Write a description in one sentence and win a free Content Edit of your novel’s first chapter

Describe a guy standing on a thin layer of snow in his bare feet, shivering, bouncing on the balls of his feet as if the snow were hot coals, before he runs back inside his house.  Need one short, upbeat sentence that shows, not tells…..

By participating in this contest, you agree to let me use your sentence in my novel if you are chosen as the winner.

I’ll continue to take suggestions through May 27 and will announce the winner on May 28.  Thanks to all of the participants and good luck!

April’s Absolute Write Blog Chain

This post is part of the April Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s challenge is to describe one of your characters in 50 words or less and then have that character interview you.   Mine is below and I have to say this was really fun!

Part 1.

David Heiland is anything but your average high school student: State track and archery champion, honor roll student, and oh, yeah, heir to a multi-million dollar fortune.  He never dreamed he’d soon add protecting a magical, parallel world on the brink of annihilation to his list of achievements.  When a traveler snatches David and his best friend, Charlotte, and ferries them to Fallhollow, David discovers far more unsettling truths: his arrival has awakened a vengeful dragon, a magic man is out to kill him, and his entire fifteen years of life has been nothing but a gargantuan lie.  

Part 2.

Today didn’t start out great at all.  I burned my thumb on the frying pan, the dog puked all over the living room rug, the cat fell in the fish tank and I spilled coffee all over my blouse. 

I kicked my shoes into the corner as soon as I entered my office and opened the blinds, but the warm sunlight on the butter-colored walls did little to fix my mood.  I sat down behind my desk, my fingers pressed to my temples, confident the day couldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.

I had just opened my e-mails when this teenager pushed through the door and walked into my office.  No knock, no nothing.  He just strutted in like he owned the place.  Normally, this would have irritated the hell out of me, but in this case, I didn’t mind.  This kid was gorgeous.  Tall.  Short, dark hair, intense blue eyes and was dressed like a million bucks.      

“Ms. Ford?” he says to me in this smooth, honey-sweet Tennessee drawl that made my insides all gooey.

“Don’t you know how to knock?”  I had to sound like I was in control.  In all actuality, I was wishing I was thirty-five years younger. 

“I need to speak with you,” he said.

“And you are?”

He sat down across from me his elbows on his knees and twisted his Rolex on his wrist so the hands faced just so.  “You don’t recognize me?”

I shook my head.  “Should I?”

His eyes drifted to my coffee stain and then he looked away as if embarrassed by my slovenliness.  I hugged my legal pad.

“You wrote a book about me.  Word is, you’re writing another.  I want to know why?”

“I write books and stories about a lot of people.  That doesn’t tell me who you are.”

“I’m David.  David Heiland?”  His tone carried that “duh” factor. 

I gagged on my own spit.  “What?”  I said.  “I-I don’t understand.  What are you doing in Florida?  You’re supposed to be in Havendale, Tennessee.”

“I had to come see you. I had to find out why you’re doing this to me.”

I leaned forward, confused.  “Doing what to you?”

“Messing up my life.  Why did you wait until I was almost sixteen to tell me my parents were alive, and what is it with this paladin crap?  And Eric?”  He looked away, searching for words.  He finally found them.  “I don’t know what you’re doing, but if Eric takes Charlotte away from me . . .”

I gave him a wry smile.  “Um, how can he take something away from you that’s not yours?”   

“She is mine.  You know how much I love her.  Now, thanks to you, the whole world knows, too.”

“Why don’t you tell her how you feel?”

He looked at the floor and tumbled his thumbs one over the other.  “I don’t know.  Scared, I guess.”

“Admitting your feelings is a scary thing to do.  It took me a long time to learn that lesson.  Sometimes you just have to go for it.”

“Yeah, well I won’t have a chance if you keep Eric hanging around.”

