Why Writers Need Writers

When I have a conversation with an acquaintance that turns personal, this question usually surfaces – “So what do you like to do for fun?”

At times I think about skirting over the question, with – “I like hockey, or I like to read.” However, I have come to learn the value of writing friends and the bond that

Top row (from left): Leo Tolstoy, Dmitry Grigorovich, Bottom row (from left): Ivan Goncharov, Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Druzhinin, and Alexander Ostrovsky

writing builds. I understand that I might get occasional sympathetic nod from the person I am talking with, or a few raised eyebrows and “good luck with that.” Or, maybe, just possibly, a fellow word loving comrade.

Since I started on my novel several years ago I have had the benefit of many writing friends, or friends that are kind enough to read my work and encourage me in my novel. They’ve been with me through many drafts and thankfully I don’t think I have ever been given the look or feeling that I should probably do something more productive with my life.

So where am I going with this long rambling post? Perhaps this is a thank you to all of you who keep asking me, “So how’s it going?” as I stomp through the sludge of my latest draft, and it is. But, also, if you are a new writer or a writer who is struggling to find their way, writing friends are the best and sometimes the only remedy to help you to carry on in your quest to become a published author.

As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

The same can be said for any writer you meet.

Keep writing friends. Never give up.





No More Excuses

As writers we could all use more time. I know I could. Time is my greatest ally and my deadliest foe. There never seems to be enough of it and I always need just a little bit more to complete my task.

So, below I have listed 4 ways to squeeze out some time to write. That way you and I can no longer have excuses and can stay focused on our tasks.

1. The grocery story. Silly I know, but bring your notebook with you everywhere and seize the opportunity. There are always little bits of time that, when strung together, equal that sizable chunk all writers long for.

2. Write during your lunch at work. I love socializing as much as the next person, but I have changed my lunch into a time to be productive. When do you relax then? Never. Remember your goal.

3. Take the last two hours of each day from 11-1 or 12-2 to write. At the end of a long day of work my bed seems like heaven. However, if I wait longer, how much more inviting will it be?

4. Get up at 5am to write. I have attempted this for the past few weeks and have been mildly successful. It has been an exhausting few weeks but I have made more progress than I’ve had in some time.

In the end, it all comes down to what you love. Does one night of watching the latest movie mean you will never finish a novel? No, of course not. But think of how much you could have gotten done during that two hours. So, evaluate your week, make a plan, set a goal and do whatever it takes to scrap together enough time to accomplish it.



Every Writer Needs A Vacation

As you are aware I did not blog last week. It was fiscal year end at work. My two daughters had birthdays and family and friends came into town to help celebrate. Also, my wife’s birthday is today. Needless to say it was a busy week. Through it all I barely wrote, and it was the best decision I could have ever made.

So, here are a few reasons why every writer needs a vacation.

Floating Lanterns Over Grand Rapids, MI

1. It’s refreshing – Writer’s write about life. But when it passes by at a thousand miles per hour they don’t have a chance to take it in and it becomes harder and harder to write. At some point the well of creativity dries up. Taking a step back can help revitalize your inner artist. You might even see something that restores child-like wonder.

2. Family is important – I write because I love it. But I love my family more. Spending time with my daughters on their birthdays was grand. We ate cake, opened presents, rode a carousel while my daughter June grinned ear to ear. It was magical and it was as if time stopped. I will never forget that.

3. It is healthy – As a writer, and husband, and father, and worker, and friend, and Christian, I have many roles that demand attention and require tons of energy if I want to do them well. I don’t want to be a Jack of all trades because that just means I’m average at everything. I want to be great. When I focus on one thing, like being a good father, I have more confidence to take a step back from being a parent to write. If I was a terrible husband or absent father it would be difficult, psychologically, to write. I bet I would be consumed by guilt which would certainly stifle my ability to write.

4. It helps you get perspective – Perhaps you are struggling with a concept. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a dead end and cannot see how to bridge a section of your novel with where you want it to go. There are many times when I am not focused on my novel when suddenly I am struck with an idea that will help me continue my work. It’s like the plotting part of my brain works best when I am not writing at all.

These are just a few reasons writers need a break. Have you taken a break from writing for a period? If so why? Did you find your inner artist refreshed?

Find some time to write today.



Are You A Writer or A Blogger?

Sit down for a moment writer. Pour your tea or coffee if you must, but let’s take some time to reflect.

Survey the last week. Think about the time you spent writing. Whether this has been a productive week for blogging or working on your book, or journaling, it does matter. But I challenge you place that time in three categories: Book, Blog, Personal.

Okay. Now, think about this question: What do you spend the most time on?

I find that a lot of times how we spend our time is who we are. But, in our mind we pretend we are something else. I know I do. If I take this survey of my writing time I see that I spend more time working on my blog and less time working on my novel. Albeit, the fun part of the novel is over. Now it is editing, writing proposal pieces, and gathering names for agencies and agents.

I write this blog post to recommit to my novel. To give it not thought, but time.  After all, what is a writer’s platform if he has nothing to share from it?

Write this weekend my friends.



Effective Writing: By Schedule or By Whim?

Don’t lose these!

I am a list maker. I live and die by them at home and at work. Sometimes I get sidetracked and provided that the lists do not get lost, they are essential to me to obtain measurable progress and complete tasks.

This translates to writing as well. I jot down ideas for blogs, stories, tangents, and the like to finish later. If I did not, I am sure the stoke of genius (or so I think!) would rush out of my mind just as fast as it invaded. So for me to be a successful writer at this stage of life I have to plan and be intentional. I have to fight for time to write. If I do not it gets crowded out.

This made me think (and perhaps you can do this along with me) about what makes me successful in my writing? Would it be allowing a jolt of inspiration to come tingling into my mind while I least suspected it and then feverishly scratching it on paper, the laptop or any device that spits out sentences? Or rationing out time every day at the same time to plod along, however dull and uninspiring that might seem.

So how about you? Are you better at waiting for the stroke of genius to come, then churning out fifty pages? Or are you better suited to write two pages a day, every day, until your novel is completed?  My suspicion is that when you evaluate the structure of your daily life, or lack there of, you will have your answer.



Why do YOU blog?

I have been a whining moaning writer. Time has been my Enemy. Outside, I have been calm and collected. Inside, I am frustrated, tired, and utterly spent. Which made me reflect, why am I even blogging? I could be working on my novel! I want to be a writer and it is hard to both build a platform and work on a novel.

However, the question much closer to the heart of all of this is: When you strip all of the craziness of life away, if you could stop for a moment and evaluate what is important, what is worth the precious currency of time we all carry in the pocket of our days?

I am a writer I tell myself, that is why I am writing. I am building my platform. But, I am married and have young children. Cindy and I have been married for seven years and I wish that to continue for the rest of my life. Clara is eight months, soon to be nine months, and June is capable of conversation. Do I want to be one of those distant husband or father figures so virtuously engrossed in my own little writers’ world that I put my dreams above them?

True, the answer is obvious. My kids and wife mean more to me than my job and my writing and even my life. But, I still want to write. There’s just too little time for it in this season of life.

When I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death and some of the things he used to do, like write for hours at a time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., it made me wonder what his life was like. He had children. He was married. With all of the other obstacles that come up in life he still found that minute morsel of time for his dream.

Every person’s life has seasons. Perhaps this is my writer’s Winter. I cannot wait for the writer’s Spring!

Find some time this weekend to write my friends. I shall try and do the same.



Submission Process Step One: Know the Market

There is no correct way to compose a novel. Of course there are grammar rules and sentence structure that we must adhere to as novelists, but there is not a sure-fire way to write one. It’s like telling someone that chocolate ice cream is the correct flavor of ice cream.

That is one of the things I love about writing. It’s a process of discovery and imagination, which, when combined, create a very interesting, albeit sometimes frustrating, quest.

This blog is not about “how to submit a novel”, but rather steps that I (and other marketers and novelists I know) deem important in the submission process. However, please take this for what it is, a suggestion, and if you have had success in the submission process, please share your ideas.

Submission Process Step One: Know the Market & Seek Your Competition

I am writing fantasy. I hate that term but it is what it is. When you think of fantasy immediatly the books of JRR Tolkien, J K Rowling, and perhaps even C. S. Lewis come to mind. If I am writing fantasy, you might wonder, why not compare yourself to one of the greats?

Simple. Everyone who is writing fantasy says they are like them, and in actuality, no one can be them. And all of this besides as a new unpublished author how could I presumptuously believe that my unknown work belongs on the same bookshelf or even at the same address as those Tomes?

Thus, I have started a search for books that are like mine and are not as well known. One of them I discovered, is Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt.

Why did I choose this novel? Glad you asked.

The book begins with an isolated island and a time of innocence. This is like my beginning. Also, there is a scandal and power struggle within the society as well as an unknown outside force of immense power which descends upon my character’s beloved city. There are tremendous amounts of similarities, I could go on for quite some time but, the main reason I want to know my competition is because I wish to exploit them. (Devious laugh)

Alright, if you know me I am not the devious and exploiting sort, however, I am want to get to know this book for several reasons.

I want to know who published it. I want to know the agent behind it. I want to know the synopsis, and I want to know the target audience. This information is important when trying to find that oh-so-precious-niche where my novel might belong.

Since I have discovered one of the books I can complete with (or deliriously believe that I can) I will begin researching its publication process. All of this information is located on the book for the most part, and once that is finished, I merely need to put together a proposal and send off my dreams to be assuredly rejected.

However, this is just the beginning. At some point I might very well elbow my way through the clouds. 

Here’s to my, and your, dreams novel writer.



How Often Should You Write?

Happy Tuesday. I am proud to announce that the internet quandary has been resolved and I have the ability to post once again, look out!

Since my hiatus from the blogging and writing world over the last few weeks a question came to mind. How can I call myself a writer if I am not writing? Which brought to mind another question. How often should a writer write and still be allowed maintain that glorious namesake of “Writer” with a capital W?

I wrote a post a while back about warring between time spent on my platform (here) and time spent on my novel. What happens when you are too busy to do either?

I know I am the king of “If you can’t find time to write why not cut out some sleep and just catch up on that later.” Well, Bob, I can’t cut out sleep because I can’t count on the fact that there will be sleep in my future! (Take that haughty Bob).

Some of my “Greats”

Which brings me to my question for today’s blog. How often should writer’s write? When you consider the Greats, (whatever authors work resides on your bookshelf, I presume) how often did they write? In my mind I consider them super heroes, writing from dawn until dusk and even all night for months or years at a time.

However, how unbelievable it might seem, I am certain there were times when they did not write too. Times when they had to focus their efforts on their clerk duties or when there were papers to be graded.

How long does it take until you get that twinge of guilt and shameful thought of, well, I should probably get back to writing? I am there and will certainly remedy it this week. If you are here I hope you do too.



Living The Writing Life

Earlier this year I read Annie Dillards book The Writing Life. I have to say I both liked it and didn’t like it as it described the grand thrill and depressive solitude of those who cannot help but write. I am not sure how often I will revisit it because it was confusing at times as the writing life often is but, it talked a lot about being alone.

The Writing life is an honest book. It is also a depressing book. It is true that no one can produce a work for a writer and it can indeed be a lonely road. However, as I dig into this life more and more I begin to understand that writing cannot simply be done while sitting in a cabin in the woods on some lonely Isle. The writer retells life and in order to say something about living to those who live the writer must live. Though, I understand it is difficult for the writer to come out of their shell even when surrounded by people.

The Artist’s Way

A few years ago one of my friends introduced me to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I would define it as an artists guide to help unfold the creative process. The workbook contains various exercises that refill your creative well. For those who have not read it and practices the exercises It may sound silly, like some secondhand self help book but, they work, and they work really really well. I would recommend it to any one who has a desire to paint, sculpt, write, or do something otherwise creative.

However, this book also is about being alone. What I find troubling is that we want to remain relevant as writers. We want to speak out and say something to the wide world, but we do it from the desks, studies, and coffee shops with ear buds in.

So, how do we do this writers? How does the writer maintain a balance of life and solitude so they don’t slip to the brink of loneliness or neglect their craft?



The Writing Life: You Never Know What You Might Have

Since I challenged myself to write 500 words three weeks ago, I did not miss writing an entry on a single weekday. Until, alas, last Thursday morning.

I was in my daughter June’s room and we had just finished playing with some of her toy animals. I usually slap  together a blog in the wee hours each morning before departing for work. For what was the first time in a long time I wrote the entry the previous evening and brought the laptop into June’s room to do a bit of light editing before I rushed out the door. What I discovered after the night of usual broken sleep was horrifying.

It was terrible. I have no idea what creature got a hold of my laptop that night while I was sleeping (perhaps it was my cat Bandit) but they destroyed the perfect gem of a blog I composed the previous evening. I remembered nostalgically, as I sipped on my peppermint tea, that it was a brilliant work, a post worth showing the world. Then, as I looked at the sad sad piece, I saw nothing of worth and nearly deleted the entry altogether.

A Happy, But Tired, Morning

My wife Cindy helps with my editing and, because I desperately need it, I shoved the computer in her direction to get her thoughts. She scanned the page with her blue eyes then looked at me with an apologetic smile.

“What do you think?” I asked knowing the answer.

“Well”, she said twisting her mouth in dissatisfaction, “It’s bland.”

I nodded, closed the computer, and went to work.

Now, someone once told me that the first three days of the work week tend to be high traffic times for blogs. If there is anything trendy or worthwhile to post, post it then so as to get the highest hits possible. This was my reason for not posting that day. I thought, hey, what’s the point? Thursday doesn’t matter. I’ll post tomorrow.

Then, in a flash, it was Friday morning and I had written nothing. I had the draft of that blog from the previous day, and no time to write something new. So, I spiced it up a bit, put in a few anecdotes, and clicked the publish button. I think it was still loading when I raced out the door.

By the end of the day, it was my second highest traffic day for my blog, ever. So the reason I put this post on a Monday morning is to encourage you, writer, to put yourself out there this week.

If you have a novel on the shelf, dust that baby off and start sending it to agents! If you have an idea for a blog, or an article, get started on it. If you have an opportunity to do something great don’t sleep in and don’t let it go to waste. For, you may never know what you might have. It might be nothing. Or, perhaps, it might be something unexpected. Something that in return receives, not that canned rejection letter, but one that says, “We are thrilled to inform you that…”

Come on. Let this be a good week for you, writer. Get devoted to your craft.