Monday, September 29, 2014

I Just Finished a Short Story! What next?

By DeAnna Knippling

(Editor's Note:  This post is in response to a reader request.  We do listen to you!)

So you’ve written a short story. You’re not sure whether it’s any good. You’re not sure whether it
matters if it’s any good. You’re not sure whether you need to cut your story down to a specific length, or to pad it out. Should you send it to a professional editor? Or should you just delete it? Is it really even a short story? You’ve asked yourself so many questions and done so much research online and head so many conflicting opinions that it doesn’t even matter anymore.

First: whatever choice you make, it’s the right one.

Whether you decide to submit or not submit, where to submit, whether to self-publish; those are choices that nobody else can make for you. How do you make those choices? Trial and error. Lots of error. Whatever choice you make will be a learning experience, all right.

Second, some practical suggestions:
  • Use standard manuscript format. One, it’s more professional. Two, you might as well make the process a no-brainer. Three, if you format all your stories the same way, you’ll start seeing paragraph pacing better. Six huge paragraphs in a row become blatantly obvious. And for goodness’ sake, do backups and save your files with a different version number every time you open it. 
  • Filter your readers’ feedback down to two things: satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Most readers will tell you they like or don’t like something...then proceed to give you a reason for that that has nothing to do with the real strengths or weaknesses of the story itself. 
  • Decide whether you’re going to submit to markets or self-publish (a discussion beyond the scope of this blog post). The easier, lower-risk choice is probably submitting and will thus be the focus of the rest of this blog post. 
  • Find your short story markets. I use, because I have to track a lot of short stories. But I hear good things about and the forums at, or you could check out the current Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. You could also check out the websites of the markets listed in any reprint anthology (e.g., a Year’s Best collection), or, as a last resort, get involved with the short story community for your genre(s) and read the markets yourself. <sarcasm>
  • Write up a template cover letter. I recommend using standard business format, even in email. First paragraph: States that you’re sending such-and-such story, at so many hundred words. Second paragraph: Brief publication credits and/or bio of relevant-to-writing details. Don’t provide a synopsis unless requested. 
  • Pick a short story market and research the editors’ names and titles, the types of stories they’re looking for (read an issue or two), and any wonky formatting requirements, like straight quotes. If you don’t know how to switch to straight quotes or what straight quotes are--look it up. You’ll need that feature fairly often. 
  • Skim through your story one last time, not to edit but to make sure you’ve done a spelling and grammar check and that you have the right version. 
  • Assemble and send your short story package--cover letter and short story--as instructed by the submission guidelines of your market. 
  • Track your submission, either in a spreadsheet of your own, on a site like Duotrope, or both. You need to know a) where you sent the story, b) when you sent it, and c) when the panic date is. The panic date is about thirty days after that market's estimated response. If the market doesn’t give an estimated response time, then I’d go for 180 days. Send a query letter to the query address (if there is one) after the panic date. If you don’t hear back thirty days after that, send them a note withdrawing the story and move on. 
  • Keep sending out the story and getting it rejected. When it comes back in, send it out again. Don’t edit it unless you plan to delete and rewrite. Given a choice between writing new words and fussing with old ones, you learn more with new ones. 
  • When you get accepted, look over the contract. I’m not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that any short story market that tries to get more than the rights to publish the story in the formats in which it currently publishes is writing a sloppy contract. You don’t have to turn down the contract; just say that you aren’t interested in selling translation rights or movie rights or audiobook rights or whatever and make them update the contract. Read The Copyright Handbook, which is the legal guide to covering your butt as a writer. This is not optional. 
  • Keep an eye out for when the rights revert to you. Two years seems about the maximum for the current short story market. You get to sell short stories as many times as you can get away with it. You have to call them reprints, but if you want to sell them after your rights have reverted, more power to you. And -- perfect time to self-publish, if you’re into that kind of thing. The Copyright Handbook, I’m telling you. It’s there to help you make money. 
  • Don’t work for free until you’ve exhausted the paying options. “Exposure”.  It’s the reason that writers, artists, and musicians have such problems making a living at their profession. Please try not to contribute. Ironically the places that pay in “exposure” have the least amount of “exposure” to give. 

Third, a sense of perspective about short story submissions: you’re going to get rejected. A lot. More than a dozen times per story, easily. And editors, no matter how much they complain about the quality of the submissions they get (the really good ones don’t), know all about the learning curve, and how much work it takes to get to be a professional. So if you’re worried about submitting a bad story--well, I won’t tell you not to worry. You will. But the good editors just blow the bad stories off. Besides, it’s often the stories you hate that sell the quickest.

 And finally, no regrets. You wrote, you finished. Send it out, publish it, and keep working.  No matter what else happens, you're ahead of every single wannabe out there who has an idea for a story.  Plus it all gets easier as you go.  Not soon.  But it does.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O'Brien; October 4, 1941)

The Vampire Chronicles
The Queen of the Damned
Christ the Lord 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* I Just Finished a Short Story! What Next?         DeAnna Knippling

*  Your Guide to NaNoWriMo Prep                         Deb McLeod

* PPW October News & Events                                 Debi Archibald

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sweet Success! C.L. Roth

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

C.L. Roth’s middle grade fantasy/SF novel, Cosmic Chaos (ISBN: 978-0-9846619-5-4, ebook, 166 pages) was released in ebook format on July 29th, 2014 by C.L. Roth. It is available on Amazon :

Mark Cooper’s parents are three weeks overdue. Something is wrong and he’s not waiting any longer. The children, Flicker, and Great-Uncle Harley set off for Grayson where the change has already started. Cosmos hunts for the renegades, Hemlock and Dalt. Can the children, the Hunter, Flicker, and Harley rescue Mark’s parents before the renegade find them?

About the Author:  C.L. Roth is an artist, caregiver, and author. She started her writing career writing articles for her local newspaper; a job that taught her to write tight and meet her deadlines. She is a full-time caregiver for her son. Joshua was born with cerebral palsy. He is a talented watercolor and acrylic artist. C.L. manages OurHome Studio which showcases her son’s artwork as well a rare pieces of her own work.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Community and Confidence

By Jade Goodnough

Community and confidence.

I would not have connected the two a few years ago. Before I found my path as a writer.

Then so many doors opened in the form of my local network. I have made so many friends and connected with kindred spirits over such a short period of time. Each individual has contributed to my growing sense of self. They've lent me their strength and built a net of positive energy for my creativity.

Yes, it does sound a bit exaggerated, but that doesn't change the fact that it's true.

When I first went to a PPW event, I was the shy gal in the back, the one that felt out of place. The volunteers welcomed me and made sure I had access to their upcoming schedule, their resources, and answered the few questions I managed to ask. With every event thereafter, they recognized me and made sure to include me in conversations. Looking back, I can't picture myself without the friendship that bloomed from that beginning.

At my first opportunity to apply for a scholarship for Conference, I did everything wrong. The second time around, I had an entire community of writers there to advise me on how to better my chances. Without them, I do not believe I would have been awarded the gift of my very first writer’s conference. And I most certainly would not have been as confident in meeting all of the wonderful professionals that presented workshops there.

My biggest realization occurred at lunch on Day Two of Conference. I had tried to sit with an agent, but her table had filled up too quickly. So I made my way over to the table held for the editor I was meant to pitch to that afternoon. I figured that it wouldn't be too stalker-like, as long as I didn't hog the conversation. Someone asked the question, “How would you like to have a pitch given?” I perked up.

The editor thought for a moment and replied, “You know, I'd just like for someone to sit down like we've been friends for years and recommend the next book I should read.” I won't lie, I almost jumped out of my chair and screamed, “I can do that!” Because I'd been doing that for years with friends and family. All the nervous tension and stress I'd been feeling released and left behind a kind of jittery excitement. That's when I learned that industry professionals are just normal people trying to do their jobs. Like the rest of us.

The bonds I've made, at conference and all of the other events I've attended, are life altering. The people I now calls friends are irreplaceable. My community is a broad spectrum of talented writers and editors that show me every chance they get that I am where I belong. No other group of people celebrates me for my accomplishments, big and small.

So, community and confidence. One doesn't necessarily rely on the other, but both are stronger in unison. I am stronger with both of them in unison. There is no measure of gratitude that could ever be enough for such a wonderful blessing.

About the Author:  Jade N Goodnough is a writer who calls the beautiful city of Colorado Springs home. She has a short published in the very first Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group anthology, An Uncommon Collection. Her next short story will be released in the fall of 2014, and her multitude of novels will follow in the coming years. A winner of NaNoWriMo and PPWC scholarship recipient, Jade strives to become a better writer every day. You can find her online at:
@jade_goodnough on Twitter

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indie Publishing and Me

(Note from the Editor: With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By Fatma Alici

I’d been considering indie publishing for a while. As is my nature, I started to read every online article, every book, and look into every resource I could find. What I got in return in was a lot of conflicting information. Some sources talked about how horrible most eBooks were. Others claimed the only real way to get your books to the public was to go to big publishers. Even more warned of the horrors of traditional publishing and how it would eat your soul.

None of it really offered any truly practical advice. I wanted charts, graphs, and evidence. And failing that, I’d like some down to earth advice. From what I already knew, this wasn’t going to make me a millionaire. But I wanted to be a writer. I never thought I’d be a millionaire anyway. What did it really take to be a successful indie publisher? How did one market? How did I even know where to start? Which products or services did it make sense to pay for and which didn't? What should I be aiming for?

Becky Clark and Deanna Knippling aren’t really that much alike when it comes to the ways they set up their publishing. That ended up being an asset for their workshop. They each do it their own way. That was the first thing I learned. When you enter indie publishing, you need to figure out what you want out of it. What are you trying to accomplish? What your goals are will determine everything else.

Together, they had great marketing tips. Marketing is the key to getting yourself, and your book, out there. And it’s definitely not tweeting the same book blurb over and over. Instead, you have to look at everything you’re doing to see what you can apply to marketing. Your author bio doesn’t help you if it is only about you. Instead, what about you makes your books unique? You might write a certain genre, but what makes your vision, your words so different from everyone else’s? It is the small changes to things you already do that are the start of marketing. The rest is realizing you are marketing director, your boss, your editor, and so forth. You have to know your strengths and your weakness.

There is a community of independent publishers around you. Connect with them. They can help you keep up with the latest new developments. They can give you reviews on services you might need. Let’s face it; none of us can do everything we need to be published.

The most important thing I learned was the hardest one for me and they mentioned it a few times. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to do it all wrong. Don’t be afraid of not being perfect. You will mess up. You will get things wrong. You will not be perfect. In the end, you have to accept those blows, dust yourself off and get right back up. That’s what indie publishing has in common with writing -- at first we were all terrible, and with time we found our stride. If I can make it through critique groups and rejection letters, I can take on indie publishing.

About the Author:  Fatma Alici is gamer geek turned writer who blogs about neglectful gods, magic gone crazy, tech that can save you or kill you, and of course aliens, lots of aliens. Each week I take a slice off these realities and put it up at

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hero's Arc

(Note from the Editor:  With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By Delores Gonzales Montaño

“Did you have fun at the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference?” That was the prevailing question everyone asked after I dragged my butt home, tail tucked between my legs, collapsed on the couch and prepared to watch mindless hours of mindless television just to quiet the voices echoing in my head.

Voices that insisted on tension, and more tension; story structure, beginning, middle and end—Act I, Act II, Act III. Eliminate the back story.

Voices: “What do you write?”

What do I write?

I wasn’t prepared to answer that question in one sentence. I should have practiced. “Literary Fiction.” At least that’s what it said on my name tag. Eyes glass over; what does that mean?

What does that mean?

It meant I sucked.

I needed potato chips—potato chips to silence the chatter. I found the sad remainder of a bag tucked away in the rear of the cabinet, saved for just such an occasion. Not a single chip remained intact, only crumbs. (I really should stop doing that.)

Now I was ready for mindless television: Mad Men. Doug was sleeping around. Doug was always sleeping around. But this was his neighbor! She knew his wife! He knew her husband! His daughter caught them doing it! Ooooh, the tension!

It was bedtime… after one more episode. I decided I could sleep late and take a really short shower in the morning.

Doug was drinking. Doug was always drinking. But now he was doing drugs! What did they inject into his ass? He wasn’t going to make his deadline! Ooooh, the tension!

One more episode. I didn’t need to shower in the morning, did I?

Eventually I pulled the plug and padded off to bed, new voices in my head. Tension; highly motivated characters, (I could do that); write what you love; break all the rules; tell your unique story.

2:00 a.m., the morning after the Conference, and I had a sleep-deprived revelation. Maybe I could write the story I wanted to write. A story that started at the end, was nonlinear, written in the first person and third person from the same point of view, used symbolism and adjectives—constantly, that wasn’t Y.A. Fantasy. I would just have to be brilliant! My last thought before I faded.

But brilliance has always had a way of eluding me. I was reminded of this the next morning after I hit the snooze button three times, piled my unwashed hair into a bun and cemented it with hairspray.

So, if not brilliance, then what?

The Hero’s Arc demands that the character changes. (I could do that). Maybe I can incorporate more tension? Maybe there is too much back story? Maybe I did learn something from those voices? Something about my craft and what it takes to write a story that will compel a person to read late into the night and forgo their morning shower. And maybe, if I do it well, I can write the story inside-out, ass-backwards, use metaphor… and an occasional adverb?


And if all else fails…I’ll add a fairy.

Fun? Yeah, fun was had. But the better question was, “Did you grow?”

About the Author:  Delores Gonzales Montaño is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, where she studied literature and writing. Although her first loves were children’s literature and horror, not an unlikely pair in her opinion, she is currently writing neither. Instead she finds herself neck-deep in a mainstream novel where the characters are neither animals nor monsters, at least not in the conventional interpretation. First place winner of the 2014 PPWC Writing Contest in the genre of Literary Fiction, she remains convinced that the prize is hers because no one else entered in that category. A native of Colorado, she often battles with the need for ocean.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Stephen King (September 21, 1947 - )
The Shining
The Stand
Dr. Sleep
On Writing

Awards:  Bram Stoker, O.Henry, National Book Association "Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Literature, Mystery Writers of America "Grand Master Award"

Happy Birthday, Mr. King

This week on Writing from the Peak:

(Editor's Note:  Watch for an extra blog post on Tuesday.  We are publishing all the posts specific to PPWC14 before we fully launch into PPWC15 mode.)

* The Hero's Arc                              Delores Montano

* Indie Publishing and Me            Fatma Alici

* Confidence and Community      Jade Goodnough

* Sweet Success! C.L. Roth            Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sweet Success! Leslie Budewitz

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Leslie Budewitz’s mystery novel, Crime Rib (ISBN: 978-0425259559, 304 pages, paperback and ebook) was released July 1, 2014 by Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Books). Crime Rib is available in all brick and mortar stores and online. Read an excerpt on Leslie’s website:

When a contest at the annual Jewel Bay, Montana steak grill-off bites the dust, gourmet market owner Erin Murphy must grill a few suspects to keep the town and its reputation as a Food Lovers' Village from going up in smoke!

About the Author:  Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, beginning with Death al Dente, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and Books, Crooks & Counselors, winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do You Connect With Authors? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the ninth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

Making connections can be an easy task in this digital landscape.
For starters, connect with authors:
  • online
  • at signings
  • on topic
I really enjoy connecting with authors via social media and blogs. If you love an author’s book, social media is a quick and easy way to share an “I love your book” comment with both the digital universe and the author.
Book signings are another way to connect. I read a post the other day where an author reported only a handful of attendees. While plane tickets aren’t always feasible to help an author out, I can keep an eye out for local (or within an hour or two drive) events I can attend.
If an author has a book about a topic near and dear to your heart, let her know. Maybe your book club or your classroom has a question about a story, so perhaps Tweet or email him your question. You may receive an answer.
I remember I tweeted about my son’s first birthday and tagged Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. We chose to name our son Enzo, after the main character and narrator — a dog. Garth Stein tweeted me back.
Authors use social media differently. Some will friend you on Facebook while others won’t respond to emails. Writing is a time consuming task, so I understand those who don’t use social media channels to interact with fans. If you write, you know how writing your stories and living outside of the voices inside of your head (i.e. family, day job, hobbies, etc.) is often a balancing act. Of course, I really LOVE the ones who embrace social media and add to my experience as a reader.
I’ve mentioned before that my reading list this year is so 2012, but John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, shows a character’s quest to learn more about a book and an author’s reluctance to communicate with fans. This added a lot of tension to the overall story.
How do you connect with authors (and other writers)?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on March 3, 2014)

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I've Finished My Novel. Now What?

By Donnell Ann Bell 

I’ve finished my novel. Now what?

What an excellent question. Wouldn’t it be great if after we type “The End", that truly meant finis? Unfortunately, in the case of a novel, short story or any writing-related project, consider looking at The END as an opportunity.

An opportunity to send off our work and get it published, right?

Ultimately, yes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Following are some tips I’ve learned in my newspaper/magazine days and after completing three published novels that I hope will help you. (Note: I’m still learning).

· Step away from the project. What does this mean? It means take a few days off. Why? Time allows us to be more objective about our work. We actually can catch typos we didn’t before because our brains have a tendency to correct what our eyes are seeing. 

How much time? That’s up to you. Some people wait two weeks. It’s amazing when you let a project sit how your objectivity returns and overrides the passion you’ve felt because you’ve completed a major goal.

Be proud, however, not foolish. You can always make a book better. Always, always, always. 

· Read your work out loud. You’ve proofread it, right? Reading work out loud is going to take time, and it’s monotonous and it’s time consuming. I’ve finished my book and I want to get published. 

No whining allowed. You want a professional product, right?

Reading our work aloud allows us to 1) pick up mistakes (again that our brains correct and our eyes miss) and 2)  lets us pick up nuances and passages we otherwise don’t recognize in the written word. Sometimes it’s stilted dialogue, oftentimes it’s narrative that shows we’ve overwritten, or worse, we’ve included the same passage twice. (It happens.) Again our brains/eyes miss it, and reading our work out loud is like providing an electrical conduit to our brain. It zaps us to attention and alerts us, hey, didn’t I already read that?

Hint: Reading a 250- to 400-page manuscript is time consuming and monotonous, especially when you want to get your work out the door. My critique partner and I have read our work to each other over the phone. Not all at once, of course. He’ll read two or three chapters one day; I’ll read two or three chapters the next. Not only does it allow us to read out loud, after we’re done, we give each other feedback. Win/win!

· Give your work to a trusted reader. Wait a minute. I’ve proofread, I’ve read it out loud, and I’m still not done?

Actually, you’re done when you say you’re done. But if you want to submit/publish the best possible product, take this extra step. What you’re asking a reader to do is look for developmental issues—things your critique partners might have missed. Think about it. Your critique partners may or may not have read your work in one sitting. They may have just read individual chapters. You’re asking a reader to look at the book as a whole. What do you think of my characters? Is there any part of the book that leaves you confused? How is my pacing? What about my hooks? Did you find any part of my work cliché? Finally, did I leave you wanting to turn the page, or did you want to put the story down? And why?

· Listen to feedback. Are readers always right? Absolutely not. Writing is subjective. But developing this first layer of toughness before an editor or agent looks at your submission can be helpful. Trust me―at least in my experience―neither of these professionals mince words. Further, if you’re Indy publishing your novel, listening can also prepare you for what reviewers are bound to say. 

Congratulations. I’m very, very happy for you. You’ve finished your book. Pat yourself on the back and revel in your success. Then get back to work—you’re a writer.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell is the author of three romantic suspense novels:  The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, and her newest release, Betrayed. All three releases have been Amazon Kindle best sellers. She has a new release coming from Bell Bridge Books in September and is currently working on a series. She is one of Pikes Peak Writers board members at large and loves to help/network with fellow writers. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence. If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there has to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don’t see your way out, and finally manage to accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder if it may not be all right after all.”

Agatha Christie
September 15, 1890 - January 12, 1976
Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express
The Mousetrap (stageplay)

Winner of the Mystery Writers of America's first Grand Master Award.
September 14 - 21 is Christie Week

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* I've Finished My Novel. Now What?       Donnell Ann Bell

* Do You Connect with Authors?                 Stacy S. Jensen 

* Sweet Success! Leslie Budewitz                Kathie Scrimgeour 

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pikes Peak Writers Conference Thursday Prequel

(Note from the Editor:  With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By A.M. Burns

This year was the first time that I was able to attend even part of the Pike Peak Writers Conference. For several years, since I’ve been active in the writing community here in Colorado Springs, I’ve heard about what a great gathering the conference is. I have to admit that I wasn’t disappointed. The event hotel was awesome; it helped lend a very professional air to the event, as did the event staff. Even the check in was the most efficient I’ve experienced. True, I wasn’t there early, about right on time, but I was able to walk right up to the table, tell them who I was and instantly had my badge and event goodie bag. (BTW, we’re still using the bag around the house; it’s great for toting things here and there.)

I opted to go to the workshops on self-editing and marketing, since those were more useful to me than pitching. I’ve already got an agent who handles most of my work. The workshop on self-editing, by Tiffany Yates-Martin, was extremely helpful. She has years of experience as an editor and shared it very well. She kept a nice pace and was very energetic. I have recommended to friends that if they have the opportunity to go see her speak on editing, it is well worth the time.

Lunch went smoothly. Again, the event staff performed well and it was nice sitting at a table with both people I knew and didn’t know. I think one of the big plusses to this conference is the ability to do networking with new people.

The workshop on marketing, which was a panel workshop with Deb Courtney, Aaron Michel Ritchey, Jennifer Lovett, and Susan Mitchell, was interesting with some good tidbits to be gleaned. They covered everything:  Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, personal websites, media packets, getting on local news shows and more. It was a lot to take in for a short workshop, if you can call three hours short. Again, it is a workshop that I would advise writers to attend, particularly if you’re like me and already have a few books out there and are looking to boost sales and online presence. The big plus with this panel was the diversity of the panelists. They each brought their own insight to the subject and overall worked well together.

As a bonus, a week or so after conference, I stumbled upon a podcast from Patrick Hester that he recorded at conference at the panel on diversity in genre fiction. I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to attend this panel in person, but was absolutely thrilled to find it online. I think this is a very important topic for writers right now and it’s something that’s not often discussed. So often right now diversity suffers from two extremes; it’s either swept under the rug or rammed down people’s throats. This panel discussed how to approach it so that it’s more acceptable to publishing professionals and readers alike. I really hope that Pikes Peak Writers Conference continues to have workshops like this in the future.

Overall, I was impressed with the little taste that I received of Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I’m urging folks to go if they have the opportunity. Many of my friends went and feel the same way. Kudos to the event staff, the hotel, the presenters, and everyone involved. I’m sure that next year’s conference will be just as awesome as this year and that PPWC will continue to help shape writers for many years to come. Great job, folks.

About the Author:  A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He is the president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. ( You can find out more about A.M. and his writing at, or follow him on Twitter @am_burns.

Social media links:
Mystichawker Press Author Page:
Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity for the New School Year

By Jax Hunter

Hello Campers and Happy New School Year. 

Welcome to my new Tips column where each month, I’ll put together ten tips for improving your writing. This month, I’ve come up with a few ways to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Write in the opposite “person”. If you’re used to writing in first person, switch to third and vice versa. This works especially well when you’re stuck in third person. By switching to first person, you will be writing from inside your character. I’ve found that I learned a lot about what was really going on in a scene by writing in first person.

2. Write a flash fiction. Flash fiction is short, short fiction. Some sources say fiction under 1000 words, but the predominant definition is fiction under 500 words. Flash fiction forces you to make every word count. The nice thing for our purposes here, though, is that there’s no long-term commitment. It’s a quick way to get yourself going when you’re stuck.

3. Write a fanfiction. What is fanfiction, you ask? Take your favorite television show and write a story. Fanfic is huge on the net. There’s actually some very good writing out there. The delightful thing about fanfic is that the characters are already created for you and you already know them. 

4. Write a scene in screenplay format. This limits you and it frees you. In screenplay format, you write dialogue and action. No thoughts, no real POV in the traditional novel-writing sense. Just you looking through the lens and writing what you see and hear happening.

5. Try something completely foreign to you. Go play bingo. Talk to strangers. Ride in a hearse or on a horse. Go by the Harley Davidson store and pretend you’re interested in buying a bike. Go to the opera. Learn sign language. Blindfold yourself for the morning. Listen to rap music. Listen to talk radio. I picked up a book the other day at B&N on the sale table:  2,001 Things to Do Before You Die. Not only is it a great idea book to get you out of a rut, it’s a treasure house of situations, goals or nightmares for your characters. 

6. Write from a prompt. There are tons of writing prompts on the web and even books of prompts. If you just can’t get into your WIP (work in progress), take fifteen minutes to write from a prompt. You might find a great scene unfold before you eyes.

7. Read a book out of genre or, if you haven’t done so for a while, read a book on writing. If you’re a romance writer, pick up a Harlan Coben novel. Not as big a stretch as a Harlan Coben reader picking up a romance novel, is it? Hey suspense writers, you might be surprised! Dig through your boxes and find On Writing by King, or Write Away by Elizabeth George or any number of great books on writing. Or maybe THE writing bible - Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. I find that I brainstorm well when I’m reading other things. So, I keep an index card handy to capture those thoughts. 

8. Write in a different spot, with a different medium. Have you discovered Moleskine notebooks? Wow, are they cool! I’m not sure my new Moleskine is right for writing a book, but it might be fine to get me started on a scene. Have you ever written a scene on a napkin?I have. How about a Big Chief pad?  (Sob, I don’t think they even make these anymore.) I love the way a ball point pen writes on a Big Chief. Grab your pad and pen or laptop and head over to Village Inn. Or the park. How about writing at the mall, or maybe the library. Getting out of your usual writing spot (even if you just move from your office to the kitchen, or to the La-Z-Boy) and changing your medium will stir things up a bit. You might even try dictating a scene into a tape recorder, as if you’re telling the story by the campfire. Give it a try.

9. Write in short bursts - set a timer. Thank you, Margie Lawson, for getting me hooked on timers. You can do anything for ten minutes. So if you’re dreading writing, set a timer for ten minutes and play what-if. What if your protagonist got stuck in an elevator, in a snow storm, in a phone booth. Just write for ten minutes. You can do it. You might find that you have a real scene you can use, or at least a line of dialogue around which to build a scene.

10. Watch a movie. Jot down great lines of dialogue. Analyze a scene over and over. Or just zone out for a little while and let yourself be entertained. Never be far from your notepad, though. 

I hope you’ll find this new Tips column useful and thought provoking. If something gets you thinking, why not post your thoughts to the list. If you have a topic you’d like to see here, feel free to email me. 

I wish you all a wonderful, prosperous, and creative Autumn. Don’t forget the mantra - BiC-HoK. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.


( and

About the Author:  Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Plot From the Middle

By Linda Rohrbough

After a while in this business, the lingo starts to sound very much the same. However, I just found an idea that’s new to me that I think is quite useful. It’s plotting a book from a central point where the main character has a realization about themselves, then working backward and forward from that point.

I wish I could say I came up with this one. But I came across it in a Kindle ebook by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel From the Middle. I’ve met Jim a couple of times at conferences we both attend, although I don’t know him well. (He does have one of my clocks.) Anyway, I’ve found his work on plotting useful in the past. Back when the world was young, he wrote Plot & Structure, one title in a series of how-to books on novel writing published by Writer’s Digest. I collected the entire series. I’ve used, with his permission, some of his ideas and graphs in my Writer’s Toolbox workshop.

To get to the point, here’s my graphical version of Jim’s start-from-the-middle method of plotting. Jim calls this the “Golden Triangle".

To start with the middle, you work first on the realization the character is going attain that drives their change in the story. Jim calls this the “Mirror Moment". This is the point in the story where your character takes a hard look at himself and his situation. Jim offers a number of examples from popular movies, although I’m not sure I agree with him on every “Mirror Moment". I think some movies have more than one of these for the main character. 

But the concept is a strong one and one that I think is going to help me write.

The point is, once you figure out the Mid-Point, from there you decide the character’s mindset before all this starts, or their ordinary world, which Jim calls the “Pre-story Psychology". And then you look forward to the end where they actually make the change or “Transformation". Once you’ve done this work, your structure is a triangle and the mid-point is the pinnacle. This method not only gets you thinking about what your story is about, which is critical, but it also insures you’re looking at both the beginning and the end, which should tie together in meaningful ways.

As an aside, I’m someone who likes to write an ending in a way that a reader can’t just flip to the back of the book and see what happens. I want my endings to only make sense if you’ve been along for the entire ride. I think this method will help me achieve that goal faster and more efficiently.

I found Jim’s idea to be a fresh one and a great way to begin work on a novel. He includes a number of other little gems in this Amazon ebook in the form of structural devices that he says should be in every good story.  Some I’d heard before, but some were new. And it’s not a long read so you can whip through it in an hour or two, though I spent a couple more hours making notes to add to a plotting structure template for novels. I found it well worth my time for the price, which is less than the cost of a latte at Starbucks.

He claims this method will work no matter what kind of writer you are, whether you’re a “pantser” meaning you just sit down and start writing, a plotter who likes to have forty scenes planned before the writing begins, or someone in between. And he provides a concrete how-to strategy to use this method for each of the writing types he identifies.
Jim also claims this will work for every genre, whether the story is literary or action-packed drama. I think he’s right. It’s certainly helped me get my arms around my work in progress. I’d love to know what you think.

PS: I wrote this assuming I was preaching to the choir. So if you're new to fiction writing and I lost you with this piece, not to worry. Just ask around. We all started somewhere and helping each other is what a writer's group is for.

About the Author:  Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website: