Memorial Day

With today being a holiday, I'm taking a day off of blogging. I'll be enjoying a barbecue and bluegrass music at the lovely cabin pictured here. If you're interested in seeing the inside of this beautiful place, check out The Lodge at Elk Valley.

I'll be back tomorrow with a Memorial Day-inspired post on writing memoirs. See you then!

Agent Friday: Michael Larsen

When you've been in the publishing business over 40 years, you've seen the ups, the downs, the trends, and the books with staying power. Wouldn't you like to pick the brain of a person with that kind of perspective? It's time to get to know Michael Larsen.

Larsen is half of the husband-wife agenting team at the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. He shares his insights and opinions regularly on his blog.

Just last week, Larsen blogged about 12 Ways to Excite Pros About Your Novel.

A few other great posts:
Selling By Telling: Speaking From the Heart. Why being able to speak as an author is important. Choosing effective topics, and how to minimize a fear of speaking.

The Building Blocks for a Writing Career. Seventeen tips to help you develop longevity in your profession.

A Page a Day, A Book a Year: You Can Do It! A simple method for making time to write.

Making Your Book Unputdownable. Self-explanatory, but Larsen tells how to make a book gripping, even if it's non-fiction.

The Larsen-Pomada site has quite a bit of information, as well. There's an excellent (and long) list of links on the Resource Page.  They've also put together a page full of humorous quotes that they add to every year. You'll find it at The Little Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Larsen's article on why Books Can Change the World. You'll find sixteen more articles on the Larsen-Pomada site under "The Savvy Author". Worthwhile reading.

Free Resources from C. Hope Clark

I'm excited to introduce you to C. Hope Clark this week. She is one of the most generous writers I know, spending who-knows-how many hours giving away valuable information to writers around the world. Maybe I'll develop a "generous writer" prize someday. If so, Clark would be the first winner.

C. Hope Clark's website, Funds for Writers, contains a wealth of information. Make sure to bookmark it, because you'll need to come back and browse more than once.

One of the things that Hope spends time on, is locating writing contests, grants and submission guidelines for magazines, so that you, the writer can get down to the business of writing. With the information she gathers, Hope writes not one, but four newsletters, plus a blog.

Funds for Writers Newsletter is a free online newsletter highlighting markets that pay $350 and up.

Funds for Writers Small Markets Newsletter is also free. It contains markets that pay less than $350, but they all pay something. If you're just starting out getting publishing credits, these sources are a good place to start.

Writing Kid Newsletter is a free newsletter for kids in elementary grades through college. If you know a kid who likes to write, what better motivation for them than actually getting published? Like Hope, I'm passionate about passing on a love of writing to kids. I've recommended her newsletter for years when I teach creative writing.

Total Funds for Writers is Hope's fee-based newsletter. It's a steal at $15 for 26 issues, all with different information from the other newsletters, and the highest paying markets.

Sign up for any of these newsletters at Hope's website. You can also read the archives online.

On Hope's blog, she shares more information on grants, contests and markets. Her blog information does not duplicate the newsletter content, so be sure to check it often. She also shares her perspective on different issues in publishing.

A novelist herself, Hope was a finalist in 2009 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition, and was a finalist for the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence. She also writes ebooks and has a huge number of writing credits in print and online. C. Hope Clark is one busy lady with a big heart for writers.

Book Review: How to Write a Damn Good Novel

How to Write a Damn Good Novel is written by writing teacher James N. Frey (not to be confused with James Frey, author of the controversial A Million Little Pieces). Frey's little volume is easy to read in the small chunks of time a writer has, and the author is entertaining at the same time as he slaps you upside the head.

The subtitle is entirely accurate: A step-by-step no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling. In only nine chapters, Frey gets right to the point, and makes you smile while he does.

I had the privilege of attending a writing conference in 2009 at which Frey, also a playwright and novelist, spoke. I'll never forget his ten rules of writing:

  1. Read
  2. Read
  3. Read
  4. Write
  5. Write
  6. Write
  7. Suffer
  8. Suffer
  9. Suffer
  10. !!!!!!!

This book will teach you how to creat dynamic characters, who are in the middle of intense conflict. Why writing without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars. The ABC's of storytelling, bringing your story to a climax, and all about the writer's bag of tricks.  And finally, he'll teach you about writing dialogue, how to rewrite and revise, and what to do when you're finally done.

Frey has written several books on the craft of writing, including a sequel to this one. You'll also find one on writing a thriller, mystery, and using the power of myth in your writing. To see the entire list, click here.

Check out James N. Frey's website here. He maintains a wonderful list of writer's resources. If you'd like to read any of the dozen articles on fiction that he's posted, check them out here.

Writer's Groups: Absolute Write

Our next writer's group is a very active one. Absolute Write is called "the one-stop home for professional and beginning writers". It doesn't matter if you write fiction or nonfiction, or if you do screenplays, freelance writing or copywriting. You'll find what you need at Absolute Write.

On the website, you'll find a blog with articles about all kinds of writing, plus information on editing, agents, and what is going on in the market. There are links to classes you can take (for a fee), and a list of recommended resources.

But by far the best part of Absolute Write are the forums, called the Water Cooler. This is a highly active online community of writers and publishing professionals who gather to talk about everything related to the written word. And it's free.

You don't have to register to read the forums. But if you plan to post a response, here's the link to register.

The Water Cooler has threads on numerous types of fiction and non-fiction writing. Other threads cover different genres, publishing topics, the specifics of freelance writing, and many more. Interested in flash fiction, song writing, or just brainstorming your new story idea? You'll find it at the Water Cooler.

If you're curious about the published works by Absolute Write members, you'll find them listed by genre in the AW Library.

Six Ways to Win With Writing Contests

On the road to publication, it's nice to have some folks cheering you on--besides your friends and family. You may not win the contest, but here's how to win no matter where you place.

Know the Benefits. Entering a writing contest can do several wonderful things for you:

  1. Help you meet a deadline.
  2. Force you to prepare for submitting to agents by following manuscript guidelines.
  3. Give you valuable feedback from publishing professionals.
  4. Develop your confidence in letting others read your work.

 Choose a Goal. Is your mission to gain publicity? To get feedback? To interest an agent? Or maybe you just want to force yourself to stretch your writing. Some contests give a prompt, whether written or visual. You might discover the seed of a novel you never would have thought of before. It was through a writing contest prompt that I began my current novel.

Stretch Yourself. If you write romance, don't limit yourself to the hundreds of romance-oriented writing contests available. Try something in another genre or format (like flash fiction, if you're a novelist, or write some sci-fi if you like to write mysteries). Often contests outside your comfort zone can help you uncover a previously unknown ability in a certain genre. 

Uncover the Details. If the contest has a fee, evaluate whether it's worthwhile for you. Many organizations run contests to raise money through contest fees. This is legitimate, but stop to evaluate your chances of winning, and what you'll receive. 

I enter the Pikes Peak Writers Paul Gillette Contest every year. There is a fee, but I receive two in-depth score sheets from professional writers, along with a chance for a cash prize or attendance at their writing conference. 

Make Like a Professional. It's never too early to learn to follow directions. Sure, a contest's directions for entries may seem strange, but consider it your boot camp to becoming a published writer. If you can't follow (seemingly) arcane instructions now, what will you do when the twelve agents you plan on submitting to each have their own do's and don'ts?

Don't Forget to Debrief. After the contest is over, evaluate how it went. If you received score sheets or judges critiques, spend some time reading through the comments. If the opinions hurt, set it aside for awhile, or go over it with a critique partner. 

If you entered an online contest, like one hosted on a blog, you can often read the winning entries. Take the time to go over the stories that placed, and try to determine why they are different. Did they just follow the guidelines better? Are there craft issues you can work on? Think of it as just another learning experience that will hone your skills as a writer.

How have contests helped your writing?

Agent Friday: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Continuing in our weekly focus on agents who blog, we have not one, but nine agents who share a single blog. All are from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. The staff take turns blogging about publishing, querying, marketing, and all the other topics we as writers need to learn about.

Some of my favorite posts on their blog are here:

On Rejection

Wisdom from writing teacher James N. Frey (whose book will be reviewed next week)

Tips on Dialogue

Misconceptions in the author/agent relationship

Advice on Pitching

Marketing and Facebook

And a couple of interviews:

Jane Dystel on Book Publishing in the Next Ten Years.

Jane Dystel on Dear Author.

The agency has a nice list of Author's Resources, a montly newsletter,  and a page of Q&A with their authors. Check out their recent and forthcoming titles here.

And for those in the Pikes Peak area, Pikes Peak Writers is hosting a free three-hour workshop on Saturday, May 22nd. The class is called Dismembering the Bestseller, and is taught by novelist Bonnie Ramthun. For more information, click here.

