Goals Category Archive

A Training Plan For Writing

I have run a marathon.

Have you ever seen a professional marathoner run? Smooth, efficient, powerful…and cruising along at sub 5 minute miles. Watching them, it seems as if their bodies are designed to move that fast (and perhaps they are), that they’re barely working at all. That’s not at all how I look when I run. Not even close.

Saying I’ve run a marathon (and shorter distances) does not mean I have ever performed well. I merely completed them. Completing and doing well are two very different things.

This time around (I’m running another half-marathon just a few weeks from now), I decided to do things a bit differently. I turned to my boyfriend for support and for a training plan. He put together a  plan designed just for me, for what I can handle without getting burnt out, and what would prepare me for the race the very best. Today, 3 months into my training plan, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more prepared and I’ve never been in better shape.

Over the past months I have often thought about how my running training plan has helped me become a more confidant runner. Is it possible that this idea of ‘training’ can be applied to my writing also? Could I create a ‘training plan’ for my writing that would, over the course of three months, help me to become better, to produce more, to become more efficient at my passion?

Those professional runners? They work their butts off to become that good…literally. I suppose this is the same for writing. The more I work, the more I stick to my training plan, the better I will become.

Do you ‘train’ yourself for your passion?

What I learned at the SCBWI Conference

The first thing I learned was how very, very similar we all are! There are so many of us out there, taking the same journey. It was an incredible amount of fun to make new friends and meet old ones.

I stayed with my critique partner Janice Foy while in Atlanta.

A few more of the amazing people I met. Unfortunately, none of these ladies are bloggers! Get on it girls! 🙂

I also had the privileged of meeting Jaye and Mary Ann. It was crazy meeting people I blog and tweet with. It’s such a small world! (Hope you don’t mind I stole your picture, Jaye 🙂

From Kirby Larson, I learned: Don’t be afraid to take big risks. There is a certain amount of uncertainty we all must have when we’re writing and we can’t be afraid of where that might take us. Kirby was an amazing keynote speaker and this message stuck with me through the entire weekend

From picture books, I learned (from Mary Kole): -Cut what doesn’t fit in the heart of your book. This was stated for picture books since the word count is so low, but I’m finding it completely applicable for my own 80k MS. Cut what doesn’t fit.
-Never strike the reader over the head with the moral. I heard this and immediately went to cut a few paragraphs that had been bothering me. I finally figured out, they were bothering me because I was far too blunt. Delete. Delete.
-Have a rich emotional arch, emotions are the glue that hold plot together.

On Dialogue (from Kristin Daly Rens): -Edit out anything that isn’t essential to the plot. Don’t use dialogue as a crutch for info dumping, to lengthen a scene or say instead of show.
-Dialogue always needs to move the story forward in some way. It can contribute to characterization, be used as a plot device, or to set a scene, but it always must be significant.
-Don’t overuse dialogue tags (woops. Another delete. Delete. moment for me)

On the Slush Pile (from Mary Kole): -Query 10-20 agents in the 1st round. Fix anything that needs fixing and send out to another 10-20 in the second.
-Be sure to follow agencies guidelines
-Ask yourself these questions when doing your agent search: What is important to you for your relationship? Don’t just pick the first agent that offers, be sure they are the right fit for you.
-The goal of the query is to get an agent to take notice. The manuscript is infinitely more important- the query cannot break you. Use the query to get the agent to your (hopefully perfected) MS.
a)isolate your hook- it’s your selling point
b)who is your audience? Find the right comparitive titles
c) be brief and professional, have a short bio but mostly focus on the project
d)a good idea and good execution is enough
-Make the agent care
a)who is your character?
b)what is the inciting incident
c)who/what do they want most?
d)who/what is in their way? The Obstacle
e)What is at stake?

On Writing a Thriller (from Greg Ferguson): (Yep, I’m totally going to write a thriller after listening to this 😉
-Must have non-stop action, dangerous situations where the protagonist is in grave danger, hair-raising suspense and a heroic character

On the First Page: On Saturday night, Mary Kole, Greg Ferguson and Krisin Daly Rens read multiple first pages and gave their insights on if the first page worked, or not. Here’s what I learned:
-The first page must be grounded in the world
-It must have specific cues as to the world it’s in and the main character
-Do you have your opening line or a opening line?

On Plots (from Kristin Daly Rens): -The opening must grab the reader and must not let go. It must make a promise that is kept through to the end.
-Don’t do too much in the beginning. All you need is the hook to lead on.
-Introduce the MC, central conflict and know what is to come ->make that promise
-Your reader should be able to begin reading and understand what’s going on without dropping back story on them.
-Begin with action that moves the story forward with momentum and tension, but do not have action that confuses your reader.
-As you continue with your story, make every word, scene, dialogue count. Continuously up the ante. Test scenes with the question, “What purpose does this serve?”
-Make sure you keep the promise you made in the beginning scenes. Again, test each chapter and scene to see if tension is increased? How have things changed for your MC? Be ruthless 🙂

Massive TBR List (only titles, I haven’t looked up the authors)
I Heart Killers
Spanking Shakespeare
All Alone in the Universe
The Disenchantements
The Madman’s Daughter
Fat Vampire
Through to You
13 Reasons Why
Bad Girls Don’t Die
Blood on my Hands
The Butterfly Clues
Dark Divine

p.s. I’m sorry this post took a week to get posted. It was a lot to soak in and I hope I’ve been able to pass on at least a little to you!


I have something a bit different for you all today! I’ve joined together with Julie and the Swagger writers to create an accountability post AND come the middle of the year, we’re going to have a Check-in Blogfest. Woop woop!

So, will we keep our resolutions in 2012?


To make my resolutions for this year, I wanted to check out if I succeeded at all in completing any from last year. I had to go wayyy back to my old blog (aspiretobejuliana.blogspot.com) to find my resolutions from last year. Impressively, I actually managed to do one of them! (Although it was totally by mistake.)

Last year, I had four resolutions:
1. Become a published author, whether it be a short story, an article for a newspaper/magazine, or a book.
2. Learn how to cook!
3. Play the piano every day.
4. Floss every day.

I did become published this year, though it was through Rachel Harrie’s blogfest. Woohoo! 🙂 Her fest was a ton of fun and I LOVE that she published a book out of the fabulous short stories everyone wrote. The only other resolution I kept was flossing and THAT only lasted half the year… *sigh*

SO, this year, I am going to cut the resolutions in half and see if that helps.

1. Floss every day!
2. Query and try my best to land an agent.

Juliana Brandt


Julie Jordan

I’m one of the many who has always wanted to be a published writer. 2012 is MY YEAR! My debut novel, Book 1 of 4 in my TIME Series, is an adult romance with a touch of paranormal.

Janelle’s Time (Book 1) is at the publisher now. Janelle, the daughter of a New Hampshire farmer, and Richard, the youngest son of an English Duke, have a rough time getting it right, for all their great love. Will their love overcome all the obstacles? I’m already working on the marketing and promotion. This book, especially, must show at least moderate success or everything else planned for the year won’t matter much… No pressure, right?

Moria’s Time (Book 2) was my NaNoWriMo project for 2011 and sits at 51,000 words. Moria, Janelle’s daughter, is the focus of a vision as an infant. She fulfills that vision for her life in service to others, but finds herself in grave danger – and in love. Will Moria and her lover survive the danger? Will their love survive her destiny of service to others? I need to finish and submit this.

Adelle’s Time (Book 3) is still in my mind, but the story is starting to gel. This book alone could take a big chunk of the year. Adelle, Moria’s twin sister, is an American country girl with an English aristocrat father. She dreams of being an English Lady, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. Will she be happy as an English Duchess in Victorian England, or will she find her way home to her American roots?

Logan’s Time (Book 4) is about halfway through the first draft. Finishing this book is also a priority. Logan, the Scots’ Duke of Muileach, grows up in the Scots’ Highlands. There are women in Logan’s life: Annella, his mother who abandoned him; Rachel, his wife; and Seanna, his sometimes-lover. Will Logan make peace with his mother? Will Logan and Rachel live happily ever after? Or, will Seanna destroy Logan’s marriage?

I’m not delusional – Wonder Woman couldn’t do all this in one year – but I’ll give it my best shot.

Julie Jordan

And from the Swaggers:

Kim Van Sickler:

In 2012, I resolve:
1. To pursue the path to publication for my mermaid and witch MG books, including continuing to search for an agent and publishers, and rewriting as needed.
2. Write at least one short story a month.
3. Keep the Swagger blog going strong.
4. Complete a new book that’s not narrated in female first-person present.

Kim’s hubby knew exactly what to get her for their anniversary. Her first laptop, so she’s not chained to the desktop.


Gina Gort:

With the support of my family, I can swagger. 2012 Resolution: To press on regardless.

Gina will draw inspiration from her family in the year ahead.


Kathy Cannon Wiechman:

I resolve to try to have a more positive attitude and be more proactive in my manuscript submissions.

Kathy’s going to force herself to move to the next level.


Graziella Buonanno:

I will write my WIP at least every day at least 15 hours per week.

Grace hopes her resolution isn’t a fish story.

For all of you out there making resolutions, GOOD LUCK! We sincerely wish you the best for the upcoming year. Leave us a comment below about your goals in 2012. Then don’t forget to come back to our blogs in June for the Mid-year Accountability Blogfest!

Happy New Year!!
Juliana Brandt, Julie Jordan, & Swagger

I Challenge You!

to think of something brilliant for me!

I sit all day at work and am not naturally a person who can do this. I like to walk and exercise and have the freedom to move when I want to. I LOVE my job, but unfortunately, in my position, I can’t do these things.

My fix for this is that I walk the back stairwell on my break and do little leg lifts under my desk. I’ve racked my brain and have come up with few other useful ideas.

My challenge to you is to think of useful workouts I can do at my desk, nothing noticeable, but something to keep me from going stir crazy. Extra points for thinking of something I can do for my core.

For incentive, I’ll send one of my cool hand-made journals to whoever comes up with the best/most helpful idea.

Fun challenge? Yes? Have at it! And good luck 😉

(Winnings is only for those in the U.S. Sorry 🙁  The Challenge ends Friday).

May is for Writing!

Young Adult Author Writing TrackerHere it is, my writing tracker for the month of May!  It’s not the best of pictures, but you get the idea.  A few weeks ago, I said my goal was to write 2k words a day.  The important part of this is that I had a tangible goal, something specific I could strive toward.  It wasn’t important that I actually write two thousand words each and every day.  That’s a lot.  It was important I sit down and write.  For the couple of weeks I kept that up I actually wrote between 1,500 and 1,800 words, which I was very proud of.  My WIP is now up to 31k.

Back to May and my writing tracker.  One of my favorite things to play, when I was little, was being a teacher.  My parents gave me white board markers and sent me to a window or mirror where I would happily color.  I brought this back about a month ago and took to writing reminders for myself on my bathroom mirror.  This morning, I decided to use the smaller medicine mirror in the bathroom to keep a log of my writing, per day.  My goal for the month of May is to finish my WIP by writing at least 1,300 words a day.  I really just want to get the ideas out.  I can use June for all sorts of fun (err…) editing.

Happy writing!