Struggling to write your first draft? These four tips will help you

THE NEW YOU

You can have several ideas inside of you, these ideas can even be the best things to happen to humanity in the 21st century. The unfortunate thing however is that if you don’t sit down to write that first draft, your idea will always be an idea.

There is a quote that says “Every writer I know has problem writing.” This is probably because some of us find it hard to put our drafts together.

Most times writers find it difficult to get the words out. Although there are different approaches to writing a first draft, it is certain that you’d have to do one thing and that is to ‘Write.’

Since we’ve agreed on that, let’s highlight a few tips that can help you out your first draft together.

Figure out what you want to write about

Although this may not happen all of the time, it is advisable to have an idea of what you want to write about. You can do a quick outline and then try to flesh it up. Outlining is an incredibly strong, compelling structure upon which you can build complex characters, or subplots, twists, or beautiful writing.

Don’t stop until the end

As much as possible, avoid distraction and keep writing. You don’t want to lose your line of thought and start struggling to remember what you wanted to say. That alone can cause anxiety and can lead to a temporary writer’s block.

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Don’t try to edit or re-write

When you are writing your first draft, stick to writing alone. Don’t try to edit your ideas until you finish writing. Just write. According to Shawn Coyne rewriting or editing before you have completed the first draft will lead to despair. Editing sentences before the story is complete may make it harder for you to follow your train of thought with the story.

Don’t get discouraged

This is definitely not easy especially when you have an idea of what you want your book or article to look like and the draft doesn’t fit that picture. It is a draft. It is not expected to be perfect. Just keep writing. Getting discouraged will not write you a book.

“Remember the purpose of a first draft is to get it right not get it written!” John Dufresne

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#WriterSpotlight – While scrubbing the floor one day, Sumayya got inspired to write

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Thursday is always an exciting day on the Sparkle Blog because we celebrate the outstanding work of writers. Today, we are celebrating Sumayya Lee. Enjoy her interview with us.

Hello, please introduce yourself

Hi – my name is Sumayya Lee.

What do you do?

I have been a teacher for most of my life but I am also a mother and writer. I am also involved in the Writivism Literary Initiative – a pan-African initiative that works with emerging writers on the continent.

You have authored two books can you explain how the journey has been?

The dream began when I was a teenager, so in a word – long – but also a wonderful and incredible learning curve.

What do you love most about being a writer?

The freedom to daydream about the worlds and characters of my imagination and the fact that reading for pleasure is also part of the job

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the writing industry?

That’s a question for the industry. I am the kind of writer who prefers to hide away from the business side of things and just focus on writing. But in Africa, I believe the greatest challenge is distribution

Where is the weirdest place you have ever gotten inspiration?

While down on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor!

How rewarding has writing been for you?

Having a lifelong dream fulfilled and seeing your work in print, in stores, in libraries is all rewarding. However, two things are especially so: those who’ve said that my work was the first novel they’ve ever read and those who’ve said that my work has brought them joy and uplifted their spirits.

 What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your article or book?

That my books should be burnt.

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Will you ever retire from writing?

I hope not – I believe writing is one of those professions that you can keep at until the end.

What do you do in your leisure time?

Apart from reading? Taking long walks…spending time with family and friends, visiting museums and the theatre, relaxing on the beach (when the weather permits).

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t take rejection to heart but rather see it as encouragement to improve. Don’t plan too much – life has a way of meandering at its own pace.

Writing is a process – the first draft is crucial, but only the beginning.

Do you consider writing as work or pleasure and why?

When it’s going well – an absolute pleasure. But it is work – and it does require many many hours of work.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

Keep writing and read, read and read some more. A first draft is never perfect (even if it feels that way)  and if you are fortunate enough to receive feedback on your work, accept it with humility and grace so that your story can achieve its potential.

 

#WriterSpotlight- “Writing is my life so perhaps when I’m dead, I’ll retire.”- Okwukwe

Okwukwe

Our guest on today’s #WriterSpotlight is all shades of interesting. From his honest approach to answering questions to his advice to writers, that is a must-read. Today’s interview is different from the rest.

Hello, please introduce yourself

I’m Okwukwe C. Chukwuka. I love to call myself a writer but that’s not an absolute description of me so it’s rather limiting.

If I’m to go absolute, I should be like, “I’m a writer; I double as an entrepreneur; triple as a technology buff; quadruple as a creative artist, quintuple as a traveller, sextuple as a goalkeeper, etc” and that’s kind of messed up because I’m basically going on and on about several things I do which I don’t pretty much like saying on a regular. I think I like to let people see what part of me they get to meet.

So, I’m Okwukwe. Just that!

What do you do?

Writing, entrepreneurship in four different industries, investing in things/people I’m/I interested/believe in and/or stuff that will increase my net worth, sketching concepts for logos like the logos of Specuit, Specuit Cargo, House of Specuit, Kitchall and more, etc.

Why did you choose to write or what led you to writing?

I led myself to writing. It’s a talent in me and I chose and still choose (because I do that every day) to harness it.

What is your most challenging moment as a writer?

Writing for straight twelve hours to meet a publishing deadline in 2012; I think I almost died from asphyxiation because I was exhausted and really out of breath and yet, I cancelled the deal because it didn’t feel right to me. Finally got published by House of Specuit four years later in 2016.

Also, last year (May 1st, 2015), I set up a personal writing challenge for myself – on Facebook – to write and post every day. I did it for 10 months, 15 days: 321 days in total. It was crazy!

Can you tell us your most rewarding moment as a writer?

Make that two:

First, publishing Bank of Deposits which I wrote and rewrote for 5 years and 7 months. That was a major win for me.

Second, signing a freelance deal with a writing company in the USA. It ought to be a contract of 1-3 months but it’s gone on for 10 months now which is cool.

You have published your first book! Can you tell us how the journey has been?

The journey has been expected; trying to sell and/or market books in Nigeria is a tough one and I do get in the faces of some people oftentimes but I keep my gaze on the fact that I’m trying to get 10,000+ people to buy 10,000 copies of my book in Nigeria and that’s about 0.0056%.

I’ve gotten to play with market and price segmentation to see what segment sells best because my target market is divided into individuals and organizations.

But it’s not as difficult as it’d be if I wasn’t an entrepreneur too. Marketing it is fair for me because I’ve marketed lots of things since 2010 and I’m marketing my little companies every day, so this is not new.

Bank of Deposits‘ (that’s the title) is now at Terra Kulture and on Konga. I’m looking at Laterna; I’ve got an appointment with them already.

Your Twitter handle says writer and entrepreneur please explain how you have combined these two.

I absolutely believe there’s congruity between passions and/or talents in every human on earth. Say you’ve got passion for dancing and a talent for singing; there’s congruity there: as a musician, you can dance in your music videos.

I’m trying to make certain you get my point before I zero in on myself.

So we zero in on Okwukwe. How has he fused writing and entrepreneurship?

I work Customer Service in my companies (that’s how I fuse writing in my entrepreneurial journey) and my talent and passion as a writer helps read clients’ moods and all that; that enables me to know how to escalate or de-escalate an issue, when to renegotiate a deal with a client or to let it fly, how to promote discount sales and all that.

Working in four different industries has shaped my writing. So, I can write economics, business, travelogues, finance, logistics and alternative energy. The experiences I gather from entrepreneurship, I share with the world via writing. If it was singing [and not writing] in me, I’d sing about it.

Basically, if you take out entrepreneurship – I mean, if I had no passion for entrepreneurship – and it was just writing, I may just write fiction or non-fiction or semi-fiction and it ends there but I can navigate between several topics in non-fiction, fiction and semi-fiction. So if I was just an entrepreneur, I’d have to hire a ghostwriter to share my experiences with the world.

