Three Ebooks to Spark Creativity and Grow Traffic

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The WordPress.com Blog

At WordPress.com our raison d’être is to do everything we can to help you make your blog the very best it can be. Over at The Daily Post we’ve got daily writing prompts to give your muse a friendly nudge, we publish articles on how to grow your traffic and community, as well as tips and advice on how to take great photos, no matter which gear you choose.

We’ve compiled a ton of great material into three new ebooks, made with love, for you. And, they’re free. They come in three fetching formats so we’ve got you covered no matter whether .pdf, .epub (iBooks), or .mobi (Kindle) is your jam.

365 Writing Prompts

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So you want to write but you have trouble getting started? Writers’ block a perpetual, unwelcome guest? With 365 Writing Prompts we’ve got a different writing prompt to jumpstart your muse each and every…

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Enough Time to Make Hay While the Sun Shines

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Ever feel like there’s just not enough time in a day? 

 

If you answered “No” I envy you.  Teach me.  It seems like no matter how much time I have it’s not enough.  

 

And it’s every day.  The same cycle, like Inception or reverse Inception where twenty-four hours seems more like four. 

 

 

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And me without my totem wonders–is this real life?  There are just so many distractions

 

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that it becomes next to impossible to accomplish anything.  I read an article on The Urban Muse where Susan Johnston describes ten time management methods tailored for writers.  So, I started strategizing and since have tried the following:

 

1.   Making Lists

 

I love lists. Making lists.  Reading lists.  Using lists is where things get tricky.  I make a lot of lists.  I mean a lot.  It’s really hard to stick to lists when you’re always misplacing them.  So, I’m currently looking for a better way to keep lists.

 

2.   Using Timers

 

This is actually pretty effective.  Set timers at fifteen-minute intervals (or 30 or an hour dealer’s choice really) and commit to tasks for the set amount of time, then take a break for the same or less amount of time.  This method really breaks up big tasks so that they don’t seem so daunting to approach and I don’t find myself too distracted when I can look forward to a break. 

 

3.   Calendars

 

I’ve found using iCal and Google Calendar has been pretty useful.  I can map out tasks for an entire day, week, month or year so that I can stay on top of appointments, assignments, meetings, etc.  I can also parse out time throughout the day for me-time, errands, and writing time.

 

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I feel like the old man in that episode of the Twilight Zone, but made for this era—I’m great at finding time for distractions, but there’s not enough time for what needs to be done.  So, how do you manage your time?  Have you tried any of the above methods?  Have they been effective for you?  If you have any effective advice on time management let me know in the comments so I can be Meredith Burgess (hopefully without the apocalypse).

 

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Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

So you have a manuscript? Now publish it.

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This week in Literary Citizenship we’re talking about publishing.  The publishing world is like a giant game of Blackjack.  It’s really a game of luck, but you can increase your chances of winning with certain skills and know-how. 

Many editors have cashed-in on the secret to being published.  Styles vary, but the advice is consistent across the board. 

 

A Catchy Title and the Perfect Pitch

 

You’ll need both of these things not only to get published, but also to catch an agent.  Your pitch should consist the nuts and bolts of your story and why it should be published.  Something that is very important to the big publishers is money: is this book going to sell?  “Who is this book for?” and “Which bestsellers is it similar to?” are questions you need to be prepared for. 

 

Hit or Stay?

I’ve been reading Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees, an invaluable resource for writers who want to be published.  In chapters nine and ten Lerner, a book editor, contrasts what editors want with what authors want.  There is a thickly drawn line as to whose opinion is more important in getting published, but what you as the author have to decide is what is more important to you: changing a major plotline to make them happy or keeping your integrity and moving on.

 

Doubling-Down

The publishing industry is a dog-eat-dog world, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s important to know that getting published by one of the Big Six publishing houses (think Penguin) is next to impossible, but don’t fret there are other ways of getting your book published.  See Jane Friedman’s guide to getting published “Understand the Key Book Publishing Paths” (pictured). 

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Get out there!

There are many valuable resources when it comes to publishing that make it easier to get to know the industry and get your book out there.  See: Eckstutt and Sherry’s The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Marek’s Editors on Editing, Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees, or one of the other handfuls of books out there on the subject.  The best advice I have heard, though, is networking.  In publishing it’s all about who you know, so get on Twitter, build a blog, sell short stories to magazines, do whatever it takes to get your name out there. 

 

Until next time,

Lindsay

Introducing: Literary Citizenship!

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False Start

I started this blog last year with the grand vision in mind that I would write every week and it would be great and…no that didn’t happen.  I’m still struggling to find my zen, to find order in my chaotic world, and to reach a feeling of normalcy that may not even exist.  Built upon that struggle has long been a love for escapist literature and films, which as perhaps fostered my interest in writing fueled by an uncontainable imagination.  Cathy Day’s novel-writing class taught me about the art of craft, but her offering of an avant-garde class called “Literary Citizenship” piqued my interest.

Week Two of my final semester as a Ball State Cardinal I finally realize my role and responsibility as a member of the creative writing community.  The college experience has been daunting to me, so large and sublime, I haven’t known how to make myself a part of it.  Not because it wasn’t available to me or even because I didn’t know about it, but because I didn’t feel like a writer, that I had anything interesting to say that I could share with others.  The real turning point for me was in my ADHD diagnosis.  Finally, I knew what was wrong with me.  For some reason this validation gave me a little confidence to be myself and actually take advantage of the opportunities I’d been given in the BSU Creative Writing Community.

Literary Citizen

 In Cathy Day’s novel-writing class I realized that in order to be a better—at the very least better informed—writer, it would be crucial to immerse myself in what other writers are doing.  In joining the literary universe I am not only learning more about my field, but also making myself a literary citizen promoting the work of fellow writers so that they can be found and read—may karmic goodness rain down upon me. 

This week we read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist.  Kleon puts writers at ease in an enjoyable read by bringing light to the truth that all art has some element of preexisiting art.  He lets us know that art really is in the eye of the beholder.  Stay tuned for my complete review of Steal Like an Artist.

Easy as 1, 2, 3.

One of the joys of modern technology is that it makes this task quite simple.  Social media is a crucial outlet in literary citizenship.  Follow me @lindsayagregg and the Ball State University Literary Citizenship campaign @litcitizen on Twitter to read about some great new authors and their works, as well as, some informative works about creative writing.

Until next time,

Lindsay

Week Eight Report: Storyboarding

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Okay everyone, we’re done with Week Eight.

That means we have eight weeks to go and have logged countless hours of writing amounting to at least 12,000 words.  Everything we’ve done so far is starting to turn into something.  At this point, for most of us, that something is messy and in need of an organizational override.

This is also the point where many, especially myself, get discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the plethora of words and possibilities and the fact that all of these words and possibilities no longer fit into the hopeful little box you had imagined for them.

The best advice we’ve heard so far is to go on.  Muddle through.  Do whatever it takes to get words on a page, but at this point words on a page just won’t cut it.  As my professor, Cathy Day, put it last week—being a writer is like having homework every day for the rest of your life.  Well folks, the wonderful and sometimes difficult truth about being able to make a living from writing is that it isn’t an orthodox nine-to-five job, it requires you to sacrifice almost every piece of yourself in hopes that the end result will be rewarding both creatively and financially.

Eventually, that “game over” feeling will pass.

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Getting Past “Game Over”

will require going over everything you’ve written so far and meticulously organizing it so that is starts to resemble a cohesive novel.  One step in achieving this is storyboarding.

Storyboarding 101

While the task of storyboarding your novel may seem daunting and unapproachable, it is an essential part of noveling and is actually quite helpful and fulfilling once you get started.

Reverse Storyboarding 

In order to storyboard your own novel, it is beneficial to storyboard someone else’s novel, or even a film that you like to get a feel for its purpose and aesthetic.  In Cathy Day’s novel-writing class, we are required to reverse-storyboard a novel—I am using Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell—to give us an idea on how the elements of our story, namely plot, come together for the finished product.

Tools

There are many ways you can choose to reverse storyboard—I once covered the mirror in my Freshman dorm room with neon dry-erase marker outlining my idea for a Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle origin story—but for this project I will be using Post-It notes and index cards.

 A Quick for Instance

 Most of you, I am assuming, have read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, right?  Good.  The  premiere novel of the  illustrious J.K. Rowling is comprised of 17 chapters, so, I take out 17 index cards and number  them 1-through-17 lining  them up accordingly.  Then, I write a short thumbnail synopsis of what happened in each  chapter as it relates to  furthering the plot—this is really where the reverse part comes into reverse storyboarding, you  have to know how it  ends and have a good idea how you got there.  Sound easy enough?

Now, Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t as complex as the rest of the books in the series, so, if I were to storyboard say the whole  series I would need to include many different colored Post-Its attributed to different characters and how their stories  progressed or how their actions furthered the plot—a bit trickier, yes?

After doing so, I am certain you have a deeper understanding of the events put in motion early on in the series, as well  as, a deeper understanding on how noveling works.

Your Finished Product

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Photo borrowed from Erica Ridley, http://www.ericaridley.com/read/storyboarding/

               Should look something like this.

 

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Or this. (Faulkner’s notes for The Fable)

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Or this. (Heller’s storyboarding of Catch 22)

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Or even this.

What I Learned

From reverse storyboarding I was able to discern which parts of my novel belonged in the trash and which parts are necessary in developing the plot, even parts that I hadn’t considered before.

 Storyboarding is a necessary and helpful tool for developing a novel.  It is so wonderful to be able to walk up to my post-it note timeline and add/move/remove pieces from my novel without having to muddle through notes and Word documents.

There are many many ways to storyboard.  The best way is to find a way that works best for you; there are also programs available online such as, Scrivener and MindNode (on the App Store for Mac) that are fun, easy to use and paper-free!

See Also

Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet from his screenwriting manual Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.  Creating beat sheets is similar to storyboarding for screenwriters, so called for each “beat” in the plot.  Typically, in the filmmaking world, storyboarding is attributed to the process of building scenes before principal photography.  

As always thanks for reading!  Be sure to post any questions or comments below! Happy Writing!

Initiation

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Welcome.  If you have stopped by this blog, it seems that Cathy Day is likely to thank.  Cathy Day, in case you didn’t know already, is my Advanced Fiction Writing instructor at Ball State University, by day, and a prolific writer of such titles as, The Circus in Winter and The Comeback Season, by night.  This semester she encouraged us to create a blog narrating the pleasures and perils of writing a novel.  At first, this seemed very intimidating, but since I was recently diagnosed as a sufferer of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD for short), I decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to reach out to other people like me or anyone who is navigating the foreboding task that is writing a novel.

So, today, Sunday, August 25th 2013, I jump feet first into the five-alarm inferno that is novel-ing (novel+writing).  Every week I will document my progress and my process whilst attempting to produce words abound and a cohesive novel at the same time.  In my college course, we are to submit a minimum of 2,000 weekly words starting today.  I encourage anyone who reads this to play along and try to produce 2,000 words of your own each week.  So, here I go, my first 2,000 words on the journey of 40,000 and my first blog post on the journey to self-discovery.

The term writer is both thrilling and terrifying, endearing and annoying.  If by chance you “make it” as a writer, or even entertain the idea of making it, this admission will be met by friends, family, and practically anyone you meet with similar expressions of intrigue and dubiety.  The vacillating inclinations of intrigue and dubiety can be overwhelming and discouraging, but I have found solace in camaraderie here at Ball State, which I wish to share with you here.  Through this blog I hope to form a bond of siblinghood and will attempt to take you through my process so that you might gain something, anything, even inadvertently from my ramblings.  So, here I leave you at the threshold of initiation into a dilatant exodus from normalcy into the annals of unadulterated creation, and if you aren’t new here, welcome home.

Until next week,

Lindsay

P.S. This blog, as well as related posts/blogs, will be tagged here and on other social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with the distinction  #amnoveling, as well as, #writewithme.