I nodded and smiled.  “I think I understand what’s going on here.  Do you mind if I give you a bit of advice?”  He sat back and gestured for me to continue.  “I think you’re allowing your fear to overshadow your faith.  I learned long ago fear and faith cannot exist together.  You’re doubting what you have to offer.  Trust me when I say you either have to believe in you, believe in what you are, or let your fear take over.  Only you can choose which one will be your ally.”

“Fine, but why did you have to tell the world about it?  Don’t you have any respect for privacy?”

“I’m a writer, David.  You have a unique story.  It needs to be told.”

He chuckled, but there was no humor in it.  “Yeah?  What’s so unique about it?”

“Don’t you see, David?  You’re different.  Most people we read about don’t have the finer things in life.  They are always striving for something more.  They want the dream.  They want to amount to something or gain acceptance or wealth or love.  You, on the other hand, already have it.  Look at you.  You’re good-looking.  You’re an honor student.  You’re a champion athlete.  You’re rich, you have a beautiful home.  You’re surrounded by love, and yet, in spite of all those things, you long for something the rest of us have and yet take for granted:  parents.  I know what that feels like.  Both of my parents are dead and I know how much I miss them.  I couldn’t see you suffer anymore.  It was time you knew the truth and give you what you want.  You’ve missed almost sixteen years with them.  I couldn’t have you miss more time.”

“You couldn’t just have them come home?  Why did you have to put me in danger?”

“What kind of story would that be?”  I set the legal pad on the desk.  “Surely you don’t think I was just going to hand this one over to you.  I mean, sometimes you do have to work for what you want.”

“But you opened a portal to a parallel world and threw me in it without any warning.  Now there’s a dragon and a warlock trying to kill me!  I didn’t ask for this!”

I stood up and walked around my desk and sat on the corner.  “No one asks for the bad or the unexpected to happen, David, but it’s life.  How we deal with those events is what shapes us, defines us, makes us who we are.”

“But what about Charlotte?  Why did you thrust her into the mess with me?  She doesn’t deserve this.”

“No, but she is your friend and friends stick together through the good times and the bad times. She’ll also come away from this with some valuable lessons.  What the two of you must decide is whether you will be victims or victors.  No one else can make that choice for you.” 

“Which one do you choose when things go wrong?”

“After I have my pity party?”  I smiled.  “I always fall back on faith, so I guess that makes me a victor.  Whatever will be, will be in the end.  You just have to believe and never lose hope.” 

“So how does it end for me?  For Charlotte?”

I shrugged.  “Exactly the way you want it to,  I suppose.”

He nodded and stood.  Damn, he was tall, and I have to admit, my heart fluttered.  The kid was a lady killer.  If only I was only 16 again. 


He held out his hand.  I shook it.  “Thanks, for talking to me,” he said.  “I have a lot to think about.”  He walked to the door, paused and looked over his shoulder.  “Can I just ask you to do me a favor?  Make sure Charlotte gets home safely.  That’s all I really care about.”

“It’s your story, sweetie.  I’m only writing it.”

He nodded, gave me that ‘see ya’ wave, and closed the door behind him. 

 Be sure to check out the other entries!

orion_mk3 – link to this month’s post

Yoghurtelf – link to this month’s post

COchick – link to this month’s post
Steam&Ink – link to this month’s post

xcomplex – link to this month’s post

pezie – link to this month’s post

aimeelaine – link to this month’s post

auburnassassin – link to this month’s post

Della Odell – link to this month’s post
Juniper – link to this month’s post

Proach – link to this month’s post

allmyposts – link to this month’s post

jkellerford – link to this month’s post

LadyMage – http://katherinegilraine.com coming soon
dolores haze – http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/ coming soon

Win an Autographed Copy of “In Memory of a Saint: Lessons from My Mother I Didn’t Pay Attention to Until She Died”!

Good morning everyone!  I have a great Mother’s Day contest going on and it’s one all of you can participate in!

