I’m over at my fellow Writer Zen Gardener and friend Darla Sands today talking about my book, “Finding Your Path to Publishing”. Please join me.
So I’ve prepped a bit for Camp NaNo and getting The Alchemists of Archangel completed.
Some authors Love Scrivener and there are some wonderful features, that can be very helpful when developing characters, plot lines, timelines for series, etc. I actually debated purchasing it, but have opted to use Google Keep in conjunction with Google Docs and Word.
I find myself looking back at tools I’ve used in the past. Here are some tools I use during my rough draft phase:
- Cherry Adair’s – Plotting with Post its. I admit I loved this when I learned it, but I still found it daunting. The Pantser in me fought it, hard. I still use a form of it today in Google Keep.
- My friend Arden uses an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of Character Profiles and Plot devices, Chapters, etc. It is daunting. And I admit I never mastered it the way she did. Bob Mayer uses an Excel Method as well.
- Google Keep – So this is where I use a bit of Cherry’s technique and start mixing in my own blend of stuff (research, worldbuilding, character profiles, setting, and plot)
- Source Sheet – I keep a word doc of where I find all my research for the novel. I also include worldbuilding notes in here. My outline may not survive the process but this almost always does. I usually turn in a copy with my manuscript when I begin the editing process, to help the copy editors.
- Sex in Romance Website – I don’t use this as much as I used to but it is still a great place when you want variety in your manuscript during a love scene.
- Word Counter – I got this idea from Allie Pleiter’s Chunky Writing Method. She has some freebie’s on her website for this. Basically, you are counting words whenever you work on your ms. I made some modifications to mine. 🙂
- Pinterest – Before Google Keep I would create character profiles for my stories. I actually found looking at pictures beneficial to driving my description of clothes and setting. Once my book is published, I’ll make the pages private. The Courtesan of Constantinople is the first book I did this with so Y’all will have to wait. 🙂
- Pandora – I love listening to music without words when I’m writing. Usually, I pick a channel based on the mood of the scene. I’m sure part of this has to due with the fact that I learned to type to music in school. Nothing like typing words to the William Tell Overture.
And I haven’t even started on the Reference Books I use regularly…
In the fall I take an annual writing retreat and I find that it replenishes my soul. This past weekend I treated myself to a Solo Retreat. I didn’t travel to an exotic location or rent a rustic cabin, or even leave my house.
DH was gone most of the day on Saturday with a flight student, so I had the house to myself. I set some goals for myself, to do classwork and write. I was taking two classes simultaneously – The Artist’s Way at Writer Zen Garden and Writing and Resistance: Overcoming Our Blocks to Success by MM Pollard at RWA Online.
My Retreat went like this:
- Slept in – I’m retreating so working on my own timetable.
- Coffee – I’m a bear without my coffee.
- Morning Pages – It’s part of the Artist’s Way
- Class Work – Basically Log on and do homework. However long that took.
- Lunch – On my lunch break I watched the latest YouTube videos by First Draught and Jenna Moreci. I find this a great way take a break and learn.
- Meditate – I used the 12-minute Focus Meditation on Calm.
- Write for 60 minutes – I’ve been using the help of the 90-day novel by Alan Watt to help flesh out my current WIP.
- Read for 30 minutes- Along with Artist’s Way for class. I’m reading The Art of Working by Jeff Goins that I checked out from my Library.
- Write for 60 minutes
- Read for 30 minutes
- Repeated Steps 8 and 9 until DH came home and we had dinner.
I accomplished my goal and was able to enjoy my One Day Solo Retreat.
Can you do this? Sure you can. It might be easier for me because I live on a farm and don’t have a day job, but this is doable for anyone.
Some recommendations. Pick some goals. Are you burned out? Maybe you need to build more Meditation and Yoga into your retreat than I did. How about a luxurious bubble-bath or painting your toes, etc.
I often listen to Pandora on the farm. I choose stations based on mood. I recommend outdoor time if weather permits. I avoided the snowy sub-zero temps…hence some meditation planned into my day.
Regarding Food – If you love to cook, incorporate this into your retreat. Plan a favorite meal to prepare. If you live in a large city consider delivery so you can enjoy the experience and maybe treat yourself. I like to cook, but I wanted to keep the time to myself so I picked up some fancier microwavable meals. I picked up beverages I like, chocolates, and some snacks I love.
If you have other passions like painting, drawing, knitting, scrapbooking, or other creative pursuits into your retreat…especially if you have more than one day. This is a chance to fill your creative well. Who knows, maybe while you are coloring in a color book…that writer’s block will finally release.
I would caution against spending the day binging TV shows or even reading for pleasure. Not because these things are bad, but because they distract you from yourself. If you want to watch that movie you’ve never seen, or read a book, do it in the evening or maybe only for a couple of hours.
Ultimately a Solo retreat is what you make it.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Actually I just rewrote my bio for my website to share more of who I am and where I came from. It sounded so dull before, and I am not a dull person. I am opinionated and not shy about sharing my thoughts. I love to give advice – unsolicited. I adore expensive shoes, bargains on everything else and long baths with a good book. I am addicted to the movies – at the theater. Currently I am acquiring a appreciation for opera and live theater. I love dogs but like to share my digs with cats.
I am originally from Chicago but I have lived on both coasts from Boston to San Francisco, with several stops in between. I spent my career as a technical consultant or manager for a huge software company, but I retired in 2014 and got away from the 9 to 5 life. I miss my coworkers but not the job. To entertain myself upon retiring I started taking classes including one on “How to Write a Romance Novel” and with encouragement from friends, the rest is history.
I am close with my family, reside in suburban Chicago and I love to travel. I am on the board of directors of Mental Health America of the North Shore because they do good work and a member of Romance Writers of America.
How do you make time to write?
I am very fortunate because I am able to write full-time.
What genre are your books?
I write contemporary fiction, usually with some steamy sex. That is my wheel-house so far in my
“Beguiling Bachelor” series. But I did just complete “Our Love is Here to Stay”, which is a time-travel story.
I love reading mysteries, literature, and romance in every genre, so I have sprinkled small pieces of these into my books where I can. My mother was a librarian. She taught me to love reading and respect writers of every kind. Every word I write can be traced back to her teachings in some way or another.
What draws you to this genre?
I grew up on Regency romance, and I am drawn there but haven’t braved the genre yet. Instead, I write more of what I know – current times and current places. I set my books in places that are familiar and I make my characters a bit older than in some romances. Women in their late 20’s and early 30’s and men in their mid-30’s have problems to overcome, responsibilities to juggle and they have sex. That is what I like to write about – their flaws, their journeys, their struggles and the wonderful ways they fall in love.
What are your current projects?
I have just completed the first book in a new series, the Billionaire B&B series. The book, “Desire & Dessert” will be published in a collection this spring, with at least two more volumes to follow. My Beguiling Bachelors will return this summer, and I am always toying with a short story or two.
I am very excited about another new project – a blog for romance writers. Today I blog for my readers, my story every Thursday and an introduction to another author every Tuesday. But begging next month, on Monday’s, I will begin sharing what I have learned about writing and indie-publishing. Am I THE expert as I begin my third year as a writer? Hardly. But I have learned tons about being a new writer that experts have forgotten. Sometimes it is the non-expert that new writers can relate to. I hope to share my wisdom with those people.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
My whole life I was an extravert, but once I became a writer, I became the complete opposite. Anyone or anything that takes me away from my computer is a disruption. That said, once I have made the break, the extravert in me rules again. I love being with my friends and family, networking with other authors and meeting fans. I just need that initial nudge to put down my writing.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
No feedback. No reviews. I send my books out there into the world representing my hard work and heart. They are a labor of love for me – my babies. When I have no idea how they are received, that leaves me wondering ‘do I write something similar? something different?” I don’t write only for me. I write for my readers and their feedback is priceless.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I speak with more aspiring writers than I ever could have imagined and I tell them all the same things – read more and write more. I tell them the different betwee a writer and a want-to-be writer is that a writer finishes something.
When I got ready to write my first novel I read tons of romances, paid attention to the covers, the titles, the back-cover blurbs, even the author bios. I wrote down words and phrases that I loved from my favorite books. This became my library of inspriration. Then I wrote and wrote and wrote, edited and rewrote until I finished my first novel, “Bedazzled.”
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
I hope readers will visit me at www.madisonmicahel.net where I have a blog and a wonderful giveaway for joining my insider group.
When I first started in this business over 15 years ago. A common thought was that you needed to quit your job and write full-time in order to be successful (i.e. make money).
Granted the Romance Industry is full of female writers, who maybe started out as a stay at home mom’s and wrote on the side. I believe this is where the myth of full-time writing started. I think of authors like Nora Roberts and Heather Graham whose mythology stories contain elements for writing from home. If any of you think they were successful because they didn’t have a job, you’d be wrong. Motherhood is a full-time job in itself, regardless of whether you work outside the home or not.
I read recently that John Grisham wrote A Time to Kill over three years while still working as a lawyer.
What makes these authors successful is not whether or not they wrote full-time, but that they wrote in every spare moment.
A book I’ve found helpful in carving out time is The Chunky Method Handbook by Allie Pleiter. She breaks writing blocks down so that even the slowest writers among us can create a schedule.
What makes this so relevant to me is that as of December 1st of this year, I’m no longer employed with a company I’d worked with for 21 years. I was released as a series of layoffs.
While my job took time away from writing, if I had made time for it I would’ve been more successful (i.e. written more books). As I head into the new year, I’ll be looking at some serious goal setting. For me it will be evaluating what Success looks like to me – Finishing Books. I feel like everything else will fall into place as long as I just keep writing.
A lot of writers get asked what kind of tools they use when writing and editing. Here are a few of mine:
The Romance Writer’s Phrase book by Jean Kent and Candice Shelton – It’s a handy little phrase book, used for tag lines, body language, etc.
A more updated version would be The Emotional Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I use these books when I’m in the layer process of my book. I used to use them during the rough draft, but found I got too bogged down with particulars rather than just writing the damn book.
The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer – I have an old copy of this, but found it useful for understanding aspects of the business like Sell-thrus and royalties. I believe he has an updated version.
And of course I have a Thesaurus, Dictionary and Two Style Guides.
Pinterest – I use Pinterest to store a lot of my pictures for characters, setting, clothes, etc. Of course you can totally get lost on there.
First Draught – I have to give a shout-out to these ladies, because they cover a range of topics and they talk about everything from craft to publishing. I love their Vlog!
Jenna Moreci – Jenna is a YA Indie Writer and she has this Vlog where her topics are humorous and based on her writing experience. I highly recommend this if you are exploring Self-publishing or are a YA writer.
Google Keep – I sort of stumbled across this recently and use it in place of Scrivener. I make up all these little notes on characters, settings and scenes I need to write and then I can have it on the side of my Google Doc. I’m sort of envious of Scrivener, but the feature I was really wanting was to replace my post-it plotting system that I learned from Cherry Adair.
Last week I covered the importance of finding your tribe, and of course my tribes are some of my favorite things.
Please Welcome Kayelle Allen to the Clog Blog! Kayelle – What excites you most about your book, Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire?
Right now, it’s that I’ve finally finished it. I’ve worked on this book for a long time. It’s the second in the Bringer of Chaos series and I can’t wait to start on book three, Watch Your Six. One of the main characters is named Six, and this book is going to feature a lot of scenes with him.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
I’m a graphic designer, so I usually do my own covers, but for this book, I just couldn’t get it right. I changed it multiple times but was not satisfied with it. I searched for a different artist, somehow who knew how to capture an aetheric quality that I was missing. I found it in Brumae. She’s wonderful and so easy to work with. I love the version she created.
You’ve written so many series, what are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I have a one off. It’s a contemporary holiday very sweet romance and it sells bazillions of copies. But it is that — a one off. I hope to write a sequel to it, but my focus is on my science fiction series, which has sub-series within it.
What are your current projects?
I’m writing Bringer of Chaos: Watch Your Six, plus a sequel to Surrender Love called Surrender Trust. I’m also working on a new book set in the Tarthian Empire that I won’t describe yet. It’s hush hush for now.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
Oh definitely an Introvert. I get my energy by being alone. Crowds exhaust me. I’m a closet extravert in the sense that I love speaking to groups and doing public presentations. But afterward, I need my alone space. On the Myers Briggs system, I’m an INFJ. We’re rather rare, but we are mighty. LOL
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write in the early morning and then set aside time after I’ve finished my social media time in mid-morning. I write again at night. I set aside Sunday as a full day to devote to writing. Writing is what I do. I make it a priority.
How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any?
I’m not submitting to traditional publications. I have had a couple, and they were disappointing, but I see it this way. If they don’t “get” what I’m doing, why would I want to work with them? But again… not something I even get anymore. All my books are published by Romance Lives Forever Books, which I own. I publish no one else. This is a private enterprise.
What tools/books do you recommend for writers?
I’m currently reading Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland and I just got a copy of On Writing by Stephen King. I read constantly and always look for new craft ideas. I highly recommend the writing course Empowering Characters’ Emotions by Margie Lawson. I learned an incredible amount of material from that study.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I am nowhere near the amateur I was when I started but I am not where I want to be. I think that goal will always be unobtainable. I strive for perfection, which we all know is always a bit out of reach. But I try!
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
I’m all over, but here’s where I spend the most time.
Blog/Website (I call this my homeworld) https://kayelleallen.com
Anyone interested in sampling my work can try my reading group. I give away a set of four books to members as soon as they join. https://kayelleallen.com/bro/
On my writing journey, I know I would not be where I am today without the tribe of writers around me.
Having a supportive partner and family is important too, and I’m fortunate to have that as well.
But when I write myself into a corner, cuz I’m a pantser and we do that, DH is of no help. But I can call my friend Arden Richards, whose not yet published but is the best plotter I know.
I belong to a number of tribes –
The F-M Word Weavers – This is my local critique group. Arden is a member as well. Also in my group are published Authors Maddy Barone and Mary Jean Adams. The wealth of knowledge in this group is wonderful, and my writing has greatly improved over the years thanks to these ladies. I found this group on Meet-up and It helps that most of the group is made up of Romance Authors.
Romance Writers of America – I highly recommend this group if you are looking to establish a career in the Romance Writing Industry. I’ve been a member since 2004 and belong to an online chapter. I met my first critique partner Holli Winters through RWA. If you want to learn more about this particular tribe I recommend, if you have Netflix, that you watch “Love Between the Covers”. First time DH watched it with me he said, “Sounds like your writer friends.” Yes, yes it does.
Of course there is also Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers or America. As I do not write in these genres, I’m unfamiliar with their membership.
Romance Divas – I’ve recently joined Divas, but I have friends who have been members for years and rave about the mentorship and learning there. It seems too that Divas is on the leading edge of trends within the Romance Industry. Also they are FREE, so that is helpful for those watching their budget.
Marketing for Romance Writers – Despite the name, more than Romance Writers belong to this community. If you follow my AuThursday interviews, many of the writers are from this group. This group is also FREE.
Writer Zen Garden – I’ve been with Writer Zen Garden for about five years, brought in by my friend and founding member, A. Catherine Noon. Writer Zen Garden has authors of different genres. They are wonderful for writers just starting out and maybe not so Romance focused. To me the focus is very creative and wonderful cheerleading group. And Guess what – also FREE.
I continue to join groups as I see what they have to offer and if it is a good fit for me. I highly recommend that if you aren’t a member of a tribe that you join one. There is something about the writing journey that shouldn’t be done in a bubble. I mean you can, but there are so many options to connect with people and learn, why wouldn’t you.
The groups above have helped me through Writer’s Block, Rejection, Plotting, Marketing, Networking, and supporting me through my writing journey. I can’t imagine writing without my tribes.
My apologies for missing last Writer Wednesday. I’d returned from an annual Writing Retreat for the Founders of Writer Zen Garden, and found myself forgetting.
I’ve attended this Retreat annually and the theme or tone of the meeting varies from year to year, depending on where we are at in our lives.
This year before meeting, one member suggested more writing time, and I’m so glad she did.
We routinely do Morning Pages, Free Write and a CRAFT.
This year we added in Writing Prompts, Mind Mapping and Creative Journaling.
The Mind Mapping and a prompt on setting were exactly what I needed. I tend to write dialouge heavy, so this was very helpful to help me find a balance.
If you are planning on hosting a retreat, Even a self-retreat, there are a few things I would recommend:
- Have goals – This is reason for the Retreat. Finish a book, commune with like minded writers, relax. Whatever it is, even if each writer has different goals, this will help with making a plan, so everyone walks away with what they want.
- Have a plan – Get input from all people attending your retreat. Pick a location. Create a schedule. Share it. A plan will give you framework for your retreat to ensure everyone has fun.
- Have Fun – So you can’t hit the park, because your location has suddenly been deluged by rain. You spent more time chatting and less time writing – been there. If you think of the plan as a framework and not a schedule, you can better roll with it.
Last year I hosted the WZG Writing Retreat on my Farm. I’ve toyed with the idea of coordinating a spring retreat for local authors at my farm or at The Smokey Hills in Minnesota.
The goal for me has always been to catch up with authors about what they are writing and trying to re-energize my own writing. This is for both retreats and conferences. Before investing time and money into any event, be sure you have a goal. My goal helps set the expectations and I can measure sucess from it.
My goals were met, so I would call the retreat a success.
Here are some other great blogs on planning retreats:
Join me next week as we continue my query journey.~Tina