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Most writers dream of writing and publishing a novel. In our collective mind that’s exactly what writer does.
But should you dismiss non-fiction writing: journalism and online articles?
In this post I’ll try to make it easier for you to choose between those two, or maybe mixing them.

Creativity

This is something everybody associates with creative writing (as the name clearly shows). But come to think of it, one needs a fair amount of creativity in non-fiction writing as well.

When writing fiction, you need to be creative about the solutions you want to implement in your plot, about your characters, plot twists and dialogue. You need to keep it fresh, so the potential readers want to read your novel only after reading the summary.

With non-fiction, keeping it fresh is even more important. Every time you write, you need to write about something new. And you need to put your own twist on subjects already covered by others. Here, creativity turns into a more technical skill. It’s all about writing good headlines and using good keywords.

Word count

Your fiction piece can start at 100 words and go on indefinitely.

A good article (especially one published online) is usually between 300 and 800 words. Anything less will get dismissed as not being noteworthy and anything more tend to be skimmed through and forgotten.

Therefore people who prefer to write short stories and get quickly to the point tend to write better non-fiction pieces (word count wise; but I’m generalizing here, so no offense to anyone).

Publishing

Nowadays it’s far more difficult to get your novel published than it was few years ago. So many people are writers that publishing houses can afford to have high standards. Nonetheless, you can still find publishers around, if you know where to look and are patient enough.

Finding a publishing place for your non-fiction is far easier. Especially if you’re thinking about publishing online. Anybody can have a website or a blog, and use those venues to publish their articles or essays.

It’s finding a paid gig that’s more of a challenge. You need to find those sites that work for you. Sites like Helium, Associated Content, Review Stream or Suite 101 seem to have both their fans and supporters and people who claim it is impossible to earn there. In my opinion it’s a matter of good and proper research that can result in finding a place that works best for you.

Fan base and getting readers

In the simplest words: fiction writers get bigger fan base but non-fiction writers get readers easier.

What I’m trying to say is that in the world of fiction you follow the authors while in the world of non-fiction, you follow the subject and the information.

If you write a good article on a subject of your interest, it’s very likely to get new viewers every day. But while that one article may prosper, your other articles can be overlooked and ignore.

And if one of your novels becomes popular, almost always your other works gain popularity as well.

Readers of fiction are more prone to become regular readers of their favorite author. Non-fiction readers only care for the information and not for the person that provides it.

Overall

I won’t tell you that one type of writing is better than the other. Both of them will affect your writing skills and hopefully improve them. I know that there’s nothing in the world that can compare to the thrill of getting your novel published. But I also know that getting feedback on my articles and see them impact my readers is also very satisfying.

What’s your take on the subject? Fiction or non-fiction?
And should AllWrittenDown cover non-fiction writing as well?

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Our very own Random Prompt Generator remains one of the most popular posts ever since it was published. And I’m really thrilled that you’re finding it useful and inspiring. But in my quest to provide you with all the writing help possible I have for you yet another way to push your muse and your writing to a whole new level.

Our Prompt Generator was designed to inspire you, give you ideas and maybe look at simple words from a new perspective. Recently, I have stumbled upon a writing exercise written in the same script as our own generator. It however offers you more of a challenge and makes you pay attention to slightly different things.

Writing Exercise Generator

Created by Syrenslure the generator offers a technical parameter (period of time or a wordcount), a style or a character parameter, and a word or phrase for inspiration.

All you need to do now is start writing. Go on, I dare you! Respond to the prompt given to you by the generator and comment with a link (or email me your story if you’re shy *g* I promise to be nice).

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photo by Sorosh

Some writers work on more than one project at the time. But is it something for you?
Let’s take a closer look at that phenomena and see pros and cons.

Distraction

When Project A gives you problems, characters don’t want to co-operate and basically you’re stuck, it’s sometimes good to switch to something else. So Project B might be exactly what you need.
Allow your brain to take a break from one thing by distracting it with something different. And when Project B turns on you, you can easily go back to Project A. And so on and so forth.

On the other hand, if you don’t try to solve the problem you face with Project A right away, the break might not help at all. Also, it might take you some time to get in touch with the plot and the conflicts in your story. The feel of it might be gone. And what then?

Choice

Nobody can deny this. If you’re working on more than one project at the time, you always have a choice. You spend Monday working on Project A, but when you turn on your computer the next day, suddenly you decide to open the file with Project B. Three days later you switch to Project C. And you keep writing. You keep creating stories and it feels amazing.
What’s the disadvantage of that?

You also keep dividing your attention. You might be writing ten stories at the time and have ideas for another ten. But you might also find it easier to start another project than to finish one you’re already writing.

Too Much

While it might sound surreal, there really is something like writing too much. Especially if you spend everyday writing, switching between projects. Your brain, after working so hard for too long, might simply refuse to create anything new. And you’re facing a serious case of Writer’s Block (one you might not be able to deal easily with).

But if you’re not one to go into creative high and you are capable of keeping the ‘dosage’ on a reasonable level, then who knows. You might never experience ‘creative overdosing’ :).

There is also another type of writers. When presented with a choice (work on Project A, Project B or Project C), they are unable to make a final decision.
Because when they do, somewhere at the back of their head, something tells them that working on that other story would be a lot more productive. As a result, they can’t concentrate on the story they decided to write.

If you’re that kind of a person, then I’m very sorry. Multitasking is not for you.

Multitask or not?

Much like with sex, it’s a matter of personal preference. You can definitely try it out, see if it works for you.
I know writers who work on many project at the same time and others who faithfully still to one until it’s done. And in both cases the finished story is great. So even though their method differ, it’s the way the write.

Multitasking and dividing your attention might be something for you, but if not, it doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

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Photo by Hamed Saber

You decided to write this nice little story. You had enough information, characters suitable for a story under 10000 words and a plot that was supposed to be just enough for your needs. And then you started to write it. And it was like suddenly you were writing an epic.

I’m terrible at estimating how big a story might get. I don’t pay much attention to the word count, unless it’s my goal. However, even I can notice the difference between a ficlet and a novella.

Identify the problem

Why is your story getting bigger? Is it because your plot turned out to be a bit bigger than you first anticipated? Did your characters suddenly gain a significant background that contributes to the story? Are there small bits of information your reader might enjoy knowing but nothing crucial to the plot?

I’ll risk sounding redundant, but indentifying the problem might lead to solutions.

Try to name everything that may be influencing the lenght of the story. If it’s the fact that you’re getting into too many details, try to think how much detail your story really needs. Maybe you’re simply overdoing it. I know how difficult it is to judge your own work, but if the story is to be posted online, then all kinds of funny random trivia can be posted separately. And that might actually save your story.

Are the characters taking over? Revealing more and more about themselves? And it seems as if all of it is very important to the story; in terms of explaining why characters react to the events the way they do.

Well if that’s the case you need to think whether or not some mystery about characters’ motives won’t actually help the story. If you want to write a ficlet or a short story, it’s sometimes good to leave the reader not understanding the actions your characters took. It will keep the readers intrigued and interested.

Plot is getting bigger? And you really want to write something short. Maybe it’s because you don’t have time or really want to publish something. The solution to that might be simply writing a series of short stories instead of one long one. And if done right it might even be more satisfying to both you and your readers.

To Cut or Not to Cut.

The real question is. Do you really want to keep writing a short story even though you have a possible novel on your hands? Afterall, most writers want to write a great novel etc.

However there are valid reasons to fight the growth of your story. If you have short attention span and know that in a week the story will be forgotten. If you’re writing for a contest or a challenge and you have to close your story within a given wordcount. If you know that while you have the beginning and the end of the story, the middle will drag itself and lull the reader to sleep.

Anything above is true for you? Then I really suggest you work on getting the story shorter. But so it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time, I’d also cupy and paste the pieces you’re cutting out to a separate file. You never know, they might turn out to be a useful ideas for your future work. Any possible plot bunnies should be stored somewhere and cared for. You never know what masterpiece they might result in.

But if the only reason for making your story shorter is your fear that it won’t be any good, then I suggest you suck it up and keep writing the epic. be brave and finish the first draft. Maybe it won’t be all that bad. Hell, it might even be brilliant. And look at it this way: if it really is as bad as you anticipated. Nothing stops you from transforming this not-so-good novel into a better short story. Simply don’t give up before you try. And have faith in yourself.

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Photo by D’Arcy Norman

For whatever reason, every writer takes a break sometimes. But I know from my own experience and from my friends’ testimonies, that the longer the breake, the harder it is to start writing again. Here’s something that might help you get back on the writing horse.

On-line Social Life

I do realize that the Internet is usually the reason why you’re not writing. But sometimes it also can help you to start writing again. If you take away the Youtube, reading articles and any passive behaviour, all that is left is essentially writing.

You write comments to people’s posts. You write blog posts. You write twitter entries. You spend hours on Facebook. But the fact remains. While procrastinating, you are writing hundreds of words. The key is to put that into good use.

Try to make your comments longer than one sentence.

If your comments look more like “Oh shiny!” or “Agreed!” you should try and work on making them longer, including an actual thoughtful opinion in them. Not only this will make your social interactions more effective (who cares about that?) but you will make a habit of putting your thoughts on paper… err… screen/keyboard.

Get on the roll.

It might happen that you have an unusually big amount of time on your hands. And instead of doing something productive you choose to go online. Well good for you! Choose that time to get ‘on a roll’. Answer comments, comment yourself, blog, twitter… Do everything involving writing. Those activities might not be extremely creative (in most cases, there are of course exeptions). But they set a good background for writing a paragraph or two and finally moving the plot a bit further.

I often open all my online social activities in new tabs and things I should write in a new window. And after two hours of typing my thoughts in responce to someone’s post or article. I suddenly find a strenght and determination to write a new article, a new paragraph. True, it’s not always effective. But nonetheless it works for some people.

Whiny friend

I bet some of you have a friend who reads your work. Maybe they even express their opinions and/or are really excited about your stories. If you do have a friend like that, keep them. If you don’t… Try to find one. A big fan of your writing will be very enthusiastic about reading the next chapter/installment/paragraph/part (however you post your stories) and will make a point of telling you that any time. If said fan is also your good friend you will feel uncomfortable just ignoring their inquiries.

No matter how annoying the constant whining is, when they are not irritating, your friends really are helpful and supportive. And in the end, it’s better to write that damn paragraph to shut them up instead of yelling at them and losing possibly the most useful people in your life.

Guilt

Too much guilt in your life in unhealthy. True. However. If you work yourself up. Feeling guilty about not writing might actually be very useful. There are many factors that can lead to guilt. Your own actions, or lack of therof. Reactions of others. But the most important is your own point of view.

If you decide writing is something you should be doing and it’s not just your hobby, you will feel guilty about not meeting a deadline or failing to complete a story.

My friend Nix is a great writer in the Fandom. But for quite some time she had a dificulty of meeting deadlines she set up for herself. With a mixture of progress reports for her readers and guilt, she managed to get into the right state of mind. And from what I can tell, she’s been meeting her deadlines for few months now.

Threats a.k.a. Outside factors

You may believe it or not, but fear of concequences is a great motivator. This is why deadlines set by an outside factor (publisher, or a challenger) work so much better than the ones you set for yorself. That’s why writing for someone/something if a very good way to keep moving forward.

Of course I’m not talking serious concequesnces like financial fees or anything. Those would drive any writer into a stress driven paranoia that “they are out to get us”. However any contest or bigger community event such as NaNoWriMo or any kind of flashfic community can be a boost for your writing.

If you’re more serious about your writing and need something bigger, than a deadline set by a publisher or an agent might be a perfect choice for you. Though be careful in this case. Because official deadlines does influence your professional life.

However you look at this, everything mentioned in this post can be useful to force yourself back to writing. However you need to keep in mind that not only it all depends on your inner strenght and the way you function; but it’s quite possible that what works for others might not work for you.

All you really need is taking a deep breath and deciding that you want to write something. Sooner or later you will.

Good luck.

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Photo by vieuxbandit

1. Ten Things That May Indicate You’re Writing a McNovel – it’s almost like a Mary Sue test for the whole novel

2. Internet-Resources.com – Writers’ resources on the web

3. NotWriting – stuff one writer does when he should be writing

4. Notebook in Hand – mingle with other writers in forums

5. Storyist – software for writers with Macs. Makes you want to buy a MacBook

6. Seventh Sanctum Generators – Random fun for those who need inspiration

7. Story Spinner Online – gazillions creative writing exercises

8. Fiction Factor – online magazine for fiction writers

9. 10 Things to Write in Your Notebook

10. A Dozen Online Writing Tips – written by a journalist but also useful to other writers

11. BBC Get Writing – mini-courses to improve your writing

12. Writerisms and other Sins – A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing

13. Language is a virus – huge resource page originally designed to help you with NaNoWriMo

14. Writing-World.com – impressive list of articles on how to write a good novel

15. 50 tools which can help you in writing – lifehack’s take on the subject

16. Writer’s Resource Center – targeted at US writers

17. TOC about Writing – serious and humorous articles from sci-fi and fantasy writers

18. National Punctuation Day – mark your calendars

19. Creativity at Work – quotes

20. Cliche Finder – pick a word and the site will find all cliches using that word

21. Writers Online Workshops – Instructions on how to improve your writing whithin weeks

22. SoYouWanna – how to publish a book

23. Gnooks! – find new reading material

24. Common Errors in English

25. Guerrilla Press – free independent publishing resource site

26. Word Perhect – a new way of writing

27. Hit Those Keys – site for creative encouragement.

28. NewPages.com – News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more

29. 110+ Resources For Creative Minds – List of must-visit sites and articles

30. BetterEditor.org – online resources for editors and writers

31. Wikimedia Foundation – Links to all official Wiki sites

32. The Care and Feeding of Writers – funny approach to little quircks typical for writers

33. Non-errors – Those usages people keep telling you are wrong but which are actually standard in English

34. Dictionary of British slang – for those non-British authors who wish to use Brits as their characters

35. Q10 – Free Word Editor for writers.

36. One Sentence – true stories, told in one sentence

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RJ hdr by longristra

As a writer you need to work on your skills all the time. But for your own good, you should try different ways of learning new things. Only if to ensure that your brain doesn’t get bored, because that’s one of the reasons people get Writer’s Block.

So here I provide you with tools to sharpen your ‘pen’.

Blogging

No matter how you look at it, blogging is writing.
While you create your blog entry, you need to go through almost the same process as you do while writing a story.
There’s an idea, execution of said idea and almost immediate feedback.

It doesn’t matter if you write an online journal about your daily life. Or if you post funny comments along the lines of ‘mmmmm waffles’.

However you decide to express yourself and whatever blogging platform you choose; your blog is the best place to try new things and quickly know if it’s working.

When I entered the blogosphere, I started to meet amazing people. But after I became friends with some great writers, I actually started to pay attention to what I write and how I write it. Even more. after meeting people who write and are good at it, I started to push myself harder.

If you compare my stories from now and those I’ve written a year ago, no matter how harsh the critique you’d have to admit there’s a big improvement.

Metawriting

As in: writing about writing. About the process, about the technicalities. It helps you improve in two different ways.

It gives you extra motivation to finish your work.

Every time you post a progress report on your current project, you get that extra ‘kick’ to write more.
When you share a bit of insight, about problems with the plot that you are having, you help your brain to organize everything. By naming the problems you’re actually halfway to solving them.

Not to mention that if to do so, you’re using a platform that allows your readers to interact with you, you’re bringing new sets of eyes that can actually help you put the whole thing in perspective.

Metawriting allows you also to learn more about the workshop

To write about the technical aspects of writing and to do so with a certain amount of authority, you need to thoroughly research the area you wish to post about.

For every piece of my Creative Writing 101 series I spend over 2 hours researching the subject, gathering links and making sure that what I’ve been practicing my whole life wasn’t incorrect.

During the researching process you learn new methods of doing what you’ve been always doing. You repeat the information you already know and ensure that the nest time that particular skill will be needed you will remember the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’.

In most of the cases, metawriting is about explaining something to the readers. Depending on the style you choose it’s also about entertaining them and teaching them something new.

And that particular skill is extremely useful for any kind of a writer.

Academic Writing

Before you start yelling that academic writing is something completely different I hurry to calm you. Yes. I know it’s like two different planets. Or even two different universes. But if you’d commit yourself to writing one academic piece, researched the material and actually wrote it all… Afterwards you’d see how much better you skills are.

Academic writing differs from the creative variety in style, methods of research, vocabulary and the general look. Truth be told it’s easier to create an outline for your thesis than for your novel. To write an academic piece you need to learn how to create long, complex sentences to fit the language, while in your novel it is advised to break long sentences into short ones. The scientific vocabulary used in essays and dissertations might not get used in your stories but as they say ‘knowledge is power’.

How does that help?

It’s something I call learning by comparison. The moment you at least try and dip your fingers into some academic writing, writing a story will seem like something simple. After you realize that the only thing that limits you in your writing is your imagination (and not the paradigm, terminology or anything else), there’s no stopping you.

Feedback and Reviews

This is something I encourage in everybody, not only writers themselves.
People often read the works of others and then move on without a word of feedback. Now, I know that people don’t always have time… But when you read someone’s story with intent to review it or to at least leave some feedback, you read it in a completely different way.
But nobody is telling you to go and edit every story you read. No one requires you to read every story twice. I know how little time writers sometime have.

But if you encourage yourself to read the story beyond the plot and the pure entertainment of it, you will be able to notice the mistakes, the little things that bother you.

And when you notice them, you will be able to acknowledge them and make sure you don’t do the same.
Not to mention that if you actually leave some constructive criticism, other people might return the favor. All in your best interest.

It’s not a secret that we’re more eager to point out mistakes in other people’s doing. The key is to consciously erase the similar mistakes from our own writing.

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