tagged with: Non-fiction

Writers are supposed to be creative individuals who spin spell-binding yarns out of nothing. After all, that is what creating means, right? Making something out of nothing? So you get your coffee, soda or water bottle, position yourself at your desk or on the floor with your laptop and your fingers dance over the keys like they are dancing with the stars. Right? Wrong, most of the time. You might be more likely to sit for several minutes staring at a blank screen, turn it off, go get a sandwich, come back, type a few lines, then hit the delete button in disgust. So, what does it take to ignite this great stuff that fathers so many excellent works? Learning a few tricks may help.

1. Always keep a pen and a little notebook handy. An idea might come to you when you least expect it. At the supermarket, on the bus, while driving (wait until you stop before you reach for the pen) and in many unexpected places. You may even awake during the night with an idea for a novel. When this happens, jot down as much of the detail as is available, then lay it aside.

2. Use your senses. Your senses can help you conjure up a story. The next time you go for a walk, look at your surroundings. What lies beyond that vacant lot? Why is that car parked in the same spot for the last two weeks? Every morning on my way to work, I pass an area with overhanging trees and under them are three old vans parked in parallel parking. That’s all I can see. The vehicles look like they’ve been there for ages. I can’t see any house behind them, just the trees hanging over. I wish I could get out of my car and investigate. I should get some material for a good story. Don’t be afraid to eavesdrop, but do it without being obvious. Other people’s conversation can make a great story.

3. Keep a journal. Similar to # 1, keeping a journal can be a way to unlock your creativity. Try to write in it first thing in the morning. Don’t worry about grammar or style or even spelling. Simply write what comes to your mind and after a month, you’ll see things emerging that you never knew you had in you. It could be the beginning of a memoir, a novel or a non-fiction book.
4. Read. I’m sure you already know that this is a surefire way to spark your creativity. My love for writing and, I daresay, my creativity grew out of my love for reading. Growing up, I read voraciously and that led me to begin writing at an early age. Reading can supply you with a lot of ideas for your own work, while at the same time teach you to recognize good writing.

So there you have it. In my next post I’ll talk about some other ways to release your creativity. Meanwhile, leave me a comment and let me know what you do to get your creative juices flowing. Until next time …

Entering a writing contest can be a good way of getting recognized as a writer. Winning a contest is not always easy, but the practice you get writing on a topic or theme, meeting a deadline, adhering to guidelines will benefit you in the long run. Some contests offer attractive prizes, including cash, trips to meet with editors and in some cases even a book deal.

On the flip side, you have to be watchful for scams. Most contests charge an entry fee which may range from $2 to $5 for poetry to $10 to $25 for short stories and chapbooks. These fees are necessary to meet administrative and other costs. Those contests that do not require a reading fee may sound like a viable option, especially to the beginner, but in many instances these are the scam artists who would state (in fine print) that the author will be giving up all rights in exchange for having her work published in their anthology, which you pay for.

Before entering a contest, you should research the organizers of the contest if they are unfamiliar to you. A few places to check are http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/Contests/contests.htm; Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware Blogs.

Here are some writing contests you may be interested in:
Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest
A prize of $3,000 and publication in Real Simple is given annually for a personal essay on a theme. This year’s theme is, “When did you first understand the meaning of love?” Deadline September 15, 2011. No entry fee.
Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival 2012 Fiction Contest. Award: $1500. Deadline November 15. Entry fee $25. http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/contests
2012 William Van Dyke Short Story Prize. Maximum 7,000 words. Awards: $1000 to the winner. Deadline: midnight October 1, 2011. Info: www.ruminatemagazine.org/contests/short-story.html
A Woman’s Write fiction contest by women about women. $40 entrance fee includes critique. http://www.awomanswrite.com/rules.html. Deadline November 30.

My first short story was published in a college magazine as a result of a contest. The following year I won an honorable mention in a nationwide contest. So now I’m off to get started on one of these. If this article has been helpful to you, or you know of any more contests or have ever been successful in any, please leave a comment below. I love hearing from you.

Every writer needs to have some kind of networking support in order to grow and become more proficient in his craft. One form of support is the critique group, which means just that – members critique each other’s work and provide helpful feedback on different areas of the work. If it is non-fiction, the critique may focus on grammar, sentence structure, content, relevance and development of the subject matter. If it is fiction, members may focus on theme, point of view, character development, setting, dialog and narrative in addition to grammar and sentence structure. (more…)

Speed bump Almería

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The book marketing journey continues. It may lead me along winding lanes, dark alleyways, sudden stretches of sunlit roads and then maybe  a speed bump or two. If that happens, I’ll simply slow down, then pick up speed and continue on my journey, the wind in my hair and a song in my heart. I’m saying all of that to say this: the book marketing journey can be unpredictable for an unknown author. It can be daunting to say the least, not a venture for the timid or the overly cautious. There are many avenues to explore, one of which is book signing events. (more…)

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