Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to write more productively - by writing slower


Trying to figure out how to write faster?  Maybe you need to slow down.

I know, I know... that probably feels like the exact OPPOSITE of the advice you're looking for.

But maybe you've heard about the SLOW trend?
It's epitomized by the Slow Food movement, but in general it's a trend towards handmade, artisanal, more authentic living.

Last week, I sent out an email to friends on my list (join me by signing up at the bottom of this post!) with a call for YOU to tell me your biggest writing challenges. 

One writer wrote back that he struggles with writing regularly.  Not that he can't get what he calls his “butt in the chair,” but that he senses that writing at the computer is not as efficient as it's cracked up to be.  On the other hand, he said, any other approach (I guess this means writing by hand, but perhaps also dictation), means writing twice as much as necessary.

I can relate.  But still - I want to address two things:

  1. Yes, the computer is not terribly efficient unless you're one of these super-disciplined people who shuts down every background app, turns off your phone, maybe blasts some music, and writes non-stop for a timed session.  If you do, kudos to you.  Most of us can't do that.
  2. Writing by hand doesn't HAVE to be inefficient.

That’s what I want to talk about in this post.  How despite my love for writing on the computer – which I’m doing this second as I craft this post - I have also discovered the joy of writing by hand. 

Don’t worry, I won’t try to turn you into a luddite who shuns computers altogether (like I said, here I am!), but I do want you to start thinking of your hand as yet another writing tool, one which can help you write better and even (gasp!) more productively.

Hand writing as a discipline

Here’s how I was sold on the value of hand writing.

I haven't really mentioned here, but I'm 8/11ths of the way through a master's degree in Writing and New Media which I started in 2016 (yay, me!) and as part of that, I had to do a course in "developmental writing."  That means therapeutic writing, writing for personal development, writing as therapy, whatever you want to call it.

To pass that course, I had to take on a 3x/weekly practice of writing by hand for 20-minute sessions with a candle, a timer, and a playlist of baroque cello music by Yo Yo Ma. 

I wish I was joking.

You have to understand how hard this was for me.  I type somewhere between

Sunday, October 8, 2017

How to create home-run stories with a perfect pitch sentence


I’ve talked before about the importance of the “pitch.”  This is a single sentence you can haul out whenever anyone asks you to describe your book.  Here, I’m going to give you my secret “formula” for creating awesome and compelling pitch sentences.

But first – why do you need a pitch?

  • For talking to agents or editors, if you ever get a face-to-face meeting
  • For including in your cover letter
  • For chatting with friends and other children’s writers
  • For writing your back-cover synopsis if you’re self-publishing

Most importantly, though, the pitch helps YOU. 

If you can’t sum up your picture book in a single sentence, you’re either trying to cram too much into your story, or you don’t have a clear enough idea what it’s about.

So here’s my secret formula – and it’s actually