Journalism Changes

by Josephine Kihiu

Journalism is a practice dating back hundreds of years. Frankly, it stems from humans needing to be know-it-alls. When reading became a luxury no longer reserved for the rich, disseminating news to a broad public proved profitable and generally beneficial. You’ve all heard the horror stories of late: journalism, especially in the print media subset, is a dying industry, clinging hopelessly to its marginal profits. Sure, the industry saw some major cuts recently. However, the reality is this – journalism is not dying. It’s just changing.

People are embracing a digital lifestyle, and so is the media. Journalists still roam unexplored niches and probe prominent minds for columns to sell, but those columns may end up online or in the journalist’s personal blog, as well as in print.

Digital journalism is an immediate response to the ever-increasing presence of the Internet via smart devices. Want a run-down of the State of the Union’s main points? Need to check your movie listings? Want to know the weather? Answer all questions using the omnipotent Internet.

Cognizant of the new shift in how the modern person acquires information, journalistic publications respond by posting pieces online. They also create apps allowing those with smart phones to roam their websites more conveniently.

Online journalism also serves expansion of journalistic expression. Unlike Harry Potter, your newspaper probably doesn’t support moving pictures on the cover, but journalists who embrace the digital shift can post videos, tweet, and blog about their findings in addition to the traditional static article. This increases potential audiences and diversifies the demographic reach (more college students pick up their iPhones than a newspaper).

But fear not, traditional readers. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy flipping broad pages and the feel of paper in your fingers. It’s familiar, like catching up with an old friend by letter or receiving news from a loved one by snail mail. Large newspapers still understand the importance of retaining the traditional, usually older, market, so don’t panic. News giants such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, remain consistent sources of accurate, interesting news, faithfully delivering to your door as a reminder that all things change… yet stay the same.

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Demand Your Writing Time!

by Deborah Owen

We live in a busy world. In spite of push-button washers and dryers, dishwashers, microwaves, convection ovens, and the latest in transportation and telecommunications, we are busier now than ever before.

Hobby writing gets pushed to the bottom of a very long list of priorities, but perhaps your desire is still there and that’s why you’re reading this article.

Tell your family and friends you won’t be answering the phone because this is your time to write. Tell your husband, wife, or children not to interrupt you unless there is a critical emergency. Tell them how important your writing is to you.

Go to a separate room with a pen and paper or a computer, and begin writing. You may not think of anything to say at first. You may even wonder where all the ideas went. Fear not, they will return.

To get started trywriting a biography, or write about your mate or friends, family, parents, childhood, pets, children or how pillows are madewrite about anything at all. It doesn’t matter what you write, just take the time and write. Try to do it at the same time every day and within a week or two your Muse will begin to visit you.

The Muse is what every writer lives for. It makes words fly to your head so fast that you can’t type fast enough to get it all on paper. The Muse will often visit at night, so keep a pen, paper, and small flashlight by your bed.

Inform your body that writing is a priority. Some people go to a special room to write. Some write in the basement or attic. Some find their Muse in a cabin or by the sea. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you are comfortable.

Just as a child needs nurturing, so does your Muse. If you don’t feed it, it will die and you will be sure to regret it. Jump in with both feet. Be bold! Be brave!

Take charge of your life, and enjoy writing. It’s like any other gift– use it or lose it!

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The Highs and Lows of Spring

by Helen Tucker

Despite the cold, spring has arrived with a vengeance. Birds are rushing around gathering twigs for their nests and new shoots appear on the trees and hedgerows daily. There is a feverishness about this time of year and almost an expectation that everybody should be happy. However, not everyone looks forward to or is able to enjoy this time of year.

Do you dread the spring knowing how low and anxious you are going to feel? Is your sleep pattern disturbed? Are you tearful for no reason? Do you feel excessively tired even after a quiet day? Are you struggling to see beyond the next few days and weeks?

Thousands of people struggle at this time of year and many don’t seek help. If you find yourself struggling year after year it may be a good idea to speak to your family doctor to find out what is causing your symptoms.

During this difficult period:

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • If you feel particularly bad in the mornings and a little better as the day wears on, then try to rearrange your day to fit in with this pattern.
  • Keep a daily diary of your thoughts and feelings. Writing them down can be cathartic.
  • If you are able,  write down one positive thing about your day. This could be something as small as noticing a new flower in the garden or a smile you received from a stranger.
  • Try to make contact with at least one person each day. People often feel very alone when their mood is low and the company of another person can be uplifting.

Remember, you are not alone. With the right help, you will be able to cope during this difficult time.

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Writing Rules

by Terri Forehand

Creative writing rules govern story writing. The message, content, characters, and storyline can differ,  but some key elements must be present in every story.

Theme

Trust writing rules to link every story properly into a common idea. You can weave a moral or underlying lesson into the mix, but the theme can be as simple as boy meets girl. Many times, there may be both a theme and an underlying moral or lesson. Gone with the Wind is an example of a complex theme with a moral thread woven throughout the story. On the surface, the theme is war and romance, but the underlying lesson theme illustrates control, manipulation, and the weak characteristics of humans.

Plot

Every good story maintains an interesting plot throughout. The plot must fit the characters, just as the character’s actions must fit the plot. The plot encompasses the beginning and middle with a series of events that leads the climax to a satisfying ending. Plotlines must be concrete and believable. They must move the story forward and keep the reader interested in development. It behooves the creative writer to learn the craft of weaving meat into the story and delete every word that doesn’t directly pertain.

Hook

Construct a hook that grabs the reader and keeps him/her turning the pages. The hook may be a sentence, a few sentences, or even a page. In a technical world where people want instant gratification, they won’t stay engaged if the words don’t grab them at the onset.

Dialogue

Dialogue is another essential skill in creative writing. It must be natural and match the characters in the story, which can sometimes be tricky. Become a good eavesdropper and you’ll learn to write excellent dialogue. Mimic conversations you overhear. Notice how people finish one another’s sentences or and cut one another off mid-stream. Concentrate on contractions, sentence fragments, poor English, and bad sentence structure. All of it plays into reality.

To Conclude:

Practice the writing rules regarding plot, developing a proper hook, and creating dialogue that matches the speaker. Don’t just read other writers. Study them. Find the theme and plot of every story. Notice how characters and dialogue build the climax. Writing rules define the heart of every successful writer. Yes, you can break the rules, but not until you understand the structure that they give.

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Struggles of New Writers

by Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

I remember those early days as a new writer; desperate to express all those thoughts and feelings on paper but terrified that no one would want to hear what I had to say. There was also the fear of not knowing where to begin, not being creative enough, and the huge fear of failure.

I decided to take a writing course as a confidence booster. We covered a section on basic grammar and punctuation. The most useful learning point was to write something every day no matter what. I began to carry a notebook and pen. When travelling on public transport, I wrote snippets of conversation I overheard and observed people as unobtrusively as possible. Based on what I saw, I made up stories and before long; I had written a short book.

The next big step was submitting. The thought of it made my blood run cold. It took me days to send it and all I could think about afterwards was all the mistakes I had made. I was thrilled when I received a complimentary letter from the editor telling me my article would be published but even now, the waiting and wondering is stressful.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Those who want to write a book are challenged to write 50,000 words during November, which is an average of 1,666 words a day. Perhaps you would like to participate next November. It’s something exciting to look forward to every year, and a great way to help you write daily.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

*Feel free to write to Dr. Helen at dr.helen@cwinst.com.

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‘Must Have’ Tools for Every Writer

by Lily E. Wong

Every writer needs tools. These include pen, paper, a computer and, surprise – books. Reading is as essential as writing. Being well read will help you to write well.

For writers certain books catapult our work into the forefront. The following five books will help hone your craft. How can anyone claim to be a writer if his/her work is not easy to understand? The goal is for all writers to own, read and refer to these books multiple times throughout their career.

1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

First published in 1979, this book covers use of the English language. There are many books on grammar but few have stood the test of time. In essence, the book is a great example of good writing. Clear and concise, it’s a quick reference on grammar.

2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

The subtitle of this book is “The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.” The book, divided into four parts, covers principles, methods, forms, and attitudes. Each section contains chapters that will enhance any writing. Zinsser provides examples from authors to teach and remind writers to keep their readers in mind.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

King calls it, “A Memoir of the Craft,” and delivers that and more. He tells a great story of a writer’s life, with himself as the focal point. Creativity and inspiration is his message.

4. A dictionary and thesaurus combination

This is invaluable to everyone because we all read and write. A dictionary enhances our vocabulary when we come across an unfamiliar word. On the other hand, a word repeatedly used can numb the reader. This is where the thesaurus comes in handy. The combination of both a dictionary and thesaurus is the ultimate necessity in a writer’s arsenal.

5. Your favorite book

This can be any book, fiction or nonfiction. Choose an anthology, a novel or any piece of literature. If you enjoyed reading this book, the writer did his job. Let this book be your inspiration, the goal you want to achieve.

As a writer, you want to do your best. You have talent but get some tools. Tools are a means to bring this talent forth for all to enjoy.

If these books aren’t yet in your library, borrow them, try them, buy them. But like all professional craftsmen, make sure any tool is worth its weight in gold before adding it to your collection.

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Why Write?

For the Love of Writing
by Deborah Owen

The world is full of literature. Everywhere we look we see novels, magazines, anthologies, genealogies, journals, newspapers, advertising – the list is endless.

Adding to the heap of existing literature can seem pointless, but don’t surrender to frustration or discouragement. What’s inside you is unique. It is exhilarating. There are no two people in the world with the same fingerprints, and no two people who have the same effect on others.

What do you spend your time thinking about? More than likely someone else is writing about it, but isn’t presenting it with the same angle you would. It is this angle that makes what you have to say important. But that is only one of the reasons why you should write.

Some people keep a journal, log, or diary, and many have joined the new age of blogging. Did you ever wonder why so many people read blogs? It’s because they are nosey, and want to know what is going on in someone else’s life. They want the dirt on them. That same curiosity will also bring them to your articles and/or short stories.

Many write as a hobby to put their thoughts in order and express them publicly. Some have no interest in presenting their work for publication, while others write only for that purpose. No matter what kind of writing you like, you will find it fulfilling.

You may want to take a writing class to sharpen your talents and learn how to phrase your thoughts more effectively. It is this skill of stringing words together in the right order that will take your writing to the next level.

Too many writers let their busy lives pull them away from the thing that will satisfy them the most. Don’t let this happen to you. Almost anyone can afford a nominally priced writing course.

The best type to choose is the one with a mentor. Teachers will tell you what is right and wrong, but mentors are available all week long to help you improve your writing style.

If you think you have no talent for writing, but would like to give it a try, please do. You’ll be glad you did. The fact you have a desire to write says you probably have latent talents waiting to be developed. Most people who want to write can write.

Taking classes is an excellent way to crank yourself into first gear and start a long journey. You’ve heard of “use it or lose it”. That’s true of almost anything. If you smother the desire to write, it may never resurface. You will never know what you could have done, what mile markers you could have left behind, what influence you might have had, and what enjoyment has passed you by.

Move into action and find what suits you best – one-day workshops are for beginners and will cover the highlights. Three-day workshops (for beginners and brush-ups) are more intensive with two lessons that cover basic rules for the subject chosen. Two-week courses are very intensive and require a lot of time (for intermediates.) Eight-week courses are for age 14 and up. These classes will help you produce a story or article for publication.

Plunge in for a cool, refreshing dip, and give yourself the opportunity to find a new, exciting door to a more bountiful life.

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How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Some Helpful Tips

by Deborah Owen

More often than not, writer’s block is caused by not writing regularly.

Most people are overcome and overwhelmed when writer’s block strikes, and rightly so. A writer who can’t write is much like a pianist who can’t play. Worse yet, writer’s block will carry over into other areas of your life. Don’t let depression and discouragement get you down. It’s vital to stay positive in order to get back in control.

Organization is the key to breaking writer’s block. Start by organizing your life in little ways, by setting short-term goals. Reasonable goals. For example, brush your teeth at the same time every day, or sweep one room at the same time every day. Try to eat at the same time. Get up the first time the alarm clock goes off, and go to bed at the same time every night. The idea is to gain control and meet your goals. When you can live a somewhat regulated life for a week or two, it’s time to work on your writer’s block in a more direct way.

Sit down to write for at least 15 minutes a day, every day. Inasmuch as possible, do it at the same time. What you write isn’t important. Write what you’re thinking about, or write a biography. Write about your parents or a childhood sweetheart that jilted you. Write about something that makes you mad or your problems in life. Anything emotional. If you can’t even write about that, write about the inability to write. Just write! Before two weeks are out, you will rediscover the muse (inward creative stirring) and you’ll be on your way again.

To prevent losing the muse, continue writing at the same time every day, and when you’re ready to take a writing course, remember Creative Writing Institute, where every student receives a personal tutor.

Don’t be satisfied with less than the best. Check it out today.

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at our website: www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Beware of Selling Your Rights

Learning about Writer’s Rights

by Deborah Owen

Most creative writers are so eager to sell their work that they don’t stop to consider what rights they are selling. “Rights” refers to how a publisher can use your work. “Rights” has nothing to do with what you are paid or the copyright of your work.

  • First North American Serial Rights − Known as FNASR, are the most common rights purchased. The purchasing magazine has the right to publish the author’s work for X amount of dollars, while the author grants the magazine permission to publish his story (or article) one time in North America. If you are offering these rights to a magazine, place “Offering First North American Serial Rights” at the top of the document.
  • One-Time Serial Rights – If you are simultaneously offering your story or article to several publications, place “One-Time Serial Rights” at the top of the page. This grants the first magazine that snaps up your work the right to publish your story or article one time.
  • Second Serial Rights – If you have previously sold the story or article, you will be offering Second Serial Rights to the next magazine. They will be able to publish your work once.
  • All Rights – Unless someone is hiring you to develop a piece of work for them (such as developing a course for a school) shudder at the sight of these rights. It means you are signing away “all rights” to whoever bought your work. You may never sell the work again, publish it, copy it, download it, or transfer it. You have no rights left whatsoever.
  • Work for Hire – This is another “right” that should cause you to shiver. Work for Hire can only exist in two ways: you have created a document as an independent contractor and you are selling the rights to it, or you are being paid as an employee and your work was created during your work time – which gives your boss all rights.
  • Non-Exclusive Rights – This one is not desirable either. Although the “rights” refer back to you after one year and you can sell the work again, the original buyer may continue to use it and reproduce it in syndication without sharing the profits with you.
  • Exclusive Rights – If you sign these rights, you have given away the farm. An example of this would be Associated Content and other like places that assume full rights when they buy your work. You will not be able to reproduce it or sell it again. It’s gone. Ker-plunk! Down the toilet.
  • One-Time Rights – You can sell one-time rights simultaneously to as many people as you want. Columnists use this right to sell their articles to multiple markets.

As you can see, there is only the difference of a hair’s breadth on some of these rights. There are many more types of rights, so understand them thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line.

Keep this article in your safe and don’t sign anything without referring to it!

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How to Find Work as a Reporter

Reporting is Tough Business

by Deborah Owen

Do you want to be a reporter? It’s a great way to break into print, and jobs aren’t that hard to find.

Writers seem to think finding a job as a reporter is hard. Granted, that may be true in some parts of the country, but such jobs are more abundant than you realize. If you live in the city or suburbs, chances are good that there is an opportunity less than 20 miles from home.

Getting work as a reporter is all about understanding the kinds of stories local newspapers print. When people hear the word “reporter”, they picture someone trotting in and out of a major news conglomerate, spilling the beans on an adulterous President, unveiling “Watergate”, or changing into Superman in a phone booth. Unfortunately, reporting is not always a glorious job. A reporter is defined as “a person who investigates and reports or edits news stories”, and more often than not, this is very hard work.

Reporting Opportunities

Fortunately, almost every local newspaper is hard up to find a sports reporter, and/or someone to cover PTA or political meetings, as they pertain to local government. If, by chance, there are no openings in these areas, there is also the possibility of covering traffic accidents or reporting odd news.

For example, I once saw a man skiing in the middle of a western town. What made this a newsworthy event was that his skis had wheels on them – and he was skiing on dry pavement. On another occasion I saw a broken fence, bulldozer tracks across a yard, and road equipment sitting in front of someone’s bedroom window. It turned out to be a theft of the government’s road equipment. On a third occasion, I watched a sheriff’s car flip upside down as it tried to round a corner too fast. Stories are all around you.

Apart from odd news, another great source for local newspaper articles is unusual hobbies and crafts. While on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, I saw awesome statues that were made out of iron and wood. I was fascinated by the idea of a sculptor living in the boonies selling intricate merchandise to tourists in his spare time. I knew readers would be interested, too.

Always Be Prepared

As these examples show, one important point to keep in mind is that most reporting opportunities are unexpected. Always keep a notepad, pen, camera, and tape recorder with you in case you encounter a great story. Many stories are time sensitive and you will be required to write and submit your article by early the next morning.

If you are looking to have your stories printed on the front page, increase your chances by submitting a picture with your article. Call the newspaper ahead of time and ask them how they want pictures submitted. Digital pictures taken on a 35 mm camera are usually acceptable and the newspaper should pay you at least $5 per picture. An article usually pays about $10. No, you won’t get rich, but it’s a good way to break into print.

While finding a reporter’s job isn’t that hard, remember that the key to success lies in good research and timely reporting.

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Show, Don’t Tell Will Sell Your Stories

The First Commandment of Writing

by Deborah Owen

Show, Don’t Tell is not only the writer’s first commandment, it is the one broken the most. This strange phrase, Show, Don’t Tell, means we must learn to paint pictures of emotions instead of telling them outright; however, some things must be told. Examples of works that tell are:

  • Newspaper articles: The robber was last seen heading south on Main Street.
    • Most magazine articles: Joseph Hanson resigned his position with the GOP on March 26.   
  • Advertisements: When you have a stain, Shout it out!
  • Journals: I had a lousy day today.

You’ll notice one common denominator in the statements above. Every statement is flat and descriptive. That’s what telling is. It’s very shallow writing. Cut and dried. Matter of fact. Dull and boring. A listed description is always telling.

Don’t say, ‟Roberta was jealous,” or “She had coal black hair, dark brown eyes, long lashes, and the cutest rosebud lips you ever saw.” Instead, release descriptions a little at a time, in one or more scenes. For example:

Lisa sighed and pushed her coal black hair out of her eyes.

My boyfriend virtually drowns in her chocolaty eyes. I’ll bet she wears false eyelashes,Roberta said. 

Nah. They’re hers, alright. I have brown eyes. That’s no biggie, but I’d give my arm to have rosebud lips like hers,” Eleanor replied.

The first thing you’ll notice is that telling the facts took only 15 words, but showing them took 52. You may notice that we have two writing laws in conflict. The first says to show all emotions, but the second says to cut down on words. The more important of these two laws is showing, which always takes three to four times more words than telling. Don’t worry about the added verbiage.

Let’s look at more examples:

Instead of writing this flat statement, “He works out at the gym and has a great physique,” we could show his muscular form with dialogue. A girl could see him and text her friend, saying, “Wayne just came out of the gym wearing one of those tight muscle shirts. Wow! What a hunk!”

Another way to show is by using internal dialogue ([thoughts] – although editors don’t like internal dialogue these days). Let’s say you have a scene in the kitchen where a woman is angry. She could throw pots and pans to express her temperament, or she could think, I could literally place my hands around her skinny little neck and slowly squeeze the life out of her. Notice that some types of showing still have a little telling in them. (By the way, internal dialogue is always expressed in italics.)

Or we could view the woman through another character’s eyes, like this:

She stood stock still, right hand on her hip, and one foot patting the floor. Blood engorged the vessels in her neck and temples as a crimson flush crawled from her collar upward. We knew it was time to get out of Dodge.

More ways to learn showing:

  • Read stories printed within the last five years and pick out showing sentences.
  • Review your own work and look for telling sentences.
    • Observe people and make a telling statement about them, then change it to showing.

Learning to show emotions and attitudes is an advanced technique that takes months to learn. Be patient. It will come in time.

For more helpful insights, go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and learn more about our fantastic creative writing courses!

Punctuation Study

Understanding Punctuation

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers rarely study punctuation, but almost everyone needs a brush-up now and then. See if you know all of these variations.

Imperative and declarative sentences

Both imperative and declarative sentences require a normal period.

Imperative commands: Give me a hug. Tell me goodbye when you leave.

Declarative sentences state a fact, such as: She gave him a hug. She told her mother goodbye when she left.

But some declarative sentences contain a question. If the sentence as a whole states the question as a fact, it should end with a period. (Confusing, isn’t it?)

As a question:  Would you like to go to a party?

As a statement: I wonder if you would like to go to the party.

The latter sentence states that I am wondering if you would like to go to the party; therefore, it is not asking a direct question.

Abbreviated words ending in a period

Mr., Dr., Rev., etc., i.e., and Mrs. are examples of abbreviated words that have periods. If your declarative or imperative sentence have an abbreviated word at the end, don’t add an additional period.

(Correct) The movie starts at 8 p.m. (Incorrect) The movie starts at 8 p.m..

Question marks

A question mark is used at the end of a normal question, but it is also used to express doubt or the unknown. When the question mark is used on a gravestone, it is usually placed in parentheses, like this: (1960–?) In such a case, the engraver doesn’t know when the person died.

In the following sentence, the writer is not sure whether the pet mentioned is a cat or some other animal.

In her will, the eccentric woman left her pet cat (?) the entire estate.

(Writer’s hint: If you don’t know what kind of animal the pet is, just say “pet.”)

If there is a series of incomplete questions, place a question mark at the end of each question, as in:

Can you believe the man survived the gunshot? And the fall from the six-story building? And hitting the flagpole? (Neither can I.)

Exclamation marks

Sometimes called an exclamation point, this handy little punctuation is used to indicate surprise or a strong emotion or feeling, as in: Get out of my room!

To make that a much milder statement (command), I could have said, Get out of my room. (Notice that it ended with a period.) When a statement uses an exclamation point, it relates a sense of urgency or possible anger. Note how the exclamation mark changes the related emotion.

Get out. I said, get out. I said, get out!

Exclamation marks are rarely used in formal writing except in quotes or the citing of a title. You may also see them in article “teasers.” In informal writing, you should use an exclamation point at the end of a strong sentence or after relating particularly exciting information.

If the exclamation mark is used to punctuate exciting information within a sentence, it is placed in parentheses, as in: Mike won first place (!) in the spelling bee.

And last but certainly not least, don’t use the exclamation mark more than an average of once per page. You should be showing emotions by painting scenes with imagery, not telling the emotions with punctuation.

Fortunately, you can be somewhat creative in using punctuation! For more great writing tips, go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and sign up for our newsletter!

Getting Started in Writing

Writing… Is it Right for You?

The Beginning of a Life-long Journey

By Deborah Owen

What would you give to be a good writer? Would you be willing to study hard, to start at the bottom, to invest in yourself? That’s what learning the writing trade is all about, and you can learn it in two years or less.

Writing will fulfill you.
Writing will be worth the sacrifice.
Writing will make you more than you are.

Perhaps the following syllabi from Creative Writing Institute will help you judge your present level of writing.

Punctuation Review: Learn basic comma rules, dependent and independent clauses, the use of semicolons, parentheses, dashes, apostrophes, hyphens, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, and slashes. This is an awesome brush-up course for those who are weak in this area.

Mechanics of Writing is another brush-up course that deals with dialogue, comma splices, subject and verb agreement, coordinated vs. subordinated conjunction, double negatives, disruptive and misplaced modifiers, unclear antecedents, overuse of prepositions, fragmented and run-on sentences, prepositional phrases, query letters, and how to coordinate ideas. This is the course where most students should begin because it lays a great foundation.

Short Story Safari is an intermediate course that covers themes, choosing points of view, and targeting the audience. Students will learn to build and properly cast characters, create good dialogue, use word imagery, build conflict, cut verbiage in long sentences like this, and perhaps most importantly, the art of Show, Don’t Tell. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

Some people think it’s easier to write for children than to write for adults. Wrong. The Writing for Children course presents outlining, fleshing out characters, studying market techniques, building points of view, good dialogue, and Show, Don’t Tell. In addition, you will learn how to edit drafts, polish your final draft, and create fantastic queries and cover letters. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

Those who take the Fantasy Writing Class will study the difference between fantasy, horror, and sci-fi writing. The course also covers the history of fantasy writing, finding inspiration, creating fantasy characters, worlds, and battles. Additionally, students will study outlining, creating spells, mixing magic potions, and the necessary elements to transport your readers into a believable atmosphere. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

In Dynamic Nonfiction writers will find ideas for articles, contact editors for guidelines, do research, learn to notate properly, and learn critical thinking vs. argumentation. They will study topics and sub-topics, titles, description, cause and effect, and analogy. They will prepare a query letter and complete the course with a finished article.

Building Blocks of Poetry teaches students about perfect rhyme, near rhyme, lines and stanzas, repetition, consonance, assonance, rhythm, meter, and alliteration. They will also learn enjambment, caesura, scansion, imagery, metaphor, pathos, personification, and other techniques.

There are many more classes, but these represent some of the more popular ones. Two poetry courses are also available, teaching meter, rhyme, free verse, and various types of poetry.

Students who begin above their level are apt to become overwhelmed, discouraged, and disenchanted with learning. If you aren’t sure where you would fit into the learning scale, write to deborahowen@cwinst.com for information on how you can receive a free writing evaluation without obligation.

NOTE: Other schools may have identical class names but might teach different subjects within their courses. Always read the syllabus, and don’t forget to visit www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com for all your writing needs. Take a course and get your own personal tutor. On sale now!

Tips and Tricks to Writing Emotions

Are Emotions Absent in your Scenes? If they aren’t, don’t look now, but you just lost your readers.

by Deborah Owen

There are tips and tricks to writing emotions. As a creative writer, you must feel the mood you’re writing. This is imperative if you want to reach your audience. How can you do that? By experiencing the mood.

Let’s suppose you want to write a scene that displays anger. Maybe the story is about abuse, a mom and dad arguing, or sibling rivalry. Maybe it’s about a girl breaking up with her boyfriend because he was cheating on her. If the scene is intense, you have to get into the mood. I mean red, piping hot angry.

Remember the guy or gal that dumped you 30 years ago? Remember the time you had a bad dream about your pal and you wouldn’t speak to him/her all day? How about when you got steamed at the boss, or got into a heated argument over politics, world affairs, abortion, women’s rights, etc.? As a writer, you must recapture those emotions and write them into your scenes. It should be so real that you attend anger management classes to get over it.

Do you need to be happy? Then think of some happy occasions. Sing a crazy song as loud as you can. Laugh like an idiot! When you begin laughing at yourself, it’s time to write that joy into your scene.

Another way to develop absent emotions is to imagine yourself as the character and write entries in a diary from his/her point of view. Live the make-believe life. Do whatever it takes to crawl into your character’s skin. You can’t write effectively what you don’t know or aren’t in the mood for. (You can, however, write a draft for the scene and come back to build it in a more realistic way later.)

Remember that your protagonist (main character, hero) and antagonist (villain) must be three-dimensional characters. They must have a past and a future; they must have problems in their lives and they must work through those issues like real, live people. Your characters should be real enough to walk off the page and sit next to the reader. If your reader can’t identify with the characters, he or she will probably not continue reading.

When my daughter was 16 years old, it was not uncommon for her to sit cross-legged on the floor and bawl her eyes out over a dramatic TV show. One night I winked at my husband and said, “That actress is playing her part really well, isn’t she?” He picked up on it and we talked back and forth about the actress’ career and wondered out loud what movie she would be in next – although she just died in that scene.

Our daughter turned around, tears dripping off her cheeks, and said, “Quit it, you guys. You’re ruining the show!” But what she really meant was, “I’m into the character. I feel what she is feeling. Don’t move me out of the scene.”

If your characters aren’t three-dimensional, (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) you’ll lose your readers. Put yourself into the mood and into the groove. Live what you write.

How do you best write emotions? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses!

You can find me online at http://www.deborahowen.wordpress or deborahowen on Twitter. Don’t forget to “like” us before you leave! Click on the title to leave a comment. Thank you!

Should You Write for Free?

Is Free Writing Worth It in the End?

by Deborah Owen

Writing for Free Leads to Money

I can almost hear you say, “You want me to write free of charge? Are you nuts?” Bear with me. There’s a method to my madness. Write for free, so you can get paid.

This is a controversial subject, but the fact is, this is how most writers get their start. If it will help you break into the writing market, why wouldn’t you?

Question

Why do you want to be published? To fill a void in your life? To teach others from your experience? To leave your mark on the earth? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. You have important things to say—so say them, but first you have to break into the market so people can read your articles/stories.

An editor’s first question will be, “Where have you been published?” And you should have a list as long as your arm. So where do you get that experience? We’re back to writing for free.

Where to Begin

  • Write for ezines that pay in subscriptions (some will pay $5)
  • Write for your church bulletin
  • Write for newsletters at work
  • Volunteer work for a nonprofit charity
  • Ask your local newspaper if they need someone to cover sports and/or political     meetings. (These are hard jobs to fill, and almost every paper has such a position.)
  • Write an article on odd things you see in the community, and sell them to the local paper. (Always take a picture. You’ll get $10 for the article and $5 more for  a pic.)
  • Write for Associated Content or eHow

As your articles are printed, be sure to clip, date, and save them in a photo album. These are called “clippings”. (If you take writing courses and receive a Certificate of Completion, you may want to keep them in the same album.)

When you move up the ladder, editors will ask to see samples of your work. That’s when you copy your clippings and send them for inspection. When sending your first piece to a magazine don’t say, “My teacher liked this piece,” or “I’ve never been published before, but I work hard,” or “I belong to a writer’s club and this article was voted best of the month.” These are amateur remarks and editors will recognize them as such.

You may be asking, “But when I send clippings from bulletins, newsletters, and charities, won’t the editor know I’ve been writing for little or nothing?” Yes they will, but they won’t care. They’ll know you were learning the market, and you must have some talent or no one would’ve published your work.

If you don’t have publication credits, avoid the subject altogether, but send a short cover letter with your submission. Give a very short story on how you started writing and what your goals are. Don’t forget to thank the editor for his or her time.

In Conclusion

  • Writing for free is a great way to establish credentials
  • Keep dated clippings in a photo album
  • Present yourself professionally

You make your own chances in this business, and writing for free is part of the learning curve. What about you? Have you tried writing for free? Did you find it profitable? Click on the title to leave a comment, and don’t forget to “like” us! Thanks.

Go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to get a personal tutor in your writing course. How many schools offer that?

The Secret of Weaving Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions

Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions
by Deborah Owen, CEO Creative Writing Institute

Creative writing calls for all the talent you can muster. If you wonder what it takes to become a writer, think about whether you can write a decent informal letter. If so, you can learn to write. Writing is a learned skill. We have yet to see a baby born with a pen in its hand.

Theme

What is a theme? It is the one thing you want the reader to remember when they have finished reading. The theme is the undercurrent from the beginning to the end, but is never spoken outright. Gone With the Wind is a story of manipulation. Moby Dick centers on revenge. Pinocchio is a story of morals. The Ten Commandments is about choices and judgment. What is your story’s theme?

Every sentence must point to it. If you’re writing imagery or scenery, weave it into the theme. For example, if you’re writing a romance story and your opening scene has snow and Christmas lights, the scene should build to something that connects with romance. You could, for instance, use it to introduce a character or a situation that will tie into the deeper story.

But beware. If the snowfall adds nothing to the atmosphere, delete it. If you have a dog in the story and its purpose is to show a person’s loving kindness, (part of characterization), that’s fine, but if the pooch has no purpose for being there, delete it.

Build your story to a climax and let it unfold in a cataclysm. The dialogue must create the right mood. Some of the dialogue may seemingly relate to something else, but in the scheme of things, it should point to characterization, setting, or plot.

Using the romance theme, let’s suppose you have a scene where two neighbors are gossiping over the back fence. How could the gossiping scene relate to romance?

• It could introduce a new character
• It could build the characterization of an existing personality
• It could shift the scene to a closer part of the theme
• It could show “discovery” (something the reader doesn’t know)
• It could “foreshadow” an event (a precursor to the event)

What is Arcing?

Arcing is the rise and fall of the story. As you weave the theme, natural questions will emerge and you must answer them. Questions are little trails that lead to an unnamed destination. They wind upward, increase the reader’s interest, and elevate emotions to a fever pitch. The climax scene (sometimes called the plot scene) should fall between the half and two-thirds mark. This is the highest pitch of emotions, the turning point where you solve problems and show that good overcomes evil. The first part of a story is “flat.” The middle arcs (elevates to a high point). The conclusion resolves to a flat line again.

What is a Resolution?

Note that the end of the story ties up all the loose ends and stops at a higher plane than where the story began. That’s because the reader becomes one with the characters, and becomes involved in their motivation and desires.

Intertwine one piece of the puzzle with another until all the pieces mesh together to form the whole picture. This is called weaving. A writer is an artist that paints words on paper and waits for someone to open the cover and discover the picture within. As with all paintings, develop each picture methodically and with purpose.

Resolve the story by answering every question you have raised. Tie it up in a neat little bundle and in the end, the reader won’t have questions.

Please take a moment to “like” us and make a comment. Thanks! Find more great tips in The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, the only school that assigns a personal tutor to every student.

Earn Money Writing Travel Tips

Travel Writing Tips
by Deborah Owen

Travel writing pays well and is a perfect way to pick up extra income, yet most creative writers don’t take advantage of it. Why?

• It takes extra time
• It can be intimidating
• Writers are a procrastinating bunch
• Laziness

Travel writing is available to everyone – even those who don’t travel. The trick is to look at commonplace locations as though you are seeing them for the first time.

Where to Begin

Start reading travel magazines and analyze what you read. Magazines use various styles of writing. Choose the one that uses articles similar to your writing style. Analyze the articles. Do they use a lot of interviews? Pictures? Quotes? Statistics? What style do they like? What angle? There are no new subjects so the angle is everything.

Travel magazines like articles on little “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants that are off the beaten path.

1. Tell your audience how you found it, what they serve, how it tastes, prices, atmosphere, and background information.
2. Who owns it? When was it founded?
3. Find a unique angle
4. Take pictures for human interest

Always be armed with a camera, a notepad, pen and a tape recorder. You never know when a story will present itself.

The field of traveling is wide open. You can write an article on a park, a museum, gas station, antique shop, taxidermy studio, an old-fashioned drugstore, a lake – almost anything can become a travel story.

Tell how long it takes to travel to that destination, the unusual things that you saw, and what other tourists think of the place. Are there other places that you could use for comparison? You can write virtually dozens of articles on one trip.

Top Reasons for Failure

1. Straying from the subject.
2. Covering too much material. Focus.
3. Not choosing your market before you write the article.
4. Not matching your article to the proper publisher.

ALWAYS check the publisher’s guidelines.

Search the Writers Market, Duotrope, Worldwide Freelance, or other markets to find the right publisher. Writer’s Market is $40. Be sure to get the online edition since it is updated monthly, but be aware that this is a huge market and competition for big magazines will be fierce. Writer’s Market also offers folders to keep track of your submissions.

Be sure to note when you submitted, to whom, the name of the editor, and when their guidelines say they will respond. If you haven’t heard from them a week past their estimated time of response, send an inquiry.

It’s debatable where you should or shouldn’t query a nonfiction market, but most experts do. If you don’t, send your article with a cover letter and self-addressed, stamped envelope. Success lies in persistence, so submit a new article every week.

Finally… if you sell an article from a vacation trip, you can write part of your expenses off on your taxes. Ask your accountant about this.

So why not try travel writing this year? Be thorough in your research, take good pictures, perfect your work, match it to the right market and, above all, enjoy it. A good journal will give you plenty of food for thought when you get home.

I love lower California. What is your favorite place to travel?

*Presented by Creative Writing Institute, where every student receives a private tutor.

A Writer’s Cross to Bear

The Easter Story, as it Applies to Writers

We writers can draw comparisons and make applications on almost anything. With some difficulty, we can even compare our talents to the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Showing you how to do this is our unique way of wishing you a Happy Easter.

On March 29, Good Friday will remind us of Christ’s death and fulfilled prophecy. Tried, beaten, and condemned to death for righteousness, Jesus carried His cross and faced the end of human life.

Soldiers pressed his bloody body against the wood, and stretched bruised arms and legs to capacity. Christ’s palms turned out in supplication as they drove huge nails through both hands and feet. They raised the cross toward heaven and dropped it into place with a thud that dislocated His limbs.

By sunset, the Son of God took His last earthly breath, and it was finished. Joseph of Arimathaea begged to remove Christ’s body from the cross, and on Sunday, the Son of God arose while His followers mourned.

We can draw some great applications from that first Easter. For instance, crafting words into articles, stories, and books is a gift, but writing can be a hard cross to bear.

Think of the pressure. What if we fail? What if people laugh at us? What if we can’t meet our own expectations? Where are the right words? How can we nail them together with perfection?

After we finish that phase, we edit, rewrite, and polish which, in essence, equates to life or death for that piece. The last step comes in marketing. Over 50% of the writers who receive one rejection slip never submit again. Rejection can mean the end of a talent that didn’t push through to resurrection.

Paul the Apostle urged Christians to crucify themselves daily. What did he mean by that? Using our gifts is one way to bear our cross. Other ways are perseverance, dedication, and education. All are difficult.

Easter Sunday and its lessons happen more than once a year for us. It happens every time we say, “It is finished.” It happens every time an editor, agent, or publisher accepts our work. New life flows into our veins. We’re uplifted. Accepted. Refreshed. Reassured. It’s so real that you can smell it. Feel it. Inhale it. Bubble with it. Celebrate your resurrection. Now move on to the next challenge.

As the Lent season closes and Easter approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on what we’re doing with our lives. Let’s be thankful for our talent, develop it, and gift it back to God. Let’s make it a priority. Yes, it’s hard, but joy comes in the morning, and when it comes, we know it was worth the agony of last night’s sweat.

Happy Easter! Celebrate in the church of your choice.

For more great writing tips, get our newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

How to Edit – 15 Steps

15 Quick Editing Steps to Rewrite Success

by Deborah Owen

Editing is another name for rewriting, and rewriting can only come once you’ve finished. Once that’s done, each round of editing should accomplish a specific purpose.

Follow these 15 quick editing steps to find out how.

1. Do some warm-up writing for ten minutes before you begin editing. During this time, write about something that makes you mad… perhaps an old flame, something an old boyfriend or girlfriend did, a spanking you unjustly received—anything that will stir your emotions and creativity. When your creative juices are flowing, you can critique you own work better.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Refer back to the rough outline you used as the basis for your first draft. (What? You didn’t use an outline? No wonder you’re reading this article.) Be sure you’ve included all the initial points you wanted to make.

3. Check for linear flow (order of events). Don’t try flashbacks unless you know what you’re doing.

4. Don’t tell what your character is thinking. SHOW it with action, demonstration, or dialogue. Keep in mind that showing always takes three to five times more words than telling. That’s okay, as long as it’s meaty.

Example of Telling
: I’m so nervous, Jennifer thought as she saw the doctor approach. (Boo… hiss… bad writing)

Showing: Jennifer picked on her thumbnail as the doctor approached with furrowed brow. Noises in the room amplified. Did his strides grow longer? Was everyone looking at her? Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock chimed six and echoed in her head. A tiny drop of blood pushed to the thumb’s surface as she pulled the nail into the quick. The stabbing pain was a welcome diversion.

5. Edit for excessive wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Use only one adjective at a time. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene and leave only the most necessary. When you delete a favorite phrase, copy it and save it in a file for another day.

6. Delete all adverbs ending in -ly, such as sadly, hatefully, etc. The use of adverbs is a sure indicator that you aren’t engaging the technique called Show, Don’t Tell. (See #4)

7. Sentence tags: Don’t use “said she” or “said he.” Turn those words around to read “he said” and “she said.” Delete most tag endings, such as “she said with a snicker.” If you have sufficiently built your characters and the scene, the reader will know the attitudes on display.

8. Check the verbs and replace them with jazzier ones. Examples:

• He choked until he couldn’t breathe – He hawked until he couldn’t breathe.
• The little girl ran down the sidewalk – The little girl skipped down the sidewalk.
• The boy hit the ball out of the park – The boy whanged the ball out of the park.

Jazzing your verbs (choosing more active verbs) will make your work glow!

9. Douse as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible. That includes is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are dead verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had (use sparingly), I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many as possible because they weaken sentence structure. Likewise, using “could” and “would” will drop you into a trap that you’ll find hard to escape.

10. Watch for tense changes. If you begin in past tense, the entire story must be written in past tense, with two exceptions – one of which you should never use.

 The first exception is dialogue, and that’s because people speak in mixed tenses – present, past, and future.

 The second is internal dialogue (thoughts). That throws it into the omniscient voice and editors consider it a lazy writer’s way of telling what they should be showing. Don’t use it.

11. Follow the rules for prepositional phrases – no more than three to a sentence, and avoid using more than two in consecutive order. Prepositions are easy to identify. Some of the most common are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before, but there are hundreds. Find a partial list of them here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm.

Pick out the ones you use most and avoid them like the plague. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you IN the afterlife,” or “He told his daughter to go INTO the house.” Consecutive prepositional phrases make weak sentence construction. Note: If you begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, place a comma at the end of it (just as I did in this sentence.)

12. Punctuation:

 Space ONCE after a period.
 For writing in the USA, most punctuation (except the colon and sometimes the question mark) lies within the quote marks. Check to see that all of your quotes are closed.
 Don’t use a semi-colon unless it is before the words “however” or “therefore,” (in which case, use a comma immediately after those words).
 Don’t use colons except to list things: recipes, items of clothing, kinds of perfume, etc.
 Use commas to separate two clauses into a compound sentence, between city and state, and to offset introductory prepositional phrases.
 Don’t use more than one exclamation mark per every 2,000 words!!!
 Learn to use the ellipsis (three dots) properly. Remember, the ellipsis represents a pause or interruption in the sentence. It’s easy to overuse these little devils. If you find yourself falling into that trap, use a dash instead and insert a space on each side of it.

Rules for using the ellipsis:

a. When used at the beginning of a sentence: “(space)…And that’s all he said.”
b. In the middle of a sentence: “I hated to tell you that…(space) I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
c. At the end of a sentence, use four dots: “I didn’t want to tell you….” (Some people speak partial phrases and don’t intend to complete them. In such cases, use four dots. The fourth dot acts as a period at the end of the sentence… or some the period is the first dot and the ellipsis follows. It makes a nice theological debate.)

13. Use the spellchecker, but don’t totally rely on it. If you use homophones such as “right” when you meant “write,” or “blew” instead of “blue,” it won’t catch the error. To be safe, scan for mistakes after you use the spellchecker.

14. Check your formatting. Most places request a double-spaced body and indented paragraphs. When the dialogue changes from one speaker to the next, start a new paragraph.

15. Lastly, ask a friend to read your article aloud while you note places you want to change. This is the best way to get clear perspective on what you’ve written. If you don’t have someone to read it aloud, YOU read it aloud—but be careful to read exactly what’s written and not what your mind wants to insert. Hint: Stumbling over a sentence usually indicates awkward wording. Rewrite it.

Of course, the main rule is to follow the publisher’s guidelines, but when those are lacking, these 15 steps will produce crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

Don’t forget to click “like” before you leave! Happy day! Deb

Learn more at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

The Writer’s Bucket List

A Bucket List for Writers
by Deborah Blake, Volunteer Coordinator at Creative Writing Institute

Benjamin Franklin is believed to have said, ‘If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.’

He may not have been talking about a bucket list, but he does seem to be encouraging writers to make the most of life and, in turn, get the most out of their writing.

A bucket list is a list of all the things you’d like to achieve. It may be something that you’ve always wanted to do but perhaps don’t have the confidence. If it’s on your list, you can work toward each goal, instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’d never be able to do that’.

What Should Be on My Bucket List?

• Do something exciting. Knowing you can write about it may give you the push you need. Don’t let apathy rob you of a good story.

• Start a blog to encourage aspiring writers. Share your experiences so that others can learn from them.

• Write something in a genre that’s out of your comfort zone, e.g. poetry, comedy, a song – stretch yourself.

• Write an article that will make a difference to you, an organization, your local community, or the world.

• Enter a writing competition. It’s a brilliant way to stay motivated and focused. There’s nothing like a bit of competitive spirit to get those creative juices flowing.

• Take a writing course. It’s always fun to learn something new and sharpen your writing skills.

• What’s on your bucket list? (Doesn’t have to be related to writing.)

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave! Visit http://www.Creative WritingInstitute.com and receive a private writing tutor. Your tuition dollars will help sponsor cancer patients.