The Importance of a Writing Habit (And How to Find Yours)

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Without realizing it, I fell into a writing habit the past couple of months. It all started when I changed my weekend morning routine. Rather than turning on the coffee and skimming the news on my phone, I take out a notebook and write for a while. 

You see, this is remarkable to me because I've never been the type to embrace the idea of a writing habit. I've never thought it was for me. It reeked of the type of responsibility reserved for laundry, taxes, and Monday mornings. However, once I began to embrace this habit, I've started to write more. Not only that, my stories are better too. So, I wanted to share a bit of advice on how to find your writing habit.

1) A writing habit doesn't mean you have to write every day.

I sometimes think a lot of us fear that unless we are writing every day, we aren't making progress. As much as I like the idea of writing every day, I just don't have the mental space for it. Now, I guess you can say I do some form of writing semi-daily because I do journal on a regular basis. However, in terms of actual creative writing, that's reserved for the weekends. My mental space is less crowded, and my time is less rushed.

2) Do what works for you and your writing.

So, for me, I usually write on Saturday and Sunday mornings. For you, maybe you have a window Thursday afternoons that are relatively free and clear. Maybe you can't sleep Sunday nights, and you stay up later than usual. Maybe you have a 15-minute break at work that you can finally start taking. Whatever it is, find what works for you. Even if it isn't very long, start embracing this window of your day as a time for your writing.

3) Go to your writing time, even if you aren't sure you have anything to say.

Last weekend, I stopped at a scene in my story thinking I really didn't have much happening, and that I needed more of a direction for my character. She didn't have much of a life surrounding her that made the ongoing problem more complicated. I thought maybe I'd have to table my idea and revisit it later, which would be fine. It's definitely happened before. This weekend, I returned to my story during my writing time and realized there was more to my character than I thought. Now, she lives near downtown, works in a clothing boutique with a boss that swears in French, and likes the barbecue sandwiches from the deli down the street. She enjoys reading British vogue that she most recently purchased wearing sweatpants and her ex-boyfriend's old t-shirt that he forgot to take with him when he moved out. Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is a character. I'll be honest, this is probably the most vivid character I've developed in a while. And I have a gut feeling it's all due to that writing time I've reserved for myself.

4) Stick with it.

I don't know about you but I tend to let even the best of writing habits go by the wayside sometimes. So, this final piece of advice is for me as much as you. As you embrace your new habit and figure out what is working for you, make sure to stick with it. Things in life can happen that derail newfound habits, but if (or when) it does happen, make sure you return to what works. 

Do you have a writing habit? How did you discover what works for you? 


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Review of Cliffhanger: Jump Before You Get Pushed by Michael R. French

Review of Cliffhanger: Jump Before You Get Pushed by Michael R. French 


This Young Adult story centre’s around a high school student body president election, but it’s about much more than high school, it’s for young adult readers and beyond! 

Touching on corruption and truths, this page-turner of a novel will have you on the edge of your seat, enthralled to read on and find out who wins the election and who wins at life. 

Brit is a play-it-safe Brainiac who never gets in trouble. She joins the election team for Matthew, (an old crush and seasoned leader) content to put her own leadership dreams to rest. But when she is blamed for hacking into Matthew’s campaign team server, things change. 

Offended by the severe accusations, Brit surprises herself by deciding to run against Matthew. 

In an effort to expose Team Matthew's lies, Brit finds that there are other reasons she needed to step up, she just hadn’t realised her potential yet. 

The story unfolds in the future where society hasn’t changed all that much but current events are in the past and that’s cool. Michael uses language that is engaging and interesting without being too basic for adults to enjoy and too graphic for young teens to handle. The action level increases with every chapter and with every change in the multiple POV’s; and just when you think it’s all over, the finale will make you gasp! 

Dotted with loads of wonderful references to literature, poetry, history, and current events, this book has it all. School corruption and life lessons are in abundance, keeping you on the edge of your comfort zone ready to jump before you get pushed! 

My Favourite Quotes: 

“Number one, develop a skin as thick as a hippo’s. Number two, know the opposition better than it knows you. Rule three, don’t beat yourself up when your campaign comes off the rails. Setbacks are how you learn.” 

“It confirmed that three of four determined friends could best any army of professionals.”

Print Length: 276 Pages 
Genre: Political Thriller
ISBN-10: 1732511756
ISBN-13: 978-1732511750
Publisher: Moot Point Productions

Cliffhanger is available to purchase at Amazon.com. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com.

***


Review written by Kelly Sgroi
 
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Interview with Victoria Lorrekovich-Miller , Runner Up in the WOW! 2020 Fall Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

 

Victoria is super excited to see her first children’s picture book, If a Mantis Finds a Fly in the Sky, published and available for purchase.  This book was inspired by her real-life pet Praying Mantis, Jade, who just passed away. Who knew one could get attached to an insect! If you have, or know of, kids aged 3-8 who are big fans of bugs and Seussian rhymes, this book is for them! Victoria is an APA style-certified editor and the founder of www.LocalEditors.com, which helps high schoolers craft their college application essays and graduate students polish and publish their theses and dissertations. Her published pieces have appeared in print and online in The Bark, Dog and Kennel, Animal Wellness Magazine, YourTeen.com, Diablo Magazine, Thought Catalog, WOW! Women on Writing; her stories for kids can be seen in Cricket Magazine and Dream in Color, etc. Prior to the pandemic, Victoria worked as a wine educator on the weekends at her favorite winery: McKahn Family Cellars. She is currently working on a novel about a female-centric winery. She lives with her incredibly fun and supportive husband, Martin, and they are parents to four talented children: Ari, Justin, Logan, & Kaitlin, who are all making the world a kinder and more interesting place to live. Message her on Twitter: @Vic_Lorrekovich. Or visit her at: www.VictoriaLorrekovich-Miller.com

