The Busy Mom’s Guide to Helpful Writing Resources

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You’ve got an idea that you want to get on paper. Or you know that you always wanted to try writing, but you’re not quite sure where to begin. Maybe you’ve eeked out a draft of something and now you’re trying to figure out what to do with it, but you don’t have the time because your own personal army of small humans, and let’s be honest, probably at least one big human as well, demand so much time – not to mention pets, day jobs, side hustles, etc. What’s a busy mom/would-be writer to do?

Relaxed Basketball Wives GIF By VH1

First, take a breath.

You are not alone. There are so many of us out there, in fact, that social media is clogged with voices. But I don’t need to tell you that. In fact, it’s all a bit overwhelming, amiright? I hear you. I was a skeptic venturing into the virtual world of writerly things, but after a few years scoping it out, there are a few valuable and invaluable resources I return to time and again. 

Before I give up all the goods on the resources I’d like you to know I am not being endorsed by, or receiving any benefit from, any of these sites or organizations. I may be a member, and I’m recommending them because they have provided me with tools that have helped me grow as a writer. With that out of the way, you should also consider that I tend toward sites that help develop my: 

  • Skills as a novelist or blogger
  • Publishing industry knowledge
  • Writing community

Take a moment to articulate in your mind what your writing goals are, both longer term and next steps. If our interests tend to align, then read on and consider if these resources can help you in your writer’s journey. 

GIF By Golden Globes

NaNoWriMo. This is the one that got me to knuckle down and prove I could write a novel. November is their big month, but they have events all year round these days, and lots of good support for writers of all levels. It’s great for skills and community, and for anyone who’s ever wondered if they have what it takes to vomit up 50,000 words (or more) in a semi-coherent format. 

Writer’s Digest is another resource that’s helpful to writers at any stage of development, and regardless of whether you’re working on a non-fiction proposal, poetry, or flash fiction. It’s the one magazine subscription I actually make time to read, plus the organization offers contests, conferences, and online trainings. 

SavvyAuthors is where I go for skill-building training programs. Last year they offered a fantastic mentoring program. They also have a blog, which will accept articles from guest authors, and periodic pitchfests that have helped me identify, and connect with, new agents.

Pitch Wars is another amazing blend of skill- and community building, with the opportunity to win mentorship and then get noticed by top industry agents. Even if you’re not yet ready to enter into the fray, it’s worth checking their website periodically to see what you can learn from others novelist hopefuls. You can also follow #pitchwars on Twitter to further enhance your community.

Speaking of Twitter, if you’re a writer, ignore this social media platform at your own peril! Not only are there vibrant and supportive writing communities out there (#writingcommunity, #writers, #writerslife, #amwriting, #writing) there are agents, tweeting about what they want and don’t want, and when they’re going to be ready for something fresh. There are editors, eager to help you develop your idea, style, or help you fine tune your MS. #Pitchwars is just one of a number of pitch contests – where you tweet 280 characters about your book and agents or editors might request your submission – instantly moving your work out of the slush pile and into an inbox. Even if you aren’t ready to pitch yet, watching #pitmad (or any of several genre specific pitchfests) is a way to see what is out there in your genre, what gets agent attention, and what doesn’t. You can track agents you’re interested in to see what they like during these events, which may help you down the road. 

For those of you more interested in blogging, or building a base of published articles or short stories, check out the Medium Partnership program. Not only does Medium publish a number of articles on writing designed to help you hone your craft, it also offers the opportunity to get published and potentially make some money. Publications for writers include The Writing Cooperative, Writer Mom, and Epilogue. @EpilogueMedium and #writingcooperative are both also active on Twitter, and both Writer Mom and Writing Cooperative have amazingly supportive Facebook groups. 

There are, of course, dozens of other websites and other online resources dedicated to helping you achieve your writerly dreams. So if the few I’ve highlighted here aren’t working for you, just hit the internet search engine of your choice and you’ll likely be amazed at all that pops up. The important thing is to know that you aren’t in this alone. There are so many of us out there, the majority of whom are eager to help you on your journey and to cheer you along the way. The other thing to keep in mind: this is a journey, not a sprint. So take your time. Explore a little bit, get comfortable, and then explore a little bit more. Take it at your pace, and enjoy finding your tribe. 

That’s the Intention

I have a plaque with a quote from Mark Twain that reads:

“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”

At some point, I should have crossed out “today,” and wrote “in 2019” above it.

Sorry, but 2019 was full of so much suckiness, not just for me, but for a number of people I know. I heard “I can’t wait for this year to be over!” exclaimed a lot more this December, which means a lot of us must have been ready to toss that old calendar to the curb. Goodbye, good riddance, don’t let the door hit ya in the rear on your way out, 2019!

If I remember correctly, 1999 and 2009 were equal in suckage. I mean, if we’re going rate years by level of suckage. Now, I don’t have any background in numerology, but I’m going to propose that this is due to them all ending in the number 9. Obviously.

And I’m making a mental note to prepare for 2029 by hoarding bottles of vodka and buying a helmet to shield my head from falling crap.

Because I’m a planner.

Unfortunately, 2019 has not left me in my usual place for goal setting. At the end of the year I’m normally buying a new planner, making new word lists, and greeting the new year with hopefulness and lots of fresh office supplies. Since that’s not the current situation, I decided to try the “setting intentions” approach for this year. It feels like a kinder, gentler version of goal setting. Goals feel more pass/fail to me at the moment, and the bad taste in my mouth from 2019 makes me assume I’ll fail. There’s no sense in setting myself up for that.

Continue reading “That’s the Intention”

Embrace 2020: Plan for success in your writing

Holy crapamoley – it’s the year 2020! Is anyone else having Jetson-like fantasies about this year? I feel like it’s officially future-land, and yet, not a single flying car has soared past my window. Maybe they’re just slow to make it to New York’s Hudson Valley?

What has for sure happened, though, is that a new year has begun, and with it the chatter about intention-setting versus resolution-forming. I still love Julie’s guidance from last year about setting a word, or words, around which to structure the next 360 days. I have done, however, exactly none of any of this goodness, though the year is already escaping through my fingers. 

So, putting myself on the spot here to come up with a word for 2020, I think mine is going to be “vision.” Because what could be clearer than 20/20, right? (dull cymbal roll).  But if life has hammered any lesson home to me, it’s that in order to see into the future, we have to first look at our past. 

Putting that into writerly terms, before we can envision (I’m full of ‘em today, watch out!) what we’re going to rock this year, we need to look at what we rolled last year. This, by the way, is an exercise best done without champagne goggles (or the subsequent hangover).  For me, in order for this to be meaningful, I need to do it a couple of times, and each time needs to be a little quieter, for a little longer. 

(This exercise is vastly easier if you actually set goals last year. If you didn’t, keep reading, since I’m going to show you how setting goals is helpful on both the micro and macro levels.) 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
Continue reading “Embrace 2020: Plan for success in your writing”

On Ghost-Raising Fiddles and Writing

An Interview with Author Erica Waters

I’m so excited to share an interview with Erica Waters. Erica was a member of the Pitch Wars class of 2017 and I’ve been able to read a bit of her work – I love it! Erica’s debut Young Adult novel, GHOST WOOD SONG, will be released by HarperTeen/Harper Collins this summer. GHOST WOOD SONG is a spooky, contemporary fantasy – and good news – it’s available for pre-order! Follow any of these links:

Here’s a brief bio for Erica from her website:

Erica Waters grew up in the pine woods of rural Florida, though she now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a Master’s degree in English and works as a university writing tutor. When she’s not writing books, you can find her hanging out with her two dogs, Nutmeg and Luna, and forgetting to practice her banjo.

Before we head into the interview, check out the awesome summary for GHOST WOOD SONG…

Shady Grove is her father’s daughter, through and through. She inherited his riotous, curly hair, his devotion to bluegrass, and his ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle.

