The older I get, and the longer I write, the more convinced I become that writer’s groups are an essential component of a writer’s life, success, and mental well-being. Why? -1- Writer’s groups provide a sense of community, of belonging. Although my professional background has always been in sales and marketing, I have never felt comfortable in large crowds of people (unless I was teaching). Until I walked into my first writer’s meeting in Boston in the late 1980s. There’s nothing that compares to being in a roomful of other creative people. When I’m with other writers, even those I don’t know, I no longer feel just a step out of sync with everyone. -2- Writer’s groups offer a wealth of information you can’t get anywhere else. Not only do the members of writer’s groups provide you with objective, factual information about the craft of writing and the publishing world, they share their personal impressions and perceptions. Let’s face it, little about storytelling and writing is set in stone. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and preferences. But listening to divergent opinions and insights, and blending the ingredients into a recipe that works for you, is an essential element of growth as a writer. -3- Finally, writer’s groups provide inspiration and motivation, propelling you on to accomplish great things. Why? Because they hold you accountable. If you’re a member of a writer’s group, you keep writing. And that’s the most important benefit of all. I don’t care what you…

Call me a creature of the sunlight. Like a little kid, I wake up as soon as dawn chases the darkness away in the morning–regardless of what the clock says. Summer is mornings, freshness, new beginnings. The vivid colors of the trees, flowers, and sky paint pictures I remember once the winter turns them sodden and blurry. Sometimes I think to snap an actual photo. Usually, I don’t. I collect sea shells, herbs for drying, and long walks once life cools down in the evening. I love bare feet, shirts without sleeves, windows thrown open to the wind. To me, summer means Freedom. What does summer mean to you?

In this final of 4 blog posts with tips for keeping on track with your writing, I want to tell you about the many free database programs available to keep all your book files in a central location. Many businesses use these database and project management programs for team collaboration and monitoring the numerous projects they have going. Well, we freelancers can use many of these programs as well, even if we don’t employ other people. Some of us go solo during the writing process, but others of us have teams that consist of critique partners, agents, and fellow writers who assist with the process. I was introduced to Basecamp by a client of mine, a very large company that does business in all 50 states. It has many employees and, as you can imagine, multiple departments that handle different kinds of projects. I began using the free edition of Basecamp and then upgraded so I could use it to work on more than one book at a time. In fact, when I co-wrote a mystery novel with another write last year, we used Basecamp to keep all our stuff organized. Herb had separate folders where heĀ  uploaded his chapters and research, as I did, but we each had access to the folders. (If you didn’t want to give access to someone, you can do that, too.) We also created a folder where we could upload photos. He lives on the west coast and I live in New England, and…

In this third of four posts about how to stay on track with your writing, I’ll be discussing Tip #3: Using Multiple Notebooks in Microsoft’s OneNote. I use OneNote to keep at my fingertips all those things I used to find myself flipping through pages of manuscript to find because I knew they were in there but just couldn’t find them. The best thing about OneNote is that it not only works like a regular notebook, with separate sections and pages, it also permits me to color code everything and insert photos and hyperlinks right from the Internet. I can organize as loosely or as precisely as I want to. For example, in my Writing Tips notebook I use 5 major sections, and two Section Groups titled Characterization and Plot. Figure 1 shows what the hierarchy looks like when the notebook opens. As you can see in Figure 2, the Characterization Section Group contains notebook sections, and each section of a notebook has color-coded tabs lined horizontally, with individuals page listed on the left. It’s pretty straightforward. In Figure 3, the Plot Section Group contains its own horizontal color-coded sections, with pages listed on the left. When you use the power of OneNote in conjunction with writing your novel, it expands your ability to stay organized. Figure 4 shows what the hierarchy of the notebook for my current WIP looks like. As you can see, I created a Section Group for all my research and the business documents associated with…

In my last blog post, I talked about Tip # 1, Customer styles and themes in Microsoft Word. In this post, I’m sharing Tip #2: A Custom Chapter-by-Chapter template for outlining both what I plan to write in future chapters/scenes … and what I’ve actually written. I don’t know how it goes with you, but my plans always sound terrific. And some of them actually turn out that way. But quite often, I change plans in the middle of a story because I stumble over a flaw in my plot, I note an inconsistency in the character’s personality, or I dream up a much better idea. None of these things are a big deal if the change occurs in the present or future, but it’s a big PIA if I need to backtrack. I use a Microsoft Word document that includes a separate table for each chapter. The table is divided into two columns that contain the following information: Left Column The date and day of the week. I also keep a separate calendar document into which I insert each chapter and scene number to make the process of backtracking easier if and when I have to do it. Bullet points for each of the goals I want to accomplish in the chapter (e.g., reveal more of the POV character’s background through subplot, show what drives her, show her personal stake in the outcome of her relationship with Character B, introduce new obstacle). Right Column Separate rows for each scene…