Friday, January 29, 2016

Big Dreams Blogfest Update Day 2016 #2

As you know by now, the Big Dreams Blogfest is hosted by Misha Gericke and myself. Each moth on the last Friday, we meet to discuss progress (or the lack thereof) and goals.

My goals for last month were to get through one round of revisions on thesis novel, add 2 scenes, submit 4 stories to Woman's World and get my blog traffic up to 100 hits/day.

After  a week long residency out of state, breaking my tailbone and my glasses, and starting a new job, I didn't quite meet my goals. I only managed to get 1 scene added to my novel and it wasn't a scene I was intending when I made the post, so those still need to be added. I got through edits on the first five chapters of the novel, but not through an entire round. My blog traffic is fluctuation lots of days I'm close to 100. Some days I'm close to 200. But some days are really low, and I'd like to change that. I submitted only one story to Woman's World.

Goals for February

  1. Finish a round of edits on thesis novel
  2. Add needed scenes to thesis novel
  3. Sub 2 stories to Woman's World
  4. Get 100 blog hits/day.
Did you meet your goals for January? What are your goals for February?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

15 Magic Minutes DIY MFA #5

You are looking at my craft book from last semester's term writing contract. (I'll post about term writing contracts with a DIY project next week).
My goal for last semester was to build a writing routine, and Around the Writer's Block is about that.

The most helpful thing in the book is the concept of "15 Magic Minutes." You don't even need a genie. All you have to do is write. For 15 minutes.
"But Beth, I sit down, stare, at my computer and the 15 minutes is gone before I get a word out."
That's fine. You showed up. That's all that matters. (As long as you weren't on facebook during those 15 minutes).
The idea is that we all say we don't have time to write, and between school, family and day jobs, many of us REALLY DO NOT have time to write.
But we kill 15 minutes on Facebook, easily. So if you quit looking for an hour to write, you can make time to write. And if you ignore everything else during those 15 magic minutes, you'll be surprised at what you can produce. With fifteen minutes of uninterrupted writing time I can often produce a page. That's 250 words. But if I find 15 minutes four times that's 1k!
And you're building a positive habit. The more positive experiences you build with your writing the less likely you are to have writer's block, because your brain is less likely to be programmed for resistance. (That last statement is simplified, but the brain science behind it is explained in the book).

FYI: I wrote this blog post on a 15 minute break at work. That means I had a timer set because I had to be done in 15 minutes.

Where in your day can you find 15 magic minutes?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Woman's World #2: The Happily Ever After Kind

I announced last week that as writing for Woman's World magazine is one of my goals this year, I'll be breaking down their short fiction on my blog. Someone asked a great question in the comments: Can you submit to Woman's World from outside of the U.S? And how do you submit to Woman's World?

You can submit from abroad, but it may get expensive. You need to mail the completed manuscript (800 words max) with a SASE. This is old school, but that's because, they will mail you a response. If your story is selected that response will include a contract and to the best of my understanding a check for $800. So this could be a good investment. And here is the address: Fiction Editor, Woman's World, 270 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. Indicate Romance on the envelope.

The Happily Ever After Kind
B: This is loaded with back story. It does not fit the pattern I've found at all. Jack, the MC, goes through an account of how he came to be babysitting his sister's kids and why they are at story time.
M: (By the time we get there we're half way through the story). The librarian for story time is seriously hot, and of course good with kids.
E: His niece wants pizza after story time and Jack invites the librarian along. This happens in four sentences. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Finding Motivation by Kristine Carlson Asselin

