Arizona writers are incredibly lucky this year because our libraries are offering Writer in Residence programs with local published authors. Author Shonna Slayton is the current Writer in Residence at the Mesa Public Library and she gave me some excellent advice this week. I’d like to share the highlights.

Writing Advice 1. Set a Deadline.

When you participate in NaNoWriMo or have a book publisher hounding you for a book, deadlines are obvious. When you just finished your first draft and are slogged down in revisions, you can find reasons to put them off forever. Setting a deadline, no matter how arbitrary, means you will keep making progress toward your goal.

Deadline:  I hope to finish the revisions on my current work in progress by the end of October so I can start NaNoWriMo in November with a fresh new project.

Writing Advice 2. Analyze bestselling books in your genre for plotting, etc.

Shonna Slayton suggested StoryFix 2.0 by Larry Brooks as a good place to get started. Once you reach the website, scroll down to the categories section in the left sidebar. There you will find what he calls “deconstructions” of best-selling novels and movies. Take a look to learn how to do it yourself.

Note: although these deconstructions are more for plotters (those who outline) than pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants), they can be helpful for pantsers who need to make revisions, too.

Personal advice:

She also gave me some helpful personal advice. First, she suggested I shutter some of my many, many blogs. She said we only have a limited amount of time to complete our projects and if we want to accomplish the big ones, sometimes we have to let some of the distractions/little things go.  Following her advice, today I shut down my children’s book review blog, Wrapped in Foil. One distraction gone.

Secondly, she helped me sort out a problem I was having about when to start the narrative of my book. I had started at the point where my main character met her mentor, but it wasn’t clear who the main character was because the story is told from both points of view. I had considered starting later in the story when the main character is stronger, leaving their meeting as backstory. What I had not considered, and what she suggested, was starting earlier at the point where the main character had a crisis that sent her on the path to meet the mentor. Success! I’m now writing passionately again after two weeks of painful limbo.

Hopefully some of Shonna Slayton’s advice will help you move forward with your writing project.

And, be sure to check out Shonna Slayton’s YA books for an enjoyable mix of fantasy and historical fiction.

Cinderella’s Dress

Cinderella’s Shoes

And coming soon, Spindle