Guest Post by Melisa Marzett: 6 Habits of Highly Effective Writers

When we say “good writer”, in most cases we mean someone who writes regularly, professionally and, the main point – a lot. But somehow, when some writers find it easy to publish article after article, book after book, others struggle with each piece, or even start thinking that writing is not their cup of tea.

Typewriter-habits post
“There must be a secret to productive and quality writing,”
you may think, and will be right. There are several habits and approaches to writing widely used by those who succeed as writers. Now you can adopt some of them and improve both the quality and speed of your writing:

  1. Simplify your writing language. No doubt, it’s good that you have a rich vocabulary. But your aim is to convey your thoughts to the reader, not to practice sophisticated word constructions. Make it easier to read and understandable for everyone.
  2. Writing first, criticizing later. Never combine the writing and editing process – it kills all the inspiration. What is more, don’t even read what you’ve just written. Write as long as you feel like writing, and go as far as your imagination takes you. Only after you feel that no words are left to say, you can get down to editing. Even better, wait until some time has passed after the writing and you’ll start editing with a fresh head.
  3. Be a storyteller and illustrate your writing with lots of examples. First and foremost, people look for stories, simple life stories, so they could associate themselves with the main heroes. If you write technical stuff, add examples and metaphors.
  4. Read your work aloud. The proven way to understand if the story flows the way you wanted it, is to read it out loud. It’s the best way to check the tone of your writing, the appropriate use of words and understand if every sentence makes sense.
  5. Develop a writing ritual. There is a lot of advice saying that you should write every day for a certain time. But it sometimes looks like punishment rather than a creative process. What is more effective is to write when you feel like it, but starting with a certain ritual, such as having a cup of white tea, putting on your favorite shirt, switching on instrumental music, etc. Thus, you give your brain a sign that you’re going to write, and even in the days you’re stuck you’ll feel it easier to find ideas.
  6. Write about something you know from your own experience. The reader won’t believe you if you try to cover a topic you don’t know much about. If you need a fresh view on the situation you are not well-versed in. The better thing to do is to interview an expert in this field. Every time you try to cover something new, deep research should be conducted prior to that.

Melisa marzettAbout the author: Melisa Marzett is a passionate writer. She enjoys writing blog posts on business, social media, blogging, lifestyle and many other topics. 

 

 

Guest Post by Valerie Alexander: Writer Happiness

Let’s face it, most writers struggle. We struggle with making ends meet, finding story beats, writing something as good as that first piece that made us decide to become writers. We become so used to the idea of struggling that we start to believe it’s an integral part of writing. How many aspiring writers do you know that aren’t striving for success, but instead are are married to the struggle?

But what do you do when success arrives? It’s an interesting sociological experiment to watch people get everything they’ve ever wanted, or thought they wanted, and see nothing change in their lives.

For some time, I was friends with a writer who was generally a miserable person. If it was a sunny day, he would say, “Soon it’ll rain.” He got staffed on one of the hottest comedies on TV and rose through the ranks to Executive Producer, earning insane money, with residuals coming in for the rest of his life.

Last year, we ran into each other and after a short conversation it became clear that he was the same bitter guy I’d known ten years ago. Still scowling at the sun and waiting for the rain. Is he successful? Everyone in this town would say yes.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000448_00019]Everyone but me. To me, success is enjoying life and everything in it, regardless of your circumstances, and writers can do that without ever selling a script or a story. If you can be happy now, why not? Do you think you have to be miserable to be “successful?” I know a lot of very rich writers — some happy and some wretched, and it seems that life is a lot better for the happy ones.

So get a jump on enjoying your success. Be prepared for it when it arrives. Decide to be happy now – trust me, happiness is not an impediment to good writing – and then when the money, fame and accolades start rolling in, you’ll be able to fully reap the rewards. And if they don’t ever roll in, it’s no loss. You’re still happy.

See also: Now Write! Contributors’ New Work – Time For Holiday Shopping!

ValerieAlexanderValerie Alexander is a Now Write! Screenwriting contributor and the author of Happiness as a Second Language, an Amazon Top Seller in the “Happiness” and “Self-Help” categories. As a screenwriter, Valerie has written for Joel Schumacher, Catherine Zeta Jones, Ice Cube, and others. She made her directing debut with the award-winning short Making the Cut, and is the producer and director of “The Wedding Matters,” “Say I Do” and “Life Support”, successful commercial campaigns supporting marriage equality.

Prior to becoming a writer-director and author, Valerie was a securities lawyer, an investment banker, and an Internet executive in the Silicon Valley, where she worked on some of the most high profile transactions in the industry.

Visit Valerie’s Speak Happiness website for more info, or follow/connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Guest Post by Leslie Lehr: Wrecking Ball Revision

LEHR_Bookcover_May2013My new novel, What A Mother Knows, started out as a literary masterpiece – or so I thought. I wrote it for my thesis project when I earned my MFA. The story is about a woman who wakes up from a deadly car accident only to find she is accused of murder and her daughter, the only one who knows what happened, is gone. It was fun playing with the prose, so I devised two story lines that alternated between past and present until they met up at the end. The result was dark and angsty – I loved it. But my friends had trouble remembering the details from one storyline to the next.

images-2I put it aside to write a quick commercial novel, Wife Goes On, which I sold from the outline along with a screenplay on the same concept. But I couldn’t let go of this story, so I decided to rewrite it with a strong narrative drive to make it more exciting and more accessible to readers – a marriage of commercial and literary fiction. Ultimately, it was a detective story: this woman was desperate to find her daughter and to clear her name. She also had everything to risk, which made it a thriller. Time for the wrecking ball.

I started by smashing the story apart to make a scene list. Then I put the scenes in order. The main story had to be a present time page-turner, so I combined past scenes that had the same character having a revelation and used flashbacks only to help the character take action. By reordering, combining, and eliminating scenes, the story got stronger. Each character’s motivation was clearer, so the plot got thicker, and the revelations came faster. Boom, boom, boom! Then my agent asked me to develop the medical and legal themes, so I revised it again.

When she sold it, my new editor asked me to take out 100 pages. Of course, you can’t just lop off 100 pages of a tightly woven tale, so I went back to the wrecking ball and broke it down, scene by scene. Next, I make a list of revelations, to make sure everything was accounted for. Then I built it up again into a strong story.
It’s the same story, but better. And it’s a page-turner. Read What A Mother Knows and let me know if you find any holes. I dare you!

LEHRauthorphotoLeslie Lehr is a Now Write! Fiction contributor, and the prize-winning author of the novels What A Mother Knows66 Laps and Wife Goes On, plus three nonfiction books, including Welcome to Club Mom. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and anthologies such as Mommy Wars. She was the screenwriter of the romantic thriller, HEARTLESS and wrote Club Divorce for Lifetime TV. Leslie has a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, an MFA from Antioch, teaches in the world renowned Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension and works as a private manuscript consultant. For more information, go to leslielehr.com.  You can follow Leslie on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Guest Post by Dinty W. Moore: Writing and Creativity as a Peculiar Crossroads

One of my favorite writing quotes of all time comes from Flannery O’Connor, well known for her sharp observations and refreshing honesty. “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet,” she said.  “His problem is to find that location.”

O’Connor manages in these two short sentences to say so much about the mystery, the dedication, and the frustration of writing, while also reassuring those of us who have temporarily lost our roadmap to creativity that this is normal, ongoing, and to be expected. The peculiar crossroads is indeed elusive, which is why artists are both crazed and exhilarated most of their days.
O’Connor was Catholic, of course, and may not take kindly to my equating her views with a central Buddhist concept, but that connection is something else I like about this quote.  And O’Connor, while spitting in my eye, would perhaps applaud me for having the courage to say what I mean.
So here goes:  I think O’Connor is also speaking here of enlightenment.
The Sanskrit word for enlightenment, bodhi, means “awakened.” For a long time, I held all of the common misperceptions that we in the West usually have about Buddhism – most of what we know of the tradition was often learned from New Yorker cartoons of a mystic sitting atop a mountain. One of those misperceptions is the persistent idea that enlightenment is the final goal of Buddhism; that once enlightenment was attained, the ethereal Buddhist sits, perhaps glowing and smiling at the lesser beings trudging along the path below.
That, of course, is utter nonsense. Enlightenment is of no use unless it is employed to better the world for all beings, and enlightenment—like any awakening—can come and go. Indeed, it can be very fleeting.
Writers who struggle with a poem, or story, or essay, for draft after draft after draft, may on occasion experience a smidgen of enlightenment. It is the moment that the perfect word, or precise action by a character, or the ideal phrasing of an idea, is revealed to the writer.
So often, this ideal phrase or line of dialogue is more of a discovery than an invention. It is often a flash of sorts, like the proverbial light bulb above the head depicted in cartoons. This flash of insight doesn’t come from thinking, from intellect, or from reason; it comes instead from a more mysterious part of our awareness. For that moment at least, it can seem as if time and place and eternity have somehow met.
Once a writer is fortunate enough to experience such a moment, however, she doesn’t stop.  Her job is to find that “peculiar crossroads” again, to somehow pinpoint the ever-shifting “location” where insight forms. And then, once the story or poem is finished, the search begins again.
Dinty W. Moore is a Now Write! Nonfiction contributor, and the author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. He also edited The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore has published essays and stories in many literary magazines and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, Moore has won many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. He edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.