Posts Tagged ‘resources’

Writing Coaching for Older Writers

Writing coaching for older writers gives direction to writing dreams!

In the past week, I’ve been contacted by four writers, all in their sixties or seventies. Each of them is relatively new to writing. And they are all excited to finally embark on their long-held writing dreams. But where to start? When I offer writing coaching for older writers—perhaps like you?—I suggest we begin by exploring your wealth of experience, looking for the aspects that will most benefit you on your writing journey.

All your life lessons apply!

If you have reached your middle or later years without gaining literary traction, you may wonder, Is it too late for me, now? As a writing coach for older writers, I’ve learned that older writers may be much better-prepared for learning their craft than younger writers. Mastering the writing craft can take time. And as older writers (yup, me, too), we may have developed the patience that will help us onboard those important skills.

In fact, by fifty or sixty or seventy, many folks have learned how they learn best. We can capitalize on that knowledge to make the most of educational resources and opportunities.  For instance, will we do better with an online class or with personalized instruction? Or maybe we’ve found that we are actually autodidacts, able to teach ourselves what we need to know?

Writing coaching for older writers: habit patterns and perspective

As we get older, we get better acquainted with our own preferences. This awareness helps when we’re engaging in a writing project that may demand a long-term commitment from us. Knowing, for example, that we’re an inveterate night owl, not a lark, allows us to schedule our writing when we know we’ll be most productive.

And because our years have taught us more about what it means to be a human being, our work will be more meaningful and deeper than anything we could have written earlier in our lives.

First-time writers take heart

NEW YORK TIMESADVICE COLUMNIST ROXANE GAY has addressed concerns that newer or unpublished middle-aged-ish writers may have. She says, Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I was convinced I was never going to make it as a writer. My writing was constantly rejected, and I took the rejection personally, as one does. It is easy to fall prey to the idea that writing success is intrinsically bound to youth, she says.

Read more at Ask Roxane: Is It Too Late to Follow My Dreams?

But what about getting published?

THE GUARDIAN recently published an article about the opportunities for older women writers.   In it, Cherry Potts, the founder of the independent publisher Arachne Press, has much to say about the “ripple” opening doors for women over seventy.

She says, “There has been a sea change in publishers’ understanding and acceptance of older women’s experience and their voices, which are no longer dismissed as safe or cosy. It started with small presses like us but our ripple is now working through to the industry as a whole.”

In ON WRITING, Stephen King has something to say about older writers! “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.

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

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.

Starting to write later in life? Writing coaching for older writers can help you get off to a great start!

Writing coaching inspiration with Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. If you’ve waited to explore your writing dream, you have likely seen many trends come and go in the world of literature. I’ve been coaching writers of all ages for over a dozen years. Let’s see if we can put my experience in the publishing industry to good use in the service of your long-deferred writing goals. Start by scheduling a free 30-minute consultation with me. You might also want to check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

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

Book Coach Tips for Writing a Successful Novel

As a professional writing coach, I always want to support writers in their quest for success. This month, my post “Book Coach Tips for Writing a Successful Novel” focuses on the most important aspects of novel writing. I also include resources that will help you level up your novel-writing game.

Tips for writing a successful novel: Voice + character

Job one, connect your reader to your main character (MC). While we often think that readers are more interested in the plot of our stories than our characters, that’s not quite true. What’s funny, perhaps ironic, is that while readers generally think plot is the main draw for them, they’re actually wrong! (Most of the time. Generally speaking. In this book coach’s experience.)

In fact, what pulls a reader into a story first is voice. While the back jacket copy’s catchy synopsis of your story is what gets a reader to open your book, the voice your potential reader meets on page one must hook them.

Voice conveys attitude—usually, your main character’s attitude. It’s how you introduce your character, and it sets the tone for your reader’s experience. (It’s similar to a vacation destination: Some readers hate the snow. They won’t book a ski vacation! But another reader might love the crisp chill of your character’s voice.)

If the voice is engaging, you will keep your reader’s attention long enough to reveal your character’s need, goal, dilemma—those elements of story that integrate character with plot. If your reader finds your character sympathetic, they’ll tumble down the rabbit hole of your story, committed to seeing how your character fares.

