Guest post by Cheryl Lynn West
Treasure Hunts in Used Bookstores
I love used bookstores. The older the book, the more cluttered the store, the more it sends a thrill through me. Don’t get me wrong. Clean, organized shelves, digitally cataloged, recent best sellers with unbroken spines, are a delight. I grab the latest book club selection, minus one meeting, knowing I can join in future conversations with friends over a glass of wine.
Yet it is in that place where dust floats in sunbeams and the search for reading becomes a treasure hunt that I find my pleasure. There are no computer printouts, authors’ names sorted on a spreadsheet across the monitor’s screen. The clerk, with her pink hair and pierced tongue, ponders and gives the next clue. “Try the rack behind Stephen King and Florida travel guides.”
The shelves are organized by authors—mostly. Stacks grow like stalagmites upward when a writer exceeds her shelf space. Others cluster like school children on a playground, each type in its own pod, requiring a careful review to find the perfect title.
I quickly abandon these for the veritable treasures, buried in plastic and cardboard boxes, beneath the crowded tables above. I sit like a small child visiting a library for the first time, pulling random books out to see their covers and contents. Untouched journals, devoid of inscriptions, beg me to take them home and fill them with my thoughts. Phone books, the buggy whips of today’s cell phone world become a clever keeper of passwords, granting alphabetized sanity.
At last, I find the perfect gem, a book unneeded but cherished again. It will accompany me home, join me in quiet moments, no rush to read but instead to savor over the course of many days.
And when I am done, it may travel back to that dusty bookstore, patiently waiting for the next treasure hunter to claim it as the prize, the Holy Grail of written words.
Guest post by Vishaal Pathak
Your Writing is NOT a Livestream
Writers new to the job, new to this scary world where their written word is meant for another pair of eyes – several, if they are lucky – are most scared of their screen, or whatever interface they’re using for capturing their thoughts (or just blankly staring at). Blank screens are scary indeed, but screens with a few words down, all the more.
Take a deep breath, new writer. Relax. Your writing is not a livestream. No one’s reading it as we speak (or write). Your only reader at this point is you. Unless your device (or room) is bugged, in which case we have many, many bigger problems. The quality of your drafts will still not be one.
Given, you yourself as a reader are tough to please – as you absolutely should be. You don’t take kindly to cliches, grammatical mistakes, poorly written dialogues, plotlines that are too obvious and sentences that feel they could use a relook.
But your job as a reader must slightly lag your job as a writer. You won’t handover your first draft to your editor, would you? Your writing is not a livestream.
Writing and editing drafts until they’ve been chiseled enough to be the finished product is akin to the multiple rehearsals that live performers go through before the opening night, the practice that athletes put in before the big game, the many hours pilots spend on simulators – you get the drift. The advantage in being a writer is, you almost never have to write a book live – so why not calm that inner critic?
Let go of any disappointment (or worse, shame) you may have with how odd the sentence structure is at first. Resist the urge to cringe at how sloppy, half-cooked, patchy your ideas turn out initially. Remind yourself that writing is a tough job even for the best writers out there, and sometimes, it’s just a difficult day. Turn an ally to the writer in you. Leave yourself little notes and reminders of pending edits – tell yourself how you meant the sentence to be and promise to come by and fix it. Use placeholders/filler words in your sentences (that you will take care of later) with aplomb and stop apologizing to the nosy reader in you. Tell them to not sneak a peak in the chef’s kitchen until the dish is done.
As a corollary, since your screen is not a livestream, and if the blank screen poses an insurmountable inertia, you may even begin writing for the day by filling your screen with whatever arbitrary, unrelated thoughts appear in your mind before you get around to writing what you’re really meant to. Remember, writing is just conversation with yourself (but also among the many characters living rent-free in that oddly creative, weird looking top shelf of yours). A characteristic of free-flowing conversations is that they begin somewhere and lead somewhere else. Just don’t get too carried away.
To sum up, let the reader slightly get out of the way so the writer in you can do the job. Pick up the pen/pencil and notebook or crack your knuckles and get clickety-clicky tap-tappy on that device of yours.
Post by Arielle Haughee
I just got my editing back....What do I do now?
There it is. A doc file full of red lines, corrections, and comment bubbles. So many comment bubbles. It seems like it would be better to feed your manuscript to wild pigs than to actually try and fix it.
What in the world should you do next?
First, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you can do this. Repeat: “I am a badass and I will annihilate those revisions.” Because you will…one issue at a time.
Review Your Feedback
Start by reading all of your feedback, whether your editor put comments in your manuscript, wrote out a separate doc, or both. Read everything. Take a few days to let things roll around in your mind. It’s completely normal to have an emotional reaction and think you are a terrible writer. Remember, “I am a badass and I will annihilate those revisions.” Put all thoughts of wild pigs aside.
Sort Issues by Size
When you are ready to dive in, or force yourself to after a few days, sort the issues your editor pointed out by size. Big issues are at the overall plot level, often going across chapters, and take a significant amount of time to fix. Medium issues are at the chapter or scene level and take a moderate amount of time to fix. Finally, small issues are at the paragraph or sentence level. These are your quicker fixes.
Some examples of big issues include having an unlikable main character or the dreaded saggy middle. Medium-sized issues could be that the story doesn’t start in the right place or the narrative balance is off. Smaller issues include cluttered sentences and weak opening lines. Sometimes a lot of smaller issues—things that repeat throughout the book—can become a big issue if you have to spend a lot of time correcting it (like messy prose throughout).
Make a Plan
Make a plan to work on these issues by size. Your first round of revision should be for big issues only. Ignore the small stuff. Your next round(s) should be those medium-sized problems. Then tackle the small stuff in the last few rounds.
How many rounds should you do? That depends on your manuscript. If it’s your first time, you may have more revision to do on this book than on your future books. Also, pantsers (those who don’t plot ahead of time) usually have more work to do during revision. So it all depends on your level of experience and the amount of planning done beforehand.
Executing Your Plan
Making the plan is the easy part, sticking to it is not. There are some occasions when going off-plan is appropriate—if there are smaller issues you can fix while correcting a big one, then great! Trying to tackle every single thing in one round will be overwhelming and near impossible. Keep with the plan of doing multiple rounds, focused on issue size.
Include a timeline in your revision plan. How much time realistically will this take you? Now set dates for when you’ll finish the big issues, then the medium, then the small ones. Don’t worry, you can adjust as needed as you go along. Take a break if you need to as you are working, but don’t leave your manuscript for more than a week or two or you’ll forget necessary details.
Once you’ve worked through the revision process, stand on the roof of your car—preferably in a public place—and yell: “I am a badass and I annihilated those revisions!”
If you liked these tips, check out The Complete Revision Workbook for Writers: Tools for a Polished Novel by Arielle Haughee. She expands on this systematic approach to revision and provides over 180 pages of tools to help you revise.
On sale now for $10!
Guest post by author Katy Berritt
In the world of novel writing, there are two kinds of writers: Plotters and Pantsers
1. Develop the plot
2. Research/outline any details that are needed to make the plot work.
3. Outline who the characters are.
5. Determine/describe the conflict. Conflict is what keeps our characters from
falling in love and getting married in Chapter Two, thereby creating the world’s shortest romance novel.
6. Write out what the BLACK MOMENT will be!
8. Last but not least, creates a chapter-by-chapter syllabus. Some writers actually start with the ending of the book and work backwards.
Here's the thing: PANTSERS HATE PLOTTERS! I'm a Pantser. What's a Pantser you ask? A Pantser is a writer who makes it up as they go along i.e. seat of the pants writing.
1. Oh, cool, I have a great idea for a novel.
2. How shall I start it? Oh, I know. Someone is murdered. Who, you ask? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out later. We’ll just call him Victim X for now.
3. Invent a hero. Go on Google and come up with a cool name. Likewise, for
4. What’s the conflict? Crap, I don’t know. I’ll figure that out later.
5. Well, shoot, I’m focused on the hero/heroine and forgot to include someone
who could be the murderer. Go back to Chapter Two and add a few more characters. I’ll figure out which one is the murderer later.
**Time: Three hours.**
6. Wait. I just realized the murder victim has to be the hero’s brother… a brother
I didn’t know the hero had until now.
- Go back to Chapter One and write him in.
**Time: One hour.**
7. Shit! I don’t have a cop! Agghhh. I NEED a cop.
- Add a cop or two to Chapter Four
**Time: Two hours.**
8. Go back and read a hundred and six pages looking for whether the hero has
blue eyes or brown eyes because my characters are now staring lustfully into
each other’s eyes and I can’t remember.
**Thirty minutes to find that info. And correct all the wrong ones.**
9. Oh joy! I just figured out what the conflict is!
- Reread and edit nine chapters until I find a logical place to insert
**Time: Two hours.**
10. Edit thirteen chapters because I finally figured out who the murderer is and
who the victim is so now I need to insert some clues.
**Time: Six hours.**
11. Drat! I just realized I didn’t explain why the murderer killed the victim.
- Reread until I find a spot to sneak that info in.
**Time: Forty-five minutes.**
12. Write the BLACK MOMENT!
-Edit nineteen chapters to fit the new (and improved) BLACK MOMENT
because my characters didn’t like my BLACK MOMENT and decided to create
their own (don’t ask how this happens; it just does)
13. Yikes, I just realized that I’m up to page 309 of my 350-page book and I
still haven’t figured out how to solve the murder.
- Go on Google and look for ideas
- Sleep on it.
- Sleep on it some more
- Close the file and write a blog
- Create some Instagram posts
- Check in with my friends on Facebook
- Sleep on it some more
- Put it away for the time being. I still have two months until my deadline
14. Oh yay! I woke up in the middle of the night with the solution! Get up at
2 a.m. and write.
15. Read all 309 pages so I can add the rest of the clues that explain the
fabulous solution I created.
16. Send the manuscript to my editor and pray she doesn’t ask me to revise.
I *WISH* I was a Plotter. Plotters really have their shit together. That's why we hate them.
by Arielle Haughee
25 Summer Writing Prompts
It’s gotten hot, the grass is fried…and so is your brain. Well good news! We have a batch of writing prompts as big as a five-scoop sundae. So do a few stretches, get that pencil ready, and take a gander at 25 summer writing prompts.
Writing Prompts Based on Images
Check out the following picture bank and see if any of these spark something for you.
Writing Prompts Based on Senses
Sensory details make things vivid for the reader. Maybe one of these will bring ideas to life for you.
Writing Prompts Based on Action
I used the word “you” in here, but of course it could be a main character instead. Adapt as you feel necessary.
Writing Prompts Based on Dialogue
This dialogue could be used in the piece you write, or just as a jump start to get your scene going.
Writing Prompts Based on Concepts
We hope you got some inspiration from our 25 summer writing prompts. Could you help us out and leave a comment letting us know which section or prompt was most helpful to you? That will help us with the next list. Thank you and happy writing!
Guest post by Priya Pai
Dear College Mom,
I am writing this letter in order to say a big thank-you-so-much for all the lessons you have taught me over the years. The values of perseverance, determination, and time management are truly what have gotten me through the first few weeks of living on my own and taking difficult courses at the same time (read: discovering that laundry does not magically fold itself when I’m busy and food does not fill an empty plate just as I feel the beginnings of hunger). I am SO thankful that you didn’t give up on me during the years when the last thing I wanted to do was listen to you. I realize now that all the advice you gave me and the way that you pushed me to balance more and more things over the years have truly allowed me to both experience the freedoms of college and keep up with my school work. Yeah, you read that right. I basically just gave you the perfect opening to punch the air as you read this and loudly exclaim, “I told you so!” That’s right, you College Mom you, take the win!
In addition, the importance you placed upon healthy eating and enough sleep has influenced me to avoid staying up late unless absolutely necessary which has required me to manage my time extremely well, invest time into eating well and prioritize school work over fun when it comes down to the wire. It’s important to note here that I was very excited to eat chicken sandwiches, pasta, and everything except a vegetable whenever I wanted when I left for college, but that got old pretty quickly. Speaking of home-cooked food, I’m still waiting on that care package… Humility, especially, has served me well during these first few weeks of adjustment to college life and realizing that I am no longer close to being the most intelligent person in the room but I am still one of the most hard working. However, I would like you to inform my brother that I will still be smarter than him when I come home (perks of being the older sibling, buddy).
All of the lessons you taught me (read: forced into my very grumpy and unhappy brain) have given me the foundation of who I am as an individual: someone who can be independent and stand on her own two feet but not be too proud to ask for help when needed. I will always be thankful that I am lucky enough to have you as my mother because you have guided my growth into the person I am today. Unrelated side note, care to deposit some $$ in my account? Pretty please with sugar on top… Also, I don’t think you’ll care too much about this but I got a big tattoo. On my neck. The night after you dropped me off. See you next month!
Guest post by Razan Anabtawi
The days may be long, but the years are very short.
Breastfeeding is a magical act. I have always heard that but never truly understood why or how until I started breastfeeding myself. You see, on an emotional level, breastfeeding is like a catalyst for bonding between a mother and her child. It is intimacy, security & comfort for a tiny human in a brand-new world. A brand-new world. No wonder babies crave breastfeeding so much. I am guilty of oftentimes breastfeeding past “feeding” time, just because Kinan does not want to let go. I absolutely love breastfeeding, but for me, this new experience came with a wave of amplified, sometimes draining, emotional shifts.
Waiting on Postpartum Depression
I had heard a lot about postpartum depression even before getting pregnant, and to a certain extent I was waiting for it. It is perhaps one of the most discussed and popularly known mood “disorders” associated with pregnancy and birth. In fact, Palestinian society, while in my opinion is lacking general awareness and recognition of mental disorders, widely recognizes postpartum depression and actively validates the experience of mothers going through it. I have heard about it, read about, been cautioned about it, and all in all I was waiting for it.
You see, birth overwhelms your body with a stream of intense emotions, some are familiar, but most are not. And as a new mother, I was immersed in the changes happening, and all the new emotions that ensued. Between this chaos and the actual real human baby I had just created that needed my constant attention, I was barely able to process any of it. There was so much raw love, bonding, & joy, but there was also so much sadness. The kind that engulfs.
At first, I wondered if this was in fact postpartum depression. But then I started to notice pattern for these waves of intense negative emotions; at times bringing me down and at others simply nauseating me. In all honesty, I was not even keeping track, I barely had any mental energy to focus on anything other than Kinan, but in the early weeks of breastfeeding, these waves came in the form of intense floods of tears that I just could not explain.
They came at times when I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed, but then it also happened when I was happy. Genuinely, whole-heartedly happy. I continued to observe this pattern, and it held true. Almost every time I would begin to breastfeed, I would feel this wave of sadness, almost hollowness. Count almost two minutes, and it passes. I later found out this is simply a dopamine drop that occurs with the release of Oxytocin & Prolactin with breastfeeding.
The magic that is Oxytocin
Oxytocin is oftentimes dubbed as the love hormone. It is released in huge amounts during birth, and later every time a woman breastfeeds as it facilitates both processes, it also facilitates the shrinking of the uterus after giving birth(!) In fact “recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin's role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, bonding, and maternal behavior”. From what I have gathered, it plays a major role in attachment security which is one of the reasons mothers are encouraged to breastfeed as long as possible. The whole thing is just absolutely magical.
On a chemical level, “Oxytocin begins to be released almost immediately after your baby begins suckling — or you begin pumping — at the breast and is released in small pulses for the first 10 minutes, while prolactin is released more gradually for about 20 minutes after you start nursing. Once oxytocin is released, it inhibits dopamine”. While for most, this drop in dopamine occurs gradually and in so goes unnoticed, for a few like myself, it occurs quickly resulting in a brief wave of negative emotions.
I do not feel it as intensely these days, perhaps because I have learned how to absorb the drop and remind myself that this is simply a passing moment. Instead, I choose to focus on Kinan who now likes to steal glances as he breastfeed. I have felt this drop while pumping sometimes but definitely not as intensely or as long, and I am not really sure why. Oh, I now also make sure I eat before pumping or breastfeeding just in case I end up feeling noxious.
What I found most curious through all of this was the contradiction of experience. I mean, here I am in the midst of one of the most intimate, bonding and loving moment, an absolute favorite of mine, and I am surprised by this wave of intense often sad emotions. Apart from an explanation on a chemical level, I have yet to emotionally resolve this, but I suppose reality can withstand some contradiction.
This is the first great contradiction in my motherhood journey & I am certain there will be others. I am slowly realizing that this experience is almost a test of my malleability. My ability to adapt to new realities, shifting expectation, and to negotiate an experience filled with contradiction. This is so hard, which is why I have so much admiration for other parents on this journey, but as another mom pointed out to me this week: The days may be long, but the years are very short.
by author Arielle Haughee
Mindset Tricks for Calming Chronic Pain
I threw out the top of my femur for no good reason. No joke. After three previous procedures on my hip, I finally had a hip replacement. At 37. This had to be the solution for my chronic pain, right? Wrong. I can’t seem to escape living with pain.
As an editor who removes overused phrases, I won’t say “constant companion,” but I will say that pain is like a giant leech stuck on me at all times, seemingly sucking the life out of me.
There are days when I am completely waylaid by pain, stuck in bed trying not to grit my teeth and pop another crown. Other days I appear normal—smiling, out-and-about—managing an inconvenience so it doesn’t turn into a three-headed beast. The key is to not let pain, that vile leech, control my life entirely.
So here are some mindset tricks I’d like to share for anyone else who has to deal with chronic pain.
Focus on What you CAN Control
One of the most frustrating parts of living with chronic pain is how it takes over your life and can completely upend your plans, rendering you “useless” for the rest of the day (or days). It’s immensely infuriating. One thing I’ve learned to do so I don’t lose my mind completely is to focus on what I can control when things feel completely out of control.
Make a list in your mind or even on paper of everything you have control over in that moment, even if you are stuck in bed. I always start by telling myself that I control my thoughts and my words. I can decide how to think about the pain and if I want to talk about it to someone.
What else can you control in that moment? Even thinking of little things can help your mindset. Some examples include what you’re wearing, the lighting in the room, what you are watching, etc. List as many things as you can in your mind to remind yourself that you are in control of your life, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Use Mindset Mitigating Techniques for Pain
One of the biggest blessings in my life has been the amazing therapists that have helped me develop an arsenal of strategies to use to help mitigate the pain. Sometimes little things can make a bigger difference than you might think.
People who’ve experienced labor and delivery can attest to the importance of deep, measured breaths. This is usually the number one recommendation for pain, so I’ll skip it.
One Object Focus: Pick out one object in the room and focus on it completely. Where did you get it? How do you think it was made? Who do you think made it? And so on...think everything you can about that one particular item.
Calming Scents: Lavender is well known for its calming properties, so is bergamot. Try out different candles, essential oils, incense, or even dryer sheets to help provide aromatherapy.
PMR: This stands for progressive muscle relaxation. You start at the bottom of your body, clenching your toes and releasing, then to your calves, clenching and releasing, then work all the way up your body to your face. There are some great scripts for this online. I recommend checking out this one.
These are just a few strategies to mitigate pain. Try them and others out and see what works best for you.
The Link Between Depression and Chronic Pain
The National Library of Medicine states that "up to 85% of patients with chronic pain are affected by severe depression." Mayo Clinic further explores the relationship between the two: "Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain."
So taking care of your mental health can also help in some way with the severity of your chronic pain. If your depression has gotten so bad you feel like you can't live another day in pain, please get help.
Play Up Your Positives
One good strategy to help with your mental health is to play up the positives in your life. What things are going well? What are you grateful for? Think about things that made you smile recently and things that you are proud of. Also think about something that you are looking forward to each day. This helps remind you that there is brightness in the future, even if the current moment seems dark.
Set Realistic Goals for Yourself
Having goals for yourself can help keep you focused and working towards something positive. You also have to consider that you may be sidetracked by pain from time to time, so set goals you know you can realistically achieve. Are you looking to try a new hobby? See friends more? Volunteer at church or a community center? Determine what you are interested in achieving and break down your goal into manageable tasks to increase your chances of success.
Chronic pain will always be an obnoxious leech, but it doesn’t have to control who you are or how you live your life. You can still be a wonderful, productive version of yourself. Using these strategies will hopefully make life a little easier for you and help with those really tough days. So, pour some salt on that leech and live your life!
Guest post by B. Lynn Goodwin
What To Consider Before Submitting to Writing Contests
You polish your writing, imagining your audience. You read it over. Out loud. Does it say exactly what you want it to say?
You have a friend read it to you. Impressed, she says, “You should submit this to contests. Get some recognition for your work.”
Maybe you leap at the idea. Maybe you hesitate. Contests make you feel vulnerable. Besides, there’s almost always a fee and nothing’s guaranteed.
Perks of Entering a Contest
Placing in a writing contest is a huge boost to your work, though. Acceptances matter. Here are some other perks you might get:
What Do Judges Look For?
Without a rubric, judges look for writing that works, ideas that seem original, and something that touches their hearts. They look for carefully edited pieces free of mechanical glitches and work that either says something new or says something traditional in a new way.
Instead of writing a traditional rubric as a contest administrator, I’ve sent the questions below for judges to consider. Put on your editor’s hat and answer them before you send your work.
Looking for a starting place? Take a look at the current contest on Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. Research other contests and opportunities by Googling contests + (your genre).
Questions? It’s easy to reach me through the contact box at www.writeradvice.com.
Post by Orange Blossom Publishing
Orange Blossom Publishing
Hello, I’m Andrew Kinnick. A resourceful graphic designer from Wheeling, WV. I design logos, print and packaging materials, and develop brand identities.
I have over 4 years of experience working as a graphic designer. Currently, I work as designer at the Times Leader, where my responsibilities include working with sales representatives to create ads for clients at 22 different newspapers. I’m deeply passionate about creating unique and effective designs that engage viewers and achieve the clients design goals.
In my free time, I like to keep busy with actives such as recording a video game podcast, and participating in a book club.
I also like meeting new people. Feel free to reach out at email@example.com
Hello, my name is Emily A. Llauro and I am a graphic designer and digital illustrator. I will be graduating from F.I.R.S.T. Institute with my diploma in Graphic Design and Web Development in July, 2022. After graduation, I hope to combine my illustration and graphic design skills to create book covers, posters, and various other things.
When I was a child, I participated in traditional drawing classes which sparked my desire to pursue art; however, I am mostly self-taught. I have always had a passion for creating illustrations, and now I can use my love for art to serve others.
My name is Maryam Amirian. My passion for art developed in my early childhood from my father drawing different cars with chalk on asphalt and reading poems to me. I’ve been learning and studying art since I was seven, starting with drawing, painting, and calligraphy. After that, I went to college for traditional art and studied a wide variety of art. After my master's degree, I started working in the jewelry design field for over a decade. Right now, I am in school for graphic and web design because I was missing the digital aspect of art. All of that made me creative and detail-oriented.