Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tips and Tricks for Balancing Life and Writing

Writing is hard enough without having a life to live on top of it. Right now I’m back to working full-time while my co-worker is on vacation. It’s a temporary arrangement, but it has reminded me how hard it is to find time to write, especially when you have a full-time job, are a student, or have children.

While I can’t claim to have the perfect solution, I have been at this long enough to have some advice for you writers out there struggling to find time for your craft.

Prioritize
As with any long-term goal you set out to accomplish, if you want to write a book you need to make it a priority in your life. However, you have other priorities, too. Obviously you need to make sure you eat and sleep. Having income (and therefore, a job) is important to provide that food and the roof you sleep under. Then, we all depend on our relationships with others and entertainment. This list is kind of rough, but you get the picture. Our lives are busy. If you find you don’t have time to write but you want that time, you have to do without something else. I am lucky enough to have a flexible employer, so I made the switch to part-time at work. It meant less money in our bank account, but it was a sacrifice I and my husband were willing to make. If cutting hours at work isn’t an option for you, perhaps consider cutting out some pleasure time in your evening. Instead of watching a TV show, spend half an hour working on your book.  Both Samantha Shannon and Veronica Roth wrote their debut novels while still in university. Both said they had to give up things to do it.

Schedule
Scheduling your time more deliberately goes hand-in-hand with prioritizing. One problem I often have is letting other activities, like errands, get in the way of my writing time. Not everyone does well with a schedule, but I recommend trying it all the same. Perhaps, one day a week, make a spreadsheet of the rest of your week. Work out what you have to do and how much time it takes. Schedule whatever time you can to write, whether it’s fifteen minutes or two hours. The next part is the trickiest: stick to your schedule! It’s hard at first, but once it becomes a routine, it’ll make things a little easier on you, and your craft will benefit from the regular work.

Get Help
Maybe you have already tried prioritizing your life and working out a schedule and you still can’t find the time. In this case, it’s time to reach out to those in your life who care about you. Going back to my job situation, it would have never worked if my husband was not fully on board with me contributing less income. Perhaps you could ask a friend to watch your kids one day a week so you can have some alone time to write. Maybe a friend at work could trade shifts with you. We all need people to help us get through life. Just don’t be afraid to ask.

Plan For the Future
The sad truth is sometimes we go through periods in our life where it is impossible to find the time. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home parent in the Yukon with no nearby friends and no time to yourself. Maybe it’s the busy season at work and you’ve been asked to work overtime. Maybe you’re a student. When I was a Sophomore in university I had to choose between writing a book and attaining the goals I set for myself in school. It was a tough decision, but I realized that I couldn’t do both and decided to postpone working on a book until I graduated. Making the decision to put off my big project helped me to focus back on my studies. These sort of life situations are often temporary. We will graduate. Our kids will start to go to school. Our jobs can change. If you can’t find the time to write now, work on a plan for the future when you can write.

So, does anyone else have any life balancing tricks you can pass on?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing Advice

My Favorite Writing Advice Blogs and Resources

I spend a lot of space on this blog offering advice based off my own experiences. This is my blog, after all. But, I feel I would be doing a disservice to all of you writer’s out there if I didn’t also share some of the goodness I’m learning from other blogs. I’m semi self-taught as a writer, and I owe a great deal of what I know (and what I therefore pass on to you) to many different, invaluable sources. So, what follows is a list of my favorite blogs and writing resources. I hope it’s as helpful for you as they have been for me.

Writing Advice Blogs
WriteWorld: Offers various writing tips as well as “Writer’s Block” exercises.
Small Blue Dog Publishing: Great advice for writing, traditional publishing, and self publishing. Her beta reading advice was particularly helpful for me.
Slithering Ink: Very thoughtful, general writing tips as well as book and movie reviews.
Yeah Write: More of a community base than strictly an advice blog, offering loads of resource links, ways to connect with other writers, and inspiration.
Legit Writing Tips: This blog offers loads of tips and answers reader questions regularly.
Writing With Color: A very good blog for any writer, but especially if you’re considering writing the stories of people of color.

Author Blogs
Fishing Boat Proceeds: John Green’s Tumblr blog. He mostly just reblogs/shares, but occasionally he opens his Ask Box.
Samantha Shannon: Samantha Shannon’s Tumblr blog. She regularly answers questions about the publishing and writing process and is also generous with reblogging other writer’s advice.
N.K. Jemisin: Author N.K. Jemisin’s blog. I only recently found this blog, but she gives great advice. Also, she talks about video games, which rocks.
Kate Elliott: Kate Elliott’s blog. Another great writer offering really good advice.

Resource Links
Behind the Name: A good jumping off point for finding character names. However, be wary if picking a name from an unfamiliar culture. It’s always best to do further research.
Good Reads: A good spot for connecting with other writers or your readers if you have published work.
TV Tropes: Despite its title, this site is not limited to just television. Great for checking your story for problematic tropes.

Do you guys have any favorite writing advice or author blogs?

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing, Writing Advice

Four Teas for Writing

All writers should be familiar with the soothing powers of tea. Aside from numerous health benefits, tea can be used as a mild stimulant to get your brain working or a sedative to help you relax and recover. Case in point: I’m in between revisions of Footfall and looking to find other things to keep me occupied. Spending time worrying about starting my next draft just makes me unnecessarily anxious. So, I’m taking a short break from writing and I’m enjoying several regular cups of my favorite herbal and rooibos teas to help me relax. It’s a simple pleasure, but sometimes returning to simple pleasures is just what we need to make it through a difficult period of time. Here are a few of my favorite teas for writing, whether I’m powering through a draft or trying to recover from burnout.

