I was reading another writer's blog today about the writing process. Every writer's way is unique. It made me think about the step before the writing, the seed of an idea. I thought I'd talk about where I find my ideas.
I read - a lot. It doesn't really matter what genre, I read what grabs me. Fiction, nonfiction, horror, historical romance, consumer magazine, trade journal - I'm constantly reading.
When I read magazines and newspapers, I keep a notebook and pencil close by. Other freelancer's work seems to prompt new ideas for me.
I've become rather fanatical lately about writing down ideas, as they happen. There have been so many times when I've thought "Wow! That'd be a great thing to write about." only to be distracted and lose the idea.
I listen closely when I'm out with friends or neighbors. I never know when someone is going to tell a great story, or share a fantastic idea, or knows someone who is an expert in their career field.
As I think I've mentioned before, I'm perpetually curious. For me, it's all about observation and making notes.
Where do you find your ideas?
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I was reading another writer's blog today about the writing process. Every writer's way is unique. It made me think about the step before the writing, the seed of an idea. I thought I'd talk about where I find my ideas.
Monday, July 30, 2007
After a few false starts and a couple hours of frustration, my website is up and running. You can find the link over there on the left, or you can click here .
It's a little sparse right now, but as I continue with my freelance career, it will grow. Wheeeeeee!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Pieces of My Sister's Life
Elizabeth Joy Arnold
ISBN # 978-0385340656
Kerry and Eve grow up sharing everything. The small island on which they live, their father (the only parent present), their friends and neighbors – all are experienced together. Until they hit upon the one thing they can’t share, the man they both love.
“Pieces of My Sister’s Life” appears to be a summer romance novel, but it is so much more. Beautifully written, it tells a story of abandonment, self-sufficiency, betrayal, responsibility and love. You will come to care for the main characters in the first few chapters, and find yourself torn by which sister to cheer for on any given page.
I could almost feel the ocean breezes, smell the saltiness in the air, see the emotions the girls wear on their faces and hear the shifts of inflection in the voices of the characters. The taste of tears, for joy and sadness, is tucked away in the pages as well. Elizabeth Joy Arnold, using all five senses, shows the differences between love as a child, and the sometimes harsh reality of love as an adult.
(July 31, 2007, 480 pp, $6.99)
The most wonderful thing about the English language is it's constantly evolving. Words that didn't exist even 5 years ago are now official (as in, found in Webster's).
Take for example, EVOO. Rachael Ray is credited with creating this word. For those readers who aren't "foodies", EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. There are actual criteria for what slang words eventually become real words.
According to Merriam-Webster Online, a word gets into the dictionary by tracking the usage of a word.
"To decide which words to include in the dictionary and to determine what they mean, Merriam-Webster editors study the language as it's used. They carefully monitor which words people use most often and how they use them."
"Change and variation are as natural in language as they are in other areas of human life and Merriam-Webster reference works must reflect that fact. By relying on citational evidence, we hope to keep our publications grounded in the details of current usage so they can calmly and dispassionately offer information about modern English."
I get my love of words from my dad. He is constantly blending words together to create entirely new meanings. He created the word "splitamaulitis" about 20 years ago, after a weekend of splitting cord wood for the winter. Splitting-maul-itis. He didn't care whether anyone else ever used it, he was just tickled to have made it up. The following Autumn, he heard a DJ on the radio use the word. Dad had a huge grin on his face as he told us all about it.
So, have fun with words. Combine some to convey exactly what you mean. Make some up. If you use them in your everyday conversations, they may end up in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary someday.
Sunday has always been my least favorite day of the week. It's slow, and inevitably at least one of my kids is bored. It's the day of the week I usually reserve for catching up on cleaning, book keeping and paperwork. I guess Sunday for me is like Monday for the rest of the world.
Today, just to get out of a rut, I went to Goodwill. They typically have a decent selection of used books. I hit the jackpot today - seven books for a total of 17 dollars. I'll read them and then hand them off to friends.
The rest of the evening will be catching up on paperwork and straightening up my office. I've found if I start the work week off organized, things tend to flow better.
Five more weeks 'til school starts....
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Posted by VirtualWordsmith at 7:34 AM
Thursday, July 26, 2007
My husband and I love gardening. In fact, we enjoy it so much the planning begins in late March for what we’ll harvest in July and August. Staring through the window at our dormant backyard, we visualize it pregnantly green, almost ready to give birth. We decide what we’ll plant, and when, and where. Watching the seedlings grow and bloom, and then produce, is one of our greatest summertime joys.
Right this second, there are cucumbers piling up on my kitchen counter and tomatoes ripening in a bowl on top of my microwave. I’ll spend some of my time this weekend making freezer pickles and tomato sauce.
We planted Stargazer Lilies last year along the side of our front porch. As soon as enough of them bloomed this month, I placed a bouquet of them in my office. It made me smile each time I glanced at them, or their scent drifted to me in the breeze from the open window.
Writing is a lot like gardening. You have a thought. The thought germinates into an idea. You submit the idea to an editor or publisher. You produce the article, essay or story. You reap the harvest by way of pay, publicity and/or exposure.
Any creative endeavor is always about growth.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
It's an inevitable fact, if you're a writer, and you submit your work, you will receive some rejections. They may come as a form letter, a form letter with a personal response, a personal response, or via email. To corrupt a famous quotation, "It is far better to have submitted and lost, than never to have submitted at all", and here's why.
Submissions, accepted or not, get your name in front of the editor. The next time you send something, they may remember your name. One of the biggest reasons editors have to turn down queries is that they've recently run something just like it. So, keep querying, something will eventually "stick".
Pay attention if you're lucky enough to receive a personal response. You'll gain insight as to what the editor is looking for, and there may be a comment to make you smile - something along the lines of "We can't use your piece right now, but it's really good, send us more."
I framed my first rejection and hung it on my office wall to remind me that I am now a working writer.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I was reading Christina Katz' Ezine, Writers on the Rise , and she mentioned that she had been painfully shy as a child. This resonated with me, as I was terribly shy when I was a kid.
I took an informal poll of the writers I know, asking if this was something they experienced, as well. The results came back two thirds to one, yep, shy. I thought I had stumbled onto something profound here, so I did a web search and came up with this, The Shy Writer. C. Hope Clark has already written a book about this phenomenon.
So, were you shy as a child? Did you turn to books to avoid people? Did you share your thoughts and feelings with a diary or journal? Are you a writer, or aspire to be one, today?
Monday, July 23, 2007
Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
ISBN # 0060824816
I had the supreme joy of reading this book last week. I laughed out loud at page 23 and continued to be heartily amused, surprised and moved to tears until the very end.
Applewood Elementary is offered the chance of a lifetime – a movie shoot, a new stadium and a visit from George Clooney – and it may happen, if the members of the PTA can find a way to work together. In the process of working through the planning, secrets are revealed, feelings are hurt and the bonds of sisterhood are established.
If you’ve ever been to a school event and looked at the people around you, did you think about what their inner lives might be like? The well dressed woman with the perfect manicure and the designer handbag may have won her fortune through terrible misfortune. The harried mom with the baby on her hip, the diaper bag slipping off her shoulder and the toddler trying to pull out of her grip – she may be a poor, stay at home mom or a high powered executive who barely has time to eat. This book will cause you to wonder even more.
Ellen Meister is a master of blending romance, mystery and humor in the form of what most people would pass off as “chick-lit”. Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA is one of those books you grab off the shelf with the intent of being entertained for a few hours, not expecting to be drawn into a world you might actually live in. (August 1, 2007, 400 pp, $13.95)
If you’re a freelance writer and you want to write for magazines, odds are you need to actually read the magazines you wish to write for. News stand prices can be a bit steep for a writer who is trying to keep overhead low. Here’s how I manage to read magazines, without blowing my budget.
Ask friends, family and local business owners if you can borrow or have their old issues. You’ll be surprised at how many of them will be thrilled to let you have the publications that would otherwise end up in the trash or recycling bins.
Go to your local library. If they don’t have the title you’re looking for, ask the librarian to add it to their subscription list. It won’t cost you a cent to read them there, with the added benefit of some quiet time.
Sometimes magazines offer free subscriptions in the hopes the reader will like it so much, they’ll renew at the end of the free term. Type “free magazine subscription” into your search engine and see what’s available.
Subscribe to or become a member of a “frugal” or “freebies and bargains” message board or forum. You’ll find not only information about free or inexpensive magazines, but other items you might need.
Shop around. If the only option available is to pay for a subscription, look for the best price available. You should never have to pay full retail price for a magazine when you subscribe.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
My copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived a little after noon today. I sat down and read the first few pages shortly thereafter. Errands had to be accomplished, so I went shopping for a couple of hours, and then started reading again.
Let me preface the following with this...I was not impressed with book six of the series. By the end of it, I had lost all connection with and/or sympathy for the characters. When Dumbledore died and the memorial service was held, I was terribly disappointed with how J. K. Rowling handled it.
However, I wanted to give the final book a chance. I read just past page 50 and then turned to the last chapter and read from there to the end. I couldn't see reading thru 700+ more pages to know how it ended. I'm sure that kids who have been fans since page one of book one will be tickled with book seven, but I wasn't.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
As the mother of four children, three of whom can read, I pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. UPS should be pulling up out front sometime Saturday morning with THE book I - and the kids - will devour in a week's time. Harry Potter is the series that hooked my step-son into the miracle of reading. I will be forever grateful to J. K. Rowling.
The reason I mention this at all is someone(s) has posted spoilers about the book on the internet. You can read what the publisher and author have to say about it here. I'm all for excitement about something new. What I'm not for is ruining a great thing for millions/billions of children. Some people really need to grow up.
Posted by VirtualWordsmith at 4:54 PM
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids
Writer’s Digest Books
ISBN # 9781582974415
I just finished reading this one, and all I can say is “FINALLY!” There is finally a book that reflects the life a freelance writer Mama lives.
Christina Katz has written one of the most - if not the most – comprehensive books for “Writer Mamas” I’ve ever read. She covers all the writing bases from preparation, to process, to attending your first writer’s conference. She addresses issues of time management, fear, procrastination and acceptance. As for the “Mama” parts of the book - daycare options, finding time and quiet to focus on your writing and how to deal with people who don’t understand that you’re really working - it’s all in there, too. (And just for you moms on the go, the book is the perfect size to slip into your handbag.)
Five ideas came to mind immediately for fillers and a feature article while reading the book, things I hadn't thought about in years. As a matter of fact, things I didn't think were worth anything at all. Now, I'll be submitting the ideas. This book reminds me of something someone once said to me, “It may be simple, but it won’t be easy.” If you’re a “Writer Mama” now, or have aspirations to become one, this is the book to buy!(March 2007, 296 pp, $14.99)
I mentioned Paperback Swap in my last post. I thought I’d write a little bit more about it.
Paperback Swap is an online book swapping club for book lovers all over the United States. Cull through your accumulating book collection (hardbacks are fine, too), post 9 or more books (by ISBN number) you’re willing to part with, and you instantly acquire 3 credits. You can order 3 books right away because 1 credit = 1 book.
When someone orders your book, you print out two pieces of paper and wrap the book in them to be mailed. You pay the cost of shipping the book (Media Mail rates), usually less than 3 dollars. When your book is received by the person who requested it, you gain a credit.
When I need a book, Paperback Swap is the first place I look. Check them out!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
For the beginning Freelance writer, sending out those first queries can be tough, downright daunting, even. Most writers experience some form of trepidation regarding their work – usually insecurity about sending their “babies” out into the world.
My mom has been a cheerleader for me. She always has something positive to say to me when I tell her I have submitted a query or gotten a rejection. All writers need someone like that in their lives. If you know a writer and want to show your support for them, there are some simple ways to do it.
Let the writer in your life know you believe in him/her and you value their work. Listen when they are excited about a new piece or project. Commiserate when things fall through. Send them a card, an e-mail or call to see how things are going. Offer to babysit if they have children. Any thing you do to show you care is always appreciated.
If you want to buy something for a writer, there are many gifts from which to choose.
- Gift Cards to Office Supply Stores
- Gift Cards to Book Stores
- Gift Cards to Amazon.com
- Gift Certificates to Ebay
- Credits for use at Paperback Swap
- Blank books/ Journals
- Good quality pens
- Business Card Holders
- Super Quality Paper (for stationery)
- Ink cartridges for their printer
- Music (ask what genre is good)
- Postage (stamps)
I'm sure you can come up with more ideas of your own. Just let the writer in your life know you care.
Monday, July 16, 2007
When my husband comes down with whatever nasty bug the kids bring home from school, he gets a paid sick day. If I come down with it, I lose time and money. Every entrepreneur knows that time is money.
I have tried to teach my kids to cough or sneeze into their sleeve, and to wash their hands every time they use the bathroom, but somehow they still manage to get sick. With four kids in the house, if one of them is ill, they will all be ill over the span of two weeks.
So, to keep myself healthy, I have come up with a few guidelines. An ounce of prevention and all that.
I try to get at least six hours of unbroken sleep a night – eight is even better. In bed by 10 p.m., up at 6 a.m. Scientific evidence shows that consistent sleep patterns help maintain health and productivity.
I do not have a gym membership, but with four kids to chase, who needs one, right? Seriously, 30 minutes of heart rate raising exercise six times a week is a good start. It does not matter how you do it, just do it!
Cut back on the caffeine and sugar – both will bring your energy level up, but only temporarily. The crash will make you want to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. Everything in moderation sound familiar?
