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Friday, December 31, 2010

 

New Year Dreams, Guest Post by Rochelle Melander

New Year Dreams

by Rochelle Melander

"Not easy to find the balance, for if one does not have wild dreams of achievement, there is no spur even to get the dishes washed. One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being."
—May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

People who record their dreams and goals are better able to achieve them. They are also happier and healthier. Record your visions, dreams, and goals for the New Year. Sometimes the best way to do this is to complete a sentence repeatedly until you run out of ideas. It may take five minutes (or more) to discover what you really want.

Try completing these sentences:

*In the New Year, I want to give up . . .


*In the New Year, I want to take on . . .


*In the New Year, I will write about . . .


*In the New Year, I will rock my life by . . .


*In the New Year, I will strengthen my body and spirit by . . .


*In the New Year, I will work to change my world by . . .

A word of warning—this kind of dreaming can change your life! Try it and see what happens.

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Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write faster, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com/ and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at http://www.writenowmastermind.com/.


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>> Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

 

Scratching the Surface in Research and Writing

Research is one of my favorite aspects of writing. But with my wide interests, I often need to curtail my enthusiasm. Even in fiction, research can be required and I'll often spend time researching and then forget about the writing. Sometimes I find myself getting swept away by the books I am reading for background. Just recently I was reading a biography for a nonfiction piece I was assigned. The subject's life (and the writer's skills) overtook me and I found myself wrapped up in the subject. Although I had been taking notes all along, there were times I found the need to re-read and re-write my notes. I had become so enthralled in my research.
Do you ever feel like you over-research a subject? I tend to find myself diving in, taking pages of notes and tapering my needs as I write a 400-word article.
For my novels, I've tried to under-research with the belief that in doing so, I let the fictional characters drive the action. That doesn't always work well and I find myself looking for more concrete information to drive some of the plot.
To help me keep more focused on my research and stay balanced (not too little research, not too much), I plan prep time.
First, I make an effort to understand the assignment. Even though I may be the person who assigned the research to myself, I spend some time thinking and focusing on the big picture. Then I start to narrow by asking questions. Maybe I have a solo brainstorming session where I just write down all the questions I can think of. I might even poll some friends about what they might want to know. I will also try to spend unhurried discovery time in a library, letting search words guide me. I like to also make use of librarians who still seem to hold many secrets of researching that the Internet cannot seem to touch or ferret out. Then I check out more books than I think I'll need and start reading.
While I try to balance the amount of research I'm doing with the size of the assignment, sometimes I just can't help myself and will read, read, read until that deadline approaches all too quickly.

What about you? Do you love or hate research? What is your strength or weakness when it comes to research?

Happy New Year!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor...and wannabe librarian.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

 

Jan Ackerson, Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Jan’s Bio:

Jan Ackerson is a retired high school teacher living with her husband and Sophie, the Demented Cat in rural Michigan. She was first published in 1962, when her poem I Like Deer appeared in her elementary school’s literary anthology. After that, she took a long break from writing, until a family crisis in 2000 drove her to find solace in the scratch of pen on paper.

Her short stories and poetry have been seen mostly on FaithWriters.com, where she has earned dozens of weekly awards. Her stories Sniggles and The Suit Jacket of Grace and her poem A Poet Rests in the 131st Psalm have placed in that site’s yearly ‘Best of the Best’ competition.
Jan is spending her retirement years traveling, playing with her granddaughter, and freelance editing. Her short stories and poetry can be found at http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=11626.

Don’t forget to check out Jan’s winning entry here, then settle in for our interview with her below.

WOW: Jan, thanks for taking time to chat with us today, and congratulations for placing in our contest! What are your thoughts about it all?

Jan: I was astounded! I have a hard time thinking of myself as a real writer; unlike most of my writing friends, I’ve never sought publication. Writing is just a hobby to me, and I entered the contest as a whim. Maybe, in some dim corner of my brain, I was hoping for some validation of my scratchings—but I never expected to do so well against accomplished writers. This feels absolutely marvelous!

WOW: Glad to hear that, you did a fantastic job with your entry! Speaking of which, how did your story ‘A Kind Woman Lives Here’ develop?

Jan: I happened across a website that showed dozens of the ‘hobo signs’ used during the Great Depression. I imagined a sweet old tramp scrawling a primitive sign on a woman’s front gate—and working backward, the story of this brief and grace-filled encounter formed itself. I’d like to imagine that my grandmother might have served such a homely meal in the same circumstances.

WOW: That’s a good example of how writers can be inspirited by just about anything, including an aspect of Depression-era society some might not be familiar with. Besides grace, I also felt a sense of peace as I read your delightful story. Well done!

Let’s turn to your writing background. Now your bio mentioned your return to writing in 2000 after a long break. Can you tell what happened to bring that about?

Jan: In October of 2000, my eighteen-year-old daughter suffered a spinal cord injury in a horseback riding accident. I’m a person who internalizes emotions, but this particular event was so earth-shattering that I really needed an outlet. I started to blog, and I found a website, FaithWriters.com, where I could post my writings in a supportive environment. The funny thing is—I’d intended to write out my rage at God, but writing became a means of emotional healing.

WOW: Thank you for sharing this with us, it must have been quite a difficult time for you and your family. I’m in agreement with you in experiencing writing as a source of healing, as other writers have found. For me, journaling has provided that outlet for years.

Looking back, what’s one thing you know now about writing you wish you knew back when you started?

Jan: There’s a lot of mechanical stuff—dialog tags, writing ‘tight’, choosing the right tense and POV—that I’ve had to learn to do better. But I wish I’d known more about the community of writers. I’ve found writers to be incredibly supportive and helpful; we all want for there to be more beautiful words in the world, and we’ll gladly help each other to get to the point where more beautiful words are being produced.

WOW: I agree! I continue to be amazed at the extent writers go to encourage and lift each other up. Very gratifying!

Now, you’re a writer of both short stories and poetry. What’s your process of transitioning between the two forms? Do you have a preference?


Jan: I love poetry, but it’s extremely difficult for me to write. Nevertheless, every so often an idea simply demands to be written as a poem, no matter how much I resist it. Poems use language in such a totally different way than prose that I don’t find it difficult to switch from one to the other; it’s like playing piano or playing the flute. The tools are the same (musical symbols/words) but an entirely different skill set is required—a different part of the brain, even. I prefer writing short stories, because they’re easier for me, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I’ve written a poem.

WOW: Hmm, that’s an interesting observation regarding the need to use a different skill set in creating poems. Something to keep in mind the next time I may write a poem.

I’ve noticed you’ve mentioned FaithWriters a few times. Tell us more about them.

Jan: FaithWriters is a website with all sorts of goodies for Christian writers. Their biggest draw is the writing challenge, where writers submit an entry based on a weekly prompt. There are message boards that deal with every aspect of writing and publishing, ebooks and writing classes, and so much more. Best of all, FaithWriters is a community of like-minded writers who really love one another, and who constantly work to help each other to write better.

WOW: Thanks for passing along details about them. Readers, check them out here. Wrapping things up, please share about Sophie, the Demented Cat!

Jan: Sophie’s not your typical lap-sitting, purring furball. When she wants attention, she saunters into the bathroom and flushes the toilet—and she’ll repeat that until I get up and shoo her out. She doesn’t care much for anyone in the family but me—but only when I pull my computer onto my lap. She’s a notoriously picky eater. Only one brand of dry cat food will do, but she’ll eat rubber bands and string, given the opportunity. She’s the best cat ever.

