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Four Ways to Stay Sane When Writing a Novel [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from Ryan Casey.

Writers can be a solitary breed.

We sit, hunched over our keyboards in the darkness of the early hours, fretting over seemingly important matters. “Times New Roman size 11 or size 12?!”  we ask ourselves, before switching to Calibri.

We live in a world of SEO-jargon, and WordPress updates. Witnessing our PageRank tumble from 18 to 19 is enough to put us in a grim mood for the rest of the day.

Want a wake-up call?

This isn’t healthy. Before you know it, your eyes will be frazzled, and your mind won’t be at its best.

See that cat? That’s my nan’s cat, Fluff. You don’t want to be this cat. Be better than the cat. You need to be at your mental peak when taking on a task as momentous and lofty as writing a novel.

Fortunately, through minor lifestyle changes, you can climb out of this rut and come out feeling fresher, and more confident. I believe that confidence is the key to good writing, so it’d be unwise to underestimate its importance. Here are some easy-to-follow tips for keeping your writing mind fresh.Continue Reading

Writer’s Doubt: 3 Symptoms & 4 Treatments

The St. Augustine Beach Pier as Tropical Storm Beryl approached on Sunday.

As Tropical Storm Beryl barreled toward my tiny hometown on Sunday, I had to make a decision: Bravely ride out the storm at home alone  (well, save for the supportive company of my terrier mix, Bucky) or shamefully admit my cowardice and impose on a friend for the night.

All day, I tried to build my confidence by facing the storm head on. Toni and I went over to the pier to ogle at the churning ocean and looming clouds on the horizon. Back at home, I gathered my flashlights, batteries, candles, weather radio and bottled water. I told myself it was just a tropical storm, certainly in my twenty-seven years as a Floridian I have been through worse. Not a big deal.

But slowly, fear crept in and I began to doubt my ability to stay calm, cool and collected.

How much could I really handle? What if the power went out? What if there was a tornado? What if a tree fell on the house? What if it flooded? WHAT IF THE BATTERY IN MY iPHONE DIED?

By the 5pm update, when the storm’s sustained winds were just 4 mph short of a hurricane, I waved the white flag of defeat, packed up Bucky, hung my head, and spent a sleepless night in a friend’s guest room when I could have been home in my own bed.

The power never went out, no trees fell in my area, there were no tornadoes and the ground soaked up every drop of rain.

Lesson learned: Don’t let your doubts be your guide.

Symptoms: Just in case you thought you were immune.

Writing doubts are no different. We’ve all experienced the frustration that comes with unanswered questions about our abilities. We’ve scrapped hours of hard work, wondered if we should be pursuing something else, or

If you somehow think you’ve avoided it, check yourself for any of these telling symptoms:

1. You’ve spent more than three Christmases explaining to your family that yes, you’re still working on the same novel.

2. You seem to have come down with a chronic case of writer’s block.

3. You’ve worn all of the letters off your backspace button.

Treatments: Your apple-a-day cure.

Don’t fret — even if you suffer from a painful case of the writing doubts, it’s not an incurable condition. We have a few treatment options for you (feel free to use them individually or in collaboration with each other!)

Install a soundboard.

Find at least one person who can help you stay confident when you start to doubt your abilities. It’s best to find another writer, someone who understands your feels and therefore has the empathy and credibility to make you feel better when times get tough. Don’t be afraid to confide in them, and then return the favor. You’d be amazed how much better you’ll feel when you find out someone else is in the same boat.

Tell your inner monologue to shut it.

One of the biggest hazards of writing is that it’s often done alone, with a lot of caffeine, and painfully loud silence. Sometimes this leads your inner Debbie Downer to get on her soap box. When you start feeling that voice inside messing with your confidence, turn on some music and put your focus on the task at hand. Debbie will get the hint and find another way to entertain herself.

(This treatment applies to outside voices as well — if there’s someone in your life who feeds your doubt, tune them out or tell them to take a hike, this is your journey and you choose your passengers!)

Get a bigger frame.

When doubt creeps in, take a step back and look at the big picture. What’s the worst case scenario? If your first piece of writing isn’t a success, will you have the chance to write again? Of course! Just like any other art, with experience and patience your craft will improve. So even if, Heaven forbid, things don’t turn out perfectly, the entire world will not crash down upon you.

Find the source.

If you really can’t shake your doubts, do a little investigative research. Find out what lies at the core of your troubles and fix it. Do you need to tweak your plot? Build on your writing technique? Brush up on your marketing skills? There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. You’ll be a better person and a better writer for admitting your weaknesses and working on them.

We want your advice, too!

So what do you think — do you feel better? Do you have any other home remedies for writing doubts? Are you looking for someone to join your soundboard? Jump into the conversation by leaving a comment below! We’re all here to help each other kick that Debbie Downer chick to the curb.

Self-Publishing Success: 3 Tips for Finding Your Definition

success (noun): 1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors. 2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

Fact #1: We all have a speech prepared in the event that Oprah selects us for her book club.

Fact #2: Oprah will probably never call.

Fact #3: We will go on writing anyway.

photo by rubendn

Every one of us has an ultimate, higher-than-the-summit-of-Everest dream for our writing career. Something that would mark us as eternally successful in the eyes of all our believers and doubters alike. There’s nothing wrong with that — it just shows how much we believe in ourselves and our talents — as long as we don’t base our entire definition of success around that one lifetime achievement.

Don’t take my word for it, ask Dan Marino. For all the non-sports fans, Marino is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (that’s the guy who throws the ball to the other guys). In his 17 NFL seasons, he set a lot of records, was named NFL MVP & NFL Offensive Player of the Year, got selected to the Pro-Bowl nine times and took his team to the post season 10 times.

But he never won a Super Bowl.

Yet, when considering the scope of his career including all 31 of the Dolphins’ franchise records he set that still stand today, no one would consider Dan Marino a failure. He’s a sports commentator, multi-millionaire, NASCAR owner and he gets to make appearances in movies like Ace Ventura and Bad Boys. Dan Marino has had an amazing life and career, even if he didn’t reach the pinnacle achievement of the NFL.

That’s because the best and worst thing about success is its total subjectivity. What you count as a success might be considered a failure to me. It’s all about the criteria by which we judge ourselves and the goals we aim to reach, which is why we have to be so careful when sculpting our definition of success. We don’t want to set the bar so low as to give ourselves a fall sense of ego, but we don’t want to set it so high that we get depressed and have to eat a lot of Oreos to feel good about ourselves again.

So how do you set your expectations at a level that will allow you to feel super accomplished at the high points, but not overly discouraged at the low points? We have a few tips that can help you carve out the perfect definition of success for your unique talents, skills and dreams as a writer.Continue Reading

Quoting Lyrics and Dodging Copyright Issues [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post by Grant Piercy. Thanks for a great post, Grant!

So you’re in the process of writing your masterpiece. Say you’re in the car, contemplating your work-in-progress, and a song comes on the radio. You hear some great lyric that somehow clicks with your manuscript; it applies so well that you want to share it, either in text or as a preface to the work. Or maybe you just have a character listening to or singing the song.

Stephen King does it. Bret Easton Ellis does it. Alan Moore does it. Why can’t you? It doesn’t help that there are hundreds of Web sites out there built on posting lyrics. People quote lyrics, somewhat annoyingly, on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Later, when you’re thinking of actually publishing your literary masterpiece, thanks to Kindle’s easy-to-use self-publishing tools, or those of Barnes & Noble’s Pubit, or Apple’s iBooks, etc., you begin to wonder. “Are there any legal ramifications to publishing someone else’s lyrics in my work? It’s only one line, what damage could it do?”

Let me make this perfectly clear. Unless you want to pay royalties to someone else, or you want to limit your print run (self-publishing e-suicide), you probably don’t want to quote lyrics.

I understand. It’s going to be different for you. You’ve heard this before from some other author who couldn’t get the job done. You’re going to quote your favorite artist and that artist is going to think your work is awesome and point to it and say, “Look. This guy quoted me. This book is awesome.”

No. No. No.Continue Reading

6 Writing Outline Templates and 3 Reasons to Use Them

I have a question for you: What’s your book about?

No, no, I don’t want the long explanation. If you started with “Well, um, you see…there’s this girl…” I immediately stopped listening and started thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight. I want you to give me the thirty second elevator pitch that’s going to pique my interest and make me want to read your novel instead of the pile of unread books I have at home on my nightstand.

Okay, follow-up question time: What’s the TP of your novel?

Did you seriously just say something about toilet paper? No, TP in this instance stands for Turning Point. In other words, the catalyst that makes your characters resolve their conflict. Wait — do we need to back-up here? Are you clear on what the underlying conflict of your story line is?

Alright, final question: What happens at the end?

I know you’re giving away all your secrets, but you can share with me. I won’t tell a soul. Just share the last line with me. Maybe the last paragraph. The last scene? You do know what the last scene in your novel will be, right?


If you stumbled through your answers to the questions above, I’d like to introduce you to our newest set of helpful Duolit tools. We have put together six plot and character outlining forms that not only look extremely spiffy, but they might actually help you get focused on your novel.

Still unsure why you should take the time to fill these out? Let me give you three quick reasons:

1. Writer’s Block: Despite the best efforts of the world’s leading doctors, a cure-all for Writer’s Block has yet to be found. However, there are some preventative measures we can take to keep the beast at bay, like writing outlines.

2. Motivation: A daily once-over of your plot or character outlines will keep you focused on your end goal. It will also remind you that you can (and will) complete your project if you put your mind to it.

3. Marketing: If you start promoting your book prior to its completion (and you should) having an outline with specific details about your characters and plot will help you focus your marketing efforts.

So now that you know how badly you need to do this, let me share a few details about the six helpful (and did we mention beautifully designed) plot and character outlines that we’re giving away today.

(Preface: You can choose one outline that best fits your style or a combination of outlines, but you don’t really need to do all six of them unless you just really, really, REALLY like outlining things…and there’s nothing wrong with that.)


The Basic Plot Outline

IF you prefer to leave plenty of space in your plot for changes on the fly….this one’s for you.

The basic plot outline can be tackled in under thirty minutes while you’re also watching TV and waiting for the clothes to dry. Just write down your title, names of your characters and maybe a line about each, and an overall summary of the plot you have in mind. Simple, quick and easy. Like my favorite foods.

« Download Basic Outline [PDF] »Continue Reading