One Writer’s Journey

April 12, 2019

Graphics: Sometimes They Work and Sometimes They Splat

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 5:00 am
Tags: , ,

Today I have a book due with Redline.  Easy, peasy mac-n-cheesy?  Nope.  Not even close.

The problem is that I need to provide ideas for at least 2 graphics.  Yes, I pitched specific ideas in my outline.  But when I tried to find the details I needed to pull them together?  Old stats. Biased stats.  Stats that were simply no good.

If the problem was only one graphic, I would simply develop a new idea.  But neither one of my original ideas worked and I only had one new idea. I sent it to her and we worked it together until it worked.  then she sent me several new ideas for the second graphic. I tweaked one of those two develop another functional graphic.

What types of graphics can I include?  It really depends on the topic.

In one book, I had a lot of charts including pie graphs, bar graphs and even a flow chart.  I roughed out the flow chart in Illustrator.  My husband plugged data into Excel and used the program to generate the other charts.

I also have a soft spot for maps because I made maps in college. Yes, that was a thing.  I drew plan views and profiles from archaeological sites.  I would also duplicate existing maps to show where sites were in relation to roads, buildings, parks and more.  So I like to include maps whenever possible.  But this has led to the discovery that some graphics people find maps intimidating.  Sometimes I just provide a link and the publisher develops the map such as where the Dakota Access pipeline ran in relation to nearby cities or where various Mayan cities where in the Yucatan

But sometimes the only graphics I can find are too complicated.  When this happens, I get out a black Sharpie and ink up how to write out your numbers 0 to 20 in Mayan.  I actually like getting to ink things up.

Ah, well.  Back to work.  I’ve got four more chapters to copyedit.  Copyediting is much less fun than writing numbers in ancient Mayan.



April 13, 2018

5 Minutes a Day: When It Looks Like Someone Ransacked Your House

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:11 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m not houseproud but when someone who has never been here before stops by, I don’t want it to look like enemy agents were looking for the code key which, at the moment, is pretty much how it looks. Unfortunately, my son’s engineering study group is meeting here on Saturday afternoon.

But I have a book due a week from today with two more chapters to draft as well as the back matter.  So I can’t stop writing, but I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique – 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break.  Even a busy writer can have a non-terrifying house by doing five minutes spot cleanings.

Here are 15 tasks you can complete in five minutes.

  1. Clean the sink and toilet.
  2. Pull the shower curtain closed and clean the bathroom floor.
  3. Pick up in the entry way.
  4. Pick up in the living room. This one requires having other people clean up their stuff.  If they say no…
  5. Box up other people’s living room clutter.
  6. Write the ransom notes for the clutter you have commandeered.  No, I’m serious.
  7. Box up the dining room table clutter.  We are packing up my dad’s house.  Things that have migrated have nested on my dining room table.  It’s going to have to move so time to box it up to go through after my deadline.
  8. Dust mop the living and dining rooms.
  9. Pick up in the kitchen.
  10. Pick up in the kitchen again.
  11. Clean kitchen table.
  12. Sweep kitchen floor.
  13. Mop kitchen floor.
  14. Pick up in family room.
  15. Vacuum family room.  We have very little carpet.  5 minutes will do it.

No the house won’t be spotless but in my experience dust offends me more than it does most other people.  So that will just have to wait. But this plan will get the public areas clean by Saturday afternoon.  Five minute spot cleanings will help you meet your deadline without your house looking like a crime scene.


May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,

I’m not sure what it is about Memorial Day and rewrite requests.  Last year, I had to tell an editor that I couldn’t have a rewrite done as early as they wanted it because I was taking the weekend off.

Right now, I’ve got three book contracts: The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); Advertising Overload; and Pro and Con: The Electoral College. Any day now, I’ll have the feedback on the DAPL book and have a rewrite to do.  It is such a complex topic that I doubt it will be easy peasy.  As much as I want to get the feedback and get it done, I didn’t want to get it this weekend.

Lucky for me, it didn’t arrive.  But the feedback on chapter one and the outline of Advertising Overload did!  Fortunately, I’ve got several weeks to finish that very short book so I’m not worried about letting it sit for a few days.  Besides, the changes are either minor or the “don’t forget to keep this in mind” variety.

I hope that those of you in the US are managing to get some time off and spend it with your family.  I’ll be visiting with my Dad, a veteran, today.  See you again tomorrow!



October 20, 2015

What do you do after you meet a deadline?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
Tags: ,

time-watch-theme-machines-gearsI remember when I was a new writer, unpublished, and I thought I would have these amazing rituals to celebrate sales and meeting deadlines.  Hey!  Back off!  I majored in anthropology.  Rituals.

I’d celebrate like this . . .

I’d go buy that . . .

I’d have something that represented each of my sales . . .

I hope that I’m not dashing anyone’s wildest dreams but that isn’t how things have worked out.  For one thing — this is what I do for a living. I’d love to say that I have time to recooperate.  I’d love to say that, at the very least, I get dinner out and a movie.  But very often I have another deadline so I move on to that project.

In this case, I have 7 educational activities due next Monday.  I’d love to say that they’re written and I only have to finish the projects and take the photos.  But that’s not quite the case.  I have started on them but this will be my focus for the next few days.

I’m also going to get back on my letter to agents. More about that Thursday.

And, for the first time, I have a second book in the same series.  I just turned in Women in Science.  Now I get to write Women in Sports.

I wish I could take a few days off but I don’t think its in the cards this time around.  That said, I’m lobbying for a movie and dinner this weekend…


October 12, 2015

Developing a Writing Habit

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:05 am
Tags: , ,

Are you one of those writers who has to be in just the right mood to write?  That has to commune with your Muse? numbers-time-watch-white

I’m not.  I can’t afford to be.  Absolutely nothing helps you develop a regular writing habit better than deadlines. At the moment, I have 5:

  • One Muffin blog post.
  • The final draft of Women in Science.
  • 7 Activities with photos.
  • Chapter 1 and an outline for Women in Sports.
  • The final draft of Women in Sports.

The first deadline is in just under two weeks.  The last is in about 2 months.  What it ultimately means is that I write Monday through Friday and often a bit here and there on the weekends.  I don’t wait until I’m in the mood.  I just do it.

If you are trying to develop a writing habit but don’t have paying deadlines, you may have to create or find deadlines.  Some writers do this by entering contests.  Others decide that they will write X minutes per day.  Those who can’t stick to this kind of schedule without a bit of a nudge arrange to check in with a writing buddy. Still other people attend a regular critique group.  Knowing that you need to have something to share can also be a great motivator.

Write regulary for about 6 weeks and you’ll develop a writing habit. Why 6 weeks?  That’s about how long it takes any new practice to become habit.

If you have troubles making progress because you work and rework each paragraph until you achieve perfection, give yourself permission to create dreadful drafts.  For more on how this can benefit you as a writer, check out my blog post for last Saturday  on the Muffin.


March 25, 2015

Deadlines: Procrastination and Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:25 am
Tags: , , ,

writing timeThis week, I’m not going to get much writing done.  I know this because my husband and son are both on Spring Break.  I used to be able to work with my son home but we have become That House.  You know the one where all the teens hang out?  It IS a good thing but it isn’t terribly conducive to writing.  Teen age boys are noisy beasts.

That wasn’t my excuse last week.  My first chapter and outline were due Friday.  Monday, I wrote my church blog. I went to the library.  And I roughed most of chapter one but I didn’t get that done until about 11:30 pm.

Tuesday I needed to rough my book outline.  That would give me time to rewrite the chapter Wednesday, ignore it all Thursday while my husband read it, and then rewrite and submit Friday.

So naturally I agreed to work at the highschool for 2 and 1/2 hours Tuesday.

It looks like procrastinating but something I’ve learned is that if I have the whole day to write, I won’t finish until late in the day and I’ll be flaky and strange because I do anything else worthwhile all day long.  If I volunteer at the high school, I’ll get started on my writing before I leave. That way I just have to finish when I get back.  If I have all day, I won’t even start until I’d be returning home from the highschool.

100% writing doesn’t work for me but neither does over booking my schedule.  The key is to find a happy medium.

What works best for you?

Check out my post on reasons we procrastinate over on the Muffin.


December 3, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:45 am
Tags: ,

deadlinesHow do you do when it comes to meeting deadlines?

If it is an external deadline, something in a contract, I’m all over it.  I’ve been free lancing full time since before my son was born and I’ve missed fewer than five deadlines, all with extenuating circumstances, as in my grandmother died.

I have a major deadline today — the book on Pearl Harbor is due.  As I’m writing this, I need to finish to sections in the back matter, the glossary and the essential facts.  Then I need to read through the back matter again and make another pass through a hard copy of the whole book.  I know my husband has found one area I need to “fill in.”  According to him, too much time lapses between Point A and Point B.  If the filler isn’t pertinent, I need to construct a quick bridge.  If it is, I need a paragraph or two.  I happen to know it is so, I’ll be adding two paragraphs.

If I have a deadline for a volunteer job, I’m still pretty good.  I may get it in at the last moment but I meet these deadlines too.

My own deadlines?  I’d love to say that I meet them without any problems but that just isn’t the case.  All kinds of things, ranging from paying work to negative critiques, derail me.  Obviously, paying work is important but I need to get better at getting things out there so that I can break into new markets.

I’ll be noodling over how I can enforce my own personal deadlines and I’d love it if you’d share your suggestions here.


May 28, 2014

Work for Hire: What I Learned

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:10 am
Tags: , ,

SuccessMonday, I submitted my Ancient Maya book to my editor at Red Line.  Yes, Monday.  It was due on Memorial Day.

I’m still a little amazed that I managed to pull this off.  Red Line approached me on April 16.  I had my assignment that same day.  The first chapter and an outline were due on May 5th.  The entire book — 14,500 words — on May 26. This means that in 6 weeks, I researched, outlined, wrote and rewrote 3 times 14,500 words.

Working this fast will never be my favorite way to write but I’m really glad that I did it and would definitely do it again.  I’m not nearly as tapped out as I thought I’d be.

My biggest lesson from all of this was that I can write more and faster than I thought possible.  Before I could start this project, I had to finish another biggie that was due April 30.  I also went out of town one weekend on a retreat, attended a Boy Scout Eagle Court of Honor, blogged, worked a high school fundraiser one afternoon, attended a high school concert, finished my part of the paperwork to hire a new pastor at our church, rekeyed a play, finished crocheting a baby blanket, and kept up with my blogging.

Would I want to be this busy all the time?  Again, no.

But it has influenced what I expect from myself.  The editor I met on retreat will accept work from us through September 1.  The piece that has the best chance with her is still an idea in my head, but I have The piece I want to submit is in my idea file, but counting this week, I have 14 weeks to work it up.  It’s nonfiction so I know that once I research it and choose an approach, I can fly.   Two months ago, that would have been daunting.  Now?  Not so much.

Will I manage to do it?  Only if I try.


May 12, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:18 am
Tags: , ,

It just crossed my mind that I haven’t told everyone what is going on — I’m writing a book for Red Line, an educational book packager.  This is why my blog posts have gotten . . . a bit shorter than usual.  I don’t want to quit blogging until Memorial Day but I do have a deadline to meet.  This is a great opportunity for me and I’m enjoying it for several reasons:

Topic.  I am writing for a series on ancient cultures.  I got my first pick, so I’m writing about the Maya.  This takes me back to my days studying anthropology and Latin American history.  So fun!

The Level.  I’m getting to write for high school Freshman.  Believe it or not, I was so worried about writing too high, that I wrote too low.  I can cut loose!   Yay me!  I was trying to figure out how to work in human sacrifice without freaking the book banning crowd and my editor basically told me not to worry about it.  It was a huge part of the culture so include it.  Right up and don’t worry.  Hmm.  No one tells me that very often.

Jared Diamond.  I love Diamond’s work and I’ve found a new book while working on this project (see image).

No Excuses.  I’m learning a lot about writing in a crunch.  My students may not appreciate this, but if I can research an ancient culture and write a 15,000 word book in 5 weeks, then you can write an article, picture book or beginning reader in 8.  Seriously.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write about Maya religion, blood and . . . sacrifice.



August 6, 2010

When You Can’t Meet A Deadline

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:21 am
Tags: ,

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a blue moon a deadline is simply impossible to meet.  The last time it happened was when I was writing a Children’s Writer article.  I had contacted a herd of editors and a flock of writers and still didn’t have enough interviews.

I had two choices:

  • Write a stinko article and turn it in.
  • Miss the deadline.

I went with the second option.

How did I do it without freaking out my editor?   First of all, I have a long track record with this editor.  I started working with her about the time my son was born.  So I e-mailed her.  “I really want to get two more interviews but here is the problem.”   The deadline wasn’t right up against the production schedule, so she could give me the time to get another interview and produce a solid piece of work.

Here are some tips for breaking a deadline:

  • Make sure you really and truly have to break it.  Can you salvage the situation by putting in some time you’d rather spend doing something else?
  • Contact your editor.  This isn’t the time to get dodgy or evasive.  Drop your editor an e-mail several days before the deadline.
  • Explain the situation.  This is what I have now vs what I want to have for you.  I can pull something together, but . . .
  • Suggest a new deadline that you can realistically meet but isn’t w-a-a-a-a-y off in the future.  Otherwise, your slot may go to someone else.

Your editor is not the enemy.  You are part of a team working to produce quality literature or media for hungry readers.  Help your editor make this happen by letting them know when there is a problem that you can fix with just a bit more time.


Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: