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Posts tagged with: writer’s life

Always

I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning. On my last day walking this earth, I intend to learn something about this world, or the world I’m about to enter, or myself.

I wince when I hear people say they don’t need to know this or that. Why won’t you want to know something about everything?

Since this is a blog for writers and we focus mainly on the craft of writing and publishing industry and elements related to both, I’ll speak to the authors reading this. Never stop studying the craft. Never turn a deaf ear to information that relates to your small business. Never stop learning about humanity and the world, because they feed your creative well.

No moment in time as offered us so many venues in which we can expand our minds. We have the ability to fly to the other side of the world in a day and experience cultures our forefathers never heard of. We can open a window to the worldwide web and learn about every uncover stone in history, and steps that will change our world today, tomorrow, in years to come.

We are friends to people all over the globe and share our daily lives, hopes and dreams, having never met them face to face.

Since the majority of information shared is through written word, we have a responsibility to humanity to never stop educating ourselves and share what we’ve learned, be it through poetry, screenplays, non-fiction or fiction, but the majority of us, on government income tables, qualify as starving artist. So how can we continue to learn, to improve ourselves as artists?

There are so many avenues that cost little or nothing. Here are ten ways.

  • Blogs like the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, where experienced writers who published, both traditionally and independently, and are willing to share their journeys and help guide others.
  • Many authors have writer related archives on their websites where they share articles on craft.
  • Local or National writing organizations. There is nothing like being in a room with other writers, even if the group is small.
  • On-line writers groups. Check RWA for info on on-line chapters.
  • Craft books. Buy used if on a budget, or trade off with other writers.
  • Industry related magazines. Check for on-line magazines also. Many are free.
  • Conferences or workshops. Many conferences are breaking down their venues and offering the purchased of one day, two day or entire conference packages, making attending more affordable to some.
  • Conference workshop recordings. If you can’t attend the event, this is the next best thing.
  • On-line classes. I, and several other Ruby Sisters, love Margie Lawson classes (margielawson.com). Intense, but worth the time and money! And I’ve taken Master classes from James Patterson and Arron Sorken through masterclass.com. I review classes constantly. Michael Hauge also offers a lot of information on his website, storymastery.com.
  • Reading. You can learn about the craft just by studying your favorite authors’ works. Whether you write every day or not,  reading, learning, every day should be a priority.

 

There are more venues to help you on your journey and I know some of the sisters will jump in and offer them up, but if something has helped you, please share in the comments below.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes.

 

 

 

Write On 2017! – Time Management

For the past eight weeks in our Write on 2017 series, we’ve explored ways to stay on course and on fire about our writing. Today we’re going to wrap up the series by discussing the most asked question I get when I give productivity workshops to writers, and that is, “How can I find more time to write?”

If you’ve already made writing a priority (remember this little clown?), it’s not a matter of finding time but better using the time you have. Here are a few quick tips:

1. Clock in for Business – While most of us do not have time clocks to punch when we start writing, there are a number of ways to “cross the threshold” into work. Sit in your writing chair and declare that your workday has begun. Put up a sign that says “Writer at Work.” Or create a writing log and sign in. The key is creating a block of time to write and then honoring that commitment. You wouldn’t cheat an employer out of an honest day’s work; don’t cheat yourself.

2. Minimize Distractions – Turn off all notifications on your phone. Disconnect your computer from the Internet. Tell your family or roommates that you are not to be disturbed unless there is a fire or flood. If it helps, pop in ear buds with the music of your choice or use a sound-streaming service such as Brain FM to improve focus and productivity.

3. Create to-do lists – Before your dedicated writing time, jot down everything you’d like to accomplish, things like number of new words you want to write or pages to edit. Planning ahead will keep you focused and provide a roadmap when you’re not sure where to go next.

4. Report to a goal or productivity partner – Every Monday I send an e-mail to one of my critique partners reporting what I accomplished in my writing world the week prior and what my plans are for the week ahead. She chimes in with praise or cyber hugs then shares her weekly writing update. We’ve been holding each other accountable for more than ten years, and I can tell you I’ve kicked out some pretty impressive word counts in the hours before our check-ins.

5. Tackle tough stuff first – If you’re struggling with a scene or a bit of research, get to it while you’re fresh. Tackling the tough stuff first will free up your mind and will most likely give you a boost of confidence.

