5 writing tips for the new year

By Midge Raymond,

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…

1. Create a List of Works. I learned this incredible tip from writer Priscilla Long, and it’s been one of the most useful exercises I’ve had for my writing life.

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!

Weekly Writing: Babies

By Midge Raymond,

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.”


Bookstore Geek: Serendipity – The Used Book Place

By Midge Raymond,

For a tiny town on a small island, Friday Harbor, Washington, has wonderful bookstores. Among them is Serendipity, a used bookstore near the ferry line at 225 A Street. The store doesn’t have a website, but you can call (360) 378-2665 to check its hours.

This beautiful store is overflowing with books (yet all books are cataloged, so if you are looking for something specific, just ask). And books are arranged by section, from contemporary general fiction to classics to Oprah Book Club selections, and so on. Particularly fun is the cookbook section, which is located in what formerly was the kitchen of the house:

All the different rooms and nooks makes for excellent browsing. This definitely outs me as a Cat Lady, but I did love the cat-book section of the store.

Between the sheer number of books and the cozy fireplace, Serendipity is one of those bookstores you can lose yourself in, so plan accordingly — and if you’re in the ferry line, keep an eye on the time!

How to set up a virtual book tour

By Midge Raymond,

I’m delighted to have an excerpt of Everyday Book Marketing appear in Author Magazine this month.

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.

Mini Q&A with author Janna Cawrse Esarey

By Midge Raymond,

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.

Bookstore Geek: Griffin Bay Bookstore

By Midge Raymond,

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.



Mini Q&A with poet Kelli Russell Agodon

By Midge Raymond,

This is an excerpt of Kelli Russell Agodon’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about unique book promo ideas and offers advice for new authors. For more book promo information, and to read Kelli’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.


Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, and Geography. She co-edited Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry. Kelli is the editor of Crab Creek Review and the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press. Her third book of poems, Hourglass Museum, will be published in 2014.

Q: What was the single most successful thing you’ve done to promote your books?

A: Oddly, I’m not sure I’d have any idea what one thing it is, but probably a coming together of many. Having my poem on Poetry Daily (www.poems.com) was a huge boost because poetry readers visit there daily, so I connected with a lot of people outside my area.

Another thing I did was send my book to ten random people. These can go to anyone, like a reader who sends me an e-mail saying they liked a poem of mine, or I may mail a copy off to Garrison Keillor for his “Writer’s Almanac” radio show. I just like sending my book out into the world and seeing what happens—sometimes nothing, sometimes a lot.

From my ten-random-people experiment, my poem went on to be recited by Garrison Keillor on his radio show and then ended up in his Good Poems for Hard Times anthology. You never know what doors your book will push open, and it’s a fun way to connect with others and send your work into the world.

Q: What advice do you have to offer new authors?

A: 1) If you’re trying to publish your book, be persistent.

2) If you have a book published and are trying to market it, be polite and professional.

3) Use your newly acquired fame to help promote other writers you like. It’s wonderful to support others, and having a book will give you the platform to help raise others up and share their work as well. Remember, we are a writing community full of readers and writers. Share the wealth with others, and let that good karma come back to you twofold.

4) Remember there is no one way to be a writer in the world. Try new things (make a book trailer, start a Facebook page) and find ways to promote your book that make you feel good. If you like working with people, see if you can volunteer somewhere. Or visit someone’s book group. Find ways to share your book with others that you enjoy.

5) Don’t judge your success by your royalty check. We are artists first, and we can’t judge our work by a dollar sign.

To read Kelli’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And visit Kelli online at www.agodon.com.

5 Tips for writers at Women’s Fiction Writers

By Midge Raymond,

Today I’m delighted to be a guest on Women’s Fiction Writers, the fantastic blog of Amy Sue Nathan, author of The Glass Wives. For those of you who don’t know of Amy’s blog, check it out and keep returning for awesome tips, guest posts, and other resources for women writers of fiction on editing, publishing, and the writing life. I escpecially love the blog’s tagline: “no heroes. no zombies. no high heels. well, maybe high heels.”


In this guest post, I offer 5 tips for how to be an Everyday Writer — that is, how to keep writing when you’re not actually writing. There are myriad ways to stay connected to your work even when you’re not able to be in the chair…and I hope you find these tips helpful.

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, you might find that these 5 tips help keep you on track. Even if many of the tips involve away-from-the-desk activities, what you gain from these will most likely affect your writing directly.

Happy writing!