Friday, May 14, 2010

The time to write...

How to schedule time to actually write EVERYDAY:
1. Do not have kids.
2. Do not have a spouse. (Or if you do, have a spouse with a job that requires extensive travel.)
3. Forget about pets or anything else that requires time to take care of. (This includes virtual pets and virtual farms. Yes, Farmville fanatics, I am talking about you.)
4. Do not own any books, a library card, or an account.
5. Do not own a t.v. (And if you have DVR it is even worse.)

BUT.. if you are like most of us and you have one or even all 5 (like me!) of those items, here are some practical tips that I have compiled from various people and places.

1. be prepared
 I try to write everyday, I really do, but when life gets the best of me, I grab my trusty Ipod Touch and jot down notes. Sometimes they are nothing more than a to-do list. Usually they include ideas for articles, children's books, another great character to add to my novel, etc. Inspiration strikes anywhere, at anytime. Carry around a small notepad everywhere you go (don't forget the pen!) or even a voice recorder, if you are more of an auditory person. I once wrote down notes in a small journal going 80mph on the interstate. I certainly do not recommend this, but it just goes to show you how quickly some ideas can come and go. I was on the way home from my first writing conference in Chandler, OK with the SCBWI. My head was swirling with so many new ideas for picture books. I remember jotting down opening lines and rhyme schemes. Only about half of it is actually legible, but maybe one of those ideas will find its way into the books and hearts of children everywhere someday.

2. find your time
Some websites list going to bed an hour later. By the time I finish the whole bedtime routine (I call it the 4 b's- baths, books, bowels, and besos) I am literally EXHAUSTED myself and sometimes it is only 8:30! The last thing I want to do is sit at my computer. I would much rather catch up on that overflowing DVR list, or finish another chapter in my latest gripping novel.
Other sites list waking up an hour earlier- yeah, right. My kids are a full-time job. No, really- they are my full-time job, a 24-hour, 7-day per week JOB. Now, I love that job, but I do not want to start it any earlier than necessary in the morning. For some reason, children are born with this strange ability to just know when someone else in the house is awake and they will want to join them. Strange, I know, but I witness it on a daily basis.
So find your time. The time that works for YOU. Right now, I am up at 6 in the morning writing this. I know it goes against what I wrote up there- but believe me, this is a rare occasion and I am listening intently for a small cry or pitter-patter of footsteps.
Usually, afternoon nap is my best time to write. Kids are asleep, or happily engrossed in mindless television, and I have a moment of time to compile the ideas and thoughts that have already been running through my mind.

Yes, although they take up more of my precious writing time than I would like- they also stimulate creativity and production. I have not had a blog for very long, so this is a completely new world to me. I have been reading blogs for quite sometime. I would usually spend an hour catching up on all of the wonderful blogs I had bookmarked and surfing the net for my daily news updates. I then would critique what I read, thinking, I sooo could have written that! Now, I will use that time to write my own updates and posts. Another tip on blogs: (this is a freebie- enjoy it!) Save up some posts. If you want to write everyday (wouldn't that be nice) write a few posts and do not publish them, just save them. That way if you find that you do not have time to sit down and write one day- you can just hit that little button. I will try to get better about this, I promise!

4. set a target/goal
I set daily word limits for my novel, currently only 500 words. Some people set chapter limits or page limits. For example, the average page in a novel is 250 words. Write one or two pages a day (more if you can!!) Some choose to set monthly limits. A chapter a month, 50 pages a month, even a complete novel in a month (see NaNoWriMo ). Whatever your goal- write it down. Set up a calendar using Microsoft Outlook or create a timer on your phone. Another effective way (for me) is to tell someone else about my goal. Update your Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. with your  goal. If I tell at least ONE other person my goal, it helps me to be accountable for my writing. I start to think ugh, I do not feel like writing today. Then I think what I would say if Steven or Alex or (insert your confidant here) said "What did you write today?" and I panic. Although no one usually asks that, I still feel like I need to accomplish my goal because someone other than me knows about it.
Think sdrawkcab (backwards!) Where do you want to end up, 60,000 words? 750 words? Start on the date you want it finished and work back to today when planning.
Most of all be reasonable and appropriate in your goal setting.

5. write now, right now and edit later
I have this problem where I see typos sticking off of a page like they were highlighted and underlined. (Now don't go scouring my pages for a typo- I am sure there are SEVERAL as I am not perfect.) When I am writing however, I get caught up in these details. I will work on a sentence for half an hour because it just doesn't "sound right". Instead I could have written 10 more in that same time. I also notice that the same sentence I worked so hard on will usually be the one I "chop" the next day. Hammer out your rough draft (that is after all why it is called a "rough" draft and not a "smooth" one) and edit later. Get your writing on the page and fill in the colorful and vibrant vocabulary and those clever transitions after. A good way to practice this skill is to not read your writing the next day. I sometimes only read the very last sentence. Your memory should fill in the rest of it (especially since you wrote it YESTERDAY, right!?!?). This way you are not tempted to change your character's name, or change her shirt to a blue one in that particular scene, etc.
This is hard to do for me, but I know it will be better in the long run.

6. outline
This is something I have tried and tried and tried again. For some reason, I am not a very good organizer of ideas. (I am not a very good organizer of much of anything, really. My house is a testament to that!) BUT, that doesn't mean it is not effective! I think a lot, if not most, writers sit down and hash out an outline for their writing. I have seen multiple techniques, from notecards to post-it's. There are also numerous computer programs and various software to outline for you- you just have to fill in the fleshy meat of the skeleton they provide. I have recently been researching these programs to find one for me. Although Stephen King can do it, I think to successfully write a full novel, I need to figure out a way to outline. Here are some links to three of them- Dramatica Pro ,  Storybase 2.0 , New Novelist. I do not know much about any of these. Google "writing software" and research your own. There is a nice review of the "top ten" here- (I don't know whose top ten these actually are- but it does provide a nice chart for all of you visual people out there!)

7. research
Writing is a business, too. You might have the next best seller. Look at the millions of dollars that writers have made this year, think Stephenie Meyer or Jeff Kinney (just the two that came to my mind first). Do your research on the market. Pick up a copy of the 2010 Writer's Market here or here. There is SO much to learn. Take it from someone who occasionally feels overwhelmed by the amount of information she is receiving! One of the best things you could do is talk to other writers. Best way to do this is to join groups such as SCBWI, and attend conferences or critiques. Writing doesn't have to be a solitary act. I have wanted to be a writer since I was a small child. When I was little, I remember imagining my life as a writer. I wanted to live in upstate New York in a small cottage. I thought that all writers were anti-social and secluded themselves in old houses surrounded by antiques and shelves and shelves of dusty books. As I got older, my vision of a "writer" did change- but not by much. When I married my husband and started having children, I honestly believed there was NO way I could be a writer now.  But, here I am- still married, still a mommy, and I am pursuing my dreams.

8. write and write some more
I can not stress that one enough. Not much to fill this bullet in as it is pretty self explanatory.

 You might be wondering what gives me the credentials to relay all of this information to you. Honestly, I can say- not much. I do not have a best seller. I do not even have a good seller. I can say, sadly, that I do not even have a seller. But I can tell you that I love what I do. I love the satisfaction of having MY words on a blank page. (Even more satisfying is
seeing the little scroll bar next to your page because you have filled up enough to require scrolling.) About even with writing itself, is the love of teaching. If I can inspire just ONE person to do something wonderful then it is all worthwhile.
I do want to point out that really NONE of these ideas are truly "original". (Of course, who really has an original idea anymore?!?) You can simply google "writing tips" or "how to write" and probably find 20 posts just like mine. Do it! Learn all you can about writing and then go get that book published- I am waiting anxiously to read it!

Now, what are you waiting for?!?? GO WRITE!


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