Avoiding “Crash and Burn”

Ok, Ok…

I have realized that Superwoman I am not. Hehehe…the Inspired & Independent Book Club is reading a book titled Chasing Superwoman. It is a memoir and details the author’s realization that she had been trying to be Superwoman — lawyer, mother of 3, wife, Sunday School teacher, and the list goes on.

Today, as I realized that I haven’t written a blog post since last week, was the day I decided to stop trying to be Superwoman too. There is a need within myself to get my book written. CampNaNo has been the fire I have needed lit under my feet to get moving on the manuscript and stop procrastinating more than writing. I have been dedicated and diligent in the process and have been enjoying the new found focus on this manuscript.

That said, I am going to have to curb some of my other online activities…at least while I am working on the first draft. Once I get the words out of my head and heart and onto the page, then I can return to a more full online life. So that means instead of posting 5 days a week, I will have to cut down to one post a week. There will still be the monthly Saturday Shorts, but by the next time that is due I hope to have completed my first draft. I am also sure that there will be additional postings some weeks — I can never tell when something hits me that I need to share on the blog.

The Book Club will continue in full force without any changes. As a writer, I am constantly reading anyway. Hosting the Book Club hasn’t significantly impacted my writing, so I will leave that as is.

Now that I have spoken that into the universe, you know I will figure out a way to post more often…

I will be posting a new post each Wednesday. Be prepared — it could be long LOL! I am a writer after all and I love words, but not being able to post but one day a week may leave me with a short story load of information to share…

Off to write more in my manuscript… You may get a second post today. This one is more of an announcement than information, and I can’t have that!

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Return from Temporary Hibernation

I went into hibernation over the last couple of days. I had to…I was nearly 10,000 words behind on the CampNaNo challenge. It is important to me that I win CampNaNo, especially this being my first year participating. What is most important, though, is that I get my manuscript completed. CampNaNo is just the challenge I need to get this book written.

Over the last few days I have been writing. Not so much during the week — just bits and pieces. There’s something about a writer when they prepare to write: life seems to get in the way. Everything that life could throw at me came hurling past me. Anything that would distract me or cause me to procrastinate became a roadblock in my path to 15,003 words — the total word count needed by yesterday in order to be on track.

I am happy to announce, however, that I met and surpassed yesterday’s word count total goal! 1,667 multiplied 9 times gives you 15,003 (yesterday was the 9th day of the month). The CampNaNo Word Validator has validated my total word count at 15,677!!! That’s 674 words more then needed to reach yesterday’s goal, leaving me with only 993 words to complete today and stay on target to reach 50,000 words by the last day of June! Best yet, I really feel good about my manuscript. I am not taking these 30 days to dump garbage onto the page just to say I won CampNaNo. I am putting the time and effort that any serious writer would put into a first draft. It is coming along nicely, if I may say so myself…

I have found that once I put butt in chair and get to writing, the words have come flowing easily. There’s no writer’s block, nor do I find myself struggling to get a paragraph down. This is the first draft and therefore I don’t expect it to be perfect. My method for moving through the pages:

  1. Write without editing. I know you’ve heard this before.
  2. Each day when I prepare to write, I re-read the previous day’s writing for content only. This will get the creativity flowing in my mind so I can continue where I left off. I do not re-read the entire manuscript. That will have me wanting to edit and it is not time for editing yet.
  3. I keep writing nonstop and try not to pay attention to my word count. I don’t want to create a habit of only writing until I reach the day’s word count goal. So I ignore my word count and just write until I am ready to stop. It is then that I verify my count — if I have enough words I stop, if not I plug along some more so that I can keep up with the daily word count. EXAMPLE: I was using Microsoft Word yesterday when I was writing. It keeps a running word count total for you at the bottom of the screen. I knew exactly when I reached the 15,003 words needed but I hadn’t completed writing out my thoughts when I hit my target. So I kept writing until that thought was completely written out. I ended up with an extra 674 words by continuing to the end of the thought…
  4. I also print my manuscript when I go to read it. This serves two purposes for me: a) it takes stress off of my eyes from reading a computer screen for too many back-to-back hours, and 2) it gives me a “legacy” of the writing that went into that particular manuscript. The manuscript is printed on hole-punched paper, and then is added to a notebook with the prior’s day printout. When the manuscript has been completed, I will have a keepsake so to speak of the various iterations the manuscript went through over the course of time to “The End.”

It may be a little hokey to retain the various drafts of the manuscript along the way, but I am a keepsake kind of person. I have an avid scrapbooking/paper crafting hobby complete with a scrapbook shop for folks to come hang out and create with me. If you know anything about scrapbookers, you know that they don’t let one iota of “scrap” paper pass through their hands without salvaging it for one project or another. To toss my printed manuscript would be to toss an unimaginable amount of scrap paper and I couldn’t have that now could I? I foresee myself turning my manuscript draft pages into beautiful art journals commemorating their journey to publication. That would be a wonderful way to honor the draft pages while retaining a beautiful keepsake that is not only the original manuscript, but also a beautiful piece of art.

I am excited now to complete my manuscript! Now I’ve got a wonderful new idea to further the publishing experience for myself and make it a beautiful and lasting memory. I will share the transformation of the draft pages into a beautiful art journal once I get to that stage. For now, I need to concentrate on getting at least 1,667 words down on the page each day. Light duty on this Sunday thanks to yesterday’s marathon writing session…

Time to share…
What do you do with your printed manuscript pages? Do you retain them for posterity once the manuscript has been completed? Do you toss them in order to prevent clutter or for other reasons? Will you now create beautiful masterpieces with them now that I’ve thrown that idea out into the world? Share with us what you have done or what you are planning on doing with your printed draft pages.

Burn Out!

WOW! Never thought it would happen to me, but it did! Burn out!! Not from writing  —  from   L-I-F-E…

No, I’m not being suicidal. I’m being tired! Full time job outside of the house, full time writing career, full time mother, full time wife, owner of 2 small businesses, writing for 4 or 5 different blogs (I’ve lost count LOL!)… Does it ever end??? Whew! I need a vacation and FAST!

In all honesty, I do this to myself all the time. I have a disease that doesn’t allow my mouth to say “no” and doesn’t allow my mind to ever close from its creative activities. There is always some idea that comes to mind that will help me in my life. But with a new idea always comes new tasks to add to an already too full plate.

And it’s CampNaNo June, which I am determined to win. I think that is what is really making me feel burned out. The pressure of writing 50,000 words in a month. Now, I am absolutely certain that I write 50k words in a month with no problem. No doubt about it. I have to — writing for several blogs, working on my manuscripts, and writing poetry. But the pressure that is on now is writing 50k words in one manuscript all in one month’s time. Yeah I write 50k words in a month, but never on one subject or in one manuscript…

Burn out.

I know it’s from sheer overwhelm. I work at my peak when I have too many tasks on my plate. My subconscious mind, however, keeps reminding me that I am 2 days and 505 words behind not counting the words for today. The day is still young so I can’t count that as “behind” unless I don’t write any more today. That puts me at 3,839 words behind. But what makes it worse is that I am at a particularly difficult part of the manuscript. It’s a memoir, so in this section I am talking a lot about my mother and father who are both deceased. The memories are good ones, but the fact that they are no longer here is what’s making the writing difficult. I am nearly 4,000 words behind! I don’t need this kind of difficulty in writing right now…

So, what do I do to circumvent this burn out? I wrote 1,162 words this morning and then ended the chapter. Those 1,162 words are what made me less than 3 days behind. I couldn’t bare to write any more about mom and dad…not right now. It was making the writing laborious. This is the very first, clunky draft anyway. I can always go back during the editing phase and add in whatever I need to enhance that chapter. If I continued to try writing in that chapter today, I would not get any writing done.

I have read many authors who do the same thing. Either finish the chapter off quickly, knowing they have to edit the manuscript anyway, or start writing a different scene or section of the book and come back to the difficult writing later. Because I am a pantser, there’s no way I can write a different scene or section and come back. I haven’t done any planning or outlining so I don’t know what the future scenes and sections will hold. I could always have gone off and worked on some poetry or maybe one of my other manuscripts; but I know me, I would never get back to writing this one… For the next 24 days I need to stay focused on writing this one manuscript. I want to win CampNaNo and I want to have a completed, clunky first draft in my grubby little paws by June 30th. If I don’t stick to deadlines, I will never get this book written and published!

Some writers take a break from writing when they hit a difficult patch, either by writing something else or walking away from writing altogether. Oooo, that would be a book killer for me! I would never want to return to writing that manuscript knowing where in the manuscript I had left off. Walking away at the difficult part for me would ensure that I would never return to finish writing. And I definitely would not return from writing something else, something less emotional. However, some authors have what it takes to walk away and come back later. I just am not cut from that part of the cloth…

Whatever you do, as always, you need to keep writing!

Time to share…
What do you do when you are burned out from so much going on, including your writing? How does writing sensitive passages affect your writing ability? What do you do when burn out begins to sabotage your writing practice? 

