Aborted Creativity Serves No One

Writing for writing’s sake is marvelous so long as the writer isn’t in denial about his or her dreams. Most writers, whether we admit it or not, want our creations to be recognizably dynamic, in the private sphere as well as for a broader readership. We write because we want to communicate. When fear of playing to an audience or facing an audience upon completion keeps us from ever developing our work, everyone loses. The writer never experiences the wild ride of revision, nor receives revision’s gifts. No readers benefit. Aborted projects may lead to energizing new projects, but aborted creativity serves no one.

 

from “Living Revision” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

 

 

How Do You Find Influencers?

How do you find influencers who can make a difference to you? Here are five tips to find the people who are having an impact in your field:

 

  1. Use BuzzSumo’s free influencer search tool. You can use keywords and find Twitter handles of accounts sharing similar keyword-related content. Filters let you sort results by reach, authority, influence, and engagement.
  2. Try Followerwonk, a free app on Rand Fishkin’s Moz site. This tool lets you search Twitter users based on keywords in their bios and sort results based on their number of followers and social authority.
  3. Twellow is a very useful site that can help you build your audience in several ways. It allows you to search influencers by industry and breaks down results based on location, subject matter, and profession. Another way to find possible influencers by location is to Google it. For example, searching for “mommy bloggers in Pittsburgh” would return lists of top bloggers in the area.
  4. Check out industry-related conferences and scan the speaker list. These are likely to be well-known and influential leaders in your field.
  5. Hashtag research can help you identify influencers with similar interests. Search for a topical hashtag (like #organicfood, #librarian, or #electricalengineer, for example) on Google, Twitter, and Instagram to find others interested in a topic. Dig a little deeper to look at how many followers they have, the engagement they get on their posts, and what kind of content they publish.

 

Once you’ve created a list of influencers, it’s time to start finding ways to connect with them. Don’t “pitch” influencers. Befriend them.

 

from “Known” by Mark Schaefer

 

 

True Faith…. Do You Have It!

– by Alfreda Branch Jones

 

Faith, one of the most talked about words all over the world!  Most people can quote the famous Hebrew 11: 1.  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, like their address or birth date, yet when ask how do you know that you have “True Faith”, they began to tell you things like, well I love God, or I can’t see Jesus, but I trust Him!  However, neither of the two mentioned statements truly determines if one has “True Faith”!

 

So how do you really know for certain if you have “True Faith”?  Are there any sure-fire signs that can be witness by others or by one’s self?  Well, I am glad these questions have been asked, because the answer is yes!  First, I must say this, that “True Faith” is an ever-growing power and should be continuously prayed for on a regular basis, if not daily!  Try saying this “Lord please increase my Faith”, and sincerely mean it!

 

So here are a few tell-tell signs that you and others can be absolutely certain that one definitely has “True Faith”!  Our world appears to be totally out of control, and yet, you wake up happy, and looking forward to all seeing the beauty of the day unfold!  So, many are being killed, and you are not afraid to move about and enjoy life freely, because you have faith the God will shield and protect you!  Matter-of-fact, you have come to say things like, “I don’t have to worry about anything, because I had a talk with God and He promise to work everything out for the good of those who love Him, I am going to sleep!  2.  You began to quote statements like, I don’t care how things look right now, God can do anything, and nothing will make you change your mind!  3. You have become a witness for God, in the name of Jesus, that there is no failure in God, and everything is already alright!  4.  Even though death has knocked on your love one’s door, you can truly say, I know that God will see me through!  5.  You stop believing and come to know that according to God’s Will all shall manifest.  6.  Every single day you have joy and a smile on your face because you know what God can do!  7.  You have tried your faith and found out that it works, and nothing can make you doubt it!  8. True Faith has taught you how to consult God on all things!  9.  You at Peace regardless of what is going on!

 

Sure, I could go on and on, because “True Faith” is never ending!   I do hope that  what I have written, has also helped you determine if you have “True Faith”, or if the faith that you do have needs to be fine-tuned by seeking the word of God and developing you’re relationship with Him!

Flash Fiction 101

 

By S.D. Grimm

 

Fiction in a Flash

 

In the simplest terms, flash fiction is a story in 1,000 words or less. Yep. A whole story—any genre—in less than approximately four double- spaced pages.

 

You might wonder it it’s possible to write a story in under 1,000 words, and I’m here to tell you that it is. I’ve read flash fiction pieces in as little as six words before. If you think that’s tough, consider micro fiction, a story in under 500 words; or nano fiction, a story in under 100 words or less. But don’t be discouraged. Once you understand the basics of how to write flash fiction, I think you’ll want to try it out. Just be careful; writing flash fiction can be like eating potato chips—good luck stopping at just one.

 

No Flash in the Pan

 

Who doesn’t love a good story? Remember sitting around the campfire or at a slumber party and staying up late to listen to ghost stories? People love stories, and sometimes, they don’t want to read a huge novel or watch a two-hour movie. There is a whole audience out there of people who want to be able to read something on the go—on their mobile devices even.

 

There is an audience out there that is craving flash fiction.

 

Who can write flash fiction? You can!

 

As a flash fiction editor, I’m going to break down the fundamentals of what makes up “good” flash fiction for you and give you some tricks of the trade so you can write flash fiction.

 

Ten Components of Good Flash Fiction

 

  1. Structure

Just like any narrative, flash fiction needs a beginning, middle, and end.

A clear story goal, a.k.a. plot.

Well-developed hero and villain, whether it’s man vs man, man vs self, man vs nature, etc.

Setting

 

But unique to Flash Fiction:

 

You’re not going to have subplots. There just isn’t room in something so short. So focus on one plot and one main conflict. Conflict is the heart and soul of a story, and the main conflict needs to appear in a flash fiction piece pretty much immediately.

 

Another thing you don’t want to overdo are scene changes and pointof- view switches. It can be done, and I’ve seen it done successfully, but when editing and rewriting, ask yourself if the change is really necessary. Often it will just complicate the plot in ways that don’t enhance the story.

 

  1. Hook

In a novel, the opening hook is that first scene that draws the reader into a new world. Many times flash fiction will play out its entire story in one scene. So the hook here is the opening sentence. It should set the tone for the story as well as introduce your reader to your character and give an inkling of the main conflict (if it doesn’t delve right into the main conflict). I’ve heard it said that novelists have 250 words to hook a reader. In flash, that’s one quarter of a long story. Other stories might even be done already. You have to grab readers’ attention in the opening line and never let go. If a reader puts down your flash piece, it’s the death sentence.

 

  1. Tension

It’s that “what’s going to happen next” factor. Great storytellers create tension in every scene. When you write flash fiction, there needs to be tension in every sentence. Each sentence needs to move the story forward. Imagine if you can craft a story in which you have tension in every line. Think of how that will improve your writing.

 

  1. Tight Writing

Every word counts when you have so few. So here are a few tips for using words effectively: Backload sentences. This means putting an important, resonating, or strong word or phrase at the end of a sentence. So instead of saying, “She noticed the dagger in his hand,” try “He carried a dagger.” Use dynamic verbs. Tight writing forces you to rethink using those pesky verbs of being in exchange for something stronger, punchier. Instead of “broke” how about “shattered” or “snapped” or “crushed”? These different verbs each convey a more specific form of breakage that will make a reader’s mental image sharper.

 

Pick specific nouns. Instead of “car” try “Volvo” or “Mustang.” Or how about “Dachshund” in place of “dog”? Again, specific images are invoked. Use adjectives and adverbs in their most powerful form: sparingly. Instead of a huge, puffy, white cloud, pick one. Or pick something different: a cotton-ball cloud.

 

Watch those passive-aggressive-voice sentences. They often require more words. By using strong verbs in active sentences, you will keep your word count low and the reader moving through the story.

 

Beware, though. Tight writing doesn’t always mean you should choose the shortest possible sentences. Slipping into telling mode (instead of showing) for the sake of using less words isn’t going to make the story strong. And be careful that you don’t overload with adverbs for the sake of conciseness. You still have to SHOW your action, your emotion and your conflict. Flash isn’t about sacrificing good writing for fewer words. It’s an art all its own.

 

  1. Creative Title

I’ve said every word counts, which includes titles. They don’t count as part of your limited word count, but that doesn’t mean it’s a chance to get verbose. Pick something clever or that has a double meaning. Maybe the tile will be a red herring or give readers an extra tidbit about the story. Load your title with subtext whenever possible.

 

For example, I once wrote a flash piece titled Fearfully and Wonderfully. The theme of the story was about how everyone is different and beautiful in their own way. The plot was about the main character’s death and how afraid she was, but that she ended up not needed to be so afraid because she wasn’t alone—the person with her helped her find the beauty even in her passing. I thought the title played with both of those meanings. Another example is a story titled Mirror, Mirror. Since it was a take on a retelling of the famous Snow White tale, the title helped readers make that connection before they even started reading.

 

Those kinds of hints can ground readers in context, or help the story resonate after they read it and the title brings extra meaning.

 

  1. Setting

Every story needs a setting. It’s easy to think that with a limited word count, setting is a throw away, but it’s not. Readers need a sense of place and time and of who is in the room. Revert back to those deliberate nouns and pick and choose your adjectives carefully.

 

You can zero in on a specific part of the setting—like a vine crawling up a flagpole out of an abandoned playground’s crumbled asphalt. Those are specific details that give a broad sense of setting: abandoned, new life, or possibly something choking life from something else. Imagery in setting is so full of subtext. Use that to your advantage in flash fiction when you can. And make your setting a character. Not just a place card for your characters.

 

  1. Character and POV

As I mentioned earlier, you need a clear hero and villain. Just like in other forms of storytelling, you need to make sure your characters aren’t boring, cookie-cutter, cardboard, people. Make them real. Breathe life into them.

 

In flash fiction, you want a small cast of characters. Large casts are warranted if you’re writing in a genre like epic fantasy. Not in flash. You don’t have time to introduce a huge cast and still have room for plot. After you’ve settled on your short list of characters, choose your POV carefully. You’ll probably only have one. Who will have the most to lose? The highest stakes? That’s your POV character. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I once wrote a piece in which the POV character was a snowflake.

 

  1. Backstory

Every story has backstory. But the thing about backstory is that it already happened and doesn’t need to be explained. Needed information should come out naturally in the story and only as the reader needs to know. You do not have time in your flash pieces to dump a bunch of BS (backstory, people!) at the beginning and then get on with your story. Flash forces you to weave in the things your reader needs to know organically.

 

  1. Emotional Investment

All great fiction connects with readers on an emotional level. That’s what they’re looking for. Flash is no exception. This is why you need to show and not tell those emotional experiences. For example, not: “Harry gritted his teeth in determination.” Instead, simply write: “Harry gritted his teeth.” The context will let me know why, and what emotion he’s feeling. Readers don’t want to be told how to feel. They want to feel it with the character. Sometimes naming an emotion has its place, but showing the emotions builds a better connection with the readers. The limited word count of a Flash Fiction piece makes emotional investment even more imperative.

 

  1. Twist

Unique to flash fiction is the twist ending. A lot of stories have a twist at the end, but it’s always a part of flash fiction. You’d think it would make the story predictable, and that’s where the fun of writing it comes in. The twist doesn’t always happen at the end, but it should be near the end. It makes the end satisfying and hard-striking. The whole story leads up to that moment, and it’s so perfectly set up and veiled at the same time. You’re pulling the blindfold off the reader, but having them nod and say, “Yes! I— Yes, this is exactly how it should have been! I should have seen it coming!”

 

from “Jot That Down; Encouraging Essays for New Writers” edited by A. L. Rogers

 

 

Stimulating Creativity

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way offers a lot of good ideas for stimulating creativity. One of the most helpful for me is the artist’s date: once a week doing something for and with yourself that feeds your creative side. It should be fun, and it should be good for your creativity; beyond that there are no rules. I don’t always keep a weekly date, but I use the artist’s date as an excuse to make regular trips to downtown Chicago-a bus ride for me-and wander museums, galleries or offbeat shops that make me stop and experience others’ creativity. Sometimes I take myself to a movie matinee, or I shop for a book and then go to lunch. Sometimes I simply spend extra time reading what I really like, or I rent a movie that offers inspiration or information concerning the work I’m writing. For instance, the atmosphere created in Fried Green Tomatoes gives me a creative boost when I write fiction set in a rural locale. Sometimes my date involves a thermos of tea and a leisurely walk along the lakefront. Nature is good for my soul, and during the warmer months I make dates to spend time in nearby parks and beside lagoons.

 

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

 

 

The Basic Ingredient

Genuine, openhearted engagement—what Brenda Ueland calls “interestingness”—is the basic ingredient of a fruitful creative process. Because of this, stories are essentially egalitarian in nature, meaning that each and every one of us ordinary people who writes has the capacity to move a reader. Have you ever sat through a memorial service at which a grieving grandchild read a coarse but genuine rendering of the departed one’s life and set everyone weeping? Have you ever received a card that touched you so profoundly you saved it for years? When I taught seventh grade, my struggling students always floored me with their poetry; it was raw and real because they put their hearts into it and spoke the truth. They didn’t yet have the self-consciousness or ambitions that trip most of us up.

Talent and skill and craft and effort will all increase the effectiveness of our writing, but the essential ingredients for stirring a reader’s heart are available to everyone who loves writing: curiosity, dedication, and courage. Much of the work of learning to write effectively involves stripping away all that interferes with our natural inclinations to explore, and expanding our capacity to recognize and name the truth. 5

 

from “Living Revision” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

 

 

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