Finding Time to Write

Finding Time to Write

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The question I get asked most often, hands down, is how do you find time to write?

I think someone once said we have the same number of hours in the day as BeyoncĂ©. And that’s true. She has the same hours we do. So how do you make time for writing when you have a full-time job, family, and other obligations?

Get up an hour earlier. This works. Do your writing before you do anything else. This is what currently works for me.

Break up a longer project into chunks. I used to write 1,000 words a day but find I can’t do that all the time. Still, I break up writing into smaller bits. For example, I tell myself I’m going to spend 2 weeks outlining (30 minutes a day). Or, I’m going to edit a picture book manuscript this week. Or, this week I’m going to chip away at a new novel knowing that it may take me 4-6 months to complete a draft.

Stay up an hour later, or write instead of watch Netflix. This was something I did earlier in my career. I would write instead of consume other media at night. Sometimes I wrote at 10 or 11 p.m.

Carve out time on the weekends. The weekend can quickly fill up with social gatherings, chores, and other errands. But if writing is important to you try to find an hour early Saturday or Sunday morning to work on your craft.

Always be prepared to take notes. I usually think of a way to fix a plot problem at weird times which is why I always have a writing instrument handy. I keep a notebook by the bed, pens in my purse, and take notes in my phone if I have to. The back of grocery receipts work well, too.

What time management strategies have worked for you when it comes to writing? Share your tips in the comments.

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How I Got My Agent – Coming Soon

How I Got My Agent – Coming Soon

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Hi all!

In my August newsletter I’m talking about how I got my agent, Penny Moore, what I’m working on, and other fun stuff. If you want to know how I got my literary agent go here to sign up. The newsletter comes out in a few days 🙂

 

Why You Should Edit Your Novel Backwards Plus Other Possibly Insane Yet Effective Editing Tricks

Why You Should Edit Your Novel Backwards Plus Other Possibly Insane Yet Effective Editing Tricks

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I recently finished a major revision of a novel I’ve been working on since 2015. You read that right. I’ve spent almost three years with this novel, in which I’ve gone to hell and back. And trust me when I say that is not an exaggeration. I used several editing strategies with this novel that I’ve never used before and I’m convinced it has made me a better writer and editor. After 10 years of writing and working on multiple manuscripts here is my best editing advice:

Revise the manuscript backwards. Meaning, if you have thirty chapters in your book start editing Chapter 30 first, then Chapter 29, and on down. I don’t know why I’d never tried this before, but it is my new favorite technique. You see things going backwards that you don’t see when editing in a linear fashion.

Color code the thing if need be. Again, this is something I’d never tried before. My writing mentor said there wasn’t enough body language in my book. So what did I do? I printed the thing out and highlighted all the body language in orange. If there was no orange on a page or the color didn’t appear for several pages I looked at where I could add body language in. This was painful–VERY painful–but man did it work!

Map out chapters in Excel. Chapter length wasn’t something I took a serious look at before. I tracked the length of chapters in Excel as well as charted characters’ feelings to make sure they were changing. If there were too many or too few pages between chapters I looked at where an alternate break could be made.

What about you? What unique editing techniques have you tried? Share in the comments.

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P.S. I also wanted to share that I have an agent 🙂 I’ll write a longer blog post about how I did it, but I’m happy to say I’m now represented by Penny Moore of Aevitas Creative Management.

What I’m Reading, Watching, and Writing This Month

What I’m Reading, Watching, and Writing This Month

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It’s that time again for the monthly update where I review what I’m reading, watching, and writing. Enjoy!

What I’m reading:

  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. This YA novel recently hit the NYT bestseller list. I am not big on magical realism or the fantastical at all, but I did enjoy this book a lot. The protagonist, Leigh, believes her dead mother has become a bird.

What I’m watching:

  • Dirty Money on Netflix. If you want all your suspicions about corporate greed/corporate America to be confirmed this documentary is for you. Be warned: you’ll be angry after watching!
  • Flint Town on Netflix. What can I say, I love me a good docu-series. This one is about Flint, Michigan and its struggles with crime, the economy, and its water.

What I’m writing:

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How to make sure your manuscript is in great shape before sending it to an editor

How to make sure your manuscript is in great shape before sending it to an editor

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One of the things that terrified me about self-publishing was working with an editor. Even though I was confident enough in my novel to go about publishing it independently I was still worried the editor would have some harsh words for me when it came time to read his evaluation of my manuscript. As I waited for my editorial letter I was sure it was going to say I should abandon the idea of publishing my novel and quit writing altogether. I was afraid it would say my story was stupid, filled with ridiculous characters and shoddy writing. Instead, my editor said, “The story world feels real, like it’s inhabited by real people instead of shallow caricatures…you don’t tell us what a character is feeling, you show us the symptoms of that significance or those emotions.”

Though there were loads of grammatical corrections, in terms of rewrites the changes I had to make were very minor and could be accomplished in an hour or two. I think the reason the letter was so complimentary was because of my relentless editing and vetting of my manuscript.

To ensure a smooth reception of your own manuscript, I suggest following the steps below:

-Self-edit as much as possible. This translates to: read the damn thing as much as you can without going crazy. I read my manuscript probably 12 or 15 times before I took it to an editor. I did specific searches in Word for show vs. tell, re-read the first and last sentences of each chapter, and changed the font a few times which let me see my manuscript with fresh eyes. I discovered something I wanted to change with every single read.

-Start writing something else. I got a good chunk of another novel completed while editing One Night. Even though I loved the characters in One Night it got trying at times, spending so much time with them. To get a break I started a new manuscript. Taking some time away from One Night also allowed me to look at the novel with fresh eyes when I came back to it.

-Employ the use of beta readers at different stages of the editing process. I used beta readers after I finished a first draft and again after I finished the third draft. It can be hard to find good beta readers—i.e. ones that are actually helpful—but they are a must if you want to improve your manuscript. Whether you send the entire thing to beta readers or a partial manuscript it will help you immensely. They will catch things you yourself don’t see. There are many people out there willing to beta read for free so I suggest you save yourself some money and recruit people who are happy to devote their time at no charge.

-Read your manuscript out loud. This is really a companion to step number one, but since it involves reading aloud I wanted to add it separately. Reading your manuscript out loud makes you aware of awkward phrases you can’t catch when you read the pages in your head.

-Have professionals vet your novel. Before I decided to publish One Night, I tried to get it traditionally published. In fact, I urge all of you who are thinking about self-publishing to try the traditional route first. I queried agents for nine months. The reason I decided to go ahead and publish One Night myself was because of the high request rate I had for the full manuscript. Without this I would’ve been hesitant. Moreover, the reasons for rejection were all over the board and subjective. If agents had rejected One Night for the same reason over and over I would have thought major changes were needed, but since they varied greatly in their reasoning and complimented my writing and the characters I knew I was onto something.

I wish you the best of luck as you work with an editor on your manuscript and hope you find these tips useful.

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How to make a novel longer

How to make a novel longer

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I wish I had the problem that some writers have of writing way too much and having to cut a ton of words out of my manuscript. I’m good at not including dead weight in the first place and have the opposite problem: sometimes I write too little.  If you’re like me and need help expanding your novel here are some suggestions.

-Add more details. What does the house look like? How does it smell?  What does it sound like?  Adding details where appropriate will beef up your novel.

-Add or expand on minor characters. How can you make the main character’s world more real? In earlier drafts of my novel One Night, Thompson my MC had no memorable co-workers. They were names without much personality. To make his work world more believable and entertaining I added a cast of quirky co-workers with their own issues/sub plots.

-Flashbacks. Where appropriate that is.  Unless this is a time travel story you don’t want a million flashbacks.  Readers care about what’s happening right now.  But flashbacks can be used to a reveal a character’s motivation and give insight into their choices.

-Vary sentence length.  Longer sentences interspersed with shorter ones can draw a story out and give the reader variety.

-Blow it out. If something major just happened let your character react to it, fully.  How are they feeling?  What are they thinking?  What is their next move?

-Add scenes if need be.  Does your main character grow and change too fast?  Add scenes.  Is the plot moving too quickly?  Add scenes. Of course they can’t be random and must serve the greater point of the novel.

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Five reasons readers stop reading

Five reasons readers stop reading

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There are several reasons I stop reading a novel I’ve picked up and not one of them has to do with being short on time. Stopping to reflect on these reasons can help us avoid these pitfalls in our own writing. The main reasons I stop reading books:

1. Unrelatable characters.  The characters’ lives are just too far off from my own and I also find no redeeming qualities in them. I don’t hate them but I don’t like them either. They are too perfect which is unrealistic, or have no motivation.

2. Characters who change too much. Characters who make decisions that seem out of character are also a turnoff. If a character has acted one way for the first half of a book but then suddenly changes in a way that is completely unexpected I’m not inclined to read anymore.

3. Story moves too slow/drags. If there isn’t any action, some hook, to get me within the first few pages I’m out.  Oftentimes I will give novels the benefit of the doubt and give them at least 30-40 pages, but if the action isn’t there and I don’t care what happens next I will definitely move on to the next book in my To Read list.

4. Plot is unbelievable in a bad way. I’m talking about novels where too many crazy things happen. A shooting, terminal illness, apocalyptic events.  I read somewhere that readers can handle one fantastical event per novel.  I think this is true.

5. Bad and/or lazy writing. Some writing, even published writing, is just bad.  Repetitiveness is my biggest pet peeve. There’s a certain bestselling novel that uses the word “beguile” upwords of fifty times.  Readers pay good money to read your work which means you should do your very best.

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