What I Did On My Summer Vacation – Kitty

What a quick two months it has been! Another month and summer will be over?! Holy smokes! So what have I been doing? Well…

As many of you know, my mother died in May. That was rough, and I don’t seem to remember much about June. In that respect, I’m glad that we decided to take a summer break here at Routines for Writers. I needed time. (And I thank all of you who have commented or sent me encouraging notes or hugged me when you saw me. You’re all such a great group of people!)

In July, I hit the restart button again. (We’ve talked about that before. I love that button.) I got back into my writing groove, finalizing a short story for one anthology and writing a new one for another anthology.

In August, “Hero in Disguise” will be published in Romancing the Pages, an ebook anthology of 17 short stories by writers of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. (See a picture of the cover here by Winterheart Design.) My story is the romantic meeting of the hero and heroine in my upcoming superhero romantic comedy series, The Adventures of Lewis and Clark. I love the way they meet, all dressed up on Halloween, lots of secrets between them.

Later this year, “Rescue at Loon Lake” will appear in Moonlit Encounters, an ebook anthology of 10 short stories and novellas written by my Sydney chapter-mates of the Romance Writers of Australia. Mine is the funny story of a newcomer, a lost dog, and the dog catcher. It’s part of the Strays of Loon Lake romantic comedy series about lonely men and lost dogs finding love and a good home with women who are learning to find their strength. The first book in the series, Love at the Fluff and Fold, will also be out later this year.

In addition, John and I have been taking advantage of a break in his schedule to get cracking on the print version of Little Miss Lovesick. You may remember that I signed up to attend the Self-Publishers Online Conference in May. Due to my mom’s illness, I wasn’t able to participate at the time, but I am catching up. The suggested reading (Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, and Publishize) has been extremely helpful in putting together a nice looking print edition of the book. This also will be available later this year. You can see how busy I’ve been!

Last week, I attended the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, CA. I expected to learn a lot about craft and self-publishing and spend lots of time and energy networking – and all that happened to an even greater degree than I had hoped. But before noon on the first day, I had an unexpected surprise – I won a brand new Sony Reader!

I was so excited, I was jumping up and down. Here is a picture of me moments after Stephanie Beam Warner from the Sony Reader Store announced I’d won. I haven’t figured out yet how to get Little Miss Lovesick on it without having to purchase it, but I’ve got a nice “bookshelf” full of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells already.

Because I love excellent desserts, I have to admit – I took a picture of the amazing chocolate something-or-other we had on Friday. I texted my author friend Kathleen Wright and told her I wanted to lick the plate. She texted me back to do it, but I restrained myself. Barely. Oh my gosh, it was delicious! Of course, I remembered to take a picture of the food, but I was so focused on what I was doing and learning during the conference that I forgot to take pictures of anything else. Not even a picture of me with my friend and roommate, Lauraine Snelling. Darn!

Lauraine and I had some great brainstorming sessions and great conversations with some of our other friends who were there – authors Charlotte Carter, Nancy Farrier, and DiAnn Mills especially. I also met the president of the Independent Book Publishers Association and had a great talk with her about that organization. I now have in my budget the amount of the membership dues so I can join as soon as possible. Plus, I think I know who I want to contact when my budget can support an attorney. One of the speakers was excellent and practices law in the publishing field (and in my state!).

Finally, to round out my busy July, the day after I got home from the conference, Lauraine and Kathleen and I spent another half a day brainstorming. Exhausting, but so worth it! During five hours of using Fring and Skype, we worked through some issues for the fourth book in their S.A.V.E. Squad series and the first book in my Strays of Loon Lake series. Both books are so much better for our time together.

So there you have it. That’s more or less what I did on my summer vacation. And it doesn’t even include all the non-writing things I did! Like most good vacations, I sort of wish it wasn’t over and I still had lots of extra time to work on my book instead of our blog. But like most good vacations, I’m also glad to be back.

Now tell us what you’ve been up to this summer!

Promoting Your Book – and More

Hello Friends!! I’m so freakin’ excited – John and I are finally out apartment hunting! Yay! We’ll be moving soon, so today I’m sharing more links and posts that might be helpful for you. Some might be helpful only if you’re self-publishing or thinking about doing so. Others will be helpful for any writer. Enjoy!

A great article by agent Rachelle Gardner about using Goodreads: “Goodreads: 8 Things Writers Should Know”

A story that many writers dream will be their own story one day: A Modern Day Fairy Tale by Jennifer Probst

This looks like it’s a Christian epublisher: BelieversPress

Another article from John Locke about how he created his success: “An Army of Authors and Friends”

This is a helpful article on figuring out what you need to spend in your self-publishing venture:”Epubbing on a Budget” on WG2E (The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing)

And here’s a great article on making your book cover: “The Making of a Bestselling eBook Cover” on WG2E by Jen Talty of Who Dares Wins Publishing

Another cool – and free – educational tidbit I like to partake of is the Booklist webinar. They have all different kinds of topics. Next month, they have one called Picture These: What’s New with Graphic Novels. You can register here. Booklist webinars are at a set time and you dial in via a “meeting” site. You listen to the speakers and watch their slideshow presentation. You can take notes, but later you’ll get an email with a link to the archives where you can watch the video of the whole thing again. Here is a listing of all their upcoming webinars. You can sign up to get an email letting you know about new webinars. That’s what I do.

Remember when iBooks Author software  came out and there was a big hubbub about the terms and conditions? It read like you couldn’t put your book on any retail site except for iBooks. I spoke to an Apple Store employee who said that the “upgrade” to iBooks Author is only a change to the terms and conditions to better explain what you are and aren’t allowed to do. If I understood correctly, what the terms and conditions were trying to convey is that the software only creates a file that uploads to iBooks. To upload your books to other sites, you simply have to use other software. Apparently, that’s all it was saying. I’m going to download the software and check out the T&C. I’ll try to remember to let you know what I find out. Let us know here in the comments if you’ve already checked!

Another interesting article on self-publishinig sales from author Gemma Halliday.

Read more about how The Hunger Games did their social media promotion. It might give you some ideas for promoting your own books.

I haven’t watched this yet, but I love the Pixar story team, and this is a TED talk by Andrew Stanton from Pixar on crafting great stories.

Interested in Amazon’s KDP Select program? Here is one self-published author’s explanation on how it worked for her. Or more to the point, how it didn’t work.

And finally, three suggestions from my friend Kathleen, co-author of Dog Daze, book one of The S.A.V.E. Squad. She and I both use Scrivener, and here are some useful templates from Mel Corbett. Kathleen put a QR (Quick Response) code on her business card, which I thought was totally cool! Here is an article by Athena Grayson explaining QR codes and how you can use them. Just in case you don’t visit this site very often, here is a reminder to bookmark it. Daily Cheap Reads is a site with all kinds of books listed to highlight some of the many potentially good ebooks selling for under $5. I’m pretty sure there is always at least one free ebook listed as well.

Author Crush Month: Kathleen Wright

My last guest for this month has a very exciting and inspiring story to share! Kathleen and I have been friends for over a decade, since we met at Lauraine Snelling’s Fiction Intensive. Since then we’ve shared all the ups and downs of the writing life – getting agents, losing agents, “almost” selling our books, hearing nothing at all.

Last year, I was afraid Kathleen had given up completely, so I started praying that God would help her to be at peace during this break but also help her to know when it was time to get back to writing. I was sooo excited when she and Lauraine called me in Sydney to tell me what happened! Please welcome Kathleen!

The Grace Note

In August, I stopped writing fiction. Stopped obsessing on how I was spending my time and how much time I was spending avoiding sitting down and working on fiction projects. Gave up the idea that I was actively working on a publishing career. Additional income was needed. It wasn’t coming in through fiction. I had been dropped by my agent the previous November. Had I been kidding myself I had what it took to be a published author?

So I quit. Or tabled it. Or set it aside. Not sure even now what’s the right term. Did I stop thinking about my stories or new story ideas? I did not. They flowed unchecked. Rather entertaining actually, because I didn’t plan on doing anything on them. At least not now. Maybe not ever.

I moved into online tutoring, began my eighth or ninth year of teaching writing at the homeschool cooperative, and started lifting weights–sporadically. I got pickleball started at my rec center, began BeamFit classes for balance and flexibility–sporadically. I continued to regret a prevailing pattern in my life–inconsistency.

Then I began to hear about grace and mercy in a sermon series. As a Christian, I’d heard about it lots before. I was, after all, saved by grace and not by anything I did. For some reason I thought the two words were interchangeable.

That grace is God’s enabling ability seemed a brand new thing. Call me a slow learner, hearing impaired, (insert your favorite NOT GETTING IT phrase).

A friend of mine is fond of repeating the Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” In the wonderfulness of God, I didn’t know I was ready, wasn’t thinking of getting ready, yet He showed up and began to shine some love light, in the form of grace.

The G-shells:

  • I am inside a huge plan orchestrated by God. Detonation: inside, by God. Gulp: huge
  • “Grace is the reign maker.” I’m not here just cuz… Reigning in life is more than having stuff… Detonation: Rain/reign, fall on me!
  • By the grace of God I am who I am. By the enabling ability of God I am who I am. Detonation: “Grace is the vehicle by which I travel; faith is the fuel.”
  • Grace is not a replacement for hard work and discipline. Detonation: It’s work powered by grace.

Then one Sunday I heard this: Learning how to do it all right is not grace–another G-shell detonated. I leaned over and whispered to my husband, “That’s what I’ve been doing with my fiction writing.”

I’d read all the techniques, faithfully ingested the “rules” of publishing and what sells and what isn’t, etc. Availing myself of the amniotic fluid of grace which surrounds me and doesn’t have to be chased or “got” had been a foreign concept. I was living as though grace had finished its work when I said yes to the sacrifice that Jesus offered as my way to become friends with God.

The pastor offered the opportunity to pray for those who might have stepped off the grace path. When he prayed for me, he said something about not thinking anything “outlandish” or too much. I thought of my fiction, tucked away in computer files.

That was Sunday, November 14.

On Wednesday, my dear friend Lauraine Snelling left messages on my cell and home phones. When I finally connected with her, she was barely able to speak for her excitement. A four-book series for ages 9-12 that we had developed in 2006 and put out for interest had been sold.

The first book in the series is scheduled to launch in Spring 2012.

Four years. I had quit. Grace hadn’t.

Thanks be to God!

Kathleen Wright caught, rather than sought, the moniker The What If Girl. She’s a fiction coach for beginning and multi-published writers, and gets to teach writing to fascinating junior and senior high school students in an educational co-op. Living in the Wasatch Mountains, she writes and plays and not always in that order. Follow her on Twitter as TheWhatIfGirl and tweet her with your fiction questions.

The premise for the first book in the new series, The S.A.V.E Squad: Since they can’t save the whole world, what about their piece of it? Four sixth grade girls join together as The S.A.V.E. Squad and tackle homeless dogs in book one, feral cats in book two, retired Thoroughbreds in book three and injured raptors in book four.  In helping the animals, they find themselves giggling, going deeper with God and growing up.

Guest Blog by Kathleen Damp Wright

“It’s too hard.”
By Kathleen Damp Wright

          That sentence has come out of my mouth too many times over the summer. Probably beginning before summer, if I’m honest. It’s time to deal with it. Guest blogging for Kitty provides an opportunity to explore what I’m actually saying, why I say it, and so what anyway?

The premise: writing is hard

  • I don’t finish ______ (insert “scene,” “book,” “rewrite,”) because it’s hard.
  • Getting the scene to run free but not too free is hard.
  • Taking the critique is hard.
  • Dealing with the “no thanks” from an editor is hard.
  • Getting some buzz about my ms without a contract is hard.
  • Making myself sit down consistently when I’d rather ride my bike, learn to make vinegar, or play with my friends, is hard.


          What if it IS hard?


          And what if it simultaneously means being hard isn’t bad, evil, miserable, or impossible?

“Precise language,” if you please

          With a nod to The Sound of Music, I started “at the very beginning; a very good place to start.” I reviewed the definition of “hard,” all the while thinking of The Giver by Lois Lowry and the community rule to use “precise language.”

