Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do You Connect With Authors? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the ninth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

Making connections can be an easy task in this digital landscape.
For starters, connect with authors:
  • online
  • at signings
  • on topic
I really enjoy connecting with authors via social media and blogs. If you love an author’s book, social media is a quick and easy way to share an “I love your book” comment with both the digital universe and the author.
Book signings are another way to connect. I read a post the other day where an author reported only a handful of attendees. While plane tickets aren’t always feasible to help an author out, I can keep an eye out for local (or within an hour or two drive) events I can attend.
If an author has a book about a topic near and dear to your heart, let her know. Maybe your book club or your classroom has a question about a story, so perhaps Tweet or email him your question. You may receive an answer.
I remember I tweeted about my son’s first birthday and tagged Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. We chose to name our son Enzo, after the main character and narrator — a dog. Garth Stein tweeted me back.
Authors use social media differently. Some will friend you on Facebook while others won’t respond to emails. Writing is a time consuming task, so I understand those who don’t use social media channels to interact with fans. If you write, you know how writing your stories and living outside of the voices inside of your head (i.e. family, day job, hobbies, etc.) is often a balancing act. Of course, I really LOVE the ones who embrace social media and add to my experience as a reader.
I’ve mentioned before that my reading list this year is so 2012, but John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, shows a character’s quest to learn more about a book and an author’s reluctance to communicate with fans. This added a lot of tension to the overall story.
How do you connect with authors (and other writers)?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on March 3, 2014)

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I've Finished My Novel. Now What?

By Donnell Ann Bell 

I’ve finished my novel. Now what?

What an excellent question. Wouldn’t it be great if after we type “The End", that truly meant finis? Unfortunately, in the case of a novel, short story or any writing-related project, consider looking at The END as an opportunity.

An opportunity to send off our work and get it published, right?

Ultimately, yes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Following are some tips I’ve learned in my newspaper/magazine days and after completing three published novels that I hope will help you. (Note: I’m still learning).

· Step away from the project. What does this mean? It means take a few days off. Why? Time allows us to be more objective about our work. We actually can catch typos we didn’t before because our brains have a tendency to correct what our eyes are seeing. 

How much time? That’s up to you. Some people wait two weeks. It’s amazing when you let a project sit how your objectivity returns and overrides the passion you’ve felt because you’ve completed a major goal.

Be proud, however, not foolish. You can always make a book better. Always, always, always. 

· Read your work out loud. You’ve proofread it, right? Reading work out loud is going to take time, and it’s monotonous and it’s time consuming. I’ve finished my book and I want to get published. 

No whining allowed. You want a professional product, right?

Reading our work aloud allows us to 1) pick up mistakes (again that our brains correct and our eyes miss) and 2)  lets us pick up nuances and passages we otherwise don’t recognize in the written word. Sometimes it’s stilted dialogue, oftentimes it’s narrative that shows we’ve overwritten, or worse, we’ve included the same passage twice. (It happens.) Again our brains/eyes miss it, and reading our work out loud is like providing an electrical conduit to our brain. It zaps us to attention and alerts us, hey, didn’t I already read that?

Hint: Reading a 250- to 400-page manuscript is time consuming and monotonous, especially when you want to get your work out the door. My critique partner and I have read our work to each other over the phone. Not all at once, of course. He’ll read two or three chapters one day; I’ll read two or three chapters the next. Not only does it allow us to read out loud, after we’re done, we give each other feedback. Win/win!

· Give your work to a trusted reader. Wait a minute. I’ve proofread, I’ve read it out loud, and I’m still not done?

Actually, you’re done when you say you’re done. But if you want to submit/publish the best possible product, take this extra step. What you’re asking a reader to do is look for developmental issues—things your critique partners might have missed. Think about it. Your critique partners may or may not have read your work in one sitting. They may have just read individual chapters. You’re asking a reader to look at the book as a whole. What do you think of my characters? Is there any part of the book that leaves you confused? How is my pacing? What about my hooks? Did you find any part of my work cliché? Finally, did I leave you wanting to turn the page, or did you want to put the story down? And why?

· Listen to feedback. Are readers always right? Absolutely not. Writing is subjective. But developing this first layer of toughness before an editor or agent looks at your submission can be helpful. Trust me―at least in my experience―neither of these professionals mince words. Further, if you’re Indy publishing your novel, listening can also prepare you for what reviewers are bound to say. 

Congratulations. I’m very, very happy for you. You’ve finished your book. Pat yourself on the back and revel in your success. Then get back to work—you’re a writer.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell is the author of three romantic suspense novels:  The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, and her newest release, Betrayed. All three releases have been Amazon Kindle best sellers. She has a new release coming from Bell Bridge Books in September and is currently working on a series. She is one of Pikes Peak Writers board members at large and loves to help/network with fellow writers. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence. If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there has to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don’t see your way out, and finally manage to accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder if it may not be all right after all.”

Agatha Christie
September 15, 1890 - January 12, 1976
Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express
The Mousetrap (stageplay)

Winner of the Mystery Writers of America's first Grand Master Award.
September 14 - 21 is Christie Week

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* I've Finished My Novel. Now What?       Donnell Ann Bell

* Do You Connect with Authors?                 Stacy S. Jensen 

* Sweet Success! Leslie Budewitz                Kathie Scrimgeour 

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pikes Peak Writers Conference Thursday Prequel

(Note from the Editor:  With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By A.M. Burns

This year was the first time that I was able to attend even part of the Pike Peak Writers Conference. For several years, since I’ve been active in the writing community here in Colorado Springs, I’ve heard about what a great gathering the conference is. I have to admit that I wasn’t disappointed. The event hotel was awesome; it helped lend a very professional air to the event, as did the event staff. Even the check in was the most efficient I’ve experienced. True, I wasn’t there early, about right on time, but I was able to walk right up to the table, tell them who I was and instantly had my badge and event goodie bag. (BTW, we’re still using the bag around the house; it’s great for toting things here and there.)

I opted to go to the workshops on self-editing and marketing, since those were more useful to me than pitching. I’ve already got an agent who handles most of my work. The workshop on self-editing, by Tiffany Yates-Martin, was extremely helpful. She has years of experience as an editor and shared it very well. She kept a nice pace and was very energetic. I have recommended to friends that if they have the opportunity to go see her speak on editing, it is well worth the time.

Lunch went smoothly. Again, the event staff performed well and it was nice sitting at a table with both people I knew and didn’t know. I think one of the big plusses to this conference is the ability to do networking with new people.

The workshop on marketing, which was a panel workshop with Deb Courtney, Aaron Michel Ritchey, Jennifer Lovett, and Susan Mitchell, was interesting with some good tidbits to be gleaned. They covered everything:  Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, personal websites, media packets, getting on local news shows and more. It was a lot to take in for a short workshop, if you can call three hours short. Again, it is a workshop that I would advise writers to attend, particularly if you’re like me and already have a few books out there and are looking to boost sales and online presence. The big plus with this panel was the diversity of the panelists. They each brought their own insight to the subject and overall worked well together.

As a bonus, a week or so after conference, I stumbled upon a podcast from Patrick Hester that he recorded at conference at the panel on diversity in genre fiction. I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to attend this panel in person, but was absolutely thrilled to find it online. I think this is a very important topic for writers right now and it’s something that’s not often discussed. So often right now diversity suffers from two extremes; it’s either swept under the rug or rammed down people’s throats. This panel discussed how to approach it so that it’s more acceptable to publishing professionals and readers alike. I really hope that Pikes Peak Writers Conference continues to have workshops like this in the future.

