Monday, April 30, 2012

Z: Zone

Z:  If you've completed a writing project, you probably know what it's like to be 'in the zone.' Athletes, scientists, performers of all sorts, talk about being in the zone.  While in the zone, everything comes easily. 

I've gotten back to my running habits and though I'm slower than I was twenty years ago when I used to enter races, I'm finally back in shape enough to experience being in the zone.  For runners, it's that second wind, when you feel like you could run forever.  Everything is in rhythm, your breathing, your strides, your muscles working smoothly, every step is without effort. Some people call it a runner's high, and it's wonderful.

When writing, being in the zone means the words flow unto the page.  The story moves along and every word fits.  Your fingers can't keep up with your thoughts. You don't even need to get up to refill your coffee or glass of wine.  The  prose pours out of your mind and unto the screen.  You can't stay there forever, but it really feels great while you're in the zone.

Hopefully, A to Z, has led you close to being 'in the zone' with social networking.  Have you ever been in the zone writing? Have you found yourself in any other 'zones?'

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y: Yoke

Y:  I hope participating hasn't become a burden to you over the past month. We'll all have a chance to reflect on your experience on May 7th, but we still have today and one more day to finish up.  Most of us probably had days where we just didn't want to turn the computer on and the challenge became more work than fun.

Most of us started writing because we enjoy it.  But if you're writing for publication, some where along the line, the demands of writing seemed more like a job. At some point, you might have felt guilt because you were enjoying reading a book or watching a TV show when you really should have been working on your WIP.

That guilt, that yoke, helps you complete your writing projects especially if it's tied to some personal goals and ambitions. But if the yoke becomes too heavy, you might take it off and put it aside.  Balance can be the key.  Read as much as you want, watch those great movies and TV shows, and spend time networking.  Whenever the yoke of balancing your writing life and the rest of your life becomes too great, don't let guilt keep you in the traces.  Step away from the keyboard.  Unless you have a deadline. Then you'll just have to carry on.

Are you wearing a yoke comprised of too many burdens? Do you feel guilt when you use writing time for other pleasureable activities?

Friday, April 27, 2012


eX:  I know exact doesn't start with X, but I'm cheating a little  here. In the few spare minutes I have after visiting dozens of blogs each day, I'm editing Book #3 of The Futhark Chronicles. This is my final edits before I sent it to a professional for polishing. I printed a hard copy because I see mistakes better that way.  And I'm finding lots of them.  I thought it was nearly perfect but it is far from it. I've been adding and deleting those commas, rewriting sentences to vary their style and messing with those dialogue tags.

As a relatively unknown writer, I need to make a good impression on readers and any writing professionals I can convince to consider my work.  As a writer, I constantly judge the books I read. Even books published by major houses and written by very successful authors are far from perfect. Not everything in them is exactly as it should be.  They have mistakes those of us not so well-known aren't permitted to make.  I recently tried a new suspense author and found every cliche and stereotype in the book I've always tried to avoid.  The dialogue was stilted, the actions of the characters completely predictable and heroine 'too stupid to live.' Somehow the author sold this book and has the second installment in the series coming out soon.  I couldn't read it past the first fifty pages. 

So, I'll keep working on my imperfect manuscript and try to be as exact as I can on spelling and style. Hopefully if someone puts my book aside, it won't because of the mistakes that could have been prevented with a good edit.

Do you try to get everything exact or do you depend on your editors to help it become perfect? What things do you think established authors get away with that newbies don't?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whine Free--Wineful

W:  In this business, we all find occasion when whining is called for.  I can think of many examples.  A bad review, a rejection, slow sales, no sales!, an editor not of our liking and perhaps a cover we couldn't have imagined someone designing for our book.  Yeah, there are reasons to whine, but what does it gets us?

So we feel better when we get it off our chest? Maybe if the right person is listening.  But whining can also give someone a bad impression of you. It might paint you as someone difficult to please or work with. Your complaints might reach the ears of someone you didn't intend.  So if you want to whine, be careful who you vent to.  Online is never a good place to whine.

