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November 29, 2010
Today I was tired and headache-y, yet I needed to get some writing done. I don’t know about you, but I find writing a grueling challenge on the rare days I feel rotten.
That’s why I found a chapter in The Write Type by Karen E. Peterson very encouraging. The author said that not all the stages of producing a story or book involve heavy-duty creative thinking. If you’re not feeling the best somedays, use that time for a writing job that requires less energy–but still has to be done sometime.
Three of the following stages you’ll be familiar with (prewriting, writing and rewriting.) The other three stages are writing jobs you have to do but rarely give yourself credit for.
Stages of Writing
- Read-writing: Reading what you’ve already written before revising
- Co-writing: Discussing with another writer what you want to write or have written, getting feedback and encouragement
- Rote-writing: typing up lists, references, and hand-written revisions
- Prewriting: Gathering notes, ideas, and resources, plus jotting down ideas or outlines
- Writing: creating the story, article, poem, or book
- Rewriting: editing, revising and proofing
What To Do?
Each stage of writing requires a different kind of energy and concentration. What is most helpful is to match your energy level to the task. It all has to be done at some point, but much of it doesn’t have to be done in order.
And if you’re exhausted, start with the easiest task. That’s what I did today. I had go through some photos I’d taken, find and watch a couple of YouTube videos on a process I couldn’t quite picture, type up a list from scraps of notes, and re-read a revised chapter to see if it held together.
It took a couple of hours, I made progress, I got some needed writing jobs done on the project, and I didn’t make my headache worse. A good day!
November 26, 2010
Life is one choice after another. We have to choose our writing thoughts, which help shape our writing attitudes, and that leads us to the next level: actions. This is where the writing rubber meets the road.
A committed attitude will make choosing your actions easier. When you’re willing to do whatever it takes to revamp your personal life so you can write, the choices become clearer.
- You will do things like choosing to write before doing the dishes, even though it bugs you to leave dirty dishes in the sink.
- You will choose to write for an hour instead of watch TV or talk on the phone.
- You will choose to have that lower carb/higher protein lunch so your writing energy is high all afternoon.
- You will choose to retire at a decent hour so you’re alert to create the next morning.
- You’ll consciously choose to make quality time with your family so you can write without feeling guilty–and without being neglectful.
- Instead of a mental wish list, you’ll choose to set goals, write them down, and even make a poster for your wall so you’re staring at them daily.
- You will choose to settle family quarrels and resolve conflicts partly because NOT doing so saps all your writing energy.
Just One Fork After Another!
You will make choices in all areas of your life that will support your writing instead of making it more difficult. Each time you come to a fork in the road, try to make a choice that will put you in charge of your writing. Each choice might look small, but these decisions add up to your writing life.
It might sound restrictive, but it’s really not. In 2011, I hope we all find that freedom that comes from being in charge of ourselves–and thus, our writing.
What is one action you would change today if you could?
November 24, 2010
Hope you read “Who’s in Charge?” (Part 1) first!
On Monday I talked about taking charge of your negative thought because where the mind goes, the man (or woman) follows! And how will that help?
Changing your thoughts will change your attitudes and emotional feelings about writing. Instead of postponing happiness until you get published, for example, choose to be content with your writing today.
Choose to enjoy the act of putting words down on paper to capture an image. Choose to enjoy delving into your memories for a kernel of a story idea. Choose to enjoy the process of reading back issues of magazines you want to submit to. Choose to enjoy reading a book on plot or dialogue or characterization for tips you can apply to your stories.
Instead of feeling pressured to succeed quickly, choose to be patient with your learning curve. Choose to be happy about each small, steady step forward.
Look at the larger picture, how each writing day is another small building block laying the foundation of your career. Stay present in the present! Pace yourself with the determined attitude of the tortoise instead of the sprinter attitude of the hare.
You also need to choose an attitude of commitment. Commit to your goals and deadlines, to continued improvement in your writing, and to dealing with negative feelings as they come up. Commitment is more than “I wish” or “I’d like.” Commitment is “I will.” There is a huge difference! (Like the gap between a man saying, “Gee, I’d like to marry you” and “Will you marry me–here’s the ring–let’s set a date!”)
Move from the wishy-washy attitude of “I’d like to be a writer” to the commitment level of “I’ll do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to be a successful writer.” That one change in attitude can be what determines if you make it as a writer.
(Stay tuned for Part 3 on Friday.)
November 22, 2010
Your writing life is the sum of all the writing-related choices you make. Choosing means to make a decision each time you come to a particular crossroads. If you want 2011 to be different, you’ll have to make different choices.
Most decisions are not deliberate. Instead we unconsciously follow our habits, choosing what is easiest because it’s what we’ve done for years.
We choose negative thoughts about our abilities, we choose negative attitudes about our progress, and we follow with negative actions of not setting goals and not writing.
Choice or Habit?
Although many of your choices have become automatic habits, each one is still a choice you make. So if you want to have a successful writing career (however you define “success” for yourself), you must control the process of choosing. You must begin to notice your choices, moment by moment.
Think about what you’re thinking about! Then start making consistently better daily choices. Take control of your writing life by being in charge of yourself.
Writers make critical decisions in three areas every day–sometimes every hour. Train yourself to be a close observer of your choices. You come to a fork in the road hundreds of times each day, and each time you have a choice to make. Beginning today, consciously choose the direction that leads to your writing goals.
If you want to make changes that last, you must change the way you think. Your mental and emotional framework needs adjusting. You must first focus on getting your MIND moving in the right direction. The way you think will ultimately dictate your long-term success or failure.
Certain thoughts and beliefs will derail you before you even get started. (“I’m not good enough.” “I don’t have the talent I need.” “It’s who you know in this business, and I don’t know anyone important.” “I don’t have the time/energy/family support to write.”) Take time to recognize which particular issues negatively affect your choice to write.
Debunk the Myths
Perhaps your thoughts about writing contain a few myths that need exploring–and debunking. Do you think that you’ll be a happy writer if you just manage to get published? You might be–but probably only if you’re happy before you get published. Grumpy, negative, passive writers who achieve publication tend to be grumpy, negative, passive writers with a publishing credit. Publication itself won’t make you happy.
Do you think there is a magical short-cut to writing success? You DO need to study your craft, but are you on the constant lookout for the latest quick fix writing book or article, the latest get-published-quick scheme? Do you think, if you just find the “key,” you’ll get published immediately? Although we’re a society of instant gratification promoters, it is still true that excellent writers don’t spring up overnight–they are grown.
Do You Tend to Pass the Buck?
Do you think it’s someone else’s fault that you aren’t published? Do you have a general mental habit of blaming your lack of success on others? While it’s a human tendency to do so, this kind of thinking will keep you stuck–and unpublished.
Every career has obstacles to conquer on the way to success, and writing is no different. The obstacles only change from time to time. (Obviously, writers fifty years ago did not worry about their hard drives crashing or scanners not working.) But writers of all ages have had barriers to overcome. At one time women writers had to disguise what they were doing–and even use a male pen name in order to get published!
Choosing your thoughts is noticing when a thought like this passes through your head (“When am I going to get published? I’ve been submitting for months and months! I should just quit!”) and replacing it with one that is both true and positive. (“Getting published takes time for all new writers, and if I’m persistent and consistent in my efforts to improve and market well, I will probably get published eventually!”) At first, it’s reinforcing to say these new thoughts out loud.
Our thoughts are just one place where we must make wise and productive writerly choices. On Wednesday and Friday we’ll talk about making choices in our “attitudes” and “actions.”
If you’re really brave, leave a comment today and tell me the writer’s thought that you’d most like to be rid of!
November 19, 2010
Thirty years ago I read an article that said writing was like eating a salami. You’d choke if you tried to swallow the whole thing at once. Slice by slice, though, it was easy.
These 20-minute Challenge tasks are “slices of salami.”
I had several questions from writers doing the 100-Day Challenge about how to break writing tasks into those 20-30 minute slices. At the beginning of the challenge, I made a three-page single-spaced list of such tasks, covering several project areas (a novel revision, a possible nonfiction e-book, and marketing).
The beauty of the list to me is that I don’t have trouble getting started. I pick a task-not necessarily in the order listed-set my time, and get going! Since getting started has always been my biggest hurdle, the list goes a long way toward getting me over that hump.
Examples of Short Tasks
If your main project is fiction, and you only have 20-30 minutes to write, pre-thinking is critical before you sit down at the keyboard. Otherwise you’ll waste your time getting started and focusing. I became skilled at pre-thinking when I was first taking this ICL course because I had a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. I wrote in 10-minute slices back then.
I made long lists of tasks for stories I wanted to write. The tasks covered such things as outlining steps, “creative steps” like thinking of character and setting names, mechanical steps (e.g. write opening scene), revision steps, and marketing steps.
The list of short fiction ”slices” would include things like:
- Think of three titles
- Revise titles to be more suspenseful
- Decide on main character’s name
- Decide on ending
- Write physical character description of mother
- Look up street names and weather in XXX town
Nonfiction “slices” might include:
- Fact check xxxxx
- Organize sources into alphabetical bibliography list
- Revise (or tighten) opening
Examples for marketing might be:
- Find three agent blogs to read
- Find three publishers’ blogs to read
- Read one blog post and leave a comment
- Set up a Twitter account
- Get domain name at GoDaddy.com
I was going to list some of my own 20-minute tasks for you, but I realized they wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me. (e.g. check out Blogger Link Up, check epiphanies re: p. 194 MAC, make “sense” lists for each scene in last chapter) But I think the examples above give you a better idea of breaking things down into small slices.
Estimating Time Needed
Realize that it’s difficult to estimate times correctly. Sometimes I gave myself twenty minutes to do a certain task, and it only actually took me five minutes. Other times, the task took me three 20-minute periods to finish.
For example, one of my 20-minute tasks was to set up my author page on Amazon.com. (I have needed to do this for more than fifteen years!) My friend did hers in 20 minutes, but even though we were adding the same amount of info, I took three 20-minute times to finish mine. It took me the first twenty minutes just to read and understand the directions, another twenty to write the bio, and another twenty to add the book jackets and video trailer. (Actually there was another twenty minutes spent later because some of the dust jackets wouldn’t load, which I gave up on.)
I hope these examples have helped you and given you ideas for breaking down your own writing projects into do-able slices. Now…go eat that salami!
November 17, 2010
Amazon US is offering an outrageously great deal this week on the Kindle version of Randy Ingermanson‘s 5-star reviewed book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES. You can get (and read) this book FOR FREE even if you don’t own a Kindle!
From November 15 to 19, 2010, Amazon US is offering the book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES Kindle edition as a FREE download. Amazon’s special ends at midnight PST on Friday night, November 19, 2010.
Please note that this free Kindle-edition campaign is for Amazon US only. There is no similar campaign running on Amazon UK or Amazon Canada.
No Kindle? Doesn’t Matter!
Amazon has free software that lets you read Kindle-edition books directly on your Mac or PC. (I have Kindle for PC.) Likewise, there are free apps that read Kindle books on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, and Android. You can find a link to any of these free software products here. So you don’t have to own a Kindle in order to take advantage of this free offer. You just need Kindle software running on your computer or mobile device.
Begin learning from this excellent book today, right on your computer. Also, if you think you might ever want to buy a Kindle in the future, now is a good time to get the WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES Kindle edition.
P.S. If you download to Kindle PC, when you are reading the book, if you right-click your mouse, you can highlight sections or make a note in the margin. So you can “mark up” this book like a real one.
November 15, 2010
Symptoms of the “shoulds” include:
- You should write first thing in the morning.
- You should write daily.
- You should keep a journal.
- You should write down your dreams every morning.
- You should have a room of your own and be organized!
- You should write for publication.
What if some of the “shoulds” just go against your grain? Are you not a real writer then? What if you write best after 10 p.m. instead of first thing in the morning? What if you start journals repeatedly and never last more than three days? What if you can’t remember your dreams? What if an organized office makes you freeze and you secretly prefer writing in chaos?
Are you a REAL writer then? YES!
What Am I Exactly?
If you struggle with your identity as a writer–if you don’t seem to fit the mold no matter how you’ve tried–you would love the book I found over the weekend. It’s called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer’s Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, who wrote the best book on writer’s block I ever read.
This book takes you through exercises to find the real writer who lives inside you. You’ll explore the ten components that make up a writer’s “type.” They include such things as tolerance for solitude, best time of day to write, amount of time, need for variety, level of energy, and level of commitment. Finding your own personal combination of traits helps you build a writer’s life where you can be your most productive and creative.
Free to Be Me
To be honest, the exercises with switching hands (right brain/left brain) didn’t help me as much as the discussions about each trait. I could usually identify my inner preferences quite easily through the discussion. It gave me freedom to be myself as a writer. It also helped me pinpoint a few areas where I believed some “shoulds” that didn’t work for me, where I was trying to force this square peg writer into a round hole and could stop!
We’re all different–no surprise!–but we published writers are sometimes too quick to pass along our own personal experience in the form of “shoulds.” You should write first thing in the morning should actually be stated, It works well for ME to write first thing in the morning, so you might try that.
What About You?
Have you come up against traits of “real writers” that just don’t seem to fit you? Do you like to flit from one unfinished project to another instead of sticking to one story until it’s finished and submitted? Do you need noise around you and get the heebie jeebies when it’s too quiet?
If you have time, leave a comment concerning one or two areas where you have struggled in the past with a “real writer” trait. Let’s set ourselves free from the tyranny of the shoulds!
November 12, 2010
Thirty years ago, my wonderful Institute instructor (Dorothy Van Woerkom) told me that “marketing was half of getting published.”
It’s still true today. No matter how wonderfully you write, you won’t sell if you don’t study the current children’s markets.
Help is Here!
Happily, there are some great books to help you. I’m glad to present to you three excellent books: a 2011 magazine market guide, a 2011 book market guide, and a brand new book by an ICL instructor on writing and selling to the Christian children’s market.
Why buy a new ICL market guide every year? After all, you have last year’s…or one from a few years back. Isn’t that all right? Afraid not. Now more than ever, the publishing industry is in a state of change.
Each year in the book and magazine field for young readers, editors change jobs. Their needs and wants change. Some subjects are “out” because they’ve been flooded with a certain type of submission. New markets open up–many of them online now as well. Others close.
NOTE: If you email Editor2010@magazine.com (but she has moved on), your submission will sit in a dead email account. It won’t be read or responded to. You need current contact information so that Editor2011@magazine.com actually receives your submission. Current market information is becoming more and more critical as we move to online submissions.
ICL instructor Kathleen M. Muldoon has just had a book published which I’ve read and gladly pass along to you. Half my 35 books have been published in the Christian marketplace, so I read her new Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market with interest and appreciation. She’s an author of more than twenty books. Kathleen covers the process of writing for this specialized market–from setting up your writing space to finding a home for your manuscript in the marketplace.
Marketing IS half of getting published. Give yourself the necessary edge by arming yourself with current market information. You’ll be glad you did!
November 10, 2010
Life takes over sometimes, unless you live on a remote island somewhere. Even happy events–new babies, company, holidays–can sidetrack you temporarily.
Today I realized that I couldn’t even remember some of the “must do” daily tasks of the 100-Day Challenge. Reviewing the weekly challenge letters turned out to be a great way to pump me up again!
Fall Back and Re-Group!
Here, in a nutshell, are some of the tips, tricks, methods and pointers of the 100-Day Challenge that I’ve found to be most helpful. So instead of giving up the Challenge because I totally missed many of the days, I’m recommitting for the final 50 Days to do the following:
- Set your goal and break that major goal down into small tasks. Do one small task daily. The only trap you can fall into is to make your daily tasks too complex. Please write this down: “A task is something which takes no longer than 10, 20 or 30 minutes.” When you chunk every task down into slivers of time, it stops you procrastinating. If you only have 20 minutes to do a task, you’ll do it. (Use a timer, either a kitchen one or a freeware timer for your computer-Google “Timer Utility” for some free choices.)
- Talk to yourself on paper (or on screen) about your writing. Instead of thinking about writing or thinking about your goals, get that thinking down on paper or screen. Take baby steps, putting one word down after the other. Keep a notebook or file open where you frequently talk to yourself and make notes about anything concerning your writing life. You will stop being intimidated by the art of writing–it will just be something you do. (For more about this see “Write It All Down.”)
- Document everything. Write down your goals and plans. Write down each day what you did toward meeting those goals. Every little bit. Brainstorm about your strengths and weaknesses–and things you can do to overcome obstacles. Angela said, “If you get into the habit of journaling, and talking to yourself about your writing, you’ll be amazed at the breakthroughs in your writing that you’ll achieve.” Based on the days I used her idea, I have to agree!
- Make a comprehensive Master Task List. (This took several days, but I now have a three-page single spaced list of small 20-30 minute tasks. The tasks are organized into six areas that encompass the writing and marketing things I hope to accomplish.) Now when I have a 20-30 minute “window of opportunity,” I don’t have to try to think of something I can finish in that amount of time. I just grab my list, choose one, set the timer and go.
- Keep your goal, or goals, in focus. You may find it helpful to rewrite your primary goal each day. Rewrite it on a sticky note (real paper or on your computer screen) several times a day. This helps you to refocus and remember what’s important to you–and why it’s important.
- Do confidence building activities. Re-read frequently the confidence-building thoughts you’ve worked on. See “Pitch It To Yourself” for ideas, if you haven’t done this yet. I have a tendency to do the work, but then never look at it again. So I found my journal and re-read the pitches I wrote. Saying them out loud daily is even better! Remember: your confidence is destroyed by your own negative thoughts.
- Write down any questions you have about your writing life or work-in-progress. Angela said, “You’ll find that your questions are like pin pricks–they irritate you. Your mind will automatically start offering you answers to your questions. Write down any answers, no matter how way out and whacky they seem.” This one really works!
- Aim for small changes, rather than big ones. Complete your daily tasks. If you can’t complete (or even start) your tasks on a particular day, that’s FINE. Talk to yourself about why you couldn’t–just write 50 words about this. Every word you write is one word closer to being the writer you want to be.
- Use creative visualization every day. Before you start a writing task, visualize yourself completing it successfully, in the time you’ve allotted for it. Also, imagine yourself achieving your major Challenge goal on January 1. Imagine how great it will feel! On a daily basis, before you go to sleep at night, imagine yourself completing your writing tasks the following day.
- Once a week, re-read your writing journal, all that “talking to myself about my writing” stuff. Highlight the goals and fresh insights and ideas that occurred to you. Transfer some of it to your tasks list. If you don’t review the journal entries–and I know this for a fact–all your wonderful insights will be for nothing. Review and pull those golden nuggets out and turn them into action steps.
From Thinking to Action
“Time to dismantle the training wheels, and WRITE,” Angela says this week. “You’ve got all the strategies you need.” To help you focus on writing this week, here are her “Top Ten Writing Tips to Help You Write More.”
For those of you doing the 100-Day Challenge (or TRYING to, like me), what has been the most helpful advice so far? What has been the hardest thing to implement into your writing life? Do group challenges like this help you focus? Leave me your thoughts!
November 5, 2010
Want to know an easy way to think of both ideas for story conflicts and ideas for nonfiction? I read this idea in a newsletter by Angela Booth, and I wanted to pass it along.
People want to learn how to do things, how to solve things, and how to overcome problems.
Challenges in All Sizes
People have small problems and huge problems to overcome. They want to accomplish small things (organize an office), overcome medium challenges (potty train a toddler), and survive huge things (like being laid off from a job).
Do you write for kids? Just scale down the ideas. Children and teens want to organize their bedrooms, paper train a puppy, and survive their dad being laid off. Each “want to do” activity could be an article, a whole series of online articles, or the central plot of a book (either serious or humorous).
Technique to Generate Ideas
“Go to Google.com and enter ‘How do I’ with a VERB into the search query field. With the magic of Google Instant, you’ll get lots of ideas,” says Angela Booth.
For example, I entered “How do I make” (without quotes) and got:
- How do I make clear ice cubes like in a restaurant?
- How do I make my hair grow faster?
- How do I make an electromagnet?
- How do I make a pinewood derby car do faster?
This doesn’t just generate ideas. It generates ideas that thousands of people are interested in! It generates topics for your writing that people want to read about. And many of the topics can be adjusted if you write for children and teens. (Example from above: a child may not care about making clear ice cubes for his dinner party, but it would make a great science fair project. And that science fair project can be a nonfiction article or a plot/subplot in your novel.)
See the possibilities? Try lots of verbs in your search, Googling “how do I build” and “how do I create” and “how do I quit” and so many others!
If you try this technique, give an example in a comment. I bet we could come up with some really unusual ideas this way!Newer Posts »