Monday, March 16, 2009

The Writer Mama is Here!

Welcome to Day 16 of the Writer Mama Blog Tour!

I'm honored to have been selected to host Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, today. If you haven't read Writer Mama, it's a must. (Read on to see how you can win a copy!) This little book, just shy of 300 pages, packs a punch! Christina guides readers through the writing process with wisdom and advice, humor and clarity, confidence and encouragement.

One point from the book that really resonated with me was the idea of hats. (Yes, hats!) As mamas, we are used to wearing different hats as our children grow: disciplinarian, cheerleader, nutritionist, storyteller. Christina realized that the same is true of writers. As your writing career grows, you've got to be your own disciplinarian and cheerleader while also trying on the hats of: accountant, researcher, editor, marketer.

Christina's daily posts throughout this blog tour not only express this concept but also explore how to succeed in each of those roles throughout the book-writing process. And, today it continues with advice on first drafts. Enjoy!

The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour Giveaway! (Catch up on the past posts here:

Post #16: The Nonfiction Book Writing Process: The First Draft

I can’t presume to know what works best for everyone when it comes time to draft your first book. But I have written a couple first drafts of nonfiction books and I have also been privy to the processes of other successful authors.

I say “successful authors” intentionally because the fact is not all books that are contracted make it across the publication finish line. Now, I imagine no writer wants to talk about this but we must. The fact is: when it comes to following through on a book contract, some writers won’t deliver. My editor, Jane Friedman at Writer’s Digest once shared with me that she kept a “book graveyard” on her bulletin board for books that were conceived but not delivered.

Feel free to shudder. What a discouraging experience! I hope it never happens to you.

Suffice it to say, you don’t want to be that writer who doesn’t deliver and you can avoid it by setting yourself up for success. Here are some of the ways I’ve seen success happen:

Don’t disappear

Keep in touch with your editor from the verbal offer all the way through the delivery of the partial first draft. Editors typically ask for a partial draft to assess that the book is on track, as agreed, and to have an opportunity to offer editorial direction before the book is complete. This is a good thing. Listen to your editor and try to find the wisdom in her suggestions. I can tell you from my experience that this collaborative attitude will create a better book.

Steer the ship

Even though you keep in touch with your editor, be careful not to imagine that she is overly consumed with your book’s progress. She isn’t. It’s quite likely that your editor is juggling many book projects on top of additional, and likely increasing responsibilities related to the overall success of the publishing company. With the economy being what it is, don’t be surprised if your editor’s job is in a precarious position. She may still be your editor by the time your book is done. Then again, she may not. Don’t worry, book projects get handed off from editor to editor. Once you get past a certain development point with your manuscript, your editor might hand you off to another editor so she can focus on acquisitions and new book development. Hang steady and roll with it. Your responsibility is to complete your book to the best of your ability no matter what is going on at your book’s publishing house.

Refine the focus

The more clear and refined your book proposal table of contents, the easier it is going to be for you, as the writer, to write the book in an orderly manner. Don’t forget that most nonfiction books require tons of research, interviewing, and compressing of information, so even if you have a solid TOC, you’ve still got your work cut out for you. If you didn’t refine your TOC, your book will likely benefit if you pause before you start drafting to refine it to the best of your ability. Be sure and run your revised TOC by your editor before you dive in and start writing.

Proceed in an orderly fashion

Sure, you want to take advantage of content discoveries as you go along in the book writing process. But you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on those discoveries the more organized you are. I proceeded in a much more orderly fashion on my second book by creating a file system just for my book research separate from all of my other projects. That way when I got my hands on new research, I could either file it according to chapter or put it in a pile to file later. This way, all of my research was always in one place and close at hand.

Remember that a nonfiction book is not typically “personal experience,” unless it’s a memoir. Most nonfiction books respond to many issues and questions, even after the central thrust of the book has been determined. The more you consider the reader’s questions and concerns as you write the book, the better you can address them in the book.

To say how to best succeed at book drafting, I would repeat my oft-repeated advice that writers are partnering with others, not hoping to be discovered by others. Your job is still your job, even after you sign the contract. I suspect that the writers who didn’t deliver on their manuscripts may have assumed that after landing the book deal, they were home free. But now you know, that once you get to this point, the really hard work has really just begun.

Today's Book Drawing: To enter to win a signed, numbered copy of Writer Mama, answer the following question in this blog's comments:

How organized of a writer are you? Do you have an orderly writing practice that works for you?

Thanks for participating! Only US residents, or folks with a US mailing address can participate in the drawing. Please only enter once per day.

Where will the drawing be tomorrow? Visit to continue reading the rest of the Writer Mama story throughout March 2009!


Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz (Writer's Digest Books 2007)

Kids change your life, but they don't necessarily have to end your career. Stay-at-home moms will love this handy guide to rearing a successful writing career while raising their children. The busy mom's guide to writing life, this book gives stay-at-moms the encouragement and advice they need including everything from getting started and finding ideas to actually finding time to do the work - something not easy to do with the pitter-patter of little feet. With advice on how to network and form a a business, this nurturing guide covers everything a writer mama needs to succeed at her second job.


Cheryl said...

What a great giveaway! I love this book but do not own it and would love to win (I still do have a US address too ;)

To answer the questions - I am not an organized writer, but I aim to be. And I don't have an orderly writing process! But like soooo many librarians, I would love to write a book. I just need to make a commitment and get motivated. I also need focus! And direction. will have to check out her blog more.

What do you like to write Katie? I've never talked with you about this and would love to know! xx

Kimberly Zook said...

Notebooks! I love notebooks. I've tried index cards, files in folders and on the computer, posters, calendars, etc, but what works the best for me is a handful of notebooks and a three-ring binder. I keep a notebook for each part of my writing: ideas, rough drafts for magazine articles, rough drafts for books, research, figurative language study, poetry, quotations, etc. Although my writing desk gets quite cluttered with many non-writing things, my notebooks are always ordered and help me to focus. My writing practice involves working inside of one or having it open beside my computer as I write.

Anonymous said...

I'm all about the file folders, binders, my label maker, sticky notes and constantly working to improve my organization skills because I'm a Trapper Keeper geek. And cause I like to know where to find stuff.

BonnieRose said...

what a great giveaway. I wud love my own copy of this book!
TO answer the question, I am not that much of an organized writer. Right now, I'm working on my memoir, 55k words in, another 25k to go.. I write faithfully every day, on my blog or on my book manuscript. Hoping to get it submitted to agents later this year. About the only way I am organized is that I diligently keep all negativity away from me, and write something everday.
As a writer, that's important..
Pure discipline.
hugs, bonnierose

Anonymous said...

I'm not as organized as I'd like to be, but I'm getting better. I'm trying to juggle more projects than I used to, so if I don't get things on the calendar, everything tends to get lost. :)

Anonymous said...

Organization really?? I must confess, I have commitment issues. Just when I get into the swing of one organizational system, I generally let it fall apart while I pursue another. I generally take notes on whatever is handy. It's great to own this sort of flexibility. But I've got a story due in a few days and I'm missing the contact info for my key interview. If you see one of those local coupon mailers with an email address scribbled on the back let me know.

mommyshawna said...

Let me share a great new discovery! I found a program online called Evernote. I am not affliated with the program in any way, but I really love it.

It is a simple program that allows you to create "notebooks". Then each notebook can have as many notes as you want and the notes can be tagged for easy searching. The BEST part about the program is that it saves your info in an online account and can sync to any number of computers!

This is for writing as well as recipes, quotes, inspirations, crafty ideas...anything! You can cut an paste selection online into your notebooks and it retains the online address for your reference.

I love that it saves paper that I would normally print and file. Plus it is you won't lose anything.

It is a free program until you use it to sync a certain amount of data...I have been using it for three months and have never synced more data that my free quota.

It doesn't have much in the line of formating, so you are not using it to write your whole book. You are using it to store bits and pieces until you can bring it together in the end.

When I got my cute, tiny, pink computer for Christmas, I was looking for a way to sync information easily between it an my main computer. Plus, I wanted a way organize my thoughts. This is a GREAT way to do it.

Apparently Microsoft has a similar program called OneNote, but you have to buy it and it doesn't have the syncing capabilities.

Anyway, since I had a bit to offer, I thought I'd share today. I LOVE the Writer Mama book and am reading it through again.

I keep having the dream to write, but not the time. I'm sure that if I keep at striving toward the dream and work hard...I'll make progress soon enough. THanks for the inspiration on your blogs and books!

katie said...

Thanks for the insightful comments so far, ladies! I'm really digging this blog tour! It's great to have you all stopping by my blog. I've gotten a few new Twitter followers today, and I think some of you must have been reading and commenting here. :)

I love organization, but sometimes that means that I invest in products and systems that are supposed to help me organize and then I fail to put them fully to use.

I tend to do my best writing by actually physically writing. Not typing. So, I love notebooks.

In the last year or so, however, for writing and blogging, I've come to rely heavily on Google Docs. (I'm not familiar with EverNote, but it sounds similar.)

When ideas pop up, I typically open a new google doc and type up whatever I've got at the moment: keywords, a few sentences, links, or sometimes just a topic. It gives me the freedom to have different ideas "percolating" at the same time, and keeps them all in one place.

The docs can be saved in folders and then accessed from any computer. Once a document is complete, there's even the option to publish online.

Please keep those organizational tips coming! Thx!

Naomi said...

I have organized chaos. My desk is an absolute mess, but my computer files are neatly organized into queries, books, poetry, assignments and so on. I write primarily for magazines and am starting to begin the book publishing process. In my emails are additional folders for correspondence and verification purposes. As for organizing ideas, I just write! I take notes by hand when I interview, but the writing (from idea to press) is done on the computer.

But one thing I am not organized about is time. Although my Blackberry helps keep me from missing kids' practices/rehearsals/meets/games/etc, I have a tendency at home to keep using the computer! Homeschooling is first priority, but there are so many things to write about!!! And being a SAHM, my house suffers the most because of my writing! Do you know a free maid or yard service??? (yeah, right!)

eringoodman said...

I'm actually a very organized writer (even though I am an incredibly disorganized mom/house-manager).

I have been writing professionally for almost a decade and have kept very good files of my work.

I have notecards and/or a notebook with me at ALL TIMES for jotting down ideas, which I either add to my tickler file or put right into the folders I have going for my (many) future books.

I also keep very organized photo files, as photos are very important to my work.

Recently I've had the wonderful experience of revisiting an idea that I jotted notes on years earlier and quickly and easily writing up an article or essay based on my notes!

A.F.A. said...

Having just relocated to my home country after 15+ years abroad, I'm still getting my life organized, and my writing life (unpublished novelist, a few magazine articles published in the past) is definitely no where near organized right now. But all these tips are helping so much!

The main thing I have right now is a "scratchpad" doc file on my desktop which I open and jot down ideas and fragments. So far in it: few children's story ideas, more random title ideas for my novel, lengthy brainstorm on a new blog I want to start.

Cheers, and thanks everyone for sharing!

Jennifer Roland said...

Not organized at all. Over the weekend, I decided that I need to build a better process if I ever want to finish my WIP.

When I get my new iPod Touch later this month (as a birthday present), I'm hoping to find an app that works to keep me on track. I've tried paper in the past, but I'm just not a paper gal.

Jenni said...

Oddly, I am a more organized writer than I am a housekeeper. This was always the case when I worked outside of my home as well. I have files, I have stand-up magazine holders for back issues of my favorite magazines. I use a spreadsheet for tracking payments. The only place I need to focus on is my Word files. I tried to organize them but lately everything has just been dumped into "Documents". Terrible. Suggestions on a good system?

Thanks for the insight, Christina! And thank you for hosting, Katie. I always love visiting your blog and always note your attention to detail (must be that librarian in you!).

Amanda said...

Hi Katie, I know I am too late for the giveaway (i so meant to post yesterday, but got side-tracked, oh well!!), but I wanted to ring in anyway because I think it is great that you were a part of this blog tour and your blog has become one of my favorites!

I love some of the ideas in the comments, especially utilizing google docs and I def. want to check out evernote mentioned here. I also read an idea on a blog somewhere about keeping a jar in random places around the house to jot things down on scrap paper and throw in the jar at random...I think they were mostly to capture things your kids say and do, but I think that sounds like a good idea for me. It is so easy to forget small moments.

I am not an organized writer at all...I think because I still don't prioritize it enough in my life...I too think about maybe writing a book...someday, but I won't be disapointed if that doesn't happen...what is more important to me is to keep writing a part of my life, even if is just small things here and there.

Like Cheryl, I too am curious about what you like to write! I used to be a big short story writer, and sometimes still think of potential stories, but it has been a long long time!

Anonymous said...

Great comments, everyone! Thanks so much for participating! Google docs was next on my list. I've just organized my blogs into Google Reader and I am in heaven. I also can't wait to get an iPhone next month so I can take advantage of the mobile reading capacities.

And the blog tour goes on! I hope you'll come along for the ride as the story continues.

:) Christina

Anonymous said...

Today's the last day of the blog tour and the hostess gifts are in! Come on over to Robin Mizell's blog and chime in if you have time!

And thanks again for hosting!