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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Olympics and Writing


Please enjoy this guest post by Sleuths' member Tierney James

What the Olympics taught me about writing:

There is something captivating about the Olympics. Every four years we are glued to watching sporting events most of us will never see in person, much less be a participant. We cheer for the home team and cry for the losers (as long as they aren’t pitted against us). Even if you aren’t prone to watching TV sports, for two weeks we fall under the spell of possibilities. We listen to the stories about adversity and sacrifice of athletes along with their families, who in a way, are champions too. Then the national anthem plays and who can keep from tearing up from the pride they show standing on that platform with shiny medals?
In a way, being a writer is like being an Olympian. “Nothing worthwhile is easy,” as the saying goes. What will you be in the writing world? I know writers on several continents. Like athletes everywhere, some writers like the thought of being a writer. They go to meetings, tell people they’re working on some ideas, and carry a notebook of insightful advice given at group presentations. I had one lady tell me a couple of years ago, “Anyone can write a book. I’ll write one someday when I’m bored.” (Truth!) This might have been interpreted as condescending; certainly not encouraging.  But I ignored it.

So are you a writer destined for publication? Are you an Olympic writer that will stand on the medal podium and hear the national anthem? Let’s talk about training.

1.       Read everything.  Books on writing. Books in your genre. Grow your reading list by reading fiction and nonfiction. One of the things I do, because I write thrillers & suspense, is subscribe to Time and National Geographic.

2.       Attend organizations (like Sleuths' Ink) that are encouraging and offer educational growth.

3.       Write every day. EVERY DAY! I can’t tell you how that will shape your writing world. It becomes like breathing. It was not easy for me to learn that lesson. I’ve learned to produce a lot more work by practicing. Sometimes it’s promo, ideas, notes, research, and then the actual story itself that keep me in the groove. There are days I write ten pages and other days it might be three paragraphs. But. I. Write. Do you think Michael Phelps skips a day swimming? How about Gabby Douglas? Does she whine about being too busy to do one more death defying flip? Whiners don’t make the Olympics.

4.       You’re going to feel you just can’t go on. But you can! What if Jane Austen had given up because she was a woman? Michael Blake’s book, Dances With Wolves, was a so-so success until Kevin Costner asked him to write a screenplay for the movie.  The rest is history. There are people all around you that want to be a cheerleader. Let them. Sometimes good things happen. Be prepared for success.

5.       Isolation is part of being a writer. Many of those Olympians will probably tell you they didn’t have much of a social life. They worked hard and tried to improve their ability to compete. There are times when I get lonely because my best friends are the characters I create. At the end of the day I realize I’m proud of what I’ve written. Yes. I still need coaching to make it better so I can win, I mean publish. 

6.       When the newscasters brag on our Olympians for shaving one hundredth of a second off their time, I smile. This is just like getting a good review. You feel like Rocky running up the steps in Philadelphia with some magical music spurring you on to victory. Read them over and over. They are your gold medals. You made someone escape, happy, cry, dream, and just possibly gave them the will to change their life. You are a writer.

Remember that lady who said she’d write a book someday when she got bored? Not too long ago we met for lunch. I ask her if she ever started a book. Shaking her head, she informed me after watching how much work I had to do, writing wasn’t something she wanted to tackle. She wasn’t that bored.
Be a writer, not someone who likes to think of themselves as a writer.

Friday, August 5, 2016



During the next two weeks, we will be hearing that word a lot because of the Olympics. Soccer, basketball, water polo, and other sports depend on making goals in order to win.

But, we can also make goals in our personal and professional life. Do you set goals for your writing, or do you just hope everything lines with the stars and wish for the best? 

Many people wouldn't think of taking on any endeavor without a plan and a goal written down. Others like to stray off path and see where it takes them. 

Here is a definition of 'goal' from Wikipedia.

goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

However, much to our chagrin, sometimes our goals change. This could be referred to as 'serendipity'.
A "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise". We either embrace this occurrence or fight tooth and nail to turn things back around to our original goal. That fight response can be both exhausting and debilitating. Many people just throw up their hands and give up. 

How about the next time serendipity occurs in your life, embrace it. Accept it. Adjust your goals. Who knows, it may turn out to be the best thing you ever did.