Monday, September 25, 2017

Hair of the Blog: Remedies for Idea Hangovers


How do you keep up with a blog when you are suffering from Blog Hangover?  Has blogging started to be more work than fun?  Has it become painful to develop interesting ideas? Do you feel disinterested, tired, and in need of hair of the blog?
First, whether you are blogging once a week or twice a month, keep to your schedule. If you have established faithful readers, respect their time and loyalty.  Give them something to anticipate in your next blog post. Keep their interest.  If you don’t keep to your promised schedule, you run the risk of losing them and having to attract a new readership from scratch.
Also, the more you post, the better your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). With each post, the Internet builds a portfolio of your work and your SEO increases.  When people search the Internet for a topic you have written, the chance that your work will show on their first page of searches increases.  Writing sporadically only hurts your reliability and your SEO.
Secondly, blog topics depend on the purpose of your blog, and the purpose of your blog defines its genre. Look at all its facets and stick to that. A political blog is different from a cooking blog, a Mommy blog, or an author’s blog. Focus on why you blog.  What overall product or pronouncement are you selling? 
For instance, my blog is about a writer of boomer age struggling to find her writer’s voice. It is about her experiences, her writing, and about the books she reads.  I am not selling anything, other than myself, so I alternate blogs about these three subjects. It gives me a variety of latitude.
Thirdly, I get inspiration from many places. I search calendars and approaching holidays.  I read newspapers, magazines, and online news sources.  I try and keep abreast of the latest trends, fads, and controversies.  I keep my eyes and ears open to the world around me as I travel, reading billboard signs and listening to conversations and radio shows. I read voraciously and make notes of pictures, poems, quotes, verses.  I soak up vocabulary and debates, and make lists and jot notes to use later. I remedy my blog hangovers with a folder of ideas for future use.  It helps to keep me interested and interesting.  It keeps me focused and it shows respect for those who are kind enough to read my posts.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Really, Really, Amazing Must-Have List of Books for Beginning and Established Writers




I love lists, especially book lists.  I used to browse the brick and mortar bookstores for hours, looking through displays and shelves, selecting books I wanted, and putting some back when it came time to pay for the ones that fit within my budget.
Nowadays, I rely on word of mouth, especially book club suggestions on Facebook, Goodreads, or Amazon.  I see a book list and my curiosity goes into CSI mode.  I read reviews, compare what one reader says versus another, and then make my online purchase. 
I offer you my list of Really, Really, Amazing Must-Have Books for Beginning and Established Writers. They can be read in any order, but I thought you would like a bit more description before you decide to own any of them.

I.        Starting List of Really, Really, Must-Haves:

On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Good, basic advice, so purchase any edition.  This is a good place to start planning this writing venture.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. The title says it all.


II.      The Really, Really, Must-Haves When Getting into the Nitty-gritty of Writing:  

The Art of War by James Scott Bell.  The man is a genius when it comes to craft.  Any book by Mr. Bell is a great investment.

Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins.  This book helps dig deep into character building, and how the main character affects every aspect of the story.

Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson.  It is exactly what it promises.

The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman.  Here is a manual on how to read (and use) body language to show your characters’ actions.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. This is a great book on pacing and plotting.

Understanding Show, Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy.  Best book I have found on how to show, not tell, and how point of view affects prose. Show, not tells is not as simplistic as made out to be, so this is a definite must have.

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. Another must have, this book is the best book on plotting and character and prose on the market. Backed by scientific proof, the author argues that all human beings need story, not just for entertainment but for basic survival


III.    The Really, Really, Necessary Book List When the Writing Road Gets Tedious, Weary, or Dead Ends:

We all have inspirational books on our shelves, so don’t go out and buy more.  Dust them off and read those you have. You might try reading the Bible, poetry books, the newspaper, magazines, anything that invigorates your soul and keeps you on track, but here are some of my favorites:

      Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

    On Writing by Stephen King

    Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy

    Writing Down the Bones by NatalieGoldberg

      Zen and the Art of Writing by RayBradbury

           
IV.      And the Really, Really Necessary Book List When It’s Time to Revise or Edit: 

Art of Styling Sentences by Longknife and Sullivan

     The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

    The Synonym Finder by J.I.Rodale. Sure, you can find words more easily on the Internet but nothing compares to the thoroughness of this gem.

       Revision and Self-Editing by JamesScottBell

       Writing Tools by Roy PeterClark.   

Monday, September 4, 2017

Surviving the School Year


Everyone figures out a way throughout the school year that fits both working and school schedules into an easier lifestyle. When my three were little I worked full time, so I whittled out routines that became our “normal.” It ensured we made time for everyone and everything, including free time.  
Here is what worked for us and I hope you share your ideas so we can help each other make life less hectic.
1.     Stock up on extra school supplies and keep them handy at home – notebook paper, spirals, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, glue, rulers, a good pencil sharpener – whatever kids might forget at school but will need at home to complete homework assignments or projects.  Keep a couple of poster boards handy so you do not have to drive to the store in the middle of the night when they remember they have a project due the next day.
2.    Provide a space where you can supervise homework and study while you work on your own projects. My three had to sit at the kitchen table for one hour every evening (Sunday night through Thursday night) and do homework or read to me. If one was having trouble (low grade) in a certain subject, they had to study that subject in addition to other homework.  I read along with them and helped where I could as I worked on dinner.
Before they put away their things, they cleaned out their bags, checked for papers or notes I might need to sign, and replenished their school supplies.
3.    We all kept our bags by the exit door. They were handy to grab and go the next morning.  They also chose their outfits and other items they needed for the next day, like gym clothes, uniforms, or equipment.
4.    Along with their bedtime routine, they packed their lunches and decided on their breakfast.  I did this also, like prepping the coffee pot. It didn’t take long, nothing elaborate, but it saved time on sleepy and tired mornings.
5.    It sounds like a lot of rules and regulations, but rest and recreation was an important consideration as well.  My children were active in church and in after school activities, so that provided for healthy, safe outlets. The daily “study hour” lasted from Sunday night through Thursday night in preparation for school the next day, so they had the rest of the evening free to do other things.  Friday evenings were game nights or out with friends. Saturdays were free after they did their chores (which took one or two hours at the most), and on Sunday, they could go out with friends after church until about seven in the evening.

As the kids grew, they became accustomed to our routine.  They never noticed when I stopped supervising and let them govern themselves. 

They are grown now with families of their own, but I see remnants of this when I visit their homes.  Book bags pile by the front door, kids sit around kitchen tables doing homework, and everyone helps with chores so that family has time to get to the fun stuff.   

It gave order to our busy lifestyle, emphasized what was important (school and church and good, clean fun), and glued us together as a family.