Why does my autocorrect think I'm typing that?

Good job on guessing I meant "before"
instead of "veggie" this time, Swype. For once.

I have Swype on my phone, and I've purposely turned off the thing where it autocorrects what you're typing, because — I don't need that stress, or that level of hilarity.

But, it still misinterprets what I Swype so, so much.

And I don't get it.

Wouldn't it learn that there are certain words you use more than others?

For instance, how often do I write "ashtray" over "already," Swype? How often? Huh? Here's the answer, Swype: I never mean "ashtray." Never.

As a parenting blogger, I write about my children a lot. But apparently Swype thinks I'm gaga about my "cistern." This is literally never the case.

I guess it could be worse
and people could think I'm obsessed with collagen?


Need writing motivation? Put your money where your goals are with a challenge group!

Do you have trouble sticking with your writing goals — or even starting at all? Try throwing some money at the problem by starting a writing challenge accountability group.

Set writing goals together, and pay in money that you'll forfeit if you don't hit your target — or win off each other if you do!1

How to start your own writing challenge group:

  1. Get a group of friends together who are writers — Facebook groups work well for this.
  2. Decide on a challenge length. It could be one week or one month or some other length.
  3. Choose the amount of money you'll ante up. About $20 US seems right to motivate but not impoverish.
  4. Someone is in charge of holding the kitty and being the challenge cheerleader. Everyone pays in, usually through PayPal.
  5. You each publicly set a challenge goal and then check in and cheer each other on every day.
  6. By the end of the challenge, you each declare whether you met or missed your goal. The honor system prevails.
  7. Losers forfeit their money. Winners get their money back plus a share of the losers' money.

For instance, assuming a $20 buy-in from 6 participants, if two fail, the other four collect back $30 each. A nice little prize for completing your writing goal!

And even if you fail, you got to work on your writing and you're several steps closer to your goal than you were before, so despite the loss of funds, it's still not really losing!

Some tips on starting your own writing challenge group:


Why blogging is dead (and why it is not)

I began blogging eight and a half years ago, and I feel like I no longer even recognize the landscape. Having spoken with many fellow bloggers, I know I'm not alone in feeling disconnected and like maybe blogging as we knew it has played out.

Here are the reasons why we (and perhaps you) feel that way, and at the end, the ways blogging is continuing on into the future — altered but still alive.


We used to blog for community — now we blog for search engines.

I remember when I got my first commenters on my blog and how thrilling it was. I joined blogging carnivals, posted others' blog buttons, and chatted with authors and readers on Twitter.

I came to know my audience from their commenting and sharing, and they were real people to me. I could put names to many of them.

The change isn't just the audience growing larger, it's that it's grown quieter. The community (mine, at least) has dissipated. Comments and shares have moved to social media and, often, behind my back (not in a bad way, just in a private way).

I check my analytics and see: People are still reading. But they're not necessarily interested in ME. No, I don't blame them (I'm not that narcissistic), but it's a sign that they're not dedicated followers of my blog but rather searchers who've stumbled on a single post of interest to them and then backed away once the information was secured. These readers aren't watching my children grow up or asking my opinion on things. My folksy, homey posts go virtually unseen. Instead, most visitors come to read a few evergreen fact posts: DIYs mostly. I'm not bitter, and I welcome any readers, but it's a sign of the change.

Commenting has moved to social media.

And specifically to Facebook, where it is now incredibly hard for a blogger to get posts seen without paying advertising money, and sometimes even with. I don't bother much anymore with posting links on Facebook, because the views are abysmal (1-10% of my followers, if I'm lucky). If it's something very important to me, I'll occasionally pay to promote it. I've mostly stopped sharing other people's fine links on Facebook, even though I used to love doing so, because no one will see them, and it just hurts my overall page metrics, making it even less likely within the Facebook algorithm that my posts will be seen in the future.

People definitely do a lot of their link reading on Facebook, so this seems counterintuitive. If so many people are reading shared links on Facebook, then surely sharing links on Facebook still works? But it doesn't for most links, only for a (relatively) few viral ones, usually from big-name news sources or very lucky bloggers. (I've had a post or two go viral on Facebook, and it's always been a surprise.) Unless a link gets a lot of traction immediately, Facebook buries it in the feed, so bloggers can no longer rely on their business pages to drum up traffic.


Last day to get my parenting ebooks on sale!

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

A gentle reminder that the deep discount on my three parenting ebooks will be over tomorrow. The countdown is on!

Right now they're at these prices:

On May 16, they'll revert to their list prices, so save now while you can!

I'll include a summary and reviews below so you can learn what people think of them!


Get my parenting ebooks for only 99 cents each — hurry!

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

I've enrolled all my parenting ebooks into a special promotion at Amazon called Kindle Countdown Deals. Starting today, each one is available starting at only $0.99 for a limited time. You can see the time left on the countdown timer. For the next week, each will gradually rise back to list price, so grab them at a discounted price while you can!

Here's where to find them:

Run, run, run, and get the discounted prices! Unless you want to learn more about each of them first — in which case, read on.


28 blogging tasks you can do from your phone

Do you spend more time near your smartphone than your computer? You can still get plenty of work done on your blog when you're on the go with these mobile-friendly tasks!

If you're anything like me — juggling paying work, parenting, home life, errands, fitness — you might find limited time to sit down at an actual desk to blog or work on your blog-related tasks. So here's a roundup of plenty of things you can do while you're on your smartphone or tablet.

A few of these links are affiliate links, but most are just free apps. I use what I recommend.

  1. Draft a blogpost.

    If you're a minimalist blogger (mostly plain text), you might be able to post from your smartphone using one of the blogging apps (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr on Android & iOS), using email uploads (Blogger, WordPress.com, self-hosted WordPress), or navigating to the site on mobile.

    For me, I find the apps and mobile experience inadequate for all the images and coding and customization I love to cram into my posts, so I prefer to finalize things on desktop. BUT, I can absolutely WRITE a blogpost draft while I'm out. I just prefer to do it in email. I use Gmail's Inbox app and like that it saves my drafts well. I just pop my own address into the to field, make the subject line my title, and then Swype away in the text field. I'm Swyping this right now, matter of fact. I'd like to experiment, once I figure out the best headset, with dictating blogposts while I walk, using Dragon Dictation, the native Google voice-recognition on my phone, or another speech-to-text capability. (Here's how one person does this via Evernote.)

  2. Edit your drafts.

    If you have a blogpost draft you want to edit, email it to yourself or upload it to Google Docs and use the Google Drive app (Android & iOS) to access it. It has a nice autosave feature, and it will sync with your desktop version of course.

  3. Check and reply to email.

    I find being on my phone actually makes this easier, because brevity feels right. Bam. Email done.

  4. Read other blogs.

    I use Feedly for my subscriptions now, and I've learned the mobile gesture shortcuts to make the process easy. Save for later articles you want to read in depth or share, or just do it now if you have the concentration time.



Lauren's link love: YA vs. middle grade, commercial vs. literary, writing camp, & Twitter tips

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:

Like I need an excuse.

A question many of us have:


Lauren's link love: Making a living as a writer, editing Hemingway-style, & the good of Amazon

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:

Need an editing app? So did Hemingway, apparently.


Lauren's link love: Query letter formula, captivating characters, celebrating diversity, & breaking through blocks

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:


All cats are girls, and all other animals are boys

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

I'm reprinting this from Hobo Mama in the hopes that children's authors take note: We need more variety in our characters, on so many levels. One is in animal-gender form.

All cats are girls, and all other animals are boys.

You'd think this was biologically improbable, but it's true.

Witness the admirably entertaining Pet's Tails touch-and-feel book by Jellycat, written by Anne Wilkinson. Every single pet on every page is a boy:

"I love my budgie — his tail is a beautiful blue."

"I love my stick insect — his tail is like a twig."

"I love my fish — his tail goes swish-swish."

I commend Wilkinson on her extensive research that correctly identified the masculinity of nearly all pets.


Lauren's link love: How to query, writing inspiration, blogs to follow, & micropoetry

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:

In thinking of how to use YouTube as an author:

Secrets to querying literary agents:


How to change your Google spreadsheet's language & related formatting settings

I was having a problem with a Google Sheets spreadsheet and am writing this post in case anyone is having a similar one. It's that type of nitpicky problem that wasn't a huge deal but was affecting my workflow — my spreadsheet thought I was in the UK when I'm really in the US.

What difference does it make if a spreadsheet thinks I'm writing in UK English vs. US English? Well, for me, it came down to the dates column. It really, really wanted my dates to be in this format: DD/MM/YYYY. Whereas we weird Americans tend to like it this way: MM/DD/YYYY, with the month first. I automatically type them like so: 3/16 (for March 16), expecting the spreadsheet to autoformat my entry to 3/16/2016. But…it wasn't. It just sat there: 3/16, and left aligned, as if I'd typed in text instead of a numeric value. If I typed in the words March 16, then it autoformatted it to 16/03/2016, which, though accurate in its own way, was not what I wanted.

So! I tried a couple things first that didn't solve it entirely. First of all, under Format --> Number --> More Formats --> More date and time formats…, I was able to find a way to change that column specifically to be the date format I prefer. But, it didn't "stick." Anytime I typed in a new date, the sheet still didn't seem to know what to do with it. I worked around it by copying and pasting the correctly formatted dates, but that was inadequate.

I also went to my universal Google account settings and found that, somehow and sometime, I had indeed been set to UK English, so I switched that back to US. I refreshed my spreadsheet and hoped that would be the end of it. Nope, still UK. I restarted my browser. Nope.

Then, I found it: File --> Spreadsheet settings…. Hurrah!

You can set your locale, and sure enough, mine was set to United Kingdom. As the Google help notes, "This affects formatting details such as functions, dates, and currency." I'd indeed noticed instead of a dollar sign ($) in my toolbar, there was a pound symbol (£).

You can also change your time zone (useful to know if you're trying to keep track of specific times entries were added to your spreadsheet) and your display language.

Click to embiggen.


Lauren's link love: Query spreadsheet, picture book info, analyze your Twitter persona, & e-publishing at your local library

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:


Optimizing your blog images for Pinterest: 9 tips {Updated!}

Since things have changed so much since the last time I wrote about this topic, I figured an update was in order for the way Pinterest works with blog images now.

Many bloggers report amazing traffic from Pinterest if you leverage the platform just right, garnering viral repins and multiple clicks through to a blog. Here are ways to fine-tune your blog images to be Pinterest-friendly.

  1. Include an image in every post.

    If you want to be pinned, this is a must. Technically, a pinner can skirt around this by uploading an image to use as a placeholder for your post, but how dedicated are your readers really? Even if you're a writer, a words person, not a graphics person (I get it — I do!), you need an image in your blogpost. And even if you're not on Pinterest yourself — even if you never set foot in the app or have an account — your blogposts could be gaining traction there as soon as someone pins them. So it's worth making your posts pinnable! The minimum size, by the way, is 100X200 pixels, which is teensy and not going to play well on Pinterest. Read on.

  2. Use the standard Pinterest size for best results.

    The largest pin size is 735 pixels wide, and the longest pin that can be read in mobile without clicking on an "expand pin" button is 1102 pixels long. So there's your optimal pin size: 735x1102. (You can round it to 1100 if that's easier to remember, and it doesn't actually need to be exact.) That's the width that will pop up when you click on a pin on desktop. You can technically make your pins infinity long, so if you have more to include (such as in an infographic or a step-by-step pictorial tutorial), then go for it. The whole length will be shown on desktop, but be aware that the whole length won't show automatically on mobile without an extra click.

    Examples of how pins look on desktop & mobile:

    Pins can show as super long on desktop.

    Longer pins will be truncated on mobile.



Lauren's link love: How to get your children's book published, editing checklist, bump your follower count, & the proper use of cheese

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:


Things I am doing instead of querying

I am supposed to be querying my cozy mystery novel, Poisoned, by God. I have sent a query out to one agent. One.

Here are the other very important things I have been doing instead:

  1. I have gone through old blogposts on this blog and made Pinterest-worthy images for them with Pablo by Buffer, my new favorite thing. (See the image on this post as an example. It's free!)
  2. I have gone through super-old posts on Hobo Mama to clean up code and add in affiliate-link warnings when needed for FTC compliance. (I'm still working on this.)
  3. I have written six blogposts.
  4. I have come up with two ideas for middle grade fiction series, and one for a literary novel.


Lauren's link love: YA preview, Twitter tools & tips, Scrivener tute, and animated cats

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:


Ready to submit? Use Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript to help!

Here's a glowing review for a seemingly dull book: Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, by Chuck Sambuchino and published by Writer's Digest Books. It goes into the nitty-gritty, boring old details of exactly how you present your precious writing to a potential agent or editor.

It's all in the details

It covers all major forms of writing, from article writing to nonfiction to short stories to novels to children's books, scripts, and poetry, and it details not just how to present your manuscript itself but also all the essential elements that go along with it: a query letter, a book proposal, an author bio, a synopsis, and more.

You might think the book would gloss over details, like that you'd have to infer from a generalized description of fiction submissions how to cater for a particular genre, but this book is all about details. I love books that are all about details! Are you writing a mystery novel? Covered. A graphic novel? Covered. An author-illustrated (or not) picture book? Covered. Need to know how to submit the acknowledgements page for your nonfiction book? Covered. An endorsements page for your novel? Covered. How about your radio commentary? Dude, it's covered.


Lauren's link love: Editing tools, author publicity, & crafting a book

Links to share, collected at @LaurenWaynecom on Twitter:


Better Than Before: A review of Gretchen Rubin's book on habits

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

Author Gretchen Rubin came to Seattle, and I didn't see her — but I saw her poster in the library often enough beforehand that I was inspired to check out her book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. It's about her own quest to understand habit formation and tips for us on how best to start and maintain good habits.

I enjoyed the book and found it very useful. Rubin outlines four personality tendencies when it comes to habits: Upholders (who find it easy to keep habits no matter what), Obligers (who will keep habits if it pleases the people they care about and they have accountability from them), Questioners (who must justify and research before they'll commit to a habit), and Rebels (who will keep habits only if it suits their antiestablishment tendencies). You probably already know from that brief description which one is you, but if not, there's a quiz on her site.

Rubin uses her own experiences coaching herself and victims … er … loved ones through habit formation to report on how each personality type can find success in keeping the habits we want, whether that's cutting our sugar intake, reading more books, taking a regular yoga class, biking with our kids each week, or whatever motivates you. She helps you clarify your goals (and figure out if you even actually want that habit — some of us will profess a habit we think we should have but have no intention of actually following through on it), set up accountability (whether internal or external, the type required for Obligers), and avoid pitfalls.


Lean into your writing challenges

Sometimes when you're writing fiction, you'll get to a place where a character does something unexpected, and you'll want to fix it.

Or you'll realize your plot would be stronger if some terrible thing befell your protagonist, but you have a protective urge pulling you back.

Or you'll introduce a detail that messes with the tidy outline you had in your mind, and you try to figure out a painless way to erase it.

Don't. Move forward. Push through the hard way, never minding the thorns. Laugh about how much harder and messier you're making it for yourself.

Nine times out of ten, your novel will be better for it.


Download all your Tweets

I came across this article on BlogHer explaining the easy way you can now download your entire Twitter archive. Even if you've been tweeting forever, it's nearly instantaneous and well worth the stroll back down memory lane.

For no good reason, I wrote this post back in 2013 and then never published it. I think I just wanted to add more cute Tweets to it, or maybe delete some. Who knows. I officially give up and am letting it loose into the world! I checked, and downloading your archive all still works the same, AND these Tweets below are hecka entertaining. So, enjoy, and let me know what your favorite old Tweets are if you do this! Newsflash: I have a new author Twitter handle I'd love to have you follow as well: @LaurenWaynecom

In the article, Diane asks what your first Tweet ever was. Mine were RTs — good links but a boring story for the purposes of this post. But my third Tweet made me chuckle:

Still true.


Creating character & setting sheets for your novel

I mentioned in my post on winning NaNoWriMo this past year that one thing I noticed in writing the second book in my mystery series is how hard it is for me to keep track of minor characters' names and settings. I realized I needed a system in place to handle all these details.

Why make character sheets?

You're chugging along on your work in progress when suddenly your mind blanks. Were your protagonist's mom's eyes blue or brown? Rack your brain no more! Simply consult your handy-dandy character sheets, scroll to the appropriate box, and there it is in print: Oh, right! They were hazel!

If you're writing a series, it's even more imperative to keep track of these pesky details from one book to the next. Remember how long your characters have lived in a certain place, or what jobs they had in the past. Note down when they first met a new friend.

You can make the same type of notations for settings and other details in your stories. Then you'll know where their favorite diner is located, what its name is, and who the surly server is they love to hassle.

The other benefit of having character sheets (also known as character profiles, character questionnaires, character charts, etc.) is that it inspires you to include more description. If you're like me and description is locked into your head but rarely makes its lethargic way onto the paper, having character sheets staring you in the face with slots for eye color and height and so forth makes you want to make decisions about those things and figure out interesting ways to include them. Clever descriptions will bring your novel alive, so it's a boon to have an avenue for mindfully considering what to add to your writing.

So, now that I've convinced you you need them…

How do you make character sheets?

Some writing software, such as Scrivener (a Mac program I used for one NaNo), has built-in capabilities for crafting character sheets. I wanted something more mobile, though, because I often work on my novels (and blogging) when I'm out and about. Most comprehensive writing software (including Scrivener) doesn't have a mobile component that works on my (Android) phone.

Enter: Google Drive. Bam.

I already am writing my current novel in Google Docs, and I transferred my earlier writing there as well. (FYI, I blog on the go using Chrome and the horrifying Blogger app, but I don't recommend either for publishing, just for drafting. They both truly suck for the job, and I will take any suggestions for improvement over them.)

For my character sheets, I also considered Evernote, since it's also readily available on both mobile and computers, but I have problems with the Evernote app being finicky, and I understand and like the functionality of Google Drive. Plus, I realized I could best organize the data in — nerd alert! — a spreadsheet!

Google Sheets to the rescue!

Hope you can kind of see that. You can click on it to embiggen a bit.


On winning NaNoWriMo 2015

First of all: Woot!

I hadn't been planning to do National Novel Writing Month this past year, but Tree of Write On, Mom! asked if I was going to, and so I did.

I am very suggestible.

The idea popped into my head that I could use the opportunity to do something I'd been meaning to, which was write the second book in my mystery series. And so I did! And now I feel so much better!

It's still a crappy first draft, because I'm working on finishing up editing the first one right now instead of fixing the second, but it's nice to have the story written and sitting there ready to edit. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

It makes me think I should write a novel every other month or so. Maybe every three months, with two off to edit? (This isn't going to happen, but apparently it could!)
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