Friday, April 29, 2016

Killing Eeyore

post by Michelle Griep
Editors don't owe you a request for a proposal.

Nor does the publisher owe you a big, fat advance.

Bloggers are not required to host you on their site.

There's no obligation for reviewers to read your book and post a 5-star review.

And most of all, readers are NOT in your debt.

But I've met plenty of writers who think otherwise. These are the Eeyore's of the writerly world. Poor me. No one wants my book. I can't get anyone to interview me or help me market. It's just not fair.

To which I reply, "Suck it up, mopey pants, and get over yourself."

Go ahead and call me hard-hearted, if you must, but here's the deal . . . take some responsibility for your lack of success. How?

  • If you get a tough critique, glean and implement the comments to polish your manuscript.
  • If you get rejected by an agent or editor, ask why. Then work to change those aspects of your writing.
  • If one-star reviews plague your Amazon page, read them to find common threads that you can change in future books.

The point is that the writing field is pretty level. It takes blood and guts to win the game -- not lots of complaining. Work hard. Write your best and learn to write even better. Do that and you'll find you won't have any time left to mope.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Need a Recharge?

post by Michelle Griep
Yeah, I know I recently posted about writerly time management, but doggone it, every now and then you just gotta take a break. And have I found some fun sites for you while you're on that break . . .

This is an interactive, multiplayer musical experience. All you do is enter a screen name and the computer matches you up with 3 or 4 other people out there who are wasting their time, I mean, recharging. You play music with them with just the click of your mouse. This one is super addicting, so beware.

A Soft Murmur
Looking for some ambient noise but it's too early in the season for crickets or you're too lazy to go to a coffee shop? This is the place for you. Pick your soothing background noise and let it calm your nerves or inspire your muse while you write. Or nap. Your pick.

Shut Up and Take My Money
Need a quirky gift for someone? Need to treat yourself? Just want to gawk at some freakishly awesome items for sale? Yeah. Click on this one.

I Side With
I purposely do not talk politics on this blog. I figure I offend enough people just by being me without the added abrasiveness of political opinion. However, in this particularly heated season of elections, here's one site you might want to check out. It asks you a series of questions on a variety of issues. You answer yes or no and how important the issue is to you. Then voila. It matches you with the candidate you share the most views with. Yeah, I know you might think who that is already, but I also know you might be surprised. I was.

Geo Guesser
I admit it. I'm geographically challenged. This site confirmed it. It shows you a picture from Google Earth and you simply guess where in the world it is.

There you have it. Go out there and have a good time. Don't forget a helmet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You Can't Control Everything

post by Michelle Griep
Newsflash: You are not God.

That means you can't control if an agent will like your work.

You can't control if a publisher will offer you a contract.

You can't control readers to buy your books.

In fact, other than writing a story, there's not a whole lot afterwards that you can control.

So . . .

Redirect that angst over agents and publishers, contracts and sales. Instead, put that energy into creating a new story. Another writing project. Your best project ever.

Because you can control that one, little thing that you do -- art.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Writerly Time Management Life Hacks

post by Michelle Griep
If I've heard it once, I've heard it a bajillion times . . .
"I want to write a book but it will have to wait until I have more time."

To which I reply . . .
"Horse hockey."

Here's the deal -- none of us is guaranteed another day, so you've got to use the day you've been given. Here. Now. Do you really want to write a book? Then do it. And here are some practical ways to help you achieve that dream.

Say no.
Just because you can say yes doesn't mean you should say yes. If you have a goal you want to reach, you'll have to say no to other time-eaters to achieve that goal.

Ditch perfection.
Perfectionism is a time waster because -- listen closely -- you'll NEVER achieve perfection. Instead, shoot for the best job possible and leave it at that.

Set a deadline.
Give yourself a certain amount of time to accomplish what it is you want to do, then subtract a few days. That puts the pressure on and ramps up the urgency of your task.

Schedule downtime.
If your "on" switch is flipped up all the time, you'll drain your creative energy. It's important to step back and veg out every now and then.

Delegation is mandatory.
Newsflash: You are not Superman. Someone else can wash the dishes, or change the oil, or take Fido for a walk. Yes, even if you live alone. Hire things out, or if cash is a stretch, barter.

Create a plan.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Yeah, a little shmarmy, but oh-so-true. If you want to accomplish a big task, map it out into smaller chunks. You'll feel more successful on your way to success.

Sleep seems like a time waster to some and is often the first thing to get cut. Don't. Sleep is when you recharge, and creativity takes a lot of energy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Writing Lessons From Prince

post by Michelle Griep
I grew up in the ‘hood of Minneapolis, but no, I did not know Prince. We went to different high schools. Plus he was a few years older than me. And I was the lone wolf with my nose stuck in a book. Despite all that, I knew who he was. Everyone did—and still does—because he’s an icon of the area.  Why?

Prince was a risk taker.

Therein lies an important lesson for us all, little writers. No, I’m not expecting you to drape yourself in purple and change your name to some funky-butt symbol. But I am expecting you to perk up your ears and pay attention to what you can learn from Prince’s life.

3 Writerly Lessons From Prince

He didn’t settle for the status quo.

Prince was a groundbreaking musician because, well, the dude broke ground. Know what I’m saying? He didn’t play it safe, following all the musical or marketing rules. He dreamed big. You do that. Don’t let writing rules stymie your style.

He didn’t listen to the naysayers.

What? You don’t think Prince didn’t face rejection or finger-wagging or big, fat “NO’s!” in his music career? Think again, Bucko. He didn’t succumb to packing up all his talent and running home. You don’t need to, either. Learn what you can from critiques and reviews, but don’t let the tough ones curl you into the fetal position.

He did what he loved.

You love writing fantasy? Then write it. You have a passion for Westerns? Pen a saddle-buster of a tale. The point is that whatever genre makes your heart go pitter-patter is the genre you should be writing.

So yeah, I can’t claim to have known the man, but I can say for sure that these are solid principles to incorporate into your life.

Wearing purple is just a bonus.

Friday, April 22, 2016

3 Habits of Successful Writers

post by Michelle Griep
Not all writers are the same, but there are certain habits that all successful authors have in common. Cultivate these habits and you'll be well on your way to success as well . . .


A successful writer writes and keeps at it, no matter what. Despite rejection. Despite bad reviews. Despite a time lapse between contracts. And especially despite fear and doubt and lack of confidence. Eventually persistence pays off. Yep. It's just that simple.


Divas don't last long. Word gets out if you're tough to work with. So treat everyone, from the lowliest receptionist at the publisher to the gum-chewing jabber jaw holding up the book signing line. Graciousness and gratitude is the name of the game, folks, no matter what it is you want to be successful at.


If you're asked to submit a proposal and you say you will, then do it. If you've agreed to turn a piece of writing in by a particular date, turn it in a few days early. If you promise to guest post on a blog, get that post written. The flip side of this is to not over promise. Extending yourself too far to realistically accomplish all you said you would makes you look like a hack.

Above all, the golden rule should be your number one rule.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

There's a Difference Between Quitting and Failing

post by Michelle Griep
I've been around the writerly block a few times. I've seen the fresh faces of newbie writers, clutching their virgin manuscript with a bounce in their step, approaching an editor or agent for the first time and expecting to sell that puppy right off the bat. I've also seen those same writers a few years later, after staggering around in Rejection Land, their carcasses littering the landscape with all the writerly joy sucked from the marrow of their bones.

What happened? Did they fail? Or did they quit? Is there a difference? You better believe it, Hoss. There's a huge difference.

Failure isn't a choice. It's a certainty. You will fail.

I don't know one author who hasn't run laps in the great hamster wheel of rejection. It's part of the writing game. It's what makes you grow as a writer. The real question is what will you do when you fail? How will you respond? Decide now, before you get slapped upside the head with a doozy of a "No thanks."

Change your perspective on failure from negative to positive. It's a chance to start over and try again.

Quitting is a decision. It's not inevitable. You do not have to quit. 

Quitting is what culls the real writers from the wannabes. If writing is in your blood, you won't quit. Oh, you might for a few months and think you've kicked the habit, but then like a meth addict, you'll be back again. And you'll certainly feel like quitting pretty much every day. But if you really do quit writing -- for good -- then perhaps you weren't a writer to begin with. Does that sound negative? It is.

Quitting is the opposite of failure. It's taking your ball and going home, unwilling to play any more.

The real difference between quitting and failure is commitment. How committed are you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Care and Feeding of an Artist

Most people don't know what to do with an artist. Pat them on the head like a cute little pug? Patronize them? Pity them? I mean, come on. It's not like they have a real job, right?

Wrong-oh, Bucko.

Artists actually are people too, despite their crazy hours and quirky garb. Yeah, don't think I didn't notice you giving my purple overalls the stink eye.

Anyway, just like gerbils, there is a proper way to care for and feed the artist in your life, be they writer, potter, interpretive dancer, or hip-hop-opera-jazz-fusion musician.

The Top 3 Ways to Support the Artist in Your Life

#1. Buy their art.
That's right. Pry open your wallet and fork out some cash. Yes, even if you don't like their particular type of art. Gift it if you must.

#2. Validation.
There's more than enough negativity in this world, and believe it or not, your artist is trying their level best to spread beauty and positivity. Offer encouragement, not criticism. And for heaven's sake, realize that their choice of career IS a real job.

#3. Share the love.
Word of mouth is the best way to support an artist. Tell others about their art. Facebook it. Tweet it. Link or Plus or Tumble, whatever your social media of choice is. Your artist will be eternally grateful.

And last, but not least, chocolate or coffee is always welcome.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Got Any Overdue Library Books?

I love libraries. The shelves and shelves of books all neatly arranged into categories. The smell of hardcovers and paperbacks. Seeing books carried about like prized gems in the arms of happy patrons. I could spend hours, no, days in a library.

But I never check out any of their books.

Why? Because I confess I have a problem. I'm a tardy book returner. Not tardy as in oh-my-gosh-this-book-was-due-yesterday. More like sweet-mercy-this-book-should've-been-back-last-century. So I've cut myself off from the shame and late fees by simply never checking anything out anymore.

And I bet a couple in Michigan wish they would've taken my same stance.

Catherine Duren is charged for failing to return a Dr. Seuss book that she checked out in 2014. Oh yeah, and then she lost it (been there, done that). And her husband faces charges as well for checking out a book (The Rome Prophecy by Michael Morley) and holding onto it for more than 8 months. They face a $500 fine and up to 93 days in jail.

If this story intrigues you or you think I make this stuff up, HERE is the full scoop.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A New Audiobook Gem

My all-time favorite book . . . wait a minute. I see your frowny face, your index finger rising, aiming square at my chest. "But Michelle! You can't choose a favorite book! That's like picking a favorite child."

To which I gently but firmly place my tongue between my lips and blow a voracious raspberry.

Now that we've got that childish business behind us, my all-time favorite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Why? Because the heroine has such a strong moral code, remains so true to herself, that she gives up the man she loves and keeps her integrity. Now that's a role model.

Anyway, I'm super excited to announce that there's a new audiobook version that just came on the market yesterday read by Thandie Newton, an awesome voice talent. HERE is a sample of her reading, and HERE is the Amazon link to snap up your own copy.

And if you've never had the pleasure of reading Jane Eyre for yourself, it's available on Kindle right now for free.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What Do You Read For?

post by Michelle Griep
Readers are as varied as the shoes in my daughter's closet. Not even kidding. The girl has everything from Uggs to Toms to a pair of flip-flops that are at least seven years old.

Anyway, my point is that people choose favorite books to read based on different criteria, and here are the top three . . . 

A sense of place.
This reader seriously needs a vacation but doesn't have the time or moolah to pack up and head to Tahiti. So the next best thing is to pick up a book and escape.

Fresh prose.
This reader is always on the lookout for phrases that sing, wordsmithing that's jaw dropping, a writing style that surprises. This kind of reader doesn't need an escape as much as a literary experience with fascinating word combinations.

Deep emotional journey.
Character connection is what this reader is all about -- so connected that the reader feels like she's the protagonist and lives vicariously through the story.

So, which kind of reader are you? As for me, I'm the fresh prose seeker. I love it when I find an author who bends words into somersaults that make me smile or gasp. Favorites: Travis Thrasher, Ray Bradbury, Lisa Mangum.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

post by Michelle Griep
Stuck for a story idea? Need a pick-me-up in the middle of your plot? Sick of sitting around in your underwear watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island? Have I found a few sites for you . . .

Weird U.S.
Historical anecdotes, bizarre facts, odd news clippings, these things and more, all within the boundaries of the United States. That means not only can you read about strange stories, you can actually go and visit the places where they happened.

Weird Universe
From the 1900's to the 1990's, this site presents news stories and personal accounts of strange happenings from all around the world. But it's more than that, with items ranging from quirky old commercials to bizarre fashions.

This is the mother lode of freakish journalism. It's kind of like watching a train wreck. Just when you think you've read the most unbelievable yet true story out there, whammo! Another is there just a click away.

Strange Magazine
A bit more on the paranormal end of the spectrum, Strange Mag gives personal accounts and documented stories of the Twilight Zone variety.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Getting Over the Fear Hump

Post by Michelle Griep
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Oh put down your rotten tomatoes. I see them clutched in your hand and ready to wing at me along with your pointy, sharpened pitchfork. Let me finish.

What stops most writers isn't a writerly roadblock but a hump in the road. A fear hump. One which a writer worries might knock off his writerly muffler if he dares to gun his engine and zip over it. What the heck am I talking about? Here are some real-life scenarios:

Scenario #1:
You’re writing at a snail’s pace, laboring over each word, because you worry that if you tell instead of show, the universe might implode and it’d be your fault.

Scenario #2:
You never finish your story because you’re afraid that it just might be the worst piece of literary manure ever conceived. Public ridicule is a given if you dare to put this one out there for eyes to see.

Scenario #3:
You stare at a blank screen, wanting to begin a new, fantastic tale, but you're pretty sure it's already been written . . . and not by you. So what in the world do you have to offer readers that's fresh and exciting?

The Good News
Those fears are VERY real, so let me validate you as being completely normal. Sure, go ahead and quote me on that.

The Bad News
Those fears never go away, no matter how many books you've got on the shelf with your name on them. 

The Hopeful News
Fear keeps you from risking, but it's never too late to be a daredevil. Acknowledge your fear. Pat it on the head if you must, but then start typing out words and making progress on your story. No one said it had to be perfect. It just has to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bigger Isn't Always Better

If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.
~ Albert Einstein

Never use a long word when a short one will do.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. 

~ George Orwell

I read a lot of newbie writers. Want to know what they all have in common? Verbosity. Yikes, I just might've trashed my own advice with that word. Let me try again . . . a common error that new writers make is using big words and too many of them. That better?

The bottom line is that people don't want to read words they have to look up. Ain't nobody got time for that. So keep it simple. Keep it straightforward. And if you need help doing that, have I found a handy dandy application for you.

Cleartext by Morton Just is a text editor that simplifies your language. All you do is enter in what you've written and it will simplify the words for you. It uses only the top 1,000 words in the English language so it makes the text super simple to read. Best of all, it's free. A stupendously frugal opportunity. Translation: a really good deal.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Powerful Fiction Hacks

post by Michelle Griep
I spent the weekend attending a fantastic writing workshop put on by the effervescent Jeff Gerke. Writing Powerful Fiction was an awesome seminar and a great way to grow in the craft. Here are a few takeaway gems that you can use . . .

There are 3 aspects of brain science that can be helpful for engaging a reader into your story.

