Tag Archives: inspiration

Christmas Letters for Writers

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

The Pressure’s On

santa judgesIt’s one thing for mere mortals to throw together a family Christmas letter using colorful Santa stationary and a dutiful recounting of the year.

But for writers, our families and friends expect more.

As “jedikaiti”   pointed out in an Etiquette Hell discussion,

“I have a friend who writes WONDERFUL Christmas newsletters. Yes, a newsletter. About one person’s year. About 4 pages, and I looooove getting it every year.

She’s a professional writer, so she does have a distinct advantage there….”

(Even Santa gets all judgy and up in our grill.) 

So here are a few tips to help you win the Pulitzer of Christmas Letters.

Start With A Hook

Hook A: Honesty

It is our pleasure to bring you the 2010 edition of the Brutally Honest Dashwood Family Christmas letter.

As an aside, this letter includes a phrase I’d love to steal:

Margaret is a heaping helping of crazy.

Hook B: It’s a very Redneck Christmas

Jeff Ward has given some thought to Christmas letters he’d like to see.

We did it! We finally got those indoor facilities installed in the doublewide.

Create a Relationship With Your Reader

You can count on Cracked to understand the delicate thread between author and reader, in their inspired Upper Class Christmas letter:

Dear Relations and House Staff,

As I do every year, let me start by saying, "You’re welcome."

Get To the Good Stuff Fast

Brandy understands the brilliance of netting it all out so you can “get that over with.”

  • No I am not married yet.
  • I don’t know why I’m not married yet.
  • No really, there’s nobody who’s interested in me.
  • Yes, really. Nobody.
  • Yup, I’m almost thirty.
  • Yes, that is my biological clock you hear ticking.
  • It does sound like a time bomb, doesn’t it?
  • Yes, I would love a bottle/glass of wine. Thank you.
  • Invite the Reader Into Your World

    Joey, The Childless Mom, allows her readers to see the real-life, blunt version of “The Funniest Christmas Letter I’ll Never Send.”

    In March, Hubby has his MESA surgery and I sent out the infamous, "WE HAVE SPERM" texts to our friends.

    (I bet there’s a hashtag for that.)

    Don’t Be Overly Impressed With Yourself (Humble is the New Black)

    At PensFatales, Laurie Perry shares her Christmas Letter in a way that ensures we’re more impressed with her year than she is.

    “The cats were cute and pooped a lot this year. I wrote a book, it’s OK. It comes out next year and is just a longer version of this letter with more complaining, but there is a great recipe for fried zucchini and some knitting patterns.”

    Or Avoid Reality Altogether, Because Fiction is Oh-So-Much-Better

    Hey, you could be anyone.  Any Situation.  Perhaps a woman receiving a gift from an admirer, as in, “12 Days of Christmas Correspondence.”

    Dearest John:

    I went to the door today and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. What a delightful gift. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

    With dearest love and affection, Agnes

    December 23rd

    You Creep!

    Now there’s ten ladies dancing -

    So, to sum up. 

    People expect a lot out of “real” writers.  Go with your strengths.  Write a Christmas letter that must be shared on blogs everywhere.

    I just may quote you.

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    Today’s Writing Tip: Establishing Authority

    5 Infographics for Writers

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    #1  Put Butt In Chair

    How to Get a Book Published at Writer's Market
    WritersMarket.com shows you How to Get a Book Published

    The writer’s experience. Ah, good times.

    #2  Curvaceous Story Structure

    Kurt Vonnegut - The Shapes of Stories
    This is your story.  This is your story in conflict.  This is your story over time. Any questions?

    #3  Your Brand Is Your Best Story

    Storytelling is Not Just for Campfires

    Storytelling: what is it and how to do it all in one infographic.  It’s like a college class in 5 minutes.

    #4  Zombie Critique – Time-Line Method

    The Walking Dead episode breakdown infographic

    Also see beautiful Zombie Death and Dispatch infographics and super-awesome Zombie skull-graphic. Want more?  Many more HERE.

    #5  All Roads Lead to You

    another-little-piece-infographic

    Incredible, engaging marketing tool that invites potential readers to learn more about themselves, be true to their personal taste, and agree that, why, yes, your book IS perfect for them.

    (Bonus: Also, check out 4 Best Writer’s Block Infographics)

    Ode to an Infographic

    A well-designed infographic uses images to convey importance size, scope, concepts, relationships, power, trajectory, speed (and even humor) instead of using words.

    While most infographics do use words, the picture element does not just illustrate exactly what the words say.  Instead, the illustration is the main message. 

    With a great infographic, you can gain a complex understanding in an instant. You can stand back, be global at the same time that you also get up-close-and-personal with the details.

    Best yet….

    Readers are engaged and asked to take action (spatially follow along). A well-designed infographic is an interactive stroke of genius.

    Do You Have an Infographic?

    • For your novel?
    • For your business?
    • For your marketing strategy?
    • For your clients?
    • For self-motivation?
    • For further education and understanding?
    • To save your sanity?
    • To sum up the hilarity your average day?
    • To figure out exactly what it is you do or know?
    • To mourn all the things you don’t know?
    • To make better decisions?
    • To show just how you’ll kick ass in 2013?

    You could, you know….

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers: Part 2

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    Amaze Your Writer Friends

    Punctuation, Hell, and fake websites were in the list of our first 5 gifts.  The last 5 are filled with sugar plums and the dust of ground-up elves.

    Or maybe something even better.

    (But seriously, who doesn’t savor the nostalgic scent of ground-up elves sprinkled lightly on sugar cookies?  So spicy, so wickedly good.  Like cinnamon, red velvet shoes, and high-pitched laughter in every, single bite. Yummy-yum.)

    Gift #5  This is your life. Do what you love. And do it often.

    From Core 77, I was introduced to the Holstee Manifesto Poster.

    This is Your Life

    It’s like someone figured out how our writer-hearts keep on beating, and wrote it down for the world to see.  Poster, $25.00.

    Who is that someone?

    Mike, Fabian and Dave who have a company together.

    “It wasn’t about shirts and it wasn’t about their old jobs. It was about what they wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for.”

    Gift #4  Your Own Theme Song

    Ever since Ally McBeal I’ve wanted my own theme song.

    Dr. Tracey: You need a theme song
    Ally: I need a what?!
    Dr. Tracey: A theme song. Something that you can play in your head to make you feel better
    Ally: Am I on one of those hidden camera shows?
    Dr. Tracey: Theme songs are vital.

    See?  They’re vital, I’m tellin’ ya!

    And someone agrees with me. Raleigh Coaching offers MUSEic Coaching.

    “Our lives can be thought of as movies with their own unique soundtrack.  YOU PICK THE GOAL | WE PICK THE MUSEic.”

    Tell Santa about this.  He’s all about the jolliness of music.  And he believe in theme songs, too. That’s why there’s so many songs about him at Christmas.

    Gift #3  Rain

    Nothing makes me feel cozier or want to write more than the sound of rain.  You curl up inside, just you and your imagination.  A warm cuppa joe. Comfy socks.  And a writing project all your own.

    It’s like you’re cut off from the world, safe, warm, and full of dreams.

    (Don’t give me that look.  It’s not just me, you know.)

    As the Rainy Mood website says, “Rain makes everything better.”

    And it’s a free website.  Who are these generous rain lovers, anyway?

    Also, there’s an app for IOS and Android (not free but for $4.99 you take the mood of cozy with you).

    Gift #2 GeoPalz

    Kick in the ass, anyone?  No, wait, I mean, get off your ass and walk.  No, wait, it’s just wrong to say ass on a Christmas gift list.

    Yet, that’s how I think about it after I’ve been sitting in a chair writing for 8 or 12 hours a day, months on end.

    Geopalz

    Honey, it’s time to do something about your a**, and I’m so psyched about this kid’s pedometer, I can hardly stand it.  (Yes, I said it’s for kids, but we’re going to ignore that and buy it anyway.)

    Okay, get this.

    A) You log onto their website, track your steps, and win prizes.

    B) In the “parent” role, you can buy things to put on your prize list (in addition to what’s there), and then set about winning something you care about.

    C) You can create a family of other writers and cheer each other on.

    D) The pedometer ($25.00 or less) is ten times better than the one I’m wearing right now.

    My pedometer:

    • The buttons are easily mashed so that the steps are zeroed out randomly all day long.
    • The display is too small to see (multiple modes, can’t tell what mode I’m in).
    • The clip will barely fit over the waist of my pants.
    • It can’t be worn anywhere else.
    • It’s an ugly gray.
    • And (sob) no prizes.

    GeoPalz?

    • It does a great job at counting steps.
    • The pedometer has an attached cover (no accidental resets).
    • It comes in many designs to make you feel happy when you look at it.
    • There are prizes and friends for accountability and good cheer.
    • The website is free (and free for those who don’t have Geopalz).
    • The new version 2 (out now) stores 21 days of data, so you don’t have to enter number of steps into the website each day, and it automatically resets at midnight. Plus this new version will track minutes of moderate/heavy activity, can be mounted on your hip or shoe, plus it’s waterproof!

    GeoWOW.

    Gift #1  Creativity Gets In Bed with Organization (ooh la la!)

    Daniel Wessel at Organizing Creativity…. He’s a genius!

    Daniel WHe’s figured out the thing that sinks most writers (and other creative-types): how to organize your creative process (the key to your business) so that it’s even better. And how to actually troubleshoot the Gordian knot that is a finished product.

    Organize Your Creativity PosterResult?  Yes, indeed, a book of epic coolness.  You can get the pdf for free-ish.  Just pay if you find it useful.

    Daniel, dude, even your pricing is creative. (I’ll be applauding with money soon!)

    And the rest of Freelance-Zone readers?  Check out his blog.  It totally rocks.

    I hoped I rocked your world…

    …with these gift ideas. I feel like I’ve seen all the usual gifts for writers and something needed to be done about that.  We needed something unusual.

    May your gift giving be inspired and worthy of ground-up elf.  Happy holidays.

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    Ho-Ho-Ho

    This week, Catherine embraced the Christmas Spirit of Marketing (yes, Virginia, apparently holiday goodwill can be harnessed to help you market your writing!), and I, too, must get my ho-ho-ho on.

    (Yeah, I’ll wait while you realize that didn’t sound right….  )

    Today, I bring you 10 gifties for you and your writer friends.  May the delight of giving lead to milk, cookies, and a  Grinch-y ”heart that grows three sizes that day.” 

    #10  Punctuation Saves Lives

    I think we know this deserves a t-shirt.  Why, look at that!  A t-shirt perfect for gift giving.

    punctuation saves lives

    This shirt is yours for $15.99 over at Cafe Press.

    #9  Going Straight to Hell

    Some clients, some projects—they’re hell.  Just sayin’.  Why not get a passport to make your trip easier, something that doubles as a journal for these trying times? 

    Yes?  Hells, yes!

    Hell Passport

    Travel instructions included.  Just $2.95 at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Wild site.  Fabulous gifts.

    #8  Everything is Better if It Looks Like a Book

    I sob at the practical nostalgia of BookBook, a case/wallet for your iPhone.

    Book Book for Iphone

    I found it at that gift-giving-extravaganza that is Amazon, just $59.95 for iPhone 4 & 4 S, same for the new Iphone 5.  Suddenly you’re not working, you’re spending quality time with books.  Totally different.

    #7  Old Book Smell

    Many of us fell in love with writing as a child, in a dark musty library (one of the 2,509grand structures built by the Carnegies, no doubt, where the motto “let there be light” made every reader feel heroic).

    If you miss that good ol’ musty book smell, good news, you can buy it and successfully make the transition to electronic books smell intact.

    Smell of Books

    Smell of Books offer Classic Musty and New Book Smell for $9.99 each.

    But be careful.

    Please use in well ventilated area.

    May cause dizziness and hallucinations. May cause itching and runny nose.

    If symptoms persist for longer than eight weeks please consult your physician.

    Not for use on “real” books.

    Do not use while riding public transportation.

    Discard empty container with hazardous waste.

    Not for use as a room deodorizer.

    Not for use on burning books.

    Do not use on a Zune.

    Keep away from the Kindle Fire!

    (Plus, it’s not a real product. But the hilarity of this site alone should inspire you to pen your own faux site as a Christmas gift to those you love.  Or even customers and readers.  Everyone needs a good laugh for Christmas.)

    #6  Paint a White Board on Your Wall

    IdeaPaint is proof science makes the world a better place. Proof, I say!

    IdeaPaint

    It comes in clear, white, and black.  Enough to cover 50 sq. ft. is $225.00; 100 sq. ft. is on sale for $315.00 (for clear).

    I found this goodness at an equally awesome site called Idearella: Creating Glass Slipper Ideas in a Wicked Stepsister World. Their 2010 list of Christmas Gifts is super-awesome-sauce.

    TO BE CONTINUED.

    clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

    A Creativity Vitamin

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    stay creative

    I was recently challenged to find 5 YouTube videos that make me laugh.  (Not just once.  But over and over.)

    Now, don’t be asking why.

    That only muddies my point, which is that it’s hard to find 5 reliably funny videos so that you can create a “funny library” that makes you laugh.

    (A lot of stuff is only funny once.  Know what I mean?)

    So, as a writer, I find myself wondering if there’s a “funny library” for creativity.  Could I create a go-to resource for genius, insight, and inspiration?

    (Instantly, I realize want one, baaaaad.)

    Anywho, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

    10 Awesome Videos On Idea Execution & The Creative Process

    The folks at 99U have a pretty awesome Creativity Mission:

    We focus on what happens after inspiration — researching the forces that truly push ideas to fruition.

    Our profiles of proven idea makers, action-oriented tips, and annual conference are all designed to help you transform ideas from vision to reality.

    Watch the videos and let me know your favorites!  Pretty good start, eh?

    My Challenge to You

    Start collecting your own sources of creative B12, articles or videos that you can go to over and over to put the zing in your mental chain reaction.

    clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

    Find A New Dream

    by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

    dream bigYour dream is about writing.  I already know that.  But what I want to know is if you’re living your big writing dream today? 

    Because I’m not.

    And, in a way, I’m farther away than ever.

    (How in the world 20 years of hard work can lead you farther away, I have no idea!  But reality is like that.  It’s illogical and ill-behaved and apt to squash your hopes and dreams.)

    Now, some of you are getting close to your dreams, so this article won’t help much.  But if you have worked hard every waking moment and still aren’t “there,” then this article might help you ask The Big Questions.

    Should I let go of my dream?

    Should I stop giving it CPR?

    Should I find a new dream to dream?

    The more you fear these questions, the more important it is to ask them.

    And yes, your new dream can be a new writing dream. Or not.  I’m not imposing rules on your dreaming.  Not my job.  But basically you have all of reality to play with, so don’t panic.

    The Importance of Today

    In all my years of hard work and dreaming, what have I been doing?  I’ve been clawing my way toward a future goal.  The Dream.

    I thought that was how it was done.  Everyone said so.  You set your sights on a big dream and then you don’t give up.  You use your fingernails if you have to, as you dig in and keep going. 

    But now, I’m not so sure.

    • What about all the todays on the way to your dream? 
    • What if you don’t reach your big dream, ever? 
    • What if your fingernails break before you get there? 
    • Does that mean you have no dream to live, because you never made it to your dream location?

    What if the future is today?  How would that change things?

    The folks over at The One Question put it this way:

    “…to find your life purpose you have to live your life purpose. You can start living your life purpose immediately.”

    If you don’t live your purpose (or your dream), then you’ll never find it.  And if not today, then when?

    Just For Today

    Instead of a big dream, I wonder if the key isn’t found in what you dream just for today?

    What you live for today

    Maybe all you have to do is find your dream for today.  Or as John December says:

    Find a way to gain some aspects of your dream today.

    The pieces of the dream ARE the dream, just smaller.  To ignore these small pieces is to miss the whole point of having a dream.

    Gain your dream, piece by piece.

    Own your dream, today by today.

    By owning a piece of your dream today, you are eliminating the space between you and your dream.  In fact, you and your dream are one.

    Dreamer and dream.

    Now Back To The Big Questions

    Is it time for a new dream?

    It really comes down to today, doesn’t it?

    Do the small pieces of your dream create a wonderful today?

    That’s the one question this whole article comes down to.

    Until you can answer this question, you can’t ask any of the others. 

    How can you know if you should let go of your dream–if you should stop giving it CPR–unless you ask yourself about the reality of how you live your dream.  Or how you don’t.

    After all, if your dream doesn’t even exist until some dim future, then what are you planning on letting go of?  Something that never existed?

    And what about if you decide to let go?

    There are so many, many changes you can make to your dream and how you experience it.  And beyond that there are a multitude of dreams you can call your own.

    You’re the dreamer.  It’s your call.

    It’s okay to make a change.  It really, really is.  And it’s okay to keep your dream exactly the same.

    I just wish we talked about the small pieces more.  The day-to-day tasks.  the way we tried to move forward.  About how we see these small pieces as “living the writing dream.” 

    I think we might be a lot happier with a dream we live just for today.  A dream we can touch.  A dream that makes us… US.

    clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.