Monday, December 29, 2008

 

A Day's Dose of Real World Musing

When I dabbled as a writer when I had a few minutes to get away from studying, I never thought my non-academic writing was any good; now, as I write more as a hobby and a way to foster my competitive nature with contests, I see a lot of growth in a relatively short amount of time. I thought, for today, I would share some of my “musings” and see what your experiences have been with this transition in your own work.

My procrastinating-mode end products were flat and boring poems and short stories, even when they did have some really amazing lines or ideas loosely defined behind what I will crudely define as “verbal vomit” as clichéd as that phrase likely is. When the short stories were required in grade school, forget it; I'd write the first idea coming into my head that I thought no one else would, didn't provide enough of a sketch or development, and threw on hackneyed conclusions! I seriously don't know what any of my teachers saw in them. Academically, a lot of my grades were stellar, the longer and more technical writing, the better, but I could never break out of the notion of writing in my free time, because English classes were so boring growing up!

How things have changed. As I mature, experience life and its obstacles, I have somehow opened that element my writing lacked. In one of my first posts on this blog in the fall, I wrote about how we all can be someone else's muse, but now, I realize, it's more than a person, or even, a situation...

It is both the plot development in real time and the emotion encapsulated in the free sequence of thought or theme, no matter how unique (or how universal) it is in our lives. We live life, so then in turn, we can use it. As a pragmatist, I was never really in tune with my emotions or cognizant of how they could make art; I could appreciate it in literary critiques I wrote, but I couldn’t apply or follow through.

While all of this additional material requires more editing and revising (i.e., having to go back and add a paragraph, or go through line editing when I realize a better arrangement), it is finally allowing my short story or poem to thoroughly unfurl itself, not come out as too brief or lacking development. I'm already hearing on FanStory and Fieldreport the pros and cons to this art form in my novice attempts, along with a lot of praise and reflection from others. Adding the dimensions I now see in life rectifies the flaw my writing had outside of academia before. I never gave the artistic exposure and emotional development to my creative writing assignments growing up what they really needed: a foundation. This is to be a little less hard on myself, a foundation life needed to twist and turn and grow up a bit for me (the writer), and now, my audiences to see, especially in recent times.

Maybe I'm slow to grasp this. How have you noticed a change in your writing over time? Or, was all of this something already serving you well as a writer before?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

 

Re-Inventing the Wheel



Did you ever feel like you were on this huge wheel and didn't know how to get off of it? Well, life keeps turning us in different directions and sometimes we have to just go with it.

I have to admit that for a while now, I have been feeling overwhelmed with everything that I have been doing over the course of the last year. First our big move to Texas, then trying to get our business going. Of course that has filled up a huge portion of my life.

Renovations set it and it was, eat, sleep, scrape, paint, sand, clean, dust, go to part time job, go back to shop, start working on renovations again. That took us four months to accomplish.

Next the exciting world of opening our doors. At first I wasn't sure what to expect, not knowing how our new clientele would accept us and bring us into their lives as a new place for them to meet friends and hang out. As many of you probably know by now, my husband and I own our own tea and coffee house called "The Sweet Stop" you are more than welcome to look at our website it is http://www.txsweetstop.com, but I'm not hear to boast about that. It is doing okay, we see new customers each day and our hopes build up more and more that it will be a success.

No, what I am writing about today actually is about everything that goes on in general in our lives. So many of us writers get carried away with other things that we do forget about adding in our appointment to write or when we get started we have to stop because something else has come up. I have faced this so many times I can't even count.

Lately, I grab every free minute I possibly can to write. First thing in the morning, when I have down time here at the shop, which is where I have been writing 90% of my time, even in the car at a stop light, in a small note book if I come up with an idea, I write.

Next, I started wanting to add in some of my crafts and trying to figure out a good balance for it all. Which I have to admit, hasn't been easy until 6 days ago, believe it or not. I got to thinking about everything I wanted to do. I also thought about the number of personas that I am, a mother, business owner, writer, artist, crafter. How could I do it all the way I want to?

So I looked at the time that I had available to me during the day, I wondered where could I squeeze everything in. Was it possible to do everything that I have been wanting to each day? The answer of course was yes and no. I needed to sleep to give my body a chance to recoop after each day so there was at least eight hours that I couldn't use. It was already taken. Then I looked at when I was going to bed and the time I was getting up. Typically that was 8pm and up by 5:30am. giving me a good nine and a half hours. A bit longer than I truly needed. I wasn't sure if I could handle getting up a couple hours earlier and then attempting to still continue with a normal day at the shop. So what do we do if we want to be scientific, we experiment.

So I decided that the next morning, I would get up an hour and a half earlier to see if I could be productive and acomplish things that I wanted to or needed to. I have to admit I dreaded this experiment. I thought about how I would feel, what I was going to do to start my day, if I was going to set up a normal routine. Many people of course have to have a normal routine where the same things are performed at the same time every day, if not, it throws them off some how. Well, not me. I'm weird that way I guess, not sure if it is a curse or a gift but, heck I'm gonna use it while I can.

There was a little recruitment on my part of the kids, they need to be a little more active in things around the house, of course this is still work in progress. I know that once I get them going, it will work out a lot better for all of us.

Let me tell you re-inventing the wheel isn't easy but it has been entertaining. Since hubby gets up at 3am to head to the shop and start the baking process I figured that 3:30am when he was getting dressed was a good time to get moving a little bit. You know the initial I don't wannas and stick at least one toe out of the covers to see how cold it is. I do that at around 3:30 now. Which helps to get me moving a bit and well, gives me a chance to be a little lazy. By 4am, hubby left our home to begin his journey to our shop, I proceeded to sit up in bed, turn on a light, grab my lap top and start my day by writing my first of at least 2 articles for the day. First I did a bit of research on each of the topics, then wrote my articles. I figured that later on in the day, I could get them edited before submitting them. Once my articles were written, I hopped out of the covers and started my "normal" routine of getting ready for work. I realized that I still had plenty of time before I needed to be to the shop, so I added in some things that I wanted to get done around our home and figured from there I would be motivated to try another project and see where I could fit it into my schedule. The project painting. I had been wanting to finish a painting that I had been working on for over a month, so what better way than to take it to work with me and have it loom back at me screaming at me to add to it. This worked. After getting the shop opened tending to our first rush of customers, I added to the painting. In between customers coming to visit us, I added a little bit every couple of hours. When I got to the point where I didn't know what else I wanted to add, it was time to move on to other things that needed to be accomplished, this of course was straightening up the store, cleaning and of course editing the 2 articles that I had written. Feeling the "I don't wannas" starting to set in, I kept telling myself; "Live for the NOW." I wondered why I thought that, but then shrugged it off and went on about the things I needed to accomplish. Mind you it only took me a few minutes to accomplish the necessary cleaning and straightening and then it was time to edit my articles. This of course always takes time. But, I managed to get it done and get the articles submitted.

I felt so accomplished. I couldn't believe the relief that I felt, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt that I could now set forth to conquer the world.

I have realized that we spend so much time doing things that we don't want to do, that we forget about what we truly want to do and feel guilty about doing the things we want to do. Well, we shouldn't. We each need to re-evaluate our days, find ways of well not only doing more but, making sure we take time for ourselves as well.

Which, I am happy to say I have managed to fit into my day as well, this of course takes place in the evening. My time to relax takes place after dinner, we spend time with our sons, finding out how their days have been, helping them with any projects, then it is our time. I will either read a book, watch a movie (typically don't finish because I fall to sleep) or take a nice warm bath to help me relax more. Works great I must admit.

There are still plenty of tweeks that still have to be worked out and in, but I must say that I am enjoying this experiment and finding new ways of making sure that I can live each day to the fullest and fullfill my dreams. Plus keeping everyone else in the family happy.

Today, I have written one article, plus my BLOG, I have managed to clean my bedroom, bathroom, do the laundry and start on my kitchen all before 7am. I also managed to work on my book a bit and now I am off to work on my second painting. And don't be shocked but, its not even 9am yet.

If you are wondering where I have found the energy for all of this, I have to admit that along the way in this experiment, I have lost over 30 pounds. Because I am up on my feet moving more not only at work, but also around our home, this has helped signifcantly, I don't sit still for long and when I do, it is because I am on a roll with my writing. No, I didn't change my diet much, I have added more fresh fruit and veggies into it and well, heck I enjoy food, so I eat what I want. Mind you this has gotten me into trouble with the doctors, but, hey, I'm happy.

I hope that if you are trying to make changes in your life and re-inventing your wheel, you are able to find ways to relax as well, it is very important that you do take time out to do NOTHING, if possible. You will benefit more than you realize.

Happy Writing everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

 

Tantalizing Titles, Bodacious Book Covers, and Marvelous Marketing

by LuAnn Schindler

As a writer, you want readers to focus their attention on your book when they are perusing choices in bookstores and libraries. A tantalizing title, bodacious book cover, and marvelous marketing campaign certainly help sales!

A title that recently caught my attention features this oxymoron: Good Christian Bitches by Dallas native Kim Gatlin. (Brown Books, 2008)

As a writer, I appreciate a good oxymoron. The contradiction of terms catches the reader's attention and arouses curiosity. And Gatlin's novel certainly piques my curiosity.

Which came first: the title of this juicy chick lit tale or the storyline? In Gatlin's case, the title.

The author says that while going through a divorce, she talked to a friend about some of the comments people from her community were making about her and her situation.

"I was shocked that some women in the community couldn't wait to tell my story and ad lib some of it they weren't sure about," says Gatlin. "I told her I was floored and appalled by some of the behavior of these good Christian women. My friend turned and said, 'You mean good Christian bitches.' I busted out laughing."

And a title was born.

Gatlin says that in her book, vicious gossip and the ladies who spread the words undermine the main character's life, and she knew she needed a title that would intrigue readers.

"I knew I couldn't name it Good Christian Sinners. It would sit on the shelf, and people who need to read it won't read it," stresses Gatlin. "The term identifies that kind of behavior, kind of like the 'bridezilla' label explains how a bride might act."

Gatlin reports that she's only received a couple negative comments about her debut novel's title, and she believes that those negative remarks came from people who just didn't get what the book is about.

"One thing I've noticed is that the book and its title have made the nasty people nastier and the lovely people lovelier. Some people make assumptions of what it's about. Most people laugh because most understand the concept immediately," remarks Gatlin.

The book's cover certainly draws attention; it even received a mention in Newsweek and buzz in Hollywood. Gatlin reports that in her corner of the world - the greater Dallas metro area - some women dress like the woman on the cover.

"I've dressed like that. I have friends, Christian women, who dress like that: the big crosses, the big cleavage. It's not all about who they are, but they will wear outfits like it on occasion."

The original cover design was dark with red letters and red lipstick. Gatlin feels it had too sinister of look and sent it back to the drawing board for a makeover.

"I wanted it to be lighter, funnier, prettier. I went with the pink tones, the blonde woman with the diamond cross pendant and earrings, and the raised foil lettering." The clever cover draws as much speculation about the storyline as the title. And that, Gatlin says, will draw interest.

The font on the cover features a heavenly script of gold and silver with symbols of the good (halo) and evil (devil's fork). The choice of font is significant because it resembles heavily artistic fonts used in church documents during the Renaissance. It adds one more hook in the total marketing package.

Remove the book jacket and find one more marketing tool: the novel resembles a hymnal.

Gatlin says that the final product incorporates her intent as an author and embraces her vision for taking a light-hearted look at the frailty of human nature by addressing gossip and rumors.

"You can't lead a campaign for Christ and a hate campaign about someone else at the same time," says Gatlin.

Reading, talking about literature, and generating a reaction through discussion is what reading is all about. Gatlin says that when you use a topic people can relate to as the basis of a novel, people are going to talk about it.

"At the end of the day, I don't care who you are or how beloved you are, you've been gossiped about one time or other or you've gossiped about someone."

True. And you can also title a book with a juicy oxymoron and add a sizzling hot book jacket to generate buzz and sales.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

 

Five's the Charm

By Jill Earl

While checking out Erika Dreifus' Practicing Writing blog a couple of days ago, I came across an interesting exercise, which you may have seen out on the blogosphere. Called an exercise in fives, it’s easy and can be used to get your creativity going. I've listed my responses to two of topics that particularly reasonated with me below:

What were you doing five years ago (December 2003)?
1. Working as an employment & training counselor with a county agency providing outplacement services for displaced steel workers
2. Packing for a missions conference in Illinois
3. Experiencing my first Christmas with my first tree.
4. Working as a voice artist, writer and editor for an Internet radio drama
5. Looking forward to holiday vacation time

What are five jobs you've had?
1. See #1 under ‘What were you doing five years ago?’
2. Kennel and bird technician at a pet store
3. Staff writer at a media production company
4. Orientation program assistant at a local university
5. Reading tutor

Five years doesn't seem that long ago, and it really isn't, but I was amazed that I had forgotten some of the things I did back then. And while working at the pet store, I was reminded of the adventures I had with the animals there. Puppies and hamsters and parrots, oh my!

To see the rest of the list, and see how others answered, here's the link to the post:
<http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com/2008/12/tagged-on-tuesday.html#links>

Give it a try. Who knows, you might discover a story or article idea hidden among your memories!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

 

Best 100 Novels According to Time Magazine

Time Magazine published a list of the best 100 novels. Two Time critics, Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo, picked the 100-best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. Here's the process that they used, straight from the website (where you can find the complete list. ):

Lacayo writes:
"For the books project, Grossman and I each began by drawing up inventories of our nominees. Once we traded notes, it turned out that more than 80 of our separately chosen titles matched. (Even some of the less well-known ones, like At-Swim Two Birds.) We decided then that we would more or less divide the remaining slots between us. That would allow each of us to include books that the other might not have chosen. Or might not even have read. (Ubik? What's an Ubik?) And that would extend the list into places where mere agreement wouldn't take it."

It is pretty amazing that more than 80 of their books matched when they first compared their lists. But what I'm happy to report is that I have read several of these books on the list, loved them and enjoyed them, and have talked about them with friends and family members. Sometimes, it seems like critics don't agree with regular people. :)

Books such as:
  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Judy Blume wrote an outstanding book for middle -grade readers that is still used to help girls get through puberty today!
  • Native Son by Richard Wright. This book made me really think about my views on the death penalty (which I am not sharing here, of course). I remember discussing it in American literature class in college to this day.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--oh, to have a one-hit wonder like that!

Of course, there are some books on the list that I had to read in high school or college that I didn't enjoy, and I don't like. But I understand that other people love them or they are considered classics or they paved the way for other authors to write their great works. I won't name those books here, which I don't think are great, since I always try to be positive! :) But check out the list, and see for yourself what you think.

And as fellow writers, we can all hope that in another fifty or so years, one of our books will make a new list!

Happy writing, reading, and holidays!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

Read These Books and Use Them: a blog about using children's books

Monday, December 22, 2008

 

Santa Baby for Writers

by Cathy Hall


(Baboom, baboom, baboom, baboom)

Santa Baby,

Just slip a contract under the tree

For me

Been an awful good girl,

Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.



Santa Baby, with five or maybe six figures, too,

Will do.

I’ll wait up for you, dear.

Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.



Think of all the stuff I’ve missed.

Think of the rejection I’ve already risked.

I may have to get a job,

If you don’t check my Christmas list.



Santa baby, I want a book of my very own

Alone

No anthologies will do.

Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.



Santa Cutie, and fill my stocking with an agent

Heav’n-sent.

An angel editor, too.

Santa Cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.



Come and trim my Christmas tree

With sparkly web promotion, just for me.

I really believe I’m good enough.

Let’s see if you are good enough, too.



Santa Baby, forgot to mention one little thing,

A ring.

Oprah on the phone for me.

Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Hurry down the chimney

Tonight.

---------

To find out what she's doing, other than begging Santa for a book contract, visit her blog, Cathy C.'s Hall of Fame . Her web site is www.cathy-c-hall.com.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

 

On Gremlins, Making Mistakes, and Compassion

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Oh, how easy it is to make a mistake. Oh how easy it is not to see it in your own material—even if you are a great editor of others' material.

Often times the mistake involves a word that is spelled differently but pronounced the same. And often the author does know the difference between the spelling of the two. It's just those gremlins that The Frugal Editor is making famous get to us. Maybe we're typing too fast or maybe our brains are in another zone or... but the gremlins will get us—both you and me. Here's an example of how one got me.

I try to take a poetry class once a year. Because I'm an instructor, UCLA Extension Writers' Program gives me one class a year at no charge. It's one of the perks they offer and a great way for them to be sure that their instructors continue to get educated—and at least one of us (me) needs it. So I finished the first draft of my poem. Checked it (well, OK, checked it perfunctorily). I printed out copies so everyone in class would have a critique copy. Stuck the copies into my tote marked "Poetry," and took off for class. Couldn't be late!

When it was my turn to share my poem for critique, I passed out the copies and began to read. There (in the title!) was the word "peer." I meant "pier."

"Oh, gawd," I said. "Make that "pier, p-i-e-r." It was especially awful for me because I am an editor and because I wrote The Frugal Editor. Fine example I had set. What would my classmates think of my abilities? Could I possibly do anything worse to undermine my own credibility?

But here is the most important part. Everyone just nodded and chortled. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to editors, to teachers, to university instructors, to plain-old-everyday writers. The gremlins can hit at any time for any reason.

I thought maybe you'd like to see the poem. Here it is (with the spelling right!):

Death by Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier

From her seat in the gondola. A woman
who might be me, watches roller

bladers with supple bones and toddlers with careless
balloons Far, far down on the pier. She opens

the doors—mini saloon doors of purple—or
she crawls over acrylic barriers. Either way

she hesitates a moment. The lurch
of the wheel as it stops at the top finishes

the job. No scream. Even the plane floating
a campaign trail of plastic behind it, silent. Soundless

waves, too, that far up. She floats as if posing
for her close-up, delicate fingers, poised toes,

her red sunhat a Frisbee against
sky of pulled taffy clouds on blue.

Sea like scallops of Alençon lace below,
sand stretched away toward the Palisades,

the smell of sugary churros her last sensation.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson ©

By the way. I didn't flunk my class, either.

The lesson here, Aesop fashion, is that because the gremlins are always at work, people will make mistakes. It will happen to you and it will happen to me. Best not get critical and point fingers. Your day is nigh!

-------

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits fiction and poetry, is an instructor for UCLA Extension Writers' Program and the author of The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is edits a newsletter the includes tips galore on everything from editing to branding. Subscribe by sending an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to hojonews@aol.com. Learn more at www.howtodoitfrugally.com. Click on the Newsletter and Blog tab at the top of the home page.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

 

Bored? Create Characters



There have been a number of times when I have actually gotten a little bored when I'm writing. I know that it is hard to stomach but its true. I am sure there have been a few times that each of you have felt it too. Come on admit it. You love to write, but there are times, when you are bored with say the subject you are having to write about or you are having problems with a current story line.

I know that there have been articles written on WOW! about characters and that we all have our own way of doing things to create our characters, but, it is nice to know that we can think of them in a new light.

Take time out from what you are writing and let your creative juices flow in a new way. Create some characters.

When you are creating your character remember its not always human aspects, you can create a talking purple people eater, or how about a mouse that likes to talk on the phone, or how about that pink elephant that shows himself once in a while when you had one to many martinis or that lovely cold medicine that has hit you so hard.

Set yourself up with a notebook that you can keep your characters in. If you get one of the divided ones it works great. You can then organize your characters a little bit by well let's see, people female or male or how about a section on animals, monsters, a new creature that you created, what about an object that you have created into a character for example a button.

An easy way to begin, look around the room you are in. Do you see something that you could imagine coming to life? How about the pen you are holding or the computer you are typing on.

There do you see it, right in front of you, your first character to begin with. Your computer. Boom! All of the sudden he jumps into your life. What color eyes does he have on his screened face? Did hair suddenly grow out of the top of the monitor? What color is it? Does he have a mouth? What about a nose?

We have so many things that we can do to create our characters it is scary, yet amazing.

I have talked to a few people who actually like to sit and draw a character before they put them into writing. They like to see the character come to life. Or then there is another person that will build a character out of polymer clay adding all the colors of what they may be wearing, the hair, eyes, nose, mouth. Then create a name and so forth.

We all have our own special techniques however it is nice to get ideas from other writers and artists about how they create characters as well. This gives us a way to incorporate additional information that we may be missing for our characters.

I have found some very helpful charts on the web that have helped me build my characters. Below, you will find some of the links I hope that they will help you as well.

http://www.charlottedillon.com/CharacterChart.html
http://www.essortment.com/all/characterswriti_rxgl.htm

Clare Dunkle breaks it down a bit and gives you information. She makes some valid points on her site.

http://www.claredunkle.com/Design/writecharacters.htm

There is even software available to help you create your characters if you wish to go this route. However, this software isn't cheap. It will cost you $90.00 and that's before they slap you with the shipping costs. You can check it out at: http://www.characterpro.com/characterpro/index.html .

You will find a lot of information out there on creating characters or ways to create them. You will be amazed and maybe even get a good giggle out of some of the ingenious ways that characters come to life from.

Do you have any sites that you use? How do you organize your characters? Do you have a special book or binder that you keep them in? Have you ever drawn out a character?

I am really curious to see how everyone might perceive this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

 

Something's Got to Go!

As the year comes to an end, we all seem to be making goals for ourselves as is evident in the last few posts on the WOW blog. I am no exception. While I'm thinking about the ways to improve, the challenges to try next, and setting the goals for next year, I'm also wondering what to do with the old, on my afternoon off from work thanks to the snow and sleet getting the roads all nice and messy...

After all, as one suggested recently, just like with leftovers (thanks Jill!), sometimes we need to purge our old writing notes etc. That is not as much of a problem for me, as most of that has been done before and many are converted to computer format. However, I am such a hoarder of the written word by others. I had myself down to only two bookshelves, but this year, I added, not subtracted, and in volume. Clearly, my academic books and reference ones stay, but what all could I do to make the best use of the old?

The same goes for the years' worth of National Geographic type magazines. How do these go to best use and not ultimately a waste bin? I found something clever to do with some of the repeat maps: the best gift wrapping I have ever done in my life! However, while I hate the idea of splitting up sets of anything, I also hate the idea of moving all of these magazines someday to a new house or apartment.

I'm leaning towards community yard sales where someone else collects and sells, and the profits go to a charity. Another option is finding a school or library to take them, but I'm finding less taking them. What types of things do you all do or consider doing to help de-clutter your reading materials each year once you have read, savored, and enjoyed as much of the material as you think you will ever in your lifetime? Also, what types of practices do you have to keep the chaos under control?

After all, I have figured out the new budgeting of time (thanks Marcia!), new projects for the new year, and also, set some writing-related goals, as I'm finding my niche in a hobby. I just need some insight on how to put some gently used/almost new stuff that we writing/reading types tend to accumulate into the hands of those who can easily benefit the most from them. Suggestions?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

 

Title Practice

by LuAnn Schindler

Sometimes, coming up with a clever title can be a daunting task. For a straight news story, an inventive title can come across as corny, or in some instances, misleading. Feature stories and personal profiles may draw a reader in with a witty title splashed above the story. But still, there are times when the obvious lead-in fails to pop into my mind.

Once, I wrote about the local economic development group that gave each graduating high school senior a mailbox with the hopes that one day, they would return to this county and establish a residence. I can't even remember what pitiful title I submitted to my editor. I imagine he gasped in horror and thought, 'Well, she's having a stressful day. Better luck next time.'

To my delight, the headline combined my editor's brilliance with a short overview of the article and said 'You've Got Mail: Seniors Receive Gift for Future Use." It worked, and my story and headline received supportive comments.

Since then, I've practiced sharpening my headline writing skills. First, I'll read newspaper or magazine articles and then rewrite the headline. I've discovered that it makes me look at each word I use and make sure it counts.

Another game I enjoy playing is to create headlines or titles about my life. I'll use these categories:
  • Personality profile
  • Sports feature
  • Business feature
  • YA novel
  • Historical fiction
  • Reality show
  • Chick Flick
  • Documentary
  • Poetry
  • Science Fiction

Add your own categories and work on fine-tuning your headline and title writing skills. You'll be amazed at how this stretches your creativity!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

 

Tiny Chunks of Time

At this time of year, your calendar is probably booked with extra chores. So where does that leave your writing life?

Don't worry! You can keep it alive and kicking by using the nooks and crannies of your day. "Even tiny chunks of time, reclaimed, can add up to the hours necessary to write," says David Fryxell, author of How to Write Fast (While Writing Well).

Here are a few inspiring examples from his book:

*The French Chancellor D'Aguesseau, it's said, once noticed that his wife was habitually ten minutes late coming down to dinner. He decided to make use of those ten minutes (3,650 minutes a year, or more than sixty hours). We he waited for dinner, D'Aguesseau wrote a three-volume book, which became a bestseller when it was published in 1668.

*Anthony Trollope spent most of his life working as a postal clerk, but he would get up at five o'clock each morning and write 3,000 words in the three hours before beginning with the mail. If Trollope finished penning a novel before it was time to go to work—and he finished nearly fifty books this way—he'd simply begin another.

*More recently, the British crime novelist Michael Gilbert managed to craft twenty-three books during his daily fifty-minute commute to his "real job" as a solicitor.


Your situation may be different from the men in these examples, but I'll bet you can find a way to adjust one of the scenarios to fit your life. Grabbing small parts of your day, whether ten minutes or an hour, can be enough time to make good things happen with your writing.

--Marcia Peterson

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

 

Got Writing Leftovers? Clean Out the Fridge!

By Jill Earl

A couple of days ago, I got rid of the past-their-prime leftovers in my fridge that needed to be trashed. I’m doing the same with my writing space, files, and library. It’s been a slow, somewhat overwhelming process. Then I found inspiration through an article called, ‘Cleaning the Freelance Fridge’.

Written by freelancer Beth Bartlett, the article offers tips on how to perform a major cleanup of your writing files by checking to see if those forgotten manuscripts, dog-eared notes and cluttered folders can be reused or permanently disposed of to make room for new files.

