Must-Haves For The Time-Crunched, 10 Minute Novelist

Are you time-crunched and your dreams are nearly forgotten?

Only read this if you want to get serious about your big, big dreams. Read this if you have no idea how you’ll find a way in your time-crunched day. Only read this if you’d call yourself a 10 Minute Novelist.

I believe that you can be time-crunched and still pursue your dreams.

This blog post (and the website, and the Facebook group) is for the people who will do what it takes to pursue their dreams, who are willing to think through their lives, their responsibilities and their fears to come up with a practical plan to work slowly, ten minutes at a time, to accomplish it.

If you think that novels just kind of write themselves, please, for the sake of all that’s beautiful, go to this blog instead. 

Writing a novel takes hard work

It takes order, discipline, and planning. Writing a book takes courage and determination and tenacity. Anyone can do it, even if they have only ten minutes a day. (How do I know this? I wrote a novel in ten minute increments. Hence the name of this blog!)

So, if you’re serious,  then you MUST HAVE these things. Ready? 

1.  You need a consistent place to work. (Your office? Your home computer?) My workspace used to be the end of my kitchen counter, which was perfect for watching the kids while I worked, but not so perfect when the spaghetti sauce went flying. Now I have a beautiful corner office in my bedroom. This is where I go to work. And I can work for longer than ten minutes at a time!  Why do you need a consistent place to work? Your space is the place that you find the concrete reassurance that your dreams are worth it. Also your space should be yours and only yours. Your space, no matter how small, tells your brain, your will and your family that this is yours and it should be respected. If you don’t have a space of your own to work, drop everything and create a space now. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be yours. 

2. You need a timer.  If you can only work for ten minutes a day, then you need to time yourself. Use your phone, your microwave, an egg timer, three songs on Pandora, whatever it takes. Why? You’re time crunched. And your timer is that little tool you can use to track yourself. It’s likely you waste time during the day. If anything your timer will remind you to stop playing Farmville and get back to work. And when the timer dings? Organize your whole life better so you can make the most of your time. 

3. You need a vision. What is your raison d’etre for writing?  Is it a cozy mystery? A romantic comedy? A Amish vampire dystopian series? Take more time to study your genre, learn craftsmanship, and be a student of writing, so can accomplish this big, big dream of yours. I want to be a novelist (actually I want to rule the world, but I’ll start with the world of fiction) so I have to set aside ten minutes daily to take one more small step toward my big vision. Why is this important? If you sit down to write and you don’t know what you’re going to write, or why you’re doing it in the first place, you’ll just sit there. Take the time to think through the whys of your writing desires. Then think specific titles. Then open a new page and get to it.

4.  You need some sort of organization.  You need a document file or a notebook or something that you can find easily when it’s time to write again.  If it takes you 20 minutes to find the file, you’re kind of missing the point. You need to be able to sit down, type like a crazy person, and then get back up again. Why? Because one of the biggest time wasters we have is disorganization. You are already time-crunched, don’t add negligence or sloppiness to the mix.

5. You need community. This is perhaps the most important thing on this list. You need to know other writers. In a community you can learn from them. You need to be encouraged. You need to share in each other’s defeats and victories. How do you get into one? Oh, it couldn’t be easier! (Click here to join my group, 10 Minute Novelists). 

6. You need to put your butt in the chair and work. Sounds daunting? It’s okay. All you need is ten minutes! The why  of this should be obvious. But there is something about momentum. More than once, I haven’t felt like writing a word, yet because I forced myself to go for at least ten minutes, I was productive. I had primed my creative pump enough that I wanted to keep going when I finished. A little something is way better than nothing.

This is how it begins. Little by little, you work at that goal and someday, maybe not too long from now, you’ll have a story, perhaps a novel. Then beta readers, then you’ll be talking to graphic designers and posting your reviews. You’ll be a novelist! 

Your big, big dream can be accomplished if you have those six things and you’re willing to work. 

And it is so worth it. 


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

10 Ways To Be A Happy Writer

By Michele Matthews

Can you be a happy writer?

You’ve come home from a tiring day job. You try to sit down at your laptop and write a few words before relaxing for the evening. But the words won’t flow. Or maybe you’re one of those lucky people who get to write full-time for a living. You sit in your home office day after day pounding out the words. Are you a happy writer? Is it possible to be one?

Here are ten ways to be a happy writer.

Take breaks

Whether you’re writing an hour or writing full-time, you need to take a short break of 10-15 minutes each hour you write. Your body will thank you. Sitting for very long isn’t good for you.

Better yet, you could set a timer for 10 minutes, write, set the timer again, and wipe down your kitchen counter or do some other house chore. Katharine Grubb wrote a book called Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day. She outlines this process in this book, which is a must read if you’re a writer.

I have used both methods for taking breaks. Which method I use depends on where I am. If I’m at Starbucks, my normal writing hangout, I take a break each hour. If I’m at home, I use Katharine’s method. You have to use what works best for you.

Exercise or meditate

Exercise is good for you. It helps you strengthen the muscles in your body, keeps excess weight off, and gives you energy. While it will help your brain, too, meditation works as well for your brain. Meditation increases your happiness and improves your mental ability. You don’t have to get fancy with it. All you have to do is sit there and be in the moment.

I started working out a few months ago, and I’ve noticed a huge change in the way I feel. Not only am I am losing weight and inches, I feel good about myself for the first time in a long time. I’ve noticed my energy level is up as well, which means I’m writing more and hitting those goals.

Socialize with other writers

One way to improve your writing skills and make you a happy writer is to go where other writers are. You can attend a writing conference or a workshop. You can join writing groups online or find one close to where you live. Other writers understand how important writing is to you when you may not have support with family and friends.

I haven’t gotten the chance to attend a conference or a workshop yet, but I’m planning to go to the 10 Minute Novelist Conference in 2018. I used to belong to a local writing group. Unfortunately, the group quit meeting. However, I get plenty of support and encouragement online in the 10 Minute Novelists.

Share experiences

You don’t have to do things by yourself. Sharing experiences helps make you happy, and you should share those happy times with other people, like family and friends.

You could do an activity that will help your creative side. Go on a drive through the country where you’ve never gone before, go to a public place and watch people, or visit a museum.

I used to do all kinds of fun activities when my kids were younger, but now I do things with my nephew and nieces when I can. That’s so much fun seeing watching them.

Do good things

You can use your writing skills to volunteer in your local community. By doing good things for others, you’ll be happier. You could offer to teach a writing class at your public library or read a story to elementary students. You could also tutor reading and writing to students of all ages.

If you need help finding a place to volunteer in your area, go to volunteermatch.org and do a search.

Set writing goals

If you’ve felt overwhelmed with your writing, then setting writing goals is important. Make sure you set realistic goals. Break down those bigger goals into smaller goals. Once you have your goals, make them happen. Hitting your goals boosts your self-esteem and makes you happier.

After a few years, I’m finally better about breaking down those bigger goals. I’m feeling less overwhelmed, too, which makes me a happy writer.

Have boundaries

From time to time, you must give your mind a rest. You have to set boundaries and say when enough is enough. You need sleep to rest your body and mind. If you have a day job, you can’t stay up all night writing and expect to go to work the next day. If you’re a freelance writer, you need to set realistic deadlines.

As much as I would like to write all day and night at times, I need a break. I have to take care of myself.

Put your worries away

One of the hardest things you will have to do is ignore the haters. However, you can’t worry about what other people think. People will hate no matter what you do. You can’t worry about your book’s rankings on Amazon and wherever else you published it. Focus on writing more books. The more books you write and publish the more people will take notice.

I’m only on Amazon, and I don’t even bother looking at my books’ rankings. Right now I’m focused on publishing more books. And for the haters, I haven’t had any yet, but that can always change.

Journal our thoughts

One of the best ways to feel good is journaling. You can write down your random thoughts and feelings. You can journal about those things you’re grateful for, such as getting your first book review or having a reader tell you how much she loved your book.

Journaling is one of my favorite things to do. When I can’t get the words out, I can always think of good things that are happening in my life to write about.

Write what you love

Most importantly, you need to write what you love. You will be a happy writer if you’re writing in a genre you love. Find your passion and write about that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a genre that’s popular. All that matters is that you’re happy.

For a brief moment right after I published my second book, I thought about changing to a different genre, one of the most popular ones. And then that thought was gone. I can’t write about something I don’t love. I write what I’m most passionate about — women’s fiction and nonfiction.

Which of these ways will you use to help you be a happy writer? Can you think of anything else to add to the list?


Writer Michele Mathews

Michele Mathews is an author of three books and a freelance editor. She is the proud single mom of two children, two dogs, and a cat.

 

How Using Top 10 Lists Creates Great Content

When you create a blog, it’s like you create a little monster.

You have to feed a blog content. You have to maintain it. If you blog regularly, you have to disinfect it against spam. You have to bring your friends to come and see it. Maybe you’ll have to think about SEO and tags and categories. Or you’ll have to decorate it with pinnable art. You have to broadcast it to the world with Twitter and hashtags and other things no one thought about ten years ago. And it never ends! The little monster is never satisfied!

A blog is a little beast sometimes. And it’s slobbering appetite can be intimidating.

A happy blog (and one that gains attention from others) has fresh, nutritious and good content on a regular basis.

Consistency is an important key in gaining and keeping readers. But how can you come up with fresh content? (You have other responsibilities!)

In this famously retweeted and repinned post from the Content Market Institute, author Scott Aughtmon lists 21 Types of Content We All Crave. And while all of that is true and good to know, it doesn’t help us Keepers of The Beasts do know how to do that exactly.

What do my blog readers want?
21 Types of Content We All Crave

My suggestion? A Top Ten List!

A Top Ten List is a great way to condense a lot of information into useable chunks. A top ten list can be as simple as ideas, as complicated as arguments or as thorough as links and images. Also, a top ten list can be easily skimmed for your reader. A top ten list is clear from the beginning about what is expected. It’s easily tweetable (easily hashtaggable) and has many applications.

Starting next Tuesday, I will be creating a weekly feature on this blog #Top10Tuesdays I will have a top ten list that offers excellent content  for my core readers. I’m going to have it every Tuesday so my readers can expect it, I’m going to tweet it using this hashtag #Top10Tuesday and because I always know what I’m going to write about every Tuesday, I can file stuff away in the course of the week. (Hello Pinterest? Yes, I’ll probably create a board just for this. Please hold.)

How Can You Participate in #Top10Tuesday Too?

1. Brainstorm for anything in that list of 21 Types of Content We All Crave that your readers would like to hear from you. Is it inspirational? Encouraging? Practical? Funny?

2. Write a Top Ten List (with apologies to David Letterman, yours doesn’t have to get progressively more funny).

3. Create a pinnable art so you can put it on Pinterest (or steal mine!)

4. Tweet about it. Maybe even using this hashtag #Top10Tuesday?

5. Retweet anyone else who blogs a Top 10 List and read their posts too.

6. Put a link to your post in the comments of my post so my readers can see what you wrote.

7. Collect info for your next post.

8. Remind your blog beast that you have fodder for next week and they don’t need to bite you.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? Will this idea work for you? Will you be joining me?


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Why You Need A Writers Community Like You Need Cake

How do you know if you are a rich writer?

If we are rich writers, we use words like Paula Deen uses butter and cream. We liberally pour out our ideas and our vision into our paragraphs and prose. Maybe we add in sweetness and flavor and texture who we are and what we care about in every book. We sculpt our words together like sugary icing roses along a cake and we present our final, finished projects as grand feasts for the world, allowing our readers to savor each morsel and each portion.  If we are rich writers, the solitary act of creating is a full and satisfying one.

But I’d like to suggest that more satisfaction that comes when we are connected to writer friends who are making their own sweet compositions.

 

You are, indeed, rich, if you have written books by the dozens, won awards, and sold many copies.

But you are richer still if you have close friends who coached you along the way.

Every success, every victory, every instance of #AuthorHappiness is just one tiny blip on this long writing journey, that is, quite honestly, a lonely one, but is magnified when it is shared. And the sad, dark times are so much easier with their comfort.

The rejection letters will come. Let those around us buy us a drink. 

The 1 star reviews will trickle in. Let those around us say, “They just don’t get your brilliance.”

The doors will close. The publishing house will go under. The disappointments are a given if we choose writer as our identity.

Within a group of writers, you have mentors and proteges, you have advice and warnings, you celebrations and sorrows. You can squeeze each others’ hands and say, “it is scary,” but you can do it. Or, “you are good, hang in there” or “this happened to me once!”

 

Writers, as tempting as it is to wrap yourself up in a solitary, lonely world with just your characters and your computer as your companions, please don’t neglect the importance of community. Reach out to other writers. We need you too.

1. Get a Mentor.

In Online Writing Groups, such as Facebook’s 10 Minute Novelists, you can meet people who are little further ahead of you in your writing journey. Ask them questions. Get them to read your stuff. Receive their feedback graciously.

2. Join A Group.

By hanging around writers who have the same goals as you, you will learn a lot about craftsmanship, character development, plot, and setting. Also? Hanging out with other writers is just fun. They rejoice with you when you succeed and buy you drinks when you don’t.

3. Take a Class.

Check out your local library, community college or adult education center for writing classes. Some are even online! By working with an instructor, you will be able to get important feedback and grasp concepts you might not through just educating yourself.  This link has a list of free and not-so-free writing courses!

Support 10 Minute Novelists

4. Be humble and teachable.

No matter how much you’ve written or how many books you’ve sold, there’s always room to improve. And even if you were Pulitzer worthy, you’d still need to know about publishing, marketing, and social media. Be open to learning all you can. Arrogance doesn’t go far in this field.

How do you find other writers?  There are tons of ways! But the easiest is to join my group 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook.

Your writing life will be all the richer for it.


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Great Advice for Writers of Short Stories

By Rebecca Dempsey

After more than a decade of writing short stories, here is what I have learned. 

  • Write. 
  • Read short stories. Read across genres, authors, places and times. I recommend Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur Conan Doyle, Carmel Bird, Ambrose Bierce, Etgar Keret, Tim Winton, DH Lawrence and Flannery O’Connor etc.
  • The shorter the work the keener the focus is on how it is written. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter. There could be as little as 10 words to grab and hold someone’s attention so errors are distracting.
  • Don’t have a cast of thousands, or a story crossing continents or time periods when there are only 500 words to do it in, it’s too difficult and rarely convincing. A short story is a moment, a slice of something, or an episode, or an event, yet always complete in itself.
  • Anecdotes are not stories. Real life is rarely story material, because life is just one thing after another. A story should have some kind of start, end and finish, with an arc or revelation to give it meaning or value.

  • Work on the ending. The ‘it was all a dream’ ending should be banished to the sixth circle of Dante’s Inferno unless you make it freaking A M A Z I N G.
  • Almost always use said or says rather than he ‘exclaimed proudly’ or she ‘enunciated snidely’ – we should understand tone and attitude from the context and the words said because there should be no wasted words in a short story.
  • Give speech context:  ‘You’re always so right,’ said Evie, before slamming the door in his face. Brian heard her turn the key in the lock and something inside him turned. He pounded the door. ‘No lock’ll stop me, Evie.’  Not my best effort but the attitude and emotions of Evie and Brian are conveyed by their actions rather than me interpreting how their words are said.
  • Write how people talk but providing a taste of an accent will do. Don’t overwhelm.
  • Stories can take minutes or years to finish. They can be five words or 7,000 plus long. Time to produce does not equal length.
  • Structure is everything. It affects tone, pacing, how the piece looks on the page and how people will read it.
  • Look at sentence construction. Look at the start of each paragraph and if the first word is the same for each change some.
  • Look at point of view and be prepared to change it. Should it be from Brian or Evie’s perspective?
  • Break up long sentences if you have many, or insert a long sentence in if your writing is always punchy.
  • Make repeated phrases or words meaningful. People see meaning in repetitions because they are word symbols and readers are always looking for clues. If repetitions are accidental, cut them out, as they are a distraction.
  • Be prepared to break rules.
  • Be prepared to defend your artistic decisions to editors; however, recognize when they are right. Editors are not killing your baby but saving it. For your story to thrive, you must let it go. Really, step away and let people read it and have opinions about it.
  • Don’t trust the opinions of those who are obliged to love everything you do.
  • Nothing is original except you. Work on your voice, rather than your ideas. If you don’t know what voice is in writing then you’re probably still developing yours. And that’s ok.
  • Expect that not everyone will love your story. Expect that you won’t either if you go back to something written a while ago. The writing hasn’t changed, you have.
  • Contests can be difficult to win and costly to enter. Try sending a story to a journal and getting a response from an editor.
  • Rejections are not about you. Sometimes they are not about your work. If they are about your work, edit it. Or send it elsewhere. Maybe the publication was wrong for your story or maybe your story isn’t done.
  • Write, finish and walk away. Come back to your story later. Read it with fresh eyes. Then edit.
  • Draft. Draft. Draft. Send. Draft. Draft. Send. Repeat.
  • Keep a database of titles, submissions, acceptances, costs, dates, earnings etc.
  • Most publications will not take submissions that have been self-published. Beware vanity publishers.
  • Celebrate your publications or milestones.
  • Short stories don’t have to be training wheels for potential novels. Nobody is forcing you to be a novelist. Especially with the return of the novella and digital media looking for short form stuff.
  • For novelists, just because you can pump out 100,000 words does mean a short story is a cake walk. Short stories need a deft yet delicate touch to contain their potential for power.

Rebecca Dempsey has been writing short stories since 2003, with works in print and online from New South Wales to Nevada. She holds a Masters in Writing and Literature from Deakin University, and a Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Humanities. Rebecca has written for newspapers and journals and keeps a blog at writingbec.wordpress.com.

How to Use Showing vs. Telling Effectively

by Rachelle M. N. Shaw

There are tons of writing blogs and articles out there that offer advice on showing vs. telling. But why is that?

Why is showing so important that it automatically trumps telling? Is it ever okay to use telling? The secret is actually in the combination of the two. When you know how you can use showing in conjunction with telling, you can strengthen your writing and sharpen the structure of your pieces.

What Is Showing?

Showing can be described as an action that is happening at the moment. Even if you are writing in past tense, that definition still applies. Think in terms of watching a movie. Chances are, given the choice, you’d probably opt to watch a movie rather than have a friend recount its events to you. Reading a book is much the same way. Most readers pick up a book wanting to get lost in its story and feel things right alongside the characters. You can achieve that most effectively through the art of showing or describing the events as they unfold. This way, the readers discover things as the characters do.

Why Is Showing Often More Powerful?

The main reason is that we’re already experts at body language at birth. Don’t believe me? The art of showing is ingrained into our minds, even during development in the womb, and it blossoms from there. We’re born knowing the basics of how to show our emotions through body language and how to read others’ body language. It’s not just a means of communication—it’s key to our survival. When a baby cries, its mother is programmed to respond to it by watching for certain cues, like feeding a baby who roots or rocking a baby to sleep when they yawn and rub their eyes. Knowing both how to convey our emotions and how to decipher them is what makes us so good at connecting with people on a deeper, more emotional level. Writers can tap into that ability to create characters that are vivid and realistic, crafting stories that stick with the reader long after they’ve read it.

When Showing Works

Showing typically is best suited for the main narrative of the story, especially during intense scenes and ones where turning points in the plot happen. However, two key places to make sure you’re showing rather than telling are the opening scene and ending scene. While telling sections do serve a purpose and are occasionally the better choice, the majority of readers will connect better with vivid scenes that incorporate frequent imagery, dialogue, and most importantly, emotion.

All that is fine and dandy when you can spot a line that is telling rather than showing, but a lot of us struggle with finding them.

So here are a few tips for identifying and incorporating lines that show:

  1. Think of the scene playing out as a movie, as something happening in the moment. Cameras can’t convey emotion—only actors can. So you’ll have to rely on tone, body language, and interaction with the environment to convey those emotions to your reader in the strongest way possible. Sure, you could just tell them, but which book would you rather read: one that flat-out states the main character is angry or one that shows the main character throwing a chair across the room while veins pop out from his neck?
  2. Eliminate filter words and passive sentences whenever possible. By doing so, your sentences will automatically become more active and draw readers into the scene. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any of these, however. It just means you should use them sparingly and treat them as you would adverbs—too many, and you’re left with fluff. Sometimes you’ll need to use personification to achieve this. For example, instead of saying, “There was a door at the end of the hall,” you can go with, “A door stood at the end of the dimly lit hallway, beckoning him,” for stronger, more active wording.
  3. Strong verbs give your active lines additional spunk! A common problem I run into when editing others’ manuscripts is weak verbs. What do I mean by that? Well, verbs such as walk, run, set, and others that serve their function but don’t incorporate any emotion into the action can be classified as weak. There’s a huge difference between ambling and strutting, just as there is between dropping and slamming. So the next time you find yourself using a weak verb, do a quick search for synonyms and find one that fits the tone and pace of the scene your writing. Just remember that there’s no need to use a bunch of fancy words when a simple one will do. While synonyms can aid you when your mind blanks, they can also become a crutch. Variation in wording isn’t about using challenging terms but rather ones that infuse emotion into the scene.
  4. Sensory details are almost guaranteed to boost the action in your story. Details that clue us into the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures of a scene entice our imaginations and fill them with vivid images that stay with us. They paint such a clear picture of what’s happening in the moment that readers are automatically drawn into the story and connect better with the characters.
  5. Rework any lines with directly stated emotions, teasing them out to use body language that shows them instead. Identify telling lines doesn’t have to be daunting. Apart from the items above, you can hunt for words that are emotions themselves. Generally, tweaking lines with directly stated emotions and replacing them with body language will result in stronger, more compelling imagery. And if you combine that with the above tips, it’ll ensure your scenes and characters burst to life on the page.

When Telling Works

While there are plenty of instances where showing is best suited, there are also exceptions, places where telling will be the stronger option. Showing and telling very much work in unison to paint a clear yet concise picture that readers look for in a great story, but there are key places where telling fits in more naturally than showing.

Examples for when telling works best:

  • When you have backstory that needs to be shared in the context of the current scene without giving too much away
  • During scenes with intense emotions where you need direct information to balance out the drama
  • With high-action scenes to cut down the play-by-play recounting of what’s happening
  • To display thoughts, opinions, and the general viewpoint of the narrator—but only when it’s relevant to the current actions in the plot
  • With details that would be too complicated to show and would bog down the process of moving forward within the scene
  • For a summarization of what’s happened without retelling every event
  • When transitioning from one scene to the next (scene breaks) where detailed action isn’t needed
  • To glaze over necessary, but not crucial, details that are relevant to the current plot

It’s also best incorporated by mixing it with relevant action—and lots of it.

How to Balance the Two

Your primary goal should be to connect readers to the story being told. So if showing is stronger for that part, take advantage of it and bring to life the reader’s senses. If showing keeps the plot from moving forward and slows the reader to the point of boredom, then you’re probably better off telling. However, one thing to keep in mind is that not every scene, thought, or action will need to be included. If a scene doesn’t propel the plot or further develop a character in any way, the best approach is usually to cut it altogether.

Finding that sweet spot for blending both showing and telling takes years of practice, and many of us spend the better part of our writing careers perfecting it.

But with a little research, trial and error, and a good sense of intuition, you can use showing and telling in harmony to create writing that is both enchanting and succinct.

These two styles of writing are meant to complement one another, not compete.


Rachelle M. N. ShawAn avid reader with an incurable need to research everything she comes across, Rachelle is an author of paranormal, horror, and writing craft books as well as the occasional women’s fiction piece. Since scribbling down her first story at the age of eight, her love for language and books has blossomed into a full-time career. She currently works as an independent editor who is passionate about writing in layers and helping authors find their voice. When she’s not busy chasing her kids and two rather persnickety cats, you can catch her blogging, tweeting, or plotting her next series. Her current publications include the first two parts in the young adult paranormal series The Porcelain Souls.

Website: http://rachellemnshaw.com/  Twitter: https://twitter.com/rmnsediting         Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rmnsauthor/  

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rachelle-M.-N. Shaw/e/B00X8D3LSY/                                                                                                                                            Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13929660.Rachelle_M_N_Shaw

Tumblr: http://fmtpextended.tumblr.com/

8 Ways to Balance Your Writing Life With Little Kids Around

Is it possible to be a productive writer with little kids in the house?

I started asking myself this question about three years ago when my perfectly organized and time structured writing life disintegrated with the (very welcome) arrival of my daughter.

It took me almost 2 years and a lot of trial and error to figure out the answer.

Yes.

It is possible to find an organized balance between being a writer, running a household and being a parent with kids at home.

I admit, I sometimes still struggle to find a harmonious balance with work life and the ever changing demands of family life, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that has kept my life organized, let me keep writing, run a (mostly) functional household and stay (mostly) sane.

1. Claim a Sacred Writing Time

There is some point during the day, if it’s five minutes or an hour, that you can find to write.

It might mean going to bed a bit later so you can write after everyone else is asleep, or getting up a bit earlier so you can write before everyone wakes up. It might mean writing during your kid’s nap (if you still have that luxury in your house). It might mean giving up TV time in the evening.

Find a time. Claim it. Use it. Ensure everyone in your house knows this is your SACRED writing time, but make sure that you are especially aware that this is writing time so you’d damn well better make the most of it.

2. Write Every Day, Even Just A Bit

Connect with your work every day to keep that part of your brain activated. Just a few minutes will do. Just a few words.

It might seem pointless to just be adding a word or two but this continued connection really does help. It helps you feel like you’re still writing and making measurable progress and it helps to keep your mind in a state of readiness so that at the beginning of the next session, you’re up and ready to go without struggling to get back into the writing groove.

3. Measure Your Progress Against Your Goals

Find a goal within your project. A word count. A number of chapters. A blog posting schedule. Anything.

Every word you write and every sentence you edit takes you a step closer to that goal and there’s no better feeling than seeing those accomplishment points creep closer and closer.

4. Have a Couple of Different Projects Running Simultaneously

This doesn’t work for all writers, and I know a few writers who actively advise doing the opposite. For me, having different projects on the go simultaneously allows me to use different writing times to differing but still maximum effect. I focus best as soon as I wake up, so I’ve made a 5 am writing time for fiction (which is the most valuable thing for me to write).

I use any other sessions I can manage to write non-fiction or work on any edits, and I use any evening time I get to make notes, brainstorm, outline, and research—all of that writing work that requires a different kind of mental work without the structure and deep focus of the actual composition.

5. Don’t Work All the Time

If (when) your kids are preventing you from actually writing, it can be sometimes best to just let it happen.

Accept the gift of having a break from work and let yourself just be in the present activity. Children are masters at this.

You’re going to get back to your sacred writing time soon, so it might be just easier just to wait for that quality time rather than fighting against the reality of interruptions. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a writing session when it’s out of your control.

6. Let Your Kids Give You A Writing Lesson

Hanging out with a little kid is all about playing. Well, there’s typically a fair bit of cleaning and sometimes some crying and yelling in there too, but play time is a big chunk of the deal.

As you’re playing with your little person, look for ways to spark your own creativity. Draw pictures of scenes from your books or just random stuff. Act out plays with toys. Read storybooks and give yourself a lesson in writing for children. Make up rhymes and sing a nonsense verse. Make up your own stories to tell your children. Trust me, your kid isn’t going to notice you’re “working” during all of this super exciting play time.

7. Get Some Help

Not everyone has a support network in place to help look after the kids. If you are fortunate enough to have support, use it. Call in any willing family or friends, put partners or older children to work. If it’s an option, you might also consider a day care or hire a babysitter to give yourself a good quality writing session. Even a half day a week will do wonders for your productivity. The two days a week my kid is in Kindy, I’m an unstoppable word machine.

8. Write For You

Does writing make you happy? Does writing satisfy you in some unique way that nothing else does? Then you need to write.

It’s easy to feel guilty making time for yourself to pursue a goal or a passion and even a job outside the family circle. As if there wasn’t already enough guilt that comes with raising kids!

If writing scratches an itch for you like nothing else can, then it’s a simple necessity. You must write. Your family must let you write.

I always feel like writing makes me happier, it makes me who I am and therefore makes me a better mother, a better wife, a better me. Don’t feel guilty for writing. Ever.

Writing while raising small people is hard, but it’s far from impossible.

Sometimes sentences may need to sit unfinished for a day or two, but those half sentences are a zillion times better than the sentences never started. Those interrupted writing sessions are infinitely more valuable and productive than the writing session you never forced yourself to take. You can be a writer and a full-time parent at the same time. If you let yourself be. 


Kate Krake writes speculative fiction (as K.A. Krake) and non-fiction for writers. Kate is the author of the dark urban fantasy series, Guessing Tales. Kate also blogs about popular culture, health, wellness, and writing. Kate lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. 

www.katekrake.com  www.thewriteturn.com            www.guessingtales.com                                                       https://www.facebook.com/katekrake/                       www.twitter.com/katekrake

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

When it comes to our writing careers, does luck have anything to do with our success?

 

Sometimes our mental images are filled with gold-filled pots accompanied by rainbows. Luck often references leprechauns and shamrocks. And this writer, whose birthday is on a lucky March 17, feels lucky when she doesn’t have to celebrate her spring-ish birthday by shoveling snow. (Who am I kidding? I never shovel snow. That’s why I had sons.)

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

–Benjamin Franklin

There’s cartoon luck, and then there’s real life luck. How much does luck really play in our writing careers? I can say that I have had my share of luck. But in the same breath, I can say that I’ve worked my butt off and that all the good that happened to me came because of my own work. And I’m one of those creatures who believes that my Maker could have something to do with it too.

Is it luck or is it just cause and effect? Do I ever confuse luck with the unexpected? Do I give credit in the right place? Should I?

These are the “luckiest” things that happened to me since I became a writer:

  1. My first traditionally published book opportunity came from  a publisher that sought me out through my blog.
  2. Catholic Digest contacted me about promoting my romantic comedy Falling For Your Madness in December 2014.
  3. In April of 2016, Writer’s Digest named my website and Facebook group one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers.
  4. In September of 2016, Writing magazine bought thousands of copies of my book and included them with copies of their magazines to subscribers and in grocery stores across the UK.

There are probably more, but these are the most significant.

I honestly can’t say if any of these things were the direct result of my hard work or me just being in the right place at the right time. But I do know this: had I sat on my butt and done nothing, then that’s what I would have received.

How do you feel when others look at your success and say, “You’re so lucky!” Is it an insult to say, “they’ve gotten lucky” or, “lucky you?” They may see the fruit of your success and never witnessed your toil. Are they suggesting that all success if just luck? Do they shirk their own responsibility, because of luck? Does this mean that if you remove luck from the equation, and you aren’t successful, then you’d have to own up to the fact you haven’t done your part? Are those who believe only in luck afraid to suggest that they are the ones who should take responsibility for their failures?

Now there are times when “bad luck” appears and it has nothing to do with the hardworking stiff. There’s a drought and the crops fail, the investor runs off with all the money, the publishing house gets sold and the book goes out of print. These events, which are completely out of our control, are no bearing on our character nor our willingness to work hard. At the risk of oversimplifying tragedy, could it be that these are opportunities in disguise? Is there a possibility that sowing the ashes of this tragedy could reap bounty later?

Maybe that’s too much of a stretch for some people. Maybe they’d rather blame their circumstances. Maybe they’d rather look out the window to their bad luck than look in the mirror at what they could possibly fix.

In the arts, the sowing and reaping acts are so unclear.

We’re not sure what we’re supposed to be sowing: we could grow in our skill set — which often means being teachable and learning all we can. We could always say yes to opportunities within our vision. We could try new things and keep trying new things and keep trying new things until something sticks. We could make efforts to meet people and stop viewing connections as a place to sell books.

What is cause and effect for the writer in their career?

The cause is the good habits, the discipline, the plugging at your craft day after day. The effect could be, at the very least, the becoming of a better, stronger writer.

I’ve decided that there really isn’t any such thing as luck, despite my birthday.

The success that’s come to me because of my own hard work (and the grace of God) is satisfying. If it were all luck, I think it would feel emptier.

Make a point to work hard. Try new things. Grow in every way you can.

I’m betting you’ll be pleased with the results.


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injuries As a Writer

By Dianna Gunn

When Katherine told me that she was looking for guest posts about productivity for writers, I knew right away what I wanted to talk about: repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

This includes the infamous carpal tunnel, but it also encompasses a range of other injuries caused by uncomfortable and repetitive motions.

You can get an RSI in just about any part of your body, but today I’m going to talk about RSIs in the wrists.

These injuries are particularly common for writers, especially since many of us also work at a desk for our day jobs. They are also particularly dangerous for writers. Not only can RSIs ruin our productivity, they can also cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety.

My Story

My struggle with RSI began at the tender age of fifteen. I had bronchitis throughout the entire month of November, and a new laptop. This was the perfect recipe for an astronomically high Nanowrimo word count—303,000 and change. It was also the perfect recipe for disaster.

On November 29th I woke up in the middle of the night. My wrist had seized up completely and stabbing pains ran up and down my arm.

I didn’t think much of it. I took some painkillers, and when they kicked in I went back to sleep. My original plan had been to spend November 30th trying to push out another 7K (because 310,000 sounded like a prettier number), but I promised to rest for a few days.

Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away. After a few weeks, I went to a walk-in clinic. They X-rayed my wrist, told me I hadn’t broken a bone, and sent me on my way.

This experience repeated itself several times. Looking back on it I know there were a couple big reasons why. One is that walk-in clinics don’t like referring people to specialists; they usually save that kind of thing for family doctors, and I didn’t have one. The other reason is that doctors tend to disbelieve young, healthy-looking women who complain about chronic pain.

Eventually, I got a doctor of my own and a referral to a specialist. They prodded my wrists for a couple hours, declared that I had tendonitis, and sent me on my way with a wrist brace.

The brace helped a little, but I didn’t really get better. So they decided I didn’t have tendonitis, and they had to run more tests. The final one involved tiny electric shocks to the nerves in my arm.

All they learned was that I didn’t have carpal tunnel. So I gave up on modern medicine and decided to find my own way.

My Recovery

I had already tried some things on my own here and there, but four years ago I decided to really buckle down. My initial strategy consisted of two primary tactics: daily yoga, wrist braces, and real breaks.

The Yoga

Before I start this section, I need to add the caveat that <b>some forms of yoga can actually cause or exacerbate repetitive strain injuries</b>. If you’re suffering from a repetitive strain injury, you should avoid or at least limit poses that put most of your body weight on your wrists.

But there are yoga moves and other stretches that can alleviate some of the pain and eventually rehabilitate your wrists. Many can even be done at your desk.

I started out with the daily routines listed on my daily yoga.  It took a few tries to actually make these part of my daily routine because I suck at routine in general, but eventually, I got the hang of it. After several months of consistent daily yoga, I only felt pain occasionally instead of every day.

Since then I’ve taken a couple random yoga classes and incorporated some of those moves into my daily routine. I’ll admit, I still suck at routine so some days I don’t do my leg stretches, but I do my wrist stretches every day. On particularly long work days I often do them twice.

The Wrist Braces

The brace (they only gave me one, I don’t know why) from the specialist had helped a little, so I decided to stick with it. I also got a wrist brace for my other arm. For about a year I wore them whenever I wasn’t working. I tried a few different kinds and found that the best ones use memory foam, which provides more comfort and also allows you a slightly wider range of movement.

A good pair of wrist braces can cost as much as $60, but let me tell you, they’re absolutely worth it if you’re struggling with repetitive strain injuries. The expensive ones can even be worn when you’re working.

Now I’m happy to report that I only wear my wrist braces when I’m sleeping, or on my now-rare bad pain days. I can even get away with sleeping without them for a few nights sometimes.

Real Breaks

Here’s a not-so-secret: I’m a bit of a workaholic, and a lot of that is driven by guilt. There is a strong voice in the back of my head that feels guilty whenever I am doing literally anything not directly related to my career.

Repetitive strain injury forced me to take breaks. And not only breaks in between tasks. I also had to take entire days off due to pain.

At first, the guilt was overwhelming. It ate away at my soul, pushing me deep into depression. I hated myself for not constantly producing. Every time I saw the advice to write every day, and I knew I couldn’t, I felt like a failure and a fraud.

Eventually, I realized that the guilt only prevented me from writing when I actually could. It weighed down every aspect of my life, and it had to go.

I haven’t eradicated the guilt monster, but I’ve become good at shutting it down. When it appears, I chase it away with a mantra: if I do not care for myself now, I will not be able to produce later. This is also an important mantra for avoiding mental burnout, one of the biggest things I see writers struggling with.

Gaining Strength

Of course, life without pain is only so useful if your wrists are still flimsy. I managed to reduce the pain, but I had suffered from RSI for so long that carrying a large bag of groceries home could cause a pain spike. To prevent this, I took frequent stops, even though the grocery store was only 15 minutes’ walk from my house. This made grocery shopping a terrible ordeal.

For a while, I just diverted these duties to my fiancé whenever possible, but that couldn’t work forever. And last year, I received the perfect gift to begin my next round of physical therapy—a small copper ball that weighs about two pounds.

I do 20 minutes of ball exercises with each wrist every single day, even if I’m taking the rest of the day off from writing/work/my regular routine. The exercises themselves are a little tough to explain, so let me show you:

This copper ball has completely changed my life. I’m more than just pain free now: I’m gaining strength. I have proper arm muscles for the first time in nine years. A couple weeks ago I realized that I’ll need bigger weights soon.

I have no idea where the copper ball was bought or where you can buy something similar, but I know many people have successfully used stress balls for the same things.

A Note About Dictation

Using dictation technology wasn’t an option for me at my worst because I grew up poor, but it’s become much more affordable in recent years. It’s also become a lot better, especially at things like recognizing accents. If you’re struggling with repetitive strain injury today, I suggest checking out Dragon

The Takeaways

Repetitive strain injury is a major obstacle but it doesn’t have to ruin your writing life. If you take the steps to treat it—whether on your own or with a doctor’s help—you will eventually be able to write to your heart’s content.


Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about creativity, books, and life at The Dabbler and is currently writing a book called Self Care for Creative People.

What To Do When the Timer Dings? A New Practical Guide

What do you do when the timer dings?

Here’s help for 10 Minute Novelists everywhere!

If there is a sequel to Write A Novel in Ten Minutes A Day, this is it!

 

Click the image to order!

If you write (or paint, or read, or crochet, or watch television) in 10-minute increments, then you know what will happen. The timer is going to ding after 10 minutes and you’ll have to go back to your to-do lists and your reality. But if your tasks are overwhelming, your stuff is in the way or you’ve forgotten your plan then you’ve lost your motivation to do what you really want with your time. This book gives you practical tips on how to organize your foundational truth, attitudes, people, time, stuff, tools, margins and fails so that you go through your day with order and determination.

Since 2009, the premise of this blog/website has been that much can be accomplished in 10-minute increments.

I’d like to suggest that having the rest of your life in order outside of your writing time, can make all the difference in what happens inside your writing time.

What do you do when the timer dings?

This is more than a time management book. This is a confidence management book.

In chapter one, Understanding Your Foundation, I encourage you to think carefully about what you want to really accomplish with your time. I hope you get a better sense of the big picture of your life so you can make great choices.

In chapter two, Organizing Your Emotions, I suggest that emotions may be hindering us from accomplishing the things that we want. As painful as it is, I hope you see areas in your life where your attitude can improve.

In chapter three, Organizing People, I encourage you to gather the people you are closest to. I explain the benefits of communicating with them your mutual needs. I also argue the case for delegation, especially in the context of a home. You can train your family to use the timer too!

“Excellent book. REALLY helpful. I feel like I need a week off to just go through the exercises, but I am going to start budgeting 10 minutes at least once a day and make a start.”  — Barb Szyszkiewicz

In chapter four, Organizing Your Time, I suggest that you track your time to see where it is spent. I hope you take the time to analyze your minutes and seconds and make changes. The timer is a great reminder of how fast life can pass us by!

In the fifth chapter, Organizing Your Daily Needs, I challenge you to look at all of the things that must be done, specifically domestic responsibilities. Then I give you suggestions on how to be more efficient and effective doing them. I hope this makes your home more peaceful.

In chapter six, Organizing Your Stuff, I echo anti-clutter thinkers by giving reasons why clutter wastes time. I hope that you make some deliberate choices in reducing your possessions for the sake of peace.

In chapter seven, Organizing Tools, I ask you to take advantage of good tools to do your job well. Maybe you’ll pull out your slow cooker now.

In chapter eight, Organizing Margins, I ask you to look at the emotional”white space” of your life. I give examples of how to guard good margins so that you have room for the unexpected. I hope my mistakes inspire you to care for yourself.

And in the last chapter, chapter nine, Organizing the Fails, I suggest that you are diligent about keeping failure from slowing you down.

You are more than your to-do lists.

You are more than your obligations and tasks. I believe you have the potential to make some major changes in your life. I think you have the power to be organized. I know you can make more time for the people and passions that you love.

Your dreams are worth ten minutes, but the rest of your life is worth so much more.

You can grab your life by its hand and say, “I’m the boss of you! Let’s get busy!”


 


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

How To Develop Your Writing Voice

(Author’s Note: For June, July & August, this blog will be posting on Mondays & Thursdays only!)

A writer’s voice is a complex, hard-to-describe thing.

I think it could be compared to a rich cheese, a well-crafted symphony or a good wine.

The complexities of each of these come from a variety of sources —  Cheese, music, and wine are complicated. Voice is complicated too. 

How To Develop Your Writing Voice by Katharine Grubb

A writer’s voice can be influenced by many different things. 

Each of my children could re-tell me the story of The Three Pigs, but they would all do it differently. The differences between their interpretations will lot to do with their individuality. The distinction between the different presentations would be their voice.

So how does our voice develop? I’d like to suggest beginning novelists tinker with influences. Show me a writer with a rich voice, and I’ll show your someone who has read great books most of their life. A writer with strong voice studies voice either consciously or subconsciously, and this is reflected in the words they put down. You can also find some practical tips here. 

How do you find your writer’s voice?

 A writer with a strong voice will be one who writes often. He is at ease with a variety of words. He may understand the use of grammar rules and manipulates the rules to serve his purpose.

To find you voice, you must have three things: Exposure to beautiful words, regular writing practice, and time.  There is no short cut.

Exposure to beautiful words:  You need to read. Read as many books as you can. Read your genre, but don’t be snobby about other genres. Try reading the classics, and try to figure out why they are so great.  Read writing blogs but always be reading and thinking about what you’re reading so that the words settle into the climate of your subconscious just perfectly. Then when the atmospheric conditions are perfect, you have a storm of words that is wonderful and dramatic and maybe even scary.

Regular writing practice: Developing strong voice is much like developing muscles for great athletic accomplishment.  If you sit at the keyboard repeatedly and daily put your thoughts together in a coherent way, you get better at it. You may  be able to train yourself over and over to see grammatical errors, then you’ll get better and more efficient at spotting them. With practice, you can say things more clearly and precisely.  Make a daily word count goal and keep it. Or plan to write a half hour each day. Find the way that’s best for you and do it!

And then there’s time: It’s common to suggest that after 10,000 hours one has mastery of a skill. You may not be able to track that in this lifetime. Don’t worry about it. Instead, focus on what you can to in the next ten minutes. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. Believe this: no time is ever wasted. What may look like a loss is really life experience. You can make up for lost time. YOU CAN.

A writer with a great voice will also know their strengths.

Are you funny? Encouraging? Are you really good at analyzing LOL cats? Put your energy into this! You’re probably passionate about it too. And people will notice that you are good at it and they will want to hear more from you. Become an expert. Read everything you can get your hands on about your favorite subjects.  Apply the principles in new and exciting ways.

It is voice, I would like to argue, that carries the most artistic weight of our storytelling.

The nuances, the experiences, and the complexities make us who we are. Thus, our stories will be unique to all of us. Look for ways to enjoy your life, read and write and you’ll be working on your voice.

You won’t be able to help it.


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Apples to Apples Drabble Contest for May 26, 2017

Can you write a 100-Word Story? Can you add in these three words?

Every week on this website, we offer budding writers a chance to get really creative. Before the weekend is up, submit your entry! You never know what kind of feedback you’ll get!

Can you write a story in 100 words?

The Rules:

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.
  9. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 

This week’s words!

 

Life Lessons Gleaned from Novel Writing

By Carolyn Astfalk

After I’d given birth to my first child, I vowed I’d never allow any task or experience to intimidate me again.

After all, despite my worries and fears, I’d just delivered a little human being, sans medication no less. If I could do that, I could accomplish anything.

But time has a way of dulling memories, especially those surrounding childbirth. (Thanks be to God.)

When in November of 2010, I decided to give National Novel Writing Month a shot, I was intimidated.

Surely fifty thousand words in thirty days would be less daunting than childbirth, right? But the bold sense of empowerment I’d felt after my son was born had faded. And childbirth had a clear advantage when it came to completion. A healthy pregnancy culminates in birth at the appointed time without much determination on my part. Birthing a novel? Those words weren’t going to write themselves, pushing themselves out of orifices and spilling onto a page in a coherent format, i’s dotted, t’s crossed, plot threads wrapped as neatly as a swaddled newborn.

Completing a novel may be a monumental task often compared to birthing a child, but the truth is, it takes a different set of life skills.

What I discovered, however, after completing those fifty thousand words and several books worth more, is that those skills and habits translate well into other areas of life. The lessons I’ve learned can be applied to a variety of tasks, projects, and seemingly unattainable aspirations. Put simply, writing novels taught me how to accomplish big goals over long periods of time.

Here are the universally-applicable life lessons I’ve learned:

  • Never stop learning. However much you may know or think you know, you’ve not learned everything there is to learn. However skilled you’ve become, you can improve. Whether it means taking classes, skimming blogs, listening to podcasts, attending workshops, or reading books, others have lessons to share with you. Be a ready learner, easily teachable and eager to improve.
  • Be patient. Big tasks take time, particularly those that involve big changes and new ventures. The world is not waiting for your success. Often what you see in your mind’s eye is a streamlined path to success and completion, free of barriers, setbacks, or a realistic assessment of how much time things take to come to fruition. Do not rush to the finish simply in order to check an item off of your list. Take the time to do things the correct way, even if it adds weeks, months, or years to your plans. Things worth doing are worth doing right.
  • There will be setbacks. There will be sick children, family emergencies, death, births, vacations, and celebrations. Your pace will slow or you’ll backslide. Your motivation will wane. Your time will ebb. Your feelings will change. Persistence is imperative. Don’t worry so much about your rate of progress so long as you resume moving in the right direction, however slow your progress,
  • Get over yourself. Humility is an underrated virtue. Yes, you are unique and special, and perhaps your accomplishment is stellar. But there are millions of other unique and special people on the planet who have also done great things. Maybe things much greater than your thing. Don’t let pride creep in, preventing you from accepting constructive criticism or the simple fact that everyone has an opinion and you’ll never please everyone. You can accept that even if what you’ve done isn’t the best or greatest, it has value, if not for others then at least for you.
  • You have unique value independent of whatever you do or don’t do. You may fail. You may succeed. You’ll probably do both many times over. Regardless, you retain your dignity. Don’t confuse who you are with what you have or haven’t done.
  • Don’t go it alone. Even the most introverted of introverts can’t go it alone. We’re meant to live in a community. You’ll need others, even if only a few trustworthy allies, to offer a listening ear, a helping hand, or a commiserating (maybe virtual) hug. Learn from others’ mistakes and successes, and then share your experiences with others. Having trouble staying motivated? Your compatriots can offer accountability too.
  • Just because you can’t do a lot doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. It’s the old “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” So, you’re only able to make minimal progress. Maybe your rate of success is abysmal. That does not negate the value of what you’re doing. Small steps, small increments of time, and little acts, however seemingly insignificant, have purpose and meaning and will eventually grow into something much larger.
  • Don’t make your ambition your life. This thing you hope to accomplish, it’s not everything. Balance your life as best you can, being sure to care for yourself as well as the important people in your life. Make relaxation and your spiritual life a priority. You will be better off for it. Time spent outside of the relentless pursuit of your goal is not wasted time. Time spent re-charging or re-fueling, or sometimes, doing nothing of consequence, is exactly what you need.

Success – let’s be real, getting by – in some areas of our lives comes easier than others.

You may not need reminders or lessons in some disciplines. Because I had the necessary drive to write that first novel, I hung in there long enough to learn these lessons. The challenge is to apply them in cases in which my natural motivation is lacking.

With fourth births and three published novels behind me, I hope I can take these lessons and apply them to other areas in my life. Maybe I could apply them to the neglected areas I choose to avoid or ignore for the same reason that so many people set aside the seemingly impossible idea of writing a novel. Things like adding exercise to my routine, keeping up with the housecleaning, de-cluttering neglected areas of the home and garage, losing weight, and on and on. Surely you have a similar list. (Please say that you do.)

I’ve written a novel, but that was just the beginning. The lessons I’ve learned will help me accomplish my other goals too.


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Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn’s debut novel, Stay With Me, will be released on October 1, 2015. At that time, she hopes to earn a few pennies to contribute to her family’s wealth and offset the time and financial drain of her word habit. Until then, you can find me playing with letters and words at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog. Carolyn resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Summer Bucket Lists For Writers

I have a bucket list for my kids this summer.

Among other things, we’re going to make homemade ice cream, go to Vacation Bible School, go to the library regularly and swim in Grammy’s pool at every opportunity.

My bucket list for my life includes spending a month in England, reading 100 books a year, owning waterfront property, and having grandchildren. I’d also like to have a book for sale at Costco, be featured on NPR,  and speak at a writer’s conference. I know for a fact those things aren’ t going to happen this year — but they could in ten years.

So I was thinking — what would a bucket list for writers look like?

What do we read? What do we write? How do we push ourselves? What new things should we try?

Bucket list items should be measurable. If you’re going to travel the world this summer, does that mean only transatlantic flights or transpacific? Measurable goals can keep us focused.

Bucket list items may need planning. I’ve never traveled the world, but imagine a little planning would be wise. Even your less ridiculous items need planning at times. Before you find yourself already at July 4, look at your summer and take a minute. How can you plan your activities so you can cross something off?

Bucket list items should be realistic. It’s all fun to have fantasies, but in the limitations that you have for June, July, August be sensible about what can be accomplished and what needs to be put off until another time.

Here are a few suggestions for your summer bucket list.

Blogging

  • Set up a blog
  • Blog on a regular basis
  • Post blogs on Twitter and Pinterest
  • Marketing
  • Research free review sites
  • Buy business cards
  • Contact local library and give copies of books away

Writing

  • Write a specific number of words a day
  • Complete that story that’s been sitting around
  • Outline the next project
  • Spend ten minutes on a prompt
  • People watch regularly
  • Journal regularly

Reading

  • Create a Goodreads List to mark books that are read
  • Make a plan to go to the local library weekly
  • Read craft books to help you become a better writer
  • Read stories on Wattpad to support other writers.
  • Collect writers blogs from which to learn

Networking/Mentoring

  • Offer to Beta read someone’s manuscript
  • Join an online group for writers. This one is my favorite.
  • Join a local writers group.
  • Join Scribofile to meet other writers and comment on others’ work.

The reality? Bucket Lists are just a cute way to say, “MY GOALS.”

Goals, in order to be a reality, have to be married to hard work and determination. So before summer gets going, spend a little time thinking about your bucket list.

And if you tell me what you put on it, I’ll share some of my ice cream!


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Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.