Fair Weather Writer?

For some Fair Weather is the key.

For some writers Fair Weather is the key.

You know what a Fair Weather Writers are, don’t you? They’re those people who can only write when all circumstances are right.

I honestly don’t know any, (hand in the air) but I’ve read about them. They’re the writers who can only get words on paper when

  • There’s no one else in the house.
  • When the muse knocks three times.
  • During the rain.
  • When the sun’s shining.
  • Only on weekdays.
  • Only on weekends.
  •  Only after the house work’s finished.
  • Or the laundry.
  • When the kids are in bed.
  • With their pets are in their laps.
  • (Name your own poison.)

Okay, I’ll admit it. (Hangs head.) I’m a Fair Weather Writer. (Sorta.) My personal thing is I can only write in the morning, maybe until noon. But when the day starts winding down, so does my brainpower. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) I blame it on my internal clock.

Maybe you aren’t a FWW. You could be an ALL Weather Writer. That’s a writer who can write anytime, day or night–it doesn’t matter who’s around or what’s going on, who’s waiting or what anyone expects.

When they’re on a story, they’re writing.

Louis L’amour said he could write in the middle of Time Square. Just give him a typewriter and stand back.

858

Marilyn Pappano can write all day and all night and start over again. And what she writes works!

A HERO TO COME HOME TO author (and all weather writer) Marilyn Pappano

A HERO TO COME HOME TO author (and all weather writer) Marilyn Pappano

I roomed at a writers’ retreat once with a woman who went directly to her computer and wrote each time we had a break. She was a great influence on me, and I started writing each time she did. And sometimes before she did.

All Weather Writer Jackie Kramer

All Weather Writer Jackie Kramer

Maybe I should just move in with her. 🙂

I’d give my eyeteeth to be an AWW, but I’ve tried. I can do a little in the evening (like now) but mostly, pfft. And what I do write late in the day takes a lot of fixing the next morning. Sigh. (Five fixes so far this morning.)

So . . . how about you? FWW or AWW? Do you know?

Better Sex, Part 1

Susan here. Today I’m introducing a “new” writer, blogger, Smart Woman and friend, T. D. Hart. And although she doesn’t know it, she’s part of one of my Small Town Worlds! 😉

I love watching T. D. while she learns and grows as a writer. I thought y’all might enjoy her, too.

Her website is: http://tdhart.blogspot.com . Keep an eye on this woman. She’s going places!

Take it away, T.D.!

The Professional Writer (or: Better Sex, Part 1)

 How does one go from being a professional-something-else (in my case, a veterinarian) to becoming a professional writer?
The answer: It Depends. On what, you ask?The journey depends entirely on the type of writer you  want to become.If blogging is your thing, the path is simple: Study your target audience (a.k.a.-future revenue source), decide on the best topics to attract said audience, create a killer web platform, then
compose-measure-refine your message based on the results.Repeat until you’re sick of blogging or have become the next Pioneer Woman.

If you’re a left brain sort, maybe your future lies in non-fiction. Say you’re an expert at growing garlic the size of baseballs or a whiz at organizing socks. Perhaps you’ve produced eleven children and delivered them into adulthood without so much as a single detention slip or snotty eye roll. If so, condense those wisdomy pearls into something called a book proposal, then query agents who represent your particular flavor of non-fiction. Based on what I’m seeing on the grocery store racks these days, you shouldn’t have much trouble
selling.

Kicked your embarrassing butternut squash addiction? Lost half your body weight on a diet comprised of dill pickles, kale, and Diet Mt. Dew? Tell us how you did it in 1200 words or less (don’t forget the bullet points) and send it to Men’s/Women’s/Kid’s Health magazine.

Want a sure thing? Use the words ‘Better Sex’ in the title, regardless of topic.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it is to blog regularly and successfully. How tough it is to write (and sell) non-fiction books or magazine articles. In my veterinary practice I devoted long hours to writing client brochures and how-to handouts. In deciding to sell my practice to write full-time, I considered writing articles for equine publications in order to pay the bills. (And even now haven’t completely ruled it out.)

But if you really want a tear-your-still-beating-heart-out-of-your-chest thrill, try becoming a
professional writer of fiction.

To start, you find–and fall hopelessly in love with–characters who exist solely in your imagination. Maybe (like me) your first book begins as a lovely, vivid dream you can’t shake. Just to clear your head, you write the scene down in a ratty spiral notebook. When it’s done you shove it under the bed, then get up the next day and go back to your real job.

