My new book coaching clients are on fire right now! They have a story or a big idea they are burning to share with the world. We're digging in together to further focus their idea so they can write forward with purpose.
But inevitably there will come a time (or two) when doubt will creep in. When writing feels like a slog. When they will start comparing themselves to more established writers.
When they wonder if it's all worth it. When they wonder if they have anything new to share with the world. When they wonder if anyone will even care.
I get it. I've been there.
Those kinds of doubts creep in when I'm in the messy middle of a draft ... or in the middle of a revision.
Truth be told, those doubts have crept in recently for me.
But instead of getting a book deal, I'm back in the middle of a major revision. I'm tearing my draft apart to write a better book.
And it will be...
Tools of the Trade:
Dropbox or Google Drive? Or some other organizational system?
What matters most is you have a cloud-based system to contain and organize your writing. Otherwise you risk wasting hours of precious time hunting down drafts and bits and pieces of writing. Set up a folder and subfolder system with categories that make sense to you.
Factors to consider:
What’s your favorite...
Avoiding Comparison: The Struggle is Real
When you’re a writer, it’s hard to avoid comparing yourself to other writers.
You know, the ones who have agents. Book deals. Thousands of Twitter followers. Reviews in The New Yorker.
Meanwhile, you’re toiling in anonymity, just trying to get your draft done.
The struggle is real and so are your feelings.
Acknowledge the envy and don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. We’ve all been there.
Then get back to the page and get that draft done.
Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be the one with the agent and the book deal. You’ll never know until you do the work.
Need A Pat on the Back?
Writing is largely a solitary pursuit without a lot of validation or “attaboys” or “attagirls.” For writers who thrive on praise (anyone else here whose “love language” is “words of...
Memoir writers need to uphold their bargain with the reader to be trustworthy, to tell the truth as they remember it. See how deftly Ouellette does that here. She states a fact but says she doesn’t remember it happening. Only her sister does. With that one simple statement, we know we can trust this narrator. She’s not going to lie to us.
Memoir writers need to choose their perspective. Who is narrating this story? The adult author looking back on her life? The child as she is experiencing events? Jeannine Ouellette does both in this fragmented memoir, which can be tricky but she’s got the writing chops to do it. Can’t you just hear the young Jeannine here?
There’s a principle in writing known as Chekhov’s gun. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Everything you include in your...
Yoga Gives Me the Space to Create: What Works For You?
Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’m back on my yoga mat, in the yoga studio, five days a week. Boy, did I miss this during quarantine!
The sweat. The breathing. The realization that I am clenching my jaw and then trying to relax those clenched muscles. The drishti, the gaze on one thing. The community. The beauty of discipline. The beauty of just showing up and doing the thing.
And truth be told, I get some of my best creative ideas while I’m on my mat. Kind of like many of us experience in the shower. Maybe it’s just the mind’s way of telling us we need more time away from the phone and laptop. Time to allow our minds to wander, to open up to new possibilities. Time to see a story we’ve been telling ourselves in a new light, to see a new way to structure our book.
I can’t pretend to know how the mind works but I know that getting on my mat regularly helps me create.
I know that...
Guess what happened this week? I got Shot #2! I’m going to continue to be careful—wear masks in public, physically distance, and wash those damn hands—but this is a hallelujah moment! Freedom on the horizon! Have you had your hallelujah moment yet or is it on the horizon? What’s the first thing you’ll do once you’ve got the “all clear”?
I’m a sucker for legal shows. Anything Law & Order. The Good Wife. Now I’m watching its spinoff, The Good Fight. These shows make me wonder whether I gave up on the law too soon, but trust me you’d never see me prancing around in the stilettos those female TV lawyers wear. Maybe I was meant to be a writer and a book coach after all. Birkenstocks suit me better.
Somebody’s going to be a June bride—actually two somebodies are going to be June brides. LOL. And guess who’s walking down the aisle with us?
I still marvel at how a single decision can change...
In the Dream House is an extraordinary, genre-breaking memoir.
“Chapters” range from multiple pages to one with a single sentence.
Fragments, slivers, shards of memory.
Leaps back and forth in time, in point of view, in place.
But it works because the author knows what she has come to the page to say.
She lets us know her point from the very opening pages:
“I enter into the archive that domestic abuse between partners who share a gender identity is both possible and not uncommon, and that it can look something like this.”
Skillful writers can break conventions but they still have to have a point.
The structure a writer chooses needs to be in service of that point.
What’s the last genre-bending book you’ve read? What did you think about it?
Interspersed between chapters that are more narrative in nature—i.e, they follow the real-life story of the abusive relationship between the author and her girlfriend—are chapters that...
A query letter is a short piece of writing with a single purpose: to pique an agent’s attention enough that they will be interested in reading more—whether that’s the opening pages of your manuscript or your book proposal.
An agent should be able to skim your query to quickly answer these key 5 questions:
Here’s one of my early query letter attempts:
Dear Ms. …
[Personalize letter for recipient]
Imagine the book Glennon Doyle might have written had she ignored the inner voice that whispered, “There she is” when she first encountered Abby Wambach. Imagine Glennon, a married, mid-fifties empty nester, hearing that voice again. Wondering if it’s too late to listen...
Beginnings are important. Beginnings are hard.
Where to start your book? This is one of the most important—and hardest—decisions for a writer—particularly a memoir writer—to make.
My memoir, Graveyard of Safe Choices, has started in at least four different places. Let’s look at the opening scenes for my last two drafts.
The Draft I Thought Was Close-to-Final
I decided to start this draft with a brief prologue. In a future post, I’ll dig into the pros and cons of prologues, but suffice it to say for now, some agents/editors love prologues and some hate them.
The opening scene in this draft showed me in my early forties, standing at a literal crossroads during a spiritual pilgrimage. Nothing much happens in this scene, but I really liked the image and metaphor of the crossroads because that’s exactly where I would end up in the “real story.” The prologue also allowed me to get in some backstory so that when the reader got to the...
I love talking books, and I’m always happy to share the ones that move me or teach me something. I'll be highlighting books that speak to me and pulling quotes that resonate. I hope you find value in these snippets and that they open your eyes to authors you haven’t read before.
So while I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you, I'd love to hear how these quotes resonate with you too.
My first Readers Corner book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book helped me understand why I was having trouble getting traction on my writing, and it offered me a simple solution. I hope you’ll find it useful too.
“Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.”
~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Resistance is an invisible and insidious force that keeps us from doing the creative work we were put on this earth to do.
It presents itself in many forms: fear, distraction, self-doubt, and procrastination.
Maybe you beat yourself up for when you’re...