Tips for writing a successful novel: Plot

As mentioned, readers tend to think that plot drives their reading choices. And a well-turned plot with a strong hook will certainly get your book “read-more” clicks! Whether your story is high concept or not, your plot should drag your main character into situations, environments, and relationships that, in her ordinary world, she would avoid at all costs.

Convince your reader that your MC has no choice but to involve herself in the dire circumstances you’ve built for her. Do this by creating irresistibly compelling stakes: putting her loved ones in danger, perhaps, or forcing her to face illness, financial ruin, or loss of her hard-won reputation.

Once your MC has embarked on the roller-coaster ride of her story, make sure there are no exit ramps along the way (sorry, mixed metaphors). In fact, you want to keep escalating the stakes! Push your MC to continually face new challenges as she tries (desperately!) to either meet her initial goal or to succeed in whatever glass-mountain-climbing task your story has provided her.

However you play it, for your main character, there must be no way out but through. And  every plot point you create should enforce this. (My deepest sympathies to your main character!)

Resources for novel writers

There are many masters of the novel-writers’ craft. And, fortunately for us, quite a few of them have written books to guide us on our writing path. As a long-time writing coach, I’ve found several that I recommend quite often. Here’s a short list for you.

THE SECRETS OF STORY, by Matt Bird

PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK, by Jamie Morris, et al

HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL, by James N. Frey

PLOT & STRUCTURE: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish, by James Scott Bell

SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL, by Jessica Brody

You might also enjoy my article “How to Write a Novel”  or be interested to learn more about how successful authors have used my Plot Clock method to get their novels agented and published.

Interested in receiving personalized book coach tips for writing a successful novel? A free chat with a top writing coach can offer just that!

Writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you learn how to self-publish your book. Novels and their authors are near and dear to my heart. Over the last decade, as a professional writing coach, I’ve helped many novelists take their books to the next level. If you’re working on a novel and wonder how to make it more successful in the current market, let’s chat. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

How to Write a Fantasy Novel: Quick Tips!

Wondering how to write a fantasy novel? As a professional writing coach, I’ve learned that following a few important guidelines can make all the difference! Here are some magical tips to help you write fantasy fiction, from me—and NEW YORK TIMES best-selling fantasy author Lev Grossman. Dark blue cover of Lev Grossman's book The Magicians writing a fantasy novel

Quick tips for writing fantasy fiction

World-building: Your fantasy world may be an ancient one, filled with a long history of dwarves and elves and dragons. Or it might exist in a contemporary city, where magic hangs heavy in the air.

Whatever your fantastic world, make sure you establish consistent rules to govern your magical elements. Also, even if there’s not a dwarf in sight, you will still need to include the background of your world.

To do so, answer questions like these: What is the origin of magic in your world? Who is allowed to use the magic? How does the magic manifest? Are there factions in your world? If so, what is the source of their differences?

Limit point of view (POV) characters; Your fantasy may encompass many characters. However, if this is your first foray into writing fantasy, I suggest you limit yourself to no more than four POV characters.

Limiting POV characters makes it easier to map out your story. It also allows you to create an internal arc for each POV character. Those arcs ensure your readers invest in your characters as well as your plot.

Create a stand-alone first novel: Fantasy novels are often developed into series. However, if you’re a first-time fantasy novelist, I suggest you write a stand-alone first novel. Forcing yourself to complete a significant narrative arc in a single book will keep you from drowning in story-line possibilities.

If you love your fantasy world, you may decide to set another story there. Eventually, you may find you have created a series! But if you follow this advice, each volume of that series will be a satisfying read on its own.

Of course, as you dig deeper into your fantasy-novel-writing craft, you’ll be ever-better prepared to commit to a full series, right from the get-go!

Let’s learn from Lev Grossman!

My short list of tips covers what I consider to be the most important for fantasy writers to consider. However, Lev Grossman has written a terrific essay on novel writing that addresses many other points of interest for fantasy—and other—writers.

Check out his Buzzfeed piece “How Not to Write Your First Novel,” subtitled, “It is Okay Not to be a Genius.” (Hm. Reading about Grossman’s chilly, oddly heart-filled journey through six cold months in Maine, I’m pretty sure I see his genius shining through.) Grossman is the author of THE MAGICIANS, THE MAGICIAN KING, and THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, among other well-regarded fantasy titles.

Wondering how to write a fantasy novel? A chat with a top writing coach might help!

