Posted in writing motivation

Never Give Up

We hear it a lot: Persevere. Keep going. Push past the frustration. Overcome writer’s block. Do all these things and eventually you’ll finish your book, you’ll see it published, you can be proud you never gave up.

Every now and then we get an example of an author who persevered. We’re gifted with knowing an author who didn’t stop, no matter the obstacles and regardless of how much time it took to get it right. Continue reading “Never Give Up”

Posted in publishing, writing advice, writing motivation, writing prompts, writing resources

The Value of Writing Groups


Last December I posted about two different types of writing groups. That brief overview was related to a couple of columns I wrote for a private writing group’s newsletter. Even then, I didn’t feel as though I’d said all I wanted to on the subject.


An expanded how-to guide, with suggestions for getting a group started, identifying your group, and setting some rules, for starters. I included some prompts and other tips, all based on years of experience as a member of both creative groups and critique groups.

Now you can get that 8-page guide FREE. Just click here.


Oh… and in the critique group section I include an idea for making those groups even better — something I’ve never seen in practice before.

What do you think makes a great writing group? What have your experience been? Do you agree with the ideas in the guide? Let us know what you think!

Posted in writing motivation

Write Right Where You Are

Because my husband and I are always moving, trading one “hometown” for another around the continent, we frequently pick up local newspapers to see what’s happening while we’re in the neighborhood. On a recent visit to the Grand Canyon we bought the Grand Canyon News, and it delivered a juicy bit of information about an upcoming arts and crafts fair.


Being an avid reader (I should do another post on reading signs in laundromats around the country), I start with the headlines then comb every page — all the way through the classifieds.

This time it paid off (again): Continue reading “Write Right Where You Are”

Posted in networking, writing advice, writing motivation, writing prompts

Is a Writing Group a Waste of Your Time?


Quick answer: they can be. Or not. Depends.

Don’t you love answers like those?!?

But seriously. Much does depend on what the group’s purpose and who’s attending it.


Though types of writing groups vary, two primary categories are critique groups and creative groups.

Critique Groups

There’s no one way to organize such groups, but the members should all have one thing in common: improving their writing, which means being willing to hear honest (though polite) feedback on their writing. Some groups include a variety of writing types while others are specific to fiction or articles or poetry. It’s up to the group, but important to have enough experience among the members to avoid ending up with the blind leading the blind. If only one poet meets in a group of magazine article writers, that poet isn’t likely to get helpful critique.

Creative Groups

More free-flowing, these groups focus on getting together to flex their writing muscles, without necessarily having the goal of publishing, and without criticism. In the latter case, this type of group is 180-degrees from a critique group. Often patterned after Natalie Goldberg’s guideline of ten-minute segments of free writing, the group can use a variety of prompts, focus on any type (or all types) of writing, and include the option of reading what’s writting to the rest of the group. The important things here are to keep things positive: no critique, no judgment, no gossiping outside the group about what was written so everyone can feel free to write whatever pops into their heads.

Which is Better?

Each group has its benefits. Accustomed to many years of critique groups, I was a little out of my element in a creative group at first. I wondered if my Wednesday mornings might have been better spent “doing my own writing” rather than meeting with the group. What I discovered was the group’s insistence on taking a prompt and following it wherever it led opened up my writing heart to possibilities in ways it hadn’t in many years. While drafting my recent novel, “Pea Body,” I found myself “riffing” (as musicians might say) — heading down paths I probably wouldn’t have followed before being part of the creative group. I would have censored my ideas before they even had a chance to express themselves. As a result, writing the book was much more fluid than any other book has been for me, and much more enjoyable. The creative group demonstrated to me how easy it was to trust my writing instincts, and how well it could pay off when I did.

Critique groups have also benefited me, but in more predictable ways: I found more boo-boos, got harder on myself when I was tempted to give my plot or characters the easy way out.

But there’s an underlying advantage to critique groups that many people miss. More on that next time!

Posted in writing advice, writing motivation, writing prompts

Found Prompts

Prompts are everywhere. We just have to be able to spot them and know how to use them. Take receipts, for instance.


Ever pick up a random receipt someone left in a shopping cart or tossed away and give it a close look? You should.

What did this stranger buy? What time of day or night was it? Did they pay cash or charge it?

