Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Be a Better Writer

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The first step to being a writer is to proclaim yourself. “My name is [fill in the blank] and I’m a writer.” By doing this you give voice to the fact that you have an unshakeable, deep-seeded desire to communicate with words. To describe situations. To tell stories. You can’t help yourself. You may have come to this realization early in life. Some writers begin when they’re children. Or you may have chanced upon it late in life, as I did. No matter when this amazing incident occurred, it did happen.

If you have any insecurities about who you are, take a deep breath, close your eyes, spread your arms out wide and shout, “My name is [fill in the blank] and I’m a writer.” Your voice might be tenuous at first. Even a little wimpy. But with practice you can stand there with the best of them and be comfortable.
Now that you’ve proclaimed yourself, it’s time to enhance your status. Writers need to write. It’s a given and you can’t ignore it. Beginning writers often think everything they write is perfection. The learning curve can be tough. Demanding. But it’s important to your craft. If you want to get better, here are some ways to improve.

Don’t be shy. Network. Facebook and Twitter are an okay place to start, but be brave. Hang out with other writers, in person, and be a sponge. Soak up information. People love to share about their wins and losses, their challenges, how they overcame their obstacles. Maybe they have a cool story to tell. Maybe you have a great story too. Go to events, conferences and meetups. If you’re truly shy, make it your goal to talk to just one person. If you’re dynamic and outgoing, talk to a bunch of people. Pay attention to what they figured out along the way and see if you can apply their lesson to your own journey. Learn, and see how you can help others.

Take Classes
You’ve just finished your first draft and it’s a terrific manuscript. Why would you need a writing class? I wrote six novels before I admitted I had a problem with plot. I also had weak characters and unbelievable situations. I would stake my scenic descriptions against any bestselling author, but beautiful descriptions do not a bestseller make. I found my solution in online writing classes, specifically one on plotting. Who knew that GMC was so important, or that it would offer the key to the mystery of great storytelling? I didn’t. But after that class, my writing reached a new level; one that worked!

Writers Online Classes ( and ( both offer good and affordable classes for about $30. Classes last about a month, you get 2-3 lessons per week, feedback from the teacher, and interaction with other writers. I met two amazing editing partners in one class last year who were a tremendous help with my latest novel.

Join a Critique Group
A critique group is a group of authors who read each other’s work and offer constructive feedback. Writers in a critique group are committed to writing and to learning about writing. The beauty of a critique group is having multiple eyes view your work. Fresh eyes. Your critique partners don’t know your story like you do, so they won’t make assumptions. If something doesn’t make sense in your story, they’ll find it and point it out.  

It may take some trial and error to find the right group. Not all personalities mesh, nor do all writing styles. Always, always be honest with your feedback, and be compassionate as well. Expect the same in return. And realize you’ll need to develop thick skin. My first experience with a critique group was awful. I swore I wouldn’t go back. Two weeks later I’d recovered from the initial shock and I returned. It was the best decision I could have made.
Don’t write in a vacuum. If you don’t share your writing with others, you’ll never know how good or bad it is. Consult your local area writing organizations for a group near you.

Write a Novel in a Month
November is Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, the time when writers from all over the world sign up to write a novel in a month. Sound crazy? You bet. Last year there were over 250,000 participants and almost 37,000 crossed the finish line. You begin your novel on November 1. Your goal is to complete 50,000 words by midnight November 30. You have to start from scratch (you can’t use anything previously written). You must be the sole author of your work. Your work has to be a novel (not a memoir, autobiography, essay or other nonfiction). And you can’t use the same word 50,000 times.

Nanowrimo isn’t for everyone. It requires dedication, concentration and a lot of stream of consciousness flow. Fifty thousand words over 30 days means at least 1666.66 words per day. No staring at that blank computer screen. Put something on it. No editing what you’ve just written; you don’t have time. Just write. The reward is a 50,000 word manuscript when you’re done, and that’s a serious piece of writing. You’ll also meet lots of other writers and explore different ways of writing. To sign up for next year's challenge, go to  
Now that I’ve listed these tips, I’m standing up, I’m spreading my arms out wide, and I’m shouting, “My name is Nanette Littlestone, and I’m a writer!”  


