ANOTHER BLOG ABOUT WRITING?

I love words. Long ones, short ones, even made-up-ones. I love writing words, putting them together in new and different ways that make people think, feel or do something. I love the words in songs, the words in movies, books and TV shows. And much to the dismay of every art director I’ve ever worked with, I also love a good em-dash—they’re seriously great.

I spend most of my days writing ads and many nights and weekends working on the novel I FINALLY finished writing—so why add a blog to the list?

Because like most writers, I have many opinions about many different things. And over the years of taking creative writing classes at the University of Florida, studying copywriting at The Creative Circus, attending writing workshops at Story Studio Chicago, writing a novel and working in the advertising industry for almost 15 years, I’ve learned a thing or two. And what good is knowledge if you keep it to yourself.

So follow me here to read my thoughts and advice when it comes to writing for ads and for fiction. The two aren’t as different as you might think. I’ll also invite other writers—copywriters, novelists, songwriters, poets, comedians, even agents—to share their wisdom. And last, but certainly not least, I’m going to play along with  #WordCrushWednesday and share the words I’m crushing on each and every Wednesday.

Now, who’s with me?

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SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, #NANOWRIMO, DECEMBER

“I am so glad I did that, but there’s no way in hell I’m ever doing it again!”

Yeah, I said it. But apparently I didn’t mean it because tonight at midnight, I’m doing it again.

For the next thirty days, I will be joining thousands of other crazy writers around the world as we try to write 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. I even have the cover photo to prove it!

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While the timing of November is generally terrible (holidays, birthdays, travel, etc), the timing this year is perfect for me. I’m almost finished with the latest edits of my second novel, YOU & ME & US, and I am ready to dive into what will hopefully become by third novel.

The idea for this next project has been stirring in my mind since the end of April—for those who are math-challenged like myself, that was six long months ago.

In that time, I’ve been keeping very busy freelancing at a few advertising agencies around Chicago, traveling, editing and revising and then more editing and revising on my second book which I “won” NaNoWriMo with last year.

While I have definitely been thinking about the new project (currently called BLANK PAIGE), I haven’t been writing it.

Was I waiting for NaNoWriMo?

Maybe.

There is definitely something about NaNoWriMo that gets a competitive, deadline-driven advertising writer like myself to stop thinking and start writing. Several members of my writing group have been talking about “butt in chair” goals, and I admit, that’s a big part of it.

Last year, I wrote every. single. day. of November and into December until I finished the rough draft I called ‘Draft Zero.’  Whether it was fifteen minutes or five hours, knowing  I would have to log my word count at the end of each day kept me writing. I hoping for the same results this time to help me cross that 50,000 finish line.

There is one big difference between this NaNo and the last that I admit has me nervous. Last year, I was writing characters that I knew very well since they were the same ones from my first novel. I’d been writing about them for fifteen years—so while their story was new, the characters themselves were like old friends.

This novel, however, features a brand new cast of characters that I’m just getting to know. And tonight when the clock strikes midnight, I’m going to pop a bottle of champagne, start writing and hope that these characters come to life for me the way my old ones did.

Wish me luck for this go around, and if you’re joining me in the NaNo trenches, check out this post I wrote last year with tips and my strategy for getting started.

 

 

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WHOOPS, I DID IT AGAIN.

Last fall, I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where thousands of writers around the world take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I wrote a few posts about the beginning, the middle and the end of the experience that was as exhilarating as it was exhausting.

When the end of November came, I had achieved the goal of writing 50,000 words, and more importantly, had gotten in the habit of writing every single day. I kept that practice up, and by the end of December, I  finished what I was calling ‘Draft Zero’ of my second novel, You & Me & Us.

While NaNoWriMo was an amazing experience and I was happy and proud to have done it,  I wasn’t sure that I would ever do it again.

Fast forward six months to last week when a fellow member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association posted in our Facebook group to see if anyone else was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, a more relaxed version of the November challenge. No one called me out specifically, but once the idea was planted in my head, I couldn’t say no. Not that anyone asked.

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I’m only a few days into the challenge, but I can already tell there are a few differences between NaNoWriMo in November, and this ‘lite’ version in July.

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Posted in Editing, NANOWRIMO, Uncategorized, Writing | 3 Comments

HURTS SO GOOD: USING CRITIQUES TO MAKE YOUR WORK STRONGER.

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Writing a novel couldn’t be more different than writing an ad. Or so I thought.

In the last few weeks, I’ve realized just how much the lessons I’ve learned throughout my advertising career have been helping me in my latest pursuit of becoming a published author.

One of the most important things I took away from The Creative Circus (other than a strong portfolio and a realistic grasp of how ad agencies work) is the understanding that you are not your work. From first to eighth quarter, we had our work critiqued so often and by so many people, that we had to develop thick skin. There was no other choice.

We quickly learned that when someone said your idea sucked, they weren’t saying you sucked. And let’s face it, we’ve all had our fair share of sucky ideas. What really divided the students and how successful they were in class (and later in their careers) was how they handled that criticism.

When people look at your work, whether it’s a novel or a print ad, they are looking at it through the filter of their own life experience—which, of course, is different than your own. Because of that, they are likely to see certain elements in a different way than you may have intended.

While your first impulse might be to defend your work, it’s smart to stand back and listen. Unless you’re planning on being there to explain why your ad makes sense to consumers as they come across it, you should at least consider the feedback.

During one portfolio review, I saw a student react poorly to constructive criticism from Norm Grey, head of the Creative Circus at the time. The student told Norm why he was wrong, and why the ad he had presented was, in fact, THE BEST AD EVER. (It’ wasn’t. And last I heard, that student is no longer in advertising.)

What he should have done with the feedback was again, to listen. Note that I didn’t say he should have agreed to make all of the suggested changes. While it’s important to hear people out, there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. If you take everyone’s suggestions, the work will end up becoming less cohesive and probably less effective. But it won’t hurt you or the work to hear them out.

This is true, even in a work environment. I’ve been in meetings where you couldn’t take everyone’s input even if you wanted to, because several of the comments contradicted each other. I’ve also been in situations where I didn’t agree with a request that came from a boss or client. In that case, it’s a good bit of advice to try it both ways. Show them what they asked for, and also show what you think the best solution is.

It’s easy to say no and shut down an idea that’s different from your vision. But sometimes, you might just be surprised and stumble upon something that’s even better than you originally imagined.

So it was with the thick skin of 17 years in the Advertising industry that I went into my Women’s Fiction Critique Group to have my second novel critiqued.

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Posted in Advertising, Creative Process, Editing, Fiction, Writing | 9 Comments

THE CONFERENCE REPORT: CLEVELAND

In the ad-world, conference reports usually fall on the shoulders of the account team, but since this was a writing conference—I figured I would give it a shot!

Last summer, after finishing what I thought was the final draft of my manuscript, I started looking into what exactly it would take to get published.  As luck would have it, the Cleveland Writing Workshop was happening a short two-hour drive from where I was living at the time.

This conference was a great introduction to the business-side of writing and I’m glad it was the first one I attended. While a lot of writing conferences are once-a-year-events, this was part of a traveling series put on by Writers Digest and led by @ChuckSambuchino. You can find a schedule for the events and when it might be coming to a town near you here.

Since I am not a morning person, I drove to Cleveland the night before so I could get a good night’s sleep and be bright eyed and ready for the next day. But first, I stopped by the bar. Yes, to have a drink, but also to hopefully meet other writers who were in town for the event.

Once I got over the awkwardness of sitting alone at a strange bar in a strange city, two women came up to the bar next to me. We talked for a few minutes and it turned out they were both agents who were attending the conference—including one that I would be pitching the next day. The bar clientele changed a bit after that, so I decided it was time to call it a night.

The next morning, I was ready to go with one of my favorite pens, a fresh notebook and a stack of my brand new business cards! Below, you’ll find a highlight of the day and some of the many things I learned. Each session went into much more detail and if you are at the beginning stages of getting published, I would highly recommend checking out the schedule to see if there’s an event coming to a hotel conference room near you.

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Your Book Publishing Options Today, 9:30 – 10:45

This session went into the pros and cons of traditional vs self-publishing and it was the perfect start for a beginner like me. What’s right for one author and one project might not be right for the other, and when it comes to elements like creative control, money, reputation and process—the two routes are pretty much opposite.

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Posted in Books, Conference Report, Conferences, I Wrote A Book—Now What?, Networking, Writing | Leave a comment

LIVE A LIFE WORTH WRITING ABOUT.

I’ve had a lot of conversations about time lately: how it can pass both so quickly and so slowly. Scientifically it’s a measurement, but emotionally, it’s a pretty unreliable one.

When I was trying to think of a way to capture the past few months and explain why it’s been (way) too long since my last blog post, the lyrics of a song called “Time Is A Runaway” by The Alternate Routes, came to mind.

The past few months, time really has seemed to runaway, in mostly good ways. So here’s a bit about where my time has been running since my last post.

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I WENT ON VACATION.

Every year for the last 17 years, I’ve gone on a cruise called The Rock Boat. From the outside, it’s hard to understand the magic of The Rock Boat, and from the inside, it’s hard to explain. But I’ll try.

In it’s most literal sense, The Rock Boat is a floating music festival started by Sister Hazel and Sixthman in 2001. A five-day cruise, it features somewhere around thirty bands. There is live music on five different stages and activities like Flip Cup, Battleshots and Headphone Disco that go from noon until 2 or 3am. There’s a reason it’s often called Spring Break for grownups.

But more than that, The Rock Boat is a family reunion. Whether someone has been on board all 17 years or only one, it’s a wonderful and welcoming community that has introduced me to some of my favorite bands and some of my very best friends.

It always takes a few days to recover from The Rock Boat. There’s even a phrase for the condition:

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I LEFT ONE JOB AND STARTED ANOTHER (ISH).

While getting my land-legs back, I was also figuring out my new employment plan. After 15+ years of working full-time for advertising agencies, I made the leap to Freelance which was equally exciting and terrifying.

In theory, it’s the best of both worlds. I’ll be able to work for agencies around town with new people for different brands on a variety of projects. And during the off days, I’ll be able to spend time working on my personal projects, trying to get my first novel published and editing the second one.

At least that was the plan.

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DIVERSITY WINS THE SUPERBOWL.

As an advertising Creative Director, a football fan and a music lover, it doesn’t get much better than Super Bowl Sunday.

For the past three years, I’ve opted out of traditional Super Bowl parties and instead, joined a virtual party—a Tweet Up hosted by The 3% Conference, a wonderful organization dedicated to championing female creatives, and seeing more women holding leadership roles in advertising agencies.

During the Tweet Up, both men and women from the ad industry used the hashtag #3PercentSB to focus the conversation on how brands treat and engage women.  Topics included whether women were involved in the creative process, how women were portrayed in the ads and if brands were including women in their target market.

This year, the tone of the commercials was notably different than years past. There was a lot less comedy and a lot more inspiration, and it was impossible to ignore the political undertones. While only a few brands made a direct play at politics, there was a definite theme of what it means to be American, celebrating diversity and inclusion.

Here’s what made my Top 10 list, in no particular order:

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Posted in 3% Conference, Advertising, Super Bowl | 1 Comment

I WROTE A BOOK—NOW WHAT? PART TWO: EDITING

Remember when I said, “Don’t worry about editing, just write.”?

Well, that was cute for the first draft. But once that’s finished, it’s time to get serious and start the editing process.

To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway,  E.B. White, Roald Dahl and Truman Capote: writing IS rewriting.

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When I finished the first full draft of my novel, I thought I was just inches away from the finish line. Little did I know that it would be a good year-and-a-half before my manuscript was ready to send to agents. And six months later, after hearing  valuable feedback from some of those agents, I’m back to making edits again. 

Editing is a long process that doesn’t end with getting an agent. Once you find someone to represent your book, there will likely be more edits before they feel the manuscript is ready to shop around. Then if a publishing house picks the book up, it will go through even more revisions with their editor.

Knowing all of that, it’s easy to understand why people say that writing 10% putting words on paper and 90% editing.

So there I was, blissfully unaware of the many steps that came after finishing that first draft. I reached out to my friend Kristin Harmel, an International Bestselling Author, and asked how she went from her first draft to the second.

This was her advice:

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Posted in Books, Editing, I Wrote A Book—Now What?, NANOWRIMO | 2 Comments