Writing Tip & Prompt: Punctuation

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Punctuation

Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts, and they can make your text confusing even if the words are clear.

Writing Prompt – Changing Seasons

The cusp of a new season brings excitement for the upcoming holidays — a chance to celebrate traditions and a gathering of family and friends. Create a new holiday. It may be inspired by that start of fall or the grasp you have on summer. Maybe it’s inspired by a person or a place. Write about this holiday and how it would be shared. What new traditions have you created?

Finding Your Voice as a Writer

Finding Your Voice as a WriterIt’s important for writers to find their voice and apply it to their stories. But first, what is a writer’s voice? It’s a combination of things – syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc. – that make your writing unique. Your voice when writing books differs from when speaking at engagements.  No one else can offer what you can – your unique perspective and storytelling will keep your readers coming back for more if you stay true to yourself and your voice. So, it’s essential for you to unlock your creative potential and find your writing voice.

Here are a few tips on how to find and develop your voice:

1.)    Visualize someone you want to talk to. Pretend you’re writing a self-help book for teens, and you have a fourteen-year-old niece. Visualize your niece sitting next to you as you write. This makes it easier for you to tell the information with words of encouragement from a concerned loved one rather than simply instructive words coming from a figure of authority.

2.)    Play games. Create lists of words in order to discover ideas you’ve kept hidden from yourself.  Make sure these words mean something to you; don’t just search for synonyms. Really think about them.  Make a list of words that you find creepy, then a list of things that you find inspirational. Make a list of foods you enjoy, then a list of places you want to visit. Make a list of movies you enjoyed as a child, then a list of gifts you’d give yourself and family if you won the lottery.

3.)    Free write. Write whatever comes to mind without editing. Take a few words from the lists you created from step two and simply begin writing. After a few sessions, review your work and see if you would publish something similar. Your most honest work is usually revealed when you’re comfortable and without stress or deadlines.

Your voice is created from persistent hard work, and when you challenge yourself. So, keep writing – and reading – in order to develop your voice once you discover it. You’ll stand out among other authors by showing the world you have something to say and have a unique way of saying it.

How did you find your writing voice?

Writing Tip & Prompt: Simplicity

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Simplicity

The simplest explanation is most often the correct one. Try not to over think your characters, plot or themes within your work, especially during a first draft. Overthinking can often lead to mental blocks and disruptions that can spell disaster for your writing project. Push forward and use whatever situation, feeling or plot device that seems natural to you. The lack of hesitation will come in your prose, and remember, you always have the opportunity to return to previous sections and think critically after you have a significant number of pages.

Writing Prompt – Memory

Memory is a mysterious thing, releasing vivid feeling and events into our consciousness. The trick is finding a way to pull memories out. Visit your local grocery store and purchase something that you haven’t eaten in ages, perhaps since you were a child. Then, with pen in hand, taste and remember. Recall all the memories associated with this treat. Why did you like it? Who did you eat it with? Where there any “rituals” were involved? What did you have to do to get this item? Indulge your senses and remember.

Foods for the Writer’s Brain

Foods for the Writer's BrainIf you’re looking for a way to renew your focus and energy towards writing, the answer could lie in your eating habits. Don’t underestimate the power of food to motivate, energize or comfort you.

Feed your brain

Many studies out there show that certain foods can help boost, maintain and recharge brain activity. Eating these foods on a regular basis might help keep your brain healthy and ready for productive writing sessions.

  • Avocado
    This tasty green fruit is full of vitamins and nutrients that are thought to aid in cognitive brain functions. Make yourself some guacamole and get to work!
  • Beets
    The nitrates found in beets are said to increase the flow of blood to the brain. If you’ve only ever eaten beets from a can, a whole new world of fresh, delicious roasted beet recipes awaits you.
  • Walnuts
    Another food with healthy fatty acids and antioxidants, walnuts pack a mean nutritional punch. Eat whole walnuts, including the skin!
  • Berries
    Berries are high in antioxidants that protect your brain cells. Eat healthy, antioxidant-rich foods — such as spinach, berries, garlic, etc. — on a daily basis.
  • Salmon
    Salmon is rich in healthy omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for brain function. Eat salmon or a similar type of fish once a week to regularly rebuild your brain cells.


Reward yourself

If you’re having a hard time sticking to your writing schedule, consider coupling the task of writing with a comforting, rewarding food habit. If you combine your writing time with ice-cream-eating time or hot-tea-drinking time, you’ll create an inviting, relaxing atmosphere that you’ll want to return to each day.

  • Coffee
    Enjoy a cup of coffee while you write. In moderation, the caffeine can help keep you alert and focused as you work.
  • Hot Tea
    When writing becomes stressful, a warm, cozy beverage should help ease your nerves. As a bonus, many types of tea are rich in healthy antioxidants.
  • Dark Chocolate
    Aside from its comforting deliciousness, dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants and natural stimulants like caffeine.
  • Ice Cream
    We’re not aware of any health benefits here, but ice cream’s mysterious powers of motivation are not lost on anyone.


Tell us what you eat while you write!

Writing Tip & Prompt: Perspective

On Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers.  We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Perspective

Walk around the block or hike a new trail. Absorb your surroundings. Stop, turn around and look back, observing where you have just been. This change of perspective offers a surprisingly different view. Pay attention to the details you failed to see when walking forward and how those details alter the scenario. It is this backward or alternate perspective that will help to open up your story while discovering uniqueness from another view.

Find Your Special PlaceWriting Prompt – Find your Special Place

Within each of us is that special place. A place we look to for comfort, for happiness, for warmth. It is a collaboration of sight, sound and feeling, that even when simply thought of, you are able to relive this place with its sensations centered in your being. It may be the sound of the ocean and the waves curling over your toes, sand beneath your feet. Or the heat from your grandmother’s oven with the smell of her home-baked pies strategically placed on the checkered tablecloth. Think of this place – this feeling – and dig deeper. Find the meaning behind its importance. Write about each ordinary detail that makes up your special place.

Ten Commandments for New Authors

Ten Commandments for New AuthorsOver my past 20 years in the book publishing industry, I have seen many new authors make the same mistakes. These mistakes seem obvious to industry insiders, which is perhaps why we have not done a better job of helping authors avoid making them. In this era where most new books are self-published, to some degree, an author is responsible for several functions that are normally outsourced to their publisher. As a result, these mistakes are becoming more common.

While not nearly as important as the original Ten Commandments, these guidelines can determine an author’s level of success. (more…)

Writing Tip & Prompt: Write Every Day

Writing Prompt - CelebrationOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Write Every Day

Even if it’s only 30 minutes, make sure to set aside time each day to write. This way you’ll be able to stay in tune with your voice and stay motivated. Otherwise, you might start to procrastinate, and before you know it, three months have passed and you haven’t written a single word. Don’t allow yourself  to become torpid with your writing – stick with your passion and write, write, write!

Writing Prompt – Celebration

Consider a celebration. What was the last party you attended? Why were you there? Did you bring a present? Did you dress a certain way in order to impress? Will you attend another celebration in the near future? Think about all the factors that affect your behavior when attending a celebration, and then begin a short story detailing them. Peeling back the superficial layers of the party should provide you with a meaningful insight into the reason you attended at all.

How to use Goodreads as an Author

How to use Goodreads as an AuthorWith all the social media and networking sites out there, it can be hard to decide where to focus your online marketing efforts. When deciding which online communities to be a part of, remember that your primary goal behind using any social  media site should be to reach out and build relationships with potential readers. With that goal in mind, we can’t think of a better place to concentrate your energy than Goodreads.

Goodreads is an online community where readers gather to discover new titles, rate and review books they’ve read, join reading groups, share reading lists, track their reading progress, etc. If you’re looking for a surefire way to get your book in front of a large group of dedicated readers, look no further. This is a place designed with readers in mind.

But Goodreads isn’t just built around readers. It was created with authors in mind, too. Using Goodreads’ free Author Program, you can take advantage of several fun and unique ways to promote your work, establish an online presence and catch the attention of Goodreads users.

Create an author profile.
As an author, you can have a different type of profile than the typical reader profile on Goodreads. For a great example of what your author profile on Goodreads could look like, take a look at how WestBow Press author Ashley Hodges Bazer is using the site. She’s taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase her author bio, list her books, share video, write blog posts, and more — all on a single page.

Host a book giveaway.
As a unique way to generate interest in your book, run a book giveaway on Goodreads. You can select how many books you want to give away and choose how long to run the contest. Goodreads will list your giveaway, and readers can enter to win a copy of your book. According to Goodreads, the average giveaway attracts 825 entries. That just might be the boost your book needs to reach more readers.

Join groups.
Within the larger Goodreads community, you can join smaller groups of readers and authors who share similar interests. Use these groups as places to engage with readers and learn from fellow authors. By joining (and becoming an active participant in) the right groups (whether it’s a contemporary Christian fiction book club or a group where Christian authors and writers can talk about their faith), you can truly zoom in on your target audience.

These are just a few ways to use Goodreads to your advantage as an author. Just like any other social media platform, we encourage you to dive in, explore, and see what works for you. If you’re having fun as an active user, readers will take notice — and take interest.

Do you use Goodreads?
We’d love to hear from you! Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

Writing Tip & Prompt: Sentence Structure

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Sentence Structure

Sentence structure is something built into a writer’s core, and we can employ little tricks to shift the emphasis of our sentences. For example, use the passive voice to emphasize “what happens” rather than who or what does it: A completed chapter is expected by the end of the day. Use a cleft sentence with “it is/was” or “what” to emphasize a specific subject or object: It was I who won Grand Prize in the contest. Use always, forever or never to express annoyance: He always expects me to work on the weekends. Auxiliary verbs did and do can be used in a positive sentence to express a strong feeling: I do believe your lawn-mowing days are over.

Writing Prompt – Know Your Neighbors

How well do you know your neighbors? What things do they do throughout their day? How large or small is their family? Are they from a different state or country? What brought them to live in your neighborhood and be your neighbor? Write a short story about your thoughts and then write another story after you interact with them and compare your two stories.

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