One Writer’s Journey

April 1, 2019

Surprise! When Life Interrupts Your Writing Schedule

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:10 am
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Today, I am at the county court house waiting to see if I will have jury duty.  Show up by 8:30.  Plan to be here all day Monday and Tuesday.  And if you’re assigned to a trial, we will tell you then how long it will take.

So what do you do when the world gets in the way of your writing?  Sure, they encourage you to bring your work but I’m 100% certain they don’t have desk space for 300+ people.  I say 300+ because I am #300.  In fact, from the last time they commandeered my life, I seem to recall row upon row of chairs and a few tables.  There was also a lovely balcony full of smokers.

I don’t feel comfortable bringing my laptop so I’m going to stick with the low tech.  So far I’ve packed Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum, Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, and a notebook.  I was going to take Blum’s The Poison Squad but my husband thinks that will give them the wrong impression.  Honestly, I think it would give them a very accurate impression but that’s another story.  Should I worry about people being concerned or getting the wrong impression when they check out what I’m reading?

I can’t take my knitting or crochet because although Homeland Security has cleared both knitting and crochet for air travel the court house has not.  My husband has also recommended that I not take my beautiful Stanley coffee cup lest it “worry them” and they take it away.  Honestly, if I’m this worrisome, I’m not sure why they are making me come in.

Maybe I should bring The Poison Group, my metal coffee cup and wear my son’s DeadPool t-shirt.  It really says all the stranger needs to know.  I love science.  I adore coffee.  And my attitude is just fine so what’s your problem?  But until they figure it out, I will have something to read and something to write on.


May 14, 2018

Writing: Weed Things out to Make Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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The 5 Minutes a Day posts that I’ve been putting up most Fridays are all about fitting writing into your day.  You don’t need huge blocks of time to get something done.

But you do need time.  And that can mean reevaluating your schedule and either cutting back or letting some things go.

January and February were great months.  We went to the Art Museum and a hockey game and a new-to-me bookstore.  March and April were full of deadlines.  That’s good because this is how I make my living.  But I’m coming into mid-May really stressed and taking people’s heads off.  So far, I’ve only done it figuratively but to keep it from becoming a reality I’m having to reevaluate my schedule.  Here are some of the decisions that I’ve made.

Yoga stays.  Two mornings a week, I go to yoga class.  I do not miss yoga for work.  I try to avoid missing yoga for family.  Selfish?  I’ve been told that it is but yoga helps keep my back healthy.  So, selfish or not, it stays.

But I am cutting back on some of my volunteer gigs.  One of them was a choir commitment for a church government function in 5 weeks.  Ten pieces of music and 7 rehearsals in five weeks.  Hmm.  Suddenly music went from fun to . . . what?

I’ll also be spending less time on social media which will mean fewer baby animals and inspirational quotes.

Even when you write full-time, you sometimes have to look at your time and thing what is joy-filled and what is weighing me down?  What am I eager to do every day (or every week) and what is no longer fun?

Full time writer, part-time writer, occasional writer.  It doesn’t matter how you work it into your schedule.  What matters is that you do work it in.  Weed out some of what you no longer enjoy.  Then you can fill that time and space with something you really want to do.

Hopefully, that will be writing.


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.


September 22, 2017

Writing Time: Standing Firm about Your Work Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably realize that this how I make my living.  I write.

But that also means that to make my living I need to . . . can you guess?  If you were going to say “write,” you got it in one. Unfortunately, writing requires time to write and that can be a problem when everyone knows that you work at home.

About two years ago, I started going to yoga two mornings a week.  That’s 90 minutes twice a week.  I’m home by 10:30.  It was pretty much essential since this followed the onset of sciatica.

Yoga means I’m not on prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants.  But it also takes a chunk out of two mornings a week.

Thursday and Friday are the days I don’t have to go anywhere.  These are my big deal work days.  But it also means that people know I’m home.  They drop by, volunteer me for appointments and come up with errands for me to run.  Because, I’m home – right?

So I’m having to be firm.  Nope.  That’s my writing time.  Nope.  I have a deadline.  When I meet my deadline, I’ll think about it but not before then.

Sticking up for your writing time can be even more difficult if you don’t have deadlines or if you don’t make sales.  But if you want to finish that manuscript and you want to make sales, you need to stand firm.  Amazing angel graphic notwithstanding, I have never pulled a sword on someone to convince them to leave me be.

But I have been known to pop someone with a Nerf dart when they walk into my office.  Do that a time or two and then tend to be a little more cautious.

Writing time is precious.  Stand firm.  It’s what we writers have to do.

For a humorous video, click through to Writing Time.



September 6, 2017

Going Off-Line to Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:57 am
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I’ve got two big projects ongoing. I’m writing the first draft of a fiction chapter book. I’m thinking series but, as you know, I have to finish it and make a sale before that becomes an issue.  I’m also working on my next piece of teen nonfiction for Abdo.

Since I also have blog posts to write, books to review, a class I’m prepping to teach, and a class I’m taking, I decided that my work time needed to be über productive.  So I went offline to write.  No Facebook tabs open.  No e-mail.  No Google.  I closed Chrome completely.  After all, I could open it again if I needed to look something up.

I even left my cell phone in my purse in the entry way.  There was nothing to do but write.

It worked great. I powered through a chapter in about 40 minutes.  That was only about 3 pages which would be embarrassing if this was nonfiction but with fiction is pretty good for me.  Yay!  I wrote and stayed offline!

I stopped and had lunch and was all set to write another chapter when my son got home from school.  “How come you didn’t answer the phone? I called four times. It went straight to voicemail.” It seems that while I was busy congratulating myself for avoiding distractions, our phone and internet went out.

It can be hard to avoid the temptation of popping over to see if you’ve gotten a response from that biologist you want to interview or a response to your query.  Maybe that agent you submitted a chapter to has had a chance to read it.  Maybe.

But I’m here to tell you that you’re going to get a whole lot more done if you close your browser and just write.  Set a timer and don’t let yourself do anything but write for an hour or 1/2 an hour.  Even fifteen minutes is good.  The internet and your phone will be there when you’re done.

I’m almost sure of it.  If not, you can always read a book or get a bit more writing done.




August 2, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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Starting today, I am re-instituting an old policy.  I am going offline to work.

Because so much of my whammock-2239788_1920.jpgriting involves research, I generally have a search engine open. This means that Facebook is also open.  My computer lets me know when someone contact me via Facebook.  It let’s me know when I have an e-mail.  Not to be left out, my phone also gets in on the act.

That ends today.

This weekend, we made a run down to the lake.  I didn’t really intend to work but I was going to get caught up on e-mail.  Ping, ping, ping, ping.

But since I wasn’t working, I only had my phone.  I left my laptop at the house.  My phone would connect to the wifi but it wasn’t giving me all of my e-mail.  “You have 100 but I’m going to give you 27 new ones and then 40 marked unread that are allegedly from May.”

I turned my phone off.  Same thing.

I disconnected from the wifi.  Still goofy.

So instead of reading e-mail, I went to the range with the boys.  We drove to the next town to visit a sporting goods store.  I ate BBQ and really good Mexican food.  I stared at the sky.  I watched humming birds.  I started crocheting a bat (the flying kind). I didn’t even read.

It was awesome.  I felt so relaxed.

And when I got home it was all still there.  Sure some of it was two days old but no one seems to have suffered any ill effects.  Three days after getting home, I am still trying to get caught up.

But that’s okay.  I feel a lot more relaxed.

So today, as you read this, I’m typing away, working on a picture book draft for critique tonight.  This is draft 3 and it is going much smoother than 1 or 2.  In part, I think this is because I know where the story is going.

But I’m not discounting the fact that I’m offline.  If you need me, you’ll just have to wait until my lunch break.



July 6, 2017

Writing Time: How Much Time Are You Actually Writing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:54 am
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I had to laugh last night when I saw this graphic.  What do I do when I’m supposed to be writing?

I’d love to say that 100% of my writing time is spent writing but that’s not true.  If I have a great deal of unstructured time, I can find all kinds of things to do that aren’t writing.

I water plants.  Fold laundry.  Redecorate the corner table in the dining room.  Hang a new picture.  You get the picture.

Of course these are also the kinds of things that I do when I need to recharge.  So if you live with me it can be hard to tell.  Is she recharging?  Does she need to do something other than write?  Or should she put her butt in her chair and write?

So not my current problem.  Oh, no.  My current problem involves my son’s summer job.

He’s a life guard.  This is his first real job.  By real job, I mean that he doesn’t get to set his own hours and he had to pay for a background check.  It hasn’t been easy but I generally manage, often with gritted teeth, to let him adult.  But the rule at work is NO PHONES.  He deals with this by not even getting it out when he’s on break.  That’s cool.  Most of us spend way too much time phone in hand anyway.

The problem has become the moms who know that I’m at my desk when the teens are at work.  Don’t know when your kid gets off?  Message Sue.  Afraid the pool might close due to lightning but picking up your child is “impossible?”  Hey!  Sue’s at her desk.

I also get phone calls from the church secretary when she needs information but can’t find the person she needs to talk to.  Why?  Because she can find me.

My dad not answering his phone?  Yeah, you should just call Sue.

Because of this, I leave my phone in my purse.  Facebook pings at me but the speakers are turned off.

Sometimes you have to put up a fight to get your writing time.  But that’s cool.  After all, you are a writer. Aren’t you?


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.


July 28, 2016

Finding Time to Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:29 am
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Wombats, Wombat, Shield, Note, SignIs your writing a priority?  I always say yes but I’m not sure that that has been true this past month.

My dad has been in the hospital twice.  He’s now in rehab.  We’re looking for new housing for him.  And I had to get my son registered for high school.  It seems like no one will do anything without contacting me first.  And an hour of every morning is spent with my Dad.

“You need to write in the morning,” said my husband.

“But Dad . . .”

“But deadline. Go seem him after dinner.  Because I said so.”

So with this very strong suggestion I planned to come home from yoga and shut myself in the office for 90 minutes to draft a chapter.  That’s it.  Ninety minutes.  But the moment I walked in the front door, the phone was ringing.  “This is where your dad lives, we want you to send this text and work this out . . .”  There followed 4 phone calls and no less than 25 texts.  Yes, I found the information and told the last person in the chain where to find it.


I’m not sure why I’m the one who has to do it.  In fact, they’re being paid to do it. I’m just acting as the messenger.  So I finally announced that I was going on radio silence.  Anyone else who calls will be told by a dining room full of teens that I’m in Australia herding wombats.  I posted it on Facebook.  Then phone rang.

“Mom isn’t taking calls.”

“But we were just texting…”

“She’s in Australia…” said one.

“. . . herding wombats,” yelled the rest.

Five teens, one Facebook post about Australia, and a spot of time and I’ve finally drafted my chapter.  Sometimes making your writing a priority is really difficult.  But you need to do it.  Don’t take a page out of my book and wait to get permission from your spouse.  Post something on Facebook.  Put all of the phones, including your cell, in another room.  And, if you need, I’ll loan you one of the teens.  They love relaying messages about herding and wombats and wack-a-doodle writers.


May 31, 2016

Social Media: The Down Side

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:47 am
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wwwSocial  Media for Writers.

How to Use Social Media.

Social Media, the Author’s Way.

Everywhere I turn, there seems to be someone telling me how important social media is for me as a writer.  They’re willing to tell me how and why and just how little time it will take.  And I have to admit that I’d bought into it.  I blog — obviously.  I’m on Facebook.  And I recently joined Twitter.

Maybe it’s because I added one thing and then another, but I never realized just how time-consuming it could be.  But last weekend we were out of town.  Yes, where we were staying had wi-fi.  I should have been able to get on, but our particular room was one of a block that gets iffy reception, especially when the place is booked solid and every room has a device or two linked in.

I knew I was going to have some time to myself and I had looked ahead at my deadlines so I had my laptop with me.  I had already drafted the next three chapters of the NASA book but this was a really rough draft created before the present outline with our editor and publisher.  Needless to say, I lot had changed.  Instead of trying to find a place I could get on and check my e-mail or Facebook, I popped open my laptop and got to work.  Ninety minutes later, I had a draft of Chapter 5.  Sure, there were a couple of blanks that I could only fill in once I could Google but I had a solid draft.  The next morning, I had an hour to myself and before everyone got back I had drafted Chapter 6. Again, there were blanks but still.

Two chapters drafted in a couple of hours.  Yes, I had bit and pieces already written, but I think a lot of what I accomplished was thanks to the fact that I could check e-mail.  I could pop over to Facebook.  No one could IM me.  That’s a big one for me.  If it pings, I have to look to see if it is something I need to read immediately.

I’m going to try an experiment this week.  School  is out, people are home, swim season has started.  My writing time is at a premium.  I’m going to write for several hours this week after closing down my internet connection.  I have a feeling it will be time well spent.


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