Monday, October 31, 2011

Write-A-Thon Giveaway

The winner of Write-A-Thon is Na. Congrats!

I welcome Rochelle Melander to my blog today. She will be answering questions about her new book, Write-A-Thon, which was published this month by Writer's Digest Books.

I will also be giving away a copy of Write-A-Thon. Please leave a comment and your email to be entered into the drawing. If you SUBSCRIBE to my blog this week, via Feedburner, and let me know in your comment, I will enter your name TWICE. The last day to leave a comment will be next Monday, November 7. 

1. Rochelle, what is a Write-A-Thon?

A write-a-thon is a writing marathon such as National Novel Writing Month, when participants try to write a 50,000-word book in a month! I created write-a-thon to give writers an opportunity to write their books fast whenever and however they wanted to do them! 

2. Your book is divided into three sections: Training, Write-A-Thon and Recovery. You spend the bulk of the book on training. Why is this so important?
I cannot imagine someone running a marathon without having trained. But, with appropriate training, many people can accomplish this amazing athletic feat. It’s the same with writing. When we have properly trained and prepared, we can write a book marathon style. When it comes to training for the write-a-thon, I review several aspects of the training process.
First, writers need to train their lives. This means clarifying their writing goals and creating a life that supports their writing. This may take some work, especially for people who are new to writing and have not yet made it a daily or weekly priority.
Second, writers need to train their writing muscles—practicing their craft as much as they can. Most runners do not start out running marathons. Instead, they run a few 5Ks until they get the hang of it. When we are beginning our careers, it is helpful to start by writing articles and short stories. Then, when we have some practice under our belt, we are better able to start and complete a book quickly.
Finally, writers need to plan their books. Most runners spend some time studying various races and choosing one that fits them. After they choose, they study the course for difficult terrain. They learn where the bathroom and water stops will be. They learn as much as possible so that the day of the race goes well. Writers who plan their books will have a much easier time writing marathon style. This might mean sketching characters, designing the plot, and creating a believable setting. Writers might want to put all of this into a document or a folder that they can consult during the writing marathon.

3. Until I got into the book, I always thought I had to carve out 26 consecutive days for a write-a-thon, but you give options to that scenario. Could you mention some of those?
I believe that writers will succeed if they create a writing marathon that suits their schedule. For some writers, that will be a straight shot of 26 days. For others, it will be over the course of 26 Saturdays, 13 weekends, or 26 days within a longer period, like a summer. In the book, I encourage writers to examine their lives and give them tools to discover when they write best and what type of writing marathon would work best for them.

4. You noted that you wrote the rough draft of this book a couple of years ago during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which starts tomorrow! Talk about your specific scheduling for writing this book.
I went in to 2009’s NaNoWriMo with a pretty decent outline and a whole binder full of research. I’d been compiling notes on this book since 2006. I set aside every weekday morning to write. I always tried to meet the daily word count goal of about 1700 words. If possible, I also tried to write a bit extra each day, especially in the beginning. Anything extra I wrote became words in the bank. Once I had 1700 words, I could take a day off. I tried to write enough so that I could take a whole weekend off. Sometimes that meant putting in a few double word count days, when I would amass 3400 words in a morning. Before I left my desk each day, I would decide what I wanted to write the next morning. That way, my subconscious was able to work on the ideas while I worked, exercised, and took care of the kids!

5. You talk about Plan A and Plan B, with Plan A being our ideal writing conditions. Could you talk a little bit about Plan B and how it can help us accomplish our writing goals?
Plan A is the ideal—what I described above in my recollection of NaNoWriMo 2009. Of course, ideal does not always work. Kids get sick, stuff happens at work and home, and we experience fatigue. But, just because stuff happens does not mean our deadline changes. We still have to finish on time. Sometimes, we need to find and use a Plan B! Several years ago, I had my gall bladder removed two weeks before a deadline for a big writing project I was doing with my husband. I woke up from surgery and heard my husband asking me questions about how to proceed with the project. That was using a Plan B—we needed to finish the project and that meant working from the hospital!
It can help to create a Plan B before stuff happens. That might mean imagining what interruptions might derail us and then coming up with some ideas for overcoming the obstacles. So, a writer expecting a house filled with company during Thanksgiving week might just plan to write at a coffee shop during that week. Another writer with small children might expect that someone will get sick during the month and decide ahead of time how she or he will cope with that. All of us might benefit by scheduling extra writing time for the month just in case our regular writing time gets bumped by other stuff. Having a Plan B means we can write and meet our deadlines no matter what catastrophe hits!

6. Why do we need to have a time of recovery after a Write-A-Thon?
All writers need to recover physically and mentally from the work of the write-a-thon. Writing is hard work! Before we can edit or even reread our book, we need to rest and clear our minds. Once we have rested, we can begin the hard work of reading and revising our book. Because we have rested, we are better able to review our book with fresh eyes. And that is part of the recovery, too. During the recovery we reread our book, revise it, and get it ready for publication. We might even hire an editor to help us with this! After that comes the hard work of creating and submitting query letters and book proposals. Once the book gets accepted, we will probably need to revise it again. And no doubt, most of us will be starting a new project at the same time as we are wrapping up this one! That is the beauty of the writing life!

7. Is there anything you would like to add about your book?
I hope it will help writers of all types—nonfiction, playwrights, poets, and novelists—write their work. I meet so many writers who are putting of their dreams of writing because they are too busy or too fearful. I wrote Write-A-Thon to show writers how they can manage their crazy lives and write their books as well!

Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at She will be blogging about NaNoWriMo all month at

Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a free copy of Write-A-Thon. Subscribe and you will be entered twice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm Chillin!

            I noticed that my laptop would get very warm when I worked at my desk, and also if I worked in another room with the computer on my lap. I needed a way to let the laptop breathe and not overheat.

            I took a trip to my local office supply store to look for a fan or cooler I had heard about. I found one that was on sale for only $20. The device, which contains two small fans, sits on my desk and I put my laptop on it.  A cable plugs into the laptop’s USB port and into the cooler. When it runs it makes a humming sound, which doesn’t distract me as I find it calming.
            It is also lightweight and small enough to take along with my laptop as I work in other rooms of the house. Since using it, my computer does not become so hot to the touch.

            Sometimes, something so small makes a world of difference.
            The link to the cooler I have is below. There are other brands and models. In fact, as I was pulling this post together I saw others I would like to try. Of course!
Link: I purchased the Laptop Chill MatTM by TargusTM .

Do you use a cooling device?


Friday, October 14, 2011

Are You Ready for An Impromptu Research Trip?

            A few weeks ago, my husband and I were returning from a family wedding in Indiana, when we decided to take a slight detour and visit the George Rogers Clark Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana. Clark led frontier settlers against the British and helped to win the American Revolutionary War and open westward expansion.
            I had visited this memorial site as a fourth grader, and since I am writing an historical novel set in Indiana, I jumped at the chance.
            After our visit, I made a list of how to make the best of an impromptu research stop:
1.     Gather or participate in any freebies. Upon our arrival, we viewed a short film about the life of George Rogers Clark. This gave us the background to more enjoy our stay. Also look for any phamplets or brochures.
2.     Talk to the Park Rangers. I have found the Park Rangers who work at historical sites are very knowledgeable and they love to talk to visitors. They will share historical background, other sites in the area you might visit and unique facts that wows you. Although, they are sometimes difficult to get away from because they so enjoy talking about their subject.
3.     Unique printed resources. There will probably be a gift shop and you may find some books or pamphlets unique to the area that may not be found online, etc. It may be worth checking these out. I picked up a large set of early maps of the area for $10.
            What began as a family wedding outing also became an impromptu research trip. Whenever you are out and about you never know when something will happen to help you along the path to your next story.

Have you been on an impromptu research trip that led to a story or novel?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Productive Writer

The winner of the drawing for The Productive Writer is Rick Barry. Congrats!!

This is a guest post by author Sage Cohen. In July I gave away a copy of her book, The Productive Writer (Tips & Tools to help you Write More, Stress Less & Create Success). Since the response was so positive, I am giving away another copy. So leave a comment to be in the drawing.


Practice Deliberately (And Hit Your Target)
A guest post by author Sage Cohen

“The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call ‘deliberate practice.’ It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don’t get better. Hitting an eight-iron three hundred times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day—that’s deliberate practice.”—Geoffrey Colvin, senior editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine

Have you ever gotten halfway through a piece of writing and found yourself floundering about what you were actually trying to accomplish in the first place? This is where the concept of deliberate practice comes in. When you set your sights on specific goals for a piece of writing, then you’ll know exactly how close you come to achieving your goal.

Try writing out as many of these details at the top of your piece, or on a Post-It note that you attach to your computer screen or your working file folder. For example, I wrote this at the top of a recent piece I’d been contracted to write:

·        Target word count: 1,500
·        To appear in: Poet’s Market 2012
·        Audience: Aspiring poets with varying levels of publishing experience
·        Topic: Why Poets Need Platforms and How to Create One

I challenge you to name and claim the key objectives of every piece of writing, even a blog post, short story, essay, or poem, regardless of whether you’ve been hired to write it or if you ever intend to share it. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1.  Choose a listener
When you know the audience you are writing for, you can start to imagine their needs, questions, objections, and level of interest. The simplest way to define this audience is by choosing a single person who is representative of this group, and write it “for them.” Maybe this person can even be available to read and give feedback about your work, to help you learn if it was received as you intended.

2.  Name the objective of what you are writing
If you are writing on assignment or for a client, this is where you’d articulate exactly what goals you’ve been hired to accomplish. If you are writing something for a themed contest or publication, define the topic or parameters within which you must perform. And if you are writing creative nonfiction, poetry, or fiction that is not driven by particular submission requirements, try setting your own standard for what you expect this piece to do/be/accomplish and then observe if this makes a difference in your writing and revising experience.

3.  Write! You know everything you need to know about this, already! [This is the sound of me shaking my pom-poms.]

4.  Revise! Anyone who’s ever spent years revising a single piece of writing knows all too well what hitting an eight-iron three hundred times might be like. Now, get out there and start swinging.

5.  Evaluate whether you have achieved your objective
When your piece feels finished, revisit the goals articulated in numbers one and two, and see how your writing measures up. If there are discrepancies, return to number four, and then repeat. If you didn’t hit the mark the first time, don’t worry. Remember, this is all practice. And the only way we improve is through repetition. Practice shapes us, so we can most effectively give shape to our writing.

[Excerpted from The Productive Writer]

About Sage Cohen
Sage Cohen is the author of The Productive Writer and Writing the Life Poetic, both from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at

Leave a comment to be in the drawing for The Productive Writer. The last day to leave a comment is Monday, October 10.