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Mark Twain believed there was no such thing as a new idea. But he also felt that old ideas could become new with a little inspiration. Writer’s Relief feels the same way, which is why we created a mix-and-match idea generator to help you breathe new life into timeless topics for short stories. Check out this free writer tutorial and gain some fresh insights into classic short story subjects!

Editors at literary magazines love when writers put a new spin on traditional subject matter. Also, exploring new angles will help you become a better short story writer. It will challenge you to push boundaries and encourage you to move out of your writing comfort zone.

Here’s How Writers Can Breathe New Life Into Classic Short Story Ideas

When using this tutorial, you can deliberately make your narrative choices, or you can take a risk: Print this page, close your eyes, and let fate decide according to where your pen lands!

One: Pick your overarching short story topic. We recommend choosing one that hits an emotional trigger point for you.

  • Death
  • Birth
  • Love
  • Revenge
  • Money
  • Romance
  • Parenthood
  • Fear
  • Courage
  • Liberation
  • Creativity

Two: Select a central character.

  • College professor
  • Scientist
  • Daycare assistant
  • Chef
  • Office worker
  • Carpenter
  • Stay-at-home parent
  • Painter
  • Store clerk
  • Coach
  • Librarian
  • Writer
  • Retired soldier

Three: Give your character some emotional baggage (aka backstory). Take a moment to consider how the following broad topics might specifically apply to the character who has started to form in your mind when you chose from the list above.

  • Isolation issues
  • Professional stress
  • Caregiving duties
  • Financial pressures (from too little money OR too much)
  • Divorce
  • Recovery-in-progress
  • Social pressures to conform

Four: Choose a location for your opening scene. Surprise yourself! Your choice doesn’t have to correspond to your main character’s profession. In fact, sometimes it’s more interesting if it doesn’t! 

  • Parking lot
  • Bookstore
  • Boardwalk
  • Pet store
  • Restaurant
  • Monster truck rally
  • Television studio
  • Train station
  • Emergency room
  • Nail salon
  • Fast-food drive-through lane

Five: Pick a point of view. Is your POV that of an observer watching your characters and plot unfold, or is it the main character doing the thinking/talking?

  • First person
  • Second person
  • Third person
  • Third-person omniscient
  • Something else entirely

Six: Select the inciting conflict. Does your main character… 

  • Annoy the wrong person
  • Overhear a secret that should be told
  • Run to the rescue of another character
  • Have to choose between stepping in and stepping away
  • Break something valuable
  • Get called out for a social faux pas
  • Lose sight of an abducted child
  • Need to wiggle out of a promise

Seven: Determine the end.

Now it’s time to take the starting points you’ve selected and flesh them out into a fully developed story. You have a classic topic (one that taps into deep human emotions and resonates with readers), a main character who has an interesting backstory, and an inciting incident that can shed light on the subject matter at hand.

But…we’re not going to give you prompts for how your story should end. After all, part of the fun of writing is taking the story’s journey to a natural stopping point.

You can learn more about how to craft a short story (including how to write a great short story ending) by checking out the following articles by Writer’s Relief:

9 Ideas For Short Story Endings: How To Get From Here To There | Writer’s Relief

Short Prose Genres: Defining Essay, Short Story, Commentary, Memoir, and Mixed Genre

Submit Short Stories: Strategies To Make Your Short Story Stand Out In A Crowd

8 Techniques To Up The Drama Factor In Your Short Stories

Find even more short story articles here.

How To Find Help Publishing Your Short Story 

Once you’ve completed your short story, you may want to explore the possibility of submitting it for publication to a literary magazine. There are lots of free short story resources to help you on our website.

But if you’d rather be writing than doing the legwork of making submissions, check out our professional submission assistance services here at Writer’s Relief!

 

Question: Where do you get your ideas for short stories?

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While English is a wonderful language, it can also be confusing! Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine when to use certain words over others. For example: When should you use less versus fewer? Writer’s Relief offers some grammar tips for writing to help you distinguish the difference between less and fewer and easily choose the correct word at a glance.

Less Or Fewer: Which Is Correct?