For a writing group prompt, I collected receipts from all sorts of places — grocery and department stores, bookstores, gas stations…. then handed them out randomly to members of the writing group, set the timer for ten minutes and bam! Away we went, writing whateverthe receipts brought to mind. And the results were — as usual with this group — amazing.

You don’t need a writing group to do this — just gather receipts when you find them in good condition (ignore the ones in parking lots that have been trampled over… nobody wants cooties…!), stuff them in a pocket for writing time, then pull one out to get your creativity flowing.

Stuck in a current project? Wondering what move a character should make next? Use that receipt as a way to get your brain moving in another direction: What if the character goes someplace where they’d get this receipt?

*What did they purchase? Why?
*Is this part of a normal routine? If so, did they vary the routine? Why?
*Was it a good idea for them to do this? Why or why not?
*Did they make any other stops? What were they? why did they make those stops?
*Did they bump into anybody at this place or somewhere along the way? If so, did that person influence what they bought? In what way? Why?

Can you see how this can lead you in a lot of directions?

Well? What are you waiting for! Go find a receipt! Okay… here are a couple to get you started….

receipt1 receipt2 receipt3 receipt5

Posted in writing motivation, writing prompts

Using Prompts

Usually prompts are used to generate a new piece of writing — often through a timed, free-writing exercise. For example, you set a timer for ten minutes and write whatever pops into your head using the prompt. Fiction, real-life memory, poem, country music lyrics, recipe… whatever rings your bell.

In the writing group, we have a lot of laughs — and our share of serious moments — when we go around the circle and read what we wrote (anyone can opt out of reading if they wish, and the two rules of the group are that we’re always positive and whatever is said or read in the group stays in the group).

On your own, you can just keep a writing journal of what you’ve generated, going back through it for odd character descriptions, to remember things for a memoir, whatever you want.

Business People 96

Using Prompts When Your Current Work Needs Help

You can also use a writing prompt when you’re stuck in something you’re working on. Let’s say you’re writing a novel and you need a new secondary character and a bit of side-bar action to keep your readers a bit distracted while you drop them a clue in your murder mystery… but you’re stumped about what to do.

Pick a prompt that includes the elements you need — character profile, setting, conflict, etc. — then set your timer, write freely (forgetting about your current longer work for the moment), and see what happens. You might not find a magical answer, but give it a bit of time, try again with another prompt later, and see what possibilities you might open up.

Here’s One to Get You Started!

  1. Write the name of each of your characters on a separate index card (to save paper, you can use 1/2 or 1/4 of an index card… you won’t need much writing space on them).
  2. On another batch of index cards, write nouns at random, one noun per card (orange, submarine, kitten, elm, Paris, sofa, hamburger… you get the picture). Write as many as you can think of. Don’t edit your ideas. If you’re having trouble, get someone to start naming things for you.
  3. On yet more index cards, write every color you can think of, one on each card.
  4. Finally, write “memory,” “dream,” “wish,” “fear,” “discovery,” “denial” on each of six more cards (once you see where this is going, you’ll probably want to add your own).
  5. Shuffle each batch of cards.
  6. Select one card from each batch. Select another card from the noun stack.
  7. Write the scene: this character is experiencing this memory or discovery or fear or wish (whatever that card was) — and it includes the color you selected and the two nouns.

Keep writing. Don’t edit yourself. Don’t tell yourself what you’re doing will have no place in your book (how could you know that now?).

Maybe you won’t use what you just wrote, but maybe it will get your mind working anyway, even if it’s on another track completely. But, then, that’s what a prompt is all about isn’t it?

Posted in publishing, writing motivation

It’s Never Too Late to Start

Awhile back someone posted his concern on a writer’s forum that he was starting too late. I’ve heard it now and again from older writers: they’re in their sixties or seventies, and they’re worried that they shouldn’t even give it a try, this novel writing thing. If that’s your particular worry, then I have some inspiration for you.

Mary Alice Hawley Gernert of Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently published her first novel, The Mayor’s Daughter.

I read the notice of her self-publishing ventures in my Denison University alumni magazine and was thrilled to see it. Mrs. Gernert graduated from Denison in 1939.

You read correctly. 1939. This 94 year-old inspiration is currently at work on her next novel.

Don’t tell me you’re too old to start writing! Just pick up your pen, fire up your computer, and start.

And after you get your day’s limit of words/pages done, take a look at The Mayor’s Daughter, here.