Write about your favorite bedtime story when you were a child. Now that you’re older, how has this story held up? Do you read it to the children in your life, and why or why not?
Category: On Writing
You’ve made your resolutions. You’ve set aside time to write. You’ve got your writing space all set, you’ve got all the time you need — and yet, nothing’s happening.
What to do when you’ve finally made the time to write — but you’re not inspired?
First, don’t panic; it happens. This is one reason I so enjoyed this article on procrastination in the New York Times. Writing can be such a daunting endeavor that of course we put it off. Note, however, as this article points out, that by procrastinating we in fact get quite a lot done. (It just may not be our writing.) The article quotes Robert Benchley, the Algonquin Round Table member: “The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”
Another reason I think we writers may freeze up once we finally give ourselves the time to write is that we are so overwhelmed by all we feel we need to accomplish that we’re paralyzed. Whether it’s a writing retreat or just a few hours in the afternoon, we feel the pressure to create and that, in turn, kills our creativity.
So here are a few tips for you so that you can make the most of your writing time once you have it.
- First, read this New York Times piece. It has some great advice for how to trick your procrastinating self into accomplishing what you need to do.
- Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record lately: Create a list of works. If you already have one, take it out and update it. When I did this last year, I finished four new short stories within a couple months. Now that we’re in yet another new year, I did this recently and am already outlining a new project. Thanks to Priscilla Long for the most brilliant idea for writers ever.
- Check in with a writing buddy, your writers’ group, your therapist — whoever can give you a little boost, and/or point out reasons why you might be facing Resistance. (For more on Resistance with a capital R, check out The War of Art, which is sure to inspire you).
- Do a few prompts. You’ll find new ones every Monday here on this blog, and you can also check out Everyday Writing for a whole book of them (as well as other tips for busy writers). I’m getting fantastic prompts from Judy Reeves’s Daily Appointment Calendar for Writers, and Brenda Miller’s & Holly Hughes’s The Pen and the Bell.
- Treat your writing time as if it’s time on the job. You are here to do a certain thing in a certain amount of time. Be your own boss: Set yourself a goal, however big or small, and do your best to accomplish it. Whether it’s finishing a new a scene or revising your first few chapters, choose a task to complete. Just the act of getting started is likely to awaken the muse and get you into the zone.
This is an excerpt of Kathryn Trueblood’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about virtual book tours, a.k.a. blog tours. For more book promo information, and to read Kate’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Kathryn Trueblood’s most recent novel is The Baby Lottery, a Book Sense Pick in 2007. Other awards include the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, judged by Jane Smiley, and the Red Hen Press Short Story Award. Her stories and articles have been published in Poets & Writers, The Bellevue Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Seattle Review, Glimmer Train, and Zyzzyva, among others. She is an associate professor of English at Western Washington University.
Q: How do you get ready for a blog tour?
A: The first thing you want to do is find the constellation or neighborhood you belong to on the Internet. This is a form of market research. In the words of the great poet Robert Frost in “The Road Not Taken,” “way leads on to way,” and nowhere is that more true than the Internet. So if it means you start at Powells.com or Amazon.com looking for titles similar to yours or writers you especially like, that’s fine. The next step is visiting the websites of these other titles and authors. I’d also advise going to the New York Times archive and putting in your subject + blogs because the top blogs often get written up.
What you’re looking for is what I call “a matrix blog”—in other words, a site that links to a large collection of blogs. When my book came out in 2007, Joan Blades, the co-founder of MoveOn.org, was publicizing a book and documentary film titled The Motherhood Manifesto that became the catalyst for a political movement called MomsRising.org, which is dedicated to lobbying for the rights of working women and families on Capitol Hill. Since I believed my novel, The Baby Lottery, would appeal to politically conscious working women, this was an ideal matrix site. It contained a huge list of blogs I could link to from the site. This was what I needed to get going.
After that, I got obsessed. As far as I can tell, that’s what research on the Internet means: getting obsessed! I spent some very absorbing hours visiting the blogs and websites listed on the MomsRising.org page, and from those blogs, I found other blogrolls, and I could also see which blogs came up repeatedly, i.e., had high visibility. I started making lists, and I found that tiered lists were helpful: my first choices, my second choices, etc.
Another thing you’ll want to be sure you have on your website is a downloadable press kit. This means that any blog writer reviewing your book or interviewing you has immediate access to the publicity materials they might need—they don’t have to e-mail and request them, and you don’t have to e-mail back and send them. My downloadable press kit included a press release, a background to the book article, an author’s bio in several lengths (long, short, and shortest), and most importantly, PDF files for my book cover plus an author photo. Having a downloadable press kit on your website shows that you’re professional and ready to go. Blog writers were able to grab what they needed, and it meant that my book cover appeared every time someone reviewed the book on their blog, sometimes even the cover for my first book as well.
Q: What is the best way for an author to approach a blogger who might be a good fit for a tour stop?
A: Send a short query letter, accompanied by your web release. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, you need to figure out the angle of social relevance that your book offers and articulate it. Why is this a topic that needs to be part of the cultural conversation or that enlarges a conversation already taking place? That’s your pitch, and it belongs in your query letter. If the book serves a niche audience, you need to make a strong case about what your book offers that others do not.
To read Kate’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Write a letter to yourself about what you want to accomplish this year — with your writing in mind, of course.
Include everything from your ideal writing practice to sending out submissions to books you’ve always wanted to read. Include advice to yourself on how best to accomplish these goals, such as what you might have to sacrifice in order to fit in your writing and reading time, or by encouraging yourself to take a retreat.
Happy 2014, writers!
If you’re like me, you may be looking back at a year of unfinished projects — and perhaps a few success stories as well, whether a finished story or chapter or even a new publication. For me, there’s never enough time for all the writing I’d like to do. But while 2013 began with very little writing, thanks to a 10-day residency in November and a lot of discipline afterward, I got so much done that I feel as though I was able to make up for lost time.
As I do at the end of every year, I took a look at my 2013 List of Works. (For those of you who don’t have one yet, create one; it’ll do wonders for your writing life.) I discovered, to my dismay, that I still have a great many half-baked stories and abandoned projects. I went through them all and decided which stories to jump-start and which to leave on the back burner for a little while longer. And the fun part of updating my list: Two stories that had been circulating finally got published. In all, going through my list of projects was galvanizing on many levels.
Now that we’ve got a whole new year of writing ahead, here are 5 tips to help you get started…
2. Try on a new genre. By this I don’t mean rethinking your entire writing career — I just mean to try experimenting with something new to see where it takes you. If you write nonfiction, try writing a poem — it may be great, or it may suck, but either way, it will allow you to look at language in a new way and will enhance whatever your current project may be. If you’re a fiction writer, write a one-act play; you may not take it any further than the exercise, but it’ll sharpen your dialogue skills. Remember that writing as practice is just as important as writing to create a finished work.
3. Find new time. I’d been so busy before my writing residency that I’d almost completely neglected my writing — but after I returned, I was inspired to shift my priorities, and I began getting up two hours earlier every morning to write. After a bit of sleep deprivation, I adjusted and now can’t imagine not doing it; I even get up early on weekends (sometimes). Another thing to keep in mind, if you feel especially pressed for time, is that even a few minutes of writing are better than none. No matter how busy you are, set aside 5 minutes a day to devote to your writing — whether or not you actually sit down at your desk (see Everyday Writing for what I mean about writing when you’re not actually writing). You’ll find 5 minutes totally doable — and soon, you may find a way to stretch this time out into an hour or even more.
4. Write down your goals. Consider sharing these goals with friends or fellow writers, and check your list every month to assess where you are. It’s hard to stay motivated if you don’t have specific goals in mind — and being accountable to others keeps the pressure on, in a good way. Even if you don’t have a project in mind, vow to write for thirty minutes a day, or to do two writing prompts every afternoon.
5. Remember that it’s fun. Unless your paycheck depends on what you produce, writing is optional. Remember the reasons you write. It’s not that creative writing isn’t serious work — it is — but sometimes we need to remember that we choose to do it, and that it shouldn’t be torture or a source of guilt. Sometimes other things must come first; let them. Often a little time away from our writing gives us the distance we need to come back to it with renewed energy. Earlier this year, when life was too busy to write, I let go of my projects — not happily but knowing it would be temporary, and it was. When I finally got back to work, the writing went more smoothly than I could have imagined, and it was because I came back to it when I was in the right frame of mind, newly inspired, and not distracted by too many other things.
Here’s wishing you a fun and fruitful new year of writing!
Write about a time you took care of someone, whether physically (a sick family member) or emotionally (a distraught friend).
Write about a view you love.
Write about smoke.
Think broadly, as always — this can be any type of smoke at all, whether from a cigarette or a forest fire or a chimney in winter.
Write about your favorite superhero.
New parents will say such things as, “He’s such a good baby” or “She’s such a quiet baby.” Based on your personality today, what do you think was said about you? Fill in the blank for your own babyhood as you imagined it was: “He/She was such a ______ baby.”
Write a love scene from your own life.
For many of us writers, doing a cross-country, in-person book tour isn’t affordable (in terms of time or dollars). But there are other options…like a Virtual Book Tour.
For a few tips on how to get on the road, virtually, check out this excerpt (along with many other resources for writers!) at Author Magazine.
This is an excerpt of Janna Cawrse Esarey’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about book clubs. For more book promo information, and to read Janna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Janna Cawrse Esarey is the author of The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers & a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster). A Publisher’s Weekly Summer Fave, Today Show rec, and Parade Pick, it’s the true story of a woman who sails across the Pacific on her honeymoon, only to find her relationship heading for the rocks. Watch Janna’s book trailer at www.byjanna.com.
Q: How did you get your first book club gig, and what can a writer do to get on the radar of book clubs?
A: My very first gig was actually before The Motion of the Ocean came out. A local college class was assigned to create promotional materials for several new books, mine included. (Pays to have friends who teach!) These amazing students convinced the campus bookstore’s book club to read ARCs (advance reader copies) and recorded the group’s discussion. They also made a book trailer—a short video—to promote my book. (I know, lucky! You might see if students in your area could do the same.)
My next gig, also pre-publication, was with Simon & Schuster’s in-house book club—a huge honor—but it made me understand why my editor had gone to bat for photos, a map, and a book club kit in the back (discussion questions, activities, and an interview). We had to fight hard for all these extras. With no budget for a map, I drew it myself, and I also helped write the discussion questions since I knew I didn’t want any dry, English-teachery reading comprehension questions. (Hint: Questions that make readers interpret the text or reflect on their own lives work best.) These extras— whether in traditional publishing or self-publishing—can be a lot of work, but they definitely attract book clubs.
To prepare for other book group gigs, I set up a section for readers on my website that included an expanded version of the book club kit as well as recipes, my personal backstory, and, of course, the book trailer. You could also include a blog, inspirational quotes, behind-the-scenes info, or photos of where you write. Visit your favorite authors’ websites to get ideas. I also ran a promotion: Choose MOTO for your book group and receive one free, signed copy. My publisher gave me a box of books to give away in this manner—very effective!
Speaking of social media, Facebook is an author’s best friend. Why? Because you can reach out to your number-one fans—your friends! Set up both a personal Facebook profile and an author or book page. Here you can post author events, links related to your book topic, the inside scoop about writing and publishing, tidbits from your personal life, and, of course, photos and anecdotes from your book club chats. Connecting with one book club via Facebook—and posting about it—will often lead to connecting with another book club. You can also try a Facebook ad that will post only to your friends’ friends, or friends of those who have already “liked” your book page. You can set your budget and your bid so it doesn’t break the bank.
Twitter also provides a quick, easy way to mention upcoming book club chats, post group photos, or share possible discussion questions. Reflect afterwards with favorite quotes or questions from the evening. Use a hashtag (#bookclub) to get as many views as possible, and create a hashtag for your own book, too (#MOTO).
For more of Janna’s book club advice, and to read her complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And visit Janna online at http://www.byjanna.com.
Griffin Bay Bookstore is in the heart of Friday Harbor, Washington, on gorgeous San Juan Island.
Griffin Bay is a must-see when you’re in Friday Harbor, and it’s a particularly perfect spot to visit on a rainy day, with its cozy feel and relaxing cafe.
The bookstore features a great selection of island-related books, as well as all of the latest indie bestsellers. It’s wonderful for browsing not only for books but for all sorts of readerly and writerly things; I especially enjoyed its amazingly diverse and lovely selection of note cards.
Last but not least, Griffin Bay has a truly impressive selection of Theo Chocolate.
Write about an old piece of clothing you can’t seem to get rid of.