5 Things I Tell Myself After a Negative Story Critique

January 31, 2015
I also contemplated rewriting this blog post title to, "How I Put My Writer's Ego Back Together."

Last year may have been the process of first drafts, but this year is the process of revising and rewriting. I have disciplined myself to not fill in blank notebook pages with illegible scribbles of a brand new story idea, but rather, I've decided to poor over the illegible handwritings of finished stories and turn them into typed, publishable pieces.

This means I'm also in the process of seeking critiques and submitting (while understanding these critiques and trying to weed out what I will and won't listen to). It isn't easy. In a way, I want to be told that what I've written is brilliant and the best thing ever, but that isn't the case for most of us after a first draft.

So when I read over the comments of others who make suggestions (and worse, read over the negative critiques and harsh jabs) at what I've written, there are a few things I have to tell my fragile writer's ego in order to back to the drawing board and make it possible for me to go through the process again (and again and again).

1) This is what you've signed up for.

While being told my story is amazing is fantastic for my ego, it's not what will help my story. As a writer, we're subject to criticism and what we've written isn't perfect (even after it's been published). So, when you're trying to get to that stage and you've actually asked people what they think and for feedback, you will more than likely be told about things they didn't like. I tell myself it's what I signed up for - I'm not asking people to just tell me it's good. I'm asking people to tell me how to improve it (aka tell me what wasn't good).

2)  Every draft - every rewrite - is better than the last one.

Each new draft of a story I create is better than the last one. Every plot line I tighten, character dialogue I sharpen, and setting I make more real takes my story that much closer to publishable work. It's better than the handwritten story it was when I first wrote it out - and it's better than the freshly typed draft I hadn't looked over yet - and the next one will be even better.

3) You don't have to listen to every single critique.

I've learned the best thing I can do when assessing critiques is to figure out the common thread. Best of all, what's a personal weakness in my stories overall  that I need to work on? What's a regular thing in my stories that I'm told I need to work on? If I can figure it out - whether it's better dialogue that's needed, stronger characterization, or vivid settings - I can approach my next first draft with even stronger writing skills. But I don't think you have to change your story based on every suggestion you get. Otherwise you run the risk of turning it into a franken-story.

4) You are a good writer.

I think everyone needs to tell themselves this and I think that needs to be part of a daily mantra. For me it's one of those repetitive things I tell myself when I need to hear it the most. A good writer isn't just defined how much stories he or she has had published (although that's definitely a good way to figure it out). A good writer is someone who keeps going back after falling off that horse. A good writer is someone always looking to improve, submit, rewrite, write, edit, and everything else that goes into the writing process.

5) Go and visit LiteraryRejections.com to feel better. Or read this post by blogger and author Chuck Wendig. Or heck, just google "famous published author rejections."

What do you tell yourself after you've received a lot of story critiques (especially those are that are not all that kind)?
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10 Sites to Visit If You Are Stumped for Blog Ideas

January 12, 2015

Although many of my blogging peeps would tell me only to blog when you are inspired, I thought about those times when you want to blog despite the lack of something to say. For those times, I made a list of sites that can inspire you to rev up those blogging engines and help you get some words out to the blog-u-verse.

1) StumbleUpon

A nearly forgotten realm of the internet, StumbleUpon features content after content of people who DID know what to say and said it well. Sometimes this can make me feel even more blocked, but sometimes on the rare occasion it will help me figure out something to say on my blog.

For example, I wouldn't have thought of this post if it hadn't been for going to StumbleUpon.

2) PsychologyToday.com

What is blogging but an expression of what goes on inside of our heads and our lives? I have found many blog post inspirations after reading articles on this site and I'm sure there are questions you can discover here that can only be answered via blog post.

3) Your Old Blog Posts

Remember that post you wrote three years ago about amazing apps you could use for social networking, blogging, or creative writing? The wonderful thing about technology is that what was popular three years ago is more than likely obsolete or vastly changed by now.

So brush off that old post about your favorite pieces of old school tech and rewrite it about your must-have new school tech. A lot can change in even just a year, including habits and lifestyles, so don't be afraid to write about them again too.

4) Read Other Blogs

If I'm uninspired on my own blog, I'll often check out the blogs of my fellow writers and see what they have to say. Sometimes another person's post will strike a chord so hard that I'll have to branch off their comment page and talk about my opinion on my blog.

5) See What's Trending

I think the two places that are the best to check for what's trending is Google Trends and Twitter Trends. For me, I'm most active on Twitter and it just makes sense that I would check there first. And with Google, well you're most likely to catch wind of what people are searching at any given moment and that really matters if you want to come up in their search results.

