Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
June 1, 2011


By Laura Drake

Who hasn’t made a vow on New Year’s Eve (maybe after a couple of glasses of champagne) that this is your year to get in shape.  You join a gym, you get a personal trainer, you start jogging.  And its hard work; muscle only builds when you work it.

Writing is like that too.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a New York Times bestseller, or trying to chisel your first novel out of stone.  Everyone needs to exercise their creative muscles to get, or stay, on top.

I warned my husband when I started this journey ten years ago, that I’d need to invest in my education. Every year, I spend some money set aside for that purpose.

Two years ago, I attended the RWA National Conference in DC. It was a tough taskmaster; to bed at 3, then getting up early to get into business attire for a full day of seminars, and pitching.  It taught me rock-steady nerves, belief in myself, and that I’m not the only one sitting at a computer for huge chunks of time, trying to pull something out of my head and get it down on paper.

I came back with a renewed sense of purpose and the picture in my head of myself in an a little black dress and glittery jewelry, climbing the steps to accept my Golden Heart.

I worked those muscles all year. Armed with a new book and confidence in my newfound stamina, entered the Golden Heart. The results weren't pretty.

But I didn’t give up. I continued to show up, every day. I took online classes. I attended special workshops. I went to local mini-conferences and lectures. Then one day, I heard a new name. Margie Lawson. I looked her up online. She was conducting an online Deep Edits class soon. Hey, editing was a muscle group I’d been ignoring.  So I signed up.

It turned out to be a Marine Boot Camp compared to my normal workout. Weeks of hard work: amping up emotions, cutting clichés, and learning rhetorical devices to write fresh.

It was brutal. But my crit partners were amazed at the improvement in my writing. Even I could see the difference.

The book I cranked out the next year was miles ahead of the one before it. It won contests. I was proud.

I raved about Margie. So when Fae Rowan saw her Masters Immersion Class offered on the Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction, she bid on it. And won. She asked me if I wanted to go with her. I had money my education fund, and free airline miles, so I signed up.

We traveled 2,000 feet above Boulder, Colorado to Margie’s imposing log home (formerly owned by Joan Johnston.)  There, I met Darcy Crowder, a fellow RWA-WFer. Remember that name – you’re going to see it in print. She’s good!

Three intense days followed. I’m talking 14 hour, Margie Lawson-energizer-bunny days.  Even the afternoon we went to Boulder to shop, she met one-on-one with us to review scenes in a coffee shop. And we had a handout to go over at dinner in an amazing restaurant (pictured here.)

I’m home now, editing that second book.  Whatever you do to get in shape --weights, personal trainer, or boot camp, do something to improve your writing this year.

Want to see my authorpezius muscle?  Okay, so they’re not Nora-sized yet, but dang it, I’m going to be published this year!

Are you with me?? What are your writing workout goals this year?

0 comments on “PUMPING WORDS”

  1. This is very good advice. Last year when I wrote in NaNo for the first time, by the end of it I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing every day. I'd gotten to the point where I could pick up the plot and move it forward without pulling hair, or looking up characters, or reviewing the outline. I wanted to hop right into the next novel, but I knew I needed to take a breather from that world so that I could go back in and do edits later.

    Two months afterwards and I was back to pulling hairs again, and now here I am trying to start up the next novel with numerous speed bumps. I think I definitely let my writing muscles get lazy. At least I know what regiment works for getting them back in shape!

    1. I'm with you, Lena. You may write garbage some mornings, but it's easier to edit that to stare at a blank screen, right?

      Writing every day makes the words flow easier for me, too.

  2. Love the snark in your voice, Laura. (Hope you take it as the compliment it was intended to be.) I'll bet Margie had fun with it, too.

    I hopped over to your bio after reading the post, am intrigued by your fresh, unique protags and storylines, and will watch for a "coming soon to a B&N near you" announcement.

    I, too, have been Margie-ized. It took me a while to discover why my first 2 mss didn't sell. I hadn't studied the craft. Duh. My first on-line class with Margie (DSDB) changed that and I've been a Margie groupie since. IMC1 in Boulder was an awesome experience. IMC2 in Dallas was equally inspiring.

    After classes with Margie, I dropped the question mark I used to put at the end of "I am a Writer." It's empowering to make that a declarative statement.

    Happy writing. Get those books pubbed so I can read them!

    Website will be gloria-richard.com as soon as I finish WordPress basic design. Yup. Also learned I need an on-line presence.

    Okay. Break over. Back to whip the WIP into shape.

    1. Oh Gloria, great to hear from a fellow-IMCer! I heard about Dallas, I'm jealous. Maybe next year.
      Your mouth to God's ears, Hon - let's BOTH be pubbed in 2011!

  3. Laura, you are clearly jazzed by Margie Lawson's classes. She sounds marvelous. I will look her up. Thanks much for telling us about her.

  4. Oh, I miss Margie! We had so much fun, didn't we? I say we plan to do it again and try to be sure we are in the same IMC. You are a hoot, girl and I KNOW you will be published soon!

    I'm trying to keep my head in my wip, but it's a struggle with all the home stuff going on right now. Three more weeks and my days should be back to normal (whatever that is) and I can "immerse" myself once again.

  5. Great, great post! I took one of Margie's classes online about a month ago and bought one of her other classes so I could go through it at my own pace. I really believe she's helpful and I would LOVE to go to one of her intense and personal classes at her home. That would be awesome! And I agree with what you say - that we should all "DO something" for ourselves and our writing to improve through classes or conferences or whatever. THANKS!

  6. Loved the article, and its true, you have to work those 'authorpezius" muscles, LOL. I have neglected that this year, but off to do a search of the next seminar, thick skinned cloak packed.

  7. I attended Margie's session on Editing at the DARA conference this year. I was told it's the short version. It blew my mind. Yes, it would definitely exercise my authorpezius muscle.

    1. Brinda,
      You should get into one of her online classes - they're eye opening. The thing I like was, after the class, my writing changed without me thinking about it - once you see what you've been doing wrong, you don't do it, automatically.
      How cool it that?

  8. After completing 2 levels of Margie Lawson's IMC - my group loved the first so much we asked for a 'graduate' level - I can honestly say my writing is the best it has been, and will only get better with all the tools Margie equips you with to write to the next level. Transformational is the only way I know how to describe the workshops!

  9. I just signed up for her immersion class in August. I think I'll need that long to prepare myself mentally -- "Energizer Bunny" is a good descriptor of her, and I've only ever met her online. But I am looking forward to the experience, and I can't wait to whip my brain and that WIP into shape! Good luck with your publishing goals.

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