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Get It Done: Five Accountability Strategies That Work

by Rochelle Melander

If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly. -Steve Maraboli

What stands between you and a finished product—a book, article, blog post or podcast?

When I speak to people who have a deep desire to finish a project and can’t seem to do it, they cite many reasons:

+I don’t have enough time.

+I don’t know how.

+I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer.

+I’m confused on how to get it published.

+I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable.

As a writing coach, I can help people overcome most of these challenges in just one session. But one of these hurdles requires ongoing support: accountability. When it comes to starting and finishing projects that are new or difficult, it helps to have someone to hold you accountable.

If you’re struggling to keep writing in the midst of life’s other demands, here are five ways you can find accountability:

Make a deadline pact

Chris Baty started National Novel Writing Month to give writers a deadline, the one element he believed writers needed to succeed. Create a deadline pact with another writer. Promise that by a certain date you will each write 50,000 words, finish a project, or complete a portion of a manuscript. To make it more fun and easier to succeed, make a bet. Perhaps the loser can treat the winner to dinner or a glass of wine!

Create a critique partnership

Professional writers study great writing to learn how to best tell a story. When we invite others to read and critique our writing, we expand our understanding of good writing. We also learn where our blind spots are. From complex comments on structure and voice to technical lessons on commas and run-on sentences, a good critique will strengthen our writing. Find a colleague who is at about the same writing level as you are, exchange manuscripts, and give each other feedback.

Challenge a colleague

A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about how tough it was to write while all that fun social media kept popping up on our screens. So we made a deal: for one month we’d abstain from social media and online surfing until noon each day.

Sprint

When I exercise, I like to do sprints: run or bike really fast for a short period of time every 3-5 minutes. It makes my exercise session move faster. I first heard about writing sprints at a National Novel Writing Month Write-in. In a writing sprint, the writer races against the clock (and often another writer) to amass as many words as possible in a short amount of time. Find a friend online or meet in person and compete to see who can write the most words in ten to twenty minutes.

Find a Mastermind Partner

For years, I’ve met with small mastermind groups and individuals for accountability in both my business and my writing. These connections helped me to leap forward when all I really wanted to do was crawl. During these meetings, we would ask each other the same questions:

+How did you do on last week’s goals?

+What do you want to accomplish for next week?

+What support do you need to make that happen?

Because of these regular meetings, I stay focused on my goals and complete more of my projects.

Your turn

How has connecting with others helped you to write more? Share your ideas below!

Try it!

Many of my clients use my individual and group coaching to help them stay accountable. If you’re interested in a complimentary coaching session, sign up for one at my consultation page. And consider signing up for the Write Now! Coach Critique Group, starting again this September.

Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is a bestselling author, certified professional coach, and popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Set up your complimentary conversation with the Write Now! Coach and get started on your publishing journey!

The post Get It Done: Five Accountability Strategies That Work appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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July 12, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Writers,

It’s summer, and life seems busier than ever. If you are struggling to find time to write your book or even a short blog post—then today’s tip is for you.

Enjoy!

Rochelle

How to Write Your Book in Five Minutes a Day

by Rochelle Melander

If I have ten minutes I use them even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive. —Rumer Godden.

So how do you write when you have no time?

That’s not a stupid question. We all encounter periods when we have no time to write. Between managing work, home, family and friends, it’s all we can do to eat and find clean underwear.

So how do we write when we have no time, money, energy, or clean laundry? How do we find five minutes to string together words when we don’t want to get up earlier, stay up later, give up our lunch hour, or take a weekend to write?

  1. Get realistic. When life gets crazy busy, it’s time to stop trying to write for an hour or even 30 minutes. Aspire to write for five minutes a day. (Seriously!)
  1. Get specific. Choose a project and state your goal in specific terms. What one project do you need to work on right now? Be precise: I will work on writing a chapter for my book. I will write a blog post every week.
  1. Get chunks. Break this task into tiny chunks. You’re planning for a five-minute writing session, so make the chunks short enough that you can be successful. This step—chunking out the project—takes some time. You may need to steal the time from your evenings or weekend, but it will be worth it. I promise. At the end of your chunk-making step, choose one chunk to work on tomorrow.
  1. Get thinking. Put your brain to work on the chunk. This is one step that can be done while folding laundry, cutting the grass, exercising, or driving to work. All you do is ponder, “When I write this chunk, what so I want to say?” Then let go of the thought. Let your brain chew on it while you do whatever it is you do during the day.
  1. Get writing. Okay, here’s the thing: you need five minutes a day to work on your chunk. Just five. And here are three ways to do that without getting up early, staying up late, or giving up any food:

*When you open email, before you read or answer even one message, write the first email to yourself. Set your timer for five minutes and write about your chunk.

*Next time your phone buzzes with a text, answer that text and then write yourself a note about your chunk. (Use iPhone’s NOTES section, another smart phone tool, or the back of an envelope).

*Before you wander over to Facebook for the fifth time today to look through all of your friends’ happy status updates, write your chunk.

 

Why will this work? You’re already spending time emailing (look at your sent file), texting, and playing on social media. If you’re at all like most of us, much of the time we spend doing these tasks moves from productive to mindless fairly quickly. Why not take back that time for something meaningful to you?

 

Pro Tip: Prepare yourself: when I first tried this method, I failed miserably. I was already in the habit of mindlessly emailing, texting, and surfing—that came easily. But writing? I had to find a way to interrupt my habits and write first. Once I did, I succeeded. Put a sticky note reminder on the computer (real or virtual), set an alarm on your phone, or ask a friend to send you a Facebook message encouraging you to write. No matter what happens, don’t give up. With each five-minute writing session, you’ll get better at honoring your writing time, and the words will add up!

 

Your turn: How have you found ways to sneak in five minutes of writing time? Share your thoughts below!

 

 

The post How to Write Your Book in Five Minutes a Day by Rochelle Melander appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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July 3, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Writers,

Do you have a great big stack of books to read over the holiday? I know it’s just a single day—but I’d hate to be stuck without a book to read.

Speaking of good books to read, I’m delighted to welcome David Krugler, author of the mystery novels The Dead Don’t Bleed and the just released Rip the Angels from Heaven. If you live in the Milwaukee area, Krugler will be at Boswell Book Company on Tuesday, July 10 at 7pm for the release of Rip the Angels from Heaven. 

Enjoy!

Rochelle

Writers@Work: An Interview with Author David Krugler Your sequel to The Dead Don’t Bleed has just come out. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your new book, Rip the Angels from Heaven?

It’s set in Washington, D.C., and Los Alamos, New Mexico, in July 1945. Lieutenant Ellis Voigt of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the narrator from The Dead Don’t Bleed, is fighting to prevent the Soviets from infiltrating the Manhattan Project, which is just about to test an atomic bomb in a remote location in New Mexico. The United States and its allies are winning World War II, but as the final victory approaches, Voigt’s troubles are mounting. He can’t escape a web very much of his own making. The FBI suspects that instead of only posing as a communist spy when he’s undercover, Voigt actually is a double agent. Meanwhile the Soviets believe he’s holding back information from their contacts—and they’re willing to use any means necessary to extract it.

The FBI and the Soviets both shadow Voigt when he’s sent to New Mexico on a secret mission to identify a Soviet spy. As the scientists at Los Alamos prepare to test the first atomic bomb, Voigt faces the dilemma he’s desperately been trying to avoid: He can stop the Soviets from getting the bomb or he can save himself, but he might not be able to do both.

 

I know that in this story you blend real life historical characters into the novel, along with the fictional characters. Can you talk about that process—how you went about it and if there are any rules for doing it?

The way I went about it was, first, to limit myself to real life historical characters who were actually part of the events I was fictionalizing. The atomic bomb test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, is a major scene in the novel, so several of the scientists who helped build the bomb witnessed the test and they appear in the novel. Second, I did a lot of research so I had a strong sense of who these people were in real life and I tried to depict them accurately, down to finding out which brand of cigarettes they smoked and learning about any distinctive mannerisms that would make them vivid and memorable as fictional representations of themselves. Among other real-life figures, the novel features Robert Oppenheimer (Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory), physicist Klaus Fuchs, and mathematician Richard Feynman. One of these three was a Soviet spy in real life (I won’t say which one here!) but in the novel I decided not to work with that historical fact, instead centering the espionage around a character of my own creation. That choice brings me to a third rule or guideline: Don’t be afraid to ignore some of the history in order to make your fiction work.

You have a unique setting for part of this book—the nuclear test site in Los Alamos. What kind of research did you do to portray the setting of the novel?

As implied in my preceding answer, I read a lot of biographies. I also read historical studies of the Manhattan Project and the creation of Los Alamos as the key laboratory. Google Images was really helpful, too. Just to give one example, I found a web site that has scans of the photo IDs of important figures of the Manhattan Project: http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2012/08/31/the-faces-of-project-y/. Finally, I used WWII-era military records from the National Archives. I fictionalized some of these sources and included them in the novel as “document insertions” to give the novel a more realistic feel (a tried and true practice in espionage fiction).

You work as a professor, write academic books, and write mystery novels. What are some of your secrets for juggling it all?

Being disciplined. I write early in the morning before I head to campus to teach or to work on my scholarship. I typically only have an hour or so to write fiction each morning, but as many writers will tell you, each hour and the 400-500 words you produce during that hour all adds up. Since that’s not much of a secret, here’s one trick that may not be as well known: Teaching history is good preparation for writing fiction, especially when I use novels (not my own!) to teach history. Some of the novels I’ve used over the years include John Dos Passos, The Big Money; Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-5; and Toni Morrison, Beloved. Last semester, I used Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in a course on the Vietnam War. One of the advantages of using fiction to teach history is, to use a phrase of O’Brien’s, that it gives us “Story Truth:” what can be imagined and dramatized about a historical event (especially the experience of war from a combatant’s point of view) is often richer, closer, and more memorable than a traditional “this is what it was like” history lesson. I find that really inspiring.

What are you reading now?

The most recent books I read are James Benn, The Devouring, William Kent Krueger, Sulfur Springs, and Kathleen Kent, The Dime. The book I’m starting next is a classic from Lawrence Block: The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza. It will be a great read, I’m sure, but I’m not counting on moving on to Spinoza after finishing it!

About the author. David Krugler, historian and novelist, grew up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. After graduating from Creighton University, where he studied creative writing, he earned a M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He now teaches American history at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville. He has published works of nonfiction on several different topics: Cold War propaganda, nuclear warfare, and racial conflict in the United States. His first novel, The Dead Don’t Bleed (Pegasus Crime, 2016), a World War II spy thriller set in Washington, D.C., came out in 2016. The sequel, Rip the Angels from Heaven, will be released on July 3, 2018.

The post Writers@Work: An Interview with David Krugler appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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June 26, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

My clients come to me because they are facing some sort of challenge with their writing. Some need help discovering how to write a book or get published. Ohers they need the accountability that coaching provides. But nearly every client I’ve worked with faces self-doubt. No matter how confident and accomplished they are in every other area of their lives, when it comes to writing, they wonder:

+Do I know enough to write this book?

+Will anyone ever read this story?

+Am I a good enough writer?

Today’s tip will help you face and overcome your doubts. If you need more help, schedule a complimentary consultation with me.

Enjoy!

Rochelle

How to Write Through Doubt

by Rochelle Melander

Remember these things. Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though they were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers. critics, doubters. —Brenda Ueland

Doubt happens. Rejections pile up. Someone offers a not-so-kind remark about our work. Our inner editor gets mouthy.

We face the page but worry if anyone will ever read our work. Instead of writing, we argue with our demons—those negative voices inside our heads that whisper: you’re not good enough to succeed, no one cares about this story, do something useful with your life, who do you think you are, you’re just saying the same things over and over again.

We won’t last very long as writers if we’re fragile beings who can’t take rejection, criticism, and difficult people. We need to shake off that doubt and write even when we don’t feel like it. Here’s how to write through doubt:

Expect it

Doubt happens. Shirley Hazzard said, “The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.” Most writers deal with self-doubt from time to time. Fighting against it takes work. Instead, expect it and accept it. When your inner doubter pipes up with a critique, acknowledge it, dismiss it, and keep writing.

Disagree with it

John Steinbeck wrote, “The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” When the inner critic attacks you, talk back to it. Challenge it. Dig up all those nice notes your readers and editors have written to you over the years and read them. Create statements of faith and post them: I trust that this story needs to be told. I believe that my agent is waiting to find me. I believe that I am meant to be a children’s book writer. When doubt hits, challenge it, repeat these statements of faith, and write.

Nurture yourself

Criticism, rejection, and inner doubt can damage our resolve to write. It can also deplete our inner reserves. In Daybook, Anne Truitt wrote about harsh critiques of her Arundel exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She said, “I am not concerned with reviewers’ judgments, yea or nay; they cannot deflect my course. What they can do, and this seems beyond my resistance, is hurt my general self, the supporting troops, so to speak, of my striking force.” (Daybook, p. 140) Make a list of ten soul-strengthening actions and do them regularly. When you’re feeling especially low, give yourself a day of nurture!

Your turn

What do you do when self-doubt strikes? What soul-nurturing actions do you use to support your art? Leave a comment below.

The post How to Write through Doubt by Rochelle Melander appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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June 19, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

We had an artsy weekend at my house. We went to a book signing, wandered around an art festival and took in a concert. Each event elevated my mood and inspired me to work on my own writing.

Although I’m a firm believer in taking artist dates, I tend to choose work over play. But this weekend reminded me that connecting to the world around us—and especially delving into the work of other artists—is an essential part of the writing life. Getting out of the house and into the world to immerse ourselves in art and nature can renew and refresh us. Your assignment: go on an artist’s date. Whether you visit the Zoo, take in a gallery show, or simply walk in the woods—you will be inspired.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Liam Callanan to the blog. He and his family took an amazing artist’s outing—which led to his brand new novel, Paris by the Book.

Enjoy!

Rochelle

Writers@Work: An Interview with Liam Callanan

By Rochelle Melander

Congrats on your new novel. Can you tell our readers a little about it?

My novel is about a young family from Milwaukee’s East Side who wake up one day to discover that Robert—husband, father, writer—has disappeared. Various clues eventually lead the police to think that he’s dead, likely drowned in Lake Michigan.

But other, admittedly more fanciful clues—including an unfinished manuscript set in Paris—lead Leah, his husband, and Daphne and Ellie, his teenage daughters, to believe that he’s in France. And so they go, even if it’s more for distraction than anything else. When they get to Paris, though, a series of events makes them question everything they’ve believed up to this point.

As I’ve gone around with the book, I’ve heard it called a mystery, a love story, a family novel, a travel adventure. To which I say: yes.

According to your website, you took an amazing trip to Paris with your family—and your kids got to be your tour guides! Can you talk a little about that trip? And….did the book idea (and writing) come  before or after the trip?

My girls and I cooked up a trip to Paris wherein they would serve as the guides based on children’s books they loved, principally Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline and Albert Lamorisse’s Red Balloon (which was originally a film). As we traversed Paris from one end to the other, books in hand, my girls became fascinated with how everything they saw synchronized—and did not—with what they’d read. It got me to thinking about how so many people worldwide, particularly readers, are constantly engaged in spinning this myth of Paris—how Paris, to a degree, relies on us to do that. It’s part of its magic, all that spinning everywhere. And it can leave you a little wobbly.

Indeed, our last day in Paris, a woman offered to sell us her English language bookstore. It was in the heart of the Marais. She was half-joking, but we took her half-seriously. We eventually said no. But in this novel, I effectively say yes…

I love how you mapped out Madeline’s Paris and the Red Balloon’s Paris. I know you also consulted Google maps when you wrote The Cloud Atlas. How does playing with maps and exploring geography inspire you when you’re writing a book?

Maps are where this novel started. In the pages of the Red Balloon, you can quite clearly make out street signs, and if you enter those names into Google Maps, Streetview will take you to the very same corner. I was, and am, endlessly fascinated by this. I’m a spatial thinker. My first question about a new city is, where am I? Where are the landmarks? Where am I going? Where’s home? I love exploring.

You juggle family and teaching and writing! What has helped you keep a regular writing schedule?

Ironically, what’s helped me stay regular with my schedule is being flexible. Some days I write at my desk, other days I write at Starbucks waiting for soccer practice to end. I’m patient with myself on a daily basis but stricter on a weekly basis. Most of all, my amazing family makes time for me—especially when I’m at the end of a project and need hours upon hours, they—especially my sainted wife—help me figure it out how to find the time.

What are you reading now?

I just finished J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel Saints for All Occasions and loved it. It’s a master class in creating rounded characters and crafting an plot a Swiss watchmaker. I’m finishing She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels by Kathleen Hill. It’s a memoir, but as the title suggests, one with a unique concept. I love it, too, and not just because her story takes us around the world, from New York to Nigeria to…of course, France. Next up is the Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch and The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy.

Credit: Patrick Manning

About the author. Liam Callanan is a novelist, teacher and journalist. He’s the 2017 winner of the Hunt Prize, and his first novel, The Cloud Atlas, was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, and he’s recorded numerous essays for public radio. He’s also taught for the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughters.

The post Writers@Work: An Interview with Liam Callanan appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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Write Now Coach! Blog by Rochelle Melander - 1M ago

June 12, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

It’s June, and I’m getting ready to teach a class on blogging at Mt. Mary University. Soon, I’ll be scaling back my coaching to make time for teaching. If you’ve been wanting to schedule a session to talk about your project, sign up soon at my Writing Coaching page.

Today, I’m writing about one of my favorite topics—overcoming procrastination by taking small steps!

Enjoy!

Rochelle

How to Overcome Procrastination

by Rochelle Melander

Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. —Mary Daly

Do you procrastinate?

Most of us do. Each of us has our own reasons for putting off completing important tasks—like writing. Psychologists suggest that we might experience procrastination when we don’t know how to complete a task, we feel scared, we’re not inspired, we have other things that need to be done first … and on it goes.

The best antidote to procrastination?

According to SARK, author of Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day, we can overcome procrastination by using micromovements. A micromovement is a tiny step that takes 5 seconds to 5 minutes to accomplish.

Everything you need to do as a writer can be done in micromovements, from imagining your book to writing it to submitting it for publication.

How do you start? Take a look at your writing project, figure out the next few steps and then break them down into many micromovements. Let’s say your next task is to revise the nonfiction book you’ve been working on. Maybe your first attempt at breaking down the task looks like this:

+Review book

+Make list of sections to revise

+Revise sections

+Review for grammar and spelling

+Create appendix

Next, break down each task on that list into microtasks. So “review book” becomes,

+Read through table of contents.

+Read through Introduction.

+Read through Introduction, eliminate anything that does not fit.

+Read through Introduction, note any missing elements.

+Read through Introduction, add definition for topic.

If any of the tasks on your list feel too big, break it down into smaller tasks.

Once you have a list of bite-sized tasks, schedule time to complete them. Be specific. In your calendar, write:

+Wednesday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Open Book Document

+Thursday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Review Table of Contents

+Friday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Review Introduction

Once you’ve completed a micromovement, you can choose to tackle another one. Or you can take a nap. It’s your choice.

We don’t have to live with the worry of procrastination. Instead, we can succeed by taking small, steady steps forward.

To your success…one small step at a time!

The post Overcoming Procrastination appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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Write Now Coach! Blog by Rochelle Melander - 1M ago

June 12, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

It’s June, and I’m getting ready to teach a class on blogging at Mt. Mary University. Soon, I’ll be scaling back my coaching to make time for teaching. If you’ve been wanting to schedule a session to talk about your project, sign up soon at my Writing Coaching page.

