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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
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8 Ways to Simplify Your Writing Life
by Kyle Looby

Many of us find ourselves at the beginning of this new millennium contemplating ways to make life simpler, and if you find yourself in the same reflective boat, you may want to consider how you can simplify your writing life. The technology age we live in offers new and interesting gadgets on an almost daily basis, and sometimes we get a little too caught up in the life of being a writer, rather than simply writing.

Think about it. How much time do you spend on your e-mail compared to the time you spend writing? Simplifying your writing life doesn't mean returning to the old pen and notebook. It means using technology to make your life easier without getting bogged down in the technology itself.

Writing isn't easy and it's not always simple, but your writing life can be.

Use A Form Query
Have a query letter already written and saved in your word processing program that you can customize for each publication you want to target. Choose a query that has reaped positive results or find one from the numerous online or print sources on query letters.

Cut and paste the first paragraph of your article into the first paragraph of your query; customize the second paragraph for the publication you are targeting, telling a bit about the article you are writing, how it will benefit readers and why you are the best person to write it.

Save your final paragraph for telling a little about yourself and your writing credits; this won't change from query to query. If you send queries to several different types of markets, create a form query for each. Your parenting query will list your parenting clips and your writing query will list your writing clips, etc.

Use E-mail Queries
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many writers are still stuck on sending queries via snail mail even when they don't have to. Almost every online publications accepts e-mail queries and so do many print publications.

If the guidelines don't specifically state how they accept queries and they list an e-mail address, at least ask if you can send an e-mail query. You could get a response within days or even hours, rather than waiting for the mail to bring you an answer in a few weeks or months.

Use Submission Tracking Software
You can make your life a whole lot easier if you keep track of submissions. Tracking programs can help you keep tabs on where you've sent submissions and queries so you can easily see where you need to follow up. I also write down reasons for negative responses to remind myself of a publication's needs.

Write Off-line
Here's a tip that will help you get more writing done, guaranteed. Do your research online, either print it or make it available for off-line use, then log off.

So many times we writers get caught up in doing research that we get far more information than we can possibly use because the reading is so interesting. Or we surf, claiming to ourselves that we're doing research, but get sidetracked by such fascinating sites as Jesus Dress Up, Lego Porn, or Fat Chicks in Party Hats (I'm not including the URLs so you don't get sidetracked). Stumble across one of those sites and you'll be so horrified and fascinated that you'll forget all about what you're supposed to be looking for. Don't even give yourself the chance: Log onto the Internet, get what you need--just what you need--and log off.

Check Your E-mail Twice Daily
Actually, you can check your e-mail as often as necessary, depending upon how busy you are. The point is, don't use checking your e-mail as an excuse not to write. I know many writers, myself included, who probably spend more time checking mail every day than writing. If you're waiting for an important interview or an answer to a timely question, by all mans check often, just not every five minutes.

How many times have you been on a writing roll, expended yourself and in that brief period of time before the next thought comes, checked your e-mail and found yourself distracted from your writing by reading and answering mail? Set a few times when you will check your mail every day, maybe in the morning, at lunch and before you log off, then stick to it. I promise you'll be amazed at how much more productive you will be.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Software
I surf the Net (doing research, of course) and I often stumble across a freeware program that looks cool. I think I might want to use it sometime, so I download it. More times than not, though, I just forget it's there. Last time I took my computer in to my computer technician, he gathered his staff around my PC to laugh at how many icons I had on my desktop--they completely covered my wallpaper.

My computer had been running slower, so I had Jim the Computer Guy remove everything I never used. Guess what? I didn't miss anything and my computer ran as fast as it did when it was new. Lesson learned. I only download programs I know I need. Try it and see how much better your computer runs.

Turn Off Your IM
Writing can be a lonely business, so many of us write online and take advantage of a lull in activity to chat with our fellow writers via an instant messaging program. This can sometimes be a mistake.

How many times have you been so embroiled in socializing that you didn't finish your article in the time you had allotted? Or are you one who uses IM to procrastinate? Do yourself a favor and don't even log into your IM service when you're writing. Get your work done first and then chat. You might feel a bit isolated at first, but just think: when you do log on, you can brag about finishing your article. Maybe you'll motivate your writer friends to be more productive, too.

Back Up Your Work
In what I refer to as "The Crash of 2000," I lost all of the writing I had ever done. Why? I downloaded some software from the Internet that corrupted my Internet Explorer file. As these files are spread throughout the hard drive, it was virtually impossible to discover which file was corrupted. My hard drive had to be stripped and all my work was lost because I had never backed up my work.

Moral of the story: don't waste time trying to recreate your lost e-mails, bookmarks and other files. Back everything up. Use Zip disks, Jazz drives and CD burners. There are also Internet storage Web sites that allow you to "park" your data online for free so you can access it should you suffer your own crash.

While I wouldn't recommend implementing all of these changes at once, I would suggest picking one or two that target areas in which you need to improve. Work on one change at a time and see what difference it makes in your writing life. Remember, it takes about four to six weeks to make a new habit stick, so if you really want to simplify your writing life, give yourself the time to do it. I promise you'll be more productive.

Submission tracking software:

Internet storage sites:

Kyle Looby hails from Springfield, IL, and writes when her three children let her. She has been published in Writer Online, Papyrus, The Canadian Writers' Journal, The Writing Parent, Inscriptions, Writers-Exchange, and other non-writing publications. She is the former contributing editor of Suite 101's Writing for Online Venues, and the author of How to Write for Websites, Ezines, and Newsletters: 500 online markets for your work.









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