WOW: (Laughs) Flushes the toilet to get attention, and eats rubber bands and string! What a wild cat Sophie is! Jan, thanks again for chatting with us today, it was a pleasure! All the best with your writing!

Interview by Jill Earl

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Monday, December 27, 2010

 

Deadlines Are Meant to be Broken


Do you work better under pressure? Yeah, me too. With the clock ticking, the rush of adrenaline, the total focus on the job leads to my best writing. I blame my work as a newspaper stringer for that attitude. Because, even though that’s what I used to tell myself, the truth is a bit different.

1. Deadline writing isn’t the best. Writing, like stew, is always better the second day. When you have a chance to go back after a few hours—or days—all the flaws in a piece seem to jump out at you. A time cushion gives you the opportunity to do last minute research, ask sources follow-up questions, or get great quotes.

2. Life happens. If we were all sitting in our safe and secure little offices, deadline writing would be a bit different. But there are too many opportunities for interruption. Computers die sudden deaths, college daughters leave their glasses on the kitchen table demanding an unplanned two hour trip to their dorm by mom, babies make early appearances. All three have happened to me while I was on deadline. Thank goodness not at the same time! Have you ever tried typing an article about chess with just your right hand while cuddling a cranky four day old baby in your left hand?

3. Deadlines are missed. For all your screaming to your family to be quiet and scribbling bits of writing late into the night it finally becomes obvious you aren’t going to meet the deadline. You have to beg your editor for more time. Unfortunately, the miracle of email makes it impossible to blame the missed deadline on someone else (i.e. the US Postal Service). No more “I put it in the mail. I don’t know why you didn’t get it!” Now, editors know that article is just a second away. The only obstacle between them and that article is you pushing the send button.

4. You’re losing future work. When you have to miss a deadline it’s easy to rationalize it. “I had hundreds of deadlines this year and I’ve only missed this one.” That, however, is your viewpoint. Editors don’t care about your viewpoint. How many times have you worked with this editor? Imagine this is the second time you’ve worked for this editor. To them you miss 50% of your deadlines. Would you want to take a chance on someone who misses 50% of their deadlines?

So do what I do…mark your calendar with the orange deadline and the red deadline. The orange deadline is a week before the actual deadline and the red deadline is the day before the actual deadline. Always, always, always shoot for the orange deadline. Life will be easier. You will be happier. Your writing will improve.

To hear more from Jodi stop by her blog Words by Webb. When not writing color-coded deadlines on her calendar, she’s searching for an agent for her World War II era novel.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

 

Search, Select, Shape & Shove Off: Getting Your Conference List Together

As you draw up your writing goals for 2011, think about adding a conference or two. In attending one, you develop or hone your skills, can submit your work to existing markets or discover new ones, and can network with peers and industry pros. Since going to my first one a few years ago, I look forward to each year’s conference season. Below are four steps I’ll use to put my own list together.

1) Search
My research begins here with my favorite resources, starting with ShawGuides. The site lists about 1,034 programs worldwide, arranged by genre, date and location. You can also request to have your program of interest email updated information as it becomes available. Next is Writers’ Conferences and Centers. A division of The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), conferences can be chosen the same way as ShawGuides. Last is Funds for Writers, where Hope packs plenty of funding resources into each issue of the Funds for Writers and FFW Small Markets newsletters (check the site to sign up for them), including conferences. And her blog is not to be missed either.

2) Select
I narrow my choices down to create a shortlist of favorite conferences in my preferred genres. It’s a good idea to get on their mailing lists to keep abreast of updates, such as speaker appearances and changes to the conference schedule.

3) Shape
Here I examine my shortlist to make my final selections and start preparations for my trips. It’s a good time to check into ways to fund your trip too. Are there grants or scholarships available? Can you appear on a panel or lead a workshop in your genre to defray costs? How about sharing lodging or ride-sharing costs with a roommate? Whatever you decide, make sure do it early.

4) Shove off
Finally--time to get to your long-awaited event! Don’t forget to pack your submissions and those business cards! Most importantly, have fun!

As a writer, do you have a process for getting your conference list together? Share your tips with us.

Happy Holidays!

By Jill Earl

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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Friday, December 24, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: Emotions and Creativity – Are they Interdependent?, Guest Post by Carrie Oakley

Emotions and Creativity – Are they Interdependent?

by Carrie Oakley

I’ve found that when I write for myself, I cannot separate my emotions from my creativity; the two combine to make my writing, straight from the heart and true to my feelings and personality. I recently wrote a string of short stories, with most of them dealing with love and relationships and injected with a small dose of humor. A very close friend asked me if I had experienced the emotions I had written about; she felt that without firsthand knowledge, it was impossible to write so accurately about them. I admitted to her that the stories were semi-autobiographical and were based on happenings in my life at random times. I also agreed that it was almost impossible to write passionately about something you’ve never experienced or something you don’t feel strongly about. For me, for creativity to set up shop in my pen, my heart and soul have to first lay the foundation.

This interdependence of emotions and creativity has left me in a sort of dilemma – there are some things that just beg to be put down in words; however, if my writing reveals too much about my innermost thoughts and emotions, should I desist from making it public? Or should I write anonymously? Both options are not acceptable to my vanity because I love the appreciation and applause that my writing brings, and I’m not too worried about the occasional brickbat or two.

I’m sure most writers face similar issues, but after a while, they adapt to filtering out the facts and retaining just the emotions in their writing. This way, they’re able to project authenticity without revealing too many personal details. Good writing needs the edge that emotions provide; however, raw emotions that are unchecked could end up turning writing into a rant. So every new writer who’s faced with this dilemma needs to remember that it takes time to become a mature writer, one who’s able to filter out raw emotions and retain just the right amount to augment their creativity.

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This guest post is contributed by Carrie Oakley, who writes on the topic of
online college . Carrie welcomes your comments at her email id: carrie.oakley1983(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

 

Spanning the Globe: Turning Local Ideas Into National and International Stories


As I freelance writer, I devour the newspaper when it lands in my mailbox. Yes, I read the entire newspaper, but I pay special attention to the regional and business sections. Why? Because the local stories sometimes make great articles for national - and even international -publications.

What type of story works best? Unfortunately there's not a magic formula. It's a matter of hard work and thinking outside the box. For example, a business page story featured a short piece about a woman who makes fishing lures. I pitched the idea to a fishing magazine. Another regional story highlighted technology use at a local school. I took that idea and expanded it into a feature article. A book by an area author turned into a $400 paycheck from a Canadian publication.
Consider it an additional way to re-slant a story.
When approaching an editor, be sure you've done your homework. Plus, offer to supply photographs, illustrations or infographics, sidebars, and need-to-knows (recommended reading, expert websites, etc.).
Freelance writers need to always be on the lookout for great - and profitable - story ideas. Using regional or local newspapers adds another tool to a freelancer's toolbox.
by LuAnn Schindler. Visit LuAnn's website for more of her articles, columns, and ideas.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 

The Dawning of a New Year: Bring Your Dreams to Light

Today the sun was born anew; at least that is what our ancestors would have thought. After the winter solstice, the longest night, they watched as the sun grew stronger each day. In the past, the winter solstice was a time of great celebration, an invitation and welcoming of abundance—the original New Year.

Many years ago I had a small group of friends who were very much into the solstices. For winter’s solstice we would create a fire in a chiminea or outdoor grill, and then each one of us would make two lists. One was a list of things to release: grudges, old relationships, out-dated and self limiting beliefs. The other was a list of things to invite into our lives: health, positive relationships, financial success, empowering self-images. Each of us would state aloud what we were releasing and what we welcomed for the coming year, setting each list into the fire. This was a visualization exercise; as each day grew longer our prosperity grew stronger.


Although my friends have all gone separate ways, I still hold the solstice as a day of reflection. What is my self-talk? Do I have habits or limiting self-beliefs I need to release? Do my actions back up my goals? How have I been blocking the flow of abundance in my life?


Once I’ve come to terms with myself and feel that inner glow, that assuredness for the coming year, I light a candle and take that first step. The first step may be logging important dates into a new planner such as due dates for submissions to various periodicals or self-imposed due dates for finishing that novel. Perhaps a first step is smaller, clearing off the desk or writing a journal entry on the vision for the coming year.


What will your first step be? Share it here with your friends.


Whatever dreams you hold, may your candle burn brighter each day.


- Robyn Chausse


(images: Microsoft Office)

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 

Interview with Susan Stites - 3rd Place Winner of the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest

Susan's Bio:

Susan Stites is the owner and sole employee of Management Allegories, a management development and technical writing firm based in Madison, Wisconsin. She has a BA in English from Wichita State University and an MA in Education from Northwestern University. Susan has published numerous books and technical training programs for clients, and is currently working on a collection of stories that spoof the absurdity of working in a business setting. Her story ideas are invented and shaped on her daily long walks with her doggie, Tula.

If you have not done so already, check out Susan's award-winning story here, and then return for a conversation with the author.

WOW!: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the WOW! Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest! How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it?


Susan: I read the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. It is about a Laotian (Hmong) child who has epilepsy. The child's case gets tangled between the family and the California healthcare system. Language and cultural barriers cause everyone to make the worst possible decisions on the child's behalf. In this book, I learned that in the 1910s and 1920s, there were actually companies that held "Americanization" classes for immigrants. They included English lessons and lectures on work habits, personal hygiene and table manners. One such class actually did use a big pot that got stirred. I started to wonder what such an activity might feel like to a child in today's educational system, and the story was born.

WOW!: Great idea! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Does your background and experience with technical writing ever hinder your creative writing style?

Susan: Sometimes it hinders, and sometimes it helps.

How it helps:

1. It forces me to be disciplined, to push through blocks and to meet deadlines.
2. It gives me confidence that I can start and finish huge, book-length projects.
3. It helps me understand my audience and write with clarity using only necessary words.

How it hinders:

1. It is formulaic.
2. It keeps my creativity in a box.
3. Sometimes, after a long day of technical writing, I simply don't have the energy to do more writing. I have to do something that gets me outside and moving.

WOW!: Excellent points. There are only so many hours that someone can sit in front of a computer and write without getting some fresh air and exercise. How do you balance your time writing for your business and writing for pleasure or other purposes?

Susan: As you can see from the above answer, the balance is difficult. The thing that helps me is to set goals and deadlines. Unfortunately, when the goals are self-imposed and don't hurt a client, they are easy to ignore. That's why a contest like WOW is so helpful. If gives me an external deadline.

WOW!: I'm glad we could help! What do you enjoy most about writing?

Susan: Words, creativity, inventing plot twists. When I finish a story or a project, I look at the finished product and wonder how on earth that came out of me! When I write, I'm almost in an altered state, and sometimes I actually don't remember writing certain passages. That's when the creativity explodes.

WOW!: What a wonderful feeling! I love when the creativity tumbles out unconsciously. If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why? (Tough question, I know!)

Susan: Ooh, that's tough. Can I have a party? If just one person, it would most likely be Tim O'Brien. His subtext and duplicity are masterful, and I would love to engage him in a discussion of story-truth versus happening-truth, how story truth can often bring out the real emotion of a situation better than happening-truth.

Thank you, Susan, for your excellent story and your insightful answers! We hope to read more of your work in the future!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt www.annegreenawalt.com

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

 

Reorganize, prioritize and trim the schedule

Tis the season to be overworked, overstretched and overstressed. At least I know it is for me. As I write this post I think about how many things I’ve forgotten (or was reminded of) the last few months. Work, family, activities, writing, etc have all been weighing down on me. I’ve decided to make some changes. Maybe you can use these ideas, too.

Take a good hard look at the schedule. By sitting down to look at everything you need to do, you can be very honest with yourself about how much writing time you really do have. Maybe it’s not the television that keeps you from writing, but the many errands that are thrown in there. By having a hard copy of your schedule to review, you can concretely see where you are overbooked.

It’s okay to say no. So many of us have the desire to help others in different ways. Whether we want to do it through writing, volunteering at local organizations or helping out at kiddo’s school – we can always find someone in need of something. Since that won’t change, you can let yourself off the hook a bit. By learning to say no to something else (that you really don’t have time for), you can say yes to more writing time. Keep your schedule (or your most important writing project) in mind the next time someone asks you for a favor.

Don’t overbook yourself.
I definitely need to listen to this one. I’m a single working mom who plays guitar at my church. The holiday season is full of craziness beyond belief for me between my day job as a foster care worker (audit season), parenting the kiddo, getting the Christmas stuff done, and getting ready for Christmas Eve mass with the choir. I have other things I could list, but you’d stop reading when you see how long my list is. Needless to say, it’s very easy to be overstretched if you don’t have a good idea of what you’re schedule really looks like.

Feel free to let go.
There are times when we already have something in our schedule that we simply don’t want to do anymore, but keep doing anyway. Doing them can be challenging, but letting them go can be just as hard. For me, it’s my day job. I’ve realized that I simply cannot run around anymore (commuting daily to see clients) and would much rather have an office job. So one goal for me this coming year is to find a new job that will have me in an office. I’ve also been thinking about letting go of other tasks that I don’t have time for.

Always focus on your goals.
When presented with a new opportunity, errand or task, keep your writing goals in mind. Will doing this help my writing? Will I be able to help other writers? Will it take time/focus away from my current novel? Again, by being honest with yourself about your writing goals, you can be honest with others when you need to turn them down. Check your goals everyday and do one thing to help those goals become accomplishments.

I hope these tips will help you get organized this holiday season and ready for 2011. I know I’m ready for new things. Happy Holidays writers!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

 

All the Treats of the Season

We know the drill.
The holidays hit with the end of the year closely following and our pace changes. It's crazed as we bounce from festivity to festivity.
But for me, oddly, the end of the year brings more slow-down time than at other times of year. Oddly, the most crazed time of year is also the time when my husband and I can have some DEAR time(Drop-Everything-And-Read). The phrase comes from my daughter's school, but apparently it is a concept that is growing throughout the country.
From my perspective, I often select a book that I can read without reviewing. It's a selection that I want to savor, similar to having a favorite holiday dessert or some traditional egg nog. It may be a book that I am looking to find inspiration for my writing. It could be a book my mother sent me last Christmas. Perhaps it is something I picked up during the rare afternoon I was able to browse a bookstore without my children running around me in circles.
My husband and I make it a priority to snuggle up with a good book and take some down time, enjoying a book we've maybe put off too long to read. A restorative time, we enjoy instituting some quiet time and hunkering down. Sometimes it carries over to our kids (the ones who are old enough to read) and we find the quiet time is becoming a special and welcome holiday tradition.
No need for dressing up. No going out or making anything. (Best of all, no work!) Just find a book.
We tend to ignore the "Best of 2010" lists and, instead, find ourselves tucking into books we've been dying to read because each holiday season we know we have the time to actually finish the book.
Best wishes to you and yours!
What kind of books do you put off to savor on a vacation or during the holidays? What must-read books would you recommend to a friend--from 2010 or another year?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living along the relatively balmy Carolina coast.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: Keeping the Holiday Spirit from Crushing Your Writing, Guest Post by Joy Paley

Keeping the Holiday Spirit from Crushing Your Writing

by Joy Paley

We’re coming up fast into the thick of the holiday season. After Thanksgiving hits, I sometimes feel that I’m constantly surrounded by family and friends non-stop until the new year. Some parts of this are great, like feeling inspired by old friends I haven’t seen in a long time and getting a dose of my mom’s words of wisdom. Other things aren’t so hot, like being cooped up in my childhood home for a few days too long, with my nearly deaf dad who likes to watch TV constantly at full volume.

