All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing

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So you need to make some sort of video out of still images. Not possible you say? Yes. It is.

In iMovie you can take the still images and manipulate a number of variables to create an automated slideshow with narration. The narration could be music if you prefer. The template can be no-template-at-all, or the template of your choosing. Continue reading

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Has anyone else noticed that writers don’t just write any more? Maybe they never did, but I distinctly remember not doing a lot of what I now do when I first started freelancing. What am I talking about? This whole social media – presence thing.

In the past two weeks I have created a podcast, burned a feed, submitted the podcast to iTunes, pleaded with them to help me switch to a different feed, tweaked the feed, and seen it all appear in iTunes – pretty much as I’d envisioned it. Continue reading

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Productivity Tools: EasyBib Pro

My least favorite thing to do as a writer? Create citations for anything related to a Web page. It’s tedious. There is never the info I need, when I need it, where it need it. It’s just the most dismal and daunting part of the entire writing process.

But today — I know – I sound like one of those commercials for Ginsu Knives – I discovered EASYBib  Pro.

All I have to do is enter the url and it generates the citation. If there is an author name or something it can’t find, I fill it in. If not, I press the cite button. It goes to a project and can be exported as a text file. I can open it with a Word file and, VOILA, happy me, happy my editor.

This little tool is at the top of my list!

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My Brain Hurts

I can now relate to both the Monty Python guy who said, “My brain hurts” and whoever it was that said he’d give his kingdom for a horse!

It is not just a matter of creating the podcast in GarageBand and then purchasing the WordPress media upgrade and uploading the audio file to WordPress.

Oh. So. Not. So.

You then need to create a feed in FeedBurner – which I did. But I wound up with two and opted for the first before I read all the stuff at the bottom. It was evidently the WordPress one I somehow already had. So now I have some of the correct info in the iTunes listing. And some not. But it’s up there! Am I disappointed? Yes. But I’ll mark it a Triple and go for the Grand Slam next time I’m at bat.

Meanwhile, would it not make sense to mention that there were additional steps to getting the correct url for iTunes. Never mind. I clearly have no business messing with this stuff. However, I am going to continue because having a career as a freelance writer is evidently not painful enough.

So – does anyone want some posts about how to do this, given that I can get you about 98% of the way there? By that I mean, your podcast will appear in iTunes and people can subscribe. The exact description of the podcast may come from the header of your blog rather than your heart’s desire.

Next up? A trailer for my book – which I saw on the shelf  at Barnes and Noble in Bethesda yesterday!!!!



Oh. My. Stars.

It’s not that I thought a podcast would be simple. I mean, I’m a writer. On demand, I can imagine some truly vivid worst case scenarios. Seriously, even my fevered imagination did not do justice to this effort.

First, I spent a couple of days figuring out the GarageBand was going to be just fine. (It was not at all obvious to me from the info on the Apple site!) I quickly discovered that using just the mic on my computer left me sounding like a child screaming into a tin can on a string in a cave with a serious echo. Enter the Blue Yeti microphone. I suppose there is a way to make it less obvious when I press and un-press the mute button – so far this eludes me. Likewise cutting the audio and re-taping a portion. If I were in charge of the audio for a film, the entire cast would sound like they had a bad case of the hiccups. I hasten to add that I am not blaming this on the mic. It clearly took care of the problem of sounding like a child with a tin can.

Now that I’ve invested days in this endeavor, I have a 10-minute podcast. I honestly am excited about it – I just wish it sounded more professional. I know how to get it into my iTunes. Next up for today is how to get it onto the iTunes store and add a link to my blog.

Fingers crossed, it will all work out just fine.

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Productivity Tools: Napkin

Napkin.175x175-75I have a new software program, Napkin, that makes creating images for my blogs a snap. I’m all for anything that saves me time. I’m also all for anything that’s easy to use. It’s rare that I find an app that delivers on both. Napkin does.

You can use it for more that creating images for your blogs. You can sketch and focus on part of an image… Those are things I haven’t gotten to yet. What I’ve used it for is to find an image I’d like to use, create a screen shot, then edit it in Napkin.

The very best part of Napkin? You can literally drag from a png button and create a png file. This file type is compatible with WordPress. Because of this, it’s easier than ever to bring an image into my posts. In fact, I have had to restrain myself!

Napkin is a Mac app that’s definitely worth checking out!

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Organization as a Game Plan?

I’m always looking for a better way to manage my writing business. Yes. Business. Being a freelance writer is at least as much as managing the business aspect of the role as the actual writing – if your goal is to make a steady income.

I’ve been a freelance writer for about five years – writing for much longer than that – and I’ve done okay, but nothing stellar. What I mean is, you won’t find me in the pages of the six-figure income books! But this year I had a solid plan to make a steady, very respectable income, from my existing clients. I know. As freelancers you already know the sad punchline to this tale. My biggest client hasn’t gotten any new requests for content in six months. Talk about bad news! The good news is, I’m one of their writers and as soon as they have more business, I have more business. The other good news is that I have several other clients who continue to generate business for me.

It’s time to pitch some ideas. Many ideas, in fact. It occurred to me the other day that my current process is designed for someone who pitches occasionally, rather than for someone who pitches on a regular basis.

I determined that the problem with my current system is that it is:

  • Paper-based
  • Inefficient
  • Doesn’t work

I mean by all of this that once something is printed out and filed, it is out of mind. That may be a result of running in many directions at once, but I rarely meet a freelance writer who is not in the same situation. I think it’s part of the job.

My new system is not paper-based:

I create folders in Scrivener. These folders hold all the research sites and documents I have on a topic. This is important because I find that researching a topic takes two passes at the start. The first pass is to establish that this is as interesting as it seemed and that there is enough readily available information for me to get up to speed. The second pass is when I am ready to write a query and have determined my angle. With everything right there on my desktop, I don’t have to do research twice or have a bookmarks bar that is so big I forget about what’s not on the screen. (Yes. Out of sight, out of mind was a saying created with me in mind!) To be sure I don’t space out about my queries, I leave Scrivener open on my desktop. When I get on my computer, it’s right there!

At the start of one week, I look through what I have in Scrivener and pick five topics that have passed the first screening. I make a list on my Note pad and let those five topics spin around in the back of my brain until the Friday of week two, when I write my queries and send them out. With five queries a week going out, I’m greatly increasing the odds of getting an assignment. When I’m done generating queries, I start a new list on my Notes pad.

For the actual pitches, I plan to use either Evernote or Circus Ponies Notebook. I’m not sure which. I’m giving them both a try and I’ll let you know.

Fingers crossed!



QuickBooks for Writers

So here you are. It’s nearly the end of the first week of February and you have done nothing proactive about the accounting mess you pledged you’d clean up. Your receipts are piled up on your desk – a good start – and you have scribbled notes about who owes you what when. You could enter that information into a spreadsheet, but why not enter it into QuickBooks and get some real use out of the information and effort?

QuickBooks is the best-selling accounting software for small businesses. It has more bells and whistles than you probably care about, BUT it does have the ability to track the things you need to track if you think about it before you set it up. What exactly does “think about it before you set it up” mean? I’ve been using QuickBooks for years and have also been QuickBooks certified for several years. In addition, I have my MBA and was a financial analyst and small business consultant for many years. Here is what I’ve learned along the way.

As a writer, you most likely want to know these things on a regular basis:

  1. How much money is due to you? Who owes it to you? When is it due to you?
  2. How much money do you owe? Who do you owe it to? When must you pay?
  3. How much money is in your checking account? How much money do you have in savings?
  4. Are there any charges on your credit card that are related to your writing business.

Let’s tackle the first one – how much money is due to you – in this post.

How much money is due to you is also known as your Accounts Receivable. The total of your Accounts Receivable is the total of the money due to you. The tricky thing with writing is that you don’t always know a definite payment date since it is often “upon publication.” For me, that makes it easy to overlook a Receivable – something I do NOT want to do.

As a way around that, when I submit a query to a new client, I create a Customer Record for that client. It takes very little time. All I do is put in a name, address, and other contact info. In the notes, I put some information about the query itself. This way, if I get the assignment, I can go on to the next step. If I don’t get the assignment, I can make the customer inactive or delete it entirely. For the time from the query to the response, I have the potential client in my system – safe and sound where I can’t lose it!

When I get the assignment, I create an Invoice. The invoice may or may not be the one the client wants from me – if they even want one from me. Very often they send a contract and I sign and return it. My payment comes without an Invoice from me. So why create a Contract? Because it takes very little time but yields a bunch of useful information for my purposes. Plus, it sits there with the potential due date, letting me know when that date is approaching so I can watch my mailbox and follow up if necessary.

What information can I get from the invoice? I can tell what sort of writing paid me the most, if that is important to me. I can tell which Clients paid me the most. I can keep track of my time if I’d like, and see which writing was the most profitable.

For me, the most important part of entering the information and creating an Invoice is that I have one place to look to see who owes me money, and a system that keeps track of when it is due without any additional effort on my part.

Related Posts:
QuickBooks for Writers – Getting Started

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Productivity Tools: Omni Plan

I am eternally stymied by the simple fact that my planning process occurs is in at least 3-dimensions. Trying to plan with To Do lists, calendars, lists … After a brief while they all fail. It’s disheartening.


A new year. A new try. This year is an expensive – to me – program called Omni Plan.


It’s supposed to show a critical path and have the ability to attach PDFs to the plan. That sounds good. I’m not really sure what else it has, but I’ll update you as I figure it out.

I sure hope it works because my desk is a mess, my brain space is full, and my calendar looks like a toddler scribbled on the wall!