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10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

By: Carly Duncan


1. Delete the apps on your phone that take up your valuable time. I realized that some of the social apps I check and the puzzle games I can get drawn in to take up time that could be focused toward writing. Of course, I still allow my apps to entertain me every now again, but the less I’m tempted the more focused I can be.


2. Set realistic goals for yourself. I “owe” myself a chapter by a certain date, or a certain amount of pages per week. Goals can be big or small, but if you set them they can really work to help motivate you.


3. Read. Read what other writers in your genre are creating. Read instructional books. Read magazines. Anything. You never know where inspiration may strike.


4. Change your environment. Once in a while, change where you write. Instead of working from your home office, try the local park or a bar. Changing the scene can help create new ideas and motivations for your characters you might not have previously considered.


5. Go out with friends. In the course of pursuing a project, it’s easy to become entirely wrapped up with its production. Take the time to socialize, to tell stories and engage. It can help reset the mind!


6. Don’t edit. Don’t edit until you’re done. Pour it all out onto the page and don’t look back. You can clean it all up and perfect it once the whole story is on (digital) paper.


7. Send a chapter to someone you trust. Sometimes it helps to get a reader’s perspective. Send some of your writing to someone you feel would give thoughtful feedback. This exercise can answer questions, reveal gaps in plot and can sometimes give a general boost to self esteem.


8. Think about the end. For me, knowing the ending gives me an ultimate purpose and helps guide everything I plot and plan along the way. With a vision of the end from the beginning, the middle can be more thoughtful and determined.


9. Don’t keep track of pages. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up with the count of pages, the length of a project that warrants a “good” story, but leave the pages behind. Try not to peek. They’re not important and sometimes if you allow them to propel a story what you produce doesn’t truly support the story’s journey at all.


10. Take your breaks. If you don’t feel like writing, don’t write. Don’t force it. Take your breaks from writing and try not to feel too bad if those breaks are longer than you’d prefer. Sometimes the writing force is strong and sometimes it isn’t. Take it in stride and change up your daily routine to see if that helps prompt an idea to continue forward. Breaks help, I swear!

Carly M. DuncanAbout the Author
Carly M. Duncan is a television producer by day and a writer whenever there is time. Her first short story was published when she was in high school after a writing group prompted her to begin blogging before it was cool. Carly’s debut novel, Marcie, was released in 2013. Though she’ll forever be a California girl at heart, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two children and beloved Westie.


Her latest book is Behind You.

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When a mysterious attack lands Heather in the hospital on the brink of death, her family rushes to her side. Through an inconvenient maze of shadowed memory and family secrets, Heather can trust only herself to discover if her husband, parents, sister or aunt tried to kill her. During the course of their own narratives, each character confesses to their various crimes of passion, envy and ignorance, weaving Heather’s mystery into an untraditional tale about seizing the opportunity to start over.

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Book Excerpt:
I do a bad thing to myself. When contemplating death I always consider my own sadness, devastation and defeat at losing a potential someone. I imagine the pain and the wreckage. I test what it might feel like to experience such heartbreak. I dream up the words I wish I had said and, also, what I might say in their honor.
I never think I’ll be the first to go. If I did I wouldn’t be forced to reflect on my own potential misery. It’s utter torture and I don’t know why I do it. I must be a masochist, though that label should warrant me more invincible, fearless and probably angrier.
Why would I put myself through the imaginary emotional journey of loss? Why force the looming and possibly non-existent future pain? Does the contrast between happiness and sorrow somehow, sickeningly, make me feel more alive? Or do I believe I’m preparing myself for future grief, as though building up a tolerance for pain might save me from myself later?
I do this a lot. I imagine a shattering loss and once I reach a certain level of true despair, I somehow force myself back to reality and mentally slap myself across the face for walking down a path that I didn’t have to wander in the first place. Afterwards, though, the imaginary misery always lingers and I’m left wandering through various realities for the rest of the day, inexplicably inconsolable.
As a twenty-seven year old woman and a Columbia educated social worker, I should have both a natural and learned understanding of the human condition. In my own life, I’ve experienced minor forms of sorrow, and in my career I’ve both caused and mended various types of suffering. I should be able to manage my own head better.
My job isn’t one that you fantasize about having when you’re young and everything seems possible, when you refer casually to dreams in passing conversation and actually believe in the potential that they can become true. I fell into my career as an adoption counselor by mere chance and pure coincidence, the way most of life’s twists and turns grab you. While attending Columbia I did what most good students approaching graduation do and scrambled to find internships anywhere I could. An internship led to certain comforts and certain comforts led to friendships, and certain friendships led to employment opportunities, and, throughout that whole meandering course, life happened. Today, I find myself performing a job I never hoped for in a field I never pursued, both crushing dreams and providing joyful occasions for strangers daily.
Each and every day I meet or speak with families who are either hoping to adopt a child or who must, for some reason, put their own child up for adoption. Sometimes my days are dangerous and sometimes they’re incredibly beautiful, but I suppose it’s like anything else. My days are rewarding, but I wouldn’t say they’re always joyful.

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