Friday, June 29, 2012

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Click here to join the Blog Party!

Its the end of June, the beginning of summer and there is soooo much to celebrate!

First off, those of us 12x12ers have reached the halfway point in our challenge!  And I am proud to say that I have 6 pb manuscripts to show for it!

But with the halfway point of the 12x12 Challenge, I also face the end of a war I waged back in September.

Ten months ago I vowed to stop dabbling in writing and do what I could to pursue this field with greater focus and passion. 

Now that I am at the end of the 10 month period, I look back in awe.  Never would I have imagined all that I have done...and all that I still need to do!

But today is a day to celebrate the accomplishments.
What I Accomplished in my 10 Month War on Dabbling:

1)  With the help of my local SCBWI, I created a Critique Group which meets monthly in NYC.  We have grown from 3 at our first meeting to 11 regular attenders.
2)  I participated in Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo in November and completed 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.
3)  I enrolled in and completed two 10 week Children's Writing classes at  Gotham Writers Workshop.
4)  Through PiBoIdMo I found out about Julie Hedlund's new 12x12in12 Challenge to write 12 manuscripts in the year 2012 (one per month).  So far I have stuck to my goal and completed 6 manuscripts!
5)  I attended the Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC in January.
6)  I particpated in Paula Yoo's NaPiBoWriWee in May and completed 6 picture book manuscripts in 7 days.
7)  I attended the NJ SCBWI Conference in June. 

8)  I ended June with a 15 day blog-a-thon following Jeff Goins' 15 Habits of Great Writers.

9)  I started this blog!

10)  I have met the greatest, most encouraging, most energetic, understanding, supportive, creative and brave people I have ever met! 

For the rest of 2012 I hope to complete the 12x12in12 Challenge. We might only be at the halfway point, but boy do we all have a lot to celebrate!

What can you celebrate today?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writers Weigh In: Friendspiration Nominations!

We all have stories. Its time for me to listen.
I want to hear from YOU!

Not about you...but a writer you admire who you think needs to be known! 
Who inspires you? Share their story/journey/life in a future blog.
This is an excellent way to help promote those around us who help us strive to be better.
My new Friday series will be called Friday's Friendspirations and will be your opportunity to guest blog about the writer YOU want to promote!

Comment below and tell me. Include your email address so I can contact to regarding your post. 
Share away! I look forward to meeting your friends. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Serve

"Write the first draft with the door closed and the second draft with the door open."  ~ Stephen King

Kate DiCamillo was the closing speaker for the SCBWI in New Jersey this year.  Her speech shared the contradictions of writing. 
The second contradiction in her list was write only for others, write only for yourself.  Kate quoted the phrase “What aileth thee?” A writer must ask this question and then answer it. She must ask others what ails them, then reach for the “heart of humanity”, the universal emotions that bond us all.
DiCamillo said, "A writer’s purpose is to deliver the truth, yet make the truth bearable."

At the same time the writer is comforting humanity, the writer must not write to anyone else’s whims. Not write to the market trends. Not write to please anyone else. In order to grab the truth, the writer must write what is in his or her heart. In doing so, the joy and love of the words will flow honestly, truthfully, genuinely.

This habit of serving requires the writer to put people first.

Jeff Goins' suggests solving problems, answering questions, and helping people. 

Although it is hard for me to think of myself as someone who offers advice or helps others because I feel so green myself, I strive to make this blog a place where others can pose questions and find answeres...if not through me, through others' comments.

So how am I going to practice this habit more often?  I am going to actually strive to answer all correspondence on this blog. This is something that I have been lax in and I apologize.  But from this moment, I want to respond to every comment.   Jeff Goins says this how tribes are formed — through accessibility.

So thank you to all of those who have ever answered a question I might have had or taken me under your wing or included me in your social writers' circle.  You have served and can call yourself a writer.  I only hope to be able to serve others like you.

Happy Writing (and Serving) everyone!

15 Habits of Great Writers: Brand

Everyone has a least that is what Jeff Goins states on his blog. 

What makes a brand, you say?

 A brand is comprised of 3 things:
  • Your name
  • An image
  • Your voice

So I started thinking...what is my brand?
  • My Name ~ Marcie Colleen (although I realize that my blog is called The Write Routine, and might eventually need to be changed to be just my name or Marcie Colleen's Write Routine).  It is important to get my name associated with all I do.

