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 Beyoncé. 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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What I’m reading, writing, and watching this month

What I’m reading, writing, and watching this month

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Okay friends, it’s been a while since I’ve done a post like this. My apologies.

What I’m reading:

  • House of Bradbury by Nicole Meier. It’s women’s fiction about a woman who buys Ray Bradbury’s old house in southern California. It’s a great read and can I give a shout out to Nicole here who graciously answered some questions for me recently about her publishing experience! Such a lovely person.
  • My Beautiful Life by Mina Dobic, a true story about a woman who cured her cancer by eating a macrobiotic diet. Fascinating. Thanks, hubby for the book recommendation!
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, contemporary YA about a girl who’s forced to live with her stepmother across the country. Just got this for Kindle on sale for $1.99.

What I’m writing:

What I’m watching:

  • We are binge watching Caribbean Life at my house. It is one of my greatest ambitions in life to live by the ocean one day. When I’m by the ocean I feel like I’m home!
  • I am sad and relieved that the first season of This is Us is over. Tuesday night has been my weekly cry session since this show started. I think it’s because the show feels too much like real life!
2017 Writing Resolutions

2017 Writing Resolutions

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I’m not usually a resolution kind of person since I’ve had a goal list since I was eight, lol, but I do find it helpful to set writing resolutions for the year. Here are my writing resolutions for 2017:

  1. Find a reliable critique partner. Because of my schedule I am not typically able to meet critique partners in person, however, I am very responsive to email. Even though I have connected with great writing partners over the years, none of those people have been able to commit to more than one project. Or more than one week. Even if all hell is breaking loose in my personal life I still manage to find some time to write and/or edit work. As such, I am hoping for the same from a potential critique partner. I would love to find one who doesn’t fall off the face of the earth.
  2. Produce an audiobook of One Night. A reader asked me recently if I had an audiobook of One Night out. I don’t yet, but think it’s a great idea and will be fun to execute.
  3. Secure a traditional publishing contract. I enjoy independent publishing. I love working with an editor, designer, and managing my own business. But a traditional publishing contract and the distribution power that comes with it would make my life so much easier. I’m still dreaming of New York City validation and am working on getting it with The Other Side of the World.
  4. Finish current work in progress, a new YA novel. This will be done within the next month or two, if I continue at my current pace.
  5. Attend at least one writer’s workshop or conference. I’m a firm believer in working on the craft of writing and find professional workshops are always helpful.
  6. Start another novel. I may be dreaming on this one, but I think it’s doable.
  7. Accept praise more graciously. As a writer who’s been rejected more times than I can count, it’s still hard for me to take a compliment. When people tell me they’ve read One Night and really liked it my usual response is to mumble, “Thanks,” look at the ground, and change the subject immediately. Even though I know I’m a good writer there are parts of me that doubt myself. I would like to change that in 2017.

If you have any writing goals for this year I’d love to hear them! Feel free to comment on this post 🙂

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Monthly update

Monthly update

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What I’m reading:

  • Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. Had the pleasure of meeting her recently at a book signing.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Love his stand up comedy and really enjoying his book about dating in modern times.
  • With Malice by Eileen Cook. It’s about a young girl who can’t remember something awful that happened on her class trip to Italy.

What I’m watching:

  • Superstore. OMG this show. Thompson in One Night works at Kmart. If he were a real person I’m sure he could relate to this comedy!
  • This is Us. Haven’t had a go-to tear-jerker show in a few years. This is definitely it, lol. This show is a little too much like real life.
  • Narcos (Season 2). This show about Pablo Escobar and his domination of Columbia is kinda violent, but compelling stuff.

What I’m writing:

  • New book description has been posted. So excited about this YA novel! More details coming soon.
  • A new YA novel set in Serbia (mostly). I’m about a third of the way into it. I went to Serbia over the summer and got a lot of inspiration! Plus I’m Serbian by marriage 🙂

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September Updates

September Updates

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Okay friends, from now on I’m just calling these posts Deanna’s Updates since they’re not necessarily running monthly lol.

First things first – the ebook version of One Night is on sale for 99 cents! This is a great price if you’re on the fence about trying it and also if you know a friend who might like it. The reviews have been great so far. Here’s a nice write up by Lynda Dickson over at Books Direct.

