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Monday, December 30, 2013

Pull It Together

I hope that by now, you have given your writing business a good look and decided what you need to do to move it forward in the New Year. If you’ve been freelancing for twelve months or more (and this includes marketing your self-published work), you know that writers, like any small business owner, are busy 24 – 7.

If you need to reference the first two posts, go to our archives for December 9, “The End is Nigh” which kicked off my three week plan. December 15, “Writing Goals and Objectives” discusses creating measurable objectives.

Every month—at a minimum—I write for this blog, write copy for two other blogs, write lesson plans and handouts for my creative writing classes, edit one or more manuscripts for authors, create flyers and other types of ad copy for my businesses and clients’, create worksheets and evaluation forms for Shadow Hunters Book Club, and make revisions to my current WIP for my critique group. Remember, I said at a minimum.

Writers are some of the most diversified professionals on the planet, and our work will continue to grow as businesses outsource more and more of their work and need people who can type with all ten fingers, not just their thumbs.

Here are a few of the things I’ve done to help me meet my goals for the New Year.

1.  Signed on for Kelly Stone’s free 90-Day Writing Challenge beginning January 2, 2014.

2.  Signed up for Charles McInnis’s excellent two self-publishing classes through ESILL at less than $100 for both. Their full schedule will be out very soon. I’m teaching two classes by the way.

3.  Initiated use of author, Jamie Raintree’s, free spreadsheet for writers to track word count on five major projects and keep me on target.

4.   Created my own 12-month timeline to keep all my plates in the air, me organized and ahead of the game, and reduce last-minute deadlines, which I loathe.

5.   Met with two major clients and mapped out with them the first ninety days of the year after hearing their goals for the year.

6.  Contacted a client that I have completed 1/3 of the job and not received a payment yet, determined the alternatives for payment, and settled on a deal that meets both of our needs.

Sounds pretty sophisticated doesn’t it? Did you notice my out-of-pocket cost has been negligible? I’ve invested about twenty hours of pencil/pc time. Granted, I tend to be an organization junkie,

because it decreases my stress. The thing I like best about all of these, they are each within my power to make happen.

Not to worry if you haven’t started yet! Any day is a good day to begin. Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Brainstorm what you want to accomplish in writing for 2014 
  • Review last year’s successes and failures
  • Whittle the list, deleting and retaining and adding to create a list of 2 – 5 major goals 
  • Look at the big picture and organize by importance 
  • Narrow the list to no more than 3 major goals 
  • Set a timeline for each, putting it all on one page 
  • Give yourself the freedom to take advantage of windfalls and adjust the timeline.

 So, I’ve imagined my writing year, prepped, and I’m ready to hit the ground running, well, more like limping in my case. I can’t see the finish line. It’s too far in the distance. Hang On!
One  Word  At  A  Time!
                                                                                                 Please leave comments to let others know how you prepare your writing for the new year.  Have these posts been helpful?


Friday, December 27, 2013

Halloween in December

Here is the other great Halloween piece that disappeared into my pc infinity file in October of this year. No one knows how the computer chooses which files to snatch, sending a scream into the night. In October's Stuff and Nonsense contest, Candice Conner got her weird on and created this little piece, nothing short of Tim Burton's fantasies. Candice also won a free edit of the first ten pages of her current WIP from yours truly, which, hopefully, makes up for the Fleeing Files of Fall.
Put down your chocolate flavored liqueurs and slip into a little macabre on this bright December day.
A Cemetery for Strangers

                                  Candice Marley Conner
Olive is by herself at night in this cold place, but she doesn’t mind. The caring sort of grown-ups think she’s too little to be out here alone, but that’s just because they don’t understand where she came from. Olive knows she’s safer here.
There hasn’t been a home since her daddy died in a fishing accident off Dauphin Island; her mama now who-knows-where with who-knows-who.

In her experience, knowing folks got you hurt—and worse, killed. Just look at Mr. Frost and Mr. Boyington!

Maybe townspeople didn’t think too highly of them because of their card-playing ways, but they showed Olive kindness when they’d come here to pick blackberries or read poetry. Olive’s favorites were the poems by Mr. Poe though Mr. Frost thought her tastes a bit macabre.
She’d been asleep when Mr. Frost was stabbed. She inspected the scene the next morning after everyone left and stuck her finger in the pooled blood that dotted the blades of grass like morning dew.

And poor Mr. Boyington, lost his best friend and then accused of his murder!

Olive was there when they tried to hang him. She gave him a timid wave as he jumped, wide-eyed from the wooden scaffold. Olive was nearly trampled as the law scrambled to catch him, then dragged him kicking and screaming out his innocence until it echoed off the oak trees, knocking birds from their perches.

Between her fingers, Olive worried an acorn as she watched him, quick as a polecat on fire, duck the hangman’s noose. She bit into it at the exact moment when the law, giving up, tossed him head first off the platform. The crack of his neck echoed in her own head as the shell burst in her mouth. She spit it out in horror.

Now, she counts her acorns as she huddles in the shadows of a sun-warmed sepulcher. She hears footsteps approach, and counting on the charity of strangers, peeks out from around the stone.
Church Street Cemetery is quiet until the loud, haunting scream rings out near midnight .

Please give Candice and Judy feedback on their short, short stories. Authors love feedback. You know you do!

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's a mite early but

cj Sez:  I have absolute faith that I will miss sending my holiday greetings to you if I don't do it right now while it's on my mind. . . .

From my house to yours, Merry Christmas and a Safe and Happy New Year's Day to start 2014.

I wish you health, happiness, and the love of family and friends.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Scary December

 As anyone who uses a computer knows, there is a hole - similar to the one in Judy Davies story below - but this one holds thousands of lost files. No one knows how the computer chooses which files to snatch, files that will never see the light of day or appear on the computer to which they were sent. And that's what happened in October. Two entries were sent to the October Stuff and Nonsense contest. Two entries that Terry Rozum's prompt stimulated. Two entries that didn’t pass go but went to the dead files hole. Both writers, Judy Davies and Candice Connor, won a free edit of the first ten pages of their current WIP from yours truly, which, hopefully, makes up for the Fleeing Files of Fall.

Today, you can switch gears from candy canes, eggnog, and the scent of pine and return to gingerbread, pumpkins, and the scent of decaying spirits in the night.  Mahala

A Night to Remember
 Judy Davies

            "Church Street cemetery was quiet until the loud, haunting scream rang out near midnight.” Well, of course, it was All Hallow's Eve. One should expect strange sounds tonightor maybe not. After all, aren't cemeteries supposed to be quiet? Nonetheless, maybe we should just have a look around to make sure. Perhaps the scream didn't come from the cemetery. Maybe it came from someone in a passing car or from that creepy house up on the hill. I shuddered at the thought. That house had always given me the creeps, but tonight it looked especially ominous. 
            "Let's check it out, Sue," I whispered to my friend.
            "Are you kidding? One more scream like that and I'm outta here--short cut to your house or not."
            "Aw, there's nothing here but a lot of dead people buried in their caskets. They're not going to jump out at you. Quit worrying."
            Weaving our way through the front section of the cemetery, nothing seemed amiss and the scream had not recurred. 
            "See, I told you this short cut would save us time."
            Sue was convinced until she spotted an unexpected hole. No dirt piled around it, just a hole about the size that would neatly fit a casket. 
            We peeked in as we started to walk by.
            "See, just a hole," I started to say. That was until I realized there was already a large casket in it, lid open and several claw-like marks at the edge of the lid and on the ground above. 
            "See, ya!" exclaimed Sue, as she took off running.
            "Hey, wait up! Let me catch my breath," I puffed. "Man girl, you can haul butt. You should be on the track team."
            "I am," replied Sue flatly. "Now let's get out of here."
            We continued toward the back gate of the cemetery. At least I'd gotten Sue to slow to a moderately fast walk. Maybe the gravedigger was just checking to see if he'd left enough room for an oversize casket to fit; it was an early morning funeral and he wanted to be certain everything was ready on time. 
            So much for logic.
            Beside our path lay a chain with some keys attached and a slightly soiled white sheet, similar to something in which a body might be wrapped. Probably planted as a Halloween prank, I reasoned.
            Too late. Sue saw the sheet and was gone. "Meet you at the back gate," she called over her shoulder.
            I looked at my watch. It was the bewitching hour all right. What was I thinking? The caretaker always locked the back gate at 10 p.m., and the front gate locked automatically at midnight. The fence and gates around the cemetery were easily ten feet high. I guessed I'd better go back and get those keys. Hopefully, they would open the back gate. If not, it would be a very long night in a very quiet cemetery.
            I was sure Sue would be thrilled.                        

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Writing Goals and Objectives 2014 (2nd in series)

I hope that amid all your parties and shopping, you took the time to do a little math over the past week, and I hope you thought seriously about your goals and objectives as a writer for the New Year. It is important that we not make a list of New Year Resolutions that we jolly well know will be ignored by January 15th.

Whether you freelance, self-publish, traditionally publish, or are still in the wanna-be stages of writing, it is vital to your future that you focus on what will help you grow and develop as a writer. Not only do we have to write, we must market our work, network, and manage our time to have a chance at being successful. There are no guarantees, of course, but, come on folks, if we don’t give it our best, what’s the point?

                We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent.                 Because this is our life.          Steve Jobs

Writing is a lot like cooking. Without a recipe, it’s guesswork at best. You kinda, sorta know that basil and tomato taste good together, but how much of each do your use to create a spectacular spaghetti sauce?  How many hours or words a day does it take to create a plot?

Does a cake need eggs? How many? How many characters are too many in sci-fi or literary fiction? You get the idea. Take the really big ideas you identified this past week—the ones you want more than anything {your heart’s desire}.

I have five books in various stages of completion. Is it plausible that I will finish and publish them all in 2014?  Sure it is, if I want shoddy unedited work, subplots left dangling, and more “to be” verbs than the law allows. That’s not my heart’s desire. I want my work to be recognized for its excellence, so I’ve chosen as my goal to focus on the first book of my trilogy. My objectives are measurable:
1.   Complete adding notes and revisions. 2/28/14
2.  Take the entire book through a panel of beta readers and while that’s going on,
3.  Revisit agents and publishers of interest, draft query and synopsis templates. 3/31/14
4.  Review feedback from readers and make changes as appropriate. 4/15/14
5.  Begin queries. 4/1/14 {yes, I know what day that is.}

I also have goals for my freelance business that include a new website, expanding my writing classes and summer camps, and a strong marketing plan to pursue more B2B clients. I won’t bore you with the timeline for those. I have some educational goals and other freelance writing goals, some of which are continuations from 2013.

In summary:  (1)  decide what you want to accomplish with your writing {think plot}
                         (2)  decide what is doable in the next 12 months {think chapters}
                         (3)  break the doables into a list to follow {think scenes}
                         (4)  put a deadline on the doables {think climax}
                         (5)  check them off as your finish them {think denouement}

Next Sunday, we will look more indepth at how to schedule what you need to do and how to work your way through the list. We will also talk a bit about networking and investing resources for the greater good of your writing career {even if it’s not your day job.}


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing Contest

                            Secret Santa
For the past eleven days, you have received a gift from an anonymous friend. Your ego has celebrated each of the lovely gifts. However, today’s gift – the 12th - wasn’t like the others. It’s a picture of someone you love (your choice: son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, etc.) and they’re clearly doing something they shouldn’t. A note demanding $25,000 in cash is clipped to the photo. It will go live on the Internet if you don’t pay the $25,000 by noon tomorrow.
In 500 words or less, write a scene or flash fiction story explaining how you handle this. Send entries to  Deadline December 31, 2013.
1st Place:  Free edit by Mahala of first ten pages of your WIP or short story of 2,500 words or less and a copy of It Takes a Certain Type to be a Writer by Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo.