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Moira Allen – Editor – Writing-World.com

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moira allen

Moira Allen is the Editor and creator of Writing-World.com for close to 15 years. She is an expert in teaching about the business of writing and honing the craft of writing.

I have followed her website for a few years now and she has graciously let me pick her brain with my own questions and her website is an education in itself. She has now generously granted me this wonderful interview.

Moira is honest, pragmatic and grounded in her approach to writing and the business of writing. She has much to teach us.  Let’s welcome Moira Allen.

PSW: Your love of words show in your newsletter. How did you decide to be a writer?

MA: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories in my head. But even that, is think, stems from the fact that I came from a family of readers. So “stories” were something that were just a natural part of my life. They were all around me: my mother read to me from as early as I can remember, so I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t being exposed to “storytelling”.

I grew up surrounded by books, and by the notion that books and reading were important. I could nearly always manage to be left alone to “do my own thing” if I were reading – or at least pretending to read – because the family considered reading to be one of the most worthwhile things that one could do. Often, however, I’d be hiding behind a book and actually making up my own stories and acting them out in my head

It simply seemed natural, then, to want to start writing those stories down when I became more able to do so. And that’s when I ran into the magic of non-completion – I worked on the same “novel” for years! When you’re young and constantly growing and changing, your ideas of “the perfect story” keep changing too, and I’d get to about chapter 4 or 5 and decide to start over at the beginning. (Unfortunately that tendency hasn’t really gone away…)

I’m sure I flirted briefly with other ideas about “what I would be” when I grew up – I recall discarding “ballerina” fairly early. I know for quite awhile I was sure I wanted to be a naturalist, but mainly because I enjoyed reading what naturalists wrote about nature and animals, and I wanted to write the same types of things. I got cured of that when, in college, I worked at a zoology museum and found out that today’s naturalist did quite a lot of cutting things up.

But I think all along, I was pretty convinced that “when I grew up” I wanted to be a writer. I still do. But then, I’m still waiting to grow up.

PSW: How has your writing talent help you grow creatively?

MA: I think writing changes how one sees the world. I know that many people don’t imagine writing as being an “active” type of career. But it’s certainly a mentally active one! It changes one’s approach to looking at just about anything, because it becomes difficult to look at something without automatically starting to think about how one would describe it or explain it to another person.

From there, that means that one is on longer simply a passive observer of life. One is always looking deeper, looking around corners, looking for meanings, looking for patterns. Sherlock Holmes accused Watson of seeing but not “observing”. I think that as one becomes a writer, one moves from simply seeing (“oh, look, pretty lake”) to observing – and interpreting. (“How would you describe the color of the water? How does the sun strike it? What is the impression or feeling that it gives you – warm sparkles or a sense of cold dread at the bottomless depths? Who’s in that boat out there? Is that an innocent family outing or a murder about to happen?”)

One of the things one seeks to do as a writer is to take what one sees (or imagines) and enable another person to see it. That extends to seeking to enable another person to see things that no longer exist – e.g., the world of the past – or things that have not existed yet – the future, another planet, etc. Writing enables us to see “creatively” because we want to be able to express, creatively, what we see.

PSW: What is the best way to practice the writing craft?

The one that works for you. Seriously. I am SO not a fan of articles that say to be a good writer, or a successful writer, you “must” do this, that or the other. You’ll have one person saying that it’s best to get up at 5 a.m. And write while you are “fresh.” Another advocates writing in the afternoon. One person is convinced that you must writer detailed outlines; another believes in flash cards; another in “clustering,” another in flying by the seat of the pants.

There have been many mantras about writing that be passed around the community. Basically, the writing community tends to latch on to a piece of advice and , because it was uttered by an “expert,” it’s taken as gospel and passed on as such, over and over and over again. For awhile, for instance, it was considered absolutely vital that a writer maintain a journal. You just HAD to have someplace to jot down your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, etc., every day. I can remember reading article after article extolling the importance of journaling. I don’t see that advice very often anymore – it seems to have become less “in fashion” – but for a time everyone just simply “agree” that this MUST be THE thing to do.

Similarly, the piece of advice that gets passed around constantly is that you MUST write EVERY day. Then there are lots of pieces of tangential advice that try to handle the fact that, let’s face it, most of us CAN”T manage to write every day. So we’re told that we should, but… as long as we just write 100 words or 500 words or a journal entry, we have “fulfilled” the requirement. No one tends to question who came up with the “requirement” in the first place.

The problem with these “best way” recommendations is that when you aren’t doing it or cannot do it or think it’s a total waste of time to do it (can you tell I never got “into” journaling?), it’s easy to feel that you’re not doing “everything in your power” to be a writer. And if you’re not doing “everything” that you should be doing, you must not want it enough, and if you don’t want it enough, maybe you’re not REALLY cut out to be a writer in the first place!

So… the best way is YOUR way. If you find that your way isn’t actually working for you, then it’s up to you to examine what you’re doing and develop a system that works better. One of the first steps in that exam is to make sure that you’re not trying to follow someone else’s way, and failing to understand why THEIR way isn’t working for YOU.

PSW: What is your typical writing day like?

It usually involves quite a lot of NOT writing. I do not write every day. When I do, and I’m really settling into it, there ‘s a lot of “to-ing and fro-ing.” I sit down. I try to concentrate. I get up. I walk around. I get coffee. I put on the laundry. I sit down. I drink the coffee. I write a couple of paragraphs. I get up. The coffee is gone; need more. I pace the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. I make more coffee. (Oops, laundry needs changing now!) I sit down. This all takes usually an hour or two, and then finally like a switch gets flipped, and I hit the “zone” and just keep typing. THEN, I could probably type for hours. I will usually write 1/2 to 2/3 of my piece and then go back to the beginning and start rewriting it – perhaps because I can’t really write the end until I’ve made some necessary modifications that occurred to me as I moved forward. The end of whatever I’m writing needs to flow logically from the beginning – so if, halfway through, I’ve seen a somewhat different direction, or I didn’t like the way I was expressing something, then I need to go back and do my next pass from hat point and try to push the flow all the way through to the finish.

And then I need more coffee…

PSW: What is it like being in the writing business?

MA: It’s a bit of a combination of wonderful and terrible. It can be wonderful, because there is no good reason to be in this business if it isn’t something you love. And so, wonderfully, you’re doing something you love. But it can be terrible because you’re in an incredibly competitive business – there are more active writers out there today than ever before in history. So it can be extremely frustrating, and I think more writers are feeling the pinch of frustration today than ever before. Ironically, our worst competition isn’t “good” writers, it’s “bad” writers. If you pick up a poorly written book, and you’re new to reading, it’s going to turn you off to the process – so every writer is harmed by the plethora of truly bad, unskilled writing that is flooding the market place through “do it yourself” and free venues.

Another hazard in the “writing business” is that many people assume it’s about “writing” and forget that it is, also, a “business.” that means all the issues of “doing business” apply. If you want to get published, you have to learn how the publishing business works. You have to learn how to find markets, develop appropriate submissions, track income and expenses, track submissions and maintain your writing AS a business. Creativity is only one ingredient in a successful writing “business”.

PSW: Your newsletter is an education in itself. How many years have you been sharing this information?

MA: Writing-World.com was founded in 2000, so it is about to head into its 15th year. The website itself offers more than 600 articles on just about every aspect of writing of every level of expertise. The newsletter is just a small part of that. Writing-World.com is one of the largest, if not THE largest, sites for writers on the web today, with the largest archive of material and one of the largest visitor rates.

Before that, I worked with Inkspot, which was in every sense the “predecessor” of Writing-World.com. Inkspot was one of the first and foremost “communities” for writers on the web, with a host of resources for writers – it was one of the first out there when the Web was still shiny and new. Prior to that, I had set up my own little “advice” site called “Tips for Writers” – I eventually transferred all that material over to Inkspot, and then to Writing-World.com. Writing-World.com was born from the ashes of Inkspot, which was “killed” by a new owner, and we were able to inherit a lot of the material that had formerly been posted on Inkspot. We just went on from there!

PSW: Do you recommend a writer to specialize in one type of writing?

MA: No, not really. I think it’s too easy to assume that you do only one thing, or like only one thing. Getting out into the “writing business” often means getting out of your comfort zone, and writing for types of publication you might not have imagined working with. It means learning to write different lengths and even different styles. There are different requirements for magazines, newspapers, online publications, blogs, etc, – and one thing tends to lead to another.

By exploring and pushing your boundaries, you may discover that there is some other aspect of writing that you never imagined you’d be good at – and you find that you like it even more than what you THOUGHT you would be writing. In a world that tries to pigeon-hole people, it’s silly to pigeon-hole yourself! Don’t ever assume, “Oh, I’d never be any good at that,” or “I’ve never done that, so I couldn’t do it.”

You may also find that the type of writing you’re comfortable with, or assume you WANT to do, is not one that will lead to a “successful” writing career. This is a career where flexibility and versatility are real advantages.

PSW: What advice do you have for new writers?

MA: Let’s go back to the issue of being aware that “a writing business” is a BUSINESS. You wouldn’t imagine going into any other business without learning the ropes. So don’t imagine that you can be truly successful as a writer without leaning how the writing and publishing business works. A lot of writers feel that their job is just to be “creative” – and then they hope someone will tell them how to take the next step (e.g., find an agent, find a publisher). But the thing is, you’re competing with the ones who DO go out there and do the research, read the articles and the books and the blogs. If you aren’t one of them, you don’t have a chance. The person who is prepared and educated is ALWAYS going to come out ahead of the person who says, “I just wrote this great book, but I have no idea what to do next, can you help me?”

The wonder of today’s online world is that writers have access to unimaginable volumes of information for free that, in my early days, you had to pay for! If you wanted to be a successful writer 30 years ago, you had to subscribe to a writing magazine or two, you had to buy books (lots of books), and you might want to take classes at a real-world night school. Today, most of what is in those books and classes can be found online for free. And yet too many new writers aren’t taking advantage of that.

So educate yourself. Find out what the writing business is about, how it works, and how to make it work for you . Don’t be scared off by the horror stories that you hear about how “no new writer can ever get published.” EVERY writer who is published today was a new writer at some pint. Of COURSE new writers get published! They get published all the time! That’s how they stop being “new writers.”

When you DO hear horror stories, identify the source. Are you being told “you don”t have a chance with traditional publishing” by someone who has a vested interest in convincing you to buy THEIR product or service? Are you being told this by someone who wants validation of the path THEY have chosen?

Finally, I supposed perhaps that most important attribute a new writer can have is PATIENCE. We live in a world where instant gratification is considered not only the norm but some sort of divine right. I want to be published – next week! Why SHOULDN’T that happen? Traditional publishing – the kind that gets your book in front of hundred of thousand of readers rather than literally, a few dozen – DOES take time, patience, frustration (lots of frustration), research, and more patience. Too many writers today are settling for what they can get NOW, rather than hanging in there for the far greater reward that comes from enduring the frustration, the disappointment, and the passage of time. Great writers don’t settle – they endure. We aren’t taught “endurance” much anymore, so those who will are those who win.

Moira Allen, Editor
Writing-World.com

Author of “Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer,” “The Writers Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals”

Moira teaches us that with a little courage and persistence you will win in the writing world. Her practical advice you too can live your dreams. Thank you so much Moira for sharing what you know so well and your words or encouragement.

For more information visit: Writing-World.com

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Thoughful Thursdays #65

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Healing

Healing is different things to different people. What I am about to say here is my experience of healing. Please indulge me.

1. Healing is not a linear process. There are many ups and downs.

2. Healing never ends but it does stop for very short or very long periods of time.

3. Healing does not come from other people unless they are pressing your buttons. That is an important clue of what you have to look at in yourself.

4, Healing can just out at you  many forms. Like reading books, relationships, paying attention to what is going on.

5, Healing can come from a crisis or deep insight.

6, Healing can come from very loud places and quiet places.

7. Healing is your ongoing job.

8, Healing speaks to you from your intitution.

9. Healing can be scary because you may not want to hear the route you need to take.

10. Healing can be postponed but will resurface when you least expect it.

Hope that helps.  Happy Healing!

C. Hope Clark – Mystery Writer and Writing Entrepreneur

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c. hope clark image 3c. hope clark image 1c. hope clark image 2

 

I am a big fan of C. Hope Clark and have been following her for more than a year. Her newsletter is full advice for writers and includes 75+ paying opportunities in each issue. She is smart, savvy and prolific writer who’s life style and advice is both practical and timeless. She has graciously allowed me to interview her about her work and generously shares her ‘secrets’ to success.

C. Hope Clark was born and reared in the South, from Mississippi to South Carolina with a few stints in Alabama and Georgia. The granddaughter of a Mississippi cotton farmer, Hope holds a B. S. in Agriculture with honors from Clemson University and 25 years experience with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include awards for her management, all of which enable her to talk the talk of Carolina Slade, the protagonist in most of her novels. Her love of writing, however, carried her up the ranks to the ability to retire young, and she left USDA to pen her stories and freelance.

Let’s Welcome C. Hope Clark.

1. As a successful writer and entrepreneur what have you learned about yourself in the way of your capabilities and creative evolution?

What a strong question! Actually, I’ve learned that I cannot ride on the waves of fads, and that all I accomplish is from my proactivity, not chance. My writing gets better because I fight to learn how to make it better. Every time I pick up my work, I study it for improvement. I read my genre intensely, seeking what makes for success in successful books. My promotion is only as good as I make it. Slow and steady actually can win the race. When I thought I could not keep going is when I made myself stay in front of the screen and work through it. But I am as good as I make myself. Worrying about the odds, or fearing rejection, or wondering if I can make a living at this, will only sap energy that  could be used in moving forward. I love to write. It’s as simple as that. So why should anything get in my way to do so?

2. Do you recommend writing about what you know and what you are interested in to put in a story or non fiction piece?

I believe in learning how to write before you get overly active moving outside your comfort zone with the material. That means in your early days, you write what you know until you’ve honed your voice. That way you’re not going nuts balancing finding the voice AND researching the material. Then as your writing grows, your research and subject stretch grows as well. Writing isn’t one of those endeavors you just decide to jump into and then see if you can swim. It’s a ladder, and you have to climb one rung at a time.

3. Was there ever a time where you wanted to give up and how did you keep going?

There were moments, and there still are moments. I had one just two weeks ago. Keep in mind that nobody really “arrives.” It’s a continual journey with no end. Everyone has bad days along that journey. Novels are draining and time consuming, and when readers don’t give reviews or the feedback is silent, you wonder if you’re scratching the surface and making any difference. Or pre-getting published, you wonder if you are wasting your time trying to be a writer. Happens to everyone. I think I kept going via stubbornness. I’ve always been a person who hated to be bested, hated failure. If I have a bad day, I make myself write through it. That’s what’s great about journaling or even blogging (if you don’t whine). Having shoulder of at least one person helps. They help put your irrational thoughts into  perspective.

4. How were you inspired to create FundsforWriters?

I went into FundsforWriters kicking and screaming, actually. I was writing mystery, hoping to leave the day job one day. But I was also freelancing, writing online, which in the late nineties, was a novel concept. Nobody understood that writing for the web and for print were entirely different. Somebody saw my name on a site, asked me to speak to their writer’s group. I did, and the subject morphed into a talk about writers being broke. In my day job, I managed an agency’s budget and had advised loan and grant clients, so I slid into my day-speak talking about earning money and managing it and how there were grants, contests and freelance markets for writers who were trying to write books. The emails started pouring in as a result, and I created a newsletter to answer all the questions once a week, so I could write my own work. The  readership exploded in a few months, then a year, to where it is now. I interpreted it as a higher power telling me to use what I know to get my foot in the door and my name known as a writer. It worked. FFW is now 15 years old and 40 plus thousand readers, and Writer’s Digest has selected it in its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years.

5. What are the best ways to network and get the word out about ones work?

There is no best way. That’s what’s so great about this profession. It’s pure freelance and creativity, down to and including the promotion. If there was one best way, everyone would be doing it. You define your strengths, your writing goals, and your style, and then you set up the networking and promo. Because it’s not what you do but how intensely you do it. There are a lot of people going through the motions out there, but few show the passion. Passion is a drug, for the writer and the fans. Everyone wants a taste of it to feel more alive. So decide how you want to make a name for yourself and go at it like gangbusters. Stay hungry.

That said, everyone needs a home base online, and the way Facebook changes all the time, sabotaging how many of your fans can see your posts and vice versa, I suggest that home base not be social media. Website or blog. Where can people find out about you, and use that link in everything. And draw it up professionally. If your site and blog look cheap and homespun, guess what . . . that’s how your writing will be perceived.

But your personality and voice are as important as the quality of your writing. Be seen. Promote daily. I believe at least 25% of your writing time should be spent in marketing. Consider speaking. Guest blog. Respond with very intellectual, well-thought out responses on others blogs. Get busy in the forums about your genre (the readers, not the writers). It will feel like nothing is happening, and it might take a year or more, but you do it daily.

And word of mouth is so important. Don’t be afraid to admit you are a writer, and don’t be afraid to ask others to talk about you.

6. I understand Low Country Bribe is loosely based on your real life experiences and meeting and marrying your husband. That is really romantic. Are all your mysteries based on your personal experience?

No. That history was the catalyst for the series, but the rest of my fiction is just that, made up. Sure, I insert memories, experiences, pieces of friends and family in the mix, but that’s how any author writes. But I love it that people cannot tell the fact from the fiction. That means I’ve done my job well.

7. What is your typical day like?

I like my days loose, so they might change. The only thing that doesn’t change is that when I have ten minutes to write, promote or answer email, I am at the computer off and on day and night. I rise late, around 9-10 AM because I write into the night. I answer email (which takes a while) which might include interviews like this or doling advice to someone with a question or problem. I might work on the FFW newsletters. In the afternoon, I go to the gym, garden and/or tend my chickens. Then dinner, often on the back porch overlooking the lake with my husband and dachshunds. But then it’s back to work finishing work on FFW, marketing/social media, then at night I write fiction. Admittedly, I’m a mystery addict, so I have my certain TV shows where hubby and I try to dissect the stories. We compete on who can solve the crime first. But deep into the night, I write hard. How many words depends on whether I have a deadline, but do a lot of guest blogging (usually written in the day) and I’m trying to write two books a year now. Trying is the operative word there, because I haven’t quite met that goal yet.

I do this 7 days a week, but admittedly, my light day is Saturday. The newsletters are out and there’s less email, so I often work less those days.

8. Is there anyone who inspires your writing?

I love reading great writing, and I take notes all the time. I love all sorts of mystery writers, but the best overall writer whose prose I think sings is Pat Conroy. Other writers include Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, and whoever I’ve discovered lately. It’s a moving target. But I write my way, and I never keep someone in mind as an idol. I don’t want an idol. I want to just write better.

9. Are you working on anything new?

I am always working on something new. A serious writer ALWAYS has an active project. I just turned in a completed manuscript for a book coming out in September. I’m writing the first draft of the one behind it. I’ve outlined another to come behind that one. If you want to be a serious writer, you write all the time. Anyone waiting for the muse, or such bunk, is making excuses. Writing is a job, a profession. You don’t choose what days to go to work.

10. What advice would you like to share with new writers?

Get serious. Write daily. Fight to learn something new about writing constantly. Edit until your eyes bleed, then get others to edit your work after that. You are seeking perfection, though nobody ever achieves it. Readers can tell when you’ve invested yourself in your work. Each edited word matters. Writing is either a hobby or a profession, and there’s nothing wrong with either one. Just know that your success is contingent upon your focus, your time invested, and your goals, because it takes all three of those to make your writing better.
Thank you Hope for sharing the essence of your life and work ethics and dream of being a writer. You are certainly my inspiration.

Hope is a special person who has made it her burning desire to act on her dreams. That’s what life is all about. Hope barrels through any obstruction that gets in the way of her dream and is extremely successful at it. Hope has generously shared how she lives that dream. Take her advice seriously and you will be living your dream too.

To learn more about C. Hope Clark and her work visit these websites:
—www.fundsforwriters.com and www.chopeclark.com .
C. Hope Clark author of:
The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, Bell Bridge Books
http://www.chopeclark.com
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Editor, FundsforWriters, http://www.fundsforwriters.com
Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers, 2001-2014

Thoughtful Thursdays #19

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20 Reasons to smile about life:

1. Dogs, cats, birds, animals.
2. Breathing, you wouldn’t get very far without it.
3. You woke up, start something new.
4. Sun, moon, stars are free for us to enjoy.
5. Other people, even the good, bad and ugly.
6. Children, all of them even if they are not yours.
7. Walking in any form calms the mind.
8. Trees because they purify the air
9. Internet, the world at your fingertips.
10. Books, stories new worlds to explore.
11. Your mind, it can solve all problems.
12. Money makes life comfortable.
13. Food, chocolate, coffee, tea make the world go around.
14. Inventions are the result of progress.
15. Science unfolds previous mysteries.
16. Art is the expression of the universe.
17. Bodies, exercise, enjoy the physical world.
18. Flowers smell sweet and look breathtaking.
19. Clocks are tick tock-ing time away.
20. Colors are infinite.

OK there are a few more than 20 here because there are many more reasons to smile about life.

Like sewing, amusement parks, cars, sleeping, laughing, honey.

Leave a comment and add to the list.

Happy Smiling.