One Writer’s Journey

April 9, 2019

What Do Your Writing Rituals Looks Like?

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My Rejection Jar

Some people have a number of tried and true writing rituals.  Some people have very few.  I have two.

One comes into play when I have a lot to do and I feel like I’m not making much progress.  I set a timer and write for 25 minutes.  Then I get up and either walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes or do some quick picking up in one room.  I might pick up the shoes in the entry way, hang up jackets that are piled on the coat rack or clean off the dining room table. The latter is especially helpful if I have to get writing done and get the house cleaned because people are coming over.

Write intensely.  Then do something else for 5 minutes.  Write intensely.  Then do something else for 5 minutes.  Then write again.  After that I take a break up to half an hour and then repeat the three cycles again.  I’m not sure why this works but my productivity always increases.

When I am working on a rewrite, I print off the manuscript and go sit in the dining room.  I have my cup of coffee and my licorice candle. Again, working in the dining rooms seems to send a signal to my brain.  I’m just happy it works!

I used to have a third ritual. Whenever I got a rejection, I would pull a slip out of the “rejection jar.”  Each slip listed a treat – listen to a book and knit, go to a movie, go buy the yarn for a new project.  This way I associated rejection with something good.  And in reality it is a good thing because you are getting your work out there.  I actually haven’t done this in quite a while but it was really helpful in the past.

What writing rituals do you have?

–SueBE

February 25, 2019

Writing on Retreat

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Write, write, write.

Just how much would you get done if you had unlimited time to write.  I pretty well found out this weekend.  I was at Toddhall Retreat Center (see photos) for an unstructured writing retreat.  I am going to be so productive!

Friday:

Before leaving town I finished a very rough draft of my latest Abdo book.  Once I got to Toddhall, time to decompress.  I listened to two hours of my audio book and several WriteOnCon podcasts and videos while knitting.

Saturday:

I rewrote and cleaned up a synopsis and a query letter for Puke-ology.  I also reworked my proposal for a series.  All are ready to edit on paper.  Woo-hoo!

Still not sure how to proceed on the mystery, I decided to put that off until Sunday.

Sunday:

I finally sat down and made myself write 800 words on the mystery.  It was not pretty.  But I wrote a bit more.

This weekend really proved to me that I am not entirely a pantser.  If I don’t know where I am going, progress comes to a halt.  If I know or even if I have a vague clue, like with the nonfiction, I make good progress.

Will I do this again?  Not right away.  But I might try one of the study room at the library, somewhere close to home where I can write and not be distracted by the 7000 other things that need doing.

Hmm….

–SueBE

February 11, 2019

Loving What You Do: Reading Great Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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Since this is Valentines week, I’ll be writing a series of posts about loving what you do, how to keep your writing energy high and your enthusiasm up.  Because, let’s face it, being creative takes a lot of energy.

One of the most important things you should do is read.

Read the types of books you want to write.  These books will show you what has already been written.  From them you will also see how writers create three-dimensional characters, exciting plots, living settings and more.  For me, this means reading good nonfiction. One of my favorite nonfiction titles in 2018 was Chester Nez and the Unbreakable CodeA Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac, pictures by Liz Amini-Holmes (Albert Whitman and Company).  It tells his childhood, his life at the Indian schools, being trained for the military, and how his culture helped him survive the horrors of the war and the memories after.

Read books you love.  I will  never write an “own voices” story as a marginalized author.  It’s just not in the cards.  But I love many of these books and reading books you love fuels your enthusiasm for books and for writing.  Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt) was one of those books for me.  I can’t write an authentic African experience, but I can appreciate a fiery female protagonist who has to overcome her own insecurities to fully be herself.  And I can write that kind of character even if she will occupy a complete different type of story.

Read widely.  Read books that were popular when you were a child, the books that encouraged you to love reading.  But also read what is popular today, because unless you are a teen the chances are that things have changed between then and now.

But read.  When a rewrite is being unbearable, briefly shelter in a great book.  Remind yourself just how much you love to read.  It makes the agony of writing worthwhile.

–SueBE

April 12, 2018

Writing: Getting the Words Down NOW

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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I know writers who wander around waiting to trip over their muse before they actually write.  I have a book due the end of next week. When you have a deadline, you have to write.  Period.  You can’t wait for Ms. Muse to make an appearance.  Here are three different ways to make the writing happen.

  1. The Pomodoro technique.  This a productivity tool that can be used by anyone who has a big job to get done.  You work for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break.  Work for another 25 minutes, take another 5 minute break.  Work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minute break.  Then you work for one more 25 minute period and then you get a longer break, 20 to 30 minutes.The Pomodoro technique works really well for me.  I think that a big part of it is simply knowing that I only have 25 minutes to get something accomplished.  Click to find out more about the Pomodoro technique.
  2.  Dictate your story.  One writing buddy of mine dictates her work using Dragon.  I’ve heard various writers say that this is a great way to develop your voice and improve the dialogue in your stories.  I plan to give this a try when I draft my novel.  But I don’t think it will work with the teen nonfiction book I am currently writing.  For one thing, I can’t imagine trying to say all of those Latin taxonomical names.A word of warning.  Dictation software isn’t 100% accurate but dictation is a major pain in the rear.  Once you get really good at transcription you can usually type 30 minutes of dictation in 90 or so minutes.  More often it will take closer to three hours.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  This is why I plan to give Dragon a try.
  3. Writing out-of-order.  You can also write scenes or chapters out-of-order.  If something is giving you trouble, skip to another section.  I do this with nonfiction more often than I do it with fiction.  When I finish one chapter and have just a small amount of time to work on the next, I often write the sidebars first.  They are short so I can get two or three done and feel a sense of accomplishment.

If you have a technique that helps you keep the words flowing, share it in the comments below.

–SueBE

February 7, 2018

The Most Important Thing for a Writer’s Career

I don’t remember where I saw this on Tuesday.  I read blogs while I’m on the treadmill.  But somewhere on the great web, someone made the comment that the most important thing an author can do to further their career is develop their online presence in a way to help sell their books.

Now, I’m not discounting the importance of this.  It is vital. But there are two things that are actually more important.

First, you have to write.  So  many people talk about how much they want to write.  They have ideas.  They have plans.  They set up a workspace. They buy cute office supplies.  Ooops.  Writing at home is too distracting.  They buy a lap top and set up shop at the local coffee shop.

What they don’t do is write.  Sadly, that’s kind of central to the whole idea of being successful as a writer.  Sorry, but it is true.

Second, you have to finish what you write.  I don’t mean that you have to finish a draft.  That’s important.  You aren’t going to get anywhere without that first draft.  Because the first draft is the raw material that you shape into the second draft.  And it doesn’t end there.  You keep working until it is as good as you can make it.

But wait!  There’s more.  (Ha! I’ve always wanted to say that.)

Then you take it to critique group.  They read it and comment on it and now you have a plan to make it better.

All of this has to take place before you have something publishable.  Until you have something publishable, you have nothing to sell.  I’m not saying don’t develop an online presence.  In truth, there are days that the online community is all that keeps you going.  But to be a successful writer you have to write something of quality.

Then you can sell it.  But first?  You need to write.

–SueBE

 

January 26, 2018

5 Minutes a Day: First You Have to Believe

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 7:38 am
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5 Minutes a DayIn September 2017, one of my fellow Muffin bloggers challenged everyone who reads the blog to state a big, hairy, audacious goal.  I decided that I wanted to finish a draft of my new chapter book.  If I could just squeeze in 5 Minutes a Day.

The problem was that shortly after decided this I landed a contract for two more teen nonfiction books.  Writing one of these books in just under two months is tough. Writing two in just over three was going to be brutal.  But I didn’t want to give up on finishing my chapter book.

When I set the 5 Minutes a Day goal, I had two chapters or 1000 words.   I hadn’t made noteworthy progress in 2 weeks.  But even working on the other two books, I managed 5 Minutes a Day.  Doing this for one month resulted in a finished draft. At 6,400 words, I knew it was short but it was a draft.  I blogged about this on the Muffin.

Reader response to this blog post surprised me.  People were absolutely floored that i had managed to do so much in five minutes a day.  I must have had an extensive outline.  I must have known exactly what to write. I must have some special trick because this just wouldn’t work for them.

Sure, I had a sketchy outline.  Ten chapters.  Two or three sentences per chapter.

The most important thing that I had?  Belief.  I believed that I could accomplish something worthwhile in 5 Minutes a Day. Without that belief, I wouldn’t have tried.  Without actually trying, I would not have finished my draft.

I hope you are ready to join me in making strides in your writing career throughout 2018.  But the first thing you must have is the Belief that it is possible.  You must believe that 5 Minutes a Day can help you achieve something worthwhile.  Why?

Because without that belief you won’t even try.

Click here to read another 5 Minutes a Day post.

–SueBE

 

October 2, 2017

Ho Hum Boring Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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Especially when your word count is limited, it is important to use vibrant, meaningful language.  Why say very hot when you can say molten?

But there are just times when your brain gets stuck.  What’s a better way to say good or bad?  Happy or sad?

Author Jack Milgram at the Custom Writing blog shared this info-graphic of “28 Boring Words.”  But Jack wasn’t happy just to tell us what words to avoid.  He gave us several possible substitutions for each weak word.

Check this out and see if you don’t find a better word for very or things.  Whether you are writing a poem, a picture book or a novel, strong language pulls the reader into the world you have written.  They help provide the details that bring it all alive.

Sometimes you are trying to choose a more interesting word.  Sometimes you are striving to find a more accurate word.

But don’t let this search bog you down.  This isn’t necessarily something I worry about in draft one.  But it is something that I make sure I address when I rewrite. I should be working on chapter 3 of my next project so —

Happy writing!  Or now that you have this word list, perhaps you will be rewriting?

–SueBE

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.

–SueBE

 

June 22, 2017

Focus: When You Need to Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am
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This past week has been a bit of a writing night mare.  I have writing to do.  Some of it I want to do. Some of it I have to do because deadlines are involved.  But I am just barely meeting those deadlines and I’m doing it with no wiggle room to speak of.  My focus has been, to put it politely, shot.  To prove that point, I went online to find information about the topic and came up on this handy-dandy infographic.

As is so often the case with something like this, all of these solutions are not THE solution at any given time.  But as I looked this over a few things jumped out.

Turn off the phone.  I’ve been trying to work with my cell phone nearby for a variety of personal reasons.  But my phone loves to buzz at me when someone comments on Facebook or when I get an e-mail.  Heaven forbid someone actually try to reach me.  And Amber Alerts?  They are important but I think I may have fractured my kneecap.  The phone needs to stay in my purse while I’m working.

Shut Off Everything You Are Not Using.  Um, yeah.  That’s a lot like my phone and embarrassingly true lately.

Time yourself.  This one works really well when I have vast stretches of time.  When I have a day to work, it is amazing how much time I can piddle away.  But when I set that timer, I write.

I this point, I think shutting things off is the best way for me to go right now.  It doesn’t help that certain people know when I’m at my desk and message me.  It also doesn’t help that I”m a compulsive message checker.  If there is a text or Facebook message waiting, I’m compelled to check it.

So if you can’t reach me today – there’s a reason for that.  I’m a writer.  I need to write.

–SueBE

 

March 14, 2017

How Many Manuscripts Do You Work on at Once?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:00 am
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One of my writing nonfiction students has been struggling with which one of two topics to choose for her project.  The problem is that she’s waiting to hear back from someone about Topic #1 so she wasn’t sure if she should go ahead and pursue Topic #2.

I suggested that she pursue both.  While she waits to hear back on Topic #1 she should work on Topic #2.  Sometimes it is just a good idea to have a back up.

Me?  I always work on more than one thing at once.  This past week this list included:

  1. The young adult science fiction novel I am roughing out,
  2. A picture book about caves that had stalled out but on Thursday THE solution came to me so I need to get back to work,
  3. A picture book about schools that I roughed out,
  4. The 8th grade level manuscript that I’m researching for Abdo,
  5. A picture book about space flight that I roughed out, and
  6. Oh, I nearly forgot.  And the pitch that I’m working on.

Why so many things at once?  I’ve been working on 1 and 2 for a few weeks now but #2 had stalled out so I was focusing on #1.

I roughed out #3 while working something up for the blog.

The idea for #5 came to me while I was researching #6 so I quickly roughed it out so that I’d have the idea down.

Yeah.  I’m probably a little crazy.  Right now my focuses are#4 since I have a deadline Friday and #6 which is due tomorrow.  But I’m also trying to work on #1 a little bit every day.

I am a very focused, intense writer.  If I know where I am going with something, I can rough out 250-350 words in about 15 minutes.  But once I’ve written this intensely for at most 30 minutes I’m pretty much done for an hour or so.  I can do research.  I can play with my frame for a story.  But I can’t write that hard until I’ve done something else for a while.

What can I say?  This is what works for me.  How do you write?  Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?

–SueBE

 

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