Archives: October 2013

Beginning Again

by Addie Boswell
Published on: October 25, 2013
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imagesIt is around this time of year, when weather and work starts to wind down, that I start to jump ahead in my mind. To 2014’s clean slate, the sparkling, blank planner I get to buy, and the new set of goals I might just accomplish. It is a new year! The sky’s the limit! I love beginnings so much that it is often an uphill battle to finish things. (Starting to dream about a new manuscript is so much more fun than revising the old one for the 17th time…)

So, not to get ahead of myself, there are two more months in 2013. If your holidays knock out some of your productive time (as they do mine), you really might have only five or six weeks. Along with a last chance to knock tasks off the 2013 list, these weeks are a good time to sit down and reflect on all that you have accomplished and traversed this year. A good way to start is to browse through your planner or calendar, remembering all the appointments, deadlines, trips, celebrations, high points, and low points. Then, sit down with your journal and some open-ended questions like these (which I’ve picked up from various books and coaches.)

When I think about my business in 2013…

  1. What surprised me?
  2. What disappointed me?
  3. What worked?
  4. What didn’t work?
  5. Where did the business excel?
  6. Where did the business fall short?
  7. When was I happiest?
  8. What does this tell me about the next year?
  9. Looking at the disappointments, what do I want to turn around in the next year?
  10. Which means I have to change…..
  11. Looking at the successes, what do I want to continue doing next year?
  12. What do I remain sure about in my career?
  13. If I could accomplish only three things in 2014, what would they be?

If data makes you happy, you might also start compiling some numbers to make your accomplishments more tangible. Some possible categories: royalties made, copies sold, submissions sent, author visits scheduled, words typed.


by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: October 20, 2013
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Sheila Schmid of NW Yoga in Portland, OR

Sheila Schmid of NW Yoga in Portland, OR

How are yoga, writing and critique groups connected? I don’t know but I often find myself thinking about how much that happens in yoga class applies to my writing life.

During one recent class at Yoga NW, we were holding a warrior two pose for what seemed like FOREVER. My arms were burning, my legs ached and I was ready to be done.  Seeming to reading my mind, my yoga teacher said: “Just when you feel like giving up on the pose, instead try recommitting to it.”

Grrrrr, grumble, O.K, I’ll try, I thought.

I didn’t really do anything different. I just thought about recommitting to the pose and some energy swelled up and got me through it.

Being a writer is hard and can sometimes even be infuriating and deeply uncomfortable. Sometimes, I’m ready to be done. This can be on a daily scale, like I’m stuck, bored, having a hard time focusing and things like washing the muddy dog towels or grocery shopping seem like they would be a lot more satisfying.  Most of the time (not all the time), instead of washing the dog towels, I recommit to the writing. I stay in my seat, remind myself that I chose this work and try again. Most of the time (not all the time) I’ll get a little something done and feel satisfied about that.  Recommitment can get me through.

On a larger scale, I have been a writer long enough (since 1988) that I have faced a number of times when I ask myself: Why do I keep banging my head against this wall? Sometimes I do have to turn off my computer, take a break, take a vacation. But I have found that eventually, what I really need to do is recommit, to jump hard into a big revision or a new project.  And the energy swells up.

Our critique group has also been at it long enough that members have certainly faced times when we have wondered whether it’s worth coordinating schedules, missing evenings with our families, taking time to read the submissions, etc. But when I’ve faced these times, I think about how amazing the Scrivas are, I recommit and I have never regretted it.

Some things are worth recommitment.

Elizabeth Rusch

P.S. I just came back from another great yoga class and wanted to add this quote: This is not supposed to be easy. Surrender to the effort.

Brilliant editor Emma Dryden cooks up the perfect critique group

by Amber Keyser
Published on: October 11, 2013
Categories: Critique Process
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Emma Dryden of drydenbks was my editor for the still-not-out-yet (sigh) novel THE HUNT FOR MARA LAYIL so I know first hand that she is smart, insightful, and deeply creative.

I loved this post from her blog about critique groups.  She describes the Scrivas perfectly!

Emma was kind enough to let me share her entire post here but check out her blog and website and definitely follow her on Twitter.  She has a wealth of expertise and is generous in sharing it.


