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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 9:07            7,680 subscribers            April 2, 2009
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THE EDITOR'S DESK, by Moira Allen
FEATURE: Facing Down Life Block, by Donnell King
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

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But First...

I'm going to get started on my novel soon.  But first...  

I'm really going to tackle that short story.  But first...

I'm going to start working on my memoir.  But first...

If you're anything like me, you probably have a lot of "but firsts" in your life.  Part of you wants to get started on that special project -- or keeps thinking that you SHOULD get started on that project.  But another part of you keeps coming up with other projects that need to be done FIRST.

And now, if you're anything like me, you're expecting to read yet another classic motivational editorial about the importance of 
avoiding procrastination, of following your dreams, of just DOING 
it, and all the rest.  If so, relax.  It's not going to be that 
kind of editorial.  You've heard it all before.  I've heard it 
all before.  I've WRITTEN it all before.  And I have come to the conclusion that what these "don't procrastinate, just DO it" 
messages accomplish best is... to make us all feel really, 
really GUILTY.

The problem is that guilt is NOT a motivator.  In fact, guilt can 
quite often lead to "writer's paralysis."  This is what kicks in 
when two halves of your brain start arguing over what you SHOULD 
be doing right now.  "You should stop focusing on paid projects 
and write your NOVEL," whispers the one half.  "You'd better send 
out more queries and get more assignments because you need the 
MONEY," whispers the other.  Whatever you choose to do, you feel 
guilty about not doing the other.  And quite often, rather than 
face the choice, you'll do something completely different, like 
clean the closets or scrub the kitchen floor.

So let's face reality for a moment: Sometimes, there are good 
reasons for why that "but first... " project really does come 
first.  For example:

1) You need the money.  In today's economy, that's hard to argue 
with.  If your writing income is important, then that's where 
you'll want to focus most of your efforts.  These may not be 
projects that you enjoy; they may even bore you to tears.  But 
right now, they are the ones that are most important to you and 
your family.

2) You honestly enjoy it.  We often find it difficult to admit 
that we don't always ENJOY the sort of writing we think we OUGHT 
to be doing.  We think we SHOULD tackle that novel -- but 
precisely BECAUSE we think we should, not because we actually 
enjoy it.  Conversely, there may be other tasks that we enjoy 
more.  For example, I discovered early on that I really love 
editing -- not the mechanics of correcting punctuation, but the 
sense of assembling a bunch of discrete parts into a new, 
interesting, even beautiful whole.  You probably have  "but 
first..." project that makes you feel the same way: It gives 
you pleasure, but makes you feel guilty at the same time, 
because you're sure you OUGHT to be doing something you enjoy 

3) You benefit from it.  There are many benefits besides money and enjoyment.  Perhaps you need to spend time promoting your last book before starting work on the next.  Perhaps you need to hone your skills before tackling a major project.  Perhaps you want to branch out into a new area of freelancing -- from stories to screenplays, or from writing to photography -- and you need to 
spend time mastering the basics all over again.  Whatever the 
reason, if your "but first..." project conveys a valid benefit, 
don't ignore its value.

In short, there will always be periods in your writing life when 
the things you want to do, or the things you think you OUGHT to do, will go on hold for awhile.  Fortunately, "for awhile" doesn't have to translate to "forever."  The key is to determine whether that "but first..." project really is conveying a benefit.  If it is, then quite often, the best thing that you can do is stop feeling guilty and just get on with things.

If, conversely, you can't come up with ANY reasonable benefit 
from your "but first..." project -- it's not earning any money, 
you're not enjoying it, and it's not doing anything else for you -- then perhaps it really is a procrastination tool, and you need to examine why you're using it to avoid some other writing task.  
But then, even the kitchen floor needs to be scrubbed ONCE in 

-- Moira Allen, Newsletter Editor


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THE INQUIRING WRITER, SEO Writing – by Dawn Copeman

Before I get started on this month's topic I would just like to thank everyone who emailed me with such kind words of support following my editorial in the last issue.  I really appreciate you all taking the time to email me and share your own experiences of using writing as a way to cope with the things life throws at us. Thank you.  

Last month I wanted to know if any of you could offer any advice to the numerous requests I've had for information on Search Engine Optimization Writing or SEO. SEO writing is a specialised form of copy writing, which involves optimizing a page of web content so that it is easily found by search engines and goes close to the top of the list of search results for specific words or phrases. 

As a copywriter I have been aware of SEO writing and techniques but am also a bit wary of them.  Many search engines, Google in particular, are not so keen on SEO content as they were a few years ago, and for Google, content is now king.  By this, I mean that yes, you can optimize you page using SEO but you must also make sure that what you are writing is genuine content too – not just streams of repeated key words – believe me, I have seen plenty of requests for writers to write just that and seen the resulting garbled sites!

Despite Google's preference for content, you will still see plenty of requests for SEO writers. Everyone wants to get their site to the top of Google's results lists.  So, yes, there is still a huge demand for this specialized field of writing. 

If you're thinking of adding this as a string to your bow, then Ruth Gilbo has found a site that could be just what you were looking for. She writes: "The best site on the web today for learning about maximizing your site via SEO is 'Make Money On Line for Beginners'. It offers free advice on the how to's, the why's and the what not to do's.  [The site owner] Bear starts you from the beginning with his Lessons 1 - 5 and has an ongoing blog that you can subscribe to. 

"Every time something new is on the blog (on average 3 times a week), he sends it out. And, he shows you how to do SEO without trying to sell you any downloads, e-books or programs. As a matter of fact, he warns you about those that do give you a teaser, then advertise their product. With Bear there's nothing to buy - he shows you how to obtain a free site and how to maximize that site for traffic.  Just Google 'Make Money on Line for Beginners,' and you will get to his site.  

"Once there, scroll down to Lessons 1 through 5 on the right margin. Start there, because he started the site about 3 years ago, and his current blogs are really for those who have been following him and are up to speed. All his blogs since the beginning are there, on the front page, according to date, so you can follow along at your own pace. Bear will also answer your emails, if you have questions about the lessons. The lessons are succinct and he really does aim them at beginners."

Thanks, Ruth.    

This month I'd like to know if you, like me, have used writing as therapy. I have found, a bit like Donnell King in our article below, that I'm not so good at my bread-and-butter stuff at the moment, but have instead started writing short stories – something that I never did before. Have you undergone a life block, and if so, how did you get over it and what long-term effect, if any, did it have on your writing?

Email me with your responses, subject "Inquiring Writer," to editorial"at"writing-world.com

Until next time, 

Copyright (c) 2009 Dawn Copeman

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The End of the Weekly News Magazine 
This is some disturbing news.  The 'State of the Media' report on 2008 shows that weekly news magazines might soon become a thing of the past. Less than a quarter of American adults said that they read a magazine of some kind and circulation of weekly news magazines has dropped by 4.8%.  The fall in demand for news magazines has already led to many job losses and one weekly, US News, becoming a monthly magazine instead. For more information on the current state of the media in the US, visit: http://tinyurl.com/c99yuy

Scottish Classics to be removed from English Schools? 
In a surprise move by English examining bodies, classic works by Scottish authors are to be removed from the curriculum. In new guidelines for GCSE examination courses starting in 2010, children in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are being encouraged to study authors from their own country. A spokesperson said that there was no requirement to study works by Scottish authors and they wanted children to concentrate on works created by authors from their own nation. To find out more about this bizarre story, visit: http://tinyurl.com/csclvm
Celebrities Turn to Ghost Writers for Twitter
Whilst Twitter might be seen as a way to have some personal contact with a celebrity - a bit similar to having them text you with their 140 characters' worth of thoughts - things are not as they seem in Twitter world.  Instead of actually typing their 140 characters themselves to keep their fans up to date with their thoughts and actions, many celebrities are actually hiring writers to twitter for them.  Hey, I'm not complaining – if people want to pay writers to write their words, that just means more jobs for writers! To find out more about this potential job opportunity, visit: 

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FEATURE: Facing Down Life Block
by Donnell King

I used to laugh when people talked about writer's block. I cut my teeth writing for newspapers. My editor didn't care about writer’s block; he cared about that daily 3 p.m. deadline.

I always had more to write about than what I possibly had time for. Ideas were no problem. Writing was no problem.

That is, until my special needs child, Hannah, was born.

My well dried up. I could still put nouns and verbs together; I just didn't want to. All that mattered was getting through the current hospital stay without losing my child or my day job (which provided the insurance that kept her alive).

If you're reading this, you may be searching for the will to write again. This differs from starting writing, and from overcoming writer's block. You've been writing, maybe for years, and suddenly the activity that has been as natural for you as breathing has become as unnatural as a responsible politician.

I know you. You need for it to become natural again, because a part of your life is missing. Not to mention a part of your income. You don't have writer's block. You have life block.

Try these suggestions:

Separate writing from getting paid, and write first. If you have written for pay before, you likely have two issues going on: writing and getting paid. Part of my problem predated my child's birth, because writing had become just another of the ways I made a living. Keeping a journal, just for myself, helped me rediscover the joy of working with words.

Get counseling. It's not just about writing; it's about recovery. Not everyone is going to need this, but if you're fighting a fear that you've lost an essential part of yourself forever, professional counseling may help with facing it and working through it.

Read. Yes, the magazines in the doctor's offices and the hospital waiting room are all old. But if life has handed you something that has really thrown you off track, you may have time you didn't have before. Read some different magazines than you used to -- even those old ones. Pick up new magazines at the bookstore. If you've always read fiction books, read nonfiction books. If you've always read novels, pick up some short story magazines. If you've always read literary works, read some modern romances.

Start a blog. You may have done that already to promote your writing. Start another one -- this one just for fun. Give it a theme, perhaps. That will give you a focus, which always helps to get started. It's possible it will later work into something you can monetize. But for now, make it for fun. Unlike one you use for promotion or for generating money, don't pressure yourself to update it regularly or constantly. Just focus on having fun with it, even if you keep the blog private.

Do something else. Yes, you've been doing that already. I mean do it consciously. Get a new hobby. (Mine was World of Warcraft for a little over a year.) It will give you something to write about, at least in your journal or your blog. Warning: it is possible to use this to avoid writing. Advantage: when you're ready to write again, you can instantly gain a huge chunk of time by dropping the "something else" (I just flat out discontinued my WoW account, caring nothing anymore about my level 70 Druid, 65 Hunter, 40 Rogue, etc. If I want to write about WoW, I can always get them back.)

Rent some movies. Yes, you've probably been doing a lot of that already, too. Now, though, you’re going to watch them as a writer. Even if you never want to write screenplays, thinking in scenes helps any kind of writing. Looking at things like scene setting, story arc, and characterization will get you thinking like a writer again.

Resubscribe to some writer's magazines and market guides. Market guides weren't hugely important to my writing before Hannah, but they were important when I was starting, and I kept up the subscriptions. When my writing stopped, I stopped the subscriptions. At the time, they just reminded of what I couldn't do anymore. Eventually they helped get me in the frame of mind to get back in the saddle.

Use some new technology. RSS feeds aren't really new, but I had never used them. Since it had been about four years since I was able to write anything (forever in technology terms), all my favorite writer's blogs had added RSS feeds. In less than 20 minutes, I had a daily dose of easily gathered inspiration just by checking one program each day. I picked up at least one new market this way. I got a new computer, too, but that's not a necessity.

Join a writer's group. If you've never been part of one before, this is a great time. If you had been part of one, chances are you dropped it along with your subscriptions -- it just felt too bad at the time. Now, though, you'll have something to contribute to the wannabes who are part of every group, and you'll get enthused again. Plus, you’ll have networking opportunities to rebuild your markets, and if it's your old group you'll be welcomed back like the prodigal son.

Submit to some new markets. This is a better start than your old markets for a few reasons. 

1) You're not a newbie, but if you've been out of the business for a while, you have much in common with newbies. You're going to need to go back to the basics of marketing. You did it once already, so you might as well scrub the rust off by doing what you did before. 

2) Depending on the kind of writing you did, going back to your old markets could be very discouraging. Editors move on, agencies change, someone else has already picked up the slack you left. If you start here, you may convince yourself even more deeply that "it's hopeless." By starting with new markets, you remind yourself that you really do know how to do this, including how to handle rejection.

Next, contact your old markets. Now you can approach those former markets saying, "I'm back in the game" rather than "Please let me back in the game." Depending on how much they know about what happened in your life, it's possible they'll extend you an assignment out of pity. You don't need that. I mean, you really don't need that. It can feed the "I can't actually do this anymore" feeling. But when you approach the old markets with a feeling of success, you have the double charge of knowing you can do it again and being welcomed back by your professional community.

Chances are the life event that took you away from writing was, by its nature, sudden, but you're not likely to get back into it suddenly. It could happen, but it is likely to be a long, slow process, because it's really about recovery. It takes as long as it takes.

But if you're reading this, take assurance in this: writing isn't just something you do. It's something you are. And when it's time, you'll find the well went dry for awhile, but it didn't get filled in. You will write again.


Copyright (c) 2009 by Donnell King

Donnell King has been a writer for over 30 years and in that time has worked across most areas; as a staff writer for newspapers and magazines, as a freelancer for radio and print media, as a copywriter, and as an assistant editor, news editor, chief photographer, news director and program director.  In addition to all this he is an associate professor of speech and journalism. Visit his website at http://donnellking.com/  

For more information on getting your writing back on track visit:
http://www.writing-world.com/life/wavers.shtml and


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WEBOOK writing tips widget
This is so cool.  A regularly updated writing tips widget you 
can add to your Google home page, your web page, your blog etc.  
The site itself is a great place to upload your stories, novels, etc for feedback and has an active and useful forum. 

Need Appropriate Character Names?
If you want to find out an appropriate name for 1900 or 1965 then 
this is the site for you.  It covers all registered birth names 
in the US from 1879 to date. 

Writer's Village University
I can't believe I've never found this site before!  It offers two 
no-cost fiction courses (via email) that run six times a year, plus a free online workshop on character building and a newsletter.  This is one to bookmark for upcoming courses in these hard times. 


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AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

Omnibus, by Sheri McGathy

Phone Call to SINATRA, by John Costello
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Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com)

Newsletter Editor: DAWN COPEMAN (editorial"at"writing-world.com)

Copyright 2009 Moira Allen
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
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