5 Tips to Hone Your Craft

This month we’re sharing our ideas on how to become better writers. In this post, I’m sharing what’s helped me to hone my craft. Let’s get started.

Writing

Practice makes perfect. Just like musicians learn a piece of music by practicing every day, a writer learns by writing. The more you write the more writing becomes second nature. If you’re not writing every day, you’re missing out on opportunities to hone your craft.

Joining a Critique Group

I can’t say enough about this tip. Nothing can teach you more than critiquing another’s work. When I’m reading a manuscript—or a book—I listen to the cadence of words in a sentence. I notice what works and what doesn’t. If you’re not in a critique group, make it a priority to join one today!

Blogging

Whether you post every day or once a week, blogging connects you with an amazing group of people who will teach you even more about the craft. You will learn the art of networking as you follow and meet new people. Blogging also adds accountability to your writing schedule. And who knows, you just might meet that fantastic critique partner!

Conferences/Online Classes/Websites

The last weekend in September, I attended the ACFW At-Home conference. The classes included downloadable lessons, PDFs, and PowerPoint® presentation along with a Facebook Group where the attendees could meet and ask questions. It was fun and informative.

Another way to hone your craft is online classes. I’ve taken several classes on writing and self-care this year and enjoyed each one. I like the convenience and the affordability of online classes. Some were free while others required a small fee.

Finally, websites are a great way to hone your craft. Find one you like—like this blog—and follow. A search for writing on your favorite social media app will list several sites to follow. I’m sure you will find one you like. Here’s a link to get you started.

Books

Need advice on editing your story? How about publishing? You can find a how-to book on most subjects in your local library or your favorite bookstore app. While you’re there, don’t forget the fiction section. The more you read, the more you learn!

And there you have it. 5 tips to hone your craft. So, don’t waste anymore time. Your story is waiting!

Click to Tweet: If you’re not #writing every day, you’re missing out on opportunities to hone your craft. by @GailJohnson87 via @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: Plan to search the web and social media for blogs on writing. Make a list of sites and books that would help you hone your craft. Then put that plan into action.

Writing Prompts and Novels

By Jennifer Hallmark

In May 2012, three ladies, Betty Thomason Owens, Christina Rich, and myself,  joined together to start a blog.

This one.

Over almost seven years, the blog has evolved and changed for the better. But we’ve always kept one aspect the same: writing prompts. I believe for many writers, prompts can lead to a great story.

My debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, began life as a short story written from three prompts:

  • Faded coveralls
  • Dusty baseball cap
  • Wedding dress designer

I wrote the original short story on November 13, 2008 and it contained only 756 words. When I shared it with others, it evoked strong emotion. Friends wanted to know what happened next. So I turned it first into a novella, then a novel. Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions and managing editor at Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, showed interest at a writer’s conference. I sold Firefly the book in October of 2017 and on June 15th, Jessie’s Hope will release.

All from three writing prompts.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Years ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

I love all my characters and the story. I hope you will too. Since I can’t give away a copy of the book during March Madness, I’ll offer a $10 Amazon gift card to one person who leaves a comment. Then, if you’d like, you can purchase some of the books my fellow bloggers are offering this month. 🙂

Click to tweet: Make sure to check out the Inspired Prompt every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in March and win some great books and other prizes. #MarchMadness #giveaway

And on June 15th, take a moment to shop online for my book. I’ll share the links as soon as I receive them.

Thank you from the Inspired Prompt crew for all your encouragement and support!


Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and fantasy, an interesting combination that keep the creative juices flowing. She’s published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations.

When she isn’t babysitting her six grandkids or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on one of her two blogs. Or even watching American Ninja Warrior.

 

Can Blogging and Fun Go Together?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Blogging enjoyable? I see y’all shaking your head right now. No way, no how. I’m part of several online and in-person writing groups and when blogging is mentioned, eyes roll and people shiver.

“I can’t think of enough to write about.”

“I forget when I get busy.”

“I don’t think it makes a difference.”

“No one reads my blog except my mom and Aunt Suzie.”

After several years of mindless and inconsistent journaling, I stopped. I dreaded blogging and what I wrote was rambling at best and confusing at times. It was time to go to God. After all, He created the people who invented blogging so maybe He could help me out.

I quit blogging and told Him about all my shortcomings, failures, and irregularities in my blogging world. Then I listened. It took some time but what finally came to mind was this: my blogging pointed to me. All about me. Me. Me. Me.

Oh.

He whispered in my soul about how others had helped me get my start in the craft, especially writers. I went to two of my critique group friends, Betty Thomason Owens and Christina Rich and laid out my heart. I wanted to give back to writers. How could I do this and would they like to be a part? They graciously agreed. Christina did the tech work, Betty edited, and I thought up ideas. 🙂

We brainstormed and decided on a blog that would spark the imagination through writing prompts. We would blog on various subjects—flowers, animals, sports, the Olympics—A plethora of topics with a writing prompt that might help someone who needed a little help. Our first post introducing our blog, Writing Prompts, Thoughts, & Ideas: Oh My! went live on April 28th, 2012.

Cue the crickets. We had a tiny following. We had contests for writing stories using our prompts and grew a tad. I went back to God. What were we doing wrong?

Nothing in the fundamentals.  But we could help writers even more by promoting them. Their books. Or blogs. And we wouldn’t worry whether theirs was a self-published book they wrote for their family or a best-seller. Our only stipulation: fairly clean reads.

Everyone did reviews and interviews so we came up with 3 Questions Wednesday. 3 simple questions and we’d promote the writer and whatever they wanted to promote. Our first guest was Jordyn Redwood. From there, the blog grew stronger. We had all types of guests from all writing levels and walks of life.

I started really having fun. I enjoyed meeting all the new people. We started adding bloggers and I met more neat writers. Books I never heard of before became part of my library. Writers and even publishers were coming to me, asking to be a guest on our blog.

We added Saturday interviews. We grew and by 2017, five years from the start, we were garnering shares, comments, and attention. Our blog morphed once more by honing in our focus on specific writers: Indie published and new to the writing world.

Now, please understand blogging is still hard work. At times, I wrestle with tech issues and want to throw my desktop in the yard. I grow tired and don’t always want to write my posts. I forget to do things on occasions.

But I’m having fun. I believe we’re making a difference.

My advice? Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take your eyes off yourself and be a blessing to others. Invite others to come along for the ride. You’ll make new friends. You could start to smile when you blog.

You might even have fun.

Click to tweet: Can Blogging and Fun Go Together? One blogger’s thoughts. #blogging #amwriting

3 Questions Wednesday with Stephanie Robertson

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday! My friend, Stephanie Robertson, is our guest today. She left teaching to become a full-time writer. 

Thanks for joining us, Stephanie. Here’s the first question: 

What inspires you?

Stephanie: I am inspired  by pretty things, by creative ideas, and by the work of my favorite artist, God.

He’s my favorite artist too. 🙂

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Stephanie: I would have to be the pink hue of cumulous clouds against the light of a setting sun. Or the deep, dreamy blue of the sky. Or the shades and tints of the Caribbean Sea on a sunny day. As you can see, I think about color a lot!

That’s a beautiful way to look at it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Stephanie: When I was a girl growing up in rural south Alabama, I wanted to be a lawyer like those that I used to watch in the old westerns like “Bonanza.” At the same time, my more romantic self wanted to be a bride. I also enjoyed playing teacher and nurse.

A lawyer. Interesting. Now before you go, tell us a little about your blog… 

Thank you for asking about  www.sweetgumlife.com!

Www.Sweetgumlife.com focuses on the beauty of a simple life with faith, warmth, nostalgia, and humor. Sweetgum Life shares life and southern culture from a wife and mom’s perspective. It highlights regular people who are trying to make even a small difference in their small sphere of influence by showing love and everyday kindness.

Sweetgumlife.com strives for relevant posts for the current day while maintaining old-fashion values. Photos are often vintage, quirky, and artistic, while stories include both fiction and non-fiction.


More about me: I grew up in a poor part of the state in rural Alabama. I loved living on a farm with cows and horses, a beautiful sandy creek, and acres of grassland and forests. However, I was also very lonely and had to depend on my imagination for entertainment. My brother and I enjoyed riding bikes, ponies, playing in the creek, and building forts.

Following in the steps of my parents, I graduated from the University of Alabama. After giving teaching a couple of years in the Huntsville area, I left teaching to become a professional writer. During the career change, I married my best friend who I have been married to for 19 years. We have a fun daughter who is a joy and constant source of entertainment. Check out my blog at http://www.sweetgumlife.com/