You’re Not a Real Writer Unless…

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Today I’m in the authors’ labyrinth (which is totally crazy with imaginary vampires, murderers, elves, mermaids, robots, overly gorgeous love interests, etc. popping out at every turn).

It didn’t take long after I entered the writer community to start hearing statements like “You’re Not a Real Writer unless…” followed by something all writers presumably must do to be taken seriously or succeed in this business. At first, I soaked all of that up. I needed to know how to be a real writer, so any wisdom thrown at me, I sucked up like a dog lapping a melted Popsicle off the sidewalk.

But just like that sidewalk Popsicle, I’ve come to believe those on-high pronouncements are a little tainted. Here are a few:

You’re not a real writer unless you write every single day. So tell me what other profession (besides training for the Olympics or being president of a country) must one do every single day. Do we really believe that our writing skills will atrophy in a day?

I take a Sabbath (Christian version…Sunday). I “check in with the office,” but I don’t do any big writing. And I don’t have problems getting back into my story. In fact, the little breather is good for me and for my family. Without writing every single day, I have written four book drafts and edited through two of those.

You’re not a real writer unless you must write. By this, one means that you need writing like one needs oxygen. That you can’t imagine your life without it. That if you were trapped in a cave for 30 days, you’d figure out how to rub stones together to create light and then etch a novel’s first draft on the walls with sharpened flint.

Guess what? Some writers love writing, but if they absolutely, for some unknown reason, could not do it anymore, they would manage to lead fulfilling lives doing other things. They might channel their creative energy into other pursuits. Or they might continue to make up stories for themselves or the children they tuck into bed. They prefer writing, but they could go without.

I don’t think the level of your burning desire is nearly as important as what you produce. Some writers who feel that they “can’t not write” may never finish a book. They write and write and write because they can’t imagine another existence, but they don’t produce books. Others could give it up if they had to…yet manage to write novel after novel. Of course, I do believe a strong passion to write is motivating, but more importantly, a strong commitment to write is what’s needed.

Death found an author writing his life - art
By Joel from Davis, CA, via Wikimedia Commons

You’re not a real writer, unless you’ve been published. Here’s the reality: Anyone can upload a book onto the internet; if you want, you can be published tomorrow. This is not to discount the many fabulous self-published authors who have produced wonderful books through blood, sweat, tears, and love for their story. I’m merely saying that those of us who have not yet published are no less than your third cousin who uploaded the first-draft of his memoirs onto Amazon and sold one copy to his grandmother. If he gets to say “writer,” I darn-tootin’ can too.

I suggest that what makes you a “real writer” is taking seriously the need to tell your story in the best way you can. There are both traditionally and self-published authors who do exactly that. And there are pre-published authors doing that, including yours truly. As Kristen Lamb has often asserted, remove the “aspiring” from “aspiring writer.” Writers write, so if you consistently write, you’re a writer. Move on.

ROW80 Update

1. Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. A couple of chapters done.

2. Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Edited two stories and wrote/edited a third story this round.

3. Read 10 fiction books. Read 12 books.

White CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black
Firelands by Piper Bayard
Almost a Scandal and A Breath of Scandal by Elizabeth Essex
Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Black Opal (advance read) by Catie Rhodes

4. Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Finished and typed up notes. Yes, I highly recommend this book to young adult authors.

5. Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.

6. Attend at least one RWA meeting. Attended three meetings and planning to return to my local chapter next month.

What “you’re not a writer unless” statements have you heard? How was your week?

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A Changing Paradigm & A Cyborg Author: Rise of the Machines

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day we enter the labyrinth of life and see what we can find.

I’m engaging in some irony today. Because Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb warns against authors trying to drive blog traffic with book reviews. And yet, here I am doing a review of Kristen’s book. Yeah, yeah, she can zap me with her light saber later.

I found Kristen Lamb almost three years ago when I walked in late to her presentation at DFWCon 2011. From the front of the room, she read my name tag and said, “C’mon on in, Julie, have a seat.”

As an introvert, I was a bit taken aback by her hearty, personal welcome. But within two sentences of her presentation, I was beyond thrilled that I’d entered this lady’s classroom. She explained how authors needed a platform and what that platform should look like.

