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Month: February 2017

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

One of the hardest things I have to keep re-learning in life is that to get anything done you have to be intentional about it.  Things don’t just happen.  If I want to spend more time with my husband – I have to be intentional about setting up date nights.  If I want to have more money in my bank account I have to be intentional about budgeting each month.  And if I want to write a book, I have to be intentional about my writing.

Sigh…that all sounds like a lot of work.  

Sometimes goals that seem difficult can have simple solutions.  To spend more time with my husband I took my 2017 kitten a day calendar (I know awesome right) and I systematically scheduled one date night a month before anything else could vie for my time.  My husband is numero uno in my life so why not make him numero uno on my calendar.  

If only scheduling my writing time was that easy.

The problem with writing is before you are published, and sometimes even after, your writing doesn’t hold a value that is easy to define.  Right now, my writing does not bring income into our household, does not get shared with many (if any) people, cannot be given as a gift, and is over all not necessary to the general day to day function of my life.  All it really does is make me happy – which is awesome – but lots of other things also make me happy so…oops it’s been three days and I haven’t thought about writing.

Thankfully, I do not have to justify the time I spend writing to anybody but myself.  I am surrounded by amazing people who believe in me (probably more than I believe in myself) and help me to seek out my writing goals.

Despite that awesome advantage – often times I still struggle to justify my writing time to myself.  Oh, it’d be great to write today, but Lizzy is coming over at 6:00 and we usually eat around 5:15 and I have to walk the dog so I’ll only have like ten minutes and I’ll just write tomorrow because my story will still be there, Lizzy doesn’t come over every day.  Tomorrow I’m volunteering and that’s going to eat up most of my night, when I get home I could write, but I know I’ll be too worn out and I’ll choose watching television or maybe reading.  Wednesday looks promising but after being busy two nights in a row the house will be a disaster and it’ll stress me out too much to find my writing zen and then it’s suddenly Saturday and I haven’t written a single word all week.

The thought is always there – but with making time for writing the thought just isn’t enough.  I can’t only intend to spend time writing every day (or most days) I need to plan my day around my writing time.  

This sounds a little hard core.  Sorry mom, I can’t talk to you right now because I’m writing, I’ll call back later.  Kids make your own pb&J’s tonight because mama’s gotta hot date with her novel.  Thanks for understanding that the house is a mess Lizzy, I was focusing on writing instead of cleaning.

It feels strange, saying no to people – saying no to things that you enjoy to do your writing.  After all, your writing will always be there, but you only get so many opportunities to go out for lattes with Lizzy.  

That’s sort of the problem though – unless you get your butt in gear and finish your story your writing will ALWAYS be there.  You won’t ever finish because you keep putting other things that feel more important, more urgent or more fun ahead of it.

If you want to publish your book nothing is more important than your writing time.  It is sacred, it is holy, it is the only thing standing between a rough draft and a finished novel.  As much as I wish little writing elves would come and work on my book every night, that doesn’t happen.  I need to write it, revise it, edit it finish it.  And all that takes time.  Like a lot of time.

It takes so much time that it feels overwhelming, impossible even.  But you can do it, because if you remember my last post your writing only needs 3 things: To make sense, be complete and have something that’s special.  To get those three things you need to be intentional about creating space for your writing.  So here’s some tips to help you do that.

  1. Do it early:  I prefer to write around 7-8 at night, but that’s a terrible scheduling choice.  It’s easy for one little thing to take more time than I think and then bam it’s 9:00 and I haven’t written yet and I’ll decide to go to bed instead of write.  If I write earlier, like 5-6 before I start doing other things with my night I get it done!
  2. Schedule it: If you keep a day planner, block out your writing time.  If you like writing fewer days but bigger chunks put that time on your calendar, reserve it, be intentional about refusing to make plans during that time.  It will feel strange at first, telling your friends you can’t do something because of your “hobby” or calling a babysitter for your kids so you can stay home and write, but you’ll be so glad you made those choices once you have a published book on your hands
  3. Remind yourself why you write: If you are a writer then you need to write, you can’t deny the urge forever, put up frequent reminders everywhere that tell you why your story is more important than the new season of Project Runway Junior (But OMG have you watched it though?!?!)
  4. Don’t overschedule yourself:  the end of 2016 was really crazy for my, I overscheduled myself and was running on fumes for far too long.  Even though I wanted to write, I did not have the energy because the rest of my life was wearing me out.  To write well we need to be well first.  Make sure you are giving yourself time to relax along with write.  One thing I’m doing (which who knows if it will work) is reserving one weekend a month as off limits for making social plans.  This will give me a chance to have 2 days to reset my life and get back on track with things so I have the mental strength to write.
  5. Check out my next blog post:  This tip will be your biggest battle against procrastination, and slacking on intentionality about your writing time, but it needs a whole post to explain so you’ll have to be on the lookout for it in a few weeks (mwahahahaha – but trust me it’s worth it).

