THE DREADED WRITER’S BLOCK SYNDROME

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THE DREADED WRITER’S BLOCK SYNDROME

by Sherrie Clark

It’s nine o’clock in the evening. The kids are asleep, and your spouse is in bed reading a good book.

You stare at your computer screen. It’s white, and that’s all it is…just white and void of any black words. You hear the clock ticking in the background, wondering why it sounds so loud. You feel warmer than usual. For the life of you, you just can’t come up with something to turn that white page into one speckled with words. Nothing seems to be formulating in your head, and you just don’t know why. You struggle and struggle, and still nothing comes to you to type. Don’t panic. Defining this quandary is easy.  Conquering it, well, that’s up to you, but it really doesn’t have to be difficult.

What’s happening is something that we writers try to avoid: writer’s block. Basically, it’s those things that keep us—block us—from writing. The block can be real, such as your children arguing, and you find yourself distracted and more than likely pulled in on the dispute. On the other hand, writer’s block can be a situation where you can’t think of what to write. Every writer faces hurdles and experiences fears, but once they intervene and stop the creative juices from flowing, then they need to be addressed. Maybe you’re still holding onto that initial fear that kept you from writing your book for so long. Do you still doubt your ability? You’ve shown your ability by starting to write your book. Do you feel inadequate in your knowledge of your topic? Research can fix that. Are you afraid that you won’t finish it? Take it one day at a time, and you can finish it. Remember your reason(s) for writing your book, and let that desire(s) overcome your fear. When what you want becomes larger than what you fear, then you can push through to fulfill that desire.

Maybe you don’t feel you can write for another reason. The kids aren’t fighting, and you truly aren’t afraid of writing your book. Maybe you just get bored easily. If so, then this isn’t writer’s block. If you’re getting bored writing your book, think about how readers are going to feel by reading it. Maybe digging in and spicing up your topic can help excite you and therefore, your readers.

Ultimately, tenacity is what will take you from a dream to a reality. It will loosen the hold of writer’s block. The only “stuck” we want to experience as writers is getting stuck in our chair so that we can finish what we started: writing our book.


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WRITER’S STYLE VS. WRITER’S VOICE

by Sherrie Clark

Writer’s style frequently gets confused with writer’s voice, but where does an author draw the line in the sand as to which is what? Whereas your writer’s voice involves your personality, your writer’s style involves the words you use and how you use them.

For instance, remember each writer has his or her own voice. It’s what separates you from other writers. However, some writers write using a similar style. An example would be authors of children’s books will use a similar style to each other as opposed to the style used by an author who writes true crime.

Style involves the technical and mechanical aspects of your writing. It’s your form and how you structure your sentences. It can be influenced by education, family, environment, and the part of the country where you grew up and where you currently live, and it can be influenced by other writers.

As a book editor, I have found that each and every one of my authors has their own writing style. While one author may use an abundance of the word “like,” another may frequently use the word “irregardless.” While another author may use words indicative of the area of the country where he or she lives, another may use words and phrases that reflect his or her life on the streets. While one author uses long sentences, another writer gets straight to the point.

If you’re dissatisfied with your writer’s style, you can develop and/or improve it. How? Start by learning new words and building your vocabulary, and then apply them to your everyday language. Learn how to replace passive words with active words. Get rid of the clichés. Alternate between long sentences and short ones. Learn not to overwrite, and give your readers the benefit of the doubt that they get what you’re saying.

Your writer’s style can be one of your greatest assets, or it can be a tremendous liability. Make sure your style is stylish, at least in terms of keeping your readers captivated and enthralled in what you have to write.


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WRITER’S VOICE: WHAT’S YOURS?

by Sherrie Clark

Have you ever wondered what your writer’s voice is or even if you have one? To answer these questions, let’s start by defining writer’s voice.

A writer’s voice is just that. When you write, the way you talk and how you speak spills over into your writing. Your writer’s voice is then expressed on paper through your creativity, your thoughts, your feelings, and how you tell your story or message. It’s your signature that sets you apart from other writers. Actually, your readers will probably be the best ones to describe your particular writer’s voice.

For instance, think about your favorite band or singer. You probably would know their music anywhere. Even if you’re listening to a song you’ve never heard before, you would know whether or not that song was being played by your favorite band or singer. That’s the same concept with a book. When you become a known writer or author, readers will know when they read your content because they’ll come to know your voice.

So to break it down, your writer’s voice is your specific cadence, your attitude, your perspective, your tone, and your inflection. It’s what you emphasize. Your personality is inherent in your writer’s voice, and your writer’s voice is inherent in your personality. They go hand in hand.

Just like our writing skills and abilities, our writer’s voice can change; it can even change from one book to the other. So ask yourself if you think your writer’s voice needs improving. Maybe it’s been repressed and just needs to be unleashed. Whether you want to find it and learn how to unleash it, or whether you merely want to better it, it’ll take some effort. And like anything else that’s important to us, the time and attention we give to our writer’s voice to ensure it has what it needs will be time and attention well invested.


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FICTION BOOK GENRES

by Sherrie Clark

Just like nonfiction, fiction has numerous genres. How many depends on who you ask. Furthermore, the genres outside of the more common ones can vary as well, again depending on who you ask. For the sake of this post, though, we’ll discuss some of the common fiction genres in alphabetical order.

First, let’s talk action. The ADVENTURE genre will provide plenty of that. In fact, action is the overpowering component in this book with characters taking risks and experiencing excitement, thrills, and danger.

The CHILDREN’S genre has its own target audience that includes babies to about 11 years old. The books contain lots of pictures and colors and few words, and its characters are usually caricatures. By the end of the book, the child learns a moral lesson(s).

From axe swinging to knife slashing to any other form of gore, the HORROR genre is sure to frighten readers and cause gasps of fear as the characters try to survive a murdering maniac. By the end of the book, these villains are either victorious, or if they’re killed or locked away, readers aren’t truly confident they’re gone for good.

When a MYSTERY needs to be solved, usually one of murder but could be something that just doesn’t make sense, this is the genre to consider. Readers walk through the clues and try to solve the puzzle right along beside the protagonist.

Who doesn’t like a little ROMANCE in their life, right ladies? This genre is a love story where the protagonist or heroine is female. She meets a man with whom she falls in love. This book explores the couple’s relationship and the obstacle(s) they must overcome to be together and live happily ever after.

With the SCIENCE FICTION genre, readers get to venture into the future or to another planet, or aliens from another planet come to “visit” us. Still, the story needs to make sense. To be placed in this category, science needs to be involved in some way.

The THRILLER genre (also called adventure or suspense) does just that—it thrills. It causes readers to sit on the edge of their seat while characters experience nail-biting events. Fortunately, the protagonist prevails in the end.

The WESTERN genre takes place in the 1800s. Although many of them live up to their genre name and have its setting in the western states, some of them do not. Not surprising, the protagonist is usually a rugged cowboy.

Keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many more genres and within them, subgenres and hybrid genres. So choose your preference, for after all, the world of genres is your oyster, so eat up!


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NONFICTION BOOK GENRES

by Sherrie Clark

As new authors, we sometimes are challenged to categorize our book into a specific genre. Truth be told, it can be a daunting task, so I’d like to help clear up some of the confusion. Because the list of genres is actually quite extensive, I’ll start by covering the more common ones.

We’ll start with nonfiction genres, which are based on fact. As a heads up, nonfiction is more popular, and therefore, easier to place because it sells more books.

Well-read genres within the nonfiction category are memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. All are written about a real person’s life, but how do they differ from each other? On one hand, a memoir covers a certain part of a person’s life, those events experienced during that time, and the emotions and feelings involved. On the other hand, both a biography and autobiography are more general and cover a person’s life, starting with their childhood (or even before they were born) and moves through the subject’s life in chronological order. A biography is a book about someone else—a historical or effectual person—and is written in the third person. An autobiography is written in the first person because it is written by the subject of the book.

Other types of nonfiction books include how-to and self-help. These provide instructions in a nontechnical way. How-to books provide instructions on how to do a specific task, like how to organize your closet or how to write a book. Self-help also teaches but usually how to help improve a certain aspect of a person’s life, such as healthy eating or overcoming the emotional trauma of abuse.

Another popular nonfiction genre is true crime, which tells about a particular crime that has actually taken place. Don’t forget cookbooks, which provide recipes, their ingredients, and how to prepare the dishes.

This is no means an exhaustive list of nonfiction book genres, but it can help you determine if your book fits into one of these categories. If not, then a little more research will be needed. After all, your book is going to need a home, so paying attention to placing it in the correct genre is going to ensure your book gets put the proper neighborhood.


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THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

by Sherrie Clark

Have you ever heard that success is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration? If so, then what exactly does it mean, and how is it applied to writing a book?

Actually this adage has everything to do with writing a book. We write books because something has inspired us. Maybe it’s a testimony of overcoming cancer. Maybe it’s teaching people how to lose 19 pounds in 2 days. Maybe you’ve come up with the perfect whodunit mystery. Although inspiration is an important ingredient, it’s the fun and easy part, and it can only take us so far. It’s what we do with that inspiration that determines our success.

Turning our inspiration into a book involves work. This is where the perspiration comes into play, and you’re going to need a lot more of it than you will inspiration. But don’t let that stop you. Writing a book can be simple work when approached correctly, but it will still require effort on your part if you want to experience success.

However when writing a book, most people just don’t know where to start. It’s not that they mind the work: it’s just that they don’t know what to do. You can’t build a house unless you know all of the steps involved in the process and then how to apply those steps. This is where The AuthorShip comes in. It takes aspiring authors where ever they’re at, whether it be trying to get those books out of their heads and onto paper or how to get their books published or how to get them into the marketplace. We can help in every step of the process so that you’re working smarter and less hard.

So take heart, authors. The need for 99 percent perspiration to achieve success doesn’t make you less capable but actually puts you in good company. Even Thomas Edison has been known to apply this same formula to genius when he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” And if worked in the correct way, your inspiration can be considered nothing short of genius.


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WHAT’S IN A GENRE?

by Sherrie Clark

What is in a genre? To start, let’s define what a genre is. According to Wikipedia, a genre is a “‘kind’ or ‘sort’ … any category of literature …”

As a new writer, figuring out your genre may not seem to be important while you’re writing your book. But you can’t afford to ignore this type of labeling for a variety of reasons.

Knowing your genre means knowing your target audience. You’ll then know how to speak to them through your writing. You’ll know how to bond with them, and you’ll know how to market your book to them.

Each genre has its own audience, and with that said, each genre can have its unique language or words. If you’re writing a true-crime book, you’re obviously going to use different words, tones, and voices than if you’re writing a children’s book.

If you’re pursuing an agent or publisher, they will want to know your genre from the get go. Agents represent certain genres, and some publishers publish certain genres. It’s like having an ingrown toenail and going to a cardiac surgeon to treat it. So when submitting your query letter to an agent or publisher, make sure you two can be a match. Your first checkpoint will be your genre.

After your book is published, the genre of your book will tell retailers and wholesalers where to place your book and will tell readers where to find your book. If your reader wants to read a romance book, she doesn’t want to rummage through a pile of fitness books, horror books, children’s books, and recipe books to find one.

So now you know the importance of identifying your genre. Which one fits your book–Memoir? Romance? Action/Adventure? Mystery? Horror? Thriller/Suspense? Children’s books? Young Adult? Inspirational? Science Fiction? True Crime? Western? How-To? Self-Help? History? (Look for future blogs where I break down the different genres for you.)

Keep in mind that you have an audience waiting for your book; you just need to know who they are.


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GETTING IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOK

by Sherrie Clark

Do you want to write the next great American novel but just don’t know what you want to write about? Do you find yourself lost for ideas and thus lost for words?

Getting ideas for a book is actually simple and easy. To start, determine your genre, which is your book’s category. For instance, do you enjoy immersing yourself in a good whodunit mystery, visualizing yourself as the hero or heroine in a romantic love story, getting engrossed in the world of science fiction, delving into a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller, plunging into an adrenaline-rushing adventure, cackling at a side-splitting satire, or escaping in a ride-into-the-sunset western? If you’re an avid reader of any of these genres, you should already have some ideas floating around your imagination.

Another way to get ideas for your book is to pull from life experiences. Maybe you were a single parent who raised a world-renown athlete. Maybe you were the victim of a crime, and justice prevailed…or not. Maybe you were a soccer mom, and you have some funny stories to share. Maybe you have witnessed some heroic event that made an impact on your life. Whatever you’ve journaled or held captive in your memory bank, probably for years, you have some ideas for a story.

Buy a newspaper or magazine or peruse the Internet for real-life stories and articles. Several years ago, I remember reading an article in a popular newspaper that reported a bank robbery. (Thankfully, no one was hurt.) The next thing I knew, my creative juices started flowing, and I found myself creating a fictional story from some of the events within that real-life article.

Bottom line is that ideas for books are all around us. We just need to be observant and preserve them through notes, clippings, pictures, recordings, and such. If something noteworthy occurs but isn’t applicable to your current book, write it down, print it, or cut it out of the paper anyway. Put it in a box or file to reference for your next book.

Just remember that life is full of surprises, memorable events, and experiences that need to be shared or told. Don’t rush through them, put on blinders, or walk through life with tunnel vision because we may just miss out on some great ideas. Learn to capture them in whatever media format you’re comfortable with or is convenient. Just by stopping and smelling the roses, we’ll find that we have a myriad of ideas for a library of books.


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WITHIN AN AUTHOR’S TOOLBOX FOR SUCCESS

by Sherrie Clark

Did you know that a crucial tool in an author’s toolbox for success is self-discipline? Before you slip on your running shoes to skedaddle the other way, realize that applying self-discipline to your writing can make a world of difference between finishing your book and having it sit in your brain collecting cobwebs.

We all agree that writing a book sounds like an awesome idea, but if we don’t actually make ourselves sit down and write it, then it remains just an idea. Some of us don’t realize that what we’re missing is self-discipline; we simply know we can’t make ourselves write that book. Others know we need it but don’t know how to acquire it. Then there are some of us who have self-discipline but somehow when we need it to write our book, it’s M.I.A. Why? Perhaps it’s because we don’t quite know what to do, so like a deer caught in headlights, we become paralyzed and do nothing. Writing that book now becomes drudgery instead of fun. We’ve forgotten why we want to write our book and why we need to write it.

What’s a writer to do? Start off by reminding yourself why you wanted to write your book in the first place. Then take a look at your schedule. What times do you have available where nothing is planned? Is it Monday, Thursday, and Saturday nights between 9 and 11? Maybe those are times you should spend writing your book. Perhaps you only have one hour a week to write. Take advantage of it. Use those open times to write, write, write as if your life depended on it. Pick a quiet place away from interruptions. Tell everyone that’s your time to write and not to disturb you. Treat your writing as a job. Stick with it because you’re now developing (or strengthening) your self-discipline, and it’s all good. In sticking with it, you can write your book in less time than you think.

What happens if you fall off the boat, so to speak, and you have to break your writing date because something has happened? Remember, life happens to all of us, so don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself some grace and pick yourself back up and get back to writing. Your book, your future readers, and you will appreciate all of your efforts when you see your book published.

So be disciplined about your self-discipline. Get organized. Get determined, and get ‘er done!


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READING HELPS YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER

by Sherrie Clark

Ask any writer, and most will tell you they love to read and have since they were a young child. So the bottom line is that to be a good writer, you need to read.

For instance, do you know any musicians who don’t like to listen to music? Just the contrary. Frequently, you’ll hear them refer to other musicians, bands, songs, and albums, revealing that they listen to music quite a bit. They’ll mention the artists who influenced them in their choice of genres and how they had bought and listened to their albums and CDs.

As writers, we’re no different. We have certain authors we favor, certain books we devour, and certain genres toward which we gravitate. The kind of books you read is really the kind of books you should write. Maybe your pick is mysteries or romance or inspirational books about faith. Then those are the topics about which you want to write. Maybe you’ve read lots of books about nutrition and have applied them to your life. In fact, you’ve become an expert on the subject. As a result, you’ve come up with an easier nutritional plan, a different perspective, or information that can supplement all of the other nutritional books you’ve read, and you want to share it with others. Health and Nutrition may be your genre.

Whatever your interest and passion, read as many books on that topic as you can. You’ll be better informed on the topic, especially if nonfiction. You’ll pick up the specific words used in that genre and see how the authors address that market. Also, read books in other genres as well. Expanding your territory is a good thing. Some books combine genres, so it’s good to be familiar with them and their writing. Oddly enough, but read really bad books too. Why? You’ll learn from their mistakes.

Don’t forget to read books about writing. You’ll pick up some valuable tips on what to do and what not to do. After all, if you wanted to upholster your couch, wouldn’t you want to read a book about how to do it correctly before spending a lot of time and money and putting a lot of effort into it? Otherwise, you may not get the results you wanted. So it goes with writing.

Also, reading increases your vocabulary. As writers, we want to have a large pool of words to communicate our message. So read for the enjoyment, and read to learn.


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