Tag Archives: discipline

Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injuries As a Writer

By Dianna Gunn

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

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

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

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

My Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Recovery

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

The Yoga

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

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

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

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

The Wrist Braces

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

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

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

Real Breaks

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

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

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

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

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

Gaining Strength

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

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

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

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

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

A Note About Dictation

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

The Takeaways

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


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

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

What do you do when the timer dings?

Here’s help for 10 Minute Novelists everywhere!

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

 

Click the image to order!

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

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

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

What do you do when the timer dings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are more than your to-do lists.

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

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

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


 


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

How To Develop Your Writing Voice

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

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

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

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

How To Develop Your Writing Voice by Katharine Grubb

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

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

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

How do you find your writer’s voice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You won’t be able to help it.


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

More Questions To Ask After That First Draft Is Done

Your first draft is done!

And trust me when I say this, it is not ready to be published! 

How do you know this? No one writes a perfect first draft. You don’t either. Before you let your mom, your best buddy or the pizza guy read this draft, make sure it’s the best you can make it.

15 More Questions To Ask After That First Draft is Done by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

Here are questions you can ask about this draft.

Go on! Take your time to think about it! Make notes!  Each change you make will probably be for the better. And if you are serious about getting this published, then you’ll be far more marketable and competitive in this saturated markets. Your pizza guy? He probably won’t notice the changes precisely, but he probably will enjoy the pacing, characterization, and conflict. Make sure you tip him well.

Are there believable surprises in your story?

Your reader needs to be surprised, so think of ways to put the unexpected in. What if the sidekick decides to betray our main character? Or what if the getaway is interrupted by a car crash? What if the protagonist is recognized by the guard? Or what if the love interest is really that bully from her childhood? What if his food allergies give away his identity? It’s hard when you’ve read your work a million times to see a surprise (that’s where a beta reader could come in) but keep thinking! Surprises keep your readers turning pages long after they should be in bed!

 

Do the supporting characters contrast the main character enough in what they do or say?

When creating your cast of characters, think of the supporting cast as an ensemble. They should have different personality types, different life experiences, different points of view. And they should never get along perfectly. The main character could take turns listening to each one and yet changing his loyalties. What do you have in this draft? Consider each one carefully and make necessary changes.

Is every supporting character necessary?

Can you cut any out? When creating characters, think about variety and roles that each character plays. Just like our main character, each of the supporting cast should have desires and objectives. To make good conflict, you don’t want them to perfectly align with your protagonists. But if they are too similar, you may have a problem.  If you have characters that are too much the same either make one an extreme exaggeration or eliminate one altogether.

Do you have a subplot or two that can divert the reader from the main story, just for a moment?

A good subplot harmonizes with the main plot, it doesn’t compete with it. If you don’t have one in this draft, now’s the time to add one.  That’s why a romantic subplot often works in books that aren’t necessarily romances. Cutting away to the subplot, right when the tension in the main plot is high, is a good strategic move for story telling. Your readers will be invested in both if you do this right, and they’ll keep reading.

The FIRST EVER Conference for 10 Minute Novelists will be held August 9-11, 2018 in Cincinnati, OH. We’re featuring Donald Maass, James Scott Bell and Janice Hardy! Come and learn with us!

Is your antagonist too much of a cartoon?

It’s really easy to take a villain and put a mustache, beard and black hat on him. You can do that in the first draft. But the more you make him like a cartoon the less serious he will be to your reader. Have you taken the worst of your antagonist and exaggerated it to the point of caricature? It may be better to work with their nuances, their personalities, and their worldview rather than their quest for “one meelion” dollars.

Is your antagonist’s objective clear?

Does it oppose your protagonist enough? Do you want to have your antagonist monolog to reveal all of their intentions to your good guy? Or would it come up some other way? Antagonist development is really important. The richer you make this conflict between him and the protagonist, the more interesting your story.

Is your dialogue distinctive between characters?

The voice between the characters should be so distinctive that you could remove the dialog tags and still know what’s going on. If you don’t see any distinction, this could mean that you have too many characters or too many that are alike. Consider merging a couple together or killing a few darlings.

What do all of the characters learn by the end?

Every character needs to have some sort of arc. This means that by the end of the story everyone has had a change for the better or for the worse. The change could be a physical change, or it could be financial, spiritual, emotional, academic or professional. The point is that growth is evident to the reader.

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Do you add in touches of sensory description in each scene?

Sensory descriptions can make the scene come alive. Consider using three descriptors, but not too many more. A scene that’s too heavy handed with description can be boring, so take care that you don’t get carried away.

Is the mood and tone of the story consistent with the theme and the genre?

Tone is the emotional weight of the narration. For example, thrillers are mostly serious. Romances are more light-hearted. Comedies, regardless of their setting, are the lightest of all. If you’re writing genre fiction, you want to sound like all of the other books in your genre. If your tone is too different from what is expected, you may turn off some readers.

Do your scenes feel like they build with excitement like the tension is increasing as the story plays out?

Each scene requires a push or a pull, toward the main character’s objective or away from it. There should be a sense of more gained than lost, and each scene is more treacherous than the last.

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Do your protagonist and antagonist have a final conflict where something unexpected happens?

This should happen late in the second act. There should be a point when all hell breaks loose and your protagonist and your antagonist are at each other’s throats. You’ve seen this scene in countless movies — the final showdown. Now, if you do this well, you don’t make it last too short or too long, you give the villain the upper hand for just a second and then BAM! Something unexpected helps the protagonist out and your bad guy gets the Disney accidental-death-by-falling-which-technically-doesn’t-make-your-good-guy-a-murderer. Okay, maybe that’s a big much for your romance, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Does your protagonist make a choice between two mutually exclusive desires?

This conflict is one of my very favorite things to create for my characters. They’ve have wanted to get to A for a long, long time — say 250 pages — and here they are, just about to touch it and have what they want but then, THEN, they realize they’ll lose B if they do! B?? B?? Oh, not B! This is good conflict. Set your characters up to make them choose!

Is your ending predictable?

This is the funny thing about endings: the need to be believable and probable, but not completely predictable. Before you write that conclusion, make sure you’ve considered all of the options. Make a list, if you have to, of what could happen and then choose the most ridiculous, most mind-boggling or most odd. Your reader would prefer a good surprise rather than an “oh, I saw that coming!”

Does your third act bring all the characters to a new, permanent place that makes sense?

Your third act is where everyone cleans up the mess of the climax and goes on about their lives. If you’ve done your job well, then each character has a new, permanent change in their life. Third acts should be much shorter than the second act, and maybe even shorter than the third. Don’t over do it. Just sum it all up in a tidy bow and write The End.

Your first draft is certainly something to be proud of, but a well-crafted novel is even moreso. Use these questions to make your draft the best it can be.


Did you like this post? You may also like:

Twelve Questions To Ask Yourself After That First Draft Is Done and 16 Questions About Body Language & Appearance For Your Character


 


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

Five Steps To Building A Regular Writing Routine

By Bethany Perry

There’s so much advice out there about writing.

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

Thinking about writing is not writing.

Reading advice columns like this one is not writing.

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

Writing is writing, period.

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

Five Steps for Building A Regular Writing Routine

  1. I keep a writing journal

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

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

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

But there’s more to that story.

  1. I listen to music with headphones.

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

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

  1. I have a routine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Turn off the internet

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

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

  1. Write

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

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

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


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

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

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing


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

How to Get Up Early to Write (7 Tips From a Former Night Owl)

by AprIl Davila

Get up early?

I started getting up early to write when I was working full time and my kids were little. I didn’t want to do it, but I absolutely could not find any other time to write.

As a die-hard night owl, the adjustment was rough. I’m not gonna lie.

It took me about eighteen months to settle in, but that was because I went about it all wrong.

Here are seven things I wish I had known when I started:

1. You don’t have to be a morning person.

I was absolutely NOT a morning person when I started. It was painful, no question about it, but eventually, I got used to it because I had to. If your writing is important enough, you’ll get used to it.

2. Coffee.

If you own a coffee maker, it probably has a delayed start function. Take 10 minutes, google the make and model to find the owners manual, and read up on how to set it to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off. You want the coffee to be ready to drink when you drag yourself out of bed. Hot coffee can be a powerful motivator.

3. A quick foot massage.

I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, when I was too tired to get up and even the promise of hot coffee wasn’t enough, I would pinch and roll each toe between my fingers for a few seconds. Somehow this quick little foot massage helped drag me into consciousness. Try it. I swear it works.

4. Do it (almost) every day.

For the first year, I thought I was going easy on myself by only getting up early to write every other day. What I know now is that it is actually much harder to do every other day. Do it every day, or at least every workday. Just put it in your head that this is how you start your days. It will be a drag at first, but eventually, you will adjust. It will get easier.

I struggled terribly with early mornings until I started waking up at 5 am six days a week. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s easier to settle into it if you do it (almost) every day. (For the record, I’m a big believer in having one or two mornings a week to sleep in. It gives you something to look forward to. Trying to wake up at 5 am every morning forever will just lead to burnout.)

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
Lemony Snicket

5. Establish a routine.

When you wake up super early to write you will be groggy. You will not want to think about anything too much until the coffee kicks in. To overcome this, you will need to establish a routine and make time for it. So if you only need ten minutes, you can’t just set the alarm to go off ten minutes earlier than usual. You have to figure out what routine will bring your head to your writing and then set the alarm so that you have enough time to do the whole thing. 

My routine consists of pouring my mug of coffee and sitting down with my journal. I aim to fill one page of the journal with whatever comes to mind – seriously anything. It usually takes me about half an hour, and I notice my pen starts to move faster as the coffee kicks in. Then, I close the journal, set the mug aside, and attack my writing. This means that to get an hour or writing in, I have to get up an hour and a half before my kids. I just do. If you’re only writing for 10 minutes, you may still have to set the alarm to give you a full 40 minutes. Accept this as part of the deal.

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6. Go to bed early.

Depending on how old you are, and how demanding your days can be, getting up super early on a regular basis will start to wear you down if you don’t compensate by going to bed a little earlier. As a night person by nature, I never used to get tired until after midnight. But I knew I needed sleep, so I started brushing my teeth and getting into bed earlier. For many weeks I would sit up and read until my usual crash-out time, but eventually, the exhaustion caught up and I started falling asleep earlier. It’s embarrassing for a self-proclaimed night person to admit to going to bed at 9, but you’re a writer, dang it, and you’re doing it for your art.

7. Set an end time.

For me, writing time ends at 6:30 or when the kids wake up. Whichever comes first. If you’re a mom, and/or if you’re working a full-time job, you will need to set an end time. Write as much as you can in your allotted time and then pat yourself on the back. Whatever else happens that day, you wrote. And that is a glorious thing.

“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
H.G. Wells

For the New Parents

As a quick side note, if you are the parent of a very young child (or children), you may have to wait a few years to implement this, but take heart, the time will come.

I remember, when I was nursing, I felt like the exhaustion would consume me. There was no predicting when those ravenous babies would wake. My advice: don’t stress. Write for a few minutes while they’re napping and know that you are in the throws of a unique and precious time. Get some audiobooks to listen to while you fold endless loads of laundry and soak up as much story as you can. As a writer, you can totally count that as honing your craft (for real).

Happy writing!


If you liked this post, you may also like 

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow) or

6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time


April Dávila lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and two beautiful children. By day she blogs and works as a freelance writer. By the light of early, early morning she chips away at her first novel. Check her out at http://aprildavila.com

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!

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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.

How To Handle Other Commitments As A 10 Minute Novelist

By definition, if you are a 10-minute novelist, then you are time-crunched.

You have commitments to your job, your family, and your social life. Because you are a 10-Minute Novelist, you have to find pockets of time here and there to get those words down. But even with all the best intentions, it’s hard to do this.

How To Handle Other Commitments as a 10 Minute Novelist

How do you find 10 minutes here and there if you have so much else to do?

Take stock of where each second of your day goes.

You may have time leaks. If you do, look at this blog post on how to plug them. If you’re really serious about making the most of your time, you need to track it. This isn’t any different that tracking finances if you are trying to get your money under control. This isn’t any different than tracking calories if you are getting your weight under control. Pardon the pun, but tracking your time leaks is time-consuming and difficult. But at the end of the exercise, you’ll be able to see where your time actually goes. This may be discouraging, but you’ll be able to assess honestly your time leaks and make informed choices on how to plug them. Some of your commitments are rigid and you can’t get out of them — like going to work each day. But some are flexible. Use their flexibility to your advantage.

Consider how efficient you are with certain tasks.

Are there ways that you can speed everything up? Can you do all your shopping once a week? Perhaps you can go a little faster in cleaning your kitchen? Perhaps you can store paperwork more efficiently so you aren’t overwhelmed by it? Many household tasks can’t be avoided, but they can be sped up to their most efficient. As tempting as it is, you can’t really write and cook dinner at the same time. (I know, I’ve tried.) So instead, come up with ways to speed up dinner, like making freezer meals, cutting vegetables in advance, or putting something in the crockpot earlier in the day. Eating and cleaning are commitments that you can work around without sacrificing what’s important to you.

Can you eliminate some tasks?

If you have assessed your time, you may find that you are spending time on the unnecessary or redundant. If you don’t enjoy gardening, then don’t plant one this spring. And if you don’t like fussing over what to give your relatives, then buy gift cards and call it done. No task you do should be without scrutiny. Often we say yes to commitments because we don’t think we have a choice, but we do. I suggest re-evaluating some of the decisions you ‘ve made and eliminating or simplifying them to maximize your time.

Can you delegate?

Delegating is my all-time favorite method of saving time and I explain why here. Is it possible for you to give some of your household responsibilities to others? Can you step back and encourage them to participate without micromanaging? Can you be grateful for extra help? Many hands make light the work. While explaining to your family or roommates what needs to be done takes time, you will save time in the long run.

Can you get up earlier or stay up later?

I am often surprised at how much I accomplish when I get up early. And while I would have never called me an early bird, to have some daily tasks done before 8:00 AM is encouraging and motivating. Can you give yourself an extra half hour, at either end of the day? It is possible to squeeze in bits of time between your other obligations.

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Can you be more organized?

Could you sort the mail as soon as you pick it up instead of leaving it in piles? Can you put similar things together in your pantry? Could you give certain tasks certain times of the day or week so that everything can get done in an orderly fashion? We often lose time by not grouping tasks together. Consider how you can meet your household requirements swiftly so that you can block more time for yourself.

Do you need to communicate your needs?

Could it be that the other people in your household could do more to help your productivity? This may be the hardest thing to do on this list, but it could also be the most life-changing. Can you discuss your needs with the people you live with? Or can you delegate chores? Can you start good habits of order? Could you model responsible, non-whiny attitudes about new policies and order?

Are you wasting time?

Where do you put all of your time? Do you dawdle? Are there too many cat videos in your life? Do you catch yourself playing too much Candy Land? You may find it helpful to identify these time wasters and figure out a way to limit yourself. You’ve probably heard it said that life is short. It is. Why would you want to waste it on the trivial or uninteresting?

These could be radical changes for you.

 But if you really want to make time for your dream, you’ll have to look at your commitments in a way that could be difficult or painful.

But you have a dream to write, or you wouldn’t be here.

You can do a lot in 10-minute increments.

Find more of them.

Your dreams are worth it.


If you liked this post, then you may also like:

Wasting Time: Seven Hard Questions To Ask Yourself, Or,

Six Must-Haves For The Time-Crunched Writer! 


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.

13 More Mistakes You Could Make When Creating Narrative Voice

 

Who is telling your story anyway? What is the point of view?

You’ve had a story in your mind for weeks.

Maybe you’ve twisted it, pounded it and cut it to pieces. You’ve already made many decisions on how it is to be told. But, have you put thought into the narrative voice?

The narrative voice is the voice of the point of view character that tells the story. With a well-drawn point of view character, a story can be rich and interesting. You want to take the time to get this right.

But be careful, many novelists make big mistakes in creating that narrative voice.

Last week, I blogged about 12 big mistakes that you can make in creating a narrative voice. This week? I have thirteen more potential mistakes. Never fear, there are plenty of ways avoid them.

13 More Mistakes You Could Make When Creating Narrative Voice

You may make your character sound too much like you. Many new writers create these characters that are really ideal images of themselves. They have few flaws and are a little too perfect. The words these characters say sound suspiciously similar to those that the author would say. Ask a reader who knows you well to evaluate if you’re putting way too much of you in your narrative voice.

You may get the gender wrong. In broad, sweeping, general strokes, men react differently to situations than women. Of course, there are exceptions — so if you are writing in the opposite gender, make sure your voice is authentic. As much as I liked A Fault In Our Stars,  I thought John Green could have made his teenage girl worry a little more about her appearance. Teen girls do that.

You may make them all strength and no weakness. Authentic, three-dimensional characters are those that feel real. Don’t be afraid to have your character make mistakes, offend another character or fail. Potentially, a balance of strengths and weaknesses will endear your character to your reader. They’ll identify with them more strongly and want to see them through to the end.

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You may get the tone wrong for the genre. Are you new to the genre you’re writing? Make sure you’ve read a few books in it. Specific genres have tones that readers expect. You don’t want your hero in your thriller to be too flippant or sensitive. You don’t want your romantic comedy to be bleak and morbid. Study the genre and shape your narrator accordingly.

You may sound too much like your favorite author. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in your own work, your own voice is critical. You develop a voice, both your own and your narrator’s, through practice. Write as much as you can and read as much as you can from a variety of authors to find words that are uniquely yours.

Your prose may be a touch too purple. Even if your character is a boa-wearing, poodle-holding, cigarette holder-clutching, frosted blonde, middle-aged, has-been diva, don’t overdo the descriptions, observations , and meanderings. Your first goal should be clarity. Simple writing, light on the adjectives and adverbs, will make your narrative voice stronger.

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

You may sound dated. Fiction has trends just like everything else. The common narrative voice of most chick lit in the ’90s has a distinct sound that you may not want to replicate in your chick lit book. Read and study the current books in your genre so that you can know what is expected. If you read only older fiction, your voice could be unappealing.

Your sentences may not be varying enough. Shorter sentences are quick and denote action. Longer sentences take their time and are good for description and observation. Make sure in your prose that your narrator has a variety of sentence lengths to add interest.

You may have forgotten the sensory experiences of your character. What your character sees, tastes, touches, hears and smells is all important to the narration. By adding these experiences, you are reinforcing your setting and creating a potential for conflict. Sensory description can make your story come alive. Don’t neglect it.

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You may be too shocking. Writing fiction is art and art can be anything, but if you purposefully intent to shock and offend with graphic profanity, violence, or anything else that may make readers uncomfortable, especially in the beginning, you may find you will lose interest early. It’s better to use the narrative voice to ease them into the story and save more shocking narration for the moments that you need it.

You may be too sexy. This problem could fall into the too shocking argument. In writing romance, I’d suggest that more provocative talk escalate organically. Admittedly, I’m not a reader nor a writer of steamy romance, so I may have this all wrong. But in my humble opinion, your narrative voice needs an arc. By seducing your reader too soon, you’ll have nothing to woo them with in later acts.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”
Berkeley Breathed

You may not react enough during the inciting incident. Structurally speaking, something big needs to happen in the first few pages to get the story moving. Your narrator interprets this event and must make decisions regarding it. Make sure that their reaction handles the situation plausibly so that the reader wants to follow them on their adventure.

You may not be interesting enough and the reader doesn’t care. This is a hard one to fix. The narrative voice must come from a well-developed character. The more you work on your characters depth, the more it will show in your narration. Take the time to make your characters rich and three-dimensional.

The best narrative voices come from well-drawn characters.

The more time you spend in every aspect of your character’s life, the potentially richer your narrative voice could be. Who knows? Maybe you’ll wind up with a Jane Eyre or a David Copperfield?


If you liked this post, consider reading these about character development:

7 Defense Mechanisms You Could Give To Your Character or, 5 Super Powers & 5 Sources of Kryptonite for Abused Characters


 

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

Five Signs To Keep Writers From Going Wrong

By TLC Nielsen

Are you a Writer Gone Wrong?

10 minute novelists are an upbeat, happy group of writers striving to be all they can word-ly be.

But unbeknownst to many is another, small group of writers who hoard their words, shudder from social interaction with other (competing) authors, and cannot restrain themselves from talking/chatting/emailing about their books, blogs and other writings far more than necessary. This group of writers took dangerous forks on the writerly road, ending up down a path they never intended to take.

Here are 5 road signs to keep you, and me, from joining Writers Gone Wrong!

5 Road Signs To Keep Writers From Going Wrong by TLC Nielsen

Road Sign #1 Writing Conferences- To go or Not to go

Beware the path that leads you away from attending writing conferences. I’m thankful my writing path started 6 years ago when a persistent writing friend invited me to a local, annual writing conference. Yes, it was expensive, but so is any 4-day conference with room and board attached. It took two years of writing for a scholarship before I won a full-ride award. By attending this conference, I moved from being an amateur writer to becoming a serious wordsmith. I proved to myself, my family and other writers that I was “in it to win it.” I have gone to a yearly writing conference ever since and I wouldn’t have finished my novel without the support I found there. Attending a conference also gave me a deadline, making me work harder and smarter to have my one-sheet, short biography, and manuscripts ready to go.

Road Sign #2 Word Hoarding versus Sharing

Finding an amazing critique group requires some hunting and some sacrifice of time but the alternative is scary. Left to themselves, writers gone wrong will think everything they’ve written is amazing or, more like me, that it all stinks and should be destroyed before anyone can smell, I mean read it. Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve. The first draft isn’t called the “vomit” draft1 for no reason.

It took me three years of attending that local writing conference before I found a handful of writers who lived close enough to me to start a critique group. I trust these writers because of their keen insight and the amazing works they share with the group. I had been involved with a library writers’ group previously, which left me scarred and scared; there were a few alpha writers who positioned themselves to be in control. That was my first experience with writers gone wrong and it took me ten years before I would try again. So, as a self-confessed word hoarder, I implore all writers to become word sharers, even if it means starting your own critique group and having to be its president for a few years. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

“Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve.” — TLC Nielsen

It’s truly an honor and privilege for me to be involved with the serious writers in the On the Border chapter. When this group first started, we looked at a variety of organizations before choosing to join Word Weavers, International. These organizations are a great way to get support and find writing groups in your area. I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.

I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.

Road Sign #3 Lone Ranger or Accountability Partner – that is the question

Writers who’ve gone wrong may sometimes attend a writing conference and occasionally pop into a critique group. They may be too much of the lone ranger type to seek out a mentor or accountability partner. When I attended my first conference five years ago, the presenters hammered out the trifecta of writer success: conferences, critique groups and one-on-one relationships. Eugene H. Peterson in a 2017 publication summed it up well: “I am not myself by myself.”2 He may have been referring to the church, but I think his statement stands for writers – I am not my writerly self by myself. If no one reads my words, I am simply a journal writer, not an author. To be an authentic author takes accountability, sometimes the uncomfortable kind.

Road Sign #4 Using Your Writerly Powers for Good or…

Do you give or take in your writing? Literary agent Leslie Stobbe said if you want to be a writer, then write! 3 Find an organization to use your skills to help, for the need of volunteer writers is vast. There are numerous ways to use your word powers for good. Here are two basic mainstays: always a) quote your sources and b) ask for permission to use other folks’ words whenever possible.

However, there can be a dark side to having writerly powers, when it’s too easy for authors to stray into taking more than they give.  Oh, they may pretend to offer something for free but there’s a catch – you owe them. A true gift comes with no strings attached. It takes dedicated effort to use words to help others, whether offering to write guest blogs for writer friends, volunteering free writing services to a worthy organization, or sending thoughtful letters to others – just give back full-heartedly. And remember the advice from Leslie, if you’re a writer – then write.

“Being a participating member of 10 Minute Novelists is a great start!”

— TLC Nielsen

Road Sign #5 Decimal Point Growth or Decline

In chatting with my mother, a published botanist, she encouraged me to mention becoming Decimal Point writers, “people who are incrementally increasing their skills.”4 She clarified that even though 1.4 writers are still considered at “1” a small increase to 1.6 catapults them towards “2.”

Writers who have gone wrong, however, tend to think in extremes – I’m a “10+” or I’m a “0”. I’m learning to celebrate the small incremental steps of my writing journey in order to dodge the doubt that plagues me. My small successes include reading books for pleasure while on the stationary bike, writing a monthly blog and bringing something, anything, to the critique group to which I belong. I’m also entrusting my novel to beta readers, a step of trust in my word-ly journey. 

While my book has not been published yet, I hold on to the 10 minutes a day commitment that gets me ever closer to my goal. 

The choices writers make EACH DAY will either expand or contract their growth: in conference attendance, word sharing commitment, community mindfulness and accountability and, most importantly, in giving back.


1 Bob Hostetler, WTP 2016 conference, Wheaton, Illinois. “Vomit draft” quote, source unknown.

2 Eugene H. Peterson, CT Pastors: “The State of Church Ministry in America”, 2017 (p. 30)

3 Leslie Stobbe, WTP 2012 conference, Wheaton, Illinois

4 Botanist Linda W. Curtis, self-published author of three books on plants:

Aquatic Plants of Northeastern Illinois, Bog-Fen Carex of the Upper Midwest and Woodland Carex of the Upper Midwest.  Permission granted


TLC Nielsen fights her writer-gone-wrong tendencies by being the current VP of the Word Weavers On the Border writing chapter, mentoring new attendees at a local writing conference, and belonging to the 10 MN group. She’s editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, and will be attending only one conference this year, at her spouse’s request. She uses her writerly powers for the better by occasionally judging book contests. Her decimal point increases include playing trombone on Rich Rubietta’s CD Resting Places, contributing a story on p. 68 of I Believe in Healing by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk, belonging to the 365 Writing Club here at 10 MN as well as interviewing ordinary folks with extraordinary stories at this monthly blog: https://lookandbe.blogspot.com.  You can find her occasionally on Twitter as Read2Mii2.

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized

 

In her book, Organize Your Life and More, Christina Scalise said, “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”

 I totally agree with this. I think that to be organized, one should make decisions, sometimes quickly. Sometimes painfully. To get rid of your clutter, or to get more organized, I suggest you take one of these ten actions.

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized

Okay, so organizational tips don’t have anything to with writing directly. But we are more than just writers, we are parents, employees, adult children and citizens. Staying organized is good for us.

I'd like to suggest though, that the more organized you are with your stuff, the more time you'll…

Here are 10 decisive moves that will help you get organized:

Make a decision. START The act of starting has power. Even if the idea intimidates you, set a timer for 10 minutes. Even if that’s too much, start with five.

Pick the most obvious thing. Maybe it’s all the trash all over the floor. Maybe it’s the big stock pot that’s been soaking in your kitchen sink for days. Maybe it’s the clothes thrown everywhere. If you work on that one thing for ten minutes, you will see a DRAMATIC difference. Because it was the most obvious thing, and you dealt with it, then it’s gone. You’ll be energized to do more.

Make a tidy list, but don’t make it too long. Say, no more than  five things. Then tackle an area of your house for 5-10 minutes. You will be amazed at what can get done in such a short time.

Divide and conquer. If you have to clean out your garage, for example, the wrong thing to do is think, “THE GARAGE!” You’ll be so discouraged that you won’t make a move to do anything. Instead pick one manageable task in the garage, like gather the recyclables. That’s it. When that’s done, go for the trash. Then stack those bins. I’d even suggest that if you work in the garage for 10-30 minutes a day, you’ll see significant progress and you’ll be motivated to do more.

“You’re the boss of clutter, not the other way around.”
Monika Kristofferson

Think fast. Everything you touch needs to have a decision about it. Don’t pick it up if you don’t know where it goes immediately. Those 2 year old magazines that you never will get the articles from? They go in the recycling big. Let’s be honest, everything you need in life is on the internet. That birthday card your Aunt sent you last summer? Put it in the recycling bin too. The space it’s taking isn’t worth it and your feelings for your aunt won’t change if you throw it out. That broken refrigerator magnet? Throw it out. You don’t need a project.

Simplify your paper. Go paperless as much as you can with bills or other monthly activities. Create only one calendar that the family uses. Cancel those subscriptions you don’t read anyway. Keep a trash can and recycling bin near where you sort the mail, so it can go from your hand to either a to-do basket or the waste. Keep only the most meaningful stuff from your kids’ art projects.

Dispose of what was meant to be disposable. This means empty tape containers, cheap pens, too small pencils. Go through your junk drawer and keep one thing for ever five you throw out. Go through your family’s clothing for the stained and worn out and just throw it away.

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book

Be realistic about the future of an item. Let’s say that bag of yarn has been sitting on your living room floor for six months because you think your sister, who lives two states away, would like it. You’ve left it there so long that you feel guilty about doing anything with it except your original intention. Make a decision. Either box it up right now and get it to her, or throw it out. Now you may not have a bag of yarn, but you probably have lots of things sitting around that you intend to give away. Give yourself a half hour and collect as much of this stuff as you can in one place. Give yourself another 10 minutes to make a committed decision — deal with it or pitch it. (Here’s a hint: pitching it in the trash takes less commitment.)

Identify those overstuffed cabinets and cupboards. It’s likely you have too much stuff. You buy more products because you don’t know what you have and you don’t want to run out. What you need to do is purge the old and nearly empty containers. Then you’ll see what you have and what you need to buy. Set a timer for a half hour, put a sticker or a sticky note on those closets, cupboards or cabinets that need a going over. Then, systematically, one day at a time, choose ONE and ONLY ONE cupboard to clean out. Be brutal. Throw out as much as you can. Make a note of what you need to replace. When that one cabinet is done, you’re done. Do one more tomorrow and each day after that until each area is done.

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
Eleanor Brownn

Delegate your responsibilities. Nothing helps me stay organized better than giving clear, reasonable chores to my family. We’ve worked together to figure out what each of them can manage. They know what is expected of them daily and weekly. I gently hold them accountable. I find this freeing. This is especially helpful when everyone knows that all the stuff has a home. If you can’t put it in it’s home in sixty seconds, it goes in the trash.

Excessive stuff drains you soul. With a little effort, you can stay on top of your stuff.

 I believe that when we choose to be decisive, we can stay on top of our stuff and we save time for what really matters.


Did you like this post?

You may also like:

Eleven Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility

Or,

6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time


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.

Eight Reasons You Should Write Every Day

 

Did you write today? Are you going to?

In the book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg said, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.” I think if you write every day, you can become a happier, more confident writer.

Eight Reasons You Should Write Every Day

 

1. You have mental muscle memory.

If you write every day, your mind is prepared to express itself on a regular basis. You are no longer in that wishy-washy state of, “do I feel like writing today?” With a daily habit you don’t give that ol’ liar writers’ block a foothold. You have a habit of writing, so you sit down and you do it. There’s no mental discussion. There is no woe is me feeling. A habit can be freeing.

2. You resist the inner editor better.

If you are in the habit of writing every day, you become less and less attentive to that little voice that tells you you’re doing it wrong. You may learn with a daily habit that speed is more important than perfection. As a result, you’ll spend less time backspacing and more time building up your word count.

3. You gain words.

If you are a writer that tracks your word count, then a daily writing habit is a must. I know that I can write around 500 words in a 10-minute increment if all is going well. So if my daily goal is around 1500 words, I have an idea of how long that will take me to get.

4. You can de-stress easier.

When something happens to me I can get that icky feeling out of my system faster if I write. Say I have a negative encounter with another driver in the supermarket parking lot, I have a tendency to rehash every word until I can write it all down. The words then are on the page, not in my head, and I can get past the event.

5. You can practice writing.

No one would expect a concert musician to play Carnegie Hall without years of diligent practice. The same can be said about great writers. They, like the musicians, have put in their time daily. Successful writers have stretched, practiced, and reviewed. They grow in confidence. They know the fundamentals and are willing to advance their skills. Writers should do the same. A daily writing habit can make an amateur writer a pro with time.

6. You can practice observations.

With a daily writing habit, a writer can grow in observing the world. Flannery O’Connor said, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” A good writer focuses on the sensory observations around him, tinkers with them until they are perfect, and learns to put them into his work.

7. You now have a draft, no matter how bad it is.

When I was setting my timer for 10 minutes a day, I kept going because I knew that something was always better than nothing. A blank page can’t be edited. And after you’ve been writing regularly, you grow less and less intimidated by that blank screen. Daily writing habits build courage.

