Archive for May, 2012

Goals & Expectations

Sorry for not posting sooner! I’ve been very busy this month. June looks to be more of the same. More on this later. For now…

Greater Expectations

I’m reading Kinley MacGregor novels, aka Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of my favorite romance authors, trying to get more insight into how she constructs her stories. These being her earliest works, I expected what you usually find, an author’s first less than thrilling attempt at novel writing.

As a writer I was not only pleasantly surprised at how good she was from the beginning, I found myself extremely envious as well. There aren’t many authors who write so well from the beginning. Typically first novels show where the writer started and how far the writer has come in the learning process. This is what I expected, but far from what I found. Sherrilyn Kenyon is one of the rare ones who “bring it” from the beginning.

While her MacGregor novels aren’t as complex as her Dark Hunter series, they are just as exciting and entertaining, which proves you don’t have to get complex with your plot and subplots to write a good story. Kinley MacGregor provides situations that are rife with tension throughout her storyline. Once you master this (among other craft techniques) you can go on to write more spectacular, rich, and complex plots.

The MacGregor novels have raised my own goals and expectations for my own beginning works. I won’t expect so little or my first novels from here on out. Sometimes it takes a really great mentor to raise the bar in your thinking. Studying Kenyon’s novels has done just that for me. Thanks Sherrilyn.

I’d like to hear from others about who they study and learn from on their writing journeys. Please, feel free to share them here.

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Dangerous Distractions, Blessed Balance

In learning the craft of writing, I find my self more and more distracted from my goals of completing my first novel. The distractions I have encountered this past few weeks include, all manner of writing books, organization meetings, Facebook, reading emails, web surfing, writing contests, as well as all of the daily chores we all have on our plates. While these are all worthy pursuits or necessary tasks in the writing life, it is very easy to put these first or tell ourselves we’ll write after finishing them.

I recently attended a new organization meeting, a charter group of the Association of Christian Fiction Writers called OKC Christian Fiction Writers. Lacy Williams was the speaker. She shared her insights into the process of writing a novel, and while we all know that everyone works differently, she had quite a few points to make that I have found common to my own way of writing. In addition, she gave some very good advice. I spoke to her afterwards and expressed my worry over the distractions I was facing. She reminded me that the best way to handle the writing life is to find a balance. Very good advice for anyone. Life is always best when there is balance.

Balance is crucial to any endevor, especially goals we set for ourselves. There will always be distractions in our lives. How we handle them is the most important thing. If we want to accomplish a goal, balance should be the first thing we think about, the first thing we deal with or plan.

Finding balance is difficult for me because I want to do everything. And not just everything, but everything right now. Becoming a writer is a priority goal for me. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve every tried to accomplish in my life. But it is also turning out to be the most fun I’ve ever had in my life as well. I love to learn, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find myself learning many new things, not just writing craft, on the way to obtaining my desired life.

Setting goals may come first, then planning a balanced schedule next. After that, I suggest the next important ingredient to be setting priorities. Actually this is vital to planning a balanced schedule. I have a long list of goals I want to accomplish. Prioritizing has to be used to plan and balance daily tasks in order to get to our goals.

What have you discovered on the way to gaining your goals? How do you handle the tasks necessary to get to your goals? How do you plan? What distractions do you deal with and how do you deal with them?

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2012 OWFI Writer’s Conference – Part 2: Platform Building

It was so nice to see the support and friendships forged between the people attending the conference. It was a great time of connection. I made some new friends and connected with my local writer’s group the Norman Galaxy of Writers. I went to their monthly meeting and learned so much. It was great!

Authors are a special group of people. They all dream of writing a bestselling novel, but they enjoy seeing others achieve the same dream and helping them to that end if possible. This not only happens in reality but in the virtual world as well.

Part of building an author platform includes socializing online. It is a way to get the word out that you exist, that you have something to say or offer to others in your online community. It’s how people connect and share information, and an opportunity to support others with similar goals.

That is why Guest Blogging is becoming so popular. Authors are able to help other authors to get the word out. This is basically “word of mouth” which everyone in marketing knows is a powerful thing in sales. It still is; it has simply taken a different form online. Social media, lovely term, is a shout out, a modern day soap box. It’s an opportunity to share your favorite authors and books with others who might enjoy the stories you enjoy.

So you can see why blogging, social media, and guest blogging are such powerful things when trying to market your novels.

Dan Case talked about these things and some techniques you can use to make money with online publishing and marketing tricks to maximize your sales. Some things I was already aware of, but he pointed out several techniques I had never thought about before (probably because I’m not a Marketer).

Dan will be speaking in Ft. Worth in June. The topic will be Blogging. Click here for details on time and place of meetings. Dan is speaking at the Saturday, June 9, 2012 meeting. The

There are also lots of articles online and in the Writer’s Market books that provide great instruction on building your platform. There are too many techniques to go into here. Suffice it to say, building a platform is very important if you want to get the word out about your novels. And these days, most publishers expect you to contribute to marketing your work in this manner.

I just found out that Steven James is speaking in California at the Writer’s Digest 2012 Conference West in October 2012. Wish I could go. But if anyone out there is able to, I highly suggest you hear him speak. He is certainly worth it!

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A Writer Needs a Support System

I know I promised my next post would be on what I learned from the conference. Well, this is related, but not necessarily craft. I think this is something far more important for beginning writers, so I felt it was important to share what I’ve learned.Any goal no matter what it is has a higher chance of succeeding with a support system. I believe no one can achieve their dreams without the help of others. Everyone needs encouragement to keep going, to keep reaching for whatever they want to achieve.

So, what do you do when your family and friends don’t provide this needed support? For a writer, you are already fighting your own internal battle with doubts. I know this is my situation; although not all my family members are negative about my choice to become a writer. But the negativity from others is hard to overcome, and most often the negative comments hold more weight in our minds than the praise.

This leads me into my list of things I’m using to build my own support system. I know that it will help me to achieve my goals and make it much easier to achieve what I want.

Five ways to build a support system:

  1. Minimize the negative. If you have those who put you and your dreams down, avoid them. If they are family ask them to please not comment on your chosen profession. For me I’m finding some family members posting negative comments on Facebook. I’ve asked them to stop posting these negative comments with the proviso that if they don’t stop, I will take them off my friends list. Anyone who is on your list of negative people, NEVER, and I mean never share anything with them. Don’t read your latest writing. Don’t share any ideas you have or are working on. If they bring it up, change the subject. I’ve even had to excuse myself and either leave the room (the bathroom is a good excuse) or leave all together. If they persist, you can even tell them (nicely of course) that you don’t want to talk about it and that if they don’t stop asking you will have to leave. Be nice about it, but firm. This is your life, not everyone is going to agree with your choices. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them tear down your choices.
  2. Keep your supporters close. These people can be worth more than gold. If you have friends who keep you positive or encourage you to go farther than you thought you could, keep them close. Use them as much as possible.
  3. Join a writing group and/or critique group. There are a ton of opportunities to connect with others who are in the same situation you are and can provide a lot of encouragement as well as great feedback for development of your craft. Whether in a professional group or not, surround yourself with people who are doing what you are doing.
  4. Go back to school and take classes. I have taken classes that have started groups that continued on after the classes end. Connect with the teachers. They can give you good feedback and encouragement. They know what you’re going through, having gone through it themselves.
  5. Get spiritual encouragement. If this is something you feel God has called you to do, then pray! Ask God to encourage you. Pray every time you sit down to write. Pray every time you encounter negativity. Pray every time you feel down or discouraged. If God has called you to do something, He will equip you to do it. You can’t fail, unless you listen to the negativity and give up!

These are just a few I’ve come up with so far. I’m sure there are other things I could be doing to ensure my success. I plan to continue to search out more ideas because I think a support system is a big necessity if you want to be a writer.

If you have any ideas on this subject, please share. I really need all the support I can get! Thanks.

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2012 OWFI Writer’s Conference – Characterization

I had a blast at the three-day Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Conference this week. The speakers were overflowing with useful information. I was actually getting information overload at one point.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank OWFI for giving me a scholarship to attend. The experience was more than I expected and the board did a great job organizing the entire event. The conference showed me what an invaluable resource OWFI is in pursuing a writing career. The support I fail to find elsewhere can be found here among others who understand me and my writing aspirations. I feel truly blessed in having found them. I connected and was welcomed by my local chapter the Norman Galaxy of Writers, even though I haven’t attended my first meeting yet. I look forward to sharing my writing travails with them.

Okay, okay, enough with the mushy stuff, huh? Well, it’s all true, how they made me feel. I’ve been to other conferences for other things and don’t remember feeling quite as welcome as I did at this conference. Something like that deserves some recognition.

I can’t choose a best speaker but here are some things I learned that I’d like to pass along. Since I can’t fit all I learned on one post, and you don’t want to read a book in one post, I’m splitting up my post into four parts. This first post is about what I learned from Steven James on “Building Three-dimensional Characters.” Easily the most immediate information I’ll use on my current project.

Steven James opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on how to approach it. His perspective is instead of focusing on a character’s past, focus on what they want or desire and what they are willing to do to get it. The second thing to focus on is give the reader what they want. They don’t want a lot of backstory on a character. They want to be able to relate to a character’s desires and fears, their feelings and how they handle situations. We are writing for our audience, so let’s give them what they want.

I can’t rehash every detail of his lecture here (it was a three hour session) but these are the basics of building three-dimensional characters. His view on building characters we can relate to was really unique. There are ways in which we can convey whether a character is an alpha or not, whether they are strong or weak, and we always want to keep our protagonist strong throughout. If we make them appear weak, the reader loses interest in the character. No one wants to hear about a wimpy hero. There is no such thing, right? No matter the character’s weaknesses we need to keep them at alpha status. The same goes for the Antagonist. The Antagonist should be equal in status to the Protagonist. However, in order to overcome the evil Antagonist, the Protagonist needs to be slightly smarter. Otherwise, how would he outsmart the bad guy?

There were so many other great things to consider when building a great character, so many more details Steven James imparted. I wish I could list them here for you. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend you make every effort. If not, get his books. I plan to get them because I’m sure there is much more I can use than what I learned at the conference.

Next post I’ll share what I learned about building an Author platform with some tips I got from Dan Case, another great speaker who is a past President of OWFI, editor of Writing for DOLLARS!, and will be lecturing in Ft. Worth, TX in June 2012. I hear it will be on blogging. I’m going to try and make it.

I’ve got a lot of thinking to do in developing my characters this week as well as working on my outline which is due end of this month. One thing I did accomplish last week was laying out a schedule for completing my first draft by end of August 2012 and all revisions by end of year, 2012.

One last thing, I found some great blog postings on Steven James’s blog and other guest blogs featuring him as well. Great stuff packed with writing wisdom. Enjoy!

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