Nanette Littlestone is a freelance editor, writing coach, and author who has worked with both fiction and nonfiction for 20 years. She specializes in helping authors to use their passion to achieve their own unique voice and message. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

4 Ways to NEVER Finish Your Book

So here you are at the end of another year, still wanting to write that book that’s been on your mind, yet still no closer to finishing it than when you added  “Finish Book” to your list of New Year’s Resolutions last year. Oh, I get it, things have come up; lots of things. Life got busy, priorities were rearranged and somehow the book thing was moved way down on the list of must-dos this year. Perhaps it was even shifted from your 2012 to-do list to your longer term “bucket list.”

Honestly, adding your book to your list of New Year’s Resolutions is probably one of the best ways to never finish your book. There’s too much pressure with that. Plus, there’s no plan to go along with it. Although it seems like a worthy goal to record, it just doesn’t work that way. If you want to avoid being in this same place this time next year, here are a few things to avoid at all costs, basically ways to never, ever finish your book.

Depending on when something begins, ends or changes; as in ...  “When I retire, I’ll write my book,” or “As soon as the kids go visit their grandparents for the summer, I’ll get right down to business with my manuscript,” or “When I finally finish this master’s program (or the divorce is finalized, or the kids go back to school, or ... well, you get the point), I’m going to get started on my book.” These are really procrastination tactics. Don’t fall for them. Set a real deadline with a date that makes you slightly uncomfortable, and get started now!

Keeping hidden notes. Congrats for keeping notes for the content you want to include in your book. However, when you hide them from yourself and from others, you basically engage in the “out of sight out of mind” practice of book production. Your notes should be in your face, visible and accessible so that when you get another brilliant idea, you’ve got them at the ready. Pull out those notes, dust them off, organize them and watch them take the form of your manuscript.

Being a secret agent. Akin to the hidden notes tactic, never telling anyone you know that you’re writing a book is an almost sure sign that you’ll never get it done. What are you afraid of that you just can’t tell anyone you’re writing a book? Do you think they’ll laugh at you; try to talk you out of it; nag you about whether you’re done yet? They absolutely will. So what! When you tell others – especially supportive people – of your intentions, it sets things in stone and allows them to encourage you and to hold your feet to the fire. It’s much easier to let yourself down than it is to let others down. Tell a friend.

Trying to do it all by yourself. Writing a book is serious stuff. Just as you wouldn’t undergo an extreme life transformation without the input of a life coach, or start a business without the expert insight of a business coach, accountant or attorney, you shouldn’t try writing your book without the insight of a writers group, critique group, writing instructor or an author’s coach. Yes, that’s a shameless plug!

Do all of the above (or any one of them, for that matter), and you’ll never, ever finish your book. Take my advice, and maybe, just maybe you’ll have your book published this time next year. Honestly, I’m cheering for you to do the right thing!


Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success".

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing to Remember

I recently attended a memorial service for my friend Patrice. The service was filled with stories of her joyful life, the people she impacted and her accomplishments. Among other achievements, Patrice was an author and copies of her award-winning book were given out to friends and family after the service. Merrill, her friend for more than forty years, talked about the wonderful letters Patrice had written during their friendship and read a few excerpts.

