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Here, Not There

Last week I co-lead a writer's retreat in remote Diamond, Oregon.  (We kept referring to it as "the middle of nowhere" but one of the hotel's employees took offense to that.  However, it kind of is.)


It was an awesome week, with attendees and myself and my co-leader making strides in our writing.  I had come upon a wee block in how to reconfigure my novel and I had a breakthrough about that while gone.  Yay!  I even ran into an old writing buddy.  (Go figure--billeted where the paved road ends and you run into someone you know.)

The days went like this:

9AM-12PM:  Writing instruction, discussion of literary pieces, workshopping of participant pieces

Noon-1:30ish:  Lunch at the hotel

1:30, on: Writing, time to work on assignments

5 PM sharp: Happy Hour on the screened-in porch

It was a shock to drive from brown, high desert Diamond into lush, green Portland on Saturday.  It was even more of a shock to learn, as soon as I got into cell-phone range, that my daughter was at that very moment in emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Which is why this week I am here, not there.  There being Maui, where I had planned to head for a spiritual retreat.  But a daughter recovering from surgery with a five-month old baby to care for is reason enough for me to stay home, don't you think?

Maybe I'll get some more writing done in between caring for them.  In the meantime, I've got another guest post lined up for this Friday, and I'll be lurking around, so stay tuned!

PS.  The retreat was so successful we're thinking of doing it again in the fall, probably for a shorter amount of time.  You should come.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: How do you retreat to write?  Or do you?  Are you one of those souls who fit in your work around everything else that you do on a day-to-day basis? Please share how.

The photo is of the old hotel sign at the Diamond Hotel and I snitched it off their website, but I don't think they'll mind, because they are really, really nice people.

Guest Post: Engross Your Readers

While I'm away, I've got an array of guest posts for you.  Today's comes from Alice Anderson.  Check out her website here.

Engross your readers

by Alice Anderson

I recently read an ARC from Karen Hawkins that got me thinking about ways to engross your readers. This book, The Taming of a Scottish Princess, did a fabulous job of it. So well in fact that I read straight through Dancing with the Stars and Castle!

So how do you engross your readers?

Well, it starts with your characters.

Let your readers in on an inside joke.

Why it works: We all like to be included. At some point or another we've all been in on an inside joke. Giving your characters an inside joke gives them a connection that they don't have with other characters. It's that connection that ties them; it gives them something in common. Relationships are often based on commonality. By giving the characters an inside joke, and letting the reader in on it, they'll look for references to that joke throughout the book. I like to think of this as a thread that pulls them through the story.

Example: Michael Hurst and his assistant Jane Smythe-Haughton have a unique relationship. He's an explorer. Think Indiana Jones. And she keeps his life running smoothly. She is charming and sunny and he is no nonsense. She doesn't put up with his crap. In fact, she gives as good as she gets.

So what's the inside joke? Though he acts as if he could live without her, she knows he can't and she calls his bluff. They call each other silly names over the course of the book. They're not menacing, rather playful. Always keeping each other in check. He'll call her a "fainthearted twit," to which she promptly replies "cravated grump." And they go on and on with their tenderhearted insults.

This happens over and over throughout the course of the book, not over doing it, but showing that these two have spent a lot of time in each other's company and that they understand each other. They respect each other. They pick at each other. This works for the story and I found myself looking for these "spitfire" moments between the two of them.

Give your characters habits.

Why it works: we all have habits. Twirling our hair, biting our nails, worrying our lower lip. Habits make us human, good or bad. Readers will begin to anticipate characters making those habits and if the habits mean something (for instance, I twirl my hair when I'm deep in thought) they can read the character's mood without you having to tell them what the mood is.

Look for habits everywhere. Search on the web. Think about friends and family. Ask for suggestions via facebook or twitter.

Example: As Taming a Scottish Princess begins, Michael is at a ball and he's tugged at his tie. Okay, okay it's a cravat, but the point is, he does this several times during the course of the story. He does it when he's impatient. And ultimately, that garment comes in handy, but you'll have to read the book to find out why. I don't want to give all the good stuff away.

Vary your dialog.

Why it works: A person's speech can be as unique as a fingerprint. Do you have a phrase you use often? Perhaps you don't even notice it. Ask someone who spends a lot of time with you. Give your characters a favorite phrase, a level of formality in their speech or even an accent and then carry it (or change it) over the course of the story.

Example: Michael is English with Scottish ancestors. Jane is Scottish with an English mother. Both of them have spent extensive time traveling the world but over the course of the story, Michael finds out that Jane is Scottish. As she talks about her homeland, her old accent comes out. When they travel to Scotland, they meet a character named Mrs. Farquhar and she has a thick accent, an accent that the author plays up. In this scene there are three people and you can tell who's talking without any sort of dialog tag. Why? Because they each "sound" different through their accent and language.

So there you have it. Three quick and easy tips to take your novel from ordinary to extraordinary, engrossing your readers from the first page to the last.

Alice can be found on her website and Facebook and Twitter.

The Art of Seeing

Everystockphoto_193921_mA writer is nothing without ideas.

Ideas are so important to our craft that I do a whole class on them.

Where do ideas come from?

One place they come from is observation.  Which means the ability to see is vital to the writer.

Here's the deal: we get wrapped up in our stuff really easily.  I do it, you do it, we all do it.  And when we're wrapped up in our own stuff, that means we're not observing the world.  We're not seeing.  And thus we're not allowing new ideas to filter in.

So if the art of seeing becomes an important creative act, how do we encourage ourselves to do so?  I have some guidelines:

1.  Be present. Yeah, yeah, a no-brainer.  But how present are you as you move through your daily activities? Are you awake and aware or going through the motions?  Being present to your life can make the difference between sleep-walking through it or gathering all kinds of ideas for writing.

2.  Change things up. Do you drive to work the exact same way every day and see the same things? Visit the same cafe for lunch all the time?  Try something new!  Maybe you can't take a vacation at this exact moment but you can take mini-vacations by changing up your daily routine.

3.  Observe in categories.  Writers need to know things--like what noses look like and how hairdos work.  We need to understand details so that we can write details.  So assign yourself categories to observe--shoes, cars, dialogue--and write down what you find.

4. Listen.  Too often we get so wound up in what we're saying we're not listening.  Or, while another person is talking, we're planning what we're going to say.  That's not listening and it's not being present.  Try relaxing and really listening and see what happens.

5.  Get over yourself.  You're great.  I know you are.  But when it comes to the art of seeing, check your ego at the door, as the saying goes.  You can remind yourself later, when you're back at home with a pocketful of ideas, how great you are.  (Or, the flip side of this coin--how nervous you were being out in the world observing.)

6.  Write down what you see.  Obvious.  But maybe not.  Don't depend on your faulty memory to remind yourself of that great observation about what taxicabs look like.  Because you brain won't remember.  Trust me.  Write stuff down.

7.  Practice remembering.  This is for the times when  you can't write stuff down.  Years ago, I remember hearing about a famous journalist--Tom Wolfe? Joan Didion? I can't recall--who, when on a story, took no notes.  He or she had appointments, did interviews, went through her day and when she returned to her hotel room at night sat at the typewriter (it was a long time ago) and wrote down everything she saw and heard.  Now that's practicing memory skills.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Take yourself out on an observation date right now (or as soon as possible).  Grab your journal, hit the nearest coffee shop, and see.

Please comment!  What are your favorite tricks for seeing and remembering details?

Guest Post: The Life of a Writer--Peaceful to Frazzled

While I'm away, I'm running a variety of guest posts.  Today's post is from Alene Snodgrass of Positively Alene.  Welcome, Alene!

SunriseThe Life of a Writer--Peaceful to Frazzled

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was slowly taking away the night sky and the sunrise colors emerging were shades of pink and orange. It was pure beauty to savor, as I sipped my morning cup of coffee. I was finishing an eBook I had been working on and this setting definitely kicked the creative part of my mind into overflow.

I wrote passionately, with an urgency that had been escaping me for the past few months. I remember thinking, Ah, now this is the life of a writer! Bliss. Perfection. Peace.

I wrote with abandoned joy. I left words of passion and encouragement upon every page of the document I was working on. This felt so right. So inspiring.

Distracted from the task at hand, I clicked over to check-in with twitter when I saw Charlotte had left a tweet asking if anyone would want to guest post for her and describe their day-in-the-life of a writer scene. I had to jump at that because I knew in that moment I was called to write! Bliss. Perfection. Peace.

Still distracted from my writing deadlines of the day, I emailed Charlotte to see about guest posting for her. She quickly responds yes and gives me a deadline. Weeks passed with that deadline lingering on my to-do list when I realized I had to get this post in.

As the day begins, I quickly begin to wonder why in the world I thought I should write about this. Everything that could possibly go wrong did, which totally left me feeling like a failure as a writer. I longed for that peaceful morning where dashes of pink and orange filled the sky. Instead, I was left sitting behind my computer frustrated and frazzled.

This just happened to be the day before the BIG launch of my new eBook “Giving Up Normal.” I was coordinating the link-up of the eBook to my newsletter, websites, blog posts. I was soliciting influencers to help me get the word out and asking for endorsements from others. It was only 8am and my two hours of linking and working on html codes seemed to be going smoothly. Then . . .

I check email.

Note from friend: Alene, the link you gave in your site did not work.

I spent an hour trying to decipher the technical glitch.

I create a specific “tweet this” link and tweet it out.

Direct Message: Do you know your tweet link to your eBook does not work?

Then I receive a Facebook message: I tried to subscribe to your newsletter, but it is not letting me enter my email. Mercy! By this point, I’m fried and frazzled.

Can I just give you the short version of the rest of that day? It consisted of 8 hours of linking, relinking, coding, decoding, emailing, and answering emails about issues I was having.

And this is the day-in-and-day-out-life of a writer – especially this writer.

Knowing that you were called to write one moment and the next doubting why you ever embarked on such an emotional task seems to be the underlying mixed messages of my heart. However, I wouldn’t change the fact that I get to live this crazy life as a writer.

If you’d like to receive a FREE copy of the eBook “Giving Up Normal” that was written under beautiful pink and orange skies, click over HERE.

I’d love to hear what your day of writing looks like. Peaceful? Frazzled?

Oh, please do tell!

About Alene:  Alene Snodgrass is a south Texas girl who loves to write, speak, teach, and serve. Basically, she loves living life as herself . . . Positively Alene! You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo credit: Alene Snodgrass

Writing in Retreat

Tomorrow I take off for Diamond, Oregon to co-lead a week-long writing retreat.

It's been a hectic week, with my cat Captain in the hospital for two days and a million things to get done. (Including packing a bag with at least five books, maybe more, in it.   Gone a week? I'll need at least that many books to dip in and out of.)

But I think I'm about ready.  Mornings will be spent giving the retreat attendees instruction and afternoons exploring the area and writing.  I've explored the area a lot already, so I intend to do a lot of writing.  And thinking.

Never fear, however, because I have some guest posts scheduled here for while I'm gone, so the blog won't be completely dark. 

So come on by and check out what's going on here in my absence.  It'll be a party, for sure.


So Go Write Already

One of my students said something about writing and the teaching of writing that resonated with me.  She said, basically, that every writing teacher says the same thing in different ways. 

What is it that we say? Finger-blank-paper-25643-l

The way to become a writer is to write.


The big secret is that there is no secret.

It's all about putting words on the page.

Now, every writing teacher, myself included, has come up with various tips and tricks to get yourself to the page.  But they are all variations on a theme. 

The theme being, go write.

So what are you doing reading this blog post?  Go write, already.  You could start by writing a comment about what most often keeps you from the page.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: You know what I'm going to say.  Go write.

Photo by OmirOnia.

Review: The Book of Jonas

This is a paid book review for the BlogHer book club, but the opinions expressed are mine and mine alone!

Any book I read (and I try to read a lot, because that's what writers do) I read through the eyes of a writer.  Once you being writing, reading is a whole different experience, because you're studying how the author uses craft as you read.  In The Book of Jonas, I not only enjoyed pondering the way author Stephen Dau wielded craft, I also loved his overall theme, which is of huge interest to writers.

But before I go into that, let me tell you a bit about the book.  The book's main protagonist, Jonas, is just a teenager when his family is killed during a U.S. military operation in an unnamed war.  He escapes to the United States, where he struggles, not only with fitting in, but with the weight of a terrible secret.  This secret concerns the story's secondary protagonist, Christopher Henderson, the U.S. soldier who saved Jonas's life.  Written in dream-like prose, the book builds to quite the emotional ending, though you'll probably have guessed it before the end.

It is quite a tour-de-force of a book and I suspect it will land in the annals of classic war literature.  Extremely well written and nearly hypnotic in its ability to keep you reading, The Book of Jonas is a stunning achievement.  And all that is saying a lot from me because it is not the kind of book I usually read--I shy away from books about war.

As I mentioned, Dau uses the writer's craft in a mesmerizing way.  Part of that is his use of a fractured chronology.  The story leaps from Jonas's current day life in America to his former life in his unnamed homeland, and neither of those chronologies is linear, so the reader is jumping all over the place, yet the story remains clear.  If you're writing a fractured chronology, you should study this book.  And by study, I mean read it over and over again, underline it, and take notes.  It is extremely well done.

Finally, the book offers up a theme that every writer can embrace: the power of story.  It is only through telling the story, in Jonas's case, and writing it down, in Christopher's, that we achieve healing, and ultimately, freedom.

For comment: what book or books have you read lately that inspired you?


Coaching Package Sale

Quick heads up--I'm having a two-day sale on my three-month, paid-in-advance coaching package.  If ever you're considered hiring a writing coach, this is the time to do it, because I'm offering the packages for half off.

You can visit the sale page to learn more about it.

Just think, in three months, you could have a book proposal done, or a great start on a book.  Or a blog up and running.  The sky is the limit, truly!  So go check it out and sign up before this great deal expires.


Balance vs. Excellence

Everystockphoto_187217_mA Post Wherein I Explore Two Approachs to Writing and Confess I Don't Know Which is Best.

Let's begin with balance.  It has been a bit of a massive buzz word the past few years, with experts telling us we need it in our lives and offering advice on how to achieve it.  Seems it's what we're all looking for, that elusive balance between working hard and taking time off to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

What does balance look like?  For me, its something like this:

--I rise early after sleeping well.

--I head to the computer, ignore my email inboxes, and work on my novel.

--After a rousing writing session, I eat breakfast and shower.

--The rest of the day is spent working on assignments or coaching.

--After dinner I take a walk and am able to relax and watch trash TV or read.

Plenty of time to work, plenty of time to relax.  Balance.

But lately, I've read some things dissing balance, saying it really isn't all that it's cracked up to be.  That balance equates mediocrity and who wants to be mediocre?  Chris Guillebeau, whose writing I admire, wrote about it a few weeks ago (and of course, now I can't find the exact link.  But go check out his site anyway.  After you're done here, of course.

What does the other way look like? (Loosely, we'll call it the pursuit of excellence.)

--It looks the same throughout the day, with the exception that I probably rise earlier.

--After dinner, I'm not wasting my life watching stupid TV.  Nuh-uh.  I'll return to my office and work late into the night, only to get up early and do it all again the next day.

As I was writing this post, I got an email from somebody hyping a telecall discussing how important it is to achieve balance, because if you don't, you'll blow out your adrenals, with drastic consequences to your health.  Which is the antithesis of working all hours to finish a project.

So what's a writer to do?  Which way to seek?

My answer: I dunno.

What I do know is that my life bounces between the two extremes and I suppose that is its own kind of balance.  I love, love, love the days when I've had a satisfying and productive day and can knock off by 5:30 or so.  But I kind of like the weeks when I'm madly working to finish a million things, and return to my computer for at least an hour, if not longer, in the evening.

As a vote for the side of balance, I know that creativity begins in the darkness, in the quiet hours we sit in silence and if we're rushed and stressed new ideas are not going to arrive in our psyches.

As a vote for the side of excellence at all costs, I also know that I desire to create a life and body of work of high caliber and have no desire to be mediocre.  And if that requires staying up late a few nights, so be it.

How about you?  What works best for you?

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Experiment with scheduling your writing and other responsibilities and see what works best for you.

Check out my new coaching packages when you get a chance!

Photo by dancerinthedark.

7 Steps to Handle Rejection

Luck-hope-help-3596-lI do my best to stay positive about writing.  I feel lucky every day that my passion is writing, and I think most of you do, too.  So even on days when I feel like I have a million things to grouse about, I try to find a way to be positive about something.  Because it just feels better being positive than being negative.

So it grieves me to introduce today's topic: rejection.

It grieves me because there's really not a lot of positive things to say about it (other than the usual, at-least-you're-getting-your-work-out in-the-world platitudes.) But it is a fact of a writer's life.  If you're going to send your work out in the world, you've got to learn to handle rejection.

In the old days, back when all publishing business was done via snail mail, you could expect a form letter back.  And the old adage was, if you got a handwritten note on it, that meant your writing had promise.  Nowadays most rejections come by email and honestly, some of the stock rejections are so carefully worded it is difficult to tell if they are personal or not.  An even worse trend is that many agents now state that if they're not interested, they won't contact you.  So you end up never hearing, either way.

Anyway it arrives, as a writer, you can be certain that rejection will come to you.  And it will sting.  But you must experience it.  I hate that this is so, but it is.  It's the rare writer who gets everything they send out accepted.

Here are a few guidelines to help you handle rejection:

1. Make sure work is ready.  A little advance work can help you handle rejection.  Namely, figure out if your work is ready.  I think all of us have been guilty of being over-eager about our work and sending it out before its time.  I know I have.  Ways to combat?  Join a critique group or find trusted readers to send it to first.

2. Cry.  You know you want to.  So do it.  Let yourself feel the full range of your emotions.  Were you absolutely, positively certain this was the agent who would take you on as a client?  Let your disappointment rage.  Were you sure this was the literary journal that would accept your beloved story?  Sob out your anger.

3.  Remember the only way out is through. No professions are so intimately linked with our souls as the creative arts.  We're writers in every cell of our being and so rejection can feel like it affects every cell of us.  It can feel like the world is ending.  Literally.   If my work is rejected, than what does it say about me and my life?  The only way to get through to the other side is to observe and honor these feelings you're having.

4.  Treat yourself. This is a time for tender self care.  Do something nice for yourself, something special.  You deserve it.  This is hard work, this writing business, and if you're going to keep it up for the long haul you'll need to temper the bad with the good.

5.  Seek support from others.  Call another writer or a trusted friend.  Warning: don't assume that a family member can give you the comfort you seek.  They might not understand the life of a writer well enough to do so.  Talking to another in-the-trenches writer who has experienced the same thing can be an enormous salve to the soul.

6.  Get back on the horse.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it is the last thing on earth you feel like doing.  But do it.  Send the novel out again. Find another publication to submit your article. It can help to keep a list ready for this. That way, you'll always have a place to go.  And remember, every time you go through rejection, it gets easier.  (See below.)

7.  Celebrate.  Probably not the first thing you think of when you think of a rejection.  But remember that getting a rejection means you're sending your work out into the world, which is what you have to do to make it as a writer.

So there you have it, my seven steps to dealing with rejection.

Postscript:  As I was writing this, I got an email from the folks promoting a new service for writers.  The Rejection Generator Project actually sends you an email rejecting your work before an editor does.  Why?  Because research has shown that after people experience pain, it gets easier to deal with in the future.  So you reject yourself first to take the pain out of it.  Pretyy cool.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Choose a project you want to market and do your research on where to send it, whether you're sending to agents or editors.  Now choose the top three on your list and get it out there.

Please comment!  Do you have a rejection horror story?  What's your favorite way to deal with rejection?

Photo by jfg.

Do Characters (And Sentences) Belong Only To One Story?

I was writing away on my new novel when suddenly the ex-husband from a novel I'd started and abandoned walked on.

He's my new favorite character, ever, and his insistent good cheer is going to make a great counterpoint to my confused, grieving heroine.  I adore this guy.  But how weird is it that he came over from the other novel?

It felt somehow wrong at first.  Like he belonged only to the other story.  But then I started thinking about it and realized, maybe he's been lying in wait all this time for the perfect place to insert himself.  He's been waiting for his cue.

Is this weird?

Then I was sorting through old journals and found a sentence from a novel I wrote long ago, that has been lost to the sands of time: And then I watched him walk away from me one last time.  I love that line.  I know, I know, its pretty simple.  But I still love it.  And I may want to use it some day instead of burying it in a journal.


Or normal?

Or is there a normal for writers?  Probably not.

This post is uncharacteristically short, without the usual "create a  successful, inspired writing life" tagline because I want to hear from you.  Have you had this experience?  What do you think about transferring characters or lines from story to story?  I'm all ears.

I'm hoping your responses will convince me I'm not crazy.

A Meditation and Exploration for Your Book

I finished going through the papers from long ago that had landed on the floor of my office, but Everystockphoto-4703759-hyesterday I tackled another organizing project: office supplies.  Read: journals.  As in unused ones. I've got tons of them.  After my initial foray into sorting them, I told my husband that if I ever uttered the words, "I need to buy a journal," he was under orders to shoot.

Because I've got boxes and boxes of them, enough writing paper to last me nearly a lifetime. (And, you mark my words, I'll be buying another one within the month because I won't be able to find one that feels just right in the moment.  I know myself too well.)  Some of them are inappropriate for my needs and clearly need to be given away, which is the project at hand.  Along the way I'm finding several journals that only have one or two pages filled out.

And that's where today's post comes in.  On one of those pages, I found the following meditation, scrawled down years ago for my coaching clients in a moment of inspiration.  I figured I'd share it with you.  This meditation was written down and forgotten, so its not been tested in real life.  I decided I'd test it on you guys, since I love you so much.

(This meditation was designed to elicit information about a book you might want to write, but you could adapt the process slightly to make it work for anything else, such as an article or a story.)

Here goes:

1. Sit quietly and center yourself.  Take a few deep breaths and then focus on yourself breathing in and out as you quiet your mind.

2. Now allow your mind to settle on an image.  It's you, sitting behind a table at a book store.  The table in front of you is stacked with books.  Your book!  Picture the whole thing in your mind and then zone in closer.  Now notice:

--What your book looks like

--What is the title?

3.  As you hone in on the book, witness yourself opening the book.  And see:

--What is the book about?

--What does the subject matter on the Table of Contents cover?

(It doesn't matter if you don't see it all this time through.  This will give you a starting point, a springboard for further exploration through free writing.)

4.  As your signing ends, a person come out of the crowd that is now leaving, books in hand.  Oh my goodness, she looks just like a fairy godmother.  She is a fairy godmother!  And she has something for you.  She hand it to you.

--Open your hand and describe what she gives you as fully as possible.

This is your touchstone to carry with you as you write this book. 

That's it!  That's the meditation.  Hope it's helpful.  Have fun with it and adapt it any way you see fit.

Create a successful, inspired writing life:  Experiment with meditation,either guided or not,  in your life and see how it affects your writing practice.  Do you see a difference in your writing?  In how you approach it?

Please share your ideas on meditation.  Do you do it regularly?  Once in a while?  Never?  How does it impact your writing?  I'd love to hear your opinions on the subjec. 

Photo by MVWorks.

Rewriting: Print Out Your Work

Aelse_ilovenature_glow_5663_hSorry, trees.

The topic of today's post impacts your health on this planet, and for that I'm truly sorry.

But I'm rediscovering the helpfulness of printing out my work in order to rewrite and revise it.  (I like to make a distinction between the two words.  To me, rewriting is what you do on the second draft, when you're looking at big stuff like character arc and plot.  Revising is what you do on the final draft, when you're looking at every word, and comma and period.  Big difference.)

This all began when I saw Anne Lamott last Friday night.  She spoke in Portland at the Baghdad Theater as part of her book tour for Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.  The theater was packed, I'm happy to report, full of happy fans eating pizza and burgers and drinking wine and beer.  Which was just the wee-est bit ironic, seeing as how Anne is a famous recovering alcoholic.

But it didn't seem to bother her and she had some great things to say about her life and her writing.  (She delivers her lectures in almost a stream-of-consciousness style that appears effortless and is very entertaining.)  She talked about writing as a radical act (hear, hear) and also that she likes to repeat the mantra, "it could happen," after a character in an old movie, Angels in the Outfield. (Such as, bestselling novel?  "It could happen."  And so on.)

What really struck me, however, was when she talked about printing out your work in order to edit it.  Yes, we live in an electronic world, but it is still important to make a hardcopy of your writing and see it on the page.  Use the electronics to communicate with the world and tinker with your work on the page.  The real page.

I used to do this all the time.  It was the only way I could rewrite.  But lately, with the convenience of editing on the computer, I've gotten away from it.  This week, I decided to experiment and printed out 70 pages of my next novel.  Totally different experience.  You simply see things differently when you edit on the page.  Try it.

I'm not sure I recommend printing out pages every single time you edit.  So much of editing goes on as you re-read a draft on the computer, perhaps before you begin your writing session.  But as an exercise at certain key points along the way, it can be very useful.

And as for the trees? Buy recycled paper.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Next time you're finished with a draft, print it out to make your revisions.  See if it works for you.

Please comment.  How do you approach rewriting and revising?  Do you do it on the computer or on hard copy?  Which do you prefer? 

Photo by Josef F. Stuefer, and I found it on Everystockphoto.

How to Keep Writing Through Holidays and Other Distractions

Easter_candy_chocolat_242057_l"Get back to me after Easter."

"Let's deal with that after Easter."

I've heard that several times this week and it has gotten me thinking about how we deal with our lives around major holidays and other distractions. Specifically, how we deal with our writing.  Even more specifically, how we get writing done when holidays and major distractions (spring break, anyone?) occur.

Sometimes we don't.

And honestly, when that happens, when you know there's just no way you're going to get any work done, its best just to go with it and not beat yourself up. 

But what if you truly, desperately want to keep working through busy periods?  If you're coming down the homestretch of finishing a novel, say, or in the white hot heat of beginning one?  Following are some tips to keep you sane.

1. Find a way to touch base with your WIP.  Even if you can't write, you can take time to read a page or two.  (C'mon, this takes only five minutes.) Staying in touch with your project in this way keeps it planted in your brain and allows your subconscious to work on it.

2.  Write first thing.  I know, you night owls hate this one.  But there's nothing like the feeling of getting your most important work done first thing in the morning.  Even if its just twenty minutes, somehow connecting with your most important project first thing makes the whole day go better.

3.  Write while exercising.   You keep up with your exercise routine, right?  (Somehow its easier to tell your demanding family you're going out for a walk than it is to tell them you're shutting yourself away in your writing den.  I know, I've been there.)  Take a voice recorder and talk your next scene into it while walking.  Or just hide out at the coffee shop and work instead of writing.  (Maybe you could walk to the coffee shop so you wouldn't technically be lying.)

