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The katdish ultimate guide to successful blogging

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I was going to begin this post by saying something like “I’m certainly no expert”, or “I’m not an authority on what constitutes a great blog”, but let’s just put all that nauseating false modesty aside, shall we?

I am an Internet tornado.

Don’t believe me? Google “katdish”. You will find multiple pages of links to this blog and others. Compare that to just three short years ago when googling “katdish” would prompt Google to ask, “Did you mean kaddish?

With this in mind, I provide the following hard and fast rules of successful blogging with all the confidence and authority my status of Internet tornado affords me. You’re welcome:

  1. Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it. Whether that means daily, weekly or somewhere in between. Consistent posting retains your audience because they know when and how often to expect a new post from you.
  2. Only post when you have something to say. Forcing yourself to write a post just for the sake of posting something–anything–is a waste of your time and energy. You also run the risk of wasting your reader’s time with a substandard post.
  3. Reply to every comment on your blog. If someone takes the time to read and comment on your site, it’s common courtesy to acknowledge them and thank them for visiting.
  4. Don’t reply to every comment. You started the conversation, allow your readers to input their thoughts without you jumping in and interrupting the flow of conversation.
  5. Write about current events and hot topics on the interwebs. Inject your unique perspective and opinions about controversial subjects. Be sure to use tags and categories on your post so people can find your blog post via search engines. Controversy = more hits to your site.
  6. Write what’s on your heart and/or mind. Writing a post about a current event just because everyone else is writing about it may come off looking like a desperate attempt to attract a bigger audience to your blog. Especially if you don’t have anything significant or valuable to add to the conversation.
  7. If you’re a writer seeking to expand your platform, write helpful posts about your journey into publishing. Share helpful tips and strategies you’ve learned along the way with fellow writers. The mere fact that you’ve landed an agent and secured a contract for your upcoming book is proof enough that you have valuable insights to share. Other writers will flock to your blog and will appreciate you generously sharing all that you have learned.
  8. If you’re a writer seeking to expand your platform, write helpful posts about your journey into publishing occasionally, but not all the time. All writers are readers, but not all readers are writers. By only writing about writing, you greatly limit your audience. Give your audience a sample of the type of writing they can expect to see in your upcoming books. You’ll build brand loyalty that way–from both writers and readers.
  9. Determine who your audience is and write for that particular niche. If you’re a mommy blogger, write for other mommy bloggers. If you’re a big fan of LOL Cats, write for other LOL Cat enthusiasts, and so on.
  10. Write about an array of topics. Some posts may get more traffic than others, but good, consistent writing will bring people back to your site.

Follow these rules and rest assured, your blog will attract a vast audience and you will become a rock star of the interwebs.

“But katdish, that’s ridiculous! These rules contradict themselves. You can’t follow all of them!”

Well, of course not, Silly. That’s because I have no idea what the hard and fast rules of successful blogging are, and neither does anyone else. I can only tell you why I read certain blogs on a regular basis.

Some inform, some challenge, some make me laugh and/or cry.
Some do all of the above.

But the one trait they all share is this:

A unique, honest voice all their own.

So, how do you write the best possible blog you can write?

Do you remember that scene from the movie “The Breakfast Club” where Anthony Michael Hall’s character writes a collective essay for the members of The Breakfast Club? The detention teacher, Mr. Vernon instructed each of them to write about who they thought they were. After he’s finished writing, he smiles, sets down his pen and gives himself a “Way to go” slug in the arm. He didn’t seem to care if Mr. Vernon (or anyone else, for that matter) thought it would be a great essay. He knew that it expressed concisely and exactly what he wanted to say.

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Write more posts like that.

(Oh, grumble…”embedding disabled”. Oh, well, you can watch it on Youtube.)

And the winners are…

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Last night millions tuned in to watch the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, where many well deserving people received awards for a bunch of movies I haven’t seen. Okay, that’s not entirely true–I’ve seen Inception, Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland. And while I haven’t seen The King’s Speech, I loved Colin Firth in Nanny McPhee and Love Actually.

I must confess I didn’t watch the awards.

I figure if I want to see a bunch of overdressed people with copious amounts of plastic surgery and eating disorders, all I have to do in drive into Houston and go to the Galleria.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about winning some REALLY valuable stuff, not just some gold, naked bald guy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

I wonder how many of you actually read any of that stuff and how many just scrolled down to see who the winners are? I see how you are…

Okay, enough already!

The following winners were chosen by Each comment, tweet, and Facebook status update associated with this contest was assigned a number. These numbers were selected in descending order based on the time and date of the entry. Make sense? Alrighty then.

The 3rd prize of One year of free blog hosting + a standard license for Standard Theme goes to:

Karin Fendick (aka His Firefly), writer of Flickers of a Faithful Firefly.

The 2nd place prize of One year of free blog hosting, a domain name (.com or .net) and a standard licence for Standard Theme goes to:

Ryan Tate (They call him Tater Salad–okay, not really. I stole that line from Ron White), writer of Doorframes of Taterhouse.

And the Grand Prize winner of One year of free blog hosting, a domain name (.com or .net), a standard licence for Standard Theme plus site design by the lovely and talented Peter Pollock of New Blog Hosting and yours truly is….

The writer of the plainest little ol’ blog you ever did see, but one of my favorite writers in the blogosphere…

Kirsten Nilsen of Nilsen Life

Congratulations to Karin, Ryan and Kirsten and many thanks for the overwhelming response to this giveaway. A very special thanks to John Saddington for his generous contribution of three of his amazing Standard Theme themes and to New Blog Hosting for everything else.

Where do you come from?

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I’m fairly certain that by the time I finish reading Anna Karenina someone who reads this blog on a regular basis is going to tell me to shut my pie hole about this book. Fair enough. I will probably have that coming. I’ll be honest and tell you that there are parts of this 864 page saga that I have to force myself to get through. The extensive commentary on the various social classes and society in pre-communist Russia? Sorry, I’m just not interested in that. Even though I’m sure it’s fascinating to people who are.

The last post I wrote about this book was The mind of an artist. What I find so amazing about Tolstoy was his outrageous honesty. His characters express thoughts, beliefs and feelings that make me uncomfortable. Not because I find them distasteful, but because he forces me to acknowledge my own lack of honesty. Not so much with others, but with myself–about how I approach my writing, my life and my faith.

I have several passages bookmarked in this book. In the following passage, I relate (often painfully so) to Kitty:

Kitty followed her. Even Varenka struck her as different. She was not worse, but different from what she had fancied her before.

“Oh, dear! it’s a long while since I’ve laughed so much! said Varenka, gathering up her parasol and her bag. “How nice he is, your father!”

Kitty did not speak.

“When shall I see you again?” asked Varenka.

“Mama meant to go and see the Petrovs. Won’t you be there?” said Kitty, to try Varenka.

“Yes,” answered Varenka. “They’re getting ready to go away, so I promised to help them pack.”

“Well, I’ll come too, then.”

“No, why should you?”

“Why not? why not? why not?” said Kitty, opening her eyes wide, and clutching at Varenka’s parasol, so as not to let her go.

“No, wait a minute; why not?”

“Oh, nothing; your father has come, and besides, they will feel awkward at your helping.”

“No, tell me why you don’t want me to be often at the Petrovs’. You don’t want me to–why not?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Varenka quietly.

“No, please tell me!”

“Tell you everything?” asked Varenka

“Everything, everything!” Kitty assented.

“Well, there’s really nothing of any consequence; only that Mihail Alexeyevitch” (that was the artist’s name) “had meant to leave earlier, and now he doesn’t want to go away,” said Varenka, smiling.

“Well, well!” Kitty urged impatiently, looking darkly at Varenka.

