Tag Archives: NIWA Writers

The Author Community, by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer #amwriting

This is the sixth and final post in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association.  NIWA serves pacific northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing.

Many creative professions have a reputation for being competitive, hostile, and dare I say, catty, toward each other. Thankfully, this tendency for animosity, for the most part, has passed the author community by. Even as a budding writer, I was treated with respect by my fellows. I have been helped when I needed help, mentored when I needed mentoring, liberally complimented on my work, and generally accepted wherever I’ve gone within the writing circle.

This didn’t happen by chance, however. I did my part. Though I’m an introvert, I pushed myself to get out and meet people, ask questions, and make contacts. One of the most satisfactory way of doing that was to join writers’ groups. Along with NIWA, I am a member of Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and Oregon Writers Colony. I have belonged to a few others as well, but these are the ones that have helped me learn, produce, and promote my books. If a group isn’t helpful to your work, then what are you getting for your yearly dues besides another name to add to your list of credits?

Each of those groups I listed offers me something different.

NIWA is a fellowship of local independent authors. Though I’m both self- and press-published, this group is extremely helpful. They put together communal bookselling events, host an impressive website and booklist, and offer a members Facebook page where I can communicate with others about anything and everything book.

My local faction of Sisters in Crime has information geared specifically for the mystery writer. They offer presentations from police, detectives, pathologists, and other professions we see a lot of in mysteries. One time, our group took the Ghost Tour of Fort Vancouver, because you never know when a ghost might come up in your novel.

Oregon Writers Colony supports members in all phases of writing, from “I want to write a book but don’t know where to start” to famous authors like Jean Auel. They have several different programs throughout the year, both to teach and inspire, as well as promote and sell members’ books.

The Cat Writers’ Association is the cat’s pajamas if your stories involve felines. They also have a stunning list of members from all branches of creativity. Bloggers, artists, photographers, as well as fiction and non-fiction authors make up this international organization.

There are many more writers’ groups, both national, international, and in your local area. I encourage you to look into them to see what they have to offer.

Besides writers’ groups, Book Faires and events are a great way to get to know other people in your author community. The more you participate, the more your circle of will grow.

Online and Facebook Groups offer another way of relating to those in your field and well and an opportunity to gather fans. Some groups allow you to advertise your work, where others are strictly for conversations about elements of craft. Try NIWA FANS AND FRIENDS to get started.

Once you begin to look for and engage with your author community, the possibilities open up exponentially. Good luck! And thanks for reading.

Thank you for following the NIWA Blog Tour. Let’s do it again soon!

Check out this week’s other participating NIWA blogsites:

About Mollie Hunt: Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie Hunt writes the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, and the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy where cats save the world. She also pens a bit of cat poetry.

Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and NIWA. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.

You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com

Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/


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Reading to Impact Your Writing: Writing Books, Inspirations, and Beyond by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

This is the fifth in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association. You can catch up with them at https://www.niwawriters.com/.

Generally, when the discussion about reading to impact your writing begins, many people’s thoughts turn toward writing references and guides. That’s good for a beginning. But reading books about writing mechanics, process, and the like should not be the only things you read as a writer. Part of developing yourself as a writer includes expanding your reach as a reader—after all, growth arises in many ways, and reading something for the purposes of growing your awareness of style, idea usage, and the like. Picking up a challenging new book in a genre you don’t normally read can often provide insights on your own writing. Or reading a favorite author’s journal or memoir about writing process may help you past your own struggles. It all really depends on what resonates with you. Here are some of my favorites.


For myself, reading journals, letters, and memoirs/autobiographies (not biographies!) of my favorite authors has been a good source of writing inspiration and development. I was an early fan of John Steinbeck, thanks to one of my high school teachers. As a result, one of the earliest writer reads that has stuck with me over the years is John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. While writing East of Eden, Steinbeck would start every writing day with a short letter to his editor and friend Pascal Covici. It was part of his warmup process and a means of separating from daily concerns to developing the focus needed for the day’s work. In a similar vein is Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath and Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. Because Steinbeck often used letter writing as a tool for warming up, his letters frequently reflect not only what was going on in his life at the moment but what was happening with his writing process—a valuable insight into the struggles that all writers have.

