Time Management (For Writers With Full-Time Jobs)

Ticking-Clock

The dreaded day job.

Although I love the work I do, my day job puts a damper on my writing time. I often find myself in a situation where I might have 30 minutes of writing time each day. This time is precious, and I have to make the most of what limited writing time I have. As a writer with a full time job, I’ve found small things I can do that can easily be accomplished in 15 to 20 minute segments.

  1. Write a blurb. Although I detest writing these, I can usually whip out a blurb in 15 to 20 minutes. I spend another 15 to 20 minutes cleaning it up.
  2. Write a blog post. Some posts take a while to construct, but some can easily be written in 15 minutes. Take a moment to write one.
  3. Email a bookstore, library, or festival to set up a book signing event or author appearance.
  4. Send an email to your subscribers.
  5. Write an ad or set up a giveaway/ special pricing event.
  6. Work on character development. Make a list of character traits or develop the character’s backstory.
  7. Search for a cover image. You know the old saying, never judge a book by its cover, but people do. You want your cover to draw attention and make a reader want to stop long enough to read the title and/or blurb.
  8. Brainstorm title names. Your title should be short and concise and convey the tone of the story.
  9. Spruce up your author bio.
  10. Develop a tagline. This is a one line hook that grabs a reader’s attention.
  11. Schedule social media posts for the next two days.
  12. Post on social media or respond to posts. Take time to interact with people.
  13. Outline a scene.
  14. Sketch a map of your fantasy/ sci-fi world.
  15. Conduct research. Look online for needed information for a particular scene.
  16. Write 250 words. You’d be surprised how much you can write in 20 minutes.
  17. Revise/ edit a chapter.

Timing is everything. Figure out how long it takes to do something and work it into your schedule. Know how you work and find what works for you.

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What I Learned Writing My First Book

As writers, all of us have made mistakes along the way, but we’ve learned from mistakes and have become better writers because of them. Here’s a great article on some of the many things writers learn from writing their first novel.

Michael James

Writing a novel is hard.  That’s what I learned.  The end.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Okay I may have figured out a few other things.  It’s a laborious and thankless job with a remote chance of payoff in the end.  Still, it’s better than the alternative, which is not writing a book.

In Feb, 2017, I completed the final sentence of the first draft of my book. It clocks in at about 80,000 words and took about 7 months to write. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, and I’m pretty proud of myself for finishing.

1. I LEARNED HOW TO BE FINE WITH BEING TERRIBLE.

I put this first because it was the hardest lesson to learn and slowed me down the most. The first draft does not need to be perfect. For my first two months of writing, I was unable to move past a chapter…

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Five Ways to Squeeze More Writing Time Into Every Single Day

Does life get in the way and prevent you from getting in the writing time you desperately need? If you’re anything like me, this is a daily struggle. Here are some tips to help you squeeze more writing time into every single day.

via Five Ways to Squeeze More Writing Into Every. Single. Day.

12 Weaknesses to look out for when editing your novel – Guest Post Megg Geri

Here’s more information on editing and revising you might find useful.

Taryn Leigh Author

1

So, you’ve written your novel and now you need to start revising your first draft so that you can get it as polished as possible before sending it off to your editor. If you can focus on correcting these 12 weaknesses to look out for when editing your novel you will help to save yourself money as well as really get clear on your own story.

The first draft is as bad as the book is ever going to be

~ Robin Stevens

Once you’ve finished your first draft you can actually start working on your story. Now you start finding gaps and really get to know your characters. You thought you knew everything about your story already? NO! By revising your manuscript you will get to know your story on a completely different level.

But, how do you craft this vomit on your page into the book…

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Cleaning Up the Mess

#writersofinstagram #writing #writer #iwrite #lifeofawriter #writerslife #author #authorsofinstagram #quote #inspirationalquoteoftheday #motivation #amreading #booklover #bookstagram #books #booklove #bookishIn a previous post, I offered a list of rules to follow to finish your first draft. Now that you have completed your draft, it’s time to clean up the mess.

As I stated previously, your draft is going to be messy. It’s going to need revisions. You’ll need to smooth out transitions, make grammar corrections, and deepen content. The revising and editing process can be daunting for some, but I’ve learned a few things over the years that have made the whole editing and revising process a little less painful.

Take a break. It’s a good idea to step away from the manuscript for a few days or even weeks before you jump into revising and editing. Work on another project. Take a vacation. Finish the to-do list that’s been hanging on your refrigerator for the last three months. Then, when you’re ready to revise and edit, you’ll see your manuscript with fresh eyes.

Get Organized.  Clean off your desk and give yourself a comfortable space to work. Get all research finished before you start revisions, and organize all your notes. Have any grammar or reference books you might need within easy reach.

Clear your calendar. Tell your family and friends you’re busy, clear your calendar, and designate time to get the revisions done. Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them. Hire a dogsitter. Send the kids to Grandma’s house. Do whatever you have to do to free up time.

Set a goal. Decide on a page count goal and stick to it. Don’t stop until you’re done.

Read and take notes. Read all the way through the entire manuscript once and make notes. Make a list of questions that need to be answered and scenes you need to add. Jot down places where you need to add more details. Decide where chapter breaks need to be. Stay connected to the story.

Take one bite at a time. Once you’ve read through the entire manuscript, break it into 20 or 30 page chunks. Focus only on these pages and look for specific things.

Play nice. Only let your internal editor come out if he/she promises to play nice. It’s ok to be critical of your work, but don’t change things so much that you lose your voice as a writer. Your voice makes you who you are.

Things to look for when revising and editing:

  • Include the senses in every scene. Include details, but not excessive details. Leave room for the imagination.
  • Make sure the plot makes sense. Every scene should move the story forward. Kill the fancy sentences that don’t move the plot along. Refer back to your storyboard if necessary.I have felt like this before. Many times.
  • Keep your Point of View consistent throughout.
  • Create believable tension on every page. Your characters should have goals and motivation, but there should be conflict that keeps them from achieving their goal. Keep their goal just out of reach until the very end. The reader has to want to continue the journey to see what happens.
  • Prompts and hooks. Hook readers with the opening lines. Leave a chapter with a question. Make the reader want to know what’s going to happen next.
  • Make your dialogue real. Eliminate small talk. Characters should speak their personality, gender, and age. There is nothing wrong with he said, she said, but use action tags or beats if you can.
  • Balance dialogue, introspection, and action.
  • Look for cliches.
  • Ditch the backstory. Give the reader the tip of the iceberg by weaving in small bits of information. Let them wonder about the rest.
  • Reveal character quirks and ticks.
  • Make sure you don’t have too many story threads. All threads should lead back to the main trail.
  • Create a balance between long sentences and shorter ones. See the example below.Great example of why students should vary sentence structure.
  • Tighten word choice. Eliminate filler words and use strong action verbs. Check for redundancy. Avoid flowery writing.
  • Create smooth transitions.
  • Edit for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and verb tense. Many sources suggest reading through your manuscript backwards to catch grammar and spelling mistakes you might otherwise overlook. And reading out loud allows you to hear errors you might not see through reading.

Once you’ve cleaned up the mess, let the book sit for at least a week before you read through 'it is perfectly okay  to write garbage -- as long as you edit brilliantly." - C.J. Cherryh #NaNoWriMo #writingit one more time. Then hand it to a critique partner who can give you constructive feedback.

Everyone has their own style when it comes to revising and editing. Some writers are very systematic, others are more relaxed about the process. Do whatever works for you. When I revise and edit, I end up reading through my manuscript multiple times. I concentrate on something different every time. My first read might focus on dialogue. The next time I read through it, I might add details or delete unnecessary scenes and sentences. There is no right or wrong way to clean up your writing. It’s simply a matter of preference. Be true to yourself. Otherwise you'll never feel fulfilled or satisfied with what you produce.

Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple, imagine that. I find it funny that when we teach writing in schools, we do everything but this. We give kids lists of alternative, flowery words and phrases to use, we provide them with other words for ‘said’, and teach them the proper use of adverbs. Yet in the real writing world, the world of editors and agents and publication companies, all of this is frowned upon.

This article sums up “keep it simple” quite nicely. Enjoy!

Writing your first novel-Things you should know

fewer-wordsWhenever you write, you should aim for maximum simplicity. You want tight writing with no redundancies, flowery language, or longer than necessary words. Shun pretentious writing. It exposes your inexperience.

I borrowed the following example from a class I am taking through Udemy. It does a great job of showing what I am trying to explain. If you haven’t checked Udemy out, I would highly recommend their classes. They are informative, interesting, and very easy to follow, and are a fraction of the cost of most sites I’ve visited. Now back to my blog and the example 🙂

The specific point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

My point is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The colors red and gray…

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Characters Are People Too

character quote 3The characters I create for my stories get into my head and speak to me. They come alive and become real people. I speak about my characters as if they are real people. This is something my husband doesn’t understand. He always tells me, “You do realize those people aren’t real, don’t you?” But to me, they are real. I’ve made them real, and they have become living, breathing beings.

When I write, my characters tend to take over. I have a plan for them and a direction I’d like them to go, but they often follow their own path. And sometimes, it’s not the path I planned. I go with the flow though and let them take the lead. This strategy doesn’t work unless you know your characters well and can dig deep inside their heads.

chracter quote 2I’m a firm believer that characters can either make or break a story. A story may have a great plot, incredible writing, and interesting twists and turns, but if the characters are flat or underdeveloped, the story won’t draw me in. Characters have to be real, human – people I want to befriend and root for (or punch in the face). I need to feel like I know them on a personal level. If they don’t feel real, I could care less what happens to them, good or bad.

There are certain things to consider when creating characters. Here are some questions to ask which will help you gain a deeper understanding of your characters. The more you know about them, the easier it is to get inside their heads and let them take the reins.

Background

Where does your character live? What kind of family life does he have? What was his childhood like? Who are his parents? Does he have any siblings? What does he do for a living? What kind of skills and talents does he have? What is his educational background?

All of this information shapes the kind of person he is, which brings us to our next section.

Characteristics

What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? What unique personality quirks does he have? Is he social or more reserved? How would he walk into a room? Would he make a big production out of a situation or keep it under wraps? Is he a generous person who gives freely or is he more focused on himself? Is he self-motivated or does he require a little push? Does he easily get upset or is he more laid back?

These questions can help decide his motivation and determine how he might respond in certain situations, which is important to consider when creating believable characters.

Habits and Expressions

This next section could go under characteristics, but I’m writing it separately simply because habits can affect a person’s demeanor. Some habits can even leave a good or bad impression. So consider the following when you develop your characters:

Does he walk a certain way? Does he lean on things? Does he chew gum or bite his fingernails? Is he a coffee drinker? A smoker? A drinker? How does he handle money? What does an ordinary day look like for him? Is he always on the go, or does he stop to smell the roses once in a while? Does he tap his pencil, roll his eyes, cross his legs, pace the floor? Does he display certain facial expressions or pose with certain postures? Is he fidgety? How does he handle uncomfortable situations?

characters

Outlook and Attitude

How would this character describe himself? What does he believe in? What haunts him? What are his biggest fears? What are his plans for the future? Does he have a positive attitude or a negative attitude? What motivates him? What are his pet peeves? What makes him angry? What makes him sad? How does he react when he’s angry? What does he do when he’s upset? What is something he would risk his life for?

Interests and Favorite Things

What does this character like to do? What are his favorite books and movies? What kind of music does he listen to? What is his favorite meal? Does he have certain political or religious beliefs? What kind of car does he drive? What does his house or apartment look like? What would his dream vacation be? What is the best gift he could receive?

Physical Appearance

What is his height, weight, posture? What kind of physique does he have? What color are his eyes, hair, skin? Does he cut his hair a certain way? Does he wear glasses or have facial hair? Any significant scars or tattoos? What kind of clothes does he wear?

Character quote

Each character in your story needs to have his or own own unique qualities. Even if your readers never know any of this information, you do, and knowing this will bring your characters to life and make them more real.

Happy writing!

Stop Procrastinating and Get that Story Finished

The first week of 2018 started off with a bang (literally and figuratively speaking). I finally finished my latest project, which is now in publication stage. Launching a new book is always exciting, and when you finally see it in print, nothing compares to holding a physical copy of your book in your hands. That feeling never subsides, no matter how many books you write.

But before you can celebrate the release of a new book, you have to finish writing it.

make-time

I read posts in writing forums all the time from writers who have difficulty finishing the book they’re writing. They have so many ideas and start a ton of projects, but have a hard time finishing any of them. It takes discipline and pushing your internal editor aside to get it done.

An informational meeting I attended recently focused on that exact topic. During this meeting, I jotted down a list of rules to follow that I think will help struggling writers finish their first draft. If this is you, I hope you will find this information useful.

  1. Ditch the negativity. You can’t go into writing with the attitude that you won’t finish or it’s too hard or no one will like your work. Ignore your inner demons and write.
  2. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Start by getting your ideas on paper. Anne Lamott said, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Your first draft is supposed to be messy. Just get it written. first-draft
  3. Send your internal editor on vacation. I know it’s tempting to edit your work as you go. Believe me, I do it too. But if your goal is finish the manuscript, stop worrying about it being perfect and get the words on paper. You can leave a sticky note or a quick sentence to remind yourself where you left off, but NO EDITING ALLOWED! Go back and fine tune it later.
  4. Lock yourself in your room and put a do not disturb sign on the door. I don’t mean this literally. I simply mean to tell your family and friends that you love them then give yourself that alone time to write without distractions. Get off social media and turn off the TV. Absorb yourself in your ideas.
  5. Pre-plan. Have your story map, outline, character sketches, etc…ready before you start.
  6. Believe in the magic. Go in with the idea that your plan will work. Stick to the rules and stay positive (see rule number 1).
  7. Recruit a cheering squad. Set up a support system and make yourself accountable to other people. Only choose people who will motivate you.
  8. Create a great writing space. Clear the clutter, get comfortable, and have everything you need accessible.
  9. Feed your brain. Eat protein and high energy food. Stock up on those protein bars and have them handy.
  10. Take a break. Stop and stretch every 45 minutes. Get the blood pumping. Take a quick bathroom break, walk a few laps around the room, or stretch for a minute or two. Then go right back to writing.
  11. Set yourself up for success. Everytime you push yourself, you create new neurological pathways in your brain. When you constantly stay in your story, you will get better and faster, and your story will become tighter. Set daily writing goals and stick to them, then reward yourself.
  12. It’s ok to get stuck. If you do get stuck, move away from the computer for a minute (see rule number 10). Concentrate on a scene with a particular character. Write a placeholder and move on to the next scene or chapter. Leave headers for each chapter then add details. Make notes of what you’d like to see happen. Time yourself – give yourself 20 minutes of hands on the keyboard. You’ll soon find yourself writing for much longer than that. Refer back to your map, outline, or other pre-writing notes. If all else fails, ask a friend to help brainstorm.
  13. Celebrate success. Yay! You did it! Now crack open that bottle of wine and celebrate. You worked hard, and you deserve it.

Now that your draft is finished, walk away from the keyboard for a few days before you go in to clean up the mess. Cleaning up the mess is an entirely different blog post.

You can do this! Just keep writing.

5 Ways to Find “The Zone” When Writing.

Here’s a great article on how to get in the writing zone.

The Nerdy Lion

Do you know that feeling when everything clicks? When the words flow like endless pools of serene water? When you stop thinking about writing and just…write?
It feels good, doesn’t it? And lord knows when you read it back you think, “Damn, I’m good, like I’m really good. Jesus, this is the best thing I have ever read.” Then you stop for a second and wrinkle your brow. “Wait, did I write this?”

I know what you’re thinking, “Is there a magical pill for this?” A drug you would kindly pay for? Probably, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to mention drugs online so I can’t back anything publicly.

Do not fret my fellow Lions and Lionettes, for I have discovered the secrets to unlimited access to, “the zone!” Or not, maybe I’m just a crazy lion waiting for Mufasa to come back……NYLAAHH!

Disclaimer: There may or may not be…

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