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Not Looking For Love In February

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

February is all about love and romance. But back in 1992, I had just gotten out of a relationship and I wanted space to find myself again. Time to myself, alone. Let’s just say I wasn’t looking for love in February that year.

My friends from work asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland for the evening. I was excited to be out with a large group of friends to ignore all my problems and forget about the guy who wasn’t right for me. I definitely wasn’t looking for love.

But I knew as soon as this cute guy walked up to our group that I wanted to get to know him more. I always carried my little camera with me (way before cell phones) and heartily suggested we should take a group picture before we went inside. He immediately came and sat down next to me on the bench. (and I do have a picture, but I don’t know where it is.)

The curiousness grew. 

We sat next to each other on rides and talked a lot. Did I mention there were seventeen in our group that night? Yet we kept seeking each other out. Sat next to each other on all the rides. It was a fun night. Except at the end. With both our insecurities rising we each went are separate ways that night and didn’t see each other again for over a month.

Who knew I was going to meet my future husband that night. And that we would be celebrating this month, the date we met, 28 years later. The old adage ‘love will find you when you are least looking for it’ comes to mind. I definitely was not looking for love.

People on Autopia car at Disneyland 1992. This pic shows the night Denise M. Colby met her husband. She was not looking for love, but she found it.
I was not the one who hit my future husband!
But I was sitting in the middle.
I fell in love with both him and his sense of humor that night.

We still go to Disneyland, sometimes with a group and sometimes by ourselves, and we still sit next to each other as we ride all the rides.

Maybe February is truly the month of love after all!

I try to write fun February posts. A few years ago I wrote Dating Lessons from Wall-E, which is still one of my favorites. Check out my other Disney related posts at my blog

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Help yourself stay on task one step at a time.

January 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby, Writing tagged as ,
blurred January calendar in background, blog headline in teal and white Help Yourself Stay on Task One Step At A Time by Denise M. Colby

Do you ever find yourself having a difficult time staying on task? Do you get overwhelmed by all the to-do’s on your list? Do you ever second guess the processes you use or even the planner you use?

You are not alone!

I struggle with all of these. But I’ve found that in amongst the chaos, I seem to be making progress (see last month’s post – Reflecting on your Accomplishments), and I hope to provide encouragement and inspiration to help you keep working toward your goals and dreams for 2020.

January, every year, is a reset month.

Start over with new goals. Pick a new word. Word harder. Or differently. Or more. Or less. I love getting a chance to open a new calendar and a new planner and start over. But sometimes I wonder if the planner I’ve chosen is the one I should be using. Anyone else do that? 

I never realized I was such a commitmentphobe with planners until recently. See, I tended to second guess my choices every time I saw a new one or someone else using a different one (I had done this with writing processes too). I’ve had to have a major talk with myself. And accept the fact that there are TOO MANY choices out there and no one can use all of them. I have to just pick one and then dive in and use it.

It’s using it that makes the difference.

I also see a big theme in planners for setting routines. Track this. Track that. Be consistent. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, I agree. They are important. They help immensely. They are what help us accomplish all we want to accomplish. And for the most part, I’m all for them. I do like routines, but I hate the confines of them too.

See, sometimes I struggle with the little person inside of me that screams “i don’t wanna!”

I am a dependable worker. I meet deadlines, stay committed to tasks, and follow through. But I have a little rebellious streak in me that gets frustrated with following specific formulas. I tend to want to create my own. Do it my way. Then I end up frustrated with the results. And not just with planners. I find I do this with my writing habits too. 

Why do I do this? And what can I do to change that?

First, I realize that some of this is that I’m human. Some of it is my own version of saving funds (don’t want to waste money on something I’m not sure I will use), as well as wanting the perfect set-up, the perfect amount of time to work on it, and the perfect way of using it throughout the year.

But as I’m writing this, I realize we only know what we know at the time we are taking action. And as our knowledge grows, our needs change or how we do things will change. We need to be adaptable. Waiting for the perfect moment is the opposite.

As I grow in wisdom over the years (aka age), I find I don’t care about everything being perfect as I once did, I want to accomplish much in my lifetime, and I want to be purposeful in what I do (purposeful was my word in 2019 and it was a great word). I’m tired of waiting.

Now, I try to just jump in where I am and work with what I got. Progress is progress. I can always change things later. In some ways, this is a process. It’s the one I’m currently using. I won’t be married to the process for fifty years or maybe I still will, all that matters is right now. It’s a very freeing thought. One I am constantly still trying to adapt to.

So, if you are struggling with staying on task, routine, and/or schedule, here are some suggestions to help you get over that hurdle daily so you can meet your goals.

  • Set yearly goals, but don’t let the end part of those goals freeze you. Make sure that the goal has actionable steps that are small enough to make progress on daily and that you can measure. Work on one scene a day, or write 500 words, or spend (enter amount of time like 15 min here) in your MS. This will help you focus on things on a day to day basis.
  • To continue on with the above suggestion, break your todo’s into even smaller chunks and then work on them separately throughout the day as you have time. As much as I would love to have all day to work on things, I don’t get that opportunity. I’m finding five min here and there help me a lot. I spend many five minutes looking at my phone. I’m trying to use that time more productively.
  • Find some way to reward yourself. Be it stickers, coloring, chocolate. I find stickers and coloring are soothing for me and I’ve been adding them to my planner (took me a long time to get on the wasi tape bandwagon). I also place a sticker on a tracking sheet everytime I touch my MS. I find it very satisfying.
  • Work on your ms before checking email and your phone. Those many side visits to my phone seem to take more minutes away from the small amount I already have to work with. 
  • Cut yourself some slack. We beat ourselves up mentally and those tapes replay over and over. When you reset your calendar every week, month, and year, reset those tapes too. Forgive and show yourself some grace.
  • Have an accountability partner. Someone you can text daily or every Monday. What are your goals for the week? What did you accomplish last week? Knowing I have to communicate something helps me to stay focused.
  • Little bits of work eventually add up to bigger bits. Focus on the little bits.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful. I’m no expert. I’m in the middle of all this just like everyone else. But taking some time to learn about myself and why I do certain things and find out what I need to motivate and keep me focused, has helped me stay on task, which ultimately keeps me moving forward with my writing projects.



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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…To Reflect on Your Accomplishments

December 12, 2019 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as ,

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

To reflect on our goals and all that we’ve accomplished, so loved ones will hear!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Many times when we are working by ourselves, at our desk, with our words, we find ourselves deep in the minutie and seeing only all the things we have still left to do.

We may not have met any of our aggresive goals each month, or even each week, as life intrudes on a daily basis for us all.

Yet, there are things we do that we should say, “yes, I did that.” And feel good about it.

For me, I’m rounding into my eighth year and still haven’t published my book. (I started this journey in 2012). If I focused only on that one thing, I would be frustrated, disappointed, and inclined to throw my hands up and say that I’m done. 

But if I count 

  • Webinars I’ve attended
  • the magazine articles I published this year, 
  • my monthly blog posts at A Slice of Orange, 
  • my blog posts on my own website, 
  • the conference I attended and taught at for the first time, 
  • the monthly meetings where I got to talk shop with other writers, 
  • and all the emails and social media posts I read and shared over the past year, 

I’ve actually done a lot. 

Not to mention the weekly critique meetings with my two lovely critique partners, where I’ve gotten some fantastic feedback on my manuscript, and the helpful feedback I’ve been able to provide in return. 

Then there’s the pitches I’ve submitted for teaching at more conferences for next year and the deadline dates for contests I hope to be ready for.

All of that tells me I’m making progress. 

It may be slow, but progress is progress.

And I wouldn’t be able to track my progress, if I didn’t take the time to write out these things I’ve accomplished throughout the year.

So, I encourage you to take a step back and think about what you have accomplished in 2019.

  • Did you write any new words?
  • Did you edit any words?
  • Did you publish a book?
  • Or an article?
  • Or a blog post?
  • Did you attend a meeting? 
  • Or a conference?
  • Take an online class?
  • Read a reference book or a craft book?
  • Listen to a webinar?
  • Listen to a podcast?
  • Ready a blog post or newsletter from another writer?
  • Did you meet up with a writing buddy?
  • Do you have a website?
  • Or a newsletter?
  • Did you post a social media post related to writing?
  • Or read a few?
  • Did you read a book for fun?

There’s a lot of things we do to put words on a page and turn them into a great story. Don’t discount any of it. Whether it just fills our soul to inspire, or gives us tools we can apply to our writing, it all helps us continue on our writing journeys.

Have a very Merry Christmas! I’m thankful for you all.

Here’s to another year of writing related stuff in 2020!

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Why SEO Should Matter To An Author

November 12, 2019 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,
Blog post title Why SEO Should Matter To An Author by Denise M. Colby. Brown background with three scrabble tiles spelling out SEO

There are several reasons why, as an author, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should matter.

SEO What? You ask?

According to Wikipedia, Search engine optimization is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. 

Quote from blog post by Denise M. Colby - how SEO works

Basically when someone types in a set of words in their search bar, SEO is what determines which website pages get shown first. SEO is the unpaid results (not the paid ads we see that state clearly “paid ad”).

So what can SEO do for you as an Author?

  • Make it easier for people to find your content, which in turn they find you and your books. 
  • Teach you to think about your posts and your website differently. 
  • Tie your writing and your graphics together. 
  • Give direction as to what type of graphics to create. 
  • Direct you to write blog posts that fit into a content strategy based on your SEO goals.
  • Help you name your pages with urls that are SEO specific.

Here are some questions to ask and ponder when creating a website page or blog post:

  • Do you know your target audience?
  • Do you know the people you are trying to reach?
  • Do you know what you want to reach them with?
  • Why would someone want to read your article, book, post?

How do you find things on the internet?

Think about how you go looking for something on the internet.

Do you type just one word? a phrase? or a sentence?

scrabble tiles spelling out SEO and then a Blog Post Quote by Denise M. Colby

When you think about your overall brand, how would you look for something you write? What would the one word? one phrase? or one sentence be?  

As I’ve focused on SEO more, I feel it has helped me become a better writer. 

When I have to select just one keyword or keyword phrase to fit a blog post, my post is more focused and succint. When I had too many choices to pick just one, it made it harder to figure out the goal of my piece. If I can’t figure it out, how would I expect someone else to figure out the purpose of my writing?

What are some other things I feel SEO has helped me with?

Organizing my website, blog posts, and files.

I’ve developed a category and tag strategy that has given me ample blog post ideas. All which tie into my brand. It’s not perfect, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction. And that peace has been transforming.

Some other things to note about SEO:

Graphically SEO matters as well.

The algorithms look at sub-heads, which are used to break up the flow of reading, and images that match the written content which helps make your content more compelling. Faster website loading, and ease of use to find your content matter too. 

Keep in mind, being creative is great, but having something so obscure for page names won’t help your target audience find you.

There needs to be a purpose/strategy to everything you do.

The more thorough you are with SEO strategies, both with the things I’ve mentioned above, as well as ALT text, meta data, and so much more, the better indexed your pages will be for all the different search engines, allowing your pages and posts to index better. 

The goal is to land on the first page of a search - blog post quote by Denise M. Colby SEO goals for authors

The goal is to land on the first page of a search. That way any person can find you, easily.

So, as I’ve mentioned above, SEO should be an important component to your marketing strategy as an author. If you’d like to find out more, you can sign up for my free Marketing for Authors newsletter. When you sign up, you’ll receive a free PDF on how to improve your image SEO. I walk you through how to do ALT Text, captions, and file naming. Future newsletters will include other tips and suggestions.

You could also look back at a few past posts of mine on this blog, here, here, and here.

I enjoy sharing what I have learned with other authors. Let me know if this has been helpful and what, if any, questions you may have.



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Figuring Out What Our Characters Want

October 12, 2019 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,
Blog title page Figuring Out What Our Characters Want by Denise M. Colby. Black and white background faded photo of people walking around

When writing a story, writers need to ask the question “What do we think our characters want?”

On the surface that may sound like an easy question, but when I was a new writer, I found it very challenging. Probably because I had a hard time knowing what I wanted for myself. 

Never one to make decisions quickly, choosing what to wear or what I wanted to eat for dinner was not always simple. Deciding on what restaurant to go to or what movie to watch was a loaded question in our house, since my husband and I usually came from opposite ends and had to find a compromise. For some reason, as a younger me, I would discount my own desires or not really care. I even had a ex-boyfriend ask me what I wanted once, and even though I had basic goals and dreams, things I liked to do and be a part of, I was unsure how to answer specifically. 

Maybe I was too afraid to be so definitive. Or I wanted to make sure I would be really happy with my decision. Or I liked to blend in with whomever I was hanging out with. Who knows. All that’s to say, asking “What does our Hero want? What does our Heroine want?” over and over made me realize I had to dig deeper in defining myself as well as my characters if I wanted to write a story.

So how do we get inside our characters head and ask what they want?

Background pic of helping hands with words overlaid saying Five Different Techniques to Help You Dive Deep in figuring out what your characters want. Blog post by Denise M. Colby

I worked on five different techniques to help me dive deep:

1. Pay attention to the world around you. Not just in general, but to each individual.

I started paying deeper attention to the different nuances in my friends and family. Never wanting to judge, I purposely didn’t focus on differences or quirks, but as a writer, that’s what makes our characters unique and special. And it’s those quirks that we love in our friends and family, isn’t it?

2. People watch.

Take a look and watch people’s faces for reactions and try and guess what they are thinking. My husband and I love to do our date nights at Disneyland. It’s a great place to people watch. There are so many different personalities to watch and observe and try and figure out a background story for them.

3. Pay attention to what vehicle someone drives. 

I don’t know why, but I love trucks. And when I see a vehicle I like I tend to look at who is driving it and what their story is. I probably could make up a lot of stories this way, but right now I’m focusing on time periods without vehicles, so I’m packing away these observances for a later time. But the exercise has helped me practice defining characters. If it’s not a vehicle, you could pick some other item such as a house, a pet, or clothes. What type of person would choose…

4. Make a decision and stick with it. 

I don’t know why, but this has been difficult for me. I ask too many ‘what ifs’. Just pick one and write from that perspective. If you need to change it later, that’s okay. Decisiveness helps you move forward. Originally, I couldn’t decide on any particular personality and so my heroine was everything. There was no uniqueness that I could specifically use to forward her story. I had to go back and be more clear-cut and unambiguous. Which leads me to my last point.

5. Be more specific with the smaller details.

In the beginning I was really vague with what I thought my characters wanted. It made it harder to write a scene. When I started my second book’s draft, I had defined my characters more before I wrote and had a stronger idea who they were and what they wanted. I found it was so much easier to write from their point of view that way. All those decisions made a difference!

faded picture of people standing in circle with different shoes and title overlay It's All In The Details Blog post by Denise M. Colby

So as you work on your first book or your twentieth, I hope this gives you some fresh perspective in helping you flush out your characters. I had jotted notes down about this blog topic early on in my writing journey. It was one of those aha moments that really helped me break through a hurdle I had in flushing out my story.

Since then I’ve learned more about myself, too. 

Thanks for reading,


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