For months, I have contemplated starting a bi-weekly newsletter. There are several newsletters I receive via email, and I enjoy each one for its uniqueness and informational worth.
Over the last couple of days, I convinced myself that if I never try, I will never know what the experience of being a newspaper woman is like. My father began his career in publishing as a newspaper man. Perhaps that’s where the itch originated.
Starting in August, I will email a newsletter of writing news and tips on a bi-weekly basis on Thursdays to my mailing list. The first edition will come out on Thursday, August 14th.
If you would like to be on my mailing list, click on the image below, or on the same image in my right sidebar, and you’ll be taken to a signup form. I promise never to share your email address with anyone else, and at any time you have the option to unsubscribe.
I hope you will take a chance on my experiment in newsletter journalism, and come along on this journey with me.
My goal is to offer only newsworthy, helpful information on writing and topics related to writing and its final transformation into worthy reading material.
Remember, you might hear it first in my newsletter!
In a perfect world, our days would be filled with limitless hours of writing time. However, ours is not a perfect world. At least mine isn’t.
Despite living in retirement, my days are still filled with what seem to be unending household chores, yard and gardening chores, errands, maintaining a small business other than my writing, and more.
I am not an expert on increasing writing productivity. Perhaps like you, I struggle every day trying to find the time to write.
If you look around–in books, on the Internet, magazine articles, there is a plethora of advice on how to increase your writing productivity.
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found:
1. Eliminate Distractions.
As difficult as it may seem, sitting down to write means limiting distractions and interruptions. One easy tip is to close all open tabs on your computer and have only your manuscript or working document open. If you are still tempted to hop over to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, perhaps an app like StayFocusd to limit the time you allow yourself to visit social media sites would help. StayFocusd is free to Google Chrome users. Other such apps include: Freedom, Anti-Social, RescueTime (my choice), and ColdTurkey. A search for “social media blocking apps” will offer a longer list.
2. What is Your Process?
Do you have a process for writing? Or do you sit down and just start writing? Are you enjoying the process of writing? Or have you started something that doesn’t please you or feel right?
Remember, you don’t have to be what everyone else is–historical novelist, memoirist, chick lit writer, biographer. You don’t have to write the same way every other writer does. You can be whomever you want to be as a writer.
Look around your space. What books do you see that you’ve kept after reading them? What fills your shelves? If those are the books you’ve enjoyed as a reader, maybe they fall into the genre you will enjoy writing. Take a good look at the process these writers chose. Discover the writer you want to be. Know yourself, and try to forget the critics.
3. Set a Daily Goal
Determine a daily goal, either by number of words or pages or choose a time increment, such as an hour or maybe two. If you choose to follow a time increment system for daily writing, set a timer for the amount of time. Then write until the timer goes off. A handy app for accomplishing this is Pomodairo, a Pomodoro time-based timer and task management app.
4. Give Yourself Breaks
After you’ve accomplished what you sat down to do, give yourself a break. Take a 10-15 minute walk or stretch, have a cup of tea or coffee, do something to move out of your chair and breathe fresh air. Perhaps you have a note or personal card to mail–write it and get it ready to go in the mail. If that load of laundry is ready to be folded, that will only take a few minutes. Do that. Just do something to refresh your mind and body.
5. Devise a Method to Follow Productivity
I did not realize how important this could be until I signed on to Jeff Goins’ Facebook group, My 500 Words. The goal in this group is to write 500 words each day on something you’re working on or using the provided prompt. It provides accountability, support and encouragement. The accountability is what I was searching for when I signed up. In the process of organizing the group, Jeff mentioned the importance of accountability, including following your own productivity. Not long after, I came across a link to a writing progress tracker developed by author Jamie Raintree. Simple to use and handy in an Excel document on my computer, I can easily log in the number of words I’ve written each day and on which blog or project. Jamie has entered all the formulas to calculate the daily, weekly and monthly word count. Thanks, Jamie!
6. Read Less, Write More
This is an area I need to improve on. I lose writing time each day because I think I should ready everything I find on becoming a better writer, how to write memoir, and more. I can’t resist the idea that someone has a better idea about how to write. Slowly I’m learning that I must stop reading what others think and get on with the writing. As I look around my writing space, there are dozens of books and articles on writing that I have yet to read and in that state they aren’t supporting my writing efforts. I’m finding I tend to learn more by doing than reading about how to do it. If I encounter a problem in my writing, then I’ll go look it up and see what I’ve missed in the doing.
7. Read Your Genre
There is one area you’ll want to read, and that is books in the genre you’ve chosen to write. From these writers, you will learn more about your chosen craft. Watch how they open and close chapters. See how they have developed their characters. How do they use dialogue? Then see if you can apply them to your work. This is not plagiarism as you’re not copying what they wrote–you are modeling the principles of writing they used.
8. Set Goals
Some of us are goal setters, and some are not. If you are so inclined, set large goals first. Then work backward from the deadline established for that goal and set smaller goals along the way to help in accomplishing the larger goal on time. For instance, if you want to publish your book after the first of the year, you will need to have it edited and revised in October or November to leave time for edits and rewrites. What this means is that the book needs to be finished in late summer. This is an example of how you need to set your goals in order to timely complete your project.
Accountability needs to be worked into goal setting. Perhaps there is someone you can tell about your goal(s). A critiquing partner, a writing group member, or a close friend or family member. You’ll note on the right sidebar I have a countdown set. Believe me, I see that more often than is comfortable these days. You can also set the dates on your calendar and set up pop-up reminders for each one.
9. Work When No One Else Is and/or When You Feel “On”
How do we know the best time of our 24 hours each day to write? Some writers wake early in the morning before their family members wake up, and they get in an hour or more of quiet writing. Young mothers who are writers wait eagerly for nap time. I read a post recently by Ellis Shurman on how he found an extra hour in his daily schedule of commuting, working fulltime, parenting and more. Others establish blocks of time on a calendar and then tell their family members they are off to write and are not to be bothered. (Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn’t!). Actually, for you it might be looking at what you have to carry out and doing that during the part of the day when feel your best, really “on.” Suit yourself. You are the writer.
10. Write Now, Edit Later
You have all heard it. Write until the first draft is completed. No stopping for edits, errors, corrections, rewrites–just write. The temptation for some of us who are Type A personalities to make that first draft perfect is overwhelming. I have finally taught myself to write, write, write–don’t stop. It hasn’t been easy but it does go faster when you’re not continuously stopping to make corrections. Once you’re finished with the draft, then you can sit down with a copy, or maybe you like to do your editing on the screen, and make the necessary corrections, perhaps a little rewriting here and there. I think we may all be familiar with Anne Lamott’s quote on this subject.
11. Bottom Line–Write Your Story and No Harpies Allowed
In your writing, be yourself. Be honest. Tell your story. It is after all your story. Yours to tell, and only you know it and can tell it. If you don’t write it down, how will anyone remember it after you’re gone? How will anyone ever read it and gain any perspective from your life experiences?
We mustn’t let the harpies get in our way. When one settles on your shoulder, close your ears to what you hear: “You can’t write.” “Who is going to read this garbage?” “What makes you think anyone wants to now what you think or feel?” “Get over yourself–you’re not a writer.” remember you are the writer, you own the story, and you can write it without any outside help.
This is not an exhaustive list. If you search the Internet, there are so many ideas about what we writers should do or not do in order to be productively producing our books and essays, our poetry and rhyme. Yet it all boils down to how it works best for each of us individually, doesn’t it?
Do you have a process that works for you? Are you willing to share ideas with the rest of us? Leave comments, ideas, questions, criticisms, etc. in the comments below. Let’s discuss!
A few weekends ago I attended a workshop on “Creating a Movie in the Reader’s Mind: Self-editing for Narrative Nonfiction Writers.” The workshop was sponsored by Oregon Writers Colony with C. Lill Ahrens serving as workshop leader.
Initially the title for the workshop left me wondering what I would hear, see, learn in this single day. When I left after seven hours, I carried away a more information than I imagined possible.
Ahrens came ready to teach, and we came to learn.
I’ve impatiently waited to share some of the tips I learned. These may seem obvious to some readers, but often they slip my mind while writing.
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Attention to chronology. While your plot in narrative nonfiction may leap back and forth in time, a scene should roll in linear fashion like a movie from beginning to end. The use of chronology lends itself to the continual construction of tension. Something like a large rock gathering moss as it rolls downhill, or a skyscraper reaching into the sky.Once completed, your finished work provides effortless reading for the reader. Don’t make the reader continually back up to make a sense of your story.
Attention to Story Information. The writer’s goal is to keep the reader engaged in your movie (turning the pages) until the credits begin to roll. Misplaced or missing information important to the story confuses and distracts readers, and they may wander off to see what’s in the fridge or pick up another book.
Important components to check:
Transition Back story Back fill Inner monologue/running thoughts Setting/visual imagery Mood
Emotional truth: This component is so important, especially to those of us writing memoir, it needs to receive special attention. First of all, don’t confuse emotional truth with “emotional.” In a movie, emotional truth travels through the methods of the actors. In the written word, everything can have emotional truth–weather, setting, animals, inanimate objects, everything. The POV character’s thoughts and actions will be the most psychologically complex of all emotional truths shared.
Bottom line: Emotional truth gets stories and books published.
Attention to Theme. Have you ever walked out of a movie theater feeling, “Huh?” Do you ever wonder why? Likely, because that movie didn’t end on theme. Unfortunately, “theme” can be a problematic word with many definitions. In writing narrative nonfiction, theme is not the motif, not the moral, not the message. The theme in this case is the major emotional issue of the story.
Caution: Theme is not to be confused with genre. Any love story can be classified true story, memoir, fiction, horror, mystery, historical fiction, etc.
Using narrative nonfiction, your true story can explore different aspects of theme, most importantly its opposite. Think of your theme paired with its opposite. Using my memoir as an example, my theme is forgiveness; therefore, I pair my theme of forgiveness with childhood cruelty inflicted by my mother.
Theme in any writing is with you in the beginning of your story, then is sprinkled throughout, and your story closes with your theme.
Of all the writing tools we have at our disposal, theme is likely the most important. Theme adds depth to our stories. Theme is the connector in our stories, tying all the parts together. In this way, our readers come away from turning that last page feeling satisfied.
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Represented here are just a few of the most important ideas covered during this daylong workshop. I hope that something here has resonated with you in respect to whatever project you are working on currently.
How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal
By: Brooke Warner Publisher: She Writes Press Published: October 25, 2013 Genre: Nonfiction Source: Author
Synopsis: How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal offers memoirists an easy-to-follow formula to create a winning book proposal that will attract agents and editors. Brooke Warner is a former acquiring editor and current publisher who breaks the nonfiction proposal into three editorial components and three marketing components. This ebook includes a section about platform-and an explanation of why memoirists need one and how they can build one-as well as real samples from authors who have sold their memoirs to traditional publishers off their proposals. Find easy-to-follow templates and smart tips for navigating agents and publishers, along with best practices memoirists can’t afford not to know!
With a memoir well on its way to completion, I’ve been muddling over what does a writer does once the manuscript is complete, when you believe it’s really ready for the hands of a publisher.
When the opportunity arose to review Brooke Warner’s newly released book, How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal, I signed on to help spread the word about it. Little did I know that a majority of my questions would be answered while I read the book.
Warner succinctly and with clarity provides a step-by-step guide to what a memoirist needs to do in order to place his/her manuscript on the correct pathway to publication. Leaving nothing to chance, she provides tips set apart in such a way that it is easy to thumb back through the book and easily spot them. Here’s an example similar to what you’ll find in Warner’s book:
TIP: THINK OF YOUR BOOK PROPOSAL LIKE A BOOK REPORT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IN GRADE SCHOOL. IT NEEDS A TITLE PAGE AND A TABLE OF CONTENTS SO THE READER OF THE PROPOSAL KNOWS WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT TO FIND, AND SO THEY CAN SKIP AHEAD IF THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIFIC OF INTEREST TO THEM.
Additionally, Warner provides other best practices information with each chapter. These are extremely well written and easily understood. Samples of each phase are provided, including query letter, components of proposal, marketing research, etc.
Sprinkled along the way are resources Warner believes beneficial to the writer new to the marketing and publishing aspects of book publishing.
Her writing and format are both good examples of what agents and publishers will likely be looking for.
Considering the short length, 88 pages of text and tips, Warner answers all of my questions to date and has demystified the issues of platform, query letters, book proposals and more.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for people writing memoir who may be reaching that point where issues surrounding marketing and publishing begin to come into focus. This is by far one of the best examples of a “how to” book which clearly maps out the process for you.
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Meet the Author:
Brooke Warner is the founder and president of Warner Coaching Inc., where she specializes in helping writers get published. She is also the publisher of She Writes Press. In her thirteen years in the publishing industry, including seven-plus years as an acquiring editor at Seal Press, Brooke shepherded over 500 books through the publication process. Her expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. Brooke’s website, www.warnercoaching.com, is the recipient of an award from the Association of Independent Authors for Best Website for Independent Authors. She sits on the board of the National Association of Memoir and She Writes. What’s Your Book? is her first book and she’s proud to be publishing on She Writes Press. Warner lives in Berkeley, California, and works remotely with clients nationally and internationally.