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Victoria, and congratulations again! I've always been intrigued by Sylvia Plath, her life and her work. How did the idea to intermingle Sylvia’s last moments with a modern-day twist first come to you with your story, Sylvia and Me in 1963

Victoria: My husband and I support the “Little Free Libraries” movement and have recently installed one in front of our house. Every day I love to see what has been taken from—as well as deposited into—our little library. One day, I happily discovered a copy of Sylvia Plath’s 2nd book of poetry: Ariel (which was published after her death). I plucked it out and immediately began reading it. I’d read some of its contents years before but had forgotten much of it. I was so happy to rediscover it during the Covid-19 pandemic. It got me thinking…what if …Sylvia Plath had been born during a different era when mental illness wasn’t as stigmatized as it was during her life span? And what if she had been born during a time when women’s rights were just human rights? The story took off from there. 

WOW: Your children’s book, If a Mantis Finds a Fly in the Sky, came out at the end of February and is based on the real-life relationship you had with your praying mantis. I’m sorry to hear of Jade’s passing! How did you first come to be a praying mantis owner and what lessons did you learn from her? 

Victoria: My husband has always raised praying mantises for "green" pest control because they eat aphids, beetles, crickets, termites, as well as spiders (which were biting our kids). Then we began raising exotic mantises as pets—mostly as starter pets for our kids. They have included Giant African Mantises, which is what Jade was, Ghost mantises, Orchid mantises—which are gorgeous, Devil Flower Mantises, African Twig Mantises, and others. Our kids loved watching the mantises hatch and evolve into little carnivorous assassins. Eventually our kids outgrew their “insect phases,” but my husband and I just got more into it! Jade was a Giant African Mantis who lived for an entire year. I was transfixed by her and was also thankful that she was only four inches long. She was this intrepid insect that was one part patience and one part daredevilry! When she died, I couldn’t believe how sad I was—crazy! I knew she would need to have a story to memorialize her. As I was doing research for the “10 fun facts about praying mantises” at the end of my story, I learned that the late RBG (who I was—and still am—obsessed with) has a praying mantis named after her: llomantis ginsburgae. Apparently only male genitalia had been used for insect species classification until researchers Sydney Brannoch and Gavin Svenson were able to correct a mistake. They found that two genera that had been lumped together were actually separate species, based on the female characteristics as well as other traits. This certainly underscores the need for entomologists to equally consider both sexes of praying mantises. I knew female praying mantises were bad asses but I had no idea that my favorite feminist icon had one named after her! Jade not only inspired my curiosity but enabled me to connect two of my passions: praying mantises and iconic fighters for women’s rights! 

WOW: Oh, I love that story and did not know RBG has a praying mantis named after her. How fascinating! As an editor who helps high school students with their college essays, what are some common issues you see arise in their first drafts? 

Victoria: I’m an APA style-certified editor and the founder of www.LocalEditors.com, which helps high schoolers craft their college application essays and graduate students polish and publish their theses and dissertations. The biggest issue that I see with nearly all of my high school students is that they ignore the “story” aspect in their essays. They basically turn their resumes into prose and, as a result, their initial essays are forgettable. Essays and Personal Statements are where the admissions counselors get to see the personalities that exist beyond the grades, test scores and AP classes. In an essay, a student can highlight emotional depth, strength through compassion, perseverance, humor, etc. by showing versus telling. I had one student who had to write an essay about his community. He lived in an urban environment and walked to and from school every day. After several drafts, he wrote about his neighborhood from the perspective of his tennis shoes. It was moving, illuminating and humorous—and one I’m sure the admissions counselor remembered long after reading it. (BTW, he got into UC Berkeley). [As an aside, I always say this to young people who think that the right major and the right college will determine their later successes: “Your path will twist and turn in ways you can’t possibly fathom from where you are at this point in your life. Nearly ¾ of college graduates actually end up working in fields that are not related to their majors. Work hard but also be flexible, adaptable and open to new experiences."] 

WOW: That's great and solid advice. Now, we definitely want to hear more about your work-in-progress about a female-centric winery! What genre would you say it is and can you give us a brief overview? 

Victoria: I would say that my novel would fall under the literary, feminist, romantic, humorous chick-lit genre. The world of wine is a fascinating place in which to be (and where I work on some weekends) but if you look too closely, you’ll find that it’s dominated by men (at least when looking at the actual winemakers), so I started thinking about characters: Athena, a badass winemaker and her best friend, Ivy, who’s an amazing artist with a degree in business, and together they realize their college dream and open a winery together. After Ivy loses her husband to an auto accident, she buys a vineyard with the life insurance money. Ivy, who is straight, and Athena who is lesbian, create a family together. They are not romantic partners, but are soul mates in many ways. They live in separate houses but on the same property. Life is good, aside from the challenges that go along with raising Aaron, Ivy’s 14-year-old son, who is obsessed with horror stories and ignoring school rules. A visiting professor enters the scene and sees Aaron through a different lens and recognizes his brilliance. This professor also falls for Ivy and Ivy for him (facilitated by Athena’s orchestration). Given that Eli lives on the East Coast, Athena thinks he’ll be only the fling her best friend needs, but it goes way beyond a fling. How do these four people redefine what it means to be a family and make room for one another? 

WOW: You have an impressive variety of writing clips, published pieces and awards. Can you give us a glimpse of what your daily writing schedule is like? 

Victoria: I have carved out a section of our master bedroom as my office—it’s the only place in the house that is quiet. (Once one of my sons moves out, I will turn his bedroom into my writing lair. Shhh). My husband has made a sign for our bedroom door that says: “Mom is working. Do not disturb unless the house is on fire.” I usually work on my creative nonfiction projects, short stories, and/or novels in the mornings and then spend the afternoons working with students. After dinner, if everyone seems to be doing their own thing, I go back to writing for myself. This is a Monday through Friday schedule. The weekends are reserved for family fun like paddle boarding, hiking, hanging out with friends, antique shopping, wine-tasting, and going to art shows or music concerts. There’s also usually a couple of times a month when I’m working as a wine educator in a Livermore Valley Winery. Of course, the pandemic has forced us to stream movies and concerts and hang out with friends via Zoom, but we keep reminding ourselves that this is only temporary.

WOW: Victoria, thank you again for a fascinating interview. You've made this interview very fun and introspective and we look forward to reading that novel once it's published!
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Time to Reset Blog and Podcast Tour (and Giveaway)

Monday, April 19, 2021
Now announcing our next blog tour with author Karen Brown Tyson. Her book is perfect for anyone who wants to reset their life and faith walk with God.

About the Book

Has your life been interrupted? Do you want to know how to move forward? It's time to stop running in circles. When we experience setbacks and disappointments in life, God is ready to not only offer refuge but is prepared to provide redirection.

In Time to Reset: A 21-Day Devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Sidelined, Disappointed or Knocked Off Course, Karen Brown Tyson helps us: 

  • learn how to surrender to God's plan,
  • become the best version of ourselves, God created us to be; and
  • refresh our faith.

How can we get our lives back on track and find time to connect with God? This 21-day devotional will show you how to reset your mindset to move forward with renewed strength.

This book is now available for purchase on AmazonThrift Books, and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

About the Author, Karen Brown Tyson


Karen Brown Tyson is an award-winning author. Her first book, Time to Refresh: A21-Day Devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Laid Off, Fired or Sidelined, was named 2019 Finalist in the Religion: Christian Inspirational Category of the 2019 Best Book Awards.
 
She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from West Virginia University and a Master of Arts in English from National University.  In addition, Karen has a Master of Arts degree in Christian Ministry and postgraduate certificates in Christian Leadership, Theological Studies and Biblical Studies from Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity. Her ministry concentration focuses on the expository teaching of the Word of God in the areas of spiritual discipline, discipleship, leadership, apologetics and New Testament theology. 
 
Karen has served in God’s kingdom in a variety of ways including her most recent assignments with the Deacon's Wives, Women, Evangelism, Social Media and Helps ministries at her church, Elevation Baptist Church. Karen also serves as the Dean of the Elevation Bible Institute where she teaches courses on spiritual discipline, evangelism, and Christian apologetics. 
 
She is a graduate of the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild apprentice program. As a writer, she has developed several Christian ministry tools and training materials for her local church. 
Karen and her husband of 25 years, Kelvin, have one son and they live in North Carolina.
 
Find Karen online:

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your new book! What led you to write this devotional? Thank you! 

Karen: After writing my first book, Time to Refresh, I wanted to inspire people to keep moving forward. So many times we have life-altering events, like a job loss or the end of a relationship, that leave us feeling unsure about our next step. For my second book, Time to Reset, I decided to focus on how to reset different areas of my life, including my faith walk. 

WOW: I love that you said in a recent interview with WOW, that God calls us to inspire one another. I totally agree! For those of us, not feeling very inspirational right now, how do we find the answers that can lead to that sort of growth? 

Karen: I truly believe we’re here to help one another. With so much going on in the world right now, we could all use inspiration and support. If you are dealing with life’s challenges, tell God exactly how you feel. If you are mad, frustrated, or worried, let God know your heart. If you are having a hard time, ask God to show you how to deal with what’s going on in your life. If you know someone who is going through a tough time, offer to help by meeting with them regularly just to talk. If they have questions about a new career path, help them find the answers. 

WOW: I love your advice! Talking to God has helped me in so many ways in my own faith walk. You work one-on-one with writers all the time. What is a common struggle that you see writers deal with? 

Karen: One of the most common struggles I see in new writers is making time to write. On the one hand, they’re eager to write, but on the other hand, they find it hard to fit writing into their schedule due to other commitments. I understand exactly how they feel. For a long time, I used to struggle to find time to write. Until I decided to make time to write. The first thing I help new writers do is to establish a writing routine where they block out time on their calendar to write or work on tasks related to their writing projects. 

WOW: It makes such a difference to block out time. Okay, you are a content marketing pro! I love your blog and website. How do you keep up with it and get your blog post ideas? 

Karen: That is so sweet and a huge compliment, thank you! In 2017, when I made the decision to become a blogger I knew I wanted to offer a valuable resource for people. I did a lot of research before I started blogging and I took a course to become certified in content marketing. 

As a blogger, you know that blogging takes lots of time and focus. To keep track of everything, I have a content strategy for the year, which includes a content calendar that outlines the topics I plan to cover each month. To find ideas, I read lots of articles and read comments to see what people are talking about or the areas where they need help. I try to offer solutions to real problems. 

WOW: That level of research and planning shows me how much of a true expert you are! What are you working on next? 

Karen: I’m working on a few writing projects. One project I’m working on is my first fiction book. It’s in the very early stages but I’m working on an outline right now. My other writing project is the next book in the Time to Grow in Grace series called, Time to Rejoice, which I hope to publish later this year or in early 2022.

WOW: Count me as your first reader when your fiction book comes out! And good luck on the tour!

--- Blog Tour Dates

April 19th @ WOW! Women on Writing
Join us as we celebrate the launch of Karen Brown Tyson's blog and podcast tour of her book Time to Reset. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy for yourself.

April 20th @ Bookwoman Joan
Joan is reviewing Karen Brown Tyson's devotional Time to Reset.

April 22nd @ Jill Sheets Blog
Visit Jill's blog and read her review of Karen Brown Tyson's devotional Time to Reset.

April 25th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole will be reviewing Karen Brown Tyson's devotional Time to Reset.

April 29th @ The Frugalista Mom
Join Rozelyn as she reviews Time to Reset by Karen Brown Tyson.

April 30th @ A Storybook World
Deirdra will be featuring Time to Reset by Karen Brown Tyson on her blog.

May 5th @ Crafty Moms Share
Join Carrie as she reviews Karen Brown Tyson's devotional Time to Reset.

May 6th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Beverley will be reviewing Time to Reset on her blog.

May 8th @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews Blog
Lisa will be interviewing writer Karen Brown Tyson about her book, writing journey, and more.

May 12th @ Look to the Western Sky
Margo reviews Time to Reset on her blog today.

May 21st @ Strength 4 Spouses
Wendi reviews Karen Brown Tyson's inspiring devotional Time to Reset.

May 22nd @ Leslie's Voice
Leslie will be reviewing Time to Reset by Karen Brown Tyson.

May 23rd @ Wildwood Reads
Join Megan as she reviews Karen Brown Tyson's devotional Time to Reset.

--- Podcast Tour 

The Polished Perspective
Join Karen at the Polished Perspective podcast, a show that empowers women through etiquette, polish and poise.

The Stephen Ivey Show
Join Karen as she talks about her new devotional over at the Stephen Ivey Show.

The Awakened Feminist
Join Karen on the Awakened Feminist podcast and get inspired!

Breathe Podcast
Make sure you listen to Karen on the Breathe podcast.

The Walk Show Podcast
Karen shares her journey with the Walk Show podcast.

The Shift Podcast
Listen to Karen's podcast episode with the Shift podcast.


***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a copy of Time to Reset by Karen Brown Tyson! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends May 2nd at 11:59pm CST. Winner will be announced the next day on the Rafflecopter widget and we will follow up via email. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Make Somebody's Day

Saturday, April 17, 2021

These days--these days of wearing masks and trying to keep apart from each other and not living "normal" lives and living with a constant undercurrent of fear of a microscopic enemy--we all need help. A boost. A reason to smile.


This post began a while ago when I went to the bank. The drive-thru, since nobody gets IN the bank building these days...


(which makes me think of what a terrible time this is for bank robbers. I mean, they've been out of work for months. They're probably depressed, watching Jerry Springer instead of holding up bank tellers, because I imagine it's difficult to make an appointment to get into the bank... and then rob it.)


... Back to the bank drive-thru.


As I waited for the magical cylinder to drop down the chute, I glanced over at the person to the right of me. In fact, I glanced over several times. 


Apparently the teller said something humorous, because the woman in the car next to me laughed, and then smiled more than once during the conversation.


I thought, She has a great smile. Not a runway model smile. A genuine, quirky, dimpled smile. So that she didn't think I was a creeper or a Karen, I rolled the passenger window down and complimented her on her smile.


She smiled again and said, "You just made my day!"


Really? Is it really that easy to bring some joy into someone's life? And then I thought about it. Little things can have a big impact. And then I thought even more... on the things writer friends have done for me lately.

                                                                   image by Pixabay

Here are some ways you can make someone's day:


1. Offer to interview a writing friend--Linda O'Connell was so generous to interview me on her blog. Her questions made me think, and my book got some extra exposure.


2. Write a reveiw on Amazon or Barnes and Noble--I check occasionally nineteen times a day to see if there are any new reviews on my book. 


3. Volunteer to do a dental read-through. A dental critique is when the reader takes tiny picks and mirrors to look at the grammar, punctuation, potential tense problems and everything else.


4. Catch the sparkly gems in a writer's work--There are a couple of details in my brand new novel that only a few people will get. One friend sent her favorite lines from my book to her 700 followers. It makes all the time spent writing worthwhile.


5. Voluteer to be a beta reader--Writers need some feedback before a manuscript is sent out to agents and publishers. 


How about you? What have you done for a writing friend or what has been done for you? A grateful mind wants to know.


Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher and a freelance writer. Her book, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, just debuted almost two weeks ago.




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A Chance Encounter on a Beach and an Epiphany

 


I had the amazing opportunity to visit St. Thomas U.S.V.I. over spring break. We were nervous about taking this trip, as we we were still waiting on our first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but then we started thinking that my oldest daughter is a junior in high school and we may not have her to vacation with us much longer. We took the necessary COVID-19 tests the U.S. Virgin Islands required to arrive on the island, and off we went (at the time we planned the trip they had zero reported cases). 

I knew one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, was on the nearby island of St. John because she goes there to write for five weeks each spring. I kept joking that I’d love to bump into her on the day we took the ferry to St. John, but who was I kidding? She knew all the off-the-beaten path beaches so there was no way I was going to run into her on the tourist beach we planned to visit. As fate would have it, we didn’t realize how limited parking was at the beach we wanted to go to and were forced to turn around in our rented jeep and park in the first beach we could find a spot. This one was called Hawksnest Bay, and it only had a changing area and bathrooms—no other amenities like some of the other beaches. My husband went into the restroom and I stood with my two teens reading the sign with all the rules for the beach. Right at that moment, Elin Hilderbrand came strolling through the trees with a beach bag slung over her shoulder. I blurted out, “Hi, I’m such a big fan!” She replied, “Thank you! Good to see you!” 

