The Ericksons

Tag Archives: #IWSG


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore my writing goals, past, present, and future as I answer the #IWSG question for July.

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

When I was young

I wrote a lot of poetry.

My writing goals were very romantic.

I can’t imagine writing a poem now.

Perhaps I’ve grown too jaded, too defensive;

Throwing up walls to protect my heart.

I may still be a poet on the inside,

But, on the outside, it’s, “Just the facts ma’am.

 

It was 1993

I graduated from the Minnesota Center for Arts Education. I knew that I wanted to write, and journalism seemed like the practical route to take. I had no idea of the politics I would encounter in that area of study. And, like most journalists, I couldn’t keep what I thought to myself. That alienated me from the people I needed to know to get ahead and achieve my writing goals.  I was young, foolish. I gave birth to my first daughter. Two years later I married her father. I spent my energy walking on eggshells in an abusive marriage. Journalism was not to be.

Dear God,

When I journaled, I wrote letters to God. I was a new Christian, and this was my new way of getting all of my feelings out and onto paper. It helped me to be as honest as possible in my writing, even though it would be kept between me and the Lord. The Lord was the only one I could go to with my troubles. So, journaling was the only one of my writing goals I continued to spend time on. It was an emotional outlet. My real goal was emotional survival. This goal was achieved.

I journaled in many ways. I complained, set goals, and even had a gratitude journal. That was the one in which I only wrote about the positive things in life. Things had gotten so bad that I had to find a way to dig the good out of each day and pour it onto paper to remind me that there was hope. It helped me keep my priorities straight. Those priorities were my three little girls.

The Wish List

When my ex-husband left, I had a friend who told me to write down a list of everything I ever wanted in a husband and send it to the Lord. So I did. And, He answered.

I met Dan at Sunday school. We kept running into one another and eventually he introduced himself to me. It truly was love at first sight. We danced around for months before we began writing one another. Then, eventually we spoke on the phone and a while later went for coffee. It was as if God searched for everything on my wishlist and plopped all of those characteristics into Dan. I knew this was the man I would marry, and in October on 2009, I did. Another of my writing goals achieved!

my writing goals

A week before my wedding

I sat down and read all of the journals I’d kept in the previous decade. I could see very clearly where I had made mistakes and wrong turns. The good thing about that was I could tell I was healthier, now, and wouldn’t make those same mistakes. I had chosen well in my husband to be. I would have burned those journals if I had a safe way to do it, but since I didn’t, I threw all of my journals away in a dumpster.  I was starting fresh and didn’t want to hang on to those memories any longer. My writing goals had never included emotional healing, but I got it, anyway.

I married that wonderful man and stopped journaling for the most part. I was too busy loving my life. And that was okay.

But I tinkered

I even wrote some pieces for a Christian magazine. As our children grew older, I found myself envying these younger writers who still had their craft at the top of their priorities list. Then I realized that I had every opportunity in the world to write and it was my fault for not grabbing ahold of them.

When I first began writing again after so many years

I thought I would write fiction. I began with a cozy mystery (which I’m still working on). I got sidetracked by cancer. My husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012. As an effort to help people understand what patients and their caregivers want, in terms of support, I wrote, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer.

Everything I read said that I needed a blog in order to market my book.

So I began Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker. I intended for it to be about my writing, in general. After all, I was working on my mystery novel. It wasn’t all going to be about cancer. I never wanted to write about cancer, but soon, I was writing about it all the time. People wanted to read about it and we did have a story to tell. Soon, I was writing another book about cancer, just recently released, called Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

I needed to do something about the blog issue. The blog issue was that I had a domain name that I wasn’t using: Facing Cancer with Grace. So I made the bold move of separating my blogs. It felt like separating conjoined twins. The procedure went well, though. Now, cancer posts are on Facing Cancer with Grace, and writing posts are on Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker.

In the beginning, I dreaded blogging

It seemed so personal. And it was such a commitment. I had a hard time getting posts up on a regular basis. I had bought into the idea that I needed a muse of sorts to inspire my writing. It also felt like my blogs were competing with my other writing projects. If I had to work on a book, the blogging seemed to stagnate.

Then, I figured out how to have harmony in my writing life.

My writing goals changedFacing Cancer as a Parent

I made peace with writing about living with cancer. It’s not something I’m going to do forever, but it is what I know. Writing as a caregiver is somewhat unique. People want to hear from patients, themselves, but caregivers have something to add to the conversation. They have their own insights, needs, and perspectives.

I have also made peace with blogging. It’s my platform and an art in and of itself.

My love will always be writing books. The publishing side of this is still something I am struggling with. It’s difficult. I suppose my newest writing goal is to become traditionally published so that I can focus on writing and leave all of the other pieces of publishing to the publishing experts. Speaking of goals…

Facing Cancer as a Parent is now available!

Buy it today on Amazon!

How have your goals changed over the years?

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore character names as I answer the #IWSG question for June:

Which is harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

I have a much harder time coming up with a book title than I do good character names. While a book title needs to be catchy and clever, there are some good guidelines and tools available to help name characters. What are some of them?

The root of character names

Many names have an underlying meaning. “Delilah” means desired or seductive. A character with this name will surely evoke thoughts of Samson’s downfall. Maybe you want this. If not, consider something else; perhaps “Deborah,” the mighty warrior and prophetess, judge of Israel, in the Bible.

Consider Ethnicity

How you use ethnicity in naming your character can go a long way toward helping you with characterization. An Asian American could just as easily have the given name “David,” as he would, “Yuan.” But the former will signal to the reader that he is assimilated into American culture. “Yuan” is more likely traditional. Either way, you will want to have a last name like “Tsui” or “Lu” if you don’t want to give a specific description of your character’s ethnicity. This goes a long way toward following the rule of “Show. Don’t tell.”

One of my favorite online tools to help with this process is a Fake Name Generator. The great thing about this particular name generator is that under its advanced settings you can specify the character’s ethnicity (right down to the region) as well as their gender and age.

Speaking of age and nicknames…

When’s the last time you heard a 3-year-old called “Richard?” He would more likely be called “Ricky.” Decide whether or not your character will have a nickname, and under what circumstances it will be used. Just like a given name, a nickname will have to match aspects of the character such as personality, appearance, hobbies, etc.

Some nicknames are ironic, like the 400 lb. bus driver whom everyone calls, “Tiny.” Others might be descriptive like the basketball player called “Stretch,” or the daredevil whose friends call him, “Crash.”

I recently read a wonderful book called, “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.” It was about a little boy named Sam Hill, who was born with ocular albinism, making the pupils of his eyes red. For that, he gained the nickname, Sam Hell (along with other names like the Devil. This had a profound effect on Sam.

Character Names

Names by Gender

You’ve probably noticed that I am using mostly males as examples. That’s because non-traditional nicknames are used more often by males than females, but there are certainly plenty of female nicknames to go around, including unisex names that will give your readers the impression that a female named “Michaela” who goes by “Mickie” might be a tomboy. If you do use a Unisex name, be sure to let your readers know immediately whether your character is male or female so they don’t struggle to form a mental picture of who you are writing about.

Avoid these Names

Avoid iconic names like Adolf (unless you are writing historical fiction set in the early 20th century Germany or Austria). Likewise, Cher, Madonna, and Elvis will get in the way of your readers separating your character from their namesake. Also, avoid character names which are difficult to pronounce in the language in which your book will be published. Most people who have read the Old Testament of the Bible have glossed over some of the more difficult to pronounce names. You don’t want your readers to do that with your book.

One tricky rule

Names that start with the same letter or have a similar sound, for example, “Brett” and “Bart,” will be difficult for your readers to keep straight. I am currently reading a fantastic book by John Grisham called, “The Last Juror.” In it are two characters named, “Wiley and Willy.” I’m nearly done with the book and I still have to remind myself who’s who.

Before the internet became part of our daily lives, Moms relied on baby name books to help them name their unborn children. Now, you can use online name generators. I highly recommend giving a lot of thought to your characters’ names. They can make a big difference in how other characters, and your readers, see them.

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 


How the spring season inspires me to write

It’s spring! It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Even though it seemed like it would never arrive, spring is here! Today I will explore whether the season inspires me to write, or not, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than other seasons, or not?

The Short Answer

No.  I always want to write.

But…

But each season inspires me to write in a different way.

I believe strongly that there is a natural rhythm throughout the calendar year, which can help us in everything we do, whether it’s celebrating seasons and holidays with family and friends, worshiping God, learning or working. Marketing gurus figured this out, long ago. Why not allow our creative endeavors to be assisted by the calendar?

How each season inspires me to write

How the summer season inspires me to write

Let’s start with how the spring season inspires me to write

Beginning in 2017, I started participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s a wonderful way to start out the year because if for some reason, I don’t get any more blog posts written the rest of the year, I still have content to share (even if it means reposting and A to Z post in November when I’m swamped with holiday preparations).  In order to accomplish this, I write and edit like crazy, beginning in Late February, in preparation for the April challenge.

When A to Z is over, I breathe a sigh of relief and pick up the pieces of whatever book I happen to be writing. Currently, I am getting, “Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Kids Cope with Your Cancer,” ready for publication. I happen to be in the phase of the final edits and formatting.

How the summer season inspires me to write

For our family, summer means big family get-togethers like a week at the cabin. It also means road trips and vacations. I write more in my journal during the summer months because it’s more portable.  I also tend to choose a fresh project to work on at the cabin. Some people might wonder why I work while I’m on vacation. If I go more than a day or two without writing, I can really get into a slump. Writing at least a little bit each day keeps the pump primed.

Strange things happen in the summer that inspires me to write in ways I often don’t. For example, last year there was a power outage that left us using candles to light our house and, of course, no computer to write with. I grabbed a book of story starters and began to write a short story idea involving a power outage. It was an idea I would never have had on a regular day.

How the summer season inspires me to write

How the autumn season inspires me to write

The summer fun is winding down and the new routine of the school year invites new ideas and goals I typically turn in my journal for a schedule and my laptop. I help my focus along by listening to instrumental music through my earbuds so the squabbling of my homeschooled kids doesn’t drive me crazy. They do their work in the living room on their own laptops, or with notebooks and pencils.

I usually have some concrete goals that I try to achieve in the fall. One year, I participated in NaNoWriMo and finished my first draft in a month. I still haven’t finished revising it.  As a middle-aged woman with a lot of irons in the fire, I opted out last year.  I do have an idea for a future book, though.

How the winter season inspires me to write

I live in Minnesota, so when winter arrives I hunker down and avoid going outside at all costs. This gives me a great 5-month opportunity to write.  I try to finish any projects that I can before the end of the year. I begin thinking about my goals for the next year and what it will take to accomplish them. I also get as much of my content calendar written as possible, so I always have plenty of ideas simmering on the back burner.

Each season inspires me to write in different ways from the others, and spring is no exception. But, it seems my actual output is pretty steady throughout the year.

How the winter season inspires me to write.

How do the seasons affect your life?

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will reminisce about the day I published my first book and what I do after accomplishing a writing goal, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

March 7 question – How do you celebrate after accomplishing a writing goal?

My entire life I dreamed of being a writer. Unfortunately, when it came time to decide what I would do with my life, I foolishly listened to the people who said it was an unrealistic goal.  I shouldn’t expect to make a living as a writer. Instead, I took less fulfilling, minimum wage jobs in restaurants, nursing homes, and then later as a seamstress. I did find fulfillment later, as a wife and a mother.

Fast forward twenty-five years… I had things to say to the world; things that mattered. My husband discovered hard swollen lymph nodes above his left collarbone and our family’s life was turned upside down.  He had cancer. I began to write privately about life with cancer, how it affected our children, what it was like being a caregiver, the things people said that shocked us, and the kindness we experienced from friends and even strangers.

Accomplishing a Writing Goal

Eventually, I wrote my first book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Help Someone who has Cancer.  I learned so much during the process of writing and publishing that book. One thing I will never forget is how it felt to see it for sale on Amazon.com. I could hardly believe it—I was an author! What did I do after accomplishing a writing goal so lofty?

accomplishing a writing goal

I lay down and cried. And they weren’t tears of joy. You would think that they would be, but they weren’t. I kept hearing the things that had stopped me from becoming a writer when I was younger. Those words of discouragement kept me from achieving my goals 2 decades earlier—and I let them! Even worse, I still believed them.

I no longer doubt my abilities as a writer. And, thankfully, I don’t cry anymore after accomplishing a writing goal. I don’t really do anything celebratory, either. This is my job. I don’t get paid much (yet), but I take it just as seriously as a banker, a businessman, or a sanitation worker.  So I do what any person does who is working. After accomplishing a writing goal, I move on to the next one.

I follow the principle of setting daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals, so there’s always something more to be excited about and driven to accomplish. It’s a real blessing to be able to do something I love so much. I feel as though the act of writing, is its own celebration.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 

 


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will explore putting a schedule in place for writing. I’ll focus on the genre of self-help as it relates to writing about cancer, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

If you want to have some fun, take a look at the Wikipedia page for the list of writing genres. You may be surprised at how many there are. So, it’s difficult for me, as a writer to choose just one. My favorite thing to write is fiction, especially mysteries. But at this point in time, I write more non-fiction. If I had to narrow it down to a specific genre, it would be self-help. Until I got this question, I never would have categorized writing about cancer that way. It’s interesting to note my reason for writing about cancer is to help people.

Facing CancerMy first book, Facing Cancer as a Friend, How to Support Someone who has Cancer, came about after hearing so many people express how much they want to be there for friends who are diagnosed with cancer, but they don’t feel equipped to help. Many people don’t even know what to say. I was the same way until my own husband was diagnosed in 2012 with stage IV lung cancer. I soon got a crash course in caregiving. We learned what is most helpful, as well as what to avoid when someone tells you they have cancer.

One of the most rewarding things is to get an email from someone or run into someone in person, who says my book or my blog post writing about cancer have made a difference in how they feel when someone they love tells them they have a life-changing disease like cancer. Instead of feeling powerless to help, they feel equipped.

As part of a support group for families facing cancer, we have met countless parents, just like us, who are dealing with cancer. Their number one priority, like all parents, is the well-being of their children. How are they going to help their children through this? No two kids are alike, but they do have a lot in common at the various developmental stages they go through. Understanding the common reactions and what you can do to reassure them can make a big difference in how they cope when their mom or dad has cancer.  That’s why I’m excited that my next book, Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Child Cope with Your Cancer, is on the verge of publication.

Writing about cancer is often painful. But it’s also important to me because of how difficult it has been to learn what I know. It’s cost our family dearly to learn the lessons I share. So early on I decided that I didn’t want to waste it. Hopefully, others will find what I share in my books and my blogs valuable, and it can spare them some of the pain we have felt.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 

 


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will explore putting a schedule in place for writing. I’ll focus especially on blog writing/publishing, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Success in a blog schedule starts with making a plan.

A plan for your blog schedule starts with inspiration. Last fall, I read Meera Kothand’s book, The One Hour Content Plan. I’ve read a lot of books on planning your blog content, but this one actually inspired me to do it. She recently published the Create Blog and Editorial Planner. I used the planner as part of my end of the year planning to put together a rough schedule for 2018.

 

Brainstorm

Schedule Your WritingBrainstorm Big Projects- Come up with a couple of big projects you’d like to complete and launch in the next 6 months to a year. A project might be a book, a webinar or a product. What problems does your project solve? Prepare your audience to be receptive of the project you’re working on by writing related posts.

Brainstorm other post ideas- Think of problems your target audience is facing, and how to solve those problems. What questions are you asked? What are some things you’ve recently learned lately?

Plot out a rough schedule of topics:

There are lots of ways to do this. I start by drawing 12 boxes in my planning notebook. Each box is labeled by month and then filled with the main topic I will be covering that month.  Then, for each topic, I get more specific, planning 3-5 blog posts.

Your Projects

Consider the launch of your projects when deciding on when to schedule topics throughout the calendar year. Imagine you have an automobile blog and you’re launching a product such as a car care kit in April, you might want to spend February writing about issues people have maintaining their car’s interior in the salty slush of winter. Then in March write about how you designed this product to combat the mess of spring. Once April rolls around, you can focus on selling your product to a primed audience, anxiously awaiting its release.

What’s happening?

Also, think about what your audience is focused on at different times throughout the year. For example, January is a great month to write about things like goals and fresh starts. March is a good time to schedule a post about spring cleaning. Your topics will, of course, be specific to your blog specialty. At Facing Cancer with Grace, a blog I write that focuses on cancer, one of my first posts this year will be about January being radon awareness month.

Keeping it Loose

I try to keep my schedule somewhat loose in case I need to make some tweaks to it. Having this basic structure helps thwart things like writer’s block that interfere with your workflow. I like to take a day to write all of the posts that deal with one subject. This usually takes care of an entire month in one shot.

Schedule your Posts

Schedule Your Posts

I take advantage of Word Press’s post scheduler. That way I know it’s done and will be posted to my site automatically on the date/time that I schedule it. I feel best when I have a month of posts scheduled ahead of time. For the month of January, I’m taking a break from technology.  I’ll be able to take the time to write without distractions. I will be writing and reconnecting with my goals for 2018. You will still see weekly blog posts on Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, because I have already written them and will post them automatically, using a scheduler. Even though I may not respond to your comments right away, I will read them and appreciate them greatly. Since I won’t be sharing my posts to social media in January I would appreciate it if those of you who use social media would share my posts. Thank you!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will look back 2017 and consider my successes and failures, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures,

if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

Rating My Successes and Failures

My writing life is comprised of several different aspects. I’ll share a few of them and how I view my successes and failures in each one. I will give each a rating from 1-5, with 5 being completely successful to 1 being a complete failure.

My Blog

During the first part of the year, I really struggled with consistency, not only in getting posts out on a regular basis but with the quality of those posts. Part of the problem was not having a specific audience in mind for my blog. After all, I write about cancer, caregiving, and writing. About halfway through the year, I read a book by Meera Kothand called The One Hour Content Plan. It completely recharged my battery and got me on track. I’m now making plans to have 2 websites in the near future: one that focuses on supporting a loved one with cancer, and one that focuses on writing. On the successes and failures scale, I’d give my blog a 4.

My Email Newsletter

This was by far, my biggest failure. I went months avoiding sending out a letter to my subscribers. I think it’s my introversion rearing its ugly head. My latest series, Appointment 101, on making medical appointments more effective has helped. It has enabled me to give my subscribers something extra to go along with the series: Printables to help them keep track of essential information to bring to their appointments. On the successes and failures scale, I’d give my email newsletter a 2. It wasn’t a complete failure, but I will need to remain consistent in order to better serve my readers in the coming year.

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My Next Cancer Book

I’ve worked hard on my book on parenting when you have cancer. The problem is that I have pushed it aside for the past 6 months. This is due in part because the book is tough. Really. It’s a book that deals a lot with the effect a parent’s cancer has on their children. We’ve seen it up close with our own kids. So, with Dan feeling good, the temptation is to pretend it will be this way forever. Unfortunately, it’s even harder to write about cancer when we are in the trenches of the battle. So, I need to resolve to get this book completed and published in 2018. On the successes and failures scale, I’d give working on my next cancer book a 3.

My Novel

Finally, there’s my mystery novel. I have spent a lot of time on it this year. A huge part of my success in working on the novel is my critique group. They give me honest feedback and accountability. One problem I had this year was attendance. I had foot surgery which kept me away. I also participated in the Citizen’s Academy. While that kept me away from the group, it did help a lot with research. On the successes and failures scale, I’d give working on my novel a 4.

Learning from Failure

No Area of my writing world was perfect this past year. No area was a total flop either. By learning from my successes and failures, I can strive to improve in the coming year. That might mean reevaluating what I spend my time on.

I’d love to hear what you are hoping to change next year to turn a past failure into a success?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012. Since then, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will share my experience with NaNoWriMo and critique groups, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo project?

Have any of them gone on to be published?

NaNoWriMo and Critique Groups

NaNoWriMo 2016

Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It was a great experience. I did win. I completed my VERY rough draft of about 75,000 words during the month of November 2016. Since then, I’ve completely rewritten it, changing characters, the plotline, even the genre. It started out as a cozy mystery and has morphed into more of a “procedural-lite.” I feel like I’ve lost some of the things I liked the most about the earlier version. On the other hand, I’ve closed a lot of plot holes and made the characters more believable in this version.

My Critique Group

The future cover for The Nature of Murder by Heather Erickson

I’m on the verge of bringing this new incarnation of my novel to the critique group I’m a part of. I do this with great hesitance. I truly feel insecure about it. What if all of this rewriting was a mistake? Maybe I should have… Maybe I could have…

No matter what, I have to cast my fears aside and take the risk. The only way to become a better writer is through the honest feedback of other writers you know and trust. I’m so thankful that I’ve found that. One of the things I would recommend to any writer that hasn’t already done so is to find a critique group. Then find a couple more and see which one is a good fit for you. I know of people who participate in multiple critique groups.

Consider the advice of your fellow writers.

The other thing I would recommend is to take what the members of your critique group say constructively. Fight the urge to defend your writing. You can choose to accept the advice of the other writers or take it with a grain of salt and forge ahead as you wish. When you have seven people all giving you very similar feedback, it’s a good bet that your readers will feel the same way.

NaNoWriMo 2017

So, this year, I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo. I have my current project (and about 3 others) still in progress, so I’d like to publish one or two of them before tackling another. Instead, I’ll cheer for the writers who are participating this year. I’ve got amazing nieces that tackle it each year. It’s a lot of fun to follow their progress and see them succeed.

What about YOU?

Are you participating in NaNo this year? Have you in the past? Did you finish?

If you did, did you publish?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Police

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will share about how spending time with the local police and firefighters has helped me make my characters and scenes more realistic, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

What do you know?

I love the old axiom “write what you know.” Unfortunately, that can be somewhat limiting. In the mystery I am writing, I’ve been able to make the characters more realistic but drawing on emotions I’ve felt; emotions that we’ve all felt: fear, guilt, love, protectiveness, and anger. But what about details?

Police K9 Unit

I’m not a Police Officer

The main characters in the mystery I’m writing are in law enforcement. One is a conservation warden for the DNR. Another is a police detective. I’ve never been either of those. I like to have realism in my writing, so I decided to take an opportunity to get a close-up look at the way law enforcement agencies handle things from day to day.

But I play one in my book

For the past month, I’ve been part of an 8-week course called Citizen’s Academy. It’s the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time. Citizen’s Academy is a program in cities around the United States. The one I attend is hosted by Blaine, Minnesota. While most Citizen’s Academies are limited to the way the police department works, ours is co-hosted by the Blaine Fire Department.

Some of the things we’ve done are:

  • Toured the police and fire departments and learned how our city’s safety services are organized.
  • Using “Fatal Vision” to see the effects o alcohol impairment on drivers.
  • Putting out fires using fire extinguishers.
  • Driving real police vehicles and doing mock traffic stops under the instruction of police officers.
  • Seen the importance of fire sprinklers by being in a trailer and having it set ablaze, then watching as the sprinkler puts out the fire.
  • Meeting a police K9 team and learning about how the dog and handler work together
  • Learning about arson investigations

And this is only the beginning.

In the coming weeks, we will be able to:

  • gear up as firefighters, climb the engines and ladders, experience the equipment and do a search and rescue.
  • Use a car fire simulator
  • Practice “Use of Force” scenarios
  • CPR
  • Fire inspections
  • EMS Basics
  • Vehicle Extrication (Jaws of Life)
  • and more!

Finally, on October 25th, we graduate.

Firefighters

This has been an eye opening experience. I’ve seen first hand some of the things the men and women who protect us, experience. Now, I can write scenes involving law enforcement in a more accurate way.

My advice

Learn all you can about your characters. Then, rather than putting the details of your life into your characters, you put the details of your characters’ lives into yours. It will make your characters more believable, and give you credibility as well as a more knowledge. Plus, it can be a lot of fun.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will share about how hard it can be to make changes in your writing as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question.

The IWSG Day question for September is: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

What has surprised me are the times when I have made changes, despite how difficult it is to do.

Artists, including (perhaps, especially) writers, get very attached to their work. The creative process is often compared to “birthing” something. Just as when you have an actual child, you become quite protective over it. I have learned that this analogy is a good one, but the timing is off. We conceive of an idea. Then the creative process is that time in the womb. Just as a child changes dramatically during its 9 months in the womb, a novel, or other forms of writing will change dramatically before it comes into the world to be seen.

I recall twenty years ago when I had my first ultrasound. I was pregnant with my daughter Summer, and from the moment I knew I was having a baby, I love her. So, that grainy black and white image was precious to me. To anyone else, it looked more like a Rorschach ink blot.

Changes

It’s hard to tell a new mother that her precious baby’s ultrasound picture isn’t all that interesting to the cashier at the grocery store–but it isn’t.

As writers, we experience the same phenomenon.

All too often, as writers, we think the moment the idea pops into our mind (conception) it is ready to be seen by everyone. We tell everyone from the waitress at our favorite diner to our mailman about the next great American novel that we are writing. What we don’t realize is that it looks nothing like it will when it is complete.

We hesitate to make changes to characters

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The characters we write are one example of something we hate to change in a novel. We let them walk around in our heads day and night until we even dream about them. Their histories, personalities, flaws, and failures are as real to us as our own. We are intimate with their motivations. Often, we know a lot about these characters (even the minor ones) that no one else will ever know. All of this makes them very real to us.

Like real people, characters go through changes—sometimes radical ones.

One year ago, I completed a very rough draft of my mystery novel. Then, after receiving some feedback and doing a lot of research into story structure, I knew that what I had written was just a spark of an idea., and a far cry from what it would look like in its final form. I’m not just talking about grammar and polishing.

Changes in Characters

I eliminated several characters, changed the purpose of others, refined their motivations, even changed their occupations.

For example, my main character was originally florist. I loved that because she was very feminine and creative. I could easily relate to her. Logistically, though, her occupation limited her when it came to solving a mystery. Most of the time she was listening in on conversations to get her information. I wanted her to be active in the investigation. So I put her in the thick of things by making her a conservation warden rather than the widow of a conservation warden.

This was a difficult change to make.

There is a sense of grief that goes along with letting go of things the way you would like to have them. I felt like a close friend moved away from my fictional town. It wasn’t just hard on me. My husband loved the original character and was quite vocal in his opposition to the changes I was planning on making. Still, for the good of the book, I pressed on. He has not read the new draft yet. When he does, I think he will love this new incarnation of her as much as the original.

 

Changes in Scenes

Some scenes I deleted completely. Others I changed. And still, there were other scenes which needed to be written from scratch. At first, these changes were difficult.

The ability to hold loosely to the things that we create is important. Otherwise, we can miss out on something new and exciting. It’s like a mom who goes into labor but is afraid to have her baby outside of her body. It is such a frightening change. They are suddenly vulnerable.

It is not an author’s birthright to have readers love what they write.

Reading as a Writer

When you’re writing for others, you have to sacrifice. Readers don’t have all the information that you as an author have unless you give it to them. Nor will you excite them without good reason. That’s something you earn as a writer. It costs.

Like most people, I’m averse to change. I’m surprised at how hard it is to do, even on paper (or Scrivener). Yet, as writers, it’s essential to be able to make the needed changes and move forward. I guess what has surprised me in my writing is the ability to make these changes, even when it’s hard.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 

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