Thursday, September 21, 2017

The 3 Be's for Giving and Receiving Feedback

Open Receiving, Careful Critiquing
By Jenny Flake Rabe

Critique groups are like listening gold for writers. Done right, groups help one another, grow together, and celebrate each other’s successes. The other day, I was sitting through a critique group session. I have to be honest. It was painful. It really was and after a few authors read, I wanted to leave. Critiquing another writer’s writing is very hard for a lot of reasons. Here are some things to consider:

1)  The author is the only one who sees the big picture
2)    Everyone’s time is valuable
3)   It is human nature to be defensive about your skills (reading and writing)

With those understandings, I feel we can get more out of our critique groups.

Here are some tips for writers seeking feedback.

1.              Be specific

Advice is all over the place when the writer is not looking for something specific in the chapter. Before an author begins reading their chapter, they can really do a lot to prepare for the meeting. Read it in advance, see what initial problems they see in the chapter, and have specific questions or parts of the plot in mind when asking for help. If you don’t have time to do this before, then as you read, try to identify the parts that don’t seem right and make sure to ask those questions while others are giving feedback.

2.              Be open

I learned early in my teaching career that when a parent is ready to critique you on how well you’re not teaching their child, you get a notebook and write down whatever they say. No talking, just nodding and writing. Does that mean you agree with them or have to do what they are asking? No! But here’s the thing you need to remember. 1- The writer knows the story way better than the listener, so they are giving you a critique based on limited knowledge. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. It can tell you what holes are missing that you thought you filled. The story is so close to you, so you can’t see when you’re not explaining it well. It won’t be as helpful if they don’t have previous knowledge of other chapters, they will not understand future chapters. In those cases, you just ignore their feedback without trying to fill them in on previous chapters. It doesn’t matter at that very moment that they understand and it can make a critique meeting longer than necessary.

The “Don’t talk” part comes into play when it comes to defending your story. Let’s say some of your partners have attacked the way you executed the plot or how you made a character so unlikable. We’ve all been there…and we all do it. In those cases, instead of trying to defend why you built a character or plot a certain way, nod, write down what they say, and let them finish. Critique partners are similar to beta-readers. They are helping the writer see what the reader thinks…and that is extremely valuable since readers do not have the story in their head. If a handful of people are telling you the same type of feedback, there’s a good chance you might want to rework a chapter and try it a different way. But here’s the key, you have to decide in the end what to do. You can please yourself and be happy with what you write, or you can aim to please readers and make sure they have a quality experience with your story. It also is very frustrating when a writer dismisses your critique when you took the time to jot down your overall thoughts about it. It makes them limit the amount of feedback they want to give you in the future.

3.              Be grateful

You know what writers love to do most….write! Do you know what they hate to do most? Anything that takes them away from their writing. It is a sacrifice to come to critique groups. You are giving up valuable writing time to volunteer words of advice to other writers. When writers seem to ignore a listener’s critique, it is hard on writers that have made the decision to listen and offer their help. So regardless if you agree with their feedback, be grateful. Saying a few kind words or even writing them a little note of appreciation if their critique was especially helpful goes a long way. It’s also a way to keep that critique community happy. One rotten egg spoils them all.

Now, I have spoken a little about how writers should respond when sharing their work. Now, let’s approach the subject of how listeners should respond in a critique meeting.

1.              Be attentive

You made the decision to show up and offer your aid to some other writer, so be there if you are there. Do whatever you need to do to pay attention and give helpful feedback. If the writer hasn’t shared anything they are looking for, ask them if there are any trouble spots in the chapters. This will help you stay focused. It’s especially hard if you have online critique groups that are late at night. I am not perfect at this either, but I am going to start bowing out of meetings if I’m too tired to give every author my full attention.

2.              Be kind

Understand that you do not understand the story as well as the author does. Many times when we are confused by the story or the writing style doesn’t match our own, we tend to be harder with our critique. We have less kind things to say. On these instances, we need to try harder to find good and constructive things to say. A writer shouldn’t be able to pinpoint in a critique session that you don’t like their writing. I am guilty of this, and it really is hard to put your personal feelings aside and only share feedback that can improve their writing. There are so many things to focus on.

-Character development
-Setting description
-Background story
-Execution of dialogue
-Plot twists/direction
-Sentence structure/Consistent punctuation or other editing issues

These topics don’t even scratch the subject, but they give you a few things to focus on if the writer doesn’t already have some questions in mind. Be sure you are following the positivity rule of three positives to every negative. We are here to build each other up, not make each other run from the room crying. I also try to follow Thumper’s rule—“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

3.              Be patient

It is a complete mixed-bag when you have a critique group. Writers are at different levels of skill, and sometimes it may seem like you are the bottom of the pile or the top looking down, training all the young guppies. Neither is a bad place to be. I love how in this group, there are no statuses. We are not better than each other in all areas. She might be better at dialogue, or she might be a good proofreader, or he might be an excellent marketer of their books, but in a multi-skilled group, we can use each other’s skills to grow. Be open to learning from each other.

Putting yourself and your writing out there makes you vulnerable, and it is normal to feel defensive. But don’t let that stop you from progressing in your writing. Realize that every listener may have something to offer you in terms of critique if you are only willing to be humble enough to receive it.  And listeners, remember that every writer putting themselves out there just wants to know they are on the right track. If they’re not, then gently give them guiderails to grab onto to get back on track without pushing them off the ledge with no rope to climb up.

Jenny is an honest-to-goodness southern girl at heart. Other than her love for her husband, two boys, and her feline, writing, ballroom dancing, and public speaking are some of her favorite pastimes. She's an avid across-the-state traveler and spends her spare time running a beta-reading group online and serving her fellow authors.

School’s out for the summer, but 11-year-old Kendall plans on camping out on the playground until he finds a permanent place to hide from his crazy-mean adopted parents. He meets Lorelei, a girl his age, and together they find out not all treasure can be bought. When his adopted parents show up at the playground and Kendall disappears, Lorelei has to decide whether to tell break her promise and tell her mom that he's homeless or risk losing her best friend forever.           

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Creating Your Personal Writer’s Bible

By Joni Johnson

There are as many writing styles as there are stories written, to be sure. We all have our own. But one thing I have come to believe is that everyone, regardless of writing style, can benefit from a personal writer’s bible.

I remember when I began making a serious study of writing. I had The Professor, a knowledgeable editor/writer who prefers anonymity, to guide me. We met with two other writers weekly and voraciously delved into the inner workings of writing for the better part of three years. Our meetings were not necessarily a writer’s club, but more of a class or workshop. Each week we focused on a specific aspect of writing, from simple areas, such as the power of the comma and how to avoid info dumping, to more in-depth character arcs over series and subtext.

Slowly but surely my character development and plots came into focus, but still something was lacking in my writing. One week, The Professor had us bring in a page of our WIPs. We exchanged this page with the intention of focusing on the descriptive words we chose and why. This was an eye-opening night for me. For the first time I realized where I could make a vast improvement, but it was not found in those descriptive words of which we were searching. It came when one of my classmates said, “you say ‘looked’ a lot.”

I quickly read my page and saw that my characters “looked” no less than five times on that single page! This was truly alarming to me. How could I have not noticed this?

The professor said, most likely in an attempt to rally my spirits, that we all have words we use as a crutch. But these words, though they help us get our story on the page, should be found and obliterated.

That night I went home and began scanning my work not for what writers deem most important like backstory or plot, but for simple overused words, like “turned” and “looked.” Over the next week, I found over twelve words I used as a crutch that needed to be thrown out. So I wrote down each word and searched my document, one word at a time, to alter each into a more descriptive or useful option. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of my writer’s bible, because once I bandaged these words, leaving few instances where the offending word still remained (because let’s face it, at some point our characters have to look and turn) I began to see other failed words in the form of phrases. For example, my characters, when they were angry, never stopped gritting their teeth. What I ended up with were a lot of characters with nubby teeth because they had no other option for displaying their anger.

Something had to change.

As the Christian bible teaches and cautions against fault and sin, my writing bible was also a teacher and a caution. I had committed egregious writing sins that needed to be wiped clean from the page. This bible of mine helped me attain a higher level of writing peace. (Perhaps the analogy is over the top, but you get my point.)

Over the next year or so my personal bible evolved to include, not only crutch words and phrases, but many others, like tautologies (of which the sin was great), purple prose, and superfluous adverbs. As each shortcoming manifested itself through my own editing or through the help of wonderful beta readers, I would add to my bible the “commandments” of which I should be most warry.

Finally, a wonderful thing began to happen. The work I’d put in became part of my writing style. The more I corrected the problems, the easier they became to spot as I wrote my first drafts. I deleted the word or phrase before it ever darkened my page, making it easier to focus on those more important aspects such as bonding to my characters, creating voice, and developing plot.

 A personal writer’s bible took my writing to a more elevated level. No one is perfect and all drafts are just that, drafts. But being honest with yourself about your shortcomings, changing what doesn’t work, and taking advice and critique from others is the only way to hone your skill as a writer. It is a messy business. Sometimes the red ink can be overwhelming, but as in life, a good bible by your side will make it easier to bear. Bare? Baer? Whelp. Homonyms. There’s another one for my writer’s bible. Best of luck!

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada to two wonderful parents along with ten other amazing people. I attended three years of college in Utah before deciding to serve a mission for my church, which took me to Florida. After my return eighteen months later, I married my wonderful and intelligent husband. And now ump-teen years later my husband and I have four bright and beautiful children, we have converted our public school lives to homeschool lives, and have uprooted from Vegas for my husband’s (mind-boggling, confusing, and I don’t understand computers a bit) work to Idaho. And there you have it—my life in synopsis. Sorry, I don’t know the ending yet, but that will come much, much later.


We’ve all had that day. You know, that day you’re abandoned in a small town, you meet a boy then ruin his life? That day, right? No? Then meet Lila Baxter, 17.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What Is New Adult (NA) Clean Genre

by Julie L. Spencer

What is the New Adult (NA) Clean genre all about, and why am I embracing it? To say ‘I found my niche’ is an understatement! I’ve been writing in this category for years but just didn’t know it existed. Then I found out that it didn’t exist prior to about 2012, and still barely exists!

When people ask me what genre my novels fall into, I have always struggled: Well, they’re at a Young Adult (YA) reading level with a very mature theme and college-age characters. To add to the confusion, they’re also very Christian-themed books. They don’t really fit into the YA genre because they involve adult physical relationships. You can pretend to be shocked if you want, but (newsflash) even Christians have sex! Preferably after marriage, but that too brings up real-life struggles of the difficulty of staying chaste prior to marriage, especially in a world that criticizes that very pretense. It’s not the easiest thing to accomplish, and I address that in several of my stories, possibly all of them. I believe that physical relationships are very sacred and very special. Lovemaking between a husband and wife is almost an extension of God’s love. Anything less than that is demeaning. Sorry, that’s my opinion.

A few months ago I asked a question on one of my online communities (on Facebook) about how to get a book published in that general description, and someone pointed out that my book probably falls into the category of New Adult (NA) rather than YA. I didn’t know such a thing existed, so I started doing some research. It turns out that my stories fit the category almost perfectly!

By the way, the readers of NA fiction are not necessarily in the new adult age range. I’ll explore that later in this blog post, but first let’s examine what makes a novel fit into this category. These are according to Deborah Halverson in her book Writing New Adult Fiction.

Here are the nine traits that distinguish NA fiction from teen fiction or fiction for adults:
(Those of you who already read my novels will be nodding your head reading each of these!)

  1. Main characters between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five (although some online communities claim 18-30 is the age range)
  2. Themes related to identity establishment (characters learning who they are and what they want out of life)
  3. Independence as a story driver (characters learning to take responsibility for themselves, their own actions, and their problems)
  4. A self-focused perspective (new adults are often focused on their own needs, wants, dreams, and interests)
  5. Heightened sense of change and instability (this stage in life is naturally full of change)
  6. Clash of high expectations and harsh reality (optimistic characters who aim big and mess up even bigger!)
  7. Peer-heavy social circles (parents are nearly out of the story, peers become the new ‘family’)
  8. Significant romances (beyond the ‘first kiss’ of teen years, these relationships are intense, often include marriage and sex)
  9. New adult relevant circumstances (may include temporary living arrangements, short-term jobs, fluid social circles, unfamiliar activities and settings, and financial stress)
If you’ve read my books, you are probably already aware that they are indeed New Adult novels! But, from where did this NA category originate?

Crossover readers became writers! What is a crossover reader, you ask? Basically, the same group of readers who propelled the Twilight series and Harry Potter series into super stardom.

Crossover readers, as defined by publishing market research firm Bowker in September of 2012 were 18 years or older, purchasing YA books for themselves, not to give as a gift to a teen. The largest segment of these readers were thirty- to forty-four year olds. Simple escapism is cited as the reason for their choosing these stories, as well as nostalgia for a simpler time in their lives.

When crossover readers ran out of Twilight novels (the series ended, I know, we’re all still crying!) they started writing stories they wanted to read. That’s exactly what happened to me! I wrote The Cove in the summer of 2011, before this genre even existed! No wonder I couldn’t define its genre or convince a publishing company to embrace it!

The largest group of readers of NA fiction are that same crossover audience that took YA to the top of the industry, with college-age readers coming in second, and some advanced teen readers bringing up the rear. My readership includes all of those and more. I have a lot of teens who love my stories, several people who are old enough to be my mother who love my stories, and everything in between.

What about the Christian aspect? Pretty much all of my novels include my church! It’s as simple as that. You write about what you know and it’s difficult to separate yourself from your core values. My core values include my walk with Christ, and my membership in my church. Take it or leave it. I am who I am.

I love it when people read my books, but I will not change my stories to fit a genre or to engage a particular market or audience. I write the stories that come from my heart and mind. That being said, it’s good to know my stories have found their square-peg home in the round-peg publishing world.

Have you embraced New Adult fiction? What’s your opinion?

Julie L. Spencer lives in the central Michigan area with her husband and teenage children. She has a very full life managing a conservation district office, writing grant proposals, newsletters, articles, and book reviews. Julie has been writing since she was in junior high, but prior to publishing her first novel, The Cove, her only published work was her master’s thesis. She loves to read and write New Adult Clean Contemporary fiction, is author of the Buxton Peak series, The Cove, and has several more novels and non-fiction projects in the works.

In the beginning, it was all about the music. Passion like that never leaves a musician like Ian Taylor. But, Ian’s just like any other guy; He wants to be loved for who he was on the inside…

When he meets Megan, a small town college girl at church in a remote part of Michigan, Ian figures out pretty quickly that she knows nothing about him. So he makes the decision to hide his fame from her.

Ian’s plan backfires when Megan finds out who he really is and decides she doesn’t want to live her life in his spotlight, with all the baggage that comes with it. She just wants to live a quiet life in rural Michigan with a normal husband and family.

But, center stage can’t last forever. Even a rock band as talented as Buxton Peak can come crashing down.

While Ian is blinded by love, his band is torn apart by distractions, temptations, and drug abuse.

Will Ian stand beside his mates, letting their problems become his problems? Can they pull together as a band? Or will the pressures of stardom rip them apart?

Starting over is never easy, but the guys know if they go back to their roots, and find the sound they once loved, they can put their lives, and their rock band, back together.

This isn’t the end for Buxton Peak; it’s only the beginning…

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How to Get There from Here

by Lea Carter

For me, every story begins with an ending. That’s partly because I’m writing a series, so the next book ties into the last one. But it’s also because I write with an ending in mind. If the main characters are a male and a female, the story will end with them falling in love. If the story has good and evil, the story will end with good triumphing. It’s equally important to know the characters—for sometimes the story needs characters and other times the characters need a story. 

Let’s assume there is a nice, blank page in front of us. A whole, glorious page to fill with our creation. Once we’re done admiring the crispness of it, the pristine surface on which to write our next masterpiece, what next? If you’re like me, a series of false starts is often the next step. If you’re really like me, you save those false starts in case you decide you want to go back to one of them! 

Sometimes we just have to do a writing warm-up, something to stretch our mental muscles and shake off the creative lethargy. Relax and allow ourselves to write something that we may or may not be able to use. For example, if we’re trying to write a political suspense story and the first scene is located in our state capitol, but we can’t get the main character past stopping to chat with the security guard (who knows, that could be very important foreshadowing!), we might pause and try a writing exercise from the point-of-view of a nonessential character—an innocent bystander. Pluck them out from among the wallflowers and use them to help you visualize what happens next. Are they envious of your character’s expensive suit? Do they think s/he is too friendly, fake even? Are they miserable because it’s a hot, muggy day and the AC’s broken? Or maybe they’re running late, so they brush past your character (incidentally, how does your character respond?) and race down the hall without even noticing the portraits of distinguished men and women that line the walls. Absorb the atmosphere. Relax into the story. Feel the stress leaving your body… sorry, couldn’t resist! But the more real the scene seems to us, the more captivating it will be to our readers.

After we’ve overcome the creative inertia, there’s still always the chance that the story or a character will stall. I usually don’t know what’s going to happen next any more than my readers do and often hit storyline-snags because of it. I’m sure, though, that even if I had a carefully planned outline, things could still go haywire. Or worse, I might just not “feel” like writing. What to do then? 

In my case, if I don’t feel like writing, I usually don’t. It’s not unlike exercise. When we hit a flat point in our routine, we can take a day off. We can also indulge in something different, which allows us to resume our best efforts. In fact, there are things I can do to drive myself crazy with a need to write. For example, I can watch/read something funny, which loosens up the nuts and bolts in my mind. I also have found that watching/reading something I adore will make my imagination soar. Finally, if neither of those have worked, a few minutes of utterly unsatisfactory entertainment usually will, such as a cliffhanger ending that nobody bothered to come back and finish. You know, something that leaves you grumbling and “fixing” the story. Either way, for me, my imagination is in full swing by then. I mentally shove my sleeves up to my elbows and try to remember where my own story is supposedly going. With that in mind, I plunge ahead. Sometimes the hardest part at the point is transferring what’s in my mind to the page quickly enough and accurately enough. (Caution: These methods are not guaranteed against rewrites/revisions. However—the story is moving forward again and, in my case, I usually can go back and smooth out any lumps.)

For me, having a general idea of how the story is going to end helps me all along the way. It’s the goal I’m working towards, the point on the map that I can check the story’s journey against. If I can’t see the ending from where the story is when I stop to check, I know that I either need to cut the story back to where it was on track or enjoy the detour—but still get it back on track! Knowing our characters is paramount to either maneuver, because we need to know how they’ll react to certain stimuli: a bribe, a compliment, having someone borrow their hairbrush without permission, etc. For me, knowing my characters and knowing the ending are what it takes for the story to consent to be told. 

Don’t lose sight of the story you’re trying to tell. Don’t “fall out of love” with it. Whatever fuels your passion for writing, for storytelling, when you fall into a slump, get it out and check the batteries. Going back to the exercise analogy from earlier, maybe we need to do jumping jacks instead of pushups today, just to shock our systems. Sure, there are deadlines, times when we have to push through whatever is between us and finishing this chapter or that many thousands of words per day. But stale writing can become stale reading before we realize it. So when you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t get there from here!” try one of these suggestions and see if it won’t help you push past the next mile marker.

Lea Carter (1982-??) was born in Neosho, MO, the youngest of eleven children. Between working on the family farm, attending Church and school, and playing with her siblings, she somehow found time to write. Her work progressed from childish attempts to recreate the magic she found in the books that she read to competition-winning short stories, published annually in the Crowder Quill.

Truth Seeker Kuntza faces challenges above and below the sea’s surface, fighting deadly misinformation   as well as a bizarre and complicated plot to wipe out most of   the Sky Fairy Tribe.  Under his instruction, lightning   machines are constructed to overcome a terrible  snowstorm.   But what of the grave threat from the Water   Fairy Tribe—Kuntza’s tribe—to the surface tribes? 
Admiral Constance Kimberlite and Prince Cambrian Bijou and the young Historian Rolf Warner accompany the Seeker beneath the waves to assist him in his efforts to overcome his tribe’s fears of an impending invasion.  Meanwhile Amber Bullierd, daughter and heir of the rebellious Count Bullierd, threatens to block their success through intrigue and a terrifying coup  attempt.  With the fate of Fairydom hanging in the balance, there is no room for error.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dialogue Like a Boss: What Real People Say

by Tyson Abaroa

I’m a dialogue writer. My first draft of any story (except my flash fiction) is almost completely dialogue. In my second, third, and fourth passes I’m usually filling in the blanks left by the dialogue.

“Tyson, how are you doing this evening?” he asked.

“I’m well, how are you?” Tyson replied, extending his hand.

The funny part about dialogue is that what we truly say reads like we blindfolded grammar, tied it in a burlap sack, and tossed it in a river. If a device could capture everything we verbally say and type it out for us to read, all we’d see are the red and green squiggly lines. We speak like idiots. Our speech, and our written communication can be at odds. And this isn’t even getting into things like trying to replicate accents.

This is real dialogue.

“’Sup.” He nodded.
“’Sup,” Tyson replied, bumping his fist.

Person one greeted Tyson with what is supposed to be a question but is really a greeting. Tyson’s reply? The same phrase that’s supposed to be a question is used as a return greeting.

I have read from authors that have beautiful internal thoughts and dialogue. When it comes time for the character to speak. The dialogue is just an extension of their literary prowess, but is completely unrealistic.

So how do we write realistic dialogue? Leave the grammar at the quotation marks. We break the rules when we talk. Listen to yourself, your colleague, spouse, friend, etc. all while keeping a notebook nearby. Write down something they say and something you say back to them. I hate to be the guy that tells you to watch TV, but watch TV. Sitcoms are primarily dialogue driven. If it made it to TV, that means the writer knows how to put realistic dialogue on a script.

The first thing you’ll find is that we usually can’t stay on topic. We change course mid-sentence all the time. Use the em dash to pull this off.

“I was wondering if—no he’ll definitely say no to that.”

Something else we do a lot is pause. “I think I’ll have . . . two doughnuts, please.”

One thing we never do, unless we are really, REALLY serious, is use someone’s name while we are already talking to them. I know, because it drives me crazy when people casually use my name when they already have my attention. Unless of course, they know I’m ADHD and there’s a big chance I really wasn’t paying attention.

. . . “so he brought me a copy of the TPS report. Jessica, he didn’t put a cover sheet on it.”

We shorten words and phrases. “What’s happenin’?” “’Sup.”

We combine words. “Who’s gonna clean this?” “You gotta, you just gotta!”

The biggest problem with dialogue is that if it’s good, a reader won’t notice the craft behind putting it on paper. However, if the dialogue is bad; it is one of the first things a reader will notice. So keep it real.

Tyson Abaroa was born in Provo, UT but raised in Gilbert, AZ. In July 2001, between his junior and senior year of high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. After graduating high school and boot camp, he was deployed with his unit to build a fuel hose line in support of the invasion of Iraq. After this deployment, he served in the Chile Santiago East Mission. He married soon after returning home, and just before his first anniversary, Tyson was deployed again. This time to Djibouti, Africa as part of a provisional security company. Tyson’s ADHD has led to an eclectic career after the Marine Corps. He has been a credit card collector, a claims processor, and now a Track Director for USA BMX. He draws from his experiences and develops stories to write about in his spare time.

Check out Tyson's blog

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Life’s Worst Experiences Can Be Writing Gold!

By Carol Malone
I adore watching the Olympics mostly because I love to watch the segments the reporters do on the athletes’ journey to win Olympic gold or to just participate. Most, if not all, have had horrific challenges to overcome in their lives, and they were willing to share those experiences to benefit other Olympic hopefuls and avid viewers. I especially love those athletes who have overcome personally defeats and tragedies to rise to an individual victory.

Because of the Olympics, it has come to my attention that a practice of mine, to write out my feelings whether they were happy or miserable, is beneficial to my health in many ways: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

Have you ever written out your hurt feelings and personal pain?

When you were upset with a family member, faced with an untenable situation, or were filled with joy to overflowing, did you write about the problem or joy in a journal or jot down your negative or positive feelings on a piece of paper? Sometimes, I only write in my journal when my husband ticks me off. It helps me blow of steam that would otherwise be directed at him and cause real trouble for both of us. It is easier to vent with the pen or keyboard, than on my loved one.

Who knew that venting, ranting, screaming, haranguing, or sharing your ultimate joy with your journal would benefit your health and wellbeing? Who knew that writing could be a formula for very cheap psychotherapy?

It has also been suggested in Tori Rodriquez article, “Writing Can Help Injuries Heal Faster,” that “Expressive writing is known to help assuage psychological trauma and improve mood. Now studies suggest that such writing, characterized by descriptions of one’s deepest thoughts and feelings, also benefits physical health.”

When learned I had cancer, I cried about it, wailed about it to the Creator, then I wrote about it. I also wrote about the steps I took to get through the diagnosis, pre-op, and finally surgery and recovery. I’ve shared this on one of my blogs and my doctor shared it with his other cancer patients.  

The one thing has remained constant as I’ve faced a blank screen unable to write my novels, is my early morning habit to write whatever comes into my head through a program created by author, Julia Cameron titled, The Artist’s Way.

In order for a writer to “conquer blocks and self-destructive tendencies,” Julia Cameron urges using a “spiritual path to higher creativity.” One of the ways to find out what’s bothering a stuck creative person—like a writer—is to write. How very clever of her.

According to Julia, a person who writes their thoughts, their rants, their pains, their joys, their sorrows, and their flow of consciousness on a daily basis will eventually form a writing habit. This practice is performed early in the morning before all other activities for the day are begun. She calls this journaling by hand for three full pages, our “Morning Pages.” She said you could also call it your “Mourning Pages,” depending upon your mood and how much sorrow you need to get rid of to move forward.

When I first started writing my morning pages, they were more “mourning pages” than happy. Because I needed to get rid of the grief, the anguish, the pain of my personal life that was holding me back from writing fiction in my happy flow again.

Since I began my morning pages in January of 2016, I have been consistent—mostly. There were days when I was not able to write due to other life’s circumstances, but the benefit was, I was writing again, even if was only to complain and moan. And no, I’m not completely healed yet, but I’m taking the therapeutic steps one day at a time.

What I was writing about was my life’s worst experiences—but I was beginning the healing process.

The whole idea around writing early in the morning is that writing resets our perspective, changes our attitude, and makes us grateful for the gifts our Creator has given us. It also helps us to calm the Inner Censor, as Julie describes our creative block, and gives us the tools to lessen his voice in our heads. We’ve all heard him especially when he insists, “You think you’re a writer, bah!” my Inner Censor, Mal A. Dee, complains, “Go back to your 9 to 5 job, and forget writing!”

But we don’t want to forget writing. We want to write. We have to write. As Neil Gaiman said, “No one can write a (insert your name here) [Carol Malone] book better than (insert your name here) [Carol Malone].”

I now write every morning to keep me sane and grounded. According to Kellie McGann from The Write Practice, in her article, “3 Reasons to Write About the Worst Experience of Your Life,” “Writing About Your Worst Experience Heals.” That’s the first point of her article. She suggests that blogging will improve your mental health because as a writer, we “process events around [us] them in a healthier way, which reduces stress.” This is what I did when I had cancer.

What about fiction writers. How can they benefit from journaling?

If you’re a fiction writer, this also applies. How often have you found a piece of yourself in the behavior of your characters? “Through writing about their [our characters’] experiences, we are able to process our own,” Kellie said. Overcoming personal tragedies and pain through the pages of our books will heal us as well as serve other people who might be experiencing the same thing.

After all, who wants to read about an easy life story? “Easy is boring, anyone can be boring.” Kid President said in his dynamic video. (Watch the video: “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You.

We all want to have a happily-ever-after in our lives and in our stories, but our readers don’t want that until they’ve read about the struggle you and/or your characters have had to face to eke out that HEA. “Your worst experiences are the events that can most powerfully engage your audience and compel them to keep reading,” Kellie said.

Another point made by Kellie in her article is that you gain credibility with your readers which come from sharing your life’s worst experiences. “When you share personal and even painful things, you create a bridge between you and your readers.” Can you see the benefit of making such a deep, personal connection to your followers, readers, and audience? They will identify with and measure your success in overcoming such adversity, and take heart that they can do that too. That’s why blogging is beneficial for your health and to connect you to your readers—helps them to see you’re human with human frailties.

Which brings us to the gift of writing down our life’s worst experiences.

We want to have hope to overcome our adversity, and we want to generate hope for our readers. We don’t want to end in the middle of writing our miserable experiences without giving ourselves and our readers a glimmer of hope. We all want the clouds to blow away and the sun to burst forth into our hearts and minds. We want hopefulness to replace hopelessness. And by writing how you were able to get through your trials and tribulations and found your hope, you will strengthen that hope in your readers that they can do the same.

So I’ll ask you, how has writing about your life’s worst experiences—hopefully you are writing about them—benefitted you psychologically and physically? How have you used your personal struggles and journey through life’s “tempests are raging,” to deepen your characters’ struggle to find their own HEA? Have you used your emotional experiences to make your characters human and relatable? What can you do to make your characters more believable by imbuing them with the things you have suffered through and conquered? I’d like to know, so please comment below.

Award-winning author, Carol Malone writes new pulp-fiction suspense kissed with romance to rocket readers into adventure. When not hammering out new tales, Carol is reading, or watching the Dodgers and the Food Network. She has one son, a brilliant IT Dude and lives with her sci-fi author husband on the coast of California where she enjoys the mild weather all year round. She adores being connecting with her readers and invites them to chat about romance, food, and sports on her website.

Los Angeles, 1954... Gangsters, crime, boxing—and romance...

Jimmy Doherty, a hard-luck orphan from the south side of Chicago, was mentored in the sweet science of boxing by Father Tim Brophy, the Battling Priest of St. Vincent's Asylum for Boys. Jimmy’s fists were good enough to take him to LA where he has begun his rise up the local fight-cards. He has big plans to be a contender and even bigger plans for Lindy—his trainer’s only daughter, who’s sweeter than apple pie and harder to resist.

But when Lindy is arrested for killing a boxer with ties to gangster Mickey Cohen, Jimmy is forced to join forces with the arresting detective—who would like to do much more with Lindy than put her in handcuffs—in a desperate search for the real killer.

Love can be murder—in the ring and out...