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5 Dangers of Holidays and Vacations

5 Dangers of Holidays and Vacations

It doesn’t look dangerous…

When you see something about the dangers of holidays and vacations, the first thought is probably along the lines of safety when traveling and shopping fraud, not writing problems. You know me, though, I’m talking about the dangers to your writing habits, not your health or finances.

Holidays and Vacations: The Succubi of a Writer’s Schedule

If you’ve ever manage to get into a regular writing habit or even a semi-regular writing habit (not the easiest goal, I admit), then you might see where I’m going with this. It’s like any other habit – the only ones that are easy to restart are the bad ones (the ones you’re trying not to do).

Since writing is work, beware temptations to put it aside for a bit. It might get dusty before you get back to it.

Here are some common enticements to resist.

 1. Reading

If you’re a bibliophile like me, books can be hard to resist. And the more I read, the harder it is to resist reading. Then, that time I set aside for writing? It’s spent reading instead.

I’m not saying to never read (A tragedy!), but it might be wise to keep whatever rules you usually have for reading. In other words, don’t let books take over your entire schedule. It’ll make coming back from a holiday harder, believe me.

2. Sleeping In

Oh, that sounds good. Are you as sleep deprived as I am? Does the idea of lazing in bed and sleeping hours into the day sound like the best present you could get right now?

Well, that sucks.

Honestly, that’s pretty bad, and if you can, you need to make some life changes to fix that (says the pot to the kettle [I’m working on it!]).

That said, resist the urge to sleep til noon on vacation days. It’ll just screw up your sleep schedule, and you’ll pay for that temporary pleasure with a real struggle when it’s time to get up for work again.

3. Distracted Writing

Although multitasking is handy at times, it’s not ideal for productive writing. Like loss of sleep, it makes the writing take longer, and the writing quality drops. Neither is helpful.

If you can, keep your dedicated writing time the same as usual. If you can’t, a shorter but still dedicated period for writing can be more productive than trying to combine your writing with other chores or projects.

4. Hectic Schedules

Those of us with large families may not get much of a choice on this one. That said, we still get to decide what we commit to. We can choose not to make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

A good example is what you cook for a family potluck. If you have a choice between a really fancy, work-intensive recipe and an easy one that’s just as popular, which is gonna give you more time to write and make your life less stressful?

There are tons of decisions we make about holidays and gatherings that can have the same effect. How many stops we make, what parties we go to, and what favors we agree to do for other people are the mere tip of the iceberg.

5. Residual Exhaustion

If you can resist scheduling yourself thin, this one will be easier; however, we’ve all had those holidays where we work so hard to make everything amazing that we need a vacation after the holidays are over. That’s when taking a total day or two off looks really, really appealing.

Apple to Eve kind of appealing.

In that situation, try to make yourself do a minimum amount of work. You can even decide ahead of time – this much time writing, this much exercising, this much cleaning up, etc.

If you can at least keep the general shape of your usual daily habits in place (still with plenty of resting!), then, going back to work will be much easier.

You see, getting out of the habit is the real problem. The more of these temptations you keep from taking over your vacation, the better chance you have of keeping your writing going once you get back in the swing of things. Otherwise, it’s horribly easy to get back to work and replace your writing habit with a reading/sleeping/tv-watching/etc. habit instead.

You’ve experienced this problem before, right? (It’s not just me?) What other tips do you have?

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“I Got Sucked In”

I got sucked inThat’s what we want people to say. That’s the reaction we want readers to have – “I got sucked in.” It’s the sort of answer you give when people ask why you look so tired (AKA why you spent the night reading instead of sleeping like a sane adult). 

We want that! We want the reader to get so caught up that he or she (or both) cannot stand to put the book down long enough to go to the bathroom or fix dinner. Let alone get some shuteye. We want the story to consume their lives until they each finally reach the last page and close it.

What kind of @#%holes are we?

Seriously, though, we want to take over people’s lives if only for a short time. That makes us a kind of puppetmaster (or puppetmaster wannabes). A kind of puppetmaster who can control your mind through a book.

We want to be Tom Riddle without magic (or the evil… most of us, anyway).

But how? How can you have that much control with only words on a page? With no direct contact with the reader whatsoever? I got sucked into a book last night, and I’ve never met, talked to, or otherwise interacted with the author. So how do you do it?

How Do You Get Readers to Say,
“I Got Sucked In”?

Well, other than having some sort of contest where they have to record themselves saying that and send it to you for a chance at a prize (not quite what I meant), you have to make the story into a kind of emotional vacuum cleaner.

*snicker* Sorry.

You can think of it as a magnet instead (it’s a better image), but either way, there has to be something in the story that not only grabs the reader’s mental and emotional attention in but also holds it.

Something like

  • a hook (by definition, the first way you get the reader’s attention)
  • characters readers can relate to (Do you keep reading if you can’t relate to the characters? I’ll be honest, if I think all the characters are self-centered idiots, I’m not reading the book.)
  • an interesting setting (Oooh. This is new and different. I wanna draw it and write fan fiction in it!)
  • an unpredictable plotline (Where is this going? I mean, I’m guessing the good guys are going to win, but how?)
  • believable actions (OMG! That is so Character Name! That is exactly what she would do!)

Or any combination thereof. Right? If you have a good hook, relatable characters, and believable actions, can you get by without an unusual setting or an extra-unpredictable plotline? Absolutely.

Oh, sure, it depends on the genre and the reader, but you can totally draw readers in with great characters and a predictable plot. It’s not going to draw as wide a variety of readers as great characters and an unpredictable plot, but it’s definitely doable.

So… wait. Doesn’t that mean that good writing will always draw in readers?

Umm, yeah. I guess it does. If you have a good hook, an intriguing plot, relatable characters, believable actions, and an interesting setting, do you really think that readers interested in that genre are going to set it down? Have you ever set down a book that had all of that? I haven’t, especially not in a genre I like to read. So if you focus on writing a good book, readers are definitely going to get sucked in!

There are just 2 major problems: 1. writing that good of a book (time, practice, effort, etc.) and 2. getting your book into the hands of the right readers.

But that’s a problem for another day. For today, commit to writing your story as best as you can and becoming the ultimate puppetmaster! Er… author. *cough*

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Meet Jeanette Watts in Our Third Author Q&A

Welcome to Em T. Wytte’s Third Author Q&A, featuring the fabulous Jeanette Watts! I say fabulous because anyone who can manage to work, sew, run 5 dance groups, and write multiple books is pretty amazing.

But as Levar Burton would say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

An Interview with Author Jeanette Watts

Meet Jeanette Watts in Our Third Author Q&A


 1. What was your first finished book?

Wealth and Privilege

2. How many books did you start or work on before finishing that book?

I wrote countless fan fiction books when I was a kid – I don’t think there WAS such a thing as fan fiction in those days! But my friends and I loved Star Wars, and I had my own characters, and told stories to my friends in installments.

3. If it wasn’t the first book you worked on, what made this book different? What made you finish this one?

Love. I love these characters! Thomas is a decent man surrounded by flawed and selfish people. He’s flawed, but lovable. And he loves Regina the way I think every woman wants to be loved: wholeheartedly.

4. What was the biggest challenge you encountered when finishing your first book?

Finding an agent! I spent five years looking for an agent, before my friends finally convinced me to publish straight to Kindle. I should have listened to them a year earlier than I did. Agents are crazy. They ask you to rewrite your book to their specifications, and then they don’t like your book anymore…

5. If you’ve written books since then, was writing them easier/harder? How was the experience different?

I’d heard that “the first book is the hardest.” It’s true. Somehow, once you’ve completely written one, something changes in your brain, and you know HOW to complete other books. My first book took 10 years to write. When my readers insisted I write a sequel, it took maybe two years.

6. Have you published your book? If yes, what medium(s) did you publish it in and why?

I started on Kindle, and then I had people clamoring for a hard copy. I published through CreateSpace, and Smashwords, and now I have people asking when the audiobook is coming out. Demand is a good thing.

7. Who did your cover art? What was that experience like?

The words “cover art” always make me laugh. When I published on Kindle, I had followed the instructions, proudly hit the button, and it said “congratulations, your book is on Kindle! Now upload your cover art.” I stared blankly at the screen and said, “Oh. Yeah, I guess I should have seen that coming…” I am a Vintage dancer, all I had to do was sort through 3 years of vacation photos and I had several options I could use. My husband is a marvelous graphic artist, he chose a photo, tinkered with it, and I’ve had people tell me I obviously spent a fortune on my cover art.

The story doesn’t end there… once I published hard copies, I uploaded my novel, proudly uploaded my cover art saying “Ha! I’ve got this.” Then I was asked to upload the BACK cover art. I slapped myself on the forehead and said, “Wow. I REALLY should have seen that one coming.” I told my husband I need a back cover, without missing a beat he told me I needed a photo of a woman’s gloved hand on the chest of a man in a tailcoat. Which is exactly what’s on the back cover of my book…

8. How are you marketing your book(s)?

In the most haphazard manner possible. I love getting to book fairs as much as possible, and I should really do more of them! I’ve done virtual book tours, book signings at independent bookstores, done podcast interviews, and bought various packages through AmericaStar.

9. What is your next step?

Finishing my next book, so that I can get on with writing the one after that! Just one more round of proofreading, and Jane Austen Lied to Me is ready to be released. I took a mental vacation from historic fiction and wrote a contemporary satire. I thought that would be “easier,” not having to do all the historical research. I was wrong.

10. What is your favorite part of writing?

Writing just feels good. Getting the words out of my head, and onto paper (well, computer screen…). Having the characters blossom under your fingertips. You start with an idea, and it grows into something more powerful than you. Your characters take on a life of their own, and even when you have a preconceived notion of where things are going to go, when you’ve done it right, the characters stop doing what they’re told – they tell YOU what is going to happen, what they are going to do.

11. What is your biggest struggle with writing?

Keeping all the distractions away! I am also a dance instructor, and I have started five dance groups at the same time I’ve been writing, publishing, and promoting books. The writing will get set aside for a cancan dancer who needs a new costume. Or a dancer who needs some emotional support because of family drama, and instead of an evening of writing, I’m out being a girlfriend and there’s alcohol or chocolate involved. Then I step on the scale, groan, and I have to spend more time in the gym or out on a bicycle, working off the extra calories from the night out.

12. What do you consider your weakest writing skill and what have you done to strengthen it or make up for it?

Well, I have a weakness for ambiguous endings… I got in trouble with that with my readers. So Brains and Beauty has a more traditional, wrap-up-all-the-loose-threads-they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. I don’t like it as well, but it made people happy, and they forgave me for the first one. Except of course the people who thought the first one was perfect the way it was, and now they’re disappointed in me! So I think the moral of the story is, “Never forget that you can’t make everyone happy.”

13. Do you now or have you ever done writing prompts? Did they help?

Nope, and nope. I’m having trouble keeping up with my brain, which has all these stories in there, and I don’t write fast enough to suit it. I don’t need a prompt to give me something to write about. I would just like to be able to catch up to everything I want to write!

14. Have you take any writing classes? Which ones? What was your biggest take-away?

I am an English major, so I had quite a few writing classes. Two professors left an indelible impression on me, and my writing. One used to hand out writing assignments, and then he’d say, “Just be brilliant!” And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t. He told me “if you treat people like idiots, they will perform like idiots. If you treat them like geniuses, they will perform like geniuses.” I have lived by his philosophy ever since. The second professor taught me how to ignore that evil censor monkey that sits in our brains, forcing us to rewrite every sentence as soon as we’ve written it. His technique was to spit out the words, all of them, and then go back later and edit. It’s always easier to edit words that are already on the page than it is to find the right words in the first place.

15. What is your writing background?

As I mentioned, one of my bachelor’s degrees is in English. I double-majored with Cinema-Television; I thought I wanted to write soap operas for a living when I grew up. Never got to the soap operas, but I’ve worked in marketing departments and for marketing firms, I’ve written television commercials, screenplays, one-act stage plays for a festival with a wild west theme, a textbook on waltzing, and skits for a local history museum.

16. Have you ever written in a writing circle? What did you think?

I tried that once. You were supposed to pay $20 a visit, and bring ONE page in for everyone to critique. Besides being expensive when we’re talking about a 400 page book, people were “critiquing” minutiae, because you can’t get much character development in one page.

Since then, I’ve developed a large stable of proofreader/editors. I give out rough drafts of the entire manuscript when I think it’s “done” enough, and then I get 10-12 insightful read-throughs who give me wonderful feedback!

17. When and where do you write?

I love to write in pretty places. I have gotten so much done in hotel lobbies while my husband was at a conference. Friends of mine have a cabin in Canada that is the BEST place to hide and write, with Lake Erie in front of me. One time I took a few days before a dance weekend and hid out in a cabin in the Allegheny National Forest. Creek burbling away to my right, a giant hill covered in trees to my left. Found a really, really good winery on that trip when I stopped to take a break for a while…

18. Who are your favorite authors?

Margaret Mitchell and Louisa May Alcott

19. What is the #1 advice you would give to people who want to be writers?

Just do it. Stop making excuses. You are going to have to make it a priority – but think about it. What’s more important, getting the laundry done, or getting some writing done?


What do you think? Did you learn something?

Personally, I’ve gotta say that I am loving the author Q&A series so far – seeing the overlap in our feelings toward writing, learning about our differences and their causes, and, best of all, getting to know so many creative people better!

The authors’ candor and humor are what make these interviews both fascinating and useful. So a big thanks to Jeanette for being this month’s author!

Want to be the August author? Fill out the author Q&A form!

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Breaking Hyperbole as Writing Inspiration

breaking hyperbole as writing inspirationBreaking hyperbole as writing inspiration is one of the mainstays of creative writing. Especially genres like fantasy and science fiction. And since this tactic is so common, I’m guessing it’s not going to be a totally unfamiliar idea for most writers. That’s why this article isn’t meant to be a treasure trove of new ideas.

Although that would be cool. 

My goal instead is to make you more conscious of how you’ve used hyperbole as a worldbuilding or inspiration technique. Analyzing the techniques we use helps us be more deliberate in our methods – it lets us consciously choose to use them (or not) based on our goals and what we want to achieve.

How to Break Hyperbole for Writing Inspiration

All You Need Is Hyperbole and a Literal Mind 

Like most figurative language, hyperbole (when used correctly) works because the reader knows not to take it literally. It’s great for making people aware of details (without blatantly pointing them out), adding humor, and writing dialogue for characterization. 

Here’s an example:

Milly: Oh, I used to dance and flirt the night away. But that was a thousand years ago!

When the character says this, we don’t assume that she’s over a thousand years old. Instead, we understand that the situation happened a long time ago and that the character either likes using sayings or exaggerations (or doesn’t want to say specifically how long ago it was).

In short, a hyperbole gives us an impression of the truth without being the actual truth.

But what if the character were speaking literally? What if it actually has been a thousand years since she danced and flirted the night away? It’s possible in fantasy stories, right? Possibly even science fiction.

Well, in that case, there is no exaggeration, which means there is no hyperbole. It’s not even figurative language at that point. Instead, the statement is the literal truth.

So when you take hyperbole literally, it’s not hyperbole anymore.

That’s why I called this activity breaking hyperbole. If hyperbole were the goal, you wouldn’t want to do this. For this exercise, however, hyperbole is a means to an end – not what you were aiming for.

Exaggerate Reality to Create Fantasy

Many of my writing prompts involve using elements of real life in the story (people watching, the library inspired writing prompt, Food as a Writing Prompt, etc.). And, oddly enough, when writing for them, you may have also used this one (What?)

As I said before, breaking hyperbole is a common part of the creative process. In other words, it’s a way of transforming reality into something new for your world or your story. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick something from real life.
  2. Write a hyperbole about it.
  3. Take the hyperbole literally.
  4. Expand that literal interpretation to create something new.

Lizards could inspire dragons, speed trains could inspire instantaneous travel by train, and a lush garden could inspire a flower world. Or 50 other things. Whatever style or genre you write in can find inspiration by exaggerating reality to form new truths – even romance exaggerates reality for the sake of the story (and we all know to never let the truth get in the way of a good story).

It’s pretty obvious that most writers do this in one way or another. Now that I’ve made you think about it (theoretically), though, you can choose to use it deliberately on days when you’re at a loss for ideas. If nothing else, may it get your creative engine started and lead you in new directions.

Happy writing! Have fun breaking hyperbole – or storming the castle, whatever!