Writing Prompts and Getting the Job Done

I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block – I’m quite capable of getting words on paper. What I struggle with is completing projects…

Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, I get bombarded with ideas for other books or writing projects. So much so I have an extensive back catalogue of things to write, manuscripts to finish off. But my list of completed projects is dismally low. So I try and find ways to keep the momentum and inspiration going to get to the point where I can finally type “The End” but it’s not always easy.

Here are the top ten ways that have helped:

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Basically re-immersing yourself into the story.

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This also helps me in developing plot, character and arcs… I like to think of it as dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.

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In the past on a certain W.I.P, the creative flow just stopped. I could have kept on writing to the scripted plot, but the narrative was becoming uninteresting, and I was finding it hard to keep the motivation going for the project. So I daydreamed about a number of what-ifs, and ended up with a major story arc that added the zing I was looking for to complete the story. So sometimes it pays to step back from your plot and ‘pants’ it for a while – you may turn up storytelling gold.

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I always have a collection of things for a writing project. Pictures of people for the cast, high school timetables to track the passing of time in the YA novel, snapshots of places, rooms, a collection of dialogue and quotes… I like the tactile experience in world building before I even start to plot out my story. Live in that headspace for a while, that way penning out my story comes very easy. And when I need to re-visit that place to stir up my creative juices, or think through a roadblock, it is easy to step back in to my characters’ world and tap in to some mojo.

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Some of my best ideas have come out of a conversation on my W.I.P. – even at the conceptual stage. You need to stimulate your creativity, and bouncing ideas of others is a great way to gauge if you are on to something or not. Plus, if you’re talking to the type of person who is your demographic, it’s a double whammy of goodness – market research and inspiration in the same place!

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This always gets me going. Designing an interim book cover and promotional material helps to build realism that the manuscript is drawing to a close. It also helps switch your brain into marketing mode. A sentence that would be a great quote with a picture, or a tag line for your book. Eye-catching images or graphics for websites or title pages. It also helps you to view your manuscript objectively – identifying the key components that are great hooks for selling your book – a ballsy heroine, an underwater seascape, a new magic system, an epic love story… these will become very important when you are getting to the stage of pitching and publishing your work.

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I suffer from an all-too-fast brain, and slow fingers. I can never type fast enough. And often skip parts of the narrative that put my story in context so it all makes sense. Like I was talking about the landscape whizzing by my main character in one scene, but neglected to state she was driving in a car – otherwise someone could have assumed she’d suddenly developed the ability to fly… most of the time it’s little obvious things like that you pick up after taking a hiatus from your manuscript. Beta readers can also provide this kind of feedback, but I like to have my work as polished as I can get it before handing it over for critique, so I can focus on flow, pace, character development, relatability, engagement, and predictability.

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I get a buzz when I can tick off a box. And with a novel being such a massive project that can last (in some cases) years, getting that high from a small milestone in the process is invaluable to keep the motivation going. Plus, I am always working on more than one project at a time, and it helps me to track where I am on each manuscript at a glance.

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Many, many times I’ve seen that glazed look fall over people’s faces when they ask me what I’m writing. I’m so excited, I just keep rabbiting on and on… So a succinct, attention-grabbing pitch – A SHORT ONE – is key! Working on it early gives you time to fine tune it and test it out on family and friends, because when you start to deal with the public (potential customers) and industry professionals (agents and publishers) you know you’ll have it down pat and can speak with confidence. It also helps to stop you from veering off on tangents with your plot if you ‘pants.’

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For some, this can feel like being dragged over broken glass. It’s foreign and scary. But if you want to be a career writer it is imperative that you educate yourself about the industry. Look into how a book is made, the types of finishes, what end pages are; What agents you could contact for representation and what their guidelines for submission are. Publishing houses that market books similar to what you are writing, and what they do to promote them. Send out samples to editors to find the one that works best with you (and in a price range you can afford). Collect promotion and marketing ideas – there’s a lot of things you can do yourself that cost nothing but your time. You NEED to have your own marketing plan; a publisher will not do all the work for you. Check out local resources, writers’ groups, bookstore launches… the list is only as limited as your research.  It’s important for you to know what sells, how it sells, and how to navigate the professional landscape you’ll be entering once you’ve completed your manuscript. Handing over your novel to a publisher, or self-publishing online alone will not return many sales. You’ve put all that work into writing a masterpiece, do it some justice and make sure you give it the best opportunity to shine.

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Every little bit helps 🙂

Happy writing and all the best on your journey!

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How writers can ensure their work sells… by Casey Carlisle

Many of us use Beta readers – other writers, friends and family members… but do you get your target audience to scrutinize your work?

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Upon completing the ‘reader-ready’ version of a manuscript, wanting to get some feedback and assistance in editing, storyline and characters, many of us give our baby of blood, sweat and tears to someone to read. Usually it is a family member or close friend, and for others, it is a colleague within the field of writing to get some constructive criticism. It can be a nerve-racking or pleasant experience depending on who you give it to, and what their impression on your work is. Some of us don’t even use Beta readers, but I like to gauge the reaction of a few readers before I hand my draft to the editors and publishers. Being so close to your plot and characters for so long, it is quite often that there is something simple you miss, and a fresh set of eyes can be your saving grace.

I have two groups of readers I sample my writing on: friends I can rely on to give an honest critique and some fellow writers; and my target audience. There have been some posts on Beta readers discussing wether writers use them or not, and even what questions to ask to help gain valuable insight. Although, I haven’t seen a lot of talk on choosing your target market to offer their two cents.

Keeping a large portion of my recreational reading within the genre in which I write, not only to keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry, but to stay in tune with the voices of today’s popular culture. I write YA, and it’s been waaay (*cough*) too many years since I squeaked in rubber soled Converse down the concrete halls of a High School as a student. So how could I possible think that my scribblings relate to any pubescent reader? I research, I observe, I chat… and then pray my words stir their minds and souls. Even though I consider myself a mature, professional woman, there is still that insecure fourteen year old girl romping around in my head, fangirling, squealing, swooning and the occasional, ‘like..ew!’ So I have a small network of avid readers from fourteen to twenty that keep my finger on the pulse (and keep me young  – and sometimes feeling positively ancient).

It has yielded fantastic results for me. Not only has it challenged my writing style, but also improved the complexity in plots throughout the novels. They challenge my use in language and demand more interesting characters… and I can’t thank them enough. Their feedback has made it possible to reach out and grab my dream of being an author. Otherwise I may still be banging away at the computer, churning out pages and pages of prose that would never see the light of day.

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Now I wonder how many of us test our products on the very people we want to sell to? It makes sound business sense right? We’re road testing our product, and when some of us are putting years into a single manuscript, you want to be sure that we get something back. Yes, we may write for love and entertainment, but isn’t it also for the love and entertainment of others? A little research into who is going to read our book, how it is they buy their books and where they buy them from – all of this is invaluable information to keep in mind. For those of you who use social media to market your wares, why not use it to have a conversation with your followers: create a poll to garner statistics on where they spend their money. The more information and feedback you have, the better you can be in control of your destiny as an author.

Please like, share and comment below – I’d love to hear what you do to have your book ready before publication.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.