Jasmine Green Tea
Brand: Sunflower
Why I Drink It: This is a very straightforward green tea with a very nice jasmine flavor. Unlike some jasmine teas, it doesn’t taste like it’s been sprayed with perfume. Also, the caffeine level is moderate, so it’s a good drink for when I need a mild boost but don’t want to be up late.
Where To Find It: I’ve seen it in several Asian groceries stores and I know Amazon sells it as well.

tea1

Summer Evenings Herbal Tea
Brand: Victoria’s Lavender
Why I Drink It: As with most herbal teas, I find the warmth and smooth flavors help keep me calm, if not down right drowsy. Also, this is a very satisfying blend of flavors, none overpowering any other. It’s good hot or iced and is what I’m drinking right now to help me relax.
Where To Find It: You can order it online here.

No. 18 Georgian Blend Tea
Brand: Harrods
Why I Drink It: This black tea blend is smooth but powerful, packing a nice punch of caffeine. I used to drink it in college when I needed to stay up late. This tea also goes nicely with cream and sugar, a little bonus when I feel like treating myself.
Where To Find It: Harrods in London or you can order it online. However, shipping to the US is nearly three times the cost of the tea, so be warned. As far as I can tell, Amazon does not sell it.

tea2

Market Spice Cinnamon Orange Tea
Brand: Market Spice
Why I Drink It: Mostly I drink this for sentimental reasons now, since it was a favorite of my mother-in-law. However, this tea does stand on its own two feet, offering a robust orange-cinnamon flavor. Market Spice makes it in black or rooibos tea blends. Both are tasty, but the rooibos is caffeine free, which is a nice option.
Where to Find It: Their store in Pike Place Market, their online store, or Amazon.

Are you guys tea drinkers, or do you prefer coffee or something else? I like coffee, but have learned that it upsets my stomach if I drink it too late in the day.

9 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Uncategorized, Writing Advice

3 Writing Tips to Improve the Editing Process

I’ve been writing my book, Footfall, for almost a whole year (+/- a few months).  Right now I’m in the heart of my revision process. I’ve sent the book out to a few beta readers, and as I look back on the rounds of editing the book has gone through so far, I have come to a very interesting conclusion: I’ve been doing it wrong. By “it” I mean the whole process: writing, rewriting, revising, etc. Obviously I’m being a little hyperbolic and thanks to my many revisions, I’ve fixed my mistakes. However, next time around I’m going to go about it differently. So, in the interest of preserving this realization for myself and in helping any of you aspiring writers out there, here are three mistakes I’ve made in my writing process that have really hurt my editing.

editing1

Hand marking my novel in a nice coffee shop almost makes up for the hair pulling.

 

I Didn’t Start With an Outline
Technically speaking, an outline should happen as the very first step of the writing process. However, I didn’t start with an outline and I’m feeling the pain now in my editing process. An outline serves as a sort of map for a writer. It should show where your story starts, where conflict begins, and how it all resolves. Ideally, a good outline will even include a breakdown of chapters. I decided writing by the seat of my pants would produce a more “organic” story than an outline, and I skipped this step. However, I ended up having to entirely rewrite my novel to encompass all the changes I decided to make halfway through my second draft. I still had to pull out old stuff that wiggled its way into the rewrite when I went back for more edits. While an outline sounded like a pain, I know now that I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort if I had hammered out the major story elements in an outline in the beginning.

I Didn’t Take Many Notes as I Went
I chalk up my lack of note taking to laziness. I read plenty of articles that advised taking thorough notes on place or character names and descriptions. It really is important to make those decisions early on to ensure consistency in the book. I had good intentions of doing this, too. I have a few half-finished lists of possible character names. However, I never sat down and wrote out all of my characters names and how I needed to describe them. This means that as I go back and edit, I have to be very conscious of spelling and which characters have what coloring. Not only that, but location names and descriptions have to be double checked for consistency as well. Again, I would have saved myself a lot of time on this end if I had done more planning at the the beginning.

editing2

Picking up hand marks: the most arduous task in existence.

 

I Didn’t Reread Until I Was Finished
A lot of writing advice blogs say a writer shouldn’t read their work as they go and they should just keep writing until they finish. There’s certainly a benefit to this; not stopping to read means there’s less chance of getting bogged down in rewrites before you finish. Unfortunately, the down side to this is the possibility of a painful lack of consistency in the end. For example, in my own book, a spy decides his position at the enemy base is in jeopardy and decides to leave. This information was passed on to my main characters in the middle of the book. By the end of the book, I forgot that my characters already knew this information, and I wrote a version of the previous conversation. Books take a lot of time to write, so it’s no wonder that I had a hard time keeping track of what my character’s knew and what they didn’t. If I had reread while I was going, I might have avoided this problem.

 

Now, because I even had a revision cycle, the mistakes I’ve made above will not hurt the final product. However, I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time revising things that should not have needed fixed if I’d done things properly. I also worry that I’ve neglected other important elements in my editing, like character voice  consistency, because I’ve put so much effort elsewhere. All I can say is thank goodness for beta readers.

So, do you guys have any helpful writing/editing tips to share? I’m going to be at this editing thing for a while and any advice would be appreciated.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized