Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The NaNo Warrior

The NaNoWriMo Warrior
By Cathy Dilts

Deanna Knippling is a NaNoWriMo warrior. I had asked our reporter pool if anyone planned to take Thanksgiving off. I know other NaNoers who are working ahead on their word count, so they can enjoy not writing for the day, and just indulge in food and relaxation.

Not Deanna.

She is going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving “so I don't have a lot of cooking tasks to do.” I wish I’d thought up that plan! As for NaNoWriMo, Deanna said, “I'll get the writing done before we leave.”

So she must be struggling along like the rest of us, right? The word count is coming along, but still out of reach? Nope. Deanna has already passed the 50,000 word goal, with over 63,000 words. And she claims that she has slowed down, because her freelance work has picked up.

I asked Deanna whether she has attended a NaNoWriMo write-in. She was enthusiastic about the Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTryMo events.

Any last words of wisdom, Deanna, warrior NaNoer? “Writer equals Saturday night at the laptop.” Ah, yes. Writers write.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Column: What I Learned About Writing From... by Debbie Meldrum

What I Learned About Writing From . . .

by Debbie Meldrum


1. It’s a good thing to raise questions from the start.

The opening shot of the series is a close up of a man’s eye. He stares up through a bamboo forest. He’s flat on his back, obviously hurt, and he’s wearing a suit and tie. A yellow Labrador runs by. After the man struggles to his feet, he finds a tiny bottle of vodka in his pocket.

Okay, I’ve got a bunch of questions already. Who is this guy? Why is he in what looks like a jungle? Was that his dog? How’d he get hurt? Why does he have booze in his pocket? Is he an alcoholic? Was he on a plane? Because it looks like what you get on a plane. What’s up the suit and tie in a jungle?

Get the idea? If this had been a book, I’d be punchy from lack of sleep, because I’d be turning pages all night to find out answers to those questions.

2. BUT it’s a good thing to reward your readers with a few answers along the way.

The man hears a loud noise, people calling for help, and he runs toward the sound. When he stumbles onto an expanse of beach, he finds chaos. A crashed jetliner—that’s where the booze is from—and people in a panic, many injured. He takes charge of the situation, performs medical procedures, introduces himself as Jack to someone, and so on. We find out his last name is Shepherd.

Now I have some answers, but I have more questions. Is he a doctor? Is that last name significant? Which of these characters are going to be important? Etc.

The creative minds behind the show—J.J. Abrams, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof—took some heat for raising more and more questions as the series went on without giving any answers—at least as far as many fans were concerned.

This can be a fine line to walk when you have a long story to tell. There should be some surprises later in the story, but it can be dangerous to keep too much too close to the vest. Let the reader in on some of the secrets along the way.

Which leads me to:

3. Know the end before you start.

Abrams and Cuse created a series ‘bible’ at the beginning which outlined the major plot points for an ideal 5-6 season run.

This is a good rule for stand-alone books, although you can always change things as you go. It’s really important for a series so that a character’s eye color doesn’t change or her house doesn’t inexplicable move from one side of town to the other between books 3 and 4. The writer may forget, but the reader won’t.

4. Knowing the end doesn’t always help the middle.

When the show became a bona fide hit, there was the possibility that it could go on for years beyond what Abrams and Darlton (the moniker fans gave Cuse and Lindelof) had dreamed. The middle got bogged down with more possibilities for what was happening on the island and a growing cast of characters.

A problem that’s easier to deal with when writing a book, because we can go back and fix the middle before anyone else gets to see it. Woo hoo! One for us.

5. It’s okay to have a large cast of characters, but you have to handle it right.

For most of it’s run, “Lost” listed around fifteen main characters with another dozen or so supporting players. Focusing on a few key people each episode helped fans keep things straight. That didn’t mean the others weren’t around, but they would fade to a supporting role. It helped the viewer get to know them all.

Introduce characters slowly—something I’m learning—and let each one have their own spotlight. It can be tricky to give each one enough time to complete the scene but not so much that the reader forgets some of the others.

Tread carefully. And—something I’m still struggling with—give each one a distinct personality. If Fred can stand in for Frank, maybe I don’t need Frank.

6. The Nikki/Paolo Rule.

Two new characters were abruptly introduced at the beginning of the third season. That wouldn’t have been unusual—new people showed up every season—except the regulars acted like these two had been around all along. And the couple seemed to add nothing to show. Darlton admitted the pair were brought in to answer the fan question of what the other survivors were up to. Since they were “universally despised” by the fans, they were killed off.

In a book, unless it’s part of a series, you can’t do that in response to reader feedback. So make sure any new additions are there for a good reason. Since I tend to overpopulate my books—one reason I love the previous rule—I am ever vigilant about this one.

7. Trust that your audience/readers are as smart as you are.

“Lost” did this beautifully. The writers never talked down to viewers. They gave characters names, often of philosophers, to help fans figure out what role that character was going to play. Aspects of different religions and mythologies were introduced without explanation. Either you got it or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you could still follow what was happening, but there was an extra layer of fun and meaning if you did.

This is another fine line I have to walk in my own writing. I’m trying to just write whatever reference feels right. If I get a lot of questions from my critique group, then I’ll go back and explain.

8. Playing with timelines can heighten suspense.

Another thing “Lost” did with great success. They used flashbacks from the first to help give background on the characters. But in Season 3 the creators introduced the flash forward. A glimpse of Jack and Kate in the future. Intriguing. What did it mean? Others followed in subsequent episodes.

Then in the final season, there were what Darlton called flash sideways. Was it a parallel timeline or universe? Could it be the future? We didn’t find out until the final episode.

Think about how altering the way you tell your story could up the tension. Does it need to be told in a chronological order, or would mixing it up be better? I have one story that it works with, but another would just be frustrating to the reader. How about multiple POV characters. Play a little with it.

9. Ultimately, you can’t please everyone.

The resolution of the flash sideways was controversial among fans. I loved it. Others? Not so much. The same with the answers to the big questions. And there were those who were disappointed that not every single little question was answered at the end.

This can happen with books as well. Do you spend time tying up every single loose end? Or do you let a few dangle so the reader can come to her own conclusion? I tend to prefer the latter to over.

Debbie is a daydreamer. A fact that caused her much grief during her school career but has served her well as a writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, The SCWP Marathon Anthology, and The S’Peaker. In addition to being a member of PPW, she belongs to Creek Writers Council—a tough but fun critique group.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Diaries: On Catching the Wind in Your Sails

The NaNoWriMo Diaries – 11/22/2010
By Cathy Dilts

According to the Yahoo online dictionary, the Sargasso Sea is "part of the northern Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. The relatively calm sea is noted for the abundance of gulfweed floating on its surface." That is where my NaNo ship stalled out a couple days ago. Becalmed, in a mass of rudder-clogging seaweed.

I crumpled onto the deck, helpless to move my ship forward. The wind had abandoned me, leaving the sails limp and useless. The smell of dead fish washed over me, and I just knew my NaNo ship was sunk.

“Rough draft,” I told myself repeatedly. “Don’t abandon ship. It will all work out.”

Finally, today I had my breakthrough. I’d been looking at it all wrong. Two sub-plots burst into the story like swashbuckling pirates. Well, actually, one does involve a pirate of sorts.

The wind filled my sails, and my ship broke free from the gulfweed. I see smooth sailing from here on!

We’re in the final week of NaNoWriMo. Keep pushing, fellow sailors! We’ll make it to port yet!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Column: Making Your Reader Cry by Deb Courtney

Like many Pikes Peak Writers members, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. I am not doing a particularly good job at making my word count, but I will admit to being fairly happy with what I am writing. I am also fairly happy with the level of discipline I have gained -- I am spending my lunch hour writing, a thing which I would have insisted a month ago was impossible, and I am writing every singe day.

Happiness with myself notwithstanding, I hit what I think is a common week 2 crisis which went something like 'how in the world did I ever think I had the talent much less the time to try and write anything and how dare I have the hubris to think I might have something to say which might mean something to anyone but self-indulgent self." Or something like that. And I reached out to a few trusted pals for some reassurance. And they reassured me...but I didn't feel all that reassured.

I have a dear friend who is going through a life crisis, and it occurred to me while chatting with her on the phone that my NaNo project is about her exact conflict, about being on the other side of the journey which she is undertaking. And I told her this and asked if I could share the draft of the last few pages (yes, I write out of order). Indulging me, she said yes, and I read maybe 400 words to her over the phone.

While I read, I understood maybe for the first time the intended emotional impact of what I wrote. I mean, I understood it before, but in a clinical way, a 'these words should accomplish this thing" way. In that moment, I really got the visceral impact of the scene, and I realized when I finished that my friend and I were both crying. We cried for our own reasons, overlapping a bit, me for her misfortune, and for having a breakthrough insight into my own work; her for the simple fact of the unchosen life journey she is undertaking, and for realizing there is an end to it, eventually. We cried together, and the instigator of that moment were my words.

When she said she would love to read the finished product, I realized I had just been paid the ultimate compliment for a writer -- the reader-writer contract was fulfilled in that moment and she and I occupied the same emotive space. Through my words.

We write for so many reasons: out of need, out of a desire to be published, for wanting validation, for fulfillment artistically, but at the basis of every book is a simple premise -- that the engagement of the reader with the words the writer has provided will make for an experience of sorts. Without the reader, we may as well toss our words to the wind, without the writer, readers would have no way to fill that space in them that wants the words.

So maybe I am filled with hubris, thinking I have something to say that might mean something to a reader someday. Hell, I still have to convince myself of it, then an agent and then a publisher. But I think I do have something to say, and when I say it, I hope I evoke what I managed to in that small moment, that emotive connection that made my reader cry. And I am reassured.

And now, back to writing.

The final snippet: It's not rocket science. It's beer. (overheard at Southside Johnny's).

Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sweet Success: DeAnna Knippling

Stop the presses (okay, maybe that's not such a good idea...): here's another PPW member success story!

