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writersblockI realized today that I’ve got writer’s block although I’m still writing around 6,000 words a week. I’m writing articles, blog posts, newspaper columns, and presentations. What I’m not writing is my next book project.

So can that be considered writer’s block? After all, I’m still writing. I’m just not working on the projects that I want to be writing. Even when I free my schedule up so that I’ll have time to write a few pages of my new book, I still wind up doing something else.

At first, I thought it might mean that the new book just isn’t working. I’ve been dabbling with three potential book projects, though, and I’m doing very little work on any of them.

Has anyone had this happen to them? I didn’t even realize it at first. Since I was writing, I thought everything was going fine. Writers write and I was writing. It was only when I started trying to focus on writing my book that I realized I had other things I could be writing.

Now that I’ve recognized the problem, I’m going to redouble my efforts to get some of my book writing done. Hopefully, I can break through the problem.

Some other post about writer’s block:

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I facilitated my first writer’s workshop this past weekend. I wasn’t sure what to call it until I started writing this post. It wasn’t a traditional writer’s conference where there are lots of speakers and classes that an attendee can choose from. It also wasn’t a writer’s retreat where a writer’s goes off to some inspiring locale for a week to write and critique writing.

The Mountain Maryland Writers’ Institute conferences are a series of three themed weekends. The weekend that I facilitated was for history and historical fiction. The institute is part of Garrett College in Garrett County, Maryland, which is a beautiful place to visit.

Friday night was an ice breaker for me, my fellow facilitator Neil Brooks, and the attendees to get to know each other.

Saturday, we traveled to the Evergreen Heritage Center in Mount Savage, Maryland. This is a historic homestead as well as a nature and ecological study site. The students got a tour of the grounds and were told about the history of the place. Then we settled down outside in a pavilion next to an old sawmill to start talking history. It was a good back and forth discussion, which helped me keep focused on making sure I was meeting the needs of the students. I also had certain points that I wanted to make sure that I hit.

There were supposed to be three different sessions that I taught on Saturday, each with a different topic, but they all seemed to get rolled into one long discussion about how to write history and historical fiction.

That evening, there was another session that was a Q&A with the facilitators about how and why we became writers.

Sunday morning was a half day of meetings. We traveled to Oakland, Maryland, to the Garrett County Historical Society to tour the facility and see the research aides that the historical society has. I talked with them about how to find the facts for a story and how to use them in their writing. We also toured the B&O Railroad Historical Museum to talk more about the value of historical sites for research purposes.

This was different than any writers’ conference that I’ve either spoken at or attended. I liked it and I especially liked not being stuck in classrooms all day. We were out and about enjoying the sun and perfect weather. I feel like the historic sites helped the writers envision the past better and I hoped they found value in what Neil and I had to say.

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A train approaching the B&O Station in Oakland, Maryland, while the Mountain Maryland Writers’ Institute was there.

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collage-2015Looking for a way to jump start your writing? I’ve always found writer’s conferences give my enthusiasm a recharge. I mean, let’s face it, writing can be lonely work, and that isolation can lead to a waning of enthusiasm. A writer’s conference will put you amid a group of writers who will be talking about writing. Add to that workshops and talks and you’ll put your creativity on steroids.

I have never failed to leave a writer’s conference without some new ideas whether it on how to write, how to market, or some new contact that I want to pursue. I’m also anxious to start putting the things I’ve learned to use.

This year, I’ve discovered the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writers Institute Conference in Hagerstown, Md., or rather, I rediscovered it. It used to be called the Nora Roberts Writers Institute Conference. I had seen that conference listed last year, but I thought it was a conference for romance writers so I had passed on it.

Now in its third year, the name has been changed to the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writers Institute to make it clear that it has something to offer for writers of all genres. In fact, I’ll be teaching a session this year about writing historical fiction. Looking through the schedule for this year, I see sessions on science fiction, writing in general, thrillers, social media, independent publishing, fantasy, and more. I definitely see plenty of sessions that I’ll be attending to learn rather than simply teach.

Check out the web site for yourself and maybe I’ll see you there!

BooksAlive-LinkedInI attended the Books Alive! Washington Writers Conference the other week as a panelist, but I also listened to different panels and picked up some good information. The panel that I enjoyed the most was the agents panel. Three agents spoke about what they want to see in a submission or hear in a pitch that can be made in about five minutes. Here are some of the things that I gleaned.

  • Start you pitch with a hook. Give them one or two sentences that will entice the agent to want to know more about the project (this works equally well for articles and books).
  • Move into a short description of the project. Again, keep it short. Imagine you are writing the jacket copy for your book.
  • A short bio about yourself. Why are you the person who should be writing this?
  • What’s your platform? Do you use Twitter and Facebook? Do you have a web site? Maybe you are a columnist or magazine editor who has a following? What are the ways that your name is already getting out to the public.
  • Where does your book fit into the market and how large is the market? What shelf in a bookstore would someone find your book?
  • What’s your next project? You can’t rest on your laurels. Build on the success of your previous projects.
  • What are some comparable titles to your book? Be realistic here. Don’t just go for the big name books. List books that have similar content and scope. If you try to pass yourself off as the next J. K. Rowling or James Patterson, it will come across as hype.

So that’s what I took away from that panel. Someone else might have gotten something different from it. I’ve heard a lot of these things before so it is a pretty good bet that it’s what most agents want to see, but you should always check the agent’s web site just to be sure that you are sending what that person wants.

I attended the Pennwriters Conference this past weekend in Lancaster. I taught a workshop on developing articles from your book, critiqued a nonfiction critique group and attended some interesting workshops. I came back with a list of things I want to do to add to my already huge pile of stuff to do.

One of the things I heard repeatedly was that every writer needs a blog and web site. I shied away from this idea because I had a blog for about a year that I updated daily with book, TV and movie reviews. It was a lot of work and I was getting somewhat tired of it. Even though I was getting paid for a client to do it, I burned out on it.

So why would I want to start another blog? Well, this one may not pay, but it will help anyone interested get to know more about the writing life, interesting books and even me (though I don’t imagine that’s a big crowd).

I’ll also be starting a sister blog to this one sometime down the road that is about a subject I’m really interested in, but first, I’ll see how this works out.

So, that said, check back occassionally and see what’s up. I plan on upating Whisper in the Wind at least weekly, hopefully more.

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