100 episodes

Reach your writing goals and make significant progress (and have fun!) by being more curious, creative, and productive. Ann provides practical tips and motivation for writers at all stages, keeping most episodes short and focused so writers only need a few minutes to collect ideas, inspiration, resources and recommendations to apply to their work. She incorporates interviews from publishing professionals to include additional insight. Tune in for solutions addressing anything from self-editing and goal-setting solutions to administrative and scheduling challenges. Subscribe for ongoing input for your writing life that's efficient and encouraging. More at annkroeker.com.

Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach Ann Kroeker

    • Books
    • 3.9, 9 Ratings

Reach your writing goals and make significant progress (and have fun!) by being more curious, creative, and productive. Ann provides practical tips and motivation for writers at all stages, keeping most episodes short and focused so writers only need a few minutes to collect ideas, inspiration, resources and recommendations to apply to their work. She incorporates interviews from publishing professionals to include additional insight. Tune in for solutions addressing anything from self-editing and goal-setting solutions to administrative and scheduling challenges. Subscribe for ongoing input for your writing life that's efficient and encouraging. More at annkroeker.com.

    Back to Basics: 6 Methods to Right-Size Your Next Writing Project

    Back to Basics: 6 Methods to Right-Size Your Next Writing Project

    [Ep 227]















    Have you ever written a blog post and found it's growing too big and unwieldy? Or you set out to develop a book only to realize you don't have enough material to fill a 45K- or 50K-word manuscript? 







    If so, you're struggling with Goldilocks Syndrome: your idea is too big or too small for the project’s purpose and the way it’ll be published or shared with the world.







    You’re trying to cram everything you know about, say, computers into 800 to 1,000 words. You’ve got the makings of a book when you set out to write a blog post. How do you narrow it to a reasonable length?







    Or you’re trying to stretch the idea of cooking with crackers into a book-length project, but it’s not enough material. How do you broaden the concept to produce a compelling cookbook?







    What does it take to land on that just right length for your next writing project? 







    The 6 Right-Sizing Methods







    Test these six methods for narrowing—or broadening—your next writing idea and you’ll land on the perfect length, approach, and slant to suit this project’s audience, purpose, and medium. In the process, you’ll gain clarity and solidify your ideas.  







    The six different methods to right-size your projects are:







    TimeLocationCategoriesAudienceIssueStructure







    Let me describe each one, starting with time. When does it mean to right-size your project using time?







    1. Time







    You can use time to focus on decades, a stage of life, or an era. For example, depending on your topic, you might limit your idea to focus only on the 1950s, only early childhood, or only on the Middle Ages. 







    If you’re writing a memoir, you’ll limit the scope of your book to a specific time in your life in which you experienced struggle and transformation.







    If you’re writing about plants, you could focus on the planting stage. 







    If you need to broaden your idea because it’s too narrow, you can simply expand from the 1950s to the first half of the 20th century or from early childhood to Kindergarten through sixth grade.







    2. Location







    Location is another way to land on the right size for your project. You could focus on geography, meaning anything from a continent or country all the way down to a city landmark, neighborhood, or business. 







    But you could think of location on an object or a space. The gardener may want to write about an area of the garden or the location on a specific plant, such as the roots or petals.







    If you’re writing about flight, you could focus on small airports in a given state or areas within a specific airport.







    3. Categories







    We can also use categories to think through an idea we find to be too big and broad or too small and narrow. Find some commonalities and group those things that are similar.







    If you’re the garden blogger, you could focus on one category—vegetables—instead of flowers, trees, or groundcover. Dial down even more by categorizing nightshades or spring vegetables or weeds.







    The blogger who writes about planes can narrow to categories such as biplanes, jets, or airliners.







    By focusing on a small category, you easily narrow your idea. And then you can broaden by including multiple categories.







    4. Audience







    First-time authors often want to write a book for everyone in the whole world. That’s not realistic. The first step in right-sizing will be to narrow your audience...

    • 9 min
    Back to Basics: Generate Ideas to Find What You Have to Say

    Back to Basics: Generate Ideas to Find What You Have to Say

    [Ep 226]















    With my Back to Basics series, I'm providing tools you can apply to your next project in hopes it will make the writing process easier and the final product stronger than ever—so you can make an impact.







    Last time, we started by identifying a project's high-level elements—its Topic, Audience, Purpose, and Medium. After that, you can focus on the message of your project; that is, given your topic, what is this project’s IDEA.







    What do you write about​? Is it running, longevity, RV travel, cooking on a budget, stamp collecting, or social justice?







    Maybe you’re known for this topic and it’s your brand identity, or maybe you’ve been assigned this by an editor. Regardless, you start with a topic, but you don’t stop there.







    You have to hone in on an idea: a narrowed idea suitable for this particular project and this particular audience. Your finalized idea will reflect the slant or angle you’re taking that will provide focus and set your project apart from others tackling the same topic.







    It’s tempting to latch onto the first idea that pops into our heads—and sometimes those are indeed fresh and full of potential. Most of the time, though, if we want to write something that stands out, we’re better off taking time to send the idea through five phases:







    GenerateNarrowValidateRevise (adapt, adjust)Confirm or Finalize







    1. Generate







    First, you’ll generate ideas. You’re about to hear lots of tips for generating ideas in this episode, and I’ll include links to a few other articles and resources. You can test them out and find what works best for you. 







    2. Narrow







    When you land on some ideas with potential, you’ll narrow them to suit your audience, purpose, and medium. You’ll also find your unique slant.







    3. Validate







    When it seems your idea has potential, you’ll validate the idea, especially if you’re launching a big project like a book. But even when you’re planning an article or blog post, it’s smart to take a few steps to vet the idea, and I’ll explain that in another episode.







    4. Revise







    After that process, you’ll adapt it based on the input you receive during the validation phase, revising and adjusting the idea as needed.







    5. Confirm or Finalize







    The last phase will be to confirm your idea and finalize it so you can dig in and—finally!—write.







    A five-phase process just to lock in an idea may sound like overkill and it may seem like it’ll take ages, but you’ll breeze through it—especially for short projects. And it’s definitely worth it for longer projects because they’ll come together more efficiently when you walk through these phases.







    Let’s start with what it takes to generate ideas.















    Generate Ideas to Find What You Have to Say







    When we begin our search for writing ideas, we start with ourselves. What are you drawing from to produce your projects? What’s in you? What do you have to say?







    Generate Ideas by Remembering







    Our writing usually flows out of the person we are. The ideas we share are ideas inside us, so writing about our past and drawing from memories, we can pull up ideas that formed us, challenged us, confused us.







    Using those memories as the centerpiece of a project, we can dive in to explore the meaning, the truth, the lies, and the message locked in our past.







    These ideas flow from the richness of remembering.

    • 23 min
    Improve Your Writing by Getting Back to Basics

    Improve Your Writing by Getting Back to Basics

    [Ep 225]







    You’re inspired. An idea seizes you and before the energy fizzles, you whip out a laptop, open a new document, and slam out words. Get it down fast—start writing and discover along the way what you want to say.



    I support this approach! Capture the core idea while your creativity sizzles—before your vision fades!



    At some point, however, you need to take a minute to be sure you know four key elements of this project or else your final product may miss the mark.



    For everything we write, we really do need to know:



    topic

    audience

    purpose

    medium



    Imagine if today’s article had been titled “Follow These 3 Rules to Organize and Optimize Your RV Kitchen.” You’d wonder if you clicked on the wrong link or cued up the wrong podcast. I do like RV travel and could probably write about it, but because this website provides writing input to readers, an RV article might suit the medium of a podcast that focused on RV owners, but it would not fit the topic, audience, or purpose of a writing coach podcast or website.



    Understand these fundamental elements of your project, and you’ll save time in the editing stage and ultimately impress publishers and serve readers. You'll build an audience that can tell you are knowledgeable and you understand them.

    Build This Step into Your Writing Process

    Experienced writers who publish regularly often work through this instinctively because they’ve written for years about a particular subject matter for an outlet that follows a specific format. These professionals may be able to sit down and tap out an impressive draft that follows style and formatting guidelines, and falls close to the ideal word count.



    But if you’re…



    new to writing

    returning to it after a long break

    craving a refresher on the basics

    concerned your work isn’t connecting with readers

    stepping out to write new subject matter, reach a new audience, or publish in a new media style or outlet



    …I recommend you build this step into your writing process more intentionally.



    Consciously, deliberately pause in the early stages of development to think through—even write out—brief descriptions of your project’s topic, audience, purpose, and medium.



    Know what you’re setting out to accomplish and why. Determine what you’re writing about and who it’s for. Consider where it’ll be published and distributed, because that affects its depth and design, tone and topic, length and layout.



    Lock this in before you brainstorm, research, outline, or free write and you’ll find the writing, revising, and editing process more efficient and the finished project’s impact more effective.

    Topic

    Let’s start with that initial inspiration. That creative spark. That idea.



    THE TOPIC QUESTION: What’s this project about?



    Sometimes you’re assigned a topic; other times the idea blooms from within. Either way, you’ll need to confirm the high-level topic and then articulate how this project will narrow and focus on a particular aspect of it.



    For example, your high-level topic may be vegetable gardening. Are you writing an article for a local garden shop’s newsletter about growing potatoes or how to plant a Three Sisters garden? That’s how you would narrow the high-level topic to be more focused.



    If you function as your own publisher, your “brand” may cover three or four categories that lead to obvious topic choices that always fit the audience, purpose, and medium.



    The food blogger writes about the high-level topic of food, but narrows it to a few categories like main dishes, side dishes, slow-cooker instructions. Then, she publishes specific articles and recipes under each of those.

    • 13 min
    Find What You Need and Write What You Can

    Find What You Need and Write What You Can

    [Ep 224]







    At the close of a brilliant blue-sky summer-warm April afternoon, a heavy thunderstorm swept across my state, pelting us with hail and hurtling branches across yards.



    We stared in awe at Zeus-explosive lightning strikes that flashed and boomed, backlighting trees that swayed like storm-tossed ship masts, nearly snapping.



    After a series of mighty cracks, the power went out and stayed out for eight hours. Cell service, too.



    During the strangest season of a lifetime, when staying informed and connected relies on a functioning Internet, we were completely cut off from the world for...we didn’t know how long.



    The storm felt even more ominous in total darkness. Wind gusts smacked limbs against the roof in haunting thumps and scrapes, like zombies clawing the shingles. We lit candles and sat in our family room, hoping the sliding glass door wouldn’t blow in and spew shards of glass across the room.



    We settled in but couldn’t rest. On high alert, we remained poised to head to the basement if we heard tornado sirens go off. My husband grabbed a headlamp he uses when camping and handed it to my son, who needed to finish studying for a pre-calc test.



    I remembered some blizzards of my youth, when the power would go out on the farm for a few days—once for an entire week—and we’d use kerosene lamps for light and the wood stove for heat.



    I’d feel a sense of awe and fear and excitement that, for a stretch of time—and who knew for how long—life suspended in an awkward space of uncertainty where we were forced to rethink the days and invent solutions to complete basic tasks.



    Eventually the power would return to the farm. We’d flip on lights and the TV. Country roads would be cleared and the school bus would show up at my driveway.



    Back to normal.



    I thought of that blizzard while staring out our sliding glass door.



    After about an hour, the fiercest elements of the storm subsided, though rain continued to pour down, overflowing gutters clogged by debris. In the quiet, dark house, we felt our way along the walls to our bedrooms, listening for each other’s voices. My husband set an alarm to wake up every few hours throughout the night to empty the brim-full sump pump, which wasn’t able to do its job without electricity.



    Early the next morning, our power returned. We flipped on lights and reset our clocks and the WiFi router. The sump pump turned on and emptied the tanks.



    Back to normal.



    Except...it’s not normal.



    This isn’t a blizzard, and the bus didn’t show up for students in our neighborhood. My son took his pre-calc test at the kitchen table and uploaded it to a website for his math instructor to grade.



    Back to our abnormal normal, I guess, or whatever we’ve created within this shelter-at-home pandemic reality, its own silent storm.



    I started six or seven different ideas for this post, but they all fell flat; they seemed inappropriate in one way or another.



    Hopeful, encouraging input seemed like it would make light of readers who are fearful or frustrated. So I held off, wanting to respect that not everyone is ready to map out a social media strategy or draft a short story.



    Fun ideas celebrating the creativity of quarantined humans across the planet seemed to make light of the intensity and suffering so many are facing. I had collected links to amusing and ambitious projects but stopped, unable to share. I knew friends who were sick or caring for the sick, and it seemed tone deaf to send that out.



    But the other extreme also seemed like a strange choice; highlighting suffering seemed too heavy and melancholy for readers who might be seeking an emotional escape. Sometimes I want to just laugh a little; sometime...

    • 9 min
    One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days

    One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days

    [Ep 223]







    As I write this, a pandemic is spreading across the planet. I surely hope you and those you love are spared any sickness during this worldwide crisis. I’m stating this in part to document my day in the midst of these extraordinary circumstances.



    This is something we can do as writers:



    Document the days.

    Keep a Journal If You Can

    Record your story as it’s unfolding; capture and preserve—in real time, in your voice—what will become source material for future historians or for your own memoir.



    Dr. Shane Landrum wrote, in a series of tweets:

    Advice from a historian in the Boston area: Start keeping a journal today, ideally a hand written one if that’s within your ability. Write about what you’re seeing in the news, how yr friends are responding, what is closed in yr neighborhood or city or state or country. Save it...Sometimes you know you’re living through an event that will be in the history books very large...personal stories don’t make it into the history books unless people are writing them down in the first place. Keep a journal if you can.1

    His Twitter thread prompted people to suggest typing up and printing out their observations and others to recommend indelible ink on archival paper.



    But you can find other, creative ways to document the days.

    Audio or Video Diaries

    If you’re a writer who is also a first responder, health care worker, or supply chain contributor delivering food and goods to stores—or stocking and supplying the stores—you may not have time to write.



    On a break, record a one- to three-minute audio or video diary on your phone. Tell us about the fatigue, the tasks, the challenges, the people. Share it, or save it. But document the days.



    If you’re not in some of those critical roles—and I’m sure I missed entire groups of people—you are likely at home tending to your work, perhaps educating your child or overseeing her work. You, too, can use a video or audio diary to document the days.

    Share Some Now, Save Some for Later

    Some of it, you’ll save for later: for a future project, for family, for historians.



    Some of it, though, you can share right now, to offer hope and accurately report on your world.



    Publish on social media, or through your blog, or through a podcast like this.



    Publish and distribute your most urgent messages however and wherever you can most easily get the word out to the people who need it most.



    Use Dr. Landrum’s hashtag, if you like, to communally chronicle your experiences with others across the globe: #pandemicjournal2



    However you choose to document your days, I urge you to do this.

    Writers Document the Details

    We are in a unique position, as writers, to know how to weave sensory detail into our observations that will recreate it for readers later; we understand that the story keeps going and if we document it today, we’ll grab texture and tension and we can scene-build, and if we don’t, we will have forgotten when the world moves on from toilet paper hoarding to new challenges, as it already has.



    It’s easy to forget the messaging and actions of early stages when the next one happens a mere hours later.



    Our role as writers in these uncertain times is to be among those who capture the stories.

    Tell Your Story

    You tell yours from your corner of the world, and I’ll tell mine.



    One day, they’ll fit together to help people understand how one thing led to another in the high-level reporting alongside the everyday events: the confusion, the indecision; the toilet paper hoarding and the jokes that ensued; the frantic trips to Walmart and Target and grocery stores, not knowing how to prepare for such a time as this.

    • 7 min
    Can a Poem a Day Make Us Better Writers?

    Can a Poem a Day Make Us Better Writers?

    [Ep 222]







    My most effective year teaching high school composition was the one I began with poetry. From day one, I introduced literary devices through poems, inviting students to spot metaphor and simile, hyperbole and imagery, rhythm, rhyme, and repetition.



    With a focus on a single poem, we could zero in on just a few observations and they could use those as inspiration, even models, for their assignments.



    Later, armed with a range of literary tools and techniques, the students confidently integrated those into their prose. Their essays—even their research papers—showed they better understood how to lasso language to express their ideas.



    What’s more, they also readily spotted themes and ideas in the longer works we studied. They had more to say about the pieces we read. It’s as if poetry opened their minds to new ways of seeing the world, and in some cases, poets opened their minds to new ways of seeing themselves: students seemed to borrow words and phrases to express feelings and frustrations, disappointments and dreams.

    Poetry's Profound Truths

    I believe poetry opened them up to become more thoughtful, creative writers—perhaps even more thoughtful, creative human beings.



    And I believe it can open us up to become more thoughtful, creative writers and human beings.



    When The New York Times news desk gathers for their morning meeting, they start by reading a poem. Marc Lacey explains that this new ritual is “aimed at inspiring us and boosting our creativity before we embark on another long day of editing the news.”1



    He says this new practice is leaving members more thoughtful, more contemplative. “I can tell by the faraway look in my colleagues’ eyes as we hear profound truths communicated sparsely and majestically.”2



    His story sent me to a shelf in my living room in search of an anthology I might use to reboot this practice in my own creative life. Yes, despite the fruitful results from that high school composition class—and despite being steeped in poetry back when I served on the editorial team at Tweetspeak Poetry—I have fallen out of the habit of reading a poem each day.

    Wordsworth's "The Rainbow'

    I plucked The Oxford Book of English Verse from the shelf, a collection I’d picked up at a used library sale.



    It flopped open to a Wordsworth poem:

    The Rainbow

    My heart leaps up when I behold

    A rainbow in the sky:

    So was it when my life began;

    So is it now I am a man;

    So be it when I shall grow old,

    Or let me die !

    The Child is father of the Man;

    And I could wish my days to be

    Bound each to each by natural piety.3

    A few of Wordsworth’s choices are easily spotted in this short poem: the deliberate repetition of “So” in a series of three. Unintentional repetition can distract a reader, but writers who use repetition with intent can assist the reader’s understanding. Here, Wordsworth uses it to indicate the beginning, middle, and end of his life: “So was it...So is it...So be it.”



    Of course, we see rhyming throughout: behold/old, began/man, be/piety.



    While rhyming is the norm in poetry, it reminds me to listen for and play with its potential in prose; where might I test subtle sounds to add music to my words, even blog posts and podcasts?



    A poet of the Romantic era, Wordsworth responded to nature as teacher, as guide, as inspiration. He expresses a desire to never lose his childlike sense of wonder.

    Creativity, Curiosity, Wonder

    His poem—and his mindset—has potential to awaken our creativity alongside curiosity and wonder. He leaves me hopeful that we need not feel trapped and deadened by disheartening news. Our hearts can still leap.



    As a wordsmith, editor Marc Lacey knows poetry’s potential to inspire ou...

    • 7 min

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5
9 Ratings

9 Ratings

GoodTimes33 ,

Excellent topics and resources

A very well produced podcast, both in quality and breadth of topics. Truly helpful, definitely recommend a listen!

hopeprose.com ,

The perfect pick-me-up podcast for writers

Ann has a delightful way of motivating and inspiring writers to approach their craft with a positive head space. She is constantly finding to ways to encourage creativity in the writing process and does so with such humble grace. One of my favourites!

ElisaP76 ,

More About the Voice

I've listened to several episodes and have come to the conclusion that Ann Kroeker spends more time thinking about how she sounds than thinking about what to say. The episodes revolve around interesting topics that have ample subject matter that could be covered in the approximate 10 minute time slot. Instead, she just basically repeats the title several times in several different ways without really touching on the issue below the surface. Some
might argue that you can't really dig below the surface in so short a time, but I listen to several well-planned podcasts that manage it.

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