Tag Archives: writing

Finding focus: Writing an editorial policy

This is part three in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

If your vision is the direction to go with your writing then editorial policies are your rules of the road. An editorial policy is simply a statement about how you are going to conduct yourself on your blog. This doesn’t have to be written in stone, but it should be close.

I come from a military journalism background and one of my favorite things to do was go through the archives and see what’s changed and what has stayed the same over the years. One thing that changed was the editorial policies. There were racist cartoons, Page 3 girls, cigarette ads and drink specials. Back in the day, this was perfectly acceptable. Society has moved on and the policies now reflect that by outlawing those things in military papers.

You might not want to share your vision, but the editorial policy is best out in the open. This will let your readers know what they can expect from your blog. A great spot for this is on an “about me” page. If people like what they read, the about the author page is the next place they’ll go. Give them exactly what they are looking for.

The policy for my blog is vague; no politics, no religion and very little swearing. I’ll add to it as I go and as I see fit. For now, it says what I need it to say.

To create your policy, as plainly as possible state what your blog is about, what you will write about and what you won’t write about. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, just honest. Oh, and you’ll have to hold yourself to those rules because your readers will expect that. No big deal, right?

For the rest of the series, click below:

Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding focus: What’s your vision?
Part 3 Finding focus: Writing an editorial policy

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Finding focus: What’s your vision?

This is part two in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

Another step in maintaing focus is to have a vision, the business kind not the quest kind (the later can be a post later if you’d like.) A vision is the basic idea of what you want to accomplish. It’s not a road map, but it is the compass that keeps you moving in the right general direction.

Picture where you want to go. Envision where you’d like to be as a writer even if you think it’d never happen in your wildest dream. If you need help, start by answering these three questions: Why are you blogging? What do you like about the act of blogging? What would be nice to get out of writing a blog and what do you need to get out of writing a blog?

I’m blogging because it’s good writing practice. I like getting feedback and the personal nature of writing for a blog. It would be nice to have my work noticed to possibly sell. I need the practice and to gain confidence in my writing as I work on a novel.

Combine your answers into a single sentence and simplify down until it sounds good to you. This is the vision. My vision is to write a blog to practice my writing and become a novelist.

Other people might have loftier goals, or not want to get paid for their work because writing is its own reward, or do it just for fun. It’s all fine because this is your vision.

Write your vision on a sheet of paper and stick it up next to your writing area. Are you writing just for fun? Then write “It’s just for fun.” and have at it. This is your own personalized motivation. It’s better than a poster of some kitten on a branch telling you to hang in there…unless that’s your thing, then just put the vision next to it.

For the rest of the series, click below:
Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding Focus: What’s your vision?


Filed under postaday2011, Writing

Finding focus: The beverage of choice

This is part one in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

Most writers are going to tell you to find a special place to write and make a nest by surrounding yourself with items that inspire you. That might work for some, but what if you can’t be in your area when you need to write?

I’ve written in airports at 3 a.m. after working the entire day. I’ve written in Haitian summer heat with no air conditioning. I’ve written in the Shenandoah Mountains in January with no heat. I have a work office, a home office and then I have the occasional hotel room or conference center. If I limited myself to one location, I would get nothing done.

The idea behind having a set location is a subconscious cue to the brain that it is time to write. I do the same thing by having a cup of coffee. Instead of having a fixed spot, I have something portable and readily available nearly everywhere.

Drinking while writing serves a couple purposes. First, the mug, glass, or cup is the cue that says it is time to write. It sits in the peripheral vision and serves as a constant reminder. It doesn’t matter where you are sitting as long as a beverage is close by. Second, it guarantees you will be getting up in about 50 minutes to either refill the glass or, well, take care of a certain basic need. It’s a nice break that gives the brain a bit of a rest so you don’t burn out.

Certain beverages need to be avoided because sitting and writing isn’t exercise. Some are better than others:

  1. Water: Obviously the best choice for health reasons, but let’s be real, we don’t like things that are good for us.
  2. Coffee and Tea: They aren’t bad and they have caffeine, but you want to avoid more than two cups a day because then it affects brain function. Watch the sugar and fat intake with what you put in them. You don’t want a sugar crash in the middle of writing or have to work off an extra 400 calories every time you have a francy coffee shop drink.
  3. Juices: A middle ground. Vitamins are good, sugars not as much. If you’re going to take in the natural sugars then you might as well eat the fruit itself and get the fiber.
  4. Soda: Don’t. At least, don’t do it often. Even diet soda is believed to cause belly fat. You really don’t want to get hooked on the stuff, or come to rely on it for inspiration.
  5. Alcohol: The absolute worst to get you through a writing assignment. I’m not saying I don’t drink once in a while, but I’m not trying to be a hardboiled detective story writer and I certainly don’t want to end up an alcoholic author.

Reconditioning takes practice. Start with having the same beverage every time you write. After a few weeks, move to another room. It shouldn’t take long to make the switch. As they say, if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit.

For the rest of the series, click below:
Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding Focus: What’s your vision?

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Bringing focus back to my daily blog

I’ve been following the Postaday challenge like a homework assignment and it’s really done nothing more than give me 24 touchy-feely posts about random topics concerning the inner workings of my thoughts on vague ideas. Yesterday I waited hours to see what the next topic would be only to be  a little let down again. The topics aren’t bad, but they don’t seem to fit either.

The topic that brought this call to action: What’s your idea for a perfect Sunday? Reading, writing or taking pictures. The follow up question: How would it differ from a typical Sunday? It doesn’t. That’s what I did. I did that Saturday as well. I also spent too much time trying to find something to write about because the topic didn’t hit home for me.

Let’s get Dr. Phil on this situation:

Dr. Phil: Why are you writing about topics that don’t hit home for you? You should be writing on topics that matter to you instead of waiting for someone else to come up with topics.
Me: Well, it was easier to write about the topic than to come up with my own.
Dr. Phil: Has it been easier?
Me: Not really.
Dr. Phil: You’re cheating yourself out of your own ideas. How does that make you feel?
Me: Dirty.
Dr. Phil: You need to get focused and take charge of your blog.
Me: People seem to like what I’m writing, though.
Dr. Phil: Do you afraid people might not like your ideas? Maybe they like the way you write.

Thanks, Dr. Phil.

The way the blog topics are going currently feels very unwieldy and chaotic. I cannot keep going as is for another 340+ days. Most folks seem to be enjoying the topics, but I know me and I have certain needs as a writer and editor:

  1. I need coffee.
  2. I need the vision.
  3. I need an editorial policy.
  4. I need cohesion.
  5. I need a focus.
  6. I need my next five stories right now in case something falls through.

In a series of posts this week I’ll show how all those work together to keep you on track. Yes, even the coffee.


Filed under postaday2011, Random Thoughts, Writing

The most important thing…for now

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
– Mark Twain

I have a terrible habit of bouncing from most important thing to most important thing. Call it a lack of focus with too many priorities and I’ll say something always comes up. If it’s all important than nothing is important.

The most important thing right now is to study for my promotion. That bumped my previous most important goal of finishing my degree and writing a novel. The education is still going to be there when I’m done with my test and the novel isn’t going anywhere either.

I’m about three years part-time away from a degree in English and I don’t want to get into how many false starts, hiccups and brick walls it’s been getting to this point. I hate to keep putting it off, but the promotion means more money and responsibility which will help me with the other goals.

The novel? Don’t get me started. On second thought, do get me started. I take heart in every time I read someone took five years to write their first novel, but seriously, I don’t want to be one of those people. One or two years would be awesome, thanks.

I’ve spent more years as an editor than a writer and I red pen the heck out of anything before I even start. I send myself proposals, but I keep rejecting them. I do have one idea that to me sounds really interesting and I’d love to start writing it. Any day now.

What I need to do for the novel is start getting it on paper…so to speak. More time would be nice too. I know “lots of writers don’t have the time” and struggle to find ten minutes between family and work, but that’s not really advice and doesn’t help me at all? Hearing that just makes it worse because then I spend more time thinking about how everyone else can find the time to write and how I waste it thinking about all the people that struggle to find the time to write and still finish a novel. Twenty minutes of that and I need to leave the house and get away from the computer.

Secretly it’s a mix of confidence in my ability to write and the belief that someone will like the story. The confidence is building with practice, a couple courses from Gotham Writer’s Workshop and a few books. The practice is coming along nicely through blogging. The courses were excellent because it helped me tighten up my writing and discover new flaws for my inner editor to fuss over. All that’s left is for me to finish this book on novel writing…and this collection of Russian short stories…and this other book on novel writing.

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Filed under postaday2011, Writing, Writing Prompts

My favorite genre

Tonight’s topic is brought to you by the number 6 and the letter H. I’m deviating from the writing prompts of the Postaday2011 blog because it didn’t inspire me at all. Their topic is “The wackiest advice you’ve ever received.” I don’t really receive so much as offer the wacky advice. I can’t narrow down the wacky advice to just one time. I did get plenty of material from the movie Surrogates, hence my favorite genre.

I read and watch a lot of movies across many genres. Classics, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, suspense, humor; I like it all. The book or movie has to inspire me in some way for me to like it. I’ll watch even some of the worst drive-in classics as long as I get something out of it. Some movies I’ve liked only because I imagine how the movie should be written instead of how it was.

I liked Surrogates. I can’t tell you if it was a good movie, but it made me think of genres in general. It reminded me of my favorite type of fiction, horror.

Horror brings up different feelings and ideas in people and it’s not everybody’s favorite. I also don’t think it’s entirely a genre but a feeling or reaction to an idea thereby slipping into other genres. It can be blood and guts, it can be supernatural beasts or it can be the horror of everyday life ala Stephen King. I’m more of a fan of the mood and atmosphere of horror, the Poe style of horror.

I don’t read or watch horror to get scared. I’m more interested in the response of horror to the situation. The “My god, man! What have you done?” reaction that happens just before the scared part with the pulse racing.

Surrogates had an aspect of that as do all of the sci-fi cautionary tales. People invent something, mankind is changed for the better, the hero discovers it’s all a lie/mistake. It’s the “Soylent green is people” moment.

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To blog or not to blog

Nothing like a deadline to get some work done. I kept thinking I’d get to it later and now it’s much later than I was hoping. Tonight’s topic is basically how I got into blogging and it may deviate due to it being past my bedtime.

I’ve been writing fiction since at least age 12. I lost interest for a while, but in 7th grade I had a creative writing class and that got me going again. I wrote more during high school, mostly for my friends. By today’s standards the stories would be considered deeply disturbing and I’d be on some watch list, but thankfully at the time they were “Very creative :)” and I got an A.

My writing has matured since then, but it gave me a need for an audience. I could write for myself, or just to write, but where is the fun in that? Maybe it’s its own reward for some, but not me. I started this blog because I wanted to write more and felt the need for an audience. Truthfully, if I didn’t want an audience I would make all the posts private and I would loose interest in it rather quickly.

I’ve written personal diaries since 1992 or so. I wrote them for me. I’d write maybe once a day for a week, then loose it for three months, then write again. I have four of them like this. Writing for myself just doesn’t work.

When I got out of basic training my friends were using Livejournal which was right up my alley. I had just started writing seriously for work and not only was it a good outlet for my thoughts and practice of the craft, it let me keep in touch with my friends.

I kept at it nearly semi-daily for years ending rather abruptly about two years ago. I haven’t touched it in a while because of Facebook. It was way easier to write a short sentence than think of something interesting that people might want to read.

That changed last year or so. I went to a party and ran into people I didn’t know that used to read my journal. People I didn’t know read what I wrote, liked it enough to share it with their friends and recognized me at a party? Well, I’m easily flattered, so that was all I needed to start writing again. This time in blog format.

I decided to go this route to have something more professional looking. To go with the look, I also felt I should write more professionally. The rants from my youth are gone. Not that I don’t get fired up about things, but I’m trying to appeal to a broader audience. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to write a post about my first book.

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Filed under postaday2011, Writing, Writing Prompts