Start encouraging other writers now

Hey. You with the finished novel and the query plan. And you with the agent and the possible interested publisher. Also, you over there who just got smeared on a writing critique website and that chick beside you with the Masters in Creative Writing. All of you, listen up.

You might be great. You might be golden. But you ain’t shit without other writers to back you up. And if you going around with your Grammar Nazi red pen and your condescending  and overly worded notes on how they should have written their novels, you aren’t doing them, or yourself any favors.

In my life I have read all sorts of writing from all sorts of people and there have been times I have put my hands over my face and thought, this is too hard to read. Sometimes the genre was just not my cup of tea. Sometimes the writing really did need a lot of clean up. Sometimes they had a writing quirk that I fixated on until it drove me crazy. Sometimes It was just so really good that I wanted to gouge my eyes out in jealousy. It’s honestly happened many times for many different reasons.

But the fact of the matter was, I always did read it, all the way through. And after I digested it a bit, I could always see the light glowing in that story.

Every story has a light.

A unique voice. An amazing premise. A clear and concise manner of wordplay. A riveting style.

The truth is, I have been wealthy in the work I have gotten to read. There is very little I have gotten my hands on that hasn’t revealed it’s light to me. Hasn’t taught me something, changed my ideas just a little, made my brain spin in that beautiful, awesome way the brains of writers do.

And you will never read most of it. Because someone, or sometimes, multiple someones, have beaten that story down. They convinced the writer that instead of chipping away at the rock and mud and sometimes, yes, sometimes even caked shit, until they shined that gem gleaming at the center, that instead that gem itself was trash, and maybe the writer was trash as well.

Now, please, let me clarify a moment, before going on. Not everything you ever write is going to be diamonds. You are going to write a lot of petrified dinosaur poop with some garnets sprinkled in. Especially when you first get started and before you tell your ego to take a back seat to honing your craft. But you can salvage those garnets and you can keep trading them up until they surround diamonds if you keep working at getting better.

And working at getting better takes some serious diamond hard will. Not all of us will make it. Not because we can’t, but because we get crushed under the egos of the peers and mentors we go to to help us refine our craft.

So here is my plea to my fellow writers, who have used that diamond will to forge on.

Keep looking for the light in the words of those around you. Keep looking for the lessons they have to teach you. Keep looking for their strengths. Keep encouraging writers, every writer.

I’m not telling you to pander. To flatter. To lie. Those things serve no one.

But find the strengths in the work. Find that spark that made that person decide they wanted to write in the first place and while you give your criticism, and please do make sure you tell them how to make their work stronger by elevating the strengths that are already there.

A person can learn grammar. They can learn plotting. They can learn to set the tone. But they need to feel like it is worth it. And it is always worth it.

Neil Gaiman is quoted saying “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

This is what we, as writers and as critics, need to remember. The story is unique to the writer. We do not know where it is going until it has gone there. We must read as readers and not as writers. We must acknowledge that every story is a journey for the writer, because we know every story we write is our own journey.

Not all of our journeys deserve publication. Not all of our paths lead to riches. But we learn along the way, don’t we?

And to your benefit, you never know when that kid your encouraged in night school is going to unleash the NYT bestseller, or the girl in your crit group is going to be endorsed by Stephanie Meyer. Do you want to be the person who told them their story sucked because you thought the twist should be something different, or do want to be the one they are endorsing when you release your first work because you made it possible for them to see their flaws and play up their strength?


The Alchemist: Required reading for Writers

“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Take a minute to let these words sink in, aspiring writers, because if you think back on your life, again and again you will find them to be true. That time you swore off dating right before you met your spouse, that time you were so overwhelmed with school work you thought you would have a nervous breakdown before graduation. That time that big work project was kicking your ass and you almost quit your job, but you got through it and rewards were abundant.

I read The Alchemist because I was looking for a spiritual based book to compare with a novel I was struggling with. There was no comparison. Aside from being completely different in subject, it was so incredibly masterful and moving, it was the sort of work I could only aspire to someday. After I devoured it, I quickly shoved it on my brother, who has yet to give it back to me, even  though he also read it and loved it right away.

Hey Adam. Give it back!

Paulo Coelho is full of amazing insights about life and achieving your dreams, having gone his own journey to find his “personal legend” as a writer, but the above quote is the one that has been coming to me in past months and weeks.

A while back I hit a wall with my publishing pursuits. I also went from a steady coast with my peer reviews to a sudden deluge of harsh criticism. Some very helpful and some not at all. I struggled to get my motivation up to do another rewrite of The Silent Apocalypse. I was seeing my dreams move further and further away from me, and the path toward them blowing away in the sand.

Enter The Alchemist. A story about pursuing your dreams, written in a way very different from the Disney standard we are used to.

And that writing, have I mentioned, is beautiful. The writing is not complicated, actually quite simple The story is not long. It never names the main character. It moves all over the place and it is masterful. Coelho manages to created something the sounds like a religious text as well as a phenomenal story, with very little fuss to it.

So, if you have not read this book (it came out in the 90s so it’s very likely you have) I suggest you pick it up. Keep it on you shelf. When you are feeling like maybe it’s time to quit, pick it up and read it. Simple writing. You can do that. Beautiful story. You already have that in you. And inspiration to fly.

We all need that.


Change the way you look at pursuing a career in writing

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe while you pursue publication of your novel you completely own it. Maybe the time and energy and hard work you put in without getting paid is something your friends and relatives and acquaintances completely accept as what must be done to reach your goal career. (if the last one is true, wow, good for you).

But while I admit I have support from many people in my life, the most important people in my life, I would say the majority of people who know what I do to attain my goal see me as a dreamer.

And while we, as a society, admire dreamers once they have achieved, on the path to their dream we collectively roll our eyes and nod slowly and tell them not to quit their day jobs for their little hobbies.

So, as writers, pursuing an actual job writing books, many of us tend to me a little more humble about our work. After all, we’ve yet to get the advances, the royalty checks, the writing engagements, the book on the shelf at the book store. What do we have to show for the hours we’ve put in, the years?

Would you ask someone who was going back to school to pursue an engineering degree why they were wasting their time chasing their dreams?

Knowledge. Refinement of our craft. Connections. Industry understanding. We writers collect all these necessary things as we pursue writing as a job, and most of us don’t wrack up 50 grand in debt doing it.

Writing books, editing books, participating crit groups, hiring editors, going to writing conference, submitting for publication, these are part of a real world classroom that is no less worthy than a college tuition for a “practical” job.

Publishing a novel, establishing a career takes time and work and energy. It doesn’t happen overnight any more than becoming a doctor does. You have to put in the work, and you have to acknowledge that, in doing so, you are preparing yourself for the career you want.

For some reason, many people think it’s a matter of writing a book, getting it published. They think the writing part is the hard part, and if you can get it done, that first book should sell if it’s worth anything and you will be on your way.

You know that’s not true. I know that’s not true. There is no reason to be humble about having to strive toward what you want.

Guest Bloggers coming up!

Hello All! I hope the holidays aren’t driving you crazy and your writing is going well. I am excited to announce that in the upcoming weeks I have several guest bloggers lined up with their unique perspectives on this twisty path we call writing.

Members of my super awesome wicked cool writing group will be sharing their brilliant thoughts with us on a variety of topics and some published friends might be stopping by to tell us about their books.

Stay tuned!

How to own being an author, no matter what stage you are at.

Once upon a time I told a guy I was dating that I wanted to be an author. At the time I was in journalism school and  I had already completed three novels, and while I knew I had a ways to go and didn’t dare to presume myself already an author, I knew it was the path I planned to pursue.

“You write novels?” he laughed. “I just can’t imagine you sitting at your little computer typing away little stories..

Yeah. We never went out again after that.

But this kinda reaction is one that a lot of novelists encounter, no matter what stage in their career they’re at.

If you are working toward publication you get condescending smiles and things like “Well that’s a nice dream to have.” or “What is your real job?” and the general sense that people think you are sweet and delusional.

If you are self published you hear things like “Oh, so it’s not really published” or “Yeah, people can publish anything they want these days!” Insinuating that your work, no matter how professional and successful is somehow worthless because you chose a different route.

And it even extends out to traditionally published writers. “Has anyone actually read it?” “I’ve never heard of that book.” and “Do you actually get paid anything for it?” Because if it’s not a well known bestseller, it apparently doesn’t exist.

So for many years now, when people have asked me what I do, I shrug and say, “Oh I’m a stay at home mom.” suggesting my days are spent cleaning boogers, cleaning house, and and wiping butts (to be fair, the boogers and butts are a large part of my days).

Certain friends and family have given me the raised brow, smile and nod and move onto the next subject when I have had the delusional optimism to mention that I am spending my time querying, editing, social media-ing on behalf of my writing career.

But I am done hiding. I may not be on the bestseller list this year. I may not even be published for a while yet. But this is my career, just like an actor, an artist, musician or a director. I am working my way into it. I am learning. This is the arts and it is an industry I am working hard at it as I refine my product, make connections and learn the market.

A few months ago, a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time asked me what I was doing with myself besides being a mom. I told him, a little sheepishly, I’m working on getting my first novel published. His eyes lit up and he responded with, “That’s AWESOME!”

Wow. That felt good. Because it is awesome. It’s frustrating, it’s exhausting, sometimes it’s completely depressing, but it is awesome and I am proud of the work I am doing.

So I decided to stop acting like it wasn’t awesome. I am pursuing a career I love and, while I know there is a stereotype of the wannabe writer who is always talking about writing and never actually getting their work out there, that isn’t me. Is it you? If it is, that’s okay too. You will get there.

The holidays are coming up and I am owning my career path. And if are in a position like me, whether you are working on your first publication or preparing to release your eighth book, here is how to handle the skeptics you encounter.

  1. Your book is a product. You are working in an industry. Refer to them as such. In fact, throw some industry jargon in there. Suddenly the slow nods and the “oh, that’s nice” will turn into “oh, that’s impressive.” Because you are doing something they can’t do and you know things they don’t know.
  2. Be proud of your work, whether it’s a serious historical character study or a wildly unique take on YA paranormal romance. You wrote an effing book and you’ve had the work ethic and maturity to refine it, to kill your darlings, to cut out large sections that you loved because they weren’t working. No non-author is going to understand the blood sweat and tears you put into your work, so don’t expect them to. Just don’t let that discourage you from beaming with pride over what you have accomplished.
  3. Don’t downplay the work. You know how long it took you to write the damned thing, Researching, editing. Editing again. You know how much time you have spent learning the industry, going to writers conferences, pouring over articles, researching agents, editors, publishers, marketing, writing blogs, creating an online presence. Non-writers don’t know this. Many people think you just wrote down some sloppy thoughts for a couple hours and want all the glory of Stephen King. Tell them. People put value on hard work and you have worked hard.
  4. Mention the professionals you have worked with, whether it’s editors, published writers, bloggers, reviewers, designers, whatever. It lets people know you are serious about your product and about not only getting it out there but calling on established professionals to get it right.
  5. Give a realistic projection of your timeline. Realistic doesn’t mean bleak. Don’t say “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it.” or “It’s so hard to make any money in this industry.” Realistic means, “It might take some time, but I’ll get there.” or “My newest self published book brought in twice as much revenue as my last. I think the third one will be my best sales yet.” You are putting in the work. It is only going to get better. Will you be a millionaire next year? I don’t know but I don’t suggest you tell people that as a certainty. It might be years before you can quit your day job. But realistically, you will get better with each novel you write. Your novel will get better with each draft. Your chances of getting an agent get better with each query you put out, and so on and so on.
  6. Don’t let it get to you. When your date still insists on making little digs about your “little stories” accept that he’s just a bag of horse crap and file him away for future villains. Many people wish they had the courage to pursue a career in the arts and are going to project resentment out at anyone who does.

Of course we all know that we have to make the distinction to ourselves first that we are awesome because we are authors. Other people will catch on eventually, but don’t let them deter you in the meantime.

You are an author. That means you are a salesperson, a researcher, an online personality, a professional reader, a marketing director, and a creative genius. Own it. You deserve the title.

Am I just imagining this?

The last time something unbelievable but very tangible happened to you, you might have come at it with some skepticism. You might have wondered what the catch was. But did you actually pinch yourself and later insist you must have been imagining it?

I am currently having a hard time reading a good book. It’s a fantasy, along the magical realism end by a very successful author and I keep putting it down because although the protagonist knows there is magic and knows she has it and knows she doesn’t know much about it, she keeps insisting she is imagining a very visceral, real magic experience that keeps happening to her instead of investigating it. Oh Em Gee lady! Just effing accept it already. We are halfway through the book and there are still lengthy sections about how sad she is because she can’t accept it is anything more than her imagination.

I see this so much in stories, specifically horror and fantasy. It’s like the author is worried the reader is going to think the protagonist is crazy if they accept what they are seeing right in front of them, feeling what is actually touching them, smelling actual smells, even though they are “not supposed to be there”.

Stephen King is a master at getting past this stage of disbelief in his characters quickly. They might be seeing or hearing or sensing something strange but quickly they come to accept it and move on, but other authors draw it out or even, in the case of my current read, manufacture it.


More drama? Oh please. If you need to add drama to your story it is not strong enough. To make the character sympathetic? Well, by the 18th time they blame their imagination, I am ready to kick them to the curb.

When writing, think about yourself. How would you react?

If you saw a ghost walk through your living room, how would your react the first time? If it happened again and again, how would that reaction change?

If you dabbled in a magic spell and it worked, how would your react? What if you kept going and the spells kept working?

Of course skepticism plays into all these things, especially after the fact. Maybe I nodded off and dreamed it. Maybe I just got lucky. But in that moment that you are looking at a ghost, really seeing a ghost, do you think you would really think, “Too bad this is just my imagination.”

Keep your characters real, always. Please!

And please share your thoughts!

How do I know I want to do this?

Let’s face it, being a writer can be brutal. The time, the rejections, the criticism, the skepticism from friends and family when you tell them you are working on getting published. Writers, and all artists really, spend alot of time feeling very vulnerable and suffer alot of heartbreaks due to their work.

So why do it? I mean, okay, you like writing. So write. And then tuck it away and maybe read it to yourself from time to time. But why put it out there? Why harden yourself enough to withstand group critiques and agent and publisher rejections, bad reviews and just plain old failure?

There are many paths ahead of me in my life right now. I have many great and beautiful things going on. How do i know I want to take this path, do this thing when there are so many pitfalls and so few guarantees?

I’ve written before about why we write, why we create. I solidly believe its because we have to. It is a compulsion. But the reason I WANT to do it?

Because it feels amazing.

Yes. Even with the rejections and criticism and the skepticism about my life goals, it feels so good to see a story, your story unfold in front of your eyes, to see loose ends tie themselves together. It feels so good to go to bed after writing an amazing revaluation. It feels so good to write the end.

And it continues! It feels good to have a reader, any reader respond to your work, to ask the questions you wanted them to ask, to gasp of the revelations you have revealed. It feels so good to have them feel what you felt about your characters, or even something totally unique. It feels good to have your story take on a life of it’s own in the hearts and minds of readers in your crit group, your friends, and on goodreads. When another author tells me her or she likes your work, oh hell yes.

It can hurt. It can really devastate you but so much of it feels wonderful, puts your on the top of the world, and as you continue to work it, to move forward the potential for the feeling only increases.

I write because I have to. I want to do this as my life’s work because at it’s best, it is the best thing in the world.


Writing my Biography… uuuggggh!

I have my BA in Journalism. I’ve published freelance articles over the years for local and online publications while working as a graphic artist and occasional content writer. I enjoy macrame, reading and long walks on the beach.


I can write any manner of things but my biography is not one of them. Whenever I read other people’s I suffer from a bad case of writers envy. Holy Crap! That person’s biography is so cool! Why can’t I write a cool biography like them?!

Mine always come out dry or forced. There is no in between.

Why? Well, it’s not that there isn’t anything interesting about me. I actually find myself quite interesting, but all those interesting things are so scattered they have a hard time finding a place in a biography for the same thing. When is it relevant to mention I work with crystals, change my own tires, and really really like red wine? Should I mention these things before or after I talk about the LP I recorded ten years ago and my kids knowing all the words to “The Last Unicorn”?

I also have very few official certifications and awards as an adult. Like none really. People don’t give you a certificate for working three graphic design jobs in five years. And the one they give you for having babies is kinda a given. I have a bunch from when i was young but I’m not so sure it appropriate to mention I won second place in the “City of the Future” coloring contest when I was seven or shared the title of “Most Musical” in my high school yearbook with seven other people.

Alot of what I see is about what people like. That’s cool. They make it work. They make it funny. I have a problem. I like everything (except for stuff I dislike so strongly it’s best I don’t bring it up) and when i try to be funny I fail miserably.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hilarious. I crack myself up on a daily basis. But it has to be on the spot. I can’t try to be funny or its obvious I’m trying. And there are few things worse than someone trying and failing to be funny. Also, I only want to talk about myself in conversation. Otherwise my mind goes blank on everything and anything anyone would want to know.

So now here’s a call to arms. Tell me how to write a good bio! Tell me how to pull off funny and professional as effectively as I could manage it on the fly. Post your bio. Tell me what you would want to know about me, if you wanted to to know about me.

Twitter for writers

If you haven’t joined twitter with a writing account, you are missing out. While twitter can seem intimidating and difficult to navigate initially, it is invaluable for writers in all stages of their career.

Here are a few things twitter can offer:

GIANT writing community

Indie writers, unpublished writers, bloggers, traditionally published writers, pretty much everyone is on twitter supporting each others. Under hashtags #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying you can connect with other writers in the same stage as you. There are also weekly challenges such as #1linewed where you share a line from your work in progress and #Sundayblogshare where bloggers share their work. The more you explore, the more you will find to connect you with others who support share your passions.

Pitch Contests

Run by editors, agencies, and other writers (Shout out to Brenda Drake) pitch contests give writers an opportunity to connect with agents and editors who are interested in their 140 character pitch of their story. Some pitch contests connect you to mentors who will help you clean up your manuscript, some win you prizes like edits or agent reviews. Keep an eye open for any and all pitch contests to see which ones will be best for you.

Manuscript Wish List

Now with a new website to back it up, the hashtag #MSWL is where agents and editors post the book they would really love to find in their inbox. Some are very specific, “Latin Fairies plot space mission to escape from ghosts”, and some very broad “Really scary horror!” but going through the post can help you see what the industry is looking for and narrow down your search for agents.

Agent Twitter accounts

Some agents provide a wealth of knowledge to those who follow them. They participate in organized open discussions with writers, they post things like #tenqueries where they address what is good or bad about queries in their inbox. They link articles that they feel are important and relevant to the industry.

In short they tell you exactly what they are looking for and exactly what will discourage them from choosing you. Every agent is different, but you can learn a lot about who to query and when from following feeds.

What have I missed? What do you find most valuable on twitter for writers?