Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are You Prepared: As a Student

As a mother, a writer and a human being I’m continually learning. Learning is an essential part of the human experience. We can never know enough. Society, technology and media, are always evolving and if you aren’t changing with them you’ll be left behind. Behind isn’t where you want to be as a writer. Especially for those writers of MG or YA. It’ll be reflected in your work. So do your homework. If you remain open and have the mentality of a student, you won’t miss opportunities to learn. The more you learn the better equipped you’ll be to edit your manuscripts.

How do I remain the consummate student?

I ask questions. Many agent blogs and publisher blogs allow readers to send questions via email and the comments section. Send in your questions or peruse the ones that have been answered. Some helpful sites to visit:

Mary Kole - from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency has a blog a wonderfully informative blog. Her blog has a plethora of information from editing tips, to querying agents. She also allows you to email her questions. And her answers are ultra honest and concise. I’ve learned quite a bit from her site. She has wonderful insight into the writing life from the perspective of an agent and a writer. You won’t be disappointed!

Nathan Bransford – a former agent with The Curtis Brown Literary Agency, has authored his own book and has a new job. But his blog is chalk full of helpful information. If you haven’t already checked in to his site, you’re sorely missing out.

The Blood-Red Pencil – This blog is awesome! It has some of the best editing tips I’ve seen online. I think in part because the authors are manuscript editors. I can’t do enough justice to this site you have to check it out for yourself.

Writers Knowledge Base: A search engine for writers – full of articles on anything having to do with writing. Great for finding articles about editing, freelancing and more. It’s a database of the best of the best online.

Other Helpful sites to visit that aid in the never-ending saga of editing:

WordCounter – this site will count the frequently used words in your document. You can have it search the 25 most used or the 200 most commonly used words. I recommend searching in batches as it can sometimes take time to load if you put too many words in. It may take a while to get a whole manuscript (I did my 75,000 words in 2 hours, while getting the kids out for school) analyzed but it’s free and well worth it. You can designate that it not count small words such as “the”, “it” and etc. 

The AutoCrit Editing Wizard - this site gives you three free 500 word max, searches of your document. What are you searching for: overused words and redundancies, clichés, and sentence variation…these are the free wizards. You can search up to 500 words three times a day but if you need more in-depth editing you can pay a fee and have the wizard find other errors in your manuscript. The Wizard will analyze your pacing, dialogue, readability and other errors.

Once you’ve done your research and edited to your hearts content then try this site:

Writer’s Market – you must have a subscription. This site is the first that I subscribed to as a new writer. It is full of information on agents, publishers, contests, magazines – how to contact them, their current interests, organizations their affiliated with and more. It has great articles and can be broken down by different markets (Children’s, Fiction, Nonfiction…). It is well worth the subscription cost.

I visit these sites often. I’m always on the lookout for editing tips, either to share with my followers or for my own manuscript. I’m also on the hunt for great book reviews because as much as I love to write I love to read. Reading is a form of learning - if you read like an author (but, that's another post). The consummate student is always striving to improve. And a visit to any of the sites listed here will aid you in your quest for knowledge. Happy Learning!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are You Prepared

I’d like to take the time to say a special “Howdy” to all my fellow She Writers participating in the B&W Blogger Ball. Enjoy!

This post is a continuation of last weeks post on being prepared. Last week I explored being prepared as a mother, today I’ll discuss how I stay prepared as a writer.

Me, the Writer

Writing for me isn’t a hobby; I treat it as a profession. I devote at least five hours every day, with the exception of Saturday and Sunday to writing. Most of my writing is accomplished while my family is away at school and work.

How do I prepare for my day?

Before I sit at the computer to start my writing day I know exactly what I need to do…be it revisions, blogging, honing my craft….I’m prepared to accomplish it. Knowing what I'll do before I sit down aids me in staying focused and remaining productive.

I have a clean and tidy work area – nothing on my tiny desk to distract me from my task…that includes my very thrilling novel I’m reading right now. Every writer is always reading a great book. Right.

I have all the tools that I may need for my workday positioned around me so that I can find them easily. The two most important things I use when I sit to write are a dictionary and thesaurus. I have a link saved for the online Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. In addition, I have both in book forms by my computer in the event I’m unable to get online.

I have bookmarked helpful websites for revisions for easy access. The favorites feature online is great. I can easily find a website or blog that I found a useful tip - just point and click.

And I’m realistic. I know that once my children and husband are home very little writing will get done because they demand most of my time. Many writers do not have the luxury (I won’t always) of full time writing and when you don’t you must still make the time to do it. But, it is my opinion that you don’t have to tell a true writer this. If you truly love to write, you will. Nothing will stop you. Only you can stop you.
Writing Tip:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Okay, I know this is the oldest cliché but it’s the perfect sentiment for the situation. Rejection, a normal occurrence for most writers can cripple you as a writer – if you allow it to. I don’t. I choose to stay positive and see each rejection as a step closer to my YES. I’m not a robot - rejection hurts, period. But I don’t let it define me. I keep writing. So what your critique group hated the piece you presented. Take the advice you want from what they said and let the rest fall to the side. As a writer, you MUST have tough skin or this isn’t the profession for you. Please trust and believe that! If you love it then you’ll push pass the rejections, the revisions, the criticisms, to do what you want. Write.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are you Prepared

Being prepared, as writers, as mothers and as students

I volunteered to help my children’s school with their book fair and came across a book that helped students study for the SAT. I immediately reached for it as I have a daughter in high school. She’s only in the ninth grade but it’s never too early to prepare.

As a wife, mother and writer I must be prepared at all times. I thought about the roles I play and how I achieve success in each. Today I will explore my role as a Mother.

Me, the Mother

As a mother, I have to realize my limitations. I wear many hats and because of this, I must select wisely what hat to wear. I cannot overextend myself. I won’t function properly in any capacity if I’m completely burned out. I want to provide a stable and loving home. In order for this to happen, I must prioritize my many tasks.

How do I keep things in perspective?

First, I delegate. I allow my children to help with chores. I’m not superwoman and don’t want to be. Well, when I was in elementary I did – but that’s another post.

I don't beat myself up when the house isn’t clean. Though I must admit, I struggle with this. I’m borderline OCD about cleaning. I digress.

I have a set of rules that I won’t break. I have dinner ready at a decent time on weekdays; I keep the kitchen and bath areas sanitary and I wash our clothes. Aside from this, everything else is in the air. They may get accomplished this week. May not.

With three kids a husband and a profession, my life can get hectic. Sometimes I must be selfish and close myself up in my closet (the only place I can get some privacy) and relax with a book or sit in the dark and think. While I don’t do this often, it’s done enough to keep me sane. I need time to unwind, to let everything else go. The house won’t fall apart, the kids won’t kill each other and my husband won’t starve. Go ahead take a break. Try it out. I promise it’s addictive.

I have my dreams and my children have theirs. I don’t beat my children up about what they choose to call hobbies. I have a daughter who sings beautifully and I support her fully in whatever she wants to do with this gift. I encourage them daily to follow their hearts and not their friends. In essence, I want them to have their own minds. Be individuals.

I treat my children like little people. Some parents don’t listen to their children. Parents, we too can learn from our little ones…no matter what age. My children have taught me so much. I thank God for the gift of them everyday.

Okay, I don’t have anything relevent to say about my husband but I didn’t want my kids or him to see this post and wonder why I didn’t mention him since I mentioned the kids. So, my husband is the best. I feel fortunate to have a man that makes me laugh…sometimes when he’s not trying to – but that’s another post. Laughter is the best. I highly recommend daily doses of it.

Another helpful tip for preparation?

Pray. It helps. I ask God for patience to wait (we do a lot of that as writers). I ask for understanding. The ability to understand and empathize with others and their needs helps me to stay connected to my children and husband.

I pray for many other things but I don’t think you have all day to read my ramblings. So, go on get writing. Oh, but please leave me a comment. How do you as a mother prepare to write or prepare for life period.