Time Saving Steps for your WIP

Hourglass

This evening, I received one of my daily emails called: Thought for Today. This is an email sent by the Oprah website and which I get every day. It has a mesh of little tidbits of advice, ranging from physical to mental tips, along with a daily quotation. I have realised that today’s one could be reworked and adapted to a writing-focused tips post. The original post, 4 Time-Saving tips to Start your day, is from a series called: How to have more productive mornings.

So this is my adaptation to – 4 Time Saving Steps for your W(ork)I(n)P(rogess)

  1. Work before Networking/Marketing
  2. Get Publishing focused
  3. Prep your Manuscript
  4. Buddy up with Writing Partners

Work before Networking/Marketing

Your actual writing and editing must come before everything else. Anything else is procrastination. This means that updating your Facebook/twitter is procrastination. This also includes chatting in your numerous online writer groups. Yes – this is harsh – but if you are not going to hold yourself accountable to being a producing writer, who else is going to?

Get Publishing Focused

Work out a progression plan for your writing. Even if you are only writing part-time, you still need to have a progression plan for the future. Work out your goals. You can break them up into small goal increments, I am not talking a 10 year plan here. But write from where you are right now to where you want to be in 3 months time, then where you want to go from there in another 3 months ect. The most important part of this plan is to Write It Down. A plan that is written down has far more chance of success than one that is just spoken aloud. Then once you have written down your plan of attack, print three copies. Tack one to an area that you will see at most times while working. Then give one copy to your writing partner and another copy to a non-writer who is very close to you: this may be a best friend, a spouse, a sibling, a child. That way you know that they have your goals and can hold and will hold you accountable to accomplishing them.

Prep your Manuscript

Do all the prepping you need before you start writing. Whether this be research, lucky charms, muses aligned, negative thoughts released; do it all before you start writing. That way you will not need to procrastinate by suddenly remembering you forgot a key element of research and then get sucked into the vortex of browsing in your local library or online. If you are like me, this could save you hours.

Prepping your manuscript also includes a backup plan. If you don’t know what I am talking about here, take notes and follow instructions post-haste. There is no point in getting all this lovely writing done and then losing it all because of a computer glitch or a finger-error. This is where you need to take Backing up into your prepping list. Dropbox comes in very handy for this part of prepping. In Dropbox you can create an account then backup your writing files to this online account that then syncs to all your systems: laptop/desktop/phone/pda/iPod. It is also worthwhile investing in a portable hard-drive at this point where you can also store and backup your writing.

Buddy up with Writing Partners

Whether you are writing part-time or full-time, it is vital that you have a writing buddy/partner. This person is there to hold you accountable, to be harsh with you when you need it, to be encouraging when self-doubt wants you to butcher your WIP, to give you a second pair of trusted eyes on your WIP and to word war with. So if you don’t already have a writing partner/buddy, get one and fast! These gems of critters will save your butt countless times from throwing yourself out the window or throwing yourself into a vortex of procrastination.

You may be asking what the prerequisites are for a writing partner/buddy. First, they must be willing to be one. Second, think of them like a sponsor in procrastinators’ anonymous. Third, they must be a writer. This is for your own safety. A non-writer may want to commit you to a therapist’s couch after the first week. Fourth, you must trust them implicitly and vice versa. Fifth, you must ensure they realise their role is not a cheer-leader. At times you are going to need, you will not want it but you will need it, them to be brutally honest with you. They need to be comfortable with that and you need to comfortable enough with them to accept that honesty. Do not fear if your writing partner lives in a different city, country or continent. I use Skype with my writing partners and find it works tremendously. You can also have more than one writing partner/buddy. In fact sometimes it is even better to have a couple or so. The more people to kick your butt into writing gear, the better!

So now: Go forth!

Write.

B(utt) I(n) C(hair)

Kim

Why Blog?

Blogging Readiness

Image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr

I am often asked two questions:

  • Why do I blog?
  • How and where do I find the inspiration for my blog posts?

A year ago I would have answered that I blog because I want to build a network and get my name out there on the world wide web. It was a way to build a readership and to connect with potential readers. It seemed to be the thing to do as a new writer. It was what more experienced writers advised me to do.

Six months ago I would have answered that it was to connect with other writers and other bloggers. Share and learn in experiences.

Now my answer is still both of the above but I also blog for my own benefit now. Yes I blog to connect with readers. Yes I blog to connect with other writers and bloggers. But more than ever I find that I am blogging for myself.  As for the inspiration part of the question: I blog about the topics closest to my own writing, being either quandaries or difficulties I am facing and moments of epiphanies.

When I blog, it is like first having a conversation with myself trying to work things out and then I invite in others to the conversation and hear their points of view. I also blog to create inspiration for myself. We all have those moments and those days when for whatever reason, we battle to drag ourselves to the computer to finish that next scene or untangle a plot element. Sometimes we just need a break from the current WIP. That is when I blog. Blogging still means I am writing. It is a way of “getting back on that horse” inspirationally and creatively speaking. The most important part of committing to writing is doing the actual writing: inspiration can be a fickle mistress and can come and go as the wind direction changes. It is in these times of inspirational lows that I like to blog. It keeps the thoughts churning and strangely enough blogging usually unlocks a hidden kernel of inspiration which leads me hand in hand back to my WIP.

Of course it could be argued that there are other forms of writing like journalling. I still journal. I also write Morning Pages, inspired by Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way. But because blogging is in a public arena, one si held to a higher standard of writing. So blogging can be a teacher for your other forms of writing.

Blogging is also a reward system in of itself. When you write a post that connects in some way with at least one person and they are kind enough to comment, there is an automatic uplifting encouragement for the Blogger. One favour: If you do read a blog post that you connect with, comment on it. Let the blogger in question know that their post made you think or feel or just made you smile. It is also a great way to build online friendships and connections with like-minded individuals.

Blogging can also be a challenge tool. You can challenge your own beliefs, practices or thoughts by posting about different topics. Don’t limit yourself to just one rule of topic. Expand your horizons. Do research by reading other blogs. You may be surprised by what you learn from other bloggers and what you may be able to share and thus teach someone else. I have found the most useful resources through reading someone else’s blog. Blogging can be great research.

Words are powerful tools. They can be wielded for both good and bad. When we publicise our thoughts and share our experiences we cannot but help to touch another person either through informing them, inspiring them or finding points of empathy. It is up to us how we choose to wield this powerful tool. These are the questions we should be asking ourselves before we voice our thoughts whether it be in blogging or whether be in our own works…

  • Will we turn it into a positive or a negative?
  • Will we use our words to inform or hide?
  • Will we use our words to entertain or insulate?
  • Will we use our words to inspire or alienate?
  • Will we use our words to create or destroy?

So why do you blog? If you don’t, why do you read/follow blogs?

Blog responsibly knowing that what you write will be read and remarked on by other writers and readers. Be honest but remember to stand by what you blog. Even if it feels like nobody is reading your posts, people are. It is in the eye of the public. Your posts will be judged. But learn from each post, each comment whether the commentator agrees or disagrees. Reply to your comments and do the courteous thing by linking back to others’ posts. In this way you become  part of building a community.

Now: I blog for myself as well as connecting with readers and writers. I blog to understand my own thought processes when they have entangled me in a web of chaos. I blog to create inspiration for myself when inspiration seems veiled in the fogs of moods and emotions. I blog to inform and entertain. I blog to learn and share about the craft of writing. I blog to share my epiphanies and my Eureka moments. There is one rule I follow through on every time and that is to be transparent in honesty and truth. For me, a writer without truth is a fraud and a con-artist. For me words are art. Art is about finding the truth in life. Art is about creating simplicity from the complexity that is Life. For me, to be  a writer is to be a seeker of truth.

What is writing for you? Why do you write at all?

The better question is: Why not?

Kim

Running with Words

I am a runner. There is nothing as contradictory as running. It is energizing, muscle-hurting, lung-stretching and a rush. In my time I have done quite a bit of gymming and different sports but I am dragged back to running each time. There is something liberating about running alone. The air is crisp, your muscles are burning as you push yourself past your body’s limits and your lungs are expanding with air while your heart pumps fresh oxygen into every vein and artery of your body. There is nothing like being outdoors in the fresh air, you against your own muscles. For every person who runs, no explanation is necessary. Running is a sport of obsession and addiction.

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, 
because you get out of it what you put into it.”

Runners fall into two main groups:

  • Sprinters
  • Marathon Runners

You may think all running is the same but this is not true. Sprinters and Marathon runners are two entirely different creatures. If you compare the physiques of the two different types of runners, the differences are immediately visible and noticeable.

The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race; it’s to test the limits of the human heart  – Bill Bowerman

Sprinters are built up in their torso and have heavy muscular thighs. Marathon runners on the other hand sport physiques that are more sinew than muscle, long and lean limbs with powerful calf muscles.

“Running is 90% mental, the rest is physical.” – Anon.

In running, I have always been a middle distance to Marathon runner. For me there is an art form to Marathon running or long distance running. The runner needs to know their own body rhythms exceptionally well. This means being in tune with your heart rhythms and knowing your body’s stressors or stress points. Unlike sprinting where the minute the gun fires, you are off at a mad rate to get to the finish line at full power, marathon running takes patience. You have to start off pacing yourself. You have to plot your race from start to finish in your mind even before you begin the course. You need to know at which point you will increase speed, which points you will pace yourself and at which point you will finally push through with all your strength until the final resting point. Sprinting is pure exertion and physical power. Marathon running is as mental as it is physical. Most sprinters are in it for the competition. For a marathon runner it is about pushing yourself past your last burning point and forging on. It is a competition of your mental will vs your physical ability.

Writing for me is Marathon Running with Words.

Writers and runners are the same creatures. They require hours of solitary focus, mental and physical endurance, a paced rhythm, obsession and intense self-discipline.

“Running makes you an athlete in all areas of life…trained in the basics, prepared for whatever comes, ready to fill each hour and deal with the decisive moment.”
– Dr, George Sheehan, runner/writer/philosopher

Why is writing like Marathon Running and not sprinting?

Some forms of writing are like sprinting but most forms share more in common with marathon running. Writing is hard work. For those who don’t write, they may believe that writing is physically an easy activity. But every writer will tell you that this is not so. Writing is physically taxing. It involves pushing past your exhaustion boundaries to get that last scene down before the inspiration vanishes. It is also physically draining to sit in front of a computer and type. If you prefer long hand typing, any writer will show you the calluses that cover their fingers, palms, elbows.

Writing is a question of finding a certain rhythm. I compare it to the rhythms of jazz. Much of the time life is a sort of rhythmic progression of three characters. If one tells oneself that life is like that, one feels it less arbitrary.” – F Sagan

Writing a novel, like marathon writing, is a long process. Like a marathon, the writer must plot a course to follow. Even if the writer is a pantser who does not plot, they will still follow some sort of a path from beginning to climax to resolution. The writer needs to keep a steady rhythm flowing  to keep the words going. When the going gets tough, the writer needs to forge on ahead. The essential element in writing is to Keep Writing no matter the circumstances or the mood.

“For a sprinter the thrill is going fast, but for a distance runner it is the journey in between the start and the end.” -a coach

A marathon runner will run in all weather; rain, sunshine, fog, cold, heat. When you are in that particular mental zone during a run, all of the external factors like weather and screeching muscles seem to float away. You enter a zen like place where the only thing that counts is to keep on putting one foot in front of the other without breaking your body’s rhythm.

In just the same way, writers will and must write in all their weathers; emotions and moods. If a writer only wrote when  they were in a happy mood or felt inspired, then the actual writing would be minimal. Our emotions and moods are as unpredictable as the weather. Just as a runner has no control over predicting what the weather is going to do, a writer has no control over predicting their emotions or moods. A runner cannot always wait for perfect sunshine with not too much heat and the right degree of wind factor to run. A writer cannot always wait for inspiration to hit and their mood to be 100% positive.

To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.”                                                         – William Shakespeare

A marathon runner must be able to pace themselves throughout the run. You have to know when to speed up and when to power down. You have to know how far away the finish point is and calculate how much energy you are going to need to make the final push in the last 300 meters.

Pacing is all that makes the flow, the balance, the rhythm of the story. – Denise Leograndis, Fluent Writing: How to Teach the Art of Pacing

A writer must also be able to pace their writing. There will be those scenes where they must power up and surge ahead but there will also be points where they will have to slow down and pace themselves to build a new resource of energy. Their words and writing will reflect their pace. There needs to be an ebb and flow just like the steady pacing of a marathon runner. If they forge ahead with too much power, both the runner and the writer will burn out before they have even reached the half way point of the run or story.

The secret … there is really no secret to the Kenyans’ success. It’s discipline. You have to love what you are doing. It has to come from your heart. You have to like the training … the running … the races. Then you do it from the heart.”  – Mike Korir

Marathon running requires great elements of self-discipline. Nobody is going to make you run. There are going to be days when you just don’t feel like running. These are the days when you push yourself past those mental nay-sayer barriers and forge ahead in spite of them. There are days when you are going to want to spend indoors vegging out on the living room couch.

For me, writing is a discipline, much like playing a musical instrument. It requires constant practice and honing of skills. For this reason, I write seven days a week.” – Dan Brown

Writing too requires great elements of self-discipline. Writing is not glamorous. It is lonely and can often times be draining. Writing is also not something that everyone in the writer’s life understands or even tolerates. Writing steals your time and it locks you away in other worlds that you have created in your own imagination. Writing like running isolates the writer from the outside world.

There is a strength of a quiet endurance as significant of courage as the most daring feats of prowess”                                         – Henry Tuckerman

The great equalizer between a runner and a great runner, a writer and a great writer is Endurance. A marathon runner does not begin running 100kms in a day. This would be unfeasible. Rather they start with 5kms then build up to 10kms then 15kms and so forth. It is through steady pacing that endurance is built.

Writing too is a thing of endurance and practice. You cannot write a novel in a day. Instead you have to pace yourself and slowly build up your daily word count. You start off with a vow to write 1000 words a day. Then slowly you build that up to 2000, then 3000 and before you know it you are doubling that and churning out perhaps 6000 words per day. But your standard of a minimum 1000 words is what started this pacing, this endurance.

As you continue running every day your levels of endurance will be stretched and your muscle strength will grow. In the same vein, as you continue writing every day, increasing your word count a little more each day your level of endurance will also grow.

Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck — but, most of all, endurance.”                                                                      – James Arthur Baldwin

Writing is Marathon Running with Words. Use the same lessons you have learned in running to forge ahead in your writing. If you are not a runner, then  ask someone who is a runner to tell you what they do to keep focused and to push past their boundaries to reach the finish line. Or even better, think about taking up running. Writers can learn a lot from runners.

But at the end of the day, the element that most counts in a runner’s success is to: Just Keep Running no matter what.

It takes a little courage, and a little self — control. And some grim determination, If you want to reach the goal. It takes a deal of striving, and a firm and stern-set chin. No matter what the battle, If you really want to win. There’s no easy path to glory, There’s no road to fame. Life, however we may view it, Is no simple parlor game; But it’s prizes call for fighting, For endurance and for grit; For a rugged disposition and don’t know when to quit.” – Anon.

So for writing success: Just Keep Writing no matter what.

Puzzled by Plotting? | #1

Free Stock Photos - Final Piece© Photographer: Dana Rothstein | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Writers tend to belong to one of two main story structure camps:

Plotting vs Pantsing

There are of course those writers who are hybrids and use the best of both worlds. For myself, I am for the most part, Pantsing is the camp I align myself to. But there are benefits of plotting. Sometimes when you get to a midway point, pantsing can simply run out of steam.

At the beginning of the year I signed up to a class offered by Savvy Authors. I found it incredibly useful for that midway point in a WIP when my pantsing just runs out of steam. The class offered a number of questions that basically help you flesh out a synopsis/plot line.

So if you are more of a panster but sometimes could use some form of plotting, this may help you. These 12 questions really helped solidify my story line for me and helped me flesh out a synopsis. Try it out. Afterall, you have nothing to lose. You may just find those elusive last pieces of your WIP puzzle.

  • What’s my idea?

Without an idea, there is no foundation, and the idea has to have some solidity to it.

  • Where does my story take place?

This sets the tone and mood of the story, an old dilapidated Victorian mansion gives one connotation while a skyscraper gives another and a space station quite another.

  • When does my story take place?

You need to establish a time period. Is your story contemporary, historical, a few years back, a few years forward, etc.

  • What is the timeline?

If you leave this to chance, you might find yourself a hundred pages into a story and still be on the first day of the story. This is great if that was your plan, but if you’re writing a generational novel, you’re in trrrrrrroooooouubbble!

  • Why is this happening?

There are only so many ideas and stories out there that can be told, you need to know your particular bent or twist that will make your story stand apart from all the others.
Who are my characters?

  • What’s my point of view?

You need to know who will be telling the story. First, decide if it is in first person, third person, objective, or omniscient and then decide if it is multi-perception or told by just one character. Even if told in first person, you can switch POV by placing a character’s name at the beginning of a scene.

  • Who are my characters?

Protagonist – main character(s)
Antagonist – villain(s)
Secondary characters – (all others)
At this point you don’t need to know the fine points of your character, or even their name, but you do need to have a sense of them, male or female, strong or weak, their impact on the story.

  • How will I begin my story?

The beginning Introduces the protagonist/s and tells the reason the story.

  • What is my plot?

This is the basic structure of the story. For example, boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy doesn’t give up, girl begins to respond, her dog bites boy, boy sues, and then falls in love with his lawyer and drops the girl and the lawsuit, girl opens a kennel for wayward dogs, and they all live happily ever after.

  • What is my complication?

The wrench in the story. It is what moves the story along and aids the plot. Like nails in a coffin. The corpse might pop out if ya don’t nail the lid down.

  • What is my climax?

The climax is the point of the story where everything comes together. This is it, the moment when Indiana Jones picks up the Holy Grail while the Gestapo stands by to claim it , when Scarlett realizes she’s in love with Rhett and he already walked out the door, when Dorothy presents the witch’s broom to the Wizard and he says come back later. It’s not the conclusion. It’s not the end. It’s the high point, and the point when the protagonist could lose it all.