The holidays are busy. I’m helping my children with homework. The day job is crazy. I don’t like oranges.
A couple of weeks ago, Beth invited me to write a guest blog post…and it’s taking me way too long to actually get this post to her. I can find a million excuses to procrastinate the writing. In fact, I should be working on my revision right now, but I decided to write this blog post instead.
We all have a host of things calling us. Coaxing us in a new direction, away from the straight and narrow. Off the path. And while it can be exhilarating to take a detour, more often than not, it’s an easy excuse to avoid doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
I’ve got a revision for my agent to work on. Later this spring, my co-author and I have a book to write for a deadline this summer. Miraculously, I’ve got three school visits and a conference faculty presentation to prep. And yet, despite this litany of writing projects, I can easily spend an hour staring at Facebook because I simply must be up to date on the recent goings on with my many, close personal friends—most of whom I only see online.
 I’m supposed to be giving expert advice, not whining about my current lack of motivation. Some crumb of wisdom to share with the masses. Something that expresses to you all that it is possible to get through the slump. But I find myself staring at the screen in a completely dumbfounded expression. I just don’t know the answer!
The bottom line is that I wish I was faster. I wish I was more focused. I wish I could whip out a first draft of 50K words in a month and then revise equally fast. But I don’t. I take six months or a year to write a draft. And revision is sometimes painfully slow.
But the truth is, when I think about it, I have written this blog post. And I did jot a few notes on my scene inventory earlier. And I spent some time today doing some Girl Scout paperwork that needed to get done. And my daughter is fed and happy.
So things are getting done. Yes. Things are getting done. So maybe I’ll just go and pour myself a congratulatory glass of wine. It’s not as bad as I thought.
How do you find your motivation?

Kristine Carlson Asselin is the author of more than fifteen nonfiction books for children. Her YA novel, ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT (Bloomsbury) is now available and her debut middle grade novel, ART OF THE SWAP (co-authored w/ Jen Malone, Simon & Schuster), will be out in Fall 2017. She has a BS from Fitchburg State University and an MA from the University of Connecticut. She lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Boston. You can find me on twitter @KristineAsselin and @QueryGodMother where she tweets query support and tips.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mom's Online Dating Adventure: Writing for Woman's World #1

So as many of you know, before I finally got published I spent months breaking novels down into plot points on my blog. I learned so much from the experience my next manuscript was strong enough to sell Harlequin Escape, and I started teaching an online workshop on using plot structure to write queries!

One of my goals this year is to be published in Woman's World  magazine, so I'm breaking down woman's world fiction into the 3 act structure. For those of you who have taken my class on 3 act structure or remember the posts, these stories are only 800 words. The structure won't be as tight and rather than trying to hit plot points, I'll be using only BME (Beginning, Middle, End), although I will point out other things I noticed about the story. If you're interested in writing for Woman's World here is another great blog to check out.

This week's story is Mom's Online Dating Adventure.

B: Daughter calls her mom and mom reminds her that she suggested trying online dating. There is a little back and forth between mother and daughter until mom admits she didn't think she had computer skills to set up an online dating profile but "Uncle Dan," offered to help. The daughter says they no longer have to refer to him as uncle. This section takes up about a 1/6 of the story(or about 133 words). I've broken down two off the blog and that seems to be normal. I found a good use of foreshadowing there because as soon as the daughter said "we no longer have to call him uncle" my mind went to Dan as a possible hero.
M: We learn that Dan is a dentist, so he wouldn't have specific computer expertise. (More foreshadowing). But a couple of people in his office have used online dating, so he's familiar with it. Mom talks about him coming over to set up her profiles, and says she asked him to stay and help sort through the options. There are no good options online. She considers looking outside of her county but Dan says there is another option. She could date him. This takes about 3/6 of the story. Again normal.
E: Mom says she accepted Dan's offer and mother and daughter express joy and amazement over her dating Dan. (1/6 of story).

I thought the author made good use of foreshadowing and while I expected Dan to be the hero for a second or two I wondered, so she did a good job with tension to. Something I sometimes find these stories lacking in.
Did you read this story? Do you read Woman's World? Have you ever written for Woman's World? And what advice do you have if so?

Monday, January 11, 2016

DIY MFA #4 Misha Gericke on Dealing With Insecurities

Thanks for having me over, Beth!

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer off and on for about two days now, trying to find something to say. And then I realized that maybe this is exactly what I want to talk about.

See, for about a month now, I’ve been resting, but mainly because I keep struggling with the sense that what I’m writing just isn’t going to be good enough. It’s aggravating, because I usually work past this. But for some reason, the moment I let myself rest, my self-doubt caught up with me.

So hi. My name is Misha, and I’m battling to believe in my writing.

That was easier than I thought. Maybe it’s the fact that I know that a lot of people out there have the same problem. No matter what we do, those little nagging voices of self-doubt and insecurities just won’t stay put.

What do I do to keep writing?

First, I admit that my insecurities caught up with me. (Because if I don’t, I’ll just keep saying I’m tired and keep right on procrastinating.)

Second, I then prove those little voices wrong by opening my notebook/scrivener/word doc and writing anyway. Just like I am right now. And…. Right now. And… Oh you get the point.

Third, I accept (and in fact encourage myself) to write absolute nonsense. This one might seem a little counter-intuitive, but sometimes, that liberating sense that I could call something like “I wish I was a goldfish. (Hey, it’s really hot here at the moment.)” writing is really liberating. And with that freedom comes inspiration. See, inspiration tends to come when we have open minds, and that means not shooting down every single word that comes to us without writing it first.

And there you have it. 15 minutes ago, writing this 300 word post (more or less) felt impossible. But as soon as my three steps kicked in, I got going.

What do you do to keep your insecurities at bay?


Misha lives (and is currently dying of the heat) in the Western Cape, South Africa. If you manage to find her outside the pool, she might be mildly upset because you interrupted her writing.

If you’d like to read more about her writing activities, or to just get in touch, you can follow her blog (, tweet her (@MishaMFB), circle her on google plus (+MishaGericke) or even read some of her stuff on Wattpad (MishaMFB).

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pride & Prejudice DIY MFA Review#1

"In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy — two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudices dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.
A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative."

This is a classic required for my MFA program, and I'm a writer. You're expecting me to say I loved it. I can't. I won't.  Ironically, I read this in 2010 and apparently didn't review it--probably because I was embarrassed to admit that I didn't like it--but I did rate it. I gave it the same 3 stars then that I will give it today. 
Last week, when I started reading it, I found it an easier read than when I read it in 2010. I thought for this reason the extra years of writing and reviewing would make me view it more favorably, but I still think it was just okay.
You see in the synopsis that Elizabeth and Darcy are at the center of this story about five daughters needing to be married off. Lots of the story follows Elizabeth's older sister Jane and her suitor, who for at least half the book have more chemistry than Elizabeth and Darcy. The subtext shows attraction on Darcy's side but Elizabeth's oblivious to it and hates him. Some of these encounters were humorous, so I can overlook that. Two things made this a hard book for me to like. The first is the massive amount of author intrusion. She literally tells the reader what to think, which is telling not showing. But more than that it's invasive. The author voice is distinct from Elizabeth's voice and jolting. In fairness, this was a common technique at this time. And I haven't seen a book yet I liked it in. But I also found this book to suffer from a sagging middle. This time I read this on a Kindle. I was bored until about 50%. From 50%-58% it was absolutely captivating, a page turner. Then it got dull again until about 94% where it kept my attention until the end. Except that the last chapter was entirely authorial intrusion. 
But it's a classic. It's "stood the test of time," and part of me can't help but wonder if that is because people keep assigning, thus other people have to keep reading it. Still, since it is a class and so many people do seem to enjoy it, I feel compelled to link to a five star review

Monday, January 4, 2016

Realization: Writing to Submission Calls

I've posted a lot about my hybrid career. And I've stated publicly more than once that my very short PG-13 self published novellas paid for the marketing I did on A Missing Peace, have earned out, and continue to ear (all be it less than $5/month now that they are two years old). But I've often struggled with this as A Missing Peace is high concept, gritty, and YA, an easier sell than #cleanromance.

But I've come to understand something. The Fate of A Marlwoe Girl  (the first--a FREE book-- in The Marlowe Girls series was written for an anthology). The Other Marlowe Girl has paid for a lot of writing ventures. This weekend I realized there are two reasons why. 1)It's the second in a series where the first book did marginally well. Decree of Hope  which in my opinion is one of the best books I've ever written and because it was written later--with more experience and further education--is probably the strongest of my published works. But it doesn't earn the way TOMG does. And now I know why. First of all, there is no free book in that series. An imprint owns the first book, so I can't make it free. But secondly the first in the other series was written for a submissions call.

What does that mean? It tells me what I already knew. I'm not great at marketing, or even predicting the market. Publishers are. That's how they've managed to stay in business over the past five or six years with talent going indie. They know what the market is looking for. What's the writing tip here? Look at calls for submissions in your genre. Is someone looking for something specific? Chances are it's because they think it will sell. A submission call is usually just a general idea. A concept. Use it as jumping off place, a springboard. Make it your own, and do with it what you will. Once I finish my thesis, I'm going to be looking at submission calls for several subgenres of romance I think I might be interested in and I'll start planning a trilogy around what appeals to me most.

Have you ever written to a submission call? What has your experience been?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Big Dreams Blogfest 2016 #1

The Big Dreams Blogfest is hosted by myself and Misha Gericke.

This  blogfest is as much about accountability as it is dreaming. In one way, it gives us a place to set goals each month and in another it's a place to talk about the steps we took--or didn't take--to get there.

When Misha and I started this blogfest in 2013,  I had two goals. 1)Make a million dollars writing in a twelvemonth period 2)Write a million words.
I've all but given up on one goal. At this point in time, I find it unreasonable to think I will ever make a million dollars writing, but I'd be happy just making a living writing now. I still recognize the need to write a million words. (This is the point at which an author is said to become an expert, and being an expert would likely make profitability easier).

My goals for 2016:
Increase my count to a million by two hundred thousand words.
Get romantic fiction published in woman's world ($800/short would help with next goal)
Make $1,500/month writing at least one month this year.
Get my thesis novel through the first pass
Complete 20 graduate hours
Find a new job (I quit the day job due to migraines).
Get off Coke-Cola
Find a better writing/life balance. (I either don't write at all or abandon other parts of life).
Make $500/month writing at least one month before June

Now what I've accomplished this year:

  1. Not as much as I would have liked
  2. I wrote a draft of my thesis novel! (57,834 words)
  3. 10 grad hours
  4. Romantic short to submit to woman's world (969 words cut to 800).
  5. wrote a picture book 5,000 words
Goals for this month:

  1. Get blog traffic back to 100 hits/day (I was getting 200 before going back to work)
  2. Add 2 scenes to thesis novel
  3. Get through 1 round of revisions on thesis novel
  4. Write four shorts for submission to Woman's World
  5. Find 3 other mags to submit to regularly 
Steps I'm Taking to Get There
  1. I've introduced a DIY MFA series in which I give away tips I'm learning at $7100/semester. Traffic has already gone up since introducing the series last week. I'm also opening to guest posts again, provided the author give some useful hints on craft in the post.
  2. I've thought out the scenes to be added and will be adding them Sunday/Monday morning.
  3. As I'm currently unemployed I'm writing in the morning before doing anything else. This ensures I get writing time, but may have to change when I find a job.
  4. Saturday morning is my "Market Place day." The writing I do on Saturday morning is for a short I can quickly submit.
  5. I do not have a good way to find 3 other mags to submit to. I have found a couple of resources but need free resources!
I will be hopping around a little bit later. Must do some cleaning first. Do you know of free resources to find mag/online writing opportunities? What did you accomplish in 2015? What are your goals for 2016? What steps are you taking to get there?