Way-Word Journey #2: I Didn’t Always Want To Be A Writer

I didn’t always want to be a writer.

And I’ve come to realize that’s okay.

I began college as an Aerospace Engineering student. I’d watched Top Gun a hundred-plus times and wanted to be Kelly McGillis. I loved planes. They fascinated me. I skipped class to go (with a guy) see the space shuttle land at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. I skipped class to go see the SR-71 at the Pima Air Museum. I also skipped class to ride (with a different guy) in an Aston Martin to get Dunkin’ Donuts.

And it was always Math and Physics I skipped. I should’ve known then that my passion was words.

But alas, I’m truly fascinated by all kinds of things. So after two years of Engineering, I found another love in the world of Biochemistry and received a Bachelor’s in that field and worked in a plant sciences lab. I loved it. I think I could’ve loved a lot of things. And then during a terrible pregnancy, I had to quit. After many complications and several months of recovery, I started my own company bidding and installing signs for new construction. I loved that, too, because it let me be at home with my kids and have a way to earn money. After two more children within three years, I ended that business to focus on my kids.

And I loved it. Every minute? No. But really, my kids fascinated me. They were like little science experiments, creations, and I’d never felt so lucky or blessed to be a part of something so remarkable as being a mother. Some people have told me I missed my calling in life because I spent my best years on my kids. They can think that. I certainly don’t regret it one bit.

But all of that life experience gave me ideas. Experience is the best thing for creativity and emotional resonance. If you’ve never been through things, it’s nearly impossible to write about it.

I was doing things worth writing as well as all the mundane chores that go along with life. Occasionally, I’ve felt behind when I hear about people who have been writing novels since they were in middle school or high school and end up published in their twenties. While being truly happy for them, I also used to feel like I was somehow not as good because I didn’t begin writing until later in life.

Yes, I won an Arizona State poetry contest when I was in second grade. But it didn’t stick.

Maybe I won’t ever be as good as those writers. Maybe I will. In reality, this is my journey, and the only person who can allow me to be upset by it is myself.

The problem is comparison.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Ever. Just don’t. As many books as there are in the world, there are even more writing journeys. Your journey is never wrong. It might be complicated. It might take you somewhere you didn’t plan. But every step will teach you something if you let it, which will only make you that much more prepared for the future.

I’d love to hear what your day job is and if you love it as much as writing.

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Way-Word Journey #1: Boredom Can Be A Good Thing

I stood at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, and stared at a wall. The brownish red of the brick and dirt that covered my backyard created the backdrop of a wasteland, the occasional tumbleweed or dry grass breaking up the soil. Over the years, I stared at other backyards or back-splashes day after day. Vacuuming, mopping, pulling weeds, folding clothes, I only vaguely saw it all through the fantasy worlds playing out in my imagination.

Snow White sang, but  my voice scares away the animals (including my children). So the only way I survived being a full-time mother of three was escaping into the worlds I created in my head.

I loved my kids more than I can express with words, and they’re brilliant and funny and wonderful. But spending 24/7 with children and cleaning and gardening and cleaning some more–it’s not a recipe for intrigue. And that’s what I craved. I wanted to travel the world, taste foods I’d never heard of, see animals outside a zoo with amazing abilities too strange to imagine, learn about ancient cultures from their ruins.

But diapers had to be changed. The little people needed read to and taught and bathed and occasionally rescued from one another.

So I told myself stories and created worlds of my own that were every bit as fascinating to me as the real world I couldn’t get to. And that’s how I became a writer.

How did you become a writer? I’d love to hear your story!

Next Post In This Series


Announcing Pitch Madness 2017 . . . Candyland Edition


The Pitch Madness submission window will be open for 24 hours on February 24!

What is Pitch Madness? It’s a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. Though Pitch Madness has a game theme, the next contest will transition to more of a critique based contest with agents simply requesting in the comments of the entries’ posts instead of having the agents play for requests. Also, hosts will coach our team members, helping them polish their entries and first pages.

We’ll have an agent introduction post up next week.

The submission window will be open from 12:01 AM EST on February 24 until 11:59PM EST. You should have plenty of time to get your submissions in. There is no limit of how many entries will be accepted. Please note: All entries sent before or after the allotted times will be deleted.

