Tag Archives: Finding Time to Write

Week Four: Online Writing Group

It’s the fourth week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

We’re all in different spots, but we’re all continuing to think about and work on our projects, which is the ultimate goal. So keep it up, everyone!

Here are Everyone’s Week Four Updates & New Goals:

  • AnneThis week I want to continue my journal and see where that takes me. I’m hoping to record further research in my journal as well as looking at new and interesting words and their definitions, and hopefully that exercise will help me in finding material for my story ideas. I do have paragraphs of ideas written, and whether or not they will ever leave my journal is yet to be determined. I’m hoping to get something typed but I don’t want to set a specific page goal. I am just going with it this week and I will see what happens. 
  • Anuar: My goals for week four are to add two more chapters to my book; and my writing has been going well so far. 
  • BevThis week, I’m going to do a blog post, continue research on agents, and spend a couple pomodoros on the second letter in the queue. Oh, and finish the final draft of the first letter and get it ready for duplication and mailing.
  • Bonnie: Where you at, Bonnie?
  • Curt: What’s happening, Curt?
  • Donna: How you doing, Donna?
  • Laura: I didn’t get as far into my story as I’d wanted this week, but it’s still moving along. This week I’ll continue to work on it and write two blog posts (this one doesn’t count).
  • Lisa: I got through two pages and I’m trudging forward slowly. I’ll be away at a conference this week, so if I get anything written (two pages), I’d be really happy.  🙂
  • MaryI had a terrible couple of weeks in regards to this writing group but I did finally post something last week. I’ve decided to revamp my goals and just take them week by week. Since I have something in mind to write about, my goal for week four is to get a post written and published. I’m shooting for earlier in the week rather than later. That way I can get myself set up for another post in week five.
  • Mary Margaret: Are you blogging, Mary Margaret?
  • Matthew: Bust through any writer’s block, Matthew?
  • MikeFor this coming week, I plan to add more detail to the last third of the outline (which he made progress on!), write/rewrite draft versions of the story represented in the first two sections of the outline and write two new posts for my blog.
  • Robert: Robert is still traveling, so he’s got a pass and will pick up when he returns!
  • SamanthaThis week I’m going to start rewriting the second chunk of the story, fleshing it out and improving upon it.
  • Steve: How’s the Mendelssohn paper going, Steve?

Since many of us are working on blogs, I thought I’d focus on crafting a blog post. I started my first blog, Archipelago, in January of 2006. At my height I’d get about one hundred hits/views a day, which, compared to really successful bloggers getting daily hits in the thousands, isn’t a lot. But since I was primarily writing the blog for my family and friends, I felt good about my readership.

The longer I continued my blog and started reading other blogs, I got an understanding of how to craft something that would be easier to read and more popular than my usual blatherings about our dog, my affinity for sandwiches, or our Door County vacations. Now, I really like writing about our dog, sandwiches, and Door County vacations (which is probably why I’ll never really be a thousand-hits-per-day blogger), but now I can do it better.

If you want real readership for your blog, the first thing you need is a niche — a place in the blog-o-sphere where you can write about what you know and where people will want to come to you for your expertise (and, of course, for your good writing). My friend Jeanette at Tiny Rotten Peanuts organizes her site around arts and crafts projects to do with your kids (or just for you, because art is cool). She has a wide reader base of moms: she gets them in with unique and interesting art project tutorials and keeps them reading with her smart and silly writing style. And when she deviates from posts on arts & crafts to write about her kids, husband, or booze, it doesn’t matter because she’s still focused on her story of being a mom, doing art with her kids, and drinking a lot of iced tea.

If you’re not a parent or artist, maybe you’re a foodie, a fashion plate, or a female Canadian academic. Whatever your niche and your audience, find them and write to them.

Once you’re focused, keep your posts frequent, easy to read, and visually interesting.

Keep Posts Frequent

A good rule of thumb for bloggers is to post something new every few days. This means that you’ll need a lot of ideas and you’ll need to keep yourself on a schedule. Luckily, that’s what this online writing group is supposed to help with! Since writing a new post every few days is quite a bit of work, you can compromise by writing one short post and one long post each week. Your short post can include an image and short anecdote or update; your longer post can be something meatier, thoughtful, and something you work on a bit each day.

Keep Posts Easy to Read

In this world of BuzzFeed lists, clickbait, and Reddit, readers are looking for something easy to read and digest. That usually means short and easily scan-able. Write in short paragraphs (nothing is easier to avoid than a big block of text) and make sure your post is organized logically. Sometimes that means making a list-style post, giving directions or instructions, or telling a story in chronological order.

Keep Posts Visually Interesting

Readers want images. Period. This means you should start taking pictures to use in your blog posts, or find appropriate images using Flickr Creative Commons or a similar site. Your images should reflect your post’s content, though it can be straight or sarcastic. Remember Matthew’s post about busting writer’s block? His image of “matches,” a bottle of “gin” and “Taylor Swift” wasn’t exactly…accurate. But it was funny and worked with his tone.

Images aren’t the only way to keep posts visually interesting; you can also use headings, numbered or bulleted lists, or italics or bold font. Don’t overuse any of these, though. If you have a bunch of different lists with a bunch of bold-face words, no reader will understand what’s really important.

Read other blogs to see what works well and what doesn’t. Remember that blog posts don’t have to be long, but following the above mentioned tips will at least ensure good organization and audience appeal. And share your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to promote your work and to find interested readers.

What else do you think about when writing for your blog? Share in the Comments below to keep the conversation going!

Week Three: Online Writing Group

It’s the third week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

Unfortunately, my slack-doggedness rubbed off on some of you, and this wasn’t as productive of a week as our first. But that’s okay, writers! After you read our goals list, check out some of the links I’ve provided for life-work balance, and make sure to carve out some time for yourself this week, even if it’s just thirty minutes. You’re worth it!

Here are Everyone’s Week Three Updates & New Goals:

  • Anne: My second week is going okay, but not as I wanted. So this week’s goal is going to be a bit different. Week three goal: This week I’m going to focus on my journaling. It helps me get organized to write a manuscript and I want to get better at keeping up with journaling on a regular basis as I have fallen out of the rhythm I had during the Spring semester. Of course I’m going to continue my research goal from week two; however, I do feel I need to put the breaks on writing a manuscript without the daily journaling to get me back in sync. I want to try to journal for twenty minutes every day this week. (use a twenty-minute pomodoro, Anne!)
  • Anuar: My goals for week three are to add two more chapters to my book; my writing has been going good so far. I’m really excited with the way my book is going. (Anuar also wrote a guest post for this week–check back tomorrow to see it!)
  • BevMy second week also went well, mostly because the rain kept me out of the garden. The weeds are doing well also! I have just finished the revisions on my 18-page letter. I have also cut even more out of the intro to Seven Bridges and feel pretty good about my opening line, which satisfies the three questions posed in last week’s blog — “I’m taking the job in North Dakota.”
    For week three, I have to stop doing fun writing and spend at least three hours on my nascent instructor guide to the lab manual. I’ll feel better when it’s done, and it won’t get done if I don’t work on it. (Bev, who said writing lab manual guides can’t be fun — just add a margarita to your process!)
  • Bonnie: Goals TBA
  • Curt: Goals TBA
  • Donna: Weeks two through eight: re-research information for Glimmer Train and research three other magazines; incorporate edits to story. *
  • Laura: Week two went better than the first week for me. I spent some time doing minor revisions on my short story and added a few new pages. I also wrote a short blog post. For the third week, I’m going to try to get through the second of three scenes for the short story.
  • Lisa: AGAH! I got nothing accomplished this week. I’m determined to catch up, so I say ten pages for me this week. Wish me luck! (You can do it, Lisa, you amazing woman!)
  • Mary: Goals TBA
  • Mary Margaret: My one week objective is to write a blog post on my site to get the cobwebs out and get creating again. **
  • Matthew: Goals TBA
  • Mike: Week Two was a step backwards, but nothing we can’t overcome in Week Three. I had a weird week at work, where I was rarely in front of my desk (to actually set aside some writing time), and then we were up in Madison all weekend. Anyway, we’ll just re-up the Week Two goal to be our Week Three goal and move on. (That worked for me last week!)
  • Robert: Robert is traveling, so he’s got a pass and will pick up when he returns!
  • Samantha: I’m basically THE WOOOORST and my week three goals are the same as week two: rewrite the first part of my story since it’s terrible and it needs to be purged forever. (You’re not the worst! You’re an amazing starfish! Now write, starfish, write!)
  • Steve: Confession — I completed the bibliography and the first page of my Mendelssohn paper — will finish the draft by end of week three — really! (Everyone gets a few set-backs, Steve! Now get writing!)

*Donna is a new addition to the Lake Projects writing group. Her big picture goals are to edit and then submit her short story, “The Baby,” to literary magazines by September. Welcome, Donna!

**Mary Margaret is another new addition to the group. Her big picture goal is to compete a short story to be submitted for publication. Welcome, Mary Margaret!

Although this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is supposed to address an academic’s life-work balance, much of it applies to a non-academic’s life, so everyone should give it a read. The biggest takeaway is that we as writers need to set boundaries to protect our writing time. Because most of us are writing at home and have distractions. Mine is an adorable but demanding  who is so fussy about getting in enough play time.


can we play? huh? huh? let’s go out? okay? okay? let’s play? now? now?? come ON!

This article published more recently on the Writer’s Digest website, claims that writing is important. And guess what? It is! Is it more important than, say, making sure your children are fed and clothed, or making sure that your electricity bill is paid, or that your dog is walked? Maybe not more important than those things, but it’s still important. So give it a higher priority this week, even if you can only afford to do so for a short amount of time.

Finally, here’s a (hopefully) inspirational anecdote. Last night I stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish the thriller, Dark Tide, I’d started on Friday. The book, the second novel by a British author named Elizabeth Haynes, was a real page turner, due in large part to the narrative structure. When I finished it, I read the acknowledgements at the end, curious about the research Haynes had done to get into the world of houseboats and strip clubs (read the book).

Haynes mentioned that the first draft of this book was a product of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Contest in 2010. And about two years later — with the help of editors at HarperCollins, so, okay, we don’t all have that… — she’d published the 394-page thriller. Now, it’s not as good as the other two books I’ve read by Haynes, but it got me to stay up way past my bedtime to finish it, and I’d say that’s something.

The reason I mention this is because Haynes is a working writer. She’s a police intelligence analyst in England, and she has one son. And between her job and her family, she carved out enough time over the four weeks of November to put down 90,000 words of a novel. So that means that over our remaining five weeks, we can do just as well.

Now, everyone, write. Write today, even for a few minutes. And then write tomorrow. And Wednesday. And, why not — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, too.

And if you didn’t get me your goals for this week, post them in the Comments section below.

Check back here on Tuesday for Anuar’s guest post, and good writing!