Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One VERY productive day inspires one very can-do atitude

Yesterday was a VERY busy day in this writer's life. I'm glad I had such a productive day yesterday, because there are things going on today and I don't know how much I'll manage to get done. Probably not as much as yesterday, and for this reason I'm grateful for yesterday. It can make up for all the other things I might not be able to do today! I'm not blogging about it in order to "brag," or anything. It's just so that I can talk about a couple of things from yesterday as well as take a look at all the things I managed to do.

And what a bunch of things they were! Wow! Honestly, I don't know how I fit it all into one day. (Well, I
was up past midnight wrapping up the last thing, so maybe that's how I managed to do all of them!) In addition to taking care of my kids and doing the domestic responsibilities. I am just really, really surprised that I managed to do so much. I did more things yesterday than I normally do in one day! Instead of 3-5 things, I did seven.

One of the things I did was write and submit a sample for a Web site. I got a reply for one of the jobs I applied for before being accepted at Suite101.com, and they wanted a sample from me. I'll admit, this initial request for the job made me pretty uncomfortable, but after I discussed my concerns with one of the reps, I felt better about doing it and went through with it. We'll see how that turns out.

I also worked on the
Revisions book, worked on the RGT book, fired off a query to a magazine (my goal was to send three queries but I could only submit one), did editing in a manuscript and wrote up a short article.

I also did the networking thing, which will turn into "the promotion thing" after a new book comes out. The networking took up a considerable amount of time. Still, I know it's important to network. And it even inspired a new book idea. Hooray! I've been wanting a new idea for a writing book. The
Revisions book is my third writing book, and I kept wondering, what kind of writing book will I do after this one? Right then and there, I couldn't think of anything. So I was delighted when I got this idea for my next writing book. Woot-woot! Still, I have YET to check and see if it has been done already. I will have to look into that. If it hasn't been done already, then, it's on! Erm...next year, maybe. Haha.

Even though I wasn't sure if that kind of book has been done yet, I still wrote up the outline for it. And I realized that, up until the time I actually start writing it and putting it together, I can spend this time putting what the book teaches to the test. I can use my own writing career as the "guinea pig" and try out everything this book will cover. What an exciting experiment this will be!

Today is the last day to enter the "dialogue only" short story contest. I am entering and must remember to send in my story. I've made a note of it on my "to do" list for today.

I was reading a writer friend's blog yesterday, and she noted how she's making preparations to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. I have participated in the past. The first time I tried out, I had to stop because work came up. The second time, I got distracted with other things and abandoned the project. The third time, I did complete my novel, but it didn't come in at the required 50K words. This hung over me as I debated whether or not I should participate this year. My first thought when I asked myself that question was 'My plate's already overflowing! The last thing I need this year is YET ANOTHER book project going on!' (I don't know what it is about me, but I can never just work on only one thing. I need a variety of things going on and more than one book project going on. Somehow or another, I work better that way. Maybe it's a Gemini thing!) And add to this the fact that I don't have a new novel idea that I want to work on right now. Well, sure, I have ideas, but my mindset is on the middle grade paranormal mystery series I have written two books for so far. I want to write the next book in that series, if there was anything for me to write for fiction. But the publisher hasn't gotten back to me yet about the first book and those books are not 50,000 words. If I do NaNoWriMo, then I'll have to go over my list of book ideas and see if any of the novel ideas grab me. I love the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year and I'm anxious to see it in print ONE of these days (after these OTHER four books get taken care of first). I want to experience that excitement with writing fiction again. The adrenaline rush of writing a whole 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Besides, by the time November gets here, I really SHOULD have one of my current book projects done and sent in to the publisher. I'll be one book lighter! If I can manage the two books now, how will adding my Nano novel be any different?

This excitement made me move away from my initial reservations over being able to do NaNoWriMo again. I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something. And as far as even being able to find time to work on it every day, I can only look at how productive I was yesterday. At how I was able to do SO MUCH and find a way to fit all of those writing tasks into my day. This gives me confidence that I WILL be able to do NaNoWriMo this year. That I WILL be able to find time for it. NaNoWriMo 2009? Bring it on!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Ask me if I give a....

This morning, I was surprised to read about how SNL newcomer Jenny Slate said the "f" word on Saturday night's episode--and how it slipped past censors. According to the article, East Coast viewers heard her say the "f" word loud and clear.

I was surprised by this because it's late-night TV. Why on earth would something like that be considered offensive? It's not like children are watching the show (though if they were, how did that happen? SNL isn't even suitable for young viewers, to begin with.). Additionally, swearing on a late-night TV program is not anything new. I raised an eyebrow when Andy Sipowicz called someone an "a--hole" on an episode of NYPD Blue, but the show's badge of controversy allowed for such language.

Well, according to most people who read that article, this kinda thing bored them. I, too, started to wonder why this was even "news." She only said a swear word, it's not like she flashed her boobs. Any adult who has not lived under a rock their entire lives has heard swear words, even said some swear words themselves. Swear words on a TV program, even late-night TV programs, are nothing new. Ms. Slate is not the first to say such a word on SNL -- and I have a feeling she won't be the last.

This makes one wonder what swear words are okay to say, and what words aren't. Watch any George Carlin skit and you'll hear every swear word in the book. But watch a network program and you won't hear so many. I suppose some words, "a--hole" among them, are okay, but some words are not.

As a writer, I couldn't help but equate this (unimportant) uproar with what's acceptable in literature. Perhaps with some books, some magazines and some online media, a swear word or two are allowed. But very often, a swear word will be either broken up or clustered with asterisks and dashes. In the August issue of Psychology Today, for example, the "f" word has an asterisk in it. In the September issue of Poetry Magazine, you will find the "f" word printed in all its glory. Twice.

Where do we draw the line? What kind of guidelines should we follow when we are using a swear word in our writing? Writers have long debated over whether it's a good idea to use a swear word or not. Proponents say that is how their characters speak. Opponents say, it's a lazy cop-out for good writing.

Everybody has their own writing style and their own way of writing things.

Personally, I feel that Ms. Slate's imagined slip-up wasn't really a slip-up after all. She was depicting a biker chick, and that is how a biker chick would talk. That's exactly the kind of language such a character would use.

This begs the question: Why should staying true to the character be considered such a crime?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Suite it is?

Yesterday, I made a decision: A current writing gig is just not going to work out for me anymore. What prompted this decision? I only now received their contract (after months of writing for them) and it states that they are buying all rights to my articles.

Yep, you read that correctly: ALL RIGHTS. Which means they can reprint the articles anywhere else on the Web and I wouldn't see a dime in reprint sales. And forget about selling the articles as a reprint; I wouldn't have any more rights to them.

Selling all rights to your writing is something which some writers accept, in some cases. For example, if the pay sufficient, then they accept surrendering all rights. And, for some, they figure there is no chance they will reuse anything in that article, anyway, and they don't want to try to sell it as a reprint. So, they surrender all rights.

To read more about what it REALLY means to sell all rights to your writing, go here:
Selling All Rights: Right or Wrong?

In my case, I did not feel it was fair to surrender all rights to my articles, because they are only paying me $5 for each one. If the pay was a little higher, I would accept this. But at $5? That's highway robbery!

Or, should I say, superhighway robbery, since this is on the Internet.

I wrestled with this for a while. I tried to accept these terms, but it just REALLY seemed like a lousy deal. It just was not a fair sale. Every time I even tried to keep working for them, my instincts cried STOP! I just did not feel like I was respecting myself as a writer, and my work in general, if I continued to work under these terms.

I have pretty much accepted the fact that the articles I have sold to them so far are gone forever. I guess all this time, they were being bought under those terms outlined in the contract (which I actually have yet to sign). At the time I took this gig, these terms were not outlined on their site or in emails. I naively assumed they were buying nonexclusive rights, First Electronic Rights or exclusive rights that would expire after a period of time. But now I know that was never the case.

Now I have decided that I will no longer work for them under those terms.

So last night, I got on the 'Net to try and find a new writing gig. I visited a job site for writers and there were a couple of jobs with requirements I felt I could meet. I sent them emails asking for more info, ensuring that my resume is ready for their review, and hit another job site. After some clicking, I came across an ad saying that Suite101.com was looking for writers. I know of some writers who have written for Suite101.com, and I figured, if they are writing for this site, then it must be a legitimate writing gig worth their time. The ad said the pay was $39.50 per article.

Hey, that's better than $5, I thought.

So I went to their site, filled out the application and sent along with that two sample pieces of my writing that matched the topics I wanted to write for and met their word count limit.

This morning, I got an e-mail saying that my application was approved. Hooray! I was now a Suite101.com writer!

I went to the site to read the contract and noted it didn't say anything about the pay rate. I was satisfied with the rights they wanted for articles, but there was no figure concerning pay.

Uh-oh. Not a good sign.

So I hit Google and did some checking around. I noted on some blog posts about writing for Suite101.com that a lot of the complaints concerning pay were outdated. I looked for information that was current and found out that they pay their writers by ad revenue. Meaning that every reader who clicked on an ad that's on the same page as the article would help the writer earn some income. I was not happy to see that this payout was low (something like $1.50 for every ONE THOUSAND clicks -- ugh!!), and even more disheartened when one writer said she only earned 26 cents her first month as a Suite101.com writer.

Twenty-six cents?? Sheesh! I might as well go back to writing for $5 per sale! Good grief!

I also came across one writer saying she earned just $3.90 for every 1,000 page views of her article. Ugh!

I did some more checking around and my hopes started to rise. There ARE writers out there who have managed to earn a decent monthly income writing for Suite101.com. In fact, they even continue to earn income years after their articles are published and even after they stop writing for that site.

Phew! I was glad to hear that.

I later received a memo from the site's EIC stating they are actually upgrading their pay model for writers. Now writers will receive revenue based on page views, and not just clicks on ads. Yay! That was good news.

So I'll be going through their training soonish and hopefully this new writing gig will be something bigger and better for me. I would love to move past writing for the Internet and instead write for magazines, but until I can make that a reality, I will settle for writing for the Web. And a newspaper, as well; pretty soon I'll be receiving my next assignments for SIGNews and I'm excited to move forward with that, too.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

EduBook Writing Contest

(Passing this on to anyone who might be interested)

We are very excited to announce the very first EduBook writing contest!

In this contest, each contestant will submit one original article to EduBook.
We will choose three winners at the end of the contest, and award them
a total of $1,000 cash prize. Contestants can choose their own topic to
write about, and the article length is between 500 and 1,000 words.

The submission deadline is October 9, and we will announce the winners
on October 11.

If you are interested in participating, please check out more details about
the contest at

This contest is open to everyone. So feel free to share the news with
other fellow writers out there.

Comment? Question? Feel free to contact us.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bumping the to-do list

I'm one of those people who can't function without a daily to-do list -- as far as the writing is concerned. Because I'm involved in different things as a writer (not just writing books!), it really helps to create a weekly "to do" list, which I consult daily, in order to get things done. Because if it's not written down, I forget! And deadlines don't get met.

And if I don't have this list, this strategy for conducting my writing career, it means chaos, because there are different things to take care of (book business, freelancing, writing, editing, blogging/networking, and promotion) that I have to take care of each week. Yep, each and EVERY week! I'm on the job for life! (haha)

Anyway, this week, I had my to-do list all written up and my daily tasks all planned. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. Sometimes, the things you PLAN to do just don't get done! Reminds me of that quote: "Man plans and God laughs."

All those words mean that all of my daily tasks did NOT get done on the days they were supposed to get done this week!

On Monday, I couldn't get all three tasks done. I just couldn't find the time for that third item. Maybe that is a good thing. I bumped it to Tuesday, and it ended up taking me HOURS to complete (but it was definitely time well spent!). On Tuesday, I was too mentally exhausted for a brainstorming session, so that task got bumped to today. Thankfully, I got it done.

So far, I have managed to get the daily tasks I have given myself for the week all wrapped up and finished. But I wonder if my luck will hold for the rest of the week.

