Become a Better Writer with This Tip

WordsI can’t take credit for this; I saw it in a PR Daily article, “The 7 traits of great writers.” But what I read was absolutely ingenious.

Specifically, number two on the list:

2. You collect words.

Great writers collect words with the intent of using them later. I keep a running list of my favorite words in the notes feature on my cell phone.

In essence, make your own thesaurus.

Like seriously, how brilliant is that? Think about this for a moment. How many times have you read an article or short story, or heard a newscast, or listened to a friend … when you thought, “Wow, that’s a really great word.”

However, by the time you sit down to type your next masterpiece, the word has slipped from your mind.

Yet, developing a running list of these words—I can only imagine how much more lively, more engaging, this would make our writing.

Why don’t YOU help get this started? Comment and list your favorite 2-3 words. Let’s start a list right here!

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Special note: I am currently in the process of revamping the feel of my blog. I am awaiting a few things before launching a completely new platform, so this may still take a couple of more weeks. I’ll announce the new version after it’s officially launched. However, if you begin seeing small changes here or there, you’ll know why.  

How to Get (Many) Comments on Your Blog

The first thing I noticed about Nina Badzin was her Twitter following, which eventually led me to her blog. It’s a GREAT read, by the way.

But something extraordinary caught my eye about Nina’s blog.

On a consistent basis, Nina generates dozens of comments—on EVERY post. Her ability to draw so many comments amazed me, and that’s why I invited her to guest post for Rogue Writer today. Besides running a fun blog, Nina is a published short story writer. So after you read her post today, take a moment and check out her site!

How to Get (Many) Comments on Your Blog 

BY NINA BADZIN

Thank you, Shari, for inviting me to discuss the issue of getting and managing blog comments. I’ve found that comments are a touchy subject because many bloggers pretend they don’t care about receiving them.

I can hear the naysayers now. I truly don’t care if anyone reads my posts, they say. I just want to express myself.

I’m not buying it. Let’s face it, if we weren’t hoping for some kind of response to our posts, then we’d start each one with “Dear Diary” and hide the outcome from the world. The minute we press “publish,” we’re hoping to reach someone.

Why do comments matter anyway?

As Shari pointed out last week when discussing StumbleUpon, unless your blog is monetized, the number of views on a post matters very little and tells you even less. Are people reading the first two sentences and clicking away? Will the same readers come back? And who are these people checking you out in the first place?

And come on, what could be more thrilling for a writer than watching a discussion brew about something we wrote? Over time, we  hope people return, we hope new readers find us, and we hope a community forms. As our writing careers develop and grow, we bank on that community translating  into readers who will stay with us for years to come. Also, comments help us feel like we’re not just talking to ourselves. That’s worth something too.

So how does a blogger get people to take the extra two minutes to leave a comment?

HERE IS THE ANSWER IN 3 PARTS:

#1. You have to leave comments on other blogs. Yes, you need original, insightful, and/or amusing content on your blog. “Content is king” and all that jazz. Still, it’s nearly impossible to build a community unless you’re part of other bloggers’ communities at the same time.

#2. You ought to leave thoughtful comments and get to know other bloggers. Don’t bother with “great post.” For sure don’t say, “I wrote about this too. Come see!” Make it clear you read the post. You’re trying meet other bloggers and writers so you can form real connections. Try to find bloggers you admire. Skip the posts and blogs that don’t interest you. This isn’t about leaving your URL all over town. Be discerning. Be genuine.

#3. Think out of the box when responding to comments. It’s unnecessary to respond to every comment on your blog, especially if there’s nothing new to add. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll visit the blogs of people who left comments for me instead of responding to what they had to say about my post. I’m willing to bet my readers appreciate my avatar in the comments section of their posts more than they care about seeing my face repeatedly pop up on my blog. That’s not to say I don’t respond to comments on my blog. I generally do. But I’m aware of my comments section being about me, whereas visiting another blogger’s latest post is about that person.

BUT DOESN’T THIS ALL TAKE A TON OF TIME?

Yes. One day when we’re in the big league of bloggers and writers, nobody will expect to see us in the comments section of our blogs or their blogs. Until then, we get what we give.

Thanks again for having me, Shari!

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Nina Badzin is a published short story writer. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice listed as a finalist by Glimmer Train Stories. “Always the bridesmaid,” she likes to say. When she’s not running after her four kids or tweeting (@NinaBadzin), she blogs at Nina Badzin’s Blog.

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If you haven’t already, please check out how to share your funny story when you learned the “truth” about Santa! This will be for a special blog post running the week of Christmas, and it won’t work without YOUR contribution.

6 Awesome Writers & Bloggers to Check Out!

Today I have six bloggers and writers I want you to meet. Not only were they the first six to comment on my post this Monday recognizing my 1-year blog birthday (thus the special post today), but each has a unique perspective or style to offer.

I personally visited each of their blogs, read some of their posts, and drafted the summaries below. These are some of my loyal blog followers as well, so give them some comment/subscriber love today! Please, visit their sites and see what they’re about:

1. Blake Dean’s Blog

http://blakedean.blogspot.com/

Blake never sticks to a schedule of what he’s going to post, or when. That’s because he runs things his way, and each post is different from the last. Blake’s blog is a collection of his life events, thoughts and changes.

2. Rub Hub: Tip me or Else …

http://rubhub.wordpress.com/

A fun, kinda quirky, but very real blog about the author’s massage career (don’t you just love the name?). She also writes about her life, her family, and finding herself in-between it all.

3. It’s Not My Thault

http://thault.wordpress.com/

Political, technological, economic, and … Boy Scouts? Yes, this blog is run by a student (I’ll admit, I’m not sure what grade–high school or college–but his writing reads like the analysis of a college student). He talks about everything from the Anonymous hacking group, to Egyptian rioting, and the 4G networks.

4. My Sardinian Life

http://laavventura.wordpress.com/

Jennifer Avventura is a 30-something married Canadian woman living in Italy. Wowza! If you’re into traveling and food, you’ll want to check out this blog. Find entries on everything from hunting season in Sardinia to dwellings of Babylon.

5. My First Blog of 2011

http://babyjill7.wordpress.com/

Give Marilyn Griffin a hand! This is her first blog of 2011, and according to one of her posts, she may begin another in 2012. Her theme the first time around? “My Experiences/My Special Ed Kids.” Read Marilyn’s unique style of telling stories through line breaks and pictures.

6. Wordsxo

http://www.wordsxo.com/

Julia Munroe Martin is a professional freelance writer and editor, and she blogs from the coast of Maine. Why name her blog wordsxo? In her own words, “Wordsxo stands for: loves words or word love.” And that’s exactly what Julia blogs about: writing and the writing life.

I’m Tired of Writing

Do you ever feel that way? Wiped clean. Buzzed dry. Rolled flat.

Yea, that’s me today. And I’m not afraid to say it. I’m a writer, who for once, is sick of writing.

Gasp! I know, right?

But here’s the thing. I do it all day for my job. I do it after work for my freelancing. I do it on the weekends for my short stories and my novel. I even scribble down ideas during lunch break for this blog.

Seriously, is there something wrong with me?

I usually love writing. I always thought you can never grow sick of your deepest passion. But today—at 29 years old and feeling like a sap—I proved myself wrong.

Maybe it’s not the writing. Maybe it’s the constant working toward a goal that seems so far off. Maybe I’m just tired in general of seeing others float while I have to fight. And maybe it sometimes just feels a bit UNFAIR.

But then I remind myself that all writers struggle. Just like artists and musicians. Because if you want to live and breathe the art, that’s the only way you’ll ever truly make it. 

But you know what? I think today, I feel like dancing instead.

So to heck with any more writing right now. I’m gonna turn on the music and boogie down…

MY QUESTION TO YOU: Do you ever suffer burnout? And if so, how do you get over it?

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[Note: I’m opening up my blog for more guest-posting. Do you have an idea you want to write for “Rogue Writer?” Or do you want me to write something for your site? Contact me and let me know!]

Top 8 Reasons to STEP AWAY from the Computer

Back in April, a pack of wild teenagers stole my laptop computer right from the desk in my home.

You can read about that fateful day from my post, “Burglars Beware! Why to NEVER Rob a Writer’s Home.” However, as angry (and scared) as I was when it happened, I learned something that day:

Taking time away from the world of technology was refreshing—and amazing for my writing. I urge everyone to lose their computer for a week (I was out nearly a month) and see what I mean.

Here are my top eight reasons why you should STEP AWAY from the computer for once:

1. You see the world again. I mean, you really SEE it.

 

 

 

 

2. You sleep better, and deeper, and calmer.

 

 

 

 

 

3. You’re not as stressed from constantly being “plugged in.”

 

 

 

 

4. You have more time to exercise and cook healthy meals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. You concentrate on YOU, not what everyone else is doing.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Your mind can relax and regenerate, which = more creativity.

 

 

 

 

 

7. You read a book—the old-fashioned way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. And finally, your writing improves. Not just a little, but A LOT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, as ambitious writers, we forget that the most important aspect of writing, is living. And although the computer is a significant piece of building our names, we cannot let it consume our lives.

I CHALLENGE YOU: Leave your computer at a trusted friend’s for a week, and take away the temptation. Then tell us the outcome … Are you up for it?

**All photos displayed are the copywritten property of Shari Lopatin (except the books photo, which was borrowed from Google Images), and cannot be copied, reproduced, or printed without written consent from Shari Lopatin.**

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Beyond the Beach

I once had a boyfriend who hated the beach. He thought it smelled like fish and garbage, and complained how the sand gets everywhere.

Thank God, he’s moved on, and so have I. Today, I can fall asleep on the beach with a like-minded partner, enveloped in the warmth of the fine sand, then submit myself to the ocean’s powerful waves. I would say I hope California really does fall into the ocean so we can get those beaches here in Arizona.

But then I’d miss California. So, I guess I’m screwed.

What is it about the beach?
I also love the Ponderosa Pine forest in Flagstaff. And the creek running through Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona (both of which are in Arizona, for those non-natives). But there’s just something extra special about the beach and the ocean.

After much contemplation, I’ve narrowed it down to this one reason: freedom.

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To discover how you can “see beyond the beach” in your writing, head over to Melissa Crytzer Fry’s blog, where I guest-posted this week. You can finish reading my post there, and enjoy some beautiful, beach sunset photos too!

Weed Wackers & Writer’s Block: Spark Your Creative Juices!

I watched a man buzz down the street—literally—in my mom’s neighborhood the other day, a Weed Wacker engine slung haphazardly onto the back of his bike. This was one of those “only in America” moments.

And people wonder why half the world wants to kill us.

In all seriousness though, I realized something. This man wasn’t only insanely lazy; he was brilliant. You see, my boyfriend has a saying:

“Necessity is the mother of all invention.”

And in his need to remain excessively lazy and prevent his precious legs from peddling, this man took two seemingly unrelated items and combined them. The result? A high-pitched, annoying bike that doesn’t require any work to operate. Mission accomplished.

OK Shari, so what in the world does this have to do with writing?

Combine two opposites for a killer idea

I once learned about an exercise marketers and creatives use when they hit writer’s block:

  1. Rummage through some magazines and cut out random pictures (often found in advertisements).
  2. Paste each picture onto its own piece of cardboard or thick paper.
  3. Shuffle your new “cards” and separate them into two piles (face down).
  4. Randomly pick one card from each pile, and brainstorm a story/script/idea that combines those two images.

The beauty of this exercise is you may end up with a picture of a butterfly, and a man’s razor. How can you combine these two images to create a story?

I’m already picturing a cartoon butterfly awakening from his caterpillar years—and as his first task being a “real man”—shaves in front of the mirror.

Sometimes, combining two completely opposite ideas or themes can spark a brilliant idea. SO TELL ME: What gets YOUR creative juices flowing?

Do you like the advice offered here? Then don’t miss the next post! Sign up to get my weekly posts delivered by email, straight to your inbox.

The 3 Questions EVERY Blogger Must Ask Themselves

I’ve somehow evolved into the very thing I promised myself I’d never become: a media strategist.

You see, once upon a time, I was a newspaper reporter, a.k.a. a Jedi Knight. Then, the evil economy forced me into the Dark Side (a.k.a. public relations). And somewhere along the way, I decided if I wanted to become my own writer, I’d better take advantage of all these media and marketing strategies I was learning.

Behold, I can now say with authority, I know how to market myself as a writer (and I’d do more if I had additional time). I can pinpoint the good blogs from the bad. I can tell which ones will thrive, and which will falter.

And I can tell you the three key questions EVERY blogger must ask themselves, if they want to see their readership grow:

1) What is this blog all about (a theme)?

The most successful blogs have a theme. Some may be literary agents offering tips to up-and-coming writers. Others are humor blogs. My blog, for example, is a writing blog. The theme or brand is “Rogue Writer.”

If you really want to see your blog grow, ask yourself: What is this blog ABOUT? Is it a travel blog? A photography blog? A news blog, or a parenting and health blog?

Decide, and stick to it (even if you stray occasionally–like me). That will build your niche, slowly but surely.

2) What is my main goal with this blog (get subscribers? sell a book?)?

If you have a goal in mind, everything  on your blog works toward that goal. If you’re everywhere at once, you won’t actually build or sell anything.

For example, the main goal with my blog right now, is to build readership. A following. Therefore, the very first “widget” on my blog’s righthand column, invites visitors to subscribe via RSS feed or email. A few inches down, I invite visitors to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve expanded my network by partnering with other bloggers and writing guest posts. I write one new post a week, consistently, so my followers know to expect something. All of these tactics work toward building my online following.

And, it’s working (slowly but surely). Know what you want, and build toward it.

3. When, and how often, will I post?

Decide this up front. Will you post once a week, every Wednesday? Or twice a week—every Tuesday and Thursday? The key is to REMAIN CONSISTENT.

