Category Archives for Writing Tips

What Do You Write about if Life Is Good?

A Twitter follower asked me the above question the other day, and her inquiry sparked a blog post. What do you write about when you haven’t endured some sort of crisis? Is disaster a prerequisite for a good story?

I remember sitting in a conference and getting a little ticked off as I listened to a publishing house editor promote the idea that the best and only way to write is from one’s pain—not discomfort or struggle but tragic, devastating pain. Without that kind of pain, she suggested, it wasn’t possible to be an excellent writer.

Baloney. Continue reading

The 2 Biggest Lies that Hold Writers Back…(Including Me)

CONFESSION. I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” I think this label is nothing more than a convenient excuse for us to delay our writing dreams.

Before you lock me up in the loony bin, let me peel off the mask by pull back the curtain. I wrote 6 traditionally published books, coached over 60 authors on their book projects, and ghostwrote 3 books for high-profile clients.

But I’ve also:

Justified watching movies to “research” for my next book.

Avoided a deadline because unloading the dishwasher seemed more thrilling.

Hit the disc golf course to find inspiration for my next chapter

Wasted more than a few days satisfying a “Platform Building Fix” on Facebook and Twitter.

Bottom line. All these activities seemed noble at the time. And yet, they merely created space between my current state and my calling.

Maybe you can relate? Continue reading

Non-Traditional Advice for Busy or Undisciplined Writers

This is supposed to be an article about how to be a focused and intentional writer. It’s supposed to equip busy people with tools and techniques to fit writing into an already full life.

  • I could tell you to wake up at 5 a.m. and write for an hour. Do it every day, no matter what.
  • I could tell you to write 1,000 words a day before you do anything else.
  • I could tell you to write something even if you don’t know what to write.
  • I could tell you to “write ugly” and clean it up later.

That’s all good advice and it might work, but it’s never worked for me.

I am a broken writer, yet somehow I’ve managed to complete two books. Continue reading

What It Takes to Complete a Book

Sounds so glamorous.  I remember the first time I turned down an invitation to lunch with the words “Oh, I can’t… I’m writing today.”

“Really?” my friend Laurie replied, “what an awesome way to spend the day! I can’t wait to read your book!”

Nodding and smiling, I left her fantasy intact. I knew in my heart a “writing day” wasn’t just creativity flowing but sometimes meant hours of starting at the cursor blinking and trying to string some words together in a semblance of creativity, thought and inspiration. The myriad of other tasks on my to-do list wrestled with my discipline to actually write. It’s a sad state of affairs when cleaning the bathroom looks more enticing than squeezing out another paragraph from a very dry well. Continue reading

3 Ways to Get Your Readers’ Attention

The book was fantastic, but no one was going to read it. Not, at least, in its current state. The author had packed his* manuscript with helpful information and practical advice. The content and his message had real potential to help his audience. But only the most dedicated readers would push past the stale opening line.

Most chapters either dove right into the content with no introduction or started with a statement detailing what the chapter contained. “In this chapter we’re going to learn about….” A line like that makes a great note as you’re planning your writing. In fact, I encourage writers to identify what they’re going to include in each chapter when they outline their books. But when it comes to your hookthe words that will draw readers in and keep their noses in your book—“In this chapter,” isn’t effective; it’s boring.

Other common issues muddied what could have been a great reading experience but, since this is a blog post, let’s stick with one topic at a time. Here are three powerful ways you can get your readers’ attention. Continue reading

Learning to Love the Editing Process

Some people fear public speaking more than death. I guess that makes me the outlier.

I’m a high school Spanish teacher by day. On the weekends and during the summer, I speak at conferences and events. I 3D-DTTwork with teachers to challenge how they think about education and to encourage them to incorporate technology in their classrooms.

I love seeing teachers get excited about new practices that they can use with their students. It means the ideas from my sessions are spreading farther than I could take them myself. The reach of my conference sessions is limited, though. I wanted to spread the ideas that motivate me to as many teachers as possible. So, I sought advice from a fellow teacher and presenter. His suggestion: write a book. Continue reading

Five Lessons I Had to Learn to Write My Book

Blank white book w/pathI recently accomplished a life-long dream: I wrote and published a book. I have always heard that writing a book is more about who you become while writing the book than the book itself. I now believe that is true. I had started this book before—many times. This time, from start date through planning, outlining, and writing was just a few weeks.  What made the difference this time—what did I have to do and believe to get this book out of my head and onto the page? Continue reading

Tell the REAL Story

Have you ever read a book or heard a story that just had too many themes to follow? For example, I have a hard time with novels that have multiple families—each with people who have their own issues. It’s a challenge for me to keep the characters straight in my head, especially if the names are at all similar or difficult to remember. Continue reading

How Ants Can Help You Win at Writing

How does an ant move a mountain?

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I read Dan Miller’s workbook, Write to the Bank, I thought he was grossly exaggerating when he said writing was 5% of the job. The first draft of my first book was almost finished. It had been no quick feat. Surely the bulk of the work would be done when it was complete.

While Dan was emphasizing the importance of promotion, I discovered writing and publishing a book involve many steps. For me, that included a lot of learning.

Learning by Doing Continue reading

One Thing I Learned from a Successful Year of Blogging

If you’re anything like me, writing about ideas comes easily, but coming up with topics or angles can be difficult. It always seems to start out well, but after several days, weeks, or even months after launching out into the world of writing regularly, coming up with new topics can become mentally draining.

I struggled with constantly coming up with blogging topics for several years. Far too often, the early mornings of my scheduled post day would find me pecking away at my keyboard, writing whatever was on my mind, primarily because I had no idea what to write about, what angle to take, or what problem to solve. I procrastinated on writing, and the blog suffered as a result. It was this way for me in 2011, 2012, and in 2013 I stopped writing the blog altogether—at least for that year.

At the beginning of 2014, I set an audacious goal to write two posts per week. Continue reading