Why You Are Feeling Embarrassed For Being A Writer

You are in a group — it can be your friends or it can be your family — and suddenly someone points to you and tells everyone that you are a writer. You’ll see a few eyebrows raise up, but mostly you’ll see a room full of unenthused stares. One member of the collective will turn to you and ask, “Oh yeah? What do you write?”

I rarely feel embarrassed, but it is in this very moment, the moment before I tell people about my work, where I feel the most ashamed in my choices. What do I write? A little of everything… I write stories and I write researched articles. I write press releases and I write scripts. I write emails and I write text messages. Where do I even begin?

What I tend to say is just that, “I write everything,” which is the most nothing answer one can give.

Imagine it this way. Someone asks you, “What kind of music do you like?” To which, you respond, “Oh, a little of everything.”

While that might be true, it doesn’t entice the other person to learn more about you. Instead, you are making them do all the work. Interest can fade very quickly, but here is how you can spark it rather than defuse it.

But first, let’s understand why we gave that answer in the first place.

A Writer’s Self-defense

Giving a really broad explanation like “I write everything” is a defensive response. You are afraid that the more information you give, the more it will reveal about you — opening you up — making you more vulnerable.

Let’s stick with music for a moment longer. For example, someone asked you what kind of music you liked, and you responded with, “Folk.” A potential return for that is that the other person hates folk, and they will be ready to lay down all the reasons why they hate it.

All through my life, I have encountered people that hate the stuff I like. I’m sure you have too unless you live in a really tight bubble. And I believe that if you like something, you will stand up and defend it. However, at a random social event where I’m suddenly put on the spot, I don’t feel much like standing up for my little creative projects.

“Oh what do you write?” someone will ask.

“I write short stories about travelling,” I could respond.

“Oh, I don’t like those,” people will say, “I don’t read. It’s boring… I’ll just rather go travel. I don’t care what other people think…”

Well… then… I guess I’m just an idiot. Sorry for not being able to amaze you.

Even before they have read any of your work — or even given it a chance — people can shut you down. That feeling is crushing. Suddenly you are in the middle of a group, with a stupid smile on your face, wondering where to move forward from that awkward exchange.

This, of course, happens with a lot of other creatives. When you find out that someone is an actor, you’ll ask, “Have I seen you anything you’ve done?” A wonderful guessing game that actors love. And since they aren’t Leonardo DiCaprio, they will feel awkward listing off their credits like this is some sort of audition for your approval.

Is there a way to remedy this awkward feeling, when you get put on the spot as a writer? Or after announcing your work in progress?

Yes, of course, there is.

Don’t Talk About Your Projects, Talk About Your Mission

What is the one job that gets criticized the most? The showrunner for a hit television show perhaps. Maybe… But in my mind, one of the toughest job in the world is being a politician. You are selfishly climbing ladders, but also selflessly defending causes. As a writer, you have to see yourself in much the same light. As much as you want to write the best work for yourself, it is really the influence, change, and reflection you want to cast upon the world.

It’s time to start thinking of your stories as more than just mere tales for entertainment. A good story is transcendent. It is designed to make the reader or listener think. It is designed to inspire. It is designed to make people feel empathy or find relatable. A story is here to change a life.

Think about the mission you want to accomplish by writing. Surely it is more than just selfishly being published, right?

Think of any good story and the theme, history, or moral behind it. There are only so many stories in the world after all, and most people have seen and heard them before. However, what matters and what last are those themes that remind people that beyond their own perspective there are many more — yours.

So when someone asks you what you write. Don’t be embarrassed that you are using a platform to express your thoughts. Don’t even talk about the writing itself or the story. Talk about the mission you want to accomplish with your writing. What in the world do you want to change with your words? Who are you wanting to inspire and influence?

Take a look at some of the most recent Academy Award winners for screenplay and see how most of them, when receiving their prize, don’t even talk about the craft, but rather, what they were trying to communicate.

You are not simply a writer, you are a voice for your readers, those who have chosen you and believe in your world view. The only thing is… they might not have chosen you yet. But there is still time. You are early. And that’s okay because what a pleasure it is for the people gathered around you that day at the random party to see you at such a humble state with such a bold mission.

Rehearse What to Say, The Next Time Someone Asks You What You Write

Let’s role play. Pretend that you are attending one of those many annual parties. Your friends happily introduce you to a guest you have not met before. You friend says, ”This is _____, she’s a writer.”

The guest asks, “Oh… what do you write?”

To which you respond not with details of your current work, but the objective you want your writing to have on the world. If you can’t think of what that may be… take a moment to really consider it. What do you really want your work to do?

There are many people writing about dragons, romance, and swords. There are many people writing about their last moments with their grandma or the dog from their childhood. There are many people writing about spies and seductive lovers. So don’t talk about that stuff… talk about something beyond that. What does your writing do besides attempt to entertain? Once you can find the answer to that, say it… and I’ll assure you, that you will feel less embarrassed as the guest will start to engage you in a deep conversation.

What other areas of being a writer makes you embarrassed? I’d love to hear it… if you don’t mind sharing.

If you like this article, you might consider buying me a beer, it helps to keep me writing.

Writers, Are You Missing an Opportunity to Foreshadow?

One of the early stories I wrote, I had a character who received a family heirloom from his mother early in the story. Then in the remainder of the story, we never hear about this family heirloom ever again. Looking back now I wished I could have tied the family heirloom to an event later on in the story.

Your story might have many moments like this as well: where a character, item, or place is introduced only to be completely forgotten about in the succeeding chapters.

Those are missed opportunities for foreshadowing. The item didn’t create tension in any way, and if you want to write a page-turner, you’ll have to. Yes, maybe it lets the character know a bit about his mother, it was a vessel for backstory or even a flashback, but it’s not foreshadowing.

There is a term Chekhov’s Gun, a concept introduced by Anton Chekhov which says, if you show a gun in act one, the gun needs to go off by the last act. There needs to be a payoff. That is foreshadowing. It sets the stage and prepares the readers.

If an event at the end doesn’t have a setup (such as a foreshadow), it can be jarring. For example, if I did the opposite; if I wrote that the solution to all the character’s problem was to trade his family heirloom for a million dollars, but the heirloom was never introduced. Then the story doesn’t make sense.

An effective foreshadow links two events together like a joke. A setup and a punchline.

The thing is, a good foreshadowing isn’t obvious to the reader. While reading my story, the reader can assume that the heirloom was simply an inheritance that he will treasure. However, in the third act, the heirloom will return and saves the day.

Nevertheless here is what you need to do when incorporating foreshadowing into your story.

  1. Outline first, make it subtle, don’t force foreshadowing into a story that doesn’t need it
  2. Give some distance between introducing the subject of the foreshadowing and when it is revealed. You want the readers to be aware, but not have it close enough so that they can connect the dot themselves.
  3. There must be a payoff: If there is a gun in act one, it needs to go off at some point in the story…

Want more writing tips and inspirations? Follow my writing journey on YouTube! 

Spelling and Grammar Apps Review

Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, Expresso, and After the Deadline

Some may think that using a grammar or spelling app as a writing tool is akin to using auto-tune as a singer. In a way, you’re bypassing important skills and disciplines of writing, such as having a good handle on the tools and structure of the written language.

Yet, in this day and age, to not use any given tool available would be a foolish move. It can be debated that what is important is the ideas being communicated, and if there is a way to ensure the communication doesn’t get disrupted by spelling and grammar mistakes, shouldn’t we take advantage?

Personally, I’m a proponent of spelling and grammar apps.

First off, writing is not editing. The task of an editor is a complete shift in the creation process. In a short timeline, it’s sometimes hard for a writer to make that transition. As a writer, you would want to have another set of eyes — even robot eyes — to have a look at your work before you share with your company. Additionally, writers who don’t use these apps still have access to them. It’s like walking instead of taking the bus. Yes, walking is healthier for you and you might save a few dollars, but the bus is still an option. You are by no means a hero.

With all that off my chest, I would like to share 4 free online spelling and grammar tool with you. And as a bonus, I will give a little review of them, showing off what they are capable of.

A Paragraph with A Lot of Writing Errors

In order for me to evaluate the apps, I needed a sample with as many types of errors I can think of. Inspired by the city I live in, I wrote the most heinous paragraph ever. Which, it may come as a surprise was actually pretty hard to do. Give it a try, try to purposely write a paragraph with some spelling and grammar mistakes.  

This is what I came up with:

They’re is a lot to see in Vancouver. Lets explore what there is to do. If your traveling hear on a sunny day, I recommend you go to stanley park. This park is bigger and better. It’s a beautiful place. The sea wall is enjoyed by runners and joggers every day. In the park, you can find a nice field to relax and bring a picnic to have with a friend or you can even go to the aquarium or take the horse-drawn carriage and tour the whole park. There is a much more to do in Vancouver. A historic neighbourhood, you can go to is Gastown. On a busy day there are to many tourist but if you go during off season you don’t have to worry about that people. However don’t wander aimlessly too far east or you might end up in Downtown Eastside. I insure you, that it is not where you want to be.

This is the best (and the worst) I can do apparently. Let me know what you think and if I have missed any other notable errors.

4 Spelling and Grammar Apps

Now that I have a sample, I’m going to start plugging it into the apps and websites to see what results I get.

PolishMyWriting.com (After the Deadline)

I pasted the paragraph into the text box and clicked “Check Writing” and a bunch of squiggly lines appeared beneath some of the words and phrases.

As you can see, PolishMyWriting.com missed a lot of spelling errors and the run on sentences, but picked up on complex phrases and words that could be omitted. Sort of…

Overall, this app is good for final touch ups after a more thorough edit. It missed a lot of mistakes and definitely won’t save you from embarrassment if you are relying solely on it to fix your first draft.

Hemingway App

The first notable insight that the Hemingway app provided is the readability score. As you can see, my horrible paragraph would be accessible to a third grade audience.

This app did a good job catching all the extraneous words and run-on sentences, but missed all the spelling errors. This app is definitely not a spell check and should not be relied on as such.

If you are writing content for a wide audience and want your ideas to be communicated as clearly as possible, then the Hemingway App is a great product to help you achieve that.

Grammarly

Of all the apps I’m reviewing today, Grammarly is perhaps the most popular. It’s worth mentioning that I am not looking at any of the paid versions, I am only reviewing the free version.

And here is how I feel about it:

Grammarly did a good job catching most of the spelling errors and punctuation mistakes, but was not helpful in catching passive voice, run-on sentences or vague descriptions.

If what you want from a spelling and grammar app is to double check your work as you move quickly through your draft, then Grammarly is a fantastic choice and has been one of my favourite tools.

Expresso App

The Expresso App is an interesting product because it is not designed to help you correct errors but help you understand certain trends that might be appearing in your writing.

This app has a lot of details and can be a little confusing to use especially if you are not too confident with spelling or grammar in the first place. I recommend clicking into each category individually and understanding why this word or phrase is highlighted. Not every highlight is a suggestion to change, it’s more or less just telling you why it’s noted for you to consider.

Paste some of your writing in and see if you can spot any notable and you get to decide how you want to use that information. Good luck.

There you have it, those are 4 free spelling and grammar apps that can assist you as you write. My personal favourite is Grammarly because they offer a Chrome Plugin. What’s yours?

Are there other apps or tools that you are using? I’d love to check it out. Please share.

For more tips on editing your writing, check out this YouTube playlist: Editing Your Epic Novel

How to Write a Page-turner like Game of Thrones and Goosebumps

Have you ever read a Goosebump book by R.L. Stine? Maybe when you were a kid? Remember how they were structured? At the end of every chapter, there is a cliffhanger. You know, to keep your young mind reading.

R.L. Stine was a master at doing this, however, as we got older, we became more suspect — you can only trick us so many times with a “sound coming from behind a door” page-turning trick, and have it turn out to be a cat or something else inconsequential.

Example:

Last line in Chapter 26: I suddenly felt a chill. A dark shadow slid over me. And I realized I wasn’t alone in the house.

 

First paragraphs of Chapter 27: I spun around with a gasp.

Was it Shockro? Some other scary creature?

A tall figure leaned over me. I squinted in the darkness, struggling to see his face.

“Dad?”  I cried as he came into focus. “Dad I’m so glad to see you.”

-Shocker on Shock Street – RL Stine

goosebumps

You can do better. Yes, better than RL Stine.

When you write your compelling story, you can structure it in much of the same way as a Goosebump book. A cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. However, not every cliffhanger should be life or death. There needs to be a variety. You need to balance it.

 

The 10-Episode Structure

The structure I want to share with you today is taken from modern day 10-episode-seasons-television series, such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

At the end of every one of these episodes, you get emotionally invested. You have to keep watching. It’s not even a question. However, the only reason that you are emotionally attached to the story is that each chapter or episode itself has a Freytag’s pyramid to build up the tension.

When it is done well and when you reach the end — call it a cliffhanger or call it a hook, either way — you are hanging on until the very end of the season (for an ultimate hook that gets you anticipating the next one).

So like a novel, a television season has a story arch. From episode 1 to episode 10, John Snow or Walter White goes through an inevitable and surprising change.

What’s interesting is the way each episode when pulled out of the rest, can be analyzed and found to have its own story arch.

So you have the season’s story arch, which spans all 10 episodes and looks something like this:

story archAnd, each episode within itself will have its own story arch. Like this.

story arch10So each episode should begin with an inciting incident, followed by a raising action, culminating in a climax, and then a denouement where you can hint at the next inciting incident, which is why we never return to the same level of drama as the beginning. Things have changed.

Take, season one of Game of Thrones. I use this example because this season is as close to the book as you will find in any adaptation.

There are two main stories happening:

A) Ned becoming the hand of the king

B) Dany becoming Khal Drogo’s wife.

 

Game of Thrones (Season One) Endings Breakdown

Episode one: We start off by introducing all the characters and what their objectives are. Robert Baratheon arrives and encourages Eddard to leaves Winterfell. And that is the main conflict in the episode, will Ned leave his life or not. We find out that he does, and the episode ends with Bran getting pushed out of the castle window by Jamie. That is an epic cliffhanger.

Each episode after that offers a little more details and increases the stakes. Each ending with another cliffhanger.

love

Episode 2 ends with Bran waking up (oh no, is he going to reveal who pushed him?)

Episode 3 ends a shot of Ned watching Arya train, the sounds of real blades clashing, echoing in his head. (uh oh, he’s getting worried… what’s going to happen to him)

Episode 4 ends with Catelyn Stark arresting Tyrion Lannister in a tavern, accusing him of being the one who hired the assassin to kill Bran, concealing the Lannister’s secret. (this is surely a mistake, but is it?)

Episode 5 ends with a battle between Ned and Jamie out on the streets, Jamie has discovered that his brother has been captured. Ned ends up being stabbed in the knee.

Episode 6 ends with the B story about Daenerys in Essos. Remember what I said about building cliffhangers with variety. This is what’s happening, now it follows another character. The Dorathkis give her brother a golden crown, pouring gold on his head, thus freeing her from Viserys. And so the plot thickens on that end.

crown

Episode 7 ends with Joffrey claiming the throne after his father’s death and Ned accusing Joffrey of not being the rightful heir. Thus watches his men get slaughtered and Ned arrested for treason. (at this point, we still think Ned is the good guy and he can surely get out of this mess).

Episode 8 ends with Sansa begging mercy for her father to Joffrey. And Joffrey seems reasonable, offering that all Ned will have to do is confess his crime. (oh good, surely Ned will come to his senses)

Episode 9 ends with Ned having his head chopped off. (this is probably the most intense cliffhanger in the history of television.)

Episode 10 ends with Daenerys’ dragons hatching in the fire of Khal Drogo’s pyre.

dragon

End of season 1.

In the end, the story we set out to understand is made clear. We find out about Ned Stark’s journey as the hand of the king and we find out Daenerys experience as Khal Drogo’s wife, a Khaleesi. But as two stories are resolved, many more are revealed.

 

Exercise

Once you have the first draft of your story, you can start breaking it apart like a television series. Finding the micro story arch within the macro story. Once you have that you can create little cliffhangers at the end of each chapter or part, increasing the stakes each time.

Give this exercise a try and let me know how it turns out in the comments.

If you found this article helpful, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Why You Should Write More Than You Need

IMG_09091

I come from an acting background and the dogma that I had entering any audition was to give more the first time.

What do I mean when I say “give more”? I mean overdoing it a little, hamming it up, being more emotional, more passionate, more vocal than what the script calls for. I put it all on the plate — like at an all-you-can-eat buffet during the last call — and then letting some spill off. I do this because it is easier for the directors, producers, and fellow actors to tell me to dial it back as opposed to adding more after.

If I come into the scene with subtleties and that is not what the director wants, then it is more challenging for me to increase the levels or expand the emotions, especially on the spot. It’s always easier to cut or reduce than to fill or to add, especially on the spot. Always give more the first time.

Of course, this theory can be applied to many aspects of life and other professions. As a writer, I will give my editors more. If they ask for 500 words, I’ll give 600. From there, they can trim. You can’t style hair that isn’t there, and you can cut what is not written.

For more tips on editing your writing, check out this YouTube playlist: Editing Your Epic Novel

How to Get a Job as A Content Writer

 

Becoming a content writer has not only helped me pay the bills as a young writer, but also introduced me to many fascinating and talented people, allowed me to contribute on some exciting, thought-provoking (and at times, very challenging) projects, and empowered me to develop skills in a craft that I enjoy.

Whether you are thinking of pursuing a path in professional writing or are looking for a stepping stone towards becoming a marketer, becoming a content writer is a journey that leads through many terrains.

In this article, I will highlight some notable steps that I took led me to where I am now. It’s hard to say which steps will take you the farthest, but if you put in the work and take the opportunities that come along, you never know where you would end up.

 

Go to school

This seems like a dumb tip, but hear me out. I’m not saying that you should go to school to get a degree and be in debt. I’m saying that you should go to school so you can meet likeminded people, practice your craft in a safe environment, share your work with industry professionals, and participate in councils, event planning organizations, and clubs that are in need of your specific skill set.

It was at Douglas College where I worked at the student newspaper, the Other Press. It was there, as a staff writer, where I had to turn in work every week that I learned to hone my craft and start thinking of myself as a professional. I made a lot of mistakes there, but luckily, there were safety nets and supports for me to do so.

For that very reason, I would encourage you to start your content writing journey by attending a few courses and getting involved with the student body.

 

Start your own blog

The fact that you are reading this means that it worked… somewhat. Starting your own blog, to me, is the most important step in becoming a writer in the modern world. There are still many print publications that are seeking writers, but many organizations that require content and copy are online or in digital formats.

Author and serial entrepreneur, James Altucher often speaks about choosing yourself. In the beginning, you are going to face a lot of rejections, especially as you try to get your work published on “legitimate” and “credible” sites with high traffic numbers. That is going to take work, but until then, it is critical that you stay positive, keep active, and choose yourself.

A blog is in your control. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t sharing the content and nobody is reading it. What matters is that you have a place to start practicing, getting into the habit of publishing regular content, and developing a portfolio.

When an employer does come knocking at your door and asks if you have any samples, you can easily pull out a few links on your blog and share it.

If you detest the idea of starting your own website for some reason, you can start writing on a platform such as Medium.

 

Outreach to other content writers 

This step is going to take a bit of courage and may come across as spammy if you do it without tact. The main goal of this step is to put yourself out in the world, claim that this is what you want to do, and get on the radar of those that are currently doing it.

Content writers are not celebrities… well, some are, but most aren’t. And if you reach out to them with a genuine interest in their work and process, they will happily respond to you. This is a great way to stay active on your path to getting the job you want.

Research companies that you are interested in. Find blog posts, land pages, email copy, etc. that you enjoy. Find out who wrote it. A few clicks should reveal the answer, if not, contacting the support@email.com of the business never hurts.

You can also use a tool called hunter.io to discover email contacts of different businesses. The way I did it was through LinkedIn. Say what you will about LinkedIn, but some of my earliest opportunities came from that platform.

 

Pitch to online media or business blogs

This is where it starts getting real. At the start, you want to start developing a portfolio with some notable publications that have published your work. These can be online media outlets or a blog from a business in an industry you are interested in.

Yes, you can certainly continue writing cover letters and sending in your resume, but if that is all you are doing, you are not developing, you are not improving. Don’t wait until you get hired to start working. Have a freelancer mindset right away, because simply put, you should never allow yourself to get too comfortable. Even when you get that sweet salary job as a content writer, there is still a lot of room to grow. It’s important to have that mindset at the start and commit to the hustle.

Start by creating a list of places you want to contribute. Read the publications and start typing in your own ideas. Do a quick search with the publication name with keywords from your idea in Google just to confirm that it hasn’t been written about yet. Then start writing your pitch. Pretend like you are on their payroll and you need to come up with 5 ideas every month or if you are wild, every week.

If your ideas and writing are good, then they’d be stupid not to hire you or at least give you a good reference as you continue your job hunt.

 

Meet with other creatives

Why would you care what designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, painters, and anyone else is doing? Well, they probably need a writer in their life and they don’t even know it yet.

This world is interconnected and all creatives are linked together. Often designers are desperate to find a writer to help them fill out a website or a poster. Where do they go? They can go onto Fiver, sure, or solicit their network and see who they find. You need to be in the network.

Plus other creatives are usually cool people that you yourself can draw a lot of inspiration from.

 

Profile new companies

This last method is near and dear to my heart because it is the one that landed me my first salary job. I don’t know if it will work for you, but if I got something out of it, surely you can replicate it.

New companies want attention. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, they are desperate to get the word out. They need writers. They need you to help tell their stories. When new companies send out press releases, respond to them. Get an interview with the CEO and learn about the mission.

Every company has a problem they are aiming to solve with a unique selling point. Show them that you understand what they are trying to accomplish and then write a piece about them and share it wherever you can if you can’t get it published on a local publication… which I’m pretty sure you can if you tried.

This is your foot in the door. Here is where a profile can turn into an internship, into a contracting job, and into a full-time position.

For fun, here is the post that started it all for me.

 

Content writing is not a glamorous job. It’s a job for those who are hungry to learn, enjoy the act of constantly creating, and evaluating the performance of their work in the world. It’s for those who are always seeking to grow.

Good luck on your path. I’m confident that you can make it. If you are seeking any advice, please do hesitate to leave a message in the comments.

 

Why I Love Sad Movies

Sad movies, like horror movies, can ruin someone’s day or cause sleepless nights. I understand that. I have a theory for why that happens. In order to do that, I must tell you about why I enjoy sad movies. I even feel that sad movies are my favourite kind, yet like eating smelly delicious fish, I cannot always enjoy it with other people.

We watch movies to escape, to bring ourselves to a world we don’t currently occupy. A good movie can change our mood and give us a jolt of empathy — reminding us of the values of life.

I have a natural emotion. This emotion is where I am the most comfortable. It’s my resting emotion. And like a resting bitch face, it’s not the best emotion, not because it’s bad but because there is no such thing as the best emotion.

It’s the default — and that emotion is anger. I’m a naturally angry person. I cannot help it. It’s simply my natural state. It’s the emotion I turn to most naturally.  

When I choose a movie to watch, sometimes I want to fuel that anger with a hard-hitting documentary about social injustice or animal cruelty. However, more often, I want the movie to take me to another realm, an emotion I seldom feel.

I’m not a psychologist, but with a bit of self-evaluating, I feel that this is my emotional exposure. Please see here, the emotion triangle of my life.

Emotional triangle

The circle represents me and my natural state of anger. It’s just the way I am… kind of angry. However, the next most common emotion that I feel is happiness. It’s not too hard to get me to feel happy. I almost sway between anger and happiness most days. Head off to get a beer: happy. Wait in line longer than I want: anger. You can relate, I’m sure. These two emotions yin and yang with each other all day long, allowing me to acknowledge the state of the world and my gratitude within it.

