Strategies and Backup Plans

The title of this website is Study Guides and strategies.  It has so many resources to different writing processes for every level of writer.  The headings have multiple different links that are topic specific.

Essay and Writing Sequences:  This heading has all different types of planning and editing links to reference as you’re writing.

Types of Writing: There are all kinds of different styles and formats listed under this heading.

The links provided by this website have all been thoroughly checked and approved.  The guides are constantly under revision to be as up to date as possible.  There are links to citing websites and so much more.



Writing Rock

Sammy Hagar, former singer of Van Halen and a solo artist, did an interview with about his writing style.  It is a quick interview, but his form of writing is another form of writing for publication that is often ignored.  No matter when he is writing, his songs are always coming from his life. He talks about how his music writing evolved as he came to accept himself more.  Prior to working with Van Halen, he had a hit song called “I Can’t Drive 55”.  This song is very straight forward — it is about how Sammy Hagar thought the national speed limit of 55 was stupid and he wouldn’t follow it.  In the interview, he references this song to talk about his lifestyle when he would constantly be flying in his Ferrari living the rock star life.

Hagar then proceeds to tell us about his realisation — that he hated putting on all of the make-up, tight clothes, and putting on a performance.  He wanted to just be himself and perform in what he felt comfortable in.  After leaving Van Halen, Sammy Hagar kind of fell off of the face of the mainstream rock and roll planet.   This is better for him though, he says he loves it.  Now his writing process revolves around who he truly is, a “beach bum” that writes on the shores of Mexico, Hawaii, and many other places.

I think this interview is so important for publication because it shows that when you are working and trying to become famous, you often lose yourself trying to put on a face for someone else.  Maybe the publisher wants you to change a line or theme in your book, often times the writer has to follow the publisher because they’re paying the bills until the book sells.  Point being you have to follow that persona that has been established even if it is not an accurate depiction of how you feel.

Negative Nelly

During my research, I came across some of the main issues writers struggle with while trying to complete a novel, as well as pursuing a successful career. One of these struggles is dealing with negativity, a concept so highly in practice among veterans and new writers alike, that techniques to avoid it have been implemented in regular routines. Every writer manages negative thinking differently, but by following some of these tips, writers can help make the writing process go much more smoothly.

Banish bad thoughts:

In her article, “Negative Nelly,” Jennifer Lawler discusses ways to help “banish” Nelly: “A friend of mine makes Nelly go sit on the porch when she’s working. Another sends hers to Tahiti. Both have little rituals they use to banish Nelly before they start writing” (31). Sometimes simply clearing one’s mind can help free it of negative thoughts. Giving these thoughts human qualities (treating negativity as a person rather than just thoughts) gives writer’s a tangible outlet for escape.

Fear of failure:

For many writers, negativity stems from a fear of failing and uncertainty. Lawler suggests two very important aspects for negating these fears. The first is to uncover the source of one’s fears in order to extinguish it. “Once you know what that big ball of fear is about, you can do something to address it” (Lawler 31). The second part is to focus on why one is writing to begin with. So what if the book never gets published? It’s important to learn from each experience and hone in on the skills utilized during the process. “In the end, we have to remember that the process is what matters, and we need to focus on that” (Lawler 32). Writing more and focusing on areas of weaknesses can improve one’s overall production.

Remembering the good:

Lawler also touches on how to banish negativity by combating it with constructive and positive thoughts. Instead of thinking “this sounds horrible” or “no one would ever read this”, focusing on one’s accomplishments maintains motivation and progress. For Lawler, those forms of encouragement can be contests the author has won, appreciative reviews people have given about their books, or compliments from editors or other writers. “When I first started, the accomplishment list was more about finishing chapters and sending out queries. It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you’re at, you’re accomplishing something you can keep in the list” (Lawler 31-2).

Discipline and guilt

When asked about her writing process, Nora Roberts claims over and over again that it always comes down to the story. In order to write well, to be published, the author first needs to sit down and write out the story. “Nora Roberts once said that she can fix a bad page, but she can’t fix a blank one,” says fellow romance writer, Julia Quinn, when asked how to get published. Though authors vary in the particulars of their rituals to clear their minds and move forward, the answer is often simple. The important thing is to remember why you are writing the story to begin with: to tell a story.

Roberts writes: “I think I do have some advantages, not in story telling, but that I was educated by the nuns. That means I was [raised] with discipline and guilt- they’re very wonderful writer’s tools” (Struckel Brogan). This discipline is what keeps Roberts motivated to write, often up to eight hours a day. Many authors have discussed the perils of pursuing publication for anything other than the love of writing. If you’re in it for the fame, the money, for anything but the story, the story is what will suffer most. By cutting out concerns on how to market the book, about whether readers will enjoy it or not, and all the other things many first-time writers struggle with, allows writers to clear their minds and focus on the story itself. “My only job is to tell the story,” Roberts says. “I think that if writers focused on that, they’d be better off and probably more successful” (Struckel Brogan).

Stephen King “On Writing”

I recently read Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing” in one of my Creative Writing courses. I love to write, but I think anyone who has really tried to write can understand that it is often a painful, self-destructive process. A 1,000 word assignment often leaves me stranded in front of my computer for hours, deleting entire passages and starting from scratch, until the final piece is as good as I can make it.

King’s memoir includes some ordinary advice (shut the door, get it all down on paper, etc.), but more often, his words were somewhat of a revelation. The advice that really stretched my brain was to realize that I am not in control. King, as well as several other writers, credit the subconscious for dreaming up all those brilliant ideas. We are not the writers, we are simply the vessels for the thoughts of the subconscious.

Confused yet? This is something I am struggling to understand for myself. I like to be in control, and the thought of relinquishing control to someone who is me…but isn’t at the same time…is so far out of my normal line of thought. Still, the idea is growing on me. We have to get out of our rational minds to really let the creativity start flowing, and that is something I am going to try in my future writing.

For the “Cliff’s Notes” on King’s memoir, and to see a list of his top writing tips, check out this article, posted on Open Culture. Many of the sub-headings are taken directly from his memoir, and are excellent tips for writers of all ages and experiences.

Writing Lessons From Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

I chose to profile memoirist Cheryl Strayed for our recent report, and along the way I found this list of “19 Life Changing Quotes” from her most recent success, Wild. While these quotes were not intended to be about the writing process, I feel that many of them are perfect motivational material. Writing, when done right, is a difficult process, with plenty of second guessing and self-hatred involved. Nonfiction writing can be even more difficult, as writers are forced to live out their experience once more, and find the significance in their pain. It is a solitary journey that we choose to embark on, much like the one Cheryl took when she hiked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995.

Here are some of my favorites from this list:

1.  I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.

2. There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another.

3. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.

This last quote I feel really captures the experience of writing memoir and other nonfiction forms. Cheryl’s journey on the trail was a detox of its own, and writing her experiences was another of itself:

It seemed to me the way it must feel to people who cut themselves on purpose. Not pretty, but clean. Not good, but void of regret. I was trying to heal. Trying to get the bad out of my system so I could be good again. To cure me of myself.

You can check the rest of the list out here:

Let me know what your favorite quotes are!

The 5-Step Writing Process

A lot of us began our writing careers by learning about the 5-step writing process.  Whenever I am struggling with writer’s block or trying to find what to do next, I always go back to my roots.  While it is a very basic process, I have found it helps my mind focus on the important factors of my writing.  Once I have a new foundation, I can move on in a new direction that generally enhances my writing.

The simplicity of this process gives the writer a foundation to build on when they don’t know where to turn.  The first step, pre-writing, is a great place to generate ideas.  All writers have their own way of doing this whether it be using thinking maps or writing out whatever comes to their mind first.  I find myself going back to this step many times during my entire writing process.  I always find something new that I may have missed or had not thought of before.

In any type of writing or project, you need a stable foundation to be able to venture off into the depths of your imagination.  The best thing about a foundation is it has a beginning that you can go back to if the need arises.





"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

E. B. White, echoing Tchaikovsky and adding to our running archive of famous advice on writing.

This quote was said by famous children’s author, E.B. White. We all develop our own writing processes and rituals, some are basic and some are very intricate and slightly tedious. In an article about E.B. White’s writing process he explains how he adapts to certain “distractions” and what works best for him.  “I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” I absolutely love his advice and find that I need to become better about trying to write more even when it is not somewhere that I feel is not right for my writing environment. I think one the biggest struggles that I have, and maybe other young writers, is deciphering what constitutes as a distraction and what is tolerable for a productive writing session. Idea’s can come as quickly as they can fade and learning to write in many different environments is a huge advantage. As writer who want to write more and well we need to stop thinking of what the ideal writing space or time is and learn to write in less than ideal places in order to become better.


Comfort Makes a Difference

I really enjoy being able to read about how others write their works and the different setting each of us has. One of my favorite TV writers, Mindy Kaling, wrote about her process in her book Is everyone hanging out without me? (And other concerns). Mindy’s process is a follows; she leaves work, she shops around and clears her head, she goes home and immediately puts on comfy clothes, she then breaks out her laptop and crawls into bed and writes all her TV scripts from the comfort of her bed. While many people have to stay away from their bedrooms, some people can’t even be in the house, Mindy does exactly what I love to do, make ourselves comfortable. Most of my work for school and otherwise is all done from my pajamas in my bed on my laptop. It might seem distracting to those who need to sit at a desk or somewhere with less distractions but the minute I can relax and get comfortable is the minute I feel prepared to write and write well. While this method doesn’t work for everyone, it should be given a chance to let yourself relax and get in whatever place makes you comfortable. Once you are you are less inclined to be distracted and you can work until you are done, or hit a block.


Is everyone hanging out without me? (And other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Have a Glass of Sherry

Maya Angelou, a well-established writer and poet, has her own way of performing a writing routine. There are certain things she does that make her feel more confident about what she’s about to produce. For instance, she does something with her hair. It’s a habit, of sorts.
“When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess. When my husband would come into the room, he’d accuse me, and say, ‘You’ve been writing!’ As if it was a bad thing. He could tell because of my hair, so I learned to hide my hair with a turban of some sort.”
She also finds that a change of scenery helps her writing. She, unlike many other writers, does not always stay at home to write.
“I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.”
She keeps small distractions around her, such as crossword puzzles or a deck of cards, to occupy her “little mind,” as she calls it. This little mind was the opposite of the “Big Mind,” which allowed for deep thoughts and helped her write. After she is done using the hotel room, she goes home and edits whatever she’s written that day. She doesn’t stay the whole day, she says, just until around two in the afternoon.
She used to drink sherry while in the midst of writing, thought she stopped doing that a few years ago.
The most notable part of her writing process, however, is her hotel room. It’s unique and has made her infamous for it. She requests that it is bare, another odd aspect of her process.
“I don’t want anything in there. I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. Nothing holds me to anything. No milkmaids, no flowers, nothing. I just want to feel and then when I start to work I’ll remember.”
Angelou’s writing habits have clearly worked for her, as she has become a very popular author, even after her death. They just go to show that you don’t need to follow an orthodox process in order to write a successful piece.