Breaking The Ice

ice-brakerBeginning a new book is the hardest part of writing. Like meeting a new person, you don’t know where you stand until you spend time with them, get to know them, or in this case, get to know the characters in your story. It sometimes takes me 5,000 words to get into my newest writing project, but once I’m in it, I’m in for the long haul.

I just started Book Two of my Black Tiger dystopian series. I submitted the first book to some indie publishers, and while I wait for feedback, decided to begin the next book. It was hard. It’s taken me a week, yes, SEVEN DAYS, to get three-thousand words down. I used to be able to get that many words written in a day. I kept getting distracted, finding excuses not to write. But when I don’t write, I get depressed. So this was one roadblock I was either going to have to cross or go around. (by “go around”, I mean set aside and start a new story).

So I decided to take the bull by the horns (please excuse the cliche), and write. I plowed through my writer’s block. Because that’s the only way to get to know your story. That’s the only way you’re going to get excited about it, and by the excitement, find the drive to write every day.


11 Things To Do Between Writing Projects

I just finished some major edits on my YA dystopian novel, “Black Tiger”. I’m tempted to jump into writing book two, but you know what? I kinda like this hiatus. See, when I get into a writing mode, my mind and time are locked in until that project is complete. During every one of my son’s naps, I plop down––butt in chair & coffee in hand–– and write/edit. Seriously. Nothing else gets done.

So before starting my next project, I’m trying to get caught up on, well, real life. Below, I’ve written eleven things you can (and probably should) get done before beginning your next big project.

1. Socialize. Been ignoring those phone calls and skipping out on family outings? Now’s the time to call up those good old friends and reconnect with your family. Even when I do go out with the in-laws and cousins, I’m terrible about not really being “there”. My mind is always working, always collecting ideas for the next scene. But without a projectcheck-list-board on the burner, I can finally be fully present.

2. Clean. If you’re at all like me, your house looks like a number 5 hurricane just blew through. What’s worse, the grime inside your sink hasn’t been cleaned out since the middle ages. Well, now’s the time to catch up on housecleaning. I just did a deep clean yesterday, and waking up this morning to a clutter-free, grime-free house was among one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my entire life (apart from riding an ostrich in China, but I’ll save that story for another time.)

3. Blog. Did you know I’m The World’s Worst Blogger? In case you haven’t noticed, this is the first blog I’ve written in over a month, because when I have time to write, I want to write a book, not a blog. But since I have no book in progress, blogging will do.

4. Write flash fiction. Because, why not? You have to exercise those fiction-writing muscles somehow, and you don’t want to commit to a large project just yet. Flash fiction is a story of a thousand words or less. You can whip that up in an hour or two, edit it the next day, and hey, you’ve got a story to submit to a magazine and you’ve satisfied your daily/weekly craving to write fiction.

5. Housework – Mow the grass, recycle, clean gutters, dig a grave for that body you’ve been hiding in the basement… whatever major house chore you’ve been putting off, now’s the time to do it!

6. Catch up on social media. I think I do alright on Facebook, but when it comes to “promoting” myself as an author via twitter or Pinterest, well, I kind of suck. I really, really would rather be writing. But this is the time to connect with people on social media, get to know those online friends, grow your audience and work on that writer’s platform that you’ll need when you’re published.

7. Go to the park. Whether you have dogs, kids, a spouse, pet dragon, or none of the above, going to the park is healthy and a good way to get exercise and get fresh air. Do I sound like a mom yet? I took my son to the park for the past three days and felt so incredibly refreshed afterward. The park is free and it’s fun for the whole family. Seriously. Why not go?

8. Volunteer. Now’s the time to put in a few hours of good community service. Like going to the park, it may not sound appealing at first, but after the fact, you’ll be glad you did it.

9. Watch your favorite T.V. Show. I’m currently getting caught up on The Walking Dead (season 3) and I just started Game of Thrones this week. You’ve put all that hard work into writing and editing, why not kick back and relax for a few days?

10. Read a book. Or two. Or three. Best if you read in the genre you’re writing, but really, any book will do. And reading for a writer friend gives you 50 extra points, because that’s just a nice thing to do.

11. Finally, primp yourself up. Okay, this is more for the girls. If you’re like me, you’ve probably let your fingernail polish get chipped and you can’t remember the last time you got a hair cut. Time to shave those legs, pluck that unibrow, and clip your toenails. Because, let’s face it, if you don’t do it before you begin your next project, you’ll be living proof that backward evolution does, in fact, exist.


How to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

By a show of hands, how many of you have been to a writer’s conference?

In my short five years as a (serious) writer, I’ve been to two. To me, writer’s conferences are like camp. They’re fun, you meet lots of new friends who share your interests and you return home with renewed passion about life and writing.

I’m excited to say I have the opportunity to attend my third writer’s conference coming up this weekend! That’s right, I will be going to the Realm Maker’s Conference. This was a last minute decision for me. I mean, I literally started thinking about attending this conference two weeks ago, and paid for registration last Monday. The conference begins this Friday.

Since I’m currently preparing to leave for Realm Makers, I thought that a good topic to post about this week. So, here they are, eight things (in no particular order) to do in preparation for a writer’s conference.

Picture taken at Mount Hermon Writer's Conference

Picture taken at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference

First of all, register. You don’t want to miss the registration date like I did for this upcoming conference. Fortunately, the director was kind enough to let me slip in at the last minute. Totally a God thing.

Second, check out the website for who’s going to be there. You want to get familiar with the professionals, the agents & editors, teachers & mentors. Go to these professionals’ websites, study what their passions are, what they’re looking for, and see if your project meets their needs.

Fourth, prepare a synopsis, one sheet, query letter, and sample chapters to give to editors/agents. (And look at their websites to see what else they might want to see.) Print off a few copies of each and stick them in a folder for safe-keeping.

Fifth, pack. Make sure you look at the conference website to see what’s appropriate. All (two) of the conferences I’ve been to were semi-formal. Jeans with a nice shirt or something of the like. But some conferences are very formal while others are more casual.

Sixth, make travel preparations. This is an obvious one, but just in case you forget, here it is. Map your destination or buy tickets depending on your preferred mode of transportation.

Numero Siete, go with a student’s open mind. You’re going to learn more about writing in a few days at the conference than you did for months (or years) learning on your own.

Finally, have fun! Don’t stress out about whether or not the editors/agents will love your project or whether the other writers will like you. Just go with the mindset that you’re going to meet new, like-minded friends. If agents ask you to submit your project, that’s a bonus.


What about you? How do you prepare for a writer’s conference? Have I missed anything crucial?

New Facebook Page!

I did it. I created an author Facebook page. Marketers say you should do this long before you’re published, but I felt like a fraud creating a page as an author when I have nothing to prove for it except my manuscript that’s not even contracted yet.

But with a flash fiction story getting published with Splickety Love 1.2, and another story contracted to publish with Havok Magazine in July, I decided it’s time to take the leap and create an author page. If you enjoy speculative fiction (i.e. dystopia, fantasy, sic-fi… basically all things “weird”), then you might like my page.

So… here is is! Feel free to visit the page, and if you like it, then, well “like” it. 🙂

Challenge Yourself. Write Something New.

Have you ever found yourself in a bind with your writing project?

You know what I’m talking about. Those long hours you spend wading through the stagnant muck of defeat, those dragging days when inspiration is hard to find and you wonder if your project is worth all this energy, all this work, all this raw emotion.

When you hit that block and you’re feeling discouraged, set the project aside, open a new document, and start from scratch. Don’t even think about your current project. Think about everything else. Anything else. The possibilities are endless. Do you want to begin another novel? Do you want to write a memoir? A short short story? A poem? A song?

photo 3 (1)

Take a break.

Take a breath.

And try something new.

You can come back to your project later. It will always be there, waiting for you to return with renewed inspiration. But rather than getting burnt out, take a hiatus from it. Isaac Asimov owned several typewriters and had different projects going on in each one.

I currently have three, yes, THREE novels in progress. One is completed and just needs revisions. The other two are about 1/4 and 1/2 completed. When I tire or get discouraged with one book, I set it aside and move on to the next. If I don’t feel like writing any of them, I write a flash fiction story. (I’m having my first flash fiction story published this coming May with Splickety Love Magazine!)

Which is another reason to try something new, something small. Writing short stories not only teaches you to tighten your writing, but also presents possible opportunities to get published sooner, which is a huge encouragement for unpublished writers, like me, who are waiting for the big acceptance letter.

I love what James Scott Bell says in his book Revision & Self-Editing:

“When [your brain] gives its attention fully to one thing, it gets tired of that thing after a while. By switching to another focus, it begins again with fresh energy. When you’re hot and heavy in revision, you can still ‘ping-pong’ between projects. This will spark a different part of your writer’s brain, and when you come back to revise you’ll have fresh insight.”

All that said, I do warn you not to start too many new things. You don’t want to be up to your elbows in projects with none of them close to the finish line. Three novels are my extent. I WILL NOT allow myself to begin another until one of these is completed and ready for submission.

Happy Writing!

Write First, Learn Later

If I could offer one piece of advice to beginning writers, it is this: write first, learn later. Because if you try to learn the craft of writing before you actually write, it will only discourage you.

When I was in high school, people asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told them I wanted to be an author. This wasn’t a practical enough answer for the world and people suggested good money-making degrees. Unfortunately, I ended up wasting five years of my life at two different colleges with no degree to show for

But I digress. Back to high school. People told me that if I wanted to write, then I should learn the craft, read books on writing. So I did. But I read so much information that the rules ended up becoming roadblocks. I would toss the “how-to” books across the room in despair with the realization that I could never learn all those rules, ergo, I could never be a writer.

So let’s fast forward to after my five grueling years of college when I finally started writing. I mean, seriously writing. I didn’t read books on writing. I didn’t study the craft. What I did do was read/listen to interviews of my favorite authors, cling to their advice to “keep writing”, and did just that. You can read my journey about writing my first draft here

All I wanted at this point was to see if I had it in me to finish a novel. Because if I didn’t, what was the point of learning the rules at all? So I finished that baby and sent the first ten pages to freelance editor to see what I needed to work on… which was a lot. (I definitely advise this to first time authors. It’s usually around $30 for the first 10 pages, depending on the editor, but totally worth it.) The editor told me my strengths and weaknesses and gave me a list of books to read. Now that I’d finished writing a manuscript, learning the craft didn’t seem so daunting. Sure, I pretty much had to rewrite that draft, but at least I had something to work with. I suppose I’m more of a “trial and error” student than a “do-it-right-the-first-time” type.

So, my advice to newbies is this: write first, learn later. And when you do get to that learning stage, learn everything you can. Of course, this advice doesn’t go for everybody. But it worked for me. If you’re a beginner and you feel “stuck” behind the rules of writing, toss the books aside and just write.

GO BACK and do it again.

There always comes a point in my writing that I begin to rethink my story as a whole. I realize plot holes need to be filled, better decisions need to be made by my character (that suit him/her), and the story basically needs to be revised and rewritten completely.

This has happened with my past four manuscripts. I’d reach to the midpoint of the story… and then hit a block. I don’t know if it’s because the writing is atrocious up to that point, so I go back and make it better because I need to have faith in the story in order to finish it, or if it’s because of major plot twists that need to be added before I continue (since they will affect the entire story). Either way, I go back and rewrite what I have. No matter how hard I try to fight the urge, the story needs to change. But in the end, it will be better, the work would have been be worth 1

Since I am a seat-of-the-pants writer–or, the more modern term, organic writer–I don’t take as much time as I should to truly discover who my character is. I know, I know. In the writing world this is practically a sin. You should research your character before writing about her. You should quiz her, study her, interview her… I know. But even when I do that, my character usually evolves, anyway. I slowly discover my heroine and how she deals with certain situations while I write, not before I write. And it’s not usually until I reach the midpoint of my book that I realize who she is.

Once I have gone back and revised/rewritten the first half the draft, the rest of the writing process flows much easier. I know where the story is going, and I understand my character inside and out. Finishing the story comes a lot easier after I’ve rewritten the first half. It’s getting through the rewriting process that’s the hard part.