From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, November 30, 2009

The End of National Novel Writing Month

As you know, I made the unfortunate decision to not participate in NaNoWriMo this year. But many of you did, and as I'm writing this you have 23 minutes to finish up those 50,000 words. Good luck!

To those who have finished, congrats! You obviously worked very hard, and have a talent that I most definitely don't; the ability to sit down and crank out words. I have been working on my novel for months, and I still only have 11,253 words as of this moment. Every writer can take a leaf from you NaNoers book and practice the ability of sitting butt in chair and just writing. Me included. So good work!

To those who didn't finish, don't be hard on yourself. There are actually a few reasons why its good to not finish. First of all, you have a great start on a novel, but you can finish it and work it now at your own pace. That can enhance the quality of your work and just provide some major relief. Obviously you still have to write something, but there is no longer the break-neck pace deadline looming over your head. Use this to make your piece more publishable then it would have been if you had written it in a month.

I hope all you who did do NaNo learned something valuable about yourself as a writer, whether or not you finished. Just keep working and you will have a finished product that you're proud of.

Sarah Allen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swine Flue Marketing for Artists

I've heard a little about this idea lately, and I think its something good for all kinds of artists to keep in mind in terms of getting publicity for their work.

The idea is that you take advantage of big news concerns, like the swine flu, and use it to get the word out about your product or business. Now, this sounds sort of cynical, but the idea isn't to manipulate people; its to show involvement and concern for society, and people want to get to know you more when they feel that you care about what they care about.

This has mostly been a small business thing, from what I can see, but I think it can apply to writers and artists just as well. Here are some ways you can use the swine flu 'viral' marketing system to market your creative writing:

-Write about it directly. For example, write a poem, personal essay or short story about swine flu, or whatever the big news item is. You can send it to any of the normal literary magazines you submit to, but you might try looking in to different types of publications, like news magazines or publications that address your topic specifically.

-Apply the news to previous work. You may not have a book about swine flu specifically, but you may have a scifi book about epidemics, or a mainstream book about living with illness. Blog about it, tell your friends about it, and people who may not have noticed your book before may notice it.

-Apply it to your personal life. If the big news applies to you or a loved on personally, use the internet, local news and whatever else you can think of to not just draw attention to you and your work, but to the issue itself, and maybe do some good while your at it. Win/win situation for everyone.

***Even if the big news doesn't affect you personally, still be involved, and address it in your social networking, blogging, local news, or whatever. Its good to convey to your audience that you are socially concerned and aware.

-Target Audience. Target the people the news sources that the big news affects most of all, and see if you can use those outlets to get the news out about your work. Obviously you don't want to spam the news sources and bug people, because that backfires. But as a member of the community and an intelligent person with something interesting to say, this can be another means of social networking, and that is always a good thing.

So use the news to your advantage and get your work out there!
Sarah Allen

Friday, November 27, 2009

More Creative Writing Title Ideas

A while ago I posted some creative writing title ideas, and I think for today it may be a good idea to do that again, as well as discuss the process of titling your piece.

For me, titling is one of my favorite parts of a piece. Its a very intuitive process, and what works for me may not work for you, but there are certain things that may help everyone. And remember, writing down prospective titles in the back of your creative writing notebook is a great thing to do. Remember to make your title match your piece. You don't want false advertising. Let your title hint at the issues in your piece, but don't give everything away. There are no real rules for titling, so do what works for you. But just as a starting point, here are some "formulas" that may give you some ideas:

-'The Noun' or One Word titles: The Mask, The Notebook, The Road, The Stand, Macbeth, Les Miserables, Twilight, Frasier, Lost

-Pairing: (if you pair quirky things this can be pretty fun) Guns 'n Roses, Cats and Dogs, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

-Person and Phrase: Dan in Real Life, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends

-Known Phrase: I can't really think of specific examples for this one, except I have one short story called 'The Title of My Life'. Also the title of the novel I'm working on is a phrase from a Shakespeare play...which I will reveal at a later date :-)

-Word + Qualifier: Star Wars, Happy Feet, Star Trek, Silent Spring

-Verb(noun) + Phrase: Running out of Time, Interview with a Vampire, Touching Spirit Bear, Pushing Daisies

Anyway, those are just some basic ideas that may help, and here's just a random list of titles from the back of my notebooks that you can steal/use to get your own ideas:
-I Love You, Take a Right
-Your Whole Death Ahead of You
-In Between Raindrops
-Dissonant Peace
-Pickled Down
-Dead of 87
-This Narrative Woman
Hope this helps, and hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Sarah Allen

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beauty and the Beast rose for Thanksgiving Creative Joy

Sending a red rose to you, originally uploaded by SivaTian.

This is just an incredible photo I found on Flickr, and thought it might make you all as happy as it made me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sarah Allen

What I'm Thankful for as a Writer

Here is just a quick list of what I'm thankful for:

The Internet
Good books
The smell of books
Egg nog
The Macey's thanksgiving day parade
My black leather notebook
The dog show
Good food
My computer
Brigham Young University
C. S. Lewis
Charles Dickens

Thanks everyone! Hope you have a fantastic day!
Sarah Allen

P.S. Here are my new GoodReads and Flickr accounts, if you wanna check them out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to use Thanksgiving to your creative writing advantage

As we begin preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday, here are some ways you can use the holiday weekend to your creative writing advantage:

-Write. Yes you're probably going to be spending the next 48 hours in the kitchen, or gabbing with relatives or babysitting children and what not, but we have a break from normal stuff like school and work and whenever that happens you never know what random opportunities may come up for good writing time. Take advantage of it. Take a break from cooking and go write!

-Get stories. There's no better way to find awesome quirky characters then by hanging out with your crazy relatives. Watch them and find meaningful nuances and stories.

-Read a book or go see a movie. Again, take some of the free time you may or may not have this weekend and read that book you've been meaning to get to, or take your family to some of the awesome movies that have been coming out lately.

-Send off your stuff. Finish up your piece and send it off. That way your piece will be ready and waiting when editors and agents come back from their holiday.

-Collaborate. With family sitting around, why not get some of them together and start a new piece as a group? It could give you something new to work on, and it could turn out to be way fun.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Sarah Allen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Creative Writing: the Next Sentence Rule

You've been working on your novel or short story. You finish for the night, and spend the next day in school or meetings or driving kids or whatever. Finally you have a moment to yourself, and you go to sit down to continue working on your piece. You open your file, put your hands on the keyboard, and nothing comes. You sit there, trying to think of the best way to continue the story, but before you can get anything down you are called away on another errand. This happens to me pretty much every time I sit down to write. Ok, not every time, but a lot. So what I've come up with to maybe help with this problem is what I call 'The Next Sentence Rule.'

Basically what the next sentence rule says is this: write down or memorize the last sentence you've written of your piece. While you're in classes, school, the car, wherever, have that sentence with you (in your head or on paper), and write the one that comes next (in your head or on paper). That way when you sit down back at your computer you will have something to get your fingers moving. You'll have something to start back up with, and a lot of times thats all you need to get cracking.

So while your driving home for the holidays, sitting around the table with your family, going to classes, work, or whatever, be thinking and be ready with your next few words for the next time you sit down to write.

Hope this helps, and happy holidays!
Sarah Allen

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poet of the Day: Thomas Hardy

One of the best ways to improve your own craft is to learn from the experts, so I figure looking at some expert writers--authors, poets, lyricists, screenwriters, etc.--will help all of us aspiring writers. In one of my classes we recently studied Thomas Hardy, so I figured he was a good one to start with.

Thomas Hardy

Though you most likely know him as the author of Tess of the D'Ubervilles, I'd like to look at his poetry. First of all, poetry is shorter, second of all, Tess of the D'Ubervilles is just...not easy. So to give you a glimpse of his poetry here is a snippet of one of his best poems, 'The Darkling Thrush'

'At once a voice arose among
the bleak twigs overhead
in a full-heated evensong
of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
in blast-beruffled plume,
had chosen thus to fling his soul
upon the growing gloom.'

Why I Love Him

Almost everything he writes is negative or pessimistic. Sometimes it is just so refreshing to hear someone really say how they feel, but what I love about his sad tone is that it is so passionate and intense; he is almost desperate to the point of hopefulness. Like in the poem, it talks about this frosty, grey, gloomy, hopeless place and the frosty, grey, gloomy, hopeless character in it. And then this little ragged bird starts singing, and you get the feeling Hardy is desperate to find someone or something that feels hope, even if he can't feel it himself. Its sort of a desperate pessimists cry for optimism, and even though he is so pessimistic, that makes me happy. In another one of his poems, 'Neutral Tones', he writes the line "alive enough to have strength to die", and I think that describes Hardy's level of hope. He has enough hope to live, but just barely. And thats where I get the desperate voice that draws me in so intensely.

He is such an incredible crafter of words. From the one word level (how great a word is 'Darkling'), to phrases--'fling his soul.' Every word is emotionally fraught and meticulously chosen.

His insight on humanity is incredible. In 'Tess,' even the way he describes her mouth is insightful. Tess' lover is describing her lips, and he says, "Perfect, he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand. But no--they were not perfect. And it was the touch of the imperfect upon the would-be perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was that which gave the humanity." How awesome is that? It makes me feel so much better about myself and life. And all he was doing was describing a country girls mouth.

Why I Don't

Almost everything he writes is negative or pessimistic. Sometimes its just really difficult to get through it. It can just be so depressing, because there seems to be no hope. But you can find hope if you look hard enough.

Some of his dialogue is a little ridiculous. Not that I'm in any position to really critique the writing style of Thomas Hardy, and I'm sure every word of his dialogue was purposeful, but it can just be frustrating sometimes. Which, I'm sure, is exactly what he wanted.

Have you read Thomas Hardy? What did you think of him? If not, if you feel up to the challenge I think his brilliance is worth the temporary depression and difficulty.

Happy reading!
Sarah Allen

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top Three Creative Writing Books

Here's a quick list of my top three favorite creative writing books. Here you go:

1-On Writing, by Stephen King

2-Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass

3-Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell

Happy reading, writing, and weekend!
Sarah Allen

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What authors can learn from Stephanie Meyer

As a significant portion of our population waits with baited breath tonight's midnight showings of New Moon (which I will be going to, I admit), I figure it might be useful to see what can learn from this craze and the author of it, Mrs. Stephanie Meyer.
Let me start off by saying that regardless of anyone's opinion of her actual artistic ability, Meyer has done something right, and any writer wanting even a smidgen of the type of success she has had would do well to see what leafs we can take from her book. Here are a few that I've thought of.
-The Erotics of Abstinence: I can't remember where I heard that phrase, but I think it sums it up well. I think it could also be called something like 'The 90% Principle'. So many artists think that just laying it all out there and holding nothing back is what will satisfy readers. But what Meyer shows us is that by not giving the reader 100%, they are left pleasantly and addictively unsatisfied, and will keep coming back for more. And this can apply to more then just love scenes. As a general principle, by taking your reader only part of the way, it makes it harder for them to leave you.
-Gimmickability: Meyer created a world that can be expanded upon. The story can be made into Twilight dolls, music, posters, fanfic, stickers, whatever. In other words, its everywhere. I think gimmickability is a lot easier in the fantasy genre, and a writer can't build their piece around the hope of character barbies, but in whatever genre you're writing it may end up being a successful marketing strategy to have a few quirky symbols, images, characters or whatever that can creatively be used as marketing gimmicks. Look at it this way: even black book covers with white and red front images is now a Twilight gimmick.
-Fan involvement: From what I can tell Meyer is very involved with her fans. She answers their questions, encourages them to write their own stories, and basically just lets them be involved in her world. This way readers feel welcome and excited to be a part of something.
Hope this helps, and enjoy the movie tonight. It promises to be...interesting.
Sarah Allen

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Creative Writing Podcasts

I thought I'd compile a list of some of the best creative writing blogs for those times when your cleaning, working, driving, walking, or whatever and just want to listen to some good advice about writing. Here you go!

The Writing Show
Writers On Writing
The Secrets
Barnes and Noble podcasts
Washington Post Book World Podcast
I Should Be Writing
Write Where You Belong

Sarah Allen

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creative Writing: The Small and Simple Things

Have you heard people make the statement that after ten years of hard work they were an overnight success? Honestly, I think that this is just the way life works. We look at writers like J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer and wish we could wake up as rich and famous as they are. In rare instances, I suppose success can come from a quick stroke of luck, but for the vast majority its all about persistence and hard work. Like that old formula, something like 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. There are the nitty-gritty things we can do every day that may not seem like they're getting us anywhere, but its the build up of time and effort that is the only thing that can guarantee payoff in the long run. So here are the things writers need to work on every day:

-Write. This is the most important one. Get your butt in the chair and write. I think it was Stephen King who said that the writer is the one who doesn't leave the room. Make a daily goal for yourself and don't go to bed until you've met it. Ever. You can't be published until you have something to publish. This is one I am going to work on. Just sit down and write. Right now. Just do it.

-Blog consistently. Blogging is one of the most effective ways of building a readership, so don't slack off in this area. Put out new posts consistently, comment on other blogs, do the best you can to get your blog as big as you can. When you have a book out there waiting to be bought, you'll be glad you did.

-Send out. When a piece is finished, never let it sit on your hard drive for more then 24 hours. Keep your pieces in the system, keep them flowing. Take them in for edits when you need to, but then get them back out there as soon as you can.

-Daily Marketing. Be creative in how you do this, but do it. Blogging is part of this, but spend a little time on other sites where you can build a following. Build connections with local journalists and other people who can help you get the word out. Build a following on social networking type sites. (Scribd, Facebook,Youtube,Flickr are some good basic ones). Get your friends to link to your blog or write a 5-star review of your book on Amazon. The way things are in the publishing world right now, it seems like the more a writer can do for themselves publicity wise, the better off they'll be. So do something every day. Just don't let it take away from your writing time.

-Research. Check publishing news. Read blogs. Research different agents and editors. Find book clubs in your area that might be interested in your stuff. Look at whats on the top of the best-sellers list. Keep up on local or national creative writing competitions that may be coming up. Just keep up on whats going on in your field so you can be ahead of the game instead of being left behind.

-Write. Did I mention that you should be writing? Yeah. Just do it.

Sarah Allen

Saturday, November 14, 2009

World Literature Condensed

This is from a plaque that my grandpa gave to me a couple years ago. I have it on my desk and thought you might enjoy it as much as I do.

World Literature Condensed:

Moby Dick
Ahab chases whale. Whale chases Ahab. Whale prevails.

Romeo & Juliet
Two teenagers fall in love and then they die.

Gone with the Wind
Scarlett's a yuppie. The South falls. Rhett splits.

A Tale of Two Cities
Good times. Bad times. The peasants win. Marie loses.

War and Peace
A lot of Russians with long names doing complicated things. The Czars lose.

Enjoy! Have a fun and creatively productive weekend.
Sarah Allen

Friday, November 13, 2009

What writers can learn from Project Runway

I'm sitting here watching Project Runway, and thinking of what I can learn from this show that will help me in my own work. It may not seem like a reality show about designers and real life creative writing may have much in common, but here are some things to keep in mind:

-Be ready to push through sickness, time constraints and surprises. These designers get things thrown at them all the time, but in order to make it, they have to be ready to deal with it. So do writers.

-Be dedicated. Work as hard as it takes to make deadlines. The difference between you and your competition is how hard you work.

-Be professional but also unique, both in your writing and as a person. The girls have to follow the rules and create pieces that fit modern style and the tastes of the judges, and writers do too. Our readership is our judge. We can't create something so out there they just don't get it, but we don't want to create something that just blends in with the crowd either.

-Be teachable. From what I've seen the girls who make have the most success are willing to take advice from professionals. Again, you can't give up your own unique voice, but don't discount advice from people who have made it further than you have.

-Be observant and attune. Get inspiration from everything around you, especially things that other people might not notice. This is one situation where I can imagine it would be helpful for writers to carry around a camera, and just practice seeing the world through a photographers eye. But don't just observe visually, be aware of sounds, insinuations in things people say, smells, the way things feel under your fingers. Let it all inspire you.

Hope this helps. Happy writing!
Sarah Allen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kenneth Burk and identification in Creative Writing

I'm in a History of Rhetoric class and we've been reading Kenneth Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives. He says some awesome things that I think can help us creative writers.

Burke says, "You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech,l gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his" (p.g. 55). To me this is something important for writers to know and understand.

We are trying to persuade people to two things: 1) to read our work, and 2) that our work is high quality, well-crafted and worth reading. We can use Burke's idea of identification for both of these things. First, we need to use the identification principle in real life, as an every day person. We need people to be on our side, to support us, and if they relate to us and feel like as a person we deserve help and support, then they're really going to get behind us and our work.

Also, we can use this principle in our writing itself. The story and tone of the work in general need to have something in them that readers can relate too. If you are honest with yourself, and let your humanity show through, in your 'gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea,' etc, then your readers will connect with what you write. Also our characters must have something in them that makes the reader feel like they're a real person. Even the antagonists need to be sympathetic in some way, and following Burke's principal of identification will allow all your characters to leap from the page and grab the readers heart and imagination.

So be real and honest, let your readers see the real you, and make your characters true to life. Happy writing!

Sarah Allen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today's Podcast Recording Session

For my post today I think it might be useful for me to just go over what happened at the recording session today, because I for one had no idea what to expect, so anyone else whose being recorded can maybe learn something from my experience.

It wasn't too complicated or stressful. The girl took me to the recording studio, which is two small rooms, one a sound booth. I sat on a stool in front of the microphone with my story on a music stand in front of me so I wouldn't make any rustling noise. The girl asked me questions about my story and I had to answer in complete sentences, and then I did a read through of my story. Then it was done. Not too bad.

The biggest thing I learned from today is about preparing for the questions. The main questioned they asked me was about my writing process and where I go the idea for my story. Those are pretty obvious questions and I had thought of answers to those questions before hand, but I still feel like my answers were a little stupid. Not that stupid, and probably most of it is just me being self-conscious, but I still think it would have been a fantastic idea for me to have had an ready answer memorized word for word. I'm not even joking. Next time I'm going to write out an answer to the questions I'm sure they're going to ask and memorize it so I know my answer will be clear, concise and intelligent sounding. That is my biggest suggestion for anyone going to be interviewed about there writing.

Best of luck on writing everyone, don't let local opportunities pass you by!
Sarah Allen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Asking for creative writing critique

I should probably start with a disclaimer that I am writing this post mainly for my own benefit. I have serious confidence issues and letting anyone even see my writing totally awkwards me out. But I figure that if I have this issue maybe a few other writers out there do too, and we all may as well admit it, suck it up, and ask for help.

One of the reasons I think I personally have this problem is that I am afraid of people reading in to me as a person when they read my work. For example, if I write a poem about a grandfather whose addicted to tobacco (which I have) or a chubby fifteen year old who can't relate to her beautiful vice president mother but who finds solace in a job at a breeders house, helping with the dogs (which I also have) I want people to read it for what it is, and not bring me and my life in to it. First of all, sometimes its flat out wrong. (Neither of my grandfathers smoke). But the hard part is when its people who know you well reading your stuff, and you're worried they may relate the story to you. (I was a chubby fifteen year old, I completely adore dogs, and my mother is actually quite stunning.) But I am still not that character, my mother is not that mother, and I don't want people to read too much into it. I'm still me, and I don't want people's opinion of me as a person to change after they've read my writing.

Whatever the reason for the awkwardness and embarrassment at letting people see your work, it needs to stop, including for me. It can be the hardest with the people who you are closest too, but they're your base group for critique. They're who you have for support from the very beginning.

As a hopefully encouraging story, I have a really awesome professor this semester who offered to critique my work as soon as he knew I wanted to be a writer. Obviously I was ecstatic to have an English professor help me with my writing, but with that came the anxiety and awkwardness. But I knew this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, so I sucked it up and sent him my portfolio. His response was very kind, unexpected, and helpful. His favorite piece was one of my least favorites, and he didn't even really address what I thought he would like the most. But he gave very insightful reasons about why he liked what he liked, about my strengths and about how I could use those strengths to improve my weaknesses. His advice has really helped me.

So don't stress about letting people read your work. They will still love you, you will be the same person you were before they read it, and you may get some great help from them, or at least some support. So suck it up and find someone to be your best reader.

Sarah Allen

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pyramid of Abstraction: the importance of detail in creative work

The Pyramid of Abstraction is one of the fundamentals of creative writing in my opinion. The main idea is that every work of creative writing, or any work of art for that matter, should be based on solid, concreted details with a few abstractions on the top.

In a piece of creative writing its the detail that really draws the reader in, helps them identify with the characters and the story and are what readers remember when they leave. Writing that's too abstract is difficult to connect with and is sometimes even hard to understand. Even if what your trying to communicate is a universal abstract idea, the best way to guide your readers to an understanding of that idea is through stunning, concrete detail. Use sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. Every sensual detail like that will evoke emotions in the reader, and that is the best way of making sure your reader connects with your work. Think of it this way: which is a more interesting sentence? a) "An aura of sadness hung over the room," or b) "Gloria's tongue felt like she had been sucking lemon, but even so, she and the white-haired man sitting next to her on the pew, who had spent the last hour fidgeting with his wedding ring, were the only ones in the whole church who hadn't cried."

Using awesome detail will make your story and characters as real to your readers as they are to you.

Happy writing!
Sarah Allen

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Some creative writing title ideas

Here are some titles I've pulled from my creative writing notebooks as beginning of the week creative thought provokers. Hope they at least spark some ideas in your own mind.

-The Darker Side of Yodeling
-Fundamentally Bailed
-The Oil Lamp Stories
-Rate of Decay
-A Dirty Job and Lamb
-I Blow with the Harmattan
-Witches, Wives, and Wonderbread
-Chimeras and Red Wine
-Burial 116

Anyway, there are some random titles from the back of all my notebooks. Remember to just keep your butt in the chair and write!

Sarah Allen

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Update on my work being podcasted and creative writing in real life moments

I got another email from the Writing Center, and though I wasn't the winner, I was a close enough second that they want me to come in too! I'm so excited! I go in on Wednesday for recording, and the podcast will air sometime in December. Here's the link for the podcast: Word of Mouth.

Also, some pretty crazy/unusual things happened to me this weekend, and it made me think that all the not normal things that happen to us are exactly the kind of thing we writers are looking for. For example, this weekend I dropped my phone in a bowl of cereal. It died. I now have a new phone. Also, I had my first eye exam ever and ended up with a prescription for glasses. At least I found some cool shnazzy red ones. Ok, so maybe killing your cell phone and getting your first pair of glasses aren't such out of the ordinary things, but at least for me they are telling things; telling about what makes a difference to people, about personalities, relationships, and its those real life details that make characters and plots seem real life.

So don't let those telling moments pass you by unnoticed, use them for artistic/creative writing inspiration. I hope your in the middle of a weekend full of them. Hopefully the good kind.

Sarah Allen

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ways to advance your creative writing career during dumb classes and meetings

So, while I was in my afternoon class (wicked grin), sitting there wishing I didn't have to worry about school and just write and work on the stuff I wanted too, I thought to myself, why not do both? Obviously its important to get an education and earn a living, but there's such a thing as multi-tasking. So here are some things I thought of during my class that writers can do during boring classes and meetings, especially with no computer, to help get done whats most important to them.
-Write/Outline: For an artist or designer, meetings and classes are a perfect time to sit and doodle. But at least for me, its hard to be sitting in a class and actually get any good writing done. If your brain can manage that, more power to you, but what I was thinking is that perhaps this might be a good time for character sketches or plot outlines. Maybe fill out your main characters best friend, our outline the next chapter of your book. Or maybe look out the window or around the room until you find something you want to write a poem about. There's my first and most obvious suggestion.
-Edit: What spurred this whole idea for me is that in my class I was wishing I had brought a hard copy of some short stories to edit. This may be a good time to polish up some shorter pieces before sending or re-sending them out as submissions.
-Memorize: If, like me, you think that knowing good writing helps you create good writing, why not scribble down a poem or snippet from your favorite book in your notebook and work on memorizing it? This will not only help your writing, but make you sound really smart.
-Text Marketing: Text anyone in your phone who you know is involved in blogging or some online community and tell them to put in a good word for you; put in a link to your blog or your book on Amazon. Remind them of your upcoming book release. Every bit of marketing helps, and you're probably texting during class anyway, right?
-Plan/Write your next Blog post: Guess what I worked on during my class today? *wink*. The more you can consolidate things that don't involve working on your creative projects, the more time you can spend working on those projects.
Work and school are important, and you can't afford to slack off on those parts of your life, but when you feel like you can manage it, why not multi-task and work on the part of your life that's most important to you?
Hope this helps, and happy writing!
Sarah Allen

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My work is being Podcasted!

A couple weeks ago I submitted a 100 word (including the title) story to a flash fiction competition given by the Brigham Young University Writing Center. The stories had to be 100 words or less, and the top stories would be read aloud on the Writing Center podcast, 'Word of Mouth'. Today I got an email saying that my story, called 'Diamonds Are' is a finalist! That means my story, along with 4 others, is going to be read aloud on the podcast sometime in December. The five stories are passed along to a professor, and the author he chooses as the winner will get to come read their story themselves, and answer a few questions about it. We'll see how that goes. But regardless, my story is going to be read aloud on the podcast, which is way exciting.
Don't miss out on local opportunities! I already mentioned Craigslist as a great source, and iGigz is another good source if you live in the west. Check your local news, meet with writers and book groups in your area to find these opportunities.
Happy writing!
Sarah Allen

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Audio books: What creative writers should have on their iPods.

I recently uploaded the last few chapters of 'Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows' onto my iPod and have been listening to them as I walk to school. Not only has it made the walk more enjoyable, but I've noticed that hearing the words out loud has helped me be aware of J.K. Rowling's voice, phrases and word choice in a way you just don't pick up from words on a page. I think listening to music is great too, and there are some incredible lyricists out there, but why not try shaking it up with some audiobooks, and using your iPod time to be taught and inspired by the greats.

Now, audio books are pretty expensive, and writers aren't typically known for their vast financial resources, so unless you have parents or friends with an awesome audio book library that you can mooch, there are a few things you can do to keep expenses down. I've been haunting the 'Free on iTunes' section of the iTunes store, and have found a few gems. I've found excerpts from newly released novels, and even a section of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' read by Roald Dahl himself. And if you don't mind unprofessional readings, LibriVox has a huge audio library of public domain books. Here is a list of sites that offer free public domain audio books but LibriVox is the main one. Also, iTunes offers free podcasts of some of the classics, and that might be worth checking out.

If there are better/more sources for audio books out there, I would love to know. Happy listening!

Sarah Allen

Monday, November 2, 2009

More Sources for Creative Writing Prompts

So my first post was about creative writing notebooks, which I think is probably the most useful prompt source a writer can have at their fingertips. However, there are lots of other very good ways to give you the creative spark when you need it, and here a few that have helped me:


When your stuck, one way to get things going again is to look through old photos. Look for details you haven't noticed before. Look for expressions on peoples faces, and try and remember what was said right before the camera clicked. Here's a photo to get you started.

A statue I saw once in Germany. See what you can do with it.

The news

The news is a good way to find real life plots and characters. Maybe something you hear about in the news is exactly what needs to happen next in your novel. Perhaps there's a detail about someone who committed a crime that is exactly what you need to fill out your antagonist, or even your main character. It depends. Check the news wherever you live, and here are a few big ones that might help:

The New York Times
L.A. Times
Fox News
Google News (a good combobulation of news from all over)
Al Jazeera English (a great source for a different perspective, which is what we writers are looking for, right?)
London Times (stories from our friends across the pond. Always fun.)

Web comics/humor strips

This one is fun. I like these because often they provide poignant glimpses into human nature, not to mention hilarious situations, that may give you back some of the enjoyment you're missing in your writing. Here's some of the ones I like:

MyLifeIsAverage (If you don't know this one, you are missing out, and probably haven't been online since Easter)
A Softer World(Unique and artistic)
xkcd (hilarious and intellectual)

Hope those help. Just remember not to spend more time browsing then you do actually writing.

Sarah Allen

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why I am not doing National Novel Writing Month, even though I probably should

On November first, I figure any writing blog must address the phenomenon of National Novel Writing Month. Thousands and thousands of writers will be furiously scribbling and typing away, creating an entire work in less then one month. Unfortunately, I will not be one of them.

Two of my roommates are doing NaNo this year, and though I will be writing with them, I won't actually be doing NaNo. See, I have a novel already started that I have been working on for quite a while now, and even though I'm only just over 10,000 words into it, I don't want to put it on the back burner quite yet. And I don't want to use that particular novel for NaNo, because I feel like I need to take it at a more relaxed, intimate pace then I could if I was doing it.

However, NaNo is a great opportunity to learn how to get your butt in the chair and actually produce something. I will try to glean that from the frantically writing aura of all you NaNo-ers all over the world, and make myself write along with you, though not quite as hectically. As always, whatever I learn in my journey that may help you in yours during this crazy month, I will be sure to help in any way I can.

Good luck NaNoing!
Sarah Allen
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