This consistency gives your readers a sense of professionalism. Just like magazine subscribers can expect their publication the first of every month, blog subscribers can expect a new post every Tuesday.

Just remember, whatever you decide, you need to keep up with it. So even if you can post three times a week right now, ask yourself: “Can I come up with three new ideas every week—and write them—five months from now?” My suggestion is to start slow, then add on if you have the time.

SO TELL ME: Do you have any key questions to add onto this list? What do YOU think are the most important aspects for bloggers to consider, for success?

Do you like the advice offered here? Then don’t miss the next post! Sign up to get my weekly posts delivered by email, straight to your inbox.

Dry on Creativity? This ‘Art’ Might Help

Don’t you just LOVE when you see an image that makes you want to grab the nearest pen and paper, and begin scribbling?

Or when you hear “that song” on the radio in the car, and suddenly, you think of your next (New York Times bestselling) novel?

Art inspires art. For me, it can be an image, a song, a movie, or heck—even another work of writing. Today, I’d like to share some images (five) that are inspirational. They are beautiful, and maybe they’ll stimulate some ingenious ideas in YOU.

Here’s the disclaimer. The oil-on-canvas artist, who recently graduated Magna Cum Laude with her degree in Fine Art from Arizona State University, is my younger sister, Becca Lopatin:

**All images are the strict, copywritten property of Rebecca Lopatin and may not be copied, reproduced or printed without the proper WRITTEN consent of Rebecca Lopatin.**

You can find more of Becca’s work, as well as her contact information, on her Blogspot website.

SO TELL ME: What inspires YOU to write, or create other art?

Nature as Creativity Booster

Ever since I met Melissa Crytzer Fry, I’ve been AMAZED how she draws parallels between the tiniest details in nature and the writing process. Today, I’m happy to introduce Melissa to you–as the third (and final) writer/blogger in my networking project.

Welcome to Rogue Writer, Melissa, and thanks for your guest blog (and photos) today!

Nature as Creativity Booster

Guest post and photography by Melissa Crytzer Fry

**All photos published on this post are property of Melissa Cryzter Fry, and cannot be copied, re-reprinted, or re-produced without proper permissions and consent from Melissa Cryzter Fry.**
 

I grew up among cornfields and cow pastures in northwestern Pennsylvania. Perhaps the long walks down to the beaver dam, strolls along the bullfrog-infested, green algae-blanketed pond behind my house, and salamander-owl-raccoon encounters account for my attraction to the outdoors.

I can’t be sure. But I do know, after living in downtown Phoenix for a decade and then moving to a rather remote part of southern Arizona, that I fell in love again with those wide-open spaces. 

But this time around, nature offered an entirely new gift: writing inspiration. Without fail, every jog or hike I take among my ranch’s saguaro-studded hills results in something new: engaging leads for magazine articles, plot solutions, and inspiration to keep writing – to be more creative overall.

So what, exactly, is it about nature that inspires creativity? The crisp air? The vastness of outdoor space? The departure from technology that lets the brain wander? Yes, yes, yes. But there’s also a scientific reason: Nature solves problems. Creatively. Biomimicry is at play. Bio-what? Biomimicry says that we can borrow creative solutions to just about any problem … from nature. All we have to do is pay attention to and study nature’s best ideas – its efficient designs, models, systems, processes.

Creativity guru Tamara Kleinberg asks, “If nature … has solved many problems we face today, why not go back to nature for inspiration? Why not engage with nature, understand how it works and then apply those lessons to life and work?” And to writing!

I agree with Kleinberg that nature is the ultimate innovation tool. In her blog post, she suggests some nature-related exercises to boost creativity:

  • Ask “What does it do?” With eyes closed and natural objects in hand – feathers, rocks, leaves – determine the function of each. Not what each is. What each does. Does the feather repel water, provide insulation, add to aerodynamics? Asking such questions may inspire new thoughts, ideas.
  • Fieldtrips. Go to a museum, visit an archaeological site, a city park. Pieces of nature – bones, animal skin, fossils, plants – “can take you to new places,” says Kleinberg.
  • Look & See: Step away from the computer and get outside. Really see your surroundings. Ask why nature works the way it does – how the insect is able to walk on the pond, how hummingbirds just seem to “know” where the flowers are, why water clings to grass blades. Doing so can conjure new ideas and provide answers for seemingly unrelated creative conundrums.

Take time out to interact with the outdoors, even if you live in the city. You may be surprised at the creative results.

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Melissa Crytzer Fry is a fulltime freelance writer, author of the What I Saw creativity & writing blog and a writer/enthusiast of literary women’s fiction. You can also follow her on Twitter.