Monday, December 28, 2015

5 Tips to Finish up the Old Writing Year

At the beginning of every new year I like to make a list of the things I hope to achieve in the new year in my writing journey. It only makes sense then, that at the end of every year I like to check back on the progress I've made or didn't make. Sometimes I like to look back at goals I set in prior years to make certain I am moving in the right direction.

So let's quickly look back: I did get at least one book published in the last year, Blues at 11, though I knew that was coming because it had been contracted, edited and proofed earlier. But two very good things also happened that allowed me to get two more works published. I participated in an anthology offered by The Heart of Denver Romance Writers, so I had yet another fiction work published. I also worked with my non-fiction writing collaborator Sue Viders on a new project, and as a result I am now also an independent published author as we started the "Let's Write a Story" series. The first book -- Seven Ways to Plot is now available at Amazon. It came out in November and that is a wonderful way to end the year.

So how do you check back on how you did this past year? What can you look to get done with just a few days left in the old year? Here are five tips to looking back at your past successes that can help you get ready to enjoy new success in the next year.

1. Don't shortchange yourself. Just as I celebrated the success of my publication on a book that I did know was coming out, don't pass up the chance give yourself a pat on the back for accomplishments that came in this past year that you had been working for or completed earlier.  That new work is now out there. Whether it's starting a new blog or finishing a short story that had been started earlier, enjoy the completion of that project.

2. Enjoy and celebrate the success you did achieve.  This past year when I hear about the Heart of Denver Writers working on a new anthology, I immediately remembered an old story idea I had wanted to write but never completed. All I really had was a germ of a thought and a first line. After that I was off and running and put my name up for consideration with my story idea. Don't overlook what you did accomplish this past year, no matter how small or large.

3.  Look for the little things or steps that you have taken. This past year I promised myself to get more written and that includes writing almost every day.  I have set up a chart similar to the one used in NaNoWriMo that shows how much I write every day. I also include editing time so I can see how much time I actually spend in the writing process. And yes, that includes blogging time!

4.  Look for new opportunities.  One thing I did this past year that really re-energized my writing was to volunteer.  While I have volunteered to work with my writing groups in the past this time around I volunteered to work with a group of women on a historical project.  The whole experience was invigorating to my writing. I had been bogged down on a story I'd started the previous year and what I found as I conducted research for this project was new enthusiasm for that old project. I'm ready to really get into finishing this year. I have new places to research that I had not thought of in the past and new ideas for the story itself born of the research I did for that volunteer project. I have already volunteered for their next big project!

5.  Look forward as well as looking back.  What were the things you wanted to get done last year that didn't get done? Maybe it's time to put them into the forefront or let them go for a new project.  Look for new ways to work on your story, whether it be a new way to research or a new story idea.

There are so many things to be done in preparation for the new year and next week I'll look at what you can do to set realistic goals for the new year.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

5 Tips for Writing through the Holidays

We all run into it -- the busy, busy period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.  How can you find time for writing during those hours when the days grow shorter and the "to do" lists grow longer? That doesn't include those couple of weeks when relatives are coming to visit or the kids are out of school.  How can you find time to devote to yourself, let alone your writing or writing projects.

Here are five tips to survive the Holidays and still come out ahead once you've drunk your last drop of eggnog or champagne and eaten that last cookie or piece of holiday candy.

1. Schedule at least half an hour of the day for some writing time.  I don't normally schedule when I am going to write. I like to let the muse strike me, but sometimes if people are in from out of town or if the kids are around for days on end, you need to schedule some time away from everything and for yourself. Scheduling first thing in the morning or getting up before everyone is up can work. I always do that when visiting. I get up early and get in a little time for writing.

2.  Work on editing yesterday's material or your NaNoWriMo book when you're waiting. How many times do we have to sit and wait while presents are wrapped or when meeting someone for dinner and they're late. If you save your work to your phone or ipad you can keep it with you and look over your writing and make notes on what needs fixing.  I keep a little notebook handy in my purse at all times for making notes or even writing while waiting.

3. Don't try to work on something new -- finish up an old project. This can be the editing on that November novel you wrote, or it can be something you want to have done to submit in the new year. If it's already edited, put it in your phone and again, read it when you have a few moments to see how it will look and feel for readers when they buy it for their kindles and e-readers.

4.  Try outlining a new project to get started in the new year.  If you're almost finished with this year's work, it's a good time to look forward and start thinking about what you want to start writing come January 1st.

5.  Get some inspiration from the craziness around you.  Holiday shopping is a great time for watching people and situations.  I'm a constant eavesdropper so if I hear a mother correcting her kid in the booth next to me at a restaurant, I'm not above writing down her better lines. Listen and learn from the relatives who come to visit. Pick the brains of those who might have a special knowledge of what you're writing or want to write next. Or look over the crazy relatives and think of how you might place them in a story!

Lots of writing fodder out there during the holidays. Keep your writing eyes and ears open and look for ideas to use in the new year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

5 Tips To Begin Plotting Your Novel

This week my focus is on PLOTTING -- one of the most critical parts of writing any novel. In addition to having my latest book on plotting published, (more on that later) I also have another reason for thinking about how to plot this week. I am beginning work on a new book based on an idea that's been rolling around in my head. How can you go from idea to story? I've taught this class numerous times and I always come away from the classes with new ideas from students. Here are five good ways to begin plotting:

Start with the 5 Ws.   Over the years, as a TV news writer, I quickly learned that starting with the 5 Ws  was always a good place to begin work on any story I needed to write, whether it was a :15 headline or a 5-minute long series piece or even an hour long documentary. What are the basics?

1. Who?
2. What?
3. When?
4. Where?
5. Why?

Most of these are self explanatory, but let's run why they are so critical and how they can help you get started with your plot.

1. Who is the main character or characters, and that is always a good place to start. Even if you are starting with an idea of an event, someone is going to need to react or be part of it. Knowing WHO that character is can send the story in many directions.  A policeman might be expected to start to solve a crime, but a taxi driver wouldn't care, unless someone was killed in his cab and he's suspected of it, or the grandmother stumbles across a body in her backyard and her grand child is being accused of burying it. Then those last two people might want to get involved and become part of the story.

2. What is the event that sets everything in motion?  Does a space ship land on a farm and begin to burrow underground? The teenage son of the farmer sees it but when he brings the sheriff and his dad out to show them, all is looking normal. But suddenly his friends are acting strange and so are some of the other towns people. Now your story is started and you can get your plot moving.

3. When is the time the story takes place. The story of a  mail order bride from Ireland arriving in 1860s Colorado is going to be a very different tale than one about today's mail order bride who might meet her husband on the internet. And she probably wasn't ordered via mail -- the two met from different countries online, but she is still may face culture shock.

4. Where is the setting for the story, whether it's 1860s Colorado, a farm in the South, or New York City in the summer. Determining the setting for your story will help to figure out what your plot is going to entail. You might still have car chases running from the bad guys, but will it be on city streets, or over bumpy country roads?

5.  Why is the real question you need to answer and that is what will get your plot moving and then keep it moving. Why is that space ship in the cornfield? What do those strange people want and can your hero or heroine prove what is going on?  We may not find out until the very end. Why was that person murdered in the cab? And why did that mail order bride decide to come to Colorado and can she survive?  Why is a question that you can keep asking with each event in your book and before long the plot is coming together. In writing novels I always put the Why at the end because that basically is what begins the story. If I can figure out the why then the plot will begin to flow.

But if you're still confused about plotting, you might want to look into the new book just published on Amazon for Kindle and ereaders -- Seven Ways to Plot.  It is the first entry in the Let's Write a Story Series I am co-authoring with Sue Viders, who was one of the co-authors of the popular writing book, Heroes and Heroines, 16 Master Archetypes. In this book we look at seven different ways to plot and help you decide what method can work best for you.

Seven Ways to Plot is currently available at
Our next book in the Let's Write a Story series will be on creating characters, one of my favorite parts of writing a book.

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...