“Well, and for some reason Anna Pavlovna told him that he didn’t want to go because you are here. Of course, that was nonsense; but there was a dispute over it–over you. You know how irritable these sick people are.”

Kitty, scowling more than ever, kept silent, and Varenka went on speaking alone, trying to soften or soothe her, and seeing a storm coming–she did not know whether of tears or of words.

“So you’d better not go…You understand; you won’t be offended?…”

“And it serves me right! And it serves me right!” Kitty cried quickly, snatching the parasol out of Varenka’s hand, and looking past her friend’s face.

Varenka felt inclined to smile, looking at her childish fury, but she was afraid of wounding her.

“How does it serve you right? I don’t understand,” she said.

“It serves me right, because it was all sham; because it was all done on purpose, and not from the heart. What business had I to interfere with outsiders? And so it’s come about that I’m a cause of quarrel, and that I’ve done what nobody asked me to do. Because it was all a sham! a sham! a sham!…”

“A sham! with what object?” said Varenka gently.

“Oh, it’s so idiotic! so hateful! There was no need whatever for me…Nothing but sham!” she said, opening and shutting the parasol.

“But with what object?”

“To seem better to people, to myself, to God; to deceive everyone. No! now I won’t descend to that. I’ll be bad; but anyway not a liar, a cheat.”

“But who is a cheat?” said Varenka reproachfully. “You speak as if…”

But Kitty was in one of her gust of fury, and she would not let her finish.

“I don’t talk about you, not about you at all. You’re perfection. Yes, yes, I know you’re all perfection; but what am I to do if I’m bad? This would never have been if I weren’t so bad. So let me be what I am. I won’t be a sham. What have I to do with Anna Pavlovna? Let them go their way, and me go mine. I can’t be different…And yet it’s not that, it’s not that.”

“What is not that?” asked Varenka in bewilderment.

“Everything. I can’t act except from the heart, and you act from principle. I liked you simply, but you most likely only wanted to save me, to improve me.”

“You are unjust,” said Varenka.

“But I’m not speaking of other people, I’m speaking of myself.”

Like Kitty, I feel like a fraud when I attempt to do things “to seem better to people; to myself; to God”. I want to help others and to serve Jesus out of love–for Him and for them. It may sound noble, but at times it feels so childish. Because what if love isn’t enough?

I’m wondering…

Are you a person that acts from the heart or from principle and obligation? And if you’re of the latter category, do people like me drive you crazy?

The mind of an artist

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If you follow me on twitter, you may know that I’ve been reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I found a copy of the book while perusing the bookshelves of a rented beach cottage in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We were vacationing there over the Thanksgiving holiday. Since I couldn’t take the book with me, I decided to download a copy on my kindle. I’ve been reading it ever since. Dang. Those Russian novelists are wordy–864 pages. Whew!

I’ll admit that part of the reason I started reading it was simply to say that I’ve read it–I know–pretentious, huh? I actually had no idea what the book was about when I started. I had just heard that it was “the single greatest novel ever written”.

Well, shucks. How can you pass up a teaser like that?

Since I’m only 60% through the book (according to my kindle), I can’t make a personal determination as to whether it merits that type of praise. But I will say that Tolstoy was an absolute master of words, and the depth of his characters, his development of them through dialogue (both internal and external) is astounding. If it’s true what they say that reading great writing improves your own writing, then I definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book. Of course, many of you have probably already read it, and think it’s cute that at the age of 45 I’m just now reading it. Whateva…

I wanted to share the following passage from the book. I wonder if all artists, regardless of their medium, go through similar bouts of self-doubt when presenting their work for all the world to see:

Excerpt from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:

For the few seconds during which the visitors were gazing at the picture in silence Mihailov too gazed at it with the indifferent eye of an outsider. For those few seconds he was sure in anticipation that a higher, juster criticism would be uttered by them, by those very visitors whom he had been so despising a moment before. He forgot all he had thought about his picture before during the three years he had been painting it; he forgot all its qualities which had been absolutely certain to him–he saw the picture with their indifferent, new, outside eyes, and saw nothing good in it. He saw in the foreground Pilate’s irritated face and the serene face of Christ, and in the background the figures of Pilate’s retinue and the face of John watching what was happening. Every face that, with such agony, such blunders and corrections had grown up within him with its special character, every face that had given him such torments and such raptures, and all these faces so many times transposed for the sake of the harmony of the whole, all the shades of color and tones that he had attained with such labor–all of this together seemed to him now, looking at it with their eyes, the merest vulgarity, something that had been done a thousand times over. The face dearest to him, the face of Christ, the center of the picture, which had given him such ecstasy as it unfolded itself to him, was utterly lost to him when he glanced at the picture with their eyes. He saw a well-painted (no, not even that–he distinctly saw now a mass of defects) repetition of those endless Christs of Titian, Raphael, Rubens, and the same soldiers and Pilate. It was all common, poor, and stale, and positively badly painted–weak and unequal. They would be justified in repeating hypocritically civil speeches in the presence of the painter, and pitying him and laughing at him when they were alone again.

What say you? Can you relate to what Mihailov is going through here? I know I certainly can.

And if you’ve read it, PLEASE DON’T TELL ME HOW IT ENDS!

Why I hate writing, Part 6 – metaphorically speaking

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Part 6? Perhaps it’s time to look back before we move forward.

In my first post in the series, Why I hate writing, I talked about how I hate both good and bad writers. This post got a ton a comments from writers because, as I think most of you understand, writers are gluttons for punishment.

In Why I hate writing, Part 2, I talked about how unfair it is that many good writers go unpublished or under-marketed while it seems celebrities have publishers beating a path to their doors with offers of a book deal. Yeah. Life’s unfair like that. At least it provides work to some ghost writers. What? You don’t really think any of those people actually write their own books, do you? Bless your heart.

In Why I hate writing, Part 3, I talked about how sometimes writing hurts. Self reflection and examination can be ouchy.

In Why I hate writing, Part 4, I stole borrowed discussed at length a question Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent asked on her blog: “Which would you prefer? Great reviews, critical acclaim and awards… or great sales?” My answer was “both” of course, which she said was cheating because I had to choose one, but she’s not the boss of me. This was also the post where I introduced the term “lazy book whore”.

In Why I hate writing, Part 5, I discussed at length, my writing muse. Who, in case you missed it, is kind of a bitch.

So, here we are at the sixth installment of this series. Which begs the question, “If you hate writing so much, why do you keep writing and keep writing about writing?” Fair question.

I do it because, as I mentioned in the first post of this series, I don’t actually hate writing, I love/hate writing. I love the challenge of it. The idea that a perfect story (or song, poem, novel, article or blog post) is like a perfect golf game. To the golfer and to the writer, perfection is unattainable, and yet we hone our skills, practice and fail, and then start fresh again, trying our best to reach the unattainable goal. It’s an endless and challenging education.

Or at least it can be. Then again, sometimes we get lazy. (And by “we” I mean “me”, but feel free to include yourself if the shoe fits.)

Yesterday I wrote a post about a fire ant invasion in my house. Yes, it’s horrible and disgusting, thanks for asking. I started writing the post last week with every intention of making the story into a life metaphor. But then I wrote another post for the blog carnival about brokenness where I used shattered Correlle dishes as a metaphor for our broken selves. Now, I could have easily gone the metaphor route, but that struck me as taking the easy and expected route.

Instead, I decided to make the post an introduction to this post. Metaphors and similes can be wonderful writer’s tools in order to convey important themes or messages in your story, but there are times when we use metaphors just to prove we know how. And clearly, not everyone is equally gifted in the art of the powerful metaphor. Take these examples from Why English Teachers Die Young (via A list of some of the worst analogies ever:

  • She had a deep throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  • McBride fell twelve stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 instead of 7:30.
  • Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.
  • Shots rang out. As shots are wont to do.
  • He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  • The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  • The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law, Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work. (my personal fave)

Obviously, these examples are so ridiculously bad that they’re humorous. And if you’re going for humor, a bad metaphor or analogy is great. What’s not great is when a writer tries to force a metaphor when simple description will suffice. Like overusing adjectives or adverbs, or writing in a passive voice, it’s a sign of a timid, inexperienced and/or insecure writer.

Sometimes less is more. I mean, you don’t need to say:

“Behold the children’s loyal companion, its body like the expertly played keys of a piano in both movement and color”,

when all you really need to say is:

“See Spot run.”

A good quote bears repeating:

“I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing

We have ants

image courtesy of google imagesWe have fire ants.

In our house.

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular sub-species, fire ants are like regular ants except they bite and leave large, red itchy welts on you. They are also very aggressive. Think the non-flying version of Africanized killer bees.

Like mosquitos, love bugs, june bugs, tree roaches, mega prosperity gospel churches and bad drivers, fire ants are simply a fact of life if you live in Southeast Texas.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there will always be fire ants in my yard. There’s no such thing as getting rid of all of them. As soon as you get rid of one mound, the surviving members pack their tiny little suitcases and find another spot to build a new one. There is a product called Over and Out that promises to kill the ant population on your property for an entire season. The only problem with that is it’s very expensive. The instructions say to use a broadcast spreader to cover your entire property. A 10 pound bag is $25, which covers 5,000 square feet. Our property is just over 2 acres. You do the math…

No, seriously…I suck at math. I have no idea how many bags that would be, but according to my husband (who doesn’t suck at math), that’s a lot of money to kill some ants for one season.

Okay, I just figured it out (Thank you, Google).

One acre equals 43,560 square feet
Two acres is 87,120 square feet
87,120 divided by 5,000 is 17.424
17.424 multiplied by $25 is $435.60 (plus shipping and handling)

(Did you eyes sort of glaze over there? I know mine did.)

So, for roughly $450 every six months, I could have a fire ant free yard. And angry neighbors on either side of me because all of those ants are gonna pack up and move next door.

But back to my original point: We have fire ants in our house. They have been getting in through the weep holes in the brick and setting up shop in the walls. We are living in a giant, creepy ant farm.

I called Dave the exterminator last month. He came out, treated the outside of the house and sprayed the inside. When he was finished, he told me that I would most likely see a few more ants “here and there”, and that if I did I should just treat the area where I find them.


I took this to mean spray them with ant killer or, if they happen to be, for some inexplicable reason, congregating in the microwave, turn on said microwave to high until they stop moving. Random fact: It takes longer to kill fire ants in a microwave than it does to pop a bag of popcorn. They’re tough little suckers!

and "there"

As I feared, I did see more fire ants “here and there”, and I sprayed them or nuked them as I saw them. The only problem with this plan was that every time I got rid of the ants in one part of the house, they would show up in another area. (Again–giant, creepy ant farm.) After a couple of weeks of killing ants in one place only to have them show up somewhere else, I called Dave back and told him we still had an ant problem.

The following day, Dave came out to my house with his business partner. They walked around with flashlights trying to figure out where the ants were coming in. I showed them the ant killer I was using and explained again that when I killed them in one location, they would show up somewhere else. After a brief discussion and more walking around with flashlights, they determined that the best course of action was to set traps for the ants and allow the worker ants to take the poison back to the queen thereby killing the mound. “Okay. That makes sense. You have to get to the source of the problem in order to eliminate it. I’ll do that.”

But here’s the best part. Dave says to me, “You need to NOT kill the ants with the spray. Let them crawl around and take the bait.”


So now I’ve STILL got hundreds of ants crawling around in two out of 3 bathrooms in my house, which makes the morning routine for a family of four a tad stressful.

You may be asking yourselves at this point, “What is the life lesson I can take from this story? What bit of wisdom can I take away from this post?”

My answer?

“I don’t have one. I do, however, have fire ants in my house.”

Not everything is a metaphor, people.

But more about that in my next post…

Still looking back and looking forward

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put last year behind me. It’s not that it was a bad year so much, just a very long one. But sometimes in order to look forward, we must look backwards. This seems to be a theme for me this week. Disasters were big news in 2010–both natural and man-made. Political and economic news continued to be depressing and challenging, but there was also hope and happy endings. The Chilean miners endured and survived and reminded us that if we keep our faith and hope alive there’s light at the end of the tunnel. (Ouch. That was an excruciatingly obvious metaphor.)

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For this reason, the Chilean miners rescue gets my vote for Story Most Likely to be turned into a sermon illustration and/or Life Analogy Blog Post. If you happened to be on the twitter at any time during this crisis, you no doubt read hundreds of tweets about their progress. But for me, the most memorable tweet from this time came from Conan O’Brien:

RT @ConanOBrien: The Chilean Miners could B released this weekend just in time 2 see Michael Bolton sing on DWTS (Dancing with the Stars). Guys, what’s an extra day?

To be certain, two of the biggest news stories of 2010 were the natural disaster in Haiti and the man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But there were others as well. Who could forget…

The Most Annoying Sound of 2010: The Vuvuzela Horn of World Cup Soccer fame. Just when I thought watching televised soccer couldn’t possibly be more annoying. But even with the sound turned off, all one needed to do was follow @thevuvuzelahorn on twitter (brainchild of @tremendousnews) for a constant barrage of the following tweet:

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@thevuvuzelahorn: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

And speaking of annoying, how annoying would it be if you happened to be traveling in Europe only to find your flight had been cancelled by…

The Most Unpronounceable Word of 2010: Eyjafjallajokull. The Icelandic volcano which shut down air travel across Europe and resulted in…

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The Most Unintentionally Hilarious Tweet of 2010 by@lewismoats concerning “a volcanic Ass Clown stopping flights over Europe”, which lead to…

The Most Creative Use of a Typo for Blog Fodder of 2010: Beware the Ass Clown!Or what happens when I go too long between posts by @redclaydiaries.

2010 was such an eventful and news filled year, I found it all just a bit overwhelming. Sometimes I find it easier to stay in my own little world and write about what I happen to be focused on. Last year (and most likely this year), my focus was on all aspects of writing and the business of writing.

From the publication of Billy’s Coffey’s debut novel Snow Day to my observations about all things writerly. If you were to ask me what my most read post was from 2010, I would have to tell you in all honesty I have no idea. I quit checking my analytics months ago. But if I had to guess based on the number of comments received, my guess for the most read post of 2010 would be Why I Hate Writing (first in a series!), where I confessed that the original title of the post was going to be Why I hate writers.

I went on to explain why I hate writers. This post received 50 retweets on twitter and 62 comments from–you guessed it–writers. Which only proves my theory that writers are gluttons for punishment.

And because I hate writers so very much, I plan to write more about writing and writers this year and all the many ways your work continues to disappoint me. This should be a banner year for this blog!

Snort! I do NOT hate writers! I love writers! But how many of you writerly types got a little indignant and teary eyed while reading the last part of that paragraph?

Tsk, tsk…

I know y’all so well…

Looking back and moving forward

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Pardon me while I dump my brain onto the page:

2010 was an eventful year. It was also, in some ways, very overwhelming for me personally. You may have noticed that the last week of 2010 I reposted rather than posted new stuff. This was mostly due to family time and traveling, but I’ve also been evaluating my blog and the frequency in which I post new material. For most of 2010, I posted seven days a week. Granted, I didn’t write 7 posts a week–Monday is reserved for Billy Coffey and for most of the year Wednesdays were reserved for a guest blogger. But still–that’s a fairly ambitious schedule. For me, anyway.

I’m sorting through and reassessing how to make the best use of my time for 2011. I have enjoyed and appreciated all of the wonderful guest posts I have posted, and I plan to continue this practice. But the frequency of these Wednesday guest posts will most likely go from weekly to monthly. (Billy Coffey’s post will continue to appear here on Mondays, however.) One of the goals of this blog will still be to spotlight other writers, but I also want to write more–both on and off the published page.

As for posting frequency, I’m still debating about that. I would like to allow myself more time to write, to read and to study the craft of writing. Don’t worry–I’m not planning to get all serious and writerly. I’m still the random and ridiculous blogger that I’ve always been. It’s just that I believe anything worth doing is worth doing well, and I want this blog to be a reflection of that attitude. As a good friend recently reminded me, quantity does not equate to quality, and I never, ever want to post anything here just for the sake of posting something. Having said that, I do want to decide on a schedule and stick to it. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

In the meantime, I would appreciate any and all feedback, positive and negative. Would you let me know what kind of posts you most like reading here? Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the interwebs. I know “community” has become an overused buzzword of late, but at the risk of sounding cliche’ I want you to know how much I value each of you who I’ve been so fortunate to encounter in the online blogging community.

And since everyone seems to be making or not making New Year’s resolutions, here’s my contribution. It’s a quote I found a few years ago and I liked it so much I painted it on the mudroom wall–the one facing the door I enter my house from:

“Fear less, hope more,
eat less, chew more,
whine less, breathe more,
talk less, say more,
hate less, love more…
And all good things will be yours!”

How to Write a Book This Year (by Ed Cyzewski)

Yesterday I linked a series of posts by Ed Cyzewski. Today’s guest post was written by Ed. I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of worked out. For those of you unfamiliar with him, Ed Cyzewski is a freelance writer in Connecticut of all places. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, and he blogs on Christian living and theology at and on writing at You can also follow him on Twitter: @edcyzewski.

He’s also written a book about writing and publishing, and he’s been kind enough to share some of his insights on my blog today. Here’s Ed:

How to Write a Book This Year
After the streamers are cleaned up and you’ve discovered that flat champagne doesn’t do much for orange juice in the morning, you’ll have a new year on your hands come January first along with that nagging thought at the back of your mind: Is this the year to write that book?

Perhaps you’ve been toying with it for years. Maybe you have it outlined but haven’t dared to start writing. And then again, it may be your dark secret.

I may be biased because I write for a living, but I think that now is the perfect time to start writing that book. In fact, why not make it your resolution for the new year? Whether you self-publish, target a small press, or take the plunge by submitting your book to an agent, here are some tips on tackling that book project in 2011 and persevering to the end.

Manage Your Expectations
Don’t expect a New York Times bestseller to tap its way onto your keyboard the first time you sit down to write. Writing is a process that requires a series of drafts. Just focus on defining your book’s main idea/story line, creating a simple outline, and then starting with what you can.

You may imagine scowling literary agents or have visions of huge advance checks dancing into your bank account. Neither is typical for the majority of writers. Just make sure you love what you’re writing and remain open to whatever good things come as your book develops.

Set Realistic Goals
Every writing project requires small, manageable goals, and this is especially true for a book. Whether you’re writing a 50,000 word nonfiction book or a 100,000 word novel, plan to write for set periods of time with specific word count goals.

If you have a day job, aim for 500-1,000 words during weekdays, and then set a more ambitious goal for one of the days during the weekend, such as 3,000 to 5,000 words. Without setting too furious a pace, you’ll be able to pound out a complete first draft in a few months or at least by the time December 2011 rolls around.

Create New Routines
The key to sustaining a high creative output is determining when and where you write the best. If you can’t find a quiet corner at your home, seek out a library where you can focus.

In my own case, I need to leave the house early in the morning and stake out a spot in a cafe where I can sit among other creative types. The noise of the crowd serves as a welcome backdrop.

Though there are a few exceptions, most writers work best in the morning or evening, but rarely in the afternoon. Unless you’re one of the exceptions, avoid this creative black hole at all costs.

Seek Accountability
While writing is generally a lonely pursuit where you and you alone are responsible for shaping your story, there is nothing more motivating than a writing group. When you need to share with others, you’ll be far more likely to persevere through dry spells, even if each sentence isn’t coming out perfect.

However, there is another option, especially for nonfiction authors: blogging on a regular basis. Most books pass through a number of revisions, if not major overhauls before they are published. A blog is a great place where you can develop your voice, learn to write for a specific audience, test ideas, and find the accountability you need to write daily.

The second and third drafts are where you can make your book shine. After finishing your first draft, take a week or two off from working on that particular book. I suggest picking up the latest issue of Writer’s Digest or a book on how to improve your craft such as Writing Fiction by Gary Disher or On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

When you do sit down to revise your book, ask hard questions about your main ideas, storyline, and characters. Make sure your scenes or main ideas build upon each other so that each new chapter fits with the one preceding it.

Improve your word choice, especially your verbs, and analyze the ways you both begin and end chapters. This is the time to make sure your book doesn’t have any holes that could throw off your readers.

Celebrate Milestones
Whether you’ve completed a first draft, received your first rejection letter from an agent, or inked a book deal, take the time to savor each accomplishment along the way. Writing a book is demanding, but there are few better feelings than typing the last word of a long, long journey.

I could share a lot more about writing a book, and in fact, I did just that. You can read more about publishing in my book: A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book.

“I haven’t seen a single more helpful resource for writers hoping to enter the publishing fray”Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, WordServe Literary Group

Why I hate writing, Part 5 – Fighting the muse

Back when I was painting on a regular basis, my muse and I were in the zone. She’d have me up a few late nights, but we were working together. She guided my mind and my brush and we made some pretty creative stuff, her and I. Some days I wonder if I should give up my pen and pick up my brush again. Because while my artist muse is quirky, artsy, fun and funky, my writing muse?

She’s kind of a bitch.

Take my visit to the beach for example. Had my artist muse come along on that vacation, we would have collected shells along the beach…

and perhaps brainstormed about different ways one might re-purpose all the planks lying around that used to be the pier.

We would have been amused at the clever way old floats were used to decorate the trees,

admired the oil paintings that lined the walls, and delighted in the fact that another artist once called the cottage their home away from home.

We might have even done some imaginary redecorating: “I bet painting the backs of the bookcases a bright coral would really make them pop. Or maybe a soft Caribbean blue would work, too.”

But alas, artist muse stayed at home with the cat. The other muse came along on this trip. She’s pretty much always around lately, whether she’s welcome or not. She even butts in on the rare occasion I’m painting or designing something. Rude, huh?

It wasn’t enough for her that almost every possible inch on the wall or space on a shelf was occupied by some token from another time. My other muse simply would have appreciated the time and care that went into arranging all these memories. Writing muse? No way.

“What’s the rest of their story?” she asks me.

“How is it that a college professor meets and marries an artist?”

“Seems she was a teacher, but not on a college level. Looks more like elementary school.”

“He appeared to be a deep thinker.”

“She was a bit of a romantic dreamer.”

“How did they make that work? Or did they make that work?”

“Clearly, many vacations were spent here — kids and grandkids both”

“The owner said her stepdad built this place in the 1950’s. Did he have kids from another marriage as well?”

“Did all the kids and grandkids from their blended family get along, or was there tension?”

And on and on…

It’s been a week since my vacation, and yet the questions and demands continue…

“What are their stories, Kathy?”

In my defense I reply, “But I can’t possibly contain those stories to a series of blog posts. There are too many words!”

“Who said anything about a blog post? You write until you’re finished. Worry about what you have when you’re done. Now, put some coffee on. You’re going to be up for awhile.”

And y’all thought I was bossy…

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