Overall, I was impressed with the little taste that I received of Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I’m urging folks to go if they have the opportunity. Many of my friends went and feel the same way. Kudos to the event staff, the hotel, the presenters, and everyone involved. I’m sure that next year’s conference will be just as awesome as this year and that PPWC will continue to help shape writers for many years to come. Great job, folks.

About the Author:  A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He is the president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. ( You can find out more about A.M. and his writing at, or follow him on Twitter @am_burns.

Social media links:
Mystichawker Press Author Page:
Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity for the New School Year

By Jaxine Daniels

Hello Campers and Happy New School Year. 

Welcome to my new Tips column where each month, I’ll put together ten tips for improving your writing. This month, I’ve come up with a few ways to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Write in the opposite “person”. If you’re used to writing in first person, switch to third and vice versa. This works especially well when you’re stuck in third person. By switching to first person, you will be writing from inside your character. I’ve found that I learned a lot about what was really going on in a scene by writing in first person.

2. Write a flash fiction. Flash fiction is short, short fiction. Some sources say fiction under 1000 words, but the predominant definition is fiction under 500 words. Flash fiction forces you to make every word count. The nice thing for our purposes here, though, is that there’s no long-term commitment. It’s a quick way to get yourself going when you’re stuck.

3. Write a fanfiction. What is fanfiction, you ask? Take your favorite television show and write a story. Fanfic is huge on the net. There’s actually some very good writing out there. The delightful thing about fanfic is that the characters are already created for you and you already know them. 

4. Write a scene in screenplay format. This limits you and it frees you. In screenplay format, you write dialogue and action. No thoughts, no real POV in the traditional novel-writing sense. Just you looking through the lens and writing what you see and hear happening.

5. Try something completely foreign to you. Go play bingo. Talk to strangers. Ride in a hearse or on a horse. Go by the Harley Davidson store and pretend you’re interested in buying a bike. Go to the opera. Learn sign language. Blindfold yourself for the morning. Listen to rap music. Listen to talk radio. I picked up a book the other day at B&N on the sale table:  2,001 Things to Do Before You Die. Not only is it a great idea book to get you out of a rut, it’s a treasure house of situations, goals or nightmares for your characters. 

6. Write from a prompt. There are tons of writing prompts on the web and even books of prompts. If you just can’t get into your WIP (work in progress), take fifteen minutes to write from a prompt. You might find a great scene unfold before you eyes.

7. Read a book out of genre or, if you haven’t done so for a while, read a book on writing. If you’re a romance writer, pick up a Harlan Coben novel. Not as big a stretch as a Harlan Coben reader picking up a romance novel, is it? Hey suspense writers, you might be surprised! Dig through your boxes and find On Writing by King, or Write Away by Elizabeth George or any number of great books on writing. Or maybe THE writing bible - Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. I find that I brainstorm well when I’m reading other things. So, I keep an index card handy to capture those thoughts. 

8. Write in a different spot, with a different medium. Have you discovered Moleskine notebooks? Wow, are they cool! I’m not sure my new Moleskine is right for writing a book, but it might be fine to get me started on a scene. Have you ever written a scene on a napkin?I have. How about a Big Chief pad?  (Sob, I don’t think they even make these anymore.) I love the way a ball point pen writes on a Big Chief. Grab your pad and pen or laptop and head over to Village Inn. Or the park. How about writing at the mall, or maybe the library. Getting out of your usual writing spot (even if you just move from your office to the kitchen, or to the La-Z-Boy) and changing your medium will stir things up a bit. You might even try dictating a scene into a tape recorder, as if you’re telling the story by the campfire. Give it a try.

9. Write in short bursts - set a timer. Thank you, Margie Lawson, for getting me hooked on timers. You can do anything for ten minutes. So if you’re dreading writing, set a timer for ten minutes and play what-if. What if your protagonist got stuck in an elevator, in a snow storm, in a phone booth. Just write for ten minutes. You can do it. You might find that you have a real scene you can use, or at least a line of dialogue around which to build a scene.

10. Watch a movie. Jot down great lines of dialogue. Analyze a scene over and over. Or just zone out for a little while and let yourself be entertained. Never be far from your notepad, though. 

I hope you’ll find this new Tips column useful and thought provoking. If something gets you thinking, why not post your thoughts to the list. If you have a topic you’d like to see here, feel free to email me. 

I wish you all a wonderful, prosperous, and creative Autumn. Don’t forget the mantra - BiC-HoK. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.



About the Author:  Jaxine Daniels is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Plot From the Middle

By Linda Rohrbough

After a while in this business, the lingo starts to sound very much the same. However, I just found an idea that’s new to me that I think is quite useful. It’s plotting a book from a central point where the main character has a realization about themselves, then working backward and forward from that point.

I wish I could say I came up with this one. But I came across it in a Kindle ebook by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel From the Middle. I’ve met Jim a couple of times at conferences we both attend, although I don’t know him well. (He does have one of my clocks.) Anyway, I’ve found his work on plotting useful in the past. Back when the world was young, he wrote Plot & Structure, one title in a series of how-to books on novel writing published by Writer’s Digest. I collected the entire series. I’ve used, with his permission, some of his ideas and graphs in my Writer’s Toolbox workshop.

To get to the point, here’s my graphical version of Jim’s start-from-the-middle method of plotting. Jim calls this the “Golden Triangle".

To start with the middle, you work first on the realization the character is going attain that drives their change in the story. Jim calls this the “Mirror Moment". This is the point in the story where your character takes a hard look at himself and his situation. Jim offers a number of examples from popular movies, although I’m not sure I agree with him on every “Mirror Moment". I think some movies have more than one of these for the main character. 

But the concept is a strong one and one that I think is going to help me write.

The point is, once you figure out the Mid-Point, from there you decide the character’s mindset before all this starts, or their ordinary world, which Jim calls the “Pre-story Psychology". And then you look forward to the end where they actually make the change or “Transformation". Once you’ve done this work, your structure is a triangle and the mid-point is the pinnacle. This method not only gets you thinking about what your story is about, which is critical, but it also insures you’re looking at both the beginning and the end, which should tie together in meaningful ways.

As an aside, I’m someone who likes to write an ending in a way that a reader can’t just flip to the back of the book and see what happens. I want my endings to only make sense if you’ve been along for the entire ride. I think this method will help me achieve that goal faster and more efficiently.

I found Jim’s idea to be a fresh one and a great way to begin work on a novel. He includes a number of other little gems in this Amazon ebook in the form of structural devices that he says should be in every good story.  Some I’d heard before, but some were new. And it’s not a long read so you can whip through it in an hour or two, though I spent a couple more hours making notes to add to a plotting structure template for novels. I found it well worth my time for the price, which is less than the cost of a latte at Starbucks.

He claims this method will work no matter what kind of writer you are, whether you’re a “pantser” meaning you just sit down and start writing, a plotter who likes to have forty scenes planned before the writing begins, or someone in between. And he provides a concrete how-to strategy to use this method for each of the writing types he identifies.
Jim also claims this will work for every genre, whether the story is literary or action-packed drama. I think he’s right. It’s certainly helped me get my arms around my work in progress. I’d love to know what you think.

PS: I wrote this assuming I was preaching to the choir. So if you're new to fiction writing and I lost you with this piece, not to worry. Just ask around. We all started somewhere and helping each other is what a writer's group is for.

About the Author:  Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"When you're writing a book, with people in it as opposed to animals, it is no good having people who are ordinary, because they are not going to interest your readers at all. Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them, and this is even more true in children's books."
Roald Dahl (September 13, 1916 - November 23, 1990)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Plot from the Middle                                                   Linda Rohrbough

* Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity 
   in the School Year                                                        Jaxine Daniels

* PPWC Thursday Prequel                                           A.M. Burns