Guest Post: You Can’t Polish A Turd

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I am excited to have Nikolas Baron from Grammarly here as my very first guest post! Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that helps over 3 million users perfect their written English. Due to the immense volume of material that they proofread daily, Nicolas has incredible insight as to how people are writing and the mistakes being made. Since this blog is dedicated to the aspiring and debut author, he has agreed to share some of that insight here today. Take it away, Nikolas!

You Can’t Polish a Turd
If you’ve ever watched the British film, “The History Boys,” you probably remember the expression, “You can’t polish a turd”. The connotation is pretty clear; it doesn’t matter how hard you polish a turd, a turd will always be a turd. That is perhaps the harshest comment, and one of the last I ever want to hear in reference to my writing.
The end goal for many of us writers probably pretty much centers around the same things: write an amazing book, get published by a huge company, top the bestseller charts everywhere, receive extravagant royalties, and get rich and famous. But many of us are stumped right at the first step – write an amazing book. Now how in the world are we supposed to string together a whole lot of incredible words to form this miraculous mass of a book?
In this article, I’ll be tackling a few points you will need for a great product.
I’m not saying this to sound all cliché, but this point is often overlooked simply because it is assumed. Passion. You have to absolutely love it. Love writing, love books, love it; the feeling has to be so strong that majority of the days, you jump out of bed because in some strange realm, your characters, your chapters, and your story are calling out to you. Many people presume that just because they’ve got some opinions and the caliber to write, it automatically gives them the super ability to go through from writing to publishing an entire book. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but writing a book is like giving birth; even worse, since most of the time it takes more than 9 months. This passion is what will motivate you, even through the worst days, to put in your best efforts in writing and marketing your book.
Consistent writing. Set aside time every day to exercise your writing muscles. You wouldn’t believe how this small effort to allow your brain to think in words can translate into drastic improvements with your writing. Think of it as quality time between you and your cerebral cortex. Of course there will be some days the ideas just don’t seem to stick, and you’ll feel like you’ve gone entirely bonkers. But in the words of Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, “all the best people are”. If any inkling of an idea does come, at least you’ll be there ready to put it down. Writing only gets easier with practice.
Scrivener to keep your mental notes, complicated plots and detailed scene notes in order. Unless you’ve got the incredible memory of a dolphin, chances are you won’t remember the detailed nitty-gritties of your entire story plot. If you’re writing something long and complicated with loads of references, Scrivener will fast become your best friend. Keep your fragmented ideas, character sheets, references or quick ideas all in one place. Scrivener creates that structured order from complete chaos. The corkboard view is particularly impressive and useful, firstly to organize the flow of your writing and secondly, to show off your writing inclinations to any unaware wondering eyes.
For the secrets to perfect grammar, many writers employ the help of proofreading software. It is very difficult to reach exact precision when it comes to writing; even after it has gone through tons of editing, books still get published with spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Grammarly is climbing the ladders and making its way onto the bookmarks list of many authors. This intuitive online program grammar-checks your entire document, from technical to structural errors, without missing a beat. Detailed explanations are given to remind you of certain language annoyances. With one click, you’ll be able to correct every little error in your manuscript. It works like a charm.
These are some tools I use to ensure that my writing isn’t labeled a turd by any measure – perhaps my biggest fear. My parting words: always write about things close to your heart otherwise it’ll definitely reflect on your writing and no number of tools will be able to dig you out of your hole.
By Nikolas Baron
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I would like to thank Nikolas for being here today. If you would like to contact Nicolas, he can be reached:

http://www.baron.me/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ipancake
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nikbaron

Advice From One Newbie To Another: Hang Onto Your Dream

Blossom I am just starting out in this wonderful world of writing. If you are reading my blog, then chances are so are you. I am an older writer, but what I would like to share with you is ageless. Have you ever been open and honest with someone about your dream? I am speaking of your love for writing. You want to write novels and hope that people buy them. You want to express yourself as nobody else can. You want to share that with them and hope that they support you. How did they react? Supportive or dismissive?

I’ll share a story with you to illustrate my point. I was an older student when I decided to go to college. I wasn’t sure then what I wanted to do. I went through several different courses to decide. One thing I did know. It had to challenge me and be interesting at the same time. Not an easy task. I honestly do not remember learning to read. I was the youngest in a very large family; 7 brothers and 2 sisters. It was a very convoluted family. A case of yours, mine and ours. My father was married once before, resulting in one sister. My mother was married twice, resulting in 7 brothers and one sister. We were so spread apart that there was only two brothers that I actually grew up with. My point here, yes I am getting to it.. 🙂 is that my brothers would read to me, and I suppose that is how I learned to read. The youngest next to me was my brother, Richard, and he was 9 years older than me. When I was 4 years old, my earliest memory, I was reading his textbooks, fluently. I have loved to read all my life. When I decided to take writing classes, that was it for me. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I loved it. Then I lost my funding and although I applied for scholarships I didn’t get them and had to quit college. I still wanted to write. Now you must realize, this was quite some time ago, in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s. This predates Facebook, Twitter, even the entire internet. Completely before digital. To be published you had to send your manuscript in, physically typed out, and it went to a slush pile. Getting an agent wasn’t encouraged until you were established. So–you sent it in and hoped that the first reader liked it enough to send it on. If not, it was tossed aside and rejected. So, can you guess what happened next?

When I told those that I’d hope would encourage me, they pretty much laughed at me! “Oh, come on, you have to be really lucky to get published and most writers are only successful after they are dead!” (Untrue then and now) “Get a real job that you can count on and don’t rely on a pipe dream!” They shook their heads and that was the end of the discussion. Then I made my biggest mistake and the point of this post–I listened to them!! I got a real job, in fact several of them. I was in customer service and sales and marketing for over 30 years. I still read, and wanted to write, but I didn’t think it was possible. It was too late. I didn’t know enough to write. I never finished my degree and felt inadequate. So I stayed away from what I really wanted to do–write!

Well, a couple of years ago, after being forced into an early retirement, I finally had a computer and time on my hands. I could get back into writing. I have a wonderful roommate. We are two 50-something ladies with a dog and we have been roommates since 2005. She said: “Go for it! Every since I’ve known you, you’ve always wanted to write!! I think you should, it is your time now!!” I finally got the encouragement I had been searching for for years! So I said, “Yes!! I’m going to do it!!” I started reading up on this new digital age and publishing. It is a whole new world! I can do it! The first thing I learned was it is important to have an author’s platform and it is never too early to start. I started this blog first. I will write more on platforms later. So–

My advice is this: No matter how old you are, very young or not so young or in between, NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!! Never let anyone tell you that you are too young to write. You have emotions, you study people and want to write about it. I say Go For It!! If you are an older adult like myself, don’t be intimitated by the digital world. Open yourself up for new experiences. You can do whatever you set your mind to. I am working on my debut novel, and I have the confidence that it is going to be good. I don’t expect miracles, because with everything you do, you have to start somewhere. Your first book will not be as good as your second and your third even better. We all improve with practice. You will never get to the second book until you write the first one! I know, that’s obvious, but needs to be said. Never, ever give up!! Keep writing! There is no one that can tell YOUR story, but you!!

Have you ever felt like this? Do you feel like this now? Please comment and tell me yours experience. This blog is for all of us “Newbies”. Have you read a good book that you would recommend to other readers? Please comment and leave a link. I welcome all comments and recommendations.

My next review will be the most awaited winner of my contest for the spotlight interview and review. I am still reading but hope to finish shortly, so stay tuned! I am going to try to be better about the frequency of the posts on here. I appreciate all who read. 🙂