Dear John: Finding Fulfillment in Our Ideas

Sometimes I write letters to John Green because it’s his fault I do all this writing stuff and have yet to give up on any of it.

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At some point, we all have that moment. That moment when we finally look at our list of goals or dreams or things we want to do before we die and say, “Now. I’m going to make this happen right now.” No more waiting. No more procrastinating.

I was a junior in high school when I took my writing “career” into my own hands. Near the end of 2008 I somehow discovered YouTube, which has not much to do with writing unless you factor in the minor detail of simultaneously discovering the Vlogbrothers.

The first video I ever saw, I’m pretty sure, was this writer I’d never heard of before named John Green sitting in front of a camera, talking to someone named Hank about NaNoWriMo (which I also was not aware existed in the universe).

Naturally, as a sixteen-year-old convinced I was going to be a writer no matter what it took (stubbornness or passion, I’m not really sure which), I decided I needed to read all of this stranger’s books because he seemed successful and down-to-earth. I also signed up for my very first NaNo that October (because why not?).

Well John, I spent all Christmas (sorry – “winter”) break that year reading the then three books you’d published (Katherines, Alaska and Paper Towns). And that January, I started my first blog, what would six years later morph into what is now known as Novelty Revisions.

I’m not sure if this is your fault, but I’m giving you credit anyway.

I published my first essay that year too. I wrote my first book. I finally figured out that if my ideas were worth anything at all, I needed to find that out for myself.

This, I have since come to find out, is a lesson we are reminded of on more than a single occasion.

I learned it again in college, when I realized I wasn’t doing any writing outside of school and felt as though I was falling behind.

And again, when I got my first full-time job, applied to graduate school, basically stopped blogging for two months and almost convinced myself I could afford to put “writing for fun” on hold for awhile. You know. Until I had my life figured out.

Then I forgot why I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place, and my heart was sad, and to fill the void I watched every single Vlogbrothers video ever made, in chronological order, on my way to and from work, in the evenings, long after the rest of the world slept.

Again, there you were, unknowingly screaming at me, “YOUR IDEAS MATTER. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WRITE THEM.”

Novelty Revisions happened. And then I started writing. I started writing a lot.

Why? Because my ideas, sharing those ideas, allowing myself to be proud of those ideas, gave me a sense of fulfillment I never knew I’d been missing.

You told Adam Grant recently: “You have to find pleasure and fulfillment in [your] work […] find fulfillment inside the work itself.” I first stumbled upon the original video where this quote came from at the beginning of this week, which also happens to be the week I published my first work of fiction.

How do you always somehow manage to reappear in my social media feeds when I’m in need of reassurance the most?

Everyone has their senpai these days (sorry not sorry) and I know every other fan, follower and/or nerdfighter hopes and prays you will acknowledge their existence someday. I don’t need that (not that I would deliberately avoid you in a crowded elevator if we ever happened to both be on one at the same time or anything). I have enough fulfillment knowing that what I am doing with my life – writing, because it makes me happy, not because I want to be famous or financially privileged or anything like that – is what I’ve always been supposed to do.

It has taken me so long to figure this out. Why?

I don’t know. But I wanted to thank you. For somehow always showing up to remind me I can use my words for good and that they matter and that if I’m not happy, my stories will never reach their full potential.

I am happy. It’s been far too long since I could say that and actually mean it.

DFTBA.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of HuffPost Arts & Culture.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Why Pitching “Bad” Ideas Is a Good Idea | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Before you scroll down to the comments section to scold us for our latest bite of advice, take a deep breath. Never judge a blog post by its title, right?

So far in our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series, we’ve covered how to choose the right publication to submit your pitches to and how (and why) to keep track of the pitches you do submit. Never once have we advised you to submit a story idea, to anyone, before giving it some serious thought first.

So why, then, are we screaming at you to pitch “bad” ideas? What’s that about, huh?

The thing is, nothing you submit is ever going to be perfect the first time around. Either it’s just not refined enough to make it past the first publication barrier or it doesn’t quite fit the mold of what that particular editor is looking for.

But sometimes, you have a pitch you’ve been brainstorming and fixing up for a little while. You know it’s not perfect. Keeping it to yourself just because you don’t think it’s ready, though, is only going to hurt you. Here’s why.

You are your absolute worst critic 

Have you ever noticed that it’s the ideas you think need the most work that other people grab onto the fastest? It’s always the idea you don’t think will make it to the next round that gets picked up first. There’s a reason for this: you spend a lot of time with your ideas, and after awhile, none of them are ever going to seem appealing enough to you to sell.

When we spend enough time mulling over our story ideas, we become desensitized to them. Have you ever just casually said to someone, “Oh, I’m writing a book/article/story” and wondered why they seem so intrigued? Is it really that big of a deal? It is! You’re just so used to it, it doesn’t look that way to you anymore. We face the same dilemma when pitching ideas. So when you don’t think something is quite good enough—pitch it anyway. Just do it.

You might get more helpful feedback than you expect 

It’s not always easy to predict how editors are going to react to your idea submissions. Some, okay, most, will pick the ones they like and spend their time pursuing those: they’ll just ignore the ones they aren’t planning on using, because they get hundreds, and they’re not robots. They can only do so much.

Some editors, though, particularly with small publications and newer blogs, will respond to your pitches even if they’re not quite ready to move forward in the publication process. You might actually get some decent feedback on how to revise your pitch to make it stand out more, broaden its subject matter or clarify its purpose. You never know, so it’s worth taking a chance regardless of whether you’re completely confident or not. Which, of course, leads nicely into our final reason to pitch, even when you think you have a “bad” idea. 

You never know until you pitch 

Honestly, if you never just “go for it,” you’re never going to get published, anywhere, no matter how much time you spend refining your skills. Pitching to publications is an experience in itself, so even if it feels like no one is ever interested in the ideas you’re throwing out there, it’s so much better than never pitching at all.

As we mentioned above, sometimes what you think will never make it will end up doing exactly that. The more time you spend worrying about whether so-and-so will “like it,” the less time you’re spending getting it out there for people to see, working on other projects and getting better and better at pitching, writing and selling as you go.

Have a bad idea? Pitch it. At least now you know what we mean by “bad.”

You can do it. The moment just before you hit send is the worst. Okay, waiting to hear back is pretty awful, too. But that gets easier to handle, too. We promise.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: I Have a New Idea, But I’m Still Writing an Old Story

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It happens to the best of us: we’re just minding our own business, typing away, and BOOM: new idea. It’s a good one. And we really want to forget about whatever we’re working on and give all our attention to this new thing in our heads.

Take a deep breath. You don’t have to abandon what you’re working on for the sake of one new idea. Try these solutions to your latest #writerproblem before you decide the best way to handle this.

Solution 1: Write down new ideas as they come, then leave them alone

Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by new ideas simply because we can’t get them out of our head. Just because you have a new idea doesn’t mean your old one has any less worth, and if you’re still motivated to finish it, there’s a way to hold onto that new idea without investing your full time and energy into it right away.

As bits and pieces of a new story come to you, jot down those idea fragments, maybe on a note in your phone or on a Post-It note, and then go back to whatever you’re working on right now. Leave them to sit for awhile. You won’t forget them, and when you’re ready to bring them to life, they’ll already be there waiting. 

Solution 2: Use your new idea as motivation to finish your current project 

Maybe you’ve been working on your current book, short story or other project for what feels like forever. Your eagerness to jump into the first new idea that comes along is a completely normal temptation. That new idea seems really good to you right now. It’s bright and shiny and YOU WANT IT.

Instead of abandoning your work for something different, use the promise of a brand-new project to get you through finishing the current one. Just think: not only will you be able to celebrate your accomplishment (it’s finally done!), but you’ll also be able to dive straight into the next thing right away.

Solution 3: Try dividing your time between both stories 

If you really don’t think you can wait until your first project is done before starting the second one (try the above solutions first before you decide you can’t handle the waiting), do an experiment. See what happens when you try working on both at the same time.

This requires a lot of discipline. You’ll need to figure out how to schedule out your writing time so you’re giving equal attention to both projects. It can work, but only if absolutely necessary. You might find that working on two projects at the same time actually makes you more productive. Who knows? Give it a try and tell us how it goes.

New ideas are just that: new ideas. They might seem really great at first, and eventually they might turn out to be even better than you imagined. But they might not. If you’ve already put a lot of work into something, finish that first, if you can. You’ll feel much better when you do.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Keep Track of Your Ideas, and Why You Should | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Like the act of writing itself, getting published is a process. Often a long, unpredictable process that involves more waiting than anything else. You have a lot of ideas, and you just want them to be heard, dangit! How do you know you’re doing it right if no one’s emailing you back? 

Just because you’re stuck waiting doesn’t mean you can’t continue to crank out, and submit, more ideas elsewhere. How—and why? We’ll show you.

Keep a running list of pitches 

There are several reasons you shouldn’t ever just “wing it” when pitching a story idea, whether it’s to a magazine, blog or part of a proposal of sorts for your agent. Some online submission forms don’t automatically send you a copy of what you’ve just submitted, and if someone comes back to you and says they’d like you to develop and send in your story … and you don’t remember your exact pitch … that might be a problem.

Keeping a list of ideas you’ve pitched, where you’ve pitched them and whether they’ve been accepted, rejected or ignored can help you figure out your niche (which topics you tend to gravitate toward writing about), which kinds of pitches fit certain publications (and which don’t) and can even help you get used to the time gap between when you pitch and if/when you generally get a response. Once you pitch one idea to a publication, you can take advantage of that gap and pitch different ideas somewhere else while you’re waiting.

Teach yourself to track your own progress

The more you pitch, the better you get at it. We won’t say it gets easier, because that would be a lie. Over time, you do start to get a better sense of what certain audiences want to read, what they already know, what they want to know and how to construct pitches that will grab editors’ attention.

The same way journaling can give you the chance to look back at your younger, less experienced self, keeping track of your story ideas over time, regardless of whether they’ve been accepted or not, allows you to look back at the kinds of pitches you were submitting last month, last year, even a few years ago, if you’re really dedicated (go you!). 

Never pitch the exact same story twice

What if an idea for one publication or agent gets rejected or ignored, but you want to try and pitch it somewhere else? It’s true that your pitch may have been overlooked because it’s not quite the right fit for that particular publication’s audience or that agent’s requested genres. But the pitch itself might also need some revising. Maybe it’s not specific enough. Maybe it’s almost there—but not quite ready yet.

It’s okay to try an idea out in more than one place, if the first or second don’t work out. But don’t pitch the exact same idea every time. Play around with your angle. Keep your audience in mind. Keep working at it, either until it finds its fit or until you decide it’s time to move on to something different.

If you want to get published, it’s important to remember there’s only so much you can control throughout the process. But if you want it—and we mean really want it—you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll figure out how to improve your pitching strategies and find not just where your stories fit, but where you fit as a writer, too.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Find the Publication that Fits Your Pitch | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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We all have specific websites, magazines, journals and other publications we read on a regular basis. It’s tempting, when we start thinking about getting more of our work out there, to pick one of our favorite content hubs, seek out their pitching guidelines and formulate a pitch, article or story that fits exactly within that publication’s scope.

As a writer, the best creative strategies are the ones that leave our minds open to seemingly infinite possibilities. Seeking out a specific publication before you have an idea in mind automatically puts you in a box, a cage to hold back your creativity, which is exactly what you don’t want to do when you’re first starting out.

Here are our tips for finding a home for your ideas after you’ve already constructed them, the first installment of our latest series, designed to help your ideas get the attention they deserve. 

Who is most likely to pick up your pitch/article/story? 

We’ll discuss audience identification a little bit later, but for now, pay close attention to who you think you’re writing to. This will differ depending on whether you’re working on a fiction or nonfiction project.

Picture who you imagine clicking on your article or picking up your story if it were to get published someday. Teenagers? College students? Older adults? Readers of a specific literary genre? Knowing who you’re targeting will help you narrow down options when you’re looking for places to submit your pitch.

Stay away from well-known publications … for now

Let’s be honest: The Huffington Post probably isn’t going to respond to your first, second, third, maybe even your eighth pitch. The bigger the publication, the less likely you are to get noticed. It’s not even that your pitches/articles/stories aren’t worth reading … hundreds of others’ submissions are, too.

When you’re searching for places to pitch to, start small. Just because you get published in a journal or magazine or on a website no one’s ever heard of doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! You’re published! You might even be able to continue contributing to that small publication, get more experience, build your portfolio and eventually be able to work your way up to more well-known pubs. 

Work with one pitch at a time 

Whether or not you’ll submit only the pitch or the entire article at the beginning depends on the publication. Some magazines and other online media outlets have you submit a short pitch for approval; some will ask for a short pitch along with the article/story already written.

It’s a good idea to stick with one pitch at a time, and let it make the rounds. As we’ve mentioned before, and as we’ll discuss later on throughout the month, your pitch might have a perfect home. If you’re lucky, it might be able to fit in more than one (so you’ll have to choose). But if it doesn’t—that’s okay. You can either choose to tweak it, wait awhile and send it out again, or put it to the side to use for a different idea in the future.

The most important thing to remember when you start pitching is that patience will pay off. Sometimes publications take weeks to accept pitches, and it takes a little while to get into the rhythm of knowing when it’s time to move on to a different outlet.

The more you pitch, the easier it will get, and the more likely you are to, eventually, see your words on the web, in print or both.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Just Write: An Interview with Songwriter Jacqie Brooks

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Putting ideas into words is a writer’s greatest thrill. He or she will never pass up the opportunity to weave together strings of words to craft an elaborate storyline, regardless of the form. Songwriting, just like writing prose or poetry, takes the process a few steps further, adding a musical element to the mix.

This week we sat down with Jacqie Brooks, fashion/beauty enthusiast, editor and fellow lover of words, to talk about a genre of storytelling we haven’t covered here before: songwriting.


Ideas come from everywhere. Where do you go when you’re in need of inspiration?

In every facet of life, I tend to just find inspiration in everything. The latest song I’m working on sprouted from hearing a George Strait song on the radio on my drive back to my house from my family’s house. And George Strait songs remind me of being a teenager, and so the song is about being 14, before relationships were stressful.

But I also will see people doing things and create a story in my head off of it. I also get a lot of inspiration from other artists. Growing up, I was obsessed with Kate Voegele and Sara Bareilles. Their songs are so personal and clever.

When did you start writing songs? How did it come about?

I think I actually started writing songs around the sixth grade—they weren’t very good. But there was always something I got out of listening to music. It wasn’t necessarily that I just liked listening to music, but the fact someone wrote this song that portrays a story and a feeling was really cool to me. The composition of the words was so pleasing to me, and still is. So I started writing things down.

What’s the first thing you do when you get an idea, or a set of lyrics in your head?

Writing for me happens one of two ways, usually. I either think of words that I like or I think of a tune that I like. So if it’s words, I immediately write it down—on a napkin, in my phone, on the back of a receipt … And then if I have time, I usually will try to come up with other lines that could potentially go in the song.

If I have a melody or tune in my head, I try to form some kind of wording that makes sense, and I will write it down and actually hum or sing it into the voice recorder in my phone. I am a horrid singer, so absolutely no one hears those. But they are there. And I will revisit them when I’m ready to finish or work on the song.

When you’re writing songs, what do you usually write about?

Okay, everyone gets on Taylor Swift about it, but I probably write most about relationships. Honestly, it’s so easy. It comes so naturally. You’re in constant relationships—not necessarily romantic relationships. And it’s easy to build another story off of one reality. I’ve been trying really hard to write those fantastic “finding yourself” songs, but it’s a lot harder to do that and make it relatable.

How has writing helped you along as you’ve gotten older?

For me, my songbook is my journal. It’s my life. Even if I didn’t finish something, I flip through the pages and see where I was in life at a given point. I do journal, in more of a prose format. And that’s great. But to me, reading through my songs is when I see myself at my most creative or hurt times in life. I get to go back to that and either realize why I was so hurt by something and how I learned to overcome it and where I am now or I get to see myself being so happy and enjoying myself so much to write it down.

Do you ever revise any of them, or just leave them be?

Sometimes I revisit and work on them, particularly if [they are] unfinished. Rarely do I go through and change something that’s finished. I usually have worked on those long enough to be satisfied with them.

How do you think telling stories through song lyrics differs from telling them through an article or a book?

There are a lot of people who don’t like to read, but who doesn’t like music? The stories [in] songs take a situation everyone can relate to and turn it into something short and catchy and memorable.

I also think it’s a lot more challenging to write songs than some of the other forms of writing. You’re more limited. You don’t want a 20-minute song. Also, you want it to make sense. Rhyming is harder than you think!

What do you love most about writing?

I’ve just liked to write for as long as I can remember. I’ve always known it’s something I’m good at. And I love the satisfaction I get after finishing something and being happy with the end product.

Has anyone ever given you a piece of writing advice you’ll never forget?

I recently sat in on a songwriting session with Victoria Banks and Emily Shackelton in Nashville—they’ve written songs for Sara Evans and other country stars—“Gotta Have You” and “Can’t Stop Loving You” for example. They were talking about what they do when they get stuck, and they both said, “Just write.” Eventually something is going to come to mind, and something is going to work.


Whatever your method for bringing your ideas to life, we believe you can do it! Take a few moments today to look back at some of your old work to inspire you to create something new tomorrow. And of course, if you have any more songwriting tips or revelations to share with our readers, or songwriting questions for Jacqie, leave a comment!

Image courtesy of Jacqie Brooks.

Solution Saturday: No One Seems Interested in My Pitches

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Pitching. Either you love it or you hate it. Regardless of your writing niche, we all have to do it. It can get extremely frustrating, and discouraging, when your ideas just don’t seem to be getting through to anyone, right?

It’s not necessarily the quality of your idea that’s leaving you constantly overlooked. There are a lot of components that go into pitching. We feel a new upcoming series coming on …

But first, we still do want to help you get noticed, or at least increase the likelihood of someone paying more attention to your pitches. 

Solution 1: Find the publication that fits the pitch, not the other way around

It’s probably tempting, when you first start pitching ideas for stories and articles, to seek out your desired publication first. That’s definitely not the best way to go about it. Seeking out a magazine you want to write for, then coming up with a pitch you’re sure they’ll like, you’re putting yourself into a box and sealing the lid. You’re settling for what one publication wants, without giving yourself room to create freely, with the possibility of multiple publications interested in that very topic.

Come up with an idea, maybe even a full story or article, first. Focus on what you want to write about, whatever issue or theme you think is important. Do your absolute best work. Once you have an idea and/or a well-polished draft, then you can do some research and figure out where your work might fit the best. 

Solution 2: Know exactly whom you’re writing to 

Not just the editor that will be reading your pitch: this is important, but what we’re referring to here is your pitch and/or story’s audience. This actually helps with our first solution, too. Know not only the message you want to get across, but who you’re trying to reach. Who do you picture clicking on the link to your story, when it finally gets its own spot on the web?

Knowing your audience makes researching the ideal publication even easier. If you’re writing an article meant for college students, you can narrow your search to college-centered blogs and magazines right away once your pitch is ready to be shared.