Fewer should be used when the noun you are describing is quantifiable; that is, can be separated into individual pieces and counted. For example:

I’d rather have fewer chicken nuggets, for while they are the most delicious variant of chicken, I am on a diet, and they would go right to my thighs.

In contrast, less should be used for instances when the noun you are describing is a singular mass noun; that is, things that cannot be divided from the whole. For example:

I’d rather have less gravy on my mashed potatoes, for while it is the most delicious way to eat this variant of potatoes, I am on a diet, and it would go right to my thighs.

Sentences like these may disappoint your grandmother (are you eating okay, dearie?), but they will certainly delight the members of your literary family—the word nerds who pride themselves on their grammatical prowess. Like the multitalented Hugh Jackman, who can sing and act at the same time, here’s an example that employs both fewer and less simultaneously:

If your boss gave you fewer dollars than your coworker, you would have less money than she does. (And that means you’ll chip in for fewer office parties, which will cut into your doughnut consumption—which is the most delicious variant of dough.)

Interesting side note (at least to those of us who find this sort of thing interesting): Some nouns, like “time” or “money,” can actually be counted in minutes and hours or dollars and cents. But it is customary to treat these as bulk quantities rather than collections of dollars or minutes. So you would use less rather than fewer.

Also, when referring to a number of items, or fewer would be correct, but or less is more commonly used. For example:

Tell us how this grammar rule drives you nuts in fifty words or less.

Because the checkout line at the supermarket was limited to ten items or less, Joey had to put back the lawn chair and ramen noodles he had in his cart.

How are you doing so far? What’s that? You want fewer English grammatical rules? Sorry, but as a writer, you’ll have to follow the rules just like the rest of us. Unless you write experimental fiction. Then you can just take the tips in this article, toss them out of an M.C. Escher window, and go back to writing. But for the rest of us, here are some additional caveats:

Less should also be used for abstract nouns: words like “love” or “honesty” that are probably best described as “nebulous.” We can’t see them and, therefore, they can’t be counted. Want to know an easy way to determine if a noun is countable or uncountable? See if you can make it plural. Honesties? Courages? Here’s an example:

I have much less courage than the Spider-Man stunt double, Greg Townley, but slightly more courage than that anthropomorphic lion from The Wizard of Oz.

In addition, less can be used to modify adjectives instead of nouns. Let’s edit the above sentence to illustrate this:

I’m much less courageous than Greg Townley, undercover star of Spider-Man, Far From Home, but slightly more courageous than Bert Lahr, who plays the lion in that movie with the Munchkins.

Does all that make sense? To make a long grammar lesson short: If you can count it, use fewer. If it’s all lumped in together, use less. But why make this lesson short when the grammar geeks here at Writer’s Relief live for these opportunities to talk shop? So let’s continue…

Want more examples to help clarify this concept? Of course! You would have less heat but fewer fires, less traffic but fewer cars, less ice cream but—wait, there should never be less ice cream.

Now, see if you can ace this quiz:

  1. The old woman who lived in a shoe often daydreamed about having less/fewer children.
  2. Having less/fewer cups of coffee in the morning was not something Jill wanted to consider.
  3. Vince has an aversion to Oxford commas, so there is always one less/fewer comma in many of his sentences than Carol would like.
  4. Liberace had less/fewer fingers than he had rings.
  5. Catherine has less/fewer horses than Mackenzie, but just as many dogs.
  6. As an avid reader, Jack never once entertained the idea of owning less/fewer books.
  7. True or False: Mariah Carey owns less/fewer shoes than she does Grammy Awards.

Well, how did you do? We hope our grammar tips helped you answer each one correctly. And no, we’re not giving you the answers, but we will give you a hint: One is a bit sneaky!

Eager to learn more grammar tips and tricks? Check out this article, which explains the grammatical conundrum that baffles even the savviest of wordsmiths: the differences between “lie” and “lay.” And if you love reading about the ins and outs of proper grammar, you’ll absolutely adore our Free Grammar and Usage Tool Kit.

 

Question: What are your biggest grammar pet peeves?