8. You may impress yourself.

It’s easy to second-guess your work, but with time and consistency, you’ll be able to judge better what is good. Sometimes you may even create something excellent. And when that comes, all the practice will be worth it.

I agree with Charles Duhigg. Habits are powerful and my writing habit is one I love.

In my life, my habits become touchstones to my day and week.  I like that I always make the same Tex-Mex meal every Friday night. I also love the habit of going to church with my family every Sunday. And I also love the habit of saying good night to each of my children. I’m not crazy about the habit of picking my cuticles while I watch Netflix. And I wish I had a more regular habit of exercising.

My daily writing habit (or almost daily) has become an indispensable part of my life and I’m glad I have it.

Do you know someone who needs to be encouraged to have daily writing habit? Send this link to them!

 


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.

A Writer’s Guide To Ruthlessly Killing Your Darlings

You need not worry about your browser history; this post is about killing figuratively.  In the world of writers, killing your darlings means getting rid of those story bits that need to die, even though the author may have fallen in love with them.

But in the world of writers, the author who wants to write well, should be ruthless when it comes to removing the unwanted or unsightly from our manuscripts.

A Writer's Guide To Ruthlessly Killing Your Darlings

Here’s how:

Obliterate your Prologue.

In one swift move, hit select all and delete. It’s gone. You probably didn’t feel a thing. Why? Most prologues are unnecessary. Prologues often assume your reader needs to be spoon fed every little detail. They don’t! Prologues should only be there if they shed vitally important information to the plot or characters and it can’t be inserted in any other way. So take your prologue out. But leave the cannoli.

Bring all your weak characters to the guillotine.

18th Century French Revolutionaries believed that that the guillotine was the most humane way to execute. So line up all those mamby-pamby personalities, those random guys in the background, that grocery store clerk that you thought might have a purpose and pull the cord. There shouldn’t be room in your manuscript for people who have no purpose other than to pad your word count. Kill them all!

Entrap those plot bunny trails.

This may be really hard for you since plot bunny trails are so cute and fun. But with them, you must be as ruthless as a hungry eagle with long, pointy talons. Reach down and clutch each one of those bunny trails with great force! Eliminate their uselessness! Take hold of their tangential fuzziness and stick them somewhere far away, like, say, another story. Perhaps there, they could multiply like rabbits and create a new story all their own.

Hack away at your cliches.

And really, really hack, like with a dull machete. Back in the first draft, you may have thrown a trite phrase in as a marker for a point you wanted to work in later. Or you really may have been typing really fast. Or maybe, just maybe, you think that having an old, worn-out phrase is a good idea. Honey, it’s not. We’ve got a nice flat cutting surface for you. Go for it. Cliches must die. If they’ve served its purpose, they go on the cutting room floor.

Assault your unnecessary and weak scenes.

Hit ’em! Kick ’em! Knock ’em down! Don’t let them up! You’ll know if a scene needs it’s butt kicked if it doesn’t move the story forward in any way. If a scene doesn’t give the reader new information, bring the main character closer or farther away from the main goal, but does nothing but add to the word count, it needs a can of whup-ass. If you take it out, then you’ll keep your pacing in tact, you’ll keep the reader interested and you’ll feel like a tough guy.

Firebomb your backstory.

It’s going to take a lot of firepower to blast all that exposition out, but you gotta do it. When you were drafting, you created all this crazy structure of your character’s life. You built fact upon fact. This house of cards is now sky high in your notes and brain. But it’s an eyesore for your reader. And you don’t have time to take it out piece by piece. Meh, just light a bomb under the sucker. The debris will fall in all the right places and you’ll know what bits to put in in the right places.

Plug your purple prose.

I know, I know, you get carried away sometimes at the lingering sunset that sunk on the horizon like a hunk of playdough on fire, blazing in glory. Sentences like this may have sounded gorgeous at the time, but what they do, really, is point to the idiot who wrote them. You don’t want your purple prose to make you look bad, right? Then pull out that red-inked pistol and shoot it between the eyes. If there is a mercy killing in this list, the death of the purple prose would be it.

Strangle your first chapter.

Most first chapters in most first drafts need the wind taken out of them. Do this especially if your first chapter has your main character waking up from a dream, looking out the window contemplating the universe, or starting off their day with the buzz of an alarm. Your first chapter, really, was just there to get you started in the beginning draft. It’s served its purpose and you need to put a lot of thought into how you open your book. That early first chapter just isn’t going to cut it. Kill this darling and do it quickly. No one is looking.

Now I’ve seen my share of gangster movies, so I know a heartless murderer when I see one (at least when I’m safely on one side of a screen). I think that writers should have the same brutality of  Tony Soprano when it comes to killing off the weak parts of their manuscripts.

But that’s just in the writing. Writing only. Really.

Want to go for a ride? I have to stop someplace for a cannoli first.

You don’t mind, do 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 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.