HARD: as listed on Dictionary.com :

  1. difficult to do or accomplish; fatiguing; troublesome: a hard task.
  2. difficult or troublesome with respect to an action, situation, person, etc.: hard to please; a hard time.
  3. difficult to deal with, manage, control, overcome, or understand: a hard problem.
  4. involving a great deal of effort, energy, or persistence: hard labor; hard study.

          That definition sounds like writing, doesn’t it? Synopses may be difficult to deal with, characters are hard to manage. It’s fatiguing to spend hours at the computer. It takes a great deal of effort, energy, or persistence to stay in my chair (whether inside, outside, by a lake, etc.) or to decide which of the myriad of techniques to use to solve the problem with my work in progress (wip.)

          What if, however, I have replaced what the word means (denotation: simply what the word means) with my feelings associated with my experience of the word (connotation)? Relax, no English lesson follows. Keep reading.

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

          No matter how hard (there’s that word again) I try, I can’t make the denotation of “hard” say “impossible,” “evil,” “miserable.” It isn’t there. So, as I continue to ruminate, “hard” does not have to be “bad.” Or miserable. That part is the connotation I’ve been applying to it. Hard/difficult/troublesome is what it is. Reaction—emotional loads to the word—is my choice. My habit.

          In his book, The Feeling Good Handbook David Burns presents thought-provoking information and illustrations about why we keep doing what we’re doing. He states we keep habits because they work for us on some level, whether healthy or toxic. I think his ideas can be applied to calling writing “hard.” See if what’s written below resonates with you.

If it’s hard…

  • I don’t have to do it right now. I can do something that has a quicker “pleasure” return for my efforts. (Just about anything, including cleaning the linen closet, is a quicker return when I’m stuck on “hard.”)
  • then I have an excuse/rationalization why I haven’t moved forward and…
    • Finished a proposal
    • Refocused a novel as suggested by my agent
    • Finished a rough draft
    • Sent a proposal out
    • Written a query letter
    • Signed up for a conference where editors and agents will be
    • written anything!
  • I don’t have to write/finish this story because I really don’t want to write the story, I want to write/do (insert whatever) instead. (Refer to Excuse #1)

Notes to self

          It’s fascinating when supporting ideas converge serendipitously from divergent sources. My sister is a member at the phenomenal Greenfield, MA, YMCA . Equally phenomenal at this facility is the nutritionist named Brian Wilson. Phone calls with my sister allow me to live Brian’s wisdom vicariously. Wisdom such as, “When faced with a choice (in my case, moving ahead in some way, any way, with my fiction writing), ask yourself: “Will doing this or NOT doing this move me toward the person I want to be? Or in the direction I see myself moving? Or the direction I want to see myself moving in?

         For our purposes: will avoiding the “hard” part of my wip for weeks/months, move me in the direction of “finished” that I want? (If you’re not even sure you have direction, check out Put Your Dream to the Test, by John C. Maxwell and The Everyday Visionary by Jesse Duplantis. It’ll help you.)

          On a recent mountain biking adventure with my husband, as I was pushing my bike up yet another deeply rock and rooted portion of what could barely be called a road, I was once more aware that life is a series of “bits.” As long as my bike is moving forward, bit by bit, I am moving forward. It doesn’t matter if I’m riding it, walking it, or pushing it. I’m still getting ahead. Of course, my goal is to ride more and push less. If I were to say, however, “it’s too hard,” and we stopped going, we would lose out on all the bits. We would miss the pungent smell of hot sage, the cobalt blue sky bannering over us, the beauty that is Utah. We would miss, as my husband says, feeling fully alive. Even when we’re trying to stay upright on a bad road.

          Interesting. I just called it a “bad” road. In reality, it was—as you have astutely realized–a “hard” road. Difficult to ride, but no evil, misery optional. We opted for joy and moving forward. By bits.

          While I now acknowledge that work is hard, I must equally embrace that “hard” is not bad. Nor is it impossible. But…and I’ll include you in this question. Why bother to begin the inevitable struggle to change?