Eat a well balanced diet (that means raw or steamed veggies, too). I could make a list of things that are really, really good for you, but that’s what nutritionists are for – if you need help, consult one.
Drink water. A hydrated brain is a highly functioning brain.
Wash your hands – a lot!
When you do get sick, be good to yourself. Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. And if you happen to know someone who makes fantastic homemade chicken soup, ask for some.
Most of the writers I know do not write to get rich - they write because they love it. It's tough to quit your day job to write full-time when you need health insurance.
Linda Formichelli has written an important article in the August 2007 issue of Writer's Digest regarding affordable health insurance.
Here's to your health!
Have you written the next bestseller? Looking to promote your current work? Send your book for possible review. Send the galley or book with a cover letter and your contact information to:
409 Water Street
Sunday, July 15, 2007
For the work-at-home mom convenience items:
- Crock pot - I can start dinner at 8 a.m. and not have to think about it all day. Of course, I become terribly hungry when the aroma of Guinness Pot Roast begins wafting through the house.
- Electric Roaster - Same effect as the Crock pot, but cooks larger items like turkey or ham.
- 12 Cup Coffee Maker - I bet you can guess why.
- DVD Player - When the work just has to be done by deadline, a new movie the littlest one hasn't seen before allows for at least an hour and a half of quiet. (I am NOT advocating TV as a babysitter.)
For the work-at-home writer:
- All-in-One Printer - Fax/Scanner/Copier/Printer
- Electric Pencil Sharpener
- Three Hole Paper Punch
- Tape Dispenser
- Cordless Phone
- Headset - Preferably one for the phone and one for the computer
- Unlimited Long Distance Calling
- Broadband Internet Connection
- Microsoft Office Software
- Day planner/Scheduler
The one thing I don't ever want to go without again is The Pharos Traveler 525e. Yes, it's spendy. Yes, it's probably trendy, too. I don't care, because it comes with Windows Media Player, Microsoft Pocket Excel, Microsoft Pocket Outlook, Microsoft Pocket Word, Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer - all the programs a writer could ever need. And I can connect to the Internet anywhere there is an unsecured wireless connection. It's also a great way for me to keep notes in one place. My scraps of paper have a way of disappearing. I call it my "office in my purse".
ISBN # 978-1583940822
While her husband works 80 hour weeks, Paula and her children learn to live with Mother Nature, not fight her. Through trial and error, she discovers what farming methods work for her, while cultivating her vineyard. Paula finds herself becoming caught up in the ebb and flow of the seasons, and how important each is, if she hopes to have a productive crop.
This book is vaguely reminiscent of Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. It’s anecdotal as well as educational. You’ll find information and instruction about grape growing and wine making. It’s a beautiful book, one you’ll find yourself sharing with your friends. (October 2003, 250 pp, $16.95)
Reading has always been a favorite pastime for me. I was devouring Young Adult novels by the time I started second grade. I cut my permanent teeth on Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Anne Rice. My mother would have to call me five and six times if I was in the middle of a book.
I'm no different now. I try not to read anything that takes me too far away when the kids are here, but I still read constantly. My happiest moments are those spent with instrumental music playing in the background, gourmet coffee in my favorite cup and an amazing book in my hand.
All that being said, I thought I'd share some of the books I've read in preparing for my Freelance writing career. There are some terrific books out there for the beginning Freelance writer. The books listed below are within arm's reach of my computer. I refer back to them often. These are in no particular order, other than how I come across them on my bookcase.
- Writing for Quick Cash - Loriann Hoff Oberlin
- The Elements of Style - Strunk and White
- On Writing - Stephen King
- If You Want to Write - Brenda Ueland
- Thinking Like Your Editor - Susan Rabiner/Alfred Forutunato
- 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer - Scott Edelstein
- The Renegade Writer - Linda Formichelli/Diana Burrell
- Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer - Jenna Glatzer
As I read more books about Freelance writing, entrepreneurs and working from home, I'll be reviewing them here. I have a few en route to me. I can't wait to read them!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I fully admit to being a Nerd - a Geek, even. So much so that I covet this t-shirt. (Here is where you can get it.)
I was a skinny, gawky, bespectacled bookworm by the time I was ten. Perpetual curiosity is hardwired into my nature, lovingly referred to by me as "got-to-knowitis".
There is, however, a limit to my dorkiness. That limit is just shy of four hours - four hours spent learning about Site Feeds, and Pings, and statistical analysis of traffic to my blog. It's really not that difficult, but the information needed was not all in one place. And when I had the information I needed, I was required to change HTML code in my blog.
You may be asking yourself "Why is this important to me?" Let me tell you, if you are using a blog to promote yourself, or your product, this will be invaluable to you. Traffic doesn't just miraculously come to your blog or website, you must seek it out!
Confirm that your blog service provides site feeds, and if it doesn't, add some yourself. Make it so easy for your readers to subscribe to your blog, they can't stop themselves. Be sure Search Engines are listing your blog. And add relevant keywords to your HTML code. Seed your URL all over the 'Net. Save it in the signature line of your emails and any forums you post to. Add it to your business cards. Paint it on your car doors, if you think it will help!
These are the sites that saved me from going completely gray last night.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
There is something sensuous about reading a magazine. The act of licking a thumb to assist in turning the page, the sound of the page turning, the smell of the ink, the feel of the paper. For most readers, sitting down to read includes some form of ritual - a cup of tea or coffee, maybe a pipe, a comfy chair with good lighting nearby. Reading is cerebral, but it's physical, too. For now.
Many magazines are folding - closing up shop. In just the last few months, Jane and Child magazines have stopped print production. Publishers have discovered it's cheaper to put their magazine(s) online. No surprise there, as newspapers today are likely to have a print and online edition. Print readership is down for most magazines.
Online magazines have more room for information - terrific news for writers - more space equals more chance of being published. Web sites usually offer an interactive format, meaning that writers gain much more immediate feedback via the readers' comments. But, wait, there's more! Submissions by email offer a much quicker turn around, even if it means rejections come that much quicker. Writing web content is a slightly different animal (think horse to zebra). Web writing tends to be punchier and a little less formal. Get familiar with creating links - what's a website without clickable words? And timing, more than ever, will be everything.
With the plethora of E-readers, e-books and e-zines available today, writers will never be out of work. The words they toil over will be read in new and different formats, because people will always hunger for information. Human beings are innately inquisitive - a lust "to know".
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I had great intentions of writing something about the future of print magazines versus online magazines, but it seems I ran out of time - and now, I've about run out of gas. Maybe tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
As mentioned in my previous post, the morning was taken up with a road trip to the very edge of Iowa. Within an hour of arriving home, I was industriously working away at the computer again.
I created a group on MySpace - Freelance Writer WAHMoms -because there were no other groups quite that focused. I added 5 different topics to the forums, and a bulletin announcing this blog. Then I clicked over to CafeMom to catch up on some writing groups there and let them know about this blog, as well.
Tomorrow morning, barring any unforeseen driving or unruly misbehaved 5 year olds, I will set to writing a query letter to the editors at Redbook Magazine. You see, I think I have the next great feature article and I want to be sure they have first dibs. (WINK!)
Well, it was long, anyway. I spent the morning driving from my place southwest of Minneapolis to within a stone's throw of Iowa. In trying to avoid rush hour traffic, back roads were driven. Said back roads added almost an hour to the drive. In the interest of saving time, a major highway was utilized during the return trip. We left at 9 am and arrived back just before 2 pm.
The reason I mention this little jaunt at all is I don't enjoy driving. Part of the reason I work from home is to avoid any rush hour at any cost. And with gas prices at $3.15 a gallon and rising daily, I plain can't afford any kind of commute. I had a damned good reason for heading toward Iowa and I would certainly do it again, if need be, but not soon.
This particular road trip pointed out to me, very clearly, that I love living in a small town. Everything I could possibly need is within a 15 mile radius of my home. Traffic is usually light, especially if errands are run midweek, midday or on Sunday morning, whilst other shoppers are at church.
To sum it all up (so that this post remains relevant to this blog's topic), I like being a freelancer who works from home.
- No rush hour
- No gas-sucking, hair-graying, nail-biting commute
- Flexibility to run errands when not having to deal with the above
- And I can work in my jammies if I want to
Monday, July 9, 2007
I've spent the last few months preparing for the start of my freelancing career. I've always been a writer, but never really, truly believed there could be pay for my words. Brand new, sturdy, knotty pine, handmade (thanks handsome and handy husband) bookcases now stand in my office. Books and magazines are exactly where I can find them - with some immediacy, even.
My office is perfection. The color palette is soft blue and blush rose. There are windows to my left and right. Fresh coffee is fifty feet away. Parking is on street, but traffic is minimal. My morning commute is about 10 seconds. That's right, I work at home.
Overhead costs are low for my line of work, but the pay is also sporadic. With back-to-school sales imminent, I'll be deviating from the kids' school supplies lists - just a bit.
My list tends to run parallel with theirs -
- Pocket Folders
- 3 Ring Binders
Other places I shop for office supplies -
- Yard Sales
- Thrift Shops
- Surplus Stores
September isn't that far away, start stocking up now.