From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Challenge: Write in the Genre You Could Never Write

We've all got the genre that is our genre. The one, maybe two, genres we usually work in. Then there are genres that are more on the periphery, that we read occasionally and think would be fun to write one day.

Then there is the genre that you look at and go, whoo boy, I could never write that.

I can think of a couple right off the bat.

Historical fiction. I so admire anyone who writes historical fiction, because I am so intimidated by the amount of research it seems like it would take. You want the story to pop, to be as real life as the world outside the window, and it just seems so hard to do that for a time that's not...well, now.

Christian romance. While I do think every story could do with a little lovin in it, I feel like specifically Christian romance would be so much harder than it looks. I feel like it would be incredibly difficult to get the writing so that its not cheesy or didactic, and anyone who trods in this territory, my hats off to you.

That being said, I think it could be a cool experiment to make myself write a short story or two in these genres. Alaska in the 1700s, maybe, or some story involving a preachers widow and an architect.

What about you? What's the one genre that intimidates you the most?

Sarah Allen
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Monday, June 24, 2013

What Type of Blog Posts are Most Useful to You?

I have another bit of a poll post for you today.

I hope you don't mind it too much. But the only way we're going to improve and progress around here is for me to make sure I know what you guys like, what you find helpful and/or entertaining and do my best to provide that for you. And I think its maybe time to level up.

This is my 703rd post. I started this blog in 2009. That is three years ago. That feels like forever. So much has changed in the span of my blogging, and so much is still changing. I feel like when I started this blog, blogging was just coming out of its hey-day, and it's sort of been declining ever since. However I feel like the waning has sort of leveled off. And all that doesn't matter anyway, because I blog for more than reasons than because it's the "it" thing to do. I do it because of the awesome community and how much I've learned and the opportunity to interact with like-minded people. I think this is the reason--while some days have definitely been harder than others--I've never seriously wanted to give it up, or gotten irredeemably tired of blogging. You guys are just too awesome.

I hope over the years things have progressed around here. But I do want to keep improving, keep progressing, and part of that is getting your feedback and seeing what you want most.

So what type of posts are most useful to you? Tips on plotting and character? Pictures and prompts for ideas? Social media guides? Personal anecdotes? Links to good stuffs from all around the internetz? Lists of writing contests and places to submit writing? Anything else?

And guys?


Sarah Allen

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Better to Push Through or Take a Break?

So there's something that happens after you've been writing for a while. Even a short while. You finally get some words going, you get in the flow, it's coming, and then all of the sudden, it happens.

You hit the wall.

That's what runners call it anyway, and I think it's an apt metaphor. Because its an abrupt stop, ramming the momentum you had head on into brick. 

It happens to me every few hundred words. I'll get three or four hundred words down and then finish a scene or get pulled away by my wonderfully distracting sister or mindlessly clicking onto Pinterest. Then I'm stuck. The flow stops flowing. (By the way I think minimizing distractions i.e. Pinterest is key to pushing back the wall and something I'm going to try to do better at).

I'm pretty sure it happens this way for everyone. Maybe a lot of you can go a lot further than me without hitting the wall, but it happens eventually, right?

If not--if you never come up against The Wall--please tell me your magic secret? Please???

Anyway. When you get to this point, what do you think is the best thing to do?

The way I see it, there's two options. Either you sit there and push until you've broken through the wall, or you go away and use your mental powers elsewhere until the wall has gone away. Which do you think is the best thing to do?

On the one hand, we are WRITERS DANG IT and WRITERS WRITE and no dumb ol wall is going to stop us. On the other hand, sometimes it is a FREAKING THICK WALL and you don't want the writing to sound forced anyway and its Just. Not. Coming.

After some thought, I think the answer I've come up with is that neither approach will work in every situation. I think sometimes the wall isn't going to go away on its own and you have to push through. Other times no amount of shoving will budge the stupid thing, and you have to take a breather or its going to stay there like a stubborn mule.

The pattern that I think works best for me personally is this: Usually the first wall or two I come to aren't super thick. They're definitely there and they leave me staring blankly for a while, but I can push through and get another few hundred words down. Then a wall will come that really throws me off and I start feeling like my butt is beginning to fuse to the chair anyway so its time for me to at least step out onto the balcony for a while and probably get something to eat. Sometimes it takes until the next day for the wall to go away, and sometimes it still takes a little forcing, but if I make myself sit down the next day and get started, the words will eventually start flowing again.

That's how I've seen it working in my own head. Anybody else have clearer ideas or a better approach? Do you think it's better to push through or take a break?

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5 Places to Submit your Non-Fiction

Non-fiction is not my main thing, but in the recent months I've been wanting to expand my horizons and have done a bit of research into some cool places to send non-fiction. I've had some fun just looking at some of the articles and brainstorming ideas that might work. If you've got some non-fiction ready to go or are just looking for some potential ideas, here are five places to look:

1. Travel Culture Magazine: If you're looking into doing some travel writing, this might be a fun place to start. It seems pretty casual and fun.

2. Atlas Obscura: I know I've mentioned Atlas Obscura on this blog before, but among other things, it is also a great venue for more travel writing. It's a good place to get your feet wet, I think, and one I plan to use.

3. Chicken Soup for the Soul: There are always open submissions for upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My favorite right now is one about dogs. If you think you can write something suitable for one of these anthologies, it might be a great place to send your work. And if none of the current topics look interesting, check back later!

4. The Hairpin: This is one of the funner magazines I've come across. It seems fairly eclectic and creative, which is perfect. One of my favorite stories lately is called Six Fairy-tales for the Modern Woman. Check it out, read a few articles, see if you can come up with a fun idea that might fit.

5. Bright Lights Film Journal: If you're a film fanatic, as many of us are, then the Bright Lights Film Journal might be worth checking out. The articles in this journal are very smart and deeply analytical, but if you can work that, than I say go for it.

So there you have it. Obviously there are tons of places out there, but these are some that I plan to keep in mind for the future. Do you write non-fiction? Where have you submitted it in the past?

Sarah Allen
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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Writers Guide to Instagram

From my Instagram account. Find me at SarahAllenAuthor
Hey everyone!

So, Instagram has kind of exploded in the last year or so as like, the awesome new thing. Even if you don't use Instagram, image based platforms (*ahem* Pinterest and Tumblr *ahem*) are the biggest things right now, and what users are becoming used to. Short version, images are the thing on the interwebz.

But our medium of choice, as writers, is text, right? We use words, not images. Hopefully evocative words, but still, words. So how can we use image based platforms like Instagram to our advantage? For networking, marketing, inspiring, all that kind of stuff. Here are a few cool writerly things I've seen people do on Instagram.

1. Notecard Poetry: One thing I've seen people do is to write a very short two or three line poem on a note card, place it against a nice background like a wood table, take a picture and upload it to Instagram. Personally I like this better than people using the comments section for their work, because I honestly don't really read that part.

2. Overlayed Quotes: There are a lot of cool designy quotes about writing on Instagram. What I've done is find/create them on my computer, put them on my Pinterest board, then download them from Pinterest to my phone, then upload them to Instagram. Since Instagram isn't a computer/tablet app yet. It works, and its probably the thing I've had the most success with so far.

3. Am Working Images: Take a picture of your work space or a screenshot of a small piece of your work in progress and put those on Instagram. It's a fun camaraderie thing, and I know I always like real life shots of how other writers are working.

4. Covers: Take pictures of the books you're reading, or, of course, upload an image of the cover of your book. Another way to get the picture of your book in peoples heads.

5. Other artsy projects: And of course, if you are artistically inclined in any way, by all means share your work. Your pictures, your illustrations in progress, your comic strips, all that good stuff.

So those are some things you can put on Instagram, but other than that, what do you actually do on Instagram to be involved in the Instagram community.

*Like and comment other peoples stuff
*Hashtags are super big on Instagram, so make sure you're using all the right ones to get your work noticed.
*Browse hashtags to find cool people to like/comment/follow

Those are my Instagram tips, from my limited experience. Even if you don't use Instagram, hopefully some of these tips can also be applied to those other image based platforms.

Are you an Instagramer? What types of images do you find most intriguing on places like Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr?

Sarah Allen

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Insane Awesome List of Resources for Writers

So, this incredibly amazing list was brought to my attention and so I had to share it with you all.

And here it is :)

Check it out. I haven't had a chance yet to go through each item and check them out individually, but I plan to.

In other news, I finally succumbed and started Buffy the Vampire Slayer last night. Maybe slightly dated, but my first impression is that it's basically text-book perfect plotting and raising stakes. (Get it...Stakes...) But yeah, Joss Whedon is pretty much reigning king of television storytelling. And it gets talked about a lot how feminism friendly that show is, and how awesome it is to have such kick-butt female leads, and I was like, yeah, but now that I've actually watched it, I'm like, YEAH!!!

Anyway, it's pretty awesome. And I'll leave you with a song that takes my breath away every freaking time.

And have a good weekend everybody!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Six Ways to Escalate the Plot

We all know we need tension on every page. That the story and plot has to be gripping enough to pull the reader from page to page. There's the old metaphor of how, when a scene starts slowing down, you bring in a man with a gun. But beyond actually doing that, (and that might not fit anyway), what are some things you can do to boost the tension? Here are some ideas.

1. Give your protagonist a handicap. Maybe physical. If they're in a hurry, give them a bum knee or a flat tire. If they have to give a speech make them lose their voice. If they have to take a test give them a head-cold. Do NOT make things easy for them.

2. Increase "room conflict." In theater/acting, the term "room conflict" refers to how the room or place the characters are in makes the situation even more difficult. For example, if it's really cold or really hot. Or if it's so noisy they can barely hear each other. Or if it smells really bad or your characters allergic to the cat. I think this could work in writing too, and it only makes things harder for your characters.

3. Take away the main ally. If your character has a best friend or supportive parent or mentor, take them away. Or at least remove them from each other. Maybe the mentor has helped him up to this point, but now he has to do it on his own. Dumbledore could only help Harry so much, and then he had to do it all by himself/with the ghosts (?) of his dead parents.

4. Bring in the one person your protagonist DOESN'T want to see. Her ex? His old boss? The co-worker he screwed over? The brother he hasn't spoken with in seven years? Bring them in.

5. Tighten the deadline. What's worse than a bomb? A bomb that's going to go off in FIVE MINUTES. If your character is chasing down a killer, give the killer a flight to Cuba in four hours. If your character has a paper due in two weeks, shorten it to two days. If your character is trying to find something for a birthday party, make that birthday party tomorrow. Or better yet, in fifteen minutes. If your character doesn't have a deadline, give them one, and if they do, shorten it.

6. Secondary Character Misfire. Say your main character has a younger brother. What is the one thing she would never expect him to do? Have him do it. Is her boyfriend a Darcy-esque silent type? What would she do if all the sudden he went loopy? Is his boss usually a pushover? What if today he was a total jerk? This isn't a change in your protagonist herself, but it gives her something else she has to deal with, at least temporarily.

So there you have it, six ways to escalate tension and quicken your plot. Hopefully they help. Anything else you would add to this list?

Sarah Allen

Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 29 Book Review Blogs (that I've found so far)

In the past few days I've had a number of conversations with friends who've mentioned finding a book on a book review blog or website. I'll admit I'm not a usual purveyor of book review blogs, but I've started doing some research and think that they could be an excellent resource. So here's a list of 29 book review blogs that are pretty darn awesome.

Well there you have it! Do you frequent book review sites? What sites would you add to this list?

Sarah Allen
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