October Platform Challenge

Want to get something done for yourself as a writer? The last month has been a good “goal-setting and getting done” time for me with draft 2 of Souls … and you might have noticed Journal Posts weren’t on my goal list…

October is another goal-setting month with the October Platform Challenge by Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Digest. Each day in October he gives a new command to help writer’s build their platform and it’s not too late for you to join me in conquering his daily challenges.

What’s a platform? The writer’s public presence to their audience.

Day 1’s challenge was: Define Yourself as a Writer. Here’s what I got:

JL Orchard is a copywriting Einstein, trade mag freelance journalist, and precocious fiction writer since age 13. She’s currently paring the pulp from her too-fat, high concept, fantasy before wedging it in the mailboxes of unsuspecting agents. Follow the more stimulating milestones of her journey on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/jlorchard.

Oct 2nd brought this challenge: Set Your Writing Goals. Here’s mine:


  • Complete Draft 2 of my novel by December 1
  • Complete October Platform Challenge
  • Investigate a writer’s sci-fi/fantasy convention to attend
  • Formulate idea for new novel


  • Publish a feature length novel

  • Present proposal for new novel

Day 3 … guess it? Start a blog, and if you already have one, write a post!

I guess if this Platform Challenge kicks me back in gear with keeping up with you guys, then it’s well worth the commitment.

So how about you? Are you ready to dedicate October to building your platform?


Doesn’t take Talent …

2008, I was a buzz-eyed new teen with my first writing victory — third place in The Word Guild’s novice writer competition; my name in the newspaper and this crazy euphoria that in a year I’d be autographing a bestseller, already optioned by New Line to postlude The Lord of the Rings blockbusters.

Simultaneously, then-unpublished mom (Sandra Orchard), was attending The Word Guild’s conference spending my victory winnings on “write-better” books (for me of course), and doing what writers actually do to produce viable works — develop their craft.

Mom (Sandra Orchard), and bestseller, Ted Dekker, at The Word Guild's conference
Mom (Sandra Orchard), and bestseller, Ted Dekker, at The Word Guild’s conference

7 years later, it’s now registration time for The Word Guild’s annual conference. Mom, now a multi-published and multi-award winning author, is in the speaker lineup teaching Fiction Basics 101. And I’m where she was 7 years back — drilling through the “rough” drafts of a hopeful novel, attending conferences, picking wisdom from seasoned writers, and doing what all writers (bestsellers and novices) must never stop doing  — honing their craft.

So get to it. Open up those writing technique books. Read much fiction. Attend conferences like The Word Guild‘s or others. Write. Write. Write.

It doesn’t take talent to be a good writer, it takes understanding of what is good writing.


What your Character Doesn’t Know

What your character doesn’t know … can kill him.

A powerful way to pump suspense into your story is to reveal more to your reader than you do to the character.

Mermaid and sailor, courtesy of and art by Elai Thiessen
Mermaid and sailor, courtesy of and art by Elai Thiessen

In the above image, compliments of my superb and incredible friend, Elai Thiessen, the man in the boat (your story’s protagonist) sees only a mesmerizing woman — he doesn’t see the body of bones clasped in the end of her tail. But we do. We know what’s at stake.


Find your agent in the back of a novel …

Want to find the writing agent that got your favorite book published? Read the acknowledgment page at the back of the novel. Why?

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s often more reliable than a Google search to find the name of a specific author’s agent.

If you’re on the hunt for a writing agent for yourself and trying to decide who to submit to, pick up novels in your genre and flip to the acknowledgements. This is where authors give kudos to their agent, by name — and to their editor, and to who at the publishing house they like best.

Even if it doesn’t lead you to a signed contract, reading the acknowledgement page is a golden way to get a hint at who’s currently hot in the industry, what they’re doing, who they work with or like, and if they could be interested in your genre or style of writing.

Write the names down. Store them up. Google them. Find out if they’re accepting submissions. And if you get chat time with them, let them know you liked their client’s book.

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