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From July 16-21, Florida’s Key West celebrates Hemingway Days! The festival honors the legacy of author Ernest Hemingway, who spent much of the 1930s living and writing in this island paradise. Events include a look-alike contest, poetry readings, and a three-day marlin tournament. Hemingway’s only novel set in the United States, To Have and Have Not, used Depression-era Key West as the setting.

Writer’s Relief asks: Think you have what it takes to win the look-alike contest? Check out Hemingway Days details here.

 

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At Writer’s Relief, we understand how important it is to use the right word for the job. But it’s not always easy to know which word IS the right one! Knowing whether to use among or between can be a challenge for even the most skillful writers. So if you find yourself scratching your head and wondering about the difference between among and between, don’t worry: You’re among friends, and we’ll keep it between you and our blog. (See what we did there?)

Here are some easy-to-follow grammar tips to help you choose the right word when you write.

Among Vs. Between: Which Should You Use?

Which of the following is correct?

Example 1:

  1. When I hear them on the telephone, I cannot tell the difference between Carol, Jill, and Shannon.
  2. When I hear them on the telephone, I cannot tell the difference among Carol, Jill, and Shannon.

Example 2:

  1. Vince had a hard time choosing his favorite between his coworkers.
  2. Vince had a hard time choosing his favorite among his coworkers.

Example 3:

  1. Moira loves wearing a cape and walking through her garden between the plants.
  2. Moira loves wearing a cape and walking through her garden among the plants.

Confused? Here’s our advice: Forget everything you may have learned in grade school and read on!

Many of us were taught that it’s a matter of count: You use between if discussing two options and among if discussing three or more. Well, there’s a little bit more to it than this!

In the first example, some might guess that B is correct because you are discussing three options. However, when you are referencing three specific options, use between, not among:

  1. When I hear them on the telephone, I cannot tell the difference between Carol, Jill, and Shannon.
  2. I cannot decide between the vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream.
  3. The Four Corners border is shared between Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The second example is a little trickier. When talking about groups of items, use among…EXCEPT when the group consists of only two individual members. In that instance, use between. (Just be careful with collective nouns in these cases.)

Using between in the sentence “Vince had a hard time choosing his favorite between his coworkers” implies that the group he is choosing from consists of only two individual members. Whereas using among suggests that more than two individual members are included within the group. If it’s not already established within context, it might be wise to clarify, as in “between his two coworkers” or “between his coworkers, Jack, Sarah, and Dave.”

Example number three shows us that, just to be even more confusing, between and among can also be used to determine location. While Moira traipses around in her garden, using between in the sentence suggests that she is navigating a walkway surrounded with plant growth…or perhaps that she is walking between two lonely plants that struggle to grow within her sad little garden. The use of among in the sentence portrays Moira as wandering around her lush garden filled with prizewinning roses. So in this case, it’s really about how you want cape-wearing Moira to be portrayed. Good gardener superhero or bad gardener villain?

As you can see, there is more than one way to properly use between and among. But if you keep in mind these grammar guidelines, it will be easier for you to decide which is correct.

If you have more grammar challenges, check out our Free Grammar and Usage Took Kit.

Question: What other words are often confused?

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Writer, are you excited about attending an upcoming conference? You should be! A writing conference offers you a great opportunity to meet other writers and editors, hone your craft, and maybe even pitch your book to literary agents. But as you rush to pack your suitcase, Writer’s Relief knows it’s easy to forget some essentials when you’re trying to pack light and still leave room for all the books you’ll score. Here’s a list of things writers often forget to pack when rushing out the door for writing conferences.

Heading To A Writing Conference? Don’t Forget To Pack These Things

Cash. While debit and credit cards are accepted in most places today, carrying cash can often be more convenient. So when packing for a conference, be sure to include some money. The last thing you want to do is waste time looking for an ATM when you could be introducing yourself to fellow writers and literary agents. Or buying books.

Chargers for your laptop and cell phone. Many hotels and conference centers are now equipped with charging stations, but these areas can quickly get overcrowded. You don’t want to be standing around waiting to recharge your laptop or cell phone when you could be listening to your favorite author talk about how to get published.

Notebook. Jotting down thoughts or reminders will help you stay engaged and attentive. And sometimes it’s easier to just whip out your notepad and scribble a quick note than it is to balance your laptop on the run or juggle your phone. Plus, many writers like to start their projects with paper and pen—you never know when inspiration will strike! Which brings us to…

Pens. That’s plural. Not only will you need them to write down notes or contact info, but what if Stephen King is there and asks to borrow a pen? (Hey, it could happen!) What are you going to say? “Sorry, Steve, I forgot to pack them.” Or, “Hey, they’re up in my room on the 50th floor. Can you hang on?” Here’s a little advice from Writer’s Relief: You can never have too many pens.

Highlighters. Using a color-coded system helps to keep information organized and easy to find, because you’ll be able to pick out key phrases quickly. Also, highlighters make doodling much more fun while you’re waiting for the next session to start.

Business cards. You will meet lots of new people at a conference, and no matter how outgoing and memorable your personality is, not everyone will remember you. Sure, they might recall your face or your first name or that you didn’t have a pen to offer Stephen King, but without a business card, the odds of them reaching out to you after the conference are very slim. And if an agent asks for a card and you scratch your name and number on a napkin, it will likely end up in the trash, covered in mustard and ketchup smears. A professional-looking business card featuring your contact info and author website URL is an invaluable tool for networking and marketing. Don’t leave the house—or the hotel room—without a stash of them.

Reusable water bottle. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day so that you can remain alert and awake! Many water fountains now have specific areas dedicated to filling water bottles, so quenching your thirst has never been easier. Also, it’s a great way to stay on a budget so that you have more cash for important stuff like books, books, and oh yes, books.

Jacket or sweater. No matter what time of year it is, meeting rooms are often kept cold in preparation for large crowds. So it’s always a good idea to bring along a jacket or sweater. Having layers allows you to warm up or cool off easily, and the last thing you want to do is interrupt the speaker with the sound of your teeth chattering.

An elevator pitch. This is something you want to pack in your mind rather than your suitcase, because it needs to be readily available at all times during the conference. (Find out what an elevator pitch is and how to create one here.) Often you will have less than a minute to impress your listener, so your pitch needs to be concise and well delivered—be sure to practice at home before you attend the writing conference!

Question: What do you think is the most important thing to bring to a writing conference?

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Many people have a hard time saying no, even when they feel it is the right thing to do. Writers in particular may find that a simple word like “no” is one of the trickiest in their extensive vocabularies. But at Writer’s Relief, we know that learning how to say no confidently and kindly is an essential skill for successful creative writers. It’s important to set boundaries and to be protective of your writing time, sensibilities, and the intentions of your work. While saying yes can lead to new experiences and opportunities—there are some situations when a writer should definitely say no.

How And When A Creative Writer Should Say No

An editor asks for a change that you’re strongly against. Sometimes, a well-meaning editor will ask a writer for a change that simply doesn’t sit right with the work. Perhaps the editorial request violates the author’s moral or ethical sensibilities. Or it might go against a writer’s vision or aesthetic.

You may want to give the editor’s suggestion a try; experimenting with new ideas can lead to interesting results. But if you’ve kept an open mind and you’re still certain that the editor’s request doesn’t suit you, it’s time to say no.

How to say no: Explain to the editor that you have given the situation real consideration, but ultimately, you don’t feel it serves the best interest of your manuscript or your creative expression. Respectfully explaining why you don’t think the change works will show the editor that you stand behind your writing—and that perhaps the suggested change is best left out.

Learn more: You Want Me To Do What? Dealing With Agent Or Editor Revision Requests.

You are asked to forsake your professional standards. Sometimes, the deadline pressure to turn in something—anything!—might tempt you to click “send” even when you know the manuscript is not yet in its best possible shape. Or, you may fall victim to the book publishing industry demand for the next installment in your series NOW and find yourself sacrificing the quality of your writing or story arc. Another possibility is that you might feel pressured to write something that’s not in your wheelhouse.

If you’re feeling pressured to forfeit your personal writing integrity, then perhaps it’s time to hit the brakes.

