It’s Still a Writer’s Journey

My first blog post was January 31, 2012. The blog was titled, A Writer’s Journey. It was about why I started a blog, and this is part of what I said:

“Over the years I’ve attended writer’s conferences, workshops and countless author readings. I’ve read a library of books and many blogs on the art and craft of writing. Some of the most insightful and helpful ideas about writing have come to me through the generosity of others who shared what they picked up along the way.

I started this blog to continue that tradition and to cast my net in hopes that writers attracted to this site would find something useful that might help with their own journeys.”

I’ve recently published my first book—a good time to take stock of what I now want the blog to be about. It’s still about my journey, and I’m writing book two in the series, but my focus has grown to include the business of self-publishing and promotion. Except the word “business” stopped me in my tracks and made my journey more like an obstacle course of frustration and anxiety.

Yes, it’s a business, I’ve always understood that, but to me, it has to be about the joy of connecting with readers the same way writing is about the joy of writing. And one thing that brings me joy is writing about subjects that help others, either in writing, publishing or promoting.


In an earlier post, I promised tips on publishing and promoting as I navigated through the process:

My best tip is to attend writers’ conferences whenever possible. I just returned from Left Coast Crime in Monterey, and basked in the spirit of generosity that permeated every interaction with organizers, authors and readers. That trumped everything.

Jane Friedman’s blog, The E-book Market + Big Five Survival, about what’s happening in the publishing world is a must read. The blog doesn’t have answers; it’s all about the questions.

I hope you’ll stop by again. As before, this blog will also include my short poetic pieces from my writing group and other works in progress.

Storyboarding Ideas for NaNo

It’s day thirteen of the NaNoWriMo challenge. My head has been down and fingers flying over the keyboard, and now it’s time to step back and plan ahead.

My characters, setting and first act are in place, I know how it’s going to end and most of the plot elements, but in order to tell my story in a way that will engage my readers and keep them guessing but not confused or bored, I need a guideline.

I prefer a visual roadmap so outlining is not for me. In the past, I’ve used the Mary Carroll Moore W and liked its simplicity and the help it offers with ascending and descending action.

Last March I attended Alexandra Sokoloff’s workshop at Left Coast Crime and immediately bought her book, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. The grid is more complex but Sokoloff offers lots of good tips and advice.

Most recently, I read a blog post by an author in my Sisters in Crime chapter, who draws the scenes on her storyboard. I’m not an illustrator, but I’m going to try using a combination of Sokoloff’s index card/sticky note method and include drawings of key scenes.

Who says a writer can’t be creatively organized and crank out 1700 words a day? I’m always interested in hearing what works for other writers, and would love your suggestions.

Step Away from the How-to-Write Book

At the Left Coast Crime Conference, I had the good fortune to attend a self-editing workshop by a respected editor in the publishing industry. We had the option of sending in an advance chapter of our work for her to review and possibly use in the workshop. I’d submitted mine and she used it so she was familiar with my project. After the workshop, I asked if she would critique my novel. She agreed, and the process was set in motion.

However, once I crossed that threshold I panicked. The manuscript I’d worked on for two years was not ready. I galvanized into action. I attempted to re-read every how-to-write book in my vast arsenal and apply every word of advice to my novel. For example, I found a list of extraneous words to watch out for and in a frenzy rooted out all fifty listed. I eradicated so many connecting words I had to add them back in for the sentences to make sense.

I read a book on chapter arrangement and rearranged all my chapters. I read a book about point of view and almost changed my story to third person. And the voice was all wrong. Luckily, the voice of reason stopped me just in time.

I dug into those how-to-write books like my bookshelf was a tool box and tried to hammer, chisel, and knock down an already sound structure. What did I learn?

Sometimes you can try too hard.

 My manuscript was ready to go. That’s why I approached an editor to critique it. I already had it as good as I could get it. I was just afraid.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my how-to-write books. I enjoy reading them and learning from them. They teach and inspire and make me a better writer. They comfort me. They give me confidence. But the information has to be absorbed when the time is right, when I need it. Not when I tear through them like I’m pulling an all-nighter cramming for a final exam because I’m not prepared. I am prepared.

In fact, I might write a nonfiction book next:  Too Much Self-editing can be Self-defeating

Blissed Out over Books

The Left Coast Crime (LLC) writer’s conference is over. I’m back to my daily life, sitting at my laptop with my old dog wheezing on the rug next to me and my nearly toothless cat curled up on a chair. I’m surrounded by books and piles of papers that I never manage to tame. My quiet world.

Over the years, I’ve attended many conferences, symposiums, workshops and training events wearing my corporate editor/writer/communications hat. I worked hard, learned a lot, but was more than ready to return to my daily life when it was over.

Something strange happened this time.

After four intense days and evenings of workshops, panels, volunteering and socializing at LLC, I was overwhelmed, overstimulated and exhausted from navigating through 600-plus attendees. And I dreaded it ending.

I was blissed out at all those mystery writers, fans, librarians and experts in the publishing world gathered in one place—all those beginning, mid-career and seasoned writers encouraging each other, sharing how they got started and what to do and not do, what success is like, and helping us to understand all the changes happening in the industry.

A love fest

It was a gathering of people who love books. They love books so much they feel compelled to write them. It was about fans who love books so much they want to celebrate their favorite authors and learn about new ones. Why would anyone want that to end?

Writing a Pitch is a Bi***

I recently wrote about the upcoming Left Coast Crime conference in Sacramento. I’m participating in a workshop on story structure. The workshop leader, author Alexandra Sokoloff, asked us to send the premise of our mystery before Thursday.

Easy enough.

Write a one-sentence summary of a 300-page novel that hooks the reader. We’ve all seen them on book jackets, New York Times best-seller lists and movie blurbs.

I sought out some fresh examples and set out to write it. The form has many names: hook, logline, premise or pitch.  Some are no more than 15 words. Some don’t use character names. My writing group said they liked it better with the name of my protagonist.

It was hard.

Four days later, I finally had it down to two sentences and more than 45 words. Here’s the result of my effort.

Focused on Murder
A Spirit Lake Mystery

Britt Johansson is a star newspaper photographer whose reckless behavior nearly ended her career. She gets a chance to redeem herself when she’s working in Northern Minnesota and stumbles across an international crime ring that ultimately pits her and her brother against a deranged killer determined to destroy them.

If you like it, please hit the Like button. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.