steering the craft

a writer gives thanks

 

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge something that too often gets lost in the (cranberry) sauce.

Writers have a lot to be grateful for.

Don’t get me wrong. I know how writers like to complain! I hear your complaints. I complain too sometimes. None of this is easy, and it’s not supposed to be.

Writing is hard. Revisions are hard. Putting our work out into the world is hard. There is a lot of self-doubt, frustration, and long periods of developing our craft, with no guarantees of success. 

There are drafts we labor over that need to be labored over again. There are books we write thinking, "this is the one!" only to realize that “the one” might still be a book or two away. We’re getting closer, but we’re not quite there yet. It all takes longer than we expected. 

Even for the published, there are industry politics and marketplace realities to face. There is...

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what holds writers back: my top ten

 

It’s NaNoWriMo time, again!

I started this blog (and soon afterward, my weekly YouTube livestream) last year right around this time, as it seemed like there was an extra need for writing mentorship out there.

So many blog posts and livestreams later, I am amazed at how this ongoing exploration of writing good fiction continues to deepen. It’s a lifetime practice for sure.

And how has your writing grown this year?

While you you formulate your answer, I want to give a shout-out to all the Path of the Storyteller alums who finished a draft in 2021.

TRUMPETS OF VICTORY SOUND! Some have never finished a book before. Revisions are now in progress, and I am so very proud of each and every one of these awesome and dedicated writers! 

Accomplishment feels good. Setting goals and moving steadily toward them feels fantastic.

But being stuck, thwarted, or in despair because all your efforts seem to be going in circles does not feel so good, am...

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keep writing, be happy

 

Does writing make you happy?

Does writing make you frustrated?

Does writing make you dream big?

Does writing make you envious?

Does writing make you feel full of purpose?

Does writing make you wonder, why bother?

This list could go on and on. Feel free to add your favorites! My point is this:

All writers have feelings about writing, and those feelings are all over the map. 

This is not a bad sign. As I often tell my Path of the Storyteller students when they hit one snag or another: That is a professional problem! 

Creative work triggers all kinds of reactions. If your thoughts, feelings, and opinions about writing sometimes take a ride on the wanna/don’t wanna seesaw, welcome to the club.

From the many complexities of getting the work done (and done well), to navigating how to launch a career out of all that creative labor, to surfing the waves of a career-in-progress, the writer’s path poses fresh invitations for...

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feedback without tears

 

Remember the famous baby shampoo ad? No more tears!

That this sudsy slogan is what today’s topic makes me think of is reveals a lot. Getting feedback on our writing can be overwhelming in a way that feels disproportionate. Depending on what that feedback is, it can make our day or keep us up all night fretting.

Consider how often you’ve heard this bundle of advice: Because writers “lack objectivity,” you must share your work for feedback, be in a critique group, have beta readers pore over your final draft, and/or pay for a professional edit, and you must rewrite, rewrite, rewrite to "fix" all the flaws found by this ragtag army of critics. 

But when does all this input start to be counterproductive? What if the feedback is contradictory, or just feels off? How do we know which notes to take and which to ignore? 

To give feedback on other’s work is a delicate task; to receive feedback...

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how I learned to write

careers goals Aug 31, 2021
 

First, many thanks to the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group member who posed this question to me. It was a valuable nudge!

How did I learn to write? If you keep up with my livestreams and blog posts, you know I talk a great deal about the process of developing as an artist, the complexity of writing good fiction, how most writers start out “writing by ear” and then hit a wall of frustration when the writing that sounds good to them fails to gain traction with agents and editors. 

And there’s that other, equally painful source of frustration: When writers struggle to understand why best writing they feel capable of falls so palpably short of the books they admire most. 

They know what good writing sounds like, looks like, feels like—so why is it so hard to actually do?

Helping writers close that gap is what my commitment to teaching  and mentoring is all about. But how did I close that gap?...

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shhh! mommy’s writing

 

I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in my forties. Did you know that?

I was a single mom with two kids at home. We homeschooled. In the middle of it all, my own mom was struck with a terminal illness and I became her chief caregiver until she passed away. 

I was lucky in that I didn’t also have a full-time job outside the home, but honestly, I could have used one. I taught part-time and wrote part-time and mothered part-time and was a caregiver part-time. There were more parts than time, that’s for sure! 

This is what my life was like while I wrote the early books in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. I share this with you not because I think it’s shocking or worthy of any special praise, but precisely because it’s so ordinary.

Writers are people. People have lives. Life is busy and full of challenges, and we all wear many, many hats. 

I often hear from writers (mostly women,...

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do you suffer from “page fright?”

 

Everyone’s heard of stage fright. Even Barbra Streisand has it! Imagine singing like Barbra and being afraid to perform! It’s not rational, but it’s real. 

Writers, too, can suffer from a bone-deep reluctance to share our work with the world. Call it “page fright.” And yet our readers are out there, waiting! What’s a nervous writer to do? 

In this livestream, I talk about why it’s so challenging to take that anxiety-ridden but necessary plunge and let others into our private writing worlds. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog. You can leave your questions and comments below.

To watch live and ask questions, subscribe to the YouTube channel here.  

And you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

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writing from the heart

 

That first tender urge to write stirs from something quite personal and private. We have an idea, a feeling, a desire to capture in words something that moved or mystified us. 

And yet, to write well means charting a path from that most private beginning to a more reader-centric focus. How exposed do we need to be in our work? How thick of a skin must we cultivate to actually publish? What about privacy? Is there stuff we shouldn't write about? 

Writing advice is plentiful, and writing craft matters (a lot) — but your writing comes from YOU. How do we writers balance the deeply personal impulse to write with the external concerns of putting our work into the world? That’s the topic of this week’s livestream. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the...

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what wags the world

careers change process May 25, 2021

I’m getting a wee jump on the holiday weekend. The first Wood family gathering in a long time has been planned in honor of my uncle’s 90th birthday. Flying on a plane will be involved! It’s all very exciting and heartfelt. 

So instead of my usual weekly livestream, I offer you a nice old-fashioned blog post. My inspiration? This quote, which I shared with the Storytellers’ Circle* membership last week. I think you’ll like it as much as they did:

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what...
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getting real about writing goals

 

Think back twelve months and tell me the truth: Did your writing practice make the progress in 2020 that you promised yourself it would? 

The correct answer? I don’t care and neither should you. We can give 2020 a pass. You know what impact this year had on you. It was different for each of us, but if you’re reading this, YOU WON. You're here. You made it. I'm sending you a virtual hug. 

Now, a new year is upon us. There’s a whiff of hope in the air. And what we’ve been through does not alter the fact that many of us are all too familiar with the feeling of setting writing goals that do not fully come to pass.

Are we undisciplined? Unrealistic? Un-whatever your personal demon is?

The answer may be less mysterious, and less personal, than all that. In this livestream I serve up some goal-setting realness for 2021. No more writing goals that get buried in “life got...

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