For Christmas, I found this really cool gift for my daughter. It’s called IlluStory by LuLu Junior, and it’s a kit for kids to make their own books, then send them off to be published. Pretty cool, right? (And don’t we wish it was that easy for adult writers?!)

The kit comes with a How To on writing and illustrating stories. Super-cool for kids who love art projects and love to imagine and tell stories.

Writing Craft for KidsSo far, my daughter is WAY into the project and I am so excited to work with her on this. Listening to her tell me her story ideas, witnessing the flame of excitement and eagerness to delve into an imaginary world in my daughter…it’s the coolest thing ever. Plus, I get to teach her about something that I love AND she’s ACTUALLY interested in it! I know, I know…enjoy it while I can. I AM.

But I’ve also had some revelations working on this project with her. First off, this is storytelling at its best. It’s simple. In most story structure writing workshops,¬†we get a very complex and detailed lesson–which is great. But in teaching my daughter how to write a book, I’ve had to go back to the basics. All stories must have a beginning, a middle, a end, and a story problem to solve by the last page. Easy peasy.

Except seasoned writers know that nothing about this industry is easy. Many of us long for the days when we wrote stories, not to be published, but because we couldn’t contain all the imaginary characters and worlds and magic in our heads. We had to get it out. We long for the innocence of writing.

This is when the second revelation hit me.

The Fairy Princess

Defeat your dragons with writing workshopsMy daughter’s first book (and yes, I’m aware I have the momma-pride thing going on), starts out like this:

Once upon a time, there was a fairy princess. And then, there was a hungry dragon.

This juxtaposition of characters reminds me of so many things. The new, innocent writer as the fairy princess and the publishing industry as the hungry dragon. But more so, it reminds me of me. Maybe you can relate.

When I first start on a project, I approach it with the zeal of a fairy princess who will save her kingdom and conquer the dragon and open the gates to publishing success. Then, I get the first draft done, then the second, then the third. Then the rejections. And reality hits. Suddenly, I’m standing before the dragon with no sword, my fairy dust depleted, and I’m broken, bruised, and tired. Somewhere along the road, I’ve even lost my tiara.

I’m at the critical moment, the place where I’ll either find a way to solve the story problem and become the hero, or I’ll admit defeat, give in to the very real hurdles, and turn this story into a tragedy.

Where are you at this moment?

Have you lost your sword, your magic? Are you staring your publishing dragon in his slobbery face and throwing pebbles at his impenetrable side?

If this was a video game, you’d be able to back away from the dragon and go somewhere to replenish your magic, buy new weapons, level up your strength and return to the battle at full strength. You’d be able to turn this into a fair fight…maybe even a more than fair fight.

Wanna know a secret? There is a way that exists IRL (in real life) to power up.

Conquer the dragon with writing workshops, writing conferences, and writing retreats

Fight dragons with a writing retreatYou need magic, you need weapons, and you need to replenish your strength.

Attending local and national writing workshops is one great way to grab some new weapons and sharpen the ones you’ve already got. Improving your writing techniques, your fiction craft is one of the best weapons you can possibly grab to fight the publishing dragon.

Want to peel away some of that impenetrable skin? Going to a writing conference and booking an appointment with an agent or editor is a great way to do this. Most times, you get an immediate ‘in’ for your manuscript. You’ve gone from the slush pile to ‘requested manuscript’ status. It’s kind of a big deal.

But replenishing the core of what makes us writers–our writerly magic–you’ve got to take things one step further. You have to retreat. You have to go to a place that is quiet, that speaks to you, that sparks something in you. You have to experience something new. You have to rest. You have to be surrounded by a writing tribe that knows all this and supports you in this recovery mode because they are there for the same reason. If you want to replenish the magic, there’s no better place to do so than on a writing retreat.

And hey, if you want to get all of the above in one place, we’ve still got openings on our 2018 writing retreats. You’ll get sharpened craft teaching, and on the October 2018 writing cruise, unlimited time with an all-star agent, editor and a multi-genre NYT bestselling author.

No matter how many times you conquer the dragon, in this industry, there is always going to be another one. Whether it’s a self-doubt dragon, a life-happens dragon, a rejection dragon, a bad review dragon, a publisher-closing dragon, a crappy-contract dragon, or whatever else, you’ve got to remember to take the time to power up. It’s the only way we fairy princesses and princes can keep up the fight, keep our swords strong, and tap into our magic.

Let’s pick up our tiaras and crowns, find our swords, and charge into this New Year, together.

You with me?