There will be 60 finalists moving onto the agent round. Pitch Madness will accept Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult completed fiction, novel length (no novellas) completed and polished manuscripts only. This time around we will not accept non-fiction. Only one entry per writer this round.

What do you need to enter? A 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of your finished manuscript. If the 250th word falls in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of the sentence. I will post formatting instructions before the submission window opens. There will be a form on the submission post to enter your pitch into.

Pitch Madness will be on six blogs and each blog host will have a co-host helping them choose their top 10 entries.

We’ll have a small team of first readers ranking the entries for the host round.

All the twitter fun will be happening on the hashtag #PitchMadness!



Meet our first round readers …


Jami Nord

Jami Nord

Website | Twitter

Phone monkey, former Lit Agent intern, freelance editor for , & writer under a pen name. Bi, pagan, nerdy, & liberal. I don’t bite, promise.


Kerbie Addis

Kerbie Addis


Writer. Feminist. Slytherin. Bacon mage. Future librarian. Lit agent intern. Army wife. Lover of dark stories & dark lipstick. co-mentor.


Mary Ann Marlowe

Mary Anne Marlowe

Website | Twitter

Author of SOME KIND OF MAGIC Feb ’17 * Repped by at * Mentor, Whovian, & Sassenach


Samantha Joyce

Samantha Joyce

Website | Twitter

Author of the LOVE IN DISGUISE series. FLIRTING WITH FAME and DEALING IN DECEPTION out now from Pocket Star! Repped by of ABLA. Broadway Geek Girl.



Here are the links to the host blogs and their co-hosts for the contest …


Image result for ice cream sea candylandTeam Ice Cream Sea hosted on Brenda Drake’s blog

Brenda Drake

Brenda Drake


NYT bestselling author of YA fiction. Latest, THIEF OF LIES & CURSING FATE. Next, GUARDIAN OF SECRETS 2/7/17. Rep’d by & Creator


Monica M. Hoffman ?

Monica Hoffman

Website | Twitter

YA Spec-Fic Rom Writer | Trekkie, Dr. Who, & Star Wars fan | Music is my blood | SCBWI Member | Mentor | Rep’d by &



Related imageTeam Gumdrop Mountains hosted on Heather Cashman’s blog

Heather Cashman

Heather Cashman


All things wordy, generally nerdy. Editor at . Agent intern. member. Assistant to


Nikki Roberti

Nikki Roberti

Website | Twitter

YA Contemp author rep’d by of , ‘s assistant, Mentor, Query Editor, Awarded Playwright



Image result for peanut brittle house from candy landTeam Peanut Brittle House hosted on Pintip Dunn’s blog

Pintip Dunn

Pintip Dunn

Website | Twitter

New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. RWA RITA® winner for Best First Book. The FORGET TOMORROW series; THE DARKEST LIE; GIRL ON THE VERGE (Jun 27).


Darcy Woods

Darcy Woods

Website | Twitter

Counts laughter as exercise. Lives to swoon. Award-winning YA author of SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS (Random House/Crown). Repped by .



Image result for Lollipop WoodsLollipop Woods hosted by Rebecca Weston’s blog


Rebecca Coffindaffer

Website | Twitter

Author, shipper trash, all-around nerd. Freelance copy editor at . Making my own fun since 1983. Repped by .



Marieke Nijkamp

Marieke Nijkamp

Website | Twitter

#1 NYT bestselling author of THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS (Sourcebooks Fire) | Dreamer | Wanderer | | Secret Agent: , Barry Goldblatt Literary.




Image result for licorice castle candylandTeam Licorice Castle hosted on Sharon Johnston’s blog

Sharon M Johnston

Sharon Johnston

Website | Twitter

DIVIDED & SHATTERED: Open Heart Novels out now with mentor.



Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts

Website | Twitter

Author of the Dark Inside trilogy, The Bodies We Wear and When They Fade. Vancouverite. Animal lover. Destroying words in a coffee shop near you.




yTeam Peppermint Forest hosted on Wade Albert White’s blog …

Wade Albert White

Wade Albert White

Website | Twitter

Author of THE ADVENTURER’S GUIDE series. Mentor. Member of . Also, I own one pretend cat and one real one.



Timanda Wertz

Timenda Wertz

Blog | Twitter

Middle Sschool science teacher, SF/F geek, Ravenclaw, equal parts football & Broadway fan, Pitch Wars MG co-mentor, represented by Elizabeth Kaplan of Kaplan Literary



Here’s the schedule for Pitch Madness …

February 24: Pitch Madness submission window opens for 24 hours

February 24 – March 5: Pitch Madness Slush Readers sort the entries

March 6: Pitch Madness Draft – Hosts pick their top entries

March 6 – 14: Hosts coach their teams

March 16 – 17: Agent Round

March 23: #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party (Even if you made it in, didn’t make it in, or didn’t enter Pitch Madness, #PitMad is open to everyone!)


That’s it for now. Look for our agent announcement post next week and join us on Februrary 24 when the submission window opens!












The Home Stretch & #WriteMotivation

Every ball these days is a curve ball. You’d think I would learn to prepare for it, but somehow, it always takes me by surprise.

Because of a wonderful offer by an amazing agent intern, my goals almost struck out. But I will report what I have done and then you can all judge me accordingly.



1) Write 20,000 words on RFA

Wrote 5000+

2) Blog 4 times

This will be my third post, so not all-together bad.

3) Read 4 books, one on the writing craft

Still slogging through Book 1 of A Game of Thrones,  by George R. R. Martin and On Writing, by Stephen King.

4) Do not think negatively about the queries I sent in February

I haven’t had time to think about them at all.

5) Participate in Pitch Madness: Clue Edition (I’m scared to do this, but the agents are amazing!)

Yes. Rejected.

I also revised the first third of my TPR MS to improve my submission chances based on the amazing critique by Agent Intern Anon. of my first 5 chapters. I am working as hard and fast as I can to get it even more perfect.

Thanks so much for all of your #WriteMotivation support! Maybe someday we can have a conference and cater a bakery to make us cookies that look like books and words. And I want the waiters to dress up like dinosaurs.



Taking the Time to Do It Write; March Goals

Success takes time. I see so many of these viral videos or songs that are a One-Hit-Wonder. I don’t want to be a One-Hit-Wonder.

One Hit 1 I don’t even want two hits. I want to be a writer forever!

Tom Hanks was in a movie about One-Hit-Wonders. A great flick if anyone wants to see it. In the end, their lives went back to normal.

one hit 4

I don’t want to go back! I want normal to be writing–all the time. I want to get published. I want to keep getting published. And I will work as hard as I have to.

And the one thing I’ve learned is that doing something right means taking the time to perfect your skills. I don’t know how close I am to my goal. But I will keep going until I’m close enough that some agent can’t bear the thought of rejecting me. Editors will wonder where I’ve been all my life. And I will tell them: I’ve been learning, working, honing the words.

And that day, it will all be worth it.

Until then–here are the ways I am getting there, one month at a time.


1) Write 20,000 words on RFA

2) Blog 4 times

3) Read 4 books, one on the writing craft

4) Do not think negatively about the queries I sent in February

5) Participate in Pitch Madness: Clue Edition (I’m scared to do this, but the agents are amazing!)

Good Luck #WriteMotivation buddies and anyone else out there who wants to be writer.


Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass and #WM goals

I’ve been talking with a few people about books that help us all become better writers. My firm belief is that nothing helps us learn to write more than reading with an analytical eye. Quantity is as important as quality. The bad ones are as telling about how not to write as the good ones teach us correct principles. But there are some books that changed the way I looked at writing. This is one of them: Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass.

breakout novel donald maassThere is the book to read and the workbook that helps you put his ideas into action.

He gives practical advice on why your book might not be selling, and whether you’re going self-pub or traditional, most of us care about making money for our effort. Some ideas include taking things to the limit and having conflict on every page.

While I think that a lot of what Maass says about how to write is driven by his opinions, he is one of the leading agents in the industry and has a lot of experience with what gets published and what doesn’t. Listening to his advice is worth something. And writing exercises can be painful, but nothing comes free.

#WriteMotivation Goals for Week 1:

Here are my February goals:
1) Read one book every week, one of which is about how to improve my writing.

Week 1: I am half-way through The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott and half-way through Writing Irresistable Kidlit, by Mary Kole.

2) Post on every member’s blog once per week.

Week 1: DONE

3) Send out 15 agent queries.

Week 1: Nothing yet.

4) Do not get depressed when I am rejected.

Week 1: N/A

5) Finish final edit of TPR.

Week 1: Chapter 18 of 32. I feel good about this.

6) Outline all of TGM. Decide on POV and tense for TGM.

Week 1: Have to finish 5 first.

GOOD LUCK TO ALL MY #WRITEMOTIVATION FRIENDS! I will be seeing you again this week. And I bought Girl Scout Cookies.


Making Room for Improvement and #WriteMotivation

I have a quote on my blog somewhere by Ernest Hemingway:

Ernest Hemingway

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

From someone I would consider a master of the craft of writing, we realize that if he never stopped learning how to improve his craft, neither should we. In that vein, I would like to add a stretch goal this month. To make at least one of the books I read to be about improving writing.
Here are my February goals:
  1. Read one book every week, one of which is about how to improve my writing.
  2. Post on every member’s blog once per week.
  3. Send out 15 agent queries.
  4. Do not get depressed when I am rejected.
  5. Finish final edit of TPR.
  6. Outline all of TGM. Decide on POV and tense for TGM.

To wrap up January, I completed all but my first goal, which feels pretty good.

Good luck to everyone in February. I look forward to visiting you all over the next few weeks!


Intrinsic Value

After discussing writing fears with my daughter and husband, they shared nearly the same idea with me. Their separate but exact alignment on the subject forced me to recognize that I might actually be wrong.

I might be wrong . . .


What was I wrong about? Writing and being an author has to make me money.

While both of them think that if I keep practicing and working hard to become a better writer, that someday my talent will be acknowledged and possibly make me some $$ cold hard cash, there is an intrinsic value to my writing that can’t be measured by money, by critique partners, an agent, an editor, or the entire publishing industry.

There is value in my writing for myself and those who see how happy it makes me. I hope that if writing makes you as happy as it makes me, you won’t let anyone take that away from you. Not even yourself.

#WriteMotivation Goal Check:

1) Write fifteen pages per week of new material.

See below.

2) Edit five hours per week.

Week 1: Edited 6 hours.

Week 2: Edited 10 hours.

Week 3: Edited 16 hours.

I’ve learned that I prefer not to edit and write new material at the same time. I tried, but my brain can’t switch very well on the same day, and while I can switch every other day, I would rather not.

Week 4: Edited 5 hours (My husband and I went on a weekend away for our birthdays, so no regrets.)

3) Read one book per week.

Week 1: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas

Week 2: Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Week 3: The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Week 4: Am reading The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

4) Critique SS for my critique partner.


5) Read/crit L for my other critique partner.

About 2/3 done.



My amazing critique partner, KT Hanna, has another month of goals for us. If you’d also like to sign up, just go here.

I am trying again, which means I haven’t been beat. Picking ourselves up is the important part of life, which Nat “King” Cole has expressed so well in his song, “Pick Yourself Up.”

So here are my goals for November.

1) Win NaNoWriMo!

2) Blog once every week on my progress.

3) Read four books.

Good luck to all of you other #WriteMotivation buddies out there!

And thank you, for the wonderful music.nat king cole


The False Prince by Jennifer A. Neilson

The False Prince was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. From page one, I loved the main character, Sage. He’s clever, strong, everything a hero should be. The twist at the end wasn’t wholly unexpected, but felt like another prank Sage had played–on me.

From the Jacketflap:

In this first book in a remarkable trilogy, an orphan is forced into a twisted game with deadly stakes.

Choose to lie…or choose to die.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

About the Author:

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; of The Underworld Chronicles, beginning with ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR; the forthcoming PRAETOR WAR series, and will write the sixth book of the Infinity Ring series (BEHIND ENEMY LINES). She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.


One thing I learned from Mrs. Neilsen’s blog was that you should never give up. She set a goal to be published before age 17. Though she didn’t make that goal, she kept trying. She wrote four books before getting her fifth published, and is now a great success!