Archive for September 4th, 2007

Schedule Just One Week

hope_000.gifTime Management Mastery for Writers

By C. Hope Clark

We never have enough time. We blame a lot of our obligations on the kids, poor things. Then we dump on the spouse or significant other. Add to that a day job (like your boss has any interest in sabotaging your writing), and suddenly your week is shot. You’ve had barely enough time to read two chapters in your mystery novel and jot down a thought in your blog. Soon you’ll reach retirement age, still trying to make room for your writing. Then it’ll be the grandchildren’s fault.

At this very moment…and that means right now…stop. Take out your weekly calendar. Make an appointment with yourself every day for seven days. Don’t wait until Sunday to start a perfect week. Don’t wait and see what happens at work tomorrow or at school this afternoon. Mark a period of time each day. Even if some of your days are crammed with busy-ness, find a minimum of fifteen minutes, then pencil it in on your agenda book. It doesn’t have to be the same amount of time every day or even occur at the same hour. Just schedule some time each day.

When that time arrives, drop what you are doing. Don’t catch the end of the show on television or finish folding the towels. Stop. Sit down at your notebook or computer. Don’t log on to the Internet. Turn to a blank page or open a blank screen in your word processing program. Start writing.

Ding. Your time is up. Please lay down your pencil. (I always wanted to say that.) What did you write? While at first glance the material is rubbish, or a close cousin thereof, it doesn’t matter. Save it. Get up and go back to your life.

The next day, drop everything and start writing again. If you happen to not be at your typical workstation, you have no excuse. Find some paper. Next time bring your laptop, if you have one. Set your watch. Write. Ding. Time’s up. Move on.

If you can follow a diet for seven days, catch a serial movie or read a novel every night, you can follow this regimen. At the end of the week, you’ll see that setting time aside for writing isn’t quite the hurdle you thought.

Try another week.

By the third week, you’ll catch yourself planning ahead about what to write. Uh-oh. Could you be working on a story? A real writing project with a plot and everything? Will wonders never cease? Goodness knows…one day you might even write a book, because this is how it starts.

C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of FundsforWriters.com, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Her magazine credits include Writer’s Digest, The Writer Magazine, ByLine Magazine, NextStep Teen, College Bound Teen, Landscape Management Magazine, TURF Magazine, and American Careers Magazine. Hope is a motivational soul known as “Freelance Hope” in many circles. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at www.fundsforwriters.com & www.theshywriter.com.

Ask Wendy: Your Publishing Questions Answered

wendywotr.gifQ: I know you’ve talked about writing contest scams, but how do you spot writing job scams?

A: There aren’t any set rules for spotting scams, but there are some red flags you can watch for. A company that says it’s looking for, say, 100 mini-articles on skiing and then tells you to send a 200-word sample on skiing so the editor can “see your writing style” is probably gathering free material. A legit company would just ask for writing samples on any topic.

Another one to watch for is the company that says “payment to be discussed” just so it can get its listing into a major job site for writers. The catch is that when you contact the company, it actually “pays” in one of these ways: by the click (perhaps $.02 every time someone clicks on your story), with a link to your Web site, with exposure, or with a whopping $.005/word. (Yes, that’s HALF A CENT per word!)

Here’s one I received recently by e-mail: “We found your resume online and think you’d be great for a marketing position we have open…” This might catch the eye of a freelancer who writes a marketing column or does copy writing, but it’s essentially nothing more than a sales, recruiting or telemarketing gig that EVERYONE qualifies for. Companies like this send mass e-mails to jobseekers who have posted their resumes on Web sites like careerbuilder.com and monster.com.

When in doubt, do a quick Google search for the company name, the e-mail address or the name of the person who sent you the e-mail. Oftentimes you’ll find others who have done the research–and spotted the scam–so you don’t have to. We writers need to stick together!

Q: I’m sending out query letters to magazines. I think I know what to include, but are there things I definitely should NOT include?

A: No doubt! Here are a few no-nos that I’ve seen:
1. Discussion of money. A query letter for an article, essay or story should not include any mention of fees. (If you were pitching a column and had a set amount to offer for reprint rights that might be different.)
2. Photos. Indicate if relevant photos are available upon request, but don’t include them in your envelope (or as an attachment if you’re e-mailing your query). And no matter how cute your mother thinks you are, don’t include a photo of yourself. If they want one, they’ll ask for it.
3. A request for a meeting. Editors rarely have time to meet with freelance writers. If they want to meet you, they’ll let you know.
4. A request for advice. Don’t ask them to provide extensive feedback on your article idea and DEFINITELY don’t ask them if they know another magazine where you could submit the query. If an editor thinks your story idea is good, but not quite what they want, they may still ask you to write it just with a slightly different approach.

Articles, books, greeting cards, oh my! Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just three years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s typical day might including writing ad copy, greeting cards, health articles, personal profiles or her marketing column for Her Business magazine. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer, MSNBC.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful baby, Gracie. Visit www.BurtCreations.com to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad. More info at www.WendyBurt-Thomas.com.

Dear Fellow Writers…September Message

cmkwritermama.gifWho decides what you do and when?

I bet you were not raised to think that you could change the calendar to suit yourself. Seasons happen when they are supposed to and holidays come and go whether you like it or not, right?

Right! However, no one but you can choose how to respond to what happens and when. Just as the year has unique rhythms, individuals have unique rhythms too. Of course, there are times when we all need to align our efforts with those we work for and with––and participate in the seasonal events happening around us, but I wonder how much we abandon our own personal direction in order to go along with what the rest of the world seems to be doing. Probably a lot.

For example, every January, magazines, newspapers, TV talk shows, and websites inundate us with information about setting goals, making us think that’s the best time to make resolutions. Maybe it is for some people, but not for all. I personally believe that the way we set and execute goals and intentions is unique to each of us.

Last January I was swamped. It was the peak of my work year––not a good time for me to pause and take stock. The publication date of Writer Mama was fast approaching, and the last thing I wanted to think about was planning for the New Year. It quickly became clear to me that what works for many didn’t work for me.

Recently I had a freeing thought: I prefer my New Year to start in September. For me, summer is a much better time to regroup and assess, as some people may choose to do at the end of the calendar year. It makes far more sense to adjust my planning to suit my business needs instead of forcing myself to conform to the norm.

Not long after this realization, my friend Sage Cohen, our managing editor, reminded me that the Jewish New Year begins in the fall, not on January 1st. Of course, I knew this because my husband is Jewish, but I’d never really thought about it.

Growing up, I got used to the new school year starting in September, and this natural sense of starting when the weather grows cooler and easing up when the weather gets hotter is still hardwired into my rhythms. Now that my daughter’s inner clock is getting set to the academic year, my own clock has recently been reignited.

Starting the New Year in the fall just makes sense to me, so that’s what I’m doing this year. I’m wrapping things up in July and August, assessing my past year’s progress, setting goals for one, five and ten years, lining up my calendar, and starting fresh in September. Not coincidentally, my husband, a teacher, is doing the same.

I have editorial calendars to thank for giving me back guilt-free autonomy over my year. As the publisher and editor of this zine, I’d already planned in September 2006 for the 2007 year.

This year I’m going a little bit further and adopting this strategy for all my business endeavors. Dog days are good for resting and playing, but at the same time I can put aside a little bit of time each workday to plan for a great 2008.

And come time for Auld Lang Syne, I will definitely have a New Year worth celebrating.

Happy New Year, rising writers! No matter when you celebrate it.

In the writing for publication spirit,

Christina Katz

Share your two cents! When do you plan for the New Year and how? Comment to this post…

Christina Katz is the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books 2007). She is a presenter at writers conferences, teaches writing-for-publication e-classes and has appeared on Good Morning America. She blogs daily at http://www.thewritermama.wordpress.com/ and is currently writing her second book for Writer’s Digest. To learn more about Christina visit http://www.thewritermama.com/.


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