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Posts tagged with: motivation

You, Your Life, Your Writing.

When my children were born, they had two sets of grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents.  They thought nothing of it, safe within the nurturing embrace of a large and loving family.

I can’t recall whether Son was in kindergarten or first grade, but one day, he arrived home confused and agitated.  He’d discovered a classmate had no grandparents at all.  How could that be?

The shattering of normal had begun. 

This is one of my favorite memes (Sorry, Angelica, but Carolyn will always be Morticia to me).  In one pithy sentence, the truth is revealed; normal isn’t a wide brush that coats every life with the same paint.  It’s a slue of brushes made of various materials, camel hair, boar bristle, razor wire, of varying widths, each bringing a different color to the mix.

We’ve all heard or read about that mystical, elusive element called Voice.  From whence does it come?  How do I get it?

The answer is simple.  You live, experience, and grow, gathering slashes, stripes, and spots of matte, satin, gloss, and glitter.  It’s from that chromatic chaos tinting the neutral base of your inherent nature that Voice comes.

Voice is you–who you were, are, and even who you will become—and it relates back to your perception of normal.

Have things in your world ever become so overwhelming you wanted to divorce your life?  Okay, maybe not divorce, but how about a legal separation?  Or, at the very least, a lengthy vacation?

Life will, eventually, test every hope, dream, belief, and perception, pushing you to the edge of your mental and physical endurance, leaving you asea amid crashing waves, glowering skies, and circling sharks.  Survival demands all your attention.  The water, clouds, and sharks become the center of your world.  Day by day, you struggle, scan the horizon for land, search the sky for rescue.

The sea has become your normal.

Then, for better or worse, it changes.  You look back, either relieved to have washed ashore or hoping the clouds will return since the sun is now baking your brain.

Here’s the thing:  As much as you curse what- or whoever threw you overboard, every situation is fraught with things you should learn (especially about yourself).  Without them, your stories will lack depth, credibility, empathy, and resonance.

Your Voice will have no conduit with which to reach and touch your readers.

(Just for the record, the same can hold true life’s more pleasant things.  Trial, however, seems to sharpen the learning curve.)

Just like children, authors, and their work, mature, growing and changing within their frame of normal.  The frames are all different.  Some heavy and gilded, some thin strips of salvaged wood.  Time can strip the gilding, embellish the salvaged wood, but within the frame, the Voice remains unique.

Thus, I encourage you to reevaluate your normal, the joys, trials, and general messiness that comes with living.

Accept it.  Embrace it.  Learn from it.

Put it to work.

The vanquished is always at the mercy of the victor.

 

 

Ruby Reprise: Writing Thru the Christmas Crazies

I’ve shared this post with y’all last year, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. If you’re like me, you struggle to sit down with your work in progress during the busy, busy holiday season. So I thought it would be fun to share some coping strategies once more. I’ve added my 2 cents worth for 2013 near the end.  :)  Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.

christmas-trees

But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do?
Here are a few tips:
1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.
I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later.
2. Take it One Small Step at a Time
It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).
Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps.
3. Be Prepared
For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.
I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done.
4. Utilize the Buddy System
Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).
And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page.
Addition: New Thing I Learned in 2013
One of my goals in 2013 was to learn to enjoy life in the midst of chaos. I have a full time day job, write at least part time, have 2 kids and a very supportive husband. I felt like I worked from the moment I forced myself to roll out of bed in the morning. About halfway through the year, I realized I wasn’t really LIVING. So I’ve tried different approaches to try to remedy this. Here’s 1 for the holidays: Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t writing. I know it sounds counterproductive, but guilt is only going to bog down your writing, not help it in any way. When you are at a party, or chillin’ with your family, enjoy it. Don’t spend it feeling bad about what you’re not accomplishing. Oddly enough, when you get back to the page, you’ll be MORE refreshed and productive without all that negative emotion hanging around. So there’s my 2 cents worth for this year! :)
My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)

Dani

What Scares You?

What scares you? Halloween2011

At this time of year there are obvious answers: evil witches, zombies, giant spiders. As a child these “scary” things might seem heart stopping, but as we age and experience loss and betrayal, other less obvious things become the source of nightmares. Mother-in-laws who can’t let go of their sons. Corporate take overs which spur massive lay-offs in the name of efficiency. A satin pair of panties in your husband’s briefcase. Beige walls with framed medical degrees as an oncologist shakes his head. Our adult worlds have opened up to fears far beyond the Halloween props.

Why do I bring up all this unpleasantness? Who wants to deal with all the nasty, stomach churning pain of real-life fears? As humans we will unfortunately have to deal with frightful things. As authors, we can use those nightmares to make our work rich with painfully realistic motivation and conflict.

Every heroine and hero needs baggage, secrets or pain they would rather forget. Otherwise what would they have to overcome? Why would the reader care about them? We need characters who are as flawed and hobbled by their pasts as we are.

Good books have external obstacles. Great books have external obstacles with characters mired down by their own internal

Free this week on Amazon!

Free this week on Amazon!

obstacles. In my latest release, SURRENDER, my heroine must rescue her adopted father from kidnappers in Victorian era Egypt. There are many external obstacles including demons, asps, collapsing crypts, and a rakish American treasure hunter who has secrets. But it is the internal obstacles that truly push and pull at the hero and heroine, throwing them together one moment but then tearing them apart the next. Issues like abandonment, distrust, guilt and rejection pepper their pasts like savory herbs adding to the richness of a gourmet meal.

As authors we have, perhaps, more imagination than the “normal” population. We can create drama in our minds from our comfortable seats in our comfortable houses. We can build traumatic childhood pasts when our worlds were rather bland at ten years old. We can visit the crypts of ancient Egypt with a flooded Nile pounding down the walls around us. But…if we have lived with fear, lived with real betrayal, and we allow those tamped down feelings of guilt or resentment, that we’ve buried, arise – we can use them.

For those who do not know me, I am an ovarian cancer survivor. In 2011, just after my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed and started a 15-month chemo regimen that was painful, debilitating and terrifying. I walked through the fire and have come out the other side with insight, appreciation, and oodles of details on surviving and dealing with fear.

As a writer, I was unable to write fiction during my treatment. It was too exhausting to create new worlds and people. But I wrote non-fiction constantly, bleeding my pain and fear out onto the pages of blog posts which I will one day use in some cancer survival self-help books. Writing about my experiences was a way I could heal emotionally, remaining positive and able to fight the good fight for my life.bluescarfbeads

Now that I’ve returned to my fiction, I can use all those details in my writing. No, not all of my future heroines will have cancer (although I’m considering one), but I can tap into all those feelings I had during those two years. My anxiety of death, the feelings of being out of control, how it feels to be poisoned or looked at with pity. I know how desperate someone can become not to leave their children as I prayed constantly not to be taken from mine. I can now understand why some people, knowing how bad treatment can feel, will decide not to fight.

All of that detail can now be used in my books, breathing real life into my characters, giving them truly rich motivation. You can do the same. Put your past fears and pain to good use. It can be very cathartic for you. Bleed it out and into your characters. Let them suffer instead of you.

Okay – I know it’s not that easy to deal with real, life-altering pain or no writer would ever need to talk with a therapist (I love mine and whole heartedly recommend getting one of your own : ). But if you have baggage (and we all do), we can help ourselves by using that pain instead of hiding it away to pop out at inopportune moments in the form of panic attacks and/or banshee eruptions.

What scares you? Think about it. Pull it out of your psyche and examine it. Then use it. Fill your characters with real life motivation and conflict. It will enhance your writing and it just might make you feel better.

I won’t ask you to bare all on the blog (unless you want to), but what gives you the shivers, especially at this time of year? I’d have to say, having been bitten by the nasty creatures in the past, spiders would have to be my number one chill inducer.

 

Authors On Writing

Thoughts on writing from authors I thought you would enjoy.

Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way. ~ Eileen Caddy

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. ~ Nora Roberts

Keep a diary and one day it’ll keep you. ~Mae West

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

When things don’t go your way – change your way. ~ Me

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten,  either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.   – Benjamin Franklin

Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it. ~ Elizabeth Lowell

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~ Joy Held

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

People do not deserve to have good writing, as they are so pleased with bad. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.  ~ Robert Benchley

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener

When you get to the point everyone else would quit –keep going. ~ Unknown.

Tell the readers a story. Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.  – Anne McCaffrey

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.- Anads Nin

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences. ~ Somerset Maugham

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader -not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.~ Moliere

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.” ~ Stephen King

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. ~ Stephen King

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.~ Ernest Hemingway

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Rejection is not Fatal ~ Author Unknown

Now go and write.

Forget the guilt, -“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”Erma Bombeck

Forget the housework. -“Housework, if it is done properly, can cause brain damage.” Erma Bombeck

Don’t worry about your family.-“No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.” Erma Bombeck

Enjoy the moment.- “Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, ‘No thank you’ to desert that night. And for what?!” Erma Bombeck

 

Please share your favorite quote.

 

Rita writes sexy stories about Military Heroines. Extraordinary women and the men they love. 

Seriously? They did what?

Guy Fieri, Season Two Winner of The Next FoodNetwork Star, as shown on the The Food Network.

Guy Fieri, Season Two Winner of The Next FoodNetwork Star, as shown on the The Food Network.

I’m all about the character. I write character driven stories, so I’m always looking at people and wondering what makes them tick. Why do they do the things they do? What drives them? I especially wonder this when one of my characters, like the one in my current WIP, is being somewhat uncooperative. I began re-thinking her motivation, when I remembered this post I’d written early last year. Since I was slated to post soon, I decided to pull it out of the archives and reprint it–with a slight change at the end.

Original post:  I’m not a Reality TV Junkie, but I do enjoy watching couples race around the world, cook their way to stardom, and survive in meager conditions. Whether it’s dancing, singing, looking for a mate, mining for coal, digging for gold, hunting for alligators, or driving across ice roads, these players/contestants have one goal in mind—to win the prize. It doesn’t matter if the prize is wealth, a record deal, or a shot at a television show. They all want to walk away the winner. In that respect, they are the same. Where the difference comes in is their motivation or reason for wanting the prize and to what lengths they’ll go to obtain it.

Let’s take a look at these characters, er, I mean contestants. Most, if not all shows, give us a mixture of personalities from the hateful to the naïve. If we are not family, friends, or acquaintances of these people pre-reality stardom, then we usually assume who we see on television is who these people are in their everyday lives. For example, is the arrogant, bitchy Beauty Queen truly heartless? Is the humble, caring Sweetheart Darling from Next Door as perfect as she seems? From their behavior, how can we believe anything less than that?

As the show progresses, we discover the Beauty Queen is really a charitable woman who gives endless hours feeding the hungry, knitting blankets for the homeless, and teaching underprivileged children. Who knew? Right? As she tearfully stares into the camera, she tells the world she must win the prize so she can make a difference in the lives of others. Her motivation to achieve her goal drives her to lying, cheating, and backstabbing. (Yes, I’m being dramatic. It’s called entertainment.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Sweetheart coats every request with honey and does whatever she can to make others comfortable. She charms her fellow players, the camera, and the television audience. We later learn that in her everyday life, she’s a serial killer. She needs the prize money to escape to Brazil. (Don’t look at me like that. It’s TV. Remember?)

I took the above examples to the extreme, but motivation is a powerful tool. It can bring out the best and the worst in people. It will force people to do things they wouldn’t normally do. It’s true in life and it’s true in our books. Our job as writers is to convince our readers that our character’s motivation is substantial enough to drive them out of their comfort zone. People have different motivations for wanting the same thing. What drives my character may not be what drives your character. There is no right or wrong motivation as long as you lay out the groundwork and then have your characters make choices based on their goal(s) and motivation(s). Throw a little urgency into the mix and you’ll have a reader who’s not only involved in your story, but believes he/she would do the same thing under similar circumstances.

MODIFICATION:  In the original post, I asked you to Name the Motivation by providing you with the beginning of a statement made by a character from the series Gold Rush, which is shown on the Discovery Network.  This time, I’d like to try something different. Let’s make it personal. We all have multiple writing goals. Long-term. Short-term. Career goals. Finish-the-damn-book goal. Get a multimillion dollar contract goal. Word count goal. Page count goal. It doesn’t matter. Pick one of your writing goals and finish this statement: I want to <insert goal> because <insert why>, and I’m willing to do <insert ways to make it happen>.

I’ll go first:  I want to write at least twenty-five pages a week because I’m ready to finish this book and submit it. To do this, I am willing to let the dishes sit in the sink, leave non-perishable groceries on the bar, set a schedule for checking and replying to email, and stop cruising the internet (including hours of Facebook).  I set this goal for myself last week to give me a jump start back into my writing. Dishes in the sink and items on the bar may not seem like much to some, but it’s one of my quirks. Clean sink. Clear bar. Result: 25 pages!  :-)

Now, tell me yours.

Mind Games

Chess PicAs a suspense author, I enjoy a mind game now and then, and have free rein to use them with my villains and even heroes and heroines. But today, I’m talking about how I use mind games on myself—as a tool to get motivated in my writing.

 

The “I Don’t Wanna” Complex

 

Hey, look! It’s already Wednesday. Hump day. The day of the week when I assess how the week is going. Have I encountered challenges that kept me from writing? Are these challenges in my head or external? If they’re in my head, how do I hope to overcome them to turn my week around and make it productive? Or, if I have been productive, how do I keep that momentum going instead of giving in to the temptation to relax and take a break (which frequently leads to difficulty getting back into the writing routine later)?

 

With spring around the corner, I find myself staring out the window more often, wanting to play instead of work. And I find it easier to say, “I can make up this gap in my word count goal later tonight, after the kids are in bed”… When I’m frequently too tired to write and then tell myself, I’ll do it tomorrow. It’s too easy to make excuses to play when I don’t feel like working.

 

Getting Over Myself

 

So how do I get myself (my procrastination and other road blocks) out of the way and get things DONE?

Mind games.

I hear Gollum’s voice saying, “she’s tricksy,” but I wear the badge with pride because I get things done. Whatever it takes, right?

If I’m stalled out, energy-wise, I give myself permission to use 30 minutes on something non-writing (with the caveat that I will then sit down and produce words). I trick myself into believing I’m giving in to my temptation to play, but it actually leads to work. Here are some methods I employ:

  1. Exercise. Taking a walk outdoors gets the blood pumping to all areas of the body – including the brain. I’ll admit to occasionally dancing around my house with upbeat music playing on Pandora, frequently tuned to the “Pink!” station.
  2. Brain teasers. Yes, more mind games…of a sort. Engaging in a puzzle (crosswords, Scrabble, and the like), as long as I limit the time I spend, can help open my mind to the potential of doing work that day. It also gets me thinking about words. (DANGER: Beware the time suck! Set a timer for 20 minutes!)
  3. Attend writer’s meetings, or read or write a blog post on craft. If a writer’s meeting isn’t in the immediate future, I’ll set up a writing sprint online or a one-on-one writing session with a friend who lives in town. Then I’ve got a commitment to keep. (Spending $5 on a coffee drink often encourages me I have to get some major work done to justify the cost!)
  4. Read the latest RWR or other craft magazine. Seeing what other writers are doing often encourages me to get my head back in the game.
  5. Read a book! Sometimes this gets me in the mood to write my own. And sometimes reading about other characters makes my own jealous, and they start nitpicking at me until I get back to their story.
  6. Cattle prod? No, I’m not serious…but, then again, having a timer works in a similar way. If I’m having trouble focusing, I’ll give myself permission to do something else for a few minutes, and set the timer on my iPhone to “prod” me to get back to work.

 

But what about writing? Once my brain is willing (or sometimes when it is still pouting in the corner but I need it to be willing), there are specific things I do to help me get back into the actual writing part of my day.

  1. Warm-up exercises. Free-writing for five minutes, catching up on emails, or jotting down notes for future scenes often helps me get my fingers warmed up. I also have a deck of idea cards for writers with prompts designed to get your brain thinking…things like “pick a scene and make your character do the opposite of what you’ve already written” or “tell the scene from another character’s POV.”
  2. Re-reading the last scene or two. This is almost a “must” for me to get my head back in the game. Besides, rereading helps me regain the energy of the moment I was in when I last wrote. I’ll also go back and reread the last scene in that character’s POV, so that I know what emotional and physical state I left her/him in and can continue from there. (DANGER: I often find myself wanting to edit what I wrote – which is okay if that’s my goal for the day. But if my goal is forward progress, generating more words, I have to stuff my inner critic into its box.)
  3. Playing what-if with the scene. I do this with troublesome scenes, when I can’t see where the story is going. I once read/heard somewhere that when brainstorming you should list as many possibilities as you can. Throw out the first five or so because they’re often the predictable ones. Go further down your list for an exciting option.
  4. The old switcheroo. Changing my location (where I write) or medium (what I’m working on – for instance, using pen and notepad versus a computer) sometimes gets the ideas flowing. I’ve always wanted to try a hand-held voice recorder – I think that would come in handy in these circumstances.
  5. Follow the energy. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. Some days, I’m just not feeling it. I try to go where the energy is flowing that day – to work follow my brain’s natural path instead of going against the flow. This might mean writing a different scene than you’d planned to work on that day, or working on the synopsis or query letter instead of the manuscript. Whatever feels like forward progress is good. And stepping back to look at the global picture often helps me get back into the scene I need to write, and I’ll end up getting even more done than I’d intended. (Tricksy!)
  6. Set a timer or a low word count goal. Taking off a bite-sized chunk of the daily goal usually gets the ball rolling and tricks me into believing I am productive. Especially when, once my brain gets jump-started, my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough.
  7. Reward yourself! Peanut M&Ms work for me. I get five for every twenty minutes I spend at the keyboard. Or a bonus five if I finish a scene. If I’m trying to limit calories, I’ll let myself play online for a few minutes, or watch a segment (until the next commercial break) of The Followers or another favorite show. Choose whatever works for you (and fits your diet or budget)…small rewards can be just as helpful as large ones (which I reserve for finishing a round of edits or finishing a manuscript).

These are just a few of the mind games I play to make myself believe I’m playing when I’m really getting down to work…we won’t even go into the tricks I play on my characters once I’m in the scene and the words start flowing. (*insert maniacal laughter here*)

How about you? Do you have ways you trick yourself into being productive? What mind games do you employ when your brain wants to play instead of work?

 

Only Fear-coverAnne Marie is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and publishes her Mindhunters series through Carina Press and Harlequin. Always fascinated by people—inside and out—she earned degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling before becoming a fiction writer. As a stay-at-home mom of three young children, her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and writer.  
 
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
 
You can find out more about Anne Marie at  www.AnneMarieBecker.com.

It’s Because Of You

It is because of you that I am.

The above line sounds like a perfect line in a romance novel, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is. I’m sure there are probably hundreds of lines that are similar and hold the same meaning, like the Jerry Mcguire line “You complete me.”

Anyway, it just came to me when thinking about something Yanni said during one of his concerts. Yeah, I’m a Yanni fan. Old Yanni and New Yanni. I’ll clue you in on what he said later.

Now, I want you to take the above line and add the word A to it and then finish it by adding a noun. Any noun. Make a short list of five. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I promise I have a point to make.

Waiting…

Waiting…

Waiting….

 

Okay, my short list:

It is because of you that I am a light bulb.

It is because of you that I am a wheel.

It is because of you that I am a calendar.

It is because of you that I am a laptop.

It is because of you that I am a song.

Every one of those nouns at one point in time didn’t exist. They were once the idea of its creator—an idea that came to them while they were living life, watching the sunset or as children rolled a log down a mountain side. And they came about because the person had this insatiable drive to bring their brain child to life. To present it to the world.

By this time, you’re wondering what does that have to do with writing a novel? Well, besides the obvious that we always start with an idea, it is my belief that nothing has been created without trial and error, without studying the problem and its effects, and without lots of pondering. Writing a great story takes all of those steps.

Now, for my point today. Don’t beat yourself up for not having your fingers on the keyboard 24/7. I hear a lot of writers chiding themselves for not writing a word for a day or days. Your story hasn’t stilled. It’s growing inside you. A worthy story takes thought and research and study to create. It takes time to get to know your characters just like it did for you to get to know your hubby and friends. Take the time you need. And allow yourself to fumble, just don’t allow yourself to quit.

Okay, here is what was said and got me thinking.

“Creating is one of the most powerful, deliberate acts that human beings can do. It is one of the most important reasons to exist. If I do my job right, my listeners will experience what I experience while creating.” Yanni

Creating is one of the most important reasons to exist. Love it!

Until The Last Moment Yanni- You Tube

Writing Thru the Christmas Crazies!

It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.

Christmas Trees
But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do?

Here are a few tips:

1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.

I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later.

2. Take it One Small Step at a Time

It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).

Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps.

3. Be Prepared

For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.

I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done.

4. Utilize the Buddy System

Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).

And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page.

My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)

Project Ruby Push: Follow Up

It’s been six weeks since we saw each other last. (Where did the time go?) If you’ll recall, I gave you a little push in the form of a writing challenge waaaay back on September 19th, hoping it would generate a massive wave of productivity. Today is the conclusion of that challenge, and it’s time to check in. Drumroll, please…

My “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goal: Complete 60,000 words of a new project by October 31st.

My reality: 61,707 words as of 10/31.

Analysis: Success!

There were struggles, and some very difficult days in which focus was elusive. At least five days, kids were home from school, sick and needing Mommy. Some days, I hit a roadblock in my plot that I struggled to get past. And some days I just felt like procrastinating. There were a couple days when I was traveling or family was visiting, and it made it that much harder to jump back into writing.

Whenever I felt like I wanted to slack off or let things slide, I remembered you were holding me accountable. (Um,…thanks? <grin>)

I also found that having a plan helped. I stuck to my decision to spend the first several days plotting. Using Hope Ramsay’s recent post “Using Scrivener for Plotting,” I was able to organize my thoughts and hit the ground running on 9/24. I found that, when I could, using the evenings to plot and organize the next day’s scenes helped.

What did I learn? That I can do it! But I also learned that my maximum of 5,000 words is not a pace I would care to keep up day in and day out, and 3,000 is a more comfortable goal. Some days I wrote 300-500 words and that was quite the achievement. Being flexible was oh-so-important on days when I felt like one more apple on my cart would topple the whole thing. Most of all, I learned to go easy on myself when I don’t make it. Some days are highly productive, some aren’t. But enjoying life is important to keeping my creative juices flowing, too.

What’s Next? I’ve decided to set this project aside for a few weeks before I go back and finish the last third of it. I simply need a mental break from it. Besides, while I wanted to start a new series, my Mindhunters series is calling to me, too. With National Novel Writing Month starting up yesterday, I wanted to begin with a brand new project that will (hopefully) rejuvenate me. Perfect timing. (I’m “Anne Marie B” on NaNo’s site by the way, if anybody wants to buddy-up.)

The best part of the Ruby Push: I am a writer who seems to make the biggest strides in the editing stage. Having something other than a blank page to work with will help me out so much.

If you missed the 9/19 post, let me know your goals for NaNo, or simply for the rest of 2012. If you posted goals on September 19th in the Comments section, let me know how they turned out (for better or worse or a totally different direction). If you met your goals and let me know in the Comments below by Sunday, November 4th at midnight Eastern time, you’ll be entered in a random drawing for two $10 Amazon gift cards.

Keep focused and GOOD LUCK to you all as you immerse yourself in the holidays, or NaNo, or whatever new challenge awaits you. Don’t forget the Rubies’ Winter Writing Festival starts in January!

Project: Ruby Push

Project: Ruby Push

I don’t know about you, but it seems this year has been flying by at a record pace. The change in weather, the return of the kids to school, and the looming end of the year have me re-evaluating what time I have left, and what my goals were waaaay back in January. It’s the final countdown, and I’m here to push myself, and you. (You didn’t think I was going to do this alone, did you?)

 

Why a push? A shove is kind of rude. And this isn’t a kindly nudge, it’s a “wake up, there are only three months left until 2013!” full-on push. NaNoWriMo isn’t until November 1st, and the Ruby Winter Writing Festival seems a long way from now, so I say we take charge of our goals NOW. Let’s do this. (Do you see me putting my eye-of-the-tiger face on? My pom-poms are waiting beside me, ready to cheer you on, too.)

 

First, let’s set some goals. Goals should be “SMART.”

 

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Attainable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Timely

 

I’ll give you my current goals as an example. Specifically, over the next six weeks (I’ve given myself a November 2nd deadline) I’m planning to write 60,000 words of a new manuscript. (Secretly, I’m hoping to achieve a full, 90,000-word rough draft of a novel, but I’m a little afraid that’s not within the realm of “realistic” for me. I’m still pushing for it, though.) I will be able to measure my progress by word count. The goal is attainable and realistic, because I know I’ve produced 10,000 words (occasionally more) in a week, and my schedule for the next few weeks is dedicated to writing.

 

Now that I know what I want to achieve, it’s time for a plan.

 

  • Visualize it, and believe it can happen. (And it CAN happen, because you’ve set realistic goals, right? Right. So, no excuses.) This week, I’ve been working on plotting out a detailed outline of my manuscript, so that I’m already getting to know my characters and plot and I can jump into writing with both feet.
  • Make writing a priority. I will sacrifice other things – reading, TV time, and—if I must—housework (oh, darn), in order to make my word count each day.
  • Look ahead. I’ve taken a look at my planner/calendar and know what days will be tough to focus on writing (for various reasons). I’m planning to accommodate for those by writing more on the days my schedule is lighter. (See “Be flexible…”)
  • Be flexible. I plan to build a buffer into my word goals so I can take a sick day if needed, and take a day off every now and then. Some days, when my obligations are fewer, I plan to write 3,000 words. Others, such as weekends when the family is around, I plan closer to 1,000 words. If I miss a day’s goals, I will not be discouraged. I will be doing the best I can, and that’s enough. (But I’ll still push myself, because creating a new manuscript in 6 weeks would be AWESOME.)
  • Reward hard work. I believe in celebrating small successes as well as the larger goals. A special meal with hubby or a glass of wine after a particularly grueling day. A 30-minute nap. A walk around the block in the sunshine. Buying a new book. Whatever will rejuvenate you and get you away from the computer for a bit—make a plan to include that in your routine when you meet your goals, at least something each week. (And plan an extra-special reward for November 2nd!)
  • Use others—in a nice way, of course, which is why you’re here. You’re going to hold me accountable, and maybe I’ll see you on Twitter (#1k1hr, anyone?) or Facebook, where I’ll be posting my progress regularly. Please feel free to share your progress, too. I’m motivated by others’ success, and I understand the tough days, too. I think I’ll invent hashtag #RubyPush for this purpose. ;)

 

Okay, it’s your turn. Don’t be shy. Now’s the time to make your goals a reality. It’ll be 2013 before we know it.

 

Post your goals below – make them SMART. Word count, page count, or whatever measurement works for you. What’s your plan? What are you willing to do to make these goals a reality?

And because I believe rewards are important, I’ll be giving away a couple small incentives when we check in six weeks from now, on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2nd. Non-rubies who post their goal(s) in the comments TODAY and who meet their goals by 11/02/12, AND let me know by commenting on the Ruby blog on 11/02, will be eligible to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards I’ll be giving away that day). I expect you to set goals that are going to challenge you. And yes, we’re using the honor system, because my faith in the goodness of humanity is still strong… Happy writing!

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