Archive for the 'Shrinking Violets' Category

Pre-Writing: Discovering Your Character’s Secrets

Alice Popkorn, Flickr Creative Commons

I know a lot of you out there are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, and while you’re not allowed to begin your story until November 1, you are allowed to do pre-writing on your project, and frankly, I think pre-writing is highly undervalued, so I thought I’d talk about it this month.

The reason I’m a big believer in pre-writing is because until I have a glimmer of understanding of my character’s emotional landscape and internal settings, [...]

The Surprising Importance of Doing Nothing

Photo by Alice Popkorn (Flickr)

Pop quiz! Studies have shown that creative people are known to:

A) Daydream. A lot.
B) They lose track of time.
C) Have wandering minds.
D) Stare at the wall. A lot.
E) All of the above

If you picked E, you are correct! Successful creatives spend much of their time so deeply immersed in their own internal worlds that, in the eyes of the world, it often appears that they’re doing nothing.

But of course, we know how very untrue that [...]

The Unbearable Lightness of Waiting

Photo by Alice Popkorn (Flickr)

While waiting is not unique to publishing, Lord knows there are thousands of opportunities for waiting in this industry. Hurry up and wait is practically our motto. Waiting on agents, waiting on editors, waiting on editorial letters, waiting on illustrators and reviews and advance checks and royalty statements.

Waiting on that first initial yes.

But it turns out, publishing’s got nothing on hospitals. In the last few days, I’ve had occasion to spend far more time in [...]

The Crushing Weight of Expectations

Rock Slide by ActiveSteve (Flickr)

It is a truth rarely acknowledged that the act of writing often comes with an entire catalog of weighted expectations attached to it. For published writers, it is SO easy for our self worth to become wrapped up in our commercial performance; it is almost inevitable that the weight of those hopes and expectations will leak out into our work. Maybe this book will bring us the coveted significant advance, or maybe this is the [...]

Writing As Therapy

Drops in Drops by Steve Wall

Over the years, I have heard people talk about writing being excellent therapy. Not writing in personal journals mind you, but writing fiction.

I will admit it–I laughed. Long and resoundingly. How self indulgent, I thought, to presume one’s inner struggles would be remotely interesting to anyone else. How narcissistic, to have yourself in the starring role of every piece of your fiction.

But dear reader, after sixteen books and over 17,000 logged hours of writing [...]

Surviving Nearly There

photo by wonderingnome

One of the hardest stages of your writing journey—one that will take the most dedication, commitment, and self exploration—is the ‘nearly there’ stage. This is the stage where your critique partners love your work, you’re getting personalized rejections from agents or editors and highly complimentary reports from your beta readers, and yet . . . no sale or offer has materialized.

Remember those old cartoons, the ones where the character is in the desert, hot sun beating down [...]

Dear Soon To Be Published Author,

photo by Evan Leeson

Yes, I’m talking to you. The one over there, not meeting my eyes for fear I’ll see the self doubt and despair that have begun to edge out your sense of purpose and  confidence.

And you, there in the corner, looking everywhere but at me, afraid to believe that your time is almost here. It is. You’ve been working hard, for long years, carving out time, pouring your heart and soul into your work, perfecting your craft, [...]


photo by rodolpho.reis (Flickr)


“To create, one cannot be constantly other focused.”       Gail Sheehy


The pressing demands of daily life have a rather sobering ability to suck all of the creative oxygen out of a room. They don’t even have to be big, catastrophic type demands. Sometimes simply the endless dripping of life’s mundanities can wear away our reserves until there is nothing left. There are just so very many ways to be pulled in the direction of others–in spite [...]

Some Economic Straight Talk: The Economics of Frugality, Abundance, and Creativity

photo by PT Money

When I was growing up, in addition to avoiding the traditionally forbidden topics of sex, politics, and religion, my family added money to that list. I suspect my family was not alone in this.

The thing is, it’s nearly impossible to make solid, informed decisions about our careers when so much of the financial realities are clouded in uncertainty or hyperbole. There has been a lot written recently discussing the earning potential of self published authors, but [...]

The Gift of Wounds

photo by alice popkorn

None of us makes it through life without some kind of pain and loss and heartache. We are all of us, broken or wounded in some way. Some of these wounds arise from tragic circumstances: the loss of a loved when far before their time, abuse, neglect, betrayal.

But sometimes brokenness happens simply in the way any much used item becomes broken: a handle falls off after too many years of lifting too heavy a load, we [...]

Things Left Unspoken

Photo: Chris Halderman

Once upon a time in a galaxy far away a dead end job three lifetimes ago  my boss had a motivational speaker come in. The man said two things that day that have proved more beneficial than the entire five years I spent in that job.

The first was that Algebra equals Life in that we are always trying to balance the equation and solve for the unknown. But for those of you who have mathphobias, don’t worry, [...]

Frog Marching the Muse: Eighteen Tips to Get Words on the Page

photo: Thomas Hawk (Flickr)

Two days ago, I turned in a manuscript that I truly feared I would never finish. That has never happened to me before, and to have it happen when the final installment in a trilogy was DUE NOW, was as potentially disastrous as it was unacceptable.

Keep in mind that I am one of those people who does not subscribe to the belief that you must write every day; for me, forced writing does not always equal [...]