Watercolor and Fire

Sorry, I had this all ready to post yesterday, but had a long and fierce argument with the scanner instead. (And shortly thereafter gave up on my Epson scanner. I gave up on it years ago as a printer and I’m giving up on it now as a scanner. Anybody want a free doorstop- I mean scanner?)

ANYWAY. I have a writing buddy who is doing a fantastic job at NaNoWriMo this month, but finds herself a tad behind. So I painted her a victory postcard! It is two of the characters from her WIP and I am mailing it to her today.

Dragon Painting

The catch? Well it IS a victory postcard. And the victory IS in question. So if she doesn’t win, she must burn her painting with dragonfire. Or just regular fire, you know, whatever’s around.

So good luck, Anna! Tick tock!

Speaking of, I’m a tad behind as well. Ugh, I think I’ve been caught up for like three days this entire month. Time to stop painting and start writing! (Well, stop blogging and get to work, but I’ll write soon! I promise!)

Update: She won! The postcard is safe! Another victory for truth and science!

A closing note:

The above picture was taken with my phone on my table, despite me being a TERRIBLE photographer. Even with the crookedness and the darkening of my colors, I still thought it was an improvement. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the Epson scan, shall we?

img011

Yeah, ew.

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Reblog: Maximizing Writing Productivity While Working Full-Time

I try to avoid reblogging from Writers Digest because, well, everyone’s seen Writers Digest and I’d rather bring reblogs that I figure a significant chunk of you might have missed in all the vastness of the internet. But I liked this one too much to pass up, and it feels timely. As I’ve mentioned before, I work a full time job in the summer and four small part time jobs during the school year, not even counting being primary caregiver to our three growing boys (and our four chickens, they grow so fast). Time is always at a premium, especially during NaNo months. So without further ado, here is Audrey Wick’s WD article: Maximizing Writing Productivity While Working Full-Time. Enjoy!

Many writers dream of days they can devote entirely to their craft. But the reality is that working a day job in a field often unrelated to writing is sometimes a financial necessity, especially for new and debut authors.

When people learn that I write novels and hold a full-time job, they often ask me, “How?” They struggle to understand the balance of time, but I’ve made it a point to work hard to fulfill my love of both a professional life and my love of a writing life.

Also, what I’ve come to learn is that rather than seeing full-time work as a hindrance to the craft, writers can channel advantages of their situation to maximize writing productivity. Here’s how to do that:

Use time that surrounds your full-time job to think about writing.

For instance, on my commute, while I’m exercising or while I’m cooking dinner, my mind slides to my work-in-progress. During these times are when I flesh out my characters, develop plot points, imagine scenes of dialogue and consider conflict. Once I see these in my mind, it’s much easier to write them later. Also, permitting myself to think about writing during these times helps me stay focused on my full-time job to meet my responsibilities there since I know I’ll be able to come back to my writing later.

Ready to read the rest? Click on through to the other side!

Box of Bones Caste System

Hi friends! So… I’m still doing Nano. Yes, I’ve been behind every single day of the month. Yes, I’ll quite possibly stay that way every single day of the month. But we’re not talking about that.

We’re talking about worldbuilding! So here’s some world building from my current work in progress, Box of Bones. The main characters in this story are from a country called the Grey Islands, a small string of islands poking off the mainland. They have a caste system that I made up mostly over the course of one morning and it is probably stupid, but I’m going with it.

So here it is in all its rambley glory: the Grey Islands caste system! (There’s actually a lot more to it, but I trimmed for brevity’s sake. This post would have been nearly thrice as long if I hadn’t!)

Nearly everybody on the Grey Islands is in some way descended from at least one of the officers or crew of the original ship of first settlers. (Those who are not are not allowed to vote, etc, even if they own a ship. They are considered guests of the Islands rather than citizens, even if they’ve lived there their entire life. The answer is usually to marry into an established line and then your children can have rights.)

People fall into three groupings: noble (veda), high (lira), and low (daru). Each of these is further divided into several classes. Class is very fluid and can even change within a single person’s lifetime. It has somewhat to do with birth, with wealth, with achievements, and with the favor of higher classes.

The three broadest class distinctions (veda, lira, daru) are called a person’s core. The distinctions within that are called scale, and are either high (alto), middle (mid), or low (bas). While it is common enough to move around within a single core, it is rarer to shift from one core to another. The fine distinctions within core and scale are called class and are numbered zero (highest) through three (lowest)- nun, ist, du, and tes. The final marking of a person’s rank is called direction, and is distinguished as rising (rin), stable (kos), stagnant (set), or falling (tol).

Class is highly linked to a person’s status and role, which are both merit based; therefore class, and particularly direction, is more an indication of how you are doing in the world; rising means that you are actively working upward in social ranking by your actions; stable means that you are comfortable moving within your current position; stagnant means that you are trying to work upward but not making any progress; falling means you are sliding backward in standing. Direction has everything to do with a person maintaining or changing class. For the higher ranks, kos is very respectable; after all the monarch (altoveda-nun) is considered kos, since there is nowhere higher to rise. Likewise, within the lowest class (basdaru-tes), there is no tol, since there is nowhere lower to fall.

Separation of classes is called degrees, each class being one degree. Below the royal class (which has its own set of rules), marriage is free within one’s own degree. It is also acceptable to marry someone one degree below or above you. Two is the maximum socially acceptable class gap.

While core is often dictated by birth, scale and especially class are more malleable based on a person’s merits (although there are undoubtedly more opportunities for advancement among the lira and veda than among the daru). Class is often determined by things such as wealth (disposable funds), income (and investments), education, occupation, reputation, etc, and can vary within a family, and even a single person at different points in their lives. Getting a better job can mark you as rin, but selling off your nicer furniture can mark you are tol. Class is highly flexible, and direction even more so, while core and scale are harder to change.

Spouses do not have to share scale, but marrying a lower class person can mark you as falling, unless that person is rising at the time of your marriage. Children inherit the core and scale of their parallel parent (matrilineal/patrilineal), and then typically don’t have a class separate of their parents until they come of age.

Few Islanders are veda, but lira and daru are about equally common. Most Islanders are kos and will remain so most of their lives. Rin, set, and tol indicate exceptional effort with varying levels of success. Rin is glamorous, set elicits gentle commiseration and maybe encouragement, and tol is not where you want to be. Most people would rather stop trying and stick with a nice respectable kos label than risk falling any farther.

About bucking the system: there is a thing called legal death, where a person abandons their caste, clan, and home to live as exiles. Despite being called ‘legal death’, it is definitely in the illegal category, so there is usually a faked death and family hushing, etc. ‘Legal’ in this case just means that the state believes them dead. Since they are dead, they don’t have any rights (even less than so-called guests of the Islands) which leads them wide open to any abuse whatsoever, so they tend to leave the Islands and never come back. This is a step beyond exiling, which itself is a step beyond disowning, both of which would leave the person’s place in the caste system intact.

So there you have it! All the exciting ways they can look down on each other! The MC is a nice respectable upper middle class, with the benefit of not having to think about this stuff a whole lot, but the secondary main is low class and it’s in his face a lot more, you know? Anyway, we’ll be back next week with another reblog and hopefully I’ll be better caught up! Tally ho! *dives at keyboard*

Reblog: The Introvert’s Guide to Writing Conferences

Hey, look at that, it’s November! If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve maybe seen a bit of my drama surrounding NaNo this year. (Will she? Won’t she??) I really want to do NaNo- I love it and I’ve done every session every year since the birth of my first child. I’m kind of a NaNo junkie. But this November, through a series of unfortunate events (or just numerous time consuming events, really) has become incredibly busy, to the point that I don’t know if NaNo is even possible without dropping the ball on things at work or at home. (And I don’t mean just not doing the laundry. I mean like making meals for my children, getting them to school on time, not getting arrested for neglect sorts of things.)

But! Because I am a junkie and don’t know when to say no, I’ve decided to give it one week. The last few days have been… not promising, honestly, and it’s only going to get worse starting today. If I get to the end of week one and find that it’s really not working out, I am allowing myself to quit with minimal guilt. (I mean, this is me so there will definitely be guilt, but I will do my best to minimize it.)

And so it’s reblog time! I found this post by Kerrie Flanagan (via Writer’s Digest) to be helpful while getting myself ready for my conference a couple months ago, so maybe you will too! I’ll let you know how I’m doing with NaNo next week and, until then, happy writing!

 

By:  | 

You did it! You signed up for a writing conference, and now the event is right around the corner. Slight panic sets in as you realize there will lots of people, you might not know anyone and you’d rather walk through fiery hot coals than network with strangers. If you relate to any of these statements, then I’ll go out on a limb and say you are an introvert. The good news is, so are a majority of other writers at the conference and there are strategies you can use that will allow you to enjoy the event and make some great connections.

Set Intentions

A few weeks before the conference, think about what you hope to get from the event. If you are still fairly new to writing or this is your first conference, you may want to take a broad approach, something that gives you a good overview about writing and publishing.

If you have been to writing conferences before or you have certain goals for your writing, consider a more laser-focused approach. Do you want to focus on the craft of writing? The business side of publishing? Building a platform? Finding an agent? Whatever the focus, make your plan with that in mind. Look over the schedule and choose sessions, workshops and other extras (critiques, one-on-one consults, pitch sessions…) based on your goals.

Be Professional

Ready to read some more? Hop on over to Writer’s Digest for the full article!

3 Tips to Writing When Motivation Is Gone

Guest post! Our guest this week is Annah Searle, who is releasing a book on finishing goals this November! *toots trumpets*  She is also very kind and wrote up a guest post for me because she’s better at this stuff than me so you should probably grab a copy of her book. Thanks, Annah!

AnnahWith most people prepping their houses with pumpkin scented candles and red and orange leaves, any writer knows what November is really about. It’s a month of discovery, struggle, imagination, and lots of tears. November is Nanowrimo month.

If you haven’t heard of it, Nanowrimo (Nano) is an annual writing project where each member’s goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. My first year of Nano, I was a young high schooler who had big hopes and little idea of what was ahead. I poured through the online Nano forums, reading to learn everything there was about writing. My character sheets were long, and I had the perfect plot arch.

November 1st, I hit the ground running. I wrote in class, at home, and anywhere I could. My characters were quirky and fun. The plot was moving along. As the days continued, my word counts progressively shrank. Soon, they halted altogether. What was this mess of a novel I had started? Nothing could be less coherent than these pages. All I saw were plot holes and drab characters.

Anyone who has participated in Nano knows a thing or two about motivation. Without fail, every year we hit the ground running only to sputter to a stop a few days or weeks in, exhausted. No longer are we motivated by exciting new prospects. Now, we trudge toward the finish line, begging for the pain to stop.

Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic here. But, honestly, motivation is a struggle in November. After years of projects, writing and otherwise, I’ve learned the motivation is a fickle thing. It only seems to be with me for a moment before it flits to another exciting venture, leaving me in the dust.

Because I know some of you are gearing up for the longest month of the year, in the next 600 words or so, I’ll give you three tips I use every day in writing and creation that work when I lack the motivation to write.

1. Don’t wait for your muse.

Growing up reading about writing, I find that writers over-fantasize about their muse. Yes, writing when you are in your zone is amazing, but it’s not as if a petite fairy sits on your shoulder whispering words of the soul. Writing is hard work. Inspiration can come, but it’s usually after you have already been working at it for some time.

Too many writers wait for this mythical muse before moving. Don’t wait for it! If you do, you’ll be waiting a long time. Inspiration most often strikes when you are already moving. So, take a step first. Write a sentence, then a paragraph. Keep writing until your trudging becomes a run. Only when you start running will you find inspiration waiting.

2. Break down your book.

When I struggle with motivation to write, typically it’s because I don’t know where I’m going with the plot or characters. My next step is a mystery, so I avoid writing altogether and find something else to do like the dishes or *whispers dramatically* YouTube. Nothing gets done.

Even as I write this article, I’m looking back at the outline I’ve created. Even writing a post this short, I use an outline, so I can write more efficiently. I’m not worrying about where I’m going with this article because I already know the plan. If I’m really struggling, I’ll break it down even further like this:

1. Catchy opening (maybe about Thanksgiving? Or a statistic?)

2. Transitional sentence

3. Personal story (Writing my book? My experience with Nano?)

When I break it down this small, I know exactly where I’m going. This same method works for fictional writing as well. If you hit a block, try breaking your scenes into smaller chunks. What should happen next? What characters are involved?

I personally love free-writing from character and plot development, but if I’m stuck, I outline the next scene or two in detail. Sometimes, writing just an outline of the next page is enough to get you back into the zone. Depending on how stuck I am, more or less detail will go into the outline. I might even go so far as to write their movements like this:

1. Stan walks (struts maybe?) to the table and sits down.

2. He observes the room around him.

3. Jessica enters the room.

Your characters may move like robots, but hey, you wrote something. Nano was never about making your writing sound beautiful. It’s about finishing. While you may cringe away from this outlining technique, using it will allow you to finish. Who cares if it’s a little ugly? Editing is for next month.

3. Defeat perfectionism.

Perfectionism is one of the top things that stops any goal in its tracks. Many a novel has been killed by perfectionism. With Nano’s deadline, though, expectations of perfection get quashed. The inner editor knows there’s no way to write 50,000 words and make it sound good.

In dispelling the inner editor, college worked in a similar way for me. If I had a project due the next day and I hadn’t even started on it, I would have to work as fast as possible. I had to settle for imperfect results to reach the deadline. Mistakes would be made, and while it wasn’t perfect, I got it done because of the pressure of a deadline. And, while these projects could definitely have been better, I’m still proud to have completed them.

Nano’s deadline is December 1. But, that’s a whole 30 days away. It’s easy to procrastinate when the end seems far away. To defeat procrastination and perfectionism, I suggest setting mini deadlines for yourself. Plan a task and deadline for each week. It’s easier to ignore perfectionism when you have such a big task ahead. Rather than making each word perfect, you just write to get words on the page.

Realize your book doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect. It can be messy. A lot of beauty is found in messes if you know how to look.

I know perfectionism is not easy to defeat. If you work each day toward dispelling its influence, though, you’ll be well on your way to completing your novel.

You’ve got some exciting work ahead of you. By writing without waiting for your muse, breaking down your book into next steps, and defeating perfectionism, you’ll be well on your way to finishing. There will be tears, triumph, and the occasional sleepless night, but stay in it. If you put in the work, you’ll emerge December 1 with a messy and beautiful novel to call your own.

Annah Searle is a writer, dreamer, wife, and lover of life. She is the author of The Art of Finishing and The Art of Finishing Planner as well as the creator of the blog, The Art of Pure Living. She is also a notebook hoarder, bookworm, Netflix binger, and aspiring artist.

Keeping My Writing Shop Organized

We writers have a lot to keep track of. Just pretending for a moment that we don’t have jobs, homes, and humans who like to see us more than once a year, we still have to keep on top of our own goals, deadlines, submissions- oh yeah, and writing. How’s a person given to flights of fancy supposed to keep up with it all?

With endless lists and calendars, that’s how! This week, I’ll give you a quick tour of how I keep myself organized- I, who am in all other aspects of my life incredibly disorganized. What follows is a list of… well, my lists. You’ve probably seen some of them over the years already in other lists about fostering story ideas, keeping track of writing goals, and making sure I don’t submit to the same story to the same agent three times. But here they all are together for the first time, sisters in arms! Huzzah!

 

Goal Tracking

Rejections Goal Checklist– Posted on a little white paper directly over my laptop on my desk, this thing is perpetually in my face. I have tiny checkboxes for all the rejections I want to garner over the year, divided out by the months of the year so I can keep track of how I’m doing for time. As I get rejections back, I check the box, write in what’s being rejected by who, and then note it in my submissions master lists (see below).

Annual Resolutions Checklist– This lives on a white board posted over my desk. I list out all my longer-term writing goals, including how many rejections I want, how many edits, how many first drafts and how far out the blog posts need to be scheduled. This is always right in front of my face when I’m at my desk, which is often.

Daily Checklist– This one is full of all the other things I do throughout my day (chores, work, errands, etc), but I also keep short term writing goals on there too. The ones currently most pertinent to my writing current are daily writing goals, daily backshop time, and agents/ short story publishers I want to submit to in the near future. This list is synced between my phone and my computer, and I see it several times every day.

 

Submissions Tracking

Short Stories Submissions Master List– This is a word doc with a table for every short story I have ever finished. It notes where I’m subbing, the editor, the date, when I can expect a response, and what that response was; I also list any new places I want to sub the story to in the future. Other tables list which stories have which rights available, and which stories have been published when and where.

Agent Submissions Master List– This is a word doc with a giant table for each story I’ve queried to agents. The table lists the agent, agency, website, MSWL, query packet contents, query date, expected response time, and finally, what that response was. As I find new agents that I think would be a good fit, I put them in the table, assembling batches of between five and ten before sending them out en masse.

 

Date Tracking

Rolling Monthly Calendar– I have a whiteboard calendar that lives on the wall above my desk. I keep track of everything on this calendar, making note of meetings, work, church activities, blood donations, you name it. A good chunk of the things on this calendar are writing related: submission deadlines, books to betas dates, when I want to send out another batch of queries, stuff like that.

Important Dates List– If I have an important date that I know about, but it’s too far out in the future to make it on the rolling calendar, I put it on the whiteboard next to the calendar (the same board with my annual goals checklist). Whenever I’m rolling my calendar forward, I always check to see if I’m getting close to any important dates.

Blog Post Schedule– I know I’ve talked about the blog posts before, but I’ll mention it again. At the head of the document is a table where I keep my posting schedule. It lists all the dates for usually three months, the title of that week’s post, and a checkbox for when it goes live. Additional notes and the drafts themselves follow this table.

 

Idea Tracking

Story Ideas Master List– I have a brain like a sieve in a sink. Ideas are constantly gushing into it, and then flowing right back out again. If I don’t write an idea down immediately, odds are good it’s going to be gone forever. So I always keep pens and paper with me for jotting things down on the go, and then as soon as I get in front of my computer, it goes up on this google doc.

Book Blurb Master List– This is the newest of my lists. I historically kept blurbs floating around in several places (and in several different forms) and I had to really hunt to figure out where they were. But I recently got them all pulled together in one place, and updated all the ones in need of a little polish. I have blurbs for everything I’ve written at least a full draft for, and have notes on which draft the story is in and an estimate of how close it is to a queryable state.

 

And there you have it! This is how I keep my backshop organized. I probably have more lists floating around that I’ve just forgotten about. Love me some lists. I’ll probably need an intervention soon. The only problem with all this organization is that I know precisely when I’ve blown a deadline and how badly. (Sorry, betas. I swear, it’s coming soon.)

Happy writing!