Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Its a cool and gloomy day here in Chicago. I'm off of work and attempting to self motivate. 

I've not been writing much as I've been fighting off a nasty cold virus and a mysterious painful pulled neck muscle (mysterious because it happened out of nowhere. Perhaps it's the Universe's way of telling me to slow down, relax, and stop letting things get under my skin). I have a short story in progress and the ladies of my writer's group (Moxie!) are expecting more pages of that very soon.  And of course the omnious shadow of NaNoWriMo looms over me. November 1st is only five short days away and I'll begin my crash course in speed writing.

For those of you unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is a not-for-profit endeavor by the Office of Letters and Light: "A fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing." The goal is to write 50,000 new words in just 30 days.

A pie chart illustrating strategic plan for surviving National Novel Writing MonthI don't like to fly blind. I'd rather be prepared. I research and read into almost everything I attempt. Based on my findings I've created a few simple plans of action to cross that 50,000 word finish line. It's a three prong plan, "pacing, structure, and caffeine."

The first is to stick to a strict day to day word count of 1700. That way I have a small and attainable daily goal that will keep me on pace.

The next part is to write out on index cards all of the scenes I need for the novel and arrange them in some kind of preliminary order. This way if the white page begins to threaten me, I can pick up the next scene card and continue rolling. That's what I'm putting together today. Some bones.

And lastly, I plan to stock the pantry with lots of coffee. 

Well, lots to do, lots to do!  I better get to it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why The Sacrifice Is Worth It

Writing is a solitary activity. Do it consistently and your laptop will become your best friend. You’ll clasp your notebook like a security blanket. You’ll wear black for days at the loss of your favorite pen. You’ll eat many meals out of Styrofoam containers. You’ll forget what household chores are.  And you’ll spend little to no time with the people you love.

You’ll receive angry texts, curious emails, and plenty of phone calls asking, “what’s up with you?” or “where have you been hiding?” If you’re lucky, you’ll explain that it’s nothing personal, that you've been committed to your writing goals, and your loved ones will accept that and proudly support you.  If you’re unlucky, feelings will be hurt and ties will unbind. You may even find yourself half a pint deep in a tub of ice cream asking “is all this worth it?”

The answer is incontrovertible: YES.

Everyone has dreams and desires, goals and plans, but few have the courage to restructure their lives in the profound ways necessary to achieve them. One day, with a copy of your book in hand, you’ll look around and notice those standing with you. Those loved ones believed in you, stood by you, and comforted you during your self-imposed isolation. You’ll owe them undying gratitude and be all the richer for it. 

Baggage has no place in a writer’s life besides on the page. I can no longer focus on what was. I’m taking baby steps on my path with eyes locked on the future. I’m planting seeds, making connections, and watching new life grow. I’m listening to that quiet voice deep inside me that yearns to tell stories. It grows louder with each day. I simply refuse to feel guilty about dancing to my own tune. 

I’m offering a sincere and heartfelt thank you to every single person out there that is supporting my dream. If you’re reading this, you’re definitely one of them. THANK YOU. C. L. Kay writer writing write newadult youngadult scifi sciencefiction fantasy magicalrealism oldbook bloggraphic amazon kindle book ebook novel shortstory facebook twitter pinterest instagram wattpad

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Keys To An Effective Writers Group

I helped to form a writers group a few months ago. I and two other writers gather biweekly to discuss our work and cheer on our progress. We even created a group on an online writing community site to keep in touch between meetings and lay the hammer down on each other if needed. This has become a powerful and invaluable motivator for me to reach my writing goals. Here are five insights into what I find makes a group work:

1—Keep it small:  You want to be able to read work from every member and give reasonable feedback to each person. This will become complicated with too many members. Reading the work of others will inform and improve your own writing. Remember to read as a writer. You want to notice the craft as well as the story. You might find a key technique to unlocking a scene you have struggled with. You may find a point of view you haven’t attempted that would fit perfectly for a story or chapter you are stumbling over. 

 2—Have a variety of topics:  In my group, each member has some formal training in fiction writing but none of us has published in a prominent way. We all strive toward publication in the near future. It does not matter if every member is writing the same genre or to the same audience. In fact, it’s often helpful to read something dissimilar to what you’re working on. If you all worked on a story about talking animals for 2nd to 5th graders, the group can become competitive and therefore useless.

3—Keep clear guidelines:  We strive to send out at least 1000 words for each session. This number gives a focus and everyone is clear on expectations. This is a small enough amount to easily complete over a two-week period yet large enough to make good forward progress. We also have a simple policy of no excuses and no disclaimers. Everyone has a busy life these days. We work multiple jobs, have families, and other obligations that get in the way of our goals. Make sure the group guidelines are fair to all the members. You should want every member to succeed!

4—Focus on the writing:  Everyone works at their own level. We don’t care if you’re producing a novel, short story, creative nonfiction, graphic novel or children’s book as long as you’re writing and submitting something for the group to read. I often hear horror stories about people leaving groups because the critiques turned into bashing sessions.  This is unnecessary. Critiques should apply to the craft and your gut reactions to the story. This keeps personal feelings out of the mix. What passages did you find effective? What confused you or caused you to stumble? What stuck with you after reading? Some aspects of craft to keep in mind are movement, sense of place, dialogue, sensory and character descriptions, voice, tone, point of view and vantage point.

5—Have fun:  The odds are you will quit a writers group that bores or shames you. You’re likely taking things far too seriously if you’re not having fun. A writer’s group should be a safe place to experiment with story ideas and craft. You should never feel that your work is under par or under valued. Keep the tone light but constructive. Meet somewhere lively like a coffee shop or restaurant where you can talk, giggle, and not disturb other people. If you’re having fun, you are likely to stick with it and with each week, closer to achieving your writing goals.

an infographic describing how to effectively use a writers group