Friday, May 01, 2015

Get Back Into Writing — 8 Tips

So far, 2015 has not been the year of writing for me. I started January gung-ho about a nonfiction book, but sometimes "life gets in the way." To sum it up in a tweet:
2015 so far: visited friends, moved bookshop, family visit, snow, family death, scrapbooked, sold a house, family wedding, mission trip... 
Is it any wonder my writing's been waylaid?!

'Thought I'd share some strategies that help me get back into writing. What gets you motivated? Feel free to add tips in the comments.

1. Free Write. Too paralyzed by perfectionism to start that next query? Daunted by that draft that hasn't been touched for two months? Grease those mental gears by writing about anything else. Set a timer and write about writing, or a memory, or a photo in the nearest magazine.

2. Journal. Capture events, details and feelings from today or the past week.

3. Change the Scene. Take your notebook or laptop to the library, city park, coffee shop or bookstore.

4. Carve Out Space. Create a writing nook or small office in your house. No room? Then pick a different chair from the one where you watch TV or do other routine activities. Keep your writing things — notebook, pen, research books — in that location. The trick is to signal your subconscious; when you sit in that spot, it's time to write.

5. Unplug. Yes, we type faster than we write (Scrivener is my favorite writing software). If you need to get out of a rut, however, or if you spent all day on the computer at your day job, it's time to pull out the paper. Brainstorm ideas for articles. Skim through Writer's Market books or your favorite magazine for submission ideas. When my genealogy-based book projects have been neglected, I draw an extended family tree and tape it to the wall to get a feel for timeline and subplots. Some writers use mindmaps (flow charts of ideas) while others sort characters or scenes on index cards.

6. Protect Your Best Mental Time. I never thought of myself as a morning person. I'd find myself standing in the shower or sitting at the table, staring into space. I finally realized that, while I'm not physically a morning person, my mind and imagination are in hyperdrive. Now I say no to morning meetings and appointments that aren't the best use of my most creative time.

7. Motivate with Deadlines and Rewards. Other people's deadlines work great, especially submission dates from a paying editor. Sticking to your own deadline, however, is hard, especially for a long-term project like a book. First, break big tasks into small pieces, like editing 10 pages or drafting a query letter. Don't use an essential as a reward — like eating a meal or playing with the kids. Pick a small luxury, and stick to it — like watching TV or treating yourself to a latte.

8. Connect with Community. With so many demands on your time, it's easy to put off writing. But having writer buddies to meet you at that coffee shop, or a weekly critique group, is a huge motivator (with a deadline!). I wrote this blog post at the encouragement of Wordsmith Studio — an incredibly supportive online writing community. We're celebrating our third anniversary!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Early Bird gets fast-food

The schedule changed a little this year for Beth David Synagogue's annual book sale. Instead of a preview sale on Saturday night with wine and snacks, the preview sale started early Friday morning. Which meant die-hard dealers running the car heat and then standing in line in record-breaking (for North Carolina) 5-degree F weather.

My toes were so cold, I hobbled along like an ancient person for the next hour.

I'm not usually the first person in line, and this was *officially* no exception. However, since I'd dropped off a family member at the airport at a ridiculous hour, I arrived at the dark, deserted building two hours early.

Did I mention it was 5 degrees?

I didn't even put the car in park in the ice-covered parking lot. After driving up Friendly Avenue and starting back down, again, I found a McDonald's, went inside and ordered coffee and a hash brown. Just a little something to while the time in a heated area.

Back to Beth David. As a bookseller for the past four years, I still have plenty to learn. My lesson for-the-day was that, on cold, dark mornings, dealers place boxes and handtrucks in line at the door. If I'd known that, I would've thrown an old box on the sidewalk when I first arrived. Not that it really mattered. Most of the die-hards were mega-sellers with scanners, which means they go to different tables than I do as we pour through the door.

I put my warm body in line for the last 20 minutes, stamping my feet and conversing with dealers from as far away as Atlanta.

Either I didn't find much, or I'm growing more discerning. I drove home with a handful of books, including a first edition of Aldous Huxley's nonfiction follow-up to Brave New World, Brave New World Revisited.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Books of 2014

Graphic courtesy of Goodreads

'Seems I read constantly in 2014. Strangely, I've neither read nor written much so far in 2015. I'm sure I'll get over it soon.

Books for writing research

Covered with Glory: 26th N.C. Infantry
Camden: Historical Archaeology in the S.C. Backcountry
The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution (lovely 18th-century gossip and social history)
Bush River Monthly Meeting minutes 1772-1783 (unpublished manuscript)
Friends in Mexico
Costa Rica: a country without an army

Books for fun

Kathy Reichs' Bare Bones and Grave Secrets
George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (I devoured all five books last summer!)
A Conspiracy of Paper (meh)
Love in the Time of Cholera (quirky romance steeped in historical setting)
Double Vision (middle-grade; read it before giving it to my nephew)
The Murder of the Century (well researched nonfiction)
The Last Camellia
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (not finished)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (my first James Bond book)
Skipping Christmas

Business and Life books

The Happiness of Pursuit
Hidden Treasures
279 Days to Overnight Success
The Daniel Plan
(I highly recommend this)
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (finished from 2013 reading)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It's a start!

Tannery Books has a physical presence, again.

I had a bricks-and-mortar bookshop for two and a half years in my small North Carolina town. In summer 2013 the storefront closed and Tannery Books became online only.

Now I have a booth at the Bush Hill Trading Post (Bush Hill was the colonial-era name for Archdale, N.C.).

Bush Hill Trading Post is a large building with a store in the middle that sells nostalgic items like RC Colas and Moon Pies, and candy by the pound. Around that is an antique mall.

I'm excited to put books in front of a whole new set of browsers. They'll be separate inventory from the online store at

I'm also excited that I don't have to be there. Sellers pay a small commission that covers employees. The shop is open Monday through Saturday, something I couldn't do with my former shop and part-time library job.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I knew this would be a crazy year (2014 Calendar), and it hasn't let up. Fun and craziness are in full gear for November, which is National Novel Writing Month, known by participants as NaNoWriMo.

November 1 write-in at Geeksboro
I did pretty well the first week, fueled by our local group of writers. We met up for write-ins at Geeksboro, a unique coffee shop and movie theatre with a gaming, communal-TV-watching clientele.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Writers' Police Academy 2014 — Day 2

Classes started again early Saturday morning. I enjoyed the session on Policing "Back in the Day." Less than 40 years ago, police still carried revolvers (eg. six-shooters that you have to cock between shots), had only two items on their belts, and had very limited radios. Information — like license registrations — came from books, not computers, or from teletype machines that sent requests for somebody in another state to look in a book. (For a fun fictional account of cops and life in the 1970s, I recommend Life on Mars.)

I grabbed a seat in John Gilstrap's class, which had been overflowing all weekend. His take on "Technical stuff that writers get wrong" had us falling out of those precious seats. We moved from laughter to sobriety as he showed us what kind of damage bullets and explosions can do.

"There are no flesh wounds" or minor bullet wounds, contrary to what we see in movies and TV shows. Even a shoulder is a complex part of anatomy (those of us with past injuries can agree). And a broken leg will not hold a person's weight.

(The very next day I read a passage wherein a villain was standing in the protagonist's path, a piece of bone jutting out of his leg. But maybe the laws of physics don't apply in fantasy...).

Writer and former prosecutor Alifair Burke debunked myths about court cases and police procedure, especially search and/or seizure. More than 90% of searches don't have or need warrants.

The banquet was fun, as usual, though busy for those of us behind the scenes.

Michael Connelly was our featured speaker. He keeps a dedicated writing schedule to pound out all those novels. He worked as a reporter before publishing his first book. As a former journalist myself, his statement resonated with me: "There is no writer's block in the newspaper business."

The silent auction, raffle, and some practical joking topped off the evening. Here's yours truly with the crime scene quilt, one of the silent auction items. It reminds me of a little bookshop decor.

Back to Writer's Police Academy — Day 1

Monday, September 08, 2014

Writers' Police Academy 2014 — Day 1

How do you sum up a high-speed weekend of buzzing writers, detectives, forensics experts, famous authors, a prosecuting attorney, an explosives expert... and much, much more?!

Friday morning I walked into the chaos of our largest class of "recruits" ever. For part of the day I hung out in the hallways, checking people off for the firearms training and emergency driving simulators, and giving directions. I enjoyed the look on one man's face as he walked out of a classroom to hear me direct a lady to "prostitution class" across the hall.

I snuck in a couple of classes, including part of "Romance Behind the Badge." I enjoyed Rick McMahan's class on firearms basics. We learned the differences between rifles and shotguns; single-shot, semi-automatic and automatic (machine guns); revolvers and (semi-automatic) pistols.

Lisa Gardner returned this year and gave an inspiring talk on turning facts into fiction. Most of the experts she calls don't recognize her name. She can almost hear them wondering why she wants to know so much about murder! One of her great tips was to use the coolest detail, or the assumption you made that was wrong — but don't put everything you learned into the story.

Sisters in Crime hosted Friday night's reception. I talked to a couple of the instructors and met a lady from Missouri who, like me, has started a colonial-era historical. I finally drove home. Time for a little sleep before another day of excitement!

Click on the WPA tag below to see past years of Writers' Police Academy or move on to Day 2.