Novel writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you outline your novel. As a novel writing coach, I support writers working in a number of genres, fantasy, among them. Whether you’re world-building or developing your characters, I would love to see how I can help you, too.  Schedule a free initial consultation with me. And also check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

How Long Should a Novel Be?

IN THE BOOK WRITERS’ CRITIQUE GROUP I LEAD, we recently discussed the differences between works of narrative fiction. While word count is not the only distinguishing feature, it’s certainly the easiest to grasp. Perhaps you’re wondering, “How long should a novel be?”

As a professional writing coach, I’m asked about book lengths quite often. That’s why I compiled this quick guide to word count—and a few distinguishing features of long fiction forms, as well.

Word counts for novels, novellas, and novelettes

We call all of the above—novels, novellas, and novelettes—book-length fiction. But they actually vary wildly in length.There are typically other differences in these forms, as well.

Novelettes: Sometimes a term that is used derogatorally. The word count for a novelette is between 7,500 and17,000. In addition to their short length, novelettes are characterized by their sentimental style and, often, on a romantic focus.

Novellas: Not to be confused with telenovelas, a term given to dramatic, primarily Latin American, television series. Novellas have an approximate word count between 17,000 and 40,000. A novella will typically have fewer (if any) subplots than a novel. It will also generally take place in a shorter, more contained time frame and a single location.

Novels: Starting at 40,000 words (except for children’s fiction), with no cap other than what agents, editors, and readers will accept. Given its length, a novel has room for a writer to develop subplots, use multiple points of view, and explore multiple locations—and even multiple periods in time. (Think, time travel novels or family sagas.)

Word counts for novels by genre

Middle Grade: 25,000 – 50,000

Young Adult: 45,000 – 100,000

Fantasy: 50,000 – 150,000

Sci-fi: 50,000 – 150,000.

Romance: 50,000 – 90,000.

Mystery: 40,000 – 80,000.

Horror: 40,000 – 80,000.

Dystopian: 60,000 – 120,000

Thriller: 90,000 – 120,000

I hope this quick look at word counts and genres helps as you prepare to write your novel. You might also like this article: “How to Write a Novel.” It’s an exciting journey—and I wish you all the best as you get underway!

How long should your novel be? A chat with a top novel writing coach can help you navigate the word-count waters!

Fiction writing coach Jamie Morris knows how long a novel should be. As a top novel writing coach, I help book writers decide how long their novel—or novella, or novelette—should be. We can address practical questions like this and much more in a no-cost 30-minute phone chat. Schedule a free initial consultation with me, now. And read THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach,” too! 

Plotting Your Novel: 5 Fabulous Tips!

Plotting your novel can be confusing!

I compiled these 5 fabulous tips for plotting your novel because, if you don’t have a guidance system to help you navigate, you might find yourself asking questions like these:

  • Where do I start my story for greatest impact?
  • What events will force my main character to undergo the change they so desperately need to make?
  • How do I construct stakes that are high enough to keep my main character engaged with their quest all the way to the end?

If you, like me, need some help to deal effectively with these and other pressing plot questions, read on. I’ve compiled a short list of tips, approaches, and resources that demonstrate ways to successfully traverse the rough terrain you and your main character must travel to create a compelling tale.

FABULOUS NOVEL PLOTTING TIP #1: Explore a myriad of plotting methods.

Fortunately, for those of us who are writing novels, novellas, short stories, screenplays, or memoirs—basically, anything that tells a story and develops a character arc—many writers have gone before us and have generously blazed a trail through the wild woods of plot for us to follow.

So which of these many plotting methods is the best? I think that depends on your learning style.

When I immersed myself in the mysteries of plot, I read book after book on the subject. But I always felt I was missing something. Then Joyce Sweeney and I started developing the plot clock—and everything fell into place! The plot clock’s approach made perfect sense to me. Suddenly, I saw how exactly how plot can create a character arc—and what steps to take to make that happen.

For years, Joyce and I taught the plot clock at workshops, writing conferences, and to our clients one-on-one (which I still do).

But now, we’ve also written the book! How to plot your novelAs you’re browsing Amazon looking for good books on plot, check out our PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK. It’s short—just seventy pages! And yet it explains how to accomplish the two most important tasks you face when writing a novel or memoir: 1) relating a dynamic set of story events and 2) making your character change in response to those events.