  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

This is when the main character/s solve the problem and the story winds down. It comes quickly after the climax and you must resolve all the issues, untie the knots , bring home the bacon, put away the horse, bring in the hay….

Questions courtesy of Savvy Authors.

Time – The Expensive Commodity

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

What is the most expensive commodity in today’s fast paced and increasingly digital world?

  • Gold?
  • Currency?
  • Land?

If you answered any of the above, you would be incorrect. The most expensive and the most priceless commodity in today’s world is:

TIME

Time is the one commodity that nobody can afford. No amount of gold, money or property will buy you extra time in a day, week, month or year. No amount of gold, money or property will allow you to repeat time that has passed. Every individual in every culture and every socio-economic class in the world has the same 60 seconds in every minute; the same 60 minutes in every hour; the same 24 hours in every day; the same 7 days in every week and the same 52 weeks in every year.

“Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have – so spend it wisely.” – Kay Lyons

How important than is it for us to cherish time? Use it not abuse it.

Time is one of the reasons I decided to go full-time writing. I found I was squeezing in every morsel of time after my EDJ (Evil Day Job) to devote to my writing. However, this left little time for the basics in life like eating and sleeping. This all left very little time to spend with the people who I love. I found that to continue writing alongside a full-time job in management I was stretching myself very thin and the candle was becoming nothing more than a wick. I ended up resenting my EDJ for not allowing me more time to write. Sometimes, much to my chagrin, I also resented my urge and need to write because it did not allow much else in my life.

The Writing Muse is a jealous lover. He resents your time away from the blank page. He interrupts you at the most inopportune moments. For myself, it was usually in the crisis point of a meeting or disciplinary with a staff member. Very seldom did he interrupt with his inspiration and ideas at a time when I had a notebook open and ready. No, when I did have a notebook open and ready he then stubbornly kept quiet or worse went off on another tangent for another story and not the story I had in front of me.

“Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and detail.” – Natalie Goldberg

In November I took part in NaNoWriMo. I was very fortunate to be on annual leave from the EDJ for the first 2 weeks of NaNoWriMo. I was in bliss. I could write for a solid 8 – 10 hours without interruption. It left me time to catch up with my friends and family. With that bliss of uninterrupted time for writing in my mind, I forged ahead to prepare to do this full-time.

Now I am in the place that I have longed to be for so long. Do not get me wrong. I am not telling you to just quit your EDJ and go writing full-time and you will make millions. I did not take this step lightly. I have prepared for it for over a year. I have saved money and now have a good cache to dip into for daily living expenses until I do start making money from my writing. I also have the most important element: support and encouragement from a loving family and an amazing group of friends. In this group of friends I am quick to add my writing friends who have really been behind me every step of the way over the last year.

Now I have the commodity I longed for: Time. But every gift can be a curse. The trick is to use time not abuse it. This means that though I may not have an EDJ to answer to I now answer to myself. I am very serious about writing full-time. This is more important Work to me then any other job I have ever had. Therefore I am treating this full-time writing like any other job. I have read many blogs and posts on what other writers do with their time. The most important aspect I have seen is that they get up and have the same starting time for writing – their new work – every day. They clock in with this job just like you would with an EDJ.

“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” – John F Kennedy

In reading and listening to many posts of advice on full-time writing, I have come up with a short list that I am going to use to make sure I am Using Time not abusing time.

  • Have a separate writing space/office from the rest of the house.
  • Get dressed/groomed every day, even if pjs seem comfortable, I am a professional and as such need to dress the part just as I would for any job.
  • Clock in every day at 10am in the morning.
  • Write until 6pm every day, breaking for lunch and tea.
  • In this 8 hour work day: Keep at least 1 hour free for editing the previous day’s work and at least 1 hour free for research if needed.
  • Turn off the internet/email unless internet is needed for research.
  • During the hours of work/writing, turn the mobile phone onto silent.
  • Have a whole day free from writing every week. (This will be Sunday.)
  • All emailing/internet/blogging/errands/general housekeeping/gym to be done in the morning before starting the day’s writing.
  • The evening should be left alone for time spent with family and friends – it is vital you maintain their support, so you need to spend some time with them to show them how much you appreciate their support.

These are going to be the 10 points that I am going to schedule my writing job to. My mind needs to know that even though I am not leaving the house to go to a EDJ, I am still in work mode. They say it takes 7 days to form a habit and 28 days to break a habit. So it is time to start training my mind into a daily writing-for-work schedule.

“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.” – Anon

Kim