Tuesday Tip

Writers Conferences and Workshops and What to Expect

I have attended several different writers’ conferences over the years. Everything from a Regional Conference for RWA to Love is Murder for mysteries and a National RWA conference in Anaheim. I have seen some very good conferences come and go, like Mayhem in the Midlands – a mystery conference held in Omaha, NE every year that folded last year.  There was another conference in Kansas that was strictly for the cozy mystery genre that I kept saying I wanted to attend.  It too is gone.

If you are a serious writer, there are several reasons that you should think about attending:

  • Workshops to learn craft.
  • Network – get to know others in the industry.
  • Chance to meet an agent or an editor and pitch your story.
  • Meet authors – learn the ropes from someone who knows what they are doing.
  • Get out of your little circle to see what the real world of writing is all about.
  • Support others in the industry.
  • Keep the conferences alive.

I am unable to attend a big conference this year but plan to attend a workshop in Minnesota in September. I have banned myself from anything larger until I complete my current project. Just the anticipation of attending is a motivation for me to get more words down on the paper.

I have several friends who got their break by pitching to an agent or publisher at a conference so I know how valuable they are. I met one of my critique partners, Shirley Damsgaard, at Mayhem in the Midlands several years ago. She had just sold her first book and we had lunch together. I was so impressed by her marketing plan for that first year, that I remembered her. Months later, heard her do a radio interview and discovered she was talking to a reader’s group the same night my writer’s group met at the local Borders. I dragged my group over to hear her and then she had something to eat with us afterwards. She remembered me from the conference and we have been friends since.

Conferences are fun, plan to attend one. Maybe I will see you at one some day.


M is for Motivation

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

Motivation is what makes you want to do something. If you write, it’s a longing that can only be expressed in words.  If I ignore it, I tend to get grumpy.   I know when I’ve been away from words too long. They call to me. It’s like they build up inside and eventually I have to spill some out.

Reading feeds my motivation. Sometimes because the words are so right, but sometimes even if they aren’t it can motivate me to do better.

Sometimes when I am working on a new project just planning the story and developing characters can pull me into the project motivating me to complete it. The story can lure me into spending more time with it. Those are the nights when I come home from work and wish all I had to do was grab a peanut butter sandwich and sit down in front of the computer and spend the evening with my fictional world.

A goal can help feed your motivation. It’s an end, something to aim for, a reason to continue. But don’t ignore the journey. Getting into the zone can motivate too. It’s intoxicating to reach that point where you are focused only on your work and time goes by without your noticing it.

What motivates you to write? What keeps you going?

May you write what you’ve been wanting to read, this week.


L is for Listen

Dialogue adds another depth to storytelling but it can be tricky. It not only needs to sound authentic but each character needs to have an individual voice.  Pay attention to those around you and make watching television and movies an exercise in listening to those speech patterns you can use in your book.

A fifteen year old rapper is not going to sound the same as a retired 70 year old English teacher, or a captain of a shrimping boat in Louisiana, or a farmer in the Midwest, or a Valley girl. Think about location as well as time frame.

Using the proper slang can make or break a character. When it comes to dialect though, a little goes a long way. If you ever tried to read the comic strip ‘Lil’ Abner’, you know what I mean.

Al Capp's Li'l Abner # 85
Al Capp’s Li’l Abner # 85 (Photo credit: Felix_Nine)

Listen to the dialogue as you write. As you edit, take time to read what you’ve written aloud. You will catch not only errors in dialogue but common errors in your writing, as well. There is something about hearing it out loud that makes the mistake obvious.

Have some fun with the characters and listen to your words each step of the way.

Have a great week writing.


House of Many Shadows – Book Review

I recently suggested this author, Barbara Michaels, to a writer friend. I have to confess, I read several books by this author years ago and thought I’d read all of them. I was wrong. I discovered a few more that I must have missed and this is one of them.

House of Many Shadows is about Meg Rittenhouse, a young woman who was hurt in an accident and has been experiencing hallucinations. Her doctor said her mind was playing tricks on her. A wealthy relative offers to let Meg move into one of many homes she owns to recuperate. The home, a large mansion in New England, comes with a caretaker, Andy Brenner, whose family once owned the home. Meg soon discovers that Andy has his own issues and she suspects her cousin has allowed him to stay to recover also. A romance begins to blossom while they discover that the hallucinations that start up again are shared. Meg is relieved to know that they are not further evidence of her mental health but isn’t sure how to deal with the fact that the home may be haunted.

The two work together to dig into the homes history and discover who in the netherworld is trying to get their attention and why.  They also find themselves the target of the previous renter; a dangerous artist who is an alcoholic and harasses them. The home is stock full of antiques and the former tenant attempts to steal them.  He and his wife are dangerous and Meg and Andy are never sure if the ghostly activity is real or the tenant trying to scare them.

All in all it was an enjoyable read. I would recommend it for anyone who likes cozy mysteries with a little paranormal.

Have a great week reading.


WIP Wednesday

With this post, I will try to keep you updated on how I am doing with my project. I won’t call it a novel until I am further along and I won’t talk about the story because I don’t want jinx myself by sharing too much too soon.

What I will tell you about is the stage I am in with the project. I have written a few scenes and again felt like I was floundering. My critic came to visit and stayed. I started doubting myself again.

I want to get the first draft done before the end of September. I am going to a writer’s workshop in Minnesota and I felt it would give me a good date to aim for.

I have been working on plotting and outlining and reading everything that I could get my hands on about the subject. I found several books online that have helped.  I have been reading so much about outlining, that I volunteered to present a workshop on the subject this past Saturday at my CIFW (Central Iowa Fiction Writers – a local chapter of Romance Writers of America).

The workshop went well. I didn’t do anything embarrassing, at least; I had read so much about the subject I felt comfortable talking about it. The best compliment came from one of our published authors, the Sparkle half of Sparkle Abbey. She said I’d helped her figure out something with the current story she was writing.  The workshop was hands on and those present seemed to get absorbed in their work, so I was happy.

My goal this week is to complete my outline and actually start writing and keep writing.  When I have completed the outline, I will calculate the number of words per day I will need to do by the end of September and share the number of words written each week with this weekly post.

Your assignment is to help keep me motivated and moving forward.  As you can see, I am planning to post more often, not daily but several times a week. Writing here seems to make me want to work on my wip, so I will do what I need to do to get it finished. I enjoy blogging and it makes me feel a little more connected to the writing community.

If anyone would like to share their writing methods feel free to chime in. How much do you prepare before you actually start writing?    How do you stay motivated every day? Do you have a special time of day that you write and is it consistent? How is your writing going?

Until next time,


Tuesday Tip

It is easy to take a few days off and then find it difficult to get back into your story. What works for me is my book bible. It’s a binder where I keep everything about the story. You can set it up anyway that works for you. I have a section for Characters, with sketches that include their goal, motivation, and conflict. I also have a section for Setting, Plot ideas that include a scene list or outline, research, and the current draft. If I get pulled out of the story, this is my lifeline.

I also keep a book journal where I write about my story and where it is going. I write down information pertinent to the next day’s writing. It is all about the story but it is a place for me to work out details and ideas. I don’t use everything I write down, but it is there if I need it.

I keep a notebook handy for ideas on me all the time but it is not the book journal. My book journal is kept at home.

What are some of the ways that you keep yourself involved in your story?

Hope you have a week of no distractions.


Monday Motivation

This is just for fun.  I like to use prompts sometimes to get going. I write a scene jumping into the story with the prompt.

Driving down the road you come upon a car accident and you recognize the vehicle…

What did you come up with?

Happy writing.


K is for Kill Your Darlings

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery.

If you revise with an editor’s eye, you will see those lines you think are gold but for some reason don’t work within the story. You tell yourself, but it’s so cool. Someone needs to see this.  I am so clever. You think it’s the best thing you’ve ever written.

That’s when your critique group starts avoiding looking you in the eye. They want to tell you the truth but they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Instead of enhancing your story, they want to tell you that it sticks out like a pimple on prom night. If you have written for a while, deep down you probably already know it. Now is when you have to be strong. Don’t throw it away; keep it in a file for future use. Who knows, it might spark a new story idea.

Editing and revising is your chance to make it better. If it doesn’t work, take it out. Like a writer friend once told me, it’s only words. You have plenty more where those came from.

Have a great week writing and Sparkle Abbey, have a great week in Anaheim.


Sarah’s Key – a Book Review

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I discovered this book when someone recommended the movie. Can’t remember who it was but they said it was a very good movie. I have yet to watch it but I did read the book. Figured if the movie was good the book would be good also.

This is a fictional story written around an actual event. It bounces back and forth from present day Paris to Paris, July 1942. The present story is told by Julie, an American woman who has lived most of her life in France and is married to a Frenchman. They have a young daughter. Her husband’s grandmother has moved from an apartment to assisted living and Bertrand, the husband is remodeling the apartment for him, Julie, and their daughter Zoe.  Julie introduces the reader to all of her friends, including a gay couple she shared an apartment with before she was married. All of the characters are well developed and interesting. It becomes clear, early on, that she feels that she has never been accepted by her husband’s family.  No matter what she does, she is just an American.

Every other chapter moves back to the past and starts with that infamous day in July in 1942. That night, the French Police gathered all of the Jews and took them to several different camps to be processed before going on to Auschwitz. It is the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl and her family. The night of the raid that dragged them from their home, Sarah committed an innocent act that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

The present day Julie is a journalist who is assigned to write an article about Vel’ d’Hiv, the night the Jews were gathered. She discovers clues about this piece of French history that most people would rather ignore and forget. The mystery unfolds as she discovers connections between the past and a family secret. Her husband discourages her but she finds an ally in her father-in-law who supports her efforts and eventually acknowledges his appreciation for answers to questions that relieved a burden of guilt his family had locked away.

The author weaves the two stories together in a way that makes it difficult to put down, until the very end. I felt that the story ended a few chapters before the author actually stopped writing. I couldn’t wait to find out the secret but once that was revealed, the author continued to tell me more than I needed to know about Julie. I did need to know the very ending but some of the stuff between felt tacked on and not so well thought out as the rest of the book. Even with the less than perfect ending, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the holocaust and man’s ability to survive after unthinkable horror.  I will look for more from this author.

I am currently reading ‘The House of Many Shadows’ by Barbara Michaels. I recently recommended this author to a friend and decided to pick up a few more that I had missed reading. Love the gothic mystery feel and her use of paranormal.

As far as non-fiction, I have been reading several books on outlining and will share some information from them in future posts.

Hope your writing week is productive and enjoy a good book.


J is for Juggling

“I have spent so long erecting partitions around the part of me that writes – learning how to close the door on it when ordinary life intervenes, how to close the door on ordinary life when it’s time to start writing again. –that I’m not sure I could fit the two parts of me back together now.” – Anne Tyler

This is probably the most difficult part of my life. I feel the yearning to write when I am at work and there is no way because my job takes total concentration. Because of that total concentration all day, I often find myself coming home at night without the energy to write, even though I feel that need.

Ever since I took a Franklin Planner class while working for a past employer, I believe that planning is the key. If I schedule my writing as an appointment, I will do it. By writing it down, I also have something to look forward to at the end of the day, or at the beginning.  This system also helps you set both short and long term goals. If you haven’t ever tried this system, you can check it out online, or if you are lucky enough to have a store in your area, stop in and look around. The system contains all you need to set it up and walk you through the process.

It is the power of the word. If I write it down, I make it a priority.

How do you juggle the important things in your life?

May you make all of your writing appointments this week.


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