Monday, February 8, 2016

Peak Productivity Part Four

By: J.T. Evans

This is the fourth and final installment of Peak Productivity. The first, second, and third parts are already posted.

Idle Your Engine

You obviously can’t be productive every moment of your day/week/month/life. Attempting to do this will lead to a miserable life, and will only burn you out on the concept of writing. This will, of course, kill your productivity, and that’s not what we want to happen.

You need to, from time-to-time, step away from the keyboard (or pen) and let your brain run at a slower pace. You’ll be amazed at the ideas that spring forth when you’re not actively thinking about your prose. Again, be prepared to capture these moments with a handy pen and notebook.

Things you can do that idle your brain:
  •     Laundry
  •        Dishes
  •        Vacuum
  •        Change the oil in your car yourself
  •        Go for a countryside drive with the windows down and music blaring
  •        Shovel some snow
  •        Walk the dog (or alone if you're dog-less)
  •        Play with your children
  •       Talk with your spouse
  •        Do a repetitive craft with your hands

Tracking Progress

Another thing I learned from Mur’s podcast relates to this wonderful creation called The Magic Spreadsheet. You can earn points for each consecutive day in which you write. If you miss a day, you reset back to zero points and start over. You can create different awards for yourself for attaining more points. Set up larger rewards for larger point levels.

Some people will also buy a calendar and a whole bunch of stickers of various sizes. For a day where the words come easily and you get lots done, you'll get a large sticker (or maybe two large stickers) on that day. If you get a little bit done, you get some little stickers. No word? No sticker! A quick glance at the calendar can remind of you of how well you're doing and this can help push you forward in your writing. No need to track those pesky word counts. Just look at the stickers and know you're doing well.


As you can see, there are tons of ways Real Life can get in the way. There are also ways you can get in your own way. There are methods to battle these distractions, and also approaches to increase your productivity when you write.

I hope this (rather lengthy) series of blog posts has been useful to my fellow writers. If you have any tips or tricks of your own, please drop them in the comments.

About the Author:  J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels. He also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the president of Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he keeps computers secure at the Day Job, homebrews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many card/board/role-playing games.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quote of the week and the week to come

"Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don't remember me at all."~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Source: Wikipedia and Bing

Laura Ingalls Wilder, (Feb. 7, 1867- Feb. 10,1957) was an American journalist and author, best known for the Little House on the Prairie children's novels based on her childhood. During the 1970s and early 80s, the television series Little House on the Prairie was loosely based on the Little House Books.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Peak Productivity Part Four by J.T. Evans

Ask the Prez by J.T. Evans

Sweet Success celebrates Margaret Mizushima

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pikes Peak Writers February Events

Write Your Heart Out: February 13, 2016 

On the fence about going to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference or just looking for some great interesting and educational programming? The 4th annual Write Your Heart Out, free half-day conference preview, will take place on Saturday, February 13, from 1 to 5 PM at the Colorado Springs Marriott. It will once again feature six local speakers who are faculty for PPWC 2016.

We will have a small bookstore at the event, just like last year, with books available from our WYHO speakers, as well as craft and PPWC 2016 keynote books, and our WYHO speakers will be signing at the event! And, once again, we will offer some great giveaways and specials for those attending WYHO.

The ever funny Becky Clark has agreed to be our master of ceremonies again.

Becky Clark

Jodi Anderson

Come explore opportunities available in today’s ever evolving writing market, from Jodi Anderson. Also, come to find new tools to raise your productivity and focus as she presents a sample of KEEPING ALL THE BALLS IN THE AIR: Multiple Streams of Productivity and Revenue.

Evangeline Denmark
Whether your story takes place in a supernatural urban scape, a dystopian future, or a slightly magical real world setting, the surest way to hook a reader is to engage their heart. Evangeline Denmark will take a look at key concepts and discuss making your story unique and emotionally engaging as she presents a sample of The Heart of your Speculative Novel.

Warren Hammond
Twenty-thousand words in, your story has died, and you don’t know how to break through, so you rewrite chapter one for the hundredth time. Sound familiar? Warren Hammond will help you bust through the roadblocks by analyzing scene and sequel, the building blocks of all stories as he presents a sample of SCENE AND SEQUEL: The Engine Of Story.

Michelle Major
While many authors are introverts, none of us can afford to ignore social media and marketing. Michelle Major will give tips and techniques for successfully engaging with readers using many popular platforms, as she presents a sample of Introverts Can Network Too! How To Succeed At Social Media Even When You’re Shy.

Judith Robbins Rose
Need help making your characters voice unique. Come learn from Judith Robbins Rose as she presents NAILING THE VOICE: The Difference Between An Accent And A Dialect.

Angel Smits

Kids say the darndest things, and the smart author realizes this is a useful tool for developing a story. Angel Smits walks you through how to create and use secondary characters that deepen the story without slowing it down, or letting them take over as she presents a sample of THE KID EFFECT: Strategic Use of Secondary Characters.

Free, but space is limited, so RSVP to – with first and last name of each person attending, and your phone number

For more information on Write Your Heart Out, visit the
WYHO tab at our website.

Write Brain: February 16, 2016
What Character Development: Questioning How Your Characters Drive the Plot

Who:  Kevin Hearne

When: Feb 16, 6:30-8:30 pm

Where: Venue@21c (upper floor, to the right if coming in the upper entrance) of Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80920

About the Presenter: Kevin Hearne taught high school English for seventeen years but now writes books. He’s the author of the NY Times bestselling series The Iron Druid Chronicles and the forthcoming epic fantasy A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. He likes coffee and doggies.

Facebook Event: Want to see who else is coming? Check here.

Writer’s Night February 22, 2016

FREE Writer’s Night
Location: Kawa Coffee
Address: 2427 N Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909
Fourth Monday of every month (View Calendar of Events)
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Join fellow writers for PPW Night on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.

The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books!

If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Deb Courtney, or call her on her cell phone at 719-337-9049.

Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30. These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
See you soon!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Five Things that Might Help You Finish

Finishing your novel - Deb McLeod, The Writing Ranch
By: Deb McLeod

Are you struggling to finish your novel? Is it not coming out the way you want it to? Do you find yourself procrastinating when you can see the end? You’re not alone.

Part of being a writing coach is that I study the book-length process – mine as well as my clients. As I was recently finishing a multi-year, multi-viewpoint, sci-fi/fantasy angel thriller I began to notice some of my clients weren’t finishing their projects. All were gung-ho during the beginning phases, then they came to rely on me in the middle phase for accountability, for assignments due, for writer’s block and outline block and encouragement. But as time moved on I began to notice many of them would experience some sort of life crisis as they entered that third act of the novel process. It couldn’t be a coincidence.

As a coach, at first all I could think was: Is it me? Am I not pushing enough? Am I pushing too much? Not cheerleading enough? Not sensitive to the changes life throws? But in that third act of the process many clients suddenly couldn’t afford me. Or they had different obligations. Some lost their faith in the story, no matter how much I jumped up and down in defense of their work. But many of them would go off on their own, promising to write and to send me the story when they finished.

I do get how hard it is. Believe me. It’s taken me years to carve my life in such a way that I can put my writing first. Not first in that it replaces any of the other wonderful things I have, like my family, my clients and my friends. But first in the way that I put boundaries around it. I protect my writing time and answer the call to write, almost every day.

When I write, I’m happy. I feel good having written. I heard a line once from Marshal Chapman’s “Guitar Song” that goes: “There ain’t a thing in this whole wide world that makes me feel more like a real live girl than this guitar.” I know exactly, exactly, what she means.

So here are five things that might help you get to the finish line with your book-length project:
  1. Is it done, or just good enough?
  2. Plan a celebration
  3. Have a novel on deck
  4. Have a plan in place for beta readers
  5. Don't wait to start marketing

1. Is it done? Or Just Good Enough?

Know what kind of writer you are. I write to discover so I will spend more time getting it done the way I want it done, rather than making it good enough. But it takes me longer. And not everyone has what has been called my perfectionism. I’m not a perfectionist. I’m an artist. I know when a piece is done and when it’s just “good enough.” For more on my journey with this, see Finishing – Journey to the End. Know where your bar is. If it’s important to get it right, then dig deeper into the craft and make it right. Don’t drop the project! But if it’s good enough – let it go.

2. Plan a celebration

This likely goes without saying. When I finished, there was laundry, clients and payroll taxes due. But we did make time to go to my favorite restaurant for dinner. I think I’ll celebrate more when the book is published. But many people get a lot out of planning a reward or a celebration to get them through to the end.

3. Have a novel on deck

I have a Friday Writing Circle and we “raw write” together. Since I was editing “The Julia Set” for so long, on Fridays I began writing what I now call my ‘Friday Book’ during those circles. Now I have a year or so of freewrites from that class already built up on a book I started, stopped and started again too many times to count. But in that Friday group I was finally able to see the story and do the writing the story needed. The book started out as an autobiographical novel, but has morphed into its own plot – I didn’t do any of the things my main character does in that book, but the story contains me in a way that my angel thriller “The Julia Set” doesn’t. And it was easy to write, once a week on Fridays.

Now, I’m ready to start assembling those freewrites and pulling in some of my earlier writing and shaping it into a book. And I’ve started my next Friday book – a mystery. And there’s The Julia Set series that needs to be finished. So I have more writing work and more plans for my writing self that finishing has to be a part of my repertoire. So plan the next book and it will niggle you into finishing the first one.

4. Have a plan in place for beta readers

Know who you’re getting advice from before you finish. I arranged my beta readers in tiers. For more on this see Beta Reader Love-O-Meter. My husband is first-reader and he looks for the typos or the fact that I compiled a note file from Scrivener into the manuscript or some freewrite whine where I lamented about how hard this was. He’s great at continuity too.

Then I have my top tier beta readers. These are writer-readers who will find something wrong with the pages – because that’s what writers do. When I’ve incorporated or ignored their suggestions, the book will go to the reader-readers I’ve asked to read the manuscript. From them, I simply want to know when they're confused or bored. So finishing isn’t really finishing until you do the blue line for the publisher but by then you’ll be narrowing in on finishing the next book!

5. Don’t wait to start marketing

Unless you’re trying to traditionally publish, start marketing your book! I just heard an agent speak about marketing, and her advice was to do nothing until you make a sale, then work with the publishing company to figure out what’s best to do. I suppose that works because the lead times for traditional publishing are so god-awfully long. A book I story-edited was just sold to a small, but reputable press. It will be published in the Fall of 2018. Seriously??? So I guess if you’re traditionally publishing you don’t have to start marketing yet.

But if you’re planning to self-publish, start marketing now. Right now. Find a way to fold that into your process. It’s now time to put on the sales hat – though you can’t take off the writing hat either.


Finishing this novel means I’m ready for what comes next. Not the publishing, the criticism, or the marketing. I’m ready for what stories may come next and how they will change me as I write.

When you commit to the time and to whatever creative bar you set for yourself, finish it. There’s nothing like it.

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, see

Monday, February 1, 2016

February's Letter from the Editor

All right, which one of you blinked and invited February? I cannot believe how fast these months are slamming together. Although ideally by now you’re writing twenty-sixteen on your checks, your correspondence, and especially your query letters. More important than penning the correct date is that you’re writing.

January 2016 was all about productivity and time management on Writing from the Peak, and I can proudly say I put the month to good use and made progress. I confess that occasionally I feel like an old car—Edsel anyone? I get my motor running, accelerate on my way to an acceptable speed, only to see the temperature gauge rise, find my engine is overheating and I have to call AAA.

Triple A is code for Pikes Peak Writers. I can’t think of a better organization to keep members motivated and educated. I attended last month’s Write Brain with Michael Shepherd on voice. Library 21c was packed. This month Pikes Peak Writers hosts Kevin Hearn who will be speaking about character development and how characters drive your plot. PPW offers Writers Night and Open Critique. And of course, we have this blog. Think of us as your own personal mechanic.

I’m excited about February’s articles. We have the conclusion to Peak Production by J.T. Evans, Writing Coach Deb McLeod on first Wednesday, Aaron Michael Ritchey’s typical humor and poignancy with Leggo My Legacy, Ways to Shade Characterization by Karen Albright Lin, The Right Critique Group by Ataska Brothers, Heart those Books by Darby Karchut, Promotion in Perspective by Catherine Dilts and naturally we celebrate our members’ Sweet Successes.

See what I mean? Pikes Peak Writers is better than a tune-up. All you need to do is tune in.

Have a wonderful February!

 About the author: 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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quote of the week and the week to come

"Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other." ~ Anton Chekhov

Source; Wikipedia and Bing

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, (Jan. 23, 1860 - July 15, 1908), was a Russian physician, playwright and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a playwright produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

February 1    Letter from the Editor         Donnell Ann Bell

February 3    The Writing Coach             Deb McLeod

February 5    Pikes Peak Writers February Events

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sweet Success celebrates Zara West

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Zara West’s romantic suspense novel Beneath the Skin (325 pages, e-book and paperback), will be published in early 2016 by Wild Rose Publishing. Keep an eye out for future announcements at and her website

Ex-Olympic wrestler and reclusive billionaire artist Aristides Stavros has one mission—to rescue his sister, a popular tattoo artist from the old enemy who has kidnapped her. But at every turn, he is confronted by anthropologist Melissa Dermot. Is she just an innocent girl in over her head, or is she working for the international crime boss holding his sister?
Only one thing is certain--when Ari holds the beautiful Asian-American in his arms, questions of guilt and innocence fade against an undeniable fiery attraction. But can their wild passionate love survive the tangled web of long-buried secrets, intentional deceit, and murderous revenge that lie just beneath the surface?

Zara West loves all things dark, scary and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zara spends winters in New York, summers in Maritimes, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.

Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and received awards from Women on Writing, Stone Thread Publishing, Tryst Literary Magazine, and Winning Writers. Her novels have placed first in Romance through the Ages contest, second in Touch of Love contest, fifth i the Fab 5 contest, and long listed in the Myslexia Novel Competition. Contact info: