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As we head toward the end of the year, I find myself thinking more about what writers do and the opportunity that arises every time we settle our fingers on the keyboard. Beyond the words and flow of the story lies something meaningful: the ability to be a voice–a powerful voice–that reaches through the page to influence readers to think deeper about the world, the people in it, and how their own actions might make life better for everyone.

Without the written word, how many causes would fail to draw champions to lead the charge for change? How many marginalized people would continue to be unfairly treated and sidelined? How many environmental concerns would not be on anyone’s radar? Words have power. Our thoughts, observations, and the ideas we share with readers have power. As writers, we can bring light to the minds of others, and that’s pretty special.

Don’t get me wrong, we have work to do (so much work!) but what a privilege that we can touch on sensitive topics through story and evoke an emotional response in readers that may lead to reflection, open-mindedness, and maybe (just maybe!) change. Every day I reflect on what an honor it is to be a writer. I admire the courage of those writers who speak out about what they believe to be right even when it is not always popular (or safe) for them to do so.

All people can be caretakers. Each of us can choose to be part of a chain that lifts those around us up.

In my mind, the writing community is a shining example of this. Each day I see you guys working together to share knowledge, advise, discuss, and give your time to helping other writers succeed. It’s just brilliant! So I wanted to take a second to thank you for doing that. Everyone is busy, their lives packed with responsibilities and commitments, yet I know you make time for others. It’s a pretty beautiful thing to see this on a daily basis, and it’s why I love being part of the writing world.

A few more things to mention…

While on the topic of thank yous, Becca and I need to also pass on our appreciation for supporting us and our books so we can keep doing what we love: being part of this chain. You may not realize it, but your support of our books help in a much bigger way; each year we take a portion of our earnings and donate it to a specific charity. This year you have helped us donate $1000 to Doctors Without Borders, so thank you! (To find out more about the incredible work they do, just visit this link.)

Also, if you have been around the blog this last 10 days or so, you would have seen our Advent Calendar for Writers event. This is to celebrate you, and all writers, so we hope you will check it out. Leaders in our industry have joined us to create an incredible giveaway of writing prizes that will give you a leg up toward your writing goals. The total prize value is in the $2000 range, so please enter! We’d love you to win something that can help your writing career.

The last day to enter is Dec 19th, so it’s not too late. All the prizes to date are listed here in this post, along with the links to each giveaway.

Guest post alert!

Finally, I wanted to pass on a link to a post of mine on character relationships over at Mythcreants: Taking Character Relationships to the Next Level. (This is like a mini master class on relationships, based on a tool we’ll be creating for One Stop for Writers, so please check it out.)

Happy Thursday to all!

~Angela

The post How Writers Are Part of a Humanitarian Chain appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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After we’ve been writing for a while, we’ve heard our share of writing rules. Sometimes we’re taught to avoid certain techniques, like prologues. Or we might be told that some storytelling approaches are too risky, such as using second-person point of view.

We might struggle with the balance between following the rules and stifling our voice. Or we might fear we can’t write the story we want to write because it doesn’t “fit” what’s expected.

However, for every rule, we can probably think of an exception that managed to break the rule—successfully. So what “lesson” should we really take away about writing rules?

Should We Ignore the Exceptions or Try to Learn from Them?

For many writers and editors, the lesson has usually been to ignore the exceptions: “Just because so-and-so got away with it, doesn’t mean anyone else can.” We might assume they succeeded just because they’re a big-name author or they caught a bit of lucky lightning in a bottle.

But if we look closer, we can often learn from the exceptions:

  • Yes, grammar rules are important, but if we know the rules well enough, we’ll know how and when to break them on purpose for voice, style, character, dialect, etc.
  • Yes, good writing is important, but good storytelling—an often nebulous concept that includes voice/style, pacing/narrative drive, premise, character goals, conflict, etc.—can overcome the weaknesses of bad writing.
  • Yes, a strong plot is important, but an engaging voice can keep readers entertained enough to turn pages, even when not much is happening in the story.
  • Yes, readers’ emotional experience is important, often focusing on a reader’s connection to a character, but other story aspects—the premise, situations, messages, etc.—can create an emotional experience for readers as well.
Exceptions Can Be Exceptional

I’m currently reading The Fifth Season, a Hugo Award-winning dystopian/apocalyptic fantasy by N. K. Jemisin. This story is amazing despite—or possibly because of—how many “rules” she breaks with her writing. (Read the prologue and first chapter with Amazon’s Look Inside feature.)

For a few examples, The Fifth Season starts with not only a prologue, but a long prologue—with seven scenes/snippets in several different settings and POVs—much of which isn’t in media res, such as these lines:

Here is a land.

It is ordinary, as lands go. Mountains and plateaus and canyons and river deltas, the usual.

The author even emphasizes how much readers aren’t meant to connect to the characters yet, saying the specifics, including this character’s appearance and emotional state, are irrelevant:

None of these places or people matter, by the way. I simply point them out for context.

But here is a man who will matter a great deal.

You can imagine how he looks, for now. You may also imagine what he’s thinking.

Then the first chapter’s opening line takes another character from the prologue and flips their POV for the rest of the book from third person to second person:

You are she. She is you.

However, the other characters’ chapters remain in third person, so readers need to adjust to second-person POV and back every chapter. The technique shouldn’t work. It should be too jarring, too disruptive to the reader’s experience.

None of these choices should work, given the “rules” we know. And yet, considering this story’s well-deserved awards, they do.

How Do Exceptions Successfully Break the Rules?

Rather than focus on the rules a story breaks, we can instead pay attention to what makes the exceptions work. What do they get right—so right that they overcome the usual problems?

Many point to Twilight’s storytelling strengths as the reason it succeeded despite the weakness of the writing itself. In the case of The Fifth Season, I’d point to the voice, premise, worldbuilding, and overall writing quality as reasons why it succeeds “despite.”

The very first line:

Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.

More interesting than the end of the world? What could that possibly be? We’re hooked.

The last lines of the prologue similarly grab readers’ attention:

This is the way the world ends.
For the last time.

For the last time? *shivers*

In other words, the main lesson we might take away from exceptions—and how they get away with breaking the rules when we can’t—is this: Our writing must have more strengths than weaknesses.

If our writing is strong enough, we can break the rules. If we can’t successfully break the rules that make sense for our story to break, maybe the problem isn’t the rule. Maybe we just haven’t yet strengthened our writing enough to make the rule-breaking work, and we need to try again. *smile*

Do you have any questions or insights about writing rules—or breaking them?

After muttering writing advice in tongues, Jami decided to put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fueled by chocolate, she creates writing resources and writes award-winning paranormal romance stories where normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat. Find out more about Jami here, hang out with her on social media, or visit her website and Goodreads profile.
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Before you go…

Have you checked out our Advent Calendar For Writers Giveaway? There’s a ton of prizes to be won that total about $2000.

Enter by Dec 19th, and good luck!

The post Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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Can I tell you a secret?

There’s a book that Becca and I have wanted to work on for a long time now, but it seemed like it was never a good time. Always we had another Thesaurus book to get to first, and then another. But last year, after completing our most comprehensive (and challenging) book to date, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, we decided that it was time to take on our special project.

And so we did.

It’s finished. Edited. Proofed. The cover is done (it’s fantastic!) and the manuscript is heading to the formatter.

Now it’s time to look ahead to release, and with that, ask all our lovely fans if they might be willing to help us in the new year. And so…would you like to be part of our Street Team?

If you’ve followed us for awhile, you’ll know that there’s something special about this book because we’ve not said a word on what it’s about. Not one word.

That probably sounds…crazy, right? Who in their right mind says nothing about the book they are creating right up until release?

(Well, us. But we promise, there’s a good reason for doing so!)

*whispers* This will be a big book.

Maybe the biggest book we’ve written?

And we are all about the surprise. Want to be part of it?

If so, we’d love for you to join our Street Team!

If you’re interested, leave your contact details HERE and we’ll be in touch. This release will be in February 2019, so don’t worry, we won’t be asking you to give up any family time during the holiday. Our launches are fun and easy, I promise.

We’re SO excited, and are hoping this thesaurus book is exactly what you need.

Thank you!

~ Angela & Becca

The post A New Thesaurus Book is Coming…And We Need Your Help! appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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It’s that time again! Shopping for people can be crazy-making, except when it comes to writers. Then it’s  a super fun time, because there are just so many neat, fun, thoughtful gifts we can pass on to our writing friends…or put on our own wish lists! So without further ado, here are some of the fabulous finds I have unearthed…enjoy!

An Edgar Alan Poe vinyl clock  (Around $30 US)

Okay, not going to lie–made from records, these clocks are unbelievable. Becca and I purchased one of these and can’t wait for our recipient to see it! Whatever your writer friend is “into,” you’ll find a clock to suit. Like this Wonder Woman one. Or The Wizard of Oz. The Nightmare before Christmas. Scarface. Star Wars. Walking Dead. The Hobbit. Get lost in vinyl glory, friends!

The writing t-shirt classics

You knew there’s be a shirt on this list. There’s always a shirt. The only ingredient missing from this one is Ugly Crying, but Insanity is 120%, so I think that covers it.

I also found some other cool writerly T-shirts here, here, here, and this great one for deadlines here.

Portable laptop desk ($35 US)

Anyone else carry their laptop to the couch or take it to bed? *tries to count all the hands raised and gives up*

Yeah, I thought so. I’m betting too that stifness and neck kinks are probably also on the menu then. A desk like this would save your posture, and you could use it to create a standing desk too.

Jane Austen coasters ($35 US)

Are you like me and you have about 3-4 glasses on your desk at any given time? If so, coasters are a sanity saver when it comes to condensation and coffee rings. Or maybe you just want to proclaim your love of books when company comes over.

If Jane isn’t your cuppa, try these classic horror novel coasters. Either way, hurray for book love!

Glasses for writers ($10 US)

Speaking of beverage containers, we writers do like our adult beverages, don’t we? And well, maybe a few of us have a book boyfriend of seven. Or  GoT’s The Mother of Dragons wine glass is more our speed. Beer drinker? Maybe you like GoTs, you Drink And Know Things. But Harry Potter fans may rather wish to Swear They Are Up To No Good, or proclaim Magic over Muggles with this HP Cauldron Mug.

One Stop for Writers

A few years ago, Becca and I decided to do something crazy with Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows: build a website that houses the custom tools and resources that writers really needed. I’m proud to say that we’ve helped thousands of writers so far and are on the cusp of releasing a Character Building Tool that will revolutionize how people build characters and plan their arc, so if you’ve been wanting to test drive a subscription, or wish to gift one to a friend, now’s a great time. We have gift certificates!

Mouse pad hand warmer ($10 US)

Okay, I live in Canada and it gets COLD here in the winter, y’all. My fingers are icicles some days and something like this heated mouse pad could be a lifesaver for that mouse hand. Plus, Owls!

A journal that BEGS to be written in ($20 US)

Can you imagine how this would feel in your hands? What it would be like to open the cover and see the blanket of white patiently waiting for your imagination to fill it?

Beautiful journals cannot be resisted. This is an especially good choice for someone struggling with writer’s block or if they are questioning themselves (as we writers often do). The pages will lure the writer in, a siren song to create.

Bookends ($100 US)

A little pricier, but I had to add this one because my son made me an incredible desk lamp out of pipe, and these bookshelves remind me of it. I have had so many compliments on my lamp (and requests to convince my son to sell them!), so if you like the style, this would be a beautiful addition to any writer’s desk!

A pewter talisman for poets and writers ($20 US)

Bards, the poets and writers of old, were celebrated in Celtic culture, bringing story to people all over by paper and tongue. This talisman is not only a beautiful nod to past roots, it’s a great reminder of our creative purpose!

A writing craft book or three

Becca and I are big believers of self-education. Many years ago we took an entire year off of writing and did nothing but read and discuss writing books. Wow, did that ever help us deepen our knowledge of craft! We..

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You will find writers who argue that there should be no backstory at all in your first chapters. Why not? Because, by definition, backstory is what has happened before your narrative opens, and you want to establish the action first, get the readers locked in on that.

This is, on the surface, sound advice. These days we do not have the leisure time, a la Dickens, to set the stage and do a ton of narrative summary up front. Or, a la Michener, begin with the protozoa of the pre-Cambrian earth and record their evolutionary development into the Texans of today.

I am a firm believer in beginning with action (which doesn’t mean, necessarily, car chases or gun fights). The best openings, IMO, show a character in motion.And further, manifesting a “disturbance” to their ordinary world.

I tell writing students, “Act first, explain later.” A big mistake in many manuscripts is that chapter one carries too much exposition. The writer thinks the reader has to know a bunch of character background to understand the action. Mistake. Readers will wait a long time for the explanations when there’s a character in motion, facing a disturbance.

However, I am a strong advocate of strategic backstory in the opening. I say strategic because you do have a strategy in your opening, one above all—bond your character with the reader.

Without that character bonding, readers are not going to care about the action, at least not as much as they should. Backstory, properly used, helps you get them into the character so there is an emotional connection. Fiction, above all, should create an emotional experience.

I also stress properly used. That means marbled within the action, not standing alone demanding to be read.

The guys who do this really well also happen to be two of the bestselling novelists of our time, King and Koontz. You think that’s just a coincidence?

So here’s the simple “rule.” Start with action. Let’s see a character in motion, doing something. Make sure there’s some trouble, even minor, on the page (disturbance) and then you can give us bite-sized bits, or several paragraphs (if you write them well!) of backstory.

An early Koontz (when he was using the pseudonym Leigh Nichols) is Twilight.It opens with a mother and her six-year-old son at a shopping mall (after an opening line that portends trouble, of course). On page one Koontz drops this in:

To Christine, Joey sometimes seemed to be a little old man in a six-year-old boy’s small body. Occasionally he said the most amazingly grown-up things, and he usually had the patience of an adult, and he was often wiser than his years.

But at other times, especially when he asked where his daddy was or why his daddy had gone away––or even when he didn’t ask but just stood there with the question shimmering in his eyes––he looked so innocent, fragile, so heartbreakingly vulnerable that she just had to grab him and hug him.

Koontz bonds us with this Lead through sympathy. We don’t know why the boy’s father isn’t there, but we don’t have to know right away, do we? In this way Koontz also creates a little mystery which makes us want to keep on reading. 

Now, a word of warning when writing in first person POV. It’s much easier for the narrator to give us a backstory dump. But the “rule” remains the same: act first, explain later. To see how it’s done, check out the opening chapter of Harlan Coben’s Gone for Good,which begins:

Three days before her death, my mother told me – these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close – that my brother was still alive.

We then cut to the mother’s funeral, and the narrator, Will Klein, leaving the house to walk through his old neighborhood. He has a specific place he’s going, the place where a terrible murder happened years before. Along the way he describes the setting and drops in some backstory, especially about one night when his big brother explained the “facts of life” to him from a ninth grader’s perspective. It’s a warm, human bit that creates sympathy. But Coben weaves it in with the action, which is about the narrator getting to the murder spot. That happens on the very next page. Very little time is lost to backstory.

Some time ago I interviewed Laura Caldwell, author of the Izzy McNeil series. She told me the following:

“I wish I’d known how to weave in background information instead of dumping it in big chunks. It’s still something I struggle with, although I think I’ve improved a lot. It’s a skill that has to constantly be refined so the background information which gets delivered reads and feels organic right at that point in the story.”

Good point from Laura.

Here’s an example from my legal thriller, Try Dying. Chapter 1 is about a bizarre death. Chapter 2 opens with the narrator in action, facing opposition (disturbance). A hugely successful lawyer named Barton Walbert. It’s a deposition. About four paragraphs in:

I was a pup compared to Walbert. He was fifty-three and in his prime. At thirty-four, I was just hitting my stride. But the arrogance of youth is a good thing for trial lawyers. Like the young gun who comes to town looking for the aging outlaw, wanting to test the best, I was loaded and ready. 



I wanted to slip in the age and the attitude. Then I got back to the action.

Striking the right backstory balance in your first few pages, isn’t easy. Here are a few final tips for finding that happy medium:

1. Take a look at your opening chapters. Highlight all backstory.

2. Take out anything that does not contribute to some emotional connection with the character. Move other material to a later chapter.

3. If your beginning has no backstory and it’s lacking that important reader-character bonding element, write up some of your protagonist’s history in a separate document, free form. Look for anything that gives us empathy or sympathy for the character. Then take some of that and put it in, a little at a time, in the opening chapter.

Jim is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure, and numerous thrillers, including, Romeo’s Rules, Try Dying and Don’t Leave Me. His popular books on fiction craft can be found here. His thrillers have been called “heart-whamming” (Publishers Weekly) and can be browsed here. Find out more about Jim on our Resident Writing Coach page, and connect with him online.

Twitter

The post Beginnings and Backstory appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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Ahhh, it’s the happy time again.

*cue the Peanuts Christmas soundtrack*

Because I’m easily overwhelmed and like to get out ahead of things, my decorating is done and I did most of my shopping online yesterday. Next comes the wrapping, but in the meantime, I’m taking a break to do some reading, which means it’s time for a critique contest!

CRITIQUES 4 U!

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 I’m creating 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 will be used).

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!

The post appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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Hi everyone! This time of year can be a bit stressful with the holidays approaching, so we thought we’d pass along a nice discount for our 6-month plan.

Right now, grab it at 50% off and dig into all the fantastic, one-of-a-kind resources at One Stop for Writers for the next six months for only $25!

One Stop for Writers® is our sister site, a project that Becca, myself, and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows have built over the last few years. If you are a fan of our Thesaurus books, you might be interested to know they are all at One Stop, along with many more: 14 Thesauruses in all, creating the largest description database available online for writers. But that’s just one aspect of our site, so feel free to find out more of what we offer.

To take advantage of this early Cyber Monday deal…

Sign up (or sign in) and visit the My Subscription page

Enter the code CYBERMONDAY into the coupon code box.

Follow the prompts and select the 6-Month plan

A one-time 50% discount will be applied to your next invoice. Easy-peasy!

If you are looking for something to change the writing game, stop by and see if One Stop for Writers fits your plan for stronger storytelling. We’ve helped thousands of writers and would love to help you, too.

When Cyber Monday ends, so does this offer, so act fast! Happy writing!

The post Cyber Monday Starts Now! 50% off One Stop for Writers appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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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. 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: Police Officer

Overview: Police officers serve and protect, keeping the peace, often putting themselves at great risk to do so. In the scope of their duties they enforce the laws and investigate, pursue, and apprehend anyone who breaks them. Officers may enforce traffic laws, resolve community and domestic issues, respond to emergencies, follow up on 911 calls, and investigate suspicious circumstances or crimes that have taken place. They also interview suspects and witnesses, issue tickets, and when the situation warrants it, arrest those who have broken the law.

Police officers are usually assigned an area to patrol and work with a partner. The type of work they do will often depend on where they are located (a small town will have different crimes overall than a big city, for example, and the area one patrols may be more high crime, gang-related crime, “white collar crimes,” etc.). To carry out their duties, officers should be unbiased, highly ethical, and not display favoritism. The work is both mentally and physically tasking and the shift-work can be hard on relationships and make work-life balance difficult. That said, officers help and safeguard the public, work to solve problems and bring about amicable solutions, and deal with people at their worst (drug addicts and people under the influence, thieves, gang members, etc.) and have the opportunity to try and encourage them to make life changes before it is too late. Officers are also in a position to help lift the burdens for victims, helping them navigate difficult situations by showing compassion and empathy and using their knowledge and resources. Making a difference in the lives of others can make this a very rewarding career.

Necessary Training: While the specifics of education and training will vary depending on where your book takes place, generally speaking, a police officer must be a high school graduate, pass a thorough background check, be in excellent physical condition, and attend a police academy (and graduate). There they will learn state and constitutional laws, local ordinances, civil rights, and accident investigation. Recruits also learn about traffic control, first-aid, emergency response and receive firearms and self-defense training. Officers will also need to pass written, physical, and psychological tests, as well as a polygraph. Officers may be trained in special areas and learn special investigation techniques.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, basic first aid, blending in, enhanced hearing, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, high pain tolerance, hot-wiring a car, knife throwing, knowledge of explosives, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, photographic memory, reading people, self-defense, sharpshooting, strategic thinking, strong breath control, super strength, survival skills, swift-footedness, wilderness navigation

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, calm, cautious, charming, confident, courageous, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, easygoing, efficient, empathetic, focused, friendly, honest, honorable, independent, just, loyal, objective, observant, organized, patient, perceptive, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, proper, protective, resourceful, responsible, socially aware, tolerant, wise

NEGATIVE: workaholic

Sources of Friction: being shown disrespect by the public one is protecting, being hurt on the job, losing a fellow officer in the line of duty, having to kill someone in the line of duty, the scrutiny of every decision made, dealing with the politics of the job, dirty cops that give all cops a bad name, having to notify families of someone’s passing, being repeatedly exposed to traumatic situations (horrific car accidents, violence against children, grieving families and victims, school shootings, etc.) and trying to process the psychological stress in the aftermath, dealing with “armchair experts” who try telling the police officer how to do their job, dangerous situations one must enter with little knowledge (active shooters, terrorism, drug operations, chemical threats, searching suspected drug users, etc.), PTS, trying to keep work and home life separate, relationship strain (due to long hours, being unavailable at times, etc.), dealing with misconceptions and misunderstandings of a police officer’s job

People They Might Interact With: suspects, criminals, members of the press, firefighters, coroners, detectives, FBI or other government agents, the public, victims and their families, paramedics, witnesses, other police officers, city officials, judges, lawyers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: If an officer joins the force to make a difference but is instead disrespected and unappreciated due to a negative public opinion of the police, it may lead to disillusionment and questioning this path
  • Esteem and Recognition: If your character becomes guilty by association after a very public mistake by another officer, their esteem make take a big hit.
  • Love and Belonging: The long hours, possible emotional struggles and necessity of not discussing what happens at work at home may leave a partner feeling like they aren’t a priority. Marriages may fail and relationships may grow strained with children because of the job, creating a void in the need of love and belonging
  • Safety and Security: A police officer’s job is inherently dangerous meaning safety and security will always be tenuous at times
  • Physiological Needs: Because a police officer thrusts themselves runs toward danger when others flee and often works in high-crime areas, there are many situations that could threaten their lives.

Common Work-Related Settings: airport, alley, ambulance, bank, bar, basement, big city street, car accident, cheap motel, coffeehouse, community center, condemned apartment building, convenience store, courtroom, emergency room, empty lot, fire station, gas station, hospital (interior), hospital room, house fire, house party, indoor shooting range, jewelry store, juvenile detention center, liquor store, morgue, nightclub, parking garage, parking lot, pawn shop, police car, police station, pool hall, prison cell, pub, razed city street, rec center, rock concert, shopping mall, skate park, small town street, subway train, subway tunnel, trailer park, train station, truck stop, underpass,

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

Avoid writing police officers who are lazy, inept, and easy to fool. This is a frustrating and utterly false stereotype used to further the plot.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

The post Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Police Officer appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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Happy Thanksgiving, US Friends!

Today we’ve got a goldmine of ideas for those brave NaNoWriMo souls who feel a bit sluggish heading into the final third of your novel. Please welcome Savannah Cordova from one of our favorite sites: Reedsy!

For NaNoWriMo vets, the pattern is all too familiar: you start the month off strong, full of great ideas, excited about the story you’re going to write. Maybe you even exceed your word count goals in those first few days, giving yourself a comfortable buffer.

But then that momentum starts to slip away. With your buffer in mind, you only write 500 words one day, or you skip a day entirely. Before you know it, you’re struggling just to stay on track. Your plot is stalling and your characters have started to feel dull. You’re feeling frustrated, exhausted, and generally uninspired.

You’ve hit the “30k slump” — now what are you going to do about it?

The answer is: keep moving forward. Here are five solid tips for getting past the slump and powering through to the end of your awesome novel.

  1. Free yourself from your outline

Many writers work from outlines during NaNoWriMo — they can definitely make the process smoother and less stressful. However, your outline can also turn into a real burden when you realize some element of it doesn’t work. You feel torn between the safety of the outline and the need to go in a different direction, and this internal conflict may factor into your slump.

The reality is, even if you plan out your whole novel before so much as writing the first sentence, that plan can still go awry. Writing isn’t a science (as all us English majors know), and writing a novel requires a bit of wiggle room.

You might want to introduce a new character, or incorporate a plot twist that you’ve only just conceived. Do whatever you need to do to make your novel work — original outline be damned.

Of course, experimenting in the middle of a novel is always a risk, especially when the whole process is so time-constrained. But remember: it’s always better to take a risk than to stop writing completely.

  1. Use dialogue to keep things moving

One of the best ways to inject some spark into your writing is to use dialogue. Throw a couple of your characters together and get them talking! This might be a critical moment where one of them confronts another or reveals something meaningful — or it might be a discussion about the merits of various potato chips.

Even if it’s largely irrelevant to the main plot line, dialogue can really loosen up your creative muscles and lead to more substantial scenes. Also, most importantly, the dialogue itself is still words on the page — getting you ever closer to that elusive 50k.

  1. Carve out a whole day just for writing

When you start to feel the 30k slump, the best thing you can do for your novel is not to avoid it, but to embrace it. And that means clearing a whole day to spend some quality time with your characters.

Take a day off work, or simply spend a Saturday indoors. Ten straight hours of working on your novel may sound like a drag, but a few hours into it you’ll feel that inspiration rushing to the surface again, and you’ll be so energized you’ll actually want to write.

A full day of writing is especially helpful if you do writing sprints, as Meg talks about in this post. Say you work from 10 am to 8 pm, and do one 500-word sprint every hour. That’s 5,000 words right there! They might not be the most eloquent passages in the world, but the fact remains that you’ll be 10% closer to finishing your novel after just one day, and that’s gotta feel pretty good.

  1. Look other places for inspiration

You are your own worst enemy during NaNoWriMo. When you start feeling uninspired, you might think it’s all over for your novel. But there are plenty of great resources out there to help you get back on track!

For example, writing prompts are a fantastic way to reboot your creative system. Obviously you’re not going to start an entirely new novel, but prompts can inspire a scene or help you solve a problem you’ve been grappling with, like how to get a character from Point A to Point B. Basically, if you’re already stuck, you have nothing to lose from looking through a few prompts.

If mental inspiration isn’t the problem, try changing up your settings — both physical and virtual. If you’re not getting any writing done at your desk, go work in a coffee shop, library, or even just a different room in your house. You might also want to switch up your digital toolbelt! Try using a distraction-free word processor like FocusWriter or ZenWriter, and take advantage of any other resources at your disposal.

  1. Remind yourself why you’re doing this

No matter how drained you might feel at the 30k mark, remember why you started writing in the first place: to churn out those 50,000 words and finish your novel. Yes, it’s incredibly hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. You knew that going in, so don’t give up now!

If you’ve gotten this far, you can absolutely power through to the end. 30,000 words is no chopped liver; you’re already more than halfway done! Remind yourself of what’s waiting for you at the finish line — a beautiful, full, completed novel — then pound that coffee and go, go, go.

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.

Are you attempting NaNoWriMo or writing a novel outside of this challenge? What strategies have helped you power through when you needed a boost? Share your thoughts it in the comments!

The post How to Power Through the 30k Slump During NaNoWriMo appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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