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Busting writer's block: Creativity-boosting writing exercises to get you going

theguardian.com – Tuesday July 21, 2020

Many of us suffer from a lack of confidence when engaging in creative projects, assuming that – to be any good – a piece of work has to wholly originate in some almost mystical act of inspiration. Anyone who works professionally as a writer will often simply realise that a looming deadline is the greatest spur to creativity.

There are no rules to being an effective writer, and when working with students I spend quite a lot of time helping them discover the times and places when they work best. For some, inspiration is most likely to strike when in they’re able to observe the bustle of life; for others it comes during absolute quiet, when the family is asleep or (in my own case) when walking. That said, whatever sparks your desire to write, you need to be able to turn it into a habit if you’re going to succeed.

The following simple exercises will help you strip away the mystery from the craft of writing. Grab a pen and paper – or your laptop – and give these a whirl…

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Character Backstory?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Saturday July 4, 2020

One question that often arises for an author is what comes first, the protagonist’s backstory or an introduction to the character in action.

Well, the reader might not care about the protag’s history immediately, but a quarter of the way through the novel, once we readers have seen her in action—her heroism, her vulnerability, the sacrifices she makes for others—we might wonder how she came to be this way. Well, let the author finally tell us…

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Naomi Alderman Was Writing a Pandemic Novel Before the Pandemic Hit

nytimes.com – Tuesday June 23, 2020

For two years, Naomi Alderman, the author of the 2017 dystopian novel “The Power,” had been working on her next book.

Then in February, with 40,000 words already written, she decided she had to stop. The story she had devised, about tech billionaires fleeing a pandemic, now seemed a little too close to reality.

“I just thought, ‘Bollocks! I am not going to be able to write this book,’” Alderman said in a phone interview. “It just felt incredibly disrespectful to the many people who had lost loved ones. And I thought, ‘God knows where this pandemic is going to land, and what is possibly going to be the world that comes after it.’”

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Effective Writing Advice That Is 100 Years Old

news.clearancejobs.com – Friday June 19, 2020

Regardless of your job, writing is an important communication skill that when fostered, improves over time. If you want to become a writer or improve your craft, I would highly recommend studying the techniques of a few of the American masters. While these men mostly wrote fictional books, they were strongly based on real events. Hemingway was also a correspondent over the years for many newspapers and magazines; his coverage of current events is worth a study as well. Below are some of the useful tips I took from a few of my favorite authors, and one editor who knew them all.

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A deliciously cautionary tale about writing groups

ocregister.com – Tuesday June 16, 2020

Ask any writer how it’s going during quarantine, and they will respond, “Not much different than my regular life.” That’s how creativity works for writers. You hole yourself up in your house, plant your butt in your chair, stare at the computer screen, get up, pace the floors aimlessly trying to figure out the next scene, check the fridge for snacks, walk the dog 18 times a day waiting for ideas to come.

Or, if the writing is going well, you sit at your desk clattering away at the keyboard, telling your dog, “In a minute Mommy can take you for a walk. In a minute. Be a good dog.” When the writing is going well, a blessed day is when no delivery person rings the doorbell, no meetings have to be showered and dressed for, and no friend is suggesting you meet for happy hour because they have to tell you about their day. Not all writers love quarantine, but almost all self-quarantine to get the work done.

Writing is work and requires a time commitment and showing up – all the things that any job requires, even meetings. Meetings with agents and editors and psychotherapists. But even before publication, there are writing group meetings.

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Want to Strike a Funny Bone?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Thursday June 4, 2020

My editing client’s (erotic romantic) writing made me genuinely LOL—laugh out loud— which naturally caused me to muse on humor in fiction. The world is going to hell in a handbasket (they lowered workers in handbaskets to set off dynamite while building the railways). But let’s not go all gloomy Gus over our trials and tribulations. Laugh, clown, laugh. Did I mix any metaphors?

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Writing Insights: How Many Pages Should You Write in a Day?

authorlink.com – Monday June 1, 2020

Some writers are worried that they aren’t turning out as many pages as they should, or that they may be writing too fast.

So, let’s look at a reasonable daily output for a typical author. This is how I have answered similar questions on Quora.com. 

Let’s do some simple math.

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George Orwell’s Six Tips for Better Writing

theunionjournal.com – Monday May 25, 2020

It is often said that there are no rules for writing well. But it is not true. For example, it helps to have on hand the six rules George Orwell proposed. They were remembered by his son, Richard Blair, in an interview made by Bernardo Marín and published by EL PAÍS a few days ago.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other made phrase that you are used to seeing in writing.

2. Never use a long word if you can use a short one that means the same thing.

3. If it is possible to delete a word, always do it...

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Bookselling Requires a Great Query Letter & It's Harder Than It Looks

bleedingcool.com – Monday May 25, 2020

The query letter is a single page—usually closer to half a page—whose purpose is to explain who the writer is and what their book is about. As Hodapp says, the letter has one goal: to get the agent to request the full manuscript, "period." It's harder than it looks. Agents receive thousands of letters and only respond to a small fraction.

Hodapp spent time explaining so many ways a query can go right or wrong. She talked about "comps," or comparative titles, the one or two existing books that the author's book is most like. Sometimes authors are afraid to mention comps because they don't think the comparison is close enough, or they mention too many– just another example of a challenge the author has to navigate to get the agent's eye. She also talked about tone, how authors can let emotions curdle a letter into a sort of complaint email, which defies the purpose of trying to get a follow-up. Hodapp frequently presents on writing and querying, and her advice is invaluable.

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How to write a novel in lockdown

goodhousekeeping.com – Saturday May 23, 2020

Summoning up the energy to be both creative and disciplined in order to make something meaningful is an enormous challenge at the best of times. All but the most robotic of writers are in a perpetual struggle to capture the novel that seemed so perfect when it was conceived, so writing well at a time when we are all distracted and anxious and pre-occupied seems even more daunting.

Writing is as much about stamina and discipline as it is about imagination and inspiration, so you need to put yourself in training. Every book is different, with its own unique set of problems, and it’s never easy (and nor should it be, like anything worthwhile) but after 21 novels, I’ve found a few tricks to keep me on track: a combination of routine, confidence-building and kindness.

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