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    4 More Writing Coach Monsters & How to Avoid Them

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 5 comments

    game-asset-call-1296507__180Some of our most beloved fictional characters are monsters: Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, Mr. Hyde. Grendel. Cthulu! Who doesn’t love Cthulu?

    (Which is your favorite literary monster? Let us know in a comment below.)

    The real world is full of monsters too, a point we touched on a couple of weeks ago with Part I of this post. A couple of you even shared with us your own experiences dealing with writing coach monsters, including Tom, whose writing coach showed Tom’s work — without authorization — to a third party. The horror!

    But if you thought there were only four types of writing coach monsters, you were terrifyingly mistaken.

    Here are four more writing coach monsters, as well as some tips on how to spot them and how to avoid them. read more

    Is Your Writing Coach a Monster? Identifying 4 Types

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 11 comments

    zombie-367517_960_720In the seven years we’ve been providing one-on-one coaching services, we’ve heard an alarming amount of anecdotes from writers about other writing coaches they’ve hired and — for good reason — fired.

    These bad experiences are usually due to one of several writing coach monsters, four of which we want to identify today.

    How do you spot them and how do you avoid them? Read on to find out. If you’re brave enough. read more

    Accountability: Drew Nellins Smith & Me

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 4 comments

    SolitudeOver and over we’re told that writing is a solitary activity: the writer in a dark room, alone again (naturally), bottle of booze (and no glass) next to the typewriter, etc. And sure, usually the act itself is solitary. But recently we’ve been talking about the collaboration found in critique groups and ghostwriting. Today I want to bore you to pieces with an anecdote related to me & my pal Drew Nellins Smith and another type of collaboration: accountability.

    Shortly after we arrived in Austin in 2010, I cast about to learn what kind of writing climate we’d landed in. Part of this involved cruising the woefully depressing Craigslist Writing Gigs — a lot of you just smirked; I could hear it — where, among the “Write my book in exchange for imaginary royalties” and “Now hiring for content mill: no pay” posts, a headline jumped out at me: “Seeking a Writing Accountability Partner.”

    Seeking a what, now? read more

    Do I Want a Ghostwriter?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments No comments

    Ghost headThe impression I get is that nobody wants to do any writing this summer.

    That’s a slight exaggeration, but it does seem as though we’re getting five calls and emails per day asking about our ghostwriting services (shameless plug: see them here). The most common question we see is, “Do I need a ghostwriter?”

    I might suggest a different question: “Do I want a ghostwriter?”

    Nobody truly needs one.

    But there are plenty of good-to-great reasons to want a ghostwriter (i.e., someone to write your book, story, article, etc. on your behalf, with your input). If you find yourself saying any of the following, then the answer to “Do I want a ghostwriter?” is probably a big ol’ hell yeah!

    read more

    6 Tips for Forming Your Own Critique Group

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 7 comments

    Critique GroupTwo weeks ago we had a fun conversation about critique groups and what to watch out for when scouting for a new one — flawed formats and flawed people in particular. A few of you responded by asking about forming your own critique group and how to do it the right way.

    I don’t want to imply that I think there’s a wrong way. Different groups serve different needs. Some critique groups are more about socializing with other writers than they are about getting quality feedback. And that’s cool. I’ve never been a big believer in the whole writers-are-hermits thing, or that writers are socially inept/awkward by nature and without some occasional interaction a writer will die at his or her computer desk and not be found until rats have eaten off his/her face.

    But a little companionship with some like-minded people is good for anyone. So if your group wants nothing more than to gather for some food and drink and talk, you’ll get no hassle from me.

    But if I were going to form a critique group for writers whose main objective is to improve their work, here are a few guidelines I would try to set. read more

    3 Common Critique Group Flaws

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 40 comments

    Critique groupA couple of weeks ago, [redacted] from [redacted] emailed to ask us if a critique group was right for her. “I’m in the early stages of writing my first thriller,” she wrote, “and I don’t really have anyone I trust to read my first few chapters. But there’s a writing group listed on Meetup that I am thinking of trying, and wondering if you can tell me some critique group flaws and if you think critique groups are a good idea or bad?”

    I hate to say this, but the answer is … shoulder shrug. Critique groups are like snowflakes; every one is different, and don’t drive your car through a pile of them unless it’s an emergency.

    Whether or not a specific critique group is right for you depends entirely on three things: the group’s format, the quality of its humans, and what you’re hoping to get out of it.

    Since it’s more fun to poo-poo than to woo-hoo, today we’ll discuss three common critique group flaws.

    If you have the time, it’s not a bad idea to join a few groups and attend a session or two of each. And then winnow ’em down. As soon as you spot more than one of the following critique group flaws, bounce.

    [Tweet “As soon as a critique group displays more than one of these three flaws, bounce.”]

    read more

    When Your Family Doesn’t Understand Your Writing Pursuits

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 27 comments

    writing pursuitsWe’ve fielded an awful lot of questions and complaints lately from writers whose families and friends don’t understand their writing pursuits and/or are unwilling to take them seriously.

    Here’s one, drawn from a comment on a recent blog post:

    “I was three chapters into my psychological thriller, and needed feedback and encouragement. I reached out to family and friends, and generally made it known that I was going to achieve my dream, however long it was going to take. I might as well have said I was going to adopt an elephant. Many of [them] believe that writing is an impractical pie-in-the-sky hobby, and my announcement was met with indifference and eye-rolling. … My own mother said she would not read my book even if published because it was not ‘her kind’ of book.”

    It’s a common complaint because it’s a common trait; people often don’t understand interests/passions outside of their own. Think of the overly macho failed-jock dad who forces his kid to attend basketball camp even though the kid really wants to go to space camp.

    You want to go on a writing retreat. Your family says “Get a real job.” It hurts your feelings. What do you do?

    [Tweet “”You want to go on a writing retreat. Your family says ‘Get a real job.'””] read more

    The Writer’s Dilemma, Part 2: Friends, Family & Leisure

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 6 comments

    BalanceLast week we talked about some strategies for fitting more writing — or thinking about writing! — into three of six of the main aspects of life: career, exercise and sleep. Today we’ll cover three more, the closely intertwined friends, family and leisure.

    Remember, clocking in every single day is the key. You probably won’t always produce words; few writers actually write every day, despite what they may say. But if you can find some way, every day, to advance your WIP, even when it doesn’t involve pen to paper, then you’re doing the necessary work.

    But today’s strategies will be as much about creating more time as they will be about using your time differently.

    So here is the second half of our series of tips you’ve probably already heard but have likely forgotten. read more

    The Writer’s Dilemma, Part 1: Career, Exercise, Sleep AND Writing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 11 comments

    TightropeSome people can walk a tightrope between two skyscrapers. Others have trouble walking a straight line on the sidewalk. For many people, any type of balance — physical, emotional, mental — can be difficult to achieve.

    For writers especially, balancing career, exercise, sleep, family, friends and leisure, and still finding time to write, can often feel like an impossible task.

    I don’t have a magic solution. And if I did, I wouldn’t be giving it away for free.

    But here’s what I am giving away for free, right now, today, a one-time-only act-now offer: Some tips you’ve probably heard before!

    Because sometimes we need a reminder that fitting writing into your daily life doesn’t have to be so difficult.

    This is your reminder. read more

    Writing Your First Book: 5 Common Misconceptions

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 14 comments

    writing your first bookSo you’ve decided it’s time to start writing your first book. You’ve got a story to share with the world and a tall cup of coffee to keep you sharp while you do it.

    You’ve never written a book before, but you’re not worried. You got good grades in high school English and enjoyed writing in college. Often when you read, you think, I can do better than that. You can write a book, you figure. How hard can it be?

    Fast forward a month. You’re stalled, frustrated, on the verge of giving up. You’ve tried and tried to make steady progress, to translate your ideas clearly from your head to the page, but it’s just not working. This book-writing thing is shaping up to be a lot harder than you thought it would be.

    It feels impossible, like traveling through a long, dark tunnel with no end in sight.

    Writing your first book is not impossible, but without the right approach, it can feel that way. read more

    Finding Balance in a Mostly Disordered Life

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 25 comments

    Here to find the Micro Fiction Challenge results? They’re in the comments section of the post

    Today our pal Yi Shun Lai shares some thoughts on the subject of balance in a writer’s life. Yi Shun’s debut novel is coming out soon from Shade Mountain Press, she has a new novel coming up due, a day job, a volunteer job (or several?), a husband, a dog, a blog, and … and I’m out of breath just typing this. i.e., balance is a continual struggle. Is finding balance a struggle for you, too? What strategies do you employ? Do they work? Let us know below. — DD


    By Yi Shun Lai

    Yi Shun's dog, Sprocket, shows how he achieves balance.

    Yi Shun’s dog, Sprocket, shows how he achieves balance.

    We are not talking yoga.

    Or maybe we are. Because when you’re staring at a to-do list that seems five thousand items long, and the dog needs walking, and your unfinished manuscript is weighing on you, maybe what you really need is to meditate.

    In front of classic Star Trek.

    On the couch.

    With a blanket over your head.

    And a box (two?) of Cheez-Its.

    I can tell you from recent experience that this is not “mindful” or “productive” behavior. And yet, it is highly necessary. read more

    One Way Out of a Writing Rut

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 13 comments
    My gaping writing rut

    My gaping writing rut

    I’ve got this friend who constantly, daily, harangues me for not writing enough.

    It’s justified; I don’t write enough. I’m forever saying to friends and clients, “You must write every day. Every. Single. Day!” Yet I don’t do the same.

    Nobody likes a hypocrite. Especially a hypocrite who even from his soapbox can’t see over the lip of the writing rut he’s in.

    This friend, on the other hand, writes more than anyone else I know. Every week he sends me a new novella or three new book reviews and six essays. It’s super annoying.

    (You hear that, friend whom I know is reading this? You, sir, are annoying.) read more