Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.
Robert Pirsig (September 6, 1928 - )
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Letter from the Editor                                                              Debi Archibald

* The Zebulon Contest Opens                                                     Robert Wyckoff 
Don't miss this special Tuesday edition which will include an extended message regarding the launching of the 2014 Zebulon contest.                                                                                     

* The Practical Magic of Writing                                              Deb McLeod

* PPW September News and Events                                        Debi Archibald 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sweet Success! Shannon Lawrence

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Shannon Lawrence’s flash fiction, Spes et Libertas, was released February 6, 2014 in the fiction anthology, Beyond the Binding Composers for Relief Companion Collection, by Samantha Redstreake Geary (e-book, 112 pages, ISBN: (ASIN): B00IAZY03U)

Embark on an exciting journey “Beyond the Binding” of the imagination with 29 authors from across the globe, in a groundbreaking collaboration where music meets fiction. Surrender to soaring compositions as they surge through the veins of every story, capturing the triumphant pulse of the notes in heart pounding sci fi, enchanting fantasy and gripping slices of realism. 

All proceeds of the Composers for Relief album and Beyond the Binding companion ebook will go to Gawad Kalinga (“give care”) and GVSP (Gualandi Volunteer Service Program), to support the relief efforts for victims of the deadliest natural disaster in Philippines’ history, Super Typhoon Yolanda. 

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence enjoys writing mainly urban fantasy and horror, examining the darker side of life. Her flash fiction piece, “The Family Ruins,” is included in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories. While her main focus is fantasy and horror, she is working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and also enjoys photographing Colorado scenery, wildlife, and her children. She is also the NCE Director for Pikes Peak Writers. You can find her at and on Twitter as @thewarriormuse.

Where to Buy: Amazon: Click Here

Barnes & Noble:  Click Here

Shannon was also part of a collaboration between 26 bloggers and Audiomachine entitled Tree of Life: Branching Out. Brief description below:

Tree of Life: Branching Out is a collaborative writing challenge, where creative minds meet epic movie music. Preselected guest writers representing all genres, from all across the globe, contributed their own 150 word excerpt to a continuing story collectively written over the course of 26 days. Each of the writers found inspiration in a featured composition from the motion picture music production house, audiomachine’s new TREE OF LIFE album. These clever masters of the craft spun the story in whatever direction they chose, picking up where the previous writer left off, resulting in the ultimate collaborative tale. 

Link to find the 26 piece story: Go Here

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Has Anyone Ever Told You???

By Bonni Philipp

I had done my research and meticulously picked out the agent for my PPWC pitch appointment who I knew would be the perfect person to represent my book. I then spent countless hours honing my pitch, practicing it in the shower, in the car, to anyone who would listen. At last the morning arrived for my appointment and I was so nervous. For the half hour before my allotted time I paced the parking lot of the hotel, rehearsing my pitch, coming up with potential questions the agent might ask, what I would say when she told me she thought my book sounded brilliant…that it was exactly what she had been waiting for.

After applying a fresh coat of lipstick and popping a mint in my mouth, I tossed my notes into my bag and marched towards the hotel doors. I streamed past the crowds of people who were milling about in the lobby, drinking, laughing, relaxing on the sofas, and walked purposefully past them, thinking how in the next twenty minutes my whole life was going to change. I rode the elevator up to the seventh floor and emerged into a crowded waiting room of people. 

After checking in, I sat off to the side, where I once again began to mentally recite my pitch. I found it hard to keep focused, however; the level of tension in the room was so palpable. Some people chatted to each other nervously, while others seemed to be like me, silently practicing their lines; still others mumbled to themselves, their eyes closed. One woman even started doing stretches while taking large gulps of air and telling everyone in the room in a shrill voice, “I’m just so nervous!” It was what I had imagined it would be like auditioning to be on American Idol or for an acting part in a movie—exciting but at the same time completely nerve-racking.  

One wave of people was called, disappearing single file through the hallway. After a few short minutes passed, it was my group’s turn. Sincere cries of “Good luck!” were uttered as we filed down the hall. For a brief moment we waited, as the next group was not yet done. Then as if a were race beginning, the woman who had led us down the hall shouted, “GO!” and darted out of our way. The clocks had started. We had exactly eight minutes. 

I scrambled with the rest into the room and quickly located my agent, wasting no time in delivering my pitch. After I was done, my agent looked at me with a strange frown and said it didn’t really sound like a thriller, sounded too boring for that. My eyes bulged. I felt a lead weight drop inside of me. “No, no…it really does get quite exciting,” I tried to convince her, blubbering on for a minute about it, not quite sure how much sense I was really making. At last my agent shrugged, not really looking convinced. “I guess you can email me the first couple of chapters…” 

Next thing I knew, my agent was shaking my hand and saying with a large smile, "Well, it was nice meeting you.” I looked around the room, where all the other writers were still chatting eagerly with their editors and agents. I had no idea how much time was left, but I didn’t want to say goodbye just yet. “So,” I said, trying to think of something, anything, to dissolve the awkwardness that was growing between us. I asked my agent a question or two, and then suddenly she grew very excited. (I couldn’t help but notice how much more so than when I had pitched my book.) “Have you ever watched the TV show Bones?” she asked. I shook my head. “Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like the character Daisy? I mean exactly!”

As I had never watched the show, I had no clue which actress she was talking about. And then to make matters worse, an elderly woman on the couch close by, overhearing our conversation, agreed. She and my agent talked on about the TV show, about the similarities between the character and me. Apparently even our smiles were the same, including the way I tipped my head a certain way to the side. I couldn’t quite believe it—not knowing how to respond besides with an agreeable smile, a fake laugh. But inside all my hopes and dreams of finding the perfect agent and getting a book deal were getting squashed by the second. Everyone else in the room was talking about their books, and here I was spending my precious eight minutes talking about my resemblance to a TV character. 

For the next few hours I had a hard time getting past what had happened, not sure whether to cry or laugh about it. 

It wasn’t until about a week later when I realized that this experience hadn’t been a complete waste. It caused me to look again at my pitch, which was consequently a major part of the query letter I had sent to countless agents over the past year with little success. I realized that I had perhaps not been pitching my book in the best possible way, and that my agent may have been right in pointing out that the way I was marketing it didn’t quite fit the genre in which I categorized it. It also made me realize that even though my first pitch had gone so differently than I had envisioned, the experience only made me stronger as a writer; because that is after all, a part of the process, the long road to getting published. It is about learning to stand up and keep going no matter how many times we get knocked down. It is about believing that our work is valuable, is worth our time and effort, and with persistence and a little bit of luck the day will come when it will be recognized as such.  

About the Author:  Bonni Philipp is a recipient of the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference Scholarship. She has written for Women’s Edition Magazine and is currently working on a collection of novellas centering around love and diners. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and cats. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

On Inspiration

By DeAnna Knippling

Inspiration. It’s a great feeling, to be inspired. To write, to fall in love, to have faith in the world.

But it’s just a feeling.

If you’re waiting for inspiration to hit before you write, well, you’re going to waiting around a lot. And then, because inspiration never hits on schedule, you’re going to be driving to work, you’re going to be in a meeting, you’re going to be in the middle of an argument about who’s wrong on the Internet.

You’ll get a note or two from your flash of inspiration. And then...more waiting.

Okay, so maybe sometimes you have to work when you’re not inspired.

There’s that saying, “Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.” It tries to be an inspirational phrase, but it just isn’t. It isn’t eagles flying. It isn’t music swelling in the background. It isn’t love at first sight. Just because it’s true doesn’t make it inspirational. Which means that once again, you’re waiting around for inspiration so you can figure out how to get your butt in the chair, so then you can get your fingers on the keyboard.

But let’s say that you do hide out in a coffee shop somewhere, with no wireless and no outlets, dusty chandeliers on the ceiling and beat-up, second-hand velvet chairs, and you bring an old leather-bound journal with you, the one you last wrote in when you were in college and that has all those old poems where you tried to be Shelley or Angelou for a few stanzas. And you sit down and you write with the notebook balanced on your knees with a spotty pen that keeps leaving blobs on your page while teenagers shout gossip and lines of pseudo-philosophy above the sound of the espresso maker and the clink of those little spoons on saucers, and you’re really feeling inspired and then the next day you go back and read it--

And it’s crap.

I’m telling you, that inspiration. It’s just a feeling.

If what you need is the equivalent of love at first sight in order to write, you've got problems. It doesn’t actually make you write any better than the butt in chair technique. And it certainly won’t help you write more

Real writing is like any other thing that we do out of love. Most days you’re not going to be in the heat of passion. You just aren’t. Most days you’re going to get up in the morning and go through your routine. Some days you’re going to think, “Why bother anyway?” And some days you’re going to grit your teeth and swear you’re leaving.

Real writing is like real love. It’s dirty and cranky and bad-tempered and foul-mouthed and has its arms crossed over its chest and eats too much Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey when nobody’s looking. You have to change its diapers. It pukes everywhere. It screams at you that it wishes it were never born, and why did you have to be its parent anyway? It gets drunk and comes home and passes out on the front lawn and you never want to see it again but you do. It gets in ruts. It has a midlife crisis with every freaking book. It goes deaf, it putters around the house accomplishing nothing, leaving a trail of dirty socks and making sardonic observations about the neighbors.

Okay, granted. There are days when you and your writing need to spend some time apart. And some stories that are just going to leave you, or you them. And sometimes you’ll look at what you’re really writing and wish that you only had to write when you felt like you were falling in love all over again.

Falling in love isn’t real love, though. It’s just the possibility of maybe finding the one

You already have the one. Your creativity. It’s inside you already. Your spirit, your muse. Already there. And when you are off chasing inspiration, your muse is left behind. Saying in a small voice, “But what about me?”

You’re longing for something you already have.

That inspiration. It’s a feeling, you know. That doesn’t make it nice


Why not sit down at your keyboard and try giving something to your muse for once, instead of demanding everything from it? Try taking care of your muse for a while, instead of forcing it, instead of beating your head against the wall, instead of waiting around and making calf eyes at every slutty little moment of inspiration that walks by your stool in the Pity Me Writer Bar. 

What does your muse want?

...the same thing that anyone in a long-term relationship wants.

Just to have you pay attention.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow."  (Some literary truths are timeless.)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
August 30, 1897 - February 1, 1951

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* On Inspiration                                            DeAnna Knippling

* Has Anyone Ever Told You?                    Bonni Philipp

* Sweet Success! Shannon Lawrence        Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sweet Success! J.L. Fields

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

JL Fields’ non-fiction essay, A Well-Rounded Vegan, was released in May 2014 in, Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology (Chapter 8) by Lantern Books (ISBN: 978-1-59056-348-9).

In recent years, endurance athletes, bodybuilders, and long-distance runners such as Ruth Heidrich, Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, Brendan Brazier, Robert Cheeke, and many others have destroyed the notion that you cannot be a top-flight competitor on a plant-based diet and upended the stereotype that veganism means weakness, placidity, and passivity. But are there deeper connections between veganism and running, for example, that reach beyond attaining peak performance to other aspects of being vegan: such as living lightly on the land, caring for other-than-human life, and connecting to our animal bodies? Running, Eating, Thinking is a pioneering anthology that may redefine your thinking about veganism and running.

About the Author:  JL Fields holds a Master of Science degree and is a certified vegan lifestyle coach & educator, personal chef, career coach, and a corporate consultant offering wellness training, brand representation, and strategic planning services. She is the author of Vegan Pressure Cooking (Fair Winds Press, January 2015), co-author of Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet (Da Capo Lifelong Books, July 2013), contributor to Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology (Lantern Books, May 2014), and a food, health and wellness freelance writer.


Where to Buy:

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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Do You Request Books? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

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

We make requests for all types of things — special food at the supermarket or a song on the radio (OK, maybe that’s showing my age a bit) — so why not do the same with books?
Where you can make a request for a book:

  • at the library
  • at bookstores
  • for classrooms

I have little contact with librarians, but I’m guessing when people ask for a title they take it seriously. You may even find out the book is on order.

In recent weeks, I’ve discovered a few books via NPR weekend radio programs. When I checked my library, I was pleased to see the books were on order. So, I put my name in the hopper to be one of the first readers.
In general, I am of the “what do you have to lose by asking” mindset. If you ask and they tell you no, then nothing’s really lost. If you ask and they tell you yes, well you can get your hands on the book.
I know you can get most titles via Amazon, but if you find a bookstore doesn’t carry your favorite author, ask the bookstore about stocking the book. If the seed is planted, perhaps the buyer will consider the author’s next book.
If you have a relationship with your child’s teacher, recommend books (especially, if your child doesn’t like the selections). I’m not at this stage yet and I’m sure there are processes to approve books — subject matter, reading levels, etc. If you know of an appropriate book by a local (for instance, they reside in your state) recommend it for classroom reading lists or speak with the school librarian about adding it to the school’s selection.
Have you requested a book recently? Was it an easy process? Were you successful?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on February 24, 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, August 18, 2014

Don't Be a Leach Magnet

By Karen Albright Lin

Early in my editing career—let’s just put it at 2001—I was a leach magnet. I was taken on a long, treacherous four-wheel drive ride with a writer who had significant development needs and couldn’t put a grammatically correct sentence together.

I essentially wrote her story for her then followed with hours and hours of endless edits and corrections to the messes she made every time she made her own changes. 

[ Lesson 1:  Be clear in your contract how many editing passes you’ll go through if you aren’t paid by the hour or by the week. Leaches will drain the blood out of you if the contract
allows it. ]

Was there gratitude when her agent-of-the-day loved the book? No. Instead, there was a plan hatched to sacrifice a higher advance to allow the publishing company to put more money into publicity and contest entries for the novel.  That might have been a winning strategy, but not for me. I had contracted with her for a small percentage of the advance.  Only the advance, no future proceeds. Doing the math, I made pennies per hour on that book.

[ Lesson 2:  Assess carefully the amount of time and work you will put into a project to be sure you’re fairly compensated. Leaches will take advantage of a weak contract. ]

To make matters worse, said author contracted to acknowledge me but she didn’t. Being associated with the book was to be an important part of my remuneration. She had an established reputation and connections she suggested would help advance my career. Call me a sucker. It’s no surprise that since then, she‘s burned all those bridges by sucking everyone she encounters dry and leaving them on the side of the road like publishing jerky. She alienated top agents and publishing houses. She screwed other freelance editors and important media personalities.

[ Lesson 3:  Don’t count on someone’s referrals or connections. Verbal promises are worthless when you deal with leaches. ] 

Was there gratitude when the book earned great reviews and literary awards, or when it went from hardback to paperback? No. Only an expectation that I’d be equally eager to take on her sequel. I told her I couldn’t do it at the same percentage, but would consider editing it by-the-hour. Right then, on the phone, she dropped me off of all the other projects I’d spent hours working on for her—without paying me one cent, despite her use of my work in those later-released books.

[ Lesson 4:  Be sure all projects have contracts with kill fees and compensation for your work that ends up published. A leach has no problem publishing your words when her own suck. ]

Only after the fact, I learned this author had used and abused other editors in similar ways. I had failed to look for the signs; someone with an entitlement attitude in general will often carry that over into his or her professional life. Check with her peers and past employees if you can. Flash a red light if an author is in a rush to sign a contract.  Let my experience be a warning to you; it’s worth it to hire an attorney specializing in publishing. One I highly recommend is Susan Spann, generous to authors and full of integrity. Be sure they can pay and have every intention to pay you what you are worth.  Realize your self-interest may not match up with theirs.

Vow not to be a leach magnet.

If you want to link to it, Susan Spann’s website is:

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, 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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."
Ray Bradbury
August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012 

Fahrenheit 451
The Illustrated Man
Something Wicked This Way Comes 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Don't Be a Leach Magnet                                                 Karen Albright Lin

* Do You Request Books? A Reader University Post    Stacy S. Jensen

* Sweet Success! J.L. Fields                                                Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sweet Success! Ronnie Lee Graham

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Ronnie Lee Graham’s nonfiction, And Then the Train Wrecked, (ISBN: [soft] 978-1-49083487-0, [hard] 978-1-4908-3486-3, [e-book] 978-1-4908-3485-6, 128 pages, adult) was released May 7, 2014 by Westbow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. This Christian self help/personal growth book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, and Books A Million. Visit Ronnie’s website at

Anyone who has known the loss of a loved one can relate to this story. This nonfiction book chronicles Ronnie’s grief and thoughts on life and God during the days leading up to, and for the year following the death of his wife, Merry, from pancreatic cancer. It captures the raw emotion of a man as he seeks to rebuild his wrecked life. It follows one rule in its telling: it must be honest from the start. That honesty comes through in every paragraph and makes this a very personal, well-told story.

About the Author:  Ronnie is a retired army officer and former government civilian. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over ten years and very much enjoys all of the outdoor sports the area has to offer.  

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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scene Writing Series, Part XII - Polarity

By Jax Hunter

Hello, Campers, last month we explored BEATS: action and reaction segments within scenes. This month, we’re going to explore SCENE POLARITY, which is an extension, of sorts, of the action/reaction topic. James Hudnall explains scene polarity this way:
“Every action has a polarity in story terms. Positive or negative. Non action is neutral. But as we discussed before, neutral action does nothing, so it must be used sparingly.”
In each scene, characters enter with expectations. If things go as expected, there’s no story. If you leave your house for work, drive there via the normal route, have normal traffic, and get there in the normal amount of time, there’s no story. If, however, you leave the house, go via your normal route without running into traffic, and you get there in time to stop by the coffee shop for a caramel latte, there’s more to the scene. If, on your normal route, you come across an accident and have to drive right by the lump of twisted metal that was, in it’s former life, a Chevy or a Ford, your day just got more interesting. If you actually see that accident happen, better (especially for the EMT’s in the group, but I digress). If the accident happens to you, even better (not for you, but for the story.)
Each scene that you write will start with either a positive or negative “charge.” Things are either going well or badly at the beginning of a scene.
By the end of each scene, the polarity should have changed. Most commonly, the scene will go from a positive to a negative polarity or vice versa. Occasionally, it will go from a negative to a double negative as things that couldn’t get worse do, indeed, get worse. And when conflict is first introduced, a scene may go from neutral to positive or negative. Neutral charges can be effectively used as breathing points between highly charged scenes and can also be used to show irony. The ironic twists, though, when there is no real polarity change, are, in reality, a frustration factor for your characters and, as such, they add an overall negative charge to the situation. 
Not only does the polarity of the charge change from scene to scene, so does the strength of the charge. In the beginning of a story, the charges are mild. By mid-story, the charges should be building in intensity. By the big “OH NO!” moment, the charges should be set on stun. 
There is a natural ebb and flow to a good story. If all your scenes are positive to negative, your reader will lose interest. If all your scenes are neutral, nothing really is happening, except for the snoooooozing sound coming from your reader. As the coach in the Might Ducks movie says, “CHANGE IT UP!”
Polarity shifts occur when the mood of the scene changes. Generally, it is conflict that brings about the change. A character can go from frustration to anger. Or frustration to forgiveness. His dealings can go from unpleasant to brutal or from unpleasant to accepting; negative to positive or positive to negative. The intensity of the charge itself is shown in the degree: an unpleasant response, a dirty look, a curt reply, a physical response such as a shove or a painful grip, all the way up to an ultimate unpleasantness such as pulling and firing a gun.  As you can see, if the intensity builds to the highest level by the middle of the story, the author has nowhere to go. Occasionally, this device is used to change the direction of the story altogether, but it should only be used on purpose, not because you have backed yourself into a corner.
If you use polarity wisely, consistently building the charge along the way, you will find that the response that would have seemed absurd in the beginning of the story seems logical in the end. A character can do something completely against his nature if you’ve pushed him throughout the story to do it. This is done by taking the expectation he brings into each scene and reversing the outcome. 
For more information on polarity of scenes, I recommend Story, by Robert McKee, and Story Sense, by Paul Lucey.
Your assignment this month is to go back over the scenes you’ve written or critiqued lately. Mark the polarity at the beginning of the scene with a plus or minus sign. Mark it again at the end of the scene. If you find scenes that have not changed in polarity, you will likely find that the activity of the scene was a non-event. The scene is flat.
The beauty of writing is that you can fix it. You can throw conflict into the scene or, if necessary, you can cut the scene entirely.
Well, Campers, this is the final Screenwriting Tips column. I would like to thank you for all the great comments you’ve made to me along the way. I know I’ve learned a lot, and I hope you have as well. We will start something new and exciting next month. 

Until next time, BIC-HOK (Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard).

Jax (
(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2005.)

About the Author: Jax Hunter 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, August 11, 2014

The Writer's Greatest Fear: Methods to Conquer the Blank Page

By Robert Vincent

It’s a story all storytellers are familiar with. You, staring at the blank page, fingers fear-frozen over the keys, notebook empty, mind jumbled with words and characters and plots you can’t quite combine into decipherable language. It’s just a blank page. But it feels like a mountain.

The blank page feels like a volcanic peak, its slopes teeming with horrors too many to name. There are adverb beasts, flesh-hungry IRS agents, and velociraptors that can open doors.

And worse.

On Blank Page Mountain, you encounter yourself and the very worst fears within. The fear of not being any good, of rejection by peers and agents and editors. Of finding that the book of your heart is too wonderful, too massive, too perfect to be translated into mere words. You fear failure.

But these fears are conquerable. Like the proverbial magic sword the weird old dude in the cave gives you, there exist tools designed to help.

Allow me to be your cave hermit. It’s dangerous to go alone. Take these tools to assist you on your climb.

Tool One: The Internet

The Internet can just as easily be a curse as a boon to writers. I’ve seen people go from writer to cat-video addict in five minutes flat. It’s not a pretty sight. If you want to be productive, never click on anything cat-related. Ever. Except for the following website, of course. This site rewards you with a cute kitten picture every time you complete X number of words. If that doesn’t motivate you to get onto those slopes and go word-prospecting, then I don’t know what will. Offers you profile achievements and badges for completing X number of days in a row where you write 750 words or more. Great for those struggling to achieve good writing habits. This site forces you to keep typing. If you stop, the site will punish you in various ways ranging from blaring annoying sounds, showing you pictures of creepy spiders, or disemvoweling your already-typed words. Ick.

Tool Two: The Pomodoro Technique

Place a timer next your computer or notebook. Set it for 25 minutes (an interval of time known as a Pomodoro). Start it.

Then write your brains out.

There are arguably two concepts behind the efficacy of the Pomodoro Technique:

A: You can do anything for 25 minutes. Come on—it’s less than half an hour. You can type for half an hour, right? You’re a writer, dagnabbit, and if you can’t find the time or heart to write for 25 measly minutes, then maybe you should find something easier to do, like mastodon-wrangling.

B: A five-minute break between Pomodoros can do wonders for a word-weary mind. Take the five minutes after the Pomodoro dings to stand up, stretch, maybe feed your miniature giant space hamster. Whatever. Then set another timer and get back to climbing that mountain.

Do what works best for you. Experiment like the story scientist you are. Force yourself to write for that first time interval, and you’ll likely find yourself on a roll by the end of it.

Tool Three: Psychology

Changing the way you think about the writing process might help you surmount that first page and beyond. Some options:

Think about writing as a necessary task. Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, has this to say about writers and other endeavoring artists: “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

Like doing laundry, eating that broccoli, or re-oiling your aggressive mecha-otter, writing is a task that you simply must do.

Stop caring so much. During the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, this was the central subject of Chuck Wendig’s keynote speech. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that as writers, we’re not curing cancer. We’re not leading nations. We are allowed to screw up without great consequences. Words can always be rewritten. More queries can always be sent. Stop caring so much, frozen by the fear of failure, and write some darn words.

Write here. Write now. Make it happen.

Tool Four: Community

You don’t have to climb the velociraptor-infested slopes of Blank Page Mountain alone. Critique groups can be a huge boon not only to the quality of a writer’s work, but to the quantity. Fellow writers can push you forward in your writing career, providing encouragement and constructive criticism. Try different in-person critique groups until you find the one that fits you. If you’d rather try it online, I’d recommend first.

Writing conferences are like the delicious chocolate nucleus in the tootsie pop of writerly fellowship. If you’ve never been to a writing conference, I highly recommend investing the time and money and licking that tootsie pop. Writing conferences are hubs of learning and professional networking, it’s true. But they’re also places where you can find life-long friends, fellow human beings struggling in the same art you are. Don’t underestimate the value of that.

The Pikes Peak Writing Conference was my personal turning point from dreamer to writer, and it was primarily because of the amazing fellow writers I met. Might it also be your turning point?

The Writer’s Greatest Fear

You’ve done it. You’ve reached the summit of Blank Page Mountain, and the page before you is swathed in your inky progeny. The adverb beasts are tamed. The IRS vampires are evaded. The clever velociraptors are stumped.

More peaks tower before you. More fears. But if you’ve written, you can rest assured that you’ve conquered, for now, the very greatest fear a writer can face. The going will still be difficult, but your feet are tougher and more sure. The mountains seem smaller.

What is the writer’s greatest fear? Not failure. Not rejection. Not despair.

It’s the utter horror of never trying.

If you’ve bested this fear, congratulations. Now get back to work. Show the world what you’ve got.

About the Author:  Writer. Game designer. Cubicle monkey. Robert Vincent's hardly started on his writing career, but has already won honorable mention in The Writers of the Future Contest and has won the PPW Zebulon Contest. He attributes his lack of publication credits to poor bio-writing skills. Robert's currently working on his epic fantasy novel, living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his beloved Companion Cube. Find him at