3 Ingredients of a Great Writer

By Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

It’s November. That means thousands of writers are pounding away at their keyboards this month, hoping their manuscript will become the next #1 NY Times Bestseller.

See what I have in my hand, kids? It’s a pin. A sharp, pointy silver rod of death, and I’m stabbing balloon after balloon. Pop. Pop. Pop. Because the ugly truth is there’s only one thing that makes for a great bestseller and that’s a great writer. And there are three ingredients that go into all the greats. Look deep inside, little writer, and see if you have the makings or if you’re short an egg or two . . .

3 Ingredients of a Great Writer

1 – Guts

There’s a fine line between knowing writing rules and being hog-tied by them. It takes courage to cross the line now and then and break those rules. That implies you must first know what the “rules” are, but at some point you need to let go and freefall into your writing. Take risks. Stop caring if your story gets published. Write for the breath-stealing exhilaration of creation.

2-Reading

Great writers read. Excessively. And in all genres. There’s something to be said for osmosis. Reading great writing tends to come out as great writing.

3-Time

This is the ingredient everyone wants to skip, especially all the bright-eyed newbies out there who think their first manuscript is God’s gift to mankind. It takes time to become a great writer. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Lots and lots of chocolate and weeping. Granted, the timeline isn’t the same for all writers, but it’s a rare genius who gallops out of the gate into novel stardom. Most pay their dues one year at a time, critique by critique, workshop by workshop. Slow down, little cowboy, and enjoy the ride.

If you’re missing one of these ingredients, don’t despair. Just work toward the one you need most. Stick with it, because there’s a kingpin of all ingredients inside every great writer: perseverance.


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

5 Motivational Writer Hacks

By Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

The first few weeks of NaNoWriMo are drawing to a close. Some have already crashed and burned in a fiery explosion of defeat. Others are limping along, hoping to make it but wondering if they’ve got what it takes. That’s who this post is for. The dragging. The lame. Those with the sweet-mercy-I’m-going-to-fail demon screaming in their ears. Here’s a lifeline for you. Grab on.

5 MOTIVATIONAL WRITER HACKS

1 – Play some music.

There’s a reason movies have soundtracks. It’s inspirational. Put some moving music on in the background while you write. Don’t have any? Pop over to Spotify or Pandora for some free online music (as long as you don’t mind advertisements every half hour or so). Or toodle over to the library and get some CD’s.

2 -Shut off the internet. 

Facebook, Twitter, Drudge, YouTube . . . these are the giant, sucking leaches draining your creativity. Stop the madness. Shut off your WiFi connection. Don’t worry—your social media buddies will still be there in December.

3-Take a walk.

Staring at a screen for hours on end isn’t healthy. Stretch your legs while you work out a plot point. Breathe in some fresh air when fleshing out a quirky character. You’ll be surprised at how just a short walk can get the ol’ writerly juices flowing again.

4-Sleep.

Question: who can think straight when careening through life on only a few hours of sleep?

Answer: no one

Lesson: Don’t stay up late writing thinking you’re going to pound out a great novel. Your productivity will be compromised.

5-Psych yourself up.

Don’t just walk away from the keyboard when you’ve finished today’s word count. Think about tomorrow’s. Rev yourself up about the next scene. If you’re not excited to write it, your reader won’t be excited to read it.

Perseverance is the key to making it to the NaNoWriMo finish line. Keep plugging away.


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

Motivation to Finish Your Writing Strong in 2017

by Beth K. Vogt, @bethvogt

Odds are, this year hasn’t gone exactly the way you planned back when your calendar was brand new and filled with mostly blank pages. And now it’s the end of October and you’re wondering, “What happened to 2017?”

Take heart in knowing you aren’t the only person in the world struggling with best intentions that went off the rails and hours that slipped through your fingers. And yes, that sentence contained not one, but two metaphors. I hope one of them worked for you.

The good news is: You’ve still got November and December left to accomplish some of those writing goals you’re staring down.

Now before you start hyperventilating and reminding me that we’re rolling into holiday season, I’m well aware that life gets busier than busy during the next two months. But here’s the question: Hasn’t “busy” been one of the major obstacles that’s kept you from writing in the past months? Holiday-busy is just a different kind of busy.

I’m not going to tell you how to finish strong in 2017. You know the tried-and-true tips and tricks:

  • Write every day.
  • Get up early
  • Stay up late
  • Set a daily word count
  • Have a writing accountability partner

What I am going to do is provide you with some mental support to encourage you through the next months – virtual cheering, if you will. Read through the list of quotes below.Find a favorite.Then post it over your computer to motivate yourself to finish the year strong. Or print this post out and then cut up the quotes into strips and put them in a jar and pull out a quote when you’re feeling un-motivated.

“If I fail, I try again, and again, and again. If you fail, are you going to try again? The human spirit can handle much worse than we realize. It matters how you are going to finish. Are you going to finish strong?” ~Nick Vujicic (1982-), Australian motivational speaker & evangelist

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Irish novelist & playwright

I realized the secret to success is finishing! And not just finishing, but finishing strong! ~Eric Strong (1970-), American motivational speaker

Just put one foot in front of the other. ~Austin Peck (1971-), American actor

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. ~Will Rogers (1879-1935), actor

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born physicist

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” ~Carol Burnett (1933-), actress &comedienne

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer & humorist

“Nothing will work unless you do.” ~Maya Angelou (1928-2014), poet & memoirist

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” ~Julie Andrews (1935-), actress & singer

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  ~William James (1842-1910), American philosopher


Almost Like Being in Love
She’s won a luxurious dream wedding—now all she needs is the groom!

Winning an all-expenses paid Colorado destination wedding might seem like a dream come true for some people—but Caron Hollister and her boyfriend Alex Madison aren’t even engaged. How is she supposed to tell him that she’s won their wedding and honeymoon when he hasn’t asked her to marry him? And while everyone says they’re perfect for each other, how strong is a relationship when it’s built around protecting secrets?

Realtor Kade Webster’s business savvy just secured his company’s participation in the Springs Tour of Homes. He never imagined he would run into Caron Hollister—the woman who broke his heart—right when Webster Select Realty is taking off. When Kade learns his home stager won’t be able to help with the Tour of Homes, he vaults past all the reasons he should avoid Caron, and offers her a temporary job helping him on the project. This time, their relationship is purely business—Realtor to Realtor.

Spending time with Kade again has Caron questioning who she is and what she wants. The man intrigues her—at times infuriates her—and reminds her of what she walked away from. Has she been settling for what everyone expects of her? How can Caron say “I do” to one man when she’s wondering “what if?” about another?

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Beth’s first women’s fiction novel for Tyndale House Publishers, Things I Never Told You, releases May 2018. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Having authored nine contemporary romance novels or novellas, Beth believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Novel Rocket and The Write Conversation and also enjoys speaking to writers group and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories. Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.

 

Chasing the Muse

by Randy Singer, @litfuse

It dawned on me recently that I did not begin my writing career seventeen years ago when I started the manuscript for Directed Verdict, my first book. It actually began nearly ten years before that when, as a young attorney, I had fully developed plot lines kicking around in my head.

And it happened while I was running.

At the time, I was a young associate in the litigation section of a relatively large firm. I loved my job but it was a lot of hard work, grinding away on big cases, reviewing reams and reams of documents. It was a far cry from the exciting life of the television lawyers who get to try a major case every sixty minutes. To relieve stress, I would do a lot of running. And while I ran, I would think about my cases, or about other lawyer’s cases, or about hypothetical cases and how I would try them.

And so it was, that all of my big cases were tried not in inside a courtroom, but inside my head. While I ran, the real cases became more elaborate and the evidence developed just the way I wanted, with the other side’s primary witness crashing and burning under my cross-examination. In the fictional cases, I was still the hero, though sometimes I would lose at trial and have to pull it out on appeal. At the Supreme Court, of course.

Now, putting aside what this means in terms of a narcissistic disorder, I found it interesting that my best creative thinking took place while I was running. I was not only putting together entire plot lines for imaginary cases, but I would also generate some fairly creative ideas for my real ones.

Twenty-seven years later, I still have my most creative moments while running or while paddling my outrigger. Sermons get constructed (I am a pastor as well as a lawyer), cases get solved and plot twists get conceptualized. Many times I will come back sweating like crazy and jot down some notes on a wet piece of paper before I lose the thought. Sometimes, after I cool down, I realize the thoughts I had while running were a little too creative and wouldn’t actually work in the real world. But many times, the creative bursts from the run were just what I needed.

Turns out that there is physiological research to support this connection between the endorphins that we release while exercising and enhanced creativity.Here is a Psychology Today article written by Steven Kotler explaining the neurobiology of being in “flow”: Flow States and Creativity. The essence of it is that the endorphins shut down our inner critic (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to be precise), allowing us to be more daring and creative, and change our brainwaves so we can “slip from thought to thought without internal resistance.” In the flow, we more easily combine novel information with old thoughts to create something spectacularly new.

I didn’t need Steve Kotler to tell me that it worked. Whenever I hit writer’s block, I would go for a run. When my sermon was not coming together, I would go out for a paddle. When a case is in transient, I might take a long walk. It didn’t always solve everything, but it always helped.

Maybe you don’t like to run. You can achieve the same benefits from walking. The key is to find something that you can do for at least thirty minutes to get your blood pumping but something that is not so strenuous that your mind can’t wander from the task at hand. And you need to do it alone. If your Cross-Training coach is chewing you out or your walking partner is chatting you up or your iTunes are blaring in your ears, this won’t work.

You must have time alone with your thoughts and your endorphins.

I’m actually a bit of a nut about this (as you can probably tell) and dictate large portions of my first draft while walking around the local golf course. Though this adds another step to the writing process, I find there is something about being outside and moving that brings an exponential increase in my productivity. Tip: take your phone along in case you need to do some quick research in the middle of a scene.

And have a pen and paper ready when you return from your run/bike/walk/paddle. The Muse is an athlete, and she makes a fabulous running partner.

TWEETABLES

Chasing the Muse by Randy Singer on @NovelRocket @litfuse #writing

How can exercise encourage creativity & impact your writing? Find out from Randy Singer!

The Muse is an athlete, and she makes a fabulous running partner.

____________________

Rule of Law by Randy Singer

What did the president know? And when did she know it?

For the members of SEAL Team Six, it was a rare mission ordered by the president, monitored in real time from the Situation Room. The Houthi rebels in Yemen had captured an American journalist and a member of the Saudi royal family. Their executions were scheduled for Easter Sunday. The SEAL team would break them out.

But when the mission results in spectacular failure, the finger-pointing goes all the way to the top.

Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?

Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.

Equal justice under law.

It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers, including his Christy award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict,and ECPA’s 2015 Christian Book Award winner for fiction, The Advocate. He was also named a finalist, along with John Grisham and Michael Connelly, for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the American Bar Association and the University of Alabama Law School.

In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as a teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his “Jekyll and Hyde thing” — part lawyer, part pastor. He also serves as Attorney in Residence and Director of the Singer Civil Litigation Practicum at Regent Law School.

He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two adult children. Visit his website at www.randysinger.net.