Tips for writing productivity and ergonomics

Is your desk set-up secretly causing aches and pains?

I used to be the go-to person in my last few job positions for health and safety when it came to setting up workstations, specifically the ergonomics. With a massive pool of employees that either worked in customer service, or 2D and 3D animation for film and television, people were sitting at their desks for long periods of time, and frequently complained of back, neck, and shoulder strain… enter my lovely smiling face to visit their work area and help set things up so they could be more comfortable.

The biggest issue around back, neck, and shoulder pain mainly came down to muscle fatigue from prolonged amounts of time in a fixed position. It’s important to get up and move around every 45 min to an hour. In fact, I set a timer when I work to remind me to get up and do something else. Typically, I will spread my chores through the day for these intermissions. It not only gives your body a break from being in a seated position, but also helps reduce eye strain from staring at a fixed depth (of the computer screen) and a reprieve from monitor glare.

The next important issue has to do with posture and placement of the keyboard, monitor, mouse and other regularly used items. Without getting into all the specific angles, I’ll attach a few diagrams for reference. But the best gauge is that your feet are meant to comfortably reach the floor (flat feet,) with no pressure on your thighs, elbows level with, or slightly higher than the desk surface, and your monitor positioned straight in front of you. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should hit around the top of the monitor. Regularly used items (keyboard, mouse, etc) should be easily reachable with your elbows near the sides of your torso. Items used a lesser amount can be placed further back on your desk.

All of this keeps you in a natural seated, and relaxed position, avoiding having to hold your body or limbs in unnatural positions for any extended length of time.

From there you can address if you need lower back (lumbar) support cushions, seat framing to keep your hips even with a shaped cushion, or even a shoulder/back harness to stop you from slouching forward. There are other elements you can use to help set up your workspace, like footrests, laptop stands, a standing desk (you can purchase ones that can convert from seating to standing with the press of a button these days.) Different types of chairs, or the kneeling seats or even the exercise balls instead of a chair to force you to use your core muscles to keep you stabilized. It’s important to find what works best for you to avoid injury from strain, or being frozen in a fixed position for too long.

Of course all hazards and wires are safely stored with cable ties and the like. Ensure you have adequate lighting and try to avoid clutter on your work surface.

I only just gave my workstation an ergonomic assessment as I was finding the number of hours I could work comfortably in a day was reducing… it turns out my monitor was too low and off to the left side, and as the day went on I was hunching over more and more until I started getting a lower back ache or headache. Now that everything has been correctly situated, my productivity is picking up and the niggling pain dissipated.

When I originally organised my home office, I had set it up to be aesthetically pleasing using some gorgeous Pinterest pictures as inspiration. And yes, it looked pretty, but was not necessarily the best functioning. I feel like such a doofus for not thinking about the ergonomics earlier.

How did your workspace fair after reading this information? Do you get eyestrain or back pain from the hours you spend writing… let me know if any of these tips help you.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.

Creating an atmosphere to write

Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?

I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.

So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.

Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.

I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)

Visit Andrea’s website at http://www.andreakirwin.com

Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.

Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.

But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.

I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.

I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.

And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…

There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.

What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.

Tip Sheets – and why it is important to create at least one for your book.

There are many aspects to launching your book and creating awareness, tip sheets are a must-have element to include in your marketing strategy.

Launching your book, or gaining exposure through media outlets can give you immediate results and boost not only your sales, but your profile as an author. When you have toiled for months and years writing your novel and honing it into a masterpiece, you would want it to have the best possible chance to become a commercial success. You can outsource this kind of task to a publicity or PR firm, blast it on social media. However, creating a tip sheet for release to the media can save you some big dollars and give your marketing schedule a massive boost.

I know numerous authors who have created their own tip sheets, and implemented them with local media outlets and seen immediate results. Below is information I have collated from several sources and examples to help you create and implement your own tip sheet for your book launch, or increase exposure in conjunction with a special offer.

What’s a tip sheet?

A tip sheet is a short publication intended for media outlets containing the latest information, anecdotes, theme-related content, and quotations pertaining to your book, usually in easy-to-read bullet form.

It is similar to a press release – a self-contained story focused around elements of interest from the book (not the book directly) that can be run as-is for the media bodies

Generally tip sheets showcase a novel’s content, theme, message, or author related subjects, while getting the book title in front of the target demographic.

Tip sheet topics and elements

If you hire a PR company or publicist they will do all the hard yards for you and provide a proof for approval before release, but if you want to save some bucks and tackle this yourself, here’s some examples of things you could include. Don’t throw everything and the kitchen sink in your tip sheet, keep it succinct, on topic, and easy to read.

A must is an attention grabbing headline. Something that will not only peak the interest of the media outlets, but also your target audience. It should directly lead to the topic you are discussing in your tip sheet information.

Have an opening paragraph that introduces your topic, or raises a problem/issue that your are going to provide solutions for.

Don’t forget to have a concluding paragraph with information about you, the author, and your book (and it’s release date.)

Here are some ideas to prompt you in crafting your tip sheet:

  • Providing factual or historical information on what your book is about/ where it is set
  • A unique anecdote about the author, or material/themes from the novel
  • Solve a problem that is introduced in the book in some way, or something that the author overcome to write the book.
  • How topics or themes in your book relate to trending news stories.
  • Something that is unique about you, or your book.
  • A top 10 tips list

The list is endless, it’s about hooking the interest of your reader – but remember a tip sheet is not directly about your book, it’s a publicity tool that relates to your book. We’re not spruiking ‘buy my book because it is a fun read with great magical elements and a tough-as-nails protagonist.’ Instead we are creating ambient buzz. For instance, you could be discussing the influence of pop culture on the rise of wicca from tv shows like ‘Charmed’ and ‘Buffy’… and then mention at the end of your discussion how your interest in this topic lead you to writing a unique magic system for your novel.

Breaking it down

HEADLINE

Think of a tip sheet like a news or magazine article – a catchy headline. Click-baity. On-trend words and phrases. What titles grab your attention when skimming the newspaper, what blog article headlines do you click on when browsing the internet? Pay close attention to those elements and you’ll have a roadmap to creating a great headline.

OPENING PARAGRAPH

In that opening paragraph when you state what this story/tip sheet is about – use facts, statistics, and/or quotes to ground your article. This shows you are coming from a place of knowledge. An expert.

A well researched tip sheet is a successful one. It lets the media outlets your pitching to sound like experts too. The less work the journalists, presenters, or bloggers have to do, the better. They are usually time-poor, so the less preparation they have to do, the better your chances are for them picking up and running with your story.

Provide a quote from yourself, or someone else (cite sources) that add something new to the story – a new fact or perspective, a twist, or even inject some humour.

INTRODUCE your tip sheet topics in one sentence.

TIP SHEET Topics

List your tip sheet topics in bullet form, short, to-the-point  and easy to read.

CONCLUSION

The final paragraph ties everything up with two or three factual sentences about the author and the book.

Here’s some examples of what a tip sheet looks like to get you started on creating your own:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4th September 2020

FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR CANCER… AUTHOR JENNIFER DUGGAN TAKES PART IN A VARIETY SHOW TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE CANCER COUNCIL

On the 20th of November the Town Hall will be transformed into the glitziest venue in the city for a charitable variety comedy show to raise funds for cancer sufferers. Author Jennifer Duggan brings her unique style of stand-up in a star-studded event. Miss Duggan asks that the audience make a donation upon entry for the Cancer Council.

Audiences will see six performers, Jennifer Duggan, Michael Plott, Michelle Foley, Frederick Grainger, Kate Millichamp, and Doug Deep bring the funny in ten minute sets, with drag sensation Willma Fingerdo as MC for the night.

With her cutting and sarcastic wit Jennifer Duggan has paved a successful career with her comedy stylings, and with one her sister currently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lympoma, Jennifer Duggan follows her passion of stand-up and raising money to help those like her sister who are fighting cancer.

