Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writers Websites Wednesday - Screenwriting

For those of you who are into screenwriting or thinking about it - today I mention Movie Bytes. An excellent website for screenwriting contests and markets - and a newsletter so you can have them deliver the latest to your inbox. Really, go on over and check it out. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Where Do You Write?

Where do you write?  I’ve had a lot of readers ask me that question and I think I can see the interest.  Plainly if one is a doctor or a lawyer, a sales clerk or a waiter, where people work and how they go about their jobs is fairly evident. An office, a store, a restaurant. 

Not so with writers.  To readers, and many others who don’t read much, writers are a mysterious lot, a strange group, a baffling enigma.

Where a writer writes I think depends on a whole lot of factors such as what kind of writing that writer does, whether its fiction, non-fiction, copywriting, article writing, grant writing, etc. Now I’m going to be bold and assume a large interest might well be placed on fiction writer. After all they create worlds and fascinating environments. Sometimes other worldly, sometimes down the street. 

Some seem capable of writing at the nearest Starbucks or at a library. For me, I need to be somewhere more isolated. No distractions. Little noise.  I do need a window. 

Currently I have a full-fledged office with large L shaped desk, computer and lots of bookshelves and filing cabinets.  Oh, and a very large cork board across nearly one whole wall. 

It wasn’t always that way though. I stared out with a fold-down desk in a corner of  my bedroom with one shelf of reference books alongside (that was pre-web days – I know that seems like a long time ago to some, but it wasn’t really).  My total desk space might have been two square feet. Published my first two books from that small space. 

About the time of the third advance I sliced off a small piece of the back patio overlooking the lagoon (we lived in Florida then), added my window and moved in. It was small and tidy but I graduated to an actual desk and added a couple more shelves. It was expensive because what had been supposed to be add a single wall to separate the space from the rest of the patio and a window in place of the screen so the space was weather tight turned into a major ‘do’ as I made the mistake of hiring a relative and basically ended up getting ripped off – but that’s another story. Writers are full of them. 

When we packed up and moved west, a major undertaking doing it ourselves and then building our own house on five beautiful acres, my office was planned into the house. It’s about twelve by sixteen feet. I wasn’t’ in the ‘wealthy writer’ category so we did a lot of the work ourselves, actually helping to build the house. And one of the last things I put in the office after unrolling the wall to wall carpet (which, yes, I also installed myself) was the wonderful cork board which ended up being about four feet tall by ten feet wide.  Don’t know what I’d do without that cork board now. It’s bedecked with my calendar, a clutch of business cards I don’t want to lose, some loved one’s photos and my work space where I can pin ideas for new projects. 

So what about that inspirational muse that lets many write anywhere? Well, I could if I had to, return to that tiny fold-down desk or perch in a library, or hang at a coffee shop. But I do a lot of research for my books, have my computer with my high-speed internet connection, telephone, and printer in my office. And don’t forget the cork board. It’s comfortable, quiet, isolated from the rest of the house on the second floor and lets me write without distraction. It’s adorned with my favorite writing mementoes, photos, two large windows and a tiny fireplace, oh, and three rescue dogs sprawled in various snoozing positions. It’s my writing zone and my muse perks right up when I go in. It took a lot of years to get here, but (deep sigh) I’m home. 

If you’re a reader tell me where you love to perch or hide or just relax to read. If you’re a writer tell me where you write now, if you just love it or if you’re aspiring to your perfect writing zone. If you're both, even better!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writers and Readers Websites Wednesday - Open Learning

The UK has a way - of offering free learning on line.

Today I offer a link to their page, Start Writing Fiction. 

Here's their own blurb: Have you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This unit will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and the settings for their work. You will also be able to look at the different genres for fiction.

It's in effect a 12 hour course, not just a few jottings online so be prepared to learn.

But don't stop there - they offer a whole lot of other courses that are just plain interesting and could have side-benefits for your writing (for the writers out there).

If you're a reader, there are courses for you as well.  Visit, check it out and sign up for the course you're interested in.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dump the Distractions Writers

Writers have many plagues in our solitary worlds. There’s writer’s block, procrastination and upfront for this article, distractions.

Now, many of us writers are so skilled we can even use Distraction to enable our Procrastination and thus not complete an article, story, grant application or any other writing task before us.  Quite an accomplishment in a negative sort of way.

But that's probably not the best idea. We do have to get something done. Really. Freelance writers have to get their work done - hopefully on time.

So, how to deal with everyday writing Distractions? First, try to limit them. Don’t answer your phone when you’ve set your work hours. Let it take a message and return the call later. And that really does mean later. If you hear the phone ring, wait for it to take a message, then listen to it that’s kind of self-defeating

If a cell phone, turn it off, all the way off; it can take messages while it sleeps. And you don't have to see very text or cute message that comes through right when it does. It peppers your day and punches holes the size of those in your Swiss cheese in your writer's work hours. It boils down to probably one of the chief reasons you can't get anything done.  It’s kind of hard to say cell phone without putting ‘damn’ in front of it. Seriously. Turn the thing off. Put it away. How obsessive are you?

New magazine just arrive in the mail? The one you love to read and view the pretty pictures? Well put it aside. No, you can’t flip through it right now. In fact why did you even visit the mail box before the end of the day? Unless you’re expecting a very important letter that'll send your writing career to the moon resist the urge to run to the mail box. If you already have, perhaps you can glance at the new magazine at lunch? Set a definite time. Then return to work.

Beware the internet. It can be your best friend or a demon of distraction. It can be as bad as your phone or worse; larger screen.  How easily have we writers all been lured off the path when researching a project and a new line of inquiry grabs us by the eyeballs?

Learn to limit your time online and how long you’ll spend researching a particular subject. And if not actual time limit if you need to do a thorough job, then subject limit.  Then get off the web when you aren't actually completing some research, sending a business email or in some way utilizing its assets for your writing. No, you can't just wander around and enjoy the off-shoots of your research; you can do that later during your leisure time when you're not trying to write.

Finally you must identify and admit what your particular distractions are. I might not have covered them here.  There are many others beyond what I’ve written about. You might jot things that unexpectedly (or expectedly) distract you down in a notebook for a few days just to get a feel for them. Don’t get obsessive and keep this up forever, it’s just a tool. Then limit or eliminate those potential distractions from your writing day.

Another bit of advice. If you find you’ve been distracted for a while and you begin to feel guilty, don’t. Stop what you’re doing. Take a short walk away from your work station. Maybe grab a quick, healthy snack (emphasis on healthy) to bolster your energy. Then get back to your work in progress and leave the distraction behind.

You can do this and amazingly increase your productivity.  Just keep yourself aware of time passing and focus on what you need to accomplish in your writing for that day. It might seem hard at first, but really it isn’t.

All right now, focus, jump off the web and turn the damn cell phone off…writers write.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writers Websites Wednesday - & Readers Too!

This week I found Authors Helping Authors or Aha!  It's a great little resource sit for writers where you an poke around, find popular links, archives and search categories for tips and helps you might find useful. Generally helpful and interesting. Tips, inspiration, editing, you name it. A site definitely worth wandering in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writers With The Slows

Sometimes writing is just slow.

Sometimes you can’t get an idea to save your life.

Sometimes you just want to give yourself a little nudge and kick the whole writing process into gear. You’re sick of staring into space, sick of faking it, believing that faking it will actually make the writing happen; all to get it moving. 

I’m not talking about writer’s block, really, more like writer’s slow.  Stuff is rattling around, but just doesn’t seem to want to get moving.  What to do?

Today I have a few suggestions.

First, relax, take a few deep breaths.  The harder you push, the harder it is.


1. Doodle.  Yep, grab a pencil and put it to paper. Draw swirls and zigzags and pictures. Stick figures,  circles or whatever.  Or, as an extension of that doodling, write some lines, ideas or part of your story in longhand in a notebook instead of on the computer. You remember,  pen in hand, pen to paper, write words.  It’s a magical practice indeed. And it will prime the pump.

2. Another idea. Got an old dictionary or maybe thesaurus you no longer use?  Chop it up into strips with words. Keep the definitions or synonyms attached. Toss all those bits of paper into a box or a bag and pull out one or two…or three or four.  Combine them, turn them around, play with ideas.Write something down on that blank page.

3. Try re-reading what you wrote yesterday or the day before.  Read any notes you made about the project. Tweak it a bit as you go if changes present themselves. Then jump off the cliff and keep on writing. Hey, if you mess it up you can always change it in the next draft.

4. Some kind of “I’m getting ready to write” ritual is a help to many writers.  Something or a series of small somethings you do before you sit down to actually write and tell stories. Perhaps arrange pens neatly on your desk with a pad near your computer for quick jots, turn on some favorite soothing music, light a candle, put your cup of coffee in the usual place, give yourself 15 minutes for a quick email check (set a time or you can get sucked into the feared procrastination mode). Create something that is like a path leading your brain to where you want it to be - writing mode.  Then do the same thing each time you sit down to write.

5. Consider reading a book on writing. Larry Brody has a great one on TV Writing called Television Writing From The Inside Out - Stephen King offers On Writing A Memoir Of The Craft - and there’s my own Out of Thin Air All are packed with tips on writing and ideas and reflections on the writer’s life. Doubtful you’ll actually get through the book right then because your own juices will begin flowing. And there are many more to choose from.

6. Consider looking through magazines or some other resource you feel comfortable destroying and cut out images that speak to you, inspire you, amuse you.  Tack them up, get lost in them.  Allow one to inspire you, to draw you in, to suggest a story you can’t ignore; one you just have to write.

That’s the gist of it today. If you have a favorite method of getting yourself rolling, of getting those writing juices flowing. If you have a way to trigger the creative story flow, leave a post below and let’s lengthen this list.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writers Websites Wednesday - Author Media

Welcome! Today I mention Author Media's blog. They say they're "help for authors timid about technology" and it's a site worth checking out. They offer a variety of tips broken out into different categories like blogging tips, platform building tips, how-to, social media tips and more.

Elsewhere on their site they do offer some for pay services such as website building and web hosting. And they did make the Writer's Digest list of 101 best websites for 2013.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writer Unchained – Vacation time

I, a full-time writer, just got back from vacation, yes a real vacation; got on a plane, flew across the country, landed in Florida and had a blast.

Why am I telling you, my faithful readers this?

Because while on this wonderful trip, and it was a blow-out in Disney World, I couldn’t help remembering how many times I’ve beaten that old drum, how many times I’ve mentioned, tweeted, blogged about the fact that writers need a break.

It’s extremely easy to fall into a locked in habit of writing every spare minute, pushing hard, working toward that goal, believing it’s the only way to get there. There was a time in my life when I did the same thing, thought the same way. I pushed every spare minute, wrote every time I had time off from what was then a full-time job. Put everything on hold but the writing.

I don’t regret it, BUT, looking back, knowing the things I know now, I wonder (no scratch that, I’m pretty sure) I would have gotten to where I wanted to be a little faster, with a little less stress and a lot more fun if I’d given myself permission to take a real day off, to take a real vacation.

So I’m here to tell you, the voice of experience, back off a bit you’re a writer; there’s more to life than what’s on your computer screen even if most everyone who’s reading your stuff is reading it on Kindle, Smashwords or Nook.

That doesn’t mean you should go into extravagant debt to go on a first-class, over-the-top vacation, but it does mean, within your means, you need to take a break. Hopefully frequent day breaks and when you can manage it, longer ones. This last vacation for me was about eight days. If I hadn’t been able to swing the expense I would have taken the time off writing and working just the same, disconnected from electronics (save a single cell phone I turned on twice a day to check for emergencies, of which there were none) and spent time locally, just walking around, maybe taking in some movies and eating at some not good for you fast food restaurant a couple of times.

What it boils down to is it’s good to shake off the everyday. It’s good to go out and experience what’s going on in the world, to people watch, to relax, unclench and let things go. Every break refreshes the writer and the person in you. Then you can get back to work, feel good and be even more productive!

Yep, I gave up my electronics, but I held on to a small notebook, jotted a few story ideas when all that frivolity sparked my imagination and I’m ready to get back to it.

Take my advice. It’s good for you – no matter who you are, no matter what you do. Find the time, find the way to give yourself a break.

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