Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Writing Essays Pt 2

In the first part of this series on writing the school essay, we discussed how to get started. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

In Part 2, we're going to look at how to gather ideas.Once you are clear on what is being asked of you, the next step is to put ideas and information together, so you can start answering the question. Generally, you will be asked a question about something you should have at least a little familiarity with. This is helpful because it means that you can get started by putting some ideas together before doing any outside research (if needed).

The good news is that there really isn't a wrong way to gather ideas. The best thing to do is to try different methods and see what works for you. A few common techniques include:

Free Writing - Simply take out a piece of paper or open your word processor and start writing. Set a timer and put down anything that comes to mind. The only rules here are that you cannot cross out anything and you cannot stop until time is up. Many people will set their timer for 10-15 minutes, but you can go for longer. This method will help you dig out ideas that may not occur to you otherwise.
Looking to take your writing to the next level? Become a patron and get access to tutorials, workshops, and Q/A sessions to help you achieve your writing goals. Academic content is posted each week on Patreon. Subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here and get a free worksheet: "5 Questions to Get You Started on Your Writing Path."
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Monday, April 29, 2019

Writing Essays Pt 1


Getting a writing assignment is pretty much never a cause for celebration for any student. Even if you're an English major, it's generally more fun to sit around, read book, and talk about them.

While we cannot get rid of essays completely, by keeping a few key steps in mind, you can get that essay written with less stress and better results.

Many times, one of the hardest parts is just getting started. I'll often find writers with the assignment in front of them, not knowing where to begin.

Step One: Start Early - A lot of times, I'll get people telling me that they do their best work at the last minute. The truth is, they only get their work done at the last minute. If their laptop dies, or there's some other issue, they would not be able to work around it. Even if you don't work on it daily at the start, making sure you understand the assignment, getting research started, and planning out your tasks will make for a lot less stress.

Want to know more? Join me on my Patreon page.
Looking to take your writing to the next level? Become a patron and get access to tutorials, workshops, and Q/A sessions to help you achieve your writing goals. Academic content is posted each week on Patreon. Subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here and get a free worksheet: "5 Questions to Get You Started on Your Writing Path."
N. M. Scuri

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Thing That Works Is The Thing That Works

I thought I'd kick things off with a little time management. It's hard to write if you don't make the time to do so.

We tend to spend a lot of time and money on the hopes that we will save a lot of time and money. 
Don't take my word for it. Just log on to Amazon, or head to the local bookshop, or even the office supply and look at the planners and guide books on how to squeeze more time, profitable time, of course, out of our day.  Everyone has the "ultimate plan."

There's a problem with this, though.

We are individuals in a world that is not one size fits all. I've read up on lots of different ways to organize my time and make the most of my day. "Plan every minute," says one. "Get up at 4am," says another. Curious, I'd look at the examples of organization that would come with the materials. They were usually CEO entrepreneur types. I'm guessing that the people in these examples had nannies and/or housekeepers, because they never took a minute to empty a dishwasher or cook an egg. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but their lives looked nothing like mine. 

So what do I do? 

I sifted through what I saw, and put something together that works with me, my life right now, my schedule, and my goals.

Now, what works for me may not be great for you, but I did come up with guiding principles:


  • Look at what you do right now: Keep track of how you spend time right now. How much time do you spend commuting? On your phone? Watching Netflix or playing video games? What can you cut back on (not out), so you can make time to write?
  • Find out when are you most awake: Are you a morning person? Are you better in the afternoon? Getting up at 4am won't help if your best time to write is 3 in the afternoon.
  • Decide what can't move: Are your work hours set? Do you have to get home by a certain time to get kids off the bus? Figure out how to work around the non-negotiable parts of your day.
  • Make small adjustments: We tend to fail in our attempts to make changes because we decide to make huge shifts in our day and our behavior. We want to go to the gym every day, but to get there, we'd have to get up an hour earlier, so we'd have to go to bed an hour earlier, and so on. There is power in starting small and stacking those small daily efforts.  


I'm going to discuss this further, but what do you think?

What has worked for you? What could be better? Have any questions? Let me know. I have more on my Patreon page. If you decide to join at any of the tier levels in the month of January, I'll be thanking you with a free ebook! 
Looking to take your writing to the next level? Become a patron and get access to tutorials, workshops, and Q/A sessions to help you achieve your writing goals. Academic content is posted each week on Patreon. Subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here and get a free worksheet: "5 Questions to Get You Started on Your Writing Path."
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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Goal Setting for the Rest of us

All in all, it's not a bad goal. A good grade shows that the student accomplished the tasks that were set, and should be ready for whatever comes next. Good grades have a practical application, too. They are used to qualify for things like competitive programs, financial aid, and if the student is from another country, bad grades can be lead to being sent home.

Unfortunately, as a goal, shooting for an A is not very helpful, and can make your semester harder than it needs to be.

How so?  Well, in many courses, especially writing-heavy courses like history, literature, or social sciences, grading is very subjective. One professor could give you a B for the same work that would earn a C or less with someone else. There are a lot of reasons for this. You may consider some more fair than others. We'll be getting more into this another time, but for right now, we'll just say that not everything is under your control when it comes to grades.

So should you just give up?

Absolutely not! There are lots of things you can do to perform well in school. The key is to focus on what you can do.

We'll get into these in detail later, but here are some examples:


  • Start your assignments early. It's easy to look at an assignment that isn't due for a month or more and put it off, only to find out that it will take longer than you thought. Start early, ask questions, get help if you need it, get a better grade. 
  • Do a little bit each day. It'll be less stressful, and while it may not look like much at the time, you'll be amazed at your progress. 
  • Ask questions. You may feel weird, but if you're not sure about something, it's always better to ask. If you don't want to put your hand up in class, talk to your instructor after class, or send an email.

