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Archive for June, 2013

make more time for writing

With 24 hours in a day, is there really enough time to accomplish all your goals?

What if one of your goals is writing a book?

Let’s do the math:

    24 hours – 8 hours sleep – 8 hours work – 4 hours extra stuff = 4 hours to write

My first reaction to this equation was, “So where do those 4 hours to write a day go?”

As a parent and a homeschooling mom, my day is more like this:

    24 hours – 7 hours sleep – 5 hours homeschooling – 1.5 hours food prep & clean-up – 3 hours chores – 1.5 hours driving my kids to stuff – .5 hours exercise – 3 hours entertaining toddler – 1 hour in garden – 4 hours of unexpected stuff = 0 hours a day to write

There isn’t much we can do about the time we must spend on work, household management, and that quality time we need with our family. There are places to trim wasted time. (Note: the 3 hours of chores includes laundry, dishes, grocery shopping…things that I must do that aren’t writing. I never have and never will clean my house for 3 hours a day. I’m just not that girl!)

1. Sleep
I will never call sleeping-time wasted time. But I can suggest trimming the excessive sleep. Wake up 30 minutes early to write. Wake up 45 minutes early to exercise for 20 minutes and write for 25. It’s the best of two good habits.

2. Internet
As writers, we need to build a platform. There is a driving need to write great blog posts, gain followers, Tweet and facebook and manage our websites. Schedule one day a week to do all those things. Keep a list nearby of potential blog posts. Set up an account with SocialO0mph dot com to schedule Tweets in advance. Even Facebook Posts can be scheduled for the future, giving you an ‘always present’ appearance in your social media without requiring you to actually be always present.

Netflix is my personal enemy. While I love the convenience of the DVD coming to the house, the ease of watching unlimited movies can distract me. I admit that I’m a complete nerd, but I actually refuse to start watching Downton Abby because I know I’ll be hooked. Same with Game of Thrones. My writing is more important than watching TV. I have total faith that my life will still be valuable without having watched these programs.

3. Meal Planning
This comes from my need to feed a family of six. My son still naps (most days) in the afternoons, giving me time to write. If dinner isn’t planned and started before his nap, I tend to work through the afternoon without giving dinner a thought. Suddenly, it’s 5:00 and everything that is dinner-worthy is still frozen solid. On those nights, my family enjoys breakfast for dinner. Don’t get me wrong – my family loves breakfast for dinner, but the need for healthy vegetables motivates me to plan ahead.

meal plan 1

I have a list of potential dinners taped to the inside of my cupboard. I also use my crock pot often. I love how I can toss in frozen meat, crank the pot up to Hot, and walk away.

4. Schedule Writing Hours
Career-minded folk have a 9:00 – 5:00 schedule. While it might be unlikely that you’ll have that kind of time to devote to writing, it’s highly possible to schedule something. I have Thursday afternoons from 1:00 – 6:00 to write while my husband (the wonderful man that he is) takes the afternoon off. It’s a win-win all around. When my kids were younger, I hired a babysitter to come to the house once a week for four hours.

Find a time. Mark it as writing time. Commit to it.

5. Have a Writing Plan
Once you have that writing time etched out, you MUST know what you are going to do with it beyond, “I’m going to write.” I guarantee when you sit down for your four hour stretch of writing, you’ll stare at a blank screen. To prepare your writing plan, invest in a stack of post-it notes and jot down ideas, comments, topics, etc. to refer to during your writing time. Before you begin your scheduled writing time, write a list of things you want to accomplish.

For more on this, visit: Post-It Note Writing

6. Focus on One Goal at a Time
The creative mind can be a dangerous thing if allowed to roam to freely. Without a goal in mind, we writers and creators of fiction can jump from project to project and never really finish a thing. To counter this, try to do all your blogging one day a week, setting the publish dates for future dates. Spend another day working on a single chapter or a poem. Spend one afternoon a week catching up on all the blogs you follow. Be sure to comment, ‘like’, and share the good ones! Spend another day (or a few hours) reading quality published work. I’m currently reading George Orwell’s 1984.

Want to pack more of a motivational punch? Jot down your daily goals in a cheap spiral notebook and make notes about what you accomplish. At the end of the week, see where you are. What did you work on most? What project did you avoid? Perhaps that project should be dropped.
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7. Turn Off Your Phone
It’s a sad state we live in when phone calls rank higher in our priorities than driving safely or spending time with loved ones. I’ve watched businessmen on lunch dates with their wives/girlfriends and spend most of their time on the phone, either talking or texting. It takes all my reserve to not pitch their phone in a pitcher of water.

