Monday, June 29, 2009
What have you accomplished? What do you still want to accomplish?
Photo by rog2bark
My list resides in the front of my dayplanner. I cross off items as I finish, and I check it every month to see if I'm on track. I have six categories of writing goals for the year.
My main focus is always my writing, but the other categories deserve a slice of my time each week, too. I'm very happy with the progress I've made.
Back in January, I typed these six items and then filled in what I wanted to accomplish. Each category has 5 or 6 items.
Unfortunately, I took a long, hard look at how many books I wanted to finish by December. Sniffing and feeling droopy, I eliminated one. Life changed this year and became more hectic. I had to make choices and I chose to put my best effort into the books I did complete instead of rushing through to write one more. I'm hoping that as time progresses, revisions will not take me as long, and I'll be able to add a book to my schedule, but it won't be this year.
What about you? Are you on track to meet your goals for 2009? Yes? Hurray!! No? What can you do to get on track? Do you need to change your goals to reflect your time constraints? That's okay. Some years will do that to you.
Join me on Wednesday when we'll talk about moving our bodies!
Friday, June 26, 2009
I guess we could lick our keyboards or notebooks, but I'm feeling a little gaggy at the thought, so let's not discuss it.
Photo by justbecause
Taste, taste...hmm...what can I possibly say?
Do you snack while you write? Do you sip on anything? Chew gum? Pop cough drops?
I (gasp! It's a big surprise, isn't it?) drink coffee while I write. I usually don't eat, but sometimes I'll bring up a bowl of berries or cut up an apple. No, I'm not Miss Health Nut 2009, but that's why I eat fruit for a snack. I could eat wood chips while I'm writing and not know the difference. I get very wrapped up in my work. Why would I waste calories on a snack I don't register? Fruit it is! I save the decadent snacks for when I'm in the moment.
What about you? Are you putting away mindless calories just to keep your mouth busy when you write? How does this affect you? Your writing? Or do you eat anything? Is there a healthy snack you could incorporate?
Or do you purposely let a square of dark chocolate melt on your tongue to get you in the mood to write a sensual scene? Snack on homemade macaroni and cheese when writing a heartwarming one? Crunch on carrot sticks when writing an action-packed chapter? Hey, whatever helps your writing!
Ahh... I managed to write a post on taste. Didn't think I had it in me.
Thanks for all the terrific comments about our senses. It's been delightful learning about you and I've enjoyed some good laughs, too!
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Some noises, well, they bug me. BUG ME.
I can hear gum chewers snapping their gum two counties over. Popcorn crunchers in theaters? It's as if they crawl onto my ear ledge and chomp as loudly as possible. Instant irritation pounces. I have zero patience or tolerance level for loud, snappy, chompy noises.
I feel bad about it.
My husband once locked the doors in our car and snapped his gum over and over (and over) as I dug my fingernails into the handrests and mentally repeated "don't lose it." When I finally let out a blood-curdling scream, he calmly rolled down his window, threw out his gum and informed me that's what he was waiting for.
Lest you think my husband a terrible ogre, I must say he's practically a saint. He can't chew gum around me for any length of time without getting severe looks of annoyance from me. Passive aggressive? Yep. He deserved his snap-a-thon. Hey, he may even deserve a purple heart for some of the stuff he puts up with.
What does this have to do with writing? Not much. Just felt like sharing. But noise in your writing area does affect you. Do you enjoy listening to music while you write? If yes, do you prefer upbeat contemporary, hard rock, light country, mellow jazz, or instrumental? Or do you need quiet? White noise? Background television?
What about a cat meowing at you? Oh, that's another perk of my office. That and our guinea pig squeaking at me. Hey, he's talking. I talk back.
Does your phone or cell phone ring often? Do you answer it every time? Do you need to answer it every time? Could you let it go to voicemail during your writing time and call back later?
I've tried listening to music while I write, but I found it very distracting. It's not for me.
These are just a few things to think about to maximize your writing experience. If putting on mood music and turning off your phone will help you squeeze out 250 extra good words a day, it's worth trying!
Join me on Friday when we'll discuss the final sense, taste.
Monday, June 22, 2009
You know I share the office with cat litter and a guinea pig, so I'm a hypocrite for even writing on this topic! But smells do affect me, especially homey smells like cinnamon, apples and vanilla. I appreciate fresh air whether the scent of freshly cut grass wafts in or not. What about the subtle smells--the faint paint odor and the distinctive smell of carpet--do they subconsciously affect my writing?
My daily cups of coffee wreath the office in a rich, decadent smell. Erica, who writes the terrific On the Write Path blog, relies on her beloved Earl Grey tea to write. When she mentioned it, I went ahead and picked up a tin. The spicy aroma teases my senses.
Have you ever played around with aromatherapy? Several years ago, I became intrigued with blending my own oils, and I still have many of them. Peppermint, cloves, rose, rosemary, lemongrass, lavender, anise--each gives off a unique smell and sparks a feeling within. The freshness of peppermint lightens me, brightens me. The husky deepness of cloves makes me yearn for candlelight.
Currently, my favorite odor in the office is the smell of a fresh-lit match followed by the melting of a scented candle. The guinea pig bedding is my least favorite. I may dust off the essential oils to override it. I know there's an essential oil burner in the closet somewhere!
Photo by docbudie
It's fun to play around with smells when you're writing. Linger in a candle store and think about the feelings each candle evokes. Try an exotic votive for a frugal thrill. Purposely light a candle to match the mood of the scene you're working on. When you're finished, analyze if it helped your writing or not.
Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss the sense of sound.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Photo by nmangelo22
What do we feel the most during the day? Our clothing. After all, it's hanging from our bodies. What do you wear? How does it affect you psychologically? There is no right answer here, only ideas for you to consider when you're getting dressed.
Does the thought of writing in your softest pair of pajamas sound like heaven? Try it! Or does that thought fill you with horror? Maybe you won't "feel" professional unless you're in business attire to write. That's okay too.
I wear casual clothes to write. I never write in my pajamas but know other writers who do. Who is correct? We all are. I do what's right for me, and they do what's right for them. The important thing is to feel comfortable when writing. If you're constantly adjusting pantyhose or sucking in your breath because your pants are too tight, you might want to try a different writing uniform. Maybe a tracksuit? A pair of jeans? Or at the very least, a pair of stretchy dress pants.
What about hair and makeup? You might object that hair and makeup don't apply to the sense of touch, but I disagree. Sometimes when I don't wear makeup, my face feels oily. I feel not-put-together. Does this affect my writing? I believe it does. However, other days, makeup feels like a mask--one I don't want to wear. I prefer the feel of my skin on those days. My hair always feels better brushed, but I let my mood decide on the style.
Also, do you enjoy touching soft things? My long-haired cat jumps on my lap occasionally, and her angora-like fur always makes me smile. A fluffy throw can produce the same, calming effect.
*** This is Cookie--my lovely writing partner. Are you catching the full red-eye glare from her blue eyes? My photo software cannot detect red-eye that big!
Let's talk temperature. Are you always hot, even in the throes of winter? Or do you need a sweater in July? Consider keeping a desktop fan nearby for those hot moments. And go ahead and leave a cardigan hanging over your chair--just in case. I get so cold in the winter, the skin on my fingers contracts and my rings fall off. This does not help my writing!
Join me next week when we discuss the remaining senses: smell, sound, and taste.
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
From last week's comments, I know many of you do not write in the same place every single time you write. I don't either. Most days I write in my office, but sometimes I write at a coffee shop, or I move my laptop to our kitchen table.
My laptop faces in the opposite direction as the window because I get distracted. And yeah, I'm snoopy. I'll watch the neighbors comings and goings, count how many birds are in the yard, determine the exact shade of the sky in an attempt to predict if it will rain. Do I want to waste my time? Of course not! It's just I'm a very visual person and it's hard for me to ignore movement. So I make sure there is no view for me to glance at when I'm writing.
Photo by sophie-
When I write at a coffee shop, the lights and colors are usually conducive to help me write better. The only problem is the other customers. Movement! I can't help but check them out.
Colors and light also affect me. A too dim room may cause my mood to turn melancholy, which isn't good if I'm writing an upbeat scene. Ugly colors, clutter, or a glare on my laptop screen also affect my writing. I've learned to keep my desk tidy and the shades closed. This allows me to put out consistent work and find the correct mood for the scene.
Since I'd like to paint my office next year, I'm considering colors for it now. I don't think bright colors would work for me. Definitely not gray. I'm not an orange person. Magazines trigger ideas, so I'll just keep clipping until my brain fuses the perfect combination. The colors and decor have to soothe, have to be comfortable, have to put me in safe frame of mind.
What sights affect your writing? Windows? Light variations? Colors? I can write in almost any surroundings, but I can't always write efficiently. What about you?
Guess what? Today I'm heading to a coffee shop, but I don't even plan to write. Why not, you ask? I'm meeting fellow writer and blogger extraordinaire, Jody Hedlund, for coffee!! What a blessing! Wouldn't it be nice if we could all get together for coffee? Sigh...
Join me on Friday when we'll discuss how the sense of touch affects your writing.
Monday, June 15, 2009
And if cultivating the five senses can improve our writing, what about the debatable sixth sense?
Do you even believe in a sixth sense? Intuition--the elusive quality we can't put our finger on. It seems to lead us in the right direction. It alerts us to something we couldn't possibly know by rational means. Is it possible to nourish our sixth sense in our writing surroundings?
Photo by asmundur
This is where rituals come in. No, I'm not going to recommend any sort of blood sacrifice! I'm talking about gentle rituals--rituals you make up to fit your needs. Do you have a routine you perform before you write? Does it enhance the direction your writing takes?
I've had different rituals over the years. Sometimes I have none, usually because I become super busy and let my calming routine slip just when I need it the most (kind of like the ol' exercise routine). A week or two will pass and a sense of careening out of control will hit me. It's my trigger to slow down and resume my predetermined list of steps to ground me in the moment.
My current ritual? I brew a pot of coffee before I sit down to work. When I'm ready to write, I light the candle on my desk. The hiss of the match, the tendril of smoke wafting in the air, and the crackle of the wick as it catches flame alert me it's time to work.
Photo by ldcross
I used to be in the habit of saying a quick meditation: "God is with me. God is helping me. God is guiding me." Lately, I've let that one slip. Why? Who knows! Maybe I have a false sense of being in control? Maybe I'm in such a rush to get something done, I'm forgetting what's important? Whatever the reason, I'm bringing it back. It's always been such a comfort to me.
That's it. Coffee. Candle. Quick meditation reminding me God is in control.
But how does this relate to intuition?
Maybe it doesn't? I know my writing flows when I take a minute to ground myself. I feel less harried. Ideas pop into my mind. Directions I hadn't thought to take suddenly become crystal clear. And I'm going to let you in on my little secret: I believe intuition is the Holy Spirit guiding me.
If you have a ritual you perform before you write, I want to hear about it!
If you don't, why don't you try one? See if it cultivates your fertile imagination. I don't think it could hurt!
Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss using the gift of sight to enhance our writing.
Friday, June 12, 2009
The Paper Deluge. The Information Avalanche. The Book Mountain. The Dust Tower. (Okay, I really don't care about the dust tower.)
You don't have this? You don't jot down facts on little slips of paper? You don't print off countless "informational" articles? You don't have seventeen books teetering like a deranged Jenga?
Well, thanks. You just made me cry.
I have all this and more. How do we organize all this writing related bounty without losing our minds? And how do we put it all away quickly, almost effortlessly?
Without any form of filing system, my office filled me with terror. Stacks of papers, none related, greeted me each day. I learned something vital: I simply cannot live without the file divider next to my desk. I've tried. It wasn't pretty.
Why are file dividers so important? Because you'll lose precious writing time if you can't easily find the information you need.
I constantly write down notes or things that pop into my brain. I print off informative blog posts. Writer's guidelines, important addresses, cool research facts--all need a place to go. If I didn't have my file divider, all of those papers would be in a big pile on my desk. My mind would be shifting to the clutter, instead of focusing on writing, and I'd lose time.
Photo by alphageek
The system I use is not elaborate. It doesn't take long to set up and takes even less time to use. Materials needed? Two file dividers, a box of hanging file folders, a box of manila folders, and a pen. Why two dividers? One is for important files I need within arm's reach. The other is on the far side of the room and houses important, but not often looked at, documents.
The one next to my desk has a few basic files I throw everything into: Writing Guidelines (editor and agent stuff), Writing Articles, Punctuation/Grammar Notes, Story Ideas, and Web Stuff. I also have a thick folder for my current work in progress. The majority of papers I accumulate each day are filed here. And I file them every day. I refuse to have a stack of papers giving me the evil eye when I wake up.
This divider has other sections, too. It has ample room for both my files and a blog binder containing ideas and old posts. Next to them are my various journals--an idea journal, a blank journal, and two small notebooks in which I review every book I read. There's also a dictionary, thesaurus, and an ancient Strunk & White's Elements of Style.
The other file divider is where I keep writing receipts, editor responses, and other business documents.
What about the mountain of books? There's a small cubby where I lined up the other writing craft books. All of my favorite novels are in little cloth bins. My to-be-read pile...ahem, piles...are housed in baskets throughout the house.
Binders hold the magazine articles and pictures I rip out. I let the treasures accumulate for a month or two before filing them.
What do you need within reaching distance? How do you control the scraps of paper and notes? Do you have files and papers nearby that you don't use often?
Thanks for sharing your writing space with me this week! I've enjoyed learning how and where you write!
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I love flipping through magazines. I rip out shots of home offices, kitchens, bedrooms, and anything else that catches my eye. I'm always drawn to the uncluttered, perfectly matched, comfortable looking rooms. The ones with warm colors, soft throws, and gleaming table tops.
Photo by santos (When I came across this picture, I had to put it up. I would LOVE this in my office!)
What's on my desk? Easy! My laptop gets the largest section. It needs several inches of personal space, much like I do; I'm not one for being crowded. I also have a metal mesh cup with highlighters, pens, and pencils. A Christmas candle resides next to the pen cup. And I have a planner with notes stacked neatly on top of it. That's all.
I don't write well with clutter on my desk, but I need tools available. My laptop, candle, pens, and planner are vital.Next to my desk, I have other small workstations. A tiny bookshelf holds beloved books written by my favorite authors, and my printer sits on top of the shelf. On the other side of my desk, I have a small set of drawers with a file divider perched on top. My desk faces a bulletin board, which I recently installed and can't live without. There's also a box of Kleenex for when Betsy and John and my other characters move me to tears.
What's on your desk? Is it indispensable? Is everything on there needed? If not, why is it still there? Can you find another place for it?
Join me on Friday, when I discuss my can't-live-without-it file divider. Seriously. It keeps me sane.
Write Already! It's Wednesday!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Photo by pagedooley
Where do you write?
A dedicated spot for writing is very important. By claiming one area of your home as your writer domain, you tell your family and the world that writing is important to you. It may be a corner, a closet, an abandoned bedroom, or a covered porch. Plant a flag and declare it yours. You won't regret it.
I've lived in several homes over the years. My writing space depends on our lodgings. I've written at a card table, our kitchen table, and any other space I could spread my notes and laptop on. I've learned I'm more productive, and a nicer person, when I have my own space, a place to leave all of my writing related goodies. Currently, I've claimed our fourth bedroom as my office. My Office. Has a nice ring, doesn't it?
Let's get real about "my office." Is it really mine? Uh...no. I share it with an active, and sometimes noisy, guinea-pig, my cat's litter box (don't ask), and a clunky treadmill. The family computer also sits on one massive desk where the family crumbs and clutter tend to accumulate.
The other desk houses my laptop and other writing paraphanalia. No one is allowed to touch my laptop. Hey, a girl needs to set some boundaries!
Photo by glennf
I really must describe the student desk for you to fully appreciate it. My parents gifted me with the beaut when I was in high school. It's a standard, wooden, out-of-date desk. I loved it from day one. It made me feel grown-up, on top of things. It's moved everywhere I have but is showing age. The front edge boasts teeth marks from a not-to-be-named toddler. The drawers are rather cluttered, but I can find what I need. Someday, I'll have a streamlined, matching office set, but my chipped, dull brown desk is perfect for now.
The rest of the office? Builder-white walls, several random pictures, two mismatched office chairs. A large closet, a few bookshelves, and tons of books. Files spill out of every nook and cranny. Stacks of notepads, a bulletin board, and a big window overlooking the backyard complete the room.
Oh, there are handweights too, because yeah, I'm always doing bicep curls--ha! ha! Let's just say the dust on those bad boys is about an inch thick, much like the treadmill.
My office is unpretentious, mismatched, and homey. If a host of an HGTV show came in, she would shake her head and declare it an ugly, if tidy, disaster. Next year, I'd like to clear it out, paint it, and only put office related items in, but something tells me the guinea pig and cat-litter won't budge. Take that HGTV!
What about you? Do you have a space to leave your writing tools? Do you have an area dedicated to you, the writer? If yes, does it work for you? If no, do you feel you'd be more productive if you had one?
Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at what I have on my writing desk.
Get Motivated! It's Monday!
Friday, June 5, 2009
5. How will I know if blogging is for me?
Blogging takes time and dedication. It can take months, even years, to build a readership. If you already struggle to find time to write, I wouldn’t recommend starting a blog. However, if you’re looking for a way to build a platform and gain a web presence, go ahead and invest the time. An excellent article by Rob Eager—The Dangers of Blogging—might help you decide. Also, Wendy over at All In a Day's Thought wrote a fantastic post, Dissecting the Blog, which might convince you to start one.
If you decide to start a blog, you might notice an unexplainable shift in your attitude after you've posted regularly for a few months. The terror of starting a blog gives way to a feeling of accomplishment. You no longer sweat over every word you write; you trust yourself, especially since you’re writing in advance and allowing time to edit. You also feel terrific about sticking to your schedule. Who doesn’t love to feel confident? I do!
Confidence will prod you to promote yourself. When you reach the point where you feel comfortable blogging, you’ll look for ways to attract readers. You’ll visit other writer’s blogs and leave comments. You’ll want to make your site more visual, and you’ll include more links. You might even add a statistics program to track your visitors.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat—it made your blog go from amateur to awesome!
A blog can be a terrific promotional tool for unpublished authors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking promotion is only for published authors. Everything you release to the public, including a blog, is a promotion of yourself. Whether you want to get published ASAP, or sometime in the distant future, you will have to submit your work to editors or agents to reach that goal.
When nothing you’ve written has been published, having a blog and website can increase your odds of getting an editor or agent to take a chance on you. No, editors aren't trolling the Internet in search of the next great author; they don't have time for that. However, if you make the information available when you submit projects, they may check your blog out. I include my website and my blog address in my letterhead whenever I query.
Even if the editor doesn’t look at my website or blog, she knows I’m web-savvy. If the editor does look at my blog, she’ll see an archive of posts. She’ll know I post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and deduce I can handle deadlines and am dedicated to my craft. She’ll also get an idea of my voice, my writing style, and my skill level in regards to writing mechanics. I’m positive these will only help a new author’s career.
If an editor is undecided between two equal projects, I believe the author with promotional tools in place would edge out the other one. Promotion is a big part of the business; make an editor’s job easy and learn about it before you get published. What are you waiting for? Go out there and start a blog!
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
3. How often will I post?
Decide in advance how often you will post on your blog. If you’re intimidated, start by posting once a week. No, you won’t get oodles of followers this way, but you will gain confidence in your skills. It’s important to find your comfort zone before you worry about site traffic.
If you’re pumped up about blogging, go ahead and post more often. Frequent updates attract readers. Many bloggers post every day of the week. Some write every weekday. I post three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It works for me. Find out what works for you by experimenting.
The number one complaint I hear from writers who’ve been blogging for less than a year is they started out posting every day then ran out of ideas and stopped for long periods of time. What do you think readers want more—a great blog with posts every day for two months then nothing for weeks or great posts twice a week every week of the year? Be consistent. If you stop posting, you’ll lose readers. It’s okay to take a few weeks off if necessary, but let your readers know when you’ll be posting again so they’ll come back.
I also strongly recommend you write your posts at least a day in advance. This gives you time to edit. You don’t want to post sloppy work. Take time to put your best work on your blog. Writing your posts in advance is also a great way to avoid long breaks between posts because you can schedule them.
4. How much blogging knowledge do I have?
When you start a blog, there is a learning curve. You have to sign up for a service (such as Blogger or Wordpress), decide on a URL, pick out a template, play around with the layout, and figure out how to post. It can be stressful, but it’s very fun and rewarding. Don't worry; your blog service will have a guide to get you started and an extensive help section.
If you don’t know the first thing about blogging, start small and add bells and whistles as you go. Don’t worry about learning everything in three days; you’ll just stress yourself out. You can use an easy to set up template from a site such as http://www.thecutestblogontheblock.com/, http://www.shabbyblogs.com/ , or http://btemplates.com/.
When you become comfortable with blogging basics, you’ll naturally desire to expand on your skills. You’ll wonder how you can add great photos and links to your site. A quick Internet search will show tons of blogs with detailed posts on these subjects.
One more note: the address people type in to get to your blog is the URL. It will look something like yourblog.blogspot.com or yourblog.wordpress.com, depending on which service you use. My blog URL is http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com. When you sign up with a service, include the name you want to be published under in your URL. This means either your real name or your pen name. Why? Readers Google author names, so it will make your blog easy to find when you’re published.
Join me on Friday for the final installment.
Write Already! It's Wednesday!
Monday, June 1, 2009
It seems every aspiring author has a blog these days, and why not? They’re free, a fantastic way to promote your writing, and relatively simple to set-up. If you’re considering starting your own blog, here are five things to think about.
1. Why do I want a blog?
Many writers start a blog out of peer pressure or as a shortcut. They see other writers blogging and they feel left behind, or they think it’s a fast track to get noticed by agents and editors.
There are several valid reasons to blog, but jumping on the blog bandwagon because everyone is doing it or counting on agents and editors to find yours will only disappoint you.
Here are a few reasons to start a blog:
- It promotes you as a writer.
- It’s a platform tool to reach potential readers.
- It will build your writing skills.
- It shows agents and editors you’re able to promote your work.
- It can be a social network to interact with other writers and readers.
For a blog to enhance your reputation, you will have to put effort into it. It needs to look professional, be updated often, and provide readers with interesting content. A blog is an interactive tool that needs care. It’s not a website that can be left alone.
2. What will I write about?
Maybe a better question to ask: who is my audience? It can be tempting to share every detail of your life on a blog, but your mother, your pastor, and a teenager over in Scotland all have access to the Internet and all can read your blog. What information do you want the entire world to know? You’re basically sharing a bit of yourself, your values and ideals on your blog, but it can be as personal or impersonal as you'd like.
Every blog should have a theme. My theme is Motivation and Encouragement from One Writer to Another. Spend time thinking about what your message is. It should reflect your personality and the writing you intend to publish. A blog about plant identification will not help you sell your Regency romance novel.
As far as content, write down a list of topics you could post about. Take it a step further and jot ideas for each month of the year. Some bloggers share their music lists, favorite movies, or cherished recipes. Some write informative articles or they review books. Others write personal journals chronicling their writing journey. One word of caution on the personal journal: keep it interesting. If you can’t make your daily chores sound entertaining, don’t write about them. You don’t want to bore your readers.
Play to your strengths and nourish your voice—that’s what will bring readers back for more.