Avoid These 25 Newbie Writer Mistakes

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! I think it’s fair to say that all of us are at different levels with our writing. Some of us have been at it for years, while others of us are just beginning. In my opinion, today’s Twitter gem is a great source for everyone (despite its “newbie” title).

apa-guidelines-for-writing3Even if you know the general do’s and don’ts of writing, it never hurts to brush up on “the rules”. And yes, I put “the rules” in quotations because there’s no right or wrong way to do any of this. But there are basic ways that should be considered. So check out this article by author and speaker, Jody Hedlund:

Avoid These 25 Newbie Writer Mistakes

1. Starts the opening paragraph with flowery, verbose, or elaborate descriptions. (A seasoned writer will try to start with a hook, usually a life-altering situation or action.)

2. Stops the story/plot/action to describe a room or person or scene. (A seasoned writer will try to weave those descriptions in small pieces as the story unfolds.)

3. Describes any and/or everything. (A seasoned writer will pick strategic “props” to bring on “stage” that help convey a deeper meaning, theme, mood, or contribute to the plot.)

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Jody Hedlund on Twitter!

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Friday Funny with a Bang and a Touch of Madness

Happy Friday, everyone! Well, I don’t say this often, but I’ve been grateful for going to work this week. Despite what some believe, it gets HOT in Colorado, and the thermometer has been hovering around the 100 degrees mark the past few days. Since I don’t have AC at my house, I’ve been more than happy to hop in my car and go to work where it’s like a freezer.

Besides work being a cool environment, it’s also been a calm one. That means I’ve had plenty of time and energy to continue revising my manuscript. This week, I’ve managed to maintain my steady pace and squeak out two and half new chapters. So, that officially puts my second draft at just over 43,000 NEW words. Hopefully that means by next week I’ll hit the halfway mark.
So, one of my favorite quotes is by Alfred Hitchcock: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” That’s how I like to write my stories. I like to draw the reader in by wrapping them up in a blanket of mysteries, suspense, and Oh God, oh God, oh God dread. Then, I like to pull one of the blanket’s threads and let everything unravel.
The next few chapters of my story will include that “pulling the thread” moment. Or, as Hitchcock puts it, “the bang”. And I’m so excited! In fact, I’ve caught myself staring off into space (er, more than usual) imagining these scenes and planning how they’ll play out…Fingers crossed they actually pour out of me when I finally get to translate them to paper!
Anyways, in honor of my ongoing focus, and my constantly daydreaming mind, here is today’s Friday funny. Enjoy!
So, how was your week? For those of you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? Are you going to make your goal by the end of the month? I’d love to hear about it!
Have a great weekend, guys! And don’t melt if you’re also experiencing ridiculous temperatures where you live.
Jen’s Weekly Roundup
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My First Draft of My First Story Ever

So, I have a friend right now who’s working on her first manuscript ever. It’s a story she’s been wanting to write for a long time, but just hasn’t. After some gentle–or not so gentle–encouragement on my part, she finally decided to bite the bullet and participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this month.

As my friend has been working her little booty off, I’ve been reliving the early days of my own writing career; back when I too was a closeted writer. Back when I worked in secret because I was too scared, too embarrassed, too overwhelmed to admit to anyone I wanted to be a published author someday. Back when I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or how tough my road ahead was going to be.

Or so I thought.

Last week, while talking to my friend about her first draft of her first story ever, I decided to run upstairs and dig out mine. Purely out of curiosity. Just to see how far I’ve come in the 6-ish years since I wrote it. Just to laugh at how oblivious I used to be to the grim realities of becoming a published author.

This was what I found:

10442564_253303068195582_1205584036698614734_nI almost cried when I saw what I’d taped to the cover.

10484484_253302801528942_4987265418950671251_nAn empty Dove’s chocolate wrapper with the quote: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.

It appears I wasn’t so naive or oblivious as I thought. Even back then, I knew the road to getting published was going to be a bumpy one, filled with pothole after pothole of failure. And, geeze, I’m glad I prepared myself. Because, yes, my journey HAS been bumpy, and it HAS been filled with failures. But, it’s also been building towards success. With each failure, I’ve begun anew, more determined than ever. With each “no” and rejection letter and harsh criticism, I’ve picked myself back up, brushed off the sting, and started over.

So, to all you newer, closeted writers out there, remember this: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.

AKA, Never give up!

Be ready to pick yourself back up, brush off the sting, and start over. If this is your passion, your dream, then be prepared to fight for it.

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

Since so many of you are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this July, I thought I’d re-post a blog I wrote last fall: How To Deal with Deadlines. We all have our different methods of madness. These are some of mine when it comes to managing time and reaching goals. Hopefully one or two of them will help you achieve your own goals.


In all the years I’ve been writing, I’ve never taken on the mighty writing challenge of NaNoWriMo. But I have dealt with writing deadlines. Some of those deadlines have been enforced by other people (agents, producers, PR reps, etc.), while others have been self-enforced–or rather, self-inflicted. Case and point:

Last spring an agent requested my full manuscript. She ended up passing, but she liked it enough to recommended it to two other agents. So, I eagerly sent them my query letter. Less than ten minutes after I pushed the send button I realized I’d made a fatal mistake. It suddenly struck me that I didn’t like the first half of my book. In fact, I hated it. And I was petrified the two agents I’d just sent my query letters to would hate it as well. So–in a hyperventilating panic–I began chopping and revising my manuscript, all the while watching my inbox, certain one of those agents was going to ruin everything by requesting my now torn up material (such a major faux pas, I know, I know). Even so, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Faster and faster and faster…

Two months later, I had a completely updated book (100,000 words worth).

And zero requests. Zero!

Neither of those two agents ever contacted me. Go figure.

These disappointing and exhausting experiences of mine have taught me some important lessons about writing projects that are herded by deadlines. And I’d like to share some of those lessons with you. Hopefully they can help you during your tumultuous NaNoWriMo journey. (Or whatever deadline-driven trek you might be on.)

Chop out all distractions

imagesI know this sounds obvious, but it’s the most important part of the process. And it’s the hardest. Distractions are addicting (ahem, Candy Crush). Furthermore, most distractions are fun and bring us joy, so why would we want to chop them out of our lives? I don’t know how many times I’ve had to turn down going to the movies with a friend, or shopping with my sister, or visiting the Colorado Railroad Museum with my beloved nephews (trust me, if you saw their “WHOA!” expressions, you’d understand). And all because I needed to stay home and work on my manuscript instead.

And on that note…

Accept your loner status

alone-in-a-crowd.jpg.scaled.1000We’ve all heard writing is a lonely job. And it is. Even if you’re writing in a coffee shop, a library or a park, you’re separated from the rest of the world. It’s like an invisible barrier is erected between you and those around you, including your friends and family. The only people to keep you company are the characters in your head (and, let’s face it, those guys can get a little crazy sometimes ;-)). Personally, I think this is why a lot of writers get distracted so easily. We have an innate need to return to planet earth–to reconnect with our fellow humans–to remind ourselves we live here, and not in the fictitious other world we’ve created.

Unfortunately, when writing on a deadline, you don’t have the luxury of time to constantly re-root yourself in reality. If you want to make it to the finish line on time, then you gotta stick it out in that lonely other world with those real-but-not-real characters. And you must be able to cope with feeling disconnected, because you will.

My advice? During your darkest, loneliest moments, firmly remind yourself you’re not alone. Remind yourself that there are thousands of other writers cut off from the rest of humanity with you. I promise you won’t feel so alone anymore.

Commit at least ONE FULL day/week to writing

1197089396151240572hawk88_Calendar.svg.medNearly everyone in my life knows Saturday is “Don’t Talk to Jenna Day”. Saturdays are my think tank’s refueling station–the precious oil to my creative cogs. Saturday is THE day I write. From sun up to sun down I sit in front of my computer, writing and writing, until my eyes can’t stay open and my fingers start to cramp.

It’s intense, and it’s not always fun, but it’s vital to my production output. And not just because I get a ton done in one day, but because I get pumped up to do even more the following days. By dedicating a full day to writing, I find it a lot harder to turn off my imagination the rest of the week. No matter how tired I am, or how busy I get, I will find the energy and time to sit down and pour my thoughts onto paper. They’re just too warm and alive to coldly bury in my subconscious until the next weekend.

There’s no crying in writing

Okay, okay. There’s lots of crying in writing. And trust me, when you’re writing with a deadline in mind, you’ll probably cry even more. Mostly from exhaustion. And also the occasional–or not so occasional–bout of angry frustration. But you know what? You gotta suck it up and push through the emotional breakdowns. Just go grab a piece of chocolate, watch an episode of 30 Rock, and maybe listen to Journey’s, “Don’t Stop Believin'” a few times. Then get back to work. Go. Do. It. Now!

…Okay, that was my version of a tough love pep talk. Did it help? No? Whatever, go eat some more chocolate. GO!

Don’t be Miss Congeniality

misscongeniality-still8I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time saying no to people. Need a babysitter tonight? Sure, I’m there. Need a hundred cupcakes for that party next week? Of course, I’ll make them. Need someone to proof that business proposal? No problem, I’m happy to help. However, when it comes to writing on a deadline, I must stifle the urge to be Miss Congeniality and focus on doing what’s best for ME. I know, it sounds horrible. But when you’re on a deadline, you have to lace up the ol’ selfish boots and keep them on until the job is done. You have to constantly repeat to yourself, “Me. Me. Me…”, while telling others, “No, no, no…”.

Again, horrible, I know. But, unfortunately, necessary.

To lessen my guilt about this, I always give my acquaintances, friends and family a heads up: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be crazy busy with writing the next month (or two), so I won’t be as accessible as usual. Sorry, sorry, sorry. See you on the flip side!”

Get it? Got it? Good!

Even when you’re not chugging, keep chugging

Concrete_sleeper_1638Okay, so maybe you can’t be a complete self-serving hermit during NaNoWriMo. There’s work, the gym, the kids, hundreds of errands, special events…No matter how hard you try to avoid or hide from life’s daily necessities, you can’t. The refrigerator isn’t going to restock itself. The bills aren’t going to be paid by the mythical money tree. The wedding of your best friend isn’t going to happen again (well, hopefully). But, don’t panic. It’s okay! You can keep chugging along on your project even when you’re not sitting at a computer or hovering over a notebook.

Example: Every day during my hour plus commute to and from work, I listen to a playlist I made for my book. As I listen to the inspiring songs I’ve collected, I strategize my next scene, or create a new character, or discover a plot hole. This way when I finally do get to a computer, I’m already primed and ready to translate everything I’ve “written” in the car.

Even so, I highly recommend keeping a small notepad on you at all times. That way if you come up with an idea and you’re terrified you’re going to forget it, you can quickly jot it down (because, as fun as scribbling on your hand or a paper napkin can be, chances are those won’t make it home–you know, because you accidentally wash your hands, or someone uses your inscribed napkin to wipe the pizza grease off their face!).

Just keep swimming…

This is the most important lesson of all: Just keep swimming. Just keep trying. Just keep writing! Swim, swim, swim. Try, try, try. Write, write, write!

Writing a book on a deadline is like running a marathon–exhausting, difficult and seemingly endless. But it will come to an end. Trust me. Just remember to keep your eye on the finish line and you’ll get there. Breathe. Focus. And push through the pain! You can do it!

Good luck everyone!

If you want to add me as a buddy on the NaNoWriMo website, you can find me under the name jenspenden.

Now, let’s get pumped!