 We'll be getting into this topic more later this month here and on Patreon.




Looking to take your writing to the next level? Become a patron and get access to tutorials, workshops, and Q/A sessions to help you achieve your writing goals. Academic content is posted each week on Patreon. Subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here and get a free worksheet: "5 Questions to Get You Started on Your Writing Path."
N. M. Scuri

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

How Is Fear Showing Up When You Write?

Photo credit:JEShoots/Pixabay 
Fear can keep almost anyone from reaching his or her writing goals, even if the writer has "made it," and should be past these problems.

Unfortunately, fear is an equal opportunity offender. What is not universal is how it shows up.


  1.  You Never Get Started. Everyone's heard this before: "When the kids get older, I'll start that book..." Another one is "When I retire, I'll get that MFA degree..." There's always something that needs to be done first. While we still have to take care of children and attend to jobs that keep a roof overhead, there comes a point where we have to decide that we do have the tools to get started. We will always have more to learn, but it's ok if it's on-the-job training. Putting off writing, or any pursuit, comes from a place of not being good enough. The truth is, there will always be more classes to take, or books to read. We just have to decide to start, knowing that we won't be experts, but we won't stay beginners if we start.
  2. You Start, But Then You Stop. I get it. Life happens. There's illness, family demands, major events in our lives and any of them can disrupt our daily routines, including our writing. Sometimes, the issue comes from the work itself. Sometimes the story demands research we didn't plan on. Sometimes our notes and pre-plotting don't work as we'd hope. Sometimes, everything comes to a screeching halt. You decide to take a break, and that afternoon turns into a week. A month. Years. Sometimes, we call this "Writer's Block," and while there are many theories as to why this can happen, a common root is a lack of confidence in ourselves as storytellers: "Can I do this? Am I good enough?"
  3. You Start, And You Never Finish. On the surface, everything looks great: thousands of words are written every day, the pages piling up. The problem only arises when it comes time for anyone else to see the work. "Oh, it's not ready," you'll hear. It needs revision, some more research "to clean up a few details," but it's never ready. Oftentimes, this delaying tactic comes from a fear of rejection. If we keep working, we can't be told we're not good writers. If it never goes out, we can't be failures.

The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.― BrenĂ© Brown

The important thing to remember is that each of these ways comes wrapped up in the conventional wisdom of writing: Make sure you're prepared, Take breaks as needed, Make sure to revise and review. I'm not recommending that you jump in, throw whatever onto the page and get it out there regardless, but if you're not happy with writing practice, these could be some places to look for what is holding you back.

We'll be talking more about things like writer's block, as well as things you can do to move past fear. In the meantime, what's holding you back?
Looking for daily writing prompts? Want the latest news on +TwoSentence Horrors+N. M. Scuri, and +byron rempel? Sign up for your weekly newsletter here or subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here.
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Monday, December 24, 2018

Is Fear Keeping you From Your Writing Goals?

Photo Credit: JEShoots/Pixabay

People will come up to me with questions on writing and publishing. When I ask them about their projects, they'll give me a wistful look and say that "someday" they'll get that book started, or finished, or sent out for publication.

There are a lot of reasons why: Day jobs, family, other responsibilities can all take what little personal time we have, leaving nothing for our own pursuits, including writing. I would argue, however, that if we were honest, the real issue that feeds most of our excuses is fear. The truth is that we have to fight for our time in a world that would take every second from us. If we won't set boundaries that allow us to have quiet time to create, why should anyone else?

This goes for established writers as well as for those just starting out. Consider J. K. Rowling's famous quote:

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it.”—J. K. Rowling

The quick reaction is to say "Well it's easy for her. She wrote Harry Potter."  The important thing to remember is that once upon a time, she was an unknown who was just starting out, too. She had to wrestle with feelings of fear to stand up and follow through.

It doesn't get always get better after the first few publications, either. Fear can be the nagging voice that tells us that we've fooled people into thinking we could write, that we aren't "real artists."

“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.”—Neil Gaiman

This can continue even after critical acclaim and several publications:

“I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”—Maya Angelou

So if that deep-down nagging feeling is keeping you away from telling your story, not only are you not alone, you're in with some excellent company. I'll be discussing the sources of our blockages and what we can do about them, but in the meantime, what are your fears? What are they keeping you from?

Want the latest news on +TwoSentence Horrors+N. M. Scuri, and +byron rempel? Sign up for your weekly newsletter here or subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Trust the Writing Process

I was working with a client recently. We were reviewing a short story she was writing, and she kept asking me if I liked it and what I thought the characters should do next.

I explained to her that she was only just beginning her rough draft, and that she had to learn about her characters first. She was still in the discovery phase of her story.

She understands the concept of multiple drafts. It's just that she is trying some new things and isn't as confident as she'd like to be.

This is a common thing. There's a lot of writing advice out there. A good bit of it is based on solid principles, but writing is not a one-size-fits-all game, and what works this time may not be a good idea the next.

There are lots of techniques to get through the drafting process: Plotting, pantsing, time versus word count, and many others. Ultimately, a lot of the issues we face when writing come down to fear.

I've written about this a lot.

In the case of my client, I advised her to just get the first draft done. Write it with the idea that she doesn't have all the answers, and that the characters she started with may not be the ones that she ends up with. At this point, the story may not be very good, either.

And that's OK.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. 
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The important thing is to set aside the fear. Tell the internal critic to stuff it. Get writing.


Looking for daily writing prompts? Want the latest news on +TwoSentence Horrors+N. M. Scuri, and +byron rempel? Sign up for your weekly newsletter here or subscribe to N. M. Scuri's newsletter for all things writing and editing, including upcoming live workshops and editing consultations here and get a free worksheet: "5 Questions to Get You Started on Your Writing Path."
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