Ditch the Camera. Do This Instead
Beth Ann Erickson
Last time I talked about how much I dislike journaling. Just to
refresh your memory, I don't keep a journal. Never have, probably never will.
However, after a lively discussion on the blog, I came to
realize that I kinda do keep somewhat of a journal. You see, I
write daily on whatever project I've got going and when I travel I engage in what I call "verbal photography."
"Verbal Photography." Probably could use a definition.
When I engage in "verbal photography," this means instead of taking a snap shot of any particular view, I write about it.
I began doing this in high school when I traveled to Europe. One of my classmates broke his camera and was forced to record his memories by sketching everything he wanted to remember. I still remember watching him, pad in hand, quietly sketching away. (It didn't hurt matters that he was profoundly cute as well.)
I decided I wanted to look that gorgeous, mysterious, and intelligent as well. Problem was, I couldn't (and still can't)draw. So, I did the next best thing. I "painted" using words. My "paintings" eventually evolved into what I call "verbal photography."
Verbal photography is far more complex than a photograph. I'm sure you've heard the adage, "A picture's worth a thousand words." They aren't kidding. It can take thousands of words to simply describe even one, simple scene.
Here's how you engage in "verbal photography:"
1.Sit in a chair with your computer (or notebook) in your lap.
2.Study the view you're about to describe.
3.Really soak in everything about the scene.
4.What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? Do you taste anything? Engage all the senses.
5.After you've taken time to examine everything... and I mean
EVERYTHING... start writing. Create a complete description of the scene.
You can create as simple or complex a "photo" as you desire. You're the boss. The most important thing to do is have fun. If you make this work or you'll never do it again.
But here's where things really get interesting. You can use these "verbal photos" in your fiction, nonfiction, articles, whatever.
For example, I wrote copious verbal photos last time I was in Europe and dug many of them out as I wrote TGV. I actually rode on the TGV (high speed train) where the action takes place, I stayed in the Framaries Belgium apartments, I walked the streets of Paris and stood in the lobby of the Foundation Des Etats Unis, all vivid scenes in TGV because of the verbal photos I "shot" while traveling.
Give verbal photography a whirl and start a journal of "verbal photos." You won't regret it.
P.S. If you want to check out some of my verbal photos, here's the link to TGV: http://filbertbooks.com/TGV.html
Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News - January 1, 2010
Here are some idea from Beth's blog regarding software (NW is not recommending software, just sharing info.), and a few other resources.
yWriter5 is a word processing software that breaks your novel into manageable scenes and chapters, which you can drag and drop as you wish. Chapters are automatically renumbered as you move them back and forth, so you don't have to worry about going back to manually rename each file. You can view word counts and readability reports for each chapter, and the program also keeps a log of your daily productivity rate so you can check your progress. Download the software, or read more details at
Jer's Novel Writer works along much the same lines as yWriter5, only it allows you to add margin notes so you can type down that thought that's nagging at you and concentrate on the scene you're working on. The software has a feature called an "automatic outline," which makes it easy for you to locate a particular scene or sentence (much better than opening file after file just to see what color a character's eyes are!) The outline grows automatically as you're writing the story -- hence the name automatic outline -- and you can modify it at any time by dragging outline elements around. Also, Jer's Novel Writer has a database function that can help you keep track of your characters, locations, names, and so forth. Download the software at:
This is a blog by a lawyer and writer on all aspects of law
relating to writers covering such matters as fair use, public
domain, copyright and whether or not you can use famous people,
brands etc in your work. If you've got a legal question, check out
International Association of Conscious and Creative Writers
This association has a paid-for-membership site which offers lots of member benefits, but it is worthwhile signing up to their free fortnightly newsletter to receive a run-down of writing and publishing news plus helpful articles. If you sign up for the newsletter you also receive a report on how to find your authentic writing voice.
THIS MONTH'S AWESOME BLOG:
Query Shark, by Janet Reid
Wondering why your novel query has been rejected 22 times? A quick scan through literary agent Janet Reid's marvelous "Query Shark" blog will give you an idea of what works, what doesn't, and why -- and better yet, you can submit your own query for comments. (Brace yourself, though; the comments are likely to be barbed!) Just be sure you follow the instructions -- which, as Reid points out, is a vital skill whether you're submitting to her or to an actual editor or agent. Writers who can't follow instructions simply aren't going to succeed (gee, I may have pointed that out myself a few times...)
DRAFT A QUERY LETTER
Unless you are on assignment, the idea is to sell your article to an editor, and a good query letter is key to doing so. A query letter parallels a sales call. It should have five parts, and,ideally, each is only one paragraph long. (Editors are bleary eyed from the amount of reading material in their in-boxes.)
* The first paragraph is your introduction. It tells the editor who you are, why you're writing, and the subject of your proposed article.
* The second paragraph focuses on the editor's needs, and to write it you must know the general editorial policy of the
publication and the audience to whom it is directed.
* Paragraph three briefly describes the content and
appropriateness of your article and why the publication's readers would want this information.
* The fourth paragraph explains why you are uniquely qualified to write this piece. What are your credentials? How much do you know about this subject? How well do you understand the aims of the publication?
* The final paragraph is very short. It is your close, your action statement, in which you state what you will do next. Will you wait to hear from the editor (risky), or will you call to follow up and, if so, when? If you say you'll call at a certain time, do so.
see 2010 in the rear-view mirror.
Keep It Together With OneNote
by Helen Gallagher
Your stories, character sketches, and article ideas are written in a spiral notebook. Your desk is cluttered with samples from magazines you want to write for. Your computer groans under the weight of unsorted files and scattered folders. You’ve sent out queries and requested book reviews, but you don’t follow up because you’ve lost track. Too many important ideas are buried in unfiled e-mail messages.
For a robust alternative to storing, finding, and sharing documents the hard way, take a look at Microsoft Office OneNote. I use version 2007, but there is a new version in Office 2010. OneNote is a digital notebook that functions as a collaboration tool, as well as a lively tab-based organizer for project fragments and completed work. OneNote files reside on your computer, not on the Internet. Take OneNote files via a USB stick, and you can work anywhere.
If you can’t imagine how you’d use such a freeform notebook, think about tracking your book plotlines and the marketing potential for the tasks to come when you launch a new book.
OneNote is a free-form structure in which you create a “notebook” for every major topic you wish to organize. Major notebook categories are listed down the left side of the OneNote screen.
As your ideas grow, you can add sub-folders and create hyperlinks from one notebook to another, so you never have to hunt through files and folders. The sub-notes live in tabs across the top of each major category, are further indexed down the right side, and are fully searchable. Notes within each section contain pages and pages of data, in whatever manner you want to organize them. If you’re writing a novel, you can create tabs for all major categories of information, all in one place: Manuscript, Bibliography, Research notes, Graphics. Gathering data for tasks like agent research and building a bibliography have never been easier. Need to capture a new idea or resource, or a tip from the latest SPAWN newsletter? Highlight it on your screen, move to a tab or create a new sub-tab, click anywhere and paste. The important piece of information is posted, along with a Web link to remind you where you found it.
Using OneNote’s framework, even the most disorganized writer can catalog all of his or her work: ideas, drafts, pitches, clips, research, guidelines, Web pages, audio files, video clips, marketing and social media sites, passwords, and bio information. OneNote handles any text format, Word, Excel, Web pages, e-mail, etc. OneNote eases your workload with drag & drop from any other document, uses tables to keep materials in line, and supports audio/video recording. If you’ve used Paint or SnagIt to capture screen shots, you can now do this within OneNote.
By default, OneNote files are kept in a OneNote folder within My Documents, by notebook name, and with separate files for each sub-notebook. All files are saved automatically when you close the program. You’ll have no fear of putting everything into one large program that you can’t later extract.
- Search within an open notebook or use the universal search feature to search across all notebooks.
- Highlight text on a Web site, then paste just the text, or include the whole Web page with live links. Copy other documents into OneNote, and it will link directly to the source, such as an e-mail or a Word document. Paste an Excel spreadsheet into OneNote and it remains in Excel format to use, update, and alter.
We’ve come a long way with technology as writers, and now with OneNote, we finally have one place for everything.
GET YOUR HANDS ON IT
Microsoft Office OneNote retails for $79 as a stand-alone product in the U.S. You can download a free trial of Microsoft Office OneNote at
Better still, you may already have OneNote on your computer. It is a standard component included in the Home/Student version of MS Office 2003 and 2007. The 2010 is included in both Home/Student and Professional versions.
While there is no Macintosh equivalent, you can run OneNote on a Macintosh by using Virtual PC and Microsoft Windows XP.
SPAWN member Helen Gallagher is the author of Release Your Writing: Book Publishing Your Way, and of Blog Power & Social Media Handbook. Contact her at Helen@spawn.org
by David Perkins ( email@example.com / http://www.davidmperkins.com)
This could be of interest to any of you who happen to be Costco members. It may be an avenue for free publicity you hadn’t thought of.
A couple of months ago while flipping through the Costco Connection magazine, I noticed a monthly column called Member Connection, where Costco members who have interesting stories to tell are profiled.
One of the three profiles on this page was of a woman who had written a book. There was a picture of her holding the bookundefinedeven though it is not available at Costcoundefinedand a couple of paragraphs about how she came to write it.
I sat down and e-mailed Costco Connection a brief version of my press kit, explaining that I had written a book and why it might interest Costco members. This was in August. I got an e-mail from a Costco Connection reporter, who informed me that they liked my story and wanted to include me in the column in the February issue. We did a telephone interview and I e-mailed some photos to the magazine.
Good news all by itself, and I was thrilled. But, here’s the exciting partundefinedI decided, a few hours before the interview, to e-mail the reporter a PDF copy of my book, “in case you might find it useful” for interview prep.
When he called to conduct the interview, he was effusive about how much he loved the book, and asked if I would mind if he passed it on to the Costco book buyer. I, of course, said I would be most grateful for that, and mailed a couple of paperback copies to him to pass on and one to keep for himself.
Now, I realize that getting your book onto a Costco table is about as easy as getting it on Oprah, and I don’t hold out much hope that it will actually happen. But I do know that someone in the book-buying office will read it, and it won’t end up in that roomful of 100,000 books that never got opened.
And at the very least, Costco members nationwideundefinedand possibly in Canada and the UKundefinedwill be exposed to a couple of paragraphs about my book. I could not have purchased that kind of press.
Try your luck. “If you have a note, photo or story to share about Costco or Costco members, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with The Member Connection in the subject line or send it to The Member Connection, The Costco Connection, P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124. Submissions cannot be acknowledged or returned.” email@example.com
How to Prepare for a More Successful Writers' Conference
by Patricia L. Fry
Have you thought about signing up for a writers’ conference? Or have you attended a conference and came away less than satisfied?
What makes a successful conference? It depends on the type of conference, your needs and expectations, and your level of participation.
There are basically two types of writers’ conferences.
- The author-friendly conference with seminars and workshops designed to teach hopeful and newbie authors how to find and work with a publisher or agent and how to market their books. This conference might also have sessions for freelance writers. Many of these conferences feature face-to-face meetings with publishers and/or agents.
- Writers’ conferences and retreats focused mainly on the craft of writing. These programs often feature workshops and other presentations by well-known authors.
Some conferences specialize, offering workshops within, for example, only the fiction realm or non-fiction, children’s, spiritual/inspirational, science fiction, mystery, or romance.
Conferences and retreats cost anywhere from $50 for a local evening event, up to a few thousand dollars for a week-long retreat at a resort. Most typically, a two- to seven-day conference will cost between $150 and $850, not including travel or hotel.
Learn about conferences within your realm of interest at http://writing.shawguides.com or http://www.allconferences.com or http://www.newpages.com/writing-conferences. To locate conferences near you or in an area you’d like to visit:
- Do a Google search. Type “writers conference” + “Los Angeles” or “writers conference” + “Virginia,” etc.
- Check with your local arts council or writers groups for conferences held in your area.
- Ask your librarian if he/she knows of an upcoming writers’ conference.
- Keep an eye on the arts section of your local newspaper.
- Subscribe to writing- and/or publishing-related magazines and newsletter.
How to Get the Most for Your Conference Buck
A major aspect of most writers’ conferences is the opportunity to sit in on numerous workshops presented by experts and other professionals within the industry. I frequently travel to writers’ conferences and speak or teach on topics such as how to write a more successful book proposal, self-publishing, how to become a freelance article-writer, how to prepare yourself to become a published author, book promotion, and so forth. Some conferences provide courses on fleshing out characters, writing effectively in first-person, how to organize the how-to book, and memoir-writing.
What makes for a successful writers’ conference? YOU!! Here are my tips for conference success:
- Choose the right conference for your particular needs.
- Select the workshops you will likely benefit from most.
- Participate fully with an open mind.
- Show up at all workshops and other presentations alert and on time.
- Open your mind, especially to concepts that might seem a little uncomfortable at first.
- Take notes.
- Follow up with questions during networking sessions and/or contact presenters via e-mail, if they invite you to do so. I always issue this invitation. I want to make sure my students have all of their questions satisfied.
Whether you’re about to enroll in your first writers’ conference or your 101st, use this guide and your conference experience will be more successful.
Patricia Fry is the executive director of SPAWN. She is the author of 32 books--most of them related to publishing and book marketing. She frequently speaks at conferences throughout the U.S. http://www.patriciafry.com / http://www.matilijapress.com
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