Of course, as I said, this is just the method that works best for my brain. You might love any one of a number of other more linear takes on plot, like SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody. Or you might enjoy diving really deep in story theory with a book like THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler.

This choice is personal. Take the time to find what plotting approach works best for you—even if you have to experiment with several styles to do so. It will be worth it. Because once you find what fits, that method will be your trusted guide through the rest of your story-writing journey.

FABULOUS NOVEL PLOTTING TIP #2: Start with the basics.

Here are five quick, handy reference points to help you think about how to get your story started and where you’re going to take it. Considering your plot in these simple terms allows you to see if your basic idea has enough oomph to carry the story to the finish line.

Once upon a time there was … (Describe your main character.)

Every day … (This is a glimpse at your main character’s “ordinary world,” before the inciting incident changes their life.)

One day … (Aha! Inciting incident!!)

Because of that … (Here, we see how the main character responds to the inciting incident—and we establish stakes [see Fabulous Novel-Plotting Tip #5, below] that propel them forward into the main events of their story.)

Until finally … (This actually takes you past most of what happens after your character commits to their story—their trials and challenges; their low point; their lessons learned—and brings them to the climax, the battle to end all battles, the inevitable high point of your tale!)

FABULOUS NOVEL PLOTTING TIP #3: Let the three C’s catapult your plot.

Raindance, an independent film festival and film school that operates in major cities, including London, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Budapest, Berlin and Brussels, offers up a helpful article on the “The Three C’s of Plot (and how they help you get through Act II).”

The “three C’s” of this approach are conflict, choice, and consequence. Having a handle on these major story drivers will assure that your plot has the traction it needs to keep readers deeply engaged.

Further, in the above-mentioned article, writer Jurgen Wolff says, “{While] you can use these [the three C’s] to develop your main plot … they are equally useful in constructing the smaller components of your story-–the individual scenes. This is especially true in helping you construct the hardest part of any story, the middle, or Act II.”

Learn about this concept at the Raindance site.

FABULOUS NOVEL PLOTTING TIP #4: “Yes, and …”

This improv acting tenet offers an easy-peasy way to allow your character to engage dynamically with the events of their plot. Every time the plot makes your character an “offer,” be sure she “accepts” that offer (says “Yes” to it), and then adds to the situation (or, better still, complicates it!) by adding an “and …”

For example, let’s say your character is walking down a crowded street and notices someone running from a store, having just robbed it. In improv, we’d call this an “offer.” In other words, the story has brought something to your character’s attention that she can act upon. Taking action in response to the “offer” is your character’s way of saying “Yes, and …”

Rather than allowing your character to just ignore the commotion—which can slow the story and make plotting more difficult—consistently require she make a “Yes, and” response to whatever happens in her story. In this case, she might give chase (the “Yes” being her acknowledgement of the thief escaping and the “and,” her taking off after the person). Alternatively, she could rush into the store to try to help anyone who was injured in the incident—or she could rush into the store to take advantage of the confusion and steal something herself!

In any one of these examples, your character’s active response to a situation raised by the story allows more and increasingly complex interactions with other characters to unfold. These interactions will drive her character arc and her plot forward.

This technique is particularly useful when you’re writing your first draft, as it keeps you from stalling out in the shallow waters of character ennui and unwillingness. Once you’ve “Yes, and-ed” your way through the entire plot, you can always revise to rein in or eliminate any excessive reactions on the part of your main character.

To learn more about improv and how “Yes-and” creates lively story-telling and a lively life, I suggest YES, AND: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration—Lessons from The Second City.

To learn more about how to apply this improv precept to life off the stage, take a look at this MEDIUM article titled “Saying ‘Yes, and’—A principle for improv, business and life” by Mary Elisabeth.

FABULOUS NOVEL PLOTTING TIP #5: Create compelling stakes.

Stakes. They’re what gets your character off her duff and involved with a plot that, let’s face it, is likely to end up being a pain in her butt!

According to the Institute for Literature, “One of the most important questions to consider when developing a story is ‘What is going to be at stake for my main character?’ By this, we mean, ‘What is the cost of quitting?'”

These are great questions!

If your character can quit the demands of your plot with few or no consequences, you’re likely to lose your reader early on. You see, we readers like to see a character struggle with conflict. It helps us understand better how to do so in our own lives!

So, how do you make sure you’re getting your character into a situation that has sink-or-swim urgency? Consider my four-question “stakes squared” approach.

Jamie’s Stakes Square: Your character is faced with a significant choice. You’ve backed her into a corner. She MUST say yes or no, not delay the decision—because her decision will set a significant plot point into motion! To establish the stakes inherent in the choice, ask yourself these four questions:

Question 1: What might your character GAIN if she says YES to the choice on offer?
Question 2: What might your character LOSE if she says YES to the choice on offer?
Question 3: What might your character GAIN if she says NO to the choice on offer?
Question 4: What might your character LOSE if she says NO to the choice on offer?

If you make sure that all of these potential outcomes create problems for your character—problems that are in proportion to the overall intensity of your story—you’ll be well on your way to creating plot-driving stakes that will hook a reader and not let them go!

(Be sure to consider how this stakes-setting technique impacts the perhaps-impulsive choices your character makes when you require that she say “Yes, and …” to everything the story offers her!)

Do you need a writing coach?

Do you think you may need help with your book? I’m available to be your professional writing coach. Schedule your free consultation and check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

5 Writing Workshop Pitfalls

Oh, writing workshops! How we love and hate you!  A group of talented folks come together to discuss one another’s writing. What could possibly go wrong? Any one of these 5 writing workshop pitfalls, that’s what!

As a professional writing coach, I encourage my clients to join a good writing workshop. Participating in a well-run, level-appropriate workshop will add benefit to our writing coaching sessions. But a bad workshop? That’s just a waste of time. It can take some research to find the right fit—but it’s worth it. Use the lists below to increase your chances of writing workshop success.

5 common writing workshop pitfalls

1) Writers in one genre may not be well-versed in other genres. In a genre-mixed writing group this may result in less-than-helpful feedback. A horror writer might fault a women’s fiction writer for not establishing high enough stakes early on in the story, for example.

2) Often, workshop mates have widely differing opinions about what’s working and what’s not. This leaves the writer under discussion in a quandary: Which advice should they take?

3) Being a good writing workshop participant requires time. If the group is reading 25 pages of your novel-in-progress, you’re expected to read 25 pages of everyone else’s manuscripts— ongoingly. While there is much to be learned from reviewing others’ work, the amount of attention to our own work may feel like a scant payoff for the reading we do on the other writers’ behalf.

4) Sometimes a workshop member is just mean, insensitive, hurtful. Are they having a bad day? Are they jealous? Do they simple dislike the writer under attack? Or perhaps the writer is simple trying to help. When our writing is up for feedback, we can be quite sensitive to criticism. But, you know, sometimes someone is just not playing nice.

5) The math may not work in your favor. If you’re submitting 25 pages every three or four weeks, that’s a slow ride to get the ~80,000+ words of your novel read!

5 solutions to the pitfalls of a writing workshop!

1) If writers unfamiliar with your genre give feedback that consistently misses the mark, consider starting a workshop for writers only in your genre. Or, alternatively, create a “cheat sheet” of the basic tenets of your genre. Hand it out to group members and ask them to consider those points when critiquing your work.

2) Too many conflicting opinions about your writing? Use this rule of thumb: If two or more people comment about the same passage—no matter how different their views of it—take that as a signal to review that section closely. Ultimately, though, give your own opinion more weight than that of your workshop fellows.

3) Spending a disproportionate amount of time reading others’ work relative to the attention your own work is receiving? Maybe your writing workshop is just too large? Could members agree to split the group in half? Or maybe what you really need is a single excellent critique partner, rather than a guild!

4) Ugh. Harsh, mean, or otherwise hurtful feedback can be devastating. Set up guidelines for feedback—and stick to them. The “sandwich rule” is helpful: Start and end feedback with positive comments—and limit critical comments to just three to five of the most significant. You might also allow those whose work is being considered to ask for specific feedback and not entertain comments on any other aspects of the writing.

5) If your critique group is slowing you down, you might benefit from a book-writing program or course designed specifically to support writers in finishing book-length drafts in a short time. Or you could hire a developmental editor or writing coach to help you move ahead more quickly.

Bonus writing workshop support

In her article The Writing Workshop Glossary” on the NEW YORK TIMES website, Amy Klein translates some of the puzzling stuff a writer might hear when hanging their work out on the line and inviting others’ input!

Klein includes her very helpfulo take on the following phrases, frequently heard in a writing workshop: Find your own voice; I don’t find the character sympathetic; What does the character want?; What Is this story really about?; Show, don’t tell; and the ever–popular Kill your darlings.

Discussed with both humor and an obvious wealth of writing workshop experience, Klein’s article will likely offer you support as you manage your workshop participation—and a chuckle or two. The latter may come in handy when dealing with the pitfalls of the former.

Need more for your writing? A chat with a top writing coach can help!

Jamie Morris pictured knows writing workshop pitfalls and is a writing coach. Sometimes, writing workshops are great for writers. Sometimes, they’re confusing. Over a decade of leading workshops has taught me that! If you feel you might benefit from some one-on-one attention, let’s chat.  Schedule a free initial consultation. And also take a look at this THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

Tip for Writing: The Flip Side of Writing

As a writing coach, I often share this tip with aspiring authors:

READING is the flip side of writing. Every author, teacher, or writing coach worth their salt will suggest you read widely in your genre if you want to publish—Stephen King* not least among them! We’ll repeat this tip for writers (often) because we know you’ll learn as much about structure and style from considering how your favorite authors artfully construct their stories as you will from even the most instructive books about the writing craft.

Tip for writingFurther, reading—in one’s genre or out of it—reliably restocks our pond of creativity, so that, when we go angling for new ideas and approaches, there are always plenty of fish to choose from.

Also, as poet W. H. Auden is reported to have said, “We read to learn more of what it means to be human.” And it does seem that often we are—consciously or unconsciously—seeking wisdom of some sort when we pick up a book.

This is a fabulous tip for writing and there are a gazillion or so lists of books to consider adding to your reading pile. Among them, THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, BookBub, and Goodreads.

A little closer to home (like, here, on this blog!) are a couple of reading lists you might want to peruse. The first, 20 (or so) Novels That Have Impacted Our Lives and Imaginations, was compiled during a very literary walk with my best pal Jill. The second, a post titled Support Black Writers, has a list of lists—Black-authored books that PBS, Penguin Random House, and HuffPost consider must-reads.

*And, as you may know, Stephen King, who reads voraciously, widely, and well, includes a list of 96 books he considers important in his ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. You’ll find that list on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

Wherever you are in your reading life, keep turning those pages and don’t forget this writing tip. Reading not only fills the creative well—it fills our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our imaginations.

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 Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to use the image of the Nine of Pentacles card from the EVERYDAY WITCH TAROT

Publish Your Writing Now: Whisper, Shout, Hit Send!

PUBLISH YOUR WRITING! 

WHILE WRITING CAN BE A FORM OF SELF-EXPLORATION, it is also a way to communicate our thoughts and stories with others. That’s why it’s important to publish your writing.

About this, my novelist pal MK Swanson says,

There is no writer without a reader. Writing is a performance art. When I was little, I used to make up stories that my girlfriends and I would act out—sometimes with puppets, but usually with our bodies. One time, Kori and I pretended to be in the Nautilus, being dragged down into the depths by a great sea creature, a story inspired directly and entirely by the sound the washing machine made as it shifted cycles.

We performed as if someone was watching and applauding. I thought I was the most talented, funniest writer in the world, as I directed my friend and myself to run around the porch, captaining the submarine. Now, when I try to make something new, and I don’t think anyone will ever see it, it falls flat. An audience pulls art into the third—or maybe the fourth—dimension.

I agree with MK. When I write with an audience in mind, it gives my work a sense of purpose—traction, focus—that it lacks when I am writing only for myself. But going public with our work can feel daunting. Here’s the good news: You can publish your writing in a wide variety of ways.

 

publish your writingIn SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (see a list of those ten ways, below*), author Austin Kleon discusses the many benefits of sharing our creative work with others—especially how doing so can make us “findable.” Reviewer D. Bivins says of the book, “This is a refreshing kick in the butt about believing in yourself as a creative person and jumping in with both feet. The basic idea is to put yourself out there even if you (or your work) are a work in progress.

And while we may not currently be availing ourselves of pre-Covid in-person opportunities to show our work (remember open mics and free, monthly bookstore writing groups?!), there are myriad contact-free ways to offer our writing to the world.

