A Dream and a Miracle Part I

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from Debra Irene, author of “Helen’s Heritage: Life Stories of Helen Herbert Gillham.” You can learn more about Debra by visiting her websiteFacebook, and Twitter. To begin your self-publishing journey, get a free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

How It All Began

A storyteller of real-life adventures and everyday life – that’s what I call myself. So how did this all begin? The year was 2010. I was working through the financial repercussions of a devastating divorce a few years earlier. I had two very good-paying jobs, one a career job, and three sons in college. Even though I worked about seventy hours a week, I managed to find a little time to devote myself to a lifelong dream of writing. I started one of my project ideas – a small book of vignettes reflecting on people in my life. I was determined to complete the project despite my schedule. I had heard about self-publishing; and, as I gazed out my condo window at a traditional publishing company in downtown Kansas City, I wondered about the best way to break into this world of publishing. So I called my friend Brenda for advice, who confessed that she wasn’t sure but she knew someone who would know. She said I needed to attend his two-day writing seminar in Franklin, Tennessee. This was, of course, impossible. Remember – I worked two jobs; was in a financial crisis, and this suburb of Nashville was 575 miles away.

Brenda said, “At least think about it.”

I looked into airfare and hotel possibilities for two to three nights and knew that I would have to come up with the registration fee, which I believe was between $200-$300. I remember feeling overwhelmed with it all. Then another friend offered to drive for a little getaway if I was able to take the time off. I tucked that away in my memory bank as I pondered how to come up with all of the necessary funds.

Miracles Happen

One evening, I attended a business social event at a local Marriott hotel. The grand prize giveaway for the evening was 60,000 Marriott reward points. As I signed my name on the strip of paper, I told our hostess that I needed to win the grand prize and jokingly asked if there was a Marriott in Franklin, Tennessee. She assured me there were a couple nearby and throughout the evening told everyone I needed to win to go to Franklin, Tennessee. People laughed and wondered why anyone “needed” to go to – where? Yes, Franklin, Tennessee. At the end of the evening when the names were drawn, I watched as the third and second place winners claimed their prizes. Then when the name was drawn for the grand prize, the hostess laughed and said, “She’s going to Franklin, Tennessee!” (By the way, my name really was legitimately drawn.)

My friend, Brenda, smiled when I told her the Marriott story and encouraged me to just wait and see if something else fell into place. Then a week later, I was on a call with the administrator of my 401(k) plan at work. One of my sons needed an additional $3,000 for school that semester, and I investigated the possibility of withdrawing some of the money for educational purposes. After answering many questions and jumping through all the hoops, I found out our situation didn’t qualify for that withdrawal. But the administrator said, “You do have a small amount from a previous rollover that you can withdraw without question.” I was shocked to learn the amount was almost the exact amount needed to cover the registration fee for the writing seminar. That was the final piece. We had to find another avenue for the funds for my son, and I had to arrange for time away with my two employers; but I was going to Franklin, Tennessee!!!

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Tips for Beating Writer’s Block, Part One

Today we’d like to begin discussing something that affects all writers, self-published or otherwise. Yeah, you know what it is already: writer’s block.

Why are there so many articles on writer’s block? Probably because writer’s block is to authors what a pulled muscle is to an athlete: one of the common denominators of the trade, something every participant can identify with. And like that pulled muscle, it’s one of the most frustrating.

Remember what writer’s block is, and isn’t.

In search of inspiration.

“Writer’s block.” It sounds so impenetrable, doesn’t it? And that’s part of the problem. But it’s not a wall or a force field or a dead-end street. It’s just a temporary inability for a writer to decide on the best direction for their story. Realize that there IS a best direction; you just haven’t figured it out yet. Relax!

Remember, you’re in good company!

Charles Dickens has had it. Ditto for Stephen King, John Grisham, J. K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, Stephanie Meyer, and James Patterson. You name the author, and it’s guaranteed that (s)he has stared at the monitor, blank sheet of paper, or piece of parchment and thought, “I have no idea what to write.”

