Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Get Set With a Goals Jar

The last few weeks have been ridiculous:  unexpected snafus at my day job; summer storms creating big leafy messes and lots of extra yard work; my car needing new tires and other minor maintenance issues…the days just seem to slide by.  Every hour there seems to be yet another new crop of  "things to do" that need my stretched-to-breaking-point attention, including my blog posts (sorry for the recent lapse in posting).

To stay on track with my "main goals" for the year, I try to commit to three daily and essential tasks during the work week: the edits for my new book, Overtaken; attending to my day job (got to pay the bills somehow!); and write/draw/create something new every day—even if it’s just 500 words from a writing prompt.  But sometimes it’s difficult to concentrate when my brain is buzzing with, “gotta re-do the website,” “gotta sew up that couch cushion,” “gotta get a stock of padded mailers.” The annoying part of all this buzz-buzz-buzz is I’m never quite sure just which extra project needs to be the center of my universe and which one I can put on the back burner.  Worse yet is when I go to start one of these extra tasks, I immediately think of yet another thing I’m “supposed” to be doing.  Scattered doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

Sunday night I decided to take control with a trick I learned from the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors:  the Goals Jar. The idea is to write down a goal to accomplish between meetings, put it in a jar with a dollar, and at the next meeting all the people who have accomplished their goals participate in a drawing that rewards the winner with half of the cash (the other half going to LERA for fun things like speakers, etc.).  While I was a member, I was pretty good at winning, often coming home with a nice little stash.  But it's been over a year since I've had the time to attend a meeting and I don't have quite the same incentive to stick to minor goals here at home.  What I do have though is a pottery jar with a wide cork lid sitting on my desk.  I love this jar—it’s from Mexico and decorated with pictures from Mexican lottery tickets and tarot cards. Depending on how I place it, I can have a new picture facing me any time I want.

Remembering the same procedure from the LERA meetings, I wrote down a list of the things I need to do (somewhat appalled at the extent of said list) and then cut it into strips.  I then folded the strips into tiny squares, placed them in the jar, shook it up, and pulled out my first one: “Make picture for blog header.” Yay! I can do that.  (It's now at the top of the page here.  What do you think?)

Instead of putting a dollar into the jar for each of my goals, I rewarded myself by putting $20 into the jar for completing the task.  I get to spend it and all the other twenties I'm anticipating when the task-strips are all gone.  At the same time I'm also going to pretend each task-strip I remove is the ONLY extra task I need to do until it is finished.  I'm not allowed to even think about the other chores waiting in the jar.  Or the money.  Well, it's hard not to think about the money, but you know what I mean!  

Tip of the Day:  Start your goals jar. You might want to make it yourself.  I have a friend who glues collage scenes on old jam jars and they're beautiful.  Add inspiring quotes or pictures of things you want to help keep yourself motivated.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Make Your Book Trailer Today--Even Before You Write Your Book

It’s been a whole two weeks since I released my book trailer for Better Than Perfect and I have to say it’s been a blast. Thank you so much to everyone who’s viewed and commented. Besides appearing on, the trailer is now also on,, and
Producing the trailer has definitely opened a brand new world for me, one I’ve enjoyed so much than I’m now making trailers for three more of my existing books, with more trailers lined up for next year based on my current WIPs. Sites I want to thank in particular include:  The Savvy Book Marketer for “how-to” info, for their great image library, and for not only providing an excellent selection of music, but also for being so ultra-helpful when I had trouble downloading the piece I chose (my fault entirely).

I waited a long time to make my trailer, mainly because I was worried I could never master Windows Movie Maker and I thought I’d be wasting my time trying to learn. Now I’m so enthused about the whole process that I think it’s a waste of time to not start on your trailer as soon as possible—maybe even before you write your book. Here’s why:

-  Editors are always telling us to “show, don’t tell.” Making a trailer is about the best way I can think of to “show” your story with a minimum of images and words. Having those images/words clear in your mind will keep your plot—and your pitch—on track.

-  Making multiple trailers will keep your creativity flowing. For final production purposes you want to keep your “real” trailer under two minutes in length; but there’s no law that says you can’t make draft trailers just for fun and for as long as you want them to be. Create a new trailer draft for every chapter or important scene you write.

-  While I was looking for pictures of my characters, I often found collections of other, unrelated pictures using the same models. To really know your characters and their body language, try creating individual trailers showing just your story people in a variety of poses. 

- Your music choices can become “theme songs” for your books, giving you a unique way to express your theme when both writing and/or discussing your books. 

- While you’re writing your drafts, you can use your trailer(s) to design and build your synopsis: simply write your outline image by image and the whole thing will be finished before you know it.

-  Same thing for your query letter paragraphs. Ask yourself what “feeling” you want to convey to an editor or agent. Having the right pictures and music in your mind can help you describe that feeling.

-  Making your trailer before you start submitting or selling your book means you can begin your marketing before your book is on the shelves. Having something readers can actually see—and become excited about—can create an instant buzz.

-  Digital publications and e-book readers are creating a reading revolution. I have a strong suspicion it’s going to become commonplace for all books to be illustrated with videos and other graphics—and you don’t want to be left behind. Even if your trailer is eventually professionally produced by your publishing company, having a ready-made example of the direction you want can hasten the way to a successful production.

Tip of the day: Regardless of whether you know how to use Movie Maker or any other program, start your image library before you do anything else. Brainstorm a list of pictures you think could illustrate your story, e.g., images of your characters, settings, and scenes, as well as a list of emotions: "confused," "angry," "excited." Then visit a site such as and start digging.

Added tip: While you’re searching, be open to happy accidents; key words tagging the photos can lead you to search areas you might not have considered but which turn out to be absolutely perfect—better than perfect! (Sorry—couldn’t resist that one!) Don’t forget to bookmark or save links to your favorite images; you don't want to lose what might turn out to be your very best shots.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First Book Trailer!

Ta-dah! It's here at last, my first book trailer featuring my Young Adult novel, Better Than Perfect. Set in New Zealand, the story follows a crucial turning point in the lives of two young women, Elizabeth Haddon and her cousin, Ravenna St. James.  

Making the trailer was an absolute blast, something I've been working on in every spare minute I could find both day and night. It was also, I have to admit, much more fun than writing the book. (Uh-oh, don't tell my writing clients/students...) Of course there were some difficult moments too, for instance when I could not, could not figure out how to get my text onto the still photos and wanted to smash my computer screen with a shoe, a hammer, anything handy. But perseverance paid off and now I think I've got Windows Movie Maker pretty well figured out--and I love it. In fact, I'm so excited by book trailers and the fun of creating them that I'm making three more. 

My original intention for this post was to share some of the things I had learned along the way, but I think I will have to make that a post for next week; all this excitement has worn me out. So for now, I'd just like to invite you to enjoy my first foray into the world of video production. Thanks for watching! 

Tip of the Day: There are many, many places where you can watch book trailers. A good place to start is at where you can see a wide variety of videos on the JF home page. As you watch, start thinking about making your own book trailer(s). You don't have to have a published manuscript to begin producing. In fact, next week I'm going to discuss how and why a trailer could actually help you tighten and complete your current WIP. Don't forget the popcorn!