Life Changes

Old things pass away, new things take their place.

Shadow of a Hot Air BalloonSome changes are for the better; some are not.

Some changes involve friendships and partnerships.

I can’t describe all of the changes that have come my way over the last few months and you wouldn’t want to hear about them if I could. But I can say one thing. All of them have influenced my writing life.

I have no doubts Danielle can say the same thing. How can I be so sure?

Danielle is busy promoting her books, Journaling to Become a Better Writer and the first in her MailBoat series.

I’m writing art lesson downloads like a crazy artist to raise money for editing (yes, we do have to raise money too!) My art blog is growing beyond all expectation, I have a new portrait to paint, and—yes, in the back of my mind—I’m looking for the next story to write.

In short, our schedules have become so crowded with things that we’ve had to take a serious look at everything we’re trying to do and decide what can be let go.

Indie Plot Twist is one of those things.

Hot Air BalloonsOh, Danielle and I will continue to be friends, writing buddies, and brainstorming partners. It’s my personal hope that that never changes.

But our involvement with Indie Plot Twist is at an end.

At least as a blog.

On August 1, Indie Plot Twist will transition from active blog to website. All of our old content will remain, but it will be in archive form.

We’ll continue to publish a monthly newsletter. That’s where you’ll find fresh, new content.

For the time being, the newsletter will continue to be a free service from us to you. But it will become a paid service at some point. Existing subscribers will be grandfathered into paid subscriptions, so now’s your opportunity to jump on the band wagon before we set our subscription rates and launch the new newsletter.

Balloons in the Setting SunThank you to all of our loyal followers, readers, subscribers, and commenters. It’s been fun and informative for us. We hope it has been for you, too.

I’ll be going back to writing about writing at Carrie Lynn Lewis Writing Well. Danielle will be busy promoting books and providing periodic updates via her newsletter. And we’ll both provide monthly articles for the Indie Plot Twist newsletter.

Now, as they say in the last line of dialogue from Around the World in 80 Days (the old version with David Niven), “This is the end.”

I Want to Be a Novelist. Where Do I Start?

2015-03-03 Typewriter TwI saw this question posted to an online writer’s group recently. What a daunting question! Let’s say you’re starting from square one. You love reading. You love writing. Now you want to do it: You want to write and finish your first novel. Where do you get started?

2015-05-25 I Want to Be a Novelist


Read and Write. A Lot.

2016-01-20 books pages reading reader glassesThese two go without saying, and as a beginning novelist, you’re probably already doing them! But now it’s time to take it to the next level.

Stack up your favorite novels and read them again–this time with a critical eye. Keep a journal handy and write down what you love most about the book and why. Ask yourself how you think the author accomplished his or her magic.

Want to take it even deeper? Set your favorite book on a book stand and type a scene or two. You’ll be amazed how much you learn!

Now try to apply what you’re learning to your own work-in-progress.

Read Books on Craft

2016-05-11 three books writing write four books pen readingThere are lots out there. Most of the ones I learned from are old, because I checked them out of a library. But they were good ones!  More recent titles that are popular include the many books by James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson’s How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, and, of course, Stephen King’s On Writing.

Many craft books have exercises you can work through to hone what you learn. Don’t just read them–do them! You’re not a writer if you’re not applying pen to paper. (Or hands to keyboard.)

And don’t forget to compare what you’re learning in your craft books to what you read for pleasure. Did you just learn about increasing tension in the plot? Giving the main character a fatal flaw? Describing your settings? Observe these techniques in the wild–look for them in the books you read!

Join a Writer’s Group

2015-04-01 Laptop2 (640x427)Online or in-person–or both! It depends on where you feel most comfortable and what’s available in your area. A writer’s group is a place for writers to exchange ideas and information and answer each other’s questions. The benefit you’ll get from the experience of other writers can’t be overstated.

Plus, you’ll be hanging out with other people who get it. You know. People who think nothing of fighting off dragons in the kitchen while making dinner, or talking out loud to your characters while running errands.

My favorite online writer’s group is 10 Minute Novelists.

Get Your Work Critiqued

2015-07-08 Cafe street windowAt some point or another, you need to expose your writing to other people, especially other writers who can spot your strengths and weaknesses and put a name to them. Maybe your writer’s group offers a critique group or a way for like-minded authors to buddy up. If not, your writer’s group is a great place to ask!

Maybe there’s an in-person critique group in your area. Keep your eyes peeled for posters, or ask at the local library, the book stores, the college, and the coffee shops. Meetup is another option for finding in-person groups. Can’t find a group in your area? Start one!

Try to get together with a small group of people who can be your ongoing critique partners. They’ll read for you, and you’ll read for them. Don’t be worried you have nothing to bring to the table! If you’re a reader, you have something to offer to a writer. Don’t forget that the best way to learn is by teaching.

Take Classes

2015-04-13 School Room (2)You’ve had your writing critiqued by your peers; it’s time to have it critiqued by your superiors. One of the first writer’s groups I ever joined (American Christian Fiction Writers) had monthly classes lead by best-selling authors. The opportunity to have my work critiqued by these professionals was the most valuable thing I ever did in my writing education.

You can also see if your local or online college offers creative writing courses. Or you can look for a personal writing coach–an editor/mentor who will walk you through the learning process.

So, you want to be a novelist, but don’t know where to start? These are the best tips I have to offer, and the course I followed myself to become a competent writer. If you’re doing these five things, you’re on your way to becoming a published novelist.

Why Failure Is Awesome

2016-05-18 happy dance joyHow do you feel about failure?

I grew up believing that failure was not an option. You had to do stuff right the first time, every time, and it was better to do nothing at all, rather than try and fail. An attitude like this is obviously a massive road block for anyone who wants to be an author. There’s a lot to learn–from the actual writing of the books to the marketing that sells them. What to do about failure?

2016-05-18 Why Failure Is Awesome

Embracing Your Mistakes

2016-05-18 happy joy stars successFortunately for me, I didn’t truly believe in my heart of hearts that failure was a bad thing. Honestly, how realistic is it that you’ll be able to do everything perfectly the first time? Everybody does it wrong the first time. Well, nearly everybody. We can’t all be Nancy Drew, after all.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, failure is hard-wired into the success process. We try, we fail, we try again. That’s just how it works! And those who don’t try again are those who don’t reap the top successes.

But most importantly, I saw from my life experiences that I learned more from my mistakes than I did from my triumphs. Once I knew how to do something wrong, it was easier to figure out how to do it right.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Far from it! Read the inspiring stories from these other authors who also embraced the process of failure.

What Author-Publishers Can Learn from Their Mistakes

by Samantha Warren on the Alliance of Independent Authors website

Samantha had unexpected initial success, raking in $12,000 off an ad on Pixel of Ink. But, by her own admission, she took it for granted and didn’t continue her promotion efforts. Was she devastated? No! She picked herself up and tried again. Read more!

The Two BEST Reasons to Fail as a Writer

by Marcy McKay on The Write Practice

The creative process can involve trial-and-error, too, as Marcy McKay says in this post. “My books feel more like I’m assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the box top showing the final photo.” Who else can relate? (Raising hand!)

McKay draws examples from the book Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Catmull clearly embraces failure, as well. “Stop panicking that you’re doing it all wrong,” McKay says. “You’re not. Keep writing.” She gives two excellent reasons why you should fail. Read more!

Building a Business One F*** Up at a Time

featuring JB Glossinger on the Self Publishing Podcast 

2016-05-18 happy joy laugh smileI’ve included this one for those of you who prefer audio. (Though if you couldn’t tell from the title, I should advise you that there is explicit language!) Glossinger works for an hour every day, then plays golf. How did he get there? One failure at a time. From the show notes: “What’s the ratio of failure to success? 90/10: can you guess which is which?” Listen Now!


Now you tell us: How do you feel about failure? Do you feel any better about it now that you’ve seen a number of authors who actively embrace it?

Power Through Three First Drafts

2016-05-11 book write writing magnifying glassYou’re doing it. You’re writing your first novel. You’re determined to make the reality as shining as the concept. So you fret over every word. Every character. Every plot point. You pelt your writer’s groups with questions, begging for advice. You go back a hundred times and change everything. And you end up laboring for five years over your first book.

Writers who are still early in their journey tend to get hung up on their first books. They’re not quite sure yet what they’re doing, and they’re devastated when the story that ends up on paper isn’t as epic as the way it existed in their mind. What’s going wrong?

2016-05-11 Power Through Three First Drafts

First Draft Sucks

2016-05-11 typewriter writing write keyboardPart of what’s so hard about being a writer is that, before your epic story becomes reality, you have to write this monstrous thing called first draft. And when you’ve never written a book before, first draft is daunting. Terrifying. First draft sucks. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your first book or your twentieth. First draft is not about writing epic fiction. It’s about puking your ideas out onto paper.

I don’t know why first drafts have to be so horrible, but they are for the vast majority of authors. So if this is your first novel, the easiest thing you can do is accept that your first attempt at writing your epic story is going to fall far short of your visions for it.

So, should you fret over every word, character, and plot point? No. You should accept that first draft sucks and puke it up onto paper. You can iron out each and every one of those horrible problems in subsequent drafts.

Three First Drafts

2016-05-11 three books writing write four books pen readingBut how can you swallow your fears of your finished book being as terrible as your first draft? Here’s an idea. Power through your first book. Write every day. Don’t look back. Don’t ask yourself whether the writing is worth a darn.

Then write a completely different book. Power through it. Write every day. Don’t look back. Don’t ask yourself whether the writing is worth a darn.

Then write another one.

By this time, you’ll probably realize that first draft simply sucks. And that’s okay, because it’s meant to.

THEN go back and rewrite your first book. Polish it up all pretty. Submit it to your critique group. Give it to trusted friends and family. Offer it to beta readers. And when you’ve re-written it a dozen times, hire an editor.

Then publish it.

Then go back and do the same with your second book. Then your third.

This, Too, Shall Pass

2015-06-08 WriterBy this time, here’s what I think you’ll have learned: First draft is a brief, passing thing. Everything you wrote in first draft can be upturned in second, third, or fourth. Nothing is set in stone until the ink has dried on the page.

While you’re writing first draft, and you’re tempted to halt and submit a life-and-death question to your writing group–STOP. Guess what? It does not matter. Why? Because it’s first draft! You should be writing crap. Absolute crap. Eventually you’ll realize that first draft really doesn’t matter. It’s only the final draft that needs to read well.