Category: Blog

5 Tips For Writers to Boost Creativity

Creativity: Is it Innate or Acquired?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Even if you only have 5 or 15 minutes to write at a time, for that short period be focused on the writing and nothing else.

As you can see creativity is something you can definitely boost and nurture with a few simple techniques. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get creative.

Need to Edit Your Novel? Here’s How to Do It

So you have finished your novel. First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Finishing that first draft of your novel is no mean feat. But while it may be tempting to send it off to an agent or publisher right now, your novel isn’t likely to be ready.

The stark reality of first drafts, is that they are drafts, which means they inevitably need editing.

At some point in time you are going to need some fresh eyes on your work, but the first step is to edit your own work.

The Three Stages of Editing

The final edit you conduct is what is called proofing to spot any typos or grammatical errors.

Beta Readers

While it may be tempting to approach family and friends, they do not always make the best beta readers.

Good beta readers are usually avid readers of the genre you are writing in, so can provide informed feedback about how to improve your novel.

Other useful beta readers are people experienced in writing or editing and are passionate about the craft.

It’s always a good idea to give your beta readers some specific questions to keep in mind when reading your novel.

  • Were you hooked from the start? Did you want to keep reading?
  • Did the story hold your interest? If not, why not?
  • Did the following feel vivid and real to you?
    • The setting
    • Characters
    • Dialogue.
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Do you have any other specific comments you’d like to add that would help improve this story?

Change the font type of your manuscript with every round of edits

Let it sit for a while

Don’t overdo it

Use editing apps

Upcoming Marketing Workshops

I’m super excited to be delivering more workshops over the next two months. One is a FREE Social Media for Writers workshop and the other is Build Your Author Website in a Day.

Social Media for Writers – FREE Workshop

On Saturday 4 May I will be at Helensvale Library on the Gold Coast facilitating a FREE 2 hour workshop on social media for writers.

Whether you’re an aspiring or established writer, this workshop will teach you how to use social media to enhance your writing career and/or author platform.

Discover the variety of platforms available, what type of content to post and when, how to create and schedule great content, and the secret to getting more followers and keeping them engaged.

Build Your Author Website in a Day

On Saturday 8 June I will be back at the Queensland Writers Centre delivering Build Your Author Website in a Day.

You will walk away from this workshop with a published website.
Create an online presence for your writing and author brand, whether you’re just starting out or already published. No technical or website experience needed. At the end of this workshop, you will have a live wordpress.com website.

I look forward to seeing you there : )

7 Things You Need to Know to Conquer Social Media

Marketing and social media are surrounded by a lot of misconceptions and myths which can mean the difference between failure and conquering your online presence.

Here are my top tips for how businesses and (aspiring) authors can avoid the biggest rookie mistakes when it comes to social media.

1. Don’t like it….’say’ you like it

You probably have heard that engaging with other people is key to your success on social media, and what you’ve heard is right.

Liking other people’s posts and comments is a great way to build a network of supporters and people interested in your work.

But ‘liking’ content will only get you so far.

When you see something you really like on social media, something that resonates with you, then ‘say’ you like it. It’s far more effective to add a comment expanding on why you like it.

This is likely to get you more engagement and appreciation than a simple ‘double tap’ or thumbs up will get you.

2. Numbers don’t count…unless they are the right numbers

Many social media users can get hung up on the number of followers and likes they get, but here are a few things to consider.

On some platforms, particularly Twitter, you may find it reasonably easy to get followers – sometimes without even trying. But when you drill down to look at those followers, how many of them represent your ideal target audience?

While the number of likes are one indicator of engagement levels, they can also be skewed. There are bots, particularly on Instagram, that automatically like photos. Even if that’s not a problem you’re experiencing, as we said above, double tapping or giving a thumbs up is a quick way of engaging in social media content but also can be an indication of ‘low investment’ in your content.

Real engagement is measured in terms of the relationships you form with your followers, through conversations.

3. Automated posting is okay…as long as you back it up with engagement

These days there are loads of options to automate or schedule your social media posts, but this is considered passive posting, unless it is coupled with engagement.

What I mean is, you can’t just set and forget when it comes to social media. This kind of posting is the equivalent of going to a party, announcing loudly to the room who you are and what you’re doing, then walking out again.