And you know what? They went on to write classics and bestsellers. A problem doesn’t seem so insurmountable when you see other people solve it, does it? Well, every writer in the history of the craft has solved it; you will too.

Lower your standards.

Poet William Stafford perhaps said it best: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” He wasn’t promoting substandard writing, of course. The point is, it’s common for writers to set unreasonably high standards that aren’t achievable on a consistent basis. Remember, a lot of your story is going to manifest itself in the rewrite, not the first draft. The important thing is to just keep moving forward; you can always come back and fix that “clunky” scene later!

Just skip it!

So you’ve already written “A,” “B,” and “C,” and you have “F” and “G” plotted out. But you’re stuck on “D” and “E,” and have no idea what to do with them. Sure, you can pound your head on the desk until you figure it out, or you can just skip ahead for now! Jump to the next place in your story where you’re on “sure footing,” and start writing from there. You can always figure out the gaps later–and you will!

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Writing Advice from Famous Authors

Regan Platt is an offline marketing intern at Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She is currently a senior at Indiana University where she studies English. Regan is in Indiana University’s Liberal Arts Management Program, an honors level interdisciplinary program that incorporates Kelley School of Business courses with a liberal arts education. 

Don’t stop reading.Don't stop reading.

William Faulkner: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Meaning: Faulkner emphasizes the importance of immersion. If you constantly surround yourself with writing, then you can start to observe both valuable techniques and common pitfalls. As you put to practice what you’ve observed, your own writing will become all the better for it.

Write the book you can’t find.

Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”               

Meaning: This quote can be read as a call to arms for dreamers and “creatives.” The world would have so much less to read and dream if those with great stories never shared them.

Follow your instincts.

Saul Bellow: “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”                                    

Meaning: Bellow comforts and encourages fellow writers who work in bursts of passion. Inspiration may come at the strangest and least convenient of times, yet when the muse calls it is best to answer.

Beware the predictable.Robert Frost Quote

Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Meaning: Frost suggests that strong writing occasionally necessitates a stream-of-consciousness technique that leaves only feelings and ideas. This emotional work results in literary moments of ingenuity.

Show, don’t tell.

Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Meaning: Our final quote by Chekhov reverberates the traditional writing advice “show, don’t tell.”  Engaging writing leaves a reader to do some of the “visualizing” work themselves. Rather than dully listing the circumstances, great writing will reveal what’s happening in an innovative way.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Keep Writing When You Want to Quit

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from Rodney Hunt, author of  “Out of Control: Finding Hope in a Broken World.” You can learn more about Rodney by visiting his blog. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. To begin your self-publishing journey, get a free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

Fighting with Doubt

I am never going to finish.

There are plenty of other books out there already.

There are so many better writers than me.

No one is ever going to read this.

I might as well give up.

These are some of the thoughts that went through my mind as I spent three years writing my first book Out of Control: Finding Hope in a Broken World. I wanted to give up many times during the process of writing and publishing. One of the reasons I invested in the publishing package with WestBow Press was because I knew it would help hold me accountable to finishing my goal of becoming a published author.

I believe the greatest obstacle writers face is themselves. We have to do battle with internal struggles that cause us to want to give up. The muse brings inspiration and is often a writer’s friend, but the muse can also whisper discouraging thoughts in our head at unfortunate times. Tackling the negative inner-dialogue is an important part of the publishing process.

Never Quit

Thomas Fuller said, “An invincible determination can Rodney Huntaccomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.” It takes a great deal of determination for a writer to go from the initial idea of a book, to the rough draft, to the final draft, through the editing process, and then finally to print. You have to persevere through the tough days and moments when you feel like giving up. Don’t quit.

I felt like giving up again and again, I ended up changing the title of my book three times. At one point, I almost started over completely. I felt like giving up when I went months without making much advancement due to my busy schedule. Somehow, I kept finding moments to write an hour here or there just to continue making progress. My mantra became, as someone once said: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I felt like giving up after I sent my first draft in for publication. Looking over the proofs, I realized there were some significant grammatical problems that needed to be edited. I hired an editor to go over the work one more time from beginning to end. I persevered.

