#30Skills30Days Challenge

First, I’d like to apologize for taking nearly three months to write a new blog post. That’s just bad blogger behavior. In the meantime, I’ve lined up lots of new content to share with you over the next few days, months and year. One of those ideas is to create a challenge for myself (and you) called #30Skills30Days. Yes, I will force myself to learn thirty new skills over the next thirty days.

Now these are not skills that require days of research to learn and do them. These are skills that will take one day to learn about them and then commit to actually using what I learned sometime in the near future.

I divided the skills I want to learn into four categories: cooking, life/general, professional development and creative skills. Some categories might have more skills listed than others. That’s because I want to apply the skills I learn in those categories in my everyday life.

In my professional career, I want to stay current on cutting edge technology and thought leadership to remain relevant. In my writing career, the skills I want to learn are a combination of craft and interesting things I can use to develop my characters. For example, one of my characters likes to collect gems and precious stones because her hobby is jewelry making, so I’ve added jewelry making to my creative skills list.

You can do your own #30Skills30Days challenge too. You don’t have to use my categories or even use categories at all. Focus on learning some skills in a short amount of time and commit to doing them in the future. That’s all. Here are some things to think about before you make that list.

Cost: When I did my research, I found that the cheapest way to learn some of these skills is to buy a book, but I’m much more of a visual learner, so I’m taking online courses or video-on-demand lectures like the ones I found on Lynda.com or Writer’s Digest University.  I added up the potential cost of all of my proposed skills learning activities and, with the exception of cooking, each category added up to be between $30-50.

Time commitment:  Realistically, I don’t think I’ll be able to do all of these skills in 30 days’ time, but I can promise you that I will sit down and learn the skill. Even if I don’t try to implement what I learned immediately, I can still share my experience and offer some best practices or lessons learned.

Rating: No, I’m not rating how valuable each skill learning activity is, I’m rating how easy the skill is to learn in one day (in most cases, just a few hours).  The rating range is from 1 – 5 (1 = easy, 2 = somewhat easy, 3 = moderate, 4 = difficult, 5= not possible).  It’s important to know this rating so that you can decide if it’s a skill you want to add to your own list.

Without further ado, here is my #30Skills30Days list.

Creative Skills

  1. Master writing novel openings
  2. Learn how to write good action scenes
  3. Short stories: write and submit
  4. Fundamentals of poetry writing
  5. Weapons: from medieval to modern and beyond
  6. Formatting a manuscript for e-books
  7. Video game writing and design
  8. Jewelry making
  9. Screenplay writing
  10. Submission packages from query letters to book proposals

If time permits…

  1. Writing horror: write and submit a short story
  2. Learn to write an epic war scene


  1. Recipe: Kabsa (Middle Eastern dish)
  2. Kuromame (sweet beans, Japanese dish)
  3. Peruvian chicken
  4. Pork shogayaki (Japanese dish)
  5. Slow cooker salsa verde chicken (Latin American dish)

Life Skills

  1. Meditation
  2. Homiletics: the art of preaching or writing sermons
  3. Gardening 101
  4. T25 exercise
  5. Stargazing/Astronomy

Professional Development Skills

  1. Tech Tool: Prezi
  2. iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS8
  3. Tech Tool: Storify
  4. Become a grammar and punctuation master
  5. Project management simplified
  6. Tech Tool: Creative GoPro photography and video techniques
  7. Web analytics fundamentals
  8. Adobe Captivate 8
  9. Grant writing for education
  10. Tech tool: Periscope and Meerkat

If time permits…

  1. Infographics and data visualization
  2. Online production for writers and editors

Looking back on a year of growth

NYE image

As I sit here thinking about the year 2015 creeping up on me, I look back on the year that was and smile. Yes, it was a challenging year. I finally completed my school requirements at the Seton Hill University for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and I can look forward to graduation next month.

The year, school-wise, has been an interesting one. I switched from one mentor to the next. I reset my writing goals and I was determined to unravel the plot holes that had been plaguing my story, Worlds Apart, for the past year or so. Finally, I had an epiphany when I revised the entire thesis novel in a second draft with my new mentor. It was as if I had forced myself to hone in on the thing in one sitting in one weekend and think about my manuscript as if I were a reader (instead of just the writer). I could see more clearly why I wouldn’t want to follow or care about certain characters if I were the reader. It was so painful to cut scenes and chunks of the book away, but after I did it, I felt liberated to finally write the story that I needed to write. Not only that, but my story grew to be 85,000 words, still within bounds of YA though.

Another opportunity for growth came when I got my feedback from my mentor about what needed to be changed throughout the entire manuscript before turning in the final version for a grade. She could see where I had made changes to the characters and that I had added in the layers of details and exposition that were needed to make the story easier to follow.

There’s still more work to do before I submit the story to agents early next year, but I feel confident that I have the story planned out through all three books and that I wouldn’t be stuck anymore. With that said, I’m already 10,000 words into the second book in the Worlds Apart series as we speak, thanks to participating in the NaNoWrimo writing contest in November. While I didn’t win it to make it to 50,000 words, I still feel like I spent a lot of time working through the plot of the entire second book. I feel more confident about where the story is going and when I sit down at the computer, I know exactly where I want to go with it.

So, that’s just my example of how I’ve grown this year. What’s yours? Do you plan to write your first novel in 2015? Will you try your hand at poetry? Just try, whatever you decide to do. You never know where life will take you and how much you’ll grow in the process.