Tag Archives: writers

Read, Revise, Adapt: Why Writing Across Genres Can Benefit Your Writing

read revise adaptHey Friends,

I just got back from a fabulous week at the Write by the Lake writers retreat in Madison, Wisconsin. If you’re searching for conferences to attend next year, I highly recommend this program. I’ve gone the last three years. They offer a dozen different course options that provide intense study into a specific genre or practice for the week. Courses are for all levels from introductory to those with a full manuscript looking for a masterclass.

This year, I swayed from my usual path of nonfiction and opted for the course on picture book writing.

Here’s what I learned: 

My instructor, Georgia Beaverson, had us do a writing prompt on the first day. We had to write down our first memory. The second day we rewrote that memory from another person’s point of view. She then made us edit our wordcount down by HALF (oh, the agony). 

She said we could also try reworking the piece into different tenses, illustrating that a story can be told in many different ways, by different people, and sometimes reworking it can lead to great discoveries.

I’ve been working on my memoir for the last several years, and I’ve reworked some of my essays to be performed for adult storytelling. (I highly recommend taking a storytelling class if you have one in your area. I took one two years ago and it was wonderful!) What I learned by doing so was that moving around and utilizing the space I could tell in, I imagined new ways of describing the action or character emotions in my writing. Performing the scene helped me write a stronger scene.

In the picture book writing class, I adapted one of my essays to be told as a children’s picture book. The audience was entirely different, since I’d previously written and performed for adults. In this instance, I played up sounds, using onomatopoeia, stronger verbs, and I limited description where illustrations could play a role.

illustration thumbnails

Creating my thumbnail mockup of the picture book.

Using the same plotline, I now had three different ways of telling/performing the story. 

Ohmygawd! Justin Timberlake was right all along! 

giphy-downsized

The more you write, the better writer you become, and practicing different kinds of writing tools, genres, and craft elements are key. I was amazed at how each exercise in storytelling, whether on paper or a stage, shaped me as a writer. It was fun, challenging for sure, but rewarding across the board.

Sometimes when we’re stuck, we aren’t sure how to gain that forward momentum again. Whether or not you choose to pursue a different genre or space for your story, trying out different exercises can offer up different questions to make you think, explore, and get that creative blood pumping again.

Things You Can Try:

  • Work with a critique group that has multiple genres – How will their feedback strengthen your writing? (Ex. Will listening to poetry help you improve your word choice and descriptions? Will the romance author help you write funnier characters or scenes?)
  • Adapt your story into different formats (written, spoken, illustrated) – You may discover something new, or gain confidence in an area you previously felt uncomfortable in.
  • Just play – Are you stuck on a scene? Is the writing starting to bore even you? Move around, make yourself do the actions! Try drawing it, what’s the action you want to portray? You don’t have to show this to anyone else, but practicing in new ways can help get you past writer’s block.
  • Change the POV.
  • Change the tense of the story.
  • Change the audience you’re writing for.
  • Read different genres. Listen to people tell stories. Note what draws you in.

How can you rewrite and/or adapt your stories
to learn something new about them?

Got an example?
Share your favorite way to practice writing.

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Who’s Your Dream Author Panel?

James Rollins

Lunch with James Rollins at the Dallas / Fort Worth Writers Conference in 2012.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending several writers conferences around the country and met many great authors who I consider role models. I’m so honored to chat with folks such as James Rollins and Larry Brooks, to interview writing idols like Danielle Trussoni and Karen Abbott. I dressed alike with Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) and spoke Greek with Arianna Huffington. And I am beyond thrilled to welcome Nickolas Butler and Blair Braverman to La Crosse later this year!

Eventbrite, a company that hosts and assists with lots of great conferences and events – I’m attending several coming up including a travel writing course and a gallery reading with a medium! – asked the question “Who’s on your dream author panel?” 

I suppose it’s not practical to say ALL OF THEM!

writing-336370_1280

There’s little that fills me with as much energy as chatting with other authors. When you’re in a room surrounded by “your people,” it’s pretty awesome. And I’m grateful for every opportunity.

So honestly, many authors are on my dream panel. Those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before and new faces as well. But if I had to narrow it down, then I’d pick from my favorite genre, memoir, and specifically those authors with the ability to infuse humor into the hardships they face.

