Thursday, October 28, 2010

How To Maintain Healthy Posture (While Writing Your Novel)

So I mentioned in my last post that I thought it would be nice to have a particular addition to my work station. The problem is I don’t really have a work station. I move my laptop around to wherever is quietest at the moment.

If I did have an office though, I would really want the ergonomic, posture chair, recommended by chiropractors to position the body as though it is standing instead of sitting … back pain and slouching be gone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Helpful National Novel Writing Month Tools

National Novel Writing Month (November) is just around the corner and I’m getting my mind in order early this year. Last year, I dove in on November 1 and started writing without much of a plan. I was actually pleased with what flowed out of my fingers, but I thought I would actually try to put together an outline this year to see whether there is any difference in results. I’ll let you know at the end of the month.

I noted in an interview with Ridley Pearson in the November 2010 issue of The Writer magazine that he said he uses the software StoryMill to write his novels. However, StoryMill is for Mac computers and I own a PC. I’ve used Microsoft’s Word to write my stories up until now and decided that I needed some of my own novel writing software to help me keep track of everything more easily this November.

What did I find?  yWriter

What is yWriter? The designer, Simon Haynes, explains, “First, and most important, yWriter is FREE to download and use! No registration, no time limits, no expiry. Second, and still rather important, it's a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. It does help you keep track of your work, leaving your mind free to create.

I have to say, I am quite excited about this software. It makes story organization simple. I already feel more structured from a 10-minute quickie to check it out. I’m almost ready to take on November’s National Novel Writing Month. If you’d like to buddy up with me on NaNoWriMo, you can add me here.

On the other hand, if you’d rather spend November writing poetry instead of a novel, give Robert Brewer’s November PAD Chapbook Challenge a try. Spend November writing a daily poem from the prompts Robert throws out. His prompts are enjoyable and challenging. Last year, I participated whenever I needed a break from my novel writing.

There is something else I wouldn’t mind having to help my creative juices flow. It has something to do with my work station. Aw, but I will have to save that for later. I hear my characters calling me … 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices in the Silence

I read an interesting tidbit of information this morning. Well, it’s especially interesting to me now after what just happened.

I read my horoscope every day, mainly for entertainment purposes. This morning, my Facebook horoscope said, “If you've been waiting for important news or a message, Sagittarius, it's likely to arrive today, because the emphasis today is on communication. Outside of receiving things you're looking for through standard communications channels, keep your eyes and ears open and be sensitive to what others are saying and to what they're meaning. Messages of note can come through nonstandard or even extraordinary channels as well today. You do need to listen and not chat; small talk will not provide anything of importance today.”

Okay, so stepping back a bit … after uniting with some Austrian family members over the Internet, I decided it was time to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while – brush up on my German language skills. So this morning I did a search on the Internet for websites where I could start to recall what German language skills I had learned so many years ago. I found a site with spoken phrases and was practicing for a bit, but then decided it was time to retire to my room to work on some writing.

Several hours later, after sending out my book query to prospective agents, I was reading a piece of mail from a friend of mine talking about her blog. Just last night I had been reading up on how to better use Google Ad Sense with my Internet endeavors, and as I was reading her mail, I heard a voice coming from the other room. Getting up to investigate, I looked around to see if there were any strange men standing outside my house.

No, no men anywhere that I could see.

It had to be the other computer, I decided.

So I ambled over to my desktop PC where it had seemingly gone to sleep. I moved the mouse around to wake it up and clicked on the button so I could hear the voice again.

“Das Geschaft,” it said; or as it means in English, “Business.”

Now I don’t always profess to tell you what I make of these strange happenings around me. I know what it means to me, but it might be fun for you to try to figure it out. I might even enjoy hearing about it, so feel free to tell me. Yeah, even if you think I’m nuts. That’s okay. Anything for a chuckle.  :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Double Double

Double double.

Oddly enough that saying has come up … twice … in the past few days, each time in a different context. And for those who know me, you already know that when something keeps poking its head into my existence, I take it as a sign.

The first time it came up was when I was teaching my son his times tables. There are quite a few tricks for learning multiplication, one of which is the “double double” or “double twice” trick with the 4s. Take the number that 4 is being multiplied by and “double double” it (or double twice) to get the answer.

The second time I saw this term was when I was learning some meditation tricks from Burt Goldman. Burt explains on his blog, “This is one of the most powerful techniques I use and it's called The Duo Technique or the Double Double as I call it. Use it for anything that is bothering you, from the past or present and for recurring problems in your life.”

Although there are some skeptics of Burt’s systems, I personally love his work. You can see how the Double Double works by watching his video.

So these are the two occurrences that happened in my life of “Double Double.” What else does this saying make you think of? Yes, you guessed right. Shakespeare’s MacBeth.

Theater. Acting. Writing. Hmmm … someone is just helping me to stay on the path towards my goals, I suppose (either that or it was a reminder that Halloween is coming).

By the way, did you realize that November is right around the corner? You do know what that means, right? National Novel Writing Month. Here is my NaNoWriMo profile page if anyone would like to be my writing buddy.

Now get me an ice cream cone. Make it a double double scoop.
Or an espresso … a double double shot, please. Monday is almost here ... :-)

A Day With The Barkers

At the last minute, I decided to make a movie in celebration of October 10, 2010. However, since I had no preparation time, I decided to make a film of our day instead of making it symbolic of the date. We attended the Bow Wows and Meows Animal Fair at Hart Park and here is the movie I made. :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seeking Online Literary Magazine Submissions

If you’re reading this and you are a writer, I would like to invite you to submit your writing to my new online literary magazine, Mouse Tales Press.  I started the site as a venue where new or emerging writers could display their work. Eventually, I will be creating a kids’ section and am toying with the idea of a section for photography and fine art.

Also, please be sure to read the interview with Christina Katz that I posted before this one. Her books are an excellent resource for new writers and well worth the investment.

Use Your Mouse to Write a Tale

Photo by Graham Briggs

An Interview with Christina Katz

An Interview with Christina Katz

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published.

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so that even the most inexperienced platform-builder can get started building a solid platform.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge in selling books. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Something we never hear enough is that platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have as much as they could. Since book deals are granted largely based on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I wanted to address the communication gap.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw how this type of information was being offered online as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an understanding of platform, and the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Q: Why is there so much confusion about platform among writers?

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Most of the platform books already out there were for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I dialed the concepts back to the beginning and talked about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. In this phase you are developing authority and trust. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). In this phase, you are leveraging your expertise and your persuasive writing skills. Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). In this phase, you demonstrate that you are a skilled writer, who understands how to craft polished prose. And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase. In this final phase, you leverage all your existing influence and connect with as many readers as you can.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few:

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
  • They confuse socializing with platform development.
  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
  • They undervalue the platform they already have.
  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
  • They burn out from trying to figure out platform as they go.
  • They imitate “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

Q: You write, teach, speak and blog. What motivates you?

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there. But you’ve got to start working on your platform today, if you want to become an author some day. Get Known can help anyone get off to a solid start.

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published. Learn more at