Friday, April 29, 2011

For love of the fairy tale

Watching the Royal wedding this morning only reminds me about why we read. We read for the love of the fairy tale. I’m not just talking about books with royal characters but we all want that happy ending, even if it is the military squadron accomplishing their mission.

I believe that people love the escape, the magic of getting into a different world. As a writer, I do feel a sense of responsibility to give readers that happily ever after. I will put my characters through turmoil, but in the end things will work out in one way or another.

Do you want that happily ever after when you write, when you read?

Do writers have a responsibility to their readers to give them that happy ending? In honor of today’s Royal wedding of William and Kate, what is your favorite book with a Prince or Princess as a main character? I love ‘Crown Duel’ by Sherwood Smith. (Photo credit:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Setting the scene with our moods

As a writer, we play God to our creative worlds. We create something from nothing and make it seem real. But how do you set the mood for various scenes? These past few evenings Arkansas has been plagued with severe weather. My family was more fortunate than others and I was lucky to maintain power through the storms to continue writing. However, the mood of most of my scenes didn’t fit the dreadful fury outside my house. I had to forget the thunder, ignore the sounds of rain and hail and step into a royal homecoming ball in my young adult fantasy.

My answer to setting the mood for my scenes can be found in my iTunes library. Music is really the fuel for my life. I can’t do anything without it. I wake up to music, clean to music, cook to music so it makes sense that I write to music. It also comes as no surprise to my husband and I that our daughter all ready reacts to music. Back to my topic, I spend a few minutes looking through my extensive iTunes library prior to getting lost in my writing. Sometimes I just put on my Pandora channel when I don’t feel the need for anything too specific. I do only listen to musical scores of action films while writing fight scenes. I have found that this really helps in tackling such scenes.

I’ve seen that some authors set up playlists of the songs they listened to while writing a book. I love this idea and when I feel that a song really fits a scene, I write it down and file it away so that I can someday share it with readers.

Since I’ve begun adding mediation to my day in an effort to be a healthier writer (see my review and comments on craft book “Writer Wellness) I’ve started using music more as a relaxing launch into my writing sessions. Taking some time off to relax to music, so far is really helping me to clear my mind before taking on a new scene or revising a new one.

Our scenes are like people. They have endless moods and variations. How do you set your mood before you write a scene? Does your tactic vary by the scene or do you rely on a constant aide, like I do with music? Please share and happy hump day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Craft book recommendation: 'Writer Wellness'

Since this blog is devoted to writers’ craft, industry hot topics and my journey from pen to publish, I rarely post reviews. I have said before that I believe that reading is one of the most important tools that a writer has. I read fiction in and out of my genre, non-fiction, newspapers and writing craft books. I’m always learning from what I read and remembering why I write, for the love of reading. These past few weeks I’ve been reading ‘Writer Wellness’ by Joy Held. I mentioned it in a previously blog post on healthy writing but as I prepared my review for Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc. I wanted to share it here as well.

Held’s ‘Writer Wellness’ advises those “creative” types how to embrace creativity that can flourish through a healthy lifestyle. Everyone is busy. Managing my writing business, and yes I said business and not career, while raising my daughter and being a wife can be stressfully overwhelming. This book is perfect at establishing the importance of balance through journaling, relaxation, exercise and nutrition.

Held does a great job of getting writers, and really all creative types, to understand and use the different aspects of their lives. When in balance, they can create a better writing career and overall better health. I’m a huge advocate of exercise and healthy eating due to being dealt with not the best genetics. Also, as a former professional dancer, I know from experience that I feel better and I’m more productive when in shape. ‘Writer Wellness’ really emphasizes the entire package needed to be a healthy creative writer. I’ve always kept a notebook for keeping track of my ideas but I’d never thought of journaling as she advises. Thanks to this book I’m also trying my hand at meditation. I’m anxious to track and see how this new tool adds to my creativity.

‘Writer Wellness’ is best read while following the helpful exercises. This book doesn’t just instruct but installs a since of change that will make anyone in a creative driven industry a more effective professional and person. I thought that it was a beneficial read that not only informs you of writer wellness but give you the tool to make wellness happen in your life.

I love finding a good craft book. What have you read recently?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How I began my full-time writing career

This past week and a half my family has been on vacation. We had the opportunity to visit family around some professional obligations for both my husband and I. In addition we were able to make a trip to one of my dearest friends weddings and vacation in the wonderful city of San Antonio, TX. Amongst my travels I was able to attend my writing organization, the Romance Writers of America West Houston chapter. I am a long distance member, in addition to being the newsletter editor, but I love to attend when I can and enjoyed the talk from our chapter president, Karen Burn on writing full time.

She brought up many great points that aspiring authors should consider before plunging into this uncertain career. For example, as an accountant, she advises writers to take note of their monthly expenses and how they will make ends meet before quitting that steady paying job.

In addition to that advice, I recommend testing the waters before taking the big step to being a full-time professional writer. Personally, I freelanced for nine years as a part-time career before attempting to take my writing full-time. During that time I worked as a PR practitioner and event planner, which installed a lot of discipline, practice and drive that still helps me today as a full-time writer. So, in theory, I had the opportunity to test the waters with my writing and see the possible sustainability of a freelance career prior to taking it to the full-time level. I feel that this is an important step before “taking the plunge.” It also allows me the opportunity to have a steadier paycheck while I work on novels since I have contracts as a freelance writer.

Writers also need to plan out their brand prior to becoming a full-time writer. Creating a brand takes time. As someone who was trained in PR, this is not an overnight success. This itself takes time and should be established before your time is demanded to important things such as meeting deadlines whether they are self set or not.

I planned a year out from become a full-time writer. I developed a plan with freelance contracts that I felt were stable in addition to a schedule where I could still meet my personal novel goals. This remains an ongoing struggle. I need to devote more time to my novel and “big goal” plans but it is hard to turn down reliable income. An important thing that I have found to help in my journey as a full-time writer is having a supportive family. Make sure that your spouse and family understand what you do and why you do it. Let them know how they can help you meet your goals. Set a schedule. My husband watches our daughter so many hours at night so that I can work. I’ve also hired a part-time nanny to assist with my obligations as a professional and a mother.

What steps did you take prior to becoming a full-time writer? What do you feel are the keys to your success? How do you manage your professional time amongst real life?

I currently write for local and National publications. This May I will publish my first book, ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog’ with Who Dares Wins Publishing. I’m currently revising my young adult fantasy and outlining a middle grade dystopian.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Writing Healthy

As writers we all tend to drive ourselves towards our goals relentlessly, which often means insane early and late hours and turning into recluses. Well, at least that is what happens to me. Often times I forget the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working towards my goals.

Even with deadlines it is important to take time to take care of you. By stopping to take care of myself I’ve learned that not only do I feel better but my writing improves as well.

There are four areas that writers should focus on while working to write healthy. First there is physical health. It is not healthy to sit constantly in front of a computer screen. The second is nutritional health. Don’t skip meals. Take time to eat healthy. Thirdly, hone your craft. Take time to read craft articles and books. I’m currently reading ‘Writer Wellness’ by Joy Held. It is a fantastic way to make change and become a better and healthier writer. The last area that writers should focus on is mental health. Take time to meditate and relax. Control your stress and feel better for it. This will make you a better writer.

Joy Held’s ‘Writer Wellness’ book really incorporates all of these areas and helps writers understand how to find the time and the importance of writer wellness. I highly recommend this book and once I’m done I will write a review.

What do you do to write healthy? How have you seen that taking time to focus on your health has helped your writing?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to be your own staff

As a self-employed, professional writer I have no boss and no staff. I have no accountant, secretary, janitor or many other skill driven jobs that make up normal businesses. Yet I still have to take calls, schedule appointments, pay bills, keep up with my taxes and clean my office just to name a few of my many daily jobs other than writing. So how can writers manage all these tasks while still staying on task with daily writing goals? How can we be our own staff? I conducted a study on myself about a year ago and I’ve found my results most helpful.

I began by writing down everything I did during the day in a log. I made sure to include the time and then would write a note off to the side of the task about how effective and efficient I was at the task. I would move routine tasks around each day so that I eventually would do different tasks at various times of days. By doing this for a month I began to see what tasks I performed best at in the morning versus the afternoon and evening.

Everyone is their best at different times of day. I simply studied myself to determine when I needed to put my most thought provoking tasks versus tasks that didn’t take as much thought. For example, I’m my best first thing in the morning so I use that time to work on reaching my daily writing goal for my fiction work. Before lunch I’m starting to get a little tired so I use that time to follow up on emails until I can recharge with some lunch. Early to mid evening is my worst time of day. I’m tired plus I want to spend time with my family. It’s during this time that I devote to cooking and cleaning house, including my office.

At 8 p.m. after my daughter is in bed, I sit back down at my desk and work on any blog or column assignments for the following day. Now on Sunday’s I map out my weekly blogging and column topics but it is the night before when I write them. After I’ve done that I read any craft articles that I pulled from Twitter during the day. I go over my list of daily objectives for the next day and read a book for an hour or so before going to bed.

The next morning I’m up at 5 a.m. and at my desk by 5:45. At that time I proofread that days blog and column and publish them before diving into my daily writing goal and the process begins again.

This schedule works for me but everyone is different. I highly recommend taking some time to study your habits. When are you at your best? Assign certain times to certain tasks when you can complete them most efficiently. By knowing yourself you will know how to successfully master and be a jack-of-all-trades.

Friday, April 8, 2011

For the love of the craft: The importance of reading

One of my freelance projects is to cover all news and related topics at as The Mortal Instruments Examiner. ‘The Mortal Instruments’ are an Internationally bestselling YA series by author Cassandra Clare. I love this series. I love the world building, the complexities of the plot and the characterization. I love how there is really something for everyone; humor, war, love. This was one of the series that inspired by to write YA and now I love the interaction that I get with the fans, allowing me to stay in tune with the demographic.

As a writer, especially one of multiple topics, it is very easy to get wrapped up in my work schedule and forget to do what brought me to writing fiction, reading. This past Tuesday, the fourth book in ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series came out, 'City of Fallen Angels'. I’ve been buried in it reading and realizing the love I have for this genre and this series all over again. It’s revelations like these that remind why I do what I do. Why I torture myself at odd hours going over plot points. Why I stick to my 2,000 words a day writing/revision goal, even if it means staying up to the early hours of the morning. I love to write.

Writers must set writing goals and stick to them but it is just as important to set reading goals. Read in your genre and outside of it. See what the industry trends are. During an interview with ‘Firelight’ author Sophie Jordan, I asked her about her reading habits. She said, ‘I read what is popular even if it’s out of my genre. If it sold in a major book deal, then I need to see why. Why did agents and publishers love that book? It’s my job to know.” This so true and every writer should live by it.

Next time you are setting your weekly schedule. Don’t forget to make time to read. Read for yourself and your career. Go back and fall in love again with a series that inspired you to write. Never lose the love of this craft and don’t forget why you do what you do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finding the right title: How I got "Caring for Your Special Needs Dog"

This past week I’ve given a lot of thought to titles. What makes a good title? What makes a bad title? How much does the title play into the books success? This came up while working on the cover design for my non-fiction book. I thought that titling my non-fiction would be easy. Wrong. Though non-fiction books aren’t as creative as fiction, the emphasis on title is still just as important.

My non-fiction had the same title the entire time I worked on it and this past week it went through a few different titles. But it wasn’t from a writers mind that I came to decide on the right title. I had to first take a step back and look at my book through the eyes of the reader. I even ran my title past people that I knew would read my book. And I’m not talking about family or friends. To really see if your title will connect with the targeted demographic, ask the targeted demographic. My book is for dog lovers, animal professionals and people who have owned, currently have or have recently had a dog diagnosed with a special needs condition. I asked a veterinarian what they thought of the title. When they loved it, I knew I was on target.

My publisher, Who Dares Wins Publishing, also played a huge role in deciding my title. The book is mine but everyone should listen to his or her publisher. They know the market and also want your book to succeed. I took their advice along with asking potential readers to get the title for my book.

When deciding on that perfect title, let ideas sit with you over night. See if you can get use to calling your book by that new name. Make sure it feels right and this it gets across the tone on your book. If you have the right title, it won’t take long before the title is the only one you can think about the book by. Like naming a dog, I can’t think of Oscar as going by any other name than Oscar. It fits him as my new title fits my book.

Below are the titles that I considered throughout this process and why I didn’t go with them.

“How to Care Special Needs Dogs”- This was the working title for a very long time and I really grew use to it but my book is not a “how to” book. This is misleading to the reader. My book is filled with advice, hope and inspiration. This didn’t get the tone of my book across.

“Caring for Special Needs Dogs”- This went in a more caring direction. It didn’t make my book sound like a “how to” book but it still didn’t get the correct tone across.

“Caring for Your Special Needs Dog”- This is the title of my book. I love it. It gets the caring tone across and makes it more intimate and immediate by adding “your.” I feel that it gets across the feeling that I want readers to get from the book and is a true statement as to what it is about.

“Caring for Your Special Needs Dog” will be available this May by Who Dares Wins Publishing. How do you title you title your manuscripts? What process, or people do you use for advice?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Debunking the phrase, “I don’t have time to write.”

I recently had a conversation with a friend who wants to write a novel. She said that she just didn’t have the time. I’m here to tell you that if this career is something that you want, you can find the time. I realize that many writers hold “paying jobs,” I’m not saying you need to quit. I’m saying that you can make the time. I write from home while caring for my 8-month-old daughter. It isn’t easy, but I make it work.

The first step to making time for your writing is to really look at your day. Examine it. What do you do? What could possibly give so that you could write? Also, what time to wake up and go to bed? Start waking up a little early and going to bed a little later. Waking up early is something that really helps me. I’m able to crank out a lot on my to do list before my daughter is up. I may hate crawling off that comfortable Temperpedic but no matter what turn my days takes, it makes me happy to know how productive I was is the early morning.

Set a schedule for your writing. If you’re like me and are working with a child this can be difficult. On most days my daughter sets the schedule. Instead, I set AM and PM goals. I also set goals that I know are manageable. Don’t over load your schedule and then feel horrible when you can’t finish it. Begin with baby steps. Make the progress that you can.

Tell you family that you want to be an author. Hopefully, with their support they can help you make time to reach this goal. It is important to have “cheerleaders,” most people find them in their families. The writing community is also rich in organizations. Join a writing group. Make friends with other writers. They can provide you will great support and time management tips.

The desire for more time has always plagued man. But I’m telling you that if you want to be a writer, you can make it work. Take the phrase, “I don’t have time to write,” out of your vocabulary. Make a commitment to yourself. You can find and make the time.

What do you do to make time to write? How do you structure your goals?