I have completed three of the four things I have to do today. I am hoping that fourth item won't get bumped to tomorrow's lists of tasks, because it's definitely something I need to do EVERY DAY of the week, until it's finished.

And so far, I have been able to do this every day. It has not been a bumped item yet and I'm hoping it stays that way.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When "just write it" is just right

I once read an interview with an author. She talked about how she told her agent she had an idea for a story but not sure where to go with it. Her agent said, "Just write it."

Those three words have stuck with me ever since. I even used it as part of an article title. "Just write it" is really good advice for writers. You can't get any writing done in your head; it has to be on paper or the screen. You need to "just write it" and see where you go with it.

This morning, my infant son had to be transported to another city to have eye surgery. I wanted to write about this experience, because there was so much related to it that I wanted to write about. It was also a good way for me to get my feelings and thoughts down onto paper (or screen) instead of having ALL of that stuff in my head.

Still, I didn't know where to go with it. How would I slant it? What theme would it have? What kind of message could it impart to readers?

And how will it even end??

That was my biggest problem. I wanted to write about something and I didn't even have an ending for it yet. How can I write something if I don't have an ending??!!

But that urge to start writing about it was very strong. The words "just write it" really hung over me. Just get everything...EVERYTHING down. Put my thoughts and feelings into words. Free them from within me!

So I sat at the computer and started typing. I just typed and typed. I knew there were trouble spots, but I could fix those later. For now, it was time to write. Later, I will edit and reslant.

I ended up writing a 5-page essay this morning. And even though it didn't really have an ending, I felt that the ending I used for it was sufficient. Good enough for now, at least. (The good news is, all went well. So now I DO have an ending for it! Yay!)

Even though it was not perfect and the title was iffy, I was glad to get all of that down. Later, I was thinking of how I can revise it and slant it to make it a piece I could send out, perhaps to an anthology. I also started thinking of possible new titles for it.

I actually got a second wind from writing that essay later on, when I wrote a short story that's been brewing in my head for several days.

Thing of it is, I didn't have many details about this short story. I knew it involved two characters (gender/names/ages unknown) and that it would take place at a bus stop. They were waiting for a bus. I got the idea to write a story like this when I read in Nickel and Dimed how author Barbara Ehrenreich said, "A story about waiting for buses wouldn't be very interesting." I saw that and thought, ohh, really? So I decided to write a story about something interesting that happens to two people while they are waiting for a bus.

And...that's all I had. No names or anything else. Just that setting. Just that idea.

I wanted to write the story, though. After this morning's accomplishment, I felt that I could do it. "Just write it" and get it out there.

So that's what I did. And this time, I was happy with it. As I started writing this story, the fragmented pieces started to come together. The characters came to life and it became a REAL story for me that was playing out in my head. All I had to do to "see" this story was start writing it. Just begin it. That's all it took for the story to become clear to me, as I continued writing it. I think it came out pretty good, though we'll see when I edit and revise it later.

So there you have it. The proof is in the pudding. The next time you have doubts and aren't sure about your ideas, push all that away and "just write it!"


Friday, September 04, 2009

If you can't write it, slant it

I have been writing for a long time. I have not been working as a freelance writer for as long as I have been writing, but the freelance writing has been going on for a good many years. During this time, I have picked up tips and tricks on how to compose and construct my articles.

And I thought I had all that down pat until recently, when I was assigned to write about something I had little knowledge of. I didn't even know this kinda thing existed! (That's what I love about this writing gig; I'm always learning new things!)

But I decided to try writing the article. The interest was there to write it, and that interest is the determining factor of whether or not I'll take an assignment. If there's no interest or curiosity, or, yes, even if it conflicts with my beliefs, I won't do it. But the interest was there, so I did it.

And I'm glad I did!

Sure, it was hard at first. And confusing. This kind of thing was so new to me and it was hard to understand it with the many Web sites I visited and articles I read. I also visited message boards and read the comments left there.

But it was still so confusing. I just didn't understand it well enough to be able to write about it.

Still, I hung in there. I just kept reading and reading.

Finally, I'd gathered enough research together for my article. Still, I didn't know how to write this thing. How could I write it without looking like I was taking sides?

I debated over this. Finally, I decided to write about this topic as though I was giving a summary over the debate and what each side is saying. I also put in my own opinion of the whole thing -- it was one a lot of people shared so I thought it would be safe to add that -- and just slanted this article in a way which it would not have to be so in-depth.

The result was completion of the article and I was very pleased with it. I was also excited that I was able to write about something I didn't know much about in a way that it would be a complete and objective article. The last time I was in a situation like this was when I was working on a chapter for the haunted houses book. I found that, by slanting the topic in a way I could easily write about, it was more "haunted house" material and not "entertainment" material. I was also spared the technicalities of explaining an industry I knew very little about!

So I was very happy I was able to conquer my confusion and still write my article. Hooray! Even if I did not understand both sides of this topic completely, I still had enough research to help me slant my article and make it something worth a reader's time.

And that little success right there inspired another article! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Self-publishing and editing of manuscripts

I recently checked out a book from the library. This book, which shall remain unnamed, seemed to have helpful information that I could use. I am planning to get back into self-publishing next year and I am trying to read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about self-publishing, book promotion and marketing. If I'm going to do this a second time, I want to make sure it gets done right! (The first time was, obviously, a failure.)

Anyway, I did feel that this book had helpful information concerning self-publishing, yet as I started to read it, something bugged me: The copious amount of mistakes. Periods were missing and wrong words were used ("he" instead of "the," "and" instead of "an," etc.). I assumed this was just a small thing and kept reading the book. After all, there's bound to be mistakes such as this in lots of other books, too. Some kind of mistake or another gets through the cracks. But more and more, these mistakes kept cropping up, and the more I saw wrong words being used, and even sentences missing words, my feelings went from irritation to anger.

That anger mostly stemmed from the fact that this particular book was self-published. The author identifies himself as an editor but, apparently, the manuscript was NOT professionally edited, because there are so many typographical and grammatical mistakes, that surely a professional editor would have caught them by now, 50 pages into the book. (Many, many book reviewers won't review a self-published book, for the very reason that many self-published books are poorly edited.)

I even found a mistake on the back cover of the book where I found, to my surprise, a blurb from Dan Poynter. (I wonder if he suggested the author hire an editor to correct the mistakes?)

I have to wonder if the author even bothered to have his manuscript professionally edited. Now because he identifies himself as an editor and publisher, I'm suspecting he may have not. I have seen SO MANY self-published authors claim things like "I have a background in journalism so I don't need an editor" or "I was a really good speller in high school so I can edit my book myself." (True!)

But the point is, it doesn't matter what kind of background you have. It doesn't matter if you were at the top of your class at J-school, if your English teacher always praised your writing in high school, and even if you yourself are an editor.

If you are going to self-publish your book, please, please, PLEASE get it professionally edited. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. It's extremely crucial a book is professionally edited before it goes into print. Because a poorly-edited book makes the author look bad (it looks like you don't really care if your book is in the best shape it can be) and it looks bad for any other books your self-publish later.

When I discussed this irritation with my sister, she thought maybe all of those mistakes were the editor's fault, and not the author's fault. But that's not true in the case of a self-published book. At minimum, the self-publishing author is also the book's editor. The author is the first step in determining if the manuscript is in publishable shape. And as a precaution, it's a good idea to get it professionally edited and proofread BEFORE publishing the book.

The self-publishing business leads many to assume that it's one person responsible for the writing and publication of the book. Wrong. It takes a team of people to make a self-published book work -- a team that includes a typesetter, book cover designer, illustrator in some cases and, yes, even an editor. An editor who is NOT the author.

I have worn many hats as a writer, and one of those hats was as editor. But even I don't trust myself with my own writing. I know an editor should look it over first. There's just always something that can be caught and corrected. So a professional editor should be enlisted to look over the manuscript to make sure it's up to snuff.

I would like to suggest that every other self-publishing author out there should do the same.

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