Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Query, Query, Query

I am exhausted. I gave myself the goal of sending out 10 new magazine queries this week and it is harder than I originally thought. Many writers don't realize the "pre-query" part of the process is more time consuming than actually writing the query. I've contacted several possible experts for my article ideas, and in two cases heard back quickly. While these two sources don't think they are the best fit to provide expertise for the articles, they referred me to more qualified colleagues, which I am very grateful for.
For national magazine queries, it is best to have a few experts already lined up before securing the sale of the article, thus all this extra legwork. But it will make things easier when you do land an assignment so you won't be scrambling to find sources before deadline. I also hammered out an article for consideration for a writing publication, so I did get to sharpen my creativity skills somewhat today. Hopefully the extra queries will result in some good assignments for the next six months. I get nervous if I don't have two to three assignments on my roster at all times.
What are you working on today?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It May Look Easy, But It's Not

I loved reading this post yesterday over at FreelanceSwitch. I can readily agree that while working from home is a great gig for a mother of two small children, managing the day to day distractions can be problematic. I've already blogged about how I've had to wean myself off my biggest social networking distraction, Facebook. But there are other distractions too, not related to work. Like the need to tidy up the kitchen or fold a few loads of laundry. Heck, I even get distracted some days trying to cue up the best choice of music on iTunes!
I've tried to implement a few new organizational strategies and so far they've been working pretty well. While my son is in preschool is when I am the most productive, given I have a large mug of coffee to accompany me. I try to spend that time checking e-mail, applying for jobs, setting up phone interviews for articles or simply working on assignments. I always take a lunch break away from my desk, even if it just eating a salad while catching up on a show I've recorded or flipping through a magazine.
In the afternoon when my kids get home, I take 20-30 minutes during their "downtime" and put away laundry and straighten up the kitchen for the dinner shift.
This week I actually made a meal plan based on meats and leftover sauces I had in my freezer and shopped for extra ingredients needed. Then I tried to be more efficient while prepping for those meals. For example, Sunday afternoon, while making pot roast, I cut up all the carrots and celery in the refrigerator and separated half of them for later use. Monday evening I saved some of the rotini I didn't use for my baked pasta. Tuesday I sauteed chicken, added it into chicken broth with the carrots and celery and leftover pasta and, voila, chicken noodle soup!
These little changes have led me to be more productive in my writing career as well as in my household.
How do you separate out everyday distractions when you're trying to work?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Facebook, I Love You . . .

but we need to take a break. You're as addictive as coffee and bad reality television. Since I began weaning myself off your lovely interface almost 10 days ago, I've become so much more productive, in both life and in my work. My house is tidier than it has been in months. Breakfast dishes no longer linger in the sink until 4 p.m. Laundry is as caught up as it can be for a family of four. I have created delicious, healthy meals several days in a row just by chopping fruits and vegetables when I would normally be updating my status. My kids and I have been having a blast playing "Go Fish," "Bingo," and "Uno Moo" after school. I've applied to more freelance jobs than I have in months and sent out countless article queries.
I love catching up with all my old high school and college friends. But I don't need to share with you what I'm doing every hour on the hour, nor should I be compelled to wonder what you had for lunch. It was a difficult first few days without you, but I've tried to be strong.
Now if I could only give up all those crime shows I love to DVR I would be unstoppable.
One day at a time, I guess. One day at a time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deciphering Devices

It's only February but summer camp registration has begun. This is always a time of year that I get anxious because I usually don't have extra money around for camp deposits but I know I won't be able to work during the summer if the kids aren't in camp! Oh, the quandary of being self-employed. So I've been metaphorically pounding the pavement the past few weeks sending out queries and applications for telecommuting writer/editor positions. Hopefully my hard work will pay off soon.
I've also ramped up my cardio work-outs lately and have been seeing a pay-off with my clothes feeling a little looser and my mind feeling much clearer. Did you know that exercise is a great creativity boost?
During my recent time on the elliptical I've had so many ideas for my novel tossed around along with my endorphins. It's been a great inspiration and I highly recommend it for anyone, especially a writer struggling with deadlines, rejection or writer's block.
I'm also reading up on fiction-writing techniques with Laura Whitcomb's book, Novel Shortcuts, a great resource, by the way! My husband asked me last night why I looked so intense and I said I was mulling over what type of storytelling device I was going to use in my book.
His reponse, "huh?"

"A device is part point of view, part style, and part tone, but it's more than that. What makes it a device is all three of those things plus props. Props can be anything from travel tips in The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler to entomolgy lessons sprinkled throughout Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer."

In Jodi Picoult's book Handle With Care, the character of Charlotte is a pastry chef and Picoult sprinkles recipes throughout the book as a way to use baking as a metaphorical language tied to the story. You can read more about why she chose to use that storytelling device at her Web site under the heading, "Enhance your book club experience - try baking one of Charlotte's recipes!"

I always thought to write a novel I would just have to sit down and write. Now I know there is so much more to it. For me, I want all the work I put into my story to mean something, and if that means putting in the extra work to make sure I do the best job possible with the most efficient techniques, so be it. This is why so many authors write their own novels while studying for an M.F.A.

Think back on some of your favorite stories. What is the best storytelling device you've seen used?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Prosperous Writer and Passion

I've been enjoying Christina Katz's new e-zine "The Prosperous Writer" immensely. This week she challenged readers to explore passion in their writing:

"Passion is like fuel + fire--it flares up and burns quickly. And what we writers more often need is a nice, slow, steady burn, more like a wood-burning stove that is going to get you through the winter.

But the nature of passion is that it wants to consume itself. Our job as writers is to recognize this and pace it out."

I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of pacing myself appropriately when it comes to my work. Unfortunately, most of the time, I act in the opposite manner. I'll jump into a project headfirst, burn the candle at both ends and then not touch it again for months. I think that's why I've been so afraid of actually starting my work of fiction, because I already love the characters and story so much that I don't want to see them fade out quickly by my own hand.
This week I'm finally trying to get my calendar organized and desk cleaned off so I can line up my paying assignments for the next few months and start my "book in a month project" hopefully in the next few weeks. I already straightened up the house yesterday and today, which always helps me breathe a little easier!
How does passion affect your work? Does it help propel you along at a reasonable pace or hinder you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happiness Is . . .

I'm not a rich woman by any means. I still have a long way to go in my writing career. But as I was walking into the gym this evening, I glanced at the magazine racks to see if any local issues with my articles in them were on display. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to do that. I feel like I'm finally gaining momentum and learning how to do things the right way. Case in point, the image on the right. Granted it was only a sidebar to the "Market Focus" section, but it's me! And they even graciously mentioned my name in the article description.
It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Today, happiness is my first piece in a national publication. Thank you, editors at The Writer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Almost Hugged Our FedEx Guy Today . . .

when he pulled up in front of the house. By the size of the box he was carrying, I knew he must be holding the books I won as part of the prizes in the 78th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. I have been waiting eagerly for them to arrive, and now they're here! Where to start? This could provide me with enough blogging material for months . . .

Today I've been reading the "Book in a Month" workbook by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. The philosophy is very simple, and the book includes checklists, worksheets and charts to help you outline your story as you go along. Finally, all the tools I need to pull my story together in one journal! Once I finish the intro, I'm getting started. This month. For real this time. Because at the end of that 30 days, if all I have is a rough, rough draft, it's better than what I have now, which is two measly chapters and a half-finished outline.

A few months ago I got inspired reading author Stephanie Meyer's Web site. I have to confess, I still haven't read any of the "Twilight" series, but I've seen both movies so far. I keep telling myself I don't need to waste any more time reading novels right now, but maybe I'll get to them this summer. Anyway, she talked about how she had a running "soundtrack" of the movie she listened to as she was writing the first book. I would post the link here but I couldn't find it when I checked back at her site. I've put together my own for my story, although it has changed slightly over the past few months. Want a peek? This is just a small sampling.

Sample Track Listing:
"Life is Beautiful" - Vega4
"Fix You" - Coldplay
"Beautiful Child" - Fleetwood Mac
"Cut" - Plumb
"Runaway" - The Corrs
"The Letter" - Natalie Merchant
"Sky Blue and Black" - Jackson Browne
"Lay Me Down" - The Connells

Yeah, can you tell there's a love story in there?