 Sandra Elaine Scott, motivational speaker, corporate trainer, and certified Dream Coach, has written a wonderful memoir about her mother entitled “In Memory of a Saint:  Lessons from My Mother I Didn’t Pay Attention to Until She Died”.  The book is filled with true stories that deal with the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship from a myriad of perspectives.  Each story is a self-contained little lesson sent to help the reader deal with her own mother/daughter issues in a unique, caring way.  These stories convey basic tenets of life that will be easy to remember and easy to apply.

 As Mother’s Day is around the corner, it is only fitting to have a contest revolving around the day of tribute.  Sandra has agreed to give away an autographed copy of her memoir to the person who has the best memory of his/her mother.  In keeping with the theme of the book, the memory must contain some sort of lesson you learned from good old Mom.

As with all contests, there are guidelines and rules to follow:

  1. Subscribe to this blog.
  2. Blog about this contest and include a link with your entry.  If you don’t have a blog, you may tweet or make a facebook status, but I’d prefer a blog.
  3. In 250 words or less, write the best memory you have of your mom.  Remember, it has to be a memory that contains some sort of lesson you learned, no matter how big or small.
  4. The contest will end on Sunday, May 1, 2011. 
  5. Sandra will judge all entries and I will announce the winner of the book giveaway on May 3, 2011. 
  6. The autographed book will be mailed May 4, 2011 with a hopeful arrival date by May 7, 2011, just in time for Mother’s Day! 
  7. Due to the time constraints in mailing to reach the winner by May 8, 2011, this contest is only open to US residents.

 The contest is open as of right now!  Have fun!  I’m looking forward to reading all the stories!

 I am planning on doing some more book giveaways in the months to come, so stay tuned!!!

Help! There are teenage aliens living in my home and they’re speaking a foreign language!

I gotta tell you folks:  I don’t know my kids anymore.  I look at them sometimes and wonder where my sweet, precious little children went.  I mean, I really sit back sometimes and say “Who the heck are you?”  Sometimes I feel they’ve been assimilated by a bizarre alien species that has taken over my home.  I can’t understand the language, and my force field shields are down from the constant bombardment of irrational mood swings. Good heavens!  Captain Kirk didn’t have it this bad with the Romulans or Klingons. 

But you know what?  Those ‘aliens’ see us the same way.   Muwhahahaha!  Good.  😉  Once I realized this little fact, I understood that in order to win this emotional war (and it is war, folks), I had to learn the lingo.  See, these not so little creatures who slam our doors, walk around half-dressed and think the world revolves around them, well, they understand us much better than we understand them.  That’s why they make our lives as parents as challenging as possible.  They’ve had lots of practice infiltrating the adult camp.  Now it’s time for us to do the same.  (I hear diabolical laughter).  Remember, this is war in its most inconspicuous form.  The first way to counter their attacks is to learn their code, their language, both written and spoken and I’m here to pass on some of those secret words and phrases.  Keep them close by so you best know how to counter their attacks.  (for those of you outside the US, some of these may seem a little ridonkulus (yes, it means ridiculous).  Oh.  *talking in whispers*  I must warn you, some of this is ugly stuff, and if they found out we knew – they’d change the code, so tread carefully and keep your eyes and ears open.

XD:  denotes laughter.  Rawr:  I love you.  That’s so Scene:  That’s awesome.  Sex Kitten:  Best friend (not sexual).  Rolling:  to use the drug Ecstasy.QT:  quiet time.  Do you want some monster?:  Do you want to get drunk/get high?  Poker Face:  dancing while you’re high.  Giving a Light Show:  entertaining a person who is high.  Blazing:  smoking weed.  Burnt:  being high on weed.  Duck, Duck, Goose:  performing/receiving fellatio.  Sideways:  Having sex/let’s have sex.  Blow the pipe:  performing fellatio.  Doing Bob or  “Marley“:  smoking weed.  Rolling Party:  doing Ecstasy with friends.  Noob:  a stupid person.  Flash: if your teen snaps back at you with this word rather than the typical eye roll, (s)he just called you ‘stupid’.  Yep.  In layman’s terms, it means, “You just said something really obvious and stupid.”  Trippin’:  on drugs and utterly confused.  Blue Steel:  flirtatious behavior/sexual innuendos.  Pocket Hoppers:  girls who are known to be very promiscuous.  Popping:  popping pills or sleeping with a virgin.  Pop, Lock, and Drop:  a casual sexual encounter.  Hit and Run:  a casual sexual encounter, usually with a stranger.  Crunk:  musical style, but also means getting drunk and high at once.  Hood scratch:  marijuana  06’n:  Lesbian activity  187:  murder  304:  whore, hooker.  All up in my grill:  in my face.  Butter:  means something is really good.  Pigeon:  ugly girl  Pleb:  a person who is inferior, an idiot or inept “That dude is straight up pleb.”  Selling woof tickets:  trying to get someone to believe a lie  Shizzle:  something very good  Sirius Black:  someone who is extremely sexy (I wonder if JK had any idea…)  Squirrel:  hot girl  Train:  several males having sex with the same woman consecutively at the same location “After the game, the football team ran a train over her.”  Spun:  means your teen really likes the way something looks.  “Jason’s shirt today was spun.”  This is NOT the same thing as cool.  If you say ‘spun’ by itself, prepared to be ‘Flashed’.  Co-pilot:  a friend who agrees to stay sober and hallucinogenic-free while another youth takes LSD or any other kind of narcotic.  “Ground man” is another term meaning something very similar.  Bagging:  used to describe the action of using inhalants in order to achieve a euphoric state.

 Instant Messenger lingo:

 AFK – Away From Keyboard ; ASL – Age/Sex/Location?; BTW – By The Way; CTN – Can’t Talk Now; JAS – Just A Second; IDC – I Don’t Care; ILY – I Love You; JW – Just Wondering; LYLAS – Love You Like A Sister; NVM – Never Mind; POS/”9″ – Parent Over Shoulder; SRY – Sorry; YTB – You’re The Best

More IM text can be found at http://aimlingo.aimawaymessages.com/

Now I’m off to hang with my angels.  TTFN.

101 Bumper Stickers for Writers

I’ve seen bumper stickers for everything but writers. Let’s see how many we can come up with. Please feel free to add on to the list.

1. What would My Main Character do?
2. Just wait until I’m Published!
3. My muse can beat up your muse.
4. Writers do it with imagination.
5. My muse has a restraining order against my inner critic.

Interview with #1 Amazon Best-Seller author, Sheri Fink, on her debut children’s book, The Little Rose

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with new and rising star, Sheri Fink, author of the endearing children’s book, The Little Rose. If you are a parent with children between the ages of 5 and 10, this book is a ‘must have’ for your personal library. The writing is brilliant and the illustrations are precious and engaging. So, without further ado, grab yourself a cup of coffee and sit back and relax with this incredible new author.


Sheri, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. Would you mind telling everyone: What inspired you to write The Little Rose?

“The Little Rose” is a children’s picture book about a rose who grows up in a weedbed and believes that she’s the weed. Teased by the weeds around her because she’s different, the Little Rose almost gives up but then learns to accept and love herself for what she really is, a beautiful rose. The story inspires children ages 5-10 to embrace who they are despite what anyone else thinks or says.

I was inspired to write the story as a result of an experience I had in the workplace where a group was bullying people. As I was driving to the office one morning, I got the idea and I started writing it on the back of an envelope at stoplights. The story just flowed through me and I continued to write and refine it for a few weeks.

The experience taught me how powerful the environment can be and how it can affect people’s perceptions of themselves and the world around them. No one should dim their light so that others feel better about their own dim lights. Everyone deserves to shine in their own special way.

My mission is to inspire people to live their best lives. I want children to know how precious they are and to love themselves no matter what’s going on in their lives and no matter what anyone else says. The Little Rose book teaches this lesson about self-esteem, overcoming bullying, and believing in yourself. I’m delighted to be able to use my negative experiences to bring positivity and hope to the lives of others.

How did you come up with the title?

