Thursday, January 30, 2020

2020 Will Be the Best Writing Year Ever Because…

I will finish some books I’ve been working on intermittently for years.

Why years? you ask.

Book #1—I borrowed part of it for another book. Also, I started the book so long ago that the male character’s mother survived the Holocaust as a child. She’d be waaay too old now so I’d have to rewrite it to be a deceased grandparent and tell the story through the mother. That’s what I get for taking from Peter without having any idea how to pay Paul. Title: Achilles’ Heel―354 pages without revisions.

Book #2—I got distracted writing my series and left it. I’ve gone back to it lately and haven’t caught up to where I left off. Being of a certain age, I’ve forgotten what I had in mind. I’m hoping it will come to me when I get to where I stopped. Title: Breaking Point―125 pages.

Book #3—Mid-grade―only 12 pages, but I might go back to it because it could be fun. No Title

Book #4—Have no idea why I stopped writing it. I’ll put it down to distraction, but it sounds like it just might not be any good. Plain Jane ― 132 pages.

Screenplay #5
—I’ve written the screenplay of Hooked because I thought it would make a good movie. It’s funny, sexy, and has a story I like. I entered it in a playwriting contest and got nowhere. I might try it again with more research on how to construct it better. I have a couple of free codes for the audio, if anyone would like to listen to it and you’re not easily offended. The narrator is terrific.

Book #6—I’ll publish this book next. It’s not quite finished, and it’s a departure from what I usually write because it’s political—not US politics either. I kept putting it aside because I expected the situation in that country to change. I’ve come to the conclusion that it probably never will, so I picked it up again and forged ahead. Title: none yet. I’m hoping to have a brainstorm during edits. Right now it’s at 95,000 words and 358 pages. It’a a big complicated story about right and wrong and the gray area in between, about dedication and service, about love and loyalty. Unfortunately, it's also about blinding hate and revenge. Hopefully, I can pull it off.

I have a lot to do in 2020 if I intend to finish at least two of these books. Achilles’ Heel was written two computers ago, so there’s lots of editing to do once I figure out how to rewrite the part I excised. Hopefully, I’ve learned a few things since then.

Wish me luck.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Best Writing Year Ever, With Less Stress

I have to say, my year is starting off well, with MORTAL MUSIC (the 7th in my Silver Rush series) released on January 27. What a way to ring in 2020!

But that one is now written and done. What would make this the "best writing year ever" for me is to figure out how to write Book #8 with less stress.

For some time, I've joked that what propels me to write is deadlines and panic. But there's more truth than fiction in that statement.

Adrenaline drives me and makes me productive in my writing life, but that sort of propulsion eventually takes its toll. One day I realized that when I begin to feel stressed and panicked, my right knee starts to buckle. When writing deadlines loom, the right side of my neck, and my right wrist and shoulder stiffen and ache to the point where it's difficult to go to sleep, much less spend hours at the keyboard.

Stress! (There's gotta be a better way to write.)
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

So, for me, if 2020 is to be the "best writing year ever," I need to get serious about handling stress. WebMD offers a number of general suggestions for managing stress, including:
  • Accept that there are events that you cannot control. 
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi. 
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit. 
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. 
  • Learn to manage your time more effectively. 
  • Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life. 
  • Make time for hobbies and interests.
It's all good, practical, real-world advice. But somehow when I'm running around in circles like a chicken with its head chopped off, it's a little hard to, for instance, "make time for hobbies and interests." I have a deadline! I've got to make that deadline or else, or else... (else being some undefined awful state in which my world implodes).

Digging a little deeper, I uncovered the article "How to Prevent Writing-Related Stress from Eating You Alive" on the site Writing and Wellness. This post also provided some good suggestions, including:
  • Identify what's stressing you out, and look for solutions.
  • Increase your stress-management activities (exercise, yoga, deep breathing, gardening, etc.) and schedule it into your calendar. 
  • Realize when you're distracting yourself (whether with brownies or wine or binge-watching or binge-reading, for that matter!)
  • Focus on the work (just you and your story... set aside the rest)
I plan on incorporating some of this advice in the coming year, and we'll see how it goes. I'm hoping the words will flow more freely when panic is replaced by calm.

Might less stress lead to the best writing year ever?
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

What about you? Do you have any favorite techniques or tips to share? Any suggestions that will help make 2020 the best, least-stressful writing year ever?

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer. Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Best Ever Excuses for Not Writing

The plaque at the former Nicholson's Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland, where, in 1993,  J. K. Rowling wrote much of her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in longhand on paper tablets.

If you're going to make 2020 your best writing year ever, first there's something you'll have to do. You'll have to overcome all those excuses you come up with every year to explain why you're not writing.

Every writer knows the drill. You've got the perfect writing day planned—snack stash full, hubby on a weekend fishing trip with his Dad and brother, children on an overnight playdate with their cousins. You're going to make that deadline, or you're going to start your novel or at least get a couple of thousand words written. You're going to make forward progress.

And then the cat throws up on your grandmother's Oriental rug, the kid across the street hits a home run that comes sailing through one of your windows, a closed window of course, and your power goes off during a freak thunderstorm. And you're left shaking your head and wondering why these things never happen on a non-writing day.

When I first thought of writing about the excuses we give ourselves and others to explain why we're not productive, I initially came up with only smart-alecky ideas.

I can't write because:

• A meteor landed on the hood of my car

• My hands are sore from washing too many dishes

• My computer, tablet, cell phone, typewriter, pens, pencils, chalkboard, and pads of paper are all in the shop, so how can I write?

These are lame excuses but are they any flimsier than the lame excuses we make for ourselves when we won't or don't write? Let's look at some of the most common reasons people lean on to explain their lack of writing productivity.

The Myth of the Perfect Writing Sanctuary

A lot of would-be writers convince themselves they cannot truly hope to reach their writing goals unless they have a perfect, quiet, cozy, comfortable sanctuary where their words will flow like water from a natural spring. Such dreamlike places exist in a soundproof bubble where time is suspended, no bills need paying and no household chores are calling or children crying.

In reality, people who truly have an unquenchable writing fire burning in their guts will write anytime, anywhere, anyhow they can get a few words down on paper. J. K. Rowling famously wrote her first Harry Potter novel in longhand at Nicholson's Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland, while rocking her infant daughter's pram with her foot. Her beloved mother had just died, her marriage had just dissolved, she was on welfare and under treatment for depression, but she still managed to find a way to write her book a few sentences at a time in various cafes in Edinburgh. Today, she writes in a lovely writing room in her private garden, but that's not where she started her writing journey. She earned that lovely retreat by doggedly writing in cafes until she sold her first Harry Potter book to Bloomsbury.

Moral of the story: If you really want to write, you can do it under any conditions using whatever tools are at your disposal. The sooner you let go of the idea that you must create the perfect writing haven before you can put words on paper, the sooner you'll be able to devote all that wasted time and energy to actual writing.

The Myth of Perfect Preparation

Some of my friends who are aspiring writers have spent 10, 20, or even 30 years reading everything they can get their hands on about the writing process, taking master classes, attending writers' conventions, talking to other writers, studying the marketplace, and endlessly researching literary agents and the best way to write a query letter and synopsis. The only thing they don't do much of is actual writing. They spend so much time preparing to write that they have no time or mental and emotional energy to get any words down.

Moral of the story: Stop "preparing" and start writing!

The Myth of Exhaustion

Let's face it. We're all overworked and underpaid and have too damned many plates spinning. And yes, we're all exhausted. But writing is actually a wonderful thing to do when you're exhausted.

Writers are readers first. You know why you love reading. There's transformative magic in books...they have a unique ability to make you forget your troubles, forget the moment you are living in, forget everything but the characters and the stories that have enthralled you. But what many writers never realize is that the act of writing has that same transformative magic. You start by writing a few sentences and the next thing you know, you're in another world, seeing through your character's eyes, feeling through their hearts...with your worries left far behind.

Moral of the story: Writing when you are exhausted is actually a good way to take the edge off that exhaustion. Even if you can only write for five or 10 minutes, you'll find that within that short time, you will feel calmer and more at peace with the world and yourself, and you'll feel the lovely, restorative glow of accomplishment, which is the best-known antidote for exhaustion.

So, no more excuses. Just write.

Patricia B. Smith is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

How I'm Planning for My Best Writing Year Ever

The first thing I had to do to make 2020 my best writing year ever was to attend my last few physical therapy appointments and diligently do the follow-up exercises needed to fully recover from my November 11th knee replacement surgery.

So far, so good.

For the first couple of months, I spent most of my down time reading. I knocked off nearly twenty novels, mostly thrillers, and a couple of nonfiction books as well. That felt pretty good, especially when combined with cups of dark roast coffee or hot chocolate.

However, the lollygagging had to come to an end because I have big writing plans for 2020. All my priority writing To Dos involve finishing my unfinished projects.
That’s why my guiding word for 2020 is FINISH!

Because I’m a veteran procrastinator, I often seek inspiration from others to get down to work and do what I said I was going to do. Most often, I read blog posts for encouragement and for new ideas on how to approach work.

I have my favorites:

Zen Habits. I recommend the January 17th post titled You Absolutely Can Tackle the Big Things You’ve Been Avoiding.

Writing and Wellness Blog. January 6, 2020 post is How to Think Differently About Your New Year’s Writing Goals.

You’ll find more here at the Blood-Red Pencil. Shonell Bacon’s post from 2016 is helpful. 3 Steps to Reinvigorating Your Writing.

Consider dipping into the original Depth Year post on Raptitude (as well as the Depth Year group on Facebook). There’s a lot of wisdom in the advice to resist the shiny new project when we could go deeper into the work we’ve already started.

My process begins with a compilation of the short stories and novels in various stages of completion. From there, I’ll select one at a time and write down every task that needs to be done, then stick with it until it’s ready for submission or self-publishing.

My first project is a short story that I wish to submit to mystery magazines. I’m in the editing phase, during which I review my critique group comments and make necessary changes. I will not move on to the next project until I FINISH this one and have sent the story to the first magazine on my list.

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is also now available in a large print edition. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appears in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Writing Workshops and Conference January to March 2020

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company.

Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

January 9-19, 2020 – Seaside, Oregon The Pacific University Residency Writers Conference in Seaside, Oregon

January 13-17, 2020 Key West Literary Seminar and Writers' Workshop Program, Key West, Florida

January 17-19, 2020 Fishtrap Winter Weekend at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph, Oregon

January 18-25, 2020 Annual Writers In Paradise Conference, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 17-20, 2020 Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway at the Seaview Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey

January 27 - February 2, 2020 BONI Graduate Learning, Tampa Florida

January 31 to February 2, 2020 Rhode Island Romance Writers Retreat, Middletown-Newport, Rhode Island

February 6–8, 2020 Superstars Writing Seminars, Colorado Springs, Colorado

February 27- March 1, 2020 Writers Studio at UCLA Extension, UCLA, California,

February 12-16, 2020 San Miguel Writers' Conference & Literary Festival, San Miguel, Mexico

February 13-15, 2020 Life, the Universe and Everything Conference, Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, Provo, Utah
February 13-16, 2020 San Francisco Writers Conference, Hyatt Regency Embarcadero San Francisco, California
February 14-16, 2020 Southern California Writers Conference, San Diego, California

February 16-18, 2020 Futurescapes Conference at Utah Valley University

February 22, 2020 Murder in the Magic City, Homewood Library, Birmingham, Alabama

February 20-23, 2020 Coastal Magic Convention, Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, & Romance Daytona Beach, Florida,
February 27 - March, 2020 The St. Augustine Author-Mentor Novel Workshop in St. Augustine, Florida

February 28-March 1, 2020 WhimsyCon Steampunk and Costuming Convention, At the Radisson Denver-Aurora, Denver, Colorado

March 4-7,2020 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair, San Antonio, Texas

March 11-13, 2020 Algonkian Writers Conference, St. Augustine, Florida

March 12-15, 2020 Left Coast Crime, San Diego, California

March 14-15, 2020 Tucson Festival of Books, Tucson, Arizona,

March 15-20, 2020 Get Away to Write Retreat, New Smyrna Beach, FL

March 18-22, 2020 Book Lovers Convention, Nashville, Tennessee

March 20-22, 2020 Clockwork Alchemy Steampunk Conference, Hyatt Regency SFO, Burlingame, CA

March 25-27, 2020 University of North Dakota Writers Conference,
University of North Dakota

March 26-29, 2020 The National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, New York

March 26-29, 2020 SleuthFest 2020, Doubletree by Hilton Deerfield Beach/Boca Raton, Florida

March 28, 2020 Pittsburgh Writing Workshop, Pittsburgh, PA,

March 29 – April 4, 2020 Sirenland Writer's Conference, Sirenland 2020 is now closed to applications.  On September 15, 2020 we open for applications for Sirenland 2021.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 The Best Writing Year Ever?

Another year, another opportunity to get things done. Sometimes it is hard to find the motivation, others hard to find the time. Many days it is both. I've certainly been in the doldrums for a few years, drifting aimless, questioning what is worth my time as it flies by increasingly faster.

In the past it came down to:

1. Finding the project that made me excited to sit down and do it.

2. Learning things and adding skills when I hit snags I couldn't unravel.

3. Carving out time without distractions.

4. Oddly enough: finding the motivation when I felt I had it down pat. Once I feel I've got the hang of something I tend to want a new challenge.

So in terms of 2020 and making it the best writing year ever, I suggest first examining your motives. What drives you to write? Find something that excites you. Doesn't matter what you were working on, unless you have a publisher waiting for it. Do the thing that makes you eager to get back to it.

What do you struggle with? Maybe it is time to take classes, read helpful blog posts (cough, cough). There are plenty here and at Game On. You don't need to spend a dime, just your time.

Sometimes getting out of your house and communing with other writers will recharge your battery. There are plenty of opportunities. Look for local writer's groups or book expos.

I most often see questions about finding time. A single parent with two jobs or someone caring for a sick family member on top of work and raising a family are going to find it difficult to spare time to shower much less self care.

Most of us have demands on our time be it work, family, social commitments, etc. But I will say this: if you have leisure time for gaming, hobbies, television, social media surfing, you should be able to find at least fifteen minutes to an hour each day. You just have to decide you want to do it then make it a habit. You may only finish a half scene. That's okay. Perhaps you only have time to jot down ideas for a scene. Do it. It will give you something to draw on when you find a spare moment.

I wish you happy writing, whatever your goals for 2020.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Best Writing Year Ever Because...

This one took some thought.

One reference work notes that only a person who is strong survives to the age of eighty. Having passed that milestone and more a while back, I've observed strength and even growth in my case—not physical, but rather emotional—a deeper, more sensitized perspective of people in general and my characters in particular.

How does this affect my writing? Let's talk about the characters. Since starting my first novel more than 20 years ago, I've watched them evolve into three-dimensional people my readers can relate to. Unfortunately, this didn't happen overnight; hence, there have been a few revisions.

Lessons have come from the works of others. Some fiction pieces I've read over the years, for example, housed persons I could neither empathize with nor understand their behavior. My characters must never leave readers with the feeling of incomplete development and loose ends those characters left with me.

Then their authors began putting them in stories that made me uncomfortable. I stopped reading and began to play with the notion of writing a book—something I had dreamed of doing most of my life. Very soon, that debut novel will take one last bow. Why has this finally happened? My changing perspective and switch to literary writing allowed me to explore the depths of my characters much more fully than did the genre fiction I began with.

A couple of viewpoint questions come to mind. We writers are well aware that weaknesses exist in our make-believe people. In fact, we make regular use of them in character development, but how do we feel about them? Do we embrace them? Do we endow our protagonists with this human quality? My characters often grow from weakness into strength, into understanding, into compassion, into love. (Of course, the antagonists usually grow in a more negative direction.)

So, with updated perspectives, broader horizons, and a passion to give my fictional people greater latitude in being "real" humans, I walk—and write—into the second decade of the twenty-first century. Because my characters are not superheroes, but just ordinary individuals who populate the pages in my books, we will tell our stories together. Why? Because 2020 is the best writing year we've ever had.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while still maintaining some editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category, which means they don't follow genre rules. While their quick pace reminds the reader in a number of ways of genre fiction, they're character driven rather than plot driven. You can contact Linda at her websites: and

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Making It The Best Writing Year Ever

Before looking ahead to my hopes for 2020 when it comes to my writing, I want to share a couple of highlights from last year.

While  I can't say that 2019 was a great writing year, there have been a couple of notable highlights. First was the publication of the fictionalized version of my mother's life, Evelyn Evolving: A Story of Real Life, which was published in May by Next Chapter Publishing. When the book was first released, it was a number one bestseller at Amazon in several categories, including women's biography and young adult biography. Since then, it has flirted with a number one spot off and on, and has often been in the top ten. Seeing that little tan best-seller tag on the book's Amazon page always made me smile.

We dream often of having a best-selling book. And while this wasn't as prestigious as having a New York Times best-selling book, it certainly did this writer's heart good. Not just from a professional standpoint, but also knowing that many people were getting to meet my mother and discover what a strong woman she was, facing down the many challenges in her life.

Another highlight of 2019 was when I received notification that my humorous memoir A Dead Tomato Plant And a Paycheck was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Top Shelf Magazine. The message came late in December with a note that the book came very close to taking the top spot in the nonfiction humor category.

These types of recognition that our books receive are always a boost to our creativity, as well as an affirmation that, "Yes maybe what we are doing is good after all." We writers struggle so much with insecurities, at least I know I do, and I cherish these types of affirmations, or a very nice review, or a letter from a reader saying how much they liked my book. They carry me forward to another day, another week, another year of writing, which brings me to 2020.

I don't know if it will be the best writing year ever. Unfortunately, the trigeminal neuralgia that I have as a result of a battle with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, has more control over that than I do. The pain in my head and right eye limits the time I can be on the computer. But I do have plans and goals. One of which is to finish the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series. That's been a goal for a few years, but this is the year it is going to happen. I only have two or three chapters to go.

Then I'm going to write my story, which will finish my mother's story and answer the question some readers have asked, "What happens next?"

To accomplish those goals, I'm going to take advantage of every pain-tolerable moment and write. I'm going to use dictation on my phone so I can look away from the computer screen, which is actually how I did the first part of this blog post. I'm going to spend less time on social media to save precious computer time for writing.

There are ways. I am woman. I am strong. I will write.

Posted by Maryann Miller  You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page, read her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The One Thing You Need to Do for the #BestWritingYearEver

It's easy to make resolutions and proclamations in the new year.

This year will be my Best Writing Year Ever!

Alas, that statement will die as quickly as your weight-loss promises.


Because the statement has no focus. It's not broken into achievable steps. That's where the work really begins, and where the objective becomes daunting.

It's easier if you break your focus down to the simplest denominator. What is the one thing you can do right now to make this the Best Writing Year Ever?

Let's try a short exercise, just for fun and practice. No pressures. No commitments. Think about these points:

  • If you could only work on ONE writing project, what would it be?
  • If you could pick just ONE indispensable tool for working on that project, what would that be?
  • If you could choose only ONE time and place to work, when and where?
  • Finally, who best would support you in this ONE focused project?
Now take a deep breath, and simply as an experiment (and keeping those four considerations in mind), try a writing session just for an hour. Or maybe two. Or even a half day. How did it go? Did you write anything? Did it feel good? Will you continue, now that you've begun?

Remember it's about focus and zeroing in on that ONE thing you need to do to manifest a book. Right now. Each and every day. Keep it simple and steady. 

Here's to the Best Writing Year Ever!

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. Her January 2020 art and writing project is called Cat By Cat. She and her artist husband live in rural Colorado where they pamper far too many felines to be considered sane.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Share This Writing Meme

Welcome to 2020! This year we have an extra day to finish a new book. What are your writing plans to make it the Best Writing Year Ever? Please leave us a comment.

Feel free to right-click on this meme to save it to your computer and to share it on your social media sites.