Sunday, March 29, 2020

You Can't Spell 'Success' Without 'U SUC' (Brian Katcher)

Well, if you're like me, you've been hunkered down in your house, catching up on your streaming, writing, and housework. And desperately, desperately wishing you could visit your family and go...anywhere.

I'm at one of those rare times in my life when I have unlimited time to write. My school district was kind enough to keep all employees working and paid, and so when I'm not doing distance learning, I have time to create.

So what do I write? I mean, I just finished the final draft of one book, and the first draft of another. So how do I pluck a plot from the air?

Hell if I know. But comparing my past successes with my past pathetic failures, here are some good rules of thumb:

1) If you're not excited about your plot, no one else will be. Just because you think it might sell, doesn't mean you should write it.

2) Don't let time get away from you. I write the most when I'm fighting a deadline. It's when I have loads of time that I get lazy and put things off.

3) Finally, have fun with it. You used to do this for free. Don't let the stress of writing for pay take the fun out of it.

And remember, things could be a lot worse. We're going to get through all this.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Three Things to Pack for Your Writer’s Journey by Dean Gloster

            I’m feeling particularly inadequate at offering writing advice today, because I write so slowly. I’m typing this from my house, where back injuries and shelter-in-place orders keep me in this chair 14 hours a day. But progress on my current novel is still barely a crawl. (*Sigh*)

 Slow writers rock. Like a turtle on a croc.

           Millions of other people are also under stay-at-home orders, because of a global pandemic. Some may be thinking it’s a great time to start that novel they’ve wanted to write, if they only had time. (Weirdly, few think they'd become a concert pianist if they only had the time.) So I’ll tell you how I did it and suggest a few nuggets of advice.

This is a round tuit.
If you ever planned to write when you got around to it, now you’re equipped!

            There are three separate elements that you have to braid together to create a novel (or a play, or a screenplay) strong enough to move people—to pull them into your story world, and then haul them to a satisfying place in the end, where they say, “Wow. That was a story.”

Agents tell me it’s also nice to have that almighty hook, but that’s later in the process

            The first is storytelling. Think of that as the shape of the story, or the structure, combined with the interesting premise. Often in commercial and genre fiction, that premise is, interesting character wants something for important reasons, faces obstacles, and something terrible (stakes) will happen if they don’t get it. An event sets things off, and then (usually) the character’s desire and choices drive them through the story, around or through those obstacles (or they have to change direction, and learn something in the process.) One thing, causally, leads to another, and then there is a climax (or a dark moment and then a climax) and a resolution. (And sometimes a brief denouement that wraps up loose ends and gives us a little emotional victory lap.)

            You can study books on story shapes (Ronald Tobias’s 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them is excellent.) Or read books on structure (the books that break it down for screenwriting are excellent, and part V of Larry Brooks Story Engineering is as informative as the rest of that book is annoying—which is to say, immensely.) Or you can immerse yourself in stories, reading voraciously and thinking about them, and absorbing the principles of story-making organically. Stephen King says that discovering the shape of the story in what you’re writing is a like brushing the sand out of a fossil. The structure is there, whole, and you’re just finding it.

As a fossil myself, I can confirm: Yes, this is a fossil.

            I learned the most about storytelling in the seven years after my daughter Alexandra figured out, as an infant, how to climb out of her crib. At the time, I was working days as a lawyer, and my wife was working nights as a pediatric ICU nurse, so it wasn’t ideal to have Alex wandering the house at all hours. So, every night, after she laid down in her bed, I would tell her a made-up story about her and her stuffed animals’ adventures in the Magic Valley with Nice Dragon Peter and Burglar Raccoon, and a revolving cast of other characters.

            Each story ended in a cliffhanger, and she would only get the rest, on the next night, if she stayed in bed. The next evening, I’d resolve it and start another, also ending in a cliffhanger. I told her more than 2,000 stories over the next seven years, which was a lot of practice in putting stories together.

            The second thing you need is craft—the writing part. Ooh, heavens is there a lot to that: Writing in scenes, point of view, how to handle dialogue, how to slip in backstory, scene and sequel, transitions, pacing, summary, openings that hook readers, etc. You can learn a lot of that by writing first-waffle novels—ones you toss, because they don’t come out right. I took up novel-writing as a second career, though, so I didn’t have a lot of time to learn on the job. Instead, I took classes and joined writers’ groups and learned craft the way I’d learned subjects when I was in law school: I read—and typed outlines of—about 40 books on writing fiction. Some of the most helpful were Renni Browne and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Stephen King’s On Writing, Donald Mass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Elizabeth George’s Write Away, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Deb Halver’s Writing YA Fiction for Dummies, Cheryl Klein's Second Sight, James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing, Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book: A Primer for Fiction Writers. Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, and Jessica Page Morrell’s Thanks, but this Isn’t for Us: A (sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected.

            And while my debut novel was under submission--because I wasn’t sure how much I didn’t know—I also went back to school and got an MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, an amazing experience because it’s the closest thing the real world has to Hogwarts. (The magic they taught included how to make readers feel.)

            Do you have to learn craft that way? Heck, no. There are a million paths. But one tip: if you’re ever in a workshop, and someone else gets feedback that is correct, but which you didn’t think of giving her—that’s a blind spot for you, too, so make note of it.

            The third thing you need, which people don’t talk about as much because it’s harder to define, is passion. Passion for the story that finds you, or for the subject matter, or for the category of story. Or the kind of passion that comes from having the characters grapple with the same issues that you’re dealing with in your life. If there’s something in the story that comes from a wound in your life, the authentic jolt of that can find its way through your words to your readers.

            It is a hard, hard thing to write a novel, and it takes a long time. Passion can sustain you through that process. As Raymond Chandler said, “You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.”

(Yes. I know these potholders are knitted, not embroidered. Work with me here.)

            We live in uncertain times. A friend of mine is in the hospital. I don’t know how she is, and I haven’t heard in—too long. This year, some of the brightest lights in our lives may go dark. So, while we are here, my last piece of advice is to tell your story, the story only you can tell, the way only you can tell it. A.S. King is always going to write a better A.S. King book than I can, and Jandy Nelson is always going to write a better Jandy Nelson book than I can.

            But it’s not my job to compete with them over that. My job is just to write the best Dean Gloster book that I can. And then to work on my skills so that the next time I can write an even better Dean Gloster book. So: Be yourself. As much of your unfolded, glorious self as you can.

            Stories are powerful, especially when they're told with passion. For seven years, I told my daughter stories where she was the protector and defender of a magic valley and a forest of feelings and all the animals in it. Today, decades later she's an environmental activist, protecting forests and the animals that live in them. That may be a coincidence. Or not. 

            Anyway, also be kind and gentle with yourself, because we all wish we were further along.

           And in these uncertain times: Stay home if you can and wash your hands. Good luck to us all.

            Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 74 percent of his soul.

When Dean's back is healed again, he'll be off studying Aikido or downhill ski racing, and in the meantime he's on Twitter: @deangloster

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Some Useful Takeaways for Writers (Brenda Hiatt)

If you’ve read the other posts this month, you’ve already received lots of great advice for your writing journey. I can’t disagree with anything anyone has said so far. Of course, it’s not possible to implement everything at once, so I’ll just share what I, personally, have found most important over the course of my own career as a writer.
For those just starting out, I can’t over-stress the importance of making and maintaining contacts and friendships with other writers. Back in the olden days before publishing my first book, I didn’t know ANY other local writers. I had to depend on books for advice, but those could only take me so far. It was a wonderful, wonderful day when I first discovered an online community of writers. There’s just no substitute for getting firsthand advice from writers who’ve been there, done that. 
Which leads to my second point: pay it forward. As you travel farther along your own writing path, remember all those who helped along the way and reach a hand back to those still starting out. More than ever right now, it’s important to be kind to each other, and to remember that a rising tide lifts all boats. I particularly love this quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca:

Someone else’s successes in no way diminish yours. Publishing isn’t a zero-sum game and readers can read books WAY faster than you (or I) can write them. Take time to celebrate your colleagues’ successes rather than regarding them as competitors. 
When it comes to improving craft, my best advice is to read, read, read…analytically. Read lots of books in your chosen genre as well as books outside of your genre. See what other authors have done that works and try to figure out how they did it. 
Of course, there are tons of books, blogs and classes that purport to improve your writing, your productivity, smooth your path to publication, and ramp up your marketing efforts. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” out there. But as I said at the start, it’s never going to be possible to do All The Things. The BEST pieces of advice, from all sources, are the ones you actually apply. Simply hoarding information and advice while you seek more, more, more will lead to paralysis and doing nothing at all. Find a few bits that resonate with YOU, wherever you are on your path, and try those. Test them. If they work, keep using them. If not, jettison and move on to something else. 
Most importantly, just keep writing! Nothing will move you forward better than producing words. The more you write, the more you’ll improve. And the more you’ll have to polish into something worth selling. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Distance Learning by Christine Gunderson

When schools all over America closed and they told us to educate our children from home, my mind automatically put large air quotes around the phrase, “distance learning.”
I thought we’ll all just sort of pretend the kids are getting a virtual education, just to keep governors, secretaries of education, and those really intense parents with gifted children from panicking about lost instructional time. 
I assumed this would be sort of like summer vacation. But then teachers all over the world realized children might spend weeks crouched in dark basements, happily zoned out on Xbox, while their parents sat upstairs drinking coffee and having their first uninterrupted conversation in decades. They raised their World’s Greatest Teacher mugs in the air and roared NOT ON OUR WATCH. 
I’m horrified to realize that my children’s teachers are devoted and committed professionals who are determined to make sure my children actually learn during the coronavirus shutdown. And because I am their mother, I have to help. 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally on board with the distance thing. I’m happy for a reprieve from our Find The Other Shoe fire drill at the crack of dawn every morning before leaving for school. But the actual learning part? That’s another story. 
As a teacher impersonator, I can discuss fractions, in a very vague and general way, by calling my child’s attention to the measuring cup while baking brownies. But unfortunately for parents, this low-key, artisanal and organic approach to learning is not rigorous enough for hard-core educators.
Real teachers post inspiring and cheerful video messages on the school website every morning.
Real teachers say they miss my children in tones so sincere and honest that I am forced to conclude they’re telling the truth. 
Real teachers write detailed lesson plans outlining exactly what my children need to accomplish. 
Real teachers make this distance learning thing so simple even a parent can do it. But I’m still having trouble. 
Let’s face it, a lot of us are having trouble. Have you seen the viral video posted by the mother of four in Israel? She is our prophet, the patron saint of Parents Who Didn’t Become Teachers Because We Knew We Couldn’t Hack It. 
Amateur educators all over the world are sending frantic, slightly unhinged SOS messages to other parents as they crack under the pressure of educating their own children. The text message below, from a formerly strong and intelligent friend, bears an eerie resemblance to the journal entries written by British explorer Robert Scott before he froze to death on the Antarctic tundra.

We have almost completed our first day of homeschooling. I may lose my mind. We have a word of the day. It is INSOLENT. If we are found dead in our home, it will not be because of Covid-19.

At our house, school starts at 9:30 a.m. School sounds something like this: 
Child #1:                    “I’ll do Moby Max, then Raz Kids and then download on See Saw.”
Parent:                        “I have absolutely no idea what you just said.”
Child #2:                    “I’m doing my IXL.”
Parent:                        “I thought IXL was an inappropriate person on You Tube.”
Child #2:                    “Mom. IXL is a math app.”
Child #3:                    “Mom. If I don’t have exclusive use of every electronic device in our entire house for the next six weeks, I will fail all my classes. Hand over your passwords.”
Fortunately, one of my children still has retro-worksheets on actual paper, like we did back in the purple-scented mimeographed glory of the 1970’s. But I can’t help with this homework either, because the worksheets have questions like the following:
“An airplane takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to travel 500 km against the wind. With the same wind, the return trip takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. Find the rate of the wind.”
Why? Why does anyone want to know the rate of the wind? It would be easier to find a customer helpline manned by a live human and ask the airline this question directly than to find the answer using math. 
So yes, the coronavirus is very bad. But teaching my children how to do math at home during the coronavirus is my own private apocalypse. 
But we are Americans, after all. We will soldier on as long as necessary. We will keep calm and wash our hands. We will draw lines down the back of our legs with eyebrow pencil if Dr. Fauci tells us that rationing silk stockings might slow the spread. We will plant toilet paper victory gardens. We will do whatever it takes to flatten the curve—even if it means educating our own children.
Christine Gunderson is writer who lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star the Wonder dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. You can reach her at

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Confessions from a Reformed Diva by Patty Blount

On two separate days this year, each of my sons admitted that I was right and wish they'd taken my advice years earlier when they were choosing their college majors.

Despite their admissions that I was right, I took no pleasure in hearing this. Instead, I feel anxious for both of them.

The real value of advice is in using it when it's given. Admittedly, much advice that's offered is never asked for, but still... can we agree there's still value in advice not specifically asked for? People offering you advice -- unsolicited or not -- are doing so because they want to save you from enduring something terrible. Yes?

Groovy. Moving on...

I'm going to give you advice on how NOT to act.

When I was a baby writer just starting out, advice came in the form of craft books I'd borrowed from the library or blog posts from browsing the internet. I hadn't formed any connections yet. Then I discovered social media and found other writers online. (My involvement with YA Outside the Lines was born from those links.) Over time, those links to writers began to generate advice.

Lots and lots of advice.

Here are the things I learned and happily pass along to you new writers. I hope you'll follow these pieces of wisdom because, as I said at the top, they're offered to help you avoid growing pains.

1. If you're publishing traditionally, find an agent who's excited to work with you. You are literally putting your career in this person's hands and if they can't get excited about your work, few others are likely to either.

2. Write what scares you the most. Author Sean Ferrell gave me that advice almost a decade ago and it's served me well. The novel that scared me the most was SOME BOYS and it went on to final for a bunch of awards and became my most successful book to date.

3. Do NOT compare your process, your journey, your success to anyone else's. Almost ten years ago, before I was published, I remember losing my cool when Snookie landed a publishing contract. I mean, come on! A girl whose claim to fame was how much she could drink publishes before I do? That really stung. But a kind agent on Twitter set me straight and reminded me that publishing is a business and sometimes, publishing celebrities' works is the sort of no-risk investment that permits editors to keep the lights on, so more books can be published over time. And maybe, one of those will be mine.

Spoiler alert: It was.

4. Stay kind.  The publishing community is tight and things you say when emotional are remembered.

This 4th one is the piece of advice I forgot.

At a national conference in 2019, I walked into a Sourcebooks autograph event and was told "You're not signing today." I blinked in shock. I'd done this event almost every year since 2012 when my first book was published. But they had no books for me. I took out my frustration on a new employee -- went full diva on her. "What do you mean I'm not signing today?!? Do you realize I just won two awards this week?" I shouted at her.

Yeah. I was truly awful. Cringing just admitting this to you right now.

Why did I behave so terribly?

I was dying of mortification that my publisher didn't think I was important enough to include in an autograph signing event and couldn't bear for colleagues to know this.

I'm happy to tell you I rallied. I got my sh*t back together and even though there were no books for me to sign, I put out a sign-up sheet for anyone interested. Instead of screaming and crying and continuing my tantrum, I told people who came to that event that a delivery problem resulted in no stock for me to sign. Sourcebooks promised they'd ship books to anyone on that list. I signed scrap paper, bookmarks, and tote bags instead.

And to that poor employee, I apologized profusely and repeatedly for my horrible behavior. None of us is All That. We're all in this together. So no diva behavior, no trash-talking other authors because they finaled in a contest and you didn't, or they got a movie deal and you didn't. If you truly cannot be happy about someone else's five-figure advance, retreat and avoid because believe me, your tantrums, your catty remarks, and your diva attitude WILL be remembered far longer than your fiction.

If you TAKE NO OTHER ADVICE, take this.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dear New Writers: Get Your Own Definition of Success (Holly Schindler) #advicetoyoungwriters #writingadvice

Dear New Writer,

            You are working yourself to nubs. I know you are. You are reading new fiction and studying the industry. You are networking at conferences and online. You are drafting new work, joinging critique groups, revising. You are learning your craft and the ins and outs of the world of publishing.

            All so you can someday hear the most glorious word: “Yes.” From an agent or (better yet) a publishing house.

            It will, you assume, be the ultimate sign of success.

            But I guarantee you, as soon as you start to spread the word, it won’t be.

            Awful as it is, cruel as it sounds, you will encounter people who will downplay it, dismiss it. And there are ALWAYS reasons to dismiss it. Maybe you aren’t publishing with one of the Big 5. Maybe you didn’t get a huge advance. No, you’ll have to say, I didn’t sell the movie rights. No, Jodi Picoult isn’t going to blurb it.

            Then they’ll get this look on their face like you’ve just proved this isn’t such a big deal at all—certainly not a success.

            To be fair, this isn’t the only reaction you’ll have. As you make your announcements, you’ll get plenty of really lovely responses—heartfelt congratulations. But for some reason, the negativity can have more of a lasting impact than anything positive.

            Don’t let it. Dear writers, do not let the naysayers move the needle, rewrite your OWN definition of success.

            And here’s the other thing: Before that yes comes, don’t let the naysayers define you. Don’t let them convince you that successes aren’t to be found all along the way: finishing your first novel. (Success!) Getting up the guts to query your first agent. (Success!) Getting the first request to read your manuscript. (Success!) Self-publishing one of your works—a book or a short story or a poem. (Success!)

            Yes, dear writer, if I could give you one little bit of advice, it’s this: You are a success. Right now. We love end results. We love to point to bestseller lists. Rows of published books on a shelf. Big houses purchased with giant advances. But the pursuit of a dream is a success. In a world where it is so hard just to get started. To say, “This is what I want.” To have the wherewithal to put pen to paper.

            It’s success.

            Yours truly,
                        Holly Schindler

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Advice For Those Suddenly Working at Home (Alissa Grosso)

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic that is currently raging, a whole lot of people suddenly find themselves working from home, and I've learned from social media that a lot of you don't seem to know how to handle this disruption.

As someone who regularly works from home, I thought it might be helpful if I shared some wisdom with you. So, here are my 7 tips for working from home whether you've quit your day job to write the great American novel or are simply an office worker sheltering in place.

1. Routines Are Useful
I'm not a huge fan of routines, but I have to admit when it comes to working from home routines do make me more productive. So, I've grudgingly come to embrace them. Setting clear routines for when your workday begins and ends, what tasks you complete at what time of the day, and what time you take lunch can help a lot with productivity.

I have also found that my canine coworker, who loves routines almost as much as he loves squeaky balls, is very good about reminding me exactly when it's time to knock off work for the day and take him for walk.

2. Take a Shower and Get Dressed
Okay, I know one of the benefits of working from home is that you could stay in your pajamas all day, but this doesn't work for me. It's not just the fact that I would be embarrassed if the UPS delivery driver saw me waking around in my raggedy pajamas well past noon, although sure that factors into it. For me, I just feel more motivated to get down to work after I've showered and gotten dressed.

Now, that doesn't mean I get dolled up in a business suit before siting down in my home office. Believe me I own an extensive collection of leggings and sweatpants. I also have to admit that many days I don't bother to put in my contacts or wear any makeup.

For those of you that are doing video conferencing of any kind, it's probably a good idea to at least make an attempt at getting dressed. Again, depending on the situation you can still opt for comfort, but it's best not to look like you just rolled out of bed.

3. Set Goals
Setting goals or making to-do lists are a great way to stay focused on your work. Even when you live alone, there are a lot of distractions working from home. Whether it's household chores, social media or the television there are a lot of things at home that make us forget that we're supposed to be working.

Creating daily goals or just jotting down a quick to-do list help me to make sure I get done with all my work duties.

4. Treat Yourself
While it's important to stay focused, it's never healthy to be too much of a workaholic. You're working from home, so you owe it to yourself to do something special for yourself. A cup of tea can help make the afternoon more enjoyable, but a pot of tea is even better.

Feeling an afternoon slump? Take twenty minutes to lay down in your bed or on the couch and take a nap. Naps tend to be frowned upon in traditional workplaces, which is really a pity. They're wonderful things, and you can take them when you're working from home.

5. Take a Walk
If you're not one for naps, another great way to recharge is to take a walk. Especially if your work involves sitting all day in front of the computer, it's a good idea to get up and get some sort of exercise.

Depending on the weather you might just want to take a turn or two around your home, but if it's nice out a walk outdoors can really recharge you. Plus if you happen to have a canine coworker, your pup will likely be very much in favor of a walk during the workday.

6. Don't Work After Quitting Time
Set a quitting time for yourself, and try to stick to it. Unless it's a critical situation, don't stay chained to your desk long after you planned on knocking off for the day.

I know there can be a temptation to get back to work after dinner to finish a project, or even to bring your computer to bed with you and try to do a little work before turning in. This is a recipe for getting burned out.

You probably wouldn't stay super late at the office, so don't burn the midnight oil when you're working from home, either. You need some time that's just for you or for spending with your partner or family.

7. Take All Advice with a Grain of Salt 
In this information age, there's an overwhelming amount of advice out there. It's important to remember what works for one person isn't going to work for another.

For example, maybe you're the kind of person who gets way more work done when you don't shower and get dressed, in which case tip number 2 above really doesn't apply to you.

There are no hard and fast rules for when it comes to working for home. As with most things, you have to do what works for you.

Alissa Grosso is the author of 7 books for teens and adults. Find out more about her and her books at

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dare to Fail Gloriously by Jodi Moore

Years ago, I happened upon a poster that said:

"Dare to Fail Gloriously!"

Since then, it has become somewhat of a family motto, as each one of us is involved in some form of the arts, including music, theater, design, directing, choreography and writing. And while we love what we do, there’s no guarantee others will.

You see, one of the true challenges of any artistic endeavor is to create honestly. We owe it to our audience. We owe it to ourselves.

It can be scary to put oneself out there. Because when we share our art, we share the most vulnerable parts of ourselves...our hearts.

But it can also be exhilarating and rewarding beyond measure.

Through art, we have the power to make people pause. Think. Feel. We can make them laugh. Cry. Remember. We can inspire empathy and understanding. And we can promote connection.

Pretty powerful stuff, no?

So, how do we deal with the ‘dare to fail’ part?

Come on in! The water's fine!

First, you need to jump in. You need to start.  A blank page can be intimidating. Inscribe that first word. Craft that first sentence. Hey! It’s not blank anymore! Keep going. Write that initial terrible draft. Odds are, it will be just that. Terrible. But that’s what revision is for. And getting started puts you way ahead of those who simply talk about it.

Second, don’t listen to the ‘no’-it-alls. Yes, this business is filled with rejection. There are countless people out there, from family and associates to professionals, who will tell you ‘no’ for a variety of reasons. But all it takes is one ‘yes’. And if I can do it, so can you.

Finally, connect with others who share your passion. Consider joining professional associations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (, and/or participating with online communities such as the 12x12 Challenge (, #PBParty (,  StoryStorm ( and Reading for Research (, to name but a few. These groups not only instruct, inspire and guide you, but they’ll open your world to a treasure-trove of potential critique partners and true friends...ones who will be there to celebrate your successes and hug away the hurts.

And if that isn’t glorious, I don’t know what is. Will you accept the challenge?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My Best Advice: Work On Your Craft by Sydney Salter

Last month I took a three day writing workshop on developing characters. I'm working on a story with four POV characters, and want to make each one equally strong and interesting. The workshop really helped me figure out solutions for a few characters, including adding a fun new character. I left the class super excited to write and revise.

Ten of us took the workshop, but I was the only one with published books. The teacher, Dave Farland, talked about how people sometimes tell him that he should vet his workshop attendees through writing samples. He strongly disagrees. In his experience, people who have the passion to publish will work on their craft until it is publishable. 

I agree 100%!

I've met so many people who want to write books - almost every time I tell someone that I'm a writer, I hear about the story they'd like to write someday. I always tell them to start writing! Let it be bad. You can always make bad writing better, but you can't fix something that doesn't exist yet.

Most people never write the books they want to write. 

Working on writing craft isn't glamorous. Often it's tedious, time consuming, and filled with all the flavors of failure. The only thing that ensures writing success is writing practice. People are often surprised that I published my so-called desk novel. My first published novel, My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, was my fourth written novel. But I loved that very first story that inspired me to finally write a novel, so I kept taking the lessons I learned from honing my craft back to Jungle Crossing, making improvements over time, until it was ready for publication.

Even though I am published, I continue to read books about writing craft. I do practice writing exercises. I try out new ideas, new forms of writing. I enter contests. I want to be a better writer - and that only comes through working on craft. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Best Advice - By: Kimberly Sabatini

This month on the blog we're giving our best advice to other writers. 

You're going to be hearing a lot of amazing information over the course of this month. In fact, I have a ton of my own I can share with you.
I have junk drawers, over stuffed closets--even yard sheds full of the stuff. 

Most of it is pretty good. 
I treasure every scrap of it. That's why I have it piled and stuffed into every available space.

Yet, my experience has also taught me something else.
My best advice is the most effective when I can pair it with  your best and specific questions.

 For example, just yesterday I was helping a young writer with a short story. 
We connected at a recent school visit and after reading her work, I had two recommendations to share with her. They were specific and geared to her needs.
I think they will be more helpful than if I pulled out a dump truck and gave her all my hard earned nuggets of truth all at once.

But for this post--I don't know exactly what you need to hear. 
One of you might need the title of a good book on revision. Someone else might need to get past a really bad rejection letter. You could be brand new to writing or treading water in the Bermuda Triangle of the mid-list. The list of what you could need is endless. And I'd have something specific for each of you, if we were having that conversation. 
But we're not.

Instead, I figured my best advice would be to go with something universal--something that speaks to me on a daily basis.

"There are so many components of publishing you can't control. But you can decide--every day--how you experience your own writing. Create because you love what you do. Let publishing be the side effect of that joy."

--Kimberly Sabatini

This is something I need to hear almost every day.

It's something I tell myself every day.

And perhaps that alone qualifies it to be the best advice

Or, maybe it is just my favorite advice because I like to picture all of us successfully published because we write from a place of joy and love. <3