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For all of you who are asking, “what makes a good writer?” “Can I become a better writer” or “Can I be a better writer?” Yes you can – just like any business or skill, it takes dedication, hard work, some training, practice and study. And lots of reading and writing. I highly recommend, as one of your first steps (especially if you’re asking, “I want to be a writer, where do I start”), to join local writers groups and attend a good writer’s conference every year. You may have to try several writer’s groups until you find just the right fit. There are major writer’s conferences all over the country, and the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference in Colorado Springs is considered one of the best writers conferences.
Here’s several hacks to help you become a better writer and attend writers conferences.
Originally, I felt I shouldn’t go to the big writer’s conference, held every Spring in Colorado Springs, until my first novel was completely
finished (something the conference lists as a requirement for pitching).
So I missed several years and kept putting it off, thinking “next year
I’ll be able to afford it and hopefully my story will be done.”
Then a writer friend urged me to go, even if my novel wasn’t finished.
Because going to conference will grow your training in the craft so
much, it’s important to start going, every year if possible, as soon as
possible. It will help you be a better writer.
Well, she gave me the bug and I wanted to go. But that year, 2017, the conference was already a month away and I couldn’t come up with the money on time. So my writing friends gave me this vital advice (and here are other conference hacks, too):
- If you can’t afford to attend the conference, at least show up to Barcon. Barcon is when everyone hangs out around the bar Friday and Saturday evenings, networking and having a good time. I had friends who were attending, so I showed up Saturday night, met up with my friends, then started circling the room, meeting and networking with writers, published authors and agents. I prayed and utilized the Law of Attraction before entering, asking God to direct me to meet exactly who I should. First, I met a published author who told me he wasn’t able to get published until he read and applied the principles in My Story Can Beat Up Your Story. So I put that on my list to read and apply to my revision process (I wasn’t quite finished with my novel yet). Then the magic moment happened. My friend from my
first writer’s group, who knew my story well, introduced me to the agent he thought would be interested in my story. I spoke with her briefly, got to pitch my story, and she immediately asked me to send her the full manuscript! This was a miracle in itself. She was the first agent I ever pitched to, she was the only one to immediately catch the vision of my unusual book (an idea that’s never been done before), and eventually Natalie Lakosil became my agent. At the moment, though, I told her nervously that I would get the story finished as quickly as I could. “Take your time,” she told me. In other words, don’t rush it, do it right, and send it when it’s done. I had no idea it would take me another year and a quarter to get through the revision process, after finishing the first draft. (You know how it is, you have to spend time earning money and work on your writing when you can.) But in the end, after pitching and querying my story to quite a few agents and receiving several rejections, Natalie became my agent. I sent her the full manuscript, just as she asked, with an email: remember me? She did.
- Apply for Scholarships. For the 2018 Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference, I was able to apply for scholarship and received a partial one, covering two-thirds of the cost. My extended family helped provide the rest of the money, and I was able to attend the conference, including the Thursday Prequel (which I highly recommend). For receiving the partial scholarship, I wrote a blog post for their website and volunteered at the conference, which was fun.
- Speaking of Volunteering… One of my writer friends signs up as a volunteer every year for conference, reducing her costs by about half!
- Budget and Plan to Attend Conference every year. And while you’re at it, attend as many of the monthly workshops and
classes as you can. I had tried to become a freelance writer on Upwork, with no success, until I attended a workshop on being a freelance writer. The tips and tricks I learned there got me my first contract the following month and I’m now working as a freelance writer – ghost-writing, to be exact. I LOVE it and am earning a decent income as a novelist before my own novel is even published.
- At Conference, stay at the hotel if possible. In 2018, I was there on scholarship and couldn’t afford any extras. At the 2019 conference, I was able to plan and budget and work it out to not only attend extra activities (like the Write Drunk, Edit Sober session to raise scholarship money and also got my author head shots photographed at a discount), I was able to, last minute, book the hotel to stay on site. This was so worth it – it allowed me to keep my extra stuff in my room (like Saturday night’s dress-up clothes for the banquet), take quiet rest breaks when needed (between the end of classes and dinner), and, most importantly, stay up as late as I wanted at Barcon, networking.
It was so great to be able to have a drink or two and not worry about
driving or having to get a ride home on someone else’s schedule.
- At Barcon, branch out and meet as many people as you can.
Don’t fall into the trap of just hanging out with your current set of
writer friends. Get a drink, be bold, join clusters and groups, meet new members of your growing tribe, ask published authors lots of questions, rub shoulders with New York Times Best-Setlling authors. I did, it was easy and fun, and they love it too.
Do you know some hacks to become a better writer? Have you attended a writer’s conference or local writers groups? Do you have tips on what makes a good writer? I’d love to hear them – let’s collaborate – and leave your comments below. 🙂
I’ve been studying and applying the law of attraction in my new business of writing and becoming a novelist, learning many law of attraction secrets and law of attraction tips, as magic has unfolded before my eyes. When you learn to live in the flow, serendipity happens and you find yourself living a life of miracles. The law of attraction works in real life. You won’t believe the incredible ways in which the law of attraction has brought about specific things for me to experience in my various steps in writing a novel.
Law of attraction works
My debut novel is all about alchemy, and interestingly enough, the early alchemists were in actuality learning and experimenting with the law of attraction, I believe, discovering the law of attraction secrets through their various explorations and alchemical experiments. Alchemy, after all, incorporates the spiritual plane and the goal of transformation of one’s inner self as well as the physical plane and the outward transmutations of the metals, herbs, water and materials. They believed the outer reflected the inner, and vice versa.
I’ve been applying the law of attraction steps in writing my novel, and it’s been the most amazing and strange journey. Most of it of course was just my life of researching and writing, but the unusual occasionally occurs, and when it does, it’s something vital to my story.
Learning law of attraction secrets through alchemy
As I researched, studied and practiced alchemy, it coincided with my learning law of attraction secrets and tips in my own inward journey. I’m still just a beginner at alchemy, as I’ve focused more on law of attraction in real life, but far along the way I suddenly had a eureka moment as I believe I may have figured out the true meaning of the philosopher’s stone!
Alchemical steps in writing a novel
So what are the processes involved in writing a novel? Just like in alchemy, first I had the germ of the idea, the inspiration. Then I did a lot of research and learning, followed by the experimental work of writing and finishing the first draft. Mind you, I was working a separate business so I only worked on this part-time in fits and starts at the beginning.
But after the first draft was completed, I then spent time transforming my manuscript by revising, editing and reworking it. I would sometimes get flashes of insight on major changes to be made, and I also had beta readers give me feedback on the first draft, which helped tremendously.
When it was finally finished, I queried it out and lo and behold, I got an agent! (I still love just saying that – my agent!) Then she and I went through my novel, purifying and working on it more and more, bringing it to its most exalted state.
At one point I had another eureka moment. My particular novel, Encyclopedeia Magica: Volume 1 – Alchemy, is actually three books in one – it’s a novel, a puzzle workbook and a real alchemy/potions textbook. I had been inspired and had written it altogether, all three components intertwined as I wrote the first draft.
My agent (!) had the brilliant idea of separating the three components – this is exactly what you do in alchemy – in order to focus on each part and bring it to its best self, then eventually we’d recombine it all back together. I couldn’t believe it – this whole process, these steps in writing a novel, in my novel, are following exactly the steps of doing alchemy. Real alchemy was being done to my own novel.
These are the kinds of miracles I’ve been experiencing all through the process of writing my novel.
So we dove in. I took the painstaking effort to separate out the three components of my novel. Then we focused on each part, polishing each until it was perfect – the novel part, the puzzle workbook part, and the potions textbook part. Finally, when all three were ready, I did the painstaking work of recombining the three components and putting it all back together.
Then my agent and I were able to do a final polish, smoothing it all over and making sure it worked. Now we had a perfect, finished and exalted piece of art!
What are the odds that we would end up doing the literal steps of alchemical transformation on my own novel about alchemy? This is another way the law of attraction works in real life, tailoring to each situation. The law of attraction is real.
Law of attraction in real life
The miracles didn’t end there. My husband and I got to take an anniversary trip to London and Ireland. The London portion was specifically to do research and fact-checking for my novel, set in 1665 London. And you won’t believe it – the day we arrived, my agent emailed me to say my novel was ready, and could I send her some graphics so she could start pitching it?
“No,” I answered. “I just arrived in London and won’t be back to my laptop for two weeks.” No problem, she assured me, just get to it when I return.
Well the law of attraction had things in mind (or God? or the universe? all of the above?). Not only did I end up discovering several key elements I needed to fix, change or add to my novel to make it right – one was because I happened to speak to several locals and was a key bit of action at a pivotal point in the story – but I got to experience several of the experiences my own character had when she first arrived in London in 1665.
But the most surprising thing was something I didn’t plan for at all, and just happened. Right before our trip I’d noticed a mistake in the planning and I had to make some last minute changes to our Airbnb accommodations. This change made it so that we had one less day in London, but we did have all afternoon to travel by train out to Essex near the Stanstead Airport (instead of trying to make that trip super early in the morning to catch our flight to Ireland). We got off in a tiny town, then had to walk about twenty minutes, pulling our luggage to get to our traditional English cottage. I didn’t fully realize it till that evening, but we were walking a stretch that was almost exactly the same my character walked on her way to Londontown. In my novel I had her eating wild raspberries, but on our walk we discovered that the English countryside is just bursting with wild blackberry shrubs, and we enjoyed delicious fresh blackberries on our walk. Later, over supper, I looked at a map and saw how close we were to Ware, a town my 17th-century character walked through. And I knew another important detail I needed to change in my novel – blackberries! I couldn’t believe that I got to walk near the same area as her, and this was completely accidental and unplanned on my part – it was all the law of attraction in real life, working its magic.
Steps in Writing a Novel
These are just some of the amazing experiences I’ve been having in the steps in writing my own novel. Becoming a writer is my new career, and I’ve been using the law of attraction in my business the whole way. I love living a life of miracles. We had a great trip, I fixed my novel, and my agent is pitching it. It’s so exciting to see what will happen next!
So far here are the books and resources I’ve used in learning law of attraction secrets and tips – the books can be found on Amazon.com:
- All books and YouTube videos by Esther and Jerry Hicks, sometimes they go by Abraham Hicks
- The Secret DVD
- Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings in the Bible
- Books by Nanice Ellis: Is There a White Elephant in Your Way?
So you wanna be a writer? Can you be a writer? Yes, you can learn to be a writer, especially if, like me, you’ve had an underlying feeling for a while that you are meant to be a writer. Of course, it helps if you can write, too, and are an avid reader as well.
Learn to be a Writer – It takes a tribe
This was the theme of this year’s Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference (2019), in Colorado Springs. This is one of the things any writer starting to get serious about their writing does – they seek out their tribe. This means joining a local writer’s group (or two or three), being around your people who are also writing and who can help you along your journey, learning the ins and outs of writing and publishing, etc. I’ve learned more practical, professional information about becoming a writer from my writer’s groups than anything I remember from being an English Major in college. (Of course, it was a long time ago.)
I started in one writer’s group, from which I learned a lot and made vital friendships (which later translated into me being introduced to my future agent), then switched to a different writer’s group which met my immediate needs as a writer. Their focus is for all of us to get our stories finished. This was exactly what I needed – a structure and group of writers to hold me accountable to actually getting my first novel finished. They meet every other week, and in the off weeks we each submit around 2,000 words, to get feedback on at the next meeting. This way we each receive good feedback from readers of our first draft while it’s being written – helping to make it better and shape our story. This group is my Alpha Readers, if you will.
Studying the Craft of Writing
Then there’s actually studying the craft of writing. I highly recommend you connect with writing friends by going to writer’s conferences. Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, but there are many others – there’s an annual conference in Denver, one in Salt Lake City, the Romance Writers of America hold their conference in a different city each year. Speaking of which, be sure to join these groups. Joining Pike’s Peak Writers is free (and they hold monthly workshops, meetings, critiques, etc.) and they offer scholarships to their conference. Some writing organizations have an annual fee, like the Rocky Mountain Writers in Denver.
You will learn to be a writer as you take the workshops and classes at these events. There are so many class choices offered at conference, you can go to whichever topics you are most needing in your writing life. Last year I took classes on Writing the Perfect Monster, Techniques of the Advanced Novelist, Writing to Theme, All About Magick, How to Make Money as a Writer, How to Build an Author Platform, and Getting into the Hot Middle Grade Market, to name a few. I also learned, after professionals advised me two years in a row, that my novel, written for the Young Adult market, really is a Middle Grade novel – big changes in the revision process, like having to trim a 90,000 word novel to 50,000 words or so – yowza!
This year I attended many classes on the business of being a professional writer (from sources of income as a writer to building your marketing plan), as well as classes on going deep with your character, the resonance of writing, outlining your plot, customizing Scrivener, etc. (Scrivener is a writing software program that works great for drafting novels or other writing projects – even nonfiction.)
The point is, no matter where you are on becoming a writer (or being a writer), there will be classes that are exactly what you need to propel you forward.
Connecting with your Tribe
Besides the awesome classes, at conference you get to hear inspiring talks from New York Times best-selling authors, and then meet them at BarCon in the evenings (or at the meal tables). This past conference I really liked Anne Bishop’s talk about tribes. She mentioned that our first tribe is with our own characters in our writing. We spend more time with them and in their lives than with any other tribe in our writing life.
Then you have the tribe of other authors and writers, published and unpublished, who you connect with in your writer’s groups, events and conferences. Then is your tribe of professionals – like when you get an agent, or work with pro editors, etc. Honing my novel with my agent has been so much fun – I now have a partner-in-crime, as invested in my story as I am, and together (with her set of objective, professional eyes) we are making my novel better and better. Soon she will be pitching it to publishers.
Can you be a writer?
Yes, you can learn to be a writer by starting to act as a writer – and joining your tribes is one way to get started. The tribe of your characters as you write, the tribe of your local writer’s groups, the bigger tribe of writers and professionals you meet at conferences, the professional tribe you develop as you get an agent or hire pros to help get your book published. Lastly, as you reach success, you’ll gain a wider tribe of readers and fans. Being a writer is an ongoing adventure with many ups and downs, and with our tribes we will make it together.
For many of us writers, we look forward to November every year for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The website is awesome, it provides goal trackers, motivating articles, interviews and blog posts, and connects you with other writers around the world. Many of us meet up with local writers at locally-scheduled write-ins, parties, contests, prizes and fun. The annual goal of participating in NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words – to write the first draft of a novel, all during the month of November. Many writers spend the rest of the year planning and outlining in preparation for writing in November.
Nanowrimo Virtual Camps
So if you’re ready to try and write a whole novel in November, you’re all set. Sometimes, though, my writing timing doesn’t line up with that (though I try to plan it so that it does). In 2017, I was revising the novel I had finally finished (with the help of previous Nanowrimo’s). So there’s another website called Camp NaNoWriMo. They have virtual writing camps throughout the year, where you get paired up with online cabin-mates for a specific month (usually April and July).
The beauty of the camps is that you can set whatever goal you need for that month. So when revising I set an hourly goal – 50 hours of revising for the month, for example.
All of these are immensely useful in providing structure, a deadline, motivation and support for us writers trying to actually write.
But here I am in February, sometimes struggling to get in the word count I need in my current writing project.
Having some kind of structure helps me so much.
Well, enter nano wrimo once again! I recently discovered that on their main website, under “My NaNoWriMo,” they have a Goal Tracker. So anytime during the year, you can set up any kind of goal and use the site to track it for you, with whatever deadline you give it.
There’s just something about updating my word count on a daily basis and seeing my little graph go up and meet my deadline. I’ve always been a charts & stars person. (“Here’s a golden star for you today, Jerilyn!”)
Nanowrimo Young Writers
I’m fifty-one years old. But these tools are helpful for any writers at any age, especially nanowrimo young writers. Keeping up with a chart, updating daily word count goals, all of that, is so helpful.
Writing Goals Work – Especially for a Freelance Writer
Setting and structuring and updating your writing goals work. Whether you’re a freelance ghost writer working from home, like me, or working steadily on your own novel. Did you know that nanowrimo also offers extra tools like writing prompts, ideas to overcome writer’s block, forums, velociraptors and awesome merch?
Take Advantage of Nanowrimo (it’s free)
I am not affiliated with them in any way, and their tools are free – they live off of donations and their shop merchandise. I just love using all that nanowrimo has to offer, as it has helped me so much in own writing journey. Whether I’m doing my freelance writing (ghost-writing at the moment), or working on my own novel, setting and tracking writing goals works really well.
A Bit of Improv Writing from Me to You
Here’s a bit of my own writing, totally off the cuff and not edited, from a writing prompt I did recently:
Ridge came fully awake. He was lying on the cold cave floor, deep underground. Something was strange – what was that sensation on his front hip? He looked down and saw a slight bulge – something was in his left front pocket.
He reached inside and pulled out a miniature pyramid made of limestone, pale and perfectly proportioned. It was like an exact replica of Khufu’s Pyramid.
“Am I still in the pyramid?” He looked about. Yes, he was in the cave, the deep subterranean chamber under the Great Pyramid. “How did that get in my pocket?” He examined it. It pulsed, like a throbbing heart, in his palm. For a second it glowed, reflecting light from his dark eyes.
“Ridge, what is that?” Ash asked. She reached her hand out and the boy put it in her palm. It looked dull and dead, just plain stone, in her hand.
“Do you feel anything?” he asked.
She shrugged. “No, it’s like a souvenir. Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know, it just appeared in my pocket.” She handed it back and he held it for a long minute, then closed his hand and crushed it to crumbles of stone and dust…
(This was some Improv Writing I did at a recent Pike’s Peak Writer’s half-day conference preview workshop (Write Your Heart Out 2019). I’d never tried Improv Writing before, it’s just like Improv Acting – you’re given a one-sentence prompt, two seconds to think, then you write without any editing or revising, for seven – ten minutes – the moderator sets the time.)
Congratulations if you’ve gotten this far into this article. Google has some strange rules now, if I don’t write an article with at least one thousand words in it, it won’t do well in the search rankings. But most blog posts, all that I’ve done in my writing life, are closer to five hundred words. So this is a bit ridiculous. Why force a writer to write one thousand words, when a good writer can convey the information you need in five hundred?
So if you’ve gotten this far, great job! Leave a comment below with the phrase “Google can be so ridiculous sometimes” and I’ll see if I have a prize for you, or at least will acknowledge your comment.
Here’s another fun contest. Can you identify which are the keywords I was targeting in this post? Yes, I write what’s on my heart but I use the keyword and educational tools at Wealthy Affiliate to help me get my posts out there, so people can actually find them. I used five keywords / keyword phrases in this article. I will find you a prize for that! (Maybe something from my house.)
This journey of becoming a novelist and writer has been so fascinating. After working on my great big idea, my very unusual novel, on and off for sevearl years, I finally finished and got a book agent (also called a literary agent). This author can’t stop dancing!
Becoming a Writer
From the beginning and throughout the entire process I’ve been studying, learning and practicing the principles of the Law of Attraction – reading all the books by Esther Hicks, the original source of this material. There are also a ton of YouTube videos where you can listen to Esther Hicks answer all kinds of questions. You can also search under Abraham Hicks.
Through these principles I first asked for an original idea for my own novel. The next morning I awoke with the first few sentences in my head. The whole idea was full of magic and I’ve been enchanted with it ever since, even though my work on it was on again – off again, for many years.
Finishing the Novel
At a sci-fi/fantasy conference I took an author’s workshop. When she learned about my idea, she became so excited she offered to write the blurb on the back for me. Her enthusiasm acted as a catalyst and I began writing in earnest. I joined a local writer’s group whose main goal is to get our novels done. In about a year, and with the help of NaNoWriMo virtual camps, I finally finished my novel. Then I spent another whole year plus a few months revising and editing the novel, studying and applying the craft of writing from recommended books like The GMC, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, and Editor-Proof Your Writing.
Get a Book Agent
A writer friend highly recommend I attend the local annual writer’s conference. We have a big one here in Colorado Springs: The Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. It is so popular and fun that even the speakers often ask to come back.
While I was still writing my novel, not quite finished, I went to the writer’s conference one evening to attend “Bar-Con,” where everyone networks around the bar. A writer friend introduced me to my future agent, though I didn’t know it at the time. But I was able to pitch my story to her and she immediately saw the vision of my unique book. She asked for the full manuscript–a miracle in itself! I told her it wasn’t quite done, and she said to take my time, not to worry. Of course, I didn’t expect it to take over a year later!
Many Queries Later
I completely finished my book, revisions and everything, finally. This year I attended the full 4-day writer’s conference and pitched my story to five agents, receiving five rejections and one literary director and editor who loved it. I sent the full ms to the original agent from last conference, and also queried it out to about 15 agents in the U.S. and the U.K. (my story is set in 1665 London). Then I waited for two months, sending it out to agents here and there.
In August my agent, Natalie Lakosil, told me she loved my book. She arranged a phone call and offered me representation! By now, I’d received enough rejections that I accepted from the original agent who saw the vision.
It was so exciting to get a book agent! Now I’m in the interesting phase of Natalie and I collaborating to make my novel even better with more revisions and edits. I knew going in this would happen somewhere along the line towards publishing, and I’m really enjoying watching my novel get better and better. I’m learning that a good novel is sometimes more about what the author takes out, than what she leaves in. Less can be more, allowing the reader to bring more of themselves and interpretations to the story.
So what is the big idea, what is my unusual novel? It’s a potions textbook that has accidentally gotten out of Hogwarts and into the muggle world. It looks like an old encyclopedeia, with black and white woodcuts throughout. When you start reading Encyclopedeia Magica: Volume 1 – Alchemy, you discover there is something weird and alive in this book. Without giving it away, let’s just say you will be pulled in to becoming the magical hero of the story, if you wish to take on the challenge, and learn about a young girl who had to dress like a boy and became an alchemist’s apprentice, before the book defeated her. Now it is up to you to save her!
What is the take-away to get a book agent?
- Study and practice the Law of Attraction, to bring the right ideas, circumstances and people into your life – everything by Esther Hicks and Abraham Hicks
- Join local writer’s groups. Go to your nearest, best writer’s conference (they offer scholarships).
- Make yourself write, study the craft, and finish your novel.
- Network with agents and editors at conferences. You can also query your writing to agents with the online service, DuoTrope – worth the $5/month.