Writer’s Desk Issue No: 3: Cindy Coloma
We’re so excited to have my dear friend, Cindy Coloma featured on this week’s writer’s desk. Cindy Coloma is a bestselling author with over twenty-five published books (fiction and nonfiction) and has written under Cindy Martinusen and Cindy McCormick Coloma. She also works at Microsoft in communications and storytelling. Cindy and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with the younger of her five children who range in age from seven to thirty. Her first grandson was born last year. Be sure to stick around until the end of the post for more about her most recent release plus a chance to win a copy of Winter’s Passing and my book From Dust to Ashes!
Cindy was my first writing partner and the one who encouraged me to pursue writing. You can learn more about my and Cindy’s adventures for the book research trip we took HERE!
Do you have a writing routine? When/Where do you write?
I write much of the day for my job, so during this season of life, my own writing fits into the spaces — some early mornings, some late nights, some weekends, on scraps of paper, or when commuting sometimes I record lines or ideas. During this season, some weeks, months even, I’m not writing, because I’m doing so much at work. But favorite times to write are in the sweetness of very early morning, and during that joy of very late night when everyone is asleep and I have hours of quiet ahead. I absolutely love writing until the sun comes up.
When are you most productive?
When I have a deadline, and there’s no other option for procrastination.
What do you snack on or drink while writing?
Coffee, coffee, and more coffee (and alkaline water when I remember to stop drinking coffee).
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I don’t get writer’s block. I get writer’s scatter. I struggle from a lack of writing focus in that I can jump around from story to story and need to reign myself in if I want to complete something. That’s a constant struggle even now – to finish. To do that, I need deadlines, or I’ll set timers or say no more coffee till I hit a goal, things like that. Even after all this time, it’s the same struggle. But I’m too full of ideas to get blocked.
What is your outlining process? Are you a pantser/plotter or something in between?
For my own writing, I don’t outline and usually dive into writing. It may begin with a sentence that comes to mind, a story idea from somewhere else, or a character that I encounter in my head. At first, I may not know what the project is going to be or where it’s going, I just go. Very soon, however, I start trying to define it and exploring possibilities of genre, POV, audience, and such. I also write out-of-order and get down the scenes, dialogue interactions, or descriptions that come easily, then later I work at editing or the harder stuff. Usually, it’s not until about one-fourth or one-third of the way into the word count that I organize the book into an outline or chapters. Sometimes I’ve already written the end, and I definitely know where I’m going by this point.
When I’ve worked as a ghostwriter/co-author and now at Microsoft, I outline the project from the start since it’s a collaborative endeavor. This was a tough transition because I write faster and with more creativity when I follow the above process.
Best advice for someone who is just starting out.
Can you be fulfilled doing something else? If so, do that. If writing won’t leave you alone, commit to it. After you commit, start writing, find your community, or a few writing friends (to help through the many hard, lonely spots, which is why I ask the first question), and never, never ever stop developing your craft.
What 3 tips would you give to someone who is just starting out on the writing journey and would like to cultivate a friend/critique partner relationship long term?
NO FAMILY — For a long-term critique partner, seek one who isn’t a family member. Most of our family and close non-writing friends cannot give objective criticism that can help you grow as a writer. And if they can do this, it can be too painful living in the same house or having Christmas dinner with them (there are rare cases in everything). While it’s great if you can share your writing with family and friends and get their input, it’s usually best to have someone outside your immediate circle to share this very important part of your writing journey.
BUILD TRUST — Be sure you trust this person and his or her input. Do you trust that this person really wants you to succeed? Do you trust their ability to give solid feedback and editorial guidance? Do you trust this person to view your heart and soul, see the beauty and the ugliness, and still support your growth. In other words, be really selective.
LIKEMINDEDNESS — Writing groups, conferences, and conventions (virtual or in person) are great places to find other writers and cultivate critique partners. Your critique partner can write in a different genre, have a totally different writing plan/path in mind, and different opinions on things like social media presence, outlining/stream of conscious writing, audience to target, etc. The differences can help grow you and discover unique perspectives. But to really work effectively in a long-term critique partnership, you need likemindedness in core values and expectations. You also should respect in a likeminded way that at the end of the day, each of you is the author of your own work, and you each follow your heart and/or gut on how best to shape a story.
Favorite thing to binge-watch My Brilliant Friend – It’s an Italian series on HBO about two Italian girls, growing up post-WW2, and their lifetime of friendship. It’s beautifully directed, written, and produced. There is so much said and felt (love, hate, jealousy, insecurity) through the characters’ facial expressions, gestures, and through what isn’t said. I just started reading the first book by Elena Ferrante because I finished both seasons of the show, and I just can’t let these characters go. And of course, a book always explores more than a show.
Favorite song right now I listen to a lot of 40s music — Edith Piaf, Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Billie Holiday etc.
Favorite thing to order at Starbucks Hot mocha, no whip, then I come home and add Ceylon cinnamon.
Enter to win a copy of Winter’s Passing and From Dust to Ashes!*
Be sure to catch the video interview with Cindy on Avid Readers of Christian Fiction on Friday, May 8th at 2 PM CT! And make sure to join Avid Readers of Christian Fiction group so you don’t miss any of our other fun author LIVE chats coming up!
More about From Dust to Ashes:
It is 1945, and a group of American soldiers liberate a Nazi concentration camp. Helene is the abandoned wife of an SS guard who has fled to avoid arrest. Overcome by guilt, she begins to help meet the needs of survivors. Throughout the process, she finds her own liberation–from spiritual bondage, sin, and guilt. Readers will be intrigued and touched by this fascinating story of love, faithfulness, and courage amidst one of the darkest chapters of mankind’s history.
More about Winter’s Passing
Some old mysteries can’t stay buried in the past.
In 1941, a young woman faces the firing squad at Mauthausen Concentration Camp with only a lone secret and a deep faith to comfort her.
In the autumn of 2000, Darby Evans hears her grandmother calling the name of a stranger. A deathbed promise sends Darby on a journey across the world and into the secrets of Austria during World War II. The journey is full of twists and turns, shocking revelations, and dangerous people who still seek a missing inheritance.
As Darby seeks answers, her search opens old wounds, awakens new dangers, and just might provide healing and love after six decades of a long winter of sorrow.
Connect with Cindy Coloma
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above