Archive for the ‘Tricks of the Trade’ Category

The logo is gross, but the features are great.

The logo is gross, but the features are great.

Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16, NASB

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need a little help focusing on a task. When I’m doing housework, for example, it really helps me to plug in an audiobook on my iPod to keep my mind occupied so I don’t get distracted. Otherwise, I tend to flit from one job to another without finishing anything. The same applies to my writing time.

For me, the ultimate distraction is the internet. It’s so. . .endless. My favorite social networking site is always calling my name. If I get on to check my comments, I can easily be lost down the rabbit hole for an hour — when I <i>should</i> be writing. And I really can’t afford to lose one second of valuable writing time — I’m still pretty much limited to nap time at this point.I blogged earlier about creating an alternate user account, and that’s one good option. But I’ve found something else that helps, too.

LeechBlock is a Firefox addon (You do use Firefox, don’t you?) that helps manage where and when you spend your online time. With it you can create different groupings of websites that are time wasters for you, and then put limits on them. You can assign hours when those sites are off limits, or you can limit the amount of time you spend on them.

And when you really have to get some writing knocked out, you can do a LeechBlock lock down. This lets you completely block any or all of the sites in your lists for a certain amount of time. This would be great if you’ve set a word count challenge for yourself.

The thing I like best about LeechBlock is that it’s specific. I can block only the sites that give me trouble without blocking sites I use while writing, like Thesaurus.com. Of course, even reference sites can end up being time wasters — you just have to decide how much you need to limit yourself.

LeechBlock, like Firefox is 100% free. If you haven’t tried Firefox, I highly recommend it. I’ve been using it as my primary browser for over a year now, and I’ve never looked back.

I have no idea if there’s anything similar for Explorer. If you’re an explorer user, and know of a way to put controls on your time spent on certain sites, add it to the comments, won’t you?

For those of you who use Mac, Freedom lets you completely disable your wireless (or Ethernet) internet connection for a certain period of time. That kind of lock down is a little hard core, but it might be just what you need to make yourself get the pages knocked out.

Do you have any favorite software that keeps you on track while you’re writing?


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Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a writer, and for as long as I’ve known about pen names, I’ve wanted to have one of my own. (More about my reasons in another post.)

It took me a while to find a pseudonym that suited me. The first time I tried, I sat down with a baby name book and made a list of names I liked both the sound and meaning of, including names that I thought would make suitable last names. What I came up with was “Clara Brent.” One meaning for “Clara” is “light,” and “Brent” can mean “a high place or hill.” So “Clara Brent” together meant “a light on a high place, a la Matthew 5:15-16. “Brent” is also the name of a very dear uncle of mine who passed away when I was twenty, so it carried a special significance. I liked “Clara Brent,” but I felt like I needed something snazzier for the young adult market. That’s when I remembered a tidbit I’d picked up in a graduate course in children’s lit.

His name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but you probably know him as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and many other delightful works). According to the information I found on the internet, Dodgson chose to write under a pen name to protect his privacy.

When in search of a pen name, he translated his first and middle names into Latin, getting “Carolus Lodovicus.” Then he reversed their order, changed them into more English forms, and voila! “Lewis Carroll” was born. (If you’d like to read more about Lewis Carroll, I recommend checking out the website of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America.)

I really liked the idea of a pen name that was linked in meaning to my real name. So I decided to try something similar. Unlike Charles Dodgson, I didn’t attend Oxford, and I’m completely unacquainted with Latin. So I decided I’d plug my first and last names into a baby name search engine, and see what the possible meanings for them were. Then I did a search for names that had the same or similar meaning, and this is what I came up with:

Laura–laurel, crown–Cole, Lawrence (and many others)

Weldon–glen, valley–Deena, Glenda (and many others)

Then, as Charles Dodgson did, I switched my first and last names (he switched first and middle), and put together from the lists I’d compiled the names I thought sounded nice and went together. The results (which you know if you’ve read my “About Us” page) were “Deena Cole” and “Glenda Lawrence.”

I thought Deena Cole sounded the best for young adult fiction–more modern. That’s the name I plan to publish under if this first WIP ever sells.

So what about you? Do you like the idea of using a pen name? Why? If you have a nom de plume, how did you come up with it?

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I mentioned Self Editing for Fiction Writers in a past post, but I decided that it really needs a post all it’s own. I originally purchased this book because I heard it recommended by so many people, including many multi-published authors.

Quite simply, it is one of the most useful books about the craft of writing that I’ve read so far, and I’ve read many. I like to reread it about twice a year, just for a refresher.

To share a little tidbit, the authors offer a formula they call 1 + 1 = 1/2. The idea is that when you put in two words, two sentences, two paragraphs, two scenes, two chapters, or two anything that are both there to serve the same purpose, you diminish the effect. That advice alone is worth the price of the book.

If you aren’t pleased with your writing and don’t know why, chances are good that Renni Brown and Dave King can point you to the answer, or at least the start of one, in this book. I recommend it to even seasoned writers.

If you’re a beginner, it may be a bit much to take in at once. Read it anyway. Let it sink in some; write more, revise more, and come back to it. You’ll “get” more of it the second time through.

If you’re serious about getting published, this book needs to be on your shelf. Or better yet, on your desk, dog-eared, highlighted, and sticky-noted.


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