But when you come home that night, you can’t wait to dig out the notebook and see what happens next. Soon, you’re stealing moments to work on your story: sick days, lunch hours, that magic time in the morning before the kids get up. Your characters feel real, as if they’re telling you what to write.

Before you know it, you’ve bought two more spiral notebooks and a package of really good black pens. Then, like a junkie with an ever-worsening need, you spring for a used laptop and download Word or Scrivener to keep track of all your chapters, character descriptions, and plot points.

At this point it hits: You don’t want to just write this story. You want people to read it…and thinks it’s good.

Problem is, you don’t actually know how to write a book. Sure, you’re a voracious reader, but appreciating a thing isn’t the same as knowing how to do it. (Karaoke, anyone?)

Enter the next phase: Soaking-up-information-like-a-Brawny-towel-on-steroids.
(to be continued.)

S&N–Too Much Fun!

Social Networking.Holly, Lynn, Jen & Susan. Wonder what they're plotting.

Two words that can make your stomach hurt or make you shout, “Woohoo!” And they can do both in a span of nanoseconds.

Being a big believer that, “Words Have Power” I have to say I LOVE SN! Which is really weird, since a lot of my friends from school and in my life wouldn’t be caught dead there. I understand their reasoning. It’s a time suck. (A HUGE TIME SUCK if you aren’t careful). It takes time away from other things you should be doing. It’s just one more thing for me to have to do.

But I’m flabbergasted when I meet a writer who doesn’t at least Facebook.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

When I first heard about FB, it was through my college kids, and it sounded like f-u-n! I wanted in! But they told me I had to have a college email address to do it. Before I could devise a sneaky way to get one, FB opened up to the world.

Why would anyone want to get into Social Networking?

  • To stay in touch with friends and family in this crazy/busy world.
  • To find old friends.
  • To make new ones.

Co-Authors Linda, Kathlyn & Lynn

Why would a writer want to waste what little writing time she has SNing? 🙂

  • Get to know other writers
  • Learn from other writers
  • Encouragement from other writers
  • Build your platform.
  • Learn who your audience is.
  • Build an audience.

It’s easy to do. Go to Facebook dot com or twitter dot com.  And there’s a way to set it up so your FB comments go to Twitter, and vice versa. (If you have them set up both ways, will your comments echo back and forth forever? I. Don’t. Know. LOL.)

The one thing I haven’t done is set up a Facebook Author’s Page for myself. I know a lot of writers do that, but since I don’t write using a pen name, and I’m not in any real danger of going over 2000 friends any time soon, I haven’t bothered with it.

I did, however, set up one for my writers group. Kind of accidentally. 🙂

We’re called, SMART WOMEN WHO. And I thought there might be a way to set up the FB page for only the members of our group. So I picked out a picture that had most of our group in it and set up a page.

SWREAD-ROMANCE

Then I added a few pictures from our retreats and meetings over the years.

I didn’t realize right away that it was open to the public. If I wanted privacy, I had to go back to a friends page. But with a friends page, you can only have one administrator. (I think.) I got ready to delete the silly thing, when I realized, this might be a great tool for our group.

So I asked if anyone objected to the thing, and when they didn’t, I told everyone to send me their book covers. Most did, and you can go over and see them. (Okay, not all of Marilyn Pappano’s books, but one or two of them.)

If you FB, come on by and say hi. (I popped over to look up something just now, and got lost in the fun. I was reading a cornbread recipe on a friend’s blog before I realized I’d drifted away.)

If you don’t FB, Twitter or Pinterest (my newest way to lose myself) why don’t you? It’s fun!

If you haven’t yet, come by Smart Women Who, like us, and say hello. We love our friends!

Writers Write, but Do They Conference?

Terminally Curious is taking over the blog post today. (Sorry about that, but she insisted.)

Okay, everyone knows the definition of a writer–one who writes. Right? BUT do real writers, biggie writers, the ones who make their entire living by putting words on paper, go to conferences?

I.

Don’t.

Know.

The answer is probably, “Depends on that writer.” *sigh* Don’t you hate answers like that?

I’m not a writer who makes her entire living by putting fingers to keyboard (I have too much fun going to my day job) but I LOVE conferences. I love meeting the people face-to-face instead of just online. I enjoy learning, plumping my brain cells by adding more stuff to them, and I’m crazy about getting someone else’s take on how to do something. (Plotting, anyone? Please???) And I enjoy getting to know new people.

What’s not to love about a conference?

I’ve been to lots of conferences in the past. Romance Writers of America’s yearly hoopla is amazing! (And expensive!!!) I went to a regional conference in Texas, once, I’ve been to a few sort-of-conference-things in T-Town and Claremore, Oklahoma.

My writers group even presented one a few times. (That experience nearly put me off conferences forever.)

This year, I’m going back to Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc’s conference, again. I’ve been a few times in the past, and always really enjoyed it. The conference is taking place in a few weeks, and I’m stoked!

While I’m there, if nothing changes, I’m going to get to meet my first ever editor, Rhonda Penders. I know she’s a sweetie because she edited my first book, TO SCHOOL A COWBOY,

TO SCHOOL A COWBOY

and didn’t once threaten to come to Oklahoma and shake me. In fact, she asked if I’d be interested in a job as editor for The Wild Rose Press. (I had to explain I had a really good critique group. LOL)

I’m going to hear people speak I haven’t been around in years.

And I’m going to learn a ton. (Hope to, at least!)

Terminally Curious is still wondering, though, if real earn-your-living-by-writing writers go to that kind of thing or if they think it’s a waste of time (unless they’re getting paid to be there.)

Anyone know?

BTW: Look at all the great articles I found about writing and conferences! Now I’m going to go read them. 🙂

Expectations

Debra Dixon.

Just say  her name and what comes to a romance/women’s fiction writer’s mind? “GMC,” of course! (And we ain’t talkin’ cars here.)

Goal.

Motivation.

Conflict.

Of all the craft of writing books I’ve had in my clutches over the years, GMC is one of the few I’ve read cover-to-cover. (So shoot me.) And I’ve read it more than once. 🙂

I decided to take yet another look the other day, and guess what. Something new jumped out at me.

GMCPlease note: I added the Susan sticker. The books don’t come from the publisher with your name sparkling on the front.

Before I go on, maybe I should confess something. When I read a book on the craft of writing, I tend scan until I come to what I’m reading to learn. Yes, I’m reading the entire book to learn, but usually there’s something specific I’m trying to glean.

Goal: Read Deb Dixon’s book. Motivation: To learn to use GMC and write a great book. Conflict: I have tunnel-vision.

gmc2

Just to make sure someone doesn’t mistake my GM&C book for their own.

 So this time, I started reading it just for general knowledge. Not to learn how to fill out the GMC charts. (page 21) Not to figure out how to use GMC to write a synopsis and/or query letter. (page 135-136) Not to learn how to write a tag line.  (page 92)

The most amazing thing happened! The answer to writing the hardest section of the actual book jumped right out at me.

She tells, right there on page 9, what you have to have in a first chapter. Everything! Written down in black and white. All the things Marilyn has reminded me of every time I start a new book. (Okay, she doesn’t actually have to say them each time, I’m not that slow a learner, but I hear the echo of her sweet voice as I work on that hardest of chapters.)

From “Goal, Motivation & Conflict  The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” by Debra Dixon.

The first chapter of a book performs the same function as those first minutes in a movie. The first chapter must establish what’s at stake and make an introduction. You are introducing the reader to their guides for the evening–the hero, villain, and maybe even one or two other characters.

That’s gold! And I missed it all these years. If I were teaching a class on this book, the handouts would read:

First chapters must:

  1. Establish what at stake in the book.
  2. Introduce
  • hero
  • heroine
  • villain

She makes it look so easy, doesn’t she? She also spills more gold on the page when she tells us the reader is supposed to “identify and empathize” with the hero. You’d be amazed at how many newbies miss that! (Yes, I’ve stepped in it a time or two myself.)

gmc3

Bragging: “My book is autographed by Deb herself!” 🙂

She goes so far as to tell us what the readers want–to experience the struggle for this person’s goal and the conflict that keeps him/her from getting it.

She goes on:

If the hero has a wonderful life and everything he wants, then your book is going to be boring. An editor won’t buy the book. Readers won’t pick it up. And if they do, they won’t finish it. Because you will not have met their expectations of being taken on a journey of uncertainty.

(Emphasis mine.)

Don’t you love that description of writing? “A journey of uncertainty.”

Instead of purple and white, this book’s cover should be gold. And sparkly!

If you don’t own Deb’s book on GMC and you’re an aspiring writer of any kind of fiction, find it and buy it. Now. Don’t wait.

You can order it here for $19.95. (I checked other sites and saw it starting at $88.00.)

Deb’s gold is waiting for you.

If you do own it, get it out and read it again. You’ll be surprised at the new gold you’ll find in there. 😛

 

Adventures in Writing: the Mom Years, Part 2

60021_155207424504348_100000452755006_366987_7349827_nLast week, I blogged about writing while juggling family obligations. Here are a few more tips for managing your word count while raising kids:

–Explain what you do to your children as early as you can. Be specific and talk to them in ways they can understand. A two-year-old cannot see that Mommy needs to have 90,000 words edited and turned in by next week, but a teenager with homework can understand that you have a deadline and need to do certain things to reach it.

–Have a place for them near where you work. Whether you’re a kitchen table writer or have your own office, provide a spot where children can sit and do their own thing. It can be a desk, a corner or whatever. When I had my office, I had a sofa in there. My kids could hang out, read, nap, whatever, and they were with me. It was their space, which made them feel like they weren’t banished even when I wasn’t to be interrupted unless there was blood or the house was on fire–but I digress :).

–In conjunction with the previous tip, keep a calendar–preferably in a public place like the fridge. If you’re already doing this with your family, then great. Add your word count goals to the calendar just as if they were another family event such as soccer practice or a dental appointment. LOL–and sometimes it does feel like the latter, doesn’t it? If you’re a “pantser” and don’t have weekly or monthly goals, then at least put your deadline up there for all to see.

–Buy a crockpot. Use it. BBQ sauce or salsa thrown over frozen chicken breasts becomes a gourmet meal in 6-8 hours. Trust me on this.

The bottom line is this: To quote my son Jacob, “Life is too short.” Spend time with the people you love. Forgive yourself when you don’t get everything exactly right. Those are the ingredients to a life well lived. And, if you can write a few good books along the way, even better.

So You Want to Be a Real Writer

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

You want to be a REAL writer? Well, I’m just the person who can tell you how to do it.

NOT!!! LOL.

Actually, I’m not sure anyone can tell you how to be a real writer–except to tell you a real writer, um, writes. But everybody does it differently.

Some writers have day jobs and write at night. Others write full time. Still others do a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Some make a complete and extensive outline that’s so long, it’s a short first draft, others just get an idea, sit down at the computer and go for it.

When I think about the rules in writing, a little voice inside me goes, “Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!”  And to a degree, that’s true. There are very few hard and fast rules.

I’ll share the ones I’ve gathered along the way with you–

  1. If you’re listening to a speaker (in person, online, reading an article) and he/she tells you, “in writing, this is the only way to  . . . (fill in the blank)” stop reading or listening right then. I’ve even heard it said the listener should run, not walk, out of the room.
  2. In writing, the only way to get published . . . (Wait! Don’t run away. Please!!!) is to submit. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? To sell a piece, poem or manuscript, somebody else has to read it. And that person has to have buying power.
  3. This is not a hard and fast rule (just logic) but a writer should probably be a reader. Or at least know how to read. Comes in handy when you’re doing revisions.
  4. This IS a hard and fast rule (and not original from me, by any means–but anything I know, I’ve learned from someone else, so nothing I tell you is original. Wait. I’m lost now. What was I talking about?) Don’t bore the reader.

Don’t bore the reader.

DON’T BORE THE READER.

Which is to say–

  • Keep the story moving.
  • Don’t beat a dead horse.
  • Believe your readers are smart enough to understand your concept without belaboring the fact.

You’ll hear lots of other faux-rules as you learn the craft, such as, “To a writer, a day without writing is like a day without oxygen.” Or, “If a sentence has more than 140 characters, it’s too long.”

But those aren’t rules. They’re suggestions or ways the speaker has made writing work for them. Just like there are no two people who have identical fingerprints, no two writers write the same way.

And aren’t we glad for that? If two people wrote the exact same way, then one of them would be unnecessary. Wouldn’t they? 🙂

So . . . I have a question for you. If any of y’all who read this have been writing any time at all (I don’t mean just published. I mean anyone who’s been writing and learning the craft for a while) come on over to Facebook and answer a question in a message to me .

Here’s the question I want you to answer–

What advice would your experienced self give your beginner self if you were bitten by the writing bug today.

But remember, don’t answer here. Go to my Facebook page (Susan Spess Shay) and leave me a message.

Thanks!