Saturday, January 18, 2014

11 Great Ways You Can Get Through Writer's Block

Writer’s Block keeps me up at night. Then when I do fall asleep it’s always a nightmare … I’m lying on an operating table. The anesthesiologist has just injected the dose into my veins in preparation for my operation, but WAIT!!!  It didn’t take and now the surgeon is slicing me open like a can of sardines and I can feel every move her small, sharp knife is making, only my body is paralyzed, including my mouth and I can’t speak … I can’t stop her and must lie there, enduring the pain of each deep cut.   

Okay truth, writer’s block isn’t that bad but when you’re sitting there staring at your blank computer screen and the words just aren’t coming, at times it can feel like torture.  

I used to get really down about this and allow my anxiety to get the best of me, but recently I put my foot down and decided to do something about it … to be exact I tried 11 different new things and for me, all of them work at different times.

1.  Watch a movie starring one of your favourite actors. 

I recently watched, The Wolf of Wall Street after a recent bout of writer’s block and watching Leonardo DiCaprio reminded me why I became a writer in the first place … human spirit and passion!!  Leo has lots of it in this movie. Of course, I’m not advocating getting into money laundering, an expensive cocaine habit, or a sex addiction, but this movie will remind you that human beings have the capacity for deep passion and spirit, be it good or bad.

2.  Read an old book.  

Sometimes as writer’s we forget to read because we get so engrossed in trying to express our own stories, but sometimes it’s useful to step back from your own writing and read a classic by another great writer.

3.  Get outside.  

More often than not we writers find ourselves sitting inside a stuffy house, inside a cluttered room, and please don’t tell me your writing desk isn’t cluttered with papers … mine sure is.  But getting outside, whether it’s just a walk in the park or a drive to the country, or even taking your laptop to a local coffee shop to try and write there.  A change of scenery always helps me.

4.  Review your credit card statement. 

Now unless you’re Steven King or J.K. Rowling you probably carry a balance on your credit card and I find looking at it from time to time inspires me to write … in the hopes of selling something so that I can pay off my bills.

5. Make any day Halloween.  

Dress up as one of the characters in your current novel/short story and go out in public and do something they would do. For example, if you’re writing a mystery about a wealthy art buyer, dress as he/she would and then head out to a local gallery and walk around.  You never know where inspiration may hit.

6.  Start a blog, if you haven’t already.  

Blogs force you to write, even when you don’t want to.

7.  If you’re stuck on a word or a sentence flow think to yourself … 

How would Shakespeare have handled this?  While you’re at it, read one of his plays.

8.  Laugh out loud.  

Get to your bathroom, look at  yourself in the mirror and laugh out loud.  Force the laugh at first and then be amazed at how easily and naturally you begin to laugh, to the point where it becomes uncontrollable.  I find a good laugh always helps me to get centered again in my writing.

9.  Have a Facebook page?  

Ask your friends & fans what they think you should write about.  You never know, you may just get a response or two.

10.  Put on your Barbara Walters hat.  

And interview an expert in your field, and then share it with your readers.  So if you’re writing a medical romance contact your local hospital or clinic and ask if you can interview one of the doctors or nurses on staff.  Then, share the interview with your readers and see if any of their feedback spurs inspiration.

11.  Check your Smart phone for old “notes”  I’m so guilty of this.  

I write down thoughts and ideas in my Notes app on my I-phone all the time … then I forget about them.  Maybe make it a weekly thing to do:  check smart phone notes and see if you find anything good there you might have forgotten about.

About the Contributing Author:

C.M. Hunter is a writer of children’s fiction, short stories and poetry.  She recently had her first book for children published, Blooma and the Portal, by Sun Dragon Press.  A graduate of McMaster University, Christine is a member of the McMaster alumni association and SCBWI (The Society of Children’s book writers & Illustrators.) A former creative copywriter working in radio advertising, Christine is currently working on her next book for children in the Blooma series, as well as a Romance novel.  To view her author page, please visit:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Top Project Management Tips To Make Creating A Successful Novel Easier

About the Contributing Author:

Joe Morris, PMP, is an aerospace professional who self –published his first science fiction novel, Empire’s Passing. As an engineering and management professional, Joe has his PMP, or Project Management Professional certification, from the Project management Institute. Since he is such a nice guy and always a professional, Joe wrote this guest post to illustrate how using project management techniques can help writers.

I spent 40 years in the aerospace industry as an engineer and project manager. Now that I’m writing professionally (professionally defined as earning some money for my writing) I’ve applied some of the management techniques I used during my career to writing. It’s something I’d like to share because I believe it has value in managing a writing project.

I have often been asked what the PMP abbreviation after my name means. It stands for Project Management Professional, a professional certification issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI promotes project management techniques and its associated processes worldwide. This probably doesn’t mean anything to you until you understand what project management is and how it can help in the business world, or, in this case, how you can apply it to writing.

First of all, let me define what I mean by a project. The core of PMI is contained in the“Program Management Body of Knowledge” or PMBOK for short. The title is pretty self-explanatory. PMBOK defines a project “as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” As such, it must have a beginning and an end. Building a car on an assembly line is not considered a project because it’s repetitive and continuous. 

However, designing and building the assembly line would be considered a project because it has a beginning and an end. Modifications made to an existing assembly line would also be considered a project. From this definition, writing a book can be viewed as a project. For example, you’ve decided to write the great American novel. It has a beginning: your decision to write the book. It has an end: publishing it (which can include marketing).

Now, writing is a very intuitive, creative process. So why do you need a process and is one even practical? Project management allows you to organize the steps required to create the document and to track these steps to ensure something doesn’t fall through the cracks. For a blog the process may be quite simple. A book, depending on its nature, is quite a bit more complex. Writing articles and short stories falls somewhere in between.

Let’s understand a bit about the project management process. PMI defines the five phases of a project as initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing. Basically, a writing process can be described with these five phases as shown below:

I’ve used some of the PMI phase names and associated them with writing-related equivalents where I felt clarification is required.


The initiation phase is just that, the starting of the project. Initiation may just reflect your decision to write a book or it might be triggered by a request from a publisher or client. Or maybe you found a writing contest online. Within this initiation phase, there are certain tasks you should do. These tasks will help clarify exactly what the project is and what you hope to accomplish, as well as helping you prepare to scope or size the project in terms of time and budget requirements.

In PMI parlance the first step is to create a project charter. Basically, the charter states the objectives of the project in simple terms. In most cases this should be no more than a couple of paragraphs. What are you writing? Who is your audience or customer? What is the due date, if there is one? Keep this in a place where you can refer to it. 


In project management there is something called scope creep, where during a project you end up taking on additional tasks or requirements. This charter or scope document allows you to refer back once in a while to remind yourself what you were originally trying to do and to make sure you aren’t off chasing rabbit trails. You may decide that the project has become too complex, or that you need more compensation for this particular project.


So once you have your charter, etc. in place the next thing you need to do is plan your project. For some this step begins with an outline. The detail of the outline is entirely up to you. I’ve been in LinkedIn writing group discussions where the use of an outline has been discussed ad nauseam. 

Some people advocate detailed outlines, while others (like me) are more free-flowing and find outlines somewhat confining, at least for fiction. Still, I have created chapter outlines (to track my story development) and timelines for my novels, as well as character lists. All of these help me keep things straight. 

If you’re writing a non-fiction piece requiring research, you might want to make a list of the sources you plan to use. You also need a schedule, even if there is no deadline. The schedule helps you sets goals and also reminds you when you’ve fallen behind because of distractions or other issues. Some people have even used MS Project to plan their writing schedule for complex projects. Other software for the planning of a writing project is also available.

If there is marketing involved, such as with self-publishing (or as in many cases with traditional publishing these days), this is the time to create your marketing plan. Marketing should begin when you start the project.

You also need to define when the project is over. When can you declare success (or failure and stop)?For example, submitting a story to a selected online contest might be considered the end of one project. In self-publishing a book, the end could be considered when you publish the book, or when you’ve completed your marketing campaign. Thus, it’s important to define the endpoint or you can end up spinning your wheels on a project that is over. 

Part of defining the endpoint is defining the deliverables, i.e., the manuscript, the story submission, etc. How many times have you heard of someone finishing a manuscript and then forgetting to hit the send button?

In industry we roll this up into what we call a Program Management Plan. This document is a living document that contains the charter and all of the plans in the planning stage. By living document, I mean it can be updated as things in the project change. It provides “one stop shopping” which team members can use as a handy resource and reference guide. 

Whether you need something like this depends on the size of the project, how many people you have working on it, and your own personal preferences. The more people involved the more you need this document.

