Monday, December 30, 2013

Writers' Goals for the New Year

I am a firm believer of setting goals and setting them well. Goals that are vague or unrealistic are not helpful. Being a writer can be isolative work and there is a lot of self-motivation going on. If you are luck you have a family member, friend or colleagues cheering you on. In the end a writer needs to somehow motivate himself or herself.

Here are some attributes that are needed for  Great Goals:

-MEASURABLE- I read several treatment plans by clinicians through out the year. One common problem is that they are not measurable. How much and how often.

-SPECIFIC- Saying you are going to run the San Francisco Triathlon in May is more specific than you will do some kind of community run thing.

-DESIRABLE- You must want to do it. If you have no desire for it, then it most likely will not happen.

- ACHIEVABLE & BELIEVABLE- Set goals that are realistic. If you don't believe you can do it or if it is not probable, maybe you should rethink the goal. Create a more attainable goal.

- TIME BOUND- Give yourself a deadline.

-KNOWN or SHARED- (Warning: Made up statistic) You are 76% more likely to reach a goal if you let someone know about this goal. Don't just share with JUST anyone but share with someone who you know will support you and cheer  you on.

I am big on goals for the New Year. It might have something to do with the new year coincides with my birthday. I used to make goals for work, goals for myself and goals for my family. I know that is a lot of goals. I used to write a bunch of goals and tuck them into my wallet pocket. Every time I pulled out my credit care, there were my goals.

In 2012 I had one goal. It was to publish a book. I not only reached that goal but I reached every goal that had been on my list for years.
List of Things I Accomplished in 2012
I lost over 50 lbs.
I ate better
I exercised
I got married
I published a book
 The year 2012 was a successful year. I am not sure what my 2013 goals were. (Horrible) My brain is hard at work making goals for 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Surviving Guests as a Writer

If you are anything like me, I have this constant itch to write. I hope to find a bumper sticker that reads "I would rather be writing." My in-laws are visiting for a week. I am in the minority of wives and actually like my in-laws. I, however, have a hard time when people visit and trying to find time for anything let alone writing. This week I am even more itching to write because I was given a new laptop for Christmas. (I snuck away to write this.)

Here are some ideas of how to survive any overnight or long term guest.
  • Prepare them for time that you will need to write. Let them know how much time you will need and when you will need time.
  • Set-up thing that will occupy them. Have a friend take them site-seeing, set them up on a blind date, plan a massage, create a scavenger hunt, etc.
  • Wake-up really early or stay-up later than them. That is not working for me this weekend because by the time I wake-up go work-out, go walk my dog, everyone is awake. At night I am so exhausted from entertaining all day, that I have no energy for writing.
  • Find a remote place to write and hide for a while.
  • Bring your laptop into the bathroom. Not the best idea I know.
  • Write while they are doing something that they like. Write while they are on a run, shopping, watching television, playing strip poker, etc. I had a great time when a group of friend and I went to Key West. I went cafĂ© hopping and wrote all day. They went shopping.
  • Only invite writers or avid readers to visit you. They will understand and respect your need to write.
  • Plan extra time to write before and after they visit.
  • Just enjoy your time with your guests. Do something adventurous, new and/or interesting. That will give you inspiration for your writing.
It is hard trying to find time to write on regular days. It is even harder when you are under pressure to entertain. Try to find unique ways to find time to write.
How do you find time to write while guests are over?
Do you have this need to write while guests are at your house?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Learning as a Writer

What kind of formalized writing training do you have? None.
Since I was four, I wanted to be a writer. (You have heard many writers say. I know I have.) Someone told me it was a poor person's job and do pick something else. So, I picked journalism out of lack of knowing what else to pick. Then one thing led to another and now I am a therapist with a minor in journalism.

Formal training? I had a kick-ass creative writing course in high school. I wrote a seventeen page historical fiction in fifth grade. I have journals and journals filled of stories and memoirs. That is not enough to shape me as a writer.

I have read a half-trunk full of writing books. I have read a minivan full of books. I have read a lot of blogs, forums and articles on writing. I read most if not all of JA Konrath's Blog. His blog has helped me a lot with conceptualizing the ebook world and marketing world.

I have read books by authors about writing. I read about finding the core of my story, character development, marketing, networking, tactics of writing, being creative and finding inspiration. I recently stumbled upon an post by Chuck Palahniuk Chuck Palahniuk's 13 Writing Tips. Read it. It is good. If you have never read Chuck's work you should. He is the author of Fight Club. Yes, it is a book as well as a movie. He also wrote a book Damned I stumbled upon in my library-ebook-loan excursions. Damn that book was provocative. I loved it! The best part. It took you nowhere and everywhere. It has me rethinking why people are sent to hell.

Ideally, I would love to go to writing workshops and conferences, but the money is not there. I also do not want to have to share within a group and give feedback. I just want to learn. I guess a lecture is good. Or I could sit in a closet and observe a lesson so nobody can see me. I will write more on this later . . .

Since writing workshops are out, I am going to write into my New Year's goals to seek out good writing articles to read. I am starting with Chuck and tackling his Chuck's 36 Writing Essays.

What do you use to better your writing?
Any workshops or conference closets you suggest I hide in?
How do you learn or grow as a writer?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

27 Gifts for Writers

When I was younger my Aunt Gloria used to get me a writing journal ever year. She would sign the inside in calligraphy. Every year, I would fill it with my writing. I still journal but my writing habits, needs and wants have changed over the years. I no longer write stories, I type them. I no longer write solely about my stuffed animals. I write about people who are full of it. Every writer is different but here are some ideas for gifts to give writers.

Here are my ideas of what to get writers (or me) for holidays, birthdays or anytime.

1. Time to Write: This is the most important gift for any writer especially if they have a full-time job and a family.
  • Buy them a night at a hotel or cabin. You could take the kids on a day long trip or a weekend trip somewhere. My ideal would be someone renting a small rustic cabin for me (with electricity) or setting up a campsite for me. Other ways to save them time would be to do chores for them or watch their kids.
2. Laptop/tablet/computer.
3. Journal. Find out first if they like lines or no lines. Pay attention to the type they use now. I like the moleskin journals.
4. Writing program. Scrivener is just one. Cover design software. Research the most popular ones out there.
5. eReader.
6. Digital Recorder. To record interviews, to record thought or ideas while they are driving.
7. Gift cards or Gift Certificates to Amazon or bookstores.
8. Flash Drives.
9. Writing Books. On Writing, Write Brain, Writing Down the Bones, other writing tips books or thesaurus, Flip Dictionary, dictionary, etc.
10. Favorite pen.
11. Word game books or puzzles.
12. Word A Day rip off calendar.
13. New desk chair.
14. A massage.
15. Soundtrack to their writing. Make them a mixed CD (I still listen to CD's) or gift them a mix for their ipod, mp3.
16. For a published writer: Buy some of their books, get them to autograph them, and send them to friends.

17. Find  Beta Readers for them or promise to Beta Read for them.
18. Money for editors, cover designers, etc.
19. Signed copy of a book by an author who they like.
20. Subscription to stock images sites. (for their blog).
21. Pay for a month or more of their website fees.
22. Laptop accessories. Bag, cover, small table, etc.
23. Plan adventures or a trip that will hopefully fuel their writing.
24. Make a coupon book of things that you will do for them. Foot massage, take them out for coffee, read 20 pages of their latest novel, do dishes for a week, etc.
25. Pay for a Writing Conference, class or Workshop.
26. Help them market their writing. Volunteer to hang flyers, help out at book signings or readings.
27. Buy them business cards.

What gift ideas for writers do you have?
What is the best thing you have received as a writer?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Growth of a New Writer

Recently, I had an old friend and co-worker ask me to mentor him in writing. Me? I just learned how to crawl and you want me to what? Okay, I will do it!

Having this mentoree makes me think about back to a year ago. Fifteen months ago I self-published my first book Trail Swap. I have published two short novels, written two books, and learned a lot about social media and marketing. I have learned and grown a lot in my short fifteen months as a writer.

Think of a newborn (I know that a writer is no way as miraculous as a baby). If you compare a newborn to a fifteen month old there are huge strides being made. Think of the physical changes and changes in ability that go on in those fifteen months.

Think about vocabulary of a human. At eighteen months a baby knows about fifty words, at twenty four months about 250 or 350 words, and at thirty months about 600 words. That is amazing! In year they increase their vocabulary by 500%. How many words do adults learn a year? I don't want to even know? (I need to start subscribing to more word-a-day calendars).

I hope that I keep learning, and find partners in this learning process.

What do you do to grow as a writer?
What has been the biggest skill you have learned?
What is your best resource?

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) 2014

The year has gone by quickly. In a few weeks there will be the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). In a small nutshell the ABNA is a contest that Amazon puts on for new authors. It usually starts mid-January, they take 10,000 entries, have five categories, and the winners get a writing advance and a book contract.

Last year, I was three months into calling myself a writer and threw together an entry. This year I am mostly done with one book Love's Autograph and not anywhere near being done with my next book. It does not have a name. Love's Autograph is a lesbian romance so I feel like it has little chances in any contest other than a lesbian fiction contest.

I think I am not alone when I say that I wish that I had more time to write. I have these things called bills and a family to help support thus I have a full-time job that I really like. I am one purchase away from buying a bumper sticker that reads "I would rather be writing." I think this is interesting timing that I looked at my vacation bank for work and I now have 12 days I must use by January 31, 2013 or I lose them. I have slotted five to use during the holidays. I have seven days that I have to use somehow.

My mind goes to writing, writing, writing.

I have to decide if I am going to try to shape my "not named" book for the ABNA.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pitch Wars Winners are Announced

So despite checking for my name three times, I was not picked as a Mentoree for the Pitch Wars at In two days I scouted the mentors, wrote the query and pulled five pages from my manuscript. I also was not blown away by my submission. I figured I would try though.

I am bummed about not making it, but I am looking forward to some feedback from the mentors I sent my manuscript to. Some things I think I will hear are the following:

  • The Lesbian Fiction category has limited range.
  • You are hilarious and good looking and I was intimidating.
  • Keep writing.
I submitted a query for Love's Autograph. I like the book by the way and I am working on revisions now based on six beta readers feedback. I still did not get my editor's notes, but I am impatiently waiting.

I still can take part in Pitch Madness on Jan 8th, but I am not sure what that is yet.
On Twitter on #PitchWars there are a lot of other authors who were not chosen. (Thousands of people not chosen.) It is nice to have the camaraderie of them saying congrats, be proud you wrote a book, keep writing. It can be discouraging. I, however, know there are many stories still inside me, there are many blank pages ready to be filled and readers out there ready to laugh.

Waiting for My Agent Charming to Save Me from Book Marketing

I know I am not alone when I chant, "You gotta fight . . . for your right . . . to write!" I am not into the whole having to build a platform (where are the nails) and social media. Blah! I have a hard enough time finding time to write. I guess I should just "enjoy the journey" and all those other bumper sticker sayings.

I was in a bookstore this weekend and saw ANOTHER book from a famous author. I said, "How does he find the time to write?" I said this to my wife who I am not sure if she is paying attention. Then I answered myself, "Oh, he writes full-time."

I guess a lot of the times, despite reading blogs and connecting with other writers on line, I feel alone and lost in this struggle to make it as a writer. I attempted to grab some help last week when I entered the Pitch Wars from Brenda Drake's blog. I sent in a query and five pages of a finished novel to two mentors (picked from a pool of over 40 mentors). I found out tomorrow if I get picked for the second round and then pitch an agent.

I just finished reading How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. It was very affordable and had some good ideas. She tried to make marketing sound fun, but still I am a bit unmotivated. So, here I am waiting for my Agent Charming to help take care of all the things that I do not want to do regarding my writing. Just let me write already. (Sorry if this sounds grumpy . . . I haven't had my coffee yet and it has been almost 40 years!)

What do you do to battle this marketing vs writing issue? Any ideas you have? Are you My Agent Charming?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Journey of Rookie Writer Michael Vogel

"So I froze!! I quit writing all together.  I found other things to do with my time.  The whole time, I felt a void, because I wasn't writing, but I still would not pick up a pen or tap on the keypad."            -M. Vogel

Any of you that have been following "Writer & Wilderness Girl Under It All" know that I lived in the woods for four years with at-risk youth. Two years into my career I transferred to a new camp in North Carolina. A handful of counselors and myself built the camper and hut. One of those counselors was Michael Vogel. We have reconnected and now he is being featured on my blog. Also, he is my official first writer who I am officially mentoring. I find it inspiring to watch writers beginning their journey.

Why write? A question that some people have asked me before.  My response, why not?  Writing is one of the easiest hobbies that you can have.  Anybody can write, pick up a pen and paper, and let it go.  My method is a little more, ehhh, just get out the old computer and start pecking away on the keyboard.

I am an old pro at writing.  I have always loved to write.  Nothing specific, just write.  It was always difficult for me to talk to girls that I had interest in.  So I attempted to write poetry, as a way to communicate.  That was if I could ever get the nerve to actually give it to them.  I would find that my luck with women was not what I wanted it to be back then, and I believe this is where my writing started. Also, I actually wrote for my school newspaper in high school, but I felt like writing for a newspaper may not have been the best job in the world. (If I would have known then what I know now, I would have thought a little more about that as a major.)

Now the blogging thing, is a new thing to me, and I have not really done a whole lot. I you could say (to use a sports analogy) I am a rookie, but I feel like I have some talent that maybe the coaches may see, and give me a shot to showcase my abilities.  So I set out last year when my son was born, to do this big daddy blog, but time and excuses got in the way.  I just did not think that people really cared, what I was writing and I felt very few people had interest in what I had to say.  So I froze!! I quit writing all together.  I found other things to do with my time.  The whole time, I felt a void, because I wasn't writing, but I still would not pick up a pen or tap on the keypad.  I just let it go.

I often read blogs, and am encouraged what other people write.  I have a kid, who I identify as my little brother.  The kid is PASSIONATE, about writing.  He blogs often, and has multiple ideas for books that he wants to write.  Still I did not pick up the pen and left the keyboard alone unless I was searching the web, Tweeting, or Facebooking. 

About a month or two ago, my friend and author, challenged me to write again.  So I asked her if she would mentor me, and challenge me, to continue to write.  So this is where we are at, my blog site is up and running, I have promised her that I will continue to write and she has stated that she will continue to give me encouragement along the way.

The goals I have I will save for another night.  I do feel like a book may be in the works in the future, but for now, I will continue to make you laugh as I give you a glimpse inside my world of being a dad, husband, football coach, golf hack and just goofy ole me.  Thanks for giving me a bit of your time today.

Follow Mike's Newbie journey at