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Posts tagged with: perseverance

How to Write in the Snow: Finding Productivity on Snow Days

How do you write in the snow? Bundle up and wrap your computer in plastic.

I am almost to the point of doing just that in order to get in my words for the day. You see – I have three kids and I live where we rarely have snow and ice. So a few inches without sand trucks and plows paralyzes my town, and we’ve just had four inches with more coming down.Snow!

The first snow day is a blast! Kids jump around like the dog chasing its tail, just for the sheer joy of seeing those fat, white flakes. Dreams of snowmen, sledding and hot coco even make my heart race. I drag out the gear, realize none of it fits anymore, and use my still exuberant mind to rig up alternatives to keep my kids somewhat warm and dry. They head out and I cup my warm mug of chai latte with a smile. Yay! A snow day!

Five minutes later, the 7yo stomps in crying because 13yo brother threw snow in her face and it’s running down her neck. I de-ice her, yell a warning to my son and send her back out into the pristine white. I sit down to write with the soft flakes falling outside my window. Ah… peace.

Fifteen-year-old daughter runs downstairs. “Five girls are coming over in half an hour to watch a movie. Don’t worry they’ll bring their own food.” She smiles like that solves everything. I nod and turn back to the computer to type my second word of the day.

Thirteen-year-old son runs in, tracking clumps of snow through the foyer. “Can Nathan come over?” He has somehow heard about the girls coming and needs to make certain life is fair.

Seven-year-old daughter runs in needing a carrot, coal (who has coal?) and licorice for a smile (my licorice is with my coal).  I improvise with a small bell pepper, broken candy cane, and two black Legos I found in the couch last night. She runs back out, and I sit down to write. I re-read the first two words of the day and type two more.

The girls show up in a babble of teen talk and laughter. I pop corn and make hot coco, because somehow a Super Mom cape sprouted from my shoulders. I warm my chai latte, re-read my four words and finish the sentence. The 7yo runs in covered with snow. I help her change, throw wet clothes in the dryer and make her some hot coco (dang Super Mom cape). She calls a friend and suddenly I count ten kids in my house.

I check e-mail, make it half-way through a response, and jump up to referee a squabble between my 7yo and 13yo. I step in a melting puddle of slush and must change socks, sending me upstairs. I realize my laundry has become a ten-foot high mountain of wet clothes and towels. I start laundry and return to my WIP, no my e-mail, oh shoot, I have to write a blog post for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site!

“Mom! Can you bring me an apple juice so I can make a snow cone outside?” yells the 7yo as she and her friend shrug back into their still wet snow pants. I zip them both up, but tell my daughter to find her own apple juice. After all, I have a blog post to write now! I sit down and type the first sentence.

15yo – “Mom, how do I work the popcorn machine? We need more.”  “Can we make brownies?”

13yo – “Mom, can Nathan spend the night?” “Do we have anymore gloves? I lost one.”

7yo – “Mom, I can’t open the apple juice!” “Mom? Just making sure you’re still there.”

“Will this snow day ever end?!” 43yo mom who’s Super Mom cape is now limp and tattered by 12:35 PM.

A roar of glee rises from the family room. “It’s snowing again! And they’ve already called off school tomorrow!”

Sigh…another snow day.

With the winter of 2014 creating lots of snow days, those parents working at home need to figure out creative ways to get their work done. Here are a few tips for writers I’ve learned over this snow week.

  1. Write early or late. By evening, my mind is mush, so if I must write while the kiddos are sleeping, it better be early in the morning. If the schools are closed, still get up at the normal time and get in your word counts before everyone rises.
  2. Lock the Super Mom cape in your closet. If you must provide goodies, when you hear the snow prediction stock up on snacks that can be pulled from a bag. Freezer items, which can be thrown in the oven, work too.
  3. Hide! This works well if you have a lap top. I have learned to write up in my room with the door closed. The walk in closet works too if your kids are good at hide and seek.
  4. Join a writing sprint. The focused 30 minute time intervals help keep your butt in the seat, so when that Super Mom cape escapes and tries to get you in the kitchen baking brownies, you’re strapped to the chair instead. Tell yourself that once you meet your word count goal, you can fly in and be the best mom ever.
  5. Put on a movie. Now this only works if you have kids who will watch a movie and kids who can agree on a movie. But it’s worth a try. Then you employ Tip #3.
  6. If you just can’t settle down for very long to write, do other “writer” things that don’t require the concentration of creating witty dialogue and flowing narrative. I have been taking pictures for future book trailers (my first one can be seen at SIREN’S SONG Book Trailer). So when the snow came falling, I took the camera and went snapping.
    Rebirth pic??