In my aerospace life I’ve learned that the planning phase may determine the success or failure of the project. Poor planning allows the project to meander and lose focus.


Execution is just what it says. Write. Set yourself  a time for writing with a daily writing budget. For example, I have a little sign posted in my study asking me if I wrote my 2000 words today and if I checked my short story contest deadlines. Then just write. Obviously research may be part of the writing. So if you plan to do research, you need to account for it in your planning in the previous planning phase. A research plan with a starting list of sources might prove invaluable and should have been created in the previous phase.


The monitoring part of the monitoring/editing phase may not seem intuitive. In the aerospace world, we have quality control to check the results of our execution. We use progress/status reviews with management and our customers to evaluate progress and to keep our stakeholders informed. 

We also have something called change control, which allows for peer review (e.g.,other engineers reviewing the document for correctness and accuracy) of project documents and also ensures the team is using the latest, approved version of these documents. We also have audits to ensure the team is following the process as required. This may seem to be more than you need and it probably is. However, you still need to stop and check your progress. 

Are you on schedule? If not, why not? Are you following your plan/outline? Do you need to modify your execution or do you need to refocus it? You also need to keep your customer and stakeholders (e.g., agent, editor, publisher, etc.) informed of your progress. As a project manager I hated when someone who knew they were going to be behind schedule and neglected to tell me. If I know about a problem I could at least adjust my expectations and plans. When I was blindsided the pain was much greater.

Then, of course, comes the editing part. I can write pages on editing but, for now, suffice it to say you need to do it. Having someone else do it is even better. Too often writers reside too much in the weeds of their writing (i.e., deep in the details) and can’t see errors, mistakes, and inconsistencies.You know, you can’t see the forest for the trees kind of thing. If you can’t afford an editor join a writing group or find someone else to read it. (I’m lucky. I’m married to my editor).

Publishing Marketing

The publishing/marketing phase can be quite complex. There are books written on it and this blog post is already long as is. The most important thing is to follow the plan you laid out in the planning phase. A plan for both publication and marketing is mandatory. In fact, it may make sense to break your writing project down into subprojects. For example, in a self-published book publication project the writing and publication should run in parallel with your marketing, which starts early and carries on past the publication.

Using project management techniques can help keep your writing projects on track. I’m considering setting up a website to cover this writing process with examples, forms that can be used, and maybe a forum. If you’re interested let me know at or leave me a note on my blog at

Monday, January 6, 2014

5 Things A Writer Should Kill For

That's right, I said 'kill.' Hey, don't look at me that way, you were the one who had clicked on the title to get here.

As for that snazzy title, I have no regrets. Especially since I am a writer by day and a serial killer by night.

Me on weekends

Kidding... but that sounds like a great idea for my next mystery novel. The bloody suspense would constantly ask the reader not who had done it, but whether it was real.

On the last page I would tell the reader that I had gathered their mailing address through them downloading my book and that I was on my way to their place for a "quick book signing." Emphasis on the quotation marks. 

Now how fun would that be? 

I tell you, not as fun as winning a huge race. 

However, since the time I had beaten over 200 million long tailed swimmers to the egg, I have gone on to accomplish other great feats. One of them has been writing and becoming a god of fictional universes. 

Although I am not the next Stephen King, at least as of yet. I have been able to discover some interesting things about the craft I have come to love so much.  Such as, all writers can learn from each other no matter where they are in their careers and you can always have fun with narrative voice, for instance, just reread the beginning of this blog. 

But I want to share five things that I have discovered that a writer must have, no kill for if they must! Since a successful writer is a well equipped one, they should have:

1. A Website

You thought I would say a computer? Well, who doesn't have that now a days? But surprisingly most writers either don't have a website or they have a crappy one. 

You need to have a professional looking website and, yes there's more, and you have to make sure it has your voice in the content and brings value to its visitors. 

First, I had made the mistake of not having one, then I made the mistake of having a crappy one. Let me dive into how crappy. It just marketed my books. Nothing else. Great, right? 

I am not saying the website you are now looking at is a work of art, but it has come a long way and I have a growing subscriber list that tells me that it does bring value to people that come to it. 

The thing is when you have a professional website that brings value to your reader and on top of that has your voice in the content, you are letting the readers know who you are as a writer and your professional presentation is further increasing your credibility with them.

So when it comes time to market your book people will be more willing to buy from you because you are a familiar written voice that screams professionalism. 

2. A Subscriber List

RSS feeds are pretty weak tech, no cross that,  pretty lame. 

It is not as versatile nor as powerful as having a subscriber list. Don't get me wrong, I have an RSS feed of this blog on my Amazon author's page, but the issue with RSS is when people sign up to use it through your site you cannot see who they are nor can you gather their email addresses. Even if you could, you would have to use a separate program to create e-newsletters to email market to them. 

E-newsletters? Hell yeah, I say. One of the purposes of having a website is to build a following and one of the key purposes to having a subscriber list is to be able to reach out to the established audience when it comes time to launch your book. 

I'm not saying it's spam time. Most of my e-newsletters have nothing to do with my books, but you better believe they are always about new features or articles on my website. Again, I'm always focused on building that value. You knew what I was going to say. 

You just want to make sure you have the option to email market to the audience you have built. If you can't communicate with them, then what's the point of it all?

You want to keep them in touch with you as a write, all the projects you are working on and you want to do so in a professional package (e-newsletter). RSS feeds are not the way to go. 

3. Active Chapter Links

One thing I hate is formatting my manuscript for e-readers. It can be so tedious that I just want to head over to my readers' houses for a "quick book signing." 

One thing I just couldn't get write, I mean right, forgive me for trying to be cute, was I couldn't get my chapter links to work. 

'Why bother, Andre?' you ask. 

Well, I am all about bringing v- You know. The V word and I don't mean Voldemort. Yep, I said it. 

People don't see value in a product if it is not convenient. So having a functional navigation system is key to that V word when it comes to ebooks. 

Also, and I should put this in bold too, other professionally published books have functional chapter links. Your goal as an indie author is to make sure your book looks as professional as traditionally published books. 

Not to fool the reader, but because you need to remember who you are competing with for attention and how attention is won.

Now take that professionalism to your book cover. 

4. A Writers' Circle 

As I said before, writers are always learning. 

Just because we write alone doesn't mean we have to learn alone. I should copyright that and slap it on a t-shirt. 

There are plenty of forums out there for writers, so take advantage of them. Just be careful with the ones that ask for money. Make sure they are bringing that V word to you first. 

Hey, wouldn't you just know that I have a Writers' Circle on this site, right here?

I sure do and it only costs five payments of $19.99! I'm joking? Well hell, if you want to pay me I won't stop you. 

The important benefits from a writers' circle are that you can not only learn from other writers about yourself and your own writing, but you can form partnerships that can lead to collaborations. You can also find out where to get the best book covers and who can help you with that pesky ebook formatting. 

And much much more! Okay, infomercial off. 

5. A Willingness To Destroy What You Love

Way back in the day, when Facebook didn't exist and my flip phone was considered cool, I had a creative writing professor. Yes, I went to college. 

I remember him saying that after you write your first draft you should delete the first few pages of the first chapter automatically no matter what.

The point is when you create your first draft of your manuscript it is like meeting someone for the first time. There are a lot of things you don't know yet about it such as the best starting point of the story. Not to mention a first encounter is usually filled with awkward moments and you don't want awkward sentences to remain in your manuscript when you hit the publish button.

So relax.

After all, I think all writers should be able to destroy their stories. I am not just talking about deleting 10 pages from your first chapter to create a more intriguing beginning, I am talking about the ability to erase entire drafts from your computer hard drive without backing them up.

Sometimes the best place to restart is from scratch. If you can gain this ability then you can successfully work with a professional editor who wants you to take out those scenes you had worked so hard on, but they just don't really fit with the development of your protagonist.

I say start small. Delete the first five pages of your first chapter and read your story from there. How does it read? Is it better? Did it turn out that  you didn't have to spend so much time on building up the first chapter? That you could have gotten to the point much sooner and the story still makes sense?

I have used this exercise countless of times and while it has faded the ink on my delete button, it has also given me more experience with how to be more concise as a writer.

Leaning how to say more with less is very important when dealing with today's reader. I say it wouldn't hurt to sign up for those flash fiction exercises at that writers' circle you had joined to get some practice.

The last thing you want to do is bore your reader with chapter one. 

10 Tips For Beginner Writers

Are you just starting out as a writer? Then it's easy to feel a bit lost as to how to start. Here's some tips to help y...