DeAnna Knippling will publish her first book, Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse on November 26, 2010 with Doom Press (ISBN: 978-0615389219, 224 pages).

The book is a young-adult and up pick-your-path adventure in which you're guaranteed 100% deaths while fighting zombies (or being one). It's set in Colorado Springs; no locals were hurt during the writing of this book, and it's perfect for reluctant readers and people with a snarky sense of humor.For a sample, see www.doompress.com.

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is not prepared to discuss her pets at this time. You can find her at www.deannaknippling.com

Go DeAnna!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Cathy Dilts: Silencing Your Inner Critic-Part 2

Plot vs. Plod:
Todd Fahnestock Looks at Two Methods for Creating a Story

By Cathy Dilts

Are you a plotter or a plodder?

Asking for a show of hands in the second half of his Write Brain talk, Todd Fahnestock showed that the audience fell into three evenly divided camps. The plotters plan their story, creating an outline before they begin writing. Plodders prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. But a third of the audience claimed to combine the two. Some writers plot, and as they start writing, they tend to abandon the original roadmap. Others jump right in and set up an outline after they are well into the story.

Todd called himself a “dyed in the wool plodder.” By this, he meant that he prefers a more intuitive style of writing where you start at the beginning and go where the story takes you. As his brother is fond of saying, “Just walk.” The opposite of this is plotting.

Todd told the audience about his experience working with co-author Giles Carwyn on Heir of Autumn. Carwyn believed a writer should, as Todd quotes, “lay the bones out, assemble them, then put the flesh on.” Their first published novel was meticulously planned in a daunting eleven step process.

One advantage to this sort of intensive plotting is that you know where you’re going. You don’t have to think as much in the middle of your story. There is less chance of contradiction, and more opportunity for complexity. On the downside, it’s more difficult to keep the voice fresh and to retain a sense of surprise.

Plodding is an organic style of story creation. Todd listed more advantages, admitting his own bias in favor of this technique. The story can take on a life of its own, and it is easier to create a character driven story. The disadvantages are that you might write yourself into a corner, develop a fatal flaw in your story, or your inspiration may dry up, leaving you with writer’s block.

Whether you are a plotter, a plodder, or a combination of both, Todd’s advice from the first half of his talk applies: write every day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Cathy Dilts: Tickling the Muse: Tips and Tricks for Getting Unstuck

How do people make time to write 50,000 words in a month? That’s a daunting 1,667 words per day. Now add a full time job, or school, or a family. Maybe you list all of the above, and then some. Those of us attempting NaNoWriMo, or the PPW version, NaNoTRYMo, need all the help we can get to stay motivated.

Last Tuesday evening, we took over the Borders bookstore coffee shop and listened as Pikes Peak Writers president Chris Mandeville presented “TICKLING THE MUSE: Tips and Tricks for Getting Unstuck.” A crowd of 20 writers attended this Write Brain session. Curious shoppers paused to listen, and a few even stayed.

Setting the frenzied writing pace required for NaNo success presents a situation not of “writer’s block,” according to Chris, but of “a life road block.” She said that your number one priority is to “give yourself the freedom to write.”

That may sound silly, but I have known many wannabe writers over the years who could not pass this first hurdle. They let an endless list of “shoulds” keep them from writing. Chris suggested writing down your “shoulds”: Cleaning the house, doing the laundry, grocery shopping. There - you’ve committed it to paper. You won’t forget any of your “shoulds” later. Now write!

If you think you could get so absorbed in your work that you'll forget those absolutely have-to obligations, like picking the kids up from school or going to work, set an alarm to remind yourself.

Chris recommends having a dedicated time and space for your writing. This works best for people whose lives are more organized than mine. I have my “space,” but I will write anywhere and any chance I get. I have learned to keep a notepad and pencil with me at all times. If your writing is contingent on being in your special place and time, let’s face it, you may never finish that 50,000 words.

Chris also talked about getting permission to write from the people in your life. NaNoWriMo is excellent for this purpose. You tell your family and friends that you will be unavailable for the next month, while you write a novel. People can handle a time-limited loss of a loved one. Chris also recommended bribery, such as, “After I reach my word count, I’ll cook dinner.”

Next, Chris recommended establishing a ritual. Maybe your writing ritual is to get a cup of coffee and turn on your computer. Perhaps it is more time-consuming, such as doing yoga or going for a walk. I don’t use ritual. If it’s time to write, I just plunge in.

NaNoWriMo is the time for writing, not editing, Chris reminded us. Don’t re-read and don’t re-write. If you are stuck, Chris gave us lots of ideas for getting unstuck:

• Stuck character? Accessorize your character! Give them a quirk, or a hobby.
• Stuck plot? Create a plotting grid, like a calendar page, but using each “day” as a chapter. I’ve done this using sticky notes and poster board.
• Generally stuck? Take a shower. Go for a walk. Write something different, such as journaling. Try improv writing. Chris is right. Doing something else, while keeping your story at the edges of your thoughts, often allows those subconscious ideas to rise to the surface. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas at work, while mindlessly entering data in a spreadsheet. Keep that notebook and pencil close at hand, though, or those break-through ideas will evaporate like the morning mist.