The Fruit of Perseverance

OutofControlMy first book was finally published after many hours, days, and years of hard work. There was something special about getting that first copy of the book in my hand, it was a reward in itself. An even greater reward was when someone purchased the book, read it, and left me my first five-star review. That was the reason I set out to write to begin with – to influence others.

This year, I am now in the process of marketing my book. I need to see this process through till the end. I currently have ten five-star reviews on Amazon, and I am working to ensure many others have the opportunity to find a way to hope in our broken world.

 

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


The Story of Mrs. Bumbleberry

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from Kathleen Beining, author of “Mrs. Bumbleberry’s Garden.” To begin your self-publishing journey, get your free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

Taking the First Step

I’ve always had a vivid imagination.  As a child, I spent a lot of time making up stories and pretending I was the main character.  When I grew older, my time spent playing make-believe dwindled. Although I never lost my love for making up stories, I never did anything with it.

Then in 2014, I was recuperating from surgery.  I didn’t feel that bad, I just wasn’t allowed to do anything.  I was bored sitting still and began thinking how hard it was to be inside all the time.  As I had these thoughts, it occurred to me that being stuck inside would be very difficult for a child.  That’s when the character “Katy” was born.

Creating Mrs. Bumbleberry

Mrs.BumbleberryI began writing my first story.  I started to think about Katy: how could she meet another character and who might it be?  Her neighbor, Mrs. Bumbleberry, began to take shape.  I thought about what a small girl and an older woman could have in common.  What would be the value in their friendship?  I realized, in this scenario, that there was an opportunity. The scenario is a perfect chance to showcase how Christian beliefs are practiced in daily life.  Soon my story was finished.  I kept thinking about what Katy could do next, and soon the second story was completed.  Within a week I had several other stories written for the series.

I decided to try and publish my stories. My web search led me to a “Christian” publisher who assured me they would love to publish my story. They promised it would be out within only six months. After nine months of unanswered phone calls and repeated mistakes, I had unacceptable illustrations that did not match page to page with the text.  I brought this to their attention twice.  When I received my first digital copy the mistakes were not corrected.  At this point, I hired a lawyer to get the rights to my story back.  I decided that was the end of my publishing career – God had other ideas.

Finding WestBow Press

Somewhere along the line, I visited the website for Westbow Press. Later, I Kathleen Beining - 1received a call from one of WestBow’s publishing consultants. I explained my experience with the previous publisher and my hesitancy to move forward. He said he understood and asked if I would be interested in having more information mailed to me.  I agreed.  I read the information packet and was impressed with the fact that there were several publishing packages from which I could choose.  The first publisher only had one. I decided to take another chance and started working with Westbow Press.

Publishing with Westbow Press was wonderful.  They walked me through the process and always responded when I had questions.  I am not the most computer savvy person, but everyone there was patient and friendly.  Three months later I received the first copy of my story, Mrs. Bumbleberry’s Garden.  The book arrived on my birthday which I took as a good omen.

Looking Back

It has now been two years since I signed with Westbow Press.  I have six children’s books published and just submitted the seventh one.  Though I’ve never personally met any of the people from Westbow Press, whenever I speak with them it feels like talking to old friends.  I thank God every day for sending me to Westbow Press.

People ask me where I get my stories.  I just smile and say “They are a gift from God.”  I truly believe the stories are His messages and I just have the honor of delivering them.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


A Call to Write by Jessica C. Jemmott

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from Jessica C. Jemmott, author of “Simply Redeemed: Titus 3:3-5.” To learn more about Jessica, visit her website. Jessica can also be found on Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. To begin your self-publishing journey, get your free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

Hearing His Call

January of 2015image3authorphoto, the Holy Spirit instructed me to start a women’s community Bible study. He gave me the vision for it to be held at a local café.  Initially, my thought was, Starbucks is too small and inconvenient (oh, how we can put our God in a box).  I was excited about this move from the Lord and shared the vision with a small number of ladies. Then, of course, all of the excuses for why it was not a good time rushed through my mind.

Before I knew it, a year had passed. I allowed “life” to take precedence over my direct instruction from the Lord.

January of 2016, I was awakened again by the Holy Spirit. This time his call came at four in the morning, he commanded I “move with urgency!” My response was, “Okay, Lord, if I am to move with the Bible study at this particular time, I need you to provide three things: a location, the women, and guidance on how to lead this study in Your Word.”  Within a week I received direct guidance to my requests.

He Prepares and Equips

What I did not realize at the time, was that through His instructions the Lord was preparing and equipping me for more. Not only did he instruct me to gather women to lead through His word, but He was also preparing me to teach. Through this journey, I received the inspiration for Simply Redeemed: Titus 3:3-5.

As many writers, I did not realize that becoming an author was part of my life journey. Two years ago, I could not have imagined that my obedience to the Lord’s instruction would lead to the publication of my first book. When I eventually realized that publication was the next instruction, my response was, “how, Lord?”

Isn’t this always the sentiment expressed when we are “called” to do something difficult or new? When reflecting on this question, consider the biblical figures known for questioning what God “called” them to do? Perhaps you can explore your own experiences of doubt by comparing your situation to these biblical accounts.

Follow the Lord’s Instruction

When the Lord gives us instruction, our obedience is not just a “test” to see if we will complete the task. An instruction from Him is much more than a mere test.  Our obedience to the Lord’s call is bigger than the individual.  Our obedience is always backed by a purpose according to the Lord, with promises that will be received- for which He will get the glory!

covertitleandname How does your obedience to His call have purpose? There are various biblical accounts that can emphasize the importance of adherence to the Lord’s instruction. Throughout my personal experience, I’ve prayed that every individual who journeys through the pages of Simply Redeemed Titus: 3: 3-5 experiences the Lord in new and personal ways.

My vision was that many groups would be formed in churches, homes, and cafes everywhere; all with the purpose of journeying through the pages together. I can humbly attest that within just a few short months since the book has been published, groups are currently being formed both nationally and internationally. These people will glean from that which He has called me to do – write.

 

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 

 


On the Question of Meaning

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from James Michael Castleton, author of  “Mending of a Broken Heart.” To begin your self-publishing journey, get a free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

All my life I’ve yearned for more
Than what this world can bring.
And as I struggled toward that shore,
I could not name the thing
Whose presence I have wanted
And whose price I’d gladly pay.
And so my journey has been haunted
By the promise of that day … [1]

An Early Perspective

The roots of inspiration must begin somewhere -mine began at an early age.James Michael Castleton

I was born in Los Angeles, California, when the last farms and orange groves had all but disappeared. The sleepy suburb where I grew up was nestled in the foothills of Laurel Canyon. We enjoyed a crow’s nest view of the valley. Our tiny home felt like an oasis with its wild mint, lemon and peach trees. The valley at night was a treasure of glittering lights, and the morning a repository of gold against the mountains.

It has been said that “beauty is the promise of happiness,” and our humble but wholesome circumstances impressed upon me an important lesson: life rich with significance is likely to be the one lived on simplest terms—a life that contains nothing less than required and nothing more than it ought.

I was blessed with good friends in high school, yet found that solitude was often my most cherished companion. Many mornings and evenings I spent hiking the myriad trails of the Santa Monica Mountains- witnessing more than one dawn break over Los Angeles from a dew covered sleeping bag. I have enjoyed solo map and compass cross-country trekking in the high country of the Sierra Nevada and have put more miles on my boots in those mountains than I have my car.

Longstanding Interest

I have long contemplated how people make sense of their lives and find the wherewithal to do what needs to be done with the sincerity of purpose that a meaningful life requires. I pursued such interests in college from the perspective of behavioral anthropology and cognitive psychology. Since then, I have continued to reflect on these issues during my more than 20 years of medical practice.

During this time it has become clear to me that the principle cause of mental and physical disease is the failure to find a satisfactory answer to the question of meaning.

A Personal Challenge Became A Call to Write

MendingofaBrokenHeartSeveral years ago, life brought me to the point where I had to address this question of meaning in earnest for myself. The result is Mending of a Broken Heart.

In my memoir, I endeavor to explain not simply how to live a meaningful life, but what it is to experience life as meaningful. The purpose of this drive is to help create- not simply imitate -a meaningful life. Meaning is not an end in itself, it is the byproduct of a way of life. In my memoir, I discuss how meaning relates to purpose and hope, as well as how it differs from happiness—also an essential emotion.

Mending of a Broken Heart is meant for the person of faith or the spiritually-minded. It is a personal journey told from a personal perspective. The lofty topics it dares approach are firmly embedded within the two lives that take this journey together.

Mending of a Broken Heart is written to act as companion along a difficult path. Hopefully the wisdom my memoir imparts will help shorten your journey to meaningful living.

[1] Castleton, James. “Pilrgrim ”. Mending of a Broken Heart: The Nature of Meaning and the Purpose That Gives Life Hope. Bloomington: Westbow Press, 2016. 346. Print.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


God’s Hand in my Publishing Journey

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following blog is from Eva Schmidt, author of “Grace for Tomorrow.” To learn more about Eva and her book, visit her website or Facebook page. To begin your self-publishing journey, get your free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

My Journey to Publishing Grace for Tomorrow

Eva SchmidtAugust 18, 2016 was an incredibly special day for me. It was the day that my debut novel, Grace for Tomorrow, went live! Grace for Tomorrow is the story of two women’s parallel journeys of faith. Mary is a young girl who turns her back on God after experiencing a family tragedy while Francis is a young mother struggling to rescue her crumbling marriage. Both women embark on a dark and lonely path they never intended to tread.

Writing a novel has always been my dream but it was only after I retired from my career in municipal government that I sat down at my computer and started writing. I had a general story outline in my mind, although I never committed it to paper. Many times as I wrote, the details took care of themselves. It was like I was reading a story with a twist – and I was actually writing it! God was giving me a story to write and he revealed it to me through my fingers on the keys. It was a unique and humbling experience.

I completed my first draft of Grace for Tomorrow in December 2014. I wanted to get it published but wasn’t sure it was good enough. Struggling with a lack of self-confidence and insecurities, I nevertheless researched a host of publishers on line. All too soon, I realized that traditional publishers didn’t take unsolicited materials or only accepted certain types of manuscripts. By the beginning of 2016, I gave up. I committed the publishing to God – trusting that if he wanted the book published he would provide a way – otherwise the manuscript would remain a document on my computer.

His Guiding Hand

March 24, 2016, I received a phone call from a lady at WestBow Press, asking if I still wanted to publish my novel. Apparently they had a sale on publishing packages. I took this as God’s direction and signed with WestBow Press within the next few weeks. I was ecstatic that God had given me a Christian publisher! He truly works in amazing ways!

My experience with WestBow Press has been nothing short of amazing. I knew nothing about publishing but their friendly staff has guided me each step of the way. They were always just a phone call away and turnover times were within the allotted timelines.

 

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 

 


Making Sense of Our Senses – Touch, Smell and Taste

To fully immerse our audience in the worlds and settings we craft for them in our self-published novels, it’s important to let readers engage all their senses. A while ago we talked about sight and sound, today we’ll discuss touch, smell, and taste.

Touch

Our heroes often find themselves in unusual situations. After all, the whole point of us creating these adventures is to help our readers escape reality. This often means they are touching or coming into physical contact with unusual or repellent objects, things that our readers have probably always tried to avoid touching.

A great way to enhance your description of touch is to focus on the physical reaction it evokes. Your hero’s skin might crawl or become covered in goose bumps; they might faint or feel ill.

The use of adjectives will also help you with your descriptions of touch.

Smell

Smell and taste (below) are probably the hardest senses to represent in our writing. The first thing to do is to decide what feeling you want to create in your readers.

Smell links us to our past. Use its associations to help describe the conditions under which a scene is taking place. A bad smell in a horror story usually forebodes a gruesome occurrence. The smell of smoke is an indicator of danger.

BlindfoldHere are a few smell words you can use to tap into your readers’ emotional triggers:

• Acrid
• Fetid
• Aromatic
• Fragrant
• Pungent

Taste

Try and associate taste with textures. Think about various flavors and see if you can come up with a texture to represent it. This will help our readers appreciate exotic, alien, or repulsive flavors they have never experienced before.

Here are the classifications of taste along with a few words and textures they might be paired with:

• Bitter: tart / vinegary
• Salty: briny / brackish
• Sour: tart / acerbic
• Sweet: saccharine / syrupy
• Savory: aromatic / wholesome
• Metallic: bloody / rusty

Bringing all Five Together (and Adding More!)

Skilled writers will be able to combine all five of these senses to really bring their story to life. The rule of thumb is: the longer your description, the more senses you should engage. You can even try to incorporate other sensations, such as our kinesthetic sense and our balance (our kinesthetic sense is the awareness of our body and the position of our body parts, and our balance relates to our physical stability). These are good senses to tap during fight scenes.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Creative Exercises to Keep You Going

Whitney Eklof is currently an offline marketing specialist for Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She has a master’s degree in telecommunications from Indiana University, focusing specifically on storytelling across a range of mediums and story world creation.  While at IU, she also served as an associate instructor, educating students about writing, storytelling, and other telecommunications-related subjects, and worked as a writer for Indiana University’s Media Team.

Creativity can be hard to come by. Some days we’re just worn out, or we feel we’ve exhausted our creative juices. Writing, an inherently creative process, is no different. There are days we’re just dog-gone out of the dose of creativity we need to keep pushing our story forward. However, we don’t have to languish in our creative void – there are a whole host of creative exercises we can try to get our writing juices flowing again. Below are just a few suggestions, from the obvious to the obscure.

The obvious

Free write: You are probably familiar with this technique. Simply set aside what you’re working on and write. Write whatever comes to mind; write in full on stream-of-consciousness. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes or that the paragraphs don’t flow together. Just write. Free what’s in your heart and mind and put it on a page – you never know where it’ll take you.

writing-1209121_960_720Read: We are often inspired by others. In fact, that may be the reason you started writing in the first place. Maybe you read a story that sucked you in completely and charged you up to write something of your own. Take some time to go back to those roots. Read something you really enjoy; even better if it’s in the same genre you’re writing in. See how someone else spins a sentence or brings a character to life. Let someone else inspire you instead of trying to will creativity into existence.

Utilize writing prompts: There are hundreds of books and websites full of writing prompts. Whether or not they relate to your book’s subject-matter, taking on a prompt can let your mind roam free. Don’t be afraid to embrace a genre you don’t normally write in either! Writing prompts give you just enough direction to send you down the path to creativity.

The not so obvious

Exercise: When we think about trying to jog our writing creativity, we often focus on writing-related exercises (the obvious ones mentioned above), but exercises unrelated to writing can also help us find the creativity we need to finish that next chapter. In comes the most straightforward exercise of all: exercise. It gets your heart pumping, gets you out of that hunched-over-your-laptop position, and just flat-out increases creativity. Scientific study even supports it!

Meditate: Mindfulness meditation has exploded in popularity over recent years. Mindfulness is about slowing down, taking in your surroundings (and your body), and simply being. It’s a practice about being present, and not letting the distractions of life in. The process of mindfulness can boost creativity as it helps us focus and frees us from worry or tangential rabbit holes.

The obscure

Play: That’s right, play. Sit down with your children, nieces, nephews, pets, or even by yourself and play. Free your mind from stress and worries and just imagine yourself as a princess, a powerful wizard, or simply be your dog’s favorite ball thrower. Play not only incorporates exercise; it helps expand our thinking in new directions. Instead of thinking linearly all the time, we open ourselves to more lateral thinking and associations. You might be surprised at how creative kids can be, they may end up providing the inspiration you needed. Beyond that, play is simply important, whether you’re a kid or an adult.

Restrict yourself: This one probably seems counter-intuitive. You probably imagine creativity is a product of freedom, and sometimes that’s true. However, there is power in restricting yourself, as the story behind the creation of Dr. Seuss’ classic, “Green Eggs and Ham,” demonstrates. By reigning in your boundaries, you’re forcing your brain to work within confines it may not be used to – giving it a new challenge and forcing you outside of your comfort zone.

Creativity is something we can find in the most unexpected of places, and it’s something essential to writing – no matter if we’re writing a sci-fi saga or a how-to helper. When our creativity wanes, it can bring our writing to a halt, but it doesn’t have to spell the end of our story. There are thousands of creative exercises out there and the ones listed here are but a few. So, please, take some of the ideas listed above and give them a whirl, or share some of your own creative exercises to help a fellow writer out of their creative void.

Write on, fellow writers!

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Are you a “Pantser” or are you a “Plotter?”

Whitney Eklof is currently an offline marketing specialist for Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She has a master’s degree in telecommunications from Indiana University, focusing specifically on storytelling across a range of mediums and story world creation.  While at IU, she also served as an associate instructor, educating students about writing, storytelling, and other telecommunications-related subjects, and worked as a writer for Indiana University’s Media Team. 

What kind of writer are you?

When we talk about our writing, we often refer to the genre we write or the themes we explore. However, we rarely talk about what kind of writer we are. In comes the concept of “Pantsers” and “Plotters.”

Like the name suggests, a Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They go forth and let the words flow without planning or overarching structure already in place.

Then there are the Plotters. As you might guess, a Plotter is someone who sits down to write after carefully plotting the trajectory of their story. They have a structure in place and their writing is about getting from one piece of that structure to the next.

As writers, we generally fall in one of three categories: Pantser, Plotter, or the combination of the two known as the “Plantser.”

Now, it might be easy to categorize yourself as a Plantser off the bat because you feel you do a little of both, and that may be true. But take a moment to stop and really think about your writing process. You might just find that you tend to lean more heavily toward one side, or even that you’re a full-on Pantser or Plotter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply your process. But, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each side.

Pantsers

Pros: Pantsers have more flexibility and freedom. They can go wherever the story takes them, which can be great for discovering new directions to take your book in. They’re not tied to a particular outline so they can scrap something that’s not working without having to redo the entire structure.

Cons: Of course, having no structure and no clear direction can lead to those dreaded cases of writer’s block, or even worse, it could lead to entire story derailment. Pantsers often run into more plot holes and logic problems because of the more freewheeling form.

Plotters

Pros: With a solid idea of where the book is going, Plotters can more easily get from Point A to Point B or chapter to chapter. The writing process also tends to move more quickly and smoothly when you know where you’re going.

Cons: Having everything planned out can be confining and Plotters may miss out on the opportunity to see where the story takes them. It also means that if they want to change something, they may have to rethink their entire structure.

Plantser-a combination

There are certainly writers who fall into each of these categories without ever experiencing any of the cons. They are the lucky few. For the rest of us, becoming a Plantser can bring us the best of both worlds. Having a light outline or at least a general idea of what you want to cover in each chapter is certainly helpful, but taking time to simply write and see where the story or characters lead is also equally as powerful.

Where to go from here?

Whichever category you fall into, consider changing up your process and try being a Pantser or Plotter for a day. Even if you consider yourself a little of both – a Plantser – you probably tend to use one process more than the other or may simply be in a place where you’ve become one more so than the other lately.

As writers, we all need to take time away from our work: time to re-energize, regroup, or just to relax away from writing. Be sure to also take some time to try out a different process.

If you’re more of a Pantser, sit down and outline your next chapter and see how the process can give you clearer direction. If you’re a Plotter, take one of the concepts you believe needs more development and just write; don’t plan, just go. When you mix things up, you’ll find that change often leads to increased creativity and helps refresh you and your spirit.

So whether you’re a Pantser, Plotter, or somewhere in-between, don’t be afraid to switch things up once in awhile and embrace the other side. After all, you know what they say … “The grass is always greener.”

Write on, fellow writers.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


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