Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring is Here—Are You Ready?

Spring is here—at least it’s supposed to be for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere. With snow and temperatures falling, it’s a bit of a challenge to get into the Spring mode. You know, that state of mind which tells you to start things afresh. And for writers, that should mean it’s time to clean off your desk. By the way, have you seen the surface of your desk lately?

As a writer, the center of your world is your desk. For some, perhaps you, that center is often hidden by a mountain of stuff—yes, stuff. Papers to file, mail to open and read, notes, books, pens, rulers, and a myriad of “personal” items that have moved in and homesteaded on your valuable desk property.

Are you totally overwhelmed and need a miniature snow plow to clear your desk? Chances are that sometimes, perhaps most of the time, this is true for many writers.

So how do you reclaim this valuable space? One easy way is to keep the acronym R-E-M-O-V-E in mind. It stands for Remove distractions, Everyday use, Move to the preferred side, Organize together, View your time, and Empty the center.

Let’s start with removing distractions. While it’s nice to have a couple of photos and favorite little items on your desk, they take up valuable space and distract you. A photo of a loved one may motivate you, so we’ll give you that, but too many other photos and what not will certainly distract you from your writing. So remove from your desk anything that isn’t directly related to your writing. Put those items on a shelf or some other place in your office.

Only put items you use every day on top of your desk. Everything else should go into drawers or cabinets underneath it. There’s no need to have a mug full of pens at your disposal. You’ll only use one at a time anyway. And while a few extra ones, especially with different colored inks are good to have, keep them in your top desk drawer for easy access. The same goes for notepads, paperclips, rubberbands,etc.

Everyone is either right or left-handed. And while some may be ambidextrous, they’re in the minority. Arrange the items on your desk to complement the hand you use. Move everything to the preferred side. Place pens, pencils, and pads where you reach for them most. Most writers don’t even consider this when setting up their desk. Rearranging everything to suit your most used hand will make working easier.

And just as you did in the general organization of your office, organize like items together. Grouping helps to establish centers so that you can easily find what you need.

Make sure you place a clock on your desk so that you can easily view your time. And be sure to make it big enough to easily see it at a glance. Don’t depend on looking at the tiny numbers on your computer’s task bar to find the time. Always keep time in view so that you can budget it better.

Keep the center of your desk clear by emptying it each time you finish a project. Clear space in the center of your desk so that you can work on the project at hand.

Finally, aggressively attack your mail, both regular and Email. Provide an inbox for incoming mail and one for outgoing mail. Designate specific times during the day to read your Email and turn off Email notifications on your computer and on your smartphone. They can distract you more than anything.

With these tips in mind, plan on reorganizing your desk space so that it’s an efficient and pleasant place at which you can work. You’ll soon discover that your productivity will soar.

Learn more about me on my Web site, Writing at Its Best, and on my Facebook Page. And be sure to visit my Writer's Corner for articles about freelance writing and writing in general.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Beware of the Elephant in the Room

Today, you often hear the phrase “the elephant in the room.” No, it has nothing to do with elephants. But it usually means there’s a subject present that no one wants to talk about. For writers, that subject is whether you’re a writer or an author.

What is it about our society that reveres authors more than writers. Aren’t writers and authors the same? Don’t they both communicate with words? Actually, not all writers are authors and some would say that some authors certainly aren’t good writers.

Beginning writers seem to think if they write a book that they’ll be recognized as a writer. What drives so many beginning writers to write a book when they haven’t written much else? Perhaps the idea goes back to when they were in school.

Everyone learns to read by reading books. Yes they’re short—most have one sentence to a page—but they’re still books. How many first graders are out there reading articles and short stories? None. As they progress through the grades, they read more and more books until, before they know it, they’re sitting in English classes studying literature.

Do you see yourself as a writer? To succeed at writing, you better. If you only see yourself as an author, that lofty ambition may get you into trouble, and you may never ever get your writing career off the ground.

Most writers have to work in a variety of formats to be successful. Books take a long time to prepare, write, and market, compared to articles and short stories. Unfortunately, the reading public doesn’t associate writers with articles or short stories. When was the last time you recalled the name of the writer of an article you’ve read? And perhaps that’s the problem, for when you market a book, you market yourself as well.

A lot goes into writing a book. It’s not just the writing, it’s the research, the organization, the energy. Writing a book is like having a baby elephant—it takes 22 months for the little guy to grow inside it’s mother. That’s just about how long it takes to create a book—getting the idea, marketing the idea, researching the idea, organize the idea, writing the idea, and rewriting the idea. Oh, and let’s not forget promoting the idea.

Articles and short stories take much less effort. And they can be sold over and over again, either reprinted as is or reworked. Once you publish a book, you cannot publish it again. And many books end up in on discount tables and sites or go out of print—that is, die—altogether. This, of course, has to do with copyright laws. And while shorter pieces of writing are also copyrighted, they’re done so for individual periodicals. Once a book is copyrighted, that’s it.

So while you may bask in the glow of book publication, that light may only shine briefly. Writing in a variety of formats not only gives your writing career a good foundation but will also pay off in the long run.

 Learn more about me on my Web site, Writing at Its Best, and on my Facebook Page. And be sure to visit my Writer's Corner for articles about freelance writing and writing in general.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Do You Have a Book in You?

Beginning writers often say they have a book inside them. Well, if they ever expect it to get published, they had better get it out. For many people, the epitome of being a writer is writing books. And although aspiring to be an author is a noble pursuit, it’s not all there is to a writing career.

When writing a book, most writers begin by doing just that. They bury themselves in researching their topic or story and spend months, if not years, writing about it. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? But how many of them actually get their book published?

In general, most people feel they have something so important to say that every publisher will want to publish their book and every reader will run out to buy it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This attitude of self-importance originates way back in school—as far back as first grade. Most teachers don’t mean to instill this in their students, it sort of happens through a process of educational osmosis. The teachers had it instilled in them by their teachers in a never-ending educational process. So what is a book writer to do? Market research.

Whether you plan to write a non-fiction or fiction book, it pays to take a look at the market for your idea—not your book. Take a trip to a good bookstore and browse through the books on your topic. This will tell you what’s being sold. Remember, most of the books on the shop’s shelves originated at least two years prior to you seeing them. Now stroll over to the sale tables. The books on these tables are remainders—leftovers that didn’t sell during the book’s most recent run. Many may be terrific, but for some reason didn’t hit the mark. Take notes, being sure to nor publishers names.

Next surf on over to, the world’s greatest book depository. Search for books on your topic. Amazon has practically everything in print. Do the same at their competitor, Barnes and Noble’s Web site. Take more notes, again being careful to note the names of publishers.

After all this research, review your notes and draw some conclusions about how viable your topic really is. Generally, too many books on your topic means the market is overloaded. Too few often means not enough readers are interested or the topic hasn’t been explored to any great degree by writers.

Armed with your conclusions, you’re ready to proceed with your book, modifying the topic to reflect market trends. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t cater to your topic’s market but be driven by it. Doing so will greatly enhance your chance of publication.

And remember, it’s not the book that makes you a writer, but what you have to say in it.

Learn more about me on my Web site, Writing at Its Best, and on my Facebook Page.