  • My Image ~ How do people recognize me?  Its the hair.  I have very big, curly blonde hair.  I also often have sunglasses on top of my head. It sounds funny, but it is usually people's first impression of me and how I am found in a crowd.  The real question to start pondering is how to make that part of my brand.  I could look to one of my creative artist friends and ask them to create a logo based on my hair and sunglasses....or I can simply use my headshot (which is what I currently use). But in any case, it is part of my brand.

  • My Voice ~ All writers spend at least some time looking for their voice.  Its the style in which we communicate.  A writing teacher once said, upon reading a manuscript of mine, that is contained my "trademark wit and sense of absurd joy"! What a magnificent compliment!  I felt like I had really found my picture book voice. 
So there you have it.  My brand...

Marcie Colleen ~ Big curly blond hair, with sunglasses atop her head and a trademark wit and sense of absurd joy! 

I'll take it!  Now to let the world know about it!

What's your brand?

Friday, June 22, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Publish

Great writers are great not because of talent, but because they possess one crucial ingredient that the rest of us lack:


They know how to stick things through — to push hard and achieve a goal and move on to the next project.

Mostly, they understand that until they publish their work, until other eyeballs are on it, it might as well be invisible.  ~ Jeff Goins

Yesterday I had a wonderful feeling as I walked through Brooklyn on the way home from work.  I truly felt like I was closer than ever to the big dream of becoming a published author.  Just the mere thought was enough to put a spring in my step, despite soaring record high temperatures that literally baked me on the asphalt.

The thing is, every artist knows that there are days when you feel like you are on the right track and getting closer to the goal and then there are days when you feel like you couldn't be farther.  But the truth is that I am closer.  I am closer to my goal because of one thing...perseverance.

Every day I spent time pursuing my dream I get closer. 

I am even closer than I was a month ago because today I have more manuscripts than a month ago.  I have more ideas, more contacts in the business, more confidence...

Every writer has a choice. 

One month from today can be simply  a month that has gone by.  Or it can be one month closer.

Great writers persevere.  I choose to, as well.

Happy writing!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Provoke

I'm not gonna lie.  I got incredibly excited when I saw what this habit was.  I kinda thought it meant that I should contact agents and editors and say, "what?  aren't you big enough for this?  are you not smart enough to see how genius this work is?  I bet you don't have what it takes!"

But no.  This is not about provoking, meaning bullying.  Although it can include bullying, in another sense.  Hang with me.  I'll explain.

About a month ago, I shared one of my manuscripts, a WIP, with some fellow writers.  The response..."this story kinda makes light of bullying.  You might want to steer clear of this, seeing as it is such a hot topic." 

Since then, I have been present when other fellow writers have gotten criticism along the lines of:  "Dealing with the death of a parent might be too intense for kids."  "Parents might not be happy about the way they are portrayed in this story."  "The language might be too high for kids."  "Everyone steers clear of this topic because it is hard."

Countless times we are told that what we might be creating is "hot" or "too emotional". So what are we to do?

Jeff Goins writes, "Writing is an art. And all good art pushes buttons. It pokes and prods, makes people uncomfortable."

If you’re going to be a great writer, you’re going to have to shake things up. Maybe even break a few rules. Here are some ideas:
  • Tell the ugly truth.
  • Pick a fight with something that’s wrong with the world.
  • Call yourself out.
  • Make a giant confession.
  • Take a risk.
  • Write something dangerous (something you’ve never written before).

Why do we do this?

  • Because we live in a world of lies. Of false flattery and exaggeration. And we need you, the artist, to tell the truth. To help us get out of our comfort zones. After all, that’s the only place we grow.
  • Because this sets others free. To do the same. To live freely and honestly. So get in our faces; tell us the truth. And watch the ripple effect.
So go on!  Provoke today!  Be bold!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Declutter

As a Picture Book writer I am constantly trying to master the economy of language.  In fact, today I am in the process of revising a 650 word manuscript before getting it critiqued.  I have it down to 501 words.

Its amazing to me when I read a manuscript that I thought was perfect two months ago and I suddenly notice turns of phrases and filler words that simply aren't needed. 

My newest war is on "lazy" verbs and adverbs.  I am currently trying to make stronger choices that say much more.

Cut, cut, trim, trim.

Not all phrases and words are easy to eliminate, however.  I sometimes find myself trying to hold on to those clever and funny lines that are not really important to the plot...but they genius!  Ugh..kill those darlings!

Cut, cut, trim, trim.

