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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I Practice Writing"

Say it Out Loud

“I Practice Writing”. Go ahead. Say it.

I practice writing.

Is it difficult for you to say? How does it feel on your tongue? How does it sound rolling around in your head?

I practice writing.

It’s the word practice, isn’t it. Somehow, to say “I practice writing” sounds like a wanna-be looser. It conjures up all sorts of sarcasm and ridicule. It connotes a hope, a dream, a desire to be something not yet attained.

And yet, this is precisely what I do: I practice writing. Once I get past that wanna-be connotation and throw it out a wide-open window in my mind, I can tell you that I like the truth in that statement. Yes, I like it because you can’t be a writer unless you practice your craft.

Think on this a minute: the two most prestigious professions in our culture use this term, “practice”: medicine and law. They refer to their work as a practice. When we say, she practices law, there is no connotation of a wanna be. We say he has his own private practice and we are impressed, swelling with admiration and respect.

So what is it with the writing profession? People just think that somehow you become a writer; they do not consider the daily practice that put your name on a collection of work. If you write, you are a writer. And you are only a writer if you practice writing.

Lawyers work with clients; doctors work with patients, and writers work with an audience. Unlike lawyers and doctors whose clients and patients are real living bodies in front of them, writers work with an added element of the unknown – we have to do a little more guess work about what ales our audience and what they want. In essence, we practice alone. The pay off however, is that we have full liberty of creative expression and very few rules to bind us up.

Uh – oh, I feel the surge of passion beginning to pulsate in my blood. I feel the urge to go off in a tangent about the thrills of being a writer… but I really just want to stay on track here and discuss this idea of practicing writing.

Deep breath. Back on track. OK.

Writers need to understand this concept and promote it proudly in our culture. You see, everything we do is a process, a progression, a constant and steady evolution of change and growth. My writing has evolved over the years; I continue to gain new skills and discover new ideas. This all happens of course, because I practice writing.

So now I say it out loud when people ask me, “What do you do?” I say to them, “I practice writing.” Then I giggle in my head because it still sounds funny to me, but my facial expression is truly serious. So to you, my fellow writers, I want to say to you, be proud of your practice. Your writing practice is significant… oh, so very significant, in ways beyond your own understanding. Accept that as true and get on with your writing. Tell people you are a writer – go ahead, say it out loud. And then say, “I practice writing.”

OK writers, let’s get on with our practice!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January Writing Contest

Sponsored by: Glimmer Train

Title: Very Short Fiction Award

DEADLINE: January 31, 2010


Maximum length: 3,000 words

Should be submitted via Glimmer Train website at:

Submission fee: $15.00 per entry

About Glimmer Train

Glimmer Train is “a feast of fiction” with 8 – 12 new fiction stories printed in each issue. Glimmer Train’s authors have recently been represented in the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry, New Stories from the South, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best American Short Stories Anthologies. A journal of short-stories, Glimmer Train is well respected in the publishing industry and among writers alike. Published quarterly, Glimmer Train offers an avenue for new authors to be heard.

Glimmer Train also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Writers Ask, full of tips and news relevant to writers.

For more information about Glimmer Train or to submit your short story to the next contest, visit their website.

Good Luck! And let me know what you submit and what happens!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: Take Ten

Book Review by Linda Johnson

Visit Linda’s blog – Various and Sundry Items of Interest

Take Ten for Writers, Bonnie Neubauer, 2009, Writer’s Digest Books, paperback, 215 pgs, writing instruction, 13-1211100954321

To purchase online, visit: The WriteShop

Bonnie Neubauer wrote this book to help writers create forward motion and avoid writer’s block. She offers the idea of inertia—that an object in motion will continue in motion until it meets some opposing force. Her idea is “…as long as you keep the pen moving, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, you will maintain momentum.” (pg 1) Then she proceeds to offer unique ways to do just this.

I fell in love with this book before I had ever seen an actual copy of it. I saw a review and advertisement on the internet and thought, “I have to own this book!” I couldn’t wait until I had time to make a 40-mile trip to buy it. I asked my 19-year-old granddaughter to pick it up at her nearby bookstore and bring the book when she came to see me on Monday.

She bought the book. While it was still at her house, my 13-year-old granddaughter called and said, “I hope you don’t mind, Grandma. I looked at your new book, and I wrote a story from one of the prompts!”

Mind? I was ecstatic! If this book could entice someone to write, just from a quick perusal of the book, it was going to be perfect for my journaling group and me.

I have not been disappointed. Every time I use the book at group, all the members enjoy writing to the prompts.

We like the way the book is constructed. Each prompt has two pages. Page 1 is a set up. We skim through the pages looking for one prompt that catches our interest. Then we must pick a number from one to ten. That is because page 2 is a list of ten variables: words, phrases or ideas that must be used in the piece of writing. We then write the variables at the top of the page and write for at least ten minutes. The combination of choice and arbitrary instruction seems to fill our writing needs and give us the nudge to get started.

You can repeat this as desired. With a possible combination of 1000 exercises (100 prompts and 10 variables per prompt), this book can be used forever. I am sure that by the time a writer has written 1000 different exercises, he or she could repeat the earlier prompts and come up with something entirely new.

Neubauer believes that “learning is always fun and play is educational.” The book features conversational language with colorful artwork. It is fun to read. It inspires people to write. Neubauer invites the writer to play along with her. This shuts off the censor because we are just playing. The words flow.

So, grab your pen and join us! It’s time to Take Ten!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Final HUB update

My original goal with my HUB challenge was to write and post at least five HUBs a week. I hoped that exposure on the internet through HUB pages would result in increased traffic and added followers on my blog. The challenge began with the idea that by writing HUBs, I would be able to increase traffic to my website and blog. A subsequent goal then was to get at least 20 new followers on my blog. The time duration for this challenge was five weeks.

Soon after I got started, however, I got side-tracked by also writing articles for Associated Content. I managed to crank out a minimum of five articles each week, but not a total of five solely for HUB publication.

Well, I averaged four HUBs for a total of 16 during the challenge. I battled myself the whole time however, with the question of purpose. I was doubtful that HUB writing would result in more followers on my blog. Self-sabotage from the start, and no, I didn’t get 20 followers during that time period. I thought I could avoid philosophical, theoretical and existential questioning for at least 4 weeks! I thought I could just shoot for the goal of production – pure and simple, but I couldn’t; I battled the questions all the way.

My conclusion at this point in time is that publishing on the internet is an important aspect of gaining a following on a blog, but not necessarily the most important. One outlet is not necessarily more important than any other, but rather as important as others. In other words, I think it is necessary to diversify your avenues. Hmm, it seems I’ve come full circle because I started the HUB challenge because I was feeling overwhelmed with all my diversity…

I think I found a happy medium, at least for now. Here is my conclusion:

Yes, write HUBs and publish them; do it regularly. But also write articles and publish them on article directories. In addition, write and publish on other sites for writers as well. And there’s more – write blog posts, comment on the blogs you follow, and write for contests… really, the list of opportunities goes on and on. The point is this: write regularly. Then diversify your product. Bulking it all in one place is not necessary.

I started the HUB challenge for myself because I felt I was spreading myself too thinly – trying to do some of everything and not enough of anything. What I have learned from this experience is that it is important to be steady and consistent in my production of good articles. I have also been able to hone in on a few of my choice sites for publishing my work which has freed me from the chaotic feeling of needing to do it all and send it everywhere. I am not limiting myself to HUBs or Associated Content or working for my clients, or any other one outlet; instead I am producing more on a regular basis than I was before I started this challenge.

Like most things in life, I didn’t get what I expected from doing that experiment, but I did get something unexpected and ultimately, very valuable. I believe that consistency and persistence is really the way to practice my craft and eventually gain followers on my blog. I think the key there, is in the word eventually.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Editing: Try This – Cutting

Take something you have already written and rewrite it with half as many words. Start with something that is around 1500 words and cut it down to 750.

It is difficult to cut out pieces of your writing to meet a particular word count limit, yet it is often necessary. What you learn to do as you practice the cutting aspect of editing is to clearly identify what it is you want to say.

When you first begin to cut, it seems that everything is important and you may feel anxious about taking information away from your readers. As you struggle with this, you are forced to clarify, simplify, be more direct, specific, and concise.

The first step is to identify the subject, problem and solution of a piece of work. Summarize it in one or two sentences. Next, identify statements that support each of those aspects. List them in columns headed subject; problem; and solution. Then order the supporting statements according to importance: what bits of information and ideas are absolutely necessary to make your point? What is interesting? What is complimentary, but not exactly essential? What can you let go? Order these on your list.

Reread the piece of writing and see if you can combine two or more pieces of information in one sentence. Cut out some adverbs and adjectives (but not all of them!), and cut anything not relevant to your main storyline.

Put the two pieces aside and in about a week, return to them and read the shorter version first. Make final edits to insure it accurately expresses your idea and intention. Then you can finally read the longer one, your original, to see if all that extra verbiage really makes a difference or not. Keep to your word limit and work with the shorter one until it satisfies your intentions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Freelance Writer's Success Story

A Freelance Writer’s Success Story

I’ve been a writer all my life. It was both a passion and a compulsion. I had to write. For many years, I tried to make it as a writer while working another job, my “real” job, but each got in the way of the other. I finally decided that I needed to focus 100% on my writing and find a way for it to pay my bills so I could write compulsively and pursue the passion to find creative expression. I took three steps to establish myself as a successful freelance writer: 1) built a repertoire of published articles to my name using online opportunities; 2) I bid on jobs to develop clientele; and 3) got hired by an online company that provides articles to big publishing companies.

Build a Name and Reputation

First I got a repertoire of published articles under my name by writing for various article directories. This afforded me lots of on-the-job-training as I learned how to write to specific criteria. I also improved my research skills. This step in becoming a successful freelance writer was crucial as it led me to a better understanding of today’s market while giving me lots of practice which then turned into confidence.

Article directories are online sites where there are literally thousands of articles about every imaginable subject. Monetary reward is not the purpose of writing and publishing on article directories; exposure and getting a name and reputation for yourself as a writer is the goal at this stage. Some of the top article directories are and

Bid on Writing Jobs and Projects

Next, I signed up on websites for freelance writers where I could bid on jobs. People looking for writers visit these sites and post their projects and requests. Then, writers bid on the jobs. You have to register and create a profile to do this. Average bids run from $2.00 - $6.00. I could refer potential clients to my articles in the article directories for examples of my work. By doing this, I began to build my clientele while at the same time, continuing to expand my experience, expertise, and confidence. For example, by working with clients and tailoring my writing to fit their needs, I learned about Search Engine Optimized (SEO) vocabulary along with many other terms and concepts pertinent to online writing.

Clients rate the writer’s work at the end of the project on these sites and I got good ratings which in turn, led to more clients.

Secure a Position with a Company to Insure Steady Work

Finally, I applied to work for an online company that provides articles for established clients in the publishing industry, particularly online publishing. Most of their clients are article providers or online magazines; they all have a need for a massive quantity of articles. The company provides a list of titles that their writers can browse through and claim. Payment is prompt and often, so I can do as much or as little as I want.

By writing articles for clients, I am able to be a successful freelance writer doing what I love to do and still be able to pay my bills. I create my own schedule and workload, so I can create time for my own personal writing as well.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Flip Dictionary

I got a new dictionary for my birthday. The Flip Dictionary is “for when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word”. That happens all the time! Here’s how it works: “The A-to-Z listings include components, concepts, ideas and parts”. So you look up the idea you have in mind in order to find the word that is on the tip of your tongue, but won’t reveal itself. For example, if you are thinking of that soft, flaky sliver-of-a-moon-shaped breakfast roll bread from France, but just can’t nail the right word, look up “bread” in the flip dictionary. There is it: croissant!

On New Year’s Day while we were painting rocks, someone was telling a childhood story about her grandmother’s little dog that had big buggy eyes that popped out whenever the dog got too excited or exerted too much energy. Whenever this happened, the little girl in the story had to poke the eyes back into place.

“What kind of dog is that?!” someone asked. We struggled to answer the question. Several of us could see the little dog clearly in our mind’s eye, but just couldn’t think of the right word. We described the dog vividly and periodically called out the names of various breeds, but we just couldn’t name the breed correctly. A couple of us pulled out our iphones to search the internet for the answer. It soon became a competition to get the right word before anyone else could produce it. Then Carolyn joined in the frenzy and opened the new Flip Dictionary. Standing excitedly in the middle of the room, she shouted, “Pekinese!”

“Yes! That’s it!” The Flip Dictionary sealed the question. Ah, I am certain this will be a very useful tool.

I am reminded of how I increased my Japanese vocabulary. Once I became conversationally fluent, I reached a sort of plateau in my language acquisition. I could express anything I wanted or needed to, but not always in the most efficient way. Nonetheless, I could communicate quite well, so growing my vocabulary was not an urgent need. For example, rather than saying “when I was a little girl, my grandmother had a Pekinese…” I would have to describe the dog in great detail and most likely, tell a couple of stories along the way. My Japanese friends would all interject with various words trying to hone in on my point until it was agreed on one that worked best. I would write the new word in my pocket notebook where I collected vocabulary and in that way, I learned to speak Japanese better.

As I became more fluent in Japanese, it occurred to me that my own native language is full of rich vocabulary that I do not know and do not use. It was then that I began to enjoy a basic English dictionary. But that required me to choose new words and study them. This flip dictionary seems more practical and more fun.

Thank you, Carolyn, for my new Flip Dictionary!