Figuring out what's trending can help inspire you to either talk about that subject or at least do a spin off post.

6) Take Advantage of Your "Media Collecting" Sites

If you are even a LITTLE active on sites like IMDB (Internet Movie Database), Goodreads, YouTube, or any other sites where you have a history of what you've read, watched, looked at, etc. you can easily use these sites to give you content to talk about. Heck, if you can't think of what to say, just write a review about the last book you've read or movie you've watched.

7) Visit AskReddit and Answer The Question On Your Blog.

I am a huge fan of reddit and there's all KINDS of places that give you inspiration for content. I highly recommend out of all of the forums on the website that you visit the Ask Reddit forum. You don't even need to log into the site to get inspired. From best tear-jerker video game endings to five words that can ruin a date, you are bound to figure out something to say to the world if you wander to this site for even a few minutes.

8) Visit the blog The Daily Post.

There's probably more of them out there, but this is one I keep my eye on regularly. They have a daily prompt and after you create your post you can share yours with the masses (and read what everyone else had to say). By visiting this site, you never will lack for content.

9) Visit OneMinuteWriter.com

This is another one of those sites that offer up writing prompts. It's a little bit exclusive to the "writing about writing" crowd, but it isn't ENTIRELY about the writing process, so if you don't consider yourself a creative writing writer, but definitely a blogger, I highly recommend it.

10). Utilize Pinterest

I put Pinterest last because I think it can distract more than it can inspire, but whether or not you have an account, I recommend you check out these blogging prompt pins people have already found for us! Just visit this link and click on the pins to gain access to the prompts and voila! You have yourself some blog-spiration.

What inspires your blog posts if you don't know what to write?
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My Top 5 Books of 2014 #AmReading

January 4, 2015
I hope it isn't too late for a "favorite books of 2014" post! But this past year, I've read a lot of great books, and some had been sitting in my "to be read" list for quite some time. In reality, I've never been great at tracking what I've read, and for the most part, my attempt at tracking what I want to read isn't any better. But I finally accepted Goodreads into my life and it's helped me (when I can remember) to keep track of what I want to read and what I've already read.

So far I've really gotten into series', and I've found a lot that are very good. So the first one on my list, is a book called, "The Compound" by S.A. Bodeen.

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
It's about Eli, a teen living with his family in an underground compound after managing to avoid an attack and possible world destruction. For six years now they've been living underground, assuming the worst about some of their loved ones still on the outside. But things start to fall apart and everything is not as they seem. And Eli's father won't let them out or tell them what's going on.

Adults are definitely allowed to read Young Adult fiction, so for all you grown ups out there afraid to embrace your love of YA, don't be afraid, you are not alone. I love these books too!

I highly recommend this book and definitely think you should add this to your reading list this year. Visit Goodreads and this to your list or visit Amazon.com and purchase a copy.

You will probably notice that I've really gotten into science fiction this past year, because my next favorite book of 2014 is science fiction novel "American Elsewhere" by Robert Jackson Bennett.

American Elsewhere
It's about a woman Mona Bright who inherits a home left to her by her estranged father who just passed away. The home she inherited is in the middle of nowhere in a town called Wink. Yet, there's more to Wink that meets the eye and the neighbors and townspeople are beginning to seem more strange than normal as each day goes on. There are mysteries to uncover and secrets that happen only when it's dark.

I swear this book ushered me into the realm of science fiction. It's an intense book filled with aliens and dark places found beyond our universe. It doesn't start out overly complicated and without giving anything away I absolutely loved the ending.

So I really think you should add this to your reading list. Visit Goodreads and this to your list or visit Amazon.com and purchase your own copy.

Okay, the next book is a young adult apocalyptic novel with a dash of aliens mixed in there too (I told you I was way into science fiction in 2014!). It's called "The 5th Wave" by Rick Yancey. I've only read book one and I'm determined to get my hands on book two soon.

The 5th Wave
It's about a "wave" of attacks on the human race meant to destroy every trace of humanity left on Earth. Cassie and her family are in a fight to survive. When the 5th wave hits, Cassie realizes that she can't trust anyone but herself and her own instincts. Until she meets Evan Walker and she begins to wonder if she's met someone she can finally trust. Soon it becomes about more than just her own survival - it's becomes about survival of humanity.

This book was so exciting and I absolutely can't wait to read the second one. Ever since I got into the Unwind series by Neil Shusterman I've been dying to find a replacement (the Unwind series will reach it's end with the final book soon to come out!). This may just be the series that competes with that one.

Add this to Goodreads or purchase your copy.

Okay, for my next book, I'm going to move away from science fiction a bit, and tell you about an author I've discovered this year named Susan Hill! She's author of the book "The Woman in Black" (and yes, the book is better) as well as many other spooky gothic stories. These books are actually perfect to read during a foggy, cold, gray January so if you are looking for something to set the mood I highly recommend picking up a few copies of her books (any of them).

If I was to recommend one in particular I would say read 'The Man in the Picture." It's about a Venetian painting and the demons it hides. An old professor tells its tale to a former student and soon the curse of what lies within the painting finds more victims. It's a very quick read, but it leaves you feeling chilly and frightened.

Add this book to Goodreads (as well as ANY of her other gothic horror novels) or purchase your copy.

Last but not least, something completely opposite of any of these books is a book I found early in 2014 and I have yet to spot the second in the series in the library. It's an adorable, breezy summer read that you'll want to pick up the next time you want to go to the beach (when the weather isn't so awful). It's called "Seaside Harmony, Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn" by Evangeline Kelley.

Seaside Harmony
It's about these three sisters who visit the coast following the death of their late mother. They stumble across an abandoned inn and soon Caroline talks her sisters into purchasing the inn and breathing it back into life. I am a sucker for this type of novel because it's always one of those daydreams of mine to own an inn or a little bookstore or something on the coast. I get to live through these three characters as they revive the inn and uncover the mysteries of the past.

Make sure to add this to your reading list on Goodreads or purchase it on Amazon.

That's my brief recap of my favorite reads of 2014! Soon I'll be following with my must-reads for 2015.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Any recommendations you can give me? 
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The Future of God by Deepak Chopra [Book Review]

January 3, 2015
Over the last few months, I have been reading 'The Future of God' by Deepak Chopra. I am usually not the type to enjoy non-fiction books, actually. So when I had the chance to read this book by someone so well known and well respected, I couldn't wait to challenge myself.

What The Book Is About

Obtained from RandomHouse.com

Can God be revived in a skeptical age? What would it take to give people a spiritual life more powerful than anything in the past? Deepak Chopra tackles these issues with eloquence and insight in this book. He proposes that God lies at the source of human awareness. Therefore, any person can find the God within that transforms everyday life. 

God is in trouble. The rise of the militant atheist movement spearheaded by Richard Dawkins signifies, to many, that the deity is an outmoded myth in the modern world. Deepak Chopra passionately disagrees, seeing the present moment as the perfect time for making spirituality what it really should be: reliable knowledge about higher reality. Outlining a path to God that turns unbelief into the first step of awakening, Deepak shows us that a crisis of faith is like the fire we must pass through on the way to power, truth, and love.

“Faith must be saved for everyone’s sake,” he writes. “From faith springs a passion for the eternal, which is even stronger than love. Many of us have lost that passion or have never known it.” In any age, faith is a cry from the heart. God is the higher consciousness that responds to the cry. “By itself, faith can’t deliver God, but it does something more timely: It makes God possible.”

For three decades, Deepak Chopra has inspired millions with his profound writing and teaching. With The Future of God, he invites us on a journey of the spirit, providing a practical path to understanding God and our own place in the universe. Now, is a moment of reinvigoration, he argues. Now is moment of renewal. Now is the future.
What I Thought

This book was definitely a challenge to me, but very insightful and rewarding. What I like about this book is that it really does address the questions and doubts I have about religion. Although I have always considered myself spiritual and believing in God, reading a book about having faith during difficult times gave me great peace. The one aspect of the book that irritated me a bit is he regularly addresses Richard Dawkins, who wrote a book (or maybe it's books?) about atheism and specifically directs many sections towards the doubt that Dawkins places in having faith in God. I do understand that why Deepak Chopra does do this, but I almost wish that Dawkins wasn't addressed as much throughout the book because it left me wondering if I had missed something or if I should know certain things already. 

Aside from this, it is an eye opening book. For anyone looking to challenge themselves this new year and bring more non-fiction back into their to be read pile, I highly recommend you read this book. Again I'm not usually the type to go for non-fiction books, but this was an important read for me and I plan on going back and re-reading certain sections to further my understanding of this book.

About the Author

Deepak Chopra is the author of more than fifty books translated into more than thirty-five languages—including numerous New York Times bestsellers in both the fiction and nonfiction categories. Dr. Chopra is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management, and a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. He is founder and president of the Alliance for a New Humanity. Time magazine heralds Deepak Chopra as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century and credits him as “the poet–prophet of alternative medicine.”
To purchase your copy, visit this website link and place your order. To learn more about Deepak Chopra and learn more about what he's published visit his author page at Random House. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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