Posts tagged ‘network’

June 2, 2015

The power of cutting words


Last week a fellow author showed us a writing exercise he recently participated in. As preparation for an upcoming workshop, he condensed the entire opening chapter of his work-in-progress to 150 words.

The chapter was already powerful. The 150-word version was dynamite.

I’m going to try it. Here on the blog. Because I can, and because I love the idea of practicing where I can get good feedback.

While I finish the rewrite of my own current work-in-progress, I’m creating space under my ‘bits of my writing’ page for these exercises.  The exercises will show up as posts first and then as links on that page.

Just for fun, they’ll be moments in the life of Lily, the heroine from my first two books. I don’t know if the exercises will make much sense, or if they’ll ever grow into anything more than exercises. To be honest, I don’t expect them to.

I do, however, plan on having a lot of fun. 🙂

October 18, 2014

Squirrels, apricot leather and sharing the joy of writing


The squirrel who ate dried apricot mush

The squirrel who ate dried apricot mush

A few years ago, my sister gave me a pair of shoes that I have absolutely loved.

She passed them on, not because they were worn out, but because she is much more fashion conscious than I am, and she knew it was time for her to try something different.

Now those shoes are about beat into the ground. The insides are falling apart and the sole is peeling off at the toes and the heels, and still I love them.

Here’s one reason why:

Two summers ago, I wore those shoes when I went to pick apricots. So many apricots had already fallen off the tree that they created slippery mushy spots on the ground. When I went home, my shoes were too yucky to take inside the house, so I set them outside in the sun to dry.

And dry they did. I had a veritable layer of apricot fruit leather baked all around the edges of my shoes.

I wore those shoes to garden in, after that, and then one day I wore them on a trip into the mountains with my mother and my children. After our picnic, I started taking photos of the scenery. My girls started laughing and pointing at my feet just as I felt something tickle the side of my right foot.

I looked down and saw a squirrel, peeling the apricot leather off my shoes.

I was reminded of this tonight in a strange way. I spent the day at a local pumpkin patch selling books with other local authors, and I thoroughly enjoyed the autumn-harvest-festival feelings that pervaded the little fair. For a moment, I felt a little bit like the squirrel–afraid of people I think are bigger than I am when it comes to writing, but so hopeful for a delicious successful-writer experience that I was willing to sneak up upon it and nibble at it.

It turned out well. I learned SOOO much from one day behind a table, and I had the opportunity to strengthen friendships with other writers and meet groups and groups of other locals. I actually sold books. Friends from my own neighborhood drove all the way to the pumpkin walk to support me. The sun was bright and cheerful, but it never got too hot, even in the late afternoon.

Marketing is a lot easier for me when I have a support group around me like that. By the end of the day, all of us were promoting each other’s books. There was a real sense of community lining our two tables. Until I returned home, I didn’t even remember that no one new entered the #burgersandbooks giveaway this week.

Now it doesn’t even matter. I plan to keep promoting books and holding give-aways, but that’s because I like them. It’s not really dependent on anyone else.

So I guess I really do feel like that squirrel. I glean happiness wherever I can find it.

Even if it’s not something I planned for.

Even if it’s not easy to access.

Even if I have to get out of my comfort zone to do it.

Overall, it was a smiley, feel-good day. Better than old shoes and apricot leather, and I plan to keep sharing the joy.


July 30, 2014

Marketing From a Village

Hinterstein Germany Village Buildings Mountains (from

This past month the local writer’s group I’m a member of held its own book-fair at one of the local parks.

For the first hour, I went, mingled with my fellow writers and watched the band and food vendors set up for the weekly Fridays on Vine concert. Everyone seemed excited, hopeful that the concert and the sign welcoming the public to come meet local authors would bring a stream of locals through the pavilion.

No one said it aloud, but we all watched people gathering on the grass and at the picnic tables as if we might know some of them. As if they might see us, come running in (with their friends, of course) and buy books.

