When Your Writing Enthusiasm Needs to Be Rekindled

Have you ever played that party game where you’re asked, “If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?”
People always say they’d want to be able to fly. Or they’d want to be able to be invisible. One time I said I’d want to be super-flexible like Elastagirl in The Incredibles.

But I realized something this week: If you asked me what superpower I need as a writer, I know exactly what it is — and it’s not flying or invisibility or flexibility. Nope.

I need a super-human dose of enthusiasm.

Why do I say that? Well, earlier this week I told a writing buddy that I was thinking about not writing anymore. It’s not the first time I’ve had that thought — or said those words. I’d like to think it would be the last time, but I know there will be times when my enthusiasm — my passion, my fervor, my eagerness — to write will wane.

What happened this week to get me in the “I don’t think I want to do this anymore” mood?

It was just something someone else said. A passing comment, really. But it was enough to deflate my spirit … to make me wonder why I was I investing my time and my efforts in this writing gig. I opened my heart to a whispered “Are you sure you should be doing this?” and discouragement crept right into my heart.

When my heart falters like this … when I question who I am and what I’m doing … it’s best to drag all the shouldn’t-be-asking-these questions out into the light of day. How do I do that? I talk to a trusted friend or mentor about about the “Should I even be writing?” thoughts — and it’s best to do that sooner rather than later. Letting my thoughts steep in doubts and discouragement is a sure way to dampen the fires of enthusiasm.

I came across another quote about enthusiasm that helped me, too: “Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make a habit of it.” ~Gordon Parks (1912-2006), noted photographer & film director 

Did you catch that part about “acting enthusiastic until you make a habit of it”?  On the days I’m struggling as a writer, on the days I doubt myself, I have to remember that I am a writer — and act like it. It’s true I may not feel enthusiastic at first. But acting like a writer by diving back into my story or brainstorming with another writer or Skyping with my mentor will remind me why I love writing — and it will reignite the electricity of enthusiasm inside of me.

Are you protecting the fires of enthusiasm within you? How do you rekindle them if circumstances have caused them to flicker?

 

 

Tips and Tricks to Always Have Something Interesting to Say on Social Media

I teach writers how to build an online platform by investing thirty-minutes a day in social media. I do this by utilizing a scheduling program (my favorite is Hootsuite). But, I also caution them not to spend much time talking about themselves, reminding them about Edie’s 5 to 1 rule.

For every 5 social media updates you share on any network, 

you are only allowed 1 about yourself.

Remember, social media is not advertising. It’s a way of connecting with others online. These connections will come into play and be your cheerleaders when you are promoting a book or sharing something you care about. But we don’t start with what’s in it for us, we start with what’s in it for them.

The key to only spending a short time each day scheduling social media updates, is having a ready library of things to share. Today I’m going to teach you how have to have the resources you need—always on hand—for valuable social media updates.

The Basics 

Before you can build a library of resources, you need a focus for your social media updates. Your social media personality needs to have a focus. Just like an unfocused blog, a social media personality that posts about everything under the sun isn’t going to garner many followers. It doesn’t have to be just one things, but it should be well-defined.

My focus for social social media updates covers four areas (yours will probably be something different, but that’s okay. The process is the same:

  • Social media how-to for writers, business owners, non-profits, and ministries.
  • Writing instruction and inspiration.
  • Things to help military families and the communities that support them.
  • Prayer/devotional thoughts.

These are the four primary topics I share about on social media.

I go to three basic places to find things to share on these topics.

  • Blogs and sites I read regularly (I make sure I get email notification when something new is shared on one of these sites).
  • Social media updates that others share.
  • Hashtags and people I follow on social media—especially on Twitter.

I refer to these resources as my library. But they are only helpful if I already have them close at hand. If I have to spend time searching through websites or scanning social media every time I want to schedule updates, thirty-minutes isn’t nearly long enough.

Building the Library

I recommend you take several days and up to a week to build your basic library. I also suggest that you’re always adding to it as you find a valuable site and/or person. I do this in three ways.

1.I take time to research topics I’m interested in and sign up for blog/website updates to come into my inbox every time there’s a new article and/or post. That way, I have a ready-to-hand list of things constantly coming into my inbox daily. I do the research by searching on google.

Here’s how I would research social media:

I’d type “Social Media Tips for Writers” in the search engine box. I’d begin to read through the articles and posts that come up. I would continue to do this with slightly different searches, like, “Blogging for writers,” “Authors and Social Media,” etc. I would look for sites that come up again and again because they’re probably the most valuable.

2. I would spend several sessions—over several different days—scrolling through social media updates (particularly Facebook). I’m looking for other sites people I respect share regularly, and I’m looking for specific accounts that share their own updates regularly.

3. I would search for specific hashtags and accounts on Twitter that pertain to the subject I want to share on social media. To find the best hashtags to search for, I’d again start on Google (yes, Google). I type the following into the Google search box, “Best hashtags for Writers” or “Best hashtags for Christian Writers.”

Once I have the most valuable hashtags, I make a stream on Hootsuite of just that particular hashtag. If you’re not sure how, here’s a post on How to Customize Hootsuite that explains about streams and searches.

As I’m researching hashtags, I’m going to come across some Twitter accounts that have lots of things about social media (one I follow on Twitter and FB is the @SocialMediaExaminer). I would also make a stream for these type of accounts.

4. Next, I look at all the places/accounts/people I’ve found that I can share information from and I cross reference them—looking for them in different places. For example, @SocialMediaExaminer is also on Facebook, so I Liked their page, and they have a blog, so I signed up for email updates when they put up a new blog post.

5. Finally, I make a go-to list either in a spreadsheet or word document. This is a list of all the websites/blogs I can go to if I can’t find anything in my inbox or on social media.

Now you can see why I say a few days up to a week to assemble all this information.

But once you have this information close at hand, you can easily spend no more than thirty-minutes a day scheduling valuable social media updates.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Any questions about the specifics? Tips that you’ve found to help gather valuable social media updates? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Quotes & Verses by Angie Arndt

“…looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ASV

As writers, how this verse speaks to our hearts! When God split our first cells, he knew who we would be, where we were going, and what we were going to do. We are God’s work in progress.

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon

Most of the time when we first glimpse a storyline in our mind, it’s faint and nebulous. No form. No edges. There’s a filmy type of character that we want to do this vague kind of thing.

Ray Bradbury. (1)First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him! – Ray Bradbury

Next, we’ll add flesh to our fiction. Only a twenty-fingered writing beast can churn out seventeen books a year, we mere mortals labor on for months or even years to get our stories out.

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E. L. Doctorow

We write with our souls and our hearts, reflecting our Christian worldview and faith, regardless of the genre. But what do we do when we hit a brick wall? Spend more time with the Author, Perfector, and Finisher. Use those brick walls to deepen our work and our faith. Remember our writing mantra: show, don’t tell.

  • Show your doubt and plant a seed of faith.
  • Weave in trials and project perseverance.
  • Devise ways for our main character to conquer in the end and inspire our readers to do the same.

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. – Barbara Kingsolver

How can we deepen our faith? Personally, if I end my day in prayer, I sleep better. If I begin my day in prayer, my day may not be easier, but it will be easier to bear.

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Finishing is the tricky part. Don’t waver. Write daily. We may not win with every piece, but we’ll certainly lose if we stop writing.

For more writing quotes, see http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-quotes.

~*~

Angie Arndt is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency and is currently working on a series set in small Southern towns. She and her husband, Charles, live in the middle of a big wood with three dogs, Beau, Jade and Harley. She’d love for you to visit her website and her team blog, Seriously Write any time you need to be encouraged.

The Power of the Greatest Fear in crafting a novel!

The Power of the Greatest Fear

Want to build a powerful climax to your novel? Harness the Power of the Greatest Fear to bring your character to an external plot climax, as well as an internal crisis.

We talked last time about the power of the Dark Moment Story in building that layered character. The Dark Moment story is also used to create the capstone of your novel: The Black Moment Event. This moment is not only the climax of the story, but the point of change for your character and sets up the epic finale of your novel.

