Monday, November 14, 2011

Best Intentions

I've had good intentions, really I have. I never intended to be looking for a job this long. Or to lay my writing aside while becoming consumed in the career search. Or expected to not have the motivation to write, let alone think about it. I really believed I could maintain my torrid pace, finish and edit two novels, begin another and start sending queries. All this while looking for a job to pay the bills.

It's like the old saying, "my eyes were bigger than my stomach." Indeed. If I've learned anything from this exercise, it's that my writing is a key component of my life and can not be neglected for such a lengthy time, no matter the reason. Even if I had written gibberish or trash during this time, at least words would have found their way into a Word document. As it is, besides an outline for a nonfiction idea, I've written scarcely 2,000 words since March.

But how times change! I begin my new position with a local aerospace company today and await the challenge. And the stimulation. For I've found that work itself can inspire my writing and some of my best work and consistent writing times have occurred at my breaks and on lunch. I don't expect this to change and am eager to not only get back to work, but get back to writing. Even if my good intentions failed miserably, the time of redemption is at hand. Time to get cracking and reignite the habit & love once again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recognizing Milestones

One week ago Sunday I celebrated my 12th wedding anniversary. Sometimes I find it incredible that I have a wife and four children. I was single for so long much of my life it can seem like a fairy tale, having relocated from a solo journey to one joined by a complementary partner filling in the white space of my life. Relationships color our lives and help make us the people we can or should be.
Anniversaries, births, graduations, job changes. These are all milestones we experience in our lives. As writers, just as in our regular lives, we need to make a point to celebrate milestones. These can vary from what we see as mundane to the thrilling. For me, the mundane would qualify as keeping a writing log of words written each day. This led to me ultimately completing my first novel, and nearly a second, and permanently forming the habit of writing daily. The thrilling might be landing an agent or selling your first book. I’m still waiting for that type of excitement but that’s what goals are for, right?
The point is writers should not underestimate how vital recognizing milestones is to their life. No matter how small you think they are, you deserve to take the time to celebrate and make a big deal of it. Writing is solitary enough without bypassing a small celebration. It can be a long road to publication and a writing career is no different from other parts of your life which require practice, determination and perseverance. Take the time to mark the small and great successes along the way.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Similarities of Interviewing and Writing

You just don't consider how alike some things are until you're fully engaged in them. For example, until my current venture into the job market, albeit unwillingly, I never once believed interviewing and writing shared any common traits. Oh, how wrong I was. I'd like to share what I've learned on this recent journey. The list is by no means exhaustive and I'm sure many of you could conjure up other similarities I've overlooked.

1. Selling yourself
This may seem obvious to some. When you send out your query or when you walk into an interview, you must possess the frame of mind to present yourself as the best option for that agency or company. There's no sense dancing around things. Take control and let your personality (and talent) shine.

2. Making a good first impression
This could easily be #1 and is very closely related. Come out strong, as someone who knows what they're talking about but without appearing boastful or arrogant. The key is to get the interviewer or editor/agent to like you. Building rapport helps them take you more seriously.

3. Tell your story
We all have a story. In a job interview, it's how you can ease the employer's pain points with your experience and know-how. In writing, it's letting words flow from your mind through the keyboard and ultimately to the reader, whoever that may be.

4. Leave them wanting more (or "closing the deal")
Have you ever felt like there was something you could have done better with your query letter? Your story? Do you replay the questions and your answers from an interview, performing some type of self-torture, over analyzing each one as if it was a deal breaker? We can always improve, no argument there. But if you can close the deal the right way, having presented your best case as the ideal candidate or author, you can move along with confidence and not second guess yourself, no matter the outcome.

Have you observed other similarities between interviewing and writing? Or perhaps you've noticed similarities between other seemingly dissimilar things?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The End of My Long Silence

It's true. I've returned to the blogosphere! I'm sure some of you may have been wondering if I'd ever return. Well, if there are any of you still following the blog, anyway. Seriously, I hope to begin anew in conjunction with the school year which begins tomorrow for my three oldest children. It's difficult to fathom my once tiny ones will now be entering kindergarten, second & fourth grade. Where has the time gone?

As with my employment, there is a time to each season, and I'm compelled to look upon this next season with anticipation, for my children, for a new career and for my writing. Since I last wrote, my focus has almost entirely been on my job search, to the great neglect of my writing.

A couple of weeks ago I was encouraged, on several fronts by a few friends, to re-engage my writing. Two specifically suggested I use it as an means to vent any frustration I might be feeling in seeking a new job. I've not yet been able to embrace the advice but with the incredible summer weather certain to fade away soon, the opportunity seems ripe.

I'm pulled in several directions right now. There are several non-fiction ideas --- essays and even a book --- percolating in my brain. There are the two complete 1st drafted novels plus a pile of ideas staring me in the face. The options before me seem endless but they all demand I pick up a pencil (or a keyboard) and begin to write. And write I will. I must.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SCBWI WWA Conference

It's underway! Our co-regional coordinators, Laurie Thompson and Joni Sensel, and the assistant coordinator, Kim Baker never fail to bring humor and encouragement with them. We're blessed to have these ladies!

Outstanding faculty on hand including agents Joe Monti, Sarah Davies, Tina Wexler and Marietta Zucker and editors Liz Waniewski and Martha Mihalick.

Monday, April 11, 2011

WIWC Children’s Market Fireside Chat part 1: Andrea Brown

The Andrea Brown Literary Agency is one the most recognized and respected in the industry. It really was a privilege to meet the founder and glean her wisdom. As all the Fireside Chat speakers, Andrea spoke once in the AM and once in the PM. Her first talk was entitled, “Demystifying the Children’s Book Industry.”
Here’s a snapshot of Andrea’s talk:
-          Write to your audience.
-          You have to BE a child, not just think like one.
-          Humor is necessary in every category/genre.
-          There’s always a market for bedtime picture books.
-          Focus on the universals of a child’s life.
-          People read GOOD stories. Write one of them.
-          “If you have writer’s block, it just means you’re not writing what you should be.”
-          Editors keep saying they want boy-centric books…and then don’t buy them.
-          For YA: don’t follow trends, write what you love.

Andrea’s  second talk was “Fundamentals of Adult/Children’s Fiction and Landing an Agent.” She hit us first with her  5 P’s of Publishing: Passion (write every day!), Product (you’ve got one shot with an agent, make it count with your best submission), Patience, Persistence and Promotion.
Andrea followed that with her 7 Fundamentals. She noted that a writer shouldn’t submit unless they could check off each one of these:
-          Memorable characters
-          Plot
-          Theme
-          Conflict
-          POV
-          Structure
-          Resolution
She posed an interesting question: how many of us would spend $25 to purchase our own book. Andrea also advised critique groups and workshop-style settings as being essential to success.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

WIWC: Saturday AM keynote with Garth Stein - Let Me Tell You A Story

It was a treat to hear Garth Stein for the first time Saturday morning. Garth started off the session by discussing the three easiest things for writers.
The easiest thing to do in the world is not write. The “second easiest thing is to talk about what you haven’t written with friends , family and strangers.” The third easiest thing is to “write about what you’ve never written” like plot points, vignettes, and only writing about what you think about writing but haven’t finished.
Garth: “Writing is a process of discovery.”
You must take the writer/reader relationship very seriously. It’s a matter of trust. There are mistakes in fiction but no accidents. Be aware when you’ve written a character sloppily (unrealistic). Dramatic truth: if you put a gun on the wall early in the story, you need to remove it by the time the story is over or we betray the trust.
Realize the story takes on a life of its own and that as storytellers we are just stewards.
On first drafts: he writes them for himself; all subsequent drafts are for the characters and story. Garth noted an interesting statistic from a study in Scientific American Mind: for the first time in history, less than 50% of Americans read for fun. He noted that reading is a social act. We must give something in order to receive something.
Garth reiterated time and again the importance of the writers’ role in society. We can be agents of change, and have an “obligation of being idealists.” Readers desire to be changed, that’s why they read. In his closing statement, Garth said “a book has no purpose until it’s read.”
NEXT UP: Children’s Market Fireside Chat part 1

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WIWC Workshop: Jennie Shortridge on Pulling Stories from Your Passion

Today, I continue my report about the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference.

Jennie Shortridge is the author of When She Flew and a co-founder of Seattle7Writers. I appreciated her open and challenging demeanor. The workshop was one of the most helpful ones I’ve attended over the course of several writers conferences

She began with a quote:  “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”

Jennie noted how we all write to instill something in our reader. As a writer, we may not realize what that ultimately is but the reader will form some type of relationship with it, which could be the opposite of what we envisioned. If the reader finds comfort or clarity, or is even angry with what you’ve written, your job has been accomplished. The message has been received for isn’t a story more than just words?

Jennie led us in some exercises and focused on sharing emotional truth in writing. She told us to further explore the question why we write . Personally, there are several reasons: because I can’t; to encourage or impart wisdom; and because I want readers to gain something positively that will influence their lives.

As writers, we’re curious souls, always striving to learn things and why they are the way they are. It’s a career of investigation and exploration, working to solve the mysteries of our own lives and the lives of others.

Jennie noted how we are the worlds’ “truth tellers” because we’re focused on fact-finding, emotional depth and the importance of defining the human condition.  “Each of us has something to tell the world and maybe more than one thing.”

Another thing Jennie said  that really stuck with me is something I’ve been working through myself the past few years: “The trials of your own life can be a valuable tool in your writing.” You may never know the impact it will have on your reader.

NEXT UP:  Saturday morning keynote with Garth Stein

Monday, April 4, 2011

Whidbey Island WC – Day 1, Part 2

I was fortunate to have my agent consult (pitch) and critique back to back late Friday morning. I pitched one of my novels to Laurie McLean of the Larsen Pomada Agency. For more info about Laurie, go to I haven’t pitched in person very frequently and found myself more relaxed than I would have imagined. I consider the pitch successful and it was certainly a learning experience. I’ll admit it was great to talk with someone who’s excited about my story idea. As we all know, getting an agent is more than pitching a great idea. The writing must exceed the setup you’ve provided. If the story, the characters and plot are dry or poor, it doesn’t matter what incredible idea you pitch.
The first 20 pages of my 1st novel was critiqued by agent/writer Mandy Hubbard. This was eye-opening for me. Those 20 pages were the longest portion of prose I’ve ever had reviewed by an agent or published writer. Mandy was honest but considerate. I appreciated her feedback, especially the fact she pointed out some issues I was previously unaware of. She confirmed some other problems I knew existed and already am busy revising.
I don’t believe it’s possible to overstate the importance of both pitch sessions and critiques. In two weeks, I’ll have the first 5 pages of one novel critiqued by another agent. I look forward to that feedback as well. The daunting task of revision lies before me for both novels but I’m diving in with both eyes open. Let the games begin!
NEXT UP:  Workshop review

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Whidbey Island Writers Conference Day 1, Part 1

I’d been looking forward to this conference for months. It was advertised as unique and I was intrigued to compare the differences with other conferences I’ve attended. I live a short distance from this year's site so the travel was incidental. Rain welcomed me Friday morning as I said goodbye to wife and kids. A short ferry ride from Everett to Clinton, a 30-minute drive and I arrived in Coupeville exactly at 9am for registration.
No familiar faces greeted me but I’d resolved in advance of the conference to cast off my historically wallflower-like personality around strangers and to engage people. I admit it takes me a few minutes to warm up to the idea. It’s not that I’m your traditional introvert; I’m just uncomfortable around strangers. I’ve learned that’s a bad trait to possess at writer’s conferences! Besides, who knows what great friend one might be missing by not reaching out.
Many editor/agent consults were already under way when I departed for my first session with Carolyn Tamler entitled “Envision Your Future as a Successful Writer.” I’ve become a huge advocate of goal-setting in writing and map my own goals out each year. While some of the session covered concepts I already used, I found it encouraging to break up into small groups and learn where other writers were coming from. It also helped me add to my list of goal, redefine some I’d purposely left vague and consider new priorities.
We all chose one specific goal with which to jump into the questionnaire. I chose to have at least three completed, full revised manuscripts ready to submit to an agent within a year. When I reviewed the question “what exists to get you to this goal?”, I discovered the amount of work I’ve completed but still required further revisions/edits. I get encouraged by the small things and while I realize cutting and slashing your novels can be challenging and painful, I welcomed the thought of the finished product – looking ahead to when my agent or editor will advise yet further rewrites.
Over the course of the next week, I will be covering my conference experience in detail for you and it’s my hope you’ll join me and glean something useful.
NEXT UP: Friday pitch session and critique

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Whidbey Island Writer's Conference

I apologize for the lengthy silence, folks. I've been immersed in my job search until this week. Nothing new to report at this time but I'm being as proactive as possible.

This weekend I'll be attending the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference in Coupeville, WA. It will be my first time attending and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm hoping to tweet and blog from the conference as much as is feasible and also plan on writing a complete report for the blog next week.

I'll be meeting agents Laurie McLean, Mandy Hubbard and Andrea Brown for consults or critiques, the first two within a couple hours of the conference beginning on Friday. If anyone else plans on attending, let me know. I would love to connect with you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pursuing a “Job” or a “Career”

Last time we talked about working a full-time day job while writing. This time out, I want to speak about careers and jobs. For many of you, writing would certainly fall in one of those categories.

Let me give you a glimpse into my own life. Perhaps you can relate.

I’ve been employed in essentially the same “job” for 20+ years. There’s very little upside potential to what I do but because of poor decisions, bad timing and layoffs, I’ve found myself cornered. I’m very good at what I do but I’m also burned out and seeking more challenges.

So four years ago, I began college at the age of 40. Things were going well until my daughter’s liver issues sidetracked my family’s daily routine. Now, I’m revisiting finishing my bachelor’s degree in hopes that will provide impetus necessary to change careers.

Fast forward to today. Facing an impending layoff has driven me to focus on pursuing a new career, not just another new job. Many factors have led me to this point but I intend on being very choosy when it comes to my next position.

My definition of a career may differ from yours. I’ve come to view a career as a place I can not only utilize my gifts, talents and expertise, but where I’m tangibly contributing to the lives of others.  It’s more personal for me now. Maybe that has to do with my family’s trek through pre- and post-transplant living.

The bottom line is discovering fulfillment in what I do. Gaining a sense of satisfaction beyond just taking home a paycheck and moving through a daily routine; that’s what I’m seeking.

Now it’s your turn: whether in writing or your day job, do you have a career or a job? What would you change if you could? Are you happy where you are? Please share.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Day Job

Many of us who call ourselves writers dream of the day when we can earn a living from only writing. It’s a fact that very few authors can write full-time. Those that do are very fortunate and I must admit I harbor just a speck of jealousy. The thrill (but also the pressure) of writing full-time may sustain those of us who can’t do so at the present time. But is working a day job really that bad?

I suppose it depends where you’re coming from. Many writers are stay-at-home mothers raising their children, or those who’ve finished raising them. We are all aware that motherhood is a full-time job and I applaud those ladies who not only nurture and care for their children, but find time to write.

For those of us who must work another job – either because we are relative newbies or just haven’t landed multi-book contracts – I’d like to provide some food for thought.  I’m in no way covering new ground here so feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.

I admit to still dreaming of writing full-time but it’s simply that – a dream. Until I actually land an agent or sign a contract, I must continue to hone my craft, to read books in and out of my genre, and to strive to be a better writer in every way. Just because someone lands a two- or three-book deal does not guarantee them the luxury of a full-time writing career. It can certainly lead to that but it’s not set in stone until they sign the next contract and the next one.

Does working a full-time job, separate from our writing career, serve a greater purpose? Can it actually improve our writing? It’s a timely topic for me as I face an impending layoff. I’ll have to hit the job hunt trail hard again. I’ll cover that further in my next post. I would love to hear your feedback on this topic.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Inexpressible Loss: Don't Leave Your Feelings Inside

The news that YA author L.K. Madigan died yesterday of pancreatic cancer has hit the writing community hard. I never met Lisa but I know she was a fighter, based on her previous battle with breast cancer 20 years ago. I know she was a generous and giving person based on the comments I've seen from writers touched by her life. Her death is a sobering reminder that our lives are fleeting. But it means much more than that.

For starters, we sit and mourn her death while looking in the mirror and asking many questions. One of those is: am I doing all I can in this life to encourage others along their own road whatever that may be? Do we spend time coming alongside people, aiding where we can? This could be as simple as offering a smile or a compliment to the teller at the bank or waitress at the restaurant. Life consists of more than just ourselves. Life is all about relationship. Yes, as writers we spend many lonely hours cloistered in our offices or coffee shops seeking the perfect words. But we all need relationships. They are what enrich our lives and make it worth living. The words we write may or may not live on after we're gone, but the relationships we build; those are eternal.

Cancer is nothing new to me. I've lost a dear family friend to breast cancer. Another dear friend has battled breast cancer, fought it off, only to have it return in her brain. Six years later she battles on. I lost my uncle to a fast-moving cancer five years ago. I've seen other friends lose loved ones to it as well. To say I hate cancer is an understatement.

That's why I believe it's so important to LOVE those special to you while you are here. Don't miss the opportunity to give a hug, offer a smile and say those three precious words, as often as possible. None of us are guaranteed long years on this earth. We should be investing in what is truly important: people. Whether that be friends, a spouse, children, other writers, or extended family, make it happen.

Life is far too short. Make every moment count. No regrets.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Progress Report

Sorry about the virtual silence this week. Work has been a bear and I've been a bit bogged down as a whole. I plan to post this weekend so stand by.

In the meantime, for those of you interested, I wanted to provide an update on my fiction projects. Once I complete my WIP, I will be focusing on revising both it and novel #1. I'll curb back my writing and either work on some flash fiction and short story pieces I've started, or perhaps some articles I've been neglecting to finish.

Up to the minute:

Novel #1 - First draft complete; revision 1 complete through chapter 7 - current word count, just over 80,000 words

Novel #2 (WIP) - 82,515 words completed; closing in on writing "The End"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Showing Some Book Love

I had every intention to post a blog entry last Friday but I was tending to a sick child while my wife and youngest were at Children’s Hospital awaiting liver biopsy results. Everything is fine. Sarah, our 2-year-old, had a liver transplant at 7 months old. We’re at the mercy of lab results more than we would like. When they take a turn up, a liver biopsy is likely.

So here we are at Valentine’s Day 2011. I’ll be spending some quality time with my wife today. I hope those of you with a significant other were able to get out this weekend.

In the meantime and in the spirit of love, I would like to discuss those books or authors you can’t get enough of. It could be a timeless classic, a new series, or one of the great writers of our time. You can take it anyway you would like. It would be great to hear everyone’s favorites. Oh, and by all means, you don’t have to limit this to fiction.

Without a doubt, the book that set me on the path of reading was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Soon after that I read The Lord of the Rings which left an indelible mark. Fantasy would become my favorite genre to read and write. I’ve enjoyed many of Terry Brooks’ Shannara books and David Eddings’ Belgarion series. I’ve begun reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my kids just in the past week and they’re loving it.

For many years, I read only non-fiction but in the last couple – particularly since I began writing again – I’ve gravitated back to a more balanced reading schedule.

Now it’s your turn. What are your “classic” reads?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The First Draft: Joy and Pain

The first draft. It can be agony or ecstasy to write. Some writers breeze through it, acknowledging they’ll return and tear it limb from limb in order to create a more “perfect” story. Other writers throw their best into the first draft and spend minimal time revising. Still others (I don’t know any of these people personally!) complete a first draft and, well, it’s their finished product with very minor tweaks.

The first draft is essential. Our stories can’t move forward without them. We don’t really know our characters until we’ve written it. Even then, we may go back and rewrite or remove so many parts our final product may no longer resemble that precious idea or outlandish plot that first set our heart on fire.

Most of you have written far more first drafts than I have. I completed my first novel in November and am closing in on completing my second one. I consider myself blessed to have finished even one. The sweat, the toil, the joy and the pain were all worth it.

