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How Big Is Your Writing Box?

April 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?

Blog header with white background and laptop open with white screen and Writing Box in it

We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?

Mine isn’t.

I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).

I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?

I love my Writing Journey so far

My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups. 

But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.

See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.

Be Willing to Expand Your Writing Box

We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.

Magazine Articles

I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.

Magazine cover articles written by Denise M. Colby for Westcoast Magazine July 2018
Some of the magazine articles I have written and published. If you click on the picture it will take you to those articles that are published digitally

Blog Posts

Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…

Marketing for Authors

When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.

Marketing for Authors Logo - Teal, black and white text with a light bulb and MfA over it. By Denise M. Colby

With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.

Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.

Our Writing Box ties into our Author Brand

What do I want my brand to be?

Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.

I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.

My Writing Box Grew Bigger When I Took a Detour

I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.

My Example:

I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.

When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.

I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.

Example by Denise M. Colby of how her writing box expanded by creating a webpage about creating a prayer journal

It didn’t click until afterwards how much this fell in line with my story.

And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.

Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?

If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.

So am I the only one to experience this?

Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?

I’d love to hear about it.

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There is No Such Thing As Too Many Books

March 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too many books. I’m sure that’s a quote I’ve seen somewhere. Maybe I should get a t-shirt with that specific phrase on it!

photo of a library with lots of books on the shelves with blog title There Is No Such Thing as Too Many Books

My To-Be-Read-Pile is ever growing, is yours?

I have books on my Kindle, books under my bed, books on my nightstand, and in the special pieces of furniture that I purchased specifically to hold books.

And yet, I still love to go to the library and peruse possibilities or hunt for treasures at used book or garage sales, or add to my Kindle list through all the different newsletters I receive from the many authors I follow.

Am I the only one who does this?

Any suggestions for how to manage them all?

used book store front window promoting used and rare books bought and sold
I love to shop in used book stores!

Adding To The List

As I’ve made new writer friends in the different groups I’m a part of, I seem to have added a whole slew of authors to the list of books I want to read. It’s fun and exciting, but it can be overwhelming sometimes too.

I’m just curious to know if anyone shares in this same quandary?

My desire to add to my pile seems to ebb and flow, sometimes based on how overwhelmed I am with where to put everything. But mostly, I do tend to just accept and enjoy this desire to continuously add to my pile.

Of course, many books become favorites and I find it difficult to add them to the donate pile. Anyone have that habit as well?

Some days it feels like book overload. But other days, I just smile and look forward to the new set of friends I’m going to meet in the next book I read.

I’m hoping I’m not the only one who suffers from this malady!

Do you, too?

Denise M. Colby is writing her first novel. Check out her website to find out more about her story. You can also take a peek at her real-life hero she wrote about in a previous blog post.

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URL Slugs: The Right Custom Slug Builds SEO

February 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby

Did you know you can customize the slug part of the URL for every blog post you create AND that it helps to build SEO? All of us create a URL when we post on this blog. But did you know you can customize it?

Blog post header that talks about how a Custom Slug Builds SEO by marketing for authors owner Denise M. Colby

What is the slug and what does it do. 

A URL is the address of a website page. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s this address that allows someone to go directly to a specific page. The slug is the tail end of the URL that identifies a particular page on a website in an easy to read form.

What’s nice about the slug is that you can provide the link. Or someone can find it in a search engine. 

And we all want someone to find it if they search for the information we are writing about. 

How can a URL slug appear in the searches we want?

Choose the right words.

In my research I found out that the simple extra words can be removed. Words such as the, and, of.

The simpler, the better. Just 4-5 words max.

And using the Keyword or phrase you’ve selected is a bonus when building SEO. 

Even though we don’t own this blog, we want our writing to be found. So SEO on our individual blog pages matter, which means the right slug builds SEO.

And one way to do that is to customize the URL slug. 

How do you customize the URL slug to build SEO?

The slug is listed in the Yoast section at the bottom of our post entry. You can also see it appear in the Permalink to the right, under the document.

Just take out the extra words. Choose words that would be a phrase that someone would write in a search looking for this particular article.

For this blog post, I chose custom-slug-builds-seo, which is the same as my keyword phrase.

I then took this keyword/slug and googled it to make sure that it fit what I wanted it to fit.

Once you set a slug, don’t change it.

This is because once you give out the link to the post, if you change it, no one will be able to find it.

I know I have several slugs I would love to go back and change and make them stronger and shorter. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

But keep in mind. It may not be wise to go back and clean up past URLs. Especially if you have already used them in other blog posts or pages. Once you change the URL the link is broken and people who click on the old link will get an error message. 

If you’d like to learn more about SEO, sign up for my Marketing for Authors newsletter (notice this url slug was created way before I knew to condense them), or take a look at some of my other posts on this website including one about blog post creation.

I’d love to learn your experience with renaming the slug part of URL. Let us all know with your comments listed below.

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New Year, New Planner, New Word

January 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I love the beginning of a new year, starting a new planner, and working with a new word! Last year, I wrote about how January is a reset month, and how using a planner can help you stay on track.

Blog title with colorful pens on one side and words on the other that say New Year, New Planner, New Word by Denise M. Colby

Aren’t new planner’s fun?

The pages are yet to be written and there’s this anticipation of setting goals and plans for our writing and our life.

This is my second year I’m using the My Brilliant Writing Planner, and this year the pages have been simplified, with two sizes available. I’m using the smaller 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 as I hoped I could take it with me more easily and it would sit on my desk and not take up a ton of room, but alas, I’m not going anywhere and I now have a bigger desk.

However, it doesn’t make me any less excited to use it.  

One of my favorite pages in the planner is the One Word Page.

Every year, I select a word to represent my year. I know a lot of authors do this, so if you have a word, I’d love to know what it is. I have found the process of selecting a word and the focus all year long, has given me extra blessings and has fit me where I am in my writing journey, as well as my life.

I’ve written about some of my words in past posts. 2016, my word was Believe. In 2017, my word was Strength, In 2018, my word was Steadfast. And I liked it so much I did a summary at the end of that year. 2019, my word was Purposeful, yet I couldn’t find a post about that (that was very purposeful on my part, right?)

Last years word was Courage and I did a wrap up blog post as well.

For this year, my word is Wisdom.

Denise M. Colby's Word of the year 2021 is Wisdom written out on a white piece of paper

As I research this word, I have found several explanations that really fit where I’m at in my writing journey. Wisdom is an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding.

I hope that in all the time I’ve been working on my novel, that I am able to incorporate all of those and be able to move on to the next step.

There are other terms associated with wisdom including: insight, judgment, decision-making, discernment, and sense of balance. That last phrase speaks to me. There’s a balance between all the differing feedback I’ve received from others during contests, and figuring out what is best for the book overall. 

I love this quote I found on wisdom.

Wisdom involves a healthy dose of perspective and the ability to make sound judgments about a subject while knowledge is simply knowing.

This is the wisdom I seek.

I also hope to share my wisdom when it comes to branding and SEO. Launching my Marketing for Authors newsletter last year was a huge leap of courage (my 2020 word), and now that I’ve done that, I want to learn more and share that knowledge with others.

I’m still exploring quotes, verses, and synonyms that are connected to wisdom. It’s an interesting word in that, quotes about life and such are considered words of wisdom. So if I’m looking to simplify, I might need to limit to those phrases that only include the word wisdom in them. Not about wisdom in general. 

Although I do love quotes and words of wisdom in general, too!

To end, I wanted to share some of the synonyms of wisdom. I feel like I can apply many of these to my writing goals this year:

Acumen, gumption, foresight, experience, savvy, caution, poise, prudence, reason, discrimination, discernment, practicality, shrewdness, solidity, stability, judiciousness, comprehension, astuteness.

Alas, I hope To grow in my writing with comprehension, astuteness, & gumption this year.

Here’s to a great year of writing for us all.

Share below what your word is for 2021! There are so many words to choose from, I love reading all the different ones people choose.

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Bullet Journal Page Design Ideas for Writers

December 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

Do you have a bullet journal or have you ever wanted to try one, but haven’t yet? 

blog header titled Bullet Journal page ideas for writers by Denise M. Colby

I haven’t used mine as much as I would like, but I have done a few things that I love and wanted to share them with you. Who knows, maybe you might add a bullet journal to your Christmas list this year.

I’ve accumulated several ideas I’ve been wanting to try and recently I added these ideas and more to my Pinterest board for Journals and Journaling. In searching around further, I even found Christmas related doodles as well as banner headers I decided to attempt.

To organize my writing in my bullet journal, I divided the journal into two sections. The second section is specifically related to writing stuff.

My favorite spreads in my bullet journal are the bookshelves I created.

One set has all the writing craft books listed so I can remember what I have, while the other lists all the magazine articles I’ve published, along with a vase with the roses I’ve received from my OCC RWA chapter. (There’s room for the books I hope to publish too.)

bookshelf bullet journal spread idea by Denise M. Colby

Some other ideas I’ve come up with are hashtag and keyword tracking, as well as banners and box ideas, Christmas doodles, and other things to capture including a list of Musicals I have seen in person.

I got the bookshelf idea from writer Chautona Havig who uses a bullet journal to keep track of everything from character names, words to avoid, and other writer related topics in fun and creative ways.

There’s something about having pages created in my own hand. I wrote a past blog post a while back as to why hand-written notes and journals are important.

I’d like to create more pages in my bullet journal for my writing, but I’m looking for ideas.

Do you have a bullet journal?

What are some ideas that you have used to design a page that’s related to writing?

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