The Writers Circle: 2018 in Preview

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

The dawn of a new year is an arbitrary point in time, yet it is one we often use to reset or restart aspects of our lives. In that mindset, what are your writing, editing or publishing goals for 2018? Are you starting any new, exciting projects? How can Today’s Author help you to achieve your creative goals for 2018?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.


Shaping our Creations, or Creating our Shapes

I am four months pregnant with my first child, and lately I’ve been thinking about keeping some kind of written record of this strange experience of being pregnant—a place to catalogue all the physical and mental challenges and joys I face each day. In thinking through this project, I’ve been particularly concerned about the shape this kind of writing would/could/should take. Should it follow an epistolary structure, and be addressed to my child? Should I address it to myself? To my husband?

I’ve thought, too, about following in the structural footsteps of Anne Lamott in her acerbic and wickedly honest memoir: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. Lamott structures this memoir chronologically and sections are divided by date. Would this approach fit the type of writing I want to do? Perhaps dividing by month or trimester?

Or perhaps I might take my cue from a novel I’m currently immersed in: The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit, who divides her tale by topic (Husbands, Winter, Letters, etc.).

All of these approaches are feasible and seem appropriate for my topic, but how to bite the bullet and choose just one?

Aside from content, tone, point of view, figurative language, and everything else writers have to make decisions about, structure/shape is perhaps one of the trickiest and, for me anyway, the most nerve-wracking. Whether writing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, there are so many options available!

As writers, we are bound by no real rules anymore—punctuation, grammar, spelling, structure and more are all up for grabs. Creative license allows us the freedom to break rules, dabble in new modalities, ignore quotation marks around dialogue, and so on. This is liberating, as much as it is potentially unnerving. We are faced with a wide, open, beckoning field of options, and all of them are calling to us.

So, I’m curious: When do you make structural decisions about your work? At the beginning, middle, or end of the writing process? Throughout? Are there certain writers whose attention to and awareness of structure inspire you?

Or perhaps there are those of you for whom a shape emerges for your work organically, without thought or coaxing, as if no other shape would even make sense.

Does your structure emerge after long hours and laborious consideration, or appear in one easy push? (Bring on the pregnancy metaphors!)

And how do you know when the shape is the right one?


The Writers Circle: Planning or Pantsing

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Today we’d like to discuss how you begin new projects.  Do you always make a plan before you start writing the story? Do you fly by the seat of your pants and write whatever comes to mind? Do you use some sort of blended method?  Is your strategy different for longer works than it is for shorter works?

Discuss this topic here in the comments or head on over to the forums to start or engage in a more thorough discussion.

‘Tis the Season

It’s hard to believe that this morning I tore the page off the calendar as we moved to the first day of October (okay, I realize the phrase “tore the page off the calendar” may say more about my age than I’d like). Didn’t summer just start a few days ago?  Yet, here we are, October 1.  Leaves are falling, there’s a cool, crisp feeling in the air (at least here in New Jersey) and thoughts are turning to seasonal things like pumpkins, Halloween, raking of leaves and… NaNoWriMo.

Yes, it’s officially the season for National Novel Writing Month preparations!  Many writers spend October gearing up for a fast-paced November of writing. Whether it’s for the thrill of creating a new work of fiction in a short amount of time, the camaraderie of participating in a writing event with a couple hundred thousand fellow writers or simply a writing challenge, NaNoWriMo presents aspiring writers with an opportunity to make writing a priority above all the other top priorities we have each day.

Whether you are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year or not, the start of a new month, a new calendar quarter  and, essentially, a new season of the year is a good time to consider the projects you are working on and what new project(s) you might be considering in the near future.  As a “pantser”, I don’t really plan out what my writing projects will include, but I still have generally vague ideas in mind.  I’ve participated in and won NaNoWriMo every year since 2006 and am hoping to participate and win again this year.  But I understand the concept and rigor of a month of writing isn’t for everyone.  So today I am wondering who among our community is planning to participate or at least considering participating in NaNoWriMo, either on the main “adult” site or via the Young Writers Program.  Whether you are participating or not, what project(s) are you looking forward to working on over the coming months?

As always, I and everyone here at Today’s Author are happy you have made us a part of your writing journey and hope to continue supporting your creative efforts.  If there are ways we can help, please contact us, leave a comment on one of our posts or create a topic in our forums. Keep writing, everyone!

5 Writing Goals for Summer

on vacationAh, summer. Is it really that time again? It’s hard to believe I’ll have two months to do whatever I want–clean my house, walk the dog, read, pursue educational enrichment, catch up on my writing, talk to my children–talk to my husband.

Truth is, I have more to do than two months of free time allows. I know what I should do–hone my teacher skills–but I want to work on my writing skills. I’ve waited all these years, putting children and husband first (and happy I did), then falling into a teaching job where my students go first (400 wide-eyed, eager brains. Never could talk myself into going on auto-pilot). When is it My Time?

This summer. I’m doing it. I am going to devote myself to my writerly craft and see what happens. I know–I’m a little nuts. Let’s stipulate to that and move on. Here’s my list of the top five ways I will spend my Writerly Summer:


I have two non-fiction books my publisher awaits. I have five more ebooks batting around in my brain I can dash off without too much trouble, then sell on my Teachers Pay Teachers account (see below). I also MUST finish Twenty-four Days. I’m either going to make my publisher happy or I’m going to have a Come to Jesus moment and make a Big Decision. Either way, that book is being birthed this summer.

That done, I want to rework the prequel to Twenty-four Days so its ready to go as the next in the series. Because I know readers will rabidly want more.

That done (here’s the tie-in to this month’s theme: what was I doing half a lifetime ago), I am going to rewrite the book that started me authoring–Lucy: A Biography. It’s the saga of our ancestors. I’m going to revamp it in first person so readers can relate to their roots better. I sure hope that works. Well, it will work because I’ll self-pub when I’m done (it’s a niche topic that has garnered little publisher/agent interest in the 15 years it’s been kicking around).

Teachers Pay Teachers

This is a great site to sell teaching materials to teachers. If you haven’t visited TPT, you are missing out. There is a wealth of resources on everything imaginable sold by people just like you (if you’re a teacher and a writer). It includes a robust ‘comment’ section for products where I get lots of feedback on my materials. The hitch: All customers are teachers. So, writing materials should be geared toward teaching K-12. Despite that, this is a great marketplace for me which often outsells Amazon. I need to look over my TPT store, make sure everything is current, crisp, presentable, then update as needed.

Google Hangouts

These are great. An expert alerts you s/he will be ‘hanging out’ at a certain date and time. The first ten people who accept her invitation are on-screen with her/him. She presents writing tips and tricks and you (as one of the first 10) get to participate in the conversation. The expert benefits because s/he can record directly to her/his YouTube channel of writing tips (you have one, right?). The viewer also wins because they get amazing writing advice for free. I teach technology education through Google Hangouts (as part of CSG online classes) and am loving it, as are my students (all adults). Trust me, fellow writers, this is the future of learning. Embrace it. All it takes is a little practice to get down the invitation process, how to record to YouTube, get screenshare linked to Google Docs, and get that comment sidebar up so everyone can talk at once.

Online seminars

You might call them ‘webinars’. I get lots of invitations, but put them off because I’m either working when the event takes place or too tired. No excuses anymore–I’ll do it!

Go Digital!

I will force myself to do everything possible digitally. No more newspapers (go online), no more paperback books, no more paper and pencil notes (I’ll learn Evernote). No more printed directions–I’ll figure out how to send them to my phone. No more trips to the library–I will use the online catalog. What else? Doesn’t matter what else. Anything else that comes up, I will try to find a digital solution to it. I can do it!

There you have it. What are your summer plans?

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for, featured blogger for Technology in Education, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Follow me

Broken Glass and Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s a commonly accepted principle of physics that if you cool something hard down quickly (like glass) from a hot state it can crack, break, or shatter.  This is a commonly accepted principle of physics that two days ago, I chose to ignore.

You see, while baking the split chicken breasts, I’d forgotten to add a little water to the bottom of the pan. If I don’t, it burns and gets all icky. I filled up a cup with some very hot water from the tap, opened the oven, and well… you know what happened, don’t you?




The entire 13 x 9 Pyrex glass baking pan shattered. Into a hot oven.

I stood there, with a cup in my hand staring at it like a moron. I was stricken by the fact that the chicken pieces were still sitting nicely on the largest two remaining bits of glass.

This could have gone one of several ways. I could have dropped into a classic redheaded temper tantrum, thrown things, and cussed a lot. I could have thrown the whole lot away and ordered pizza. Instead, I opted for another option. I carefully cleaned out the bits of glass I could from the bottom so I could shut the door safely, pulled the glass pieces out, and inspected the chicken. Most of the glass broke downwards, into large pieces. There was no sign of any shards in the chicken itself, so I took a chance, set it aside, and pulled out a pot.

Life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade. Or more specifically, chicken soup. A little asian seasoning, some chicken broth and water with a bit of soba noodles, and bam, chicken soup. The whole family had seconds.

This is something you can do with your own writing, if you weren’t aware. Sometimes, when you’re working on a story, you discover halfway that you’ve forgotten something. Maybe the plot’s not working. Or the characters suck. We’ve all hit that point where you take your fingers away from the keyboard, and stare at the screen and know that this is just not working.

Many people throw their hands up, scrap it, and give up. Maybe they do something else like start another book. I say you don’t have to do something so drastic. You can salvage any piece, no matter how awful it is, with a little ingenuity. Open up your mind’s pantry and see what you’ve got lying around! Often, I don’t worry about changing what I already have, I just start the new project as if I’d done that from the beginning. I figure I can fix things later.

Too often when we’re working on a draft, we decide that the whole thing is just terrible, but we get wedded to the idea that what we’re doing is the only way it can be done, or it’s not worth doing. Had I chosen to do that with my chicken dinner, I would have ended up with nothing. After all, I couldn’t move forward the way I was going, I had a hot stove full of glass and no pan to cook in! But by changing perspectives, and going in a completely different direction, I wound up with something that in the end turned out better than the original.

So tell us: what sort of road blocks have you run into with your stories, and how are you working around them– or not?

Going to Camp

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into the Flash Fiction arena for some time (though my wordiness tends to work against me in that plan).  I’ve also been toying with the idea of participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, though I can guarantee that I do not have time to write 50,000 words in April.  For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of ways I could do both – participate in Camp and also start writing Flash.  Yesterday, Grant Faulkner, Executive Director over at the Office of Letters and Light, posted his plan to write 30 Shorts in 30 Days over on the OLL blog.

Flash Fiction Camp?  I love the idea!

Looking at reality, I wonder if how I can actually do this.  I mean a story a day starting April 1 when I’ve written barely a dozen stories in over a year?  How crazy am I?  Add in the fact that baseball games for the team I manage start on April 1, the garden needs to start going in on or about April 1 and I have crazy work deadlines in April and really this is probably a bad idea. Nonetheless, the more I think about it, the more excited I am getting about going to Camp and starting this project.  I have the ideas to accomplish it, so now it’s time to start writing.  And, as the subtitle of this site says: just keep writing.

I am going to spend the next few days putting together prompts, much like Grant suggested in his post.  I’ll likely use a lot of the Today’s Author Write Now prompts, but I have others as well. I am not committing to posting each and every story on my blog right away, but my goal is to put them out there in some form during the month and/or after April is done.

So who else is participating in Camp this April?  What projects are you starting, whether for Camp or not?  I’m still not positive that I haven’t lost my mind in considering this, as there’s no way I can be writing a flash fiction and flashing signs from the third base coach’s box on the baseball field, but I’m going to give it a go.  Are you in?  Let us know what projects you are looking forward to starting. After all, putting it out there for all to see makes it more likely we’ll get started, right?

Oh, and if you have any tips for being successful with writing flash fiction, share them, too!


If you are doing Camp, find me on the site – my username is Lousy Writer 13. Looking forward to writing with everyone!