4.  Take your manuscript with you wherever you go.  Then, you can take an extra few minutes before grocery shopping to look through you recent pages.  (Everyone knows grocery shopping takes forever, you can snitch a few minutes.) Or work on it while you're waiting for your daughter after school.  Or while you're waiting for something to download at work.

5. Think about your work.  Thinking is a highly under-rated activity for writers.  You always have your brain with you, right?  Instead of obsessing about politics, direct your brain to think about your WIP.  And write down the ideas you get anyway you can--on a scrap of paper or your phone.

6. Eat lunch with your WIP.  Wouldn't you rather spend time with your manuscript than the latest issue of O?  Okay, I read O with lunch all the time, but when pressed for time, try connecting with your WIP during breaks.  At the very least, it will keep the work fresh in your mind.

7.  Maintain an attitude that there is enough time.   We spend so much time convincing ourselves that there's no time, it's no wonder we're stressed and overwhelmed.  Try taking the opposite tack and affirm to yourself that you have enough time.  This actually does work.  At the very least, you'll be a lot more relaxed.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: This Easter season, try approaching the hoopla and rush a bit differently.  Remind yourself that your writing is worth it and experiment with the above ways to stay with it over the holiday.

What about you?  How do you find time to write during busy periods?  Got any good tips for us?  We'd love to hear them.  And if you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media through the buttons below.


Photograph by Zela.

Chronology in the Written Narrative

Fire_brick_apartment_228584_lDoesn't that title just sound wonderfully intellectual and literary?  Well, you know me better than that.  I'm fumbling along trying to figure this writing game out just like you and if I get too high falutin you guys will let me know.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Tyranny of Chronology in terms of the writing process.  Like, do you write your scenes in order or write whatever scene suits your fancy on a given day?  But the kind of chronology I'm talking about today is the actual order of your book.  (By the way, I'm still allowing myself to write whatever comes up, not following a strict chronology as usual and it is very freeing.)

What brought this all up is a book I'm reading.  Alas, I can't tell you about it.  I'm reading it for a review that will appear here April 19th and it's part of a big campaign so I have to be quiet until then or they will come after my first-born child.  And I like her, so mum's the word.

But what I can talk about is the fact that the book is written in a fractured chronology, ie, it doesn't proceed from one event and follow a linear timeframe.  Instead, it jumps around.  It is so well done that you always, always, know where you are, however. Which is the key in a fractured chronology story.  If you lose the thread, you lose the reader.

Chronology is important even within a chapter.  Sometimes I read student work that jumps around so much my head is whipping about like I'm watching a tennis match.  Then, instead of getting engrossed in the story I'm doing math in my head to figure out where I am.  This can be the result of putting in flashbacks.  To control it, keep them brief, and always have a clear transition into and out of the flashback.  Or it can come when using one of my favorite techniques--starting a chapter far into the scene and then harking back to what's come before with a paragraph of narrative.  Same advice holds here, just be really clear with transitions.

I found myself wondering how the author of the book I'm reading accomplished his fractured chronology.  I suspect he wrote each storyline first and then jumbled them up.  Although, come to think of it, I once wrote a short story that had a fractured chronology and I just wrote each scene as it came to me.  So I'm not sure.  I've written on this blog about the Two Nows Structure, which is slightly different and easier to control, because it confines itself to two clear story lines.

A fractured structure is worth looking at for the power it can bring to the narrative.  It creates a sort of dreamlike quality in which you feel as if you are in the character's head.  Because our minds don't think in linear chronology.  At least mine doesn't. 

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Experiment with chronology in your work.  Take a short story, cut up the through lines and rearrange them.  What happens?  How does the new chronology affect the story?

What do you think?  Do you write in linear or fractured chronologies? If the latter, what's your process for achieving it?

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Photograph by slonecker