Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Planning You Can See

At the end of the year, I heard about bullet journals twice, once from Facebook friend Erin Dionne and then from blogging buddy Melissa Wiley, in just a matter of days. These journals were recommended for planning over periods of time, so I was interested. (Plus if you hear about something totally new to you twice in a short period of time, that is a sign you should do something about it.) The bullet journal appears to be adaptable to individual users. For those of us who like planning we can see, for real, versus planning in our heads, which all too often ends up being pretty much imaginary, bullet journals are definitely worth a look.

See how much I like journals?
I REALLY like journals

Journals And Me

I am fond of journals. After many, many years of traditional writers' journals, I've moved on to a journal computer program for that material. And I have some kind of psychological dependence on planning.

But I found the how-to video for bullet journals as planners a little complicated, especially since it looks as if I'd have to do it regularly. It involves dealing with more than one page and a bunch of numbers. I don't think I want to take the time to do it. Knowing me as well as I do, I don't think I would take the time to do it. I don't think merging a traditional journal with planning will work for me, as much as I love those two things.

The Yellow Notepad System

My Yellow Notepad

I'm sticking to my yellow notepad system. I lay out my week on Monday mornings with plans for work, what  I want to do with those fifteen minute breaks (often home/personal stuff) after I've put in a forty-five minutes of work, what I'm going to do in the evening, and now content marketing strategy. (To be covered another week.) I try to have task options for every part of the day, though I may not do them on the day I planned them for. I'm happy if I get them done by the end of the week.

I'm sure this yellow notepad business looks as complicated to other people as bullet journals look to me.

The Value Of A Plan You Can See

The point is, though, that planning with something visual, paper or on a computer if that works for you, keeps what you want to do in front of you, making it harder for you to go off task. If, like me, you get a big jolt from crossing items off the plan as they're done, a visual plan becomes even more important.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Cybils Then And Now

Cybils 2009
Saturday night I got all dressed up in my Cybils shirt to meet with my judging colleagues in a Googles Hangout to discuss the middle grade fiction section of the Cybils Awards. "Typing" with blogging buddy Alex from The Children's War was almost like meeting her. Except for the part about not being in the same room. Or town. Or state.

After we finished the job we were there for, we chatted about other awards people had been involved with and whether or not we'd worked with the Cybils before. I was a first-round judge ten years ago, during the Cybils' first year. That first year, judges received masses of nominated books from publishers. The people I was communicating with loved hearing that I received bags of books to my door. I kept both UPS and FedEx busy.

Cybils 2006
It was a great time. And, of course, I documented it. Here I am ten years ago with my Cybils books. I took the month of December off that year to read and blog.

You'll be hearing about all the Cybils winners next week.

Friday, February 05, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 5 Edition

 The Friday report on my work on this year's goals.

Goal 1. Adhere to goals and objectives.  By this I mean, did I actually make an effort at the beginning of the week to plan which goals I would concentrate on. Yes.

Goal 2. Mummy Hunters submission. Have new places lined up.

Goal 3. Generate new short/work programs. I'm in good shape with the elementary school version of Writing Strategies for Fiction, which I need to present at the beginning of March. I've finished the script for the middle school version, prepared the content for the slides, and handed them off to Computer Guy. By the way, I also had to turn down an invitation to speak at another school because it conflicted with the Writing Strategies event. That was a fun first.

 I checked out a market for short stories. No go with that one.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I finally mailed a copy of the original edition off to an agency that will use it for a fundraiser in May. I also have the info on how to withdraw the eBook from Barnes & Noble and Kobo prior to offering it as part of KDP Select. I'm going to coordinate the withdrawal with a website update so we won't be marketing it as available in places it's not.

The work I did on gathering the above info was part of my 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge. I probably would have let that slip through the cracks without that commitment.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

  • Book stats post. Promoted to Google+, and Twitter
  • TMT post. Promoted  to Facebook, Google+ communities, Twitter
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+ Community, Goodreads, Twitter, and Amazon. Interesting point--the Environmental Book Club tweets got me a lot of RTs and likes, but they didn't generate a lot of visits here, which is very interesting.
  • Reposted one of this week's blog posts to my Goodreads blog
  • Renewed my SCBWI membership
Goal 6. Generate New Work. This goal is supposed to be about the adult version of Becoming Greg and Emma, which I did not work on. Instead, I spent some time e-mailing back and forth with someone about a totally new long-form project that will probably take years to complete, assuming we do it at all.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Environmental Book Club

Well, I have done it. I've found a YA novel with an environmental setting and secondary story line that is not climate fiction or post-apocalyptic or dystopian.

What Kissing Frogs by Alisha Sevigny is, is a YA romance. That is a genre I do not embrace. But main character Jessica is sharper than the romance main characters I've encountered in the past. Seriously. She is smart. She's maintained an A-average across the board while using her brain power to make herself a member of a popular-girl group and snatch one of those shallow, good-looking guys who are never up to any good.

She blows her biology grade, though, which is how she ends up in Panama with a science club from her school that is volunteering to work with an endangered frog species. Her biology teacher is their faculty adviser and offers her the opportunity to take the trip and write a paper to save her average and her chances of getting into UCLA. Some may find that a bit of a stretch, but I find a lot of things that happen in romances a bit of a stretch.

Kissing Frogs is a fish-out-of-water story. Jessica is the outsider with this group, though she's smart enough to be one of them. With this crowd, she becomes the victim of science mean girls, mean girls who had been victims of members of Jessica's posse back at school. That's a neat little twist. There is a bit of a torn-between-two-lovers thing going on, something I always dislike. In this case, though, one of our potential lovers is clearly a player, and Jessica knows it...because, remember, she's smart. She's also no damsel in distress.

The environmental story-line involves the Panamanian golden frog. The Final Wave of the Panamanian Golden Frog at The Guardian suggests Sevigny did a fine job with her factual material. She also does one of the best jobs of integrating environmental information into a main story that I can recall seeing. I won't say there was never a moment when I felt the characters were being just a little over informative. But there was also never a moment when I felt a character was saying the equivalent of "Let's save a species!" either.

Environmental material is going to get out to a lot more people when it can be packaged in main stream books like Kissing Frogs and not just be isolated in disaster stories.

Another interesting thing about Kissing Frogs--it's published by Swoon Romance, which is a "digital-first" imprint. Kissing Frogs exists in an eBook edition only. That might limit its audience, which would be too bad. I don't know how popular eBooks are with teen readers.

On the other hand, if you have a Kindle, Kissing Frogs is only 99 cents.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Working February For All It's Worth

Carmela Martino of Teaching Authors is inviting writers to take part in a 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge. She connects it to goals and habits, which we're into here. I like planning projects for specific periods of time, so I'm accepting the challenge.

To take part, you need to:
  • Identify a goal to work on this month
  • Track your progress
  • Make yourself accountable, either to an individual or a community, such as your blog audience.
So what I'm doing this month is spending a couple of hours a week working on Goal 4 for 2016, marketing my Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Specifically, I'll be attending to the first objective, looking into taking the book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle Direct Publishing Select, because I'd really like to have that done by April.

First accountability report: I worked on this yesterday and am very happy with what I got done.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I'm Having Trouble Understanding These Numbers

The Hot and Cold Book Categories of 2015 has some really juicy stuff. Those adult coloring books...Who would have thought?

The article says that "The classics segment got a nice bump from the publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which caused a surge in sales of To Kill a Mockingbird." So I'm assuming these sales figures are not for books published just in 2015 but for back list books, too. This article also doesn't say if these numbers include self-published titles. I'm going to guess they don't, or they would have been much higher.

Okay, so now what I'm wondering about is the number of new titles published each year and how that compares with the units sold. The best number I can find for new traditional titles is for 2013, and it's around 305,000. That's the number of titles, not the number of copies of each title. What I'm trying to wrap my head around is how many individual books are out there and how many of them find a home.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Weekend Writer: An Editor On Editing

In December  I posted about working with illustrators, referring you to Marlo Garnsworthy, an editor and illustrator. More recently, she has done a two-part piece on working with freelance editors.

In Part One she discusses pre-editing issues, among them, what to look for in an editor and the difference between developmental and copy editing. In Part Two she writes about what happens while an editor is at work.

I can't say enough about the importance of developmental editing. Many people outside writing don't know what it is. (Read Marlo.) Many very new writers don't know what it is or understand why they need it.

Quality illustration and editing are the hallmarks of professional publishing. When self-publishing began, it took a big hit as a whole because of lack of attention to these two things. The self-publishing community recognizes that. Editing is something all writers, self-published and traditional, need to understand.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan. 29th Edition

January is still going very well, even though most of yesterday and all last night I had kitchen appliances in my dining room.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Yes, indeed.

Goal 2. Prepping Mummy Hunters for Submission. I'm researching more submission possibilities. I'm thinking of narrowing it down to agents who have Twitter feeds I like.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Nearly finished a draft of one of the writing strategies programs I'm doing the beginning of March and turned the slide material over to Computer Guy who has already worked up a set of slides.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff.  A liiiittle bit of reading on Kindle Direct Publishing Select.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • The NESCBWI workshop descriptions were announced this week, and I went over them.
  • I also posted the CCLC and distributed the newsletter. I marketed the calendar at CT Bloggers, the NESCBWI listserv, my Facebook page, two Facebook communities, and Twitter. 
  • I did the TMT post and marketed it at Facebook, a Google+ community, and Twitter.
  • I also did two blog posts on picture books and marketed them to a Google+ community and Twitter.
  • I reposted an Original Content post at my Goodreads blog and reposted excerpts from those two recent picture book posts (covering four books) in reviews there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Some Picture Books I Picked Up

I can't remember why I was in the library when I found these two titles and took them home with me.

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet. This is a clever, attractive book that deals with a red pencil that is writing a story while living the story she's trying to write. I found it a little complex, myself. Kids who are already good writers or have a big interest in it will probably enjoy this the most.

Eats by Marthe Jocelyn and Tom Slaughter. This has no narrative at all, just two words on each simply illustrated page. One word is an animal name, the other is the name of something it eats. The reader (or reader and a child listener) adds the rest. When I had young children, I was not a fan of these kinds of books. I need story! However, Eats was a huge hit with a three-year-old family member.  I believe a couple of us read it with him three times over a long weekend. I think the last page was the grabber for him.

A reminder that children's books are for children, not adults.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: The WRQS

Is everyone having a great beginning of the year-long unit of time? Planning like mad? Knocking off tasks one right after another? Yeah! Me, too! Since we're still at the beginning of this year-long unit of time, here's a little plan for managing your month-long units from Kelly Carey of 24 Carrot Writing so you can do even more.


The WRQS, as Carey calls it, stands for write, revise, query, and submit, and the idea is that you do all of those things each month. Speaking as someone who tends to submit in binges after long periods of leaving everything on my hard drive, I like the idea of forcing myself to spread that work around.

The WRQS requires that you spend the first week of each month writing (anything), the second week revising (anything), the third week querying or looking for a place to query (anything), and the fourth week submitting (anything). Looking for agents, editors, and publications to query/submit to is hugely time consuming. I have complained about it here many times, I am sure. A structure to help make that work happen is a good thing. Essentially what you're doing with this is scheduling work instead of just doing whatever is in front of you, which leads to some things being missed.  


If you're working on a major project, by which I mean a book, you're not going to want to write just one week a month. You can still make WRQS work by simply taking a few units of time away from your writing during Weeks Two, Three, and Four for revision, querying-, and submission-related tasks.

Another thing you could do with this is not do it every month. You could have WRQS months when you want to make sure you're doing more querying and submitting.