Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Get Your Writing in the Hands of Readers

In Getting started on August 20, 2010 at 1:46 am

Before I jump right in, I wanted to remind everyone that I am hosting my first giveaway to celebrate the re-launch of this blog.  You can win a copy of Christina Katz’ book Get Known Before the Book Deal.

Breaking free of the “beginner” or “aspiring” writer titles can be tricky.  It requires that you have actually done a fair amount of writing, and if you’ve gotten paid to do so that’s an extra boost. 

Querying is a necessary evil in the writer’s life.  But it is not the only proactive step you can take.  Getting published is not only about pure ability and persistence; it is also about demonstrating that you have an audience.  So, it would stand to reason that building your audience would be a worthwhile endeavor (I talk more about that here and here).

In the posts linked above I talk a lot about building your audience through Twitter and online networking – which is great.  But it doesn’t get your product into the hands of your audience.  Having hundreds of followers is lovely, but those followers are an untapped resource if they’re only reading your tweets.  You want people reading your work.  You want to show editors and publishers that you are writing, and people are already reading/buying your work.  Show them you’re a good investment!

Now for the “how“.  I have chosen to start with blogging, which is an excellent example of getting your writing into readers’ hands.  However, you’re options aren’t only limited to blogging. 

If your goal is to become a best-selling author, then a good place to start would be with an e-book.  There are some opposing opinions on this, but if you ask me it’s a great way to get your first book in the hands of readers, at no cost, and build fan base in the process.  Bare in mind that “e-book” doesn’t mean you put in any less effort.  You will sill have to promote it and make sure it’s flawlessly written.  You can get away with making it shorter than your average full-length book though, depending on how much you decide to sell it for.  Smashwords is a great resource for selling your e-book.

You can produce an e-newsletter, or an e-zine.  The benefit of the newsletter is that it gives you the opportunity to collect the email addresses of potential customers for when you do have a product to sell.  You can search out online writing opportunities as a contributing writer (in most cases larger sites will be looking for more experience).  This gives you the growth potential of a blog without the pressure of facilitating the site yourself.

Whatever avenue you choose to take – keep the mission in mind.  You want people reading your work.  How are you going to get your writing out there?

The Secret Weapon

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I often suggest that as an aspiring writer you seek the advice and wisdom of other writers.  I try to take my own advice, as such I have had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of some pearls of wisdom from other writers.  If I had to pick just one tip from all the advice I’ve gotten, there is one that stands out among the rest, and has resonated with me: Write often (more specifically – write daily).

Apparently that old cliche, “Practice makes perfect” has some truth to it.  Suzanne Reisman once told me in an interview “….one of my teachers said that writing is generative. The more you do it, the better you become. That is very true.”

I’m of the opinion that the best kind of daily writing is the kind that is actitvely moving toward your goals, i.e. writing query letter, blog posts, book proposals, etc.  But writing is writing, even if no one else reads it.  The idea is that you want to exercise those “writing muscles”. 

A good place I would recommend you start is Funds for Writers.  The resources offered here are garaunteed to give you plenty opportunities to get writing!  Writer’s Digest also offers an extensive list of writing prompts here.

Finally, the only thing better than writing daily is top have said writing critiqued frequently (and critiquing another writer’s work whenever possible is also good exercise).  By participating in communities for writers – online or in person – you’ll have many opportunities to exchange feedback.  Otherwise, just reaching out to writers via Twitter or email may yield some favorable results.

How often do you write?  And where do you get your best feedback?

A Woman on a Mission

In Blogapalooza on August 17, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I was checking out a post written by a fellow blogger, when she mentioned the “mission” of her blog.  And it occurred to me that I had never established a clear mission for this blog.  And so I decided that as part of my re-launch I would add a new page containing my mission statement.  It’s turned out to be a bit harder than I’d expected.

It’s been a bit like trying to figure out my life’s purpose.  Why did I start this bog?  Why do I write?  What do I hope to accomplish?  These are difficult questions, but once you’ve determined the answers you could be a lot closer to your writing goals than you realize.

If you’re having trouble answering these questions, a better place to start might be with the exercise in this post.  You will be prompted to develop a writing “business plan” or list of career goals.  It might be easier to first determine where you want to be, then you might stumble across some of the “why’s” and what drives you.

One thing I have learned is that as a writer our primary goal is to share information.  We all hope that someone else will benefit from our experiences or knowledge.  With that in mind, think about what you most want to share with others.  Considering this you’ll be well on your way to developing your mission.

Why do I need a mission statement?  With a clear mission, you’ll find that you have new clarity in your writing.  When you know exactly what it is you want to convey to your audience, you may find that you’ve been saying it the wrong way, or using the wrong tools to communicate.  Maybe you’ve been working on a book when your message would have been best received on a blog, or vice versa. 

Do you have a mission statement already?  Is it on your blog or do you have it somewhere only you can refer to it when you need a refresher? 

Stay tuned for my mission statement!

The Breeds of Writer

In Blogapalooza, Getting started on August 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

So you want to be a writer, but what kind of writer? And how do you get there?

There are many different breeds of writers: authors (fiction & non-fiction), screenplay writers, bloggers, grant writers, journalists, etc.  So which is the best fit for you?  And bare in mind that in most cases writers dabble in more than one area.

I, for instance, primarily write blog posts as a means on acquainting myself with my audience.  But I also have an interest in journalism (editorials & personal essays mostly), and authoring books.

It’s also important to consider the “less glamorous” writing jobs like grant writing, technical writing, business writing, and the like.  How does one break into one of these fields?  The best way is to research first.  Talk to other writers in the field.  Do internet searches. Read books.  This alone will give you valuable insights into your intended field.

Until you feel sure of what kind of writer you want to be try a few different assignments.  In the beginning your primary goal is to accumulate experience. And diversity in a writer is not bad.  There will be times when writing jobs in one field are sparse but others may be available.

Q&A with Published Author Barbara Watkins

In Q&As on February 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm

How many books have you had published?  

As of today that would be three, Behind the Red Door, Thorns of an Innocent Soul, and my latest release Nightmares and Daydreams.    

What other work have you had published?  

Some of my short stories and poetry are included among other author’s in such Anthologies as “Hope Whispers” “The New York Skyline Review 2008” “WOW Anthology 2008” “Cold Coffee Magazine” second issue, and soon to be released “Another Time, Another Place” from Mythica Publishing.

When were you first published, and how did it come to pass?  

After submitting my manuscript to several publishers, I chose to go with the first publisher that answered back, Publish America. My first novella, “Behind the Red Door” was released in 2005.   

**Do you have a literary agent?**  

No, but I’m working on it. At the time I wrote my first two novellas I didn’t really have a clue how the publishing process worked. I didn’t understand that an agents job was to negotiate you a fair deal with the publisher, to make sure you receive adequate royalties and hopefully a nice advance. Currently, without an agent to represent you, it’s almost impossible to get your manuscript in the hands of a traditional publisher such as, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster,etc. Not to say it is impossible to be published without one, several million authors and I have, but I believe I could have received a much better deal if I’d had one at the time I submitted my work for publishing.     

How long did it take to write your books? How soon thereafter did you see them in print?  

It took me approximately six months to write each of my novella’s Behind the Red Door and Thorns of an Innocent Soul. Nightmares & Daydreams is a collection of short stories and poetry I wrote several years ago over a period of about a year. My first two novellas were published quite quickly after the submitting process, within about six months. Unfortunately, they were published in print with formatting and grammatical errors. At the time I assumed all publishing houses appointed an editor to your work and that any mistakes would be corrected before being released – not a smart assumption on my part. Not all publishing houses are created equal, if you catch my drift. Not to take away from my first two books, they both acquired rave reviews for their storylines, but in all honesty, they should have never been accepted with all the editorial mistakes. After hiring my own editor to polish Nightmares & Daydreams I submitted it to a different publisher, which in turn assigned yet another editor to my work before going to print – six months later I had a book in my hand I could be proud of.        

How do/did you handle writing with children underfoot?  

I do almost all of my writing late at night – and I do mean late at night! I have six small grandchildren and at any given time, I’m usually watching at least one or more. I write anytime I possible can get a free minute, usually that means while they’re napping, or glued to the TV set watching Spongebob. Thank God for Spongebob! Although, most of my productive work I do late in the wee hours of the night.       

How much time do you spend writing daily? Weekly?  

I try to write at least three to four hours every night, including weekends. Recently I’ve taken on some book reviewing jobs and it’s becoming more difficult, but I feel it’s important to write everyday in order to keep a rhythm going.    

How do you juggle your other responsibilities as a writer (marketing, bookkeeping, etc)?  

I have a lot of help. My niece, Christy Bradshaw, is my publicist and web designer – my go to girl, so to speak. My sister, Angela Shuffit, is a tremendous help to me by making sure my book keeping is in order, and has scheduled several successful book signings for me. It really is a family affair.      What has been most helpful to you as a writer?   For me it was joining a writers group. I joined The Heartland Writers Guild shortly after writing Behind the Red Door and Thorns of an Innocent Soul. I attended my first conference in June of 2006 and from the very first minute, I was hooked. These groups are dedicated to educating and promoting published and unpublished writers. I can’t say enough about how important joining a writers group is if you’re looking to perfect your craft.         

From a financial standpoint, does your writing afford you the opportunity to live comfortably?

 The average book sells 500 copies. If you sell tens of thousands (extremely decent) it’s still Chickenfeed! By the time you figure in your costs for promoting, deduct agents cut (if you’re lucky enough to snag one) not to mention hiring an editor – well, you catch my drift. Therefore, no, I’m not getting rich, but I am living my dream. Besides, you never know, your next manuscript just might be THE ONE!    

What more do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

 As of now, I just finished my first full-length novel entitled Hollowing Screams, a paranormal/psychological thriller. It’s being edited as we speak. Last week I received an e-mail from an established literary agency asking to take a look. Maybe Hollowing Screams could be THE ONE? 

Any final thoughts for aspiring writers/authors?  

Write as much as you can. Read as many books as you can when not writing. Always edit your work, edit, edit, edit. Query an agent that is interested in your genre. Beware of publishing scams and always research whom you’re sending your material to. Most of all write in the genre that you know and are comfortable with. I would like to share an e-mail I received from Anne Rice shortly after Behind the Door was published.   “I congratulate you on your success with your books, and I know you will go on having success.  It’s wonderful, this world of being a writer, without doubt.”

You can learn more about Barbara Watkins by visiting her website or reading her blog.

The Balancing Act

In Writer Challenges, Writing & Motherhood on February 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Long time no post, huh? I figured it was time to post an update for those interested in the life of a freelance writer breaking into the industry.

One of the reasons I haven’t been able to update my blogs as much as I’d like is a very cranky 17 month old in the house. He’s recently developed a jealousy of my computer and begins screaming at the top of his lungs whenever he sees me sit at my desk. Thank God for a internet capable cell phone (and thank my husband for buying it) – otherwise I wouldn’t even be able to write this, as I’m pinned under a sleeping little one in bed.

Other than that, the little one spilled hot chocolate on my keybaord and I was out of commission for a bit until I could get a new one. I came down with a stomach virus that had me sequestered to the sidelines for a bit. And as some of you may know, I am back in school working on my Bachelor’s which is taking up some of my time.

What have I learned from all this?? Juggling life, motherhood, and career can often be much like a dance or a tight rope walk – lean too much in either direction and there can be disastrous consequences. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

As it stands now I am still trying to help the little one overcome this phase he’s going through and figure out the cause. I am in the process of reviewing Charter Schools: The Ultimate Handbook for Parents by Karin Piper (parents can check back for that in the next few days). I am still moving forward with my book, and I have been in touch with a few other talented writers/bloggers about some possible collaborations.

Is it everything I wish I could be doing? Not quite. But some progress is better than none. Balance is not an easy thing to master, especially with children – but I’m getting there.

Not Another New Year’s Post

In Writer Challenges on January 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I will resist the temptation to write a “year in review” post for writers, or share my resolutions or anything of the sort.  I think there’s enough of that to go around already.  Don’t you? 

In any case, here’s the skinny on my absence: I got offered a job – sort of.  I got an e-mail stating they were looking for someone to write articles for real estate websites.  They asked about my prices, policies, etc.  I sent an e-mail back 2 days later after agonizing over the e-mail.  I want this job.  Two weeks later, now word back.  I’m assuming that’s not a good sign.

The silver lining?  Someone thought of me.  Someone came across my information somehow and was intrigued enough to get in touch with me.  All my work trying to build an online presence and audience has not been a  complete waste of time (if it wasn’t already evident by all you lovely readers).  So while I am still not a millionaire behind my writing I’d like to take this as a cue that I am doing something right.

Besides that?  I started another blog.  (Another one?!  Yes, another one.)   It’s an education blog, all about what I’ve learned in raising my little one and the endless reasearch on infant/toddler development, early childhood education and otherwise how to aid in his development.  It was long overdue.  ou can head on over and tell me what you think: Brain Food…Simplified  My hope is that between the two sites I’ll be able to keep you all updated daily.

I also have a couple book reviews in the works (stay tuned folks).  And of course the never-ending cycle of queries.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I hate queries.  It’d hard for me to get past the pressure of it.  But there’s nothing else to do but keep trying.  

In my case I can only trust that slow success is the best kind. 

My Pearl of Wisdom for the day: Try not to become discourage my what may seem a never-ending cycle of “grunt work”.  The not-so-painless self marketing, query after rejected query, the websites that no one seems to visit….it will all pay off.  It’s practice writing (which is the only way to get better), practice building relationships with reads, practice building relationships with other writers.  It’s all practice for the day when you become rich and famous (or at least that’s what i keep telling myself).

Progression of a Writing Mom…by Micrimas

In Guest Blog Posts on November 20, 2009 at 12:23 am

I spent most of my life chasing my dream as a writer but tangentially.

I was forced to get a business degree by my company at first. I got one in PR and Marketing, just because it defied what I actually did for work (I worked in Customer Service for a Fortune 50 company as a project specialist). Defiance of the odds is a hallmark of my life.

If you work for a company that has tuition rembursement (for which I will be forever grateful, my company put me through two degrees and part of a 3rd) they usually make you get a degree in whatever field you are in. So I got a business degree but majored in something I actually kind of liked.

I am really creative but can’t stand b-school classes. I never, ever used what I learned. Except the Marketing and PR stuff, but that was when I left the company!

I relocated down south and maintained my Project Specialist title, except my job morphed from this boring, numbers crunching woman, to a fun, numbers crunching woman who got to evolve from crunching numbers to corporate training. There I created training modules from scratch to teach the managers and their staff how to read cost center reports as well as fixed property reports, so they could make sure their cost center’s bottom line was all good. I did this for every business sector, even though I was working in the Aerospace, Defense, Electronics and Government sector. ADEG for short.

My quirky and outgoing personality caught on and soon my manager had me rolling constantly. I traveled and helped the company’s bottom line in a unique way. I got very interested in getting my teaching degree. So my manager (who was female and my biggest influence and also my biggest cheerleader) allowed me once again to defy the norm. I got a teaching degree but it was in Teaching English as a Second Language.

My degree at that point was meant for me to leave the company and travel the world. Either for the Peace Corps or the Foreign Service.

What ultimately happened is, I started teaching refugee adults during a practicum. The men ( I hate to say this but it is true ) liked the blonde hair and could not focus so therefore, I asked the director of the agency I was volunteering for if I could work with kids.

I’ve always loved kids and have lost quite a few. So I was teaching, and childless, and unmarried, and older.

She pointed me to this agency in DC that worked with children who were emancipated minors from war-decimated countries. I got checked out security-wise and my career in mentoring and teaching UNHCR sponsored refugee children began.

It hasn’t finished.

I’ve never stopped.

During that course I met and married (within a 3 week timeframe) my DH. He is a foreigner from an island in the Ionian Sea of Greece. We met through the personals and boom. Married.

We celebrate nearly 2 decades of marriage next week. As parents of 20 month old fraternal twin boys.

And still, I write. I write my blog and writer for others’ blogs. Mostly about motherhood, music and miracles. My kids, and my life are miracles.

After I got my ESL degree… I moved on to a writing degree. My manager pushed it through by it being a technical writing/editing degree however, I took a boatload of fiction and screenwriting classes. Didn’t much like screenwriting. Too formulaic and limiting. Loved fiction and poetry and I use my blog to play with others’ work and showcase theirs, and mine.

I also learned I had renal cell carcinoma. My dream job… working for an 8a, minority owned business dedicated to helping grassroots and nonprofits, a branch of the UNHCR… believe it or not (nicely dovetailed with my mentoring work) — the Bureau of Humanitarian Response — had to be put on hold.

 I struggled for 10 years… fighting cancer, illness, near death, and lots of trauma. That trauma included losing an adoptive son, and having to stay at home as a mom. Because of the issues that were created by my cancer and the aftermath. Spinal injury during surgery and a host of other bad stuff that sometimes happens when you have had a lot of surgery.

Then I became a mom.

And I started blogging. That was 2 years ago. I love it.

 During the time I was sick, I dedicated myself to gratis grantwriting work. I had done it before for a cat rescue, where we had adopted our cat. I was grantwriting for nonprofits, gratis.

It gave me excellent experience.

When the boys were born, I stopped because I have twins and basically no time except at 5am before the boys wake up or when they are napping. Like now.

I don’t know how Dominique does it — with her child at her feet and juggling multiple websites and blogs… writing a novel in a month! I give her kudos… and am handing off this blog entry to her after weeks of illness (whatever the kids get, I ultimately get, my immune system is fragile from the cancer).

 So I am handing off my entry, Profession of a Writing Mom, to D — because you all can take a lesson from me.

 I fell into every single writing job and ultimately, my paid and gratis career as a writer. I have basically moved from one segment of the writing spectrum to the next. I’ve loved the diversity and pray that someday, I will be writing again for the government once we move back to DC. When the kids are in school. I have a standing job offer working for DHS documenting meetings and disseminating info, when the boys are in school. One of my friends is a high level, hiring GS18 and she is holding a job for me, if I choose. She’s been there for me… knows about all my health issues.

Our sons are 2 days apart in age. She gave birth to her son, and our Traditional Surrogate gave birth to my fraternal twin sons… two days apart. Ours came first and then her boy. I am frequently in the DC area and the children play well together. She knows I have a unique writing style and hopes that I will work with her. I hope so too, if my health stabilizes. I am homeschooling the kids right now but at some point they will be in Pre-school and then I hope to return to the workforce and get paid… for their college funds.

A diverse spectrum of writing always stands you in good stead. I say, as a writer practicing for decades, just roll with what falls into your lap and don’t limit yourself to one thing. Because diversity is where you become employed much easier. I have copyediting, copywriting, grantwriting, corporate training modules, number crunching/budgeting (falls under grantwriting), technical editing/writing, and teaching module skills under my belt.

There are probably more but I have to roll off, take a shower before the boys wake up, and feed them lunch.

By the way… I am nearly 48 years old. And still marketable after having left the workforce for quite a while (the paid workforce). Because of my health and now, being a mom. I love to blog about my kids and my life… It is my passion. Dominique has been featured a few times on my blog. I have guest bloggers and love to hear what they have to say.

My fingers fly and life rolls on. Life as a mom, and a writer. You all know writers are born. Not made. You cannot “train” a writer. It is bubbling in the blood, fingers aching to explode on the keyboard.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being able to blog gives me the ultimate experience in my creative state. Marrying my love of photography, poetry and writing is the best.

Thanks for reading and I hope you young writers take heed. I’ve made it work for decades now, as a writer. By opening my heart and mind to all possibility vs. limiting my creative state and focusing on one area of the spectrum.

Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo

Opportunities Are Everywhere

In Getting started on November 17, 2009 at 6:02 am

The hardest part for many writers is getting started.  The first clip is usually the hardest one to obtain, after that each writing assignment should become less and less intimidating.  In the spirit of getting started, today I thought I’d share a couple places that beginning writers can showcase their talent.

Most writing books and websites I’ve come across suggest pitching your ideas to smaller local publications first – which is a phenomenal idea.  But where do you find these small local publications?  If they’re not terribly popular they may also be more difficult to find.

Tip #1:  Call or visit small organizations.  If you know of a local organization, stop by or give them a call.  Chances are they’d be open to having you write for their newsletter – or if they don’t have one they may even like for you to start one for them.  Approach these jobs with caution, you will have to do some research on newsletter formatting before promising to deliver a fabulous project.

Tip #2: Pick up free papers.  It’s very likely that your town or city is the home to at least a couple free publications.  When you’re out at the supermarket or walking around, instead of walking by those free papers, pick them up!  Peruse them, if the subject matter is something that you could write about, pitch to them.

Tip #3: Go back to high school.  For some of us that last statement may have cause dry heaves.  But for the beginning writer it’s worth considering.  Some high schools have a newsletter for their alumni, sponsors, or donors.  You can call and ask if there’s an alumni newsletter of anything of the kind and if they’re looking for writers.

Tip #4: Apply for  Okay, this may sound like a cheesy plug, but it’s not.  It’s a good way to build your expertise and readership.  Not to mention, Examiner does pretty well on search engines.  I can’t say how selective their application process is, only that the application does take some time and planning.  Give it your best shot, pick a topic to examine that you feel comfortable with, and try not to over think it.  Work on your application for 2 weeks TOPS.

Being Brave

In Getting started, Writing & Motherhood on October 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I had someone comment on a previous blog post about how intimidating it can be to launch a freelance career.  I couldn’t agree with her more.  Some days it seems like I’ll be stuck in this “beginner’s limbo” forever.  Most days the only way I can get anything done is to pull some ridiculously late nights wiritng after the little one and my husband are both in bed, and then wake up to perform my motherly and wifely duties.  It can be demanding, to say the least.

Up until now none of my writing experience has awarded me a pay check.  And it seems like I’ve filled my plate with so many other writing tasks in hopes of building my portfolio and credibility that I have no time to move into the realm of writing for pay.  So what’s a writing mama to do?  Follow my own advice and stay the course.  It can be done.  Or else there would be no writers.  Right?

A fellow writer friend of mine (recently featured in a Q&A here) commented on the amount of rejection in the writing industry and a mentor of her’s encouraging her to “get out their and pitch, pitch, pitch!”  I think that’s all there is to it.  Resilience.  The determination to keep going.  Because unless you’re famous, or know someone famous it won’t be easy – you just have to want it.

Some thoughts to part with: if you just get out there and do it, one day you’ll look up and you won’t be a beginner anymore.