Your Writing Life and the iPad

DISCLAIMER: I am a technology junkie. I have worked in the information technology field for over 20 years. As such, gadgets get my adrenaline up. I am forewarning all who read this blog post that I may get a little geeky on you…

I purchased my iPad 2 on the Monday before the New iPad was released (Friday of the same week). The retina display et al that the New iPad boasts was not enough of a draw for me to spend the extra $100+ dollars, nor was I waiting in mad mob lines trying to get my hands on one of the New iPads on release day. I have since put my iPad 2 next to a New iPad and looked at the display. There is a clear difference between the displays; however, still not enough for me to have spent that extra money. If you are into doing lots with photos, streaming videos, and creating/editing both then yes, the New iPad would be marvelous. But I’m a writer…

Since I have purchased my iPad, I have been on a hunt for a productivity app that would allow me to type my manuscripts onto my iPad, save them, and access them later from other devices (iPhone, laptop/desktop PC, android tablet, etc.). I happened upon Storyist in one of my searches, purchased the program and use it religiously on my iPad. However, with me writing multiple manuscripts at the same time (the muse won’t let me focus on just one…) it was getting cumbersome to use the iPad, save to Dropbox, download from Dropbox on my PC, convert the file to a useable PC format (for Word), and then be able to start writing. I have enough procrastination techniques already…don’t need another one!

This morning, I was determined to find a tool that I could use on my iPad that I carry everywhere and enable me to write at the drop of a dime without all the uploading/downloading/converting hassle. So I did a Google search. Lo and behold I found OnLive Desktop! Can I tell you how excited I was to find this?! This is a FREE app for the iPad that allows you to access a Microsoft Office desktop which has Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Adobe Reader X at your disposal. Your account also comes with 2 GB of storage in the cloud. They have paid options as well; however, my needs were met with access to Microsoft Word and 2 gigs of storage space!

Now, I am not putting this out there as a “complaint” against Storyist. I love that app as well. However, being a PC-shop at home and the only Apple devices I own are my iPhone and iPad, it was just too cumbersome to use Storyist. If you have a MAC at home, you can get Storyist for the MAC as well and that would resolve all the issues that I was facing going between an Apple device and Windows.

I haven’t even had the opportunity to do anything more on my iPad then launch the app once I installed it and launch Word. I was in heaven! Haven’t typed one word yet… Therefore, the jury is still out regarding the stability of the app and whether it crashes and/or you lose data. I will definitely update my review on this find once I am able to get working with it. In the meantime, however, if you are like me and were struggling with compatibility issues between mobile working and working from home, then this might be the app for you.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about this service or any other apps or services others may have found that you are using in your writing life which are working for you.

Keep writing!

On Writing…

I read a great article yesterday by a newly published author — Khanh Ha. His first book, Flesh, was released this month from Black Heron Press.

Mr. Ha is of Asian descent. In his article, he speaks about writing from a voice that is not your own. A voice in which your ethnic background is totally different from that of your character’s. It is difficult to accomplish this task, as a writer needs to pull from a place where she’s never “been.” His article then goes into giving the reader some tips on becoming a successful, published author.

I enjoyed the article in its entirety; however, Mr. Ha’s 7 Rules for Writing really drove it home for me:

ON WRITING

So you want to write a novel. Do you have a writing routine? I know no one’s routine is like another’s. While writing FLESH, I was regimented. I wrote every day. Each day faithfully by sticking to the seven rules—7 is my lucky number.

#1—find discipline in solitude, in aloneness so you can meet your characters. It’s like a rendezvous with ghosts. Then make that meeting every day or every night with no excuses.

#2—write each scene as if it were the only thing in your universe—it must command all your attention.

#3—write one scene well and that scene would breed the next scene.

#4—leave room for readers to participate: don’t overwrite.

#5—stop where you still have something to say so the next day you won’t face a dry well.

#6—read each day to keep your mind off your own writing.

#7—don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.

If you were born to write, write something, even if it’s just a suicide note. Somewhere I remember Toni Morrison once said, “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”
[Credit: Khanh Ha, “Rules for Writing and Revising Your Novel”]

These 7 rules are golden! But the rule I liked best — “#7 — don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.” Many new authors do more reading about “how” to write and “how” to be an author and “what NOT to do…” that we 1) don’t spend enough time writing — the whole goal, and 2) have so many conflicting pieces of advice that we stay still for fear that we’ll choose the wrong writing path to travel down and break the rules. The only rules are the ones you set for yourself…

The full article can be found here. It is worth the read. And then, get to writing!

Time to share…
How do you feel about Mr. Ha’s 7 rules for writing? Will you implement any of them in your writing life? Which one(s) would you change?

Productivity…

It was a great weekend, although far too short as always. Relaxing. Spent quality time with the family. Got some yard work done, including some mulching. Even did some housework — the bane of my existence…

What I did not do was produce. At least not in the writing sense… I wrote my minimum 750 words daily on the http://www.750words.com site. This is a site that allows you to create a private “diary” type writing space. Gives you a blank page with word count to start, and keep, writing for as long as you desire but encourages you to write at least 750 words a day. I even took them up on their May’s writing challenge to write every day during the month of May. So far, so good…

Much past those 750 words (well, 784 to be exact…), I did no writing. Why? Because I purchased a new “for Dummies” book on Friday and couldn’t put it down. It’s the Canon EOS 60D for Dummies book and it’s a godsend. I have had my Canon EOS 60D for over a year now and have never taken it off of full automatic mode. Yep…I bought that high quality and expensive camera and basically have been using it as a point-and-shoot for a year. Tisk, tisk, tisk! Now that the weather’s warm, I am bound and determined to take my camera off of auto and get the full benefit of the 60D by going manual.

So… I spent my whole weekend reading. Reading the Canon EOS 60D for Dummies book and playing with my camera. I have read 68% of the book as of this morning… I will report, however, that I am on full manual mode as of this writing and loving the creative freedom! I managed to take some excellent shots of the boys playing darts in the backyard and running around with Ebonie, my puppy. I even pulled off the Continuous Shot setting and got a burst of consecutive shots of them running with the dog. Awesome! My next feat is a timed shot…

This week, we’re supposed to be discussing self publishing. I just want to play with my camera LOL! Look for an article later today on our week’s topic. I promise to stop playing with my camera long enough to finish the research and get the post written. Until later today…

The Whole Planners v Pantsers/Plungers “Debate”

Are you a Planner or Pantser? What the devil, you ask, do I mean???

There are writers who plan out their entire work — be it a novel or an essay — before they put pen to paper and start writing. Then there are writers who come up with an idea for a written work, pick up their pen and notebook and get writing. Which one are you?

I am definitely a pantser. The Muse throws idea after idea after idea at me and I jot the idea down in my “Ideas” notebook, pull out my iPad and immediately start writing. No planning, period. I don’t outline — I don’t even understand how anyone can outline something prior to writing it! One of the reasons I hate formal writing classes. The teacher always makes you write an outline and submit the outline for approval before you begin writing. Outlines cause me writer’s block. If I outline prior to writing, then my mind forces me to stick rigidly to the outline. The writing process is laborious, the words come out awkward and stiff, and I absolutely never finish writing something I have outlined first unless I have to turn it in for a grade…

Planners, well they plan. Usually extensively prior to writing one word of the manuscript. They outline. They create index cards for their sections and characters. They employ several tried and true planning techniques — Snowflake Method and other such strategies. They organize their index card sections in the order they are going to write the work. Then they start writing. After the full plan has been laid out on paper…

My way — I receive an idea and I pick up my iPad, create a new novel in Storyist for the new idea, and start writing. Pantser/Plunger extraordinaire here… Recently, however, I have started reading a book by Don Fry — Writing Your Way: Creating A Writing Process That Works For You. The entire concept of this book is to get writers out of pigeon-holing themselves into one of these two categories and guide them into creating a writing habit and style that works for them — be it by planning, plunging, or a combination of both. It is teaching me some exciting new things that I am slowly incorporating into my writing life…

One of the things I learned the other day was Mind Mapping. Not a new concept to me at all; however, the way Mr. Fry talks about it in his book made me actually create a mind map for a new project that the Muse has laid upon my heart. I loved it! It effectively dumped all of the ideas about the new WIP and what I wanted to include in the work into on roadmap for writing. And guess what??? For me, the mind map also created my sections! Now I know what sections will be in the book and in what order they need to appear. I will without doubt be using mind mapping in my writing life going forward.

