When It’s Time to Dig Deeper

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog, author Jan O’Hara shared the following advice:

When we put a story out in the world, we are competing for attention with intrinsically compulsive media in a boundless landscape of fiction.

We are also competing with our own readers’ sophisticated imaginations. Readers understand story structure, if only at an intuitive level. They perceive the value of high stakes. They thirst for deep themes. And we must respect their skills and strive to be at our best, else our story will be overlooked for superior fan art.

Whether in outlining or in revision, at some point we must ask ourselves the following:

Do our characters want something meaningful?

On the path to their goals, do they face true opposition?

Will there be significant consequences if they fail?

If we can’t honestly say yes to the above, it’s time to dig deeper, using whatever tools best speak to our inner craftsperson, whether that means books or conferences, critique partners or beta readers, editors and agents—or all the above.

This is what it means to respect our audience. This is what it means to grow our skills. This is where our gratifying challenge lies—if we’ll but accept it.

Source: Writer Unboxed

In Praise of Obsession

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Author Deanna Cabinian shares a unique perspective in a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Sometime in 2007 I got it in my head that I wanted to run a 5K. I had never done well in fitness testing in school. In fact, I often finished last in the mile run challenge. I once ran a 14-minute mile. For most people, that’s walking. I was not fast, even though I played team sports. But a 5K goal seemed achievable. Most of my family and friends thought I was nuts. Why would I want to run 3.1 miles? And time it? To this day, I have no idea. But I became obsessed with this goal.

I read Runner’s World. I found a plan called 5 weeks to your first 5K. I followed the plan, 90% of the time. I found a running buddy. And it worked. I ran the 5K and didn’t finish last. I ran several more after that. At my fitness peak, I even completed a half-marathon, a distance I have no desire to run again.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s similar to our journeys as writers. I believe every writer is talented but certainly there are degrees of talent. The one thing that sets writers apart from the rest of the population who aspire to write a book, essay, magazine piece, etc. is that they sit down and do it. The words might be garbage on the first draft, but they just go for it. Time and time again.

If writing is important to you, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. It matters how interested you are, how often you throw words against the page. Handwritten, typed, or otherwise.

It matters how much you persevere, even when you don’t feel like writing a thing.

It matters if you put words to paper, even if it’s just 5 words a day or 3 words a year.

You are a writer because you show up. Showing up is the action part of the obsession. Over time that obsession will manifest itself into talent.

It’s why I’ve sent hundreds of query letters. (I eventually got an agent).

It’s why I’m writing even though I don’t necessarily feel like it. (I’m recovering from a breakthrough case of Covid)

So go ahead. Obsess sometimes. I think a little obsession is healthy for all of us. Sometimes it even improves your cardiovascular fitness.

Source: Writer Unboxed Blog

Deciding to Follow-Through

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

On Fridays, I receive Hope Clark’s newsletter, Funds for Writers. Here’s a thought-provoking essay from a recent email:

Steven Pressfield (the author of The War of Art) speaks about the difficulty of pushing through and reaching THE END of whatever you are writing. It could be a poetry chapbook. It could be a memoir. It could be fiction of any genre or any word count. It could be a how-to on cabinetmaking or a children’s picture book. A lot of writers struggle with perfecting an effort and reaching THE END.

Why? Because that is the point where you let others read it . . . and get feedback. That is when you submit for publication . . . and get feedback. The feedback is the thrill and the agony of writing, and sometimes we feel safer just saying we’re still writing it, because that is the world in which we feel safest.

What are we afraid of?

-Being told it’s just okay. Or worse, that it’s bad, but frankly, once we hear it’s okay the meaning is the same.

-Prematurely releasing your darling in the world. But who’s to say when it’s premature?

-Learning after all that time invested that we really do not know what we are doing. It’s called being a phony.

Look across social media. When an author talks about typing THE END, or submitting to the publisher, or having a release date, a lot of the public admire first and foremost the fact that the author got to that point. You think it. I think it. Everyone thinks it.

There’s a reason that authors continually get asked the questions: “What is your work regimen?” and “Where do you get your ideas?” Successful freelancers get asked similar questions. The basic underlying question is “How do you make it all the way through . . . then do it again?”

It’s magic. It’s a genetic gift. It’s a unique upbringing.

No, it’s deciding to follow-through. And nothing on this earth gets in your way in doing this but you.

Sign up to receive Hope Clark’s newsletter here.

When the Writing Well Runs Dry

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent blog post, bestselling author Sarah McCoy shared the following suggestions for filling our writing wells:

Books. It is our marrow. I’ll be honest, I read very little fiction during my dry phase. I was drawn instead to nonfiction: famous persons autobiographies, biographies, science-based books even. I read new releases and books published sixty years ago. I gobbled celebrity tell-alls, chef memoirs, and everything related to British aristocracy. I highly recommend going old-school: head to your local library and bring home a haul of books. The beauty with libraries is that you don’t have to empty your wallet and you don’t have to read them all. If one topic doesn’t stir the well waters, close it, and move on to the next. The possibilities are endless.

Docufilms. One of my hidden passions. I watch at least one documentary a week. They are the precursor to today’s reality TV craze and vastly better produced, in my humble opinion. I’m a proud donor of PBS and a faithful subscriber to the TCM channel. These are my top two screen resources for historical films. I don’t adhere to a particular genre. I watch a forensic docuseries with as much gobsmacked interest as a docufilm about Oklahoman cattle farmers. Rags-to-riches stories pertaining to all fields are a particular penchant of mine.

Travel. Now that quarantine sanctions have lifted and we’re all safely vaccinating, the world feels shiny new and welcoming again. Simply getting outside of my comfort zones does massive good for the imagination! It allows me to be an anonymous observer—a third-person narrator of a new cultural experience. After all, isn’t writing simply a means of transporting readers to places, times, ideas, and people we want them to understand alongside us?

People. Be a listener. We’ve come through years of masking, self-isolating, and maintaining a six-foot distance. It feels wonderful to be close to people again. I have renewed giddiness standing in line at the coffee shop listening to the conversation behind me. So perk up those ears. Be curious. Ask questions. If you know someone who is an expert on a topic, get in touch! Be willing to talk on the phone, schedule a video call, or walk over to meet them. More often than not, an idea will come through a voice, a character, or a person sharing his/her untold story… because it needs telling.

Read the rest of the post here.

Finish It

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig offers this timely advice in his book, Damn Fine Story:

Always finish it.

No matter how unsure you are. No matter how unsteady it makes you feel.

The only way out is through.

Finishing the work teaches you how to finish the work. An ending is one of the most important parts of a story, and you only learn to write them by writing from the start to the finish.

Bonus: Finishing what you begin feels good. It gives you a little dopamine release. It offers a tiny widdle brain tickle.

If you have problems finishing a big story, first try to finish a smaller one. Learn the pattern. Build a ladder out of what you finish.

Don’t worry about failing. We all fail. The way you lose is by quitting.

Source: Damn Fine Story, p. 226.

Virtual Book Tour: The Shoe Diaries

I’m happy to welcome author Darby Baham. Today, Darby shares writing advice and her debut novel, The Shoe Diaries.

Advice for Writers/Writing Tips

It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. — Paul Gallico

I remember hearing this quote about what it takes to be a writer long before I ever knew who said it or fully understood what it meant. At the time, I probably thought, man that sounds hard, but it’s only for people writing memoirs or heavy, deep content. However, in the decade plus that it took me to write The Shoe Diaries, I have learned that no, this is good writing advice for anything you write. Good writing, meaningful writing, requires that you dig deep and write about things that make you feel vulnerable at times, because that’s what other people connect to.

Here are five other tips I’ve learned along the way:

*You have to love it! Writing is a labor of love. You can be the most skilled and talented writer, but you will inevitably go through the same cycle we all do: loving and hating what you wrote until it’s done, and then loving and hating it while you’re editing, and loving and hating it when it’s being published. It’s not an easy process, but if you love it, if writing is in your bones, every bit of it is worth it.

*You have to make the time for it. If you have a deadline, you don’t always have the luxury of just writing when you feel in the mood to do it. There will be times where you have to set aside designated time to write so that it gets done! I won’t say that you have to write every day, because maybe that doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t work for me. But ask yourself, “What is a schedule that pushes me, but doesn’t mentally drain me?” When you have the answer to that question, it will make things a lot easier. Some people like setting aside an hour a day to write, others enjoy spending one full day a week where they write for hours and hours. It’s a process of trial and error. Figure out what works for you, and then commit to that time.

*Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. I spent years trying to make the first three chapters perfect because someone somewhere had told me that those were the most important chapters to getting you an agent. And it’s not that they were wrong, but I took that and didn’t make it past chapter 3 for years. So here’s what I learned: it’s not going to be perfect at first, you just need to get something on the paper. Don’t get stuck in the rut of editing while you write, because you’ll likely end up frustrated and won’t write as much as you were probably hoping to. If you’re holding onto “it has to be perfect” you’ll never get it done.

*Get okay with rejection. No one likes to be rejected, but the reality is you will likely get far more nos than yeses on this journey to becoming an author. One of the hardest things I dealt with was hearing from an editor a while back just how bad my version of The Shoe Diaries was at the time. It hurt. A lot. But he helped me, too, because it pushed me to dig deeper and try again. Just remember you only need one yes. Stick to that, and you’ll be golden.

*All the things you’re scared of in your real life, put them into the book. To be fair, this is my own version of the “bleeding yourself on the page” concept, but I think it’s slightly more direct. Everyone else is probably scared of those things, and that’s what they will be able to relate to. It’s the scariest thing to do, but it’s a beautiful way to create connection with your audience. People can’t connect to your book if you are guarded and holding back on things you don’t want to address, and yes that means in your romance novel too.

*Bonus: Read! Read! Read! You become a better writer by reading good writing.

Blurb

It’s never too late to put your best foot forward

From the outside, Reagan “Rae” Doucet has it all: a coveted career in Washington, DC, a tight circle of friends and a shoe closet to die for. When one of her crew falls ill, however, Rae is done playing it safe. The talented but unfulfilled writer makes a “risk list” to revamp her life. But forgiving her ex, Jake Saunders, might be one risk too many…

From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.

The Friendship Chronicles/Book 1: The Shoe Diaries

“Reminiscent of Sex and the City and the Shopaholic series in the best possible way. Her stories are a lot of fun and yet she still tugs at your heartstrings.”–Gail Chasan, Special Edition Editor

Excerpt

Love of Shoes

October 28, 2019

“It was barely 7:00 a.m. when I heard my alarm blasting the sounds of Nicki Minaj’s “Pound the Alarm.” “Not yet, Alexa.” Groggy and yearning for at least five more minutes of sleep, I stretched my arm over the length of my bed and pressed down on the snooze button with my eyes still closed. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get up, necessarily; it was just that the cocoon of my comforter in my queen-size bed felt so much better than whatever could have been waiting for me outside it. I pulled the cover over my head as an extra protection against the sun.

“Pound the alarm!”

“Agh!” I screamed out as it went off once more. “Fine, fine. I’m up now.”

The music still blaring, I finally acquiesced and rolled myself out of bed, one leg coming free from my cover cocoon, then the next, and made my way to my closet for what had become my daily routine: pick out shoes for the day, figure out the outfit that goes best with them, take a shower and then, of course, post my #shoeoftheday photo to Instagram before heading to work. Conveniently, I passed right over the red pumps that spelled disaster for me the night before. “Hmm, now what do I feel like wearing today?” I questioned, dancing to my closet and scanning all the shoes I own with my eyes, from my flats to my heels, boots to sneakers, in every color one can imagine. They were all intricately displayed on the shelves—heels facing out to show the length and style of the pump, flats facing forward to make it easier for me to see if it was a peep toe, curved toe, pointed toe, or square. “Oooh, these!” Something about my deep red, almost maroon peep-toe heels from BCBG caught my eyes, and I knew they were the ones for the day. The shoes were adorned with a silver buckle on the side of each peep toe and would go perfectly with my red-and pink floral blouse, black pencil skirt and peplum blazer to match. It was amazing how the rest of an outfit could come together for me once I picked out the shoes, and today was no exception. These might even be the ones to help me finally convince my boss to let me do the article I’d been pitching to him for months. Excited about my choices, I laid them out on my bed and hopped in the shower, continuing my best rap impressions as my playlist toggled through my favorite female rappers.

It was 9:00 a.m. when I walked into work at Washington, D.C.’s premier political news online magazine, my heels clacking on the linoleum floors they must have purchased just to make it that much easier for women to alert everyone of their comings and goings in the office. Seated at her desk already was my always-early, no-holds-barred freckle twin, and the best IT specialist in the office, Rebecca, her reddish-blond hair pulled up into a loose bun and a smile on her face the size of a kid in a candy store. “So…” she said, dragging out her first word. “Tell me about last night.”

Author Bio and Links

Darby Baham (she/her) is a debut author with Harlequin Special Edition and a New Yorker of five years who sometimes desperately misses the sprawling shoe closet she had while living in Maryland. She’s had personal blog posts appear in The Washington Post’s relationship vertical and has worked in the communications industry for more than two decades. The New Orleans, LA native is also a lover of big laughs and books that swallow you into their world. Her first book, The Shoe Diaries, debuts in 2022.

Author Website | Linktree | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

NOTE: Here is the link to subscribe to receive books specifically from Harlequin Special Editionhttps://www.readerservice.com/content/series/harlequin-special-edition/

Darby’s book will be included in the January edition.

Darby Baham’s Washington Post Bylines

I had the perfect date dress. Why did it hang in my closet unworn for more than a year? — March 2016

When it comes to relationship advice, sometimes it’s best to ignore your friends — February 2016

I’m the oldest sister in my family and I’m single. And that’s okay. — March 2016


I was afraid to say ‘I love you.’ Here’s how I found the courage. –

The Shoe Diaries Sales Links

Barnes and Noble | Books-A-Million | Harlequin | IndieBound | Google | Target

Giveaway

One randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card. Find out more here.

Follow Darby on the rest of the Goddess Fish tour here.

Virtual Book Tour: 52 Weeks of Writing

I’m happy to welcome writer and coach Mariëlle S. Smith. Today, Mariëlle shares her affirmations and latest release, 52 Weeks of Writing.

10 Affirmations to Live Your Best Creative Life

As a writing coach, I come across so many limiting beliefs about writing and being a creative person. Below, you’ll find ten affirmations that will help you live your best creative life. Most of these affirmations can also be found in my Seven Simple Spreads series, in which I combine creativity, cartomancy (the reading of cards, such as those of the tarot or oracle cards), and chakra philosophy.

1. I honour my creativity

2. It’s safe for me to create

3. I deserve the joy and pleasure of living a creative life

4. I can create whatever I want to

5. I love everything about my creative self

6. I enjoy all parts of my creative journey

7. I walk my creative path with an open heart

8. I acknowledge and celebrate all of my creative wins

9. I trust my creative purpose

10. I easily turn my creative dreams into plans

Blurb

‘A brilliant, supportive, challenging workbook, highly recommend.’ Jamie Sands

You, too, can become the writer you’ve always wanted to be!

The 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner:

• makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year long;

• invites you to dig deep through thought-provoking prompts and exercises; and

• helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be.

Two years after publishing the first volume of 52 Weeks of Writing, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the updated third volume. Similar in style but reflecting the tweaks made to her coaching practice during the pandemic, 52 Weeks of Writing Vol. III is even better equipped to help you get out of your own way and on to the path towards success.

Ready to start living your writing dream? Order your copy now.

Excerpt

WRITING PROMPT

Each writing prompt is optional. If, for whatever reason, it does not speak to you, let it be. Who knows? It might make more sense to do the prompt later in the process.

Most writers are introverts and dread the visibility that comes with success. This might not be you, but to some of us this fear is what stops us from finishing our work. Because what if people read it and want to talk to us about it? What if we’re forced to leave the privacy of our desks and go out into the world, into the spotlight, with nowhere to hide?

If this resonates with you, know you’re not alone. Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and set your timer to ten minutes. Now list all the good that could come with success.

If this is a fear you recognise all too well, keep this list close once you’ve finished it.

Purchase Links

Amazon | All Purchase Links

From the start, I knew 52 Weeks of Writing would be very different from the other craft books gracing my bookshelves. Reading about the author’s creative journey in the Introduction motivated me to implement a daily journaling habit focusing exclusively on writing. Everything from the themed quotes at the beginning of each week to the thought-provoking questions to the tracking sheets bears the imprint of a seasoned author and coach. While completing the exercises, I could easily imagine Ms. Smith at my side, encouraging me to dig deep and reveal my innermost thoughts.

Highly recommended!

Author Bio and Links

Mariëlle S. Smith is a writer, writing coach, and editor. She lives in Cyprus, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

Website | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Instagram | YouTube

Giveaway

Mariëlle S. Smith will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Mariëlle on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Why the Small Story Matters

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Chuck Wendig’s informative guide, Damn Fine Story, contains a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and excellent advice about storytelling. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:

We don’t really care about the big story. We think we do. We think we care about the Empire versus the Rebel Alliance, we think we care about Spider-Man versus the Vulture, we think we care about Buffy versus the Vampires.

But we don’t. Not really. Not deeply.

What we care about is the small story embedded in there, the small story that’s the beating heart of the larger one. We care about the characters and their personal drama. We care about their families, their loved ones, their struggles to feel normal, their attempts to do right in the face of wrong. We care about Buffy wanting to fall in love and hang out with her friends and not fail out of school. We care that the villains fighting Spider-Man are often connected to him personally, and that they reflect some aspect of his troubled journey from a geeky high school student to a city-saving mutant. We care about the friendships that form between Luke, Leia, and Han.

We care because they care.

We care because their story is our story. Our story is one of friendships and family, of love lost and jealousy made, of birth and death and everything in-between.

A big story without a small story has all the substance of a laser light show. It’s pretty. It’s dazzling. And it’s very, very empty.

Look for the little story.

Look for the story about people.

Source: Damn Fine Story, pp. 79-80.

A Radical New Challenge for Writers

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Award-winning author Julie Carrick Dalton shares a unique perspective in a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Writers are often asked ‘Why do you write?’ in interviews, Q&As, and dinner parties (when we used to go to dinner parties.) Why do I write? For me, the answer is easy. I love to write. I have a million stories in my head. I enjoy being part of the literary community. Writing makes me feel good. I want to inspire people. I want to entertain readers, make them feel something. I have plenty of answers—all of which are true—to the question ‘Why do you write?’

This summer I discovered that for me, the more relevant question is this: When should I not write?

I suspect there are plenty of writers out there who feel like me. Pandemic stress is heavy. We’re worried about our families and friends. We’re trying to be smart and safe in the middle of a global crisis, but also trying to live our lives with some semblance of normalcy. We’re trying to hit deadlines, and hoping we don’t let anyone down.

Every time we log onto social media, someone is telling us to write faster, earlier, longer, to get our butt in a chair, finish that book, sell that book, write another book.

I’m proposing a radical new challenge: Don’t write. (At least not all the time.)

Don’t put your butt in that chair. Don’t show up to your laptop every single day. Give yourself permission to not write sometimes. Who knows, maybe it will make you a better writer—or at least a more grounded one.

Source: Writer Unboxed Blog

Writer on Fire

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a timely essay from author Hope Clark’s Friday newsletter:

Writers love to write. Some want to tell stories. Some want to tell THEIR stories. Some want to reach out and spread their stories around the world. Some want either to make money or not write. Some write whether the stories sell or not. There are so many types of writers, with so many nuances of those types, that one can almost say no two writers are alike.

Find out who you are. And do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton

There’s writing. Then there’s writing with direction. Neither is wrong. However, there is something exciting about pointing your writing in a direction with a goal to reach whatever is on the horizon. In other words, a writer does have the option of taking charge of their writing instead of letting the writing do the driving. Having a map for your writing can be quite exciting.

There is nothing so empowering as to be in charge.

There is also nothing so scary as to be in charge.

Decision-making is scary, and it takes research, drive, and willpower to direct that energy. That decision-making can mean defining who you are as a writer, what you write, and where you want to be after a certain period of time.

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” Dolly Parton

Yes, the quotes are from Dolly Parton, because after all, she is a creative spirit who wisely chose how to direct her energies . . . and did well doing it. Not a bad role model.

Own yourself, own your writing, and decide how you can be happy with the results. It’s in your hands.

Source: Hope Clark