What’s New

Are you ready to write your first draft?

Are you ready to start writing your book?

The act of sitting down in front of a blank page takes a certain amount of courage.

It’s a long road with plenty of uncertainty ahead. But you can make a plan to get it done.

This class is for anyone beginning a new book project, whether it’s your first book or your fourteenth, and whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.

I’m going to show you what I do to write a well-structured, well-thought out, and well-written first draft—and all of these techniques work just as well for rewrites. So even if you already have a first draft, or even just a half-start at a new book, and you’re realizing that what you need to do is to start over and approach it from a new direction, using everything you learned in those early attempts—this class is for you.

You can take this class now on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style platform for online classes. This link gives you a free trial.

You might also like the next class in this series: Rewrite, Revise, Revisit.

You can also take my writing classes on Udemy, where you pay per class for only the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled Write Your First Draft with my class on revision, and renamed the whole package Finish Your Book. You can take them both together for one affordable price. Go here to check that out.

A New Approach to Color-Mixing for Artists

 

HERE IT IS! I’ve been promising to do this class on color mixing and the color wheel for a while now, and now it’s done.

You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style membership site where you can take all the classes you want for a monthly subscription. I have over 30 classes on Skillshare. Go here to see the class on Skillshare.

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with my class on painting in sepia and working with values, so you get two classes in one. Go here to see the class on Udemy.

Here’s what it’s about: As an artist, you’re probably familiar with the color wheel, with the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue, and the secondary colors of orange, purple, and green.

But—have you ever looked at a color printer cartridge and noticed that printers don’t use ink in red, yellow, and blue?

Most printed material, including books, newspapers, and magazines, are printed with a different color scheme. This class looks at how the visible light spectrum really works, and explores a new version of the color wheel that was invented over a hundred years ago, but is still mostly ignored by artists.

We’ll look at new ways to mix colors, and explore fresh ideas for building your own palette. I’m going to do my demonstrations in watercolor, but this works in any medium, including gouache, acrylic, or oil paints.

At Last–My Research Class is Here

 

The question I get asked most often is how I do my research. It’s a tricky question to answer–every book is different, every research question is different, every source is different.

But I did my best to boil it down into one half-hour class!

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, reported journalism, essays, or memoir, you’re probably going to have to do some amount of research.

We’ll look at how to use scientific and academic sources, and how to track down experts in any field. We’ll look at historical sources, like old newspapers and archives. We’ll talk about genealogical resources, like Census records and other public documents. I’ll show you how I conduct interviews, and when I hire expert help. I’ll tell you how to spot faulty information and keep it out of your work.

Finally, I’ll teach you to be a skeptic! How do you know what you know? How do you verify your facts?

Whatever kind of writing project you’re embarking on, this class will help you up your research game.

You can take this class now on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style platform for online classes. This link gives you a free trial.

I recommend taking this class along with Organize Your Research in Evernote.

You can also take my writing classes on Udemy, where you pay per class for only the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with my class on using Evernote to keep track of research. Go here to check that out.

Learn All My Evernote Tricks!

 

If you’re about to dive into a big research project, whether it’s for a book, a dissertation, or some other kind of writing project, you’ll be so much better off if you set up a good system for organizing it all before you jump in.

This class will teach you how to keep track of all your research in Evernote. Writers can also use Evernote to brainstorm book ideas, organize a plot, and keep track of ideas for other professional projects, like teaching workshops.

You can take this class now on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style platform for online classes. This link gives you a free trial.

I recommend taking this class along with Research: A Step-by-Step Guide for Authors.

You can also take my writing classes on Udemy, where you pay per class for only the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with my class on doing research. Go here to check that out.

My Favorite Writing Exercise Comes from Southpark

I watch this video at least once a year.

Southpark creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone give this fantastic piece of writing advice about how they put their stories together:  They write up all of their story beats, and make sure that each idea, each moment, each action, can be connected with the words “but” or “therefore.”

If they find they can only connect their ideas by using “and”…well, they’re in trouble.

I can’t tell you how much this has helped me over the years, especially because I’m writing books based on a true story. I know what the events are, I know the order in which they occur. But what I don’t know is WHY everything happened the way it did.

By writing out, and forcing myself to put a “but” or a “therefore” between every scene/beat/action/idea, I start to see cause and effect. Often I move characters around so I can put them at the center of the action, where they belong. I make sure they CAUSE things to happen, or fight AGAINST them.

Basically, it’s another way of thinking about cause and effect.

I even do this late in the process, after the book is written, when I’m deep into revisions. I’ll go back to index cards, summarize every scene on a card, and make sure I can link them with post-its that say BUT or THEREFORE. I always find the holes in my story this way.

Caveat: If you have more than one plot line going, do a different BUT/THEREFORE for each subplot. When you hook the whole thing back together again, there’s just no way around the fact that you’re going to have some MEANWHILEs in there.

Kopp Sisters Collages

 

For a long time, I wasn’t at all interested in making any kind of art that had anything to do with the books I write. I just didn’t have any ideas along those lines. Sometimes my publicist would want me to make some art that could be used in some way for marketing purposes, and I absolutely hated that idea. The last thing I want is for art to become a thing that has deadlines and emails attached to it.I have always wanted art to be the one thing that I do purely for myself.

So that is still very much the case-I did make this because I wanted to-but I still have this weird trepidation about mixing work with pleasure, so to speak.

Anyway, what happened is that I took a collage class that involved painting a little portrait on top of a book page. It occurred to me that most artists who do this are using other peoples’ books, but I can actually use my own book, and bits and pieces from my own research, which I have always found so visually compelling. That makes it really personal. It’s truly a piece of art that no one else could make.

And it was interesting to paint Constance for the first time, especially since I don’t really do a lot of portraits. I have written seven books about her, but it was still a totally different experience to bring her to life in paint.

Laid-Back Lettering

If you want to add more artistic, colorful, dramatic lettering to your sketchbooks, journals, and artwork, but you don’t want to put in the hours it takes to really perfect a hand-lettering style, I made this class just for you!

I love all the beautiful brush pen and modern calligraphy styles I see all over Instagram, but filling out practice sheets and trying to learn upstrokes and downstrokes felt too much like work for me.

So I developed an approach to lettering that I could do without a ton of practice, using more or less my own handwriting and the art supplies I already carry with me.

In this class, I’ll show you how to work with pencil, pen, marker, and watercolor to create visually interesting letters using the same approach to drawing and painting you already use in your art.

I’ll work from examples of the styles I like to use, that fit my personality and my artwork, but I’ll also show you how to find the styles that work for your tastes and interests.

This class is available on Skillshare now! Skillshare is a membership platform like Netflix where you can take all the classes you want to for a low monthly subscription. If you’re not already a member, you can get a free trial with this link.

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the courses you want to take. Here’s the link to see the class on Udemy.

Painting Doors and Windows with Ink and Watercolor

My new class is live on Skillshare! Go here to preview the class, and this link also gives you a free trial on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to check out everything they have to offer.

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you just pay for the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this one with another travel sketching class also set in Mexico. Go here to see this class on Udemy.

One of my favorite subjects to paint is old painted doors. They have so much character and they really tell the story of the place.

There are a few challenges that are particular to drawing and painting doors, including:

  • Getting the proportions right
  • Conveying a sense of depth
  • Figuring out a way to depict faded paint and crumbling stone without overworking everything
  • Including just enough of the elements that surround the door without taking away from your main focus

In this class I’ll show you how I approach my paintings of doors.

We’ll go step by step, starting in pencil, then moving on to ink and finally watercolor. I also add a few highlights with white acrylic paint pens.

I’ll give you a few of my own photographs of doors for you to work from, but I hope you’ll go through your photographs from your own travels and paint a door that you fell in love with during your own travels.

Create Your Own Book Video

It’s here! I’ve created a step-by-step guide for authors who want to make high-quality videos about their books. The class is live on Skillshare now. Skillshare is a Netflix-style membership site where subscribers can take as many classes as they want to. This link will give you a free trial to access to all the classes Skillshare has to offer.  

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. Go here to see the class on Udemy.

As the author of over a dozen books, both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve found that book videos can be useful at every stage of the publishing process, including:

Pre-publication marketing meetings with the publisher
Press kits and media pitches
Marketing to bookstores and libraries
Lining up speaking engagements
Reaching readers and book clubs
Promoting backlist titles years after publication
Fortunately, the technology is so easy that anyone with an iPad or other tablet or smartphone can shoot a high-quality video, add photos or video footage, make simple edits, and publish to online platforms.

This class walks through every step of the process that I use to make videos to promote my books. I’ll show you all the equipment and free software I use, and walk you through every step of the process I use.

For those of you who have different equipment and software, I’ll suggest alternatives. The basic concepts are the same no matter what you use to make your video.

This class will also work for anyone who wants to make a talking head-style video interspersed with photos and video clips on any subject at all, but my examples are all going to be specific to book videos.

Watercolor Cocktail Class

Ink Your Drink! A new class on painting cocktails

 

When Andy Warhol worked in advertising in the 1950s, he used an ink transfer technique to make charming images of shoes, cats, and other objects that he then hand-colored with watercolor.

I’m taking his method and applying it to an ever-popular subject, cocktails!

To find out more about the class, and to get a free trial on Skillshare, use this link. Skillshare is a membership-style platform like Netflix where you can take all the classes you want for one low monthly fee.

I’m also teaching this class on Udemy, where you can pay just for the classes you want to take. Also, I added a bunch of bonus material to the Udemy version, featuring Paul Klee’s oil paint resist method, and some ideas about using wax crayons for resist techniques! Go here to see this class on Udemy.

These techniques are really entertaining and inventive ways to approach any subject you want to paint—not just cocktails but florals, animals, and anything that inspires you.

With these methods, you can make paintings in series, create greeting cards or party invitations, make placeholders or gift tags, or create beautiful wall art that is truly unique.

Because we’ll be tracing in this class, no drawing experience is necessary, and we’re going to be splashing watercolor around in a loose, expressive way. There is truly no experience required. This class is for everyone!