Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Clean your Writing Time

Spring cleaning isn't just for windows. Why would anyone want to clean windows when the weather is just getting beautiful enough to take your notebook to the park? And while winter is turning into spring, it's also about the right time to give our writing-base New Year's resolutions a good scrubbing. Yes, it's a perfect time to spring clean not just our writing habits, but also re-discover time for writing that we might have used doing other things. Or maybe for you, it may be a time to organize your writing materials so you can get to them easier.

First of all, roll up your sleeves and take a good, hard look at your day, and then clean out those pockets…pockets of time I mean. A pocket could be a lunch hour at work, or possibly the twenty minutes it takes for the pizza to be delivered.But sometimes our time is so filled up with other stuff, it may take a little juggling (i.e.,
as PTA dinner dance volunteer, you’re signed up to hand write 400 place cards AND decorate the ballroom). If you’re like me, you’ve got a family, career, and pets that count on you, and even ten minutes alone is rare. Be creative! Try different ways to reclaim those pockets of time, such as carpooling, job sharing, volunteering for only one event, etc. And when you do discover your own pockets, you’ll find it’s just enough time to jot down an idea for a story, add a paragraph or two to your work in progress, and most importantly, keep you moving toward your dream. Dust off and organize those writing materials and find out what you absolutely need to be in your work area to be productive. For me, coffee. Printed outline. Research book for the scene I’m working on. Music CD. And of course, chocolate. I put the rest on the bookshelf in an easily accessible area. For the “this-is-nice-but-I-never-look-at stuff”, I piled it in one of those big green plastic tubs you can get at any home store. After all that, I took a deep, cleansing breath and felt rejuvenated—and most of all I felt ready to write! I cleaned away all my frustrations of not finding papers, re-writes, research materials, etc. The best part? I found a half hour pocket of time I would have normally used just to get ready to write.

Finally, see the results of your hard work shine by tracking your progress. Any wall or desk calendar will do. Just jot down your word count for the day in each square, and then total it up for the week. Voila! Who knew that cleaning out a few pockets and reorganizing your work space could bring you that much closer to your dream?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Authors Day at Chris Redding's Blog

Today, for new post Thursday, I'm visiting author Chris Redding's blog spot for her Authors Day interview. Since Chris' motto is "Take a wild ride with a Chris Redding book", you know you'll enjoy visiting! Lots of questions, lots of fun!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to Organize your Writing like you Organize your Taxes

Yikes! Did that title just say writing is like taxes? Can that be true? Yes!

When we think of the word taxes, or filling out fax forms, some of us may get itchy, or maybe even downright sweaty. Then let’s think of writing. Ahh. Writing. Just the word alone soothes the senses.

What could possibly be similar between writing a novel and sending out taxes? It comes down to one word: organization. Keeping tax information easily available helps you complete a tax return each April 15, right? Well, having a good system for organizing writing tools helps you to prepare a manuscript for submission. And the payoff is big. A good tax return could send you to a tropical island for a week, but submitting a manuscript could land your name on the cover of a book!

Can you imagine? Your name on the cover of a book. Take a second to think about that before reading on. It does the soul good.

Just like paying taxes throughout the year in the form of property, mortgage, and everyday purchases, you give bits to your writing all the time in order to complete a story. These bits come in different forms: actual writing, critique groups, writing classes, writing group meetings, etc. Organizing all of these bits puts you that much closer to achieving your goal.

Here’s a few ways to help you get organized and get your name on that cover.

Keep receipts. Like a receipt folder, keep a notebook of how many words you put in. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. It’s up to you. A receipt is like a badge of honor; each one brings you a little closer to your goal. If you’re like me, you like to watch your progress unfold. Find a small (but pretty, of course!) notebook. Enter the date and the number of words written. For me, it works the best if I have a pre-determined number of pages I want to get done that day. Others may want to log the word count. And still for others, simply writing “I wrote today” works. Whichever method you choose brings you closer to the payoff.

Keep track of statements. Instead of a financial statement at the end of the year, you can keep a log of where you’ve submitted manuscripts and queries. You can create this log using any word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. In a table format, include headings such as Where Sent, Date, Date Returned, Contract Info, Comments. This simple log allows you to keep track of all your writing submissions, including novels, short stories, etc. Don’t forget to add one more column, Date you got the Call (you need to add that one with a smile).

Estimate your return. Just like you can estimate your tax return, if you organize your writing plan around the time you feel most creative, you’ll be able to estimate your payoff (how many words/pages you can write in a specific timeframe). For example, if you feel stronger and more creative in the morning hours, try to work your schedule so the bulk of your writing time is during those hours. For a few weeks, make a mental note of how you feel when you sit down to write. Do you feel full of creativity? Or do you feel so-so? You can keep track using the 1 to 5 method. At a 1 level, you couldn’t write “Hi Mom” on the paper without struggling. At a 5 level, you can tackle the topic of World Peace, then write three chapters. For me, mid-morning is when the juice really flows. Since the evening hours are a level 1 to 2, I try to do some editing or planning the next day’s chapter. Whatever time you decide on, go for it and get the most from your return!

Find a good accountant. In a nutshell, an accountant keeps track of your tax liabilities and encourages you to make good investments for a healthy financial future. The same goes with writing. Find someone who supports your passion for writing. This could be a critique partner, writing mentor, family member, or someone in your local writing group. Take advantage of your local RWA chapter to see if they have a list of available critique partners. Or find a writing buddy to have lunch or coffee with once in a while. Finding a support system can energize every ounce of your writing.

Enjoy your Return. Like a tax return, you get writing rewards back a hundred fold. Maybe not in a lump check, but in ways like a wonderful critique session, a good chat online with other authors, or a contest win. All of these “wins” help on your road to publication. The bottom line? If your tax return isn’t big enough to send you to Hawaii for the week, you can always use that time to start a new manuscript. Keep writing!