Sunday, November 29, 2009


It is the end of National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). Stop a moment this week and pat yourself on the back. Celebrate with a nice walk, a phone call to a friend, or a movie. It doesn't matter if you hit 50,000 words or only 500. What matters is that you set a goal and you worked to achieve it.
As writers we tend to look only at the negative. I didn't make my goal. I made my goal but the work is a hot mess, too terrible to edit. The story stinks. The motivations aren't good enough. My characters are too stupid to live. Or worse, I sent it out and am embarrassed/ humiliated/hurt by the rejection. (Even after over 600 rejects I feel this way every time.)
We fling ourselves in despair on the fainting couches in our offices--yeah, right-- and cry out at our lack of success. All that work, all that time, all that effort and people toss it aside like a used tissue. Why or why do I keep doing this to myself? (Okay, so I'm a huge drama queen. You get the picture.)
Let's take a deep breath for a moment--in and out. Sit up and think about it. Something like 90 percent of the population say they want to write a book. That it is their dream to write a book. Only about 20 percent attempt this dream--congratulations that's you! Only 10 percent finish a first draft--again congratulations that is you! Of those with a finished draft only half will revise it and actually send it out to editors and agents. Even fewer will start a second book. Do you see where I'm going here?
So what if you're not James Patterson or Stephen King. You are living your dream.
Celebrate your efforts. Celebrate yourself. You deserve a pat on the back and I'm here to give it to you. So yay!! Congrats on your Nano efforts be they write or revise or query. You go!
Now, get back to work. Cheers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now for a commercial message...

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The most important thing when writing...

The days are shorter and darker. We are halfway through nano and the Holiday season officially starts in just 11 days. Are you feeling the pressure? I know I am.
I'm going to share with you the number one, most important thing a writer can do for their work-in-progress. It's simple really and very often over looked. That thing is self care. Simple and yet so hard, I know because it's fraught with guilt. Why spend the time in a hot bath or a nice walk when I could be writing, making cookies, sending out cards, blogging, making contacts...etc. Why? Because if you aren't taking care of yourself-daily- it will show up in your work, your craft and your sparkle.

I can't tell you the number of writer's I've seen come out of a deadline bent over like an old man, wearing wrist braces, popping pain pills for bad backs, blinking at sunlight like a mole, their hair a neglected mess, thinking-shower? what's a shower... Food? I mean come on who has time to do anything but eat peanut M&M's while I write... How did I gain 20 pounds when all I eat is the scraps off the kids plates because I was writing? (Sound familiar?) The sad truth is this kind of self abuse shows up in your work. Agents and editors will ask-where's the sparkle? You'll stare at your work so hard that you'll miss obvious things like missing letters in words. You might tell yourself that self abuse is part of the writing life--but that is a lie. It does not make the work better. It will not get you on a bestseller list. So-right here, right now, sit up straight, put you hands on your rib cage, take a deep breath in for three counts and let it out slow. Feel better, don't you? Got blood flowing to the brain- and a sparkle in your eye.

Now- I don't care if you have to make sticky notes and put them on your screen, here are some things you should do every day to improve your craft.

1. Don't sit more than an hour at a time. Get up, take a stroll around your office/home. Set a timer if you must.

2. Hydrate. I don't mean soda or coffee (Sorry, Diet Coke drinkers, coffee lovers.). Get a pitcher of nice cool water and keep it nearby. Add lemon, lime or cucumber slices. Drink at least 8 oz an hour.

3. Stretch. Small things like the stretch of the ribcage mentioned above. Put your arms over you head for a count of ten. Roll your shoulders. Flex you wrists. Point your toes and flex your feet.

4. Nutrition. For goodness sakes, I don't mean diet. Yikes who wants to add that stress to this time of year, but put the candy away and make apple slices, grapes, pears. Stop and eat a real meal-complete with sitting at the table, silverware, maybe even a napkin.

5. Take a vitamin, if you feel a cold/flu think zinc. I keep children's chewables in the desk drawer beside my keyboard. Chomping down on a cherry flavored rino once a day can be fun.

6. Connect with a friend at least once a day. An e-mail, a phone call or even a letter.

7. Get outside for at least ten minutes. Breath in the fresh air. Swing your arms. Take a walk or merely get out on your patio or deck and stomp your feet and take in the view.

8. Pat yourself on the back. Even if you've only written one word and you hate it. You wrote that word which is more than most people can say. Be proud of what you do. Put your critical editor in a box for at least five minutes a day and tell yourself three positive things.

9. Smile. It's the best kind of face lift.

10. Laugh-even if you have to fake it- it helps with blood flow and tightens the core muscles.

Take care of yourself and it will show in your work. (And I get the added benefit of having you in my life that much longer.) Cheers~

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Write, Revise, and Query

When I visited my Grandmother in September we talked about all the bad news in the book market these days--shrinking lists,bookstores closing, publishers hesitant to buy, readers with less cash for books, old trends slipping away while new trends have yet to appear. "I can't do anything about any of that," I flung my hands in the air in defeat.
My Grandmother said to me, "What can you do?"
"I can write. I can revise and I can query. That's it."
My Grandmother who is a second generation American with a 6th grade education said to me. "Then that is what you do. My job was to clean other people's toilets and I did it. Your job is to write. You do it. Do your best at it. Be proud of it. The rest will work itself out." Smart woman, eh?
This is the time in Nanowrimo when people start to wonder if they bit off more than they can chew. If they can really write so many words in one month without editing. If writing the words, "the end" on a manuscript is worth all the hard work and missed television shows. Power through my friends, power through these doubts. Think of it as your job. Afterall, you want to be a writer, right? Then putting words on paper is your job. Do it. Do your best. It's the only thing you can control.
My friend Pamala, (hi, Pam!), tweeted that she isn't doing nanowrimo- she is doing nanorevisemo. That makes me smile. I tweeted back and asked if there was a nanoquerymo, because that's what I'm doing this month. There should be all three. After all that's our job as writers. It's the basic job description and what we have control over.
So, whether you are writing, revising or querying this month. Remember my Grandmother's advice (I wish I could copy her slight Croation accent for you): Do your best. Be proud of what you do no matter what the outcome. Even if you have to go back the next week and do it again- after all, it's your job.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And away we go...

In November many writers turn to NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. It is a community of professional and amateur writers encouraging each other for one month. This is good for writers who have a tendency to procrastinate or who struggle to find time to put the words on paper- or to finish that novel. Think of it as a giant marathon where thousands sign up in hopes of hitting the finish line.
It's a great exercise. To hold yourself accountable at the end of the year- before the holidays really start-to reach your dream.
If you can't do an entire month of pure writing, you can always try book-in-a-week. Don't let the name scare you- most people don't complete an entire book in one week, but the point is to write your story every spare moment you have for seven days in a row with an eye toward finishing an entire rough draft.
By pushing yourself to put words to paper, you are forced to bypass the evil editor who sits on your shoulder and tells you that that page isn't right, that sentence could be better and causes the story to stop while you repair, repair, repair, thus preventing you from finishing. Finishing is the first key to a successful career. It is surprising how many people don't finish a work in progress.
So take this month of November- whether you attempt nanowrimo or book-in-a-week- to set a goal to finish your wip. Tell yourself it is a rough draft. It does not have to be perfect. The whole point is to finish and type the words, "the end."
I believe you can do it! I'll do my best to encourage you this month and come December 1st, we'll celebrate our successes. Now go....write...and good luck!