Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom to Keep You Writing

Ever wonder what it takes to be a successful writer? Wish someone would share that knowledge with you?

I did. Then Mary Jo Scheibl, whose self-professed goal is to be a wise woman, spoke to the Milwaukee Chapter of Wisconsin Romance Writers. Her words inspired me and I think they’ll encourage you too. She’s my guest today.

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those writers “who’s been writing forever.”

If I look at the fact that I’m now published, I must admit it’s taken me 50 some years. :-) But who wants to admit to that? Once I put serious effort into marketing what I was writing along with writing, I’ll admit I’m an “almost instant” success with getting a contract after 6 years. During those years, I had many times when I was “almost there.” Then something would change the outcome. Always that outcome was beyond my control. Sound familiar?

As my hubby would often tell me in those years, one way to be a sure-fire failure was to quit writing. I didn’t give up and I kept writing my stories always looking to improve my craft and skills with each finished manuscript. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that I know helped me finally get that contract, hold the book in my hand, experience the book win awards.

Since Brenda asked so nicely to share any wisdom I’ve picked up in my journey, and because Brenda loves the number 13, here are some wise bits of mine.

Header by Samulli

Feel free to ask questions or make comments since I’ll keep the explanations brief as Brenda asked.

1. Use your time wisely.
· Know your priorities and what you value.
· Set up a schedule and follow it.
· Keep track of each day and what you accomplish.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
· If you can’t sit more than an hour, plan writing time accordingly.
· If you’re more alert in the morning, get up even earlier to write.
· Know you’re limits so you don’t overcommit.

3. Realize talent is NOT the only one skill you need.
· Perseverance keeps you going when your talent isn’t recognized.
· Organization keeps your story, your life, you environment on track.
· Prioritizing tasks keeps you focused when too many must-do’s arrive.

4. Write what you love.
· Do I need to explain?
· Writing is hard work and easier when you’re in love with it.
· Don’t be afraid to try something new—if it intrigues you, compels you.

5. Expect/plan to learn something new with each ms.
· A technique, a problem you have, new software, new knowledge.
· Example: I decide my next book will be done in1st person POV.

6. Train yourself to write in certain places.
· When you’re there, body/mind quickly settle in to work.
· Also can be related to time: body expects to be writing during certain times.

7. Never let your creative side be idle too long—always do something.
· Between projects, blog, write a short story, work on a scrapbook, garden.
· Think about new project. Read authors to see how they do what you like.
· Understand what is a break that’s useful vs one that wastes your time.

8. Understand writers’ block. (Really no such thing-just not enough data or desire)
· Think more about your characters/plot/setting/scene.
· Do more research.
· Write a different scene.
· Walk away. Do something else.
· Sleep on the problem.

9. Introductions can be ignored—just get started.
· Hard to introduce “something” when you don’t know it well.
· Write it later, maybe in the second draft.
· Discover the best introduction is the second chapter or 2nd scene of first intro.

10. Revision is important but set limits.
· Recognize a piece of writing can always be improved.
· Establish guidelines for yourself if not imposed by external deadlines.
· Revise to look for different items: Structure, plot holes, character contradictions, etc.

11. What to do when something isn’t working.
· Walk away from it for a bit.
· Do something else creative, for me that’s photography.
· Do a mindless task. Laundry, anyone?
· Sleep on it. Let your unconscious/dream time help you solve your writing issues, plot problems, character points.

12. Trust your instincts. Listen to your gut.
· Not every “sure-fire” writing technique works for everyone.
· Listen to your characters, especially if you see the sense of what they say.
· If you hate what you’re writing, sometimes it’s best to walk away—until a later time.

13. Critique groups or partners & beta readers.
· Don’t always work for every writer. Must fit well and be constructive.
· Can be used in different ways or not at all by different writers.
· Weigh the pros/cons based on your needs, strengths, weaknesses.

If you find useful one of these points, I will have gotten my message across. I write because of the stories in my heart and the ideas in my head. I also hope to reach out to readers and help them on their paths in life, whether it be in my stories, in my blog posts, in speaking programs, as a guest blogger. Thank you, Brenda, for inviting me.

Mary Jo is the author of Black Ribbon Affair. Here is Black Ribbon Affair’s Blurb

Caitlin Donnelly's life is exactly how she wants it—except for the threatening notes. Deciphering who's after her, and why, isn't easy when the suspects include all her co-workers, along with a man from her past. Caitlin isn't sure who she can trust and danger escalates at a pace equaling her attraction to Mike.

Mike Rafferty's life is in a mess. When his personal life disintegrates, he grasps an opportunity: a challenging new job and relocation to a different state. Finally, he has something to look forward to. He discovers an unexpected benefit in his new co-worker, a woman who turned him down years ago. Mike welcomes this unexpected chance to pick up a relationship worth waiting for.

When Caitlin is kidnapped, Mike struggles to save the woman he loves while she learns to trust in his love to keep her alive.

Black Ribbon Affair is available in print and e-book formats at the following:


Barnes & Noble:

The Wild Rose Press:

Black Ribbon Affair finaled in several contests. However, Mary Jo is most proud of its winning The Write Touch Readers’ Award for Best Romantic Suspense because readers determined it was the best. After all, most writers want readers to love what they write.

She’s also extremely proud that Black Ribbon Affair won the HOLT Medallion for Literary Achievement as Best First Book. This contest is very well-respected and many different genres of books get entered. So this award also has very special meaning for her, especially since she will never be eligible for it again.


  1. The most important wisdom I have found is to drop everything and take notes when the muse speaks to you. I have found a writers workshop helpful too.

  2. Colleen,
    Thanks for the useful tips. Taking notes helps me too.

  3. Julia Rachel Barrett,
    Thanks. I hope they're helpful to you.

  4. What a great post. You can never be reminded of these tips too many times.

    Butterflies are in Bloom over at my blog today.

  5. #9 is my favorite, and follows a rule of improvisation as well - begin at the middle, the backstory will come.

  6. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks Heather,
    I feel the same way.

  8. MissMeliss,
    Yeah, isn't that a great tip? I'm trying to use that one myself. :)

  9. Maureen,
    Thanks. I'm glad you liked the post and that you stopped by.

  10. I was at Mary Jo's presentation and she is a wise woman indeed. Thanks for the refresher! Black Ribbon Affair is a great book and I'm looking forward to her next one.

  11. Terrific tips! Ditto what Stacey says about Mary Jo being a wise woman.

  12. My favorite tip is #7. I just figured this one out myself. :-) Scrapbooking and sewing are my outlets of choice when words don't work. I find that such hobbies really free my mind and help alleviate the stress of "I can't write anything!"

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, and congrats on your success, Mary Jo!

  13. Thanks for the post~great reminders all! :) Congrats on the wonderful awards!

  14. Mary Jo, you know I think you're fantastic. Thenks for the words of wisdom.

  15. Here is a tip I found helpful. DIVORCE your manuscript after you've written it.

    I say divorce, because I know I clung to every word on my first novel. Once I divorced it, I didn't care what it "said" (similiar to divorcing a spouse).

    I cut and cut and cut, ignoring that little voice in my head. And well, that story FINALLY sold.

    Nice tips, and a great discussion!

  16. Mary Jo, you're the best cheerleader and definitely a wise woman! #5 resonates with me at the moment. For my current WIP I'm working on adding/improving cliffhanger chapter endings and on using a smaller cast of characters.

  17. Stacey Joy Netzel,
    Thanks. I'm looking forward to reading Casey Clifford's next book too.

  18. Edie Ramer,
    Yep, I'm with you and Stacey--Mary Jo is very wise. I'm grateful she agreed to share her insights with us.

  19. KendallGray,
    It is good to have hobbies, isn't it? I like to garden.

  20. Misty Dietz,
    I'm glad the post is helpful to you. Thanks for stopping by.

  21. Sandy,
    I'm with you. I'm a fan of Mary Jo too. :)

  22. Toni Lynn,
    Yeah, I could see how distancing yourself from your work before editing might be useful. Thanks.

  23. Helen C. Johannes,
    I like that you can always learn something new about writing. Good luck on your wip.

  24. That's true.

    It took me nearly as long to get published. It's kind of nice to know I'm not alone.

  25. Alice Audrey,
    I'm with you.
    It's also nice for us unpublished authors to know it takes a while for most to see their stories in print--either on paper or digitally. :)

  26. Great thursday 13
    I like the list that you made! T'was quite helpful

    Happy Thursday!

  27. Write what you love indeed. Thanks

    Have a great Thursday!

  28. Mary Jo, I unfortunately had to miss your presentation, sao this was wonderful. :-) I need to keep this and look it it often because I suffer from so many issues when it comes to keeping my butt in my chair and my creativity fresh. You are definitely a wise woman, but an even better friend. :-)

  29. Candy,
    I'm glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for visiting.

  30. I am Harriet,
    Yes, I like--love what you write as well. You have a good day too.

  31. Donna Marie,
    Thanks for supporting Mary Jo. She's a good friend, a smart woman and a fine writer.

    Take care.

  32. To all those who responded and mentioned what you found helpful, thanks a million. May you have happy writing trails and tales all your days.

    And to Toni who mentioned "divorce"--that was priceless. :-)

    Mary Jo

  33. Brenda,

    I've really loved checking into your site all day and seeing the responses generated. Your idea of 13 is perfect.

    Thank you so much for having me guest today. I loved it!

    Mary Jo

  34. That's a really great list of advice. Now if I were to follow even half of it, I know I'd feel better and better about my writing...

    Happy TT!

  35. This is a great list. I'm a writer -- an advertising copywriter, which means if all goes well I shouldn't be writing fiction! -- but there is enough similarity in approach to craft for this to resonate with me. I especially like #3. When new writers enter the field, they seem to be surprised how much of the work is indeed WORK. Common sense, business sense, dedication ... it all goes into the mix.

  36. Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing those. Some of those I need to go back and revisit as my schedules and priorities have changed without my realizing it.

  37. Mary Jo,
    Thank you for passing along your wisdom and your words of encouragement. :)

  38. sherilee,

    I'm with you--trying to employ Mary Jo's advice too. :)

  39. The Gal Herself,
    Yep, Mary Jo's words resonate with me too and I think it's a relief to know that writing is hard work. Thanks.

  40. CountryDew,

    I agree. Sometimes it's hard to schedule in writing time when life and priorities change.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  41. Thanks for linking up with me at "the perfect line". As a small token of appreciation, I'm showing casing all my new found friends. Please stop by my place this Saturday for a Friends' Meetup Party where I will be linking up with you and a featured blogger. Hope you grace my space and drop in a smile!

    Happy Blogging! :)

    the perfect line

    P.S. Following you back! :)

  42. Found you through the perfect line's FMParty linkup! Great post! I am really glad to have this blog and look forward to reading some really wonderful stuff! I've also joined via GFC

  43. Great blog post! Thanks so much for sharing this. :)

  44. I'm following from the "Friends Meetup Party". Hope you can stop by!

  45. WarmSunshine,
    I like your idea about linking up. Thanks for including me.

  46. Silverfaerie,
    Thanks for visiting and I'm glad to share Mary Jo's words with you. :)

  47. Carolyn,
    Thanks. It means a lot to me to have you stop by.

  48. Chloe,
    I'll come check it out. Thanks.

  49. A great presentation and a great post! How do you manage to take a nuanced subject and present it so clearly? I'm in awe.

    And uplifting too. Love your writing, Mary Jo!

  50. Mary Hughes,
    Grin. I'm in awe of Mary Jo too. :)

  51. What great words of wisdom. Thank for the inspiration!

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