          The payoff is to transcend. To finish a book I—you?—have been working on for too long. To write fresh words past the first chapter/first 100 pages/draft I—you?—have avoided too many times. To break out into the fresh, cold water of a truly traveling stream instead of wallowing in the same stagnant side pools. Going forward!

          So there it is. Yes, what I have been whining about is correct. Writing is hard. It simply is what it is. With all its transcendent potential.

What if…

  • What if you made a list of the “hard bits” in your current work in progress?
  • What if you then take that list and pick one thing?
  • What if you take that one thing and start to look at it in even smaller bits?
  • What if you work on that one bit today?

          Time to transcend.

          Kathleen Damp Wright caught, rather than sought, the moniker The What If Girl. She’s a fiction coach for beginning and multi-published writers, writes her own fiction, and blogs inconsistently on her website In addition, she gets to teach writing to fascinating junior and high school students in an educational co-op. Living in the Wasatch Mountains, she writes and plays and not always in that order. Follow her on Twitter.com also as The What If Girl and tweet her with your fiction questions. Leave a comment on her web site if you’re interested in her fiction coaching services.

The Good, The Bad, and the AAARRGHHH!!!!

Writing groups and critique partners. This is a topic where writers nod sagely to each other over the heads of new folks asking the question…

How do I find a critique group?

Maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles and worked in the film and television industry before I started writing full-time, but I have one word for you: audition.

I’m so serious. ‘Cause here’s the thing. Everyone looks at writing differently, especially when they are critiquing it. (Honestly, what are some of those Amazon reviewers thinking?)

Take a sweet old woman who used to run a Christian bookstore for 70 years and ask her about your novel.

“Lies! It’s all lies!” she said to me, all fired up. “How can you write such nonsense?” I stared at her dumbly for a moment, seriously weighing whether she was teasing me and this was my cue to laugh. Then I mumbled something about Jesus telling stories and abruptly changed the subject.

Bring in an English teacher with 30+ years of red-pen-marking experience and ask her what she thinks.

“I counted 27 uses of the word ‘was’ in the first five pages, and made a note that you abuse contractions and exclamation points,” she said, handing me back my now-bleeding pages. “Other than that, I don’t understand why you would make the point of the story about her finding a man. Not in this day and age.”

Uh, thank you?

It doesn’t take much of the wrong kind of critiquing to squelch the lively, fun, creative kid in you, and dry up your page count. Fast. So decide what kind of group you need – critiquing each week or each month, plotting, brainstorming – and what kind of people you want in that group.

I’ve accidentally ended up with three trios of groups. Lauraine and Kathleen and I do a lot of “plot-storming” together, usually about once a year with a lot of emails flying in the meantime. Kathleen is the The What-If Girl you’ve heard from here (see archives), and she is a master at brainstorming plots and characters. Lauraine has been writing for 20 years and has over 2 million books in print so she brings a lot of experience to the table. And all three of us are strongly motivated by our faith in Christ as we build stories that we hope move people. So there are times when I really need their input.

Shonna and Stephanie and I hooked up when we were all members of the Tempe Christian Writers Group in Arizona. Half a dozen of us were seriously writing fiction and met separately from the rest of the two dozen members who wrote primarily non-fiction. We found that we could be great critique partners because we had about the same level of experience and motivation, and we enjoyed each other’s writing even though we don’t write the same kind of fiction.

In the last few months, I’ve been getting together more and more often with Kimberly and Lynn. (Kimberly has also written guest blogs here, and will be joining us again next week.) They’re the only partners that I actually live near, so that’s a plus! LOL! But honestly, these two are just freaking brilliant! We’re all members of Romance Writers of America, so we’re already on the same page topically. And again, we really enjoy each other’s writing. That makes critiquing and brainstorming more fun than work, which is extremely important for long-term success.

I’ve been a member of several groups, and have found myself growing as a writer by actively working with these three pairs of women. But that isn’t always the case. So again – audition. Audition people who might want to join your group. Ask a group if you can audition with them. Then you can all see how the others operate and whether it seems like a good match. When my friend Andrea asked me to stop sending her my work because she really didn’t like the genre I wrote and didn’t think she could critique it in a helpful manner, my respect for her as a writer and a friend soared! Know your own strengths and know what you’re looking for in a group.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned about finding and being a good critique partner.

First and best rule – start by telling the other person what you liked. Not only does everyone need encouragement, but it builds a positive foundation for constructive criticism.

Second, be sure to ask the person what they’re looking for today. If they want to know if the plot makes sense and you do a line-edit, you’re both going to be frustrated. On the flip side, be sure to tell people what you need when you ask them to critique. If Lynn is sending her work to an editor next week, she does need a line edit so there is not a single mistake. But if Kimberly is working on her first draft, she may only want to know if the plot makes sense and her characters are believable. When they tell me what they need, they get what they want. And vice-versa.

Third, remember whose story it is – not yours. On Monday I was working with Lynn and Kimberly, and I made a suggestion to Lynn about not going a certain direction. I tried to make it clear that it was only my opinion, and I suggested some alternatives, but in the end I tried to make sure she knew I supported her in her choice. Because it’s her story.

Which brings me to an important fourth point – constructive criticism gives a reason why (not “it just doesn’t feel right”) and offers suggestions or alternatives (“I’m not sure why this doesn’t flow… maybe it’s a POV switch? the wrong word usage for the time period? a wordy sentence?”).

Finally, end again with a positive note. Force yourself if you have to (but if you’re in the right group, you probably don’t have to), but be sure to end with what you like or love about the book so far. You need this yourself, so offer it to others as well.

I hope you found some helpful tips in here. If you’re looking for a critique group, do some searches for local groups in your area – non-affiliated groups who meet at the library, or organized groups like Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc. Many groups develop online, sometimes just “meeting” people in an online class. Keep looking, keep trying. Worst case scenario, write up what you’re looking for and start your own group! Good luck!

Author Crush Month – Kathleen Damp Wright

One of the things I love most about Kathleen is her ability to ask you questions about your book until it’s either much better, or you want to scream because you don’t know the answers yet! And she’s got great idea starters on her blog that really get my creativity racing. I also love how good she is at quirky characters and crazy situations. I had to ask her to join us and tell us how she finds such great ideas. Enjoy!


By The What If Girl, Kathleen Damp Wright

It’s the Love Month at Routines for Writers, so I’ve gotta love it.

Love what?

Three things:
•    Gotta love my brain
•    Gotta love my characters
•    Gotta love my journey

I love to play
I like to scoop a handful of water and heave it into the air so that Cash the Wonder Dog will leap and bite the splatters. I like to play with my husband and bike places we’ve never been and spin more intensely than we ever have. I like to play with my food and put things together that haven’t been together before. A Chinese stir fry bundled into a tortilla and dipped into BBQ sauce. A square of cheese, a half a pecan, a spish of peanut butter.

I gotta love my brain
I like to play when I am splashing around to find out who my female lead’s (the shero) friends are. I jot down some of Shero’s personality traits and start heaving handfuls of thoughts as to who she might click (or clique) with. Someone like her? Still tossing…Like her in what areas? How not like her? How so different, they continually can’t believe they are even friends? Splatter! How different that they agree that if they’d known each other in junior high they would have never spoken to each other? Heave, splatter, bite—I keep playing until my boys and girls have their pool of peers.

I gotta love my characters
If I’m going to end up with characters that aren’t like everyone else’s, I’ve got to let them leap. No matter how perfect the posse, my shero isn’t going to go anywhere in her story unless she leaps. I’ll play at taking her places she hasn’t been, more intensely than she’s ever been. (Warning: This can be extremely messy—which is very good for your story.) What does she want on the outside of her heart first: What does she want to prevent? What does she want to pursue? What does she want to possess? I play with prevent, pursue, possess because 1) the alliteration is easy to remember when I’m out and about and scribbling notes into my iPaq, 2) they are passionate verbs which naturally lead my characters to leap WIDER, WILDER & WHAT-IF-ier and, 3) they put pictures in my mind of chases, hunts, and secrets, which SO DELICIOUSLY leads smack into the third way to get my characters to leap…the “what gets in their way.”

Because her wants are so wild, her reasons for the wants will be wild as well. And she MUST have reasons. While she might not yet know the reason or have a completely opposite take on the reason, I need to know her heart cry…her why at 3 a.m. Writing articles call this MOTIVATION. I like the question better—Why? Why does she want this? I get an answer and I ask of that answer….why? And I keep going until something unexpected pops out and, oh, baby, has she  LEAPED DEEP. Yippee! Then I go through and love her through the internal—what does she want, why does she want it, what gets in her way.

I gotta love the journey
That the first astronauts were off course about 95% of the time on their way to the moon is comforting. I am not less because something didn’t work. I am not less because someone else is accomplishing more. I merely keep moving forward. I’ll play with something new, maybe combine it with something that seems so NOT connected. As John Maxwell says, I “fail forward” and count it as productively moving toward what does and will work.

Love your brain and turn it loose
Love your characters and let ‘em leap
Love your journey and fail forward.

You might develop a crush on your writing.

Kathleen Damp Wright caught, rather than sought, the moniker The What If Girl. She’s a fiction coach for beginning and multi-published writers, writes her own fiction, and blogs on her site http://whatifgirl.wordpress.com . Plus she “gets” to teach writing to junior and high school students in an educational co-op. In the Wasatch Mountains, she writes and plays and not always in that order. Catch her on Twitter.com also as The What If Girl.

The WMB: The Reveal, Part Two

A Guest Blog by The What If Girl
Fiction Coach, Kathleen Wright

Catch Up:

Check out Part One of this blog posted on October 9. I’ll wait till you get back.
Okay? Let’s go on.

Chasing the WMB:

I run into a few problems when I try to be Megan Multipublished or Gertie Goenslow. One being I haven’t sewn since I was in 4-H, don’t like glue on my fingers, and… well you get the idea. If I try to be Gertie Goenslow, I can lay on the couch just fine. Oh yeah. I am writing fast, or as is usually the case, dictating madly with my voice recognition software, spronging wildly. When I emerge from my writing stupor, yes, I’ve blasted through. Pages. Blasted through to… ?

I have a client who writes extremely slowly. Every day. By the time she finishes the book, she makes one or two pass throughs. Note to those desperately scratching notes: STOP! You’re doing it again. Ask yourself why does she write her books this way?

Because she has tried every other alleged magic bullet, and this one works for her.

On the other hand, I also have clients who carefully do their pre-writing, and then blow through their first draft as fast as they can go, often participating in a Book in a Week challenge. HEY! Same note to those desperately scratching: Why do they do it this way?

Because they have tried every other magic bullet, and this one works for them.

Here’s a third scenario. I wrote a contemporary woman’s novel, where I did what I would call significant pre-writing (a synopsis, a trace through of the hero’s journey, etc.), then I wrote like mad through the first draft. It was fast, it was ugly, and it was exhilarating.

Now I’m writing a middle grade story. In my formulaic manner (the blogger teaches herself here and yells, “HEY! STOP!”), I have tried to write it the same way as the women’s contemporary. After a summer off from teaching, and no rough draft of my fantastical little beings, it’s obviously not working. I have asked myself in my reflective time (and shrieked during my working time), why is it not working? It’s a magic bullet that worked for me before.

As promised…The Reveal:

The answer to the question is the technique that I use, whether I write slow or fast through the first draft, is not the magic bullet. I am the magic bullet.

Hmmm, that sounds like a piece of Flair for Facebook. I am the magic bullet. Yet I am. The magic bullet is what I perceive works for me now. The magic bullet is what I try when a previously successful technique isn’t working.

Me as the magic bullet. The opposite of insanity. You know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sound like anything you’ve done ? You keep hearing about Megan Multipublished or Gertie Goenslow and keep trying to fire their WMB.

I am the magic bullet, remember? Don’t get stuck doing something that works for somebody else, if it’s not working for you. And be ready to try something different sooner than later.

Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes some of both. Stop looking for somebody else’s WMB. Theirs won’t have nearly the fire, the power, the explosion, that you have, when you’re the WMB.

As a fiction writer, writing teacher, and fiction coach, I’ve seen clients approach their first draft novel writing from many different directions over the years. There have been Megans and  Gerties and there’s been people like me. Like you.

Be the bullet. Oooh, more Flair for Facebook.

Kathleen is a fiction coach and writing teacher. She makes and shoots her own WMB in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. http://riverwriters.com

The WMB Revealed

A Guest Blog by The What If Girl, Fiction Coach Kathleen Wright


You Know You Want It

The Writer’s Magic Bullet, or the WMB. As a fiction writer, writing teacher, and fiction coach, I know I want it, I know you want it.

I also know that while you’re waiting for me to tell you there is no magic bullet, in that little Eden spot in the very back of your mind (the fantasy place where the NYT calls you about your new book, BOGO sales are every day, and your significant other admits, “You’re right, about everything” in front of witnesses with digital recorders) you hope I truly will reveal the WMB.

I’m talking about the productivity WMB. The one that if I find, I will write better books more quickly, and if I write better books more quickly, I will pitch better books more often. If I pitch better books more often, the odds increase that I will publish better books more often.

Here it is, the Holy Grail, the WMB of productivity. Do I blow and go through my first draft or tiptoe through the tulips of tantalizing text?

Maybe it’s happened this way with you. I read that Megan Mulitpublished sews costumes for her main characters, builds to scale miniature houses for them to live in, crafts detailed outlines of everything of her book. Ha ha, I think, that’s the WMB. That one will put me over. Detail, precision, analysis, and execution. She probably doesn’t even do a second draft!

But it isn’t long after that I hear/read about Gertie Goenslow, a lifetime resident on the New York Times bestseller list and 10 Hallmark movie adaptations.  She draft her novels languidly lying on a flower-strewn Regency-era chaise, sipping Pellegrino from Waterford, and reflecting on classical paintings while she writes in longhand on thick cream-colored paper, with a dip-in-the-inkwell fountain pen. Terms like “outline,” “pre-writing,” and “synopsis” give her the vapors; the muse must be lured and never pursued. She also must not do a second draft; it’s simply been divine dictation.

What’s a Writer To Do?

Here are some benefits and drawbacks between writing fast and writing slow, and then my revelation. (I told you I would.)

Benefits of writing fast:

You get a story that flows from beginning to end sooner. You feel productive because you were productive. You have stuff to show people. You can say your first draft is finished.

Writing fast pushes past the internal editor, can spin you into wilder thoughts. Wilder thoughts often translate into fresher ideas, brighter resolutions, and worse trouble for your characters.

The exhilarating, almost-scared feeling that you don’t know what the next word is.

If you use voice recognition software, you can talk much faster than you can type accurately.

Drawbacks to writing fast:

Spronging . Spronging is a word I invented. It’s a writing rabbit trail run amok. When I sprong, I can write pages and pages and pages of witty, wild, and wonderful words that take the story…nowhere. Many pages may have to be dumped, which is frustrating and feels counterproductive.

The timeline can suffer. If you’ve written in fits and starts, or out of sequence, you’re going to have to construct or reconstruct your timeline after the draft is completed.

Characters are not fully developed. Usually what’s missing is a thoughtful consideration of their motivation: why they do what they do. This can cause plot bog down and/or loosen your readers suspension of disbelief.

Benefits of Writing Slowly:

Spronging and “slow” are incompatible. You will move from point A to point B to point C… to point Z , unencumbered by all those shiny things glinting through the trees.

Less distractions. You have your outline, your extensive synopsis, and your character charts. You can break the story down into different segments, and work through each segment, checking things off as you go.

You’ve spent so much time developing your characters, you have no doubt what they would and wouldn’t do.

The timeline flows. Since you’re living submerged in the story, never taking a deep breath until you’re finished, you don’t have to check your timeline or fix it because… well, you’re living in it.

Drawbacks to Writing Slowly:

You don’t get past the first chapter. You think if you can get the first chapter down, the rest of the book will speed up.

Possibly, and not absolutely, the next better idea doesn’t show up. Dialogue can be less sparkling. Obstacles can be more predictable.

You get bored with the story and move on to another one until you think of how to solve the problem, so you add one more partially completed manuscript to yet another folder on your computer.

Next time:

The WMB Reveal