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Stuck in the Muck?

Before my recent memoir writing course, I hadn’t heard of the term “the muddy middle,” but I had sure felt it. Some of my work is still there, trudging along in the muck like those quick-sand “walkers” in last week’s episode of the Walking Dead   And like the zombies, you can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away, you have to figure out how to move on. And for this you need the ABC’s of Muddy Middle Elimination:

A. Action. No matter how stuck you feel, the only way you are ever going to get any forward momentum in your work is to MOVE. Step away from the computer and take a walk to clear your mind, or turn away from the monitor and free write for 5-10 minutes, about the frustration, or how you may want to write the next scene but are afraid to commit to it, whatever. But stick to the action of writing, even if you take a few moments to move away from it, be sure to make your way back.

B. Believe. I get in those moods to cook unique things from magazines or on Pinterest. There are step by step instructions called recipes, so I usually feel pretty confident that I can create something edible. However, during the preparation of many of these recipes, the processes don’t make sense. Why do I need to boil this down? Why can’t I just throw everything together in the pot and turn on the heat; why so many steps? Of course, real chefs know the answer to this; I just want dinner.  But I know I need to trust in the process. It may not seem like the combination of spices, cooked in the order requested will make much of a difference, but if I don’t have that faith in the process, I will never know.When you are in that “muddy middle” of your writing project,  you may be unsure if the ingredients you are adding there will blend in an appetizing way as you make your way to the end. You have to trust it, and to help, you need to develop your own set of ingredients and steps. You need… 

C. Construction. I am an outline convert. Not necessarily a strict outline, but one Brooke Warner calls“scaffolding.” (Her intro to this concept here). To avoid getting bogged down like a member of the undead (does it seem like I am looking forward to the next episode?), give your work some structure. Just like those chefs that create culinary masterpieces from scratch, you, too, can add different spices and directions as you go along, but if you have the basics mapped out and written down, you have less of a chance of wandering into a direction that will make your writing project unappetizing. 

Happy Writing and Happy Holidays! 

And, (here it comes, my plug for my editing fundraising project) if you need some gifts, be sure to check out the great Pangea Organics skincare this month: Buy one, get one 50% off and free shipping (starting Dec. 3). Shop in this Virtual Party Link

And because of so many Walking Dead references, I'll share my meeting with Michael Rooker, the actor who played Merle Dixon. It's a bit blurry because he made us laugh, after an impromptu dance we all shared to "Brickhouse." This is why I write memoir. You can't make this stuff up. 

Austin Comic-Con Nov. 2013
  And to be fair to the other Dixon brother.... 

He stabbed his brother 7 times...He seemed perfectly nice to us...



Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

All the Right Ingredients to Writing Advice

Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

Don't Let Too Many Cooks Create a Recipe for Disaster
I love great food, I savor the tastes and textures of all kinds of cuisine; but unless I have specific, de…

Why Ghostwriting? Guest Post by Kelly James-Enger

Is it Time to Disappear?  Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too
I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.
I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.
            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!
That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coau…