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Posts tagged ‘new release’

How to Become a Focused Writer – C. Hope Clark

Today we welcome a guest post from C. Hope Clark. She’s celebrating the release of her eighth mystery, Newberry Sin. Hope is a writer I admire and I’ve learned so much from her over the past few years. I began following her when I first began freelancing and discovered her weekly newsletter, Funds For Writers. Her book, The Shy Writer Reborn, soon joined my other writing books on my bookshelf – and is the one that’s most marked up, dog-eared, and highlighted.

Join us today as she shares her wisdom about becoming a focused writer. Then, hop on over and check out her mysteries. They’re excellent too!

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How to Become a Focused Writer

By C. Hope Clark

The faster this world revolves with the advent of technology, the more choices we have in everything we face. The speed of that information, and the resulting demands on our time due to all these opportunities thrown in front of us, the less we feel in control of our time.

For a writer, all that noise, tugging, and temptation takes a toll on concentration. So how is this writer supposed to pay attention to deadlines, much less the intricacies of storytelling, when hit from all sides with the busy-ness of life?

  1. Create Structure. Think of a child with autism or ADHD. One of the first suggestions to help them cope is to establish structure to their days. These children become flustered with too much stimulation, unable to process it all. Sound familiar? Same logic applies to a writer. Set a time and place to write if it does not come natural to you. When that time comes, and when you enter that space, your mind will ultimately adhere to the routine and kick into writing mode. If you cannot guarantee a place, at least adhere to the time wherever you are. Disorganization = enemy of focus.
  2. Have a Plan. What do you want to write? You cannot get into a car without a strong sense of where you’re going. Short stories? Poems? A novella? Make it practical because saying you want to become a writer then starting with a novel is like asking a new attorney fresh out of law school to represent a serial killer. It’s paralyzing. But if you are sure you want to tackle a book, then have a plan for the stages you’ll write it so that the project isn’t intimidating. Intimidation = enemy of focus.
  3. Have a Fun Backup Plan. You delve into your main plan, and you can’t make the words happen. Have three backup plans. First, write something short and fun. This might be all it takes to unclog things by making you enjoy putting words on paper. Second, write a letter to someone who has deserved it for a long time. Write it longhand, since this form of writing will tap a different part of your brain, giving the obstinate side a rest. . . maybe a chance to shake loose and want to go back to work again. Third, journal about your day. This exercise lets you fall naturally into a subject matter, freeing your writing, Do NOT let a sluggish attempt at writing give you permission to redirect to email, social media, or games. Distraction = enemy of focus.
  4. Keep Showing Up. The worst of days, when you hate the idea of sitting at the computer, are the days you need to show up most. That’s because you are demonstrating to your obstinate, pig-headed (maybe lazy) self that your writing is meaningful and important. Athletes hit the track. Swimmers hit the pool. Show up until the very act itself is as inherent as brushing your teeth. Irregularity = enemy of focus.
  5. Inform Family and Friends. Do not allow interruption. When you are in your place, in your time, you are at work no differently than if you’d commuted downtown, parked your car, and sat behind a desk with a boss looking over your shoulder. Once you give interruptions (and the interrupters) a palms-up stop-sign reaction, they’ll think twice about whether the interruption is necessary. Or they’ll leave a voice mail. Or they’ll come back later. Interruption = enemy of focus. Interruption = enemy of focus.
  6. See the End. How will you imagine the day you type the last word of the last chapter? How will it feel to send off the manuscript? Have a legitimate plan for a celebration or establish a reward system. No goals = the enemy of focus.
  7. Be the Writer First and Foremost. When your mind wanders, and you find the writing difficult, you do not have permission to start searching for editors, publishers, agents, or indie presses. This is a VERY COMMON tangent writers take when they cannot focus. They justify switching gears to the publishing side of the house with the argument that they need to understand how to publish so they can prepare. And the book never gets written. It’s easier to read blog posts, participate in discussion groups, and watch educational videos about publishing than it is to write. You have to become a habitual writer before you even think about publishing. Ignoring Craft = the enemy of focus.

We forget the elementary, basic fact that we are just trying to write. Nothing more, nothing less. When we allow the obtrusive racket of people and Internet to interfere, and when we attempt to write without much thought to the direction, we have already decided not to focus.

Focus isn’t out of your control, on the contrary. But there isn’t a magic formula to put your fingers on the keys and type words on the screen, either.  We wish it were easier, but focus is self-imposed, and it’s so much simpler when infused with structure, planning, goals, and dedication.



BIO: C. Hope Clark has just released her eighth mystery, titled Newberry Sin. She is also a freelancer and founder of FundsforWriters.com, and a frequent conference speaker, and podcast presenter for Writer’s Digest. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina with her dachshunds and federal agent husband. www.chopeclark.com


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The Voice & Palmetto Poison

C. Hope Clark, author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, joins Writer’s Zen today as a guest blogger. Hope has tips and suggestions for writers on finding and strengthening their voice. She shares the process of finding her voice through Lowcountry Bribe, the first book in her Carolina Slade Series. The process of finding her voice didn’t happen overnight. It took time, rewriting, and many edits. With each edit her voice got stronger and clearer. C. Hope Clark’s new release, Palmetto Poison, is the ‘proof in the pudding’, proving that this author speaks with knowledge and experience.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope and I both hope that you’ve found something useful here. Leave a comment for Hope. And check out Palmetto Poison!

The Voice
By C. Hope Clark

          In my early years of fiction, my writing wandered all over the place. Chapter three might not read like chapter six, and my characters came across two-dimensional. Being a logic-ridden person, I searched for A-B-C ways to correct my style, but nowhere could I find a hard-and-fast lesson on nailing voice.

palmetto poisonLowcountry Bribe was the first in my Carolina Slade Series.  Palmetto Poison, my newest release, is now available on Amazon, and on Kindle. It will be available soon on all other book venues. Lowcountry Bribe will always hold that special place in my heart as does any first born. Through that story, I found my voice. After throwing away that story twice to start over from scratch, and after two critique groups and twenty five edits later, my voice rose to the surface in its infancy. I’ve been raising it ever since. Palmetto Poison should hopefully appear stronger, not just in the character’s growth, but in the turn of phrase and the ark carrying the reader through the story.

Voice is an obscure, ambiguous term. Those who have it understand it. Those who seek it are frustrated since they can’t quite put their finger on what they’re looking for. To me, voice didn’t make sense until I started hearing it when I read my work aloud.


When my characters appear on a page, I visualize the scene. Every house, office, road or restaurant in my books has a tangible quality for me, meaning I’ve seen some semblance of them in real life. Same goes for many of the players of my stories.

When they speak, I stop and see them in my mind’s eye, anchoring them such that I can free-write about them. I hear the words, see the body language, and get in the head of my point-of-view character to include the snark and the silliness, fear and love. Like an actress prepping for her role, I insert myself into a character’s mind and body to sense the pang of hurt feelings, or the heart-thumping anxiety of what’s next to come.  Make myself cry at loss, smile at joy, and heat up as the love interest approaches ever so close. Being up close and personal with them, getting into their heads, loosens the writing. It becomes more about getting the feelings on paper than what words are used.

Voice is quality, style, attitude, speech patterns and phrasing. It’s knowing which character is speaking without needing the tags. It’s reaction to movement, to senses, to a message.

All of us have experienced letdown when reading a sixth, or eighth or twelfth book of a well-known author who seemed to regress in his abilities. In those books, the author fell back and rode the laurels of the voice he became known for. He forgot that voice has to be constantly honed, made smarter as each new story is birthed. He has to try harder with each story, no matter how many stories he’s written. One of the many difficulties in writing a series.


  • Relax and write. Turn off the editor and free-write with permission to forget about grammar and commas. What rises to the surface when you have no rules hindering your style?

  • Do not try to copy other writers. Be well read, but don’t try to copy. When you read a wonderfully written paragraph, slow down and reread it, then say it aloud. Let it sink in. Maybe even write it down and keep it in a list of others you’ve found. Reread them periodically, reminding yourself of your aspirations.

  • Read quality writing. Noted Southern novelist Pat Conroy entrenched himself in the classics as a young man. Readers can see the results in the ornate quality of his descriptions.

  • Write in a variety of styles. Literary versus genre fiction. Light versus dark. Humorous versus noir. Positive, negative, quick, slow. You won’t know your voice’s sweet spot until you’ve missed it enough times to tell the difference.
  • Write as if speaking to a person in the room. Make it personal, as if telling the story to a friend. If you need to, speak it and record it, then paraphrase it into your writing, taking note of what makes your choice of words unique.
  • Write about something meaningful. Find an emotional moment in your past and recreate it on paper. Do writing exercises like: The sexiest moment of my life. The scariest day. My biggest phobia. My worst nightmare. The most wonderful meal I’ve ever had. What I fear most. These exercises loosen you up.
  • Write on a taboo subject. Go where you never wanted to go before, or write about an embarrassing subject, or an off-color dream you’d never share. If it doesn’t make you cringe, it isn’t quirky enough.
  • Read it aloud to others for feedback. If you stick with a critique group long enough, they’ll help guide you to what sounds most authentic for you.
  • Repeat. Voice comes from doing all the above repeatedly, because voice is partially habit. It comes after writing thousands of words that sound generic—words anyone could’ve written. Writing until you’re tired of writing often lets the real you come out. Then one day, you reread an old piece versus one you are proud of, and you see the difference.


Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience, it’s critical to our recognition. A writer’s voice requires every part of a writer’s toolbox: syntax, diction, punctuation, character depth, dialogue, flow. Voice must be so natural that the reader falls into the story without seeing the words. He reads the words and knows who wrote them, or realizes he’s never read this author before.

Bottom line is voice is when the author’s thoughts flow more easily than the vocabulary. It’s your fingerprint, your soul, your personality. However you define it, voice is your most promising tool in leading you to success as an author. A good voice can tell any story.

c hope clark

  • BIO – C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books out of Memphis, TN. She is also editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, with a newsletter service that reaches 45,000 readers and writers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s  not running off to Edisto Beach on the Carolina coast.  www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com


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