She spread out her beach towel and wondered if I would see her writing her next novel longhand on one of the yellow notepads she favors (can you tell I know a lot about her from her Instagram page?) But instead, she sprayed on sunscreen and relaxed on her towel. As I stood looking at the clear blue water and the coral reef underneath, I had an epiphany. I had been waking up every day on vacation around 4 or 5 a.m., worried about nagging little things at my day job and worried because I had to take a break from producing my true crime podcast. The epiphany was this—I’m anxious because I know it’s time for me to “level up.” And by “level up,” I mean it’s time to seek out more sponsors for my podcast, to pitch the podcast to local media outlets, to get more ahead of my content calendar. Put in the work necessary to succeed. Yes, I’ve been putting it off because of work deadlines at my day job, but I’ve also been putting it off because I’m scared. I’m scared to take the next step, scared to outline the non-fiction book that I know I can create from the podcast content, scared to put myself out there more to promote and sell the work. But it’s time. I’m sure it didn’t just take running into a New York Times bestseller on a remote beach on an island to make me realize these things, but it sure didn’t hurt. 

Have you ever stopped working on something because you were scared of promoting yourself or taking a step you knew could lead to success? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas.” This week, the podcast surpassed 20,000 downloads.
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Friday Speak Out!: From Pantser to Planner

Friday, April 16, 2021
by Stephanie Dethlefs

I love lists. I love maps. I love schedules, routines, and plans. I’m spontaneity-challenged. I want to know what’s coming, always. I know these things about myself (and, perhaps more importantly, my husband knows them about me.) I’ve always leaned into this characteristic in all areas...except writing.

I hated prewriting activities when I was in school. I just wanted my stories to emerge from the pencil like water from a faucet. I would avoid writing outlines with a pout and a touch of procrastination. I turned in first drafts and pleaded innocence.

In elementary school, this plan worked fine because I had no inner editor. As I got older, that voice got a little louder, turning the stream of words into more of a trickle or – on the worst of days – not a drip.

But still, I remained a “pantser." I wanted my characters and topics to shape themselves on the page. Scenes would arrive in my mind with no context, and I wrote stories around them. I wrote my first middle grade novel backwards, with the climactic scene being the first thing I wrote. I had no idea who these kids were or how they got there, so I had to write my way out of the predicament.

That’s what worked for me for the first half of my writing life. But last year, as I rounded the bend toward 50, I took two actions which changed everything.

First, I read Lisa Cron’s Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel ((Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere). It had been recommended to me and, if I must admit, it had taken me longer than three years to write a first draft of that middle grade novel. I’d gotten stuck over and over (and over and over), quitting more times that I can count.

The second thing I did was enroll in a rigorous book coach certification program. I’d been working with writers in several roles for decades, and this seemed like a perfect next step during an uncertain year. Alongside learning the curriculum, I decided to put the tools to the test with my current work-in-progress. I was shocked at what I uncovered. Not only did asking important questions help me understand what my book was about and who it was for, I was shown how to create a roadmap for the story in an intuitive and emotionally engaging way. I now know exactly where my book is going and, more importantly, why it’s going there.

Will my next book be better than the first one? I don’t know. Do I believe “pantsing” your story is wrong? Not necessarily. But I’ve discovered the power of intentional planning, and it fits beautifully with everything else I know about myself.

* * *
I am a writer and book coach living in Pacific Northwest Washington with my family and a pandemic puppy. I enjoy writing middle grade fiction and creative nonfiction essays. My writing has been featured in numerous publications and my first book was published last year. A free course and additional offers for authors of contemporary fiction for middle grade, young adult and adult audiences can be found at https://hellowriters.net.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Not Knowing

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

I struggle. I changed that sentence oh so many times - I struggle with ____________ (time management, not always understanding, being patient, parenting, finding time to write, and the list goes on). Ultimately though - I'm sure you can relate with the simple sentence:


I struggle.


After all, each of us struggles with something, right? I left WOW! Blog Tours for a while because I was having a difficult time managing my mom role while managing tours. I thought leaving the tours would be the answer. It wasn't. I'm back. I was missing the lovely bloggers and authors I had worked with. This got me thinking about how we often don't know what the future brings and how things will turn out. This brings to mind my favorite Gilda Radner quote:


Life is about not knowing,

having to change,

taking the moment and making the best of it,

without knowing what's going to happen next.




If you aren't old enough to remember Gilda Radner, there are so many words to describe her - a strong, funny, talented lady with incredible insight about life and love...


Gilda Radner


 
Of course, in the context of this story, I have to say thank you to WOW! for allowing me to stay involved while I changed my mind about blog tours, I kept my foot in the door and boy am I glad I did!

As we know - life is a story and now you know a bit about mine, so let's move onto you and how we can apply Gilda's quote to your writing or reading life.  


Do you sometimes write without knowing what's going to happen next?

(or if you're a reader, do you enjoy a good plot twist? a change you didn't see coming?) 

 

Do you sometimes start in one direction and change your mind?

(or if you're a reader, have you ever started a book and loved it and then decided not to finish?) 

 


Let's delve into this and share our expertise and ideas! There's so much we can learn from one another!



1)  If you're a writer, how do you write without knowing what's next and still keep things flowing? Is there a benefit to knowing how things will end and having it charted out? 

2)  If you're a reader, what's your favorite twistiest book or author and why?

3)  If you're a writer, how do you change your mind about the storyline and keep it seamless for the reader? 

4) If you're a reader, what is it about a book that is an immediate turn-off for you?

and in case you're just here as a non-writer or non-reader and the questions so far haven't applied to you, try one of these:

5) Who is one of your favorite actors of all times and why?

~or~

6) What do you think of when you think about Gilda Radner?

GO!

Thanks in advance for the comments! You're Fabulous!!!


Hugs,
~Crystal


and now...a little more about me...


Shown from left to right:
Delphine riding Honey
Mr. Otto holding Eudora
Crystal riding Marv.
Thank you Forward Farm, LLC 
Crystal is a hot mess of busy-ness who has decided to shorten her bio...

You can find Crystal milking cows, riding horses, and the occasional unicorn (not at the same time), taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books here, and at her own blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!





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Slow and Steady Still Wins The Race


It was a glorious Easter this year, and what made it extra special was the gathering of all my family at my house. Yay! 

But that called for extra special cleaning AND cooking on the Saturday before, which looked a little something like this:

Clean the downstairs where all that gathering would be (which took a couple of hours even though it’s only me and Libs here and I basically occupy the same 10 square feet every day). 

Rest for an hour. Or so.

Fix the muffins and the pasta salad (which took another hour or so ‘cause there were two kinds of muffins and I didn’t really know what I was doing, pasta salad-wise). 

Rest for an hour. Or so.

Clean the kitchen and an upstairs bathroom (‘cause there’s always some Junior Hall who can’t wait five minutes and insists on going upstairs to use the facilities). 

Put my feet up for the rest of the evening and watch TV. 

Now, there was a time I could do four consecutive hours of cleaning on a Saturday and then go out to the ballpark to watch a Junior Hall’s game and then have a cookout that evening, wash a load of clothes (because the uniform, right?), and stay up long enough to watch SNL. But those days are done, friends; that time in my life when I could go for hours like the battery bunny are over. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. I can still get ‘er done, just at my own pace. 

And it occurred to me that writing is a bit like that. Or rather, a lot like that. There are times in our lives when we can go, go, go with our writing projects. Whether it’s because we’re intrinsically motivated with a high degree of creative energy and that spurs us on, or we have more flexibility in our schedules to give more time to our writing, the bottom line is the same: we have periods of super-productivity. 

But we also have times in our lives when our productivity sags, perhaps even to none at all. We hit a writing desert when ideas are sparse and our motivation is even sparser. Or maybe it’s jobs or family or friends or health concerns that take up every hour in the day. There’s little energy left for creative endeavors, particularly when we feel like there will be little if any reward if we use our precious spare time on the arts. 

But that doesn’t mean we’re done, either. It’s not easy to toss away that compulsion to create, to bring our ideas to life in words or whatever. It might mean going in a new direction, or it might be time to take a break. But mostly, it’s just finding our own pace and accepting ourselves where we are. ‘Cause whether it’s cleaning and cooking for the people we love or pulling out a much-loved, years-old manuscript for a fresh look, we can get ‘er done on our own terms, in our own time. 

I may be a turtle these days, but I’m okay with that. Slow and steady still wins the race!

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Interview with Sally Basmajian, Runner Up in Fall 2020 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Sally Basmajian is an escapee from the corporate broadcasting world. Before fleeing the business, she was Bell Media’s Vice President and General Manager, Comedy and Drama.

She is currently finishing Draft #1 of a historical novel and sketching a number of short memoir and fiction pieces. In February 2020, she was awarded first prize in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Ontario’s Rising Spirits contest as well as third prize in WOW’s Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest. She completed her Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Humber College in 2019 and holds a Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Toronto.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Fall 2020 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Sally: Thanks, and I must admit to being a serial WOW entrant. I was emboldened by winning third place in the Winter 2020 contest, and it pumped me up enough to try again. Plus, when the Boxing Day special entry fee was announced, I just couldn't resist!
 
WOW:  Where do your ideas for stories come from, including your entry, “Be Not Angry?”

Sally: Like everyone alive, I encounter story possibilities every single day. Sometimes I write about them immediately; other times, they snooze away in my subconscious for years. In the case of "Be Not Angry," I time-traveled back to my student undergraduate days, when I had to sit in the music library and transcribe medieval notation from Gregorian chants for hours on end. From that rather boring endeavor, I developed enough knowledge to create an interesting setting—all I had to do, decades later, was throw in some conflict, and the story was born.

WOW: You mention that you’re working on a novel. Can you tell us anything about it, and what your novel writing journey has been like so far?

Sally: Oh, dear. I've been novel-avoidant lately. My poor project is languishing at about the 70,000-word mark, with another 20,000 or so to go. It's a historical fiction, based on fact, and at this point in my protagonist's real life, his existence was more than a bit on the boring side. My writing group has threatened to shun me if I place him in one more café scene—but, in real life, the guy spent an awful lot of time hanging out in restaurants. Sure, I can give the character a totally made-up hobby (fencing? stunt-riding?), but it might be too far-fetched, even for a novel. On the other hand, I can kind of picture him holding an epee, lunging at his opponent...

In other words, the novel writing journey is bumpy. Will I give up? Of course not! Turbulence is inevitable and the road is long, but I'll get there.

WOW: You will get there! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Sally: Writing flash fiction is fun and energetic. Having a word count limit forces me to be parsimonious with my language, stripping it down to the essentials, and I enjoy the challenge of selecting the punchiest verbs and most evocative adjectives. Plus, the project is finite—it may take some time to edit, but once it's complete, I've crafted a whole world in 750 words or less. So satisfying!

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Sally! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Sally: Choose a contest where there's an option to purchase a critique. I have found the WOW critiques to be worth every penny (and, no, WOW is not paying me for this endorsement!). Before I ever won a prize, I got multiple rejections. Without feedback from a professional, I would have kept repeating the same mistakes.

It's not always easy to absorb and benefit from criticism, but without it, we operate in a vacuum. If an expert tells us where we're going wrong (as well as where we're doing something right), we know what we'll have to fix in order to be successful in the future. The key is to be open-minded and apply the judge's advice so our next story will be better.

****

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Cliffhanger Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, April 12, 2021

In 2030, viruses, spy drones, terrorism, and joblessness have eroded American optimism. People want something to believe in. As demonstrated in a Midwest high school election, politics have taken on the inflexibility and dogma of a new religion. Only true believers will survive and prosper. Or so they think. 


This book is perfect for anyone, including young adults, or someone who likes mystery/thriller/romance with a strong, conflicted heroine.

Print Length: 276 Pages 
Genre: Political Thriller
ISBN-10: 1732511756
ISBN-13: 978-1732511750
Publisher: Moot Point Productions

Cliffhanger is available to purchase at Amazon.com. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com.

About the Author 

Michael R. French is a National best-selling author and graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, world traveler to developing countries, and is a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction. He has published twenty-two books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon's, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal. 

You can discover more about Michael’s work on his website: 


----- Interview by Kelly Sgroi

WOW: Cliffhanger has a timely theme, when did you come up with the story idea?

Michael: Judging by voter turnout, politics at all levels turns off half the country. I wanted to write an adult/young adult novel so I could better understand people who aspire to office. “Cliffhanger” refers to both a high school election in the year 2030, and the depressed state of our economy due to overspending and policy blunders. Historically, a weakened democracy offers candidates of all stripes an opportunity to be heard. Voters are desperate for positive change, but choices are inevitably clouded. As I began to shape my story, I would tell my characters, “hey, be careful what you wish for." 

In Cliffhanger, a rural Indiana high school mirrors Washington in its passion, apathy, lies, lobbyists, hidden agendas, and out-of-control social media. In my story, the villain is a non-profit corporation promising a college education to all, taking the responsibility away from nearly-bankrupt state and federal governments. My heroine is one of those rare people who can see through the ruses and has the courage to open unmarked doors to find real answers. She gets banged around but is still standing at the end of the book. 

WOW: So many of us wished for more time at home until we went into lockdown. What does your typical day of writing look like?

Michael: I don’t have a typical day of writing. I wish I did. Things come up. What’s important for me is to have a good night’s sleep. I always write better—especially on a second or third or fourth draft—when my brain has been through what my wife calls “the car wash.” I try to write four or five hours a day, but I can’t recall a day when I didn’t write something, even if it’s a couple of sentences. Habit is important. I’ve known too many writers who decide to take a year off and they never write anything again. 

WOW: I love that term, "the car wash" because I've never heard any writers mention the importance of rest and a clear mind. How do you find the revision process, and how long does it take you to write the first draft of each novel?

Michael: The revision process is critical. It’s not unusual for me to rewrite extensively, at the risk of distorting or losing the original story I was telling. I don’t mind going off track. Sometimes the rewrite is a welcome surprise. Sometimes it’s a dead end. You have to be patient and you have to welcome failure as a learning tool. My life has been divided among raising a family with my wife, working a 9 to 5 job for almost 40 years, and manically stealing writing time at odd hours. It takes me six months to a year to create a decent first draft. The final draft often takes another year. You have to be a tad obsessed to write and publish 25 books. 

WOW: You are an inspiration. After publishing over 20 books, is the road to publication one you can drive with your eyes closed?

Michael: I never reprise my novels. They all have different characters and reflect different genres, so nothing is rote or automatic for me. Sometimes, that’s the precise formula for getting rejected by agents and publishers and even readers. The publishing game is about money more than ever, and with self-publishing the competition is staggering. Publishers prefer bankable authors who build a fan base by being consistent in something—a genre, a protagonist, a setting, something like that. Readers today like having their expectations met. My main goal is to challenge myself to write the best novel, screenplay, biography, or adaptation that I can, regardless of subject matter. My curiosity continually leads me down new paths. Coming up with fresh ideas is the most fun part of writing. Executing is back-breaking work. Hopefully, you’re always getting better. 

WOW: Exploring different genres keeps it interesting too. I like seeing authors branching out more these days and trying new things. Do you have any advice for aspiring or debut authors?

Michael: My strongest advice to aspiring writers, particularly novelists, is have a very thick skin if your primary motive is to get published. Rejection can knock the wind our of you. Second, write about what interests you and then make it even more interesting for readers. This takes role playing. When I rewrite a sentence or paragraph or chapter, I read it out loud and more than once. That somehow puts me in the state of mind of another person—a reader—other than being the writer. Sometimes the advice “best to write about what you know” works well for young writers. As you get older, you’ve experienced a lot more than you did in your twenties, and your perspective changes. The real jewels of insight seem to come out of nowhere at any time. Write them all down. You never know when you’ll hit a dry patch.

WOW: Rejections can be devastating but determination is what wins in the end. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Michael. It's been an absolute pleasure hearing all your writing tips!

 ----- Blog Tour Dates

April 12th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning with coffee than a muffin? Join us on the WOW! blog today and celebrate the launch of Michael R. French's book Cliffhanger. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book too.

April 14th @ S. D. Reeves
Visit Stephen's blog today to read a guest post from author Michael R. French on Why I Continue to Write for 50 Years, and Why/How My Storytelling Has Evolved.

April 15th @ Clouds Girl 27 Reads Books
Join Melissa today as she spotlights the book Cliffhanger by Michael R. French.

April 16th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today to see her spotlight on the book Cliffhanger by Michael R. French.

April 22nd @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Visit Veronica's blog today to see a guest post by author Michael R. French on Why Politics Excites Some People and Turns Off Others.

April 23rd @ Leslie L. McKee
Join Leslie today for her giveaway and spotlight of the book Cliffhanger and a guest post by author Michael R. French on The Importance of Making Mistakes and How You Learn From Them.

April 23rd @ Pages & Paws
Visit Kristine's blog today to read her review of Cliffhanger by Michael R. French.

April 27th @ Mindy McGinnis
Visit Mindy's blog today to read a guest post from the author of Cliffhanger, Michael R. French on Adapting Adult Text for Young Readers.
https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

May 9th @ Michelle Cornish
Visit Michelle's blog today to read her review of Cliffhanger by Michael R. French and his guest post about his Love For "No-Quit" Underdogs.

May 11th @ Of History and Kings
Visit Helen's blog today to see a guest post by author Michael R. French on Having the Curiosity and Courage to Open Unmarked Doors.

May 13th @ Deborah-Zenha Adams
Visit Deborah's blog today to see a guest post by author Michael R. French on The Evolution and Endangerment of the Written Word.

May 16th @ In Our Spare Time
Join Ellen as she reviews the book Cliffhanger by Michael R. French.

--- Podcast Features

The Fearless Storyteller
Michael will be a guest on an upcoming episode of this podcast that explores the heart and soul of stories - and the writers who create them.

Book Lover's Companion
Michael will be a guest on an upcoming episode of the Book Lover's Companion! Join him as he talks about Cliffhanger and more.

Shout Radio
Join Michael on Shout Radio with Toby on a Thursday where he talks about writing, his books, and what inspires him.

Travis Cody Show
Join the Travis Cody show where you can hear Michael talk about writing.

Self-Publishing Queen
Join Michael as he talks about the publishing process with the self-publishing queen.

The Walk Show
Join Michael on the Walk Show as he discusses rebranding yourself as a writer and tailoring your creativity.


***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a copy of Cliffhanger by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends on April 25th at 11:59pm CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

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Flash Fiction Contest Tips: Opening Sentences

Sunday, April 11, 2021
Hello WOW Readers! I have been one of the first-tier contest judges for WOW’s quarterly flash fiction contest for over a decade, and it has been a huge pleasure to read your stories. I am writing this blog series on Flash Fiction Contest Tips to help you strengthen your flash writing and maybe even place in one of our contests! Tips are based on our scoring criteria and craft trends I’ve seen throughout the decade. 

We all know the first sentence of your story is crucial. It sets the mood and tone, often introduces the protagonist and/or setting, and might be the reader's first glimpse into the story's problem or conflict. It should at least pique the reader's interest, if not fully grab their attention. A well-written opening sentence or two hooks a reader and gives them motivation to continue reading. 

A poorly written opening can alienate readers and make them lose interest before they've started. Maybe the rest of your story is the best piece of writing ever created, but if you don't hook your readers at the start, they will never know how great it is because they won't keep reading.

A story should begin with action or something that moves us towards the story’s action or conflict. This is especially true with flash fiction when you have no words to waste. Consider your favorite stories. Or go to any lit mag and read the first sentence of any story. Tell us in the comments: how does the story start? What about it grabs your attention?

Let’s look at the first lines of the top three winners of last quarter's contest. 

Opening Sentence: “The beach was the same as she remembered, starchy and fresh.” 
Explanation: By saying “the same as she remembered,” the author gives a bit of history so the reader knows she was there before. This gets the reader to start asking why was she there before and why has she returned? 

Opening Sentence: “Clutching her milagro, the tin cross her husband made before he left for El Otro Lado, Nayeli whispers the same prayer over and over.” 
Explanation: The way she clutches this object builds tension by showing readers she’s anxious or worried about something and we want to read more to find out why. 

Opening Sentence: “They had exchanged messages for years, never able to reconnect.” 
Explanation: We don’t know who “they” are yet, but this sentence shows readers a problem/conflict, so we want to keep reading to find out who they are, why they couldn’t reconnect, and what happened because they couldn’t reconnect. 

One common opening you want to avoid is the waking up scene. A character regaining conscious after some kind of accident can work well if the character wakes up into some major action (I'm thinking about the beginning of The Walking Dead TV series when Rick wakes from a coma into the zombie apocalypse). But that's much different than waking up, brushing teeth, and having a cup of coffee before getting to the day's conflict. 

Another common opening that's best avoided is description of the weather. Sure, it can set mood and tone and show the scene, but unless the story is about a severe weather emergency, it's too boring to effectively grab a reader's interest. 

There are other cliché openings, like "once upon a time," loading/unloading a moving truck, or descriptions of setting or characters without including action. A quick Google search will give you many examples. 

I once read that the first sentence of novel should be a summary of the entire novel. I'm not sure I agree with that, and, even if I did, I don't know that it would apply to significantly shorter work like flash fiction. Nonetheless, it's something I think about each time I write an opening to a story. It helps me to better focus my opening lines, even if they're not fully summarizing the whole piece. 

Tell us more about your opening lines! I'd love to hear your best or worst lines. Or do you have an opening line that needs revised? Write it in the comments so we can give you some feedback! 

Tips brought to you by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, book reviews, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen. She has a master's degree in Creative Writing: Prose from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England and a doctorate in Adult Education from Penn State University. She is also a competitive swimmer, a trail adventurer, a dog lover, and a mom. Tweets at @dr_greenawalt.
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