"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Sunday, May 21, 2017

8 Habits to Becoming a Prolific Writer

I recently gave a talk to a writers group about becoming a prolific writer. Prolific may have different meanings to different people. After all, what number do you assign to prolific?

Is it someone who has written over 100 stories, but never shown them to anyone? Is it someone who has sold over “X” number of books? Or is it someone who can write in a variety of genres, for a variety of publications?

The truth can be any of these. However, if you are pitching an idea to an agent, editor, or publisher, they are going to want you to answer three very important questions.

1)      How does this project meet their needs?
2)      What have you published before?
3)      What other projects do you have in the works?

You don’t have to be the best in the business, or even a full time writer to become prolific. Keep these eight tips in mind on your journey to becoming, or remaining, a prolific writer:

1)      Volume - The best way to get published is to write – A LOT. Write EVERY day. You must commit to getting something new down each day. Set a goal, and increase it over time. The more you produce, the more you will submit, and the more you can publish. Sure, some writers have hours of uninterrupted time to devote to their craft, but those writers who produce the most volume don’t wait for those continuous blocks of time. They squeeze in ten minutes while waiting for an appointment. They draft a quick thought or idea on the paper they keep at hand, or on their phone while waiting in lines. Any time or place you might otherwise be idle can turn into moments of productivity.
2)      Outline – I’m a pantser at least 50% of the time. I always start with an idea, feeling, character, etc and write from there. Once I’ve gone as far as that inspires me, I know it’s time for a set of goals for the story, if not a full outline. This can help eliminate wasted time, detours, and full on writer’s block. Curious how the professionals do it? Review these notes and diagrams showing how some of the most famous authors of all time prepared their work: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2326630/Notes-diagrams-famous-authors-including-J-K-Rowling-Sylvia-Plath-planned-novels.html
3)      First Draft – give yourself permission to write the story YOU want, without worrying about editing, publishing, trends, or readers. Complete your whole idea before worrying about mistakes.
4)      Rewrites – it’s rare that I share anything I haven’t gone over at least FOUR times to check for clarity, believability, and fun. Then, I may have several others go over it before submitting. Even the best editors often need another set of eyes to offer feedback.
5)      Inner Turmoil – we are often our own worst enemy. Internal debates, concerns, and downright fears can take over and prevent us from moving forward as professionals. This can happen whether you’re a beginner, or a multi-published award winning author. The cure is to keep writing, have faith, avoid distraction when possible, and socialize with other writers for support.
6)      Read – A LOT! Gather inspiration, learn techniques, and find pure enjoyment for writing again when you read every day.
7)      Multiple Projects – too often we get caught up in focusing just on our book, or our current article, but the true sign of a prolific writer is someone who writes in multiple formats for multiple paychecks. Remember, the more places you’re seen, the more likely you are to get hired by others.

8)      Marketing – it’s all up to you! Social media, branding, and public speaking. Writers may be shy, solitary creatures by nature, but you can also be your own best proponent for success. Need some guidance on this front? Check out Hope Clark’s The Shy Writer Reborn.

So, what are you doing to become a prolific writer? Any other advice on this topic that you would like to add?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goal Update

Last week I mentioned my new goal. Taking a spin off of Bradbury's famous advice, I want to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I thought I would share an update for the past week.

As of today, I have:

- 2 COMPLETED flash fiction pieces ready for submission.
- 2 completed drafts ready for final edits.
- 3 extremely rough drafts needing a LOT of work.

That's seven total for the last week. While I'm proud of that, I would be prouder if all seven were ready for submission. However, I'll take what victories I can, and keep plugging away. I still hope to have 20 pieces before June 1st.

If you want to read about my original goal, see my first attempts at flash fiction, or read some thoughts on setting goals - click here.

How are your goals and WIP's coming along? What victories are you celebrating?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Goals

I won't be posting here as much for the rest of this month; certainly no where near the 26 posts I had for April. However, I am still writing. 

In addition to the work I'm producing for several other publications, I have set myself a new goal this month. I'm taking Ray Bradbury's famous advice: "Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row."

However, instead of writing 52 short stories in a year, I am going to attempt to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I don't have much experience with this length, but I have attempted a few. If you have time, and wouldn't mind offering some feedback, you can read those here:

Romance - Madame Tooshkas Spell
Romance - Masters in Love
Romance - Love's New Beginning

Horror - I've Had a Great Time, But...  

I've talked before about goal setting, new experiences, and how both can help not only your writing, but your life overall. To read more:

Take A Chance
New Experiences

Goal Setting
Reevaluating the Plan
5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

My article in this months Thrive magazine: 8 Tips to Control Blood Pressure Without Medication

How about you? Are you setting any goals, or trying new things?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Heart-Shaped Life and Devoted

I have not finished reading The Heart-Shaped Life, but I have enjoyed it very much so far. This is beautiful, hardback, and full of high-quality gloss pages. Every page is a devotion specific to each day of the year. I have found this book to be a beautiful love centered reflection of God and His will for our lives. While I have never before ready anything by Karen Moore, I am now very interested in getting my hands on one of her other books. This would make a good gift for yourself or a loved one.

I love that Devoted: A Girl’s 31-Day Guide to Good Living with a Great God is written by a nineteen year-old. Too often, books for young girls are written by mature women who become preachy towards teens and new adults. Jacksons book is written by a young woman experiencing the same issues as others her age, and sharing why she has made decisions for a God centered life despite the pressures, popularity, and even ease of other choices. As a bonus, each chapter features personal and group questions, challenges, and hand lettered art pages that readers can enjoy coloring. I highly recommend this for the young lady in your life.


I received a complimentary copy of these books from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Friday, May 5, 2017

15 Books for Cinco de Mayo

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the Mexican army’s defeat of French forces in the Battle of Puebla. In addition to celebrating the day with chips, salsa, guacamole, and cerveza why not spend some time reading about the culture this holiday represents? Here are 15 suggestions:

El Perro Con Sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale - By Derek Taylor Kent (author) and Jed Henry (illustrator)  Ages: 3–7
If you want to familiarize your kids with some easy Spanish words, there’s no better way than through the story of Pepe, a street dog who becomes a movie star when he acquires a snazzy sombrero. But Pepe, aka El Perro con Sombrero, has to watch out for his rival enemy, El Gato con Zapatos! Each page includes the story in both English and Spanish, so kids can see the relationship between the two languages.

Viva Frida - By Yuyi Morales Ages: 4–8
Frida Kahlo is the most recognized female Mexican artist, and her exceptional life is portrayed in an unusual way in this book,, in which Yuyi Morales combines ultra-short bits of text (“I see”) with mixed-media artwork that portrays bits of Kahlo’s story. Viva Frida was the winner of the American Library Association’s 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, which is presented annually to a Latino/Latina illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It also received a Caldecott Honor.

Salsa: A Cooking Poem - By Jorge Argueta (author) and Duncan Tonatiuh (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
Make sure you have some chips on hand before you open this picture book, in which a brother and sister go through the steps of making their own homemade salsa. After reading it with your kids, you can see if you can replicate the book’s success in your own kitchen.

Papa Gave Me a Stick - By Janice Levy (author) and Simone Shin (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
From delicious foods like paletas and salsa, move on to music, and the tradition of the mariachi. In this book, Antonio wants nothing more than a guitar so he can join a mariachi band, but his father only gives him a stick. He takes it and sets off on a series of trades that’ll hopefully end with him receiving his coveted guitar. After reading it, see if you can make your own maracas or other instruments from materials you have at home.

Finding the Music: En Pos de la Música - By Jennifer Torres (author) and Renato Alarcão (illustrator) Ages: 6–10
Another look at the mariachi for slightly older children, this story follows a girl named Reyna who breaks her grandfathers guitar-like instrument called a vihuela. As she travels throughout her neighborhood to try to get it fixed, she learns more about her abuelito and the kind of music he used to play. After this and Papa Gave Me a Stick, see if you can look up some mariachi videos on YouTube to show your kids the real thing.

Sage Carrington: Math Mystery in Mexico City - By Justin Scott Parr Ages: 9–13
This book has everything: a smart and savvy heroine, STEM puzzles and a tour of some of the greatest sites in Mexico. To solve a math-related mystery, tween detectives and best friends Sage and Isabel traipse across Mexico with their families, stopping at sites like the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the temples of Chichén Itzá, the Olmec ruins of San Lorenzo and the island of Cozumel. This is the second volume in Sage Carrington’s adventures, which start with Sage Carrington: Eighth-Grade Science Sleuth.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico - By Marcia Wells (author) and Marcos Calo (illustrator) Ages: 9–13
If Sage Carrington whets your kids’ appetites for Mayan mysteries, go for another round with this mystery starring seventh-grade sleuth Eddie Red. Red has a photographic memory, but while his parents are at a conference in Mexico, he needs to team up with a local girl name Julia to set him straight about Mexican history in order to solve a mystery. Like Sage Carrington, this is Eddie Red’s second adventure; his first took place in New York City for Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces - By Isabel Quintero Ages: 14+
For teens, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces tells the story of a Mexican American 16-year-old in crisis. Her diary entries explain how she deals with her drug-addicted father, her pregnant best friend and her ultra-religious aunt. The novel has won a slew of prizes, including the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults award and the 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, which honors authors who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience.

Across A Hundred Mountains, by Reyna Grande Any
The realism of this story of a young girl traveling from Mexico to the United States to find her father can  be credited to to author Grande’s firsthand experience: she entered the United States from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant to join her parents in 1985 when she was 10 years old. The tale of Juana’s crossing, told in spare, clear prose, won Grande an American Book Award.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros Any
Cisneros previous work, which draws on her experiences growing up in a Mexican immigrant family in Chicago, is still a top choice for students and readers of any age. But in Cisneros’s 2003 novel Caramelo. young Lala is growing up in a Chicago-based Mexican American family when her parents decide to move to San Antonio. Written in lively language and infused with vibrant culture, stories, and humor, Caramelo is about as close as you’ll get to finding a fiesta in a book.

Before the End, After the Beginning -  by Dagoberto Gilb Adult
Gilb, who grew up in Los Angeles as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother, worked as a construction worker before beginning his literary career, sharing with readers a slice of life not often seen in contemporary literary fiction. This most recent story collection includes a brave, funny, and fierce fictionalized account of a man who wakes up in the hospital after suffering a stroke, inspired by Gilb’s own medical crisis.

What You See in the Darkby Manuel Muñoz Adult
Muñoz reimagines the filming of 
Psycho in Bakersfield, California, a town not far from Dinuba, where he grew up. He intersperses chapters from the perspectives of Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Lee with the story of the murder of a young Mexican American woman named Teresa by her white lover, events that play out at the same time Hitchcock is creating his fictional horror masterpiece.

Still Water Saints, by Alex Espinoza Adult
Espinoza’s debut novel tells the story of Perla Portillo, the owner of the Botánica Oshún, a store selling saints candles, herbs, and charms to help ease the problems of the residents of Agua Mansa, a fictional Southern California town. And boy do they need their good luck potions—their problems escalate throughout the book, which keeps readers turning the pages.

Night at the Fiestasby Kirstin Valdez Quade Adult
Her debut fiction collection, 
Night at the Fiestas, is set mainly in Mexican American communities in New Mexico. She writes unforgettable stories of characters at a crossroads, from an unmarried, pregnant young woman trying to maintain order in the office of a Catholic church, to a Stanford-educated daughter of field hands seeking some respect, to a down-on-his-luck man who portrays Jesus in a reenactment of the crucifixion in a New Mexico town.


The Miniature Wife And Other Storiesby Manuel Gonzales Adult
This is a smart, and funny, debut story collection which includes a story in which a man returns from work to find his wife “shrunk to the height of a coffee mug,” another in which a man who feels like a zombie from years of office work in a cubicle actually becomes a zombie, and one in which an airplane circles the Dallas airport for decades without landing.

How are you celebrating today? Have you read any of these?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Star Wars Day: May the Fourth be With You

What started out as a pun has become an international day of celebration for Star Wars fans across the globe.

Many book, movie, and music stores celebrate by offering discounts on their Star Wars merchandise. Check out http://www.starwars.com/may-the-4th

Fans are taking to social media and festivals to celebrate their love of all things in the special universe. Check out Wookieepedia: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/May_4

Since purchasing the rights from Lucasfilm in 2013, The Walt Disney Company has officially observed the holiday with several Star Wars events and festivities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

How about you? Are you a Star Wars fan? Are you celebrating today?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWSG: The Weirdest/Coolest Thing

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.


MAY QUESTION: 
What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

My Answer: In my short Story "WIN" I created a society that relied heavily on neural chips following a Biological War. When the idea first occurred to me, I had no idea what the history of biological weapons creation and use was so I began researching. I found out that in 1972, the ‘Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction’ met. They later became known as the BWC or Biological Weapons Committee. Obviously, that was not the end of biological weapons development. This became the backstory for my society in "WIN". While I still like the concept for my story, you have to admit many people will find it strange that I researched this topic.

What about you? What is the weirdest or coolest thing you've ever researched?