Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Your Path to Publishing

By Jason Evans

Wow.

This is the big one. Today we begin our discussion on paths to publishing. This is a BIG topic. So I apologize now if I forget to mention something, or don’t address a question someone might have.

I remember someone told me in college that people confuse simple with easy and complicated with hard. A hammer, for example, is a simple tool to use, but if you’ve ever swung one for a while, it can be hard on your muscles. The same is true with publishing. So, before we begin, I need to ask a question.

Why do you want to publish your book?

The answer will determine the path you take to publishing as well as how hard you’re gonna work.

I have a mentor who taught at Christian private schools for 40 years. He has self-published five books on Christian scholastic education. For him, writing & publishing gives his small audience something introspective to chew on. It is a service to his community that burnishes his credentials in his field.

On the other hand, I know a writer who has published eight books in four years, has plans to publish at least four more in the next two. He goes to all the conventions and sells books. But for him, fame and the love of the crowd is what he desperately wants. So the bigger the crowd, the better.

Finally, I know a third author who writes schlocky Sci-fi with fart jokes and comic book level violence. He wants to feed his family – and he does. He writes four books a year – each around 100K words – and pays his mortgage with his writing. Is he the next Hemingway, or JK Rowling? No. But his fans love him and buy everything he sells. And that’s enough.

Ask yourself why are you on this journey? Be honest. Talk to your spouse, or closest friend. Talk to your rabbi or shaman. Dig deep for the answers.

For some people, simply having a book published is enough. They had one story in them. It’s a life goal to check off. Others want to write, but aren’t committed enough to figure out how to pay the bills with it. So they write, publish and never sell any books. Some people are passionate about success. They want to write the perfect book. They want people to be moved by their stories, to fall in love with their work. They want it all.
None of these approaches is wrong. Your motivations, however, will determine how hard you’ll work. Just remember that.

OK. Enough with the pre-amble. Let’s do this.

There are essentially, two paths to publishing. Traditional and self-publishing. Both have their struggles, their frustrations and their victories. If you feel like you need mentors along the way, people who know the business and can guide you, then traditional publishing is probably for you.

If, however, you like to learn every aspect of the business. If you are fascinated by color choices and font types (so many font types); if you feel you have to have control of the entire book pipeline – from edits to cover options – then you will want to self-publish.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be a lot of work on either side of the fence – especially marketing.

Traditional Publishing

The one true upside to traditional publishing is about exposure. A publisher can get your book into bookstore chains and stores like Walmart. That kind of exposure is gold, baby. But don’t expect this to happen overnight. I’ve known authors who’ve published dozens of books and their publisher only warmed up to them late in the game. Some never get this kind of love.

But if you’re truly committed to a traditional publisher you have to know about agents and editors.

Editors work for publishers and will take your work, read it, and if they love your story, will fight to get it published with their company. An agent is someone who loves your story so much, they will use their contacts within the publishing world and put it in front of other editors. The editors have relationships with agents and trust them to recommend great stories.

So, how do you find an agent?

Go to conferences such as Pikes Peak Writers.

Agents and editors go to these things to find the next George RR Martin. They want to hear your story. But you can’t be a wallflower here. You’ve got to be charming as hell. You’ve also got to look and act like a pro. Men, put on some slacks and a jacket. Women, get that nice outfit you wear for business stuff out. Dressing well helps.

Also, be clear what your story is about. What’s the hook? In my W.I.P., the Gallowglass, I invert the trope of the rebel Irish being the good guys. My story has the English as the good guys. It’s fresh and different.

When you go, you’ll also want to have your pitch down. What’s your pitch? A short speech about your book. Author Aaron Michael Ritchey’s pitches his Juniper Wars Series like this: “It’s a family of women with machine guns on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive.” When I first heard that, I so wanted to read it.

Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat has an entire chapter on pitching to agents. Get his book and check it out! He also recommends talking to complete strangers about your pitch. They don’t know you, so they’ll be honest about your pitch. Also, walking up to complete strangers and talking about your book is great practice for walking up to a complete stranger who happens to be an agent or editor, too.

While you’re at this writing conference, make sure to go to classes run by agents on writing query letters. You’ll see the business from the other side and begin to understand why they have the rules they have. I went to a conference a couple of years ago and listened to an agent say that 90% of writers don’t follow their submission guidelines. She then went on to say her staff deletes all of those submissions. This made me extremely hopeful because I know how to follow directions!

Find Agents online and query them

If you can’t afford to go to conference, or don’t have the time, then find an agent online.
The easy thing to do is get a monthly subscription to www.publishersmarketplace.com. Agents on this website want to be queried with new stories. It’s $25 a month and you can cancel any time. Try to find those agents with lots of sells under their name. Sure, you can take your chance with new agent Larry who’s never sold anything, but why when bigger sharks are circling and you can lasso one? Go for the big dawgs!


Do it the hard way

Another option if you can’t afford or don’t want to pay the $25/a month is to do what I did. It will take you about 12 hours to get information on about fifty agents. But it is worth it.

First off start a spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet should have labels for agent names, their agency websites, contact info, and check off boxes for if you’ve queried them and when.

Do you have a Linkedin.com account? There are literally thousands of literary agents on Linkedin. If you don’t have an account, make one, now.

In the search bar, type in “Literary Agent,” and thousands will appear. I know, it sounds overwhelming, but you can do it!

Click on the people tab and start checking these agents out! Find out what agency they work for, open another tab on your web browser and go to the agency website. Read their query policy and find that agent’s bio. Do they represent what you write? If not, move on.

Begin populating your spreadsheet with agents you feel you’d be successful working with. Get their names, email address, when they accept queries, and their query guidelines in your database.

This process took me 12 hours to do over two days but is was worth it. I now have a list of 50+ agents I can query my books to. Agents who accept historical fiction. 

Learn to write query letters

A good query letter can get your foot into the door. Don’t know how to write one? Most conferences offer at least one class about query letters. If you can’t make that class, then visit a couple of websites to help you out.

Super Agent and Pikes Peak presenter Angie Hodapp started a new website called www.tightenyourquery.com. It’s a great resource on how to write query letters. Her information is quite topical and issue specific. If you don’t learn that way and want someone to edit you, then try www.Queryshark.blogspot.com. WARNING: Query shark can be brutal, so make sure to have tough skin. The writing can be very funny and is always insightful.

When you get an agent, do everything they tell you to do

Agents are not perfect. However, they understand the industry in ways we do not. So, if they tell you to make revisions on your W.I.P., DO IT. They already believe in your story, or else they wouldn’t have signed you. Having an agent means you have potential! But now you want to sell your book and make it a product for the market place. You are now in business. So act like it and don’t take revisions personally. Do your job.

One last thing before you sign that contract . . .

Hire a lawyer. Seriously. Hire a lawyer who specializes in copyright and trademark law. They are called literary lawyers. You don’t have to have a retainer, but do cough up the couple of hundred bucks to have them look over your contract. Let them figure out things like royalties, reversion of rights, digital rights and overseas markets. It is worth it for your piece of mind.

If you have an agent or publishing house that doesn’t want you to hire an attorney – that is a red flag.

Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries, is also a lawyer. I talked to her about this. Here is what she said about literary contracts.

“Even simple contracts can have missing or sub-standard terms and other pitfalls authors may not notice. Without an experienced publishing lawyer or agent on your side, it’s far too easy to find yourself in a contract you regret.”

If you get the impression the literary world is full of predators, I apologize. That isn’t the point. The point is people make mistakes and errors all the time. Also, some people are predators in the literary world. At the end of the day no one is going to protect your rights but you. Do your homework, hire a lawyer, and always remember to protect yourself.

