Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts

Published Writers Must Be Pitching


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The magazine business changes constantly—as other elements within publishing. Editors change. The focus of a publication changes. The types of articles that they take changes. Themes for a magazine develop over a period of time and even what an editor takes and rejects changes.  If the editors don’t know what they want to achieve or do with the magazine (occasionally true), imagine how it confuses the people who are trying to write for them. At times it feels like a pure shot in the dark—but you have to continue taking the shot if you want to be published.
 
There are several realities to mention here. Nothing gets published if it’s only in your head or in your computer or in a file folder. It’s only when you send it into the marketplace that you have an opportunity for something to transpire.
 
Many years ago I was writing query letters about a little article on Listening Through the Bible. I targeted the idea for January issues of the magazine (perfect because people make resolutions and are looking for a new idea, etc.).  I learned if you listen to the Bible 20 minutes a day, you can make it through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation in four months. It’s an amazing—and true fact. The tape recording of the Bible simply keeps on going where you would get stalled—like in 2 Chronicles in the genealogy section.
My query letter on Listening Through the Bible was soundly rejected—all over the place. I crafted the query letter, targeted it to appropriate publications and received rejection after rejection. I didn’t think I was going to be able to write this particular article on assignment (which comes from writing the one-page query letter).
 
One day I received a phone call from a magazine editor. She was brand new at that magazine and had taken the helm of this publication (editor-in-chief type of role). Her initial words were apologetic about going through old query letters. (In fact, the publication had already rejected my idea and returned my SASE with the form rejection). This editor loved my Listening Through the Bible idea.  Then she asked, “Can you write 500 words on this topic by _____ a specific date a few weeks away?” Instantly I agreed. The article was published and reprinted numerous times. (In fact, I need to pull out that reprint and get it back into the market. As a former magazine editor, I know the editors are looking for content for their January 2021 issues).
 
Hope springs eternal for writers — who are in the marketplace of ideas. Jump in the water with excellent writing. The water is fine.
 
Are you pitching editors at magazines? What are some of your stumbling blocks as a writer? Let me know in the comments and I look forward to helping you.
 
Tweetable:

It's a simple truth: Published Writers Must Be Pitching. Get the details from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers. His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers

Where To Find Writing Ideas


By W. Terry Whalin


Often writers wonder, “Where do you find good ideas?”
The operative word in this sentence is “good.” Years ago, Guideposts contributing editor Elizabeth Sherrill told me, “Writers are swimming in a sea of ideas.” 

One of the best places to find good ideas is through focused reading. You can read magazine articles or books or the newspaper. Through the reading process, you can just absorb information and not come up with a single idea for your writing.

Or you can take a more focused approach and ask questions like:

—Where would you like for your writing to appear? 

—Who is the audience that reads that type of writing?

—Can I write what this audience is wanting to read?

With some answers to these questions, your reading can be more productive. I would encourage you to keep a notebook with your ideas.

As you read newspaper articles and think about what you want to write, cut out the clippings and tuck them into your notebook. It will only take a minute but these clippings can stir your writing.
Your writing can go in a million different directions. If you need some ideas in this area, check out the first chapter in my Jumpstart Your Publishing DreamsThe chapter is FREE so use this link.

Now that you have a list of ideas, what are you doing to take action on them? 

—Are you creating book ideas into a proposal format and properly pitching them to agents or editors? 

—Are you writing short query letters and getting them out to magazine editors and getting assignments?

—Are you writing full length magazine articles and sending them to editors on speculation that they will be a perfect fit for the magazine and get published?

These questions are not mutually exclusive. You can take the same idea and write a magazine article and a book pitch from it. There are several keys: focus on a particular market and audience. You need to understand the potential reader and write with that reader in mind. Then move on your ideas and pitch them to a specific professional.

Here's the wrong way to begin your pitch—and I recently received one of these pitches:

“To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing in regards to gaining information and feedback on my story. At this point, I am not an established writer, or even a writer for that matter. I simply have an amazing life story to tell.”

Yes, I've actually quoted this email—but what followed was pages and pages of cathartic rambling writing—not for any target—just a cry for help. I don't know how many of these emails this author fired into her email (maybe a few or maybe many of them). I expect most people hit the button to throw it into the trash without giving it a second thought. Many of my editor and agent friends receive hundreds of these pitches each day. 

I could have ignored this email too—but I did not. I wrote the author and asked who was the target audience and was it a magazine article or a book pitch or what—and encouraged the author with several free resources that I've created to help answer those questions. The email in my view was a cry for help. Unfortunately many people are floundering in this situation.

This writer claims not to be a writer. If that is the case, this person needs to reach out into the marketplace and find someone to help her. Maybe go to a writer's forum (there are hundreds of them) and ask for help. There is not one path but many different paths (and this is confusing to many people. Each path involves taking specific action.

Many people feel overwhelmed with publishing and like they have few opportunities—yet if you look closely at what they are doing, they are not taking action and trying different possibilities. 

What steps are you taking today to make your reading more focused and targeted? How are you capturing your ideas and taking specific steps to move forward and get those ideas into the marketplace? Let me know in the comments below. 

Tweetable:

Ideas are everywhere. How to you find good ones? Get help here. (Click to Tweet)

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W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.  He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers.
 

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Shake it Up: A Creative Writing Activity


Are you itching to start a new project? Want to work on something different? Stuck in a rut? Shake things up.

Here's a fun exercise that will get you out of your normal writing routine and will hopefully help you embark on a fun, creative journey.

 Take a piece of paper and write out at least 50 possibilities. Anything goes. This can range from story ideas, genres, and formats to marketing initiatives (create a contest, start a newsletter, plan an event) and social media options (go live on Facebook, post a quote graphic, update your LinkedIn).

Note: If you prefer, you can type up your list - double-spaced - and print it out.

Now, cut these out into individual strips. Put them in a hat or box. Then, when you have some downtime or scheduled writing time, "shake it up," and choose one. Whatever you choose, you must do.

Here are a few optional rules/variations:

1. You have the option to put the first item back, but you have to do the second thing you pick. And then next three times, you are not allowed to choose an alternate.

2. Divide your ideas into different boxes, based on the amount of time the activity will take, and choose based on your schedule.

3. Separate them into different boxes. One for ideas and another for formats. Pick one from each box, and then you have to write whatever idea you pick into whichever format. For instance, if you choose "blue" and "social media post," you must find a way to write a post on that topic, however you interpret blue. Could be the color or emotion. It's up to you.

No matter what you are working on as your primary project, it never hurts to explore a different genre or format. You never know where new ideas may lead! Good luck and have fun.

What items are going on your list? How do you plan to shake things up? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast and the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

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.


Goal Setting: It’s Not About Ideas – It’s About Making Ideas Happen


“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” —Scott Belsky

We’re into the second quarter of this year. It’s time to think about where you’ve been and where you’re heading. It’s time for ideas.

According to Business Dictionary, an idea is “a thought or collection of thoughts that generate in the mind.”

They’re usually derived from intent, but they can also be unintentional.

Ideas are the foundation of all advancements. And, they’re at the foundation and growth of your business.

While ideas may be the initiating force behind success, they’re powerless without action.

Action is the implementation of an idea. Action is taking deliberate steps toward an end. Action is what makes dreams a reality.

So, how do you turn an idea into an actionable plan?

Four basic steps you will need to take to get started.

1. Create a plan.

First: Take that idea and actually write it down, don’t just type in your laptop or computer, actually write down what you’re idea or goal is. Then you can put it in your computer.

This idea should be considered your long term objective.

Second: Divide your long term goal into short term goals with actionable steps you can take to reach your objective.

Suppose your objective is to boost your social media marketing in order to build a large and loyal following with conversion potential. Divide that into sub-categories. They may be:

• Two to three social media channels to devote more time and effort into
• Who will handle this strategy (if you’re a solopreneur, it’ll be you)
• Time to be allotted to this new strategy
• Budget for this new strategy
• Create user engagement and connections
• Actionable steps needed to accomplish this new goal

Why write your goals and action steps down?

According to an article in Entrepreneur.com, “Warren Buffett has described writing as a key way of refining his thoughts.” And, “Richard Branson once said, ‘my most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook,’ which he uses for regular writing.” (1)

Along with this, another article, 5 Reasons Why You Should Commit Your Goals to Writing, explains, “Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.” (2)

Writing goals down takes more thought than typing away. This makes you more conscious of what your goals are. It adds, if you will, emphasis to what you want.

So, it’s easy to understand that writing your ideas / goals down is a key to fulfilling your goals.

Finally, keep your goals and action steps front and center. You need to see them daily (throughout the day) as a reminder of your intent.

TIP: Make sure your action steps are realistic and doable. Nothing will squash your motivation and efforts more than not being able to fulfill your action steps.

2. Implement your plan.

Your goal and actionable steps are on paper and in your computer. Now it’s time to actually take action. Follow through and post more to the social media channels. Engage with other users by Retweeting, Following, Liking, Sharing, and so on. Take all the actions you’ve listed in your plan.

3. Keep it up – persevere.

Whatever action steps you do, do them wholeheartedly and regularly. Don’t give up because you don’t quickly see results. Give it time to determine if the steps you’re taking are the right ones for you and your business.

4. Analysis and Revise.

While you do need to give your actions time to generate positive results, you also need to test what you’re doing.

Determine what’s working and what’s not. Then revise your plan accordingly.

Don’t waste time on efforts that aren’t working. Try a different approach or marketing strategy.

Your time and effort will be much more productive if you regularly test your results.

There you have it, four basic steps to creating and implementing a business plan. Take the time to write your ideas / goals down and create and implement actionable steps to help you achieve them.

~~~~~
References:

(1) http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234712
(2) http://michaelhyatt.com/5-reasons-why-you-should-commit-your-goals-to-writing.html

~~~~~
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Travel for Writing Inspiration

Dívčí Kámen, Czech Republic
Great inspiration for my current historic novel
All photos by Melinda Brasher
Many people resolve every year to travel more.  It's not just fun, interesting, and mind-broadening.  It also provides grist for your writing mill.  Article writers, of course, already know this.  But you can also find a wealth of inspiration for your fiction.  Here are some tips to use travel to enrich your writing.

1)  Steal from History.  This isn't only for historical fiction or academic articles.  History--told well--is one long story.  Visit museums, read informational plaques, take walking tours.  You'll find fascinating details of history's crazy characters and its dark and bright moments.  Take elements from here and there and twist them into your own story.  When I was in Znojmo, Czech Republic, the history of the catacombs there fascinated me.  I later incorporated them--in my own style, with many details changed--into my novel, Far-Knowing.

Volunteering at a village school in Guatemala
Seeing different ways of life is good for my writing.
2)  Meet People.  Talk to locals in trains, shops, and restaurants.  Get their stories.  See things through their eyes.  Stay in hostels and meet international travellers with backgrounds and experiences enough to fill hundreds of novels.  If you have time, organize a volunteer vacation to really interact with people.  Of course, you don't want to violate anyone's privacy or steal entire life stories, but let people's tales serve as the seeds of your own work.  On a train to Budapest, I met two Brits who told me a story about having to get off a train once in the middle of nowhere and walk to the nearest station with all the other passengers.  And that's what happens in "On the Train to Warsaw," my first published short story.  All the details and the internal conflict are my own, but I still owe the external conflict to those friendly travellers.

Hah!  The perfect place to drop my poor miserable characters
3)  Explore Nature.  Get out there in the elements, especially in climates and landscapes you're not used to.  Pay attention to the plants, the smells, the feel of it all.  Then plunk your characters down in the harshness or beauty or crazy variety of nature you've discovered and see what they do.  One scene from the novel I'm working on now came from my own scary experience in a Slovakian forest.

4)  Visit Libraries.  Depending on where you travel, libraries may serve as cultural or historic centers.  If you speak the language, ask for their local section of books and see what you find.  In El Salvador once, tired of "sights," I spent the morning in the library, reading local folktales.  One inspired me to write "A Learned Man."

Znojmo, Czech Republic
Which served as inspiration for a setting
 in my novel, Far-Knowing
5)  Imagine your Characters at the Sights you See.  While you're strolling the grounds of a castle or taking in the hum of a modern metropolis, imagine characters there with you.  What kind of people are they?  What are they doing here? How do they react to what they see?  What do they want that they can't have?  What problems lurk for them around the corner?

Record it!
Whenever you travel, carry a little notebook with you to write down these ideas and story kernels.  Then, even if you don't use something right away, you can go back to this idea bank for later inspiration.  Good travels!




Melinda Brasher loves to travel and has filled numerous notebooks with the things she sees on her journeys.  She's also lived abroad in Spain, Poland, Mexico, and the Czech Republic.  To read some of the work inspired by her travels, click the links above or check out Leaving Home, a collection of travel narratives and short stories, many of which were written on buses up mountain roads, in foreign town squares, or sitting in castle windows.  Visit her online at www.melindabrasher.com

Use Freewriting to Find Peace & Balance in Your Writing -- and in Your Life!

by Dallas Woodburn

Where did the summer go?? I just can’t believe it’s already August. The fall semester of teaching starts up for me again in just two weeks. It seems like I can close my eyes and it is the beginning of summer again, when the fireflies were just starting to appear and a long path of sunny days stretched out before me. What happened?? Where did it all go?

Do you ever get those same feelings? It floors me how quickly time passes! Sometimes it feels like time is a river rushing past me so fast and I’m sitting there in a little boat, struggling to get a grip on the oars, not even enjoying the beautiful scenery flowing past. It makes me feel overwhelmed and frustrated, like I’m wasting or not appreciating enough the most precious commodity we all are gifted with: time.

I am also guilty of something I’ve come to think of in myself as productivititus: trying to fit waaaaaay to much into my daily to-do list, and then feeling like a failure when I don’t accomplish everything I’ve set out to do. This is not a good habit because I don’t want my summer, or my life, to be nothing but a giant to-do list of tasks I’m checking off. As my idol John Wooden often said, the most important words in the English language are love and balance. Work is important, but so is time for play! Balance, balance, balance is so crucial.

Something that is helpful to me when I am feeling off-balance, especially by the incredibly fast-flowing river of time, is to go to a  quiet corner of the room and spend a few minutes freewriting.

I always use freewriting in the creative writing courses I teach to help students break through writer’s block. However, I think freewriting is something that can benefit everyone! It is such a great tool for not just writing, but also your mental health, sense of empowerment, and overall happiness.

Here’s how freewriting works: set a timer for a certain amount of time — I’ve found 8 minutes works well because it’s not too long or too short — and start writing. The only rule is that you cannot stop until the timer dings! It is a tool to keep you from self-editing or second-guessing or worrying that what you are writing is not “good” enough. Instead, just let the writing pour out of you. You will find yourself tapping into your subconscious, which can help you unlock all sorts of dreams and ideas and even solve problems that are nagging you. For me, freewriting is a way to re-find my center of balance. It unclutters my mind and makes me feel at peace.

You don’t need a fancy journal or expensive pen to freewrite. All you need is a blank piece of paper — even scrap paper works! Some people like to freewrite on the computer, which is certainly all right. I personally enjoy using a pen and paper because it makes the writing feel more open and less intimidating somehow — more unharnessed. Something that is just for me.

Here are some freewriting topics I’ve been using lately as jumping-off points:
- My favorite memory I made this summer was …
- Three things I am grateful for in this moment are …
- I will wring out every last drop of fun from my last couple weeks of summer by …

What are your plans for these final weeks of summer? Does anyone else use freewriting as a way to alleviate stress and find balance? Any other tips or suggestions for slowing down the pace of life and savoring the time we are blessed with?

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review. Many of her short stories are compiled online here.


More Plot Possibilities...


Writer’s block? Try one of these:


·      Change of scenery: write a scene that takes place at: a park, the beach, the forest, the country fair, a theme park, the mountains, a relative’s house…
·      A Big Contest/Big Game/Big Prize is announced. Your character wants to enter, or maybe is convinced to enter by someone else…
·      Your character goes swimming.
·      Your character is called into the boss’s office. (Or, if writing a children's book, the principal's office.)
·      A stranger asks your character to do him/her a favor.
·      Your character sees someone in trouble.
·      Someone your character knows is in the news. Who? Why? What is your character’s reaction?
·      A fire breaks out. Or an earthquake. Or a tornado.
·      Your character sees a ghost.
·      Someone has been reading your character’s private journal/diary.
·      Someone breaks into your character’s house. Why? Do they steal anything?
·      Your character gets caught red-handed.
·      Your character does something he/she knows he/she’s not supposed to do.
·      Your character tells a lie.
·      What is the very worst thing that could happen to your character right now? Make that happen! How is your character going to get out of it??

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.

Plot Possibilities...


Writer’s block? Try one of these:

·      Your character gets a phone call that changes everything.
·      There is a car accident.
·      A secret is revealed.
·      The weather changes.
·      The power goes out.
·      Someone picks a fight with your character.
·      Your character gets his/her fortune read, or even just breaks open a fortune cookie. What does it say? What is your character’s reaction?
·      A shiver runs down your character’s spine. He/she has a bad feeling…
·      The car breaks down/runs out of gas/pops a tire.
·      Your character is out of milk.
·      Your character is allergic to ________ and, unbeknownst to him/her, has been exposed to exactly the thing he/she is allergic to.
·      An animal enters the story.
·      Your character receives a mysterious postcard/letter in the mail/email.
·      Your character’s best friend suddenly stops speaking to him/her for no apparent reason.
·      Your character's significant other, brother, sister, mother, father, or someone else close to them says, “I have something I've been meaning to tell you…”
·      A new person moves in next door.
·      Your character is invited to _______. Does he/she want to go?
·      Bring in a holiday, any holiday.
·      “Someone, call 911!!”

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.



How to Sell Your Book in Bulk

  by Suzanne Lieurance Did you know that studies have shown that most self-published authors sell fewer than 200 copies of their book?   Tha...