Monday, June 26, 2017

Tough Writing Week

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I got smug. I’ll admit it. I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words a day in my monthly notebooks since March. Things were going well. No 40 pages to fill in the last week of the month like happened in January and February. I learned my lesson and wrote steadily—until this week.

          Company that had been scheduled to visit months ahead was arriving soon. Their dog can no longer make it up the stairs so we thought we’d change the rarely-used formal dinner room into a guest room as this particular dog isn’t the only company having issues with stairs.

          Mostly my stuff was stored in there so I cleaned it out, but, of course, it took longer than I thought. Once it was emptied out, it had to be scrubbed—walls, floors, cupboards. Then a bed, side tables, bureau, bookcase, and lamps had to be relocated along with some wall art.

          Then the workmen were scheduled. The old dining room needed a new outlet for the old TV in the new bedroom so called an electrician. Then the cable guy came the day after to hook up the cable box. Plumber came after that to fix a running toilet, but found a bigger problem under the sink. Pipes replaced with PVC the next day so it’s all good, but time consuming and distracting.

          Then I had to do the usual guest prep: make the bed, put out guest towels, fresh flowers, food shopping, cleaning the rest of the house while still keeping up with regular laundry and other chores and errands.

          It was also deadline week which left me little time to write. Obviously my notebook writing is the first thing to go when I’m in a time crunch. It doesn’t pay any bills, make company’s visit more comfortable, or keep our lives going.

          It does, however, keep me happy. Calm. I’m doing what I love while also jotting down thoughts, ideas, project steps, planning, venting, or crossing off To Do List items. My notebook is a place to check in with myself. Without it, I get cranky. So I squeezed in some writing by giving up sleep, not a choice I like to make. Too much stress during deadline week is too much for me to face without a pen in my hand, notebook pages to fill, and time to do so.

My word count for the week of June 18-24 was 6,937, but only 5,393 in my notebook.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reads for Writers: The Writer's Life edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Writers need inspiration to create any good piece of work, but sometimes we need inspiration to continue writing at all.

The Writer’s Life: Intimate Thoughts on Work, Love, Inspiration, and Fame From the Diaries of the World’s Greatest Writers, edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks, is a book you can pick up and open randomly or choose a topic to hone in on what you need. Either way, inspiration is but a moment away.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.
                                      --Theodore Roethke (p. 22)

The work is not a thing that we make, but an already-made thing              which we discover.
                                      --Thornton Wilder (p. 25)

Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production.
                                      --Raymond Chandler (p. 32)

Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.
                                      --Leo Tolstoy (p. 45)

I often think that the best writing is done after you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say, but end up putting something down anyway just as though it were the actual evidence of your original intention.
                                      --Clarence Major (p. 50)

Because one has written other books does not mean the next becomes any easier. Each book in fact becomes a tabula rasa; from book to book I seem to forget how to get characters in and out of rooms—a far more difficult task than the nonwriter might think.
                                      --John Gregory Dunne (p. 62)

Training to be a writer is a slow and continuous process, with time off for human behavior.
                                      --Marie-Elise (p. 67)

If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest.
                                      --Henry David Thoreau (p. 76)

A poet told me that when her little boys were small she used to put her typewriter in the playpen and sit there and work while they tore up the house around her. Of course, she is an exceptionally energetic and resourceful person.
                                      --Ellen Gilchrist (p. 137)

          To write is an entertainment I put on for myself.
                                      --Jean Cocteau (p. 141)

Word count for the week of June 11-17 was 7,128.

Monday, June 12, 2017

I Love Living the Writer's Life

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I love the writer’s life.

          I love pre-writing. I love observing, imagining, reading, and connecting.

I love writing. I love picking up a pen and filling pages. I love sitting at my desk and hunting for thoughts and ideas then capturing them by keyboard.

          I love rewriting and refining my work. I love honing in on what I want to express—making it as clear as I can—however long that takes.

          I love making people think, laugh, or even get misty-eyed when they read my pieces. It means I’ve written well—and I love that most of all.

Word count for the week of June 4-10 was 8,993.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tidying Up

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

If you cannot think of anything to write, try cleaning or organizing your desk or Writer's Crate. Doing something mindless like dusting or tossing old papers, gives your conscious mind something to focus on, but your subconscious is free to roam and come up with ideas.

          We’ve been spring cleaning the house as many friends and relatives will be visiting this summer. Recycling old papers and magazines, tossing junk, and boxing up donations is invigorating. A clean and organized space has new energy, but clean and organize to your own specifications.

          I’m a vertical organizer, i.e., a pile person, so my idea of organized may not match most people’s—and that’s okay. I’m the one who works in my office so it only has to meet my standard. While others may think I’m disorganized, I can find what I need within a moment or two.

          Like everyone else, I can be surprised at things I find in drawers and cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind so I keep important things in sight.

          I did have fun with the Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, method of clothes sorting. She recommends putting every article of your clothing on your bed then deciding quickly whether to keep, donate, or toss them. I thought it would be daunting, but it was the easiest way to do this. I filled one bag with ripped or stained clothes (mostly with ink as I love red and blue liquid ink Pilot V-Ball pens). Another bag was filled with clothes I rarely wore or new clothes I have never worn to be donated. The rest are in drawers or the closet. No piles anywhere except the laundry hamper—and I can live with that.

          All this cleaning and organizing gave me a visitor-ready house as well as ideas for this post, my Viewpoint column, and my Editor’s Facebook Thoughts. Always fun when a chore turns out to be a creative outlet!    

Word Count for the week of May 28-June 3 was 11,266.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Reads for Writers: inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Creativity is essential for writers. In her book inGenious: A Crash Course on Creativity, Tina Seelig gives readers or, as she calls artists of all types, noticers great insights including:

“Mastering the ability to reframe problems is an important tool for increasing your imagination because it unlocks a vast array of solutions.” (page 19)

“You, too, can spark a revolution by looking at the problems you face from different perspectives.” (page 23)

“Connecting unexpected people, places, objects, and ideas provides a huge boost to your imagination. You can practice this skill by using provocative metaphors, interacting with those outside your normal circles, building on existing ideas, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.” (page 46)

“Scientists and artists of all types are the world “noticers.” They are trained to pay attention and to communicate what they see and experience to the rest of us.” (page 75)

“…the most salient thing [the students] learned from this intense experience is that by opening your eyes, paying attention, and asking a lots of questions, there are remarkable things to see around every corner.” (page 76)

“Focused observation is a powerful way to acquire valuable knowledge about the world. That knowledge is the starting point for all your creative endeavors because it provides rich fuel for your imagination.” (page 32-83)

“If you live and work in an environment that is stimulating, then your mind is open to fresh, new ideas.” (page 102)

“I eventually realized I that I putting off writing on purpose. It was creative procrastination!” (page 105)

          However, my favorite part of this book is the opening chapter discussing the “hardest exam in the world. It required both a breadth of knowledge and a healthy dose of imagination.” (page 4)

          It’s a “…‘one-word exam.’ The Essay, as it was called, was both anticipated and feared by applicants. They each flipped over a piece of paper at the same time to reveal a single word...The challenge was to craft an essay in three hours inspired by that single word.”  (page 3)

          “…This challenge reinforces the fact that everything—every single word—provides an opportunity to leverage what you know to stretch your imagination.” (page 3)

          What a great exam—especially for writers! I’m going to randomly open a dictionary with my eyes closed and point to a word. Then I am going to write an essay in three hours. Why not? I’ll be writing for hours this week in my notebook. I may as well use a writing prompt that will challenge me like this one.

          Take the one-word test. See what you know and notice.

Word count for the week of May 21-27 was 11,431.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ideas Out of Nowhere

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I love to watch interviews with writers. In our profession, everyone has a different process. I love to learn about them as it’s comforting to know we all slog through ideas and words until we hit upon the right ones.

          On the PBS show Hamilton’s America, a camera crew followed Lin-Manuel Miranda around while he was researching and writing Hamilton. He went to historical places, wrote while sitting in Aaron Burr’s bedroom, worked with his creative Broadway show team, and lived his life.

          Miranda didn’t know when he picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton to read on vacation that he would be writing a $100+ million musical and book. Miranda’s background included Rap; Hamilton’s did not—yet that’s all Miranda could hear as he read the book. And it’s all people can talk about after they see the show.

Because he’s been listening to all kinds of music and writing for decades, his mind was open to possibilities. He didn't fight the unlikely idea, just went with it. He didn’t lose his enthusiasm even when it took over two years to write it.

          I also watched J. K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Behind Closed Doors on the Reels channel. She wrote her first book about a rabbit at the age of six. Her mother loved it so Jo asked her mother how to get it published. She knew then she was a writer.

Rowling received her idea out of nowhere when she was on a train thinking of nothing. Suddenly, she pictured a little boy who didn’t know he was a wizard on a train heading to a wizard boarding school. Then she worked backwards as to how he got there.

          Turns out trains were a big part of Rowling’s life. Her parents met on a train so she always thought of them as romantic. (Later on, her second husband, knowing this, proposed to her on The Orient Express.)

          Also, Rowling studied the classics in college. Her knowledge certainly played a big part in the Harry Potter series in the names she used and in the spells. Grounded in history, mythology, and literature, they were both a bit familiar and new to readers.

It took her five years to write the first book as she was also working, pregnant, and then raising her daughter after an ugly breakup with her first husband. Even when broke and worried, she wrote not knowing if the book would ever sell. She said, “I just believed in my book.”

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight vampire series who always wanted to be a writer, says her idea out of nowhere came to her in a dream about a teenage girl and boy sitting in a field together. The problem: the boy wanted to kill the girl as much as he wanted to love her. Meyer didn’t know why but wrote until she discovered the answer.

          Ideas from nowhere and yet the prepared minds recognized them and followed through.

For the week of May 14-20, my word count was 8,725. Yes, ideas are coming to me and I'm working on them.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Staying Inspired

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Everything we see, hear, smell, taste or touch is grist for our writing mills. We can grind it all in our minds and come up with kernels of ideas. Some people also call it filling the well. It’s an essential part of writing so we have material to work with when we need an idea for an essay, blog post, article, etc.

Whatever you want to call it, make sure you are collecting material that you can fall back on by living full lives, reading, watching TV, eavesdropping on public conversations, and observing humans and nature.

What did I put in my well lately?

The lilacs are in bloom so I gathered a vase-full every other day to fill the house with their lovely scent and color.

The chickens are cackling proudly when they lay their eggs. Luckily, they do not cackle all together or the neighbors might complain.

The nearest neighbors just put in a basketball hoop. The dogs do not like the sound of a bouncing ball so they bark at it, but they will get used to it in time, we hope.

Employees at the deli counter, two female and one male, were discussing whether they would ever get Lasik surgery. Two were wearing glasses. One of them couldn’t get contacts. Their consensus was no. I agreed silently while waiting for a pound-and-a-half of American cheese and four chicken breasts.

As I waited, a man came by looking for packaged sandwich wraps made with cheese seats. After he left, I looked at what he bought—wraps made with chia seeds. Hard to hear him over the Lasik conversation.

On the recommendation of a friend, I read Carly Simon’s biography, Boys in the Trees: A Memoir. Her life was often sad and occasionally tragic. There are also some intimate details I wish I didn’t know, but I guess that’s show business.

On the CBS Sunday Morning show, Mother’s Day was celebrated, but unacceptable stats were given for maternity and paternity leave. Only 49% of women received paid leave while 70% of men who have access to paternity leave were paid.

          On the Science channel I learned that three billion years ago the moon had more than one active volcano. Imagine looking up in the sky and seeing lava flowing.

Keep adding material to your writing mill or well. You never know when you’ll need an idea, fact, or memory for a project.

Word count for the week May 7-13 was 8,649.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What's in My Notebooks?

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I advocate filling a notebook a month as a great way to keep yourself writing—especially if you don’t have immediate deadlines. But even if you do have deadlines, filling the notebook keeps ideas flowing and gives you a place to vent if you are stuck.

          For about 15 years, I filled a notebook a month, but as I wrote more pieces for publication, I filled a notebook only every two or three months. I loved having a place to jot down thoughts, feelings, happenings, etc., but I wasn’t disciplined about it again until this January when I resolved to go back to filling a notebook a month.

          I started with an 80-page notebook in January—because 100 pages was too daunting—and wrote 21,598 words. I had no daily set amount of pages or word count. With a week left to finish, I had 38 pages to fill. I did it, but it wasn’t fun. I also wrote very sloppily in larger handwriting than usual.

Obviously I stayed with the 80-page notebook in February. I wrote almost every day, but still had 19 pages to fill the last week. Again, I filled it, but wasn’t as helpful because I just jammed stuff in it. Total word count was 25,574. Not being as rushed, I wrote less sloppily so more room for words.

In March, I again went with the 80-page notebook, but this time I tried to fill 2-3 pages every day. This was much more helpful to all my writing projects as I had space to think about topics, come up with ideas, and whine when writing wasn’t going well. I wrote 26,203 words.

Feeling more comfortable with my new habit, I switched to a 100-page notebook in April and wrote 35,006 words. My goal was 1,000 words a day, but I ended up averaging 1,167. I looked forward to writing in my notebook. It wasn’t a chore or a resolution anymore.

What do I write about in my notebooks?

I rage or regale about my writing projects. Work on titles for current pieces. Consider new projects. I also work on plots. Copy down quotes I love from books I’m reading. Jot down notes whenever I see an author being interviewed on TV as well as any thoughts I want to ponder—and then I ponder.

I write down observations about people, pets, nature, TV, and books as these often lead to posts for this blog or thoughts for my Editor’s Viewpoint column or my Facebook essays for the magazines or sometimes because they are funny. For example, out to dinner with three writing friends, we simultaneously stopped talking to listen to the conversation at the next table. The foursome was getting into a heated discussion about whether an evening can be enchanted or not. I don’t know how the topic came up, but it was fascinating. They got up to leave so we rushed to pay our bill so we could continue to eavesdrop in the parking lot. They were still going at it as they got in their car and left. We stood in the parking lot and laughed at ourselves for being such writers but how could we resist listening to such passion about a description of a night.

Nature gives great copy on walks or even when I look out my office window. There is a 25-foot tall trumpet vine growing up an evergreen tree. Every summer, several Ruby-throated hummingbirds visit to drink their fill of nectar from the dozens and dozens of bright orange blossoms putting on a colorful show. Then there was a black butterfly that played with our puppy for over five minutes fluttering just out of reach back and forth in the side yard. At first I was worried the puppy would hurt the butterfly, but he/she flew up and around over and over again to the pup’s delight only leaving when the adult dogs arrived to see what the commotion was all about.

I’m also very human in my notebooks. I write about my feelings, whether happy, sad, or angry, putting things into perspective.

If you give yourself space and permission, you will find yourself writing pages and pages. None of it goes to waste. Even if nothing appears in other formats (a rare thing), filling these notebooks increases your writing speed, improves your observation skills, and clarifies your thoughts.

This is why I recommend filling a notebook a month and also reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Her essays about the writing life and her life are engaging and full of wonder. The author of ten writing books and novels, her writing practice is filling up a notebook a month for about forty years. This book made me a much better writer because writing begets writing.

Start filling your own notebooks now!

Word count for week of April 30-May 6 was 11,034.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Reads for Writers: The Most Wonderful Books edited by Michael Dorris and Emilie Buchwald

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          The Most Wonderful Books: Writers on Discovering the Pleasures of Reading edited by Michael Dorris and Emilie Buchwald is the most delightful book I’ve read in ages. Not only do you discover the books first loved by other writers, you remember your own. In fact, readers of this book that are also writers will be hard pressed not to write essays about the readers and books in their lives.

[The editors] imagined an anthology that would inspire readers by providing a variety of examples of how well-known and successful writers first encountered the magic of the printed word. (Introduction, pp. xiii-xiv)

Here are some quotes from the 57 essays in the book:

On page 10, Marion Dane Bauer wrote: I turned to books to laugh, to weep, to burn with indignation, to revel in melancholy or silliness, to shiver with fear, and to share all those feelings with another being who felt them, too. I turned to books to know I was alive and connected with the rest of the universe.

On page 56, Barbara Juster Esbensen wrote: I read so that I can experience yet again, the miracle that happens when the paper, the ink, the book itself all seem to disappear, and I am journeying somewhere I have never been before on the wings of those magic words so carefully chosen by someone I will never know.

On page 195, Naomi Shihab Nye wrote: In books I could wander for hours. I sat in the stairwell at my grandmother’s ancestral home, sunken deep into Little Women. I was Jo for three whole years and no one knew. If you know how to read, you could never be lonely.

On pp. 203-204, Katherine Paterson wrote: I read, of course, for information. I want to know more about almost everything—science, religion, philosophy, geography, history, human nature. But I also want to know more about myself. And I have always felt that when it comes to exploring the geography of my inner life, great books are my most effective guide.

I recommend this book to all readers and writers.

For the week of April 23-29, I wrote 7,377 words.

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 strokes 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.