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2013 in Review: Top 5 Posts of the Year

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Fireworks - New Year - Top Blog Posts of 2013 - Novel Conclusions Literary Blog - Writing Blog

Spider Firework, Omiya, Japan via Wikimedia Commons

January is a fantastic time for reflection on the previous year.  As 2014 swirls around us in anticipation of all the lovely projects we’re creating and building, this is a great time to assess where we are.  2013 proved to be a fantastic year of growth for the Novel Conclusions blog, thanks to all of you who are visiting and reading and commenting and generally being supportive.  I love creating conversation and fostering good writing and writing-related ideas.

In honor of the conclusion of 2013, I’d like to share the 5 most popular Novel Conclusions posts of 2013, courtesy of the WordPress stats genie.  Although my semi-controversial take on TFA is an outlier, it seems that my meaty writing discussion posts have been attracting the most attention over my flightier infographic posts (though those are fun and will definitely continue to appear here now and then).  In descending order:

#5:  What Do Your Fears Say About You?
How can you use your characters’ fears to reveal more about them?

#4:  5 Things Olivia Blanchard Got Wrong: In Defense of Teach for America
In response to Olivia Blanchard’s piece in The Atlantic – a bit about my Teach for America experience, including quitting the program, and why I still think TFA makes a  difference

#3:  What’s So Great About Unreliable Narrators?
How having fantastically biased characters gives your novel some bite

#2:  What Makes Love Triangles So Compelling?
Why are so many of us fascinated by love triangles?

#1:  Inciting Incidents and Why They Rock Your Plot
How inciting incidents can be a magnificent tool for you to shape your plot and give your story staying power

It’s so much fun to find so many other writing and reading-related blogs and to part in and foster conversation about the book world.  I keep finding more new and creative sides to the book and writing world that I didn’t know before.

What was your most popular post on your blog this past year?  What do you find attracts readers to your blog?

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5 Everyday Ways to Spark Your Creativity

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Crayon Logs by Chris Metcalf via Wikimedia Commons

Crayon Logs by Chris Metcalf via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes the muse is hanging out on our shoulder, and the words just pour onto the page.  And sometimes, the muse has taken a lunch break … or maybe a long vacation.  How do you spark creativity in those situations?

First of all, let’s define creativity.  Dictionary.com says creativity is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”  Creativity is not just limited to the arts.  It also has to do with invention and the sciences and the way you live your life every day.  Being more creative in your artistic life can help you innovate in other areas of life as well by expanding the way you think.  So how can we expand or shift the way we think?

(Disclaimer: try not to use these things to put off actually writing)

  1. Change your routine.  It doesn’t have to be something major; it could be as small as going to a different grocery store, taking a new route to work or school, or making a new recipe for dinner.
  2. Read.  If you’re writing, you probably read more than the average person already, but reading new stories almost always gives you a different perspective, at least briefly.  Read in your genre to see what others are writing about.  Read outside your comfort zone in genres you’d never write in – they will have a different feel than the genres you’re comfortable with.  Read nonfiction; I’ve found some of my best inspiration has come from nonfiction that helps me to look at the world in a different way, especially books about how the world works, like Outliers, Freakonomics, and most recently, The New Geography of Jobs (one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in years).  Books on writing are always a great source, too, like Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Save the Cat, and On Writing.
  3. Do something new.  Novelty helps your brain create new neural pathways.  Go on a little adventure – take a class, go to a new restaurant, go on a trip, learn something new.
  4. Journal.  Observe what’s going on around you.  Observing things in detail and/or organizing them into an order of events makes you look at them more closely than you normally would.  Free write in your journal; this is also called stream of consciousness writing.  It acts like a warm up for your brain.  You can set a timer, maybe 5 minutes, and don’t let your pen off the paper (or your fingers off the keyboard) until the timer goes up.  This might result in a little babble, but there may be some gems in there, too.
  5. Change your associations.  Associate with people who have similar goals, who work in the same field; these type of associations foster innovation and creativity (there’s a whole section on this in The New Geography of Jobs that I mentioned above – such a great read!).  This might mean joining a writing group, going to book signings and book festivals, and going to literary events and conferences.  This might mean blogging and visiting blogs of people with similar interests and goals.  You could also read books written by writers, agents, and others in the publishing business (this includes listening to audiobooks in the car – such a great use of traffic time).

How do you spark creativity?  What have I left off this list?

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