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Tag: Jenny Hansen

Home > ArchivesTag: Jenny Hansen

10 Bits of Writing Advice from J.R.R. Tolkien

August 18, 2014 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , ,

Tolkien by Jenny Hansen


What if J.R.R. Tolkien had never written his books? What if there had been no Hobbits and no Gandalf, no Legolas or Frodo? The world of story would be an entirely different place.

Our stories matter. They really do.

10 Tips from the “Master of Middle Earth”:

1. Vanity is useless.Truly, Tokien wrote his books to please himself and answer the writer inside him. He expected them to go “into the waste-paper basket” after they left his desk, not live on in popular culture. I’m not saying we don’t need to learn good story craft however, if you entertain yourself, at least you know one person that enjoyed the hell out of your book.

2. Keep writing, even through adversity.It took the man SEVEN years to write The Hobbit. He balanced a demanding day job, illness, and worry for his son who was away in the Royal Navy. I’m reminded of Laura Drake, her brick wall, and her 400+ rejections.

3. Listen to critics you trust.When his editor said, “Make it better,” he didn’t throw the advice away. He read and re-read, and he tried his best. He credits listening to knowledgeable feedback, and working to make it better, for what he considered the best scene in the Lord of the Rings: “the confrontation between Gandalf and his rival wizard, Saruman, in the ravaged city of Isengard.” Oh, and the editor he listened to? C.S. Lewis, the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia.

4. Let your interests drive your writing.Tolkien’s original interest was in languages. He took that and created new languages, and then an entire culture, around it. Our own contributor, Kathryn Craft, was a dancer, choreographer, and dance critic. She tapped all that experience to write The Art of Falling, exploring themes of love, dance, friendship, and distorted body image. that passion and truth will resonate with readers.

5. Poetry can lead to great prose.When he could not express his thoughts in the prose he wished for, he wrote much of it in verse. Authors as diverse as Charlotte Brontë and Langston Hughes started in poetry before moving to longer mediums. Next time you get stuck, you might try Tolkien’s trick of writing your scene as a poem first.

J.R.R. Tolkien6. Happy accidents.No matter how much you plan, happy accidents occur on the pages of every book. Jennifer Crusie calls it “the girls in the basement,” saying they hand her up treasures as she writes. Others might call it “the muse.” One more kick in the pants from my criitique partner, Laura Drake: If you don’t put your butt in the chair and do the work, you won’t have any “happy accidents.”

7. Dreams give us inspiration. All of us have dreams so strong, they push us to the page. But what about literal dreams? Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers did a great post called How to Mine Your Dreams for Story Gold. When Tolkien dreamed of drowning, he channeled the experience into motifs and prose for his stories. His “letters” describe how that drowning dream morphed into the drowning feeling of Mordor’s invasion of Middle Earth and the drowning of Isengard.

8. Real people make great characters.Tolkien drew on real people to populate Middle Earth. You can draw on people you know for your stories as well. Real people do amazing things, both big and small, and rarely do they recognize themselves on the page. It’s a win-win for authors.

9. You may be the next bestselling author.Tolkien did not expect the acclaim he received from his first book, The Hobbit. He felt like it was a happy accident. Here are fourteen bestselling books that were repeatedly rejected by publishers. You won’t know until you send it out. Perhaps your cross-dressing unicorn superheroes will be the next phenomenon. (Yes, I made that up.)

10. Books you write may seem trite.We can’t see our own work. A scene we find melodramatic, the reader might find moving. Tolkien believed that if you learn some craft and pour your heart and imagination onto the page that the work will resonate. I believe that too.

Note: Here’s a link to Tolkien’s work in its entirety. The aforementioned infographic summarized material from a wonderful post by Roger Colby at Writing Is Hard Work, outlining his research on writing advice shared by the Lord of the Rings author in the book, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

About Jenny

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works. When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

photo credit: kugel via photopin cc

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Jenny’s Top 10 Tips for Microsoft OneNote

April 18, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , ,
by Jenny Hansen

I’m a software trainer by day so I have several “true loves” in the software realm. But as a writer, my hands down favorite lately is OneNote 2010.

I. Heart. OneNote.

What is it, and where do I find it?
OneNote is a planner and note taking software. Capture text, images, video and audio notes, and keep important information readily available. If you’re the organized type, it’s likely that you have a binder with all of the research information and pictures for your book. You’ll find OneNote in your START menu (Start\Programs\Microsoft Office\OneNote 2010).

OneNote allows you to keep this information in the same format electronically so it’s searchable.
I could do several posts on the topic (and I probably will) but when I stopped to think about what I use the MOST in the program, it was pretty easy to come up with my Top Ten fave features.
#10 – ToDo Lists

OneNote allows you to insert handy checklists. You just check off the item when you’re done and you can keep it for posterity or edit the list as you move to a new day.

How to do a check list:
Click to type in your OneNote notebooks page (top tabs are sections, right side tabs are pages) and type “Ctrl+1”
  1. In the top middle of your Home ribbon in OneNote, there is a “To Do” button
  2. Type your To Do
  3. Hit Enter
  4. Use the Ctrl+1 shortcut key again to add more checkboxes

Note: You’ll see lots of keyboard shortcuts through this document and for once, the Mac users are out of luck. OneNote is a PC only product. Incidentally, my favorite shortcut is Ctrl +PageDown to “flip thru” the pages in any section of your notebook.

Some bigger gurus than I have recommended that Mac users try using Office Web Apps as a OneNote solution: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps/

#9 – Tag and Find Important Items
Why is this exciting? One Note has a series of Tags that you can add to any page that are easy to search by with the “Find Tags” button on the ribbon. I’m copying and pasting a screen shot of the Tags drop down to the right but there are even more than are listed. This feature makes me SQUEE!

#8 – Sync up OneNote between your phone and computer
Yes, you heard me! If you have a smart phone, it can synchronize with the OneNote on your computer. Sign me up!!Note: You need to first set up the app on your smart phone and you must also set up your SkyDrive, which is helpful to do anyway.
Note: SkyDrive is only available with OneNote 2010! It will not work with the older versions.Tips on setting up your SkyDrive in OneNote and getting the iPhone app are here (along with a ton of other amazing OneNote answers).

#7 – Tables and Charts (which can be sent to Word or Outlook!)
Who doesn’t love a good table…perhaps you need one listing scene elements? You can create tables and charts directly on a OneNote page and then:
  • Copy and paste it to Word
  • Email it.
  • Right click on your OneNote table and choose “Copy Link to Paragraph” to embed it in a document anywhere else on your computer. (If you haven’t set up SkyDrive, the One Note file and the file where you pasted the link must be on the same computer!)
#6 – Hyperlinks to anywhere
You can copy or create hyperlinks from any page, anywhere, and put it in your notebook page. I’m thinking of keeping an active writing notebook with tabs for each topic to store the amazing links that I run across in my web surfing. My bookmarks tend to get lost because there’s so many.

#5 – Print to OneNote
When researching, you can send a whole page or part of a page directly to OneNote. Click Ctrl +P on your keyboard (or you can choose File –> Print) and your page is sent to an unfiled note in OneNote, which can be moved to any section or page.
Note: You’ll see your “Unfiled Notes” tab at the top of your OneNote screen.

#4 – Send whole or part of any page to OneNote
When researching, as I said in #5, you can send a whole page or part of a page directly to OneNote. Ctl +P and your page is sent to an unfiled note in OneNote, which you can move to any section or page.
Imagine surfing the web and pulling up a side note by either pressing the Windows logo button + N or clicking the N(OneNote) icon button in the task bar (down by the time) and being able to jot down your notes to keep in your book’s OneNote binder.

Again, this shortcut automatically files it in the Unfiled Tab in OneNote, which you can move around.

#3 – Audio and Video Files
OneNote will also add audio or video files to your notebook pages. It can even record the same right into a page! Now that we’re in conference season, I’ve made the goal of adding my meeting and class notes into OneNote, and then recording those extras things that I didn’t get down in my notes.

#2 – You can attach files to any page in OneNote.
Can you writers say character charts? Photos? I thought of moving this higher on the list, it’s so sublimely amazing.

From your Windows Explorer, click and drag any file onto a OneNote Page. You will get the following dialog box:

You can insert a hyperlink, or choose the second option to have an icon on your page that you double-click on to open the file. But the last choice (to insert the file as a printout)? LOVE IT! I used this with a chapter meeting handout to make my notes next to the speakers content. It saved me a ton of time.

And my #1 FAVORITE thing in OneNote is:

OneNote doesn’t have a Save button. OneNote automatically saves your work on an almost constant basis in the background. This means I don’t lose work, even if forget to save.
p.s. If you want to save your notebook with a new name you can use the Save As feature located under the File menu. Also, if you’re using the SkyDrive sync feature, you need to be sure to sync before you go on the road. OneNote auto-saves, but it doesn’t auto-sync!


Helpful Links:
Does OneNote sound like it would be helpful to you? Do you have questions, or shortcuts you’d like to share? I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.
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Marketing “Quick Response”: QR Codes, The New Sexy…

November 18, 2011 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , ,

by Jenny Hansen

Are you capitalizing on the sexy little bit of free Techie gadgetry that’s currently all the rage? I’m talking about QR Codes, those little black squares you’re seeing on your television, in magazines and on the mail coming into your house.

I know, I know…QR just doesn’t sound sexy and, unless you’re more the nerdy type, “code” probably doesn’t either. But QR Codes are getting me hot these days. Seriously.

QR Codes are one of the EASIEST marketing tricks you’re not taking advantage of, especially if you’re a self-published author or a small business person.

Click here for the other 8 no-to-low cost social media tips we talked about last month and sit back to bask in the warmth of a new piece of technology fun that doesn’t cost a thing!

What is a QR Code?

QR stands for Quick Response and was created by the automotive industry to help track vehicles during the manufacturing process. How is this sexy, Jenny? you might be thinking…

Well, I’ll tell you. A QR Code is a barcode that stores a web address of your choosing. As an example, if you scan the one above, you’ll go to a cool place on OCC’s website that you might not visit very often. There are free apps available in both the Android and the iPhone that let you scan a QR code to quickly go to a website.

Note: To scan the code, you’ll need an app like QR Scanner [iTunes link] for the iPhone and iPod touch, or ShopSavvy for Android devices.

Uses for QR Codes…just think about this, folks:

  • QR Codes are being used at grocery stores to give you recipes and nutritional information for products you’re buying in the store.
  • To give you coupons, both in-store and on the internet.
  • On business cards, signs and brochures. A simple little barcode allows you to give the info you need to on the card or sign and, with a single click, also help the person to visit the webpage of your choice.
  • On clothing labels (Macy’s and other retailers are already using this) to tell you about that item and others you may like in the store.
  • On anything with packaging, to push people to a website, Facebook or review page.
Why couldn’t my self-published and indie author friends use this on the front or back covers of their books, or hidden as Easter eggs in the pages? Ex: Click here to get a free short story, or to submit a review, or to sign up for my monthly newsletter. The possibilities are ENDLESS.

Are you juiced up yet? Cause I am.

Can I get a QR Code of my very own?

But of course! There are tons of free spots to generate a QR code. Bit.ly and Social Oomph are the two I use the most often.

To use Bit.ly:

  • Visit bit.ly, write or paste in a URL address, click “Shorten,” and add .qr to the end of the generated bit.ly link (like so: http://bit.ly/tm90xj.qr).
  • Copy the modified link into a new browser window to view the QR code.
  • Once you see the code on your screen, you can print it out, send to your friends via e-mail, post on your blog, etc.
To use Social Oomph:
  • You need to sign up for a free account, whereas for Bit.ly, you could sign in with Twitter (but it still asks for your email address).
  • Once you’re signed in, l00k at the left navigation bar – “Shorten URL” is the fourth choice from the top.
  • Click the Shorten URL shortcut and type or paste the address in to the “Long URL” box and click the Shorten button.
  • There’s a box that says QR Code – copy the link out of there and follow all the same steps as above in the Bit.ly example.
From Wikipedia: Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the telephone’s browser. This act of linking from physical world objects is termed hardlinking or object hyperlinking. Click here for more details than you probably want on how to work QR Codes. 🙂

UPDATE: In the last few weeks since I wrote this post, viruses have targeted QR Codes here and there. That doesn’t mean they aren’t safe but, just like email, watch where you click. More details here on how to avoid viruses.

Does this give you any new marketing ideas for your books, businesses or advertising? Are you already using QR Codes? What has your experience been?

Happy Writing!
Jenny

Jenny Hansen fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a stand-up corporate software trainer, she’s digging this “sit down and write” thing.

In addition to being a founding member at Writers In The Storm, Jenny can also be found on Twitter and Facebook or over at her solo blog, More Cowbell.

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8 Easy Ways to Grow your Social Media Footprint

October 19, 2011 by in category Blogs tagged as , , ,
by Jenny Hansen
A few weeks back I attended a free two-hour seminar on social media provided by Constant Contact (my new BFF). While it’s true that I went for work, writers are their own small business so YOU get to benefit as well. It is Techie Tuesday after all. 🙂
Look at this article from Business Week back in 2008 – Social Media Will Change Your Business. There’s a fun recap at how far things had come since 2005. (Light years!) Now compare it to the L.A. Times article this week, Social Media Giving Small Firms A Boost, which cites social media as a portal to success for small businesses.
Here are eight low-cost tips to help you expand your current social media footprint:
1.       Voicemail
If you haven’t added your Facebook address and Twitter username to your voicemail, you are missing out on some cheap easy marketing. Hundreds of people hear your voicemail each year and it could be the push they need to connect with you online.

2.       Your website
Does your website have clear links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn page? What about to your blog? If someone finds your website, you want to make it easy for them to find the rest.

3.       Printed materials
Do you have your social media information printed at the bottom of each letter and brochure you put out? What about on your business cards? It’s easy to make room in the address block for something so important. Try including this the next time you print any materials.

4.       Email Signature
Do you have all your social media info in the signature blog on your email? It’s amazing how many people will click that link if you make it easy.

5.       Email marketing
It’s a good idea to build an email list and use it for some email marketing. I didn’t say spamming. Once a month is fine for connecting. Once a day is not. Be sure to include all your links as well as a periodic promotion. You’ll be surprised at the results. Tools like Constant Contact can track this for you.

6.       Signage
Do you have a sign up at bookstores or tradeshow events telling your customers readers how to connect with you via social media? It’s likely you’re missing out on some contacts you could have made. When people are browsing these places, you’ve got a pretty captive audience. I’m discussing QR codes next week to expand this idea.

7.       Business presentations
Do you do any public speaking? Your social media contact information should be on each slide, in any handouts you provide and should also be verbalized at the beginning and end of the presenation.

8.      Cross-promotion between platforms
It’s a very good idea to be sure that your customers readers can find you anywhere. The easiest way to do this is to list your social media information on each platform – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and your blog.

Remember, “Content is King” – nothing will replace good content. But Social Media is Queen these days and small businesses writers should cast their social media net as widely as they can.
Are there any social media marketing tips you’ve found helpful? Which platform has worked best for you? How many of you have joined Roni Loren on the Tumblr train or circled up with Patrick Thunstrom, Jami Gold and Kristen Lamb on Google+?
Jenny




About Jenny:
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. In addition to being a founding member of Writers In The Storm, Jenny also hangs out on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her blog, More Cowbell.
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