, this can be very helpful. You could draw anything from a character, a setting, such as a castle or house, or even an aerial view of the land your work is set in. They don’t have to be worthy of publication; they’re simply to help you “see” your story better.

Charts and Graphs: This could come in many forms, from: a family tree showing genealogy, a timeline with a sequence of events, a chart with the climactic moments of your story, or a graph of your characters’s personality traits. The point is, it has to make sense to you and help your writing to move forward.

Storyboarding: This is simply using still pictures (photographs or drawings) to tell a story. Screenwriters and cartoonists commonly storyboard, however, it can be a very effective tool to lay out the storyline of a book. This could also be done in small sections on a dry-erase board. You don’t have to be great at sketching; you are simply creating images that are significant to you, or using words or word groups to keep track of where you are in your story. Including character descriptions, geology, dialog, or location can also be helpful.

Puzzle-making: This method consists of writing down storylines on strips of paper so that you can shuffle events around until you’re happy with the sequence. It can also be used to arrange a family tree, show relationships between characters, or just to keep track of your ideas. This can be time-consuming, however, it’s a great way to show the flexibility in your plot.

In writing, the hardest obstacle to overcome by far—is SITTING DOWN AND DOING IT! Our lives are busy, and we have many demands on our time, but if you are able to carve out a time each day—or even a couple times through the week—you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I hope these ideas have been helpful to you, and have sparked your creativity.

 

Meet our Guest Blogger, J. D. Scott:

 

1398565_625686540810471_203956950_oJ. D. Scott is the organizing member of Abba’s Writers in Phoenix, Arizona. She leads, instructs, and teaches critiquing and story development to its members.

In 2013, J. D. Scott became part of the team at A Book’s Mind as a Publishing Consultant. She enjoys working alongside writers, helping them fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors.

Before being bit by the writing bug, J. D. Scott spent 20 years working with children as a nanny, mentor, camp counselor, and youth-group leader. With a heart for today’s youth, she set out to write books that both entertain and inspire them to rise above the current culture and see their true value.

She continues to live out her life’s passions of writing, publishing, and counseling/mentoring women and children.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | JDScottNovels | Blog | 
 | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Email |

 

[See what J. D. Scott had to say about our editor!]

 

Get Your Mind Out of Your Way

[found on writetodone.com; by Ollin Morales of Courage 2 Create]

“What if I told you that the biggest threat to your writing is not your lack of passion, your lack of creativity, or your lack of skill?

What if I told you that the biggest threat to your writing is… your mind?

That’s right. Your mind is the biggest obstacle standing between you and all the work you are trying to accomplish.

Our mind is often the one that needs the most convincing that our writing is worthwhile. This is because our mind is hard-wired to protect us from any possible danger.  You see, in order to protect us, our mind initially perceives anything it encounters as a threat—including your writing.

If this sounds strange, and kind of primitive, as if your mind is trying to protect you from a tiger hiding behind a tree in a jungle—then you’re absolutely right.

Your mind is still pretty primordial. So, your job as a writer is to hack into this primordial, hunter-gatherer mind, and update its software so that your mind works for you.

Here are just 4 ways to hack your mind so that you can become infinitely more creative:

1. Bypass Your Mind

…Get rid of all the thinking. Wipe your mind clean. Take a deep breath, and just go for it….

2.  Trick Your Mind

…promise your mind that you will continue to worry about paying your bills AFTER you write a brief outline of that freelance article you’re working on….

3. Lower Your Mind’s Expectations

…If your mind sees that you’re making a big bet, then, it will immediately advise you against it—it may even try to thwart you from accomplishing the monumental task you’ve set up for yourself….

So, don’t make that big bet. Make a small one, instead.

4. Recalibrate Your Mind

…the return on your initial investment does not appear until much much later. This is something your mind has trouble understanding, and it’s your job to help your mind understand it….hack into your mind so that your mind works for you.”

To read the entire article from Ollin Morales at writetodone.com, click here.

[found on http://writetodone.com/4-ways-to-hack-into-your-mind-and-become-infinitely-more-creative/]

Your Plot Needs Planning

[found on fictionfactor.com; by Lee Masterson]

Effectively Outlining Your Plot

“Have you ever had an idea for a novel, and then just sat down and began writing without knowing exactly where the story was going?

It happens to everyone at some point, but most people begin to realize that the events in your plotline get confused, or forgotten in the the [sic] thrill of writing an exciting scene. There are those who continue to write on, regardless, fixing any discrepancies as they work, or (worse!) those who do not check that events are properly tied in place to bring their stories to a satisfying conclusion.

And then there are those writers who believe that creating a plot-outline is tantamount to “destroying the natural creative process”. The belief is simple; by writing it out in rough form, you’ve already told the story, so the creative side of you will not want to write it again.

Whichever type of writer you are, creating a simple, inelegant outline to follow s not the same thing as already writing the story, and it could save you an enormous amount of time and rewriting later.

The purpose of an outline in this case is to be certain that your storyline is not straying too far from the original idea. It is also a useful tool if you need to determine if your idea is big enough to be developed into a novel-length work, and not left as a short story or novella.

Your outline should be a simple reminder that, no matter how many events or characters or situations arise, your main theme will never get lost in the jumble of scenes.

Of course, this brings us to the problem to what was discussed above. There are writers who have a tendency to over-plot, thus really killing any spontaneity as far as the writing process goes. The biggest difficulty here is forcing your characters to go through motions that may not fit into their personality make-up simply to fit into your pre-existing, overly planned plotline.

So how do you strike a fair balance between aimless writing and over-plotting? There are several ways to accomplish this….”

To read the complete article from Lee Masterson, click here.

[found on http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/outlining.html]

Fiction Writing Tips

[found on writingforward.com; by Melissa Donovan]

“The writing tips below focus on the technical and creative writing process rather than the business end of things….

    1. Read more fiction than you write.
    2. Don’t lock yourself into one genre (in reading or writing). Even if you have a favorite genre, step outside of it occasionally so you don’t get too weighed down by trying to fit your work into a particular category.
    3. Dissect and analyze stories you love from books, movies, and television to find out what works in storytelling and what doesn’t.
    4. Remember the credence of all writers: butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
    5. Don’t write for the market. Tell the story that’s in your heart.
    6. You can make an outline before, during, or after you finish your rough draft. An outline is not necessary, nor is it written in stone, but it can provide you with a roadmap, and that is a mighty powerful tool to have at your disposal.
    7. You don’t always need an outline. Give discovery writing a try.
    8. Some of the best fiction comes from real life. Jot down stories that interest you whether you hear them from a friend or read them in a news article.
    9. Real life is also a great source of inspiration for characters. Look around at your friends, family, and coworkers. Magnify the strongest aspects of their personalities and you’re on your way to crafting a cast of believable characters.
    10. Make your characters real through details. A girl who bites her nails or a guy with a limp will be far more memorable than characters who are presented with lengthy head-to-toe physical descriptions.”

For more tips from Melissa Donovan, click here.

[found on http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/42-fiction-writing-tips-for-novelists]

Prompt Your Way

[found on writingforward.com; by Melissa Donovan]

“Creative Writing Prompts

  1. You’re digging in your garden and find a fist-sized nugget of gold.
  2. Write about something ugly–war, fear, hate, or cruelty–but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.
  3. The asteroid was hurtling straight for Earth…
  4. A kid comes out of the bathroom with toilet paper dangling from his or her waistband.
  5. Write about your early memories of faith, religion, or spirituality; yours or someone else’s.
  6. There’s a guy sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper…
  7. Write a poem about a first romantic (dare I say: sexual) experience or encounter.
  8. He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw…
  9. Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…
  10. The detective saw his opportunity. He grabbed the waitress’s arm and said…”
[found on http://www.writingforward.com/writing-prompts/creative-writing-prompts/25-creative-writing-prompts]

Need A Writing Prompt?

[found on dailywritingtips.com; by Simon Kewin]

“Where To Find Writing Prompts Online

The internet is a wonderful source of writing prompts. There are sites dedicated to providing them which a quick search will turn up. Examples include :

There are also numerous blogs that offer a regular writing prompt to inspire you and where you can, if you wish, post what you’ve written. Examples include :

There are also many other sites that can, inadvertently, provide a rich seam of material for writing prompts – for example news sites with their intriguing headlines or pictorial sites such as Flickr.com that give you access to a vast range of photographs that can prompt your writing.

If you’re on Twitter, there are users you can follow to receive a stream of prompts, for example :

Another idea is just to keep an eye on all the tweets being written by people all over the world, some of which can, inadvertently, be used as writing prompts.

How To Make Your Own Writing Prompts

You can find ideas for writing prompts of your own from all sorts of places : snatches of overheard conversation, headlines, signs, words picked from a book and so on. Get used to keeping an eye out for words and phrases that fire your imagination, jot them down and use them as writing prompts to spark your creativity. You never know where they might take you.”

For more great information on writing from DailyWritingTips, click HERE.

[found on http://www.dailywritingtips.com/writing-prompts-101]

How to Choose a Story…

 [found on writersdigest.com; by Courtney Carpenter]

“Which Story Should I Write?

The first editing question you need to ask is, Which story do I select to turn into a whole novel? To write from start to finish?

You’re going to be spending a long time with your novel. Months. A year. In some cases more. I don’t want you to wake up twelve weeks from now and chuck all that work.

So here are a few keys to self-editing in the story selection phase:

1. GET LOTS OF IDEAS. The key to creativity is to get lots and lots of ideas, ironically without any self-editing at all, then throw out the ones you don’t want.

It’s a little like how lawyers choose juries. In reality, they don’t select jurors; they deselect them. The potential jurors who are seated in the box are drawn randomly. Then, through a questioning process called voir dire, the lawyers probe and ponder, then exercise challenges. They try to get rid of those jurors they believe will not be favorably disposed to their case.

So, too, you as a writer face your box of ideas and, through probing and pondering, toss out the ones you won’t be writing about.

But first you gather, and as you do, let your imagination run free.

2. LOOK FOR THE BIG IDEA. A novel-length story has to have a certain size to it. Not length of words, but potential for a large canvas of emotions, incidents, and high stakes.

This is something you need to feel in your writer’s spirit. Think about the novels that moved you most. What was it about them that got to you? If it was an unforgettable character, what made her so? If it was a turning, twisting plot, what were the stakes?

If it was a quieter novel, it had some simmering intensity about it.

Think on these things as you look at ideas to nurture.

3. WRITE YOUR BACK COVER COPY. There are several questions to ask yourself about your idea, but at some point you need to see if it holds together, if you can get it in a form that both excites you and will excite publishers and readers.

One of the best ways to do this is to write your own back cover copy. That’s the marketing copy on the back of the book (or on the dust jacket) that’s intended to get readers to buy it.

When you do this, concentrate on the big picture. You’ll need to write and rewrite this several times, but doing so will serve you well for the entire writing project.”

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/how-to-choose-a-story-to-write]

Places or faces?

[found on davehood59.wordpress.com; by Find Your Creative Muse]

“Place is more than Just Location

Writing about place or location of the event or experience is an important technique in creative nonfiction. It often plays a vital role in your story. It allows you to recreate the scene and experience in the mind of the reader. It can act as a backdrop or provide context for a personal essay. It can add meaning to a memoir. For instance, if a writer creates a memoir about child abuse, the place or location is significant. Place can also be the subject of creative writing. If you are writing a travel essay, you will be writing about the place you are visiting. Often, without a place or location, you have no experience or event.

This article will define what creative nonfiction writers mean by place/location and explain how to write about place/location in your creative nonfiction.

Definition of Place

In creative nonfiction, the place or location where the event or experience took place is more than just about the name of the place. It is also the physical location of the place, the physical attributes, such as the urban setting of crowds, pollution, public transit, traffic jams or the rural setting of open spaces, fewer people, fields, farms, and small communities.

Place is also about its socioeconomic attributes of a setting. Some places are poor, while others are wealthy. Some places have high unemployment, while others have an abundance of employment opportunities. Some places have schools and hospitals, while other places have nothing.

In writing about travel, place is much more than the physical location. It is about the culture, language, values, morals, beliefs, customs, cuisine, traditions, and way of life.

In writing a memoir, place often has significant meaning. It can be a catalyst for memories of childhood, adulthood, unique experiences. In the memoir, My Life: The Presidential Years, the Whitehouse was a special place for Bill Clinton. Place can also have significant meaning for ordinary people. In writing Eat, Pray, and Love, place had a powerful meaning for Elizabeth Gilbert. After her divorce and a mid-life-crisis, Gilbert decided to travel for a year by herself in an effort to restore balance and meaning to her life. Her memoir chronicles the three places she visited: Rome, India, and Bali. Each of these places had significant meaning to herself and to her life. She wrote about this powerful meaning in her memoir.

