Monday, August 31, 2015

Celebrating Third Blog Anniversary---Have Fun Starting Your Own Blog

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          The Writer’s Crate is celebrating its third anniversary. I’ve written another 52 posts—well 54 if I count an updated post and a blog alert to read Kristen Lamb’s posts on her WarriorWriters blog. (After seven years, she was ranked as the #12 best writing blog by Writer’s Digest earlier this year so I highly recommend her posts.)

Since this blog is all about encouraging writing, I also highly recommend starting your own blog. Deadlines keep you writing. Set a goal to write posts for a year. See where all that writing takes you. Plus it’s creative and fun!

You may only be read by friends and family at first, but if you stick to it and your writing style and topics are good your audience will increase. Kristen Lamb went two years before one post got more than 50 readers. Now she has tens of thousands. She also started a series of online writing workshops with other authors to encourage her readers to become authors. Kristen published her third book this year.

The key to my blog success is planning posts and writing them in advance. I have a running list of all the posts I have written so I don’t repeat myself as well as ideas for the next few months. Usually, I write my posts and schedule them for publication three weeks or more in advance. This way, if I get sick or have an unexpected crisis, the blog goes on without any stress on my part.

As new ideas come to mind, I slot them into my schedule. Sometimes they are seasonal so I may not write them for months. Sometimes I write them when the ideas are fresh and save the completed posts until the appropriate time. Sometimes ideas are timely so I reorganize the publishing dates to fit it in earlier—all good problems to have since a new idea is required weekly!

I also find writing posts in batches helps. Once I’m in the writing groove, it’s easier to keep going. This makes my running list of future posts indispensable. I don’t have to think up new ideas on the fly although sometimes I do. I can just look at my list, choose a topic, and start writing.

The subconscious is an amazing tool for writers. It’s always working—inspiration by day while writing, doing chores, taking a shower, etc. and in dreams at night. Any idea I’ve added to my list has been bubbling in the back of my mind so when I start to write I have something to say. It feels a bit magical when words come pouring out.

If you want to be a writer, just write. Fill a spiral notebook a month as recommended by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones. Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield to overcome resistance. Start you own Personal Writing Class as I recommended in my post on 6/1/15.

Whatever inspires you, follow your dream and write!

Thanks for reading The Writer’s Crate. Here’s to the next 52 posts!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Reads for Writers: The Wonders of Solitude edited by Dale Salwak

From Kate’s Writing Crate…


As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.


          I picked up The Wonders of Solitude edited by Dale Salwak and read the inside cover flap. The first sentence:

In a world that devalues solitary time, this inspirational volume of quotations on the essential importance of solitude aids us in bringing contemplation and silence back into our busy lives.

I find solitude essential not only when I write, but at times during the day to stay centered. It’s comforting to know I’m in good company.


There is nothing either / or about being alone, because it is not a role. It is not a reduced way of life. It is a possibility for us to participate in a highly creative endeavor: the discovery of our whole selves.

--Phillis Hobe (page 39)


…that perfect tranquility of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend, and a good library.

                                                                 --Aphira Behn (page 53)


Every kind of creative work demands solitude, and being alone, constructively alone, is a prerequisite for every phase of the creative process.

--Barbara Powell (page 59)


There is nobody else like you. The more you can quiet your own thoughts, fears, doubts, and suspicions, the more will be revealed to you from the higher realms of imagination, intuition, and inspiration.

                                                                 --Kenneth Wydro (page 65)


When we are in the act of writing we are alone and on our own, in a kind of absolute state of Do Not Disturb.

                                                        --Eudora Welty (page71)


When I begin to sit with the dawn in solitude, I begin to really live. It makes me treasure every single moment of life.

                                                                 --Gloria Vanderbuilt (page 89)


To live a contemplative life is to be open enough to see, free enough to hear, real enough to respond... it is a life of grateful receptivity, of wordless awe, of silent simplicity.

                                                                          --Sister Marie Beha (page 114)



Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Use or Abuse?

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          As I read books I’ve purchased, I underline sentences that speak to me. I mark passages I love with vertical lines in the margins. I also make comments there.

I never fold down a page corner to mark where I stopped reading. Scraps of paper are my usual bookmarks or I sometimes leave books splayed open when I stop reading. I fold lower corners to denote pages that I know I will want to reread. I only fold down upper corners if a lower corner is not available having been folded the opposite way on the previous page.

All of this use or abuse is the carnal love of books as discussed by Anne Fadiman in her essay “Never Do That to a Book” starting on page 37 of Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. [Some people prefer their books stay in pristine condition—that’s courtly love of books.] I believe, as does Fadiman, that “Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.” (page 38)

I’ve treated my books like this since I was in my teens. When I pick up any one of my books and flip through it, I can immediately see if it is important to me even if it’s been years since I read it. When I reread one of these books, I can also read how I felt about it back then. Sometimes I still agree. Other times, I make new comments.

Never guessing that I would be reviewing books in magazines and on blogs in the future, my system now makes it easy to find the lines I want to quote in reviews. Also, my comments remind me why I want to recommend these books to other readers.

Obviously, I don’t loan these books. They are personal—clearly marked and all mine. However, I am happy to share my thoughts about them in hopes other readers will love them, too.

How do you treat books you love?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Screenplay: Writing the Picture by R. Russin & W. Downs

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Updating my Personal Screenwriting Class:

I just found the book I really wanted and needed for My Personal Screenwriting Class entitled Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Robin U. Russin and William Missouri Downs. Both graduates of UCLA School of Film and Television who wrote every day and eventually sold screenplays, their book is a truly useful and often funny guide that gives you the basics, excellent advice as well as stating mistakes to avoid.

The authors give examples of screenplays, formats, and discuss line by line what should be there and why. They give terrific explanations of what works and what doesn’t. Then they share what readers for production companies are looking for as they read screenplays.

This book is well organized and easy to read. At the end of each chapter are exercises that get you writing the screenplay you’ve dreamed about in the correct format.

Russin and Downs cover every genre with their suggestions. They presume you have a story in mind so they want to help you polish it as well as look professional when you send your screenplays out.

I wish I had found this book years ago. I can only imagine how many screenplays I would have written by now. However, the important thing is that I found it so I’ll be completing my screenplay sooner than I thought—and in better shape thanks to the authors’ wise insights.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Capturing My Writing Days, But Not With To Do Lists

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

While I have a week to write my blog posts, I start them on Thursdays usually for my Monday-at-midnight deadlines. At 500 words mostly, I could write them all on Sundays, but I wouldn’t have time to rewrite and polish them and that’s the real work I not only enjoy, but is necessary to write my best.

I have two other weekly and two monthly regular deadlines. My freelance work and writing classes have variable deadlines. I keep track of them all on a calendar.

I follow through using To Do Lists. These lists are helpful, necessary even, to meet deadlines, but they are only guidelines for my writing days scribbled down on Post-its and stuck to my computer screen.

When I decided I wanted to capture my writing days—not just the deadlines and what I hoped to write—I bought an academic planner that begins in July and ends in June. Inside, each month begins with a calendar of the whole month on two facing pages where I can highlight all my deadlines. On the following pages, each day of the month is given a quarter of a page space which is lined making it perfect to record notes.

          These are the pages I need, but not for To Do Lists. Instead of writing what I’m supposed to do each day in this space, I record what I accomplished.

Professionally, I write assignments with set topics, but which ones on which days? Did I start with one project and switch to another? Did ideas for new projects come to mind? How many words did I write? What projects did I rewrite and polish? Did I complete any assignments that day? What did I edit?

For my personal writing: What topics did I cover in my fill-a-notebook-a-month notebook? Was I inspired by my Muse? Did I go off on any tangents?  Did I complete my Personal Writing Class assignments? Write an essay? Even a fragment of a sentence I loved?

Since writers don’t have time cards, I can also record the time of day and the amount of time I spent on each assignment. For example, I woke up at 1:24AM on Thursday, July 23. While waiting to go back to sleep, sentences and thoughts rushed into my mind about my Masterclass post on Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (published on July 27). I grabbed my bedside notebook and pen with a built-in light at the tip, noted the time, then dashed down over 165 words in eight minutes.

Later on I may not remember I wrote early in the morning. By recording this and other facts about all the writing I do, I discover what inspires me as well as my writing patterns. It’s also consolidated proof I put in the time to do my job well.

This planner captures my work in progress, i.e., my writing days. It also motivates me as I don’t want any days with blank pages. I am a writer after all.