Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do You Write Different on Paper Than on Screen?

In just a little more than a decade, digital has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives, including writing. This blog is, of course, proof of that, though there are also online publications, social media sites, and more. In fact, many writers now don't even write on paper; they type on a screen. Personally, I do both.

For my fiction and poetry, I tend to write almost exclusively on paper. I don't know if it's just out of habit or if I actually feel more focused (or liberated) that way. However, pen to paper is how I roll when I'm stumbling through a sestina or short story.

My nonfiction is totally opposite. From blogging to crafting newsletters and articles, I tend to write and edit my nonfiction completely on the screen. I might jot an idea or two down on paper--or make an outline for longer works--but most of it is done without ever picking up a pen.

I don't know if this can be explained as a left brain/right brain activity. I have to use the same creative thought process for nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Of course, there's a difference between making line breaks and sharing 11 Tips for Writers to Find Success. So maybe there's something about the brain function. Or maybe it's just some kind of psychological kink I have. What do you think?

Do you write different on paper than on screen?

If you do (or even if you don't), share your thoughts below in the comments. Who knows? Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this way.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Happens When Thanksgiving Plans Are Blown Up

Some of you may have noticed a slight decrease in posting the past few days. That's about the only thing that's gone according to plan for me this week of the turkey.

Getting a Christmas tree was about all that went to plan this week.

Now, don't get me wrong. I had an excellent week filled with food, family, and tradition. However, most everything happened in a different way than I expected.

The Original Plan
  • Thursday (11/17): Drive up to Ohio, possibly stop in at the new Cincy office, and stay the night at my grandfather's house.
  • Friday (11/18): Go in to work at new Cincy office before having off-site meeting. Then, pick up my Ohio boys (Ben and Jonah) to head down to Georgia.
  • Saturday (11/19): Have fun!
  • Sunday (11/20): Go to church before Foster family Thanksgiving (done in advance).
  • Monday (11/21): PTO day. Have fun!
  • Tuesday (11/22): Pack for trip to Ohio for Brewer family Thanksgiving.
  • Wednesday (11/23): Hit road for Ohio in early morning hours. When in Ohio, get groceries for Thanksgiving.
  • Thursday (11/24): Brewer family Thanksgiving extravaganza!
  • Friday (11/25): Visit National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Saturday (11/26): Take Ben and Jonah to their home before joining my brothers to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game, then head back to Georgia with Tammy, Reese, Will, and Hannah.
  • Sunday (11/27): Go to church and get a Christmas tree to decorate.
What Happened...
The first change in schedule was actually a nice surprise. The Friday meeting was cancelled, which did a few things. First, it allowed me to get more actual work done before taking my PTO. Second, it allowed Ben and Jonah time to attend their cousins' (Noah and Preston) birthday party on Saturday afternoon while I drove up from Georgia during the day. Third, it gave Ben and Jonah a little extra time to fully recover from a stomach bug they suffered through earlier in the week. Win-win-win!

The one downside of this change is that we didn't make it in until very early on Sunday morning, so we were too exhausted to make it into church on that morning. That was a bummer, but we still made it to the Foster family Thanksgiving at my father-in-law's house. Great food and times! Plus, my mother-in-law offered to take Ben, Jonah, and Reese out (with their cousin Sean) to watch a movie, which helped open up time for me to pack for Ohio. Score!

The only thing that I thought could go wrong is that my brother Simon, the storm chaser, might not make it in time. He has a big heart, but he's not the most reliable person, especially when it comes to dealing with time. He's always at least a day later than he says. He agreed to help us get everyone up to Ohio without Tammy and I having to use both our cars, so I gave him a call on Sunday, and he said he'd be over on Monday or Tuesday. Good enough.

My brother Simon, the storm chaser, has a big heart...and axes.

On Monday, the boys and I had fun playing board games and such. We even got out to Chick-Fil-A so the boys could eat some nuggets and fries and run themselves ragged on the indoor playground. On Tuesday, we did some of the same. Plus, the older boys got out with their grandma and cousin to watch Puss in Boots.

Also on Tuesday, I called Simon in the morning to just ask when he thought he might be heading over. After all, the plan was to leave at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning. He said he wasn't sure, but he was just going to help hang some Christmas lights and be over. Around 5 p.m., I was getting a little anxious (because it's a 4-hour drive), so I just called to check on him. "Taking a shower, then hitting the road. Don't worry." Around 8 p.m.--worried--I call again. "I'm packing up my car. Then, I'll be on my way." So yeah, like 9 p.m., he finally gives me a call that he's leaving. Sigh.

As needlessly frustrating as that situation turned out to be, I started to relax some. Simon wasn't going to make it over until Wednesday, but at least it would be before 5 a.m. That meant we'd at least be able to get up to Ohio at a decent time to do all our Thanksgiving grocery shopping. Everything from here on out would go according to plan, right?

Not So Fast...
Between 9 p.m. (when Simon left the Knoxville area) and 1 a.m. (when Simon arrived in the ATL area), Will puked not once but twice. Then, he puked again between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and Reese puked a few times for good measure. Apparently, the stomach bug Ben and Jonah had survived in Ohio struck in Georgia.

Tammy and I were forced to make a hard decision to send Simon up to Ohio by himself. Boy, did I feel bad about get frustrated with him about not showing up at a decent time only to make him drive down to Georgia for nothing. Plus, we were going to miss out on the first big Brewer family get together in a few years (one that I put some effort into helping organize too). Oh well, these things happen.

The bug passed quickly in both Will and Reese, and we had a great day on Wednesday despite it all. Plus, we got way too much food for our big Thanksgiving feast. It would still be a Brewer Thanksgiving--just a smaller sample size.

Tammy and I worked together to cook a ham, make fried taters, a Jello-strawberry-cream cheese-pretzel "salad," corn pudding, sweet potatoes (with marshmallows), stuffing, pie, and more by exactly noon. We all gathered around two tables slid together, held hands and prayed. Then, we all started eating until our bellies were beyond full.

Takes more than a stomach bug to keep us down on Thanksgiving!

After a little cleaning and lounging, we got out to a park before heading over to Tammy's mom's house (like me, her parents are divorced and re-married) for a Thanksgiving get together. From her mom's house, we continued our annual tradition of watching the tree lighting in the Lawrenceville square. Then, we booked it home in time for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Life was great.

For the bedtime movie, Tammy and I decided to let the boys watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Sure, it's rated R, but that's really only for one specific scene, and it's not like they don't all already know that word. The boys loved the movie (a rare Thanksgiving movie), but they all fell asleep before the end, which was a good thing, because...

As The Movie Ended...
Tammy let me know that she now had the stomach bug the boys all carried. Then, we discovered that Hannah--without fussing at all--had puked too. Suddenly, it was almost midnight on Thanksgiving, and I was the only one to not experience this stomach bug. I felt like a marked man and was sure my time would come soon enough. Around 4 a.m. on Friday morning, it did.

Tammy and I suffered a great deal with this stomach bug on Friday. Kids seem to churn through these things in hours; parents work in days. Tammy and I could barely do anything all day, so with four boys and a baby girl in the house that surely spelled disaster, right? Surprisingly, no.

I'd have to say that Friday (11/25/11) will always be one of the days that I feel most proud of my boys. When I had trouble getting out of bed, they said they understood. If I heard one of them start to argue, I could hear the others start to make peace (instead of the usual fights). When it became obvious we wouldn't be able to get out and cut down a Christmas tree like we planned, none of them complained and said they understood. There were a ton of "I love you, Dad"s and they even asked if I needed anything throughout the day. I felt so bad that I was sick on Ben and Jonah's last day in Georgia, but I was also so proud of them. They really rose to the occasion.

Then Saturday...
I woke up early and hit the road with Ben and Jonah. We made great time up to Ohio. I dropped them off with their mom and headed back to Georgia. Since I was popping ibuprofen and Imodium AD, nothing too dramatic happened during the trip--and I actually made record time for me (only 18 hours!).

On Sunday...
We finally did something according to the Original Plan. We went to church and got a Christmas tree to decorate. Then, we decorated the tree while watching Christmas movies and shows we own on DVD. And so ends another Thanksgiving week.

I know I already had a thankful post this week, but I just want to really emphasize how lucky, blessed, and thankful I feel every day to have such an amazing wife, incredible boys (all four of them), and precious little girl (Hannah). Even when our plans are blown to smithereens, we find ways to make the most of what we got, and that's truly wonderful to experience.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Post

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have so much for which to be thankful. I have an amazing wife who makes sure I don't forget to eat. I have five great kids who get along good--most of the time. Plus, I have my health, which is something that's very important too.

I'm also thankful for all my blog readers (old and new--both here and on Poetic Asides). While I often get a shout out for this post or that post, each and every comment helps propel me forward in trying to do bigger and better things. Thank you for that!

In December, I'll share some plans I have for 2012 on this blog. I still expect to cover many of the same topics but with an even clearer focus than in 2011. In the meantime, please think about the things and people for which you're most thankful--and in the case of people, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Online Poetry of Robert Lee Brewer

I have quite a few poems loitering around the Internet, including a brand new one as part of an Escape Into Life feature for Poems of Thanks and Praise along with poets Susan Rich, Richard Jones, and Maureen E. Doallas. Click here to check it out.

Robert Lee Brewer reading at B&N in Webster, TX.

Here's a listing of some other Robert Lee Brewer poetry online:
And, of course, you can check out hundreds of first drafts on my Poetic Asides blog.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do You Treat Writing as a Chore?

Since I get out to a lot of events and happenings throughout the year and receive a lot of e-mail messages from writers as an editor for the Writer's Digest Writing Community, I'm able to hear a lot more about writer goals and needs than the average person. It can be really inspirational at times. Other times, I'm left scratching my head.

For instance, one thing I often hear from writers is that writing almost isn't worth it. When I listen to them, they make writing sound like something on par with washing the dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning the house. I don't know what to tell writers like these.

For me, writing is an excuse to avoid washing the dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning the house. Writing is something that I don't only consider not a chore, it's a privilege that I'm thankful to do every single day.

Do you treat writing as a chore?

If you do, maybe one of these is happening:
  • You've fallen into a rut with your writing. Maybe the act of writing has become too routine. You always do it in the same place or same time of day. If this is the case, shake things up by writing somewhere unique or in the evening instead of the morning.
  • You expect too much from your writing. Sometimes I think a lot of writers find themselves in this situation. You fell for writing, got married to the idea of writing, and then, started putting all  manner of demands on the writing: that it get published, that it make you lots of money, that it be read and respected by everyone. Listen: There's still time for that, but don't heap that kind of pressure on your writing. It's bad for the relationship.
  • You want your writing to be something it's not. Maybe your writing isn't Harry Potter or the Twilight series of books. Maybe your writing is technical or investigative journalism. Maybe it's not funny, but thought provoking instead. Don't try to force your writing to be something it's not. Ask your writing (or writing group) what its strengths are and then let your voice shine through by letting your writing be itself.
So again, do you treat writing as a chore? Or is it something that you absolutely adore? Is the relationship broken? Or can it be fixed? Let me know.


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Monday, November 21, 2011

Advice for Writers: 011

Here's the best advice for writers I could find online this week:

How to Inspire a Rock-Solid Following, by Alex Mathers. This is a great post for writers who are trying to inspire folks to follow them: Focus less on yourself and more on your message.

Too Many Facebook Friends: Blessing or Curse?, by Jane Friedman. As Jane gets closer to the 5,000-friend limit, she's begun wondering if it's a good thing, a bad thing, or completely without meaning. As someone who's been at the 5,000-friend limit for years, I personally feel it's a mixed bag.

Time vs. Talent -- The Battle Rages On, by Julianna Baggott. The argument of whether writers need time or talent continues on Baggott's blog. Personally, I think talent is part of the equation, but the majority of success comes from time (in other words, hard work and attention to the craft).

Guest Post, by Stephen Leather. On JA Konrath's blog, Leather talks about taking a step back from self-publishing after selling close to half a million ebooks over the course of the past year. Amazon Encore will be taking over the business side of the equation so that Leather can focus on the writing.

14 Subtle Signs Your OBGYN Might Not Make a Good Critique Partner, by Jan O'Hara. I just love the title of this blog post.


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Road Trip

I officially started a week-long vacation last night for the Thanksgiving holiday week. This morning, I'm up early and getting ready to hit the road. Of course, I'm also stalling a little too. Soooo... before I hit the road, I thought I'd share some good travel music.

On the Road Again, by Willie Nelson. Too obvious? Impossible on a road trip.

She's a Lady, by Tom Jones. Good road music has to be upbeat and energetic and remind one of home. This song always reminds me of Tammy.

Tennessee River, by Alabama. This is a Brewer family staple on the road and even more so on a trip that will actually take me over the Tennessee River.

Suspicious Minds, by Elvis Presley. This is a great upbeat song that coincidentally is the prompt for today's 2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge on my Poetic Asides blog.

Evacuate the Dancefloor, by Cascada. It's energetic pop songs like these that keep me awake and focused on the road when it gets close (and beyond) the witching hour.

Anyway, this is my brief list of travel music. Do you have any road songs you typically play on trips?


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top 10 Search Keywords for MNINB

Maybe it's because I'm a poet, but I think navel gazing can be fun from time to time. Recently, I decided to look at some of the Blogger stats for this My Name Is Not Bob blog, and I ran across the stats for the top keyword terms that send folks to this blog. Some of the rankings were expected, others not so much. Want to see?

    Let's take a closer look.
  1. Robert Lee Brewer. Actually, I would've been very surprised if this weren't the case. I mean, my name is in the URL for this blog--and every individual blog post. Plus, knowing that Robert Brewer is not one of the Top 10 results, this confirms that I've made a sound SEO decision by including my middle name in my byline.
  2. My Name Is Not Bob. Again, not surprised by this result. In fact, I'm very satisfied that this is the number two keyword. Next...
  3. Twin Towers. Say what?!? Yes, the "twin towers" are a popular search result on this blog, which is sort of funny, because I've only had one post on the topic (click here to read). However, that one post is usually in the Top 5 of page views daily.
  4. Best Blogs to Follow. I confess this was a very surprising result. That said, I couldn't be happier to learn that this is a top 5 search keyword.
  5. Brenna Jo Thomas. Many folks may have no idea who Brenna Jo Thomas was. She was my cousin, and I only wrote one post for her, but it was an important one. Click here to read.
  6. Best Christmas Albums. Another surprising result, but I'm honored that people find this blog when they're searching for the best Christmas albums. Here's my list.
  7. Best Meat Loaf Ever. Yes, even a recipe shows up in my Top 10. If you're interested in my favorite meat loaf, click here.
  8. Best Blogs to Follow 2011. Probably because of expert coverage of 9/11 and recipes, my blog is apparently one of the best to follow. Speaking of which...
  9. Twin Towers 9 11. I feel kind of guilty for receiving so much traffic for 9/11, especially since my story is on the periphery. No heroism or personal tragedy, just a new father worried about what might happen next.
  10. Great Blogs to Follow. Very, very cool way to finish off this Top 10 list.
Note: These are the cold, hard statistics. I didn't alter or modify this list, which may be hard to believe since best blogs and great blogs to follow came up three times. I know, I'm as surprised as you.

Lessons Learned
I guess the one key takeaway is that about the only thing you can truly control in search is your name. Robert Lee Brewer and My Name Is Not Bob were the top two search results, and that's what I'd prefer. After that, it gets a little crazy.

If I were to define the My Name Is Not Bob blog, I might say it's one of the best blogs to follow, but I wouldn't mention Twin Towers, Best Christmas Albums, or Meat Loaf (as yummy as that meat loaf may be). I'd probably say something about writing, publishing, and living.

Funny enough, the Twin Towers and Brenna Jo Thomas posts are in line with sharing life experiences, so maybe I'm doing a good job of sharing the living on MNINB. Or maybe I'm just lucky with how I titled those posts and the popularity of those topics.

Anyway, this process of self-analysis was fun for me. Hopefully, it wasn't completely boring for you (or I may find a new search term popping up: Worst Blogs to Follow 2011).


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Confession of a Man With a Moustache

I'm now more than two weeks in on my first ever moustache. Let me tell you something: I've never been a fan of the moustache. So there.

Day 15 is the turning point in more ways than one.

It's kind of weird, because I've tried about every look there is, including rat tail, mohawk, shaggy, bowl, high and tight, dyed (blue, red, black), etc. However, the moustache is right up there with the mullet in fashions I swore I'd never try. So, kids, never say never.

I am on Day 16, but instead of counting up, I find myself counting down: Two weeks until I can shave it off.

Here's the thing: I love growing beards. However, when I look at the site for Novembeard, it just looks like a bunch of random guys taking pics of themselves. (Not at all like what I'm doing here.) There doesn't appear to be any purpose behind the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Movember has a cause: Supporting Prostate Cancer And Other Male Cancer Iniatives. More than just a reason to grow a moustache, Movember is about trying to get men to take their health seriously--and I'm not talking exercise, but getting annual check-ups (something even this guy needs to do better).

I prefer beards, but even I realize that sometimes the cause is more important than my own preferences in facial hair. If you believe in male health, I encourage you to show your support by rating my page and leaving a message.

Click here to support my page.

Plus, anyone who donates $20 or more to my effort will be entered for a chance to win a care package that includes both my poetry chapbooks and more. Click here to learn more about that offer.

Meanwhile, support your fellow men and their health--whether they have a moustache or not.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Do You Write?

There are a million specific reasons why someone might start writing. It could be in response to a natural event or for the fame and glory of being a writer. While I always relate that I started writing poetry in an attempt to woo a girl, even before that I always loved writing, and it didn't matter if I was writing letters or numbers. In fact, I fell for statistics before poetry.

That's how I started, and now I stop every so often and ask myself why do I continue writing (and I encourage you to do the same). What's the point?

Every answer I give is always subject to change (that's just how I roll), but my current reason for writing is simple (and, I admit, not unique): I love to write!
  • It's not for money, because I'd still be writing even if I weren't an editor.
  • It's not for fame, because I'd be content to write without any readers.
  • It's not for posterity, because that's something that's beyond my control.
I write because I love to write, whether it's back cover copy for Poet's Market, a WritersMarket.com newsletter, a poem, a short story, a blog post, or even a monthly budget (just ask Tammy--I get carried away with that stuff). It's not so much something "I like to do" as something "I'm obsessed with doing." So yeah, maybe an obsession.

Anyway, that's why I write. What's your story? I'd love it if people shared their reasons for writing below.


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Advice for Writers: 010

I skipped last week's advice because, frankly, I was pretty overwhelmed with everything else. But the good thing about online is that we can always get back on track easy enough. So here's this week's advice (brought to you by the Internet):

Guest Post by Lee Goldberg (and Konrath talks numbers), from J.A. Konrath's blog, in which Lee explains making the decision to walk away from the successful Monk series of books and pursue digital publishing exclusively.

How to Set Up an Author or Book Page on Google+ (Part 1), by Debbie Ohi. Debbie shares some great instructions (with screen grabs) of how to get this done on the G+.

Full-Time Job vs Freelance Writing: Doing the Math, by Carol Tice. Carol always has some great freelancing information to share, and this time she helps writers determine what they need (financially) to go the freelance route.

Everyday (budget-friendly) Marketing Opportunities, by Megan DiMaria. This post is loaded with marketing opportunities for writers--from using online radio to church and community newsletters.

Are Your Dialogue Beats Repetitous?, by K.M. Weiland. Weiland gives some tips on avoiding "white wall syndrome" when characters are talking to each other in scenes.

How to Keep Writing Through the Cold and Flu Season, by Lydia Sharp. Drink lots of OJ and read this post.


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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tangible Power of Social Media

For some writers, there's still debate over how important social media is (and should be) to their writing careers. However, I know for a fact that media companies factor social media reach into their decision making process for how much marketing muscle to put behind book releases.

So for me, there's no question that social media is important for writers from that perspective. But we're still dealing in some virtual world when we're dealing with social media, right? Not for me. I have lots of examples of social media paying off for me in the real world.

Tix to see Iron & Wine only through Facebook.

Free Stuff
Just last night, my wife Tammy and I attended a special free Iron & Wine concert that came about via social media. Since Tammy follows Iron & Wine on Facebook, she was alerted to the opportunity for tickets to an Authors Den TV program concert. She responded to their request for Iron & Wine fans and was rewarded with two tickets.

We've also been rewarded with other tangible free stuff, especially books and literary journals via social media over the years as well. And that's with the two of us being rather casual about entering contests; we don't spend a lot of time and effort on looking for opportunities.

My Wife
Yes, I found my wife Tammy online--MySpace actually--but neither of us was looking for love. In fact, we started communicating as poets critiquing each other's poetry. Then, we started sharing advice on parenting (I have two boys from my first marriage; Tammy has one from hers). After more than a year of social media-only contact, we started long-distance dating.

Have to thank MySpace for this family hay ride!

Of course, I can hear a few skeptics in the back of the room scoffing, "Heh, so you're lucky. Winning contests and accidentally finding your soulmate online says nothing about the effectiveness of social media." While I would argue that point, I do have one last example of tangible benefits coming straight from my use of social media.

Speaking Appearances
Most of the speaking opportunities I've had over the past two years have been offered to me via social networks (Facebook and Twitter). And these same opportunities paid for me to come out and do my thing. So it's not like I was receiving offers to spend my own money to come out and speak.

Now, I should add that I've been offered gigs in the past because of my expertise as a Writer's Digest editor, but the quality and quantity of offers has skyrocketed with my use of social media. I think the quantity has increased because of increased visibility. As a result of the increased visibility and speaking experience, the quality of offers has increased too.

I was invited to be a National Feature Poet for the 2011 Austin International Poetry Festival via Facebook, though that's not the only invite I've received the past 2 years via social networking sites.

Bottom line: Social media may seem trivial and inconsequential at times, but if you're treating it as a part of your writing career, you'll eventually find yourself with tangible rewards. Who knows? Maybe you'll find love and free tickets to a special concert as well.


