Monday, August 30, 2010

Cross Training

                                                                                  Essays and Exercise

I'm writing lesson plans for the teen online writing classes I teach. This new session will cover how to write the essay. Not a popular topic with teens perhaps, but a good skill to learn whether college bound or not.

How does this relate to exercise? Well you see, it's part of my cross-training plan for writing.

My students are encouraged, through lessons and assignments, to stretch their writing muscles by trying different types of writing. Exposure to and the practice of different types of writing, I believe, is one key to growing as a writer.

How does this factor into the lessons? For the essay session, in addition to the standard assignment, I'll include exercises that provide a twist on writing the "serious essay". I might have them take the lesson's topic and put a humorous spin on it by having them write a paragraph that includes tall tale-like details. Or, we might try a Hemingway six word story, using the topic as a guide. The goal is to make students think, make it fun, and then have them write to stretch or cross train those muscles. Learning to write well is essential for good communication, but students can learn and be stretched in interesting and non-traditional ways.

And the point is...?

How does this relate to our writing? It reminded me that we need to engage in cross training exercises periodically in order to stretch and grow as writers. How? By dabbling in a different genre, doing a writing prompt or free writing, attending a conference, taking a writing course, or just taking time to play with words.

Have you done any cross training with your writing lately? What ideas do you have to stretch those writing muscles?

Speaking of Essays

So now that I've got you considering this cross training thing, here's a potential assignment. The 9th Annual Funds for Writers Essay Contest is looking for submissions. This year's theme is When Writing Made a Difference. There are two entry options, one with a $5 entry fee, and one with no entry fee. Prizes range from $300 to $20, depending on the entry choice. Deadline is October 31, 2010.

I entered the contest a few years ago, and while I didn't win, it was great practice for polishing and submitting a piece. Plus I still have the essay, and plan on submitting it somewhere eventually.

Don't forget to share those cross training ideas with us. Happy writing!

Photo credit:  pawel 231

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Many writers work at home. This seems like a big perk, you know, to be able to work in fuzzy slippers, with chocolate at your fingertips. But working at home is not without its distractions. They lurk in every corner (think dust bunnies) or hit you in other ways (a knock at the front door). Some distractions are understand- able, like family situations or emergencies. Others need to be dealt with.

I've had my share of distractions in recent months, from my Mom's extended illness and passing to other varied and interesting situations. The phone calls alone from these events would cause my days to evaporate, with nary a word typed on the computer.

I had to come to grips and realize that sometimes these things just happen and you need to go with the flow. But other times, not so much. Distractions try to poke their way in everywhere. Like for instance...

Okay, yes, I admit, I've fallen prey to the distraction of email and social media.  

Oh look, an email! 

Hey, someone commented on my Facebook page!

Like the latter falls into the emergency-must-respond-this-instant category. Okay, I suppose it could, if an agent or editor decided to contact me via FB. Emails? Well, those are more acceptable kinds of interruptions, you know, because they really could be from an editor. But usually the newest email is from your long lost second cousin's uncle's brother-in-law's mother, who wants to tell you that there is a billion dollar fund waiting to be transferred to your account. I suppose it could happen, but it probably isn't worth interrupting the writing time over it.

So enough time has been spent, I'm thinking, stressing over distractions. I decided to make a list of ways to deal with them. Some I've used off and on over the years; others I'm working to apply to my oft scattered and hectic days. The list might be a little randomly ordered, but see what you think:

1) Schedule the day.

I fare much better with even a rough schedule in place. Mornings, for example, might include exercise, devotions, appointments, laundry, phone calls and catching up on blogs or emails. Afternoons are dedicated to writing time. Easier now with the miscellaneous items out of the way and not clamoring for attention.

2) Monitor phone calls.

Some think that because you work at home you are available 24/7. Inform friends and relatives that you have a writing schedule, and you are not available between certain hours. Turn the ringer off, the machine or voice mail on, or at the very least screen calls.

3) Set daily goals.

Big or small, it helps to feel productive by checking things off a list. Even if I know a day is going to be crazy, I set small goals, like catching up on visiting blogs, sending emails, writing three paragraphs, or paying a few bills. Measure the day by the absolute necessary items on the to-do list in balance with the rest of your life.

4) Allow reasonable breaks.

It helps to know a break is in sight. Get up, stretch, grab some chocolate and a beverage, and then head back to the computer for serious writing.

5) Fill the jar with the big rocks first.

You've probably heard the story about the professor telling his students to look at life like filling a jar. The big rocks need to go in first, for if the jar is filled with all the smaller rocks first, it is likely that there will be no room for the big rocks, or the important stuff, in life. Attack that WIP, article, or guest blog post first before all the little time grabbers of the day come and steal the hours.

I've found this theory to be true, like when I've spent time skipping about the internet, visiting blogs or doing peripheral searches, only to find an hour or two has expired and now I need to race to meet an article deadline. The blog visiting and searches may be important, but maybe they need to be revised or done more efficiently after the big rocks have been plunked carefully into the jar.

6) Take advantage of little pockets of time.

I take a notebook and pen everywhere. Not only am I ready, then, when an idea hits, I also have the tools to use while waiting at an appointment, or when meeting someone, or when other unexpected bits of time are available.  I also try and avail myself to random time pockets - dinner preparations are complete, but I'm  waiting for the roast to be done - I grab a few minutes to start a blog post or an article, or research a character for the WIP.

7) Get organized.

I am usually a neat and organized person, but you wouldn't always know that by looking at my desk. Scattered projects and files, bills to be paid, items waiting to be reviewed, books about writing - my desk often whines about all the hats I wear. The solution? I budget time to get organized. I haven't perfected a system I like yet, but am getting there. When I've taken the time to neaten my desk I feel like I've got my head together and can breathe easier.


Okay, so in a perfect world these suggestions are nearly foolproof. My  theory is to use these as guidelines to preserve sanity and get stuff done. I add a liberal helping of balance and flexibility, and of course, trust for divine wisdom, and go from there. Not everyone's situation is the same, but maybe one of these ideas will strike a chord and lend you a hand.

How do you fend off distractions? What challenges do you face and what solutions have you used? Please share, your input is greatly valued!

Happy weekend and happy writing with no distractions! :)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing Commandments?

Are there specific commandments for writing? Raymond Obstfeld thinks so, and has outlined them in this article in Writer's Digest, the Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing.

What about writers of other genres? Obstfeld's commandments, I think, apply to writers of non-fiction as well. He encourages writers to take themselves seriously, act like a professional, read a lot, and love the process. This is savvy advice for any writer, don't you think?

What are your writing commandments? What key elements must be in place for productivity and success? And while we're on the topic, how do you define writing success?

Yay for Followers

Welcome to my new followers! The numbers are creeping up there, and before you know it, we'll need to have a 150 followers giveaway. To followers old and new, if you have a blog, I like to reciprocate and follow, but occasionally I cannot locate the link. So if I've not signed up to follow yours, leave a comment with the blog address and I'll see what I can do. Thanks so much for your support!

Happy writing:)

Blessings for the week,
Image credit Stock.xchng - Thingvellir Plain, Iceland, GretheB

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fiction Contest & Stuff

Got Fiction?

Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards contest is looking for submissions. Grand Prize winner receives a trip to the Writer's Digest Writing Conference in NYC, $2500 in cash, and some other WD goodies. Deadline is November 1, 2010. For details, click here.

This and That

Ran across these links the other day.

Info on the new FTC guidelines

Blog tips and profits from Yaro Starak 

Here's a short review on a writing book. Hmm, the reviewer's name sounds familiar...
Coffeehouse for Writers' Blog


Am hoping to finish lesson plans for my teen online writing course, so I am unplugging for the rest of the week.

What exciting things are you doing this week? :)

See you soon!
Happy writing,

Image credit: stock exchange draven77

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writing Resources

I often get questions about how to get into freelance or other writing, so thought I'd share some of my favorite writing resources. There are so many great sites, blogs, newsletters, classes, and other treasures available for all genres.

Here's a small sampling.

Funds for Writers is the brainchild of Hope Clark, and features newsletters, books, markets, contests, and grants for writers. FFW has been voted as one of Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers since 2001.

Writing for Dollars  is another stop chock full of articles, markets, books, a newsletter, and even a daily cartoon.

Long Ridge Writer's Group offers courses for writers, articles, chat rooms, forums, and helpful links.

LRWG is the sister school of The Institute of Children's Literature, where I took several courses (which were excellent, btw). ICL's site also has great links, chat rooms, markets, a bookstore, contests, and more.

Writing, Etc., where Beth Ann Erickson is in charge, has articles, e-courses, books, advice, and a newsletter.

Writer's Digest not only has a great magazine, their website boasts articles, tips and info, courses, and a weekly newsletter.

Coffeehouse for Writers offers t-shirts, mugs, and other gifts for writers, as well as online courses, critique groups, newsletters, links, and a blog.

This list barely scratches the surface of the resources at our fingertips, but perhaps a link or two will inspire or help on your writing journey. You know me, I'll share more links in the future. :)

What are some of your favorite writing resources or tips? What advice would you give to someone just jumping into this writing life?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Award Time

On Friday, Tyrean of Tyrean's Writing Spot presented me with the Blessed Blog Award. Thank you, Tyrean! I am blessed and honored by your kindness. 


I am passing this award to Susan J. Reinhardt of Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Not only has Susan's blog been a blessing, but her friendship and support are gifts I am thankful for.                                                                      

Several months ago, Tyrean gave me two others, the Blogger Buddy Award and It's Like We're Soulmates award. Many thanks, Tyrean, for being a faithful follower and blogging friend. If you have a minute, hop over and visit Tyrean's blog; she is featuring a 365 Days of Blessings series. Quite inspiring, and a wonderful daily reminder of all things thankful.

Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster, and Rhonda Schrock of The Natives are Getting Restless blessed me with The Versatile Blogger award. Thank you, Lydia, and thank you, Rhonda! I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and I'm glad we've met through this amazing world of blogging. Lydia's blog is dedicated to the craft of writing and always has a grand assortment of topics and discussions. Rhonda's blog is another stop full of goodies and humor about writing and life.                                            

Lynn at Place to Create bestowed the Rose Award to Write Now a while back. Forgive the delay in sharing this Lynn, but please know it is gratefully accepted and appreciated! Lynn's blog shares about her writing journey and other treasures in Alberta, Canada.
The Write On award was presented to me by Lindsey Edwards of The Write Words. Thank you, Lindsey, your kindness is a blessing. Lindsey's blog is another treasure full of links, book reviews, and writing support.  
I have many blogs from which to choose to pass The Rose Award, The Versatile Blogger, and The Write On awards. But I cannot! My list of favorites is longer than my arm, so please, faithful followers, feel free to choose one of the three as my appreciation for your blog. Congrats to you! :)

Finally, Stephen Tremp of Breakthrough Blogs surprised me with the Awesomous Maximus Award. Stephen, thanks so much for your vote of confidence. It is greatly appreciated! Breakthrough Blogs documents Stephen's journey to publication, along with other essentials for the writing life.

What blogs have you found to be award worthy?

Have a happy writing week!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Guest Blogger - Jennifer Brown Banks

I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Brown Banks - Veteran freelance writer, Columnist, and Pro Blogger to Write Now. Jennifer's articles and blog have been a great source of info and encouragement to me, and I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post. 

Five Blogging Truths That Will Set You Free!

by Jennifer Brown Banks                          

If you want to go the distance in your blogging efforts, it's important to know about the periodic mental detours and obstacles you will encounter on the path to success. The more you know, the farther you'll go.

Like a compass, knowledge helps to navigate your direction. Although there's an abundance of information online for today's blogger, not everything you'll read is helpful or useful. Proceed with caution.

Today we'll separate the fact from fiction to save you trial and error (and some sanity) along the way.      

1. Fact - It's harder than it appears. Whether you blog to make a living or to make a difference, blog recreationally or professionally, it takes real work to do it well. Because blogging is typically briefer and less formal in nature than other genres of writing, some folks have the misconception that it's a lot easier. Not so. Not always. Consider the various steps involved. First you conceptualize the post. Then you write it up. Then you review and revise it. Then you search for and publish an accompanying image. Then you post it. Then you respond to comments from fans and followers. It certainly has its rewards, but it also requires a sizable investment on your part as well. For this very reason you should choose a topic you're passionate about.

2. Fiction - You can get rich. Forget the ads that promise a six-figure income. Of course, in America anything is possible. But it's not likely. Blogging is a nice way to earn a little extra cash, share ideas, and increase your online exposure, but don't quit your day job. Expect to earn anywhere from $2.00 to $50.00 per post, and maybe a couple of hundreds in affiliate ads and other monetization methods.

3. Fiction - All bloggers are writers. Don't believe the hype. I hate to sound like a literary snob here, but blogging does not necessarily require the same skills, analytical ability, or mastery as professional writing. Though I do believe that blogging can make you a better writer. :)

4. Fact - Your fans become your friends. Don't be surprised if in the process of cultivating your community, you come to think of your blog followers as buddies. It can come with the territory. Even when I'm not responding to their various comments, I find myself visiting some of their sites to see what they're up to, or emailing them to periodically say "Happy Birthday" or "Congrats" as the situation dictates. And you might too.

5. Fiction - Blogging doesn't have rules or boundaries. Though it's certainly true that perhaps the coolest thing about blogging is that it has fewer rules of protocol and stylistic dictates than essays and articles, there are definite dos and don'ts to your vent sessions. Stories abound about blogging and social media and folks losing their jobs for "letting it all hang out" regarding professional gripes and corporate dirty laundry. Don't be one of the casualties. To quote a popular expression, "Loose lips sink ships."

Now that you know what to accept and what to reject, I'm wishing you God's speed and all the best on your journey. :-)

Jennifer Brown Banks

Great advice! Thank you for sharing with us, Jennifer. For more good info, be sure and stop by Jennifer's blog, Pen and Prosper, and also Coffeehouse for Writers, where she serves as Managing Editor. I'm sure she would be glad to see you.

So what do you think? What kind of experience have you had with Jennifer's points? Anyone out there making a six figure income from blogging? (If so, it is your turn to buy us all smoothies!) Please share; I'd love to get a good conversation going.

Happy writing, and happy weekend!


Five Blogging Truths That Will Set You Free! content copyright Jennifer Brown Banks, 2010. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thanks and Blessings

Thank you, dear blogging friends, for your faithful support and comments! Despite the fact that I was unable to make my usual blog hopping routine last week, you remained true and blessed me with your presence. I wasn't even able to reply to your comments, for the computer I had access to wouldn't allow me to do so. Perhaps you heard me shouting my replies from Michigan?               
Your comments truly warmed my heart; I count you all among my blessings. It is a wonderful thing to have such a great community of writer friends.
As you know, I had planned an unplug week that was supposed to coordinate with the doctor scheduled arrival of my niece. Alas, the sweet little muffin thought better of the timing (long story) and arrived a week later. This was good for baby Joanna of course, who is doing very well, but it scrambled my schedule a tad. I was tempted to go into stress mode (okay, so I did just a little) but then thought better of it and decided to count my blessings. Last week's blessing list begins with Joanna, and is completed by all of you. Thank you.

A Blog Surprise

Be sure and stop back for a special guest post on Thursday. Won't give any hints except to say that I am excited about it! :)

What blessings are you counting this week?
Happy writing,