And it never fails that whenever word count is discussed among Picture Book writers, there is always someone who brings up that there are indeed 1000 word books that are published.  Sure...there are exceptions...but if 500 word manuscripts are what agents and editors are buying more of, don't you want to increase your odds of getting sold?  I know I do.

We can argue for longer manuscripts, but make sure it isn't simply your ego that is arguing. 

When in doubt, try trimming...maybe 100 words at a time.  You will surprise yourself.

Cut, cut, trim, trim!  Let's all declutter today!

Monday, June 18, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Share

Great writers share. Not just their own knowledge, ideas, and expertise. They also share the work of others and credit them accordingly. And ironically, paradoxically, they ultimately benefit from their own generosity. ~ Jeff Goins,

As a nanny who spends a lot of time on the playground, I find myself constantly having to remind my 2 year old to "share".  Its one of my jobs to make sure he learns to share food, toys, playground equipment, me, etc. 

Today I am going to remind myself to do the same.  Share. 

We all have stories.  Its time for me to listen.

I want to hear from YOU!  Not about you...but a writer you admire who you think needs to be known!

Comment below and tell me. 

Who inspires you?  Share their story/journey/life in a future blog.
This is an excellent way to help promote those around us who help us strive to be better.  

My new Friday series will be called Friday's Friends and will be your opportunity to guest blog about the writer YOU want to promote!

Share away!  I look forward to meeting your friends.  :)

Happy Writing!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Connect

I am your number one fan. There is nothing to worry about. You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan.  ~ Annie Wilkes, Stephen King's Misery

Writing can be a very solitary craft...but it doesn't have to be.  The last habit of this week is the habit of connecting.

Jeff Goins focuses on three types of relationships all writers need to learn to foster:  friends, fan and patrons.  Check out his blog here.

Personally, I have to say that my journey as a pre-published writer has been bearable each step of the way because of the people I have met along the way.  From classmates and teachers at Gotham Writers Workshop to my Critique Group to people I have met through online challenges like PiBoIdMo and 12x12in'12 to people I have connected with through attending SCBWI conferences in both NYC and NJ. 

These people are both published and pre-published writers.  Some of them have read my work and critiqued it.  Some have shared a story of their own struggles which have given me the courage to continue.  Some have taught me more about the craft.  Some have been cheerleaders when I doubted myself.  Some have commented on this blog and been a follower.  Some have simply shared a laugh and a smile.  But all of them are important.

To best explain my take on finding people to journey with together, I would like to re-post something I wrote for a guest blog on Julie Hedlund's blog last March.  

So here is my guest blog.  Enjoy!

And before the weekend is done, find one person to take out for coffee or a drink.  Its worth it!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Build

"A writer doesn’t just start things; she finishes them. Do this enough, and you actually build something worth paying attention to."  ~ Jeff Goins

To start is not to build.  There is a BIG difference, and I am grateful to today's Habit for forcing me to acknowledge this.

I have started many things in my life:  a scarf I was meaning to knit, a recipe book that is only half-done, even a few novels that never made it past the second or third chapter.  But today is a day to break those bad habits.  Its requires true discipline.

Why do we need discipline?

  • Because one discipline begets another. Take up the habit of jogging or working out and just see how it affects the way you approach the rest of life.
  • Because sometimes the Muse doesn’t clock in until you do. Stephen King pictures his inspiration as a blue-collar guy who doesn’t show up for work until the boss (which is you, by the way) does. Show him you mean business.
  • Because it’s good for you. If you take writing seriously, you’ll do serious (i.e. better) work. I promise.
Jeff's blog challenges us to finish something...anything.  And remember, yesterday's habit reminds us that it doesn't have to be pretty.  Just get it out!

"So, pick a creative project you are working on ~ an essay, a blog post, a query letter, a picture book ~ and finish it!  Not tomorrow.  Today!

It should never take longer than 30 minutes to finish anything. If it does, you’re not breaking the project up into enough chunks. Which will lead to stalling, your worst enemy.

Find something and move it across the finish line. Then do the same thing tomorrow. And the day after that. And so on.

If you’re still doing this in a month, you’re building something. Until then, you’re just managing tasks. Pick a few that are worth your time, and keep with them. Your work deserves this."

I will be working on the manuscript that I outlined yesterday.  I will strive to get it done! 

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Start

All creation comes from chaos. All works of art begin as splotches of paint on a canvas. It’s never beautiful at first. Before your work can reach its potential, it will first have to be bad. ~ Jeff Goins

Start.  That is today's Habit to put into practice. 

But Jeff Goins takes this one step further and challenges us all to start ugly.

I know when I first started writing, I expected each manuscript to be fully formed with perfect grammar and spelling right from the beginning.  I didn't even want to move onto another manuscript until the one I was currently working on was "finished".  What can I say?  I am a perfectionist! 

However, now I am drowning in a lot of half-baked WIPs!  I have felt extremely pressured because I am participating in the 12x12in'12 Challenge and although I am rising to the challenge and creating a manuscript each month, I don't always have the time to edit them, revise them, or even make them good!  In fact, some of these manuscripts are quite ugly.

Jeff urges us to just start and don't be afraid of the ugly. 

Because, as he states in his blog, "when we choose to start with ugly, we do the following:
  1. We actually create something (instead of continuing to dream about it).
  2. We grow. We learn what works and what doesn’t.
  3. We get the chance to make it better."
Its really quite free-ing!  In fact, today I already drafted up the outline for this month's manuscript...and I will definitely be making it quite ugly before the end of the week!  But it will be a start.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Steal

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.—Picasso

Today Jeff Goins reminds us that "great artists borrow from other artists. They meld together pieces of the chaotic mess we all call life, and they end up with a whole new creation.

When a reporter asked Bono how U2 got their unique sound, he replied (to paraphrase), 'We were just trying to copy everyone else, but we weren’t good enough. This is what came out.'"

I have gotten inspiration from many different places...very few of them original.  I have been inspired by actual events and NPR news stories that I then put my own personal spin on.  Sometimes another writer's title gives me an idea.  In fact, I even admit to sitting down with a favorite picture book and stealing the format page by page. 

The key is to get the inspiration and then abandon the very thing that inspired you.  Let your own voice take over.

On Jeff Goins' blog today, he gives the following challenge:

Find a quote or a painting or some form of inspiration — and steal it. Make it your own. Attribute it — give credit where it’s due — but don’t be afraid to use it. Let someone else’s work springboard you into your own.

Give up on your pursuit of originality and genius and just find something that inspires you. Borrow from your friends and heroes and mash it all up into something that looks, feels, and sounds like you.

Who knows? You may find a style all of your own. You may even find — as Bono did — that a whole group of people end up copying you… as you copy someone else.

Happy Writing...and stealing!  :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Prepare

"Understand, I had absolutely no interest in writing; I wanted to be a Writer."  ~ Kate DiCamillo

Attending conferences helps me realize that I am not alone in my craft or my thinking.  This past weekend at the NJ SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ was no different. 

Kate DiCamillo gave the Closing Address and perhaps resonated the most with me.

"My favorite quote about writing comes from Dorothy Parker:
'I hate writing. I love having written.'
Every morning I wake up and think, 'the last thing I want to do today is write.'
And then I turn on the computer and write.
I write two pages a day. Usually, those two pages stink pretty bad.
I rewrite.
And rewrite.
And rewrite.
And rewrite.
And rewrite.
And each time I rewrite, the pages get a little better."

If I am going to call myself a writer, it needs to be more than in just name! Its time to prepare...which is today's habit!

How can I  practice the habit of preparing?  Jeff Goins shares the following 4 steps on his blog today.

  1. Ship something.  Basically, just get anything "out there".  Not necessarily through the postal service.  For example, this past weekend I had the opportunity to pitch my story ideas to others in the community (although only through informal conversation, never formally to an agent or editor).  It was so gratifying and helpful to see someone's initial reaction to my pursuits.  I need to remember to practice this more often.
  2. Get feedback.  I do this through Critique Groups.  I have a monthly Crit Group in my city.  I also participate in manuscript swaps with friends off and on.  It is so important to get feedback and to have fresh eyes look at the work.
  3. Make it better. Revision is a HUGE part of writing.  I take all of the critiques I receive on a particular manuscript and then sit down and rewrite.  However, I am very careful to weigh every suggestion against my own gut and instinct.  Never compromise the story YOU want to write for someone else! 
  4. Repeat until the project is finished. 
What can you do today?  I'm off to revise!

Happy Writing!

Friday, June 8, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Practice

"Real writers practice. They show up, every day, without excuse or complaint (okay maybe some complaint). This is the work of a professional.

I’m not talking about rehearsal. I’m talking about doing what musicians and boxers and lion tamers all do in order to get ready for their work. To become awesome at their crafts.

They practice in public

In other words, they perform. They go to work. Get stuff done. They stop stalling and playing around and actually do the stuff."  ~ Jeff Goins

So into the lion's den I go!  This weekend I am attending the New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ.  I guess its time to "practice in public".

How do I plan to "practice" at the conference?

One of the awesome "perks" of the NJ conference is that we get a chance to sit with agents and editors during lunch and therefore are given the opportunity to actually pitch our work. 

Up until right at this moment, I was thinking that I would simply chat with the agents and editors but not actively pitch anything.  I guess I was thinking that none of my stuff is truly ready to be pitched. 


I am going to practice in public. to brush up on how to successfully write a pitch.  I wonder why my hands just starting shaking...

Anyway, pointers on pitching would be great!

How are you going to "practice in public" this weekend?  Share your comments...and advice for me below! 

Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Initiate

To initiate means to "take the first step".  It is included in the "15 Habits" because this is something that needs to be done daily, not just once.  Writers need to take the first step every single day.

When I think of this concept of "taking the first step daily", I think of my marathon training.

Can I run 26.2 miles today?  No.  But I followed my training schedule and ran for 30 minutes at an easy pace.  Tomorrow I will run the scheduled 40-50 minutes.  And I know that if I follow my training schedule daily, on November 4th I will run 26.2 miles.  However, focusing on doing a little bit each day helps me not get discouraged and overwhelmed.

As for my writing today, I commit to blogging about "15 Habits of Great Writers" and to spend at least one hour this afternoon working on one of my manuscripts. 

Today I encourage everyone to take that first step.  Don't get overwhelmed.  Do what you can with what you have today.  And then tomorrow, do the same.  Promise yourself to do what you can each day in regards to your writing. 

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Believe

"Some will win, some will lose.  Some were born to sing the blues.  Oh, the movie never ends.  It goes on and on and on and on!"

~ Journey

How appropriate that such a song about believing in yourself was written and performed by a group called Journey.  It is a journey.  And it does require "scary hope" (as referenced in Jeff Goins' blog today).

On my personal journey as a writer I often have to remind myself of why I started this journey to begin with. 

For years, perhaps even decades, I had often felt strongly that there was a book in me...or two or three.  I would fantasize about book signings and opening up a box of books that I had written.  The problem was that I was not quite sure what that book would be about or what genre I was supposed to write.  But there was a deep longing inside me to be a writer.

In fact, I had many people come up to me throughout my life and say, "You should write a book!"  And my reaction was always, "About what?"  It was frustrating...but not to be ignored.

The point is, I was not a writer, yet...but I believed that I was supposed to be!  I held on to this dream inside me, knowing that someday I would know what to do if I continued to seek.  I had to trust myself...

It was this belief in myself and my desire that finally propelled me into the children's picture book world!  One night, a manuscript just happened.  Suddenly all of the pieces made sense.  The final piece of the puzzle was in place.

 It was time to put the belief into action and strat the journey.

Now somedays I falter and I question my dream.  But when I reconnect with that initial desire, longing and belief, I have what I need to move on.

"Don't stop believin'!  Hold on to that feeling!"

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

15 Habits of Great Writers: Declare

Back in September, I set up this blog to coincide with the school year.  I gave myself the 10 months of the traditional school calendar to start new habits and routines and better myself as a writer.  So...if September was the beginning, June marks Finals Time!!

Therefore, I am participating in yet another online challenge as a Final Exam of sorts.

Writer Jeff Goins is running a special series on his website for the next 15 days (Mon-Fri) which focuses on the 15 habits of Great Writers.  As my Final Exam I will be participating in this challenge AND blog about it each day!  Want to join in on the fun?  Follow the link and share your challenge in the comments.

Today's Habit:  DECLARE

I am a writer.  I am a writer.  I AM a writer.

I often don't feel like a writer.  But I am. 

I am a writer because...
  1. I write.
  2. I have folders and folders of stories that I wrote...and some aren't that bad.  :)
  3. Ideas pop into my head that beg to be written.
  4. I enjoy telling stories.
  5. I feel guilty/empty/like something is missing when I don't write.
  6. I proofread everything that I see...especially signs on the street and subway.
  7. If I lost any of the stories on my computer I would be devastated.  (Backing up is soooo important!)
  8. I am on a constant quest for inspiration.
  9. I have fantasies about book signings, school visits, etc.
  10. I love getting critiques of my work, in the hopes that it will help me improve!
What about you?  Are you a writer?  How do you know?  Share your comments below and come back tomorrow for the next habit.