One final bit of advice that Chris gave us really rang true for me. If you can plan your life around your writing for one month out of the year, why not try doing it year 'round?

This Write Brain session was what I needed. I’m energized, and ready to tackle the final days of NaNoWriMo. At the rate I’m going, I may even have time to take a break for Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Column: To Blog or Not To Blog by Linda Rohrbough

The Business of Writing: To Blog Or Not To Blog

by Linda Rohrbough

I get asked all the time, should I blog? My answer usually is, “How much time do you have?” But successful blogging is about more than time. Let me explain.

One of my friends, New York Times best-selling author Jodi Thomas, who spoke at PPWC last year, jumped on blogging. She’s the sort of person everyone loves. She tells interesting stories, writes great books, and is an up and comer I expect will become a bigger name as time goes on. If you missed hearing her at PPWC, here’s a YouTube video of Jodi talking about writing.

Jodi, myself, and Dusty Richards and about six other writers, including one of my interns, were sitting around last weekend on folding chairs in the community room at a resort property in Red River, New Mexico. Jodi organizes a very loose writer’s retreat, invitation only, where we talk about the business for a weekend. Most of the writers who came are published, and we were celebrating that Dusty Richards, a two-time spur award winner, had finished his 104th western.

And Red River was gorgeous. I grieve every time I have to leave. The aspens were doing the yellow dance as we munched happily in a warm meeting room on the various treats we’d all brought to share. (Including slopping chips into some killer queso my intern made.)

That’s when the subject of blogging came up. A couple of the New Mexico gals, prolific writers and very tech savvy, talked about the over one hundred people following their blogs. One author, Gabby Stevens, said she got to know a bookseller via her blog who keeps in touch via Facebook and promotes her books in Florida, even though they have never physically met. Another, Barb Simmons, who writes under the pen name Belle Sloan, said blogging was working for her.

But Jodi tried blogging. And faithfully almost every day posted something. But she quit. She said after a year, about ten people followed her blog. Now keep in mind her last book hit number sixteen on the New York Times list in the fall when the big boys released their new titles for the holidays. And she has a book currently featured in a special breast cancer promotion “read pink” from the Penguin Group with authors Nora Roberts and Christina Dodd. At past conferences, Jodi has asked me to run crowd control interference so she could get back to her room to rest after her talk. People simply adore her. But evidently not on a blog. I recalled reading it. It was flat. It didn’t sound like Jodi - it didn’t have her down home flavor or the inside track, like I’m giving you here.

And really, that’s what blogging is about – the inside track. It’s intensely personal in a way some people aren’t and never will be comfortable with. It seems best when it has humor, especially jokes on yourself, if you can manage it.

Do you have to blog as an author? No. Some authors pay others to blog for them. In fact, that happens in a lot of places and not just with blogging. The last time Paris Hilton got in trouble she posted on Facebook she was doing something homey like popping corn and snuggling up with the DVD player, when she was actually in jail in Vegas, I think it was. Clearly, she wasn’t writing those posts.

Now, having said that, I need to say I’ve avoided blogging. Until now. PPW pushed me over the edge. You have treated me so warmly and with such respect for so many years, that when Fleur Bradley contacted me to say please stay on as the NewsMag transitions to a blog, I said yes. And here I am. Let’s hope I do better than Jodi.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, with over 5,000 articles and seven books along with a number of national fiction and non-fiction awards to her credit. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She is also under contract for an iPhone App of her “Learn to Talk About Your Book” workshop, scheduled for release Spring 2011. Visit her website www.LindaRohrbough.com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Success: Janet and Richard Fogg

Janet Fogg and Richard Fogg will have Fogg in the Cockpit, The Wartime Diary of Captain Howard Fogg, released in 2011 by Casemate Publishing. The authors' website, including an excerpt, is at janetfogg.com

Howard Fogg graduated from Dartmouth with honors in 1938 with a degree in English Literature. Initial plans to become an editorial cartoonist evolved into a post-war career that often saw him described as the world's foremost railroad artist.
Fogg in the Cockpit takes us back to a pivotal year of World War II. Flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs from East Wretham in Norfolk with the 359th Fighter Group, Howard completed seventy-six combat missions and was awarded the Air Medal with three clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster.

Howard's love of railroading touches this diary as does his enthusiasm for painting. Included are photographs from 1943 and 1944, previously unpublished political cartoons of Howard's from 1939 and 1940, examples of his early train paintings, and examples of paintings that typify his five decades as an artist.

With his vivid descriptions of D-Day and his trips to war-torn London, Fogg in the Cockpit provides a unique glimpse into a fighter pilot's daily life and the war experiences of a young man who would ultimately become a renowned artist.

