Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

6 Blogs to Recharge the Writing Life — April 29, 2014

6 Blogs to Recharge the Writing Life

Writing is solitary. In fact, the singleness of writing can become the elephant in your writing space. So much so, some writers lose the initial spark experienced when beginning that next book, essay, or blog post.

Perhaps you’ve been working on building your platform , and no one seems to be clamoring at your blog or on your Facebook fan page. And all you have for your hard work is a throbbing headache.

What to do to get back in the writing groove and use some of that creativity to work on your memoir, novel or yes, even the dreaded platform?

Look to the writing and blogging community-at-large. After all, this is a business where encouragement and support are readily available. However, despite the abundance of resources and tips, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to look.

Following are six blogs I consistently read. I always find something to reignite the lost spark of creativity or jar loose the stillness in my inspiration:

The Write Practice

The Write Practice is here to kick-start your practice.
You have to write millions of words no one is ever going to see
before you can write the ones that will change someone’s life.

Joe Bunting, founder of The Write Practice, supports and encourages writers of all ages and skill levels. Here you will find tutorials, writing prompts, writing tips and other resources.

Connect with Joe @write_practice on Twitter or on Facebook.

The Creative Penn

… where you will find resources to help you write, publish and market your book.

Joanna Penn, best-selling author, shares her own writing journey using both mistakes and lessons learned in the areas of writing, marketing and publishing. Joanna features guest posts from other writers willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

Connect with Joanna @thecreativepenn on Twitter or on Facebook.

Catherine, Caffeinated

Here’s a full list of all the “self-printing” category posts which chronicle my entire self-publishing adventure. I’ve tried to organize them in some sort of coherent way, but if you want to read them all—and you have, like, a week or so of your life to spare—you can click here to access all posts tagged with “self-printing” instead.

In addition to writing blog posts on “self-printing,” Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer and coffee enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. Her goal at Catherine, Caffeinated is to share with other writers her knowledge gained as self-publisher. A plethora of information is available on her blog, so I suggest a cup of coffee and a comfy place to sit when you’re ready to dig in.

Connect with Catherine @cathryanhoward on Twitter or on Facebook.

Goins, Writer

Here is where we wage war on the blank page, where we band together
to find purpose in our art and lives.

Jeff Goins generously shares his views on writing in the 21st century while also sharing resources and tips. His blog covers many topics on writing, passion and creativity.

Connect with Jeff @JeffGoins on Twitter or on Facebook.

Nina Amir

…she writes, speaks and teaches from a place of knowing that
what has worked for her will at least provide others with
a starting place from which to find what works best for them.

In her blog, How to Blog a Book, Nina Amir shows her readers how to blog a nonfiction book. However, fiction writers may also find many useful tips and ideas here. Nina offers posts based on her experiences as a freelance nonfiction book editor, writing coach, and consultant.

Connect with@NinaAmir on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.

We Grow Media

I help writers share their stories and connect with readers.

Founder of We Grow Media, Dan Blank, works with writers through online courses, conferences and events, one-on-one consulting, workshops and speaking, and writing this blog, a weekly newsletter, and ebooks. Additionally, he also works with publishers and publishing agencies.

Connect with @DanBlank on Twitter.

* * *

This listing is by no means complete and perhaps in the near future I’ll post others I keep an eye on.

And what about you? Is there a blog or blogs that can recharge you and your writing? If so, won’t you share in the comment section below? I’d love finding new resources!

What Do Your Readers Want to Know About You? — October 8, 2013

What Do Your Readers Want to Know About You?

Heart of Forest by Wojtek Kowalski via Google under Creative Commons license
Heart of Forest by Wojtek Kowalski via Google under Creative Commons license

Twice this week I have read or heard something that made me sit up and take notice. In both instances, some of the discussion centered on our readers and the importance of placing the focus on them.

In other words, what is at the heart of your blog? Why are you blogging? What do you want people to know? AND what do your readers want to know about you?

* * *

The first incident was while reading a post by Joel Friedlander in which he talks about the importance of an author maintaining a blog. After he has provided a list of things to include in your blog, Joel moves into a discussion of the “origin story,” basically where you are coming from.

In other words, our readers deserve a bit of our background and experience in order to trust that we are qualified to be writing what we write. We must share where we come from, our background, and our experience — the things that qualify us in their eyes.

Joel closes with a great example of how he used this himself after taking a course on blogging. He calls it his Publishing Timeline, an overview of the places where he had gained experience in publishing, the topic on which his blog is based.

* * *

The second time I came across a similar reference was in a webinar presented by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice and Story Cartel. The subject of the webinar was building a platform for creative writers.

I know none of us like hearing any more about “platform,” and I understand most of you reading here are nonfiction writers, at the moment. I signed up for the webinar to learn a bit more as I have two historical fiction projects waiting in the wings. And I did pick up some good bits of information.

During the webinar, Joe talked about creative writersplacing their emphasis on writing about the genre they are writing in, others writing in the same genre, and books published in that genre than about how to write.

Granted Joe’s comments were directed to writers hoping to publish creative fiction and therefore he points toward writing about the writer’s chosen genre rather than so much about his “origin story.” Joe also pointed to sharing the story you are writing. He pointed out that Tim Grahl of Out:think says 40% of a book can be given way to some people but not everyone. A good example is James Patterson who gave away approximately 19 chapters of his last book.

Therefore, sharing your story on your blog is an effective way to begin building that platform, for capturing your readers’ interest now and when it’s time to publish, you have a following already interested.

Afterwards I thought to myself, “Well, you don’t have to tell me twice!” Usually hearing something repeated, or something similar, impresses on me that these are ideas worth remembering.

* * *

Both Joel and Joe emphasize the impact these actions will have on building platform, drawing readers, and making our image known giving us a stronger reference point when we are ready to publish that next big book! As writers, our blog readers may become our book readers and our most valuable marketing tool.

?4U: What do you see here that will help you improve your standing with your readers? What do you want to start doing to implement either of these ideas? Join the discussion below!

Do You Have a Story to Tell? — May 14, 2013

Do You Have a Story to Tell?

This post was first published on September 25, 2012.  Since I am taking a few days away from the office, I thought I’d share this one with you again.  It’s always good to know where to to find writing assistance.  And when I return this is a post I need to update with some new finds.

* * *

Have you thought about telling your life story?  Or a special part of your life story?  Or maybe you’re into historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi or fiction.

Perhaps you’d rather not do it on the antiquated typewriter here.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

So, I am sharing a few up-to-date sites and blogs that might help you get started on the writing process.  These represent some of my favorite places to find help.

1.  The Write Practice.  Here you’ll meet Joe Bunting, founder of The Write Practice.  The Write Practice offers practical tips on writing — grammar, language, prompts, tutorials, and often a contest to hone your skills and see what others think.

2.  The Bookshelf Muse.  Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi come together to offer writing tools and tips, a writing resource newsletter, and their recently published Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.  Posts always give necessary tools for becoming a strong writer.

3.  The Blood-Red Pencil.  Daunting title, yes?  But the tips and tools shared are not daunting.  The sub-title to The Blood-Red Pencil reads, “Sharp and pointed observations about good writing.”  Can’t ask for more than that!  The Blood-Red Pencil consists of a team of writers and editors who share the writing for blog posts.  Additionally, you’ll find handy resources, like writing and editing services as well as book design and art services.  The site also offers a list of resources which includes links to tween lingo, editing rates, the U.S. Copyright Office, Plagiarism Today and many more.

4.  Publication Coach.  Daphne Gray-Grant is the “publication coach,” and she provides tips for beating writer’s block, writing faster, prompts, copywriters and communicators.  In addition, Daphne offers writing courses and a weekly newsletter.  Without fail, there is always a worthwhile bit of information in each post.

5.  The Artist’s Road.  Patrick Ross, a professional writer of 25 years and writing instructor at The Writer’s Center, hosts this blog on creativity, writing and an art-committed life.  Lively discussions follow many of Patrick’s posts, and insight for all phases of writing is found in each of his writings.

6.  Jeff Goins Writer.  Jeff Goins is a down-to-earth, easy-going, full of ideas and tips blogger who loves to write and blog.  In the midst of all this, he manages to offer sound advice and tips for writers of all stages.  In Jeff’s own words, “I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world.

These are just five of my favorite general writing resources, and rest assured there are many more for you to discover on your own.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing favorites among my memoir writing resources.  Stay tuned!

Keep writing!

Free Write on Spring Resurrected — March 31, 2013

Free Write on Spring Resurrected


Extraordinary best describes today in Portland.  Not the usual day at the end of March.  Rain and gray skies linger longer those who love the sun would like.  But today we have sun, blooming trees, flowers and warmth — 75 degrees!

The drive from our son’s home, where we enjoyed lunch outside and an egg hunt with the great-grandkids, brought to mind the contrast with last spring.  About that time, I was reading a post on Joe Bunting’s The Write Practice.  The prompt that day was the word “spring.”  A longing for spring caused me to sit down and use that prompt to free write my thoughts of spring in the NW.  Today I resurrected it from my files and share it with you here.

* * *

Spring slowly glides in on a slippery mix of winter weather. Gray skies, falling rain, intermittent snow and hail, and damp, foggy days refuse Spring’s entrance. Attempting to display her palette of colors, Spring swipes patches of color into the fields and gardens anxious to come to life. She applies reds, blues, pinks, and yellows for the bulbs that have pushed through cold winter soil. Her gifts appear in pale green buds on trees that will bear fruit in season and in gardens where the arms of seeds push their way through dirt.

High In the sky Spring makes an effort to paint earth’s ceiling a brilliant blue interrupted here and there with clouds puffed up like bed pillows. Some days, if we’re lucky, Spring takes her yellow paint brush and dots the skies with sunlight. It falls on the growing trees and flowers, making them reach higher and higher.

Then Spring, like the joker she can be, pours buckets of rain down on the earth. The hyacinths that have bloomed out hang their heads low and touch the dirt. The Helleborus bow down as if in prayer, and instead of the earth producing yield, the moss grows heavy on the patio and drive. What is Spring up to?

Rains continue to pour from her resources, and now the creeks and rivers are at flood stage. They threaten people and homes along their banks. Although they’ve been through floods before, the fears come anyway. Should we be afraid of something as beautiful as Spring?

But then a clear day comes along after the storm, and we rejoice at the new things we see sprouting. Something different from before. New life. Abundant all around. Yet it lasts only a day and heavy rains come again threatening and flattening out plants and grass.

Spring has a difficult temperament to predict. At once, she can be filled with joys and delights, and the vicious fingers of storm reaching into our lives. We understand the rain is necessary to grow the goodness from the earth, but so much?

Even though the first day of Spring has passed us by two weeks ago, the gray days of winter filled with rain, fog and even snow at times still linger. Looking for bright spots amid the light snow, we find purple petals seeking a way out. Crocus didn’t have a chance this season – they didn’t bloom. Spring was not kind to them for winter pushed her aside. The elements too harsh. Other eager shoots somehow survived, and the native trillium stand tall and starkly white against their deep green leaves.

Another day with sun arrives, and Spring has a show in store. Driving west to east, I spy her in the distance. Regal and royal in her bearing. Wearing a cloak of ermine flowing down her sides to touch the snow-covered ground. Majestically she rises toward the sky, reaching ever higher for that crowning blue ceiling and bright sun. A reminder that the season is divided between here and there.

Here in the valley – where things grow green and lush – we hope for Spring to succeed. Yet there atop Mt. Hood rising above the valley winter rules. The mountain reminds us that indeed it is still winter on her slopes. Snowfall each day with perhaps a record for this season. The mountain looks down on us as we struggle to push spring into being – planting too early creating a replanting around the end of June. Both Spring and the mountain laugh at us about our lack of memory when it comes to planting time here in the valley.

Soon the mountain runoff will add to Spring’s rains in the rivers and streams. Together they will likely wreak havoc on some areas. But together, they will soon step aside and allow Spring’s best efforts to prevail.

My Love Affair with Writing Tools — November 9, 2012

My Love Affair with Writing Tools

The following post appears concurrently on Philadelphia Writing Examiner.  I want to thank Cheryl Butler Stahl, author of Slices of Life: Memoir Writing, freelance writer and founder of Your Best Writing Group, for inviting me to contribute to her column.  Connect with Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter.

* * *

Writers love their tools — pens, paper, pencils, journals, notepads.  So it must follow that with advances in technology there are electronic tools and toys beneficial to writers.

Here I confess — I’m easy prey for innovative software, especially when it comes to writing.  Recently, I’ve acquired some items I want to share with you.  You may have heard about them elsewhere, but here’s my take on them.

It isn’t that I don’t love a moleskin journal, or a tiny leather-covered note pad in my purse along with a favorite pen for jotting quick notes.  What I have discovered is that there are many wonderful, time-saving items out there, and it’s tempting to try them out.

My problem is:  I try them out, I love them, and then I want to tell someone else just how great they are!  So, here goes . . .

My first find and the one I’ve been using the longest, Scrivener.  Scrivener is similar to a word processing program, and it took a long time and lots of consideration to convince me it could be better than Microsoft Word, which I’ve used for decades now.  Not too long ago, my friend and fellow writer and blogger, Joe Bunting at The Write Practice dot com, shared his thoughts on Scrivener.  Joe’s overview convinced me to give Scrivener a try.

Three things that stand out for my purposes in Scrivener are:  (1) ability to pull together ideas in one place; (2) organizing the manuscript; and (3) Scrivener motivates.  Let’s take a look at each of these in brief:

  • Gathering your ideas in one place is a time saver.  Previously, I would find snippets of information for a project and place them in a folder.  Next, I’d come across photos I might want to reference later and into another folder they would go.  And what about my research?  Yes, another folder.  Before long, I’d have so many folders storing project materials that it would take some time to locate something on occasion.  With Scrivener, this problem is solved.Scrivener allows you to store all these bits and pieces in one document – the configuration of the material doesn’t matter.  It can be a photo, text, links to research, whatever you need to be able to find quickly.
  • Do you end up with a Word document for each chapter?  With Scrivener, you no longer have to worry about separate documents.  Scrivener allows the writer to keep those chapters and subchapters separate but easily accessible.  If your book project is large, this is a time saver.
  • Lastly, do you struggle with staying motivatedBelieve it or not, Scrivener has helped me with that battle.  Scrivener has a tool that lets you set a word count goal for each section so that you have an ongoing tally of just how much you’ve accomplished.

A quick look at what Scrivener looks like on screen:

Scrivener is available as a download for PCs and MACs at Literature & Latte dot com.  Currently, Scrivener is relatively inexpensive ($45 for Mac, $40 for Windows).  And it comes with a great manual and tutorial.

Second in my lineup of new tools, EvernoteEvernote replaces all the documents where I save quotations, the folder in my email for blog items I want to read later or reference again, a stack of paper copies printed for reading later.  The beauty of this software is that it captures all those things for me in one place, and it does it all for FREE via my browser!  I refer to it as my online filing cabinet. A search feature is included and the use of tags makes it easy to categorize things for searching.  Folders (or notebooks) can be set up to further categorize  your materials.  I’ve not yet been disappointed with Evernote, the tutorials or finding help.  And I love the elephant!

Here are a couple of images showing how Evernote appears on your screen, depending on your operating system and personal setup:

Windows version
Windows version
Mac version
Mac version

And for those of you interested, Evernote has a phone app as well.  At Evernote dot com you will find all the other tools available for organizing your writing life.

Third and last, and my newest find, Mind42, a web-based mind mapping tool that I’m in love with.  Not artistically inclined, the thought of drawing a mind map has left me feeling awkward and somewhat faulty in my efforts.  Mind24 has taken all that away.  And it’s free!

For me, the clarity of the design of the mappingin Mind42 was what won me over as I compared a variety of offerings:

Additionally, Mind42 is user friendly and an intuitive program to use.  So far, it hasn’t disappointed me.

I checked out several other free mind mapping software, including:

  • FreeMind (I didn’t find this user friendly and not well supported);
  • (navigation seemed awkward); and
  • Mindomo (here again the process seemed awkward); and
  • Cayra (as nodes are added, images move around on the screen).

Don’t hesitate to check out several as one that doesn’t work for one individual may work expertly for another.

I realize there is lots of information packed into this article.  My hope is, if you’re interested in writing, that you’ll find something helpful highlighted here that enhances your writing life.

Happy writing!

Disclosure:  I am not an affiliate of any of the companies mentioned herein, nor was I asked by any of them to give a review of their product.  This is purely based on my own experiences and the desire to share them with you.  However, the FTC (yes, part of our government told me I must) requires me to let you know that I’m in no way being paid for anything written here nor do I receive anything if you buy any of the products above.  So long!

Images were taken from the web sites referenced for each piece of software discussed.