Tag Archives: Advice

Action Plans for the Scattered and Unmotivated

by Kerry Schafer

Last month I shared some of my thoughts about intentions, suggesting that it’s a good idea to have some and see where they take you. And then I tacked a little afterthought on the end, saying how next time we’d talk about Action Plans.

I still maintain that intentions are lovely and wonderful things, even though well meaning people say the road to hell is paved with them. I suspect that the road to paradise is probably paved with them too, although nobody ever seems to mention that.

Back to my point, which is that we want to give those intentions a little boost so that they are more likely to take us to the good place, and not lead us astray into darkness and possibly fire and brimstone.

Warning: If you’re looking for one of those super organized, highly structured, do-all-of-the-things-on-this-list-and-you-will-surely-conquer-the-world posts, you’re in the wrong spot. This isn’t even Action Plans 101. I’m offering up a few random ideas for those of us who organize by sticky notes on the kitchen table, or in our heads while resting our eyes on the couch.

1. Publicly announce whatever it is you said you were going to do.

Case in point – at the end of my last blog post here, I said I would write this time about action plans. If I hadn’t done this, I might easily have opted for something involving fluffy cats and maybe a random penguin or two, because I’m tired and feeling unfocused and the last thing I want to do right now is remind myself that I need a new Action Plan. But I do, and here we are. This is one of the things that makes Nanowrimo so successful, I think. After you’ve announced to everybody who knows and loves you, along with a bunch of strangers who don’t care at all and even a few people who hate you, that you’re going to do something – write a book, query an agent, self publish, whatever – there is a motivating force to keeping your word.

2. Write it on a calendar.

Don’t have a calendar? Get one. Or use the calendar on your smart phone or your computer. Get the kids to make you one. This, for the scattered and unmotivated, is one of the simplest and best motivational and organizational tools out there. Of course, simply scrawling “write a novel”  or “get published” on the first available date may not be of much use, although I think even that would be of some use. There is something about actually scheduling writing time, or query time, or a word count goal, that bumps it up the ranks of your to do list. It’s like magic. Write it down – Monday – 9 am buy groceries, 10:30 am dentist appointment, 3 pm write 1000 words – and all of a sudden your writing time jumps from something you’d like to do if you have time, to something that you plan to do.

3. Take a small step now that will commit you to further action later.

I’m talking about one of those moments where you open your mouth (or put your fingers on the keys) and commit yourself to something. Usually the commitment part only takes a few minutes, but has far reaching consequences, sort of like getting married in Vegas, only in a good way. Or that minute at a school meeting where you raise your hand and volunteer to organize the potluck. If you’re having trouble getting your butt in the chair to write words, buddy up with a friend. Agree to meet up for writing sprints, at 5 am, or 10 pm, or whatever fits in your schedule. That way, when the alarm goes off and you reach out to push snooze, you’ll be struck by the guilt of knowing that someone you care about is climbing out of a nice warm bed somewhere else so she can meet up with you. Guilt is a wonderful nap ruiner. Join a writing group that expects pages to critique. Create a contest with a friend to see who gets the most (well researched and solidly crafted) queries out into the world by a particular time frame.

As Action Plans go, this is the minimalist version. Search the net and you’ll find all sorts of involved and in depth road maps to success. These make my head hurt, and I suspect I’m not the only one. So this is the extent of my contribution to the subject. Hey, every little bit helps, right?

Now – it’s time for you to step up to the plate. What action plan step are you prepared to commit to today?

~~~~~~~~

Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2012 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on February 14, 2013. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books.

The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly: All Manuscripts Are Not Created Equal

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Listen closely, for I am about to tell you a publishing secret no one else wants you to know.

Are you ready?

Here goes.

Not everything a writer writes is good.

Shocking, right?  J.K. Rowlings didn’t sit down one day and pound out a thousand pages of Harry Potter the first time her fingers hit the keyboard. Learning craft takes a lifetime. Some writers get lucky and the first manuscript they write is snatched up by an agent and sold to a big house for a huge advance. But they still have to sit back down at the keyboard and write book 2.

Trust me; the second book won’t be nearly as easy to write. Or as pretty.

Manuscripts are a lot like children.  Some are born cute, while others have to grow on you.

*No emails, please. Your offspring are just adorable, I swear.

But there is a beauty in the crap writing too. A freedom. Maybe it’s a freedom from inside the box thinking or story ideas. Sometimes it’s freedom from your own voice, a means to explore beyond what you know. Often, for me, my crap words are the same ones that push me for better ones. After all, how many times can my heroine roll her eyes?

The answer is 27 time, in two chapters.

Had I submitted that bit of crap to my editor, he might’ve suffered from an eye-rolling sprain.

Not pretty, I know.

Now what can you do if you find yourself with an ugly baby?

A few things:

1)      Dress it up. Add a new, exciting character with a better story line. Then cut the old characters and story line. Basically, write a new book.

2)      Rip it up. Sometimes it’s best to just let a story idea and sometimes a whole manuscript go. Too often we get stuck on a manuscript, on an idea, trying to turn an ugly baby cute when even ten million hours of scalpel-sharp revision wouldn’t make it better.

3)      Let it rip. The ugly baby might all be in our heads. This is when honest feedback from a critique group can save your precious baby. But you have to be able to trust what the critiques say. People don’t like to tell you your baby is ugly, so they nod and smile when asked. That won’t be helpful if your baby really is ugly.

4)      Embrace it. Show the world your ugly baby, and let the world decide what happens next. This is a mindset I see a lot in indie publishing. Sometimes the world loves an ugly baby, a baby that then turns out to be a swan in diapers.

5)      Toss it in a dumpster. Or better yet, that drawer in your desk where all bad manuscripts go to die. Then, in a few years, after 20 more craft classes on revision, 10 on editing, 3 on the hero’s journey, take that baby out and play with it. If it’s still ugly, put it back in the drawer before anyone sees it.

Because I love my RMFW blog readers, I’m going to share a piece of an ugly baby of mine with you:

She struggled, but not too much. Her water soaked hair turned stringy like seaweed, making it almost impossible to see the terror in her eyes, as he held her head under the icy water. He was careful not to mare her snow-white skin. A bubble burst from the water’s surface, filled with the last remnants of oxygen in her lungs. The sound it made as it broke the surface was anticlimactic, a muted death rattle and then silence.

Guess that baby needs a few more years in a drawer before unleashed onto unsuspecting, polite society. Did I actually use the words, snow-white skin? I feel sick…

Since we’re all friends here, give me a bit of your best ugly baby, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, as much as you’d like to share.  Best ugly baby will win a prize.

———————————

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

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Dancing Away that Author Envy

by Jeffe Kennedy

On one of my author loops recently, a number of people were gnashing teeth over their lack of success in the publishing world. From the publisher declining to publish the rest of the books in their series, to poor sales, to perceived favoritism for “special” authors – they felt they’d gotten a raw deal.

Okay, first of all, I haven’t met a published author who doesn’t feel this way–privately.

Everybody has gotten a raw deal from a publisher at some point. Editors that left them orphaned. Two-book contracts that let the publisher decline Book 3, thus leaving the intended trilogy hanging. Inexplicable decisions not to market, to reduce print runs, to pimp other authors.

And like all things in life, there is always always always someone who seems to be getting a MUCH better deal than you are.

Usually someone who doesn’t deserve it nearly as much as you do, right?

Right.

So it goes.

The thing is, you gotta watch the perception of others. This goes for pre-published or self-publishing authors, too. How readers – and this includes other authors – see you, your books and your career is profoundly important. If an author says, “you should buy my book because my sales have been terrible and I really need the money,” he or she might get a few sympathy sales, but most people are going to think “what’s wrong with the book that no one is buying it?”

Hell, *I* think that, knowing full well that many seriously wonderful books go unnoticed for no good reason. It’s human nature. People want to like what other people like.

Back when I was in college, I was a member of a sorority. Stop your knee-jerking there – my sorority was an amazing group of women, many of whom are still friends. We sponsored and attended parties and dances regularly. We probably had 4-5 dances each academic year and one of our missions was to make sure that every one of our sisters had a date to the dance. No dancer left behind, or some such. We made sure everyone would be included.

(And sure, some of these gals were lesbians, but for the dances everyone liked to have a boy partner. Also, this was the 80s, so really no one was out of the closet. At least, not enough for formal events.)

Now, this should come as no surprise to anyone, but most guys like to date the gals that the other guys think are hot. We’ve seen this phenomenon over and over. It probably works the other direction, too, but I really saw this in action finding my sisters (and myself!) dates for the dances. Some of the women just didn’t date much. Mainly because they just never had. In my eyes, they were perfectly attractive, obviously intelligent because it was a smart school, and without socially-damming habits. But, when I’d ask a male friend to be Neglected Nancy’s date, his first question inevitably was, “What’s wrong with her?”

Because the very fact that she had no date meant that something had to be wrong.

Nearly as inevitable would be the follow-up question, “How about Hot Susie? I’ll go with her!”

And, of course, Hot Susie would have a date. She *always* had a date, which was part of what made her Hot Susie. Was this fair? No. Was it even based on anything real? Maybe. Hot Susie likely fit the beauty standard better. She might have been more practiced at flirting. But most of all, she was HOT SUSIE.

There were certain guys, ones we usually referred to as a “great guy,” who would escort Neglected Nancy to the dance and have fun doing it. After that, the other guys would be more willing to be her date. It just took a little time for the “what’s wrong with her?” stigma to fall away.

All of this is a roundabout way of reflecting on the nature of popularity.

Why are some seemingly lousy books bestsellers when other really fine ones barely see the light of day?

*shrugs*

If we knew this, everyone would write a bestseller. (Which, by the way, is why I distrust the books and classes on how to write a bestseller – if the author/teacher knows, why aren’t they doing it?)

It’s also true that some books and authors take time to build an audience. Twenty-five years later, many of our Neglected Nancy’s are doing much better than the Hot Susie’s, for a variety of reasons. This is why we should be wary of envying someone else’s seeming good fortune – we never know what trials they face that we don’t see.

Finally, to extend the analogy, find and take care of those “great guys.” The readers who love your books and tell other people about them.

Have fun.

Dance all night.

Hard to gnash your teeth while dancing up a storm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Scrub Your Mindscape Clean … by Mark Stevens

This post was previously published on August 6, 2013

Skip the tips.

Forget everything you’ve learned.

Put down your copy of 100 Fabulous Secrets to Better Writing Now!

Move away from the stack of books you slowly acquired ever since you first had the thought that you might want to write fiction. (Spoiler alert: all those books pretty much all say the same thing. They are as repetitive as magazines about how to swing a golf club. Or how to diet.)

That’s right.

Forget it all.

Put it aside, shove it to the back of your brain or, even better, scrub the whole mindscape clean. Lesson-free, worry-free, anxiety-proofed. Silence the inner coach.

Oh yeah, one more thing: don’t even think about your favorite author or some writing style you’d like to emulate.

There. Got it?

Now, tell me a story. Only, pretend I’m in a soundproof room and you’re going to have to slide me pages under the door as the story unfolds—as you write it down. In your writing voice. With your words.

Okay, there you go.

Here’s what I want: I want to know your character—inside and out. And, well, it would be pretty cool if something actually, you know, happened.

There must be a reason this is a story and not just an account of some random, meaningless day. Or week. Or series of connected events.

My point? My point is sometimes you have to get back to basics. And those basics are:

1. See clearly.
2. Describe honestly.
3. Keep things moving.

