Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Show, Don't Tell

By Ronda Simmons

Ah, the vicious SDT (not to be confused with an STD, which can also be vicious). If you want to really piss off a writer, just make the old Show, Don’t Tell comment. As in, “Your dialog is fantastic and you’ve definitely done your research on the social habits of mid-century urbanites, but your plot suffers from too much telling.” 

That kind of critique gets under a writer’s skin as the most ambiguous, pain in the neck, weak as water comment ever made. And yet, mastering the art of Show, Don't Tell is one of the most important skills a writer needs in her or his tool box.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On Not Fitting In

by David Sharp

Who’s up for some commiseration?

Now, I’m not talking about having nobody better to talk to at a party than the host’s goldfish, though I could write a series of blog posts on that. Today, I’m talking about that special frustration when your masterpiece doesn’t seem to be what anybody’s looking for.

Your romance novel featuring vampire cats practically wrote itself back in the composition phase. But now that you’re trying to shop it out to literary agents, it doesn’t seem to be right for anybody’s list. Go figure, right? Sometimes your inspiration and the whims of the market don’t line up. What’s a writer to do?

It Turns Out Publishing Is a Business

The black hole between genres.
It's real, my friends.  It's real.
Who among us decided to write a political thriller because we noticed that the demand had overreached the supply? Don’t raise your hand; it’s rhetorical. But publishers (and by proxy literary agents) have to see things in those terms. If they don’t, they’re not likely to get very far. And gauging something like that requires a great deal of categorization.

If horror is in-demand right now, then we need to be able to define what horror is. But categories can be tricky if your vision doesn’t fit within them. It can feel like you’re being asked to be either a good witch or a bad witch when actually you’re a runaway from Kansas who’s just seen color for the first time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Discover Your Tribe at the NCW Conference

by April Moore

12th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference
Imagination: The Alchemy of Writing
May 5-6, Fort Collins Marriott

I attended my first NCW conference in 2010. I then joined the Conference Creative Team for 2011 and I’ve been to every NCW Conference since. I’ve attended other writer’s conferences in Denver, Jackson Hole, and New York City, but I can say, (and I promise I’m not being biased), I think the NCW Conference is my favorite and here’s why:

Small size. With attendance between 130-150, participants generally have more opportunity to
engage with fellow attendees and faculty than at larger conferences. When was the last time you chatted with an agent or editor over a coffee or cocktail? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by large conferences, and even though you're surrounded by hundreds of others, it can feel lonely and isolating when you don’t know anyone else. 

Welcoming and inclusive. Many writers, particularly ones new to the industry, often think they have no business at a writer’s conference until they’re an “established” author. Banish this thought! Writer’s conferences are incredibly beneficial to you new writers because you’ll meet people who will likely become your biggest support system; you’ll gain an enormous amount of insight and knowledge about writing, all in one place; and you’ll go home feeling energized and inspired to write.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Into the Rough

by Laura Mahal

I’ll admit, I am no golfer. Other than mini-golf, that favored pastime of adolescents, I have never stepped onto a green. Except when I was in Scotland and the entire country was a green.

I do know enough about the sport to recognize that it is considered best to avoid the rough. The “rough” is an area of taller grass that borders the fairway. (Isn’t “fairway” a lovely term? Let’s save that for another blog post. Ideas are flying into my head faster than salmon swim upstream.)

Back to the subject of golf.

As I understand it, the rough serves several purposes.

One, it defines what the borders of the fairway are . . . . Once a golfer hits a ball outside the designated (and therefore, I might assume) optimum area of play, then he or she will find it, umm, rougher to make their next shot. This grass resists the graceful swing, tugging back against the ball.

Two, the rough serves as a form of castigation for the golfer who carelessly sends a ball off-target. On some courses, there are apparently first and second cuts to the rough. The first isn’t so bad, really. A well-placed stroke can lift the ball out of harm’s way and back onto the green. But the second cut, well. Good luck, dear golfer. Sheep, goats and rabbits aren’t interested in nibbling this thick, gnarly grass, which eats golf balls for breakfast.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book Proposals: My Descent into Madness, Okay More Madness

By J. C. Lynne 

I'm in a dark, dark place. Not a dark writing place. I'll shout from the rooftops. I've killed forty thousand words in the last two weeks. Good words too. On two different projects. My writing mojo is on fire!

The dark, dark place I'm in? The fresh hell of a book proposal. 

The Slippery Slope.
Photo credit:

Book proposals are typical of, but not limited to, non-fiction projects. For all intents, it's a business plan for your book. Book proposals are used by agents and editors to sell your project. Book proposals outline non-fiction projects, sometimes before the book is ever written. 

A book proposal outlines the why, the how, and the what of your book. It's about salability and marketability. Two terms that make me a little nauseous. At the same time, I'm not alone in the desire to have a million dollar best seller, am I?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Focus, Or Lack Thereof

By David Sharp

There's a lot of advice out there for writers on how to stay disciplined. No doubt, that's a vital component of getting the work done. If we don't train ourselves to sit down at that computer and put one word after another, we won't have anything to show for it. We must be consistent and diligent.

But that's for another blog post.

Today, I want to talk about the other side of writing. It's the invisible side. The part for which I often admonish myself. The part that looks an awful lot like wasting time. I'm talking about daydreaming.


It's awesome.
Daydreaming is Step Zero for Writing. Everybody daydreams. The only difference for writers is we snag those ideas while they're floating over our heads and hammer them out into a narrative. Most of my best "writing" happens while I'm standing in the shower, walking through the park, savoring my coffee or waiting at a red light. -At least it was red last I looked. Why is everybody honking?

Nothing is Worse Than Staring at a Blank Screen. But there's no rule that says you have to. Why not get out of that chair and burn some calories while you muse? (Or gain some calories if that works for you. Donuts can be very inspirational!) Roll the ideas around in your head and go back to the blank screen when you've got something to fill it. Your computer isn't going anywhere. And if it is, you've got other problems to deal with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Poor Writers

By Kristin Owens

Financially successful writers are a work of fiction. At least the majority of them. I’ve come to a dismal conclusion there is no way – no way possible – a writer can support herself. And those who do – you must have sold your soul. Or enjoy eating instant noodles. Writers fit into one of two categories: Retired and Collecting a Nice Pension OR Married to a Thoughtful, Patient Spouse Who is Gainfully Employed with Healthcare. Lucky me.

Instant Noodles Are A Bargain!

As I continue my hiccupping journey learning about the nonsensical writing industry – I can’t fail to notice writers do more than write. With fierce competition for so little money, writers must find other ways to support themselves. This is what I dub "craft support" or the Spanx of Writing. They edit. They blog. They coach. Give workshops. Present at conferences. This must force introverted scribblers to shovel Xanax by the handfuls, albeit an evil necessity to keep their writing flowing.

It’s unfortunate, but poor writers are resigned to do anything BUT write. I believe writing must be the only job that needs another job to support itself... or maybe that’s what the term "starving artist" is really all about. And I thought it was just for actors. We’re apparently not alone.

But, wait there’s more! In addition to the small pay for articles and essays, a writer may get the fantastical idea to, gulp, write a book which gets no remuneration at all. None. No weekly paycheck for the multitudinous hours crafting meaningful dialog, scenes providing stunning visual clarity and memorable iconic characters. Which is why, sadly, most people consider writing a hobby. Since you can’t possibly make enough to support yourself, you must be doing it for fun. Please. Writing is work whether you get paid or not.

First Paycheck.

I also contend there’s a lot of nonsense that keeps one from writing. Two words: social media. The required platform expected for writers is a lot of hooey. Industry informs us that writers need a healthy following on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get noticed by publishers. Tell me, how many friends are enough? All the precious time tweeting, posting and linking takes us away from, guess what – writing. So, let’s collectively stop doing the Procrastination Dance and get back to writing good stuff. Wait, I feel another march coming on.

Poor writers, let’s not despair. We may not have stacks of cash to balance our Haut-Medóc on, but we are rich in other ways. We have boundless enthusiasm, motivation and hopes that someday, yes someday, that agent will call, that publisher will email and your book – your baby – will take its first breath in the big wide world of Amazon. Ahhh. Someday.

But until that day, keep slogging. It’s all part of the improvement process. Plus, you need to make 10¢/word in order to appreciate 20¢. Keep dreaming about bigger and better, because when that magic day happens, you’ll think back to the simpler days of being a poor writer. And laugh. And that, my friends, may be worth the book advance itself.

* * *

Kristin Owens continues to slog. She is a Fort Collins writer and member of the Northern Colorado Writers and Lighthouse Writers groups. She is completing her debut novel and dreaming of someday. Her published works can be found at

Additional resources to ponder:

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