Congrats!!! And pass the cake, everyone...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Robin Widmar: Silencing Your Inner Critic-Part 1

Silencing Your Inner Critic:
A Write Brain Workshop Presented by Todd Fahnestock

Reported by Robin Widmar

Todd Fahnestock knows a little something about writing. As the co-author of three published novels, and sole author of a number of self-described "crappy novels," Todd has been through the ups and downs that fiction writers face. For the October Write Brain workshop, he addressed the inner critic that resides in each of us.

When writing a rough draft, Todd says you must give yourself permission to "write a crappy book." Crank up the writing machine that is you and let the writing flow. When the inner critic makes an appearance, just put him/her in a box, set the box aside and keep going. He or she can come out of the box during later revisions.

Todd asked the audience about the things that stop them from writing. All of the responses contained a measure of self-doubt, from getting bored with our own stories and rampant cycles of editing and re-editing, to worrying about the authenticity of historical details and indecisiveness over the storyline. "Doubts do not serve you" in the initial draft of a book, Todd said.

So how does a writer quell self-doubt and quiet that nagging inner critic? Todd's primary piece of advice is to WRITE EVERY DAY, and to WRITE EVERY CHANCE YOU GET. It doesn't matter how good or bad the writing is; what does matter is that you are writing something. The more you write, the better your writing will become. Better writing leads to more confidence as a writer, and it will be easier to ignore the inner critic that's trying to derail your book. You won't become a better writer simply by waiting for perfection, though. You must write. If you're not writing every day, then what are you waiting for?

According to Todd, writers can be categorized as "writers" and "waiters." Waiters wait for optimal situations before they start writing, such as:

1. Waiting for enough time to write. Todd used this one until he ran out of time and had to finish a book...
2. Waiting for the Big Idea. Big ideas are important, but they're not all-important. Keep writing, keep honing your craft, and your ideas will get bigger and better as you go.
3. Waiting for inspiration.
4. Waiting for that Big Break. If you don't have a completed manuscript, that "big break" might well pass you by.

The keys to being a writer instead of a waiter include:
- Write every day, every chance you get.
- In the first draft, don't worry about whether your idea is good or not. Ignore that voice telling you that something won't work until you're certain it won't work.
- Keep at it. Persistence leads to success.
- Give yourself the gift of failure.

As Todd puts it, "I wrote two crappy novels this year. How many did you write?"

Write every day. Write every chance you get.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet Success: DeAnna Knippling

It's another PPW member success stories--don't you love those? Here it is:

DeAnna Knippling's horror/fantasy short story, "The Edge of the World" was published in Three Lobed Burning Eye #20 (October 2010). Read it online free at http://www.3lobedmag.com/.

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is not prepared to discuss her pets at this time. You can find her at www.deannaknippling.com

Congrats to DeAnna!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Column: Running Away By Becky Clark

My sister scolded me. But my mom understood.

I got mad at my three children one day when they were youngish and terrible. I needed more than a time-out. I ran away. Only as far as the local library in our little Colorado town, but it was far enough. Far enough for me; too far for them.

I don’t think she was particularly scared, but my daughter called my sister anyway. I think she just wanted me to get in trouble with someone. Anyone.

My daughter also called my mother who lived in California at the time. Talk about tattling!

When I returned home, my sister called, asked the obligatory questions and got the appropriate answers to determine I wasn’t in immediate need of medical or psychiatric care. But then she scolded me.

Later, my mother called too. When I told her the story of the behavioral chaos of my children, expecting more scolding, she laughed. “I’ve done the same thing,” she said. “Many times.”

I was immediately calmed and exonerated.

I was reminded of this story today because I sat on the deck reading DEAR MRS LINDBERGH by Kathleen Hughes. It was a book I had given my mother as a gift several months earlier. She’s becoming more and more housebound caring for her declining husband. She has very few needs, so books, I’ve decided, are an excellent gift.

She lives in an apartment without much shelf space, though, so she carefully writes the name of the gift giver on a sticky note and returns the books when she’s finished. Often, she’ll include a note about how she enjoyed it — or didn’t.

Sometimes I give books I’ve read that I know she’ll like. Other times I browse and find books I think she’ll like.

Such was the case with DEAR MRS LINDBERG. I hadn’t read it, didn’t know anything about it. But I know Mom likes historical fiction, which this wasn’t, really, but it had that feel to it.

When I got to the end, I found a note from my mom tucked into it. In her precise cursive she told me she liked this one. She added, “On a very small scale I can relate to Ruth’s desire to fly away for an adventure of her own.”

Reading her note literally took my breath away.

My mother had eight children. I’m number seven. I was an adult before I ever knew — or thought to ask — if she had dreams for her life that didn’t involve a swarm of kids. She was a young teenager during World War II and the nurses captured her imagination. But then she turned 18, got married and immediately started having children. She and my dad never had any money. Nursing school was out of the question.

“On a very small scale I can relate to Ruth’s desire to fly away for an adventure of her own.”

I know Mom would say she’s had a perfectly fine life. But my heart has several tiny Mom-shaped cracks in it today.

BIO: Becky Clark is a popular blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of wildly divergent books — for example, An UnCivil War – The Boys Who Were Left Behind (middle-grade historical fiction); Reading Maniac — Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success (a guide for parents of reluctant readers); and The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook. Her BeckyLand blog can be found at http:/beckyland.wordpress.com and her healthy living website/blog is www.LazyLowCalLifestyle.com. She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNo Diary Entry: On Writers' Tools

I was surprised to see novelists at a Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTRYMo write-in scribbling on notebooks with pens and pencils. Especially when one writer had a functioning laptop with her.

There is no “right way” for novelists to get their stories out of their heads and onto paper. Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned even envisioning novels in hardcopy form. With dramatic changes in the publishing industry, how many novels will appear on bookshelves, in print format, in the future?

Electronic readers such as the Kindle and Sony versions are increasingly popular and affordable. I suppose one could write a novel on a computer, sell it to an e-publisher, and connect with an e-reader audience, without the novel ever finding its way onto paper.

What tools are other writers using to create their NaNoTRYMo novels? Most of us still seem to use some combination of computer and hardcopy. Deanna Knippling told me, “I'm using a computer with the aid of my handy-dandy notebook, in which I doodle my outline for the chapter as well as any notes.”

What tools and methods work for you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Agent Advice on Querying

New over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, agent Mollie Glick talks about seven things she wants to see in a query, and nine things she doesn't. If you're gearing up to query, check it out!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNo Diary Entry: On Time Management

How are you managing your NaNoTRYMo time?
By Cathy Dilts

Chris Barili, trying to balance a full time job with his duties as husband and father, is writing thirty minutes in the morning, and thirty at night. Then he blasts out as many words as he can on the weekends. That is determination!

Others write during the day while the kids are in school. For some, the only time is after work, or in the evening hours.

Which brings up a question: Are you a day person or a night person?

I struggled for six hours Saturday night to squeeze out two thousand words. Even with the gift of an extra hour, thanks to Daylight Saving Time, the writing was grueling. I finally accomplished my word count.

Sunday morning, I woke before the rest of the household. I vowed to myself that I would not log onto the internet until noon. I would resist the urge to start my Thanksgiving house-cleaning. I would do nothing but write.

Two hours later, boom! I had two thousand words. Part of my success was due to avoiding e-mail and Facebook. Another factor was that I am a morning person.

But during the week, I can only write after work. I have to use this time, even though it is not as productive as writing in the morning. Knowing that I might have a hard time getting started, I rough out the next couple scenes before ending each writing session. That way, I’m not facing a blank page when I resume NaNoing.

To succeed at NaNoTRYMo, you have to discover your own coping techniques. Be as creative at carving out time to write as you are dreaming up your story, and you will achieve your goal!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo Diary: Barb Dyess

The First Four Days Ever of NaNoWriMo
By Barb Dyess

This is my first time doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where one attempts to produce 50,000 words in thirty days time and survive the experience. After a harrowing first half of 2010, I stopped revising the romantic-suspense novel I’d been in love with and started creating my own peculiar brand of art. Good therapy—it’s been fun. But writing? Nope. And I’ve missed it.

To prepare for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I first decided on the project: a semi-autobiographical family-saga mainstream novel. I made a spanking new NaNo folder on the computer, opened a new document, and started writing. I also copied the Research/Notes folder to my NaNo folder for easy access to notes if I must have them. If I want to look, that is – which I am resisting, unless the lack of information truly is stalling my flow.

Some writers sign a “contract” committing to the goal of 50,000 words, but not me. No NaNo contract. I don't do contracts because going legal on myself makes me feel queasy – who wants to commit that much? I have, however, made some commitments:

• I write with a computer. Only. Pens & pencils are for drawing, for doodling or grocery lists.
• Printing things out? Highlighting? Ha! No point in wasting time or paper. It's all electronic.
• I’m shooting for 1700 words daily.
• Daily, I plug in my trusty external backup drive and back up all of my new/changed laptop files. This will hopefully (knock on wood!) avoid a nervous breakdown should my laptop go kaput after spewing 50,000 words of fiction.

Every day for the first four days, I started by opening up the manuscript document at the spot where I left off the day before. As a “warm-up,” I read a few paragraphs but resist the urge to correct anything I previously wrote (which ain't easy). Fingers on keyboard, I struggle a bit with what to say...then I start typing. In fits and starts, I am writing again after a hiatus. First day: 1564 words. This is amazing!

On the second day of NaNoWriMo, I waited until the evening Pikes Peak Writers Write-In session at Borders before writing anything...and was too tired to peck out more than a few hundred words. Mornings are my energy time, so lesson re-learned. Total word count: 2400. Next time, I'll come to the Write-In with only a couple hundred words to finish and make my goal.

Day three: I was fighting a draggy-cold feeling and crashed most of the day. Total word count: about 2800. Arrrgh.

On the fourth day, I gave myself an ultimatum: no shower and no decent food until the 2000 word mark is reached for the day. (Take that, lassitudinous self!) At 4:00 p.m. and after some (crucial) interruptions, I finished a scene and hit the Word Count button. After whooping it up and startling the dogs, I took a shower and skipped downstairs to declare a celebratory Portobello-Swiss Burger (hold the mayo) was in order for dinner.

NaNoWriMo thus far is doing a strange but wonderful thing: it has me writing again. Learning to want to write again. Getting ideas instead of being stagnant. A spark of belief in myself as a writer is glowing to life, the cold ashes of the soul cleaned from the hearth. Does it matter if what I’m producing is polished? Great? No. But it feels great to do this.

Oh yeah – day four's word count? 7,076.

Yeah, baby, yeah. It may be cliché, but write on.

BIO: Barbara Dyess writes with the mountains in view and dogs at her feet, a cuppa hot tea at hand. With a few dozen articles, essays and recipes published online or for non-profits, she’s studying how to craft an excellent novel with compelling characters and amazing plots. She writes fantasy, contemporary romance/suspense, historical, inspirational, mainstream, and some poetry when the mood hits.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Column: Screenwriting: Would You Hesitate? by Karen Albright Lin

I was a novelist and food writer. I never intended to write screenplays. The format and story formula seemed like foreign languages. The industry insiders were untouchable. The prospect of marketing (rent The Player) intimidated me. Why would I, a mere land-locked Coloradan, consider taking a peek into big screen craft and that clicky California world?


I may never have explored screenwriting if it hadn’t been for a pitch practice session at a writer’s conference and a Hollywood producer intrigued by my log line for a novel in progress.
Enter KEN BERK who offered to get my story into the right hands if I would write it as a feature-length script. There’s not enough room in this blog entry for the number of exclamation marks I felt at the offer. Did I hesitate?

Not for one BEAT. I saw dollar signs and my character MATCH CUT with JULIA ROBERTS. I drove home—floated home—and crash-learned the industry expectations. I cut the story down to two hours, one page per minute. I made it more visual with pithier dialogue, vivid action, and grand reversals.

About the time I was doing my fourth polish of ACT I my screenwriting career was punctuated by its first dramatic reversal. I received word that ACT III had ended too soon for the young producer. Not exactly the climax I’d hoped for and not the one expected by any of us who know him. Ken Berk, my “inciting incident,” my connection to the industry, and, at the time, my muse, had died.

I could have let the pursuit take a quiet FADE OUT. But I didn’t. Thanks to the inspiration of Ken, and another screenwriter I met through PPW, Jan Jones, I continued writing in this new and dynamic form. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of writing (and co-writing) eight completed feature-length screenplays in six genres (several more in progress) and five short scripts. I’ve been represented by a Hollywood agent, an entertainment attorney, and NY agents who sell books to Hollywood. I’ve worked on short scripts with an indie producer and an indie director—one script was produced. I’ve been honored with a dozen screenwriting awards and am now using many of the screenwriting skills to power-up my fourth novel.

Have you ever seen one of my stories in a movie theater? No, but I hope you will in the future.
The side-trip took quite a bit of time away from my novels and literary cookbooks. If I had the chance to go back in time, would I hesitate to make the same decision? Not for one BEAT.
There’s power and excitement in learning a new skill.

Would you hesitate?

If not, check in on my future blog entries in which I’ll discuss the basics of screenwriting format, the business, story expectations, representation, and adapting your novel, short story, or memoir into a screenplay. Most importantly, I will encourage you to take a valuable detour, write a screenplay and see how it will improve your storytelling and prose. Until next time, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll) each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at www.karenalbrightlin.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNo Diary--Day Four

NaNoWriMo Day 4 – November 4, 2010
By Catherine Dilts

I neglected to submit my report for Day 3 due to circumstances beyond my control. While I was attending the Citizen’s Academy at the DA’s office Wednesday evening, learning about crime, my husband was involved in an armed robbery. Ironic, huh? Colorado Springs folks may have heard about the incident at Pikes Perk. No one was hurt, thank goodness.

Now, on to the really important business of NaNo. I managed to squeeze in an hour of writing before class, then another hour when I got home, never considering that it was way past closing time at the coffee shop, and my husband was still at Bible study.

Needless to say, when he showed up, I had to stop writing for a while. “Hold on a sec, honey. I’ve almost finished my NaNo word count. Then you can tell me all about the armed robbery.”

Have I lost my mind, already? It’s only Day 3!

Maybe sitting in front of a computer screen all day and half the night has caused me to lose my already tenuous connection to reality. So I decided to check in with my fellow NaNoers in the PPW reporter’s pool, to find out what tools they are using to create their novels. Watch for my next NaNo blog post to learn how other NaNoers are holding up – er, maybe that wasn’t the appropriate phrase to use…..

Friday, November 5, 2010

About Ruh

So you've probably seen the picture of that most adorable dog in our lineup to the right. His name is Ruh, and like all extraordinary dogs, he has his own bio. Here it is:

Ruh (pronounced "Roo") is a service dog for PPW President Chris Mandeville, and the unofficial mascot of Pikes Peak Writers. He is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog, a livestock guardian breed that hails from Turkey.

Ruh is a six year veteran of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and has proudly attended Write Brain sessions, workshops, book signings, and American Icon for his entire life. He is known to frequent bookstores, and during PPWC can often be seen taking a break in the conference bookstore with his "grandpa" Bill May.

Although Ruh enjoys writing on occasion, his favorite thing is hanging out with writers. He particularly enjoys soothing nervous conference attendees prior to their pitches, and celebrating writing successes with vigorous tail wagging.

For those of you who haven't met Ruh, I suggest you consider coming to one of the Pikes Peak Writers events...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

PPW NaNo Write-In Report

NaNoWriMo Day 2 – November 2, 2010
By Catherine Dilts

Monday night, Day 1 of National Novel Writing Month, the words finally started to flow. Characters stepped forward to claim their roles in my NaNo novel. The pirate refused to be killed off in chapter one. He has more work to do in the spinning of this yarn. Arrr, matey.

I exceeded my goal of 1,670 words. I was anxious to write while inspiration burned bright and clear. Then reality intruded in the form of my day job. Reluctantly, I set the alarm and turned in for the night. I slogged my way through work, my mind half in the office, and half in my fresh new NaNo world.

Tuesday night was the first Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTRYMo write-in at Borders bookstore. Familiar faces greeted me as I entered the coffee shop area. Keeping the chit-chat to a minimum, I snapped a few pics, said a few hellos, and unpacked my laptop.

I could live like this.

Joking aside, part of my motivation for seeking publication is that I really like the writer’s lifestyle. No, not that mythical world of leisure, fame, and wealth. I’m talking about the ceaseless pounding of the keyboard, living in a mushroom state in the dim lighting provided by my computer monitor, my butt glued to a chair, while I agonize over how best to describe a moonlit forest clearing.

That’s why I’m NaNoing.

Other people attending the write-in had their own reasons. For M. B. Partlow, NaNoWriMo provides the fastest way to blast out a first draft. Deanna said, “Dammit, I’m a writer, not an actor,” explaining that writing is how she “acts” from her subconscious. Newcomer to the NaNo world Ange Marie said that attending the write-in assured that “I’ll at least definitely write for an hour, instead of doing housework, or going to gym.”

Photo of M.B. Partlow by Catherine Dilts

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweet Success: Darby Karchut

Here at Pikes Peak Writers, we like to toot our fellow members' horn. Join in on the happiness with this report of Sweet Success:

Darby Karchut signed a contract in June with Twilight Times Books for her YA urban fantasy: Griffin Rising.

She started the novel in July of 2009, completed it in November of that same year, began sending queries in February of 2010, and landed a contract in June 2010. Needless to say, Darby has no life. None, whatsoever. She also is a social studies teacher at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High.

Griffin Rising is her debut novel. She is currently working on the sequel entitled Griffin's Fire.

Congrats to Darby!!! I think this calls for some cake...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNo Diary Entry: Cathy Dilts

Pikes Peak Writers wouldn't be a writers organization if we didn't participate in NaNoWriMo--or at least some of us braver writers anyway. We'll share some diary entries of these brave writers throughout the month; here is one from PPW member Cathy Dilts:

The NaNo Diaries – 2010
By Cathy Dilts

Day 1 – November 1, 2010

I only have half a page of hand-written notes as of 4:37 pm. I had great intentions of staying up Sunday until midnight to start NaNoing, but a day at the zoo with the grandkids did me in. This morning, I awoke to my alarm clock, and the cold realization that I had not won the lottery – again – and had to go to my day job. So here I sit, Monday afternoon of Day 1, with nary a word to report. Hardly an auspicious beginning for my 50,000 novel. I am starting now. Can I make 1,667 words before I pass out tonight?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Welcome to the brand-spanking new Pikes Peak Writers blog! I know, it took us a little while to hit the web, but now we're here to take it by storm. So buckle up.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pikes Peak Writers (you've been missing out, really), PPW is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Colorado, dedicated to helping all writers learn, grow, connect and become true professionals in the field. We have over 500 members across North America, and membership in PPW is now FREE! Our annual conference is ranked in the top ten writers conferences in the U.S. by Writers Digest Magazine, and top-notch agents and editors tell us that we are the friendliest conference around with some of the best-prepared pitchers they've seen. PPW hopes to connect with, inform and educate writers around the world via this blog and our newly revamped Website at PikesPeakWriters.com. And for those writers living in the Pikes Peak region, we have Write Brain Sessions, social meetings, workshops, write-ins, and the annual American Icon competition to keep you inspired, connected and WRITING.

Now that we've launched this blog, we're hoping to share all this greatness with everyone. Expect to read author interviews, reports on those Write Brain events (in case you live elsewhere), articles on craft, news, columns... I could go on a while.

As for me, I'm Fleur Bradley, the Managing Editor of this blog. That sounds really important, but really, I just collect the work of some of the great PPW members who write columns, articles and reports--check out their names to the right. I'll pop in from time to time with some news and bits, but expects these other guys and girls to do most of the talking.

Thanks for stopping by, and check in often for some great information to keep you inspired!