A writer on a LinkedIn discussion asked, "How do I keep up the motivation to write everyday?" In my case, university studies as well as a busy life in general make writing every day difficult. Expending energy and precious time on writing when I should studying leaves me with a feeling of guilt.. However, an idea that I came up with during university break was the 'Thousand a day' method. The idea is that you sit down and tap out (at least) one thousand words, be it your WIP (Work in Progress), notes, or anything that pops in to your head. When working on a novel, I like to think, "By writing one thousand words every day, by the end of the month I would have written 30 000 words, by the end of two months I would have a 60 000 word novel". If that doesn't give you motivation then I don't know what will!
Of course this may not work for everyone. Some people don't work well under pressure or by setting deadlines for themselves while others thrive by being under the pump. However, if 1000 words a day is too much, cut it down to 500; writing a little is better than nothing.
Try not think, "What should I write?" and instead think, "What do I want to write?" Take the pressure away from yourself. You don't have to work on your WIP if you don't feel like working on it. How good will the writing be if you're not enjoying writing it? Write anything. The idea that has been buzzing around in your head for the last couple of days, put it down on paper. At the end you’re still keeping your creativity running hot and doing what you love, writing.
Scarlett Van Dijk
What motivates you to write?
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Just the other day I was wondering how many brilliant ideas have been wasted. How many inspirational dreams have been thrown away as too crazy? They are discarded either because their creator fails to recognise their brilliance or because they don't believe they have the ability to nurture those ideas into a story written on paper. I have a theory that no idea is stupid or too crazy and that all that is needed turn it into a brilliant story is a bit of work, imagination and an open mind.
This one is fairly obvious. Writing a story involves work and dedication. However, if you enjoy writing, enjoy the feeling of a keyboard beneath your fingers or a pen running across paper, then the process of writing shouldn't be too difficult. I find the most difficult aspect of writing to be editing, however, it is a necessity and your story will shine more strongly for it.
Many ideas start out as merely an idea for a character, a snippit from an imagined scene or perhaps even a question asked, "What if...?". These are not enough for a story on their own, but every thought and idea can become a story with a little imagination. That character, what is his background, his goals, his personality, where will he go? That scene, what leads up to that point, what will transpire after? Questioning and examining your ideas will sprout more ideas. Your first idea is merely a seed from which others will grow.
Talk to others about your ideas, present your story to them, and receive feedback. This is crucial in building your story in to the best it can be. Also, while talking about your ideas you may find that other ideas emerge that were hiding while you were cooped up in your writing den. However, an open mind is needed here. Advice given by the people you talk with does not have to be followed but it does need to be listened to. Listen attentively and think about every piece of advice they give you even if it is criticism. Think about why they think that way. Is it that they don't like your style of writing or is it based on valid points that need considering?
I believe that anyone that doesn't mind putting pen to paper and daydreaming for lengths of time can become a writer, they merely need to make the decision.
Scarlett Van Dijk
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Today I shall tell you a little about my studies at university. I am a third year university student undertaking a bachelor degree in Medical Radiation (Medical Imaging). At the end of my four years at university I will be a fully qualified radiographer. For those of you that are unsure, radiographers take x-rays and may undergo further study to specialise in CT, MRI, ultrasound etc. I hope to eventually further my skills into MRI and CT.
Surprisingly often, I am asked why I didn't choose to study medicine. The answer to that question is that I didn't want to. Why? I am impatient and do not wish to be responsible for a person's life. I have great respect for doctors and believe that their job is both tough and necessary, therefore I wish to aid them by providing assistance as a radiographer. The impatience comes in to play with the medical study. Here in South Australia, the first step is a six year university course yet after completing the sixth year the student still isn’t fully qualified. I definitely couldn't wait that long!
What most people don't understand about radiographers is that there is more to the profession than pressing a button to take the picture. During the course we undertake studies in anatomy, physiology, pathology and physics on top of the practical aspects of our job. We emerge from university knowing not only how to use the machines but also how they work. We also see enough medical images to generally be able to pick up many pathologies, however, we are not legally qualified to diagnose patients. Therefore, if you ever are in need of an x-ray, don't expect the radiographer to inform you of the results because they won't tell you even if you ask. I'm afraid you will have to wait for the radiologist to report your images; they are qualified to do so as well as paid for it.
A large part of the university program is comprised of clinical placement. Throughout our third and fourth years we are dispatched to hospitals and clinics to practice our skills. From my experience so far I have found clinical placement to be enlightening and rewarding and I definitely feel this is the right career path for me. Of course, there are the unnerving parts of the job such as imaging patients that have recently been involved in a serious trauma situation, but in general it is very interesting. I believe that this is a career I will be proud to embark on and I will put my all in to being the best radiographer that I can be.
So that is a little about my university course and my future employment. In a couple of weeks I will have mid-year exams and my free time is dwindling by the day. Hopefully I will be able to upload a new blog post each week but if not then this is why.
Thank you for reading.
Scarlett Van Dijk
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When a writer cares passionately about their work, it's hard for them to hear it criticized. No one wants to hear that their baby is ugly, or slow, or just somehow not right. Yet, an effective critique empowers the writer who listens to it, allows them to fix problems, and develops their work. At the same time, it's necessary for a writer to stay true to their vision, and not let other people's opinions detract from the power of that vision. How do we find the balance?
I attend a regular writing critique group that's been very helpful for me. Even so, I have often walked away from meetings frustrated or angry with both the criticism I've received and the criticism directed at other writers (particularly ones I enjoy). So I've developed some strategies I think help me to gain the most advantage from the critiques I get.
1. Don't make immediate decisions. I always give myself a few days to think over whatever advice or changes other people recommend. That way I avoid immediately dismissing valid criticism (especially if the critique is valuable but perhaps the delivery was insensitive). It also keeps me from jumping too soon and throwing out or changing an important aspect of my story. Think and reflect on the advice your given before you do anything (if you're worried about forgetting the feedback, take notes, or bring extra copies of your work for others to mark on).
2.Try to separate the criticism from the critic. A stopped clock is right twice a day, and even someone you don't normally like or even respect can occasionally give you valuable feedback. Likewise, a writer you admire might point you in a direction that's totally wrong for your story. Normally, the people in my writing group bring multiple copies of their story, so people can write in comments and editing marks as they're reading. When I get my marked copies back, I deliberately mix up the pages to make it harder for me to determine who wrote what comments or markings. This forces me to consider each comment based only on whether I think it's valid or useful.
3. Consider your intended audience. When I first started writing, I worked as an eighth grade English teacher, and I wrote reader's theater plays to keep my students engaged in reading. One great thing about teenagers—they give very direct, honest, and immediate feedback, even when you don't ask them for it! Yet, that ended up being extremely valuable for me. I quickly learned what they liked, what they thought was stupid, what made them laugh. If you want to write for a specific audience like young adults, try to find readers in that audience to critique you (and if you don't know any teens or kids, or have little interest in meeting any, you probably shouldn't try to write for them).
4. Stay humble, but strong. It's important to listen to other people and consider their ideas, but remember that your writing is just that—yours. No one (at least no one in your writing group) can force you to make changes if you don't want too. The trick is to think carefully about advice or critiques people give you, even when you don't want too. (Also, see rule 1)
5. Show respect for others, and they will (usually) show it to you. If you're in a writing group, try to give people the truth with a great deal of mercy. This is hard for me, since I'm naturally a straight forward, honest to a fault type of person, but it's necessary to keep your group cohesive. Avoid unnecessary harshness, sarcasm, mockery, irony, and just plain rudeness. As the great Mary Poppins once said, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!”
Alexis Lantgen is a American musician and writer who holds a master’s degree in music performance from Florida International University, as well as a Bachelor of Music in viola performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Letters (Magna cum Laude) from the University of Oklahoma. She currently teaches private violin and viola lessons, and in the past taught eighth grade English and ESL in Dallas public schools. Her first novel is a YA Urban Fantasy about a young African American boy with special powers who must save his sister from an evil sorcerer. She hopes to finish editing and revising her manuscript this summer.
For more on Alexis, you can read her blog at http://thewiseserpent.blogspot.com/, or follow her on twitter @TheWiseSerpent (https://twitter.com/TheWiseSerpent).
So, as you probably know, SKY STONE is finished. Well at least it is until someone tells me otherwise… again. I feel like I must have revised the whole novel a hundred times and each time someone new reads it (and is honest) I am given suggestions of what I may adjust, tweak or…. Completely rewrite!
I realise I am still a beginner in this writer's world and I clearly remember the first time somebody told me something was amiss in my story. A ball of frustration formed in my gut screaming out that they had no right to criticize my book, that they should try to write a novel before nattering about mine. Idiocy of course. Those people who give us this valuable feedback, no matter how much we want the story to be perfect from the first draft, are the people who help turn our novels in to those that people want to read and will possibly be published.
If you wish for people to read your story then you need to take notice of what the readers' desire. Your beta readers, especially if they match your target audience, will inform you on whether the story meets their needs. If you are writing fiction then these needs are likely entertainment and enjoyment factors.
Your beta readers need to be trustworthy and honest people. You do not want praise as if the book had changed their lives if in truth they found the plot boring and the use of words awkward. Frequently, the people who seem to make the book bleed with the ink of their red correction pens make the best critics. Their words may sting but in the long run you'll thank these people because their help is what will make your work the best it can be.
However, you don't have to take all of their advice. Remember that you may not agree with what they tell you requires changing. It is important to take their help with an open mind and try to understand why they believe things need to be different. Then you can decide whether to make those changes.
Scarlett Van Dijk
What are your experiences with beta readers?
Here is another great article about why writers need beta readers:
When Should You Send Your Short Story Out For Critique - Karen Woodward http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/04/when-should-you-send-your-short-story.html
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A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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