I tend to prefer journals and letters to memoirs and autobiographies because writers can and will embellish later accounts while journals and letters reflect the writer’s state of mind at the time they were writing. May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude is billed as “the intimate diary of a year in the life of a creative woman,” and it does not disappoint. While ostensibly a book about the process of writing, Jay Lake’s Process of Writing 2005-2010 is a collection of blog posts Jay wrote about writing organized into topics which—really—tells you as much about Jay’s daily struggles with the writing life as it does anything else. Also, given Jay’s reputation as an extremely fast writer, he gives a breakdown of exactly what that looks like and what it means for him economically as a writer. His analysis of his differing rates of writing speed is something that I recommend every writer read.

And then we get to memoir and biography. One book that I think every writer should read is Anthony Trollope’s An Autobiography. Trollope wrote over sixty books over the course of his life, in part by exercising the discipline of rising early and writing 250 words every quarter of an hour for three hours before going to his day job with the British Post Office as a surveyor. His observations of the mid-19th century writing world (hint: Trollope does not like Dickens) are priceless and, if you have read Trollope or watched productions of his novels, you gain insights into how he built his characters. Ursula K. LeGuin’s essays on writing, often found mixed in with her other essays, are definitely worth considering.

And then there are the books explicitly about the craft of writing. Oh, the many books about writing techniques. I own a lot of them, and have bought and discarded many others. For me, the problem with many craft books is that they often speak to me at a particular stage in my writing or process. But as I progress beyond what they have to offer, I end up walking away from books I once loved. The reality about many books about the writing process is that they are often limited to a particular time and market. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you pick up an old Writer’s Digest book about writing, you need to crosscheck it to ensure that certain things about the field have not changed. Heck, that is true of any book explicitly about writing technique, because the techniques change and evolve.

Furthermore, while I know of many writers who cling to their favorite writing advice book over the course of the years, for me, the books that have resonated the most are those where the writer speaks candidly about the struggles they face in the writing life. The letters. The memoirs. The autobiographies. Those details where the struggle of the creative life is chronicled without whitewash or embellishment. The advice books often move on, except for a select few…but oh, the value of a chronicle of a writer’s struggle. At least that is what works for me.

And what about you?

Other posts in this series by Joyce Reynolds-Ward (note: each website owner will post at some point during the week listed).

March 29-April 4th—Organizing Your Plot www.joycereynoldsward.com

April 5-11—Self-editing, grammar, and beta readers https://authorwilliamcook.com/blog/

April 12-18—Genre and cross-genre https://tanstaaflpress.com/news

April 19-25—My Approach to the writing process https://varidapr.com

April 26-May 2—Reading to Impact your writing www.conniejjasperson.com

May 3-9—Advice for new writers https://lecatts.wordpress.com

Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a speculative fiction writer from Enterprise, Oregon. Her short stories include appearances in Well…It’s Your Cow, Children of a Different Sky, Allegory, River, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine. Her agripunk thriller trilogy, The Ruby Project: Origins, The Ruby Project: Ascendant, The Ruby Project: Realization, are due for release in November, 2020. Her books include Shadow Harvest, Choices of Honor, Judgment of Honor, and Klone’s Stronghold. Joyce has edited two anthologies, Pulling Up Stakes (2018), and Whimsical Beasts (2019). Besides writing, Joyce enjoys reading, quilting, horses, and hiking, and is a member of Soroptimist International of Wallowa County.

You can find Joyce’s books at her website, Peak Amygdala or on her author page at Amazon.com.



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NIWA Blog hop Post 1: My Writing Process

This is the first in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers Association. You can catch up with them at https://www.niwawriters.com/ The topic today is my writing process. I had a difficult time formulating how I wanted to write this post. Finally, I asked myself 3 questions, as if it were an interview.

  1. What am I working on?

I am working on three novels and was seriously procrastinating on a fourth, until the plague hit. The one I’m now getting through the formatting stage of the publishing pipeline is an alt-medieval fantasy, Julian Lackland. It is set in Waldeyn, a mishmash of Venice, Wales, and England. While the characters from Billy Ninefingers and Huw the Bard have significant roles in it, each book in the series is a standalone book.

I love Julian and his story, but I had a hard time letting go of him.

The novel I have on hold, Heaven’s Altar, is a two-book subseries set in the Tower of Bones world of Neveyah. It is a prequel, set 500 years before Mountains of the Moon. It deals with a historical figure, Aelfrid Firesword, who frequently gets mentioned as a kind of superhero in children’s books. All three of my main characters in that world were influenced by these books as children.

Alf is not superhuman. He’s a young mage with a destiny he’s not comfortable with. At the outset, his wife has abandoned him, leaving him with a sick child. Along with that, he faces the disapproval of his people for having married a woman who was not of the tribes. Alf has a long struggle ahead of him to prove he is worthy of taking up his grandfather’s task of War Leader.

My third work-in-progress, Bleakbourne on Heath, began as a serialized novel and ran for two years on a now-defunct website. This tale is an inverted Alternate-Arthurian story. In their history, Arthur was a Caligula-like figure. The Druids conquered Rome, and the Church reflects that.

I have fleshed it out, addressed the inadvertent discrepancies and contradictions that writing and publishing a chapter a week and winging it inevitably generated. That experience of writing by the seat of my pants taught me that I really DO need to have an outline.

Now I am trying to end the story and am working on the final battle. Leryn (with Merlin and Bramblestein) must face the Demon Knight, Mordred.

A fourth novel has been pulled out of storage and dusted off. Surprisingly, this paranormal scifi fantasy doesn’t stink as much as I thought it did. I’m finding a lot of useful material here.

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I do?

First of all, I write from the point of view of both a gamer and an addict for fantasy novels. I am a freak for the brilliant early Final Fantasy console games. Final Fantasy VII, VII, X/X2, and XII are among the great classics in gaming. I want to inject the action, the romance, and the drama of a full-throttle action/adventure into my books. I want it set in a sweeping landscape, with my characters beset by nearly insurmountable challenges. I want the philosophies and moral choices, as well as personal relationships, to mean something to the reader.

Gaming teaches us that magic has finite limits, and no character has unlimited power.

In my worlds, those limitations are what drive the action because the characters have to struggle to overcome them. The power of the story is in the struggle. The final redemption must justify the effort and the losses incurred as they struggle toward the conclusion.

  1. How does my writing process work? 

Typically, when I first have the idea to write a book, I visualize it as the walkthrough for an RPG game. I spend days building the outline, the shell of the story. Because the Tower of Bones series began as the storyline for an RPG, I still have the habits developed in that industry.

I figure out the political and religious systems and create the rules for magic. Most importantly, I draw maps to keep my characters going in the right direction.

Each world is unique, and I want to know how my characters fit into their society.

My outlines are formed by the answers to these twelve questions:

  1. What is the inciting incident?
  2. What is the goal/objective?
  3. At the beginning of the story, what could the hero possibly want that pushes them to risk everything to acquire it?
  4. How badly do they want it, and why?
  5. Who is the antagonist?
  6. Why are they the enemy?
  7. What ethical choices will the protagonist have to make in their attempt to gain their objective?
  8. What happens at the first pinch point?
  9. In what circumstances do we find the group at the midpoint?
  10. What is their health like?
  11. Why does the antagonist have the upper hand? What happens at the midpoint to change everything for the worse?
  12. At the ¾ point, the protagonist should be ready to face the antagonist. Do I have the story set up correctly to this point so I can choreograph that meeting?

All stories must have a logical arc, but each character should too. It’s my job to make sure that the characters evolve and grow throughout the story. For me and my style of writing, the character arcs benefit most from the outline, even more than the overall story arc does.

Once I have that all done, I start at the beginning and write, connecting the dots between the vignettes. When all the dots are connected, I have a book—albeit a raw rough draft of a book. I set it aside and work on something else for several weeks before I begin the rewrite. Setting it aside is important because when I come back to it, I need to see the raw draft through unbiased eyes.

My work in the Tower of Bones series tends to be linear as it began life as the walkthrough for an RPG that was never built. Each protagonist has a specific goal or “quest.” Many obstacles hinder them on the path to achieving those goals. My task is to make it an emotionally gripping journey for the reader, so I have to be careful when choreographing scenes. I can’t go too over the top, but I need to be creative and logical.

The Billy’s revenge series has been anything but linear. The storylines in each could easily have gone awry, if I hadn’t had a basic outline to keep things logical.

I have to negotiate carefully between the two radically different series when I am writing, as I want to stay true to the intent and flavor of each.  This is where having a writing posse really helps.

I hope your writing journey has been as satisfying as mine. Thank you for being a part of my writing life!

The next installment of this series will feature William J. Cook, who will be sharing some excellent advice for new writers. Look for his post on Thursday, April 9th. You can find out more about him at https://authorwilliamcook.com


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