Profile of Successful Prolific Writers

What do successful prolific writers look like?  Do they spend countless hours at their desks, laboring over their work?  Do they do nothing else with their lives but write?  They would have to, wouldn’t they?  No, not necessarily.   The Key:  Successful prolific writers utilize their time and creative energy to their fullest potential.  Consider the following strategies in order to become a prolific writer.

Time Management

Create a weekly writing schedule and keep it religiously.  For the new writer it might be a block of time on the weekend while maintaining a full-time job during the week.  For the part-time writer it might be two or three hours per day.  For the full-time writer six to eight hours a day. Whatever amount of time is set aside, two things are required for success:  no distractions and stick-to-it-ive-ness.  Always write during your scheduled writing time.

Think Time

Use the allotted writing time wisely, but also use non-writing time well for think time.  For example, at dinner discuss with family members the characters you are writing about.  While washing dishes envision a conflict you want to develop in the story.  During an evening walk plan the description of the community where your characters live.  Plan ahead what you are going to write.  Then during your scheduled writing time, the think time turns an empty computer screen into a viable working draft.  It helps you avoid writer’s block.

List of Ideas

Keep an ongoing list of ideas that strike you as possible writing topics.  Carry a small notebook with you at all times; put it on your nightstand at night.  You never know when an idea will strike.  Write down anything that seems interesting whether it fits the manuscript you are currently working on or not.  Many writers record in their notebooks not only topics but lines for poems, dialogue for characters, setting descriptions, etc.  You may even want to give your notebook a title. Robert Frost called his notebook “Wood Notes.”

Works in Progress

Work on more than one manuscript at a time. Why?  All drafts need a rest time–a period of time when the writer does not look at the draft before editing the final draft.  Set aside a draft for a day or two for short pieces, a week for longer manuscripts, a month or two for books.  Several works in process can also avoid wasted time.  If one story or poem isn’t working for you, switch to another manuscript that is.

Set Deadlines

Every writer has deadlines whether imposed by an editor or self-determined.  So, set strict deadlines that can be realistically met.  No lame excuses.  Writing is your occupation.  Fulfill your obligations.  Getting the first draft completed is the largest hurdle.  So, don’t procrastinate.  Be a professional.  Meet your deadlines.

Revise and Edit

First drafts are not finished pieces of work.  Several drafts of revising and editing must occur in order to achieve an excellent piece of work.  How?  Become part of a writer’s group.  Graciously receive their honest, constructive input.  Cut repetition and wordiness.  Make your word choice precise.  Show don’t tell. Avoid passive voice.  Use correct punctuation and grammar structures.

Submit Work

Find suitable publications for your work.  When you find a literary journal or magazine that you like, study the stories and poems previously accepted by the editors.  Follow submission guidelines meticulously.  If your work is rejected, find another market and send it out again.  A rejection letter doesn’t mean that your work isn’t any good. 

Finally, turn off the television, cell phone, and radio.  Spend less time on emails, Facebook, and pass-a-longs.  Quit surfing the Internet.  Instead open a new Word file and write.  Or grab a favorite pen and tablet and write. Write as much and as often as your schedule permits because becoming a successful prolific writer means you need to utilize your time and creative energy to your fullest potential.

Author’s Bio.: Linda Frances Lein is a writing instructor at Minnesota State University Moorhead. She has published four books: Mother to Mother: Letters about Being a Mom (1999), Country Reflections (2000), Hannah Kempfer: An Immigrant Girl (2002), and The Making of a Small Town: Carlisle, Minnesota (2008). From 1999-2003 she wrote a bimonthly column called “A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife” for AGRI-GUIDE. The stories were set on the Lein Farm and surrounding rural community where she lives. Linda is primarily a creative nonfiction writer, but she has had poems published in The Rambler and Red Weather as well, and she is currently working on two novels.

Writing a Manuscript for Radio Theatre

A writer at last fall’s LRWN conference said, “Finally, a place is actually soliciting submissions.  How refreshing.”

Since its beginnings, Lakes Area Theatre (LAT) has had a call out for script submissions.  Lakes Area Theatre produces a weekly radio theater show which is currently heard in the Alexandria, MN and Marshall, MN areas.  The shows represent all genres.  They are produced from a combination of old time radio scripts and scripts written by contemporary playwrights from throughout the United States.  You can learn more about submitting a script on the LAT website at www.lakesareatheatre.com/getinvolved.  The information outlines the royalty agreement as well.

Now the burning question is what makes up a good script?  Here are some of my pat answers.  A compelling/engaging/funny/you-add-your-adjective story or plot line with sub plots is necessary.  There will be conflict and resolution.  Character creation and development is crucial. They must be believable to the plot situation. The setting of a show is important.  What is the location and what is the date or time of year/day/hour?  Remember that the story is being written for the ear.  The script must be made up of picture words which help define the action and setting for the audience.  Dialogue is a very important aspect to consider when writing.  It must sound natural and authentic while suiting the character’s personality.  Using sound effects and/or music is vital to establishing the setting, action, or mood.  These are all elements of a good script.  You can do an Internet search on the subject and get the same feedback and more tips than can be covered in this blog.  There will be good sources for how to layout a radio theater script also.

The magic comes when all the components meld together.  When reading script submissions for the first time there are those that I just know will make great shows and others that will not.  The selection process is very subconscious.  It might be compared to seeing a well bred, sleek racehorse next to an old, swayback work horse.  You don’t need to know much about horse conformation to determine which horse is more likely to win a race.  You just instinctively know.

Read your script aloud before submitting it.  Find family or friends to act out the script and encourage their feedback.  Close your eyes and listen carefully as your story unfolds.  You can learn much by using this technique prior to editing.  Some contemporary story examples that LAT produced are on the website under Past Shows: 2012 – Jan. 22 How Love Came To Louie Polanski; 2011 – Oct. 23 The Good Death, July 17 The Further Adventures of Phoebe and Maude, June 17 First National Bank, April 17 Vince Washburn: New Age Detective, Feb. 20 Drummer’s Dome; 2010 – Dec. 26 The Further Adventures of Phoebe and Maude, Oct. 24 The Diary. Listen to them while keeping the above elements in mind.

If after submitting the script I feel some aspects need a boost, we will work on it to tighten up the story.  I look forward to any and all submissions to lakesareatheatre@gmail.com or Lakes Area Theatre, 2214 Geneva Road NE, Alexandria, MN  56308.

Ann Hermes holds a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism, a B.A. in Speech Rhetoric/Public Address, and an M.A. in Philanthropy and Development.  She has been a television reporter, TV anchorwoman, and a writer/producer of multi-media presentations.  She currently is the Artistic Director for Lakes Area Theatre producing weekly, half-hour radio theatre shows, which are broadcast on a local Alexandria, MN AM radio station.  She also operates her freelance business, Choice Voice, providing writing services for multi-media productions, voice acting, and on-camera acting services.

Open Book in Minneapolis

I am a lover of books, of words, of anything literary. I am proud to be a bibliophile, a lexicophile and a word nerd in general.  My personal library includes a shelf for my collection of old dictionaries. And as most book lovers tend to do, I try my hand at writing every now and then.

Because many readers of the Lake Region Writer’s Network blog share at least one of my passions, I want to tell you about a near perfect experience I had last week. I had occasion to visit the Open Book in Minneapolis. If you have not visited this enchanting place, do so as soon as you can. I know…it’s a long trip, the traffic is terrible once you get there, and it’s winter time, but it is worth it.

To begin with, Open Book houses three separate organizations that support the Literary Arts: The Loft Literary Center, The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Milkweed Press. All three are located in a series of renovated old warehouses. The minute you walk in the door, it feels like you have walked into that room we have all dreamed about having, you know the one, filled floor to ceiling with books, spiral staircase, lots of overstuffed chairs to lounge in, sunshine streaming in the windows, the smell of coffee mixed with old leather and ink.

On my visit I was fortunate to have Jocelyn Hale, executive director of The Loft, give me a tour. Our first stop was The Minnesota Center for Book Arts: http://www.mnbookarts.org .  MCBA is self proclaimed as, “The place to feed your curiosity, stretch your creativity and get your hands dirty! From the traditional crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding to non-traditional artmaking and self-publishing techniques employed by contemporary book artists, MCBA celebrates and supports the limitless creative evolution of the book arts.” In their gallery they had examples of the newest trends in book art. If you aren’t familiar with this art form, visit http://weburbanist.com/2011/03/07/literary-love-12-works-of-book-art-architecture/ and see the elegant, humorous, inspiring works of art made from books. MCBA provides workshops and materials for those interested in book arts. They also have a marvelous gift shop; bring your credit cards and gift lists.

If you are more interesting in writing, The Loft is the place for you:  https://www.loft.org/. Their long list of programs includes writing classes, both at The Loft and now online https://www.loft.org/online-classes. No more excuses that a class at The Loft is too far away, you can take a class at home in your pajamas if you want to. These online classes, by the way, are a direct result of feedback Jocelyn Hale heard from you at the 2010 LRWN Conference.  If you might have difficulty affording the cost of a class, I have more good news. You can apply for a $500 grant at the Lake Region Arts Council to cover the cost of the class and if applicable, related travel expenses. Give our office a call at 218-739-5780 or email us at lrac4@lracgrants.org we will give you more information.

Our last stop was at Milkweed Press,  one of the nation’s leading independent publishers, with a mission to identify, nurture and publish transformative literature, and build an engaged community around it: http://www.milkweed.org/. If you are interested in submitting work for publication or for any of their three literary/poetry prizes visit here http://www.milkweed.org/content/blogcategory/40/72/.

Again, if you are headed to the Cities this winter, treat yourself with a visit to any or all of the three Open Book organizations.  I will leave you with what Annie W. on Yelp* had to say about Open Book:

“I’ve heard a lot of great stuff about Open Book/MCBA for awhile but I was never motivated to check it out until recently. I found out that my future faculty advisor at MCAD was having his work shown there in conjunction to some other graphic design specific events and since nothing beats starting a fresh new school as the over enthused bordering on stalker student I decided to check it out…One star for parking and a bazillion more stars for how fantastic the space is. There’s a great coffee shop inside and a cute book store where you can find awesome handmade books, prints (awesome ones from Aesthetic Apparatus), and book making material. There seems to be a lot going on, definitely more than meets the eye. I think you can even rent out studio space, I’m not sure. This is the kind of place I can imagine myself holing up in during the winter cold, sucking up their wifi bandwith, and drinking endless amounts of hot coffee.”

Author’s Bio.:  Maxine Adams is the Executive Director of the Lake Region Arts Council (LRAC). She has had several poems and essays published in local reviews and enjoys reciting poetry aloud at venues such as the Evansville Arts Poetry Readings and local poetry events. She was also the originator of the LRAC 6 Word Short Story Contest.

Eighty-five and Writing

I always wanted to write. Eighty years ago I decided to be an author. I drove my family crazy as I walked around the house making up stories aloud. I became discouraged when my brother told me authors had to talk in rhyme. Later, I found I could do that too, but I didn’t tell anybody. I was a closet writer. I seldom shared anything I wrote, and it usually ended up with the kindling.

I began to share my talent in grade school and found it was great to make the other kids laugh. I had some serious thoughts, but they were reserved for me alone. I remember seeing my scrapbook of my funny poems in our school booth at the county fair beside the work of my classmates. No ribbons graced my hard work. The teacher said my writing was too messy. I was always told that neatness counted, but I couldn’t help spilling ink. In high school my favorite activity was the school paper, and I looked to a career in journalism. I see now that I wouldn’t have flourished as a journalist. I didn’t want to track down stories. I wanted to make my own. I found that was not as easy as it looked. I was good at beginnings and sometimes endings but didn’t do so well in between. Any ambition to become a famous author faded with maturity.

I taught school, married, raised four daughters, finished a degree in elementary education, taught again and raised another child–a son. Occasionally I wrote a poem for some special occasion or just to express myself to myself. Those were seldom shared and usually stuck away in my underwear drawer.

When I found myself back home with a small boy, I felt the need for distraction. I began to write again. I wrote stories about my children and other little tidbits but kept putting them away. I had no other idea of what to do with them. Eventually I tried some publishers. I sold a children’s story for eighteen dollars and a poem for ten. If only I could keep it up. I took a couple correspondence courses. I enjoyed them and found that writing for grown ups about children was easier than writing for children. I started to enter contests and got second and third prizes. I have a collection of ribbons from the North Dakota State Fair Writing Contest. My husband would smile and say little. I think he would have liked it better if I had won a prize for making lefse.

Since my drawer was getting full and my attempts at finding an editor who appreciated my talents were futile, I decided to self publish. That was not a wise financial decision, but it was fun and people loved The Crazy Quilt, a pocket-sized book of short stories and poems. They sold well for a while, and I became too optimistic and ordered more. Twenty-nine years later, I still have boxes of books I have to give away.

I was no longer a closet writer but still felt like a silly, little girl trying to show off. I wrote scripts for the local centennial pageant and the local celebration of out State Centennial. I collected stories from local people and put together a book called, Your Neighbor’s Story also for the Centennial year. Later I was “grost writer” for the memoirs of our local veterinarian and actually got paid for it. I started to feel more secure. I tried writing a sort novel. Nobody wanted it. I had heard of publish on demand, but I didn’t know how to go about it until my daughter heard of Lulu.com. They promised to print as many books as I wanted. My daughter, not quite realizing the magnitude of the job, took on the preparation of the first book which I called A Little Lunch and More. Peddling it was not easy, but it was well recieved by the fortunate few who bought it, and the chosen few who received it as gifts. My grandchildren willl never have hand-made afghans or quilts made by Grandma. They had to settle for story books.

After completing the collection of more stories and poems, we decided to publish my short novel. Again my daughter typed and formatted until The Ninth Year was ready to print. The heroine of the story was going to country school, repeating eighth grade in 1939. Her teacher was a pretty nineteen year old, who looked so young she was mistaken for the eighth grader. To make matters worse, she was dating the young man Sally has a secret crush on. It’s a gentle story and brings back memories to my peers. I have to admit that, although the readers like it, it hasn’t been flying off the bookshelves. ( I’ll add that it is still available for anyone is interested.)

I still dream of being a writer when I grow up. Sometimes I am still the little girl in country school or the teenager with a secret crush, and I want to share that little girl and her life before those days are forgotten. Whether I publish or not, I will do it.

Author’s Bio.: Guest writer Ruth Tweed joined “The Writer’s Circle” taught by Pat Spilseth of Wayzata. She is a member online via Skype. She says, “It’s fun for an old lady.”

Getting Your Poems to Readers: A Few Tips

There is no magic bullet for getting your poems published. That’s the cold hard truth. But there are things you can do to make it happen. Here’s a list:

  1. Consider your poems with an objective eye. Think critically about your work. You will only get published in places where your work is a nice match with the publication’s project. So knowing what kinds of poems you are writing is important.
  2. Know the journals you want to submit to. Fortunately, many journals now have Web presences so that means you can do research online. Read the sorts of poems the journals are publishing. Do yours fit in that company? Purchase sample copies if you can. Sample copies of most journals will cost you $10 or less. It’s worth it! For one thing, you can really get a feel for the journal; and for another, you expose yourself to many other writers and what they’re up to. Unfortunately, public libraries carry few if any literary journals and most bookstores, especially the big box stores carry few journals, and if they do, they carry the big names, The Paris Review or Poetry. These are not likely to be the places you’ll be sending your poems. So depend on the Web!
  3. Read the journal’s submission guidelines carefully. Many editors write a few sentences that capture their tastes and interests. Take them seriously. Then follow all the guidelines to the letter. Many journals receive thousands if not tens of thousands of submissions every year. Whatever they can do to trim that number, they will. So if they ask for 3-5 poems and you send 8, your poems may not even get a glance.
  4. Many journals are turning to online submissions, but some still require paper submissions. If you send to one of these, send clean, legible poems. Do not use clever type fonts. 12-point Times New Roman is as clean and legible as it gets. Put only one poem per page, and include your name/address/phone number/email address on every poem. If a poem runs to two or more pages, be sure to indicate, at the top, whether the continued text follows a line break or not—simply put in parenthesis (line break) or (no line break). That way, if your poem is accepted, it will be laid out on the page as you intend it to be.
  5. Use the online submission manager! These are easy to use. Be sure to follow the directions, especially concerning how to save the document (Word or .rtf) and whether to put all your poems in one document or whether to submit them separately. Submission managers require a password, so use the same password for all submissions—it’s easier to remember.
  6. Pay attention to the journal’s reading period. Some journals don’t read during the summer; others only read from November to December. If you submit during the down-time, you’ll have wasted paper and postage. Most journals with online submission managers simply shut down the program, but it’s best to be aware of the reading period in any case.
  7. Some poets submit the same poem to several journals at a time. Many journals allow simultaneous submissions, but some do not, so be sure and pay attention to this in the guidelines. If you do submit simultaneously, and a poem gets accepted, you must immediately notify the other journals where you’ve submitted the poem. This is common enough that editors of journals do not take it amiss if you must pull a poem—in fact, they are likely to cheer for you.
  8. Keep accurate records. You want to know just what poems are out in the world and where. Keep track of when you sent a submission, and then keep track of when a response came back. You don’t want to send a poem more than once to a journal; and it’s nice to know which editors respond quickly. If you receive a rejection, but the editor suggests that you send more, keep track of this too. When you send new material, be sure and let the editor know that she requested more work. Editors are not likely to remember you so little reminders are good.
  9. Here’s a great website that you can use to track your submissions and to learn about journals that are looking for work: www.duotrope.com. This fabulous site allows you to search journals, and it provides detailed information about journals’ acceptance/rejection rates, time to responses, and more.
  10. Be strong. You’ll receive many rejections. Of course, some poems may never get published and some probably should not ever get published, but if you are confident about the strength of a poem, send it out again. Don’t give up. Send it again. Many poets send a poem to ten journals (or more) before it is accepted. Be persistent.
  11. Revise and revise again. This goes without saying.
  12. Keep writing! Keep reading! By writing more and reading more, your own work will improve—and that, finally is what we really want. Better poems that find eager and grateful readers!

Athena Kildegaard writes poetry mostly, but she has also written short stories, scripts for television, columns, and nonfiction. She has two books of poems, Rare Momentum and Bodies of Light, both from Red Dragonfly Press. Her poems appear widely in literary journals and anthologies. She has received grants from the Lake Region Arts Council and from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She is a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, Morris.  Athena is currently serving as the LRWN Treasurer.