Tag Archives: Time Management for Writers

Be Kind to Authors

pupsmallWhistling in the dark, we sometimes call it, but it’s painful, hearing emerging and establishing writers speak self-deprecatingly of their work.   We don’t hear that sort of self-mockery much in other professions.  And, even in our own, with a few Fitzgeraldian exceptions, we would be shocked if top-of-their-field authors spoke with destructive irony about their work.

Furthermore, feeling down about writing interferes with our management of our planning, drafting, and editing time.  Well, I’ll never get there and the world’s not waiting, so I might as well check my emails.

Instead of speaking harshly about our own work, we would be better served to give our inner writing minds all the encouragement we can.  And give that encouragement with our eyes wide open, and sincerely, because we know what our strongest skills are, and which skills we’re working on.  With persistence, hard work, and learning we will always get better still.  And that’s why we’re in this game, isn’t it?  To write superb stories.  To become our highest writing selves.  To do that, we look to our great goals, and show up for the work.  And, we don’t kick the authorial dog.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

 

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: You’ve wisely employed all the skills your hero gained in Act 2 in your final showdown. Your Writing Muse @pulpliterature

 

For more daily writing inspiration from Mel, check out The Writer’s Boon Companion, available in our bookstore and on Amazon.com.

The Writing Life: All Systems Go

We’ve got to have great big goals to get us out of bed in the morning. But we need to set systems into place in order to move towards them. The last thing we need is for goals to turn back into dreams.small coracle

Systems for limiting time on the Internet, keeping chaos at bay, making time for people, and keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy. If we give some time to creating these systems, then we have the peace of mind that comes from life that is not necessarily perfect, but is warm and reasonably calm, and we’re working towards creating, for example, our five novels in five years.

Great goals set our course. Systems are about the process of moving towards them, and most success experts say that process, not product, gets us where we want to go.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse:

You make a point of learning new skills every day. No wonder your work is so good. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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Publication Platforms for Writers: Fifteen Minutes Outside the Hermit’s Cave

barefeetwithapplesmallWhether we publish through traditional means or independently, we’ll most likely want to think about creating a platform to support a writing career connects us to the larger prospects of authorship, such as the publication and marketing of our work.

Like anything else in our writing careers, each of the following could take us all day, all week, or even the rest of our lives, but setting a timer for 5 minutes and getting something done on each will add up quickly to progress and an understanding of the channels available to us.

  • social media & connecting with other writers, editors, and publishers
  • banking and bookkeeping
  • learning something new about writing, social media, design, etc

Every writer’s schedules, interests, and mileage will differ, as always, but touching base with writing communities, financial sustainability, and professional development can keep us active in the greater world outside. Sure, writers sometimes feel like metaphorical cave-dwelling hermits, but even real cave-dwelling hermits communicate with nature, eat, and try to be the best hermits they can be.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel.

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve devised a great writing space. No wonder you get so much done. From your fan, your Writing Muse 

Editorial and Red Flags

Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind. – Woolcott Gibbs

Notes from the acquisitions editor

Every acquisitions editor has a few red flags in a top desk drawer.  This list may save you time with rejections.smallpenandink

  1. Ten cent transitionals like suddenly, then, next, and realized.
  2. Actions that come after they occur (eg Stella walked on, having shut the door behind her.)
  3. Bouncing blonde curls (You wouldn’t believe how often I read stories where blonde curls bounce around.  Also, raven hair.)
  4. Without a doubt, paragraphs jam-packed with sentences beginning with modifying phrases.
  5. Dialogue tags like “chuckled”, “said flirtatiously”, “shouted”, “gasped”, “For which better dialogue can be substituted,” Mel advised testily.
  6. Exclamation points. (Excepted, the masters Ray Bradbury and Tom Wolfe.)
  7. Frequent adverbs, (excepted, the master Bill Bryson.)
  8. ALL CAPS DAMMIT.

However, there are no hard and fast rules.  Many editors think all use of the passive stinks like old fish, but two of my favourite writers, Wodehouse and Churchill, use the passive form a lot, and for excellent reasons, so the passive is not much of a red flag for me.  One reason authors love writing is that we enjoy our creative freedom.  Do what you like, really, for there will be editors who are fine with ! and Iy.   I read somewhere that McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies was rejected many times for its slow start, and it became an adored bestseller. (Note: the previous sentence was in passive form because the manuscript was more important than the editors who rejected it).