The Olivia Newton John Foundation states that “We all know at least one person who has been affected either directly, or indirectly by cancer.” With members of the foundation in attendance along with some support staff from the local hospitals oncology ward.

Jennifer Duggan has said “It’s important we get the funds needed to fight this thing that is taking so many members of our family. Research into a cure is paramount. Nobody wants to be sick. Being able to laugh in a time of such difficulty has been important for me and my sister, so I wanted to share that with everyone. That’s why I’m taking part in this variety show. It’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart.”

Jennifer Duggan also has a memoir being released on 5th December that further showcases her humour and anecdotes of growing up in Australia and a behind the scenes look at the world of stand-up comedy.

Don’t miss all the action on the 20th of November at the Town Hall. Come down and support our local artists and raise money for our fight against cancer with all proceeds going to the Cancer Council. Doors open at 7pm. Visit http://www.jenniferduggan.com.au for more information.

ENDS

For further details, interview or photographic opportunities please contact:

Jennifer Duggan

Telephone 555-456-9910

email author@jenniferduggan.com

Contact: Jane Doe, 555-727-3910, Janetheauthor@janedoebooks.com

Nine tips for writing op-eds that get published

ROCHESTER, NY – November 15, 2014 – Op-eds – essays that appear opposite the editorial pages of newspapers – are powerful communications tools for nonprofit organizations working to influence public policy or initiate change. But one communicator says that too many local nonprofits miss some of their best opportunities to inform readers through these opinionated essays.

“National headline news stories give nonprofits the hook their opinion pieces need to catch an editorial page editor’s attention, but nonprofits don’t always take advantage of this because they can’t react quickly enough to write and place an essay when it’s still timely,” says Jane Doe, author of Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions (Kaplan Publishing).

Jane Doe recommends having at least one op-ed written in advance to use when a news event brings the op-ed’s topic to the public’s attention. She cites recent headlines as examples: The latest celebrity starting a family before getting married creates a news peg for pro-family organizations while a weather disaster provides a hook for groups helping businesses and individuals prepare for disasters.

Jane Doe’s book offers these nine tips for writing effective op-eds you can update according to the news story for immediate publication:

· Introduce yourself to your newspaper’s op-ed page editor by telephone or e-mail and request the publication’s op-ed guidelines. Then follow them.

· Determine your goal. What do you want to achieve through your op-ed? Do you want people to behave differently or take a specific action? Keep this goal in mind as you write.

· Select one message to communicate. Op-eds are short – typically no more than 800 words – so you have room to make just one good point.

· Be controversial. Editors like essays with strong opinions that will spark conversation.

· Illustrate how the topic or issue affects readers. Put a face on the issue by starting your essay with the story of somebody who has been affected or begin with an attention-getting statistic.

· Describe the problem and why it exists. This is often where you can address the opposing viewpoint and explain your group’s perspective.

· Offer your solution to the problem and explain why it’s the best option.

· Conclude on a strong note by repeating your message or stating a call to action.

· Add one or two sentences at the end that describe your credentials as they relate to the topic.

“With this approach, when your issue is suddenly making headlines, you can write an introduction that connects the news to your essay and e-mail it to the editor quickly,” adds Miss Doe.

Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure that Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions is available at neighborhood and online booksellers or by calling 800-245-BOOK. For more information, go to http://www.nonprofitpublicity.com.

  • Simply substitute in your details, quotes, resources, and information and there you go!

Useful hints to remember when creating your tip sheet:

Remember to look at a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles before writing the tip sheet. The news writing style is informal and factual. 

A tip sheet is commonly written to help people solve a problem. State a problem . . . offer your solutions.

Offer an incentive or reason to buy your book.

Promote something important or unique in your story.

How to use tip sheets

Distribute tip sheets to media outlets that would be interested in the content.

There are interesting tutorials on skillshare.com about this if you need more of a visual learning aid, coming from people who successfully use what they are discussing. You can pay for a month’s subscription for a small investment in your career, get what you need, and cancel the service.

There is information on media outlet websites with guidelines on how to submit your material, so be sure to check those out before emailing. Make sure that your story is similar to the types of articles they frequently publish.

Alternatively there are services like eReleases  that can help.

Welp, I hope there’s enough information here to get you started. And remember, tip sheets are just an aspect of your book launch, or growing your author profile. You should calendar out your book launch and use tip sheets in conjunction with many other activities like social media marketing, book signings, talks, interviews, blog tours…. start building your marketing schedule today!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.

Developing your story idea

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Here are some points/questions I use when fleshing out a concept into a fully-fledged novel.

Depending on your genre and target market, the concept of your story – and your creative process; there are many different ways to help turn an idea into a fully formed novel. Here are some sample questions and hints I commonly ask myself (when I have something that may be a paragraph long, or sixty pages in length) to transform it into a novel:

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If not, why are you writing it – a lack of passion can lead to a bland read. Try to make it exciting with a new twist, delicious prose or a unique point of view. There needs to be a little piece of you in everything you write.

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Sometimes we can get so bogged down with the plot and/or story that we forget to see if our main character is someone the readers can relate to – unless it is your intention for them to be creepy/unlikeable as a point of difference. Maybe an unreliable narrator? But there needs to be something to draw the reader to your protagonist. A character that passively reacts to the events in your novel can leave the impression that the hero of your story is weak and always playing the victim.

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This is usually the tone and subtext of your novel – the driving force behind the reason for telling the story. It gives your manuscript relevance. If you are without this central core meaning, your tale may end up reading like a long anecdote. Having a focal point to drive your story forward also helps create motivations for characters.

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I’ve read a lot of novels, especially in YA and romance where the love interest or the hero is perfect. It’s great for a fantasy. But if I’m investing time and money in reading a novel I want something a bit more complex, a bit more realistic. Plus something unexpected makes reading interesting. Don’t be afraid to flesh out your characters.

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When creating a scene, plot, or arc, I go through a mental process about what decisions the characters will make and try to steer away from the obvious if I can help it – all the while remaining true to the character and their motivation. Having them choose a surprising direction, or come up against unexpected challenges increases the tension, and engages the reader. No one likes their story to be predictable.

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The antagonist, the bad guy may be evil – but what makes them act this way? Consider the motivations of the villain in your story and make it believable. They are the hero of their own narrative. They believe in what they are doing… Building a complex antagonist gives you more opportunity to build the tension and pace of your novel. Offers up a field of emotions that would otherwise be ignored. Compassion. An anti-hero. Despair. Grief. Let you mind wander and make your antagonist relevant.

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One thing I loathe more than anything is secondary characters that add nothing to the story. That they are just there for fluff or padding for the hero’s journey. Readers can see right through this. Consider every character you include in your story – why they are there, why they react the way that they do, and how they influence and enrich your novel. If you can’t really make any of that work – maybe it’s time to edit them out.

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Building on the pervious point. Fleshing out your cast humanises them, gives them dimension, so the reader is engrossed and interested in everyone they meet in your story. It also helps to build your story from multiple points of view and check if the plot is holding its own.

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Somewhere the main character has a realisation, changes their mind, has an epiphany – it’s the driving force of your protagonist. This can be the climax of your story, or you can have many turning points throughout. It shows character development. Growth. It lets the reader feel like they have experienced something personal with your main character.  Otherwise it may read like you had a main character that just had a bunch of stuff happen to.

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The big event. The battle scene. The emotional reveal. The earth rattling discovery that with change reality forthwith. Whatever it is, it needs to be big. The reader wants to feel the pay-off. Your story needs to build to a certain point and then end in spectacular fashion. Ensure that this event fits what you are trying to achieve. It doesn’t have to be all explosions and lighting – simply relevant to your story. If it is a woman’s journey of independence – it may be her finally having the courage to branch out on her own. Alternatively, some stories require action, a full cast and deaths aplenty. Sometimes it can be hard to write this scene and I always fall back on my friends and beta readers if I’m experiencing trouble making it work.

Tie up all the loose ends if it is a standalone – or at least address them so your main character is happy with the status quo. If it’s a series, ensure you have resolved enough for the reader to feel like they have got the closure they need. Some arcs can continue on as a teaser or cliffhanger for the next novel in the series. But no reader wants to get to the end and realise that it’s stopped in the middle of a story. You’ll usually just tick them off.

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Subtext is the story that happens around your plot between the characters. It’s a trick a lot of actors use in their work to build a scene. For instance. The main character and the best friend may seem like they have this unbreakable bond, but the subtext is that maybe they both have a need to be loved, or each is battling for control – to become the dominant figure in the relationship. This is nothing that you state outright, it’s merely a tension you can write into their encounters. It helps build their motivations. This is the glue that holds your scenes together.

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There is a lot of talk about motivation and relevance. But it doesn’t stop there. Ramp up the tension and interest. Your protagonist doesn’t just want to reach the mountain top and claim the Chalice of Enlightenment, he may also want a ham sandwich? I know that is a silly example, but as people we usually have more than one reason for doing things. More than one interest. Going to the corner store may mean that they are hungry and buying food, as well as getting some sort of validation from a stranger because they’ve put a lot of effort into their appearance. But also you get to ogle that cute stock boy who had biceps about to rip through his sleeves… Straight away a trip to the store doesn’t sound so boring.

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Writing is entertaining, fantasy. Don’t hold back because you’re worried about what people will say or think. It’s an expression of inner thoughts and desires. You could tap into author gold. There’s nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, found offensive, or confuses readers, you can edit, re-write, but don’t let fear stop your creative flow. (It can show in the tone of your narrative.) Push your story in a direction that it would not normally organically flow towards. Experiment.

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I know this may sound basic. But did you take the time to introduce your characters properly and set the scene at the beginning. Are the readers clear on what the quest of your main character is? The rules or mythology of the universe in which your world is set?

Are there a series of logical events and challenges that your protagonist has to face to get to their goal?

Does the story come to a resolute end? Is there a pay-off. Will your reader feel satisfied? Has your main character grown and changed, made some great achievement?

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Even if your story is fantasy or science fiction it should make sense. The characters react in way readers can identify with them. You need that connection to your story’s cast, a belief in their motivations to hook the readers’ interest and invest time to read your novel. Otherwise all you have is a jumbled mess. Usually the feedback you get in the beta reading process will identify parts that are confusing – those are the parts you need to address. If they say the whole thing is confusing it may be time to go back to the drawing board and look at plot, structure, and your characters motivations.

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If based in the real world, make sure you get it right. Research your facts. No your shiz. If you mess up on this front the reader is going to think you don’t care – that you couldn’t be bothered to take the time to check the facts and lose interest. It makes you look unprofessional. Plus having a solid grounding in truth can help educate your reader.

If you are building a completely new world or universe – it will operate on its own set of rules. Laws. Mythology. Make sure you keep it consistent and educate your reader on how this environment works.

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Day followed by night, Monday by Tuesday. The passing of time is linear. Make sure you track how this passed in your story. You don’t want to lose track of what is going on and have your main character have three Saturdays in a row, or attending the wrong class with the right group of friends. It’s like checking your facts. You don’t want to confuse your reader. Unless you are setting out to disorientate the reader, like in a dream sequence or surreal environment. Keep track of the passing of time. As humans we like order and to follow a logical path.

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This helps you not only have something ready to pitch your novel to a publisher or literary agent, but is also helps you focus on the core aspects of your novel. It’s point of difference. This is a great tool to reign you in if you start to stray away from the crux of what your story is all about. Plus when friends and family ask you what your story is all about – you’ll be prepared to blow them away J

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I like to develop characteristics, mannerisms, and words unique to each of the cast. It helps the reader identify who says what, what point of view is being expressed. I feel this is an invaluable tool to differentiate my characters and make it easy for the reader to know what is going on.

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There are a plethora of grammatical tools to help enhance your story or add interest – just like an artist can paint with colour, brushes, oil, watercolour, charcoal…. As writers there is a lot to form and function on how the word appears on the page that we can play with. We’ve seen stories that are a collection for documents, diary entries, text graphics, told from multiple perspectives, recounted from dual points in the timeline, through the main characters eyes, or an omnipotent presence watching the story from above… there’s lots to play with. You’re only limited to your imagination.

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Well, I hope that helps all the writers out there enhance their creative experience. I’d love to hear how you develop an idea, or if there are questions you ask yourself to help expand a thought bubble into a complete novel. In the meantime – Keep Calm and Write On!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Never stare at a blank page helplessly ever again.

Here’s some ways I’ve found that help to keep inspiration coming, the words flowing, and never having to face writers block again.

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I frequently get asked how I can write every day, do I get writers block, and how is it possible that I can have many works in progress going at the same time… well I think it comes down to organisation. Time management and compartmentalisation. That, and your personality, and work ethic. We all have different habits and things that aid our productivity. Sometimes I like music in the background, sometimes not. I might perform better in a café with paper and pen, and other times locked away from interruption in my office at the computer. The trick is developing a collection of tricks that keep you mind working and the words flowing.

And never let an idea pass you by. Write down everything.

I have an ideas folder. A section for story concepts, interesting characters, or scenes that jumped into my head at one time or another. They are always great sources of inspiration, or even parts I can include in a plot I’m working on…

As for my works in progress… I mix in “pantsing” and planning. Meaning, for the most part, I’ll blurt out anywhere between two and five chapters in a story straight from my head before I go back and look at things like structure, pace, plot, character development, if the writing in engaging… and from there start to form a framework, tweaks and plan out the rest of the novel. I do this in two ways – massive spreadsheets where I can label scenes, turning points, note how each chapter is driving the story forward, keep track of content and time lines… having a detailed plan means I can skip forward and back without dropping out of the narrative. The second method, is having blank pages for each chapter in the book, and scribbling notes on what I want to happen in each chapter – it grows as I start writing, and before commencing to write each new chapter I’ll review the points, put them in order and follow that map as best I can. Sometimes it works flawlessly, and other times my characters react in unforeseen ways and I head back to the drawing board. Never let your outline keep you trapped.

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I feel the need to be flexible in how and where I write. Sometimes the character tells me where the story is going, sometimes I need the focus of a storyboard, scene by scene to get me writing.

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Whenever you get stuck, switch it up. Move out of the study or office, jump to a different point in your manuscript, chat to someone about your work, take a walk around the block. The more tricks you have in your repertoire the better equipped you are to keep the inspiration and words flowing.

Everyone has a slow day. Don’t let it bother you. Writing is more a state of mind thing than anything. At one point I was journaling my feelings before writing – it was the only thing that enabled me to leave the emotional baggage at the office door.

But my most successful tool, above all the other tips and tricks has been time management. If I set a timer for an hour and work on one thing, be it a scene, chapter, concept, blog for one hour and then stop. It will always get me out of a writing funk. Who says you need to be sitting at your computer fourteen hours a day in order to call yourself a writer? A few productive hours a day could be just as good. Structure your day to free up a no distraction window and give yourself a simple task.

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Hand in hand with this activity is that spreadsheet or storyboard, because you can switch projects or chapters/scenes on a whim. Breaking your down into chunks of simple tasks can kick start your brain and get those creative juices flowing.

Whether it’s immersing yourself in scenes – feeling a breeze in your hair, the warmth of the sun on your face, the tang of salt in the air as you sit at the beach to scribble out a lusty romance set in the crashing waves; or concentrating on a conversation between two characters while you sit at a coffee shop, or hide in an office to knock off a chapter in complete silence; keep experimenting and finding things that work for you.

And as always… happy writing.

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What tips and tricks do you use that keep up your productivity for writing? Share them in the comments section below – I’d love to hear about them.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Cheap Hair Hack to add moisture and re-condition your hair.

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It’s always nice to go to a salon, have the relaxing head massage and tended to with a lovely assortment of perfumed treatments followed by a gorgeous blowout to make your hair feel like brand new. You do that hair flip as you walk down the street feeling like a million bucks… and it certainly nearly cost that much. Then you feel guilty for having spent money on something so vain and frivolous.

