Okay, I’m going to be realistic here. I am a Type B person and like to go with the flow. Schedules are nice, but they are just a suggestion to my reality.
However, the older I get and the more I get into this writing “thing” the more I am beginning to realize I have to define my time or I will not get anything done.
My Many Hats:
Without including my non-writing hats, here are the things I need to typically do for my writing.
- Author Facebook Page
- Write Blogs
- Critique my partners’ works
- complete writing lessons for the Storycrafters’ Program I’m enrolled in
- Plot my own book
- Write on my own book
That is a lot, and to be honest I am still struggling to figure it out, but I have gleaned a few tips.
Tips for Time
Define Your Time
One thing that has helped is I have defined my writing time and I really do try to stick by it. With my crazy life, the only defined time I can commit to writing is from 9PM to 11PM or until whenever I succumb to exhaustion or adult responsibilities.
I work part-time, so there are occasions I get downstairs to write (like today). But for the most part, I devote my Monday through Thursday (and Fridays if I can swing it) to my evening writing.
I have also learned to block my writing time for certain activities.
At the beginning of the month, I devote 2 -3 days setting up all my Twitter and Facebook posts for the month through Hootsuite. Then I just check in on them (usually through my phone on the go) throughout each day. I also write all my blog posts for the month – or try to.
I haven’t quite been consistent with my critiquing, but my goal is to make one day a week my critiquing day. And for the sake of holding myself responsible, I’m going to make Monday’s my critiquing day because I’m not back into the swing of writing after the weekend.
Every Thursday commit to attending the Novel.Academy Pep Talks and working on Storycrafter lessons after. Currently, those lessons are lining up with plotting my writing, so I tend to work on those through the week.
I guess the bottom line is to plan your time in order to be productive.
Planning Your Time: A How-to Checklist
- Define your time.
- Make a list of what you need to get done.
- Estimate how long it will take to complete each task.
- Group quickly completed tasks together and knock them out first.
- Prioritize them.
- Select a time frame to complete each task.
- Sit your bottom in your chair, and get it done.
Well, my time is up and I better be zooming out the door for my “real” job. Happy writing!
Characters are more than just the sum of their actions. In the previous weeks, I discussed character archetypes and negative/positive personality traits, but all of these really just boil down to actions. So what more do you need to create a living, breathing, well-rounded character?
To give your characters the breath of life, you need to give them a past full of good and bad experiences, even though their full back story will never be revealed to the reader. Susie May Warren does a fantastic job of explaining how she does this in her book The Story Equation (SEQ), and I highly recommend getting it. For the meantime, here is the basic process derived from her SEQ.
Developing Character History
Your character is who they are when they walk on the page due to their histories. As an author, it would be impossible create a comprehensive life story for your character from birth to the time they walk on the page. Many of those details are not important.
The important details of our lives are those life-altering parts. Those moments in time that end up wounding you, burying a lie deep into your heart, and creating fears. Susie May Warren calls these Dark Moment Stories.
Dark Moment Stories
These dark moment stories aren’t as vague as “my parents divorced.” As bad as divorce is, moments within the divorce will be what really shaped the experience of your character. They are the stories that can be retold in detail to another character.
For example, take a story of a four-year-old boy whose father walked out on him. That memory is so painful, so poignant it becomes immortalized in the mind, twisting and growing roots down to the soul.
He can remember his Dad loading up the car, ignoring the son as he followed behind asking questions.
“Daddy, where are you going?”
“Can I go, Daddy?”
“Why is Mommy crying?”
“Can I help?”
Then it happened. Dad closed the door, separating the boy from him forever. The boy runs to the window and watches as the car putters off into the distance without one backward glance from the driver.
Imagine the wound developed by that. What fears would develop from that experience? The fear of abandonment. The fear of being unworthy. The fear of being out of control.
Lies will develop from this experience. I’ll never be good enough. I am unlovable. I can’t trust people. People I love will always end up leaving.
These lies and fears developed from the wound determine the actions of our characters and make them believable. The wounding story is what makes us sympathize the character and even connect with the character. You don’t have to have your father abandon you to understand the feeling of abandonment.
Bringing your characters to life means giving them experiences that readers can connect to and identify with. Give them experiences that define who they are at the beginning, but are overcome and redefined at the end.
Exercise Your Brain
This week, come up with your own dark moment story for a character (or use a real experience, we’ll never know!). Then tell us the possible lies and fears developed from that dark moment story. Come back and encourage one another and comment on the different stories.
Sometimes as readers and writers, it is interesting and even helpful to hear from other published authors. Yesterday, you were able to read my review for Angela’s newest release, out this week, The Scarlet Coat. Today, Angela has graciously agreed to join my blog for an interview.
Once you have enjoyed the post, please join her Facebook Release Party. The actual party begins on Thursday, January 27th from 10 AM – 6 PM UTC-07 time (or 12PM to 8PM EST for those who were like me and went, huh?), but you can go ahead and check out a bit about the party and GIVEAWAYS!!! Wahoo!
Welcome, Angela! and thank you so much for agreeing to my quirky author interview. I’ve split my questions into two categories today: Questions about the Story and Questions about Writing.
Questions about The Scarlet Coat
How long have you wanted to write this story?
Not too long. I actually wrote this story as soon as I came up with the idea almost nine years ago! This is one of my first complete manuscripts. But it looked a lot different back then. The original was written in first-person and completely from the heroin’s point of view.
What do you love about The Scarlet Coat? Do you have a favorite scene?
I must say I love him. I loved writing the British officer who can’t remember who he is. I loved (once I added his point of view) letting him discover himself more honestly than he’d ever let himself before. My favorite scene is when his pride gets in the way of his good sense and he tries to leave before he’s able.
Were there any scenes you edited out of this book? Any of them you care to share?
The whole last quarter of the book was completely rewritten when I went back to it a couple years ago. I don’t know what to say about the old end, though, without giving away too much of the new one. 😉
Which character did you identify with most?
Fine, I’ll admit it, Rachel and I share a lot in common. Maybe not in the first draft, but when I went back to this story, I decided I could give one of my heroine’s some of my personality. That’s when she started digging out the huge stump in the garden (I had one in my back yard, too.)
Your cover is beautiful. What was the cover design process like for you? Did you get to have any input?
Thank you! My publisher took care of all that. There were two little things they changed on my suggestion, but otherwise, they did a great job.
What is your biggest hope for your readers as they devour your book?
First, I do hope they devour it…or at least really enjoy it. But as they read, I do hope there moments where they contemplate their own relationship with God and consider His love for each of us.
Questions about Writing:
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe in needing to step back and do more research—whether that consists of real research into the era, or a long hot bath or walk to get the imagination flowing again. At least that’s what works for me.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. Sometimes the story is so exciting and it comes with such ease that energy flows through you. And other times it’s like pulling teeth and drains the life out of you. Thankfully the first is slightly more prevalent. 😉
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Other than buying a laptop that wouldn’t die and dump chunks of a story, my ACFW membership was worth its weight in gold. The resources, contacts, and friends I have made are priceless. Every success I’ve had as a writer can be linked directly to American Christian Fiction Writers.
What did the road to publishing look like for you?
I got my first nibble from a publisher back in 2009, just before I got engaged to my husband. They wanted to publish my book, (a different one) but when they ran the numbers they couldn’t fit it in the 2010 season. In 2011 they closed their doors. I got married and had a baby and didn’t do much writing for about 4 years. Then I felt strongly I needed to get back to work. Only now, I had a 2 year-old and a 9 month-old mama’s girl. I took an evening class in creative writing once a week for a semester and joined ACFW. That next summer I entered my first short story contest and was a finalist. The following (2015) summer, I entered two short story contests and won both! A couple months later I heard back from a small publisher offering me a contract for Her Blue-eyed Brave, (which will hopefully be released in the next year.) A month later I was given the contract for The Scarlet Coat and its sequel, The Patriot and the Loyalist. That has grown to a four book series that I am super excited about!
How have you seen God through writing your novels?
There are moments when I look back on what I just wrote and realize I’m not that good. When the book and characters take me in a direction I’d never imagined or they say something that even gives me pause for thought…that’s when I know I’m not the only one moving my fingers across the keys.
My last but not least question, what advice would you give writer’s just beginning their journey?
Don’t do it alone! There are so many other writers out there who can help you on this journey, and who you can help. There is strength, knowledge, and resources in community. Plus a lot of commiseration and celebration during the highs and lows that come with this business.
Thank you again, Angela, for taking the time for this interview. Readers, don’t forget to join Angela’s Facebook Release Party! I hope to see you there! If you have any questions you want to ask Angela, post them below and I will pass them on and post her answer.
I’m popping my head up for a few minutes from NaNoWriMo to spend a few minutes in mental preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow.
It is easy to get frustrated with the busyness and complications that arise when the holidays arrive, especially when the get in the way of our own goals. So in an attempt to prevent a disgruntled attitude tomorrow, I am choosing an “Attitude of Gratitude and Servitude.”
What does that mean? That means I am counting my blessings and purposefully looking for ways to serve others. The holidays are ripe with opportunities to serve, and tomorrow our family will participate in an annual tradition that bonds us together in ways no other tradition does.
