Poetry Workshop Information – Bring your work with you!

Moleskine diaryPoets and wannabe-poets have something to look forward to at the next Jot conference. After the presentations Matthew Landrum will be hosting a free poetry workshop. I asked him to describe it for me and here’s what he said:

Love and Cliches — Writing Originally About Life’s Most Important Subjects

In this workshop we’ll discuss the work of fellow Jot attendees and ponder a problem that perpetually plagues poets (and prose writers too) — that the most important subjects in life (love, death, religion, etc) have been written about so thoroughly (and at times so poorly) that they’re hard to write about without sounding trite or unoriginal. Poets and non-poets alike are welcome. Those who wish to bring work to workshop should bring 15 copies of a poem. 

If you decide to attend, please bring your writing. You’ll have time in this workshop to read your poetry (if you wish) and/or edit your work while the discussion is going. We’re hopeful that the Jot Conference is not just a place where you learn new things about the craft of writing, but that it is also an event at which you’ll actually get some writing done.

Bring your Moleskines and your favorite pen. It’s time to write.


5 Reasons To Use Google Docs To Write Your Novel

In the last post we discussed the burden of finding time to write for the busy writer. If you are an aspiring novelist and own a smart phone, this post will show you how to get words down throughout your day, and how to always have your work with you.

When I go to work, or when I get in bed, I have my smart phone and blue tooth keyboard with me ($25 investment). I might not use them all of the time, but they’ve become my invaluable companions along with Google Drive. Here’s why.

  1. I can write anywhere. I can crank out two paragraphs at lunch, write three before bed, and have one page-ish done. Have a dentist or doctor’s appointment? Bam, another paragraph. Do this for a week and I have seven pages. Do this for a year, 365 pages. That’s one novel, my friend.
  1. You can access Google docs anywhere. A library, your phone, your laptop, your work computer (though not during work!), at your friends or parents house. Your novel is always with you, always accessible, even without your laptop or phone.
  1. You can leave notes/ get comments. If you have a friend who is an accomplished writer, you can share the document with them. They can add a comment (or hundred) and save it when they are done reviewing. You won’t misplace them either.
  1. You will never lose your work to a computer failure/hack or fire or water damage. Unless you forget your password…
  1. You can create all sorts of graphs and excel documents and keep them in one place and, yes again, they are accessible anywhere. Need to access your character spreadsheet? Oh, it’s there on your phone in your pocket. Where was your plot going? Two clicks, oh yeah here’s my plot document.

I hope you take this as a “this is what works for me” post. If you have suggestions on how to write a novel, or tools and tricks that have helped you persevere, please share below. We love hearing from you and hope to see you at JOT IV on September 12th!


Parking Your Buns at Jot 4

If you’ve never been to Baker Book House, you are missing out. Fortunately, you can easily rectify that mistake by attending the next Jot Writers’ Conference which is being held at Baker Book House on Friday, September 12th (but you probably already knew that).

There are a lot of great reasons why we hold Jot at a bookstore. Here are just a few:

  • Bookstores are natural second homes to writers (and for those of you who would say that coffee shops are even more natural second homes for writers, Baker Book House is home to Icons Coffee, an indie coffee shop with the best Chai Latte in the world).
  • The space is free for us to use because Baker Book House is wonderfully supportive of West Michigan’s vibrant writing community (plus, one of the members of the writing group that runs Jot works there).
  • And finally, there are a lot of great places to tuck yourself away and work on your book.

It is this last part that makes Baker especially well-suited for hosting Jot, because Jot is one of the only writers’ conferences in existence that plans writing time right into the conference itself.

Let’s take a look at some of the nooks around the bookstore into which you may nestle to work on your book at Jot.

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On Writing And A Busy Life

If you’ve thought of taking writing up, or are currently writing a blog, novel, short story, etc., you probably find yourself in a constant battle of time management. How do you keep writing when you have a lot of important responsibilities? Simple. You spend time doing it.

You might not watch as much TV or mow the lawn when it looks particularly long, but you MUST invest in your dream. That is the most important thing you can do.

If you are a parent or married/dating, make sure your significant other know that this is the real deal. Discuss it. This person most likely loves you unendingly and will encourage you. Why? Because it makes you a better person to be committed and passionate about something.

Who knows, you might even be surprised at how much they want to be involved. Clearly define the amount of time you expect will be given to your project, but do so together. Your spouse might want a night out with the guys or girls anyway creating a two hour window to write.

There is something that I’ve come to understand as a busy writer. Time does not come in three or four hour segments. It comes in a miraculous hour or thirty minutes that you didn’t expect and you’d better be prepared to take advantage of it. This means you need to be working your writing muscles regularly.

Often times I write at lunch and before bed. I spend one night each week with the Weaklings doing it. That’s it besides the occasional weekend afternoon. My guess is that I spent 5-8 hours per week on my novel but I am ready whenever a sliver of time presents itself.

Use your time well and write my friend.



Neil Gaiman On Writing

Its not often a Youtube video changes my life. But this one did. My writing life won’t be the same.

This video may not set your world on fire, but it both released a lot of pressure I was putting on the draft of my third novel and helped me realize that writing a book is a slow and steady brick laying affair. Sounds boring, but it might be the best way to finish and that’s what were all trying to do. A big thank you to Andrew for sharing it.

Please watch and enjoy.

Keep Writing.

See you at Jot!

Why We Don’t Finish Writing Our Novels

There is a lot of pressure that comes with the first draft. We invest a mountain of effort in our work. Questions and self doubt swirl and often collide and cause a terrible panic. Every word has to be perfect! When they are not we believe are horrible. The End.

That first sentence is terrible! (So we rewrite unto oblivion.) I need a better opening! (We work on this for months!) Then we stop look around and think, wow this writing thing is hard. I’m going to take a break. Then six months later, I’ve only written three miserable pages? Ugh.

But, the simple fact is – no one sees those terrible first drafts (or they shouldn’t!). You are going to cut pages, rewrite scenes, and remove them. I cut about 20,000 words on the second go round of my first novel and plan to cut another 15,000 on this next edit (my eighth).

The first draft is a learning phase and you have permission to make mistakes. Repeat, you can make mistakes and each line can be okay, it does not have to be awesome, yet. You can fall, scrape your knee, and try again. Think of yourself as a baby. This might be marginally silly, but no baby takes a step and then decides to race Usain Bolt the next day.

So move forward. Don’t keep interrupting the flow of your book. You’ll have to rewrite and cut scenes and later anyway. Finish your draft first, then you’ll know what to improve. This is the time to take risks and try things with your characters and plot.

For now, write like it’s your job. Especially if you want it to be some day. But remember to have fun and that you’ll learn so much more about your novel when it is done.

Keep writing, friends.

“If want to be a novelist, you need to learn to finish things.” – Neil Gaiman

See You At Jot!