1. Catching the reader's attention.

The brain is constantly scanning for two things: danger and surprise. If the brain doesn't detect either, then whammo. The book gets put down, likely never to be picked up again. But if you incorporate danger or surprise -- or especially both -- right from the get go in your story, then you'll hook the reader immediately.

2. Connecting the reader to the protagonist.

Once you've got the reader hooked, you need to reel them in. You do that by giving your character something the reader can connect with, something that makes them think "Dude! This character is just like me!" You need to show how the character is likable and also like the reader.

3. Presenting a story of struggle or challenge.

Life is hard. It should be for your hero as well. You've got to give him a challenge that is just about impossible, against odds that are crazy-go-nuts, with a villain who's blocking his success at every turn.

There was a lot more technical information to back up these brainy things with official words like dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and what have you. The bottom line, though, is that these 3 tips showed a change in a reader's brain, proving they were engaged in the story. I'd say that's good enough proof to give these 3 tips a whirl, eh?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Build an Awesome Character

Go ahead. You know you want to steal this . . . and it's all yours for the taking.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Happy Birthday Goodreads

post by Michelle Griep
Go ahead. Eat a slab of cake today in honor of Goodreads 9th birthday. I've been on there for 7 of those years. Yikes. That's a long time. But I'm certainly not the only one who's been writing reviews for years on end. Goodreads now has more than 50 million reviews. And here are a few more fun facts . . .

First book reviewed on Goodreads:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Most reviewed book: 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Star rating that's used the most often:
5 stars

Highest rated book:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The thing I appreciate most about Goodreads is that reviews tend to be a bit more gritty and real. It's less of a fan club trying to sell books like on Amazon.

If you haven't yet moseyed over to Goodreads, jump on in. The water is fine. You can find me and my reviews HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dear Non-Creative Friend . . .

post by Michelle Griep
I'm an introvert. Why is that so hard to believe? Because as an artist there are certain times when I'm in public that I have to be switched "on," meaning I need to be gregarious, winsome, and generally engaging if I have any hope of selling my work. But I'm happiest when I'm in my creative cave. Alone. And that's really hard for non-creatives to understand. So in light of this disconnect, here is a handy-dandy letter any creative-type person can feel free to use . . .

Dear Non-Creative Friend,

I am not mad/upset/depressed/grouchy or moody. The reason I am not talking to you is that my brain is busy creating alternate realities that don't involve you. Nothing personal, mind you. Generally I only talk when I have something to say.

I am not going to answer your text the second you send it. I will eventually punch in a reply, but chances are if you call me, I will not call you back. And I probably won't pick up the phone, either. Again, nothing personal. Mostly it's just that phone talking drains my creative energy.

Yes, I am enjoying myself. Sitting for hours on end writing may not be your idea of a good time, but hot dang! There's honestly nothing I'd rather be doing more . . . except for reading.

This is a job. No, really. I actually get paid for this. Would you badger a neurosurgeon to drop what he's doing to have coffee with you? Why is making art less important? Okay, so no one is dying on the operating table if I do take a coffee break, but that doesn't justify disrespecting the value of art creation.

Thank you, friend, for understanding. Or at least trying to. I love you. You are special. You are a HUGE blessing in my life. I couldn't do this life journey without you.

Now quit bugging me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Hawking Index

post by Michelle Griep
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President
"Of course any reader ought to cultivate his or her taste so that good books will appeal to it, and that trash won’t. But after this point has once been reached, the needs of each reader must be met in a fashion that will appeal to those needs. Personally the books by which I have profited infinitely more than by any others have been those in which profit was a by-product of the pleasure; that is, I read them because I enjoyed them, because I liked reading them, and the profit came in as part of the enjoyment."
~ Teddy Roosevelt

I don't agree with ol' Ted on a lot of things, but on this we are one . . . life's too short to read boring books. Here's your official permission slip to stop reading a book if you're not sucked into it by chapter 3:

Sure, go ahead. Print a few out. You never know when you'll need them. But if you still feel guilty, like you're the only loser in the world who's daring to quit reading a story before The End, never fear. Have I found a study for you . . .

The Hawking Index measures how much of a book readers actually read. It was created by Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician (go figure). It's not a scientific measurement, being that it only looks at Amazon Kindle books, but it is kind of fun. And it also let's you know you're not the only one who's skipping out on a snoozer of a tale.

Just make sure you're not skipping out on one of my books.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Newbie Writer Mistakes

post by Michelle Griep
Newbie writers are cute little buggers. All sparkly-eyed and smiles. I like to snap pictures of them when they're in this fresh writing-is-grand stage, then pull out the photo a year or two later. After rejections. After computer crashes. After seeing friends sign contracts. Yeah, I'm that kind of sick and twisted.

But besides the obvious outward glow of a novice writer, it's their writing that will give them away every time. There are certain newbie writing mistakes that are universal . . .

Too much backstory.
First off let me validate you. It's a good thing to know your characters inside and out. Here's a round of clappy-clappy applause for you. Now then, that's for YOU, not your reader. Your reader doesn't need to know every last little detail of your characters' past. Dole those facts out like breadcrumbs throughout the story, and even then only a need to know basis.

Too much detail.
Not everything is interesting. I don't watch with intense curiosity every time my husband clips his toe nails (sorry for the visual) because, well, it's just not entertaining. So don't do that in your writing. No one cares what your hero had for breakfast, or the ornate detailing on his car, or pretty much anything else that slows down the story.

Too much rule following.
Yeah, I know you've been studying like crazy to become a great little author, but now that you know the rules, go ahead and break them. No, not like a college freshman at his first kegger away from home. Be judicious.

Too much meandering throughout the story.
Plot is king. Know what your characters want and go after it, starting on page 1 and continuing on until you type The End. Your story must be driven by goals, motivations and conflicts.

So listen up, newbies of the world . . . there's a quick fix to all these problems. Stop doing them so much. Pick one area at a time to cut back in (kind of like eliminating junk food from your diet) and in no time at all you won't appear to be such a newbie.

Friday, April 1, 2016

First Draft Hacks

post by Michelle Griep
Some people love pounding out a first draft when the story is all fresh in their head and the sheer speed of fingers flying over the keyboard is like a sweet aphrodesiac. But then again, some people also zip-lining in their underwear over a river of snapping crocodiles.

Personally, I'm not a lover of either. First drafts don't roll out of my mind and onto the paper. I sweat blood on a new story. I'm the sick kind of freak that loves to edit.

That being said, it is essential to capture a first draft so that it can be edited. And since that's such a chore for me, I've picked up a few helps along the way that just might help you, too.

3 Hacks to Write a Rough Draft

Stuff Happens
Plots sometimes stall out at the most inconvenient of times, like right in the middle of getting from Point A to Point B in your story. You know what A is. You know what B is. But it will take you at least a weekend and six-pack before you figure out how to connect those two points, which will slow your momentum on your story. Here's what you do . . . just type in STUFF HAPPENS and leave it at that. No, not forever. You will go back later and figure that part out. In the mean time, you can finish Point B and C and perhaps even D before the weekend even starts.

You can't know everything, unless you're my mother. She claims to know everything. But when you're typing along and feel the need to know a fact that's pertinent to the story -- yet you also know if you look up that fact you're going to get sidetracked for at least several hours -- just type in two little letters: TK. This is an old printing/journalism reference that means "to come." Yeah, I know come starts with a C not a K but hey, I didn't make this up. Get over it. TK means that additional material will be added later (after you look up the information). Then, uh, add it later.

Go Hollywood
Dialogue captures the essence of a scene. It shows emotion. It's an indicator of what's physically happening. It's also a great way to move your story forward without the technicalities of moving your characters around. Think screenplay. Think script.

For those of you who struggle to get down the first draft of a story, this stuff really works. No, really. I've tried it. Again and again. Go ahead and give it a whirl. Zip-lining is overrated anyway.

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