Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing Ideas

Every year about this time I think about all the articles I should have written, or those I've written but failed to submit in time.

I promise myself year after year to write stories during the Holiday Season and then place them in a folder for submitting in about June. It's a good idea but I have yet to fulfill that promise to myself. Life gets in the way.

So, start now and write down the ideas as they happen. Then, put them in a folder of things to write immediately. Maybe you have a better process. If so, share it.

Next, set aside time on your calendar to write. Even during this hectic time of year, don't get out of the writing habit. It only takes a few minutes to jot down the basics of an article. You can embellish it in January.

Look through magazines now for ideas from articles printed this year. What holes can you fill next year? Remember, new generations need the knowledge you may take for granted that everyone already knows. There aren't many new ideas, just repeats of old ones.

With this said, I promise to dig out all the Holiday articles and put them in a folder ready to submit. I'll do it after I put up the tree!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Writing & Promoting

On Writing:
Have you considered that you write everyday even though it might not be for publication? How many emails do you send in a day? How many notes do you hand write to children, husband or whomever?

Word 2007 helps automatically with grammar, capitalization and sentence structure. I admit it sometimes makes a mistake!  However, it keeps you on your toes. In Word, if you start a new sentence and forget to capitalize the first word, it does it for you. I wish email message pages had the same help. Have you received those emails that never capitalize a word? They are hard to read.

No matter in which writing exercise you participate, make it the best writing possible. Use proper grammar, capitalization, sentence structure, active verbs, etc. It serves as good writing practice.

With that I got out of my system, how about writing those email queries? Do you concentrate on getting the point across with all the above and devote the time you spend on a snail mail query? Your query email message needs to express the same professionalism as your standard query.

On Promotion:.
I mentioned before my meeting with the Small Business Development Center for help in promoting my upcoming book-HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART. By the way, it is listed on for pre-orders. At this point, it has some incorrect information that will be addressed shortly. The age is 7-12 years not 4-8 years. The might relate to grade levels but that is not how it is stated.

Back to the SBDC. I learned a lot. She zeroed her focus to my audience - in this order: teachers, museums, libraries, schools, parents and children. Then we discussed how to reach that audience through organizations, school districts, the Internet, libraries, and museums. She reminded me to include Wyoming since it is relatively close - especially Cheyenne and Laramie. We talked about teacher training classes in a college setting.

She suggested I start lining up presentations now, three months in advance. Charging is a difficult process for most of us. I researched the charges by some authors and discovered a wide range. I decided to eliminate charges until I earn a reputation. She suggested I approach with this comment, "I'll be in Cheyenne the week of (fill in the blank). I'd like to offer you this new release (fill in the amount) value for free while I'm getting established. Which date do you prefer?" Then after about 6 months, I can start charging. But let them know they are getting a bargain.  She suggested I try to hit a bookstore, classroom, library or as many entities as possible in one day or week in a particular area.

The next post will include some of her other suggestions as well as those of my critique group's discussion last night on the same topic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How do you write?

At our SCBWI schmooze last night we discussed how and when people write. Once they have all the information? Before they finished the research?  How do they organize - with note cards, sticky notes, scraps of paper, on the computer? We determined the method depends on the person.

According to Teresa Funke, there are several methods and one should choose whichever works for them. One of my unpublished books, a fictional autobiography of one incident from my childhood, I wrote by just sitting down and writing. I mentally knew where I should start and where I should end. All that came between was chronological.

Another unpublished book, called Monkey Madness, came about by setting up chapter names. I knew some of the events I wanted to include in this wacky, time travel, adventure chapter book of three boys who go through the picture frame of a famous painting into Paris. The writing came easy because I knew where I was going. A little research along the way added the necessary information for the time period.

Finally, I started work on my Charles Russell book that comes out this Spring. This non-fiction, art appreciation children's book needed a different format. I read many accounts of Russell's life and painting life. I chose which 12 pictures and one self-sculpture I wanted to use. I knew I'd approach each object the same as when I give art museum tours - questions to have the viewer look at the work, some tidbits of interest and a closing sentence that possibly led to the next object. Each object only needed about 200 words. Sounds easy but how do you get all the information across you want readers to learn when you have pages of notes! At any rate, the writing came easy once the "outline" was finished.

The follow-up book on Frederic Remington deployed the same method and the writing came easily. My outlines may not look like outlines but they worked for me.

I have learned that for me several methods work. However, the ones where I had a definite written plan worked the best.

How do you write? Do you research first or as you go? Do you have a method of note keeping you might share? How do you put together the plot and subplots? Do you make character sketches? When do you fact check? Do you use the same method/methods for writing short stories or articles, fiction or non-fiction?

Friday, November 12, 2010


Subheadings in articles for magazines help clarify what is written. Take for instance, the articles I just finished for Rocky Mountain Senior and Lyons Recorder. Each lists Christmas activities for several cities. By dividing the article into city subheadings, residents need not read what doesn't apply to their city unless they want to participate elsewhere.

Another article listed inexpensive ideas for Christmas decorations. I wrote a subhead for each area of the house - kitchen, bathroom, great room, etc. Then a reader can concentrate on the area they desire to improve with more decorations.

Be sure the subheadings are parallel. In other words, if one begins with a verb, the rest should begin with verbs. If one is a noun, the others should be nouns. Make subheadings descriptive enough that readers can skim and find what they need. For a long article, try to subhead each page.

I discussed writing with the co-owner of the Lyons Recorder. Some topics we covered included "ing" and "ly" words as well as active verbs. I believe the best advice any writer can pass on would be to make your writing active. Eliminate those "to be" verbs and replace them with active verbs that describe the action. Sometimes, as I've indicated before, the adjectives or adverbs turned into verbs help the action.

Now that the Holidays are approaching, everyone's schedules fill up. Some people may have little time for reading blogs. I started putting up decorations yesterday because we will be out of town part of Thanksgiving week. Hopefully weather cooperates and we'll hang our Christmas lights soon. Wish we hung them during all our Indian summer.

That said, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled friends and family. I will post before Thanksgiving but skip Black Friday.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I have often wondered how to write age such as two-year-old. Do you hyphenate or not? Helen Wilkie's tip says if you use the age as how old you are, don't hyphenate. However, if you are describing your two-year-old grandson, do hyphenate. When the age is a description, it is hyphenated. Now if I can just remember this!

This past week I skipped the Friday post because I was babysitting my nineteen-month-old twin grandsons. Needless to say, I had little time to write a post. Besides their keeping me busy, my son's house was visited by two herds of elk. Both consisted of over 30 animals. They decided to relax and enjoy the day on my son's backyard in Evergreen, Colorado - one group at a time. They filled the space between two houses and spread out beside the house as well. In fact, at one time, four decided to eat the carved pumpkins on the front porch. Only large floor to ceiling windows separated us. They stared at me as I stared at them.

There must be a story in there somewhere.

Hyphens bring to mind a requirement of Pelican Publishing. They don't like the use of a dash but prefer an em dash or hyphen with no spaces. Since I wasn't quite sure from their examples of what they wanted, I made sure I had no use for them in my manuscripts. If not sure, don't use it, I decided.

I received my second advance check and immediately spent it on a multimedia projector for classroom presentations. I'd rather depend on my own equipment and knowledge of it. A friend suggested she'd much rather have her own equipment since every visit ended up with something missing, the AV person absent or a machine she didn't know how to operate.

Now I have one more advance check when the book is released. Hopefully, I'll pocket that one. The other two paid for the book pictures and, now, equipment to help in marketing the book. Will I ever make any money on this sale? Some people assure me I will. We'll see.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Next Book

Now that HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART is at the printer, I have concentrated on a book for the same series called Frederic Remington's Art.

Once you've a contract for one submission, you can follow the guidelines given you by the publisher for sending the final manuscript as you prepare your next submission.

For instance: Pelican requires Times New Roman, 12. I usually work in Courier New, 12. So I reformatted my Remington manuscript to the new font and size. Pelican also wants the pages numbered a certain way. I followed those guidelines. Each paragraph needs to be indented by a keyboard tab, not individual spaces or a formatted tab.

They want no spaces between paragraphs. All punctuation must be followed by one space, no more. In other words, one space after a period at the end of a sentence. I've been following that rule for several years now. To get used to it, copy one page of a manuscript and place only one space after a period. By the time you've typed the page, it will be a habit.

They want double-spaced manuscripts with one inch margins all around. If your book has chapters, they want all the page numbers from the beginning to the end of the complete manuscript. Even though they ask that each chapter be a separate file, the numbers remain for the whole book, not by chapters.

These guidelines, as well as many more, are for a contracted manuscript. However, some things I applied to my new manuscript submission. Always check your manuscript several times for spelling errors, etc. I usually find something I'd missed. That goes for blogs also! After I write a post, I copy and paste it into a Word document to check spelling. Did I miss anything?

In other words, I sent the manuscript last week. YEA! Now the waiting begins. Should I be positive and begin the process of following the rest of the guidelines like a dedication, chronology, introduction? I guess it won't hurt. No matter who eventually buys the book, I'll need those additional pages.