Eyes Open, Fingers Crossed Part 2

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PART ONE discusses the first half of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and how it applies to writers More than just passion, hark work, and talent is needed to be successful. Other factors are involved. Part Two looks at the 2nd half of his book.

To really succeed at writing you need more than just passion, talent, and hard work. Other factors come into play, some absolutely positively out of your control. And some that are.

 Harlan, Kentucky: Gladwell tells the reader where and why a feuding mentality comes from ( think sheep herding, grazing boundaries, blood feuds, the Hatfield and McCoys ) . How is can this possibly be applicable to writing? Do you come from a culture or family who feuds? Or where retaliation and ‘talking smack’ and ‘pay back’ is a family favorite pastime? Does this attitude leak on to your social media? Too many folks are too quick to lash out on social media, too prone to retaliatory attacks ( remember the debacle with the author who responded to a mean reviewer?) Each nasty comment erodes your platform. Agents and editors often google you to see how you project yourself. A mean spiteful,

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Eyes Open & Fingers Crossed

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 10.56.17 AMMy students and I are discussing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers in class. Well, as you know, teachers can’t just read the book they must find ways to teach its lessons, drive home its themes, and apply it to their students’ lives. In this case, understanding all the complex components that shape and determine success. And naturally, as a writer I can’t help but apply these same concepts to the writing process.

To really succeed at writing you need more than just passion, talent, and hard work. Other factors come into play, some absolutely positively out of your control.

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Some Things Never Change

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 5.40.08 AMTook a trip down Memory Lane today. While cleaning up the website I stopped to read my very first post from four years ago.  It made me smile because I still feel the exact same way about writing.

A lot has changed since then. I self -pubbed two urban fantasy novels, wrote the third in the series ( it’s sitting on my desktop), wrote 3 historical fiction, attended 5 conferences, made writer, reviewer, and blogger friends, and landed an agent. ( Waiting for that big break.)

My first post is uncategorized, really short, and without tags—newbie style, but the same joy, zest, and love for writing hasn’t diminished. Not one bit. And you can’t buy that kind of feeling.

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Weird Words for Writing Problems

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 3.33.49 PMWords you never heard to explain your writing problems.

Warning: Nerd alert ahead!!!

Writing is easy, except when it’s not. Writer’s block is just the tip of the iceberg. Below are 16 other problems writers struggle with. So in case you weren’t already feeling unappreciated or overlooked enough here’s a few more reasons to amp up your angst.

Is your vocabulary and syntax too literary? Maybe your style is suffering from adoxography: Fine writing on a trivial or base subject.

Perhaps your vocabulary isn’t up to par or you enjoy confounding readers with ancient words. If so, you might have issues with  acryology: incorrectly used or obsolete diction.

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To The Writers, Too Much Waste of Time

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 5.26.37 PMIt was one of those weeks when I read lots of status updates and tweets about writers napping, Netflix binging, and being sent to Facebook jail

Maybe all these updates get me testy because I don’t have the luxury of napping-Netflixing-FaceBooking.  ( Although my students would like it. ) Maybe it’s because I struggle to squeeze out every drop of writing time I can into my too-much-to-do day. Maybe it’s because I’m jealous. Or maybe it’s because even it I could nap ( on a weekend ) my characters and plot are shouting at me.

Writing time is valuable and precious. Don’t squander it. You don’t know what trouble and difficulties tomorrow will bring that keep you from writing.

So with apologies to poet Robert Herrick, here’s my advice to writers.

To the Writers, Too Much Waste of Time

Gather ye stories while ye may
Writing Time is fleeting
And the plot ideas that smile today
Tomorrow you’ll be deleting.


The glorious Dream of Publishing your book,
The harder it’s a-getting
The sooner you revise that first draft gobbledygook
The closer an agent’s accepting.


That time to write which is the best,
When ideas and passion are hot:
But doubt, delay, or too much stress
Time succeeds to rot.


Then be not coy, but write your novel,
And while ye type, be smitten
For if wasting hours on a social media debacle
Your novel will be forever unwritten.


Related links: Readin’ & Writin‘; Rock Your Writing

Zen and The Art of Manuscript Maintenance

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 5.49.44 PMWriting is more than just sitting down at the keyboard and typing. Writing is diving into the depths of your soul and embracing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Writing means peeling the onion layers of beliefs and emotions to expose its raw core—and then conveying those sentiments in a way that will evoke a reader’s emotions.

The act of writing requires emotional energy, which is easily depleted. As any new ager or old ager will testify, aligning one’s energies or chakras are important for physical and mental health.

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Purrrfect Writing Tips

Purrrfect Writing TipsWriters are quite cat-like. We can be stealthy, live far more than 9 lives thanks to our characters, pounce on delicious plots, cough up balls of plot flaws, and hiss at those critiquing our writing.

In an effort not to be catty, this kitty is offering some tips for all the other writing cats currently scratching their claws on the writing post. Continue reading

13 Tips for the Writing Newbie

13 Tips for the Newbie WriterI began writing my first novel 5 years ago. Boy, was I naive! Yet, looking back, those 5 years feel like both an eternity and a blink of an eye. Because I taught literary analysis and have a B.A. in Literature ( la-de-da ) I though I was ahead of the novel game, but all I had were book smarts not the experience with applying those authorial techniques.

Here’s the TOP 13 things I learned about writing during that time.

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Don’t Fear the Critiquer

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 6.23.26 PMDespite what you may think, the folks critiquing your manuscript are not the sickle-wielding grim reaper come to bury your manuscript, although for the uninitiated it can be Hell.

I paid—yes, paid—for critiques from industry professionals at writers conferences and also paid a professional writer for a manuscript critique/editorial report. Those critiques were worth every penny…er…dollar. Of course, there are lots of writers groups willing to do it for free. Just make sure those critiquing have cred, and by that I mean they have had a traditionally published novel or are in the industry ( agent, editor ). Suzy Sunshine’s gushing over your manuscript won’t be helpful in the long run.

Critiques, especially for the novice, are invaluable! However, you have to put on your big boy pants and be willing to take advice and learn from your mistakes. Easier said than done!

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Excuses, Excuses

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 7.07.21 PMPuleeeeze, writers.

As a high school language arts teacher I’ve heard every excuse in the book—many times over. Much to my students’ chagrin, I tear apart…um, I mean  kindly and logically explain how to overcome that excuse. ( Maybe this is why they don’t appreciate my wisdom until they’re in college. )

Warning: This blog may offend those writers thriving on excuses. I know, I know, many excuses are valid—death, dismemberment, disaster, disease, zombie apocalypse—however, most are just excuses.

Here’s the top excuses I hear from both writers and my students.

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New Year’s Writing Resolutions

New Years Writing Resolutions

  1.  Write every day.
  2.  Fall in love with the process of writing, from the initial idea to the first draft through the 10th revision and editing stage.
  3.  Devote X minutes a day to learning about the craft of writing. Take a creative writing class, join a writing group, read blogs.
  4.  Devote X minutes a day to learning about the publishing industry.
  5. Banish fluff and vague words.
  6. Quit complaining about writer’s block.
  7. Learn to overcome your writer’s block. Read RX for Writer’s Block for ideas.
  8. Spend less time on Facebook and Twitter and more time on your manuscript.
  9. Organize your computer desktop, research notes, character charts etc. Read Idea Vault for ideas.
  10. Spend time observing the people, objects, and events around you. Read Authorveillance for ideas.
  11. Read other genres.
  12. Find a critique buddy, group and/or writing club.
  13. Worry less, write more.
  14. Save your manuscript in 3 places. For other words of wisdom read A Confucius Consultation.
  15. Devote less time to your favorite TV show and become more devoted to your manuscript.
  16. Build or revamp your platform.
  17. Start a blog. ( see #16 )
  18. Believe in yourself.
  19. Dream big.
  20. Never, never, NEVER give up.


Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’; Rock Your Writing

Giving Writerly Thanks

feed museJPGWriters love complaining and moaning, and I’ve done my share of that. But not today. Today I give thanks for the writing process.

  1. Waking up is fun. My mind is churning  with words-words-words  and plots-plots-plots.
  2. Coffee tastes good when I’m writing and even better when I’m editing.
  3. I’m never bored. There’s always a book to read and writing to be done.
  4. The internet is awesome. From finding the perfect mood music to taking a virtual tour to discovering a PDF file of a no-longer-in-existence text.
  5. My Smart Phone is a timesaver: I can surf the internet for research sites while standing in line at the grocery store.
  6. Facebook and Twitter make me laugh. Mostly.
  7. Straws. Yes, straws. When I’m writing I drink out of a straw. Less mishaps that way. I have reusable glass ones, so I even feel trendy while slurping.
  8. Microsoft Word. My college essays were written on a typewriter. I don’t know how writers managed to rewrite and edit back in the ‘old days.’
  9. My commute to work. It provides plenty of ( depending on traffic ) time to think, so when I arrive home I’m ready to hit the keyboard.
  10. Most of all, I’m thankful to have found an endeavor I’m passionate about .

What are YOU thankful  for?

Related posts: Readin’ & Writin’

Got Research?

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 4.05.55 PMMany writers do a fair amount of research for their novels. Whether your genre is mystery, action-adventure, sci-fi, historical, urban fantasy, crime, or horror—writers are forever looking up facts to mix with the fiction.

Authors can spend at least a month researching a time period before beginning a new historical, and just as many weeks researching odd subject matter for other genres.

Lucky me, writing a million ( a small exaggeration )  college essays and a masters thesis taught me how to best catalogue and manage the plethora of research gathered along the way. I teach these same tips—learned the hard way—to my students.

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Shocking Writer Transmutations

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 8.59.40 AMWriters evolve. They learn the craft, make mistakes, correct their errors, develop their voice, and learn some more. The process takes time ( years ), requires lots and lots of writing and hours and hours of reading. But what they don’t tell you is that a writer actually morphs into the most frightening creatures each time they write a novel! That’s right! This change is far worse than the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation. Far far more terrifying.

Here, my writing friends, is the true terror of a writer’s transmutation.

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Psychopath, Entrepreneur or…Writer?

4 traitsWhile researching personality traits for a main character I came across several articles about the similarities between psychopaths and entrepreneurs. Frightening, yes? Until I realized ambitious, goal-driven (or more accurately, obsessive) writers tend to fit the psychopath/entrepreneur profile!

Writing a novel, finishing a novel, rewriting your novel, revising the novel again and again, querying that novel, bouncing back from rejection…these tasks require a certain single-minded determination. Although there are days we feel more like psychopaths than entrepreneurs it behooves us to recognize that particular personality traits often determine our failures and successes.

Below is a 100% unscientific test that may determine if you share the same personality traits as a psychopath or entrepreneur.

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