Shelley Widhalm

Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Blogging: A Year in Review

In Shelley Widhalm, Why I Write, Writing on December 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

I am doing a model pose during the fashion shoot.

What a year in 2014!

What I love about the end of the year is getting a new calendar and planner for the next year and seeing all of those blank pages.

This is when the blank page is exciting, not when you’re a writer facing writer’s block.

The blank page presents a fresh start with those New Year’s resolutions and goals that offer a plan for something new or a way to redo something that isn’t working. It’s also a time for reflection on what you’ve accomplished over the past year and to identify what to work on or continue working on next.

For the past three years, I’ve been blogging about the writing process, the different elements of writing and the writer’s life, posting a blog nearly every week in 2014.

I blogged about revising three of my novels and the process I went through to edit, tighten and refine each of the storylines. I talked about what I love (and sometimes don’t love so much) about writing. And I discussed my favorite aspects of writing, such as finding motivation to do the writing and the habits of successful writers.

Over the past three years, I methodically covered every element of writing I could think of, gaining a better understanding of the material and how to apply it to my own writing. I blogged about what’s involved in structuring plot, developing character, coming up with original themes, providing intriguing settings and using imagery, metaphors and similes.

Explaining something to someone else is the best way to review and see things slightly differently than before; teaching is a form of learning.

In 2015, I will expand what I blog about to include more of my personal life and possibly something I’m an expert in, though I haven’t decided just what. I’ve read from multiple sources that the most successful blogs focus on an area of expertise. I have a broad knowledge about multiple topics, but don’t have a favorite except maybe reading and loving classics.

Here are a few ideas I’m considering for next year:

  • Providing writing prompts that I also will respond to, using them in my own writing.
  • Writing about the secrets of a writer’s life and what is involved in writing and editing a novel from scratch to finish.
  • Trying 52 things I haven’t done before and writing about them (except this one has been done before).

Hum, what do you think?

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Why I love my dog

In Puppy love, Shelley and Zoey, Shelley Widhalm on December 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

I am going to take a break from blogging about the writing process to talk about my BFF Zoey the Cute Dachshund, a miniature, long-haired dachshund that turned six yesterday on Saturday, Dec. 20.

On Feb. 20, 2008, I found her at a pet store, though I planned to rescue a dog or cat, when she was nine weeks old. I figured I should wait a day before taking her home, so I came back the next day with my mother. We both held her and fell in love, or I re-fell in love. I think it was when she leaned her adorable 2.8 pounds against our chests, snuggling in and making a sighing, contented sound.

At her new home, she started exploring right away, sniffing around the edges of the floor and going down the hallway. I immediately tried to kennel her, but the first night, she whined so loudly, I couldn’t handle the heartbreak in her pity-me cries.

I let her out onto my bed, saying more to myself than to her, “Just this one time, okay?” As if. One time became a second and a third and a habit.

Now, she sleeps with me except in the mornings when she zooms under the bed to avoid her start-the-day walk (one of two or three I try to fit in to get her empty and exercised).

I have to lure her with treats, or it could be she’s manipulated me into thinking that I have to give her the treats to get her to go. The treats are healthy, or I’d be worried about her weight given that every time the thought of leaving the house with her along enters my mind, she’s gone.

I think she’s adorable, especially her expressions and the intelligence in her eyes. She looks at me as if she’s full of thought, trying to figure out why I’m doing what I’m doing or what I’ll do next. She comforts me when I’m sad. And she’s there whenever I need a kiss (unless I think about kissing her at the same time I think she needs a walk).

Here is a photo of me and  my babe:

Zoey11

Writing During the Holidays

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on December 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

Fitting in writing when you’re busy, such as during the holidays, takes discipline, motivation and a willingness to write at odd times.

I find myself caught up in the excitement of attending holiday parties, spending time with family and friends, and eating lots of food. So to get serious about writing, I have to treat it like a job.

Here are some ways to get writing and keep going:

  • Buy a planner (even in old-fashioned paper form) and a new calendar to mark out goals for the year and schedule in specific writing days.
  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, selecting a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Write for five or 10 minutes, using a notebook that you always have with you. Those minutes will add up.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow for risk and freedom and for imagination and play, so that writing remains fun.
  • Write a writing action plan or goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing (maybe as a reward for surviving the holidays or just before everything gets busy).

Writing can be a reward once you get started as you see what you’ve accomplished from getting words down, while also being able to engage in the holiday fun.

Top 12 Writing Tips

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on December 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

With the year drawing to a close, this is a good time to reflect on the best writing advice to get motivated and inspired to do the hard work of sitting down to write.

I’ve collected notes about writing habits and the process of writing from magazine articles and books on writing, writing conferences and workshops I’ve attended and my own personal experience.

Here are my top 12 writing tips:

  • Write as much as you can, but not necessarily every day, especially if writing isn’t your full-time job. Set a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week for two hours or until you reach 1,000 words.
  • Get rid of distractions in your life while you’re writing, and don’t invite in the critic. Both can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration. It can come to you when you’re already working. The more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Have more awareness, using all the senses when making observations to add detail to your scenes. Take notes when something strikes you to use later on in your descriptions of the setting or in dialog.
  • Write when you’re not writing by describing what you see, hear and feel as a running mental description. Write down whatever seems compelling.
  • Figure out what is most essential, most loved for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you know.
  • Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that, with fiction and poetry, you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, let the story unfold because it isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the story down, then fine tune it with details, nuances and deepening of the plot, character and setting. Revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.