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Understanding the Creative Process

September 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered why some people with equal talent and creativity become prolific writers? And others of us do not?

At one point I thought I had a fear of success or fear of failure. Maybe I did not write because my skills were inferior?
Well, I watched a video of two prolific writers talking about their craft and the process. Tim Ferris and Neil Strauss deconstruct how they are able to surf over their writing challenges, which turns out to be every writer’s struggle.

If you are struggling as I have been, maybe viewing this video will give you the “ah ha” moment I recently had. It is an hour, but well worth every minute.

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Open Book: Why Does My Writing Suck?

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I do not know one single writer that has not, at some time or other, asked the question: Why does my writing suck?

Of course, I thought I knew why. I thought that all my drafts were horrible. I dare not show them to anyone. They might figure out that what I deem is my only talent is rather a figment of my imagination.

Then, I came across this video, which is a shorter version of Baltimore radio host, Ira Glass’ explanation why we expect so much from our writing. Writing takes time to mature. So, if you have been beating yourself up over your lackluster writing attempts, have faith. I now play this video every time I secretly torture myself over my writing attempts. It centers me.

http://vimeo.com/24715531

Open Book: An Ending for 2011

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy Holidays!

We are about to witness the passing of another year.  I suspect there will be many changes in 2012. You can feel it in the air.  It starts with the economy, the political unrest on the national level and eventually trickles down into our homes and our daily lives.  Some people hate change.

Change is not a bad thing.  I mentioned to my husband the other day that when life or the course we have been on accumulates too many projects, collects too many peopleand things, the best action plan is to go back to basics.  Start from the beginning and incorporate into your life the essential behaviors and things that you would need to function.  (Most people do not make a distinction between need and want.  This distinction between your needs and wants list is the key to defining who you are.) Then add layers to it.  You will find that you will do things differently, cutting out unnecessary or outmoded steps in your life…allowing more new things to come into your life.  It is much like giving your bedroom a fresh coat of paint.  You first must clean out the entire room, pick out a paint color (goal) and then reintroduce only things that you need.

For me, change is been in the works throughout 2011.  I have learned much about myself, my motivation to write, and to maintain this website.  If you have noticed, I only post when I feel I have something to share.

So, I leave you on Christmas Eve with a great blog by Larry Brooks.  Here Larry shows us the long view of our writing journey.  It is something to think about as you reflect on your writing goals for 2012. http://storyfix.com/

May your new year be filled with conflict, mayhem and drama — of course, on paper, not in real life.   Are you ready?

Open Book: How to Create An Elevator Pitch for Your Novel

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

   announcements,communications,megaphones,men,people,web animations,web elements

    My long time friend asked me what my novel was about.  I stammered and blurted out some incoherent description. (Don’t laugh! At least I remembered to mention the protagonist.)
    This brain freeze, unlike Governer Rick Perry, was not a matter of forgetting, but a matter of not having a succinct pitch scripted.
    What if that had been a literary agent or an editor I was pitching my book to?  How long would you would stick around until I got my act together?  
     In the business world, that one compelling sentence is called an elevator pitch. You have exactly 30 seconds to introduce yourself and entice them to get to know you.  This is what you need to do with your novel…write an elevator pitch that will sell your novel to whomever will listen.  
     An elevator pitch is one or two power pact sentences that not only identifies who you are, but also tells the person to whom you are talking to what you do, implying how you can help them make life easier or solve a problem.  The elevator pitch for a novel introduces your protagonist and his conflict. It tells the person how he will benefit by not only spending money to buy your book, but also what will he derive from spending his coveted leisure time reading your story. Your one sentence summary needs to convince him that he will get the satisfaction of learning something or being entertained.  Maybe you will transport him to another place far from the pressures of his life, even it is only for a few hours.  Or maybe he can live vicariously through your protagonist? 
     Randy Ingermanson, also known as the Snowflake Guy, recommends that fiction writers start with a one sentence plot summary.  He points out that who is going to know and love your story more than you do.
     A solid one sentence summary will anchor your story to a plotline and be the guide to decide what scenes advance your story. It will be the single best marketing tool to sell your story.  It will help you sell your idea to a literary agent, to a publishing house, to your editor, to the book sellers, and most importantly, to your readers.
    Ingermanson suggests that the sentence should be 20 words or less.  That means every word has to work to remain. No extraneous adjectives, no subplot inclusions.  Simply your novel’s compelling storyline.
    Here’s some basic rules to create yours:

1.  Ingermanson’s 20 word limit.
2.  Sentence includes protagonist, conflict, and a sense of context (either cultural, venue, political etc)
3.  Power verb such as coerces, endangers, or challenges. (You get the idea.)

