The Absolute, Total, No Doubt about It, Guide to Writing … by Richard Keller

Rich-KellerTake a look at the Internet – without stopping for cute puppy videos – and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts and news items labeling themselves as the be-all, end-all guides to writing. Compare them to each other and I bet you’ll find large similarities between them all. There’s a finite amount of material these people provide, and most of it comes from sites other people have put together from other people on the web have put together that –. Well, you see what I mean.

Now come back here, because I have tremendous news. I am now going to provide the absolute, total, no-doubt-about-it guide to writing. Regardless if you’re a seasoned author or someone sharpening the last pencil in their vast collection, the following is the definitive guide to become a galactically-successful author. You no longer need to go to any other site for writing advice.

1. Don’t write what you know. Let me clarify. You can write what you know if you’re a space alien ready to invade Earth, a superhero, or a super spy with a whole bunch of cool gadgets. You can also write what you know if you’re a musician/actor/artist who had a horrible childhood, gained humongous success, burned out on drugs, got clean, burned out again, got clean again, found God, and was probed by aliens. Should you be someone who’s greatest achievement is getting free premium channels when you didn’t pay for them, think about writing about space aliens, or a superhero, or –.

2. Be a snoop. Do you know how Weird Al Yankovic came up with the hit parody “Like a Surgeon?” He heard Madonna had asked her friend when Weird Al would parody “Like a Virgin” with “Like a Surgeon.” You know how J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series? She watched wizards and witches run through a column on Platform 9 of Kings Cross Station. Authors need to have their eyes and ears open at all times in order to absorb a potential story idea. Just don’t put together a book of stories inspired by overheard conversations at the coffee shop. I have that gig in the bag.

3. Admit Writer’s Block is just an excuse to watch Real Housewives. Please, you’re a creative talent! Story ideas and words should be flowing through your mind from the time you wake up to the time you to bed. And, as long as strange inner voices aren’t interrupting those ideas and words, there’s no limit to what you can put down on paper. Can’t think of the next chapter for your manuscript, switch to a short story, a poem, or a letter to Bravo asking them to start a Real Housewives of Hoboken series.

4. Copy current trends. Let’s see … that means you should imitate the following themes: dystopian futures; apocalyptic futures; dystopian, apocalyptic futures; teen angst; dystopian teen angst; apocalyptic teen angst; dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; futuristic, dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; and cookbooks.

Finally,

5. Well, maybe you should go to other sites.

A version of this post was first published on Patricia Stoltey's blog in November 2014.

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New Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member Richard Keller is the founder of Wooden Pants Publishing and the Associate Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Richard has written over two thousand articles over the last three decades for various media outlets, including USA Today, RM Parent, Fort Collins Magazine, BellaSpark, The Coloradoan, and AOL TV. Richard resides in Northern Colorado with his wife and five children. In his spare time, Richard likes to read, travel, perform Improv, and sleep in a sensory deprivation chamber to get at least one minute of peace.

To learn more about Richard and his publishing company, visit the Wooden Pants Publishing website. He can also be found on Facebook.

Multi-Tasking or Single-Tasking: What Works Best for You?

I always have a lot going on at any one time, in my writing life and in real life. Yes, I do see a distinct separation between the two lives, even though one tends to muddy up the other from time to time.

When I'm writing, I'm a writer. I put on my writerly cloak and think writerly thoughts. That's my plan for today. Except for the laundry, of course, but it’s Monday. I always do the laundry on Monday.

When I'm doing real life stuff, I forget all about the writing part and get crazy. Yesterday, for instance, I read the paper and then a few chapters of The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, rode the exercise bike twice, talked to my mom on the phone, and watched the Broncos beat the Chargers on television. And I paid a lot of attention to Katie Cat because she's very demanding.

Katie Cat waiting for me to move the laptop so she can claim my lap

When I'm being a writer, I'm also being a blogger and social media junkie. My husband often comments on the number of tabs I usually have open when I'm at my computer. There's email, this blog, my personal blog, a Google calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and sometimes Goodreads and amazon.com.

And I subscribe to a number of blogs that I follow regularly.

So....when I read Leo Babauta's post several weeks ago on Zen Habits, I felt he might be talking directly to me. The post is called "I'm Returning to Single-Tasking." In the first of six excellent points, Leo says he's going to have only one tab open at a time. Multi-tasking is out the window. Single-tasking is in.

For me, this is an amazing new concept. How about you?

In the past, when I’ve gone into busy writer mode, the one thing that always got sacrificed was reading time. Or I try to read at the same time I’m watching television shows that don’t require a lot of concentration. If I move to that single-tasking philosophy, which I’ve been trying and kind of like, I’ll keep at least 30 minutes free in the morning for pleasure reading. It almost gives me a chill of pleasure to think about it. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Anyway, back to my plan for today. A little bit of time outside to enjoy the balmy 40+ degree day, do that laundry, quickly finish my morning computer tasks online, and then spend many hours on manuscript revisions. Taking Leo Babauta's advice to heart, I will close all my browser tabs and focus on the book during that revision time I’ve set aside.

Tell me something about your writing habits. Do you muddle about with more than one project at a time? Or do you focus on just one and get it finished before you move on to another? What are your browser tab habits? Do you have any new plans for tackling your projects in 2016 so you're more productive?

Let us write, let us write, let us write!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the tale inside’s delightful!
And since we’re so erudite
Let us write, let us write, let us write!

blue-snowflake‘Tis the season for holidays and gifts and snowfalls. We just emerged from a powerful storm, and are facing more as we approach the new year. The ski areas are euphoric, but for those who don’t ski, the colder temperatures and ice aren’t welcome.

For the first time in my life, I’m traveling during the holidays. My husband, John, whisked me away to Puerto Vallarta. He needed a vacation, he said, and I’m reaping the benefits, writing this under palm trees and in a bone-friendly seventy-five degrees.

In this idyllic tropical paradise, I’m also writing chapter nineteen of my work in progress, The Red Bridge, book four in my fifteenth century Gypsy historical romance series. In this chapter, it’s mid-May, with weather that varies from soft, spring-like afternoons to chilly mornings and evenings.

How does one write about goose bumps and the chill of pre-dawn while basking in summer temperatures? Don’t ask a writer that question. It’s all in the amazing gift of imagination we possess in such great quantities.

In this tropical heat, I recall a faithful dog and the “fine power of frost,” of ice and air so cold that spittle crackles and freezes before it hits the ground. Yes, I’m thinking of one of the most memorable short stories I have ever read, To Build a Fire, by Jack London (1876-1916). It was a sixth grade required reading assignment that I found mesmerizing. I recall learning much later that London wrote that story from a beach chair on one of the Hawaiian islands, and experienced disbelief that anyone could write such convincing prose about the perils of death by freezing – while lounging, carefree, under a tropical sun. Such was London’s skill, and such is the magic of fiction. We can change our environment any time, just by stepping into the pages of fiction. No matter how oppressive the cold, our minds are free to roam warmer or cooler worlds. We need only use our imaginations and, thankfully, no matter the financial climate, it’s free.

For inspiration, you can read an adaptation of London’s amazing short story with just a click of the mouse, at http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/short-stories-to-build-a-fire-by-jack-london-139130564/114744.html

Do you recall a time when fiction took you to a radically different world or environment? A time when fiction healed or rescued you from harsh reality?

It’s Full of Stars

In many ways, a writer's journey has much in common with Arthur C. Clarke’s novel-turned-classic-film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The hapless author boards his-or-her craft (a manuscript instead of a rocket), launches into a hostile space, and spends many months (or, sometimes, years) in what seems like suspended animation. Time passes, the author alternately waiting for something to happen and struggling with the perpetual fears that NO ONE WILL EVER OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS no matter how much (s)he begs.

(HAL’s got nothing on a writer’s subconscious. Trust me here.)

During those weeks, and months, and years, the author keeps busy, studying craft and working on as many manuscripts as it takes to reach the destination. Agents get queried, tearstained rejections get filed, and life moves on. Eventually, the writer finds an agent and a publisher, or decides the self-publishing path is the right one.

Then, just like the astronaut in 2001, the author's journey reaches its endpoint–the book release. At which point, the author stares in awe at the real, live book in her hands and whispers softly...

It’s full of stars.”

… fade to black. Journey over. Story ended.

WHAT????

Now, wait a minute.

If you're like me, you saw that ending and said. "That can't be all there is."

WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

But there's a reason 2001 ended where it did, and why it didn't tell us any more. It parallels the writer's path here, too.

When you get there, you realize the ending--whether we're talking 2001 or an author's debut release--isn't actually the ending at all.

The ending is just the start of another journey.

Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. (There’s a reason we call it “the writing life.”) The author's initial trip to publication is wonderful, scary, and filled with firsts, and yet it's merely the opening bars of a longer (and even more beautiful) symphony.

Surprise. When it's over? It isn’t over.

And now, another story.

In late December 1973 I was two and a half years old.

A neighbor gave me a pair of lovely presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied with ribbons. I opened the first, unwinding the bow and setting it gently aside before I peeled back the tape that bound the paper. Minutes passed, but I took my time. I savored every moment until at last I removed the wrapping and revealed a brand-new book beneath.

A hardback book.

I don't remember the title but I'll never forget the cool, slick feel of that cover beneath my hands. Immediately, I opened it up and began to "read" the pictures.

My mother gave me a gentle reminder: “Susan, don't forget you have another present. Why don't you open it? What do you think's inside?”

I paused, one hand on the page to hold my place, and looked at the second package. After a moment I answered, "Probably … another book.”

And then, I went back to reading.

That story has more to do with this post than you might initially suspect.

I love my debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CATI enjoyed every part of the detailed process that went into its writing, editing, layout, and publication. The book's release came after ten years of struggle, craft, and rejection, and I savored the feel of that book in my hands as I savored the beautiful Christmas book my neighbor gave me many years ago.

But by the time I held my published book in my hands, I had already boarded another craft--the second book in the series. When that one was finished...I started on the next.

Consider this post your gentle reminder to stop gazing lovingly at the book in your lap--regardless of whether or not it's published--and to continue moving forward, one the next phase of your journey.

Because the writer's journey, the writer's life, is not about a destination. Finish a project and start on the next one.

Never let your fears or insecurities stop you, no matter how impossible the journey seems right now. Don't wait on someone to open the pod bay doors and let you enter this realm--success as a writer is something you have to work for, and accomplish, through hard work, determination, and effort. And you can do it, if you try.

But on the way, take time to enjoy the process, no matter where you are.

Today is the dream.

Today is the journey.

Savor this moment.

Trust me.

It’s full of stars.

Romance – my addiction of choice … by Desiree Holt

DesireeHolt200x263Okay, okay, so I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But here’s how I look at it. Every day there is so much pain and misery in the world, not to mention the problems we face dealing with everyday life. When I curl up with a book, I want to know that the ending will be happy and satisfying and the hero and heroine will end up together. Oh, their road to happiness will certainly be filled with rocks and thorns. Where’s the fun in having them meet, fall in love and just trot off into the sunset? And who’d believe it , anyway?

Because romance, for all that it’s fantasy, also has to be grounded in reality. The readers I know who love romance want to change places with the heroine. They want to meet the hero, flawed though he may be, and be the woman he falls in love with. They want to be tall, short, thin, curvy, blonde, brunette, redhead—something they are not in real life. Because even in the happiest and most fulfilling relationships, there is always the desire to dream and fantasize. Romance gives women that opportunity.

I didn’t come to the romance genre at once, though. I thought I would write mysteries, because that’s what I read growing up. But when I finally sat down to write that first book, I could not get past chapter three. Then I read my first romantic suspense and I thought, This is what I am going to write. I wrote that first book in an effort to create my own hero like the one I’d fallen in love with—dark, dangerous, self-controlled except in bed. A bad boy who did good. And so sexy I wanted to find a way to bring him to life.

It certainly wasn’t all skittles and beer after that, though. There were far fewer opportunities to “break the barrier,” so to speak, then there are now. Self publishing wasn’t even on anyone’s horizon. But I plugged away at it (totally necessary) and eventually got my first break. Others followed. And as my backlist grew along with my readership,. I discovered I could spread my wings and test other subgenres.

Maybe it was my age. I was seventy years old when my first book was published, arriving at a time in life where I didn’t feel constrained to be bound by strict rules. I read two romances about wolf shifters and fell in love with the genre. Five series have been born of that. I love the wolf. I think he is a magnificent, romantic animal so writing about wolf shifters was easy for me.

2015_Holt_DH_RawEdgeofDanger_KindleI enjoy action adventure movies and television, and read thrillers by several authors, so it was natural for me to say, okay, let’s try that subgenre. And what fun that turned out to be. No one told me I couldn’t do it, because by then the marketplace had changed drastically. I loved creating those darkly adventurous men who jumped out of helicopters, fought terrorists and took down the bad guys. And of course, were incredible lovers. As a writer I was free to let my imagination run wild and I did, drawing with words the kind of heroes I wanted to drag into my house and lock the doors!

Then I got a little more adventurous, and created heroines I wanted to be myself. They practiced at gun ranges, were crack shots, could take down criminals without blinking an eye. And were rewarded with a romance that sizzled their toes.

It has been and continues to be such fun letting my imagination run wild. As I said before, you reach an age where you ignore restrictions and create in the pages of your stories the kind of life experiences you’d like for yourself. And romance is really the only genre where you can do this unfettered.

I’ve met a lot of people on my journey. I should probably dig out my tee shirt that says, Careful or you’ll end up in my next book. Because that happens so often. I meet interesting or good looking people and immediately start creating a story line for them.

But let’s complete the circle and get back to romance. In a romance story you can push the boundaries, give your imagination free rein, write scenes that your readers can live vicariously. As you get older, it becomes so much easier to do that. To “cast off the bonds of restriction.” To write yourself into a story, playing out your fantasy.

Do you have a story in your head? A character you’d love to create? Or meet? Then sit down and put your fingers on your keyboard. Let your imagination flow and go wild. I promise the end result will be worth it.

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

Known as the oldest living author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt has produced more than two hundred titles in nearly every subgenre of romance fiction. Her stories are enriched by her personal experiences, her characters by the people she meets. After fifteen years in the great state of Texas, she relocated back to Florida to be closer to members of her family and a large collection of friends. Her favorite pastimes are watching football, reading, and researching her stories.

Learn more about Desiree and her novels at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook and her Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Note from Desiree: I will pick one commenter at random (using random.org) to receive a $25.00 Amazon.com gift card. This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere, but please post your comment by midnight U.S. Mountain Time on Thursday, December 17th.

Supporting One Another

Writing can be a lonely endeavor.

By nature, it is a solo pursuit. We write alone, whether in a private office, living room, library, or coffee shop. As well, we often “feel” alone in our profession because so many of us are introverts. Despite our families, friends, and critique partners, we nurture self-doubt. We fear our writing isn’t good enough or that others won’t appreciate our work or that we will not be able to follow through if we are successful.
Knowing all this about ourselves, it behooves us all to support one another and there are a few easy things we can do toward that end.

First, share good news. Opportunities abound for this one and it requires little effort except simply doing it. Nearly every one of us now makes use of at least one social media platform. When a fellow writer finals in or wins a contest, does a cover reveal or announces a new release, share the news! Tweet/retweet, post/share, or pin. Use social media to spread the word to your friends and followers so that a wider net learns about it. With increasing reports of some platforms blocking authors’ self-postings about releases, this is a critical way to help spread the word about others’ accomplishments, especially when the writer is modest and doesn’t make announcements on his/her own.

