Encouragement, writer routines, Writer's Digest, Writing, writing conferences, Writing groups

Writing Communities

Hemingway quote on writing
Born or Learned? http://www.alvaradofrazier.com


Hemingway’s quote settles the debate over whether people are born writers or if writing can be taught. Whether you’re a natural at writing or not, everyone has to work to improve their ability.

Three years ago, I participated in the Platform Challenge, given by Robert Lee Brewer, from Writer’s Digest who described himself as a poet, editor, and happy smack talker. The latter captured my interest and I joined.

Our challenge was to try a different tool, process or form of social media every day in order to build an online platform. Over 300 writers formed around that challenge and when it was over, most of the group banded together and founded Wordsmith Studio, a community of writers, of which I’m a founding member.

Many of the members are now published authors, poets, editors, book reviewers, and all around lovely writers. I’ve met so many writers who have brought me stories and poems that delighted, inspired or gave me a new perspective on a subject.

To commemorate our three-year anniversary, we are catching up with group members who are spread all over the nation by using writing prompts as a means of checking in with one another and celebrating our three-year anniversary with a blog hop.

This week’s prompt is to share our challenges and successes, to reflect on skills, tools or resources that helped us find success. And by success, I don’t mean I’m a published author with thousands of sales. Success means I’m improving, still writing stories, and sending out queries.

Now, on to the questions:

1) What are you currently working on? One of my YA manuscript’s (ms) is out in query stage after too many to count revisions and two editors (hey, it was my first novel). I’m having the hardest time with finding an agent to take on a ‘girl in prison’ story. 

The second one, Women’s Fiction, was given the once-over by an editor I met online who did a wonderful job. The third ms is on a hard drive. The fourth work in progress, a New Adult, is halfway completed.

2) For past work, what was your greatest joy or greatest challenge?

The best things that I’ve enjoyed is receiving a fellowship, twice, to A Room Of Her Own (AROHO) Foundation for their biannual writers retreat and accepted as a ‘mentee’ into the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Mentorship three month program. My mentor is an author and creative writing professor at a university.

The other best thing is when people say great things about your writing. My AWP mentor’s encouraging words, “There are remarkable revisions in this ms…Juana’s story continues to grow with drama and emotion, with compelling lives and stories, …what strikes me from the very beginning are the beautiful and powerful images that (she) remembers, imagines, and culls from her life; images you compose with beauty and power.”

From my recent editor on the second ms: “Your (ms) opens with some of the most brilliant writing I have seen for some time. There is an air of literary style, coupled with a control of sentence structure that creates an atmosphere thick with emotion. Helpless, vulnerable, deeply hurt, but with a bit of hope and denial…” 

3) For current work, what challenge are you working through now? 

My goal is to revise the Women’s Fiction ms during May. Although my editor had great comments about the novel, there are many other not so good areas to fix.

4) What have successes or challenges in your work (recently) taught you?

Utilize all the help you can get. By that I mean go to at least one workshop or conference a year on writing craft. Participate in an going critique group. Online you can use Critique Circle. Be persistent, disciplined, and believe in what you’re doing. Writer’s have to be in it for the long haul-years, decades, not months.

Being a pantser did not work out for me. My first novel has taken years and numerous revisions because I did not know story structure. I will never be a plotter, but I have found that a loose outline helps tremendously. Study story structure. I like Larry Brooks’ blog from Storyfix.

I use too many commas, use the words ‘just,’ ‘even’ and ‘was.’ To help me with grammar, redundant words, and passives I bought a month of AutoCrit. I needed it so much that I ended up buying the editing service for a year. I also use Grammarly.

6) What obstacles or challenges have you not been able to overcome, or still frustrate you?

Writing query and synopsis letters is still the most frustrating and non-fun thing to do. I would like to outsource this work.

7) How would you describe a great writing day (or week)?

Writing in my pajamas, with fresh hot coffee at my side, glancing at the flowers on my patio once in a while, and finishing what I set out to do that morning makes me feel satisfied. Taking a walk in the late afternoon and reading an absorbing book tops off a great writing day.

And in the words of Winston Churchill:




If you are from the Wordsmith community, stop by and click a ‘Like,’ subscribe, or say hello in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a fun weekend.


Blogging, Blogspot, Encouragement, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Five Things I Learned When I Moved from Blogger to WordPress

Moving made easier with friends.

I’ve moved from my two-year residence at Blogspot. The place was a good starter home, and it used to be very nice, but the neighborhood got a little run down.

The ‘help’ section on Blogspot was no help. After losing my photos, my comment box disappearing/reappearing, and the insidious push to connect to Google+ , which I succumbed to and began having more post problems, I terminated Google+ and started looking for a new home.

Ever had to move to a different state? Moving from Blogger to WordPress was about the same experience-for me, a non-tech novice. A chingona knows when she needs to rely on herself and when to ask for assistance.  I knew I needed help with the relocation.

Utilizing Google search and my writing community on Facebook (WordSmith Studio) I armed myself with information about the relocation two weeks ahead of the actual move. It was time consuming but necessary for me-I’m not the impulsive type. The encouragement from my writing community helped make this a much easier move. I didn’t feel like I was walking alone in the dark.

First, which neighborhood did I want to move too? WordPress.com or dot org? This graph made it easier to decide. For a more detailed description and a video go to Michael Hyatt’s site. I decided on the dot-com, the affordable neighborhood. Be aware that if you own your domain name  through a domain service like GoDaddy, you will have to pay $13 per year for domain mapping (this is to tell your name where to point).  I didn’t like this fee, but I disliked Blogger more.

Secondly, there were new ‘shopping experiences,’ at WP, as in 205 themes, free and paid. Almost all of the themes are customizable-not that I know how to do that yet. This took more time than collecting info on how to move to WP, but it was more fun. So many colors, layouts, widgets, options are like being in the tile, carpet, and furniture store. To make it easier, use the filter on WP’s “Find A Theme.”

The third thing I learned is that there is always a downside to a move. I’m sure there must be a way around this, but I lost valuables along the way. You can pay to have someone migrate your blog, comments, followers, etc. On WordPress the service is called “Guided Transfer,” and costs $129.   Unfortunately, I discovered that service after I made the transfer myself. I lost my readers, and the blogs I followed on Blogspot, and I hope they’ll find me at my new place and come to visit.

The upside, and fourth thing I learned with my move,  is that WP has “Publicize.”  This allows you to connect your blog to social media sites and share your posts. Once you do this your Follow widget lists the amount of people on your social media sites, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This can run into several hundred or thousands depending on how many social media sites you list and how many followers you have on these sites. Your posts are automatically sent to these sites.  I have to confess, after inserting this tool, the resulting number made me feel much better about losing readers, but I still would like them back.

Lastly, my comment section has Akismet, a spam detection tool which works differently from Blogspot’s. It filters out the spam in your comments and trackbacks. It’s automatic and you don’t have to spend time moderating comments.

Now I need to walk around some, hang out at my Dashboard, and the WP home, and get to know the lay of the land.  Thanks Wordsmith’ers.