Celebrating I Love to Write Day

Today, November 15, is I Love to Write Day.

This one hangs over my desk.

Some of my friends prefer to write in a coffee shop or at the library. I’ve tried that but I spend far too much time people watching.

Me? My office is my chosen spot. I can sit or stand at my desk and contemplate the scenery. While I edit in the dining room, I prefer to write right here.

I big part of writing is knowing what works for you. That might mean setting aside a whole day to write. Or it could mean working on your novel for fifteen minutes several times a day. One friend drafted her novel in long hand while sitting in her car on lunch breaks. Another has drafted essays on her phone.

I drafted a picture book on the tiny notebook I keep in my purse when we were at the lake. There is no cell service and we weren’t at the lodge. I don’t remember what the boys were doing that I was sitting at the far lake waiting for them.

But I prefer to draft and revise here on my computer. When I write a book for RedLine, I do print out my manuscript to revise. There are always errors that I find in print that I don’t find on screen. I also try to listen to it at least once. Again, for whatever reason there are errors that hear that I do not see either on screen or in print.

Writing is a lot of work but I have to tell you that it is the best job ever. Today I was having a conversation with two friends and tossed out a fact. “How on Earth would you know that?” “I just finished writing a book for third graders on…” I can’t think of many other jobs where I would get to research the Maya, dogs, dinosaurs and platypus.

Writing really is the best job ever.



Three Things I Love about Being a Writer

I didn’t decide that I wanted to focus on my writing until I was well into grad school.  Incidentally, for those of you who don’t know, my graduate degree is in history.  I wanted to learn to do better research for my writing but I thought that writing would be my side gig.  But it isn’t and that’s great because I love so much about being a writing including…

Reading.  One piece of advice that I can’t argue with is that writers should read 50+ pieces of writing in their genre.  For me, that would be children’s nonfiction.  Or picture books.  Or how-tos.  Or crafts and activities.  But it is just awesome that reading counts as work!  Dear Ms. Grau – When you told me to put my book down and take my spelling test because no one would pay me to read. . .

Research.  One of the best things about writing is that I get to research topics that I love.  This includes ancient cultures, specifically the Maya, history including World War I and World War II, the science of evolution and even popular music.  This is why my mom always thought that I should be a writer because I’m curious about so many different things.

Variety.  In addition to researching different things, I’ve gotten to do so many different types of writing.  I’ve done nonfiction magazine writing for kids, readers theater, how-to articles for my fellow writers, crafts and activities and even science projects for kids, and a wide range of nonfiction for teens and tweens.  There are so many different types of writing that I’ve only scratched the surface.  I’m left wondering what I’ll have added to my resume in another five years.

Hmm.  Maybe the best thing about being a working writer is that I get to do something that I love. And with that – Happy Valentine’s Day.


I Am a Writer

Last weekend at the retreat, we discussed the power we receive when we label ourselves – WRITER.  Before taking the label, one pair of writing friends met every Friday to write.  Some Fridays they got a lot done.  Other Fridays?  Not so much.  They’d visit and laugh and chat.

But once they put on that label? Writing together every Friday evening.

I started writing about the same time I started grad school. By the time I graduated I knew what I wanted to do, but I fought the label.  After all, I’d spent so much time at college.  I didn’t have student loans but all that effort?  How could I follow this path?

When I finally made the decision, I called my mom.  “Mom, I know I’ve put in the effort to get both these degrees but I’m going to be a writer.




“It’s about time.”


“It’s about time that you figured out that you should write.”

Yep.  Mom figured it out before I did.

I have to admit that I’m fortunate.  My family supports me in my writing.  As soon as I said I wanted to go on last weekends retreat, everyone checked their schedules to look for a way to make it happen.  But it goes way beyond that.

When we bought this house, we told the agent we needed 3 bedrooms.  There was never any question that I would work in a spare bedroom with a desk.  Nope, this is my office.  There’s no room for a bed.  My husband built a desk that wraps around three walls.  This is my writing space.

Of course, it took more than a desk to make it mine.  I write.  I rewrite.  I rewrite again.  And I submit.

Calling yourself a writer helps a lot. But in the end you have to write.

Still, first things first.  Repeat after me, I am a writer.


Do What You Can


I thought that this year we’d celebrate President’s Day with a bit of advice from one of our Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt.  “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

When I give advice to my fellow writers, I hope that they realize that somehow they are going to have to make it their own.  The reality is that what works for me will probably not work for you unless you make some adjustments.  In fact, what works for me today, probably won’t work for me a year from now.

Don’t let that discourage you!   The reason is simple – we are constantly changing and growing as writers.  In addition to our writing changing, our lives in general are changing.  This means that the demands on us and the energy that we have is going to vary from week to week and year to year.

Up until today, these are the constants in my writing life –

  • I have a tendency to flub writing exercises at conferences because…
  • I do not write well in public.  I am very easily distracted.
  • When I know where I am going with a writing project, I can write 500 words in 15 or so minutes.  I can’t do that often in any given day but I can rough out a chapter (1700 words) in a day.

I prefer to write in the afternoon. But at various points in my life I have written in the morning and the evening.  I have rewritten a manuscript leaning against the wall in the emergency room while my father was asleep.

The key to any writing problem is to examine the problem as it exists now.  Today.  Where you are.  Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t bemoan what isn’t.  Look at what is and contemplate how you can work from that point to where you need or want to be.

I hope this is an encouraging thought to some of you.  You do not need to be where I am to write.  You don’t need to have a home office.  Writing does not need to be your only job.  That’s where I am right now.

Tomorrow?  Tomorrow I’ll be figuring out a new way to work because something, somehow will have changed.


5 Minutes a Day: Creating the Writing Life You Want

Back on January 1, I announced that I’d be testing out various tasks that will go into 5 Minutes a Day: Creating the Writing Life You Want.  The whole idea for this book came about after I blogged on the Muffin about writing my middle grade novel in 5 minutes a day.  You can read that post here – 5 Minutes a Day: Roughing Out Your Novel.

On Fridays I will be blogging about my discoveries and progress.  That’s when you can tune in here and find out about my successes and perhaps, more importantly, my failures.  I’ve already discovered a few things that don’t work or at least that make things more difficult. I’ll write about these things and what I’ve done to get past them.  I’ll write about what works well and what brings progress to a halt.

Throughout the year I’ll be writing about:

  • Outlining Your Novel in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Getting to Know Your Characters in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Drafting a Book in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Crafting a Rewrite in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Testing Your Novel to See What Works in 5 Minutes a Day

But as we know, writing is about a lot more than writing the book.  Sure, that’s the important part.  Because without the book you don’t have anything to publish.  But finishing the book is only part of the job. So I’ll also be blogging about:

  • Locating Your Dream Agent in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Preparing Your Submission in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Creating a Solid Web Site in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Brainstorming New Ideas in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Creating Your Own Office in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Researching Markets in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Keeping Your Work Circulating in 5 Minutes a Day

One of my editors has asked me to include things that people can do to free up some writing time.  With that in mind, I also hope to cover:

  • Taming Meal Time Madness in 5 Minutes a Day
  • Sharing Household Tasks in 5 Minutes a Day (No I don’t expect your family to love this one)
  • Tricks and Tips for Writing on the Go

That’s the plan so tune in next Friday, although I certainly hope you come back before then, for the first 5 Minutes a Day column.   And if you can think of something that you’d like me to cover, just leave a comment.



F’ing Gs: Being a Writer Mom

At the state capital with bust of Laura Ingalls Wilder

My son is graduating from high school this month.  I know that this doesn’t mean my job as a Mom is over, but I’ve been reflecting on the trials of being a writer mom.

I was a writer before I was a mom.  Maybe that’s why it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t do both at once.  That may also be why my son never had any trouble buying into “my mom is a writer.”  I was doing it when he joined the family. That said, it wasn’t always easy doing interview based articles with a toddler in the house. One day he beat me to the phone and started jabbering away like he always does with my Dad.  Unfortunately, this time around it was a male editor returning my call for an interview.  Fortunately, he had a great sense of humor.  Something about having his own toddler under foot in his home office while he was talking to mine.

Then there was the time my son gave one of his favorite teachers a picture book.  He explained, very patiently, that this was a real book and not an F&G.  Since she wasn’t up on all the latest and greatest publishing terms, she didn’t hear F&G.  She heard F’ing G.  It took me a minute to realize why she was glaring at us.  From then on, all of us in the Edwards household used the term Fold and Gather.  You get fewer appalled looks.

There was the day in third grade when a teacher was telling the kids how writing and publishing work and then asked Jared to confirm it all.  “No, not really.  Mom says it works like this…”  Fortunately, that particular teacher has a great sense of humor. Unlike the high school teacher who didn’t understand when I pointed out that moss was not a synonym for shrub.  “What do you mean?”

Wonder what adventures this writer is going to have as the Mom of an engineering student?   The least engineer typical engineering student I’ve ever met.  It is definitely going to be interesting.



Inspiration: It Comes from All Over, Whenever

Inspiration can come from some pretty strange places. I found this cap in an antique store about 10 years ago. I spotted it because of the calcium carbide lamp on the front. I knew this was a mining lamp because my grandad used them in the mercury mines but the cap was so small. It is so small that no one here can wear it. I have it propped up on a mint tin, my salt and pepper shakers and a water-glass.  Yeah, I’m all about high-tech.  
Anyway, a bit of research revealed that this was a child’s cap most likely used in the Illinois coal mines. Yes, a cloth cap on a child in a mine.  Sigh, shake your head and read on.  It is definitely appalling.
The novel that I’ve had to set aside to write about the Dakota Access Pipeline is set in a community where the mines have played out. I just re-found this cap cleaning at my dad’s. I should be noodling over pipelines and water rights and the Army Corp of Engineers but I’m thinking about kids in mines and my novel.  
I have a new twist that will help increase the stakes rattling around in my head.  When I don’t have time to write it.  I sent myself an e-mail as a reminder and I’m hoping that will buy me some time.  If not, and the idea just won’t leave me alone, I’ll try to find fifteen minutes to work this into my “outline.”  It seems kind to call the increasingly chaotic jumble of notes an outline but there you have it.
Thank you, inspiration.  Your timing is just a tiny bit stinko.

First Time’s the Charm

Don’t expect your first story to sell.  Those are the words of wisdom that we experienced writers pass on to beginners. And I have to admit that my first manuscript is still just mine.  And I have no plans to submit it.  After all, I was new and it is pretty horrid.

But then I read an article on rebus writing.  Rebus, for those of you who aren’t in the know, are short pieces for pre-readers.  Some of the nouns are removed with pictures taking their places.  The pre-reader can then decipher the words represented by pictures and read.  I wrote a rebus and sent it to Ladybug.  “The Flying Contest” was my first sale.  First rebus.  First sale.  I’ve never been able to sell another or anything else to Ladybug for that matter.

Then I sent READ a pitch for a nonfiction article on distance swimmer Gertrude Ederle.  “Can you write it as reader’s theater?”  Sure!  After learning all about reader’s theater, I wrote “Gertrude Ederle vs the English Channel.” It sold but I got rejections on my next attempt.

Last summer, I was doing some reading on the treadmill.  I can access magazines electronically through my library so I caught up on Highlights Hello! and High Five.  Inspired by Hello, I walked and played around with the rhythms of various words and phrases.  It took some playing around, okay I lot of playing around, but I eventually had roughed a humorous poem called “Tiger Cat.”  Tuesday I got word that it had told to Highlights Hello.

My very first manuscript will never sell.  In fact I probably have my first ten manuscripts sitting around here gathering dust.  (Ten is a kind, conservative estimate.)  But first manuscripts in a new type of writing?  Those seem to be a good thing for me.


Of course, my husband has made a suggestion.  “What about trying a block buster series?”  Wise guy.


Revision: You Gotta Love It

So many writers I know want to rush through their revisions.  If they get feedback from an editor, they are determined to turn the manuscript around in two weeks, three at most.  Me?  I want to give myself time to internalize the feedback. I also enjoy seeing the manuscript change and grow.  Why rush it?

In truth, writers really need to love revision.  You rough out the manuscript once.  Once you have a manuscript and have given it time to rest, you are ready to revise.  And you aren’t going to do it in one draft.  My process looks something like that.

  1.  Horrible, scary, terrible, no-good first draft.  Okay, maybe it isn’t that bad but I’m often just slapping it down at this stage.  There are even gaps because I don’t take the time to look up missing information.  I just type myself a note.  FIND OUT WHEN THIS WAS AND WHO WAS THERE.  Then I move on.
  2. During this draft, which is the first revision, I fill in gaps.  I also look for things that need to be shifted from one spot to another.
  3. Are any sections slight?  This is when I bulk them up.  Not that I want them to feel bulky but there has to be enough information to justify a stand alone chapter or section.
  4. Can’t manage that?  Then I combine sections or split something too dense in two.  I’m looking to create balance in this draft.
  5. Now is when I smooth things out and check the reading level.  Too high or too low? This is the time to make adjustments and make it flow.
  6. At last, I print it out and my husband reads it.  Then I take care of any issues he spotted and do a hard copy rewrite.  I always do one rewrite on paper because there are problems that I miss until I see them in print.  This is also when I cut excess words.  Again, I spot things on paper that I wouldn’t see on-screen.

That makes for six drafts total although sometimes I can do it in four.  Either way, that’s one first draft and three to five revisions.  You really need to love revision to make your writing work.



Say Bye Bye to Clutter

electronic-clutterOne of my favorite home and how-to bloggers is Karen.  She will tackle just about anything in her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff.  She’s laid a patio, put in a pond, built a chicken coop and installed shelving with hidden storage.  One of the things that she does every year, and challenges her readers to tackle too is to throw away 50 things.

As Karen puts it, you can “donate, ditch or destroy.”  Just make it be gone.

When I saw her challenge last week, I was in the midst of a shingles outbreak.  It was delightful said no one ever.  I wanted to use this challenge to get my office in shape but, to put it mildly, I was not in the appropriate condition to clean out the closet, get rid of another pile or three on my desk or clean off a book-case.  In fact, I wasn’t doing too much more than sitting on my fanny and napping.

What could I do while sitting around?  As I considered this, I clicked on my e-mail and inadvertently moused over my inbox.  I had 80 unread pieces of e-mail but something like 276 message in the box.  100 seemed like a lot and I had nearly three times that much.  No wonder I was having troubles getting some things done.

So that night, I finished going through my new messages and then re-sorted the old ones by sender. Nine messages from a single yarn vendor.  I quickly disposed of all but 1.  Another 10 back issues of a newsletter that I had saved to remind me to resubscribe.  Once I done it, the messages languished. Click and gone.  Soon I had deleted 25 old messages.

Each day, I read and the new messages.  Then I deleted at least 25 of the old.  My goal is to have fewer than 25 remaining by the end of this week.

The funny thing is that as old messages go, my productivity picks up.  I’m not having to sort through a huge list of messages to find the one piece of information I need for that newsletter article.  And I’m willingly dealing with things instead of sitting on them.

Is electronic clutter slowing you down?  Clean out your in-box.  Unsubscribe from vendors and lists if you regularly delete their messages unread.  Electronic clutter can be just as bad as paper clutter.  And once you get that under control you can tackle some of the things you’ve printed out.  Get rid of 50 pieces of clutter a month and you’ll be surprised by the progress that you’ve made.