I sat for years staring at blank pieces of paper or a blank computer screen waiting for those magical words to appear. It wasn’t until I forced myself to write daily (under penalty of death) that I made tangible progress. No longer would I wait for the words to appear, I would just write them. Hideous though they may be, those words were real; something tangible I could see and track over the month.

Now, I write at least 25,000 words per month. I set daily word count goals to keep me on task. I write whenever I have a moment free of work or children rushing around me. The pain comes from the work required to write a truly fantastic book. Revising and editing – those are the monsters that loom ahead of me now.

But the joy – the joy is in finishing the first draft, knowing I have written a book, that I have seen something to its end. Starting something, that’s no big deal. But writing THE END? It’s something so many people dream about and so few accomplish. All of us who call ourselves writers deserve to celebrate each time we complete that first draft.

Do you celebrate when you finish a first draft? Or do you jump right into a new story and save the celebrating for later?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Sense of Belonging

We can all agree the work of writing can be a solitary journey. You sit behind a computer pounding your heart and soul, molding a story you have to tell. Some of us plot and develop detailed character sketches in advance of beginning the actual story; others possess a slight plot, maybe just an idea, and get onboard for a ride, following the story where their characters take it.

The entire journey of writing, of finishing a novel, is exhilarating. I finished the first draft of my own novel in November. I’m very close to completing my second. Obviously, much work lies ahead. A first draft is simply that.

So, we write and write and write…alone. Yet, our worlds are hardly devoid of human contact. We mingle with each other virtually through Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We attend conferences and writing workshops, seeking relationship – some kind of connection – as much as we seek to learn & grow as writers.

Belonging.  That’s what we seek. A place with like-minded people, immersed in a similar journey. I won’t pretend to speak for every writer out there. Everyone possesses their own goals or agendas. For me, a sense of belonging is paramount.

It’s been a very slow road for me. I’ve joined an in-person crit group and an online group, both of which failed. My focus has turned to bonding via Twitter and commenting on blogs I enjoy reading.  Writing is in my bones; something that has to be done. But friendship is what I ultimately seek. Walking a lonely road, without encouragement or insight, is a difficult road. I’m still looking for what I term a writing mentor but I’m willing to wait and see one grow organically.

Do you have the need to belong to a writing community? Do you already have a group of fellow writers how encourage and challenge you?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paying It Forward

This week Shelli Johannes is hosting a Pay it Forward Contest here where she will recommend ONE lucky winner to her agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media.

Contest participants are asked to post their own "pay it forward" tribute to someone who has encouraged them. My life is so full of awesome people, it's difficult to pick just one.

Since this is a blog about writing, I'll choose someone who has encouraged me in that pursuit. This person is most dear to my heart: my wife, Patty.

Patty has poured more into my life than any other person. When it comes to my writing, she has jumped 100% on board since I dove in. She provides time for me to focus on writing every week, sacrificing some of her own free time. Patty reads my material and offers feedback. And, no, she doesn't let me off the hook if the writing's bad!

I know many writers can attest to being more relaxed and able to focus when a spouse or significant other is standing behind them, urging them forward.

Thanks, Patty, for your love and your constant encouragement.

Now it's your turn. Who should you be thanking today?

Useful Words?

How useful are the words we write? Do we expect the fictional words we write to be helpful to our readers?

I fully understand part of our job (maybe the primary job) is to provide entertainment. In fiction, many times, that includes helping our reader escape from their current circumstances. When I was growing up, this was one of my primary reasons for reading. It wasn't that my life was that difficult but I found books to be a safe place to which I could escape. Providing that safe place can be pivotal in a young person's life.

As writers we want to challenge our readers not only with a rich vocabulary and dynamite worldbuilding. We want to challenge their ideas, how they perceive their place in the real world and stretch them beyond their comfort zones. Lofty goals? Perhaps.

If our stories don't serve a useful purpose, do we still call it a success? Do we write with a specific purpose in mind? I'm not talking about lecturing the reader but engaging them fully in life. Please share your thoughts.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Motivation and Passion

Last week, I wrote about the call of the writer. Today, I want to focus on the difference between motivation and passion.

Merriam-Webster defines motivation as “a motivating force, stimulus, or influence.” It also refers to incentive and drive. All writers, by necessity, are driven to write. We wouldn’t create fantastical worlds or complex premises without drive. But in our day-to-day writing, how do we maintain motivation?

Some of us have book contracts (that wouldn’t include me---yet), others have word count goals or critique groups that keep them writing. Certainly deadlines can be a primary motivating factor.

Is motivation enough? Or do we need a good dose of passion to keep us firing on all cylinders on our way to completing a WIP.  It could be argued that without passion for your book or topic, motivation could wane or at least ebb and flow.

Personally speaking, I require a heavy dose of both to be successful. Without the passion for my story, to know my characters intimately and lead them through an adventure, no amount of motivation would be sufficient.

On the other hand, it’s very important to me to reach daily word count goals. To other writers, that’s not a big deal. I find it helps keep me on task and even if the words are pathetic garbage, I will have written SOMETHING. For someone without an agent or contract, trying to hone my craft and just get the words down, this is vital.

Where do you stand? Is motivation alone enough for you? Or is passion what drives you to see your projects to completion?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Virtual Weekend Writing Smorgasbord

So we’ve reached the end of a busy, productive and likely exhausting week. What now?

Do you find yourself stuck at home this weekend, wishing you could get away to hobnob with other writers? No need to fear, my friends. You can, albeit only virtually.

Many writers have gathered in New York City for the SCBWI Winter Conference. So much information, so little time. I’ve attended our own regional conference but never this gigantic, heart-pounding, energizing whopper.

One of these years, I’ll make it out there. For now, some of us may have to content ourselves with following the festivities vicariously through those who could attend.

Make sure to follow Alice Pope and the entire SCBWI blogging team all weekend long here.

You can also follow up-to-the-minute impressions on Twitter with the hashtag #NY11SCBWI.

Some other tasty treats you don’t want to miss out in the blogosphere (including more than one contest!):

Shelli Johannes is hosting a Pay it Forward Contest here where she will recommend ONE lucky winner to her agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media.

Coincidentally, you can find an interview with Alyssa here. Kudos to Krista for her great agent interviews!

Shannon Whitney Messenger is offering a query critique. is giving away a Free YA/MG manuscript edit. Wow! Find details here.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope it spurs your imagination to new heights.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carrying a Full Load

Writers live full lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not. Time is a precious commodity. Maintaining motivation and managing your time are imperative.

I have my own struggles in this area. My average day goes something like this: wake up before the sun; get ready for work; commute; work 8 hours at day job (where I’m able to get a little writing done on my breaks and/or lunch); commute home; tackled by four munckins upon entering; help oldest child with homework (if I’m lucky, I can get a few more words written); eat dinner; get kids ready for bed; write until I collapse in jello-like pile on bed.

I know I’m not alone. We’re all busy but for many different reasons. Finding the balance between your relational life and your writing life is key to a writer’s fulfillment. Some writers I know not only write but also teach classes. They may or may not have small children at home but they have deadlines. Or they may also have full or part time jobs. If you have a critique group or partner, adequate time must be given to them. I have a two-year-old liver transplant recipient and her three older siblings demanding my time and energy, which I freely give them.

If you’re married, quality time to nurture your marriage is non-negotiable. Some people are night owls, others are early risers. Each writer’s best part of the day to write varies and so do our vulnerabilities to distractions like Twitter, Facebook and writing blogs.

So, tell me: how do you juggle your own fully loaded days? Do you have this time management thing down to a science?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Call of A Writer

Writers feel the call of the written word. They can’t deny it and it’s futile to fight it. We MUST write. There is no alternative. Oh, we can attempt to ignore it, comparing it to a fad which will soon fade away. But it doesn’t. It can’t.

If it were that easy to give up, why do so many commit to writing day after day? Certainly there are easier occupations to pursue. Why do we torture ourselves so, in the hope of seeing our words in print, picked up by someone in a bookstore or library and read with delight? We don’t do it for fame, for surely, most writers would scoff at that notion. So few hit “stardom” and even those that do work hard to achieve it.

No, writing for those of us committed to it, whether pre-published,  a debut author or a multi-published writer, agented or not, battle ourselves, our time, our deadlines to find the perfect word. I set daily word count goals. Some people set time goals. Some just write and don’t set any goals. The point is, we are all writing. To do otherwise would be to turn our backs on our gifting, for this is what it is.

Writing is our life, and the words we write our food, our sustenance, moving us from this day to the next with the hope our words will touch just one person. After all, if we wrote simply to entertain ourselves the fire wouldn’t burn so long.  The desire would eventually fade away. But to touch another life, to make someone consider different circumstances, or to simply help them escape harsh realities, that is why we write.

The heart of my writing is to share life.  A journey taken alone can become discouraging, but a road walked with many companions, that’s where joy can be found.

{this post is dedicated to all my writer friends}

Friday, January 21, 2011

Worthless Resolutions, Achievable Goals

Ah, yes, the dreaded New Year’s resolution. How many did you make this year?

OK, I admit it. I used to be one of those folks who created a list of New Year’s resolutions. But failing year after year was no fun. Many of those goals didn’t make it past the first week of the new year.

Several years ago when I began writing again, my strategy changed.  After hearing (or reading) many writers advise focusing on achievable goals, I decided to move in that direction. While goals are great, setting yourself up for failure is not. Being realistic about “resolutions” while having at least one BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal) can set you up to succeed.

Now, each year I review how I did with last year’s goals. The major goal from last year: begin to write something every day. You have to know me to understand how difficult I made this for myself. Many writers tell you to find even 15 minutes to write every day and you can finish a novel in a year.

I allowed distractions to dictate my writing life. Instead of utilizing fifteen minutes when I had it available, I chose to dabble in other things (translation: reading blogs, Facebook, Twitter). While those things are all great, I learned they needed to take a backseat behind my primary goal of writing daily.

The good news? In October I set a monthly goal of 25,000 words. I’m a little organizationally anal, so I need to set up a daily word count and track it, so I can monitor progress. And it worked. I not only hit 25,000 words in October, but also in November and December. I’ve almost surpassed that total for January.

Achievable goals. If I can do it, so can you. So start today and you’ll find confidence you lacked, and the opportunity to build upon them. Bigger and better things await you in 2011.

Oh, and my BHAG for this year? Connect with an agent or editor who believes in my work.

Until next time,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off and Running

It’s been a long time coming but I am finally making the foray into the blogging world. For those of you who know me, you are probably wondering why it took me so long. Writing has always one of the greatest passions in my life but has repeatedly been placed on the back burner. More on that in a future entry.

Technically, I suppose, this is not my first blog. I have been maintaining a blog about my youngest daughter, Sarah, her liver transplant and beyond for two years. That blog was created more to keep people informed and up-to-date on our hospital stays and surgeries than anything else.

Why blog? The reason is probably three-fold, at least at the outset. First, it gives me a venue to share my journey on the road to getting published and engage others who travel along that same road, or who have come before me.

Second, it provides a place to share part of my life. Each entry won’t necessarily be exclusively about writing. My life is so much more than that. With four children under 9, a full-time job and a marriage to nurture, time is a premium. But even above the time aspect is my commitment to those relationships and responsibilities.  There are already blogs out there from writers with small children at home. My intention is to offer encouragement to others in a similar situation or who are just finding it hard to get started, no matter their age or family situation.

Lastly, a blog is a place to be real (I wanted to use the word 'vent'!). Okay, so I won’t be detailing any disappointing dealings with agents and editors or how I wish I could write full-time but I may comment on other subjects, particularly parenting. More likely, I will comment on my writing frustrations and how bogged down I can get in the middle of my WIP.

So, feel free to hop on board. The more, the merrier. While I am relatively “new” to the writing game, I do have 40+ years of life experience behind me and that counts for something, right?  I hope you will find this blog a safe and encouraging place and one that can truly become a community.

Enjoy…and keep writing!