I whine to my husband and sometimes in person to a few writer friends.  I've suffered some disappointments in my writing career over the last year, but I mostly kept them to myself until I could share the bad news in a professional manner without the emotion I felt. 

The other wine can also help relieve the emotions behind an urge to whine. I prefer something white, though I never turn away the red either.  And I can always claim it's good for my heart too.

Have you occasion to whine recently? Have you found occasion to wine also?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V: Victory

V:  I hope victory will be yours soon.  Finishing the A to Z challenge is a grand victory and you should congratulate yourself. Perhaps you are finishing a book and are getting ready to search for publication. Perhaps your new book is out and now you're working on promotion to make it a bestseller. Victory is yours.

I've met writers who work for years on their manuscripts, polishing, rewriting, getting advice and yet never quite feeling ready to send it out into the world. They don't seem to want to take the next step and fight to get their story into the hands of readers. 

"In war, let your great objective be victory, not lengthy campaigns."  Sun Tzu

So go for victory.  Finish the book. Sell the book or publish it yourself. Promote the book. Rake in the rewards of your victory.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Do you know writers taking the long campaign path?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U: Uniting With Your Kind

U:  Writing can be a lonely career. No matter how many blogging buddies you have or how many people are in your critique group, you still need to spend long hours in solitude with your keyboard. But everyone has to come up for air sometime.

Humans are social creatures and despite some of the stuff they write, even horror writers are human. Just kidding.  Step out of your writing dungeon and find some other of like mind and ambition to bring a little adult conversation into your life. Speaking with other writers can help your perspective on your own work.  Not only might they give you good advice, they can answer questions and listen to your woes.  You're not alone.

How do you unite with other writers? Has A to Z helped you find some like-minded creatures?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T: Trilogy or More

T:  If you've visited me before, you know I write epic fantasy.  Epic fantasy and many other types of fantasy, usually means a multi-book series.  Science fiction often is delivered in a series of novels set in the same world and involving the same characters.  Mystery, romance, suspense and other genres tend to come in series also.  And why not?

If a reader falls in love with the world and the mythology created, they'll come back again and again to the adventures and intrigues the author composes. But how long will the reader return? At what point does the series drag on too long?  It depends.

The author must keep the storyline from getting repetitive. TV series face the same challenge. Is there a bad guy of the week or of the novel? Many mystery series are like that.  Is the new criminal, the new threat to world peace, interesting with new quirks and higher stakes? If there is a continuing story arc, does each novel move it forward? Are more and more questions asked and are some old mysteries solved and explained? Is the tension rising from novel to novel?

I used to think all fantasy series were best if kept to a trilogy.  Perhaps Tolkien taught me that.  Then I started reading authors like Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind who spin their epic fantasy out over more than a dozen books.  Some of the books in each series were better than others, but I intend to keep reading them as long as they keep going.  So three is no longer a magic number in my opinion.

Have you ever read a book series you thought went on too long? Do you enjoy reading series or do you prefer stand alone novels?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S: Subgenres of Fantasy

S:  If you query an agent or editor, you need to be able to label your novel or story.  Sometimes the line is blurred or it's difficult to put your writing into a specific category. There are about six general divisions among the types of fantasy.

Epic Fantasy:  Epic means a long story, usually with a band of heroes who fight to save the world.  Most often the world is a medieval setting with magic intertwined in the story.

High Fantasy:  High if very similar to epic in the setting and often it is also very long.  The difference is that the focus is more personal with one hero battling one villain. 

Sword and Sorcery:  S&S is sometimes thought of as being 'guy' fantasy.  There's lots of blood and fighting.  Sword battles, man against man, man against demons.

Dark Fantasy: Dark fantasy is not horror.  That's a totally different genre.  In dark fantasy, the main character is often an anti-hero, a person who is not totally good though he often does good deeds for his own reasons.  Often this type of story takes place in a world where evil has won and the law is survival of the fittest.

Historical Fantasy: Historical intermixes magic with historical events.  Think something like Hellboy where they intertwined his story with that of the Nazis. Alternate history novels are often this type of fantasy.

Contemporary Fantasy: Contemporary means present day fantasy.  In these novels, we share our world with magic and fantastical creatures.  There are lots of examples of this, including all those vampire and werewolf stories that have popular today.  Angels, magic doors to alternate kingdoms and other popular fantasy plots fill the shelves of book stores.

Can you fit your work into an exact category? Do you like a particular type of fiction or do you like them all?

Friday, April 20, 2012

R: Redemption

R:  What makes a great fantasy tale?  Well, lots of things but one of the common themes we hope to see is redemption for the lead character.  We want to see that hero or heroine step up the plate when the dire choice in before them.  We read, hoping despite the difficulties to be faced and the sacrifices that must be made, the hero will make the right decision.  He or she will save the world, the kingdom, the city or perhaps just the family or loved one.

The quest for redemption works great as a plot driver in dark fantasy which I'll define tomorrow.  Often the book plots that stay with the longest are the ones where the hero traveled a long journey of challenges and eventually becomes the person we'd hoped he be though changed by the sorrows and loses he suffered along the path.  If he never makes the correct choice, never reaches the point of redemption, the reader may feel cheated.  The reader can be left with a nagging feeling the story wasn't complete.

Do you enjoy books where the main character searches for redemption? Have you read a book you enjoyed where the hero or heroine never managed to find their final redemption?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q: Queue Up

Q:  There are somethings I have great patience with and some I don't. I hate standing in line.  At the store, I can't help but wonder why all those people have to shop at the same time as me.  On the highway, I curse the engineers who didn't make a road with ten lanes so there would be no one on the hard top in front of me.  And why, why, does it take them so long to make my simple ice coffee at Starbucks?

But even as children we learn to wait our turn.  We queue up for our right-of-way, our chance,  the opportunity for the focus to be on us.  Few of us like to wait but there are things we can do to make the queue for our writing success a little bit shorter.  Learn the craft. Network with those who have gone before.  Form connections and get our name out there.  Read, read and read.  Write the best prose we can and then study and write it better. Jump to the head of the queue.

Are you patient when in line?  What kind of line drives you bonkers?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P: Plan Your Work

P:  Time for another of my husband's creeds for his paint business. Let me explain in case you missed my earlier post about his favorite sayings.  My husband owns a commercial and residential paint business. Over the years, his five sons and one daughter have helped him during their school breaks.  They not only earned good wages, they learned skills that they'll probably use many times in the future.  Their father also shared his wisdom about life in general and the painting profession in particular.  Here's another of his favorites:

Plan your work and work your plan.

It's a simple rule but an important one to follow. A good example is this blog challenge.  Signing up for the A to Z challenge is a big commitment.  Trying to keep up by writing your blog posts the night before is very difficult and likely to cause a lot of stress.  But if you planned ahead, you can spend your blog time visiting other participants instead of scrambling to write your offering.

I started months before by jotting notes for every letter, sometimes with two or three choices, and then as April approached, I wrote the posts and scheduled them.  Some of the ideas for my posts were developed way back in January.  I planned ahead. 

Writing goals are the same type of thing.  Use a day planner or even just make a list.  Plan your work, for completing a project or doing promotion, and then work your plan.

Did you plan ahead for the A to Z challenge? How exacting do you get with planning ahead?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


O:  Writers and readers love words.  Some people use them with more talent than others.  Some people know many more words than others.  There are lots of them to chose from.  The Oxford English Dictionary, OED, lists more than 400,000 words on its 22,000 pages.  All those words fill up twenty volumes and may represent only half of the words we use.  That's a big vocab list.

Does anyone know all those words and their definition?  It would certainly be a study to last a lifetime and to make it a real challenge, new words are added all the time. But reading and studying a dictionary would be a rather dry endeavor.  It's the arrangement and selection of words that make reading interesting.  Every person has their own way of turning a phrase to express the emotion they wish to share or to pass on information to another.  We call that voice, but that's an entirely different subject.

So do you keep a dictionary close by when you write and read?   Do you think you have command over a large vocabulary? Have you read anything recently that challenged your word knowledge?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N: Netiquette

N:  I'm pretty sure someone made up the word, netiquette, but it might be real and it doesn't have to do with tennis.  Certainly the idea is real. And just looking at the construction of the word, it's easy to figure out the definition.  Netiquette is proper behavior and using good manners online.

This is likely challenging for lots of people.  The world wide web is a rather impersonal way to communicate with others of the human race.  You type on a keyboard, almost like having a conversation with a machine.  But your words are being read by humans.  Your comments are directed at people.  Your judgments are touching other professionals.  Despite the old saying, words can really hurt.  Words can cause anger and destruction. Perhaps words won't harm your physical body but they can bring near fatal injuries to your reputation. 

So what is netiquette? I think it is remembering what you share and opine online is being read by people, real people.  People who have feelings, people who have influence and people with memories.  Once it is said online, it can never be unsaid.  When you say something on your blog, facebook or any other social site, write with the same inhibitions, forethought and politeness as you would as if responding in a face to face interaction.  Read what you wrote before clicking on 'post.'  Are you being open-minded? Are you being insulting? Is the tone of your post unprofessional, defensive or angry?  Is something you've typed so controversial you'll become the subject of blogs about crazy, career-killing writers?  Use good manners and common sense. 

Do you take care with your online manners? Have you ever wished to take back something you said? Have you read posts or comments that make you cringe?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M: Movies

M:  I can't speak about movies without mentioning The Hunger Games.  Like the Harry Potter series before it, this YA series has sold millions of books and the movies will make lots of money. None of that money is going into my pockets but it's still good for me and other authors.

Thousands of young people and their parents have read The Hunger Games series.  Only a few days ago one of my fellow teachers asked me to recommend a book she would like after she had finished Mocking Jay.  The popularity of the books, the movies, will inspire more people to read more.  More, more, more books.  I don't write dystopian, but I like reading it.  I write epic fantasy, so perhaps some of those new readers of one kind of fantasy will enjoy another. 

Between the Harry Potter and Hunger Games craze, I feel very confident in the generations of readers being created.  I hope they continue to do a good job on the movies so even more people will want to read the books.   And then other books.

No one has offered to make a movie of my book, The Keepers of Sulbreth. Yet.  But I can dream about action figures, key chains and calendars in a front of the store display. 

Do you prefer to read the book before seeing the movie? Do you think young people are reading more or less than in the past?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L: Light at the End

L:  We set goals and work to reach them. Hopefully, we all do that.  Sometimes that goal seems far, far away. If not in a distant galaxy, it's so far in front of us achievement or time wise, we can't imagine being there.  I think it's important to set some smaller, shorter goals, ones we can make and then pass on our way to that big celebration at the end.

I expect the saying, 'the light at the end of the tunnel' had been around for a long time.  Seeing that symbolic end to our toil, inspires us to work even harder.  It's important to be able to see it.  If there's nothing but dark in front of us, we may get lost or give up in frustration. 

Some of my students set fitness goals.  I know a few girls who want to lose weight, for some of them a large amount.  They struggle to accept how setting small goals will ultimately help them reach their larger, long term goal. We can get caught up in the same short-sightedness as writers.

So set some short term goals.  Perhaps rather than say I'll write a 100,000 page novel by the end of the year, I say I'll write an average of ten pages per week.  Perhaps instead of saying I'll sell thousands of books this year, I'll set a goal of a three week blog tour and a certain number of hours spend on promotion per week.  Short goals I can accomplish that could help me toward my larger goal.

We all need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and when we get there, we enter that next tunnel and work toward the next light.

 Do you set big goals or do you break it down into smaller ones? Do you write down your goals or keep them in your thoughts?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K: Kindness Kills

K:  We love those books that tug on our emotions.  Some make us laugh and some make us cry.  The ones who stay with us for a long time after we read the last pages are the ones with characters we come to care about.  We learn to care about the imaginary people as they struggle against great odds, overcome losses and grow as people.  But what if they didn't have to struggle?

If a book character succeeds at everything they do, if everyone loves them, if nothing bad ever happens to them, how much would we care to turn the pages? If every chapter ends on a ray of sunshine and every night is clear and filled with the silver shine of a friendly moon, the story would bog down in the stickiness of too much sweetness and goodness.  Writers have to be unkind to their characters.

Think of one your favorite literary characters.  What loss did they experience? What mistakes did they make? How did they hold up under stress?  What event shook their confidence? How did they face heart break and despair? Did the author pile on difficulty after difficulty?  Did the character have to crawl, regroup, fall and get up again and again ... how did this beloved person find their way out of their situation?  Was their victory bittersweet and marred by emotional and physical costs?

To create a memorable character and write an unforgettable story, don't let your creations off too easily.  Being too kind to them might kill your story.

Have you tortured your protagonist enough? Have you read anything recently where the lead character suffered too much?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J: Jack-Of-All Trades

J:  In an earlier post I mentioned how my father seemed to know something about everything.  He could fix things, mechanical and building wise, and he could even cook.  I admired him greatly and believe he was part of a disappearing breed.

But as writers, there's also a growing need to become a jack-of-all-trades in the writing business as my father was in his business. 

First and foremost, we must be story tellers.  If there's not a good story, none of the rest matters.  If you write non-fiction, then there must be expert-backed facts written in an appealing voice.  At one time, this first part could be almost enough to make you a success.  But with the competition in today's market, a writer must be so much more.

Even the most clever and witty story teller must able to self-edit.  The basics of grammar and spelling must be followed if a writer wants anyone to look at their work.  At one time, an agent or an editor might work with a great spinner of tales to improve that part of their work.  It's not likely to happen now.  A few mistakes on the first page of manuscript and an agent or editor won't even look at the second page.  A writer must be an editor and a good one at that.  A writer needs others of their ilk to read their prose before they try to get it published and must be willing to return the favor. 

If a writer is fortunate and hard-working enough to be published, more jobs are piled onto their load.  Now they must be a promoter, a publicist, and sometimes it feels like a beggar also.  It has become the writer's job to bring attention to their book.  Sometimes it seems like more hours are spend on this chore than on actual writing. 

Public speaker, appearing at conferences, participating in online opportunities, are all part of promoting your writing, but it is also a satisfies another expectation of the writing business.  Passing on what you learned and being a mentor for those finding their own way through this ever-changing world of writing.

Lastly, a writer must also possess some business sense.  From keeping track of income, expenditures and writing off the kitchen table as your office space on your taxes, just kidding, a writer has to realize they are involved in a business, not just a hobby. 

What job of a writer did I miss?  Do you feel confident about your writing to call yourself a jack-of-all trades?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I: Idea Book

I:  Earlier I wrote a post about gushing ideas.  In a continuation of that post, I suggest you keep an idea book for all the things you see, hear or otherwise notice that you might someday be able to incorporate into your reading. 

Most of you probably already do this. I've heard lots of writers say they keep a notebook by their bed to jot down things that come to them as they drift off to sleep.  I can't do that. I tend to fall asleep within seconds of putting my head on the pillow.  But I carry a spiral journal with me nearly everywhere I go.  My day planner has all kinds of notes jotted in that mean nothing to anyone but me.  And sometimes they don't mean anything to me either when I go back and look at them.

There are lots of things crowded into our heads.  Our jobs, day and writing, our families, the traffic as we drive, the bills we need to pay, even what's for dinner, and our brains do a better job organizing it than the smartest computer can do, but things get lost also.  We see something, read something and think to our self, I must remember that.  But if we don't write it down, there's a good chance we won't remember.  The thought is still there, dangling on some neuron buried in a tangle of other neurons and ideas, thoughts and whatever we need to survive the day.  Don't trust you'll be able to find that tiny speck of insight or spark of an idea you planted in your brain the day before or even the hour before.  If you can write it down. 

Do you keep an idea book? Where are you most often when inspiration strikes?

Monday, April 9, 2012

H: How To

H:  Like many authors, I spend time checking out what agents and publishers are looking for. Lots of them love to look at 'How To' books.  If there's something you don't know how to do, there's probably a book out there to tell you.

Growing up on a farm, I didn't realize people called repairman for work around their homes.  It seemed my father could do anything.  He remodeled our entire sprawling farmhouse, rebuild the barn from the ground up and fixed nearly any piece of farming equipment that needed it.  The only thing he wouldn't do by himself was electrical work, not because he didn't know how, but because he wanted an expert to be in charge of that. Like many farmers, he was very leery of fire.  It was a bit of culture shock when I married my husband and found he didn't know how to anything except paint.  We laugh about some of it now, but we still have to call repairmen for things I know my dad could have done.  He learned it from his father, from doing and from neighbors who always pitched into help each other.  If there were books describing how to replace one of the zillion cotter pins in our old hay baler, my dad didn't have it. 

One thing I can say about my father though, if there had been a book, he wouldn't have hesitated to make use of it.  Looking for and asking for help, knowing we need help, is not a sign of failure.  No one knows everything.  Some of us know so little, we don't even know what we don't know.  I had fun writing that.  There are stacks of books available describing every part of the writing business.  There are digital oceans of information, lots of it free, offering advice on editing, promotion, and anything else you might need to know for your writing career.  And if you can't find the exact nugget of information you need, simply pose the question on your blog, on facebook, on twitter, and you'll get more feedback than you probably need.  And somewhere in all those words thrown back at you, is likely to be the answer to your question. 

In the months leading up to this A to Z Challenge, lots of generous folks posted on the A to Z blog their thoughts on how best to succeed at this challenge.  If you have any 'how to' questions on blogging, read those older posts. 

Did you have a favorite 'how to' site or book? Do you try to do most things yourself or do you call for help?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G: Gushing Ideas

They're everywhere.  Ideas for plots, names for characters, scents and sensations inspiring description and scene. 

I did a little shopping earlier today and plenty of ideas gushed from the crowds of self-absorbed folks standing in line and wheeling their shopping cards with focused intent. In the toy section of the department store, I saw a little boy trying to convince his even younger brother to select a different toy so they wouldn't both have the same one.  But the little brother wanted to have the same as his big brother.  How many stories have started with a similar conflict but with bigger rewards than a toy at stake?

In another part of the store, a teenage girl and her mother discussed the padding of lack there of in the top of the bathing suits they were comparing.  Hmmm.  I'll skip that story.  But at the checkout, an older lady explained to the clerk, and held up the entire line, why the medicine her doctor prescribed wasn't helping her back.  The lonely lady set bags of candy and boxes of cheap plastic eggs on the counter, saying she wasn't sure how many of her grandchildren would visit her for Easter.  If I wrote her story, they would all show up.

Another military helicopter chopped its way through the cloudless sky.  It was the fourth helo I'd seen. I assume the nearby fort was having some weekend maneuvers.  But in the story ideas gushing forth, I imagined the choppers were the first sign of an impending invasion of ... was that tall heavily made up woman a human, or an alien in disguise?  No way was her hair a natural color.

What about the lady in the spirits store who was discussing the varying qualities of boxed wines with a store clerk? Can't say I know much about that one.  The large variety of locally made wine did catch my interest. Vineyards are not only the farm fields of the rich and well-known.  There are many small wine makers and they have such creative names for their wares.  There has to be a story behind some of their labels.

Outside my house, the neighbors are battling stiff breezes as they go about spring chores.  Someone has a mower running in the distance.  The man across the street rakes last year's leaves from his flower beds and everywhere is the scent of spring flowers and fresh greenery.  A new beginning for the land, a start of a journey in a story, across a land recently ravaged by floods and the snows of winter, now coming alive again.

So take this weekend, a holiday for many of us, and look around for the ideas gushing out of every day things.  Notice the people you encounter, smell the fresh-turned earth, listen to geese flying north and add those sights, sounds and everything else your senses send you into your writing.  Ideas are everywhere.

Did anything recently strike you as a great idea to put in your writing? Did anything particular make an impression of one of your senses other than sight?

Friday, April 6, 2012

F: Four Letter Word

My husband is a painter. You won't find his masterpieces displayed in a museum but rather on the walls of hundreds of homes and businesses.  He can trim a line between a ceiling and wall with a free hand brush without the use of any painter's tape or a straight edge.  You'll never find a drip on a floor or carpet. He taught all my sons to paint as they grew up. Their summer job was the envy of their friends.  Teenage sons and their father working together can be a volatile mix but most of the time they not only got along and grew closer, they also had fun.  Part of that fun was the little sayings my husband would hand out in half joking and half serious manner when the situation was right.  One of his favorites is now used by my oldest son when he coaches and teaches.

"Work is a four-letter word we use seven days per week."  I don't know who said that first but I'm rather sure my husband didn't come up with it on his own.  That little saying gets thrown around our house a few times per week, usually when someone complains about how much they have to do in so little time.

Most writers don't earn financial security from the profits of their writing.  There is usually some other bill-paying job to put their food on the table and keep the rain off our heads.  Writing time is stolen, borrowed and eked out from sleep time, relaxation time and perhaps even meal time.  Weekends can sometimes provide a chunk of time for writers to apply their talents to their love of the word.  And then we work.

I bet when you read the title of this blog post, you thought it would be about using curse words in your writing.  I'm not getting into to that except to mention the words some of us use when our writing isn't going as we'd like or we have a disappointment in our career.  Instead of using a word like s*#t or h#*l, we should use the four letter word, work.  As in work harder.  Work longer. Work seven days per week.

Any little sayings your family likes to throw around? Do you face disappointments or set backs by working harder?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E: Envy

E:  Thou shalt not envy.  I think one of the things that comes with maturity is the learned behavior of not wasting energy on useless emotions.  Envy, jealousy is an uglier word for it, is one of the most useless of time drains. 

I wish my blog had a thousand followers. I know bloggers who have that many readers but I also know they reached that summit by hard work.  I try to learn from them. 

I met my first critique partner at my very first writing conference.  Since then, she's become a very successful multi-published author.  She's very successful and if often now asked to be on author panels at writer conferences similar to that one we met at as newbies.  I'm very happy for her and buy all her books.

Another friend of mine writes fantasy though his is darker than mine.  He has a great agent and a contract for multiple books with a publisher I would love to work with.  His writing is great.  I read his book and try to learn what works in them and how I can improve my own fantasy novels. 

It's important not to worry about the competition except to use them to learn from.  Concentrate on the page in front of you, the one you're writing.  Don't concern yourself with what you perceive as lucky breaks coming to others and skipping over you.  Envy is a wasted emotion and can only bring down your own enthusiasm.

Do you fight envy? Have you had someone act jealous of your position or your success?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D: Doggedness Beats Insecurity

D:  It's double down day with the A to Z Challenge and The Insecure Writer's Support Group.  I picked a topic using a word that is more from my parent's time than a contemporary word but the meaning crosses generations.

Many people have story ideas in their heads. Most writers start out with a great love of story telling demonstrated by hours of reading and enjoying the written word.  But to move from that love to actually writing down story ideas takes a great level of persistence, or as my mom would say, doggedness.  It is work.

As a high school teacher, one of the things I preach to my students is the importance of perseverance as a character trait.  It certainly helps in any career but I think it has to be one of the major factors separating published authors and those who are not.  Sometimes reaching that goal takes years and the strength of purpose of even the most determined can be tested.  Don't ever, ever give up.  Work like a dog.

Are you a hardworking dog? Are you confident you can reach your goals if you keep at it?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C: Click Here

C:  I visit lots of blogs, not only during the A to Z Challenge, but nearly every day of the year.  I even visited some on Christmas Day last year.  And by visiting my friends, I often am led off on a tangent by some link they've included in their blog topic for the day.  Some of those links are explained and the link in made by clicking at the word, here.  As in, click here.  Go here. 

I'm not an expert on how search engines work but one thing I've learned from somewhere or from someone, is that you should name your links and not write, click here. 

For instance, my romance publisher, New Concepts Publishing, has my most recent fantasy romance on special.  A Tiger's Courage is now available in print as well as ebook.  You can find it at any ebook retailer like Amazon and Fictionwise.

Notice how the links to my book and my publisher are the links.  I don't say 'click here' to buy the book.  If I get the idea of it, it helps my numbers and rankings with search engines.  I don't have to understand it to do it the best way. 

So no more 'click here' or 'go here.'   Are you thoughtful of what words you use in your links? Do you google yourself to see if you have all the top spots in a search of your name or your book?

Monday, April 2, 2012

B: Banging Your Head

B:  It's time for my monthly health hint.  I've been dedicated to a workout routine over the past nine months and it's paid off.  I've lost weight and even better, increased my energy levels and just about every other part of my health.  Before I started taking my writing seriously, I worked out everyday like it was my religion.  As my writing took up more and more of my time, I started skipping workouts.  Eventually, I quit it all together except for what I did at my day job.  Now my day job is more rigorous than many people's but it isn't the same as running five miles a day. 

Writing became hazardous to my health.  It can be a very sedentary profession.  My health advice this month is to work on sticky plot points by taking a walk.  Having trouble getting a tough scene on paper, go for a jog and sweat a little.  Feel the discomfort and remember how it feels for the joints to protest and the tendons to creak and groan. Come up with the verbs to describe what it really takes to make it up that last hill.  How does the cold water taste as it slides down your parched throat after a long run? Use your exercise time to improve the descriptions of your senses in your writing.

An in the spirit of the letter 'B,' if you don't have the time to step outside your office to exercise or you have a problem you must deal with first, banging your head against the wall using about 150 calories per hour.  Pace yourself with this exercise or you might not get a full hour in before you drop over.

So how do you fit exercise into your day? What do you think about when you exercise?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A: Atta Girl, Atta Boy

A:  Most of you are here because you joined the A to Z Blog Challenge.  And it is a challenge to come up with all those blog posts and then visit and comment on as many other blogs as you can.  On top of that, many of us are still working on another part of our jobs as writers, parents and dozens of other professions.  It's a lot.  And what do you get out of it when you're done?

We do things for different reasons.  Some we get paid for.  Some we do out of duty or a sense of obligation.  There are even things we do because they're just fun.  So why would we subject ourselves to this massive commitment of blogging for a month straight and spending hours visiting other bloggers?

If you do this challenge right, you're going to gain followers.  You're going to find a lot of interesting blogs you want to continue to visit long after April is over.  On your travels around the blogosphere over the next month, you're going to learn lots of stuff.  Some is just plain interesting and some will help you in your career.  You may gain some interest in your book if you're a writer.  All those are great things.

But when May rolls around and the challenge is over, you may find the most valuable thing you have is a great sense of accomplishment and the glow of personal pride.  You will have fulfilled a promise you made by signing up for the A to Z and you will be proud of it. As well you should.  There won't be a trophy or a zillion dollar contract.  All you can be sure you'll get is an 'atta girl' or 'atta boy.'  But there will be hundreds of us saying it to you.

Today is the first step in earning the reward of completion of the A to Z Challenge.  Good for you.   Now get out of here and go visit someone else.