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Cool Spaces for Writers: Ideas for Decorating your Home Office

Thanks Steff for this post about putting together a cool work space at home. 

skylight office

If, like myself, you spent your childhood painting pictures on rocks for your parents for Christmas gifts, home décor can be a little lost on us. Everyone knows that a good, ol’ fashioned rock paperweight is the height of home office style, right? Maybe not, but that’s not to say you can’t get creative when decorating your home office – making it a space you really look forward to spending time knuckling down in. Here are a few helpful suggestions: Read the rest of this entry »


Guest Post: 4 Time Tested Ways to Improve Your Writing

I recently opened up my email to find this message: “Can I get published as a children’s book author if I’m not a good writer?” I was taken aback at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated the question. The sender is aware of her limitations, but dreams of getting published anyway. She’s not suffering under the delusion that she’s the next J.K. Rowling, and I admire that. She’s going to look at her work with a critical eye, and search for ways to make it better. This is assuming that it’s possible to learn to write well. I believe that it is.

Very few writers have the natural ability to create vibrant, relevant, compelling stories right out of the gate. Most have to work at it. And those who see writing as a skill that is never quite mastered, requiring a lifelong devotion to the learning process, will be most successful. Where this gets tricky is that unlike other skills – such as making a pie – there is no foolproof way to learn how to write. So while I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all method, I can offer up some ideas on how you can find the path that works best for you.

Read, read, read. Why are editors always telling aspiring authors to read piles of children’s books? Because they give you a concrete representation of what works. Be sure you read good books (check reviews or ask a librarian or teacher for recommendations). By simply reading, you’ll grasp the ebb and flow of a story, how a character is introduced and developed, the types of conflicts appropriate for each age group, how to build tension in scenes and chapters, the relation of sub-plots to the main storyline, how dialogue moves the plot along, and much more. You’ll experience firsthand how a skilled author uses sensory images to immerse the reader completely in the story. By comparing several authors writing for the same age group, you’ll discover different literary voices.

I suggest reading books similar to those you wish to write, as well as books one level younger and one level older. So, if your plan is to write a middle grade mystery for ages 8-12, also read mysteries for ages 7-10 and 10-14. In this way, you’ll become educated about exactly what makes up a middle grade novel and how it’s different from fiction for older and younger readers. You might even learn that your story isn’t really for middle grades after all.

Another reason for reading a lot of quality books is that you need a yardstick against which to judge your own work. You’ll learn which “rules” can’t be broken and those that have more wiggle room. For example, you’ll be hard pressed to find a 60-page picture book in the stores, even by a well known author. If your picture book’s that long, you’ll have no choice but to rework the story and fit it into 32 pages. However, you can experiment with unconventional characters and unexpected viewpoints. And the older the reader, the fewer rules apply. But no matter what you do with your plot, characters or writing style, make sure you know why you’re doing it. Don’t write the story in present tense unless it needs to unfold in real time for the reader. Don’t incorporate flashbacks unless they’re vital for understanding what’s going on in the story now.

Find a system that works for you. The first step toward learning to write is figuring out the best way for you to learn. Some authors I know are very left-brained; they enjoy charts and graphs and lists. They thrive on tracking their scenes and plotting out their book on every level before they start to write. Those left-brainers will study published books and count the words per page, note which scene contains the plot’s catalyst, graph out where the tension rises and falls in each chapter. Others prefer to learn more intuitively. They read books, absorb the different writing styles, and maybe jot down a few notes with overall impressions or key points they want to remember. They have a general idea of where their own story is going, and aren’t afraid to experiment and take detours along the way.

If you don’t know where you fall on the spectrum, try different approaches and see what feels right. Remember that there is no one way of doing this, and each method has its pros and cons. Plotting out your story beforehand can prevent you from wandering off track, but the lists can become an evasive technique to keep you from actually writing the book. Letting the words spill onto the page with no grand plan feels very creative, but usually results in huge first drafts that have to be significantly trimmed and shaped. If you write long enough you’ll discover your weaknesses and devise ways to work around them. Maybe you outline first, then put it away while you write your first draft. Maybe you lay out your scenes on a plotline after each chapter, then revise as needed before moving on to the next chapter. If your dialogue tends to wander in circles before coming to the point, you’ll learn to get it on paper and then tighten it in the second draft.

Know your strengths. Some authors are brilliant nonfiction writers but can’t sell a fiction story. Others write wonderful picture books but can’t deal with the layers to a novel. Instead of trying to force a style that isn’t you, start with what you’re naturally good at. You don’t have to publish fiction to be a successful author. You may dream of writing picture books, but if you have a knack for relating to teenagers, maybe young adult novels are your future.

Discovering your strengths involves experimenting with several writing styles and age groups. If you’re not certain where to start, think about the kinds of children’s books you most like to read. Then fiddle around with writing dialogue or scenes for the same age group. If you’re naturally drawn to nonfiction, make a list of topics that excite you. Begin by writing about one of the subjects in the style of some of your favorite children’s magazines.

Practive, Practice, Practice. Over the years I’ve worked with writers who have gotten published through sheer force of will. They’ve gone over manuscripts again and again, taking them from mediocre to polished. They’ve set aside ideas that simply didn’t work and turned to something new. And they never submitted the first or second draft to an editor, because those manuscripts could always be improved. They weren’t very good writers when they began, but they learned. And you can too.

About the author:About the author:Laura Backes publishes Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. For info about writing children’s books, free articles, market tips, insider secrets & more, visit http://Write4kids.com.  



Have you ever Considered Working Overseas?


This is a guest post by James Anderson, originally titled 10 Mistakes not to make when Applying for Jobs Overseas. I have not actually considered this myself, but we did kind of look into Australian driving jobs for my husband a while back– rumor has it they make about double the pay here in the United States. I did not find any information that confirmed that, and gave up. But maybe it’s time to look into it again with these tips. I think we might enjoy some time “down under.” I just might find time to put together those three books I have started. LOL It is a big world, and I think we should see as much of it as possible, no matter our age or circumstances, being open to working overseas might just work out well for some. 

Although you must have prepared yourself in the best manner to enter the corporate world, you will see some gaps still exist between college and professional life. This is especially true for those graduates who want to apply for jobs overseas. Obviously, there is a huge difference in workplaces beyond the borders. So, you have to respond accordingly.
Have a look at the following mistakes you should avoid when you apply for jobs overseas:

Koala Bear in a Tree1. Not Conducting Research about Countries of Your Interest

After completing four fun-filled years of college, many graduates put less emphasis on where they want to reach. They do not focus on which country they want to work in. If your aim is to work abroad, then you should avoid this mistake.

Conduct ample research of the country of interest for you. Know about the country’s culture, how corporations run businesses, how people balance their life with work, etc. Also, find out how much it will cost you.

2. Not Contacting the Embassy of That Country

Graduates have passion to work abroad, but unfortunately they end up making mistakes as they are not aware of many requirements for overseas. This also includes not asking details about a country of interest from the embassy of the same. If you want to succeed while moving to an entirely new country, make sure you contact its embassy.

3. Not Applying For Visa and Passport

No matter how capable a graduate claims to be for an organization, he/she cannot prove it unless he/she goes abroad. They cannot do anything if they have not applied for a visa and passport in advance. So when you apply for overseas jobs, keep in mind that you should apply for your visa and passport as soon as possible.

4. Not Making Preparations In Advance

Some jobs in the international market require candidates to pass physical exams and various interviews. Some graduates take this lightly and do not prepare well. However, this is a mistake while applying for jobs abroad. In order to increase your chances to get a job in the country of your choice, you should make necessary preparations in advance.

5. Not Managing Your Personal FinancesAustralia on the Globe

Sometimes, graduates cannot ensure whether they can repay the amount of student loan or not. They may have debt problems in the future if they are unable to repay the debt and get credit card debt relief. If you have the same issue, then you should first take debt relief advice from professionals. Taking debt relief advice will help you get credit card debt relief.

6. Not Using Different Sources when Job Searching

Relying just on a job portal is not a wise decision. So, use different sources for job searching. Eventually, you will get a job abroad.

7. Not Learning the Country’s Language Where You Want to Work

It is definitely a plus if you already know the language of the country you wish to work in. If not, then you should learn it now.

8. Not Trying To Start the Career

Being a graduate does not mean you will get your dream job. However, most people have th mindset. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that any job will work for you to start your career. If you are not getting any response from abroad, give your career a start by doing a local job. After all, this will add to your work experience.

9. Not Trying To Update Your Skills

Sometimes, overseas employers require more from you than just a college degree. In order to have an edge over other candidates, make sure you do your best. This will require you to Great Ocean Road update your skills that you can apply in your job abroad.

10. Not Being Yourself

Of course overseas employers are not looking for robots! In the job interview, a lot of graduates end up repeating the same goals that they read as examples in their class lectures. However, the corporate world demands originality from your side. If you keep on repeating these same skills, employers may consider them as cliché. So, the ideal way to deal with interview questions is to be you.

Applying for jobs abroad is a lot different than applying for jobs within the same country. If you want to succeed in your overseas job hunting, then you should consider the many things mentioned above. If you manage to follow some specific rules and procedures, you can definitely achieve your goal in the right way.

James Anderson is a remarkable expert in the area of personal finance and provides debt relief advice to its readers. You can know more about it by reading about it online.