Category Archives: Thoughts on Writing…

Changing Seasons

The leaves have fallen from the trees across the street, but this morning I watched two stellar jays flutter from branch to branch.  A nut hatch also scurried about his business as the sun highlighted the gnarled,weathered and snapped appendages of the old poplars that are determined to thrive despite the early winds this year. Although clouds dot the morning sky, the sun is like those old poplars.  It is determined to win.

So I draw from their persistence today and rejoin the writing world.  I look forward to winter with the anticipation of a child.  As the rains and winds approach, I have the perfect reason to stay indoors and write.

I have other writing I must do, so will sign off for now, but I will be back soon.

 

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You Are a Writer—Are you tracking tax deductible expenses?

Are you in the business of writing?  If your answer is yes there are some things you should know.

Many authors operate as sole proprietorships (i.e. self-employed).  In the United States income from a sole proprietorship form of business is taxable on your federal income tax Form 1040, Schedule C.     (If you have incorporated or elected to be taxed as any form of business other than self-employment there are different rules that apply.)

If you are a business, your expenses that are both ordinary and necessary are deductible on your tax return. The key issue here is to establish that you write with a profit motive and qualify as a business, not a hobby.  Hobby expenses are not deductible in the same manner as business expenses.

Therefore the first thing you need to do is to establish that you have a profit motive for your “writing business”.  Even with some income from your writing, there is a possibility that the IRS might consider your writing a hobby and not a business.  The rules to determine whether your writing is a business or a hobby are complex and you might want to discuss these issues with your tax preparer or an attorney.

Some of the factors considered to determine if you have a writing business include.

  1.  The amount of time and effort devoted to writing for publication and profit.
  2. The extent to which you depend on the income from this writing.
  3. If losses exist are they beyond your control or do they exist during the start-up phase?
  4. Have you earned income from writing in the past?
  5. Do your actions indicate that you are attempting to sell what you write?
  6. How are you promoting your writing business

(If you are planning to deduct expenses on your tax return I suggest you consult a qualified tax consultant to help you determine whether you should report your income as a business or a hobby.  The rules are complex and each situation may be different.)

If you determine that you are in the business of writing,  expenses that are both ordinary and necessary are deductible.  Ordinary expenses are expenses that are common and accepted in the industry.  A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business.  The best time to establish a system of tracking these expenses is when you start writing seriously. 

Some common deductible expenses include the following:

  • Office rent
  • Mail
  • Gifts, travel and entertainment
  • Printing
  • Telephone
  • Supplies
  • Answering service
  • Post Office box rental
  • Legal fees
  • Subscriptions
  • Water and power
  • Gas
  • Architectural fees
  • Research
  • Miscellaneous

Keep in mind these apply only to the business portion of these expenses not the portion that is for personal use or benefit.

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The Pitfalls of NANO

There are a number of pitfalls you may experience while writing a novel, especially if you are trying to write it in a very short time period, such as during NANO.  One is that sometimes what comes out of your mouth has absolutely nothing to do with the people you are with.  At other times you get so involved writing details into that silly little notebook, that you now take everywhere, that you totally forget that you are not by yourself.

For example, today my spouse took me out to breakfast.  I think he felt like I had been ignoring him, which of course I have, and he wanted a little attention.  It just so happened that we had a teenage waitress.  It also, just so happens, that I need a realistic teenage waitress in my current novel.  I spent our entire breakfast jotting down notes about the way the waitress was dressed and how she  behaved.

After breakfast we went to a woodworking show.  Woodworking is my husband’s  hobby.  Out of nowhere I said, “Seth Roland’s table would look great in Don’s house.”

 Seth makes beautiful artistic furniture.  He is very real, but Don is a character in my novel.

It is a good thing my husband loves me….

 

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Check the facts–

Creativity is the bi-product of a self disciplined, well-informed mind–Anonymous

One of the most distracting things for me is to be reading a novel and suddenly read a passage that is factually incorrect.  Last night I wrote several paragraphs on my NaNo story.  During the night several questions about Corvettes went through my head, such as “Do they have spare tires?”  Any Corvette owner knows that I discovered that they don’t. 