So Universe, if you can somehow swing these folks to gather AND put me in the same room with them, I’ll keep my fangirl under control (or try to). 

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Naked
Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mishna Wolff – I’m Down
Elaine Lui – Listen to the Squawking Chicken
Caitlyn Moran – Moranifesto
Haven Kimmel – A Girl Named Zippy
Kristin Newman – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Kevin Kling – The Dog Says How
Roz Chast – Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Laurie Notaro – The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club

Ten is kind of a lot on a panel isn’t it? I don’t care. I like to dream big.

I’d love to hear the perspectives from this mix of essayists, memoirists, and graphic novelist. This panel would hold stories of coming out, cultural identity, race relations, immigration, surviving abusive relationships, feminism, dysfunctional family, living with a disability, caring for aging parents, and living paycheck to paycheck. Topics to make us feel less alone, walk in someone else’s shoes, and find the laughter in the end. Definitely my favorite genre to dive into.

Dream big! Who would be on YOUR author panel if you could choose? 

Monday Mashup: The Pee Your Pants Edition

photo (2)

Road trippin in style. Starbucks + Audiobook = the Good Life!

Hello my little Lulubells! 

(Did you know that’s what my mother calls me? How embarrassing.) 

I’m playing hooky and off at a writer’s retreat in Madison this week. Random tweets and awkward photos soon headed your way! (soooo, there’s THAT to look forward to.) 😉

To keep you company, I’ve compiled some of my favorite funny posts from the month. Happy reading!

(OMG, I can hear you SNORT from here!)

*****

Jenny Lawson of The Bloggess is dealing with Mother Nature in her post, Texas is Trying to Kill Us. Worth a read just to find out what a fox scream sounds like. But there are also mountain lions and howler monkeys and power outages.

The Bloggess gets a second nod this mashup because of Turning Into a Cat Lady Literally. Literally the greatest reason for photoshop right here.

Aussa Lorens of Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy. is married now, and that means she can blog about sex without judgement! It’s well worth the wait. Feast your eyes on these hilarious tips for setting the mood.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the germ-infested kids who eat mud on their bread. My pal, Andrea Culletto, blogs about the perils of dinnertime and getting her kids to wash their hands in Ew. Gross. 

Darla from She’s A Maineiac hates Twitter. Which is sad, because I love Twitter. However her fake tweets in Tales of a Twitter Nothing are pretty fantastic. I think she should actually tweet them. LOL

Kristen Lamb – buttkicker of writers and social media guru – tells it like it is in You Might Be a Writer If

There’s no such thing as stupid questions, but Jenny Hansen has some useless ones for you in Squirrel Underpants and Other Useless Links.

Julie Heiss Scagell is blogging at The Indie Chicks with The Most Annoying Things Your Co-Workers Say. We all know someone who says these phrases. Heck, it might even be you! Stop it already.

From the writer behind This Is Not That Blog comes the enchanting stick figure run down of what happens when you’re trapped in unnecessary small talk with a stranger, Good News for People Who Hate Boring News.

Because this is the Pee Your Pants Edition, ever been intercom’d while literally peeing in a public bathroom? Meet Susie and her Insane Circumstance.

And lastly, because I too kind of hate bicycles, I leave you with I Need a Bicycle Like a Fish Needs a Man by Barbara from the cleverly named blog, And By That I Mean Vagina. Fuck bicycles. There, I said it.

Happy reading everyone! 

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” ~ Milton Berle

Living Without a Backup Plan: Guest Posting at Ingrid Schaffenburg’s Blog

Life of a Writer

Happy November everyone!

Today I’m so excited to say that I’m guest posting at the fabulous Ingrid Schaffenburg’s Blog today!

Ingrid blogs about creativity and mindfulness, and going after your dreams. She is a spiritual globetrotter who knows it’s never too late to learn a lesson.

Ingrid asked me to share my story about how I made the bold decision to quit my job in retail management with NO BACKUP PLAN!

This time of year, with holidays looming ahead, can be so stressful. (I know that better than most.) I think this post is timely for all of us to remember to take risks, stay positive, and believe in ourselves.

I hope you’ll hang out with us today! CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE POST PLEASE. 🙂

*****

TEASER ~ Living Without a Backup Plan

“For six years I worked in retail for a large department store. It’s identity shall not be named in order to protect the damned. I started working there in college, and after graduation, I freaked about becoming an “adult.” So I took a full time position at the store and bragged to my dad that I finally had health insurance.

I was good at my job. I just wasn’t happy.”

*****

See you at Ingrid’s place!
Tell us about your dreams and big plans.

Do You Like Me? Yes or No: Love Notes from SEO

All writers and bloggers know that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a crucial part of establishing your online brand. Tags and Keywords are required in order for the Internet Gods to find you and connect you with readers. With tags, we have a say. We can edit our own tags to include the subject matter we blog about in hopes that interested readers will search those tags and find us. For example, I’ve tagged this post to come up in searches for my name, my blog’s name, SEO, blogging, and writers.

We can influence keywords as well, but the Internet Gods that be (on the seventh day they tweeted) will also pull things from our posts based on wording we’ve used and formatting.

Every now and then I like to take a peak at my blog stats to see what search terms led people to find my little hub in the great wide blogosphere. And the randomness of some of the search terms never ceases to amuse me.

In the past, you may have found my blog by searching one or all of the following phrases:

  • how to do the Peanuts dance
  • dino erotica
  • what defined the 80’s
  • things to blog about that start with ‘S’
  • vampire attacks
  • claimed vampire attacks in 2013
  • covered up vampire attacks

Why, YES I CAN instruct you how to do the Peanuts dance, why you SHOULDN’T buy dino erotica, what defined the 80’s (I’ll save you the read – it’s fanny packs), things to blog about that start with ‘S’ (you could also consult a dictionary, but I’ve got some ideas – Snuggies, sleep, sloths, the character Sloth from the movie The Goonies…). And I can tell you about ONE claimed vampire attack in 2013 that may in fact be a cover up by a moderately well known band.

Now, I like to imagine you, Dear Readers, opening your Google search engines and writing to me personally, like Dear Abby, all of your quizzical interweb wonderings. I think of your search terms as love notes. And I hope that I can answer your questions.

Yes I Can

My Campaign Slogan – just in time for election day!

But lately, I’m beginning to feel like we should see other people. Your requests have gotten out of hand. And I think it’s time we introduce a safe word. You know, something to say when one of us feels the other has the crossed the line.  How about ‘parakeet‘? I think it works because I dislike them too.

A week ago when I looked at the search terms that led you here, I was flummoxed. And more than a little uncomfortable.

Recent Search Terms That Led You to the Happiness Project:

  • inside LDS temples
  • scary ouija board conversations
  • what to wear in the tundra
  • what does it mean if you draw a swing
  • dragon hill spa placenta
  • i dreamed there was 5 little orphan baby bats all snuffling dreams
  • girls and boars
  • sideshow freak posters
  • queens drinking tea
  • Tia Carrere’s legs
  • Jonathan Crombie’s girlfriend
  • inflatable handcuffs hahaha
  • how to fix a box fan
  • ideas of how to dress like The Hulk
  • hippies, gypsies, no bras and no squares
  • absurdist quirky films
  • Willoughby “the slime”
  • German women in dirndls
  • absurdly romantic things to say to a woman
  • what causes super human hearing
  • sex free friendship with old Indian woman

Huh???

Who am I to you, SEO? Do you even know me? I thought we loved one another.

SEO love letter

I think it’s time we slow things down, SEO. NaNoWriMo is starting and I just don’t have time for this. Come talk to me when you’re not drunk. You’ve got my number.

*****

Follow up Request to the Internet Gods

Dear Internet Lords,

I just called for a break between me and my SEO. Lately I feel like he doesn’t get me anymore. And he’s always asking me for the strangest requests. I’m tired and I feel like he doesn’t respect me anymore. What should I do? Oh, and how do I change my blog relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’?

Sincerely,

Baffled and Blogging

*****

What’s your SEO relationship like?
or Write me your best Dear Abby response!

Celebrating My Writing Slump

This past weekend I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference (Dallas/Fort Worth, for those of us not from the South).  Let me just say, this conference rocked more than Jon Bon Jovi, and I even stood behind him in concert once on National TV!  That’s another tale.

