One Writer’s Journey

April 12, 2018

Writing: Getting the Words Down NOW

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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I know writers who wander around waiting to trip over their muse before they actually write.  I have a book due the end of next week. When you have a deadline, you have to write.  Period.  You can’t wait for Ms. Muse to make an appearance.  Here are three different ways to make the writing happen.

  1. The Pomodoro technique.  This a productivity tool that can be used by anyone who has a big job to get done.  You work for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break.  Work for another 25 minutes, take another 5 minute break.  Work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minute break.  Then you work for one more 25 minute period and then you get a longer break, 20 to 30 minutes.The Pomodoro technique works really well for me.  I think that a big part of it is simply knowing that I only have 25 minutes to get something accomplished.  Click to find out more about the Pomodoro technique.
  2.  Dictate your story.  One writing buddy of mine dictates her work using Dragon.  I’ve heard various writers say that this is a great way to develop your voice and improve the dialogue in your stories.  I plan to give this a try when I draft my novel.  But I don’t think it will work with the teen nonfiction book I am currently writing.  For one thing, I can’t imagine trying to say all of those Latin taxonomical names.A word of warning.  Dictation software isn’t 100% accurate but dictation is a major pain in the rear.  Once you get really good at transcription you can usually type 30 minutes of dictation in 90 or so minutes.  More often it will take closer to three hours.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  This is why I plan to give Dragon a try.
  3. Writing out-of-order.  You can also write scenes or chapters out-of-order.  If something is giving you trouble, skip to another section.  I do this with nonfiction more often than I do it with fiction.  When I finish one chapter and have just a small amount of time to work on the next, I often write the sidebars first.  They are short so I can get two or three done and feel a sense of accomplishment.

If you have a technique that helps you keep the words flowing, share it in the comments below.

–SueBE

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February 7, 2018

The Most Important Thing for a Writer’s Career

I don’t remember where I saw this on Tuesday.  I read blogs while I’m on the treadmill.  But somewhere on the great web, someone made the comment that the most important thing an author can do to further their career is develop their online presence in a way to help sell their books.

Now, I’m not discounting the importance of this.  It is vital. But there are two things that are actually more important.

First, you have to write.  So  many people talk about how much they want to write.  They have ideas.  They have plans.  They set up a workspace. They buy cute office supplies.  Ooops.  Writing at home is too distracting.  They buy a lap top and set up shop at the local coffee shop.

What they don’t do is write.  Sadly, that’s kind of central to the whole idea of being successful as a writer.  Sorry, but it is true.

Second, you have to finish what you write.  I don’t mean that you have to finish a draft.  That’s important.  You aren’t going to get anywhere without that first draft.  Because the first draft is the raw material that you shape into the second draft.  And it doesn’t end there.  You keep working until it is as good as you can make it.

But wait!  There’s more.  (Ha! I’ve always wanted to say that.)

Then you take it to critique group.  They read it and comment on it and now you have a plan to make it better.

All of this has to take place before you have something publishable.  Until you have something publishable, you have nothing to sell.  I’m not saying don’t develop an online presence.  In truth, there are days that the online community is all that keeps you going.  But to be a successful writer you have to write something of quality.

Then you can sell it.  But first?  You need to write.

–SueBE

 

January 26, 2018

5 Minutes a Day: First You Have to Believe

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 7:38 am
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5 Minutes a DayIn September 2017, one of my fellow Muffin bloggers challenged everyone who reads the blog to state a big, hairy, audacious goal.  I decided that I wanted to finish a draft of my new chapter book.  If I could just squeeze in 5 Minutes a Day.

The problem was that shortly after decided this I landed a contract for two more teen nonfiction books.  Writing one of these books in just under two months is tough. Writing two in just over three was going to be brutal.  But I didn’t want to give up on finishing my chapter book.

When I set the 5 Minutes a Day goal, I had two chapters or 1000 words.   I hadn’t made noteworthy progress in 2 weeks.  But even working on the other two books, I managed 5 Minutes a Day.  Doing this for one month resulted in a finished draft. At 6,400 words, I knew it was short but it was a draft.  I blogged about this on the Muffin.

Reader response to this blog post surprised me.  People were absolutely floored that i had managed to do so much in five minutes a day.  I must have had an extensive outline.  I must have known exactly what to write. I must have some special trick because this just wouldn’t work for them.

Sure, I had a sketchy outline.  Ten chapters.  Two or three sentences per chapter.

The most important thing that I had?  Belief.  I believed that I could accomplish something worthwhile in 5 Minutes a Day. Without that belief, I wouldn’t have tried.  Without actually trying, I would not have finished my draft.

I hope you are ready to join me in making strides in your writing career throughout 2018.  But the first thing you must have is the Belief that it is possible.  You must believe that 5 Minutes a Day can help you achieve something worthwhile.  Why?

Because without that belief you won’t even try.

Click here to read another 5 Minutes a Day post.

–SueBE

 

October 2, 2017

Ho Hum Boring Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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Especially when your word count is limited, it is important to use vibrant, meaningful language.  Why say very hot when you can say molten?

But there are just times when your brain gets stuck.  What’s a better way to say good or bad?  Happy or sad?

Author Jack Milgram at the Custom Writing blog shared this info-graphic of “28 Boring Words.”  But Jack wasn’t happy just to tell us what words to avoid.  He gave us several possible substitutions for each weak word.

Check this out and see if you don’t find a better word for very or things.  Whether you are writing a poem, a picture book or a novel, strong language pulls the reader into the world you have written.  They help provide the details that bring it all alive.

Sometimes you are trying to choose a more interesting word.  Sometimes you are striving to find a more accurate word.

But don’t let this search bog you down.  This isn’t necessarily something I worry about in draft one.  But it is something that I make sure I address when I rewrite. I should be working on chapter 3 of my next project so —

Happy writing!  Or now that you have this word list, perhaps you will be rewriting?

–SueBE

September 22, 2017

Writing Time: Standing Firm about Your Work Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably realize that this how I make my living.  I write.

But that also means that to make my living I need to . . . can you guess?  If you were going to say “write,” you got it in one. Unfortunately, writing requires time to write and that can be a problem when everyone knows that you work at home.

About two years ago, I started going to yoga two mornings a week.  That’s 90 minutes twice a week.  I’m home by 10:30.  It was pretty much essential since this followed the onset of sciatica.

Yoga means I’m not on prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants.  But it also takes a chunk out of two mornings a week.

Thursday and Friday are the days I don’t have to go anywhere.  These are my big deal work days.  But it also means that people know I’m home.  They drop by, volunteer me for appointments and come up with errands for me to run.  Because, I’m home – right?

So I’m having to be firm.  Nope.  That’s my writing time.  Nope.  I have a deadline.  When I meet my deadline, I’ll think about it but not before then.

Sticking up for your writing time can be even more difficult if you don’t have deadlines or if you don’t make sales.  But if you want to finish that manuscript and you want to make sales, you need to stand firm.  Amazing angel graphic notwithstanding, I have never pulled a sword on someone to convince them to leave me be.

But I have been known to pop someone with a Nerf dart when they walk into my office.  Do that a time or two and then tend to be a little more cautious.

Writing time is precious.  Stand firm.  It’s what we writers have to do.

For a humorous video, click through to Writing Time.

–SueBE

 

June 22, 2017

Focus: When You Need to Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am
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This past week has been a bit of a writing night mare.  I have writing to do.  Some of it I want to do. Some of it I have to do because deadlines are involved.  But I am just barely meeting those deadlines and I’m doing it with no wiggle room to speak of.  My focus has been, to put it politely, shot.  To prove that point, I went online to find information about the topic and came up on this handy-dandy infographic.

As is so often the case with something like this, all of these solutions are not THE solution at any given time.  But as I looked this over a few things jumped out.

Turn off the phone.  I’ve been trying to work with my cell phone nearby for a variety of personal reasons.  But my phone loves to buzz at me when someone comments on Facebook or when I get an e-mail.  Heaven forbid someone actually try to reach me.  And Amber Alerts?  They are important but I think I may have fractured my kneecap.  The phone needs to stay in my purse while I’m working.

Shut Off Everything You Are Not Using.  Um, yeah.  That’s a lot like my phone and embarrassingly true lately.

Time yourself.  This one works really well when I have vast stretches of time.  When I have a day to work, it is amazing how much time I can piddle away.  But when I set that timer, I write.

I this point, I think shutting things off is the best way for me to go right now.  It doesn’t help that certain people know when I’m at my desk and message me.  It also doesn’t help that I”m a compulsive message checker.  If there is a text or Facebook message waiting, I’m compelled to check it.

So if you can’t reach me today – there’s a reason for that.  I’m a writer.  I need to write.

–SueBE

 

March 14, 2017

How Many Manuscripts Do You Work on at Once?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:00 am
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One of my writing nonfiction students has been struggling with which one of two topics to choose for her project.  The problem is that she’s waiting to hear back from someone about Topic #1 so she wasn’t sure if she should go ahead and pursue Topic #2.

I suggested that she pursue both.  While she waits to hear back on Topic #1 she should work on Topic #2.  Sometimes it is just a good idea to have a back up.

Me?  I always work on more than one thing at once.  This past week this list included:

  1. The young adult science fiction novel I am roughing out,
  2. A picture book about caves that had stalled out but on Thursday THE solution came to me so I need to get back to work,
  3. A picture book about schools that I roughed out,
  4. The 8th grade level manuscript that I’m researching for Abdo,
  5. A picture book about space flight that I roughed out, and
  6. Oh, I nearly forgot.  And the pitch that I’m working on.

Why so many things at once?  I’ve been working on 1 and 2 for a few weeks now but #2 had stalled out so I was focusing on #1.

I roughed out #3 while working something up for the blog.

The idea for #5 came to me while I was researching #6 so I quickly roughed it out so that I’d have the idea down.

Yeah.  I’m probably a little crazy.  Right now my focuses are#4 since I have a deadline Friday and #6 which is due tomorrow.  But I’m also trying to work on #1 a little bit every day.

I am a very focused, intense writer.  If I know where I am going with something, I can rough out 250-350 words in about 15 minutes.  But once I’ve written this intensely for at most 30 minutes I’m pretty much done for an hour or so.  I can do research.  I can play with my frame for a story.  But I can’t write that hard until I’ve done something else for a while.

What can I say?  This is what works for me.  How do you write?  Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?

–SueBE

 

December 7, 2016

Rewriting: Working from my Editor’s comments

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:06 am
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wondering-and-wanderingAbout two weeks ago, I got a rewrite request from an editor.  She had some comments and would be willing to take another look at my manuscript.  I sent out a note saying I would make the changes and then put it off.

In part, that was intentional.  I’m the kind of person who needs to let these things gel a bit.  It makes the rewrite that much easier.

But it wasn’t entirely intentional.  I also landed a contract with the first chapter and outline due tomorrow.  Obviously, that has been my first priority.  I also got sick.  Let’s just say that sneezing etc can be very time-consuming and leave it at that.

Today I set about making the changes. Part of the reason that I like to let things sit is because it gives me time to really consider the editor’s comments.  If I don’t, I make the changes in the simplest, most straightforward way possible.  There’s nothing wrong with that but these kinds of changes often feel cosmetic and superficial.

When I take the time to think about the changes, I can think of how they would ripple throughout the story.  I can consider what existing elements I can pull into these new sections to make them appear original.  My first set of changes were amended to eliminate one of the new settings.  Why?  Because it seemed to spread things out too much.  The rewrite led me to do a bit of research on traditional house design.  My first set of changes sent the characters in one direction and then another.  It terms of illustration and overall story flow, it seemed like a single path would be more easily understood.  I just needed to lengthen the path.

Their journey which wanders a bit more than before led to wondering between the characters.  Why do you think this?  Because of that?  This in turn made the characters seem more 3-D.

I’m going to let the story sit again and take it to my critique group before it send it back in.  I’m hoping that taking a bit more time with it will enable me to complete a manuscript that is whole and hearty and able to please young readers and editors alike.

–SueBE

 

December 6, 2016

Where Should You Focus: Marketing or Craft?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:36 am
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focusWhere should you be focusing your energies and time as a writer?  Should you be working on craft or marketing?

I’m going to tell you right now, my answer is not the popular one.  My favorite retreats and conference sessions have always been those led by my fellow writers and illustrators. I want to hear how other people work.  What takes them from fizzy new idea to finished manuscript?  How do they focus their rewrites?

For those of you who don’t know, for 10 years I was Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Regional Advisor for Missouri.  That means that I was responsible for sending out the quarterly newsletter and scheduling writing events.  At the end of an event, I would pass out a questionnaire.  What did you think of today and what do you want to see tomorrow?  Even if they loved learning about poetry from Constance Levy or mystery writing from Vicki Erwin, they also wanted to see the same things at future events.  Agents and editors.  They wanted access to markets. Craft might have been what they needed but it isn’t what they wanted.

And to a point, I see the logic in this.  Even if you write like Hemingway, you need to do who wants to publish Hemingway.

But the problem is that you first need to learn to write like Hemingway.  Really.  You need to study your craft. Here are five tips for my fellow craft hungry writers.

Read.  Read works that are similar to what you want to write and those that are not.  What do these writers do well?  Study those techniques.  What doesn’t quite work?  Take a hard look a these pieces too and figure out what you would do differently.

Study how-tos.  Check out some of the best how-tos on writing.  Everyone has their favorites and mine include Writing Picture Books, Writing Metrical Poetry, The Plot Whisperer, The Emotion Thesaurus, and Novel Metamorphosis. It doesn’t do any good to just gather such books.  Read them. Apply the techniques. If they include exercises, do them.

Write.  The only way to figure out if you’ve learned anything is to write.  Writing is a practice intensive vocation.  Write, write and write some more.  You’ll either figure out that you don’t really like to do it or that you are getting better.

Rewrite.  It doesn’t do any good to write one story after another.  Although some first drafts are really good, none are perfect.  You have to learn to compare the story you intended to create with the one you got down on paper.  Darcy Pattison’s Novel Metamorphosis is a great tool for accomplishing this.

Rinse, lather, repeat.  That’s my quirky way of telling you that step #5 is to keep doing steps 1 through 4 again and again and again.  When you’ve honed your craft, you’ll actually be ready to take advantage of any market news that comes your way.  Until then?  You may have a market, but you won’t have a market worthy manuscript.

–SueBE

October 6, 2016

My Misfit Manuscript

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:56 am
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work-1357001_1920I had a critique group meeting this afternoon.  I love my group and really wanted the chance to get some feedback.  But I’ve been working on the Race and Racism book, due Wednesday.  So that I didn’t have to miss out on their feedback, I pulled out an old manuscript that I jokingly refer to as my misfit toy.

When I wrote it, my publisher was planning to start a series of early readers.  “Can you write a few?”  They printed up scads of examples and sent me an entire box full of material to read.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A box full.  I read.  I thought.  I read some more and then I drafted three manuscripts for them.

They cancelled the program.

When a publisher put out a call for easy reading picture books that could be adapted into an app, I went through these old manuscripts.  I really liked one of them.  I rewrote it with this publisher’s specs in mind.  They loved it and we discussed the app.  Our ideas for this book meshed perfectly.

I waited for the contract.

And I wanted for the contract.

They explained having to delay things for a while and I waited some more.

Then they announced that they had produced the last of their apps and books.

Is this manuscript worth reworking again?  Or should I just let it slide?  At this point in our relationship, I have no perspective.  Is it a misfit or just unlucky?  So I ran it by my group.

They declared it not a misfit.  Then Rick suggested that I add another attempt before the solution is found.  And Rita recommended more onomatopoeia.  I can clearly see how this will improve the piece.  It looks like once I rework it that it will once again venture into the world of publishing.

Hopefully the third time really is the charm.

–SueBE

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