For instance, under the ‘Freshen it up’ heading, Ms. Bartlett suggests examining old research to see if it can be revamped for a new article or story you may be working on. I’ve got a short piece about a neighbor’s dog that needs reworking, so it’s getting pulled from the recesses of that draft folder on my laptop.

The ‘Toss it out’ heading is pretty self-explanatory. If, after following Ms. Bartlett’s suggestions on revamping your files, you find the material truly unsalvageable, it may be better to let go and start fresh.

This packrat hears and will obey. I’m determined not to bring this year’s clutter into 2009. It really is so much easier to find what I need when my writing files are orderly!

Want more? Check the rest of article here: http://www.writingfordollars.com/2008/VOL12NUM49.cfm

Deal with your literary leftovers—by cleaning out your freelance fridge.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

 

New to WOW!: Email Archives

We get asked this a lot: Where can I find your email newsletter archives?

Well, you couldn't find them before, but thanks to a new feature with Constant Contact, we are now able to archive all of our past emails! So if there's a certain email you're looking for and perhaps deleted it, or you signed up after the date it was sent, you can now find most of them archived here. Enjoy!

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Is Spelling Important?

I just did an interview with an editor, Cindy Eaton, at Canyouproofthis.com for WOW!, and you can see the full interview here. In the interview, she said one of the first things that a writer can do before turning work over to anyone is running her document through spell-check. When I read her answer, I thought how simple. But a lot of writers must not do this, or she wouldn't have mentioned it. (By the way, I just ran this through spell-check, so I hope it is okay!)

Also, we all know that spell-check will not catch all our mistakes. If we meant to write "meet," and we wrote "met," then it won't be caught because "met" is not spelled wrong. I have heard of a trick to catch these kinds of misspellings. Read your work backwards one sentence at a time. Then your brain will not fill in what you THINK you wrote.

Here is a fun little quiz that was sent to me by a writer friend. Take it and see how you do. It is about the 25 most commonly misspelled words. My writer friend got only 12 right, and she was surprised at herself. I have to admit that I haven't taken it yet. I'm scared! :) Here's the link:

http://www.businesswriting.com/tests/commonmisspelled.html

So, is spelling important? Of course! It is one of the reasons editors will reject a manuscript before they even get past the first page. Do you have any tips for catching what spell-check doesn't?

Happy writing and spelling!
Margo
www.margodill.com
blog: http://margodill.com/blog/

Sunday, December 14, 2008

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Writer


I vividly remember the day I proclaimed to the world that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. Being no more than three feet tall with a mouth full of bubblegum, I had composed my first poem and man it was good! And ever since that day, I just KNEW, all the way down to my Kangaroo tennis shoes, that I was destined to be a writer. Look out Beverly Cleary, here comes ME!

So let's fast forward about 25 years ahead to today. Sure, I have a few more poems written (ah, what a broken heart can do for the portfolio, eh?), and a collection of clips from my tryst with a small town newspaper, but other than my personal journals and blogs, I really haven't done a lot to live up to my promise to the world made so many years ago. (And by the way world, why aren't you asking where I've been?) So, lately I've had to really ask myself why this is. If I am indeed a writer, why on Earth am I not, you know, writing?

There are a couple reasons that stand out, including fear. Despite the fact I've been told I'm wonderful with words, I just don't see it (and I'm still paying off the bill for that Lasik surgery). But what I discovered recently is that maybe, just maybe, I haven't been focusing on the right type of writing for me. I was under the assumption that all writing was created equal and if I was writing, well then, I'm supposed to be happy! Somewhere along the line, my original Sweet Pickles dreams became ones of fame and being on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, I'm not saying it's impossible (my goodness, have you read some of those on that coveted list? Not always literary masterpieces, my friend), but the problem became one of me chasing a goal rather than living the process.

I began exploring different types of writing and still thought the way to my writing heart was to have a byline. Glossy magazines, perhaps? Nah. How about trade magazines? Goodness no. These are wonderful types of writing for some folks but really, it's just not me. So really, what then?

More exploring. More journaling. More bad poetry (thankfully, I never aspired to be another Maya Angelou). I saw several writing doors right in front of me still and just didn't know which one was the door for me to walk through. Then, I went to a women's writing group and after just one meeting with them, I realized what sort of writing I was to be doing (sure beats the co-pay for a weekly therapist and you get good feedback, too!). I'd been whittling away at a book with writing exercises for quite sometime, took it to the group, and realized that the most fun I had was when I took on the voice of that little girl running around in pink Kangaroos and a mouth full of Bazooka Bubblegum. I'd let my Beverly Cleary dreams be eclipsed by notions of Oprah's Book Club.

So, you see, I've been concentrating for all these years about what I'd be when I grew up, but in fact it was in me when I was just three feet tall.

Have you put your voice in the corner for a permanent time out? Maybe it's time you let her come back out to play.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

 

Peer Review 2.0

I admit that I'm not like a lot of you out there. Writing is an avocation or hobby of sorts for me as I still continue to wait on full-time job applications. That said, however, I'm always looking for as many learning experiences and conversations with other writers as possible.

This week, another WOW'er introduced me to FanStory (http://www.fanstory.com/). We all know I am a fan of worldwide collaboration on LinkedIn from a previous post. However, LinkedIn is more of a networking site. My colleague this time around got me into contest mode. While I am of the lucky duck variety with contests, I suspected this would be another vacuum so to speak, where I'd push submit and not hear much back. However, I quickly found my way around, and was both inspired and impressed.

Consequently, I am getting read and getting the feedback I most desire, and much more rapidly and with a more thoroughness than any of the contests I have had experience. In a website where you can choose to reserve a spot in a competition which intrigues you, and when you can “buy” your way up the rankings list for a short amount of time to get more reviewers reading your entries, I have to admit, I have learned more this week about myself and about writing than anything I have tried so far.

In fact, I believe that I made my way into Peer Review 2.0 as I'll call it and duly acknowledge the writings of Thomas L. Friedman who talks about globalization with similar numbers in The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World Is Flat. Peer review 2.0 is this idea that not only am I submitting my entries electronically and receiving instantaneous feedback, but I'm also being introduced to both a contest forum and a marketplace of ideas, craft secrets, and other works - benefitting the author and the reviewer, as well as future audiences with a leveling effect where celebrities, wealthy writers, and just thoroughly talented individuals all have tools at their disposal; even if you buy your way up, it is only short-term; you can get the same number of reviewers if you have talent and if you put in some elbow grease writing a lot of reviews to get your name out there.

What is most enjoyable about Peer Review 2.0 is that you can reward your reviewers! I've seen this happen time and again as I proffer suggestions, and I reciprocate when I feel the reviewer just added to my toolkit with some insight.

In a true spirit of a contest, for once, there is a way for this road to be crossed both ways in the fullest extent. Not only does the writer/reader, author/reviewer get to interact and continually revise, brainstorm, shoot off ideas, and have a better work out of it, but no stone is left unturned. The Internet has, in my opinion, added another global destination to the writing contest with a site such as this.

So, thanks again for introducing me further into the writing world and global community. Now, if only I could manage to not spend so much of my time on FanStory...but I look it this way, then I get to learn more of the dynamics of the competitive writing world and learn about what I need to improve my skill set. Feel free to join me and I hope you all learn as much and enjoy yourself as much as I have!

Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Random House, Inc.-Anchor Books, 2000.

Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

 

Essentials for Cold Weather Writing

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful...and since we have no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

When the weather gets cold, I become somewhat of a bear. All I want to do is hibernate! Admittedly, it’s not very cold where I live in California, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but it still gets down to 40 degrees at night, which is cold for me. All I want to do is snuggle under the covers in bed with some hot cocoa and watch the tube. This would be okay if I had a laptop, but I don’t, so I have to trudge downstairs to my office and try to get motivated.

To beat the cold and get more writing done, I employ a few necessary items:

1. Coffee maker with a timer.

Right when I get up I want to be able to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee to get me going. This is especially important in the winter because my kitchen is so cold! I live in a loft with wide open space and concrete floors...so you can imagine. Having the coffee ready for me saves a few extra minutes normally spent standing on kitchen tile.

I may be in need of an upgrade though. I’ve had the same coffee maker forever, and it’s starting to lose its punch. Now they have all these super fast brewing digital-techie ones that are very reasonable in price, especially if you use them as much as I do. I found this one by Cuisinart that’s received really good ratings on both Amazon and Consumer Reports.
(Cuisinart DCC-1200 12-Cup Brew Central Coffeemaker - $72.94)

2. Space heater.

Luckily my office is carpeted and fairly small, so having a little digital space heater with controlled temperature settings at my feet keeps my tootsies warm. I have a couple of these in rooms where I can use the extra heat. The ones I have are the older versions of the one I picked out on your left. They’re super quiet and come with a fan if you want the heat blown directly on you. You can set the temperature and it’ll maintain that level for you. I love that this one is energy efficient! You know how costly those electric bills can be in the winter.
(Holmes Energy-Efficient Heater Fan - $29.94)

3. Faux fur blanket.

If it works for the Eskimos...

I love my faux fur blanket! I keep it in my office to cover my legs or wrap it around my chair and shoulders.

You can find these anywhere, but here are some cute ones from Pottery Barn. These are on sale right now for $99, but you can certainly find them for less at many other places, like JC Penny or Target.

4. Knitted scarves.

There is one thing about the cold weather I truly enjoy--being able to wear uber-cute hand-knitted scarves. The bright colors add a dash of style and warmth to your drab winter ensemble. And who says I can’t look cute even if I’m just sitting behind my computer writing?

There are so many great places to find these gems, but if you’re looking for something special, check out etsy. Individual crafters hand-make the products and most of them are one-of-a-kind. The one in the picture is a delicious pumpkin cable twist scarf made by the seller bombshellstudios.

5. Hot teas.

Drinking hot tea throughout the day will help heat your inner core and add a pinch of spice to your writing. You can find great wonderful blends at Special Teas or Adagio Teas. Some interesting teas to consider for the holidays are: candy apple, candy cane, chestnut, cranberry, gingerbread, and pumpkin spice. I personally love traditional teas like earl grey, green tea, jasmine, and oolong tea.

6. Body butter for dry winter skin.

My skin tends to dry up and get itchy during the cold winter months--it’s enough to drive you nuts! So having the right lotion or body balm will help sooth your nerves while writing. One of my very favorite products is Camille Beckman’s line of glycerin lotions. The body butter and hand therapy lotions are my favorite in French vanilla. It seriously smells like fresh baked cookies. It’s so good. It contains glycerin, vitamin E, aloe vera, wheat protein, almond oil and plant extracts. To this day, I still haven’t found a lotion quite as good. It helps sooth and protects my skin against harsh elements and stops the itching so I can concentrate. Visit Camille Beckman Online.

Other necessities include:

Layers! Hoodies, fuzzy slippers, beanies, and gloves with the fingertips cut off for typing.

Exercise. Get out from behind the computer screen and move around. Get your heart pumping and your circulation will follow. If I’m working on a project for the long haul, I make sure I get up at least every hour from the computer and run upstairs, do some quick housework, or take a walk. Good for the body and mind. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

Crock pot cooking. Fill your crock pot with all the yummy ingredients you have to create stews. It’s easy cooking and smells wonderful.

Candles. I love to burn candles in my office to create a soothing atmosphere. They also help warm up those cold fingertips. Pick spicy scents for the winter months and citrus-y scents to get you motivated.

I hope these tips will help you break out from hibernation and get back to writing. They are probably something you’re doing already, but it’s a good reminder, and lets you know you are not alone! Cold weather writing can be dreary and seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make it fun. I’d love to know what motivates you to write during the cold weather, or what products and goodies you use to keep warm.

Do you have some tips you can share? Your comments are welcome ;)

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

 

Some Words on Writing for DOLLARS!

By Jill Earl

When I finally decided to step into the writing life, one of the first writing newsletters I signed up for was Dan Case's ‘Writing for DOLLARS!’. Gotta love its focus on helping you to make money with your writing, but there’s much more. Allow me to list a few of the benefits appearing in each issue.

First is the weekly feature article covering an aspect of the craft, written by pros such as Shaunna Privratsky, Jennifer Brown Banks and Patricia Fry. Recent topics included column writing pros and cons, letters of introduction how-tos and quiz writing. The Article Database offers over a decade’s worth of articles you can browse by subject or author.

Then there are the 18 markets included in each weekly issue, ranging from high to low pay. Click on the link to the free Guidelines Database to perform your own market search.

Want to replenish your writing library? Check the list of the top-selling books from AWOCBooks.com or click through the link to browse other titles.

And when you want to keep things light, visit Chicken Writer and her buddies as Pig or Owl Advisor dole out punny advice or Mule works his way through haiku.

For a closer look, go here: http://www.writingfordollars.com. As a bonus, you can download the free ebook, 83 Ways to Make Money Writing after you subscribe.

Writing for DOLLARS! Making the business of writing a little more pleasant. And profitable.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

 

The Copycat Experiment

by LuAnn Schindler

In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery's character William Forrester encourages protege Jamal Wallace to develop his own writing voice. When Jamal appears stuck, Forrester hands him a book and instructs the young writer to copy some of those lines until his own ideas take over and he creates a new story.

When I taught high school English ( in a heavily writing-based classroom), I encouraged students to do the same thing. If we were discovering the art of the personal essay, I distributed copies of Bob Green's Be True To Your School or Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Sometimes it was the work of Anne Sexton, Mark Twain, Judy Blume or Shakespeare that I placed before them, hoping they would connect with the work.

We would read sections from the works and discuss the strengths of the writing. Then I would give students a snippet from a work, have them copy it, and build a story based on those opening lines.

Students created new characters or established new settings for these works, but the important lesson they learned was that if you removed the original snippet, there was a new, unique story which they had developed.

You can do the same thing. Ever notice that you like a certain author's books? Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. Sure, I aspire to write heart-touching stories like hers. But do my words resemble hers exactly? No, and even though I can learn a lot about technique from reading her novels, or any book for that matter, I am the master of my own voice.

But you can use your favorite author's works to develop your writing skills. Have an idea for a character but not sure how or where this character fits? Insert her into one of your favorite reads and see how she develops. You'll be surprised by how many ideas for character development will take root from this type of exercise.

In Open Your Heart with Writing, Neil Rosen discusses the pros of the copycat experiment. Rosen suggests taking a well-known TV series and move it to a new location. "When you combine research and your own original ideas to create a new location, it is interesting to see the influence it has on changing the dynamics of a story," writes Rosen.

I think about the number of Shakespearean spoofs available from play script companies. These authors take the Bard's words and characters and give the storyline a fresh twist. Kids enjoy the modern tales and relate to the updated content. Plus, whether they admit it or not, they've just been exposed to classic stories.

Using the works of great authors to build or sharpen your writing skills can improve your technique. By living Forrester's example and words, you will create a piece that others might someday use as an example:
"You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head.
The first key to writing is . . . to write, not to think!"
Open Your Heart with Writing by Neil Rosen. Copyright 2007. DreamTime Publishing

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Monday, December 08, 2008

 

Monday Motivator: Bird by Bird

Looking through some of my writing books, I picked up an old favorite: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Many of you are familiar with this national bestseller, which is filled with helpful, funny and sometimes provocative advice. Here are just a few of the sections I highlighted in my copy:


"A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up."

***

"Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can't—and, in fact, you're not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing."

***

"Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naïve enough to get it all down on paper."

***

"In the beginning, when you're first starting out, there are a million reasons not to write, to give up. That is why it is of extreme importance to make a commitment to finishing sections and stories, to driving through to the finish. The discouraging voices will hound you—'This is all piffle,' they will say, and they may be right. What you are doing may just be practice. But this is how you are going to get better, and there is no pointing practicing if you don't finish."

***

"Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more."


--MP

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

 

Writing Through Holiday Business

Look at how you've been spending your days in December so far. Have you been shopping? Sending cards? Wrapping gifts and attending parties? Most likely yes, you've been preparing for the holiday season. But what about your writing? Have you been writing?

I am realistic, and I know the holidays only come once a year, and there's a lot to be done. But you will not be happy as a writer if you only write 11 out of 12 months each year. Here are a couple writing exercises to go with your holiday spirit and to keep you writing during all the holiday craze.

What does your character want for the holidays?
You are probably busy filling out your wish lists and buying items off lists for your family members. A great writing exercise to get to know your main character better (or even your antagonist better) is to make a Christmas list for her or him. What is your protagonist's top item on her list? Why? What else would she want? This is one of those writing exercises that can be done while you are waiting in line with your holiday purchases, and it will bring you much insight into your character.

Write a letter to Santa.
Take this exercise one step further and write to Santa (whether or not your character even celebrates Christmas.) I've always heard this advice--if you are having trouble finding your character's authentic voice, step outside your novel or short story and write a few journal entries in the character's voice. Writing to Santa is very similar. How would your character start the letter? Would it be full of accusations, greed, hope, desire, or joy? Have fun with it. When is the last time you actually wrote a letter to Santa? Now, you and your character have a chance.

Plan a holiday party at your character's home.
If your main character or even your villain are planning a holiday party, who would they invite and why? What kind of food would they serve? How much money would they spend? You can really delve deep into your character's motivations when she is planning a party.

Remember. . . if you don't have time in December to sit down and write an entire chapter of your novel or a new short story, don't fret. Use one or all of these writing exercises to get to know your characters better. This will make the writing easier once the holidays are over, and you are back in front of your computer!

Happy Writing!
Margo L. Dill
www.margodill.com
Read These Books and Use Them (blog about children's books)




Friday, December 05, 2008

 

Friday Speak Out: Keep At It! Guest Post by Michelle Hickman

Keep At It!

By Michelle Hickman

The house is quiet. The nephews are in bed. My niece has had her bottle and will give me at least four hours of time before her soft cries push through the nursery walls as she asks for her next feeding. The house is quiet...for about two seconds.

Tap-tap-tap-tap.

My fingers skim over the black keys, giving light strikes as I try to keep the noise down. However, my mind will not be quiet. Its words have grown louder and my hands have to obey them over my worry of an awakened child. This is my time away from the aches in my back after I had swept all the floors. My time away from wrinkled skin soaking in greasy dishwater as I had washed the mountain of plates to feed dinner to three children who ate like twenty hungry firefighters.

Eyes stray to look over at the cup of steaming tea. My tongue runs across dry lips. I drank a diet soda this afternoon when the kids had their snacks and watched "Dora the Explorer" videos. Yes, one can (half really) before I ran into the basement as the washer buzzed at the end of the rinse cycle. By the time I returned to finish the can (five hours later after another mess to clean because the kids thought it would be neat to lick the back of Teddy Graham crackers and stick the tiny bears to every window), the warmness had offended my taste buds enough to pour the rest of the soda down the sink. Then I grabbed the scouring pad to rub out the rust stains along the drain that I had been neglecting for the past week.

The tea appears tempting. Yet my fingers keep typing, refusing to take away any time from my writing. I dare not stop now. The boys have a full schedule for me tomorrow. They will fill my day with watercolor paints staining the carpet and missing jigsaw puzzle pieces I will spend most of the morning trying to find only to then have the kids wanting to play with their missing matchbox cars instead.

My hands stop moving over the keyboard. I hear a noise. Was it one of the boys having a nightmare? Or perhaps a stuffed animal falling from the crib as the lack of fuzzy warmness against my niece's face will cause her to awaken? No. The noise is coming from outside. I tense. House keys jiggle in the lock. The door opens.

My brother is home from work. He asks, "How were the kids today?" I wince, not from the question but from the loudness of his voice.

"DADDY'S HOME!" Two pairs of running feet enter the hallway from the boys' bedroom. Then wailing cries begin from the nursery.

I look at the computer screen. Four lines. Four sentences sit alone on the word processor page. I smile at the wonderful sight. I got farther than expected.

Even four sentences are considered an accomplishment in a writer's hectic life.

****

Michelle Hickman is the owner of The Surly Writer, a fun and inspiring blog that posts stories of surly humor and, as Michelle says, "on occasion bits of useful information, although I'm trying to stomp out that bad habit." We think she's way too modest though!

Her blogger profile says, "I grew up in the rural hills of Pennsylvania (yes, I am a hillbilly--you do not have to rub it in.) I first discovered a love for writing in high school where I had the opportunity to annoy my fellow students by waxing poetry. No! I didn't use car polish on it, although it would have given the verses a nice shine. My pleasures in life involve laughing at a good pun, enjoying a good read, and having a good friend."

****
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

 

Almost Time for Some Writing!

I don't know about all of you, but this time of year is intense. It's not the holiday shopping; that has already been done online. Likewise, it's not the weather, because when you live here, snow flurries and frozen-shut car doors, not unheard of in December.

It's the realization that the year is almost over. Not just by myself, granted. Rather, requests coming in for things that should have been done before, but had to get pushed to the back burner. For example, inquiries from book review editors poking to see if you're still alive...not literally, but thanks sir, I will get working on a proposal since it sounds like you could use my help. Slacker am I.

There's the guilt of not having finished other projects and rushing to do so before the year's end. Proofreading of manuscripts and lists of useful websites for people I volunteered to help and was making good progress on before.

Likewise, there is the realization that Fieldreport.com and many other writing contests (poetry, fiction, short story, etc.) have deadlines approaching final hours, days, and weeks. Too many fun things to do, too little time, but still want to try at least a couple, don't you?

However, there is the more pressing: end-of-the-semester. If you are an instructor, professor, or student, my heart goes out to you right now.

Just tell yourself what I, a college employee myself, am thinking. It's almost time for winter break, almost time to finish the proofreading and obligations, and get myself sitting with laptop in tow, because after all, it's almost time to have a few weeks off - to write! Happy holidays indeed!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

 

Got A Minute? Get Some Marketing Tips!

By Jill Earl

Among the emails I receive inbox every Wednesday is ‘The Marketing Minute’, from marketing and publicity consultant, author and speaker Marcia Yudkin. After spending some time checking her site, I signed up for the free newsletter.

Why? I like the fact that when I read the information presented, my immediate response isn’t, “Hmm, I might be able to do that---someday.” Her nuggets of tips are easy to incorporate into your life, whether you’ve just stepped into the writing biz or you’re an old hand at it.

And it only takes a minute.

Recently, the ‘Create Entry Points’ email asked whether your material--website, book, or whatever--could be easily read by a first-time visitor or would that visitor have to have some familiarity with your work to understand what’s presented. Ms. Yudkin then offers suggestions on how to make your material accessible to all.

In another email, Ms. Yudkin used one of the newsletter’s subscribers as an example of imaginative marketing. In ‘Inject Fun into Fundraising’, subscriber Carolyn created Perley, a church mouse that keeps his church’s congregation up-to-date on the happenings of ‘their’ church through fundraising letters. As a result, Perley has a cookbook, offers various children’s activities on his webpage, and has another book on the way, co-authored with Carolyn.

There are also articles, publicity tips and other information to help you make the most of your marketing efforts.

See it all for yourself at http://www.yudkin.com/marketing.htm.

Go on, take a minute. Your marketing's worth it.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

 

Question: What bothers you when reading submissions?

Recently, Evelyn Marentette, a WOW! Spring '07 flash fiction winner, interviewed Annette and I for Pam Casto's newsletter Flash Fiction Flash. She asked some great questions about our submission process, our contest, etc. Here are two from the interview freelancers would interested in.

(Photo credit: Flickr Mr. Wright)

Q: What do you consistently see that bothers you most when reading submissions?

A: Biggest irritation: when writers query without having read our publication. WOW! is very obviously a women's writing website; yet, we still receive submissions about beauty and fashion. Be aware of the types of features we publish. Don't submit personal essays when you see we publish how-to articles and author interviews. That also means checking the word count. WOW! articles are content rich and more like print magazines when it comes to length. The standard 500-600 word online article is about 1500 words too short for us.

Also, check the editor's desk section for whom to address in your query. We've actually received submissions addressed to "Dear Sir." Run spell check and grammar check. Read your email query aloud. Do whatever you need to do to make sure your query is clean-correct spelling, solid grammar, and proper punctuation. If a writer doesn't take the time and effort to make sure her query is immaculate, we know she'll be just as careless with her submission.

We often receive emails from writers who say they would like to write for WOW!, but have no idea what they have to offer. What is your expertise? Figure it out so you can bring something to the table. We are always looking for fresh voices, but you have to be able to provide content that has value to our readers.

Q: After a day spent delving into the slushpile, can you tell us what compels you to accept one piece of writing over another?

A: At WOW!, there really isn't a "slush pile." All queries and submissions are given equal attention and considered on their own merit. The query evaluation process includes questions that have to be answered. Is it a topic that would be of interest to our readers? Does the freelancer have the expertise to write the article she is proposing? Has she fully fleshed-out her idea? Has she listed sources, or prospective sources for quotes? Does she have a strong voice? Has she come up with a unique title? We may not use the title for the published article, but if it's memorable--like "How to Hog-tie an Agent,"--it keeps the query on our minds, rather than getting lost in the mix with all the queries titled: "How to Get an Agent."

Queries should include clips or some sort of writing sample; at the very least, a link to a blog post written like a how-to article. If you are serious about freelancing, you should have a blog that showcases your writing ability.

For submissions, show us that you know how to structure an article for the web: subheadings, short paragraphs, bullet lists, sidebars, a content-rich article with no excessive wordiness.

Don't send out anything less than your best work. If you expect to get paid, make sure what you write is worth the money.

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In a nutshell, WOW! is a fun site, but we're very picky about our content. We know that writers rely on us for expert advice, so we only accept articles with true take-away value. Every article is gone over with a fine-toothed editing comb. Another tip: we use The Chicago Manual of Style for all of our articles. If you're querying us, please be familiar with the guide. It's the publishing bible.

Today is my day for going over past queries and subs in preparation for "pitch-fest" in the PG group tomorrow where I will be fielding queries and answering questions about content on the boards. It's my first time doing something like this and it should be fun! If you're a member of PG, be sure to stop by from 12 PM - 2 PM (Pacific time). :)

To view our submission guidelines, visit our Contact Page and scroll down to the subheading "Submissions." Currently, we are looking for articles to fit our upcoming themes: children's writing, and romance writing.

Now I want to know: are you a freelancer? How has the market been for you lately? Any tips you want to share?

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