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Posts tagged with: productivity

Kids Are Back in School=Let’s Get Down to Business

It’s that wonderful time of year when the kiddos go back to school. There should be some holiday songs to accompany this like:

Silent Day, Wholly Productive Day

Rudolph the Brown Nosed Teachers Pet

Over the river & through the woods, back to school we go…

 

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love my three darlings and sleeping in a bit over the summer, but my writing takes a hit when I’m hauling them to all sorts of activities or encouraging them to entertain themselves. So when the end of August and early September roll around, I’m ready to get back into my school year routine. I treat this time like New Years, and re-energize myself to jump back into writing.

So let’s talk about productivity goals for the “New Year.”

Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing where you’re headed, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY week day. It’s doable with my current schedule, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.

Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.

Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?

 

Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  

Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays” with some success (sometimes it’s a different day or just a left over day).

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. I signed up for the New Wellness newsletter, which sends out free (and to purchase) crock pot recipes for the freezer. Here’s some of their free stuff:

21 Healthy Freezer Meal Prep Sessions for Back-to-School

 On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.

I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have one kid in high school (one just left for college & took her dirty dishes and laundry with her), so he helps clean the kitchen at night. And my 10 yo can empty/fill the dishwasher now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the two of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner (or relaxing time – you know that’s allowed and encouraged, right?).

Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.

Okay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

Five Playlists to Keep You Focused and Productive

The world is a distracting place right now, isn’t it? What with all the jumping and running and biting and scampering across keyboards, I can hardly focus!!

I’m speaking, of course, of Captain Salty.

Captain Salty!

We have long fostered animals for our local pet shelters. Bunnies, chinchillas, turtles, guinea pigs, and dogs, we’ve done it all, but we mostly focus on kittens. Tough job, right?

Well, let me tell you: they make terrible co-workers. But I’m a glutton for punishment, and thus I have to find ways to focus even when there’s a wild-eyed monster climbing up my leg.

My favorite focusing tool is music, and I’ve developed several playlists to get me in the right writing mood.

POWER UP: “Who Run the World? Girls!” is a Spotify-compiled list that contains a surprisingly wide and ever-changing mix of music from women who are definitely writing their own stories, and will inspire you to write yours! My favorite playlist when I’m tired but I need to put on my big girl panties and get it done.

SENSUAL: “Get it On” is my master list of songs that say “sex” to me. Some of them whisper it–the first one, “Breathe,” is family-friendly. But I wouldn’t go playing “Falsetto” by The Dream around my mom. Put this on when its 9 AM and you’re halfway into your first coffee but you gotta crank out that big sex scene.

EMOTIONAL: “Country with Character” includes the songs I collected while writing a book about a small town with big personalities. With vivid characters like Reba MacEntire’s “Fancy” and tear-jerking stories like the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier,” this list inspires me to dig deeper for the pull-no-punches emotional impact that romance readers crave.

FOCUS: “chill.out.brain” is a soothing playlist made by Spotify that allows me to forget that I’m listening to music and just focus on whatever it is I need to do. Great for when you don’t know what to play, or haven’t really found your groove with a book yet. 

HAPPINESS: Finally, “Get Happy” is just the ticket for those days when the world really is getting you down. Filled with oldies and stuff I’ve never heard, there’s not a one that won’t make you smile. Get up and dance to release your stress, and then get your BICHOK!

Do you write to music? Share with us your favorite playlists and albums!

Taming the Mental Chatter

Hello! So…what’s on your mind? Considering that the brain generates 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day (or 35-48 thoughts per minute), I’m betting there’s quite a bit crossing through your mind right now. Whew, that’s a lot of mental traffic!

And yet, we are constantly trying to focus. Whether it is creating a strategy to manage evening kid activities, the presentation for the company VP, or the witty dialogue in our book’s pinnacle scene, we need to wade through the chatter clogging our brains to get things done.master-your-mind

As an author, part of my writing process includes daily walks where I think through character motivations and dialogue, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to stay focused. Even small things interrupt my train of thought. Like this morning, I had a pebble in my shoe. I spent half of my walk trying to ignore the pebble and thinking that I need to buy shoes without holes in them until I finally stopped and shook it out. Other days, my monkey brain (what Buddhists call this deluge of thoughts) monkeys swingingswings from to-do lists to what-ifs to vacation plans. If I can’t rope it in and focus my mind on my work, my mental chatter hampers my productivity.

 

So…what are some ways to tame the monkey brain?

1. Morning Papers. Many authors start the day off by journaling or writing in a notebook. Rather like a mind purge, they throw down thoughts and worries, ideas and tangents. Sometimes this works to get rid of extraneous thoughts before diving into work. I’ve just started doing this, and it helps, but I still think about things. I try to remind myself that I don’t have to since I’ve already written those things down (yes, my psyche and I have arguments about this continually).journal

2. To-Do List. I can’t live without my to-do list. Sometimes it is in my morning papers, but I like to carry it around with me, so it’s usually on another paper. I like to make the to-dos small, steps in a project. This way I can mark off the steps and see that I’m moving forward. Then I actually take time to do some of the to-dos. I know! Crazy!

Even if they are not writing related, I take the time to do them, especially those tasks that don’t take up much time. Because if I don’t do these little things, they take up mental space that I can’t afford. I end up thinking about them much longer than the time it would take to just do them.

For example, I volunteer to keep up my neighborhood bulletin board. I change it out and decorate it about once a month (No, I’m not completely community altruistic. I can put up my book release info easily since I have the key : ). I walk by that board with my dog every day, and if I haven’t kept it updated, it snags my brain for the second half of my walk. Ugh! Too much mental space wasted.

If you have a few things on your list that hijack your mind, just do them so you can move on to more important thoughts.

3. Be aware. If you know you want to focus on something, like a scene or character, then specifically try to put it in your mind at the beginning of the session (session could be walking, doing dishes, driving, showering, etc.). Adding other sensory cues can help. I listen to a specific soundtrack when I’m determined to think about my book. I might light a candle and hold my felt writing gnome. I drink a cinnamon, hot chai latte. All of these things signal to my brain that I should be thinking about 16th century Scotland and not the laundry that needs folding. I also have a few locations that help me think about writing, like on my back porch or at my writing desk (her name is Eleri).

Writing Gnome

Writing Gnome

Chai Latte

Chai Latte

Eleri organized

Eleri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Be Nice to Your Muse. Why didn’t I use a stronger verb than move? That bad review was spot on. I suck. Why do I think I’ll ever get published? My editor hates me.

My muse looks like Xena

My muse looks like Xena

Psychology Today reports that up to 70% of mental chatter is negative, and a lot of that negativity is about ourselves. Often times we are meaner to ourselves than to our worst enemy. And nothing scares away your muse faster than slamming her with insults (You must always respect the muse!). If you find yourself continuously berating yourself, there are techniques to rev up your internal positivity (which I’ve written about in another blog post).

5. Set a Timer. If you must think about something, whether it’s planning a vacation or strategizing about how to talk to your hubby about the ballroom dancing lessons you just signed the two of you up for, set a specific time and duration to plan. Take notes so you know you’ve captured all your thoughts on the subject. When the time is up, put it aside and refocus on your book.

6. Take a Season. If your world has just shattered, your mind will be consumed with shock and picking up the pieces. When I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo 15-months of chemo, no amount of lists and daily pages could get me to stop thinking about not dying and my kids and my poor hubby who’d lost his own mom when he was 9 to cancer, etc. The mental chatter filled my head to overflowing. Like plopping bricks in a glass of water. There was no room left for creative thought. So I had to take a step back from my fiction writing. Instead I wrote about my journey and how I was going to survive. A wonderful writer friend told me that I just needed to “take a season” where I cared for myself and didn’t worry about my fictional worlds. For some authors, they prefer to lose themselves in their fictional worlds when theirs has broken down, but not me. I just couldn’t and “taking a season” gave me permission not to stress about it.

Do you have any techniques for taming the mental chatter and focusing on your writing?

creative-person

 

Back to School=Back to Writing

Happy Monday! Why am I so happy this morning? Because my kids are all back in school today! Woot! Usually people talk about goals and new plans for productivity around January 1st, but as a mom, my “New Year” starts when the kids go back to school. So in celebration of a quiet house and hours without a request for lunch or a ride or a playdate, I’m posting today about my productivity goals for the “New Year.”back to school

 

 

 

1. Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing that, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY day. It’s doable, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.

goals

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.Eleri organized

 

3. Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?

 

4. Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  

IMG_3461

 

 

 

 

5. Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays.”

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. My friend forwarded me this fabulous list of 31 frozen crock pot dinners. On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.31 Frozen Crock Pot Meals

6. I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have two kids in high school, so we make them clean the kitchen at night. And my 8yo can empty the dish washer now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the three of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner.

7. Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.rss_winterfestival-badge1[1]

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.walking2

 

 

 

 

 

 

chailatteOkay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.CrH collage (500x375)

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

Announcing the 2015 Ruby Winter Writing Festival!!!

Caught up in the holiday frenzy?