That cursed instrument drowned with him, though, when his car went off the road, taking with it the whispering ghosts, nightmares, and the grief and obsession that forced her daddy to play.

But Shady’s brother was just accused of murder, and so she has a choice to make: unearth the fiddle that sang her father to the grave and speak to the dead to clear her brother’s name, or watch the only family she has left splinter to pieces.

The ghosts have secrets to keep, but Shady will make those old bones sing.

So let’s find out a little about how GHOST WOOD SONG came to be!

Continue reading “On Ghost-Raising Fiddles and Writing”

Decision Point. Set. Match.

Anyone else feeling overrun with decisions that need to be made lately? What’s the perfect holiday gift? Do we invite the family to stay with us, or travel to them? It’s not just the holidays, though they seem to make it all a bit more anxiety-inducing. Personally, I’ve been staring down my mental decision trees for so long now, all I see is brambles. For example, with five days of NaNoWriMo remaining, I was noodling through the following: tether myself to my computer, coming up only for life-sustaining necessities, in order to churn out approximately 5,0000 words per day to make the 50K finish line; OR be (relatively) normal, but fail to qualify as a “winner” this year. 

For some of you, this isn’t much of a conundrum. For me at the time, the decision wasn’t straight forward. In retrospect, it felt like a microcosmic reflection of a number of decisions that have been tripping through my mind lately, and which, like the cosmos itself, are expanding ever outward in scope and importance. Should Julie and I continue feeding energy into this blog or use that time and effort for other writing goals? Should my family stay the course on limiting screen time for the kiddo, or use the electronic babysitter to create more time for my husband and I to get work done? Do we continue here in New York or once again go adventuring? Etc., etc. And I always wonder, even when the issues appear entirely disparate, how will any one of these decisions impact the others? 

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Back to NaNo and my pie-in-the-sky goals, the last five days of November this year included Thanksgiving, complete with family commitments (and actual pie), not to mention a host of other seasonal temptations. Perhaps these facts are enough to drive you firmly in a certain direction. For me, though, the pull between “winning” and “family” is stronger than I should probably admit. Even though I do really believe that every word written is in itself a win, the decision to give up going for the gold was still tough. 

What pushed me over the tipping point, however, wasn’t family, nor missing out on Black Friday (which turned out to be one of my higher word count days), but the needs of my story. Sure, I could have rushed it. It wouldn’t have been the first time (hello, NaNo manuscripts from 2014-2017). While I still believe there is a certain dark logic in the adage, ‘don’t get it right, get it written,’ admittedly, it can make the revision process not just longer, but hairier . It’s one thing to realize you have a plot hole or two, or a character that isn’t fully developed, or an internal inconsistency – it’s another thing all together to realize you’re staring down all this AND MORE as you start your revisions. So, in the end, I decided discretion was the better part of valor this time and I’d let my story continue to spin out at its own pace. Which is to say, I’m hoping to be done with the draft before Christmas, but I’m willing to give it the time that it needs, even if that means I’m still plugging away at the first draft into 2020. 

Continue reading “Decision Point. Set. Match.”

The 12 Days of NaNo

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. If you’ve never heard of NaNo, as it’s commonly referred to, check it out here. The goal is to get 50,000 words down on paper in the month of November. It’s November 20th as I write this, and, well, let’s just say I’m not on track to hit that number.

At the rate I’m going, I’ll hit my NaNo word count maybe 12 days this month. Are you in the same sinking boat? Take heart! I’ve written a little parody to cheer up all of us NaNo-not-quites. I combined my NaNo failure with the excitement of the upcoming holidays. I present to you…

The 12 Days of NaNo (Note: In writer world, MS = manuscript.)

On the first day of Nano

I managed to achieve

an outline of an MS.

On the second day of NaNo

I managed to achieve

two hundred words

and an outline of an MS.

On the third day of NaNo

I managed to achieve

three lame scenes,

two hundred words,

and an outline of an MS.

On the fourth day of NaNo

I managed to achieve

four storylines,

three lame scenes,

two hundred words,

and an outline of an MS.