    Ask yourself: If your book title and one sentence summary appeared on a booklist, would you be tempted to spend $15 to buy the book if you weren’t the author?  Does it have a strong enough hook? Who will the book appeal to?

Let’s take a simple basic boy meets girl plotline and see how we can craft a good summary sentence.  Remember, the real writing is in the rewriting, so this exercise may take you more than 10 seconds.  It may take you hours, even days to decide if the sentence is the best one when you announce the birth of your baby (novel).

Draft summary sentence:  An athlete puts his girlfriend in a difficult position when he uses her to advance his career. (17 words)

Second draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a middle-aged female when he uses her contacts to advance his career. (17 words)

Third draft:  A struggling soccer player betrays a lonely female advertising executive when his romantic involvement with her threatens her company. (19 words)

   Now, what if I include an ethnic reference? She is Asian and he is Ukrainian. How will that color the summary?

    Last and most important.  You finished the best one sentence summary ever.  Now you have to memorize it.  You have to be able to rattle it off as if it were an involuntary reflex.  Live the sentence.  Breathe it.  And then, you will claim it with confidence. 

     Like that 30 second elevator pitch, you want to grab the person’s attention.  You want them to be so intrigued that they ask you for more information…like “Where can I get your book?”

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid Email Hubris and Costly Fines

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

      Email hubris is spamming your friends and
everyone else in your contact database without
their consent. Like trying to resist a danish with coffee in the morning, it is hard to contain your enthusiasm.  You want to share the next great product or service with everyone.
      To keep you in check from spewing forth endless emails, the Federal Trade Commission issued The Can Spam Act.
      What people do not realize is that for every unsolicited email you send out, whether it be in bulk or individually, you are at risk for a fine of $16,000 per unsolicited email.  
       Let’s face it.  We all do it. We meet someone at a Business Card Exchange and enter their email address in our database. Exchanging business cards is not an implicit consent to requesting to be added to your email announcements.
       The Can Spam Act ( an act known probably to compliance people, but overlooked by the masses) includes the distribution of all business email, whether sent bulk or individual, that promotes or advertises a commercial product or service.  It also includes promoting a website/blog, which advertises a product or service.  Even sending emails to former clients must have consent.
      The provisions of the Act are not difficult and follow common courtesy.  In a nutshell, here are the basics of the Federal Trade Commission’s Guide to Email Etiquette.
1.  Be Transparent.  You should be truthful when you fill in your “To”, “From”,  “Reply to” and subject lines.  Deceptive domain names etc. will obviously will get you in trouble.  In the Subject Line, avoid using sensational or exaggerated text to get the reader to open the email.  Eventually they will find that they were misled.  For example: Your subject line reads: “You Won a Trip to Hawaii,” but the email text says you won a chance for a Hawaii trip if you click on any of the what seems like hundreds of advertising options.
2.  If your email is an ad, be clear and say so.  Ummm. Well, according to the Act, there isn’t much leeway here. It has to be conspicuous and upfront. Use your creativity to get this done.
3.  Location.  If you are legitimate, you have a location. It can be a post office  box.  No biggy.  Adding this will give your email greater credibility.
4.  The Opting Out Issue.  You must give the email receiver a way of opting out of receiving your email. It must be clear and easily recognizable.  Check other sites and emails for wording.  And should you have requests for opting out, you must comply within 10 business days.  Just remember you may have the person’s name on a couple of lists, so it is prudent to weed through lists periodically.  You are also responsible for those opt out requests that get caught in your spam filter. 
5.  You are responsible for the emails sent out on your behalf.

For the specifics of the law, check out this website:

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.pdf

Lots of people are not compliant. Lots of people get away with spamming. However, a more pragmatic way to view this is: In the long run, unsolicited email offends your target audience.  Aside from the hefty fine, which could break a small business in this economy, it is in your best interest to adhere to FTC rules. 
      Repetitious emails hawking the same product or service from you is annoying.  And if you appear more self serving, you know where your email will go…to  JUNK, UNREAD.  
       These rules aren’t hard because this particular piece of legislature has the distinction of making sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Book: Is Blogging Overrated?

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

After blogging for a couple of years now, I am wondering if blogging is overrated.  Yes, as a writer, you would think that this process is a no brainer and enjoyable.  But in truth, it steals time from my day, from my other writing and reading, and although pleasurable, may or may not be all that productive from a return on investment viewpoint.

In another blog written not long ago (http://www.corichu.com/blog/2011/08/22/create-blog-written/), I took the position that blogging is an activity that helps a new writer.  The blog is free self promotion, a foundation for building a loyal fan base when that first novel gets published.

I was struggling last week to come up with something worthy of writing.  I realize that “worthy” is subjective, but I wouldn’t want to read a blog if I didn’t expect to come away with a new idea, a different point of view, or at least a bit of humor.  Geesh, my time is worth something…and that’s what this blog is all about.  Is blogging overrated?  Am I getting something out of my time investment? 

Blog posts are not quick, easy breezy well-written snippets. I think more  like a journalist; someone who reports or makes sense out of a series of facts.  I just happened to pick the topic of writing, but I could be writing a blog about baseball fashion or nutrition, or focus on the aging baby boomer body.  I read other writing blogs, who have covered the grammar topic, the how-to topics very thoughtfully and thoroughly and wonder if I should just make this blog a series of great links that I found.  After all, the nuts and bolts of the writing process doesn’t change enough to warrant me to re-invent the wheel just because I can’t think of something to publish in my blog. 

Blogging pressure can be annoying. Besides, even though I write fairly quickly (and I do have opinions), I find that I just can’t  spew out anything that comes to mind.  I have to have a topic that I find interesting, come up with an outline, and then research the fine points.  All this is time consuming.  I don’t write my blog because I have a passion for it, and certainly I don’t like that I am adding to more deadlines on my to-do list.  Even though this is self induced, it is nevertheless annoying and pressure.

Marketing component. Also, what people fail to realize is a blog is a product.  Like any product to get the readership up, there is a marketing component.  If you create a blog, how many hours do you expect to spend reading, commenting and linking to other blogs….other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter?

More time consumed? I hear that we are a nation of non-readers.  I can hardly believe that, but if it is true, then the vlog (video blogging) is the next big marketing platform.  And how much time are you going to invest in vlogging when blogging becomes passe? 

Money making blogs. If you are blogging because you think you are going to make money from affiliate programs, realize this venture has its own pecularities.  First, you will need a great niche…one that will have pull, even when you skip a few days.  (A good example is a celebrity watch blog.) Second, be prepared.  This as a full time job, even though it seems like a part time occupation—one that insidiously steals your time from you.  Third, Technorati reports that only about 10 percent of blogs are money producers.  Some are wildly successful, but most are not making more than $20K a year.  I have been reading about the success stories.  They are inspiring. 

Final Thoughts.  Eh, am I still going to blog?  Yup, I am. I don’t know why though.  It seems to boil down to my need to share.  I am on Facebook and Twitter, but for some reason I don’t post often. 

You will have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.  Just remember what you devote to this activity usurps the time on another writing project, with the family, with friends or another activity.

Light bulb moment!  Hmmm, maybe I should be sharing and getting paid for it? LOL

Open Book: Blog Content Basics

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

No two brands of ketchup taste the same.  The basic ingredients may be similar — tomatoes (or tomato concentrate), sugar, vinegar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.  — but the taste differences lie in the ingredient quality and proportion.

And so it is with your blog.  Your blog site is uniquely yours even though there may be a couple of hundred or more people blogging about the same topic.  To keep your followers, consider these basics when you post your next entry:

     Does your post solve a problem?
     Does your post inform?
     Or have timeless content?
     Maybe your post is in demand (trending)?
     Or does your musings provide a bit of humor…something that is insightful,     but leaves your reader chuckling inside at your wit or twisted viewpoint…a bit of comic relief?

If you can say yes to one or more of these questions, your post content will provide value to your reader and will have them coming back for more.

Like the quality of the tomatoes in the ketchup, so is the quality of your writing. Write well (with the help of the SEO gods) and your posts will fly off the shelf.  Write incoherently and well, your writing (while surely highlighting your unique brand) might limit your viewing audience.