I admit it. I like to be in control. My house, my family, my job… this list goes on. I like to pilot and navigate. That doesn’t always pan out for me in real life. Mostly because in real life, stuff happens. Family and friends get sick. Vacation plans get thwarted. The recipe doesn’t work. The gift isn’t as great a hit as we expect. Transmissions go out. That’s real life. I mope.
Even reading books or watching movies and television, I talk back to the page or screen or characters. “No! He can’t die! He still has to tell her how much he loves her!” And then he’s dead. And I mope.
Perhaps that is what I love most about being a writer. I get to be the creator and designer of a world where things go as I plan. That is not to say that life is perfect where I write, either. My characters often get their plans thwarted. (I really like that word.) There are storms, crashes, fires, disease. People still die. But the difference is that I know it’s going to happen. I’ve planned for it.
I will confess that occasionally, one of my characters might say something that is completely unexpected, sending the whole story into a hard right turn. Sometimes I’m left with a terrible decision whether to cut or keep. I may agonize for days. I may even mope about my choice. I may have to make a sacrifice to work it all out. But even then I am in control. It’s my world—my creation.
Writing is not only a way for me to feel in control, though it’s a big part of it. It’s also a way for me to remind myself that even though bad stuff happens—a lot—all the time—that is the very meat of what makes a story wonderful.
Once upon a time there was a princess that lived in a castle and had everything she ever wanted. Everything was beautiful and she lived happily ever after. The end.
It’s what we say we want, but of course that’s not what we want at all. Without dragons knights aren’t necessary. There are no warriors without battles. Without conflict there comes no strength.
Yes, I am a control freak. And yes, I am a writer. And being the latter helps me to deal with being the former. So in the midst of my moping, I write on.
by Kimberly Black
Remember our post about the six major conflicts that can be used when you write your novel? It’s now an infographic. Click the image below for full-size viewing and pin it or share it on Twitter or your other favourite social platform.
If you like this infographic, check out these other useful infographics on writing and publishing, and let us know if there are any others we should include in the comments below or on our Twitter or Facebook pages.
Infographics on Writing and Publishing
Novel Conclusions also has this interesting side-by-side comparison between eBooks and print, a long-standing point of debate between book lovers.
The Write Life has this question-filled infographic on the debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Think you’re ready to publish? Then first consider the hard truths about the process acknowledged here.
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.
In one of the earliest studies on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40 college freshman at Duke University who were struggling academically. Not only were they worried about grades, but they questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school.
The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students who talked about how their own grades had improved as they adjusted to college.
The goal was to prompt these students to edit their own narratives about college. Rather than thinking they weren’t cut out for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust.
The intervention results, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, were startling. In the short term, the students who had undergone the story-changing intervention got better grades on a sample test. But the long-term results were the most impressive.
Students who had been prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group, which had received no advice about grades, 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. But in the intervention group, only 1 student — or just 5 percent — dropped out.
In another study, Stanford researchers focused on African-American students who were struggling to adjust to college. Some of the students were asked to create an essay or video talking about college life to be seen by future students. The study found that the students who took part in the writing or video received better grades in the ensuing months than those in a control group.
Another writing study asked married couples to write about a conflict as a neutral observer. Among 120 couples, those who explored their problems through writing showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems.
“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” said Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the Duke study.
Dr. Wilson, whose book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” was released in paperback this month, believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said.
Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.
“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”
At the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, life coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals.
Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment. While the institute doesn’t have long-term data, the intervention has produced strong anecdotal results.
In one example, a woman named Siri initially wrote in her “old story” that she wanted to improve her fitness, but as the primary breadwinner for her family she had to work long hours and already felt guilty about time spent away from her children.
With prompting, she eventually wrote a new story, based on the same facts but with a more honest assessment of why she doesn’t exercise. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I don’t like to exercise, and I don’t value my health enough. I use work and the kids to excuse my lack of fitness.”
Intrigued by the evidence that supports expressive writing, I decided to try it myself, with the help of Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute.
Like Siri, I have numerous explanations for why I don’t find time for exercise. But once I started writing down my thoughts, I began to discover that by shifting priorities, I am able to make time for exercise.
“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel said
I am often asked how much editing I do before I know a manuscript is ready to shop or publish. This question is tricky, because I know how paralyzing it can be to wonder if your work is ready for others’ eyes. There is always something that can be tweaked, reworked, reworded. I am blessed to have a critique partner and a close friend who happens to be a professional editor, but not everyone is so fortunate.
I have put together a check-list that I use, but I also rely on my friends’ advice and critique along the way. Another great tool that I use is a group of beta readers—volunteers willing to tell the truth about my manuscript before it goes to publishing. I ask them to provide feedback about content and clarity. Of course, anyone who finds typos or mistakes is asked to mark or correct them, but I find betas to be really great for finding inconsistencies or omissions.
My editing checklist consists of six stages. I advise other writers to go through these steps before sending their manuscripts to any publishing professional, like an agent or publisher. You want to look as professional as possible before it goes to their editors. I recommend for everyone to use a professional editor before self-publishing. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to put out a wonderful story that is filled with mistakes, inconsistencies, and confusing dialog. If a reader puts down your book because of these things, they probably won’t pick it up again.
Here is my checklist; I hope you find something in it to help you construct yours.
( ) First Draft—No Editing
Just get it all out there in writing.
Seriously, don’t even think about editing as you write.
( ) First Round—Content and Clarity
Make sure your manuscript says everything you think it says.
Read out loud, or have someone else read it aloud, to be sure.
Make sure your research is thorough and accurate, even for fiction.
Make sure your story is easy to understand.
Remember to include sensory imagery on every page.
( ) Second Round—Point of View (PoV)
Make sure each chapter is told from the appropriate character’s point of view.
If PoV changes from one character to another, make sure the shift is obvious.
( ) Third Round—Voice
Make sure each character uses his/her specific and unique voice.
If you read a quote out of context, would you know who was speaking?
( ) Fourth Round—Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary
Make sure that your narrative is grammatically correct.
Do NOT rely on spell-check and grammar-check to get it right. It won’t.
Dialog doesn’t require proper grammar, as long as it suits your character’s voice.
Are you using the most precise words for the situation?
Don’t send your reader to a dictionary more than twice in one book.
( ) Fifth Round—Format
Make sure your manuscript is formatted according to your publisher’s guidelines.
Double-check your publisher’s guidelines—really.
By Kimberly Black
visit KimBlackInk.com for more from Kimberly
Here’s a great blog post from one of our multi-pblished author members! Thanks, Dianne!
Most writers think that once your book is written, published, and the copyright is established that your concerns about copyrights are done. You don’t have to worry about it. That isn’t necessarily true in the multimedia world we live in today. In this the first of several posts about copyrights, I’d like to provide a few tips to writers that will help you keep track of what’s going on with your books after they are out there in the world.
First, set up Google alerts for the title of your book and your name or the name you use as the author of the book. Do this for each of your books. Have Google alerts notify you daily. If someone publishes your book title (which by the way you cannot restrict), then you can find out if they have just used the same title or infringed on your story line…
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