- A judge in a famous contest, a publisher tells you so. Yeepee! People want to know more when you give them the elevator pitch. Send your idea around and see if people get excited by it. Would they read the story? Would they buy the book? There are contest/forums that test ideas, so submit to yours to them.
- Your CPs cannot stop thinking about your story, even if their comments can seem negative. Especially if their comments are overtly negative. A good story is supposed to haunt people, crush them in the deepest part of their soul, make them want to yell at you for writing it, puzzle them, or you really can’t shake out how uncomfortable it makes you feel. If your story creates emotions in people, it's probably a winner.
- An idea is haunting you and you have spent years thinking about it. You have researched aspects of it without getting anywhere, still you have come back to it. Be patient, the idea is making its way in your mind and will come out fleshed out when you’re ready. Ideas start as embryos. Ideas get their wings when you are able to associate other ideas to them and these other ideas are conflicting. Yes, ideas are the result of conflicting/bothering/mind blogging thoughts. At first, they can be hard to handle like red hot charcoal, but with time they can make a victorious comeback. Who said looking at ideas from a different perspective is easy and quick? Jean Auel started writing her series at 40 years old; 35 years later, she’s writing the last book in the series. From an amateur anthropologist, she has become an expert in her field. That’s devotion.
- You dig as deep as you can and decide to be perfectly honest. Some actor once said that in order to act you need to lose the sense of who you are. Actors wear so many personalities; it’s hard to find yourself once you’ve believed you were someone else for months on end. Same for writers. Actors actually end up in therapy after playing their best roles. There is no reason why writers wouldn’t have to do the same. If you cannot personally connect with the character, no matter how good the idea is, the result will be average. It’s your personality that will dig the story deeper and deeper to the limits of what’s humanly imaginable. Honesty is everything.
- You reached many dead ends and got side-tracked. Go through an actor training, workshops, thousands of books. Try out all the ideas. Writing is hard work. You will reach many dead ends. Discover how much there is beyond your idea that you didn’t even know existed. Yes, really. Jean M. Auel is an American writer who wrote the Earth’s Children series, novels set in prehistoric Europe. She confesses, “I started out with an idea for a story of a young woman who was living with people who were different. And I wanted something substantial.” “I’ve read an awful lot of -ology books, climatology, speleology. I came up with the idea. But the real fun and the real excitement came when I got into the research and discovered how much was there that we didn’t know. So I decided I wanted to tell it, in a way that was understandable to most people. So that’s fiction.” https://earthsky.org/human-world/jean-auel-on-painted-caves-and-her-latest-novel
- One idea must uncover themes you would never have associated with the idea. Explore many themes. You are ready to go as far as your story will lead you and feel as many feelings as you can. Jean Auel has taken as many workshops as she could. She has visited as many caves as she could and she has cried because she felt overwhelmed by these places. She has learned about all the subjects she could think about or stumbled about like “markings on horses' teeth, prehistoric attitudes towards disability, and arguing competitions in the Arctic.” https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/jean-m-auelwhat-prehistoric-attitudes-towards-sex-2254057.html A great idea is an adventure in a world that goes beyond what we ever expected to discover. It leads the writer to the far end of the world of possibilities.
- You have a list of the most common ideas and make sure your idea doesn’t belong there. Become aware of what has been overdone. If you go for the Cinderella story (rags to riches), make sure your Cinderella isn’t anything like anyone’s Cinderella. Make it a Phoenix.
- You make sure you have a unique take or perspective on the subject. Think about who is your main actor. Is your main actor someone you will think about first or someone no one will think about? Did you research unique takes on history or experiences from autobiographies? Did you make a list on all the possibilities and crossed out the first 20? Are you inspired to take huge leaps of faith on this idea? Think the unthinkable. Jean Auel came up with her own take on crime and punishment in prehistoric ties, “A question about Cro-Magnon crime and punishment inspires a ghoulish tale of an Eskimo found guilty of selfishness: the miscreant stole strips of meat from his tribe's store of liver; the tribe's solution was to swap their usual liver with cuts from a polar bear. Because polar bears are so carnivorous, their livers are rich enough in vitamin A to be poisonous. "That was the tribe's way of dealing with a selfish man. If I could have used that directly, I would have," Auel adds rather wistfully.” (https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/jean-m-auelwhat-prehistoric-attitudes-towards-sex-2254057.html)
- Can readers connect to what you are writing? In other words, is the main theme something people can relate to, even if their experience is not as dramatic or extreme as the experience of your character? Can the readers say they feel for the main character? Even if your main character is an anti-hero, he or she has redeemable qualities that most people can relate to. Is your character a beggar that happens to save cats? No everyone can relate to being a beggar, but most of us would try to rescue a pet.
- You can think out of the box and you can help others think out of the box, one step at a time, one line at a time in a logical, strategic way. It is not so much having a good idea that’s hard. It’s more about your ability to develop the idea that will win people over. Developing an idea in an original and effective way takes time, thoughts, research, emotional involvement, real-life experiences. A great idea is a whole experience.
How do you know you have a great idea for a story?
I love Jonna’s connection to nature. I love that she gives herself challenges then explains what they mean to her. I feel like we get to discover her soul one video at a time.
Le Cirque Du Soleil is a dream land that reminds me of my past. I always wanted to be a circus performer, and I taught aerobics dance for many years. I love the energy and playfulness of Corteo the most. I am also so much in love with Kooza’s giant wheels.
I love Bill Vicar’s ASL courses. He is fun and professional. I taught some ASL to my son when he was a toddler and we could have conversations over the playground without anyone noticing. It was a practical way to tell him what to do without embarrassing him. As a teenager, he decided to relearn the language. I was happy to help him with it. Being able to talk with one’s hands is magical.
Who does not like Lindsey Starling, a self-taught artist with a sense of drama and beauty.
I love Liziqi’s ability to continue centuries’ old traditions. She has the skills to do everything by herself surrounded by nature, the harsher teacher on Earth. We never know what she will be doing with what she plants, gathers and brings back to her farm. She reminds me that we really don’t know how to survive anymore.
Gabrielle Polacco has been inspiring me for years. Her tutorials are simply gorgeous and make me want to try new mediums every time.
Think of a retreat as a gateway.
Because it is the destination that needs to capture the imagination.
A writer’s destination is: first, beautiful nature; second, diversity.
Walcot Hall has both.
I went to Inkwell’s retreat because I needed to get away from it all. This was my first retreat. It was a long-time voucher of some sort my husband had promised me, but I couldn’t cash on it because I always had someone I needed to care for.
This was my first time on my own, away from home.
Think of Walcot Hall as a country.
In just a few paces, you could go to different universes, different cultures, and speak different languages.
There is a garden where one might learn to speak the language of flowers.
There is a strange village of yurts where one might learn to speak South Asian rites.
There is a trail of gypsy wagons with campfires where one might learn the language of divination.
And there is a variety of rundown houses and cottages for those in need of learning the language of time passing by.
And then in the village nearby, there is a poetry pharmacy for those in need of words to complete their thoughts. Haiku puzzle pieces. Poems to send by mail. Books about the secret language of trees. Over there, one might drink from a chemistry tray and sip the words of poems from a jar.
I went to this gateway in March 2020, just before the blockade.
I didn’t expect anything.
I didn’t know the persons in charge of the event.
I didn’t know how the organization would look like.
I didn’t care.
I live under a rock!
I was backpacking to a place where I wanted to reflect and write away from my life.
My journey has been a difficult one. It has also been a spiritual one. Somehow both always go hand in hand.
I had just made a breakthrough in my understanding on how to structure my novels. I wanted to redraft them and give them more depth. I didn’t have any expectation and was totally opened to anything, even the possibility of non-participating.
And the price was right.
I knew that was the only way for me to fully appreciate the people and the teachings.
I believe coming to this sort of events with a lot of expectations just ruins it. No one can ever meet personal expectations.
Going to this retreat felt like backpacking. We had regular meetings in the morning, and we did go outside in groups and wrote along the way. It was an exploration of the senses, an exploration of themes, an exploration of our imagination. We listened to each other. We enjoyed each other’s writings.
I was happy I didn’t know anything about the celebrity invited or about our hosts. I was meeting them with the heart, and I found depth in their words. I found wisdom in the way Olivia, Ellie, and Mike taught. I found heart and a deep friendship in the way they talked to each other and the way they talked about writing. I felt compassion in the acts and words of the attendees. They seemed hand-picked although it could not have been possible.
It felt like home.
Home for a week.
Home away from home.
Thank you all.
Here is my take on how to go to a retreat. What is yours?
Many of us homeschool children these days, even when they have never done it before.
Homeschooling might add to the frustration of being cooked up at home and having a full-time job. It might add to the threat of getting sick or caretaking for a loved one.
If you are a writer, micro-writing can become a survival tool.
I have homeschooled my children for 15 years and have used micro-writing to write five 60K words novels.
I wanted to share how I did it and how it worked for me.
Homeschooling requires to supervise, plan, and answer questions while your children surround you.
That means they will be interrupting you every few minutes.
When they are not disturbing you for their assignments, they will be asking something to eat, something to drink, if they can take a break, play with your makeup, pull the cat's tail, or if they can help you cook something, etc.
No matter what they do, you will be asking yourself how they managed to spend hours in a brick and mortar school without your supervision or utmost attention.
You become the number one anchor in your home.
Bye-bye hours of concentration.
Bye-bye freedom to think through novels, as if that wasn’t hard enough already.
You only have a few minutes at a time to write.
A few minutes isn’t much.
A few minutes might be just enough to think one sentence.
When we hear micro-writing, we usually think flash-fiction, but micro-writing can be successfully be used to write entire novels. Think of a patchwork and how all the little pieces can be assembled to make beautiful art.
You have only one minute to write.
If nothing works, be silly. Write from metaphors. What stories can you come with from these metaphors?
Start with: "I'm drowning in a sea of grief" (in a sand bucket but griefs are those the customers have been pouring on me). "She was fishing for compliments" (on the banks of the Nile river, but she was just a slave). "It’s raining men" (Allelujah! If I’d known, I would have brought the spell with me, the one that turn them into toad. Maybe we would have more space to move.)
Have you micro-written before? How did it go?
If you can’t answer any of those questions, go micro-writing now. And good luck.
Can you write a story in 30 days?
Can you come with a new brilliant idea in two weeks?
Can you edit your novel in a week?
That's the question I'd like to explore and be able to answer as my future self.
December 4 question of The Insecure Writer's Group - Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?
I live under a rock.
I think all writers live behind the sun, on another planet, at the bottom of the sea.
I live under a rock.
That's how I see myself in the future and wouldn't have it any other way.
So, I have no definite answer for the big questions of life.
I hope I will never have a definite answer to anything.
I hope I will always say, "Why not" to everything.
Those who have final answers might be condemned to become sour little wrinkled lemons that last forever but acquire a bitter taste.
I would like to be a little lemon with a sweet taste if that's ever a thing.
And you, are you living the dream?
This book is for you if you are writing, or plotting a novel. Or if you are teaching how to write a novel.
Take any chapter in the workbook and start planning from there.
This textbook/workbook goes through detailed instructions.
I have added cheat sheets, checklists, and unique articles that go deep into each chapter's elements.
Available on Sunday, November 10!
On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sussu-Leclerc/e/B077MDCV1V/
Download a sample (82 pages) here:
The book is 300 pages long and has an extended bibliography.
Do not forget to share and tell me what you think of the book.
The way you take a critique will probably dictate how successful you will be as a writer.
That's at least the opinion of agent and writer John M. Cusick.
"Yes, some people have an innate knack for telling a story or writing a pretty sentence. But in my experience, the relationship between talent and success is slim. It’s the hard-workers, the grinders, the folks who write a lot, then listen and take criticism and grow, that make it.”
(“Am I any good? Taking the Measure of Yourself as a Writer" by agent and writer John M. Cusick.)
Many beginners expect praises and encouragements when they first submit their work.
Although some of the things they do are great, others need work.
It is not going to be awful. It will just need more research, a lot more. Everyone is on the same boat!
I refused to continue critiquing someone's work one day because I sensed the writer was a beginner and she had a lot of potential, but I was not the right person to critique and I was afraid to discourage her.
I am a tough critique, and I am even tougher on myself.
She did not take it well.
Being able to humbly accept a critique is an important step of being a writer. Usually more seasoned writers are more humble. It seems like the more we write, the more awful our writing gets. Maybe it is because we listen more and we realize we are still a work in progress.
Thousands of beautiful books are published every year. It is hard to feel unique in a sea of so many talents combined. However, we've got to believe we have something unique to offer, something no other writer can give.
Keep submitting your work everywhere.
Yes, rejection is humiliating.
Yes, rejection is crippling.
Yes, rejection makes us feel lost and isolated.
Still, rejection is a great thing.
Rejection gets you closer to success.
Rejection makes you hone your skills.
Rejection prevents you from being satisfied with the skills you have.
October's Insecure Writer's Support group Question:
It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?
Writing is like cooking. We all get the basic ingredients. With these basic ingredients (flour, eggs, sugar and butter), we can make
- even a bread.
Depending on our skills and how daring we are, we can make a whole lot more recipes too.
In fiction, with some basic ingredients (world, dialogues, scenes, characters, etc.), we can tap into a different genre or a completely different story. That’s why when we have an idea, it is in our best interest to make a story chart like this one:
Read fan-fiction and you will soon discover that with the same characters and the same world, we can come up with totally different stories.
My kids were telling me one day about people who lost their memories. Amnesiacs may wake up as totally different persons. Without your memories or with a set of different memories, trust me, you would be a totally different person.
It’s not how much you have read or what you have read that counts, it’s the experience. Where you get your experience in storytelling is up to you. The more the better. The more diverse the better too. Some listen to live storytellers and become amazing writers. Others gather stories from their childhood learned from people around them. And different people read books.
People who go around the world and come up with a best seller are not unheard of. People who devour the classics and become best sellers are not unheard of either. We all got our way of doing this.
There is no one way to tell stories, to gather content, to experience things, or to write about it.
Many people seem to think that to write Young Adult fiction, you need to read a lot of Young Adult fiction. No, you don’t. But if you don’t know how to write them, that’s a great starting point.
Many stories have been written by adults that are not in touch with teenagers and don’t know the words young adults use. Still, they write amazing stories and teens read them.
Many stories young adults read were not intended for young adults. I am not sure all teens want to read about books where they can recognize their own voice. Some might, but others are actively researching voices that are not theirs and subjects they don’t have affinities with. They just want to learn about things that have nothing in common with them. They are intrigued and curious.
My teens are not reading books with characters having their color, their religion, or their culture. And they are part of several minorities and subgroups.
They can read up to 10 books a month.
In a year, they might read more than 100 different books.
If they limit themselves to only certain types of books, they won’t have much to read.
What they are looking for more than anything is a great story, a complex and realistic story, something that sounds real and authentic.
Needless to say, my kids are not looking for Young Adult books exclusively.
Neither was I when I was their age.
They love reading books written for adults too. They love picture books from time to time. Kids read above their age and sometimes way above their age and sometimes way under their age.
Mostly, they are intrigued by the adult world, not so much by the teen world. Teens, they understand. Adults? They want to know more about them because they want to know what kind of adult they want to become.
It has been said that half of the people who read Young Adult are women in their 40s.
“By some market estimates, nearly 70 percent of all YA titles are purchased by adults between the ages of 18 and 64.” (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-young-adult-book-market-2799954)
More adults read Young adults than teens.
Many of us love remembering the first times, and we can identify with the coming of age. Plus, many parents want to remember how it was to be a teen in order to do a better job at raising their own teens.
What counts is the experience.
What counts is what is told with the heart.
Writing techniques are learned reading other people's books or listening to great storytellers.
However content comes from deep inside. It comes from a unique set of experiences you can only provide.
So, yeah, if you want to write a great book, stop trying to fit your story to the market and in an age group. Write the best story you can write and then decide where it fits. Maybe it won’t fit anywhere. Maybe it will fit in several places (unique stories and cross-genres are trendy these days).
Imitate and then find your own style, then soar like an eagle.
I know I want to.
Do you want to?
Want a retreat to write your novel, short story, poetry, non-fiction book?
Some people have thought of everything and have your best interest at heart because they want you to come back.
Here are a few places where you can retire for a few weeks and enjoy with friends, family, self.
If you like places dedicated to writers, you might want to check:
The 8 Best Writing Retreats That Won't Break the Bank:
The Algonkian Writer Retreat:
If you like tree houses and tents pf all kinds, you might want to check this:
An if you want to offer your own retreat, look no more:
Opportunities for Scottish Writers:
Boteti Gateways for those who would like to experience a Yurt (25 pounds /day):
Check out The 11 Coolest Writer's Residencies:
Greece Writer's Retreat with literary agent Sarah Bullen and best selling author Kate Emmerson:
Morocco Writing Retreat:
Write and Walk Retreat Spain with still Sarah Bullen and Kate Emmerson:
Rainforest Writing Retreat (Australia):
The Hawai Retreat:
Another Spain Retreat:
And some treat!
Win A writer's Retreat In Iceland:
If the retreats worked, they will probably offer it again, right?
As a reference, in case you want to explore if they offer the same packages in 2020, the 2019 retreats:
A comprehensive list for 2019:
Our Favorite Writers' Retreats:
Well, there are many more.
I hope you enjoyed the selection and that will get you inspired.
First quarter 2018 & 2019
Third quarter 2020!