Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

The Advantages of Being in an Anthology

The obvious advantage, of course, that your story is published—and, depending on how the anthology is set up, you might make some money! But there are a few other important advantages as well.

Discoverability

A reader who picks up an anthology because they’re a fan of one of the other authors in the collection might fall in love with your story, and seek out you and your work. This can provide tangible results, like someone buying a novel of yours, or signing up to your newsletter. They might enjoy your story so much that they mention it to their friends and family, who then also seek out your work.

By participating in a project with other authors, you’re getting exposure to people you might never have reached on your own. The same goes for your fans—they may find they enjoy reading stories by the other authors in the project.

By participating in a project with other authors, you’re getting exposure to people you might never have reached on your own.

Not only do you get the benefit of having the other authors’ fans potentially reading and enjoying your story, anthologies often permit—and sometimes encourage—reprints. Reprinting allows you to breathe life into a previously-published story by giving new readers the chance to discover it.

Visibility

Anthologies are a great way to put content out on a regular basis. If there are month- or year-long stretches in between publication of your longer works, seeing your name pop up in collections of shorter stories helps readers stay aware of you and your writing.

Anthologies that allow reprints are great for this as well. For example, you might include a story in one anthology, then a year later include it in a different anthology. Even though it’s the same story, including it in more than one collection provides additional opportunities to draw people in to your work.

Collaborative promotion

When you participate in multi-author projects, promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and the participating authors. Perhaps the publisher pays for advertising, while the editor and the other authors merely post on social media, or announce the collection in their various newsletters. All of this is promotion for the anthology. You benefit from other people promoting your story, just as they benefit from the marketing work you do for the project.

Note that how much promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and other authors can vary significantly from collection to collection, so make sure to ask about the plan for promotion before committing if this aspect is important to you.

How do you get into an anthology?

Calls for submissions

The traditional way to get included in a collection is to submit a story in response to a call for submissions put out by a publisher or editor. The editor writes up their vision for the collection and lists the guidelines, which usually include things like the theme, allowed story lengths, the deadline for submissions, and whether or not reprints are acceptable.

This approach allows you to get a sense of what the editor is looking for. However, no matter how close to the mark you feel your story is, the editor might not accept it. If you write a new story and it’s not accepted, you still have one more story to market elsewhere—but if you’re short on time, this approach might not work well for you.

Invitations

If an editor knows you and your work, or someone recommends you to the editor, you could get a personal invitation. This could range from a blanket invitation to include whatever story you feel fits the project’s theme, to one where the editor invites you to submit a story for consideration. While there are no guarantees, if you’re invited to submit a story, your story will probably be accepted if it’s well-written and on target with the editor’s vision.

Networking can play a big part in getting invitations. You might meet a fellow writer at a workshop or conference, or meet someone from an online authors’ group who later decides to edit an anthology and invites you. Editors often post about their projects in email lists or Facebook groups; these are usually calls for submissions, but occasionally the editor is looking for authors who are ready to commit. If you know someone who has edited anthologies you feel are a good fit for your writing, you could contact them to see if they’d be interested in working with you on a future project.

Participating in the right projects

The opportunity to participate in an anthology is exciting. But just because you have the opportunity doesn’t mean you should participate.

Theme

Make sure the theme is a good fit for you and for your branding. If you write Science Fiction, and receive an invitation to participate in a Romance anthology, is this project really something you want to participate in? You might enjoy writing something different, but make sure you do so because it’s really what you want to do—not because you’re trying to shoehorn yourself into a project that isn’t a good fit.

Time and Money

Do you really have time to write a new story, or will that mean the novel you’re working on will be delayed?

If you receive a one-time payment, are you being paid a standard professional rate? Are you comfortable knowing that you won’t receive royalties from future sales?

Is the one-time payment, or the percentage of royalties, the same for all authors? If not, are you comfortable with the split? Sometimes a higher-profile author might get a larger percentage of the royalties, or the percentages might vary depending on the length of each story. If that’s the case, make sure you’re comfortable with the difference.

Editor/Publisher

Do you feel comfortable working with the editor? Are you willing to make any editorial changes they request, or do you feel their vision for your story conflicts with your own in a way where there’s no good compromise?

Suppose this editor and publisher have put together a number of anthologies already. Do their covers look professional? How about the sales copy? Have they done a good job of marketing the other anthologies, or do they rely solely on the authors?

Rights

What if you’re planning on including your story in a collection of your own next year, but the anthology contract states that you’re licensing the rights to your story for two years? What if the terms state that you’re granting the publisher subsidiary rights, like film, television, and merchandising? What if the fine print says that you’re granting copyright of your work to the publisher?

Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable publisher. The opportunity to be involved in an anthology that sounds like a great fit for your story can feel very exciting, but it’s imperative that you review the contract and make sure that you understand—and are comfortable with—the terms.

Anthologies can be fun!

Participating in an anthology can be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of project, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.

Next week: Editors and Anthologies. Part 2 of this two-part series on Anthologies.


Jamie Ferguson

Jamie has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series she’s co-editing with DeAnna Knippling. She’s also a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

Red Herrings

The topic of red herrings is a big one.  There are a million ways to distract or mislead a reader.

But…

There’s really only one strategy to building a red herring: figure out the reader’s expectations and feed them information relating to that expectation, then sent the plot careening off in another direction.

Reader Expectations

The story you didn't write has to be as interesting as the one you actually wrote.

The real trick is discovering what readers expect.  Part of the reason that it’s so important to keep up with your reading (and watching TV/film, and playing video games…) is that expectations change.  The expectations of someone who watches forensics shows on TV are going to be different than those of a longtime Agatha Christie reader.

But once you’re in front of a blank page, how can you work red herrings into your story? (And do you have to plot it all out ahead of time in order to pull it off?)

Your main weapon, whether you plot as you go or plot ahead of time, is going to be something called Wilhelm’s Law, after science fiction and mystery author Kate Wilhelm:

Throw away your first three ideas.

Now, using Wilhelm’s Law while writing fiction is a good idea in most cases anyway; instead of writing predictable stories, you’ll usually end up with a story that reflects you personally as a writer.  But a side effect of taking in a lot of stories is that those first three ideas will pop out as being what most readers would expect.

Let’s say you’re writing a murder mystery and we want to test Wilhelm’s Law.  Who done it?

  • The butler.
  • The significant other.
  • Whoever profits by the crime.

Those first three ideas are something that anyone could come up with, right?

Those first three ideas might make really good red herrings.

Let’s say that the real killer was someone recently humiliated by the victim and “accidentally” didn’t save the victim when the victim fell into a lake while tangled in a rope.  Oops, can’t swim! 

Your job, as a writer, might be to make sure that your story has a butler character who might have done it, a significant other who might have done it, and a scuzzy niece who just happened to have been seen near the scene of the crime (and who is now blackmailing the real “killer” and will get murdered in the last 50 pages of the novel).

You can do this on the fly, editing to make sure that your red herrings actually fit the bill, or you can plan it out ahead of time: whatever suits.

However, you must keep up with your intake of stories!  Otherwise, you may not know that the red herrings and plot twist that you just planned out have already been discovered by other writers and done to death! 

Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice…

There are two ways to deceive the reader using Wilhelm’s Law.  One depends on deceiving the characters within the story, which means the reader will also be deceived (as in our example above). 

The other depends on deceiving the reader without necessarily deceiving the characters.

In the first type of red herring, the POV character might think the killer is one person, but it’s really another.  Characters might lie, leave out details, or shade the truth. The bad guy might not be the real bad guy, but someone else’s puppet.  You can set up red herrings within the plot in lots of ways. 

In the second type of red herring, the way the book itself is written is what deceives the readers.  One example is the misleading title.  One of my favorite books is called John Dies at the End.  Hint:  John does not die at the end!

You might also:

  • Start a story with a prologue featuring events that happen toward the end of the book, but do not happen in the way the reader might expect.
  • Start a story with a POV character who gets killed off right away, or in the middle of the book (George R.R. Martin does both in A Game of Thrones).
  • Set up a cliché, then overturn it (the bumbling housewife in The Long Kiss Goodnight is set up to be rescued by the world-savvy spy Samuel L. Jackson, which is not the case).
  • End a scene by hinting at some event, and starting the next scene with something that seems like that event but isn’t (The Princess Bride, when Buttercup has her nightmare of having already married Humperdink).

Each instance of deception is crafted in the same way: identify what the reader expects, give them a hint to confirm their expectations, and let them deceive themselves.  (Letting readers do most of the work to fool themselves is usually a pretty good strategy.)  But instead of using Wilhelm’s Law on the plot itself, you’re using it on the story structure and other elements.

As an example, let’s say you’re writing a domestic suspense novel.  Readers expect the titles of that kind of novel (Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Wife Between Us, Lie to Me,etc.) should:

  • Have a pronoun in the title.
  • Have “girl,” “woman,” or “wife” in the title.
  • Have a one-syllable negative word, like “Lie” “Die” “Sharp” or “Last.”

Those are reader expectations.  If you wanted to play on those expectations, you might name your book “My Daughter’s Last Lie” and imply that she’s dead and the mom is searching for her killer, but instead have the daughter on the run because she told the truth about her (KGB sleeper agent) mother.

Often, what works best is using both techniques at the same time.  There’s a lie within the plot, and you use elements of the story itself to reinforce the expectations related to that lie.              

Warning:  Beginning writers often write stories where the narrator withholds information from readers in a disappointing, cheesy, ill-considered manner.  This is not a proper red herring technique! 

Oh, so the evil invaders from outer space were really humans all along, were they?  Yawn.

Oh, so the first-person narrator dies at the end?  Never seen that before!  Yawn.

But being forewarned is forearmed, because now you know that plot twists and red herrings don’t come from completely reversing reader expectations, but knowing them so well that you can one-up them.

A good rule of thumb for red herring success: 

The story that you didn’t write has to be as interesting as the one you actually wrote.

I know, it sounds weird.  But think of any story with a letdown plot twist.  Personally, I hate the movie Bridge to Terabithia.*  It starts out as a pair of kids imagining a cool fantasy world.  Then (spoiler alert) it turns into a book about death.  The red herring story is much more interesting than the story about coping with death.  The red herring needs to be as interesting as the actual story, too.  You’re not fooling anyone with a stereotyped butler character! 

The thing about red herrings is that they play with reader expectations—but you can’t just overturn reader expectations with a sneer.  Readers need to know that you respect the stories that they love and not just being mean.  What readers love is when you surprise them—not when you show them contempt.

*It feels like the story punishes people who like fantasy over realism in their fiction.  Pooh, I say. 


DeAnna KnipplingDeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

With all the new developments here at Pikes Peak Writers I’m not sure if I can contain my excitement. PPW started as a writing conference and has grown to so much more. They continue to spread their wings and soar to new heights. Read on for more.

It’s a NEWSLETTER!

Did you receive the first PPW Newsletter? What a fantastic job Kim Olgren did to bring this to fruition. If you missed the debut issue go to the membership page to join PPW. It’s FREE, and so is the newsletter.

Can you say, ANTHOLOGY?

I am excited to announce another addition to the Pikes Peak Writers toolbox. Can you say, ANTHOLOGY? The planning is still in the early stages, but PPW is publishing an anthology! The editorial team is being assembled along with the theme and publication details. Watch the website, social media, and this blog for information to come.

This Month in Writing from the Peak

To kick off PPW’s anthology announcement, Jamie Ferguson has written two posts on writing for an anthology. If you are interested in submitting to PPW’s, or if you have your eye on one of the many wonderful publications out there, you need to read both articles. DeAnna Knippling throws a Red Herring your way, and Leilah Wright has Advice for the Beginning Writer. Get A K.I.S.S. of Comedy from Rebekka R.J. Rowley then wrap it with inspiration found in Gabrielle Brown’s bi-monthly Lit-Quotes.

#PPWC2019

It will be another amazing year at conference. Will you be there? This a great place to meet new people (It Takes a Tribe!), and the workshops will be phenomenal. Registration is open. Don’t miss this fantastic conference. You’ll find all the details here. Find your Tribe at #PPWC2019!

Spread Your Wings!

How are you spreading your wings this month? Are you starting a new project, or pruning the feathers on your WIP? Whatever you are working on, do it with purpose. Write with conviction. Make every word soar on the wind. Be the best you can be. WRITE!


KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.

How to Self-Publish and Keep Your Sanity

Traditional publishing has been inundated with submissions for years, and way back when, your only recourse was to make your manuscript stand out. You had to find that one idea, that one story that was different from anything else to get published.

Not to fear! Self-publishing has made it possible for authors who have a story to tell to get their work published. It’s not that self-published books are bad. Far from it! I’ve read many books that were self- published and have won awards.

If you want your work to stand out among the others, make it the best it can be.

How does one go about doing this self-publishing thing?

An author must wear many hats when they self-publish their book. First, make sure your manuscript is ready. Has it been critiqued? Given to a beta reader? Edited? All those things are a must before you even think about submitting it. If you want your work to stand out among the others, make it the best it can be. Sure, there are some who just want to put their book out there and say they’ve published a book. But if it’s riddled with errors, no one will buy it.

Correct Formatting

You’ll want to make sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. If you have the budget, you can send your ms. to a formatter. They will take care of the following steps for you, or if you’re handy with the computer, you can do it yourself. If not, KDP and other self-publishing venues have templates for most trim sizes. Be aware that you’ll have to adjust them if you have more than ten chapters, but they have instructions for you to do that.

If your book will be a trim size of 6 x 9 (or whatever size you choose), you will need to format your ms. to that size. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to go through the ms. again, to make sure you don’t have any “widows or orphans” (single words or lines on a page by themselves, or at the beginning of a page or end of a paragraph).

Also, justify both right and left margins to get rid of the “ragged” look of the right edge, giving the page a cleaner look. That seems to be the industry standard.

Bind It

Once all that is done, you’ll have a better idea of your page count for the next step. You have to have an allowance for the binding of the book. In your margin settings, set your inside margins to what is specified with the publisher (it’s a different setting with different page counts, so that is why you need a fairly exact number for that), then mirror the margins, so that the left and right pages will have the correct inside margins once the book is bound.

Do you have a cover for it? Most self-publishing sites have a cover generator that you can play with to make your cover for free. Templates can help to make your vision a reality. You can upload a photo you have (make sure it’s high quality) to their templates, pick your font, and then it will go through a cover review to make sure it follows their rules.

If you’ve got some kind of budget for your cover, hiring someone with Photoshop or computer skills can make your cover a one-of-a-kind creation that will stand out. There are several groups on Facebook that are dedicated just to covers, and you can also find some on Fiverr.

If you’re willing to learn, there are tutorials on YouTube that can show you how to create your own cover. You’ll save some money and you’ll have created something that you can be proud of.

At this point you’ll want to upload your manuscript to the publisher. There are quite a few out there to choose from, but make sure you are not sending your baby to a vanity press. What’s a vanity press? A vanity press is a self-publishing company that will publish your manuscript for a fee, usually into the thousands of dollars. What do you get for that money? Not much. They will design a cover for you that anyone could have put together. It’s usually three colors, and it probably won’t catch the essence of your work. Not to mention if you haven’t edited your work, they won’t, either.

Get It Out There

There are so many reputable ways to get your book out there now, but you’ll need to do your homework and check them all out. Create Space has merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which seems to be the more popular company. IngramSpark will do it for a set-up fee, and they have a wider distribution that just Amazon, including bookstores.

Once you have uploaded your ms. to the publisher, they will have to review it for errors. That usually takes about 24 hours for the review. If you haven’t done your cover, now is a good time to work on it.

You’ll be notified by email when your ms. has finished the review process. If you don’t have any errors, hurray! You did everything right! If you have errors, look at the notes and go through the online reviewer to fix them. Once that’s done, off to the reviewer again. This is the time consuming process.

While it’s being reviewed, you can pick which markets you want your book distributed in. U.S.? Absolutely. UK? Why not? After you pick where it’s distributed, you can set your price. KDP will give you a minimum price you must be at or above to sell your book for, and you can pick which royalties you prefer. You can always go back and change your price and royalties later if you wish.

You get the email and you’ve finally passed the review stage.  Now what? Is it ready to go? Maybe not quite. I would recommend ordering a proof copy if your book will be in print. That way you can make sure the cover colors are how they should be (I had a book that printed darker than what the computer was showing me, and had to have the cover re-done—thanks, KL Cooper!). Reviewing a physical copy is also a good way to spot any other errors that may have been skimmed over on the online reviewer.

Push Publish

You get your actual print copy of your book and things look good. You can now start to hyperventilate as you hit “Publish.” It will feel good and stress you out at the same time. In roughly 3-5 days, your book will be listed on Amazon. Order your author copies to sell or give away, and crack open the champagne. You’re a published author now!


photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

Silencing Your Inner Critic

Every writer seems to want to shut up the little voice that says, “That thing you’re writing? It’s no good.” Just like we want the magic secret to writing a good story, we want to know the secret switch that turns off every negative thing we ever think about our work.

Like a lot of things in writing, the solution is pretty simple…but not easy.

First, let’s define what’s not a problem. If your inner critic doesn’t keep you from writing what you want to write, it’s not a problem.
Louder, for those in the back: Your inner critic isn’t the problem. Not writing is the problem.

Your inner critic is still part of you, a part that sounds like the parent who never believed in you or the English teacher who hated your writing. That awful voice that’s tearing your work to pieces…

…it’s just you.

To be a good writer, you have to pour yourself into your writing, including the parts you don’t like. Where does a good villain come from? Do happy-go-lucky people write good dark nights of the soul?

A good long-term strategy for writing books embraces your inner critic. You can push yourself through a few books while ignoring that voice. (People push through a lot of things.) But you can’t push yourself through a career.

So how do you get your inner critic to work with you, rather than against you?

Thinking FictionGive your inner critic permission to be heard.

You can’t think your way through fiction. Thinking is part of writing fiction, true, but it isn’t the essence.

Fiction is a simulation, either of this world or of a world of your own creation. You establish the world, characters, and initial problem, and set some guidelines on how the story works.

You know what else is like that? A game.

You can’t play a game by deciding that you already won…and how. We say, “And in the end, this happens and that happens and this is how the reader will feel, and now I will write my book.”

But you have to play the game by playing it: set up the board, the rules, and all the pieces, and…see who wins.

Some writers play that part of the game by outlining first, then writing; others write first, then step back and make sure they didn’t cheat too badly. You can nudge the board a little, but not too much—readers notice.

Set up your story and then trust yourself to work it out. It won’t be easy. But it’s a lot easier than saying, “Everything I write is stupid.”
Different people will find different techniques. It won’t always feel safe—your best techniques might feel almost physically uncomfortable.
But they’ll be the ones that put the words on the page.

Studying Fiction

You can’t both improve as a writer and already be so good that you never need to improve.

Part of your inner critic is right: You’re not as good as you want to be.

But, like all criticism on writing, take it with a grain of salt: your inner critic may not know what is actually wrong. Like a bad critique group, it can start jumping to conclusions.

MORE COMMAS! FEWER COMMAS! WOODEN DIALOG! TOO MUCH EXPOSITION! TOO LITTLE!!!

The rules of fiction don’t matter, if they don’t work for you. What you need to learn is what works for you. And your inner critic can actually help with that.

Study other writers’ works. Chew their gristle in your teeth. Your inner critic may say, “I love that!” and start stealing techniques. It may also say, “I hate that!” and come up with creative ways to avoid whatever “that” is. And if you let your inner critic tear up other writers’ works, it won’t spend so much time on yours.

Don’t just read books about writing, though: the chewing has already been done for you.

Feeling Fiction

At some point, life gets to be too much and you can’t get the words done. It happens. Let’s talk about the gray area where you might or might not get words done, and how to get more words done.

You can do that by allowing your deepest feelings move into your fiction.

In some of us, this will result in darker fiction; in others, paradoxically, it will result in lighter fiction. It varies from story to story. When we open the door between fiction and reality, the results can be unpredictable.

These are the stories that allow us as writers to move forward with our lives, to grieve, to heal, to apologize, to regret, to celebrate, to embrace. Stories are how humans make life make sense. Writing a story can be how you make sense of right here, right now.

But how?

Stop and listen to your inner critic.

“This is stupid” might mean “I can’t pretend anymore that I’m not hurting.”

“I don’t know what to write next” might mean “I don’t know what to do next, either.”

“My character doesn’t want to do what the outline says” might mean “I can’t make myself fit into my own plans either.”

And then respond to how you really feel in your characters’ actions. Just acknowledging what you’re trying to tell yourself can open a magical door that makes everything you write richer.

It comes down to…

What this all comes down to is giving your inner critic permission to be heard. You don’t have to listen uncritically. But please do listen. Your inner critic isn’t there to hurt you, but to warn you that you’re not on the right path. It may not always be accurate, especially if you’ve been ignoring it or if you haven’t done a lot of studying. Your inner critic might be too mad to be fair…and it might be too ignorant to be right.

It can take a while to lower the alarm levels on your inner critic to useful levels. But once you do, your writing will probably feel less like work you have to push through, and more like the enjoyable—and exciting!—game that it really is.

 


DeAnna KnipplingDeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

The Benefits of a Crash and Burn

Perhaps you participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with great success. If so, congratulations to you and stop reading. This article is for the broken, the wounded, the sick at heart who crashed and burned miserably in the month of November, despite every good intention to write that novel.

New Beginnings

Now we’re facing the time of new beginnings as we enter the new year. If you are still smarting from a November NaNoWriMo fail, setting 2019 writing goals may be the last thing you want to tackle right now.

I thought I could succeed at NaNoWriMo this year. Fifty thousand words in a month? Piece of cake. I’d done it before. I knew my calendar was tightly scheduled, but if I made a commitment, I would follow through. I’m one of Those People. If I say I’m going to do something, by golly I will walk through fire and flood to ensure I meet my obligation.

Halfway through November, I still had delusions I could make it happen. Three quarters of the way through, I had a decision to make. I threw in the towel. Surrendered. And felt horribly guilty that I had failed myself.

Get out of your ditch

There are dozens of quotes, memes, and greeting card messages about failure making you stronger. That doesn’t help much when you’re crumpled in the ditch after a spectacular crash and burn.

So now that we’ve whined a bit, what are we going to do about it? Quitting is always an option. If you can quit writing, then maybe you weren’t cut out for this brutal profession. My tough-love message is: if ordinary obstacles will prevent you from striving for your dreams, maybe your dreams weren’t so important after all. To be fair, sometimes we face extraordinary stress in life. Family, health, or simply overestimating our own stamina place an insurmountable obstacle in our path to writing success.

Turn it into SUCCESS Turn Goal-Setting Failures into Success

Here are my suggestions for turning writing failure into success.

  1. Know Yourself. You may end up in a writing or critique group with people of differing ambitions and drive. Maybe you take a workshop or read a how-to book full of enthusiasm. We’re not all focused, driven personalities. Don’t adopt an attitude that is not your own if it doesn’t work for you. Are you a procrastinator, needing multiple mini-goals to keep you on track? Or do you readily stick to a schedule and easily meet goals? Do you operate best under pressure, or do deadlines cause you to freeze up? Are you an Emily Dickinson type of writer, not needing much reader affirmation, or are you more on the Andy Weir end of the scale, running your work past readers constantly? Which type of writer are you?
  2. Define Success. Do some soul-searching. Why are you writing? What are you trying to accomplish? Look at past goals that you failed to achieve. Were you too ambitious, considering other time commitments in your life? Or did you set the bar too low? Whether you’re new to writing or a multi-published author, goals need to be adjusted with time and experience. If not hitting goals causes you to lose enthusiasm, maybe you need to set achievable goals to get yourself on track. Other writers need to constantly fall short to drive them to work harder. This goes back to Know Yourself.
  3. Make Concrete Goals. Once you understand your uniquely personal ambition, document your steps to that goal. A vague declaration that you intend to write a novel this year will not help you. Create a spreadsheet, time card, or writing session reminder. Clock in to your writing sessions. Be honest in tracking your goals. For a new writer, your primary goal should be to finish a story or novel. Period. Guess what the primary goal is for a multi-published author? Write that next story or novel. Writing is a constant.

Get Specific

Let’s get specific. Your goal is to write a novel in 2019. The typical novel is 350 pages, or 87,500 words. That breaks down to less than a page a day. Exceedingly doable, you tell yourself. But if you diddle around for eight months, then remember you had a goal, I can almost guarantee you will fail.

Decide whether your goal is per day or per week.
Novel in a year goal:
Pages per day = 0.95 = 239 words
Pages per week = 6.73 = 1,683 words

Some Pitfalls

The pitfall: do not give up on days when you don’t have the time for a full writing session. Obviously there is room for adjustment. You have a long weekend with no obligations. You enjoy a productive writing marathon that results in 5,000 words. My experience is that more often I have multiple miserly 15 minute a day writing sessions. These drive me closer to my goal as effectively as the marathons. Take what you can get.

Another pitfall: writing sessions don’t need to be perfect islands of peace and solitude. Sometimes you snatch a few minutes in the midst of a holiday. Maybe you’re hopping in and out of writerly bliss to cook dinner. You have to wear blinders to block out seeing the chaotic mess your apartment has fallen into, or wear headphones to block out family members watching TV.

In spite of your best intentions and careful planning, you fail. What now? Not setting concrete, measurable goals leaves you will a hollow feeling. You suck, and you don’t even know how badly. If you set goals, and track them with dedication, you can measure exactly how badly you suck. And I can almost guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think.

Celebrate!

You have a wonderful record of your efforts. Instead of saying “I failed to write a novel in a year,” you can say “I wrote half a novel this year.” That’s an amazing achievement worth celebrating.

I’m confident that you’ll reach the end of 2019 without that empty feeling. Goal setting will help you achieve your goals. At the very least, goals will take you a step closer to success.


Catherine Dilts Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, has written two novels for the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library, and her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes, while others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Visit Catherine’s website to learn more.

It’s a New Year…Let’s Set Some Goals

It’s true! 2019 is here! Goal setting is in motion, well, hopefully anyway.

Have you thought about it?

Let’s break it down together. Because, like many of us, I put it off, then before I know it, I’m making my way through January with no direction. It’s a thing! And, you know it.

We’ve all heard of SMART goals:
Specific—clear and concise.
Measurable—tracking your progress.
Achievable—challenging, yet achievable.
Relevant—consistent with all other life goals.
Timely—target deadline.

The things I’ve outlined below are what has worked for me. You will find your jam and what works for you. But, if you don’t have a jam yet, why not give mine a try.

Think of things you want to accomplish and write them down.

This is a list. There are so many schools of thought when it comes to ways to think of things you want to accomplish. Maybe you’re a spreadsheet kind of person. Maybe you have to go out and buy that shiny new notebook just for your goals. That’s me.

We’re talking about writing goals specifically, but other areas of your life come into play when you’re setting these goals, so why not include family, personal, and any other categories that are important to you. That makes you more motivated to complete your writing goals when you know everything else is in alignment.

This seems to be the hardest, for me anyway. I have a million things that I want to accomplish. I have a million and one things that need to be accomplished. YOU? Thought so!

Put these in order of importance, create timelines, and break them down.

Each category has a list, I assume. It’s important to identify what is important to do first. I’m not asking you to create a list that’s over-the-top out of control. It should include two or three things in each list. But you will have ONE main goal for each list.

Figure out your WHY for doing what you’re doing.

That’s one goal.
Your why, you ask? Your why is the reason you want to accomplish your goals. This goes back to step one. Let’s define your why when it comes to establishing your goals; thinking of the things you want to accomplish.

Your WHY is your deep-down personal motivation for what you do. Until you identify this, you won’t be able to figure out the what and how. This is the hardest for me.
This is also what can fuel you to complete your goals.

Find a friend. An accountability partner. Tell them your goals and your whys.

We all have the one person in our life that we tell everything to, whether they want to hear it or not. Find that person. Take them to coffee.

When you tell someone your goals, you feel a sense of commitment. You know it. It’s embarrassing to not finish or complete what you said you’d do.

Schedule regular reviews of your goals.

Good—this would be every six months. Put it in your calendar.
Better—once a quarter. This plays out every three months. Put it in your calendar.
Best—every month. Put it in your calendar.

When you see you are making progress with your goals, you’ll keep going.

Examples of writer goals:
In the next 12 months, I will read 12 books specific to my genre.
(Your Why) Because I want to become more proficient in writing in my genre and reading can help me see how others do it.

In the next 30 days, I will have a concrete plan for writing my novel.
(Your Why) Because writing my novel is my end goal and I must get writing it.

Examples for personal goals:
I will workout every day in the month of January.
(Your Why) Because it makes me a happier person, easier to live with, and I have a more positive attitude toward my writing goals.

Every payday for six months, I will set aside $50 for home projects.
(Your Why) Because I can’t use credit and paying for cash is how I roll.

Let’s wrap this up…

When you take the time to plan out your goals, write them down, figure out your why(s), phone a friend, the schedule reviews, you will have a very productive year.

Guaranteed!

 


Deb Buckingham headshotDeb Buckingham is a long time member and Vice President of Pikes Peak Writers. She is a published author of two successful knitting books, Dishcloth Diva and Dishcloth Diva Knits On. She writes for her own blog, and her artistic side is part of her every day. Deb is a creative photographer whose passion is “shooting” creatives in their own studios. She enjoys reading a well written novel.

Welcome to 2019!

Dear Readers,

Can you believe that 2018 has already come and gone? I should be used to this by now, but no, each new year catches me by surprise. The year is off and running before I can finish off the previous one. If 2019 is catching you by surprise rest assured that Writing from the Peak has your back.

Goals for 2019Letter from the Editor

To kick off PPW’s blog this New Year, I am excited to share an article from PPW’s new Vice President, Deb Buckingham, on setting goals. After reading her article I made my own plans for 2019. I have five (or is it six?) books in various stages of completion. My first goal is to have my cozy mystery completed enough to present it to Query 1-on-1 at PPWC2019. My second is to have The Manx (a fantasy that never seems to end) in the box by year end, and the third is to dedicate more time to Pikes Peak Writers. I haven’t quite decided how to make this happen, but I do have a couple of ideas in the works.

What are your goals for 2019? Share them on Facebook at: Pikes Peak Writers Connect

Upcoming Articles

To help you kick off 2019, Writing from the Peak has some great articles coming up. The series from our scholarship recipients continues (don’t forget to submit your application! Deadline is January 11th). As mentioned above, Deb Buckingham will share great ways to set goals and achieve them, followed by Catherine Dilts’ advice on how to turn a failed goal into a positive achievement. There are a couple of Sweet Success stories from Dan Grant and DeAnna Knippling. Lastly, you won’t want to miss Silencing Your Inner Critic by DeAnna Knippling, and Best Business Practices by Jason Henry.

Book Resource List

Did you find any “must have” books in the “How to Write” genre? Writing from the Peak is looking for your recommendations. Email your favorites (no more than 3) to: Editor@PikesPeakWriters.com. Include a short blurb on why you like it. (Don’t forget the author’s name and full title). Please…no brazen self promotions. If you have written a book you would like to add to this resource list please indicate that it is your own work. It would be nice to add a couple of other recommendations that are not your’s. Deadline to submit your suggestions is January 15, 2019.

Best of Everything in 2019

It’s going to be am amazing year. PPW is here to help you make the most of it. There are many resources for you on our website, monthly classes and special events, PPWC2019 (registration is now open), and so much more. Do you want more from PPW? Consider volunteering. PPW is operated solely by volunteers and can always use more help!

2019 is going to be an amazing year for writers, and I want to wish each and every one of you a wildly successful year!

 


KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym. 

Do you have an article you want to share? Have feedback about the blog? Please email Kathie at: editor@pikespeakwriters.com

On the Run from the Grammar Police

Grammar, hmmm. I found it surprisingly difficult to write this post. As it turns out, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the subject.

During the years I toiled as a tech writer, I remember snickering at the office memos our hard-working office admin sent out each week, sprinkled with random capitalization and odd use of quotes (Do “NOT” use the microwave). Along with my fellow writers, I offered some attempts at gentle correction, only to provoke an angry email response along the lines of What is you’re problem??? And yet another wedge was hammered between those of us who saw grammar errors leaping from the page and those who either didn’t see or didn’t care.

Grammar is Elitist

There seems to be an unhealthy idea swirling in the ether of our society (or at least certain portions of society) that worrying about grammar is elitist. Standards have become so lax that caring even a little bit about proper usage seems to mark you as some kind of cranky, obsessive English teacher, the kind that would whack your hands with a ruler for a misplaced apostrophe.

Many people seem to think that being a writer means being one of these Ms. McGrundy types. I’ve been asked if I spend my spare time diagramming sentences and musing on the difference between the subjunctive versus the objective tense. Not exactly. Most often, I’m simply trying to make sure I can get my point across without using too many passive verbs.

It turns out I am not immune to the culture around me. Worrying about some of the more arcane intricacies of grammar can seem fiddly and tedious. Some rules don’t stick in my head no matter how often I look them up. (That versus which for instance. I vaguely recall something about cats that are black and cats which are black . . . but it doesn’t help.)Worrying about some of the more arcane intricacies of grammar can seem fiddly and tedious.

Grammar Debated

For several months, I had a critique partner who offered little input about my story-telling abilities but provided volumes of carefully detailed examples of where I had gone tragically wrong with grammar rules. I had to think back to that long-suffering office admin and wince.

We wrangled back and forth between her rigid adhesion to super-correct usage versus my own more Humpty Dumpty-esque approach of making words mean just what I choose. My position? If you’re writing contemporary fiction, you need to be able to express your ideas in the current style of writing and talking. Do you want the voice you create in your reader’s mind to sound like Ms. McGrundy the English teacher? It may or may not be appropriate to your story and genre. (Don’t even get me started on dialogue. People, not even story people, do not speak in perfect, complete, grammatically correct sentences.)

Grammar Rules Change

I just can’t believe that it’s really a good idea to grab hold of one rule and cling to it regardless of how awkward the resulting sentence may be. Usage changes. What was once commonplace now sounds odd, although it may very well be perfectly correct. I say go ahead and end that sentence with a preposition, if that’s the direction you’re headed. And commas? Sprinkle them with impunity! (Ok, I realize I am shaky ground here. My name is Robin, and I, am, a, comma addict.)

Grammar Does Matter

But wait. Let me dial this back a little . . . in the end, grammar does matter, for one simple reason: clarity. Grammar helps us get the message across. And so, while I will never be a grammar maven, I will continue to use every single tool at my disposal to figure out how to tell a good story, even if that means looking up the difference between that and which.

Every. Freaking. Time.


Robin LabordeRobin Laborde is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. She worked as a technical writer for over ten years and has had nonfiction articles published in newspapers and magazines. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.

Letter from the Editor – November 2018

Dear PPW Readers,

Welcome to November and the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you participating? Last month Writing from the Peak covered many ways to prepare yourself for NaNo, and today is your day to fly. I wish all of you luck and perseverance as you dive head first into what might be one of the most grueling writing months of the year. Some will cross the finish line in twenty days, while others will crash and burn in two. No matter when you cross the line, just remember, success is not finishing first, but starting in the first place.Success is not finishing first, but that you started in the first place.

Writing from the Peak, will spend November helping you keep writing. Deb Buckingham will help you find ways to Generate Ideas. DeAnna Knippling will set the pace for you with Pacing Primer. Lit-Quotes by Gabrielle Brown, are always inspirational and a visit with the Grammar Police by Robin LaBorde will keep your writing free of comma comas. In addition to PPW’s blog, Pikes Peak Writers will also be hosting monthly events that will certainly add to your writing arsenal.

Open Critique
This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of PPW members who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences.

Write Brains
Write Brain Sessions are free mini-workshops on the craft of writing, business of writing, and the writer’s life. Watch for them in Colorado Springs on the third Tuesday of most months. Pikes Peak Writers began offering monthly Write Brain workshops in 2004.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober
Come and enjoy some wonderful, guided improv writing prompts and a discussion about what those prompts produce.

Writers’ Night
Writers’ Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.

I wish everyone writing success in NaNoWriMo as well as anything you are doing this month. May you find the courage to sit at your writing table each day to conquer whatever writing beast you are facing.


KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.