February Meeting Recap

posted Apr 8, 2019, 10:45 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Apr 8, 2019, 10:54 AM ]

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this—you haven't.” -Thomas Edison

 Notes from Garry Garretson and Shara French

Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of the bestselling novel Trust Me, was the guest for our February 23 meeting. Via videoconference from her home in Boston, Hank discussed her tips for writing and publishing success, from lack of confidence and self-doubt, to just powering through!

Fighting that lack of confidence is key. What if Tess Gerritsen and Stephen King quit writing because they thought they were not good enough? The story goes that King threw his manuscript of Carrie into the trash. His wife dug it out, and well, the rest is history. Sorry for the cliché, but King is now a major success story.

Perseverance was a recurring theme in her talk as well. She said keeping a promise to herself to write at least 500 words a day is one of the most important elements of her success.


The hardest part is just before you start. Allow your inner voice (brain), to come out and tell you things. Listen to that inner voice. Visualize the story. Is your character doing, acting, saying things that fit that character?

Hank went on to say that writers should expect a lousy first draft, but to keep moving on. A good technique is to think, “I am not writing a book.” Think about writing one page at a time: 250 words. This could help to power down the anxiety level and feeling overwhelmed. At 250 to 300 words per page (12-point font), a 55,000-word book should be about 200 manuscript pages. A 100,000-word book would be about 400 manuscript pages.

Beware of and prepare for the 150-page slump or block. Hank called her mother one day to vent about being stuck. Her mother was blunt with her advice: “Well my dear, you’ll finish it if you want.”

Hank said everyone has doubts. To overcome them, get a change of scenery. Take a break for a couple of days. Come back to your work fresh. Read your work as if you sent it to a friend. Love your book again and again. At moments of doubt, think back to memories of how you fell in love with your book.

More tips from Ryan:

  • There is no right way to write your book; no secret. Try different things, learn what does not work.
  • Do and write what makes you happy.
  • Use extra tools: sketch, white board, story board, try it and you will find out what works for you.
  • Learn to be alone and embrace it. Treasure that time. Imaginative concentration is where mysterious connections begin. Sit, or rest in the world of your book. Your brain knows more than you give it credit for. Search it for ideas.
  • Don’t always keep away from the real world, inspiration comes from everywhere. Observe the world, take notes.
  • Editing is crucial to getting your best work out. Do not skip a problem area in your work. Face your writing problems and fix them.

She also addressed criticism. Expect it, learn from it, but do not let it stall you. Do not underestimate how you take criticism. Take in what you need and discard the rest. Pat yourself on the back

Characters and Organization

Have the character create the story. Read out loud often. Ask yourself, how do people really talk? Are their words genuine? Do they fit the character’s personality? Why are they saying that? What is their intent? Try to align intent with the character’s personality. How would the character talk? Show your character’s actions along with words.

Finally, a good character history needs a good back story, but don’t put it all in the book. Why do they do what they do? Get to know them personally. The dialogue must have intent, it gives the written words more authenticity. “It’s not how ‘you’ the author talks, it’s how your character talks,” Hank emphasizes.

To organize your story, and for consistency and flow in your writing, make lists: birthdays, character’s age, alphabetize, scene order, events, dates, etc.

Listen to your inner voice. When re-reading your work and you find a glitch or something doesn’t look right, face that problem, and fix it then; don’t let it go. Not fixing a problem could cause more problems in the creation of your story. And, do not rush. Love yourself and love your work.


Can just be timing. What is happening in the world? The market? Wrong agent? A career can begin with rejection letters. Listen objectively to suggestions. Listen, and be open. Hank’s first book was rejected. The rejection letter was very nicely written. They said we like your book, but we want you to re-write the whole thing! She did and the rest is history.

Finally, Hank’s last few tips were equally important as the beginning writing process:

  • Determine your process, things that work for you. What time of day are you at your best? Where do you write? Home? Library? Cafes? All the above.
  • Make your own deadlines. Target amount of words per day and keep your self-promise.
  • Enlist family support. Let them know, for instance, a specific time of the day is for your writing. MAKE TIME!
  • Read, advise, research and understand your writer’s world.

Make a Plan

All you need is one good idea each day. Write 540 words a day. Give your book a title. When your manuscript draft is finished, wait one week and re-read this first draft as if you are reading it for the first time. Above all, it is a wild and crazy ride!  Share, listen, create, innovate, celebrate, persevere, have courage and care about your work. And you will be saying, “I just published my first book!”

Good luck!


Hank Phillippi Ryan has won five Agatha Awards, as well as the Anthony, Macavity, Daphne du Maurier, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards for her bestselling mystery novels. She has written eleven novels and has co-authored several other works. Hank has 34 Emmys, 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards, and has received dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. I am reading her latest novel, “Trust Me.” And trust me, it’s good!