Podcast, Write Now Full Episodes

SEO For Writers – WN 059

Hello, friends! This week, I’m discussing a topic that’s a little outside of the Write Now norm. Search engine optimization (or SEO) is a term you may have heard before. To some, it may sound like confounded techno-babble.

But really, SEO is just a bag of tips and tricks that help search engines like Google better understand your website. And best of all, it’s completely free!

If you’re still working on your website, you may want to brush up on episode 033 of the Write Now podcast, Do I Need a Website? first. But if you’re ready to move on, we’ll be exploring a few easy steps that will help search engines bring as many people to your site as possible.

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

Index That Content!

Modern search engines have become crazy smart. They use bots (or “spiders”) to index (or “crawl”) your site, making it easier for actual users to find what they’re looking for. But these digital spiders don’t see a website the same way we do. Luckily, a little housekeeping will help search engines better understand your content while simultaneously making your site more accessible to more users.

  1. Include “alt text” for your images. Spiders can’t look at a picture and understand what it is by the file name alone. Be sure to fill out the “alt text” option when placing images on your site. Simply writing short descriptions of your website’s pictures can really help boost its accessibility.
  2. Avoid Flash and Java plugins. You may want your website to look cool or have a lot of interactive features. But plugins don’t work well for mobile users or people who use screen readers. Remember, function always comes before form online.
  3. Offer video and audio transcripts. Did you know? 30% of the people who visit your site will have an accessibility issue. This includes color blindness as well as limited eyesight and hearing. If your website features video or audio, including transcripts increases accessibility, which in turn increases user retention.

Tidy That URL!

Now that we’ve helped the search engine’s bots index and understand our content, it’s time to clean things up on the user side. When it comes to your website’s address (or URL), you need a place for everything. Just remember to keep everything sorted logically. Nothing turns away users like a disorganized website! Here are some ways to keep your users’ needs at the forefront of your site.

  1. Use hyphens to separate URL words. For example, use sarahwerner.com/write-now-podcast, instead of sarahwerner.com/writenowpodcast. It’s a simple step that makes your website easier to traverse for users and bots alike.
  2. Keep URLs short and sweet. You don’t have to string together a parade of hyphens and words to get the point of a page across. Call your contact page “/contact”, not “/contact-me-i-would-love-to-hear-from-you…” You get the idea.
  3. Match URLs to its page. If your URL calls a page “/about-the-author”, it’s not a good idea for the actual title of the page to read “Sarah Werner”. Cutting down on confusion keeps your users browsing happily!
  4. Use real language. Eloquent wordplay has its place — and that place isn’t within the page titles and URLs of your website. When users want to read your blog, they probably aren’t going to click a menu option that reads “Fanciful Musings and Pensive Introspection” because they might not know what it means. It’s a blog. Just call it a blog.
  5. Avoid orphan pages. Every page on your website needs a home. Organize your content into more and more specific categories. For example, my “/forbes” page is accessed through my “/writing” page, which in turn can be reached from the “/home” page. So the entire URL is sarahwerner.com/writing/forbes Think of your website like a nesting doll and keep everything in its proper place.
  6. Limit user choices. When you overwhelm users with a sea of links, they’re more likely to leave than choose one! On any single page of your website, try to limit the user’s choices to six options or fewer. As with the above tip, limiting choice actually helps users find what they’re looking for. Just think of the alternative (an overcrowded mega-menu) as a really frustrating game of “Where’s Waldo?”

Empathize with Users!

Now that we’re nice and organized for both humans and bots, let’s talk about your actual content. Good on-page SEO means you’re writing great content that is easy to understand, stays on-topic, and gives users what they came for. Sounds easy enough. But you may have to set aside your inner wordsmith — and for some of you, this may be easier said than done.

  1. Answer the question. Every page on your website has a purpose. If someone is visiting that page, chances are they have a question that needs answering. A page labeled “Store Hours” should not serve up an exhaustive history of your company. Save that for the “About Us” or “History” page, where it belongs.
  2. Easy to understand. On the internet, clarity always wins out over creativity, which means this is not the time to break out the thesaurus. Your users are busy. They aren’t on your site to expand their vocabulary. Do them a favor: use short sentences and paragraphs with a generous portion of white space. Check the Flesch Reading Ease link to test your site’s readability, or go to File>Options>Proofing in Microsoft Word, select the “Check grammar with spelling” checkbox, and select “Show readability statistics”.
  3. Stay on-topic. Do you really expect users to use a weather widget on your author website over a site dedicated to weather forecasting? Concentrate on giving users what they’re looking for and avoid stuffing your content with needless keywords. Remember, modern search engines reward good content!
  4. Update content often. Relevant and meaningful content keeps people coming back for more. Fresh updates also keep search engine spiders happily crawling your website. A site’s activity and content quality keeps it high in search results, so keep that good content flowing!

Helpful Links:

I hope this episode was helpful in building your website’s SEO. But what do you think? Too much information? Not enough? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂 I’d love to hear from you.

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 039: Robert Tanenbaum

Image of Robert Tanenbaum

What is the real value of writing in the modern world? Does it still possess the power to move people or capture the values of an entire nation? My guest today reminds me that the written word is still very much a force to be reckoned with.

“Doing a novel is… about many different things that matter to me. The integrity of the characters is reflective of my views of the integrity of the system. The fun part is: what is the story I want to tell that will highlight the kinds of things that we care about?”

I am very excited to share today’s Coffee Break with you, friends. I had the honor of speaking with attorney, politician, and popular American novelist Robert Tanenbaum. We talk about his latest novel, Infamy, and his newest work-in-progress, Without Fear or Favor, coming this September. But the conversation soon shifted toward such compelling topics as the virtue of the American judicial system, the essence of a great story, and the genius of our nation’s forefathers.

“We have to uplift the system of our government. Lying is not sufficient. Within the rule of law in our country, we’re capable of doing anything right.”

Having written over 30 crime novels and works of non-fiction, Robert captures the American ideal of justice and reminds readers that the honor and history of our nation’s most sacred institutions are worth upholding and defending. I hope todays’ episode moves you to inspire others through your own writing. I always encourage people to make their mark in the literary world. But don’t take my word for it. As Robert puts it:

“I believe most of us have at least one book in us.”

Check in with Robert to see how his latest novel is coming along! You can find links to his entire collection of work in the links below. Thanks for listening and keep writing!

Mentioned in this episode:

#roberttanenbaum

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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Podcast, Write Now Full Episodes

All Of The Best Writing Excuses – WN 058

Image for episode 058

Perhaps pathetically, perhaps hilariously, or perhaps ironically, I almost didn’t create this week’s episode of the Write Now podcast. I kept running into (figurative) barriers, which I soon realized were excuses — often the same excuses I use to avoid writing.

With that revelation, I figured that it was all the more important to talk about, and so here it is — I hope you enjoy it.

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

Sound Familiar?

You finally finish up a long day or night at work or in class, eat whatever meal is appropriate for the time of day, spend time with your family, get the kids into or up from bed, and realize that, despite all odds, you just might have some time to write!

You know it’s a rare occasion and that you shouldn’t waste it, but… first, you really should tackle those dishes. And the plants need watering. And, you tell yourself, you’ll feel much better once the living room is picked up or your office is clean.

And now that that’s done, come to think of it, you’re tired. You’ve had a long day, and you’ve just accomplished a lot! There’s always time for writing tomorrow.

But as you drift off to sleep, you feel that feeling — that gnawing, rotten, unfulfilled feeling deep in your heart that always creeps in when you’ve passed up an opportunity to write.

Reasons vs. Excuses

Did you know? There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.

Reason: A cause or explanation that tends to be logical and non-biased or objective. It’s pretty tough to punch holes in a solid reason.

Example: The pilot tells you your 6:00 a.m. flight can’t take off on time because the airplane engine is on fire.

Excuse: An explanation that justifies or defends a bad decision or a fault. They tend to be illogical or irrational, and often point blame. It’s easy to punch holes in a flimsy excuse.

Example: The pilot tells you your 6:00 a.m. flight can’t take off because he shared a hotel room with his co-pilot, and his co-pilot snored all night and he didn’t sleep well. 

One might wonder why the pilot didn’t have a cup of coffee, request a pair of earplugs, change rooms, call in beforehand saying he was unable to fly that morning, etc.

Excuses Are Easy. Writing Is Hard.

The fact is that excuses are easy to make, while life is hard. Responsibilities are hard. Writing is hard — especially after a long day of work. And sometimes the easy route is incredibly, overwhelmingly attractive. We’re only human, after all.

Often, we make excuses to cover up a difficult or painful truth. We lie to others and ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. We say we can’t write today because we’re not feeling well, but really, we don’t want to write today because we’re terrified of what happens when we finish the novel and no one likes it.

One of the most valuable writing skills that no one ever talks about is the ability to be truly honest with yourself. The ability to ask yourself, What is true? And the courage to answer yourself honestly.

Let’s Play: Reason Or Excuse?

What do you think?

  1. No one will want to read what I write. (Excuse: You can’t logically guarantee that absolutely no one will want to read your writing, and besides, you don’t need readers to be a writer and write.)
  2. I’m afraid. (Excuse: It may be honest, but it is not logical. It’s up to you to drum up the courage to write in spite of the fear — or to let the fear keep you from writing.)
  3. I don’t have time to write. (Excuse: You have 24 hours in a day, the same as me, the same as your boss, your FedEx deliveryperson, your local short-order cook, and the doctor in the hospital ER. The same as V.E. Schwab, Jon Acuff, Annie Dillard, Stephen King, and every other published writer ever. It’s up to you to manage, arrange, and prioritize your schedule to fit writing in.)
  4. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram needs me! (Excuse: No one is waiting with bated breath for your next post. And the world won’t cease to exist if you’re not there to witness all of the latest goings-on.)
  5. I’m too old to start writing. (Excuse: Unless physical complications or health issues keep you from typing or lifting a pen or pencil, you are never too old to start writing. Just ask Jay Greenfield.)
  6. I’m too young to start writing. (Excuse: Even if you’re 16 years old, or seven, or five. You can tell a story. You have important thoughts to share. Just ask Mark Messick.)
  7. I need to wash the dishes. (Excuse: Those dishes are still going to be there when you stop writing. Unless someone else takes care of them for you, in which case, rejoice!)
  8. I don’t have the right education. (Excuse: You don’t need a fancy degree or a special creative writing course to write. In fact, the best way you can learn more about writing is to read more and write more. So get to it.)
  9. I’m out of coffee. (Excuse: Go make or buy more coffee. Have a friend deliver some to you. Make tea. Or try writing without it.)
  10. I have nothing original to say. (Excuse: This is a popular one! But just because you don’t think you have anything original to say, that doesn’t mean you are incapable of writing. Write anyway.)
  11. My spelling and grammar are really horrible! (Excuse: That’s what editors are for.)
  12. Publishers today are only publishing garbage. My novel is going to be smart and amazing and wonderful. So why should I even bother? (Excuse: Someone else’s opinion or grasp on the market should never be a factor in whether or not you sit down and create what you were meant to create.)
  13. I just got off of a 12-hour shift and I have a newborn baby at home. I am simply too exhausted to write. (Reason: Holy crap, go get some sleep. It sounds like you are stretched too thin right now, and your priorities need to be self-care, work, and caring for your newborn. This might not be a realistic season for writing, and that is okay.)
  14. I’m writing a historical novel, and I need to do a ton of research before I can continue writing. (Excuse: This is where the line gets a little blurry, but I’m going to say this shouldn’t keep you from writing. Plow ahead, get your first draft done, and fill in the historical details later.)
  15. I’m undergoing chemo and I am exhausted and in pain. (Reason: You have other priorities more important than writing this season. Rest and heal — don’t further drive yourself into the ground. However, don’t deny yourself some journal or creative writing if you think it would be a healing experience.)

None of this is meant to be hurtful to you, of course, and it’s not my intention to make light of any of the above excuses. Rather, this episode/post is intended to be your kick in the pants — your reason to kick the excuses to the curb. 🙂

We’re Only Human.

It’s always good (and healthy!) to remember that we are human beings and, as such, we are not perfect. Fear is a very powerful motivator, and it can easily motivate us not to write.

But being human also means that we have free will. Often, it’s up to us (and only us) to smash the excuses and exercise the important writerly skill of being honest with ourselves. We have to make the decision to overcome the fear that threatens to overwhelm with us. We have to decide and want to put the pen to paper, or our fingers to the keyboard.

To do that takes courage. And by reading this post — or listening to this podcast — you’ve just shown me that you have courage. You’ve taken the first step to crushing those excuses that get in the way of you fulfilling your dream of writing.

So take another step and write today.

What About You?

What excuses do you use to avoid writing? Or what reason do you have for not writing right now? I’d love to know. Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 038: Renita Bryant

Image of Renita Bryant

We talk a lot on this podcast about what it takes to write every day. We even delve into branding and marketing your platform. But what happens after you’ve finally published your book? In many ways, proofing your final draft is the beginning of the real work. Today’s guest shares the joys of publishing her first book as well as some nitty-gritty details of publishing you may not have considered.

“I was so excited and so happy when I finally had my book in my hand. That’s something that nobody can take away.”

Renita Bryant is the author of Yesterday Mourning as well as the owner of independent publisher and consultant Mynd Matters. In today’s Coffee Break, she talks about her transition from Corporate America to indie writer, publicist, and advisor.

“It was very trying at times. Deciding that I was going to publish was scary and it was overwhelming. I was concerned that people would hate it or nobody would want to read it. Or what would my family think?”

Renita now shares her experience with her clients, advising new authors to “know their numbers” and manage money while on promotional tours and book signings. She admits things can get a bit wild once you publish your book. But throughout the entire process, she is constantly reminded of her greatest asset: her peers.

“People are so willing to help you. There’s something about being a part of the indie community that felt like you have partners here; you have friends here; you have people that actually care. And they’re trying to help each other.”

Renita is currently working on her second novel. Click the links below to check in with her or just to say hi!

Mentioned in this episode:

#myndmatters

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 037: Mya Kay

Mya Kay Title Card

My friends: I really enjoyed this conversation with full-time YA author, collaborator, and entrepreneur Mya Kay. An eight-time published novelist who recently set a record for the number of books dropped in one day, Mya is smart, savvy, and full of great advice for writers of all ages and backgrounds who want to find success writing and selling books.

“I am changing the world with words.”

Image of Battling Brelyn, the first book in The Clover Chronicles by Mya Kay.Mya writes YA fiction with a message of inspiration and faith, and touches on important issues that YA readers face, such as diversity, entrepreneurship, lupus, and the family issues that may arise in the life of a biracial teen girl.

“My biggest pet peeve is seeing writers who don’t treat their writing like a business.”

Mya treats her writing career like a business and encourages all writers to do the same. She also encourages writers to create every day (even if they can’t write every day), and is passionate about sharing the message that while writing is a difficult process, it should never be scary.

“Writing a series is a dream come true for me.”

Follow your dreams, and click the links below to follow Mya.

Mentioned in this episode:

#yalit

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

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Creative Writing, Podcast, Write Now Full Episodes

How To Survive Your Day Job – WN 057

Image of Episode 057 Title Card

Hello, lovelies. There is a lot of sweet stuff in store for you in this week’s episode of the Write Now podcast, which takes a look at day jobs, writing for money, and what happens to a dream deferred.

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

“Don’t Quit Your Day Dream.”

On April 14, 2017, I left my job.

I was a senior UX content strategist at a marketing technology agency for over five years. I left by choice, though I enjoyed the work and really loved my coworkers.

So why did I leave?

  1. I was working 80+ hour weeks among my full-time job, podcast work, Forbes writing, personal writing, and church work, and needed to restore balance.
  2. I felt called to move on. I ignored and pushed back against it for the longest time, but we can only deny our calling for so long.
  3. I was using all of my energy (creative and otherwise) at work.

My decision to leave my job was not a rash one. In fact, my husband and I spent the better part of a year weighing pros and cons, building up a “runway” of savings, and carefully planning what our new life would look like. Many people talk about taking the “leap” like it’s a rash, impulsive decision — but for me, it was anything but.

And even several weeks after having made the transition, I’m still discovering new pros and cons. While I do get to work on my own projects, take on opportunities I would have otherwise had to turn down, and work less than 80 hours per week, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

I miss the team I used to work with, not to mention the reliable income and benefits. And I miss being an authoritative expert — in fact, I feel like a surprisingly large chunk of my identity has been torn away. I went from being Senior UX Content Strategist Sarah Rhea Werner to… being Just Sarah. It’s weird.

Expectation vs. reality, dream vs. fantasy.

We’re writers, and many of us are prone to daydreaming. And sometimes our daydreams are fueled by images we see on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and other forms of social media. Images that set a certain expectation in our minds of what the life of a writer looks like.

Images like this (from my own Pinterest board):

writing images from pinterest

These images often fuel dreams in which we quit our jobs and write for a living. We think going to be all inspiration and coffee and cozy sweaters and thoughts and ink and muffins (and maybe sunshine and rainbows, too, if that’s your thing).

But it’s not. At least, not all the time.

Americans (and maybe other cultures as well — I’m not sure) often suffer from “expectations vs. reality” syndrome. We get an idea of how something “should be”, and are then completely wrecked with disappointment when it turns out that’s not the case.

For example, we watch chick flicks and then expect marriage to match up to the Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey romantic ideal. But it doesn’t, and it never will. There is no “happily ever after” — no end to the hard work that we have to put in to enjoy a lifelong, functional relationship.

I’m not trying to be a downer. What I’m saying is that often, there’s a gulf between our expectations and reality:

image of expectation vs. reality

Left: expectation. Right: reality.

Looking to quit your job and live out your dream of writing for a living? Just make sure you are setting your expectations for reality and not fantasy. By quitting your day job, you are not going to escape hard work (because writing is hard work) or frustration (because writing is extremely frustrating).

With all that in mind, leaving my day job to write full time was definitely the right decision for me. But (and this is probably what you’re wondering right now) is it right for you?

Don’t overlook the good.

Sometimes, having a day job is the best possible thing for a writer. Now, this might not be something you want to hear. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Many, many writers produced their masterpieces whilst employed at their day jobs. Wallace Stevens sold insurance while writing Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. William Carlos Williams served as chief of pediatrics at Passaic General Hospital, and typed poems on a typewriter between patients. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote award-winning material for years while holding down jobs as a cook, a bartender, a waitress, and a magazine employee.

So maybe you’re in a good place right now. Maybe your day job provides you with fodder and insights for your writing, or maybe it helps keep the financial pressure off of your creativity. Maybe your day job is decent and gives you the space and income you need to create without fear.

But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you are trapped in a toxic work environment or hemmed in with toxic co-workers (or both), or maybe your job is harmful to your body or spirit. In this case, you need to ask:

  • Is this a job I need to survive?

Or:

  • Is this a job I need to leave?

If you need to leave, then find a replacement job and leave. But if you think you can grin and bear it, here are some tips for surviving your day job.

Sing it with me: I will survive.

Here are some tips to help:

  1. Read and/or write over your lunch break. Take the time to lose yourself in words.
  2. Keep an idea notebook with you at all times. It will keep your brain focused on your story, and it’s a great way to keep your creative self literally present at all times.
  3. Get in early (if you’re a morning person) or stay late (if you’re not). Make your workspace work for you.
  4. Use standing-around time to write, plan, outline, or jot down ideas. Just make sure you get your paid work done first.
  5. Don’t dwell upon how frustrated/angry you are. Trust me. Negativity is a bad spiral that will suck up all of your creative energy.

Also, while you’re surviving, please be ethical and smart. Don’t write on company equipment or on company time. Not only is it ethical, it also ensures that you fully own your work.

Remember, no matter what, you are a writer.

You do not need to quit your job or write full-time to become a writer.

You do not need someone else to validate your writer status for you.

If you write, you can call yourself a writer.

If it helps, get business cards printed. Vistaprint usually has some kind of sale where you can get 500 business cards for like $15. (This is not an endorsement for Vistaprint — they’re just cheap and don’t screw up my stuff.) Here’s a business card design I created in less than two minutes using Canva:

A business card Sarah made in less than 2 minutes

Hand it out to friends, family, and whoever else might take one. Do it. Be it. Live it. You can do this.

Related things you should read:

Here are some links you may find useful:

What are your writing dreams? How do you survive your workday? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 036: Barbara Kyle II

Image of Barbara Kyle

Oh, my friends. I have a treat for you today. Barbara Kyle (from Coffee Break episode 001) is back, and this time she’s talking about what makes a book a real page-turner—from characters to story structure, style, and even business.

“What is it that makes people want to keep reading long into the night?”

I always love talking with Barbara, who is an accomplished novelist and dedicated writing mentor to many. She has a knack for boiling down complex story creating and structuring advice into simple steps, and is always wonderfully positive and inspirational.

“Most people who are working on a novel have full-time jobs… and have to constantly fend off the well-meaning family and friends who ask, ‘Are you still working on that book?’ and ‘When can I find your book in the bookstore?’”

Today, Barbara and I discuss what makes for a page-turner, why it pays to help others along the way, how it feels to be misunderstood by family and friends as a writer, and much more.

“Nothing interests me as much as talking about writing. Well, my grandchildren do. But aside from that…”

Be sure to click the links below to learn more about or get in touch with Barbara!

Mentioned in this episode:

#pageturner

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 035: Kale Lawrence

Kale Lawrence Title Card: Image

For me, there’s nothing better than looking at a book on my shelf and thinking, “Wow, I have literally met that author!” So you can imagine my excitement at interviewing today’s Coffee Break guest in person. South Dakota native Kale Lawrence is working on the second book of her young adult science-fiction/steampunk fantasy series, Alex in Wunderstrande.

“Any author that’s ever written a series is amazing, and I look up to them because it is such hard work.”

Image of Alex in Wunderstrande BookIn addition to writing a book series, Kale and I talk about interacting with local authors and writing communities, taking the time to ensure your writing looks and feels the way you want, and the hardest (and often most overlooked) step of self-publishing.

“Self-publishing is a beast. I would recommend self-publishing to those who…have the ability to have someone either help them with marketing or are in marketing and understand the process.”

We also discuss the surprises that crop up in a writer’s life. There are always interesting people to meet and life experiences to draw upon. But sometimes the biggest surprise of all emerges from your own spontaneity!

“My strongest writing comes out in those chapters. That why I left some of the things unplanned.”

Be sure to click the links below to learn more about or get in touch with Kale!

Mentioned in this episode:

#wunderstrande

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

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Coffee Break 034: Jonathan White

Image of Jonathan White

Today’s episode of Coffee Break explores some truly wonderful paradoxes — the natural and spiritual world, science and myth, even human generosity and criticism.

All of these themes can be witnessed within the subject of the ocean’s tides. The ebb and flow of this elemental force has captured the imagination and curiosity of Jonathan White, writer, sailor, educator, and today’s special guest.

“It wasn’t something I planned… it was something I fell into. I’m fascinated by the natural world. I’m really fed by it.”

Jonathan is the author of Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, a half-poetic, half-scientific documentary of some of the most spellbinding locations and people on the planet. In fact, during a decade of study and personal encounters, Jonathan has often found himself with a foot in two different worlds.

“You can have a spiritual/mythological perspective of the tide. But you can also have the modern science of the tide. It’s not like you have to fit them together or make them fit. They can coexist.”

In today’s episode, we discuss the great lengths in which writers sometimes must go in order to satisfy their curiosity. Jonathan shares the time and trials of assembling a book over the course of ten years and the criticism he attributes to its success. He also shares his stories of enigma and human generosity as he travels the globe in search of the many influences of the tides.

“There’s a time when you just have to go somewhere. I really did come to a point where I had to close my computer down and say ‘I just have to go and see what’s going on there.’”

I hope you’ll join us for this interesting conversation. But more than anything, I hope you’ll be inspired to act upon your curiosities and passions as well as seek out the people who share them.

Mentioned in this episode:

#tides

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Woooo!

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so you have nothing to lose. #winning

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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Living A Creative Life – WN 056

Title card for living a creative life

Hello friends! So… right out of the gate, let’s address what some of you are probably thinking right now. You’ve read the title of today’s episode, you’ve seen the above picture, and you’re thinking “Yeah, okay, Sarah. I’ll just quit my job and start painting every day.” ::eyeroll::

But this episode is definitely not about supporting yourself financially with your creative work.

I’m not even talking about filling your day-to-day life with arts and crafts (even though those can be a fun way to express yourself). So don’t worry — you don’t have to hang macaroni art on your walls or plant flowers in shoes to live a creative life. I mean, I certainly won’t stop you from doing so, but what I’m addressing today runs much deeper than that.

Today’s episode of the Write Now podcast is about asking yourself some tough questions and, most importantly, answering yourself honestly. But first things first. What does it even mean to live a creative life?

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

Dreams and Molds

Today, I mention one of my all-time favorite webcomics, XKCD by Randall Munroe. One of his strips really speaks to me. It talks about trading our dreams and aspirations in for the molds from which society tells us we should emerge. Heady stuff, to be sure:

Image of XKCD Comic 137

(I blurred out the strong language to keep this post family-friendly, but simply click it to read the whole thing!)

I’m also reminded of another work not mentioned in today’s episode that parodies “socially-sanctioned” creativity. The YouTube series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (also viewer discretion!) takes a more sinister look at how cultural norms poison and undermine our attempts to be different and creative.

I think these different works share a similar idea: that society has very defined expectations of us all.

We live in a world that encourages us to work hard and do well in school, get a job, get married, and raise a family, all while buying and owning the correct things at each stage of the process. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this plan, and it works well for many people.

The problem emerges when it becomes an expectation of us all, regardless if it’s the life we want for ourselves or not.

Elizabeth Gilbert touches upon this in her book Big Magic. It may be that we were raised by parents who valued rules, or avoided risk, or who just had no creativity to begin with. These are difficult things to rise above, especially if we were raised in and/or work in these environments.

But I think that’s what it really means to live creatively in today’s world. It’s not necessarily about proselytizing a quirky lifestyle, sustaining yourself on creative work alone, or even creating something in your free time every day.

Living creatively is about deciding and shaping for yourself the life in which you want to live.

The Big Questions

Like me, you may not even realize which molds you’ve been stuffed into until you’re an adult. So how can you tell if you’re living creatively or by someone else’s terms?

Here are some big (and sometimes tough) questions you can ask yourself.

  1. Are you living the life you want to live? This simple yes-or-no question may be the hardest one to answer honestly. It’s easy to look at all the advantages you have and say “Yep, I’m good.” But answering “no” to this question brings up a lot of uncertainties and leaves you wondering, “Well, what do I want?” Having the courage to answer honestly will ultimately give you more control over your life.
  2. Are you living out your purpose or calling? Again, this doesn’t necessarily pertain to your career. We all have to eat, after all. But what were you made for? What are you supposed to be doing? What’s the one thing that makes you feel like a million bucks when you do it? You may not know the answer to this question yet. But don’t stop searching.
  3. Are you deciding for yourself what you want? When answering the above two questions, keep this in mind. Is this what I want… or what I was told I want? The same goes for your calling — only you can decide that. It’s important to identify where your self interest intersects with your upbringing, your beliefs, the people who impact you, and what society in general expects of you. You may find the life you truly want lies outside of all of these influences. And you know what? That’s okay!
  4. Are you shaping your own world? Trick question — the answer is always “yes”. Whether you are consciously steering your life or passively letting it happen, what you do shapes how you live. The real question is, are you happy with that? And it’s okay to say “yes” or “no”, as long as you’re being honest. Hopefully, your answer will lead toward taking the steps you need to live the life you want.

So what does this all have to do with living a creative life?

A lot, actually. Creativity is stifled by fear, public opinion, and the limits placed upon us by others and ourselves. By identifying what it is we truly want, we can more easily recognize the obstacles that keep us from living it out. Much like human beings, creativity can only truly thrive in freedom.

Inspiration to click on!

Here are some links you may find useful:

It is my hope that today’s episode helps somebody take a good hard look at their life. Is that person you? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break 033: Jay Greenfield

Image of Jay Greenfield

Today’s episode of Coffee Break proves a point that I’ve been trying to make for years. And that is: it’s never too late to start writing.

No matter your background, profession, or passions, everyone has a story to tell. And, as far as stories are concerned, today we are in for quite a treat!

“I had an extremely good teacher who was very encouraging… but he also was very realistic that this was not a good way to make a living.”

My guest today is Jay Greenfield, born and raised New York author of Max’s Diamonds, a critically-acclaimed coming-of-age novel set in post-World War II America. At 84 years young, Jay draws upon his rich life and prominent career in law to give depth and personality to his writing.

“Putting words on paper is easy. Making them weave well and editing is tough.”

In today’s episode, Jay and I talk about his life and career choices that led to publishing his first novel as well as the influences that have made an impact on the stories he tells.

“You really can’t do anything well unless you’re willing to give it a total commitment.”

I’ll let Jay speak for himself, but I hope listeners can connect with his honesty and gain inspiration from his accomplishments. Thank you for sharing your life and your wisdom with us, Jay, and good luck on your next book!

Mentioned in this episode:

#amwriting

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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How To Prioritize Your Writing – WN 055

How To Prioritize Your Writing - Title Card

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a life filled with tasks, obligations, and priorities of varying urgency and importance. Sometimes there are so many assignments on my plate that even writing everything down in a list doesn’t alleviate the overwhelming stress of it all. This may be one of the rare times in life where “looking at the big picture” does more harm than good.

Or maybe the handful of tasks you flutter between in any given day just aren’t getting done. You begin to realize that focusing on all the things really translates to focusing on none of the things. Picking and nibbling away at your to-do list only seems to give it chances to regenerate new tasks for you to complete. You work hard but are never able to enjoy the feeling of completing anything.

On today’s Write Now podcast episode, we lay down in plain terms exactly what it takes to tackle your list. You may not like it (you may even hate it), but if you want to actually finish that list and start making time for your writing, we’re going to have to talk about something that absolutely nobody wants to talk about…

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Time Management!

Yes, I know. You’re a free spirit and can’t chain yourself to a schedule! (At least, I am.) But stay with me here. Managing your priorities and dedicating time to actually finishing them will free up more time to write and enjoy life than you may think. That’s why I’ve come up with seven steps to manage your time for people who hate time management.

  1. Make a list. Write down all of your priorities. Full-time work, part-time work, family, writing, reading, etc. Group together small tasks into larger categories to make things more manageable. You may already be familiar with this step. But instead of leaving it here, let’s actually make this list work for us.
  2. Reflect on your list. Think about what’s really important to you (not someone else!). Rank your list of priorities based on how meaningful they are to you. Just don’t mistake “meaningful” for “fun”. The top of my list is always going to be my full-time job, not because it’s what I want to do the most but because it enables me to do everything else on my list. It may sound weird, but it’s okay if spending time with your family or your writing takes a back seat to your job in your calendar. You need to complete one before you can enjoy another!
  3. Be real about time. Start thinking realistically about time spans and how much each of your ranked priorities take up. Your full-time job isn’t just eight hours a day. You still need time in the morning to get ready, commute, break for lunch, and come home. Time is a real and limiting factor here. You have just as many hours in your day as everyone else. But remember you don’t have to do everything now. Focus on the top-ranked priorities in your life before devoting time to others.
  4. Block off the big stuff. It is impossible for human beings to multitask very well. You’ll be working twice as hard for a fraction of the productivity. And the things will never get done! Use a tool like a day planner or Google Calendar to schedule when and where you’ll be focusing on your top priorities. Start by blocking off number one in your calendar and work your way down. Remember: you don’t have to do it all now! If you’re honest with yourself about how much time you have and put first things first, you won’t have to resort to multitasking.
  5. Block off your free time. This is probably the toughest part for me. If I don’t plan what I’ll be doing in the precious little free time I have, I do nothing. Committing to a schedule is especially important for writers. Minimize the amount of marketing and platform building through social media with tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or paid services like Meet Edgar. Set aside specific times for education and research, around 1-3 hours at a time. Opportunities for education are literally infinite and you can spend way too much time caught up in “learning to do it right”. When that time is up, commit to putting an end to learning and actually start doing it. Schedule the time you need to write every day and then write, darn it!
  6. Hold yourself accountable. Stick to your schedule and consciously focus on that one thing while you’re doing it. No multitasking, no distractions. Not everything on your list can be your number one priority. But at the same time, not all top priorities stay at the top. There will come a time when you can say yes to socializing and “me time”. This list is not set in stone for the rest of your life. Maybe this list is just for one year, one season, or one week. But for now, hold yourself to what is most important to you (not someone else!) and stick to actually doing it.
  7. Cut yourself some slack. Life changes and priorities change – sometimes very quickly. When you’re thrown a curve ball or manage to drop the ball completely (both inevitable, by the way), be patient with yourself. Nobody is perfect, which means no schedule is perfect. Hold yourself accountable, yes. But stay flexible. Give yourself a little grace now and then. Just get back on the horse and focus on one thing at a time!

Comparing Notes

More than anything, I want the Write Now podcast to encourage you to write. Sometimes that means dedicating time to obligations that act as obstacles to our writing. Time is real so we need to be real with ourselves about it. Here are some tools I mentioned in today’s episode that may help you to manage your time:

Also, here’s an image of my own calendar. I don’t share it with many people, but I’m happy to share it with you:

Image of Sarah's calendar.

Finally! Here’s the interview I did with Spreaker, as well as my episode of the Spreaker Live Show with Rob Greenlee (my segment starts at about 40 minutes in).

Was this episode useful to you?

My method of time management isn’t the only right way. How do you make time to write? What works best for you? I’d love to hear your story!

Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break 032: Sandy Kreps

Image of Sandy Kreps - Title Card

What’s the best way to break into professional writing? Sometimes you just have to fly by the seat of your pants! This week on Coffee Break, we talk about what it really takes to become a full-time writer.

“It isn’t until you take your job intentionally and deliberately… that people start to care.”

My guest today is Sandy Kreps, freelance writer, ghostwriter, and blogger on Modern*Simplicity, a website dedicated to helping people create stress-free lives. She and I talk about transitioning to becoming a full-time writer, the tools and attitudes it takes to get there, and the magic of connecting with people from around the world.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to throw something out there and get so much back in return.”

Sandy shares the honest ins and outs of her writing career, including the many hats a modern writer has to wear. Through multiple sources of income and her trusty bullet journal, she offers a fresh approach to paying the bills while also making time for passion projects. I hope today’s episode shows you some new ways to support a writing career. Thanks, Sandy!

“No matter what stage you are as a writer, the most important thing I could say is just do it and do it fearlessly.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#bulletjournal

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

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Coffee Break 031: Jake Heilbrunn

Image of Jake Heilbrunn

For me, it’s fascinating to look back and see an author’s humble beginnings through their earlier work. But it’s even more of a treat to witness a writer’s craft develop as they grow as people. This week on Coffee Break, we take a look at transition, self-discovery, and the pursuit of joy, both through writing and finding yourself through a “leap of faith”.

“I feel like my story is just a metaphor for having the courage to listen to your inner voice and take that leap.”

My guest today is Jake Heilbrunn, blogger, motivational speaker, and author of Off the Beaten Trail: A Young Man’s Soul-Searching Journey Through Central America. We spoke about the personal struggles that motivated his yearning for travel, the people whose stories he tells along the way, and what it took to leave his entire life behind.

“I felt like I needed something to nourish my soul that was so far from anything I could understand… Your willpower is finite, but your environment can change everything.”

We also spoke about the learning process of self-publishing, the secret to writing over 100,000 words in three months, and the importance of a mindset of gratitude. But the themes of transformation and personal betterment prevails throughout our conversation.  And, as Jake assures us, all of us are united in the need to discover ourselves.

“The first step is the hardest part. No one’s ever fully ready.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#leapoffaith

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

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Introvert & Extrovert Writers – WN 054

Image for Introvert and Extrovert Writers - WN 054

As a writer, you are uniquely gifted with a voice that is capable of understanding and giving language to the human condition. Pretty lofty, huh? Knowing this, it probably behooves us to familiarize ourselves with what it means to be human. And the best place to start is getting to “know thyself”, as the old standby goes.

So let’s start with the basics and ask, “Am I an introvert or an extrovert?”

In today’s episode of the Write Now podcast, we explore the places and social situations in which you as a writer flourish and the source of your creative energy.

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The Armchair Philosophy

Let’s get one thing straight: the classification of introverts and extroverts is not scientific. It’s simply an assessment of your personal reactions to social stimuli and how you prefer to rest. As such, there are many already-debunked myths about each kind of person that continue to pervade what we think when we hear these terms.

Introverts are typically viewed as shy, quiet, overly sensitive anti-social shut-ins with a penchant for collecting felines. On the flip side, extroverts are labeled as loud, self-centered, overly-friendly, people-loving leaders with energy to spare. But we all know these are just stereotypes. No one is truly one or the other. In fact, the term ambivert eludes to a fairly even mixture of intro- and extroversion. But yes, there is a definite spectrum here. And understanding where you thrive on that spectrum can help your writing in a big way.

Most people see writing as a quiet, solitary introvert activity. But some of the greatest authors of all time are extroverts. It all depends on how writing energizes you. Do you prefer exchanging ideas in a group? Do you need a quiet place in which to lose yourself? Or do you like mixing it up with a bit of both? You don’t have to limit yourself to just one method. Just be flexible and be sure to take time and refresh yourself between writing sessions.

Wearing Many Hats

As modern-day writers, we have to fill a plethora of roles that, on their own, make up entire job descriptions. On top of actually writing something, we are expected to:

  1. Read and critique others’ work
  2. Listen to criticism and praise
  3. Observe our surroundings
  4. Strategize, both novel plots and advertising our work
  5. Market ourselves as authors and maintain our platform
  6. Act as Public Relations to our readers and critics
  7. Speak about our processsometimes for crowds
  8. Communicate with editors and publicists
  9. Sell our writing as a product
  10. …and the list goes on…

As you can imagine, no one person is able to flawlessly perform all of these duties. But when we understand how much of an introvert or extrovert we are, we can identify our strengths and weaknesses. This, in turn, helps us discover the types of people we need to surround ourselves with and draw upon to be successful. It also helps us identify how and how often we rest and recharge.

One of the most helpful tools you can draw upon is a personality assessment. Whether it’s an extensive Myers Briggs test or a free evaluation like 16personalities, understanding how you make decisions, what motivates you, and how you interact with people is invaluable to a writer. I encourage you to take one, if you haven’t already. It never hurts to reconnect with yourself from time to time.

Helpful Resources

I hope you found this week’s episode useful! Here are the different personality tests I talked about:

As a writer, where do you get your energy? How does your personality reflect how you write?

Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Does Listening To Music Help You Write? – WN 053

Does Listening To Music Help You Write? - Title Card

It’s a question writers have been asking since owning copies of recorded sound was a thing. What’s the best kind of music to write to? Some swear by classical Baroque as a sure-fire muse. Others claim you should avoid listening to music while writing altogether. But how can you tell what’s right for you?

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The Soundtrack of Your Novel

In today’s Write Now podcast, I discuss the idea of curating music, much like a museum or art exhibit is curated. What type of mood are you trying to achieve? What is the desired aesthetic you’re going for? Are you looking to jog yourself out of writer’s block and give your creative juices a jolt? Or are you trying to focus on the task at hand and be as productive as possible?

On the one hand, intelligible chatter (i.e., lyrics) proves to be one of the most distracting elements when it comes to concentrating. But the right inspirational phrase in your favorite song can create the positive emotion and, more importantly, the motivational intensity you may need to try something different. So which is best: a calming, lyric-less ambiance or a high energy, word-filled catalyst?

“Messy Minds”

Studies show no one is really that great at multitasking, at least not as great as focusing on one thing at a time. But neither is the human mind easily placated by just one external stimuli. We need to hunker down and get to work, but we also need some emotional incentive to jog our creativity from time to time. So the answer to the question “What kind of music should I listen to while I write?” may just be both.

Mellow and calming music (or even just good old-fashioned silence) may be best if you’re trying to focus on productivity and getting the words on the page. For those times when you feel burned out or uninspired, your favorite high-energy, passionate pop or metal anthem may help you discover some innovative new approach. You may find movie soundtracks or simple ambient noise sets a mood that coincides with your writing and helps set the mood. If you don’t know where to start, there are tons of curated playlists out there to help inspire the state of mind you need.

Just keep in mind that music can only help facilitate your writing — only habitual reading and writing will help you become a better writer!

Helpful Resources

Here are some of the articles I referenced in today’s episode:

What do you listen to while you write? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break 030: Janna Maron

Image of Janna Maron - Title Card

Sometimes the best way to share an intimate experience is to just tell it like it is. In this episode of Coffee Break, we explore the fascinating world of creative nonfiction and how to use storytelling to connect with readers on a more personal level.

“The creative nonfiction genre allowed me to do more self-reflection than I think is allowable in fiction.”

My guest today is Janna Maron, creator and editor of Under the Gum Tree, a reader-supported quarterly literary arts magazine. Under the Gum Tree features storytelling in the form of creative nonfiction and visual art, encouraging writers to share “stories without shame”.

“You ultimately have to create whatever community or support that you want for yourself.”

Today, Janna and I talk about discovering a passion project, the time and effort it takes to build it from the ground up, and the joys of sharing yourself with others. I hope Janna’s story inspires you to create something meaningful and have the courage to share it with complete strangers. You just may find your readers saying “Me too!”

“If you don’t see the thing that you want in the world, maybe that means you should be part of creating it and bringing it to life.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#underthegumtree

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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Personal Branding For Writers – WN 052


Episode 052 Title Card

You’ve probably never thought of yourself as a brand. But guess what? You already are one! Your name, your reputation, and the writing you’re working on are all part of your personal brand. What you choose to do with it and how far you plan on taking it are up to you.

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Living in a “Cult of Personality”

Whether it’s an author’s name or a corporation’s logo, seeing a name printed on something alters your perception of what’s inside. Oftentimes, our opinion of a book or a product is shaped by the people who create or endorse it.  True, personal brands are technically self-promotion and, therefore, a form of marketing. But marketing is just another tool you as a writer have to help find people who want to read your work.

Established authors often have access to publishers, who usually take care of publicity and marketing. But if you’re just starting out, you’ll have to wear a lot of hats if you want to get your name out there. Today, writers have to be able to play the part of web designer, content manager, and social media contributor on top of finishing their novel. It can seem overwhelming if you haven’t considered it before. But in episode 052 of the Write Now podcast, we’ll discuss several tips that will help establish your personal brand in a way that is not only manageable, but completely FREE.

DIY Marketing

The most common first impression you’re going to have to future readers will be online. If you’re new to the scene or you’re looking to branch out, here are some steps to establish yourself on the web.

  1. Google Yourself. It may sound basic (and maybe a bit weird) but you can bet it’s what your readers are going to be doing. What do you find? Do you like what you see? How are you portraying yourself? Everything (and I mean everything) associated with your name online can either hurt you or help you. The things you share, the comments you leave. These are what people associate with your personal brand. Make sure your name is leaving a trail of kind and useful content for people to find.
  2. Prioritize “Social” over “Media”. You don’t need to be on every social platform in the universe to stay relevant. Pick one or two and make regular, professional posts that cater to the interests of your followers without constantly trying to sell your book. Stick to the 80/20 Rule: post thoughtful, relevant updates 80% of the time and plug your book the other 20%. To help keep your personal brand consistent, refer to a mission statement and keep your profile picture and name the same across all platforms. And always remember to think before you post!
  3. Own Your Space. You may already be established on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But what happens when those sites go down or disappear entirely? They take your entire personal brand down with it. Consider investing in your own website. It shows the internet that you’re legit and skyrockets your SEO (search engine optimization). Keep the URL simple and make sure your email and social media presence stays professional and relevant to who you are.
  4. Keep Your Ear to the Ground. Be sure to check up on who’s saying what about you and your writing. Make use of hashtags in your social media posts to help future readers find you. Use free monitor software like Google Alerts to easily see when your name or book pops up online. Leave only helpful and kind messages in comment sections and when you see incorrect or downright negative comments, do not respond!
  5. Don’t Forget to Finish It! Throughout this whole personal branding process, keep in mind that your writing is the most important thing. Without your novel, story, screenplay, or poem, you have nothing to market! So be sure to devote your best time and energy to actually finishing your writing. You can preschedule tweets and posts with apps like Buffer and Hootsuite. Remember to keep your work at the forefront of your personal brand.

How Do You Sell Yourself?

Share your own marketing tips and online networking exploits via my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Creative Writing, Podcast, Write Now Full Episodes

Should I Use A Pen Name? – WN 051

Should I Use A Pen Name? - WNP 051 Title Card

Besides all being authors, what do Mark Twain, George Eliot, Richard Bachman, J.K. Rowling, Cassandra Clare, Lemony Snicket, and Carolyn Keene have in common? That’s right– these are all pen names! But this isn’t just for well-known authors. Any writer may choose to publish their works under a pseudonym, and for a variety of reasons.

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

An author by any other name…

If you’re publishing something you’ve worked so hard to finish and share with the world, why bother hiding your name? In episode 051 of the Write Now podcast, we explore the stories behind the pen names listed above. But here are six reasons why anonymity might make sense for you:

  1. Conceal your identity. This may be the original reason authors have used pen names but it’s still widely done today, and for a variety of reasons. It might lend credibility to a female author writing from a male point of view or vice versa. Using a pseudonym may protect an author writing on sensitive topics or in a medium outside their profession. Or it could be a simple matter of protection of privacy. There’s nothing wrong with a little anonymity.
  2. Invent a memorable name. Sometimes you just need to jazz things up a bit. Maybe your name is exceedingly common, too similar to another recognizable name, or just not a good fit for the type of book you’re publishing. In contrast to reason number one, you may want to use a pen name to grab attention, not avoid it.
  3. Distance different works from each other. Maybe you’re like J.K. Rowling and you want to mix things up from time to time. That may be difficult if you’re known as a “fantasy author” and you want to write a murder mystery. If your name has widespread recognition, that notoriety may stifle the success of your creativity. The solution may be starting over with a fresh moniker.
  4. Hide your productivity. If you’re blessed with Stephen King-like prolificness, you may want to consider spreading your work over a variety of names. Similar to the above reason, you may want to avoid being “type cast” as a specific type of author. You also may want to avoid your readers mistaking you for a think tank of ghostwriters.
  5. Combine a group of writers. In contrast to reason four, some book series like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are actually many different writers published under a single author’s name. This may be done to avoid reader confusion and provide a more consistent style and tone to a series. This may also be done to boost book sales by using an established author’s name recognition or license.
  6. Freedom to write. A pen name isn’t just for marketing and branding. It can even help an author as they’re writing. If the thought of criticism or “putting yourself out there” is holding you back, the simple act of changing your name can lend you the courage or mind frame to see things through to the end.

Is a pen name right for me?

Ultimately, the choice to write under a pseudonym is your own. If you identify with one or more of the reasons above, there are a few questions you can ask yourself before deciding to use a pen name:

  • Am I okay not receiving direct credit for my work? Will I want to consolidate later?
  • How will it feel to write under an assumed name? Will it free or hinder me?
  • How secretive do I want to be? Am I avoiding publicity altogether or just obscurity?
  • How will this name affect my brand? Website? Social media? Legal documents?

How would you go about choosing a pen name? Would it hold some special meaning to you? Does it sound good or have a pleasing alliteration? Are you concerned with alphabetical shelf placement or reader recognition? Or are you interested in assuming a more unique or memorable name? I’d love to hear your thoughts via my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 029: Paul Sating

Image of Paul Sating - Title Card

FRIENDS! On today’s Coffee Break episode, I’m featuring a kind of storytelling that I’ve never featured before: the audio drama!

“I wanted to tell fresh stories… It keeps me loving the art of writing.”

With us today is veteran podcaster and storyteller Paul Sating, whose Subject: Found and Diary of a Madman are (respectively) delightfully lore-filled and spooky-fantastic.

“I can’t wait for my alarm to go off in the morning because I get to go write one of those things.”

Today, Paul and I talk about audio drama, podcasting, waking up excited about writing, not getting discouraged, and tons more. I hope you enjoy it — and more than that, I hope you are inspired to start your own audio drama (or at least work on your own project) today!

“It’s just so much fun to experiment with the world you’ve already built.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#audiodrama

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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The Most Important Question A Writer Can Ask – WN 050

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Sometimes the most important aspect of writing is not the words you string together but the questions you ask. So I’ve created episode 050 of the Write Now podcast to guide you along your way.

Help support my podcast on Patreon! >>

Just ask.

Some of us were trained early on in our writing education to ask questions — who, what, why, where, when, and how. Questions are crucial to understanding. But not everyone has had this education, and that’s OK! That’s why I’m sharing an excellent question with you today:

Why?

I know it sounds simple — it’s one word, and two-year-olds ask it all the time — but sometimes the simplest things are the most important. Asking why? allows us to chisel away at extraneous information until we find ourselves at the core of truth of a story, be it fictional or nonfictional.

  • Why did this character do X, Y, or Z?
  • Why did this character get angry when X happened? (Or, why did this character not get angry?)
  • Why did X happen after Y happened?
  • Why might this character not like the news he or she received?
  • …etc.

You can even get a little existential and ask things like,

  • Why am I writing this?
  • Why am I writing this now?
  • Why am I having trouble writing this?

These questions also make for great journal entries. 🙂

Stay curious.

There’s something happening to us, as a culture — in the media we consume and the stories we tell. A lot of people have lost their natural curiosity and stopped asking, “Why?”

My digital mentor, Seth Godin, said it best in his brief but brilliant article, “The Candy Diet”:

“Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.

And of course, newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for telling us things we didn’t want to hear. We’ve responded by not buying newspapers any more.

The economics seem to be that the only way to make a living is to reach a lot of people and the only way to reach a lot of people is to race to the bottom, seek out quick clicks, make it easy to swallow, reinforce existing beliefs, keep it short, make it sort of fun, or prurient, or urgent, and most of all, dumb it down.

And that’s the true danger of anti-intellectualism. While it’s foolish to choose to be stupid, it’s cultural suicide to decide that insights, theories and truth don’t actually matter. If we don’t care to learn more, we won’t spend time or resources on knowledge.

We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that’s left is candy.”

I believe that it’s our job as writers to re-light that spark of curiosity in people. It’s our job to get people excited about truth and possibility and making the world a better place.

It starts with you, and your willingness to ask, “Why?”

What question(s) are you asking?

What questions help you to be a better writer? Let me know! I’d also love to hear about your novel- (or memoir- or poetry book- or song- or blog post-) to-be via my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 028: David Galef


Image of David Galef Title Card

OK, so I might be biased, but I think today’s conversation with David Galef is awesome.

David is the author of more than 15 books, a former professor at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and is now an English professor and the creative writing program director at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“I like trying to excite people with possibility.”

Novels, poetry, short stories… if you can name it, David has probably written it. His latest book, Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, documents the history of flash fiction and provides tips and techniques for writing in this condensed genre.

“Readers interject themselves anyway into a good short storyI think they have to do it even more in a piece of flash fiction.”

Today, David and I talk about his new book, the power of brevity in writing, compartmentalizing your life to make room for good writing habits, and so much more. Seriously, this episode is packed with David’s wisdom, so get out a notebook and enjoy!

“I don’t want to dismiss any kind of flash fiction. I think there’s a huge tent. What I wanted to do in this book was write about the various kinds and explore the possibilities.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#flashfiction

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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What I Learned From Writing A Book In One Week – WN 049

Image: What I Learned From Writing A Book In One Week

HELLO DEAR FRIENDS! I am back in your ears with Episode 049 of the Write Now podcast, which showcases 10 lessons I learned while writing a book in one week. (That’s right: one week.)

Who you gonna call?

Some of you may know that I ghostwrite books in my spare time. This means I’m paid to write books (or blog posts, articles, memoirs, etc.) under someone else’s name so that they get the credit. This usually happens when the person is too busy to write, or perhaps an expert in their field but not a great writer.

Ghostwriting is fun and interesting for me, and I love doing it. So when someone asked me to take on a ghostwriting rush job with a deadline in one week, I said yes because I love a challenge and also I am insane.

(Want to hire me to ghostwrite your book? Get in touch with me at Write Now LLC!)

Here are the 10 lessons I learned:

  1. Writing is work. Hard work, and often tedious.
  2. Writing takes time. And yes, time is a very real and very limiting factor.
  3. The very best thing you can do is put your butt in your seat and commit to writing.
  4. Know how to prevent burnout — and know what to do if and when you do get burned out.
  5. The most important thing you can do right now is get your first draft finished. You can always edit, polish, and research later.
  6. Do not overcommit yourself — there are only a certain number of working hours in a day, and you should not more take on more work than those hours permit you to complete.
  7. Outlines are amazing.
  8. Dread is cumulative — once you start writing, you realize that it’s not as daunting or scary as you thought it would be.
  9. Realizing, “Yeah, I can do this,” and gaining the confidence I needed to write my own stuff.
  10. Accountability in the form of a deadline can be invaluable.

What lessons have you learned in writing?

Share what you’ve learned in the comments below! I’d also love to hear about your current work in progress via my contact page, in a comment below, or by emailing me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 027: Jocelyn K. Glei

Jocelyn K. Glei Title Card

Hey friends, I am thrilled this week to bring you an inspiring conversation with Jocelyn K. Glei. Jocelyn is a writer living in Los Angeles and is the former Founding Editor and Director of 99U. She has written several books on productivity and business and recently made the transition to writing full time.

“You’re shifting because you have to develop completely different habits, right?  You have to develop habits of, like, writing most of the day versus you know kinda working in an office environment…”

Jocelyn’s latest book, Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done tackles the very real problem of e-mail taking over so much of our time every day and gives practical tips on how to get your e-mail habits under control so you can be more productive.

“Writing is a way of thinking, or figuring out what you think, or clarifying your thoughts.”

In our conversation we talk about the balance between business and creativity, how she’s making the transition to writing full time, what keeps her focused, and the importance of learning from everyone around you. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

“Nothing worthwhile in life comes with instructions.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#plantheworkworktheplan

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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Coffee Break 026: Patrick Hicks

Image of Patrick Hicks

My friends. I am so stoked to bring you this week’s podcast episode — a conversation with Patrick Hicks, poet, author, and the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana University as well as a faculty member at the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. (Whew!)

“Whatever scares you to write… that’s what you should be writing.”

Patrick has written more than 10 books and has a wonderfully thoughtful take on the writing process and the publishing industry. His most recent novel, The Commandant of Lubizec, explores the death camps of the Holocaust and the people who worked at, lived in, and rebelled against them.

“I find it more useful as a fiction writer to write what I don’t know.”

Patrick and I talk about fiction as a shared dream between writer and reader, what it’s like to write (and research) a historical novel, how to see the world through a writer’s eyes, how traveling can change the way you write, how to deal with fear, and so much more. I hope you enjoy it!

“One of the things that I learned very quickly when my first poetry collection came out… we opened some champagne and I was like, Wow, this is great — look, it’s my book! Look, it’s my book! And about an hour went by, and my wife said, Patrick, you’ve still gotta take the garbage out.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#wordpower!

Note: I am INCREDIBLY sorry about the crackling noise in the middle of this week’s episode! I hope it doesn’t drive you too mad, and that you’re still able to enjoy Patrick’s amazing message!

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

Listen:

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 025: Fauzia Burke

Fauzia Burke Title Card

Oh my gosh you guys. I loved talking to Fauzia Burke, the founder of FSB Associates, a PR firm that promotes books online. She is smart, insightful, optimistic, and experienced, and has a great laugh that will keep you smiling throughout this episode.

Oh yeah, and she’s here with us today to talk to you about marketing your book online.

“That was sort of my love affair with the web — it started with that one click.”

Fauzia went from working in traditional publishing back in 1995, when the internet was just beginning, to being the digital consultant who built Sue Grafton’s first website.

“There is a little bit of that in the self-publishing market… that whole idea of optimism, of joy, of just getting things done, of not waiting for permission… I think there’s a lot of empowerment in that.”

In today’s episode, Fauzia and I talk about the New York book publishing bubble, the joy and experimentation that come with self-publishing, being a Writer with a capital W, work/life/writing balance, social media marketing, the future of book marketing, taking risks, and more. I hope you enjoy it!

“Double down on what’s working — and ditch what’s not working.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#marketyoself!

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Announcement, Personal

Thanksgiving

Thank You image

When I started the Write Now podcast back in January 2015, I had no idea where it was going to go. I just began walking down the path to see where it led, because I was curious.

I had no idea that it would lead to meeting so many amazing writers like you.

I had no idea that it would lead to more than 50 five-star iTunes reviews or a nomination for the 2016 Podcast Awards.

I had no idea that this weird little indie podcast would grow into a worldwide community focused on strengthening, empowering, and encouraging other writers.

I always say that my favorite thing about writing is being surprised. You’ve surprised me with your warmth, generosity, loyalty, and sheer dedication to your craft.

And for all of that (and more), I want to say:

Thank you.

I am grateful to you for your listenership and support, and I’m excited about what we’re going to accomplish together in 2017.

Words & warmth,
Sarah

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 024: Ginny Carter

Ginny Carter interview title card

Hey friends! I had a lovely time speaking with Ginny “The Authormaker” Carter, a professional ghostwriter and writing coach.

“You don’t want to get halfway through and then realize [you’re writing] the wrong book.”

I sometimes feel like I spend a lot of time podcasting about fiction writing and neglecting nonfiction, so hopefully today’s episode makes up for that. 😀

“Building up a whole new audience for a book is a lot harder work than using the one you’ve already got when you come to sell it.”

Ginny and I have a lovely conversation for you about the nonfiction book-writing process, different modes of publication, and Ginny’s favorite aspect of being a writing coach. I hope you enjoy it!

Mentioned in this episode:

#authormaking!

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | Ello | Instagram | Pinterest

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30 Tips for 30 Days of NaNoWriMo – WN 048

30 NaNoWriMo Tips - Title Card

I love this time of year — the crisp November air, the interminable rains, the smell of decaying leaves, and NaNoWriMo. That’s right — Episode 048 of the Write Now podcast is here to help you get through this wonderful season of marathon creativity in style.

What is NaNoWriMo, and is it right for me?

That’s a great question! And the answer is:

  1. NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month”, and it’s a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, from November 1-30.
  2. Maybe?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

OK, I don’t mean to be flippant. NaNoWriMo is intentionally inclusive and tons of fun, but it can also be incredibly frustrating to folks like you and me who are busy, and may not have the time or energy to write 1,700 words every day.

Still curious whether or not you should do it? Check out Write Now Episode 027: NaNoWriMo And You for more insight.

30 Writing Tips for 30 Days of NaNoWriMo

And now… as promised, 30 writing tips for NaNoWriMo. Hopefully you will find at least one helpful.

  1. Remember you are a writer. Say, “I am a writer!” to your friends, your family, your coworkers, your reflection in the mirror… however best allows it to sink in.
  2. Don’t give up. It’s easy to fall behind during NaNoWriMo — after all, writing 1,700 words per day is no easy task. If you do fall behind, the notion that you have to make up for it and write 3,400 words the next day, or 5,100 the next can be enough to make you want to quit. But don’t.
  3. Schedule time to write. If it’s not on my calendar, I don’t do it. Blocking off dedicated time on your schedule to write every day not only gives you the time you need to write, but it also creates an appointment that you can’t let yourself miss.
  4. Don’t put it off. It’s so easy to sit down to write and “take just a moment” to check Facebook or sports scores. But don’t do it! Sit down and start writing. Facebook will still be there when you’re ready for a break.
  5. Don’t think — just write. Just start putting words down. Don’t overthink it right now — NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality.
  6. “Embrace the suck,” as my friend Mark Adam Thomas says. Don’t pressure yourself into creating something perfect — give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. You can turn it into something beautiful during editing.
  7. Tell your friends and family you’re doing NaNoWriMo. This advice also comes from Mark Adam Thomas, and it was especially helpful for me. If people know you are doing something that is important to you throughout the month of November, they will likely be more understanding if you need to duck out of obligations here or there. Plus, it adds accountability.
  8. Use the NaNo Buddy System. Connect with fellow WriMos on the NaNoWriMo website! It’s a great way to be held accountable and to meet folks who are going through the same thing you are. (Become my buddy here!)
  9. Stock up on snacks. You’ll thank me later.
  10. Don’t stop reading. I know, it can be tempting to exchange your daily reading time for extra writing time. But don’t do it! Or at least don’t sacrifice it all. Reading is essential if you want to grow as a writer, even during NaNoWriMo.
  11. Keep quick inspiration close. Stay inspired as you slog along with an inspirational quote on your monitor, a magazine cutout of what your main character looks like, or your favorite book at hand.
  12. Save the research for later. This is one lesson I learned the hard way. If you’re not sure what kind of lighting would have lit your character’s home in 1860, don’t stop writing to research it. Simply make a note and keep writing.
  13. Pump the music. Drown out noisy neighbors or psych yourself up for an awesome writing session with the right music. Lyrics optional. (I also love writing to rainymood.com.)
  14. Write what excites you. Sometimes we get stuck in the soggy middle of our novel, ready to give up, when all we really want to do is write the ending. Or the romantic scene. Or the one part where all the baby elephants run amok in the television studio. You do not have to write your novel in order — if you’re excited about the ending, write the ending!
  15. Use a prompt. Stuck? That’s OK. The internet is chock full of prompts. (I also have a set of story dice that are kind of fun in a pinch.)
  16. Turn off your phone. You’ll be amazed at how your productivity soars. And if you can’t afford to be out of touch, put your phone in airplane mode and adjust the settings to allow important phone calls through.
  17. Keep it portable. It’s cool if you want to write your novel wholly on a massive typewriter from 1916, but do note that it will be hard to write during your lunch break, on the subway, or any other time you’re on the go. Try using a journal, notebook, laptop, or other portable device so you can be ready to write whenever time permits.
  18. Identify and stay away from time-sucks. Do you have a bad Facebook habit? Maybe November is a great time for a Facebook fast. Or is there a TV show you’re watching but don’t really enjoy? That time might be better spent writing instead. The point here is to identify chunks of wasted time and replace it with writing.
  19. Say “no” to fear. Every writer — even famous writers — wrestles with writing-related fears (fear of failure, fear of writing subpar material, etc.). It didn’t stop them, so don’t let it stop you.
  20. Tone down your need to win. There’s nothing magical about hitting the 50,000 word mark — you can have a successful NaNoWriMo whether you write 1,700 words per day or 170. Seriously. Do what you can, write every day, and don’t give up.
  21. Take care of yourself. I know it’s tempting to say, “I’ll sleep once November’s over!” But… don’t. Please take care of yourself. Sleep regularly. Eat regular meals. Sacrificing your health is not worth it.
  22. Help your future self. This is a great mindset if you’re prone to instant gratification. Make decisions with your future self in mind — decisions that will inspire gratefulness, not regret.
  23. Don’t waste time formatting. It’s tempting to procrastinate by changing your novel’s font, or deciding to make the chapter titles ALL UPPERCASE instead of Title Case. After all, you’re still “working” on your novel, right? Wrong! Stop messing with formatting and get back to writing. (I like to use OmmWriter or a plain text document for writing just for that purpose.)
  24. Count it toward your 10,000 hours of mastery. I know the “10,000 Hour Rule” has been debunked. But it’s still important to invest time in mastering your craft — and NaNoWriMo is a great time during which to do that. If you’re feeling frustrated by your less-than-amazing novel and on the verge of quitting, just remember — you’re putting in the time now to better master it later.
  25. Try outlining. Are you a pantser like me? Then the idea of creating an outline may sound unbearably dull. But even the most high-level of outlines can help steer you back on track later on during NaNoWriMo if you get stuck.
  26. Boost your word count with chapter titles, quotes, etc. Feeling a little glum about your word count? That’s OK — just like Bingo, NaNoWriMo has a free space or two. Long, rambling chapter titles, quotes from sources that support your themes, and even meaningless rants by your character’s best friend can help carry you to your goal on a bad day.
  27. Use “but” and “therefore”, not “and”, to connect the dots in your story. The most boring stories link events using “and”: “Mary went to the donut shop and bought a donut. And then she ate it. And then she went home.” More interesting stories use “but” and “therefore”: “Mary went to the donut shop, but it was closed. Therefore, she decided to learn magic to conjure up her own donuts out of thin air.” I know those are terrible examples, but you get the idea.
  28. Got PTO? Use it! Most folks here in the U.S. are terrible about taking all of their PTO (paid time off — accumulation of sick time and vacation time). So during NaNoWriMo, if you have extra PTO, why not use it for a couple days worth of writing?
  29. Be patient. Writing is hard work, and it’s easy to get frustrated with yourself. So be sure to give yourself some grace and don’t be too hard on yourself during NaNoWriMo.
  30. Have fun! You love writing, remember? 🙂

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Be my NaNoWriMo buddy! Just sign up on the website or find me if you’re already a member — I’m username Juneva Spragg. (It’s a pen name from a million years ago… I’ve tried to change it to Sarah Rhea Werner, but so far it’s a no-go.)

***UPDATE: I HAVE CHANGED MY NANOWRIMO NAME thanks to listener Anika! I am now Sarah Rhea Werner.

I’d also love to hear about your novel-to-be via my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com — I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 023: Kevin T. Johns

Kevin T Johns Title Card

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You guys! I had a blast talking with author and writing coach Kevin T. Johns (who just also happens to be a fellow podcaster as well)!

M School, Kevin's new novelKevin is the author of several books, including M School, a novel about teenage assassins that comes out October 29, 2016. He is also a really smart dude with some great insights about what it takes to be a successful writer.

“One of the secrets to success is just sticking with it. It’s just not giving up, knowing that nothing happens overnight, and that… if you really just fight through the hard times, somewhere down the road, there’s going to be some sort of payoff.”

One of my favorite segments from today’s show is about the expectations that aspiring writers have about what it means to be a writer — and the actual reality of being a writer.

“The doors that opened to me from publishing a book were none of the ones I expected, but it’s completely changed my life.”

Kevin and I had a fun and honest conversation about being too busy, the difficult choices that successful writers make, and making the most of the time we have.  Enjoy!

“Someone might hear, oh, Kevin has 3 kids and a day job and a couple businesses and he’s got a new book coming out — wow, Kevin can do it all! But the reality is like, I’m not that good at my day job, I don’t spend as much time with my kids as I wish I could, I’m utterly exhausted… things give.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#sacrifices!

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

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Coffee Break 022: Honorée Corder

Honoree Corder -- Title Card

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Today I am proud to share with you a conversation I had with the wonderfully wise and delightful Honorée Corder.

Prosperity for Writers Cover ImageHonorée is a speaker, business coach, writing coach, and Writer with a capital W. She is also a smart, sassy, and successful entrepreneur who has published 20 books (including Prosperity for Writers) and knows what it takes to sell them.

“Nothing takes as short a period of time as you would like it to take… Everything’s going to take longer, cost more money, and require more effort, and so what? Just keep doing it.”

Honorée provides a refreshing voice for hopeful writers in a world that says all artists must be starving artists. Essentially, her goal is to help writers quit doing the things they don’t love so that they can do the things they do love.

“I want people to do what they love and recognize that they can make an abundance of money from that.”

Honorée and I had a great conversation about being a Writer with a capital W, self publishing, leveraged income, “BOLO-ing”, the four hurdles to becoming a prosperous author, and tons more. This is a great episode and I hope you enjoy it!

“The harder and smarter I work, the luckier I get.”

Mentioned in this episode:

#bolo!

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

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What They Didn’t Teach You In School – WN 047

Episode 047 Title Card

We learned a lot of great things in school. But our educational system isn’t perfect, and there are some things we should have learned that we didn’t (and things we did learn that we maybe shouldn’t have). Episode 047 of the Write Now podcast is here to take a closer look at what this means for us today as writers.

What DID we learn?

First! Please note that today’s episode is highly subjective to my own experience — but I still hope you’ll connect with it and find some value for your own life. 🙂

Like I said above, we learned a lot of great things in school — that sharing is caring, for instance. And that John Keats wrote some lovely poetry, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, and whales are mammals. These are all very good things to learn.

We also learned that:

  1. Spelling, grammar, and handwriting are important, and the rules must always be obeyed.
  2. There was a vast difference between what I wanted to write for myself (creation) and what I was instructed to write by my teachers (regurgitation).
  3. A five-paragraph essay is the most essential thing you will ever write, especially in preparation for state-mandated proficiency tests.
  4. Failure should be avoided at all costs.
  5. Grades matter.
  6. Graduation is some kind of ending point.
  7. We need permission to answer a question, go to the bathroom, get out of gym class, etc.

We learned many things that made us successful in school, but not necessarily successful in life — and we never learned to un-learn these once we left school for the “real world”.

The School of Life puts it this way in the video:

“School curricula are not reverse-engineered from fulfilled adult lives in the here and now.”

You can watch the video here (it’s fantastic — and short!):

So… what DIDN’T we learn?

Our adult lives are structured differently than our childhood lives, and this is not something we are ever taught. It’s something we are left on our own to discover — which is great, except that many people never do.

Along those lines, here are several other crucial items that we never learned in school:

  1. We don’t need permission to live our lives or to call ourselves writers.
  2. What it actually means to live a fulfilled, successful life.
  3. How to make a living as a writer in the “real world” — how to write a query letter, whether or not you need an agent, how publishing works, or even the different career paths you can take as a writer.
  4. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, failure should be embraced and is a great way to learn.
  5. Language is fluid and organic — its main purpose is to facilitate clear communication. It’s OK to question tradition. It’s OK to end a sentence in a preposition or begin a sentence with a conjunction. It really is!
  6. How to think and live creatively. (h/t to the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert on this one.)
  7. We are free.

I hope today’s episode is valuable for you.

What about you?

What did you learn in school that served you well as a writer — and what do you wish you would have learned? What does it mean for you to be free and live a creative life? Let me know via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Coffee Break 021: Jenny Bravo

Jenny Bravo - Image

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Aside from having an amazingly perfect name, Jenny Bravo is the author of These Are The Moments, as well as the Jenny Bravo Books (formerly Blots & Plots) blog.

Image of These Are The Moments BookJenny works a full-time job in addition to writing and blogging and producing online courses, so she was a natural fit for this show.

“I’m a planner by survival… So if I’m going to sit down on my lunch break and write… I’d better know what I’m writing.”

Jenny’s full-time job is in insurance — which isn’t glamorous, but it does afford her the creative energy to write over her lunch break and when she gets home.

“We have to stop wishing that our circumstances were different and just be OK with what they are and figure it out from there.”

Jenny and I have a beautifully honest conversation about writing sprints, not editing as you write, handwriting with pen & paper, being distracted from writing by the internet, keeping a scene list, our mutual love of Twitter, and tons more. I hope you enjoy it.

Mentioned in this episode:

You can listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes — and, while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of These Are The Moments, visit Jenny’s website, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 🙂

Support the show!

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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Crafting Your Mission Statement – WN 046

Crafting Your Mission Statement - Title Card

A mission statement is a valuable tool for a writer — it can help you understand your own story, remind you of your purpose, and guide you toward your goals. And Episode 046 of the Write Now podcast is here to help you create a mission statement of your very own.

Why would a writer need a mission statement?

Life can be hard. And overwhelming, painful, frustrating, and difficult to navigate. That’s why it’s a great idea to have a mission statement as a writer — a written statement that you can visit when you begin to question why you’re doing this. Why it matters. Why you are worthwhile, and why what you’re writing is worthwhile.

A mission statement is a valuable tool for a writer, and can serve as a beacon, a lighthouse that keeps you focused on your goal. So even though the waters may become choppy, and storms may be forming overhead, and sharp rocks await your every turn, you can be sure to steer yourself safely toward shore.

How do I create my mission statement?

A mission statement is one of those simple things that nevertheless can take a lot of thought. I recommend generating it through a thinking or writing exercise, and maybe even journaling about it.

Here are the steps I recommend taking in today’s episode:

  1. Think about where you are now and where you want to go. Think about how you want your writing to impact the world. Dream big. This dream is your vision.
  2. Think about the qualities you value — what means the most to you — and write down five. These values will serve as the guiding principles that will help you accomplish your mission. Some examples could include truth, beauty, innovation, generosity, prosperity, love, joy, uniqueness, creativity, fun, etc. When you have five, narrow them down to three. (It might be hard, but you can do it.)
  3. Think or write about how your three values will help you live out your vision. It might help to define what each of those three values means to you.
  4. Craft an “I am” or “I will” statement that explains how you will use your values through your writing to make an impact on the world. This is your mission statement!

It’s perfectly okay if it takes you several rough drafts to reach your mission statement. It’s also okay if your mission statement, values, and vision change over time. People change and grow, and that is awesome.

How do I use my mission statement?

Once you’re done, post your mission statement somewhere you can easily reference it — a corkboard in your writing office, a Post-It note on your computer screen, etc. You can then use your mission statement to:

  • Remind you of your purpose when you’re having a bad day/week/month/year
  • Understand your own story
  • Make hard decisions, and know what to say “yes” and “no” to
  • Guide you toward your goals
  • Remind you that you are making a difference

My mission statement.

I wouldn’t ask you to craft a mission statement without creating one for myself. Here’s mine:

I will use my podcasting and writing skills to tell stories that use truth, creativity, and encouragement to nurture, heal, and inspire others — and in doing so, help make the world a better and more empathetic place.

And remember, these words aren’t carved in stone. It’s okay if your mission statement changes with you — in fact, it’s healthy.

What about you?

Do you have a mission statement? Or have you created one since listening to this episode? Let me know via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Coffee Break, Podcast

Coffee Break 020: Andrew Coons

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Happy Monday, my lovelies (and yes, there is such a thing!). On today’s show we’re talking with poet and filmmaker Andrew Coons, whose very first book, Sin Eater, came out this month.

Image of Sin EaterAndrew and I had a great conversation about career writing, putting yourself in the environment you want to be in, anxiety, depression, self-worth, and getting back into the things you love after putting them on hold for college and a career.

“The fear in the past has always been — what am I writing for… and can I be good enough? But by letting that go and writing for the sake of writing, then I find that whatever pops into my head, I’ll run with it. And it becomes a lot more rewarding.”

Despite his love for all different types of writing, Andrew finds himself drawn most to creative writing, like poetry and novel writing.

“Even though I’m a corporate screenwriter, I am a writer. And I can take that badge and apply it to the creative outlets.”

Andrew also gave me some insights that I needed to hear about self-care and sacrifice, which I hope you find enlightening as well. All in all, it was a really great conversation.

I hope you enjoy this week’s episode. You can listen to it using the controls above or on iTunes — and, while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of Andrew’s book, visit his website, or follow him on Instagram. 🙂

Bonus: A screenshot from our Skype conversation:

Andrew Coons on our Skype Call

Want to support the show?

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

Becoming a Patreon patron also gets you an invitation to be a beta tester for the Writers’ Guild, a new online writers’ group & forum that I’m creating. 🙂

I will send you emails.

Seriously! Sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so really, you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

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Announcement

Announcement: The Writers’ Guild

Hello, lovely friends! I have an exciting announcement for you.

Beginning in early September 2016, all supporters of the Write Now podcast on Patreon will get access to the beta version of an online writers’ group I’m developing through Facebook!

It’s called the Writers’ Guild and I’m super excited to take this next step with you.

The Writers' Guild FB Group Image

Want to Join the Beta Test?

Want to join the Writers’ Guild beta test? Simply become a patron of Write Now on Patreon to gain access. Otherwise, look for additional information coming soon about its official post-beta launch!

Words & warmth,

Sarah

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Careers for Writers – WN 045

Careers for Writers Title Card

Perhaps you majored in English, or maybe you simply love to write — either way, you’ve dreamed of a career in writing. But what kind of careers are available for you, and how difficult are they to get? And how do you find one that’s right for you? Episode 045 of the Write Now podcast is here to help you think it through.

Stuck in a soul-sucking, toxic day job?

Stuck in a soul-sucking, toxic day job while you dream of being a paid writer? First off, I’m sorry. That sucks.

Second! Please know this: You are not trapped. You have a choice in what you’re doing for your career — even (and especially) if you want to write.

What careers are available for writers?

In today’s episode, I outline 10 different career paths for people who dream about writing. I have done most of these throughout my own career, with the exception of strict newspaper journalism (#2) and grant writing (#4):

  1. Copywriter (technical, marketing/advertising, and web)
  2. Journalist
  3. Ghostwriter
  4. Grant writer
  5. Freelancer
  6. Proofreader, copy editor, or editor
  7. Blogger
  8. Content strategist (this is what I currently do, so I had to add it to the list!)
  9. Volunteer writer
  10. Creative writer (either for others or for yourself)

Remember: It’s OK to start small.

One thing I forgot to mention in today’s episode is that it’s okay to start small. You don’t need to immediate land a job at the Harvard Business Review or the New York Times to be happy and fulfilled in your work.

If you’re working for your hometown newspaper or doing grant writing for a small nonprofit, rejoice. You’re getting paid to write and that is amazing!

The fine print!

Hey! Just a few quick things so that you don’t sue me:

  1. Please note that listening to this podcast in no way guarantees that you will find a job in writing. (I felt like I needed to say that.)
  2. Please note, too, that jobs in writing are by no means easy.

Good thing this is work that you love.

What about you?

Are you stuck in a soul-sucking day job? What’s keeping you there? Or are you currently writing for a living? If so, what’s that like? Let me know via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Coffee Break 019: Hend Hegazi

Author Hend Hegazi Title Card

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Hello, my friends! Today’s show is an interview with Arab-American author Hend Hegazi, who has just published her second novel about gratefulness, forgiveness, and the universal yet hidden struggles we all deal with.

“Sometimes you’re missing that forgiveness in your own life, or you’re missing that love in your own life. And when you can write it down — when you can make a story — then you can get to feel those emotions that you so desperately need.”

Hend, who currently lives and writes in Egypt (and had to Skype in at something like 1:00 a.m. to make this call happen), is originally from the state of Massachusetts in the USA, where she studied at Smith College in preparation to become an optometrist — until tragedy struck her family.

“I try to be grateful for everything… but that doesn’t mean my life is free from difficulty.”

I loved Hend’s frank honesty, sense of humor, and insights about truth, faith, love, hatred, inclusivity, and being different — both as a Muslim-American in her life in the USA and as an educated, English-speaking woman living in Egypt.

“I’ve been a minority my entire life… When you’re the only girl in your high school who wears hijab, you get used to it. You have no option but to just be strong enough to deal with everything that comes your way.”

And bonus — Hend treats us to a reading from her newest book, Behind Picket Fences.

I hope you enjoy this week’s episode. You can listen to it using the controls above or on iTunes — and, while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of Hend’s books, visit her website, or follow her on Facebook. 🙂

Want to support the show?

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

It’s easy and in no way terrifying. Promise!

I will send you emails.

I’m not kidding! (Also: I’m wondering why I would kid about sending you emails.) IN ANY CASE, sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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Coffee Break 018: Mark Messick

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Oh, hey there, friends. I have a new guest for you this week — meet Mark Messick, the 16-year-old bestselling author of more than eleven books.

“The reason I’m successful is because I was naive.”

Mark decided that he wanted to become an author at age 10, and found his chance as his family transitioned to a new home. During that time, he also transitioned to being home-schooled, which gave him the unique opportunity to focus and hone  his writing and marketing skills.

“Whenever I write a new book, I learn new things about myself… Sometimes I think that I learn more writing books than reading them.”

Mark has a great attitude and tons of positivity and optimism about the future, even though he admits that he has no idea what it may hold.

“I think it’s important to have something to strive for, even if it’s not necessarily super-attainable.”

You can listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of Mark’s books, visit his website, take his Kindle course*, or follow him on Twitter.

“I think if you’re determined enough to do something, you can find a way to do it. “

*Disclaimer: Please note that this podcast episode is not an endorsement of Mark’s video course, as I have not taken the course myself. 🙂

Want to support the show?

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

It’s easy and in no way terrifying. Promise!

I will send you emails.

I’m not kidding! (Also: I’m wondering why I would kid about sending you emails.) IN ANY CASE, sign up for my email newsletter here! I don’t email incredibly often and I certainly don’t spam, so you have nothing to lose.

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

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How Do I Find My Muse? – WN 044

Image for How Do I Find My Muse?

Chances are, you’ve heard of the concept of a muse, whether you’ve read your fair share of Shakespeare or simply seen Disney’s Hercules. But can a muse possibly have an effect on us here in the modern world? Episode 044 of the Write Now podcast takes a look at the idea of a muse/genius/daemon and its effects on our inspiration to create.

Listeners, Beware: I realized after I had begun editing that, from timestamp 4:18 through 6:56, there is a dreadful popping/ticking noise in the background for about 2 minutes. I’m incredibly sorry and I’m trying to figure out what caused it so that it doesn’t happen again!

What is a muse?

A muse (the root of words like “music” and “museum”) is a divine entity that grants the spark of inspiration to mere mortals such as you and I. A muse can also be referred to as a genius or a daemon, and they are often depicted like this:

Image of Nine Muses

Or like this:

Another image of a muse

So… okay. Back in the day, people used to look to the muses for inspiration. But what does this have to do with us today?

Your elusive creative genius (a.k.a. muse).

Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing TED talk from 2009 talks about how, before the dawn of rational humanism, we used to talk about creatives as having a genius — having a muse that inspired them. But after this renaissance, after the individual began to be respected and venerated on its own, we began to talk about creatives as being a genius.

This subtle shift, Gilbert notes, marked a change in how writers (and other creatives) see and treat themselves, and how we are seen and treated by society.

Listen to the whole talk here — it’s 20 minutes but it’s 20 minutes of time well spent, trust me:

Similarly, Stephen King notes that:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter… Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.”

—Stephen King

So is the muse real, or is it a gimmick? Is it representative of a divine intervention, or some deep creative force that lies deep within our hearts?

Either way, interesting as that question is, it’s not what matters. Whether or not you believe in the concept of a muse—whether you think it’s a gimmick or a real-life entity—it’s still up to you to sit down every day to do the work.

Good thing it’s work that you love. 🙂

What about you?

Do you have a muse? What inspires you to write? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Coffee Break 017: Andrew Chapman

Andrew Chapman Image

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OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS I fully realize it has been approximately 700 years since I last released a podcast episode. I should probably do what all of the SMART podcasters do and simply announce a “Summer Schedule” just because of all the stuff that goes on in the summer that keeps me from podcasting. But I’m not that smart.

Anyway, I am simply thrilled to be back, this time featuring screenwriter and television producer Andrew Chapman. In addition to writing scripts for Disney’s Pocahontas and TNT’s spy thriller “Legends“, he has also sold pilots to ABC, Fox, Amazon, ABC Family, and Sony, and published his first novel, The Ascendant, in 2014.

In short: Andrew is a way cool dude and I think you’re really going to enjoy our lively conversation about the upsides (and downsides) to television writing, novel writing, staying true to your voice as a writer, the apprentice system in Hollywood, creating an “addictive” book or TV show, and tons more.

The King of Fear Book CoverAnd oh, hey! Andrew has also just published his second novel, The King of Fear, which was initially released in serial form (i.e., three novellas or “episodes”), much like Dickens used to do back in the day.

You can listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of Andrew’s books, visit his website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Want to support the show?

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

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How Important Is Networking For Writers? – WN 043

How Important is Networking for Writers? Image

I know, I know. You hate networking. I know this because I hate networking. It feels so corporate and shallow and sell-out-y. But it’s important for writers nonetheless. And episode 043 of the Write Now podcast is here to help you navigate the turbulent waters of this essential skill.

Why networking?

Today we’re talking about networking. But maybe not the kind of networking you’re used to.

I’m not going to encourage you to go to a corporate event and shake hands with strangers. I’m not going to ask you to start looking at other human beings as things to be used to your own advantage. I’m not going to advise you to stand atop a building and make it rain with your business cars.

What I’m talking about today is different and better. And way less scary for us introverts.

Bestselling author Jeff Goins has a really great article called “The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Really Succeed” that got me thinking about networking in a whole new way.

In this article, Jeff Goins notes that often, when we say a writer succeeded due to “luck”, what we don’t know about is all of the networking and relationship-building that happened behind the scenes.

Networking and success.

I’m totally taking this story from Jeff Goins’ article, which you should totally read. But he notes that even though Hemingway was a great writer when he first started out, he was a great writer that no one was reading — because he didn’t know anyone.

Then he moved to Paris, where the living was cheaper, an fell in with a community of artists (including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce) that eventually made his career.

“Without a network, creative work does not endure.”

However, please do not feel like you need to move to Paris to find success as a writer. That’s not my point.

My point is that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the influence of several key people in my life.

So… Is it all about who you know? Kind of. But before you let that depress you, please remember that you can get to know a lot of different people in a lot of different ways using THE MAGIC OF THE INTERNET!

Pointers for networking on social media, within blog comments, etc:

Stay focused on individuals. While it may feel like everyone is just shouting past each other via digital megaphone, in reality, we’re all just people. Remember, there’s a human being on the other end of every social media account. Treat digital interactions like face-to-face personal interactions, focus on building a relationship, and you’ll be fine.

Be human. Do not nag, troll, or hassle other writers. Reach out and make contact, and if they don’t respond, please do understand that they’re probably incredibly busy. If they do respond, don’t stalk them or latch on parasite-style. Be gracious and give them space while you build a relationship.

Join a community! This can be on Medium, a Facebook group, a Google+ community, a subreddit, Quora, a gaggle of like-minded NaNoWriMo forum commenters… there are online communities everywhere. And they can confer great benefits, like mentorship, growth in skills and talents, and (you guessed it) networking and connecting with others who can have a positive influence on  your life.

You don’t have to do it all. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way (with this podcast, in fact). You don’t have to be on every single social media platform ever invented. Pick one, two, or three and find solid footing there before you branch out to other platforms.

Interact! This is not an “If you build it, they will come” scenario. You can’t just sit back and wait for praise and adoration to flow in. You nee to build the groundwork. Reply to posts. Respond to others’ tweets. Ask questions. Listen to answers. Challenge opinions. This is great practice for developing and using your voice.

Be positive and uplifting — don’t tear others down. While being negative might get you the amount of attention you’re looking for, it’s not the kind of attention you want. (Think about how everyone looks at the 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store.)

Give, don’t take. If you’re going into networking looking to use people or take something from people, you’re doing it all wrong. You’re there to give — your time, your talent, your expertise. Often the greatest gift we can give someone is the (rare) gift of listening.

Be patient. Just like building relationships in person, building relationships online takes time. You’re not going to set up your Twitter profile and wake up the next morning to find a thousand followers. You will more likely have two. Or three. But that’s OK. We all start somewhere.

Jeff Goins’ three keys to networking:

  1. Help people. Set your motives for “selfless”.
  2. Give something away — do favors for people.
  3. Know how to ask for help at the right time.

In person? Coffee.

Sure, you can attend a conference or join a professional association or local writers’ group. (Trust me on this one.)

But the most powerful in-person networking tactic is to get coffee one-on-one. There is magic in coffee (and I’m not just talking about the caffeine).

Something happens when you commit to connecting with someone one-on-one in a small (public) place, when you can set aside screens and make eye contact or shake their hand. There’s something really rare that happens when you put yourself out there as willing to listen to someone else’s story — and you actually listen to it.

So ask someone influential if you can buy them a cup of coffee. It can be a favorite college professor, a local news anchor, bookstore owner, head of marketing at so-and-so company. Tell them you admire the way they accomplished X or completed Y, and say that you’d love to hear their story. And if they agree, be respectful of their time, be willing to truly listen, and (above all) be yourself.

So what is networking good for? Ultimately, it’s how we build trust. It’s how we form credible relationships. It’s how we can show that we care. When you go in to networking with a servant’s heart and not with the intention of using people to climb some sort of social ladder, you’ll be positioning yourself for success as a writer.

What about you?

Do you agree? Are there any ideas left? Or are we simply creating reiterations of old ideas? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Coffee Break 016: Melissa Johnson


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I am so excited today to bring you a delightful conversation with my good friend and mentor Melissa Johnson.

“Your soul needs to create.”

Melissa is a successful entrepreneur several times over, as well as a professional speaker and writer for the Jon Gordon Companies. But what I wanted to focus on for this episode of Coffee Break was the book she recently wrote for herself.

Fingers In the Frosting

This book, Fingers in the Frosting, came out of Melissa’s deep need to simply create. But when you run two businesses, take care of your family (and new foster daughter!), and attend the necessarily social functions of life, how do you find time for creative writing?

“Each and every one of us has so many facets — we have so many pieces to our lives.”

Today, Melissa and I talk about how to fit creative writing into a busy schedule, the benefits of “morning pages”, the spiritual side of creativity, and the necessity of mentorship.

“It takes bravery to protect that creative space.”

I always learn so much from Melissa, and I hope that today you do, too. She is also the first interview guest, I believe, who has ever asked me a question.

“I think it’s so important as writers that we never shut that door.”

Listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to get your own copy of Fingers in the Frosting, visit Melissa’s blog, or check out her two businesses: Oh My Cupcakes and Oh My Word Paperie.

Bonus:

The official word of the year (2016) is No. But in a good, freeing way. 🙂

You can help keep my dream (you know, my podcast) alive.

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon!

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Don’t miss out! Sign up for my email newsletter!

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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Are There Any Original Ideas Left? – WN 042


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Is it true that there’s “nothing new under the sun”, that we just keep retelling the same 3 stories over and over, and that Hollywood is out of ideas? Are there any original ideas left to be had by you or me? Let’s explore this and much more in Episode 042 of the Write Now podcast!

Why is it important for us to have original ideas?

We love being “that person” — the person who came up with the idea, invented the machine, or solved the problem. But why?

The simple answer is that whoever does it first gets the credit. And oh, how we love to get credit! Credit validates us. It tells us and everyone around us, “This person is worth something! This person has contributed to society. This person matters.”

And I think that there is nothing wrong with wanting to matter. 

However, having an original idea is not the only way to matter. It’s not the only way to live a life full of purpose and meaning.

Plus — did you know? You already matter. You are already important, and your life is already priceless. Even if you never have an original idea, even if you never write your book (and I still hope that you do), I want you to know that you are an amazing person regardless.

Why does it feel like every time I have a new idea, I start seeing it everywhere?

Podcast listener Theresa wrote in with some great questions that I’d like to share with you. She writes,

One thing I’ve found in this whole [novel-writing process] is that what I once believed to be an original idea for my book I start to see everywhere! There seems to be so many books coming out of the woodworks that have the same theme and premise of the one I am trying to write.

Do you think that this is because of the whole yellow car dilemma (once your attention is called to them you find yellow cars everywhere), and since I am sensitive to the topic my mind immediately goes to “Hey that’s like mine!”, or is it simply the fact that great minds think alike?

Assuming you and others may be going through similar ordeals, how do you not become discouraged when writing your now “unoriginal” (as you may consider it) idea?

Great, great questions. And yes, I think that great minds do think alike, as the saying goes — or at least they seem to. But whether that comes from a shared cultural experience or something less concrete, there is nothing we can do to affect what ideas other people are having, or whether they act on those ideas.

So let’s look a little deeper at the things we can affect.

I’d never heard of “yellow car” syndrome before, but I think that it may be a factor here, too. To this, I say don’t let it get to you too much — there are 9 billion people on the planet and there’s bound to be some crossover sometimes in the things we think about and the ideas we have. I think this is something else we just have to make our peace with since we can’t stop other people from having ideas.

We can, however, stop ourselves from acting on our ideas. And this is the real problem — when we let the fact that someone else has an idea similar to ours stop us from creating.

So… are there any new ideas?

There are folks who would argue that “there are no new ideas”, or “there’s nothing new under the sun” (that was Shakespeare, right? or maybe the Bible). However, I think there can be new ideas — or at least unique takes on old ideas, or new combinations of existing ideas. The human brain is amazing and its potential is limitless. I say dream big.

A novel is more than an idea. It’s storytelling, plot, character, art, execution, skill, and talent all rolled into one. So even if there is someone else out there with the same idea as you… that idea is just one small piece of the whole puzzle. Don’t get too hung up on the significance or role of the idea.

And remember: while other folks may have the same idea as you, no one else is you. No one else is going to execute that idea in exactly the same way you will, with the same voice, characters, plot twists, etc.

No one can write your novel but you.

So please don’t be discouraged! You are 100% unique and amazing! So take an idea that you love, and that you’re passionate about, and truly make it your own in the way that only YOU can.

What about you?

Do you agree? Are there any ideas left? Or are we simply creating reiterations of old ideas? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Coffee Break 015: Karan Bajaj


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Oh my gosh. I absolutely loved interviewing bestselling Indian author (& striving yogi!) Karan Bajaj for this week’s episode of Coffee Break. Karan has an amazing story and a wonderful heart, and I’m so excited to be able to share both of these with you today.

“All you need to really get by in life is a floor in an ashram.”

Karan lives his life by a self-imposed 4:1 rule — he works very hard for four years in a high-powered executive role, and then takes one “goal-less” year off to explore the world, live life, and gather material for his creative writing.

The Yoga of Max's Discontent - Image

He recently completed his third 4:1 cycle and his newest book, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent, came out in May 2016.

“I felt the need to write, and I honored it.”

In today’s Coffee Break episode, Karan shares with us his thoughts on living a “baggage-free life”, which was wonderfully freeing and eye-opening.

We also talk about (and I’m going to bullet-point these so the list doesn’t turn into a super-dense wall of text):

  • shedding emotional materialism
  • intentional spontaneity
  • the importance of silence for writers
  • the burden and freedom of a creative habit
  • combining entertainment and meaning
  • the experiential nature of fiction
  • breaking down the mystical
  • the power of a journey
  • the value of humility
  • …and tons more. 🙂 (Seriously. There is a lot of great stuff here!)

“I think you have to be a little forgiving of yourself… rather than feeling guilty about it all the time.”

Karan also has two small children (with two more on the way!), and discusses how he balances his sabbaticals, yoga, writing habit, and career with his family life.

“I just make it a point to create every day… That act of creation each day keeps me honest, you know?”

I learned SO MUCH from my conversation with Karan, and I hope that you take away something useful of your own.

New York Times Image

Read Karan’s article in the New York Times!

Listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to follow Karan on Twitter, get your own copy of The Yoga of Max’s Discontent, check it out on Goodreads, or visit his website.

You can also read more from Karan Bajaj in the New York Times, where he’s written an article called “A Hard-Driving Executive’s Year of Learning to Let Go”.

You can help keep my dream (you know, my podcast) alive. 😀

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon! 😀

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

Don’t miss out! Sign up for my email newsletter!

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

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Should Writers Be Paid? – WN 041


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We hear it all the time: “We can’t afford to pay our writers,” or “Your payment will be exposure and experience!” But is that true? Should you take that unpaid internship, or write for a paid publication for free? Find out in Episode 041 of the Write Now podcast.

Do writers deserve to be paid?

In a word: Yes.

Writing is work (and hard work at that). And hard work deserves fair pay. I don’t think anyone would argue with me about that. So why is writing so de-valued? Why do so many companies and corporations think that they can get away with paying writers in “exposure” or “experience”, or not paying them at all?

It happens all the time.

Just ask Wil Wheaton. Or Harlan Ellison. Or the young writer who received hate mail decrying her audacity to charge $1.99 for her newest ebook.

Basically:

Tweet from @itsjoehunt

What’s causing this problem?

Part of the problem is the societal belief that:

  • writing is fun
  • writing is easy
  • writing is a “soft” or “throwaway” skill
  • writing is a dying art
  • writing takes no particular cultivation of talent
  • there is no difference between amateur and professional writing
  • everyone took English class in high school and therefore knows how to write well

Some of these beliefs are true. Others are not. But all of them hurt the writing community because they de-value not only the work that we do but the amount of time, dedication, and practice that we have put into honing our craft.

For my part, I believe that everyone can write. By this, I mean I believe that everyone has the innate ability to become an excellent writer if they take the time to practice and develop their craft. That’s a big “if”. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I started this podcast in the first place — I want to help develop you as a writer, and help you become a master at your craft.

However, I do not believe that everyone can write well right out of the gate. It takes time, dedication, and practice to become a good writer. And that’s why I encourage you to write and read every day.

That being said, if you’re a new or aspiring writer, don’t be discouraged. I know you can get there — you just have to be passionate enough to want to put in the time and the work. 🙂

The unpaid (or underpaid) writer.

So if you’re offered an unpaid internship, or a writing gig where the pay is “getting your name out there”, do you take it?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. At one point in my life, I was convinced that money was evil, and that I would never “sell out” to make money from my writing. Then I graduated from college and found out that if you want food, clothing, and shelter, you need to have money. Life is expensive.

Unpaid internships are a huge problem. An unpaid internship is nothing more than a company taking advantage of new college grads and not fairly compensating them for the work they do. A new college graduate can’t begin to pay down their student loan debt with “experience.” They can’t pay their rent with “this great opportunity.”

I also believe that if you are asked to write unpaid and uncompensated for a publication that will be making a profit from your work (whether directly or through advertising revenue), you are being taken advantage of. And that is not okay.

Long story short: writers deserve to be paid. And yes, I feel very strongly about this — and so do many other writers, artists, and creators. 🙂

Tweet from Will Wheaton

What about you?

Do you get paid to write? Or has earning compensation for your work been a challenge for you? Should writers be paid at all? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Coffee Break 014: David Faux

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I’m excited to bring you a special guest for this week’s Coffee Break — science fiction writer and all-around wonderful person David Faux.

David is a church-custodian-turned-tow-truck-driver, but he is also in the process of querying his first novel, a space western called Sidewinder. And he has a beautiful message to share with you.

“Writing became where I could find my identity.”

Today, David and I are talking about the value of writing retreats and sabbaticals, the TV show Firefly, creating worlds, and how we react through writing when life throws both wonderful and terrible things our way.

“Being around certain people does allow me to open up and shine in a way that I can’t when I’m alone.”

David lost his 7-year-old daughter to cancer in 2002 and still uses novel-writing as a way to process the grief and pain. I am so grateful that David was willing to share his story with us, and I hope you find it as moving and meaningful as I did.

“I want to write a story to tell them that there’s hope.”

Listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to follow David on Twitter or visit his blog, Roadwalker Media.

You can help keep my dream (a.k.a. my podcast) alive.

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon! 😀

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

You won’t regret it if you sign up for my email newsletter! (Probably!)

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

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How To Deal With Rejection – WN 040

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It happens to every writer sooner or later: dreaded rejection. But does it really need to be so… dreaded? Episode 040 of the Write Now podcast explores different types of rejection and how some of them can actually help us to become better writers.

Rejection hurts.

When we create something, regardless of whether it’s a 140-character tweet or a 140,000-word novel, we’re proud of it. And when someone disagrees with, dislikes, or rejects the thing that we’ve created… well, it can hurt.

And it doesn’t just hurt newbie writers like you and me. It hurts the big guys, the famous writers, and the writing tycoons, too. Because despite having “made it” and been published, they still face rejection, too. You can read some stories about famous literary rejections (such as Ray Bradbury, who was rejected over 800 times before he sold his first story) at litrejections.com.

Nothing — not even publication, a writing award, or a great review — can protect us against rejection. It’s part of the life of every writer, everywhere. So it’s probably a good idea to learn how to best deal with it.

Learn to discern.

Even if you’ve been writing your entire life, not every single thing you write is going to be amazing. And that’s okay. Part of writing is learning how to write, and part of learning is doing (a.k.a. practicing). And a lot of that practice writing is probably pretty awful. Mine is.

In addition to practicing our craft, we have to learn to be discerning. About what we’ve written (is it really better than William Faulkner/Octavia Butler/Chaucer combined? or are we perhaps a little biased?) and about the rejection we’re receiving (is it objective or subjective?).

It helps to develop a distanced or non-biased eye for our own work — or to find a reader (or a writing mentor or a writers’ group) who’s willing to be truly honest with us about whether what we’ve written is hot or not. Because while we can’t change what critics or publishers may think about our work, we can always improve our work.

Or, as Chuck Wendig says in his article about rejection:

You can’t change market forces. But you can change the quality of your work.

Three types of rejection.

Speaking of author Chuck Wendig, he has a really great blog post from 2011 called “25 Things Writers Should Know about Rejection“. In it, he talks about three different types of rejection that writers face:

  1. Good rejection: The rejection that can help you become a better writer.
  2. Worthless rejection: The rejection that you impale on a spike on your wall. Then you take a deep breath and keep on writing.
  3. Mean rejection: The rejection that you ignore. Haters gonna hate. Trollers gonna troll. As for you? Writers gonna write.

At the end of the day, not everything you write is going to be amazing. And in the real world (as opposed to Little League Land), not every effort will get you a participation trophy. But that’s okay. Because we don’t learn lessons from participation awards. We learn lessons when we fail.

Being a writer is a lot more difficult than people give it credit for. I’m so proud of you for sticking to it and doing what you love.

How do you deal with rejection?

Let me know via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. I can’t wait to hear from you. 🙂

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Coffee Break 013: Diane Vallere

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Today our guest is fashion mystery writer Diane Vallere, who has written four cozy mystery series and is a self-described mix of Barbie, Trixie Belden, and Rocky Balboa.

Also, a teddy bear inspired her to write her latest mystery series.

(Seriously, how delightful is that?)

“Those risks… those are what make us feel alive.”

Diane was working as a buyer for a top luxury retailer before she took the leap and, as her website puts it, “traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder.” She writes full-time now and loves every minute of it.

“You have to believe that what you’re doing is valuable, that it’s not just an exercise in creative writing. That there’s a point to it.”

We talk about finding the courage to do what you love and love what you’re doing, the ups and downs of self-publishing vs. working with a publisher, the elements of a good cozy mystery, and what it’s like to be a “pantser”. I think you’ll enjoy it.

“The best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read. A lot.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Listen to today’s episode using the controls above or on iTunes, and while you’re at it, be sure to follow Diane on Twitter or visit her website.

You can help keep my dream (a.k.a. my podcast) alive.

You can help support the work I do here at the Write Now podcast and Coffee Break spinoff by pledging $1 or more per episode on Patreon! 😀

Give Via Patreon

I will send you emails.

You won’t regret it if you sign up for my email newsletter! (Probably!)

Subscribe to Coffee Break (& Write Now).

You can listen to the full Coffee Break episode using the controls at the beginning of this post.

Or! You can listen and subscribe using your favorite app/website/podcatcher:

Help support this podcast! >>

I’m on social media.

Connect with the Write Now and Coffee Break podcasts on your favorite social media platform(s):

Twitter | Facebook | ElloInstagram

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