Posts Tagged ‘business’

E.C.’s and Finite Walls

June 5, 2012 2 comments
Microsoft Excel spreadsheet

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently learned that a controversy brewed about the real use of the editorial calendar. I’m new to this tool of the writing business, but I never realized that such a tool could have so many sides. Who knew that which deadline date one uses was controversial?

Here you have spreadsheet with columns and rows of items. Columns, for me, relate to the days of the week. The rows house the activities required for those days. Some people use the opposite approach. Call me traditional with calendars. Days belong across the top of the sheet.

Those activities plugged into the spreadsheet range from book chapters that must go to a critique partner/group to poem revisions necessary before submitting a packet to a magazine. Everything goes on the calendar; at least in my work world. I also need to allot for time spent on said activity. I know. I’m a bit anal due to having so many projects on the board.

The one thing that I don’t understand about this calendar debate is why it exists. Yes, some writers use a submission deadline date supplied by the magazine, publisher, agent, etc. Others like me, like lots of cushion to account for unforeseen circumstances, and plug a project into a day prior to the actual deadline date.

Isn’t it a matter of needs?

Everyone has a specific way of thinking about work and deadlines. I see deadlines as finite walls. There are no doors in those walls. If I can’t make a deadline, it’s my fault. I knew it was there. I knew what I needed to do. If I don’t make it, it’s because I didn’t prepare adequately to get the job done. It’s really that simple.

In order to make the deadline, I place a date a few days prior to that of the finite wall. In the back of my mind, I know that cushion is built in. In the day-to-day work, though, that realization tends to disappear. My calendar tells me that I need to have something done on a specific day. And that’s what I do.

Others may not need that cushion. They work better under pressure to make deadline. That’s how their creativity erupts; but a sense of immediate need.

I work on a monthly calendar and a weekly one. One gives a longer overview, especially because of coursework I need to keep in mind. The short week calendar gives me detail on upcoming work and deadlines. They operate in tandem to give me all I need to keep my activity level constant.

I haven’t been doing a calendar prior to May. I don’t enjoy the time spent creating them. For me, it’s tedious, but the hour or two I spend on those spreadsheets saves me tons in frustration, panic, and unnecessary backtracking. It’s time so well spent that I doubt I would ever go without one again.

Tell me about your experience with editorial calendars. Has your E.C. friend saved you from disgrace, time lost, lack of production? Drop it in a comment. Sharing is always good. If you have different take on this subject, let us see that, too.

Later, all. A bientot,


Whether Self-Taught or Not

March 13, 2012 6 comments

I’ve talked these past two weeks about various aspects of writing. For those who still feel adrift because they just came into the field, I’m going to use this opportunity to provide a few paths to explore. These are ones I’ve found especially helpful over the past few years.

Wherever a writer goes or whoever she talks to in the field, she will always find help and guidance along the way. David Farland, the best-selling author and teacher, says, “Nobody makes it alone. We each build on one another.” Farland should know. He’s well-known in two genres and still teaches.

Take small opportunities to grow as a writer. If you swing it, attend a two-day event or conference in your area. You’re not any less a writer if you don’t have the cash for hotel expenses. If you can drive to the event each day and be home at night, so be it. The important thing is to meet and mingle with the writers who are there to talk about words, their use, and how you fit into that picture.

Many online opportunities recur each year.WriteOnCon is a free online writer’s conference with plenty of firepower to begin on the writing track. This year’s conference will take place on August 14 and 15, with the theme “Back to Basics.” The only thing you’ll spend on this one is your time and effort.

If you have the ability to pay a bit for instruction, but have family duties and a family; take a course, either on-line or at a local college. Many courses and workshops are available for varying costs. Currently there are a double handful of free online writing classes from major universities across the country. Their subjects range on everything from poetry reading and writing basics to academic and research writing, along with levels of editing prowess and technical work.

Several major writers offer workshops and classes as well. David Farland has several classes that will work for all levels of writing experience. He also puts out a free newsletter called “Daily Kick in the Pants” for jump starting a person’s writing day. This one is a real winner.

Learn how the business operates. For those who still think that being a writer is nothing more than putting some words on paper, handing it in to an editor, and sitting back to wait for royalty checks to roll in, get a grip on the nearest heavy support. Reality is about to slap you hard and send you reeling.

If your budget simply won’t stretch to include any kind of off-site conference or workshop, hop over to Suzanne Lieurance’s website. Suzanne knows this business inside and out and is one of the best writing coaches around. Her Working Writer’s Club was developed to help guide and encourage those who’re serious about writing. She also has a free newsletter that outlines everything that’s available for free or for members only. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

Writers and Editors Network also takes the business seriously. Check out its offerings, newsletter, and help. There are competitions and insider news as well.

Writer’s Digest also offers a free newsletter and free writing tutorials. Take the opportunity to see what’s offered and what will work for you. Julie Oblander is the Online Education Manager, who provides so much for the student who will listen.

Writer Magazine has its own benefits for those who will invest in a subscription, which in this case is a steal. Listings of markets complete with a dedicated search engine, listings of agents and book publishers, contests and other competitions, as well as teaching articles and archives can keep the writer reading, learning and happy for weeks. Beware: you may not want to come back to your daily reality once you start down this road.

And finally, one of my absolute favorites; Poets and Writers Magazine has more between its covers and on its website than you can read in a week. Tutorials, archives, contest and competition listings, and more. Don’t overlook this one. It’s a treasure.

Know that writing takes time to master. You can take formal training through a college or university, online or on campus. You can also learn through specialized workshops, conferences, online forums and free classes. Regardless of the path taken, you can learn to write.

The most important piece of knowledge to remember throughout the process is that it takes time and practice to write well. Some “naturals” have been fortunate enough to grab that brass ring the first time out. I’d be willing to bet that most, if not all, will tell you that the second time round came harder for them.

There’s nothing wrong with being new at this game. Believe in yourself and define your goals with as much precision as you can. Those two necessities will help for years to come as you begin to navigate your way through the sea of sometimes conflicting demands of writing. This is a business, after all. You will be an entrepreneur as a writer. All new businesses have a learning curve. Yours has just begun.

I’ve provided links to those online helpers who raise the flag of possibility for us all. Take advantage of this small opportunity, if you’ve never explored some of these sites. Take the time to discover what’s available to you.

Whether Ready or Not

March 12, 2012 11 comments


“Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred… Ready or not, here I come.”

That’s how most of us remember playing Hide and Seek; a bunch of giggling and squealing kids racing around, desperate for a hiding place, one slightly peeking “it” person with head buried—not too seriously—within her arms against a tree/wall, and an anticipated thrill of the hunt.

Being a writer is very much like that game played during childhood. We never forget the rules of the game. We continue to chase, with the anticipation of the hunt, counting days instead of seconds until we hear back from a publication about a submission, and squealing with delight when we make a connection with an editor who likes our material.

We understand that, sooner or later, we’ll get caught peeking when we shouldn’t. Editors tend to frown on those writers whose patience runs out before their manuscripts have had time to go through the editorial process. The ability to wait without fussing keeps editors happy.

The game is played the same way, regardless of which aspect we’re facing.

The game parameters that cover territory available for play are decided first. For instance, if we’re doing a preliminary work-up for a new story, novel, essay, or other lengthy prose piece, certain devices and work gets done first. Synopses, character studies, full outlines and the like are usually thought out to some degree before actual writing begins. It’s understood that these will change as writing continues.

Some writers, like me, have done preliminary work in their heads and will wait until after their writing begins before nailing down specifics in an outline. Other writers jot down entire scenes as they pop into the mind and string those scenes together into a loose story later, as a kind of first draft. However the writer chooses to design their work requires planning, whether subconscious or not.

During the writing process, bits of research necessary to the story can be as wily as any good Hide and Seek player. Winkling out the precise information needed can be tricky and time consuming; like racing from one likely hidey hole to another, looking for the last kid hiding. It takes forethought and planning about the likeliest search pattern to dispel one’s frustration in the search.

Once all the players are accounted for within the writing search, a huge chunk of the work is completed. That chunk, comprised of precise words and phrases, information for accuracy, and the most effective organization of the material, determines the rest of the hunt.

Polishing the copy, finding the best markets for submission, whether to agent or publication, and writing either query letters or cover letters take the writer to that moment of true anticipation about possible outcomes. Soon only patience and distraction will take over. A need to write something else will emerge to move the writer back to the keyboard.

Playing Hide and Seek this way never grows dull. It can be exasperating, tedious, inexplicably easy, and all stages in between, but never really dull. Perhaps that’s why those of us who knew from an early age that they needed to write can never put it away. The game hides within us, seeking expression, whether anyone ever reads our words or not. We must still play.


Finding Balance and Launching Projects

January 28, 2012 5 comments

One of the things that many writers have complained about is finding balance in their writing lives. For me it’s an every-day struggle.

For the past two weeks my time has been spent reading: journals, writer’s magazines, novels, newspapers, marketing lists, and grant listings.

Oh, yes. I’ve run through a gauntlet of publishing advice, writer’s key points to remember, plus a myriad of funding choices and recommended sources for those who are proposal challenged.

Considering all of that, you might wonder what I came away with.

Let me say this. I’m someone who’s always been expected to finish all projects as quickly as possible and to perfection. Does this give you a clue as to my stress level concerning any given project?

I’ve almost come to a point of accepting a typo, grammatical error, or other minor flaw as not requiring blood-letting. ALMOST. Biting one’s tongue to keep from screaming out loud doesn’t count.

This expectation of mine stalls submissions but doesn’t stall idea generation. That’s where the problem comes in. I have too many ideas.

It takes little to send me haring off on the scent of a possible new rabbit before it goes down the nearest hole and disappears. Why?

When I have so many pending projects already in various stages of completion, I become overwhelmed by the volume.

Discouragement rears up and hisses at me when I start to go back to tackle one of the Needs-To-Be-Finished projects. I lived in rattlesnake country too long, I guess. I tend to back off when something—anything—hisses at me. As a result, I’ll begin yet another story, article, etc., instead.

Soon I have an avalanche waiting to descend and smother me.

My fairy godmother arrived during this last reading frenzy. I caught up on my perusal of back issues of The Writer Magazine. In the December, 2011 issue, editor and author, Linda K. Wertheimer, wrote a timely essay; one that I desperately needed now.

She wrote “Perfecting the Art of Slowness,” which detailed how she had to return to the discipline of small daily practice sessions used for becoming a first chair flutist in order to find real success later in writing.

It sounds so simple to hear someone else say it, doesn’t it; slow down, two small words that could make or break a story, submission, or query.

Her advice got me to thinking hard about how I used my time and organized my work. If I teach myself to envision a large stop sign at the end of each phase of a project, pause to look both ways—back to the beginning as well as toward the finish line—and ease out into the flow of time traffic, I would have fewer frustrations, missteps, and avalanches.

When I couple that strategy with practicing the art of merely writing down new ideas rather than beginning the whole new project, current projects can be finished more regularly and well.

I’ve begun my daily practice. Each day I take out one project, children’s lit or adult, read through it, and begin the revision. I work for one hour on editing and then go looking for markets for the piece. By the time I return to it, I’ve removed myself far enough that a final edit can commence.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to clear out my backlog of material, and continue to work on current projects, an hour at a time. I’ve discovered that it isn’t so much that I’m mismanaging my time as it is a matter of clearing inventory. An hour isn’t much to devote to something that can leave home and live on its own, after all.

Tell me about your own struggles, downfalls, and strategies. Until later,

A bientot,


21st Century Advertising and Customer Service

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve returned from the land of no internet. While I was away I began thinking about something that has irritated me and others for a few years. This is what my mental exercise sounded like.

A couple of decades have passed since I was involved in any form of advertising, having written the occasional audio/video commercial back in the early nineties. Everywhere one looks, whether on blog sites, company sites, or while trying to gather one’s email, pop-up ads jar the mind, exasperate the user and generally become a nuisance. Television is no better, in its own way. They do, occasionally, serve a purpose to inform readers of something they available for use in their lives.

When I look at how advertising has shifted with the availability of and interaction with the Internet, I’m surprised at how assumption drives much of today’s advertising and how customers are expected to conform to current business practices.

For example: With adequate anti-virus software, almost anything can be purchased, paid for, shipped, explored, etc. on the Internet. Online banking, checking, bill-paying and other normal business dealings are a daily convenient practice. It saves trees, you know. At least that’s the reason given.

With that ecological view in mind, there are good reasons to allow oneself to fall into the online business trap, so conveniently awaiting a keystroke to consummate a transaction.

I’m not arguing against saving trees. Over my lifetime I’ve found few that I couldn’t call friend.

My concern is that the business community has come to assume that everyone has a computer–if not several–with Internet service at home, and that they no longer have to provide live people to do business. Or, if you’re lucky enough to talk to a real person on the phone, you discover that something you need to order from a business is 70% cheaper if you order the same item over the Internet.

That’s what happened to me a month ago. I tried to order one box of checks; nothing fancy—simple plain blue, standard font, duplicate, top-tear checks. That’s not a strange thing to want.

I didn’t need more than one box of checks. The bank wanted to charge me $22 for one and then I’d pay nearly $10 in shipping charges. The check service I normally use has phone ordering available and online purchase. Online I’d pay $7.50 for ordering only one box, plus shipping, whereas over the phone one box would cost me $20, and I’d still have to pay shipping.

My question is whether the customer—me—is personally paying the salaryfor the phone customer service rep. and that’s why it’s cheaper to buy more than one box. To bring down a phone order to the lower price per box, I’d have to order two or more boxes.

It sounds petty, but this is the kind of situation that pops up frequently. Television advertisers automatically expect a viewer to hop on a computer and the net to go to their website to find the explanatory information alluded to in the TV ad. No address is given, nor a phone number many times.

This sense of expectation and assumption is what bugs me about the situation.

The older generation has come up through the ranks and have expectations of their own; they expect fair treatment and honest businesses, respectful attention from service providers, and the ability to talk to live people when a problem with those services arises.

I don’t know any older adults who are fond of those automated response systems that take the place of humans when dealing with customers.

Oddly enough, back when live service people were the norm, the customer paid less for the privilege of doing business with that service or for those goods than they do with automated systems today. The price of our progress looks to land on the runway of automation, to reduce business costs. I wonder if that same progress also soon eliminate the need for customers to interact with any of those live persons who are providing the services or goods.

So, tell me, reader, where do you stand on this piece of the new business model? Are you patient and unresisting, regarding the automated phone response systems that keep running you around through cyber tunnels looking for the light at the end? Or, are you ready to throw the phone across the room when you’re accosted by that recorded voice that won’t respond to anything but a pressed-button tone or a “Yes” or “No”?

Think about it and chime in. Until next time,

A bientot,



Surviving the Status Shuffle

October 22, 2011 3 comments

Whether a person has reached a new phase of an existing career or pursuing a new one, there is always a settling-in phase involved.

The person must go through at least three distinct steps during this phase.

  • Astonishment at having arrived at the new status
  • Panic at the thought of establishing new self-expectations, abilities, and reputation
  • Developing new coping mechanisms and strategic schemes for advancement within that status

The survival process can be either pleasant or not, depending upon the approach used. That approach depends largely on whether the person sought the change in career status or arrived there at someone else’s behest. The least objectionable attitude to assume, nonetheless, is one of acceptance. Stress reduction during the process is paramount. Acceptance breeds calm responses.

New Status Astonishment

If your new status was actively sought on your part, now would be a good time to show everyone that belief in yourself and your capabilities. Obviously someone believed in you or you wouldn’t be in this new position. If you didn’t seek the status, you can always bow out gracefully, without losing face. It’s entirely up to you. You answer the person or organization with a simple No Thank You, and leave it at that.

Let’s assume you’re a writer. You’ve just landed a plum assignment from a pitch you made to a glossy magazine. NOTE: You pitched it, you believed in it. Now deal with it.

The editor loved the idea and is contracting you to run with it. NOTE: You’re at this stage because you’ve learned how to market yourself, your ideas, and your talent. Accept that someone else believes in you and your potential to generate quality product to fulfill that contract.

Panic at New Responsibilities and Expectations

It doesn’t always follow that because you sought this change in status, you understood the responsibilities and expectations that go with it.

Greater belief by others in your abilities settles the mantle of responsibility for quality, punctuality, and consistency squarely on your shoulders. You might not have considered that side of the equation when seeking your elevation. There is no need to panic.

If you’ve strived in the past to provide quality and accuracy in your work, you’ve covered the first and last of those responsibilities. If you’ve set deadlines for yourself and kept them on a consistent basis, you’ve already covered that expectation as well. Panic comes with unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar needs being placed on a person’s career plate. If you took the time before to cultivate your skills to give those factors mentioned above, you’re going to be fine.

If you haven’t yet cultivated those factors, now would be a good time to start. Take it slow. No one is forcing you to be perfect with each second of the day. Take the time to get comfortable with these new expectations. Find a mentor to help you ease into this new position.

Developing Coping Mechanisms and Strategies 

Everyone learns to cope with new circumstances or perish. The best strategy may be to set yourself a work schedule according to your needs. If you work best on a loosely regulated schedule, fine, do that. If you need more structure for better self-monitoring, do that instead. You are the only one who knows what conditions work best for you. Put those in place and stick with them.

When those outside your work throw negative or jeering comments your way, smile. Turn to them and say something like, “Thank you so much. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you get to live your dream, too.” Use the enthusiastic and positive intonation of sincerity and genuine interest. It does make a difference.

Why would you say something like that? Many people deride those who are living a dream and making it work. These people haven’t the courage to live their own dream or they believe their life circumstances don’t allow them to live their dream. Don’t allow their envy to displace your personal positive attitude.

Lastly, at the end of each day, count your blessings. You’ve been given a dream to live or not. You’ve been shown a path to walk or not. Only you can choose to take your blessings for a stroll down the road of possibilities. In the end it’s the effort you put forth and little else that determines every change in your personal status. Declare it and own it. You created it.

Until later, a bientot,


The Good, the Bad, and the Really Awful

June 1, 2011 3 comments

I’ve always wanted to use that title. Now seemed a good time. This has been a frustrating time. Moving into a new place is always frustrating, but when you have to find all of your office paraphernalia and get it back into its rightful spot ready for use is a killer.

I’m sure many of you have had the same experience. You drag in another box or tub, just knowing that the very item you’ve been pulling your hair out looking for simply must be in this container, because this is the last one marked “OFFICE.”

You attack tape and lid like a mad woman, delighted that you’ve finally achieved your goal, only to find another container full of files rather than the software and special cord you knew had to be in there. The letdown is just too great. Tears start to well up in your eyes. You’re tired and frustrated and desperate. You can’t get your wireless printer up and running as needed until you find that software and cord.

Who cares how many household files go missing in the meantime? It’s the printer that’s important. It’s that final link with the civilized business world, publishing in particular, that must be appeased with fresh, crisp white sheets of rag content, not the light company.

That’s been our living nightmare for the past week. Stacks of boxes and tubs, filled to the rims with absolutely necessary possessions that mean little if we can’t get to the office needs first so that it can be brought to fully functioning life.

Tears have come and gone. More are soon to follow. I still haven’t found that software. Got the cord. I made progress there. Haven’t found my software portfolio yet, where I’m praying will be a shiny little CD with the initials HP printed on one side. Wish me luck.

The Good? We’re stationary for a long while working on the book and other projects that need our attention.

The Bad? We’re in an identical apartment as before but on the second floor. Confusing to say the least. Exasperating when trying to get groceries into the house.

The Really Awful? Madness with unpacking, searching in vain for critical items until the Heavens open to spotlight the offending little bugger wherever it is. Plus, I’m one of those who doesn’t cry pretty.

I’ll be back in a couple of days to talk about something far more impressive, I’m sure. At least, I hope so.

A bientot,