Equally as easy is congratulating them. Like or better yet, comment when significant writing news is posted. Offer kudos within groups and “loops” and “list-serves.” Use hashtags. These small efforts may not seem like much but I guarantee they mean an incredible amount. Each comment I receive on news I’ve shared means the world to me and I take notice of each like. As well, those “likes” drive the algorithms on social media so that that person’s posts appear more often in newsfeeds. Thus, you provide them warm feelings and a marketing boost. If the person is important to you, write a short email or send a snail-mail card and really make their day!

If a fellow writer is releasing a book, attend a signing event. Too often, many of us attend launch events for the first book released by an author. Subsequent books are not celebrated with event attendance. We often figure we don’t want to attend a launch event unless we intend to purchase a book and we can’t afford to purchase everyone’s book. Yet few people understand that there is nothing so deflating as arranging (and sometimes paying for) a celebratory event and having only a small handful of people attend. Authors are robbed of the joy of the new release. It doesn’t matter one whit if the author is debuting or is multi-published, the let-down can be devastating. In a group the size of RMFW, this should never occur.

At one of my release events, I looked out and saw members of my critique group, there to celebrate with me. My heart nearly melted. These were people who had read the book, had no reason to purchase it but there they were…present to support and rejoice, even though it was not a first book and even though I have already experienced success. To me, it didn’t even matter if they bought a book or not. Authors quickly come to understand that it’s impossible to others to buy every book friends release. The point was that they had come. Sure, selling a book is great but having a supporting audience is really what matters.

Read a book? Consider writing an honest review and posting it on Goodreads or Amazon. Not only will it mean much to the author but it will drive algorithms so that the book appears sooner in search engines. Reviews and search engine results drive sales for the author. As authors, we understand this, yet we still fail to write them. Some avoid writing reviews because they feel they might hurt the author’s feelings if the review is less than glowing. Others note that Amazon sometimes removes reviews written by fellow authors—not true if the book was purchased through Amazon, by the way—then forget the Goodreads platform. The most common reason we don’t do this for one another, however, is because it takes a bit more time to do. Perhaps all of these excuses need re-evaluation.

Admittedly, I fail to do all of these but I’m making efforts to do some of them on a consistent basis.

And you know what? It feels good!

Fate and the Crooked Pathway

I recently had a dream about the boss who fired me. I remember being pleased to see him (in real life he’s been dead for nearly ten years) and wanting to thank him for firing me. Because it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. If he hadn’t fired me and I hadn’t struggled to find a job and ended up staying home with my toddler children, I might not have started writing. Bored and frustrated, I channeled my angst into poetry and then a novel. Although I only wrote a few chapters of the novel, a family saga, before I realized I was way over my head.

If I hadn’t been fired and finally been forced to take a job working at a bank where I sat all day, the discs in my lower back might not have given out, resulting in back surgery. Because when I signed the paperwork for the surgery and got to the part where it said I could potentially die, I realized I couldn’t die. Not only because I had two small children, but because I hadn’t written a book yet.

If I hadn’t been fired and been forced take the bank job I hated, I might never have considered applying for a position at the local public library. It wasn’t a career job, and it didn’t pay very well. But because of what I’d gone through, I applied for the job and got it. And it was working at the library where I discovered the genre of historical romance and realized this was a kind of book that I could write.

Being fired, which was devastating at the time, set all the steps in motion for me to become a writer, and also for me to get published. Because it was the support and encouragement of my co-workers at the library that made it possible for me to see myself as a writer and to take the necessary steps, like joining RMFW, which gave me the connections to sell that first book.

Since then, my career has been very up and down, with a lot of downs. But on my journey, when things have been very grim, I’ve reminded myself, that a lot of the time, bad things happen for a reason. When doors slam shut in your face, it means you’re supposed to backtrack and go a different direction. And even then you may still find you’re not going the right way. You may have to alter your path several times before you find the right one. The one that will lead you to where you need to go. Although where you need to go might not be the place you expected.

My philosophical outlook may have no meaning beyond being my personal coping mechanism. A way for me to see my checkered career path in a positive light. But even if that’s all it offers, it still has value. By allowing me to remain positive, it’s given me the strength to fight through the tough times and keep writing. And since writing is a big part of my personal happiness, that’s definitely a good thing.

Friends Writers Need and When to Shut Them Out … by Margaret Mizushima

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~Picasso

Margaret MizushimaWhen I was a kid growing up on a cattle ranch in the panhandle of Texas, I had a tumbleweed for a friend. Seriously. Miles from the nearest neighbors and school, our home was surrounded by thousands of acres of natural buffalo grass, cattle, and yes—weeds. To keep my tumbleweed from blowing away in the never-ending wind that swept the plains, I tied it to our back porch with a piece of yarn.

My mother negotiated a deal with the public librarian in our closest town: we could check out all the books we wanted as long as we brought them back each month when we made the trek into town for groceries. So, while friends were sparse during those days, my inner life became rich and fanciful. (How else could a child enjoy the companionship of a tumbleweed?) My parents and teachers often called me to task for daydreaming. Little did they know that I was a young writer in training.

Writing is a lonely business, but that loneliness can be countered with the right friends. (And many of these friends should be people.) Find fans—or at least one—who love what you write; mine are my adult daughters. Fans don’t have to be writers, but it’s helpful if they love to read, and it’s best if they like to read in your genre. The fan role is to encourage you along the way, cheering you on when you want to give up. They read your work, tell you they love it, and then answer your specific questions about characters, plot, and scenes to tell you how they think it could be improved. After a fruitful visit with these friends, you need to return to the solitude of your writing space and revise.

Mizushima_Killing TrailThen take your work to another group of valuable friends: your critique group. This group of friends must be made up of writers. They will give honest feedback on the work; pick apart grammar, plot, and character development; scribble “show, don’t tell” in the margins; and sometimes leave you wondering why you ever attempted to write in the first place. But what’s most important is that these friends will help you improve your writing.

Showing your work to your friends requires that you have written something. It means we writers need to shut out our friends and abandon our tumbleweeds on the porch so we can enter the solitude we need to complete the serious work referred to by Picasso. Most of us don’t have the luxury of an office or studio to write in. We eke out a creative space in the back bedroom, den, or basement. Some people have an extraordinary power of concentration and can write in coffee shops or while sitting with family in front of the television. I once saw a seasoned writer sit in the hallway at a writing conference for hours, surrounded by people, tapping away at a keyboard. (No, I didn’t stay to watch him; I merely observed him every time I came out of a session.) I admire that type of focus, but I don’t have it. I write in the back bedroom at a desk surrounded by photos of friends and family, motivational greeting cards, and inspirational sculpture and posters. I light candles made by my daughter before beginning my writing sessions.

So it’s okay to embrace your tumbleweed, but beware the prickles. It can be fun—dare I say great fun—for writers to mingle with friends in coffee shops, in online chat rooms, or on social media talking about their characters and ideas for all the wonderful books they’re going to write. But at the end of the day—or better yet for me, at the beginning—we must write! We must be alone to create our masterpiece. Fight for your own space within the house; hang up that sign that reads, “Do not enter—murder and mayhem reign behind this door.” Balance friends and fun with the solitude of work, and do the work until you finish. You’ll be glad you did.

Who are your writing friends? Where is your creative space, and why is it perfect for you?

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

Margaret Mizushima is the author of Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery to be released December 8, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. After earning a master’s degree in speech pathology, Margaret practiced in a hospital and her own rehabilitation agency, and now she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hay Hook” was published in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She enjoys reading and hiking and lives in Colorado on a small farm where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website.

Never Ignore Serendipity

I just took a vacation. It was great, but what I took away from it (besides a sunburn and a hangover), was that I need to make sure I never let myself ignore serendipitous moments in time.

While our husbands went fishing, my friend and I decided we’d take a nice little snorkeling trip. Just a couple hours. The snorkel “beach” was actually a pile of granite boulders, with very sharp edges, and massive surf. As in “knock you over and roll you around” surf. Combat snorkeling, if you will. As you can guess, this was not what we signed up for. We didn’t have change for anything to drink, and the water taxi was an hour late coming back for us. This should have been the excursion from hell.

But lest you think I digress, in an instant we got to experience one of those serendipitous moments. The other passengers on our water taxi back to civilization were a group of 20-30-something cruise ship employees from South Africa, England, and a couple other places I forget. The twenty minutes back to town, plus the two or so hours in the bar we spent with them, were truly serendipitous.pelican beach and cruise ship

We were fifty-something women whose husbands had gone fishing. Those “kids”, by all rights, could have made fun of us, should have ignored us. But instead, they decided to hang out with us simply because we talked to them, and told them where they might find drinks and good food. When a Mariachi band came by, one of the crew asked to use a guitar, and began to play – Santana no less. Holy Cow – that Mariachi band was even more surprised than we were. It seems we were in the company of some of Disney’s Cruise Line’s star entertainers. Then another crewman picked up the guitar, played, and sang lead while the others sang along, including the Mariachi that still had instruments. These “kids” were interesting, fun, VERY talented, and talked about everything that came into any of our heads.

If we hadn’t been on that Ponga boat, at that time, on that day, there is no way this diverse group of people would have ever come together, and stayed together for more than a moment. But what we ended up with was something that made that day, and our vacation, so much more memorable than if we’d just followed our itinerary.

Where I’m going with this is: you should never let those moments pass you by. Let those strange little quirks take you wherever they will. As writers, we need these moments to take us away from the tunnel vision of our WIP. To make us experience those things that might not be within our comfort zone, or the genre we write in, or the circle of people we’re comfortable with. And just maybe, to give us an idea for the next story, a great story, a bestselling story.

Serendipity. Grab it when you can, hold on with all you got, and Write On!

Real Writers Write – a plan for us NaNoWriMo holdouts

Inspired by the RMFW conference, my critique partners and I are participating in a writing challenge this fall. In an effort to develop the daily writing habit, we declare our intentions, much as the NaNoWriMo participants do. We challenge ourselves with so many words a week or so many pages a week, with a goal to write daily.

I’m sure you’ve heard the comments by NYTBSA’s like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, et al, who, when asked about their daily routine, stress that real writers write. They write each and every day. That consistency is what helps them release over three and more novels a year.

Slacker me, I crank out one when I have the perfect combination of inspiration and time, zero when I don’t.

A cartoon circulated about ten years ago depicted two rooms full of writers, all typing away on their keyboards. Under the cartoon on the top, it read “Unpublished writers.” Under the identical cartoon below, it read, “Published Authors.” The message was simple: as a striving-to-be-published author, one needs to work hard to learn the craft. While  studying writing components such as plotting and characterization are necessary, learning only occurs when the principles are applied, i.e., during the writing.

And as a published author, your fans and your publisher will want you to produce at least one book a year, preferably more, so one should write, and write frequently.

If we write to be rich and famous, we become dependent on external validation to make that happen, and without it, it’s likely we’ll lack adequate inspiration to write every day.

If we write to please ourselves, the writing is intensely personal and there’s less pressure. I write because it's a joy, and it's extremely entertaining. I also enjoy sharing my work, and it delights me when others enjoy my words, so I write to publish.

Must we write every day? I propose that the rule need not be so absolute. There are days of accidents and heartaches and legal difficulties and the flu. Let’s not allow that little voice inside to deride us and sap our confidence if we miss a day here or there. I haven’t set a daily rate for each week within this challenge, but I’ve set a goal that requires, if not daily writing, most days writing.

Because I’m a confirmed plotter and hopeless editor-in-progress, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic program that I’ll likely never try. Adapted to my needs, however, it can serve as inspiration to get me there.

So far, it’s working well, and I’ve made my goal for four weeks straight. I’m beginning to feel the rhythm of daily writing, and it makes the story I’m writing much more exciting. I would love making sufficient progress to eventually release a book every six months.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or a modified version with your critique buds? What are your goals for November?

NaNoWriMo
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