Another frustrating thing I’ve discovered is how the holiday season can throw my writing for a loop. Traveling and staying in hotels means my schedule gets knocked out of whack. Cooking, cleaning, and preparing for guests means less free time and more stress. And, being around my family so much can generate all sorts of interesting inner turmoil that I thought I’d suppressed around the end of adolescence (what writer doesn’t have family issues?!). All these things can conspire to keep me from writing. Over the past few years, I’ve developed these tricks to help me maintain my work through the holiday haze.

Stick to your schedule: Grab it and hold on like a crazed Wal-Mart shopper on Black Friday. Whenever you prefer to write, be it in the morning, evening, or whenever, make that period sacred. Explain to your family and friends that writing is like a muscle you’ve got to keep from atrophying. Even if all you can think about is anticipating Grandma’s usual “So how is this writing “thing” going anyway?” speech, sit down at your typewriter, computer, or notepad and put some words down. Even if what you write makes you cringe, maintaining the writing impulse is crucial.

Write a certain number of pages per day: Different writers have different “normal” amounts of writing for a session of work. Whether you’re usually churning out a couple of finely tuned paragraphs or blasting through ten pages of rough draft, recognize where you’re at in a project and set a daily holiday goal. Make it attainable, and do your best to make it happen regularly.

• Find a good workplace: No matter where you’re traveling to, seek out a place where you can do some writing when you arrive. This will keep you from having the excuse, “Oh, I can’t write in our hotel room because the kids are watching TV!” or something similar. Work in the hotel lobby. If you’re staying at a friend’s or family member’s, locate a café or library nearby. Don’t let new surroundings keep you from working.

• Give in to the holidays: If the holidays have got you totally stuck on your current project, set it aside. Start a new story about a protagonist modeled on your crazy aunt who always gets soused at Christmas dinner. Write a poem about your annoying nephew’s expensive presents. Even though it might not be your next masterpiece, it will help get the holidays out of your brain and onto paper, so you can move on to something else.

• Journal, journal, journal: Use your family and friends as fodder. Write down their mannerisms, ridiculous dialogue, and unlikely anecdotes to use as details in some future project. Writing down the holiday scene will distance it from you and let you take a step back from the holiday fervor.

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Joy Paley is a freelance writer based in Berkeley, California. She gave up chemistry research to write about science and technology issues, and she enjoys making the ethical and social aspects of science accessible to the public. In her free time, she enjoys writing fiction and personal essays. You can read her career musings on Pounding the Pavement. She also writes on the subject of technical schools for the Guide to Career Education.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

 

Who Has a Secret?


Have you been keeping secrets? I have! No, my being a writer isn’t a secret. If asked what I do for a living, my family and friends would probably shrug their shoulders and say, “She writes magazine articles and stuff.” It’s true. I do write a lot of “stuff”. Those hung up on labels might call it copywriting: marketing materials, advertorials, blogs for nonprofits, annual reports, book reviews. I even wrote a game show for a local nonprofit to use at a charity golf outing. But “stuff” seems to cover it much better for my non-writing friends.

The secret is my novel. Very few people in my non-writing circle knew about it and, if they did, it was in an abstract way. It was as if I told them, “I’m remodeling my kitchen” but, since they never visited my house, they were never sure if it was in the planning stages, I had the cabinets ripped out, or if I was doing the finish painting.

Well, I have finished the novel. I have edited. I have shown it to people. I have written a book proposal. I have lists of agents. What I haven’t done is actually send it out. I have been stuck in the “I just need to look over it one more time before I send it out” stage.

Then I unexpectedly met up with an old friend from my hometown that I have known since Kindergarten. Our conversation turned to kids, parents, the holidays, vacations to Disney World. “But what have YOU been doing?” he asked. Since my old friend is a teacher/artist I found myself blurting it out, “I wrote a novel.”

He quickly demanded all the details which I happily supplied. “Of course I’ve been so nervous I haven’t sent it out…but I am on Monday.”

Eek.

Who said that?

I could just ignore that last declaration and keep going over it “one last time”. But I know I’ll see him again. I write about the local art scene, he is a member of the local art scene. Our paths cross. And he’s one of those people who remembers. And asks questions! Oh no.

So I sent it. And got sent a “we no longer accept unsolicited queries”. So I sent it out again. And it seems I’ve begun.

So my new year’s advice to everyone with secret writing goals that never seem to get anywhere?

Tell someone. Tell lots of someones. And not the polite ones that just nod and tactfully never mention it again. Tell those nosy, pushy people who will bring it up every time they see you, tell everyone in the neighborhood, email you helpful articles they find on writing. Those are the people you need in your corner for 2011. The ones that will embarrass you into completing your WIP and getting it out there.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

 

The Process of Creating Writing Goals

In only a couple of weeks, we’ll say bonjour to 2011. Seemed like yesterday I had my list of writing goals in hand, ready to face this year’s opportunities. As I finish up holiday preparations, I’ll take some time to do a final review on the outcome of 2010’s writing goals, and begin to draw up next year’s.

Before I start, I'll turn to a resource I downloaded for free from 48 Days.com, a site created by Dan Miller for those interested in discovering meaningful work. ‘The Power of Goals’ is a comprehensive worksheet that begins with a checklist to discover where you are at the present, followed by questions that walk you through the goal-setting process’ seven areas: financial, physical, personal development, family, spiritual, social and career. Within each area are five-year, one-year and today action steps you can take to make your goals a reality. It’s labor-intensive, but when I’m done, I’ll have a better idea of what I want for 2011’s writing goals and how to achieve them.

Have you started working on next year’s writing goals yet? What’s your process for creating them? Please share some of the results with your fellow readers!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

 

Introducing Elizabeth Demers - 2nd place winner in the 2010 Summer Flash Fiction Contest


Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Elizabeth Demers started writing when she was a tween, around the age of 11. Elizabeth swears that many of her early pieces, and even some recent writings, resemble short poems and unfinished sketches. Writing and books have always been important to Elizabeth, who comes from a family of bibliophiles, she did not originally set out to be a writer.
Elizabeth graduated Mississippi University for Women in 2002 with a Bachelor's in Biology. Job searching after graduation left her discouraged, so she resorted to the one activity she felt comfortable with: writing.
For the last seven years, Elizabeth's kept busy working as a bookseller turned bookstore manager turned aspiring author. She spends the majority of her day surrounded by and engrossed in the written word. Having come full circle, Elizabeth gratefully returns to her passion while slowly coming to terms with the fact that she might have picked the wrong major in college.
If you haven't had the chance to read Elizabeth's award-winning story, "Charon's Lament," head over to the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest page at WOW! Women on Writing. You'll be so glad you did!
WOW: Elizabeth, welcome to The Muffin. We're pleased to be spending time with you and talking about your story. Congratulations on winning second place in the summer contest! It's a major accomplishment! What first stood out to me about "Charon's Lament" is this beautiful internal monologue from a mythological character. How much research about Charon did you conduct prior to writing the piece?
Elizabeth: Actually, other than the few minutes it took to double-check the spelling of my character's name, there was no recent research. I've always been fascinated by fairy tales, folklore and mythology, and I remember learning most of the Greek/Roman myths as a child. During high school and college, I did take several years of Latin and mythology, which more than solidified my fascination and love of those myths.
WOW: I find mythology fascinating, too. The story is quite impressive! Sounds like you are a strong reader. Good readers make good writers. What do you remember about the first piece you wrote?
Elizabeth: If we're talking about the very first piece I can remember writing, it was an unfinished mystery about a stolen diamond. I was eleven years old and unfortunately that story is still unfinished. From there until after I graduated college, I've written dozens of poems and character sketches, but nothing longer than a few pages. It wasn't until about six years ago that I even attempted anything that could be considered novel-length.
WOW: Perhaps you'll be able to finish the stolen diamond story sometime. (smiles) The rhythm of language in "Charon's Lament" captivates me. That's another sign of the reader/writer connection. Which authors have made a lasting impression on you or have had an effect on your writing style?
Elizabeth: There are so many wonderful authors out there, that I'm sure I wouldn't have enough time or space to name them all. The authors whose writing has stuck with me the most over the years include: Dickens, Tolkien, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Paul Auster, and Joyce Carol Oates. I'm not sure they've had an effect on my style per se, but I do admire and love their writing, which definitely has had an effect on my desire to continue writing.
WOW: I will agree that when you admire a person's writing, it pushes your desire to write. Your writing path has been interesting. You majored in Biology, but you've always been drawn to writing and literature. What advice would you offer to other writers who think they may have taken a detour in their career choice?
Elizabeth: All I can offer is what I've learned about myself and hope it might help pothers who think they've taken the long way around. I think, many times, we have too may things we are passionate about, too many things we might be interested in pursuing. Every child is asked what they want to be when they grow up. I was one of those kids that could never make up their mind. I know I ran the gamut of career choices, more than once, as I grew - astronaut, police officer, concert pianist, doctor, veterinarian - the last decision leading me to get my Bachelor's degree in Biology. It wasn't until the last couple of years, when I was unsure about where my life was headed, that I took time to reevaluate what was important to me. The one constant was writing. Whenever I went through something, good or bad, there was always a poem or a sketch written about it. I guess I never thought about writing for a living because it was so much a natural part of myself that I never considered it a career choice. It would be like choosing a career as an opera singer because I know how to breathe.
I guess if I could offer any advice, it would to be to listen to your heart, and trust you will always wind up where you are meant to be. Detours can be scenic. Enjoy the ride, remember the details and write about the journey!
WOW: Great advice! I've taken a few detours myself. Speaking of detours, let's jump back on the writing track. When you write, do you have a particular audience in mind?
Elizabeth: At the moment, the only audience I try to write for are the characters in my stories. Though it might sound strange, I know it's their story and I don't want to disappoint them. I've always written whatever story was in my head or heart. I can't honestly remember ever writing anything just because someone else might or might not read it.
WOW: It's interesting that you write for the characters. It seems like many writers focus on writing what others might want to read. Your characters definitely come to life on the page! Elizabeth, would you mind sharing what projects you're currently working on?
Elizabeth: I've just successfully finished my fourth year of NaNoWriMo, so I have the very rough skeleton of a story to which I need to add the meat. I have also compiled a new list of contests to enter once the new year begins. The last few NaNoWriMo's have been great fodder for the short stories that I've been entering into contests lately, including the short sketch, Charon's Lament, that placed in this summer's WOW! Flash Fiction Contest.
WOW: Congratulations on conquering NaNoWriMo, as well as placing in the WOW! contest. Readers interested in more of Elizabeth's work may want to peruse her blog.
Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

 

Holiday Giveaway: $55 Gift Certificate to CSN Stores

Enter to win a $55 Gift Certificate for any product from the million products available from CSN Stores.

Readers, you're in for a treat! We have a fantastic giveaway contest for the holiday season. CSN Stores is giving away a $55 Gift Certificate Code to one lucky WOW reader! If you aren't familiar with CSN, they are comprised of over 200+ online stores, where you can find everything from Delsey luggage to Hale bookcases! Seriously, check it out. There are so many products to choose from... They have everything from shoes to pet supplies to baby & kids to office supplies. Their sites include Cookware.com, AllModern.com, and ToysAndGamesOnline.com.

Here's how to enter:

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Anything goes--you can tell us about your holiday plans, gifts you plan to give or hope you'll get, or just say happy holidays!


Want extra entries? Do any of the following, and leave a separate comment for each one:

2. Link to this post on your own blog or website, then come back here and leave the link!
3. Write about this giveaway and link to it on Twitter, then come back and leave us the link to your tweet! One Twitter entry per person. (Let us know on Twitter too! http://twitter.com/womenonwriting)
4. Write about this giveaway and link it your own social network page (such as Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, MySpace, JacketFlap, etc.), and then come back and leave us the link to it in the comments section! One entry per social network profile per person.

Rules & Regs: Giveaway ends on Monday December 20th at 11:59 PM, PST. Winner will be chosen the following day via Random.org. We will post the lucky winner's name in the comments section on December 21st and, if we have the winner's email address from the comments section or profile, we will also notify the winner via email. This contest is only open to readers in the US and Canada. Please note that there may be international shipping charges in the case of Canadian addresses. CSN Stores will only ship to the US and Canada.

Good luck! And Happy Holidays!

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Social Media for Authors: An Interview with Leili McKinley

Are you an author who wants to build your online following?

Or perhaps you're still working on your book and want to build a platform to attract an agent or publisher?

If so, you're in luck! We invited social media expert Leili McKinley to answer a few questions about social media marketing for authors. She also shares a special deal with WOW readers at the end of this interview that you'll want to check out. Enjoy!

Leili McKinley is an award winning entrepreneur, social media coach and branding architect for authors and writers. Utilizing her expertise in social media, branding, search engine optimization (SEO), and e-commerce, Leili empowers her clients to sell more books, get more speaking engagements, build platforms and increase their overall profitability. She is the branding expert for Bob Proctor and social media marketing expert for bestselling authors like 6 time award winning Auriela McCarthy. In her 15 year career she has been engaged by top companies Saks Fifth Avenue, Starwood Hotels and has a host of international clients.

You can find out more about Leili by visiting her website: http://www.leilimckinley.com

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Leili! We're thrilled to be chatting with you today about social media for authors. Let's start at the beginning. How did you get started in social media training?

Leili: I have been involved in Internet marketing since 1997, when I built a website for my first company. To my great surprise, people ordered stuff off my site! I mean it looked like a child did it because it was my first try at selling anything online. But, after orders started coming in overnight, I realized I could make money in my sleep. I was totally hooked!

So I devoted myself to learn everything I could about Internet marketing. It was intrinsic to my success as an entrepreneur. After I built and sold two companies, I retired to Maui. Then I started focusing on teaching social media. I knew it was going to be a fundamental shift in the way we did things online and I wanted to help people get it right. So about two years ago I started to teach it to my favorite people--authors!

WOW: Wow...I love Maui! That's where my hubby and I went on our honeymoon, and I always thought it would be fantastic to retire there. So why is it important for authors to engage in social networking?

Leili: One of the things that I'm seeing in this hyper-competitive book market is that publishers are turning down (or hesitating on) books they would have jumped on in the past because, even if the author has something of a reach already, it's just not enough of a platform. By platform, I mean how many people they reach on the Internet and through traditional means like traditional media and speaking.

The value of a platform becomes the leverage it gives you to create new business for yourself. You know that you have an audience who is ready to buy it, whatever it is. While everyone can see this happen with celebrities, it happens for non-celebrities too.

My colleague, Paul Chaney, built a platform for the real estate industry through his blog. He amassed a loyal following, gaining credibility and celebrity. Then opportunity started knocking. He was asked to be the president of the International Blogging and New Media Association and was sought out by Wiley to write a book, which he did for a nice advance. Due to his blogging success, now he is a feature writer for Practical Ecommerce and 4 other top ranked blogs, which continues to grow his platform.

I know of another author with a hard-to-sell book. Her biggest challenge was to get the publishers past the idea that her market was unlikely to buy a book to help with their problem.

Fortunately this author has a very strong platform. She'd been on Good Morning America and featured on two popular reality TV shows. She'd gotten key influencers in her market to agree ahead of time to promote her book. She positioned herself with top national organizations to reach her audience.

With this strong platform, she got a top agent. Her agent recently returned from Book Expo America in NY with a long list of interested publishers--top publishers. I was blown away.

On the flip side. I have several clients who have written compelling memoirs, but several have been told, "I love your book. Work on your platform and get back to me when you've expanded it." That's a tough message, but it's the reality in traditional publishing today. Even self-published authors are going to have much more success when they have a platform from which to sell their books.

Sometimes a social media platform can turn you into a celebrity as well. Joel Comm wrote a book about using Twitter and then became a Twitter celebrity. Now he gets six figures to speak about the experience.

WOW: It's true...I've heard the story time and time again about platform. Can you provide an example of someone who created a powerful platform to launch a bestseller?

Leili: Yes. Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week was a first time, totally unknown author. He had a goal: to write a bestseller. So Tim set about figuring out the best way to do just that. He planned for it by interviewing bestselling authors. He found out that the traditional methods--like book tours, were worthless. He realized that the key to his success was to build a community of fans, a platform, which would buy his book and tell their friends about it. He knew that his platform had to be scalable, meaning it was not limited in reach, immediate, and had the ability to "go viral"--meaning that his message could be passed along, hopping from niche to niche, crossing over different demographics very quickly. And, he knew that he needed the Internet to do it. It was the only place where all of these special circumstances come together.

He did a lot of testing with his title by using Google Adwords and seeing which titles people clicked on. But even before that, he began to build a platform online. He used social media tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to create relationships and engage the audience he knew would eventually become raving fans--people who wouldn't buy just one copy of his book, but 3, giving copies to family and friends.

And do you know what Tim got for all his efforts? His book was listed #1 on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal business bestseller lists simultaneously! Even better, he stayed on both lists for months, making record sales.

This is why every aspiring author needs a platform.

I am sure that everyone is thinking, though, How can this work for me? How can I build my platform?

Well, this is the stuff I love to share. What Tim did was position himself, his brand, in the mind of his community. You can do this too. Branding your business online, whether you're after book sales or new customers, really begins with
1. Knowing your target market
2. Having your key messages align with what your target market believes
3. Delivering those messages everywhere they are, everywhere they hang out
And what you can do is hang out with them online using social networks.

Start by building your network, as Tim did, blogging and connecting with his audience on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Plaxo, Flikr, Friendfeed, Youtube or any of the other networking platforms that give you direct access to your audience. Once your network is established and your brand is solidly positioned in your community, then you have the means at your disposal to harness that big community of diehard fans to make a best seller, sell out events, or get new clients and do it over and over again.

WOW: Can you share a couple of your best tips for using Social Media?

Leili: First, I want to say that using social media is not a get rich quick scheme, or one of those fake Amazon bestseller campaigns that put you in the #1 spot for as long as it takes you to eat a hamburger and fries and then you crash down to nothing. This is not about being a flash in the pan. It is about success, the kind that doesn't come overnight. You can't buy it, or cheat your way into it. You have to build it, step by step. It takes work and it takes time and it is not complicated once you know how.

There are key steps to becoming a sought after trusted resource.

First, you need to understand what content to produce and how to produce it to appeal to your niche. That requires researching your niche and deciding what they want to hear and how they want to hear it. I teach specifically what research steps to take and give out my own research tools that help define that all-important niche. Second, we start out defining common values, keywords, and long-tail phrases that draw traffic and build your platform. You need a firm foundation. So the sooner you start that research the better.

Here is a tip: while paid keyword tools are better, you can use a free tool http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/ to start.

You should use social media to promote your work. Give people real examples of what makes you special and then make it so it can be passed on and "go viral." I teach tactics to promote what makes you special--like short videos that pass along your message. You can start by using www.animoto.com.

And like Tim Ferriss, you should give your community tools that help them continue to engage with your message and be involved with your brand. Most people know how to set up a Facebook page, but how many pages and what should they say? And how are you going to keep your fans engaged and active there? I teach authors how to use Facebook pages dynamically to sell their books. Try setting up a contest and include your FB page, twitter and your blog.

There are some dangers along the way. You need to know how to set yourself up on the networks to position your brand and get results. You need to establish which networks are right for you so you don't waste time. It's crucial not to make the mistakes that get you banned. But most of all, you need to establish your voice in your community as a leader. Lead your audience into a relationship with your brand. Position yourself to profit.

WOW: Those are some great tips! Leili, you have a fantastic limited time offer of a Social Media Training Video for 99 Cents (normally $29.97 per video course). What can authors expect to learn in this introductory course, and how long is it?

Leili: The course is a series of videos that build on each other to create a complete education on using Social Media to build your platform. Each video is about 20 minutes long. Purchase them individually right on the page via PayPal and then you can watch them whenever it fits into your schedule. But I recommend bunching them together, 2 or 3 at a time, for the best impact. I use the videos to demonstrate ideas and show you how to use a platform to build your brand, step by step.

To prevent you from making mistakes and help you build your platform the right way, I created the first six videos to educate you on the fundamentals of using social media. So, I mix in some information about the development of Internet Marketing, Marketing Psychology, Search Engine Optimization, the Effects of the Current Cultural Tribalization, and several other key factors that will influence your success.

The first six videos are in two groups: The Social Media Revolution and The Search For Truth. The first group helps you define your messages and the second group helps you define your market.

I am giving everyone the chance to see the first video for 99 cents. So you would proceed through the videos in this order to complete the foundation of the course:

Video 1 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift

Video 2 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift – Effective Branding In The New Paradigm
Video 3 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift – How To Categorize And Engage On Web 2.0 Sites
Video 4 - The Search For Truth: Why Your Tribe Will Come To You

Video 5 - The Search For Truth: Why Does Effective Social Media Marketing Depend On Understanding SEO

Video 6 - The Search For Truth: What Tools Will Bring Your Tribe To You?

Once you have watched the first six videos you will be prepared to position yourself and your brand in the mind of your community--just like Tim Ferriss. Now you are ready to use that knowledge on specific platforms.

WOW: Thank you for explaining how the videos should be viewed. So tell us a little more about the video series and the specific platforms.

Leili: The next part of the course focuses on specific platforms. For Twitter, I have 5 videos that walk you through how to set up and build a following that will buy your book. I know many people who have Twitter accounts, but have no idea how to use them! They can't seem to turn the online chatter into real life sales. This series explains how you do that.

Next, there are 4 videos on using Facebook for marketing. As an example, Facebook offers you so many options to market your book, including creating its own Page. In the series I show you 14 different steps to setting up your page--not only will it look like a pro did it, it will convert customers.

As you progress through the individual videos, you will notice that some of them have downloadable PDFs included on the page. These are checklists and serve as study guides to make sure you don't miss a step.

Coming out next year will be a series on Linked In, YouTube and several other key platforms for you to take advantage of.

WOW: I enjoyed the video on your site covering the Social Media Sales Funnel. Many of our readers/writers are unfamiliar with these terms. So tell us, what is a "social media sales funnel" and can you give us some tips on how to create one?

Leili: The idea of a social media sales funnel revolves around the fundamental need to convert online fans into offline customers. At some point you have to get your Facebook Fans to buy something. Otherwise, there is no ROI (return on investment) in your marketing plan. So the question is: How do you draw someone in and down a path that makes them into a buyer? That is called a "conversion process" and I use the idea of a sales funnel as a metaphor for it.

Picture a funnel, with a wide mouth at the top and narrowing towards the bottom. The wide top represents how wide you cast your net to find prospects--people who are in your target market. The narrow bottom represents the point at which someone takes action and becomes a customer.

The wide-open top is an invitation to those who might find your writing, your book, interesting. Those are the people who are going to be drawn into the top of your funnel. But, your funnel is not for everyone. After all, a horror fan is probably not the same target market as someone who likes pulp romance.

What is your first step in building a funnel? Find people interested in your subject matter. Social Media makes this easy. You can contact people who have similar interests and pull them into your funnel.

Then you need to qualify people as they move down through your funnel and build the desire for your product. This results in sales.

And book sales are the result of a well built sales funnel.

WOW: Got it! I need one of those, and I'm sure our readers/writers do as well. ;) Thank you, Leili, for taking the time to share your expert advice with us today. Do you have any parting words of wisdom to share with our authors?

Leili: Yes--always be engaging.

Okay, well, this is a little inside joke among social media people. You see in social media everyone always talks about how to "engage" your community. It's used so often it's almost overused. But, it's still relevant. So I just wanted to share some inside humor with you so now you can feel like a social media insider (wink).

I have a Special Report that may also be of use to your readers. I know the impact that testimonials have on book sales and even getting book proposals accepted--so I have an eBook called SPECIAL REPORT: How To Get Big Name Testimonials For Your Book.

Readers, Leili also has a fantastic FREE ebook you can take advantage of: 65 Ways To Use Social Media To Sell Your Book. You can sign up for for it on her site (scroll down to the form). Also, make sure you take advantage of her video course offer of Social Media for Authors Video Course for 99 Cents (normally $29.97 per video course) before it expires.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

 

Stop Making Excuses!


I'm a "brewer." Once I get an idea in mind for an article or story, I like to let it simmer, let it steep and build until I have the perfect blend, like a delicious cup of tea.


Honestly, it's procrastination at its best - or worst - depending on how you look at it. Once I get the initial sentence down on paper, I have no problem letting the words spill onto the page.


(Smartphone just dinged. Gotta check my Facebook message. BRB.)


Perhaps it's perfectionism. Maybe I'm trying to string together the perfect sentence filled with beautiful imagery and bold action verbs.


(Hubs just walked in and asked if I planned on serving breakfast today or if I was going to make brunch.)


Or, maybe I need to learn to better manage my time.


All writers need to find the right balance between writing and life's other obligations. Often, we complain that we can't find time to write.


(Excuse the interruption. I'm checking Twitter right now because a building is on fire in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, just a block from our oldest daughter's apartment. Phone call confirms she's okay.)


Sometimes, we need to learn the difference between finding time and making time. Need help? Here are a few of my favorite ways to boost productivity:


  • Identify time wasters and get rid of them. Facebook, Twitter, email can suck you in, and before you realize it, you've lost minutes (or hours) of time. Limit the amount of time you spend on social networking and perusing the inbox. Your WIP will thank you.

  • Devise a plan to add writing time. Some writers are up writing way before daylight breaks. Adding an hour or two in the morning may seem like a grand solution, but waking up early means you're also taking away precious pillow time. Make a plan to wake up 15 minutes early, or a half hour early a few mornings and see if it helps your routine. Personally, I like to stay up late at night and write like a mad woman once my husband is entrenched in bed and snoring like a baby. The key is making a writing plan and sticking to it.

  • Mark your territory. When I first began freelancing a decade ago, I wrote from my dining room table. I'd spread all my materials across the table and write. When I was finished, I packed up stuff until the next time. Now, I have an office, and even some days, I prefer to get out of the office and move to the kitchen table or the living room sofa. The point is, you need a space to write. And then, you need to use it.

  • Multi-task. Sometimes, I'll write a paragraph, leave the office, walk into the kitchen and perform another task. I'm still thinking about my project, but when I'm stuck, this technique allows me to get some daily tasks accomplished while I contemplate my next word, sentence or paragraph.

I made time to complete this blog post. And now, I'm staring at my to-do list and planning the remainder of this writing Sunday.


(Oh look, Grown Ups is on pay per view.)


Make time to write. Make a commitment to your writing. Your craft will thank you.


by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's writing at her website. Photo by LuAnn Schindler.




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Saturday, December 11, 2010

 

Mood Altering and Mood Setting Drinks




Eyes open-coffee in hand. This is the way many people start their day. Some prefer tea or cola, but most crave some kind of heart pumping caffeine.

The chill of fall hits the air; hot chocolate comes to mind or perhaps hot apple cider. Christmas conjures up visions of eggnog or hot tea and Champaign rings in the New Year. Some people are teetotalers and others are milk chuggers, and some are both. People have drink preferences and so do characters. That preference may reveal much about who the character is and where she came from.

Think about the man who was dubbed “Public Enemy Number One”. This is how the New York Times described him right after he’d been found guilty of tax evasion. "Capone tried to smile again, but the smile was bitter. He licked his fat lips. He jiggled on his feet. His tongue moved in his cheeks. He was trying to be nonchalant, but he looked as if he must have felt--ready to give way to an outburst of anger. It was a smashing blow to the massive gang chief. His clumsy fingers, tightly locked behind his back, twitched and twisted."

Imagine what Al Capone drank. How would he hold his glass? Wikipedia states  wealth permitted Capone to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle of custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa), jewelry, and female companionship.

Miss Marple seems to have a lot of Agatha Christie’s personality and they both loved tea. The perfect hair, impeccable dress and marvelous posture is the image I have of them as they sit on the edge of their settee and sip tea. One lump or two, cream or lemon for your tea--care for a fresh pastry?  

This Agatha Christie  game site describes her novels as being like stepping back in time to a refined and glamorous age where gentlemen in natty suits drink martinis, cigarettes are in holders, and stories are written on typewriters. Dead Man's Folly, is careful to preserve the right atmosphere in both time and place.

Carolyn, my West Virginia character loves fresh brewed “Sweet Tea” in the summer and hot “Apple Cider” in the winter. What is your character’s favorite drink? Do your antagonist and protagonist share a favorite drink? What’s your favorite drink?

Resources:
Wikipedia
Jayisgames

Photos:
Cider *creative commons, Seattle Coffee Gear/brownbean.com
Christie *wikimedia.org
Capone *slated.org

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Friday, December 10, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: Wrapping Up Writing, Guest Post by Deborah Shouse

Wrapping Up Writing

by Deborah Shouse

The chipmunk who rules the exterior of my house, prancing over porch and flower beds, inspires me. The moment I step outside, he disappears into a hidden crevice, a crack, or hole. He has a map of secret places ready for instant refuge.

I think of that chipmunk as I gaze at the calendar, looking for time to write. As the holidays approach, life hums with extra busyness and responsibilities. I seek out secret slivers of time when I can slip away into writing, sliding into a half hour crevice early this morning, a crack between meetings one afternoon, a hole in my evening schedule. In ink, I mark writing periods, making them as large and important as any appointment.

The winter holiday period is rich with imagery, memories, relationships, and emotions. Sitting down to write is like opening a wrapped present that makes no noise when you shake it. I could tear off the wrappings to find a pair of white gym socks or I could lift out a delicate silver shawl. The more writing time I find, the closer I get to the true gift, that of being connected to myself.

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Deborah Shouse is a writer, speaker, editor and creativity coach. Her holiday stories have been featured in Chicken Soup anthologies, The Kansas City Star, and The Chicago Tribune. She has written a variety of business books and memoirs. Deborah donates all proceeds from her book Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey to Alzheimer’s programs and research. Using the book as a catalyst, she has raised more than $80,000.00.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

 

From Crash To Recovery In Forty-Five Minutes: My Acronis Back-Up Saved The Day!



My computer system has three firewalls and four spyware programs, so I was surprised when it started having glitches. The trouble began with an update from one of the spyware programs; apparently my XP wasn’t digesting the codes written for Windows. While trying to patch up the paths, my hard drive died.

Usually this would be a sad tale—the repair expenses, the down time, all the lost data. Not this time! I popped in a new hard drive and forty-five minutes later my computer was right back to normal –right down to the emails. How is that possible? I keep regular back-ups on an external hard drive.

If you don’t keep regular back-ups yet, please start. You never know when some little link or download will cause disaster. There are many ways back-up your system but the one I swear by is Acronis True Image. Acronis creates a mirror copy of my entire system. Yes, all of it! The operating system, the emails, all my programs and pictures...everything is copied and ready to reinstall with just a few clicks. In fact, Acronis will even format your new drive. How easy is it? Just follow the prompts. If you can answer multiple choice questions you can use Acronis.

How do you keep your data safe? Do you use a different back-up system? Share your favorite back-up ideas here.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

 

Rachel Phelps, First Place Winner in Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest!

Rachel Phelps is a 23-year-old who lives in Kansas City. She has her Bachelor’s in English Literature and currently works as a clinician for Applied Learning Processes, a private center for dyslexia treatment. She has experience in journalism as a reporter and editor, but her true passion is fiction.

She has been scribbling ever since she can remember and is working toward her dream being a published novelist. She is active on FaithWriters, enjoys writing skits and plays for her church, and has finally joined the blogosphere. Her favorite genre to write is historical of any period. Rachel will read almost anything as long as it is well written and isn’t senselessly offensive (offensive with a purpose gets an extra star in her book). Her biggest dream is to be an excellent author who is a Christian and prove to the skeptics that the terms are not mutually exclusive.

Find out more about Rachel by visiting her website,
http://www.wix.com/parexcellence/home, and her blog,
http://www.liveparexcellence.blogspot.com/.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Summer 2010 writing contest! What was your reaction when you found out you won?

Rachel: I screamed. I was watching a movie with friends and decided to check the Web site even though I hadn't received an email yet. When I clicked on the Contests tab, there was my picture on top. I almost dropped my computer. Once my friends figured out what was happening, I was given an impromptu toast with our soda glasses. Definitely a moment to remember.

WOW: Love your reaction! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Motherhood?

Rachel: I love telling the stories of forgotten characters. I think it's the journalist in me--I believe everyone deserves to have their story told. I'm adopted, so even though I'm not a mother, I've often thought about what it takes to give up a child. Putting those two instincts together brought me to Moses' mother.

WOW: It’s a powerful story that really pulled me in. You also seem to have a clear understanding of the historical period that made the story seem real. Could you share your research process, or any other good tips for writing historical fiction?

Rachel: The most important part of writing historical fiction is understanding the rhythm of the voice. For example, today, somone would say, "Hey, whatcha' doin'?" In medieval times, it would sound more like "Good morrow. How do you fare this day?" In the 1800s, you might say, "Good day. Is your family in good health?"

The best way to capture the voice of a period is to read a lot of stories from (or set in) that period. You'll also learn a lot about mindsets and social issues of the day by doing that. I've never officially studied Ancient Egypt, but I've read a ton of novels set there. I'm also very familiar with the Biblical account of the story of Moses, so it was a matter of pulling together what I knew to create the story.

WOW: Great tips! Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Rachel: I participate in the Weekly Writing Challenge on Faithwriters.com as often as I can - I usually don't miss more than one week a quarter. Their maximum word length is also 750 words. I love book-length works, but I tend to lose focus with the plotting and let them wander. I have yet to complete a novel-length draft because of this failing. Consistent flash fiction has really been a blessing because it has given me a chance to hone my style, cut flabby language and keep a story focused. I'm in the process of trying another novel right now, and am enjoying it much more than my previous attempts.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Rachel: I suppose the strictly honest answer would be that I don't have a writing routine. I'm rather terrible at making myself sit down and write. However, I console myself with the reminder that I am always writing in my head. It's true--I try to keep several projects going at once and any moment I'm not focused on something else, I'm plotting or perfecting a turn of phrase in my head. Then when I have free time at lunch or in the evenings, I'll open the Word document and plow in.

I've discovered that I write best in bed late at night. It's a nostalgia thing for me--I spent most of my growing up years doing a Jo March impression and writing into the wee hours of the morning. Even if it's not late, there's something about plumping up all my pillows and getting settled under the covers that triggers my writing mode. I've also rediscovered my love of writing long-hand this fall. I write much faster and clearer when I have a freshly sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of paper in hand. Now if only my copy and paste function worked as well in my notebook as it does in Word!

WOW: So, do you have any writing goals for the New Year?

Rachel: I want to complete the novel I'm working on now. I also intend to stay active on FaithWriters--the  community there is one of the best incentives to write I've found. I have a few other projects I'd like to dust off, but I want to keep my focus on the novel, so we'll have to see.

I'm a competitive person, so now that I've won a contest I'm on the prowl for more to enter. I want to at least place in two contests in 2011.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Rachel! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Rachel: Go for it. If you feel you're ready to get your work out there, don't be afraid of getting your work out there. I submitted my story literally thinking, "I don't think I have much of a chance, but getting the critique will be helpful," and look what happened. I hope to be competing against many of you in the future!

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Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!

For information about our quarterly writing contests, please visit: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php.

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