Creating your own writing ritual

A daily writing practice is essential to becoming any kind of successful or productive writer. And part of that can be finding a writing ritual that makes you ready to start your writing work. Some people who don’t much know about the writing life seem to think you can just wait around for inspiration. But you have to have ways to seek inspiration out and drag it home by the hair if you want a daily writing practice, not just a once-in-a-great-while habit.

Clearing the area is a part of my writing ritual. I don’t have children or other family members to worry about, but I do have a lot of cats. Some of whom are willing to jump in my lap or on the keyboard just when I really get going. So, I start the writing day by catching the in-the-house cats and putting them on the back porch. I recently streamlined this ritual by serving up some canned cat food on the porch, which made most of the cats who need to be removed from the writing area remove themselves.
Some writers, I understand, don’t need a distraction-free environment to write. In fact, some need the distractions. Which is why some people write in a coffee shop or a public library. If that is you and you have such a place handy, make plans to write there at least some of the time.

Music is essential to some writers, whether from a CD or radio station. I’ve heard that author Stephen King actually bought a local radio station to keep it playing his writing music. Music helps if it is functioning as a kind of white noise cancelling out the distractions. If the music itself is a distraction, best not to make music a part of the ritual.

Models. When I write my poetry I use models. If I am writing a sijo poem, I first copy out a sijo from one of my poetry books. I then use it as an inspiration when I write one of my own. Or else I ignore the model entirely. When prose writing, writing out a whole novel would be a bit intimidating. But I have once copied out bits of a novel I liked before beginning with my own work.

Keywords. I have been writing poetry using keywords since long before I ever knew that some poetry writing teachers recommended it. I glean keywords from a variety of sources, books, encyclopedia articles, prayerbooks, television commercials…. Or dull political speeches.

The important thing about your writing ritual is that it has to be a ritual that works for YOU, not some imaginary ideal writer that is NOT-YOU.
The other thing is to stick with a possible ritual for a while. Doing certain things every time you sit down to write is a way to train your brain to be ready for writing when you do these things. That makes writing a repeatable action you can do every day until your writing is finished.


Cement Shrouds


I used to share a poem on this blog on Sundays, but haven’t done it for ages. Today that will change. Since I’ve been sorting through my old poems in the process of assembling my third poetry book, I’ve been more conscious of my lack of poetry postings. I know poetry seems to offend so many people— I lost a Twitter follower over it. At least, one that I know about who actually told me to quit Tweeting poetry as if I’m going to shape my Twitter life to fit him, ONE follower.

I have been writing quite a bit of minimalist poetry in recent years. Haiku, of course. And Collom lunes. There are two kinds of lunes, both more suitable for school children’s poem writing projects than the haiku, which has a long history and a lot of rules— a haiku is not just counting syllables.

The Collom lune counts words, not syllables, in an 3-5-3 pattern. Learn more about regular lunes and Collom lunes here:

This seems like a lot of introduction for a tiny little poem, doesn’t it? Anyway, here it is. Duck!

Cement Shrouds

the teacher uses
cement shrouds to keep us
lined up proper


Shared on Poets United

How to promote your book in a Facebook group

I have been the admin for a couple of Facebook groups for writers for some time now. I have seen a lot of desperate writers posting book promotions. Most of these book promotions are very, very bad. Most would be bad in any context. But some would be good as a paid ad but are fatal as a posting in a Facebook group.

Today I had a fellow post something that started with the words PRESS RELEASE. He lost most of us at the words PRESS RELEASE. Press releases are to be sent to the press. In a Facebook group, what is wanted are posts.

Here are some rules for an effective Facebook group post promoting your book:

First, interact with the group like a person, not a book promoter. Make friends. Offer encouragement and advice to others. Since your time is limited, choose carefully which groups to interact in. There are some groups out there that are only visited by book authors on days when they have a book promotion to post. Avoid those groups. No one is going there to find new books to read! Find groups where conversations are going on. Ideally, not just groups of writers, but groups of readers.

Write a post for your book that reads like part of a conversation. Avoid phrases like ‘best-seller’, ‘Makes a great Christmas gift.’ When you compose your post, think like a friend talking to friends. You don’t go to a cocktail party and say ‘Ocean Waves’ is one of the great novels of our day. Don’t miss it.’ You might say. ‘I have a new book out. It’s called ‘Ocean Waves’ and it’s about a guy who leaves his wife to become a fish.’

Your post should not sound like back cover copy, either. That’s not personal. It’s not meant to be personal. The fellow who reads your book’s back cover in a store or your book description online isn’t looking for personal. People in Facebook groups, however, are.

Promoting your book in a Facebook group is best done piece by piece. When you get a book cover designed, post it. “This is the book cover for my new book. What do you think?” When you compose a short book description, post it. “This is my book description. What do you think?”

Being in a group means you will get feedback. Don’t ignore all feedback. If dozens of people think your book cover is amateur hour, think on getting a better one. If they say your book description is too generic, write another one.

Respect a group’s policy about book promotions. Many writing groups don’t allow this because they don’t want to choke off writing discussion and networking. Read the posts in such a group for a while and see how other writers in the group mention their books without being guilty of posting a book promo. Especially watch what the group admin does. A mere mention of your book in passing in a really good writing group will get you more sales than posting a PRESS RELEASE in a hundred groups.

When a group does allow book promotions, make sure you are reading and interacting with the other posts before you make one of your own. Even consider buying and reading some other books.

Facebook groups are not there for your book promotion activity. If you are going to use them for that purpose, use them wisely. You DON’T want people resolving never to buy the book of that nasty self-promoting writer. You want them to say: ‘Oh, that nice writer who encouraged me when I was about to give up has a new book out. I must buy it, read it and review it at once!’

My shameful self-promotion of the day:
My Facebook author page:
My Facebook group for Christian fiction readers:

You know that annoying pop up thing demanding you  sign up for my newsletter? Well, it now is more meaningful if not less annoying. I sent out my first newsletter. I’m planning to send out another one in January. So I have to think up some ‘inside information’ for the newsletter that I haven’t already blabbed about on the blog!

How to write like uber-popular author Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour was born in 1908 and died in 1988. The heyday of his writing career was in the 1950s and 1960s. But— a few weeks ago I went into WalMart in the book section to find a Louis L’Amour book still available.

What is the secret of Louis L’Amour’s fiction-writing power? Why is he, a writer known for writing Westerns, not the most popular genre today, still on the WalMart buyer’s mind as someone to keep in stock? It may be in the nature of the very first book Louis L’Amour published.  A book of his poetry called Smoke from this Altar.

You see, here is the difference between writing a novel and writing poetry. In a novel there are thousands of words, and a writer who worries overmuch about whether word 27322 is exactly the most powerful and best word for that position doesn’t finish many novels. Words and sentences in a novel can be bland or dull, so long as the action in the novel keeps coming and you find ways to make readers identify with the characters.

In a poem, every word counts. A novel can have unnecessary words, sentences and even paragraphs so long as they don’t interfere with the flow of the story. A poem must not have a single word that does not serve the poetic purpose. The words in a poem must be powerful and evocative. Even the sounds and rhythms of words must be considered in a poem.

So what happens when a poet, or someone who loves and reads poetry, writes a novel? The language gifts of the poet may find their way into the prose, making it more powerful. Here is an example taken from L’Amour’s ‘The Sackett Brand.’

“The trouble was, when I walked out on that point my mind went a-rambling like wild geese down a western sky.

What I looked upon was a sight of lovely country. Right at my feet was the river, a-churning and a-thrashing at least six hundred feet below me, with here and there a deep blue pool. Across the river, and clean to the horizon to the north and east of me, was the finest stand of pine timber this side of the Smokies.

Knobs of craggy rock thrust up, with occasional ridges showing bare spines to the westward where the timber thinned out and the country finally became desert. In front of me, but miles away, a gigantic wall reared up. That wall was at least a thousand feet higher than where I now stood, though this was high ground.”

Lest you think the above example was too descriptive, rest assured that someone gets shot by the end of the page. It still is an action-packed western. It’s just that L’Amour knew how to use language very well, as a result of his work as a poet. So he could through in a good bit of description that could bring the West to life.

If you are curious about the poems of L’Mour, his book ‘Smoke on the Water’ is available and so you can see for yourself. But until you get so far, here is an example poem that tells a Western story.

I have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

the first of these is tall and thin
with hollow cheeks, and a toothless grin,
a ghastly tare, and scraggly hair,
and an ugly lump for a chin.

the second of these is short and fat
with beady eyes, like a starving rat-
he was soaked in sin to his oily skin,
and verminous, at that

the crouching one is of ape-like plan,
formed like a beast that resembled man:
a freakish thing, with arms a-swing,
and he was the third of that gruesome clan.

the first I stabbed with a Chinese knife,
and left on the white beach sand,
with his ghastly stare, and blood-soaked hair,
and an out-flung, claw-like hand;

the fat one stole a crumbling crust,
that he wolfed in his swinish way-
so i left him there, with eyes a-glare,
and his head cut of half-way.

we fought to kill, the brute and i,
that the one that lived might eat,
so i killed him too, and made a stew,
and dined on human meat.

and so these three come to visit me,
when without the night winds howl-
the one with the leer, the one with a sneer,
and and one with a brutish scowl;

their lips are dumb, but the three dead come
and cough by the hollow great-
the man that i stabbed, the man that i cut,
and the gruesome thing that i ate.

their lips are sealed, with blood congealed,
but they will not let me be,
and so they haunt, grim, ghastly, and gaunt,
till death shall set me free.

i have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

Superversive Press: What’s a Superversive Anyway?

It’s like popcorn. I got one book from Superversive Press, I looked at the ads for other Superversive Press books in the back, and I just had to buy another one….. I’m still jonesing for 2 more Superversive books but can’t probably buy them this month as I’ve had unexpected expenses.
What does ‘superversive’ mean anyway? It’s obviously related to the word ’subversive’ somehow. I looked at the Superversive web page and found several essays on the ’superversive’ movement. But it wasn’t until I asked around for a short definition that L. Jagi Lampwright Wright told me: “Subversive is change by undermining from below. Superversive is change though inspiration from above.”
One of the projects of Superversive Press is Astounding Frontiers, a science fiction periodical. I have issue #1 which was published in July. My author friend Declan Finn has a story in the issue, and I thought it was epic. There were also stories by Patrick S. Baker, Lou Antonelli, Erin Lale, Sarah Salviander, John C. Wright, Ben Wheeler, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach.
I also have the anthology Forbidden Thoughts, which has this on the back cover: “You are not allowed to read this book. Don’t even think about reading this book. In fact, just forget about thinking all together.” So of course I had to read it.
And then there is “For Steam and Country” by Jon del Arroz, which is a steampunk novel about a girl who inherits her dad’s military airship in a time of war…. I haven’t finished it as I keep getting distracted, but I really liked the first third of the book.
It seems that most of my friends in the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance are involved in Superversive Press. I hope the effort succeeds because so far I love Superversive Press’s books. I hope readers will give some of these books a chance.

Superversive Links:
Superversive SF: Science Fiction for a more civilized age
What is Superversive Press?

MAGA 2020 & Beyond

Superversive SF Facebook Page

Would you please do me a big favor? My Facebook author page is Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie & cat person . I’m frustrated because I haven’t had new ‘likes’ in a while and my posts don’t have much ‘reach.’ So if you and a couple other people could ‘like’ my page and ‘like’ three posts on the page— at least I can see if that will help. Thank you so much!

How to Research a Genre #writing #genre

Whether a writer is trying a new genre or continuing in an old genre, genre research is a good idea. Lawrence Block, who wrote ‘Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print’ gives some instruction on how to do this research.

Block gave the example of how he did research for writing mystery short stories for various mystery magazines that in those long-ago days were plentiful. He admits voraciously reading through every magazine of that type he could get.

Since Block encouraged young writers to start with a novel since the short story markets had almost vanished, he suggested reading 8-12 books in the genre. But when he got more specific he suggested starting with six books by six different writers, some established writers in the field and some newer ones.

I would suggest a little more organized approach. Step One: Google the name of the genre. You want to find out: are there alternate names for the genre? Who are the big name writers in the genre right now? Who were the classic writers that were active earlier in the genre history? Can you find any current list of the best-selling books in the genre?

Don’t skip this step if you have been writing in the genre, have been reading the genre since age 8. You need to expand your knowledge and can’t do that sticking to the same old websites and same old writers.

After the research, pick some books. Pick 2-3 books from the current best-seller list, 2-3 books from current authors in the genre, and 2-3 from newer, less known authors.

In the book, Block gives as his example gothic novels. This was a sub-genre of romance. When I was a girl, there were whole sections of just gothic novels in shops. Then the genre pretty much died. The top writers of gothics started calling their books ‘romantic suspense’ or some such thing. I thought it was kind of interesting that Block just randomly picked a doomed genre as his example genre. It shows that a writer needs to be flexible in genre matters.

If you chose ‘science fiction’ as your genre, and you are a Christian, should you limit your reading to just Christian science fiction? Not really. Christian fiction in its broader sense— including not just Evangelicals but Catholic, Lutheran, and even Mormon authors— is still a limited group. Most Christians read more secular novels than specifically Christian ones.

Of course in the science fiction genre we are plagued by a lot of ‘award-winning’ authors that have no interesting ideas but are filled with Social Justice Warrior (SJW) conformity, and just the right kind of non-diverse left-wing diversity with a touch of fashionable hatred for ‘religious people’, mainly Christians and Jews.  If you are picking random books by random authors you may get stuck with one of these books. If the author is a newbie in the field, feel free not to finish the book, but if he/she/they/zie are well-established and actually make the genre best-seller lists, you may feel the need to force your way through it for educational purposes. I’d suggest rationing the poison, and reading a bit of something you actually LIKE after to get the stupidness purged from your mind.

Block suggests in the book that you don’t just read the books, but you write outlines of them This helps you see the structure of the book.

How do you write outlines for a book you are reading? Keep a notepad nearby. When you finish a chapter, write the main things that happen in the chapter. Page back so that you get all the character names right. Make sure that your chapter notes run to several sentences so that you get the main points covered.

When you finish the book, go through your chapter notes. If you have written a longish paragraph for each chapter, try to condense it down to two sentences covering the most important things. The desire is to end up with a tighter outline.

Now, read your draft 2 outline. Can you detect the three acts of the three act structure? Or the doorway of no return and the mirror moment that James Scott Bell speaks of in his how-to-write books?

After you have read through several books in this way, answer some questions. What do the books have in common? What is the minimum that readers of the genre expect, to show that the book IS in the genre? What are some plot elements that are so common in the genre that they might be stereotypes?

If you are trying a genre for the first time, genre research is essential so that you are able to actually know the genre requirements and expectations, and meet them. A more practiced writer in a genre may do research in order to renew their enthusiasm, and to detect changes in the genre. This is important if you tend to read the same authors over and over for years, and are reluctant to try new authors.