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Well you shouldn’t you are worth it. Spending money on yourself every once in a while is not something you should associate with guilt. At the end of the day, we have to look after ourselves.

But, if you don’t have the cash to go out splurging when you want to. A handy tip you can do at home with the products you already have can give you that same new treatment feeling to rescue your hair.

I’m a hairstylist of nearly 40 years and have used this hair hack on myself many times. Instead of an in-salon treatment, or even going out and purchasing one from the store, you can use every day conditioner. That’s right, in damp towel-dried hair, slather in a generous amount, (plait it back if you have long hair) and leave it in overnight. I suggest to put a towel over your pillow to protect it.

When you rinse it out in the morning your hair will feel just as silky smooth as if you got an expensive treatment.

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You don’t have to do it overnight, of course. But I’m lazy, and busy, so it’s the only time I can spare to pamper my locks.

If you are spending the morning doing some house cleaning, you can add the conditioner to damp hair, then wrap some plastic wrap over the top – the heat your body temperature generates while tidying the house will help the process along. Rinse, then ta-da! Alternatively, if you have a day at home when you are not going to see anyone, add your choice of conditioner, put on a plastic shower cap and rinse out at night… how you get the job done isn’t important. As long as the conditioner remains in your hair for a decent amount of time, you should get results.

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Some conditioners can weigh the hair down for those with fine hair, but it helps seal the scales of the hair down to lock in moisture and give a shiny smooth appearance. You will see varying results with different brands of conditioners too. But as you already have some in your shower caddy – it’s free! And you don’t have to make time in your schedule to visit a stylist.

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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.

Tips for finding the perfect stylist

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It goes unsaid that word of mouth is the biggest endorsement for finding a hairdresser to tame your wild locks. But what if you’ve just moved to a new place and don’t know anybody to ask? Here’s a few things to take notice of in helping you track down a great stylist.


  1. If you see someone with a similar style to what you desire, approach them and enquire where they get their hair done.
    Though, you don’t have to approach someone cold-turkey on the street, you could always ask a shop assistant in the area when you do some window shopping. These employees are primed to give you their full attention in a friendly manner and generally familiar with the area and businesses close by.
  2. Tips for finding the perfect stylist Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleNotice the stylists grooming – this is usually a reflection on their skills and attention to detail.
  3. Check out online platforms. Some salons or stylists have a web presence with a portfolio of their work and a history of their work experience and journey in the industry.
  4. You could also contact the manufacturer of a product you favour, like a brand of hair colour, they generally have a list of salons in your area to check out. Then at least you will have the security of a product you know and love; and get an opinion of a professional in the industry.

 

Tips for finding the perfect stylist Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifAnother big thing to ensure you find a great match is communication. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your stylist. Ask if they can achieve what it is you want.

Bring pictures to refer to.

Get a quick consultation and quote. It’s free and you’ll get plenty of information and be able to gauge if your personalities mesh well together. You need to be comfortable in dialogue with your stylist so you can tell them what you want, and more importantly what you don’t want. Many people leave hairdressers because the stylists have been doing something that makes the customer uncomfortable but are completely unaware, then to never return. It’s their job to make it a comfortable positive experience, and you should not expect any less.

There are some online reviews, but I tend to place less faith in them because there is also the possibility they are fabricated by friends and family of the salon/stylist; and usually edited – only positive comments are picked for publication.

Getting the stylist you need cannot be the easiest of jobs, but if you adopt all of these tips – and persevere – your lovely locks will be ever so greatful in the end. Keep swinging those ponytails, and good luck!

Coiffed Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

With so many tips and tricks out there, do we really need a hairdresser?

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It’s an interesting question – especially with the advent and reach of electronic media and a rise in cost efficient D.I.Y. trends, it’s true that some people have never set foot in a salon.

So, I guess the answer is – it depends on your hair goals.  #hairgoals

For those who don’t want complicated and tailored permanent hair colouring solutions, you can do much of the colouring at home. Temporary and semi-permanent colours are very easy to D.I.Y.  And if you are diligent, the end result can be just as good that any professional stylist could acomplish.

The same goes for cuts and styling. It all comes down to how good your skill is, the products you are using, and if you are happy with the results you can produce.

Hairdressers, or Hair Stylists are trained. And they aren’t the ones attempting double-jointed elbow manoeuvres to see in a bathroom mirror – we pay them for a perfect result. So these professionals should be offering security, safety and excellent results.

That is in an ideal world.

We all hear horror stories of beauty services gone rouge. But to be honest – they all come about from either untrained stylists, lazy professionals, or cutting corners (there are certain rules of hair science that you just shouldn’t break).

So that, and affordability, are the biggest reasons many people are turning to maintaining their locks at home.

Some states here in Australia have a regulating body to try and stomp out the Sweaty-Betty stylists; and I’ve compared consumer satisfaction from those states to others that are unregulated through polls over the past 20 years, and surprise, surprise. There is no difference. The government has simply found a way to make more revenue off of a niche market in small business. Because, let’s face it, hairdressing isn’t a massive corporate industry. It’s dominated by small and sole proprietor salons. But I digress…

So why should we be stepping into a salon if it is such a big roll of the dice?

Well… sometimes we have no choice. If we want those blonde foils all over, or suffer from fine hair issues, or desire chemically straightened hair, maybe an elegant wedding up-do. We need a professional.

And so it comes back around to finding the perfect stylist for you.

How do we do that – well I’ll post some tips next week, but for now let’s stay on track about whether it’s worth it to fork over a small fortune to reach your hair goals.

Firstly, if the desired change is easy enough to achieve at home, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. But – and here’s the disclaimer – make sure you know what you are doing and know all about the products you are using. Because at the end of the day if something goes wrong, you’ll have no-one to blame but yourself.

Hair at Home Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThe key part is skill and product. Do some dry runs on yourself first. Want to colour your hair – practice application with some conditioner. It usually takes 30-60 mins to process (depending on the product) and you don’t want to take too long getting the crème where it should be and get an uneven colour. If you’re new to the product, it pays to do a skin test to make sure you don’t have a reaction – mix a small portion and test it on the skin just behind your ear. Hairdressers should be doing this anyway if you are hypoallergenic. Do a test strand. Especially if it’s permanent hair colour. Make sure it’s going to actually work and give you what you want.

That’s the skill part roughly summarised. The other is product.

Read everything! I mean it. All the fine print, the box, info online (a lot of safety instructions are hidden in a MSDS on some website these days), ask the retailer or manufacturer for advice, watch some videos online  – every step you need to take to make sure you are fully informed.

Hair at Home Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleAnother important point that many forget it have a ‘get out’ plan. If things start going south, what are you going to do? A chemical burn, the wrong colour, crooked bangs; have some sort of contingency in mind as a just in case.

Some may view everything I’ve just pointed out as scary… and my advice to you: if anything I’ve just raised about D.I.Y. hair care gives your concern, you should be finding yourself a professional stylist. Hair does grow back if you screw things up, but who wants to go through that pain. But if you do something like a chemical burn, or a violent allergic reaction – that may be something your hair (or you) don’t recover from. Chemical hair services generally release oxygen as a part of the process, so for goodness sake, do not smoke and be sitting around candles. Why would you want to risk setting your hair on fire?

That’s a very general discussion on home hair styling coming from a professional stylist of over 25 years. For me personally, I do all of my hair colouring, styling and cutting at home. But not only do I have the dexterity and know-how, I also have a very easy to maintain style. It’s long, choppy layered and all one colour. If I had a more precise cut, short hair or multi coloured hair (like foils) I’d be visiting a salon.

Hair at Home Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleAnd hey – I still learn tips and tricks from Youtube videos and other stylists. You never stop learning. So if you want to save some dollars and have more control over your hair and choose to do it at home, it is possible as long as you are realistic about your skills and your #hairgoals.

You don’t have to be a maverick or take big risks, simply get informed and follow instructions and you’ll have salon perfect hair everyday straight from your bathroom mirror!

Coiffed Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.