Friday, July 27, 2007

Tips for writing the best blog

Blogging has increased the potential for online income and diversified entertainment and information but there is also a high rate of blogs that never develop a readership. These ten tips will show you how to get your blog noticed:

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Measure Your Artistic Growth

Have you ever stumbled across something you wrote years ago and cringed? While some writers tend to throw away old works or pieces that just don't work I am a bower bird. I gather up and archive by date everything I've worked on and as such have computer disks of articles, poems, stories, snippets, plots and lists that gather dust.

Every now and again I go on an adventure into the past to measure my artistic growth or hunt for long forgotten nuggets and raw gemstones. These archives are a wondrous mine of information and inspiration.

Date Everything: I find the most vital piece of information dug up in my archive is dates. By tracking dates you can watch patterns of creativity and progress. It is also interesting to consider what events caused various inspirations.

For example: In 2000 I wrote a number of poems that focused on creating life and the responsibility of parenting. These track back to the months I was pregnant with my first child and showed how much this major life event was in my thoughts. I compare these earlier attempts with similar poems written in 2004 (the birth of my son) and can stage the amazing growth those four years played in maturity, voice and technique.

Polishing Gems: Sometimes I dig through my archives and uncover an unpolished gem. If I remember writing the piece I also tend to remember the frustration I felt at the time. The work might not have come easily and I may never have been satisfied with what I created. Years later, I come back and the raw material is there. With the experience gained in those intervening years I can shape, craft and polish the writing into something sharper and clearer than the original.

Sifting Ideas: These archives area also a wealth of ideas for new material. Topics that have fallen out of you interest can be sparked or characters you had forgotten about may come back to life with an archive revival. Old blog/journal entries, poems or articles may be the lead you need for a new novel or the character of an older story the bones of a new one.

Photographs and Pictures: Other things to include in your archives are photographs, drawings and graphics. "A pictures is worth a thousand words" and you may just find those words are drawn out of you by an old photograph or painting.

Reading: Being immersed in language and art is a wonderful way to recharge your creativity. Reading is a great way to relax and the added delight of enjoying your own writing and rediscovering pieces you had forgotten about is empowering for your spirit. Yes, some of the work will be cringe worthy, but it is also enlivening. How far has time brought you?

Do you keep an archive of your work? Why or why not? How do you measure your artistic growth? Do you feel it's important to look back and see the path you've trod?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Potter Mania - Australia Style

I freely admit to being a fan of Harry Potter. Actually, I'm not particularly enamored of the characters or even the plot. Indeed the book was always average in my opinion. What I've loved about the Harry Potter experience is the energy and interest it has developed in the publishing world.

The book was released at 7AM Saturday July 21st, 2007 here in Western Australia. It was 9AM in the Australian Eastern States and midnight in the UK. Book Stores took advantage of the wonderful release time and the Western Australian stores opened for a 7AM special event. I had the pleasure of being one of the first few hundred to stand in line.

It was a dismal day. Pounding rain made driving a challenge and the sun was just beginning to give the dementorish clouds a silver sheen. My children, a seven and three year old, were half asleep but also excited. It was an adventure. The 30 minute drive into town was spent with chatter and our car felt like it was encased in a bubble charm under the Black Lake.

Even at such abnormal weather conditions and an abysmal hour the car park was swiftly crowded. The rain didn't deter me from finding a bay and we got wet sprinting across the slick surface but thankfully arrived in time to take shelter. There were many less fortunate Potter fans that were forced to stand out in the rain behind us.

The queue buzzed with eager anticipation and chatted up and down the lines in their own groups or with strangers. Witches hats, wizard robes and wands were brandished with enthusiasm and house scarves added splashes of color to the gloomy early morning darkness.

Impatient children were guided away from their patient families to enjoy "Stick the scar on Harry" and "Pin the pig tail on Dudley". These diversions were followed by potion making and incantations. The queue stepped up and I moved closer to the front desk where Dymocks staff were working hard to ensure each customer got given a copy of their pre-ordered book.

The event was very well organized. Extra security was on hand to ensure the crowd was kept orderly and the high spirits of the waiting fans didn't lead to mischief. Muggings, while talked about with half-humorous winks amongst those waiting, didn't actually eventuate.

The coffee shop was well situated and also opened early in anticipation of hundreds of thirsty readers who couldn't wait to get home before cracking the spines of their new 600+ page books.

Everything went incredibly smoothly and it would be interesting to find out what the stores take, outside of Harry Potter books, actually came to. That is perhaps the only downfall I noticed. While the store sold J.K. Rowling books in the thousands customers didn't seem to be lingering to browse the other titles available.

It was an interesting excursion. I'm looking forward to other forays into the industry. I'd love to enjoy a reading and a book signing at some stage. Not Harry Potter of course but something a little less manic. I enjoyed letting my mind wander and picturing my name on the cover of books readers gathered around coffee tables to enjoy immediately after purchase. Maybe someday...

Now Available! Harry Potter books 1-6 boxed set
Check out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Amazon


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wallpapering with Rejection Slips

Rejection is one vital step on a writer's journey. It is actually one that is fairly advanced, but any writer who is serious about wanting to be published will, at some point, submit something and be rejected. There is no easy way to handle the sense of failure that looms over these little rejection slips. Writers over the centuries have dealt with it in many different ways.

It is important to remember that rejection is not personal. It is hard, from this side of the process to accept that. We put so much of our heart and soul into our writing that it can sometimes feel like a stabbing pain to have it rejected by others. The truth is, publishers/agents have many submissions pass across their desks and reject many brilliant works.

Publishers and agents are always looking for something specific. They need work that meets their lists; they pay attention to genre, length, fashion and fancy; luck and timing also play a vital role in the potential for rejection. Publishers are pressed for time and often have to make judgments based entirely on gut instinct and first impressions. The adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover", is one publishers cannot adhere to. They must judge by the cover, or at least the first lines and pages.

The most vital thing to remember is that rejection is a way to learn. While most publishers won't include specific information the rejection is the first step to examining your manuscript for problems. A rejection is the opportunity to grow and develop. Decide if there is any reason they may have been right to reject that peice and if there is, fix it, before submitting it to the next on your list.

Of course, you could simply try Dylan Moran's technique:

However you handle rejection know that a rejection is always better than having your work languishing in a closet. Each rejection brings you closer to acceptance and publication. Keep polishing and submitting your works and eventually, with dedication and effort you will find a publisher. Meanwhile, keep writing!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oprah Interviews Jeffrey Eugenides, Author of Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - Available from
Oprah once interviewed author Jeffrey Eugenides for Oprah's Book Club. The interview was an interesting read, especially the first page where Eugenides discusses the origins of his award winning book, Middlesex.

Born in Detroit, Michigan on March 8th, 1960, Jeffrey Eugenides tells readers how his high school experience, reading Ovid's Metamorphoses, gave him the first inspiration for writing. Over the years to come he continued to be inspired by the Hermaphrodites-like condition of intersex caused by genetic mutation.

Jeffrey Eugenides first novel, The Virgin Suicides (1993) has also received praise and awards and is considered, "one of the finest first novels of recent memory" ( Reviewer, Brad Thomas Parsons).

Although an award-winning author, Eugenides gives the impression of being very grounded in his expectations of himself. About winning the Pulitzer Prize Jeffrey Eugenides says:

"Winning a prize like the Pulitzer changes your life not at all. The daily act of writing remains as demanding and maddening as it was before, and the pleasure you get from writing—rare but profound—remains at the true heart of the enterprise. On their best days, writers all over the world are winning Pulitzers, all alone in their studios, with no one watching. The grail remains interior.

Aside from spasms of triumph, this thing called "success" isn't much, really. Everybody in America is after it, of course. It's the national imperative. But "success" is a curiously vacant state. Success doesn't happen to you. It happens out in the world somewhere."

Middlesex, sounds like a wonderful read and the reviews have been primarily positive. Of 635 reviews on 416 of them have gathered 5 stars. I'm hoping to find it on the shelves in my local library this week so I can enjoy the vibrancy of the characters and the engaging voice of the novels star, Cal/Calliope.

Oprah's Book Club Interview with Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides on

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Visualize Your Ideal Writer's Office

A few months ago I dreamed of a very special room. It was a beautiful haven where I could write; an office of my own. I wandered through my dream, enjoying the visualization with a sense of exploration and wonder. My subconscious was designing my ideal writer's office and the image remains a sharp, focused memory.

The building is conveniently located in my back yard. It is build of beautiful jarrah timbers from floor to ceiling and had large glass windows and a single glass sliding door facing the house. The windows looked out on vista's; grass on one side, a water garden on another and on the third a small flower garden lovingly tended by my children.

In the flower garden is a small mushroom-shaped, brightly painted cement table with toadstool chairs. My kids sit with their drawings in the fractured sunlight under a white sunshade. The grass on the opposite side of the building is lush and green. It looks soft and smells freshly cut with enough room to kick a ball around. The water garden is an array of rocks and ceramic animals and birds surrounding a lagoon like pond with waterfall and fountain. Water shatters over the rocks and tumbles into the pool below where giant koi fish swam lazily beneath a mesh casement.

Inside the room the wood is polished a glorious honey-gold. In one corner a soft, fluffy rug covers the floor and bright embroidered pillows are scattered in haphazard piles, a bean bag and a lazy chair create a circle of warmth and sunlight bounces into the corner creating a halo of light and harmony. A small coffee table partitions the rest of the room from the little reading and relaxing nook.

Against one wall, looking out over the flower garden, are two mahogany desks. On one my desktop computer hums softly and my various arrays of papers and books are stacked in chaotic piles. On the shelf above the monitor there are basic reference books, quick to hand, and down the side is a collection of disks and flash drives. The chair is large; comfortable black leather on wheels with a bright yellow cushion and under the table is a matching footstool, my sandals slotted beneath them as I wander the room barefoot.

On the other desk rests my closed laptop and more books and papers as well as two opened notepads and an exercise book. Beneath the desk the three drawers pull out to reveal a filing cabinet lined with folders, neatly labeled. A pin board is against the wall near this desk that has a few scraps of paper, quotes, outlines, and various other codes I keep nearby for reference and inspiration as well as a calendar with various dates circled for future publication events.

The longest wall, with no windows is a ranged bookshelf. It's covered with books of all sorts and there is one section in the middle that's holds books with my own name on the spine. The shelf above and below have various awards and photographs displaying my accomplishments and in the cabinet below are a couple of boxes where I keep spare copies of my own books to give away.

There is a three seat floral lounge chair with its back facing the shelves that looks out the sliding door upon the water feature and in the far corner a rocking recliner faces the window overlooking the grass. Beside the recliner is a simple counter and bar fridge with a few kitchen amenities where I can poor myself a hot cup of tea or a cool glass of soda. The room is specifically designed for relaxation while writing. With the laptop I can take position anywhere in the room and write or take my work out with me where ever I go. There are pictures on the walls and the room emanates a creative aura of warm vibrant spirit.

This is my office, with a portable phone and internet access, a revered collection of books, and a chaotic yet harmonious environment for me to write in. My haven is a place of inspiration, where I can leave the family life and come to work but within reach of the conveniences of home. Even before this room is ever built I can escape here to rest and refresh my mind.

Now, close your eyes and visualize your ideal writer's office or working space. Pull together as many details as you can. What do your senses create? What would your ideal writer's office look like? sound like? smell like? feel like?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

With lighthearted humor, Stephen King expresses anecdotes of his life and offers insight into his writing process and the journey of his career in his memoir, "On Writing". Stephen shares the light and the darkness that molded him through his life in a courageous, empowering voice that is inspiring and motivational.


Title: On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket (July 1, 2002)

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It's a strange feeling. Wordlessness. A sense of silence in the creative soul. My thoughts are running, I'm percolating, I have story (FoT) doing spiral staircases in my mind but I'm totally wordless. It's not like writers block. It's a sense of waiting instead of a sense of frustration or procrastination. Wordless...

In a way this feeling is rather relaxing. I've given myself a break to account for the school holidays and it's freeing to approach each day with no expectations. It's a good time to take a step back because I've gone over my past draft this past week and a half both in my mind and in my notes and I'm at about the half way mark building intensity into the novel. I've been noticing gaps and making annotations in preparation of the revision process and I need to nail down the remaining scene layout before proceeding.

I'm also still trying to lock in on my characters. In a way they're all solid but they lack a 3D element in my mind. I just can't FEEL them as fully as I'd like to. I'm not absorbed by them. It's part of what I've always had trouble with. When I was role playing (Dungeons and Dragons) I could lose myself in character. It made for some fun gaming because I'd jump up from my seat totally immersed in the role. But I can't seem to get that deep with the characters in my book. They don't fill me.

How do I find that point inside me where they come to life. Tori and Lucas have a story to tell. They're roles are vital and vibrant. Crey is screaming to be heard and Zara and Tempany have this residing pain that sort of floats there in ethereal expectation. But it's not enough. I THINK too much. How do I draw them out? How do I immerse myself in these characters so that I KNOW them? I need to be able to feel their actions and motivations coming into the scenes.

Meanwhile, it's all part of this wordlessness. I'm comfortable and there is another week of school holidays before my oldest returns to the grind for 10 weeks. Another week of watching the book run around in my mind and enjoying the way its filling out and becoming real. Another week of wordlessness...

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Bipolar Manic = Productivity

I've actually been accomplishing things lately. The sort of accomplishments even I notice and that is saying a lot because usually my minor accomplishments are shoved under the rug. Of course, I don't have a rug but that's besides the point. I mean that sometimes I just don't give myself credit for many of the things I do. Mostly, if I haven't been writing then I often feel like I've done nothing at all.

Thankfully, I HAVE been writing. I recently went on the hunt for writers software. I got sick of constantly hunting down notes on my computer or in my notebooks and while the plotboard worked ok with The Dating Game the children swiftly pull it to peices if I don't keep a close enough eye on them. And trust me, 3 year olds and cork board pins DON'T mix.

Anyway, I FOUND ONE! I found a fantastic program that is exactly what I was looking for. I downloaded the trial version to check it out and started by putting what I could of The Flight of Torque into it. Doing so was inspiring me and really getting me thinking about the plot and the characters and how they all interweave. The story is getting strong and stronger and while I still struggle to truly capture Tori and Lucas as solid lead characters I'm coming to know them.

I ended up buying the full version of StoryLines and I love it. I've even put The Tools of Poetry Workshop into it and it really helps to use the plotboard/storyline system to lay out where everything needs to come together. The focal point has helped me find direction and really narrow my sights so that I'm not constantly overwhelmed by EVERYTHING that must be done.

I used to look at The Tools of Poetry Workshop as 40 weeks of lessons. It was hard to even settle into lesson one because the ground work just wasn't there. I remember when I wrote the original version of the workshop I scrounged week by week to come up with a topic. Usually it would be late Tuesday morning before I'd physically FORCE myself to begin and snatched a random topic out of the air. I researched like made, put together a half-assed effort and posted it up for the group.

I remember that every week, all week long I was terrified about writing this short lesson that very few people seem to even read. It was daunting and I felt completely inadequate for the task. I was always filled with dread and experienced this intense breath of relief immediately after posting it up. Then of course, in the next breath the anxiety started again because I'd think on towards NEXT weeks lesson.

Now that I'm reworking the workshop I've got 40 weeks worth of lessons to write. But this time I began with a solid basis. I have a course outline so I know exactly which topic I'll be writing about. I've layed the groundwork with a reference guide and glossary. I plan to put this together as a published book when I've finished trialing and polishing it with the Persevering Poets Present group. The project is finally inspiring me.

The other think I did with StoryLines was used it as my new Poetry Marketing Database. I used to use Microsoft Access which was clunky and I could never get the linking to work the way I wanted and had multiple projects for Australian Paying, non-paying, interantional, contests, submitted, rejected etc. Anyway, now I've got it all together in StoryLines and it's so easy to work with. I even submitted 12 poems yesterday so I now have a total of 22 poems in circulation. I'm hoping one of them will catch a publisher bite.

All of this activity and I've not been sleeping very well. I've come to realise and worry because this is classic Manic. I thought I was balanced because I have melancholy stages throughout my day but if I'm honest with myself, while this productivity is fantastic, I'm barely eating, barely sleeping and I'm talking (and typing) a mile a minute.

I guess all I can do is make the most of the energy for the moment. At least I'm finding focus when normally this sort of manic would have me completely flighty. Yes, I'm still forgetful (duh! Blonde!) but I can settle into one project for hours without feeling trapped or getting distracted. I'm getting things done and if I could run on this kind of energy forever it would be fantastic. Alas, a manic high is ALWAYS followed by it's equal and opposite low.

Still, obviously my cycle is out at the moment. They're lasting longer than usual and I've given up trying to plan around it. Basically I'm just going with the flow. I figure eventually I'll get wherever this stream of emotion is headed. Meanwhile, I'm WRITING! Which is always the most fantastic feeling in the world.