Sunday, December 27, 2009

 

Winter Writing: Getting Through the Blahs


Winter is known for its gray days and cold weather, which is often hard for writers to overcome. It's hard for me--right now, while the snow is falling outside and there's not a hint of sun, I'd like nothing more than to take a nice, long nap. But I write through--I have to because I'm a writer. So, what do I do to keep on writing through the long, cold, gray winter days? I use some of my favorite products that help my mood stay sunny and my brain stay awake.

1. Keurig Coffee Maker: (pictured here) My husband surprised me with this yesterday as one of my Christmas presents. I saw one at my friend's house, used it in the fall, and I couldn't stop raving about it. If you aren't familiar with these coffee makers, you can make one cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa at a time with this machine. You use K-cups for your grounds, and there's no mess. It is absolutely amazing. So, when I start to get drowsy in the winter, I can now easily and quickly make myself a little coffee. While I'm waiting for the cup to brew, I can do a few stretches to help my "sitting" and "writing" muscles.

2. Honeywell Space Heater: Not that you have to have a Honeywell space heater--any space heater will do, but I love this one because it has a thermostat. It shuts off when it reaches the temperature that you want. It also shuts off if it is picked up or knocked over, like when my puppy, who likes to lay right in front of it, gets too close and hits it with his leg. I'm not sure how my brain works; but when my body's warmer, I write better. I just do. So, this heater helps me write through the winter blahs.

3. Bath and Body Works Wallflower Fragrance Bulbs: Smelling something good helps me feel more energetic when the day is gray. Maybe it's because my sense of smell is trying to make up for my sense of sight and tired brain. I love candles; but sometimes, they make me nervous when I'm shuffling a bunch of papers around on my desk. So, I also like these Bath and Body Works Wallflower Fragrance Bulbs that you plug into the wall, and they fill your office or living room (where ever you write) with any smell that motivates you. I like tropical, fruity smells--coconut scents remind me of suntan lotion, which reminds me of summer!

LuAnn also just talked about getting motivated for 2010 in her great blog post on Christmas Eve. If you are feeling the winter blahs, read "Maintain Motivation in 2010," and use some of these tips, too.

How about you? Do you have some sure fire way to work through the winter blahs and keep writing?

Happy Winter Writing!
Margo Dill
http://margodill.com/blog/
"Read These Books and Use Them"

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

 

Maintain Motivation in 2010

by LuAnn Schindler

This week, amidst holiday preparations, I sat down and began to map my writing goals for 2010. I'm a big picture person, so I made a visualization chart with generalized goals across the top and broke that flow chart into specific goals. (Some people might say Way to procrastinate, LuAnn, but I say I need visual proof that I'm working hard to meet my goals, so it's not procrastination!)

One problem I've dealt with in the past is maintaining focus on the prize. I may start the year with fountain pen or computer keyboard blazing, but winter doldrums fence me in, spring fever skips through my work, summer fun beckons for play time, and fall festivities fetch my fancy. In other words, life happens, and sometimes, those roadblocks slow down the journey to the goal. And, sometimes, goals shift or are left unmet during the year, causing motivation to wane when I need it the most.

What I've discovered through the writing years is this: We are the choices we make. If I choose not to write today, that's my prerogative. But, if I make that choice, I shouldn't complain, I shouldn't let it slow down tomorrow's writing, and I shouldn't let it interfere with the long-term outcomes I would like to achieve.

No, maintaining motivation is personal, but sometimes, it takes a village to raise a writer. Consider these four tips to keep inspired during the next 365 days.
  • Establish writing time. When I first began freelancing, I kept a rigid schedule. That lasted about six months until I realized the schedule was cutting into my creativity. Now, I make a to-do list and if it takes me three hours to research a possible story idea, I go with it. I make it work. That's one of the benefits of being a freelancer. But, I also make sure that I spend a certain amount of time each day writing. I'm the most productive from 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., and from 10:30 - 1:30 p.m, so I let those times work for me. Find a time that fits your schedule and use it - even if you can only spare ten minutes - to write.
  • Develop both short- and long-term goals. My visualization chart is a compilation of both. I like to plan my week and say to myself, Okay, here's what I would like to accomplish this week. But it's also important to have a direction to work toward. Otherwise, some pieces of work will stay on the back burner if you don't self-impose deadlines.
  • Share your work with other writers. It's important to get other opinions, especially from colleagues. That's how you grow in your craft. This is an area I need to work on. I joined a local writer's group, hoping to share my YA novel, but most of the group wanted to be given a topic and then write about it. While that may work for some writers, it's not the type of critique I need at this point in my career. I'm still searching for an appropriate online group that will fit my needs.
  • Celebrate your achievements. If an editor or a reader let you know how much they appreciate your work, celebrate! If you land a major article in a national magazine or sell a manuscript to a publishing house, celebrate! If you send a new query, celebrate. These moments provide impetus for writing careers, so go ahead, celebrate! I recently completed a three-part series for a regional newspaper, and an editor from one of my state's dailies sent a note to my editor, who forwarded it to me. In the note, he pointed out elements of my story that stood out. Trust me, I celebrated! I printed it out and have it directly behind my laptop screen so I remember why I write: to connect with readers.
  • Network . Connect with other writers and editors, develop relationships, and maintain a professional but friendly demeanor. First impressions are lasting, and hopefully you'll set the right tone with others who, someday, may use your work.
  • Learn a new skill. Even though the art of writing may change very little, we writers still need to keep our skills sharp. Attend a conference. Take a class. Buy new software that assists with writing. Learning a new skill and putting it to use will make you more marketable.

I'm glancing at my goal chart and re-reading what I hope to accomplish in 2010. With a visual reminder, reasonable goals, and writer friends who encourage, I can't go wrong. Maintaining motivation won't be a problem this year.

Happy Holidays! And, happy motivating!

Follow LuAnn on Twitter - @luannschindler

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

 

Premium Green: A Supportive Network and Markets Galore!


WOW!'s Premium-Green isn’t just market listings, it’s a guide with community benefits. For only $4 a month, you get a 100+ Page Ebook delivered to your inbox each month, and you’ll have access to a private community of women writers just like you!

The 100+ page ebook has fiction markets, nonfiction markets, markets for women, anthologies, contests, niche markets, new freelance jobs, interviews with editors and freelancers, tips for being a writing mama, and tips from working freelance writers.

We know that becoming a freelance writer takes more than just market listings. You’ll need the opportunity to network with your peers and a support system to help you reach your goals. And that’s exactly what your Premium-Green Markets Subscription will do.

The best part of your $4.00 a month is not even the 100+page ebook, although it is awesome. (And when you subscribe for a year for only $48, you have access to all 26 previous ebooks full of markets and interviews. That's a bargain!) Anyway, the best part of this subscription is a listserv you automatically belong to when you subscribe called the PG boards. I thought I would show you an example of a very informative and supportive conversation that was on the PG boards this month:

Writer One: I write regularly for a regional magazine. My contract to date has allowed me to reprint my work three months after it is published in the magazine. They sent a new contract yesterday. This one says. . .(writer one quotes the part of her contract she's questioning). Am I reading this right? They are asking me to sign away all rights? There's no way I can agree to this. They could make a book of my work, publish it, and I'd gain nothing. Has anyone seen anything like this before? What did you do? I am going to call them to try to renegotiate. Sigh.

Writer Two in response: Did they offer more money for all rights? I'm guessing not, but even if they did, this contract sounds very one-sided. Not only can they edit, reprint, and distribute, but they reserve the right to offer the rights to a third party. I'm assuming that means they can SELL your rights and receive the money themselves, and it means you have no control over what kind of mag your work might appear in next. Definitely call and see what's going on. Maybe you can re-negotiate or at least strike or modify a few phrases.

Writer Three: They've opened negotiations, in my book. Since they are asking for all rights, you need to ask for more money in exchange for the extra piece of the pie they want. They want more - you want more. The average writer would take this and run. While I don't mind selling all rights to most magazine markets (few of them I'll ever use again anyway), I'd want to be compensated for the privilege.

Writer Four: This is the first time I have seen a print periodical take this stance. Almost every digital publication requires you to sign a similar agreement. Reason is, they recognize the coming value in having a backlog of ready content online, and - you're right - for books and ebooks. With the electronic readers coming of age in the next couple of years, it will become easy to sell material as "e" formats. Publishers are preparing. I think we'll see more of that. I, personally, wouldn't agree to such a contract for work I contribute regularly. Maybe on a one-shot article. Kudos to you for reading the thing - many writers don't. Bottom line is, the rights to my work are valuable to me - I won't give them away. If someone wanted to buy all rights, the price would be significant. I just launched a new project 100% based on writing I have done over the past four years. Good thing I own the rights!

Writer One (responding to all who responded to her original question): Good info everyone. Thanks. I agree with you. Most of the time I am willing to write a new story. I have lots of words inside me! I've decided to dig my heels in regarding two situations here. I write a first-person column (essay) for the magazine. Often the stories I tell are very personal. I won't sign them away. Second, I do food articles where I come up with original recipes. I won't sign off rights to my own unique recipes. I've sent this information, in a kind message, to "corporate." We'll see what the lawyers say.

So, as you can see from this actual example of a recent WOW! PG discussion, you can find support on the PG boards and knowledgeable freelancers working in the field. If you have a question or problem, chances are someone from Premium-Green can answer it or knows someone who can. Plus you get the 100+page ebook for $4.00 a month.

PG members will sometimes post contest information or submission calls on the PG boards only and no where else. Recently, there were discussions about ghostwriting and how much to charge, starting a hometown blog, questions about getting paid from a certain market, and a proud mom sharing a beautiful poem her daughter wrote!

If you don't know what to get a writer this holiday season, try a Premium-Green subscription. Or if your spouse or significant other is still wondering what to get you. . .here's the answer. And your subscription is an expense to build your writing career, so you can claim it on your taxes!

Happy Holidays!
Margo Dill
http://margodill.com/blog/
Read These Books and Use Them

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

 

Top 10 Joys of Writers

Previously, I shared a list of writers' top ten fears according to a survey noted in A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. Those same writers were also asked about the joys of writing. Here is that list (with ties for some answers):

1. expressed many ways: the feeling of completeness, of being in sync with the universe, being present in the now, centered, peaceful, calm, being with myself

2. feeling that I entertained the reader, made people laugh, touched someone

3. the feeling of being creative, "in the groove," being an artist

3. telling a story, creating characters, plots

4. connecting with others

4. playing with words, using language

4. having an audience, having other people read or hear my writing

5. expressing myself, putting myself on paper, recording my thoughts

5. being with other writers

6. finding out about myself

6. producing something

7. being published

7. finishing, the feeling of having written

7. leaving a legacy, making a mark on the world

8. becoming a more discerning reader

9. finding out I'm good, that there is promise

10. the surprises, finding out what happens

I notice that many of the joys of writing have little to do with making money (although that's nice). Let the list remind you of all that writing can bring to your life. It definitely gave me a boost today.

--Marcia Peterson

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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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Monday, May 12, 2008

 

More is Better

A story adapted from Art and Fear, by David Boyles and Ted Orland, goes like this: A ceramics teacher announced on the first day of class that he was dividing everyone into two groups. One group would be graded solely on the quantity of the work produced, and the other group would be graded solely on the quality of their work. To determine their grades, the teacher would bring in a scale on the last day of class and weigh the work of the "quantity" group; the students in the "quality" group would need to produce only one pot--a "perfect" one--to achieve an A.

Can you guess what happened? The works of the highest quality all came from the group being graded for quantity! While the quantity group was busy churning out piles of work, and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end, had little to show for their efforts.

Likewise, your writing success will come from lots of writing production. Make it your goal to complete more and more pieces of work, and watch the quality of your writing take off.

--MP

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

 

New Year's Writing Resolutions

By Patricia Fry

It’s time, once again, to take stock of your accomplishments. Did you meet all of your goals for the year? Did you finish that book, send twenty query letters to magazines each month or start working on your memoirs? If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work. If not, you aren’t alone. Millions of people break their New Year’s resolutions and this is generally because they set their standards too high.

Perhaps you can achieve success by lowering your sights. You have a very good chance of failure if you resolve to write a best seller, double your income and earn the Pulitzer Prize by year’s end. If you’ve never put pen to paper, perhaps a more realistic goal would be to spend three hours each day writing, enroll in a writing class and subscribe to a couple of writing publications. And then be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

It’s like the woman who asked me to help her get over a serious writing slump. She hadn’t been able to write a meaningful word in months. She said that she wanted to get back to her poetry and short story writing, yet she wasn’t willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. I suggested that she write for at least ten minutes each day in her journal. She saw no point in doing that when she really wanted to write poetry. I said, "Then write poetry for ten minutes each day." She replied, "I can’t do that. I told you I’m in a slump."

I advised her to spend those ten minutes just sitting quietly or walking in a lovely setting. I said that if she did this each day, she would soon become inspired and she would start using this time to write. She said that was impossible—she had no time during the day to be quiet and by evening, her mind raced so fast, she could not get into a relaxed state. Obviously, until this woman is ready to make some changes, she will continue to fail.

Are you going to spend the rest of your life watching others enjoy the lifestyle you desire or are you going to make this the year to claim success for yourself? Here are some typical writers’ resolutions and some plans to help you get started on an adventure toward meeting your personal and professional goals.

1. Finish that book (poem, article, story). Pick up your work-in-progress now, while the year is new and you still have that great sense of starting fresh. But don’t look at this as one humungous project because you’ll feel overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Tackle this one page, one stanza, one paragraph at a time. Break it down into phases. For a book, you might vow to write a chapter each month. For a story, start with the outline, develop the characters, research the time period and then start the writing. These tasks might be scheduled over a period of a week or, if working on it only part-time, a month or two.

2. Start a writing project that you’ve wanted to pursue. Similar to the steps in the first resolution, figure out how much time it will take, how much time you want to devote per day/week and just start. One thing is for sure, if you don’t start it, you will never finish it. Make this the year you stop procrastinating. If you have several projects and don’t know which one to work on, use the list method. List the pros and the cons of starting each project at this time. The right one will become evident in your list.

3. Try one new book promotion idea per month. If you’re an author, you already know that there’s more to selling a book than having it in Barnes and Noble. Read my book, "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book" and John Kremer’s book featuring 1001 book promotion ideas and apply some of these ideas to your promotional repertoire this year. Arrange to sell your book through local independent bookstores and gift shops. Send press releases with order forms to libraries throughout the U.S. Record your book on tape for the blind and the busy. Do some piggyback marketing. I once procured a booth at the county fair to promote my local history book. Of course, I sold scads more than if I’d stayed home that week.

4. Approach at least one new market for your writing each month. Expand your horizons. If you typically write how-to pieces for parenting, general and health magazines, try your hand at a profile piece for a business publication, for example. Maybe you design brochures for local businesses. Increase your business and your expertise by offering to write their company newsletters. I know a writer who was earning a steady income writing PR material for a large healthcare firm. Last year, she decided to try something different and she has since sold three personal essays to a major woman’s magazine for a total sum of $4,000.

5. Write something different. As professional writers, we sometimes neglect our creative urges. We are so busy writing articles, working on clients’ books or writing company materials that we don’t get around to satisfying our own writing cravings. This year, reward yourself more. Set aside an hour a day or an entire afternoon each week to write poetry, work on your novel, or do more journaling.

6. Join a community or online writers’ group. My career accelerated when I finally left my writing cubicle and began connecting with other writers. I found the camaraderie and the support extremely nurturing and still do. I can’t even calculate the educational value. If you want to reap the benefits of networking with other writers, start looking for a local or online organization. Be a loyal participant. Bring what you can to the meetings or to the discussions and share it in exchange for all that you will glean.

7. Add a new dimension to your lifestyle. If you are a full-time writer, you’re probably at the computer day in and day out. You enjoy your work immensely, but sometimes feel on the verge of burnout. This year, establish some pleasurable time away from your office. Do more reading. Get involved in something creative such as mosaic or scrapbooking. Start playing tennis. And then pursue this activity at least a couple of times a week.

8.Volunteer more. It feels good to reach out and help someone. And there are a lot of projects writers can do within the community. Here are a few: Volunteer for the after school homework help program at your local library. Offer to mentor a journalism student or adult who is just starting a writing career. Start a writing club. Volunteer to write the fundraising material for a charity.

9. Make a gift of your writing. There are numerous ways to give through your writing. Make your own Christmas and greeting cards. Personalized cards are always appreciated. Write one of your poems in calligraphy, frame it and give it to a friend or family member. Create a book of your short stories and have it bound at Kinkos or a print-on-demand company. Write a children’s story starring the children in your life and give it to them for their birthdays. Maybe you know someone who can add charming drawings or photographs. For Christmas, I gather all of my published articles for that year, put them in binders and wrap them up for my three daughters and my parents. I know they enjoy this unique gift because one year I didn’t get around to putting the articles together for them and, boy, did I hear about it. They enjoy seeing the versatility and scope of my work and to have this ongoing keepsake.

Use some of these unique ways to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. The result will be a happier more productive you throughout the coming year.

—Patricia Fry is a cofounder and the President of SPAWN. She is a full-time writer, author of 19 published books, and she works with other writers/authors on their projects. The above article is excerpted from her book, "The Successful Writer’s Handbook." http://www.matilijapress.com

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