I got home and immediately purchased her book We Are Not Alone, a social media guide specifically for writers. Then I found out that she was doing an online course through the Long Island Romance Writers (LIRW) Association. The beauty of technology is that I could stay in Texas and still take the LIRW course on Building Your Brand.

The next year when I went to DFWCon, I actually got to hang out with the Jedi. Then last year, I spent more time with the lovely and incredibly witty Kristen, even getting to take a fabulous ride behind her on a four-wheeler.

Rise of the Machines book coverSo that’s full disclosure. But here’s the thing: Even though we are friends, if her book sucked, I wouldn’t say it was good. But no worries: Her new book, Rise of the Machines, is so far from suckage that I’m happy to come here today and tell fellow writers to buy it!

I anticipated that Rise of the Machines (ROTM) would cover what I’d already learned from We Are Not Alone, the online course, our conversations, and her fabulous blog.

Some of the information was expected, but much of the book I hadn’t read or heard before. In ROTM, Kristen addresses the changing atmosphere of technology and publishing from both an ideological standpoint and a practical perspective. She explains how the publishing paradigm has changed and why today’s author needs to be cyborg–both machine and human. Especially human.

Halfway through, I felt like sliding into a Seven of Nine costume.

Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager
AS IF…

Moreover, the organization of information flows well from chapter to chapter, idea to idea. The book progresses from a social media philosophy to specific tips and even includes a useful summary checklist at the end. With ROTM in hand, an author could easily design a step-by-step plan to launch her platform and use technology to build community and boost book sales.

To be entirely honest, there are a couple of things I disagree with Kristen about. But they are minor. Reading ROTM, you might find something with which you disagree as well. Yet you’d be wise to read the book, because Kristen is the closest thing we have to a Jedi master lays out very well why and how the publishing paradigm is changing, why and how authors should be online, and why and how to lay out that plan of attack.

Before you know it, you’ll be heading into the Death Star in your X-wing fighter with Jedi Kristen’s wise words pulsing through your brain.

Example: “Blog, you must.” — Yoda Kristen Lamb

You can get your copy here: Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.

ROW80 Update

1. Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. Sadly, no. But I edited another project all the way through and sent it to my copy editor, so I still feel like I had a “win” week on the editing front.

2. Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Done. Edited two stories and wrote/edited a third in this round.

3. Read 10 fiction books. Now up to 11 books. Finished Cinder by Marissa Meyer this past week and starting First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones this week.

4. Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Finished and typed up oodles of notes.

5. Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.

6. Attend at least one RWA meeting. Done. Attended three meetings; planning to return to one of the chapters next month.

Have you read Rise of the Machines? Do you feel equipped to handle the changing face of publishing? Do you own a Seven of Nine costume I could borrow? And how was your week?

10 Things I’ll Never Get Asked to Do (But Wish I Would)

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I pull out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Today, I’m sharing things I wish I would get asked to do, and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments!

1. Smack the gavel in the House of Representatives. I don’t know why, but that big gavel looks like it would feel cool-powerful in my hands. The challenge would be fighting against the temptation to whack some sense into a few politicians in that chamber.

2. Sing the national anthem at a championship sporting event. I’m not talking local T-ball finals. I’m thinking Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Super Bowl, the World Series, etc. I’m not the best singer ever, but since Roseanne Barr got to do it, how high can the standard be? If asked to belt out this pride-of-the-States song, I promise to get my voice in shape and give it my all.

Roseanne Barr singing national anthem

3. Travel to space. Even after seeing the presentation at Johnson Space Center several times about what living in space is like (and wondering how I could possibly pee into a vacuum and sleep while zipped in a bag Velcroed to the wall), I want to go to space. I blame Star Trek. Next time they need a 40-something mother of two with an arthritic knee, and the ability to perform no scientific experiments but to write something interesting about the experience, I’m in.

4. Smooch on the “Kiss-Cam.” I’ve been to several Houston Astros baseball games, and they have that “kiss-cam” that goes around focusing on a couple and waiting until they notice they’re being watched and deliver up a decent smooch. Not once has that lens alighted on me and the hubby! C’mon, I can give an entertaining kiss!

5. Be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Yes, I realize that I don’t qualify because I’m not a “star.” But I grew up watching Gene Kelly movies and wanting to dance like Cyd Charise. Since I’m married to a marvelous man who’s had four knee surgeries (and I won’t discuss his sense of rhythm here), I’m not likely to get in a lot of ballroom dancing in my world.  If DWTS would just give me a chance, I bet I could get Len Goodman to (eventually) give me a 10.

Donny Osmond & partner in DWTS

6. Name a line of lipstick or nail polish. Whose job is that? I sort of envy those who labelled stuff like Pink in the Limo lipstick and Austin-tatious Turquoise nail polish.

Lipstick color - Pink in the Limo
Lancome Pink in the Limo
Nail polish color - Austin-tatious Turquoise
Opi Austin-tatious Turquoise

Given how much I love words, I could come up with some good ones–maybe Serendipity Spice or Rambunctious Red. Or perhaps I could use book titles for the hues–like Wuthering Heights Wine, Lord of the Rings Lilac, Canterbury Tales Coral, and–of course–Scarlet Letter Red. So Revlon, Maybelline, whoever, call me up!

7. Be a Bond girl. At this point, that would require several layers of Spanx, a botox treatment or two, and a team of cosmetic and fashion experts. But I promise to do my own stunts and deliver my lines with sass. Moreover, I have a few ideas for my name. For example, how about Candy Craven? (Got a sweet tooth, Bond?)

8. DJ my kid’s prom. It’s the ultimate way to embarrass my kids, right? But also, I have a wide array of musical taste and could put together a great jam. Plus, I’d use the mic to get everyone moving and grooving. Electric slide, anyone?

9. Be a slogan writer for the Bayard/Lamb 2016 campaign. I came up with Foxie with Moxie last time. I’m sure I could work up something worthwhile to help us finally get a pair in the White House.

Kristen Lamb and Piper Bayard
VP candidate Kristen Lamb and Prez candidate Piper Bayard

10. Write a grammar column. Okay, I know I’m not Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl). But anyone who has come to this blog much knows that I love words and punctuation and grammar and etymology and language. It could even be a “word of the week” feature with some of my favorites like kench and hairitude.

So that’s my list! Now onto more serious business.

ROW80 Update

  • Read 8 fiction books. I hit 10 books this week, finishing up The Darkening by Myndi Shafer and listening to the audio book of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (read by David Tennant).
  • Read one craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Only read more chapter. I’m a little behind on this goal.
  • Visit and comment on ROW80 blogs as a Round 2 sponsor. Done.
  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mysteryDone.
  • Complete round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY SHARING HUNTER. I’m about 1/4 through what’s essentially a rewrite/slasher movie sort of edit.
  • Write one short storyDone.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Not yet.
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in MayDone.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June. The countdown is here. My main preparation is finishing the edit of Sharing Hunter.

How was your week? And what things would you like to be asked to do? (But you probably never will.)

13 Do’s and Don’ts for Writers’ Conferences

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, when I throw out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

I recently attended my third DFW Writer’s Conference. If you ever get a chance to go, I recommend it. Great information, great people. I’ve reflected on my many wonderful (and a few otherwise) experiences and want to offer some do’s and don’ts for writers’ conferences.

To conference planners

Do offer a variety of writing craft, traditional publishing, and indie publishing classes. Conferences attract writers all along the writing journey. Some are multi-published authors, others are working through their first manuscript, and everything in between. Offer a wide array of craft and business information to address the diversity of attendees.

Do host panels. Some favorites at my three DFW Cons have been the panels of experts on everything from social media to publishing options to forensics. The much-touted Gong Show is a regular feature: A panel of agents critiques anonymous first pages and/or query letters, and their feedback is invaluable in helping writers recognize a good story or pitch. Panels can provide wisdom from several sources, and how often can you get that many experts in a room to answer writers’ questions?

Kristen Lamb (one of my favorite panel experts) & Me
Kristen Lamb (one of my favorite panel people) & Me

Don’t ignore the self-pubbers. At my first conference only three years ago, agents were saying that self-publishing your own books was a kiss of death. My, how things have changed! Still, however, conferences can focus so heavily on the traditional route to publication that self-pubbers don’t feel welcome. The writer community should be about producing good books, and there is more than one way to skin that cat.

Do give conference goers a map and clear signs. I get lost easily. I am not alone.

Don’t invite pompous authors to give speeches about how much money they make. Look, author: Unless you’re willing to throw out currency during your presentation, this subject is best discussed with your agent, publisher, accountant, and loved ones. Maybe your mama is proud of your ridiculously large book advances, but conference attendees want to hear about your writing, not your bank account.

Do provide good snacks and beverages. Having a morning or afternoon pick-me-up can help attention levels. Starches and sugars should be balanced with fresh fruit. I was a bit disappointed that DFWCon did not provide free soda this year, but caffeine is my own addiction and the conference shouldn’t be expected to enable me. Water, coffee, and orange juice were fine.

To conference attendees

Do start conversations with other writers. Many writers are introverts and would rather have a root canal than introduce themselves to a stranger. But your fellow conference goers are not really strangers…because they get you. They too are excited about fictional worlds and make-believe characters and pretty words and plot twists and cover art and so forth. You’ll meet wonderful people by simply asking someone nearby, “What do you write?” Moreover, I’ve learned as much from talking to other writers as I have in classes.

Don’t monopolize class time with a specific question that only applies to you. Here’s the scenario: During Q&A, someone describes their particular plot or writing journey and asks for individualized advice. Now if your situation is a sampling of a larger issue that affects writers, fine. But if you’re looking for one-on-one coaching, wait until class has ended and approach the presenter. Most presenters are willing to spend a few minutes with you.

Do practice your pitch. Even if you’re not formally pitching to an agent or editor, you should be able to state your hook in a sentence or two or three. You may get asked by a fellow writer or agent what you’re working on, and being able to succinctly relate your story is good practice for querying or the book blurb.

Don’t fart loudly during a conference class. Actually, I felt sympathy for the person in one of my classes who did that. Maybe it was the Tex-Mex food we’d had for lunch.

Do bring a camera, even if it’s on your cell phone. You won’t want to miss shots like this.

Jess Witkins & Jenny Hansen in "Handerpants"
Jess Witkins & Jenny Hansen in “Handerpants”

Don’t sweat meeting book agents or famous authors. I’ve found them to be very approachable. As long as you’re authentic and courteous, you’re fine. No stalking, of course. (For heaven’s sake, please don’t follow them into the bathroom!) But agents and authors come to conferences to share information and hang out with writers. You’re a writer, so hang out.

Do print business cards. You can get them cheap at VistaPrint. No, you probably won’t go through all 250 cards that came with your order, but I’ve traded business cards with other authors and it’s helpful to refer to them later. Two things I include on my business card–recommended by agents when I researched–are a face photo, so that people can match your name with your face, and book titles/summaries, in case you want potential agents or readers to be hooked by what you write.

My Business Card
Front & Back of My Business Card

That’s it! As for how DFWCon went for me, I learned quite a bit, have three agents I need to query, and enjoyed meeting up with friends for the weekend whom I chat with online throughout the year.

ROW80 Update

Reading

Writing/Editing

  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mystery. 
  • Complete first round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY. Based on advice from a DFWCon class, I’m letting G&G sit for a bit. Instead, I edited 7 scenes from my middle-grade novel, THE YEAR OF FIRSTS.
  • Write one short story.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit.

Additional Goals

  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in May.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June. Details are coming soon.

What are your do’s and don’ts for conferences? And how was your week?

Stuffed Bears, Gongs, and Handerpants…Must Be a Writers’ Conference

Today I am in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the DFW Writers’ Conference. For today’s Scarlet Thread Sunday, I am stringing my thread through the labyrinth of a conference center as I learn writing craft, publishing, and how crazy my writer friends are when you let a bunch of us occupy the same city.

Here’s just a peek at my weekend so far.

Stuffed Bears. I went with several WANA friends (connected through Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone social media web) to dinner at a genuine Texas barbecue joint. Angelo’s in Fort Worth had delicious BBQ, animal heads all over the wall, and three stuffed bears inside. We stuffed our stomachs first, then took some pics.

Kristen Lamb & Me
Kristen Lamb & Me..in our super-cool Flash & Wonder Woman tees
Ingrid Schaffenburg, Donna Newton & Me
Cowboy-boot-clad writers Ingrid Schaffenburg, Donna Newton & Me
Jess Witkins and Julie Glover with a stuffed bear
With Jess Witkins..and a Bear

Gongs. Gongs are a big part of the DFW Writers’ Conference tradition. On Sunday, they will host their regular Gong Show, which features a panel of agents who listen to query letters and bang a miniature gong when they lose interest. When three gongs sound, the letter reader stops, and the agents explain what made them stop. It’s very useful information to all conference attendees, and the letters are anonymous so no submitting writer feels on-the-spot.

But there’s also the large gong that sounds at the pitch sessions. DFW Con registration includes an appointment to speak with an agent about your finished manuscript. I was first in line–literally, with the earliest appointment available on the first day of the conference. I chatted with the delightful agent for the allotted ten minutes, and then someone banged the gong and conversation time was over. If it’s been successful, you leave the room with a request for pages…and the gong still ringing in your ears. (Yes, my meeting was successful.)

HanderpantsHanderpants. Jenny Hansen, of More Cowbell blog fame, recently posted about a product called “Handerpants.” These are fingerless gloves made from whitey-tighty material. I remembered reading the post and thinking, Who in the world would buy those? Well, now I know.

Because Gloria Richard went online shopping, and the result below speaks for itself.

Handerpants over battery candle
“Glowing Handerpants”–our new table centerpiece

Writers’ Conference. In between the shenanigans, I’ve been soaking up knowledge and wisdom from authors at various stages of the journey. I hope to post in the future about what information I gained from this conference. But suffice it to say that I am an advocate of workshops and conferences. You can gain both practical tips for your writing and inspiration to keep going.

Speaking of inspiration, here’s how last week went with my goals.

ROW80 Update

Reading

Writing/Editing

  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mystery. 
  • Complete first round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY. Paused to get ready for conference.
  • Write one short story.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. No further progress this week.

Additional Goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Twice! Walking.
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in May. I’m here! Count this done.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June.

What interesting memories do you have from writers’ conferences? Do you have a favorite conference? And how did your week go?

My Epic Failure, Fast Draft, and Moving Forward

I’ve had one major writing goal since the beginning of the year: Complete a full rewrite of my YA contemporary novel (SHARING HUNTER).

This would actually be my third draft of the novel, and I have changed POVs, tenses, and subplots as I went. I have gotten feedback from beta readers, deep edited, made a timeline, and replotted. I swore last week that I would kick into gear with Fast Draft, a writing process promoted by author Candace Havens, and complete this novel. I had great intentions and high expectations!

On Monday, I spent hours writing and ended up with about 100 new words.

Feeling completely and utterly defeated as well as frustrated by my inability to get on the page what I know is a wonderful story that I can tell, I shut down that file on my computer and booted up a plot bunny that had held my attention a few months ago.

To my surprise, I had already written several chapters. I reread them straight through and thought, “Hey, this isn’t bad. I like this.” I found myself engaged by the characters, enjoying the protagonist’s voice, and excited about where this could go. I breathed deep and shut off any thoughts of returning to the YA contemporary for the moment. Then I started typing.

Still feeling a desire to Fast Draft–so that I could have an actual completed novel sometime this year and to test the process for myself–I made myself write for hours. I churned out 4856 words on the first day.

The second, I logged 5051 words.  The third, I got down 4231 words. By day three, I was in a groove. A Big Time Groove.

Because I was writing so fast, I didn’t open up my manuscript and have to re-read a chapter or two to get my bearings before starting. A line or two would do it. In fact, I applied a tip from James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. He advises that you start the next chapter and write a few lines there. Indeed, that practice helped me to keep the flow going when I could see where I was intending to go when I had stopped the day before.

On that third day, I also read Kristen Lamb’s fabulous post on her experience with Fast Drafting. While I don’t personally have big battles with my “Internal Editor,” I agree with Kristen that something seems to take over when you’re enveloped by your story. Call it Subconscious Mind or Happy Muse or Fairy Dust or Flow. Whatever it is, I feel like Stella this writer has got her groove back.

I’m sad that Sharing Hunter is sitting on a shelf for a while longer. I still want to write that story. I still think it wants to be written. But for the time being, I had lost the flow on that project and needed to move on.

After all, my single word inspiration for 2013 was to be the word FORWARD. “No looking back. No standing still. Keep moving forward.”

That’s exactly what I plan to do.

ROW Update

Editing/Writing

  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. DOA.
  • Fast Draft new project – YA mystery with no real title, but I’m called it PK Mystery #1. 19,584 words written this week. BAM!
  • Edit first short story. Deep-edited the story before. According to my plan, I let it sit last week and will polish it up this week.
  • Write second short story. First draft finished. I’ll edit this one in the next round.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. Posted What an Edited Page Looks Like on Sunday and Where to Check Your Words on Wednesday.
  • Complete weekly lessons for Writing Body Language course. Completed Lesson 5, but nothing more happened this week because Margie Lawson is a grandmother! Big congratulations to her and her daughter Tiffany Lawson Inman. I hope they can take some time to study their precious baby’s body language.

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Yoga on Wednesday. And for some reason, I’ve been incredibly sore all week long.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. Done.

How have your goals changed since the beginning of the year? Have you failed in one area but succeeded in another? Have you ever tried Fast Draft?  And do you know what a “PK” is?

My WANA Island

It’s Deep-Fried Friday, and boy do I have a sizzling something for you today! Yesterday on her blog, author Jenny Hansen announced a party! But before I give you the deets about that lovely event, let’s take a look at the lonely road of writing.

When I wrote my first novel, I was like the main character in the movie of Cast Away. Remember that flick with Tom Hanks and his volleyball friend “Wilson”? Check out a quick clip from the movie:

That’s how many of us live on writer’s island. We have an imaginary friend or two we chat with, we diligently work at our craft, and we celebrate alone when we achieve something. Sure, it’s great that we made fire wrote a book, but the endeavor involved just one person and no one was there to make or enjoy the fire with us. Even introverts, like me, can get lonely and feel a little lost.

Now let’s head to another island…

I grew up watching Gilligan’s Island…I mean, a LOT of Gilligan’s Island. To the point where you I can see the first scene and say things like, “This is the one where they put on a play, but Mary Ann gets hit in the head with a coconut and thinks she’s Ginger, so then Ginger has to be Mary Ann, and then . . .” I can also sing ALL of the lyrics to the theme song. Despite the years of mockery this show has endured, it has, well, endured.

Because Gilligan’s Island might actually be one of the best ways to be on a deserted island–with others. Sure, these people didn’t know they could become friends, but throw them on a tropical island with a broken boat, one radio, and a whole lot of palm trees, and pretty soon they’re doing okay. They want to be rescued, but as long as Ginger’s sequin dress lasts, they could stay a little longer.

Imagine Hanks with that fire. Wouldn’t that have been more fun with Gilligan and the gang? They could have danced a conga line around that bonfire!

When I started writing, I was on Cast Away Island. Then I found friends online–mainly through the We Are Not Alone (WANA) world. Kristen Lamb, Social Media Jedi and fearless leader of WANA, has helped to link hundreds of writers to each other and to readers. After reading her book and taking her class and following her advice, I have met–online and in person–some of the most supportive writers I could imagine. They are much more fun than Wilson.

Just like on Gilligan’s Island, WANA Island has writers with a wealth of knowledge like the Professor; some with fabulous resources like Thurston Howell III; some with constant encouragement and kindness like Mary Ann; and some who’ll share beauty tips book-writing tips with you like Ginger. In fact, this crew is better than Gilligan’s Island because I’m pretty sure if we were all stranded, my WANA friends would have a tiki bar up in no time serving up whatever you would like. The raft would be already made and sitting off in a corner ready for us to embark as soon as we were done having our fun.

Welcome to WANA Island!

I cannot stress how much I have learned and been encouraged by my relationships with the WANA (and ROW80) folks. If you want to bring in the New Year right, come join us for a TGI2013 Twitter party today from 5:00-9:00 CST at the #MyWANA hashtag!

Check out Jenny’s post with the details at her blog, More Cowbell.

Learn more about WANA at Kristen’s website from her post, Join the Love Revolution.

And see the current course line-up for WANA International.

Meanwhile, if you’re a WANA, let me know in the comments what this group has meant to you. And if you’re not, ask me anything about WANA, and I’ll try to answer as best I can.

And be sure to pop in tonight at the #MyWANA hashtag for our TGI2013 Twitter party!

What Ebenezer Scrooge Can Teach Us about Great Writing by Kristen Lamb

I hadn’t planned to post today, but Kristen Lamb had such a brilliant and beautiful post about A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens that I wanted to reblog it. Here’s Kristen:

One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas CarolI believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! But, Muppets aside, also I can’t get enough of the music. Also, I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dicken’s story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it a story that never grows old? Today, I want to talk about a couple of the elements that speak to me, because they are at the heart of great writing.

Click HERE to read more. It really is a fabulous post!

If Hemingway Tweeted

Photo from JFK Presidential Library
Released to Public Domain

I’ve had real fun on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday with the If ___ Tweeted. Thus far, we’ve looked at If Twain Tweeted, If Churchill Tweeted, and If Plato Tweeted. Today, however, I was inspired by Kristen Lamb’s awesome post on Would Hemingway Blog? The short answer is “Why, yes! Yes, he would.” But there is far more to Kristen’s post so be sure to head over there.

Here on my blog, though, we’re going to look at if author Ernest Hemingway tweeted, what would he say? I have a confession, however. I don’t like Hemingway! I have tried to read a couple of his novels and did not complete them. That said, I know the author is an icon, and he did say some pretty cool stuff. So whether you love to devour his novels or prefer, like me, to bypass his fiction and just get to the tweet-sized stuff, here are some of Hemingway’s best quotes–at 140 characters or less.

1. Courage is grace under pressure.

2. There is no friend as loyal as a book.

3. I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

4. The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

5. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

6. I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy.

7. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics. 

8. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.

9. You know what makes a good loser? Practice.

10. All our words from loose using have lost their edge.

11. Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.

12. All good books have one thing in common in that they are truer than if they had really happened…

13. Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.

14. My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible.

15. Being against evil doesn’t make you good.

16. God knows, people who are paid to have attitudes toward things, professional critics, make me sick; camp-following eunuchs of literature.

17. When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.

18. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

19.  We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

20. Gertrude Stein and me are just like brothers.

21. A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.

22. You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you.

23. It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.

24. Death is like an old whore in a bar–I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.

And finally a BONUS quote! Although it was not used, Papa Hemingway suggested this quote for his tombstone:

25. Pardon me for not getting up.

So what are your favorites from the above? Are you a Hemingway fan? Do you have any others from him to add? (Yes, I did leave out the famous “first draft” one!)

Sources: Brainy Quote; Notable Quotes; Christian Science Monitor; The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park; Schmoop; Writer’s Digest; Huffington Post; National Endowment for the Arts; Hemingway Preservation Foundation; San Francisco Chronicle; The Art of Manliness; IMDB; The Telegraph; Wikiquote; About.com; Paris Review (great interview with Hemingway!)

*Note: Why so many sources? Because I try to find at least two reputable sources for each quote. All too often, a quote gets thrown around the Internet attributed to someone who never said it. I try to be diligent, but if you catch a mistake, let me know.

#ROW80 Goals and Inspiration

While the official launch of A Round of Words in 80 Days is tomorrow, I am a creature of habit who has gotten used to posting on Sundays. Thus, I am declaring my Round 4 goals today. This time, I am categorizing my goals to make them easier to track.

For each category, I looked for a little inspiration among my resources.

Editing: SHARING HUNTER MILLS, young adult contemporary novel.

“If there’s one thing every successful writer’s process includes, it’s rewriting. Talent aside, in my experience, what separates writers who break through from those who don’t is perseverance mixed with the wholehearted desire of a zealot to zero in on what isn’t working and fix it.” Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

  • Complete full rewrite.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.

Blogging

“Blog in ways that communicate your distinctive writing voice.” Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays.
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog.

Writing

“Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write. . . Writing is so simple, basic, and austere.” Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

  • Write two short stories.

Learning

“I remember the exact day I decided I was going to be a writer. I jotted this in my journal: ‘Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep going and never stop, to learn everything I can and make it as a writer.'” James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure

Reading

“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” Stephen King, On Writing

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot.

Non-writing goals

“Clean up this mess.” Mom (Hey, some things still reverberate in your brain from childhood.)

  • Exercise twice a week. If I don’t take care of myself, my body will become a mess.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.

So what are you using to inspire yourself with your writing goals? Have you joined the ROW80 Round 4? Do you have any writing craft book recommendations for me?

It’s not too late to join the “writing challenge that knows you have a life”–where you set your own goals and post progress updates accordingly. If you’re interested, check out ROW80 HERE.