Round 1

Final Round 1 Check-In

Welcome to the finish line, y ‘all!  Review those goals.  How did you do?

Be sure to come back April 4th for the start of Round 2!    And if you’re interested in sponsoring, hit me up at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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How Marginal Gains Can Bring Big Results by Kait Nolan

The UK has won 3 of the last 4 Tour De France races.  Prior to that?  They’d never won a single one in the history of the race (which started in 1903).  The secret to their success?  Well, according to Matthew Syed’s interview with Sir David Brailsford,  “It is about marginal gains,’ he said. ‘The approach comes from the idea that if you break down a big goal into small parts, and then improve on each of them, you will deliver huge increase when you put them all together.”

What does that mean exactly?  Well, Syed goes on to say (in his book Black Box Thinking):

“The marginal gains mentality has pervaded the entire Team Sky mindset. They make sure that the cyclists sleep on the same mattress each night to deliver a marginal gain in sleep quality; that the rooms are vacuumed before they arrive at each new hotel, to deliver a marginal gain in reduced infections; that the clothes are washed with skin-friendly detergent, a marginal gain in comfort.”

I first read about this in on of Brian Johnson‘s Philosopher’s Notes (a fabulous little, distill-it-down email about some of the greatest books of our time) and the idea stuck with me.  I’m all about breaking things down into manageable bits so that a project doesn’t seem so overwhelming, but this is something else entirely.  This is about all the little things that you probably DON’T consider have an impact on your goal.  In our case, writing.

  • Like, making sure that we have a comfortable chair with adequate back support.  This means I don’t waste time fidgeting because I’m uncomfortable.
  •  Swapping those God-awful compact fluorescent bulbs to something with a more pleasing hue.  Not being annoyed by my lighting, means I can focus better on the task at hand more quickly.
  • Being sure to have a big, insulated glass of ice water right there and ready before I get started.  It’s insulated, so it stays colder longer.  It’s huge, so I don’t have to get up to refill it as often.
  • Putting on my headphones with instead of just letting it play through the laptop speakers.  This helps me block out distractions more effectively (even though I don’t have full-on noise-cancelling headphones).
  • Picking a candle scent to go along with a particular WIP.  I picked this one up from Tawna Fenske.  Lighting it and having that scent cue primes my brain for that particular book.
  • Getting up a few minutes earlier every day.  I had though I’d need to get up a full hour before my normal wakeup time.  And during NaNo, I did (because I was establishing a new habit).  But I’ve learned that if I get up just half an hour earlier, I can usually crank out between 500-almost 1k words before my morning workout.  Doing that every weekday means my total word count for the week is 2,500-5,000 words greater than not getting up.  (Of course, now that Daylight Savings Time is upon us, I’m in the process of slowly rolling my body clock back and cursing profusely the whole time).  Even fifteen minutes of writing is worth getting up because it starts my day in the story and means that I can stay in it a lot better, regardless of what else I happen to face the rest of the day, which makes my evening writing session far more productive.
  • Using Write or Die 2 instead of just drafting on a normal blank screen.  I didn’t realize how much difference this would make.  Man, that red screen of threat is hella motivating!

There are oodles of things that can feed in to our ability to get focused and stay focused, and I encourage you to give some thought to what little things you can do to achieve marginal gains in your writing.  Those marginal gains add up over time, making the effort (which really isn’t that much) well worth it.


Kait Nolan

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Last Sunday check-in of the round!  And hey, if you’re into what we’re doing here, why not sponsor next round!  We start April 4th.  Send me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested.

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A Few of My Favorite Things by Steph Beth Nickel

This post first appeared on InScribe’s Blog on Writing

Have you hit a slump or do you just need a pick-me-up to inspire your writing? Here are a few of my favourite things:

A New Journal

A beautiful handcrafted leather cover or a whimsical cartoon character beckoning you to open a pristine new journal, full of nothing but potential … is there anything more inspiring—or terrifying? Tentatively, you grab your favourite pen (see below) and make that first mark on the page. And then you’re off to the races, sometimes writing at lightning speed, sometimes pausing and wondering if you’ll ever again write a coherent sentence. I have a love-hate relationship with my journals. Most often I assign a specific subject to each journal—and then end up using them as scrap paper because they’re at hand. I’m sure I’d be surprised at what I’d find if I took the time to read through old (and not-so-old) journals.

A Favourite Pen

For those of us who still like to write longhand—at least some of the time—we probably have our favourite type of pen. Some of us like fountain pens and are always on the lookout for the one that writes “just so.” For others it’s a classic like a Parker. (You can still get nice pen sets in stores such as Staples.) Personally, I’m a huge fan of Zebra Sarasa gel pens. They’re not extravagant. They don’t cost very much. But they write beautifully. I haven’t found another gel pen I like anywhere near as much. And they come in a wide variety of colours, which appeals to my artistic self.

The Internet

Can you even begin to image where we’d be without the Internet? I know I’d be lost without it. I use Bible Gateway to look up scripture verses. I use Pixabay to find images to create memes, to add visuals to my blog posts, and to create graphics for our midweek kids’ club. I use PicMonkey to add text to my photos and those I find on Pixabay. And of course I connect with clients and fellows creatives via email and social networks. I also take online courses to improve my writing skills. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Library

Even though I love the Internet, I’m a huge fan of paying regular visits to the library. While I have hundreds of eBooks, I prefer physical books. And my favourite of all are hardbacks wrapped in plastic. I love the feel and the crinkling sound. Library books probably take me back to happy memories of childhood. Books and libraries have been my friends from way back. Do you pay regular visits to the local library?

A Crowded Coffee Shop

Granted, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (I couldn’t resist the pun. Admittedly, I didn’t try very hard.) At any rate, there is an exhilaration about taking your laptop or your notebook to a local coffee shop and writing. It’s almost cliché, but it’s one that’s likely going to be around for a long time. (As an extrovert, I love the idea, but I’m too easily distracted to make serious headway on a writing project when I’m surrounded by the sights and sounds—not to mention smells and tastes—that await me at Starbucks or Coffee Culture.)

A Smartphone

An app such as Evernote

Though I no longer have a smartphone, I did write my first guest post for Kimberley Payne on my phone when I had one. (Mind you, I think I would invest in a tablet before buying another smartphone.) For those of you who use an app such as Evernote, what do you like best about it?

A camera

I had a discussion with my nephew this past Christmas about the likelihood that phones with attachable lenses will replace DSLRs in the future. While I can’t see that happening (I love my Canon EOS), cameras on cell phones are getting better and are certainly good enough to snap a shot of that inspiring scene you want to write about.

Books, Books, Books, and More Books

Of course this goes without saying, but what list of writers’ resources would be complete without it? Author Susan Meissner says something interesting. She suggests reading more well-written books than skills development books. Rather than learning from how-to books, she believes we can pick up much that will make our own writing better (when applied) simply by reading authors who know how to apply those skills. What do you think?

Writing Courses

There are so many great online courses floating around cyberspace. I definitely don’t have time to take even a fraction of those that interest me. Taking a course may be something to consider doing annually, even a couple of times per year. Have you found any courses that were well worth the time and financial investment?

Critique Partners / Beta Readers

We all know that it can be unnerving to send our writing out into the world, but if we have a handful of trusted readers who will tell us what works—and what doesn’t—we can polish our blog, article, or manuscript before sending it off to potential publishers and / or agents. Finding critique partners we can count on is a tremendous blessing.

What resources do you especially love?


Steph Beth Nickel

And another week bites the dust.  How are you doing on those goals, people?

If you want to help out next round and be a sponsor, check out the FAQs and then dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

We are barreling down the final stretch here in Round 1.  I think I’ve changed my goals and production schedule for the year at least three times so far…  But THAT’S OKAY!  Goals are meant to shift with life demands.  And, you know, if those life demands dictate chocolate…nobody’s gonna judge.  I’m just sayin’.

I’m rounding up sponsors for Round 2!  If you love ROW80 and want to be a formal cheerleader for the next round, dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot)com.

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