Monthly Archives: June 2016

Staying Creative When Life’s Pulling You in 27 Directions

 

Whether work, school, kids, exercising, a sick grandmother, or something else, it’s challenging to juggle so many responsibilities and move writing goals forward. Writing takes a lot of brain power, and after a long day at the office, it’s tempting to push writing off one more day.

5741700549_087e05aa3c_bHow do you avoid that “one more day” turning into a rut? I’ll share some of my methods for staying creative. Feel free to put yours in the comments.

  1. say no

Socializing is fun. Volunteering is fun. Getting lost in the Web is fun. Helping that friend or coworker out, for the sixteenth time, may not be fun, but you do it anyway. After a while, you’ve got too much on your plate. There’s no time to write!

Make writing a priority. Say no to some of your other activities. There’s only so much time in a day. If you want to get that short story or novel finished, you have to weed out some of your other undertakings.

  1. go outside

If you’re creatively blocked, get out of the house. Go for a walk. Play soccer. Do something outside. You’d be surprised at how many ideas may come to you after you’ve spent some time in the great outdoors.

  1. read

Reading helps stir imagination. Fiction, non-fiction, a magazine article, a graphic novel, get out of your head for a while and enter someone else’s imagination. You never know what creative ideas will spark in you.

If you have plenty of ideas, but not the energy to expand them onto paper, reading can help here too. Read something fantastic. Read a work that fires you up, that stirs your emotions. Take those feelings—that power—and write.

  1. talk it out

Sometimes a different method of communication will revive your creative engines. Call up a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. Talk to them about your ideas. Often, their feedback will get you excited, and help flesh out your ideas.

Or, talk out loud to yourself. Walk around your house and talk, use hand gestures, get in the heads of your characters, pretend you’re being interviewed about your writing on TV. This may sound silly, or slightly crazy, but it works.

  1. eat well

What you put into your body direct impacts how you feel. Eat whole grains, veggies, fruits, healthy sources of protein. Eating well makes you feel good, and when you feel good, you’re more creative.

  1. don’t stress

Stress is the bane of everyone’s lives. While some stress is good, too much is harmful. When you feel overwhelming pressure to write, your creativity drops. Practice stress reduction techniques, whichever ones work for you, so when you start getting too stressed, you’ll be able to calm yourself, or guide your stress into something useful.

What tips do you have for staying creative?

(Photo courtesy of Leszek Lesczynski.)

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The Dreaded Query Letter

9492597487_3dc77c1d94_bQuery letters. If you’re familiar with query letters, you probably cringe at the thought of writing one. The query letter is a no-more-than one page document that writers send to literary agents, in an attempt to grab an agent’s interest.

In essence, a query letter distills an 80,000-some word novel into its barest components. The query isn’t even a full synopsis! And with agents being swamped with query letters, making yours stand out is a challenge.

That’s why some individuals decide to write their query letters in first person, especially if their novels are first person, rather than third person. Third person queries are recommended.

Yes, the protagonist’s personality comes across easier in first person point of view. When you’ve got such a limited amount of space to grab a person’s interest, you really want personality to come across. However, first person point of view in a query letter is not something you want to be doing.

Why?

Because first person query letters lead to confusion. Is your query a memoir? Are you threating the agent? Are you insane?

Agents read so many queries that they will not take the time to figure out whether your novel is a fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction, etc. Your query will be deleted the second an agent is unclear with what’s going on.

Here’s a great article explaining why first person queries are a big, fat NO: The First-Person Query Letter.

(Photo courtesy of Freaktography.)

Death Match: Books vs. Movie Adaptations

 

85684225_93d62dbb3c_bI enjoy both books and movies, and with Netflix, movies and TV shows based on books are readily available. However, while I thoroughly enjoy TV, I find that often I prefer reading, and that almost nearly as often, I am wary about watching a movie or TV series based on a novel. Especially if I really liked the book.

Not everyone prefers books over movies. I can think of several people off the top of my head, but they’re the type of person who doesn’t enjoy reading. For those who do, I’m curious whether they prefer books or movies?

I think that oftentimes a movie detracts from the book, not because the movie isn’t good (though sometimes the movie is really bad), but because a movie has a much more limited amount of space than a book does. Many times, this means that plot and characters aren’t as developed as in a novel.

Also, novelists usually have no control in how their book is portrayed in a movie or TV series. They don’t write the script. They don’t do the casting. They don’t get to say what parts of their novel are cut from the movie, what parts are added to the movie that weren’t in the book, and what’s emphasized and what’s not.

In books, readers are able to see inside characters’ heads, even more so depending on the point of view. Therefore, readers get a more in-depth feeling of characters’ personalities, and get to experience their emotions to a greater extent.

Even if I am wary about watching a movie based on a novel, I’ll most likely still watch it, after I’ve read the book.

Who knows? Maybe the movie will be better than the book. It’s happened, just not that often.

Do you prefer books or their movie adaptations?

(Photo courtesy of Helmuts R.)

“Orphan Train” Book Review

Molly never expected to find any commonalities between her foster-child self and the ninety-one year old Vivian living in a mansion in Maine, but when Molly must complete community service or go to juvenile prison, she ends up helping Vivian clean out her attic. Except, what she discovers up there ties the two women together in a way neither of them could have imagined.5026748369_8700f4a169_b

Orphan Train covers a piece of history that very few people know about – a piece of history that is beyond unnerving, where orphans from overcrowded Eastern United States cities were packed onto trains and delivered to the rural Midwest. Families selected these orphans to take home with them. Some were lucky; they were adopted into loving homes. Most were not.

If you weren’t an infant, chances were you ended up as a farm hand, a servant- a child laborer. No adoption. No love. Only a means to an end.

This novel transitions between the modern day (2011) and the later 1920s to 1930s/early 40s. Readers learn about Molly’s life as a foster child, while also reading about Vivian’s childhood as an orphan train rider. As the story progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer how similar Molly and Vivian are, not only with their stories, but also with their personalities.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I thought Vivian’s storyline was much stronger than Molly’s. After reading the acknowledgements, I understand why. The author, Christine Baker Kline, did a lot of research into the orphan trains, even interviewing surviving members. However, it seems that she didn’t do the same level of research for the foster system, and that Molly was more of a vehicle for Vivian’s storyline than anything else.

Despite this issue, I found myself drawn into the story, and after I finished the novel, I researched orphan trains. I’m astonished that orphan trains aren’t mentioned as part of U.S. History, but as occurs most often with history, only bits and pieces of the truth are stitched together to give the appearance of a whole picture.

Orphan Train is worth reading, even if to only familiarize oneself with one of the darker aspects of American History.

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Keith.)