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

11 Tips for Writers to Find Success

Okay, tomorrow is 11/11/11, which is a lot of 11 action. Soooo... I'll let you figure out how I decided on sharing 11 tips for writers to find success. However, once I sat down and thought about it, 11 is a perfect number for covering what writers need to find success.

Let the list begin:
  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Before you jump into the fire of writing and submitting your work, try to understand who you are as a writer. For instance, do you plan to write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or something else? Are you a generalist or a specialist? You need to know who you are as a writer to help with the next step, which is...
  2. Set your goals. It's hard to monitor your success if you don't know what you'd like to achieve. Your goals can change over time, but try to establish both short-term and long-term goals. In fact, I think it's a great idea to build a list for success. Then, after this little bit of preparation, it's time to...
  3. Just write something! Seriously, park your butt in a chair and start writing and/or typing. Get the words down. Break some lines. Write some dialogue. Describe a scene. Just write something--or actually, a lot of things. As you roll up your sleeves and write, you can also start to...
  4. Build your writer platform. Whether you write books or freelance for magazines, building a writer platform is the way to go in the new reality of publishing and media. The good thing about writer platforms is that you can start building it today. In fact, it's preferable that you start laying the foundation sooner instead of later.
  5. Revise, revise, revise. It's important to write with abandon. Write, write, write! But then, what makes writing enjoyable for the reader is when writers take the revision process seriously. This means that writers need to revise, revise, revise with the same commitment (if not abandon) that they bring to the table for the first draft. After all, good writers revise their writing (and click here for a few of my own revision tips).
  6. Submit your writing. Once you feel you're ready (or even a little before, because many of us never feel completely ready), you can start submitting your writing out into the world. Here are 5 pitch tips for writers (also, learn how to avoid raising red flags on yourself and your writing). Remember: With great success comes great rejections; great writers keep submitting until they find the right home for their writing.
  7. Negotiate great terms. When you do find success submitting your work, you'll need to put on your negotiator's hat. I recommend that all writers always try to negotiate (here are my negotiation tips for writers). Even if you are unable to secure better pay or rights the first time, it sets the table for the next round of negotiations.
  8. Keep working that platform. We're all human, and it's easy for us to let platform-building keep us from our writing or our writing from our platform-building. However, use this platform building 101 for writers to help you devote a little time to successful platform building while you devote a lot of time to your bread and butter: writing!
  9. Learn to speak. The more successful you get the more opportunities you'll find to speak in front of groups. Since many writers are introverts (me included), the great temptation is completely avoid these opportunities and focus solely on online platform-building efforts. However, this is the wrong step. I know how difficult it is to face an audience of strangers, but these speaking tips can help you get over the hump. Believe me, the anxiety always goes away after you get talking.
  10. Build momentum. They say that success begets success and failure breeds failure. There's something to that line of thinking. So follow these tips on how to build the kind of momentum that will help you achieve more and more success over time.
  11. Keep trying. Don't worry if you feel more and more pressure with each success. That's natural. I've been asked if my self-doubt lessens over time, and if I'm answering honestly, the answer is, "No." I think many writers are their own worst critics, because we know our weaknesses and disregard our strengths too often. Just keep doing your best and following your gut, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Self-Publishing Tips for Writers (From a Self-Publishing Contest Judge)

Earlier this year, I was tasked with judging a self-published poetry contest. It was a very rewarding experience, and I found at the end that I ultimately had to decide between three or four books that were great. While I judged the final round, I also was involved with one of the earlier rounds too, so I was able to learn some very common mistakes that are made in self-published titles.

Here are my 5 key tips for writers who are self-publishing collections:
  1. Write your bio in the third person. I could probably spend an entire blog post on bio writing (o, wait a sec, I did), but be sure to write your bio in the third person. Just pick up a few books at the bookstore or library to use as a model.
  2. Have a designer design your cover. Of course, this advice is coming from someone who's designed both of his chapbook covers, so do what I say not what I do. Some of the cover designs I saw in the earlier round shocked me--in a bad way.
  3. Use your spine. By spine, I mean your book spine. Populate your spine with information, such as the title of the book and your name as the author. Blank spines will get lost on bookshelves.
  4. Secure endorsements. Take the time to send an early proof to a reader or two and request an endorsement of your book. Use a quote or two (citing the source) on the front and/or back cover of your book. Also, this might go without saying, but reward your endorsers with a complimentary copy.
  5. For more information... It's amazing to me how few writers in the earlier rounds--and even in the final round--did not include ways for readers to continue the conversation with the writer. At a minimum, I feel a self-published writer should include an e-mail address, URL for a website and/or blog, and mailing address. Don't treat your self-published book as the end product; it's part of your writing platform.

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Keeper League Confidential: The Dilemma of Being a Real Fan and a Fantasy Owner

This past weekend was rough for me as a fantasy owner and Atlanta Falcons football fan. The Zombies--with the league's second worst record--were playing the team with the worst record. However, this worst record team had a starting line up that included Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White (all Atlanta Falcons). So, I don't even probably need to tell you what happened...but I will anyway.

Julio Jones and Matt Ryan pointing out the weaknesses in the Duluth Zombies fantasy team.

The first touchdown of the game, Michael Turner ran in a touchdown. Not bad. But then, Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for his first regular season NFL TD ever. Then, Matt Ryan hit him again for his second regular season NFL TD ever. Luckily, Matt Ryan didn't throw his third TD to Jones, but the damage was already done, and the Zombies eventually fell.

Now I'm not saying my Zombies didn't deserve to lose this week; they did. However, this example perfectly illustrates what I detest about fantasy football: You can find yourself in a position of rooting for 50 of the 53 players on the team, instead of all 53. It's dumb; it's silly; it's fantasy football.


Week 10 Tip: Remember Thursday!

The Thursday games start this week with San Diego and Oakland. This is important to remember when setting your starting line ups. Don't let it sneak up on you.


Waiver Wire Watch: Week 10

QB: Matt Moore, Mia. The Tarvaris suggestion didn't work out last week (unless you like negative points). I'm not 100% happy with suggesting Moore this week, and really, there aren't any bye weeks--so why are you even looking at QBs anyway?

RB: Chris Ivory, NO. If Ivory is available in your league, snatch him up now before someone else does. Also, keep an eye on Kendall Hunter, SF, in case Frank Gore's ankle prevents him from playing this weekend.

WR: Jacoby Ford, Oak. The Oakland WR flavor of the week seems to change every week, but Ford was hobbled earlier this year and seems to have a connection forming with Carson Palmer, who's usually good about targeting the same receivers each week (at least based on his history at Cincy). So maybe Ford is THE guy. Or not.

Is Jacoby Ford THE ONE? Only time will tell.

TE: Jake Ballard, NYG. Meet the Kevin Boss replacement. It's now official.

DL: Brett Keisel, Pit. Keisel went from zero to hero in the past 4 weeks of play.

LB: Donald Butler, SD. Butler is putting together a really great season for the Chargers.

DB: Jordan Babineaux, Ten. Starting in place of Chris Hope, he's been racking up great numbers.


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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Build the Unstoppable Power of Momentum

Okay, the hardest part of anything epic are those first few steps. After that, you're basically trying to build and maintain momentum. Those who can build enough momentum often find they can keep going as long as they want--that is, as long as they respect the process. So, I want to share a little of what I've learned about momentum since I started blogging a few years ago.

I'm going to focus on blogging in this post, but the power of momentum can be applied to about any other phase of life as well, including writing, dieting, parenting, working, etc. Over the past few years, I've successfully built momentum (and traffic) for two blogs: Poetic Asides over at WritersDigest.com and this here personal My Name Is Not Bob blog.

Both of my successful blogs evolved in very different ways. When I first proposed Poetic Asides, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to cover: poetry. Of course, I had a fuzzy idea of how to go about doing it, but the subject was clear. For My Name Is Not Bob, I really had no specific purpose outside of sharing a little about myself and having a place to send my posts that weren't specifically poetry-related.

Since it was tied tightly to WritersDigest.com, Poetic Asides had an audience almost immediately, and it sky-rocketed after the very first April PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge. For this Not Bob blog, I really didn't have much traffic until about a year ago--mainly because I didn't follow these three guidelines for building momentum:
  1. Be Consistent.
  2. Experiment.
  3. Keep What Works.
Be Consistent
One key to building successful momentum is to work on consistency. In terms of blogging, this means that you keep a pretty regular routine for posting (whether that's daily, weekly, etc.) and sharing (links via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.). Posting three times in one day and then not posting the rest of the week is a momentum killer. A more successful tactic would be to post every other day through the week.

If you can only work on your blogging one day a week, then go ahead and write up those three blog posts. Publish one immediately. Then, schedule the other two posts for later in the week.

The reason consistency helps so much in blogging is that your readers can start to anticipate your blogging patterns. As a non-blogging example, I'm going to use my wife Tammy, who loves to listen to a big band radio show on Sunday mornings after church. She knows when the show comes on (every Sunday after church), and she's made a routine out of listening to it.

A good way to build momentum for your blog is to try and develop this type of consistent blogging behavior. For instance, on my Poetic Asides blog, I often post more than once each week, but I always post on Wednesday mornings for the Wednesday Poetry Prompts (except during the months of April and November--when I'm posting a poetry prompt every single morning).

While consistency is a great tool in building momentum, so is experimenation. If you're not trying something new every so often, then you run the risk of falling into a routine, which can start to kill your momentum (and the excitement you bring to your blog).

In an effort to build traffic to Poetic Asides four years ago, I experimented with my first April PAD Challenge, which was an amazing success. In fact, the success of that experiment led to two more successful experiments: Wednesday Poetry Prompts and the November PAD Chapbook Challenge. With 20/20 vision, these all seem like no-brainers, but at the time, each experiment held the potential to be unsuccessful.

Of course, not every experiment is going to work. That's okay. The main thing is that you keep trying out new things. If they don't pan out, no problem--move on to the next experiment. If they do, that's great!

Keep What Works
If it's not broke, don't fix it, right? When those poetry challenges worked on Poetic Asides, I kept them around, and they are a regular part of that blogging community now. On this blog, I've paid attention to what works and have tried to keep developing that content here. It would significantly kill my momentum on both blogs if I just quit providing what's had appeal in the past.

That said, don't take what has worked in the past for granted. I put a lot of effort into developing the prompts for my poetry challenges, in addition to promoting the challenges. I never try to take for granted that just because it's been successful in the past that the success will continue on forever. Once you go down that path (the path of taking things for granted), you're setting yourself up for failure: whether it's an immediate fail or a long, slow fail.

So pay attention to what works and keep it, but also make sure you nurture it, because it will help you build momentum by having a foundation upon which to experiment.


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Support My Movember for a Chance to Win Stuff!

This year, I decided to join WritersDigest.com editor Brian Klems (and thousands of other men) in growing a moustache in November for an event called Movember. The event's main goals are to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer research (and men's health in general). Generalizing, men are not always the best at taking care of themselves--and specifying, I can admit I fall into this category myself.

Anyway, I think supporting this cause makes a lot of sense, and I've already received a few donations. To encourage even more donations, I've decided to assemble a care package that I will raffle off to one person who donates $20 or more to my Movember efforts.

Click here to donate to my Movember efforts now.

The care package currently consists of:
  • Signed copy of my most recent limited edition chapbook ESCAPE. There were only 101 copies made, and they're nearly sold out. In fact, I expect them to be completely sold out before the month is over.
  • Signed copy of my first limited edition chapbook ENTER in a special edition. When I made the first set of ENTER chapbooks, which sold out almost immediately, the printer printed up 8 extra copies. So the care package will include one of these ultra rare debut chapbooks.
  • Signed copy of the 2012 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition. This book includes everything you love about Writer's Market the book with a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com the website.
  • Signed copy of the 2012 Poet's Market. The best Poet's Market yet, filled with hundreds of publishing opportunities for poets, but also a wealth of information on the craft and business of poetry.
This is the package at the moment, though I may continue to add to it if more people donate to my Movember efforts. I don't receive any kickbacks from the Movember site, so I'm donating everything in this care package to help this great cause. Plus, I'm growing my first ever moustache.

Click here to donate to my Movember efforts now and be entered into the raffle for winning this great care package.


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

My New Weekend Routine

I have a new weekend routine, but before I get into how it's panned out so far, let me share my working situation. For those who don't already know, I telecommute, so I work from home most of the time. In fact, my desk is about four feet from the foot of my bed. And I love it, because I don't have to deal with a morning and afternoon commute, but I do find myself having trouble "shutting down" like I could when I was either "in" the office or "out" of the office.

It's all right to have a life outside of work.

For years now, I've been sort of a workaholic. Heck, I shouldn't say "sort of." I have definitely been a workaholic. But one of my goals for this year was to actually ease up a little and take some time to appreciate other parts of living. It's been weeks since I've put in 50+ hours on work (and I've put in 70+ weeks more than once in the past). And recently, I've started (mostly) unplugging for the weekend.

I have to admit that I was afraid of "cutting back" at first. I mean, if I'm working crazy hours and still buried by work, what would happen if I worked less? It would mean I'd be buried even deeper, right? But the results so far have been incredible.

My weekends have been even more enjoyable than in the past, because I'm not even allowing myself to worry about work from late Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Plus, I've found that lifting that weight off my shoulders has made me super productive during the week.

Instead of worrying about work all the time, I jump in on Monday morning and drive full throttle until Friday. Then, I flip the off switch. My productivity is up; my creativity is up; and my stress is low.

If you find yourself "stuck" in a workaholic state of mind, please consider cutting back as I have. Life is so much more fulfilling when you take a moment to step back and enjoy it a little.


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Friday, November 4, 2011

Where's the Finish Line?

As a long distance runner, I used to have trouble staying focused on very long runs and races. I'd do great at the beginning, and I had a fabulous finishing kick. But the middle was always a struggle and quite often...well...I just sucked at that part of the race. By college, I think I figured out the problem: I was always focused on the finish line instead of staying "in the moment" of running.

It's great to be a winner, but do you need a finish line for that?

This is a common problem for many people in many disciplines, whether it's running, working, or even writing. Every so often, I'll find myself wondering, "Where's the finish line?" And that's the wrong way to look at any long-term or life pursuit.

Sure, there's something good and satisfying about finishing a project (and a race), but I've found that I run faster and write better when I'm not focused on the finish line. I perform better at work when I stay in the moment and don't focus on the end goal. Heck, doing that with the Market Books has overwhelmed better editors than me in the past.

When should you focus on the finish line?
For me, it makes the most sense not to focus on the finish line unless you are working on a small project (think 100 meter dash small) or can see the finish line from where you are on a big project (and you're doing that final sprint to the finish). Otherwise, try to stay in the moment of things.

That said, always know where the finish line is--if there is one--because the only way to make meaningful progress toward the finish line is if you know where you're headed.

What if there is no finish line?
There are many pursuits in our lives that really have no finish line, but we treat them as if they do. Our relationships and life's work should not have a finish line attached to them. These are the important things that make life worth living, and they aren't races so much as long runs. As a result, we're better off treating them different than the projects that do have finish lines.

If you're building a career as a writer, you don't have a finish line. If you're in a relationship, you don't have a finish line (or at least you should hope there's not one). If you're alive, you don't want a finish line. All of these pursuits aren't races, they're processes. So what do you do?

You relax and enjoy the process. You show up and do your best. You run.


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Little Bookstore IQ for Writers

Earlier today, I was e-mailing with poet/memoirist Sandra Beasley about a very cool project that's coming to this blog in 2012 (which I'm hoping she'll be able to help with at some point down the road), but she mentioned how she was proudly pointing to a copy of the 2012 Poet's Market at Square Books in Mississippi.

I'm excited when I see a forward-facing Poet's Market!

I responded: "I'm glad we've got someone to proudly point at Poet's Market in Mississippi!"

Sandra came back with: "When I went back to Square Books the next day, he had turned the copy so it was cover-out on the shelf."

This struck me for some reason. Maybe because it wasn't a sales person at F+W who made the comment. Instead, it was an author who recognized that there IS a big difference between having a front-facing book versus one that's spine out. It improves visibility and sales.

Anyway, that got me thinking about a few other bookstore bits of intelligence of which the ordinary writer may not be aware.

Table Displays
Whether in the front of the store or in the aisles, bookstore shoppers may recognize that there are tables with special promotions--usually centered around a specific topic, holiday, series, etc. These tables are conceived by the bookstore buyers and publishing companies (who pay for the opportunity to have prime real estate in the bookstore).

Similar to table displays, endcaps are those themed-promotions that appear at the end of an aisle of bookshelves. As with the table displays, good endcap displays are usually themed--and will often fit with the overall section in which the endcap appears (like an endcap of horror young adult novels in the young adult fiction section).

When our sales force talks about buyers, they're not talking about readers. Instead, they're talking about the folks who buy books for a bookstore or bookstore chain. Those folks are called buyers, and they constantly hear pitches from sales teams at book publishing companies who are trying to get on shelves, endcaps, and table displays.

Anyway, these are just a few little odds and ends, but I thought it might be interesting to writers who are curious about how things work. Plus, for me, it shows how even small things like whether a book is forward-facing or spine out can help dictate its chances of success in the bookstore.


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You're Not Perfect. So What?!?

I run into so many people who talk about things they'd like to do (whether that's lose weight or write a novel or fill-in-the-blank), but they just don't have the right situation. If only there was more time in the day, or if only I didn't have so much debt, or if only I didn't fill-in-the-blank holding me back. I know it's easy to fall into this trap, because I've done it too. None of us are perfect...but you know what, who cares?

Let go of perfection
Believe me, I think there's nothing better than rolling up your sleeves and putting in some hard work. And yes, you should always be trying to get things done the best that you can, but sometimes the pursuit of perfection holds us back from our pursuits of accomplishment.

In the world of poetry and art, I know that some of the most "perfect" pieces can also lean toward the boring category. In fact, I could say the same about ice skating and gymnastics routines too. And architecture. Heck, it's the imperfections that really makes something unique and special.

Start now
Don't let your imperfect situation keep you from doing great things. Starting today, think of one thing you can do that you've been putting off. If it's writing a novel, spend 10 minutes today sketching out an outline of rough plot points. Then, devote another 10 minutes tomorrow (and so on).

If it's losing weight, just cut out one bad habit this week. And then add one good habit next week. Then, try doing one of each (cutting and adding) during the third week. Over time, the momentum will build.

Will you have off-days and off-weeks? Most likely.

Life is like the stock market
With all the problems in the economy right now, using the stock market as a metaphor is probably dangerous territory, but it's true. If you invest X amount of money in a diversified portfolio of stocks, the value may go up and down drastically over a short period of time, but in the long run, you always end up with more. Meanwhile, if you don't invest, you just end up with about the same or less (because it's being spent).

The same is true with our goals. Start investing in your goals now. There will be ups and downs, successes and failures, but over time, you will end up gaining more than losing. Don't wait for the perfect time to start, because that time is always now.


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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeper League Confidential: The Best Offense (Is a Good Defense)

One thing I notice about most novice fantasy football owners is that they focus almost exclusively on offensive players (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs) and treat defense like an afterthought. In fact, some of them go as far as to worry about kickers more than defense (don't even get me started). Well, I put a lot of stock in defense, but they let me down this week, so the winning streak--all two games of it--is over.

Demarcus Ware sacked the Zombies almost single-handedly!

My team actually did all right overall, but my defense was outscored 67-34 by my brother's team. Since the Zombies lost by 12 points, I'd say the defense was the big difference maker. But really, my brother's defense was propelled by career games by Demarcus Ware (11 tackles and 4 sacks) and Reggie Nelson (5 tackles and a pick-6). Those two guys alone scored 38 points!

Anyway, those are the breaks when you play a fantasy version of a real game. In one week, my team fell from 2nd place in the division to last (or 5th) place. Ouch!


Week 9 Tip: Keep Trying

Luckily, I'm not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet. If you are, however, keep trying. You probably won't feel the urge to invest money in trades or pick-ups--unless you're trying to build your team for next year (if you're in a keeper league)--but you can still try to play spoiler by making sure you start the best line-up you have to start. That means benching guys who are on byes and starting guys who aren't--and then putting the best players back after their byes. Just keep trying!


Waiver Wire Watch: Week 9

QB: Tarvaris Jackson, Sea. Quick admission: I've been a Tarvaris Jackson fan since his days at Minnesota. When I first heard of him heading to Seattle with Sidney Rice and the Minnesota offensive coordinator, I thought, "Jackpot!" But then Seattle's O-line got banged up severely and Sidney Rice too--and even Mike Williams. But now, Seattle's found Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu--with Rice returning. So maybe now it's time!

RB: Somebody from San Diego maybe? On Monday night, everybody started writing the name Curtis Brinkley on their cheat sheets, but then, he was tested for concussion symptoms after the game. Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews are banged up, which means there's the possibility that one of my long-time favorite sleepers, Jacob Hester, could be a surprise waiting to happen next weekend. Stay tuned.

WR: Kevin Walter, Hou. I mentioned the Seattle WRs above, but Walter is also getting a lot of love while Andre Johnson's been out. Another person to consider is Early Doucet in Arizona.

TE: Joel Dreesen, Hou. Speaking of Houston receivers, Dreesen has caught 3 TDs in the past 4 games (and one of those was a 100-yard effort).

Jarret Johnson, is there anyone on the Ravens defense not worth picking up?

DL: Jarret Johnson, Bal. It's always a good idea to grab a LB who also counts as a DL. Hello, Jarret Johnson, who's made 21 tackles, 2 sacks and a TD in the past 4 games. If he's available as a DL, snatch him up and start him.

LB: Leroy Hill, Sea. He started off slow, but during the past 5 games, he's recorded 41 tackles and a sack. Not too shabby.

DB: Brandon Flowers, KC. Flowers had a great game on Monday Night, but it could've been even better had he not dropped an interception that literally hit him in stride. With Tamba Hali putting on the pass rush, Flowers will continue to get interception opportunities.

My kicker scored one more point than kickers who were on their bye. Makes me wonder why I even bother picking up kickers for the bye week.


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