How to say no: Rejecting professional and market pressures often takes more than a single nicely worded no thank you email. It takes a lifelong commitment to personal excellence. Helping people understand and respect your personal ideals is rewarding but may take some time.

When you do say no to a person who is asking you to forsake your creative ethics, you may not want to be overly explicit about your position. After all, chances are your listener would be horrified to know that their request has actually offended your sensibilities. Instead of trying to explain your personal moral high ground, simply state that the request doesn’t work for you. Then, offer an alternative idea. You may discover that your unwavering commitment to personal integrity will make you the kind of writer others want to work with.

You are asked to take on an additional project when you’re struggling to meet a personal writing deadline. Modern life makes it hard enough to find time to write. Demands come at you from every angle: an employer who wants to double your workload, a friend who requests that you review a résumé, a fellow writer who could use a critique, a member of the PTA who just “volunteered” you to make cupcakes, or one of your children who needs extra homework help—just to name a few. Projects that cut into your writing time can lead to missed deadlines (both the official and unofficial kind). Plus, even if you do have the time for an additional project, extracurricular activities can sometimes interrupt your creative groove. Before you agree to take on another task, take a hard look at your writing goals and the schedule you need to keep in order to succeed.

How to say no: Even professional writers may find it difficult to explain that their creative writing needs to take precedence over other tasks. Writers who haven’t reached the status of being paid may find it even more difficult to convince friends and family that the work of writing must be taken seriously—even though approaching writing as your work may be the number one mind-set trick for longevity in the publishing business.

Learn more: What To Do When Your Family And Friends Aren’t Supportive Of Your Writing | Writer’s Relief.

The Dangers Of Trying To Explain Your Reasons For Saying No

Many communication experts agree that when it’s time to say no, the one thing you should never, ever do is offer a detailed explanation as to why you are rejecting the request. Some situations may require a little bit of clarification, but it’s important to be as vague as possible. Otherwise, your listener will more than likely try to help you say yes by offering solutions that neutralize your reasons for saying no.

For example, if you tell a friend that you will not be able to bring your world-famous meatballs to a party, you may want to avoid saying, I can’t because I have to write. If your friend doesn’t understand your deep professional-level commitment to your writing, he or she might be insulted. Better to be vague and say, I have too many commitments right now. Then, offer an alternative: Maybe I can pick something up at the store.

If you don’t want to offer an alternative, simply thank your friend for his or her compassionate understanding—whether it’s offered it or not. If you seem grateful enough, chances are you won’t be pressured  into saying yes.

The hardest part of saying no might be dealing with the awkward silence that follows your announcement. You may be inclined to fill gaps in the conversation with explanations and excuses, especially if you’re already feeling put on the spot. Resist the urge.

Remember that silence is okay. Once you have said what you needed to say, you’re done. It’s the other person’s turn to talk. And you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to. Stick with your original answer, rephrase it if you need to, and eventually, your listener will begin to respect your position.

What Happens When You Say Yes Too Often In Your Writing Career

Many writers may be inclined to say yes when they really want to say no.

For example, a writer might say, Sure, I can take on that extra project. I’ll just have to stay up late and lose sleep for a few weeks in order to eke out some time on my new manuscript. Or, I can always get back to my book project next month…next year…whenever. Or even, I guess I’ll do what the editor wants me to do just so I can get my words in print without making a fuss.

Over time, saying yes when your soul is screaming at you to say no will create friction and dissonance between the person you’re pretending to be and the person you really are. And that’s not good for your writing.

Ultimately, that tension can lead to writer’s block. Or, it could cause a writer to lose track of the sound of his or her own voice. If the tension goes on long enough, it could lead to total writing career burnout.

What Does It Really Mean To Say No?

Saying no in a personal or professional situation can stir up negative feelings for writers. But here’s something to consider: Saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else.

Declining a request doesn’t have to be about disappointing someone else’s expectations; it’s about following your truth, respecting your own interests and values, and freeing yourself to be the writer you want to be.

When you say no to a situation that doesn’t work for you—kindly and sensitively—you free yourself to say yes to the life you want.

10 Things To Remember When You Want To Give Yourself Permission To Say No
  1. Saying no may be awkward now, but you’ll feel better about your decision for days, weeks, or months going forward.
  2. Saying no isn’t just something you do for yourself. Think of a person you love and respect who would approve of your decision to say no. If you can’t say no for yourself, say no for them.
  3. Saying no does not make you a bad person. In fact, it makes you a person of deep personal integrity and self-respect.
  4. Saying no kindly but firmly puts you in a position to be a role model for the people in your life who look up to you.
  5. Saying no is not forever. Just because you’re saying no now doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to that same person when you’re in a better position to do so.
  6. Saying no to something you don’t want to do means you can say yes to something you do want to do. That’s worth celebrating!
  7. Don’t let someone guilt you into saying yes: That person does have alternatives, even if circumstances are not ideal.
  8. You don’t need to explain yourself when you say no. Avoid a long conversation of awkward excuses.
  9. Over time, people will respect and appreciate the way you have maintained your commitment to your values.
  10. Saying no is not the easy way out. It takes courage and integrity.
Motivational Quotes To Help You Say No

Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best. ―John C. Maxwell

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. ―Warren Buffet

If something is not a “hell, YEAH!” then it’s a “no”! ―James Altucher

No is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No. ―Sharon E. Rainey

One friend told me her one big takeaway from three years and $11,000 of therapy was learn to say no. And when you do, don’t complain and don’t explain. Every excuse you make is like an invitation to ask you again in a different way. ―Kelly Corrigan

More Articles About Learning How To Say No

How To Say No—Why Saying Yes Isn’t Always Best For Your Career

Forty-Nine Ways To Say No To Anyone (When You Don’t Want To Be A Jerk)

Ten Guilt-Free Strategies For Saying No

Twenty-One Ways To “Give Good No”

Five Ways To Say No To Friends And Family

Question: As a writer, do you find it difficult to say no?

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Bookworms rejoice! Reading isn’t just an enjoyable leisure activity. Books educate us while improving our vocabularies and writing capabilities. But in this article from BBC.com, Writer’s Relief learned that reading fiction has also been credited with decreasing violence and improving social skills.

In fact, studies show that reading fiction can actually make us better people.

Want to know how? Read more here.

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Get excited, writers, because July is National Anti-Boredom Month! At Writer’s Relief, we know that one big, sneaky side effect of being bored is a bad case of writer’s block. How can you be inspired when your muse is feeling ho-hum? Thankfully, we know smart ways to bust through the lazy summer doldrums and beat writer’s block. Trying new things outside of your comfort zone stimulates brain activity, and studies show this is one of the best ways to cure writer’s block and unleash your creativity!

How To Break Through Boredom And Defeat Writer’s Block

Become a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community—and a surprising way to kick-start your creativity! Reading to the elderly, assisting at the library, lending a hand at your local animal shelter, or even just offering to rake a neighbor’s yard can all provide great ideas for your writing. Whether you blog about your experience, craft a short story, write an essay, or find the spark to finish that novel you started, engaging with others can unleash creative energy in ways you never expected.

Take a class. With so many online classes available, technology has made it easy to learn new skills. You can advance your career or gain personal enrichment right from the comfort of your home, and many of these classes are free! Some online education alliances like Modern States (which has partnerships with MIT and Harvard) offer the option of transferring credits to colleges. How cool is that?

Ready to boost your brainpower and eliminate writer’s block? Check out these free online classes.

Learn a foreign language. You don’t have to travel to faraway countries to learn another language. There are many free language programs now available at the click of your mouse. Duolingo and Mango (free for public library patrons) are two of the most popular. Learning another language not only enhances your vocabulary; it can also take your writing to another level by inspiring a new character or story idea. After all, if your heroine is French, you can add authenticity to your story by having her speak the language! Pardon moi. Ou est ta muse?

Check out these 49 free language learning sites that are almost too good to be true!

Be a tourist in your own city. Even if you’ve lived in the same place your whole life, every city has hidden gems that you can still explore! There are phone apps that can help you discover your hometown’s unique attractions. So if you’re feeling bored or uninspired, a trip to the local museum, library, or even the cemetery might be the key to unlocking your writer’s block.

Take up a hobby. Always wanted to learn karate? Or how to knit? Active leisure is invigorating and mentally stimulating! Trying a new hobby is a great way to untangle your thoughts and give your writing some interesting material. If writer’s block has kicked in, taking a break and focusing on a different task will have you spinning yarns again in no time.

Learn to play an instrument. The word music comes from the Greek word for art of the muses. So learning to play an instrument may set your muse free! Studies show that learning to play music has neurological benefits. This means it knows the sneaky backroads to the area of your mind that stores creative thinking. So picking up that violin might just banish boredom and unfetter your writer’s block at the same time.

Start a garden. Seeds of inspiration are planted in many different ways. Planting and caring for a garden not only allows you the opportunity to watch it flourish; you can also grow from it as well. A garden needs constant attention, which leaves you little time to be bored. Working in a garden also helps reduce stress, which can stifle your creativity. And when harvest time rolls around, you will be rewarded with way more zucchini than you’ll know what to do with.

Enroll in a dance class. Moving your body is a great way to lift your mood—and it’s hard to be bored on the dance floor! Whether you tap dance or tango, all that twisting and turning can get your creative juices flowing and teach your muse a few new steps. Time for writer’s block to sit this one out—calling all writers to the dance floor!

If you’re still feeling starved for inspiration, here are some ideas to get your story started.

Question: What’s your cure for boredom and does it inspire you to be creative?

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 Want to celebrate Independence Day with a Fahrenheit 151? Literary-inspired cocktails are exploding in popularity right now. And thankfully, Writer’s Relief notes that you don’t need an English degree to enjoy some of the cleverly titled recipes in these books by Tim Federle.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Gone with the Gin

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita

Check out more literary-inspired cocktails here.

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You wrote the best query letter for your book. You researched literary agents to find the right fit for your manuscript. You proofread, polished, and double-checked submission guidelines at least three times. Then you sent out your queries, hoping for the best. Fingers crossed!

Now, months later—you’re still waiting to hear back from your top-choice literary agents. Maybe you have received responses, but only from your “second choice” literary agents—and they are actually taking a keen interest in your book.

So what do you do?

Here at Writer’s Relief, we have been advising our clients on how to successfully navigate sticky situations with literary agents since 1994. Today, we’ll talk you through the right way to follow up on your query letter with a literary agent.

Q & A: When To Follow Up With A Literary Agent

Q.: Is it okay to ask a literary agent to confirm receipt of a query letter?

A.: Generally speaking, no, it’s not. Unfortunately, many literary agents no longer respond to query letters that are not interesting to them. Writers are often left wondering: Did my query letter get filtered into a spam account? Did the literary agent even receive it?

That said, you may decide that following up with a literary agent, and going against the unwritten etiquette of the publishing industry, is actually in your best interest. What have you got to lose?

In a best-case scenario, your follow-up should include a little bit of exciting extra information—such as news that you have had interest from a different literary agent, or that you recently received an award or a great new review. A little bit of tantalizing book buzz might pique an agent’s interest!

If you don’t have news to report, we feel you could ask for confirmation of receipt if a significant amount of time has passed and you haven’t had any response. Just keep in mind that most likely the agent isn’t interested, which is why you haven’t heard anything.

Q.: How long should I wait before sending a follow-up letter to a literary agent who has received my query letter?

A.: Again, there’s no ironclad rule about how long a writer should wait to follow up after sending a query. The submission guidelines page on a literary agent’s website might have some advice. Otherwise, we recommend waiting at least a month before reaching out to ask for a response. And once again, you may want to cloak your follow-up in the guise of additional news or interest in your book project.

Q.: What’s the best way to send a follow-up email to a literary agent?

A.: In the interest of being helpful, you may want to include details about your follow-up in the subject line of your email. You can write something along the lines of: Last name, book title, follow-up request.

If your follow-up is very short, you might even decide to include the original text of your query letter at the bottom of your note.

Want to read more about query letter writing? Check out our free Publishing Tool Kit: Query Letters: Everything You Must Know To Dazzle Literary Agents With Your Book Query.

Question: What do you think about literary agents not replying to unsolicited query letters?

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