Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript

Back to School Special:  My how-to book on writing, The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript is now on super sale!  Instead of $10.95, I've dropped the price to $5.95 plus FREE US shipping and handling, but only if you order direct from my website, http://www.valeriestorey.com/.

 I wrote the book primarily for my workshops when a student asked if I had a book of my own to go with the course.  It was at the end of one of my summer sessions, a hot Georgia night with a thunderstorm on the horizon.  I was a little surprised by the question because I always provide workshop participants with loads of notes and photocopied handouts, as well as a thorough bibliography of other writers' how-to books.  But there was something about the idea that intrigued me.  Thinking on my feet, I found myself saying:  "No book yet, but there will be.  Soon."  A few months later I went on to write and publish the book, and have used it in hundreds of workshops.  One chapter, "Creative Conflict," even went on to be sold and reprinted in a textbook on video production.

The Essential Guide for New Writers is a book close to my heart.  In many ways it could also be subtitled, "Notes to Me About Writing" and it's chock-full of everything I consider important to make your writing dreams come true, e.g., streamlined plot and characterization techniques; end-of-chapter writing exercises;  easy synopsis and query letters tricks.  

The Essential Guide for New Writers is a book for all writers, no matter your level of expertise.  If you're just starting out, the book will help you get past those first-draft jitters and well on your way to having a finished, polished manuscript that's submission-ready.  And if you're a writer with a few years of sales and experience behind you, there's nothing like sitting down with "beginner's mind" to refresh and charge up your creative batteries.  As I like to tell my students, every time you start a new piece of writing, you're a new writer.  The day you think you know it all could very well be the day you need to change careers.

Tip of the Day:  Get your copy now while the sale lasts.  Remember, this offer is only available through my website, http://www.valeriestorey.com/ and nowhere else.  Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Blogging--and Why I Love Social Media

Hi, Everyone!  Guess what?  Today I'm a guest blogger at Charissa Weaks, A Day in the Life of An Aspiring Writer.  Sending a big thank you to Charissa for her lovely welcome and for providing us all with a great site to read and follow.  I met Charissa through Twitter and I can't say enough about how happy that makes me.

Although it hasn't even been two years yet, I can't believe there was a time when I wasn't Tweeting, or blogging, or chatting to my friends at JacketFlap.  And I'm always happy to meet more!  Which brings me to the question many of my non-Tweeting, non-blogging writer friends ask me:  How do you manage to find the time?  The answer is that I don't find the time, I make it.  Social media is important to me because:

  • I am a writer and I love to share what I've learned or am learning about writing.  My blog and my website valeriestorey.com are all about passing on information--for free.  When I was starting out as a young writer, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by some great and well-known authors, now sadly no longer with us.  I like to think I am helping to keep their legacy alive by passing on what they taught me.  I enjoy talking writing, and I'll gladly talk to whoever wants to listen! 
  • Social media is a lot of fun.  It's entertaining.  I enjoy reading other people's blogs, especially the ones that are "mini literary journals."  I try to add to the mix with my own efforts, e.g., things such as the collages that I put at the top of my posts.
  • Social media has been very educational for me.  I've learned so much, especially through Twitter.  Every day I come across some amazing treasure trove of information, from tips on marketing and and writing, to collage techniques and the latest theories on Iron Age burial mounds.  I love the buzz coming from creative and thoughtful people and I love being part of that conversation. 
  • And, finally, I do, ahem, have books to sell.  I've sold a number of books through my contacts and various sites and I'm very, very grateful to those book buyers.

That said, it's really time for me to finish this post and get back to work on the WIP so I can have a new book to sell!  Have a great day, friends, and be sure to go visit Charissa and see what's happening at her site.

