Writing Prompt: Love Without Cliché

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It’s hard to escape that most talked-about and often clichéd theme: love. It’s a fundamental part of many stories, whether it’s love between people, love for a thing, or love that was lost.

But how do we approach the topic of love in our writing without sounding sappy or following too closely in the footsteps of the many authors who have written about ‘love’ before us?

This writing prompt is about battling the clichés and writing something original.

Write a scene where two characters show love for each other.

Sounds simple enough, right? Here are the rules:

  • Set your scene somewhere completely unromantic (the dump, a fish market, a funeral – it’s up to you).
  • You cannot use the words, ‘love’, ‘beautiful’, ‘overwhelming’, ‘heart’, or ‘butterflies’.
  • You cannot use a ‘love at first sight’ or ‘let’s make love’ plot (keep it PG-13, people!).
  • Avoid clichés at all costs!

Writing about love (and making it sound sincere rather than silly) is a difficult thing, so cut out the clichés and broaden your imagination.

Happy writing!

Via: https://writersedit.com/weekly-writing-prompts-16/

Video: How To Punctuate Your Dialogue

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You’re in the thick of writing some characters’ conversations and it hits you: where do the commas go? Do you need one after an exclamation mark? How’s it supposed to look on the page?

We’ve broken down some dialogue into it’s simplest parts with our step-by-step, visual tutorial covering punctuation, dialogue tags, descriptors, and formatting.

“When you’re writing your work and submitting it to places, you’ll look a lot more professional and it’ll be less work for your editor to go back and fix up those nitty-gritty bits…”

Dialogue is something that you can easily get wrong with just one comma out of place. Check out the video in full by following this link:

Video: Master Dialogue Punctuation

What to Take Away From This Video:

  1. Punctuation should always be inside the quotation marks.
  2. The simple comma is your friend! Use it when tying up speech around dialogue tags (the old favourite, ‘s/he said’).
  3. Each line of dialogue should be on a new line; keep the formatting nice and clean.

A great exercise is to pick two or three books (ones that you love!) and find some examples of dialogue. Each book may be slightly different in their smaller details, but it’s handy to see the basics of punctuation in action.

The best way to learn, of course, is by writing some dialogue yourself. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because practice makes perfect!

Why Taking Writing Breaks Is Important

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Often when we work continuously on the same piece of writing (especially a long piece) we can lose our objectivity. Sometimes we get so caught up in our writing, we forget that simply powering through can affect the quality of our work. Taking a break allows us to come back to our work with a clear mind and a new perspective. This is important because it also allows us to critique our own writing by bringing a fresh view to our work.

Sometimes when reviewing work after a break we might even change our focus and bring new ideas to our writing. This is very useful when your writing just isn’t working. If you are at the point where you are forcing a story, take this as a sign to take a break from it.  Give yourself time to understand why it isn’t working and allow your creative juices to flow and bring you a new view, a new path to take in your writing, or even the courage to scrap what you were doing and start something completely new.

As writers, we overwork our brains and we don’t realise it. We are constantly thinking, constantly brainstorming, and constantly flooding our heads with superfluous information from blogs to books” – Paul Jun (Problogger)

Remember why you write

There are many reasons why writers write. Some of these are:

  • We enjoy it
  • We have something we want to say
  • Writing gives our imagination freedom to run wild
  • To inspire others
  • It’s our creative outlet

Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t lose sight of why we are writing something and we certainly shouldn’t lose the enjoyment. If you find that this is happening to you then take a break. The last thing you want to do is lose sight of the reason why you are writing. Especially if it’s important to you. Sometimes taking a break to remind yourself of these reasons can be very useful. Take the time to give your mind some breathing space, relax and enjoy life.

Taking a writing break doesn’t mean you can’t think about writing or think about new ideas. As writers, simply seeing or hearing something can spark our creativity and cause our imaginations to run wild. This doesn’t need to stop. Taking a writing break can simply be a break from your current writing project to allow your mind to have a rest and let you re-energise. In the meantime, if you get an idea for another piece of writing, or even for your current project, jot down the idea so you don’t forget it and come back to it later. This will also allow you to assess your new idea objectively.

Time Out and Observation

There are some things you can do whilst taking a break that can help your writing and help you to view what you have written objectively. When you are out, whether it be in a shopping centre, in a park, or when you’re simply around other people, listen to the way people talk to each other. This is one way to check whether the conversations between your characters sound realistic or forced. When you listen to the way people talk naturally, you may realise that some of the conversations between your characters sound robotic or too formal. This is a good way to remind yourself how a conversation between people flows naturally.

“We writers tend to live in our heads and its necessary for us to step outside and enjoy the sunshine more than every once in a while. Shaking up your routine can sometimes, inadvertently, lead to you generating some of your best material” – Mitchell Martin Jnr. (Paper Hangover).

Simply observing people can help you with your character development. Observation can often spark the creation of a new character, add realistic descriptions to your characters and their actions, or even give you a new story idea. For example, you may see a couple who are arguing, even if you can’t hear what they are saying, you might want to use your creativity and make up something that they might be arguing about, something that can be applied to your characters.

Observe (discreetly) the body language of the couple as this can help when you describe interactions with your characters. You want your readers to be able to visualise what is happening and the more realistic it sounds, the easier it will be for your readers. Or perhaps you notice an interesting looking person, someone who is oblivious to what is going on around him or her, perhaps he or she doesn’t seem to notice other people because they don’t seem to care what other people think. Do you have a character like this in your story? If so, some simple observation can give you wealth of inspiration.

Keep reading

Enjoy other people’s writing. Choose a book that you like and read (or re-read) it. Take the time to think about why you enjoy this book so much. Think about things such as:

  • How does the author capture your attention?
  • What methods does the author use to keep your attention?
  • Do you care about the characters in the story? Why or why not?
  • How does the author move the story along?

You can learn a lot by reading books and understanding techniques used by other authors. This can add great value to your own work when you are stuck on how to progress your story or when you need a reminder on how to keep the reader interested.

How long should the break be?

Only you can decide how long of a break you should take. Don’t feel guilty if you end up taking a long break. Take all the time you feel you need. Your writing will be there when you are ready to come back to it and it will benefit from the break. So, if you feel that your writing is getting stale or if you feel that you simply are not making progress, then do yourself a favour and have a break from your writing. Allow yourself time to refresh, get reacquainted with your creativity and revamp your writing.

Via: http://writersedit.com/taking-writing-breaks-important/

3 Things to Cut From Your Writing 

I believe that within each writer there is an editor, a source of self-criticism that can take our work to the next level with a simple re-read and a dash of red pen. Of course, self-editing is not the end of the line when it comes to polishing your writing (workshopping and seeking a third-party editor is invaluable) but you can do a lot for your story, poem, or script by simply cleaning it up yourself.

At sentence-level (looking at each word and how it functions within the sentence it forms) you can usually cut, condense, or re-word to enrich your writing. There are many things that you could focus on when self-editing at sentence-level (from tone and voice to word-choice and vocabulary) but without even delving too deeply you can tighten and intensify your style.

But before you email your writing to a friend, or send off your submission to an agent, take the time to focus on the following to wake up your inner-editor:

Cut adverbs

This may sound harsh, but adverbs are lazy. Adverbs work against the idea of ‘show, don’t tell’ by telling the reader that ‘the star shone brightly’ rather than showing that it ‘twinkled and glittered like a lost silver coin’, for example.

There is almost always a way to show an adverb rather than telling it, and sometimes you can just cut them entirely and your writing hasn’t lost anything.

The more adverbs you use, the less interesting and unique your descriptions become. So any time you can show your adverb, or cut it entirely, the more enjoyable your writing becomes to read.

Omit needless words

It was the great Strunk who hammered the following into E.B. White’s brain, and it stands true today. We pack our writing (as we do our speech) with ‘filler’ words, words that don’t add to the sentence but just take up valuable space.

The main culprits to take note of include: really, very, just, so, a lot, pretty much, rather, quite, and sometimes.

Sometimes these words are necessary, but you’ll know when to get rid of them and when to re-write them. Check out this cheat sheet for ideas on how to get around lazy ‘very’ words.

Unnecessary words can also work their way into your writing by means of tautology or repetition. When you’ve said one thing but reiterate it in different words you’re creating unnecessary work for the reader, and using up your word count.

Comb back through your writing and analyse the importance of every word at sentence-level, cutting the ones that are pointless. Be ruthless. This will tighten your sentences and give greater impact and immediacy to your writing.

Avoid clichés

We wouldn’t have them if they weren’t so good. But it’s like flogging a dead horse (see what I did there?). Clichés are used so frequently in our everyday language that it feels natural to slip them into your writing, and you don’t even notice.

They’re often brilliant images or analogies, but when you’ve heard them all your life they become meaningless and dull.

If you find the perfect cliché to sum up your character’s emotions or thoughts, cut it and re-write your own with images that are original and new. Creativity is refreshing, so use it to your advantage to wow your reader with new words in new ways.

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I hope you find these tips useful. Happy writing!

Via http://writersedit.com/top-3-things-cut-writing/

52 Things | Ideas for Writers

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A couple years ago my friends and I made a list of 52 goals we wanted to accomplish, the equivalent of a bucket list for a year’s worth of achievable things. Most of them were simple goals, but measurable. For instance, you couldn’t just write “read more” as a goal. It had to be quantifiable, like “Read a book a month.” It was fun, but also challenging, both to put the list together and to accomplish all the things I came up with.

So if you want to create a 52 Things list this year, and you’re looking to add some writing goals to your list, here are 52 ideas:

1. Start or join a writing group.

2. Go see three movies based on books you love.

3. Guest post for a blog you read/admire.

4. Get your name in print.

5. Read a banned book during Banned Book Week.

6. Submit a story to a call for submissions for an anthology.

7. Become a blogger.

8. Buy a book for a child or teenager in your life for no reason at all

9. Join an online writing community or a private Facebook group dedicated to a specific genre.

10. Commit to writing a certain number of words per week, or per month.

11. Become a regular content contributor to a website you follow or admire.

12. Attend a local author reading, or two or five or ten.

13. Support your local independent bookstore with a new purchase.

14. Write a book review and put it on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, post it on Facebook.

15. Do one thing that truly champions another writer.

16. Read a book that falls way outside your general area of interest.

17. Post a comment on social media in support of someone you admire.

18. Go to a writers’ conference.

19. Participate in online pitch conferences (like pitch fests on Twitter).

20. Participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

21. Join a literary association.

22. Go on a writing retreat.

23. Get an op-ed placed, or learn how to do it by taking an Op-Ed Project class.

24. Do a 500 Words challenge, where you write 500 words a day for a set number of days, a month or longer. Give it a whirl!

25. Listen to an audio book of a recently published book.

26. Map a book you love. It will teach you a lot to outline a book you’ve read more than once to see how another author thinks about structure, scenes, and narrative arc.

27. Read your work out loud, either at an open mic night or at a literary event.

28. Take an online class.

29. Find a number of authors you love on Facebook or Twitter and follow them.

30. Follow literary agents on Facebook and Twitter if you’re interested in developing agent relationships.

31. Gift yourself a weekend away somewhere nice to brainstorm or write, or to just be with your own thoughts.

32. Do a literary pilgrimage to see a site where a favourite author lived or wrote about, or, if you’re a memoirist, perhaps take a pilgrimage into your own past – to your childhood home, or the setting of your memoir.

33. Visit a printing press.

34. Write and publish an e-book. These can be as short as 25 or 30 pages (single stories or essays) and they can get your work on the map.

35. Enter your work into a contest. You have nothing to lose!

36. Tell your friends and family about your literary ambitions. It’s okay to dream big!

37. Set up a separate bank account for your writing pursuits. Pay yourself a small sum a month for your writing, or when you get paid to publish. Start to think of your writing as a business.

38. Attend an in-person writing class.

39. Map out a timeline for your book, or for your next book. Consider when would be a reasonable publication date for your book and write it down. Post it somewhere where you can see it to hold that date as a goal.

40. Create a book cover for your book-in-progress. Nothing brings a book to life like making it real, even if it’s just a collage or a vision that serves as the basis of what you want the book to look like some day.

41. Commit to a certain number of blog posts a month — one, two, four — and stick to it for the whole year.

42. If you don’t already have a website, start one. If you have a website you know needs a facelift, commit to giving it one.

43. Write a fan letter to your favourite author. These letters are amazing displays of gratitude and appreciation. It’s also good karma.

44. Create a vision board for your book. This is different than a book cover concept. It’s a collage of images and/or words that inspire you, and that can keep you motivated and disciplined with your writing goals.

45. Memorise a poem.

46. Get involved with a local library event.

47. Create a family reading night once a week.

48. Set up a book donation site at your workplace during the holidays.

49. Make a list of your top 10 favourite books in your own genre and reread two of them.

50. Get a logo made. Yes, the brand of you — as a writer — needs a logo.

51. Write an affirmation statement that expresses all your strengths as a writer. Remind yourself why you write and allow yourself an opportunity to truly give yourself a compliment.

52. Do something that shows your commitment to writing – plant something or buy yourself a house plant; get a piece of “writing” jewelry; or create or purchase something that’s meaningful to you that you see every day as a reminder to yourself about the meaning writing holds in your life.

Via: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6396948

Punctuation Problems for Writers

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Punctuation is usually the most ignored grammar aspect when it comes to writing. Yet, it might make you look really unprofessional in the eyes of your readers. In some cases, they may just fail to understand you well. Learn the most crucial punctuation mistakes and take all the necessary steps to avoid them.

1. Oh that comma

The use of commas adds necessary breaks into the text. Without commas, it would be difficult to choose an appropriate intonation and divide the sentences into logical parts. You can either miss them where they are necessary or put too many of them into the text.

Solution: Read your sentence out loud and pay attention to those places where you make pauses. Don’t put commas after “but” or “and” if the second sentence doesn’t have a subject. If you see your sentence is too long and overloaded with commas, try replacing some of them with periods and making two or even three sentences out of one.

2. It’s or Its

Inappropriate use of any of these forms is quite widespread in writing today. Though being seemingly similar, they have absolutely different meanings, and their misuse can affect the entire sentence. This is actually one of the most popular mistakes that even experienced writers can accidentally make.

Solution: It stands for it is or it has while its is used when you are referring to a possessive form of something. Always read your text upon writing. It will help you spot even those mistakes you’ve been confident you’ve avoided.

3. Confusion with apostrophes

The use of apostrophes can often be a problem, especially for non-native language speakers. Even if you remember to put an apostrophe whenever you need to create a possessive form, some issues are still unclear when you do it.

Solution: It’s their’s – apostrophe shouldn’t be used here. Be careful when the noun that is used before another noun serves as an adjectival label (e.g. writers conference). In this case, no apostrophe is required either. When we need to create a possessive form out of plurals, keep in mind that they already end in s and the apostrophe has to be placed at the end of the word (e.g. babies’ beds).

4. Too many exclamation marks

Do you really think you will grab more attention if you use exclamation marks all over the text? It will only make your text annoying. By the excessive use of exclamation marks, I mean either using them after each sentence or using three or more marks in a row.

Solution: Remember: if you add more exclamation marks than necessary, it won’t make your information more meaningful. Leave them for some really impressive facts or details. Don’t make your readers bored with them. In addition, your text will look visually unattractive if it’s overcrowded with exclamation marks.

5. Hyphen or Dash

The misuse of dashes and hyphens in a text is quite widespread among writers. And that’s not just because of not understanding the difference. It’s mainly because of some keyboard limitations when you work in certain text editors.

Solution: Hyphen (short line) is used to bridge two or more related words (e.g. face-to-face). Dash (long line) is used to describe things in detail or show a better explanation of something. Very often, it’s possible to see a dash shown as “–” (two hyphens). Make sure you use it as “–“ to look more professional.

6. Misuse of quotation marks

The excessive use of quotation marks in a text is quite common. They are often used to emphasize certain parts of the sentence and make them look visually stronger. When nothing is quoted, neither single nor double marks are relevant.

Solution: As the name suggests, we should use the quotation marks only when we quote someone’s words. When you really need to emphasize something, consider using italic or bold font, or even write it in a different color. One more important detail about the quotation marks is their combination with the commas, periods, exclamation and question marks. All the punctuation marks should be put inside the quotation marks.

7. Colons and semi-colons

These are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably in the text or used where starting a new sentence would be much better.

Solution: Colons are used in a text to introduce one or more items. However, try not to use colons when the list follows the verb (e.g., I want tea, breakfast, and water). They are also used when you are listing items one per line or when two independent clauses are used, and one of them explains another one (e.g., He got what he deserved: he really worked hard to get this promotion).

8. One more comma problem

While sometimes you just need your common sense to feel when commas are required, in the majority of cases, you will still have to rely on the rules to make sure you use commas where necessary.

Solution: All the introductory words (Moreover, In addition, However) are separated with a comma. When you need to specify some unessential information in the text, you’d better separate it with commas too. You should also use it before a direct quotation.

9. Inappropriate punctuation of Latin abbreviations

Latin abbreviations are used quite frequently in the text. However, some of them can sometimes be misused or punctuated incorrectly.

Solution:

  • etc. means so on. If it’s put at the end of the sentence, one more period is not required.
  • e.g. means for example. It’s followed by a comma.
  • i.e. means that is, in essence. It is followed by a comma as well.

10. Punctuation of bulleted lists

Bulleted lists make it easier to present information and list things. They are used so frequently that it’s necessary to know how to punctuate them properly.

Solution: If one bullet covers a full sentence, use periods at the end of each. Use no punctuation marks after single words or phrases. However, the last item in the list will be followed by a period. Do not use semi-colons to separate the list items.

Read the original article here: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/10-top-punctuation-problems-for-writers/