No one is interested in a party guest, or social media user, who only wants to talk about themselves. Real engagement comes from two way conversations.

It’s absolutely okay to use automated or scheduled posting for some of your posts, but you also need to take the time to monitor and check your feed and engage in other people’s posts, as well as respond to users who engage in yours.

4. Followers will find you…only if you are looking for them

Unfortunately social media on the most part is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’.

Sitting back and waiting for people to find you and follow you, will limit your overall number of followers but also the kind of followers you get.

The best way to increase your follower base is to consistently search for social media users who reflect your ideal audience and post content you like. You can use hashtags or the built-in search facility on social media platforms to find accounts relating to topics you are interested in.

What you will see is that a lot of the time you will get follow-backs and you are building a targeted community of people who resonate with you.

It’s best to do this very regularly, rather than in one big burst. This way you can keep your follower/follow back ratio in check and you won’t exceed any follow limits.

5. Always follow people back…unless…

One of the most effective ways of getting followers is to follow back those people who follow you.

Generally I follow back people who follow me unless:

  • They say they are The Rock, Prince Harry or some other celebrity that they clearly are not.
  • The user does not have a profile picture.
  • The bio is riddled with mistakes or information that doesn’t make sense.
  • The follower is clearly unrelated my areas of interest, and I’m not even sure why they followed me. I find this is often a bot that has followed me, looking for a follow-back. Soon after, bots just as often unfollow you, even if you liked them back.
  • They haven’t posted recently or at all.
  • Their profile and/or bio contains offensive material.

I’ve gotten pretty good at screening followers, and a quick glance at their profile and/or bio usually determines my follow-back.

I do sometimes find out that an account I am following doesn’t turn out to be what I expected and I immediately unfollow or even block if needed.

That all being said, I generally follow-back and try to do so in a timely manner (within 2 days of a follow).

6. Be the most interesting…listener

You should never set out to be the most interesting person on social media.

That doesn’t mean you should strive for boring. It means you should be yourself. Show the best version of yourself, but at the end of the day, be authentic.

But that is not the most important thing to take from this.

On social media it’s vital to be ‘interested’ rather than ‘interesting’.

Be a listener. Ask people about themselves and their content? Start conversations not a one-way showcase of how amazing you are.

7. Post exactly what you’re thinking…within reason

We all have issues, people and topics we feel strongly about but it doesn’t mean we have to vent all of them on social media.

Sure if there is something you really believe in or is highly relevant to your work, that you feel compelled to share, even if it may upset some people – then by all means go for it (as low as it’s not unlawful or defamatory to do so).

Generally, I choose to avoid politics and rants, as well as anything really personal. If I do share something potentially controversial, I usually share something from a credible third party rather than just ‘my opinion’. I also choose not to show images of my child, unless his face can not be identified. That’s just my personal choice.

Where possible I will share content that has a positive angle to it, where action is being taken to right a wrong.

For me, it’s important for people to feel inspired, interested or entertained by my content, rather than angry or outraged.

Of course for some people it is important for them to share their authentic voice in its full glory, and I support this. In fact I follow a lot of people with very strong views.

In any case, there are always consequences for posting on social media. Even the most innocuous posts can rile up a person in the most unexpected way, resulting in them making nasty comments on your account.

When this happens, you can ignore it, politely and professionally respond, or block the person if necessary. It’s your call.

Bonus tip for aspiring authors

To finish up, I’d like to share this tip for aspiring authors. Generally, the writing world is a very supportive one and even highly successful authors are happy to engage with their followers.

Don’t assume that just because someone is famous or a best selling author that they won’t be interested in you or your content.

Take the time to engage in their content and you may be surprised to find…they’ll engage right back.

To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this, .

3 Things Every Girl Can Learn from Hermione Granger

It may very well be the biggest debate of the century, or at least it is in some circles of writers and readers – is Hermione Granger a Ravenclaw or not? The Sorting Hat faced the same dilemma, spending nearly four minutes trying to decide which house to place Hermione in, before finally settling on Gryffindor.

Ravenclaws prize wit, learning, and wisdom. It is the home of nerds and bookworms. So it’s not unusual that writers and readers after completing many of the available Sorting Hat quizzes online find themselves placed in Ravenclaw – I’m no exception; apparently, I am 60.5% Ravenclaw, 32.8% Hufflepuff, 6.3% Gryffindor and just 0.4% Slytherin. While I would love to claim Hermione as one of my Ravenclaw sisters, my Gryffindor peers may feel a little differently about that.

Rather than spending time diving deep on this topic and trying to resolve this ‘great debate’, I think we can all agree there are several things we (us girls in particular) can learn from Hermione, regardless of her house.

She loved learning

Hermione’s love of books was very clear. Her free time was spent in the library seeking information on spells, potions, and plants that would come in handy in times of need. Strong women value learning and invest time in it. Books aren’t just about passing exams, they are about gaining knowledge and growth.

She stood up for herself and others

Whether she was fighting off scary mythical creatures, punching Draco in the nose for taunting her, or fighting for the rights of the poorly treated house elves, Hermione knew the importance of standing up – not just for herself but for others as well. She doesn’t condone injustice. She doesn’t act like that it is none of her business. She stands up for what she believes in and for those without a voice. She is not afraid to call out a wrong – she overcomes fears and uses her intelligence to try and bring the injustice to an end.

She wasn’t ashamed of her knowledge

Hermione used her wit and knowledge to get Ron and Harry out of trouble countless times. In class, she was always the first to answer questions. She studied, she gained knowledge and she wasn’t afraid to let it show. She doesn’t play dumb just to fit in. Her knowledge helps her stand apart in many positive ways.

Hermione Granger taught us that a strong woman doesn’t sit around and wait to be rescued. She doesn’t play the victim. She invests in herself, she understands what is important to her, upholds her values, and she is comfortable with whom she is.

Hermione teaches us all that it’s okay to let intelligence shine and to be comfortable speaking out about things you believe in.

Strong female characters like Hermione are at the core of my fiction writing. To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this,

Emulate. Why you should and shouldn’t emulate other people.

There are loads of people I admire.

There’s Jane Austen for writing, David Bowie for creative genius, Jamie Oliver for businesses that achieve good, Seth Godin for marketing nous….the list goes on and on.

At times I thought I may try and them. Imitate their success in some way.

The problem though with emulating someone else, is you’re not being yourself!

You have to believe in your own brand and abilities to succeed.

It’s very hard to succeed or be happy when you’re trying to be someone else.

It’s okay to admire other people but not envy them.

It’s okay to adapt and apply something that resonates with you, make it your own, but not to copy it.

It’s okay to follow another person’s success, but not to run the same race as them.

You are running your own race. Strive to improve, learn from others, find role models that resonate with you, but don’t try and emulate them.

I’m never going to be Jane Austen, David Bowie, Jamie Oliver, Seth Godin or any of the fabulous people I admire.

I’m going to be me. And I’m good enough. No….I’m perfectly imperfect just the way I am, which is perfect.

‘Emulate’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

Forget 10,000 Hours of Practice – Embrace Shokunin To Be an Expert

Uncharacteristically, I had a hour or so to spare the other day, and I remembered that a new episode of Vikings should have been available SBS On Demand.

I was bitterly disappointed to find that the show hadn’t aired that week. Instead I poked around for something else to watch. My eyes fell on . As a Japanophile the title was enough to draw me in, and I’m so glad it did, I just wish I’d seen it well before now.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a 2011 American documentary film following, the now 92-year-old, Jiro Ono – a sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Sukiyabashi Jiro is a Michelin three-star restaurant that only seats 10 people, and can be found in the unglamorous location of a Tokyo subway station. You won’t find any appetisers or fancy a la carte meals there. Jiro Ono only serves a tasting menu of around 20 courses, for a minimum of 30,000 Japanese yen (350 AUD) – ouch!

Apparently though it’s completely worth it. Obama described his meal there as the best sushi he had ever had.

What’s that got to do with being an expert?

It turns out everything.

Embracing Shokunin

Jiro Ono subscribes to the practice of ‘shokunin’.

is a Japanese term that translates as a ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’ – more specifically, the mastery of ones profession.

Famed Japanese artist, sculptor, teacher and woodcrafting expert Tasio Odate says “the Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people”.

This is a beautiful idea, but it seems that shokunin isn’t always driven by social obligation – even if there are beneficial outcomes for other people.

For many the shokunin is about the practice of doing something carefully and beautifully, to the best of your ability, and the personal joy derived from this. It is also about the continual quest for improvement and perfection.