 

The Black Moment Event hinges on understanding your character’s Greatest Fear.

Every character has a deep and abiding fear, based on his Dark Moment Story that has molded him as a person and helped established motivation for all his decisions and choices. This fear, as the novel opens helps determine what your character wants (namely, not ever repeating this fear) and guides his personality.

The key to having a greatest fear is that you want to create something that could possibly happen again, maybe not with the same people, or even the same event, but to create the same painful, emotional scenario.

This is how an author goes beyond a stereotypical, cardboard character. You, as the author, get to build your own person with his own wounds. Your character’s reaction to their dark moment story might be different than another character’s reaction to a family fight.

More, every dark moment is going to surface different kinds of fears. You can pick any fear you want out of that Dark Moment Story. It just depends on what you want to do in your story, and what story you want to tell.

The interesting part is that much of the time, authors pick a fear we relate to, which means that we will have truth in our past that we can then apply to the story. So now we’re creating characters that we can tap into in an authentic way.

In My Foolish Heart, I created a heroine who was agoraphobic. It was based on a talk show host, who’s never been in love and was trapped in her home. The reason she was trapped in her home is because she had panic attacks as a result of seeing her parents die in a horrific car accident right outside their home.

I did not understand my character. I knew her Dark Moment Story and her Greatest Fear but I couldn’t relate to her . . . or so I thought. See, I’ve always been a “brave” person–even living overseas and raising four children in Siberia. I looked at Izzy, my character, and thought she was weak.

Until . . . I started rooting around my past. I went back to a time when I myself was struggling to leave my home. I wasn’t afraid to leave but rather–overwhelmed. When I was in Russia, I had four children under the age of five, so young I had to carry two of them when we left the house. We lived in a high rise, on the ninth floor. We didn’t have a phone. We didn’t have Internet. We didn’t have running water. I didn’t have a car. And we had to walk two blocks to the little grocery kiosk. There would be times when my husband would be gone for two or three days and we’d have saltines and peanut butter in the cupboard. I’d stare at the empty shelves, wanting to conjure up anything to eat. I would think . . . I don’t know how I’m going to leave the house to buy food. I wasn’t afraid but I felt trapped, and that was enough for me to relate to Izzy and say, “Yes, this is what it feels like to be trapped in your home.”

From that emotion, I was then able to create a scene where Izzy actually was out of food and she had to go to the store. More, I was able to accurately portray her struggle.

If your character’s Dark Moment Story is something you can related to, something you can pull from your own life, you’ll create authentic situations and authentic emotions as you build that character’s story. So, don’t pick a greatest fear you can’t wrap your brain or emotions around. However, the beauty of the Dark Moment Story is that you can pick whatever greatest fear that you want. So choose wisely.

 

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The Greatest Fear is going to be helpful in two ways.

  1. Recreate it in the Black Moment Event. Using the Greatest Fear as a template, you’ll find an event or situation that resurrects this fear in a tangible, believable way, played out in the Black Moment Event. This gives you plotting fodder! You don’t have to set the Black Moment in cement, but you can brainstorm a number of fantastic ideas to help in the formation of your plot.

 

  1. The Greatest Fear adds both motivation and behavior to your character from the first page. Characters are wired to stay away from things that are going to hurt them, especially their greatest fears. So as your character walks on the page, he’s already going to be making decisions that will protect him, and keep him from getting into that dark place.

 

e.g. In My Foolish Heart, Izzy never wanted to leave her house. So she rigged her life so she never had to leave. She knew all the delivery numbers by memory, paid someone to deliver groceries and had a work-at-home job.

 

The Greatest Fear is the single most powerful ingredient you as the author can pull from the Dark Moment Story to help you build motivation, behavior and the essential Black Moment Event that builds the external climax and sets up the character change.

Next time we’ll talk about creating a powerful Internal Journey by understanding the Lie your character believes.

Until then, Go! Write Something Brilliant!

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Susie May

P.S. Need help crafting a novel?  Check out our Brilliant Writer series in kindle!