Monday Again…

Wow… Weekends sure do go by quickly! And with all of the responsibilities of living — mother, wife, author, entrepreneur, etc. — it makes the time seem even quicker. Forty-eight hours is just not enough time to get it all done!

I have been reading a lot about social networking lately. More specifically as it relates to blogs. See…I really want my blog to be a useful tool in the blogosphere and not just another blog to add to the millions out there. I want it to have a plan and direction; for it to be targeted and specific to the niche I have chosen. Not that my chosen focus is a “niche” per se since writing is very broad; however, I would like my blog to be focused and not all over the map, jumping from this to that to this and back to that again…

One of the topics I have been reading up on this weekend involves creating an editorial calendar for your blog. This will help you to keep your focus and keep your blog going in the direction you intend, rather than having it all over the place. Most of the articles suggested using Excel or any spreadsheet program to create and keep your EC. Microsoft Word or a wordprocessing program was also suggested. I am going to start with Excel, but in the long run I’m sure it will end up in the Calendar app on my iPad somehow. I just need to start in Excel so I can transfer it to my electronic method once refined.

I found these two articles very helpful in explaining exactly what an editorial calendar is and how instituting one in your blogging life can assist you greatly and steer your blog into a more professional direction:

Develop An Editorial Calendar for Your Blog
How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing

Both authors have similar views. They suggest that using an EC will greatly improve your blogging and help you to stress less about your blog. The authors agree that having some type of EC in place allows you to get your blogging done in an orderly, non-rushed fashion, where you know well ahead of time what needs to be written for your blog on each day that you will be blogging. I believe that instituting an EC will allow me to get my posts written and scheduled in advance so I’m no longer scrambling the day of to get the darn article written and posted. Because of some of the suggestions in these two articles, I have chosen my method of scheduling and will be creating my spreadsheet today. Anyone who blogs regularly and professionally should really consider getting your mind wrapped around a “publishing” schedule and getting your EC in place today…

Time to share…
Do you use an editorial calendar in your blogging life? If so, please share the tool(s) you use to create and maintain it. Also share how instituting one has resolved issues for your blog and kept you focused. 

The Whole Planners v Pantsers/Plungers “Debate”

Are you a Planner or Pantser? What the devil, you ask, do I mean???

There are writers who plan out their entire work — be it a novel or an essay — before they put pen to paper and start writing. Then there are writers who come up with an idea for a written work, pick up their pen and notebook and get writing. Which one are you?

I am definitely a pantser. The Muse throws idea after idea after idea at me and I jot the idea down in my “Ideas” notebook, pull out my iPad and immediately start writing. No planning, period. I don’t outline — I don’t even understand how anyone can outline something prior to writing it! One of the reasons I hate formal writing classes. The teacher always makes you write an outline and submit the outline for approval before you begin writing. Outlines cause me writer’s block. If I outline prior to writing, then my mind forces me to stick rigidly to the outline. The writing process is laborious, the words come out awkward and stiff, and I absolutely never finish writing something I have outlined first unless I have to turn it in for a grade…

Planners, well they plan. Usually extensively prior to writing one word of the manuscript. They outline. They create index cards for their sections and characters. They employ several tried and true planning techniques — Snowflake Method and other such strategies. They organize their index card sections in the order they are going to write the work. Then they start writing. After the full plan has been laid out on paper…

My way — I receive an idea and I pick up my iPad, create a new novel in Storyist for the new idea, and start writing. Pantser/Plunger extraordinaire here… Recently, however, I have started reading a book by Don Fry — Writing Your Way: Creating A Writing Process That Works For You. The entire concept of this book is to get writers out of pigeon-holing themselves into one of these two categories and guide them into creating a writing habit and style that works for them — be it by planning, plunging, or a combination of both. It is teaching me some exciting new things that I am slowly incorporating into my writing life…

One of the things I learned the other day was Mind Mapping. Not a new concept to me at all; however, the way Mr. Fry talks about it in his book made me actually create a mind map for a new project that the Muse has laid upon my heart. I loved it! It effectively dumped all of the ideas about the new WIP and what I wanted to include in the work into on roadmap for writing. And guess what??? For me, the mind map also created my sections! Now I know what sections will be in the book and in what order they need to appear. I will without doubt be using mind mapping in my writing life going forward.

Which brings me back to that infamous outlining idea. Nope — I’m still not an outliner nor do I think I ever will be. However, I do see how the mind map can be further refined into an outline for those of you who are planners… I just cannot box myself in like that. It causes me terrible stress and a stressed writer is a blocked writer. So no outlining for me, but those who have difficulty outlining may be well served by mind mapping first. This will increase my writing speed greatly because I can move my sections around on the mind map prior to writing. Much easier moving idea boxes around on the page rather than entire sections of text and then refining that section to meld with the sections before/after it in its new location…

Planner v Pantser/Plunger. There’s no one right way. We all need to learn to write in our own way as Mr. Fry teaches us in his book. I think we as writers sometimes concern ourselves a little too much with the method and process of writing. We fiddle and fidget with our process each time we pick up our pens. No wonder the writing process can seem to be tedious and too much to deal with. We keep reinventing the wheel each time we start to write! Develop your own method and stick to it. And once you’ve found your method, stop reading and researching “how” to write and get to writing! You’ve figured out how to write when you’ve figured out your own method. Don’t second guess yourself and go off to see what the “experts” have to say about the topic. You are your own expert on your writing method and style!

Thanks goes to Don Fry for releasing me from my own trappings — researching and researching and researching the best methods to write from the experts. He’s taught me to develop my own and don’t look back. Only look to the future — the future filled with a completed manuscript rather than struggling and never reaching that goal. I will continue to read Write Your Way to see if there are any other pointers that will help me in this writer’s life. However, I don’t intend to wait until I get to the end of the book before I start writing. I have already figured out that my way is the best way, whatever “my way” means…

Time to share…
Are you a planner, a panster/plunger, or both? Do you outline, and if so how does that benefit your writing? Have you already developed your own method? If so, share your method with us. Maybe we can benefit by some tip or trick you share here.

Social Media: A Major Distraction? A Useful Tool? Or A Bit of Both?

What’s your take on social media as it applies to being an author?

Is it a distraction for you? Is it a useful and much needed tool? Or, do you believe it is a bit of both? Me, it is a bit of both… Coming from working in the information technology field and being a self-proclaimed “geek”, social media can be an enormous distraction. And for the same reasons, it can be a great tool.

I am able to network with like-minded individuals through social media. Online writers’ groups, forums, resource pages and the like are all invaluable when writing. On the flip side of that coin, I can also go on the forums to research a topic, get feedback and opinions, or get the latest buzz about something and get totally sucked in tweeting, chatting, and surfing the forums to see what my colleagues are up to…

Social media is needed by authors in order to get their message out and to assist them in building their platform. You have taken the time to write and perfect the next blockbuster novel or other written work. What better way to spread the word then the world wide web? It is one proven method of getting your message out to the world. Of course, there are many other marketing methods, tools, and avenues you will take; however, there is no better electronic medium than the Internet, and no better vehicle than social media.

Your website is up and ready to receive visitors. You have been the most faithful blogger. You have worked hard while you were writing to build your following using Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/every-social-site and have a nice number of followers. Your website and blog statistics are up. You would be remiss not to mention on every social site you’ve used to create buzz for yourself that your much anticipated and talked about work has finally been released — both traditionally and in electronic format.

All-in-all social media is a necessary evil. An evil because writers need nothing else to use in a procrastination or writer’s block cycle — we are already doing whatever we can to avoid writing. Just a simple fact in a writer’s life… A necessity because used properly it can be a vehicle to assist in self and book promotion, as well as a resource for pertinent information during the writing process.

Time to share…
How do you feel about social media? A tool? A distraction? Both? Let’s discuss how we can ensure it’s used as a tool and not a
distraction. 