Today, I’m writing about one of my favorite topics—overcoming procrastination by taking small steps!

Enjoy!

Rochelle

How to Defeat Procrastination

by Rochelle Melander

Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. —Mary Daly

Do you procrastinate?

Most of us do. Each of us has our own reasons for putting off completing important tasks—like writing. We don’t know how, we feel scared, we’re not inspired, we have other things that need to be done first … and on it goes.

The best antidote to procrastination?

According to SARK, author of Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day, we can overcome procrastination by using micromovements. A micromovement is a tiny step that takes 5 seconds to 5 minutes to accomplish.

Everything you need to do as a writer can be done in micromovements, from imagining your book to writing it to submitting it for publication.

How do you start? Take a look at your writing project, figure out the next few steps and then break them down into many micromovements. Let’s say your next task is to revise the nonfiction book you’ve been working on. Maybe your first attempt at breaking down the task looks like this:

+Review book

+Make list of sections to revise

+Revise sections

+Review for grammar and spelling

+Create appendix

Next, break down each task on that list into microtasks. So “review book” becomes,

+Read through table of contents.

+Read through Introduction.

+Read through Introduction, eliminate anything that does not fit.

+Read through Introduction, note any missing elements.

+Read through Introduction, add definition for topic.

If any of the tasks on your list feel too big, break it down into smaller tasks.

Once you have a list of bite-sized tasks, schedule time to complete them. Be specific. In your calendar, write:

+Wednesday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Open Book Document

+Thursday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Review Table of Contents

+Friday, 10:00-10:05 AM, Review Introduction

Once you’ve completed a micromovement, you can choose to tackle another one. Or you can take a nap. It’s your choice.

We don’t have to live with the worry of procrastination. Instead, we can succeed by taking small, steady steps forward.

To your success…one small step at a time!

The post Defeat Procrastination appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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June 5, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

It’s June, and that means we’re nearly halfway through the year. How are you doing on your goal to stick to a writing schedule, start your book, or finally submit that manuscript to an agent? If you’re procrastinating because you are fearful or don’t know what to do next, consider signing up for a coaching session with me. Often, I can help you solve your problem in just a single session. What are you waiting for? Sign up now.

Today, I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth Cole to the blog, who shares her best advice for how to write a series. Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Rochelle

How to Write a Series

by Elizabeth Cole

I’m a romance novelist, and in romance, readers love a series. Series allow readers to sink into a world and get to know more of the characters and settings to a degree that a standalone novel just can’t provide. Ongoing storylines can span many books, allowing a depth of development that would feel rushed in a single book. As a writer, I love a series because it’s easier to market multiple books than just one. Or, put another way, it offers more bang for your buck to get a reader engaged in a series. If you do it right, you get people to read one book, and then they want to gobble up all the rest!

The Swordcross Knights #1

So how do you actually go about writing a series? First, you need to plan ahead. For example, I wrote a series of medieval romances called The Swordcross Knights. It’s four books long, and each book tells the story of one of the four knights in this brotherhood. That meant I needed to plan out characters and story elements that I needed to know while writing the first book, even though readers wouldn’t hear about those things until the later books came out. I didn’t write exhaustive, detailed outlines for all the books (you can, but it’s not always necessary, or even ideal). I sketched out the overall idea for each character and the plot I envisioned. Having a structure and a throughline for the whole series, and not just for each book, helps the series feel coherent and whole. So, for The Swordcross Knights I had:

Series concept: In my series, a brotherhood of knights live and fight in medieval England, and each fall in love over the course of one novel. This is similar to a pitch or a logline—it tells the reader what to expect. Some series have a pretty loose concept (a gardener turns detective to

The Swordcross Knights #2

solve murders in a small town), and some have a much tighter, more detailed concept (young magic users go to a special school for wizards and each book covers one year as we watch them grow up). However, if all you’ve got is “these five people all find jobs in the city of Chicago,” that might not be enough for a series. But “five millennials are hired at a slick advertising firm in downtown Chicago, and face adult life challenges together” is totally a series concept!

Structure: Structure doesn’t have to be overt or very obvious to the reader, but it helps you keep your spiraling stories in line. My Swordcross Knights is structured so a complete love story happens in each book, based on the ages of the male protagonists (the oldest knight’s in Book 1, to the youngest knight’s in Book 4). It’s subtle, but it’s important since each book has the other characters stepping into various scenes, and it’s realistic way to show the passage of time and the effects of external events on the characters.

The Swordcross Knights #3

Throughline: In The Swordcross Knights, the knights all work to defeat threats to the king…in addition of their individual love stories. This element provides a sense of coherency for readers, and links the books into a single shared story. For another example, think of how Voldmort’s evil machinations provide the throughline in the Harry Potter series.

Contact Points: Contact points are places in each story that connected to the other books, making each book an integral part of a larger fictional world. That might mean having the protagonist of Book 1 show up in a supporting role in Book 2. In my series, there’s a character named Octavian, who appears in all three of the previous books before he becomes the protagonist of Book 4. By building his presence in my series, I was able to connect readers to him, and now I’ve got lots of messages saying, “When will Octavian get his story? I can’t wait!” Hearing a reader tell you they CAN’T WAIT is really one of the best things a writer can hear (with “You made the New York Times bestseller list” being a close second…I assume. I haven’t personally heard that yet!).

Schedule: Speaking of readers who can’t wait, when writing a series, you also need to have a

The Swordcross Knights #4

schedule. Can you produce a book every six months? Every year? Be clear about when readers can expect the next book. Few things are sadder than checking in to see when the next book is out, only to find no information at all, or endless promises that you’re working on it (I’m looking at you, George RR Martin!). Plot out your schedule and keep to it as much as possible. This is true for indie publishers or people who are working with agents or publishers. All books need to fit into an existing publishing schedule, no matter what the specific schedule is.

If you can write one book, you can write a series! It just requires some thought up front. Develop your concept, make a publishing plan, and be open to changes along the way. Look for examples among the books you like to read—chances are you’ve already got a series lurking in your brain. Or check out The Swordcross Knights for inspiration!

Now brew another pot of coffee and get writing!

About the author. Elizabeth Cole writes historical romance from the medieval era up to the Regency, and also publishes contemporary paranormal when the need to write in modern slang grows too strong. Her dream is to have everyone know her name and no one to know her face. Writing is a big part of that dream.

She was born and raised in Wisconsin, where people are nice even to their enemies. She now lives in Philadelphia, where everybody just grunts. A grunt could mean I love you. It usually doesn’t.

Website: elizabethcole.co

Twitter: @ColeHeartedGirl

Facebook: Elizabeth Cole Writes

The post Writers@Work: How to Write a Series by Elizabeth Cole appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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May 29, 2018

 

Note From Rochelle

 

Dear Readers,

Do you wish you could write a book but have no time?

Guess what? You may have already written MOST of that book. If you have a stack of old articles, journal entries, or poems—you might be able to assemble them into a book that you could sell.

And I can help you figure it all out.

I have a brand new workshop coming up on Thursday, May 31 that will support you in collecting that writing and turning it into a book. In my class, Leverage Your Content: How to Create a Book from Articles, Blog Posts, and Speechesyou will learn how you can use your most popular writing to create a book that will help you earn extra money, build your brand, and increase your platform.

Today, I am delighted to welcome Christie Craig who writes about her love-hate relationship with writing prompts. Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Rochelle

The Push and Pull of Writing Prompts

By Christi Craig

I have a love-hate relationship with writing prompts.

On one hand, I see them as a critical component to the work. They serve as warm-ups in each of the classes I teach, as a way for participants to engage with the topic or lesson. Sometimes they work simply to get the ink in their pens flowing, to free the mind of anxiety before we dive into the real work. On the other hand, they can feel like torture. Give me a prompt and a blank page and 10 minutes (or even 30), and putting anything on paper can feel like pulling teeth, without the Novocain. But 9 times out 10, prompts are working just as they should.

On the surface, a successful prompt sparks the beginning of a beautiful piece. In some cases, prompts even yield a complete (and print-worthy) story or essay in 10-minutes or less. It’s true; I know this from experience. Some of my early-published works appear in a tiny collection called, On the Fly: Stories in Eight Minutes or Less. This whole anthology grew from one online course I took with several other women, who experienced just that: prompts and sparks and magic, and whole stories that blossomed from writing with reckless abandon for less time than it takes to boil an egg.

Behind the scenes, prompts push the writer, in process or in performance. Here’s where the torture comes into play. Nobody likes to be pushed, especially a writer (okay, this writer). We want flow and ease and an outpouring of words. But when we sit and stare and words won’t budge, it doesn’t mean the prompt is a bust.

I have a stack of books on prompts. On occasion I search through the pages for some seed of an idea for a blog post or an essay, and I flip through from beginning to end and back again like I scroll through Netflix: Boring, Too sad, Seen it before, I have no idea what that word even means. Endless options; zero inspiration. Still, for one reason or another—because I am the teacher, because I need to write a blog post, because I am desperate to write something—I choose one. I break out the notebook. I click the pen.

I fight the page.

But even in that moment, as long as I’m willing, the prompt works. Maybe I set the timer and end up with a story about the frustrations of the writing process, a list of phrases that look to be sinking material but stand out later as key for some other piece. Maybe I set the timer and in that short 8 to 10 minutes, I have successfully quieted my inner editor so that I can move on to the essay or manuscript I really want to tackle. Perhaps in that moment of willingness I have relaxed enough to discover a new story in the waiting.

This happened to me recently. I wrote on the prompt, walking the dog, and just so you know I am not a dog person. I am not a cat person. I am not a fur person. I am a Zyrtec, eye drops, incessant sneezing person. So this was not an easy prompt. I wrote anyway, even about the fact that I only love dogs at a distance. And what began as “walking the dog” ended in a tiny essay on space, the visible and the invisible, and being in the thick of it. Space and place show up often in my writing, and any day (or exercise) where I can explore that idea in depth is a good day.

So love them or hate them, there is no prompt that fails. Not really. It’s all about perspective; it’s all about the purpose. We turn to prompts because the instructor of the class says we have to; we pick up a book on prompts because we are in need of an idea; we build on one prompt and then another as a way to develop story or character or setting.

Most of the time, the initial sit down warrants an eye roll or a heavy sigh or a tap-tap-tap of the pen, a flurry of brain activity about our to-do list undone or insults from our inner editor. But follow the prompt anyway. There are no hard and fast rules to break; there are no expectations of publication in quick writing prompts. There is only the opportunity to toss words around, chew on ideas, let go and let yourself be surprised.

Places where you can find prompts

+The Butterfly Hours: Transforming memories into memoir by Patty Dann: a book with brief essays by Dann, one-word prompts, and examples of how her students have approached the prompts, how a prompt can take a writer in an unexpected direction.

+Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life by Midge Raymond. This book has a whole section dedicated to five-minute prompts, fifteen-minute prompts, situational prompts, and weekend writing prompts.

+Your favorite book of poetry or your most recent memorable read (choose a line or 1st sentence and start from there); news headlines; the classifieds; Instagram photos. Prompts are everywhere.

And here. Choose one:

Walking the dog.

In the thick of it.

On the fly.

Set your timer for 10 minutes, crack open that notebook, and go.

About the author. Christi Craig lives in Wisconsin, working by day as a sign language interpreter and moonlighting as a writer, teacher, and editor. Her stories and essays appear online and in print, and she received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Competition. Once a month, she facilitates a Study Hall: #AmWriting prompt-based workshop where writers meet two hours to talk briefly about craft and incorporate different techniques designed to get pens moving. The next session is scheduled for Sunday, June 3rd, 3-5pm CST. The best part? You can meet online or in person. Visit her website at christicraig.com for more about the Study Hall, her other online courses, or her published work.

The post The Push and Pull of Writing Prompts appeared first on Write Now Coach! Blog.

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