Writer’s Block? A Sure Cure from a Writing Coach Who’s Been There!

IF TAROT’S FOUR OF CUPS WERE YOUR WRITING COACH, it would definitely want to have a little chit-chat with you about “writer’s block.” You see, the fellow in the Four of Cups is a faultfinder. Nothing is good enough for this guy. Hand him a golden cup of magical possibilities, and he’ll just turn away. Whatever is on offer—even if it comes from his own imagination—he’ll refuse it every time.

And this, exactly this refusal of our own thoughts and imaginative impulses, is an attitude that brings us crashing back into writer’s block. I believe that a case of writer’s block boils down to this: We’re being overly critical about the words our brain offers us. Rather than taking what comes on good faith, rather than trusting we’ll be able to work literary magic with the words and ideas that first occur to us, we cast them aside, claiming they’re not good enough. But if we do this too often, believe me, our brains will get the message and stop producing any words at all.

In his June 30th blog post titled “The simple cure for writer’s block.” Seth Godin writes, “People with writer’s block don’t have a problem typing. They have a problem living with bad writing, imperfect writing …”

But that bad, imperfect writing is exactly where we have to start! We must use whatever clumsy, terrible, boring words arise when we first attempt to pin our beautiful, still-nebulous ideas to the page. If we’re not willing to write badly, we won’t ever get the chance to rework our terrible words into the exquisite, precise language we hope will deliver our best stories to our readers. In other words, we must first fetch the pumpkin—then we can wave our wand, transforming that mundane squash into a golden carriage that will carry us all the way to the prince’s ball.

Don’t believe me? Then believe Anne Lamott! In her classic book on writing, BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Lamott includes a chapter titled “Shitty First Drafts.”

In it she says, For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts…. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?” you let her. No one is going to see it. If [you] get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory…. just get it all
down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that
you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.

Because Anne Lamott is both funny and whip-smart about writing, I suggest you get a copy of BIRD, read the shitty-drafts chapter, then stow the book away in your writer’s emergency kit for the next time writer’s block looms. Then harness up the mice and ride that shitty-draft pumpkin all the way to whatever ball you desire.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

***

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Four of Cups from the RIDER-WAITE (SMITH) TAROT.

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GenXWoman Is Now Hiring Bloggers!

WHEN DENA K. MARTINES CONTACTED ME, she was stuck in a corporate job that she was determined to love. She had the tools, she told me: everything from meditation, to intentionality, to feng shui. And she was working those tools as hard as she could!

In fact, believing she knew how to turn her corporate situation around, she wanted to write a book about surviving—and thriving—in the corporate world. Which is why she reached out to me for book coaching. I was fascinated by Dena’s ideas. And she clearly had her finger on the pulse of the culture she was trying to improve.

But, long and short of it, halfway through our eighteen months together, Dena pulled the plug on her corporate life. During her corporate years, while she’d learned a variety of approaches to staying sane in that world, she’d also discovered that, despite a person’s best efforts, the corporate life is not for everyone.

During her time in corporate, however, she also discovered her purpose: helping others live their best lives—whether that means working in a corporation or working for themselves as break-out entrepreneurials. Which is exactly what Dena has become! And exactly what her book-in-progress is all about!

Along with her partner, Megan E. Fox, Dena has launched GenXWoman. And like all new businesses, they need to get the word out about their stellar services! That’s where you (might) come in. You see, Dena and Megan need blog writers. If you’re interested in creating content for an up-and-coming company, read on. You’ll get Dena’s take on our work together and learn about the company she’s started—as well as your potential role!

DENA TELLS HER STORY

First Steps: In January 2019, I reached out to Jamie to help me write a book. At the time, all I knew was I wanted to write a book—but wasn’t completely sure what that book would be about. A year-and-a-half later, I am well under way to completing my first draft. I credit Jamie’s no-nonsense advice and consistent guidance for helping me get moving in the right direction. Through it all, Jamie has witnessed my professional transformation from working a full-time corporate job that was draining my spirit to my new role as a multifaceted entrepreneur who is following her soul’s purpose.

The GenXWoman adventure: GenXWoman was born from the bond of two Generation X women: myself and Megan E. Fox. We were frustrated with the negative and often depressing narrative about Gen-X people in general, and Gen-X women in particular. We also noticed the lack of online and offline spaces that cater to our generation’s needs. So, after more than eighteen years in corporate America, we decided to join forces and create IGenxwoman.com, a digital platform for Gen-X women by Gen-X women.

Our vision: We are committed to creating a community for Generation X women, a place where they feel heard. A place that inspires them with uplifting, solution-oriented content tailored specifically for them. Our space is meant to be a place for Gen-X women to call home. A place where like-minded women can come together to share their stories and offer support to one another and to uplift and encourage one another. 

Our mission: We believe that Gen-X women have the right to claim their place and forge their legacy in the world. Therefore, we challenge the prevailing narrative of Generation X.  No longer the “sandwich generation,” we want to be known as the “bridge generation.” No longer voiceless, we want to be heard. No longer exhausted, we want to be vibrant and energized. No longer stuck and resigned, we are ready to rise up, strong and empowered, and be included in the global effort to redefine the paradigm of our world. 

Join us in the revolution: GenXWoman is looking for compelling and experienced blog writers to join our team and support us in our mission. If you are passionate about uplifting, educating, and empowering women, please reach out with samples of your writing at support@igenxwoman.com or via our website at igenxwoman.com/contact/. Please also check us out on Instagram and Facebook at @genxwoman.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Cut-and-Paste: A Writing Coach Confesses

WE WRITERS ARE WORDY PEOPLE. We like to think in language, explain ourselves in words, describe our world in nouns, adjectives, verbs. But we can be so immersed in the power of words we forget that, to arrive at them, we have to translate what we see, feel, and think into their hard currency.

Imagine each word is a nugget of coal that must be pick-axed out of the coalmine of your brain every time you want to express yourself. It can be exhausting, right? I confess. After dragging up wagon-loads of words all week, my brain can feel like two stones rubbing together: dry, but unlikely to produce fire!

That’s why I make collage. My style (as you can see), is very loose. Lots of smearing, tearing, and scribbling. This nonverbal form allows me to be playful and creative without using language—the coin of my daily realm.

Then, when I return to the world of words, those verbs and nouns tumble onto the page like a shower of daisies. I don’t have to excavate them like a ton of coal!

This would be reason enough to take a break from language-centric creativity. But I get more from my collage-making adventures! After messing around with scissors, paper, and glue for a bit, I find I make wider, more unexpected connections when I return to the task of putting words on the page. I notice my language is fresher and my transitions between ideas are more dynamic.

Which, of course, is exactly how collage happens—by tapping unexpected juxtapositions and committing to them.

Make your own metaphor to improve your writing*

If, like me, you value such leaps of association, you might want to experiment with collage and see if it offers your writing similar benefits. But maybe that kind of wild abandon is not what you’re after in your literary pursuits. Maybe what you really want is to develop more orderly writing. In that case, you might try the precise patterning that knitting requires. Or, if you’d like to include more sensory detail to your writing, try cooking! Exploring the tastes and textures of a wide variety of ingredients in the kitchen might well result in more delicious  writing on the page!

While any nonverbal activity gives your word-making mind a break, you can amplify the positive effects of time spent off the page by choosing a creative practice you can see as an RX to heal what ails your writing!

Non-writing inspiration

If you already work in a visual medium as well as a literary one, you’re in good company! PRINT MAG’s article The Visual Art and Design of Famous Writers showcases the visual work of writers from Sylvia Plath to Rudyard Kipling. (And if you don’t have a non-literary creative practice, you might find this article inspiring!)

*I discovered the idea of creating a concrete metaphor for a desired end in Marsha Sinetar’s book DEVELOPING A 21st CENTURY MIND.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Writing Contests for Summer (and Beyond!): A Writing Coach’s Picks

IF THE EIGHT OF WANDS WERE YOUR WRITING COACH, she would tell you to FLY your stories and poems and essays and novels out into the publishing ethers. While, of course, we need to develop our writing to the best of our ability, sometimes, it behooves us to send our work into the world and see what results.

A couple of years ago, in a post encouraging you to submit, submit, submit, I wrote this:

Swiftness, change, opportunity, messages on the wind. Tarot’s Eight of Wands speaks to all of these. It’s a communicative card. It can signal the sudden appearance of new connections, information, or direction.

If you got the Eight of Wands in a tarot reading, the turbaned, hoop-earringed Gypsy turning your cards might say, “Favorable circumstances are flying toward you! Avail yourself of them, and positive changes are likely to occur.”

I’m not (currently) wearing a turban—or even my hoop earrings—but accept this message as if I were. Because, with this post, the Eight of Wands is delivering a quiverful of opportunities: It’s time to send your writing soaring out on the winds of literary chance!

I still agree with that idea. And to facilitate your ability to act on this advice, I’ve put together a list of summer (and beyond!) literary contests for you. Good luck!

Summer 2020 (and beyond!): Writing contests and resources

Deadlines between now and July 15: Poets & Writers has compiled listings of 57 writing contests with upcoming deadlines. Browse P&W’s Grants & Awards database by genre, deadline, and entry fee to find the best contests for your work.

Deadline August 15: South of the South contest: Florida-based writers, Wordier Than Thou is seeking fiction, non-fiction and poetry from you about the state of Florida. There is no limit to what you can write about—from Florida’s natural beauty to the seedier side of Mickey to wacky news headlines. As long as it’s about the Sunshine State, they want to read it.

Varied deadlines: Like Poets & Writers, The Write Life keeps their list of literary contests updated on the regular. Currently, they’re showcasing 37 free writing contests, including opportunities for those who write genre fiction, short fiction, and nonfiction. Take a look now, and bookmark the site for future reference.

Varied deadlines: FORBES has an article that lists some interesting writing contests for high school-age writers. You have to maneuver past the advertisement on the site, but the offerings make it worthwhile. If you’re encouraging a  young writer, check out my recent post 10 Tip Writing Coaching Tips and Resources for Teen and Preteen Writers.

Various 2020 deadlines: Okay, novelists, here’s a list just for you! The Novel Factory created a directory of novel-writing competitions for 2020. Got a draft? Might be a great way to get your big ol’ story read!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

The writerly image of the Eight of Wands is from the PRAIRIE TAROT, created and published by artist Robin Ator.

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Support Black Writers

WE ARE WRITERS. Which means we are readers. We read, in part, to understand the lives of others—both the lives of fictional folks and those of our flesh-and-blood kin, past and present. As POETS & WRITERS so eloquently put it: [W]riters … help us understand ourselves and our times, deepen our capacity for empathy, and imagine a better future.

The current uprisings in our country have pointed out to me that I have not grasped the realities Black people in our communities live with every day. If this is true of you, too, know that there are many ways to address the gaps in our awareness and to support our fellow Americans. But for the purposes of this forum, I’m focusing on what you and I share: We read. And our reading can both deepen our understanding of the lives of Black citizens and support the livelihood of Black writers.

READ BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS

Want to start with the classics? PBS‘s Black Culture Connection lists 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read, which comprises “prominent Black authors who have left a mark on the literary world forever,” starting with Maya Angelou and ending (alphabetically!) with Richard Wright.

If you’re familiar with the authors on the PBS list and want to read some contemporary Black authors, here are two more resources for you to peruse.

Penguin Random House lists 25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors: Their list includes “… some of the best fiction and nonfiction by contemporary black authors, including books in every genre from literary fiction to personal memoirs.”

HUFFPOST has compiled an even more extensive list: 50 Amazing Books by Black Authors from the Past 5 Years: “From Roxane Gay to Michelle Obama to Ta-Nehisi Coates, these writers are making an impact.”

READ BLACK POETS AND ESSAYISTS

For the rest of the summer, the Academy of American Poets will be dedicating their Poem-a-Day to Black poets and engaging a number of Black curators for that project. They will also create a new series for Poets.org that features essays by poets of color. They are also in the process of adding biographies of Black, Indigenous, and all poets of color who have contributed to shaping American poetry to Poets.org.

In addition, they offer these protest poems and this Black Lives Matter anthology.

BUY BOOKS FROM BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES

AfroTech has made purchasing books from Black-owned bookstores as easy as ordering from Amazon. Check out 10 Black-Owned Bookstores to Support While at Home.

Literary Hub shares their list of 60 more Black-owned bookstores, all of which are taking phone orders today! You can browse their virtual shelves, then purchase a big stack of new understanding—and great reading—while having a real, voice-to-voice conversation with another human!

Read on, dear writers. Read on.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Aspiring Cozy Mystery Writer Shares Her Journey

BONNIE CEHOVET IS A MUCH-PUBLISHED NONFICTION AUTHOR who is also an aspiring cozy mystery writer. I’m a cozy mystery fan myself—and a fan of Bonnie’s other work!—so I asked her to share some of her thoughts about finding her way in this genre, (You’ll find Bonnie’s bio and a list of her books and other publications below the interview.)

What do you think makes a cozy mystery a cozy?
My personal shortlist of what makes a cozy mystery a cozy, as distinct from other mysteries, is this: no foul language, no explicit sex, and no violence. The one word that describes this genre for me is “gentle.” Cozy mysteries are gentle mysteries. They have great story lines, well-developed characters, and a dash of humor. The main character of a cozy is an amateur at solving mysteries. She generally lives in a small community, or a small community within a large city.

What do you like about reading cozies?
They make me feel good. I can identify with the characters; I understand the difficulties they are facing. I laugh and cry with them. They transport me into another world for the time I am reading them. I can see the streets where they live and work in my mind’s eye as if I were there. In the series that I follow, I may be reading little tidbits about coffee, or baking, or miniature work—and, if I’m lucky, the author will include recipes! I also love trying to figure out who did what to whom before the author closes the story.

Examples of cozy mystery series that I love are The Hannah Swensen series, by Joanne Fluke; The Cat Who series, by Lilian Jackson Braun; The Tea Shop Mysteries series, by Laura Childs; and The Father Brown mystery series, by G. K. Chesterton.

What made you want to write cozies?
It was a natural selection to want to write cozies, because that is what I prefer to read (although I do like legal mysteries, along the line of Haughton Murphys work). I also prefer my life to go at a gentler pace than it has perhaps in the past, and I want my writing to reflect that. I can bring in things like the tarot, meditation, astrology and crystals to augment the story, without the story having to be about them.

What’s most challenging for you about writing in this genre?
While I do not find writing in the cozy mystery genre challenging at all, I definitely want to channel a bit of Sherlock Holmes in my writing! However, while I am looking to write a series of cozy mysteries with a female protagonist, when I started the first story, it immediately became evident that it was not going to be a cozy! It falls more into the paranormal category, with references to mind-reading and long-distance viewing. It will be a three-book mystery series. But once I’ve completed the series, I’ll let the cozies flow!

What’s most rewarding about writing in this genre?
What is rewarding to me about writing in the cozy mystery genre is that I can be kind to all of my characters. There will be tension, of course, but no one has to be mean to anyone else. I can present everyday life in, hopefully, an interesting fashion—a fashion that will keep my readers coming back for more!

What software do you use when you’re writing for publication?
Every book I have authored or co-authored has been done in Microsoft Word. No other software was used. It was what I knew, And, yes, it was time consuming.

I am now using Grammerly, and find it a great help, as it corrects as I write. Yes, there are some days that I want to strangle it! But, overall, it polishes what I write and sees mistakes that I do not see.

I have Dragon, which is speech recognition software. I’ve used it off and on, but have found it hard to get used to. I keep the program because I have arthritis, and I know there will come a day when typing may become too much for my hands.

Right now, I am working with Scrivener, and feel this is the ultimate software for any writer to keep their work in good form and change things at will.

What tips would you offer my readers who might be interested in writing cozies?
For my mysteries, I start out by defining my protagonist and gathering some idea of what the story is going to be about. I have a writer’s bible for each of my books, where I keep lists of characters, their backgrounds, and their traits, along with the plot for each story, and its timeline.

My number one tip for all writers is to just start writing! Let it flow. You can always go back and edit. Each of us has something interesting to say—we just need to let it out. Allow the story to flow and allow each character to write their own story. Believe me, they will! If you feel stuck, walk away and do something else for a day or two, then go back. Most times I can edit a story to make it work. If I can’t make it work, I start over again.

I also have a blog where I write flash fiction—little 100-word stories. For me, writing flash fiction clears my head, and allows me to get back to my WIP with a fresh perspective.

For more tips specific to the cozy genre, check out these articles:
5 Tips for How to Write a Cozy Mystery
The Mystery of Mysteries: 16 Steps to Writing the Cozy Mystery
Formula for Writing a Cozy Mystery, Part 1: A Good “Hook”

Do you have any other suggestions for writers?
Something we have to remember as writers is that we need to keep our name out there, and we need to network. I found that, for myself, writing reviews helped me to keep my name out there and helped me meet other writers in the tarot field [the field in which Bonnie is best published], as well as connect with individuals in the deck and publishing industries.

I came across the Aeclectic Tarot site early on in my review writing career and found it to be very beneficial. The site owner, Kate (Solandia), is a lovely lady with integrity and a knack for putting an excellent site together. I was blessed to meet her in person at one of the early Reader’s Studio conferences hosted by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone. The site is still up, although no longer accepting reviews.

My suggestion would be to read what interests you, and review that. Place your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, on your own site or blog, or anywhere you feel they will be seen.

What writing resources would you recommend?

Blogs:
Ladies of Mystery
Nathan Bransford
The Creative Penn
Writer’s Digest

Mystery Writer’s Organizations:
Author’s Guild
Mystery Writer’s of America
Sisters In Crime

BIO
Bonnie Cehovet is a professional tarot reader, author, reviewer, and Reiki master. She segued from working for 27 years as a medical technologist to becoming a professional tarot reader, which she has been doing for over 24 years. It was a case of an avocation becoming a vocation. Over the years, she has also added writing to her repertoire, mainly focusing on tarot and self-help, in the form of articles, books, and reviews (most of which have been placed with Aeclectic Tarot, Amazon, and Goodreads).

She currently lives in the state of Nevada with her two cats, Midnight and Pumpkin. Her focus right now is on publishing in the cozy mystery genre. She writes a flash fiction blog and an author’s blog.

Authored by Bonnie Cehovet:
TAROT IN REVIEW (Lulu 2008)
THE WORLD OF TAROT: As Seen Through the Eyes of the Interview (Create Space 2010)
TAROT, BIRTH CARDS, AND YOU: Keys to Empowering Yourself (Schiffer 2011; Karyn Easton, Artist)
TAROT, RITUALS & YOU: The Power of Tarot Combined with the Power of Ritual (Schiffer 2013)
SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS: Taking Charge Of Your Life (Kindle/Create Space 2014)

Co-authored with Brad Tesh:
SEEK JOY … TOSS CONFETTI (Kindle/Create Space 2013)
INVISIBLE ME: Journeying Through The Soul (Kindle/Create Space 2019)

Articles:
LLEWELLYN TAROT READER: 2004, 2005
THE CARTOMANCER: Spring, Summer, Fall 2015, Spring, Summer, Fall 2016, Spring, Summer 2017, Spring, Fall 2018,

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Image “getting-published Atlanta GA” by agilemktg1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Good Writing Prompt Can …

IF YOU’RE WILLING TO LEAP INTO ITS INVITATION, A GOOD WRITING PROMPT CAN catapult you out of your writing doldrums, unstick your project if it’s stuck, and fling your work in fresh and unexpected directions! And, interestingly, a prompt doesn’t need to be complicated to work its magic. Take, for instance, the writing prompt novelist Heidi Julavits used to rediscover her writing mojo—after children and other obligations had back-burnered her literary life.

Over the course of two years, most evenings Julavits started a journal entry with this prompt: “Today I …” From that simple start, she would record details of her day—her thoughts, activities, pleasures, regrets. But she didn’t stop there. Instead, she allowed herself to stray far from the day’s events. Like a dragonfly, she would flit from topic to topic, shifting freely on the winds of association, revisiting the joys and puzzlements of past experience, as well as conjecturing about the future, often with only the most tangential of connections.

The result? A NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book, her 2015 memoir, THE FOLDED CLOCK.

I absolutely recommend reading THE FOLDED CLOCK—yes, for pleasure, but especially for inspiration if you keep a journal or are writing a memoir. But even if neither applies to you, you might want to take Julavits’s approach for a test drive. Try this: Set aside ten or fifteen minutes each evening for a week or two and write, starting with “Today I …,” then leap to whatever thought attracts your attention next.

I’ll give it a try myself!

(TRIGGER WARNING: So, when I let myself free associate, a lá Julavits, I ended up writing about cats. And, of course, the hardest thing about having cats is their inevitable loss. Which is where this writing went. Just letting you know.)

Today I … was drowsy. If not for the cats needing breakfast, I would have slept late, lying in bed, half-dreaming for hours. But the cats were not to be refused. Are cats ever to be refused? Not in my experience. Which includes a lot of cats. Present cats, of course, but past cats, too. And that’s where the heartbreak lives, with the cats of the past and their various ends—which started, in my cat-life, with the disappearance of our black Persian Sukie.

My mother was beside herself with worry—truly, I think, much more worried about Sukie than she ever was about my sister or me. I was eight or nine. Old enough to want to reduce my mother’s anxiety. So I told her I thought I could see Sukie under the house—a wooden farmhouse we were renting that year, its placement up on concrete blocks creating a long, dark crawl space beneath. Dark enough that it was plausible that a black cat could be hiding there, invisible in the murk, except for his eyes glinting if you shined a flashlight towards him. Which I didn’t, not having a flashlight. Although I reported to my mom that I had seen that green glint, wanting to buy her some hope.

In fact, that hope was fleeting. A neighbor pulled up to give us the news. Sukie was (predictably, as I all too soon came to understand) dead. Hit by a car. Like Floffleas and Wobble and, as the years unfolded, several other cats—until we understood that an indoor life for cats might be better for all concerned.

However they passed—traffic, illness, age—so many of the cats I’ve lived with have left an enduring mark. There are dents in my heart where they’ve curled themselves in its various chambers, as if that red beating muscle were a pillow. The special ones—Umphrey, Bertie, Jake, Pea Mouse, Roo—left lasting hollows behind in the exact shape of themselves, their permanent selves, the selves the cars and cancers couldn’t obliterate. “Past cats,” that’s what Jill said, when Jake and Bert died too young and within months of one another. And she was right. Because now there are Jack and Winter and Milo, present cats, each one kneading at the flesh of my heart, softening it up so it will hold their image long after they, too, have passed on.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

 

A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing YOUR Writing on Social Media

WE WRITERS CAN BE A QUIET, PRIVATE TRIBE. But we also have voices, stories, and ideas we long to share. And thanks to technology, today, we don’t need to wait for agents, editors, or publishers to give us the nod! Instead, we can explore various social media platforms, looking for those that allow us to offer our thoughts and experiences to readers most likely to appreciate what we have to say.

While we may be cautious about stepping into the teeming river of social media, if we’re smart in our approach, the interwebs present myriad opportunities for us to publish, build an audience for our work, and even—gasp!—get paid!

Tip #1: Blog: Yes, blogging is still a thing. Your blog is your own personal spot on the internet. There, you can write what you want, when you want, as often as you want. Be consistent enough, and you could develop an appreciative readership.

Wonder what you’d write about? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Write about incidents from your life. We humans are very interested in how other humans conduct their lives.
  • Free-write to prompts and share what you create. You’ll find, like, an actual TON of prompts if you just search “writing prompts”!
  • Post a daily inspirational message to uplift yourself and your readers.
  • Share a brief excerpt from something relevant you’ve read elsewhere (with links and proper attribution, of course), and then let your readers know your thoughts on the topic and why you find it important.
  • Post recipes you’ve successfully completed—with pictures, please! (If you like this idea, you might enjoy reading the cooking memoir JULIE AND JULIA by Julie Powell, who food-blogged her way to a book and film deal! )

Tip #2: Guest blog: You might not know this, but Google rewards those who regularly publish content with improved rankings. But even the most prolific blogger gets dry at some point. And that’s exactly the point at which they might be thrilled to have you write a guest post for them.

You’ll most likely want to make this offer to a blogger whose work you read regularly and with whom you have had some positive contact. For instance, perhaps you comment on their posts every few weeks or otherwise let them know you appreciate their content. If you’re engaged by what a blogger writes about, chances are good you have some thoughts that you could develop into a thousand-word guest post. Ask them if they’re interested, and if they are, write a draft for their approval.

Guest blogging is good for you and good for your blogging host! You get exposure and they get a break! And … drum roll, please … some writers actually make a fair portion of their living by writing guest blog posts! Check out “How to Write a Guest Blog” on Lifewire for further insights and suggestions.

Tip #3: Join the conversation: Writers and non-writers alike talk about all sorts of things on social media. Join the conversation! Find Facebook or LinkedIn groups focused on topics you’re passionate about and offer your thoughts to folks who share your interest. Also, since writers are readers, they love to discuss books. Engage in literary conversations by writing book reviews. Amazon and Goodreads are two great places to start!

Tip #4: Instagram for writers: Instagram may be the hottest platform of the moment. And while it seems the perfect spot for social media influencers and producers of visual content, like photographers, writers can get some traction on Instagram, too!

Instagram lets your followers know what and where you’re writing. Here are three articles to get you started on using this social medium to boost your sharing power:

Tip #5: Submit your work on Medium … and maybe get paid! If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy (I hope!). Medium is a platform for writers. And readers. Here’s their mission statement:

Medium is not like any other platform on the internet. Our sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We don’t serve ads—we serve you, the curious reader who loves to learn new things. Medium is home to thousands of independent voices [um, that means “independent writers,” which, by definition, could include you!], and we combine humans and technology to find the best reading for you—and filter out the rest.

Interested in writing for Medium? Start here.

May the virtual road rise up to meet you, writer: Whichever of these ideas piques your interest, go explore. The internet is a whirling hub filled with gazillions of words that have to be composed by writers and are read every day by readers hungry for insights and opinions and a new take on our shaky old paradigm. Go forth and share your voice with the cyberworld!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Photo credt: Mike Eisenman, via Creative Commons

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Writing Young Adult Fiction? A YA Author Invites YOU to Connect!

I WANT TO INTRODUCE YOU TO SOMEONE! YA writer Alina Smith and I have worked together since November of 2017—three awesome years and counting!* In that time, I’ve seen this committed writer dig in and learn how to plot the heck out of a story … then dig even deeper to find truthful motivations for her characters. Those motivations, in turn, lead to powerful arcs that give her stories real guts (and will deliver true satisfaction to her readers!).

I count myself lucky to be on Team Alina and am so happy to pass on her invitation to connect with you. So, without further ado, I give you Ms. Alina Smith!

What’s up guys! I’m Alina. Although I have a pretty sweet day job—I’m a songwriter and producer in a music team LYRE, which has worked with artists and bands across genres, from Fall Out Boy to K-pop girl group Red Velvet-–over the past few years, I’ve gotten excited about writing stories. Particularly futuristic YA stories with chilling twists on current technology: think BLACK MIRROR populated by hormonal teenagers.

I started writing my first YA novel three years ago and got about two-thirds of the way in before being pulled into a new direction, one which merges my music career and my literary passion. You see, in the last few years, LYRE has become known for working with digital creators: influencers with millions of followers across all social media platforms. As my music partner, Elli, and I wrote songs with these YouTube and Instagram stars, I felt myself getting immersed in their world: a world where your worth depends solely on the numbers of likes and followers on your socials. It got me thinking: What if this world was exacerbated further? What if the numbers on your socials meant life or death? That’s how the idea for my latest book was born. It’s called “Influencer.”

As I’ve been writing “Influencer” (one-and-a-half years and counting!), I’ve done plenty of Google searches. I’ve checked out writers’ blogs, advice columns, and YouTube channels. It’s been fun watching published authors share bits and pieces of their journeys. But it got me wondering: Are there any not-yet-published writers sharing their process with the world? Their aha! moments and their blocks, their triumphs and fails, their I-just-finished-this-act underwear dances, and the moments when they just wanna throw their laptop through the wall? I poked around, but there didn’t seem to be much: no hungry new writers diving into their process and allowing others to snorkel beside them.

That’s when it hit me: I should share my own writing process! My struggles with beat sheets, my ever-evolving characters, what it’s like to find time for writing alongside another creative career—and all the other myriad aspects of the novel-writing process that I find fascinating. Whether I become a hit author or end up throwing my story in the trash and setting it on fire, I want to highlight what it’s like to be a first-time novelist. And I hope to connect with anyone else who’s going through the same thing.

So, please join me on this fun (and slightly terrifying journey) on my YouTube channel: Alina Writes a Book.

And if you’re writing YA fiction, too? Please, drop me a line on Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to hear about your story and your journey creating it!

Writing coach

* Alina’s loving our collaboration, too! She recently wrote, Jamie is such a fantastic coach! Her approach is very intuitive. No matter what I’m working on, from plotting to character development, she always has an intelligent, unique perspective. If you’d like to take your writing to another level, I strongly recommend Jamie!

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Is It Too Late? Writing in Our Middle and Later Years: A Writing Coach’s Perspective

I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE! I was just waiting for the kids to leave the nest (or to be able to work part-time, or to retire, or …). I hear this or some variation from aspiring authors pretty regularly. And I understand! Writing takes a certain amount of time and quiet and concentration—and all of these are in short supply when we’re raising kids and working full-time. But once the day comes—kids successfully launched, work obligations managed—and you’re ready to get serious about that long-held writing dream, do you worry you’ve left it too late?

What you know now will help you as a late-bloomer writer!

Writing, as much as any art form I know, has a long curve. No matter when we start, we’ve got to dig in and learn the craft, as well as figure out our own best approach to getting words on the page reliably. In later life, we may have developed more patience for both of these tasks. In fact, we may even have an edge over our younger selves!

At fifty or sixty, we quite likely have a better sense of how we learn than we did earlier in life. Will we get more from an online class? One-on-one instruction? Or taking a deep dive into a pile of books on the subject? Or do we do best when we just jump in, accruing knowledge on an as-needed basis as we go?

In mid-life (or later), we are also better acquainted with our own habits than we may once have been. Such self-awareness is invaluable when we’re engaging in a pursuit that requires the type of long-term commitment writing asks of us. For instance, by this point, we might know we are absolutely a morning person, not a night owl. That means we can create a schedule that has us writing at our most productive time of day.

We might have also learned strategies that keep us from spinning our wheels. For instance, we once may have dug in our heels, wasting precious energy trying to wrestle a problem into submission. But now, we’re more likely to let the problem go, to step away and take a walk or a nap, understanding that sort of soft focus is more likely to bring us to an elegant solution.

Even more important? With a few extra years under our belt, we understand more about what it means to be human than we did in our youth or early adulthood. And this, above everything, will make what we write today all the more valuable than what we would-a could-a should-a written a few yesterdays ago.

Get inspired by older writers!

In ON WRITING, Stephen King says, … agents, publishers, and editors are all looking for the next hot writer who can sell a lot of books and make lots of money … and not just the next hot young writer, either; Helen Santmyer was in a retirement home [in her eighties!] when she published AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Frank McCourt was quite a bit younger [66] when he published ANGELA’S ASHES, but he was still no spring chicken.

Taking a quick spin around the web, I discovered a few more notable, late-publishing authors to inspire us who have left the art of writing for our retirement years.

Grace Burrowes always kept a diary, but the best-selling romance author was more reader than writer—until she wrote her first novel when her daughter left for college.

Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY, began writing at the age of 51.

Kit de Waal’s first novel, MY NAME IS LEON, was published when she was 56.

Norman MacLean, who wrote A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, started writing at 70.

Harriet Doerr’s first novel, STONES FOR IBARRA, was published when she was 74 years old. It went on to win a National Book Award.

Then, there’s Sir Christopher Bland, who was 76 when his first novel, ASHES IN THE WIND, was published. Today, the Royal Society of Literature has established the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, to encourage the work of older writers. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually to an author who was fifty or older when they were first published.

And if all that doesn’t assure you that you are in good company no matter how old (or young) you are when you first get the writing bug, there’s a great article in THE NEW YORKER, by Malcolm Gladwell, titled “Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?” that might do the trick.

You might also like a short post I wrote a couple of years ago called “Is It Too Late: Writing Practice.” It features an encouraging article on late-blooming writers by author and literary advice columnist Roxanne Gay.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the DRUIDCRAFT TAROT.

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