Only a handful of visitors trickled through while I was there, and I don’t think more than a few books got sold, but I still consider the night a success.

Here’s why:

As a united entity, we authors vivaciously reached out to the public.

To my knowledge, this is the first time our little group has ever done this.

It takes guts to welcome new people to come see what we’re up to. It takes courage to put on a professional image, especially when, for most of us, our fledgling works have been self-published and all the marketing efforts are up to us.

For some of us, it takes everything we have to overcome Imposter Syndrome enough that our neighbors, relatives and other people we meet in settings like this will take us seriously. We hope they will at least notice that we take ourselves seriously. (That in itself is a great leap forward.)

I overheard one author say to another, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think we’re all just buying books from each other.”

That may be true. I came home with stacks of bookmarks and two books from my fellow authors, but here’s the deal:

To succeed, self-published authors and traditionally-published authors with little or no marketing budget must be united.

We need to sell the works of other authors as well as our own writings. We need to pass out those bookmarks to every potential reader we meet.

In a world where Talkers and Sneezers make ideas like great books go viral, we need to form tweet teams and street teams that will actually pound the pavement occasionally.

We need a village, and we need to sell to the villages we live in.

That means creating our own wave of enthusiasm, relying on each other to help spread the word, and forming our own movement that can eventually pick up momentum in our own towns and cities and spread to the larger world.

We create online villages by blogging, commenting on each other’s blogs, participating in blog hopping and blog tours, attending virtual book launches and creating author pages on Amazon and Facebook. These are helpful (and so fun they’re sometimes addicting). Wherever we go, we try to seek out our target audiences, hoping they’ll become part of our online villages.

I wonder, though, if they’ll ever really replace people we can get to know.

It takes a lot more courage to reach out to people you can see and touch than it does to reach out to people you might never meet in person. This is one reason why I admire writers who sell their books at trade fairs and arrange for book signings in libraries and bookstores.

Perhaps this is also why I value my writer’s group so much. This last month, at least, these other authors were my village. Even though I didn’t bring any bookmarks to pass out or books to sell, I felt their combined energy swelling up and spilling over into the concert at the park. Since then, two books from one local author have made the bestsellers list on Amazon.

I can’t help but see a connection here.

Her village is thriving.



March 6, 2014

Why all authors should join a book club

"Epic," by Conor Kostick, in a nice shiny library protective page. :) Take a closer look at the book  on

“Epic,” by Conor Kostick, in a nice shiny library protective page. 🙂 Take a closer look at the book on

In November, a neighborhood friend invited me to a book club. I went, although I felt a bit nervous…I had never been to a book club before.

The winter holidays and planning for 2014 meant no real book club meetings again until the second week of February. I attended again, and solidified my opinion on book clubs: All authors should join one.

Here’s why:

  1. Book clubs are a great way to get a feel for what readers love to read. This doesn’t apply just to the books that the club chooses, but also to the way a book is written–the prose, the structure, the characters. It’s just a good way to learn about the elements of a well-written book (and, in some cases, it’s a good way to learn what not to do).
  2. Book clubs are a great way to get your name out in the local community. I’m an open book online (pardon the pun), but in real-life situations I’m generally shy when it comes to talking about writing. I usually won’t even mention it unless someone else brings it up, but in January I took a risk and let the book club members know I love writing. They’ve become a great new support group for me.
  3. Even better, five die-hard fantasy fans from this book club have agreed to beta-read for me. Finding solid beta readers who will follow through in a timely manner can be difficult, so I’m excited to give them a try! (If all goes well, they’ll be reading for me sometime early this spring.)

This month, we’re reading and discussing Epic, by Conor Kostick. I’m about three quarters of the way through and I love it so far. It’s one that’s going to make it onto my Great Worlds list.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think about it.

January 15, 2014

Experiments in Creative Writing

Best-selling writing elicits emotions strong enough to move a reader to action. Could this apply to blogs?

Discovery writing + a good writing friend = happiness

A few years ago, a friend and I began collaborating on what we hoped would be a book-length project built around letters that two characters write to each other.

The idea was sparked when a mutual friend introduced both of us to Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia Wrede and Carolyn Stevermer.  We loved it.

We also really loved the idea of writing back and forth as fictional characters. There are some definite advantages to collaborating on a work like this:

  • If you’re looking for inspiration, the other characters’ letter usually provides some.  Many return letters begin by simply reacting to what the first character wrote, but by the end of the letter, ideas seem to flow.
  • There’s a built-in support network here. Because we get so excited about what we’re working on, this friend and I talk by telephone, text and e-mail  several times each week. We convey our initial reactions to the letters, and this usually leads to long happy conversations about writing in general. It’s an easy way to avoid the isolation writer’s sometimes feel.
  • Because we have so many discussions about writing as an art, we both come away with ideas for making our own writing better. It’s slowly getting easier to see what’s necessary to a plot line and what can be left out. I appreciate that.

We do have some simple rules for ourselves. The most important one is that we can never, ever give away our future plot lines to each other. That’s hard when we’re talking about the letters, but also fun because we both love surprising each other.

The other rule is to discover-write this piece–no outlining allowed, at least for the first draft. We allow ourselves to do some character sketching and have some plot ideas in mind, and that’s it. The idea here is that we’re doing this for fun, and we don’t want it to feel like work.

Although it may take several revisions to really get it into shape, the project rolls ahead almost without effort. I’m excited to see where it goes.

My second experiment, to journal what I get done every day instead of setting goals, has mixed results. The winter holidays derailed me, but as life normalized, I found that focusing on the process rather than on a finished product is quite a bit of fun.  And I really love fun.

August 25, 2013

Bruschetta for writers

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

I have wonderful memories of cold winter days made warm by the company of good friends.

Once a week, we met together to talk, work on projects, watch chick flics and allow our young children to run around in the immense back yard of one particularly wonderful lady.  While they wore themselves out in the snow, we rejuvenated our minds and hearts.

Here I found willing readers for my first attempts at fiction, encouragement when I accepted challenging nonfiction assignments and dedicated discussions about books. We talked about books we were reading, books we loved, books we hated, plot lines and characters and what made certain books original. I found several new favorite authors this way.

A larger group of us met once a month for lunch. In the summer, we often picnicked at parks in and around the Bismarck area. During cold weather, we met at restaurants.

One February day, we met at Olive Garden, where one of my dearest friends introduced me to Bruschetta.

I’m busy chopping fresh garden tomatoes today, content with the idea of Bruschetta for dinner.  It’s like dining with a friend.

I’m inclined to believe that all writers need friends.

Author Janet Sketchley recently put it this way:

We may do the actual writing alone, even if we do it best amid the background chatter of the local coffee hangout, but it’s the writing community that lets us thrive.

I’m nodding my head here. Writers need a strong network, for emotional health if for nothing else.

I haven’t been able to attend a slightly geographically-distant critique group for months now, but the few times I was able to attend saved my sanity during some rough times.  I’m hoping to get back to it this fall. I loved it.

Likewise, I love the local writing group that I attend more regularly. I love chatting with my daughters about their own works-in-progress, and I love that some of my writing friends I’ve left behind will call me two or three times a week just to talk writing with me.

I do, however, think that writer’s friends can—and should—extend beyond other writers.

Like my Bruschetta friend from North Dakota, and my daycare-crib-keeper friend, my German party friends, my do-it-yourself home decorator friend, my librarian friend, my running friends.

Those friends are now joined by my dessert club friends near my non-North Dakota home—the one who takes in pets for the animal shelter, the one who creates beautiful beaded hair  clips, the one who knows how to make gum paste flowers for wedding cakes and the one who enjoys Dr. Who and Monarch of the Glen.

Every person is amazingly unique, and yet it seems like any time I get together with friends, we talk about stories of some kind. I learn something from each interaction with them. Usually, I learn something about myself.

I believe that transfers directly to my writing. It makes me both a better person and a better writer.

These moments with friends are like the basil in my Bruschetta—they make something ordinary like garden tomatoes into something completely wonderful, something worth savoring and worth sharing.

August 14, 2013

Slow Blogging, emotions, and marketing

Best-selling writing elicits emotions strong enough to move a reader to action. Could this apply to blogs?

Best-selling writing elicits emotions strong enough to move a reader to action. Could this apply to blogs?

About four months ago, I came across an idea called slow blogging. I’ve seen it several times since then, and wondered about whether or not it’s a good idea–specifically when health, hearth and other obligations recently kept me away from my blog for more than two weeks.

As I understand it, slow blogging refers to blogging less frequently, but putting more time and thought into posts–kind of allowing them to age.

I admit, my first reaction was one of skepticism. How, exactly, are writers supposed to develop a decent platform for selling their work without gaining followers on their blogs? And how, exactly, are bloggers supposed to build their followings without writing three or four posts a day, at least?

Then I came across this guest post at ProBlogger, written by Brooke McAlary ( This is what she had to say about it:

I’ve been writing about simple living for over two years, but it wasn’t until I started applying the elements of slow blogging that I saw vast improvement in my work, my community and my readership.

Slowing down, posting less frequently, spending more time thinking, studying and writing my posts, has ultimately led me to attract a much bigger audience. My readers now are engaged, inspired and my greatest champions, and I put much of that down to my decision to go Slow.

I’ll say that part again, because it bears repeating.

My readership has grown as I’ve posted less.

I’m giving the idea of slow blogging some serious thought now, partly because, although my readership dropped when I wasn’t posting, I kept gaining followers.

Mind you, I like getting followers, but that’s not why I blog. I blog because I’m a talk-a-holic, and I sometimes just have to get things out of my system.

I blog because I like the online community of writers, photographers and other artists–everyone has something wonderful to share. I like to be there to enjoy it all.

Also, I blog because I have a nagging need to learn, and it seems like the best way to really internalize what I’m learning is to share it with someone else. Blogging is the perfect medium for this.

I can’t say I don’t enjoy the feeling of attracting readers who think about and dream about the same things I think and dream about. I appreciate the fact that these people form part of my platform, but I really value them as a network of real-life friends that I just haven’t had the chance to meet in person yet. The really important thing about blogging, for me, is not so much the possibility of using my contacts to promote my work as the fact that my blogging friends add joy to my life.

Who doesn’t like joy?

And that brings me to my next point: my recent marketing studies have convinced me that if I really want to get the hang of writing books that sell, I need to get the hang of writing books that evoke emotions strong enough to move a reader to action.

From Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines:

Do you see the relationship between reading and other forms of recreation? Here it is: when we read, we buy into a shared dream, a fiction, and by dong so we put ourselves in emotional jeopardy.

Later he wrote:

At the very heart of it, reading stories or viewing them allows us to perform an emotional exercise. And the better you as a writer are at creating fiction that meets your audience’s deepest needs, the better your work will sell.

(Read more about what I think about this book here.)

From Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On:

When we care, we share.

This includes sharing things on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.

Berger also wrote:

When trying to use emotions to drive sharing, remember to pick ones that kindle the fire: select high-arousal emotions that drive people to action.

I’m convinced that emotion-provoking writing is a must for fiction. It’s likely a must for nonfiction, as well–and maybe it’s even more important in that arena.

But how does it relate to blogging, and slow blogging in particular?

My initial thoughts are these:

  • If I’m blogging fast because I’m feeling emotional about something, that’s probably going to be apparent to my readers, and it might be okay to share that. If, however, I’m blogging fast just to blog something–anything–then I may just be blowing smoke and wasting the time of readers I respect and care about.
  • If I’m blogging slow, I have time to savor my own thoughts before I share them with others. Since I tend to be impetuous, this might save me from the embarrassment of sharing things that are too personal. It also gives me time to think about what I have to offer my online friends, hopefully protecting them from seeing careless posts they feel uninterested in but obligated to respond to.
  • The more I control my blogging, the more real writing work I do–and that’s emotionally rewarding on an entirely different level. Conversely, if I’m discouraged about something, I tend to avoid my works-in-progress (and any other uncomfortable challenge) and focus solely on my blog. I have to wonder what kinds of emotions my readers pick up from me then.

At this point, I’m not sure how seriously I take slow blogging. It may happen on my blog by default as the demands of life create new priorities. A quick note here: I refuse to get frustrated by this. 

If slow blogging becomes a bigger part of my life, it won’t be because I don’t enjoy blogging. Rather, it will mean that I’m enjoying the balance of ALL of my life–blogging included.


April 27, 2013

Wedding Dress Draft One: checking facts and more

Well. This has been a busy week. I haven’t been blogging or writing as much as I thought I would be, but with the help of some wonderful people we did make some headway on my niece’s wedding dress. Granted, there’s still a lot to do, but it’s finally starting to come together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fact checks as I’ve worked on this dress. This is a one-of-a-kind dress for a once-in-a-lifetime day, so it has to be perfect.

The level of perfection I’m seeking makes me feel like I’m working on an intricate article on a topic I’ve never covered before.  The fact check is like pinning things on, making sure they drape accurately over the outline, fit perfectly in the seams, and are stitched together into a whole piece that–hopefully–is a masterpiece of its own.

Fact checking is hard work. For me, it involves several drafts of an article. I underline things I think I understand and ask myself whether I’ve put the ideas into words well enough that others can see the same pictures I see in my head. I write several follow-up questions, deepen my research following my initial interviews, and usually run at least a few follow-up questions once the drafts begin to shape up.

It’s exhausting, but it’s part of what makes writing my constant education and my lifetime learning project.

And that brings me back to my niece’s wedding dress. I can’t begin to say how much I’ve learned so far. Yes, I’ve used the seam ripper (more than once). It’s okay. It’s a creation process that’s making me a better person, and that makes me happy.

It also means I’ve had several opportunities for girl time with my niece, a cousin and my daughters, and that’s been great. I guess networks are needed in every area of my life.

Along with that comes another happy announcement. My niece has started a writing blog. Please fly over to the BR Chaston blog and welcome her to this new adventure.

Wishing a wonderful and exquisitely happy weekend to all! 🙂

April 17, 2013

Rome goals update

Although I do usually edit by computer alone, my favorite way to edit still involves paper and a highlighter :)

Although I do usually edit by computer alone, my favorite way to edit still involves paper and a highlighter 🙂

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blogging friends on my Rome Construction Crew goals. Here’s what’s been happening in my happy but somewhat hectic writing life, and life in general:

  • With the change in my schedule, I’m getting quite a bit more done on my book. Although I will only get through a solid rough draft in April, I have set a tentative release date for June 1, 2013. We’ll see if I can meet this one. If I can, it’ll be a lot of hard work, but that means fun, too.
  • Exercise has been a little bit tougher. Although I’m exercising every day, there have been a few days I haven’t met my two hour goal. I’ll just keep working on that. I still hope to be in shape enough to start the Couch to 5K program again in May.
  • As far as the volunteer editing projects go, I think I’ll be able to finish them up this week. I’ll see one author tomorrow evening, and I’ll give him my comments and suggestions then. I’ll be able to pass comments on the other manuscript to the author next Tuesday. It feels good to be able to help people who do so much for others.
  • As part of a separate project, I committed to edit the pirate book by June 1. If I’m going to meet my deadline for getting the sequel to the Night Ones Legacy out by then, I may realistically have to switch editing projects. I’ll just have to see how it goes…but more about that in May. 🙂

Thanks again to Bradley Corbet at Green Embers for setting the Rome Construction Crew up.

Writers have to rely on a network of people to get their books in the best shape they can before publishing them, and then they rely on networks of others when they start marketing and promoting them, as well. It only makes sense that we need a network to help us achieve goals in all areas of our lives. It’s part of the writing lifestyle.

This is just a  great idea, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Looking forward to running!

Looking forward to running!

February 25, 2013

Thoughts on Secrets of Successful Writers, by Darrell Pitt

One of the best things about writer’s conferences is that you get to network with other authors. You find out what works for them in everything such as the best time to write and low long to write every day to how to price books, how to develop a platform and how to promote your books.

Darrell Pitt‘s Secrets of Successful Writers might be the next best thing to attending a writer’s conference or an ongoing, very inclusive writer’s group. This book introduces us to fifty authors (including Pitt) and how they deal with the pertinent issues.

The chapters in Secrets of Successful Writers are conducted interview-style, so you get author’s answers back in their own words. You might as well be having a conversation with them.

Here’s some of the advice I gleaned from this book–remember, not every author uses every technique, but these are the techniques that jumped out at me most:

When and how much you should write

  • This varies widely from writer to writer. Some sleep late and work late; some work early, and some write just when they find the time and inspiration. The tricks seem to be flexibility and the willingness to experiment with your own schedule until you find what works best for you.

Marketing–always the big one :

  • Be nice to your readers; be sociable online and make friends
  • Methodically use the Amazon discussion boards to promote your book
  • Do every interview you can
  • Visit Joe Konrath’s blog for some great ideas
  • Find a readership using ebooks
  • Network with other indie writers enough that their fans get to know you, too
  • Use facebook and Twitter
  • Author Heather Killough-Walden also said the following: 

Create a stark, eye-catching cover that draws readers to your book out of all of the books surrounding it on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble page.


  • Some of the authors were traditionally published, and their publisher took care of that.
  • For indie authors, pricing seems to be as arbitrary as when you work and how long you work each day. The general idea among many of the authors was to play around with pricing until you’re comfortable; however, a lot of them priced their books between 99 cents and $2.99, and one said she was uncomfortable pricing her books over $5 each.

General advice:

  • Write as much as you can.
  • Pay attention to quality writing
  • Writer’s block is a signal that you need more input. Go gather some information, come back and start writing again.
  • ebooks are the future of the publishing industry. Bookstores and libraries are more about the experiences they provide–the smells, the textures of printed books, etc.

My favorite part of the book was this question-answer set:

Darrell Pitt:

What advice would you give to someone about to publish their first novel as an ebook?

John Locke (the first independent author to sell one million ebooks on Amazon):

The minute you send it out into the world, start writing the next one. Don’t worry if your firs t one is going to sell, because it probably won’t. And if it does, your public is going tow ant the next book anyway, and you’ll have nothing in the tank to give them. Your readers want to know you’re committed to providing them with content. In this regard, writing is like a friendship. Do you want to be my friend? Then BE there for me!

How can you not smile at a statement like that?

An upside of this book: you can read an interview a day, stay enthused and feel like you’ve made a new friend. Pitt also included web sites, Amazon pages, and similar information for the author at the end of each interview. If you find you have a lot in common with a particular author, it’ll be easy to use that information to follow them or even get in touch.

This book was both helpful and friendly.

About Darrell Pitt: something to encourage all indie authors

Besides editing Secrets of Successful WritersDarrell Pitt authored the Teenage Superheroes series and The Steampunk Detective. He now has a major publisher looking at his books. I’ll be following up with him about that when he’s able to share more.

In his own words:

It’s a real confirmation the indie publishing can lead to great things.

TeenageSuperhero-2240x1400 [Desktop Resolution]  TheSteampunkDetectiveFINALWebRes

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