Continue reading “The 12 Days of NaNo”

Go for it!

What you’ll look like doing #NaNoWriMo 2019

Welcome to November! Just as Julie returns to sporting themes periodically, I seem destined to return to NaNoWriMo around this time every year (see Ready, Steady, NaNo or Eeking out time to write). If you’re not participating in NaNo 2019, don’t x this article out! While NaNo was what got my gears turning, this article is aimed at anyone who’s been wanting to do something creative and new, but hasn’t…yet. To those of you who find yourself thinking, “I’d love to try, but…”, keep reading. 

First, a brief aside; I promise it will all come together by the end. I LOVE NaNoWriMo (in case you hadn’t already figured that out). This is my 7th year participating, though, if I’m being honest, two of those years were total flops. Maybe this year will be a flop too – it’s too early to tell. So, the question is why do I love NaNo so much, especially if I can never be certain if I’m going to be a “winner”? 

It’s because NaNoWriMo is one of those opportunities in life that is ALL win. 

Let me explain. 

Outcome A: You work really hard and you find out that your story only has 40,000 words to it (not the 50K required to ‘win’). YOU WROTE A STORY! A WHOLE STORY! (Ok, at least two-thirds of a story.) That’s amazing! You’ve just birthed art into the world and you’ve exposed a part of your deep dark consciousness to the light. How can that be anything but a win?

Outcome B: You have the best of intentions, but life is overwhelming and you only manage to write 5,000 words of a story that you know is going to be a blockbuster one day, if only you had the time to write it. FANTASTIC! You’ve tapped into that inner muse, the genius of the universe, and as a result you WILL come back to this addictive idea another time. November is a weird month, sandwiched between back to school frenzy and holiday insanity. My kid doesn’t have a single full week of school this entire month. It is NOT the ideal writing month, from my perspective. So give yourself credit for unearthing an award winning idea and allow yourself to be excited about getting back to it in January, February, July, or whenever it is that YOU can make time for it. 

Outcome C:  You write 10,000 words of something that feels totally frivolous. You’re writing in a genre you never thought you’d write in, that maybe you don’t even read in, and you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going with it. It has no place to occupy on your short-list of professional goals. WHAT A GIFT!! You just learned something new about yourself. Or maybe you knew, but you’d forgotten and allowing this part to have a little time in the sun feels like a reconnection with yourself. Maybe your brain needed to do something different in order to be able to knuckle back down to the hard tasks you demand of it all the other hours in the day. Whatever the reason, take a moment to honor how it felt, and to reflect that perhaps not every minute of your day needs to be task oriented.

Continue reading “Go for it!”

Begin. Again.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

I’ve got a note on the wall in the shower (if you haven’t discovered Aqua Notes, you’re missing out – they will change your life) that reads: 

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that September was not my month for writerly achievements. It was, in fact, the month I wanted to take a sledgehammer to my laptop, delete all my files from the cloud, and otherwise burn it all down. Which isn’t really my style, generally speaking. Luckily, the phase passed after a few days of self-pity. Then it was time to begin again. To start over. To redefine the way I approached the things that were draining me. 

But where? What should I do differently to ensure I didn’t end up back at the nuclear option?

The act of writing the note was my start.

1 page

1 pound

1 stretch

Begin

It was an exhortation to myself to get moving. It was a new set of goals, and maybe most importantly, it was a reminder to break my goals down into small, achievable pieces.

The idea of setting achievable goals in order to create a cycle of successes isn’t a new one. In fact, it might be THE lesson life has been attempting to teach me in 2019. As usual, though, I’m a slow learner. Despite having encountered this notion in several formats this year, I keep setting goals that lead to frustration. I couldn’t figure out how to reconceptualize the goal-setting process.

Frustrated Head GIF by swerk - Find & Share on GIPHY

Then I had one of those fortuitous visits with a couple I love dearly who have recently achieved dramatic, healthy weight loss.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that they’ve, together, lost as much as I weigh. It’s amazing. And so inspiring. Especially for someone who has stubbornly hung on to the last 10 pounds of baby weight accumulated over six years ago.  I asked my friends how they did it, expecting guidance on apps used, food systems implemented, etc. My mind was blown by the simplicity of my friend’s response. She said that she had never had much success trying to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds, so she decided to lose ONE pound. And then she did it again. And again. And again. It was a success she repeated so often that it became habit. 

THIS is the lesson the universe has been trying to teach me! One pound. I can lose one pound. Even if it is one pound of die-hard, stick to your hips baby weight. I can totally do one.

Continue reading “Begin. Again.”

On Raising a Writer

Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash

If you love to write, it’s natural that you want (and maybe expect) your kids to love writing. Totally misguided, but natural. I think I’ve raised all three of my boys the same way when it comes to reading and writing, but there have been drastically different results. Because they are their own persons with their own interests and gifts. The nerve, right? Anyway, I still stand by some of the techniques below because they’ve helped each of the boys, albeit in different ways. So, if you’re looking for some help with your reluctant writer or you want to encourage your budding Stephen King, check these out…

  1. Read.

Yes, the same advice that was given to you when you first expressed an interest in becoming a writer. Read. Everything. For kids, that translates into reading aloud often and exploring different genres with them. One of my kiddos didn’t read independently until age seven. As we encouraged him to learn his stinking sight words, we continued reading aloud every night. We took books on CD in the car and made sure he had a little CD player so he could listen to them on his own, too. By fostering the love of story, you can expose them to the parts of a story, dialogue, and characters. All things that are good foundation for when they are writing themselves.

We recently started picking up PlayAways at our library and they love them! Check to see if your library carries them!

2. Take Dictation

I let all three kids dictate stories to me when they were too young to write. You can fold some paper in half and – to everyone’s delight – get out the stapler. The most exotic of all office supplies. Or you can buy some of these. Whatever works. As they told me their story, I would stop them now and then to ask a question with great interest. What happened next?  Was anyone with the mechanical robot bunny? How did that make the monster feel? It becomes a bit of a conversation. You’re getting more details and helping to build their story. In our case, it helped if I didn’t censor much. They felt free to be as imaginative as they wanted.  So, there were lots of farting, mechanical robot bunny defeating the three-headed monster stories.

Continue reading “On Raising a Writer”

Hitting The Wall

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Let’s talk about The Wall. 

No, not that wall. The Wall. The one you eventually hit when you’re a creator. Or a parent. Or just adulting.  

Sometimes you hit it in one part of your life and then it spreads to the others. Then it’s The WALL.

From Gripped Magazine, 11 Aug 2014

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon, or the season, or one of those seven-year cycles, but recently it feels like I know too many people up against The Wall. Family members who have lost jobs. Friends who have been betrayed by those they love.  Creators who haven’t met with the success on which they pegged so many dreams. And at the start of the new school year, so many lovely people who are starting new phases of their lives and are just overwhelmed by the changes, even when many of those changes are good. 

I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people. 

Last week, I hit my writing Wall.[i] Rejection played a big part: I did okay with the first 20 rejections for my Middle Grade manuscript, but numbers 21 & 22 did me in. I stared at my query letter, unable to tell any longer if it needs more tweaking or just to be set aflame. I thought about whether I needed to rewrite the first chapter, or scrap it entirely. I considered whether I should turn my attention to something else for a while, and realized I didn’t even have the wherewithal to figure out a way forward on the half-dozen or so works-in-progress that linger as perpetually open tabs on my desktop and that physically clutter my office. I tried to go back to my writing goals for the year, to find a way to progress out of my funk only to realize with a distant horror I didn’t want to do any of the things necessary to move forward with any of my goals. 

I felt totally, utterly defeated in a way I haven’t since I last took a microeconomics exam. 

Anyone else been there? Lately? Then you know how easily it can become cyclical. You feel drained. You want to do nothing. So nothing is what you do. But, as it turns out, nothing doesn’t help. 

Continue reading “Hitting The Wall”