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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Literature sometimes feels like medicine writing. You know you should read it. But sometimes it just feels like cod liver oil in book form.

Literature

What is it about literature? From the classic to the lowbrow, it permeates our lives. As writers, we might appreciate it more than others do.

Reading to Write

First of all, whenever people ask about how to best develop their writing chops, inevitably they are told two things. One of these is to read extensively. Hence if you are following this, you are already halfway there. And it does not have to be classics. It does not have to be Silas Marner or the like. You can be voraciously reading YA, or bodice rippers. It does not matter.

As a writer, examine the work. How does the author pull you from one chapter to the next? Or how does she start? How does the story end? Are the supporting characters as interesting as the lead(s)? Or do they take over? Or are they cardboard cutouts? Do you ever lose the suspension of disbelief?

Writing to Write

The other standard piece of writing advice is: write a lot. And you can do that with any form of literature. Hence take whatever you just read. Flip the POV (point of view) and rewrite it. Gender swap. Figure out what happens after ‘The End’, when the curtain comes down. Decide what happened before the story started. Write a back story for a supporting character, or even a bit player.

So if the work is in the public domain, then you might even be able to publish your work. Yet if it’s not, then treat it like any fan fiction and use it as a learning experience. Since you can’t publish fan fiction, why not consider how to further alter your new piece? Maybe you can convert it to something more wholly original. Because you might even be able to publish it.

Takeaways From Literature

Since so much of writing is structural, why not pick apart someone else’s work? Because if they have been published, then someone liked their work enough to take a chance on it. Finally, a peek behind the curtain can also show you where even great works falter. And that can be comforting if you ever doubt your own abilities.

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Writing

Writing – Starting a Piece

Background – Starting a Piece

Starting can be fraught with stress and worry. You can, at times, wonder if what you’re doing is worthwhile at all. But don’t worry; it is.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill - Starting a Piece
Starting a piece? Here are some ideas of how to get going.

One year I created a kind of web. I had the main character and put her name in a circle on paper. Then I drew a bunch of lines radiating out. I connected her to other characters and then, on the lines, wrote why they connected – whatever it was (and she didn’t have to connect to everyone, of course). That got me to start creating scenes, and I ordered them. Some ended up just being little scenelets. I did this with all of the major characters and eliminated redundancies. Once I had the order down, I started to think about transitions between scenes.

Points of View

This web concept worked very well for a story with one main character. For The Real Hub of the Universe series, Ceilidh was always the center of things and everything would happen from her point of view. If she did not directly witness something, she would have to read about it or learn about it in some other fashion. Sometimes this meant that another character would have to have a conversation with her.

Multiple POVs

For a piece with multiple points of view, the process can differ. This time, the web is more like a series of intersecting rings. How do characters relate? What do they see, feel, and hear, touch and taste? Who do they know, or like, or despise? What are their goals? What are their prejudices? With Mettle, there are nine separate points of view, although some of them (like Eleanor’s) aren’t the focus too often. Instead, characters with more “screen time”, such as Nell, Craig, and Elise, had to do more of the heavy lifting. One thing which helped a great deal (and it was serendipity, I swear!) was that one of the major plot points concerned lessons which the middle schooler characters had not yet had. Therefore, a part of the exposition became teaching them. As they were taught, so was the reader.

This is one of the reasons why so many television programs kick off with someone moving or getting a new job, or the start of a relationship. Newness is appealing, yes, but it’s also because that gives an expository “out”. If everyone in the book or TV show knows how high Niagara Falls is, then they won’t need to bother talking about it. But if one character does not know, then the audience or reader learns this piece of information at the same time that the ignorant character does. That’s ignorant in terms of “not knowing” rather than being dumb, FYI.

Starting a Piece: Some Takeaways

If you’re still having a hard time starting, recognize that it can also be a species of writer’s block. But if the stress is really bad, you can always write about it.

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Career changing Promotions

Your Elevator Pitch

Your Elevator Pitch

We have all heard of what an elevator pitch is. It seems like it is the kind of stuff for overly eager new sales associates looking to make an impression on the big boss between floors.

But there is more to it than that.

Someone has just turned to you and said, “You’re a writer. What’s your book about?”

Don’t just stand there! You’ve got to be ready.

Your Verbal Elevator Pitch

Try something like this on for size.

Imagine if animals started talking, and they told you what to do in a topsy-turvy world.

My book is about Alice; she’s a young girl, a little bored on a sunny afternoon, when she spots a white rabbit. The odd thing about this rabbit is, he’s wearing clothes and talking. She follows him down a rabbit hole, but then she can’t get out.

That’s less than seventy words, and the person asking has the basic plot, the name of the heroine, and a reason to want to know more.

Your Pitch in Writing

Yes, you need one of these, too. But but a written elevator pitch a little different.

Even if readers know you for writing sweeping, epic sagas, you should still write some short stories. They can be in your universe, or not, although it might help with both marketing and your own personal creativity if they can fit somewhere within your universe.

They do not even necessarily have to be sent out for publication, but they could be good for anthologies. Don’t knock that; this is exactly how a lot of people get their starts. In fact, if you are having trouble breaking in, or want to impress a publisher, try submitting to anthologies. You can get a published credit and impress the publisher of the anthology. There’s a win-win right there.

Point them there, if someone wants to read a sampling of your work. Don’t make them commit to a 100,000 word novel.

On Balance

Finally, have fun with it. Is your main character funny? What about quoting one of her best zingers, assuming you don’t need to explain the joke? Now there’s an idea for a pitch.

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Community Management Facebook

Why Use a Screen Name?

Why Use a Screen Name?

Screen name – good idea, or no?

I was inspired by this post in Angela Connor‘s blog. If you don’t know Angela Connor, I urge you to check her out; her blog is extremely insightful and is still one of my favorites.

Her ideas make a great deal of sense, and I think some of this is why the Blizzard forum experiment in real names for users was such an immediate and egregious flop.

Masks

The ‘net, like it or not, is for many people a place of masks. You pretend to be younger and thinner than you are. Or you pretend to be unmarried. You pretend to be a Klingon. Or you’re a teenager and pretend to be an adult. Or you pretend to be another gender or richer or lovelier or more conservative or whatever.

And the masks can be freeing to many. Perhaps they were freeing when the ancient Greeks donned them while performing “Oedipus Rex” for the first time. I think there is more of a place for them than perhaps we’d all care to admit. Because there seems to be a value to being able to spread war paint (or lamp black) on one’s face, or wear a Halloween costume.

Screen Name Unreality

screen name
Halloween Costume Close-up (Photo credit: trustella)

And this is not the same as our reality. It is related but not identical. Maybe the librarian who goes out for Halloween dressed as a dance hall girl wants to be known as someone who takes risks (and maybe foolish ones, at that). But when the morning after rolls around, she’s back in the library helping others do research.

Anonymous Commenting

This kind of anonymous commenting allows for something like this. Because the sympathetic guy who’s really seething inside gets to call people out. He gets to be a bully and be an all-around racist jerk (I have worse names, but don’t wish to besmirch my blog) behind one screen name. But then he surfs to a different site where he can chat up the ladies with his sensitive New Age guy demeanor, all behind another screen name. And then when the time to log off comes, he goes home and kisses his wife and plays with his children. And this is all one guy.

Facebook

To comment openly through a full, correct name (usually) medium like Facebook would be to cut off the dance hall girl. And it would stifle the racist jerk, the ladies’ man, and any number of other secret selves in favor of a drab and ordinary world. Even on a news site, which is pretty much the definition of drab unless there’s some sort of a hot story, the jerk, the dancer and the Romeo all want to be free.

Who’s Real?

But we shouldn’t take their opinions as seriously as the real people. Because, even though those personae live in real people’s skins, it’s the real people who vote, marry, pay taxes, work, make the news and are members of our real society.

The trouble is telling them apart and knowing which one is real.

Can you always tell? I bet you can’t. Not always.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From The News

Getting Inspiration From The News

The News

News stories can be a fantastic source of inspiration. Remember the phrase, ‘ripped from the headlines‘? So while it has become a TV trope all its own, current events can really inspire. Because you just can’t make this stuff up.

International Events

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the news
Do you get inspiration from the news?

In particular, when writing about an alien society, you can get a lot of mileage out of looking abroad. This is because governments, climates, poverty levels, languages, customs, and mores all differ. And some of those can differ rather substantially. Consider what weekends are like in Canada, in Israel, or in Japan. What about the educational system, or whether a nation is an energy exporter, or an importer? Furthermore, what happens when you look at dictatorships, or at least at different democracies?

National Current Events

By the time this blog post goes live, the American elections will be over (thank God!). However, what is voting like in the United States (this question also make sense when looking at other countries’ ways of doing things)? And what about the nominations process? Back room deals, lobbying, and pressing the flesh can all inspire. In addition, what about other areas of interest? How does the government balance the budget (if at all)? What about fads and fashions sweeping the nation?

And, naturally, these questions apply to other countries. None of this is confined to just America.

Local News

Your local news can be dominated by violence, or even by oddities. Small things can loom large if you live in a small town. I grew up in a fairly small town on Long Island although it has a connection to a larger township. Local current events often centered around the high school, the library, and the movie house. Closing a long-term business was a topic of great interest.

Sports

Sports are a terrific source for drama and inspiration, and include everything from come-from-behind victories to cheating and doping scandals. Are the winners gracious? Are the losers vindictive? Did something interesting happen to the spectators?

Takeaways

Open up your newspaper or do so virtually online. And check out the news next time you’re stumped for ideas.

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Career changing Promotions

Working With a Facebook Page

Working With a Facebook Page

How do you go about working with a Facebook page?

Keep in mind that Facebook is constantly A/B testing (e. g. checking to see if new layouts or color schemes, etc. will make you click more), so these instructions might be a little out of date after a while. This is what currently works. Caveat emptor.

Adding images

Working with Facebook Pages | Adventures in Career Changing
Working with Facebook Pages

Images are always helpful; use a measure of branding for your work, and always use images you have permission to post! If someone else created or photographed an image you are using, even if you now own the rights, it is a courtesy to link to them and give them a shout out. A lot of my father’s and husband’s photography is on my personal author page, and people like to see newer work from them. It’s just another way to acknowledge that this is a community and this solitary pursuit is far from being completely solitary.

Working On And Handling Updates

It’s all about the updates. You can schedule a few months in advance, so make a point of doing this. You can cover a lot more if you spread out your work and set it to emerge at various times; just look at your insights to get an idea of when people are online, and match to those times as well as you are able to.

Setting Up a ‘Buy Now’ Button

You will definitely want one of these. Right in front of your background image, there are three buttons. The one on the left (which is actually in the middle of your background) is a variable. Pull down on it and choose what you want to showcase. Select Edit Call to Action and enter a link directly to buy your work. Be sure it is a link directly to your work on Amazon or Smashwords or wherever. That is, clear away the extraneous junk on the URL. So for Amazon works, this is everything after the ISBN.

If you have nothing to currently sell, you can always upload a YouTube video and change the call to action to a call to watch a video on your site. There are other choices such as Call Now. So, use whatever works best for your needs.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

A Look at The Physical World

The physical world can inspire, whether it’s the Appalachian Trail, or your bedroom, or the Himalayas. And while not everyone can live in Paris or visit Yosemite National Park, we can all be inspired by our own personal universes. Moreover, if your world can inspire you, then your readers can come along for the ride.

The Great Indoors

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the physical world
Does the physical world inspire you?

So consider The Chronicles of Narnia. Why? Because the means of traveling to a magical world is via a common ordinary wardrobe. And how about Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll told his story about a lot of things Alice Liddell already knew, such as chair legs and a deck of cards.

So from your desk to your computer or chair, what can you really see when you look closely? Also, go beyond the somewhat common idea of a computer sucking someone into cyberspace. It’s not a bad idea; it’s just been done a lot. Maybe your character is buried by paper. Or they end up in the vacuum cleaner. Attics and cellars can seem very frightening. What about the walls, or the ceiling?

The Physical World Includes The Great Outdoors

And then we get to the outside. So what do we see? Carroll saw hedgehogs, dormice, and rabbits. We can also see plants, of course. Are they large and menacing, or small and fragrant? And what about natural structures or scenery, such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and canyons?

Part of The Wizard of Oz takes place in an apple orchard. It’s easy to see how and why L. Frank Baum imagined trees talking and even throwing fruit. How about imagining how a certain structure came to be? We all know (or at least we should) that craters come from falling meteors or even comet strikes. But what if a crater exists because a spaceship landed there? A structure like Stonehenge can also inspire.

Takeaways

Get outside and take stock of your surroundings. They may inspire more than you think.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Character Sexuality

Character Sexuality

A look at character sexuality can take you in any number of directions.

Character Sexuality
Character Sexuality matters!

First of all, you need to listen to your characters. Are they telling you who they like? Maybe they are, or maybe they’re a little shy about that. Can you see your characters with someone of the same sex, or with anyone, for that matter? Because remember that your own characters’ sexualities need not reflect your own.

So consider how you will present it. For a great, matter-of-fact presentation of character sexuality, just look at Sulu in Star Trek Beyond. Because without saying a word, all that happens is, he is greeted by a man with a little girl, he hugs the girl, and then the three walk away as Sulu and the other man (it’s unclear whether they are meant to be married, so I’m hesitant to use a word like boyfriend or husband) go arm in arm. And that’s it. It’s subtle and loving and sweet.

And of course people protested. Because change can be scary to a lot of folks, I suppose.

Flipping Your Own Personal Script

You have probably been the same sexuality for much of your life. And while gender and sexuality can be fluid, that is not the case for everyone. However, there is a spectrum. Hence even if you have been, say, heterosexual your entire life, you may find you are not completely, 100% ‘straight’.

Furthermore, consider a thought experiment. Why am I suggesting this? Because a writer should be able to think about any number of characters and types of characters. And that includes those who have differing sexualities from the writer. After all, don’t we write about men if we are women, or women if we are men? Stephen King wrote about Dolores Claiborne. Harper Lee wrote about Atticus Finch. And even though most writers aren’t in their league(s), you can still make the effort.

Hence this means also looking into not only gay and lesbian characters, but also asexual characters, bisexual ones, and even characters into other things, like, say, S & M.

Character Sexuality: Some Takeaways

None of this is required, of course. But a thought experiment, I feel, is never a bad idea. You may find a character who speaks to you and who you really want to write. Or maybe you won’t. Only you can know that.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration from Exercise

A Look at Getting Inspiration From Exercise

Exercise

Exercise should be a vital part of anyone’s life. And you don’t have to be a gym rat to get inspiration from your workout or from what happens while you’re exercising. As we have seen in other instances, exercise is just another vehicle for inspiration if you look at it that way.

Your Workout

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from exercise
Exercise can be inspiring!

In order to maintain good health, you need to get up from your computer or chair on occasion. And you need to work out in some manner. Of course your decision as to what to do depends upon any number of factors. Maybe you’re elite and can train for a triathlon. However, for beginners, getting around the block might present difficulties. And if your area is sometimes an unsafe one, you might end up working out inside. So that can mean a gym membership or a pool or mall walking or even just equipment in your home.

Hence one factor is your environment. As you observe it, consider your characters. Would the chipmunks you see on a nature trail amuse them? Or would they fight off demons while jogging in a less than savory part of town? Maybe they see exercise as a meditation (a lot of people do).

Your Characters Working Out

Your characters can get in on the action, too. Action and fantasy characters would fight or train. Romantic characters could go for walks. Science fiction characters might work out as a part of military training or even as a health requirement in low gravity.

Observations

Getting outside means you can overhear conversations. You can people watch, too.

Writer’s Block and Depression

First of all, I want to make it clear that, if you feel the need for medical intervention, please go ahead! A lot of writers can experience certain levels of depression and so by all means, care for yourself. However, I am also suggesting that exercising can help. For example, if you experience seasonal affective disorder, you will need full-spectrum light. Hence you need to either mimic it with a special light or go out in the sunlight. And here in New England, the winters are full of days with very little sunlight. Hence I have learned to get myself outside and to shovel snow if I have to (I’ve got to watch my back these days, so I do not make the kind of fast progress I used to) or walk carefully to avoid slipping on ice. Good boots are a lifesaver.

If that’s not in the cards for you, a gym membership or mall walking can at least help. Because you will also need to get up, get dressed, and get outside in order to do either.

Exercise: Some Takeaways

Everybody needs to take a break from writing. Your eyes will thank you! So you may as well get up and get some exercise. Live long enough to finish your series! Do it for your fans!

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration from Visual Artists

Getting Inspiration from Visual Artists

Visual artists and the visual arts can be a source of intense inspiration. Because their struggles can be a lot like a writer’s.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Visual Artists
Do you ever get your inspiration from visual artists and their works?

Consider how a piece of art makes any of us feel. Does it inspire? Or are you puzzled? Can it move you emotionally? And what’s happening around the fringes? Because sometimes the details and the background are of more interest than the main subject. You know, just like in books sometimes.

Hence let’s take a look at some inspiring pieces.

Visual ArtistsOf course Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world.

Furthermore, the mystery of the piece continues to this day, as it has for a few hundred years. So, what, exactly, does her smile mean? After all, it’s a small smile. And so the model intrigues us, even now.

 

 

 

Here’s another one.Visual Artists Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory is another very well-known piece although you might not have known its name.

Because the painting is so strange, it can offer any number of interpretations. How important is time? Is the setting a desert? And what about the odd white lump in the center? Could that maybe be a creature wearing a clock as a saddle? Maybe it means we are all driven by time and memory. Hence we are all under its yoke.

So think about the paintings (and sculptures, too!) which you know. And consider what you see in them, for they may help, particularly with writer’s block.

A Practical Idea

So did you know that Pinterest has secret pin boards? It’s true. And what that means is, you can always create a secret board for only you to see. Or you can share it with a select audience, such as beta readers or even fans, if you like.

And all you need to do is, go to your profile and scroll all the way down. You’ll find it on the left (“Create Secret Board“). And that’s all you need to. So fill it with art which has meaning for you.

Visual Artists: Some Takeaways

Visual artists and art can inspire. And the internet means you don’t even have to visit a museum, although you might want to, anyway.