The IT Factor

By David E. Sharp

Last month on The Writing Bug, I talked about the value of genre and how it operates as a tool to help readers find the right books. While genre categorization can be a bit of a nuisance to writers who don’t like fitting into boxes, we can find ways to use it to our advantage.

This month, I would like to go beyond genre to hone in on the specific aspects of writing that resonate with readers. What makes you love a story? What experience do you seek when you browse the bookshelf? What lingers with you long after you finish the last page?

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Pitches And Falling Elevators

By Renate Hancock

I stood in front of the elevator watching the lights above the door illuminate one by one. Snow melted from my boots onto the floor beside my suitcase. I pulled my laptop case from my shoulder and stretched my neck, rolling my head from side to side.  

I’d made it through a day teaching children, then drove four hours through a blizzard to attend this writer’s conference. The elevator dinged, and the door opened. 

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Evolution of A Writer

By Brian Kaufman

How do people end up as writers anyway? There isn’t a universal answer. The question, analogous to “How the hell did I get here?” seems worth rumination. My personal response has many facets, like a diamond. Or a 20-sided game die. A lot of my early efforts were mirrored later in my adult writing.

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Order! Order in the Manuscript!

By Katie Lewis

I will have order!

Recently, my little sister asked for my advice about a novel she’s been planning for a while. As a person with ADHD, she struggles to complete tasks in general, especially when they must be done in a specific order. Knowing this, my first and most vital suggestion was that she not attempt to write her first draft chronologically.

I told her to skip around, write whatever scenes she loved first, and worry about filling in any potential gaps later. I’ve written stories both in and out of chronological order. While both have pros and cons, ditching the chronological order can make writing easier.

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Where Does Your Writing Fit?

By David E. Sharp

I stumbled on an article on genre by Amy Rivers, Director of Writing Heights Writing Association that resonated with me.

It describes a familiar struggle. A writer gets an idea, follows the inspiration, turns it into a story, and now must shove an original work into a predefined mold. And who is the writer that sets off on a journey to follow conventions? That is not how writers work! Naturally, the manuscript does not fit the frame, and Writer must now shoehorn it into the closest approximation. 

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One Overwhelming Reason To Write

(Even Though It’s All Been Said Before)

By Renate Hancock

Plus FIVE Reasons Writing Is Like Chocolate Cake

Writing isn’t a piece of cake because we all know it isn’t. It’s hard. It takes energy, discipline, and creativity to create something fresh and engaging enough that someone else will want to read it. And you know what they say: “It’s all been said before.” So why should we bother writing at all? 

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Book Peddlers

By Brian Kaufman

If you’re writing a novel, you almost certainly want to see it published. Before the contract is signed, you’ll struggle with the writing process—the elements of craft, from plot to setting. Once your book is edited, you’ll wrestle query letters, a synopsis, and another round of edits if your book is accepted for publication. Then comes the day you’ve dreamed of—your publisher sends you the finished book. It’s alive, born into the world, and it will sell, and readers will love it. Right?

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Shaking The New Year Up

By Katie Lewis

As a young child, I filled notebooks with stories based on my favorite television shows and movies. DigimonPokémonand The Land Before Time. In fourth grade, I wrote a horrifically unscientific murder mystery starring Scully and Mulder of The X-Files for a short story assignment. I was twelve when I began posting my stories online for internet strangers to read.

The kind comments and constructive criticism I received on those stories have kept me writing almost nonstop for two decades. Fanfiction is a fun and engaging way to hone your craft, especially when you need a change of pace.

Let me start by stating one crucial fact: fanfiction is a legitimate form of writing. Magazines and newspapers are increasingly recognizing fanfiction as a literary genre. Archive of our Own, or AO3, a hugely popular fanfiction archive site, won a Hugo award in 2019 for Best Related Work. Even whole original franchises have spawned off of an author’s fanfics. (Love it or hate it, the bestselling 50 Shades series started life as a Twilight fanfic.)

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Refresh Your Writing

By Brian Kaufman

It’s January. Snow, bitter cold, a false spring for seven days somewhere in the middle, crowded gyms, and empty restaurants. (Of course, who knows what the rest of January holds for us with climate change at the helm.) A time for resolutions. 

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The Year I Wrote for Myself

By Katie Lewis

Looking back at 2022, I’m tempted to be disappointed by how much I wrote (or rather how little). Every year brings new challenges, both to life and in writing. This year had different challenges from last year, so comparing the two is only partially fair. While I may not have produced the same word counts as the previous year, I did come away from 2022 having learned some hard but precious lessons.

Burnout and Other Stressors

For most of 2021, I self-published every month and kept that up until April this year. April marked a solid year of self-publishing novellas every single month. While I’m incredibly proud of that milestone, I can’t deny that it left me somewhat burnt out. I was a one-person show for months. I did my own covers, my own marketing, and my own formatting. Everything aside from the editing was done by me and me alone.

Truthfully, I have a lot of good memories of those months. I learned so many fun graphics design and editing tricks for my covers. Those experiences and understanding of how to format ebooks are definitely skills that will aid me again in the future. However, I must admit I desperately needed a break once I hit that year mark.

Aside from the burnout, there was another huge factor that began to affect my creativity as well. Without going into too much detail, my financial situation changed significantly this year compared to last. As a result, stress surrounding economic uncertainty began to overtake every aspect of my life. I no longer had the luxury to write creatively. Instead, I should be putting my efforts into resumes, cover letters, and interview prep.

For most of this summer, that was precisely what I did. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but just know that now isn’t the best time to be job hunting. I was successful in securing a new job. Still, the processes only added more fuel to the fire of my struggles with anxiety and depression. Put that all in a blender, which is not a recipe conducive to creative pursuits. Follow it up with adjusting to said new job, and it isn’t hard to imagine why I have yet to regain the writing pace I had locked down this time last year.

Now that the year is drawing to a close, there’s no denying I barely wrote half as much this year as I did last year. Maybe even closer to a third. I took a valuable lesson away from that experience, however. Writing, or any form of art, is much more complicated when your mind is occupied with something else. As much as I desperately wanted to exclusively be an author, the mental strain of watching my financial health and independence slip away simply became too much.

Ultimately, I’m proud of myself for putting my writing on hold to remedy the situation before reaching a point of no return. I recognized that a change needed to be made long before I was in any kind of crisis, which is so important. In short, I took care of myself first because I understood I needed to regain mental balance before I could comfortably create again. That’s something every writer should be aware of and consider, even as I recognize everyone has to learn that lesson in their own way, on their own terms.

How Journaling Kept Me Going

Even though I spent much of this year on other pursuits doesn’t mean I stopped writing. In fact, quite the opposite. I did write a few anthology pieces and have been outlining a new novel-length story. Beyond that, though, I did keep up my daily writing in the form of journaling.

Journaling is an activity I’ve only taken up sporadically in the past. This year, however, I bought myself a lovely planner to help keep track of my self-publishing deadlines. When I paused my self-publishing, I continued using the planner. Instead of filling it with deadlines and story-beat notes, I started writing about my day. Every day. Now, I’m absolutely addicted to journaling, mainly because it helped so much when I was feeling lost and overwhelmed.

The ritual goes something like this. Every evening I sit down with my planner and flip to today’s page. If anyone is interested, it’s a Japanese model called the Hobonichi Techo. I have already bought a new one for next year. Every day has an inspirational quote and grid-lined paper to give you space to write, draw, or make lists. You fill the space however you see fit.

Included with the planner was a three-colored pen. I start by writing about how I slept and any dreams I remember in red at the top of the page. After that, I used black to fill most of the page with what I did that day. This section can range from work goals or concerns to any recreational activities or projects I worked on. (For example, today, I’m going to write about how I wrote my December blog post.) Finally, I use blue at the bottom to detail dinner plans and any other evening plans, such as my weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions, date night activity, or playing a game.

Journaling like this has kept me writing something daily all year long and helped my stress levels immensely. I can put all my inner thoughts about the activities I’m describing in my planner. If they were enjoyable or irritating. If I feel inspired or fearful for what the future may hold. If I wish I’d done something differently or regret saying one thing and not the other. I can put my pen to paper and give all my thoughts an outlet, positive or negative.

Plenty of studies have found that journaling helps improve mood and overall mental well-being. Giving your thoughts a voice, even if it’s just on the page, allows you consciously acknowledge them. When I write in my planner, I’m beginning to understand what scares me and what I feel might be my shortcomings. Still, I acknowledge where I thought I succeeded in the day and mention anything I am proud of.

While I may not have written as much fiction this year, I was still writing all the time. What’s more, I learned the value of a healthy life balance.

Prime Your Gray Cells

Benefits of Writing for Anxiety

Journaling for Mental Health

Hobonichi Techno 101