Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CONTEST- By Writers, For Writers

On October 1st, 2010 I started to blog about my writing journey.

On October 27th, 2010 I created my Twitter account.

Today, I have nearly 1,300 followers on Twitter, and 50 on my blog. And to each of you, I am grateful.

Seth Godin, in his book "Meatball Sundae," challenged me. He said, write a blog and see how it changes your life. And change it has. I have met more wonderful people than I could have ever imagined. I have learned more than I could properly account for. I am more excited about the future than I have ever been. And it's thanks to you (well... maybe not you. Yeah, you. The one over there, with the red baseball cap. You need to comment more often!)

So, in honor of these two milestone, I want to give away two -- that's right, TWO -- books to my friends.

Both books are by the guru himself, James Scott Bell. These books and Mr. Bell, have helped me in ways that I will never be able to properly repay. The books are:
  • Plot & Structure: This is a must for all writers. It has been a game-changer for me

  • Art of War for Writers: An inspirational and powerful book for all facets of your writing career

Did I mention that they are SIGNED by Mr. Bell?

Oh yeah. I'm giving away the kind of thing you'll add to your last will and testament.

The contest starts NOW and ends on Friday, September 30th, 2011 at 9 PM PST.

One day before my blog-a-versary.

The contest is open internationally. 

The rules are simple. I would love to hear your best advice for other writers. By Writers, For Writers. There are more people now than ever that are jumping into the world of writing. Each time I speak to a high-school student who tells me he/she wants to be a writer, I run through a bunch of things that I feel I need to share and explain. Why not go to the community of writers and ask them? Some of you are already published. Some will be published soon. Some, like me, are inching your way closer.

Your advice can be about:
  • What made your writing better? For example, was it something you read on dialogue, plotting, creating better structure, or character development. What made your stories better?
  • What helped you transition into a better or more effective writer? This could be a tool--like Scrivener--or an advice--like a writing quota.
  • Industry advice?

How will this work?
  • Write your advice directly into the comments below (preferred)
  • Or if you're really shy, then email me at araTHEwriter [at] gmail [dot] com
At the end of the contest, I will consolidate the feedback and bring it all together into the "Best advice: by Writers, for Writers" post. Each of you who contributed will be famous... sort of.

How do you win?

+ One winner will be picked by me and a two other secret people. We will debate and choose our favorite advice. Maybe Mr. James Scott Bell can be coerced into giving his opinion also... maybe :)

+ One winner will be picked by Random.org by a entry system:
- Each comment gets +5 entries (for your contribution)
- Follow my blog and get +1 entries (for your good taste)
- Already following my blog, you get +2 entries (for being a visionary)
- Spreading the word via your blog, Facebook or twitter +2 entries (make sure you tell me about it. For example including my Twitter account @araTHEwriter in the tweet is a fast and easy way)

Simple. Got it? Great. Now go and do it.

Just to kick this off, I'll be the first to share with two! ... I hope I win...

Daily and weekly word quotas: For years I floundered. But when I read Plot & Structure I understood the power of the word quota. It immediately helped me create a writing structure that helped me write an average of 1,500 words per day and then up to 2,500 words per day. It enabled me to be focused on producing words on paper. There is nothing more powerful than seeing you inch your way closer to the finish line

One stinkin' rotten word: My mentor, Michael Levin, said every writer should write one page a day, every day. But he understood that sometimes, we were too busy or too tired, or too something else. He said, on those days, write one word. Write "The" if that's all that comes to mind, then walk away. But he knew something that little 'ol me was unaware of. Once I wrote one word, I wrote a sentence, then a paragraph... until I had written a few hundred words. One stinkin' word is all it takes to get things rolling sometimes.

As a bonus, here's The Word Quota advice by James Scott Bell... in his own words...

Check out his other videos on his YouTube channel.

Fight the good fight!


  1. Write and learn to write. Only through practice and a will to learn will you develop the skills necessary to be successful. Never stop writing. Never stop learning.

  2. Accept critique and expect rejection.

    You can't be objective about your own writing. You need other people to read it and tell you what doesn't work for them. That's how you find out what material made it from the inside of your head onto the page. Don't take the critic's word as gospel, but if two critics tell you the same thing, they may have a point.

    Join a writer's group. Listen in silence. Don't get defensive. And when your critiquing partners tell you your work is ready, and you agree, start submitting it. Follow the submission guidelines scrupulously.

    Then, expect your work to be rejected. Don't let the rejections get to you. Often they say more about the agent or the publication than they say about you. After 10-20 submissions, if you haven't generated interest, further revise and polish your query or story, and try again.

    And while you're submitting, work on your next project. Writing is 30% talent, 30% craft, 10% timing, and 30% luck. You take control of the 10% timing and 30% luck by putting your polished manuscript in front of as many people as possible (politely and professionally, of course). First and foremost, though, you're a writer, which means that you write. That's what will keep you sane during your long trek to publication. But all the time that you're expecting rejection, never, ever give up. You only fail when you stop trying.

  3. My advice. 1) Read and read a lot. You can learn by analyzing the writing of other successful authors out there. 2) If you are pursuing traditional publishing, you need to know that what's hot right now is essentially YA. If you are an unknown, you probably have your best shot in writing for this genre, but if you do so, you had better write it first-person, present tense, female protagonist with mandatory love triangle. If you don't write it like this, an agent will probably never even consider your work. I've determined this through lots of experimentation, lots of querying, and LOTS of my own reading. Yes I could be wrong, but point out a new author that's getting published that doesn't follow this formula (yes traditional publishing is a formula). 3) Know what is possible for you. Do NOT write novels that are over 120,000 words and try to keep it at a max 90,000 words. If you think, oh hey, George R.R. Martin's book has 400,000 words...that does NOT MEAN you can write 400,000 words. Hell no. The exception is him. You are not the exception. 4) Realize that you will get rejected a lot. Your query must sing. Follow query shark and edit that query letter for at least a month before ever sending it out. Also realize that agents rarely pick authors from queries anymore. They get their writers from conferences. This means you gotta spend money, plan vacations, plan trips to attend these writer conferences and hone a pitch of three sentences so that in your thirty seconds in front of an agent, you can win them over.

    Last advice==> Consider a small- to mid-size publisher. The Big Six aren't going to market for shit for you unless they think you can be a superstar. This means you've got to do your own marketing. They are also ruthless...much more so than a smaller publisher. If your sales are not strong right off the bat, they will kick you to the curb in three months. If you don't pay off the advance they give you, it could mean the literal end of your writing career. You will be under a lot of pressure to sell, sell, sell. Writing is a business. If you are not willing to play the role of a salesman, you should get out now.

  4. Never settle for good enough--if you even suspect you can do better, you can.

  5. Believe in your own work. You need an almost blind loyalty (sometimes to the point of delusion!) to your writing ... because if you don't believe in it, no one else will.

  6. This is my comment, I followed your blog, AND I spread the word on my blog. http://lyndies.blogspot.com/2011/08/fancy-that.html

    With that said, my best writing advice is to hang a cork board above your favorite place to write. Fill the cork board with things that motivate you, long terms goals, short term goals, etc. The most helpful thing on my writing board is an arrow. One one side of the arrow, I make a note of where I am in the story, and on the other where I want to be when I stop writing for the day. All these reminders keep me driven. Oh, and have a refrigerators worth of snacks and drinks beside you so the fridge can't whisk you away on another diversion from your writing. Fiendish fridge...

  7. I can vouch for the brilliance of both of JSB's books, since they are well-thumbed in my house. (In fact, don't enter me in the contest, give them to someone who doesn't have them already.) Anyway, here's my advice...

    - Find a group of writers so that you can have people in your life who do what you do and understand what you're going through (RWA, your local library's writing group, something).

    - From said writing group, find at least one critique partner you can trust. Even another unpublished author can give you valuable, objective insights on your work.

    - Set goals for yourself to stay on track. I use word count and time goals when writing, and time/chapter goals for revisions.

    - Keep learning. Take online classes, local workshops, attend conferences, read and reread craft books, read blogs, read good books and figure out how the author does what you like.

    - Most of all: WRITE! Never stop writing. Finish a book, set it aside to simmer, and start something new. Even if you don't have an idea, sit down and write about your dog, or the coffee grounds that splatter the counter every morning. Try NaNoWriMo. You might be amazed at what you can accomplish.

    - My favorite quote by Nora Roberts keeps me going: "You can fix a bad page; you can't fix a blank one." Just write and if you think it sucks, don't worry about it now. Keep writing. You can fix it later.

  8. I'm a rookie writer I don't have much advice to give, but I will pass on what I've learned thus far in 15 years of sporadic writing.

    -Write what you love. Without a passion for what you are writing, your prose will be dull and lifeless, as will your pen or your laptop.

    -Read like crazy. My writing improves dare I say, ten-fold when I devour books here and there. I've looked back on projects written years back when I was reading a bit every single day and I've observed a huge difference in the quality of my writing.

    -If you have writer's block on a project, set it aside perhaps for a few hours, but in those hours you set it aside... write something. Anything. Keep the creative juices flowing, otherwise that ever-present "I'll try again tomorrow" may become an eternity. I speak from experience and regret.

  9. ^ That was me... didn't realize I wasn't signed in.

  10. I have inspired, and I say this as humbly as I can, others to reach in and own up to who they are. See, it started after I first believed that I was a writer.

    I never called myself an "aspiring" one. I knew I was a writer from the first few poems I wrote. I mean they were pretty good. I never boast about anything, but I was pleased. That's the first step. Having or gaining the confidence needed to do what we...do.
    The ideas, some came later, years later, but I never denied that I was in a fact, a writer.

    This has tremendous power in how we view ourselves and our talents.

    When we say we are aspiring we are subconsciously telling ourselves, "I'm not there, yet...but I'm on my way."

    Nah. Once you start writing, you're a writer. Aspire no more.

    That's the first step. Embrace who you are. Embrace the fact that if you write, you are a writer.

    Then comes honing that gift.


  11. Find the way to write that works for you, and do it that way. If you're a plotter, plot. If you're a pantser, pants it. Try new methods, but if they don't make the writing easier or more productive, go back to what works.

    And keep writing so you can discover your voice. It's your most valuable commodity. It's what makes all the effort worthwhile. :)

  12. Identify as a writer--I learned this from a professor my first week in graduate school in psychology. He told our 'professionalization' group, "start thinking of yourselves as psychologists right now!" I have written more since I established an identity for myself as a writer (in the last few months) than in all the years preceding.

  13. I'm re-tweeting your tweet on the contest. I can has entry/entries for that?

  14. Actually, that was Mr. Bell's Tweet. Sorry 'bout that.

  15. Research is expensive, especially if you are unpublished and, therefore, supporting your writing habit out of your own pocket.

    One way I have found to cut expenses is to volunteer to review books: Publishers will then give you things for free. Free is good.

    You can join LibraryThing, for example, and sign up to be an Early Reviewer. Follow (closely!)the Member Giveaways, too. I have snagged several good books for my research in this manner.

    And there are a few side-benefits:
    (1) The writing practice that you get
    (2) The assurance that you actually understood--and retained!--what you read, and that you can explain it to someone else.
    (3) Some exposure in advance of your own publication to readers in the same subject area, readers who are highly likely to make up part of the audience for your book.

  16. I write the stories from my real life to tell people about my experiences and call it fiction because Truth is too much in raw form. I dont knowif I'll ever get my memoir published, but what I need to say can be voiced in the form of fiction too.
    I write because I'm still breathing.


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