Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Animal Rescue Worker

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Animal Rescue Worker

Overview: There are many different jobs under the umbrella of animal rescue workers: owners and managers of shelters, veterinarians and technicians, trainers, deployment workers, animal control officers, and even wildlife rehabilitation workers, just to name a few. This entry will focus on rescue deployment workers, who are called out to assess, and if needed, rescue domestic animals in distress. The animals may be at risk due to hoarding situations (on farms as well as pet owners), abandoned animals, dog-fighting rings, puppy mills, factory farms, or disaster relief when animals are displaced.

Necessary Training: To join a rescue group, often a person only needs a high school diploma, as they will receive training by the organization on assessments (determining the condition of an animal, their age, possible risk factors, if abuse has occurred, injuries or diseases, etc.), the safe handling of animals, different risk scenarios, basic care, and rehabilitation. If a person wishes to move up the chain, especially to work their way into a management role, they may need a business diploma. Some rescue workers will come into the job with a psychology background or take courses in handling people, learning how to de-escalate situations with owners.

If a rescue worker frequently works in animal rescue and re-homing in disaster situations (forest fires, flooding, etc.) then specialized training for working in these environments would also be needed, such as setting up a base of operations, adhering to safety protocols, gathering and managing volunteers, working in tandem with other aid-based groups, collecting food, kennels, bedding, or securing transporting as needed, getting animals medical care, reuniting animals with owners in the aftermath, etc.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, a way with animals, basic first aid, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others,  multitasking, photographic memory, promotion, swift-footedness, wilderness navigation

Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous, affectionate, alert, calm, cautious, cooperative, courageous, disciplined, kind, merciful, nature-focused, nurturing, organized, passionate, persistent, persuasive, protective, socially aware

Sources of Friction: Owners who do not want to give up their animals, knowing abuse is occurring but not being able to prove it, finding animals so bad off the humane thing is to put them down, discovering acts of cruelty but being unable to find the person responsible, having to go to the same home or farm multiple times because the person is a repeat offender (such as a hoarder or puppy mill owner), always struggling with funding issues, having too many animals to rescue and not enough shelter space

People They Might Interact With: animal rescue workers, pet owners, ranchers and farmers, police officers, people from other aid organizations, veterinarian, shelter workers, dog groomers, rehabilitation specialists, animal foster families, advocacy (animal rights) groups

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A character in this occupation could suffer a crisis of faith at seeing the cruelty people are capable of
  • Esteem and Recognition: A rescue worker who is unable to rescue animals in time may internalize the weight of the pain that animal suffered and feel their have failed, questioning their own self-worth and abilities.
  • Love and Belonging: Having to travel, and the long hours of rescue work may not leave a lot of time for other people, especially if the rescue worker is caring for animals themselves, being part of the rehabilitation chain.
  • Safety and Security: someone in this profession may be in danger if stepping into a situation unaware, both from people (violent owners, criminals using animals for profit, etc.) and the animals themselves (who may have rabies, or be violent due to mistreatment.

Common Work-Related Settings: alley, backyard, badlands, barn, basement, big city street, campsite, chicken coop, circus, condemned apartment building, construction site, country road, courtroom, creek, empty lot, factory, farm, forest, homeless shelter, house fire, landfill, motor home, mountains, park, pasture, pet store, police station, quarry, race track (horses), ranch, razed city street, refugee camp, river, salvage yard, sewers, trailer park, underpass, waiting room

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Critiques 4 U

writing weather winter critique group

My snowy yard

Happy January, everyone! Typically, this is a month redolent with opportunity and new beginnings. Where I live, it also means that your kids only go to school half the time. So…kind of counter-productive. On the upside, snow days mean sleeping in, waffle breakfasts, and long days in pajamas. Also, lots of reading. So let’s do a critique contest, shall we?



If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes:

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)

Also, please be sure your first page is ready to go so I can critique it before next month’s contest rolls around. If it needs some work and you won’t be able to get it to me right away, I’d like to ask that you plan on entering the next contest, once any necessary tweaking has been taken care of. 🙂


Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

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Writers, Ready to Write Naked?

The holiday season may be over but the fervor of LET’S DO THIS is still in everyone’s veins. You guys are all ready to show 2018 who’s boss, right?

We want to help, so we’re giving away a writerly pair of books to encourage you to go deep, and yes, write naked.

Becca and I are joining forces with New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst in one sweet giveaway.

TWO lucky winners are going to win this pair of signed resources.

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Guide to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success

Learn how to transform your passion for writing into a career. New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Probst reveals her pathway to success, from struggling as a new writer to signing a seven-figure deal. Write Naked intermingles personal essays on craft with down-to-earth advice on writing romance in the digital age. Probst will teach you how to:

  • Commit to your current work-in-progress, get focused, and complete it on schedule
  • Reveal raw emotions and thoughts on the page to hook your readers
  • Assemble a street team to promote and celebrate your books
  • Overcome writer’s block with ease
  • Develop themes that tie together your books and series
  • Write the most difficult elements of romance–including sex scenes–with skill and style

Regardless of the genre, every novelist faces a difficult task. Creating authentic characters and an engaging plot are challenging enough. But attempting to break into the hotter-than-ever romance genre, which is constantly flooded with new titles and fresh faces? It can feel impossible. This is where Probst’s Write Naked comes in. To survive–and thrive–you need the help and wisdom of an expert.

Angela’s three-fiddy: This book is amazing. You want it. Trust me. It’s great if you specifically write romance, but even if you don’t, there’s strong advice that translates to all genres and to every writer seeking success. You’ll find my endorsement under Editorial Reviews.

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma

To deliver characters that are both realistic and compelling, writers must know them intimately—not only who they are in the present story, but also what made them that way. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of your story. Inside, you’ll find:

  • A database of over 100 traumatic situations common to the human experience
  • An in-depth study on a wound’s impact, including the fears, lies, personality shifts, and dysfunctional behaviors that can arise from different painful events
  • An extensive analysis of character arc and how the wound and any resulting unmet needs fit into it
  • Techniques on how to show the past experience to readers in a way that is both engaging and revelatory while avoiding the pitfalls of info dumps and telling
  • And much more

Extensively researched, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is a crash course in psychology for creating characters that feel incredibly real to readers.

Angela’s three-fiddy: I know many of you swear by The Emotion Thesaurus, and we are thrilled you love that book (we do too!). The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, though? I personally believe it’s our best resource yet.  😉 

Ready to Win a Seriously Powerful Book Set?

Simply go HERE to enter.

(Giveaway ends 1/31.) Good luck!

We really hope the year has started off well for you and the months ahead will have some fabulous surprises in store. Put those words on the page. Embrace your craft. Let your creativity shine!

~ Happy writing & giveaway-entering,

Angela & Becca

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Harness Your Creative Momentum

Our own writing coach Gabriel Periera is coming off the high of her recent TED talk (yes, she’s done an actual TED talk) with some new ideas on how to stay motivated and move forward with our writing goals. If you’re looking for ways to maximize your results and productivity in the next few months, read on for some helpful tips.

It’s that time of year when people are making—and breaking—New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re like me (and many other writers), you likely struggle with making room for your writing or getting past writer’s block. In fact, when preparing my recent TEDx talk on the craft of creativity, I came up against these same obstacles and realized that the solution is simple: just sit down and do the work.

But just because the answer is simple doesn’t make it easy to execute. This is why, as you gear up to tackle your writing goals in the New Year, it’s good to have the right tools and resources at your disposal. Here are three things you need in order to reach your creative goals.

1. A Reason Why

Most writers write because they love it, because they can’t not do it. But have you ever stopped to think—really think—about why you chose writing over all the other possible creative outlets you could have? Think back to the time when you first started writing for real, not just doodling or jotting down notes, but writing something that was meaningful to you, that you felt had impact.

For me, that moment was in elementary school when I would sneak away during recess and hide in an empty classroom, jotting down stories and writing plays in a battered composition notebook. While most teachers might have been delighted that a student was writing during recess, my third grade teacher did not approve and she even relegated me to a remedial English class because of my uncooperative and non-conforming behavior.

Looking back I realize now that for most young writers, this would have been heartbreaking, but for me it was the lighting of a fire. From the moment that teacher labeled me as a “problem” and told me I was “no good” at writing, I became determined to prove her wrong, and that defiant urge has spurred me on ever since.

A mentor of mine once told me: “When you’re in competition, the one with the biggest WHY wins.” I think there’s truth to that and if you know why writing matters to you, you’re more likely to dedicate the time and energy to it that it requires.

2. A Structure or Routine

Finding time and building discipline are among the most common challenges writers tell me they encounter, but if you give yourself a structure or a routine, it becomes much easier to get past that obstacle. When I created DIY MFA years ago, I did so because I wanted to keep up the same structure that a traditional MFA program had given me. I was secretly terrified at the prospect of graduation and I wanted some way to keep that momentum going.

When I was writing the book, DIY MFA, again I relied on my routine to keep myself on track. This time it was the regular schedule of squeezing in my writing between when I dropped my son off at preschool and when I had to pick him up a few short hours later. Having a regular routine made my writing non-negotiable and a no-brainer. I didn’t have to stop and think, “When will I do my writing today?” I knew when because it was the time I did so every day: between 9:00-11:30, while my son was in preschool. Not having to think about it meant I wouldn’t question it, I would just sit down and write as though it were any other job.

3. A Community

When you’re embarking on a new and ambitious goal, a strong community can be game changing. Yet for many writers, community can be one of the most difficult things to find, often because they’re looking for the wrong thing. Most writers think community is first and foremost about getting other writers to read and critique your work. While critique is certainly one benefit of a writing community, I recommend starting with building friendship and trust first.

Accountability and support are two big benefits of finding a community. By sharing your goals with fellow writers or even sitting and writing side-by-side, you’re more likely to stay focused and put in the legwork to reach your goal. In terms of support, that can be either personal—like getting the emotional support you need—or professional. The latter can include anything that opens doors for your creative career, such as advice from a mentor, an introduction to a key influencer, or other opportunities.

I often recommend that writers start by looking more for accountability and support, as critique partnerships require a certain level of trust that takes time to build. My most trusted readers are ones whom I connected with as friends first, then eventually asked for feedback on my work.

The WHY is unique to the individual writer, and the only way to discover it is by doing some deep soul-searching. The structure and community, on the other hand, are much easier to find and you don’t have to come up with them from scratch. In fact, we have an event happening at DIY MFA right now that can help you both with developing a structure for your writing and finding a community. This event is the DIY MFA Book Club and you can sign up for free just by clicking the link and entering your email address.

Part writing challenge and part read-along, the Book Club is a chance to learn and apply signature DIY MFA concepts and connect with like-minded writers in the process. Every few days, you’ll receive a writing prompt via email to help unleash your creative momentum and get your writing. Want to join? Click here and sign up!

Gabriela Pereira is the founder of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She is also a speaker, podcast host for DIY MFA Radio, and author of the forthcoming book DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community (Writer’s Digest Books, July 2016). Join the word nerd community at DIYMFA.com/join.

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Posted in Focus, Goal and Milestones, Motivational, Writer's Block | 8 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Therapist (Mental Health)

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

character development, occupations, writing a novel, creative writing

Occupation: Therapist

Overview: A mental health therapist provides support and help for those who are struggling with mental or emotional problems. A therapist may open their doors to any clientele or they may focus on an area of specialization (marriages and families, substance abuse, grief, life coaching, etc.). They may own their own business, be part of a practice, or work out of a specific location, such as a hospital, prison or detention facility, detox center or halfway house, church, or school system. Online counseling is also becoming a popular option for those seeking this kind of help.

Many mental health occupations are mentioned synonymously, but there are distinct differences. It should be noted that while Psychologists may provide therapy, many of them choose to work in academic or research settings. Likewise, a Psychiatrist also holds a higher degree and has the distinction of being able to prescribe medication.

Necessary Training: A four-year degree is required in the US, with certain kinds of therapy also requiring a master’s degree. Many clinical hours are also necessary to achieve the needed on-the-ground training before a therapist can hang their shingle.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Empathy, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality, reading people

Helpful Character Traits: Analytical, calm, cooperative, curious, decisive, diplomatic, discreet, efficient, empathetic, friendly, gentle, honest, honorable, intelligent, kind, merciful, meticulous, nurturing, observant, optimistic, organized, patient, perceptive, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, responsible, sensible, studious, supportive, tolerant, wise

Sources of Friction: Being unable to find the solution that works for a client, a client who is unable or unwilling to open up and be honest about their situation, a client’s dysfunction escalating while in one’s care (them committing suicide, abusing a child, killing someone, etc.), misreading or misdiagnosing a client, becoming romantically involved with a client, harboring prejudice against a client, needing to break confidentiality to protect someone but knowing it will impact trust with the client, tempers flaring in a group therapy session, working with an inept or incapacitated partner, a client with uncooperative family members or caregivers who undermine progress, alienating loved ones through one’s constant psychoanalysis, bringing one’s work home (being unable to keep one’s mind from obsessing over a client or the difficult life circumstances one hears about on a daily basis), seeing clearly how to help others but having blind spots in one’s personal life, a client in crisis interfering with one’s personal life, being stalked or attacked by an unstable client or someone close to that person

People They Might Interact With: Clients (children, teens, couples, inmates, veterans, the elderly, etc.), the client’s family members or caregivers, other mental health practitioners (social workers, psychiatrists, etc.), medical doctors, school officials, administrative personnel (a receptionist, janitors, an office manager)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Esteem and Recognition: Not every therapist can help every client, but a professional who has more than their share of failures may begin to doubt their capabilities—even if the fault isn’t theirs. The therapist may also suffer a lack of esteem if their choice of clientele (pedophiles, serial killers, etc.) brings them low in the eyes of others
  • Love and Belonging: It’s said that some therapists follow this career path out of a desire to fix themselves, but this is easier said than done. If a therapist is deeply wounded, they may have difficulty getting along with others or connecting in healthy ways on a personal level. Their need to “fix” others can also cause problems when they consistently try to do this with loved ones.
  • Safety and Security: If a therapist’s practice takes them into an unsafe place, such as a dangerous neighborhood or high-security prison, their safety and security may be threatened on a regular basis.

Common Work-Related Settings: church, community center, courtroom, hospital (interior), juvenile detention center, parking garage, police station, psychiatric ward, therapist’s office, university lecture hall, university quad, waiting room

Twisting the Stereotype: In stories, therapists tend to play the mentor role. But what about a therapist villain, who is out to emotionally destroy others, or a therapist love interest who creates unusual sources of conflict for the protagonist?

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How To Write Characters With PTSD

So excited to have Lisa Hall-Wilson here today to share some insight on how to write PTSD realistically…

Hey hey! *mittened fist-bump* 😊 Thanks so much for having me!

Writers are always looking for ways to add authenticity to their stories and characters, so I thought I’d share some down and dirty deets about living with PTSD.

Why Write About PTSD?

ptsd, writing characters realistic, character building, characterization

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been called shell shock and historically was lumped in with ‘hysteria’ for women. You can research this mental illness, the causes, and the symptoms, (here’s a great link), but I’m more interested in helping you write it with accuracy.

Giving characters a traumatic past and an ongoing condition that hinders their ability to move on is essential to a great character arc. The character struggling with PTSD is facing overwhelming odds, and any character who stands up to a bully of any kind (even when it’s disguised as a mental illness) is someone readers will cheer for.

To that end, I’d like to share five tips for writing a character with PTSD.

#5 – Avoid Recalling Traumatic Events

Don’t let your characters spend time navel-gazing about the events that traumatized them. (I’m talking more about backstory than nightmares or flashbacks.) Yes, I’ve seen this. Who wants to dwell on that or talk about it at all? Instead, show the coping mechanisms used to control the symptoms or turn their mind off. Show symptoms of anxiety and then send them for another lap around the block even though they’ve already done 5 more than usual.

The emotions and physical symptoms left by the trauma are so uncomfortable your character will proactively seek a way to get control, but they will avoid thinking about the why.

#4 – Show The War Going On Inside Your Character

triggers, physical description, show don't tell, writing a novel

When PTSD is triggered, everything amps up like an adrenaline rush is forced on you and won’t stop—in other words, you don’t need a flashback to show it. At the same time, the mind is ramping up your body and simultaneously trying to regain control of the physical response. Basically, when PTSD is triggered, your character will be at war with themselves.

The physical symptoms are easy to show; just write what’s happening to their bodies. Let internal dialogue focus on their awareness of being irrational, that there’s no threat, yet they’re unable to feel safe. They’ll struggle to control, to conceal, to minimize what others can see. Get it? I’m a BIG fan of Deep POV so I focus on showing the primary emotions through physiology and internal dialogue and showing secondary emotions through outward actions and spoken dialogue. (For more info on this, you can get my Writing Emotions In Layers 5 day ecourse here for FREE.) I think the Netflix series Jessica Jones shows this very well, so consider that as a possible resource.

#3 – PTSD Is About Minimizing Triggers

Those managing PTSD will have a proactive (but not necessarily healthy) strategy to manage symptoms. Some methods might be subtle while others are extreme. When triggered, survival instincts kick in and your choices are simple: fight, flight, or freeze. Do you know what your character’s primal goal is when they’re triggered? Is it safety? Is it survival? Is it escaping? Have them seek that out at all costs.

They could have a mantra they recite to control their thoughts. They might have a safe person, someone they trust to watch their backs in new or upsetting situations. Grounding techniques involve consciously cataloguing why the what-ifs won’t happen (There are two exits, It’s a public space, etc.). The slow removal of their dependence on these management techniques is a great way to show growth.

#2 – Give Them A Tell

Self-awareness is critical for management. Your mind starts the whole ball rolling and sets your body off: I’m not safe. I’m not safe. It’s very hard to catch this mental initiation; more often your body tips you off that your mind is racing. The self-awareness has one purpose: to enable you to manage what you see coming.

I have a couple of tells that always tip me off: blushing and sweating—profuse sweating disproportionate to the environment. Does your character have a physical symptom they’ve trained themselves to watch for? Have your character become more self-aware throughout the novel. Let them become more aware of the problematic thoughts jumpstarting the crazy train. They’ll want to hide what’s going on because it makes others uncomfortable (people stare, they avoid the character, or treat them differently). Show the character’s awareness of the stigma, and let them fail from time to time.

#1 – Blindside Your Character

You can be blindsided by a trigger at any point. A situation that’s been fine a thousand other times can trigger you that one day. This is a great device to save for a pivotal conflict.

It’s like a two-by-four to the head. Show their emotional wounds bleeding all over the floor and have them keep going anyway. Show them growing stronger, trusting people again, forgiving themselves, etc. Let the whole process be messy, two steps forward and one step back. The stories that end in a pretty bow and leave everyone “cured” simply aren’t authentic.

Have a question you’d like to ask about writing PTSD in fiction with realism? What’s the most compelling portrayal of PTSD in fiction you’ve seen so far?

Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning journalist and author. She’s passionate about helping writers take their craft to the next level. Lisa’s next class is Method Acting For Writing: Learning To Write In Deep POV on January 22. At the heart of Deep POV is an immersive experience for the reader through an emotional connection to the character. There are a number of stylistic choices an author makes to facilitate this. This interactive 3-week intensive gathers ten years of in-the-trenches study and writing all in one place to help you write better faster.

Posted in Character Wound, Characters, Emotion, Show Don't Tell | 15 Comments

Owning Your Writing Career in 2018

For writers with a desire to draft, edit, or complete a book, the New Year is a shining beacon of hope and productivity. For 90% of the writing population, the first couple of weeks of January are a feverish haze of churning out words—until real life rears its ugly head, all “Cooey, it’s me, did you forget your (kids/job/dog/grandma’s food shop)?And before you know it, you’ve careened off the bandwagon and your bookish goal has disappeared.

So, how can you stay productive and meet your writing goals for the next 365 days?


First you need goals, but everyone knows that, so I won’t belabor the point. I will, however, say two things:

  • If you don’t articulate what you want to achieve clearly and with a deadline, then walking the path to the finish line is like trudging through opaque glue: hard, messy and full of sticky problems.
  • Be as public with those goals as you can, whether it’s through a blog, your personal Facebook profile or something else. The more people who know you’re trying to achieve something, the better, because A) there’s nothing like the pressure of ‘expectation’ to keep you going, and B) if they see you working for it, they’ll support you to achieve it.

Peer Pressure Support

There’s a reason kids obsess over fads: peer pressure is super effective. So why not capitalize on it as a writer? Use an accountability partner. They don’t have to be another writer but should be someone with a similar mindset and work ethic as you.

How does it work?

  • Have a monthly catch-up (I use FaceTime because we don’t live in the same country).
  • Each person set three goals for the following month. Partners should moderate the goals to ensure they’re not too pessimistic or overly optimistic. Remember that the goals don’t all have to be about words; my partner and I tend to have a marketing goal, a word count goal, and a slower-burn project goal.
  • Hold weekly check-ins to monitor progress and a review at the end of the month that incorporates a new goal-setting session.

Does it really work?

Hell yeah, it does. Both me and my accountability partner tripled our weekly word count within six months of working with each other. TRIPLED.

Timing Is Everything

writing deadline, writing goals, make a plan, new year's resolution

Courtesy: Pixabay

Lots of writers set a deadline and work to that date. That’s fine, until your kid gets sick or your laptop breaks. Then you’re pickled, like a gherkin, and no one needs to be sat in a jar of vinegar all day; it’s bad for the writing hands.

The answer?

Slippage time. When a piece of work has a firm due date, give yourself a deadline that’s a week or two (or whatever is relevant) earlier. That way if anything goes wrong or life gets in the way, you have spare days to make up the time.

Commit To Developing Your Craft

This might seem like a strange one – saying you need to commit to study when studying will inevitably take time away from producing words. But think about it: the better you are at your craft, the cleaner your first drafts are and the more productive you become.

There are some easy ways of doing this without spending hundreds of dollars on courses:

  • Don’t passively read. Engage with the stories you encounter by examining the structure, style, and sentence construction.
  • Make a list of writing topics you would like to improve on and spend some time researching one each month.
  • Watch webinars or tutorials.
  • Read more nonfiction writing craft books.
  • Get more feedback on your work.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Writers are notorious for suffering from Doubt And Imposter Syndrome. It stops you doing the things that will help grow your writing business—which is exactly why you need to get out of your comfort zone.

To counteract this, commit to doing one thing each week that makes you nervous. A few ideas:

  • Pitch an article to a magazine or big indie author you’ve always dreamed of working with.
  • Pitch a podcast.
  • Host a webinar.
  • Submit a piece to a competition or your book to an award contest.
  • Set a gruelling word count.

Sure, you might hear a few no’s along the way, but you’ll never hear a yes if you don’t try. Be bold, be brave, and I promise you, good things will happen.

Pull The Plug On ‘I Can’t’

Here’s the non-sugar-coated truth: the only thing that can get in the way of you achieving your writing goal is you. If I had a dollar for every time someone said I Can’t, I really would be a wealthy girl. We’re all busy—believe me, I get that. But you are the only one who can make your dream come true. No one else is going to do it for you. I love this quote:

“If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.” Dee Dee Artner

Next time you find yourself about to make an excuse, consider the following questions:

  • What can I re-prioritize?
  • Could that new TV episode wait?
  • What chunks of time could I dedicate to writing? (the lunch break, an hour before the family wakes up, during naptime, etc.)
  • Do you have a friend or relative that you could ask to sit with the kids for an hour?
  • What could you give up temporarily to make time for your writing?

Like Artner says: no more excuses, just solutions. Because the answer is out there.

If you want to make 2018 the year you finally stick to your writing goals, then be clear what you want from the outset. Give yourself slippage time, study hard, try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and get yourself an accountability partner for support and the occasional nudge.

Sacha Black is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, 13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft A Superbad Villain. Her blog for writers, www.sachablack.co.uk, is home to regular writing, marketing and publishing advice sprinkled with dark humour and the occasional bad word. In addition to craft books, she writes YA fantasy, and her first series, Keepers, is due out in November 2017.

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Posted in Focus, Goal and Milestones, Motivational, Resident Writing Coach, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude, Writing Time | 24 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Deep Sea Diver

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Occupation thesaurus of a deep sea diver, jobs for characters, writing Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.


Overview: Deep sea diving is the act of descending into water and remaining there for an extended time using a breathing apparatus. This type of diving is done for a variety of reasons: recreation, salvage, industrial work, and research, just to name a few. This entry will focus on commercial diving, specifically offshore diving (as opposed to inland diving). Offshore work is primarily done in the oil and gas sector, where a specially trained diver installs and repairs underwater equipment and piping in deep water. Some of this work may require saturation diving, which requires extended stays in a pressurized environment (usually a hyperbaric chamber on the surface, or an ambient pressure underwater habitat) to allow a diver to remain at lower depths for a greater amount of time. Divers may live in this type of chamber for a month at a time and get to the work site using a diving bell, a pod that maintains pressure. In teams of three, two divers work while a third monitors from inside in case a rescue is required. Ascending to a surface must be done slowly to avoid the bends.

Deeps sea divers will have a variety of tasks that may require special skills. Welding, underwater detonations, construction, installations and pipe-fitting, checking connections and inspections, pigging placement, troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment, overseeing operations such as trenching and pipeline stabilization, search and recovery, and running other specialized equipment all demand specialized knowledge by the diving team.

A diver in this field must be physically and mentally fit as the work is very demanding. It can be dangerous work Most commercial divers are on the younger end of the spectrum.

Necessary Training:

In a perfect world, all divers must have their commercial diving certification. (Some may not, depending on the area of the world they happen to work in, but in North America and many other developed countries, certification is demanded.) A basic, entry-level program may take about 2 months to complete, but more extensive programming will take anywhere from four to twelve months. To earn more advanced certifications a person will have to log hours in the field and on working dives.

Divers must have a strong command of physics, adhere to safety protocols (which include stringent safety drills) and have training in first aid, CPR, and know how to deal with and treat diving injuries and diseases. Offshore divers will also learn technical skills elsewhere that will directly factor into their work (welding, etc.)

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: basic first aid, carpentry, enhanced hearing,  exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, high pain tolerance,  knowledge of explosives, lip-reading, mechanically inclined, multitasking, photographic memory, regeneration, repurposing, strategic thinking, strong breath control, super strength, survival skills, wilderness navigation

Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous, alert, ambitious, analytical, bold, calm, cautious, centered, cooperative, courageous, disciplined, efficient, focused, independent, industrious,intelligent, observant, persistent, proactive, professional, resourceful, responsible

Sources of Friction: Poorly maintained equipment, budge cutbacks, sharks and other dangers, getting the bends, a malfunction in a decompression chamber, malfunctions with air tanks or diving gear, friction with other divers one is stuck with in a small hyperbaric chamber or habitat, exhaustion, people who don’t follow safety protocols, companies that make demands that require prolonged diving times that are unsafe, industrial accidents, being told of an emergency at home (a child’s car accident, a house fire, a death in the family) but being unable to get home right away because of a saturation environment that requires a more prolonged decompression time, illnesses, heart attacks, claustrophobia

People They Might Interact With: other divers, project managers, ship employees, oil and gas employees, doctors, scientists, engineers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs

  • Esteem and Recognition: Women are not as common in this industry and so may run into sexual prejudice which could limit their ability to climb the ladder or have their abilities viewed through the same filter as a man’s.
  • Love and Belonging: Divers are often away a month at a time, plus travel and this can put a strain on a relationship.
  • Safety and Security: Many hazards and dangers could be brought into the story to hold your character back from fulfillment: a run-in with a shark that seeds in them a fear of death, a malfunction while diving that brings about deep fears of drowning or claustrophobia that are hard to shake, industrial accidents that could cripple your character, forcing them to mentally and physically push past barriers to continue in this field.

Common Work-Related Settings: beach, fishing boat, fitness center, marina, ocean, equipment room, decompression chamber, underwater settings, ambient pressure underwater habitat, hyperbaric chamber, underwater vehicles, diving bell, oil platform

Twisting the Stereotype: Make your deep sea diver a woman as they are much less common than men, or give your deep sea diver a crippling weakness or secret they must hide, like a fear of sharks, darkness, or even claustrophobia.

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Best of the Best: Free Resources to Power Up Your Writing

Links to some of the very best writing resources available. If you like free help for writers, save this list!

It doesn’t take many visits to see that providing writers with what they need to succeed is pretty serious business around here.

And because the ‘ol pocketbook can be a bit flat this time of year, we wanted to shine a light on some of the great FREE knowledge-building resources we know about.


Story Structure Database

Chances are, you’re familiar with Helping Writers Become Authors, run by the brilliant K.M. Weiland. But you may not be aware that she has this amazing database that breaks down the story structure of hundreds of popular movies and books. If you find yourself struggling with 3-act structure and the turning points of a successful story, visit this resource because it will help you grow your knowledge exponentially.


A Year of Creative Writing Worksheets

Eva Deverell challenged herself to creating a crazy-huge amount of worksheets on all different sorts of writing topics, and she’s kindly linked to many of them so writers can access them.

Stop by and find what you need, and then give her a big thank you for her generosity!


Jami Gold’s Worksheets for Writers

If you like worksheets AND struggle with story structure, you will especially love Jami’s Beat Sheets. She helps you through the turning points and stages that can often trip writers up, and there’s a ton of other terrific advice on this site, too. Definitely make her blog a regular pit stop in 2018.



After going on a writing retreat with Margie Lawson, I sort of fell hard-in-love with Rhetorical Devices. (It is amazing how they add sophistication and can deepen the meaning of your writing!) Litcharts is made by the creators of SparkNotes (another excellent site) and it’s filled with examples and descriptions of figures of speech and literary terms. Well worth prowling through.

Take one of your scenes and try inserting an Anaphora, Asyndeton, or play with Parallelism. I bet you’ll like the result!


The Writers’ Knowledge Base

This impressive search engine for writers is the brainchild of Mike Fleming and Elizabeth S. Craig and has curated over 40,000 writing articles to date. Searching by topic just got a whole lot easier, so give it a whirl!


Reedsy Learning Courses

Reedsy is dedicated to making writers successful, and they have a great collection of free courses to help you do just this. You can not only brush up on your writing craft through a series of free email-delivered mini-courses, you can also learn the ins and outs of design, marketing, publishing, and more!


One Stop for Writers Tip Sheets

Originally these tip sheets and checklists were hosted on Pinterest, but they became so insanely popular we moved them to a special page at One Stop for Writers (our other site).

Need help with showing emotion, character motivation, plotting & pacing, body language, or meaningful setting description? You’ll find it here. Or if you want ideas on choosing a character’s secret, need to know how to write Deep POV, or even the best ways to juice up a scene with conflict, we have a checklist for you. Download, print, export, share these sheets. We hope they help!


Writers Helping Writers Tools Page

If you are looking for truly unique finds like a Reverse Backstory Tool, a Character Arc Progression Tool, or a Backstory Wound Profile, visit our Tools for Writers page. We specialize in bringing you tools you can’t find anywhere else so we can help you in new ways. Everything is listed as a PDF so you can link-share, pin, or download and print as needed. (You’ll find many marketing handouts and other goodies there, too.)

Our mission is to make 2018 a terrific year for you. Growing your craft is a big part of that. 🙂 

We hope these links lead to some new favorite knowledge-building resources. And please, if you have a particular area of struggle, let us know. We might be able to guide you to a great article or resource!

Angela & Becca

Posted in About Us, One Stop For Writers, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons, Writing Resources | 24 Comments

Three Powerful Techniques To Harness A Reader’s Curiosity

Psychology has spent over a century studying human behavior; our emotions, thoughts, needs and wants, what draws us in and what pushes us away. This means psychology can teach us a lot about our stories, our characters, and how to engage readers. And we can tap into these reams of research and use it to hook our readers.

There’s one powerful motivator that led your reader to your book — curiosity. Human curiosity is so powerful it has us doing completely unproductive things like reading news about people we will never meet, learning topics we will never have use for, or exploring places we will never come back to. Think about it, have you ever got lost, ever tried something just to see what would happen, or did things just for the heck of it? Yep, that was curiosity working its magic.

Curiosity is what captured a reader’s attention when they saw your title, your cover, and then your blurb. Their synapses fired. Their mind wanted to know more, because when we actively pursue new information, we’re rewarded with a flood of pleasure inducing dopamine (just like when we eat, have sex, or snort cocaine). Evolution knew that the drive to find new and novel things helped us not only survive, but thrive, so it wired it into our grey matter. And once that spark has been created and your reader has turned to the first chapter, you need to keep that flame burning. Thankfully, psychology has studied curiosity, and we writers can use what they’ve discovered.

Here are the top three literary devices you can use to capture your readers curiosity:


Pulling readers into the story, reader curiousity, reader interest, The human drive for question gave us wonders like planes that can carry cars and cameras you can hide in your tie. Our brain doesn’t stop asking questions because it knows that’s how it learns and evolves. This means your book needs to be driven by questions. Questions raise uncertainty. Unknowns. And if there’s an unknown, then humans want to make it known. There will be a big question that will drive your story—such as will Frodo get to Mount Doom and save Middle Earth? But there will also be all the little interesting questions along the way – like did Gandalf really just die? Who was that hot elven-chick that just rescued Strider? What will happen to sad, twisted Golum? Your book will need a variety of whos, whens, whys, and wheres to keep your reader engaged.

Ultimately, there’s one question that every one of these can be classified under. It’s the mother-question that’s drives your reader like astrophysics drove Einstein and dust filled homes drove Hoover. And I propose that every scene in your book needs to have this question define it. I’m suggesting that each chapter needs to finish on this question. I say that your protagonist, and even your secondary characters, need to have this question hanging over them. It’s what will keep your reader turning those pages. Because their mind will be asking the most important question of all—what happens next???

The Element of Surprise

Surprise is a sure fire way to capture a reader’s curiosity.  When presented with anything unexpected our brain lights up and hones in so it can explore and learn. Eyes look for longer, arousal is heightened, attention is focused. Create the element of surprise through the following:

  • Novel characters—interesting people interest us. We don’t expect a villain to be someone we can empathize with, or the shy pen-pusher to be the hero. Quirky people do the unexpected – just think Don Tillman from The Rosie Project. Those are the people characters we want to spend time with.
  • Unusual situations—everyday people thrust into unusual circumstance do unexpected things. These unprecedented or unpredictable situations are the ones our brains know we can gain something from. We didn’t expect a sadist to be someone a naïve, virginal girl would fall in love with, but man, did that concept sell some books!
  • Unexpected ideas—research has shown that babies are particularly interested and focused on exploring those situations where their expectations were contravened. Challenge assumptions, create concepts we hadn’t considered before.
  • Ambiguity – a situation where we can’t decide between different, competing hypotheses or ideas, or where the existing information just isn’t sufficient to draw a solid conclusion will have your reader curious. We all know that feeling when we can’t quite figure out which is the correct answer. Was Darlene’s drive to run away from home because of the guy she met online? Or was it because of the relationship with her father…? How many hours have you poured into a book to get to the answer?

A Gap in Knowledge

reader interestResearch has shown that we find it harder not to listen to someone talking on the phone (so we only hear half of the conversation) than to listen to two people having a face-to-face conversation. Basically because curiosity is a drive for information – the drive to know the answers to all the questions we’ve just discussed. We want to explore. We want to fill in the gaps. That very drive will have your reader turning pages hour after hour. Consider the following:

  • Foreshadowing—yep, plant a seed. Leave clues. Allude to something more complex, more intriguing than the initially suspected. You’re hinting that something is coming.
  • Drip feed important information—we are most engaged when we know there is still more to be learned. If we think we’ve figured it all out, that there’s nothing else worth knowing, our brain moves onto the next novel stimuli, which equates to a reader putting down your book and picking up the remote. Show your reader some valuable information, but also let them know they don’t know it all. They’ll have to keep reading to get all the pieces of the puzzle.

Curiosity is what’s going to keep that magical chemical concoction swimming around your readers’ brains and ultimately keep them reading. Weave the elements that spark curiosity through your book and you’ve given your reader a reason to keep reading. We’ve all been there, it’s 4 am, on a week night, with children that are early risers…knowing we’ve run out of coffee—but we just HAVE to know the answer!

What do you think? Do you see some of these elements in your favourite books? Have you incorporated them into your own stories? I’d love to hear what you think.

Tamar Sloan is a freelance editor, consultant and the author of PsychWriter – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers.

Tamar is also an award-winning author of young adult romance, creating stories about finding life and love beyond our comfort zones. You can checkout Tamar’s books on her author website.

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Heads up!

Angela here–I just discovered Tamar released a new book on Jan 1st: Grit for Writers: Why Passion and Perseverance are the Keys to Your Writing Success. (Sounds like a great read to start off 2018, doesn’t it?)

I am a big fan of Tamar’s work so am looking forward to reading this one. I wanted to make sure you know about it too–here’s the link.

Happy writing, all!


Posted in Empathy, Reader Interest, Reading, Resident Writing Coach, Uncategorized | 17 Comments