Some creative nonfiction writers view place as character. In recreating the scene or experience, the writer views place as a character in the story. Similar to developing a character, the place needs to be developed. The writer can use personification to develop the place. It can become nurturing, menacing, foreboding.

Yet place is more than just character. It is also about meaning. A place or location often has significant meaning. We can associate a particular place with good memories or bad memories, as being a happy place or sad place, as being a relaxing place or stressful place.

Clearly, when a creative writer writes about place, the writer must consider more than just its physical attributes or  location.

How to Write about Place

In writing about place, you ought to consider the following:

      • Name of the place
      • Location of the place
      • Physical attributes
      • Home as place
      • Nature as place
      • Travel as place
      • Meaning the place has for you
      • Significance of the place

When writing about place, you first need to consider its name. Where did the name of the place originate? What is its history? What does it symbolize? For example, the city of Toronto originated as the Mohawk phrase tkaronto, later modified by French explorers and map makers.

You also need to consider writing about the important features, amenities, and physical attributes of place. For instance, in writing about Toronto, you can consider writing about its multicultural population, sports teams, and public transit, shopping centers, unique neighborhoods, landmarks, popular attractions, and the fact that it is located on Lake Ontario.

A place can also be about “home.” You can begin by exploring the meaning of home. Home is suppose to be a place of escape, comfort, protection, love, stability, and permanence—even solitude. What does home mean to you? What was my home like as a child? What did a like or dislike about the place called home? What memories do you have about your childhood home? For some people, home is a transient place, especially for people who travel, who are new immigrants, who end marriages or relationships.

In writing about place, you can also consider it in relation to nature. In his memoir, “Waldon”, Henry David Thoreau viewed nature, wildlife, and the woods as having a being a special place. According to Brenda Miller, who wrote “Tell It Slant”, a popular creative nonfiction text, Thoreau viewed the “human consciousness moved through nature, observing it, reacting to it, and ultimately being transformed by it. Miller goes on to suggest that when you write about nature as place, you need to consider how nature embodies larger forces, such as the physical attributes of a person you admire or the human condition or human experience.

In writing about place as a traveler, don’t write what everyone else has written. Your purpose is to find “a purpose for your writing above and beyond the travel experience itself”. (Tell It Slant) To create a travel piece that is more than just about transcribing the experience, you need to consider the theme and the significant meaning of the place.

When writing about a particular place, you ought to consider what meaning the place has for you. You can start by ask yourself the following: What does this place mean to me? How do I feel about this particular place? Do I like it? What do I like about it? Do I dislike it? What do I dislike about it? What are my memories of this place? What favorite memories do I have about this place?

Tips for Writing about Place

When writing about place, you must be original. You must be able to write about place from a unique perspective.

      1. Describe the place as if it is a character in your story. What is its appearance? Its behaviour? What is the place saying to you?
      2. Use literary devices to describe the place, such as metaphors, personification, and simile.
      3. Describe the physical attributes of the place using sensory images. How does place smell, sound, taste, feel, and appear to you?
      4. Write about place as it means to you. Do you have fond memories of the place? What do you like or dislike about the place? What is important? What is insignificant about the place? How does the place feel to you?
      5. Write about the significance of place. What universal truth embodies the place?
      6. Write about what you have learned about the sense of place/location?
      7. Don’t use clichés or hackneyed expressions to describe a place.
      8. Use concrete and specific details. Remember as many significant details about place as you can.

The place or location of an event or experience can have many meanings. Place can be your home, a travel destination, or a walk in the woods. When writing about place, consider its name. Write about its physical attributes. Write about what the place means to you. Write about the significance of the place. Write about theme and universal truth as it applies to place. Write about place from your own unique perspective.”

[found on http://davehood59.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/how-to-write-creative-nonfiction-writing-about-place]

How to Write a Book Proposal

[found on rachellegardner.com; by Rachelle Gardner]

“There are several great books available on writing book proposals. My favorites for non-fiction are:

A good book for fiction proposals is:

Here are bare-bones outlines of what a book proposal looks like.

For Non-Fiction

Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.

One sentence summary: It captures your book. It should be more hook than description.

Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about and who the market is. Three to four paragraphs.

Felt need: What needs will your book fulfill that your audience is already aware of? What questions are they asking that your book will answer? What do they want that you can give them?

About the authors: Half page to a full page on each author. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Make a good case for YOU as the best possible author for a book on this topic.

The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do you have any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.

Author marketing: This is where you’ll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is NOT the place for expressing your “willingness” to participate in marketing, or your “great ideas” for marketing. This is the place to tell what you’ve already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you’ve already made to help market your book. A list of speaking engagements already booked is great; radio or television programs you’re scheduled to appear on or have in the past; a newsletter you’re already sending out regularly; a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. This is NOT the place to say that your book would be terrific on Oprah, unless you have documented proof that Oprah’s people have already contacted you.

The competition: What other books are in print on the same subject? How is your book different and better? (There is always competition.) First, give a general discussion of the state of the marketplace as regards books of this topic. Then do a list of 4 to 8 books that could be considered most comparable to yours. List the title, author, year of publication. (Only books in the last five years are relevant, unless they’re still bestsellers.) Then write a couple of sentences explaining what that book is about, and how yours is different, better, and/or a good complement to it.

Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How long after the signing of a contract will it take you to complete the book? (This is usually 2 to 6 months.)

Chapter outline: This is where it becomes crucial that your book is well organized and completely thought-through. You will need chapter titles, and a couple of sentences capturing each chapter’s theme.

Sample chapters: This is usually the Introduction, plus one or two chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect!

Those are the basics, but I highly recommend you get a good book on proposals before writing yours. Mary DeMuth has a 50-page book proposal tutorial available for $10. Click here to go to her website and order it. (Mary writes incredible book proposals and she knows what she’s talking about.)

What about fiction?

If you’ve written a novel, you still need a book proposal but it will look slightly different. The most important thing with fiction is the writing itself, so your sample chapters must truly shine to capture an agent or editor’s attention.

However, just like with non-fiction, the author’s involvement in marketing is of utmost importance. So, much of your proposal will look similar to a non-fiction proposal because it’s about YOU and how you can help market your own book.

In a fiction proposal, you’ll be most successful at capturing attention if your first page includes a killer “hook” and a concise synopsis that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, but intrigues the reader enough that they feel they MUST read your book.

Jeff Gerke has a great post on writing a fiction proposal here.

Here’s a rundown of a great fiction proposal:

Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.

One sentence hook: This is more of a tagline, one sentence that creates interest in the book.

Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting and make someone want to read your book. It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about. Two to four paragraphs.

The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do you have any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.

About the authors: Half page to a full page on yourself. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Any awards or special degrees or certificates in creative writing? Anything that helps establish you as a novelist goes in this section.

Author marketing: This is where you’ll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is NOT the place for expressing your “willingness” to participate in marketing, or your “great ideas” for marketing. This is the place to tell what you’ve already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you’ve already made to help market your book. A list of speaking engagements already booked is great; radio or television programs you’re scheduled to appear on or have in the past; a newsletter you’re already sending out regularly; a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. This is NOT the place to say that your book would be terrific on Oprah, unless you have documented proof that Oprah’s people have already contacted you.

Comparable books: Instead of a “competition” section, you’ll want to include four to five novels that you see as similar to yours in some way. It helps the editor develop a big-picture understanding of your book. It’s best not to include blockbuster bestsellers (The DaVinci Code, Left Behind) but do include well-known books with solid sales. Include title, author, release year, and a couple of sentences about the book and how yours is similar and would appeal to the same audience.

Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How many chapters? Have you included book club discussion questions? Is your manuscript complete? (Note: Unless you’re a multi-published novelist, you must have a completed novel before approaching agents and editors.)

Longer synopsis: In several pages (2 to 6 is a good guideline) describe the story. In this part, don’t worry about preserving the “surprise” factor. This is where you have to explain the story, start to finish.

Sample chapters: Include the first 40 to 50 pages of your manuscript (ending at a natural chapter break). Don’t include random chapters – you need the FIRST few chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect! THIS is what will determine whether you get a request for a full manuscript or not.

*Please note that you normally only send a full proposal if requested by an agent or editor based on your written query or a face-to-face meeting at a conference.”

[found on http://www.rachellegardner.com/how-to-write-a-book-proposal]