Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Art of Speed Writing

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You don't necessarily need to set aside hours upon hours every day in order to produce a decent word count output. If you could take a peek into my life via a hidden camera, you would definitely see I don't have that! With a houseful of kids, a husband who works primarily from home, a bunch of animals and a garden, I can only afford to spend a fraction of my day on the computer. Nevertheless, I published four novels in 2017, and one in 2018. So here are my top tips on writing fast:

1. Stay focused. Once you sit down to write, write. Don't get distracted by your email or Facebook, don't be tempted to check Twitter just for a second. My suggestion is to write offline... oh, and put your phone aside, on Quiet mode. No snacking during this writing sprint, either! Rather, prepare some goodie in advance and reward yourself once you've finished your set time or word count goal.

2. Outline. Outlines are the best friends of the focused writer. It's like a map; once you know where you need to go, it's a lot easier to plunge forward in that direction without stepping to check out side-trails. Do this both on the macro (major plot arc) and micro (chapters and subplots) scale. If you tell yourself, "Now I'm going to write the dialogue scene between Benny and Mary, and I give myself 30 minutes to do it", it's a lot likelier that you'll actually have something to show for it than if you just muddle around.

3. Don't edit as you write. This one is particularly hard for me, as my inner editor never quite falls asleep, but I've found that it's really counter-productive when working on a first draft. Allow it to be flawed, and leave all the nitty-gritty for the editing stage. Remember, if you don't finish that first draft, you won't have anything to edit!

More suggestions for writing like the wind and making most of the time you have can be found in my free, nonprofit e-book, Writing Tips for Busy People.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Perennial Rejection

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Rejection is a subject I keep getting back to now and then, probably because it's such a constant part of an author's life. Because if you plan to stay in this game for any length of time, you are going to get rejected. Repeatedly. Well, maybe unless your name is Dan Brown.

It doesn't matter how talented you are. Reality check: you are a single grain of sand on a wide sprawling seashore. People walk all over you, and nobody's paying you any attention. Prepare for this to last for a good long while (we're talking years, not weeks).

A few days ago, I ran across the following Tweet by literary agent Rena Rossner:

"I got down to 100 unread queries in my inbox today, then discovered 90 more unread queries in my spam folder...#agentlife "
This, people, is typical for pretty much every agent worth their salt. One word: competition. While many literary agents state that they are looking for new voices and building their client list, they will only accept a manuscript that "they can fall in love with" or that "feels just right". Translation: it's commercial enough to be likely to get picked up by a major publisher, it's extremely well-written, it fits that particular agent's fancy, and the agent got up in an especially good mood that morning. 

Everybody wants to get published, and you'd better take your place in the line and get out the snacks and the crossword, because you're going to be standing here for a good long time. This is true not only with literary agents, but with publishers who accept work from unagented authors, with literary magazines, writing contests, and even in indie publishing, where success is measured in sales and popularity. Chances are, you gotta fail 99 times to succeed once. 

But will it pay off in the end? If you are determined, and persevere, and never give up, will you succeed eventually... or will you end up frittering away your life chasing an impossible dream?

It's a tricky question, but I choose to believe in the dream; I have to believe it for you, because I believe it for me. But it's not all sunshine and roses and unicorns riding down the rainbow of inspiration. It's hard work with a steep learning curve, and many talented authors spent decades before they produced anything really publish-worthy, let alone anything that gets any degree of acknowledgment. So yeah. It's a long haul, but I'm in. Are you?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The One-Handed Writer

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You know that saying about how mothers wish they had an extra hand? Nothing could be truer in those hectic days when you bring home your newborn and try to maintain serenity as you sit down and breastfeed and breastfeed and breastfeed, while the house is falling to shambles around you.

Breastfeeding is our family time. I usually sit with the baby in the living room, where I can read to, talk to, or play with the older children. Often they will come to the couch where I'm sitting, and bring their schoolwork so I can correct it. Sometimes I just look at my baby and drift away on that lovely softness of a newborn. But still, full-time breastfeeding means many, many hours in a day. And some of that time can be utilized for turtle-speed projects.

The advantage is that, once you and baby get the hang of things, you have one free hand (as opposed to bottle-feeding). True, it's hard to do any full-speed typing that way, but nevertheless, in my years of nursing the babies, I have filled out notebooks upon notebooks. So here are some ideas of things you, as an author, can do while you're reclining on that nursing pillow:

* Write longhand - if, of course, the hand I currently have free is my writing hand. I actually find this therapeutic, as in the Olden Days when pen would scratch on paper, creating its own magic. I have written whole drafts in longhand, the most recent of these being my Regency era novel, The Landlord, which I released last year. I don't consider it a waste of time, either, because when I type the text in eventually, I edit at the same time. And even if you don't want to write that much in longhand, it's still convenient for outlining, notes, etc.

* Type on your phone - though not very convenient, with good predictive text this can also be a way to utilize one's time. I wrote the first drafts for The Hourglass and Freeborn (the soon-to-be-released sequels of Wild Children) entirely in Gmail drafts, while lying down next to my toddler and waiting for him to fall asleep so that I can steal quietly out of the room.

* Emails and social media - this is probably the most obvious pastime. During those late-night breastfeeding session when my brain is befuddled, I can jot down short reply to emails, upload social media posts, and even explore new-to-me venues of social media (such as Twitter). Just don't try to negotiate anything complicated when you're tired. You might make people wonder where your brain has evaporated (hint: into sleepless nights and cleaning spit-up).

* Reading - this is a great time to catch up on all the reading you've been meaning to do, but didn't get around to because you were so busy writing. It can be beta-reading for other people, proofing your own work, educating yourself on subjects you've always wanted to study, or even, you know, just reading for fun - the concept which most often makes readers pick up a book, and gives authors their livelihood.

Hannah Ross is a homeschooling mother of four children, a writer, and a freelance editor. She always feels there aren't enough hours in a day, and dreams in vain of an afternoon nap. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A collection of time management posts

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On March 23rd, just two days before my tenth wedding anniversary, I gave birth to our fourth child, a baby girl. So, as you can imagine, right now I'm experiencing the messiest, busiest, most intense newborn stage, and as always with the addition of a new baby to a family, major adjustments are in order. I will always be writing and working on getting my books out there - right now my publisher and I are preparing to launch the sequels to Wild Children, and I'm outlining a new Regency era novel with paranormal elements - but I'm definitely taking things more slowly, and it will remain this way for a while. Time is more precious than ever.

In the meantime, here are some time management posts for authors:

Time Saving Tips for Authors (especially Moms)

On writer's burnout

Learning to say No

How to make time when there seems to be none

Consistency is more important than anything else

A recap of 2017, and how I managed to release 4 books in a year

For more time-saving tips and strategies, download my free, nonprofit e-book, Writing Tips for Busy People.