With Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach, you'll gain clarity and overcome hurdles to become a better writer, pursue publishing, and reach your writing goals. 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 they can apply right away to their work. For additional insight, she incorporates interviews from authors and publishing professionals like Allison Fallon, Ron Friedman, Shawn Smucker, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Patrice Gopo. 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.
Do You Need Stephen King’s Pencil?
People wonder about Stephen King’s pencil. Writers (including me) want to know what writing instrument he uses.
Maybe we all harbor a secret hope that if we get the same pencil as Stephen King, we'll end up as prolific and successful as Stephen King.
Or if we discover what Annie Dillard writes with, we'll produce the same type of literary prose as Annie Dillard.
Or if we use the same writing program as, well...fill in whatever writer you admire. If you use the same pencil, pen, writing program, or paper as your favorite writer, do you imagine you're becoming a little bit more like them?
Stephen King's Pencil
I poked around, and it sounds like King's favorite pencil is the classic Blackwing 602, favored by such luminaries as John Steinbeck, Vladimir Nabokov, and Truman Capote.1
But while researching Stephen King's pencil, I realized I wanted to hear from you—real writers at work.
What do real writers use?
Through social media, my newsletter, and a coaching call in my writing community, I asked:
What's your favorite writing instrument?
And you told me.
I found out:
* There's no one perfect pen for all writers.
* There's no one perfect program for all writers.
* There's no consensus on the best tool or writing instrument out there for every single writer to use.
Everyone's simply using what they love.
Your favorite writing instruments
People seem evenly split between pens and pencils, and some weren't picky at all. Any old ballpoint pen was fine with them, even the kind they swipe from one of the businesses they frequent.
Others were more precise on brand, color, and tip, preferring fine, medium, or thick.
Curious to hear what these real writers use to do the work?
Your favorite pens
Let's dive into the pens.
Ballpoint pens are at the top with BIC. Yes, that common brand is a favorite option. They're easily found, they're really cheap, and they come in fun colors. And a lot of people prefer one particular color, like blue, or one particular tip, like fine point.
Coming up right after BIC is the PILOT brand. The PILOT Precise V5 seems to be the favorite.
Good gel pens are adored by a lot of people (and hated by a few).
TUL pens are also coming in hot with a lot of writers who are addicted to them. I also heard from writers who love Paper Mate InkJoy, Sharpies, and Flair pens, as well as a couple of fountain pen users.
If you're curious, when I grab a pen, I like the Pentel RSVP pen in black, fine point. They're easily found and affordable, kind of like the classic BIC ballpoint.
Your favorite pencils
As for pencils, well, again, BIC comes in strong with their mechanical pencils that a lot of people mentioned.
Others love mechanical pencils in general and aren't particular about brands.
The Blackwing 602 is used by a few people who tracked it down and love it.
And a lot of people said they don't have a preference—t...
How to Make Time to Write and Develop a System to Take Notes, with Bryan Collins
Bryan Collins relies on a simple system that captures notes and ideas that flow directly into his projects when he sits down to write.
His writing routine doesn't take all day yet achieves significant results. Find out how he works and test it out.
When you combine that with his simple system for collecting inspiration for all of your writing projects, you'll be on your way to completing a full manuscript.
Ready to do the work and write the truth?
Learn from Bryan:
* how to “green-light” yourself* how to capture ideas with easy, daily systems* the magic of building your body of work in a surprisingly small pocket of time* how to find time for writing—even during hectic seasons of life* how to regularly review your notes from other sources alongside your own ideas* how to break out of writer’s block
Meet Bryan Collins
Bryan Collins is a USA Today best-selling author whose books include The Power of Creativity, This Is Working, I Can’t Believe I’m A Dad! and a best-selling series of books for writers.
He was a journalist and copywriter for years and has contributed to publications like Forbes, Lifehacker and Fast Company.
Today he runs his website Become a Writer Today, with the help of a team of writers, attracting several million visitors each year. And he hosts a popular writing podcast by the same name, where he deconstructs the writing processes of New York Times best-selling authors like James Clear and Daniel Pink.
* Become a Writer Today, Bryan's website* Become a Writer Today, Bryan's podcast* I Can't Believe I'm a Dad, Bryan's book (affiliate link to paperback)* Bryan's interview with me: Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing with Ann Kroeker* Zettelkasten System* Day One app* ambient noise on noise-canceling headphones (to minimize distractions)* brain.fm (for focus and flow)* otter.ai, rev.com (for transcription/dictation)* Medium * Wattpad for fiction* Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (affiliate link for 30th anniversary paperback ed.)* Twitter for microblogging* Story by Robert McKee (affiliate link to Kindle ebook)* Choose Yourself, by James Altucher (affiliate link for Kindle ebook, on sale at the time of publishing this interview; about green-lighting yourself)* Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (affiliate link to paperback ed.)* Inspiration: singer Nick Cave (here's his interesting website) and author Stephen King
Listen to the interview, or read the transcript below.
Poetry as a Playful and Pleasurable Creative Practice, with Mark McGuinness
With inspiration from Mark McGuinness, you'll integrate poetry into your writing life as a pleasurable practice that elevates your prose.
In this interview, Mark describes the vision for his podcast and his own poetic beginnings, and he urges writers (and readers) to simply enjoy poetry.
You'll see ways poetry intersects with and impacts prose—you can even play a literary game he describes at the end.
Learn from Mark:
* How a mouthful of air is a perfect image for poetry and podcasts* How can we translate metaphor into our other forms of writing (without being weird)* The metaphor that comes to his mind when describing himself and his writing* How poems "mug" Mark and he drops everything to chase them like leprechauns* The importance of getting input on your work and finding a writing mentor* Plus, play his writing game (bring your prose)!
Listen to episode 245 and check out excerpts in the transcript below. You’ll be inspired by his warm, encouraging advice. If his subtle persuasion succeeds, you may embrace poetry as the next step in your literary journey.
Meet Mark McGuinness
Mark McGuinness is a poet based in Bristol, UK. On his poetry podcast A Mouthful of Air he interviews contemporary poets about their writing practice and draws out insights that can help any writer become more creative, expressive and memorable.
Mark also takes classic poems apart to show us how they work and what we as writers can learn from the examples of poets including Yeats, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer and Edward Lear.
* Visit amouthfulofair.fm* Listen to A Mouthful of Air on Apple Podcasts* Twitter: @amouthfulofair* Instagram: @airpoets
Mark McGuinness Interview
This is a lightly edited transcript.
 - Ann Kroeker
With inspiration from my guest Mark McGuinness, you may find yourself integrating poetry into your writing life as both a pleasure and a practice. I'm Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach. If you're tuning in for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular, welcome back. I'm sharing my best tips and training skills and strategies to help writers improve their craft, pursue publishing and achieve their writing goals. Today I have Mark McGuinness on the show, a poet from Bristol, UK.
On his poetry podcast, A Mouthful of Air, Mark interviews contemporary poets to discover their writing practice and draws out insights that can help any writer become more creative, expressive and memorable. Mark also takes classic poems apart to show us how they work and what we as writers can learn from the examples of poets like Yates, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer and Edward Lear.
Listen in on our conversation.
[00:54] - Ann Kroeker
I am so excited to have Mark McGuinness on the call today on our show and we are going to talk about a lot of different things related to the creative life, the writing life, even the poetry life. Mark, thanks for being on the call.
[01:09] - Mark McGuinness
Try This Writing Prompt to Get the Creative Juices Flowing!
Writers working on projects that are destined to be published—to be read—can struggle with nerves.
We edit our words before they have a chance to breathe on the page.
We hold back our true feelings and opinions.
We forget to play with language.
Serious Writers Need to Play
I tend to encourage my clients to move toward practical goals, to create work that is going to be published.
But at the same time, I also encourage writers to play, to get past the gates we put in front of ourselves and try to tap into those first thoughts without fear of being misunderstood.
If you're a writer taking yourself a little too seriously, I have just the thing for you today—a writing exercise you can play with in your writing journal, where nobody will see it.
The Creative Writing Exercise: A Three-Line Poem
This one comes from Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway. When you're done, you'll end up with a three-line poem (24).
Each of the lines has a template you can follow.
➤ Line 1: abstraction + verb + place
➤ Line 2: describe attire
➤ Line 3: summarize an action
Here's one of her examples.
Hunger yells in the hallway, draped in cymbals; he stomps and shouts, "Hear me now!"
Notice how she plays with the template.
* "Hunger" is the abstraction* "Yells" is the verb* "In the hallway" is the place
Line 2: "Draped in cymbals" is her way of describing some attire.
Line 3: "He stomps and shouts, 'Hear me now!'" describes action.
It's okay if your poems come out a little weird or kooky. That's part of the fun of it.
Your Turn: Try It!
You're putting together ideas and images and creating something fresh—have fun with it!
Don't overthink the noun, the verb, or the action. Simply play.
Join Others in The Art & Craft of Writing
This offers a taste of some of the exercises we are going to play with in The Art and Craft of Writing.
If you're reading this before August 29, 2022, you have a chance to sign up for a fall intensive I'm running: an eight-week program designed to help you get input on your writing while you learn literary techniques and put them into practice. You'll get eyes on your work from peers in the cohort and from me, as well!
If you're coming across this information after the fact, go to annkroeker.com/acw, which will take you to the page where you can sign up if it's live or get on the waitlist if it's not.
You don't have to wait for that or even be in the program to play with writing. You can start today, with this three-line poem.
While you're playing with your own words in your writing notebook, you don't have to share anything with anybody. It's just a chance to warm up—to get the creative juices flowing.
Creative Writing with Your Coach
That said, maybe it helps to know that this writing coach loves to play with words.
Would you like to see what I came up with, just for fun?
Ideas skid across my path; jaunty in their tilted caps and leprechaun-green s...
Prepare for Publishing with Insights from Literary Agent Lucinda Halpern
Literary agent Lucinda Halpern prepares us to navigate the industry and prepare for publishing. With her insights, we'll position our project—and ourselves as authors—to pitch agents and get noticed.
She reveals what literary agents are really looking for when it comes to platform and clears up the concern about how much or how little to share of your book's ideas on social media. And if you're wondering what to really focus on when crafting your book proposal, Lucinda's got insider info to help you make decisions.
After listening to (or reading) what she has to say, you're going to feel more confident than ever as you prepare to pitch.
Lucinda says publishers are looking for books with "perennial potential":
Publishers are trendcasters. They are futurists. They have to think about books from the perspective of what is going to sell when the book publishes in two years and then for five years after that, because they're interested in books that backlist....So writers should be really savvy to what are the sort of trends that are happening in the media or on podcasts or Netflix series.
She urges writers to network.
See if you can discover the connection you have to someone in the industry. She says, "I always say get that six-degree-of-separation connection to an agent." She continues, "There are so many blind submissions coming at [agents], better to have an 'in'—a step up—if you can."
Writers in my platform membership often ask how much they can share about their book idea—how much they can write or teach the topics—without giving too much away, so I asked Lucinda her opinion. You might be surprised (and relieved) by her response:
The rule of the day is the more free content, the better. And one of my authors, Paul Jarvis, had a really wonderful way of putting this: Teach everything you know...I believe in that so much. And editors believe in it, too. Because again, if they see that audience clamoring for your ideas...that's a huge draw...It almost doesn't matter that they've seen it before. It's better they've seen it before.
When we discussed platform for nonfiction authors, I asked her for that magic number of how many subscribers or followers publishers (and agents) are looking for. She gave us the number, but not before offering an important disclaimer:
It differs for category and for the particular author that you are. So someone who's a PhD or a doctor or finance professional or psychologist, there are a number of sort of more private industries where an editor is going to recognize your life has not been tweeting...Whereas if you're a journalist, it's going to be how many bylines have you accumulated and what sort of publications and what is your Twitter following? How many people actually know who you are? I just want you to know if you're a business person and you've run this successful company, maybe again, you're not so active on social media, but you have a YouTube channel that gets views and you also have a massive email list which publishers are more interested in than social media numbers. I'm just giving you a sense of the diversity in the nonfiction sphere alone that we're evaluating platform on. There is no one number.
I begged a little for the number.
Thankfully, she told us.
You want to know the number she's looking for?
Listen, watch, or read the transcript below. (That specific answer is around the 17:56 mark.)
What’s a Writing Coach (and what kind do I need)?
Have you ever wondered what a writing coach is?
As you can imagine, I get asked this a lot. I mean, it is baked into my branding, and I love sharing insights I've gained over my years of coaching.
Let's start with the simplest, broadest definition of what a writing coach is and does:
A writing coach provides you with input and support designed to close the gap between where you are as a writer and where you want to be.
I coauthored the book On Being a Writer with Charity Singleton Craig (2014), and our editor used similar language on the back cover copy of the book and in marketing materials:
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.1
That phrasing captures the foundational purpose and core intent of this coaching role in a writer's life, so I adapted it here.
And as a writing coach myself for over a decade, I can confirm that this is indeed a high-level description of writing coaching.
Differences in Writing Coaches
Every coach approaches the work differently based on their experience, background, training, and philosophy. As a result, not every coach will feel like the right fit for you.
In fact, you may need one kind of coach at one stage in your writing journey and another kind of coach later.
Bottom line: you want to find someone ready to address your current goals and challenges.
Writing Coaches Are Not...
To begin to understand what a writing coach is and does, let's look at what a writing coach isn't.
➤ Writing coaches are not editors
A coach may have been and may still be an editor. They may offer both services and, thus, be both a coach and an editor. They may also offer editorial input within their coaching style. But these are two different services, so writing coaches are not editors while they are coaching.
➤ Writing coaches are not agents
A coach may have been and may still be an agent. But these two services must be distinct and separate, since authors never pay for representation. If you find an agent who offers coaching, be sure the service you're paying for is coaching.
➤ Writing coaches are not ghostwriters
A coach may have been a ghostwriter and may still offer ghostwriting as a separate service, but a coach's role is not to collaborate or do any of the writing for you. You're the writer!
➤ Writing coaches are not social media managers or designers
A coach may have personal experience and success in social media, and offer ideas to increase engagement with followers. They may recommend social media managers and designers. But writers don't hire coaches to set up marketing campaigns or design Instagram images.
➤ Writing coaches are not marketing and promotion specialists, publicists, or launch team organizers
A coach may offer marketing, publicity, or launch team services in addition to coaching. Authors who become coaches may pass along insights from their own marketing and publicity experience. But when coaching a client, they are not marketing or publicizing their client’s work or organizing a launch team.
➤ Writing coaches are not mentors
My writing mentors—I've had at least five—invested time in me, guiding and steering me through phases in my career, and from those relationships,
Bottom line podcast
My favorite thing about Ann’s podcasts is that they are about writing. I hate listening to congratulatory commentary between host and guest. I’m also not interested in hearing rambling promotions for the guest’s new book. If I like what the guest is saying, I’ll get the book without needing an endless preamble.
I’ve listened to about four podcasts thus far and have yet to be bored or disappointed. I’ve also ordered one of the guest’s books. I’m getting great insight and learning a lot.
What your writer’s heart needs!
I love Ann’s passion for helping us become better writers. I especially enjoyed her interview with Allison Fallon! Tune in and encourage your writer’s heart!
A labor of love
Ann hits home with her beautifully told stories that empower you as a writer. I recently heard her episode on the shift that must take place when deciding to make your work your profession.