5 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block

5 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block

It happens to the best of us. One day you sit down at your computer, determined to finish that next chapter, complete a project for a client, or meet a deadline for an article, when — bam! — your mind suddenly turns to mush, your creativity evaporates, and your usually seamless connection between head, heart and typing fingers takes a hiatus.

What to do when your blank computer screen stares ominously in your face while panic sets in over looming deadlines, paychecks and bills?

Here are five of my favorite ways to overcome the equality opportunity malady known as Writer’s Block:

 

1. Exercise – My favorite way to burn calories, tone muscle and release stress? Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds DVD. See my review here. Not only will Leslie get your adrenaline pumping along with your heart (the most important muscle in the body), she’ll keep you moving with her genuine, effervescent personality, warm demeanor and radiant smile. Since she motivates others through sincere encouragement, not military-style intimidation, if you’re the kind of person who’s inspired to push your physical limits by working out with a serious-yet-nurturing coach, Leslie’s your go-to gal. My more recent favorite is Walk It Off in 30 Days, which has enabled me to reach my fitness goals. If you’re looking for something gentler, check out You Can Do Yoga.

2. Get Out In Nature – Whether you prefer the tranquil site of water, the majestic beauty of mountains, the vibrant colors of a flower garden or the breathtaking site of a towering evergreen, spending time in nature will soothe the soul and clear the creative channels. Spending at least a few minutes a day outdoors will also reconnect you to the world around you, which is especially important since writing tends to be a solitary — and sometimes lonely — activity.

 

3. Keep A Journal – A great habit to get into for many reasons, keeping a daily journal where you make note of the things you’re grateful to be, do, and have will keep your mind and spirit focused on the positive. It’s also a perfect place to “write out” all other distractions — such as the items on your To Do List, and document your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Describe your vision for your life in vivid detail in the areas of health, wealth, relationships, travel, and personal growth. Read it aloud. Feel it coming to fruition and act as if you already have it. Doing so will inspire you to complete the tasks at hand in an easy and relaxed manner, understanding that what you do in every given moment creates the life you desire.

 

4. Pray   If you believe in God, take the time to pray each day for guidance. During Lent, I use the daily meditations from The Word Among Us. I’ve also found inspiration in the Daily Word and other types of devotional books and magazines. Even if you spend only ten minutes or so before getting out of bed in the morning and retiring at night to close your eyes, give thanks, and ask for help in fulfilling your projects to the best of your ability, it will go a long way toward keeping the flow of creativity moving.

5. Phone A Friend/Relative – Sometimes when I’m really stuck and nothing else seems to work, I get up from my desk, pick up the phone, and called a loved one. Whether it’s my mother or a good friend, I reach out to someone I know for a fact supports me unconditionally and will be willing to lend an ear. In many cases, I don’t even mention the problems I’m having with completing a particular chapter or article; I just call to hear the person’s voice, find out how their day is going, and remind myself that I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many caring people. A word of caution: put a time limit on this lovely distraction so you don’t end up spending too much time away from your project. Talk with them just enough to recharge your creative batteries, then get back to work.

How do you overcome writer’s block? Share your ideas in the comments.

Contact me if you’re seeking a copywriter, ghostwriter, or help with independent publishing.

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Formatting Versus Editing

Formatting Versus Editing

Why explain formatting versus editing?

Aside from ghostwriting, I offer all-inclusive publishing packages that include (among other services) professional formatting and editing.

What is the difference between the two?

According to Dictionary.com, book formatting is defined as 1. the shape and size of a book as determined by the number of times the original sheet has been folded to form the leave; and 2.the general physical appearance of a book, magazine, or newspaper, such as typeface, paper, margins, etc.

 

An example of paperback formatting.

Professional formatting pertains to the creation of the interior of a book after it has been edited for content, consistency, punctuation, grammar, spelling and typos. Depending on the publishing package you choose, you can count on me to correct any issues with grammar, punctuation, and spelling. But whether or not your package includes an editorial assessment (focusing on logical flow and progression of content), your manuscript will undergo multiple layers of editing.

From there, I send the manuscript back you with the request to carefully review and inform me of any further editorial changes. This is a critical part of the process and should not be rushed, no matter how excited you, the author, may be to bring your book to the online marketplace. At best, I recommend taking two-to-three days to ensure complete satisfaction with the content. Because I approach editing in a collaborative fashion and involve my author-client every step of the way, typically there are few, if any, changes. However, if the client wishes to alter anything having to do with items including word choices, dialogue, quotes, etc., it must be done before the formatting process begins.

An example of Kindle formatting.

An example of Kindle formatting.

Once in formatting, the only changes to the manuscript should involve things like fonts, justification, consistent chapter title set-up (e.g. does each chapter begin in the middle of a page?), table of content alignment, boldface or regular type, placement of photos and the like.

When a book is in the formatting phase, I can no longer add new content. Yes, if for some reason, a word gets misspelled in the process, I correct it. If a few sentences of a paragraph accidentally get cut out, I’ll re-insert them. But the time to decide you want to write another chapter or paragraph; add more names of people to your dedication or acknowledgements pages; throw in a new quote from another source; or change anything related to the actual content is while that manuscript is still in the editing phase.

Major General Linda L. Singh says she’s learning “to go slow to go fast” in life. With respect to editing, this is sage advice. By tempering your eagerness to publish your book and taking as much time as you need in the editing process, you can expect a smooth, efficient formatting phase, resulting in a professionally produced book you can be proud of.

Need help with indie publishing? Contact me to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.

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How to Write a Quality Book Review

How to Write a Quality Book Review

Since authors spend a great deal of time and effort on their books, writing a review is one of the best ways to show your appreciation and offer constructive feedback to help them improve their craft. For potential readers, a thoughtful review can mean the difference between purchasing a book or clicking onto the next title in their search for a good read.

But what comprises a quality book review?

First, let’s talk about what constitutes a bad book review. No, I’m not referring to legitimate criticism of characters, plot, pacing, writing, or any other vital aspect of a compelling story. I’m talking about generic reviews like, “I loved the book!” or “Wow, this is excellent!” or “This book is a must-read!” that omit any substantive descriptions as to why the reviewer is offering such effusive praise.

Conversely, the same principle applies to pithy one-or-two sentence reviews like, “Awful book!” “I can’t believe anyone would write this drivel!” or “Don’t waste your time reading.”

Either way, the reviewer does the author and his or her potential readers a disservice by omitting specifics. Whether you love or hate a book (or fall somewhere in-between), here are some guidelines on how to write an effective, useful review for both authors and readers.

  1. Demonstrate You Have Actually Read the Book– sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m not advocating that reviewers should give away spoilers. However, it is possible to mention a few specifics about what you liked about the main character, themes, narration, dialogue, etc. What did you like or dislike about the protagonist or supporting characters? Why did the plot draw you in? Was the book thought-provoking? Edgy? Enlightening? Why?  Even if you select just one aspect and explain why it had an impact on you (either positively or negatively), it will demonstrate your knowledge of the book.
  2. Offer a Balanced Perspective– as I mentioned, a great deal of time and energy goes into the production of a book. Whether you rate it 5-stars or 3-stars (more on that further down the post), point out specifically what the author does well and the areas in which he or she could improve. Is the dialogue stilted but the prose captivating? Say so. Is the pacing too slow? Too fast? Explain why and give an example. Is a character well defined or one-dimensional? Offer a specific example that supports your opinion.
  3. Limit Your Review to One-to-Three Paragraphs– for maximum impact, keep it pithy. Select a few qualities about the book that stood out to you, whether it involves a secondary character, a particular scene, or the overarching themes. Again, you don’t want to give away spoilers; you want to focus on your most indelible impressions of the book. No one wants to read a lengthy, rambling review, and from a copywriting/marketing perspective, such reviews do more harm that good. The objective is to provide constructive criticism/praise to better inform the author and prospective readers.
  4. Give the Author at Least 3 Stars– here I am taking my cue from my friend and author Daniella Bova, who states at her blog DaniellaBova.com, “Authors put their heart and soul into their writing, so I will never give any book less than 3 stars. I just won’t review it at all.” Words to live by. If you really hate a book for whatever reason (poorly written, plot holes, undeveloped characters, etc.), it’s best to heed our mothers’ advice while growing up, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In such a case, I recommend contacting the author directly and privately (if they’ve made their email public or have a public FB page where you can message them) and sharing your thoughts. By doing so, you’ll be helping them improve while saving them the embarrassment of a 1-or 2-star public review. Do unto others, as you’d have done to you, after all.

A while back I received positive feedback on a book review I posted for the book Soul Mates & Angels. The person who read it complimented me for following the guidelines I’ve outlined above, instead of posting a generic opinion. She even used it in a promotional email she sent out on behalf of the author, Betty RaeI’m posting it here as an example:

This beautiful story drew me in from the moment I began reading. Written in the first person, its tone is at once hopeful, joyful, inquisitive, and thoughtful. Blessed with a supernatural ability to communicate with angels, the main character Anita Lyn Riley struggles to reconcile the mundane aspects of her life — from high school bullies to adolescent crushes — with the knowledge that evil exists everywhere, not just in some far away places.

On a personal level, she knows what it feels like to be misunderstood and feared for being different. When we first meet Anita, she is adapting to her new public high school, having upset the religious sensibilities of the priests and nuns at her former Catholic institution with her tales of reincarnation and otherworldly visions. As the book unfolds, her journey becomes progressively more difficult as circumstances force her to take courageous stands for justice, spurred on by righteous anger.

Filled with endearing characters and thought-provoking insights, Soul Mates & Angels celebrates the unbreakable bond that exists between all humans as children of God, the power of good to overcome evil, and the unseen realm where angels and loved ones are always there to help us.

Happy reading…and writing (book reviews)!

Do you need help with self-publishing, editing, ghostwriting or copywriting?

Contact me here.

Read the reviews of my book, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal, here, where you can also preview and purchase it in paperback or Kindle.

 

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My First Byline in ‘The Happy Times Monthly,’ (Happy Herald)

My First Byline in ‘The Happy Times Monthly,’ (Happy Herald)

Someone once said that the only reason to look back is to see how far you’ve come. In terms of my writing and publishing career, I just realized it has been 20 years since my first article was published in a local South Florida paper known as ‘The Happy Times Monthly,’ now the Happy Herald.

Back then, the internet was not as advanced as it is today and believe it or not, I didn’t even own a personal computer. I actually typed the article on a typewriter and snail-mailed it to Founder/Publisher Brigitte Lang, after a good friend suggested I should start putting a writing portfolio together. Funny thing is, weeks went by and I never heard anything back from Brigitte. Then, one hot summer day in Boca Raton, another girlfriend called me to share the news that she’d just been in Whole Foods and had seen my headline article (along with the photo I’d submitted) in a stack of free papers. She was nearly out of breath, she was so excited. Having known about my brother Ralph, she was thrilled to see his story in print.

Not only had I finally been published, but my first article was chosen to be the headline. And, although it had not been my motive for writing it, the piece captured the attention of someone else – the man on whom Ken is based in Water Signs. When he saw it, he called the newspaper for my number to congratulate me. Since Brigitte maintains an excellent policy of keeping her contributor’s phone numbers private, she took his name and number and promised to share the information with me. Which she did.

I described the mixed emotions I felt back then in the novel, especially upon discovering Ken was now a father to a baby girl. On one hand, I appreciated the pride he expressed in me, knowing it had been a lifelong dream; on the other, I relived the pain of what had happened, mainly because of an inability to communicate. Ironic, I know.

Anyway, fast-forward about 11 years later, and this real-life event became a pivotal scene in Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal:

Beneath the headline ‘My Brother – My Hero,’ and the byline bearing the author’s name, Madeline and Louis smiled back at him, seated at a round dining table. Wow. She’d finally achieved her goal of becoming a published writer. He well remembered the endless conversations, by the ocean, snuggled up on the couch, or wrapped up under the satin sheets of his waterbed, during which Maddy would eloquently share her dreams for the future. In spite of everything, he still missed that connection.

Enter to win a signed paperback copy here.

Amazon Kindle Giveaway here.

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