Reflections on 2018 and My Keyword for 2019

The end of December and beginning of January is a thoughtful time of year for me. I think back on the previous year, the highlights and achievements, the setbacks and lessons learned. Then I turn to the year that’s beginning to unfold. I ask myself, “What can I accomplish by the end of the year? What do I want to do? How can I continue to embrace the projects and ideals that matter most to me?”

This year, I’m taking that goal-setting to a new level by trying a New Year’s ritual that my friend Leanne Sowul practices. Every January, she chooses a word to guide her decisions, intentions, and actions for the next 12 months. In that way, it becomes a sort of theme for her year. And knowing what I’ll be up to in the near future, I’ve chosen my own word to be my touchstone for 2019.

Before I share that word, let’s put 2018 into perspective.

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Latest (and Last) Resident Writing Coach Post is Live at Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers

I’m back at Writers Helping Writers this week to talk about one of favorite productivity tips: writing first drafts out of sequence. (*gasps*) If it sounds like it might be an overwhelming or potentially confusing way to write, I don’t blame you for thinking so. But when approached in a methodical way, “skipping around” can help you take advantage of moments of intense inspiration so you’re constantly in the flow. You can even use it as a work-around for writer’s block. 😮

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New Post at Writers Helping Writers on Informational Interviews

I’m back with a new article at Writers Helping Writers! This time, I talk about the informational interview, a research method that writers can use in addition to books, articles, and documentaries – or when those resources don’t provide the information you’re seeking. Understandably, pursuing this kind of interview can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never conducted one before. So this post offers tips on all three “phases” of the process – before, during, and after the interview – that I hope will give other writers the confidence and clear vision to go after their own.

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New Post at Writers Helping Writers on Mapping Your Story’s Setting (Plus, New Posts on Wednesdays Starting Next Week)

Writers Helping Writers

Today I’m over at Writers Helping Writers to share a recent writing-related experiment: I created a map for an important location in my manuscript’s setting. It turned out to be a fun exercise that exercised a different part of my creativity – and best of all, it was immensely useful for the story I’m working on. So what are some the benefits of mapping your story’s setting? How do you go about creating your own setting map? Find out at the link below. Plus, there might be a photo of the map I drew. 😮 Continue reading

Reflections on 2017, and What Matters More than Having the “Best Year Ever”

Last January, a friend gave me this New Year’s party hat. The timing for this sparkling “gift” couldn’t have been more appropriate: I was ready to send a YA fantasy novel to beta-readers, and 3 weeks into a crowdfunding campaign to help me afford a trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat. Not to mention I had a whole list of goals and plans for 2017, and if things worked out the way I’d hoped, maybe I’d be closer to my dream of being published by year’s end – a pretty good “best year ever.”

Today, that hat still sits in my writing space (a.k.a. my dining room table), and I’m no closer to being published than I was a year ago. But that doesn’t mean 2017 was “not the best year ever.” Rather, it turned out much differently than I thought it would.

Was it challenging? Absolutely. Discouraging? At times, yes. But it was also one of the most exciting, inspiring, and humbling years I’ve had the privilege of living.

For all those reasons, I can’t write this annual reflection post in the same way I’ve written those of past years. Instead of focusing on milestones, blog statistics, and defined plans that could change in a few months, I’d like to share what I learned this past year. How certain events sent my mental health spiraling and shook my faith and self-confidence. How other events and important choices helped me heal and made me look at life – even why I write – from a different perspective. How it all, in the end, reminded me that I’m intelligent, creative, and determined enough to rebound from setbacks. Continue reading

New Post at Writers Helping Writers on Story Resolutions (Plus, No Post on Thursday)

Writers Helping Writers

Today at Writers Helping Writers, I’m focusing on the resolution, or the scenes following a story’s climax. But I’m not offering tips on how to write a resolution. Rather, I’m sharing insights on recognizing whether your story needs one at all. Because as useful as resolutions can be for resolving subplots, answering questions, and providing other closure before the final page, they might not always be necessary.

So what questions should we ask ourselves to determine whether a resolution might strengthen a story? And, which timeless is a fantastic example of a resolution-less novel? All of that is covered in my latest Resident Writing Coach post.

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New Post at Writers Helping Writers (Plus, I’m on Hiatus Until August 29th)

Writers Helping Writers

For my latest post at Writers Helping Writers, I wrote about one of the most important tools in a writer’s toolbox. It’s just as important as more obvious “tools,” like vocabulary, industry knowledge, and strong work ethic – but it’s also incredibly challenging to master. If you haven’t guessed it yet, this “tool” is confidence. And today, I share my most recent struggle with confidence in my craft as well as tips on how to create your unique way of rebounding after setbacks or being overwhelmed by doubt. It’s more personal than my past WHW articles, but I hope that readers will still find it encouraging and informative. Continue reading

New Post at Writers Helping Writers on Using Real-World Locations In Your Stories

Writers Helping Writers

Oh, am I EXCITED about my new Writers Helping Writers post. 😀

This week, as part of the site’s Resident Writing Coach Program, I share some insights about using real-world locations in our stories, either faithfully for historical or contemporary genres or as inspiration for fictional worlds. And since one of the reasons why I attended the Iceland Writers Retreat was to do hands-on research for my story’s setting, guess which country I used as an example? 😉 Continue reading

New Post @ Writers Helping Writers on Editing with Text-to-Speech Software

Writers Helping Writers

I’m back at Writers Helping Writers this week with a new Resident Writing Coach post. This time, I talk about text-to-speech software, one of the newest tools in my editing “toolbox”. This standard function in most word processing programs and computer operating systems can read aloud pre-selected portions of text, including (ta-DA!) your manuscript. 😉 (Read more after the jump.) Continue reading