“The Little Rose” was the perfect title for the book because the story is all about the Little Rose and her transformation in believing in herself. “The Little Rose” was the working title while I was writing the story and I decided to keep it for the book.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The Little Rose’s experiences are based on events in my own life. We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve been picked on, felt different from everyone else, been bullied, or just felt left out. That’s why the story of The Little Rose is so easy to relate to, because we’ve all been there at some point. The important thing is to realize that we’re so much more than our environments. What other people think or say really doesn’t matter as long as you’re embracing who you are and following your heart. It’s a great message for kids and a nice reminder for adults.

I see on your website it took two years to write The Little Rose. What was the hardest part of writing this endearing book?

The most challenging part of writing the book was letting go of worry about how it would all come together. I knew I wanted to publish a book that would positively impact children and adults, but I had never written or published a children’s book before. There was a steep learning curve and I had to take one step at a time. It’s truly rewarding to see the final product being so well received and spreading its positive message in the world.

Mary Erikson Washam did the illustrations for the book. Why did you choose her?

I interviewed 6 or 7 illustrators for The Little Rose. Mary was wonderful to work with and did a beautiful job. I asked each potential illustrator to provide initial concepts based on the story and the energy of the message. The goal was to get a feel for how they interpreted the story and whether their interpretation was in alignment with my vision for the book.

Mary’s concepts were amazing. I could tell right away that she really understood the book and the message it conveys. And, she was very professional and knew how to do the layout and cover of the book as well. Her illustrations enhance the story and I’m already looking forward to our next project together!

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Fortunately, I had a lot of support and encouragement for The Little Rose. My family was extremely supportive, especially my wonderful husband. In addition to their love and support, I had the care and enthusiasm from my Accountability Partner, my Mastermind Group, my coach, my mentor, and numerous friends. I am truly grateful for all of the people who encouraged me, helped me, and cheered me on.

You have reached sort of a milestone recently. The Little Rose was released on March 22, 2011 and hit #1 on the Amazon best-seller list on April 6, 2011. How did you feel when you saw you had made it to the #1 spot?

I was happily surprised! My goal is to get the book into the hands of as many children as we can and it’s a lot easier to do that when your book is a best-seller. Honestly, I was shocked that it happened so quickly. I have an amazing network of friends, family members, and business contacts who were talking about the book via social media, which is very powerful.

I feel so much joy and gratitude that people are buying my book and that it’s making a positive difference in the world.

What books have influenced your life the most?

My favorite fiction book is “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. It’s such a beautiful story and I love his writing style. Richard Adams creates an entire world around his characters. He infuses the characters with so much life and, as a reader, you find yourself getting emotionally attached to them. He’s such a great storyteller, it’s difficult to put the book down.

My favorite non-fiction book is “The Power of Focus: How to Hit Your Business, Personal, and Financial Targets with Absolute Certainty” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt. It was the first personal development book I read that really captured my attention and presented the concepts in a way that I could digest and implement them in my life.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

A friend introduced me to best-selling children’s author Teresa de Grosbois a few months ago. Her books include “Fiona’s Fortitude” and “The Present’s Presents.” She’s my mentor and has provided helpful guidance into the world of children’s books, a whole new and exciting world for me.

I also really admire the writing and career of Stephen Cosgrove, author of “Leo the Lop” and over 300 other children’s books. My mom read his books to me when I was little. Much like The Little Rose, each of his stories has an embedded lesson for kids. I recently received the huge compliment that my writing was reminiscent of his work. I’m so flattered!

What book are you reading now?

I love to read and I’m almost always reading several books at a time. Right now, I’m reading “Manifesting Change” by Mike Dooley and two books by friends of mind, “Golden Vampire” by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom and “The Tale of Juliet” by Jhet Torcelino-van Ruyven.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Many of my friends are voracious readers and we often recommend books to each other. I’m always checking out new books regardless of the longevity of the author. If a book sounds interesting to me, I’ll pick it up and read it.

I have two friends who recently published their first books, Sandra Scott with “In Memory of a Saint,” and Troy Payne with “The Road to Resiliency.” I’m excited to see how their writing careers take off.

What are your current projects?

My focus is really on expanding the reach of The Little Rose right now. I’m planning my Book Tour and doing select speaking engagements. I have an idea for another children’s book that I’m excited about fleshing out.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in The Little Rose?

No, I’m really pleased with the way that it came out. I wouldn’t change anything.

Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a ‘second’ career?

I currently write part-time and spend the rest of my time coaching businesses on how to drive traffic to their websites and increase sales. I’ve been in the online marketing/eCommerce industry for 12 years. My passion is helping people transform their businesses and their lives, whether it’s through writing inspirational books or helping people’s businesses thrive online.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? Will you travel out of state?

I love to travel and welcome the opportunity to visit schools, libraries, festivals, etc. throughout North America. I’m planning my Summer Book Tour right now and hope to start with the east coast and work my way back to the west coast. I’d love to do an International Book Tour in 2012.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I have learned so much from the process of writing, publishing, and promoting my book. One of the best things I did was go to conferences where I met people who had already been through the process. The insights from these authors have been so helpful to me and shaped my decision-making.

You wrote another book, Dreams Come True: Your Daily Journal for Maximum Success and Well-Being. Can you tell us a little bit about this book and who you wrote it for and why?

Sure, inspiration for the Dreams Come True Journal came from “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. I created the Journal to incorporate his recommendations into my daily life (including a Gratitude List, examples of the Law of Attraction working in my life, reading, visualizing, etc.). I combined those with weekly goals, action items, and inspirational quotes to create an easy way to set goals and track daily progress all on one page per day.

After creating the Journal, I talked with others about it and they wanted to use it, too. So, I decided to publish it and make it available worldwide on my website. Using my Dreams Come True Journal combined with taking action in the direction of my goals each day over the past 8 months has resulted in many of my dreams coming true including publishing The Little Rose children’s book, hot air ballooning over vineyards in Southern California, becoming a best-selling author, and planning our dream European vacation for this Fall. It’s been truly amazing and I’m so grateful!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, I have two suggestions:

1. I highly recommend talking to people who’ve accomplished what you want to accomplish. I reached out to people in my network, told them about my book and my mission, and asked if they knew anyone I should talk with. People have been very generous with their time. That’s the best way to learn: from people who have already achieved your goal – they have so many great insights on what works, what doesn’t work, and what they’d do differently next time. It’ll greatly accelerate your learning and your success.

2. Hire a coach. Having a coach who’s successful in the area that you want to succeed in can be invaluable. They can serve as a guide and hold you accountable for stretching outside of your comfort zone in order to achieve your goal. It’s no coincidence that some of the highest achievers and most powerful people in the world have good coaches, they can dramatically improve your results.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I am so grateful to my readers and hope that The Little Rose makes a positive difference in their lives.

Parents and teachers, please let me know if you’d like to schedule a reading/author event at your school or organization. You can contact me at http://www.TheLittleRoseBook.com. Sign up for my newsletter and receive two free coloring pages based on The Little Rose book.

Together, we can make a huge positive difference in the world, one book and one child at a time.


Thank you again, Sheri, for your time. I wish you all the luck in the world with this book and all your future endeavors. Next stop: the New York Times Bestseller list! I look forward to hearing about your next book and hope you will keep me in mind when you are ready to tell the world about it.

The Merlin Conspiracy

The Merlin Conspiracy (Magids, #2)The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has got to be one of my favorite fantasy books. It is a shame the author died recently. I would have to say it falls in the middle of her lighter style of writing (Howl’s Moving Castle) and her darker writing style (The Time of the Ghost).

The story is about a boy named Nick who appears to be a normal boy from Earth who travels through different worlds. He travels to a world called Blest where he meets Roddy, the daughter of two court wizards. Roddy and her friend Ambrose Temple/Grundo discover a plot to control all the magic in the multiverse which seems to include the Merlin, the keeper of magic in Blest.

The narration switches between two main characters telling the story – Roddy and Nick. One minute Nick is in London with his father and the next he’s in Blest, summoned by Roddy to help her solve a problem she suspects is spiraling out of control. Roddy thinks some witches and wizards are plotting to overthrow the King of Blest. The Merlin seems to be in on it, too (you’ll have to read it to find out what The Merlin is. It’s not the same as in our Camelot stories). When the Merlin dies of a heartattack at the worst possible moment, Roddy, Grundo and Nick refuse to believe his death is “natural”. No one believes their suspicions until they meet two very powerful wizards, Maxwell Hyde and Romanov.

I found a lot of humor in this book and made some friends with some really charming characters. Romanov’s goat cracked me up. The story has a huge cast of characters and has everything from magical islands, to time manipulation, imposters, and even a mini elephant! The story is filled with fascinating ideas and has a twisting, intricate plot in which every little detail can end up having great importance.

Roddy and Nick are both great characters and very 3-dimensional and I found “The Merlin Conspiracy” to be a very entertaining read. I would read this again.

View all my reviews

Staying Focused on Your Writing

Are you one of those people who, every time you start to write, you get bored or annoyed and want to write something completely different?  Are you someone who, at the onset, is completely obsessed with an idea, you fully plot it, develop its characters and then within a month, maybe even a week you just . . .  give up?  Do you keep jumping from one genre to another, not knowing what you want to write about?

 Don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone.  And as one writer to another, I’d like to pass on some advice that was given to me many years ago when I faced the same dilemma:  don’t worry about it.  It’s part of the writer’s curse to have more than one project going at one time. 

To me, writing is like food.  I need it to sustain me.  But I wouldn’t want to eat the same food every day, all day long.  Imagine a week, a month, a year, of eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  While that might sound appetizing when you’re first starting out, after about the 20th sandwich, you’re going to want to look around for something different.  That doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat the PB&J.  It just means you just want to add a BLT or maybe even a filet mignon and broiled lobster tail with drawn butter in there every once in awhile, eh?

Same thing with writing.  Your brain doesn’t have one thought, one idea.  It has many.  So, instead of fretting over straying from your main project every now and then, try to find ways to brainstorm and think of ways to turn this to your advantage.  I have found the following help me, some more than others, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

List Building

Writing lists is a great way of brainstorming for ideas.  Let’s say you have an idea floating around for a YA urban vampire novel.  You could start by answering the primary questions:  who, what, where, when, why, how, then you can move on to the bigger picture. This character will meet this one and become involved because ____________.  The police are hot on the trail of a 17 year old kid because _______________.  The story is about hope, lies, understanding, fill because ________.

I find that these sorts of list allow me to get my thoughts on paper quickly and start to categorize the ideas.  After I get my ideas on paper, then I pick the ideas I really like and start to gather evidence to support them, showing how they fit together, refining.

As with eating, don’t limit yourself to one idea.  You may be mulling over a thought you had a breakfast, but you may overhear a conversation at lunchtime that makes you say “OMG, I have to write about that!”  You know, that’s okay.  Make another list.  Keep them all down in a diary or a composition book or notebook, whatever, and just remember, it’s okay to have a gazillion ideas.  One of them will be the one to stick.  One of them will be the one you obsess over because you just have to get the story out of you.  Sometimes you just need to work through the process.

Open-end/Speed Writing

I LOVE open-end writing and speed writing.  In fact, I tried it out on my writers’ group and they LOVE it, too.  This sort of writing stimulates the brain and it forces you as a writer to ‘let go’.  Here  is the idea:  take five minutes, take 3 essentials to a story:  person, place, thing, set your timer for five minutes, and then write.  Don’t stop and think about what you are writing.  Let go of your inhibitions and write. 

Below is what I wrote from my last writers meeting.  The items that had to appear in our stories were:  a barbarian, Hawaii and a bottle of wine.  This is the kind of weird stuff that happens when you don’t think about what you write:

Bob was a barbarian.  He didn’t make any bones about it, either.  He liked being ruthless, mean, smelly and disgustingly nasty.  Everyone thought he was crazy when he killed off the last of the Santa Barbarans and dug a tunnel to Hawaii.  Ha, and the engineers said it couldn’t be done!  He showed them.  1,000 bottles of wine later the inebriated digger ended up on the shores of Waikiki, a club in one hand and an empty wine bottle in the other.  He’d dug the tunnel entirely with broken wine bottles.

He emerged on the sand and was overcome by a twelve-foot wave which washed him into a punk kid greasing up his board.  The surfer fell flat to the ground, the surfboard in his face, his nose broken.

Bob laughed.

Okay, so as you can see it’s not the greatest story in the world.  It’s not going to win any prizes and it certainly left a lot of questions unanswered, but that’s okay.  Sometimes the best ideas are born out of crazy, nonsensical stuff that at first seems idiotic.  The whole idea about this exercise is to read what you wrote, and then try in a sentence to capture its focus or core idea.  This may be a summary of what you wrote.  Then again, maybe not.  You may have strayed off course. You may have started writing about a barbarian, but then strayed off and started talking about the puppies he saw in the store as he ran past.  Five minute exercises like this can help identify problems in your thinking that you didn’t know you had.  Once you identify the problem, you can keep that in mind when you write again.  If, after several exercises like this, you see the problem is you run off in tangents, then you now identify the issue and try to work through how to correct the problem.


I personally don’t use outlines, but I know a lot of writers who do.  Some people like to break everything down in sections, pieces.  When I started In the Shadow of the Dragon King, I made a simple outline.  Chapter 1, I wanted these things to happen.  Chapter 2, these things needed to occur and so on and so on.  This was enough for me because it gave me enough guidance to know if I ended up with 30 more chapters than what I expected, I’d strayed off course – a lot!

Some people like to outline their novels down to each scene.  Chapter 1, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, etc., and while it works for them, it drives me bonkers.  I like giving my characters a little free room to run.  I have it in my head where they are, what they are doing.  I live them, eat them, breathe them, sleep with them every day.  I know their ins and outs, their highs, their lows.  I know what they ate for breakfast and the last time they got sick, so creating outlines don’t work well with the way my brain works.  However, I am a huge fanatic with timelines and character bios. 

I am writing 3 novels in the Fallhollow saga and without timelines, I’d be lost.  There are battle scenes, transporting between worlds scenes.  There are sections that feel like months have passed when it’s only been days.  It’s very important, almost anal to me, that I keep track of when everything happens.  The last thing you want is for one of your characters to be pregnant for 18 months.  (I saw this once in a published book by a well-known author.  It was historical fiction and even though it seemed as if the girl was pregnant 9 months, the events she experienced while pregnant took place over an 18 month period).

Character bios are very important to me, too.  This is where I develop my characters.  This is where I give them their traits, their flaws, their likes, dislikes.  The way they handle stress (twirling hair around finger, tapping foot).  This is where I decide how many siblings they have, where they live, why they live there.  I interview my characters and write down their answers.  And even though the reader doesn’t see all this info, the characters are solid because of it.

If you’re an outline sort of person, or one who like to have everything laid out in consecutive order, then outlining may be the way to go for you.

Using Other People’s Ideas

There are hundreds of ways to find ideas ready for the taking. When stuck for an idea or if you find your mind wandering on several ideas, try picking up a novel or two, choose a character from each one, and then combine those characters into one.  Or maybe borrow a plot from a fairy tale or traditional story.  It’s not cheating.  It’s called improvising.  If that doesn’t get you, try using famous quotes to spark new ideas or read blogs, newspapers, etc., and comment.  Respond.  Get the ideas flowing.  Who knows, you may end up with the masterpiece you’ve been searching for.

So, what are your ideas on how to stay focused?  I’d love for you to share your tips and methods.