Monday, November 24, 2014


This month I had two books release. Having two books out in one month seriously almost made me crazy. LOL ... Wait. I shouldn't laugh. Book launches are hard. And I was tired. My mom's in transitional care after being deemed too weak to have the heart surgery she needs. And I have a book due 12/1.

But amid the noise of everything that needs to be done...too much...and my worries...too serious for me to breathe some minutes...I heard that still small voice that said, Susan, do you know how lucky you are?

Lucky? I'm so busy and so stressed I barely get two minutes to myself. There isn't time to realize how lucky I am to have talent, to get to do what I love to do, to see my name on book covers and to get letters from readers who say my stories are magnificent...


Maybe I am lucky?

Actually, when I stop long enough to think all this through, I KNOW I'm lucky.

So this week rather than give you a tip or a tool to make your writing smoother or easier, I'm going to suggest you walk to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you are lucky.

I don't care if you've just been rejected.

I don't care if your last book didn't sell and/or all of your ##s are dismal.

If you have the talent to tell a good story, and you have a computer and can steal a few hours a week to whisk yourself away to another world...

You are lucky. You are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving

susan meier

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I only said that because I'm hoping to have a book and a proposal done by Christmas. LOL If I get them done, that will be a happy, lucky day for me. And I have a Christmas release THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Not to mention today's $.99 release CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE. For $.99? ...go buy it. LOL

When I'm in the throes of deadline after deadline...which I will be until June 1, 2015, I have discovered that two things will keep me from going off track. Those same two things will give me "something to write" every day.

What are these magnificent things?

The one-line story summary...It's a book about a shy heroine who only makes sensible decisions because of her life as a foster child, who meets a temperamental chef who sweeps her off her feet, but she's terrified to commit to him.

And story high points.

These are the framework of your story. So even if your storyboard goes wrong or your synopsis suddenly becomes irrelevant -- because, as the story took life as you wrote it, something took an unexpected turn -- you can keep your story on point (even with the new direction) if you lead it back to your one-line story summary and/or your story high points.

For instance, in my story about the Italian chef, the hero kissed the heroine before he was supposed to. LOL But I didn't panic. I knew the next high point was to be that she told him she was already engaged and I used the kiss as the event that causes her to tell him. Then my story was back on track. Except the first kiss in the synopsis now became the second kiss. LOL

If, however, I have a character make a decision that goes against the one-sentence story summary, I might actually delete the scene.  If my shy character who only makes sensible decisions suddenly decides to go skinny dipping long before her character arc allows for her personality to begin changing...I axe that baby. Why? Because if you lose your connection to the one-sentence story summary, you lose your connection to the story.

I'm all for characters helping the story along with unexpected behavior. But note...The temperamental chef's unexpected action FIT the one-sentence story summary. The heroine going skinny dipping did not.

That one-sentence story summary should be the heart of your story. It should be the essence of the story you want to tell...if you go against have a totally different story.

You don't want that...At least you shouldn't. When you wrote that one-sentence summary, it should have made your heart sing...if it didn't...maybe that version of the story wasn't the one you wanted to write?

Plus, if you can find the heart of your story before you start writing, you can save yourself a lot of woe. :)

So chew on that. And go buy my $.99 book.

But stick to the heart of your story...Oh, and btw, if you don't like the heart of your story...or don't feel it's strong enough, I'd keep working on THAT before I wrote. Know that heart and your writing day will become a lot easier. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading
susan meier

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints

With a couple of deadlines looming, my friend Tamara Girardi volunteered to share her experience and wisdom on sprints. With NaNoWriMo on deck, it's the perfect time to think about productivity.


The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints 

Guest Blog by Tamara Girardi


            The camaraderie of sprints such as #1k1hr on Twitter (which encourages you to write 1,000 words in an hour while other writers on Twitter do the same) has always appealed to me, but staying committed for the full hour proved difficult. I wanted a drink. One of my kids needed a snack, a diaper change, a fill-in-the-blank. Or I simply lost focus and momentum on my work-in-progress.

            Recently when I signed on to participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided I would sprint a bit with #1k1hr, but then something even better happened. A writer friend of mine and I started sprinting on our own - for twenty minute spurts. Twenty minutes work so much better for my brain (and my hectic environment) than hour-long intervals.

            Science just might explain why.

            Productivity blogger J.D. Meier promotes 20-minute intervals as very useful slice[s] of time noting the productive possibilities are endless, if you can sustain your focus. The key is to know that sustained thinking takes energy, and it burns out.

            In other words, the goal is to write nonstop and really push your mind (and your fingertips/pencil and paper) for 20 minutes. Then, the next piece of science comes in.

            To address the burn out, J.D. Meier says to take breaks to recharge and renew. Five-minute breaks are a great way to stay focused.

            Research supports J.D. Meiers advocacy for frequent breaks.

            University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras references his research, suggesting, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!

            One hour might not seem like a long task, but for me, writing nonstop for one hour, is unnecessarily challenging. My one-hour sprints tend to yield around 1,000 words (as the #1k1hr hashtag suggests), but when I sprinted for three 20-minute sprints with five-minute breaks in between, I wrote 1,943 words!

            That was a particularly productive session. They dont all go that well, but it certainly went better with shorter sprints and brief breaks than it would have with one hour of solid writing.

            For me, anyway.

            Of course, this does not suggest you shouldnt participate in #1k1hr. Just dont feel badly if you have to stop after 20 or 25 minutes for a 5-minute break.

            Additional research supports the value frequent breaks by categorizing our brain modes as focused mode and diffuse mode. According to research, diffuse mode is that time when our minds are daydreaming and wandering, and studies show that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander.

            Some scientists argue that the brain solves problems in diffuse mode, which could explain why writers are able to progress through their manuscripts more quickly with small breaks. Perhaps the brain works out manuscript challenges during the diffuse time, so that when we return to our focused time (in this instance, another 20-minute sprint), the brain can be even more productive than if the break never occurred.

            Perhaps 20-minute sprints arent your key time interval. Maybe you work best in 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. In any case, try to determine what your most productive intervals are. Take quick breaks in between. Get up from your desk to grab a drink, throw the laundry into the dryer, watch the kids play. Transition your mind from focused mode to diffuse mode for just a few minutes before diving back in for another sprint.

            NaNoWriMo participants or not, we can all use a little boost in productivity, right?

            What is your sprinting style? How often do you like to take breaks? Share your experiences with focused and diffuse modes in the comments below.




Sites I refer to if you want to link to them:





An English instructor for Harrisburg Area Community Colleges Virtual Learning program, Tamara Girardi holds a PhD in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews. Her YA fantasy DREAMSEER won the 2013 PennWriters Novel Beginnings Contest and is on submission with agents. Tamara is a member of Backspace, Sisters in Crime, and PennWriters. Follow her (and challenge her to a writing sprint!) on Twitter @TamaraGirardi.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey guys! I could use some help

I have a new book out from Harlequin Romance...THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Harlequin has been losing shelf space so it's not in many bookstores. I'm sort of counting on online sales and it's not doing so well.

Could you share the cover on your Facebook page? Or tweet about it?

Catch Susan Meier's new holiday read THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS.

All help appreciated. :)

The weekly writer blog is below.


Monday, November 3, 2014

One trick today

The guys from DitDat told us at Ninc that posts don't have to be long. They have to be useful.

So here we go with something useful...

We've talked about the could/might/must and should list for jotting down potential scenes for your book and using the list when you storyboard. But what do you do when your idea is just a glimmer?

Do you have a system for "catching" ideas before they run away from you? You should.

To me, there are two ways to get an idea.

The first one is simple. You get a full-blown idea. "The hero and heroine must catch a killer but she's already been arrested for the crime and he's the DA prosecuting her." That's a full-blown idea. When you get one of these, scenes will pop into your head. You know the conflicts just from the one line.

The second one isn't so simple. It's an idea that you get piecemeal. You see a mom with twins and Walmart and you think, "Hmm...I'd like to write a murder mystery about a twin who frames her sister for murder." And from there you get bits and pieces of the idea. You see things that fit into the story, one piece at a time.

Do you capture these the same way? (Do YOU even try to capture them at all? Some people don't. They assume their subconscious will work everything out and they end up losing a lot of good ideas that way.)

Actually, you can capture both types of idea the same way. You create a form or system and put it in a notebook.

My "idea" page starts with "Gist of the story." That could be "Hero and heroine must catch a killer but she's already been arrested for the crime and she's the DA prosecuting her." Or "I'd like to write a murder mystery about a twin who frames her sister for murder." Though one's the full-blown idea and the other is just a thought, they are both the "gist" of a story.

Then I have  a section called Conflicts. In the one case you could fill them in right away. In the other, the very fact that you have a section called conflicts reminds you that you have to ponder these, and as ideas pop into your head you fill in the conflict-related tidbits.

I have space for characters and, as ideas come to me, I write them in. I sometimes write out my thought process. ie Should they be identical twins? Do you really want to write about another yellow-haired vixen? Is the hero tall, dark and handsome, or is his lack of physical perfection part of his sexiness? Or his conflict?

Setting is also a good category. For some story types setting is almost a character. But even if your setting is just background, you still have to know what it is. :)

Then I have the section for potential scenes. The could/might/must and should list.

I write these "categories" of story in sections that are about a page or two in a spiral notebook. I don't always have the notebook with me, but I have it with me lots of times. (Because I always carry a big purse.) I may also have more than one story in a notebook. (Because most of us have lots and lots of ideas.) If I do have more than one idea, I put a post-it where one idea ends and another begins.

I do like to talk to myself, so there are a lot of my arguments for and against hero types, settings, potential scenes on my pages...but I know shorthand so anyone who finds my notebook won't think I'm crazy...but also I can fit a lot of words on a page! LOL

If you start a notebook like this, ONE notebook to capture ideas, when it comes time to write your next story, you will be surprised and pleased at how far you've already taken your idea(s).

Happy Monday and Happy Reading...

susan ... who is hoping that was short enough to please the guys at DitDat. :)