Remember to pencil in a little post-holiday gift for yourself: THE FIFTH ANNUAL RUBY SLIPPERED SISTERHOOD WINTER WRITING FESTIVAL STARTS JANUARY 12, 2015!!!

If you’ve joined us for the Winter Writing Festival any time during the past four years, you know it can be a tremendously productive time, with lots of inspiring support and the magic of REGULAR WRITING SPRINTS!!

It’s completely free, and all writers are welcome—the more the merrier!

Through the bleakest part of winter—January 12 through March 2 this year (since February ends during a weekend)—the Winter Writing Festival will be here to keep your creative fires burning, with camaraderie, encouragement, fun prizes for participants, and as much virtual hot-chocolate (and virtual cookies!!) as you please. ‘Cause nobody’s Muse can resist a party!

Here’s the beauty part:  unlike NaNoWriMo and other writing challenges that (much as we love them!!) have a one-size-fits-all approach, the Ruby Winter Writing Festival is designed for you.

No matter what stage you’re at right now (brainstorming, plotting, free-writing, fast-drafting, slow-drafting, revising, layering, polishing…or any combination of the above) the Ruby Winter Writing Festival wants to give you fuel for your winter writing fire.

We use a “point” system, with a goal of earning one point on average per day.

Everybody gets one bonus point on the first day for stopping by the Ruby blog and making a public commitment to take part in the Festival. Then, for each of the 50 days of the Festival (including January 12), you work to earn an additional point—and YOU DEFINE WHAT IT TAKES TO EARN THAT POINT.

Here are some examples of the sorts of things you might define as worth one point (you fill in the variables with the amounts that work for you):

-writing X number of words or pages

-deep revising Y number of pages

-polishing Z number of pages

-freewriting / brainstorming for Q number of minutes/hours

-doing R number of 20-minute writing sprints

-keeping butt in chair and hands on keyboard for S number of minutes or hours

For instance, one person might commit to earning points according to the following terms:

-writing 500 words per day  OR

-deep revising 10 pages per day OR

-doing a final polish on 25 pages per day OR

-participating in an hour of writing sprints

Any day that person meets ANY of those goals, she gets a point.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CAN’T PREDICTABLY WORK *DAILY* BUT KNOW YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH A GOAL BY THE END OF A *WEEK*, we’re also officially giving you permission (not that you ever needed it!) to set a weekly instead of a daily goal, and then give yourself 7 points when you make it!! (See? It’s SUPER CHILL AND FLEXIBLE around here.)

You can also give yourself BONUS POINTS for auxiliary goals, like writing new words every day for seven days in a row, or reaching a certain word count by the end of a week, or writing THE END on a manuscript. Be creative with how you set up earning your points. Make them work with your personal writing style and writing needs.

If you can’t meet your goal on any particular day (or week), you can certainly double or triple or quadruple your goal on another day (or week) to catch up.

And if you know ahead of time that you can never work on certain days (say, Saturdays) feel free to add something like “Keep balance in my life by taking Saturday off” to your personal list of ‘ways to earn a point.’ Yes, really, you can get a point for taking a planned day off!! Don’t be shy.

Remember, we all have different life commitments and different approaches to our writing lives, so we all need to set our own goals. All goals are equally worthy. This isn’t a competition, it’s a supportive process for MOVING FORWARD WITH OUR WRITING.

Check in on the Ruby blog every Monday during the Festival to report your progress. If you reach March 2 with at least 50 points, YOU WIN!!

Because we’re the Rubies, and we like to do things up right (and…okay, because we have the awesome Liz Bemis of bemispromotions.com) we’ll even have a special sister website up and running during the Festival which you can access by going to rsswwf.com or by clicking the blue “Ruby Winter Writing Festival” button which will soon appear near the top of the Ruby site.

Everyone who commits to participating on January 12 will be able to download a cool “Ruby Winter Writing Festival Participant” badge (similar to what’s shown at the top of this post) to post on their own website or blog.

Plus, everyone who checks in on a Monday reporting that they’re on track with earning points will be entered in random drawings for cool prizes, like copies of craft books, copies of books by published Rubies, and expert critiques from the Sisters!

If you check in on Friday, February 28 and report you’ve WON, you’ll be able to download a “Ruby Winter Writing Festival WINNER” badge to post on your website or blog.

And of course you’ll have the satisfaction of achieving a small boatload of wonderful shiny writing progress (not to mention eternal fame and glory…and cookies!).

What’s not to love?

Decide on your personal terms for earning points, and join us back here on Monday January 12 to get started!! And spread the word on your loops, Facebook, and personal websites! The more writers who join us, the stronger we’ll all be!

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?

