Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Writer's Bucket and Mop List

Do you have as much time as you want to write? I don't. The first thing I want to do when I get up in the morning is write. But there are so many other things to do. Often I don't sit down to do it until nighttime when the dishes are done and the house is quiet.
 Throughout my day I dream of having (in order of preference):
  • a nanny (if I still had kids at home)
  • a maid
  • a cook
  • a secretary
  • a research assistant
  • a dedicated media specialist
  • an errand runner
  • a personal trainer
  • a gardener
  • a dog walker
In other words, I wish I had a wife. Wait, I am a wife!
Make Your Life Your Inspiration
An excellent humorist writer friend of mine once told me about challenges her husband faced at his job. About what was going on with each of her three sons. About her own life and lack of time to get everything done.
But, she said, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. If it weren't for the angst in my family I wouldn't have anything to write about.
I've never forgotten her insight. It's a lesson I cherish every day. If I had too much time to write, my need wouldn't be as urgent. I may not be as motivated. I may not have those few hours of pure bliss to look forward to each day.
Once I did nothing but write. My life became so narrow, it sapped any energy I had once had for my writing projects and soon I ran out of ideas. My page was as blank as my life. Create a proper balance in your life and this effort will take care of everything. What if balance isn't possible? Lopsided is good. As long as you take time out each week to work on your writing projects. Though it sometimes seems impossible, eventually you will finish and go after publishing your work.
Gains and Losses
Since recently finishing my first book, I realize I am teetering on the brink of publishing and marketing it and jumping into my next writing project(s) with both feet. Here is the short version of what has happened to my time while writing the book and a scenario that is sure to continue as I endeavor to reach my future writing goals.
  • The many friends and acquaintances I've made that will surely remain a part of my future.
  • The sharpening of my skills.
  • Learning many new things every day.
  • Staying up late and still getting up early.
  • Enjoying the feeling of joy inside at all that writing has given me.
  • The fun it is to share with others.
  • The feeling of accomplishment at completing such a challenging task as writing a book.
  • Looking forward to writing more books, articles and stories.   
  • Keeping a few other interests alive to strive for less lopsidedness and more balance, especially spending time with my family.
  • How much I've grown from reading and learning about different people and subjects and then the growth that has taken place from writing about them.
  • Emotionally I feel I've grown, too, for it seems that understanding our own emotions and others' emotions is part of writing.
  • Being an entertainer.
  • The sheer fun of having an audience!
  • No more time for sewing or photoscrapbooking.
  • Little time for socializing; having to say no to invitations to join clubs, play bridge, loll around the pool, meet a group of ladies for lunch.
  • Miniscule free time to simply curl up with a good book or watch TV, or do nothing.
  • Everything I do has to have a purpose in order to squeak out time to write.
Live a Life of Gratitude
The list of gains is long, losses is short. Good! Like my humorist friend, I wouldn't trade this life for anything. Let us be grateful for the lives we've been given, which have brought us so willingly to the page over and over again. 
I hope you will leave a comment and let us know how you manage to fit writing into your life.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tips for New Writers; U - Z

U is for unique.

You have a unique voice and writing style. I cannot emphasize this enough.

It is overwhelming to take the first step in the writing world. One click on the internet and you know what I mean. There are hundreds of thousands of writers out there; everything from personal blogs to authors. Are there readers who want what you have to offer? Yes!

Believe in yourself and build on that foundation. There is room for everyone.

V is for voice.

Your writer's voice is your fingerprint; your distinctive writing style. This includes how you arrange your words and sentences, your use of punctuation, character development, and more. 

Teacher and journalist Donald Murray defines voice:
"It is what attracts the reader and communicates to the reader ... voice carries the writer's intensity and glues together the information that the reader needs to know. It is the music in writing that makes the meaning clear."
Once you find your voice you will know it. The words will flow and come naturally and will guide you to the kind of writing you will be successful with.

W is for work.

The old adage, "it's not what you know, it's who you know" wasn't necessarily true for mystery writer, Hester Young.

An email query landed her a three-book deal with G.P. Putnam & Sons in 1 month. But it took her 15 years after writing the book to be published.

In Becoming a Novelist: Five Principles to Success, (Writer's Digest; June 2016) Young says:
"What truly helped me get an agent and a deal were my actions over that fifteen year period." 

Technology has made life quicker and easier in many ways. It's important to remember some things take time and work. When you keep this in your sight, you will not be tempted to give up.

X, Y, Z is for "insert your content here".

What will be the mark you leave on the writing world?

It's up to you!

Image above is courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 


Kathy is a K - 12 subsitute teacher and enjoys writing for magazines. Recently, her story, "One of a Kind", was published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Five Simple Actions to Expand Your Writing World

By W. Terry Whalin

Writers are isolated and just keeping our fingers on the keyboard and producing words is a solitary action that we do alone. I know because even though I'm an editor for a New York publisher, for many years I've written books and magazine articles.

I'm going to detail five simple actions every writer can take to expand their writing world, reach more people and get more of your writing into the hands of others.

First, join a writer's organization. If you write novels, then look for a fiction organization in your genre. If you write nonfiction, then seek a local writer's group. Do more than attend their meetings but volunteer to help them and get connected to other writers.  Do they have critique groups? If so, join the group and if not, start one. For many years, I've been active in the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I've been on the board of this group but also I've been the chairman of a committee. During the member meeting one year in New York City, I had the opportunity to give former President Jimmy Carter a copy of my latest book. While I have no idea if he read the book, I know it was the only book President Carter carried out of the room that day. I would not have had such an opportunity without being a member of the ASJA.

Second, get to a writer's conference. I love attending (and teaching) at conferences. I meet other writers and industry professionals. We exchange business cards and connect with each other on the phone or email after the event. I've received magazine assignments and book deals from these conference connections. Plan to attend a conference, bring plenty of business cards, then follow-up with the people you meet. It will propel your writing life to new levels.

Third, write for print magazines. I understand many writers want to write books yet print magazine editors need your stories. Writing for magazines is great exposure for your writing. It's one of the tried and true ways that editors and literary agents find excellent writers. It can not happen if you aren't writing for magazines. Make a point to pitch magazine editors (query) and read different magazines with an eye to write for the publication. These articles are shorter than books and will reach many more readers than a typical book. With an article, it is easy to reach 100,000 readers where a book might sell 5,000 copies during the lifetime of the book. Also you can practice your storytelling craft on a shorter form than a 50,000 or 100,000 word book project.

Fourth, join an online writers' group. While the face to face contact of a local group is terrific, you can get huge help from a national online group as well. There are writer's forums or groups on places like Goodreads to learn from others as well. With any online group, it is wise to start as a lurker and read the conversations before jumping into the fray. For many years, I've participated in several of these online groups as a writer. I learn a great deal and I'm able to help others through these groups.

Fifth, read how-to write books to keep growing in the craft. Whether you buy these books (and I have purchase many of them) or check them out from your local library, this training is inexpensive. If you take action, you can expand your writing world and propel your career ahead.

Not one of these five actions are complicated or time-consuming. Every writer can take these simple steps. Many will not take action but if you move forward, then you will be ahead of others and succeed in this amazing business.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing (a New York publisher). His writing has appeared in more than 50 magazines and he has written more than 60 books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. He has over 178,000 twitter followers and his blog on The Writing Life has over 1,300 searchable entries.


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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Best Advice: 9 Writing Tips

Over my writing career I've received a lot of advice. Some of it good and some, well, less valuable. Here are the tips that I find myself sharing with others along the way:

  1. Writing: Just start. However you can, whenever you can, just do it. You will not be alone in seeing the blank page and panicking. We've all been there, done that. The first and most important action you can take is to sit down and begin.
  2. Writers' Block: Okay, this tags onto number 1. When you don't know what to write - write about that. I'm not sure where to begin. I could begin with the beginning, but I think it will take too long to then get to the action. Perhaps I should begin with the action like start with a really exciting sword fight. . . Suddenly you will find yourself writing. Put pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard and get started.
  3. Writing What You Know: I heard that a lot when I was first writing, but I really wanted to also write about things I wanted to learn about. A writing friend of mine learned how to harvest wheat by working on a farm in order to add that element to her story. Write what you know and/or what you want to know more about. Your interest and passion for your topic will transfer to the writing and, most importantly, to the reader.
  4. Show Don't Tell: This advice was another I heard often. So the difference between showing and telling? Telling: He was embarrassed. Showing: His ears turned red.
  5. Dialog: Go to the mall, the nearest coffee shop or stand in line and listen to conversations. People talk in short sentences. Conversation is a give and take. It should be no different in your story or novel.
  6. Characters: Everyone is flawed and complex so each of your characters should be as well. Yes, that includes the heroine, the hero and the villain. The heroine and hero will have flaws and the villain may have a gentle side. That is what makes them interesting. 
  7. Surprise the Reader: Every page should contain a surprise for the reader. Okay, what does that mean? Well, a word choice that is a bit different, a decision the reader won't see coming, a plot twist or a metaphor or simile that makes your reader smile. Something that will keep the reader turning the page. 
  8. Read out loud: One of the best ways to edit and find errors is through reading your work out loud. Find a quiet place and go for it. This will also help you to find areas where the dialog sounds stilted, where you've used the same word too close together or used words with the same sounds too close. (Using the same words or sounds is not bad in and of itself, only when it's done because of laziness.)
  9. Read, Read, Read: Writers should also be readers. 
Now what are you waiting for? Get to it.
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                             

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Charging Competitively for Your Work Takes Confidence and Preparation

If you're a freelance writer – or trying to become a freelance writer – how do you know when you're ready to start charging competitively for your work or add specialized writing services to your list of offerings to potential clients?

As a writing coach, I'm asked that question quite often.

Usually my answer is this.

When you start to feel comfortable and confident about the writing you're producing, then you're probably ready to start charging competitively for it.

So how do you become comfortable and confident about your writing?

You read, read, read the kind of writing you wish to do.

Then you practice, practice, practice.

That is, you try to produce some of this same type of work.

It also helps to take at least a few courses in the type of writing you wish to do.

Screenwriting, copywriting, and writing for children, for example, are all specialized forms of writing.

Don't assume you can produce these types of work simply because you like to read sales letters, or you've read dozens of children's books to your own kids, or you love to go to movies.

You need to learn the "tricks of the trade" of each of these types of writing before you'll really know what you're doing.

Some people might even need a grammar refresher course.

I can't tell you the number of times I see writing where a person is referred to as "that" instead of "who" (as in, "She is the person that will take the job" – instead of – "She is the person who will take the job") and these kinds of mistakes stand out, labeling the writer as someone who needs additional training.

You can't know every single thing there is to know about writing before you start charging.

If that were the case, no one would ever get started as a freelance writer.

Still, you can educate yourself to become an expert in the particular genre you wish to write, and you can brush up on your grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills.

It takes time, practice, and study to become good at anything.

Why should writing be any different?

Take the time to study the type of writing you wish to do, then practice, practice, practice.

One day you'll feel confident and comfortable about your work, and you'll just know you're ready to add certain types of specialized writing to your list of offerings.

Try it!

As the Working Writer's Coach, Suzanne Lieurance helps people turn their passion for writing into a lucrative career.

She is founder and Director of the Working Writer's Club (membership is free) and offers tips, articles, and additional resources to other writers every weekday morning in The Morning Nudge (which is also free).

Friday, June 10, 2016

5 Ways to Find a New Idea

I previously shared 5 pursuits to inspire creativity, as well as ways to get unstuck. While you can use activity to find inspiration and breathe life into your projects, sometimes what you really need is a new idea.

Whether you are writing blog posts, prose, or long-form fiction or non-fiction, sometimes you need to go back to basics and find a kernel of an idea to get you started.

Here are 5 places to find ideas, as well as how to use them for non-fiction or fiction.

1. Explore Social media. 
See what's up on your favorite social media pages and groups.

Non-Fiction: Check out which newbies are doing what in your field. Then, reach out to some of these up-and-comers, and see if they would be interested in being interviewed This could turn out to be a profile for your blog, an article to pitch, or a feature that includes several people doing interesting things in your field. 

Fiction: Social media is a great place to seek out character traits, including descriptions, hobbies, and even jobs. Sometimes a great character is all you need for a fabulous story.

2. Read Books. Writers should be readers.

Non-Fiction: Write a list post of books to recommend your readers. Lump books together on a certain theme or topic. Start with ideas that interest you, because, if you get excited about a topic, it's likely your readers will too.

Fiction: Pick a page, a paragraph, and a line in a random book on your shelf. Or go to a library and pick something new. That line is the start of your next story or novel. Okay, this may not work for a long-form project, but when you give yourself the mandate to write at least a few pages about any random thing, it will certainly rev up your creativity.

3. Watch Videos. Dive into someone else's world.

Non-Fiction: Take a topic you've always been curious about or find a person who seems interesting, do a search, and watch some videos. Something within this exploration will make a good topic.

Fiction: This is a great place to people-watch (and find character traits) without leaving the comfort of home. Since this is a visual medium, pay close attention to the way people interact. Look at body language and listen for dialects.

4. Have a Conversation. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven't spoken to in a while. Or else, strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line.

Non-Fiction: You never know what you can discover about someone unless you really pay attention when they speak. This person may have a great lead for a post idea ...or this person may be that great idea!

Fiction: Take someone's story and fictionalize it: minimize or exaggerate it! Have fun with this one. 

5. Make a List. Write a list of anything that has ever piqued your curiosity. 

Non-Fiction: Pick something at random to learn and then write about it. If it's a long-term project, write a monthly update on your progress.

Fiction: Challenge yourself to write a story incorporating no fewer than 20 items on the list. Feeling gutsy? Go for 50.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The more you seek them out, you will see that ideas are everywhere.

Where do you go to find ideas, especially when ideas elude you? Share your recommendations in the comments. 

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. 

She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. 

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Is "I Just Like Them" a Good Reason to Use Ampersands?

Ampersands: Pretty Is as Pretty Does

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I added a new section to the second edition of my The Frugal Editor because ampersands seem to be so popular these days. It’s especially important for editors and those who publish books to both know a little about their history, how to use them, and how Lynn Truss’s of the world might view them.  So, I thought I’d share this excerpt today.
The ampersand is a real pretty little dude but it isn’t a letter nor even a word. It’s a logogram that represents a word. Its history goes back to classical antiquity, but interesting history and being cute are no reason to overuse it in the interest of trying to separate one’s writing from the pack. Better writers should concentrate on the techniques that make a difference rather than gimmicks that distract. Here are some legitimate uses for the ampersand.
  • The Writers Guild of America uses the ampersand to indicate a closer collaboration than and, in other words, to indicate a closer partnership rather than a situation in which one writer is brought in to rewrite or fix the work of another. For those in the know it is a convenient way to subtly indicate that one writer has not been brought in to rewrite of fix the work of another.
  • Newspapers, journals and other choose to use it when they are citing sources. That’s their style choice, not a grammar rule.
  • In similar citing, academia asks that the word and be spelled out.
  • Occasionally the term etc. is abbreviated to &c, though I can see no reason for confusing a reader with this. Etc. is already an abbreviation of et cetera and the ampersand version saves but one letter and isn’t commonly recognized.
  • Ampersands are sometimes used instead of and to distinguish the and is part of a name rather than the typical conjunction used when naming a series of items, though here, too, it feels like a stretch and more confusing than helpful. Wikipedia gives this example: “Rock, pop, rhythm & blues and hip hop.” This also seems like an unnecessary affectation if we would but use the traditional serial comma like this: “Rock, pop, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.”
For a little style guide from the point of view of academia go to https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/. To see a graphic artist’s creative use of the ampersand, one based on the authenticity of its simply being visually attractive,  and go to the back of  multi award-winning The Frugal Editor for a free offer for the readers of that book. It's a gift from Chaz Desimone.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her next book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers will be Getting Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 
The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.