In Jiro Dreams of Sushi we learn that the chef wakes up every morning and goes to work, despite already being incredibly successful and arguably the best sushi master in the world. He does this because he is driven by shokunin. He says, “All I want to do is make better sushi”.

The Cost of Perfection

As a self-confessed perfectionist I know the pressure I put on myself and how unhealthy it can be to me and those around me.

These days I prefer to aim for ‘progress’ rather then perfection – and sometimes ‘good enough’, is actually good enough.

Even Jiro Ono admits with perhaps a smidgen of a regret, that his quest for perfection meant he missed a lot with his family and could have been a better father.

So perfection isn’t all together perfect.

What I like though about the idea of shokunin is the drive to always improve and be better – to continually refine and master your craft – knowing that you may never reach perfection, and being okay with that, but also enjoying the journey and your craft.

Mastering Your Craft

I think shokunin is incredibly important whether you’re a writer, a software engineer, a cleaner, or a sushi master.

We should all take pride in what we do, want to be better at it and obtain joy from the process.

It can only lead to becoming an expert in your craft – and with that comes recognition, opportunities and self-satisfaction.

Debunking The 10,000 Hours Rule

Most of us have probably heard that we’re considered an expert in our field once we’ve practised our craft for 10,000 hours.

The concept comes from the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, and was popularised by Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Gladwell pointed to several case studies of incredibly successful people such as Bill Gates, whose success could be partly attributed to putting in 10,000 hours of work. That though is a simplistic interpretation of Gladwell’s book, which provides a lot of other compelling evidence for what makes people successful – it’s very much worth the read.

What though has come to light more recently is that the 10,000 hours may have little to do with whether you’re an expert.

Brad Stulberg, co-author of the book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, says expertise develops based on the way you practise, rather than the time you practise. That the quality and focus of your practise determines your performance. He recommends intensively focused practice or “”.

Start Becoming an Expert

Deliberate practice certainly isn’t at odds with shokunin, because they’re both about mastering your craft.

The premise of the 10,000 hour rule isn’t terrible either, as the more you practise something, the more likely you are to improve.

Perhaps in our quest for shokunin and being an expert, a realistic step is reminding ourselves that every day is an opportunity to be better than we were yesterday.

For me, I dedicate myself every day to improving my writing and marketing craft. If you’re looking for a writing expert .

Intuition or Not. Why I Want to Trust My Gut

We all know that emotional response when something just doesn’t feel right…or in some cases feels exactly right, but we can’t put our finger on exactly what and why.

Call it intuition. Call it trusting your gut. Call it a hunch. Call it whatever you like, it’s a real thing.

And from what I understand there are plenty of sound reasons to be aware of it and listen to it Maybe not as a the ultimate decision making guide, but to be listened to and considered in your decisions.

Personally I’ve always struggled with making decisions.

I never know whether to use focused logical thinking, follow what’s in my heart or listen to my gut—all of which may be suggesting contradictory actions.

For example, my logical brain has been telling me for years to get a sensible and secure job.  My heart tells me to focus on writing fiction.

I’m not so sure what my gut is saying, other than a sick feeling when I’m doing something that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s probably why I decided not to decide between a job and writing, and split my attention between running a business and writing books at the same time.

So while my intuition does kick in, I’ve never been completely comfortable listening to it…but maybe I should.

explains that intuition isn’t necessarily a magical phenomenon, that gut feelings are formed out of our past experiences and knowledge.

“So while relying on doesn’t always lead to good decisions, it’s not nearly as flighty a tactic as it may sound.”

Some experts explain intuition as a form of —that intuition is actually a process of taking information in without realising you’re doing it.

“The best explanation psychologists now offer is that intuition is a mental matching game. The brain takes in a situation, does a very quick search of its files, and then finds its best analogue among the stored sprawl of  and knowledge. Based on that analogy, you ascribe meaning to the situation in front of you.”

 

So can you trust your gut?

If your gut feeling is a form of automatic information processing, than it’s worth at least listening to it.

I don’t think it needs to be one of the other when it comes to rational (conscious) and intuitive (nonconscious) thinking. They both deserve a voice at the table.

It’s okay listen to your head, heart and gut, and trust that you don’t need to know the reason why your intuition is saying something. Then decide.

‘Intuition’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .