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Posts tagged ‘writing tips’

Want to be a better literary citizen? Six things I learned by sending my poems out into the world

Happy National Poetry Month!

After a long hiatus, I recently started sending my poems out into the world again and in doing so, I learned several things that are helping my literary career that I wanted to share with you.

First, the reason I hadn’t been sending my poems out is because it always felt like drudgery to me. All that left brain work made me feel overwhelmed. Plus, I’m a busy business owner! I mean, who has time for one more thing to do, right?

After hearing one of my poetry mentors say she, too hated sitting down to send out her work (and she’s a HUGE award-winning poet), I didn’t feel so bad. What works for her, she said, is to sit down once a month or so and do an afternoon of submissions. I thought, “I can do that.”

I chose a Saturday and sent out 20 poems to eight different literary magazines. I created a short artist bio that I could use for each submission. Then I found a simple Google Sheet online from another poet that I used to track my submissions, including the name of the poem, where it’s been submitted, when I submitted it, when they typically reply, a column to note if it’s been accepted or rejected, and a column for the magazine’s website link.

Normally, my left brain would be balking at these types of activities, but it was kind of fun.

Next, I basically forgot about all this and went back to work on my other projects. Over the next two months, I got several rejections and six acceptances (six poems in two magazines). Pretty cool!

What did I learn?

Track your submissions. Whether you’re sending out poems, short stories, novels, photography, or paintings, you’ll save so much time if you have a simple tracking system and an artist bio ready.

Treat it like a job. Submitting your work is part of your job as a good literary citizen. We create work so others can read it and benefit from it, right? If you’re not sending out your work, you’re not enriching others’ lives.

Ask for what you want. A wise person once told me, “If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.” People are not mind readers. We must ask for what want in our lives. For artists, that includes sending your work out to be seen and published. If we don’t send our work out, it won’t be published. Ever.

Have no emotional attachment to outcome. When I was a young poet, I took rejections hard. Each rejection was like an ice pick in my heart. Over time, I developed a thick skin and just keep sending my work out. Eventually, I got a poem published, and then another, and another. If I had let my emotions get the best of me, I probably would have stopped sending my work out, and my poetry life might have dried up. As artists, I firmly believe we need that interaction with our community to help us grow and become better humans and artists.

Find passion for your bigger projects. I’ve been working on a novel which is a very long, time-consuming process. But now, by sending my shorter works out and getting some published, it gives me a little reward, a hit of pleasure, while I keep slogging away at my larger work. This feeling of satisfaction gives me more pleasure and passion for my bigger project, too. It’s like a little zap of energy.

Join an artistic community. This will sustain your muse and feed your passions. At the end of January, I joined a poetry community and subscribed to a newsletter where I receive poetic inspiration, writing prompts, lesser-known places to submit work to, and more that has helped me become a better poet and literary citizen. (If you’re a poet and would like a free month of this newsletter, let me know. The two poets who put out the weekly newsletter gave me a few links for friends and I have one left).

I hope my experience helps you see the importance of putting your work out into the world. If you’re working on a novel or memoir, look for opportunities to submit shorter works such as poems, short stories, or flash fiction, etc. to literary journals.

Another benefit is you’ll start building up your artist resume, which might come in handy when your book is ready for publication.

Activity: Write in your journal about what it means to be a good literary citizen. I’ll share my ideas in my next post.

You can see some of my poems at

My Poetry Book

How to write riveting sex scenes that leave your reader wanting more: creating chemistry, part 2

How To Create Chemistry Between Your Characters

In most cases, your characters aren’t going to meet and then just fall into bed together. If they do, then you’re probably writing hard-core erotica or porn and that’s not what I’m discussing today.

Even if your characters don’t have sex, maybe there’s some heavy petting or flirtation that occurs and you’ll want to build up to that as well.

So how do you build chemistry and anticipation between your characters?

A sex scene is the culmination of everything your two characters have done, said, and been through together from the moment they meet.

Chemistry is that feeling of connection between two people. I like to call it the charged energy between two people. It’s a draw to someone else that makes you want more of them.

Read more

How to write riveting sex scenes that leave your reader wanting more: the language of love, part 1

Have you ever read a sex scene in a novel and cringed?

You can find bad writing anywhere, in any genre. But, as author Diana Gabaldon says, “While bad writing about murderers, spies, elves, or young people with self-esteem issues is merely boring—bad writing about sex is hilarious. So, how do you ensure that readers are riveted to the page rather than rolling on the floor or running off to find a spouse or friend to read the most memorably horrible phrases aloud to?”

I don’t know about you, but when I read a bad sex scene, I’m either rolling on the floor laughing and/or feel embarrassed for the author. In fact, there’s a certain bestselling male author that I really enjoy reading, and then one day I read a sex scene he wrote. It was so awful and cringeworthy that I couldn’t read anything by him for a long while. You don’t want your readers to have a similar experience.

When some of my writer friends found out I was preparing a webinar on how to write sex scenes, most of them asked me the same question—what do you call “it?” Meaning, of course, what do you call the male sexual organ without making it sound too graphic or corny or pornographic? I love this question.

Read more

Free craft webinar: Writing tips from top teachers

As writers, we know that learning our craft is a lifelong endeavor. Even well-known published authors still study their craft. These craft masters want to become the best they can be.

After I earned my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I continued my craft studies with various teachers and felt as if I got an entire second degree. I love writing. I love learning about writing. I love practicing my storytelling techniques.

If you’re a writer, I know you feel the same way, and I have a gift for you.

Some of my writing mentors and friends and I are teaching in-depth writing craft webinars this year. You’re invited to a FREE webinar on Thursday, April 1 for a sneak peek of what we have to offer. Be our guest for quick craft tips, writing exercises, and Q&As from writing pros. Topics include emotional storytelling, outlining, scene structure, poetry techniques for prose, and much more.

To sign up for the FREE Craft Collection night, please click here and scroll down to the April 1 event.

Free Writing Webinar – April 1 – 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. PDT

On May 13, I’m teaching a webinar on adding poetry to your prose. Other webinar topics in the series include Writing Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell, Backstory is Fore-story by Donald Maass, Emotional Storytelling by Lorin Oberweger, Dialogue as Action by David Corbett, Character Matters by Sheree Greer, Crafting Your Novel by Emma Dryden and many more!

I hope to see you on April 1.

P.S. If you miss the free event, you can check out the webinar series here.

How to use the six basic human needs to make your characters come to life, part 1

The key to writing strong, believable characters is to really know and understand your characters as if they’re living, breathing human beings.

You want to know your character’s background, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them who they are today, what they dream about for the future, and more.

You need to know all this even if it’s not in your story. I keep separate journals for each of my main characters so I can write about them and write from their point of view.

One tool that has helped me delve deeper into my characters’ motivations comes from human needs psychology which has defined six basic human needs.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written a great article on these needs, “Tony Robbins: 6 Basic Needs that Make us Tick.” The six needs are: Read more

Find your flow with writing prompts — part 2

As mentioned in part one of this post, writing prompts can help get us into the flow of our writing. Poetry prompts are easy. Pretty much anything can be a poetry prompt. But what if you’re working on a longer project like an essay, short story, or novel? Learning to develop your own prompts for a specific project can be a powerful tool in your writing practice.

The more we practice developing prompts and writing from them, the better writers and storytellers we will become.

Think about the word practice for a minute. Practice is defined as to do something habitually and also as to pursue a profession such as law. But, really, anything can be a practice.

I’m currently doing a 30-day yoga challenge courtesy of “Yoga with Adrienne” on YouTube. I don’t have a naturally flexible body, so I have to modify many of the poses. This is one of the things I love about yoga—it’s flexibility to fit any body type. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. I love saying the words “yoga practice” because they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect. In order to get better at anything, we have to practice it. Read more

Find your flow with writing prompts—part 1

I love to write and I especially love to write poetry, but I also go through long periods where I don’t write. I get busy with work and life. Or roadblocks appear that zap my time and energy and leave me with little creative mojo. 2018 was one of those years. It was a rough year. One thing after another ate up my physical and emotional energy and left me with no extra creative juice.

I didn’t write a single poem from February until the end of November. I was beginning to wonder if I even remembered how to write a poem. I started a few times, but the poems felt forced and contrived.

Then I happened upon a book my friend and writing partner gave me several years ago. “The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop,” by Diane Lockward is an incredible book with poetry prompts, essays, and articles on the craft of poetry and much more. What I love about the book is that it gives you a poem, dissects the poem, and gives you a writing prompt. After the writing prompt, you get two more sample poems based on the prompt. Since then, Diane has published “The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop.”  Read more