You could always start a blog, join an online writing group, or send out stories to literary contests—all great options for sharing your work. You might also try one or more of the following suggestions if you’re seeking fresh avenues to show your writing to others:

Postcard poems
Every August, there’s an event called the Postcard Poetry Fest. Essentially, once you register at the site, you’re sent a list of addresses. You then write a (possibly terrible) poem each day for August’s 31 days and mail it to one of the 31 recipients on your list.

Can’t wait until August? A friend and I used to declare an arbitrary period our own personal Postcard Poems month. Then, for the next 31 days, we would email daily mini-poems back and forth. Often goofy, sometimes poignant, our “poems” generally started with a place name (fictional or not) and were written from the perspective of an imagined persona who was there visiting. Here’s an example:

Dear Dolores,

I’m in Quincy, Alabama, and the almond trees are in high bloom. So are my allergies. My nose, red like a rose, won’t win me any suitors. But my days and nights are full enough without thoughts of another to cloud my view of the stars.

Wish you were here.
Myra

Throw a Zoom! prose-and-poetry party
Back in the day (basically, pre-February 2020), friends and I used to gather regularly to eat, chat, and read our work to one another. Zoom! makes this even easier, now. No need to arrange a ride—or even wear proper pants. Just find your tech-iest friend and get them to make it so.

Publish on Medium
If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy. 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.

Submit to THE SUN MAGAZINE‘s Readers Write
A well-regarded, ad-free, glossy print and online monthly, THE SUN magazine not only publishes poetry, interviews, short memoir, short fiction, and fabulous black-and-white photographs, they also open their pages to their readers!

In their Readers Write section, they publish twenty or so short nonfiction pieces each month. These pieces are written to themes (like “ghosts” and “getting started”) listed on the website. As their Readers Write submission guidelines say, Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression…. Writing style isn’t as important as thoughtfulness and sincerity. There is no word limit, but we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the section before you submit.

And if your piece is chosen for publication, you’ll receive a six-month subscription to the magazine!

More ways to publish your writing

You’ll find more ideas and resources in A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing Your Writing on Social Media. Choose an approach from those choices, or from any of the ones listed above. But whatever way suits you, do as Austin Kleon suggests and be “open, generous, brave, and productive [… and] share something small every day.”

“Publish your writing” doesn’t have to mean getting a three-book deal with a major publisher! It can simply mean “make your work public.” Sharing your ideas and work with the world in whatever way appeals to you can make you feel more empowered as a writer and more involved as a citizen of the world.

* Here are Kleon’s ten ways:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Writing coach

If you want to publish your writing, I can help! I’m available for book and writing coaching! Also, check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Sometimes, We’re Mute, We Writers (with Writing Resources for Writers who Dream)

Not all Writers Look Alike; and Neither do the Writing Resources We Need

SOMETIMES, WE’RE MUTE, we writers. Sometimes, we drift, dream, words floating above us, like sunset clouds in fantastical shifting shapes—now a ship, now a sheep, now a swan and his wife. Sometimes, it’s twilight, and we’re quiet, content. Sometimes, we choose not to cast our nets to capture those words, glittering like so many stars in the broad night sky of our imagination.

My writer friend and co-author Tia Levings signs off emails with this quote:

But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they may think their dreams into reality with open eyes. —T.E. Lawrence 

So, yes, sometimes, it’s enough to read what’s in our own hearts, and let the words build castles and angels and half-memories, undisturbed. Sometimes, we have no need to chase them and jar them, like fireflies, but, instead, simply watch the words flicker into tiny, brief constellations that mean just what they mean to themselves, while we allow them—and ourselves—to be mysteries that remain unsolved. At least for now.

These may be times you search for other writing resources – to read fairy tales or peek into other writers’ journals to see how they dream and drift on the page. Here are some stories and pages that may flutter beside your own quiet heart right now.

Reading resources for dreaming writers

A GIRL GOES INTO A FOREST, short stories by Peg Alford Pursell

MAGICKAL FAERYTALES: An Enchanted Collection of Retold Tales, by Lucy Cavendish (edited by me!)

SPILLING OPEN, a visual journal by Sabrina Ward Harrison

THE DIARY OF FRIDA KAHLO, by Frida Kahlo

Writing coach

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

***

The cloud painting, above, is from my art journal—where I dream in color and shape and brushstrokes … and sometimes in words.

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10 Editing Tips to Make You Look Like the Smart Writer You Are!

Top 10 editing tips for writers

I’ve created a list of my top 10 editing tips because, chances are, you’re a really good writer—and your readers shouldn’t get tripped up on the small stuff! Which, unfortunately, can happen all too easily.

For example, I was reading an excellent blog post by a writing-industry professional (who will remain unnamed, here, because this is not a grammar-shaming post), when I stumbled over his use of the word “hone” where he meant “home.” The sentence went something like this: “You’ll improve your chances of garnering agent representation if you hone in on agents who are enthusiastic about your genre.”

Unfortunately, for this writer’s cred, the verb “hone” means to sharpen, while the verb “home” means to aim for or close in on—which is what the writing pro intended: “We should home in on (aim for) agents who like what we’re writing.” (“Typo,” you’re thinking? Me, too! Until he repeated the mistake later in the post.) Admittedly, this particular misuse is a pet peeve of mine. Still, this is a guy who is giving aspiring authors high-level publishing advice on a regular basis. He should get this right.

But, you know, English is an odd language. And we English speakers may confuse words that are similar in sound and meaning. For instance,

  • home and hone
  • imply and infer
  • compose and comprise

As writers, we generally like to be precise in our use of language, though, as that is the raw ore we meld into the gold of our literary work. Also, we are smart folks! And, whenever possible, our smarts should shine like a halo around our brilliant heads—untarnished by avoidable usage errors. Hence, the following list.

10 editing tips to make you look like the smart writer you are

Tip 1: Take care with your use of commonly confused words. Amber Nasland wrote an article for MEDIUM that lists 31 commonly misused words to watch for. 10 editing tips

Tip 2: Double-check for spelling errors—especially (because you’re a writer!!) misspelling the foreword of a book as “forward,” and the afterword as “afterward.” If you’re not 100% certain of a word’s spelling, google!

Tip 3: Get yourself a fun, readable editing guide and keep it at hand when questions of correctness arise. I like COPYEDITING & PROOFREADING FOR DUMMIES, by Suzanne Gilad.

Tip 4: Know your style guide. If you’re writing articles for publication in periodicals, you’re likely to be expected to follow AP (Associated Press) style. Non-scholarly book-length work? It’s Chicago style all the way (usually, lol). Style guides clarify things like which numbers to spell out and how to punctuate street addresses for your intended audience—among about a gazillion other arcane rules. Whether you like the idea of a style guide or not, though, your written work should adhere to one—unless you make a clearly defined house-style guide for yourself.

(Believe me, the pain you experience as you try to accept this professional requirement and figure out how to apply it to your own projects will be worthwhile: Your correct style usage will make you look smart to editorial eyes for years to come—which is the point of this entire post.)

Tip 5: Subscribe to THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE ONLINE. In their own words, “It is the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers.” A year’s subscription is (currently) $39. Knowing who to turn to in the middle of the night to help you avoid embarrassing usage mistakes? Priceless.

Tip 6: Unless you’re deliberately trying to create interest with an experimental approach, format text conventionally. (For dialogue, for instance, start a new indented paragraph with every new speaker.) Research or review the formatting requirements for your application. Good formatting makes you look like a hotshot right out of the box.

Tip 7: Keep language fresh! I generally have THESAURUS.COM open when I’m writing. It helps with spelling (yay!) and offers me new ways to express what I’m saying. (Fresh = reader interest. Good spelling = reader respect!)

Tip 8: Read your work out loud. And I don’t just mean your dialogue! When I read every word of a blog post aloud, I find sticky sentences, boring passages, repetitious use of language—and TYPOS! I don’t know why I can’t SEE all these things on the page. But evidently I can’t. Thus, reading my work aloud has saved the day (and my readers’ sensibilities) more times than I can count.

Tip 9: It’s easy to become word-blind to our own work. The more important a piece is to you, the more important it is that you have it professionally edited before publishing it or sending it out.

Tip 10: Enjoy the process of drafting. Let loose! Freewrite, explore, ignore all the rules of grammar, spelling, style, and anything else your English teacher (or I) taught you. But once you’ve got what you want on the page, make sure to polish that diamond to a high shine—using any of the tips above.

See how smart you are?!

Writing coach

I’m not just a font of editing tips! I’m a writing coach who can help with your novel, nonfiction book, or memoir.  Let’s chat about your writing project! And you might check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine, too.

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