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10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer January 5, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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  1. Write regularly. Like practicing the scales on a piano, anything you want to be good at takes time and effort. The more you work at it, the better you will become. Dedication to your writing is more important than natural talent. You can learn to write just as you can learn to draw, play an instrument or play golf.
  2. Keep a journal. A journal is a great place to write down your goals, dreams and ideas. It’s a place you can write without worrying about whether anyone will see or like it. You can learn about yourself, heal from hard experiences and write down stories about your life.

I was inspired to become a writer after having a series of six movie-like dreams. My dream journal entries of the story filled 100 pages. The story was so enjoyable I learned the craft of writing.

  1. Keep a notebook with you. You never know when you’re going to have an idea you want to jot down such as an inspiration for a character or scene. You might overhear an interesting conversation that sparks an idea or see a building or park or woods you want to use for a scene of your novel.
  2. Join a critique group. Find a group of writers that are on the same level as you or more experienced. Meet with them on a regular basis—once a week or once a month. Exchange your work ahead of time and so they can comment on your writing. Be open to criticism. Listen to all they have to say without defending yourself. When they are done, you can ask them to clarify their comments if there’s anything you don’t understand. When you go home, you can decide if their comments are helpful. I pay special attention when several people in the group feel the same way about something. In the end it’s up to you to decide what criticism is helpful.
  3. Take a writing class. College classes, night classes, or community center classes—all can be helpful. Find a writing class on the type of writing you want to do whether fiction, nonfiction, poetry or articles.
  4. Go to writing conferences. Conferences are a great way to meet other writers. There are many different types of writing conferences. The romance, science fiction and mystery writers offer big ones every year. Agents are often at conferences and may offer sessions where you can pitch your book to them. Local or regional conferences for all types of writers are also beneficial.
  5. Join local writing groups. Look for ones with people who write literary fiction or in the same genre as you do. My area has romance, speculative fiction, mystery, library, church, and women writers groups.
  6. Read regularly in a variety of genres. Read fiction and nonfiction, past and current best-selling books. Read the genre you write. Read with a critical eye. What makes the book good? Where could it be improved? In a novel do you like the pacing, plot and characters?
  7. Read books on writing. Start your own writing reference library. I have an unabridged dictionary, thesaurus and several books on grammar in my library although now I use the computer mainly as a reference. I have books on character, plot, dialogue, description and scenes. I have books on writing science fiction since I write in that genre. I also write historical novels, so I have books on Native Americans and Vikings. Other books include inspirational, getting an agent or publisher, The Writer’s Market and books on marketing.
  8. Never give up. Just keep writing and submitting to agents and publishers or self-publish. You’re never too old to start writing. You’re never too busy to write. Write when you can and where you can. You don’t need a special time to write or special room to write in. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or a computer or word processor.

Share your tips for being a better writer.  I’d love to add to the list


What is the difference between a short story and a novel? June 23, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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I write novels and have extensively studied the complexities of how to write one. I’m less familiar with the structure of short stories, so I did some research to figure how a short story is different from a novel.

The obvious difference between a novel and a short story is that short stories are short and novels are long. Short stories can be 1,000 to 20,000 words. More average is 3,000 to 5,000 words. A novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to over 120,000.

A short story has one main character and the story is told through that character’s point of view. Often it is told in first person or limited first person. A novel has a cast of characters and the story can be told from any of those characters’ viewpoints.

The main character of a short story has a need or fear that leads to a major change or climactic event in that person’s life. The protagonist comes to a single understanding or insight. A novel is much more complex with many transformational events that more than one characters can go through.

A short story usually takes place in a few hours or days in few settings. A novel can take place over a short period of time or it may cover years or generations in many different settings, countries and even planets.

A short story has one theme, whereas a novel can explore different themes and has more breadth and scope.

Each story form has different challenges. The short story gives the author a chance to explore one idea with one character. It must be written so that it is tight and a lot conveyed in an economy of words. The first draft may be written in one setting and rewritten and edited in a short period of time. However, the limitation on the number of words in itself can be a challenge. How do you make a reader care about the character in so few pages? How do you make an emotional impact?

The novelist has time to explore characters, different settings, subplots and sweeping events. The commitment to write a novel is much larger and it may take years to research, write, rewrite and edit.

While researching the difference between short stories and novels I came across a YouTube of TC Boyle reading The Lie from his anthology Wild Child: And Other Stories51++DtIBs9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_. The story is delightful to listen to and quite engaging. I found myself thinking—no don’t say that! I can’t believe you just said that. What were you thinking?

The Lie illustrates all the qualities of a good short story discussed above. It’s well worth listening to.

Here is the YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-nwoMJTung

I’d enjoy hearing your impressions of The Lie. Did you find yourself identifying with the main character? Did you laugh? Have you ever told a lie that led you to more lies?

If you’d like a copy of my short story Star Rider Emerges, click over to my website and sign up for my newsletter. Here is a link: bluestarvisions

Past Lives: Ali and Heidi Interview November 4, 2011

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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Recently Ali Wylie interviewed me on the theme of quests, past lives and about my book Red Willow’s Quest on her postcast program Into the Beyond. The interview includes such topics as how to remember your own past lives and what is the spiritual benefit is of remembering past lives.  Enjoy this chat with Ali and me and be sure to leave your comments. Do you have a spiritual quest? Have you had a past life remembrance?

The following is a copy of a podcast from Ali Wylie podcast Into the Beyond. Ali’s website is astralwings.com where she give techniques to learn how to astral travel.