How comforting it is to know that none of us will ever catch everything.  That’s why we employ brilliant, talented copy editors to work over our manuscripts.  Pay them. Pay them more than they ask.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

MuseThis week from @yourwritingmuseI admire the way your first paragraph gives us time, place, tone, and hints at the central conflict. Your Writing Muse

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Time Management for Writers: Self Motivation

polycarpSelf-motivation is one of the great time management tools available to writers, and one of the most pleasant to employ.  If you’re geared up, it’s far easier to sit your butt in that chair and type.

One powerful way to self-motivate is to take a minute to contemplate our greater goals.  Picture the ideal life you want.  Spend a little time with the writer you intend to be — the writers you really are.  How will you spend your days?

The bigger the goal, the more challenging and meaningful it is.  As writers we can envision reaching it, without worrying about how we’ll take every step along the way.  Maybe we’ll have to slog every step, but writers love writing, so that’s completely okay.  Or maybe, from time to time, fortune will shine on us, through an opportunity for swift advancement that a writer’s hard work has readied each of us to accept.

If a career goal is our true desire, and if we can picture ourselves winning it, then the small steps we take towards it have more meaning.  And they may be more fun, especially if thinking about that red carpet to a writing nomination at the Oscars is on your mind, or a signing, or a great big royalty cheque.  Our goal may well be to write while smiling broadly.   These are the working moments when a writer feels as if time stands still, and (I smile as I type) it’s truly amazing how much we can get done when it feels like time stands still.

With a great attitude and steady incremental preparation, we are a long way towards creating the author’s life we want and deserve.

I hope it’s another brilliant writing day for you.

Cheers

Mel

For more inspiration from Mel, check out The Writer’s Boon Companion available till December 1st only on Something Novel.

Getting Better All the Time

walkerAn editor once told me that to become a better writer and storyteller I must read, read, read, and write, write, write!   But, like most writers, I was already doing that.  What more can a writer do to continue to improve?

I always find that one of the great joys of writing is making something out of nothing. Writing is brain work.  So, to improve our work, we can improve our brains.

Our writing brains work best when we

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week with your talented, well-cared-for writing mind.

Cheers, Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseI admire the way you’ve created an antagonist who believes in his own struggle.  From your Writing Muse

Notifications: The Tail Wagging the Dog

pupsmallIt’s happening again. I’m distracted from my work on my ms by notifications sounding and a tugging at my brain that makes me want to check my phone.  I try to track down the feeling that I’ve seen somebody wearing my headspace somewhere in my past, and by gum, I hit it.

Watching mothers answer their wall phones by the kitchen when I was a kid.

I’d be in a friend’s kitchen, and the mother would be off doing something of interest only to grownups, when the phone would ring.  She would charge in, say Who is it now?! and pick up, all frustration at the interruption gracefully swept away through the conversation, hang up, roll her eyes at us, and tear off to return to what she was doing.  I would always think, but never say, If she hates phone calls so much, why does she answer?  But, of course, she didn’t hate the phone calls.  She detested interruption.

With the advent of message machines, and all that’s come after those, things have switched around.  Now, I’m interrupting myself.  Ringing to see who’s rung.  I don’t wish away innovations — I’ve been a science fiction fan since the days of kitchen wall phones — but when I hoped for an all-knowing robot, I didn’t want it making pinging noises at my face while I work.

Where does a writer who loves his or her technology stow it while working?  And, how? Posit that there’s a time in the day we’ve set aside that’s fair game for checking emails and so on, and here are three ways.

  1. This may seem obvious, but turn off notifications as well as the internet.  Because, if we have to find out when the hamburger was first eaten in the USA right now or that scene we’re writing must take place elsewise, we are going to turn on our wifi.  And ping ping ping we are loved, but to distraction.
  2. When writing, if friends and family come to mind, don’t think of emailing them, or social media.  Think about the actual people and perhaps something you did together.  Much easier to love them and return to writing if your writing mind is not drafting mental emails or fab posts.
  3. Check out Christina Crook’s work in The Joy of Missing Out, Finding Balance in a Wired World.
  4. Cultivate “green spaces” that are connection-free during the day. For example,
  • Go for a walk or shopping and don’t take a phone.  Think, Nobody in the world knows where I am right now.
  • Enter a room without phone or technology, even the bathroom, and stay there, pretending that it’s 1990 or 1958.  Read for a while.
  • Go into the garden and do something out there, leaving the phone behind as those mothers of my youth used to do.  Oh, Sorry, I was out in the garden and didn’t hear the phone.  It was long before emoticons, but I know which one they would have used.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing day.

Cheers. Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve made your writing spaces welcoming and inspiring. No wonder your story is going so well. From your Writing Muse

One Aspect of Pace in Storytelling: The Morian Pause

manwithhorsesmallSometimes we writers sense, despite careful plotting, that not enough is happening, when really what’s wanted is a pause.  Best selling Sci-fi author Kathy Tyers calls these pauses moments of beauty.  Here readers receive a valuable gift from the narrative: a little time to appreciate all that excellent work in character development.

Think of Tolkein’s Frodo, in the mines of Moria, resting in a moment of relative safety.  He has a chance to look around him at this terrible, beautiful world, and we’re privileged to hear him talk with Gandalf as in the old times back in the Shire.  Character development here is superbly satisfying, as we get a chance to see how the hero has changed since the days when he loved to listen to Gandalf’s stories, now that he’s in one.  And, at the end of that moment, while we’re deep in the beauty of their interaction, Frodo and Gandalf give us the exchange that will resonate to the end of the tale.  “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!”  “Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand.  Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.”

The beauty and calm of such a moment, contrasted with the struggle ahead, achieves a double poignancy.  First, we may wish with Frodo that we could stay here forever, and our sympathy and fear for the hero grow stronger because we’ve shared this very private wish for peace with him.  Then, as he rises to take on the dangers ahead, we are even more on the hero’s side.  Taking time to write moments of beauty makes readers smile, and creates exquisite pace.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing day. Cheers. Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou keep track of the way each turning point affects the subplots. Clever work. From your Writing Muse

Storytelling Power

swordEditorial revisions will almost certainly be necessary for every story,  but we’ll be wise to approach editorial, whether paid or unpaid, from a position of storytelling power.  Stories that are not tightly revised for narrative structure before they’re sent to editors risk such broad-stroke suggestions as “You have too many characters, take most of them out.”  Or, impossibly narrow editorial desires such as “Give me a beginning like the first ten pages of MacDonald’s Lillith.”  Editors work hard to keep sharp and insightful, but when a book’s structure is very loose and tangled, we’ll look for any loose end to pull.  Just trying to help.

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”― HG Wells

All readers, of all ages, want and expect a resonant, flawed hero with whom to identify; an authoritative start, incluing time, place, tone, setting, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict; exchanges of power and non-linear, original adventures; a teeter on the edge of real or metaphorical death; transformation; and a final face-off and a satisfying resolution.  If we can keep our solid narrative structure outlines to hand — I like to call this, doing previsions — rather than simply drafting what comes next, then we give editors solid storytelling to edit.  Our second-round revisions will be simpler, and our readers will want more of our work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

Suprisingly gripping reads about editors: F Scott Berg’s ‘ Max Perkins, Man of Genius’ and James Thurber’s ‘The Years With Ross’

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseEach of your supporting characters forces the hero to learn and grow towards the final conflict. Kudos from your Writing Muse

Taking the Next Step in a Writing Career

Goals get us up in the morning.  Before we rise, before the business of the world we’ve created takes over our day, we can remember that our great desire is to publish a shelf-load of stories, or to be a best-selling science fiction writer, or to write a character that will live as truly as Sherlock Holmes does.  And then ask:

What’s the one thing I need to do next? 

It might be to

  • create a unique setting for the next scene
  • make a supporting character force the protagonist to do what he’d never do (character development: see Donald Maass’s guides to writing)
  • find a better way for a character to stumble and pivot
  • write out the elevator pitch
  • write a jacket blurb
  • list 20 options for a better title
  • plan an overview of the development of a trilogy
  • draft the final paragraph of the story, even though it’s hardly begun

Whatever it is, our inner writer will be crafting it in our busy day, while we make tea, find our other shoe, fold the laundry, drive to the day job.  And create the writing career we wish for, one step at a time, in the right direction.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers, Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseThe body of work you’re creating now provides a solid foundation for your career.  Congratulations on achieving so much, and on having such an amazing journey behind and ahead of you.  From your fan, your Writing Muse