Round 2 5th Sunday Check-in

Now that we’re in the middle of the round, it might be a great time to look over our progress and see if what we’re doing is working for us.  If you’re like me, pure pantser, yet struggling to keep track of it all… maybe you might want to take a page from Fallon Brown and try corralling that chaos.

You have to do what works best for you. Some may say so much organization will wreck creativity. But without it, I can’t even focus enough to tap into that creativity.  — When Chaos Descends

Be true to what works and doesn’t…  you can’t fix problems you don’t see.  Be “who you are” not what you want to be, as Elizabeth Mitchell says:

…let your voice ring true through all your writing, both on the blog during Row80 check-ins and in your longer creative writing efforts. A passion for a subject lights up the core of the writing done about it, and is mesmerizingly attractive.Be Who You Are

You can do this.  Just let us know at the linky:

Summer Writing by Fallon Brown

There are times of the year that are better for some things than others. In the winter, I can do a lot of knitting. In the summer, I don’t even want to touch yarn, or rather have it touching me.  When it’s already hot out, and I’m dripping sweat from doing nothing more than sitting (and this is in Pennsylvania-don’t want to imagine summer in the South), that’s the last thing I want, even the lighter yarns. What does this have to do with writing, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, a good bit really. I find the same to hold true, though mostly in reverse.

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but it does seem like I write more during the summer than in the winter. I’d think this would be the opposite, as we usually have more going on in the summer. There may be a few reasons for this, though. One is that, due to my husband’s job, he’s laid off from at least Thanksgiving until usually sometime in March (sometimes this starts sooner, depending on the weather. It hard to do any road construction when the snow starts flying). With him home, my whole routine tends to get thrown off. Another possible reason for this difference is that a lot of the writing challenges, aside from RoW80, that I participate in, happen during the spring and summer. There’s Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, Story a Day in May (and September, but I haven’t participated in that second one yet), JuNoWriMo in (you guessed it) June. The official NaNoWriMo is the only one that occurs outside those two seasons. And that’s probably another reason. Most of the other months, when there isn’t some kind of writing challenge, are when I concentrate on editing. Therefore, my numbers are lower.  

Even though I tend to write more during those months, summer has some challenges specific to the season. First, the kids are home pretty much all day. My kids are pretty independent even at 5 and 8. But, there are still times they need my help with something, or I need to break up a fight (which has been pretty common just in the first month of summer vacation). Then, there’s all the get-togethers: birthday parties (we have ones in May, June, August, and September, plus any the kids are invited to for friends), graduation parties, family reunions, and anything else that comes up. Thankfully (for me) most of these are on weekends, and I do most of my writing during the week. The other challenge, at least for me, is the weather. I don’t handle the heat very well, so when it gets hot, sometimes I just don’t want to do anything, even sit at the computer to write. Just one more reason I like to get up early. I can get most of my words in before the temperature climbs.

There are some things that can help get the words down even with these obstacles. One of these is writing sprints. You can usually find someone on twitter running sprints, or ask if someone wants to join you in one. I’ve actually been using the word sprint page at for my own writing. They run for the first twenty-five minutes of each half hour, leaving a five minute break between. Of course, you can continue to write during those breaks if you wish to. This works best for me when there are other people there actually writing so I can try to stay ahead (my competitive streak kicks in at the oddest times). You can set it up to save automatically to dropbox, so I go there and copy my words back into the document I’m working on. I used to use write or die, but I’ve found I like this a lot better. And, of course, there’s all the WriMo challenges I mentioned above. Having other people to write with and a particular goal to reach for, helps keep me on track.

Sometimes, getting the words down means having to be flexible. You may have to switch around your usual routine. Usually when the kids are in school, I’ll get most of my words done then. It’ll be a little different this year since both kids will finally be in school all day. I’ll still probably shoot for meeting my writing goals in the morning. This summer I’ve tried a few different things to make sure I get my writing and everything else done. At the moment, I’m writing to the end of a mywriteclub sprint then doing something from my to-do list during the break then picking back up with writing for the rest of the next sprint. Eventually I get everything done. And sometimes it’s necessary to work among distractions if you can’t avoid them completely. I’ve been taking my computer outside to the table on our porch while the kids play. And right now I’m listening to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon while I type this. If I really need to concentrate, I put my wireless headphones in and music playing on my phone, but I’ve found that I can write even without that (like when my headphones die & I have to charge them). The words usually flow better when I have the music, but I don’t “need” it.

I’ve found that I work better at different things during different times of the year. But, that’s just the thing, it’s what works for me. Now, that may not be the way it works out for you. My techniques for getting words down even during those distracted months may not work for you. The important thing is finding what does work for you. In the end, that’s what really matters, finding a way to get the words down.


Fallon Brown

Focus on Distraction by Fallon Brown


Focusing on writing isn’t always as simple as we might like it to be. There are so many things out there to distract us, and sometimes we create even more of these distractions ourselves. But, there are ways to minimize the disruption they cause. Sometimes, you may even be able to use them to focus more(yes, I know that sounds backwards).

Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to settle down and be able to focus. Having some kind of routine can even help this along(if that’s what works for you). I do pretty much the same thing every morning before I start writing: Take the puppy out, start my coffee, close the kids’ bedroom doors so I don’t wake them, start my music, and jot down a few notes on the scene I’ll be working on next. Then, I can start writing. Without that, particularly the coffee and music, the words usually don’t want to come.

And the routine really does help. Getting up at the same time(or close to it) every day, sitting down in the same place, having the same things around me. For some people, I understand this may seem more of a rut. For those of us that need it, it can be the one thing that signals it’s time to write.

Sometimes even when you have a routine figured out, distractions can still come up. Kids want your attention, the phone won’t stop ringing(the one I hate the most), all the books you want to read, chores to do, shows to catch up on, and whatever else might take you from your writing. Sometimes these distractions can’t be ignored. My family continues to insist they have to eat every day and have clean clothes for some reason.

I have different ways to focus. Though, some may look at them as distractions. Something I figured out back in high school, though, is that I actually have to distract myself in order to focus. Like I said above, I know that sounds backwards, so just stick with me a moment. I’d be there trying to do my homework in my quiet bedroom, but my mind would keep skipping around to pretty much everything else. But, if I had music playing or something on the TV I didn’t really have to pay attention to, I could focus better. It was like I needed something to distract one part of my brain, so the other could focus on what I needed to do.

One other thing that could go either way as far as being a distraction or a way to focus is having a list of different projects to work on. Sometimes this does feel like I’m spreading myself too thin between them. But, there are other times when I just can’t make the words come on one project, but the characters from another are practically yelling their story at me and the words just roll right out. If I try to stay focused on that first one, it just doesn’t happen. So, I need the distraction from it.

So, really, some distractions aren’t distractions after all. Sometimes it’s just a matter of settling down to write, and sticking to a routine can help with this. Also, sometimes embracing those distractions can be more productive than trying to fight them.

How do you combat your distractions? Or do you embrace them?


Fallon Brown



When Chaos Descends by Fallon Brown

My mind can be a crazy thing. It’s never completely at rest. And it doesn’t handle stillness well. It’s one reason I don’t usually “take a break” even during the RoW80 breaks. I just…can’t. If I’m not doing something with my hands, I have to be occupying my mind somehow. Sometimes, even when I’m doing something with my hands, I have to do something else to occupy the chaos in my head.


And that’s really the best way to describe it…chaos. So many different thoughts bouncing around. What I have to do for the day, whatever story I’m working on, random bits of dialogue that just suddenly pop up. That thing I said a week or month ago that I wished I’d said differently.


About the only way I can control even some of the chaos is by organizing everything. This is the reason I have all my calendars, schedules, and to-do lists. Without them, not only do I not have any focus, but that chaos can feel like it’s drowning me. And that makes it very hard to get anything done. But, when I do have all those in place, my day, and my work, seem to run a lot smoother.


  • Calendar: I put all my writing and editing goals/deadlines on a calendar. I used to have a paper one, but I changed things so much, it made it easier to just keep one on the computer. I figure out how much I need to write/edit each week to finish on time. This changes for me as I finish things, usually faster than I figured I would be able to.


  • To-do lists: I put just about everything on my daily to-do lists. Not only my writing or editing goals for the day. But also the household chores, reading, and crafting I want to get done. There are some that are on everyday, like washing dishes and prepping dinner. There’s the laundry, which is a different load every day. There are some I only do once a month. But, if any of them don’t make it on the list, it’s unlikely they’ll get done at all.


  • More lists: I also have monthly, quarterly, & yearly lists which I make my weekly and daily lists from. Those I update periodically, but it’s the daily ones I really focus on. I organize those by priority. My writing and editing goals, of course, go first. Then, I worry about household chores and social media stuff. After that’s any reading or crafting items I have on my list. I try to work my way down through in order as much as I can. And if I finish everything for the day, I usually move on and get started on the next day’s. Although sometimes I’ll just stop for the day and get some bonus reading in.


  • Schedule: I don’t actually write this down. And it kind of goes along with my daily lists. It also goes along with the way I naturally work. Writing new words comes easiest for me first thing in the morning. So, that’s one reason it’s first on my list. Also, it’s when the kids are sleeping, then at school. I find it easier to get other things done when they’re home.


I know this probably makes me look very rigid. And to a point, that’s likely true. But, like I’m sure is the case with most of you, I have a family as well. In my case, that includes a husband and two young children. While they are mostly independent, they still need me at times. Which means there has to be some flexibility. I think one of the reasons these to-do lists work for me is that I understand there’ll be some days I don’t get to everything. Those days I just move those unfinished items to the next day. And at the end of the week, I start fresh again.


I say this in a lot of my posts, but it holds true. You have to do what works best for you. Some may say so much organization will wreck creativity. But without it, I can’t even focus enough to tap into that creativity.


So, if you’re finding your mind is like mine and doesn’t settle down on its own, maybe this is one way you could help it along. It’s certainly not the only way, maybe not even  the best way, but maybe it will work for you, too.


Fallon Brown

When The Muse Attacks by Fallon Brown

When I talk about the muse, I don’t usually think about a mythical figure. Or really anything separate from me that helps inspire my work. To me, it’s more the part of my mind where all the ideas simmer, waiting for me to get to them.


Of course, they don’t always like to wait. Sometimes I can work through the draft of more than one book in a series without an issue. Other times, it seems like several ideas try to clamor for my attention at once. Different characters all demand their story be told now. This can lead to me having trouble concentrating on the one I’m trying to work on.


Lately I seem to be experiencing the latter of these. I have five different series that I have at least one novel drafted for. Besides those, I have five series somewhere in the planning stage. As well as a list of about a dozen standalone ideas. Some of these may not pan out, but I’ll never know if I never get to them.


I have tried more than one way to make sure I can get to all the stories I want to write, all the characters who are constantly talking to me. I make a lot of lists. I fill out calendars to figure out when I can work everything in. One way I’d figured it had me taking ten years to draft all of them, working on one after the other.


Sometimes I work through one story in a series then move on to the next one. This is probably the most logical way of doing it, but it seems to take forever, and often, I have other characters trying to get my attention when I’m working on something else.


My current method probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Even to me at times, I feel like it’s not the “right” way to do things. But, it does allow me to spend time with each of these characters. I’ve taken the four series in progress(the fifth is all in some stage of revisions) and the list of standalones and work on one different one each day.


I tried randomizing them, but that had me working on one a few days in a row and others not at all for a couple weeks. I decided I didn’t like that after all. I’ve currently only been working this new way for a little over a week, so it’s hard to say exactly how well it will work for me. So far it does seem to be going well. It also means, though, that I get to spend time with each of the characters more often.


Sometimes when bouncing between projects, I can get overwhelmed. I’ll find myself wanting to work more on one project than another. One of my series, the characters seem to just take over. It feels more like they’re telling the story through me, and I’m just transcribing it. And they won’t shut up. It doesn’t always leave a whole lot left to give to those other projects. When that happens, I find myself shifting back to working on just one thing until it’s finished.


As in all things, especially writing, what works for one person won’t work for another. Even for me, my own method doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to find another way to handle all the ideas that seem to come rushing at me. Sometimes they’ll wait their turn. But, other times, I have to do what I can to work in the more insistent characters.


Maybe your ideas come in a more orderly way. Or you have an efficient way of sorting through which you’ll work on. But, if you’re like me, and you don’t always know how to handle all of them, another method might work for you, too.



Fallon Brown

Writing As Coping by Fallon Brown

This is something I’ve had rolling around in my head for close to a year now. Every time I think I’ll write it, another idea always seems to pop up instead. Also, it leans more to the personal side, and I don’t know if it’s all that inspirational, so I’ve avoided writing it. But, I could be wrong about that, and the timing feels right for it now.

We often hear the advice to write what we know. Taking that at face value, there would be a lot of socially anxious thirty-year-olds who would rather have their nose in a book and not leave the house than ever have a conversation, in person or on the phone, with another person in my books. Doesn’t exactly make for a very exciting story. Also the reason why, though there may be pieces of me in the characters I write, none of them are me.

Digging a little deeper, though, there is more that I know. I know what it’s like to be a child when your parents go through a divorce and feel like you’re the one left behind. I know what it is to lose a friend to cancer. To lose a man who instantly accepted you as family just before officially joining his family. These exact situations may never come up in my stories but often the emotions do.

I’ve always had high emotions, and one way I used to deal with them was poetry. Writing has been my way of coping since I was about eight. From dealing with confused feelings to guilt even years later over how a friendship was left before losing it permanently. All the way to dealing with the grief of my father-in-law’s death two weeks before the wedding.

“Don’t make a writer mad, or you might be written into the story.” is another thing we sometimes hear. And it can certainly be true. I sometimes have to steer clear of a WiP if I’m in a particular mood. Then again, sometimes it’s the mood the story needs. The very first version of my first novel, Duty to Protect, had that happen, and it fit for the story. I think that’s the important thing. And it was rather cathartic at the time.

Last August and into September, as I was writing Flames of Retribution this subplot was working its way in, something I hadn’t planned for. At first, I didn’t realize where it was coming from. I tried to derail it, but this was the first time a story has flowed so easily. So, I decided to go with it, and I could always cut it out later. Except as I was finishing that draft, I felt like it did fit. We’ll see if others agree when my critique partner and beta readers get their hands on it. I also realized it was an upcoming anniversary that had brought out that story line.

Using writing to cope can be a good thing, but again, it has to fit in with the story. It can be therapeutic to get it all down on paper(or the screen), or to put those emotions into someone else’s perspective. But, like with a lot of things in writing, getting other eyes on it is important. To make sure it doesn’t come out of nowhere, that it really does fit with the story and your characters, that you haven’t completely lost track of the point in the midst of it. But, if all that works, then maybe that was just what the story needed anyway.


Fallon Brown

How to Juggle It All (Or What Happens When All The Balls Fall) by Fallon Brown

I often get asked how I get it all done, or at least how I can get so much done. And sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud. I don’t “do it all”. Not anymore than anyone else. The truth is, I only do what I can. And often that doesn’t feel like enough.


We all have a bit of a juggling act we have to do in life. For some, it’s a day job and family. For someone else, it could be finding time for their hobby among their other responsibilities. I dropped the day job ball almost eight years ago. Not because of writing, at that time. Along with it being just before my daughter was born, we moved out of town(and by that, I don’t just mean to another town. We now live outside of town). Added to that, any money I would have made at a job in our town would have gone to childcare, so we figured it was better for me to stay home.


Now both kids are in school, and I still haven’t picked that ball back up. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other balls to juggle. There is still family, making sure the kids get ready for school in the morning and get them off buses in the afternoon. And of course, they seem to think they need to eat every night. Then, there are other chores that need to be taken care of each day or at least week. They think they need clean clothes after all, and clean dishes to eat off of.


And there are other things that take up time. For me, it’s knitting, crochet, and reading. For you, it might be something else. As important as writing is to me, I need something else to relax me. Especially since writing tends to energize me. In fact, I rarely get that drained feeling from writing too much in a day(I get that feeling when I struggle to get the words out, though). So, I need something to wind back down.


So, how do you juggle all the things you need to do, the things you should do, and the things you really want to do? I guess it depends on where all those balls fall in the list of priorities. Most of the time, for me, writing falls between ‘should’ and ‘really want to’, with it leaning heavy to the ‘really want to’, and I make it a priority. The ‘Need to Do’ are sometimes the first ones that get dropped. Didn’t get the dishes done? Well, we still have a couple clean plates and forks. It can wait until tomorrow. I have found a pretty good routine that helps me balance, or at least juggle, everything. For the most part.


But, then there are the times when it feels like all the balls are dropping. Early in April, I was struggling with the words. Because I was trying to get all my words in first thing, I let the chores fall away too. Since I got behind on those, I fell behind on my knitting and reading, too. And I found out that like with writing, when I don’t get to read I feel a little crazed.


Sometimes you just have to pick the balls up again. For me, this usually involves moving whatever didn’t happen to the next day. Sometimes these lists can get long. But, I always start the next week over fresh, even if I ended up not accomplishing everything I wanted to. I use the weekends to catch up, particularly on my crafting or reading.


And sometimes you have to leave the balls where you drop them. Or at least adjust your juggling routine. I realized what one of the problems with my words was. Well, there were two different problems really. The first was an issue with the scene I was writing, and something I just had to push through. The other was the fact that another character was busy demanding my attention even though I hadn’t planned on writing that story yet. So, instead of fighting it, I rearranged my routine and split my daily word count between the two stories. Since I did that, words started flowing so much better.


No one is perfect. I’m sure we’ve all heard that before, and it’s true. We’re not always going to make our word count. We may miss a deadline or two. We’ll forget that one other thing we were supposed to do. But, we do what we can. And the “what we can” is different for everyone. I know mine might seem like a lot to some people, and yet most days I’m telling myself I could probably get more done. But, I know it could be that one extra ball that upsets everything.


Fallon Brown

Recipe to Plot by Fallon Brown

I recently saw someone compare plotting to cooking. They described it as knowing what you wanted to make and throwing all the ingredients together. This is a bit of a foreign concept to me. Unless I’ve made something a dozen times, I follow a recipe. Sometimes, even when I’ve made something more than that dozen times, I still need the recipe. I plot much the same way. I have my methods of brainstorming, and figuring out characters’ back stories as well as the actual plot. And I tend to follow the same “recipe” to work these things out.


Now, following a recipe doesn’t mean you can’t adapt it. I’ve done this more than once. I found one recipe in a cook book I got for my wedding. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly. It didn’t turn out right. The sliced potatoes on the bottom of the casserole didn’t cook. It didn’t say to cook the hamburger first, so I just dumped a pound of ground beef in(and yes, it turned out quite greasy). So, I tried boiling the potatoes first. I’ve also made it with mashed potatoes(which almost makes it a reverse shepherd’s pie). And I always cook the beef first now.


I’ve done this with my plotting as well. When I started using the snowflake method, I found some of the steps didn’t work well for me. So, I cut them out(something else I do in recipes if we don’t like one of the ingredients). I’ve added other steps along the way, like how I do my mind maps and using James Scott Bell’s “Signpost Scenes” as well as a beat sheet.


My mom used to make a meal she called(or maybe it was my stepdad who coined the term) “slop”. There’s a reason we called it that. She’d take whatever we had on hand, and throw it in together. It usually consisted of at least hamburger and corn, among several other ingredients. It sounds disgusting, and usually didn’t look much better. But, our family always liked it.


I don’t do this very often with my plotting. But, there are some that call for less plotting. And even when I do plot, I end up throwing stuff in I hadn’t planned. Sometimes, this works out so much better than what I had planned in the first place.


Sometimes plotting can take a combination of these two approaches. Like I said above, sometimes I start out with a nice outline, or recipe. And as I write, things start happening. I take items I have, or that maybe I didn’t realize I had sitting around, and throw them in. Granted, sometimes this can make a meal(or story) fail. Just ask my kids. They’ve turned away more than one meal that wasn’t up to their standards. But, you may also find a meal that becomes your new favorite.


For me, whether I follow the recipe or not, plotting is a lot like my need to plan out the week’s menu. If I don’t, it gets to be half an hour before dinner, and I have no idea what to make. If I don’t plot, even just the basics, I’m usually not sure of what to write.


So, whether you follow the recipe, or just throw ingredients together, get out there and cook up your story. Either way, in the end, I’m sure you’ll still end up with a story you’ll be proud of.


Fallon Brown

Should’ve Been A Juggler by Fallon Brown

Okay, so if you know me, you know that title is misleading. A juggler is probably the last thing I ever should consider being. But, when Kait commented on something I’d posted on twitter that I should be the voice of the juggling parent, that’s what popped into my head. And following that, the song “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.”


Thankfully, we’re not talking about actual juggling. I don’t have the hand-eye coordination for that(or doing pretty much anything while walking). Rather, all the balls we have to keep in the air. And I’ll admit, I have a tendency to drop those too.


I’ve been asked more than once what my secret is to getting things done. And honestly? I’m usually not sure what to say. I make lists: of goals, of deadlines, of ideas. If it wasn’t for those lists, I probably wouldn’t get anything done.


So, what do I do to get things done?


Early Riser:


I have always been a morning person. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who can be awake early without a problem. Right now, I wake up at 4 in the morning. My kids, at 4 and 7, rarely sleep later than 6 even when they don’t have school. So, by the time I get my first cup of coffee and sit down at the computer, I have about an hour and a half to write. When I first started to get up earlier, after my first NaNoWriMo in 2010, I thought 5:30 a.m. was early. Now, a lot of times, I’m awake even before 4.




With two younger kids, it’s not always easy to stick to a routine. But, I’ve found one that’s flexible enough to work around them. Between the kids waking up and getting them on their buses(that come about 15-20 minutes apart), I wash dishes and any other chores I can get done in that time. My daughter has started packing her own lunch, so that’s one less ball I have to keep up in the air. After they’re on their way to school, I finish chores and go for a walk(weather permitting), then usually eat breakfast while I read blogs and catch up on other social media. After breakfast, I usually go straight down my daily to-do list. I always try to get to all my writing goals first, but if I didn’t do that before the kids were up, I get to it now. Then, I worry about anything else I have on the list.




I’ve mentioned my lists a couple times. I have one on my phone listing out all my story ideas, and I have them broken down. The longest section is the ones I want to plot, then once plotted, they get moved to the ‘to draft’ list then to the ‘to revise’. This is pretty much how I figure out what to work on next, although I may skip over some if another one is speaking to me more.

I also have a calendar to schedule out my deadlines for each project. I use that to make my lists of yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists. I even have a list of the crutch words I need to search & destroy when I’m editing. I may go slightly overboard with my lists, but it helps keeps me on track.


Little Moments:


This is really the only other thing. I try to use all the little moments through the day. When I’m waiting for the kids’ buses, I might check my email on my phone. Or take my notebook with me to do some plotting. Or just take the e-reader out with me.


That’s really it. One thing that probably helps is that my kids have always been independent, especially when it comes to playing. Not having to entertain them constantly does make it easier for me to get to my own things. I know my routine wouldn’t work for everyone: I don’t have a day job, my kids are old enough to do a lot of things on their own, and are pretty independent.


When you’re trying to juggle all the balls, I’d say it’s inevitable at least one will drop. Sometimes it feels like I’m dropping all of them. Like when I couldn’t remember what I’d done with the new books of checks when I needed to pay the bills. Or losing the order form for my daughter’s school pictures. Yet, I can remember just about every detail of a character’s back story.


But, even when those balls drop, you have to pick them back up. I did find those checks(and put the rest where they should be). I did get pictures ordered(through the website instead of sending the form in). I did finally remember to eat breakfast this morning(may not have been the first time I almost forgot). Because I’m not just a writer, or a parent, or a spouse. I’m all of these. I’m sure many of you are too.


Fallon  Brown