Pssst – Wanna Learn the Secret to Writing Every Day?

I’m in a lot of online writer forums where I see the same repeated question coming from new writers. How do I find the motivation to write every day?

My answer is: Use Jerry Seinfeld’s “productivity secret,” where his goal was to write jokes every day, thus allowing him to mark that day on the calendar with a big Red X.

I started using his secret method on January 1, 2013, the semester I began writing my dissertation from the extensive outline I had created the semester before.

By early February 2013, I saw a pattern emerging. Red Xs from Thursday through Monday, but nothing on Tuesday and Wednesday. During that winter semester, I was teaching five classes total: two afternoon and one evening on Tuesday, one on Wednesday afternoon, and the last on Thursday afternoon. I’d celebrate getting through another week’s worth of teaching by going home and writing that night.

When my sister died in mid-February, there were fewer Red Xs for a couple weeks, even though from the other side, she encouraged me to keep writing. By the end of February, I realized if I was going to keep my April dissertation defense date, I had to step it up. Yet, that earlier pattern persisted. As that defense date drew closer, I knew I had to make a serious adjustment to my writing schedule.

I kicked the writing into high gear. Despite my full teaching load of five classes and performing only the minimum of household duties once home, I’d write until midnight or one a.m. every night. I remember having carried a grocery list for six weeks before I finally made it to the store. Thankfully, I had a well-stocked pantry and made do with what I had. My other saving grace was that I lived alone and had no pets.

My daily routine was to sleep, teach, and write, putting off anything and everything else that I could. Socialization and time spent online came to a screeching halt. I went through a lot of drive-throughs during that time and would pick up cereal and milk at the gas station.

When I look back at the calendar of March and April that year, I see that Seinfeld’s trick worked. From mid-March onward, the calendar became a continuous red serpentine of big, bright Xs.

March 2013

I defended my dissertation on time and graduated that summer on schedule. 

As I continued teaching full-time, a pattern would emerge, then change as each semester’s schedule changed with short interruptions of illness, my mother dying in 2014, and my being involved in a 22-car pileup later that year. And then, at the end of 2015, I retired.

I started my production company in March 2016 and have been writing and publishing ever since. The Red Xs weren’t continuous in the beginning. There were as many days without those Red Xs as there were days with them. But, in the last few years, the Red Xs far outnumber the few non-writing days.

It’s a rare month that has all the days marked. Everyone needs a day off now and then, but it makes me happy to see the majority of days with Red Xs.

Those Red Xs back in 2013 were a source of motivation to keep me going each day while I worked full time and still am even in retirement. But also, those Red Xs are a source of pride, showing that it is possible to do what I had always dreamed of—writing full-time. A topic I wrote about in a recent release: Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot. How to find that motivation you desire.

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Writing Highs and Lows

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question for this month is:  It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?

Writing Highs and Lows

In the beginning…

It was a good thing I didn’t know of the lows that were to come because those lows could have fractured my early naive passion for wanting to be an author.

As it was, I started with my own insecure low, not believing I could write a novel. That I needed to start small and work my way up.

So, I did, starting with magazine articles and short stories (pre-internet days) and a newspaper column, traveling a path that today has me as an indie publisher.

The highs are:

  • Seeing my name in print, my words on the page.
  • Getting a phone call early on in my career from a complete stranger, an older gentleman from Oklahoma who shared my husband’s first name and my former last name, and who wanted my help in finding his own inspiration based on my inspirational article he’d just read.
  • Learning of readers who look forward to my next book or who just read one of my books and liked/loved it.
  • Helping other writers, sharing with them what I’ve learned.
  • Opening a box of newly published books. Opening those boxes never gets old.
  • Seeing my book on a library or bookstore shelf.
  • Being driven to write the next story, with characters following me around, plots wanting further development, and projects clamoring to be finished.
  • Sending a finished project out into the universe.
  • Being alone in my workspace and being surrounded by books. This was a vision I always had from the beginning.
  • Being able to have a day job that embraced my writing passion. It happened when I became a professor of writing.

In the early days, I saw rejections as a low. Today, I view rejections as paths of not where I want to be or go. The rejection simply means my work isn’t a good fit for that publisher or producer. Nothing more, nothing less.

Likewise, if I don’t place well in a contest, that simply means that there were different stories that grabbed the judges’ attention more. It didn’t mean that my work sucked. Only that it didn’t fit what they were looking for or enjoyed reading.

Today, the lows are:

  • Needing more reviews. The few I have are GREAT! Sadly, to deal with a platform’s algorithms, I need more of them.
  • Wanting more sales. While I’m okay with not being a best-selling author yet, more sales would indicate that I’m reaching more readers, which is my ultimate goal. With so many books out there today, it’s a big ocean we authors are sailing within.
  • Needing to hire an assistant. One of the tasks of writing I prefer not to do is all of the promotional work that is required. I’d rather turn that over to a creative assistant, allowing my time to develop new stories and just write.
  • Wishing I lived closer to more writers. Lately, I’ve dreamed of owning a big Victorian house with a wrap-around porch, which I could turn into a writer’s retreat haven, a place where I could mentor and coach, and where I could other writers who are looking for an inspiration landscape in which to write. Where I could be surrounded by writers more often than not.

In the end, some of my lows aren’t really lows but are wishes, instead. Even though I’ve achieved many of my dreams, I’m still dreaming. Are you?

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting.

Posted in #IWSG, Writer at Work | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

An introduction

Asked to write an introduction to a Facebook writer’s group recently, Not wanting to write the usual intro composed of achievement, instead, I wrote…

She steps out from the center of the crowd, several dozen individuals all clamoring for individual attention. She’s listening, waiting for that one voice to stand out. Those standing closest to her, whisper. She nods, acknowledging. They are the once-was, having passed through that thin veil of death. Some guide, some want messages passed on to those still alive. Some are waiting (for her), others are hoping to get another chance (will they return to reunite?). The others–the shouters–clamor that their story be told. It’s their turn. She listens for that one voice that will provide that missing element that will raise their story above all others, providing her with that hook, that aha element that connects the character/story tissues.

She is Diana. The eclectic mystic, intuitive, observant, learner. The writer who follows her goosebumps, knowing they are the true path toward that shiny golden Oscar. The deciders had loved her voice but the projects presented weren’t quite the fit they sought. “But, send us everything you write,” they instructed.

So close.

Then, as life does, interference jungled that path and took her to the land of depth and breadth. She emerged the wiser, with creds and authority. And now, she has returned to the land of creation, embracing the cacophony of voices all clamoring for individual attention as she chooses the next story, the unfolding adventure that mysteriously and magickly arises from the synapses mist and fog, listening to those who have gone before and point the way.

To learn more about Diana’s portfolio, awards, presentations, blogs, and more, visit her website, the center of the wheel from which all paths, like spokes of the wheel, extend.

 www.sharpenedpencilsproductions.com

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Behind the Scenes and Plans Gone Awry

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question for this month is:  Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

Because none of my books have been made into audiobooks yet, I’m unable to answer this question.

Instead, I’m bringing you up-to-date on what I’ve been working on considering I went silent in publications for a couple years.

In the beginning, there was going to be an anthology with seven authors, each writing a separate story. The continuing thread was going to be a car that is fished out of the community’s lake in Book 1 and then appeared in every book in some way.

We had planned on the characters being friends, former sweethearts, and classmates with a few newcomers who would become involved in new relationships.

At the time, only a few of us had published a novel-length romance. An editor told us that because we were all relatively unknown, no one would publish the book. The internet was relatively new and online publishing was not yet born. Writers were dependent on agents and traditional publishers.

Moving forward two decades later, I was cleaning and culling my electronic files and came across my story contribution that had been shelved.

That’s when I had a Eureka! moment. What if *I* wrote the entire series?

Hence, the Laurel Ridge Novella series was born. I kept the car thread, made the time period 15 days for the entire series, kept a few of the careers, and created my own characters and storylines.

The stories take place 12 years after high school graduation. Shattered Dreams, a second chance at love story for high school sweethearts Mason and Shelley who broke up right after graduation, was published in 2016.

Working on the entire series before publishing the second book to ensure there weren’t any timeline snafus took longer than I had planned, plus life got in the way multiple times and in multiple heart-wrenching ways.

