Conference Tip #1 Writers need Business Cards

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This business card is perfect for an artist but may not give the vibe you want as a writer. Whether you print your own with a template or order them be sure to have business cards before you attend a conference.

My yearly conference is coming up in a few weeks so I thought I’d share what you need to bring to make your conference experience the best it can be. If you’ve never attended one before I hope these tips will erase the deer-in-the-headlights feeling for you. Hopefully, it will give you a bit of confidence as well. There are many things you need to do to get prepared for a writer’s conference, so twice a week I will post a few details about items on my to-do list.

Today we are going to talk about business cards. Never attend a conference without them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever written one word for publication you need a business card.

Why? Especially if you’re not published yet.

  1. You will exchange cards with other writers.
  2. Saves time not having to write your info when others ask for it
  3. Publishers and Agents you speak with will ask if you have one
  4. People take you more seriously with a card
  5. You take your writing more serious with a card
Charley's Business Card 2

My husband made his business card using Microsoft Publisher. He printed them on Avery business card stock. There are free business card templates online if you don’t have a publishing program on your computer.

Don’ts

Don’t use the business card from your job. Don’t have a dual purpose card—one that has your side business (maybe cosmetics or vitamins) and your writing business on the same card. Tacky!

Don’t put your address on the card. Most people will probably contact you through email.

Don’t use illegible colors. You know dark backgrounds with pale letters.

Don’t have cluttered cards with lots of artwork and too much information.

Don’t use regular 20 lb. paper to make your cards.

No selfies or pictures of your pets

Don’t wait until the day before the conference to get your business cards

Don’t spend a lot on your first attempt because you will probably decide to change it after seeing others.

Do

Have a card specifically for your writing

Have a professional looking photo if you can. Better no photo if you don’t have a nice one.

Vista print.com has a special 50 cards for $9.99. Choose something you feel expresses who you are. If you have a website or blog try to match the colors or design for your card. Unless your blog colors don’t transfer well to a business card. Adding a photo would be an additional fee.

You can use premade designs from a print program on your computer. Or pull down a template from an online source.

If you print your own use perforated business card stock. It looks neat and the edges are all even. This is important. One year I made mine on plain cardstock using a paper cutter to separate them. Not all the cards were the same size. It looked unprofessional. Be sure to match the print set for your page to the Avery style of business cardstock you are using so the verbiage doesn’t print over the perforation. It may take a few trial prints to get it right. Leave blank space and use a readable font.

Your card should only have the necessary information. Your name, phone number, email and website or blog address. You can also add Facebook, twitter and other social media links as long as it doesn’t clutter the front of the card. If you have a moniker or writing business name—often your blog title—use it on the card.

Leave the back of the card blank so those you give it to can jot a note about you so they will remember later why they have your card. You will want to jot notes on the backs of the cards you receive for the same reason.

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My card has colors matching my blog site. Notice the blank spaces making it easier to read. The headshot is professional. Charley designed it but I used Vistaprint.com to print it with a glossy finish. The back is flat white making it easier to write on.

What if mine isn’t good enough

KISS keep it simple simple. A plain card on business perforated card stock with your name centered in a legible large font with your email and phone number underneath in a smaller font is the minimum requirement. No one is going to judge you on the coolness of your card. I’ve seen a few cards that were over cool and screamed I’ve never done this before. Don’t let your business card be the center focus of your conference experience. There are other necessary preparations needing far more of your attention. Those will be discussed in future blogs.

Now, go forth and get that business card done.

What kind of experience have you had with business cards? Where do you get yours?

 

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Accountability Partners vs Mentors : Why writers need them

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Every writer at some point in his career needs an accountability partner and a mentor. Both help grow your career and make you a better writer. Some people get the two terms confused. Let me start by defining terms.

Accountability partners work together to achieve a variety of goals. Accountability isn’t unique to writers. Weight control groups and gyms offer accountability for success in achieving health goals. Partners report their weight loss or number of sit ups on a weekly basis. The end result of a successful partnership is not only achieving their weight loss or exercise goals but developing habits of good health that last a life time.

Mentors have gone before you. They have already achieved their goals. In the case of writers, they are published, know how to market and may even know the ins and outs of social media. They know what it takes to be successful A mentor guides and instructs writers to improve their craft.

Sometimes a mentor can hold a mentee accountable for reaching his goals and ask his mentee to do the same for him.

The one big difference: a mentor is usually farther along in his career. While an accountability partner can be on an equal level or a newbie. The end game is slightly different in each setting.

What to expect from an Accountability Partner

Accountability partners enter into a verbal agreement to report progress on a weekly basis. Each individual sets a goal for the week and then reports his progress at the end of the week. Accountability partners can also be critique partners. You each agree to critique portions of the other’s writing every week. Here’s where it can get sticky. Accountability partners need to be realistic. The burden has to be equally shared. If you want your partner to critique a chapter a week you better be willing and able to do the same for them. If you need your foot held to the fire for completing a certain number of pages or words a day then be sure to do your part.

Don’t abuse your partner. If she critiques your work, but you don’t have time to do the same, don’t bother to enter into this partnership. Hire an editor. It’s not fair to expect more from your partner than you have time to give.

How to best learn from your mentor

Mentors are wonderful things as long as you don’t rely on them too heavily. They’re not your personal editor or manuscript fixer. Don’t take advantage by expecting him or her to introduce you to their agent or open doors for you. It could happen, but that is not their job description. Mentors or coaches may give you assignments to help strengthen weak areas. If they do critiques for you, take full advantage by working hard to make your writing shine. Don’t throw rough drafts at them to fix. Instead present your best work for evaluation. That’s how you learn to improve your craft. Be open to their correction and insights.

 

The value of an accountability partner

Accountability partners are something you can keep throughout your writing career. The partner may change over time for various reasons. Many writers don’t work for a magazine or publisher who give them deadlines. Your partner becomes that deadline. Striving to give an honest report of goals achieved will keep you on track. You can create your own deadlines for creating submissions, editing and reading craft books by setting those goals with your accountability partner.

When you might need a mentor

Writers should continue to grow and improve. A writer can learn much from craft books, conferences and classes. There comes a time you might needed a mentor when one on one counseling and training will help you improve your writing, editing or marketing. Their goal: reproduce new outstanding writers.

Where are you in your career?

Do you need your foot held to the fire to achieve your goals or help perfecting your craft? Or both?

Love to hear your thoughts on mentoring and accountability.

 

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Thick-Skin A Key To Writing Success

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The alligator in the photo reminds me that writers should be thick-skinned. Anyone who has succeeded in the writing world has developed thick-skin. Writers have to pull it out of their toolbox and put it on. Wearing it, nothing and no one can get in our way and bring us down. Sounds cool, right. Well, maybe not. It actually sounds hard. Really, really hard. It’s easier to cry into my alphabet soup.

There are probably more wonderful writers out there who have experienced zero success because they didn’t know how to put on thick skin. Thick skin helps turn rejection into success. Many best-selling authors have been rejected by more publishers than they have fingers and toes.

When to put on your thick skin

Any of these sound familiar?

When an agent or publisher face gets a deer in the headlights look when I pitch my story.

The sigh when an editor says. “Your opening line isn’t strong enough.”

Instead of crying or defending or ranting your thick skin shields your heart and you can say. “Thank you for your time.” or “Do you have a suggestion.”

Why it helps

Thick-skin helps you turn unpleasant things into success. I received an email from a publisher. This is the direct quote. “Your writing is not great.”

Without my thick armor I would have cried and threw my manuscript across the room and chided myself for being such a terrible writer. Great is what publishers are looking for. So, I took a writing course and got better. I still got rejection emails, but I kept at it.

My thick-skinned determination kept me submitting my manuscript for feedback. The first three chapters are the key: they need to shine. I sent them to a manuscript critique offering at a writers conferences. Drug them to my critique group. Each time the comments were more specific. They liked my story but…you have to pay close attention to the buts. A thick-skin helps you remain open to correction and instruction. After three editors told me the story actually started much later in my book I rewrote the first three as one chapter.

Another editor told me to delete all the chapters that were not in the POV of my main characters. I got rid of some interesting scenes. (Anyway they were interesting to me.)

A judge from a contest I entered said I had a lot of stuff going on. Too many characters doing too many things equals not good writing. The judge was confused by all the various action and who was doing what.

Each comment gave me something more to build on. Kinda like the story of the three little pigs. Each pig built his house but only the one built with bricks stood against the breath of the wolf. Wolf breath is often what it feels like when your book is not getting published and no matter how you rebuild your story the wolf breath of rejection collapses all your hard work.

Disney cartoon clipart

Disney cartoon clipart

I was thrilled to get a flash fiction published. This same magazine rejected all my other submissions. Even after making the corrections requested. How frustrating is that? I pulled on my thick skin so I could graciously ask (graciousness is part of the benefit of thick skin) the editor what I needed to do differently. We talked about it. But the gem he gave me because I took the time to ask was so encouraging. “Just because it doesn’t fit our publication needs doesn’t means someone else wouldn’t be interested in it.” Keep submitting until you get a yes.

Protects from reacting

I’m sure you’ve said something like the following:

Who do these jerks think they are?”

“They wouldn’t know good writing if it bit them in the….” You get my meaning.

Thick-skin protects your lips from saying offensive things. (At least in public.) What you say in the shower or to your spouse in the darkness of your bedroom doesn’t qualify under the thick-skin umbrella. It protects your heart from allowing critical opinions of agents, publishers, and fellow-writers from coming out your mouth and infecting all those around you.

It helps writers not compare their baby to everyone else’s. Comparison tinged with jealousy nurtures negativity and the result is a bitter writer.

Don’t get bitter but encourage

Bitterness repels people from you. People won’t want to work with you or recommend you to others. You shoot your writing career in the foot when you surrender to negativity. A thick-skin helps you cheer others on and offer a helping hand even when your own work is not getting recognition. Being the complaining, gossipy, faultfinding individual in your writing group, at a conference or on your blog only weakens your ability to succeed.

Grow some thick-skin by seeking out others who wear it well. Learn how they address issues and deal with rejection. Mimic their responses until they become your own. For me, prayer works wonders. It focuses me, reminds me God is the one in control and as I pray for those whose words or critiques bother me, I gain a new peace and perspective. Add thick-skin to your tool box and keep writing and submitting, writing and submitting until you reach your writing goals.

How do you grow thick-skin? Make a comment below, I’d love to hear about it.

 

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Avoiding and Retooling Clichés

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I heard a line of dialogue in Hawaii Five O this past Friday (One of my favs.) that made me sit up and take notice. “I know it like I know the name on my driver’s license.” Why, you ask, was it so significant?

It was creative. No cliché here. You know the cliché I’m talking about. “I know it like I know my own name.” This old tired line was transformed into something cool, memorable, noteworthy. At least for me it was. I turned to my hubby remarking that was a great line. Other family members would rather I kept my thoughts to myself. But I can’t help it. I tend to analyze not just watch a TV show or movie. This time I found a gem of a line. It inspired me.

Don’t show your amateur hand

They say the sign of an amateur writer is cliché lines. Not sure who they are, but it’s mention many times in writing books, classes and workshops “Avoid Cliché.”

It’s not easy. A cliché often says so much. We can understand with one line what otherwise would take paragraphs to explain. But it can become uninteresting and lack creativity for readers if our story is peppered with a lot of clichés.

Old Idioms aren’t always clear

My co-worker told me about her son’s coach who often used old idioms. Her son came home from practice one day and asked his mother what does “You are slower than molasses in winter” mean. I would guess most people under the age of 40 have no idea what that cliché means. When molasses was used more consistently as sweetener in days gone by, they knew it thicken in cold weather. Unless you know are familiar with molasses it makes no sense. So making sure your cliché is understandable is important too.

The cliché “It’s as plain as the nose on your face,” we know, refers to the obvious. Today we might hear the phrase. “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”

“The buck stops here” says I take responsibility. More recent “Put on our big boy pants.” or “Big girl pants.” We strive to be PC.

Some clichés like the molasses reference are dated. “Easy as pie.” What does that mean? It should really be easy as eating pie. Simple and pleasurable. Same as “Piece of Cake.”

Clichés can show time periods

Old clichés fit well in historical fiction if they are true to the time period.

“Say hello to my little friend.” Probably wouldn’t come out of the mouth of a bandit from 1874. But the idiom “When Pigs Fly” has been around since the 1600s. It refers to the impossible.

A sprinkle of cliché to speak to time and place usually gets (excuse the cliché ) under the radar of the cliché police.

Practice avoiding clichés

An exercise in many writing courses is to take an overused line and give it a fresh spin. Such as the line “I know it as well as I know my own name.” How else can a writer express confidence in a characters declaration of truth? How about “I know it like I know when Monday Night Football comes on.” Okay maybe you can come up with a better one.

One of the best reasons to avoid clichés is to push yourself to exercise creativity. For example a big clumsy guy at a gala might be described as “A Bull in a China Shop.” But isn’t it more interesting to say he was like “A singing mule at a piano recital.”

Avoiding cliché stretches our writing muscles. You might even create a new cliché. Remember “Life is just a box of chocolate.”

Let’s have a little fun. Here are some clichés. See if you can come up with a new twist on them.

Stick to my guns

It’s not my cup of tea.

Can’t see the forest for the tree.

It’s like pulling teeth.

Throwing out the baby with the bath water.

If you’re comfortable doing so I’d love to see your creativity in the comments.

 

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Springing into a New Novel

My hubby took this photo from our garden.

My husband took this photo from our garden. Daisies are a favorite of mine. My WIP is set in a favorite place of mine. Photo by: Charles Huff

Spring is a time of new beginnings. Although in the Chicagoland areas we are still waiting for it to hit us full force. Seeing the crocuses and daffodil’s green shoots come up gave me hope of warmer days ahead.

New beginnings in my writing life are a lot like spring. I just finished Speedbo in March, giving me a mess of words—the shoots springing up to form a novel. A new story, new characters, new plot, new time period. All waiting to be shaped into a new story world.

one of my favorite photos my hubby took.

One of my favorite photos my hubby took. I feel like I could reach out and pick it. The same is true of how our words need to effect the reader. photo by : Charles Huff

Watching my story unfold reminds me of watching the neighborhood awaken from winter into glorious floral colors. When I sit down to write a new story, whether it is a novel or a short story, an in-the-zone feeling sweeps over me. The characters’ world becomes my world. I see them. I experience their pain and joy. In their heads I discover new secrets. Details of place and time bloom forth in all their imagined glory.

Focusing on the details of this lily reminds me of writing to help raders focus. Again my husband Charels took took this

Focusing on the details of this lily reminds me of writing to help readers focus. photo by: Charles Huff

Springtime is raking, planting, watering, seeding, and fertilizing to encourage our yards and gardens to look their very best. My novel seeds need rewrite fertilizer, editing weeding and repotting, critique group watering and raking away all unnecessary words to trim and hone my manuscript into a story that flows and carries the reader to a satisfying conclusion.

Yardwork and gardening in the spring can get intense, but the end result is a lovely yard to enjoy and share with visitors. Something to be proud of with a feeling of satisfaction in a job well done. Gardening my words brings forth the same feelings of pride and satisfaction. Something to share with my readers for them to enjoy.

A new setting for flowers like a new setting for my new  WIP.

A new setting for flowers are like a new setting for my new WIP. Photo by: Charles Huff

How do you feel when you start a new project?

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Speedbo: More than A Monthly Goal Challenge

Speedbo participant

In the midst of working, helping with grandchildren and meeting the needs of my elderly parents I embarked on an adventure I almost skipped. I joined Speedbo for the month of March.

Speedbo ended yesterday. For those of you who missed my blog explaining Speedbo let me catch you up. Speedbo is sponsored by Seekerville. You sign up to accomplish one or more writing goals during the 31 days of March. Unlike NANOWRIMO you can devote the month to editing rather than just write. What you write and how you want to reach your goals is up to you. Send your goals to Seekerville and get started.

My goal

I wanted to write a new novel rough draft. I missed my 62,000 word goal by 1200 words. My goal was foremost about writing daily and word count was a great marker. Two thousand words a day no matter what. Matter did interrupt a few days, and I made most of that up by going over my word count other days. Technically, I wrote four new blogs during the month so my total word count for the month exceeded 62,000. But this word count made me a little shy of a completed rough draft but closer than I have ever gotten in a 31 day time frame. I am so excited to look back at all the interruptions and realize I still did it.

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What I learned.

  • I can write any time of day. I don’t just need to write in the morning. Being a morning person I tend to lose momentum in the creative department as the day lengthens. A few days this month my most creative times were evenings.
  • I discovered I can write in noise. My 2 year old granddaughter has developed a shriek lately that is like chalk on a blackboard. When I’m in the zone screechy two-year olds and loud giggles don’t reach my conscience mind.
  • Putting butt in chair can become a bigger inspiration than any muse or word prompt when you have a deadline. Every day I sat at my laptop and wrote. I could feel the inspirational parts rise out of the mess of words.
  • Even under pressure my characters still tell me what to write. I think they might be a bit pushier under pressure.
  • Scriviner software makes writing a manuscript easier. I chose to write by scenes rather than chapters. Now I can rearrange and expand on them and place them in the order I want in the editing process.
  • I still got reading in even in the midst of this self-imposed deadline. I read fewer books but I found the time.
  • I still got blogs and devotions written. Doing those helped stimulate my brain when it got numb from writing my novel draft.
  • Less TV is a good thing. There are times my family has games shows and reruns on that can draw you to sit and rest your work-weary mind. Choosing to write instead got my word count done.

What I knew before I started

  • I will work hard to meet a deadline. I work better with a deadline. My writing muse seems to appear more easily under pressure.
  • I get the other important things done because I make time each day for those things.
  • Family will always come first with or without a deadline.
  • Having an accountability partner only added to my determination to succeed. I’d acquired a new accountability partner at the beginning of the year. Knowing I had to report my progress every week already had me fired up about writing.

Conclusion

I will do Speedbo again in the future; it is life changing. Now I hope the habit is embedded in my DNA. So I will continue creating my own deadlines to see if I can maintain momentum throughout the rest of 2015.

Have you ever done Speedbo or NANOWRIMO or anything like them?

 

 

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