Inspiration

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 mywriteclub.com 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

Rising to the Challenge by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait’s opening post challenges all of us to make progress on our goals every day, suggesting a very neat wordcount and accountability tool called Pacemaker. She justifies the challenge clearly, “If your goal is 1,000 words a day and you only manage 250, that’s 250 that you didn’t have before and your brain stayed at least a little bit in the story. THAT is what I want to reward this round–ANY consistent progress toward your goal, no matter how small. Whether you’re chipping away at that final word count by inches or feet, I want you to make an effort to do something each and every day.”

 

I have long been a believer in working on something every day. When I taught French, I was amazed how much my students forgot during semester breaks. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I believe that daily work creates pathways that make future work easier. I know that the languages I use more often come much more easily to me than the ones I haven’t read or spoken in months.

 

I’ve mentioned before in posts on this blog about writing every day. I realize that isn’t for everyone. However, I know how hard it is for me to revisit something I haven’t thought about for a while–rereading and refreshing my memory. Although even I am too young to have had to pump well water, the expression of “priming the pump” is still valid. I will bet that those who argued against my suggestions think about their writing every day, daydream about what their characters look like, or eavesdrop in a coffee shop for plot twists. I’ve seen comments about characters demanding attention, or the proliferation of plot bunnies, so I am sure most of you have your writing close to the surface most of the time. Note that Kait doesn’t say “write every day,” but “do something each and every day.”

 

My two major difficulties are life and procrastination. The latter sings its siren song to me all the time, “Tomorrow’s soon enough. You’re tired right now.” It goes hand in hand with my perfectionism, which says in my ear, “Don’t do it unless you can do it perfectly.” To which I respond, “A plague o’ both your houses.” I am going to repeat two phrases to myself: “Start where you are,” and “You can’t edit a blank page.” I need to learn about dialogue, but that’s okay, that is progress toward my goal.  And I need to put words on the page, even when they are not perfect, or even when my surroundings are not perfect.

 

At the moment I am writing this post, I have a garage piled to the ceiling with boxes and furniture, I am living out of a suitcase, and I have been without internet for a little bit longer than a week. It would be easy for me to claim the impossibility of writing, and to be totally honest, I have surprised myself. I am writing by hand, but I am writing.

 

Kait acknowledges life difficulties in the opening post for this Round, but gives no quarter, “Stop letting everything else in your life come first. No excuses.” Darn her, she’s right. No matter how crazy my life may be, I do have the time to scribble a few sentences from a half-remembered dream, or an insight that occurred in the shower. I have created three projects on Pacemaker for the Round, and am continuing to learn how best to use it.  I agree with Kait, that what I do with my time is a choice, and I choose writing. After all, I can always procrastinate with the laundry.

 

What are you doing to meet Kait’s challenge?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Branding and Re-branding Yourself by Steph Beth Nickel

Slightly altered versions of this post will also appear on InScribe Writers Online and This & That for Writers.

 

Ask These Questions

 

What can you see yourself writing about five years from now? Ten years from now?

 

What is the overarching theme of your writing? What fires you up? What can’t you stop talking—and writing—about?

 

How do you want to be known? Close to home and out in cyberspace?

 

If you can narrow your focus in these areas, you just may have found your theme, your tagline, your brand.

 

Narrow Your Focus

 

The name of my blog was originally “Steph’s Eclectic Interests.” That should give you an indication of how not focused I am. A dear friend and fellow writer said, “Each blog you post is focused on a single topic.” Talk about gracious!

 

A few years back, another dear friend said my tagline should be “Riding Shotgun.” And although I gave her a funny look, when she explained her reasoning, I was humbled and honoured. Because I “come alongside” others and assist them, she thought “Riding Shotgun” would be descriptive of that.

 

Not being a country music fan (don’t hate me), I never did go with her suggestion, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget it.

 

Like so many other people, I’m what I call “stupid busy.” It isn’t that I don’t like what I do—to the contrary. But it is long past time that I had a singular focus. And recently, I found it. <bouncing up and down, clapping>

 

A lot of factors came together to make it happen.

 

On June 25, I attended the Saturday sessions at the Write Canada conference. There, Belinda Burston stopped me to take my picture. Brenda J. Wood joined me in the shot. And I’m so glad she did! That picture is now plastered across the Web. It’s one of those shots that makes me grin—me with my newly dyed burgundy hair and Brenda with her flowered hat. (Who says writers are a stuffy, serious lot?)

 

That picture was a significant contributing factor to what followed. And late Thursday night, a tagline popped into my head. It was perfect: “To Nurture & Inspire.” I headed off to Dreamland flying high.

 

I spent the best parts of Friday, July 1, re-branding myself online. I had to find the right background (thank you, pixabay.com), the right font and the right graphic (thank you, picmonkey.com).

 

Follow These Quick Tips

 

So, to close, I’d like to recommend five quick tips for branding (or re-branding) yourself:

 

  1. Keep an eye out. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Re-branding myself wasn’t on my To Do list, but one thing led to another and then another, and finally, “Poof!”

 

  1. Get creative. Explore sites like Pixabay and PicMonkey. Let your Inner Creative out to play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have. I admit that I’m more of a “pantser” when it comes to these kinds of endeavours. However, if you like to be more deliberate in your planning, you can find how-to YouTube videos on just about any subject.

 

  1. Know when it’s time to hire a pro. You may not have the time or the know-how to create your own brand. However, you will want to work hands-on with whomever you hire. You want to be able to say, “If I could have done it on my own, this is exactly what I would have come up with.”

 

  1. Your brand isn’t forever. At least it doesn’t have to be. If your focus narrows or changes, even if you just get tired of it, it’s alright to rework it. Don’t get me wrong; if you’re well-established, it may take some time for your readers to adjust, but I would venture a guess that most of them will.

 

And …

 

  1. Enjoy yourself. Even if your message is a serious one, I believe there’s something satisfying about choosing a profile picture and tagline as well as colours and graphics that are an extension of your message—and further, an extension of yourself.

 

Do you have a brand? Are you pleased with it or is it time for some revamping?

~*~

Steph Beth Nickel

Introducing Pacemaker

Usually I’d be ending on some kind of rah-rah high note but I find myself fresh out of specific inspiration this morning.  What I do have to share is glee over a new tool.  It is no secret that I love stats.  I have a possibly unhealthy relationship with my spreadsheets, and I get twitterpated over graphs that show my progress.  So when fellow author Jessica Fox pointed me toward Pacemaker, I might’ve had a full on flail of excitement.  Actually, the flail was mutual because we both love trackers.

What is Pacemaker?   Well, I’ll swipe the about copy from their website:

A Simple Flexible Planner for Writers & Students

Set a Goal

Give a memorable name to your project and determine how much you want to do within your timeframe.

Set a Strategy

Want to start small? How about swallowing the frog and knocking out large workloads right away? Tell Pacemaker when you can commit more or less time to your work and how you want to approach the workload.

Sit Back

Pacemaker calculates a schedule that will help you finish on-time! No need to wrestle with spreadsheets or do manual calculations. Download your plan in iCal format or save your plan to your Pacemaker Account.

Pace Yourself

Start working towards your target. Each day counts! As long as you follow the Pacemaker schedule, you will finish ontime.

Record Progress

Record your progress and Pacemaker will adjust your workload based on how you’ve been doing. Further adjust your plan based on any new changes to your availability.

Celebrate!

You did it! Take some time to celebrate this milestone.

Pacemaker is a playful way of making peace with your writing goals. You set a word count goal, chip away at it day by day and finish on-time! You can approach your writing target in various ways to suit your style :

  • Steady – write the same amount of work every day.
  • Rising to the Challenge – start off small and increase your word count quota every day.
  • Biting the Bullet – bite off large chunks of your writing goal at the beginning of your schedule so that the pressure is off at the end of your schedule.
  • Random – each day is a surprise, you may need to complete 5 words or 500! Whether heavy or light, you’ll reach your word count goal at the end of your specified schedule.

One of the big things that Jessica and I both love about it is the setting that allows you to adjust the schedule.  So, for example, I have taekwondo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means my evening writing time is more or less nil.  So I can’t expect as much of myself on those days.  This allows me to account for that.  If you routinely take a particular day of the week off to mentally rest, you can account for that.  There are a ton of ways to adjust the thing, and since ROW80 is all about setting your own goals, this is a tool that fits right into our mission statement and gives you a way to sort out what you need to do to meet those goals when life happens.

Give it a try!!!

~*~

Kait Nolan

Overbooked and Overwhelmed by Lauralynn Elliott

I don’t know where to start. And that’s true for this post AND the circumstances that prompted me to write this post. But start I must!

 

For the past year or so, I’ve found myself so overwhelmed that I just don’t feel well. It’s taking a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And if I feel this way, I’m sure many of you are experiencing the same thing. This can lead to total burnout if we’re not careful. We are writers, and sometimes it seems that writing comes after everything else.

 

So let’s explore what might be happening here. Why am I overwhelmed? And why might you be overwhelmed? Here’s my take on some of my problems (not all of them, but a good sample).

 

  1. I let my day job get to me. When that happens, I don’t feel like doing things when I get home, so I’m not very productive.
  2. I’m also a line editor, and I have the hardest time telling clients that I’m booked and can they push back that deadline. I have one client who is very prolific, and she’s loyal, so I’m always going to get her books done first. And she gives me plenty of time. But then I try to squeeze other clients in too small of a timeframe because I don’t want to make them wait. This leads to lots of stress because then I’m terrified I won’t meet a deadline. (I haven’t missed one yet.)
  3. I get so stressed about this other stuff that I don’t feel like I have time to get exercise and healthy eating in. So I grab something quick and don’t get on the treadmill.
  4. I don’t take time for my daily Bible reading, so then I feel guilty. Which also leads to lack of productivity.
  5. I can’t say no to anyone, and I end up taking on even more things!

 

Now think about yourself. Make a list like this for you. Do you see any similarities, or is your list completely different?

 

Let’s see how I can fix some of these things.

 

  1. Think of the day job as just a job I go to for a few hours, and don’t sweat it.
  2. When a potential (or current) client asks if I can edit their book, I need to think carefully about time and let them know when I can do it instead of trying to cram it in.
  3. Take at least 30 minutes to exercise. I’ll be more productive if I feel better. Make meals ahead on the weekends so I’ll have them through the week.
  4. Take 15 minutes to read the Bible. It helps me feel renewed.
  5. Learn to say no! The world won’t end!

 

Okay, now you do the same thing. Look at your list of things that cause you to feel overwhelmed, then list a possible solution for each one.

 

I already feel better, don’t you? Isn’t there something about lists that make you feel more in control? I would love to hear your thoughts and see your lists.

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Celebrate Your Software By Deniz Bevan

The Library in English, here in Geneva, Switzerland, recently held its annual spring book sale. I picked up a small pile of books — who could resist?

Among my finds was a book called The Complete Works of Lord Byron:

It’s about as long as my forearm and as wide as my shin, a real doorstop of a book; hardcover, of course.

But the feature I’d like to talk about is it’s publication date: 1835.

1835! The book is over 1,000 pages long and includes an index. 1835!

I can’t stop thinking about all the labour that had to go into its publication.

Someone had to write out a clean manuscript from Byron’s scrawled copies and from previously published works.

(There’s a reproduction of one of his letters in the book; not only is his handwriting all over the place, but the ink is blotchy in some parts and thin in others; the whole is a transcriber’s puzzle of the first order.)

Someone might have copy edited the MS. Someone — possibly many someones — typeset, letter by letter by letter, the entire tome.

Once the galleys had been printed, someone proofread the entire thing and someone (the same as the proofreader?) created each entry in the index.

The index was typeset. Letter by letter by letter…

The book was printed. A new group of people had to bind it, including the reproductions of the manuscript pages (how did they do this back then? Some sort of early form of photo offsetting? A cursory Google search suggests they might have done it by using the technique of lithography).

It’s amazing to think that the work was ever completed in a reasonable time frame — and this is only one book! Hundreds, if not thousands of books (both new and reprints), were published every year by this time in England alone.

Which all leads me to the process of writing, typing, and printing (and cutting and pasting — and recovering!) we take for granted today.

Whether you use Word, Pages for Mac, some other software, or the best option, Scrivener, don’t forget that it is a massively capable tool, with many features. Learn as much as you can of its tricks, its abilities, its shortcuts.

Lots of people complain about their software. They lose their documents or the software eats their words or introduces indents and fonts that they never wanted and can’t fix, and so on.

But all of this can be controlled, and all of it customised, by you — with a fraction of the labour required by a massive printing machine, fiddly blocks of lead type, and paper that costs an arm and a leg.

The best part of twenty-first century word processing software is that you don’t need to think about it at all (especially Scrivener). Don’t fight the software, fight with it! Make the programme do what you need it to do, and then forget about it. Open a file, and start pouring out your ideas.

Here’s to the painless preparation of stories!