Start Networking

Have you really worked on networking? Really gotten serious about your contacts and your contact’s contacts? Who do they know that you don’t know, yet.

Think of the six degrees of separation theory. It’s not who you know right now that counts but who you could get to know through your cousin Pat’s hair dresser. You might have a connection to a big wig editor at Harlequin and not even know it. You won’t know either, until you start networking.

Plus you can always build your network. Join relevant or related groups to whatever your area of writing is. If you write fiction find authors groups and readers groups too. If you write about squirrels join groups that go on nature walks. Not only do you have sources of information and inspiration but you have future buyers and readers too!

Be careful to keep things organized. Don’t lose an important name or number or email address. Keep a contact notebook handy. Keep two even! Have one for your purse or pocket and another for your car. Wherever you would be able to get them when you need them. This is why backpacks and whopper-sized purses are really great. In spite of the teasing of your family and friends. What do they know? Are they writers of greatness?!

You Need a PIM

Do you remember that woman you emailed about writing that article? You know, the one you met on that website the other night. Remember, she had that really cool email address, you were sure it would be easy to remember, it’s on the tip of your pen… if only you had kept track of that information.

Been there? Been there a few more times than you care to admit? Me too. Let’s do something about it.

Let’s work on getting organized. If we do it together it won’t hurt quite so much. Yes, I’m lying but just pretend you don’t know that.

Start with contact management. I know you have a whole pile of papers you’re itching to sort out right away, all those great ideas you intend to make into that really great and ever so useful idea folder which we discussed in a previous newsletter. But… let’s work on managing your contacts today. If you can remember who you promised what to and their email address you’re ahead of the game. Plus, you won’t drive yourself crazy wondering what you missed among the clutter on your desk and in your brain.

I found a freeware contact manager/ address book last night. It looks good, really good. Plus it’s freeware, how can you go wrong with that? (Shh, I like some illusions). You can find it at JB Enterprises. I’m including a link below with the newsletter. It will also be with my current BW column once I get that far.

Another program which seems to offer more than contact management and is geared to writers is The Literary Machine. I haven’t done more than download that one. But, it sounds worth an exploration. That link will also be below.

Check around yourself for other contact management and PIM (personal information manager) software. You might get lucky and find something exceptional. I just look for the freeware, that’s the kind of grrl I am.

Get Your Attitude Grrls!

I read this from a Harlequin Flipside romance writer. At the time I read it I scoffed and thought “how lame”! Now, I’ve had time to re-think while the idea has simmered on the back burner of my brain. Here it is…

I used to give advice to my university students – all aspiring writers. On the first day of class I would tell them to give me a good Elvis snarl, growl, then say “I can do that!” Surprisingly, I got a lot of resistance, but after a couple of minutes of good, solid growling I explained how that pit bull attitude is the start of achieving anything they want. It’s all about the attitude.

My friend Toni had that “can do” attitude. An immigrant from Italy, she went after what she wanted. Her dream was to be an attorney and later, a criminal court judge. She snarled, growled and she did it! And you can do that too! So let me hear that snarl, hear that growl and say “I can do that!”

Dianne Drake

Go get your pit bull and tackle something that’s been intimidating you! You go Grrrl!

(You too boys).

Is your Meter Running?

Meter is one of those words with several meanings. It’s a measurement of size, though we spell it metre in Canada. It’s a device like a parking meter, measuring time. It’s also measurement of rhythm and pace.

According to my Funk Wagnalls dictionary, a meter is:

“A measured rhythm constituting one of the chief characteristics of verse.”

Meter isn’t just for poetry. There is some form of poetry in our fiction and nonfiction writing. The words you choose, how you arrange them and how they sound when they come together, are all part of writing something people will want to read more of. Think about it.

Recently in the BackWash message boards PussNBoots, one of the Adult columnist’s said:

“Every writer searches for their own ‘voice’. The best way to find it is to write. Also, pay attention to the voices of writers you admire. Read their work out loud to hear the rhythm and meter. Listen to why they chose particular words.”

I thought that was brilliant. Reading your work out loud is the best way to check it’s meter, the rhythm of your words. That doesn’t mean you need to make your writing longer or chop it down, just choose different words or arrange them differently. See how your words flow, does the rhythm change or get monotonous? Is it dramatic and fast paced when you write about action? Or are the sentences you use kind of long and clunky? Do you tend to start sentences with the same pattern or rhythm? Vary your sentence structure.

“Tom went to the market, at Guildwood, everyday” Could be “Everyday, Tom would go to Guildwood’s market.” Not great examples but you get the idea, I hope.

Dealing with Disappointment and Rejection

How do you deal with disappointment or rejection? As writers we are going to get some of each, as long as you keep sticking your foot in the door and sending out your work. Which, of course, you are doing, right? Right?!!

Anyway, I skimmed a magazine article this morning and really liked two of the points they made. One was to immerse yourself in something new and the other was to take a reality check. The third was wrap your mind around it. But, that sounds a bit too much like dwelling on it to me. If you dwell on it that cancels out the other two.

Still, I really like the two ideas. Don’t you feel better when you start something new. You’re learning and researching new ideas and have the satisfaction of stepping away and keeping going. So they didn’t like your great idea. You can keep it around for another try with another market or you can change your point of view or your angle on it. You can even toss it completely and work on something totally new. Develop a new passion.

Taking a reality check is great too. So they didn’t buy it. Does that mean you’re doomed to failure as a writer? No, of course not. You just had one editor that turned you down. It’s disappointing but not the end of the world. Move along, nothing much to see here. But, now you can implement something new, as above. These two things work together so well.

Next time you need to get over disappointment remember reality checks and new passions. That should keep you busy, motivated and writing.

The Email Subject Line

Lovely, luscious readers, tonight I have two, count them, two great, sensational, momentous ideas for you! Can you tell I’m kind of enthusiastic tonight? !! Too much coffee I fear. But it was GOOD coffee!

Anyway, idea number one. Next time you need to write a short bio for yourself pick up a magazine. Have you ever read the bios they print for the contributing writers. Well, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Of course, not all of them are as magnificent as your own will be. But, they give you a great vantage point to start your own. You can even collect the best of the best contributors bios in a file and use them to keep yours even better by comparison.

OK, now you’re revved up for idea number two. Who can blame you. I’m so revved up a this point I may never need to sleep at all tonight. Wouldn’t that be nice. Think of all I could get DONE.

You will be thanking me for sharing these words of wisdom with you for many moons to come. Basically, use the space/ line for ‘subject’ in your emails. Use it, use it wisely, cautiously and smartly. Don’t be a knob and type in ‘hi’. What do you think happens to any email which looks like spam? Right! It gets the quick flush. Your email will not be read if you leave an ambiguous subject line or, worse, if you completely forget to add one at all. Don’t be an email loser, make good use of the subject line and warn others to do the same. That way people won’t be asking you why you never read their email. Unless of course, they only send those forwarded joke emails that you never actually do read. Who can blame you?!! For yourself you will now heed this grand advice and never again darken your email subject line with useless, unclear drivel. Instead, go forth and type in clear, concise and clever subject lines to alert your readers just who you are and why they should not randomly delete your very important email as spam.

So that’s it for tonight. I suggest you all drink coffee and stay up with me. We can write about the moon, scribble odes to the moon. Write on.

Cutesy Words

I do not like cutsey words. “Peeps” “sumpin” and “wassup” make me cringe. Perhaps I’m just showing my age, or being too particular and unbending. Whatever the case, I don’t like them and I can’t see myself changing on this.

It’s interesting to think, the way the English language evolves, some of these so called words could become standard English, over time. Hopefully a lot of time so that I’ll be into my next life and never see it happen.

What do you think about the use of cutsey words? Is it acceptable to use them in an article? I guess it really depends on the editor who will be choosing to pay for the article or not. Of course, a big guideline to language is the publication itself. What do the other writers write like?

Still you have to think of the readers when you submit an article. It’s the readers and the advertisers who make the style guides in the end. These days the advertisers probably have more sway than the readers even.

Anyway, you can be sure that if I ever type something cutsey like sumpin, I will have been taken over by aliens or something even worse.

Honour Yourself as a Writer

Last night I went on a spending spree at Chapters, the mega bookstore in this area. I went in for The Writers magazine and came out many dollars lighter. (Debit cards are a blessing and a curse). I bought a new thesaurus which I already love and A Writer’s Book of Days which I’m building up into love for. Judy Reeves wrote it and I’ll look her up online later.

Anyway, there is so much encouragement, inspiration and creativity in this book for writers. I highly recommend you find it at your local bookstore.

I’ve paraphrased and added my thoughts to one of her articles. This is one of her essays which caused me to buy the book.

Honour Yourself as a Writer

Name yourself a writer. Give your writing preference over your day job, affirm the place it holds in your life. Tell them you’re a freelance writer when someone asks what you do. Let yourself be proud to be a writer, whether you’re raking in the bucks from writing or not. Don’t put your writing in second place, like a hobby you might mention if someone asks. Honour yourself as a writer, just like Judy Reeves says!

Make a place for your writing, furnish it with materials that support you and your writing. Keep the space sacred and go there joyfully. I especially like this idea from her book. Make yourself a writing alter, take notes from the Pagans on making an alter. But, whatever you do make the space where you write special, meaningful, uniquely you.

Get the equipment and accoutrements you need. Do you really let yourself spend a enough on what you need to write? Don’t over spend but let yourself have what you need to write well. Don’t give it hobby status if you don’t want to keep writing as a hobby.

Make time for studying and practicing your craft: attend writing groups, workshops, writer’s conferences, classes and lectures. If you’re too busy to go far try a few writing email lists. See which one works for you and then become a regular (don’t just lurk).

Schedule time with other writers. Find someone else who writes and plan time together to talk about writing and have some fun. Don’t let yourself become too isolated from others who write and think about writing.

Read your writing to others. Say it aloud to those who can appreciate it. Read it at writing meetings, family gatherings and no occasion at all.

Transfer your writing from your notebook to the computer and print it out. Everything looks more professional in print. Save your writing in printed format and keep it all organized in files. There is no reason you can’t even make up a zine yourself. Just add a little desktop publishing and you can create your own literary publication, starring you.

Submit material for publication. In spite of yourself and your fears respect your work in producing the writing and the writing itself and submit it for publications. Give yourself a chance, it only costs a stamp, some paper and the time to research your markets.

Celebrate when you’ve completed a work or hit a significant marker. Take a road trip, make a fancy coffee, get a manicure, soak in the tub, call a friend, buy that new thesaurus you wanted, whatever makes a celebration to you. You deserve it.

Accept compliments gracefully. Don’t become your own worst critic when someone says your writing touched them, was a great read or made them think. Instead say thanks and give them more to read, point them to your website, the latest publication to buy your work, whatever you have to offer. Instead of denying your work, promote it.

Create Yourself in Your Own Image

We know about presenting a good, professional image and using effective body language. If you work in fiction you’ve likely used body language, style and first impressions to create a character. But, do you present a good image of yourself?

If you are in a professional situation do you know how to appear professional and confident. Do you look at people when you speak to them? If you look at someone’s eyes while they speak they will feel you’re really listening. Don’t sit or stand with your body scrunched or folded up. Good posture counts. Also, don’t sprawl and have people tripping over you, but – don’t be afraid to take up some space. When sitting, standing or walking don’t appear small and intimidated, talk with your hands a little, rest your arm on the arm of the chair.

Is your conversation full of slang, do you tend to use any bad language (anything you wouldn’t say in front of a 4 year old)? Coach yourself to speak clearly and avoid pauses with “ummm” and related phrases. If you find yourself stumbling over your words, sounding nervous, stop. Take a breath, a sip of water and remember you’re talking to a fellow human being not a rabid skunk, relax.

Can you carry a conversation, do you have some prepared chit chat? Avoid talking about the weather, politics or religion, come up with something a bit more interesting and uniquely you. If you have hobbies try working them in. Don’t go overboard talking about yourself, just enough to break the ice is fine. Ask questions about their own interests to pull them into the conversation. You don’t have to be full of yourself, you don’t even have to be genuinely confident, but you should appear to know what you’re doing and be at ease.

Take a look at your wardrobe. Do you have at least one ‘interview suit’? If so, do you feel confident when wearing it? If you don’t go shopping for something that flatters you and makes you feel good when you have it on. It should be comfortable to wear so you aren’t distracted by a tight jacket, a colour that makes you feel mousy or any other of a hundred problems that can come up. Yes, you want to be dressy but you don’t want to feel unnatural or inelegant. If your style of dress is casual try finding something casual in a dressy fabric. Or something dressy, like a tailored suit, in a casual fabric.

Of course, you are groomed, have brushed hair and teeth, lathered up (recently) in general. Make sure your fingernails are clean. Give yourself a check over just before the get together. Anything stuck in your teeth? Did that garlic at lunch stay with you? Any dirt, strings, or very tiny aliens, hanging from your clothes?

Writers already have a small image problem. People tend to assume writers slack off and have it easy. We work at home, may not even get dressed or out of bed all day. We don’t work at a ‘real’ job. Don’t assume another writer or editor or publisher will know better. Dress for success. Create the image you want people to have and then be there.

The Reframing Matrix

Here is an idea for the next time you are stuck with an idea and can’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag with it. Try the reframing matrix plan.

The Reframing Matrix is a formal technique used to look at problems from different perspectives. It helps to expand the number of options open to you for solving a problem.

You draw up a reframing matrix by posing a question in a box in the middle of a piece of paper. You then draw a grid around it. Each cell will contain approaches to the problem, seen from one perspective.

One way of using the technique is the ‘4 Ps’ approach. This looks at the problem from the following viewpoints: Product, Planning, Potential and People. Another set of perspectives is to ask your self how different professionals would approach the problem. Useful professions to consider would be medical doctors, engineers, systems analysts, sales managers, etc.

I found this on a site called Mind Tools. Consider applying the reframing matrix to your writing blocks or hold ups. What would your four perspectives or viewpoints be? Overall you could say: Story, Publisher, Reader, Characters. But it could be applied to sections of your fiction too. Look at the situation from the viewpoint of four different characters. If you are working on a non-fiction article look at it from the viewpoint of four possible readers- other writers, professionals, your siblings, a checkout cashier, etc.

It does help to give you fresh ideas and slants/ angles on the ideas you already have.