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Golden Bloggerz Award

Today’s post is a little unusual. For once, I’m not talking about writing! Someone on Twitter nominated me for the Golden Bloggerz Award, and I want to acknowledge her kindness.

Golden Bloggerz Award logo

First off, let’s have a look at the rules:

  1. Place the award logo on your blog
  2. Mention the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and place a link to their website
  4. Mention the award’s creator & provide a link too.
  5. Tell your audience 3 things about you
  6. Nominate 10 – 20 people who deserve this award
  7. Let your nominees know by messaging/commenting on their Social Media or their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions you want.
  9. Share 2-3 links to your best posts

Thank you, Anissa!

Anissa, from The Quiet Girl Blog, kindly nominated me for the Golden Bloggerz Award on Twitter. Thank you, Anissa! Logging on to Twitter and seeing your nomination in my notifications really made my day.

Golden Bloggerz

Chris Kosto from Golden Bloggerz created this award to motivate and reward bloggers who do their best to help their readers solve problems and reach their goals. I had not heard about Golden Bloggerz prior to my nomination, and it looks like they have a lot of great resources for bloggers. For example, their post about LSI keywords has some pretty useful information. I’m trying to learn more about SEO, and I hadn’t even heard of LSI keywords before.

Three things about me

Writing is not 100% of my personality

Because this is a niche blog, sometimes I’m afraid that’s all people see of me. However, I have other hobbies–I like bird watching and I play the guitar–they’re just not very topical, you know?

I used to be quite athletic

Dance, running, and martial arts kept me busy and healthy once upon a time. Hiking and camping were great, too. I’d like to get that back, but I don’t know if it’ll ever happen thanks to a chronic condition I’ve been dealing with for close to a decade now.

If I didn’t blog about writing, I’d probably write about mental health or food

Probably mental health, honestly. I love cooking, but there are already so many great food blogs out there. I’m not sure I could compete.

Questions from The Quiet Girl Blog

How did you start blogging?

I started this blog as a way of keeping myself accountable to my writing projects. It’s easy for me to get bored or stressed over a project and quit, so I thought it would be good for me to have something like this to help keep me motivated.

What are you most proud of?

As far as writing goes, probably the silver honorable mention I received from Writers of the Future. If we’re looking at life achievements, probably my degree. Blogging is as close as I’ve come to using my degree, but just having one gave me a leg up on other candidates the last time I had a real job.

What can brighten your day up?

A nice surprise. It can be anything from a new comment on the blog to coming home and discovering someone has done my chores or cooked dinner ahead of time.

What’s your worst pet peeve?

Haha, this is embarrassing. My worst pet peeve is probably when people stand around in the aisle at the grocery store and I can’t get to what I want to buy.

What’s your favorite thing to do for self-care?

Get away from screens for a while because I spend entirely too much time staring at one device or another. A break from that really helps clear my head. It really doesn’t matter how I get away–I can spend time with my pets, go for a drive, take a shower, practice my guitar…It’s all good.

My Nominees

There are so many great creators and wonderful folks out there who deserve to be acknowledged. This list is not in any particular order, nor is it limited to any one genre, but I invite you to visit the following websites and enjoy the authors’ creativity and kindness.

Unwanted Life

The Gray Matters Blog

Sionna Trenz

The Grumpy Olive

Lifestyle Prism

The Dating Bitch

Tangela Williams-Spann

Twirling Sleepy Book Princess

Ruthiee Loves Glamour

Lynn Mumbing Mejia

My Questions

  1. What’s your favorite work of art?
  2. What’s something you’re looking forward to?
  3. What is your favorite treat?
  4. Where would you most like to travel, assuming finances are not an issue?
  5. How do you like to unwind after a long day?

Three of my best posts

I have no idea how to decide what makes a post the best. The posts that get the most traffic are not the ones that get the most comments or social shares. I guess let’s go with one of each?

Most traffic

Why I no longer use Scribophile –Ouch. Sorry, Scribophile.

Most comments

Three Simple Ways to Improve Your Economy of Language –I’m really proud of my economy of language posts. It means a lot to me that so many people took the time to leave a comment on this one. Thanks so much to everyone who did!

Most social shares

NaNoWriMo –I’m not sure why this one took off like it did, but thanks to everyone who shared it.

Thank you again, Anissa!

I’ve met so many kind and wonderful people on this blogging journey. I’m so grateful to everyone who visits my blog, and I really can’t thank you all enough.

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Why I no longer use Scribophile

I’ve talked about Scribophile on the blog in the past. My last review was mainly positive, but I thought I’d bring it up again since I’ve decided not to use the service anymore. This is just my own experience and opinions, and it’s entirely possible that I’m just being petty. Someone else might have no problems with the platform. I’m not saying “never use Scribophile,” I’m just saying that I’m not going to use it anymore, and this is why.

Limitations to free accounts

This one really is petty. The story I wanted to post was long enough that I needed to do it in four parts. Free accounts are only allowed to have two posts in the spotlight queue at a time. I don’t think there was a way to post my story so anyone who wanted to critique it could read all of it.

This really isn’t a huge problem. It was annoying, but I’m sure I could have found a way to deal with it if I needed to. If it had been the only issue, I wouldn’t be writing this post at all. I just mentioned it so anyone considering Scribophile would have the information.

Tech support problems

When you post a story to Scribophile, you copy and paste it into a form. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out like they should. I tried posting two parts of my short story and they both ended up a garbled mess. Huge sections of text were misplaced, and I have no idea what went wrong. I didn’t have any unusual formatting or fonts in my story, and it should have just been a simple copy-paste. It’s never happened when I posted stories to Scribophile in the past, and I have no idea why it happened this time.

Although I got a timely response from tech support, their “help” was basically that I should fix it myself. Like…Your app is acting up and you’re not even going to look into it?

This was where I started getting annoyed. But it wasn’t that hard to cut and paste the misplaced parts of my story back where they were supposed to be, so I just did it. Then I went on to critique a few stories from other writers, and that’s where the real fun started.

Critique Flags

This is the thing that really got me. If a user doesn’t like your critique, they can flag it as incomplete. If it happens often enough, you lose karma points–and you need karma to upload stories.

I spent about an hour on a critique and someone didn’t care for something I said, so they flagged it. Basically, an incomplete critique means I didn’t provide the author with actionable information. However, I marked several grammar errors, mentioned some things they should consider changing because they weren’t appropriate to the target audience, highlighted something that was factually incorrect, and made some suggestions about showing and telling.

I only got a warning because it was my first time being flagged, but it was enough to put me off using the site again. It made me feel like I was wasting my time.

I can support a system that penalizes critiquers who don’t leave writers good feedback. However, there doesn’t seem to be any moderation behind this. You can’t request a review of the critique. If somebody doesn’t like what you said about their story, they can cause you to lose karma points and you’ve got no recourse.

I probably could have complained, but why?

It’s possible I could have written to support again, but I didn’t think it would get me anywhere after the way they treated my copy-paste issue. Also, I really don’t like feeling like a Karen and crying for a manager whenever something doesn’t go my way.

When I combined my latest issues with the things I already didn’t love about the site, I decided Scribophile was just too much trouble to keep using. It feels like the negative aspects of the site outweigh the positive ones, at least for me, and I would rather look for something that suits me better. This is just my experience, and yours might be different, so keep that in mind if you’re considering Scribophile.

If you’re looking for other places to get critiques, you might try Critters.org or Critique Circle instead. I’m giving Critique Circle a try.

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Nanowrimo Blogathon recap

I did it! If you haven’t been following me, this month I decided to do a blog post a day for the entire month of November. A blogathon, if you will. I thought I’d talk a bit about that today, because why not?

It wasn’t easy

Well…That’s partly a lie. There were a few posts sitting in my drafts for months because they just didn’t fit into any of the monthly themes I had been doing, and I was able to use those without much rewriting. I also had a bunch of ideas, like the MFA series, that I just didn’t want to waste an entire month on. I also knew I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo because I didn’t want to start a new project or try and shoehorn my actual novel into that somehow, but I wanted to contribute to that atmosphere.

It would have been cool to keep up with my blogging word count, though. Would it have put me into the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word goal? I doubt it, but now I’m curious.

Most of the blogathon was fun

I went into this without a real goal in mind, beyond a post a day. I had a few hiccups at the beginning, like trying to schedule posts on Facebook ahead of time and getting “Page not found” errors, but overall it went smoothly.

It looks like I’ve picked up quite a few new followers. Hi! Welcome! If you’re new here, and you want to know what this site is all about, have a look at this post. Thanks. I didn’t do a blogathon for attention, it was mainly just a challenge for myself, but I’m always glad to see more people interested in my work. I want to help writers, and I can’t do that if nobody’s seeing my posts, you know? So a new influx of guests has been great. Thanks again!

A few things didn’t go as planned

I really thought I’d be able to crank out more than one post a day, finish early, and work on some other projects without having to worry about the website for a while. That didn’t happen. I put a lot of time and effort, and even a little research, into these posts.

The novel rough draft is finished, but my brain was so zapped from blogging that I just didn’t have the mental energy to start on revisions. I also finished a short story rough draft, and I need to get that revised ASAP because it’s for a contest. That’s honestly not the end of the world, but it does mean that I’m going to have to work extra hard next month if I want the novel to be ready in time for Author Mentor Match. That might not be possible at this point. We’ll see.

Overall, I think the blogathon was a success

I’m really proud of myself for seeing it through. I hope you all enjoyed it, and will continue to stick with me. Next month I’m going back to my regular weekly schedule. Unless someone just really wants me to keep posting exercises, I’m pulling the plug on those for the time being. It didn’t seem like people were as interested in the exercises, and I do have other projects on my plate.

Thank you so much for sticking with me for the last 30 days! How did your NaNoWriMo project go? Please leave a comment and share. Thanks!

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Inspiration vs Discipline

I’m back again with another topic I see frequently online, which I like to call inspiration vs discipline. I can’t tell you how often I see novice writers complaining that they can’t write unless they feel inspired or motivated, and it’s time for a little tough love.

Some of you don’t want to hear this, but I’m saying it anyway. If you can’t teach yourself how to write without that burst of inspiration or motivation, you might never finish your novel. I can hear somebody out there protesting, “But I only write garbage if I’m not motivated.” So what? Write the garbage. Get it out of your system. If you’re not open to trying new things and improving your craft, how do you expect to learn anything or get anywhere? Writing is all about growth–and if you want to grow, you need to be willing to experiment with your process. Figuring out how you can balance inspiration vs discipline is going to help you a lot.

A little about me

This motivation/inspiration vs discipline thing has never been a huge issue for me, and I think that’s because I started a foundation for my writing back when I was in school and then continued building on that in college. I didn’t have the luxury of only writing when I felt like it because I had deadlines. In my high school writing classes, assignments were due weekly. I could put one off for a little while, but I was so busy with other classes and extracurricular activities that I really didn’t have much spare time.

In college….Oh boy. In addition to a full load of classes, I also worked for the campus newspaper. The editors treated me like a pinch hitter, and I’d often get called at the very last minute to fill in for someone or complete an assignment. Sometimes I only had about 30 minutes to track someone down for an interview, get the story written, and submit it before it had to go to press. By the end of my senior year, I was almost glad the recession had dried up my job prospects–I needed a break. I never was able to find a career in journalism, and I don’t want one now, but that experience definitely shaped who I am as a writer.

Here are some actual tips

Okay, enough bragging. Let’s talk about what you can do if you’re struggling to stay motivated. I will admit that I have a hard time with this sometimes, too, now that I’m not writing on tight deadlines and fueled by caffeine and the sleep-deprived mania that set in after playing World of Warcraft until five in the morning when I had to be in class at eight. (Oh, college. I do not miss you.)

Create a routine

I know, I know, I keep telling you to do this. But no, really, it helps. If your brain expects to do something at a certain time and at regular intervals, it helps you get into the mood to work on that task. Please check out this post if you need some tips on creating your routine.

Exercise

If you find yourself staring at a blank page, unsure what to write, try starting out with a simple exercise to warm yourself up and get the words flowing. Describe something–a pencil, your pet, whatever you see out the window, the shirt you’re wearing, one of your characters. Write about a situation–the last conversation you had, a meet-cute, what you ate for dinner last night. Just something short and easy. You could also try just brainstorming a little about whatever you’re planning on writing. Once you finish that, try to transition that creative energy into whatever project you’re working on.

Writing sprints

Set a timer for five minutes and write as much as you can before it goes off. Take a break. Have a glass of water, do some simple stretches, maybe spend five minutes checking your social media. Then set another five minute timer and write some more. I’d start with one or two sprints, and try to work up to maybe 20 or 30 minutes worth. Then make the sprints longer–seven minutes. Ten minutes. Etc. Eventually, you should be able to transition this into a word count goal. When I first started on my current novel, I was doing 30 minute sprints two or three times a week. Now I’m averaging somewhere between 2,000-3,000 words per session.

Set goals and deadlines for yourself

This is not going to work for some people. Like…I’ll stick to a deadline if it’s a project for someone else, but self-imposed deadlines don’t always work for me. You can use contest entry dates, submission windows, or things like #pitmad to create deadlines, though. Right now, I’m trying to get my novel finished in time for Author Mentor Match 2021. Will I succeed? I have no idea…I’m flying through this thing as fast as I can, but I still have a ton of work to do. But that’s the thing–the deadline creates motivation. The closer I get to that submission window closing, the harder I’ll want to work. Submissions open in January and it’s already almost November. Tick-tock.

If deadlines don’t work for you, try giving yourself goals. Break your project up into actionable segments (finish outline–if you’re outlining–write (x) words/day of rough draft, self-edit (x) amount per day, get critiques, revise, get beta reads, revise, etc), and reward yourself whenever you complete each of those segments. Milestone goals should get bigger rewards.

Once again, you’ll have to sort some of this out for yourself

Like so many aspects of writing, figuring out a balance of inspiration vs discipline is something you’re going to have to do on your own. I can offer all the advice in the world, but it’s up to you to come up with a system you can work with. If you want to be a professional writer someday, it’s definitely worth the effort to train yourself to write without needing to feel inspired, though.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions, or anything you’d like to add, please leave a comment below. As always, if you found this interesting or informative, please be sure to share it with your writer friends!

Image credit: Liana Mikah, Unsplash

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Exercise 30: Critique Yourself

We’ve spent all month learning about critiquing other writers’ work. This week, I want you to apply some of those techniques to your own writing.

Critique one of your stories. Look for errors on macro and micro levels. Mark any errors you come across as you read, and then revise the story.

Image credit: Mark Kamalov, Unsplash.

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Exercise 29: Micro Edits

I debated writing this at all. You can find a lot of apps out there that will help you deal with minor issues instead of doing it all yourself. Look into Grammarly and AutoCrit. I think even Google Docs has a grammar option. I don’t think an app is going to beat a human reader at spotting some errors though, at least not for a while yet, so critique is still an important part of the process.

Micro edits are where I spend most of my editing time. There’s a lot to say here, but I’m planning on breaking that down and covering specific topics in other posts, like the one I did about adverbs a while back. Today is just a general overview.

It’s more than just spelling mistakes

Although checking for spelling and grammar mistakes (aka proofreading) is a part of micro editing, there’s more to it than that. Micro edits take you down to the individual sentences and words that make up your story. If the macro level is plot and tension, the micro level is atmosphere and emotion. It actually does affect your story on a macro level, too; if your prose is tending toward purple and you spend too much time describing things that just don’t matter, you will kill your tension and ruin your pacing.

Rather than tell you to do these things in a specific order, I’m going to give you a list of what I like to look for, and you can address them in whatever order you please.

Homophones

These are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Think there vs their (or they’re). Hear and here. You’re and your. Dual and duel. Proofreading software doesn’t always catch these, so you’ve got to rely on a human reader to spot these mistakes for you.

Adverbs and other garbage words

You’d be surprised how much redundant words can puff up somebody’s word count. I’ve heard of writers who reduced their word count by tens of thousands when they cut out adverbs and other unnecessary words. I think the apps that I mentioned up above will flag a lot of these for you.

I wrote about adverbs before, so check that out if you haven’t already. Other words to look out for: that, just, even, or anything that’s next to another word that means the same thing.

I once did a critique for someone who insisted on writing entire paragraphs of sentences that were all saying the same thing but with slightly different words. And then they argued about it and said people wouldn’t understand it was important otherwise. You know what, though? Readers aren’t stupid, and writers need to have more faith in their audience. Pick one sentence. Get rid of the other four.

Sentence Length and Type

This sounds simple but can be a big problem. Some writers write lots of simple sentences in a row. It makes paragraphs sound choppy. They don’t flow well. Eventually it starts to feel repetitive and boring. (See what I’m doing here?)

Writing needs variety if it’s going to flow. Some of that variety comes from your word choice, and some of it comes from using different kinds of sentences. Short sentences can be emphatic. Long sentences help you relay complex ideas and information to your readers, but be careful about putting too many long sentences together without something to break them up; that can also become boring over time. (See what I did there?)

I know I mentioned it in the subheading, but I’m not going to go over all of the types of sentences today. This isn’t a grammar blog. If you’re interested in learning about sentence structure, here’s a great resource. When you’re doing a critique, if a writer’s sentences don’t blend and flow, and they feel choppy or heavy, point it out to them. If you’re seeing a lot of long sentences, you might also indicate where you think they could break those up.

Word choice

This can be a difficult one. Word choice plays a huge factor in your atmosphere, your characters, and pretty much every aspect of your story, from the big, obvious things to the little background details that some people won’t notice until they’re reading it for the third or fourth time.

It’s hard to distill everything about word choice into a few short paragraphs. Basically, you want to choose words that make the story sound true to itself, and the characters sound true to who they are. For today, just try to keep it in mind when you’re reading over a story. If something about a word seems out of place, look it up. If the definition doesn’t align with what you think the author is trying to portray, point it out to them so they can fix it.

Find a story to critique. Pay close attention to micro issues, and point out any problems you find to the author.

Image Credit: Content Pixie

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Housekeeping

Hey there! Sorry the site looks so rough; I’m still learning my way around this theme and I don’t know how to not display the site when it’s in this condition, so….Yeah.

It’s like that nightmare where you’re up on stage and look down at yourself and realize you’re only wearing your underwear.

But I’m going to do my best to get this all set up soon. Wish me luck!

Image credit: Oliver Hale, Unsplash.