Getting to “it’s a real book!”: The checklist for July

Getting closer to a real book! @emily_m_deardo

So, if you read last week’s post, you know that I’ve made some major decisions regarding the length and scope of the memoir manuscript. (If you haven’t read it, go do that and come back.)

OK. So, I give a vague outline there, but here’s more specifics of what I need to do:

  • Write a new beginning/ending to the manuscript, reflecting the new scope and tone of the piece. Due date: July 9.
  • Get out the drafted book proposal and print it out. There will be a Real Live Editor from a publishing house at the conference I’m attending in July, so I really hope to get to talk to her, and I’ll need this to show her (I think. Maybe not. But it can’t hurt to have it, right?) Due date: July 6.
  • Go through my list of houses/agents and being to assemble the things I need for a query. This can be really complicated, actually. Some want them mailed, some want them emailed, and they all have a list of things they want in the “package.” Some houses don’t want to see the manuscript at all, and some want it completed (Hence item one on this list.) Due date: July 9.

These are the things I’m aiming to have done before I leave. When I come back, that will start the actual process of querying, which as I said before, is terrifying, but exciting (“excited and scared”, anyone?)


Eureka–Manuscript breakthrough!

An update on the memoir! @emily_m_deardo

I feel a little sheepish about this. However, I’m sharing anyway!

I had thought, when I was writing, that I needed to write about the entire decade post-transplant. Everything that happened….every trip, every show, every everything. And I kept hitting blocks in my writing.

While I was trying to write what I kept calling “the last part”, I had a brainstorm. What if….I didn’t write everything? I mean, who says I need to write everything? This isn’t War and Peace! You don’t need to know all this stuff I’m writing!

It was ridiculously freeing. So I opened my scrap document (this is an idea I got from Elizabeth Gilbert–a Word/Pages doc that holds the big parts I cut from the manuscript, so I can use them later, if I need them), cut out about 5,000 words, and put them in there.

I feel so much better! And the manuscript is now a decent length! I’ve decided that it needs a new prologue and a new epilogue, but that’s it.

So I’ll be moving things around/fixing things for the next week or two, and when I get back from Charleston, I’ll start sending out book queries.

Scary, scary thought. It sort of terrifies me to send out book queries. But hey, it has to be done. Seize the day, screw your courage to the sticking place, and all that.

Writing Updates: June 22, 2015

Writing updates from my desk pile @emily_m_deardo

  • I’ve submitted my August Real Housekeeping piece to the editors, so I’m excited about that. My piece on books for babies will be going up sometime in July, and I’ll post the link here when it goes live. My August piece is about how to create and keep a well-stocked pantry so you can make a variety of meals without having to run to the grocery store right before dinner time.
  • The memoir is coming along. I feel like I keep writing that, but it’s true! I’m working on the section about the Dominican nuns now (for those of you who don’t know me, you’re probably going, what? But all will be revealed….eventually). This section is proving to be the hardest to write, but it’s also the last section that really needs written. The plan is to have this section done by the end of the month, so that when I’m back from vacation in July, I can start sending out queries and proposals. I’m on track with this plan.
  • The Jane Re-Read continues with Northanger Abbey. 

Filling the Well: Movies to Inspire Creativity

Here are some of my favorite movies to inspire creativity! @emily_m_deardo

Last week, I talked about some writing books I’ve found inspiring and helpful; this week I thought I’d share some movies that always serve as a creativity jumpstart for me.

Shakespeare  In Love: (1998) This film, written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Mark Madden, won Best Picture in 1998, and gives the “back story” of the writing of Romeo and Juliet. With fantastic performances by Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow (she won her Oscar for this movie), Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench (who also won an Oscar for this movie), and Colin Firth, it may not be based in reality, but it’s a wonderfully funny film, especially if you’re a Shakespeare fan. The costumes are sumptuous as well.

Movies That Inspire Creativity: Shakespeare In Love @emily_m_deardo
Will (Joseph Fiennes) meets Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow)

The reason it inspires creativity is because the basic premise of the movie is that Shakespeare (Fiennes)  has writer’s block–and he solves it by falling in love with Lady Viola (Paltrow), who is, alas, already engaged, to Lord Wessex (Firth). The movie takes us into Will’s world, both onstage and backstage, and demonstrates that writers can’t just write good things at the drop of a hat. This is an excellent movie for when you’re facing any sort of creative block.

The Hours: (2002): OK, guys. This movie is not for everyone. But if you’re interested in the life of Virginia Woolf, this is a great movie. Nicole Kidman won her Oscar for her performance as Woolf, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture. Every time I watch this, I’m motivated to dive back into my writing and journaling. And the music, by Philip Glass, is incandescent. The novel is also on my list of favorite books.

Movies to Inspire Creativity: The Hours @emily_m_deardo

The Red Shoes (1948): Not about writing, but about dance, and art in general. Nominated for Best Picture, the film is a retelling/adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Red Shoes, which compel the wearer to dance to death. In this case, the story revolves around an up and coming ballerina (Moira Shearer), the impresario who becomes infatuated with her talent, and the composer whom she loves. The film demonstrates the physical effort involved in creating beautiful art and the extremes that are to be avoided in its creation!

Movies That Inspire Creativity: The Red Shoes @emily_m_deardo
Vicky (Moira Shearer) wit the ballet master

Babette’s Feast (1987): This shows creativity in the kitchen. If you’ve never seen it, please do so, but eat first. This is the story two single sisters, who live quite lives stripped of luxury, until their devoted cook, Babette, wins the French lottery and wishes to cook a meal for the sisters and their friends. The film is based on Karen Blixen (Out of Africa)‘ s short story. A wonderful fable of hospitality and virtue, but also creativity: watch how carefully Babette prepares the course of her meal, in every stage of its development.

Movies that inspire creativity: Babette's Feast @emily_m_deardo
Babette (Stephane Audrane) prepares her feast.

Becoming Jane (2007): Of course, this one. This biopic, based on Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen, focuses on Jane’s (Anne Hathaway) relationship with the young lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), and the writing of Pride and Prejudice.

Movies That Inspire Creativity: Becoming Jane @emily_m_deardo
Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane.



Writing On Vacation

For me, vacation is a great way to fill my creative well and inspire new writing! What about you? @emily_m_deardo

Summer is prime vacation time for most of us, and for me, it’s also prime writing inspiration time.

There are the usual thoughts on this, that getting outside of your normal environment can help spark creativity, and exposure to new things does the same. But I find that any sort of travel, even if it’s to places I know well, can be inspiring in multiple ways.

For example, a recent trip to Washington, D.C. familiarized me with a part of the town I hadn’t really experienced before, and added new depth to my knowledge of the city, which is useful. Details–from coffee shops to what people are wearing, to traffic patterns–can make their way into future novels and pieces, making my imaginary store of places richer. (There was one restaurant in particular that I loved). This is also when keeping a journal comes in handy. I have an instant place to record my observations and details I want to keep in mind.

For new cities, of course, there’s always much more that I’ve never seen before. When I go to Charleston in a month, I’m fully expecting that I’ll be writing a lot in my journals about the city and details about the people and places we see.

I always get the itch to write when I travel. Usually it’s in my journal but if I have my laptop with me, sometimes I’ll do sketches or write the first few paragraphs of what I hope will be a larger piece. The larger piece may not appear, but just the practice of writing regularly can be reinvigorated by a new setting and new experiences.

Do you notice your creativity grows when you travel? Tell me about it in the comments!

Reading About Writing: My Favorite Writing Books

Reading About Writing: My Favorite Writing Books @emily_m_deardo

One of the most common tips writers give to want-to-be-writers is to read a lot. This isn’t something I’ve ever had a problem with, but there are certain books about writing that I’ve found incredibly helpful to me over the years, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg. The chapters are short essays that motivate and inspire writing; there’s a list of prompts toward the front of the book if you’re stuck on the what am I supposed to write? horse. I found her writing very accessible and almost like she was sitting across the table from me at a coffeeshop. Goldberg is a gifted writer and her writing always inspires me to take another crack at my current project.

    • Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True, by Elizabeth Berg. This is my favorite book about writing. Berg gives a ton of unusual prompts and activities to really inspire creativity, and she writes about her own writing process and inspirations. I’ve got this book post-it marked, underlined, and bookmarked in many different ways.

    • Make it Happen, by Lara Casey. This isn’t a writing book, per se, but it’s a book about setting and achieving your goals. I love it!

  • The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. The classic book on freeing your inner artist, this has helped a lot of writers I know, especially in the institution of Morning Pages. I’m working my way through this–very slowly. 🙂

These are my favorites. How about you? Do you have favorite books that inspire you to be creative?

Writing Updates–June 8, 2015

Writing updates from my desk pile @emily_m_deardo

  • The first installment of the Jane Re-Read is up on the blog. A new post will go up every other week throughout the summer. First was Sense and Sensibility, and next is Northanger Abbey. Come join us!
  • The Dominican Part of the Memoir is being written. The timeline is important here, and after this part is down I’ll need to finesse how it works in the manuscript as a whole, but this is an important part that’s been missing.
  • Remember the NaNo novel I abandoned last year? think I might have a new way into it, which excited me, but I need to play around with it. Right now it involves moving from a third person to first person narration, and possibly adding more points of view, instead of the limited third person I was going with before. But we’ll see if that helps.
  • Coming up on the blog this week: travel tips and Sketchbook Skool!

Goal Setting for Dummies: Using Power Sheets

Setting Goals with Power Sheets @emily_m_deardo

“Goal setting.”

Does that phrase give you shivers? I know it used to for me. It seems so grandiose, right? It takes me back to when I was in high school and everyone asked “what I was going to do” after school. Most of us sort of mumbled our major or shrugged. I knew what was my major was going to be, but until I figured it out, it was nerve wracking, right?

So many articles have been written about goal setting that I don’t think what I’m going to write here is new. But if you’re new to this, here’s an article from lululemon’s website that talks about it.

Anyway, I’d always liked the idea of goal setting, but I was never very good at it. That is, until I found Lara Casey’s power sheets (And no, this isn’t an add for her. It’s a great tool I use in writing that I thought I’d share with you. 🙂 )

Basically, the Power Sheets break goal setting down into manageable chunks: short-term and long term goals, and most importantly, why you want to achieve these goals. The set contains six months’ worth of sheets, and a lot of detailed prep work. But they are magnificent, guys. Each goal gets broken down into daily, weekly, and monthly goals, which is so helpful for someone like me, who needs that step-by-step accountability. For example, for the past few months “write three blog posts a week” was a goal. Then there was “daily writing 30 minutes”, and in the monthly section, it was manuscript goals. I also have prayer and fitness goals.

No matter what your goals are–climbing Everest, finishing your dissertation, learning to draw, whatever!–these sheets will be an enormous help. If you’re like me and need accountability, then checking off the boxes every day will be a big help.

Do you have goals you’re working towards? How do you push yourself to accomplish them?


Using an Editorial Calendar (or: making sure readers have something to read!)

editorial calendar tag

Before I used an editorial calendar, my blogging habits were pretty hit or miss. Some weeks you’d have content coming out of my ears, and some weeks, total radio silence. That’s not helpful on a couple fronts–for you, the reader, I hope that you want regular content because you like to read what I write. (If you don’t, don’t tell me. ;-)) Second, writing, like anything else, requires regular practice and time devoted to it. If I only write when I feel like it, then I’m probably not really dedicated to the craft of writing. (You could say this about anything, really–prayer, gardening, sports, yoga, etc. If you only do it when you feel like it, it’s probably going to be a sporadic practice.)

When I was doing my social media overhaul, Cristina had the brilliant suggestion of an editorial calendar, and I think it’s changed my writing for the better. It’s helpful in several ways:

  • I can track outside writing projects (like my Real Housekeeping work) and make sure I don’t miss deadlines.
  • I can see, at a glance, what’s coming up for the next few weeks, and schedule posts appropriately–if I’m going on vacation, I can still have content ready to go, if I want.
  • I have to dedicate time to writing at least a few times a week, so I can have these posts ready to go.
  • It helps me prevent feast or famine blogging–I can spread ideas out over a number of days, so there’s not a glut of pieces on day and then nothing for days after.

I use trello, and I really like the format, because it’s easy to use, clean, and very user-friendly.

So here’s my current editorial calendar:

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.39.13 AM

The left-most column is where I keep a running tally of ideas. These are either scheduled–as in, I think I have a place for them on the calendar–or not (just yet). Next is researching: this is for posts that might take longer (such as posts where I’m talking about theology) and need to look up necessary documents–hence, research.

Middle column is writing, and this is where things go into the hopper, if you will. I try to have two weeks’ worth of material going at any one time. You can see, in fact, that this piece is at the bottom of the writing list, meaning it’s in the on-deck circle, to steal from baseball. (I took the photo the day I wrote this.)

The colors mean different things: the blue means it’s a post for this site, whereas the purple means it’s going to the blog (which you follow, right?) Any other colors are indicative of the category of writing, which is really just for me.

After writing is editing and graphics. That means I make the pretty pictures that top these articles, and give all the pieces a read-through to scan for errors.

When all that is done, the card moves into the “completed” column–yay! I generally keep things here for a week, so I can get an overview of what went up where over the past week. Then the cards are archived.

Another great trello feature is the calendar page:


using an editorial calendar for your writing @emily_m_deardo

This is actually one of my favorite features, because I can see what’s going up when in a big spread, and I can re-arrange cards at will. This is great for my future planning, especially for when I’m going on vacation, or I want to see things at a glance. The only problem I have here is that when a card is archived, it’s also removed from this page, and that irritates me, but, such is life!

I also have a trello board for my big writing projects, but that’s set up differently. Maybe I’ll show you that one some other time.

So not only does my board provide organizational nirvana, but it also provides accountability. The content isn’t going to write itself! Usually early in the week I do the calendar sorting and resorting, to figure out what’s going up when, and then I work on blog posts throughout the week, along with my other writing.

Things that don’t get scheduled are things like Yarn Alongs and Seven Quick Takes on the blog, because those are running features that don’t need quite as much planning as from-scratch blogging does. I do keep certain features as cards, though, so I don’t forget, like the biweekly writing updates–I’m also going to do those for the Jane Austen Re-Read. 

I know that the idea of editorial calendars is used in a lot of different industries–I know that IT guys use a version of this (not trello), but something like this to track their software development. Have you used an editorial calendar in your work? Would you like to?