Y is for Yoga

YogaSome of the benefits of Yoga are:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining balance.
  • Weight reduction.
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury

While I love Yoga…I really do, in this instance I’m using it as a metaphor for writing. Now how can you apply these wonderful benefits to your writing.

Increased Flexibility – Whether you are trying to finish a book or trying to find a home for a manuscript.  Its important to be flexible.  Life interrupts the writing process.  Sometimes your dream publisher doesn’t accept your manuscript.  It is important to be flexible, remember the important thing is to try again, to be stronger and not break.

Increased Muscle, strength and tone – Have you heard the phrase “Use it or Lose it”?  Writing frequently, dare I say daily, increases your muscles.  If you type on a keyboard, you will type faster due to muscle memory.  If your write daily in a journal, or on a manuscript, poetry, etc., your process is strengthened,  and the tone of your work improved.

Improved Respiration, energy and vitality – Just Breathe.  When you are blocked or your just not feeling it, take a break; A breath if you will, and work on another creative project.  Often times when I “scrapbook” or when I’m cooking, I get ideas for my story.  Writing without other creative outlets can drain your energy.  You need to fill your creative mind.  This will give you vitality, and passion for all your creative works.

Maintaining Balance – As with all things in life, writing is also a balancing act.  When you are an Aspiring Writer, you are balancing work, writing, and whatever life throws at  you.  These same things apply when your are published as well, and then you get to add in promotions, book signings, blog tours, etc.  It’s important to try and balance to the best of your abilities, and what is important to you.  I still work full time so my priorities are Family, Work, Writing.  I know, writing is in there last, but it is where it fits today in my life and I still manage to find balance.

Weight Reduction – Okay writing won’t make you thinner.   But you may need to think about making your book thinner before sending off for publication. 🙂  Basically, “Cut the Fat”.  You want your book to be a lean, mean, selling machine.   Not to say you should write short stories, but make sure your 155,000 word novel doesn’t have redundancies in it.  Be sure you are using strong vs. passive language, and it is the very best it can be before you publish.

Cardio and circulatory health – Go with the flow.  When life throws you an obstacle, handle it and then get back on track.  In my opinion – not all writers can deal with life crisis and write.   I’m one of those writers…life’s challenges often derail my writing.  However, some authors excel at it – Using their writing as a tool to deal with life’s issues, or utlizing it as a means of escape.  Whatever writer you are – Go with the flow.  There is no right or wrong answer to how, or when you write.

Improved athletic performance – Over time all writers seems to innately learn things about craft, genre, editing, publishing, and other business items.   Not all writers will be good at all things, and some writers can zero in on one thing.   We learn to spot passive voice, or what genre a book falls into.  We can craft perfect prose, or create a list of potential publishers with ease.  What we don’t know, we learn from others.  The point is…we improve over time and not just at putting words on a page. We become literary athletes and excel in our performance of specific tasks.

Protection from Injury – Remember that rejection letter, horrible review or jealous writer who made it personal?    Writing doesn’t protect you from these initial injuries,  but writing groups and fellow authors often support those who fall down.  I belong to three groups, and all are very supportive.  RWA – Romance Writer’s of America Online Chapter, F-M Word Weavers – A local writing group and this group Writer Zen Garden.  For any of my rejection letters, bad reviews or other slight I may have felt, there was a support group for me.  They helped heal my wounds, cherish my soul and free my creative spirit to move past the hurt.

Yep, I love Yoga, I think I’ll go do some poses to get some of the benefits.

~Tina

 

 

 

Monday with Aunt Noony – and a Fireside Chat with Kimberley Troutte!

My friend, Kimberley Troutte, is up for several awards and I wanted to chat with her about the awards process and how it fits in with the rest of her writing. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to chat with me. Grab a cuppa and join me as I get to talk with Kimberley Troutte!

ACN: Kimberley, you said you received word that your manuscript, Epicenter (also called Her Guardian, His Angel), is a finalist in the RWA contests Launch A Star AND the Melody of Love. You also have a second manuscript, God Whisperer, in the finals of the Hot Prospect contest. First, congratulations! That’s awesome news!

Can you tell me a little more about Epicenter?

KT: I would love to. Epicenter, is the dramatic story of an American philanthropist and a Haitian doctor who are fighting to save lives when the greatest earthquake Haiti has ever known rips their world apart.

ACN: How did they get considered for Launch a Star and Melody of Love? Is that something you had to submit, or were you nominated? How does that work?

KT: These are writing contests in two different RWA Chapters (Romance Writers of the World). I entered online, paid my fee and kept my fingers crossed. Preliminary judges read all the entries, score them based on predetermined scoresheets, and determine which entries are good enough to move to the final rounds. I was honored and thrilled to hear that I was moving to the finals where agents and editors determine the final standings of the winners.

And the nail biting begins…

ACN: Is there a contest fee?

KT: Yep. Usually around $15-35 USD.

ACN: How about God Whisperer? What is that about?

KT: It’s the story of a mother and her eight-year-old son who are hiding for their lives in a Danish community in the hills of California when the boy becomes famous due to an ear surgery that allows him to hear God.

God Whisperer is near and dear to my heart. I wrote it because my little boy was born without an ear canal or eardrum in his right ear. The outside of the ear looked normal (albeit a little smaller than the left) but he had no hole! Very rare. The amazing surgeons at UCLA recreated his ear, drilling the hole, making an eardrum from his own tissue, and lifting the bones so that they could pick up sounds. It was a miracle when my boy could hear out of both ears for the first time in his life and I wanted to pour that love and miracle into a book.

ACN: How did it get selected for Hot Prospect? Is that something you did on your own, or were you nominated? How does that work?

KT: I entered it in the online RWA writing contest. I was so pleased that it was a finalist in the single-title category that I cried.

ACN: What made you want to be considered for these?

KT: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope to win :-), but mostly I entered these contests looking for answers. I had made huge revisions to the beginnings of both manuscripts and wanted to know if the changes worked.

First chapters are hard for me. I tend to revise them several times before the book is ready. I always worry that I might be starting in the wrong place, or in the wrong point of view, or including too much backstory, or…

The questions I hoped that the judges would help me answer were:

  • Would readers be hooked enough to want to invest their precious time to read on?
  • Am I clear—not too much backstory but enough information so that the reader is not confused?
  • Are the character likeable?
  • Is the plot interesting?

I was thrilled to pieces to see that the preliminary judges liked my first chapters, OMG they really did.

ACN: How do you find contests fit into your writing process? Is it something you do out of enjoyment, or is it part of your overall marketing strategy?

KT: Contests give me a chance to see where I am succeeding and falling short so that I can improve my story before other readers and publishing professionals see it. I always keep in mind that judging is subjective but if two judges touch on the same weak point, it probably needs to be changed.

ACN: What advice would you give to a writer wanting to start out competing? Where would a person start and what strategies could you recommend?

KT: I would recommend going to the RWA [Romance Writers of America] website. There are all sorts of contests for the unpublished and published alike and you don’t have to be a member of RWA to enter. Make sure you read the rules carefully and email the contest coordinator if you have any questions. I would choose a contest that offers judges feedback so that you can learn and grow from their advice. And remember that it is a subjective process. All judges, just like readers, are not the same. I have had one judge love the chapter while the other disliked it rather intensely. That’s the way it goes sometimes. If you are willing to put yourself out there and enter with an open mind, determined to use the contest as a tool, you should be able to learn something from it.

ACN: I wish you every success and, regardless of whether you win, you should be proud for having entered. That takes guts and I’m sure proud of you.

KT: Thank you so much. I am in a place of happy shock. I’m so grateful that judges gave up their time to help me become a better writer. It’s such a gift.

Write on!

Kimberley Troutte

Why Big Goals Don’t Work – Baby Step Your Way To Success

Every so often in writer circles, there is talk about goal-setting and success and word-count and other such lofty things.  I repeatedly hear writers moan, “My word count is too low.”  “I need a kick in the pants.”  “THIS month it’ll be different and I’ll write a NaNo length manuscript.”  (NaNo refers to the National Novel Writing Month held every year in November; more information at their website.)  What these goals fail to do is offer a workable way to achievement.  They’re not bad goals, exactly, just ineffective ones.  Why?

The secret lies in why we don’t write more.  The common misconception is that we don’t write because we’re lazy, or because we’re doing other things, or because that other person got there first and there’s just no use, or because all the good stories have been told and there’s no space for us and our stories.  The reason is rarely because we are physically incapable of writing.

I’d like to tell you an anecdote.  A professional friend of mine, under deadline for a novel (and her novels are over one hundred thousand words each), became very ill.  After hospitalization, she returned home and was given the wrong medication.  She nearly died.  Her ability to sit up at a desk at all was gone.  She could not type.  She could hardly see the monitor in front of her face.

What did she do?

She typed that novel, word by painful word, with one finger.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

If that doesn’t blow any excuse out of the water, I don’t know what will.

What’s the lesson there?  When we have large projects in front of us, the only way to accomplish them is by one bite at a time.  One does not eat a chicken by stuffing the whole thing in one’s mouth.  One has a nibble at a drumstick.  A bite of wing.  One eats the chicken, slowly, swallowing each bite before going on to the next one.  So, too, with writing a novel.  One does not sit down in one sitting and write a novel (unless under rare circumstances).  To have sustainable growth, one gets into the habit of writing a small amount, each day, which add up to a completed manuscript.

Next time you have the opportunity to make a large goal, why not try taking a step back and set a small one instead?  Maybe, “I’ll write 3 pages a day.”  Or, “I’ll write 1,000 words a day.”  Or even, “I’ll write 3 pages today.”  See if that unlocks some of your potential and gets you onto the page.  That way, at the end of the month, you won’t be one of the writers who laments, “Wow, I had such high hopes for this month but… [fill in the blank].”

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

Write on!

Writer Wednesday: Business Cards – Do You Need Them?

At a recent writing group meeting, one of the members asked me, “Do I need to get business cards?” It’s a good question, and it deserves a good answer. And that answer is not, necessarily, “Yes.”

The first question to ask ourselves is, “Do I want business cards?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then my answer is, “Then go get them.” If we really want them, then why not get them? That would imply there’s something wrong with having them, or a worry that we might not be important enough to have them. That’s nothing to be concerned with, because there’s nothing bad that will happen if we have a business card. There are no Business Card Police that will come and arrest we if we have one.

The next question to ask ourselves is, “Why do I want business cards?” What do we want to use them for? This leads to a philosophical question, what is a business card to be used for? It’s something we can give to others so they can contact us. The minimum we’d have on a card is our name and either a phone number or an email address, or maybe just a website. But it’s unlikely we’d give someone a card with no way to contact us and just a pretty picture and a quote (though if that’s what we want on our cards, then go for it).

Once we know why we want them, for networking or to promote ourselves, the next question is easier: “What do I want on my business cards?” Here are the obvious ones:

1. Our name

2. How to contact us (be it a phone or an email address)

Here’s the less obvious string attached to those two questions: do we want to protect our “real” identity and use a pen name? If we want to protect our identity and don’t yet want to do the work required to launch a pen name, then it’s perfectly permissible to put only our first name on the card. Be prepared for folks to be curious, but all we need to tell them is “This is what I’m comfortable sharing on a business card right now.” Most folks will accept that answer. Using whatever name they were given when they met us will lessen confusion. If we go by “Bob,” then using our internet handle of “Wicked Dog 41” will confuse people. Putting “Bob” and then “wickeddog41@yahoo” works, but make sure that folks can figure out who the heck gave them the card. Otherwise, it loses its effectiveness as a way for them to contact us – which is the whole point of the card to begin with.

The less obvious question is a little trickier: “What else do I want on my business cards?” These can include:

1. Our website, if we have one

2. Our blog(s)

3. Our Facebook or Facebook page (if we do this, get a unique username and use that instead of the alphabet soup Facebook uses in the beginning)

4. Our Twitter name or names

5. Our LinkedIn profile

6. Any other online presence that we’re part of

7. A description of who we are an what we do; for example, “Writer,” “Author,” “Creative Designer,” “Web Programmer,” etc.

8. Some folks I’ve seen use #7 as an opportunity to put something funny or offbeat, such as “Cat Wrangler” or, simply, “Geek.” If that fits with the image we’re trying to project, then by all means, put that too.

The next question is, “What happens if I have these cool cards and then change my mind about what’s on them?” No problem. We can print up just a few cards, if we decide to do them ourselves with templates from Avery or another similar provider; we can also get cards from somewhere like Vista Print and that’s only 250. Worst case scenario, they go into a drawer or we get creative about changing them (handwriting the changes or even printing up labels to paste over the parts that have changed).

And the big question: “What if I’m not published yet? Can I still have cards?” Of COURSE we can. What’s the purpose of a business card? So people can contact us. We will make friends and connections on the journey to being published, and presumably, those folks would like to continue to contact us. Giving them a way to do so just makes good sense socially – otherwise we have to handwrite it, and maybe on the back of one of THEIR cards (how embarrassing, no?) Plus, if our handwriting is out of practice because of all the internet usage and typing that we do these days, it’s probably safer to give them a nicely-prepared card rather than an illegible scrawl.

There’s no reason not to get ourselves business cards and, with a little thought, we can have fun and create a card that reflects ourselves and becomes part of the entire presentation of ourselves. Like resumes, clothing, websites, and blogs, they are simply a reflection of ourselves to the world. The more thought we put into how we want to do that, the better.

So, the next logical question, now that we’ve cleared out the “why’s,” is “How do we get business cards?” The next thing to decide is, “Do we want to do them ourselves, or buy them?” We’ll take them one at a time.

If we want to make them ourselves, we can use Microsoft Word or a similar program, or something like Adobe InDesign. I’m going to make the assumption that Word is the software most of us have available, so I’ll explain how to use it. Inside Word, there are templates for Labels; inside that list are a number of pre-made templates for popular business card manufacturers. The ones I use are Avery; 3M and other manufacturers have them as well. Under older versions of word, go to the “Tools” menu to get to the label function; under the new version go to the “Mailings” tab and click on Labels.

The labels you purchase will have a number associated with them; find that number in the list and select it. Create a new document and edit it from there. We can add graphics or fancy type if we want to; however, remember that it’s more important that it’s legible than fancy. If we use a fancy font for the name, then make sure we use a simple font for the email addresses, phone numbers, etc. Make sure the person to whom we give the card can easily get a hold of us.

If we prefer to buy cards, a great place to start is Vistaprint. If we keep our eyes peeled, Vistaprint runs regular specials for 250 cards for free. They offer a number of color schemes and graphics. There’s less flexibility than doing your own designs, but they offer a good way of designing the cards and coming up with a quality product. If we choose to, we can also load up our own graphics instead of using the free templates; doing that will cost a little more can simplify the process.

Whatever we ultimately decide, remember that all of this is to support our writing process. As we make contacts in the industry, and make new friends, business cards can help us build our network. The more thought we put into that, the better off we are. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change cards as time goes on. Nothing is set in stone; it’s okay to have trial runs. After all, the card is simply a tool to facilitate communication.

Have fun!

Deep Point-of-View or “How Do You Really Feel About That?”

As I learn more about the old writer’s dictum, write, revise, revise, and revise; and as I get practice submitting my work to publishers, I’ve found that one of the hardest parts is when you get to the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty “let’s clean up this sucker because we’re about to hit ‘send’ to give it to the publisher and it’s time to make sure it’s free of any dumb-dumb errors.”

Dumb-dumb errors. Kind of like Dumb-Dumb Bullets in Lethal Weapon IV.

But in all seriousness, I wanted to share with you my magic list of POV [point-of-view] problem words that I got when I attended a self-editing workshop put on by my editor, Tera Kleinfelter, Assistant Managing Editor at Samhain Publishing:

  • assumed 
  • considered 
  • decided 
  • felt 
  • figured 
  • heard 
  • knew 
  • realized 
  • remembered 
  • saw 
  • thought 
  • wondered 
  • worked out

One of the challenges with writing deep point-of-view is that there are so many different definitions for it, but little concrete advice on how to do it. I have found that doing a “find” command on my manuscript for these words, then rewriting the sentence in which they occur, does wonders for deepening my POV.

Which leads me to my next point. WHY are these POV problem words? After all, fiction is full of “He felt a shiver,” and “She wondered if he would ever get up the nerve to ask her out.” So why are these words “problems?”

In deep POV, the objective is to get as deeply as possible into the mind of the character. The better that I, as an author, get at giving the reader the exact thoughts as though my character were thinking them without translation, the better I’m accomplishing my goal of going deep into POV. I do not profess to be an expert that this, by any means, but here’s how I understand that to work. Let’s use the “He felt a shiver,” as an example.

What is the statement? It’s the author telling the reader what the character is feeling; it’s not the character himself doing it, nor is the author showing the reader anything. (Remember that old saw, “Show, don’t tell”?) “He felt a shiver” could apply to the President of the United States entering a room in which the President of Russia and the King of Monaco are sitting; it could be a spy entering a room in which his target is dancing with the person with whom the spy has fallen in love; it could be a serviceperson discharged from the Army after a tour in Iraq and finding out that his baby brother has been in a car accident. It doesn’t show us anything unique about the character.

“A spasm shivered up the side of his neck, vibrating all the way into his ear and making his stomach roil with dread.”

That tells us a lot more about the character. It’s probable, of the three examples I listed above, that it’s the serviceperson finding out about his brother. It’s unlikely that the President is going to report a feeling in his stomach as “dread,” particularly when meeting two other heads of state (although, if it is, you can use this description to “sell” the reader on WHY it’s plausible that the feeling belongs to the President). It’s unlikely it’s a spy, since a trained spy is unlikely to feel dread like that, and certainly not upon seeing the person he loves in the arm of an opponent or an enemy.

The more directly you can describe for the reader the emotional flavor that is referred to by one of our problem words, the more deeply you are showing the reader the character and, therefore the more deeply you are getting into POV.

Happy writing!

Wiley Wednesday: Life After NaNo

Those of us who have done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) share one thing in common, whether or not we actually completed our project or not: there’s a sense of let-down after November is over, a feeling of “what now?” Rest easy, writers; you’re not alone. There are others out there to play with, other projects to tackle, and other crazy goals to set.

A great place to look, even if you didn’t do NaNo itself, is the “I Wrote a Novel, Now What?” section on the main NaNo site. It has several sections useful to writers of all stripes:

Revision Advice – After the draft is done, the editing begins. There are as many ways to revise as there are to edit, and this section features excellent suggestions to make the process less painful.

Revision Pep Talks – never underestimate the power of a good pep talk! Marathoners and long-term Weight Watchers can tell you, attitude is everything; a good pep talk can help give you a well-placed attitude adjustment.

NaNoWriMo-style Events On the Horizon – I love this section! It is comforting, particularly in the first and second weeks of December, to find that there are others out there doing what you’re doing – or, in some cases, doing WAY more. There are blog-everyday-for-a-month people, editing people, and NaNoNotNovember folks. This is a great place to come to get ideas about where other writers hang out, and what you can do to keep up the madness of NaNo. Momentum’s a beautiful thing.

Novel Writing Contests Without Entry Fees – This is a great way to test your mettle. Many contests out there do not require entry fees and this is a place to find many of them. Not all of them are for novels, either – the Writer’s Digest “Your Story” contest is 750 words or less – a great way to prime the pump.

Some Thoughts on Publishing – This is a very useful section. Rather than pimping for the publishing industry, it contains links to some excellent advice sites, particularly helpful for avoiding scams.

More OLL Goodness – Last, but not least, this is the place to come to find out what else the crazy folks at the Office of Letters and Light (the organization that brings you NaNoWriMo every year) are up to.

Bottom line, if you love to write, there are others out there who love it too. Even if you don’t have an in-person writing group in your very own town, with the internet, you don’t have to. Writers all over the world connect and support each other every day. What are you waiting for? Get out there and write!

Wiley Wednesday: An Interview with Casey Lynn Marketing and Media Services

For this week’s Wiley Wednesday, we have the opportunity to have a chat with Casey Lynn, of Casey Lynn Marketing & Media Services. Casey helps authors to market themselves and to navigate the new reality of self-promotion. Casey has kindly consented to answer some questions for us.

WR: First off, what IS a marketing/promo plan?

CL: Before we start, let’s lay out some definitions. “Marketing” comprises all the actions you take to connect a product or service (for writers, a book) with an audience. “Advertising” is any paid method of marketing, like buying a Facebook Ad or space in the Romantic Times magazine. “Promotion” is everything you do to promote yourself, your brand, and your product/service, like teaching classes, guest blogging, or being active on social media. Marketing is an umbrella term that includes both advertising and promotion, with neither one being necessarily more effective or better than the other. So, a marketing plan just is a way to formalize your goals and methods of reaching the target audience for your product/service. The most powerful aspect of it a marketing plan is putting it on paper (or on the computer, of course). This makes the plan not only more real, but holds you accountable for defining and reaching those goals. Remember–your goals need to start with your audience. What are their needs? How does your product/service fulfill an unmet need? If you take this approach–giving something they can use rather than foisting something upon them–you are more likely to form connections with your audience. And those connections are what turn the casual reader a dedicated fan, or a client into someone who will passionately refer your services to others.

WR: What should I include in my plan?

CL: Above anything else, give yourself measurable goals with a given time frame. A marketing plan is for accountability and a structured plan of attack, yes, but beyond that it can act as a test of how effectively you are promoting and advertising yourself. For example, if your goal is “I want to increase my twitter followers,” then adding one person could be considered a success. But have you reached your true goals and your audience? Probably not. On the other hand, if your goal is “I want to gain ten new twitter followers a week–not spam bots. On average, five will be follow-backs from relevant new tweeters that I follow, and the other five will be people with whom I interact using hashtags.” That is a measurable goal in two ways: One, you have a quantifiable number (ten) and two, you have a time limit (one week). Therefore, you could set up a spreadsheet to track your progress by week. That way, you can see if there are any positive correlations between promotional actions you take (like participating in a hashtag-based twitter chat) and meeting or exceeding your goals.

Some things to include in your plan: Targeted audiences (as specific as you can make them), Audience needs and desires, ways of reaching audience (where they spend time online, what resources they read and trust, etc), and tangible actions you can take to connect with this audience. Will you do guest posts? Pay for advertising on a certain website? Connect with them via social networking groups? I’d also suggest finding a way to chart out your actions and their results, so you can constantly evaluate your plan to make it more efficient.

WR: Where can I go for more information to do it myself?

CL: Before you run out and buy every book your Barnes & Noble has on marketing, promotions, and social media, check out the internet first. A slew of amazing blogs provide quality content–and it’s free. I have an ever-growing blogroll of places to pick up information, all gathered on my resource page, here. Or you can check out my marketing and social media blogrolls via Google Reader.

When you find a blog that provides information you can use, add it to your RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader. For more information on what RSS is, and how to set up a reader, go here. By doing this, you can aggregate all the new blog posts into one site, like Google Reader, and read all the updated posts in an efficient manner–it’s almost like a customized newspaper.

Finally, experiment with the different marketing techniques you encounter. Eventually, you’ll build up a personalized list of methods and tools that put your product/service in front of the best audience.

WR: Where can I go to get help if I need it?

CL: I’m always happy to answer questions (via e-mail to CaseyLynnMMS AT gmail DOT com or via twitter @CaseyLynnMMS), and on most of those blogs you’ve added to your RSS (because you’ve already done that, right?), you can ask a post-related question in the comments section and a bevy of readers will help you out. I can’t guarantee that all their advice will be equally effective, but they will give you a starting point. Also, because marketing it NOT a science–it is trial and error, for the most part–ask your fellow authors. Many will be able to point you in a good direction. If not the right one, they’ll at least get you closer to the answers you need.

We are grateful to Casey for her time and information. Be sure to check her out at Casey Lynn Marketing & Media Services and remember – your success is in your hands!

Wiley Wednesday: Music and Editing

Getting Back In the Mood

I’ve been working on editing my first book, which comes out later this year from Samhain Publishing. I wrote it with my coauthor, Rachel Wilder. While we work together extensively, when I’m at my keyboard working on edits it’s usually by myself. Since we wrote Burning Bright last year, we’ve developed two new series in very different universes, as well as wrote more material in the Burning Bright universe but with other characters. So how do I recapture the mood I was in when first writing Burning Bright?

One of the ways, obviously, is to re-read the manuscript. But since the first draft was 87,000 words, that’s not the fastest method. Add to that the fact that we’re required to do multiple content edits (three in this case, since it was our first time with this editor), re-reading the manuscript doesn’t help me capture the mood I need so that I know what to cut from the manuscript.

To solve that problem, I use music. I develop specific playlists for novels and series, targeted to the specific characters and the world we’ve created. While I sometimes use the music my husband and I own in our library, I find Pandora online radio to be exceedingly valuable because it will develop “stations” based on artists or songs, and then give back songs that are related to it – but that I may not (and quite probably don’t) have in my library.

Which makes it like a stranger’s library.

In other words, it is like my character is a separate person from me, and I’m listening to their music choices. I don’t have to make them up, because Pandora does it for me.

How do you do this? Visit the Pandora website. You can either set up a free account (which is all I have at the moment), or you can subscribe to Pandora One for $36 USD a year. If you decide to use the free version, you can listen, with ads, for 40 hours a month. When you hit about 35 hours, it will tell you that you’re approaching the limit and offer to upgrade you, or tell you that your free time is over until the next month begins.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the service works outside the U.S. (a fellow writer in Canada said she’s not able to access it), because of the record company’s strict licensing requirements. (Too strict, in my opinion.) But if you are in the states, you can sign up and develop stations based on particular artists or songs – and their mix is VERY eclectic. It’s not just mainstream music.

If you don’t have access to Pandora, then iTunes Genius does the same thing, using similar technology. It will use music you already own, or suggest stuff to buy, which is why I don’t use it (I don’t have extra music money in my budget for this, which is why I like the free Pandora service).

Are there other music services out there that you like? Other ways you use music in your writing? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear!

Wiley Wednesday: Irreducible Minimums

There’s an idea in piano instruction called the Irreducible Minimums. It’s the idea that there are certain things that one must do on a regular basis, those “at least” things that keep us with one foot in the water.

As it relates to writing, there are certain things that we must do on a regular basis to keep the pump primed and the ideas flowing. But for each writer, those things are different.

Here, then, is the List According to Noony (which is the only right list, you know…)

1. Morning Pages

Those of you who have been readers of mine for a while have heard me harp on this subject quite a bit. It bears repeating: Morning Pages work. They work because they keep the channel clear. They are the small step that leads to bigger steps.

In case you haven’t been reading my material (and if not, you should feel very guilty and go fix that right now by reading everything) (from the beginning) (and making comments on each thing) what are Morning Pages? They are an idea from the genius mind of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and other books, and are three pages of longhand writing, done in the morning. They are hardest for writers, because our temptation is to write them. They aren’t meant to be fine prose, or even grammatically correct. In fact, one way to really get a lot out of them is to try to write them badly. Write them from the perspective of a child throwing a tantrum. Write them however you write them, but write them. Three pages of them. Every morning.

2. Regular Sleep

This may sound like a “duh” moment, but it amazes me how many people I know who don’t let themselves get enough sleep. They try to burn the candle at both ends and wonder why they’ve run out of wax. Stupid. Sleep is necessary for mammals. (In case you haven’t been paying attention, if you’re reading this, you’re a mammal.)

3. Support

This may sound foo-foo, but it’s critical. Studies have shown that people with extended networks of family and friends do better on all sorts of measurements from tests to longevity. Writing is a solitary activity, since it comes down to us with a pen or keyboard. But you do not need to be solitary to pursue it. There are all kinds of writing groups, online support, and other resources you can use to meet this basic human need.

4. Practice

In order to keep it going, and get better, storytellers need to practice. Experiment with new techniques, write to writing prompts, and keep your hand in. Blogs are a good way to keep it flowing and to get support, all at the same time.

5. Write

It may seem simplistic, but in order to keep writing, one must… write. It’s not hard.

Of course, it ain’t easy, either…

What are your irreducible minimums?

The Power of Plurality: The Many In Support of the One

People frequently ask me, “How do you do all that?” when they find out the irons I have in the fire. While it is true that when I was younger, I would frequently bite off more than I could chew. But it is also true that I’ve learned a lot since then and, while some might disagree with me, no longer am as subject to that foible as I once was. So, how do I do all that?

There are two simple answers, that end up becoming complex in the telling. One is organizational and time management skills, which I was emphatically NOT born with (in case you feel, like I do, that busy people must be part magician). I went to lots of classes and read a lot of books, have tried a lot of things, and worked out what works for me. While I could write an entire essay on that subject (and, truthfully, probably a whole book or five), because I have many ideas and opinions on it, the subject I wish to discuss today concerns the second answer: I have help.

We will now pause for those of you who wish to twit me on the fact that yes, I do need professional help.

Moving on now. What I mean by help is, simply put, playmates. I don’t mean professional or paid help (which I do also, in select areas, utilize – but I am not wealthy, so cannot use as much outside paid assistance as I might, in my more grandiose moments, wish). I mean I find people with similar interests, and we schedule time together to do things.

Yes, it really is that simple.

So, what kinds of things do I work with others on?

Pretty much anything, including housecleaning and bill paying. You know the Apple ad, “there’s an app for that?” Same thing here. If you have an interest, chances are high that there are others out there with the same interest. Now, I’m very fortunate to live in the third largest city in the United States, so that gives me about nine million potential buddies. But we also have this thing called the internet (or, for you LOL users out there, the interwebs). Don’t overlook the power of groups on the internet. I’m here to tell you that it can be a very comforting thing that another human being out there knows your trials and tribulations, even if they’re four thousand miles away.

We have a candle making party every year, for example. It’s always the first weekend in February, and is either one or both days. This year, we’ll do two days. Paraffin candles the first, beeswax the second. We make pretty much all the candles we’ll use in the coming year during that weekend.

What’s fascinating is this: we (the friend of mine who hosts these with me) always hope to do more than one candle weekend. But when you add in the time for prep (putting down cardboard on the floor to catch drips, wrapping the stove and counters with foil, melting the pots…) it’s a huge job. We’ve only done it one year out of the last ten. But we have done candle parties TEN years out of the past ten. Because we know people are coming, and now people know we do these and about when we do them so they ask for it, it adds power to the calendar, and ensures that we get at least one candle day a year. And now, at a remove of doing them for a decade, I actually have learned quite a lot about the process – without even taking a class!

Now, don’t underestimate the power of classes, either – because they have the same function. The only reason I’m focusing on groups here, as in “groups of friends or acquaintances with similar interests” is that frequently, the latter do not charge whereas the former do. On the other hand, classes for which one pays might induce one to be more serious about going. It’s up to the individual.

What else have we done in a group?

Spiritual exploration, political discussion, parties (I’m a pot luck expert by now), hiking, walking, weight loss, sales training, lead generation for sales, house cleaning and organization, knitting and sewing (any of the handicrafts), paper arts, Pysanky (Ukranian decorated eggs), bread making, soup making, car maintenance (no kidding – changed my oil with a buddy back in the days before complex catalytic converters and computer tune-ups)…

Even if you’re an introvert, don’t underestimate the power of people. We all have interests and skills, and others do too. It makes sense to leverage those skills. Maybe I’m great at organization and you’re great at web design. So, I’ll organize your office and files, and you design my website. Or, better yet, we teach each other our skills – synergy at its truest distillation.

Now, what the heck does this have to do with writing?

Well, think about it. This is a group blog.

(The light bulb should be going off right about now.)

~grin~

See? Even writing can be done in group – either an in-person one, or a “virtual” one. Schedule write-ins, prompt groups, contests, anything your little heart desires.

There’s a group for that.