Tag Archives: determination

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.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting or,

What’s Your Definition of Success?


 

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.

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

You want to improve your writing? It’s oh, so easy and oh, so hard.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you are reading this blog then you are a writer. Even if you don’t think you can call yourself that, you probably have aspirations for literary greatness, fame, or fortune.

The right kind of greatness, fame, and fortune only comes from those writers who spend their time improving their craft.

By becoming the best writer you can be, then you're more likely to attract readers, agents, and…

How do you get better? Glad you asked!

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

1. Read, read, read.

Read in your genre every chance you get. Try reading the Classics. Read your writing buddies’ stuff. Or read those literary giants that you hated in high school. Don’t just read, breath in language deeply and frequently so that beautiful words are a part of you like oxygen. Need ideas on what to read? This Pinterest board is all about books! 

2. Write. That means write a lot.

Write every day.Make it a ten-minute exercise or 1000 words but have a daily goal and meet it. Rewrite best first lines. Create new characters. Retell an old story. Just write. Need a prompt? This Pinterest Board can help! 

3. Observe.

Sit at your favorite coffee shop and write about every detail you see around you. Or you look at a person and describe them or try to tell their story. Describe the objects around your home. Keen observation skills will make you a great writer. Guess where you can find tips on great observation? 

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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

7. Read books about writing.

Many famous authors have written books on writing. Check out Robert McKee’s STORY, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, or Stephen King’s On Writing. All of them are my favorites and have helped me improve too.

8. Watch videos.

YouTube has several video classes on creative writing. And K.M. Weiland’s is probably the best. These are an affordable and convenient way for you to improve your story telling skills.

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

9. 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.

 10. Expect excellence from yourself.

Creative writing is an art. Show respect for what it is,  respect to other writers and respect the readers by doing your best to be excellent in all you do. That means learn the rules of grammar & spelling and taking the creation of stories seriously.

You can become better. Your dreams deserve it.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

A Writer’s Guide To Ruthlessly Killing Your Darlings or

Beginning Badly: Eight Awful Ways To Start A Novel


 

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.

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow)

By Emily Schneider

There’s a scene in Sister Act 2 where Whoopi Goldberg confronts a young teenage girl about joining her school’s choir. She describes the book “Letters to a Young Poet” as follows: “A fellow used to write to him and say: ‘I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.’ And Rilke says to this guy: ‘Don’t ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.’ ”

Writing requires energy. It requires strength of mind. It requires emotional fortitude. Most of all, it requires your heart. If your heart’s not in it, then it will not go well.

This is all well and good as a philosophical concept. And, as a young girl watching this movie, I totally identified with it. I wrote because it was the only way I could think of to get what was in me…OUT of me. And it was easy, because I was a child, and didn’t have any other demands on my time.

Finding Time To Write with Toddlers In Tow

But what about now? What do I do when I want to write, but find myself bogged down in the real world tasks of adulthood?

There are the lucky few who are well-published, successful, writing-is-my-life-AND-my-job types. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us buried beneath a mountain of dirty laundry, overdue projects, and what have you? What about those of us scrambling to hold down multiple jobs, or to take care of multiple kids, or are just struggling to make ends meet or to hold OURSELVES together?

I think, honestly, you’ve still got to ask yourself, “Am I a writer?”

Is writing something you think about every day? Do you long for five minutes to yourself to…

If the answer is yes, then my next question is this, “What are you willing to give up?”

Because, the truth of the matter is, you’re going to have to sacrifice something. Every successful writer you’ve ever heard of put blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Every unsuccessful writer has done the same. It’s a requirement of the brotherhood (or sisterhood, as it were) that you suffer for your art. Because, the fact is, unless you’re willing to give something else up, then you’re never going to find time for your writing.

I came to this conclusion in the fall of 2014, after having spent four years as a stay-at-home mom. My three children were four, two and a half, and just under six months old. They were all equal parts needy, irritating, lovely, and adorable. But I missed having something more, I missed exploring worlds of my own creation, of building characters and stories beyond the one I was living. So, I made the decision to join the 365K club, a group of writers attempting to write a thousand words EVERY DAY for the following year. It’s not that I didn’t want to enjoy the time that I had with my kids while they were little, or that I didn’t appreciate the fact that I got to be at home with them, or that I didn’t cherish witnessing their precious childhood moments.

I just wanted to write. I wanted to try, anyway. Besides the fact that I believe you often cherish your kids more if you don’t spend EVERY WAKING MINUTE with them, I wanted to look back at that year and feel that I had achieved something, that I had lived out my passion…at least for a year. The biggest question, then, was how?

How was I going to make the time to do this thing?

Katharine Grubb, a brilliant writer, and friend has a great method of writing for 10 minutes a day to work towards your goal. However, the key to this method and most methods is choosing WHICH ten minutes a day. For me, I am not Ann Voskamp and refuse point blank any waking up before dawn nonsense. I am almost certainly a vampire, and late at night is when I jam. However, you are a different person, with a different schedule and a different household.

So you have to decide- what are you going to sacrifice? What are you going to give up, to find that precious ten-twenty minutes a day? 

TIP ONE: Choose Your Sacrifice

  1. Give up other forms of entertainment: That hour you spend catching up on a favorite TV show, scrolling through Facebook or Youtube, reading a trashy novel- all of those should be the first things you consider giving up in order to get in a daily writing session.
  1. Write during your lunch break: Before I had kids, whenever I was at work, the best way to find time was during my lunch break, when I would isolate myself somewhere nice so I could eat and read (in this case, write!) in peace. The nearest bench or spot of grass did marvelously for me in the summer, and in the winter I would try and find a lonely booth to plop down in at a mostly empty McDonalds or Chipotle. In case you doubt this as an effective method, never forget that JK Rowling wrote a lot of her story down on napkins in a diner (so I’m told). If you can eat with one hand, then you can write with the other. After kids, I still stole time at lunch. Often I could give the kids lunch, and work at a nearby desk while they ate.
  1. Use your commute: As long as you don’t get motion sick, writing while on the train or the bus can be a great solution. I can’t vouch for this, as I don’t commute anywhere, but anytime my husband has to write he will do it on the train to and from work. If you drive to and from work, you’ll have to find another time, but listening to books on audible might help to inspire you still.
  1. Give up your clean house: Let’s be real- being a bit messier will not kill you, and it will give you time to write if you vacuum once a week (or, you know, once a month, which is how I roll) instead of every day. I am not opposed to leaving mountains of dishes if it means that a blog post was finished.
  1. Give up a little sleep: This is personally not my favorite way to make time, but if getting up early or going to bed late is the only way, then do it. If I had to take this route, I went to bed late and drank a crapload of coffee the next day.

 

Let’s imagine then, that you’ve set your alarm, gotten up half an hour early, and are just about to start drafting a blog post or a new chapter when the children barge in demanding to be fed. What do you do if you have other people living with you that tend to constantly interrupt you? (I’m talking about children, but I’ve known roommates and spouses that do this too.)

I found that the best bet to getting your time to be YOUR time is to make sure these other folks are busy.

TIP TWO: Occupy the Others.

  1. Turn on a show: Now before you get up in arms, one episode of a television program will NOT rot a child’s brains. Remember, we’re talking about finding just ten-twenty minutes per day to write. Even the most highly active children can usually sit still for ONE episode of something they really like. I would highly recommend this tactic for the interrupting spouse or roommate as well.
  1. Give Them an Alternate Activity: Again, most kids (and adults) will sit still for 20-30 minutes doing an arts and crafts project. Play dough, watercolors, chalk, whatever- everyone likes that stuff. For those less inclined to cleaning up a giant mess afterward, you can have them play in their room for 20 minutes. For the younger kids, you can put them in a playpen or pack-and-play with a ton of toys and set a timer, then work on the couch nearby. You can even put your kids in the tub and sit on the bathroom rug typing if you have to. No matter what activity it is, if the interrupters are occupied (and safe!) that will give you the time you need.
  1. Give Them Food: No matter young or old, if you give someone food, they will most likely leave you alone for ten minutes. I’ve already mentioned lunchtime as an opportunity, but what about for younger kids? Well, for those toddlers eating solid foods, I have (on the advice of a good friend) put them in a high chair with cheerios or frozen peas while I worked at the nearby kitchen table. What about if you’re nursing? My friend, if you have a nursing pillow, and enough desperation to finish a sentence, you can type with one hand. I know, cause I’ve done it.
  1. Make Them Take a Nap: Naptime is a golden time to get a lot of stuff done. Instead of getting the house clean, why not work towards your word count? Also, it’s okay to encourage your spouse/partner to take afternoon naps (because who’s gonna turn down a nap, really) or to let him/her go to bed before you. More time for writing!

With all of these things in mind, there are a couple last things I want to say. I mentioned at the beginning taking on the 365K challenge for the 2015 year. I didn’t meet that goal. I didn’t meet it in 2016 either, and I didn’t sign up for it this year. But, you know what I did do? I wrote. I wrote almost every day, which is something that hadn’t happened for a long time. One thing I didn’t do: give up time with my loved ones. This is something you should NEVER give up. Well, okay, maybe if you’re about to publish and need to edit your final draft you can hide in a closet typing for three days. But don’t do this too often. Because your family and friends are your support system. They bring you joy and anguish, but they are the ones that are there to help you keep going when the going gets tough. And, at least for me, that’s more important than even writing.

So, there you have it. Find time to write, even with toddlers in tow. Go for it.


“In my mind, when I call myself a domestic engineer, what I mean is that I am “arranging, managing, or carrying through by skillful or artful contrivance” the management of my 3 children and the piles of dirty dishes and laundry that seem to accumulate in every corner of my house.” Emily lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and blogs at domesticengineering301.wordpress.com.

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War & Peace

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

We’re just a few days in to National Novel Writing Month and it can feel like you’ve decided to read a Russian novel.

Last spring, I read War and Peace for reasons that I can’t quite remember. I think I wanted to add to my literary experiences. I think that I had seen on too many lists that it was one of the greatest novels ever written. And I also think that somehow my 21st century American sensibilities would totally identify with the plight of rich, idle Russian aristocrats who kinda hate the French.

But, oh my, that book was 1300+ pages long. I was committed to finish and I had to push myself forward, even when I thought it was dull and impossible.

Nanowrimo can feel the same way. It can feel like an eternity to get out of the battlefield of the Russian countryside and back into the warm parlors of Bald Hills. It can feel like an eternity when you read page after page after page, and only get 2% more read than yesterday. Nanowrimo is putting one word after another, just like those poor, poor Russian soldiers put one foot in front of another defending themselves against Napoleon.

Oh, Napoleon! Leo Tolstoy really hates your guts! From Fine Art America Images

Like me, you’ve signed up for something bigger than you because you thought it was a good idea. You thought that you’d have the fortitude to endure the daily grind of 1667 words. You thought that the story that’s been rattling around in your brain for weeks/months/years would just flow out of your fingers.

Nope. It hasn’t, has it? This feels about as hopeless as a French army facing a Russian winter. I am probably not the ideal reader for War and Peace and you can read about why I think so here. 

I’m here to help you. With all the imaginary vodka I can muster, I want to give you top 20 ways to get going on your Nanowrimo project.

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War and Peace

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later. In War and Peace, the big emergencies were that Pierre, the bastard son of the richest rich guy may inherit the estate against the wishes of nearly every noble in the countryside. Apparently, besides not having married parents, his big sin is that he’s dull. Put your character in direr straits than that, please.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him! In War and Peace, the many princesses would have a sewing needle. Yawn. Wait, no, I shouldn’t criticize that. What else would they have? An iphone?

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot. Aha! This is where we can learn a lesson from the Russians. Pierre, against his better judgement, marries Helene for her looks.  This connection would ease the grudges that the rest of the nobility have against him. What kind of fix can you put your main character into?

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out? War and Peace has this too. It’s called The Masons. Get this, they require Pierre to think. 

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless! Now, with a title like War and Peace, you’d expect more than just parlor romances, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Nearly every non-curmudgeon male character in the book goes to war to defend against those nasty French. These soldiers get their breaks in various ways: capture, disease, losing a leg. If Tolstoy can use this device, so can you.

6. What would Napoleon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later. Even while I was reading W&P, I was thinking, Hey! These bloody battle scenes remind me of Gone With The Wind!  Wartime saga in which families lose their fortunes and the women have to do anything, anything, to survive! Oh Tolstoy! I know nuthin’ about birthin’ no babies!

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet. Or, if you’re Tolstoy, and thank God you’re not, you could spend 100 pages or so contemplating the purpose of one man, his conscience, the theory of free will, and the wheels that turn history and how you can compare it to bees.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist? And in Tolstoy’s frosty Russia, all it takes to fall in love with an heiress is sitting at her feet while she mourns her broken heart. That’s it. You might touch her hand! OH THE SCANDAL!

This is Alexander I, the emperor that could do no wrong! (At least according to Tolstoy!)

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader! Or compare your setting, characters and plot to bees. Tolstoy did it twice. Twice!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out! And when you grab that towel, brush your teeth with running water and realize just how wonderful it is that you have neither lice, dysentery or gangrenous limbs, you may want to write about it.

Remember, the point of participating Nanowrimo is quantity, not quality.

This draft is supposed to be messy, kind of like War and Peace, but with less hype. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out your rants about Napoleon later.

I got through War and Peace. I started April 1 and I finished April 25. I kept at it because I knew that at the end, I’d be glad I finished. You can finish Nanowrimo. And at the end of it, let me know. I’ve got a big bottle of vodka to celebrate with you.


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


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 Ten Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I spend DECADES of my life saying negative things to myself.

Slowly, I’m addressing them one by one, changing what I say and taking positive steps (like NOT buying a box of donuts to eat in one sitting) to make my life better and my soul happier.

Below I have a list of the top ten things wannabe writers say to themselves that keep them stuck in failure.

Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

If you are saying any of these things to yourself, then you will, most certainly fail.

The reason? This negative self talk is a paralyzer.

It fosters inaction.

The antidote is two fold: say positive things and take baby steps out.

1. I’m So Disorganized.

Okay, this could be true. You maybe disorganized because you lack focus, or management skills or a plan. But all of those things are tools.  Successful people have learned how to use these tools that they can stay organized. This is the secret that super organized people know — organization does just happen, it’s daily work! If your house, office, desk, ideas or life is super disorganized, find the tools the experts use and make them work for you!

What to say to yourself instead: Today I’m taking 10 minutes to get more organized. I’m starting small. Something is better than nothing. Go me!

 What to do: Take 10 minutes, start with Pinterest and search for specific links, then create an organization board. Don’t get distracted. This is your starting place for the actual work. Or, take 10 minutes to make a list of the specific areas you want order in. Then, commit to ten minutes a day working on this area. You’ll see progress. You’ll find order. Try also Flylady.com (my personal favorite).

2. I’m Not Any Good.

This could be true. You may not be a good writer. How do you get better? With practice. Writing is a skill and the most talented writers in the world still have to practice! They did not just spring up out of the ground as NYT bestsellers. They worked on their craft over and over until they grew in skill and confidence. Learn all you can about the craft of writing. Be teachable. Find a mentor. Take a class. And write every day!

What to say to yourself instead: Everybody has to work hard. I’m no different.

What to do: Take 10 minutes and write. Don’t evaluate it or edit it. You just practiced! Then take another 10 minutes and request writing books from your local library’s website, or search Goodreads for the best books and buy them, or go to Writer’s Digest website and spend ten minutes reading. You can learn to be a better writer on ten minutes a day.

3. What If Someone Doesn’t Like It? 

Someone is not going to like it. This is a fact of life in the world of artists. If you choose to be an artist, then you’re choosing to have a bad review occasionally, you’ll receive a rejection letter or two and your skin will have to toughen up. But somewhere, someone will like it. This is your first fan. If you don’t write, you’ll never find them. It is for this reader (and all their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ people) that you write what you write.

What to say to say to yourself instead: What if someone does like it? That will be awesome!

What to do: Read all the one-star reviews of your favorite books on Amazon.com. Some of them are horrible, aren’t they? Notice how this negativity keeps these authors down. (Hint: it doesn’t!)

4. I Don’t Have Time.

You’ll pardon me if I roll my eyes on this one. For nearly every other item on this list, I have great compassion, but I don’t for this one. The truth is you have time for everything you want to do. All you need to accomplish your writing goals is a minimum of ten minutes a day. I know that this is true because between my five children, my homeschooling responsibilities and my homemade bread baking, I found time to pursue my dreams in ten minute increments.  It took me five years to write my first book, but I did it. I examined my carefully to find the time, made the time and then worked all the time!

What to say to yourself instead: I can find the time!

What to do: Spend ten minutes looking at your schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Where is there lolly-gagging time that can be devoted to writing? Where are you waiting for your kids? What Netflix show can you forfeit for the sake of writing? I bet you can find a lot more than ten minutes a day.

5. I Don’t Have What I Need.

This excuse is an easy fix. If you are reading this, you’re on a computer or a smart phone. That means you have what you need. Don’t have word processing software? Put your work on Google.docs. Do a search for all the great writing apps for smart phones. Or go low-tech and buy a spiral notebook and a pen. You can get what you need to be a writer very easily. Don’t let this small problem keep you from pursuing your dreams.

What to say to yourself instead: Wow! That was easy!

What to do: Spend ten minutes finding a place at home that will be your workspace — it doesn’t have to be big or glamorous. (I spend years standing at my kitchen counter on an iMac.) Then set up a document, create orderly files, put that journal in your handbag, get a great pen. You can do this!

6. I’ve Failed Before.

We’ve all failed. The first time you tried to walk, you fell. The first time you tried to eat solid food you spit it out. The first time you tried to read, you got it wrong. I can GUARANTEE that there are grammar and spelling mistakes in this blog post. Failure is a part of life. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I’m going to guess that it’s not the failure that’s the problem here, but the feeling of worthlessness that plays piggyback on that failure. This took me a long time to realize but the truth is, failure doesn’t define me.  I am so much more than my series of mistakes. I’m going to fail in the future, that’s a given. But I’m not going to let it keep me down.

What to say to yourself instead: I’m going to fail in big and small ways, but so what?

What to do: Read this. I am especially impressed with the fact that Oprah was fired because she was too emotionally involved in the story she reported.

7. I’m Not As Good As Them So Why Try?

Trying really hard not to eyeroll here, bear with me. Of all the excuses on this list, this one is the most cowardly. It’s bad enough that you have no confidence in your God-given skills and abilities, but then you take what you perceive as your weakness and compare it someone else’s strength and naturally come out lacking. It’s a double whammy against who you are and what you were created to be. You are never going to be as good as anybody. Do you know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU! If you have artistic inclinations, then you have a distinct point of view, a unique voice, a perspective that no one else has ever had (you’ll still have to work hard to make it shine, but still). The world needs you!

If you really, really want to believe that the success of other people is the reason to hide your talent under a bushel, then you should be ashamed of yourself. I want this post to be encouraging and hopeful but I’m half-tempted to tell people who actually believe this crap to stay on the couch, stay in front of Netflix, do nothing. Please. I want your future readers for myself.

What to say to yourself instead: Dangit! I have something to offer!

What to do: Put some blinders on. And for the love of Pete, stop comparing yourself to others.

8. I’m Too Old To Try Anything New.

This one is breaking my crap-o-meter. You are NOT too old. Life is going to pass you by if you don’t pursue your dreams now. You don’t want to come to the end of it and wish you’d take ten minutes every day.

What to say to yourself instead: My kids (and grandkids) need to see me pursue my dreams!

What to do: Read this Huffington Post article about writers who got published later in life. One woman was 99!

9. There’s too much to learn, so it’s too hard.

When it comes to writing and marketing and publishing there is a LOT to learn. The bad news is that there’s always an new app or a new social media platform or a new guru to read.  The wealth of information is intimidating and overwhelming. Instead of thinking about how hard it is, choose the easiest thing or most interesting aspect of writing/marketing pursuit and only do that. The good news? Nobody knows and implements it all. The most successful people have put limitations on themselves so that they keep the ever growing information monster at bay. You can do that too.

What to say to yourself instead: My time is valuable. I’m going to focus on one aspect of my goals, like writing, and learn a little bit every day. 

What to do: Find one or two blogs on writing to follow. Read one book at a time. Don’t panic over what is left, just do what you can when you can.

10. I Don’t Have Anything Worthwhile To Say

Deep sigh. Then a hug. Then another sigh. I totally get this. Sometimes the desires that we have to write are lonely. They don’t exactly have ideas to play with. Personally, I’ve found that ideas, for some reason, inspire other ideas. The act of creating sometimes can spawn new inspiration and then you have something to say, something you didn’t know was in you.

What to say to yourself instead: Hey Muse! I’m going to sit down to work, you’re going to join me!

What to do: Write for 10 minutes about anything. Sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts. Then, watch this Ted Talk about the creative muse by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is my all time favorite Ted Talk. It makes me cry every time!)

The most powerful voice in the world is the one you use to talk to yourself.

Make sure the voice you use is the one that can keep you motivate, encourage yourself to succeed and keep hope alive.

It took me about 20 seconds to come up with ten, because I’ve said every single one of these to myself. I know how powerful these lies are.

 

So, what else are you saying to yourself that could be keeping you down?

What can you say to yourself instead?

What can you do to change everything?

 

Top 10 Signs That You May Be A 10 Minute Novelist by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Are Your Big Writing Dreams Worth Finding the Time?

Writing a novel takes hard work. It takes order. It takes discipline and planning. It 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!)

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

Sometimes we think that we also need long, uninterrupted hours, an isolated cabin in the woods, a whiskey habit and a carton of Marlboros to be a writer too. But we don’t. Sometimes we need to stop thinking about how much different our life is from the idealized writer life is and just do what we can. We may have been in the habit of thinking that we can’t write at all unless conditions are perfect, the kids are more cooperative and inspiration strikes.

But I’m here to tell you that there are no such things as perfect conditions for writing.

There are, however, writers out there who make the most of what they do have and accomplish their dreams in less than ideal increments. I call these folks 10 Minute Novelists. 
Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

Are you a 10 Minute Novelist? Ask yourself these questions and see!

1. The baby wakes you at 4:30 and after you settle him back down, your first thought is “How many words can I get in before the whole family wakes up?”

2. While watching a crime show, a prosecutor mentions “solitary!” Your first thought? Solitary confinement? That sounds heavenly! I could get so much done there!

3. You’ve said to yourself “one of these days, when I have the time, I’ll get that book written!” Except that you’ve said it so many times no one believes you.

4. You treasure time alone in the bathroom to collect your thoughts and you may have a notebook and pen stashed somewhere just in case you get inspired.

Why can't I write?
That hashtag? That’s our Weekly Chat on Twitter! Join us!

5. Whenever you hear someone say they wrote 3000 words in one day, your first thought isn’t “good for you” your first thought is, “will they press charges if I slap them?”

6. There’s an inch of dust on your laptop.

7. You think that real writers have sprawling desks, live in isolated cabins, chain smoke, drink themselves silly, wear a lot of black and possibly own several cats. Then you decide, well no wonder they write so much, no one could stand to be near them!

8. If you’re honest with yourself, you think that your dreams are selfish. That your responsibilities are far more important and lofty than any silly, childish fantasy. That the desire to write a book is nothing but a vain attempt of mortality. And then you don’t know why you’re so sad.

9. You’ve watched Two And A Half Men and thought more than once, “I could write better dialogue in my sleep!”

10 Somebody once told you that you had talent, but you’ve never found a way to express yourself in writing. And that kind of bugs you. And you don’t know where to begin. Click this to find out how to squeeze in ten minutes to pursue those dreams of yours! 

If any of these are true about you then you may be a 10 Minute Novelists. That means that you are time-crunched writer with big, big dreams.

Join our Facebook group to meet hundreds of writers from all over the world who are just like you. This is such a cool place to hang out, that Writer’s Digest named us one of the best websites for writers in 2016. Many of us are just starting out on our writing adventures. Some of us are very experienced. Some of us have book deals and agents. All of us though know what it’s like to squeeze writing goals around a busy life. Want to start finding an extra 10 minutes today? Here’s how!

Your dreams are worth 10 Minutes. Find them. Put down some words.

Be amazing!

10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies I Had To Discard So I Could Become A Writer

This is one of my favorite blog posts. I’m bringing it back from 2014 because I think we could all use a fresh reminder! 

We don’t get in this business to be comfortable.

We get in this business because the drive to create is bigger than the drive to be accepted.

It takes guts and courage to throw your words to the world. And if lies are keeping you back, then you need to put them in the toilet with the rest of the ca-ca in your life.

What do I do when I lack courage to write?
There isn’t room enough for the words “flush”, “pound”, or “destroy”. Pity.

 I’ve overcome a lot of lies to get where I am today. That alone makes me a success.

Not sales, not followers on Twitter, not likes on my Facebook page.

For eight years I’ve taken my writing seriously. For seven years, I’ve battled poor self image and wobbly self confidence far more often than I’ve battled convoluted plots and characterization. If I hadn’t battled them, wrestled them to the ground, wadded them up in a ball and then flushed them away,  then they would have festered and killed any creative desire. If they had won, then I would have believed  that my writing wasn’t worth the effort.

I’ve fought a lot of lies.

They are hateful, destructive and cowardly because they do nothing to make me feel better about myself, they feed my tendency to isolate myself and they make me more and more fearful. I hate these lies. I don’t ever want to believe them again. 

These are the top ten:

10. I can only be successful I find some other writer out there like me and copy them.

TRUTH: I am a unique individual. My interests, experiences, perspectives and skills are totally unique, so copying someone would only make me a hack, not a real writer.

9. I don’t have time to pursue my dreams, I’ve got five children.

TRUTH: I do have time. I can find ten minutes here and there to work on my novel. I can delegate household responsibilities, make meals in advance, keep my computer on in my kitchen, carry a notebook to the playground and work at it.

How can I write when I can't find time?
This mom only has one kid. Lightweight.

8. It must be some cosmic joke to have a desire to write, yet have no opportunity.

TRUTH: I am not a big fan of the phrase “God helps those who help themselves”, yet I do believe that I will have to go out and work to find the opportunities. Since starting seven years ago, I’ve started a blog, written and sold e-books, won runner up in a short story contest, written three novels, self-published two, became a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published dozens articles. Oh, and I got a non-fiction writing contract, which required me to get an agent.  I’m tweeting and I have a Facebook page. I’m doing something every single day to pursue my dreams. If I’m going to succeed, then I need to find the opportunity myself.

7. Past failures certainly trump future successes.

TRUTH: I still remember sitting in college writing courses holding back the tears for a paper with a D on it. I had a lot of D’s in my writing classes. I look back now and believe that as a 20 year old, I had no life experience, no self-confidence and clearly not much skill. But I’m older now. I’ve got something to say. I still might make mistakes, but I’m not going to look back at what happened in college. I’m just to keep looking forward.

6. I can’t be a real writer, I don’t wear black, chain smoke or have a whiskey habit.

TRUTH: When I was younger I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a real writer looks like and does with his free time. My ideal always was a poor housekeeper, wore mismatched, torn clothing and had a couple of cats. My mental image also included a lot of hard alcohol and cigarettes. I am not like that and yet, I want to be a real writer. I need to discard any silliness and just write. Real writers write. That’s all I need to worry about.

How can I get my family to leave me alone?
I mean, pretty please, with sugar on it?

5. I can only write when I feel creative.

TRUTH: Because I have so little time to devote to my writing, I’ve had to discipline my emotions. I don’t always feel creative, but I write anyway. I don’t always feel like making dinner or getting out of bed either, but it must be done for my household to run well. This same self-discipline pays off when I apply it to writing. I’ve never forced myself to write for ten minutes and then regretted doing it.

4. Everything that needs to be said has already been said, or, there’s no room for me.

TRUTH: This is a tough thought to shake, especially when agents and publishers are unkind or uninterested. Nevertheless, I must believe that my stories and perspectives are important and then sculpt them beautifully and clearly. I must work on my craft so that my creations are so well said, that others will happily make room for me.

3. Taking another idea, twisting it around to make it unique and then calling it my own is cheating.

TRUTH: There really are no new ideas, just unique interpretations of old ideas. How freeing it is to realize that many Shakespeare’s plays were based on factual events. What makes them valuable is his artistic interpretation. I can do that too. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have a fraction of the success that he did.

How can I relieve my stress?
It does. It so does.

2. Real writers write quickly and elegantly without effort.

TRUTH: BAH! This is nonsense and it took me a long time to figure this out. Real writers understand that the writing process often means riding an ocean of ebbs and flows, of storms and doldrums, of smooth sailing and choppy waters. If I think that because I get stuck once in a while, then I can’t be a real writer, then I’m doomed.

1. This can’t be my “calling. It’s way too much fun.

TRUTH:  Those of us from austere backgrounds have a hard time with this, but yet, it is true. We were created for specific purposes and by doing what we were made to do, we will find much joy. I didn’t fully embrace writing until I understood that the reason I do this is because it makes me happy. And to have readers who enjoy it, makes it a double blessing.

These are my 10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies.

Because I’ve finally seen them for what they are, dealt with them properly and embraced the truth, I’m free to write. I’m free to pursue my dreams.

What about you? Do you have any lies? How are you fighting them? What is your definition of success?

Top Ten Things I Did Right Last Year That Made All The Difference

Happy New Year! 

I’m so glad we’re starting over with a fresh, shiny new year. 2016 has a lot of hope and promise. 2015 wasn’t too shabby for me personally, but I did suffer the fallout of some of the decisions that I made in 2014. 

2014 was the first year that I stood up for myself, aggressively took responsibility for my own happiness and walked in complete confidence. Today’s blog post is a throwback-what I did that year that made all the difference. I’m still processing 2015’s victories. I’ll have a post about them soon enough.

Hope you enjoy this one.  


2011 was a sucky year for me personally. Then 2012 got worse. Then, 2013 became the Papa Bear of bad years for me and my family. I was pretty happy that by the end of it, I had a new home, a new town, a new job for my husband, a houseful of new furniture and a chance to start over. I decided that I wanted to do things the right way for 2014.

If anything the previous three years taught me that many of our circumstances can’t be helped, so I decided that my attitudes  and actions — what I could control for the new year — would be completely different.

Top Ten Things I Did Right In 2014 That Made This My Happiest Year Ever

In January of 2014, my family and I started attending a new church and a new homeschooling co-op (both in our new town). This meant that everywhere we went,  I had to introduce myself, introduce my five children, leave some sort of an impression, and give it my best.It’s rather conspicuous to be new but it’s especially obvious when you’re the mother of five children from ages 8-16. We weren’t just new, we were the new parade that entered the room. If for no other reason, my kids were watching me and I knew that if I was fearless, they would be too. 

All these new faces and new opportunities made me a little nervous. I had always had this inner conflict in new situations, wanting to be bubbly and gregarious and yet feeling a sense of fear and dread in new situations. Something inside me told me I had a lot to give and people would like knowing me if they got to know me, but then at the same time, I believed that I was worthless, boring,  and worthy of rejection. I had failed in relationships and in new situations before. (We all have, haven’t we?) And I had plenty of regrets for NOT stepping up and taking the time to be with people and sharing my life. Now I was NEW again and this time, THIS TIME, I had to live differently.

I had to do it because my children were new too and they were looking at me for inspiration.

I had to do it because I knew that relationships did bring me joy and I had no choice but to extend my hand and speak up if I were going to have any at all. I also knew that only one of these voices in my head was the correct one. The fearful and anxious one had never yet made me happy, perhaps the other one would?

I didn’t just listen to my happy, confident voice I did other things differently too.

This is what I did differently

1. I practiced standing in my Wonder Woman pose for up to 2 minutes before I was put in a new situation. Um, yeah. This works. I love it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 5.26.44 PM

2. I looked people in the eye.

3. I wore my boots because having a bit of a heel makes me feel more powerful. I’m also short. Heels help a lot.

4.I told jokes.

This was easy. I love being silly and making funny comments. I have an off the cuff humor and I decided that if nothing else, laughter, either with me or at me would loosen new people up and make ME feel better.

5. I had no expectations of the people I met.

I knew I wasn’t going to meet a BFF right off the bat. I still haven’t, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that what I once thought I needed a BFF for, like calming my fears, I can do now myself.

6. I volunteered.

I signed up to serve others at my church at and my homeschool co-op. Not only is this scary, but I had to deliberately place myself in a submissive role. This wasn’t always fun. But I did it.

7. I left my business card with people.

When I left it at the library I specifically asked the librarian to give it to the next homeschooling family that came in. That woman, Jennifer, took my card, invited me to the local McDonald’s for a play date, invited me to her church, met me at her church and now she and her family (who live a half mile from me) are very close to ours. (My teens babysit her littles!)

8. I stopped equating my value with my mistakes.

On March 24, I fell down the stairs in my home and broke my ankle in two places. It took me months to fully recover. The old me would have blamed myself over and over — believing that I was klutzy or stupid or I should have known better. The new me knew it was just an accident.  And I made the best of it. It was a result of being stuck on my butt for weeks that I got the idea for the Facebook group that lead to the development of this website. Maybe falling down the stairs was the smartest thing I did all year?

9. I set boundaries with people early in my relationships.

If I felt like something wasn’t fitting well, I spoke up about it and I was surprised at how well most people respected my position. I was not mean spirited, I just made sure that my boundaries were clear.

10. I assumed that people would like me and that I would succeed.

This was probably the most revolutionary thought of them all. Now while it was true that not everyone was warm and cuddly to me when they met me, most were. By believing in myself more, I actually became more fearless and secure in who I was and I cared less what people thought of me.

 As a result of these changes, I met hundreds of new people, took chances, had many wonderful opportunities, laughed a lot, and enjoyed myself at every turn. This ten things utterly changed everything about my life in 2014 and I think that this last year was the happiest year I’ve ever had.

So 2015? (And 2016 too!) I’m facing you the same way!

And it’s going to be awesome!


 

Want to face 2016 with great tools for Time Management?

Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

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Get the email every Monday morning!

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

I DID IT! I’M A NANO WINNER! (Now, What My Project Is, And What It Is Not!)

I did it! Despite going away for a week, having no plan, no outline and no idea what I was doing, I put in the necessary 50,000 words required for National Novel Writing Month. So, I won! I’m a winner! WOO-HOO!

Now before I get too excited, I need to realize that word count alone doth not a novel make. Oh my. No. So this little blog entry is to explain what my particular messy 50K word work-in-progress is and is not.

What It is: A long brain spew. This isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that the best books resemble icebergs. What is read in the published form is only the tip. This is a critical part of the story creating process, but not really worth keeping. To use another metaphor and to borrow from Hemingway: first drafts are a load of ca-ca, but I think that there’s a pony underneath it all.

What it is not: Readable.

What it is: Illuminating. One morning, about 35K into it, I was thinking about snails. (I am a homeschooling mother of five, so this topic of conversation comes up far more often than you would think) and a specific kind of snail from Indonesia stuck in my mind. This snail became a metaphor for me personally, then I realized how awesome it would be if my point-of-view character had a fascination with this kind of snail and what that would mean for her personal objectives. How could I use this for a symbol?  I was delighted and wrote hundreds, if not thousands of words about her, snails and what it means in her life. From there I got more ideas for scenes and plot points. I struck gold.

What it is not: Concise. It takes more than a bunch of symbols to make a story. But I’m getting there.

What the characters are: Fuzzy. I’m not too big on physical descriptions. Instead I’m far more interested in motivations and obsessions that drive a person to make the choices that they make. It does help if I have a mental image to go on, but I don’t want my readers to be bogged down on whether or not my romantic lead has a dimple in his chin. The fine-tuning of hair color can come later.

What are the characters are not: Shallow. I never really care what flavor of ice cream they like and I’ll probably never bother with details like that.

What the plot is: Low-concept. I prefer character driven plots, where people change rather than plot-driven stories where something is stolen or something blows up. I do see an accidental shooting of a prize-winning show dog in this story. But overall, my work in progress is far more about people changing for the better or worse.

What the plot is not: Easily organized into scenes. Oh well. Someday.

What the setting is: Very clear. This story is set in the town that my husband grew up, Leominster, Massachusetts. I’m going to have my point-of-view character work in the same family business that my husband’s family worked in. I can get first hand knowledge of the goings-on, the potential for conflict and culture. I’m really excited about it.

What the setting is not: Done to death in other books. I hope.

What the next step is: To wait. I’m planning on letting this little 50K project simmer in a drawer for a while. I’ve got other projects to attend to. I’m moving house. I’m celebrating Advent and Christmas. Life is getting in the way. If this is really a good story, then it can wait until I can give it my full attention. I’m not worried.

What the next step is not (and never, ever should be after Nanowrimo): Sending it in an attachment to every agent on the planet.

So, what about you? Did you write 50K in November? What is it? What is it not?

 

The Schlemeil, Schlamazel Hassenpfeffer Incorporated Method To Nanowrimo (Or How ’80s Pop Culture Can Make You A Better Writer)

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.

For 30 days in November every year, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world try to get 50,000 words on paper. In a perfect world, these words would be brilliant and profound. It’s far more likely that the words are a big hot mess. If you are participating, then you know that you only have a week left to get your words in.

You Can Do This!

happy

If you have 10K or less to do by November 30, this is manageable. If you have much more than that, do the best you can. Walk in grace and go easy on yourself. And try again next year and then you can write all the words. ALL THE WORDS.

The objective is to write as much as possible, not to be beautiful doing it.

It’s literary vomiting. It’s Jackson Pollock art.  It’s not about form or order or plot even, it’s just about getting that word count in.

I believe that the objective of 50K words in 30 days is doable for anyone who wants to try.

I also believe that much is to be gained from the whole exercise, even if it isn’t a coherent story. I’ve broken down the steps to writing a story for Nano into super-easy steps. If you follow them, you’ll easily make your goal. (It’s only 1,667 words a day. You can DO that!)

So here we go! (This is the ’80s version so I suggest you pop up your collar, put on your Ray-Bans and crank up the Pet Shop Boys!)

How can I sign up for Nanowrimo?

Step One: Start your story with Once upon a time. Is that cheating?  NO! It gets you going and now you only have 49,996 words to go.

Step Two: Pick Two Names: Almost any two will do. Hall and Oates, BJ and the Bear, let’s go with Laverne and Shirley! 

What do I do when I'm stuck on Nanowrimo?
I had to look this up. It’s a Yiddish schoolyard chant that would have been common in Wisconsin when L&S were kids. #themoreyouknow

Step Three: Describe these two characters. List their favorite things, their appearance and their relationships. They also need a job that is unrelated to the genre of the book, like say, make them fax machine salesmen! Leg warmer designers!

Step Four: Give them an antagonist: (This determines your genre). If it’s a mean girl/boy, then it’s chick lit. If it’s a tall, dark stranger who they think is a pain in the butt (at first) it’s a rom-com.If it’s a mysterious colleague with secret who may do something violent to protect it then it’s a thriller. If it’s someone who had committed a crime and he doesn’t want our couple to find out about it, it’s a mystery.  If it’s bigger than a personality, like, say, a government agency, then it’s a spy thriller. If it’s a non-human but nothing technological is involved, then it’s a fantasy. If it’s a non-human but technology IS involved it’s science fiction. Okay, so these are loose definitions, but this is Nanowrimo! There is no need to get technical.

How Do I Win Nanowrimo?
So why were we so fascinated with the 1950s during the 1980s?

Step Five: Give them a setting. Make it consistent with the antagonist. Coffee shops in NYC are more for romantic comedies than for science fiction. (And there weren’t that many Starbucks around in the ’80s!)  But you know what, it’s NANOWRIMO! Go ahead, break the rules, and while Laverne and Shirley are waiting for the baddie to show up, they can order twenty-seven things on the menu because that will pad you with a lot of words!

This is where you sign up for NANO!

Step Six: Give them an objective: All this means is that the characters want something. They want to be loved. They want to be famous. They want to be secure, forgiven, avenged, or safe. These are primal needs and everybody wants them. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of the objectives, that will come later.

Step Seven: Give them a handicap: What will keep them from meeting their objective?  Sure, the antagonist will do his part, but there’s got to be more. Let’s say Laverne is a narcoleptic and falls asleep every seven minutes. Let’s say Shirley is deathly afraid of asphalt. Be as nonsensical and illogical as you want because HEY! THIS IS NANOWRIMO! 

Step Eight: Give them something to say:  Open your scene with dialogue. Your pair is bickering because of something. This shouldn’t be hard to come up with. As they bicker, the reader learns about their big objective. Laverne wants all of her black rubber bracelets back and Shirley wants to go to the Madonna concert.

Step Nine: The antagonist makes an appearance OR someone challenges them to acquire something. They are sent off on their mission. They bicker about it some more. They get distracted. Now write about this!

What should I do for Nanowrimo?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the pilot died and Laverne had to land the plane. AND she had narcolepsy! If I were Shirley, I’d be biting an apple in fear too!

Step Ten: Stuck? Tell us backstory! This is where Nanowrimo is beautiful. Tell us all about Laverne’s struggle with narcolepsy and how her fiancee left her for a woman who stays awake. Tell us about the trauma that Shirley had when she was four when she skinned her knee on the asphalt. In Nanowrimo (unlike your best work) you can have as much bleedin’ backstory as you want. This will add to your word count, will help you flesh out those characters, explain what happens in chapter 47 and help you understand where the story is going. Trust me.

Step Eleven: Stuck again? Put something unexpected in their path! A car wreck. A flood. A tornado. Have your duo fight it out and regroup and get back to the task at hand. (That could kill a couple of thousand words right there!)

Step Twelve: Take a break and think about your ending. What do you want to happen? Do you want them to meet their objective or not? Brainstorm for 10-20 things that need to happen before your duo gets to the end. This is your very loose outline. From now on, as you get stuck, refer to this. Put Laverne and Shirley in these situations or scenes and then get them out.

Step Thirteen: When you get about 10K from the end, try to wrap it up. Get your main characters in positions where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re having trouble, make a coincidence work out for them. Have a high school buddy show up with a solution. Don’t even worry about the logic of it. The important thing is that YOU ARE 10K FROM THE END! You need to fill that space up with something. Sometimes all we need to see what happens next is to put our fingers on the keyboard and plow through. You might be surprised what you figure out for your characters.

How do I do Nanowrimo?
I hope to God that was Carmine under all that gauze and not Squiggy!

Step Fourteen: When you hit 50K, CELEBRATE!  You deserve that badge! You deserve a pat on the back And don’t worry about  the story.

Put it aside for a minimum of three months.

Step Fifteen: When three months have passed, get the story out and go on a search and rescue mission. You are now digging through the haystack looking for the needle. You are digging through the stable full of ca-ca, looking for the pony. You are mining for diamonds in the cave. DO NOT PUBLISH THIS! I repeat! DO NOT PUBLISH THIS! If you have any kind of sense, you will take that 50K words and see if there’s something salvageable, like an exchange of dialog, a good description, a well drawn character or a little bit of a plot line. This is your good stuff. SAVE IT.

Step Sixteen:  Question my method completely. “What’s the point of writing like a mad man for a month if all we’re getting out of it is a little bit here and there.” I’ll tell you. You are learning discipline. You are learning to think fast. You are learning to appreciate the struggle. You are learning basic storytelling elements. You are learning what doesn’t work. You are learning what is good and what is drivel. You are learning to write the hard way. NANOWRIMO is, I believe, the Mr. Miyagi method to all you aspiring Karate Kids out there.

Nanowrimo is not HOW to write a novel. It is however, a way to build muscle and skills. To stretch your story-telling abilities. To gain perspective and insight. It’s good for you. And your car will look nicer too.

So, veteran Nano-ers? What do you think? How has past Nanos worked for you?

 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


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 Ten Nanowrimo Emergency Prompts For The Overwhelmed

 

Are you stuck yet? Don’t worry, you will be. When you are, don’t panic!  Don’t worry!  You’ll get through it! If you get stuck, here are ten writing prompts that might send you off on a tangent, help you finish your book!

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later.

 

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

You’re ready for Nanowrimo to be over when you actually decide, about the 24th or so, it’s time to shower& talk to people.

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot.

nanowrimo writing novel national creativity help prompts ideas

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out?

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless!

You take Nanowrimo too seriously when you haven’t showered, seen family nor spoken in days & you’re worried you don’t have enough conflict.

6. What would Kevin Bacon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later.

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet.

Nanowrimo is when you’re at the store & the clerk says, “Paper or plastic?” And you snap. “I’m a PANTSER! For God’s sake! Stop asking me!”

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist?

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader!

#Nanowrimo is like jumping from an airplane & your parachute only works if you flap your wings 1667 times a minute.

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out!

Remember, the point of Nano is quantity, not quality. This draft is supposed to be messy. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out the lawn gnome later.


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


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. 

Who Are We? A Existential Rambling From A Novelist Who Should Probably Know Better

Who are we?

What is our identity?

These are big questions that haven’t been fully answered by the wisest men. But I’d like to suggest that we are more than our genders, more than our hobbies, more than our avatars, more than our homes, more than our children, more than our possessions.

Who Are We- An Existential Rambling from a Novelist Who Should Probably Know Better

I ask this because I have always struggled with identity.

I spent a good part of my childhood fighting for attention, fighting for reassurance, fighting for comfort, for safety, for aspirations, for acceptance that exactly who I am is enough. That fight lasted way too long and the addition of titles like wife and mother just made fight more confusing. But I fought anyway.

I needed to know who I was because I had been told so differently. I needed to know who I was so my children could hold their heads up high. I needed to know who I was so when the storms of life battered me, I could be at peace knowing that the foundational truths about who I was remained. It wasn’t until I fully understood that I was enough, that I began to be free. 

And I believe that there is something deep inside of all of us that needs to know — WE NEED TO KNOW WHO WE ARE!

I can tell you the facts about me but that is not enough to fill that deep longing. I can tell you about my heritage and history, but that is not enough to strengthen me for the future. I can tell you about what I own, which isn’t much, but I know from experience how empty possessions can make you feel. I can tell you about how I spend my time, and I get very excited about my project, but they really don’t define me either. It’s more like they are an expression of my identity, but not my identity itself.

Knowing our identities is kind of like going on a treasure hunt. We search our inner wildernesses for that answer. Those who know and who are comfortable in their identities can’t give us clues to our own search. This is journey is a solitary one and it can, at times, be lonely.

We need to know who we are because it is this fact from which we fuel our thoughts. If we believe we are nothing, then we tell ourselves this lie. If we believe that we are worthless, then we repeat that to ourselves. If we believe that what we do has no value, then we are lazy, uninspired, fearful and defeated. If we believe that our identities are elusive, that they are accidental, that they are disposable, then this reveals what we really think about ourselves.

We can’t be happy if we don’t know who we really are.

I believe that our success depends on settling this core truth. I believe that the happiest, most joyful people, know something. I believe they know who they are. Often they can even say it clearly: I am worthy. I am strong. I am put here on this earth for a reason. I am a child of God. I am important. I am valuable. I am loved.

How do we move from having no clue to embracing it?

We have to make a mental choice. This is a battle of our minds. This is a battle that could be gut-wrenching. I know that in my case, I had to literally list everything that was ever spoken to me, “you’re not worth it, you’ll never amount to anything, you’re a nobody, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re just a girl” and defy them all. I had to look those nasty lies in the eyes and exert the force of my being against them. I had to TELL THEM TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD! I had to kick them in the teeth. I had to stare them down. I had to emotionally and mentally attack each one and make them cower in fear.

This took a lot of work. It took months of effort. Many times I wanted to quit. Many  times I wanted to pick up each of those shiny lies and say, “but someone with authority in my life said this to me, so it must be true” and then put the poison back in the pocket of my soul.

Recently psychoanalyst Adam Phillips said this about identities: Because we are nothing special — on a par with ants and daffodils — it is the work of culture to make us feel special; just as parents need to make their children feel special to help them bear and bear with — and hopefully enjoy — their insignificance in the larger scheme of things. In this sense growing up is always an undoing of what needed to be done: first, ideally, we are made to feel special; then we are expected to enjoy a world in which we are not… When people realize how accidental they are, they are tempted to think of themselves as chosen. We certainly tend to be more special, if only to ourselves, in our (imaginary) unlived lives.

I would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Phillips.  

What if we ARE something special? What if we’re special not because of our chemistry, nor our history, not our talents, nor our appearance? What if we’re special because we share the goodness of humanity? What if we’re special because we have a longing to aspire to greatness? What if we’re special because we are the only creatures on the planet that creates art? What if we’re special because we are attracted to justice? What if we are special because we want to embrace the honorable? What if we are special because we make feeble attempts to worship? What if we are special because we are baffled by the complexities of life and yet we want to still understand them? What if we are special because our fingerprints indicate that we could be? What if we’re special because of the invisible, intelligent force that organized our bodies, our brains and our souls so magnificently that we are awed by it? What if Adam Phillips is mistaken?

If I choose to believe that I am nothing then I lose hope. As for me, I would rather believe my own “foolishness” and have a hope and joy than believe this so-called truth that Mr. Phillips suggests and have despair.

I have been in the place of nothingness and it is a dark pit that has an endless horror. I don’t want that any more.

This is an existential argument. I’m quite sure I’m oversimplifying it. I am not a philosopher, a psychoanalyst, nor a theologian. But I do know that there is a choice that we all make, on a moment by moment, heartbeat by heartbeat basis. Do we choice hope or do we choose despair? I believe, simply because my own emotional fragility hangs on a thread, that that choice is a critical one. That is the choice that we make when we open our eyes in the morning. It is the one that puts us to sleep at night.

What do you believe?

  • If you believe that you are nothing then you will isolate yourself to evaporate into a void. If you believe that you are worthy then you will look into the eyes of others and speak their worth to them.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you will have convinced yourself that your sins are too much. That your punishment is not too great. If you believe that you are something, then you wear grace as a blanket, you confess your sin to others, you are humbled and grateful for forgiveness.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you are a slave to laziness and procrastination. They have whispered in your ears that it doesn’t matter what you do or when you do it because life’s futility is a force you can’t reckon with. But if you believe you are valuable, then you know that your efforts, no matter now small, no matter how ignored, are life-giving to someone, somehow and you must be faithful in them.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, you will debase yourself with the things that are destructive. You pick them up even though they destroy you, even though they handicap you, even though they diminish your soul. You abuse them because you don’t believe you deserve better. But if you believe you are valuable, then you look for the clutter, the poison, and the toxicity and you eliminate it from your life. You get help to do this. You admit your weakness. If you believe you are valuable, then you will find courage to face your demons.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you will hurt others to make yourself look good. You will point fingers, you will guffaw, you will mock, you will threaten and accuse. You will, by your own dark words, reveal the emptiness in your life. You may alienate those around you — the very ones you say you want to be closer to. But if you believe you are valuable, you will choose peace-making. You will speak kindness. You will offer a hand. You will reveal by your changed life that there is something whole there.
  • If you believe that you are nothing then you believe that you can never change. You will say that you’ve tried, or you at least you’ve claimed to. You will take failure as an excuse to continue to lie in the ditch of failure instead of getting up and stepping out of it. If you believe you are nothing, then you fondle the excuses in your pocket, convinced that they are the talisman to comfort. But if you believe that you are valuable, then you pray for change. You believe nothing is impossible. You seek wisdom. You ask for help. You see that humility and teachability are deceptively strong weapons in your fight for happiness.
  • If you believe that you are worthless then you blame others for your misery. If you believe that you are valuable, then you take responsibility for your own happiness.
  • If you believe that you are worthless then you listen to the siren songs of mindless entertainment too often.  If you believe that you are valuable, then you make disciplined choices in how you spend your time.

I believe I am something amazing, made in the image of God, to do excellent work for others. Believing this makes all the difference.

Who are you?

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat

You can’t even. You just can’t even.

Sometimes the words aren’t there. The ideas are weak and feeble. Your fingers grow numb waiting on a decent thought from your brain. There’s a problem and you can’t quite figure out what it is or why you’re blocked.

I’ve been there. And I’ve learned that a little self introspection sometimes is enough to get to the bottom of the problem.

9 Questions to ask if writer's block has you by the throat

Are you blocked because you are emotionally damaged by your project? 

Be honest. Not every writing project is a barrel of laughs. Some, like term papers and college essays are kinda important and you need to plow through. Some though, we’ve signed ourselves up for because we thought we needed to. I do not advocate quitting, but I do advocate taking stock of your mental and emotional health. If your project is very stressful, causing emotional or physical pain (it happens) then get out of it if you can. If you can’t, then finish it as soon as possible, beating the deadline.  I don’t have exact answers here, but I do know that severe negative feelings have a source from something and we owe it to ourselves to analyze what’s troubling us, figure out a solution and fix it.

Are you blocked because other things (besides writing) are messing with your head? 

You’ve just faced trauma, you’ve had a bad day, you’ve yelled at your kid. YUP. You can really shut down after an emotional event. Catch your breath and wash your face, but go write about it. Put down in words your feelings, your fears and your emotional ups and downs. Not only is this therapeutic, but you never know, gut level honesty can be good for your writing. Just because you write something down doesn’t mean you’re going to use it, oh my goodness, NO!  But the exercise of expressing yourself, of dealing with stress, trauma or extreme emotions is good practice for whatever you usually write.

Are you blocked because you are self-sabotaging?

This is a tricky idea, but sometimes we set out on projects fully expecting to fail. Something deep inside may be telling you not to try. As a result, you don’t want to write that blog post, make that tweet or even send that email. Try this instead: write five positive facts about yourself for every negative one that you’ve been ruminating over. Don’t just think them, write them. This also is therapeutic on many different levels and you’ll find, after a few minutes, that you’re emotionally ready to tackle the project. This may be a symptom of a much deeper problem and getting good advice from a trusted friend/pastor/therapist might be the best solution.

Are you blocked because your brain is tired? 

Just like your body, your brain needs rest too. Spend an evening or two (but not too many) watching television or playing video games. Your brain will recover with a little recreation. Then come back to your project and see if you can add to it.

Are you blocked because you are overwhelmed with the project? 

You have a deadline. It’s huge. It’s intimidating. What do you do? You eat the elephant one bite at a time. Break the task down into smaller ones and spend short increments of time on the project. (Hey! Ten minutes is a good start!) Then, as you get started, you’ll see that your momentum has kicked in and you can accomplish more and more.

Are you blocked because your inner critic WILL NOT SHUT UP?

The inner critic is that nagging voice that won’t let you be free. It corrects, criticizes, makes you go back and fix little things that aren’t important, negates the smallest effort and basically defeats you before you even start. This one really needs a kick in the face. Fire, evict or murder your inner critic — at least in the drafting stages. All the things that inner critics worry about, like grammar and structure and spelling, should be addressed after the first draft is written, not before. It takes practice, but train yourself to write fast first drafts — so fast that your inner critic can never catch up. Then, even though the draft is ca-ca (Hemingway said so), at least you have a draft! Now you have something to work on later. Call that inner critic back in the room, keep him on a short lease, and put him to work.

Are you blocked because you are discouraged? 

You got the rejection letter. You didn’t make the first round of the contest. Your favorite agent hates your book. Discouragement is a tough. Take heart that every writer faces this. Then, go over any comments or feedback from these demons from Hell and see if their criticisms are valid. Then, write. Write about anything. Strive to improve. Ask your writing group or your critique partner what your strengths are and develop them. Then, when you’re ready, tackle those weaknesses. Much of writing is art — which is hard to learn. But much of it is technical! You can learn spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can learn technique. There are thousands of books out there about writing! Find one and do everything in the book. Be humble and teachable and work hard. Your dreams are worth pursuing and the hard work will be worth it. 

Are you blocked because you are lazy?  

Sorry, but it had to be asked. The truth is there are a lot of wannabes out there who don’t want to put the time in, who don’t want to be taught, who think that book contracts fall out of the sky. They don’t. (Although mine kinda did.) You can flip channels all day and call it writer’s block, and your enabling friends will help you eat your pizza and beer, but that is not what successful writers do. They work. They get up and keep going.

Are you blocked because you are afraid? 

This question is the one that is the closest to my heart. I was afraid for many, many years to pursue my dreams. My source of fear had far more to do with the messages I was told as a child than my writing goals. I spent most of my life in a constant state of borderline freaking out and it got worse when I became a mother. I was, in essence, blocked to do anything creative from the time I was 26 until the time I was 38. That’s 12 years of walking in fear! That was a lot of wasted time. (okay, I DID have five kids in less than eight years, so clearly I was busy with other things, but still . . . ) What was I afraid of? I was afraid of being laughed at, of being rejected, of failing, of succeeding, of taking time away from my family to pursue my dreams, of not being a good mother, of being thought a fool. What made me change was the realization that I had five precious children watching me. Would they say of me that I conquered my fear or would they say of me that I succumbed to it? I knew I didn’t want my children to be afraid of anything, especially my girls, so I kicked my fear in the teeth and got over it. It’s been eight years since that feeble effort to get away from my fear and ya know? It was hard! But I did it. And I’m so glad I did.

Some of these questions are going to take time to answer. That’s okay. The mental wrestling match that will required will be worth it in the long run.

What else can you ask yourself to combat writers’ block? Let me hear you!


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, PTSD survivor, 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.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don't have a soul. Do you dare to prove it?

Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don’t have a soul. Do you dare to prove it? Now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!  

Working-class future leader Roy Castleberry and pampered over-thinker Jonathan Campbell are 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Oklahoma who think they know everything. Roy thinks Jonathan could succeed in wooing Abby if he stopped obsessing over Walden. Jonathan thinks Roy could learn to be self-actualized if he’d stop flirting with every girl he meets. They make a wager: if Roy can prove that he has some poetic thought, some inner life, A SOUL, then Jonathan will give him the car he got for graduation. Roy takes the bet because he thinks this is the easiest game he’s ever played. Roy spends the rest of the school year proving the existence of his soul, competing against Jonathan for Abby’s attention, dodging RAs who are curious about the fake ID ring in his room and dealing with his past. For Roy and Jonathan, college life in 1986 is richer, (both experientially and financially) than either of them expected.


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Starting in July, a new weekly newsletter, <em>The Rallying Cry, </em> will be released from Katharine Grubb. Sign up if you need a weekly dose of encouragement covering all of your life, not just writing. <em>The Rallying Cry </em> will be an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. You can sign up below.

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The Amazingly Easy Short Cut Guide To Becoming A Great Writer (Tongue-In-Cheek Advice for The Lazy)

Some are born great writers, some aspire to being a great writer and some have writerly greatness thrust upon them.

Then, sometimes, neither of those three options apply to us and we have to bushwhack our own path to greatness.

Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of work?

A great shot of a slacker in action, or inaction, as the case may be. Thanks, Morguefile

Greatness, is, in some regards, overrated.

You spend your life toiling away at tasks that you “love” or your “passions” and yet the Pulitzer isn’t passed out to everyone. The odds are against you with every query letter you send, with every proposal you write up, every word you type. Agents reject authors by the dozens, what would make you so special?

I’d like to suggest that our writerly ambitions can be accomplished with little or no effort.

In fact, I have a list of ten things you can do (or not do) to accomplish this goal. (If accomplishing goals is your thing.) I would have come up with eleven but I got really tired.

1. Don’t Write. Your day is busy enough. In fact, spend your non-busy down time doing things like hurling birds into piles of thieving pigs. Tell yourself that this is brain work too and your writing future is dependent on whether or not you see Downton Abbey. Every time you have a nagging thought that tells, you that maybe you should do Nanowrimo or something like that, just watch an episode of Hoarders until the feeling goes away. Smugness, with lack of physical activity, can be just as comforting as that pesky sense of accomplishment that comes with dedication and commitment. Trust me.

2. Don’t read. This is obvious. Since really there aren’t any new plots, there isn’t any point in reading at all. If you need to know something, don’t go any deeper than a search on Wikipedia. If you want a story to entertain you, you’ve got Netflix, right? Besides fiction is made up stories, which are basically lies. Just don’t bother. In fact, if you are reading this blog, stop right now and turn on Pandora, the Shakira station.

3. Hang Out With Stupid People. This should be easy. If you want to avoid greatness, the spend a lot of time who are content to stay where they are. It’s  way, way easier to avoid reading and writing if your BFFs are Neanderthals. The people who actually accomplish something in their lives would take the effort (and it is effort) to find smart, inspiring, intelligent and encouraging people to rub elbows with, learn from and be mentored by. Not only is keeping such company  hard, it’s risky too. You might not be liked or appreciated, or you might be thought to be stupid. It’s better not to take a chance.

4. Expect the universe to bring you want you want. You know that old phrase, luck favors the prepared? Don’t listen to it, that’s something that personal trainers and high school coaches say. There are plenty of statistics, but I’ve bothered to find them that shows that these people have never won the lottery and they’re bitter about it. Not you. Your talent/desires/destinies are special enough that the universe will just trip one day and it will all spill in your lap. So go back to bed. We’ll call you when the universe shows up.

"Some people call this a work chair. I call it amazing." Thanks, Morguefile

5. If you have to write, look for short cuts. Hard work and diligence are for those people not smart enough to beat the system. Hustle, if you don’t know already, is a dance move from the ’70s, not a verb for people who want to accomplish great things. So if you must send a query letter (but if you do, you’re missing the point of this post entirely) don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Real agents can spot talent without the rules bringing artists like you down.

6. If you have to work, and you make a mistake, then quit as soon as possible. Life should be easy and if you make mistakes, then you’re doing it wrong. If you hang out with the right kind of people, they will tell you about all the big dreams that they once had and how they quit when the going got tough. These people may be calledquitters in some circles, but in others, they are called realists. Oh, and if you’re on a reality show when you do decide to quit, make sure you make a big scene, spew profanity and throw something. You never know when a future employer might hire you because of your spirit. 

7. Never Ask Questions. First of all, you’re so smart, you don’t need to ask questions and if you do ask, it will just make you look weak. Secondly, even if you do ask, it may mean that you will not like the answer. You may have to change your way of thinking or how you do something. You are waiting for the universe to drop your destiny in your life, you don’t have time to change! It’s far better just to nod and smile and make it look like you know what you’re doing.

Don't think too hard, you may hurt yourself.  (Thanks, Morguefile)

8. Hold Your Head Up High. You should broadcast loudly and often how little you are doing to pursue your dreams. (Pursue is far too strong a verb here, go easy on yourself and use the word, ponder.) People will respect your brashness and individual spirit. They will, most assuredly, talk about you behind your back and say things like, “She is so smart and optimistic! I admire her commitment to her pondering!”

9. Call Yourself What You Are. Do you dream of being a published writer?  Call yourself that! It doesn’t matter that you haven’t published anything. You know that advice that says, “Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have”? Well, I say, call yourself the job you want, not the job that you have. The universe will take notice of this and bow to your wishes. Eventually. Believing in yourself is half the battle, right? If you have the right kind of friends and family, they will believe you even though you’ve never really written. But, I wouldn’t suggest mentioning that you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company when you fill out a bank loan, unless you have the pay stubs to prove it.

10. Wait. This is the easiest step for anyone who wants to be great. Just wait. Kick back on the LaZ-Boy, fall asleep on the couch, turn in early. It will come eventually. You’ve done nothing to make it happen, so everything you want will come to you like a dream. Having trouble sleeping? Try this link, but don’t listen too closely, you might learn something.

 

This is a sea mammal doing a slug impression. Thanks, Morguefile!