While the Macy’s Day Parade flickers in and out of static and Santa makes his progress down the streets of New York, ready to announce the holiday season, we are cooking and serving a piping hot Thanksgiving meal to the workers of our local racetrack. My eleven-year-old and I will serve drinks and clear trays. My mother-in-law and seven-year-old will serve desserts, and my husband will serve the meal from the serving line. As the dog show comes on, we will be cleaning up and getting ready to head home to cook our own meal for friends and extended family.
As we drive home, we will have our annual discussion of what we are thankful for. This year I am going to specifically be thankful for being able to serve others as a family. It is a special experience that I hope you will get to enjoy.
Today I wish to leave you with a blessing and a prayer:
“[May] The Lord bless you and keep you;
[may] the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
[may] the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
What Thanksgiving traditions do you have? What are you thankful for this year? Comment below.
Are you new to the writing scene? Maybe you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo. Maybe you’ve even attempted it or completed it. Maybe you are just even wondering what this crazy abbreviate even means.
Well, today my goal is to teach you what it is, give some ideas on how to prepare, and to create/share NaNoWriMo goals.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. On November 1st, writers all over the world begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30th.
Intense. Insane. AMAZING.
It was established by a non-profit organization and actually has a very helpful web presence: http://nanowrimo.org/. In fact, if you sign up (free) there are badges you can earn to motivate you, forums you can join in on, a word count tracker, merchandise, and a way to connect with other NaNoWriMo crazies.
NaNoWriMo Top Ten Hints
In order to complete a 50,000 word novel (rough draft) you have to write 1,667 words every single day of November (including Thanksgiving!) Knowing me, I know that will NOT happen. So I am going to plan on doing it in 20 days which means I will need to write 2,500 words a session! Holy Moly!
Whether you complete the 50,000 words in 20 days or 30 days, you have to have a plan. So here you go, my top ten of NaNoWriMo hints.
Get the the boost you need to plan and push through a crazy month of writing.
2. Get your family on board.
If your family is like mine in any form, they rely heavily on your presence. NaNoWriMo means them committing to giving you time to work uninterrupted and probably more than one mean from a crockpot, pizza, and meals made by their own hands. If you don’t get your family on board, you will likely be pulled away often. I plan on bribing my family … I mean rewarding my family with lots of special meals, a couple movie marathons, and maybe a special outing to the zoo for Festival of the Lights.
3. Pre-schedule as many Blog, Facebook, or Twitter posts as you can.
There is no denying that social media is a time sucker but also necessary, especially for those building their platform. Consistency is key with your followers and taking a month off to write could be detrimental. So to avoid that do as much work beforehand and use apps like Hootsuite to schedule your posts ahead of time.
4. Flesh out your characters before you write using Susan May Warren’s book The Story Equation in October.
Next month, I will have a Writing Wednesday talking about this wonderful resource, but I highly recommend grabbing a copy and using it to help prepare for NaNoWriMo. I have been using it and I can tell you it has made a world of a difference with my plotting and character depth.
5. Figure out your GMC for each character in October.
If you don’t know what that is, check out these posts: Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Debra Dixon also has a fantastic book that you can find on my Write Resource page.
6. Plot out the main points of your story in October to give you direction.
I am a planster, somewhere between a plotter (outlining every detail) and a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). I found that to make the most use of my time when I sit to write it helps to have a general plan of where I am going. With NaNoWriMo, writing time is a premium, so it is best to make the most of every moment.
7. Set aside your time to write and guard it like a butcher protecting his shop from a pack of starving dogs.
Just because you’re doing NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean life will stop, in fact, I have discovered that is when the starving dogs come to viciously attack. Set up barriers by marking off certain times to write, getting your family on board to protect and help you, and plan out the times you know you can’t write. As much as I would like to say I will write every day from 9 am to 2 pm, I know that isn’t going to happen. There are days I will substitute teach, doctors appointments, camping trips, and I mustn’t forget preparing for Thanksgiving! Life happens and it seems to happen more abundantly in November.
8. Get together a motivational soundtrack to help you get those words typed out.
I am a fan of Jennifer Thomas’ Illumination album. Her classical music is upbeat and gets my imagination going. For certain scenes I also have a few Christian inspirational songs to flow in the background and empower my writing. Later I may put these into a soundtrack to “release” with my novel.
9. Stock up on NaNoWriMo fuel: dark chocolate, tea, milk chocolate, coffee, hot chocolate, caffeine pills, chocolate covered nuts…
Did I mention chocolate?
10. Turn off your inner editor and just write. Remember:
So what about you? Are you joining in NaNoWriMo? Let me know! I would love to cheer you on! Are there any other tips or suggestions you would share for other NaNoWriMo participants?