Are You Being Served? A Recipe for a Great Critique Group

– 2-12 dedicated authors (can be of different genres & formats; can be of same genre & format)
– heaping doses of imagination
– heaping doses of respect
– heaping doses of sensitivity
– liberal doses of gentle honesty (if you opt for brutal, critique group will become too tough and hard to swallow)
– open-mindedness and creative flexibility
– willingness to ask questions and listen to answers
– generous sprinkles of laughter (can use hysteria and guffaws if desired)
– timer (enables fair attention paid to each author)
 cough drops & water (enables requisite read-alouds)
– bathroom & stretch breaks
– delicious food
– comfortable setting (a cozy setting is even better, if you can find it)
– wine or spirits (for after critiques are completed! Some may find wine or spirits appropriate during, but proceed with caution)
– optional: friendly dog and/or cat; fireplace; views (ocean, woodland, mountains, etc.); anything else to enhance experience
Gather ingredients together on a regular basis. Stir with professionalism, exuberance, imagination, and inspiration. Surprises may result. Quiet moments of reflection may be required. Questions can be asked for which there may be no immediate or clear answers. That’s ok. Allow for staying open to possibilities; critique groups vary based upon the ratio and balance of ingredients.
Caution: If each author doesn’t feel heard and respected, the ratio of ingredients has gone awry and you will most assuredly want to double-check your recipe.
Note: Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to add a one-time ingredient to this recipe, such as a professional editor or published author who will provide a new voice and perspective to the discussion – this can best be achieved over a weekend. For a sample taste of this sort of enhanced group experience, go to this post from the Route 19 Writers blog.
This recipe serves many, including a richer society of writers and readers.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC

What Would You Do?

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: October 8, 2013
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Perhaps I would feel less like this if someone else conceptualized a novel for me…


Recently I finished a teen romance novel that I really enjoyed: Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill. (Check it out here). Then, as I skimmed the Acknowledgements section in the back, something caught my eye.

(What, doesn’t everyone read the Acknowledgements sections? It feels like you’re reading someone else’s yearbook.)

Anyway, it was this little blurb from Morrill that had me curious:

“First and foremost, thanks to Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer, who took a chance on me and then whipped me into shape over many months of drafts. I was but a wee babe of an author before you two taught me that my characters should, you know, do stuff, and slapped that -ing construction out of me.”

Of course I know who Lauren Oliver is, author of the great Before I Fall, a book on lots of teen reading lists, including Scriva Michelle’s here. So was this a writing group that Morrill was referring to then? I got to googling and found Paper Lantern Lit, Oliver’s literary development company. Here’s their mission statement on the front page of the website:

“We build story. Major plot geeks, our unique literary incubator model means that we’re also author-focused and committed to excavating the freshest new voices. We mentor authors step-by-step through the novel-writing process, providing a conceptual foundation, teaching narrative architecture, and constructing a platform for success.”

Fascinating business model, right? Delving deeper into the website, it would appear that authors apply to write for Paper Lantern Lit (PPL) by sending in some writing samples. If they like what they read and have a project that they think fits the author’s voice, then they contact them to do some spark pages for their concept. If PPL likes the spark pages, then I think they do a contract-author kind of deal with the writer. Paper Lantern Lit makes the decisions regarding concept and plot, while the writer fleshes out and creates the story. Then PPL edits and sells the project when it’s all finished.

Side note: Isn’t that how a lot of movie studios do their scripts?

Ever since coming across this site, I’ve contemplated sending in pages from my W-I-P and applying here.

What would you do?

Update: I think I give the wrong impression with the photo caption and by mentioning that I would send in pages from my W-I-P. Paper Lantern Lit is not interested in developing writer’s projects, just their own. They are not interested in existing manuscripts, just fostering writers. The prospect of being mentored (should your application get a pass) just sounds so lovely. I’m sure the odds of getting chosen are very small…

World Building Meets the Real World

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: October 4, 2013
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Florrie-crop-lo-resThe woman in this photograph had a real name and lived a real life that I have yet to learn. In my enthusiasm to build the world behind my historical novel, Blue Thread, I named her Florence Steinbacher (“Florrie”) and made her the never-seen best friend of Miriam Josefsohn, the main character in the story.

When the Blue Thread story was over, Miriam was ready to melt back into my brain, but Florrie was not. Maybe it was because I still had her photograph. Maybe it was because she was part of the backstory for a companion novel, The Ninth Day, which is told by Miriam’s granddaughter. Maybe it was because I didn’t have the creative energy to jump into writing the next book, but I wanted to keep crafting narrative.

Whatever the reason, Florrie sprang to life. She took over my blog on July 11 this past summer and posted four times a week through Sept. 27. Florrie continued to tell us about her best friend “Mim” from 1912 (when Blue Thread ended) through 1950 (14 years before the start of The Ninth Day). Florrie’s blog posts turned into about 36,000 words. You can download her story as a free e-book or a pdf when you sign up for my mailing list (with no obligation to actually read my infrequent newsletters!). Florrie would like all that attention.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process of letting Florrie have her head (or mine):

  • Following a character through several decades, in memoir style, is easier than building an entire world for a particular era. The real world of events gives us plenty of material to supplement the fictional world of the characters’ lives.
  • World building tools work on the macro level as well as the micro level. In a post about world building, Cat Winters suggested giving your character a birthday party. What gifts would (s)he get? What would be served? How would (s)he react? In my world building, I gave Florrie (and, through Florrie’s eyes, Miriam) World Wars I and II, and the Russian Revolution, and the Berkeley fire of 1923, and chronicled their reactions.
  • The real world seems ready to embrace the fictional world we writers craft for our characters. At least one blogger, for example, “interviewed” Mary Shelley Black, the fictional protagonist of Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds. In Istanbul, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has constructed a real museum to house artifacts from his novel, The Museum of Innocence. Go see all 4,213 cigarette butts touched by a fictional character. And Florrie, I must admit, still has a Twitter account.

What will come of all this world building within the real world? Will technology and imagination conspire to inextricably entwine reality and fiction? Does anybody care? Hello, out there….

While I wait for an answer, Florrie is content with her compilation of blog posts, and I’ve started to build the backstory and world for my next full-length narrative.





The Baggage Train: Lose 10,000 Tons This Week!

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: October 1, 2013
Categories: Basics, Challenges
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train, evergreens

My post title is a spin on Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend, a book by decluttering guru Don Aslett. I’m not urging you to clean out your possibly overstocked personal library. (Though if you do, give me a shout: I’m starting a book selling business!)


The kind of weight we writers must shed is more esoteric. It’s the personal baggage we bring to our writing. To our writing times, our writing encounters.


Jerrold Mundis has written more than 30 works of fiction and non-fiction, including Break Writer’s Block Now! (subtitle: How to Demolish It Forever and Establish a Productive Working Schedule in One Afternoon-A Proven System.) In this book he describes “the baggage train” and reminds me to uncouple mine.


There is no such thing as writer’s block, Mundis convincingly argues. (Read his book, do the few exercises just as he directs, and you’ll see what he means.) What holds us up is only perfectionism, fear, and…the baggage train. The train consists of all the big things we wish to have happen through our writing. You know—fame, money, vindication, world peace, immortality…


It’s OK to have these motivations, Mundis says, but we must set them aside when we sit down to write:

With all these chained to you, one after the other, stretching off into the distance like a great baggage train, you’re not going to get very far. You may never even get out of the station. Because you’re not sitting down on a Monday morning to write for three hours—you’re sitting down to become rich, to become famous, to enlighten the world, to get your degree. And you cannot possibly do that. You cannot become rich sitting in front of your typewriter from nine to twelve on Monday morning. You cannot get your degree, become famous or enlighten the world.

            […] All you CAN accomplish is that day’s work, the simple act of putting words on paper. Nothing else is possible.”


So go ahead. Uncouple your baggage train, and just write. That you can reliably do.

At the end of the movie Soul Surfer, the main character says something like, “I came to surf, not to win.”


We writers can do the same. We can sit down just to write, to enjoy the shape and taste of words and images in our minds and then on the page.  Not to get the validation we’d like from some who may not have offered it, or to pay off our mortgage, to hold thousands spellbound with our entrancing, trippingly spoken words, or get embossed metallic stickers affixed to the covers of our books. Those things can come after—maybe. For now, we’re just living in the world of our story, and advancing in it, transferring it to the page so that others can experience it too. That’s much easier to accomplish when we’re not pulling 10,000 tons behind us.



10,000 tons is based on Internet information that a train can weigh up to 16,000 tons—and a train engine alone about 150 tons. Of course, train lengths, loads, and weights vary. So your personal baggage–and individual tonnage lost–may also vary.


-Sabina I. Rascol



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