Posts tagged ‘advice’

2016, November 11

5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

Today we have a guest post from Alexis MacDonald for your reading pleasure. Her excitement to write a guest post and the wonderful content she provided have quickly sealed the deal for her guest post on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running. Since the website closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.

It’s November, NaNoWriMo is well into its second week, most of my readers here are also writers and let’s face it – we all need to read this advice. Maybe even more than once.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I have, and happy NaNoWriMo writing!


5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

There are times in our lives that no matter how diligent we are about setting aside private time to write, life insists on getting in the way. Here are a few tips to help writers roll with the metaphorical punches and get some words down!

  1. Self-discipline

Make writing a habit. Write at the same time every day. Write throughout the day. Read a page about writing and then write a paragraph.

  1. Disengagement

As writers, we do not need to be connected to others every minute of the day. We know that in order to focus, we need to disengage ourselves from our social life.

  • Install a door. There are limits to what a door can do. In spite of their best intentions, family members tend to neglect to respect this impediment and will knock and open it anyway. But the door will diminish the recent movie rental or stereo playing in the family room.
  • Telephones. Ring tones and vibrations are extremely distracting. If you have a mobile phone, arrange it so that it does not ring, a light merely flashes. Set it off to one side and in either case, merely glance at the caller ID and unless it is an emergency, ignore it. As long as someone else is at home who can answer it, do not answer the phone at your writing desk.
  • The Social Internet. It should not have to be said that in order to better focus, a writer should be self-disciplined enough to have turned off all their social applications that would vie for attention. There are programs to download that help writer’s monitor their time and block out social sites but why would a disciplined writer resort to using these programs? On the other hand, having the Internet up is important for research.
  1. Nutrition and hydration

It is important to be energetic yet be calm enough to focus. Did you know that the lack of calcium causes mental depression or that iodine is a mental energizer? Besides salt, iodine is found in peppers, kelp, and raw goat milk. Although coffee and alcohol are commonly connected to writers, water, green tea, and organic fruit juices help maintain hydration and energize the mind. There are also over-the-counter eye drops that help moisturize dry, weary eyeballs.

  1. Music

Because writers are creative people, many are also musicians and artists. Some writers cannot work while listening to music with lyrics because they tend to concentrate on the lyrics while others who play instruments cannot listen to music at all. Some need white noise in the background in order to write. Be aware of this and use whatever helps you get the job done. Ear plugs can help but, some people strain to listen to the outside world even more when they use them.

If the above tips failed to help, this next one – while seemingly a detractor, might actually remedy the situation.

  1. Be in a noisy, busy environment

Going to a place like a mall or a coffee shop where there are people and noise all around you can be freeing. There are times when an overly busy environment actually helps one block out individual distractions and concentrate better. Along those lines, being around other writers who are engaged in their writing can really get you cracking on your own project.


More about the author:

Alexis MacDonald is a stay at home mom, midnight scribbler and a freelance pregnancy writer. She answers questions such as “how do you get pregnant” (hint, it’s more complex than you think – for instance: there’s a fertility calendar…)

2016, October 14

Creativity Vitamin: Clean the Clutter

Cleaning clutter is one of my favorite things. Just a couple of months ago, I cleaned our closet, the kitchen cabinets and with my boyfriend tackled the balcony as well. We donated about six bags of clothes, some dishes, threw out seven or eight bags of trash overall and took an old, heavy printer to the recycling center.

I’ve talked about clearing the clutter before. So this time around, I’m calling my writer friend Janel Gradowski for backup to talk to us about clearing the clutter from our writing spaces.

Her article, “Creativity Vitamin: Clean the Clutter”, also appeared on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I have!


A messy work space leads to a messy mind. You have heard some version of that phrase, haven’t you? Clearing the clutter from my writing space is something I make a point to do on a regular basis. I am really not a neat freak, I can happily ignore stacks of mail on the kitchen table or precariously stacked video game boxes on the entertainment center. The reason I regularly clean up my writing space is simple. I’m more productive. That is good enough for me to spend some quality time doing clutter control on a regular basis. A clean work space leads to a less-cluttered mind.

Don’t believe me? Imagine this scenario.

You are in the middle of writing a scene. You pause for a few seconds to ponder the perfect detail to add to your villain’s appearance. Your gaze wanders from your computer screen to a stack of unopened mail. Yes, most of it is junk mail, but there are bills in the pile that could be overdue. You abandon your writing to sort through mail. Clutter has claimed more victims. You and your WIP.

Have you ever written down notes for a project and then lost them? However, in your search through the mountains of paper on your desk you did discover some notes for another story. Notes that would’ve made that story much better, but it’s too late because it has already been published. Now you’re frustrated about two stories.

Maybe you have a favorite pen that you like to edit hard copies with. What happens if you sit down with a stack of pages to edit and you can’t find the pen? You could grab another one, but there’s also a good chance you’ll waste time searching for the coveted pen. There went a nice chunk of editing time.

So how do you get your writing space clean? If your desk is a huge mess, you can tackle your clean up in stages.

  • Throughout the work day when you need to take a break, clean up a few things.
  • Sort through one pile or area at a time.
  • Set up files to keep necessary items and always have your garbage can nearby.
  • Maybe buy, or make, some nice pen holders or boxes to organize notepads, paperclips, sticky notes, etc.
  • If you tend to keep your space neat anyway, make sure to set aside some time each week to do a clutter control sweep.
  • Don’t view the process as a household chore…think of it as a benefit to your writing life.

Are you ready to start cleaning up your writing space, or do you always keep it clean?


janelMore about the author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

You can find her via her Website, sign up for her Newsletter, or follow her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

2016, August 5

What is The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule?

If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the above question several times by now. That is why today I have a guest post for you by Karen Rivers, who is here to give us some advice.

Her article, “The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule”, also appeared on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I have!


Here is what my writing schedule looks like:

Write something.


Here’s a recipe for writing a book on a schedule, if you go in for that sort of thing:

Write something.
Delete it.
Write something else.
Save it, just in case, but delete it later.
Write a character. Think about a character. Wait for the character to become herself.
(Worry that you’re possibly losing it.)
(Just a bit.)
Keep waiting.

When you have your character, think about something that could happen to your new person. That’s the “What if?”
That’s your novel.
Go for a walk. Think some more, while you are doing other things. Turn the story over and over again in your mind.
Write the first chapter.
Abandon it.
Go back to doing what you need to do which is rewriting an older project, replete with characters and what-ifs. Rewrite the old thing by re-reading it. Wonder if it’s any good, after all. Decide it isn’t. Wallow around in self-doubt for a good long while. Peruse job listings. Polish resume.
Go back to writing your new thing. Get all fired up about the new thing! Get halfway through the new thing and remember that you have the other thing you are required to finish.

Finish it by avoiding opening the document until finally, nauseated, and late, you face it. Sentence by sentence. At first, it’s tooth-grittingly hard. It will be.
You will take a while to remember how to breathe under the water of your old, lumpy draft. It’s not nearly as shiny and exciting as the new one. Resent it.
But keep at it.
Eventually, something will give.
Let the pace pick up. Remember when this WAS the exciting, shiny, best thing ever?
Get caught up in the excitement of it again. Think about nothing else. Think obsessively about their characters and what they would do in any and every situation.
Forget what you are saying half-way through a sentence because you’ve just finally realized the one thing that’s going to bring the plot together.
Walk through the woods, watching your feet in the leaves, while you mentally shift the entire book back six months on its own timeline, changing the seasons the characters inhabit. Realize this is going to be really hard.
Do it anyway.

Rewrite the entire book in one rush of 27 solid hours so that the timeline is suddenly right. (At certain points, this will feel like wrestling angry vipers. Don’t give up.)
Feel high from doing that. Feel like you should do something exhilarating. Like cage-diving with sharks.
Clean your house.
Re-read your most recent draft.
Realize that although the timeline is right, a bunch of the other stuff is not.
Wallow a bit more in self-doubt that’s balanced by slight awe that you managed to actually do what you thought you couldn’t do with the timeline. If you did that, you can do anything.
Remind yourself.
Blog some stuff.
Walk more in the leaves and pouring rain, the wind whipping into your eyes. Listen to loud music. It’s probably safe to sing now because not very many people are in the woods.
Go home.

Realize that a pivotal part of your character is just plain wrong. Go through the book very slowly, chipping off this wrong part and adding in the right part and fixing the long ripple that this repair has made.
Feel like your fingers are bleeding from this effort.
Take a week or two to do that, working hard, head bent over your desk, sweating.
Re-read your WIP again. Realize it now almost sort of works.

Then, from the beginning, go through very slowly, as though with an extremely hot iron. Take your time. Iron each word as smooth as you can, and from there, push your iron further, over each sentence. Iron the paragraphs.
Take another large chunk of time to view the whole thing as a … well, a whole.
Realize that you’ve actually done it.

Go for another walk, only this time, think about nothing. By now the leaves will be gone. It may be snowing. While you are thinking about nothing, a new idea, a new character, a new setting will creep into your mind.
When you get home, write the first few pages because you need that rush of excitement to keep you going. Pace yourself. It’s not quite this book’s time yet, because you have that other one on the go that needs to go through the hard part. The work-part. The edit and the rewrite and the labor of getting your story to its natural end. Word counts? I guess I don’t see how word counts fit in. The books are as long as they are when they are done. Word counts are just not in my process.

That’s why it’s a “job”. Starting books is a hobby. And a really fun hobby.
Finishing them is the work.


karen rivers*This article came to a life of its own from the original blog post on Karen’s blog,“no na no wri mo for me, thank you. but you go ahead…

More about the author:

Karen Rivers is the author of a bunch of books. She likes to talk about herself in the third person. Karen’s ego is entirely connected to how many people fan her on her site, so she thanks you for your support. And so does her ego.

2016, June 16

Treasure Hunt Blog Tour: Banana Muffins & Mayhem, by Janel Gradowski


This week I am starting my blog post with a banner image and posting a day early, because I am taking part in the treasure-hunt-type blog tour organized by my friend Janel Gradowski in honor of her 5th mystery novel being published from her culinary competition mystery book series. Go congratulate her! You’ll find in her blog post the schedule of the blog tour as well for the rest of the stops, and the Rafflecopter widget to enter her giveaway.

Read the guest post, then see the book description and the treasure hunt clue for the secret word below!


Facing Your Fears

Being a fiction writer is a wonderful career, but it isn’t all about making up characters and giving them life dilemmas to deal with. A writer does far more than have conversations with the people who only exist in her mind. One of the most important things that any writer can do is face her fear.

Fear comes in many forms for authors: fear of rejection, fear of criticism, and fear of blank pages are just a few of them. The thing is, these fears – in whatever form they manifest, can have a detrimental effect on careers. How you can ever be published if you are too afraid of rejection to submit your manuscript to a publisher?

So I make it a point to face my fears and go past them. Sometimes that means running at them head on, and other times it means carefully stepping around. A recent encounter with another writer taught me a valuable lesson in fear. If you don’t let it stop you, great things can happen.

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the blockbuster hit “Eat, Pray, Love”. Her most recent book is called, “Big Magic”. It’s far different than her tale of traveling to exotic countries. While “Eat, Pray, Love” was her journey to finding a life that is perfect for her, “Big Magic” is a guide for helping others find and hold onto their creativity. There’s even some very good advice on fear (you have to work with it, not against it).

During the winter I discovered that Liz was coming to Michigan as part of her “Big Magic” book tour. I immediately made up my mind that I would go see her. The venue was a two hour drive away, very near Detroit where the nearest freeway exit resembles a plate of spaghetti because of all of the entrance and exit ramps. A scary driving experience since I live in the countryside between two towns that have collectively three stoplights total. But I bought a ticket for myself the day they went up for sale.

First I convinced my husband, who knows the metro Detroit area well because of his work, to drive me to the church where the event was being held, if I didn’t go with a friend. Then I posted on Facebook and talked with friends, trying to find someone who would go with me because I was apprehensive about going alone. (By apprehensive I mean I was afraid. The big, old, nasty fear monster thrashing around.) Nothing worked out, and so I had to face the fact that I would be going to a three hour workshop surrounded by literally thousands of strangers. A bit of a nightmare for a person who leans toward being shy and introverted.

But I never once thought of not going. It wasn’t the price of the ticket. It was the fact that I was going to get to be in the same room with one of my literary heroes, to hear her speak about creativity – the lifeblood of my writing career. The night before the event, suddenly all of the knots of fear loosened and I knew everything would be okay. It occurred to me that maybe I was meant to go alone.

The next day, after creeping through the traffic jam caused by so many people going to the workshop, my husband dropped me off. I checked in then walked into the auditorium. For some reason, the woman who entered right in front of me asked me to sit with her, even though her friend was coming. We struck up a conversation, then ended up talking a lot more throughout the workshop. Because, guess what? One of the first things Elizabeth Gilbert did was request that people who had come with friends move so that they were sitting next to a stranger to do the creativity exercises with.

I made a new friend that day. She even hugged me at the end and thanked me for sharing my stories of my life as a writer with her. I also wrote a letter to my fear, which was another part of the workshop. It was such a moving experience to be in an auditorium full of people who were facing their fears because they wanted to live a life full of creativity. I’m very glad I didn’t let my fear of going alone stop me from attending.


Book Description

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Culinary competitor Amy Ridley is as excited as anyone in Kellerton, Michigan to have DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, come to town for the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event. However the TV personality’s sour attitude quickly curdles people’s opinion of her. When she’s found dead, at the business owned by Amy’s husband, Alex, the heat is on to catch the killer before his professional reputation is ruined!

When Amy seeks help in preparing for a vegan baking recipe contest, she also finds assistance from an unlikely team of sleuths who want to help her catch the murderer. But things go from bad to worse when Alex and his business suddenly suffer a series of less-than-random attacks. Are the murder and attacks related? Amy vows to figure it out before her and her husband’s lives are ruined… or ended permanently!

Purchase the e-book from AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwords, or the print book.


The Treasure Hunt clue for Life’s a Stage is: !

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at


janelMore about the author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever.
Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life.
She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

You can find her via her Website, sign up for her Newsletter, or follow her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

2016, March 4

Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

I’m so happy to share with you today a guest post by Judy Clement Wall. We published her article, Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices, on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy these tips as much as I have!


Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

Feeling stuck? Try these tips for moving past the occasional (inevitable) bout of writers

1. Go on an adventure (and take notes).

Last month, I went on a 4-day road trip – 1265 miles to drop my son off at college. I was an emotional wreck, as moms saying goodbye to their children often are, but I knew the trip would provide a lot of writing material, so every night, before I went to bed, I made a list of all the interesting things I could remember from the day. When I got home, I had four pages of notes, a lot of them things I wouldn’t have remembered if I’d waited until I got home to start writing. So far, from those notes, I’ve written a piece for Huffington Post, an essay for a literary collection, and a blog

Even if you can’t afford to take four days off and drive, take a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be observant. Talk to strangers. Watch scenes unfold and then imagine them differently.

2. Shamelessly eavesdrop.

I’ve taken to eavesdropping in coffee shops. It amazes me the stories I can invent over the span of an unsuspecting victim’s cup of coffee. And really, sometimes you don’t even have to work that hard. Once I listened to the first date of a couple who’d met on When I got up to leave, he was telling her about his ex-wife’s cat’s urinary tract infection. I wanted to rescue her, grab her hand on my way out and make a break for it. In the story version of that date, I’d have done it.

3. Close your laptop (or whatever you write in).

Most of the time, it’s best to keep your butt in the chair and hammer something out, even if it’s ugly. You can make it pretty later, and it’s better to get something (anything!) down, than give up. That’s how the hard work gets done.

But there are times when sheer, dogged determination isn’t enough to break through the block, and trying to pound through it only leaves you feeling defeated. At those times, go live your life. Plant something, take a friend to lunch, wrestle with your dog. Sometimes when you’re truly empty, there’s nothing to do but go out and fill the well.

4. Wonder about weird stuff.

Recently I was on a hike with a friend, and we were talking about a news story he’d read a few years ago. The story was about a plane crash that killed many people. My friend said that when they listened to the cockpit recording later, it was clear that the pilot and copilot had been fighting over a flight attendant they were both involved

I asked my friend if both men were single, and he said he didn’t know. I said, “Imagine if one of them wasn’t, and his widow hears after his death that not only was he having an affair, he killed a lot of people while fighting over his mistress.”

My friend said, “no one but you would ever wonder about that,” but writers wonder about weird things.

5. Read outside your genre.

I only recently started doing this. I read and write literary fiction and nonfiction, but in 2012 I decided to read at least one book (or manuscript) each year that I wouldn’t normally choose. Reading outside my comfort zone puts me in a less analytical, more easily surprised frame of mind, which is right where I want to be when I sit down to do my own work.

6. Doodle.

The definition of “doodle” is “scribble aimlessly.” How great is that? When you’re stuck, do a little aimless scribbling. Let your mind go. Think of it as recess, then come back to your work-in-progress when you feel refreshed.

7. Use social media as a muse.

Social media is not just for platform building. There are some smart fascinating, funny, talented people on the internet. Follow them. Not the ones who talk only about their impressive word counts or latest book signing, but the ones who make you laugh aloud (or gasp, or blush) with their irreverent updates and observations.

I even have a special suggestion for flash fiction writers. Meg Pokrass writes and teaches flash fiction. Her work has been published all over the place and has been nominated many times for the Pushcart Prize anthology. I follow her on Facebook because her updates are wild, funny, piercing works of flash fiction in themselves, and she often posts several in a day. Inspiration at your Facebook-y fingertips.


BioPic2More about the author:

Judy Clement Wall’s short stories, essays, reviews and interviews have been published in numerous literary print journals and websites, including Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Kind Over Matter, and Smith Magazine. You can read more of her work at

2014, January 20

When in a writing funk… I apply the following :)

With all this talk of and looking at NaNoWriMo from different perspectives these past few months in blog posts of friends, and in the articles from several guest writers on FFDO, I have been thinking a lot about writing. Okay, truth be told, I think about writing every single day, a lot, so let’s go with: I thought even more about writing.

Let me know how it is for you, but when in a writing funk, I personally seem to shut down. That means little to no social media, e-mails, and basically no creative writing. I am not going to lie or sugar-coat it either, it can last for quite a while when it happens. I’m really lucky to have myself my blog on a strict enough blogging schedule, or I would probably fully shut down and not write a single word when in that state.

I have written only a handful of flash fiction and poems, and not a single travel article in 2013. I intend to change that back to at least my productivity of 2011-2012, while aiming for even more regarding flash fiction and poems as well! And it won’t get done just by thinking about it, I know.

committing out loud

Thus far, I have used different methods for getting back to writing after a dry spell, and you know what the most effective way thus far has been? I’ll detail below:

  • Writing. Just sitting down to my desk, taking the laptop to a cozy corner, getting out my notepad in the middle of the park and just starting to write. It takes discipline. Starting is the hardest. But, I simply sat down, and wrote.
  • It definitely helps to have a large enough chunk of time on one’s hands, but in case I don’t? I try to make the most of “idle moments” like standing in line while running errands, waiting for lunch to heat up, or a cake to bake and so on.
  • Committing “out loud”. Not that it wouldn’t be fun shouting it off rooftops or taking up skywriting, but something as simple as sharing my plan to write as a Facebook status, tweeting right before starting, posting an Instagram picture of where I’m sitting, of the messy desk with all my slips of papers and notepads in haphazard piles goes a long way. As impersonal as it tends to get at times, social media is still the greatest way of connecting people right away; I’m constantly surprised/amazed to see how many people out there are struggling with the same thing.
  • Looking at, or editing photographs. They are supposedly worth a thousand words, right? Try getting those words on paper – imagined or other wise! (Like I did, here.)
  • Writing curious lists. To give a fresh example, few days before December ending I opened the book at random, to page 111 and then chose the bottom title, from the chapter “Lists for Holidays”. For it is the holiday season, I decided to give this list a festive/humorous spin and thought of items accordingly. Here’s what I came up with.

What do You do to get yourself back on track, when in a writing funk?

2012, October 8

A note from the Universe

Sometimes, Estrella, if the direction you’re about to move feels "right" in your head and heart, yet the first few steps look pretty daunting, not fun, and maybe even scary, you should take those first few steps anyway and get ’em over with.

And I’m not just saying that because watching you in action gives me goose bumps.

~ The Universe.

Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: