My Advice to Writers

photoI often see the quote, “To be a better writer, read more.” It made me start wondering what advice I would give to an upcoming writer who needed some pearls of wisdom. It dawned on me last night. While I was avoiding cleaning my apartment I realized there had been one major thing that had influenced me over the past few years. About three years ago, I joined a writing group.

The group started as a continuation of National Novel Writing Month. When we met for our furious word frenzies, we talked about doing something that lasted longer and was a little less stressful. It was rough going at times. There were meetings that I was alone and just plugged away at doing what I was doing. There were other times when we had so many people that we struggled to find space in our coffee shop. It eventually grew to “the usual crowd” where we would have five or six at any meeting.

In the group we have a technical writer, an english teacher, a graphics teacher, a special ed teacher, a stay at home mom, and a woman making writing a full-time job. Between us we have a variety of writers who are at different places in the process. We have a veteran author who has been published multiple times, a couple newly published authors and some still going. We have traditionally published, online, self-published, ebooks and the diversity continues. None of us have taken the same path, and that has become the most valuable tool amongst the group.

I can not stress how useful this group has been. At last week’s meeting I had the ability to discuss platforms, social media, editing techniques and how to work with beta readers. I don’t want to emphasize the importance of any one role as everybody had input. I frequently ask the veteran logistic questions about the industry and how things could be done. I also turn to the novices (myself included) and we brainstorm ideas of how to reach target markets. We’re serious about what we’re doing and because of life all have varying degrees of investment in what we do when writing. However, the supportive atmosphere has made this one of the best writing tools I’ve experienced.

I’ve been part of writing groups before, but this one has been the best situation for me. We meet for two hours every other week, talk for a half hour or so (sometimes the whole time, sometimes not at all) and then we write. There will be pit stops to share a funny quip or ask a question, but the goal is the same, we’re here to get a step closer to finishing that novel. I’ve begun sharing my goals as an attempt to be held accountable and sometimes I fall far short of achieving them. Instead of feeling pressure, there’s support to keep going and sharing stories about why it happened or what went awry.

If there is one piece of advice I could give a fledgling writer or even an experienced writer, genius rarely happens in a vacuum. Join a local writing group (or start one as I did) and after some time, it has the potential to be the support network that a solitary crafter needs to help keep pushing them forward.

Writing vs Editing (Full Time Job)

In my writing group, April was a sprint month in which we attempted to throw down a word count to jump start our new novels. Every year, I participate in NaNoWriMo in which I write an entire novel in 30 days. This was a little less ambitious, but it was a way to force a daily writing routine. It allowed me to try and work out some ideas on paper that I’m not entirely sure will survive into the editing phase.

I managed to write half a novel in one month. It’s a prequel for an existing novel that I’m editing at the moment. What I found during this little experiment in my sanity is that it was helpful to have my nose deep in one novel and start working on another. Even if I don’t use the manuscript for anything, it gave me some backstory possibilities and a plethora of arcs I’d like to see developed. It is however, a meandering train of thought that seems to derail at every turn. This does sometimes tend lead to my favorite work though, so I’m hopeful to see where it takes me in the next month.

I’ve set a new goal in the upcoming two months. I’m setting aside my writing (other than my faithful sticky notes) and putting on my editing hat. It’s not always my favorite part of writing, but this story has kept me interested. I think I can see some potential and I know with more edits it can be a contender. With this in mind, I should have the novel’s second draft ready in a month. I really dig the sound of that. A lot.

An Ocean of Red Ink

EditingI work as a teacher. I grade a lot of papers. Some are carefully crafted magnificent experiences created by amazing wordsmiths. There are however, many that become an experiment in the tensile strength of paper bathed in red ink. At a certain point, I realize that I can see fractal patterns and I believe that my chicken scratches are divine intervention.

The tables have turned.

I am currently editing and writing at the same time. It is without a doubt that I love writing. It’s an opportunity to express myself and create a world without limitation. I’ve discovered that if writing is the utopian world I want, it’s only supported by the gruesome underworld of editing. I write an entire novel in a thirty-day period and it shows when I get to the editing phase. I can no longer comment on a student’s writing now that I’ve seen how much editing I’m currently putting into my current novel.

I’ve decided to put some elbow grease into my craft by revisiting mechanics, structure, grammar and even simple spelling. It’s been tedious to say the least, but I’m enjoying the fact that as I’m reading my current novel that it feels, well, more solid. I can’t say that anything I write is going to be the next big thing, but I can definitely tell that it is improving from where it once started.

The novel that I am revisiting right now is the start in a length series of books I hope to continue working on. The characters are much richer than I originally anticipated and the world has a lot of potential for expansion. I’m writing what I’m passionate about and I think it translates into the work. I’m setting some soft deadlines to be done with the first second draft and with that, getting it into a state that it’s suitable for an agent’s eyes. I’m nervous and excited about the potential waves of letters, both positive and negative about my writing.

Subscription Guide

This week I will be releasing the first chapter of Suburban Zombie High online for the masses. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m a bundle of mixed emotions that results in me jabbering. Since it will be the first episode release, I thought it would be a good idea to tell people how they can be sure to catch every “episode” of the book.

Mail Subscription
On the right hand side of the website there is a box that says “Subscribe to Blog.” This will make sure that each entry of the book goes straight to your mailbox and you can read at your own leisure.

RSS Feed
For the more tech savvy folks out there. You can add: feed:// to get updates from the entire website. If you are just interested in receiving chapters of Suburban Zombie you can add: feed:// to your RSS News Feeds. By doing this you can be sure that you will get the chapters as they become available.

If you look at the top of the website you’ll see a menu for “Projects.” If you hover over that, you’ll see Suburban Zombie High is a button. If you go there, it’ll show you the newest chapter of the novel.

Social Media
Each chapter will also be broadcasted on Social Media (Twitter, Facebook) but unfortunately there are some limitations. If you rely on FB to show up on your timeline, only 33% of the members of a page see a post. Twitter’s will also work but because of the fast paced nature of Twitter’s feed, it can be difficult to keep up with latest chapters. If you’re one a daring person, you can find my twitter feed: and my Facebook:

A New Adventure

photoIt’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything in a blog format. I had, by my definition, amazing success with I.Am.Maine. I had a multi-media experience where I got to explain exactly what it meant to be from a small town in central Maine. I got to hear other people’s experiences and I think the therapy of that project will resonate with me for years. However, It’s time to say farewell and take this momentum and move forward.

Again, I had a great success with my first novel, Suburban Zombie High. I managed to make it onto the top 100 satire list both with the print kindle edition. I will continue to blame Kurt Vonnegut for my short lived fame. However, this made me realize that I have a shelf full of books waiting to be read and that I need to take the plunge and make them available for the public.  I have participated in National Novel Writing Month since 2006 and that has resulted in some fun characters, outlandish plots, and even time heartfelt moments. I think it’s time that they are shared with the outside world.

I held off publishing Suburban Zombie High School: The Reunion because I’m actively hunting for an agent to get a publishing deal. There are so many things involved in this that it impossible for me to explain. However, thanks to a fellow writer, I was introduced to the idea of serializing some of my writing. I thought, “Well isn’t this a great opportunity to bring some sassy high school characters being chased by zombies to the masses?” So you’ll begin to see Suburban Zombie High, Suburban Zombie High: The Reunion, and Suburban Zombie High: Final Class, brought to the web. I’m expecting this to be a weekly chapter release until we reach the final clash of teens, homework and zombie slaying.

For those who have been with I.Am.Maine from the start, there will be two books forthcoming. One will be a physical copy of the blog, while the other will be a photojournalism book discussing the hardships of a small town. I’m hoping to see these out in the next year or two.

Meanwhile, I am currently writing & editing. I am about half-way through editing a book that I will begin taking to agents this year. I am also several chapters into the sequel (or prequel) at this point and I’m looking forward to the opportunities this is going to bring. Where many of my books have a single story to be told, this book is proving to be a myriad of intertwined possibilities that will most likely keep me busy for years to come.

Thanks being the fire under my butt when I’ve slowed and the support I’ve needed when I stagger.

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