Shelley Widhalm

Archive for August, 2015|Monthly archive page

Why do I write (and why write in general)

In Motivation, Writing, Writing Motivation on August 30, 2015 at 5:00 am

I write both at the computer and in my pile of journals.

I write both at the computer and in my pile of journals.

I write and I blog, and I write some more.

I can’t stop. Not really.

I’ve got a tight grip on my writing pen; in other words, I write because I have to. When I’m not writing, I feel like there’s something missing in my life. When I am writing, I feel anchored and purposeful.

It’s that whole meaning-of-life, what-is-your-passion question.

Writing is my passion.

Sitting in front of a computer isn’t. I tire of sitting in front of computers, but I like using computers to write. Writing by hand is too time-consuming; plus, for me, my writing has turned to crap. I’m a journalist by day, so I spend lots of time in front of the notebook and computer, taking notes, organizing my thoughts and writing.

I write to a form.

And then after work, I write some more, at least a couple of days a week. I get in maybe five to 10 hours of novel and short story writing if I’m lucky. It’s hard to find the time, but it’s not so hard to find the passion, because it’s a given.

Though I love to write, I have to tell myself to write two to three times a week and to write even if I don’t feel like it. It’s ironic I love to write but then have to tell myself to write.

When I get into my writing, particularly a novel-length project, I find writing breaks apart the soul to lift out the words; it’s digging in and discovering beyond the top layer of insecurity of getting it wrong, wasting time and not finding the story, the characters, the setting.

It’s there; it’s just finding it with the elements of craft and patience and time and getting down and dirty.

It’s discipline; it’s need; it’s want.

And it’s exploration, adventure and unearthing what’s underneath.

(Musings on writing, and blogging about those musings)


Why I keep blogging

In Blogging, Shelley Widhalm, Why Blog? on August 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

Sometimes, I wonder why I blog when I have just a few Likes and even fewer comments. There are so many bloggers out there, it’s grown into a highly competitive type of writing with search engine optimization, blogging contests and platform building.

I started blogging four years ago, because I thought I needed to blog to build a platform and because I wanted to be published. I thought it would help me get to the big world of Successful Writer Who is Published and on the Best Seller Lists.

Last month, I attended a Northern Colorado Writer’s class featuring a literary agent who works with the big presses, and she said writers should focus on writing and do social media if they want to. They should blog if they want to. But it doesn’t matter for book promotion.

In nonfiction, blogging is important, she said, to building that platform and promoting the written work.

In a few of my writers’ magazine articles, I read, too, that blogging builds platform for fiction and nonfiction writers, generating interest from the audiences you build.

I saw the messages varied depending on the source and, likely, your goals as a writer.

If getting Likes is the goal, I didn’t do so well.

But if it’s teaching and re-teaching myself about the elements of writing, such as character and plot development, storytelling, story and character arc and setting, I did quite well. I had to look up information for my blog posts, review my notes and article clippings, and organize everything into my own take on the information. Plus, I used examples from my writing.

I made myself a stronger writing by thinking about writing, writing about writing and analyzing the process of writing. I also became reflective on that process, considering what occurs while I write and digging into my writer’s mind, something I don’t do as I engage in the physical part of writing.

In essence, I use my blog to think about writing and about being a writer. I use it to improve myself into a better writer. And as I do this, I hope there are other writers who get something out of all of my ruminations.

Flash Fiction sale

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2015 at 7:42 pm

My flash fiction piece “A Wanted Man” is in the anthology “BABY SHOES: 100 Stories by 100 Authors,” available in print and e-book on Amazon. There is a one-day sale, half-price, tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 18!

Finding a way back to writing

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on August 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Though I have writer’s block (or did), I decided I needed to be writing. I needed to be writing something, because without writing, I feel pretty lost.

Being lost is worse than writer’s block, because during block, the words don’t come, while the other state is a loss of purpose (even if temporary) that, for artists, is anchored by the art and producing the art (and hopefully then selling the art).

To get un-lost, I started my sixth, yet-to-be-published novel, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’s about a waitress dealing with trauma unable to play her music (kind of like me, at least for awhile while I was unable to write after dealing with upheaval in my personal life).

In mid-June, I started writing a short story, feeling pretty useless I hadn’t been writing much except a few (a very few) poems. I saw the story could be a novella or a novel, so I figured I’d keep going with it and began writing a couple of times each week. I dived in, but not so deep, taking a no-commitment approach as far as days and times. It was a whatever-happens approach.

Now, I’m at 12,000 words, not actually sure what the arc or climax is, but I have a sense of the ending. I’m not a pantser writer, but like to have a plan, if not exactly an outline. It’s become a matter of what comes out when I sit down to write, and taking this approach, my subconscious seems to be doing more of the work, and the characters seem to be taking over.

However, when I’m away from the work, I get afraid I won’t know how to get back into the story. I’ve become a little insecure because things aren’t laid out with a big grid of what to do next.

Despite the lack of a plan, during each session, I write 300 to 2,000 words (with past books, I required myself to write 1,000 words before I could stop, and would write more if I could). I feel good I’m writing words and adding them up toward—something, I hope.

At the start of the novel, and sometimes now, I struggle with getting into the writing, like a lawnmower needing several pulls to make the engine go. Once I forget I’m writing, I get lost in the scene, almost like I’m reading. I lose the noises of the world around me and the keyboard under my fingers and become absorbed in storytelling, character development, laying out the scene and describing what’s going on in my imagination.

I become what I am, a writer in love with writing, wanting nothing more than to be doing the writing. That’s why I become lost when I’m not writing, because it’s like I lose part of me. It’s like my blood and bones escape out of my body, and I can’t breathe.

Overwhelming Outlets for Writing and What To Do

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing on August 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

When it comes to entering contests, submitting stories for publication and finding a literary agent, I find the options overwhelming.

In my writers’ magazines, especially during special issues about contests and publications, the lists of potential places to submit work often span several pages. How do you figure out which places to submit without straining your wallet or spending excessive time and energy with little result?

First, figure out your goals and come up with a plan. Part of this plan can include an artist’s statement of why you write and your specific writing goals—what are they daily or weekly and for the year? The statement can serve as a reminder of why you write and what you hope to achieve.

Make sure your goal, or goals, is challenging and specific.

Do research of what’s out there—such as short story, poetry, book, genre and essay contests— and narrow down based on the factors you identify as most important. Do you want to win a cash prize, have your writing evaluated, get recognition, be published in a high-profile publication, meet literary agents or have your conference fees paid?

As you conduct your research, make sure the contest has a Website. Also, large contests may have a higher entry fee and because contests always are located within a region, the judges may prefer writers from that area, or they also may be looking for certain genres and quality of writing.

What are some places to look for contests and agents? Try writers’ guides, classified ads in magazines and special sections in writers’ magazines that include lists of contests (which have the notoriety to be mentioned) and agents now accepting work. Other places to check are literary journals, specialized magazines, anthologies and short story collections to see what and how they publish writers’ work.

Set a deadline of how many stories or poems you want to submit each week or month and how many agents to send query letters and sample chapters, making sure to follow their guidelines.

Measure your progress by marking how many submissions and letters you send off each week or month or by filling out something like a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet can include sections for story titles or literary agent names, journal names, dates submitted and the results.

As for the writing, I find that if I get overwhelmed with finding outlets for getting my work out there or doing the work in the first place, I need to start small.

Typically, when I’m in the midst of a writing project, I try to write 1,000 words a day three to four times a week. But if I’m stuck, I’m happy with 300 to 500 words once a week. I tell myself to do one thing at a time and to have a “to do” list, so I can check things off and have a feeling of accomplishment.

Starving Artist (or is it something else?)

In On Being a Writer, Shelley Widhalm on August 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

I’ve become insecure as a writer, not in my ability to write but in getting noticed. That’s because it takes a great deal of work, or luck, or a combination of both, to get recognized in the writing community through publication, book sales and successful readings.

For those writers still struggling to make it, there should be a new term—not starving artist but ignored artist. Maybe the ignored artist pursues writing full-time without working, or she takes the safe route and works at a non-passion job to pay the bills and does the writing on the side. She questions what she’s doing, but keeps on going because writing is who she is. It’s what she wants. It’s what she loves. She can’t think of not writing.

This ignored artist is the one who compiles the rejection notices and keeps working at writing, because it’s what she has to do. But then she realizes she’s spending her free time in front of a computer, where she spends her days, too, and she wants to go be social and gather experiences, but if she collects experiences, she’ll want to write about them, too.

The writer is stuck being who she is. She just wants attention. And, of course, she wants to write.

See Zoey the Cute Dachshund’s response to the self-reflective, wondering-about-the- artist self blog at Also, see next week’s blog on Sunday, Aug. 9, about addressing feeling overwhelmed by the writing life and how to move forward from here.