Voracious Reader Syndrome

If you have three or more of the following symptoms, you could have voracious reader syndrome and there is only one treatment for it!
Reading a book as a writer.

  • You know what TBR (To Be Read) stands for and your TBR pile never comes to an end. Ever.
  • The first thing you read in the Sunday paper is the book reviews.
  • You follow the bestseller lists.
  • You not only have a library card but you use it regularly.
  • There are piles of books everywhere in your house.
  • You don’t mind waiting for anything because you carry a book with you at all times, especially for appointments. You get in the car line at school early so you can read your book.
  • You reread your favorite books and can recite by heart your favorite parts.
  • A gift card to Barnes & Noble (or Amazon, or Chapters) is the ultimate gift.
  • You never sleep alone because you always take a book to bed with you. If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, you grab the book at the bedside and your reading light.
  • Reading, Interrupted: When stuck in the middle of a good book, you resent the fact that you have other things to do: like go to work, go grocery shopping, or get eight hours of sleep.
  • You read everything: the backs of cereal boxes, the church bulletin, cookbooks, advertisements, the fine print, this blog post.
  • You can spend hours in the bookstore or a library and you are always shocked when you realize how many hours you have been there.
  • You read every day. 

If you develop any of these symptoms, read one book and call me in the morning.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Staying Inspired

Sometimes keeping the writing engines revving is all about staying inspired. Lately I have been attempting to dip my toes into the pool of finding an agent. The process is a bit harsh to one’s self esteem, and I found myself going back to my finished novel and examining and reexamining it for flaws. This process is likely familiar for most writers; the reader(s) do not like it, or even just do not respond to it, so something must be wrong with the piece. This week alone I have reworked some areas, reworded some areas, stressed a little, and reworded some more.

Suggestions for staying inspired while writing.Then, I was inspired. I am currently reading Michaio Kaku’s Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos in conjunction with Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. They are both fascinating reads about the possibility of parallel universes, and after this week’s announcement about the inflation theory, very relevant. But I digress.

I was reading Kaku’s book and I came across this quote: “[S]cientists believe the universe started out in a state of perfect symmetry, with all the forces unified into a single force. The universe was beautiful, symmetrical, but rather useless. Life as we know it could not exist in this perfect state. In order for the possibility of life to exist, the symmetry of the universe had to break as it cooled.”

This is for all the perfectionists out there, always striving to get it just right, to make everything polished and… well, perfect. Stop. Our very existence is based in imperfection. If we were perfect, we would not exist. Mind blown, at least for me who struggles with perfection constantly. I understand that art is subjective, therefore never perfect, but that understanding never stopped me from trying to make it so; however, this idea, that human beings exist because of imperfection toppled me off my perfection stool.

I felt relief and inspired. With that in mind, I decided to write down a few other things that help to inspire. I wanted them for future reference when I faced these demons again (tomorrow, probably), and perhaps to help inspire a few of you as well.

1. Pulling again from the world of physics; another gem quoted from Kaku’s book. “The quantum theory is based on the idea that there is a probability that all possible events, no matter how fantastic or silly, might occur.” I love this one. Sure, something fantastic might take billions of years to occur, but unless the laws of physics expressly forbid it from happening, it will. Bring it on publishing world, I will make it… one day.

2. An idea that morphs off the thankful jar is an inspiration jar, or box, or what have you. Gather those passages that you have read, the poems, or the quotes, or the little reminders that make you feel inspired, and put them all in your jar or box. The act of gathering these little gems will inspire you, and once assembled, every day you can pull out a piece from the box and be inspired. In the future, when you find another gem, add it to your box.

3. This one might not work for everyone, but it works for me: take a walk in nature. No doubt this is one that you have heard before, but it truly works. I am a writer that sits on my couch in my living room while my three-year-old watches My Little Pony (happening right now). I also write sometimes in cafes, or at my kitchen table. Those moments that I am blocked, or feel frustrated, I force myself out of the indoors and into the outdoors. Taking five minutes to walk under the huge evergreen trees that populate the Pacific Northwest is enough to clear my head. I forget how therapeutic it can be, honestly, so I have a handwritten sign on my fridge that says “go outside”.

Being inspired is a come and go type thing. Inspiration, unfortunately, rarely stays around for long; however, just as it is fleeting, it is rather easy to find inspiration if you look for it. Maybe that is contrived, perhaps inspiration should be more of a spontaneous event, but I take it where I can get it, and if I can help the spontaneous events happen, I will.

Happy writing!

About Heidi Hood

Heidi Hood, former journalist, is now a full time mom and part time novelist. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more from her contributor page.

10 Signs You Are A Writer

As I sat one night watching a movie on DVD, I thought I could have written that better. And then I thought, wait–most people when watching a movie don’t think that, even if they didn’t like the movie. They move on with their lives. It got me to thinking about what separates us writers from the rest of the pack. Here are ten signs you are a writer:
Looking for signs you are a writer.

  1. You read a book and think “I could have written that better”.
  2. You watch a movie and think: “I could have written that better”.
  3. You carry a pen and notebook with you at all times because you know that the muse is fickle and can strike at any time, like in the middle of your son’s soccer game.
  4. You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the book you are writing and sometimes if you are lucky, it will be a solution to a writing dilemma or it will be a snatch of dialogue or a plot twist.
  5. You start to believe that the characters you are writing about are real people.
  6. You know who all the agents are and “what they are actively seeking”.
  7. You read voraciously and heaven on earth is being in the middle of a bookstore or library for a few hours.
  8. After your children, your writing is your most cherished possession.
  9. Writing is 24/7 even when you are not physically doing it. If you are not parked in front of your laptop or penning in a notebook, then you are constantly thinking about what you are going to be writing next. Anything that does not require your full blown attention (i.e. like being a passenger in a car or waiting for the movie to start at the theater) has your mind thinking about writing.
  10. You cannot imagine not writing because it is such an extension of yourself. You are your happiest when writing because it is who you are and it is what you are meant to be doing.

If you have any to add share them in the comments below.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

The Basic Rules

Grammar and Punctuation

Recently, while sending out my current work-in–progress (WIP) to the round of agents, I came across an agent’s blog that was downright scary. The spelling and punctuation were atrocious. She even violated a basic rule of using a plural verb form with a singular noun. It was quite annoying; after all, are we not told ad nauseum that a query full of punctuation and grammatical errors is sure to result in a rejection?

geek scratching headI passed on this agent feeling that if she could not even be bothered to proof read her own writing, then how could I be sure she’d go over my own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb? Also, I thought it was high time that I reviewed my own knowledge of punctuation and grammar rules.

There are two things in relation to grammar and punctuation that I am certain of:

1) “I” before “e” except after “c” (that is branded on my brain) and
2) I am pretty sure I was sick the day the teacher went over the whole lay/lie thing.

Like the new math that is part of the curriculum these days (isn’t 2 + 2 still 4?), there seems to be a slightly different approach to punctuation and grammar.

Semi-colons, a personal favorite of mine, are just about vilified among some writers and I noticed that they are shying away from calling a “period” a “period.” Now it is a “full stop.” My boys are learning it as a “full stop” in primary school and when I called it a “period” they looked at me like I had just grown a second head.

There is a joke circling the internet about how a comma (or lack of one) can be deadly:

“Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Twenty years ago when my sister and her then boyfriend used to fight (which was often), they would exchange notes. My sister and I would then go over his notes, correcting his grammar and circling his misspellings with a red pen, (I am sure he loved that) which reminds me of another quote I have seen floating around the internet:

“If you’re losing an argument, start correcting their grammar.”

Correct grammar and punctuation are essential for if your manuscript is riddled with misspellings and basic grammar mistakes, it will detract from even the greatest of stories.

To brush up on who/whom, of/have, between/among, than/then, who/that/which, and a lot of other good rules, check out GrammarBook.com. For rules on punctuation, I found Grammar.About.com really helpful.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

10 Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment

Your work space is often one of the most neglected areas in your home, unless you are procrastinating then it suddenly becomes the star of your organizing tirade. Here are ten things you can do to improve your writing workspace. cat on lap

Get a Plant

Improve the air quality while giving yourself something pretty to look at. Pick something easy to take care of and not so big it fights with your piles of paper. It should be something you truly love. African violets and spider plants make great offices mates. If you do not like spider plants, do not get one because you will ignore it and it will meet a quick demise. That in itself is bad Chi. If you are into vibrancy you can try a pre-made amaryllis package once a year for something special.

Post Inspirational Quotes

Get a two sided cork board. Use one side for your story planning and the other to post inspirational quotes with meaning for you, acceptance letters, thank you notes, a list of your favorite words work well. When you are not using your story board flip it so you can see them. Buy colorful magnets to attach notes to your filing cabinet or desk. The rim of your monitor is also a great place for inspirational post-it notes but do not clutter your monitor, pick a new quote ever month. If the post-it is still in good shape tuck it back in your drawer of post-its for future use.

Dust

Your desk, your bookshelves, any horizontal surface in your office collects all kinds of things including dust. You should be dusting your space at least once a week to remove dust and mites. You spend a lot of time in your space and should not allow yourself to breath in those nasty particles. Every time you move a slip of paper dust goes flying. It is not good for your health. It is not good for your books. And it is not good for your plant either!

Invest in a Good Chair

Writers sit for long periods of time. One of your second office investments must be a chair. You want to make sure it is ergonomic to prevent back, hip and knee pain. Make sure it has adjustable height and a built in curvature for back support. Try a few, your backside will thank you for it.

Heater / Fan

Temperature is important. Too much heat stagnates; too much cold turns your fingers blue driving you away from your work space. Get yourself a multipurpose heater/fan to help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If your body temperature is not comfortable you are not going to sit still long enough to write. Remember: when you are not in the room turn it off.

Good Lighting

So you can see when you write but more importantly so you do not get a headache from eyestrain. Who wants to write when they have a headache? In addition to an overhead ceiling light to bask the room you should have a directional desk light for closer work.

Open a Window

Bring in fresh air. Fill the lungs. Get the stagnant air out of your room at least once a month. In the winter too! There is nothing like fresh air to stir the lungs and the creative juices. It is like breathing in clean laundry off the line.

Variety

Go someone where else. You do not have to be chained to your chair, computer or couch. Go to the bookshop, park, library, gallery or shooting range for a change of atmosphere but go to write not to do errands or people watch. Focus is important.

Healthy Snacks

Have snacks ready for when hunger entices you away from your writing station. Like a veggie tray. Cut them up at the beginning of the week: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, plum tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet peppers. Put them on a tray and keep them near by for your first snack choice. Give your brain some real fuel throughout the day and night. Feed Your Brain = Feed Your Writing.

Get a Cat

Save a cat from the Humane Society by adopting it. It will keep you warm as you write and dust your keyboards and monitor for you; sometimes while you are trying to use it. Pets are known to lower your blood pressure and your stress levels. If all else fails a pet will give you something to write about.

A happy workspace is a happy writer. Enjoy your space.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.

10 Ways to Suck Up to Your Editor

We all want to make a good impression on the one holding the strings to our publishing career. The internet is abounding with tips on how to write this or how to write that but no one really tells you how to suck up to your editor.

Woman at Desk EditingYou could:

1. Send Flowers – Spring is in the air and what better way to attract the attention of a potential editor than sending her a bunch of tulips. Do not worry about potential allergies; it is the thought that counts.

2. Bring Her Lunch – Editors are busy people and often do not get the chance to stop for a healthy lunch. Make her something with your two little hands and she will appreciate you forever.

3. Walk Her Dog – Fido really does not get much exercise with her mom working all day. Take Fido out for some much needed exercise. She will thank you for saving the legs of her dining room table from another day of chewing.

4. Baby-Sit – Just like every other parent, editors need a break from the kids too. Pop by her house and offer to babysit the kids while she goes out for some “me” time.

5. Take Her Car For a Tune Up – Make sure the car purrs like a kitten. When you return it make sure you leave an extra manuscript on the passenger seat, in the glove box and in the gym bag in the trunk.

6. Pick Up the Kids – Save her some rushing around by picking up her kids from school. You can drop them off at home or at work. This will mean extra precious moments she will have to review your manuscript.

7. Shovel Her Driveway – This backbreaking work should not be attempted by an editor whose day to day life involves lifting manuscripts and using red pens. If you take the kids home you can enlist their help.

8. Seven Course Meal – Treat the proposed editor to an extraordinary meal served with lots of wine over candlelight. Be sure to have contracts on hand.

9. Brush Her Hair – 100 times every night before you tuck her in. Every editor wants to look good. And even though this is thought to be an old wives tale, it feels good to have your hair brushed until it glistens. Throw in a scalp massage if she has not put up too much of a fuss.

10. Breakfast in Bed – Surprise your intended editor with breakfast in bed. To make sure you beat her to the kitchen spend the night on the back porch so you can be up early and save travel time. Hand squeeze some orange juice, fry some egg whites (she’s probably watching her figure) and lightly brown some toast.

It is the simple things that really make an impression. Any combination of the above ten suggestions is sure to make a positive impression on the next editor (or literary agent) you want to back you.

Disclaimer: These are tongue-in-cheek suggestions and probably not a good idea to try (unless you want to send me some tulips. I like tulips). Writer is not responsible for anyone who attempts harassing potential editors, agents or anyone else in this way.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.

Why A Writer’s Life Sucks

“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” ~ John Steinbeck

It is a beautiful, sunny day here in Ireland and more than anything I want to be outside. The last four months have been dull and gray. September is notoriously sunny in Ireland. Except this year. With only days left in the month, this is our first day of sunshine. And now on this rare occasion, I want to be outside, except that I am inside, locked down in front of my computer, trying to finish my novel and the goal posts are in sight. This is one of the reasons why the life of a writer sucks. Big time. And regretfully, there are more.

woman working on her writingThere is no guarantee that you will be published. It is worth repeating that it is near impossible to get published these days.

There is no regular paycheck. Even if you do get published, you will get an advance against the royalties and then it takes about 18 months before your book hits the stands. And even then, you have to wait for your first royalty check which is minus your advance.

Unless you are psychic, it is hard to determine what the publishing trends are going to be. And if you jump on the trend bandwagon, chances are by the time your book is published that trend will have been exhausted.

There is no future in it. Face it, a writer is only as good as his last book. And even a book deal does not take you to retirement with a pension.

Sacrifice. The things you have to give up in order to park yourself in front of your computer to churn out your masterpiece which may not even sell are staggering: everything from that precious commodity called time–time spent doing other things, time working a real job, and time spent with your family. Not to mention giving up your favorite TV shows, computer games and the weekly lunches with friends. Forget your favorite hobbies and sports as well. Instead of reading two to three books a week, you can barely get through one.

And yet knowing this, we still continue to write.

Why?

Because whether unpublished or not, being a writer is an intrinsic part of our being like the color of your eyes or your heritage. It is something about yourself that you cannot deny. It is an involuntary action for your body in the same way as breathing is: you must do it in order to live.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

8 Reasons Writers Are Lonely

Fred Hobsen said, “The loneliest people in the world we writers are.” But really, it is not that writers are lonely so much as they work alone and spend a lot of time alone with imaginary characters. If writers were genuinely lonely these might be a few reasons why: Lonely writer at desk

  1. Most of their friends are online.
  2. Books don’t talk back.
  3. The “Do Not Disturb” or “Writer Working” sign is never removed from their office door.
  4. Agents and Publishers are the only people they want to talk to and… well, they aren’t calling.
  5. The only real mail they get are rejections letters to “Whom it May Concern”.
  6. They spend too much time organizing their files, desk, and story board to have a social calendar.
  7. They include people they know into their story lines and kill them off when they have disagreements.
  8. And the number one reason why writers are lonely? They don’t like to share their chocolate.

Feel free to add your own reasons why writers are lonely in the comments.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.