I truly do recommend attending this conference, or one closer to you if cost is a concern, because the information and MOTIVATION that come out of these sessions is priceless.  Plus, here’s a bunch of the writers/bloggers I met there:  Kait Nolan, Julie Glover, Tiffany A. White, Jenny Hansen, Kristen Lamb, Donna Newton, Piper Bayard, Nigel Blackwell, Jillian Dodd, Roni Loren, Melinda VanLone, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Candace Havens, Kendra Highley, Joann Mannixfellow Life List Club blogger David N. Walker, and New York Times Bestselling Author James Rollins    

Don’t believe me?  I’ve got proof!

Jenny Hansen, David N. Walker, Jillian Dodd

Me, Tiffany A. White, Julie Glover

Donna Newton, Nigel Blackwell, Ingrid Schaffenburg

Piper Bayard, Me, Jenny Hansen

Me and Kristen Lamb

Me and Kait Nolan

James Rollins, Me – How cool is that?!

Piper Bayard, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Kristen Lamb, Me, Donna Newton and of course, Spawn

Now, why exactly are we celebrating my writing slump?

The DFW Con is my second writing conference.  Last year I attended the Madison, Wisconsin Annual Writer’s Institute.  You can check out my conference posts if you like:  The Do Re Mi of Conference Attending, Creativity? How to Force More of It and Have Fun Too, and City Slickers and Social Media.

Here’s a little bit of backstory of what happened between that conference and this one:

1.  I met a group of people at the conference who I totally connected with, who were all writing in the same genre as me (paranormal/fantasy) and who had blogs!  Squeee!  We swapped contact info and started our own online critique group, rotating weeks and sending in 10 pages.

  • Oh yah, it totally bombed.  About 3 months in, people were no longer sticking to the schedule, everyone was at such different pacing, many weren’t even blogging regularly (not moi!), and some took on different projects altogether.

2.  So, I had an opportunity to join another writing group.  The Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp!  We focused on making the synopsis clear and the key characters strong.  This was so helpful!  But it also showed me more holes in my story, and I had to make so many changes I no longer knew what story I was writing.

  • What I learned here was invaluable.  It was great to have a group fully dive in with feedback and meaningful questions.  I also realized this was no longer a story I knew how to write because it had entirely changed.

3.  Then NaNoWriMo happened!  Ok, here it is!  All or nothing, I’m cracking this baby out in one month!  Not sure where I’m going, doesn’t matter!  I’m writing this bad book boy!

  • Um, hello, I work in retail!  What was I thinking trying to whip out 50K on a book I hadn’t plotted or outlined well during the peak month of Christmas shopping?!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I’m celebrating my writing slump because I learned some hard lessons along the way. It was irrevocably and irretrievably pounded into my brain this weekend that I had not planned well.  I half-a**ed my book outline and pantsed the rest expecting word nirvana to appear for me with little effort. I wasted time. Plain and simple. I wasted time, and I let myself down.

A few things have changed for me between that last conference and this one. For one, while I was one of the few people at the previous conference who had started blogging, now everybody has a blog, and they also have a twitter handle, a facebook page, they’re on Pinterest, and they’re launching their own website.  Second, the whole market has changed. Where self-publishing was represented by a panel here and there, in the course of one year, at least one session each hour covered a panel or speaker discussing and promoting self-publishing options and how to hybrid with traditional publishing.

There were things that remained the same too. We know that we’re living in the Wild Wild West of Publishing now. Things are changing rapidly and every day we don’t actively write or market our book is a day wasted in this fast-paced technology driven world. There are more options than ever, but it’s important to research them and plan your platform and marketing pitch just as much as it’s important to edit and revise your work until it’s the best possible writing.

Truths:

Traditional publishers are looking for the goose that lays the golden egg.  If the goose stops laying golden eggs, then the publishers are going to kill the goose and roast him for dinner.  So, what that means for us as writers, is we always have to keep writing. We’ve got to have a plan for what that next project is going to be.  And if we don’t, expect to get fried by your agent.

Sound harsh? Think of it this way: Don’t you want people to demand more books from you? If you’re like me, working on that first novel, what’s your plan for the next one? If you haven’t thought about it, you’re in danger of becoming a one hit wonder. And that’s only IF you get the first one published.

 But wait…

Author James Rollins (image courtesy goodreads.com)

Here’s a success story of epic proportions. James Rollins, remember me mentioning him, the NYT Bestselling Author? Yah, that one! During his keynote speech, he shared with us while he was still a veterinarian starting out writing, he wrote several different books, some in the thriller genre and some in the fantasy genre. He also received about 50 rejections letters, including one particularly personal handwritten note that read, “This is unpublishable.” But, he kept writing.

He happened to meet, at a conference no less, an agent who was interested in his fantasy series, a storyline previously unsupported by his other agent. Now, he was in the midst of two agents wanting to help publish his work, but only because he continued to write books even when it seemed no one wanted to read them.

Still not sold on the planning and preparedness of this process as a business strategy? Well, how many of you are hoping for the proverbial writer’s dream of quitting your day job, telling your boss to suck it, and moving into the castle across the moat from J.K. Rowling?  Then you better plan to make some money on your books.

Author Lori Wilde (image courtesy pinterest.com)

Bestselling author Lori Wilde was another speaker at the conference and she broke it down like this:

  • On average, most writers will make about $15,000/year on their book.
  • Subtract the 15% share the agent takes of that.
  • Subtract the ___% share the publisher takes off of that.
  • And now you’re left with your shiny new book in print that your boss at Starbucks won’t let you put next to the Pike’s Place roast on Buy One Get One Tuesdays!

So what you need to do is determine how much money you want to make a year, and based on the above numbers, calculate how many books you’d need to write and publish each year.

I’m not sharing this information to depress you into taking your crinkled pages of manuscript as scratch paper for next month’s grocery list. Well, maybe I am, it betters my chances of success. I’m sharing this information because I think it’s so crucial to know about your business if you want to be a writer. A writer with more than one book out there and who doesn’t have to also work the drive thru window her entire career.

A few of my favorite de-slumping activities (I’m an expert at slumping, so I get to make up words about it) are:

  1. Experience the world with all 5 senses (Blindfold yourself if you have to!)
  2. Listen to the sound of silence.  When you hear noise/nature again, it will all be amplified.
  3. “Even if it’s a negative thing, stop and appreciate it because it’s teaching you something.” – Lori Wilde
  4. Get back to the basics.
  5. Write something totally different.
  6. Don’t whine!  Breathe and then get it over with.

All of us have slumps, when do you hit yours? What advice got you out of it? What tricks or tips help you move past it?

What do you think of the ever-changing nature of our business? Are you excited about this Wild Wild West of publishing? Do you know another writer success story?

See CJ West. See Jillian Dodd. See Jillian Play With CJ’s Abs.

(image courtesy wikimedia.org)

It’s Guilty Pleasure Friday again and what’s more pleasurable than hounding down and objectifying author CJ West?

CJ is a suspense author.  A hardcore one.  I mean, the URL for his blog is CJWestKills.  See?  Hardcore!

As equally hardcore as CJ is Jillian Dodd.  Jillian fights crime with fireworks because she blogs and writes about LOVE!  Recently, the two authors happened to hobnob with other writerly folks, and Jillian asked if CJ wouldn’t mind being featured on her blog Glitter, Bliss, and Perfect Chaos for one of her epic MANday posts!

Prepare yourself, Readers, for the most provincial contest our our time!

How can you say no to that??!

So what is MANday might you ask?  It’s really better if I SHOW you.  Feast your eyes on Samoan Rugby Players and Their Tattoos or if you prefer more clean cut, try MANday’s Magic Mike, a blog all about the upcoming movie premier for a story about male erotic dancers!

Where did you all go?  Get BACK here!  And put your pants back on!

So here’s what you need to know about the contest:

If we can get 5,000 people to comment on CJ’s website before the end of June, he agreed to be featured in MANday!

If you help us, YOU will be eligible to win a prize package of ebooks by both CJ West and Jillian Dodd, as well as some other excellent writer’s books. You can enter to win that package by doing this:

Tweet this:  Help @jilliandodd convince @cjwest to be on MANday http://wp.me/p1zk5w-A7 #teamnoshirt #contest #prize #kindle #books

If we reach the goal, CJ and Jillian will also award a $500 Amazon Gift card to one lucky winner!!!

To enter, go to CJ’s blog and leave a comment.

List of e-books in prize package:

That Boy  by Jillian Dodd
That Wedding by Jillian Dodd
The End of Marking Time by CJ West
Sin And Vengeance by CJ West
Drawing Free by Elena Aitken
Devil Unknown a novella by Steena Holmes
Elemental Magic by Angela Wallace
Again by Diana Murdock
Telesa by Lani Wendt Young
Exiled by MR Merrick
The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands
 
Doesn’t this contest sound amazing?  I’m so excited!  Be sure to leave your comment for CJ before July 1st!
 
And guess what?  It’s a double dose of me today cause I’m also blogging over at the Life List Club’s new blogsite!  Haven’t checked it out yet?  Get on over there!  I’m talking about your 20’s!  You know, the supposedly defining decade of our lives?!  I’d love to hear your thoughts and introduce you to some of my favorite peeps.  You can also find us mixing martinis or coming up with costume party ideas at #LifeListClub.  See you all there!

Going for the Great

Hello my ghoulies!  We interrupt your normal spookifying blog posts for another blog hop edition of the Life List Club!  Join in the camaraderie of new and old friends helping each other progress towards our goals.  Today I’m talking about zombies over at Sonia Medeiros’ blog and joining me today is the sassy and fashion savvy (she has leopard print pants!!), Jenny Hansen from More Cowbell.  Please welcome Jenny to the stage!

Going For The “Great”

NaNoWriMo is less than two weeks away and writers are flexing their fingers and cracking their knuckles in anticipation. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s when hundreds of thousands of writers around the world swarm to the website, chat rooms and local write-ins to try to bang out fifty thousand words in a month.

That’s 1,667 words per day, or just under seven pages, for all of those who haven’t done the math on this. That’s a big commitment, but it can be done. The goal – at least it’s my goal – is to do it smart.

Like most writers, I don’t just want to end up with words on a page. I want to end with a framework of good words that I can (hopefully) fashion into something great when the dust has settled in December.

I came across a quote at work that I used in a motivational seminar that applies to us crazy writer types:

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” ~ Kenny Rogers

Note: Those of you over here at Jess’ place might not have visited me at my blog (More Cowbell) yet, so you won’t know that I’m a software trainer (aka “Training Goddess”) by day for an accounting firm. It’s my job to get those accountants out of their comfort zone and enjoy the process while they’re at it.

There’s countless ways to motivate people, but a sure way to fire up my accountants is to appeal to their sense of competition. This can be competition with themselves or with someone they admire. Accountants, as a rule, are highly motivated to be the best – each of them strives to have the best research skills, deepest knowledge, etc. Sound familiar?

Here’s five points I presented this last week in a seminar called, “Are You A High-Value Employee?” Below, I’ve adapted these 5 key areas to writers since we are the boss and employee all rolled into one.

Key areas of high value to which all WRITERS should aspire:

1.  Relationships: The ability to connect and interact with co-workers fellow writers, clients publishing professionals, and the community readers.

You and I are building a relationship right now. I post thoughts, you read them, then we discuss (because hopefully y’all will cavort in the comments section). If we enjoy the process we do it again, either here at Jess’ blog or over at More Cowbell. Perhaps you’ll come find me on Twitter (@jhansenwrites). Maybe I’ll come find you.

Relationships will build naturally if you’re open to them. I’ve got writing friends who’ve been on Twitter since January (because I forced them to join a week after I did) and have yet to send a single tweet or monitor a single hashtag. They’re not involved in ROW80 or The Life List Club. They’re not doing what Jess did when she founded Life List Club with Marcia Richards to support other writers: they’re not forming relationships.

As much as we all love to play with words, writing can be a cold, hard endeavor when it’s not going well. Relationships with supportive friends can help brighten up the process and keep you from getting stalled. Building relationships is essential to a writer’s success.

2.  Analysis: The ability to extract the key critical factors of a specific situation.

While accountants get all zippy and hopped up on the word “analysis,” most writers experience an odd yearning to scratch out their eyes or iron their underwear each time they hear it bandied about. Analysis, to most creative people, means numbers and spreadsheets and pain.

Here’s what analysis really means:

a·nal·y·sis/əˈnaləsis/

Noun:    Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.

The process of separating something into its constituent elements.

In writer-speak it means “good Craft” and deep edits. We spend a lot of time learning 3-Act structure or creative use of Setting in the hopes that it will seep inside and flow through our fingertips to the page. Those are good goals.

To be a “great” writer, we must be able to revise. If you’re like me, you might be thinking things like, “I don’t wanna!” or “I’ll just ‘know’ what belongs there when I see it.” That kind of whining will let you be a good writer, but probably not a great one.

We must know why we’re adding or taking away from a scene, which means we have to analyze our scenes for what they’re missing (and learn as much as you can about Craft).

3.  Innovation: The ability to design solutions to effectively solve problems.

Writers are incredible innovators. We build people and worlds and invent entire stories. Are we bringing our full innovative powers to bear when we do this? Spending the time and energy to move beyond the nice and easy, to the far-flung limits of our imaginations?

I’ll confess, some days I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like stretching my “what-if muscle.” On those days, my writing is usually OK at best. It’s definitely not within a mile of great. I kick myself later and wonder why I didn’t take a walk, or a run through Twitter or slug down some coffee. All those things give me a boost. Finding out what gives you a boost will help you bring your Innovator to the page.

4.  Knowledge: Depth and breadth of understanding and applying bodies of information.

This is where the ever-present research comes in. Some writers love it, and some don’t. All of us are going to be doing it sooner or later and it seems everyone’s got a different way to go about it.

For some, research is an in-depth journey; still others research by watching reality TV. You need to find out what works best for you, but your end-goal is to know your subject well enough that you can describe it in just a few words.

5.  Experience: The ability to function competently and confidently at appropriate level, having performed in numerous situations and demonstrated task or job fluency.

The same as in your day job, “writing experience” is directly related to writing practice. The more we write and the more books we complete, the greater our confidence and level of skill.

I’ll never figure out why it’s OK to learn job skills slowly, but the same speed for a writer is cause for angst. Perhaps it’s because the writing means more to us than our day jobs. Most writers will tell you they started to hit their stride about the time they finish their third manuscript.

I know some of you are shuddering right now, thinking of all that “wasted time.” I have a question for you perfectionists: Why is it acceptable for multiple attempts when learning to ride a bike, or dance the tango, or knit but it’s an “epic fail” to write a few books before you get good at it?

Lots of first novels remain unpublished for a reason. They were practice for the other books. It takes years to learn the piano, and hours of practice. Maybe you could cut yourself some slack the next time you sit down at the writing page. Enjoy the journey; have some fun. You’re gaining on-the-job experience.

The beauty of being a writer is that we don’t really have to get it right the first time. We just have to try our very best. Eventually, our best becomes GREAT.

What do you think makes for great writing? What online tool do you like best for networking and building relationships with others? Do you participate in goal-based groups like ROW80, The Life List Club or NaNoWriMo?

Thanks for visiting with us on this Life List Friday! Have a great weekend.

-Jenny

     Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm.

Blog Awards and Life List News

Get ready for a fly-by week on The Happiness Project!  Today I want to say thank you to the writers who bestowed me with some great blogging awards and tell you about this Friday’s upcoming Milestone Party!

First, a big BIG thank you to Amanda Rudd and Gene Lempp who both nominated me for a Versatile Blog Award.  Amanda and Gene are such awesome writers, readers, and friends that I am very honored to share this award with them.  Amanda is, like me, an example of persistence, and a very encouraging and charming woman.  Gene is irritatingly smart about how to set goals and I credit him for getting my nose to the grindstone.

Thank you immensely to all my readers, I wouldn’t be doing this without you!  Well, I might, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun or filled with potential learning opportunities.  I’m so humbled to share my day with you and get to know so many of you through your writing, your projects, and of course YOUR COMMENTS-my fave!

     Another BIG thank you to Marcia Richards for naming me a recipient of the Liebster Blog Award.  Liebster is a german word for Friend, and coming from my Life List Club co-founder, I can definitely say Marcia is a great friend.  She’s got the creativity and energy of a toddler chewing espresso beans and at the same time comes off as the wise fairy godmother of all things chocolate and life lessons.  Marcia, thank you for being my sound board.  I love bouncing ideas around with you!

Part of receiving such honorary awards is presenting them to others you feel deserve them.  The Versatile Blogger Award is for bloggers that are able to write about a broad range of topics with talent and enthusiasm.  I must recognize the writing works of Catie Rhodes, who is a woman after my own heart with her posts that range from the paranormal to films from the 80’s-90’s.  For starting her own blog not too long ago, Catie has it figured out!

I also award the Versatile Blogger Award to Ellie Ann Soderstrom, another new blogger who regales her readers with fascinating tales of mythological creatures and fairtytales as well as stories about why her husband is so annoying.  And if you comment, she may make up a story for you with the character name of your choice.  Ellie Ann is pure fun!

The Liebster Award is for bloggers I consider a true friend.  There are two people that stick out in my mind who have come to my writer’s rescue and shared their own stories with the world which I always think is a brave and self-aware act.  I present this award to Mark Petruska and Renee Schuls-Jacobson.

Mark is my guy, he keeps me in the know on what’s happening in Portland, Oregon, a city I visited 2 years ago and fell in love with.  Lately, Mark’s been on some trips of his own and really grown in the past year.  He recently fell in love!  *communal Awwww*  And with this year of change, Mark’s been sharing more about his life with us, and I couldn’t be happier for all he’s accomplished, including his decision to self-publish!

Renee wrote a post called When Writers Meltdown where she was so honest about how we all judge ourselves and think we’re never doing enough.  I was SO in that moment then, and Renee not only reached out to me via comments, but did so with e-mail and twitter too.  She wanted me to know I was not alone, and that she knew exactly how I felt.  What better definition of friend is there than that?

There’s more fun to be had this Friday with the Life List Club‘s Milestone Party!  Be sure to come back and comment this weekend while each of us shares an update of our goals and YOU can win a shot at several LLC giveaways!  Share your own successes and learning moments with us.  We’ll all be offering goodies to win and cyber treats and playing our kind of party music.  I’m thinking…CeCe Peniston.  You?

Monday Morning Mash-Up

It’s monday morning and I hope you all get a chance to settle into your favorite chair and sip your coffee/tea of choice.  My morning is starting with a banana bar my dad made!  Mmmm.  I’ve been trying to get to more blogs this week and see what everyone’s been up to.  Here’s my favorite reads from the past week, take your time and enjoy these great writers!  Happy monday!

Writers and Readers:

Pam Hawley blogged about writing letters to herself to overcome writer’s block in this past week’s Life List Club guest post.  She shows blankness who’s boss with humor and inspiration.

Marcia Richards interviews Jody Hedlund about her new book The Doctor’s Lady and what historical character from the Oregon Trail inspired her to write this book!

Renee Schuls-Jacobson blogs about learning from mistakes in The Day I Got It All Wrong.  Go on, laugh WITH her, and share your own learning opportunities if you feel comfortable.  Gotta tell you, Renee rocks!  You’ll be in a safe space!  As long as she’s not throwing things.

Sara Grambusch blogs about How to Pay (almost) Nothing for Books.  Her energy and enthusiasm for the reading process and writer connections will draw you in!

A MUST-READ for writers, Kristen Lamb blogs the 7 Deadly Sins of Writing.  She graciously shares her own learning experience and tips to beat these writing dead ends. 

Paranormal/Mythology:

Gene Lempp’s creature features are superb in his Designing from Bones series.  His post on Zoo Arcane: Pterodactyl, Luck Owl, Elder Phoenix was really fascinating to read and imagine encountering these animals.

Catie Rhodes dug up some fascinating spooky history in Ouija Board: Toy or Tool?  Read at your own risk! 

Pure Fun:

Piper Bayard and her partner Holmes take on your Labors of Love.  Do you have a question for Dr. Piper and Dr. Holmes?  Join in the fun as they solve all love’s conundrums, from True Blood love triangles to using nookie to entice your hubby to talk to you!  It’s rollicking Cupid-filled fun!

A fun new blogger I’ve met, Little Miss Vix, asks readers who their favorite Disney character is, and shares with us why she LOVES Beauty and Beast. 

Katie Ganshert shares her real life romance story with us, and asks you to share your own.  What kind of couple are you?  If you’re still looking, who do you imagine you’ll be?

Did I miss anything?  Share your favorite post links in the comments below and I promise to check them out!  I may even share my banana bar with you.  🙂

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