Thursday, July 30, 2015



Double your productivity by organizing multiple projects.

Wearing two writing hats doubled my writing responsibilities.  For the past five years I've written, edited, and published Owl's Eye Magazine, my dark fiction monthly. In April of last year, I began submitting freelance articles to Yahoo Contributors' Network, virtually doubling my project load. (Now I will be writing them as blogs)

Completing 26 writing projects a month is a challenge. Writing and publishing four dark fiction columns and two short stories per month for OEV, and hopefully twenty non-fiction blogs per month, became a project-organizing puzzle (actually, nightmare) for me. 

While I solved my thousand-ideas-waiting-in-queue puzzle with the Writing Prompt Cookie Jar, I had to devise a way to keep the currently-in-progress projects in order. 

I came up with the Write Now folder.  Inside it are seven folders, one for each day of the week.  Inside of each daily folder, is a current OEV project and a current blog project, which I choose on Sunday, my Editor's Day.

Focus on one project folder each day. Every morning I log onto my computer and open that day's folder to immediately focus on the completion of the single project within it.  My day is done when I click "publish" on the blog website, or paste the column or short story into the OEV blank issue.  

In the past month I've almost doubled my productivity, rather painlessly, by volleying between "BLOG WEEK" and "OEV WEEK":

BLOG Week - Disability Challenge Series
OEV Week - Swooping Through the Years column

BLOG Week - Write Now Series
OEV Week - Swooping Through the Years column

BLOG Week - My Feminist Heroes Series
OEV Week - Visceral Verse or Macabre Mirth column

BLOG Week - General Health/Nutrition article
OEV Week - Short Story #1

BLOG Week - Miscellaneous Topic Article
OEV Week - Short Story #2

Journaling / Memoir Blog / Personal Tribute Articles

Editor's Day - Writing business chores (financial) / Choose and Assign topics to Write Now folders / Edit current issue OEV / Write Life's a Hoot column for OEV (teasers for the issue's stories) / compose OEV and BLOG social page blurbs to post multiple time each day of the week / update "People of Owl's Nest" character lists / update project completion charts / miscellaneous loose ends.  (I'm planning an "Editor's Day" article soon.) 

I modified my Writing Prompt Cookie Jar.  I still write my ideas for stories on slips of paper.  My jar now contains ten envelopes containing idea slips for each day of the OEV or BLOG weeks, and I choose ideas randomly from each envelope on Sunday. 

When I doubled my writing responsibilities, I had to get my act together to meet deadlines, self-imposed or not.  Why?  Because I'm a writer, and that's what writers do. 

They Write Now.


My Four Keys for Online Writing

(Professional rules of thumb I've picked up while writing online content.

There are four main things I have learned while producing content online:

Know and respect your readers and their needs.  Readers searching your topic are interested in information - fast and palatable. They want concise, focused paragraphs, in your voice. They want enthusiasm, and basic hospitality: translate jargon, polish your manuscript (including glitches between word processing apps and online format), share related links, insert some humor, and share personal experience which establishes your credibility. I strive never to be a writer producing a few paragraphs to generate a paycheck; I have more respect and courtesy for my readers than that. 

Old school journalism techniques translate into online journalism techniques.  Above the fold (most important content of the article in the top portion of the newspaper) has become the Golden Triangle (most important content in the top left part of the online article field). The answers to the Five Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) become your keywords, and belong bolded in the Golden Triangle.

Every general topic encompasses dozens of subtopics and perspectives to be worked into stories. More than four or five subheadings in a story? That's when I break it into several separate articles, each riveted on a single aspect within the niche. In each of those articles, I can plant links that lead readers to all of my related material about the central theme. This gives my readers the benefit of all my knowledge and experience, and (bonus!) directs traffic to all my related articles.      

I learned to turn breaking news, trends, and even Facebook comment threads into evergreen articles. Evergreen means ever-relevant. An article about a mother drowning her five children is not evergreen.  An article about post-partum psychosis leading to infanticide is.  An article about mothers oppressed by religious dictates that trap them into traditional roles of women they resent is.  An article about mental health and treatment of post-natal psychotic women is. An article about how families cope with such a tragedy is. It's fun to take a current news headline and see how many evergreen related themes I can draw from it.  I've even turned Facebook comments into articles. To maintain my professional reputation and credibility, I fact check every word I publish online, including Facebook posts. It's a small step from posting an interesting factoid or bit of experience on Facebook, to expanding that information into an article, especially if the post falls into one of my niche categories.  Everything is article fodder!



(Two never fail manuscript polishing methods)

The two best ways to make a manuscript gleam are:

1.      Read your entire manuscript aloud. Overlook nothing. Title, subtitle, headings, signature blurb, tags, and links.  Stop and consider every word you read--if it's not clear enough, crystalize! If an awkward sentence construction distracts you, it will distract your reader.  Typos and misspellings scream carelessness, and diminish your credibility.  For example: When an expert writes a pro Second Amendment argument and submits it with the glaring mistake: 'the right to bare arms,' three things happen: 1) the reader envisions thousands of sleeves being pushed up; 2) the reader wonders if the writer ever read the Second Amendment; 3) the reader wonders if the writer is as careless with her weapons as she is with her manuscript. 

It all boils down to respect for your story and for your readers.  In a 500 word manuscript errors indicate inexcusable laziness. In a 70,000+ word book, frequent errors exhaust readers and force them to abandon your masterpiece and rightfully so. Why should the reader care enough to traipse through a mire of awkwardly constructed sentences, improper grammar, and aggravating typos when there are thousands of similar books and articles that are easier to read? Your story might be positively enthralling but if you don't care enough to clean it up, it may never be read.  Or even worse, if you self-publish shoddily edited material, it will get read and earn deservedly bad reviews as well as resentment from readers.  Why resentment? Because you insulted their intelligence by assuming they wouldn't notice that you didn't respect your story enough to make it gleam. 

2.      Get a second set of eyes.  Spellchecker is only a start; not nearly enough.  You need human eyes that recognize homonyms, misused words, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, sentences heavy with unnecessary prepositional phrases, and sentences that contain cliches instead of original thoughts.  So once you've gone over your manuscript in minute detail, hand it over to someone with decent spelling and writing skills--try a writer friend that you respect on Facebook, or perhaps even join a writer's workshop.  Tell your friend you need a second set of eyes on the manuscript; eyes belonging to someone with no qualms about circling every single imperfection.

When the manuscript comes back be grateful for all the circled errs that won't appear in your final draft.  Go over it one more time, then submit your gleaming manuscript with confidence and pride. 

A writing career is fraught with obstacles, and writers can always use a break.  Polishing a manuscript until it gleams is one you can give yourself. 

Related Materials:


Guide to Grammar and Writing


The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

The AP Style Book and Briefing on Media Law

The Yahoo Style Guide

The Gregg Reference Manual