Writing During Tough Times: What You Need to Know to Keep the Words Flowing

Writing can be a challenge, and that’s when life’s going well. Getting those words to flow, for our characters to show up and play nice, drumming up the motivation to market our books takes passion and perseverance, day after day after day. Add an unprecedented pandemic and the struggle only multiplies as motivation is slowly suffocated under a black cloud of self-isolation and stress. 

But as we’re being asked (or ordered in some countries) to stay home, we have the possibility of more writing time than our busy lives have previously allowed. Is it ideal? No, it’s not. Many of us have our children at home and the responsibility to home school them. Many have our partners home, adding to the noise level. Too many have lost jobs and are facing financial stress we really don’t need right now.

But there will come a time when this passes. When doors will open, shops will trade, when we’ll be juggling work and family again. These challenges will be a part of our history, as will the opportunity to write.


What’s more, people need stories to escape into more than ever. Our job as writers is to let readers forget the stress for a little while, to find new worlds as they’re house-bound, to be reminded about human resilience in the face of adversity.

So, if you’re looking for strategies to keep those words appearing on your screen, then keep reading. Knowledge is power, and you’re about to supercharge your understanding.

Understand the brain is wired to avoid discomfort

Our brain doesn’t like uncertainty or discomfort, which is pretty logical. Got a headache? Take a tablet. Feeling hot? Turn on a fan. It’s a simple formula: find a way to make the bad feeling go away, feel better.

And to be honest, things are pretty unpleasant for a lot of people right now. Avoidance strategies would be at an all-time high. Netflix. Facebook. Chocolate cake. Wine. And unfortunately, avoidance is pretty effective—if you go and find something else to do, the uncomfortable feelings dissolve like mist.

There’s a reason we keep doing it…

The desire to avoid writing is the obstacle many are facing right now. Our self-doubt can dominate our minds, ‘what’s the point’ becomes our mantra. Except when we’re doing everything BUT write, that manuscript isn’t growing. And the reality is, this thinking is short-term. And biased. And unhelpful.

Don’t believe everything your mind tells you

I believe in this statement so strongly that I had it tattooed on my body. As your mind seeks to avoid the discomfort of writing during challenging times, it’s going to tell you a lot of stuff. That the garden needs weeding. That scrolling through Facebook will make that frown go away. That raiding the fridge is bound to produce some dopamine-producing satisfaction.   

But although we temporarily feel better, we’re not growing our story.

The good news is that your brain is able to override these urges. Our mind is actually made up of two parts. The first, is the much more primal part of our brain that is wired to move toward pleasant stimuli (food, Facebook, fun) and away from unpleasant stimuli (plot holes, stagnant word counts, I-have-no-idea-what-happens-next). The second is our higher-order thinking, the part of our brain that can process language, problem solve, and think abstractly. The part that can override our more simplistic desires.

The most salient example I can give to a writer of this unique human ability is reading. When you’re absorbed in a darned good book, your primal brain is at one with the character, viscerally experiencing what they are. But at the same time, your higher-order gray matter is thinking. Was the mention of that cup significant? Betty would never do that… Great Scott! Don’t run down there!

That’s the part of your brain that you can employ to write in times like these. That part of your brain knows you’ll be glad you did, that remembers why you love to write, that anticipates creating those same reactions for others.

So, first of all, make room for the uncomfortable feelings that writing can evoke—all those discouraged thoughts, the thorny feelings, all the pessimistic predictions that are going to come along for the ride whether we like it or not.

And as you turn away from the avoidance inner voice and its unhelpful suggestions, you’ll home in on the quieter voice. The one encouraging you to write.

Tamar Sloan

Resident Writing Coach

Tamar 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 a USA Today best-selling 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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What have you done to keep yourself writing during troubling times? Why not share your strategies? Connecting and sharing are two wonderful qualities of the writing community that will get us through this. And however you choose to do it, stay safe, stay well.

Posted in Focus, Motivational, Reading, Resident Writing Coach, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude, Writer's Block, Writing Time | 8 Comments

Conflict Thesaurus Entry: A Romantic Competitor

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: A Romantic Competitor

Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, losing an advantage, ego

Dating someone who isn’t exclusive
A love interest’s old flame showing up and wanting to resume a relationship
An ex trying to win back the love interest
A rival who wants the same love interest
Being ‘just friends’ yet wanting more (when competition shows up)
A rival seeking ways to hurt the character, including stealing their love interest

Minor Complications:
Having to find ways to one-up the competition
Having to go to a special event solo because they acted too slowly
Being distracted (which interferes with work, school, and other responsibilities)
Having to work twice as hard to be noticed
Being teased or pitied by friends because of the situation
Time lost to worry and anxiety
Jealousy creeping into the relationship, causing arguments
Discomfort at putting themselves out there (if they have not made their feelings known yet to the love interest)

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Jealousy that gets out of hand and causes a breakup
Getting caught spying on the love interest (while they are out with the competition)
Becoming so obsessive it drives the love interest toward the competition
Demanding the love interest make a choice and they choose the competition
Trying to “buy” affection and it turns the love interest off
Pretending to be interested in someone else and it backfiring
Getting into an altercation with a rival and the love interest walks away from both
Giving up and then living with regret
Breaking up and developing a new emotional wound: unrequited love

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Insecurity causing neediness (and self-loathing for that neediness)
Anguish over the partner’s indecision
Feeling “not good enough” but also angry for being made to feel this way
Anger at the rival but also shame as he (or she) is a good person
Wrestling with trust issues regarding one’s love interest
Depression if one is not chosen but also being happy that someone they care about is with the right person
Wanting to share negative information about the rival but knowing the love interest will see it as jealousy
The temptation to cross a moral line to come out ahead

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the love interest, rival, third-party individuals who may also have a stake in the outcome (perhaps someone who has feelings for the character but has not made it known to them yet)

Resulting Emotions: agitation, anger, anguish, anticipation, anxiety, bitterness, conflicted, confusion, defeat, depressed, desire, despair, desperation, determination, disappointment, doubt, emasculated, envy, fear, grief, guilt, hopefulness, humiliation, hurt, inadequate, insecurity, intimidated, jealousy, loneliness, longing, love, obsessed, paranoia, powerlessness, regret, relief, resentment, resignation, schadenfreude, scorn, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, validated, valued, vulnerability, worry, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: catty, childish, confrontational, controlling, dishonest, foolish, impulsive, insecure, melodramatic, needy, nosy, obsessive, paranoid, possessive, prejudiced, pretentious, promiscuous, pushy, rebellious, reckless, suspicious, temperamental, whiny

Positive Outcomes: 
A character who has been holding back out of a fear to commit could come to the realization that this was unfair to the other person and make changes moving forward
The appearance of a rival may force the character to reflect on whether this relationship is worth fighting for or not
A character struggling to show or articulate feelings may finally find the inner strength to push through the mental blocks holding them back
For a character who has a hard time seeing their own strengths, having to put themselves into the love interest’s viewpoint will help them catalog their better qualities, creating a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

This conflict thesaurus is still being developed, but if you would like to access our entire descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing), visit our main site, One Stop for Writers.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Writing in the Time of Coronavirus: Practical Tips

As a native Floridian, I know about disruption. It happens repeatedly every year between June and November. But hurricanes and their inconvenient aftermaths are temporary; even though they’re annoying, you know you’ll be back to your regular schedule soon.

But our current situation with COVDID-19 is different because we don’t know when it’s going to end. We’re having to work from home. Our kids are no longer going to school, and we’ve got to teach them. Many of us have stopped outsourcing the jobs that used to buy us time. We’re now literally doing it all.

So many of us are asking (a little frantically) the same question: What happens to my writing? How can I write with so many added responsibilities and less time to myself?

Let me start by saying that I feel your pain. My kids are 10 and 11 and I’m in that rickety boat along with you. We started doing school from home this week, and it’s been one long series of trial-and-error attempts, implementing processes and streamlining everything to buy the time I need to write. Some of my methods are working well. Others have failed spectacularly. But I’m figuring out it out, little by little. And hopefully I can shorten the learning curve for you guys by sharing some of my tips for writing from home during all this ridiculousness.

Adjust Your Expectations. Circumstances have changed drastically, so it’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to reach the same writing goals today that we did two months ago. If we don’t realize this early on, we’re going to expect the same output, and we’ll be frustrated with the results. The situation isn’t ideal, but it is what it is. Recognize that you’re not going to be as prolific or efficient as usual, and be ok with that.

Work in Smaller Chunks of Time. This one was hard for me because I’m a slow starter. Getting going is hard, so once the words are flowing, I’m much more efficient if I keep going for a good amount of time. But this just isn’t possible right now. My kids are doing school online, which means I don’t have to teach them myself, but I do have to be available. Since starting this post, I’ve already had to stop four times to field various questions: What’s my login for Brainpop? I can’t find my iPad! How do I do the practice quiz? What’s this lockbox doing on the fridge??

This disjointed, stop-and-start method is NOT how I prefer to write. But I’m learning that it’s possible. And it’s so much better than not writing at all.

Adjust Your Hours. Remember when the kids were young and the best time to write was early in the morning, late at night, or during naptime? During that stage of life, those were the best available hours. It’s possible that during this temporary season, your regular writing time just doesn’t work. Find the time slots that provide quiet, solitude, and focus, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

Create a Schedule. Once the school year starts, my schedule stays pretty much the same. I adjust it over the summer, but otherwise, I’ve got it down to a science. Not so now. My daughter has one schedule on Mondays and Wednesdays, another on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and still another on Friday. My son’s stays the same but it doesn’t match hers at all. So I’m writing everything down to see which blocks will give me the most time. Really short segments I’m reserving for easier duties that require less focus, like answering emails or doing administrative stuff. Writing my half of the front matter for the Occupation Thesaurus? That’s the most important item on the docket, so it gets the best time slot.

Not everyone is as schedule- and list-happy as me, so I know this may not appeal to you. But desperate times, and all that. When things are really chaotic, we sometimes have to do things that aren’t necessarily our favorite so we CAN do the things we love to do. So give scheduling a shot and see what kind of time you find.

Set Timers or Alarms. If your day is too fragmented or crazy and you find yourself missing those important blocks of writing time, set a timer, alarm or notification as a reminder. One thing I’m so thankful for is that we have electricity during this extended staycation—so much better and more comfortable than those post-hurricane outages that disrupt literally everything. Use technology to your advantage. Let it ease the burden so you don’t have to remember it all on your own.

Use What Moves You. Are there certain environmental factors that put you in a writing frame of mind? I always listen to music when I write—movie soundtracks, since if there are any words to my music, I end up singing along and not writing. Mostly, I use Pandora, but in the good ol’ days, I bought certain albums and listened to them when writing. I find now that those old tracks—ET, the original Harry Potter, the Fellowship of the Ring—are most inspiring for me. I think it’s because that’s what I listened to when I first starting writing and was really fired up about it.

Is there a genre, artist, or music channel that keeps you focused? Do you light candles, write by hand, work in a certain areas, or do anything else that primes you for writing? Identify those efficiency triggers and add them to your routine to maximize your output and focus during writing blocks.

Just Get the Words Down. When I write, I tend to edit as I go. I draft some, then go back and edit, then draft some more, etc. But I’m finding that if I do that now, I end up with very few words, and it’s discouraging. If your writing time has been diminished, use that time to just get the words on the page. Don’t worry about choosing the perfect ones or weeding out repetitions or using a fantastic turn-of-phrase. Just write. Seeing all the words at the end of short session is hugely encouraging and will help you see that you’re accomplishing a lot in your short blocks of time, making it easier to jump back into the game tomorrow.

Give Yourself the Gift of Grace. One of the things I love about this chaotic time is our culture’s rediscovery of grace. We’re offering it to the checkout workers, nurses, the teachers who have learned a whole new way of doing school in a short period of time. We’re telling each other to be patient with ourselves as parents, to make the most of this new time with our kids and not beat ourselves up about what we’re not able to get done or do perfectly.

Well, friends, that applies to you as a writer, too. It’s going to take time to find your new stride. You’ll very likely have to try certain methods only to abandon them and start over with new techniques. The schedule that works best probably won’t work every single day, resulting in swaths of time going by where you don’t write a single word. And that is OK.

Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Recognize that your output is going to be less than it used to be. When things spin out of control—as they inevitably will—give yourself permission to do less, and realize that it’s alright.

You are doing great, writer friend. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.

One last thing I’ll mention is a new weekly mailout of ours called the Double-Double. It shares two small tips every Wednesday: one on writing craft and one focused on a writer’s mindset and career.

If you want to get some of our best advice in bite-sized tips that keep you learning (yet not eat up a lot of your time), sign up here.

Posted in Balance, Focus, Goal Setting, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing Time | 13 Comments

The Writing Tip Double-Double

Okay to start off, know that I am sending each and every one of you a mental hug right now. What a challenge this year has been so far. It’s surreal for me still, that all of this is happening. We may be used to wide-scale events happening to characters in or stories, but when they happen in real life…it a lot to process.

But I’ll tell you what else–as discomforting as things are right now, I am proud of us too. Most are working hard to social distance, navigate upended schedules and work environments, help kids at home adjust, and find ways to maintain a positive mindset. And that, friends, is amazing. 🙂

In uncertain times, we struggle because we don’t feel in control. And this is precisely why it’s so important for us to focus our energy away from worrying and toward something within our power to do.

It’s wonderful to see many of you taking this unexpected time at home to work on your novels, or research writing craft, marketing, or other aspects of career management. This is a great way to redirect toward something meaningful, which contributes to a healthier mindset.

In between navigating our own home and work challenges Becca and I have been discussing how we can encourage writers to put their mental energy into things that will help them after Covid-19. So, we’ve decided to start a weekly newsletter that shares bite-sized advice to help people improve their writing craft and become more mindful about their careers.

This newsletter, the One Stop Writing Tip Double-Double, will contain a writing tip to help you master storytelling, and a career-focused tip that might offer insight into productivity practices, platform, marketing, audience, business management, or anything in between. Bit by bit, we’ll share some of what we’ve learned in hopes it will help you too.

So how do you sign up for the One Stop Writing Tip Double-Double? SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Follow this link to add yourself to the list!

NOTE, this newsletter is branded to our writing app, One Stop for Writers but you don’t have to be a member to get the double-double.

UPDATE: The first Double Double is out! Want a peek?

Now, let us turn the floor over to you…what sort of writing tips or career tips would you like to see? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in About Us, Focus, Goal Setting, Marketing, Motivational, One Stop For Writers, Promotion, The Business of Writing, Time Management, Writer's Attitude, Writer's Block, Writing Craft, Writing Time | 12 Comments

Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Falsely Accused

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Being Falsely Accused

Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego, no-win situations

Examples: Being falsely accused of…
A crime
Taking or misplacing an important item (a work file, someone’s phone, etc.)
Having a personality flaw the character doesn’t possess (laziness, irresponsibility, self-righteousness, etc.)
Racism, bigotry, or another form of prejudice or discrimination
Favoritism at work or with one’s children
Doing something the character used to be guilty of but isn’t anymore
Being a bad parent, employee/employer, friend, etc.
Saying or implying something about someone else

Minor Complications:
Time wasted doing damage control
Following stricter procedures and protocols to make sure the situation doesn’t recur and the accusation isn’t repeated
The character constantly having to prove their innocence to the accuser
Tension with the other person

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Blowing the accusation off only to have it turn into a major problem
The character’s reputation being ruined despite their innocence
The character’s job being affected (getting fired, demoted, not being considered for important projects, etc.)
Fallout from people believing the accusation (co-workers only trusting them with certain responsibilities, loss of a teenager’s privileges, etc.)
A romantic relationship falling apart
A lack of trust developing in important relationships
Being found guilty and having to spend time in jail
Living up/down to the accusations (a self-fulfilling prophecy)
Giving up on trying to change and falling back into old habits (if the character is accused of something they used to be guilty of)
Having to physically relocate (change jobs, move out of a neighborhood, etc.) to start over

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Worrying that other people may think the accusation is true
Believing what other people are saying (that the character is untrustworthy, will never grow up, is a slut, etc.)
Difficulty trusting the person or kind of person who made the claim (business executives, people in authority, people of a certain race/gender/age/culture/economic status, etc.)
Assuming that other people are accusing the character of things when they’re not (becoming defensive)
Second-guessing even innocent actions that could have led to the accusation (updating a collaborative file that ends up being deleted, etc.)

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The accuser, peripheral people who are hit with collateral damage or are forced to take sides (co-workers, family members, friends, supporters of the accused, etc.)

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, defensiveness, defiant, denial, desperation, determination, devastation, disbelief, discouraged, disillusionment, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, fear, frustration, guilt, indignation, insecurity, nervousness, paranoia, powerlessness, resentment, resignation, schadenfreude, stunned, unease, vulnerability, wariness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Antisocial, confrontational, cynical, defensive, hostile, melodramatic, oversensitive, paranoid, prejudiced, uncooperative

Positive Outcomes: 
Adopting reasonable practices to keep the situation from recurring (having a witness present during conversations with the accuser, documenting certain actions or decisions, etc.)
Developing positive traits that will keep the character from being accused of the specific misdeed (honesty, organization, reliability, etc.)
The character discovering who their true friends are
The character recognizing how they may have contributed to the situation, and taking steps to address those tendencies

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5 Reasons to Consider Translating Your Work

Happy to welcome Savannah Cardova from Reedsy who has some good information to share on book translations. As many of you know, we have a foreign rights agent and have sold rights to publishers in different countries. While some books are better suited for translation than others, it’s worthwhile for every author to investigate the possibilities, so read on!

In our current climate, you’ve probably heard that piece of trivia about Shakespeare writing King Lear in quarantine roughly a thousand times. You’ve also probably noticed tons of people taking up new hobbies to stay busy — baking, knitting, or (you knew it was coming) finally getting started on that novel they’ve always wanted to write.

According to anecdotal evidence hitting us from all sides, now is the perfect time to tackle a new creative project. But I’d suggest a slightly different undertaking than writing a whole new book: translating your existing work(s) into a different language.

If you’re already multilingual, this could be just the challenge you need to stay productive (not to mention sane) for the next few months. But if not, researching the book translation process, weighing your options, and hunting down the right translator should still occupy you for a solid week or so! That said, if you’re unsure whether translating your book is a good idea, here are five reasons to consider it — plus some helpful resources for those who decide to take the leap.

1. You’re missing out on the global market

This one might sound obvious: if you’re not publishing in any other languages, you won’t be able to reach every corner of the international market. But what you may not realize is just how sizable that market is! While the US and UK account for 34% of the global ebook trade, the other 66% stems from non-English-speaking countries. And if you can get your book into print translation, you’ll access an even greater proportion of readers in each country, potentially gaining mainstream recognition there (more on that in a bit).

However, you should choose your new language(s) carefully, as each separate translation comprises a new project in which you have to invest. So before you do anything else, check to see how other books in your genre or on your subject perform in any country you want to target. If you can’t find many books similar to yours, there’s probably no market for them. Conversely, if you’re overwhelmed by results, the market may already be over-saturated.

Also keep in mind the demand for ebooks in the specific country you’re targeting. For example, it might seem like a good idea to translate your book into French, Spanish, or Italian, but did you know that China’s ebook market is larger than all those countries’ combined? Lastly, you’ll want to think about the relative popularity of translated works in each country. As foreign rights agent Marleen Seegers points out, literary translations perform much better in some countries (such as Poland!) than others.

An international book tour is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but there’s no time like the present to start contemplating where you might go. And planning that book tour could be particularly relevant if this next reason turns out to be true…

2. Your work might be more popular other countries

Ever heard the expression “big in Japan”? Though it’s taken on ironic connotations in recent years, back in the seventies it was used to describe bands from the US, Sweden, Germany, and other countries that were better-known in Japan than in their homelands. And believe it or not, a similar thing sometimes happens to authors who have their works translated: for whatever reason, their stories are much more interesting to readers in languages other than their own.

In other words (no pun intended), not only can you access foreign markets via translations of your work, but you might become even more celebrated within them than in your own language! This is exactly what happened to Edgar Allan Poe, whose work was deemed unremarkable in America during his lifetime, but who found immense literary acclaim among French audiences — all thanks to his brilliant book translator, Charles Baudelaire.

But while the translator often deserves the lion’s share of credit, this unexpected success can ensue for other reasons as well. Sometimes, without even meaning to, an author taps into some element of style or storytelling that simply works better in another culture. This was the case for Laura Kasischke, who’s a well-known poet in America, but whose novels have become wildly successful in French translation; Kasishke hypothesizes that French readers are more accepting of unlikable characters and obscure endings, both frequent elements in her books.

Of course, you can never completely predict how readers will respond to your work in other languages. But if you suspect that certain elements have been lost on your current audience, it’s worth giving translation a shot (especially if you can find a translator on par with Baudelaire).

3. If you’ve written a series, readers won’t have to wait

Another compelling reason to consider translation is that, if you’ve written or are currently writing a series with multiple installments available, readers in other languages won’t have to wait too long between books. This can go a long way toward maintaining momentum and acquiring new readers, especially in new countries where you’ll have to build your brand from the ground up.

Though it may not have been an intentional strategy, this was likely part of what made the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson such a hit in the United States, despite the fact that it was originally published in Swedish. With three books already written, Reg Keeland and Alfred A. Knopf were able to translate and publish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels in less than two years — enough kindling to stoke an English movie and three additional books.

The Millennium series was published traditionally, but this is still an important lesson for self-publishing authors who control their schedules: the less time you take between titles, the better. And though you can only cut writing time down by so much, translated books can usually be released in fairly quick succession.

You might even hold off until you’ve had all the available books in your series translated to release them in foreign markets, as a bundle. That way, readers won’t have to wait at all between finishing one book and starting the next! Of course, if you do this, you should be 100% sure that your book will sell well enough to justify translating multiple installments (hence why the aforementioned market research is so crucial).

4. It’s an impressive detail to flaunt when marketing

Though you shouldn’t get your book translated for the marketing cred alone, there’s no denying that having “Now translated into X languages” in its blurb makes your book seem pretty damn cool. Even if it’s only because you wanted to translate it, readers will assume there’s enormous demand for your work abroad and that you are a Very Important Author — never a bad identity to cultivate.

And your book description isn’t the only place to drop this impressive info! Once you’ve gotten your book translated, you could write a whole newsletter or blog post about it, detailing your experience and humble-bragging about how awesome it is to have your book available in various languages. You might try using it in ads as a headline — it’ll grab readers’ attention and, again, give them the impression that you’re a culturally significant writer. And of course, the next time you attend a writing conference or any kind of networking event, you can casually say: “Oh, did I mention my work has recently been translated into German?”

Basically, any way you can incorporate your translation(s) into your book marketing plan, you should go for it. For example, an indirect bonus of translating your book is that it gives you the excuse to commission a new cover, which can be an excellent marketing tool in and of itself. If you can afford it, look for a designer who specializes in creating covers in your genre and target language, ensuring the translation appeals to readers the second they see it.

5. Translation services today are better than ever

Finally, you should consider translating your work because book translation services today are more accurate, accessible, and affordable than ever before. There’s a plethora of options, including translation service companies where you pay a fee in exchange for a complete, anonymously translated manuscript, or in-house translation services for those who choose traditional publishing.

That said, if you’re an indie author who’s committed to getting high-quality, individualized translation of your work, your best option may be to hire a literary translator. This allows you to ensure their talents are suitable for your project, and to keep them personally accountable throughout your collaboration. And though you won’t be able to read their previous translations unless you know the target language, it’s easy enough to Google Translate the reviews of those and get a sense of their aptitude. (Needless to say, using Google Translate to translate your own book is a no-go for any author with even a modicum of self-respect.)

Only you can decide whether translating your works into other languages is a viable course of action. But again, there’s no time like the present, especially with all the time you likely have on your hands right now. If you do end up taking the translation route, buena suerte and bonne chance — here’s hoping you’ll be the next Poe, Kasischke, or Larsson of your generation!

Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories (and occasionally terrible novels).

You can read more of her professional work on the Reedsy blog, or personal writing on Medium.

Posted in Foreign Rights, Guest Post, Marketing, Publishing and Self Publishing, Reader Interest, Sales Numbers & Helpful Data, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Critiques 4 U


Hello, friends! How’s everybody doing? It’s a little overwhelming, isn’t it—working from home (maybe with kids), social distancing (ack, with kids), homeschooling (definitely with kids)…

But it’s ok. As humans, we’re good at adapting. We make lemons from lemonade and make the best of our weird situations. This one is no different. We will get through it.

One way to do that is to maintain normalcy in whatever ways we can. So at Writers Helping Writers, we’re rolling out our monthly first-page critique contest. Business as usual :).

If you’re working on a first page (in any genre except erotica) and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment. Any comment. As long as the email address associated with your WordPress account/comment profile is up-to-date, I’ll be able to contact you if your first page is chosen. Just please know that if I’m unable to get in touch with you through that address, you’ll have to forfeit your win.

Two caveats:

  ▪    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, let me ask that you plan on entering the next contest, once any necessary tweaking has been taken care of.

  ▪    I’d like to be able to use portions of winning submissions as illustrations in an upcoming presentation on first pages. By entering the Critiques 4 U contest, you’ll be granting permission for me to use small writing samples only (no author names or book titles).

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

We run this contest on a monthly basis, so if you’d like to be notified when the next opportunity comes around, consider subscribing to our blog (see the left-hand sidebar).

Best of luck!

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Conflict Thesaurus: Bad Weather

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Bad Weather

Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, losing an advantage, loss of control, miscellaneous challenges

A storm when the character is without shelter
Bad weather on the character’s wedding day
A mudslide that washes out a road
Non-stop rain that swells a river crossing, creating a danger
Fog that obscures a hazard on the highway
Being caught in a tornado or tropical storm
Running out of fuel or food as a snowstorm hits
Having loved ones unaccounted for after an earthquake

Minor Complications:
Frustration, anxiety, and worry
Losing an advantage (a head start, etc.)
New obstacles to overcome
Having to cancel plans or reschedule
Increased danger if traveling

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Suffering an injury far from help
Being lost in a storm
Proximity to danger (a tornado, a forest fire, a eruption, etc.)
Getting into a car accident because of poor road conditions
A wedding being postponed
Being snowed in without enough resources
Being trapped in a precarious situation (being caught in a flood zone, being trapped on a bridge that could be washed away)
Being separated from loved ones while escaping a crisis situation
Being delayed to the extent that the character’s competitors take the lead

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Wanting to flee a danger but also needing to save others
Self-preservation warring with doing the right thing and helping others
Feeling powerless yet desiring control
Wanting to secure an advantage for their family’s safety but knowing everyone deserves the same advantages
Hiding pessimism and fear to keep others calm

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The character themselves and any who are relying on them, people in peril due to the weather

Resulting Emotions: agitation, apprehension, defeat, desperation, determination, disappointment, frustration, homesick, hopefulness, impatience, nervousness, overwhelmed, panic, powerlessness, resignation, self-pity, uncertainty, unease, worry

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: controlling, cowardly, impatient, impulsive, needy, nervous, perfectionist, pessimistic, reckless, worrywart

Positive Outcomes: 
Poor weather can cause an opportunity to better prepare, or make alternative (and better) plans
A delay due to weather can save your character from danger or a disaster (a forest fire prevents a character from entering the battlefield in time, saving his life)
Being trapped with others to wait out bad weather can lead to the characters growing closer or working through differences

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

This conflict thesaurus is still being developed, but if you would like to access our entire descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing), visit our main site, One Stop for Writers.

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In Difficult Times, Ask: WWOCD (What Would Our Characters Do?)

As writers, we tend to be naturally voracious readers, meaning over the years we have experienced many difficult situations through the perspective of characters: intergalactic space battles between the forces of good and evil (Star Wars). The ruthlessness of Panem’s game arena (Hunger Games). Even shape-shifting clowns in sewers (IT) and pets that don’t stay on their side of the rainbow bridge (Pet Semetary). We’ve also written story after story where our characters are thrust outside their comfort zones and given problems they have no idea how to solve.

So why do we have such a fascination with adversity? Are we a hopelessly deviant lot, enjoying putting the screws to our characters? Are we acting out frustrations from the real world? Maybe. But I believe this fascination is really about something else…hope.

We hope that in our own life journeys, when faced with a crisis, point of pain, or situation with no easy answers, we too will find a way through it.

Right now with Covid-19, we are being challenged. Each one of us is experiencing discomfort and anxiety as our realities are upended, forcing us to find a route forward where we can live safely.

It’s a lot to handle.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let fear take over.

Easy to lose hope, the one thing we must NEVER do.

If I can offer an idea for us all, it might be to ask, WWOCD: What would our characters do?

Let’s look to the protagonists that hold us in thrall, the ones who choose hope over fear. Perspective over panic. Those who seek knowledge, think creatively and marshal their internal strengths. Characters who dig deep, find their resolve, and then put one foot in front of the other until they are finally on the other side.

Like our characters discover in the story, we too are stronger and more adaptable than we might believe.

Each of us has experienced painful ups and downs, challenges and struggles. We got through those, and we will get through this one too because we have the courage to face what comes and the self-belief to act. So as our littles, friends, and neighbors look to us as an example, let’s make sure HOPE is always our North Star.

As we ride through self-isolation and social distancing, it might be easy to feel alone. Remember that we are all part of one of the most amazing communities in the world. We writers bond online in groups, social media feeds, and forums, talking about characters, books, and the writing path. We can help each other through this if we stay connected. Becca and I are in many places on social media. Please reach out if you need to!

My friend Jami Gold has a terrific post on how to move forward as writers, manage stress, and connect with the outside world even when we’re stuck at home. She’s brought together fun things to experience online and things to do together as a family. I urge you to pop by and to pass on the link to others who will find these ideas helpful.

Like our most beloved protagonists, we will get through this. Believe in yourself, and know that Becca and I believe in you too.


Becca and Angela are story experts and innovators who are passionate about helping writers improve their craft and creating resources that make storytelling easier. If you like, grab this discount code and join them at One Stop for Writers, a portal to innovative tools unlike anything else. (Last day to use this code is today.)

Posted in Motivational, Social Networking, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude | 8 Comments

Why All Writers Need A Structural Toolbox

What Is A Structural Toolbox?

Put simply, a structural toolbox is the foundation work all writers need to put in to ensure they …

  • understand how structure works
  • can apply structural techniques to their writing

Think of it as a collection of tools you have to hand in order to identify and fix your stories. This is why I like to call it a structural toolbox! 

An important thing to remember on structure is that one size will definitely NOT fit all. Different stories will call for different solutions … Just like different DIY jobs around the home will require different tools.

Why Writers Don’t Like Studying Structure

If this seems pretty obvious stuff, that’s because it is. However, lots of writers will resist developing their structural toolbox.

Their reasons for this may vary, but here’s the most common reasons I’ve bumped up against when working with writers …

  • ‘My stories arrive in my head ‘fully formed”. Let’s be clear: NO ONE’s stories stay the same from the moment of conception through to completion. Not even veteran uber-writers like Stephen King’s.
  • ‘Structure is ‘just’ a formula anyway.’ Actually, it’s a framework: ‘beginning-middle-end’. All stories need these three things, whether they’re linear or non-linear. It’s a framework we’re all familiar with since childhood. But we’re arguing semantics and this objection is, at its roots, redundant.
  • ‘This is just overthinking / writing guru BS.’ It’s definitely true that writers can go down the rabbithole too much on any element related to the craft of writing. It’s also true there’s a whole industry dedicated to encouraging them to do this. That said, there’s always a middle ground. Understanding the many different ways structure can work, such as all the different plotting archetypes, can actually ENHANCE our writing.
  • ‘The structure will change in the development process anyway.’ These writers are correct, it probably will. That said, if we don’t know where we are starting and why, then we are very likely to get lost in ‘development hell’. It’s like starting out for a particular destination with no map … you wouldn’t, would you?
  • ‘This is what I’m paying script editors like YOU for!’ Some writers may say it’s ‘impossible’ to diagnose structural issues by themselves, so they need script editors like Bang2write to tell them where they’re going wrong. But here’s the kicker: even if I tell them how to fix their structure problems, they still can’t … Because if they don’t truly understand how structure works, then they’re flying blind.

I get it. Developing a structural toolbox is a LOT of work. But when writers are urged to ‘work on their craft’, this is what is meant. What’s more, no writer ever regretted knowing more about structure!

How To Develop Your Own Structural Toolbox

i) Read widely and make notes

Find out about all the different ways of looking at structure and plotting … there’s lots of them! Whether you’re writing novels or screenplays, you will discover there’s multiple ways of describing how that framework goes together.

Here are some books that B2W recommends most often:

  • Poetics by Aristotle
  • Writing Fiction: A User-Friendly Guide by James Essinger
  • Into The Woods by John Yorke
  • Constructing A Story by Yves Lavandier
  • Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
  • The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker

Make plenty of notes, however you seem fit. You will notice in the course of these notes that you find some of the structural approaches very illuminating. Others will confirm what you already think.

There will also be approaches you feel are unnecessarily complicated, or you even vehemently disagree with. This is good!

ii) Decide how YOU see structure working

You will notice the books above focus on primarily screenwriting. This is because ‘screenwriting is structure’ (ie. it is plot-led). With this in mind then (and having read a LOT of writing craft books!), I believe screenwriting books to be the most useful sources of information on structure.

I also believe screenwriting and novel writing to be the same at foundation level in terms of actual storytelling … concept, structure, character. I call these the ‘B2W Holy Trinity’.

This means I approach writing my novels in exactly the same way as I write screenplays, or work with screenwriters on their scripts. I didn’t do this by accident. I worked on my craft, identified how I personally saw structure working and developed my structural toolbox accordingly.

iii) Understand the link

Lots of writers argue about whether character or structure is ‘more’ important. This is a pointless debate, because character and structure are a symbiotic relationship.

We don’t read or watch stories ‘about characters’ … We want to read or watch stories ‘about characters who DO something, for SOME REASON.’ 

By understanding how character and structure are linked, we can ensure every beat in our story reveals character and advances the plot.

iv) Use visuals, outlines, post-its, beat sheets & worksheets

Reading books about structure are a great start, but can be a bit dry. What’s more, theorising on the craft of writing does not always suit everyone. So here’s a few more ideas to add to your structural toolbox …

  • Use visual representations to learn about structure. There’s countless diagrams, pictograms and drawings online to illustrate how structure and plotting works. For a collection of them to start you off, CLICK HERE.
  • Always outline first. Whether we like outlining or not, facts are facts: outlining means you avoid structural problems. This is why the industry (particularly in TV) will insist on writers outlining first, but even novelists benefit from it. MORE HERE.
  • Using Post-It Notes, index cards, whiteboards, beat Sheets. Writing out the ‘beats’ (aka important events/ moments) of your plot really helps you see whether your story is in the ‘right’ order. TV writers’ rooms often use post-it notes on the wall, index cards or white boards to do this. Physically moving these beats around can really aid your plotting, especially if you prefer to work in a more instinctive way. Alternatively, writing a beat sheet or set of bullet points may help.
  • Use worksheets. ‘Drawing the story’ can really help, too. There’s lots of FREE worksheets online to do this. I created one for Bang2writers which you can grab too, HERE.

(Another story structure option: One Stop for Writers’ Story Map.)

v) Keep Learning!

The more you read and learn about structure, the more you realise everyone is more or less saying the same thing … just in different ways.  By appreciating this, we can develop our own vocabulary to describe how OUR writing works. We can also continuously add to our toolbox in terms of solutions for common structural issues.

This has the added bonus of helping us to protect our work when it’s in development with publishers, producers and others. After all, if we understand exactly WHY a structural rewrite will undermine our protagonist’s worldview and mission, we can avoid this and offer another solution instead. We then don’t end up in what B2W calls ‘The Story Swamp’ or the film industry calls ‘Development Hell’.

Good Luck!

Lucy V. Hays

Resident Writing Coach

Lucy is a script editor, author and blogger who helps writers at her site, Bang2write.com. To get free stuff for your novel or screenplay, CLICK HERE
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Posted in Characters, Middles, Openings, Resident Writing Coach, Story Structure, Theme, Tools and Resources, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons, Writing Resources | 10 Comments