Solution 3: If one pitch isn’t working, move on

Sometimes, a pitch needs a lot of refining. Unfortunately, the way the virtual submission process works, your pitch will either get accepted or it won’t. Usually you won’t hear back at all if it’s rejected: you won’t get feedback on how to improve it, leaving that part of the process up to you.

Eventually, if you’ve tried submitting the same pitch to a few different relevant publications, with no results, that might mean your pitch needs some work. Sometimes the focus just needs to be narrowed a bit, in some cases. It’s up to you whether you want to try to rework it or just let it fall to the bottom of the pile. But don’t dwell on it; if one thing isn’t working, don’t waste valuable time fussing over it. Just leave it be and move onto another idea.

It’s not you, and it’s definitely nothing personal. Editors know their publications, especially those in charge of screening pitches and evaluating submissions. They can only accept so many, and they can only accept stories that fit with exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t give up. Honestly, if you spend enough time pitching good ideas, eventually, someone will take notice.

We’re going to write more about this. We mean it. Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Can Things Our Characters Do Motivate Us to Do Things, Too?

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Rhyming titles aside, this is a question inspired by a member of NaNoWriMo’s Facebook group. “Does anyone else find the characters you write motivate you to do things in real life?” she wants to know. I’m giving her all the credit for what has become of this random rant even though I don’t have her permission to use her name (sorry).

It got me thinking though. Do they?

Think about your favorite MCs. They’re never just your average nobody (well, sometimes they start out that way). A story with believable characters can’t exist without progressive character development, because everyone grows and changes when they come face-to-face with a problem and have to, at some point, stumble into its resolution. Your favorite characters are probably the ones who do some pretty awesome stuff to get to where they need to go, or defeat whichever villain they’re battling, or whatever.

What happens when you’re reading a book, and a character overcomes an obstacle you’ve been trying to figure a way around for months? You’re inspired. You suddenly want to put that book down, get up and go crush your real-life obstacle with no fear. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t. But that character’s actions have successfully motivated you to, in some way or another, change your life.

The same thing can happen when we’re writing. Often, unintentionally, our characters end up fighting battles we’re very familiar with, because it is our first instinct to turn to topics and situations we know well in order to draw from our experiences and fuel our prose. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, as long as we expand our horizons every now and again, too. Putting our characters through the same things we went through adds an emotional component we can’t help but infuse into our stories.

When our characters conquer their demons, whatever form that takes on in your current project, we are satisfied, and therefore our readers probably will be, too. If we want our readers to feel motivated to do something positive in real life, in response to something a character has done, we should be able to feel it too.

And then this question comes to mind: why do we write characters that do things that motivate us to do things?

It’s very difficult to write dull characters. Sometimes you have to, maybe it’s just their personality and they’re a foil to your vibrant MC. But I think a lot of times we tend to write inspiring characters because we want to feel inspired, too. We feel good when our characters accomplish something big. It makes us want to stop writing for a second (gasp!) and go accomplish something big, too, right here, right now.

Being inspiring by being inspired? Being inspired to inspire? Just roll with the inspiration and see where it takes you.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

Share Your Story Ideas with Other Writers Today (31DBBB Day 23)

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Your friends call you the mysterious poet. You’re constantly typing away, but rarely breathe a single audible word about what you’re writing. It’s a secret, you say. It’s not ready for the world yet, you say. Your ideas are password-protected—literally—and no one’s allowed in.

Does this describe you? Good. Because today, we’re going to throw you so far off your comfy writing chair, you won’t know what … threw you.

Some writers take the sneaky introvert lifestyle to the extreme. Which is relatively understandable: after all, your ideas, and the words you’re writing, don’t have to go public for everyone else to pick through. Or does it?

Finding someone you trust to share your ideas with can be a challenge. And online, who knows what could happen? We want you to take a risk today, though. We want you to take that idea you’ve been holding so close to your heart, and share it.

It could help you more than you think.

Others might be able to identify the element you’re missing

It’s easy, and common, to get so caught up in your own head that you can’t separate yourself from your story idea to give it a good big-picture assessment. Sometimes you have a good idea, but there’s something missing—something you’ve tried, but consistently failed, to uncover and resolve.

Sharing your ideas in any kind of online writing community, even just bits and pieces or your basic elevator pitch, gives a new, outside-in perspective on your story, allowing you to identify any barriers that might be preventing you from taking your idea and turning it into a literary masterpiece.

No one is going to take your idea away from you … usually

An idea to one person never looks the exact same to someone else. Maybe a lot of people are hesitant to talk about their ideas because they’re afraid someone else will try to use them before they get the chance. This isn’t a fear worth crippling your productivity. Sometimes, we need to talk it out.

Because inspiration sprouts from others’ ideas, any idea you come up with is always going to be partially based on someone else’s idea. As long as you don’t take that idea and copy it detail by detail, it’s not going to hurt you. If someone else “takes” your idea, maybe in too much detail, they’re just proving to you they can’t rely on their own creativity to come up with something new. That makes you the better writer. But honestly, there aren’t too many writers who poke around on random blogs just to find story ideas to steal.

So let’s start today. Let’s be brave. Go ahead! Share the ideas behind the project you’re working on right now, or the idea you haven’t quite gotten around to putting into words yet. It’s okay to share. Inspiration comes from all sorts of hidden places. Have a problem? Stuck in the same scene day after day? You’re probably not the only one.

Leave a comment. Share this post. Start a conversation. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Image courtesy of bykst [pixabay].

Three Ways to Kill Off Your First-Person Narrator (without Ending the Story)

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If you’re consistently afraid your ideas aren’t original, in all honesty, they aren’t. Every basic storyline you can probably think of has already been written. One of the most challenging, but often the most fun and stimulating, parts of writing is taking a story everyone has read before and reshaping it enough to make it new, exciting and (almost) original.

We don’t see first-person narrators die all too often, and when we do, we usually get some version of The Lovely Bones I’m-dead-but-not-dead-enough-not-to-narrate scenario. If you want to play around with something a little more challenging, and try to make it your own, kill off your first-person narrator—but don’t end the story there. Here are some strategies you can try.

Switch to a new perspective

Sometimes we do see a prologue or a first chapter in a first-person narrator’s perspective before it switches over to the actual main character, but you don’t have to do it this way. One way to draw a reader into your out-of-the-box technique is to allow them to get to know your first person narrator before they, ahem, cease to exist.

You could potentially try to fill half of your story with accounts from one first-person narrator before permanently switching to a different narrator’s POV to finish out. Plot twist! Bet they won’t see that coming. 

Take the reader back in time

Playing with a plot’s chronological order is another method some writers use to keep a reader turning pages. This is one way to keep a story going even though, at some point—probably toward the beginning in this case—you reveal the storyteller is no longer alive, and therefore, more realistically, unable to continue storytelling.

Jump back-and-forth between the point they’re killed off and the events leading up to it. There’s no “I should have known then,” here, so you’re also giving the reader more of an opportunity to infer and scream “NO DON’T GO INTO THE KITCHEN” at the pages.

Bring them back to life 

Okay, this one’s a little iffy, but if you really want to try it, you can make it work with some effort. Jodi Picoult did (spoiler alert). Hey, it worked in the Bible, didn’t it? You don’t have to get fancy—there doesn’t have to be a medical explanation or even a team of people trying to figure out how a dead heart started beating again.

Don’t go into the supernatural if that’s not your intention. Maybe they were only dead for a few minutes and came back, but it feels like they missed out on years. Maybe your angle is to make the reader think your narrator is dead, even though she isn’t.

In general, we’re almost obsessively interested in what happens when we die. As a writer, you’re free to play with the concept as much or as little as you want to. There are ways to take something that’s already been done before and twist it around until it resembles something newer. If you have an unpredictable storyline, strong characters and tap into pathos like a boss, you’ll be fine.

Your narrator might not be … but that’s a sacrifice you’re probably willing to make.

Image courtesy of Kaitrosebd-Stock.