    Rebirth pic??

    You can also update your web site, tweet, and Facebook in quick bursts of productivity. Even editing can be done between interruptions easier than writing fresh words.

  7. Don’t beat yourself up. Snow days are hard on productivity. When our routines are turned inside out, it is just really hard to get things done. Do the best you can and definitely take some time out to have hot coco with your little ones. They grow up fast, too fast. One day, snow days will be calm and productive, and I bet you will miss the days when they were not.

Kids2

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are your tips for keeping up your word count during snow days?

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

Trouble with the (Learning) Curve

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest blog by debut author Arlene Hittle. Not only is she a long time commenter on the Ruby blog, but she’s a good friend and great company when we’re out writing at the local coffee shop. She’s also an amazing example of perseverance and dedication…

***

Arlene HittleThe last time I guest blogged with the Rubies, I’d just been named a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist, and we chatted about the Power of the Average Joe. I still believe in the appeal of Joe Schmoe, so it’s rather funny that the hero of my debut novel, DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, is a jock.

But I’m not here to pimp my book (much, anyway).  ;) We’re all writers here, so we dish about writing techniques and the road to publication.

DIVA’s road to publication began the day I got the coveted Golden phone call—or shortly thereafter. When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER finaled, it was one of two stories I’d entered. Being the practical sort who went into journalism to make money writing while I tried to break into fiction, I decided that if it was going to be the successful story, I’d darn well better have another two or three baseball books to go with it.

Backlist is everything, right?

So DIVA was born—and titled by Ruby Anne Marie Becker at one of our RWA® chapter’s brainstorming meetings, if I remember correctly.

I wrote the story, polished it, pitched it at RWA Nationals in 2012 and it started making the rounds. Rejections trickled in, but mainly the good kind. You know the ones: “We love your voice, love the writing, but …”

At the same time, the popularity of indie publishing was exploding. I believed in my stories enough to start making preparations to go that route myself. I opted to sit out RWA Nationals 2013 in Atlanta to devote the cash I’d have spent to going indie. I hired a web designer to redo my website, signed up for an indie publishing class through Author EMS and began working with cover artist Rogenna Brewer.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Turquoise Morning Press offered me the contract for DIVA. I got the call (really an email) the Tuesday of Nationals week.

What’s that saying? Success happens when you stop chasing it?

Since DIVA wasn’t on my indie-pub radar yet, I was okay with that. More than okay. I was—and still am—ecstatic.

Of course, now I’m on parallel paths, working with TMP on DIVA and going it alone for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the holiday novella I plan to put out in November. But busy is good.

Here’s where that trouble comes in.

As pre-published authors, we’re told to hone our craft, tell great stories and, above all else, just keep writing. Excellent advice. The promise of publication, of getting our stories out there in the wild, fuels us through disheartening rejections and encouraging rejections, and through the craziness that is life.

Publication is the all-consuming goal. We want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice free time to get it.

What I didn’t realize—although I probably should have—is that once you reach that goal, you just get a new set of concerns.

It’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak. ;)

Problems with writing GMC, pacing correctly and creating sympathetic characters  may still plague your work, but you get all new things to obsess over, too.

On editing: Did the editor get my email? What if she hates EVERYTHING about my story? OMG, what if I have to rewrite the ending? How fast can I turn around the revisions?

Then there’s promo: How often do I tweet about my book? How many guest blog posts should I set up? They say you should go where the readers are (and it may not be where other authors are), but where on earth do I find the readers?

And, of course, the big question: How do you keep writing the next book when you’re neck deep in trying to sell this one to the masses?

What am I getting at? Writing books and selling them are two very different skill sets.

That, too, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Life is great at throwing us curves. Success depends on our ability to take the pitches as they come. Adapt. Learn. Grow.

 

Let me ask you, dear Rubies and friends, what is the one thing you wish you’d known before the sale?

 

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Diva in the DugoutIn case you’re curious, here’s the blurb for DIVA IN THE DUGOUT:

Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.

After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team’s new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season’s end, he vows to change. He doesn’t count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.

Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn’t want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter’s life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave’s reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.

Can the Condors’ bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter’s mamma be ready?

Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon. Smashwords will begin distributing to BN, Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers within the week, I’m told.