Tip of the Day:  The key to making social media work for you is to schedule the times of day or night you'll sign in.  For instance, you might want to "reward" yourself with 10-15 minutes of Twitter for every five pages you write or revise; or perhaps you could give up watching 30 minutes of television to visit some blogs instead. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keeping it Clean--The Writer's Guide to Housework

Housework.  The word alone is one of the best cures for writer's block I've ever known.  Just the thought of pulling out the vacuum cleaner can sometimes be enough to send me scurrying back to the WIP:  "Got to finish this chapter first and then we attack those dust bunnies..."

The big problem, however, is that I can't stand chaos.  I can't work in a cluttered environment, and unfortunately I don't live in a fairy tale world where the windows magically wash themselves and the broom sings Broadway show tunes.  It's a dirty world and somebody's got to clean it--usually me.

To solve the dilemma I've come up with some fairly easy solutions that I hope can help you, too, the next time you're torn between giving up the chores or neglecting the manuscript:

-  My biggest and best discovery in the whole world ever is microfiber cleaning cloths.  I love them, adore them!  I keep a huge stock of them in my linen cupboard and am always buying more.  The best and cheapest way to purchase them is to get the ones from the automotive aisle at any discount store.  For some bizarre and discriminatory reason "kitchen" cloths are priced several times higher than those packaged for the garage.  The automotive cloths are the exact same thing and they're also sold in convenient bulk packs.  Wherever you buy them, though, I think they are a miracle of modern science.  They clean everything--I mean everything--with a minimum of detergents and other chemicals, sometimes none at all, and they leave surfaces streak-free.  The best compliment I've ever received was right after I bought my first package.  A visiting friend walked through the front door and said, "Wow, it looks like you have two maids.  Everything sparkles!"  Yes, indeedy. 

-  I've become so obsessed with these cloths that I usually have a damp one with me at all times, even in my office, ready for that "wipe down/clean up" break that I can accomplish in a few seconds flat. 

-  Having my cloths ready means I can always pick up after myself in a hurry, encouraging me to rarely let a mess accumulate.  For instance, I wipe down the shower and sink every morning (takes all of 1 minute), or dust my desk "while I'm thinking."  Some other little tricks that help me get through the mess are things like having plenty of waste baskets close by (throw that junk mail out the minute you get it!), and using satin padded hangers that make me want to hang up my clothes because it just looks so nice.

-  I am also a dedicated minimalist--with the exception of my microfiber cloth collection, that is.  I limit my possessions which means little to no clutter.  My entire wardrobe could fit in a good-sized (well, okay, large-sized) suitcase, my books in just a few boxes.  My new policy is I have to give away one book for every one I buy.  If I'm not reading, wearing, or using an item, out it goes to the thrift store, friends, or trash.

-  Lastly, I "reward" myself with housework.  For instance, if I write for an hour, I can then vacuum, or dust, or do the dishes.  That way I can stop thinking about chores while I'm trying to work on a new scene or chapter.  My rule is I always have to write first--then I can take a break and clean whatever my heart desires.  Writing between laundry and dryer loads is a great way to practice "timed writing," too.

-  The benefit to all of these simple tasks is that my house and office are usually at a level that requires only a minimum of time and effort to maintain.  And that means I have a lot more time available to write and pursue my other creative interests.  Just call me "Eloise"!

Tip of the Day:  Keeping a damp microfiber cloth in a plastic bag in my car or purse has been a true lifesaver more times than I can count.  Whether I've used it to clean up from art classes when I've managed to get more paint on me than the paper, or needed to wipe sandwich mayo from my hands before putting a manuscript submission together at the post office, microfiber has become this writer's best friend.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

12 Good Reasons to Keep Image Files

Thank you for all the kind comments on my studio space.  I enjoy hearing from everyone and it's been a pleasure to keep you updated.  Now that I've finally moved into my studio, however, it's time to get to work.  Thank goodness for my "image files."  Without them I'm afraid I would still be sitting around admiring my shiny new tables and art supplies, so overwhelmed by ownership I could easily succumb to a bad case of "artist's block."

Image files are not something I keep on the computer.  Instead these are my actual files of magazine cut-outs that I have safely stowed away in a wooden filing cabinet.  For easy access, the files are divided into 6 distinct categories:  People, Places, Animals, Things, Background Colors, and Artistic/Creative Inspirations. 

Each category is stored in a plastic see-through, sealable folder and labeled accordingly.  For instance, "People" is a collection of Old Master's reproduction postcards, magazine portraits of the famous or infamous, advertising photographs with unknown models, candid shots of family and friends, and hundreds of photos I clipped from magazines just because they were interesting to me.  The poses range from the formal to the absurd to the surreal. 

My "Animals" folder is full of baby wolves, dinosaurs, flying cats, as well as some very strange pictures of birds wearing evening dresses.  "Places" includes scenes of the desert, a Hollywood mansion, a Gothic cathedral, and the interior of Hearst Castle.  "Things," my general catch-all folder, is filled with stuff I love:  big bright gemstones, unusual pottery, floral dresses, Egyptian artifacts…  It's often the folder I use and fill most quickly. 

"Background Colors" is my term for those amazing photo shoots you find in high-end glossies:  giant roses covering a double-page spread, wallpaper samples, a fold-out insert of sparkling water.  I call them "backgrounds" mainly because that's what I use them for, backgrounds to my collages or as the idea for a watercolor background wash.

My final file, "Artistic Inspiration," is another favorite.  In it I keep photos of paintings, sculptures, furniture or clothing designs that encourage me to experiment with, or adapt (and yes, copy!) the ideas for my own work.  All of these files together are great sources of pleasure and usefulness to me, especially on the proverbial rainy day, or when I just need a quick boost to get the writing/art wagon rolling.  Some other reasons for keeping my files are:

1.  I immediately have the basis for assembling a “visual novel draft" whenever I want to storyboard characters and scenes before I start writing.

2.  Writer’s groups:  I always have something to bring as a prompt for the times we write together or need a between-meeting writing assignment.

3.  At home I am never without an instant writing/art prompt--no excuses!

4.  I'm always ready to make a collage at the drop of a hat (not that I own that many hats to drop).

5.  Same for painting or drawing at any time.  I can also easily put a photo or two in my purse or sketchbook for when I'm on the go.

6.  Dreaming:  I love to just look through the various pictures and place them in strange combinations whenever I'm feeling stuck or too tired to start a serious project.  It's a creative way to use time I might otherwise feel I've wasted.

7.  You can quickly make a prompt journal or sketchbook as a special gift for a writer or artist friend.  Simply paste in a small picture at the top or corner of each page, decorate the cover, and tie with a nice ribbon.

8.  Create your own inspiration cards.  Paste single pictures or mini-collages onto any size of cut card stock.  Write an accompanying affirmation on the other side.  Next time you need some encouragement, shuffle, pick a card, contemplate, and create.

9.  Sudden, unexpected invitations to teach a workshop "tomorrow night."  It happens, and I've never said, "No, thanks."  Having my image files ready means I can produce an "instant talk" without obsessing about the limited time to prepare.  I've used my images in numerous workshops on a wide variety of subjects, from finding your muse to researching a children's book.

10.  Same with school visits; my image files have been great aids for engaging and helping kids to write.

11.  Pictures you like can become the templates for your book covers, either when you need to make one yourself, or when you want to convey your ideas to a professional designer.

12.  Help out a fellow creative.  You just never know when someone might ask you for an image of a person, place, animal, or thing.  It sounds weird, but there have been dozens of occasions when someone has said something to me, like, “I need a picture of a goldfish…”  Hey, presto, I've got it!

Tip of the Day:  Start your image files now.   If you don't have a magazine subscription or an extensive collection of past issues, ask friends to help out--you'll be amazed how glad they are to clear their cupboards and shelves.  Other good places to find magazines are at your library or thrift store.