I know this is a lot to process, but the journey to publication can be labor intensive. This is why I asked you why are you writing a book? I know it is hard because I am in this process right now. But it will be worth it if you put in the work. I promise.

On Facebook, like my author's page at Jason Henry Evans.
Follow me on Twitter @evans_writer.

Check out my web page at www.jasonhenryevans.com

About the Author:  Jason Evans always wanted to be a writer, he just didn't know it. He grew up in Pasadena, California, in the 1980s where he watched way too much television, but was introduced to literature by his grandfather and his favorite middle school and high school teachers. He wasted his youth working at the So Cal Renaissance Faire (a dangerous place because it’s the gateway drug to other historical costumes,). In his leisure time he’s an educator, a writer, and a bon vivant. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, with degrees in History & Renaissance Studies, a teaching credentials from CSU Los Angeles, as well as a graduate degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. He currently resides in Denver with his wife, the fetching Mrs. Evans, their three dogs and a mischievous cat who calls him his thrall. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Screenwriting Helps to Improve Prose

By: Karen Albright Lin

I just finished teaching an on-line course about screenwriting. I’d like to share some tidbits on the subject here. Because more people watch movies than read books, scripts are an important venue for storytelling. Equally important, learning the art of screenwriting is helpful in writing your novels. The toughest part for most people is the considerably shorter amount of time we have to tell our stories. Only about two hours!  Other than writing a tight story, the two most obvious skills one can learn by exploring this different method of telling entertaining tales are crisp dialogue and pithy description.

Dialogue:

Early drafts are typically replete with on-the-nose dialogue.  They lack subtly and subtext.  Let's imagine what a scene from the first draft of Jaws might have looked like: 

Quint (the crusty old fisherman): You don’t need all that equipment. You look stupid.
Hooper (the scientist carrying lots of equipment): This stuff is important and special.
Quint: The shark is going to kill you. 

See how obvious that dialogue was – generic and bland.  Now watch how the final script took the same information and gave it the zip of real life characters:

Direction (Descriptions of actions and setting - only things that can be seen and heard):
This action is written in present tense. 

It conveys the bare minimum.  In a novel, one has time to describe a teen’s room—which band’s posters are on the wall, the bed sloppily made with a Hello Kitty comforter, jewelry hanging off a mirror, etc.  Sure, it colors the moment and makes us feel we're there.  But with screenplays we shouldn’t step on the director’s image of what the room looks like.  We don’t paint the picture we have in our minds, the director does. So the direction may simply be introduced as A Typical Teen Room.

If a necklace with a precious gem will play an important role in the story like the one in Titanic, you should have a close up of it.  If not, don’t even mention it.


It is tempting to do more than this since we have tremendous imaginations, but let the director construct it. This is one reason why a screenwriter must go into screenwriting/film aware than it is a collaborative process.

About the Author: Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor for best-selling, traditionally and self-published authors. Her clients have hit #1 to #9 in their Amazon categories and stayed there for months. She’s a multi-award winning writer, ghostwriter, produced screenwriter, and multi-published author of essays, poetry and short stories. She’s a regular columnist for newsletters and well-visited blogs. She’s a paid columnist for BTS Book and Book Trailer Reviews. She presents workshops at conferences, retreats and on cruise lines. 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Sweet Success Celebrates Maria Kelson

Congratulations to award-winning poet and aspiring mystery writer Maria Kelson. Maria was selected for a one-month writing residency in 2018 at the Santa Fe Art Institute. The theme for their 2018 residencies is "Equal Justice." The selection was made based on sample chapters from The Outcasts, her current mystery-novel-in-progress, which addresses issues of justice in immigrant and refugee communities.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Revealing your World without Losing your Reader

By: Bowen Gillings
No matter your genre, you have to engage is some form of world building to orient readers to where, and by what rules, the story takes place. Even if you set your novel in modern-day New York City, you have to be familiar with the landscape of Manhattan and the outer boroughs, the patterns of traffic, the smell of the side-streets, the presence of law or lawlessness in each neighborhood, and more.
World building is a necessity as a writer. But, you don’t need another article on how to build the world of your novel. There are resources aplenty out there for that. Google it. What I want to spend a few hundred words on is how to reveal the world you’ve built to your readers.
Many beginning writers, particularly in speculative fiction, fall into the trap of starting off with a massive chunk of descriptive information in order to set up their world and its paradigms for the reader. Don’t do this. Ever.
“But what about Lord of the Rings?” you ask.
Don’t do it. Only Tolkien was Tolkien. Don’t do it.
“But what—”
Don’t!
The opening info dump does nothing for your story. There is no action, no conflict, no character development. Here are a few better ways to reveal your world and its rules to the reader. And you don’t have to take my word for it. I posed the idea of revealing your world to a room of twelve fellow writers. They came up with the following ideas. So, keep your buts until the end.
The first, and overwhelmingly agreed on best method, is to reveal your world through your story. As your characters move through the world and interact with the world, that is where you give details to the reader. You can do this easily in action. You can do it in dialogue, though be careful that the dialogue stays real to the characters engaging in it. Narrative can be used, too, particularly if the reader is getting the character’s perspective on the setting.
One of my favorite examples of revealing the world through the story is the opening chapters of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself. Logen Nine Fingers is on the run. By the end of page one, the reader knows the world uses medieval technology, there are fantastic creatures, and that the north is lawless and dangerous, plus all the sensory details that paint the vivid, action-packed opening scene. As the chapters progress the reader learns more and more about the world’s geography, its politics, the use of and feelings towards magic, and all through character action and interaction.

It is an ideal example of letting the story reveal the world.
Another key is to only reveal elements germane to the immediate scene. If it makes sense for your character to think about other lands, the political situation at present, or what atrocities led up to the current state of affairs, while sitting down to tea with an old friend, then you can use it. If not, don’t include those elements of your world until the story dictates that they should be revealed.
In my current work in progress there is an ongoing war. The opening scene is a battle, but I don’t have my protagonist pondering what led the nations into conflict or how the colonists view the natives because it would not make sense for him to do so. What is shown are my character’s thoughts on the present moment, which allows me to tie his motivation to the greater conflict and give the reader enough information to follow the story.
Having your characters engage in everyday activities is a great way to reveal your world. A character hitching a plow to a horse sets up an entirely different world to the reader than having a character pull clothes from the dryer or connect her iPhone to her Volvo’s Bluetooth. What’s more, showing how the characters feel about these activities lets you double your money. You’ve educated the reader about your world and your character at the same time. You’re welcome.
There are also certain tried-and-true tropes (or tricks) you can use to reveal your story. Having a character mentor another character is perhaps the most wildly used method. Think Gandalf or Obi-wan teaching Frodo or Luke. Through their teachings the reader (watcher) learns more about some of the world’s secrets. Be careful, though, the mentor trope needs to be used subtly. Having the crotchety older police detective tell the rookie how it is for three pages just so you can reveal the level of corruption on the force and who is involved and which mob bosses are profiting will come off as exactly what it is—a tedious info dump.
So, remember how emphatically I told you not to open your story with a big piece of world background information? Well, there are ways to do it and do it in a way the reader likes.
“But, you said to—”
Forget what I said! Every rule in writing can be broken if you can do it well.
There is value in starting the reader at a distance, giving her the broad scope, then narrowing in on the particular characters and their place in the world. Few books do this more enjoyably than Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The key to the success of Hitchhiker’s is Adams’s narrative voice. The deft use of humor in a third-person omniscient point of view lets the reader chuckle her way through the background about aliens and expressways until actual characters are introduced.
If humor is not your thing, you can still be successful as long as you have a strong narrative voice. Or, you can cheat, one of my favorite books as a youth opened with a song, called The Canticle of the Dragon. The song sets up the world even before page one of the prologue. This is not too common in today’s novels, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Hopefully, these thoughts give you a few ideas on how to open up the world you spent so much time building to a reader eager to be immersed in it. My thanks to the folks at Writers Night who contributed their thoughts to this article.

About the Author:  Bowen Gillings lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, daughter, and dog.  He became a member of Pikes Peak Writers in 2015 and now serves as President. You can catch him climbing the Manitou Incline or at Garden of the Gods Park, where he heads the school programs for area elementary and high school students.  Or come listen to his overbearing voice as the emcee of Write Brain the third Tuesday of each month at Library 21C. He is screaming along the rollercoaster ride of his first novel about a disgraced soldier and pregnant sorceress fighting their demons in a fantastical version of the French and Indian War.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Meet Pikes Peak Writers Member Darby Karchut

   
By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Darby Karchut’s writing career began in 2010 and, today, her debut novel, Griffin Rising (Copper Square Studios, 2014 re-release), has been optioned for film. She has been a member of PPW since 2010 and frequently contributes to Writing from the Peak. Darby has also been spotted around her home riding her bike in blizzards and braving lightning storms while jogging.

A little about your books:

Kathie: You have published 2 books with a new one on the way (Del Toro Moon, Owl Hollow Press). What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned that would be important for a new writer?

Darby: When you are finished with your first book, write another one and another and another. Repeat until you die.

Kathie: Your YA debut novel, Griffin Rising (Copper Square Studios, 2014 re-release) has been optioned for film. How did this exciting step come about?

Darby: A local teen residency had used my series as part of their reading program. They invited me to come spend a morning with the students. In the audience was Geoff Stults, a TV/movie actor from California. His mom was one of the administrators of the residency, and he was in town visiting. He and producer, Carmella Casinelli (Bonne Aire Productions) called me a few weeks later and offered to option the series. Carmella is currently pitching the books to various studios. This is a long process and it may take years or nothing at all may come of it. That’s okay – it’s just fun to be in the game.
  
Kathie: Do you have a favorite among your publications? Why?

Darby: Del Toro Moon. And, no, not because it’s my latest book, but because it’s the book of my heart.

All about Writing:

Kathie: Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? If yes, what are they? What do you do to insure you meet these goals?

Darby: I try to write every day, even if it’s only a few thousand words, a couple of pages, or even just scene, plodding along like a mule. I treat my writing career as a business, and in business, you have to produce. Better to write badly than to write nothing at all. You can fix bad writing; you cannot fix a blank page.

Kathie: With all your successful publications, I am sure you also wade through the rejections. Do you have any fun ways you deal with rejection (i.e. wallpaper closets with the rejects)? Do rejections help you be a better writer? If so, how?

Darby: Honestly, rejections don’t bother me all that much because I know it is part of the journey. If I have a strong manuscript, then it’s simply a number’s game. This industry is incredibly subjective, so keep querying.  

Kathie: Rejection letters are one end of the spectrum in writing, the other end could be called success. What does success mean to you? Does success scare you or motivate you?

Darby: Success means I am always improving. I owe that to the children and teens who pick up my books, and hopefully, enjoy them enough to read other books, not just mine. Because children and teens who read become adults who think and feel. Also, over the past three years, I’ve focused on creating stories with diverse characters. Like so many middle grade and YA authors, this is something I’m passionate about—that books are both “mirrors and windows.” That’s why I’m so excited about Del Toro Moon.


Writing Conferences and Reading:

Kathie: Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of all writer’s growth. What have been a few of your favorite experiences?

Darby: Critique groups are not my thing. When I first started, I had a beta reader whom I trusted, and she was amazing, but I outgrew her. I believe art is not created by committee, and writers need to move to a place where they can self-critique. That said, I enjoy workshops and writer conferences, and try to attend them when possible. I always pick up useful tools, but more importantly, it’s a lovely chance to spend time with my tribe.

Kathie: Do you have any "self-help for writers" books that you use regularly? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.

Darby: Well, Stephen King’s On Writing is my favorite. Actually, it’s the only one I’ve read.

Kathie: Does your reading influence your writing? How?

Darby: I call it Karchut University. I like to learn a new skill by examining how others do it. Centuries ago, painters and sculptors would learn their craft by copying the masters in museums. I do the same thing by reading favorite authors and figuring out how they solve various problems. I read all the time; sometimes I read to learn and sometimes I read for pleasure. When I visit schools, I tell the students that when I was growing up, I devoured books, gorging myself on the written word, until one day, I threw up my own book. There’s a famous quote from Pam Allyn: “Reading is like breathing in; writing is like breathing out.”

Kathie: If you met someone who was thinking about starting to write, what advice would you give them?

Darby: Read a billion books in the genre you wish to write. Then, write. Nothing will teach you about writing a book more than writing a book.

Thank you, Kathie, for talking with me about books and writing, and for asking such great questions. Writery folks are the best folks. People, if you have questions, fire away.



Social media pages

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4558016.Darby_Karchut

Are you a member of Pikes Peak Writers and interested in being interviewed? Contact Kathie Scrimgeour at kjscrimwriter@gmail.com 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.” ~ David Schlosser
Source: Google 

David B. Schlosser is an award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer and an award-winning editor.

Schlosser makes his living as a writer, editor, publisher, and strategic communications advisor who emphasizes the power of narrative to increase the impact of all forms of communication. He has taught public relations and writing at the university level and at workshops around the country, including the American Creativity Association's 2009 international conference.


This week on Writing from the Peak:


July 10             Meet the Member – Darby Karchut


July 12             Jason Evans Historical Column


July 14             Sweet Success Celebrates Maria Kelson


Friday, July 7, 2017

Pikes Peak Writers July Events

Write Drunk, Edit Sober – July 12

Second Wednesday of every month
6:30 PM until approximately 9:00 PM
Bar K
124 E Costilla St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Please join Deb Courtney for Write Drunk*, Edit Sober on the second Wednesday of every month. We start at 6:30 PM will run until approximately 9 PM. It is located in the lower level of Bar K in Downtown Colorado Springs.
The basic format is improv writing followed by discussion of critical techniques useful in unpacking improv responses in order to further develop them.
Bar K is located on Costilla, between Tejon and Nevada.
This event is no host, which means Pikes Peak Writers will not be providing the drinks. Alcohol/soft drinks are available for purchase. There is no food service; owners have graciously agreed to allow outside food/snacks. Please be courteous and leave no messes.
This event is only open to writers who are at least 21 years old.
Hope to see you there.


* Pikes Peak Writers does not endorse or approve of drinking to excess. Please, if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drink responsibly.

July Write Brain – Diversity in YA Literature - July 18

Who: Khadija Grant
When: July 18, 2017 – 6:15-8:15pm – Please note the new starting time.
Where: Venue@21c (upper floor, to the right if coming in the upper entrance) of Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80920
More Information:  Writing a diverse character into a story can be tricky, especially if the writer is unfamiliar with the culture. However, there are a number of ways to become skilled at writing from another cultures point of view, painting vivid settings, and touching on issues young adults from all cultures must battle, even if you lack experience in the area.
This presentation will cover:
  • Tips on how to write realistic and diverse characters, settings and storylines you many have not experienced.
  • How to avoid stereotypes and addressing culture sensitive issues.
  • My experience with writing diverse characters in Young Adult Fiction and some of the challenges I have overcome, including working with disadvantaged youth both online and offline and how I use it to write compelling stories.
About the Presenter:  Khadija Grant was born in Cleveland, Ohio and is the proud mother of three beautiful little girls. She has a passion for transforming social issues into raw, yet inspirational stories and enjoys giving back to the youth. Her first book, ‘The Influenced’ was featured and highly regarded by the community of Wattpad. Her second book, ‘You Can Start One Too’ was also featured this year at Grant Elementary’s 1,000 Night of Stars. She is a recent graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak and is an ambassador for El Pomar’s College and Readiness Success Program. Her mission is to inspire and empower the youth to become the best they can be, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. She is currently working on the sequel to ‘The Influenced’ as well as ‘The Day and Night Contest’ to inspire children to follow their passion.


FREE Writers’ Night – July 24

Location: Kawa Coffee
Address: 2427 N Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Fourth Monday of every month
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Join fellow writers for PPW Night on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.
Kawa Coffee stays open for our gathering when they would normally be closed. We understand if you can’t afford a coffee or a snack, but please don’t bring outside food and drink into the coffee shop. Thank you for your understanding.
The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books!
If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Damon Smithwick, or call him on his cell phone at 719-464-5336.
Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30.  These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
See you soon!




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Number One Problem Writers Face

By: Deb McLeod

This past year has been one of experimentation for me. I’ve started projects, shelved projects, or put them off until later. I’ve finished four novel drafts, and a few half-drafts. I designed and delivered a class on revision. And, I spent the past year working with marketing experts to determine if and how to bring my coaching business online. It’s been quite a year. 

Now I’m beginning to look at what was accomplished, what was not, and what continues to baffle me.

The Writer's #1 Problem
Working with the marketing experts has been particularly intriguing. One of the key ingredients necessary when you’re working on marketing your business is to discover what the #1 problem your clients have. Of course, if you can provide an answer to that #1 problem, well, you’re golden.

Even if potential clients don’t know fixing the #1 problem is what they need, the clients who need to find you will find you because you’ve articulated their biggest problem. And of course, when you provide a solution, well, it’s a win-win.

I’ve been coaching for more than seventeen years so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what a writer’s #1 problem might be. Over the years, I would uncover a problem, either in my client’s work, or in my own. It might be craft, it might be process, it might be accountability. Then I would design a class, design a way to be accountable, or document my process so I could teach it. All would be well for my clients for a bit until another problem surfaced. 

I never could get to the bottom of the problem pile though. What I offered helped, but it wasn’t the fix. 

For a long time I thought accountability would be the fix. I thought the problem was a lack of communal drive to get the work done. Creative competition is a great driving force. Creative support will get work done like nothing else. But after my year-long experiment hosting an accountability membership site, I can see that accountability is a surface portion of the real problem. That under accountability lies a bigger issue. 

After much thought, lots of questions, and comparing notes with other coaches and writing teachers, I now know what I feel like I knew all along. So simple to recognize when you’re looking at it the right way. 

The #1 problem writers face is a lack of inspiration. 




I want to say – well, duh!

But it feels great to be able to put that into words. And it feels strange too. You see, I never really thought I suffered from a lack of inspiration. My suffering always centered around time. Around too much life to live to take time out to write. Then there was a lack of knowledge about craft. My ideas were bigger than I knew how to write. Then there was lack of process. I had no clue for a long time how you got from the beginning to the end of writing a story. 

But I always wanted to write. I always saw myself writing. I always, always knew I would find a way. And I squirreled away time to write. I got up in the middle of the night. I wrote on my commute to work by dictating into a tape player. I wrote at lunch when I had to work and that kept me "cubically" sane. 

I was always inspired to write. Wasn’t I? 


Or were the issues that kept me from committing to writing in a real way (money, job, kid) manufactured by me because I was inspired to dabble? Not inspired to write? 

I’ll never know the answer to that because I’m inspired now and I will never go back. Life simply isn’t in Technicolor when I don’t write. 

The #1 Solution
So early in my marketing investigations, I never really considered that a lack of inspiration would be the #1 problem writer’s face. But what I do know is that it will continue to be a problem until writers find a way to make their writing a practice. Not a habit. A practice that they have to do to make their world feel right. 

By the way, a writing practice can be created. But the million dollar question is: can it be taught? How do you inspire someone to come along on the transformational journey that is a writing practice?  

I do not have the answer.  


Pom Pom Girl
At times my husband, John, calls me the Pom Pom Girl, or says your pom poms are showing again. Aside from the obvious jokes about that, what he means is that I’ve spent a lot of time on the sidelines of my family (and my clients), cheering everyone on. I’m the one who knows they can do it. I’m the one who sits with them until we find a solution. I’m the one ready with the smile, with the words of encouragement. I love pooling resources and brainstorming and finding a way, no matter what the issue is. I’m the Pom Pom Girl and life is great!

Until I’m not, because a more thankless job could not possibly be found, right??? And where’s the Pom Pom Girl for me??? Well, my clients have been my Pom Pom Girls. Over the years sharing success, sharing dreams, sharing solutions and doing it together has been what’s inspired me. 

And I’ve crossed a line that became very evident not long ago. Writing for me is not a habit. It’s a practice. 

Here’s how I can tell
I used to do vacations differently. In the old days, vacation for me meant bringing my writing because that was the treat I got to do when I stepped out of my day-to-day life. I have so many journal entries of short stories written as we drove in the car or flew toward the beach. I would get so many ideas when I was on vacation. I have pages of observations about where we were and the people we met. Invaluable details about place. 

But not long ago we went to San Diego. We were at a wonderful hotel on the water for a full seven days. John was in a conference every day from early till late. I planned to get a ton of writing done on my vacation. I brought the supplies. I had the time. I found the place(s) to write. I found the coffee. I had the sun. 

It was the hardest writing I’ve ever done. Because I WAS ON VACATION! Writing had become the day-to-day and vacation-me wanted a break. What a fantastic turnaround!



So now, when I go on vacation, I bring my work, but not my expectations. I’ve earned the vacation from the writing just like anyone who takes a vacation from their job. Though I still bring it and I still work most every day. But not as hard and not as fiercely as I used to when writing was still a “treat.” 

I’m on the other side of that. And I’d love to know how to help other writers get on the other side of their writing too. But that takes me back to the question of whether or not you can inspire someone to take the writing journey.

After much thinking, what I’ve discovered is that the solution to prodding writers to exercise their voice is not a-one-size-fits-all solution. Writers need different things to inspire themselves so they will find a place for their work in their day-to-day world. They need different things depending upon where they are in their project. They need different solutions depending upon where they are in their life and how writing fits into it and whether their families are supportive, tolerant, or outright scornful. Everyone needs a different solution.

So I don’t have any answers, but at least now I know where the focus needs to be for each and every writer. In order to transform your world from where it is to a writing world, the answer is to discover, develop, and honor what inspires you.

So I’m asking. Really. Spend some time with yourself and see if you can figure out what inspires you. Ask yourself these questions:

  
When you’re writing, and I don’t mean slogging to a deadline, or earning your green check mark on my accountability site, what is it that gets you to step out of your day-to-day life to write? 
  • Is it the story you’re working on that you’re excited about? If it is, when you’re excited about your story, try to say when in the project you typically get excited. At the beginning? Or further in when the story starts to come together and all you have to do is write it? Does revision inspire you? (NOT!)
  • Is it when you learn a new piece of craft and try it?
  • Is it after you’ve attended one of my Spilling Ink! Classes and learned all the ways the scene you thought was flat actually contains your own brand of brilliance?
  • Is it when you go on vacation? 
When your life is said and done if you knew what inspired you and you kept that in the forefront of your world... seems like that would be the difference in whether you made the transformation or you did not.

I’m always here to help if you need me – my pom poms are at the ready. 

But, really, inspiration? That one’s on you. 



About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fourteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, see www.debmcleod.com.