Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Writer's Inner Journey: A two-part series

By: Deb McLeod

As we near the end of the year it’s time to take stock, to look back and see where we met our goals and what we want our future writing world to look like.

I am in the midst of doing this work for both my novels and for my online coaching. As I am looking at what other programs offer and promise, I have been struck with how many deal with only one side of an author’s life and completely leave the other side out of the equation.

Let me explain:
Wayne Dyer said: "Before you act, do the mental work first—positive self-talk, inspirational readings, visualization, meditation, prayer. Begin acting as if what you would like to become is already your reality. This is a wonderful way to set into motion the forces that will collaborate with you to make your dreams come true."
To say I want to write is to begin a journey of self-awareness that, if you let it, will bring you the pride of accomplishment, the joy of creation, and will add your voice to the sum of all there is.

Outside of my family, I have found no other thing in my world that brings me more joy than my writing practice.

A close second has been my years of working with writers. Bearing witness to the discovery of their own voice and best process. Guiding and walking alongside as each one brings themselves to the writer’s choice point, a plot point in the through line of their writing life.

Just like a damn good story.

The writing life is two-sided.

Think of the double thread of a fiction plot. The Outer Plot is the "what happens" when a character has a goal. When she wants something, she moves through the story making decisions that affect the journey she experiences.

Then there’s the Inner Plot, or the why of her decisions. The "why of her" creates what happens. Why does this character make this decision over that? Who is she? What are her flaws? What are her habits? What will she have to confront and perhaps change before she can reach her goal? Win or lose, how is her life transformed by her taking the journey?

It is in the inner plot where the real story lives.

So it is true of the writer’s journey.


We live in a time where it's possible now more than ever to write and publish a book. Creative writing has been deconstructed enough so that learning the elements of story is a matter of studying craft. Good storytelling can be taught. Instinct can be awakened, directed, honed. Writers aren’t born these days, they’re created. And I say hallelujah!

Nowadays, publishing can be a matter of slapping your novel onto Amazon. Marketing is some ever-changing formula of social media. A writing career is forged by producing more and more content, faster and faster, smarter and smarter. And getting to know your audience.

The best news is there are no gatekeepers to your work going public. The worst news is there are no gatekeepers to your work going public.

You have to become your own gatekeeper. Which means you have to become the best reader of your own work. The best monitor of your writing practice. Because all successful writing careers start with the fact of a good book.

In the backwash of this new wave of publishing, courses, webinars, and an infinite number of blogs have surfaced that promise fast fiction. Solutions in four steps, five steps, a weekend.




There are ways to produce fast fiction. I use them myself. I teach them to my clients. I designed the 90-day Romance Novel program to fit just such a goal. Those ways produce the outer plot to the writer’s journey.

But what no one seems to talk about is the inner plot to the writer’s journey. It is there that the writers I have worked with are challenged. It is the inner plot that makes the writer. The inner plot that makes the practice a life-long one. In the story of the writer’s journey, it’s the transformation into a writer that creates success.

When the writer has put in the time, when she has acted as if, she will likely come to a dark moment in her writer’s journey. When she finally knows what it really takes, she will decide whether this is the life for her. Or not.

I contend that if you’re reading this, the possibility for you to reach that choice point in your own through line, the possibility of you choosing to become a successful author, exists.

All you have to do is take the journey. The outer journey to master the craft. And the inner journey to awaken your love of writing.

“Not being able to write is a learned disability.” Says Pat Schneider of Amherst Writers and Artists.


Once upon a time I took a screenwriting class at the University of Denver. A visiting Hollywood screenwriter, whose name I no longer remember, conducted an intensive weekend writing workshop. He asked the seventy-five or so writers in the room: "Who likes to write?" My hand went up. He pointed at me. Called me on it. Said: “I don’t believe you. No one likes to write.” What could I do but shrug and say, “I do.” He made a face and returned to the lecture that had been a bit spoiled by what he considered was my lie.

I love to write. I get up before my alarm on most days - anywhere between 3 and 5 am - depending upon how excited I am by it, by the possibilities of the day's writing. I open my Scrivener file, put in my earplug (only one as I am deaf in my right ear), tune out the world, and enter into the creative discoveries of the day for the next five hours. 

You know the feeling you get when you read and get lost in a really great book? I remember getting lost in novels in middle school. There was a pureness to reading back then - high adventure and possibility as hero conquered the stuff of life. That's how my writing feels to me. And it becomes easier and easier to slip into the fictional world the better I get at my process. I took the time to learn what works for me. And now I’m working it. And I have never been happier.

Think of marathon runners who love to run. Are there days when they must groan before they lace up their shoes? What about the days when it’s raining? Is it hard? Is it demanding? Of course. But they wouldn’t run if they didn’t love it. And they run every day. 

To go one more step with the running analogy, you know how they say when runners get through the burn, they reach a place where they feel like they could run forever? That’s what it’s like to love to write. To anticipate the writing and get up before the alarm.

If not being able to write is a learned disability, then is loving to write a learned ability? I believe it is.

I would wager that somewhere along your through line you were validated for your ability to write. A teacher. A parent. A contest. A paper you wrote. An essay that won a prize. Something or someone said to you that you have a way with words.

Some early writers keep writing from that moment and ease into a writing career somewhere in their 20s. But that’s probably not you. Or you wouldn’t be reading this. Perhaps, like me, you tucked it away inside. A bit of pride. A bit of difference from the rest of the world while you moved on to the rest of your life.

But then something else happened to make you bring that out from where you tucked it inside in a velvet pouch you kept close to your heart and forgot about.

Now when you reach inside you realize that nugget of truth about you has turned into something like a diamond, with the promise, and the glitter, and the shine.

I can write, you say.

Yes, you can.

And if you master not only the outer journey of the writer, but the inner journey too, you will have found true creative happiness in the creating. And the ability to make a career out of it. 

Tune in next time when I talk about the Zen of Writing and the writer’s inner journey. I'll provide as best a roadmap as I can to:
  • Master the art of transformation
  • Find focus 
  • Structure a writing life
  • Defeat the virus of fear

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fifteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, 

Monday, December 5, 2016

December Letter from the Editor

It’s December, 2016. Honestly, wasn't it just a few moments ago that I sat at my desk to write the Letter from the Editor for 2015? 

No, I checked. Sure enough, it's 2016, a year that has been fraught with changes. Many are fearful, some are hopeful, and truth be told, I'm hovering on the ledge of uncertainty. The point is, I refuse to stay there. Why? Because I believe in the indefatigability of the human spirit. And I still have one of the most glorious escapes imaginable. I am a storyteller.

What’s more, as a storyteller, I still have an anchor. What a glorious time to be a writer and to belong to Pikes Peak Writers. What a glorious time to stop looking backwards and to get excited about the future. After all, 2017 marks Pikes Peak Writers 25th annual conference and our Silver Jubilee Celebration. Go here

Writing from the Peak will be here as well to give you updates about Conference and to continue offering helpful and insightful articles from our members. Our mission is to focus on Pikes Peak Writers, on writing, and to help you become a better one. Later this month, on December 20th, we hope you’ll join us for our monthly Write Brain, Log Lines and Holiday Hang Out. Go here It’s going to be fun, and we want you there!

As always, we have great blogs in store for you this month and beyond. Be sure to check in. And isn’t it great how opportune quotes pop up in my inbox just when I need them? I leave you with one of them now—this one from John F. Kennedy. "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Wishing you a wonderful December and joyous holiday.


About the Editor:  Donnell Ann Bell is the managing editor for Writing from the Peak, the coordinator for the monthly Open Critique held on the first Wednesday of every month, and one of Pikes Peak Writer's board members at largeShe is a best selling romantic suspense and mystery author. To learn more about her books, find her at www.donnellannbell.com

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”  ~ George Singleton


George Singleton, Source Wikipedia


George Singleton, born 1958, is a Southern author who has written seven collections of short stories, two novels, and an instructional book on writing fiction. He was born in Anaheim, California and raised in Greenwood, South Carolina. 


This week on Writing from the Peak:


Dec. 5    December Letter from the Editor, Donnell Ann Bell


Dec. 7   Deb McLeod, The Writing Coach


Dec. 9   Sweet Success Celebrates John Stith  


Friday, December 2, 2016

Pikes Peak Writers December Events



December Write Brain 

What: Loglines & Holiday Hangout

Who: Come One, Come All

When: December, 20, 2016, 6:30-8:30pm

Where: Venue Room at 21C – Upper Floor, to the right if coming in the Upper entrance. 1175 Chapel Hills Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80920

More Information: For our December Write Brain, we’re hosting a super fun activity around developing a log line for your book, a White Elephant book exchange, and the opportunity to hang out with your fellow writers… and eat lots of cookies!

We’ll be having multiple door prizes, giving away books from all four of our Keynote Speakers coming to Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April: Kevin Hearne, Darynda Jones, Tess Gerritsen, and Donald Maass. Don’t miss your chance to win!

First, our PPW President, J.T. Evans, will present a short class on log lines: quick and dirty tricks for nailing down those all important few sentences that capture the essence of your story. Then we’ll be practicing writing log lines, and reading them out loud. You can give it a try on your own story, or even one published by other authors.

For the White Elephant Book Exchange, bring any book you choose to trade in, whether one you’ve published yourself or another. It doesn’t have to be a brand new book as long as it’s in good condition. Wrap the book in either brown paper bag or the back side of wrapping paper. The idea is to write a log line for this book on the outside. We’ll try to identify the title from your description and do a White Elephant style exchange to see who gets to take which book home!

Come mingle with the PPW staff and volunteers for a relaxed Holiday Hangout. Light refreshments will be served. You are welcome to bring cookies or snacks to share but please help us honor the library contract with the snack cart by limiting your goodies to dry snacks such as cookies (regular or gluten free), crackers and cheese, chips, etc.

See who else is coming: Connect on Facebook


FREE Writers’ Night
Because of the near proximity of the December Writers’ Night to Christmas, we are cancelling the Writers’ Night for this particular month.

We hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season. We’ll be back in full swing in January. Enjoy the time with your loved ones, and steal some moments from the merry making for writing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ergonomics for Writers Part Three: Stretching

By: Catherine Dilts:


Your muse is perched on your shoulder, pouring inspiration by the bucket into your mind. You are in the groove. Two hours into your marathon writing session, you notice an annoying twinge in your back. Your wrist aches. Or maybe there’s a pain in your neck you can no longer ignore.

You may not think of writing as a physically demanding activity. Sure, it’s not on the same level as construction work, waiting tables, or performing surgery. However, the repetitive motion of typing, the long hours sitting in front of a computer, and a poorly arranged workstation can take their toll. Stretching can prevent aches and pains, and alleviate them when they do happen.

In Ergonomics for Writers Part One, we covered posture and the correct adjustment of your chair and desk. Part Two explained how to avoid eye strain and wrist damage.

Professional ergonomist Mary Plehal shares her ergonomic tips for office workers. Even the most exercise-averse writers can benefit from these simple steps.

Aches and Fatigue

  • Aches and fatigue are preventable and are a sign that ACTION should be taken
  • Addressing aches and fatigue early can prevent a work injury or general ‘wear and tear’ that can lead to arthritis
  • Inform your manager or supervisor immediately if you feel aches or fatigue
  • Don’t assume you’re ‘just getting older’ or that aches and pains are to be expected


The Benefits of Stretching

  • Reduced muscle tension and increased muscle length
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Enhanced muscle coordination
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased energy levels (from increased circulation)
  • Delayed onset of muscle fatigue
  • Enhanced performance in skilled activities
  • Improved posture
  • Mental relaxation


Safe Stretching Don’ts

  • Don’t stretch cold muscles, warm up first
  • Don’t bounce, go slow and steady
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • If you’ve had a hip replacement, don’t cross your legs or bend past 90 degrees during a stretch
  • Don’t stretch to the point of feeling sharp pain
  • Don’t wait until you’re sore to stretch

Safe Stretching Do’s

  • Start with good posture before you stretch!
  • Try to relax the muscle you are stretching
  • Stretch in the opposite direction of your main work positions (that usually means backward)
  • Breathe easy and deep, don’t hold your breath
  • Take your time
Good Stretches for Office Work –

Below are 9 recommended stretches for writers.









Remember….

  • A well adjusted chair combined with good posture will greatly increase sitting comfort
  • No one position is good all of the time. Get out of your chair and move/stretch often.


When all else fails  –
The University of Michigan offers these details for computer stretches:
But what if good posture and stretching don’t cure what ails you?
When to seek medical care: See a clinician if you experience:
  • Constant pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Other problems that interfere with daily tasks

Conclusion-
This ends the three part series on Ergonomics for Writers. Many thanks to Mary Plehal, professional ergonomist. I hope you’ve been able to use tips for adjusting your work area, reducing eye and wrist fatigue, and stretching to avoid injury.

Other resources:

About the Author: Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine's stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. The third book in her Rock Shop Mystery series arrives October 10. You can learn more about Catherine and her writing at: http://www.catherinedilts.com/


Monday, November 28, 2016

How Reading Affects My Writing

By: Summer Greenwood

When asked how reading has made me a better writer, my first thought made me pause. It hasn’t! The more I read, the less I write. Outside of sleep and work, no other activity vies so heavily with my writing time. However, when I really consider my writing process, reading adds value to every word and scene I construct.

To start, reading has taught me about emotion. Of course, I experienced emotion before I picked up my first book, but reading allows me to explore my emotional side. Which books bring me to tears or keep from sleeping at night? Which settings calm me or set me on edge?

The answers to these questions often find their way into the scenes I create. When one of my characters is uneasy or frightened, my imagination naturally defaults to storm clouds and solitude, while excitement and happiness bring warm colors and supporting characters into my writing. Reading has taught me to look for emotional cues in nature, in settings, and in communication.

Reading preferences can also influence writing. Beyond our choice of genres, there are several other decisions we make before starting a book and while we are reading. What format do we like? How do we choose a good book? At what point do we decide not to finish a book? For some readers, the only way to start a book is at the ending. They read the final chapter before starting the first.

As a reader, I am less engaged in the beginnings and endings of stories. I want to delve into the excitement right away and get to the heart of it. I don’t like to spend hours getting to know the characters, and I tend to give up before all the loose ends are tied up. Strange, I know.



This does affect my writing. I spend far more time working on my backstory and ending than other parts of the story. Despite how essential these sections are, my writer’s mind shies away as it does when I am reading them. I can easily see how a reader, who prefers to begin reading at the story’s end, might write the final scene before outlining the rest.
Reading has also defined my genre preferences. I love to read retold fairytales, dark or realistic fantasy, and the occasional mystery. If given a choice, I prefer to read historical novels rather than contemporary fiction. It is no surprise that the scenes I write reflect my reading interests.

Examining each of these reading preferences brings me closer to understanding my writing style. There is no question that I love reading fantasy. I eagerly consume anything with dragons and spells, new worlds to explore, and a villain or two. However, I find I am also a realist. Danger can’t be thwarted with a conveniently learned spell or I abandon the book on my table and glare at it for days. I struggle through books with near-perfect heroes and heroines who are set on a path of sure success. When I write and revise my fantasy scenes, realism tends to drive the arguments I have with my characters.

As you can see from the last example, I find an even stronger link between my reading dislikes and the struggles I have as a writer. While reading an epic, saga, or series, I tend to skim or stop if the character doesn’t remain true to him or herself. For this reason, the questions I ask myself most frequently as a writer involve character. Would she choose to say that? How does this action reflect his need to control the situation?

Beyond the impact reading has had on my writing, reading has taught me about history, culture, and the creative mind. I hope you will share how reading has influenced your writing. Do you read while you are in the process of writing a story or novel? Do you write in the same genres you read? What are your pet peeves as a reader, and do you feel yourself writing them out of your own work? 


About the Author: Summer Greenwood is a Library Specialist with the Arapahoe Library District, residing with her husband in the Denver Metro area. She loves writing fantasy fiction, participating in reading challenges, and spending time with her two dogs, Shadow and Savannah, and her Ragdoll cat, Pepper. 




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“Writers live twice.” ~ Natalie Goldberg


Author Natalie Goldberg Source: Wikipedia


Natalie Goldberg (born in1948) is an American popular New Age author and speaker. She is best known for a series of books which explore writing as Zen practice.
Goldberg has studied Zen Buddhism for more than thirty years and practiced with Dainin Katagiri Roshi for twelve years. Goldberg is a teacher who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her 1986 book Writing Down the Bones sold over a million copies and is considered an influential work on the craft of writing. Her 2013 book, The True Secret of Writing, is a follow-up to that work.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Nov. 28:   How Reading Affects My Writing by Summer Greenwood

Nov. 30:   Ergonomics Pt. 3: Stretching by Catherine Dilts

Dec. 2:     Pikes Peak Writers December Events