What I’m Reading:

  • The Memory Box by Eva Natiello. This thriller about a suburban mom who basically goes insane (or does she?) kept me turning the pages. This novel also recently hit the NYT bestseller list. If you love books like Gone Girl check it out.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is about a kid who gets bullied on an Indian reservation and later goes to an all-white school. I just started it, but will finish it this week. Can I say I LOVE the title? The drawings in the book are great, too.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I picked this book up last year when I was visiting the Hemingway House in Key West where EH spent some of his time. I’m sorry to say I still haven’t read it yet.

What I’m Watching: 

  • 90 Day Fiancé. This show. Maybe I can relate since I’m married to an immigrant. The personalities on this show are ridiculously compelling. LMAO during the whole thing.
  • America’s Got Talent. Granted this show just wrapped, but still. I used to be a big American Idol watcher but haven’t enjoyed it much the last few years. Can I just say Simon Cowell and the talent show format are definitely back! Check out the winner Grace VanderWaal here. The way she plays that ukulele kills me! In a good way.

What I’m Writing:

  • I’m working on a new novel set in Serbia. I tend to get inspired when I travel. It’s about a kid named Marko who gets into a strange predicament. I’m not ready to share the plot details yet but will soon!

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Summer update

Summer update

Summer update

I haven’t done a monthly update in a while, so this post will cover the last 2-3 months.

What I’m reading:

  • Finished The Glass Castle recently by Jeannette Walls. OMG. I told multiple people I know that this memoir about growing up more or less homeless has so many outrageous parts it must be fiction. Everyone needs to read this. Fun fact: they’re filming the movie version as we speak and my employer has a prop in it!
  • The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone. It’s about a ship where passengers go to die/live out their last wishes and centers around a young girl and her grandmother. I give it four out of five stars.

What I’m watching:

  • Bachelor in Paradise. I think I might like this show better than the original franchise. Just so much ridiculous debauchery every minute. It’s exactly the kind of show to watch to forget about whatever problems might be going on in your life!
  • The 1977 film Orca. It’s about a killer whale seeking vengeance against a local fisherman who tries to capture it. The whale wreaks havoc on the small fishing village near the coast. It’s very violent for a PG movie, but compelling stuff.

What I’m writing:

  • I’m in the throes of editing a new novel about a Filipino kid and his family. More info to be announced later.
  • An essay collection about growing up/the awkwardness of high school.

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Why you shouldn’t use a pen name

Why you shouldn’t use a pen name

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Hey all, if you read this blog you know I was previously posting under the pen name Odelia Emmanuel (which was a tribute to my mom and dad, but that is probably TMI). After much deliberation I decided to use my real name for my writing.

My reasons:

  1. I’m proud of my writing. As such my real name should stand behind it.
  2. It’s exhausting to maintain two online personalities, i.e. email addresses, Twitter accounts, etc. Managing one brand just makes life easier.
  3. Like a lot of you, I was worried about privacy. But here’s the thing: I can be a writer, use my real name, and not broadcast details about my personal life. And let’s be real: there aren’t that many people who are interested in my private life. With celebrities galore I am just not that interesting and I’m okay with that 🙂 Plus, with the advent of the internet there aren’t many things that are private anymore.
  4. When people see my book out there I want them to know it was me who wrote it. I guess it’s an ego thing!

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The biggest mistake you can make in a query

The biggest mistake you can make in a query

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It isn’t spelling the agent’s name wrong, comparing yourself to a bestselling author, or using all capital letters.  The biggest mistake I see time and time again when reading other writers’ queries is that they’re all over the place and confuse the reader.

No one wants to have to think when reading a query.  No one wants to remember seven named characters or try and connect points A, B, and X to figure out what you meant or what the point of your story is.  They want a succinct preview of the plot (i.e. book jacket copy) that makes them want to keep reading.

You never want to have someone read your query and think:

-Where is the setting?

-Who is this character?

-Is this character named John or Johnny?  Are they two different people or the same person?

-Are we in the present day or is this set in the future?

-I don’t know what the hell I just read.

One way you can avoid a confusing query is to summarize your work in one sentence and go from there (i.e. the elevator pitch).  Another thing you can do is write the query before you even start your novel.  I usually do this to help myself stay on track and so I have a clear idea of where the story is going.

Remember, a query is your first chance to impress an agent.  You don’t want to blow your chance because you confused them.

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