Monday, April 24, 2017

Writing Tired

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I’ve just wrapped up another deadline week. Worked a lot of hours and I’m exhausted, but the May issues of the magazines are at the printer.

          Exhausted or not, I still have project deadlines including the one for this blog. No excuses, I have to write my post by midnight.

However, only one of the three lightbulbs in the ceiling light fixture is working. Two were working yesterday. Now the lamp is causing a glare. As I stare at my keyboard I realize I’ve worn down some of the letters on the keys. The N and the M look almost identical now with only the left side up and down stokes visible. The O, C and the G keys are identical—all two thirds of a C. The L and the I keys are also identical as are the E and the F. The T is only a top dash. The H key is a backwards 4. And the A key looks like a funny P.

Weird how I didn’t notice this while in my deadline frenzy, but now that I’m writing for my own pleasure, my tired eyes can’t see anything else as I hit the wrong keys repeatedly.

But, as I mentioned, there are no excuses for not meeting a deadline. I’m hunting and pecking because I don’t want to misspell any words.

As soon as I’m done, I’m ordering a new keyboard. Tomorrow, a taller person than I will replace the burnt out lightbulbs. I bought some IFD, I mean LED ones that last for a decade or more, supposedly. We’ll see.

In the meantime, no excuses. My deadline is met despite the obstacles. Writers write.

My word count for the week of April 16-22 was 10,814.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reads for Writers: The Writer's Life by Julia Cameron

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I had a very busy week: appointments with the eye doctor, dentist, doctor, and vet on consecutive days. They really cut into my writing time, but added to my reading time.

          As I sat in various waiting rooms, I pulled out The Writer’s Life: Insights from The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. This book at 5” x 4” and 103 pages fits easily into a purse or pocket—and it’s worth carrying around.

          Each page is a complete insight from Cameron’s original book, which I also love, so it’s easy to pick up and put down, but it’s so inspiring you just want to go home and write as can be proven by my increased word count this week.

          I have three copies of this book: one in my purse at all times; one in my car in case I don’t take my big purse; and one near my monthly notebook in case I need some quick inspiration. I have two copies of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life: one in my office and one in my favorite writing spot. It’s just that good.

          I hadn’t read the book in over two months with all my writing projects going on so it was perfect for this busy week. And while I’ve read it repeatedly, Cameron’s take on writing invigorates me every time. I just can’t wait to get back to my computer keyboard or my notebook and pen—and that the best writer’s life I know.

My word count for the week of April 9-15 was 10,470.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Following Through

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Last week I wrote about receiving big ideas while writing routinely in my monthly notebook. I feel these ideas are rewards from my Muse for putting in the time.

Well receiving ideas is only the beginning. You have to follow through with them. So this past week I stopped working on my other writing projects (except filling my notebook a month) to put together my idea for a book proposal—and I did it in a week.

I didn’t sleep as much as usual. I only wrote one article as well as in my monthly notebook while I assembled the proposal. I will need to write more when it comes to finishing the book, but for the proposal I only needed to assemble and organize some of my previously written magazine essays on a multitude of topics, create a Table of Contents, and summarize the rest of the book.

I’m now letting the project sit for a week so I can look at it with fresh eyes. The anticipation is almost as much fun as putting together the proposal.

While I wait, I’m back to working on my screenplay this week because one of the other big ideas I received changed the plot. I’m still filling my notebook a month and completing other writing assignments on deadline. 

Writing begets writing so if you’re a writer, write. Fill an 80-100 page notebook a month whether you have assignments and deadlines or not. (Filling a notebook a month is the idea of Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones.)

 I have my paid writing and editing jobs, my screenplay, my fun writing projects, and now a book. I don’t need to fill a notebook a month to be a writer, but it keeps me motivated, improves my speed, and gives me ideas so this is one writing assignment I’m never giving up.

Word count for the week of April 2-8 was 7,178.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inspired by Work

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I’ve been writing articles and essays for my job, posting to this blog, working on my personal writing class projects regularly, and filling a notebook every month. In March, I averaged 1,158 words a day. Slowest day, I wrote 329. Busiest, 2,659.

          All of this writing has sharpened my senses. I know I need inspiration for writing so I’m paying attention to my surroundings—conversations and observations—as well as to my thoughts. I’m writing it all down.

          Call it the Muse or whatever you want, but because I’ve been so open to receiving information for months I’ve also had a few big ideas for future projects that I’m now working on. More writing not only begets better writing, but more writing.  

          Write every day. If you already have an idea for a writing project, work on it as often as possible, but write on other topics as well as ideas can come from anywhere. If you want an idea for a project, write about anything and everything as much as possible.

If you put in the time, your Muse will reward you.

Word count for the week of March 26-April 1 was 11,806.

Monday, March 27, 2017

One Columnist's Story

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I want to share Cheryl Butler’s story.

          I met Cheryl though a letter she sent me asking to become a contributing writer for one of the magazines I was editing. She discussed her minimal writing experience and also mentioned she was the mother of eight children and hadn’t left the house in a decade except to go to her OB/GYN.

          That comment made me laugh so I called her. We had a delightful conversation so I assigned her an article. She had a strong voice, good perspective, and met both the word count and deadline.

That was well over a decade ago. Since then she has written hundreds of terrific pieces for the magazines.

A few years into her career with the magazines, I asked her if she was interested in writing a column about family life. With eight kids, who could know more about it? With her sense of humor, her column quickly became one of the most popular with readers.

Due to her vast experience as a mother, her family column, and a friend’s recommendation, Cheryl interviewed for and then was named Macmillan Publishing’s Mighty Mommy. She started by writing weekly blog posts then added podcasts. Occasionally traveling to New York City to meet with her editor, she’s living a writer’s dream life.

Over four years ago, Cheryl asked me about writing a blog together to inspire others to write. Her life changed just by taking a chance and contacting me. One brave step and look where she is now. She wanted other writers to take chances, too.

I said yes. Cheryl set up the blog then we each wrote a post a week for years. Cheryl is now working on her second and third books so she stopped writing for this blog, but her Mighty Mommy work and family life columns continue.

I’m so glad Cheryl took a chance contacting me and that I took a chance on her. I don’t know how she found the time to write while raising eight children under eleven when she first started; however, she persisted and succeeded not only as a writer, but as a mom. She has one college graduate, three more in college, and four still at home—and she still finds time to volunteer in the community.

Cheryl’s story proves that dedicated writers can succeed.

* * * *     
If you’re interested in becoming a columnist, start a blog. What is your niche or expertise? You’ll need twelve to fifty-two topics every year so make a list. If you can’t, pick another niche. Put in the time. You need a strong voice, knowledge, and perspective to keep readers interested.

Then take a chance and contact a local publication you enjoy. If your blog is engaging, you might become a columnist. If not, take any assignments—you have to start somewhere. Be professional—NEVER miss a deadline or word count. Who knows where it might lead?

You, too, can succeed. Believe it and keep writing.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Editing and Writing in Reality

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          My deadline for the magazines is the 15th-18th of every month. This month, I spent over 10 hours editing and five hours writing on the 18th to meet my text deadline. (Magazine editor is not a Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm job.) I spent that much time working as the 18th is the sales deadline and the ad count determines the page count. For April, there wasn’t room for everything submitted to fit so I had to do the hardest editing of all—re-editing.

First, I edit everything submitted by the contributing writers and the public for errors, transitions, redundancy, and coherency as I receive them. The word count may go down, but the main goal is to make the writing as perfect as possible.

When space is limited, I have to re-edit ruthlessly—usually in one day.

The first things I cut weren’t happening in April. Those items are the easy targets, but I know the people and writers who submitted them will be upset, but I cannot let that influence me.

I’m also humbled at this time. I always find some errors and redundancy that I missed. When found, these mistakes are easy to edit.

I know the writers put a lot of work and artistry into their columns and articles. The columns fit on two facing pages so I don’t cut the word count in columns; I publish them or I cut them.

However, the hardest editing is taking a cohesive article then cutting it down to fit exactly on one, one and a half, or two pages without jumping extra text to the back pages. I cannot just cut the last three or four paragraphs. I have to keep the articles smooth, entertaining reads. This means great lines and well-written paragraphs throughout the article don’t always make the cut.

If I think the issue is tight—too many items to fit—I put off writing my timely article(s) until I know the pages I have left to fill. Because I’ve written so many articles over the years, I can write them quickly. This does put more pressure on me when I’m tired, but it’s easier and less time consuming to write shorter articles then edit down well-written completed articles. This is one of the tricks of my trade.

The last difficult thing I have to do is contact all the writers and individuals whose items were shortened or cut. I explain the situation. I also publish these items on the magazines’ facebook pages. Luckily, most of them understand and accept this. The ones who don’t, take time and diplomacy to appease.

This is why my days off coincide with delivery of the magazines to the printer. Once they are printed, I can’t change anything and I need to recover from all the work and stress it took to get them there.

Editing is more than using a red pen to transform text. It also takes persistence, patience, and people skills. It’s a great job, but not for everyone.

Word count for the week of March 12-18 was 7,121.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Reads for Writers: More Personal Writing Classes and Notebooks

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          You might think I have enough writing to do working for the magazines, freelancing, and blogging, but no. I have a lot of other writing plans and dreams. As I mentioned earlier in the year, I have set up several writing projects. Writers write!

          I have five notebooks going right now: my fill-a-notebook-a-month notebook based on Natalie Goldberg’s suggestion in Writing Down the Bones, one for exercises in Backpack Literature by Kennedy and Gioia, one for exercises in Screenplay by Russin and Downs, one for my book ideas, and a new one for the exercises in The Writer’s Workshop by Gregory L. Roper.

          The key to completing any project is a deadline. The first notebook has a built-in deadline, but the other four do not. I’ve set up weekly deadlines—a chapter a week for the three ‘personal writing class’ notebooks. To ensure that I meet my deadlines, I have a pact with Cheryl to send my word counts to her by email three days a week. She is working on a couple of projects of her own so she sends me her word counts two days a week. If we don’t receive them, we agreed to send email reminders.

          So far so good. We’re both professionals so we are meeting our deadlines.

          As for my projects, not only do I see progress by word counts, but my writing is changing. It’s becoming more detailed and specific. I’m also writing more quickly.

I wrote my most recent facebook thoughts for the magazines in seventeen minutes including rewriting. The word count was 165. I wasn’t under a tight deadline, but once I got an idea, the words just flowed through me onto the page. I credit filling a notebook a month with improving my writing speed and thought process to just get the words onto the page so I can rewrite them.

I credit becoming more detailed and specific to both Backpack Literature and The Writer’s Workshop. I highly recommend both books. While I’ve completed six chapters in Backpack Literature (I started the book over to complete all the exercises in each chapter instead of just one), I’ve only completed the first chapter of The Writer’s Workshop. I HATED the first task, but I loved the second two. They made me realize my weaknesses when it comes to describing people or anything else, but also gave me inspiration and concrete steps to improve my writing.

Details are necessary, but thoughtful, well-worded details elevate regular authors to best-selling status. In his book, Roper has excerpts from various authors throughout the ages for readers to review then imitate. While writing in each author’s style, you realize how many ways there are to describe something. It’s eye-opening.

For extra credit, I looked at the character descriptions written by some on my favorite authors. I realized I have very good reading taste, but not very good writing description skills—but I’m enjoying working on them in my five notebooks because I’m a writer.

Word count for week Feb. 5-11 was 8,105.