Free Course: Finishing Your Novel

Thousands upon thousands of people begin novels. Only a tiny fraction of those actually finish, and from these, publishers choose the ones we see in bookstores. Why do so few complete their novels? Because it's hard work. Really, really hard work.

I know. I'm trying to finish my second novel, and it's just as difficult as the first. I'm over the excitement of a new idea. I've lived with my characters so long that I'm no longer infatuated with them. And frankly, reading the same story over and over gets old. As a writer, I begin to wonder if anyone out there would even like this story.

Fortunately for me (and you, too), I discovered author Timothy Hallinan's website last week. I couldn't wait to write this post. I even sent his link via Facebook to my writing friends so they wouldn't have to wait until this post came out.

Why? Because Timothy Hallinan is another one of those authors who gives back. He has posted a free course called Finish Your Novel, which is not only entertaining and practical, but humorous, too.

Hallinan's belief is that finishing a book is what made him a writer, not just working on something. Once he figured out how to successfully finish novel after novel, he came up with 30 steps, separated into five categories. Each of the short sections takes only a few minutes to read. You might even want to bookmark his  page so you'll remember to read once step each day of the month.

Most of us have at least one manuscript that we've begun and then set aside for one reason or another. Listen to Hallinan's take on this:

"The sad fact is that much of the time, the book they abandon is better than the one they set out to write. It's like a prospector who goes out looking for iron pyrites, finds gold, and throws it away."

Hallinan also blogs about writing at The Blog Cabin. On Wednesdays he has an interesting series where he interviews published authors about whether they write with an outline or not, in Plotting vs. Pantsing.

So, I've begun working through Hallinan's course. It's not hard. It's like getting a little pep talk every morning before I start typing. And who couldn't use one of those?

Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

Imagine writing over fifty books, and every one of them becomes an international best seller. Like it or not, Stephen King has something figured out.

I have to admit that horror is not my cup of tea. Gets my adrenaline pumping, and keeps me from sleeping. So you might not be surprised when I tell you that Stephen King's book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  is the first book by the prolific author that I've read.

And I devoured it.

It's not set out in nice little chapters with titles like How to Deepen Your Characters, or The Three Keys to Dialogue. No, it's a conversational book. It's as if you're sitting in King's living room, and he's recalling the wacky and weird incidents from his childhood that shaped what he loved to read, watch in movies--and write.

And mixed in with all these fascinating memories are nuggets of writing wisdom, slap-the-back-of-your-head motivation, and even a few interesting writing exercises.

No wonder it's #3 on Amazon in its category.

In the middle of writing this book, King was badly injured in an auto accident, and finishing On Writing took great effort. In the end, parts of the accident and recovery made it into several manuscripts.

 King on establishing a place to write, and a goal:
But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to these basics, the easier the act of writing will become. 

To find out more about Stephen King, visit his website, particularly his Frequently Asked Questions page. If you're a fan of his books, you'll probably enjoy taking part in King's Official Message Board, where you can discuss individual books with other readers.

King's accident left an impact on his life. If you know of a writer who is unable to work due to disease or accident, check out King's Haven Foundation for grants. King and his wife also maintain the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation with the mission of strengthening and supporting communities.

Writer's Groups: Newbie

It's really nice to belong to something. Especially if it's a group of like-minded folks who think about writing more than is healthy. It is quite likely that your family and friends are tired of hearing you talk about your characters and plot, so why not find a group of people who can't wait to hear about it?

Enter the Newbie Writer website. This is a place for writers of all genres to gather, learn, and share with each other.

If you sign up for the free Newbie Writer Newsletter, you'll receive a free ebook, The Newbie Writer's Resource Guide.

The Forums page is where you might want to explore a little. Here, you'll find threads on all the topics writers are interested in: How To's, Calls for Submissions, Writing Prompts, Review, Q&A, and just writers talking about whatever topic they enjoy.

You may want to check out the Newbie Writer's Blog, which you can find here.

Dawn Copeman, who began the site, keeps an ever-changing list of writing prompts here.

In the Resource Section, you'll find reviews of writing books, and a list of online courses--several of them free.

On the Learn the Craft page, there are links to sixteen different articles for fiction and non-fiction writers.

And for you freelancers, the Jobs for Writers page has a great list of resources for you to find more writing jobs.

Agent Friday: Mary Kole

Just in case you haven't noticed, each of the literary agents I've highlighted so far happen to be agents who maintain a blog. Why? It doesn't mean that these agents are better or worse than a non-blogging agent. It's just that through blogging, an agent gives you a glimpse into their personality, likes & dislikes, and the way they think about the submissions they see.

Today's agent is Mary Kole, with the well-known Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She represents YA, middle grade, and unique picture books. Her blog is, which was recently listed in the coveted Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers.

Some of my favorite posts:

Giving yourself permission to try new things with your manuscript in Give Yourself License to Try.

Mary answers the question: Can you write about a particular "issue" if you haven't lived it yourself? Find out in If you Write About an Issue, Do It Justice.

Discover what Mary considers A Writer's Worst Enemy.

What Show, Don't Tell Really Means

And something all writers need to know: When To Cut Something out of Your Manuscript.

Would you like to learn a little more about Mary Kole? Here are some online interviews.

The Editorial Department

The Nanowrimo Blog

Guide to Literary Agents

Free Resources from Jeff Gerke

Calling all speculative fiction fans. Jeff Gerke is a man you'd like to know. Not only is he the author of eight books, he began his own publishing company, Marcher Lord Press, an enterprise that has produced several award-winning Christian spec-fic novels in the few years since its start.

I've had the opportunity to sit under Jeff's teaching at conferences, and learned a great deal. I'll devote a future post to the fiction-writing book he authored.

But on to the free stuff. Jeff maintains a speculative fiction website with lots of great resources for us starving writers, called Where the Map Ends. Let's check it out.

Tools to improve your writing. Jeff explains which are the best books on writing fiction, tips on finding the right critique group, recommended writing conferences, and a list of editorial services on his Writer's Tools page.

The process of getting published. A step-by-step explanation of the publishing process, "From Twinkle in Your Eye, To Book On the Shelf".  More info on the Tools for Writers page.

96 Fiction Tips. Jeff has compiled a detailed list of the topics he teaches at writing conferences. You can buy them as a print book, or you can find all of them here.

When your mind is blank. Jeff offers links to resources that will get your fingers typing on his Idea Starters page.

Tools to create new worlds. This page is a must-bookmark page for writers of fantasy and science fiction. Where to begin? Jeff gives link upon link for websites and software that will enable you to create maps of unknown lands (yes, even in outer space!). You'll find sites that generate new characters and character names, come up with new story ideas, generate sci-fi names, villain names, and new languages. There's even a gravitation simulator and a dark matter simulator.

Network with like-minded spec-fic fans. Jeff maintains a message board, called The Anomaly, where fans can discuss their various interests. You can even join his Editorial Board to give input on which books Jeff should publish next.

Spec-fic Artists. Links to the web pages of some amazing artists in Fantastic Visions.

Free Newsletter. If you sign up for Jeff's newsletter, he'll send you a copy of The Horrific But True Psychological Phases of Writing a Novel.

If there's an author, agent or publisher with amazing resources on their site, leave a comment, and I'll highlight them in a future post. Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Techniques of the Selling Writer

It seems strange that I can learn so much from a book that was published the year I was born. But Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer is still a top seller for writers today, listing on at #32 in its category.

Why? Listen to the first sentence:
You need to know only four things in order to write a solid story:
how to group words into motivation-reaction units;
how to group motivation-reaction units into scenes and sequels;
how to group scenes and sequels into story pattern;
how to create the kind of characters that give a story life.
And on that same first page, Swain lists the eight traps that slow writers down and hold them back from learning to write. Who wouldn't be hooked by a first page like that?

If you're not yet convinced that you need to read this book, here are a few links that distill some of Swain's ideas.

Randy Ingermanson (whose book Writing Fiction for Dummies was reviewed last week), explains Swain's concept of motivation-reaction units and scenes and sequels in his article Writing the Perfect Scene.

Author Camy Tang took the time to digest the entire book, and wrote eighteen articles detailing Swain's ideas. Read them all on this page.

Thanks to Randy and Camy for breaking it down for us!

Character Charts: The Best Way to Get to Know Your Main Character

You know how it is. You walk into a room full of strangers, and start off with small talk. If you're lucky, you discover something you both have in common that extends the conversation a little further. But to truly get to know someone, you'll have to spend quite a bit of time together. Sharing hobbies, shooting the breeze, and going through the ups and downs of life together help you understand another person intimately.

When you're writing a novel, you've got to spend considerable time getting to know your characters in order to make them seem three-dimensional to your readers. It's like writing a biography of a person you've just met.

