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A large part of this blog is sharing what it is that writers actually do (when we are not communing with spiders.) If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have recently finished a manuscript and have sent it out to some literary agents. While I have gotten a few nibbles, most of them, like the proverbial big one, have gotten away (although it is still being evaluated by one agent and I have a slew of others to still try)

No one loves me, I thought, I think I’ll go eat worms. Then I got a reply from an acquiring editor for a publisher – she liked my e-proposal. She liked my presentation. She invited me to send a full hard-copy proposal.

I need to prepare what is, essentially, a “board meeting quality” presentation on my book including:
• Letter of introduction – who referred me, qualifications
• Book description – one paragraph (elevator pitch)
• Why this book is needed and who the audience will be
• Current competitors
• Platform and credentials
• Table of contents
• Length, general appearance, photographic and illustrative requirements
• Previously published writing samples
• 50 pages of manuscript

Because I have a ton of online marketing experience, I’m also going to add a section on:
• Marketing plan

And because I’m pretty good friends with a number of people in my field (chickens), I’m also going to add:
• Endorsements/blurbs

I thought I could get all of this done during this week but, although I know where most of this information is, it’s important that I don’t just throw everything together. I need to present a polished and finished package that will wow the socks off of everyone. You can bet that this puppy will have a title page, TOC, and will be housed in a protective binder.

It will take a dedicated few days to get it all done, and that’s what I’ll be doing this coming weekend.

Keep this information in mind when you get to the point of querying your project. There’s more than one route to publication. Everyone has their own way of doing things and, because this is an acquisition editor and not a literary agent, the submission requirements are vastly different.

Not better, not worse, just not the same.

IMG_20140709_150708944_HDR

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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Yesterday was the second to the last session for my Technical Writing class.

A-Plus-StudentBack on the first day of class, I asked the students if any of them thought they would be learning something useful out of this class.

No one, not a single student raised their hand. Technical Writing was a required course. They were in the class because they had to be not because they wanted to be.

The first day of class, I asked them to write a short paper. No one wrote more than 2 paragraphs and there was no rhyme or reason to what they wrote. It was nearly impossible for them.

This is good, I thought, I can work with this.

I’ve spent the semester teaching them how to organize their writing, how to identify the audience, tone, topic and purpose (ATTP.)

We’ve talked about brainstorming ideas on a topic and then grouping those ideas under appropriate headers.

We’ve talked about starting with an introduction and ending with a conclusion.

Week by week, through the use of examples and stories, I tried to get my students to understand how important organization of information was when writing. How easy it made writing.

Yesterday in class, I passed out a handout with instructions on “How to phone an elected official.” Outline a paper for me on this topic, I told them.

Initially I heard groans, but then I saw them get to work. They underlined and made notations on the handout.

On the white board, I took them through the steps listed below. They first identified the ATTP.

Then using the handout they brainstormed topics. Once they did that, they grouped the topics and realizing that some information was missing in the “order of events” (they added a section on how to find a representative’s phone number) they added additional topics.

Finally they put the topics into an order that made sense (they decided that chronological sequence was most effective) and surrounded that list with an introduction and conclusion.

Within an hour, I had these students, who had thought they wouldn’t learn anything devise a solid outline for a short paper. All they needed to do was to write 2-3 paragraphs under each identified topic and they would have a first draft.

If they then added quotes and stories, they would have written a “how-to article.”

I told them that there was not one student in the class who couldn’t take this outline and give me a draft the next day. Through organization of information, we had turned what early in the semester has seemed like an impossible task into one that was bite-sized and very doable.

It was the look on their faces when I pointed this out, that has made all of my work this past semester worth the time and effort it has taken.

My class of students, none of whom had wanted to be there, have learned.

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This is an organizational handout I gave my students.

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The 6 Steps for Reader Centered Writing
KEEP THIS HANDOUT FOR ALL TIME

Step 1: Analyze your readers. Determine ATTP
Step 2: Outline your information. Brainstorm your ideas. Write them down, use post-its, or draw them out in a web outline.
Step 3: Group like information under headlines.
Step 4: Sequence your ideas. Figure out the order in which you present information based on your ATTP. Include abstract, introduction, and conclusion.
Step 5: Write the first draft. Write at least 2-3 paragraphs under each header
Step 6: Edit for clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. Check facts, spelling, definitions, and if you have missed information that you assumed your reader knew. Make sure the document matches your ATTP (if the purpose is to convince have you done that? If it’s to ask for action is that clear?)

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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I was recently talking to a friend of mine about self-marketing.

self-marketing does not require gloves

self-marketing does not require gloves

She readily admitted that she was not strong at self-marketing her book, in fact, when she said the word “self-marketing” a visible shiver went down her body. Too many people see “self-marketing” as being boastful, as something that is icky and not to be touched unless wearing rubber gloves.

Oh not true. So not true.

Self-marketing is a chance for you to share the enthusiasm you have for your work. You don’t have to say that you are the greatest thing that has set foot on the planet earth, but you do have to say that your *idea* is a worthy one, deserving of being looked at.

I love to self-market.

It’s how I got my first egg noticed (I put it up on ebay at a starting price of $729.93 because that’s how much it cost us to get to that first, golden egg.)

It’s how a story about our chicken painting a picture with her feet which was then auctioned off to help a local playground fund got picked up and shared around the world.

It’s how I’ve been interviewed on TV for things I write about.

Basically, I see self-marketing as a way to spread my word to others, in short – it’s a way to teach.

So what can you do to promote your work?

Make it timely
If there is a current event that ties in your subject then use it. Have blackberries just been discovered to contain the elixir to longevity? Then write a press release about that finding and provide a link to your blackberry cookbook published last year and then send it out to every news agency you can.

Figure out how to connect what you’ve done with what’s going on.

Create anniversaries
It’s been six months since your book was published. Have a ½ birthday party and create some buzz by having a give-away or contest. Has your book just come out in paperback – why, have another party! Give people a reason to notice your accomplishments.

Invite others to participate
I recently met Ridley Pearson who was on tour promoting his Kingdom Keepers series. For his last book, he invited fans to submit paragraphs they thought should be in the book. Out of the 55K entries, he and his team chose 60 paragraphs to use in the final book.

Did you see that first number? 55 – thousand, that’s a lot of attention for something that hasn’t even been published yet. Smart guy, that Ridley.

Promote fan fiction on your site or hold a photo contest – just be sure to reward people for their involvement.

Contact any and all publication editors you know and offer to write an article
Editors need content, if you can write about a topic, your work will be considered. Sure, you might not get paid, but you can keep it short and in your bio make sure that you point to your blog, website, and recently published book.

Be sure to include good quality photos with the articles and those editors will become your new best friends.

Get involved in the community
Donate copies of your book for local auctions. Consider teaching a writing workshop. Create a basket of items in your genre (chickens, anyone) for a raffle. Get your work involved in a fund-raiser.

Don’t just stop at donating *things* – join local groups or civic organizations. Word of mouth is an important way to get people interested in what you do. You wouldn’t want to talk only about yourself but, if in my case, the topic of chickens came up, you can bet that I would have something to say on the matter.

Talk, talk, share, and talk some more about your topic and your work, people’s natural interest will do the rest.

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Everything, absolutely everything must lead to your final conclusion.

This is “rule” I was teaching my Technical Writing students as we were discussing feasibility reports.

If the information is not necessary, don’t include it. If the information is too long (charts, graphs, tables) and takes away from the final message then either remove it or put it an appendix to be looked at later, but take it out of the report.

Never let anything get in the way of your final conclusion that should lead to an action. (A feasibility report usually looks at various scenarios and makes a recommendation on the best one based on presented facts.)

ConclusionWe discussed creating a feasibility report on the college getting a baseball field. First we brainstormed header topics and then put them into a preliminary order. Because most people are uncomfortable with money, the students put the “Cost” section near the bottom.

However, with further discussion they realized that the audience (the President of the College) who would be reading this report would be most interested about how much would it cost and what the return on investment would be. As a class, once they worked it out, the cost section got moved up to the top of the report and some sections that they though were important (School Spirit) fell down to sub-headers, if even that, under other topics.

It’s the same thing with a novel, I told them (also acknowledging that this was not a creative writing class) you need to put the most important information up front. This will be what grabs your reader and it will set the stage for your story to continue.

And then every scene that follows should lead to your final conclusion.

It’s when you add extra information that you bore and confuse your reader, begging them to leave your work. As a writer, you just don’t want to do that.
Writing is writing, I tell my students, oh sure, there are different styles, like Technical Writing which requires specific formatting and chunking of information, but for any message to be clearly made, no matter what style of writing you choose, you still need to be:
• Clear
• Concise
• Writing to your audience, and
• Giving them what they care about

Just like in a feasibility report, if the information is not necessary in your story then don’t include it.

See? In many way, writing is writing – it all follows similar guidelines to make sure you get your point across most effectively.

Hmm, Perhaps my next challenge should be to write a novel using Technical Writing techniques.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Due to a recent burst pipe in the attic, I had a change to move a lot of ‘stuff’ around in order to make room for ceiling repairs. It’s been like spring cleaning, but in the dead of winter. I’ve made quite a few discoveries as I’ve sorted into a keep and toss piles.

Common Phrases and Where They Come FromOne of my discoveries is this great little book called Common Phrases and Where They Come From by John Mordock & Myron Korach.

I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of phrases I find myself using – and the history behind them.

I start off with the phrase and how I use it. The bullet points are my summaries of the write-ups within the book.

The phrase “all agog” has me seeing someone with mouth wide open in great surprise. It turns out, I’m not far off.

  • Medical practitioners noticed that when somebody was anticipating a great happy event, their eyes became lustrous and animated. This eye condition became “goggling eyes,” and groups of people stood “with all eyes goggling.” Then, over time, the phrase became “all agog.” (Disappointment resulted in “all aground.”)

I think “apple of my eye” refers to the person/people that one loves or cherishes. Children are usually the apple of their parents’ eyes, right?

  • Long ago, people in the medical field closely studied the pupil of the human eye and concluded it was apple shaped. The pupil became known as “the apple of the eye.” Then, since the eye was considered as vital as life itself, the gallant hero began to call his love interest “the apple of my eye.”

Although not one I’ve used, “bandy with words” strikes a chord with me as a writer. How can a writer not love to play with words?

  • Turns out, it basically means to talk a lot about nothing! It morphed from a game called ‘bandy’ (described a lot like table tennis), where opponents hit a ball back and forth until one of them misses. Bandy = hit and miss. And to people watching the game, it seemed pointless (ooh, my own pun!); so bandy eventually became associated with idle conversation.

As a mystery fan, I enjoy “red herring”s in stories — particularly trying to figure out what clues are false. And it’s quite fun as a writer to add them to my stories.

  • Campaigning politicians spend a lot of time focusing on matters irrelevant to real issues. It was first known as “dragging a red herring across the trail” then got shortened to “red herring”. It was also used to describe scholars using illogical points to try to prove a thesis. And it was also used to (literally) describe criminals who used strong-smelling smoked red herrings to cover their scent as they ran from justice. Bloodhounds eventually had to be trained to tell the difference between true scents, and that of smoked red herring.

These are just 4 small examples of the fun with phrases people have had over time.

This is a fun book to read through.

Isn’t it amazing how some phrases have morphed into what we use them for today? I find it fascinating.

Is there a phrase you’re curious about?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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Once a week I am kidnapped. And I’m actually okay with it.

I have a friend (hi Gina) who is convinced that if I just have the time to write my book that my book will happen.

Good friends like that are kind of awesome. She recognizes that although I have a book with a compelling story, it’s the money projects, the wildfires, and the kids that are *always* put first – meaning that my book languishes. (That’s one reason why the weekend at the Buddhist retreat was so productive – it was a weekend of only writing with no distractions.)

So my friend makes sure that I get to her house, one morning a week from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. and we write, she on her next book and me on my project (working title: A Tick and a Chick – How a deformed chicken helped a mom cope with her son’s chronic Lyme disease.) Oh sure we talk a bit, and we’re always throwing technique questions back and forth, but then we go to separate rooms and we write.  In part, because of her insistence to this schedule I have a 300 page first-draft manuscript.

Yesterday I was going over a hard copy of my draft making notations where more information was needed and where events needed to be put in a different sequence in order to make sense to the reader (even though they made perfect sense to me J ) and I realized that the first 100 pages looks pretty damn good.

I floated out the idea that perhaps I should query an agent and send along those 100 pages.

“Not on your life,” my friend counseled, reminding me that “This has happened before.”

And it has. I’ve had 3 very good literary agents show interest in my project but when they requested a full manuscript, a kid got sick, we had school events, work projects showed up, you know, life happened and with one thing leading to another, interest dropped.

Literary agents want to make the sale – they aren’t particularly keen about sitting around and waiting until the stars line up perfectly in your life.

I console myself by saying that my story has evolved and it wouldn’t have been ready at those junctures, but even I can recognize sour grapes when I see them.

So while it defies every bit of writing advice (never send a completed memoir, just send the first 50 pages) I have to agree with my friend’s logic. If I don’t get it done, chances are, I won’t get it done.

The bar has been set.

My friend wants my book done by January. And with a supporter like this in my back pocket, I’m starting to believe that this may actually happen.

It's all right in here

It’s all right in here

Update from my friend: When she read this post her response was:

“Love your NHWN blog post!! And what’s this may actually happen stuff … it will happen!!!”

Ooooh that one is a task-master!  :-)

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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I know that a few of you were interested in what exactly happened during the Buddhist Mediation Writing retreat.

IMG_20131005_150539816Friday afternoon, after we had all gotten settled in, we met as a group. The instructor told us the format of the retreat (meditation, writing workshops, writing time, *great* food) and then we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

There were poets, future novelists, those who wrote journals – the common denominator was that they all loved the art and craft of writing.

When it was my turn to introduce myself, I told everyone that I was a writer. I wrote full time for a living. I was what some of them wanted to be.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I told them. I spend my days writing what other people want me to write and as a result I don’t have time to work on the project that *I* really want to get out. If it’s not the editors requesting a story, then it’s my kids who need a ride somewhere,” I whined.

“I never have time to focus on what I want to do.”

This was when the instructor said to me to use this workshop as I felt I needed to. “If you need to go off somewhere and write, go ahead. If you’d rather skip the workshops and meditation feel free. Do what you need to do.”

“Oh no,” I glibly replied, “I’m here for the experience. I’m going to participate in everything.”

Once we had gone around the room, the instructor told us that after dinner we were going to enter into something called “Noble Silence” for the rest of the weekend. That meant no talking.

At all.

Wait. What??????!!!! No one had told me about that part.

As anyone who knows me is aware, that’s one tall order.

But a funny thing happened when we stopped talking (for the record, I didn’t consider Facebook updates “talking”) when I stopped hearing other people’s voices, I started hearing my own.

I sat down at the end of a long dining table and I wrote.

I went to some mediation sessions (I made it to one a day) but I didn’t go to all four. I didn’t even go to the workshops, instead I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Seriously if my butt wasn’t in that chair for writing, then it was in the SUV where  I was sleeping.

People walked through the room, I wrote. Bells rang, calling for meditation, I wrote. The story, my story, that had been hovering on the edges of my mind, *finally* had the freedom to come out. I heard the voices in my head telling me how it was and because of the silence, I was able to feel some of the pain that I had been so careful to stuff into a jar so that it wouldn’t overwhelm me.

My initial wise-guy response to the “Noble silence” was “what’s so noble about silence?”

I had it wrong, by Sunday I realized my query should have been “what is there that’s not noble about silence?”

Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, I ended up writing 35,000 words. Combined with what I went up with, I now have a 300 page first draft manuscript.

Was it worth it? You betcha’.

Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

My only regret (besides being woken up by the 3 resident roosters at 5:30 a.m.) was that it took a writer’s workshop for me to give myself the permission to write what I wanted to write.

As a writer, I should have embraced that permission all along.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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