Meet 2011 Golden Heart Finalist Valerie Bowman

Over the course of the summer, the Ruby-Slippered Sisters are giving the 2011 Golden Heart finalists an opportunity to introduce themselves and share a bit about their writing life. Today’s guest is Valerie Bowman, a finalist in the Regency category for SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. Please join us in congratulating her and welcoming her to the blog!

Are You Slacking? Do the Math

Thank you so much for having me, Rubies! I’m so excited to be here and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist! By day I am a technical writer at a software company in Jacksonville, FL, by night I write fun Regency romps, and in between I am a dog lover, cake aficionada, avid traveler and Hoarders watcher. I’m a member of The Beau Monde Regency chapter of RWA and a former Vice-President of the First Coast Romance Writers.

Now that the intro is out of the way, saddle up. It’s time for some tough love, writing peeps. We’re talking production.

I have 3 questions for you.

#3 is actually the most important, but we’ll start with the first two so you can properly answer #3.

#1. What’s your ultimate writing goal? Do you want a career as a writer? Or do you see your writing as a hobby? Writing for fun is fine, of course, but be clear with yourself on that score. If you’re a career-minded writer, proceed to #2.

#2. How many years have you been writing? Seriously writing? By serious I mean – when did you sit down, crack your knuckles, and vow, ‘I’m gonna do this thing! I’m gonna write a romance novel and pursue publication. For real!’? How many years ago was that day? Remember? Now, keep that number handy, we’re moving on.

#3. Remember, this is most important! How many manuscripts have you completed? Got that? Completed. I’m not asking how many you’ve started, thought about, plotted, entered into contests. How many have you actually finished? Written, in their entirety, from beginning to end? Go ahead, name that number and be honest. Don’t round up. This is for your own good. I promise.

Ok, are you ready? Here comes the tough love. If the number of completed manuscripts isn’t as big or bigger than the number of years you’ve been writing, you are SLACKING. There. I said it. You are slacking. I’m sorry to be the one, but someone had to tell you.

I can hear you. I know what you’re saying. “Valerie Bowman, you don’t know me! You don’t know how freakin’ busy I am. How crazy my life has been.”

“Sorry,” I reply. “No excuses.” I’m shaking my head, but looking sympathetic. Trust me.

You’re sputtering now. I know. You’re drawing up your shoulders tight. You’re looking down your nose at me (which, trust me, isn’t difficult, I’m 5’2). “Valerie Bowman, you tyrant! You’re going to feel bad when you learn I have a very demanding full-time job, two kids, and a pushy dog.”

Believe me, I know. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens. We’re busy. But none of that changes the reality. If you can’t produce one new, complete story a year as a wannabe, you need to pick up the pace. Odds are, even as a full-time writer, you’re not going to pay your mortgage with one book a year or even two. Not at first.

Your hands are on your hips now. Perhaps akimbo. “But I’m learning,” you argue. “I’ve been rewriting my original manuscript for the last three years because I’ve gotten so much feedback on it. Good feedback. My CPs love the hook. And it’s even been a finalist in contests! So there!”

I’m shrugging now. And nodding. “Good for you,” I reply. “But do yourself a favor. Put that manuscript down. Back away. Write another story.” You need to do it. And you need to do it every single year. And you need to get better and faster. Yes! At the same time.

“How do you know?” you ask. Well, I’m not an authority. I’m simply telling you how the pros do it, but here are some pebbles from my writing path.

  • The manuscript that landed me my agent was not the first one I queried her with. The first one earned me a standard form rejection letter.
  • The manuscript I love the best has never made me a finalist in any contest and my agent didn’t even submit it. I still love it the best, but it’s sitting on my hard drive.
  • I’ve entered every manuscript I’ve ever written into the Golden Heart contest. Some of them more than once. #4 finally made me a finalist.
  • June 3 (yes, I remember the day) was my four-year anniversary of seriously writing romance. I am currently writing manuscript #5.

And here are some stats from the 2011 Golden Heart® finalists:

  • Of 33 respondents, 24 of us became finalists with something other than our first manuscript.
  • Over half didn’t become finalists with our first OR second manuscript.
  • Over one-third became finalists with our 4th or higher manuscript.
  • Two became finalists with their 10th or higher manuscript.

Convinced yet that production matters?

All right. All right. You got the message and I will stop. The tough love is over and I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Hard.

Now for the good news! You can turn things around. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, write more, write faster, pay attention to your production. Make it a priority. Declare today as the first day you really started taking your output seriously. You can turn it around. Remember, writing just one page a day will result in an entire book in a year. That isn’t so difficult, is it?

Now. Go write! (Ok, maybe take that pushy dog out first really quick. Then, write!)

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