6. Writing Sprints – If you’re having a hard time getting started, set a timer for twenty minutes and write, even if it’s something like, “I don’t know what to write” or “This story is giving me fits”. The act of engaging your fingers and putting words on the page should loosen things up. In addition, knowing that you have only a set amount of time will motivate you to get something down. Check out the Ruby Sprint Schedule, which runs during our annual Winter Writing Festival.

7. Reward yourself – In a business where you don’t receive a regular paycheck, it’s important to recognize your accomplishments. Did you finish a particularly rough scene? Dip into your stash of chocolate. Did you meet your writing goals for the day? Walk the dog or watch the next movie in your Netflix queue. These little rewards go a long way in helping you make big progress.

Now it’s your turn!

Your Assignment: Identify at least one thing you can do to better manage your writing time. Write it in the comment section below. Then, DO IT!

This is Part 8 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! – Money, Money

WARNING: Today’s topic in our Write On 2017! series is NOT sexy. My apologies in advance. But here’s a cute weimaraner puppy for your viewing pleasure.

In this series we’re exploring ways to keep you on course and on fire about your writing, stuff like missions and visions and goals that fuel our writerly souls. Today is all about spreadsheets.

If you’re serious about the craft and business of writing, you need to invest in yourself and your products. And if you’re earning revenue, you must keep track of earnings. Uncle Sam agrees. I am not an accountant or tax professional, and I am not offering any financial or tax advice. My goal is to encourage you to be aware of your expenses and revenue streams, even if you are just starting out. Why? Money motivates. 🙂

Your #1 Assignment: Identify expenses for 2017.

On a spreadsheet or good ol’ yellow legal pad, record anticipated expenses. At year’s end, record actual expenses. Expenses can include: professional associations; education; craft books and comps; office supplies and equipment; book services such as editing, formatting, etc.; postage; bank fees; publicity; travel and lodging; networking functions; self-employment taxes; etc.

The benefits: Setting aside money for craft books or writing workshops will encourage you to work on your craft. Going to conferences will expose you to industry professionals such as agents, editors, cover artists, etc. Your tax adviser can also talk to you about deductions. Finally, putting figures down on paper is a statement of serious intent. Yay, you!

Your #2 Assignment: Identify income for 2017.

On that same spreadsheet, identify potential revenue streams such as royalties, advances, speaking honorariums, freelance work, etc. As money comes in, record it.

The benefits: You might identify some unexpected revenue streams. In addition, it’s cause to celebrate. Millions of people talk about “writing a book”, a tiny percentage of those actually do it, and a minuscule number of that subset make any money off their writing. This is a tough biz, my friends, and I applaud all of you who have earned money from it!

While budgeting isn’t too sexy, finding ways to empower our writing is. In the comment section below, tell us about one great investment you’ve made in your writing career. Might be a craft book, research trip, conference, or whiz-bang website. Write on!

This is Part 6 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! – Goal Setting

Today we’re getting to the heart of any writing plan: Goals. Goals drive us, inspire us, frustrate us, but ultimately transform us from dreamers into doers.

If you’ve joined us for the past three Wednesdays for the Ruby’s Write On 2017! series, you developed an inspiring mission, created a forward-focused vision, and took a candid look at your strengths and weaknesses. You are now ready for the serious and empowering work of goal setting. 

Up first, SMART Goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  YOU control these goals. In the bookish world, there is so much we can’t control: rejections from agents and editors, bad reviews, Amazon algorithms. With SMART goals you have the power. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Use it! Some examples:

Not-So Smart Goal: Get an agent.

SMART Goal: Send out five agent queries every month. 

Not-So Smart Goal: Make $10,000 with my self-published series.

SMART Goal: Make the first book in my self-pub series perma-free.

Now on to Long-Term Goals. For our purposes, these are Big Dreams or goals that spark or fuel your writerly fire. They do not have to be SMART or within your control. They are often lofty and speak to people, places, and ideas beyond the writerly self. An example of a long-term goal: Be a keynote speaker at a major writing conference or reader event. 

Your #1 Assignment: Determine your SMART goals for 2017.

We’re not looking at weekly word count goals or to-do lists. With this assignment I want you to put some serious brain cells into determining what you want to accomplish by the end of the year. For some of you, that might be a single line:

  •  Finish MY NOVEL (70,000 words)

Those of you who like check boxes and are motivated by completing tasks might have gloriously long lists that address everything from productivity to promotion to professional affiliations. Your lists might look something like:

  • Revise NOVEL #3 (80,000 word historical)
  • Query NOVEL #3 to 10 first-tier agents
  • Write and self-pub NOVELLA #1 (35,000 word cozy mystery)
  • Write short story and sub to online magazine
  • Fast draft NOVEL #4 (60,000-word young adult) during NaNoWriMo
  • Hire development editor to edit NOVEL #2
  • Renew writer association memberships: RWA, Sisters in Crime; SCBWI
  • Blog once a month on group blog
  • Enter NOVEL #3 in two writing contests
  • Attend San Diego State University’s Writers Conference  or RWA National (writer event)
  • Attend Tucson Festival of Books or Romantic Times Convention (reader event)
  • Take on-line class on How To Write Believable Characters
  • Give mini program at local RWA meeting
  • Read and apply one craft book: Donald Maass’s THE FIRE IN FICTION
  • Revamp website to make mobile responsive
  • Increase newsletter subscribers by 10 percent
  • Go on writing retreat with critique partner
  • Find three beta readers
  • Create marketing plan for NOVELLA #1
  • Whew…but you get the idea!

Regardless of the number of SMART goals, these goals must SERVE you. To that end, review them at least quarterly. In addition, don’t be afraid to tweak or obliterate your goals, especially if you have significant personal or professional shifts.

Your #2 Assignment: Determine your long-term “goals”.

Have some fun with this one. Dream and plan big. Unlike SMART goals, long-term goals might not change every year, if ever. Here are a few examples taken from my personal Long-Term Goal list:

  • Use my writing to travel and meet new people and go new places
  • Support my editor and agent in pursuit of their professional goals
  • Inspire my three daughters to follow and fight for their dreams

In the comment section below, list some of your writing goals for 2017. I’d LOVE to see some of your lofty, dreamy Long-Term Goals. Write on!

This is Part 5 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! – Strengths And Weaknesses

I want all of you to picture yourself on a boat. Any boat. Any body of water. Might be sailboat on the ocean or a kayak on white water rapids. This boat represents you on your writing journey.

Are you in your boat? Good. Because it’s time for the next installment of our Write On 2017! series, which explores ways to help you stay on course and on fire about your writing. Today’s topic: things that propel your writing, hinder your writing, and yes, sink the dang boat. We’ll call these Strengths and Weaknesses. 

Your Assignment: Identify your writing strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s start with your strengths. Picture you and your boat moving effortlessly through the water. You have sunny skies, good winds, and plenty of fuel in the tank. Now identify specific reasons why you are making such amazing headway in your boat (writing career). In other words, list your writing strengths. Here’s our Write On! worksheet if you need one. Don’t be modest. Hint: Look at the craft of writing, business of writing, and personal/writer’s life.

For example, strengths can include things like:
* I am good at world building.
* I write engaging and natural dialogue.
* My family supports my writing.
* I have robust social media accounts with daily interaction.

Now picture yourself in that same boat. You’re getting battered by wind and rain. You’re taking on water. The sharks are circling. Take a few minutes and identify specific things that hinder your writing career, especially those that have the potential to sink your boat. Hint: Look at the craft of writing, business of writing, and personal/writer’s life.

Weaknesses can include things like:
* I struggle with pacing. My stories are sluggish and bloated.
* I start stories but don’t finish them.
* I am in a toxic writing group.
* I spend too much time on social media and not enough writing.

Why this exercise? It’s important to know your strengths so you can exploit them. For example, if you’re good at writing dialogue and you’re having a tough writing day where the words just aren’t flowing, by all means, start writing dialogue! Also, when you’re facing down that big, burly Doubt Monster, acknowledging your strengths is like lobbing hand grenades at the beast. Knowing your weaknesses will help you identify concerns that can undermine your career. If you struggle with plotting, get yourself craft books on plot. If you’re having a hard time getting into a regular writing routine, get yourself an accountability partner. One more thing…knowing your weaknesses will help you determine goals, which will discuss next week. 🙂

Your EXTRA CREDIT assignment: Develop a fix-it strategy for one weakness.

In the comment section below, list one weakness that you want to work on in 2017, and as a community we’ll brainstorm fix-it strategies. Got that? This is an interactive exercise where you’re invited to post creative and constructive suggestions for your fellow writers. The last time I did with exercise with  a class, one author said she got stuck on a writing project because she had to do research and she hated research. The class brainstormed a number of ideas, ranging from “hire someone to do the research” to “reward yourself with a chocolate sundae every time you researched a sticking point.” Looking forward to brainstorming below. Write on!

This is Part 4 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Photo: CC Image courtesy of Ken Teegardin on Flickr

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! – Your Vision

Every Monday I volunteer at a house of hospitality for pregnant and newly parenting women. Essentially, it’s a homeless shelter. Many of our moms have no family support or are newly released from jail or battling addiction.

One of the first things our moms do once they arrive at the house is put together a vision board. On this vision board they place words and images of what they want in their futures. For most of these women, this is the first time they’ve done “vision” work. Their reality: it’s hard to think about the future when you’re looking for your next meal or fix.

I love listening to our moms talk about the things on their vision boards, everything from graduation caps to shiny new baby cribs to words like SOBRIETY in giant letters. I love to see the looks on their faces as they picture a better life for them and their sweet little newborn babies. I feel their anxiety, excitement, and, above all, hope.

Visions are powerful tools.

Today in our Write On 2017! series, we’re going to talk about visions and how you can craft and use a vision to motivate you and guide your writing career.  Simply put, a vision defines the desired or intended future state of your business. Remember when we talked last week about missions? Missions INSPIRE; visions are what you ASPIRE to.

What makes a great vision? Visions are short, no more than a couple of sentences. They clearly outline your overall future aspirations without providing details of how those aspirations will be reached. And unlike missions, visions will and should change as you reach new milestones or change direction.

Some big-biz examples:

  • The earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online. (Amazon)
  • We will be the model for high quality journalism in the 21st century, strengthening the cultural, civic and social fabric of our democracy. (NPR)
  • The world’s beer company. Through all of our products, services and relationships, we will add to life’s enjoyment. (ANHEUSER-BUSCH)

Your Assignment: Craft your vision statement.

Time to have some fun with this one. Get yourself in a quiet, thoughtful state of mind. When I give this workshop in person, I’ll turn off the lights and let the room settle into a nice, peaceful silence. Ready?

  1. Close your eyes and envision your writing career FIVE years from now. What are you writing? Who is surrounding you? What is your financial situation? What is your state of mind? How is your health? Your spirits?
  2. Close your eyes and envision your writing career TEN years from now. Has anything changed? (It’s okay if it changes…or not. My goal is to help you deepen your thought process.)
  3. Now write “I am _____________________” and fill in the blank. Don’t worry if you need two or three sentences to list your aspirations. Once you get the thoughts down, you can narrow your focus. Or not. 🙂

Here’s my vision: I am a best-selling author who creates compelling stories that touch the hearts of my dedicated readers. A bit simple and not-too-sexy, but right now that’s how I visualize my future. Likewise, your vision must be you; it must come from a deep and true place. 

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your vision in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 3 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Image via Wiki Commons By Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Your Mission

Picture of frog

Have you heard the phrase, Eat the frog first? It references Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” When  I worked in the corporate world, this phrase essentially meant do your toughest work first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Today I’m here to help you craft a writing plan that will help you stay on course and on fire about your writing throughout 2017 (Write On 2017! Worksheet). And it all begins with the Mission Statement. I’ll be honest, IMO, this is the single hardest task we’ll cover in the next seven weeks as we craft writing plans. It took me a week-long retreat in Mexico with some writing friends and a couple of margaritas before I finally got my head around my mission statement.

Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of your aims and values. It’s the heart of who you are and what you do. Above all, your mission should INSPIRE you.

Missions are short, about twenty-five words or less. Management guru Peter Drucker suggests your mission be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. Missions are broad; they don’t box you in.  Missions should withstand the test of time and changes in your writing and the industry. Finally, missions are realistic (practical and workable) and easily understood.

Corporate America has spent millions of dollars crafting mission statements to inspire and guide. Here are some good ones:

  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (GOOGLE)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (NIKE)
  • To make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. (HALLMARK)
  • To spread ideas. (TED)

Your Assignment: Craft your mission statement.

As I mentioned, crafting my mission statement took me a couple of whacks. The task felt so big…so important. But when I reminded myself that missions are about that little nugget, the heart of who I was as a writer, the task got much more manageable. So what’s at the heart? You, your product, your aims, and your audience. Here is a quick exercise to get you thinking about these factors.

  1. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your writing
  2. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from READERS’ POV
  3. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from YOUR POV

With these words/phrases in mind, take a crack at writing a mission statement for your writing. Start with MY MISSION IS TO…

Here’s mine: My mission is to tell great stories…that capture the hearts and entertainment dollars of a loyal and ever-growing reader bse.

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your mission in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Prioritize Your Writing

Say it with me, writer friends: It’s time to stop clowning around and get serious about my writing! Maybe you’re a new writer hankering to finish your first novel. Or maybe you’ve been in the writing trenches a while and need to take that next BIG STEP. Get an agent. Self-publish. Quit your day job. Regardless of where you’re at in the writing journey, you can increase productivity and improve process through a thoughtful and focused writing plan.

Over the next eight Wednesdays I’ll share proven strategies and exercises to keep you on course and on fire about your writing. In these interactive posts, you’ll learn practical steps to prioritize your creative life, draft a writing plan to hold you accountable, and explore exercises that inspire and affirm. These blog posts are culled from one of my most popular writing workshops: Write On! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting, & Time Management. If you’re a worksheet-y kind of writer, see the Write On Worksheet.

Today’s topic: Prioritize Your Writing Life

If you’re serious about your writing, you must honor it with your time, talent, and treasure. Bonus: When you take your writing seriously, others will too, such as spouses, editors/agents, and readers.

Do you see that little clown above? That’s my youngest daughter. After I first created my writing plan twelve years ago, I told my girls, including that cutey-patooty clown, that I was setting aside time every day to write. If my girls needed something and I was at my writing desk, they would ask me, “Mommy, are you on the clock?” If I said yes, they knew I needed to finish my work. This was a pivotal moment in my writing career. Words and book contracts soon followed.

A few quick tips to prioritize: 

  1. Regular Writing Schedule – Writing is a muscle, and it works best when used regularly. Follow a writing sked that works for you. Write 500 words a day or 5,000 words a weekend. Or write from 5-6 every morning or 9-11 every night. When I’m drafting a book, I write 2,500 words a day, Monday-Friday. Interestingly enough, I became more productive (and less weary) when I decided to take weekends off.
  2. Writing Environment – Create a place to write. Home offices are great, as you can close the door, but don’t get caught up looking for the “perfect writing spot.” I use a desk in my living room. A friend of mine writes at Starbucks every day. If it helps, put up a few inspirational quotes, a vision board with your latest book project, or even a Writer-At-Work sign.
  3. Dollars and Cents – Set aside money for writing conferences and craft books. A solid investment now leads to greater future returns. Even though writing conferences exhaust me, I’m wonderfully productive once I get home. Perhaps it’s all that shared energy and filling of the creative well. 
  4. Writing Groups – Join a writing organization (RWA, Sisters in Crime, ITWSCBWI, etc.), great places for education and motivation. Likewise, critique groups and writing challenges can help boost productivity. Check out the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival for a heaping dose of writing inspiration and productivity challenges.
  5. Writing Plan – Create a writing plan and review it at least quarterly. Check the Ruby blog every Wednesday for the next eight weeks, and I’ll help you craft a simple but effective writing plan for 2017. 
  6. Your Manifesto – Say it. To your family. To your friends. And most importantly, to yourself. “I am a writer…a storyteller…an artist who paints with words, and I shall nurture and honor my creative soul.” This above all else.

Your Assignment

Now it’s your turn. Identify at least one thing you can do to prioritize your writing life. Write it in the comment section below. Then, DO IT!

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

 

 

North Star Or Shooting Star. It Begins.

Next week, during the Ruby Winter Writing Fest, we begin the quest to bring our imaginary friends to life.

Reading that line, I’ll bet some of you immediately had this mental picture of yourself sitting at your favorite work spot, downing carafes of coffee or tea (or in my case, Diet Coke) while drilling the key board, writing an entire novel, and within six weeks, finishing it with ‘the end’. Good for you. You have a goal.

Yet, I’m sure some of you froze at the word begin because the choices you have to start your story are limitless. The question where do I begin? haunts you. Which one start should I pick? Is it the right place?  Fear not, I have some advice for you.  

Every writer knows the importance of the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. Failure to immediately gain a reader’s interest is the vilest death to your story. Your work is like a shooting star that speeds across the sky and disappears without a big bang. The dreams and hopes pinned to such a star are gone in one quick moment. It’s far better to be that twinkling North Star.  So today, we prepare to start our masterpieces.

     #1 Great beginnings are the hard work. Rarely do they come easily and quickly and without dozens of rewrites. Sometimes they appear freely in later paragraphs or even chapters. We only need to recognize them when they do. Know that fact. Owned it.

     #2 First impressions are the most lasting; Proverbs.

A magnificent first line must be lean, powerful, and provide the reader with a question or promise. Here are some examples of great lean and powerful lines.

It was a pleasure to burn.  ‘451 Fahrenheit’ Ray Bradbury

All children but one grow up. ‘Peter and Wendy’  J.M. Barrie

There was a bloody man walking down the road. ‘Discovering You’ Brenda Novak

 Brilliant. Each of those lines not only asks questions but they also laid the foundation of book’s theme or its characters’ persona.  Knowing your story’s theme is important. Try outlining ahead of starting your story to learn the theme, but if you finding outlining is not your thing, don’t sweat it. The theme will come to you.

     #3 Ground your readers as quickly as possible in time and place. However, settings should be shown in small bits and either add to the conflict or become a character itself. Examples:

On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  ‘The Light Between Oceans’ M. L. Stedman

It was a cold, bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 1984 George Orwell

ONE HOT AUGUST Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren’t hers. ‘Tell Me Lies’ Jennifer Cruise

 

     #4 Write the first chapter as if it were the entire story, with its own escalation of action and conflict. And let it end with mystery and unanswered questions. Mystery demands answers. It propels readers to read on. Do not tell all. Exposition kills drama and backstory is boring.

     #5 Write tight. Write fast. Let your voice ring true. Voice is what is truly unique about your story.

      #6 All the boom, boom action or fast paced dialogue will not keep readers flipping pages unless they care about the characters. A great story is an emotional ride. A reader must connect with the characters and care what happens to them immediately. They don’t necessarily need to like them (leads to character growth) but they must understand the character’s actions and feel for them as a human being. Establish your hero/villain goal, give him/her a familiar quality, and then add a ticking bomb. 

     #7 Dialogue is action. It’s fast paced (quickly drawing a reader farther into the story) and it’s an excellent way to show character and conflict. Here are a few great examples.

“Your title gives your claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow thrones. They follow courage.”

William Wallace in Braveheart.

“It’s not the broken dreams that break us. It’s the ones we don’t dare to dream.”

Will Schuester in Glee

“The problem is not the problem. It’s your attitude about the problem that is the problem.”

Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption   

Wow! Wow! Just wow!

     #8 Big or little, internal or external, conflict is a reader’s addiction. Add it where ever and whenever you can. You hear me. Big or little. Internal or external. Pile it on!

     #9 In order to understand a character fully, we need to know the world he came from. Show the character in his or her world in an interesting way, but make that world change quickly. He can be making toast, but why not have make toast over the gas stove. His method of making toast is interesting and says something about his character, doesn’t it? 

     #10  The most important bit of advice on making your first pages awesome I saved for last. Have faith in yourself that the story ahead will be adventurous and fulfilling and go for it!

 

Anyone else have advice on producing great starts? 

 

Autumn Jordon, one of the sneaker Rubies, is an award-winning author who writes Romantic Suspense, Thrillers, and Contemporary Romance under the same pen name. Join her newsletter at Autumn Jordon.com

There Is No Use Denying Who You Are

This is a republished blog posted here on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood as Closet Writers that was felt by many of our readers. I hope it will connect with a few more as we go into a new year.

Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.

There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.

Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.

Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves. To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.

A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.

My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.

There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.

I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.

One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of many family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops.  I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.

Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of Perfect and Perfect Hearts.  She enjoys writing  contemporary romance, romantic suspense and thrillers/mysteries.  Subscribe to her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be entered into members only contests. perfect-box-basic-2

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  • Elizabeth Langston: Watching TV shows and films, then dissecting how they put their stories together. Every spring...
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