Backstory Blog

Posted in Ideas generation, Writing, Writing craft

Five Tips for Generating New Writing Ideas

if you’d prefer to see me talk about this, scroll to the bottom and click to the video at Write. Fix.Repeat.

People often say that there are no new ideas, only regenerated ideas- that everything is some kind of a rehash of what’s already been done. I don’t see it this way. What’s more, if you don’t have any new and innovative ideas or are not interested in the mental gymnastics of attracting new ideas, you should stop writing. No one wants to read the same old thing over and over again.

Okay, you might use familiar frameworks (mysteries often have similar frameworks), but your story doesn’t’ have to be in any way the same as someone else’s. So, if you’re having trouble with new ideas, let me help you turn on the faucet.

  1. Pay attention to details around you. Be a keen observer. Listen to people talking. Stop walking down the street, gazing into your phone.
  2. Check on what’s trending on social media and make notes. Don’t get caught falling down an SM rabbit hole, though. This misstep can be a time suck. Be focused. Pass right on by anything that doesn’t ‘grab you sufficiently to compel you to write a note about it.
  3. Read feature stories in the news. The odder, the better. Don’t just stick to the main news stories. (I’m making the reasonable assumption that writers read the news daily.)
  4. Journal about what you see and hear. Then play “what if” with yourself in your journal.
  5. Go on an “artist date” with yourself. Plan what writer Julia Cameron[1] calls an “artist date.” Go to an art gallery, a fabric store, a museum, a free concert. Eat at a restaurant that serves ethnic food you’ve never eaten, 

Writing prompts: Best left for writing practice (not idea generation).

Here’s a link to “Inspiration Snips,” video writing prompts for all you visuals out there.

Watch this topic on Write. Fix. Repeat.

[1] Julia Cameron. 1992. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Tarcher Perigree.

Posted in Books, Writing craft

Five Essential Books Every Writer Should Own

For most of my life, I’ve believed you could learn just about anything short of brain surgery from a good book. (My husband, a doctor, says you could probably learn a lot, even about brain surgery with the right book, too!). When you consider the rise of such book series’ as “Books for Dummies,” it seems clear that you can distill even the most complicated material into essential elements that just about anyone could understand. This observation is probably more accurate for writing than anything else.

Most of us who write these days don’t hold MFA degrees in fiction writing or journalism degrees if we’re nonfiction writers―and neither did most well-read writers throughout history. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn about your craft. I believe it’s important to continually learn and improve even as your writing career achieves success. But, where to begin?

Courses, in-person and online, are often terrific ways to learn your craft. However, the most accessible place to start is with a growing library of your favourite writing reference books. And it’s not good enough that these books sit on your shelf to impress your dinner party guests. They should be read again and again, highlighted, underlined, dog-eared.

There are many well-crafted writing books that both inspire and instruct. There are also increasing h=numbers of books penned by writers who probably know little more about writing than you do. How can you decide which ones to choose to begin your collection?

I have five tips for five of what I consider to be essential writing reference books, most of which have stood the test of time.

Here they are…

Posted in Backstory, Writing craft, YOuTube

Improving Your Writing…5 Tips at a Time

I started my writing career over thirty years ago. I began with a writing passion that had burned brightly since I was a teeny-bopper (does anyone use that word anymore?). I remember being twelve years old and wondered why a kid my age couldn’t write a book. Of course, anyone can write anything. As a writer matures, though, the question becomes not whether I can write but whether I should write. My answer was always a resounding yes. I had to write. What’s next, then?

For everyone who writes, there comes a time when we begin to think about getting what we write published. I started as a freelance health and medical writer because my educational background led me in that direction. But I wanted to do more. So, I wrote a book.

What did I know about writing a book? I did a lot of research. In those days, that research involved lots of writing books. There was no internet to browse, no other writers to connect with online. I was on my own. So, I read a lot of books and writing magazines, and I took a few courses. I learned a lot by trial and error. After my first book was picked up by a publisher and finally made it to trade paperback, I started teaching writing.

Along the way, I had also picked up a graduate degree in strategic health communication (like you do!). I began consulting in corporate communications alongside my writing, which led a corporate communication program at a local university to ask me to teach. I started teaching print media, essentially a writing and design course for print communication tools. That began an unexpected twenty-six-year academic career, ending up as a full Professor of Communication Studies. All along the way, I never stopped writing―both as a job requirement and for myself.

Most of my books were published by traditional publishers. Still, along the way, I took several forays into self-publishing, even publishing teaching materials that eventually became a book that I sold to a large American textbook publisher. Now, I write only for myself―women’s and historical fiction. (and the odd writing reference book when I have time_.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people―readers, editors, students, book authors, YouTube video presenters, among them. Now, it’s time to give back.

I’ve also learned one more thing: time is a precious commodity. So, I thought, what if I could provide bite-sized pieces of writing advice to budding writers―and others who want a fresh perspective―in a format they could easily access?

Born from that idea is my newly launched series on YouTube. Write. Fix. Repeat. Making you a better writer, five tips at a time.

I’ve just uploaded the first episode based on a blog post I did last year on the five characteristics of great writing. I thought it might be a good way to get started.

If you’d like five tips a week, subscribe and come along with me on this journey. I guarantee we’ll all learn something―especially me!