1 Podcast EVERY Writer Should Hear

1 Podcast Every Writer Should Hear

How to Become a More Efficient and Productive Blogger

As the name implies, 7 Productivity Tips For Bloggers is written for and to bloggers. It’s part of a podcast series by ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse that began with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and continues with regular releases designed to help bloggers blog better, more productively, and, yes, more profitably.

This episode is key for anyone who has a busy schedule and wants to get things done. Don’t disregard this podcast because it’s directed at bloggers. The principles apply just as well to writers as to bloggers.

If you want to get 2016 off to a great start, this podcast is a great first action.

7 Ways to Prime the Writing Pump (Plus 1)

7 Ways to Prime the Writing PumpAll muscles need exercise to function at peak efficiency. Every athlete knows the importance of loosening and stretching muscles before exercise or performance.

What if the muscle you’re about to use is your writing muscle? Is there an exercise for that?

Yes! There most certainly is.

Even better, it’s short and it’s easy (most of the time).

Before you open your work-in-progress, take up a blank piece of paper or open a fresh digital document.

Sit back.

Relax.

Start writing.

Keep it short. No less than 10 minutes (you have to get warmed up) and no more than 20 or 30 minutes (you don’t want to exhaust your creativity.)

It doesn’t matter what you write about. Describe the room you’re in, the weather outside, your mood. You might brainstorm new ideas. I have a list of ideas including new characters, book titles, first lines, prologues, and endings.

It doesn’t even matter whether or not your brainstorming concerns your work-in-progress, though it may very well do so. The important thing is to just write. This is a no pressure way to stretch your writing muscles each day.

Want more than that?

7 Ways to Prime the Writing Pump

  1. Write just ten words. I dare you.
  2. Do a timed writing.
  3. Write an entry in your lead character’s personal journal.
  4. Brainstorm.
  5. Write to music.
  6. Explore a brand new character.
  7. 10 Minutes of Idea Generation on any story, subject, topic, or scene.

Do you have a sure-fire way to prime your writing pump that I haven’t mentioned? Share it in the comment area below.

 

How to Be the Best Writer You Can Be

swordOne of the blogs I follow is The Write Practice. If you’re looking for excellent tips on improving your writing and want practice exercises, this is the blog for you. Check it out.

A recent post by regular contributor Kellie McGann was titled The Biggest Secret to Becoming a Writer. We all want to be successful writers, right? It was well worth the read.

Three Factors in Becoming a Successful Writer

Kellie’s main premise was that a successful writer has to be the best at what he or she does. There are so many writers, why would anyone take a chance on second best, no matter how good it is?

She also presented three main factors in being the best. In short, they were

  • working hard
  • making friends
  • being committed

I don’t want to steal any of Kellie’s thunder, so I’ll recommend instead that you click on over and read her post for yourself.

A Fourth Factor

Kellie’s points are valid. She couldn’t be more accurate in what makes a writer the best at what he or she writes.

But I would also suggest that the biggest part of the secret to making it as a writer is knowing your specialty and being the absolute best at it that you can be. No one else on the face of the planet has your particular combination of heritage, DNA, experience, skill, and vision. No one else can tell the story you can tell in the same way you can tell it.

That’s your niche.

It may not be a widely acclaimed niche. Your target audience may be small. That’s okay. They’re YOUR target audience. Learn what they want and how they want it, then deliver on it and you’ll have the happiest target audience in the world.

Why Making Your Target Audience Happy is Key to Being a Successful Writer

I can hear the protests now.

I want to write for everybody.

My stories don’t have a target audience; they’re suitable for everybody.

My stories are bigger than a target audience.

Here’s a well-known but oft ignored secret in marketing: If you’re marketing to everybody, then you’re marketing to nobody.

That’s just the way it works.

Why?

Because most people tune out messages that are written to attract everybody’s attention and the reason is simple. A message like that has to be general enough to reach a lot of people. That means it’s most likely also going to be vague.  Most of those people will not have skin in the game if the message is vague, so the message goes unheard.

The same is true for books. A book that’s written to Every Person is going to be so general in nature that it won’t connect with most of those people. Yes, there will be some who like vague, but is the author any better off than if he or she knew their target audience and wrote for them specifically?

I say, “No.”

If, on the other hand, you know that your target audience is made up of women over 60 who grew up in the Depression and have old-fashioned values, you’ll probably have a good idea of what your ideal reader looks like. Aunt Jane, maybe (if you don’t, you need to sit down and describe your ideal reader).

When you’re writing, you can write everything for Aunt Jane and guess what. All the gals like Aunt Jane will love your books. They’ll buy your books. They’ll read your books.

They’ll tell all their other friends—more Aunt Janes—about your books and word of mouth marketing begins.

Making Your Target Audience Happy Doesn’t Mean No One Else Will Read

This is where a lot of writers get stuck. We mistakenly think that if we write for a very specific target audience, no one else will read our books. That’s not true and I can prove it in three letters and one word.

J. R. R. Tolkien.

Tolkien’s target audience was one. His son, Christopher. He wrote every story for Christopher and he made every plotting decision based on what Christopher would like.

Tolkien’s books have been read by a lot more than one person.

What worked for Tolkien can work for any other writer, as well. It can work for every writer who takes the time to identify a target audience, then an ideal reader and then writes for that person or group.

Maybe your books won’t be the raving success Tolkien’s have been but then maybe they will?

Why Does Writing for a Target Audience Work?

Writing for a target audience—or better yet, an ideal reader—makes writing a quality novel easier because you know who you’re writing for. Like Tolkien, you can make plotting decisions based on what those people will like. You can write characters those people will connect with and create plots that hook them from the start and keep them turning pages to the end.

Why Writing for a Target Audience Isn’t as Difficult as It Appears

The simple fact is that you have a lot in common with your target audience. The stories you like to read will be the stories they are most likely to read. Your interests and theirs will overlap. There’s already a lot of built-in camaraderie between you and the people in your target audience.

Or look at it another way.

If you write the stories you most want to read, people who also want to read that type of story will find you and read you and talk about you. They’ll become your target audience and among them, you’ll find your ideal reader.

Be the best you can be in that niche and others will find you.

8 Tips for Beginning Novelists

I originally wrote this post for artists for the simple reason that whenever people learn I’m an artist, one of two things usually happen.

They tell me they’re a budding artist or they tell me they have a child who is a budding artist. In either case, the same question follows.

8 Tips for Beginning Novelists

How can I/they get started?

People who want to be writers are a lot like people who want to be artists. They have pretty much the same questions (I know I did).

And since I like to help people who are following after me, I thought I’d share 8 tips for beginning novelists.

Most of them are pretty common sense, but there are a few I wish someone had told me, lo, these many years ago.

1. Learn your writing voice. This one is pretty straight forward and if you’ve read how I’m like a race horse, you already know why. But it’s worth repeating.

The best thing any beginning novelist can do is write enough on their own to discover their writing voice. This includes favorite genres, but is by no means limited to that.

2. Develop a writing routine. For years, I wrote as a hobby. I had a full-time job and was working at making my art a full-time business. That meant I didn’t have a lot of time to write. But I did the best I could to make use of the time that was available.

A new novelist may have only a hour or 30 minutes each week to spend writing. That time should be devoted to writing.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you write. Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either. I’ve lived both and know they are not true. The best way to be a writer is to be a writer.

Every day.

Whether you feel like it or not.

Whether you have the time or not.

Even if it’s just a few minutes to jot a few notes on a napkin, make use of it.

Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you wrote.

3. Learn the writing craft. Writing conferences and workshops are great and every writer should participate in as many as possible.

But let’s face it, they’re expensive and involve large blocks of time and, sometimes, travel.

For beginning writers on a budget (time or money), there are tons of writing books available. I very highly recommend any writing book by James Scott Bell. I cut my plotting teeth on Plot & Structure and still refer to it frequently.

4. Learn to accept criticism. From the first story to the last, there will be critics. People will criticize your, your methods, your marketing… probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. It’s difficult for all of us, but new writers should be especially careful not to internalize it.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all, but learn to be gracious. Analyze it at face value and glean the comments that will improve your skills as a writer and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up and write).

5. Learn to accept praise. Praise does come to the dedicated, disciplined, and persistent writer. Learn to accept it graciously.

And always say thank you.

6. Find writing friends. Writing is a solitary activity. Full-time writers often spend the equivalent of an eight-hour day hammering away at their computers, doing research, or planning new projects. That’s a lot of time alone.

If there’s a local writers group, check it out. It may not be for you, but you won’t know until you try.

If there isn’t a local writers group, there are many online groups and organizations. You’re certain to find one that will fit.

7. Persevere. The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented writer since Shakespeare, but even he had to persevere.

8. Have fun. Whether you write for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun. For some, writing will become like a job and will require you treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee. Try not to lose sight of the joy of writing. The reason writing drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career or hobby. You won’t regret it.