Be fully present to any task. That goes for writing, for spending time with people, and especially for driving. Turn off the phone and trust your voice mail system. The world hasn’t ended yet and probably won’t just because you turned off your phone.

8. Play Beautiful Instrumental Music
Mozart is best. George Winston is my favorite. Patrick Woods is excellent. Keep the lyrics away from your mind because you’ll listen to the words instead of creating your own. How does music make more time for writing? Personally speaking, it blocks out the noises of my house (or library or coffee shop conversation) and helps me focus on my list of goals.

For more on this, visit Soundtrack Writing.

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parents and writers icon

This is Volume 2 of the Parents & Writers Blog Carnival, but it’s not just for Parents. Once again, Kimberly Grabas shows her expertise in blogging by sharing 13 blunders to avoid. I learned a great deal from her post! I hope you do too.

What happens to your blog post after you press publish? Crickets chirping? Tumbleweeds gently rolling by? Are you starting to lose your motivation, and the belief that this whole blogging thing really has any merit when it comes to building your platform and actually selling some books? You are not alone. Blogs are abandoned every day, and the harsh reality is that the majority of blogs get less than 1000 people visiting per month. So why are some blogs incredibly successful, while others limp along for a few months and eventually fail? What can you do to ensure your blog is one of the success stories?

Click Here to read Kimberly’s post.

It’s summer vacation and while our children might have a break from school, for us as writers to take a break from writer would be a mistake. Why? Writing is a marathon.

    Every sentence crafted is a step in a race.
    Every paragraph a benchmark.
    Every completed story a mile.

While we might finish a story or a book, we are never finished with writing.

But we are often interrupted from writing. Such is the case in my home with four children. I homeschool them. The interruptions are frequent.

In order to keep the creativity flowing and the children happy, I’m going to try incorporate “field trip writing” into our summer plans. We do homeschool year-round, so there will still be ‘class’ for my munchkins. Here are my ideas:

    Destination: Local Garden or park. Supplies: Children bring thin canvas boards (available at Hobby Lobby), paintbrushes and paints. I bring paper and pen. The Plan: The children will paint a landscape. I will write a chapter.

    Destination: Historical Museum. Supplies: Camera, pen and paper, digital recorder. The Plan: Tour the museum. I highly recommend planning ahead and paying a little extra for a docent-tour. The information you’ll receive from a guided tour will far exceed what you’ll learn on your own. The Plan: Take notes (on paper or spoken into recorder) about historical events. Can you use these in a story? Children can -with permission from museum – take photos and prepare a power point presentation of their museum visit.

    Destination: Library. Supplies: computer & library card. The Plan: You write and the children check out books and read. This is extra motivating if the children have signed up for a summer reading program.

    Destination: Park. Supplies: Picnic Lunch. The Plan: Read some of your stories to your kids…unless you write stories that they shouldn’t be reading. It’s good to share what you write with them so they can begin to understand why you love your pen and paper so much! It’s also a huge benefit for you to hear your story. I can guarantee you’ll make changes!

    Destination: book store, preferably a small, independently owned book store. Supplies: a little cash. The Plan: Teach your child the proper etiquette for a book store. If it’s a small store, there likely won’t be coffee or hot chocolate or a play corner. There will be books. Show your child how to treat books, talk to them about the beauty of the binding, the font, the dust jackets. Encourage them to sit down somewhere and read a few picture books or chapters from novels and see if anything is good enough to bring home. This field trip doesn’t necessarily give you time to write, but it does instill an appreciation for books in your children.

    Destination: Where ever you write best. Supplies: a Babysitter. The Plan: I’m sure you can figure this one out 🙂

    Destination: Living Room or backyard. Supplies: Pillows, blankets, clothes pins… or a tent filled with pillows and blankets. The Plan: Have some fun constructing a fort, or set up the tent in the backyard (or the living room). Make the space cozy and fill it with books, drawing paper, crayons and colored pencils and your writing supplies. Enjoy the time.

Bonus Help: On Pinterest today I found 40 Ways to Distract a Toddler, an excellent collection of activities for little ones that will keep them busy for a time, increase their large and small motor skills, and help them safely explore their environment. The post is intended for homeschooling parents to keeping the little ones happy while they help older children with their school work, but I’m sure it will work for you too!

My kidlets :) Guess which one keeps me the busiest!

My kidlets 🙂 Guess which one keeps me the busiest!

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Looking for ideas? How about a writing community online? Here are some great resources for writers. Enjoy!

Live to Write - Write to Live

The Internet is an absolute boon for writers. It connects us to all manner of resources, communities, and learning opportunities. It throws wide the doors to a digital world where we can communicate, collaborate, and commiserate with other writers from all across the globe. It connects us to editors and other potential employers.  For many of us, this wonderland of pixels and platforms is what affords us the chance to make a living (and a life) with words.

I spend more than my fair share of time cruising these virtual streets – peeking in windows, dropping in on conversations, and devouring all the juicy bits of wisdom and wit from writers who have traveled farther ahead on this road than I have. Today, I’d like to share some of my recent finds from the road, so to speak: two podcasts, two online classrooms, and two writer communities. I hope you…

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Today, I cleaned out the junk drawer. It was an overdue task, but now that it’s finished and organized, I feel like my entire house is cleaner. Two realizations struck me as I cleaned. The first was that my children are older; a fact obvious in the fact that there were only two Legos in the drawer. A year ago, or whenever I last cleaned this drawer, my daughter constructed an entire city with the blocks I found.

The second realization was that I have lost the gift of seeing the world through a child’s eye. When I handed my daughter the Legos, I hoped that she would actually put it away. Like Tim Hawkins states, Legos are like weapons.

My daughter was thrilled with the Legos find, exclaiming, “Oh! You found the couch!” And when I looked at the two tiny pieces stuck together, it was clearly a piece of furniture.

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How does this relate to writing? Perspective. How does your character see the world? Where one person would frown in the rain, another will dance in it. While I see meal prep as time away from writing, others see it as a wonderful hobby.

Take another look at your main character. How do they see the world? What makes her happy? What drives him crazy? What is her favorite song? Which song was playing when his first girlfriend dumped him? How do they respond to that song in later years? Then look at a secondary character – write a scene in which their opinion of a situation is completely different from the main character’s opinion. Would it be a comedy? Or would the scene make Edgar Allen Poe proud?

While you may not be able to use this exercise in your main piece, it might serve well in a writing contest. In the very least, it will be fun 🙂

Related article: Miss Interpretation

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Somehow the beginning of June slipped by me. I know I’m not alone in the ‘where has the time gone?’ question, but I’m surprised that with all the technology and calendars I consult daily, today is June 5th, not May 36th 🙂

My writing goals for May were focused a little less on writing and more on story planning and reading. Every once in a while, the writing starts to feel stagnant. Some may call it writer’s block. I call it irritating. On May 1st, I decided that I would read five books just for the sake of reading and finish the outlines for two new novels I’m working on.

My reading goals were a flop. I read one book – Pentecost by Joanna Penn – which was excellent!

My writing goals faired better. I did finish outlining the second book to Gateways as well as refining my storyline and character arc for Circle of Pride. For both of these, I have hopeful completion dates of December 1st. I feel the need to complete these projects this year so I can spend the first few months of 2014 in the editing stage before the submissions start.

Some good news: My children’s picture book is nearing the release date. Frog’s Winter Walk will be available for purchase sometime in August. Here’s a sampling of my illustrator, Sarah Aman, amazing talents:

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my 'soon to be released' children's book: Frog's Winter Walk

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my ‘soon to be released’ children’s book: Frog’s Winter Walk

Yes, that Frog is wearing a feather coat and snake-skin boots 🙂 He’s a scientific frog, you see, and is staying awake for the winter to explore the world beyond the green pond season.

I did find some wonderful articles and blog posts about writing. I spent much of May working on marketing Unforgettable Roads, and thanks to these links, I hope you will find some new ideas as well.

1. 7 Secrets to Writing Persuasive Back Cover Sales Copy by Joel Friedlander

2. How to Create A Custom Widget in WordPress by the folks at AuthorMedia.

3. Plain Language – 11 Tips for Brilliant Writing by WritersWrite – clearly a pen name 🙂

4. You Have Permission by Joanna Penn

5. Support-A-Writer – a social media community for writers headed up by Alana Munro

Happy Writing and Reading to you all!

Don’t forget to support your local writer: Gateways and Unforgettable Roads are available in paperback and Kindle. Nook, Kobo and all other e-readers are still in the works.

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As a writer currently working on a ‘book 2’ – this is extremely helpful and encouraging.

...and then there was Sarah

com.DreamFactory.ebook_.ASongofIceandFire_1Writing a series is not as simple as just writing several books in a row. Nor is it as easy as taking one long story and breaking it into several parts. There are a lot of nuances to writing a series that many writers just do not think about until they’re smack in the middle of it, and by that time its either too late OR you’ve just created a mountain of work for yourself that you might have avoided.

 Maybe, just maybe, I can help you avoid some of that work.

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