Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy New Year!


It's that time again!

Five things to keep in mind as you're setting goals for 2023:

1. Write the Goals Down

It's proven that just in writing your goals down, you're more likely to accomplish them. Make a list and keep it handy. (But don't overload yourself. Limit your list to the three to ten things you MOST want to accomplish.)

2. Make them Specific

Don't just say you want to "read more" or "write more." Write down how many books you want to read a week. Determine how many words you want to write a day, and which story (or stories) you want to write.

3. Create a Plan and Set Deadlines

What will it take to read a certain number of books in a year? Trips to the library? Penciling "reading time" into your schedule? If I wanted to read six books a month, that's one book every five days. With due dates, that's two individual trips to the library. The first and fifteenth could be designated library days. I could find a quiet place and read for thirty minutes after dinner every evening. . . . 

Get an action plan together.

4. Get Out of the Way

I fully believe that we are in control of our own destiny. I'm not a fan of assigning blame or even letting past events or situations affect our today and tomorrow. Don't sabotage your goals with a negative mindset. 

Believe in yourself.

And that voice in your head that says you can't? They're a liar. Tell them to shut the hell up. 

5. Remember WHY These Goals Were Set

Maybe it's to become more well-rounded. Maybe it's to step outside of a comfort zone. The "why" is just as important as the "what" and "how." This is what you will return to when the road gets tough. 

So . . . what do you want to accomplish in 2023?

Your goals don't have to be reading or writing-related, either. Make this the year you get healthy--both physically and spiritually. Make this the year you save for that trip. Learn that language. Work for that promotion. Make that career change. Go back to school.

Step into your "discomfort" zone. 

Live intentionally.

Figure out what matters most to you and make those tough decisions (if necessary). 

Get moving.

And, as always: 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, December 5, 2022

Katie Klein is on Hiatus

It's the most wonderful time of the year. . . .

And after an amazing Thanksgiving with family and a weekend spent decorating my house for the holidays, I've decided to take December off from the blog to recharge/regroup, work on my WIP, and maybe find some time to watch all of my favorite Christmas movies (the season really doesn't last long enough).

Twitter will stay updated (to a certain degree), so make sure you're following me there in the event I stumble upon news to share.

Otherwise, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season and will see you on the other side.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, November 28, 2022

From Blocked to Brilliant: Tips for Keeping the Creative Spark Alive

It's no secret that the key to a successful writing career is creativity, but the creative process itself? Yikes.

Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting out, there are times when the ideas seem to dry up or you get caught in a rut, writing the same thing over and over or only when you feel "inspired." 

So what happens when your creativity starts to dwindle? 

Here are five tips to help you keep the creative spark alive and burning bright. 

1. Read, read, and read some more. 

Make time every day to read something, whether it’s a blog post, a book, or articles on your favorite website. The more you read, the more ideas you’ll have to fuel your own writing. (For me, this also applies to watching movies.)

2. Switch up your normal routine. 

If you always write at the same time of day, in the same place, try shaking things up a bit. Write in the morning instead of at night, or vice versa, or try a new location.

3. Take some time for yourself. 

When you're feeling blocked creatively, it can be helpful to take some time for yourself, even if it's just 10-15 minutes. Step away from your work and do something that relaxes you. This can help clear your mind and give you a fresh perspective.

4. Talk to other writers. 

When you're struggling with your writing, talking to other writers can be incredibly helpful. Many have been there before and can talk you through it.

5. Do your best to write every day. 

Even if it's just a few hundred words, getting into the habit of writing regularly will help keep those creative juices flowing.

It's not always easy to keep the creative spark alive, but the ideas are out there, and if you can keep the faith (and your eyes and mind open to the possibilities), who knows? 

The next idea that hits could be the one that catapults you to bestsellerdom. 

Be Brilliant!


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my stateside friends (and anyone celebrating around the world): 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Book Recommendation: The Essential Books on Writing

We're moving into the holiday season, so I can already feel things both speeding up and slowing down simultaneously (doesn't really help that the future of Twitter hangs in the balance), but before I go on my holiday hiatus, I just wrapped up another writing reference guide that I think you'll appreciate.

My official review:

Whether you’re preparing to write your first masterpiece or churn out your next bestselling novel, The Essential Books on Writing boxed set by Bryn Donovan has everything you need to get started and more. This collection is jam-packed with ideas, and part of its appeal lies in the fact that it doesn’t need to be read from cover to cover. 5,000 Writing Prompts and Master Lists for Writers are reference guides that include super-creative story prompts and thoughtful, easy-to-navigate lists covering plots, words, names, and character quirks (among many others). 

In Blank Page to Final Draft, Donovan offers writing insights that are both practical and actionable. Selections that stand out include the advice on how to end a chapter, the questions to ask beta readers so they know what to look for, and how you can turn a character’s good quality into something negative.

Any writer at any stage can benefit from any of these books, but I think more seasoned writers will appreciate the plot and word lists while first-time novelists will appreciate Donovan’s approach to writing a book, which allows them to work at their own pace.

*I was gifted an ARC of this book to review, but this in no way swayed my opinion. For me, this Essential Books collection is an easy five stars—an exceptional resource for any writer in search of new ideas and inspiration for their next project and practical advice on how to get their story from their head to the page. 

If this is a resource you feel like you might benefit from, you can learn more here.

As always:

Be Brilliant!


Monday, October 31, 2022

John Matthew Fox: In Conversation

Last week I mentioned I had the pleasure of snagging an ARC of John Fox's new book The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments, and it really is unlike the other books on writing out there. You can read my full review here, but it's a welcome addition to any writer's bookshelf, in my humble opinion (and I've read A LOT of craft books, y'all).

So I'm thrilled that John was willing to answer a few questions I had post-reading. 


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You explain what a linchpin is at the start of your book, and I've heard the term applied to people in the business world or in a community--someone who is vital to an operation--but I've never really thought about being a linchpin from a writer's or a writing standpoint. What made you choose this angle for your book?

I'd been doing developmental editing on novels for years and I realized that I kept on giving advice about the same sections of their books. And I realized the pattern held across a large number of novels, that writers struggled to write the most pivotal scenes in their book. And if they messed up on those scenes, there was an excellent chance that the reader wouldn't connect with the book as strongly. So I wanted to write a book helping as many writers as possible with those crucial parts of their story.

That's awesome. I teach undergrads on the daily, so I totally understand those patterns that show up again and again in feedback. What would you say you enjoy most about the writing process?

I remember that Jonathan Safran Foer once said that if he wasn't a writer, he would have become a builder. And I understood that comment. Writing is simply building with words. Slap some mortar of verbs, put on a brick of a noun, build an object that's tall or thick or beautiful.

Oh, I LOVE that metaphor!

Yeah, so I love the building aspect of writing, the feeling of constructing a narrative. And so really, my favorite part of writing is the imagination. Of designing characters so they feel unlike everyone else, of designing a world that feels different from ours and yet similar, of designing a plot that isn't hackneyed and ready-made, but feels original and wild.

I might not be the best prose stylist in the world, but I sure do write stories that nobody else has put on the page.

I haven't read your fiction (yet!), so I can't speak to your prose styling, but I really loved your command of structure and tone in The Linchpin Writer. It's a smart book, but I didn't feel like I was being talked down to. It was accessible, but I didn't get the feeling that you were diluting anything to appeal to a base audience (that may have come out wrong, so if I offended anyone by saying that, I'm sorry). I just loved that the whole book is so practical and encouraging while still maintaining that literary or sophisticated bent. So what advice did you leave out of the book that you might offer a fledgling writer?

Don't work on creating the perfect book. 

Perfect books are quite boring to read. Perfection is too surface-level. First, work on creating a book that has flaws, but which gives the reader pleasure. That forges into new territory, that feels different than other books out there, that is the type of book you haven't read yet but wish it existed. So many amazing books have minor flaws, but I enjoy them because of what they tried to accomplish, and their imperfections seem beautiful to me.

Small example: the cranial mediations on the whale in Moby Dick. Was it a mistake? Should an editor have taken it out? Well, yes. But the book is still marvelous in spite of it.

Next, work on creating yourself into the type of person that can write a fantastic book. That means putting in the time at the desk. That means reading every day. And set a goal for the number of books you want to read for the year -- 50? 75? Over 100? And keep a notebook of everything you learn from those books, so you're not just consuming but you're analyzing the books to see what they teach you. That also means finding a writing community and getting words on the page.

If you force yourself to write a book, that's good, but you just have a book. Instead, grow yourself into a better writer. So you can write book after book after book.

That's a lot of fantastic advice. I've been playing this game long enough to see trends come and go (and come back again) and the whole state of the industry change. I've done the traditional pub thing, the self-pub thing, and it really comes down to not only loving what you do, but taking it seriously: showing up and doing the hard work and being willing to adapt at every turn. 

So I don't want to spoil this story because it's in the book, but it nearly broke my heart. You mentioned mentoring a young girl from India who was struggling to become a writer (against her entire society's wishes). If you could have any author (living or dead) mentor you, whom would you choose and why?

This summer, I flew out to Key West for the Hemingway look-alike contest. 150 guys who look like Hemingway, all competing to be crowned that year's champion. I went with my book club, and we drank Hemingway's rum, toured his house, saw his trophy fish, ran with the bulls in the bull parade, competed in the fishing contest, posed with all the Hemingway models, and drank a lot (as Papa would have liked it).

It felt like a good life. If Big Papa could rise from the dead and give me a few tips on my novel, I wouldn't say no.

God, you have the most AMAZING writing group/book club. I honestly loved these stories in The Linchpin Writer as much as I loved the advice, and I won't pretend I'm not super jealous of your travels because I am. 

Thank you so much, John, for dropping by the blog. It was a pleasure. Truly. :)

*   *   *

The Linchpin Writer is on sale now. Check it out, if you haven't already. Again, here's my review, but you don't have to take my word for it. The five-star ratings are strong with this one. 

You can also follow John on Twitter: @bookfox

And his website is PACKED with awesome content (check out his blog, first).

Be Brilliant!


“If it has ever happened to a human being, it is worthy of inclusion in a book. 
It doesn’t matter if it offends someone or breaks a taboo—
the role of books is to say what seems unsayable.” 
-John Fox

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Linchpin Writer - Review

There are moments in our stories that can make or break them.

These are “linchpin” moments, and in a world deluged with tomes on craft, John Matthew Fox has brought a new angle and fresh insights to the writing conversation.  

The Linchpin Writer is divided into three main sections: firsts (paragraphs, description, dialogue), emotions (sorrow, wonder, desire), and endings (chapter, story, character). Each chapter concludes with actionable advice and prompts, and to expand on the ideas, Fox offers a clear pathway to the resources on his blog, where we can take an even deeper dive into the subject matter.

There are insights aplenty for both the neophyte and the seasoned professional, and along with the analysis and breakdown of what works and what doesn’t, Fox proffers stories of his travels and some of the high and low points of his career to deepen the insights and encourage writers to stay the course. 

You won’t find detailed instructions on world-building or character development. That’s already been done by hundreds of other writers in thousands of other books, and that’s not the purpose of The Linchpin Writer, anyway, which is precisely what makes it a welcome addition to any bookshelf. 

With its excellent guidance on nailing key moments in your novel, clear and concise explanations for each topic, and encouraging tone, The Linchpin Writer is exactly what we writers need: nothing more, nothing less.

The linchpin moment of Fox’s book just might be the final sentence, which is a swift sock to the gut to anyone who calls themselves a writer. But I won’t spoil it here. I’d simply encourage you to pick up a copy of The Linchpin Writer, read it, and answer for yourself. 

The Linchpin Writer goes on sale this week. Inside, you'll find the keys to creating memorable moments in your fiction and tips for creating stories that will stay with your readers long after they've finished. 

*I was gifted an ARC of this book to review, but this in no way swayed my opinion: an easy 5/5 stars for any writer at whatever point of the journey they might be on.

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Stay tuned, because I have an interview with John posting in the next few days. :)