The Best Thing a Writer Can Do…

My to-read pile.
My to-read pile.

…is read.

But.

As most of you who read this blog regularly know, I am on month 19 of my concussion. And while I have been doing better lately, reading has been one of the things that still results in a screaming migraine, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I tend to read at night and after spending a day on the computer writing, I’m usually already on the verge of a headache.
  2. The lighting in my room isn’t great, and my eyes get tired quickly.
  3. I’m really bad at stopping. Standard operating procedure for concussion migraines is recognizing when you’re pushing yourself too far, and stopping immediately. But when it comes to books, I “just one more chapter” myself way beyond my comfort zone, and right into migraine town.  Worse, the more often I do it, the better chance I have of setting my concussion recovery back – and there’s no way I’m going back to round-the-clock migraines and not being allowed on the computer.
But last week I was knocked down with a stomach flu, and once I was well enough to sit up, I decided to dive into some of the new books I’d just bought (you’d think not being able to read would stop me from buying books, but, yeah, no).
I read two books last week. After 19 months of nothing, it was the most amazing thing ever.
Almost all the writing advice I’ve ever read includes the phrase: read, read, read. And I’ve never doubted it. Obviously the way to learn story craft, tropes (overdone and expected), and general structure is by reading the kinds of books you want to write. Seeing what works and what doesn’t. Seeing what’s been done.
But what I didn’t expect was how much reading was going to inspire me to write. Those books lit a fire in my brain. Books stretch my imagination in ways that tv doesn’t, and after just two books, my head was swimming with new story ideas.
Now that I’m (pretty much) recovered from the flu, I have to figure out how to squeeze reading into my daily life again – without triggering migraines and setting back my concussion.
Maybe it means setting an alarm, and sticking to it. Maybe it means investing in better book lights. Maybe it means trying to squeeze some reading in during daylight hours. But some way or another, I need to find a way to read again. My writing depends on it.
What about you? Ever had to go on a reading hiatus? Have you noticed how reading affects your writing? Let me know in the comments.
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Why I Love Deadlines

 

IMG_0761Since the end of Christmas break, I have been working on revising my YA Contemporary. It’s a story I love, and believe in, and (so far, at least) has received mostly positive feedback from my crit group.

And yet, as the days turn into weeks, I’m finding it harder and harder to sit down and work on it.

There are lots of little stumbling blocks in my way: mild health issues, insomnia, and the not-so-little fact that my MC’s personal struggles mirror some of my own, making the novel emotionally taxing at times.

But none of these problems are going away any time soon.

And then there’s the lack of a deadline…

The way my online crit group works, it’s going to be several months before I finish getting this story critiqued. So long as I stay a chapter ahead of what’s up for crit, I’m good. And knowing that is wrecking my concentration.

You see, I actually love deadlines. I work really well knowing there’s a ticking clock in the background. It forces me to focus, plan my time, and (perhaps most importantly) not fritter away writing time on things like social media.

I did FUN WITH FROSTING in about 60 work days. That was a crazy tight deadline, but it really made me buckle down and focus.

When Bri asks for a revision, she almost never gives me a deadline – but I’ve learned to establish my own. Having a end date to strive for makes me work harder and smarter (plus a bonus of making my own deadlines, is not having anyone to complain when I miss them – my last revision to Bri came in 2 weeks later than I’d hoped, thanks to those above-mentioned health issues and insomnia).

So, I’ve decided to set my own deadline, and do my absolute best to enforce it. Even better, I’m going to post it here, so you can all help incentivize me to meet the goal. Here we go:

February 12th

the day before I leave on vacation, is my self-set deadline for getting this revision pass done. It’s a perfect date – not only is it a reasonable amount of time to finish this pass, it makes sense for scheduling, since once I come back from vacation, I’m going to have to enter full-n marketing mode (don’t worry, I won’t be spamming you guys with messages to buy my book, but I will be spending a lot of time researching blogs to request guest posts on, writing press releases, and setting up book signings) for FUN WITH FROSTING’s release.

I’ll check back in on the 11th and let you all know how I did.

What about you? Do you work better under pressure or get paralyzed by stress? Have a deadline you’d like to share as incentive? Tell me in the comments.

Writer @k_callard talks deadlines on her blog. http://wp.me/p4iSYz-fo (Click to tweet)

Do you work better under pressure, or get paralyzed by deadlines? @k_callard wants to know. http://wp.me/p4iSYz-fo (Click to tweet)

Author Swag

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Last weekend, I did my first-ever author event. Sort-of. I mean, I still don’t have a book out, so it wasn’t a signing or book launch, or any of those other events that I’m eagerly looking forward to. But I *did* run the cupcake table at Ottawa’s 2nd Annual Princess Party for CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), including providing 200 cupcakes for the princesses to frost and decorate.

Since the book isn’t out yet, I needed a way to advertise. I decided on two pieces of swag: an apron with my book cover on the front (bonus: it kept my lovely princess dress from getting dirty, and I can reuse it for any future cake book events) and postcards (pictured above), which I handed out to each family.

Because I came up with the postcard idea a bit late, I only had one day to design them in order to ensure they arrived before the event (although it turned out they came in two days, which was just amazing – Yay, Vistaprint!) Also, the company had a sale on at the time, which made my order pretty affordable (even though I got sweet-talked into buying more than I’d originally planned – I’ll let you know how that works out once I start actually doing events.)

For me, the most important parts of the postcard were:

  • The Book Cover – this is my product after all, and it’s a pretty cute cover (if I do say so myself), plus the sub title tells you exactly what the book is about. I wanted this to be big, taking up at least the half the postcard.
  • My Name – as a writer, my name is my brand. Books may come and go, but my name is going to stay the same (well, unless I suddenly decide on a massive genre-switch and start using a pen name). I made sure to get it on there twice: once on the book cover, and once over the QR code.
  • A Reason to Look at/Keep the Postcard – after all, what’s the point in handing them out if people don’t look at them? For this I decided on a QR code that links to the Cakey Goodness page on this blog, where I display bonus recipes and designs, cake book outtakes, and any other random cakey goodness I can come up with.

Overall, I think the postcards turned out great. I will admit to one little oops, though (after all the point of this blog is to share my mistakes with you guys so you don’t repeat them). Aside from the QR code, I forgot to provide a link to my blog/facebook/twitter. Groan. Rookie mistake. However, I plan to print out some labels with the info and add them to the otherwise blank back of the postcard before my next event, so would-be readers with a QR scanner will still have access to my info.

And there you have it, my first excursion into author swag. What about you? What’s your favourite kind of author swag (as a writer or a reader)? Let me know in the comments.

Writer @k_callard talks author swag over on her blog this week. http://wp.me/p4iSYz-f9 (Click to tweet)

Writers, what’s your favorite way to advertise? @k_callard wants to know. http://wp.me/p4iSYz-f9 (Click to tweet)

 

Website Makeover

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As those of you who have been following the blog for a while may have noticed, I recently gave the site a makeover. Most of the changes came about as a direct result of the Social Media Critique I got at the CANSCAIP Conference.

I thought I’d walk you through the why of some my new additions to help those of you out there who don’t have access to your own Social Media Critiques.

Some of these might be a little tricky to visualize, since I didn’t take a screen shot of my “before” blog, but I’ll do my best to explain, and you can always post any questions you have in the comments.

The Layout: when you arrived on my old blog, all you could see was my name, a photo of my cake monsters, the menu, and the blog’s title (Journey of a Children’s Writer) on a whole whack of white space. You had to scroll down to see the posts themselves (and keep scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling to read any of them).

The Fix: I switched to a new template with less white space at the top, added my book cover as my logo (once I was allowed to post it), and switched to a home page that lists and links to all my posts – this is especially important, as I can now tell which/how many posts readers are checking out. Under the old scroll-down system I had no idea if people were reading one post or ten.

About Me: As a writer, I am my brand. The old blog did list my name at the top, but you had to click through to the About Me page in order to find out anything, well, about me. (Side note to writers out there: my pet peeve is landing on a writing blog and not knowing who it belongs to; your name -at the very least- should appear on every page of your blog!)

The Fix: I added an “About Me” widget to top of the side panel, so now my photo and a small bio show up on every page of the blog. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy having to set up yet another account to do this, (so if anyone knows a way to do this with less fuss, let me know in the comments) but so far it hasn’t had any downsides other than a bit of junk mail and another password to remember.

The Blog’s Purpose: My social media critiquers wanted me to clarify: my blog post titles and photos are usually cake-related, while the content is about writing, potentially leading to confusion.

The Fix: I’ve done away with my catchy post titles, replacing them with more straightforward descriptions of the (writing-related) content. As well, I’m trying to remember to add a description to my Publicize tweets (rather than just the post title). I categorized all existing posts (Writing Advice, Marketing, Query Letters, etc), and added a list down the side for easier topic-searching. And I added a new Cakey Goodness page for those that do arrive looking for cake-related fun. But I’m not ready to stop posting cake photos just yet…

Lack of Info on Other Pages: I know, I know, my old FAQ page was pretty sad. I always meant to add to it, but never did. All it really did was take up space, and tell you how to pronounce my name.

The Fix: More FAQs, a better About Me page, a new Cakey Goodness page, and (most exciting for me) a new Books page (complete with pre-order links- squee!) The point? Don’t have pages that aren’t worth going to . Your readers won’t thank you for it, and they might even hold it against you.

Those are the biggest changes to the blog. What do you think, were they for the better? Let me know in the comments.

Writer @k_callard explains her blog’s makeover, including tips to make yours more user-friendly. http://wp.me/p4iSYz-fd (Click to tweet)