Creative Nonfiction

A genre that contains many other genres…

The lines can blur and it can sometimes be hard to tell which way to categorize your writing if you are a creative nonfiction writer. I often struggle with where my writing fits in. Memoirs, personal essays, travel writing and the like have come to be considered as creative nonfiction. In my opinion, empowerment books — books that often tell the “struggle to triumph” story of the author — are creative nonfiction. The author is telling the story of how they came from X to become or do Y and how you too can be successful in the same vein. However, there has to be creativity in telling that story.

Without employing the nuances of creative writing, your nonfiction story is going to be dry, dull, and flat. A writer must embellish their story to keep it interesting, without changing the actual facts of the story. And by embellish, I don’t mean to add in non-truths or sensationalize the story; I simply mean using words and descriptions in such a way that the story maintains the interest of the reader. This is creative nonfiction.

Creative nonfiction combines the creative mind of a fiction writer with the aptitude for relaying fact in great detail as in journalism. A journalist must report the facts. She also must report the facts in such a way that she keeps the readers’ interest. Think of a memoir. The author is relating a memory from a slice of time in his life. The memory’s details are accurately recalled. The descriptions and telling of that recollection is done such that the reader is transported into the location where the memory is being recalled from. The two — detail and description — meld together seamlessly and shape the final work…

As a writer of creative nonfiction, it is important that you stick to the facts. It is also important that you keep the reader reading page-by-page and not skipping through. Author Iyanla Vanzant uses very colorful depictions of the struggles she’s had in life. She keeps the reader engaged and interested, while still maintaining the true details of what she went through. Now don’t shoot me — I have never researched whether or not the stories Ms. Vanzant relays in her books are truly what happened to her in her life. I take her word for it, as most readers take the word of the author who has written the words. Nonetheless, her books do a few things well —

  1. They give the “struggle to triumph” details accurately.
  2. They relate the story in a way which keeps the reader reading.
  3. They empower the reader to ACT.

Very important in creative nonfiction — accurately reporting the details, keeping the reader’s attention, and empowerment. Ms. Vanzant has Written to Inspire and Nuture. She W.I.N.s and her readers do too!

For those who want to inspire people, if you want to empower people, if you want to nudge someone gently into action, then creative nonfiction is an excellent genre in which to write.

A Day in the Life…

The Writer’s Life…

I used to be eager to live it. The allure of sitting at your writing desk, pen and paper in hand (or keyboard and computer in this age), gazing out of a sunlit window dreaming, writing, creating…

Then, I hunkered down and got serious about my writing. You know what I found out? That my lofty dreams of being an author and living the writer’s life were just that — lofty!

Unless and until a writer reaches the point that their writing is supporting them solely, then usually a writer wears many more hats than simply “author.” You have your general hats that most adults wear — wife/husband, mom/dad, chauffeur, cook, maid, nurse, employee/employer. That right there means I will never be able to live the life of my dreams, gazing aimlessly out of a window as I write leisurely. Those hats alone relegate my writing to 30 minute snippets of time that I “steal” to get writing in throughout the day. And then there are the hats you wear as an author. Yes, “hats” — plural:

  • Author
  • Speaker
  • Publicist
  • Marketing Director
  • Publisher (if self-pubbing)
  • Webmaster
  • Blogger Extraordinaire
  • You get the picture…

Even an author who is picked up by a traditional publisher has to wear all of those hats. The difference? They get assistance with those roles. However, a writer must be aware that no matter what — traditional publishing or self publishing — no one is going to do a better job at making your book successful than you. Traditional publishers have more than just one book to push. They are employing multiple authors, meaning they need to support multiple people. You are the sole person that will market your book relentlessly. Therefore whichever publishing route you choose you will need to wear all of the same hats.

A day in the life of a writer is not all glory and leisure as I had dreamed it to be. It is work. LOTS of work! But in the end it is truly rewarding. To know that my words have inspired someone in some way makes all of the hats I have to wear worth it. And the joy I get of putting fingertips to keyboard and letting the words flow from my brain through my fingertips and onto the page is priceless.

Time to share…
What is a day in the life of a writer like for you? What suggestions do you have, if any, to make the writer’s life more manageable and enjoyable?

Not For or Against College…

A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled “To attend college or not? That is the question…” (found here). Later that day, a few friends e-mailed me accusing me of college-bashing and encouraging high school students to skip college and go straight for the money. They misunderstood my post…

I think college is a wonderful institution…for some. It wasn’t for me — an honor student from private school who went straight to college full-time right out of high school. In that one semester of college, I realized that then was not the time to pursue that goal. I only went to class on the days when I had an assignment to turn in or a test to take (yay for syllabi!) and I got all A’s and B’s in that semester. I even got an A on a 5-page research paper that I didn’t research or write until the day before it was due… Nothing was challenging me there and I need a challenge else I get bored and walk away. Just like I walked away from school…

For my 26 year old son, that wasn’t the route for him either. Geez — we weren’t even sure if we were going to get him out of high school! Not due to grades, due to laziness and not getting up to get to school before 11 a.m.!! We planned for college for him, saved and all. College just wasn’t his path either. He too is gainfully employed, working his way up the corporate ladder — he’s already a manager, and supporting his baby girl. And now, he’s in college taking classes online. Now is his time for college…

My post on the 18th is neither for or against college in general. It is against college for me and anyone else who college is not suited for. It is encouragement from a different point of view that you really don’t need a college degree to land a good, and good paying job. I love my job. I have a great employer. I have an excellent salary. I don’t have a college degree… I can also say that my employment experience throughout my life has been wonderful — all good jobs that paid decent salaries and afforded me the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder without a degree.

There are so many who have jumped on the bandwagon that shuttles people straight to the doors of higher education. They all tell you the same thing — without a college degree you will be relegated to sub-par employment, low salaries, and have no chance at management. I am one of the few who jumped off that bandwagon with proof that what they were preaching just wasn’t true. My take — college isn’t for everyone. Those that can, do. Those that can’t, do better. I am living proof and you will meet other real life people in Six Figures, No College Degree who too have done very well for themselves without a college degree, through traditional employment channels. No get rich quick schemes or illegal activities. Strictly by employing the strategies to be learned in the book.

Empowerment.

That is my goal. Not bashing. Not demonizing. No negativity. To empower those that look down the path of four long years of college and shudder. Those are the folks that most likely will either drop out of college anyway — discouraged, party all through college and take 6 years of their parents’ money to graduate rather than the requisite 4 years, or wander aimlessly through 4 years of school only to realize that the piece of paper they hold in their hands at graduation has nothing to do with their true passion. Then they proceed to pursue their passion, leaving behind all of the education they received pursuing that particular major.

Empower yourself with the knowledge of all of the choices you have before you. Don’t just listen to those that drone on like robots preaching the wonders of college degrees and the ills of not having one. Look at both sides of the scale and see which one tips in your favor. Then, take it by the reigns and run with it — no matter whether you choose the traditional college path or the non-traditional path to financial success.

Looking for a Writing Partner…

I just wanted to put it out there that I’m looking for a writing buddy. Someone serious about writing who will help keep me accountable and keep me writing. My buddy should want the same from me in return.

I am looking for someone who wants specific deadlines to help keep us accountable. We can do it weekly or bi-weekly; however, I need at least bi-weekly communication.

It can be someone outside of my hometown (Gwynn Oak, MD) as long as the person is an avid computer user and doesn’t mind communicating via e-mail and Skype when we aren’t able to chat otherwise.

Gender does not matter…

I write primarily creative non-fiction — empowerment books. Telling my story/experiences or the experiences of others in such a way that it will inspire and encourage you to act in your own personal situation.

I also write romance novels. And I dabble in poetry.

However, I am an avid reader of all genres. I would prefer a partner who at least is an avid reader of creative non-fiction in order that they can give me an objective opinion. However, if you feel that you are able objectively and constructively offer your criticism, then let’s get together!

This is not a paid gig. It is a mutual writing relationship where we help each other improve our manuscripts and push forward to publication day.

Lastly, I would love to form a writing group in my area (or join one if one exists) where I can meet up with other writers in a group.

If you are interested in partnership, comment below or shoot me an e-mail. The writer’s life is so much easier when they have someone to commiserate with together…

Aside

YOU did it!! The reward…A Blogger’s Miranda Warning….

Click the link above. This is too cute!!! I had to re-blog it so others could read it too.

Please note, coming to my blog means you have been given your Blogger’s Miranda Warning…LOL!

YOU did it!! The reward…A Blogger’s Miranda Warning…

Fighting the Urge

Writers are unique creatures in my opinion. They have a passion for words and ideas and they are able to get those words and ideas down and on paper while constantly being mind-whipped with the influx of new ideas. As one author puts it — “we’re always chasing mental rabbits.” My question, then, is how do you fight the urge to chase the rabbit that just ran past your pen as you are working on one manuscript? What stops you from switching gears mid-write and chasing down that path after the new rabbit?

These are questions I’m grappling with myself. I currently have 3 or 4 WIPs (works in progress) and the more I write and work on any of those manuscripts, the more bunnies keep running past my typing fingertips trying to distract me and take me down a different path. This is what causes me writer’s block — too many ideas jamming up my writing flow… It is very rare that I have the opposite problem — needing to write and having no words come to mind.

What I have done thus far is first and foremost try to ignore those bunnies. I know that it’s just the EIW (Evil Inner Witch) trying to steal my precious writing minutes from me. If that doesn’t work and the bunnies just keep hounding me, then I take a moment to pause and jot down the idea. I have a file in Storyist (I’m an iPad + Storyist writer…) that is for General Ideas. I’ll open that file and jot down some brief bullet points — a quick brain dump of the ideas that are in the way of my focusing fully on the manuscript at hand. It’s really helped me a lot. It allows the idea to be “born” because it won’t stop pushing until I get it out, and it allows me to get right back to the manuscript I was working on without much delay.

Time to share…
What do you do to stop yourself from chasing all of the rabbits?

Time Management for Writers

Like me, there are many authors who have other roles in life in addition to writing. I, myself, have a full-time job outside of my home, I have 3 children — two still in elementary and one adult child, a granddaughter, and 2 other businesses. All that on top of writing…

Time is usually not on my side. I have a very busy day job which I absolutely love. It’s not often that you get to work in a position that you love. I am blessed to have both a day job that I love and my writing passion. I do not have time during my work day to sneak in writing time. Sometimes I am able to write at lunch; but generally I surf the web and wolf down a sandwich during my lunch hour. After work, there’s picking up the boys from karate class, getting dinner made and eaten, and preparing for school and work for the next day. And of course, I have to make quality time for my husband. When then do I have time to get writing done???

It’s been a real struggle for me. I have found time for writing early in the morning. Because we are a one car family, I get to work 1.5 hours early every day. My goal is to dedicate this 90 minute timeframe before my work day begins to writing. Haven’t quite mastered that, but it’s coming. And after reading a great article on the Make A Living Writing Blog, which can be found here, I think I will have this time management for writers down to a science by the end of next week.

I took the time after reading the article to follow the writer’s advice. I pulled out my iPad, got the calendar up on screen, and on each of the 7 days of the week I scheduled one, and only one, activity to concentrate on. I do have that bonus — having those 90 minutes in the morning when I am wide awake and coherent and sitting at a desk in front of a computer in an almost silent office. I get to do two things each day — write for 90 minutes in the morning, and then the day’s activity that I’ve scheduled that is my focus for that day. Gladly, I get to get a little more mileage out of Carol’s time management suggestion; however, even if you can only do what Carol suggests in her article then I think you’d be putting yourself on a plan for success.

Really, I’m looking forward to this new grip on time management that I have instituted in my life. I hope it works for me as well as it worked for Carol. I really think it will. It has already forced me to determine the “must do’s” from the “I should get this done at some point in my life.” It made me prioritize the stack of stuff I had on my plate, file away what didn’t need to be there, and decide what is really important to me in life. Those are the 7 things that I assigned to each of the 7 days of the week. The rest of the stuff? Well, it’s on my “To Do Someday” list..

Let’s share our strategies — maybe what you do to make time to write will help someone else along the way. What time management strategies have you implemented in your writing life to ensure you get time to write?