Pixar Rule 18: No Writerly Fussing Allowed

Guess what’s back? The Pixar storytelling series!

My sister’s wedding is over, I’m back from my anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, and Nikki Urang’s trip to my house for a writer’s weekend was a smashing success.

This also means I’m no longer living the life of a spoiled globe trotter and must get back to my daily activities (which actually, I missed). Blogging is one of those things! Returning to Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, I’m going to cover rule 18.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

I think something got lost in translation with the 2nd sentence there, and I honestly have no idea what Ms. Coats meant by it. However, I have quite a bit of experience dealing with the first sentence.

With one of my first novels, I spent way too much time fussing. I’d finished the draft, sent it out to people who said they wrote or read a lot, made revisions, and then spent forever fussing with the language. Sentence-level modifications that clarified actions, boosted voice, removed passive verbs, etc. A lot of it helped, but a lot of it was just messing around. I spent far too much time, and burned myself out, on tiny issues. When I was done, I’d spent so much time revising I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I needed to stop pruning the branches and step back so I could see the shape of the whole forest, but by that time, I was burned out.

My novel needed streamlining and focus. It needed to not rely so heavily on tropes. It needed to be set apart from what was already on the market. I had no idea, though, because I’d spent so much time fussing with it that I just didn’t have the energy to seriously consider these things. Note: I THOUGHT I’d considered them. I’d had it beta-read and made big changes and cut big chunks. But since I was exhausted, and since I could check those things off my list, I did. Fussing with language was easier than stepping back, taking the story itself 100% seriously, and double-checking the big things. Here’s the cost: my book still needs those things. It’s chilling out in the corner right now.

So, from personal experience, here’s what I think Ms. Coats is getting at, and here’s what I should have done:

Don’t mess with language until you’re done with big scene and action changes. You’ll burn yourself out. Sure, take along your laptop on car rides and use CTRL-F to find “that” and passive voice, but don’t fuss. There’s no point to messing with language in a scene if you’re going to cut it or change it later. Seriously- no fussing.

Find people who you are 100% confident know what they’re doing. A writer once told me as a revision note that my POV wasn’t clear- things needed to be more clearly from my character’s perspective. This person suggested I insert “he saw”, “he wondered”, etc, to show that it was my main character perceiving all this. Consequently, I littered my MS with filter words that six months later, I had to take out. This is a small, nit-pick revision, but it’s a great example of why not all critiques are equal. I didn’t get critiques tough enough to show me that my novel was too much like most other fantasies out there, and the advice often prompted me to harm my book rather than improve it. So get critiques from writers who have the experience and credentials to genuinely help you; you need tough critiques. (How? Check out the tabs above- crits are everywhere in this industry.) It’s hard to take, but shelving your MS is even harder.

Once you have several sets of revision notes from trusted writers/industry professionals, don’t revise. That’s right. Don’t revise immediately. I tossed out a lot of helpful advice because I was too close to my story and couldn’t see how that change could work. I thought my novel had to start with the girl in high school, and I couldn’t see a way around it. So, I tossed out the advice. Don’t do that if it’s from someone you trust. Daydream about it a little first. If you WERE going to take that advice on cutting out this character, how could you do it? If you HAD to change your opening, how could you do it? Take a few days to do this, not a few minutes. Just a few weeks ago, the answer to how to start that novel hit me. It doesn’t have to start with the main character in high school, and my planned revision is much more interesting.

Know yourself. A lot of writers tend to channel their perfectionism toward fussing with language instead of really doing their best with the story itself. Use that perfectionism to be honest with yourself and your book. There’s a point where your book needs you to pick over every line, and there’s a point where it’s just fussing. Don’t burn yourself out with the latter if your time, energy, and honesty are still needed by your plot and characters.

Target Shooting As A Writer: Pixar Rule 7!

We’re one full week down in the Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling blogging challenge! Today rule 7 is up:

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Beginnings are important. They set the stage, draw in the reader, and present the problem. Often they have catchy first lines, hilarious boy-meets-girl moments, frightening she-might-die conflicts, and dozens of compelling questions we want answered. Middles have raising stakes, surprising twists, and character motivations revealed in ways that make us desperately wish they get what they’re after. But endings. Endings. They are the payoff.

We read for the journey, right? The complete experience. Following along after Augustus and Hazel. Watching Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy overcome their pride. Trying to figure out what happened to Jason Bourne before it’s too late. It’s less about where they end up and more about how they get there.

But that’s how we read. If writers wrote that way, we’d have a directionless path winding forever onward, and eventually, readers would bail. When we write- wait for it- we have to take aim.

As a farm girl, I’ve done my share of target shooting. Sometimes I’d use my brother’s .22, but most often it was an air rifle that fired BBs or this wicked little BB pistol I had. Not a real gun, I know, but that was kind of the point. I knew I wasn’t likely to accidentally kill anyone. Plus, BBs are cheap. So, sixteen-year-old me would tie a soda can to the fence and shoot away until I cut the can in half. When I took aim and pulled the trigger, I had a target in mind.

From the very beginning of the story, writers need to aim at their target. Sometimes the target changes, and that’s fine, as long as the writer adjusts for it. Aiming at the target gives the story a journey, makes it progress, and pulls the reader onward. They are going somewhere, not wandering.

When I started writing DINAH, I didn’t know the beginning. I still need to work out a chunk of the middle. But I’ve known the ending since I started plotting: a seventeen-year old girl standing in the town square, with a gun to the head of the man who took away her land and killed her family. (What happens next is top secret.) As I plot and write scenes, I’m aiming to get my characters there. Everything leads up to that moment and the aftermath, the echoes of the shot she does or doesn’t take.

Figure out your ending. Pick your target and aim for it. Chances are you won’t hit much of anything if you fire wildly into space. It’s rare to hit your target if you don’t take aim.

How do you figure out the end to your story? If your target changes, what do you do to adjust for that? Tell me what you think. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me!

Talynn Lynn, a writer, editorial intern for Entranced Publishing, and writing assistant extraordinaire,

Mary Pat, a writer, fellow teacher, and fantastic blogger,

Alex Yuschik, a writer, grad student, and lit agency intern,

and Regina Castillo, a dedicated reader, writer, and blogger.

Destroying Your Character’s Comfort Zone: Pixar #6

I hope you all had a great Easter! After a one-day break for the holiday, we’re back to discussing Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. Today rule 6 is up:

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

Pushing your characters out of their comfort zones is a key concept in developing compelling conflict. If your characters are good at everything they’re doing and don’t have to push themselves, we don’t wait around to see if they’ll get the job done. We know they will. When the conflict challenges the main character, we see character development happening all over the place. So, yes, of course we want to throw something at them that challenges their abilities.

But here’s the twist, and really, the most important part: don’t just give them something HARDER, challenge them with something completely opposite of what they’re comfortable with. The pro assassin who has his toughest case yet might be interesting, but it’s not as gripping as it could be. What does Katniss not have time for? Impractical things. Where does she have to go? The Capitol– the height of impracticality. She doesn’t have time for entertainment and doesn’t understand people who do, but yet she has to not only participate in but BE entertainment. Even when her life and Peeta’s are at stake, she still has to be good entertainment, or they won’t get help when they need it. Seeing Katniss struggle (remember post 1 on character struggle?) with things that directly conflict with her ethics, in an area she can barely understand, having to develop skills she has never used before, is a gold mine situation for character development. How she reacts tells the audience a great deal about her motivation, intelligence, resourcefulness, insecurities, and compassion. It takes every bit of who she is to survive.

And that’s key to this whole rule. Gripping conflict should push your characters to the limits, especially in their weak areas, because when it does, we find out who they really are. When you do that, characters have to change. They become deeper, more complex, more relatable, more memorable, and even more compelling.

Don’t forget to check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me!

Talynn Lynn, a writer, editorial intern for Entranced Publishing, and writing assistant extraordinaire,

Mary Pat, a writer, fellow teacher, and fantastic blogger,

Alex Yuschik, a writer, grad student, and lit agency intern,

and Regina Castillo, a dedicated reader, writer, and blogger.

As always, thanks for reading!

A Plotting Tool (With Good News for Your Query and Synopsis): Pixar Rule #4

I’m blogging my way through Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling as compiled by Emma Coates, Pixar storyboard artist.  It’s been a ton of fun so far and is really exercising my blogging muscles! If you didn’t see my interview with author Mindee Arnett from yesterday, check it out in the right sidebar, because she’s brilliant and so is her book.

Here’s the 4th rule of storytelling from Pixar and Emma Coates:

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

This one is a bit different. It’s actually a formula for the spine of your story, and it’s a great one. Filling this out before you start writing your draft will help you think through where you want to go with your concept. The first two blanks establish character and situation. The 3rd is the initial conflict- bam, your protagonist has a problem. This problem intensifies and the stakes leap higher with 4 and 5. One of those should probably even be a twist we didn’t see coming. Finally, the main characters hit the do-or-die moment. Of course, you still need to fill in your resolution.

This kind of 6-sentence synopsis is a great writing tool. Fill it out before you start writing- just one sentence for each step.  (To follow my own advice, I’m going to sit down and fill this out for THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL today, so why not do it with me?) Then revise it as you draft the first half, and revise again when you finish. Not only will this help the plot stay focused, avoid tangents, and progress at a good pace, but when you’re done, you will have your synopsis basically written. This is a fantastic starting point for both your synopsis and your query. Turn each sentence into a paragraph for the synopsis, and that’s a great start. Use the establishing and main conflict sections of the 6-sentence outline plus a few killer developing details, and you’ll have the bones of a query!

If you want to see a great article that expands each of these 6 ideas and adds in the resolution, go here.

Don’t forget to check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me!

Talynn Lynn, a writer, editorial intern for Entranced Publishing, and writing assistant extraordinaire,

Mary Pat, a writer, fellow teacher, and fantastic blogger,

Alex Yuschik, a writer, grad student, and also an intern to a literary agent,

and Regina Castillo, a dedicated reader, writer, and blogger.

As always, thanks for reading!

3 Ways to Set Yourself Apart in the Slush

I’ve been considering writing a post for a while on common issues I see in submissions, and I’m seeing enough of the same things coming up that I think that might make a great topic. If you’ve been reading agent blogs or following writers on Twitter, you probably know to avoid super common openings in your novel- alarm clocks ringing, the main character waking up, an action scene before we’ve been given a reason to care, etc. Beyond those things, there are several elements of writing itself that makes me question the submission and occasionally stop reading.

1) Lack of contractions. I see this a lot in SF/F/paranormal writing. More formal phrasing is often the first route writers take when they want to make an angel/vampire/immortal of any kind sound as if s/he is from another culture. This idea might have worked for the first few who did it, and it still might work if done extraordinarily well, but it’s such a common device now that I expect it, so it isn’t interesting anymore. Plus, and here’s the kicker, it makes the writing stilted. Even if your character is from another culture, unless she’s the Dowager Countess, it doesn’t work. Try saying the lines out loud yourself; if it sounds weird, it reads weird. It pulls me out of the story and makes it that much harder to catch my attention.

2) Modifier overload. This has to be one of the most common things I write in reader reports. Adjectives and adverbs stand out; be choosy. An author friend of mine told me her agent says she gets ten adverbs per novel. That’s how choosy you should be. Now, if you’re that choosy, maybe you can do more than ten. The point is, I get the distinct feeling a lot of writers aren’t actually aware of how many they’re using. And you have to be. If using words is going to be your career, you have to be aware. Take just your first page and highlight how many adverbs and adjectives are on that page. I frequently see 15+ modifiers on the first page. Of course, the commonly advised solution is to delete the modifier and use stronger nouns and verbs- “china” instead of “plate”, or “hurtle” instead of “run.” I like to keep in mind the principle of “detail that matters.” If it doesn’t matter that the flowers are pink, don’t tell me. They’ll show up as a color in my imagination even if you don’t supply one. But if the tangle of the stems and the withered leaves matter as insight about the protagonist, then by all means, use it. Just be aware, and be intentional.

3) Common phrasing. This is a little more abstract of a concept, but it’s easy to identify in a manuscript. When I read about bright sunny days, fear creeping over someone, half-smiles turning up a corner of someone’s mouth, etc., I get bored because I’ve seen all these things too many times. Cliches might be a part of this, but it’s more just ordinary words being used in an unimaginative way. When I read, I want to see a new perspective on something. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is an excellent example of breaking away from the ordinary in showing the main character’s thoughts. Not everyone should go so far as to strike out portions of the text, but I do at least want to think, “hey, this writer sees that man’s shoes a little differently than most people would” or “I’d never thought of describing a street like that.” So, I want to see more language that shows unique thought.

When I see a writer who doesn’t have these struggles, I know he is both aware and intentional with his writing. That fact alone helps the submission grab my attention.

Publishing Terms and Abbreviations

 

Below is a list of common terms and abbreviations you might see as you read my posts or other publishing blogs.

Agent: Literary agents are professionals who represent an author’s career. The most well-known tasks an agent performs are selling the writer’s MS to a publishing house and negotiating the contract. Agents do much more than this, however.

CP: critique partner. Writers who critique each other’s work. These can be great relationships to establish because of the encouragement, resources, and support writers receive from each other.

Crit: critique. An evaluation that aims for showing both the strong and weak elements of a MS. Critiques from other writers, especially authors and agents, can be a great way for writers to improve their writing.

Editor: Editors acquire books for their house to publish and help polish the work before publication. Like agents, they do much more than this as well.

Form rejection: A copy-pasted rejection from an agent to a writer who queried. Most of the time this is what writers will receive. Most agents receive 100+ queries a week (I’ve seen some agents report 800+), so personal responses are often impossible.

MG: middle grade. Writing written for middle grade readers and adhering to certain age group conventions.

MS: manuscript. An unpublished work of fiction or nonfiction.

MSS: plural of MS.

NA: new adult. Characters and plotlines revolve around situations common to the 19-early twenties age group. This category of fiction is just getting started and most agents and editors don’t recognize it yet because booksellers don’t have a system in place to sell NA works. A good-sized community is advocating for NA to become established, however.

Personalized rejection: A rejection from an agent to a writer who queried, but some element of the letter is personal. A line or two complimenting the work but explaining why it’s not right for the agent may be included. This is an encouraging compliment from the agent, and is actually a good thing to receive.

Pitch: A brief description of a manuscript highlighting the main elements in a way that makes others want to read more. Contests sometimes ask for a 1, 2, or 3-sentence pitch. Writers should have one ready for contests and conferences.

Query letter: A letter, often a professional email, that writers send to agents asking them to consider them for representation. The letter includes specific details about the MS the author has written and relevant credentials the writer may have. Some agents want 5 or 10 pages and/or a synopsis included as well. Conventions for queries are very particular.

R&R(or R/R) Revise and resubmit. The request from an agent or editor to have the writer make certain changes to the manuscript and then resubmit the work for consideration. These are common, and don’t necessarily mean the writing was poor. The agent’s current list of titles, market trends, and the writing itself may be reasons for R&Rs.

Request: An agent (or sometimes editor) requests to see a certain number of pages of a writer’s manuscript. These can be “partials”-generally 30, 50, or 100 pages- or else “fulls”- the entire manuscript. Usually agents request a partial first and then request a full if they are considering representing the writer. A request is a BIG deal, particularly if it’s a full.

Synopsis: A 1-2 page summary that reveals the main elements of the MS.

Twitter pitch: A pitch designed for Twitter contests. 140 characters or less.

WIP: work in progress. The manuscript an author is currently writing.

YA: young adult. Writing intended for a teenage audience, but with tremendous crossover appeal to adults. Publishers Weekly reported this month that 55% of all YA books are purchased by adult buyers, and 78% of the time, those books are for themselves.

Have you heard any other terms you’d like to know more about? Ask in the comments- I’ll answer!

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

This week the “gearing up to get an agent” contest kicks off- it’s a huge contest with great opportunities to get your work in front of agents. The first part of the contest and blog hop is a “meet and greet” post. If you want to check out the contest itself, go here!

Questions for the Meet and Greet
I live in the midwest but love to travel. Currently I’m in Alberta, Canada, actually, for a friend’s wedding. I love Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice and anything by John Green, can’t live without music, and tell my friends more than they want  to know about writing and publishing. I am finishing the first draft of my 2nd novel this week (fingers crossed- I’m visiting friends and helping with a wedding!). I write adult and young adult fantasy and contemporary. I’m also an editorial intern with Entangled Publishing and an English teacher. I blog here and over at YA Stands.
-Where do you write?
 Usually I write in my library- a tiny half-bedroom upstairs. I do a lot of writing on my ebook, however, when forced to leave my library.
-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
 Well, I’m in Canada right now, but if I were in my library, to my immediate left is my Keurig. I love it because then I don’t have to stop writing and go downstairs to get coffee. I push a button, and keep writing.
-Favorite time to write?
I teach full-time and year-round, so I don’t really get to pick when I write. Usually it’s from 6:30-8:30 most nights. I’ve been writing a lot later for the past month because I’m marathoning my current WIP.
-Drink of choice while writing?
 Coffee. I wish it was something more exciting, but then I get distracted from my writing. 🙂
-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Usually I play a mix of Switchfood, Brandi Carlile, Mumford and Sons, and Florence and the Machine. But for really tricky scenes, I need quiet.
-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
 Some of my growing up experiences contributed to my current WIP, but mostly the story just came to me as a big “what if?” one day.
-What’s your most valuable writing tip?
 When you read, find the scenes that make you feel something intense. Get a notepad and jot down how the author did it. Figure out why that scene affected you. Also read good books on writing. One of the tabs up top has a list of ones I have read and recommend, so check them out. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the contest if you’re entering!

Prose Tips: Be the Biggest Loser

Avoiding empty words and cutting  unnecessary words are two fantastic things you can do to immediately improve your writing.

Even if you already do this, check again. Empty and unnecessary words slip by even the most watchful writer. Actively avoiding these kinds of words helps, but searching for them and cutting them out is a normal part of the revision process.  Hunt them down and hack them out.

Empty words include words like there, is, are, this, that, etc. Rather than being content-bearers, these words are grammatical markers carrying little meaning themselves. Starting a sentence with “There are” or “there is” weakens the sentence and makes the writing unwieldy and vague. Cutting out these power-drains in your sentences will noticeably improve your prose. For example: “There was a loaf of bread on the counter, crusty and golden in its perfection” can be easily revised to read “A loaf of bread rested on the counter, crusty and golden in its perfection.” Adding an action verb can fairly easily solve the issue.

Most uses of the word “that” are unnecessary as well. “The girl waited for the train that she was sure would never come” becomes “The girl waited for the train she was sure would never come.” Use ctrl-F to highlight each use of “that” in your writing, and check to make sure you’re only using it when absolutely necessary. If it seems necessary, see if you can rewrite the sentence so it isn’t.

Cutting unnecessary words is a bit broader topic. Writing good fiction (and nonfiction) requires condensing. Many writers use rambling phrases to say what could be said in a word or two; knocking these out and replacing them with concise, punchy words is necessary to brighten your prose. Of course, many fantastic writers use long, flowing sentences- but every word is necessary and specific. Don’t use more words than you need to say what you mean. “Grover walked slowly over to the counter, picked up a knife from the knife block, and cut back and forth through the loaf of bread” is much better as “Grover strolled over to the counter, picked up a knife, and sliced the bread.”

Right now that sentence reads like an action beat to break up thoughts or dialogue. If the event is an important moment for the character or is meant to carry metaphorical meaning or subtext, much should be cut or rewritten. The sentence probably still contains detail that doesn’t matter, even though it’s condensed. If what matters is the bread being sliced, then we may not need to hear about Grover walking or choosing a knife. The fat needs trimmed. “The knife rasped through the crust, breaking apart the loaf” is a more specific image conveying similar information.

To avoid unnecessary words, think about what has to be conveyed and why- and then say it in as few words as possible. Linking words together to get Grover from point A to point B waters down the prose and simply doesn’t grab your reader. Make sure the words you use are necessary. Keep in mind “necessary” doesn’t deal with simply the information conveyed- tone and voice play into what words are necessary, too.

Don’t let your sentences be candidates for a reality TV weight loss program. Say the same thing in fewer, more specific words, and your sentences will be better off. Avoid words that don’t add meaning. Your readers will notice the difference.

Do you have a favorite editing trick or tool for cutting the fat out of your writing? Tell me about it!

Writing Contests

I’ve discovered a whole string of worthy contests of late, and so I’m sharing the love and posting them below. If you’re a writer, check them out. Some end tonight or tomorrow! If you’re a reader, stalk the contests.  Reading the pitches for as-yet unpublished books is fascinating, and you never know- you might see the book on the shelves next year.

Share the Lobov Critique Giveaway from Karen Akins

Pitch Slam 2 from YALITCHAT

Operation Awesome Mystery Agent from Katrina Lantz and the rest of the wonderful writers over at the Operation Awesome blog. This one is run monthly!

Crits for Water by Kat Brauer- contests/auctions for charity here until the end of June

Three Two One Pitch contest from Dorothy Dreyer

Tons of Giveaways for writers and readers- closing midnight tonight!

Miss Snark’s First Victim regularly runs writing contests- sometimes weekly! Keep an eye on the blog.

Cupid’s Literary Connection– contests run here regularly as well.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) – The fabulous “An Agent’s Inbox” is run here monthly. Don’t miss it!

Watch Monica B.W.’s blog Love YA  and Brenda Drake’s blog Brenda Drake Writes for contests, giveaways, and more valuable info for writers and readers. These ladies are fabulous and recently hosted a major contest with Mother.Write.(Repeat.) and Cupid’s Literary Connection.

If you’re not familiar with these kinds of contests, go here for a great post on the topic and some worthwhile tips.

Like my posts? Follow my blog, and follow me on Twitter!

Review: Write Your Book in 26 Days

Once again, readers, I’m thrilled to recommend an excellent book.

Reading about writing is essential  to develop skills as a writer. Fantastic books on writing are listed in my “books on craft” page. These books focus on the craft of writing itself: character development, POV, plot and pacing, voice, and a hundred other elements.Their explanations and examples of techniques and principles are invaluable to writers of all kinds. Mostly, though, they teach writing skills, not how to be a writer.

I’ve just finished reading WRITE-A-THON: Write Your Book in 26 Days by Rochelle Melander, and at first I was skeptical. “26 days?” I thought. “Not if it’s a book worth reading.” Ms. Melander’s book, however, is not about rushing writers through creating their masterpiece, nor is the book about cranking out poor material. Her book is of a different sort. Rather than focusing on how to produce excellent prose and story, WRITE-A-THON teaches people how to be sucessful writers.

Ms. Melander comes alongside writers in this book as a coach. She teaches  how to prepare for the write-a-thon, how to write that first draft, and how to finish strong by revising, searching for agents, and preparing for the next project.

Really, WRITE-A-THON is 3 kinds of books in one. First, it’s a field guide. Ms. Mellander discusses who and what writers are and why they write. “Waiters wait,” she says. “Writers write.” She takes writers through the steps of preparing to write a book: finding the concept, beginning the research, designing the structure of the book, creating the marathon schedule, etc. She then moves on to writing the first draft. This first draft is what will take the 26 days. Every step of the way, she tells writers what needs to be done, what to expect while doing it, what works for others, and what may work for them.

WRITE-A-THON is also a motivational book. I don’t normally like motivational reading. I am typically a self-motivated person. This book, however, I found to be genuinely helpful and realisically motivating. Ms. Melander helps writers to identify their excuses, envision what they want their writing career to look like, and obtain the support needed to make those goals happen. She walks writers through isolating why they want to write, prioritizing the desire to write in their daily lives, and learning to take themselves seriously. Motivational discussion continues through the training, drafting, and editing stages of the book to keep writers encouraged and focused. Ms. Melander understands that writing can be difficult, isolating, and frustrating; she also understands how much confidence and persistence it takes. Even though I’ve already written my first novel, I was motivated to keep working by this book- not the brief motivation of cheerful encouragement, but rather the motivation that comes from identifying a goal, valuing it appropriately, and recognizing  progress. Before long, I was motivating myself. My writing motivated me. My research motivated me. The small steps I made each day in developing my writing career motivated me.

Finally, WRITE-A-THON is a toolbox. This is my favorite element of the book. I have truly never read a book this useful for making writing a daily part of life. Ms. Melander, while telling writers what needs done and what to expect, while telling them it will be hard but it will be even more rewarding, shows writers how to get it done.

People can Google warm-up tips and editing tips; Ms. Melander goes beyond standard how-to’s for writers. She teaches how to create a writing space; how to prioritize writing; how to build a support team; how to explain to friends and family that you are sorry, but you are writing, so you can’t babysit. She walks writers through finding out what brainstorming, writing, and researching materials work best for them. She discusses overcoming perfectionism, blank pages, and lack of inspiration. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the write-a-thon is discussed as well, as is developing the writer’s creative life. She keeps the writer progressing while avoiding burn-out.

Ms. Melander organizes all of this material into three sections: training, the write-a-thon, and recovery. Part One: Training takes the writer through the necessary steps to prepare.  I loved this section because of its thoroughness and Ms. Melander’s spot-on observations about writers- how they write, how they think, how they act and react. Faithfully following the steps she lays out will make every writer a better writer.

Part Two: The Write-a-Thon guides writers through getting the first draft on paper. Resources and even meals have been gathered beforehand; daily writing exercises have built writing muscles; project binders and story bibles have captured research, outlines, and character profiles. Writing the draft at this point just takes encouragement, focus, and seat-time. Ms. Melander will get writers there.

Part Three: Recovery helps writers celebrate their accomplishment, then gets them back to the task of finishing. Revisions, editors, first lines and word economy, the querying process, and finally persistence through rejection are outlined. The book closes with a fabulous bibliography of writer’s resources on organizing the writer’s life, writing advice, writing books quickly, fiction writing, nonfiction writing, writing exercises, and revising, submitting, and publishing.

WRITE-A-THON is both accessible and well-written. Concepts are made memorable through clear, humorous writing and relevant examples.  Not only is this a book worth reading, but its also a book worth re-reading. Writers of all kinds and all levels of experience will find it useful and motivating. One quote Ms. Melander includes is from Richard Bach: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Rochelle Melander shows writers how to stick to their goals and not quit. She shows people how to be writers. “Writers write,” she says. WRITE-A-THON thoroughly unpacks how to be a writer who truly writes.

Visit Ms. Melander’s site here, and buy WRITE-A-THON on Amazon here or at Barnes & Noble here!