That's where character charts come in. You build a file on each character. There are questions you probably never thought to ask your protagonist--like what he tends to do when he's nervous, or what is the secret she's never told anyone.

I've found quite a few character charts peppering the internet. Each one is a little different, and you might want to try out a few to see which ones work the best for your characters. Once you've decided on one (or more), sit down and have a cup of coffee with one of your characters. You might be surprised at what they share with you.

Character Charts to Check Out
For the visual oriented writers, here is a fascinating group of 29 pages(Pdf)--everything from character attributes, to the evolution of a character's arc through the story. While there are a few pages I'm not sure how to use, I will definitely print out an make use of several.

A comprehensive chart (you can click on the Pdf download or see it on the webpage), includes a link to an astrological chart for your character.

The folks at Creative-Writing-Solutions have a whole group of charts. If you write fantasy, you may need a chart to help you identify the details of a new race, or a particular creature. They've also got charts for pets, vehicles, buildings, and new lands. You can access all of them here.

Writer's Village University has a free Character Building Workshop, with online quizzes that help you narrow down your character's traits.

Sandra Miller has compiled a list of questions you can ask your character in her character exercises.

PoeWar offers a free character building course.

Agent Friday: Janet Reid

Today's agent is not only known as a top-notch literary agent. Janet Reid's alter ego is The Query Shark. In her shark capacity, she posts and critiques authors' queries, giving each of us an inside look into what works and doesn't work in the mysterious world of query writing.

Janet Reid is an agent with Fine Print Literary Management. Her blog has an interesting subtitle: Getting my attention is easy: write a book I want to read; write it well enough I want to tell others about it.

Reid's blog contains a great deal of information for writers preparing to query agents. I don't know how authors handled the query process before the internet came along. There is no longer any excuse for an author not to write a competent query. Numerous agents spell out their specifications, and articles and books can be found on the internet and at the library.

Some of Reid's blog articles that are not to be missed:

What you need before you query (different lists for fiction, non-fiction, and memoir)

A query letter checklist

What's NOT a query letter

How to get an instant rejection.

A couple of Janet Reid's articles online:

20 Tips on Query Letters

How to Trim your Query to 250 Words

If you'd like to learn more about query letters, check out Janet Reid's Query Shark blog. Whether you post your own for review or not, you'll find out more by the trial and error of others that a whole stack of books would provide.

Want to see the other agents I've highlighted? Click on the "Agent Friday" label on the right.

Free Resources from Holly Lisle

I love authors who give back. I've got a whole list of them. Authors who've reached their goal of publication, and despite the crazy schedule of promoting their books while writing new ones, still pass on vital information through their blogs, free courses, ebooks and workshops.

Holly Lisle is one of these. Yes, she offers some courses for a fee, but this author gives away a staggering amount of informations. Lisle is a fantasy, science fiction, and suspense writer, but she is an excellent teacher of writing. No matter what your genre, you'll learn something from this hard-working author.

Newsletter. Holly's free newsletter is full of information on the craft of writing. And when you sign up, she'll send you a free ebook called 396 Books and Other Resources Writers Recommend to Kickstart Your Writing, Stand your Thinking On Its Head, and Vastly Increase Your Ability to Write What You Know. Despite the incredibly long title, the list of books (and why they are helpful) is a great resource that I've referred to often.

Articles and Ebooks. Holly offers a long list of articles for authors to read.
Assess Your Novel-Writing Progress With These Four Questions 
Create, Complicate, Resolve: The Keys to Keeping Your Readers Interested
4 Thinking Barriers That Keep You From Writing...And Succeeding 
4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market 
Life, Passion... Deadline 
Planning A Heart-Stopping Story 
Interweaving Your Novel's Themes And Subthemes 
Dig Deeper With Your Novel's Subthemes 
Playing Chicken With Your Story 
Burying Your Novel's Message 
How To Find Your Novel's Pulse 
Does Your Novel Have A Heartbeat? 

Besides the free ebook that comes with Holly's newsletter, she has another free one called Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love AND Money. The same page has links to a great writer's forum called Forward Motion. In case you're curious about her writing, Holly has posted two of her novels free online.

Workshops and Courses. Are you having a hard time with writing dialogue? Holly offers a free Dialogue Workshop to help you finetune what your characters are saying. For writers in the middle of plotting their novel, check out Holly's free Professional Plot Outline Mini-CourseWriting fantasy? Do your characters speak a different language? Don't miss Holly's free Create a Language Clinic

Book Review: Writing Fiction for Dummies

I have quite a few writing books. They don't all fit on the top shelf next to my computer, so half of them live on the bookcase in another room.  I can tell which books are the best by where they reside. Writing Fiction for Dummies is a "top shelf" book.

I don't know about you, but I've seldom picked up many of the "Dummies" books. But I changed my mind when the fiction version came out, since it was coauthored by Randy Ingermanson (along with Peter Economy), whose blog and newsletter I've been reading for several years.

When I set out to write my first novel, I had no idea where to start. I wondered if I could possibly grow the initial seed of my story into a full novel. I discovered Randy's website, where he outlined a novel-writing process he calls the Snowflake Method. Within a few days of following his directions, I felt confident that I knew where my story was going.

Both the authors understand that one particular method will not work for everyone. Writing Fiction for Dummies outlines four different ways of approaching a novel (including the Snowflake Method), and explains how to decide which one is for you.

Besides packing the book with all that you need for writing the novel, Ingermanson and Economy lay out the details of editing and polishing your manuscript, as well as key information on how to sell your book.

Full of practical examples from well-known novels, and Randy's own brand of quirky humor, this book is one I refer to often.

Randy Ingermanson's blog (don't forget to sign up for his free newsletter).

Peter Economy's blog.

Pinkies Up: Writing Conference Etiquette

Have you ever attended a writing conference? In a span of two or three days, you can learn specific aspects of the craft of writing, meet agents, editors and authors, and network with writers from around the country.

If you're new to writing conferences, start with a small, regional conference. You won't feel lost in a crowd, and you'll get comfortable with the format of workshops and meals. Many conferences offer various levels of workshops, so whether you are a novice or a multi-published writer, you should find topics you'd like to sit in on.

While many conferences are general, you can also find conferences in your specific genre. Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance, Christian, Thriller, Children's . . . the list goes on. Many writing organizations host yearly conferences for their members.

If a conference offers meals, you'll find that usually a different conference faculty member sits at each table. Enjoying a meal together is a great low-stress way to get to know people in the business. But don't ignore your fellow attendees. I've made wonderful friends and contacts just by asking the question, "What do you write?"

Check to see if the conference you're attending offers critiques or agent/author/editor appointments. Critiques are usually offered for a fee, but they are invaluable if you need objective feedback from someone who is a professional in the business. Appointments with agents and editors are for writers with a finished novel or a non-fiction book to pitch. Make sure to practice your pitch in advance. Alternatively, you can meet with authors or publicists to ask questions specific to your manuscript.

If the cost of a conference is prohibitive, look at the conference website to see if they offer partial or full scholarships. Some organizations allow attendees to "work off" part of their conference fee by volunteering at the conference. The bonus for volunteering is getting to know conference organizers, and meeting the conference faculty (they all need a ride to the airport!).

I've collected some links to other posts about conference do's and don'ts. Check them out, and start planning.

Tips from QueryTracker

What if I'm not good enough?

Getting a critique at a conference.

Should you go?

What to bring.

Hot tips for conferences.

How to choose the best conference

In a Land Far, Far Away

Do you have a favorite "away" place to write? Sure, you can drop by the local coffee shop with the free wireless and the funky atmosphere. But is there a location that gives you "scope for the imagination", as Anne of Green Gables would say?

On Saturday, I was driving home from one of my monthly critique groups, when I had a revelation about one of my characters. It came out of the blue, this sudden knowledge. Turns out my likeable guy had a major disability that I was previously unaware of. It demanded to be written down.

 I happened to be driving past one of my favorite places in Colorado Springs--Garden of the Gods--so named by the Ute Indians. I pulled off at an overlook and pondered my new-found knowledge with the view, ending up writing a few pages about him.

There is something about a beautiful vista that makes the words flow far better than when I'm sitting in front of a computer screen (and it doesn't help that my writing room is windowless). Watching the color of the light on the rocks, the clouds shifting and changing, even feeling the air on my skin--gives me more sensory details than I would have come up with on my own.

My other favorite place to write, when I get the chance to visit, is Glen Eyrie, a retreat and conference center that happens to be right next door to Garden of the Gods. Their amazing property not only contains similar rock formations, but also boasts a beautiful castle. Perfect for writers of fairy tales, like me.

Next time you feel as if you're in a writing "dead end", try changing the scenery. Whether you go sit on a bench at the park and people-watch, or hike into the desert, a shift in your environment might be just the cure to get the words flowing.

Where is your favorite writing spot?


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