Sometimes (drum roll, please) you just have to write.

And write some more.

(Of ALL the writing advice you’ve received over the years, isn’t that the most common refrain? “Write every day.” “Keep on writing.” “Write, write, write.” “Write a million words.” Or some such variation. Has one writing coach or respected elder of the writing community ever suggested that you think more or suck your thumb harder? Didn’t think so.)

And after you’ve written, have some other readers check what you’ve written, to see if they get the story you’re trying to tell.

That’s it.

Your voice, your words, your damn story.

It’s bound to be one of a kind.

But if you do need a jump-start or if you’re looking for that one magical moment of inspiration, come to Colorado Gold, RMFW’s massively brilliant three-day conference in September in Denver.

For more information about the conference, visit the RMFW website.

I can promise you one thing: you won’t starve for advice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

The Perfect Writerly Advice … by Julie Kazimer

This post was previously published on August 27, 2013

For the last week I’ve racked my brain to come up with a blog post for the ages, one which will be sheared into the mind of every reader. In the end I think I tore something vital, and finally came up with a post worthy of RMFW writers—The Perfect Writerly Advice.

Stop rolling your eyes.

They might stick that way.

Good advice from dear old mom? Or was she full of it? Has anyone’s eyes ever stuck that way?

Yes, it’s true. Your mom lied. Probably more than once. Which I’m sure is what has warped you into becoming a writer in the first place. But in mom’s defense, she was only passing along the advice she’d received from her own mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on.

This madness ends now.

Okay, this madness ends in a hundred or so words. You can wait that long, right?

See I did something stupid, I asked my Facebook friends, most of which are writers, to give me their very best writerly advice. Trust me on this. It was a bad, bad idea. But I’ll share the top highlights (You can read them in their entirety here):

The top writerly advice was:

1) Quit. Don’t even think of writing as a career choice.

2) Don’t follow any advice you read on a blog.

3) First drafts suck and they should suck. Embrace it.

4) Read. A lot. Then read some more.

5) Never give up on your dream.

As you can plainly see, my Facebook friends are a smart, albeit twisted and jaded lot. But they do prove a point. All the great writerly advice in the world (and here is some of the best) will not make you into a bestselling author, any more than it will get you a three book deal or even finish your current WIP.

But I do have the perfect piece of writerly advice for those looking for the perfect piece of writerly advice:

Write.

Simple. Easy.

Yes, and you’re right, completely worthless as advice.

I wish writing was as simple as taking the advice of others. The advice, write every day, works for Stephen King, so how could I, a mere hack in comparison, not live and breathe this advice? How could I not listen when Elmore Leonard says, avoid prologues? Sadly I don’t write daily or even weekly and I often have prologues in my books. Does that make me wrong? Does it mean I won’t be successful or write unforgettable characters or books? Probably, but not because I didn’t follow Mr. King or Mr. Leonard’s advice. Other factors are at work, conspiring against me (Oh, I know all about the evil plot to make me write zombie M & M erotica).

As humans, it is our responsibility to dole out advice to everyone we meet, in line at Starbucks (always advise extra whip), to our kids (don’t put a fork in the light socket), and to our writerly pals (only write while wearing tights). Now as writers, it is our responsibility to ignore all that helpful advice, and let our eyes stick once in a while.

Any advice you’ve found helpful in your writerly career? Any advice you love to ignore?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance from Coffeetown Press, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

Getting the Most Out of the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

By Mike Befeler

Writers conferences are a blast. Having attended a number of different ones, the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference ranks up there right at the top. This will be my twelfth year, and I get something new out of each one. Here are my thoughts on getting the most out of the conference.

1. If this is your first conference, jump in and meet people. If this is your umpteenth conference, make an effort to meet the people who are here for the first time. At my first conference, I knew one other person attending. Now I have many friends I’ve made over the years.

2. Take the time to peruse the schedule and pick out a variety of sessions. For my first few years, I concentrated on craft. Then I migrated to sessions on how to pitch and sell your manuscript. Then with my first publication, I focused on how to promote your books. Now, I find myself jumping in at all levels. It’s said you need to write a million words to learn the craft of writing. I’ve written over a million words, and I’ll still learning. We all can continue to tune our craft.

3. Think about what you’re currently writing and go to sessions with the frame of mind that you’re going to learn something to improve that manuscript.

4. Volunteer. It’s a great way to meet people. I’m coordinating moderators this year and moderating. We all can contribute to making the conference a success.

5. At the meals sit with someone you don’t know. Although it’s great to catch up with old friends, meal time is a chance to also make some new friends.

6. Make an effort to pitch to agents and editors. This works much better than sending in blind query letters. I sold my first book as a result of a pitch at the 2005 RMFW Colorado Gold Conference. Just don’t follow agents or editor into the restroom to pitch to them, particularly if of the opposite sex.

7. Spend time at the book sale on Friday night. Go around and meet the published authors. If you’re a published author, stand up and greet the people coming by. For the first five people who stop by to see me at the book signing and mention they’ve read this blog, I’ll give you a free book.

8. Drop by the hospitality suite after the conference Friday and Saturday nights. This is an excellent opportunity to schmooze with editors, agents and other writers. By the way, the hospitality suite is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Hug a mystery writer.

9. Have fun.

Mike Befeler has five published books in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, the most recent being Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. He also has two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. Mike is president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Learn more about Mike and his books at his website and blog. He can also be found on Facebook.

 

The Perfect Writerly Advice

By Julie Kazimer

For the last week I’ve racked my brain to come up with a blog post for the ages, one which will be sheared into the mind of every reader. In the end I think I tore something vital, and finally came up with a post worthy of RMFW writers—The Perfect Writerly Advice.

Stop rolling your eyes.

They might stick that way.

Good advice from dear old mom? Or was she full of it? Has anyone’s eyes ever stuck that way?

Yes, it’s true. Your mom lied. Probably more than once. Which I’m sure is what has warped you into becoming a writer in the first place. But in mom’s defense, she was only passing along the advice she’d received from her own mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on.

This madness ends now.

Okay, this madness ends in a hundred or so words. You can wait that long, right?

See I did something stupid, I asked my Facebook friends, most of which are writers, to give me their very best writerly advice. Trust me on this. It was a bad, bad idea. But I’ll share the top highlights (You can read them in their entirety here):

The top writerly advice was:

1)      Quit. Don’t even think of writing as a career choice.

2)      Don’t follow any advice you read on a blog.

3)      First drafts suck and they should suck. Embrace it.

4)      Read. A lot. Then read some more.

5)      Never give up on your dream.

As you can plainly see, my Facebook friends are a smart, albeit twisted and jaded lot. But they do prove a point. All the great writerly advice in the world (and here is some of the best) will not make you into a bestselling author, any more than it will get you a three book deal or even finish your current WIP.

But I do have the perfect piece of writerly advice for those looking for the perfect piece of writerly advice:

Write.

Simple. Easy.

Yes, and you’re right, completely worthless as advice.

I wish writing was as simple as taking the advice of others. The advice, write every day, works for Stephen King, so how could I, a mere hack in comparison, not live and breathe this advice? How could I not listen when Elmore Leonard says, avoid prologues? Sadly I don’t write daily or even weekly and I often have prologues in my books. Does that make me wrong? Does it mean I won’t be successful or write unforgettable characters or books? Probably, but not because I didn’t follow Mr. King or Mr. Leonard’s advice. Other factors are at work, conspiring against me (Oh, I know all about the evil plot to make me write zombie M & M erotica).

As humans, it is our responsibility to dole out advice to everyone we meet, in line at Starbucks (always advise extra whip), to our kids (don’t put a fork in the light socket), and to our writerly pals (only write while wearing tights). Now as writers, it is our responsibility to ignore all that helpful advice, and let our eyes stick once in a while.

Any advice you’ve found helpful in your writerly career? Any advice you love to ignore?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE  as well as the forthcoming romance from Coffeetown Press, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.