One Writer’s Journey

September 25, 2017

Write your Novel: Find a Way to Encourage Yourself to Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:03 am
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How do you urge yourself to write? Often we consider this a problem for part-time writers.  These people have other jobs or full-time commitments and have to work writing into found moments.

But it can also be a problem for the full-time writer.  Most of us are great at meeting deadlines but not so great about completing anything that doesn’t presently have a contract.  That’s how I feel when I’m trying to squeeze fiction in around my nonfiction contracts.

I know, cry me a river.  But it doesn’t change the reality.  No matter what time commitments you have, you need to find a way to nudge yourself along.  I’m on deadline so I’m perfecting willing to let the fiction sit and wait and wait and wait some more.

That’s why I was so happy to find Jan Ellison’s guest post, “9 Practical Tips for Writing Your First Novel,” on the Writer’s Digest Blog. There are a lot of great bits of advice here.

Write 1200 pages to get 300.  Yeah. I know that feeling.  Sometimes you need to get to know your character, attempt three different openings to each chapter, or play around to get a feel for the setting.  They aren’t wasted words but sometimes it helps to know there will be words that don’t make it into the final manuscript.

Only set writing goals that are within your control.  A lot of people set goals like “get an agent” or “land a major publisher.”  Goals like these are tough because you only have so much power to make them happen. “Keep my work on the desks of 5 agents at all times” or “study and submit to 3 new markets this year” are both attainable.

But neither of these goals addressed my problem.  The first one was close but didn’t quite work.  “Get to the end of your novel.” Ellison warns writers to quit fiddling with page 1 and chapter 1 and just get to it. Write the darn book.  “Get to the end of the novel” is too easy to ignore when I don’t believe I have time to work on it in the first place. So I adapted it.

Now I have the above photo hanging off the bottom of my monitor.  5 minutes is doable.  And every time I glance down to gauge my word count Loki is glaring at me.  It’s really annoying when I haven’t working on my novel for five minutes.

It seems simple and perhaps a bit ridiculous but I’ve worked on my novel five days in a row.  I’ve drafted a whole chapter and this was after letting it sit idle for something like three weeks and while meeting a nonfiction deadline on Friday.  Simple and ridiculous but I have a new chapter drafted.  Can’t shake an alien scepter at that.*


*That’s a Marvel/Loki reference.



August 8, 2017

What to Work on Next…

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:08 am
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Most days what I work on is a fairly easy decision.  Deadlines must be met.  And I have plenty of things to get done this week.  There’s that pesky requested rewrite with a deadline for tomorrow and the publisher has a new manuscript for me as well.

I’m critiqing a manuscript for someone and really should read it again before writing up my comments.  It is fairly long and I always read a manuscript more than once before I critique.

And I’m practically done with a poem that isn’t going to find a publisher if I don’t submit it.  Annoying poem.  Why can’t it just send itself out? It knows what magazine is my first submission choice.

I’ve also targeted a possible agent who is only open for queries until Thursday.  I know what I’m sending in.  I have a synopsis.  I just have to finish the letter.  I roughed it out right before I finished this post and needed to reread it this morning.  So by the time you read this, my submission should be sitting in the agent’s in box.

But . . . but . . . I have a new idea.  It is brilliant.  It is amazing.  There are yeti!

The reality is that I would almost always rather work on the new manuscript.  The new manuscript is still just an idea.  It is pristine. It sparkles.  I haven’t had the chance to goof it up yet.  Honestly I was a bit of a snot today since I made myself work on other things.

Sigh.  I know I should be responsible but I’m hoping that I can find the time/space/energy to write a page every day starting tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that that will satisfy my need to work on this book as well as my need to keep the lights on.

Lights.  One of life’s necessary luxuries.





June 14, 2017

What Kids Want

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:20 am
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This past Saturday (June 10, 2017), I had the opportunity to hear about what kids like to read from a group of librarians.  If you ever get an opportunity like this, take it!   This group was especially valuable because both Jill Burkemper and Donna Mork Reed are writers.  Burkemper is a grade school librarian and Reed is with the St. Louis County Library system. That made for a great mix.  Here are five interesting things I learned.


Kids love animal books.  Love them.  It doesn’t matter if it is a book about animals, ie nonfiction, or a book with animal characters.  This wasn’t just picture books either but also books for older readers.  Kids who have troubles connecting with books seem to be able to connect with animal characters.

There are always fun books that just aren’t good for story time.  You might consider this if your books tend to play well in the libraries.  Especially problematic are books where characters get eaten such as I Yam a Donkey and A Hungry Lion.  I have to admit that these never ever struck me as problematic because my son LOVED things like this.

That said, there are great selections for story time.  Librarians look for things where young listeners can guess what happens next or where they get to make animal noises.  Who doesn’t love to howl like a wolf?  Twist endings are always crowd favorite and so are lessons.  That said, lessons have to be worked into the story.  No preaching allowed!

The librarians wish they could find more books on non-primary holidays  like President’s Day.  Also life events.  I though

t that was interesting since editors always tell you that they get way too many books about the first day of school, first loose tooth, etc., but librarians need and love these books.


For a fun sampling of e-books, those of us who have St. Louis Country library cards can access Tumble Books.  Just log into the library site, scroll down the listing at the right and click on eMedia.  Then scroll down the page and click Tumble Books.  You can then select books by age or type such as nonfiction.  A book can be read to the reader or you can select read along.  Interesting to see the various resources available.

I am definitely reprioritizing some of writing projects based on what these ladies had to say.  I mean it – if you get the chance to hear from librarians, take advantage of their knowledge.  You won’t regret it.


January 9, 2017

Ten Minutes a Day: When You Don’t Have Time to Write

ten-minutesIt may seem like a strange thing to hear a full-time writer say but it is truly embarrassing just how often I don’t have time to write.  At least I don’t have time to write something new. I’d been 50% of the way through my scene outline for Iron Mountain since early December.  But it all came to a halt when I landed the contract with Redline.  Gotta finish that paying work.

But I couldn’t find time to squeeze it in after I met that deadline.  I had Christmas to prepare!   And then New Years.  And the boys were home.  I’d get my blog posts done.  I’d get a tweet put up.  My two daily Spanish lessons on Duolingo?  Check.  I’d even spend 5 minutes picking up in my office.  But actually working on something new?

Nope.  There just wasn’t enough time in my work day.

Fortunately my writing buddies Cindy and Kris reminded me how a third friend works in a new project.  She works on it ten minutes a day.  Unless she is in the final crunch on a contracted book, she works on that new project for 10 minutes.  She might be doing research.  Or creating an outline.  Or working on chapter 1.  She might also be sending out queries to agents, preparing a pitch for an editor or getting ready to travel.  No matters.  She fits in that new project for 10 minutes a day.

Ten minutes a day.  That’s how long I spend on Duolingo and that’s not how I make my living.  Certainly I could find 10 minutes (20 minutes total) for two new projects — Iron Mountain (YA science fiction) and a new nonfiction project that involves a cave.

And you know what?  Once I decided that it was possible and that I was going to do it — no excuses — I’ve managed to do it for most of a week.  I’m almost 3/4 of the way through my scene outline now and I’ve done a chunk of the research on my new nonfiction.  I even shook loose two experts that I don’t even need yet.

Ten minutes a day.  It may not seem like much but its moving my projects forward.  It can work for you too.


October 6, 2014

Prioritizing My Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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Setting prioritiesLast Friday, I met my deadline for Before I broke for lunch, I sent off 30 activities, 13 photos and 4 supplemental files.

I didn’t have any more deadlines on my calendar.  The post-lunch plan was to finish my blog posts for this week, plan the next chapter in my latest nonfiction project, and pick my topics for educational nonfiction for the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation.  They are currently taking submissions of nonfiction and fiction for two different projects and you can submit up to five pieces.

That was my plan when I want to lunch.

By the time I came back to my desk, I had an e-mail from my contact at Red Line.  Would I be willing to write a book for a new series?

As quick as that, my priorities shifted because my answer was “You bet!”  As of Friday, midafternoon, I’m writing a book on Pearl Harbor.

Do you set weekly writing goals?  If I don’t, I don’t get much done.

That said, I try to be flexible. If I’m working on something that doesnt’ have a deadline and an editor offers me money to write something else, I generally say YES.  After all, writing is how I make a living.  That means that writing that comes with a paycheck attached generally takes priority.

Generally.  Every once in a while I’m offered a job that simply doesn’t interest me or will be far more work than is warrented by the paycheck.

There are always “personal” pieces that I am writing not because I have a contract but because I simply have to write them. I  try to make it a priorty to make at least some progress on my current “personal project” every week.  On weeks that I’m on deadline, I may not finish much on this project but I try to do a little.

How do you prioritize your writing?


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