To make a long story short, I will be rewriting several paragraphs.

The internet makes it easier to do research than it used to be, but it is important to be cautious about the sites that you use.   There is a lot of erroneous information out there.  I checked the web for an answer.  But I also decided that it would be just as easy and reliable to call my local Chevrolet dealer to get the answer, or at least to confirm that what I found on-line was correct for the year of the Corvette in my story.  It’s easy to be lazy about research these days, but don’t be afraid to expand your research beyond the web.  It may make the difference between finding the right answer and being misled.

Always check the facts.  Be vigilant about information in your writing that is outside of your area of knowledge. Remember that creativity requires that you have a well-informed mind, and what you learn along the way may inspire your next paragraph, or even your next story.

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Quiet Your Mind–Make Time for Creativity

I have read that a good way to tap your creativity is to sit quietly and let your mind wander.  Doing that isn’t difficult, but allowing yourself to do it is not easy.   While sitting in my living room, in the quiet early morning, I gave it a try.  Much to my surprise, a good first paragraph, for a story that I have been struggling with, popped into my head; as did this as a topic for my blog today.

Often I find that my creativity flows more smoothly when I am writing longhand in a notebook.  Once I get started then I can move to my computer and my creative flow continues.   Perhaps there are too many distractions sitting at the computer screen.

When do you find yourself the most creative?   What techniques work best for you?

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The Stranger, a Novel by Albert Camus

Just finished reading a little book called The Stranger, by Albert Camus.   To appreciate it you have to understand the time it was written.  It was written during the 1940’s and WWII by a political author from French Colonial Algeria.  It was also written to express the author’s belief that life was irrational and absurd.  This novel definitely expressed that  idea.  That doesn’t mean I agree with the idea, just that it is well expressed in this book. 

Aside from the author’s message in the book, I found it interesting from a writing perspective.   The Protagonist is totally aware of the physical world around him.   The detail of physical sites, sounds and happenings is extremely well written.  The expected emotional response from the protagonist is also markedly absent.  The portrayal of an individual that has been emotionally numbed is remarkable.  The book is worth reading for the character development, the plot development and the prose style of Albert Camus.

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Hurricane Ridge–the rewards of patience

The clouds hung heavy over the hills as we started up the road to Hurricane Ridge.  A small fawn wandered back and forth across street just beyond the entrance station.  About eight miles up the road the sun started to slide in and out from behind the clouds and blue sky spread out.  One of the mysteries of Hurricane Ridge is waiting to see what the weather will be like when you reach the top.   On days like today, the waiting is worth it.  When we reached the top the clouds were beneath us and clear skies above us.

We slowed to a crawl as we reached the lodge.  On this stretch of the road people forget that cars pass through the road and pedestrians walk about with total disregard for passing vehicles.   We continued on up the road, driving slowly past the first and second picnic areas until we reached the parking area for the Hurricane Hill Trail.  

Slowly we circled the lot.  It was full. 

 We drove back down to the second picnic area and parked.  Finding a table, nestled in the trees but partially warmed by the sun, we ate our sandwiches while listening to a raven call out above.  Then we saw it as it sailed over the trees.  Someone in the parking lot was able to capture a picture as it flew away, but alas, we weren’t prepared. 

Once again we headed up to the Hurricane Trail Parking lot, still no empty spaces, but we circled the lot.  And then as we started to circle it a third time a couple came up and indicated that they would be pulling out.  

As we started out the trail, we were rewarded for our patience.  Brilliant blues of lupine grow close to the trail.  Looking closely, we discovered tiger lilies amidst beds of Indian paintbrush and all along the trail wildflowers of whites and pinks and yellows greeted us as we walked along. 

The wildflowers are late this year.   Winter stayed beyond its welcome up on the ridge.  But since this was my first trip up there this year, I’ll forgive the winter for its persistence.  Perhaps we’ll get out the trail again before the winds and rain come and remind us why it is called Hurricane Ridge.

 

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