Fear is not an uncommon feeling, but it’s not as prevalent, which I am thankful for. Being fearful all the time would be exhausting. However, if I want to feel sad… that is a bit of an uphill battle for me in day-to-day life. It’s most certainly an emotion I put on the top shelf, sometimes forgotten about.

A sad movie allows me to get to that place I am privileged enough to not have to visit on an hour-to-hour basis.

There is this idea that happiness is a good emotion, while all the other ones are bad emotions. But there is no such thing as good or bad emotions. People need to feel the whole spectrum to continue being healthy people.

That is why I watch sad movies. That is why I genuinely enjoy sad movies. That is why as a creator, I need to understand which emotion I want to trigger. What is the ideal audience feeling when they walk in and how the can satisfy their emotional needs? It’s an intimate proposition, but that is what good content can do. It can take you to a place you seldom go to.

Try this exercise. Plot your emotions into the circle/triangle diagram, and ask these questions:

  • Which emotion do you think is your natural state?
  • Which emotion do you think you can evoke easily?
  • Finally, which emotion have you put on your top shelf?

In order to prepare yourself for that feeling, so that it doesn’t feel unfamiliar and you get out of practice in how you should respond to it, watch a movie that will bring you there… enjoy it. Feel the feels.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out this one about 3 heartbreaking novels that you should read: Investing in Friends: Three Heartbreaking Books About Loyalty

5 Tips for Writing Flashbacks

Writing flashbacks is a lot of fun when drafting up a new story. You get to discover aspects of a character that you wouldn’t if you are following them in a chronological storyline.

Flashbacks are a great way to understand what emotional or physical experiences someone in your story had gone through in the past to make them who they are in the present-day story. However, a simple flashback can also open up a black hole sucking you into another plot that you were not expecting.

Telling the history of a character may involve a new setting, a new cast of characters, and a whole new objective and storyline. Whenever you jump backward in a story, follow these five times, to ensure that you are staying focused on what you want to tell, and not a completely different one that just so happened to involve the same character. Nevertheless, sometimes if the pen is flowing, get it all down on paper.

Here are 5 tips to writing a flashback that gives your reader the information they need without losing track of the storyline:

  1. Know what is leading to the flashback: is it a memory of an item? Is it a conversation with an old friend?
  2. Know the duration of your flashback: is it going to linger on one event? Or will it extend further?
  3. Know what relevant details to have in the flashback: was the scenery different, were there different music, how have things changed or not changed? Why does the audience need to know this?
  4. Know why flashback isn’t a part of the main story.
  5. Know if your story can live without the flashback. After you finish writing your first draft, remove the flashback and see how it reads.

A flashback is something that can be fodder for another tale… so don’t resist it. Recognize it.

Want more writing tips and inspirations? Follow my writing journey on YouTube! 

5 Tips for Writing on Vacation

There is a surprisingly lot of downtime while traveling, but writing is also a lot of work. In transit or after a long day of excursion, you might not have the energy to sit down and write.

But that is because you are thinking of writing a big story. You are thinking you need to sit down and craft a whole novel. You don’t! Vacation time is not the time to immerse yourself in a new project, and it’s a bad idea to pack your epic work and bring it with you on your trip. The trip itself is the project, what you need to do is document it.

Yes, if you really wanted to you can most certainly piece together the first draft on your trip, but what I want to talk about is filling the well.

In our day to day lives, we are pulling water from the well. This is our creative inspiration, these are our experiences, these are our energy and motivation, these are conversations and ideas. We fetch water from this well every time we meet someone new or sit down to a blank page. Eventually, we find ourselves saying the same things or expressing the same ideas over and over again in the same way.  

Vacation and traveling is a good time to pause the fetching and begin the filling. Here’s another metaphor for writing while traveling, it’s more about collecting dots — then when you are home and you have the lazy Saturdays to get to work, that is time to connect them.

So how do you collect these dots? Here are 5 tips that will help you get your ideas down on paper while traveling.

Find Alone Time 

If you are traveling with companions, you will need to find not only time but alone time. It’s hard to write in the middle of dinner, during an excursion, or while everyone is watching you. So find 15-30 minutes here or there to jot down your thoughts. This can be early in the morning while you are out grabbing breakfast and coffee or while everyone is getting ready to head out for the night, find a few moments to make a drink, chill and do a bit of writing.

Take Pictures and Record Videos

Even if you aren’t carrying a camera, with a smartphone, you can capture a moment — not in the same way your memory will, but you can definitely get some of the physical details recorded. Then when you get back to a writing spot or even when you return home, you can reference those pictures and videos to help expand your writing.

Free Write

Don’t think too much about plot or character development — or the end result. With only a short amount of time to write before you have to head out for the day or crash for the night, you’d want to make the most of the time you have. This is the time to simply get the idea on paper. Make a habit to dump your thoughts, once a day or a few times a week.

Don’t Worry About Technology or Organization

I prefer writing in a notebook when I’m traveling. It’s much easier to deal with than lugging around a laptop. You want to be able to write in a moments notice, so none of that booting up the computer shit. I also try not to worry too much about the organization or have one clear thought going from page to page. I jot down my thoughts and ideas at the moment with a goal for me to reflect on later. If you bring technology with you, you are adding another layer of friction, which may slow your writing process down. Nevertheless, if you are writing captions for your Instagram post, that still counts as writing 😉

Remind Yourself You’re a Writer

It’s easy to go on vacation and completely forget your goals. You stop exercising, you eat more, you party harder. Yes, you paid a lot of money to enjoy your trip and if you don’t want to write, don’t! If you feel like you might miss out on something fun, don’t write right then and there, go enjoy the experience. There is nothing worse than being on vacation and feeling like you should be doing something else, like work. It’s all about a frame of mind. Be in the moment. You are a writer whether you write one word or a thousand words. It’s like sleep if you force it, it won’t come, soon if you are a writer, you’ll long to return to the pages.

There you have it. Bring a notepad on your next trip and jot down your thoughts. Don’t worry about what it can become. Collect dots and fill the well.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube! 

Safe journeys!

How to Spell Definitely | Common Spelling Mistakes

Back when I was in film school, I was a big deal. At least, I acted like a big deal. I had all these wonderful ideas for stories, and now and then, my scripts would be picked to move into production.

As a young filmmaker, there was nothing better than seeing your vision come to life… except for the fact that a simple misspelling can often ruin the impact of a line or description and assault your credibility — thus leading to embarrassment — and definitely was a word that I would misspell often.

Definietly

Defineity

Definantly

Definetly

… and on and on.

Thanks to auto-correct, I never really understood where my error was. I knew there were some ‘i’s and ‘e’s, but I didn’t know where they went… sometimes I even thought there was an ‘a’ in there.

I finally decided to examine why I kept spelling this word wrong. Was it me? Was it the word? Was it a little of both?

Then I tried something, instead of simply writing the word and hoping I would nail it. I decided to stop and say it out loud.

If you speak with any editor, they will tell you that reading out loud is one of the most basic methods of catching errors such as typos and grammar.

That was when I realized, I was jumbling up the syllables at the end of ‘definitely’. By mumbling the end of the word, my brain was not able to comprehend what letters are actually there and in which order.

The word that once confused me, now made sense structurally. There were no silent letters trying to trip me up. Like many words, it was logical. It wasn’t trying to be fancy. Yes, due to its nature, it’s still a tricky word to spell, but it’s much less of an inigma now… sorry enigma.

Sounding out words doesn’t always work when trying to spell, but sometimes it does. As we grow as writers and keep adding vocabulary to our arsenal, we must remember to keep our tools sharpen and not constantly rely on autocorrect to save us, because autocorrect might not always know what we are actually talking about. One of the oldest tools is saying the word out loud. Are you seeing a lot of red lines under a specific word? Pronounce it and see if it helps. 

Thanks for reading. I’m documenting my writing journey here and on YouTube. Please join me as we become “legitimate” writers together.