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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?

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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

Finding Time to Write

July 5, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was in my 20’s I lived paycheck to paycheck for many months.  Eventually, as the Universe would have it, I would have to learn to be more responsible.  I had to have a major repair on my car and had saved nothing for an emergency. 

I did what everyone else would have done.  Charged it.  “Don’t worry too much. You have two paychecks before the bill arrived, ”  I told myself.  It was a very tight 90 days.  I don’t think the Universe expected me to be a financial wizard, but I knew that I had to do something different because living like a pauper wasn’t cutting it for me.   The lesson learned here is obvious:  Save something from every paycheck and don’t spend more than you earn.

That said, I need to take this page out of my experience playbook and apply it to my writing.  No money. No time.  Same difference.  I didn’t put my financial health high on the priority list and sooner or later, the inevitable expense threw my financial equilibrium off (and notice it only took one good size invoice).  Just like my financial negligence, I am doing the very same thing to my writing.  There are other things obviously more important to me, although I espouse how I value writing time. 

So I am applying what I have learned at work…well, intellectually learned at least…to my writing.

Here’s what the business coaches would say if I made novel writing my career:

Make writing the first thing you do each day.  Once the day has begun there is too much competition from distractions and external energies vying for your attention.  DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO OPEN YOUR EMAIL FIRST!  Guarenteed you will not have time to write.

Apply the Pareto Principle.  Those in business may know it as the 80/20 Rule…80% of your desired results come from 20% of your effort.  An example of this rule:  80% of all the books sold are written by 20% of authors.  So, it makes sense, that if you spent 20% of your day or about 2 hours on your writing, would that book be written and published by now?

To apply the Pareto Principle, you must drop all the busy work that gets you nowhere.  You may have to work on defining this, because we all get into habits of just doing.  Before each activity, ask yourself, “Will this task help me finish my novel?”  Some you will say overwhelming ly yes.  Some will be a little less connected.  For instance, a trip to the dentist.  The results of a dental visit is integral to the success of getting that novel done.  If you neglect your health, you will not have the energy, concentration to complete a novel.

You will have to learn to prioritize and organize.  If these traits do not come naturally to you, you need to step up to the plate and figure out how to make this work.

Writing a novel is like running a marathon.  You need to keep going until you reach the finish line.  Any distractions will certainly derail you from your goal.

On your computer create a tme tracker for your writing.  No doubt you have heard about food tracking for dieters. Well, you should track how much time you spend each day on your writing tasks. 

Ask for help and learn to delegate in your family.  Even though your family wants to support you, changing their behaviors to help you might be a challenge especially if you are dealing with teenagers.  I suggest you explain to your family what you would like to accomplish and what it means to them.  Some families will get on board with the change immediately; some will need more time to adjust. 

Learn to say NO.  This is one of the hardest lessons learned for women.  Women seem to be better at multi tasking and well, the nurturing and caring strengths actually work against women novelists.

Write a goal list for your writing.  You do it at work all the time.  You have a list of tasks you would like to get done that day.  You write grocery lists, errand lists, and procedual lists.  You will find better results if you know that you will finish writing a scene with the protagonist that day and read Publisher’s Weekly.  Accomplishing only two things a day for your writing is huge.  When you complete those two things. you know you have gotten something done and are that much closer to the finish line.

Are you ready?  Get set. Go.

Writing Workshops

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops.  I always walked away disappointed and wondering  whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.

Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing  all these years.  

What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist.  The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks.  While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing. 

For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes.  My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre.  No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry!  I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript.  It wasn’t my niche.

Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers.  I, of course, stood alone again.  I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks.   As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment. 

Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long.  I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page.   Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either.  My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty.  I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.

In any case, I feel motivated again.  This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year.  Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.

I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area.  She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College.  http://www.ediehemingway.com/

Eegaads! It's almost 2010.

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

As we approach the new year, I see that I have made only baby steps in my writing attempts.  I’m embarrassed that I have not written an entry in this blog since September.  No excuses.  I got swept up in my old habits and let time slip through my fingers.

If you are in need of some serious motivation to break old habits, shake things up a bit because your answer to Dr.Phil’s “How is that working for you?” has you shaking your head, I recommend reading James Arthur Ray’s book Harmonic Wealth.  Yes, he is the same dude that is under investigation for deaths at his retreat in Sedona, AZ.  (I am not sure why people don’t use common sense when trying new things.  People, huddled in a sweat tent, must have known that they were subjecting their bodies to the same environment that animals face locked in a parked car for hours in the summer.)  Anyway, if we can surf past this event, and discover what Ray has to say, you might find that there is relevance in his life philosophy and message.

As I read Ray’s book, I liked the fact that the conversational tone wasn’t preachy.  He  tells you his take on life and what he has learned.  His message isn’t new.  What is new is his delivery.  He is able to explain and connect what happens in everyday life.  It is not as random as we might like to believe. 

For us busy people,  he outlines steps to help you realize what you want and how to get it.  As I said, this  nothing new.  For years business schools have touted the management by objective system, but Ray has broadened the scope to open the potential for success in all areas of life.

For the new year, this book/ CD, which is in libraries, might help you slug through and figure out how to achieve your wildest dreams.  So, I have read this book once, listened to the CD, and now look forward to 2010 with renewed enthusiasm for my writing. 

Julia Cameron in her book,  The Artist’s Way, says that if you do a timeline of goals, you will find when you look back 80% will have been realized.  So, join me in creating your timeline for 2010.  We’ll meet back here next year at this time and see how much has come to pass.

Emails: the time leech

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Technology, specifically email, has been a blessing and a curse.  Recently, my employer asked the us employees to refrain from hopping onto our email accounts so frequently.  She said that two or three times during the work day should be more than enough. 

Although I bristled at the thought of changing my behavior…an occasional “good” email, one that makes us smile or delivers good news, often breaks up the work day. 

Well, the first day of email access three times a day wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be.  I was more productive.  I was able to plan and organize better because I was more focused.  And the first week rolled into the second.  My work seemed less disjointed. 

Then, I started a project that required me to email out.  I was back to my old habit again like an alcoholic having a relapse.  However, I realize how emails can steal precious time, so I have cut back again at work.  I have cut back at home.  I would like to think that I am reclaiming time to write, but I can see that I may have to leave home to get any real writing done. 

Home is the biggest distraction.  Like exercising, you have to initiate discipline.  You have to ignore the calls to help find the favorite pair of socks or the ketchup.  You have to shed the pressure of preparing meals and focus on achieving even small goals toward a writing project.  This is my next step…leaving home or finding a 6 X 8 cell with a door.

But for right now, curbing the emails is a good thing,despite those beckoning words to peek.

Do you suffer an addiction to email reading as I do?   Share your thoughts, but time yourself…after all, your response may be helpful to others, but not helpful in advancing your writing project.

Are You Satisfied With the Status Quo?

May 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Half- written stories, rejected submissions, and possible story lines found their way to my desk drawer graveyard through not understanding a couple of rules of the road in this craft.

The first rule is not to take a sabbatical while working on a project.  It is the kiss of death for many a project.  The obits of my characters read:  Died before I lived.  Everytime  I start writing a story and put it down for a few weeks, inertia takes over and I cannot resume. 

If I drop writing, even for as little as six weeks, I see more subtle changes in my characters as they adopt the influences or viewpoints that came into my life during that short time span.  The differences may be subtle, but nevertheless there.   Once changes are made, they, no doubt, alter other parts of the story line, and sometimes it means starting from scratch.

Consistency is the key.  It may take only a three day break to lose interest.  If you write everyday, even if it is for a short period, your interest will not wane, your momentum will not sag.  It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and perseverence to dust off an older piece of work and rework it.

Another observation I made about my writing is that if I don’t know my characters well enough at the onset, I lose interest.  I have to be emotionally engaged to keep the writing from being dull.   If I am not familiar with my characters, they never materialize on the page.  They aren’t bigger than life. Since they never seem involved in their own lives, they all appear to have self-esteem issues.  How boring is that! 

These characters maybe a stereotype without depth, without uniqueness.  They move through their lives aloof, controlling their space without connecting with anyone on or off the page.  Just like a marriage license doesn’t make a marriage, a character even though connected to another character may still have the reader  screaming into the page:  What about passion?  What about love?  What about sacrifice and honor?  Damn it.  Say something.  Do something.  This is exactly what results when your characters are not well established in your head.

So, if you find your characters a little lackluster, do your homework.  Etch out everything about this character.  Create a backstory to establish a reason for his/her behavior.  Add a quirk or two for interest and make it points of challenge in the character’s goal.

I posted a question on a www.LinkedIn.com  group asking whether established writers prefer to develop character over plot or vice versa when beginning a novel.  One respondent likened it to playing the piano.  You can play the melody with your right hand, the harmony and chords with your left, but eventually, you will want to play them together. Together the music is whole, rich and filled with texture.

If I was happy with the status quo, my writing could never get better.  Writing is one craft that you can be learning something new every day of your life.  This is why writers keep writing.

What did you learn last?  Care to share it?