It’s about finding congruity between your talents and/or passions if you’re a multi-potentialite.

Have you ever been rejected as a writer and how did you handle it?

Rejected? I think that’s a strong word. Perhaps ‘looked down upon’ is fitting in this case scenario because you know, there’s this unrelenting belief that writers are poor.

I’m still searching for the fella who came up with that crap. Could you help me track him/her down?

Will you ever retire from writing?

LOL. You never retire from this kind of thing. Writing is my life. So perhaps when I’m dead, I’ll retire.

But honestly, this is what I’m thinking; I may write my eulogy before I die, though, so that I officially sign out from earth.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I’ve got Medium Digest that I get to read in my leisure time. Right about now, I’m like three weeks ago on that but I’m trying to meet up.

Then, I watch TED talks. The notifications are always popping up in my phone and I’ve watched a lot of them. .

I stream a lot of TV shows, say, Arrow, The Flash, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, The 100, The Walking Dead, Legends of Tomorrow, etc.

I read too. Stuff like autobiographies and biographies of inventors and entrepreneurs: Richard Branson, Elon Musk, etc. Then, fiction especially Nnedi Okorafor’s and other books on thoughts, motivation and everything in-between.

Oftentimes, I game but right about now, I don’t do much of gaming as I’d like to because there’s this workload nagging at my head like, “Do me right about now!”

I think out ideas and sketch concepts of logos, websites, etc.

I’d love to chat and hang out with a friend, live in the moment with that friend and do crazy stuff (like real crazy stuff) with that friend but that’s not anywhere as far as my eyes can see which is okay; it helps me conserve my emotional energy.

I listen to songs too.

So, I fluctuate between these depending on my mood.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Something like this, “[Younger] Okwukwe, live more on the edge. Do that sky dive you’ve wanted to do since 2009/2010; perhaps you’ll die mid air or something but just do. Buy a Suzuki Hayabusa when you clock 20, suit up and race on a track. Skip NYSC (it’s shit) and leave Nigeria. Sign up for that Chinese class in 2010; you’ll need it to communicate with vendors when you establish Specuit Cargo. Learn French and Arabic too. Writing Bank of Deposits for 5 years and 7 months will pay more than writing for a year and publishing.”

What would you pick;

Continental Food or African Delicacy? Both

R&B or Hip/hop? Professionally, I’ll go for hip-hop (rap) before R & B. Personally, the reverse.

Fiction or poetry? Both.

Fashion, football or music? The trio!

Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why?

Mentor? No, but there are writers I study or have studied.

Do you consider writing as work or pleasure and why?

Both. Sincerely, I don’t know.

When I think of it as pleasure, it works just fine but then, the entrepreneur in me kicks in and I’ve got to switch to work mode. So, it’s both and seeing it both ways have gotten me far out here than it’d have if I had just thought, “Hey! Writing is just for fun.” I’m a strong advocate of the business of talent so I can’t consider writing as just pleasure. Never will.

Your best article or story so far?

Sorry, I’ve got no metric to judge my best article or story. Yet! I suck at doing so.

Nonetheless, there’s this article asking me to mention it here as best; it’s blowing its trumpet and that’s why I’m not going to tell you it’s the one.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

We’re all upcoming; it means forthcoming like something in the future, so we all are, even those that have arrived.

I’d like to say to myself and others in same boat as Okwukwe to really market themselves away from Facebook and Twitter. I’m not saying being on there and writing isn’t okay. I did that for almost a year, so c’mon. I’m only saying it’s just not enough.

So, unless it’s just fun or pleasure to us, writers – especially Nigerian writers – should promote themselves better. It sucks big time to see writers – those taking writing as a profession – not being able to pay their bills. I’m always like, “Are we sure we’re pitching ourselves enough to consumers/companies who need our services?”

I’d also like to tell writers to invest in chairs – and no, this is not me kidding. There’s this belief that you can just sit on any chair (a plastic one being the most preferred around here) to write but then, you’re staking productivity, your back and your bones.

#WriterSpotlight – So far as there is a paper and pen nearby Ivie Eke will always write

Ivie 1

Another Thursday is here again and you know what that means! We have another amazing writer for you to meet on our Writer Spotlight feature. Our guest today is Ivie. She is simple, passionate and ready to take over the world with her words. Find out more about this super talented writer as you read her interview with us.

Hello, please introduce yourself

My name is Ivie Eke – Ivy for short. I am from Benin City, Edo State in Nigeria. I am a constant introvert and an often reluctant extrovert.

What do you do?

I write poems, essays and short stories on my blog. For my day job, I work in the Business Development Unit of a Healthcare Non-Government Organization in Abuja, Nigeria.

Why did you choose to write or what led you to writing?

I can’t really describe what led me to writing; it has just simply been something which I’ve always done. English Language was one of my favorite subjects of study right from Primary School. From an early age, I would always write down my thoughts on pieces of paper, or in a journal. I’ve found that it is a way of easing tension and challenging my level of creativity. It is just last year that I decided to be very organized about my writing, which is why I started my blog.

Your twitter handle says you are a TV person, can you tell us what that entails?

Television is a great escape for me; laughing out loud or thinking deeply while watching TV shows is a great way for me to relax.  I love comedies such as Friends and How I Met Your Mother, and dramas like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.

What is your most challenging moment as a writer?

The moments I have found most challenging are those times when I experience writer’s block while writing a story-my mind would go totally blank and I would feel very frustrated. What I’ve learned however is not to overthink such situations; I would just simply start to write another part of the story, and eventually, an idea on how to continue from where I had been stuck before would come to me. The key is just to keep on writing.

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Can you tell us your most rewarding moment as a writer?

I actually have two most rewarding moments; the first was when Stylist Magazine UK included a short poem which I had written on a list of their favorite poems (they had asked their social media followers to send in entries), and when I read poems I had written about my love for books and reading at an event held in Abuja recently.

If you didn’t become a writer what else would you have done?

I’m pretty sure that I will always be a writer. Even if I’m writing for just myself, it’s still writing. It never goes away.

Have you ever been rejected as a writer and how did you handle it?

Yes I have; I’ve pitched a few articles which were turned down. The good thing was that I was given clear feedback; for instance, to expand on an initial idea. It’s very important for me that I learn from such experiences so that the quality of my writing improves.

Will you ever retire from writing?

No, I won’t. So far as there is a paper and pen nearby, or a place to write notes on my phone, I will continue to write.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I read, watch television, listen to music, organize my makeup collection (for some reason, I really enjoy doing this!) and spend time with friends and family.

What would you pick;

Continental Food or African Delicacy? African delicacies for when I want to eat and be very satisfied. Continental food for when I’m feeling fanciful and not too hungry.

R&B or Hip/hop? Wow-this is a tough one. It depends on my mood. If I’m in a relaxed mood, I’ll listen to music by Anita Baker, Usher Raymond and a lot of 90s RnB music. If I’m in a hyper mood, I’ll listen to Hip Hop music by Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z and Kanye West.

Fiction or poetry? I would rather read fiction than read poetry, but I enjoy writing poetry more than writing fiction.

Football or music? Music! Much to the disappointment of my two brothers who are football fans, I haven’t watched a match from beginning to the end in years.

Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why?

I will say that Chimamanda Adichie is my writing mentor-from-far. I love her writing style because she can make mundane situations appear very intriguing, and her novels show that it is not always necessary to make all the main characters in a book likeable, as long as you make them interesting.

 Your best article or story so far?

My favourite article which I’ve written so far is a poem called ‘I am not afraid’, because it describes situations which should make me scared, but I then make a deliberate choice not to be scared of them.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

Yes – just start writing. Don’t overthink it. I started writing on pieces of paper and on my phone, and from there I started writing on my Facebook page, after which I started my blog. There are so many resources on the internet which can serve as guides in the writing process. Most importantly, enjoy your writing; it is something that should bring pleasure to both you and your readers.

 

Wondering how to use the internet to succeed as a writer? Watch this

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The internet definitely has come to stay and it is an indispensable tool for every writer in the 21st century. The internet gives you a direct way of connecting with your readers and getting instant feedback from them.

In this enlightening TED Talk by Andrew Fitzgerald, you will learn how to use social media, especially Twitter, to achieve success as a writer. Enjoy!

 

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – Jola loves to inspire people with her words

Jola Sotubo

Another Thursday is here and you know what that means; it’s time for another #WriterSpotlight feature! Today, we’re featuring Jola Sotubo, an inspiring writer who is doing great things with her talent. Read more about her in our interview with her.

Hello, please introduce yourself.

My name is ‘Jola Sotubo

What do you do?

I’m a writer.

Why did you choose to write or what led you to writing?

I developed a love of words from a young age. That grew from a love of reading to a love of writing.

What is your most challenging moment as a writer?

The first sentence is always the hardest, after that it usually flows.

Can you share any lesson you have learnt from writing?

I’ve learnt to always use my own voice.

Can you tell us your most rewarding moment as a writer?

I love inspiring people and restoring their faith in themselves and life as a whole.

If you didn’t become a writer what else would you have done?

Well, I’m also a lawyer and a photographer so I have a lot of options.

Have you ever been rejected as a writer and how did you handle it?

It was painful at first but I put it in perspective and learnt from it.

Will you ever retire from writing? No.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I read and listen to music.

What would you pick

  • Continental Food or African Delicacy? African Delicacy
  • R&B or Hip/hop? R&B
  • Fiction or poetry? Fiction.
  • Football, fashion or music? Music

Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why?

I try to sample as much as I can but Sydney Sheldon is a longtime favourite.

Your best article or story so far?

Angels among us. It was about my little brother and it came from my heart.

Last words for upcoming writers?

Your voice is unique, be guided by other writers but don’t lose your own voice.

Become a better reader with these tips

Hey there Sparkle Writers! We know; it’s been a minute since you read a post from us. We went on a short break to re-strategize and we are back with a bang! Watch out for great writing tips in the coming days.

You already know by now that to become a better writer, you need to be a reader. Some of you may have already cultivated the habit of reading regularly. The question is, are you making the most of your reading time? Here’s how to become a better reader (which will inadvertently make you a better writer);

Be deliberate about reading

To be a better reader, you just have to create time to read. We know you live a busy life and you hardly have time for yourself but you can still find the time to read. Think about all that time you spend going through different timelines on Facebook and Twitter. That time could have been better used to read a book. Start by reading at least 15 minutes every day and before you know it, it will become a habit.

Read widely

If you like romance novels, that does not mean you should only read romance novels. When it comes to reading, you really need to come out of your comfort zone. Expand your horizon and read other genres. By reading widely, you enlarge your mind and capacity to write better.

Read bad writing

Yes you read correctly! Reading a book that was badly written helps you to know how not to write. Even when you read good books, you should form the habit of critiquing it. What did the writer get right? What could they have done better? Doing this will help you to become a better writer yourself.

Take notes

It is important to take notes while you read. Jot down your thoughts in a journal or note. Scribble within the book. Highlight and underline words, phrases or sentences that jump at you. By taking notes, you’re guaranteed that you are actually paying attention to what you are reading and you are learning from it too.

Reflect

Think about the thoughts you have jotted down. Think about the things you read in the book. Reflect on them. What did you learn from the book? What can you takeaway from the book that will help you to become a better writer? Also review the book; the good, the bad and the ugly. What can you learn from them?

By using these tips, you will definitely become a better reader and a better writer too!

My frustrations with being a writer

 

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Don’t let the title deceive you. I love being a writer. I have found the greatest joy in it. It has given me a platform to express the deepest things in my heart; things that I could not say with my mouth. When I write, the words flow. It’s such a blessing to have the gift of writing.

The problem however is that making a living out of it in this part of the world can be really difficult if you are not truly passionate about. I’ll say this now, if your reason for being a writer is simply for the money please look for something else to do. The money may not come until months after you start.

There are 5 things I find frustrating about being a writer;

1) People try to undermine what you do. You get a request to write something and when you are explaining how long it will take for you to write it, the person says “All that time just to write this and this?” Has this ever happened to you? A lot of people think that there no thinking involved in writing. They believe that the words miraculously get written on paper. It’s so frustrating!

2) A lot of people don’t really think you have a job. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me to go and get a real job. “What is writing”, they say. Sigh…I’ll just move on.

3) Just to write content costs this much? So you get a client who wants you to edit a 100-page book or write content for an entire website and when you tell them what their bill is, they go; “Just to write content costs this much?” Some would even try to cheapen what you do by offering to pay a ridiculous amount for your work.

4) Inspiration just disappears. Sometimes, inspiration does not come when you really need it. It can be very frustrating when you have a looming deadline and you have no idea what you are going to write. Learning to capture ‘inspiration’ is something every writer must do.

5) Waiting for that big break. Honestly so many times I have asked myself, “When will my big break come?” Don’t get me wrong, I am doing well with what I earn as a writer but as compared to more established writers, there is room for more!

So you may be wondering; with all these frustrations why have I decided to continue on this path. It is because I find great joy in what I do. It is because I have been able to add value to people’s lives through the posts and articles I write. Every now and then, I get comments and emails from people telling me how something I wrote blessed them and it makes me sleep well at night. Most importantly, I have continued on this path because this is what God has called me to do. In writing, I have found my purpose. So despite the frustrations, my four years of being a professional writer have been truly rewarding.

You can feel the frustration but don’t give up. Don’t give up on writing simply because it isn’t yielding any fruit yet. Being a writer is a long term investment. Trust me, if you do it consistently and you keep improving, you will get great rewards from it. This includes financial rewards too. So keep sparkling! The world needs your talent.

#QuoteOfTheDay – Be proud to be a writer

Writing. Writers, Sparkle Writers

“When will you get a proper job?”

“Stop wasting your life with this writing thing.”

“Writers don’t make any money.”

“Your work is not good enough to be published.”

“What exactly do you do?”

Be honest; how many times have you heard any of the statements above? Well it really doesn’t matter. The fact is that you have a passion for writing and you will write great things. Be proud of the fact that you are writer. Be proud of the fact that you have the opportunity to change the world with your pen.

We believe in you!

Welcome to The Sparkle Writer’s Hub!

Every Writer has a sp(1)

Hello budding writer! We welcome you to The Sparkle Writer’s Hub. We are excited to launch this hub. Our mission is simple; to bring out the sparkle in every writer. Sometimes the journey to becoming a great writer can be overwhelming and it doesn’t need to be. We’re here to make sure that it isn’t.

Let’s give you a brief summary of what we will do for you:

  • We will give you tips and tricks of the craft
  • Touch on topics that every writer wants to talk about
  • Give practical guidance on how to become a better writer
  • Motivate you with some quotes and memes to keep you going
  • Host interactive series on social media where you can ask your questions and have them answered.

We’re going to do all this and so much more! Awesome right? But we’ll need some things from you;

  1. A can do spirit
  2. Confidence in your ability to become a great writer
  3. An open and teachable mind
  4. A desire to have some great fun with the #SparkleWriters!

So if you’re ready to become a great writer. we are ready to make you one. Let’s make your talent sparkle! Oh…before you go, can you do us a quick favour? Can you scroll back up to the image at the beginning of this post and connect with us on social media? It’ll only take about two minutes. We need to stay connected with you to meet your writing needs effectively. Thank you and we look forward to interacting with you!