With Patrice’s death, I was reminded of the last few weeks of my dad’s life. Daddy had been battling kidney failure combined with heart disease and was declining rapidly. When the decision was made to move him to hospice, he would no longer be getting dialysis and we knew he would live only a short time — maybe a week or two.
I set up a CarePages blog site a few days before Daddy went into hospice. On it, I posted daily updates for friends and family. I started combining memories of my dad, moments of appreciation for a particular day and updates of his status to create snapshots in time for those who followed the page.
As my entries became more personal, the messages posted began to reflect the content of that day’s update. In one of my entries, I commented, “I’m grateful for the miracle of this time of captured moments.” In response, a friend stated, “I appreciate you sharing these loving ‘minute miracles’ with all of us.”
A few days later, my update was about puzzles. My brother, his girlfriend and I had finished a puzzle that my dad started months earlier, before spending two of his last three months in the hospital. Over the years, I have many fond memories of working puzzles with my dad and siblings. (My mom didn’t enjoy puzzles — she was often in the kitchen making us something delicious to eat.) Putting a puzzle together was a way to visit about the day’s happenings while creating together.
After finishing the puzzle, I was reading When God Winks by SQuire Rushnell and was brought to tears by this excerpt … “Our view of life is limited. We go from day to day, looking at one puzzle piece at a time. But there is another perspective. While we are trying to make sense out of one odd-looking piece after another, we can take comfort know that all of the pieces DO fit into a plan that could only have been created by a higher power. Only when we near the finish and begin to attain a more global perspective does the whole composition have clarity.” I added this excerpt to my update about the completion of the puzzle.
My cousin Sherry commented, “That is a lovely thought. We are so looking forward to seeing your dad later this week, if that fits into the puzzle. What a beautiful scene his life is and has been over the years.”
At the memorial service celebrating Daddy’s life, many told me how the daily updates helped prompt their own wonderful memories of him.

After Daddy died, I created a spiral-bound book that included all the entries and comments from those who followed the updates. When I read those pages, now almost two years after his passing, I am stunned by the encouragement and love that poured out from friends and family, prompted by my few paragraphs every day.
I encourage you to write when all is well, as well as write when passing through a difficult time. When life is especially hectic or sad, as in an illness or a loved one’s transition from life to death, the days blur. A few written thoughts or paragraphs give expression to emotion — particularly when life feels too overwhelming to speak it aloud. Write to tell people you love them. It serves as a remembrance of sacred times, those filled with joy and those awash in grief. and provide free blog sites designed to keep family, friends and communities connected.


Vanessa Lowry is a marketing consultant, graphic designer, author, radio host and speaker. She leverages nearly 30 years of design and marketing expertise to support book authors who are self publishing.
Twitter @vanessalowry

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing Sessions: Secret to Meeting Timelines and Deadlines

Timelines and deadlines can be either your worst enemy or your best friend when writing your book. These are the goals and guidelines that disciplined authors use to gauge their progress in developing content for their manuscript. However you view these necessary elements of your book production, you must know that they are truly essential to writing a quality book that gets published sooner rather than later (or worse, NEVER).

You’ll never get your book done if you don’t sit down and do it. That takes time, intention and focus. It takes your unyielding commitment to abide by your writing sessions to help you produce results. Your writing sessions are sacred; they’re a valuable and non-negotiable aspect of the book authoring process. When you see them that way, so will others. So how do you make the most of your writing sessions and stick to your timeline to meet your deadline?

First, create a writing schedule. In my self-study course,  “Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less,” I share the importance of having a schedule for writing your book. If you don’t schedule your writing sessions and give them priority, just as you do other important aspects of your life, finishing your book by your target date will be nearly impossible. Click here for a sample writing schedule and a template you can use.

Secondly, honor your writing sessions. Think of yourself as a genius at work, creating a masterpiece or the cure for what will heal the world. There is value in the words you create, the knowledge you share, the characters you introduce, and the insight you expose. Begin to see your book as the answer to a life-transforming question that someone is asking. They will never receive that answer if you don’t honor your writing sessions and get your book done.

Third, be realistic with your time. Understand that, even when you set aside time to write, you will need some time to get into the mood to write. Give yourself time to do so. When I was writing my novel, What Goes Around Comes Around, I discovered that it took me several minutes at the start of my writing sessions to get back into the mind of the character I was writing about at the close of the previous writing session. I had to be right there in the scene, feeling what s/he was feeling and living in the same moment. The same was true for when I was writing the self-help journal, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write. I had to be in a place mentally that was comfortable and relaxed and free of worry or stress. I was writing a journal, after all. And since journaling is, by nature, an act of release and renewal, stress had no place in the creation of that book. I had to allow myself time to manage my mind and my craft.

Taking a no-excuses approach to writing your book is essential to achieving the results you want. Setting a timeline and meeting your self-imposed deadline are also important aspects of becoming a successful published author. The key to it all can be found in your writing sessions. Schedule them. Honor them. Maximize them. Your book – and your readers – are depending on it.

What’s the greatest challenge you face during your writing sessions?

Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success".