Periodically I mention a post that I’ve written for The Muffin. That’s the blog over at WOW! Women on Writing. There are a team of us who blog there and we just got some great news. We won placement in the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites award again for 2016! Woo-hoo!
Check it out and you’ll find a wide variety of posts on writing.
Margo Dill recently wrote about her path to becoming a children’s writer (here).
Guest blogger Karen Cioffi blogged about the tiny steps we can all take to promote our platforms.
Renee Roberson shared 4 Tips on using Instagram as a writer.
And we have a full range of writers. Some of us write novels. Some of us write nonfiction. We publish traditionally and self-publish. We write for children and adults. Because of this, we have a wide ranging audience.
Between the list of regular bloggers and guest bloggers, you’ll find a new post every day. The great things about blogging as part of a group is that the pressure isn’t all on one person to create a consistently amazing blog. And if you have an emergency, someone on the crew can step forward and post on your day so that you have the break you need to deal with whatever happened.
If you don’t want to maintain your own blog, look for a group blog. Find out how they select their writers. You could also team up with a friend or two and create a new group blog. Writing is such a solitary experience that it is especially rewarding when you find a group of like minded souls.
What else can I do with my Ancient Maya research?
Last week I read a great post on idea generation by my fellow Muffin blogger, Luann Schindler. Each week Luann picks a topic such as an upcoming holiday or a seasonal happening and then brainstorms ideas based on the following list — woman’s issue, man’s issue, kid’s/teen issue, a twist, outlandish idea, and an evergreen idea.
Adapting this list slightly since I primarilly write for kids/teens, I came up with:
- girl interest (teen)
- boy interest (teen)
- younger reader (early elementary)
- twist to surprise the reader
- something way out there
- evergreen topic
The question for me is how can I use this to get more Mayan sales? What? Didn’t I just write a book on the Maya? Yes, I did. But I can get more bang for my research buck if I come up with more pieces about the Maya that I can sell to a variety of markets. Using the idea generation list above, I came up with:
Girl interest (teen):
- How to print a t-shirt with a design that looks like a huipil (woman’s blouse)
- Working woman’s survival show, Maya style — jobs held by women
Boy interest (teen)
- Who would win the fight, a Maya warrior or a Roman centurian? (Got this eavesdropping on a certain group of boys.)
- The Mayan ball game as a blood sport.
Younger reader (early elementary)
- Mayan math. They didn’t use base 10.
- Craft: Pectoral (large pendant like object of jade)
Twist to surprise the reader
- Not all Mayan sacrifices were fatal.
- There are still Maya living in Central America today.
Something way out there
- What Would the Maya Pin
- Mayan Halloween Costumes
- What would have happened if the Pilgrims had landed in the Yucatan (I wouldn’t say these are good, but I can do wacky)
- Mayan environmentalism (green topics)
- Mayan school (first day of school)
I’m not going to say that these are all brilliant but I hope you can see the possibilities. The next time you finish a major project, spend some time brainstorming what else you can do on that subject. Get the most bang for your research buck. Check out my piece on brainstorming ideas to compliment my Maya book and increase my income tomorrow at the Muffin.
I know an author who keeps something of a black list. Any agent or editor who is on this list will never see his work again. While we should all black list unscrupulous editors or agents, this particular list consists largely of people who have rejected his work. That alone isn’t unreasonable, because if someone doesn’t care for your work then there is no point in sending it to them.
But this writer goes one step too far. He gripes about these people publically. By name.
Frankly, if I’m going to name drop, I’m not going to tell the world that the biggest names in the industry don’t like my work. That just seems counterproductive.
I’ve also heard editors and agents speak about writers who call them on the phone and tell them off. Others send back the torn up rejection letter, create nasty Facebook posts and more.
While I get the emotion, they are rejecting your precious work, I don’t get this type of reaction. Public whining and confrontation are a great way to get yourself blacklisted. I’m not saying that editors and agents keep a list of people they won’t work with but they do know how to use Google. You don’t want them search on your name and decide that working with you would be a big headache.
If you get a rejection letter that simply sets you free, blow off steam in private to a close friend or two. Tear out a shrub (ahem). Or find a way to laugh at it. That’s what I did when I wrote today’s Muffin post. Let’s just say that with some rejections it is pretty easy to find a humorous twist.
You know that saying about well-laid plans of mice and men? Let’s just say that last week, I had that kind of week.
It was supposed to be the week that everyone went back to work and school. I don’t generally want to get rid of them, but I’m taking part in ReviMo 2014, a picture book revision challenge, this week. There were other things I need to get done first.
Those of you who live in the St. Louis area know what I’m going to say. On Saturday, January 4th, we got lots of snow. We got enough snow that on Monday, they closed Graybar Electric where my husband works. It was the first time that had happened in the 15 years he’s worked there. My husband was home Monday. My son was home all week.
Needless to say, this meant that I had to rearrange my schedule a bit, but it was do-able because I had very few deadlines.
Then on Wednesday, my Education.com editor contacted me. Would I be willing to do some Valentine’s Day activities? Of course, I said yes, which meant I had a pitch to write. This meant re-prioritizing yet again.
The point is that being a freelance writer means being flexible. Sometimes you have to be flexible because of your family — like when they are home for an extra week. Other times, you have to be flexible because you are a freelancer. Work doesn’t always come in on a predictable schedule so when it comes, you may need to re-arrange things to fit.
Either way, it means having to reevaluate your goals. Check out my post from yesterday on the Muffin to find out the four steps I used to meet my goals with everyone home.
On the Education.com wall, I spotted a teaching aid made out of tri-toned paint chips. Each paint chip was labeled with an emotion, for example “scared.” Then each color value was labeled with a more or less intense version of said emotion. This meant that the lightest tint on a green paint chip labeled “scared” might be labeled “worried,” the medium tone “afraid,” and the most saturated “terrified.”
There was a whole stack of these paint chips each for a different emotion. Sad. Angry. Happy. They had been made up to help children understand “shades of meaning,” or what to call it when you’re a little scared vs. really scared.
That’s when it hit me. Writers need to have an equal awareness of emotional intensity.
If I write a piece with my character emotions in the “tints” the entire time, it is going to be very quiet. That might be ok, but it might also mean that I need to intensify the emotion.
If, on the other hand, I write a piece in which the characters are always elated, terrified or furious, I’m going to wear my reader out.
To read more about my musings on character emotion, check out yesterday’s blog post at the Muffin.
Until recently, I would not have had a valid answer to this question. At least, it wouldn’t have been an answer as much as it would have been an amazing eye-roll. Writing exercises and I are fairly often incompatible. In fact, as much as I love writing conferences and workshops, I hate writing exercises of all kinds. Even prompts. Give me a prompt or an exercise, and my mind goes blank.
Whoa. There’s absolutely nothing there. That blank.
If its all the same to you, I’d rather get something done on my work-in-progress, thank you. Can you just give my writing prompt to someone else? Someone who might appreciate it?
Somehow Martha Alderson knew that’s what I would say, so she wrote The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts.
Yes, this is a book of prompts but it is a book of prompts designed for the prompt phobic. The prompts are goof ball exercises designed to draw memories out of some great gobbledy gook. They are designed to get you writing on your work in progress.
Yes, you heard me. These prompts have one goal — to get you writing on your current novel.
To find out more about how this worked for me, check out my post today on the Muffin.
What writing prompts work best for you?
What is the first thing that you think of when you think of your critique group? Mine is a jumbled image of laughter, food, fun and story. They are among my biggest supporters. They are, quite simply, the best.
They always have my back which means that they not only point out where I need to grow as a writer but they also have no qualms about showing me what I’ve done right. Nope. They are not going to let me wallow in self-involved angst, at least not for very long.
When I talk to other writers who insist that their group is the best, I know that they have what I have. A group that fits perfectly with what they need.
Unfortunately, finding just the right critique group is a lot like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. Sometimes there’s an uncomfortable pinch or altogether too much space. You may think that you know what you want until you get it and realize that, no, that isn’t working either. Expect that it is going to take several tries to find the right group.
That’s the topic of yesterday’s blog post on the Muffin. If you don’t have a critique group, check it out for hints on how to find or create a group that will meet your needs as a writer.
“Compromise need not mean cowardice.”
John F. Kennedy
Although it has nothing to do with writing, that quote reminded me of how a lot of writers react to critique. Tell them anything other than “submit it,” and they get their hackles up. Maybe they can tolerate a few minor changes, but nothing big.
If this describes you, then you do not want to be in my critique group — not that everyone is looking to pick you apart. In fact, I’ve been told that I’m the biggest pain simply because I have no qualms about pointing out structural problems. To make it even more fun, often I have no idea how to fix it. I’ll just know that the pacing is slow, the character motivations aren’t big enough or I don’t feel the setting. Fixing it is, after all, the writer’s problem.
Some critique groups have the rule that you aren’t allowed to defend yourself. Just sit there and take it. Then go home with it and think it over.
That’s not how things work in my group. We discuss things, not necessarily defending ourselves but explaining what we were trying to do and why we did something a certain way. That makes me think that this is why our group works so well. In discussing it, we often figure out why something doesn’t feel right and several different ways to fix it.
While this is hugely helpful, there was something else that helped me even more at our last meeting. Recently, they told me what was working in my story. I am doing a re-write from the ground up. Because my antagonist is all new, much of the original plot doesn’t work. This is a whole new book and I’m having a heck of a time wrapping my brain around it. Find out more about how my group helped me out by reading my post, What Every Writer Needs, at the Muffin.