****

Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Call Waiting

Are you, like me, sitting by the telephone waiting for that special editor to woo you with a three-book deal? Wondering if your ears are burning not because you have a medical condition but because an entire acquisitions committee is discussing your stellar publishing future? Four of my manuscripts have done the rounds of New York, so I know it’s hard not to obsess over that life-changing Call. I find a watched pot never boils, and similarly, a watched phone does not ring. (Actually, my phone did once ring when I happened to be staring at it, but the caller was a telemarketer asking if I was happy with my mobile service.) So how do you cope with submission obsession? The key is to keep busy. I know a few tricks to help you productively pass the time while you’re on Call waiting.

Plot your next book (and, hey, write it, too) – This trick is self-explanatory, but so important because plotting, researching and writing a new manuscript keeps you very busy. Not only that, you learn from every book you write. And the more books you write, the more chances you have of selling.

Write short stories ­– A friend once told me the best way to keep your skills sharp is to write short stories because it teaches you to right tight. Short stories are…um, short. So if you’re between books, this is the perfect time to develop a short story. You could submit to the magazine market, or self-publish an anthology by yourself or with a band of authors.

Figure out your place in the cyber world and build your brand – A web presence is essential these days. Agents, publishers, readers – they all want to find you online in some capacity. Do you want a website? Can you keep up a regular blog? Gather a Twitter following? Choose an option that will best suit your personality, available time, and financial position.

Get organised – Tidy up your workspace. Get your files in order. Stock up on stationery. Draw up a submissions spreadsheet. Ask yourself if your method of writing is really working for you. Do you need to try a new M.O. for your next project?

Choices, choices – There’s more than one way to get published. Ever looked into going indie? Self-publishing may suit your next book or your current book. Or maybe a book from your past that can be updated and readied for the e-marketplace.

Brush up with a writing course – Need help with characterisation? Plotting? Members of Romance Writers of America can “attend” RWA University. Some classes are free. You can also participate in online/offline chapter courses and short courses offered by community colleges.

Get a new hobby – If you’re writing for publication, then consider it your job, not your hobby. Someone smart once said you have to experience life in order to write fiction. Keep yourself refreshed and well rounded by immersing yourself in another activity. One of my favourite new pastimes is baking cakes for friends and colleagues. Cake-eating is making me incredibly well rounded, if you know what I mean. I guess I have to be careful not to let the baking and eating take precedence over writing.

Forgetaboutit! Once my agent sends a book out to editors, I trick myself into forgetting all about it. I have a memory like a sieve, so this is easier for me than it is for most people. One thing you do have to remember is that the book is out of your hands now. You’ve worked hard to make it shiny and marketable and the best it can be. Let your work speak for itself. In the meantime, see trick number one – plot and write your next book!

This song is dedicated to all of you patient authors out there waiting for the call — Call Me by Blondie.

How do you cope with being on submission? If you’re a published author, how do you pass the time when you’re waiting for word from your editor or agent?

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My infamous “low cake.” I’m working on improvements while I wait for The Call.

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Chocolate Frangelico brownies

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.

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

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!

Quitting Your Day Job – Two-Year Update

Two years ago, I left my day job to focus solely on writing (a decision I documented in this Ruby post from October 2010). As the second anniversary closes in, I thought I would share with you how this grand experiment worked out, what I learned, and where I plan to go next.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t starved to death yet, so even if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there’s at least a ‘happy-for-now’ ending to this post ;)

The Grand Experiment

Year One: I finished a book, shopped it to NYC, finaled for a Golden Heart with it, and received a slew of rejections (that took all of Year One, from October 2010 to September 2011).

Year Two: Based on some fancy-schmancy analysis of costs/potential earnings, I pulled the Year One manuscript submission from the remaining houses and self-published it. I edited the first book, completely rewrote my 2009 Golden Heart winning manuscript to be the second book, and released both books in 2012 (Heiress Without a Cause in January as a Nook First pick, and Scotsmen Prefer Blondes in April). I’m almost done with the third book in the series (The Marquess Who Loved Me, coming this fall), and I’m planning for the fourth book in the series and proposals for a new series to launch when this series ends.

But enough about that…let’s get to what I learned!

What I Learned

1) Full-time writing may not actually mean full-time writing

As it turns out, I don’t write much faster now than I did when I had a day job. However, the time I would have spent at my day job is now spent on a combo of activities that either make me more healthy/satisfied as a person (gym, friends, cooking, walking around the waterfront, Twitter) or relate to my book in some way (marketing, social media, staying caught up on the industry).

2) Taking time to adjust to full-time writing is critical

I expected to hit the ground running when I left the day job. Instead, I spent six months eating, going to the gym, and napping (with some writing in there, but not as much as I expected). Part of it was recovering from the intense burnout I had from my previous job, but a bigger part was that I didn’t have a routine and hadn’t given myself time to adjust to my new life – so every day I didn’t accomplish something made me more depressed. I eventually snapped out of it, but it took a long time. If you’re thinking about leaving your day job, I suggest giving yourself time to grieve for your old life (even if you hated it) and build a new life around your writing, rather than expecting that you’ll be immediately and optimally productive from the start. And, unlike me, forgive yourself for the days when you just watch ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ marathons :)

3) Writing is a small business – and should be managed as such

Most small businesses lose money in their first couple of years of operation. With traditional publishing, you might not ‘lose’ money since you don’t have the same upfront costs as self-publishing – but you’re losing an opportunity cost if your manuscript is sitting for 1-2 years while it’s on submission and going through the publishing process. Conversely, self-pub can result in a lot of expenses before the book ever comes out, and you need to be realistic with how much you can spend, how much you should spend, and whether your investment has any hope of being earned back. I over-invested in marketing on my first book, and while I’ve earned it all back, I think there were some marketing efforts where I could have saved money if I’d been more careful early on.

4) Some thoughts on self-publishing

Self-publishing has been awesome for me, but I’m not rabidly pro-selfpub or anti-trad. It should *always* be a business decision, but I firmly believe that there’s more to the decision than the money. I happen to love self-pub because I like being in control, I was willing to invest money up front, and I’m earning faster than I would have with a trad deal (important since I’m not earning anything else).

However, my hypothesis is that the most robust careers in the long term will be for authors who have feet in both the trad and self-pub world – traditional for increased print distribution/better opportunities with marketing and reviews, and self-pub for being able to experiment with price, build readership through quick extra releases, and pivot into new genres that a trad publisher might not be willing to buy from you. While I’m happily self-pubbing, I’m also exploring traditional opportunities – and I suspect that in five years I will either have a foot in both worlds, or will no longer be writing for publication.

What Comes Next?

This is the question of the hour. My self-pub endeavor has been as successful as I could have expected, and I believe that with another couple of books out, I could write full-time without dipping into my savings. But I’m not quite there yet, and my business plan says I won’t be for at least a year. So, I’m exploring my options and deciding whether to go for broke and give myself another year (riskier than my initial decision to do this, although I still won’t starve to death), or pursue my passions for digital publishing and either work for an epublishing startup or start my own consulting firm.

I don’t know what the answers are. I knew when I started this that it would be highly unlikely to build an audience in two years that would support me full-time. But I’m pleased with where I am right now and confident that writing full-time (without burning savings to do it) is possible at some point in the not-so-distant future. It’s just a matter of how hard I can push myself to write faster (difficult for me), how much I can do to build a bigger readership, and whether I have the stomach for this kind of risk (my heart loves risk, but I’m prone to ulcers, so I may need to factor that into my decision ;)

So that’s the two year update! Are any of you considering taking the plunge? If you’ve already quit your day job, what have you learned since you started writing full time? If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them, and I’ll answer everything as candidly as possible in the comments!

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A few months back, a writing friend was trying to make a difficult decision regarding her career – the kind of no-easy-answer decision aspiring authors make every day in pursuit of the dream (who to submit to, to agent or not to agent, indie/traditional… the choices are dizzying and every day there seem to be more of them). In an attempt to help her decide, I asked her what her ultimate goal was – to just get published so she can be over that psychological hurdle? To share her work with readers? To be rich and famous and marry Jason Segel? (Okay, that’s my goal…) Her goal? To be Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

That seemed like a pretty kickass goal to me, so to get tips on how to become Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I went to the source. Her website. (The woman can tell a story and her bio is fabulous reading.) She says that she began to write with a friend “completely by accident” while she was a SAHM in 1976. The very first book they wrote was published under a pseudonym in 1983. (Instant success! Right? But let’s read on…) Transitioning to writing on her own she did another historical (under her own name this time) and then wrote Glitter Baby (1987), at which point she “had a real career going” but she doesn’t say “readers finally knew who [she] was” until It Had to Be You (1994), Heaven, Texas (1995) and Kiss An Angel (1996), AND she didn’t hit The Lists of Awesome Sales Velocity until Nobody’s Baby But Mine (1997, USA Today) and Dream a Little Dream (1998, NYT). So… 1976 to 1998. Overnight success?

The moral of the story? Not even SEP was SEP overnight. (Though, okay, yes, she was always Susan Elizabeth Phillips because that was her NAME, but you know what I mean.)

Now don’t be discouraged! This does not mean if you start writing your first word today that it will be twenty-odd years before you hit the NYT list (if it exists in 20 years… we might all be too busy battling zombies to notice which books are the top sellers for each week). Instant success is awesome and IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. But if it doesn’t, remember that taking time to find your audience puts you in the same camp as Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

We can have a distorted view of how instantly successful authors are because by the time we hear about most of them, they are Big News. But even the Greats don’t find their audiences instantly. They are iconic to us now, but they struggled and built their careers slowly, just like many of us will.

If your first book is a best seller, we will all cheer for you (though we will be green with jealousy as we cheer wildly), but if your first book is a slow starter, or publishers don’t know where you fit in the market, or your option book gets un-optioned, or you are sick of getting “good” rejections, or your royalty check is barely enough to buy groceries – just remember, that doesn’t make you any less awesome than Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Persevere. Keep running the race. It’s a marathon; don’t be disappointed if you aren’t in first place after the first hundred meters.

**I have the Olympics on the brain. Hence all the talk of hurdles and sprints and marathons.**

Do you have a story of perseverance that inspires you to push on? Who is your favorite author and how long had they been toiling by the time you discovered their awesomeness?

Winter Writing Festival WEEK TWO CHECK-IN

Winter Writing Festival WEEK TWO Check-in

Congratulations!  You’ve made it to the second checkpoint in the writing marathon that is the Winter Writing Festival.

 

I have the privilege of hosting the second-week check-in.  And it is indeed a privilege.  I’ve *met* some awesome new friends and hung out with some *old* ones in the Chat Room. Whether you’re producing new words or editing old ones, come join us for some writing sprints.  The link to the chat room, as well as the times, are listed at www.rsswwf.com.  The energy there has encouraged me to produce some major wordage this past week.

 

It’s also a privilege because I love to see how many writers are hanging tough out there.  Those who met their goals in Week One, I applaud you.  Good job.

 

But Week Two… well, the marathon gets tougher as we hit the middle.  Did those who didn’t meet their goals in the first week give up?  Or did they persevere and say “well, it’s a new week, I can do it this time.”  I’d love to hear how you’re hanging in there, or, if you’re not starting off so well, how we can help you plan to get back on track.

 

Third, it’s a privilege to host today because I get to hand out some fantastic prizes.  Here is the list of offerings for Week Two:

 

Anyone who checks in today can win:

  • Kismet’s Kiss or The Source of Magic (eBooks), PLUS the novella Swords and Scimitars (eBook, due out Feb 2012), Cate Rowan
Swords and Scimitars is a novella about the immortal founders of verdant Teganne and desert Kad, two rival realms divided by magic—and bound by blood, mistrust, and love. The chronicle continues in the award-winning fantasy romance novels The Source of Magic and Kismet’s Kiss.
  • 1 signed set of all three hardcovers in Darynda Jones FIRST GRAVE series: First Grave on the Right, Second Grave on the Left, and Third Grave Dead Ahead (out Feb 2012) by Darynda Jones

Those who met their weekly goals (earned at least seven points this past week) are ALSO eligible to win:

Diane Kelly writes romantic mysteries featuring feisty heroines, quirky sidekicks, and sexy leading men, with humor that leaves readers laughing out loud.  Diane’s manuscript for Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart award. Her manuscripts have received more than two dozen RWA chapter awards as well. Diane’s fiction, tax, and humor pieces have appeared in True Love Magazine, Writer’s Digest Yearbook, Romance Writers Report, Byline Magazine, and various other publications.

 

 

 

 

 

Bev Pettersen is the author of award-winning romantic suspense novels, including: Jockeys and Jewels, Color My Horse and Fillies and Females. When Bev broke her leg galloping at the track, a friend brought a Dick Francis novel to the hospital and she was hooked. Horses had always been a integral part of her life, from Pony Club as a child and later within the dynamic world of horse racing so the combination of books and horses was irresistible.
  • 2012 Writer’s Diary / illustrated weekly planner
  • $10 Starbucks card and pretty mug (with Godiva Dark Chocolate French Vanilla Truffles!) (Donated by the fabulous Ruby Sis Danniele Worsham, a.k.a., Dani Wade)

 


And here’s the really good news… if you didn’t make your goal this week, there’s always next week! Happy writing, everyone.  I hope I’ll see you in the chat room sometime.  Good luck to us all as we embark on Week Three – we can do it!

 

Please check-in in the comment trail of the regular Ruby site (if you’re on the Festival site, scroll back up to the top of the page and click the blue title line “Winter Writing Festival WEEK TWO CHECK-IN” to jump to the right place)  and let us know how you’re doing – whether the result is good, bad, or ugly.  And if you’d like to be eligible for the awesome swag and prizes, make sure you start your post with “I MADE MY GOAL.”

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