Friday, March 30, 2012


What happens when a story you’ve poured your heart and soul into stops working? Or you receive a critique that trashes it? Or a writer or editor you trust tells you to rewrite the entire thing from scratch?  How you react to these situations could tell where your writing career is headed. Sometimes it can tell more about you than your writing. Here are a few suggestions for coping when a story goes up in flames:

1)      Take a breather. Before emotions get the most of you, step away for a few days or weeks. Don’t lash out or shred every page you’ve ever written. Your entire writing career may flash before your eyes but avoid hastiness.

2)    Write something else. You’ve stepped away from one story but the last thing you should do is quit writing. It’s imperative you start another story, plot or even consider writing something different, like nonfiction.

3)   Reach out. This may seem odd considering that perhaps the story you dreamed would land an agent lies in a heap. But this might be the time to encourage another writer. If you’re still smarting from a critique, it’s natural to want to avoid those situations but you might just find that reading someone else’s work is a healing balm. Or you could post something positive to a fellow writer’s Facebook wall.

We’re writers and we’re human. Experiencing moments of frustration or defeat will occur but the key is how we deal with them.  Take a moment to cry, scream or stomp – whatever helps you work through it. Then get back to work. Your writing life may depend on it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday: The Essays

From my first days of 3rd grade when I got my first taste of writing, I'd always dreamed of becoming a novelist.  I couldn't imagine anything more exciting than cranking out story after story and seeing my books stocked on the shelves in book stores. Along the way I nearly lost my dream. I set it aside for the practicality of life, I thought, forever. Five years ago when taking a research paper course in college, my hunger for writing was stirred again, oddly enough by nonfiction. Fast forward to now and, guess what? I'm writing nonfiction! 

To be fair, if you've read the blog enough, you know I'm in the midst of revising two novels, so that dream is not entirely dead. I've found the idea of essays won't leave me. This week, I'm working deeper into one about family, another about scoliosis (still reworking), and one about liver disease's impact on a family. Next week I hope to report some accomplishments, like actually FINISHING these monsters. Until then, don't rest until you've written what's on your heart today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons Learned, Part 2: The Plotter, the Pantser and the In-Betweener

I’ve seen a recent discussion about those writing the animals, the Plotter and the Pantser. You know the Plotter, the one who keeps meticulous notes; they have a notebook full of outlines, plot twists but perhaps no actual story. They leave no stone unturned in their planning for the story and won’t jump in with both feet until they’re satisfied everything is covered. I used to be a Plotter. I was so consumed with mapping out every detail about my novel, I rarely got around to writing the story. Some of this can be attributed to my lack of maturity as a writer.

Up next we have the Pantser who has no need for any type of plot. These writers simply need a skeleton outline, if any, or just the kernel of an idea. They sit down and begin writing and let their characters take the story where they may, uncovering plot twists and surprised as they go. It’s interesting that in recent years since I took up serious writing that I’ve found myself, more than once, swinging to this side of the pendulum. You have to know me to understand how strange that seems.

There’s a third writing animal I will call the In-Betweener. This writer samples between the best of both worlds, culling what works best for them from a plotting perspective and from the Pantser view of the world. No two In-Betweeners are the same. This is where I currently live. I use some skeletal plotting and character outlines, then dive right into the story. I’ve seen a novel morph right in front of my eyes, and I think for the better.  I’ll get back to you if it results in traditional publication in the end.

There’s no bad way to write. There is just bad writing. If you are a Plotter, a Pantser or the In-Betweener, the important thing is that is the method that works for you. Dabble a little in each of them and see which works for you. If you’ve already determined you’re a Plotter, then hit it with gusto. Don’t let anyone dissuade you or tell you their way is the ONLY way to write.

So, which kind of writer are you?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week, #4

extirpate - to pull or pluck up by the roots; to root out; to eradicate; to destroy totally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday

A blog isn't just for me to write about the writing process and my experience but also a place to share what I'm currently writing. I hope you'll share your own highlights where appropriate. Or you can email me if you'd like to do privately. I'm always open to connecting with fellow writers.

This week's projects:
 I'm focusing a lot on shorter efforts including some family pieces, including sharing a bit about Sarah's liver adventure; short stories for a kids' magazine and revamping a college paper about growing up with scoliosis.

The novel has not disappeared but I'm striving to stimulate creativity in a number of ways and diversifying a bit may be just what I need.

The SCBWI conference is a month away and I'm really looking forward to it. I've already submitted the opening for my current novel and hopefully will land an appointment with an editor from TOR Books.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Juggling Multiple Projects

What do you do when you have multiple writing projects vying for your time? Do you consciously set personal deadlines for your work? These are just two questions I'd like you to consider this week.

As I'm still a pre-published author, I've found it necessary to start marking deadlines to complete revisions for my novels. I'm also mapping out completion dates for my articles and essays so I can have something out on submission at all times. For me, this is key to prevent what I term incompletion madness. I have no problem starting a new project, but the finishing part? That's another thing entirely. It stands as another form of accountability to keep me on track, improve my craft and generally move forward in my writing career. For that it what I want: a career. I'm in this for the long haul and I plan to treat it as another "job" whether or not I see fruits of my labor in the immediate future.

So, off I go to do what else but write?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week, #3

I think it's a little easier to link this week's word with one you already know.

pelf - money; riches; but it often conveys the idea of something ill gotten or worthless. It has no plural.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lessons Learned, part 1: Writing Daily

This week I'm beginning a new Monday series about the lessons I've learned so far in my fledgling writer career. I hope you'll join in the conversation, share your own experiences and even correct me if I've omitted something of importance. Here we go...

I've touched on this briefly in the past but I don't believe it can overstated. Write something, anything, every day. Even if you have a mere five minutes, use it to your advantage. There are few reasons writing daily can be invaluable to your career.

First, you develop a habit. In October 2010 I wrote for an entire month straight for the first time in my life. In fact, I wrote every day for the next three months, finishing one novel and 3/4 of another. You don't have to be a novelist to see the value in this. If you write articles, essays, picture book texts or even word games, consider what you can accomplish simply by putting something in writing each day.

Second, your creativity is stimulated. Some of you may have incredible imaginations that requires no inspiration. For those of us who may need a little nudge, writing every day can be just the thing. Not only will you continually be pondering your novel or idea, but you're subconscious will work overtime providing fresh perspective and insight. It's worked for me. I've envisioned multiple series, novels I never knew were lurking in my mind and even some article ideas, simply by writing every day.

Lastly, and this is possible just a personal thing, but I feel fresher. By that I mean my outlook is refreshed each day, I feel more energetic and stimulated. It goes beyond just having an active imagination. I find it rejuvenating. I urge you to share your successes with your writer friends. You'll not only be encouraged but you might inspire them to write more!

It's your turn. Have you found writing daily to be invaluable to your writing life? Why or why not? Did it help you pass a milestone and you've never looked back? I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week

Another word discovered in Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary. Enjoy!

surquedry - overweening pride; arrogance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Real Life Enhances Your Fiction

It might seem obvious to use your real life experiences in your fiction. After all, you are living different “episodes” each day you make it out of bed. We all know what it’s like to see a day start out awful. You kick your toe on the edge of the bed. Maybe you spill a cup of coffee on your freshly pressed slacks. The dog chews your homework. You get the picture. Even in the seemingly mundane we can observe personality traits (or quirks) that may work for a character in a story. Or perhaps your boss calls you into her office and tells you that presentation you only “talked” about needs to be ready in ten minutes. Pressure? Anxiousness? Some more story fodder.

I’ve experienced moments of extreme joy and pain, just like we all have. Witnessing the birth of four children; watching one of them nearly die from a liver disease and then receive the gift of a new liver. Serving in the military out of high school was a defining point in my life and growing into manhood. I’ve survived a car accident I never should have even been part of and I’ve lost in the game of love more than once. But you don’t have to look to only your personal experiences. What about the people you know? Their occupations? How about your family history? What legacy did your grandparents or great-grandparents leave? Even if you never spoke with them personally, what can you learn from their life?

You don’t have to be a spy or skydiver or CIA agent to live an eventful life. Use what you know and mix it together with what you’ve seen, what you’ve gleaned from others and news from the world around you. In the end, you’ll find your story and characters will become more engaging and relatable.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week

Every Sunday I'll be posting a little used or very obscure word I've discovered in Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. I hope you'll find the words interesting and possibly entertaining. Maybe you can even try using one in a writing exercise.

Please post a comment if you HAVE heard the word before and especially if you've used it in a story or in a recent conversation. If you have any suggestions, please email me or you can direct message me on Twitter.

And now the first word in the series:

blandiloquence - fair, mild, flattering speech.