Writing Tip

Word Clouds!

Here’s a neat idea I picked up from Twitter (thanks @BrianneZwambag and @emsheehanwrites!):

Want to know what the most used words in your manuscript? Build a word cloud!

I used www.wordclouds.com to analyze the current version of my novel as well as my short story work in progress.  The free program allows you to upload a word document and also ignore what it calls “stop words” like: the, at, and, etc.

For fun, you can also change the shape and coloring of the generated cloud, play with the font, and change word orientation.

Here are my two results!

From Apricots and Wolfsbane:

wordcloud ASAW

From my untitled short story work in progress:

wordcloud (1)

Writing Tip

Not excited to write that scene?

I’d like to take a moment to share a piece of writing advice I’ve learned over the years:

If you’re not excited to write it, they won’t be excited to read it.

Occasionally, I’ll come across a scene from my planned outline I’m not motivated to write and usually there is a underlying reason. This is one of my internal red flags which prompts me to take a step back and reconsider. Often one (or more) of the following issues are occurring:

Conveying information in a boring way:

If I find myself uninspired to write a planned scene, but needing to communicate information to set up future plot, I know I need to tell it a different way. If I pause for a few days, usually I can find a more exciting way for a character to learn or contemplate the information, or a more inspired way to allude to it in the middle of action.

The scene is unnecessary:

This often happens with scenes between and building up to action. Occasionally they cannot be avoided, but most of the time if my red flag is in alarm, the scene is unnecessary. If the scene does not challenge the MC or convey important information, mention it passing or simply pass over.

If it cannot be avoided, my advice is to make the scene as short as possible or find alternate ways to inject tension into the plot.  Can the manuscript be reordered to add excitement?  Is this a good place for the MC to have a mental dilemma? Is there something different about the circumstance the MC can notice?

The scene is being forced:

Often when I have writer’s block it is because the scene I’m working on isn’t right for the plot: there isn’t enough conflict or the character motivation is wrong, etc.

Instead of plowing through, I recommend taking a step back and examining the block from different angles. Structured brainstorming can also help. I like Aaron Sorkin’s advice: write down 10 different ideas of how a scene can happen and throw away the first ones, which tend to be the obvious paths. If you force yourself to think of ten ideas, you’ll probably come up with something creative and more exciting.

Has anyone else encountered lack of excitement when writing?  What causes it in your experience? Do you have other solutions?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Writing Tip

Die Vampires!

The brave souls who pursue creative fields experience a lot of rejection. All of this denial can lead to self-doubt and insecurity. Will anyone actually want to read this book? Is my idea worth the time?

[Title of Show] is one of my favorite musicals because it especially appeals to me as a writer. The musical is about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. (You might need to read that sentence again :P).

The song “Die Vampire Die!” from [Title of Show] is perfect for those frustrating moments of doubt. It is a reminder insecurity vampires develop from internal and external sources, but no vampire is worth your time.  Have a listen:


Die Vampire Die! – You Tube