Posts Tagged ‘Writers Digest’

Visit the Writer’s Digest Website to read the details of the 13th annual “Dear Lucky Agent” contest.

What do you send?

The first 225-250 words of your sci-fi or young adult manuscript.

What can you win?

A critique of the first double spaced 10 pages of that manuscript by agent Victoria Marini.

All the info you need is one the website – click on ‘Writers Digest” above. Good luck!


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Effort is a campfire on a December night in Northern Michigan – you MUST constantly feed it or you will freeze. The effort of writing a book will grow cold if you don’t feed your mind the kindling of research and allow the flames of inspiration to change the effort into a story.

Print this out and post it on your wall or in your notebook.

As you can see, there are several days – sometimes a week – between my posts. I’m writing all the time between here and there and in the moments between lessons as I homeschooling my children. How does my schedule help you in your writing, you ask? Never give up, I say. The effort is a marathon, not a sprint. Even though there are kids and diapers and cross country meets, there is time to work on the craft of writing. Between meal planning, shopping and prep, there are moments to read. Before the sun rises, you can sneak out for a walk outside and listen to an audio book.

It’s now nap time for my youngest, so the house is quiet, giving me that necessary space to think. My older daughters are cleaning the kitchen before they finish their school work and leave for cross country practice. They take an active role in my success as a writer and I thank them for it. (So this is for you, girls! I love you and I thank you for being exactly who God made you to be!)

Sometimes the effort of writing is more than finding the time or the space…it’s leaping that tall mountain: Mount  Writer’s Block (lovingly called Mt. Block Head by locals), located in the Valley of Emptiness, navigated successfully with a map. Who has that map? Can we just use the North Star?

Writer’s block isn’t as much of  a block as it is a detour…an Andes mountain bus detour along a road without a guard rail led by a driver sipping on Jack Daniels. Not pretty – or perhaps the opening scene for a cliffhanger (pun intended). Writer’s block leaves a writer scattered on the rocks below, lamenting the short writing career and off to the hereafter in search of the next thing. Learn to recognize a derailed writing project and find a way to get behind the wheel. For me, my map, my North Star is research.

From my own experiences, when I hit a wall in a story, I return to my research and always find a solution. When writing about a scene that takes place in the desert, my research can vary from reading picture books set in the American Southwest to watching documentaries about deserts. Other times my struggles are with the flow of sentences and structure of the story and I turn to books about writing and my writing magazines. Research can also include reading blogs. Note what blogs really impress you and analyze the writing to discover what makes it pop.

To keep the fuel of effort hot:

  • take a little of that writing conference money and buy a subscription to Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writer’s, or the like. Study the genre you write. Children’s writer? Read Calliope House, Ladybug, Highlights. Literary? Glimmer Train and the hundreds of e-zines.
  • Go to the library and borrow Elizabeth Berg’s book on writing (I’d include the title, but I loaned it out), Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Try out Stephen Kings book On Writing. Need help with query letters and submissions? Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages. For the most entertaining resource for writing query letters, visit: http://www.queryshark dot com
  • Listen to books on tape. Hear the story and the dialogue. Although the voice of each character is performed by the same person, intonation of the actor and the speech patterns from the author create an individual. Do your characters have that same level of individualism?
  • Now record yourself reading your own story. Then listen to it without reading along. You’ll be amazed at the mistakes and weak areas of your writing as you read it into the recorder and you’ll discover undercurrents of strengths and weaknesses as you listen. This is time consuming, but worth every minute.
  • Attend an author visit and book signing. Seek answers to questions about writing that pester you. What better way to stay motivated than to meet an accomplished writer?
  • Develop thick skin and join a writing group (check your local library for meeting times). Remember that all critiques are opinions and you can pick and choose which opinions improve your writing and which suggestions are better swept under the rug.

It’s true that no one will hold your hand during this venture. I do pray that you have someone cheering you on. Keep on keeping on. The effort will be worth it. It always is.

 “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard to make this dream come true” said No One, Ever!

Bonus “E” word:

Evolution. The more you write, the more your true style will emerge. Logic tells us no style can be born without a mentor. Since J.R.R. Tolkien is no longer with us and I will likely never meet Madeleine L’Engle or Kathi Appelt, I must use their writing to learn as a guide toward greatness. Keep reading great literature. Find good stories with descriptions that create images so strong you forget you are reading.

Next: Doubled

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In the movie Pleasantville, the students in geography class arduously study the layout of their city. When asked what happens if you go passed the East end of Main Street, the teacher laughs and says, “Why, you’ll end up at the beginning, of course,” and she points to the West end of Main Street with her yard stick.

While real-life streets actually can go on forever or end in frustrating dead-ends, our tasks and goals certainly can feel like Main Street in Pleasantville.

I am nearing the completion of another novel…writing one, that is. Again I am amazed that no matter how much work I put into it, another series of things to do jump up at me like some To-Do list jack-in-the-box. After months of planning scenes, working out plot issues, character sketches and tweeking the dialogue, the completion of the last line becomes the beginning of a new task before I can announce that my novel is truly finished.


Starting next week, I’ll go through the novel again, looking at it as a whole. Plot weaknesses will need mending. Bland dialogue will require a dash of seasoning. Gaps in the story, weak transitions and spelling errors must be patched up.

Then the novel goes to my four most trusted critics: my husband and three daughters.

They will circle, comment, laugh, shake their heads in sad disbelief and tell me where I missed the mark and where I was spot-on.  After the first round of critiques, I will return to the revision process and do it all over again. And again and again until they deem it worthy for submission.

And thank goodness for them. Without their knowledge of stories, their experience between the lines of fantastic tales, if not for their incredible honesty, I would never succeed. That implies that I have succeeded already as a writer. And by gosh I’m going to convince myself that I have! I write every day because I want to be a writer. I blog, read the latest issue of Writer’s Digest from cover-to-cover the moment it arrives, and I read as much as possible, both about the craft of writing and young adult novels. But my greatest success is accepting criticism from my family. It’s an honor to know and love a group of people who know and love me no matter what kind of dribble I try to pass off as a good story. I hope that my daughters see me improve as a writer. I also hope they will someday have people in their lives that will speak to them honestly and that they will listen.

Another beginning I’m working through is the marketing of my first book, Gateways. And so, in an effort to share my stories and step out into the world as a ‘real’ author, I encourage you to check it out at http://amzn.to/KSAlyb (in Kindle and Paperback).

Another plug is for the on-line critique group I’ve started. Have a children’s or young adult story you would like feedback on? Check us out: http://bit.ly/KOL5hU

And so, as I cross one finish line I will also begin another. Isn’t that they way of life? Just when you think you are “There”, you find yourself right back at the beginning with a fresh start or a second chance.

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If you want to be a marathon runner, you must work at it every day. That requires strapping on the shoes and hitting the road. Want to lose weight, put locks on the cookie jar, up your veggie consumption and break a sweat. Same is true for writing. If your goal is to run a blog, do it. If you have a story that needs to be told, write it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it.

The how, the motivation, the time, the ‘don’t feel like it’ feelings that cloud the goals are formidable objects that need an equally formidable plan to overcome. All it takes to succeed is a plan a few materials.


  1. Identify the things in your life that are blocking success. For me, there were several parts of my life that served as a distraction from writing, but were also things that I was responsible for: children, homeschooling, exercise – things that I obviously would never abandon in order to write. But other aspects of my life were easy to give up, freeing my time to write: Internet, movies, T.V., sleeping in.
  2. Get over the idea that in order to write, you must be ‘in the mood’ or ‘feeling creative’. Writing is a profession. Authors write daily, we keep idea journals, personal journals, we read books, poetry and blogs. Cross the obstacle off your list by scheduling writing time. Ideally, a daily schedule works best, but that isn’t an option for me. Instead, I have two days a week set aside to write for at least three hours. I work better with larger chunks of time. The other days, I’m able to find ten minutes here and there to read blogs, a chapter of two in a book, look for markets for my work and read up on what publishers and magazines want for publication.
  3. Subscribe to a newsletter or magazine for writers. I like Writer’s Digest, a monthly magazine filled with ideas, suggestions, and skills I need to hone my skills. On-line, I subscribe to a weekly newsletter called, Funds for Writers by Hope Clark. Her style is approachable and the information valuable. It’s a weekly shot in the arm to keep submitting, keep trying, and keep writing.
  4. Find a supporter, a writing partner, a writing group, a friend who will listen to your ideas and keep you focused and accountable. It works in the 12-step program and in weight loss classes, why wouldn’t it work for writers?
  5. Have a space just for writing. This might sound like a home-make over project, but it’s must simpler than that. It could be a desk outfitted with all the nice office-like paraphernalia. It could be the dining room table (and you eat off TV trays). Your writing space could be portable – a bag with your notebook, a few pens, the latest copy of your favorite Writing Journal, and your corner coffee shop frequent customer card.
  6. The greatest obstacle is our own ego. Rejection letters can come fast and furious, stomping on our best work with photocopied rigor. Don’t allow that “No” to jam up your thoughts. Re-examine your writing. Take a month off of writing and read a book about writing and 10-15 books in your genre. I guarantee by the end of the month, when you return to your writing, you’ll see areas you can improve. Then get back in the game stronger than ever.

Be what you want to be. Nothing will be different next year unless you make the changes today. The obstacles you must leap are ways to become stronger…not to mention all the fodder for future characters and plots!

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