With the start of a new year (you know like two months ago) I love the opportunity to pause, and reset my priorities in life.  If writing is one of yours you owe it to yourself to start being intentional (or keep being intentional) with your writing time.  It’s going to take a lot of hours, some tears, some long days, some long nights and a whole lot of imagination but I fully believe that we will all get there!
Stay Amazing My Friends,

Plunging into Editing

Plunging into Editing

Every winter hundreds of people all over the world willingly dive into a frozen body of water. Insane, right? It’s called the polar bear plunge and it’s done in the name of charity.  I admire these brave and generous souls. It must be scary, not to mention extremely uncomfortable, to strip down to your skivvies and run full tilt into an icy lake.

This winter I will be taking a different sort of plunge. Instead of diving into frigid water, I will be plunging into the wild, wild world of editing a novel.

In a previous post I revealed how long it took me to finish my first draft – too long! I don’t want to repeat that same mistake with editing. Polar plungers know by instinct not to stay too long in the cold water. I mean, you don’t want to end up like Leonardo di Caprio in the Titanic, am I right? A quick icy plunge is all fun adrenaline and happy games, a too long submersion is death by hypothermia.

Brooke recently warned us about getting lost in the editing spiral and I am determined to make my editing journey efficient and mercifully quick. T0 do that I need to get my act together in a major way. So I am making a plan and sticking to it! Here are my five steps to a complete second a draft:

Step 1: Take a break

I’ve already completed this step. I haven’t looked at my story since August, yeesh that’s a long time, whoopsie! I can hardly remember what I wrote, but that’s a good thing for one important reason: I’m coming back to my story with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are important because if you begin the revision process immediately you are still too familiar with your work. To edit effectively, you need to possess objectivity, which means you need time to forget. I’ve been hiding from my draft for five months so now I’m ready to tackle it with cold, objective clarity. Though I probably shouldn’t have waited longer than three months. It’s hard not to disconnect from your work after nearly half a year off. Oh well, lesson learned.

Step 2: Double check the map

When you find yourself facing a long and arduous journey through confusing, uncertain territory, it’s best to pack a map. The map of your story is an outline. I’m going to put in a lot of time up front in the editing process making sure my plot is airtight. The plan is to spend the month of February combing my draft for plot holes, timeline errors, unanswered questions, and incomplete scenes. These are the problems that cannot go unattended. As Brooke told us in her last post, a story needs to be complete and make sense. I do not want to enter the second draft without a sensical and complete plot. Knowing exactly where the story is going and how it gets there, step by step will save me a ton of editing effort down the road. Plus, a thorough read through will identify the problems that need fixing.

Step 3: Plunge into Editing

Once I have my airtight plot ironed out I’m planning to take that icy cold plunge and jump right into revising. I’ve never attempted this before and I’m a little nervous. I want to do a good job but I don’t want to spend too much time in the icy water. I don’t want hypothermia, I want to finish a second draft! The name of the game is discipline. I’m not yet sure how I will be fitting editing into my busy life but ideally I’d like to commit to two hours a day, five days a week. Stay tuned for an update on my progress.

Step 4: Contact the Beta Readers

Other human beings are indispensable to the editing process. Beta readers can be literary minded friends and family or they can be paid professionals. While they aren’t editors, they are essential. Like in step one, you need fresh eyes on the story. If you don’t get other eyes on your story then you are operating in a vacuum and your story will suffer for it. Another human is going to see things that you will not. Face it, as writers we are in love with our characters and our stories, and love, as they say, is blind. Beta readers will see flaws in your favorite character’s development and they will point out when your descriptions aren’t clear. I’m excited to have a second draft that makes enough sense to share, and I have a few literary lovers in my life who are excited to receive.

Step 5: Make it Shiny & Pretty

I’m not going to worry about step number five until I have a second draft that I can be proud of. While working on draft two I will correct and polish as I go but I’m not going to focus on nit-picking my grammar, word choice, or punctuation. I’m going to save that joyful task for later. After the first round of revisions and beta readers I’ll polish up my sentences and make my story shine. Anyway, it’s for the best if I don’t get too far ahead of myself right now.

“The best writing is re-writing.” -E.B. White

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Well, here I go, deep breath, time to edit. Wish me luck! Excuse me while I go stock up on red pens.