Which brings me back to that infamous outlining idea. Nope — I’m still not an outliner nor do I think I ever will be. However, I do see how the mind map can be further refined into an outline for those of you who are planners… I just cannot box myself in like that. It causes me terrible stress and a stressed writer is a blocked writer. So no outlining for me, but those who have difficulty outlining may be well served by mind mapping first. This will increase my writing speed greatly because I can move my sections around on the mind map prior to writing. Much easier moving idea boxes around on the page rather than entire sections of text and then refining that section to meld with the sections before/after it in its new location…

Planner v Pantser/Plunger. There’s no one right way. We all need to learn to write in our own way as Mr. Fry teaches us in his book. I think we as writers sometimes concern ourselves a little too much with the method and process of writing. We fiddle and fidget with our process each time we pick up our pens. No wonder the writing process can seem to be tedious and too much to deal with. We keep reinventing the wheel each time we start to write! Develop your own method and stick to it. And once you’ve found your method, stop reading and researching “how” to write and get to writing! You’ve figured out how to write when you’ve figured out your own method. Don’t second guess yourself and go off to see what the “experts” have to say about the topic. You are your own expert on your writing method and style!

Thanks goes to Don Fry for releasing me from my own trappings — researching and researching and researching the best methods to write from the experts. He’s taught me to develop my own and don’t look back. Only look to the future — the future filled with a completed manuscript rather than struggling and never reaching that goal. I will continue to read Write Your Way to see if there are any other pointers that will help me in this writer’s life. However, I don’t intend to wait until I get to the end of the book before I start writing. I have already figured out that my way is the best way, whatever “my way” means…

Time to share…
Are you a planner, a panster/plunger, or both? Do you outline, and if so how does that benefit your writing? Have you already developed your own method? If so, share your method with us. Maybe we can benefit by some tip or trick you share here.

A Day in the Life…

The Writer’s Life…

I used to be eager to live it. The allure of sitting at your writing desk, pen and paper in hand (or keyboard and computer in this age), gazing out of a sunlit window dreaming, writing, creating…

Then, I hunkered down and got serious about my writing. You know what I found out? That my lofty dreams of being an author and living the writer’s life were just that — lofty!

Unless and until a writer reaches the point that their writing is supporting them solely, then usually a writer wears many more hats than simply “author.” You have your general hats that most adults wear — wife/husband, mom/dad, chauffeur, cook, maid, nurse, employee/employer. That right there means I will never be able to live the life of my dreams, gazing aimlessly out of a window as I write leisurely. Those hats alone relegate my writing to 30 minute snippets of time that I “steal” to get writing in throughout the day. And then there are the hats you wear as an author. Yes, “hats” — plural:

  • Author
  • Speaker
  • Publicist
  • Marketing Director
  • Publisher (if self-pubbing)
  • Webmaster
  • Blogger Extraordinaire
  • You get the picture…

Even an author who is picked up by a traditional publisher has to wear all of those hats. The difference? They get assistance with those roles. However, a writer must be aware that no matter what — traditional publishing or self publishing — no one is going to do a better job at making your book successful than you. Traditional publishers have more than just one book to push. They are employing multiple authors, meaning they need to support multiple people. You are the sole person that will market your book relentlessly. Therefore whichever publishing route you choose you will need to wear all of the same hats.

A day in the life of a writer is not all glory and leisure as I had dreamed it to be. It is work. LOTS of work! But in the end it is truly rewarding. To know that my words have inspired someone in some way makes all of the hats I have to wear worth it. And the joy I get of putting fingertips to keyboard and letting the words flow from my brain through my fingertips and onto the page is priceless.

Time to share…
What is a day in the life of a writer like for you? What suggestions do you have, if any, to make the writer’s life more manageable and enjoyable?

Looking for a Writing Partner…

I just wanted to put it out there that I’m looking for a writing buddy. Someone serious about writing who will help keep me accountable and keep me writing. My buddy should want the same from me in return.

I am looking for someone who wants specific deadlines to help keep us accountable. We can do it weekly or bi-weekly; however, I need at least bi-weekly communication.

It can be someone outside of my hometown (Gwynn Oak, MD) as long as the person is an avid computer user and doesn’t mind communicating via e-mail and Skype when we aren’t able to chat otherwise.

Gender does not matter…

I write primarily creative non-fiction — empowerment books. Telling my story/experiences or the experiences of others in such a way that it will inspire and encourage you to act in your own personal situation.

I also write romance novels. And I dabble in poetry.

However, I am an avid reader of all genres. I would prefer a partner who at least is an avid reader of creative non-fiction in order that they can give me an objective opinion. However, if you feel that you are able objectively and constructively offer your criticism, then let’s get together!

This is not a paid gig. It is a mutual writing relationship where we help each other improve our manuscripts and push forward to publication day.

Lastly, I would love to form a writing group in my area (or join one if one exists) where I can meet up with other writers in a group.

If you are interested in partnership, comment below or shoot me an e-mail. The writer’s life is so much easier when they have someone to commiserate with together…