Category Archives: Discipline

A Better Toolkit: The Value of Practice Writing


by Christine Hennebury

Note: I know that a lot of people don’t like to do writing exercises, or in fact,do any writing that isn’t their WIP. If that’s the case for you and things are going well, carry on! However, if you are finding it hard to get your writing done, you might want to consider the benefits of practice.

Writing is like any other skill, it improves with practice. You can get practice by regularly producing stories and articles, but there is also value in deliberate practice for practice’s sake.

I’d like to see more writers carve out a little time to write for the sake of practicing, without a ‘product’ in mind. Writing for practice sharpens our skills, hones our ability to write on demand, and improves our regular writing habits.

Practice gives us better tools. When we use those quality tools in our stories and our articles, we will be far more effective as writers.

If the idea of writing for practice seems odd to you, consider how practice works in another context. In Taekwondo, for example, I spend a lot of time practicing.  For patterns,  I break them down  into smaller ‘fundamental’ movements and do them over and over again. Then,  I slowly go over the whole thing, figuring out how the different sections fit together. For kicks and punches, I end up doing each one hundreds of times and I work on specific parts of the motion.

In the last few years, I have come to accept the value of doing the same thing with my writing. When I joined the 10 Minute Novelists 365 writing club, I got into the habit of writing every day which felt great. Despite feeling great, I still had some frustration because I felt that I wasn’t doing anything with my writing. It was just sitting there.

That’s when I realized that ‘doing something’ with the writing was not where the value of daily writing was for me. it was about establishing a pattern, it was about practicing. It was about learning how to get my brain into writing mode.

Ever since that first year with the group, I can now ‘force’ myself to write. I can choose to bring my focus to the page – a skill I developed in the 365 group – and just start writing. No matter what the topic,  the skills I developed though practice always see me through to a finished product.

That’s just one benefit of writing practice.

Practicing All The Pieces

Being able to choose to get down to work is not the only way that practice is helpful. When I write for writing’s sake, I practice things like character development, opening sentences, descriptions, and transition lines.  It’s just like when I break down my TKD patterns into chunks – that kind of practice is not intended to be visible to others. I never write a story by saying ‘Here is my opening sentence, here is my transition, now I will add my character.’ I don’t need to consciously choose each of those story aspects because my practice has made me confident about them.

It’s much like when I do my patterns for a competition, I don’t name each move in my head. I just let my body take over and pull the practiced pieces together. When I’m writing, my practice with the bits and pieces means I have lots of skills to apply quickly to a story or article.

“Writing is like a sport – you only get better if you practice.” – Rick Riordan

 

Good Use of Writing Time

I know that a lot of us are strapped for time. When you are short on time, it might seem counterproductive to use some of it practicing. However, any time that we spend practicing makes us better at our craft. That, in turn, means that, we will be able to write more quickly and be more effective  in writing our WIP. We will have a sort of ‘muscle memory’ for better writing.

 

Ways To Get Some Practice In

  1. Substitute – Pick one of your short writing sessions each week to dedicate to practice instead of your WIP.
  2. Warm up – Start each writing session with a few minutes of practice.
  3. Pick a Time – Choose a specific time each week/month/quarter to practice your writing. Choose exercises ahead of time and dive in.
  4. Find the cracks– Keep a ‘specific practice notebook in your bag or in your car.  Do practice exercises in little crevices of time in your day.
  5. Talk it out – Try describing things aloud as you drive. Dream up good opening lines and say them to yourself while you make supper. You are still practicing, even if it’s not written down.

 

Writing for practice is a very different thing than writing for a specific purpose. Practice writing may not produce publishable material but it will make you a sharper writer.

When you get lots of practice, you will find it easier to get down to work, and you will have a very effective set of writing tools at your disposal.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

 

Persistence, Perspective, and Fun: Working Through Writing Challenges


by Christine Hennebury

Writing can be a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of hard work. If you find ways to add fun while sticking to your project, you’ll be a lot more satisfied with your progress.  

When we first imagine ourselves as writers, we envision fun things like best-selling books, talk show circuits, and piles of cash. Or, at least, we imagine ourselves triumphantly writing the perfect scene.  We don’t envision the days that we sit in front of the computer struggling with a single sentence.  

When we do consider those days, the ones where writing is hard but we have to do it anyway, writing becomes a job instead of a hobby.  That can be helpful for taking ourselves seriously but it can take away some of the fun.

When our fun levels drop, we start to avoid writing.

 

Since the world needs our words,  we need to find ways to add more fun and to increase our persistence. Here are a few tips that can help:

 

1) Add Something Fun

When you reach a part of your writing process that doesn’t thrill you, see what you can do to make it more fun. For example, you may not enjoy editing but there may be ways to make it more fun.  Perhaps you could print your manuscript  in your favorite color, or by using a colored pen. Or  you could play special music,  or have a specific snack (or drink) while you do certain tasks.  You could even try doing  those tasks in a different place – my hammock makes an excellent revision spot.

Some writers even find it useful to have one specific spot for writing and another one for revising. And they have both decorated to match the ‘mood’ of the task.

The key here is to add a layer of enjoyment that helps bring you back to a challenge task. It doesn’t matter how weird that layer is, as long as you enjoy it!

2) Change Your Perspective

I’m not going to suggest that everything will become magically fun as long as you have the right attitude. However, if you consider certain aspects of writing to be dreadful, and you dwell on it, you will keep dreading them. So, you have to find a way to change your approach and make things easier on yourself.

When I need a change, I often find it useful to ‘reframe and rename’ my frustrating tasks. For example:  I like to think of reviewing my first drafts as part of my ‘montage’ – you know, the series of quick scenes in movies between the ‘before’ and ‘after’- it helps me keep that part of the work in perspective.

If you think of revising as ‘cutting through the jungle’ or editing as ‘polishing your brilliance’, it gives you a new way to look at it. If you call your plotting process ‘my evil plan’ or ‘drawing a treasure map’, it can help you have a bit more fun.

 

3)  Plan Lots of Rewards

When my coaching clients are struggling, I tell them to reverse their reward ratio.  So, instead of earning a 10 minute break after an hour of writing, they give themselves an hour off after 10 minutes of writing.  It seems counterproductive at first but it keeps you moving forward until you reach a part that you enjoy.  Just make sure to pack that hour full of things that make you happy.

If time off doesn’t motivate you, pick another reward that will draw you through the work process. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it serves you well.

 

4) Alternate (Or Take A Day Off)

While there is a sort of virtue to be found in slogging through the hard stuff, you don’t have to do all the hard stuff at once. You can alternate between challenging work and the more enjoyable pieces on any given day. Or, you can just take a day off from whatever tasks you struggle with and only do the fun parts of your writing project that day.

Feel free to add unnecessary fun bits when you can, too. If you enjoy imagining what your characters would do in a restaurant, or, at a party, feel free to write that. Even if it doesn’t make it into your final manuscript, it still gives you information about your characters and moves you forward. Anything that keeps you writing is a good thing.

 

5) Accept That There Are Hard Parts (I Know, I Hate That, Too)

Good writing is work. There are lots of fun parts and there is victory at the end, but it is work. Even once you made it more fun, you still might not want to work on some parts. That’s when acceptance can come in.

This is the point where you say ‘This is boring and I am doing it anyway.’

Usually, once you get started, you will find it is not as awful as it seemed. I find the *idea* of some aspects of writing far harder than the actual task. Once I actually start working, the task is far less intimidating.

Another aspect of acceptance is to remember that this frustration just might be part of *your* writing process. To use an example from another context: I like to travel but all the preparatory work. Ensuring that I have all the details in place is stressful, no matter how fun the trip will be. There is a point in every travel plan in which I decide that it would be easier not to go at all.

I used to think that the feeling was a sign that I shouldn’t go but now I know –  it’s part of my preparation process. This is a feeling that surfaces for me when I am trying to work on something that has a lot of detailed parts. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a sign, it’s just part of the process. That means that when it arises, I can recognize it, take a deep breath (or seven) and keep working until it passes.

You can do the same thing with your reluctance to do certain types of writing work. If you don’t give the feeling any extra meaning, you can accept it and keep writing.

We all have parts of the writing process that are challenging for us. It’s completely normal. Once we make those challenging parts easier on ourselves, we will be able to get through them more quickly.

The next time you are staring down your writing nemesis, try some of the tips in this post and they should help you keep working, and, turn your nemesis into one of  your allies.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

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.

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.

Five Steps To Building A Regular Writing Routine

By Bethany Perry

There’s so much advice out there about writing.

A lot of it is obvious. For instance, I read an article yesterday that suggested two things about how to write. One, sit down (optional). Two, write. Yes, two is required.

Thinking about writing is not writing.

Reading advice columns like this one is not writing.

Doing all the things I am about to relate to you is not writing.

Writing is writing, period.

Honestly, however, just because reading about writing is not writing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, I think (and I’ve read) that continuing your education in writing is essential to growing as an author. So let’s get on with it.

Five Steps for Building A Regular Writing Routine

  1. I keep a writing journal

Yes, I got this suggestion from another article. Yes, it has worked for me. I modified it to meet my specific needs. What I do is, I write down things like what time I sat down to write and what time I finished, my beginning and ending word count, if my football team won or lost, whether or not I’ve had caffeine recently, the days this year when I lost two good friends. Why do this?

It helps me see several things. It helps me keep up with productivity, AKA my word count. It shows me what affects my productivity. Death absolutely does, I knew that. But the time of day does too. I write best at night. That’s just how it is. I’m too easily distractible during the day. I’m a night owl. Makes sense I’d be more able to focus the darker it is outside.

Knowing when and how I’m most productive gives me a better opportunity to be at my most productive. And when I’m on, I’m on. I only get about an hour on an average day to write. When I do it at my most productive time, I can crank about 1k to 1500 words regularly.

But there’s more to that story.

  1. I listen to music with headphones.

After I work all day, spend time with the kiddos and the boyfriend, the munchkins go to bed and I write. But the boyfriend is a night owl too, sometimes the kiddo wants water or whatever, the dogs bark, you know, normal house stuff.

So when it’s time, I put on my headphones and go to my writing place. Instrumental music is best because it’s been proven that your language center cannot decipher two inputs at once. So if I listen to music with lyrics, maybe my brain is working on those words instead of the ones I’m putting down on the page. Even if those aren’t the words I think I’m focusing on, I might not be able to instruct my brain to do otherwise without some effort of will. That affects my productivity. I don’t want that. So for me, it’s instruments only or instruments mostly with some wordless vocalizations. And then I sink into my little world of words.

  1. I have a routine

If you have kids, you’ve probably discovered that routine is wonderful for keeping them happy. They might complain about it, but if things are presented to them in the same way each day – breakfast at 9, lunch at 11 followed by a nap, snack at 2, dinner at 6, bedtime at 8, for example – I’ve found things go so much easier. They know what to expect and when, and they are comfortable within those boundaries.

Funny thing is, I’ve found adults are the same way. I might complain about going to work every morning at 6:30, especially since I’m a night owl, but without that routine, I get a little lost. Routine soothes me. It’s the same for most of us, so I’ve read.

Support 10 Minute Novelists

So when it comes to writing, I have created a routine.

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind. After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind.

After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

The water is boiling! Great. I put in the tea and set the timer for steeping. It’s at this point I go to my writing place. I turn on my lamp. I power up my computer. Bust out my journal. Fill in the journal. Beep! Tea is ready.

All these things, in the same order, tell my brain it’s time to write. On to the next step.

10 Minute Novelists Insider Monthly Magazine by 10 Minute Novelists
Sign up for the monthly literary newsletter, 10 Minute Novelist Insider & get your free copy of Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!
  1. Turn off the internet

This is not a joke. This is not a maybe. This is a must. If you live alone, you can turn it off altogether straight from the router. If not, you can turn it off on your computer.

Place your phone in another room. Or at least out of arm’s reach. Just get rid of the internet. Research is for another time. Checking your facebook is for another time. Reading about writing is for another time. You don’t need the internet to write. Even if you use a cloud based service, you can save offline and upload at the end of your time.

  1. Write

Ah, here we are. Now is the time. I plug in the headphones, start up my music, put the screen in front of me, and write.

So there you have it. I’ve added my voice to the proliferation of voices that tell you how to do this writing thing. But here’s the thing about it. This is what works for me. Take what you like, leave the rest. Find what works for you! That’s the way to truly be successful at getting that writing done. Writing is just as personal as anything else you do, and how you do it is up to you.

But however it is you do it, I hope you have fun doing so.


If you liked this post, you’d also like:

What to be a Better Writer? Think Like A Sculptor! or

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing


Bethany grew up in the South, transplanted to the West, and has visited just about anywhere in between. She’s got a day job, and a family, and at night she writes and writes and writes. And sometimes in between, she writes. She enjoys traveling down the road of the macabre, but mainly in order to discover the beauty hiding within the human spirit when it is pushed beyond normal boundaries.She has completed, finally, after all these years, two novels. She is currently working on editing the second for future publication and is neck deep in writing the third. She has published some poems in literary publications and has several works of short fiction published online.

Eleven Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility

If I didn’t delegate my household chores, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

To delegate responsibility means to give a task to someone else. In a way, by allowing someone else to do something, you’ve doubled your efficiency. (I have five kids. This means I can do a lot more than double mine!) To delegate means more than just getting more work done. Delegating also brings people closer.

11 Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned since I’ve chosen to delegate my household tasks. Here are a few:

Trust builds relationships. When you hand off a job, and allow someone to work for you, you’re saying, “I trust you. Show me what you can do.” Around the house, the stakes are low, so it can be easy to build trust. (I don’t suggest you take this approach with an inexperienced electrician.) Ideally, a volunteer with a job to do will be grateful for that trust. I believe, that given the right situation, they will rise to the occasion and do well because of that trust. With the completion of the job, the bond between the two parties strengthens. This is how teams are build. The joy that can come out of good relationships is far more valuable than the completion of the task.

People are more important than tasks. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the job that needs to be done, that you snap at others. A bad manager will be overly critical or shame workers. Often, this communicates to them that they are unimportant or replaceable. In your delegation, stop and consider how you can communicate to your volunteers that they are valuable regardless of what they contribute. This feeling of acceptance will help insure that they will want to help again.

“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.” 

—  Richard Branson

By giving someone something to do, you’re inviting them in on your mission. Of all the reasons to delegate responsibility, this is the best. “Do you want to help?” is a question that, if asked correctly, can be an invitation. The reward for saying, “Sure!” should be shared thanks, credit for a generous contribution and satisfaction for a job well done. When my children were small, I tried to use the word, “blessing” when it came to doing chores around the house. “It blesses me when you pick up your toys.” Or, “when you ask to help, it’s a huge blessing.” Or, “who wants the blessing of doing something for the house?” I wanted to communicate to them that sharing responsibility was a good thing. To this day, they do their chores cheerfully. They are still on mission with me and receive the full reward of it.

People learn by doing. All the verbal instructions in the world can’t substitute for holding something in your hands. If I’ve learned anything in my years as a homeschooling mother, it’s that learners need to see processes and instructions a variety of ways before it clicks. Some are quicker learners than others. A good teacher will be happy to demonstrate, explain and review. Agreed, it does take time to do this well. But this little investment of time can pay off big later. If you delegate responsibility, you’re taking advantage of a teachable moment.

“The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.”

— Eli Broad

Few mistakes are fatal. If I am really honest, then I have to admit my tasks are not life-threatening. If they don’t get done, the worst could be is that we’re inconvenienced. I need to communicate this to my helpers. They need to know that I value them, I value their contribution, but their mistakes are rarely upsetting. If a mistake is a critical one, then I try to handle it calmly and reassuringly. I don’t want any mistake they make to taint our relationship.

Others may have a better solutions than I do. Little kills a spirit more than squashed creativity. I’d love for my helpers to come up with good, creative solutions for the tasks I give them. I always retain veto power, but by letting them have a chance to create, I’m demonstrating trust and good will. They may show me ways to change how I do things.

“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”

— Andrew Carnegie

 I need to separate myself from the task at hand. After good instruction and proper tools, I need my helper to feel free to be themselves in the task. I need them to be confident in the job. I believe the more freedom they feel, the better they’ll be. Even if they mess up, I want them to see the whole task as a positive experience so they’ll be willing to help me again. I believe that my separating myself from the task supports this.

Short term tasks are rarely as important as long term vision. I want my kids to participate in the household responsibilities cheerfully, but more importantly I want them to always feel like they are loved unconditionally by me. This means that I can’t risk losing my cool with them over their mistakes and negligence. I do confront it. I do correct it. But I don’t say hurtful things that might damage our relationship for the future. Short term tasks are important, but certainly not the most important. 

 “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

— George S. Patton

I have it in me to fire others. Sadly, I’ve had to pull people aside and give them a good talking to. Sometimes they haven’t responded well. Sometimes I’ve had to let others go. This is not something I enjoy. Despite my hard work to be diplomatic and gentle, I don’t like firing people, especially volunteers. But I’m very proud of the fact I can do it.

 I really do need others. I’d love to think that all of my accomplishments are mine alone. No, I’ve had lots of help. Because I chose to delegate some of my responsibilities to willing parties, I’ve come to love them more deeply. I need them not just for the tasks at hand. Others encourage me when I am down. I need to do the same for them.  We are bigger than the sum or our parts. If I played the Lone Ranger game with my life, I’d be pretty miserable.

“I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion leaving tasks in someone else’s lap doesn’t just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive.”

–John Ortberg

Efficiency is a poor teacher. Sure, I can always do things faster myself. But that doesn’t teach anyone anything except to get out of my way. It’s far better for me to guide my teams now, teaching them as I go. When they get the hang of it, I’ll have someone to do work for me. I’ll have gained a lot more in the long run.

I’ll need to work myself out of a job one day. This is especially true with children. By asking them to take responsibilities around the house they are gaining practice for adulthood. They are learning more and more about how to function in the world. Someday they’ll have to make their own meals and do their own laundry. That transition is hard enough, by having skills, at least it will be easier.

I want my people to go on without me. If I do all the work and never allow them the chance to work, then that makes me irreplaceable. While I do want to be irreplaceable in their hearts, I don’t want to render my survivors helpless. If they share in the responsibilities then when I’m gone, temporarily or permanently, they’ll be able to function. I want this for them. I want my purposes to last.

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.”


– Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyone should share in the glory of a task. I like it when my kids beam when I say, “I couldn’t do it without them.” This glory basking is a sweet thing to share. I want their team experiences to be pleasant ones. Taking all the credit is a pretty lonely task. I’ve found it only feels good for a second. But sharing credit sows seeds of goodwill that will reap big rewards later.

Micro-managing doesn’t suit me. I feel icky when I constantly correct someone in how they’re doing something for me. I them to volunteer to do it again, so I feel like micromanaging what they do tells them that I don’t want them back. If I micro-manage, I tend to slip into neurosis and I’ve never thought this was an attractive look. Whenever the urge to micro-manage strikes, I try to step back and remind myself that the relationship I have with this person is more important than any detail.

I have five children and live in a modest home.

I have lots of other responsibilities and goals. Because I chose to delegate tasks to them, I not only have met my personal and professional goals, but I’ve also seen them grow into responsible teens and pre-teens. I’ve learned much about the value of delegating. As my children grow and move away, I’m taking these same lessons into other parts of my life and seeing similar success.

By delegating my responsibility, I have become more efficient with my to-do list.

But, in truth, my team has given me much more  than a list that says “Done.”

Living With My Old Friend Laziness

Support 10 Minute Novelists

I hate laziness. And yet it’s an old friend of mine.  

Lazy slouches in the corner and asks me to go get it a drink.

 It sneaks out of simple requests, claiming that it’s just too tired. It claims that everything will get done, but when the inspiration hits, or when that condition is just right, or when it feels like it.

Living With My Old Friend Laziness

I check laziness’s work. This underside has been neglected. The corner was cut here, and here and here too. And this is the wrong technique, not what I asked. I should know better than to ask for more.

Lazy complains about the job that he is doing. Lazy sits and ponders all the ways we should find a short cut. Then lazy makes a big show over what little effort has been made.

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction. –Anne Frank

He makes excuse after excuse. Then I think about my relationship with lazy and I wonder, have I ever seen it give its best? Have I ever seen it actually break a sweat? Have I ever seen it work to completion on a job?  

Laziness is often in me. I’ve had it rub off on me, and I hear its whining come out of my mouth. 

When I see these streaks of lazy in me, I grow angry and bitter. I resist taking responsibility for my failure.  I faint with fake weakness and confess I’m just not up to much more. Oh poor me! 

Laziness doesn’t know this: that there is great satisfaction in doing your best. 

I’ve trained my own laziness with the whip and chair of small rewards.  I’ve pushed my own laziness just a little harder and been so pleased with the results that I pushed even more. When laziness uses excuses to get out of work, I just plug my ears and hand over the mop and the broom. 

My own lazy is getting better and better about taking orders. In fact, my own lazy has discarded the excuses, the sneakiness, the denial. It’s far from perfect, but my own lazy now has muscles that are toned up. It has a new motivation about it. I can actually leave my lazy alone with a job and it will get done. 

I reward it by calling it a new name. My laziness is now called diligence. I don’t even recognize it. 

The job is done. We worked hard together. Now we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. 

As you make plans for change in 2017, think about how you can prod your laziness into action. 

Think about how damaging and unproductive it would be to drag your excuses into the New Year. 

Think about how much more you could accomplish if diligence worked beside you.

But don’t just think, do. 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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. 

Wasting Time: Seven Hard Questions To Ask Yourself

 Support 10 Minute Novelists

“Don’t waste your time chasing things that will never be beneficial to your future.”
April Mae Monterrosa

Are you wasting your time? Now that you are safely nestled into the routine of a New Year, it’s time to be honest about how you’d like this untouched calendar to be filled. You may have regret over how 2016 turned out for you and a possible repeat of regrets gives you the willies.

Instead of waiting to see what happens, ask yourself these tough questions about how you spend your time.

7 Hard Questions To Ask Yourself About Wasting Time by Katharine Grubb

1. Are Your Priorities A Mess?

This is what it may look like: You want to be that person that everyone comes to for help so you never say no. Your calendar is bursting, you’re not getting enough sleep and you may feel like doing anything for yourself is selfish. This wastes your time because you’ve filled your calendar with stuff you don’t want to do in the first place.

The deeper problem could be that you have boundary issues. You’ve never respected your own boundaries, so you let others walk all over you. You may think that this is the way to keep everyone happy, but it’s only making you aimless and exhausted.

The solution could be:  look for ways to say no, or at least limit some responsibilities. You could also take an inventory of how you spend your time and eliminate those tasks that don’t bring you joy. You could practice saying no to others and get a trusted friend to encourage you to be steadfast in your boundaries. You may also want to read BOUNDARIES by Cloud and Townsend. Saying no now can prevent wasting time later.

2. Are You Wasting Time Waiting For The Greatest Idea Ever?

This is what it may look like:   you think that the Harry Potter series just settled in J.K. Rowling’s mind and you think that your successful future novel will appear much the same way. You may not understand that ideas are cheap and that only the ones with hard work behind them go anywhere. You may also have a unrealistic expectation of what creativity really is. This wastes your time because you could have been writing all this time, working a lame idea into a blockbuster.

The deeper problem could be that: you don’t want to do the work, you may falesly think that a discarded idea is a sign of failure or you just think that success in the arts should be easy.

The solution could be: learning all you can about the struggle authors face in creating things. It could be disciplining yourself for 10 minutes a day and just writing to show yourself you do want to do the work. You may also want to watch this video by Elizabeth Gilbert or read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. Working on your ideas, even for 10 minutes, can prevent wasting time later.

3. Are You Wasting Time by Micromanaging?

This is what it may look like:  You say that you want help, but the idea of delegating responsibility makes you stabby. Instead, you take responsibilities from others, to make sure it gets done correctly. Or you may waste a lot of emotional energy micromanaging the habits of others because you don’t think they’ll succeed. This wastes your time because your control freak tendencies will crowd out what’s really important (and they may damage relationships in the process.)

The deeper problem could be that you have a lot of fear in your life. You have unresolved anxiety. You are trying to control everything because if you don’t, you believe the worst will happen.

The solution could be: that you need to talk to a mental health professional, if for no other reason than to get some insight on what is worth fretting over and what is not. You may want to try delegating (and not micromanaging) small things once a week and reminding yourself that the world didn’t end if it turned out differently from what you expected. You may also try reading The Power of Surrender by Judith Orloff. Learning to delegate and expecting others to help can definitely prevent wasting time later.

4. Are You Wasting Time Worrying About What Others Think?

This is what it may look like: If they say you’re good, smart, beautiful, clever or wise, then you’re good smart, beautiful, clever or wise. You may use things like blog visits or Facebook likes to feel better about yourself. You may be looking for outside affirmation from a publisher or a reader or an editor, but you also may find that it’s not always satisfying once you get it. This wastes your time because instead of moving forward with a project, you keep looking behind and around you to get approval.

The deeper problem could be that: you are really insecure with who you are. You may not fully value yourself. You can’t appreciate your own awesome and this may stem from previous bad influences in your life who convinced you what they were saying was true.

The solution could be: that you talk to a professional mental health worker and be up front about your feelings of inadequacy. Keep a running list of your strengths and your achievements to remind yourself of your awesome. Consider saying positive things to yourself daily to get your focus off the approval of others. You may also want to read: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. Being confident in yourself is a great engine revver. If you worry less about what others think, you can prevent wasting time later.

5. Are You Wasting Time Ignoring The Real You?

 This is what it may look like:  you don’t think that creatives are practical people, or your first responsibility is to those around you, or dreams are for the weak. You’re ignoring your true self. You are busy doing something because it’s practical or expected or secure. You may feel you’re too old, too experienced, too committed to being one way, that you can’t possibly change. This wastes your time because life really is short! You get only one chance and you are worth pursuing your dreams.

The deeper problem could be that: you’re in a rut. You have settled for a so-so, dissatisfied life because you don’t think there are any options for you. You may also be crippled by fear to try something new.

The solution could be: that you get honest about what would really make you full of joy and provide meaning for your life. You may also want to talk to someone who has made a change in their life so they can encourage you. You may also want to read: Living An Inspired Life: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dwyer. You don’t want to come to the end of your life regretted you wasted it.

6. Are you afraid of failure?

This is what it may look like: you can’t remember your past successes, you only remember that time you tried and failed. You have people in your life who remember your failures. This wastes your time because fear is a paralyzer. Your fear may keep you from taking any action at all.

The deeper problem could be that: you’ve put far too much importance on the mistakes you made or the non-successes. You’ve allowed your past to define you.

The solution could be: go to someone who truly loves you and tell them what you’ve been thinking. Allow them to remind you of where you have succeeded. Make a list of all of your accomplishments and your strengths and think about them. Pay attention to times you make mistakes during the day and affirm yourself with “I am not the equivalent of my mistakes”. Consider talking to a mental health worker and maybe reading this book: Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Mistakes by John C. Maxwell. We’re all going to fail. Acknowledging and accepting this can prevent wasting time later.

7. Are You Wasting Time on Negative Thoughts?

This is what it may look like: your inner voice is on an endless loop of “you’re no good.” “This goof is just like you.”  “Who do you think you are?” “Why are you even bothering?” “You’ll never amount to much.” If your confidence is shaken, you won’t be able to do much at all. And that will waste your time.

The deeper problem could be: those messages have been put there by someone else in your life. It could also be that you’ve never practiced disciplining those thoughts. Or maybe you need to show someone the door.

The solution could be: paying close attention to what you tell yourself and responding nine positive things for one negative. It could also be keeping a positivity journal or surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you. And, surprise! I’m going to suggest talking to a mental health professional about this too. You could also read this book: Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance At Work by Shawn Achor. Breaking this habit will make all the difference in your life and can prevent wasting time later.

2017 can only be awesome if you make it that way.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these tough questions, address the deeper problems and find good solutions.

The next twelve months are a gift. Don’t waste them.


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread and a comedian wannabe. She is also the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. She also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top Eight Things Future Best-Selling Authors Are Doing Right Now

 

Someday in the future, maybe five years, maybe ten years, maybe twenty years from now, the best-seller lists will name authors that no one has heard of now.

Those future best-selling authors don’t spring up out of nowhere, they’re alive and breathing as we speak. They’re out there, right now, getting kids ready for school, driving to the day job or composing another blog post.

Future best-sellers also working on their craft. They’re hard at work, making the most of the time they have to create the art that someday will be acknowledged by the world.

Top Eight Things Future Best-Selling Authors Are Doing Right Now by Katharine Grubb

What exactly are they doing then?

They probably write every day. If they don’t, then at least they write regularly. They treat their art with respect and understand that it takes a lot of practice to be excellent. The most successful authors of the future aren’t afraid to put in the hours to achieve their dreams.

They take their social media seriously. The future best-sellers understand that engaging with others on social media is important. Social media connections aren’t as important as writing, but it is important to meet reader after reader, to learn the ins and outs of various media platforms, and to update it regularly. The publishing teams behind these authors will be more enthusiastic  about supporting these future successes because they’re active now.

They’re reading craft books. If they’re not reading craft books, future best-selling authors are reading craft blogs, or taking classes or looking for ways to improve their art. Future best-sellers understand that there’s always something to learn and they’re looking for as much wisdom from the world of writing as they can. This diligence will show up in their art. They’re counting on it.

They aren’t afraid of criticism. Tomorrow’s best selling authors are sitting in critique groups today asking for feedback. They are pondering word choice, point-of-view, how many adverbs are too many and which dialog tags to drop. Future best-sellers are willing to listen to other authors around them and make necessary changes. A  writer who can’t handle constructive criticism won’t go far in this industry, and certainly will have trouble becoming a future best-seller.

What else do they do?

They’re learning how to be organized. Future best-selling authors take care of business well. Even though this may not come naturally for them, they keep good records. Successful writers need to file taxes, track expenses and stay on top of invoices. If you are a writer and you aren’t willing to take care of the business end of things, you probably can’t hope to be nothing more than a hobbyist.

They don’t make excuses. The best-selling authors of the future make writing a high priority. They don’t wait for “inspiration to strike” or “the perfect two hours”.  These writers push themselves when they don’t feel like writing, when the words don’t come or when their confidence is shot. This willingness to override excuses gives them a perseverance that often separate the professional from the amateur.

They are accessible to their readers.  I’m not a prognosticator, but I’d guess that in five, ten or twenty years the book market will be even more saturated. That means that it will be all the harder for writers to stand out. One of the ways that they can is to engage with readers now. A wise author builds relationships with their readers and in the future, these readers may turn into raving fans.

They don’t dwell on failure. Every single one of us is going to fail, that’s a given. But the most successful of us will look at our failures as opportunities to learn and become stronger. Future bestsellers will have a history of ups and downs, piles of rejection letters, embarrassing anecdotes, and spelling mistakes. But the best of us will refuse to let those failures become our identity.

Future best-sellers are all unique and have their own figurative and literal stories to tell.

Some future best-sellers will have to write thirty books before their big national break. Others will break-out with the second or third book. Some will become commercial hits. Others will find notoriety in more critical circles.  But all of them worked hard, all of them overcame obstacles and all of them weren’t afraid to learn.

I may never be a world-wide best-seller, but even if I’m not, I’m going to do everything on this list. My goal isn’t fame nor fortune, it’s being the best writer I can be.

Are you a future best-seller? Do you know what it takes to get there?

Forget the Resolution! Are Your Goals SMART Enough For 2017?

If you are going to set goals for 2017, you need to think SMART!

 Unlike goals, promises and resolutions are full of hot air.

Those flighty resolutions float through our minds at the fresh, breezy start of January. They usually settle, forgotten in the corners of our minds before that groundhog pokes his head out.

But a real, workable, practical, life-changing goals look entirely different. Plans that are still a part of your life in March and April will be SMART.

Forget the Resolution! Are Your Goals SMART Enough For 2017?

Are Your Goals SMART Enough For 2017?

Are they SPECIFIC?  This means you envision tasks that are easy to visualize. For example, In 2017, I want to read 100 books, I want to write 500,000 new words and I want to complete two nonfiction proposals. These goals are way more specific than “read more, write more, send stuff out.” As you think about your goals for 2017, rewrite them into the most specific way possible, use numbers not just vague adjectives.

Are they MEASURABLE?  Your goals should be a black and white event — they should either be done or not be done. If you have something measurable, say write 500,000 new words in 2017, then you would know what you’d have to write on the average daily to meet that goal. (That’s 1370 words a day, in case you’re wondering. ) You’d know what you would do to make the words up if you missed a day. You’d be able to accurately measure, as the year progressed, if you are going to meet your goal or not. Are your goals measurable? Can you break them down to a daily task? A weekly one?

Are they ATTAINABLE?  This may be the hardest part of goal setting: What are you really capable of? Does your reach exceed your grasp? I know that if I say I’m going to do Couch25K in 2017, that I probably won’t. As much as I’d like to meet that goal, think exercising three times a week is a much more attainable. To find the most attainable goal, you’ll need to know your strengths and weaknesses well. You’ll also need to admit where you’ve failed in the past. But this is the nice thing about goals and the New Year: It’s never too late to start over. Be honest with yourself and check that your goals are attainable.

Are they REALISTIC? It’s one thing to dream big, it’s quite another to understand what really could happen and adjust your dreams accordingly. Do you have an adequate understanding of your other time commitments so you can meet this goal regularly? It also probably wouldn’t hurt you to ask a trusted friend if they think that your goals are realistic. And as disappointing as it may be, a little adjustment of the goal could be called for. It’s better to have a realistic goal you can make than break your heart later after reaching for the impossible.

Are they TIMELY? What are the time constraints you’ve put on yourself for this goal? Is this goal something that you must do now, or would it better to wait for another time? Can you address the meeting of this goal on a regular basis throughout the course of a year? We only have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year to accomplish what we want. Analyze your time well and set your goals to fit between your needs and commitments.

Your goals for 2017 should be so much more than wishful thinking and broken resolutions.

Successful writers plan for success. And if you are to be successful, you will need to think about how each of your goals meet these requirements.

2017 will be a great year, if you plan it the SMART way!


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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. 

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

We are insecure for a lot of reasons.

We’re insecure because we probably have artistic temperaments that makes us feel deeply. We overthink and over analyze. We find it’s easier to dwell on what it negative in our life rather than what is positive. We may have lived in environments in which confidence and boldness was discouraged and despair was fertilized with lies and fear. We may lack skills. We may fear failure. We may long for approval and we know it’s hard to achieve it anywhere, much less in this field. We’ve been burned before. The last person who read our work was mean or hateful or didn’t get us. We’re  bound too tightly to the failures of yesterday. We speak a lot of negative words to ourselves. We compare others’ highlight reel to our bloopers. We are so aware of our weaknesses that we can’t comprehend that we have strengths. We’re too worried about what others think.

This insecurity is a poison.

It can seep into our lives, into our motivations, and into the words that we put together. This poison can infect our subconscious, our thoughts, and our habits. It has a paralysis that freezes all of our dreams. It’s a hallucinogen that creates ravenous monsters  that devour our hopes in one bite. It’s contagious. You can be given this pestilence by someone else with their disapproving looks, their snide comments, and their general disrespect of you.

You know how unattractive insecurity is in your friends or your romantic interests  Just think about how you’re coming across to others if you’re insecure about your writing?

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

 

Here are my Top 10 easy fixes for some short term relief from insecurity. The long term fixes my need bigger guns! 

1. Practice writing. You will get better with practice. Set a word count goal or set a time limit, even ten minutes will do, and put in your effort to get better. Strengthen those writing muscles with daily workouts, even a small one.

2. Read. Read books by authors that you would love to be compared to. Study what they are doing. Look for things that you know you can do like them, like character development or dialogue. Look for things that inspire you and analyze why it moves you so.

3. Take time alone. Get away, even for a few minutes, from any people or environment that is not completely supportive.

4. Practice positive self talk. This is tough and it takes practice. Write down truths about who you are.

5. Make a list of things that you are really good at. They don’t have to be writing related. But these are your strengths. And you should be proud of these.

6. Make a list of your accomplishments. Big or small. Things that you did that were hard and you succeeded at. These things should make you hold your head up high.

7. Go for a walk. Or exercise in some way. Exercise releases endorphines and those will make you feel better about yourself. My therapist said that 20 minutes of exercise is worth one dose of Prozac. I totally love this.

8. Write down personal goals. Make them small and measurable. Something for the day, something for the week. Something for the month. And then work toward those goals. Then reward yourself for meeting them.

9.Identify the toxic, discouraging people in your life and do your best to remove yourself from them. This is not easy, but emotional and verbal abuse can wear on your self esteem and wear you down. Stay with healthier people. This means weird, clingy girlfriends. 

10. Eat well. Without getting militant about it, you will feel better and have a better emotional health if you minimize processed foods.

Want more? Stay hydrated. Limit stimulants. Get enough sleep.  Write about why you want to be a writer. What prompted this goal in the first place. Join a writers group. Like 10 Minute Novelists. See a therapist. Seek spiritual help.

Now all of these are practical steps. But this is not a complete list.

You’ll be a better writer and a better person if you’re secure. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals

We can’t be the writer we want to be if we keep doing the things we’ve always done.

This is the time self-involved, sensitive writing types, think about how we can make this upcoming year the best ever. Especially if we are participating in Nanowrimo. This is an exciting time of year and it’s also kind of scary.

We’re going to have to make some changes. Sigh.

This week’s list is the Top Ten Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals.

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do To Achieve Your Goals by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You may have to say no to the expectations of others. This is tricky because in the past you may have said yes too much. You may not have been firm with your boundaries. You may not be known for taking time for yourself. If you are a 10 minute writer, then it is very reasonable to request that the people around you allow you that little bit of creative time.  I want to encourage you to love yourself enough to say no. This is an excellent article from PsychCentral about how to reclaim your boundaries and take care of your own needs. 

2. You may have to write down a plan and stick with it. This is tricky because in the past, you may have given up on things too early. You may remember the sting of failure. You may remember the times that having goals did nothing but taunt you because it didn’t work out. But writing down goals and keeping them visible often create a hope in us to keep going. Here’s another list of 10 — 10 Simple Strategies for Sticking to Your Goals. This is good advice.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

3. You may have to go to bed earlier or get up earlier to find time to write. This is tricky because sleep has a way of claiming us. Setting an alarm means we have to take action. Being disciplined often isn’t as much fun as late night television. But your writing goal will cost you. I’d like to remind you that if you can find an extra ten minutes each day to write, and you write 500 words in that 10 minutes, that’s 3500 new words this week. That’s 14,000 new words this month. That’s 168,000 words this year. All you have to do to get those kinds of numbers is set your alarm. Here’s another encouragement to do this from Write To Done.

4. You may have to make writing a priority even though you’ve never treated it as one. This is tricky because this means you may have to face your fears. Some aspiring writers aren’t writing for legitimate reasons, like say, their fingers are broken, or their computer was smashed by an angry toddler. But some non-writing aspiring writers don’t write because they are just afraid to sit down and do it. They fear failure. They fear disappointment. They fear rejection. The difference between a writing aspiring writer who is afraid and a non-writing aspiring writer who is afraid is that the first one is sitting on their butt, putting words down.  All of us are afraid. Write anyway. Find a way around your broken fingers and record your voice instead. Get out a sharpened pencil and notepad while you wait for your computer to get fixed. Despite your fears, write for 10 minutes today. I bet you’ll want to keep going. 

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
Albert Einstein

5. You may have to change your expectations for time spent in other areas, like housekeeping or meals. This is tricky because we have to live. I understand this. There are seven people in my household and they’re under the impression that they should wear clothing and eat occasionally. I believe that all of your required, general life tasks can be made more efficient so that you can find little pockets of time here or there. My favorite ways include doing my errands all on one day, or making meals in my crock pot and rice cooker. I also delegate most of my household chores to my children. Take a day or two to think through exactly how your time is spent and come up with a plan. It’s likely you’ll find pockets of time that will make all the difference.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

6. You may have to apply yourself to learning about craft and then be teachable. This is tricky because beginning writers often have a lot of confidence. Or worse, they have well-meaning relatives who sugar-coat what the aspiring writer. If you’ve never been in a critique group, taken a writing class or workshopped your story, you may not know where you need to improve. If you are serious about pursuing your writing dreams, then you need to be serious about learning. Here’s a list of cheap and not-so-cheap ways to learn to be a better writer. Here’s a list of ways to meet other writers so you can know your work is “good”. And then, of course, a link to the coolest writing group on Facebook. 

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

7. You may have to express your needs to your spouse or significant other. This is tricky because your determination to write will definitely affect your relationships. You may have to communicate your needs. Some spouses and significant others will jump at the chance to help. Others may not be so enthusiastic. Take the time to express how much you need space to work and time to work. Come up with practical solutions that create minimal interference in others’ lives. Make sure that you are reciprocating and supporting them in in their goals too. Jeff Goins has some great stuff to say about this. 

8. You may need to learn a new organizing tool or system in order to reap the benefits. This is tricky because if you’re like me, you’re lazy. If you’re like me, you don’t get excited about learning curves. If you’re like me, you believe that the old ways are good enough. They may be, but if you’re in the habit of losing your work, then you need to find a better system. If you follow 10 Minute Novelists on Pinterest, then you can use our board on apps and software that can make your writing life easier. Good organization is critical for good performance. Don’t let laziness or reluctant learning get in the way of you being your best.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9. You may have to lower your expectations on social media. This is tricky because everyone tells authors that they need a Facebook page, a blog, an Instagram account and a million other things and they all take time to keep up with. I suggest that you pick 2 or 3 social media platforms that you are the most comfortable with, and get the most excited about, and only do those. I have a blog, I lead a group on Facebook and I try to maximize Twitter and Pinterest. Are you leaning toward Twitter, but you don’t know how to make it work? I can help! 

10. You may have to go easy on yourself in some areas. You may have to kick yourself in the pants in others. This is tricky because every day is a battle. We have to overcome our inner selves to face the tasks in order to achieve the goals. Every day we have to make the little choices that will add up to the big choices. Every writer faces this. You are not alone. I’d like to suggest that the most important step you take in becoming a writer and pursuing your dreams is knowing who you are. Once you know, or at least have a hint, then it will be far easier to make all the changes I listed in steps 1-9.

The creation of words, at times, can be the expression of the inner workings of our soul. The more secure we are on the inside, the more excellent our words will be on the outside. 

You may have some tricky things to do now. 

 Do them anyway. If you fail, keep going.

Your dreams are worth it.

Top 10 Ways To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

National Novel Writing Month is an international event where, in the month of November, writers from all over the world attempt to put down 50,000 words of a story in thirty days.

Ideally, these 50,000 words are all coherent, have a great plot, have full, 3-dimensional characters, and the story is thrilling, romantic, sweet and/or satisfying. That’s the goal.

Nanowrimo is really good for people who need motivation, community and tangible goals.

Nanowrimo is also great for experienced novelists who need the daily writing goals to push them forward in the WIPs. Nanowrimo is for those people who appreciate the prep work that goes into it (if they’re a plotter) or the freedom to write down everything they want, follow any tangent, break every rule (if they’re a pantser). Nanowrimo is really good for people who “pants”, who have low expectations of the final result and who understand that the final product should never be publishable.

Nanowrimo is not good for people who spend hours revising as they go, who may over-outline, and who think that it is quantity not quality that creates a novel.

Nanowrimo is the literary equivalent of taking a test drive in a sports car.  Or it’s the literary equivalent of trying a neighborhood 5K fun run. Or climbing Mt. Washington but can’t afford Everest.

Nanowrimo, over the course of thirty days, asks this simple question: do you have what it takes to make it? 

Top 10 Ways To Prepare for Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

How do you prepare for Nanowrimo? You can be fully ready if you spend a little time on these 10 easy steps.

1. Think about the time commitment! How will this impact your daily life? When and where will you put down your 1667 words per day? I believe that you can accomplish it in 10 minute increments. Here’s a list of ways that you can find those 10 extra minutes.

2. Think about your workspace! Do you have a place that you can work every day, with minimal distraction? Here are six must-haves for the time-crunched writer!

3. Think about your organization! Do you have your files or apps or software in an easy to access location? Here’s the 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest board that’s all about apps and software to keep you organized!

Click on the image to buy the mug!
Click on the image to buy the mug!

4. Think about your story! Before you start, you may want to review what story structure is, read a few books, check out a few blog posts, print out a graph. Here are my Top 10 resources for story structure. Enjoy!

5. Think about your genre! It may be obvious to you that the only decent stories you need to tell are dystopian vampire romances set in 1641. But if it isn’t so obvious, review the rules of genre. Rules, you say? There are rules? Yup. Like all romantic comedies have happy endings. Sometimes knowing what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do, can keep you focused.

6. Think about your plot! You’re going to need a plot. On this Wikipedia page, Christopher Booker explains the seven major plots that are basic foundations for all stories. If you haven’t got a plot yet, chose one and allow it to be your blueprint for your characters’ objectives.

7. Think about your characters! You need a main character (if this is your first novel, keep to just one) a few supporting characters and an antagonist. Check out these three Pinterest boards that I created just for this very purpose — Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Antagonists. Make notes, play around with them, base them all on people you know. I think character development is the most enjoyable part of the whole process.

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

8. Think about your setting! That means jot down a few key locations that your scenes will take place, like the barbershop, behind the middle school, on the moon and somewhere in the Great Coral reef. Your setting is just as important as your main character. It will need detail and description. When you write your story  you should try to visualize what’s going on in each scene. This will strengthen your story and your reader will find it interesting.

9. Think beginning, middle and end! If you’re into math, (and really, of the people who read this blog, we have -2 people who like math) then you need to see that the beginning or set-up of the story shouldn’t be any longer than the first 10,000 words or so, the middle be up to the 40,000 word mark or so, and then the wrap-up, or third act, in the last 10,000 words. This post on three act structure may be able to help you!

10. And then? Go for it! If you followed points 1-9 then you have all the basic ingredients of a story. The rest requires putting your butt in your chair and moving forward in the story a little bit every day. Here’s what you can do if you’re stuck! 

Thousands of people win Nanowrimo every year. You can do it too!

What strategies have you used? What are you doing to get ready?

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves, for delicacy, for images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety for reasons, but no one can deny how beautiful art serves a purpose.

Beautiful art points us to the good in humanity.

As we write, we can organize our words  in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.   Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Beautiful sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. Beautiful words can enflame anger.  Beautiful words can render jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. Beautiful words are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Beautiful words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents.

Beautiful words play dress up when they are metaphor,simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on disguise, like a fake moustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

“I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Beautiful art exalts mankind’s creativity.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful art echoes ancient truths.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and entymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

Beautiful art feeds our souls.

Beautiful words are parts of a whole, the vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent e can’t object. Poor insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Poor Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up. The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.”
― Dorothy Parker

The beautiful words are our medium.

They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. They are precise like a fine pen. They are bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. They are rich with facets and carats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

How can we make words more beautiful?

How can we sculpt our sentences in such a way that the true essence of our meaning shines through? How can we enhance truth through a well-crafted sentence?

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

 

Try these suggestions:

 

 

1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun. Need inspiration? The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor. 

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion. Need inspiration? Try reading Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.

3. Don’t let it start with “There was” or “There were.” Look at these quotes for the structure or how they begin the sentence. This may give you a good idea how to improve. The website calls it, “These 33 One-Sentence Quotes Will Blow Your Mind Every Time. Especially The 8th One.” That’s a bit of an overstatement, but they are nice and noble and short! (That can’t be said about the ads!)

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence, but don’t make it passive. Poets and songwriters have to tinker with word arrangement to make sentences work better rhythmically. Need examples? This fascinating article from The Guardian admires the beauty of the lyrics in Stephen Sondheim musicals. I loved this!

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make. Here’s a list of 317 “power words” that you can sprinkle in your prose. The context of this article is blogging, but any of these words will do for your fiction too!

6. Use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
Edgar Allan Poe

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening. You can be more expressive with a little work and imagination. Need inspiration?  This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated! 

8. Substitute every word for a synonym just to see what you can come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi syllable words may muddy your meaning. Just for fun, check out these multi-syllable words that can add a bit of flavor. 

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. In a similar vein, this is a  fascinating article from NPR about loving sentences. I want to sit and read this forever.

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”
James Joyce

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?  My friend Jude Knight has a list of “filter words” that are dull, uninteresting and serve little purpose. Use this list to weed out the ugly and make room for the beautiful.

Beautiful words are our powerful medium.

We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.