Also, while working on the series, I was publishing other books, too:  an anthology I edited and published through Amazon for a writer’s group as a fund-raising event, reprinting three romances, publishing a screenplay, a cookbook, and most recently the first of a series of how-to books, Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot: Discover Your Why, Your Passion, Your Purpose in Life. I began teaching again, too.

But now, I’m happy to report that Burning Desire, Book 2 in the series is available for pre-order!!! To be published May 3, 2022.

Hopefully, if all goes well, Arrested Pleasures, Book 3 will be published two months after that, with a new book in the series published every other month, taking us into 2023.

I’m crossing my fingers!

Wish me luck!

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting.

Posted in #IWSG, Laurel Ridge novellas | Tagged | 13 Comments

The Struggle for a Decision

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day with a purpose to share and encourage. Writers are offered a question to answer each month or to write a block of their own.

This month’s question – Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

The Struggle for a Decision

My biggest writing conflict occurred over non-fictional material. From the start of my writing career, I wanted to help other writers.

Back then, the problem was that I was young, didn’t have any writing education other than a journalism class, and most of my publications—mostly nonfiction—appeared in magazines.

Fast forward to where I traditionally published several books, to where the internet happened and exploded with teaching opportunities, to where a local college asked me to teach writing craft classes, to where I got the education I had craved and was able to combine a career with my passion of writing, where I taught university-level composition classes.

And then, upon retirement, I became an indie publisher, finally able to work on and produce some of the many projects I had started so long ago. (And am still continuing that work!)

After a couple years, though, I found myself in conflict. I wanted to teach creative writing classes again. Or, should I just write the classes up as short how-to books?

In the end, I’m doing both. The decision was made.

I just finished teaching a Time Management for Writers class and will be teaching a master class from the same website this August based on the book I just published: Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot: Discovering Your Why, Your Passion, Your Purpose in Life. (Students will receive a free copy. Other class details TBA.)

This book is the first of my how-to series and while the books address writing issues, some of the topics apply to non-writers as well. This first book is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to find and reach their life’s dream based on a passion, a fire within.

As a new release, the first book in a series that I dreamed about writing for a long time, and which is now tied to a two-week class by the same title, I couldn’t be more excited!

NEW RELEASE!!!!!

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The Secret Mystery Behind Deep POV

The Secret Mystery Behind Deep POV

There have been a lot of discussion lately about Deep POV with different blogs and articles asking:

  • What is Deep POV?
  • Why should I care?
  • Why should I learn it?
  • What does it look like?

While Deep POV may appear like a new topic, it’s actually been around for a long, long time. You know the adage of what goes around comes around, right? Some say Deep POV appeared 20 years ago, others say 40; in any regard, Deep POV has come around again.

Aristotle’s three-act structure—four equal acts as the second act is two parts—was recycled into a template by Syd Fields for screenwriters.

Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey was recycled into a writer-friendly how-to/reference book by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.

Both Fields and Vogler’s work and their structural pieces and parts have been renamed, recycled just enough to be a tad different, and re-introduced as something new by writers turned instructors, mentors, speakers, or entrepreneurs. All of today’s programs and models can be traced back to someone else’s prior work or discovery.

Likewise, Deep POV was recycled from an earlier named element/style of writing.

Deep POV occurs when the reader experiences the main character’s actions, thoughts, and decisions up close and personal. As in their head and heart, feeling their joy and their pain.

Have you figured out what Deep POV really is yet?

As a new writer, you learned about Deep POV while attending your first writer’s conference, while reading your first how-to book regarding the craft of writing fiction, while reading about it in your first writing magazine subscription. You’ve been reading about it in blogs and articles for years, and hear its advice in any gathering of writers talking about the craft. You just knew it under a different name.

So, what does Deep POV look like?

Example #1:

He walked into the conference room, noticing all his employees were seated at the table. “This is crap,” he said angrily, throwing down mock-ups of the print ads for their newest client. “You can do better than this.” He turned and left the room, wondering if his being angry would make a difference in their performance.

Example #2:

The door thudded again the wall. All heads turned toward him as he strode into the conference room and was at the huge table in three steps. With jerky thrusts, he tossed each of the print ads for their newest client down the center of the table, each sliding the length, coming to a stop at the edge opposite him. While they had glanced at each page as it slid down the table, now their gazes were back on him, their eyes wide with fear. Good. Now to make them pee their pants. “Stop giving me this crap or heads are going to roll.”  He spun on his heels and with huge steps, strode out of the room the same way he came in. He smiled as he headed for his office. Maybe now they’d do their jobs.

Which example has your attention? Did your eyes widen while reading the second?

These two examples are the difference between using Deep POV and not using it.

To speak of Deep POV in its earlier term, this is the difference between SHOW vs. TELL

Shocked?

In the first example, we’re being told how he feels through the use of the dialogue tag, he said angrily. We watch his actions as if he’s on stage and we’re sitting in the audience.

In the second example, there is no tag. None. Surprised? Did you notice?

In the second example, we experience his actions and his feelings as they happen. We aren’t being told anything. It’s as if we’re in his head, on stage right beside him, or in his head. We’re feeling and moving as he feels and moves.

We don’t have to be told he’s angry. We can feel the anger.

Look at the books that you’re reading: Are you being told being shown? How many dialogue tags are there?

A big clue when telling occurs is the added use of adverbs (-ly words) in the dialogue tags and words like thought, felt, wondered.

I don’t know about you, but I welcome the book that I can’t put down because I’ve become that character—I’m in their head, feeling their emotions with their thoughts becoming mine. I become emotionally invested in the characters.

Versus the book I can’t get into because I’m being told how they feel, thus I’m not emotionally invested. It becomes too easy to put the book down and not finish it. Anymore, if I’m not emotionally hooked or curious within the first few pages, I can’t read it.

Showing creates page-turning books that grip you and then don’t let go.

What type of books are you reading or writing? Those with a Deep POV or those without?

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Support for Writers

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

February 2 question – Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone you miss?

Support for Writers

Throughout my writing career, I’ve had some terrific supporters. The best.

I’ve named them before in past blogs and posts: friends, other writers, librarians, bookstore owners.

The group we can’t forget, though, are the readers. You as a reader provide the best kind of support when you buy our books and leave reviews.

I love your reviews.

There is nothing like a word-of-mouth review or testimonial, but written reviews, on Goodreads or Amazon are gold and help other readers find us.

Thank you for your support.

*****

urpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting.

Posted in #IWSG, Readers and Fans, Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Any Regrets?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Any Regrets?

This month’s question was easy to answer at first with an answer of, I have no regrets because to have regrets means I wouldn’t be where I am today.

But…and, that’s where I started thinking about my writing career as a whole.

Knowing what I know now, would I do things differently if I was starting over?

In a heartbeat!

Of course, that means starting over when young and relatively free of all obligations and ties.

  • I’d move out to Hollywood.
  • I’d become a script reader.
  • I’d become active in screenwriting organizations.
  • I’d get a degree in screenwriting rather than playwriting.
  • I’d find my genre early.
  • And, most importantly, I’d treat my writing like a job—meaning work it like a job—despite any day jobs I’d no doubt have to take in the beginning.

The question now becomes, do I want to reincarnate, coming back where I choose parents this time who are already in the movie-making business?

Hmmm, that sounds like a great story idea!

I wonder if that life would have had any regrets?

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting.

Posted in #IWSG, Goals | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot

Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot

A new year and a new me! What an explosion of events and opportunities that have come my way the last couple of months!!! And, I’m on fire, as a result!

Truly ironic on a night of fireworks as we usher in the new year. It’s 2 a.m. and I just finished the final edits of my newest book, Finding Your Fire & Keeping It Hot. It goes out tomorrow for a second round of beta readers. It’s a how-to book a number of friends and writer friends have been asking me to write, and it’ll the first of a series of how-to books.

This book is one of the projects going on my New Year’s Eve of 2022 to-do list. You probably do a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always created a to-do list for the year. Way more fun than resolutions! And, these multiple explosions that have been happening are all going on that list!

2022 is going to be a happening year!

I’m in the process of creating a newsletter where subscribers are going to get the first reveal of these exciting happenings, which includes a sneak peek and details of my mystery, the first in what I expect to be a series.

To those who are wondering about my Laurel Ridge novella series, yes, I’m in the process of finishing the series this year—publishing the entire series. Details will be in the newsletter.

And, don’t forget – I’m teaching Time Management for Writers in February through Laurie Schnebly’s WriterUniv website. It’s a class for writers and anyone else who wants to manage their time better. To enroll or to get more details, go here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here and follow me on my Facebook author page here so that you don’t miss any of my upcoming announcements and postings.

May 2022 be a successful and happy year for us all!

Posted in #amwriting, Laurel Ridge novellas, Publishing, teaching, Writer at Work, Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Secret of Writing: Why You Want At Least Four Drafts

Even though I’d been writing for nearly thirty years and writing various drafts, it wasn’t until I returned to school, learning how to teach college composition that I discovered the different drafts each had a name and a purpose.

Once I started following the nature of each draft, I found my writing changed. Surprisingly, I was writing faster, better, and with less confusion.

In summary, writing is all about the rewriting. The act of writing is all about the first draft. The drafts that follow are about editing, with each editing draft pertaining to a certain set of editing details.

Personally, I don’t know of any writer—student or pro—whose work is publishable or ready for grading with only one draft.

So, what are these four different drafts and what purpose does each one serve?

THE FIRST DRAFT

This draft is the first completed draft where pure writing takes place, where creativity is at work. You want to write this draft quickly. Stream of consciousness is the best way to describe this draft.

Plotters will follow their outline as they write this draft. Pansters just let the writing flow with no thought of an outline, let alone knowing how the story will end.

Holes are allowed, as are misspellings, incorrect grammar, and wordiness. The rule in writing a first draft is to never go back and fix anything. All fixes will occur in the following drafts.

To stop and fix anything while writing this first draft means you are stopping the creative process and are now in editing mode, which is an entirely different skill set and is guaranteed to stop the creative process in its tracks.

Have you ever been writing where it’s gone fairly smooth, and then suddenly, you realize something isn’t right, so you stop to look back at what you wrote before, only to start writing again only to find that you can’t? That you lost your train of thought? That the creativity is gone?

Yup, that’s because you went from the skill set of creative writing to the skill set of editing. They’re two different modes of writing from two different parts of the brain—one is creative and one is technical. You can be in one or the other but not both at the same time.

When writing your first draft, the goal is to stay in the creative brain, so no editing allowed!

THE SECOND DRAFT: the Rewrite

This draft is where the big rewriting occurs. It’s about organization and high order concerns where you’re moving paragraphs and pages around, where you’re making major additions and deletions. This draft is about making sure you have a theme and a thesis statement for nonfiction. That you have a great beginning hook for fiction. That your meaning is clear, that the writing contains originality with a consistent flow of your idea, where you’re not wandering around aimlessly.

THE THIRD DRAFT: the Revision

This draft still pertains to high orders but in a smaller fashion. Now, you’re looking at paragraphs and sentence structure. Are the paragraphs too long? Not long enough? Is a deeper point of view needed? Are you telling or showing? Does the paragraph move the story or theme forward, does it reveal character or their motive? Does everything make sense?

This draft deals with wordiness, repetition, word choice, parallelism, voice, and use of tense (consistency).

For college papers, this draft is about checking the citations, as well. Are any missing? Are the citations correct? Is the paraphrasing correct? Are quotes being used correctly? Are all graphics cited and with captions?

Don’t be surprised if your work is still changing quite a bit at this point. Generally, this is the draft that can have multiple drafts. Why? Because you keep finding things to change.

THE FOURTH DRAFT: the Polishing

This draft is where the polishing occurs, where the low-order concerns are addressed: punctuation, grammar, and formatting.

Polishing is everything. Don’t be misled thinking that because these issues are called low-order concerns that they’re not important. They’re highly important and can make the difference between a sloppy manuscript, paper, or résumé and one that looks professionally finished.

*****

While I’m able to write a first draft fairly fast now, I can have several rewrite drafts, half a dozen revision drafts, and several polishing drafts. Once I finally stop finding errors, that’s when I know the manuscript is finished.

It’s not unusual for my manuscripts and screenplays to have a minimum of a dozen or more total drafts before they’re ready for publication. It’s these editing drafts where I spend the most time.

So, how many drafts does your work go through before you’re ready to submit?

Posted in #amwriting, Writer at Work, Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments