Every writer wants to know how they’re doing. Feedback often comes in many forms. L. Roger Owens’ article, Getting Feedback Can Hurt—Here’s How to Ask for It can help soften the blow and show you how to solicit the type of feedback you want or need.
Every day we’re all faced with challenges of some kind or another. As writers, we’re often challenged with what to write, what not to write, is the grammar correct, is the spelling correct, is the punctuation on target, and is what I said what I wanted to say. These are basically outside challenges that come with the territory. But sometimes, there are moments when some of our challenges are self-imposed.
Recently, Christopher (aka @shapshifter) over at Drablr.com not only wrote a story containing exactly 100 words, but he wrote it without using the letter L, and he titled it appropriately “No L.” Check it out. Maybe you can write something omitting another letter of the alphabet.
A surefire way of improving your writing is by pitting your skills against others in the competitive arena. There are four points to consider that just may help you advance your writing skills.
One: there’s always a writing prompt so you have no excuse for claiming you don’t know what to write about. The prompts will motivate you to write something, and as you do, you will think of other things to write about. The prompts usually come in two forms:
Form one: a word, phrase, or sentence.
Form two: a picture or video.
So you’ll have no excuse to not come up with something to write about. If you still can’t think of something to say after being given a writing prompt, give your brain time enough to process the prompt. Most writing contests allow adequate time to write a winning submission. Everyone has an opinion about something one way or another. Just give yourself some time to form your opinion and then expound upon it. (What I just said has already prompted some of you to form an opinion about it.)
Two: motivate yourself to write the best damn story you’ve ever written in your life. Why? Because you are competing against the best damn writers in the world–and you’re one of them. And if you don’t think of yourself as being on the same level as the best, then discipline yourself to take on the best. To be the best, you must compete with the best. Don’t second-guess yourself.
Three: if you win, place among the winners, or get an honorable mention, take the accolades and build on them. Such an accomplishment is a validation of your skills.
Four: if you don’t win or get an honorable mention, that doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. It means you enter the next contest, then the next, until you get that honorable mention or win. And when you do get that win or mention, you move on to the next contest and the next. Along the way, you may get feedback. Understand that feedback is not a criticism of you but constructive critiques of your work. Many writers get bogged down with the critiques and let that feedback deter them from pursuing their dream. Take that feedback and learn from it. Use it as the foundation upon which you can become the best damn writer in the world.
So remember to 1) Tackle those writing prompts. 2) Do your best. 3) Build on your accomplishments and push yourself to the next level. 4) If your best isn’t good enough, try again and again.
Sure and steady finishes the race. Now get out there and compete.
More information is more readily available to more people than ever before in human history. Unfortunately, many people are not adept at wading through the information clutter and making logical sense of it all.
Fortunately, librarians and library support staff (paralibrarians) are still the best resources for assisting with navigating the information landscape. They can also be a writer’s best friend.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” ― Albert Einstein
Is it possible to be a writer and be an introvert? Yes, it is. Just because you don’t have a natural inclination to mingle and put yourself out there doesn’t mean you should give up being a writer. So what if you’re shy. Big deal. So you’re not comfortable being around people. Big whoop. You don’t have to be comfortable with anything but your writing. But how do you get noticed without being noticed? You can get noticed by working with social media.
You can create a Facebook page to promote your latest book, blog, or stories. You can create a Twitter account then set about looking for other writers who share your interests. You can set your news-feeds to receive information and notices from fellow writers and those in the writing business–as well as readers.
Mystery writers write mysteries for people who enjoy reading them. Science Fiction writers write for those who enjoy reading science fiction. For every genre, there is an audience of readers.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, or any number of social media sites, or writer communities, you can post notes, updates, and any other useful information that will get your writing and your name “out there” without you actually being out there.
Save copies of what you submit and publish.
Backup your work. Nothing lasts forever
When you submit a story to an electronic publication and they accept and publish it, never expect your story to be forever accessible. Anything could happen that might cause your story to disappear. The most likely scenario is the publication your story appeared in ceases to exist. More times than not, they will not only become defunct but so will your story. Either the domain will disappear or change owners and focus. The story you so diligently worked on and submitted will vanish into the digital ether.
Keep a record of where you submit and get published
The same is true for any social networks or writing communities you are a member of. If you have a page you actively post to, keep a copy of everything you post or publish to it. Note the site, the dates posted/published, and any comments and responses. These items will prove useful if you decide to submit your story somewhere else. Though you may not have any traceable evidence your story saw the light of day, you will have data to corroborate your claim you published your story before if you are trying to sell reprint rights. And that just might go a long way in convincing a potential publisher that your story was published before.
Use the Cloud and maybe a few other locations
Ensure your backup doesn’t get corrupted, save a few copies of your work. Archive your stories on flash drives, terabyte drives, or cloud storage like Google Drive, iCloud, One Drive, or DropBox; a hardcopy also helps. If the work is extensive and you don’t want to have to retype it again, scan the hardcopy and save it in a manipulatable format like MS Word. This way, if something happens to one (or two) of your backups, you will still have an archive of your work. It’s highly unlikely all of your archived copies would be lost.
As a writer, I can say that I prefer writing and reading short stories because I live a busy life and I don’t always have the time or the inclination to sit down and read a novel. I mostly read newspaper, magazine, and blog articles, or social media posts. When I read a book, for the most part, it’s nonfiction. As a child, I did read more fiction because I had the time (though not always the inclination) to read books. But my books of choice were usually nonfiction. (Though I did read every Hardy Boys novel in my grade school library.) However, I very much enjoyed (and still do) books on astronomy, biology, history, geography, oceanography, and such.
As an adult, I do most of my fiction “reading” through audiobooks. But when I do take the time to visually read what some would call literature, my preference is for short stories; mostly flash fiction. I prefer short stories in general and flash fiction in particular because reading them does not take up much of my time. So I write short stories for people who want to read something other than articles and social media posts but just don’t have the time, desire, or the attention span to read something longer.
Much of what I write is stuff (Yes, I said stuff.) that I want to read but can’t seem to find to my liking. I also write what I think others may want to read without making it overly esoteric. My stories do have messages, and my messages are designed to appeal to the average person, but if a reader doesn’t get the message but enjoys the story anyway, my job is done. I don’t write stories that will make people think too hard. That’s why I decided to write my Pop and Son stories.
Pop and his son are a couple of average people living average lives with average concerns. Their discussions and adventures, to me, reflect a slice of average life that I believe appeals to the average person. There are no profound ponderings the reader will have to expound upon as if they were in a college English class. What Pop and his son talk about are insightful snippets of common sense, common courtesy, and fair play, with a bit of humor and fun thrown in. And that’s all I want my readers to get out of reading my stories.
One sure way of getting started writing flash fiction is to try your hand writing drabbles. Drabbles are stories that are exactly 100 words in length. No more, no less. Writing 100-word stories helps you to train your mind into thinking small. Writing drabbles often enough will help you become skilled at conveying a message in a regimented format that leaves no room for embellishment.
When you write drabbles, you must jump right into your story, make your point, then get out. Many drabble readers enjoy reading short compositions because they don’t have the time or the luxury of sitting down with a novel or longer short story. With today’s busy lifestyles, reading something for fun need not be time-consuming. The ability to sit down with a quick-read story is one of the reasons I was initially drawn to the literary style.
Once I discovered I liked reading drabbles, I decided to try my hand at writing them and found that I enjoyed writing them as much as reading them. I eventually found a community of writers who write drabbles at a website called Drablr.com. You can read drabbles from the many writers from around the world who are members. If you want to write drabbles, you will have to create an account, and there is no membership fee. It’s a labor of love. You can follow favorite writers and develop a following of your own. Drablers will vote and comment on the writings of others.
There are other sites on the Web that offer a conduit for drabble writers. I’ve listed a couple of them below:
If you just want to have some fun with drabbles, you can always head over to the Drabble Generator and have one created for you. The result just might surprise you.
Flash fiction is written in as few as six words to as many as one thousand words. The length is contingent upon the requirements of a particular publication or the whim of the writer. But whatever the cause or the reason, it’s a great way to hone your skills and tighten up your writing.
I just finished reading a great handbook on how to write flash fiction called Brevity: a flash fiction handbook written by David Galef. Each chapter of the book discusses various components of literature like fables, diaries, anecdotes, and poetry and how they relate to writing flash fiction. Within each chapter is a description of what types of things can be written accompanied by examples of stories by various writers.
Aside from the stories and examples, there are suggested exercises to try as well. Although you can read the book from beginning to end, it would be best to treat it like a handbook and test out the various styles and areas to see where your interests and skills lay.
If you write flash fiction and want to learn more about it, or if you’re new to the world of short fiction, Brevity just might be the book to get you started on the path to writing great flash fiction.