The “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far” Column


If you have not read his blog or don’t follow him on Twitter, Chuck Sambuchino is an awesome resource for all things pertaining to writing, literary agents and the like. He has a column entitled “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where he spotlights different writers, inviting them to share words of wisdom from their journey in the writing life.


This is one from awhile back, featuring Liz Tolsma. The advice she gives is succinct, practical and inspiring. The outline is below, but to read the full column in all it’s glory, go here.

1) BICHOK – “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” Enough said.

2) Stories are everywhere – look for inspiration in all kinds of places; be anticipating it and ready to capture story ideas when they come

3) Publication will happen when you least expect it – this sounds frustrating for those of us who have not been published yet, but the bottom line is this: keep after it and let the results come in their own time.

4) Marketing is hard work – I didn’t like this one, but it’s the world we live in now. The ball is almost exclusively in our court as writers to get our names out there. No excuses.

5) Never stop learning – Again, enough said.

6) Get a good critique partner – This is great advice and something I need to pursue. Most of the writing life seems to be flying solo, but I also know I can’t make significant improvement without outside input.

7) Have an outlet – I love this one! Get away from the screen and let life refresh and recharge you for future work.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are there things you have learned so far in your writing that would be valuable to share with others? Feel free to leave a couple in the comments below!


Three Arguments for Outlining


Well, summer is here. I am taking a break from my current novel while it’s out being read by a few friends. It’s nice to step away from it for awhile, and I know this will refresh me to dig into more revising when they send it back. In the meantime, I am jumping into another project to clear my head and get the creative juices flowing again.


A new project has spurred me to thinking about outlining again. As I am preparing to write another novel, I am evaluating my planning process and there are a few improvements I want to make from last time. With my previous novel, I wrote out a synopsis in a few pages, then broke it up into scenes and called it good. That was fine, but this go round, I want to try a grid outline with chapter divisions, timelines, progression of plot points, etc. I was inspired to do this by this collection of famous author outlines. Even the greatest had to plan ahead!

Here are three reasons I have decided to outline my next novel:

1) To See What Doesn’t Work. It sounds obvious, but it’s so much easier to catch problems early when you craft a bird’s-eye view. It’s far simpler to erase a couple of notes than comb through an entire manuscript trying to root out a subplot you don’t like that is now sprinkled everywhere.

2) For Sanity. It was a huge time-waster for me this last time to read back through my drafts, trying to remember how long ago I mentioned this particular person, or if my heroine and her father had actually discussed XYZ in that scene. Did I give the horse a name? Did I already mention the affect that poison has on the human body? Almost all of these could have been solved with a detailed outline.

3) For Measurable Goal Achievement. When you’re working through an outline, it is even more clear to see how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. I knew roughly how many words I wanted my last novel to be, and I knew how many scenes I had written, but there was a lot of squishiness in there. An outline would have helped me firm up my goals more.

But what about organic creativity in the writing process?!

This is a very legitimate question, and there are many writers, great ones in fact, who walk through the writing process without an outline, or at least a very minimal one. Still, I have a strong suspicion that, still being a novice writer, an outline will actually free me to be more creative, because I will know the direction my proverbial ship is already sailing, and where I want to dock in the end.

We’ll see. I’ll let you know how that works out.

In other news, I am a Veronica Roth fan (author of the Divergent trilogy, you know) and she has a terrific list of posts on her blog that she wrote several years ago on writing. They are insightful, funny and helpful, and I find them even more valuable because she wrote them before she was “flashy and famous.” This really has nothing to do with outlining, but I get excited when I discover a writing treasure trove, so here you go!

Any thoughts on outlining? Do you outline before you launch into writing your drafts? How has it helped or hindered you in your writing process?



Summer Writing Goals


I am sorry for the long, unannounced break. I was assisting with a student production of Peter Pan that just ended this last weekend. While I had planned to continue blogging during this time, it proved to be too much working full time, going to rehearsals nightly, blogging regularly and maintaining any semblance of a personal writing habit in the mornings.

rock wall

So, I’m back. And…I have exciting news! I finished off my novel revision, in spite of the craziness, and sent it off to a few trusted friends for feedback. If you remember, my original deadline was May 31, and I ended up finishing revision on June 14. This was frustrating, as I am a “stick to deadlines” kind of person. However, done is done.  I can step away from this project for a little while.

So, time for new goals! Dostoyevsky said, “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” As writers, we cannot stop putting clear goals out there for ourselves. It fans the flame, and meeting even small goals can give us greater pluck to take on the bigger ones. In that spirit, here are a few of mine for the rest of the summer:

1) Write 500 words a day, 6 days per week. In waiting for my readers to work through my manuscript, there’s no better distraction than a new project. I need a break from my current novel as I’ve been staring at it for the last six months straight.

2) Blog 2-3x per week. Blogging helps to work out a lot of my thoughts about writing, and I trust it is helpful to you, as well! Plus, the discipline of putting out something regularly for the eyes of others can improve writing skills.

3) Prepare Writers Conference Pitch. I am planning to attend the Willamette Writers Conference in August, and this will be my first time to pitch. Yikes!! I am so excited and also incredibly nervous. In all honesty, this has more to do with conquering fear than signing with an agent (but of course, I wouldn’t mind that either!).

In other news, Dad beat me again in reading this last month. If I have any hopes of winning the grand prize of a Cadillac Eldorado at the end of the year, I’ve got to bring it to a whole new level this month. His voracious reading is simultaneously the bane of my existence and a source of great inspiration.

That’s it for now. What are some of your writing goals this summer? I’d love to hear. If you like, share in the comments below!