Don’t Delete: Newsletters Can Be Helpful

I have a link to Writer’s Digest on my Useful Links page, but I’m not sure I’ve actually directly addressed before just how useful signing up for their newsletters can be.  Yes, it does mean getting even more emails.  When I’m really feeling the weight of writer’s block, it is so easy to just delete the messages without even reading them.  If I’m honest with myself though, I’ve often found useful advice in the articles when I take the time to read them.

Did I mention that the articles are usually broken down into easy to digest lists?

Yesterday’s newsletter had How to Start a Novel Right: 5 Great Tips, by Jessica Strawser.  I’m still working out how I can apply it to my writing, but #1 and #5 both caught my attention immediately.

“#1:  When planning your story’s structure, start with this no-fail method: Create a Doorway of No Return for your protagonist before the 1/5 mark of your book.”

This suggestion fits in really nicely with a book I’m currently reading by Christopher Vogler called The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.  In it, Vogler breaks down how techniques of myths can be applied to modern storytelling.  Of the stages Vogler describes, derived from The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, one describes “The First Threshold.”

Prior to this threshold, the protagonist has received “The Call to Adventure”—some problem, challenge, or adventure.  The protagonist at first refuses the call, but after meeting with a “Mentor,” reaches the point where he or she cannot refuse any longer.  It is at this time that the protagonist crosses the first threshold, or passes through the “Doorway of No Return.”


Cue cheesy threshold-crossing music.

“#5: Instead of ‘write what you know,’ try writing what you feel.”

I can’t explain this suggestion as well as the quote from Lee Child that is used, so here it is:

“Because if you substitute Write what you feel, then you can expand that into—if you’re a parent, for instance, especially if you’re a mother, I bet you’ve had an episode where for five seconds you lost your kid at the mall. You turn around, your kid is suddenly not there, and for five seconds your heart is in your mouth and you turn the other way, and there he is. So you’ve gotta remember the feel of those five seconds—that utter panic and disorientation. And then you blow that up: It’s not five seconds, it’s five days—your kid has been kidnapped, your kid is being held by a monster. You use what you feel and expand it, right up as far as you can, and that way you get a sort of authenticity.

I’d definitely recommend looking at all five tips, which can be found here.


Some emails I get from Writer’s Digest are just soliciting money for various online workshops, or trying to get me to sign up for the magazine itself.


Just as useful.

Other times they seem to be right in tune with what I need to read at that moment, like the article above, or the “From the Editor” section of another email from this week, which had this (paraphrased) quote:

“No one sets out with a goal to be lazy and fail at their attempts. That’s what happens when you don’t set goals.”

As I mentioned in my last post, my New Year’s resolution is to finish a first draft of my novel.  Even as I’m setting smaller goals, it is a daunting task to undertake.  I’m 300 words short of my absolute minimum goal for Monday (2000-3000 words before classes start), and I know I can do that, but I want to do more than the minimum.

So remember this as you set your goals for writing:

“Sometimes the resolutions we make can slip away from us because we have an ambitious end goal (‘finish the novel,’ ‘pitch 100 publications’), but we never set the mini-goals along the way. It becomes a lot easier to wrap your head around the manageable task of ‘Write 2,000 words this week no matter what’ than it does to see ‘Finish the novel!’ on your to-do list.”

Happy writing, everyone.


The writing life

I don’t have a good, concrete reason why I haven’t updated since October.  I know last semester I got caught up in things that were going on, personal struggles, and simply getting any creative writing done in the midst of that was an accomplishment.  Like other things, this blog fell by the wayside a bit.

Writing requires a level of devotion similar to other professions:  You must juggle individual work with networking, making your presence known in the world of that career if you want to move forward.  However, I feel that for me creative work can be so much more difficult than other forms of work.

I don’t mean to seem like one of those people who constantly implies that what I do is so much harder than what you do. I’m simply talking about difficulty levels for me as a person.  I can’t claim to know what it is like to work in a scientific field or write lesson plans, but I remember how easy it often was for me to construct an argument within essays for my literature classes during my undergraduate work.  It reminded me of the ease I felt, once reaching understanding, when working with a mathematic equation in high school.

Creative writing makes me miss that sometimes.  In crafting a story, I have often felt like I am attempting to climb a sheer cliff, all while taking note of the flora and fauna hanging on along the way.  Now that I have begun working on my novel, some days are like that.  On others, it feels like all the characters and ideas for events are clanging around my head in no particular order, failing to catch onto something and remain still long enough for me to form it all into a cohesive and plausible story.

But the truth is, if I wasn’t doing this, my mind would be in turmoil from the urge to create.  If I was doing anything else, I would be bored.

This New Year’s, I resolved to finish the first draft of my novel by the end of the year.  During this time I will still be working on my master’s, and luckily I began my novel as part of a long project for one of my classes.  I’ll be doing over twice the amount of writing and editing I would be doing for my assignments alone though.

Alongside this, I plan to make more of an effort to get my writing “out there.”  This includes submitting work to literary journals, and therefore crafting/editing short stories in addition to my final assignments.  I’m also beginning to explore (for about the hundredth time) the idea of writing freelance.

I began this blog as more of a personal venture, but over time I’m hoping it will develop more to help my professional pursuits as a writing, both as an official online presence and as a means of networking.  I’ve reached out to other writers’ blogs before, with some minor success.  Hopefully this year I can expand that.  If you are a writer, feel free to contact/comment, and I will do my best to respond in kind.



Recommended recent articles/posts for writers:

3 Ways to Get Published, by Brian Klems

4 Ways to Make Money Freelancing, by Robert Lee Brewer

A Second Glance at “Rejection”, by Carolyn Jess-Cooke


Recent reading:  The Snow Child, debut novel by Eowyn Ivey

“Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.”