Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

Archive for the ‘Planting Carrots: A Writer’s Garden’ Category

My $35,000 List

My $35,000 list

35k listDo you ever feel like you’re running all day long without accomplishing much of anything? Do your days feel full of endless activity, yet at the end of the day your list remains without many items crossed off?

That was me. Working, working, endlessly busy. For myself, I found that my biggest problem was that I spent more time off chasing ‘rabbit’s. I’d be hunkered down, busy at a task … and … flash … there went a thought that I thought I should chase. There I was, off across the field, chasing the newest rabbit in my field of vision, leaving my current’s day’s to-do list in the dust.

That changed when I read Miracle’s Happen, by Mary Kay Ash. In it, she shares what she called her $35,000 list. Basically, she advises that at the end of each day you make a list of 6 things to accomplish the next day. Prioritize them 1 – 6, in order of importance. The next day, start with #1 and work your way through. If you don’t finish, transfer the items to the next day and continue working. (Read more about the Mary Kay’s version of the story here.)

I started using this method with my writing 1/31/14. That day I crossed one item off the list. But, I kept it up. Now to be truthful, with working full time and only writing in periods in between my work and home life, sometimes I’d work three to four weeks on those 6 items. But now that I’m writing full time, I’m finding this method indispensable in keeping me on track. (This blog is #4 for today.)

maintain focusSomething I discovered with this $35,000 list, is to break some of the items down into smaller bites for an individual item. When I had: Edit Scooter’s Tale (a whole manuscript), Finish Starting Over (only about another 30k words needed), write 3 blogs, research next project … well, with each item having this magnitude, there was no way this was all happening in one day. So I’d end the day frustrated because I hadn’t made a dent. I’ve learned to list my tasks in more manageable pieces. List each blog separately – that’s three items in itself. Add 2k or 3k to my WIP. Edit first 50 pages. Being realistic with what I can accomplish in my allotted time is just as important as staying focused.

Now, I’m off to upload this and head to Task #5.

Give it try and see if this helps. Let me know!

Advertisements

LIFE HAPPENS

Today is TUESDAY TALES! Today we’re writing to the prompt – rough. Here’s my musings on rough. Return to Tuesday Tales for more interesting stories from other awesome writers.

——————

life happensLife happens – and oftentimes devastates our well planned writing sessions.

Does this happen to you also? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one trying to tame these sometimes joyous, sometimes inconvenient interruptions.

I don’t have a problem planning. I’m the Queen of Planning My Writing Life. It’s just the follow through that’s usually rough. I began the New Year with a well laid out plan of what I was going to accomplish in 2013.

Now that we’re here in September, if you looked at my current ‘plan’, you’d think you were looking at the goals of two completely different writers.

I have completed a few – the operative word here is FEW- of my original goals. I’ve crossed off some. I’ve added twice as many. I’ve made tentative steps towards working through some. Yet as we near the latter portion of the year, I realize that most will not see the light of completion during 2013.

Life happens.

Many of us still have our good ‘ole day jobs, consuming more time and energy than we’d like.

We get sick. Spouses get sick. Children get sick. Parents age and need our assistance. Even our pets don’t always cooperate in our moving towards the writing finish line.

Cars break down and demand silly things like new tires and oil changes.

Friends think we should somehow devote a few hours of our life to them. Phone calls, lunches, dinners, movies.

Friends and family get married. This year my niece’s wedding in June required a trip back to California. There goes a week of writing. An August vacation get away for a few days in Vegas surprised us with my youngest son’s wedding. There went another week of writing.

And, oh yeah, the garden needs weeded and the lawn wants to be mowed.

A co-worker attended SCBWI’s conference in LA in August. I was so jealous. She returned home fired-up, oozing excitement and committed to polishing off some of her draft stories and writing a few more. She returned home to real life. Last week she bemoaned that it’s been almost two months since then and she hasn’t written a single word since returning home. No, no she hasn’t. She is also in the midst of a divorce. She has custody of two children who went back to school, with all of the hoop-la that accompanies that event. She went from part time to full time, compliments of the divorce. Her car is throwing temper tantrums.

My 'life happens' moment when Sookie helps me type this blog.

My ‘life happens’ moment when Sookie helps me type this blog. Okay, she didn’t stop me from typing, but it sure went a lot slower like this. Finished the blog anyway, even with her help.

It becomes a balancing act. In the case of my friend, I encouraged her and pointed out all that she had to deal with at this current place in her life. Sometimes you need to acknowledge that right now, for this current time and place in your life, the ‘real life’ needs your time, attention and energy. And you can’t beat yourself up over it. The world is hard enough on us. We don’t need to join the whipping crew. Honor your life, appreciate what you have, and know that you are in the place you need to be … at this time.

And sometimes, we need to take an honest look and see if we’re simply allowing life to take over. Are we not making the commitment we need to make for ourselves? Sometimes it’s easier to do the dishes, catch up the laundry, walk the dog, shuffle a pile of papers, and keep busy with a bazillion tasks other than sending queries, plotting, and placing words on paper. As many writers compel, it’s all about BIC – Butt In Chair.

You know what? It works. For all the stories on my ‘list’ that are only fragments in my mind, or pieces barely begun, this past week I finished one. I needed 50,000 words for a book contest. I thought I had the perfect story to fit their call. I just had to write it down. I planned to write it during August and edit during September. Remember the mini-vacation and son’s wedding in August? Needless to say the 1,500 words a day didn’t happen that week. I didn’t finish by the end of August. I didn’t finish my mid-September. It still took me another week, leaving me only one week to edit. But I kept on. I tallied my words. Except for a few minor ‘life happens’ moments, I kept my butt in the chair. And yesterday I mailed off the 166 page, 55,000 word manuscript. I hope it wins. But if it doesn’t, I have something that I can keep polishing and keep sending. But, even better than that, is the feeling that has enveloped me over the past week as I saw that I would be completing this project and it would get shipped off — three days before the deadline.

Life does happen – to all of us. But it’s up to us to make choices. We can make the choice to set aside our writing for real priorities. And, we can also choose to carve out writing time in our life, even if it means we won’t be making every social occasion that comes our way, or that our laundry isn’t always washed, pressed and orderly, or that we have to get up a little earlier every day. It’s our choice.

THE WRITER’S PATH: Tuesday Tales

Tuesday TalesWelcome to Tuesday Tales. Each month this group writes to a picture prompt. For September, we have this lovely scene to contemplate. Here is my take on the peaceful pathway I’d love to run across and follow.

Return to Tuesday Tales for a large variety of other writer’s takes on incorporating this photo into their current writing.

THE WRITER’S PATH

TT_September photo promptThe path beckons. It calls out to us, singing the siren song of a writer’s life. We follow. We travel the path, sometimes venturing off the trail, often times changing to another.

The paths differ. As with our life path, we change our writing path as we travel.

Some authors travel pathways traversed by the multitudes, one trampled smooth by many footsteps. Some venture onto less common trails – beating back brush, searching for footholds on steep or rocky terrains.

The important thing is not which path we follow, but that we move forward. Step by step. Mile marker by mile marker.

Some follow the path of journalism: investigative reporting, columns, or book reviews.

Others chose the business minded path of copywriting or editing.

Poetry, song writing, screen writing – more options for the creative muse.

And, there is the unlimited world of books. The path is diverse and branches off into a multitude of options. Many of us travel several of these paths during our life as a writer. Children’s picture books, middle grade and young adult novels – many choose these. Others select adult fiction – again, limitless genres: romance, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action, spy, western, mystery, zombie, and comedy – the trail splinters off into hundreds of possibilities.

Nonfiction routes also abound: cookbooks, biography, greeting cards, how-to’s.

So many choices, so little time. They only important thing is that we move along our current chosen path. Years ago, Winston Churchill said, “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

Enjoy the climb; enjoy the path.

When Real Life Meets Fiction: Tuesday Tales – building

Tuesday Tales

Today’s post is written to a weekly prompt from Tuesday Tales, ‘building’. Previous posts have taken place in 1934 Iowa, in Calico Connections. However, since I’m in the middle of another fiction for a contest submittal, I don’t want to re-enter my Iowa make believe world yet. Here is my entry for the week in the genre memoir/writing, for possible inclusion in another WIP, Planting Carrots. We’ll see later.

Thanks for stopping by. Return to Tuesday Tales for more wondrous words from a wide range of talented authors.

FRIENDS CAN BACKFIRE

writers pillowThe fat, fluffy pillow is the perfect accent for my writing room. ‘Careful, Or You’ll End Up in My Novel!’

So true. So true. We’re writers and we do as advised – write what you know. Our stories grow, building layer upon layer, drawing on our life’s experiences.

A Facebook post of a some-ecard echoes the sentiments:

“I’m a writer. If I’m staring at you, I’m not being rude. I’m trying to decide if you need to go in a book. If you’re a snot, I may be trying to decide how to kill you.”

We’re writers and we need a diverse assortment of characters at our disposal, be it for short stories, novels, or blog posts.

So, we borrow from real life. The bad hairdo from the barista at the coffee shop. The annoying habits of our coworkers: one is loud, one is OCD, one is in a perpetual bad mood, and one is saccharine sweet. The sloppiness and disarray of our neighbor. The tardiness, or compunctional earliness, of those in our social groups. A boss that chews. Our church member that smacks their wad of gum the entire time their talking to you. The clerk that needs a shave – or a shower.

Our spouses are not exempt. Mine has a habit of frequently answering with “Yeppers.” One of my major characters in a contest entry I’m working on now coincidentally has that same habit. (Shhhh, don’t tell!)

Eavesdropping on conversations is a goldmine for future characters. One day I overheard, “He doesn’t have the personality God gave a gopher.” Priceless! I jotted it down. I will use it someday. I’m not sure where, but I know at some point in the future, one of my characters will need just those words.

We have the disclaimers in place. “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales are entirely coincidental.” (Disclaimer example is from The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austin, by Syril James)

As the popular song goes … ‘That’s my story … and I’m stickin’ to it!’

I’ll admit it, I’ve borrowed from real life, in the creation of my fictional, and not so fictional pieces. I’m sure that almost all of us have. In my WIP chapter book, The Itty Bits, Beezer and Queenie behave suspiciously like my younger brother and sister, Butch and Susie. After seeing a picture of the pillow quoted in the opening, I emailed it to my sister, along with the opening chapters of The Itty Bits.

She’s now afraid to talk to me.

I needed some girl names for two Girl Scouts in a children’s story. (Trash & Treasure, Guardian Angel Kids ezine). Elizabeth and Michelle came to life on the pages. (Thanks sister, Susan Elizabeth, and niece, Michelle.)

Prissy & Paige, a YA WIP, stars two 14 year old girls. These two BFF’s coincidently seem to have many of the same arguments and dilemmas that my own 14 year old BFF, Connie, and I had. (Connie, by the way, is still talking to me, maybe because she hasn’t seen my manuscript yet.)

One of my NANO (National Novel Writing Month) experiences brought to light one of the potential problems with using recognizable friends in your stories, even if the friends know and are excited about it. One November, Three Bags Full and the town of Bluebonnet Ridge came to life. Unfortunately, on November 30th the story stalled and is yet to be resurrected. The main crew in this small Texan town consisted of:

Paige (me): Proprietor of the fiber store. (Yes, I weave, spin, knit and crochet)

Jayne (Joyce): Works at City Hall and makes awesome chain maille jewelry on the side (Yes, she does, and yes, she does.)

Shelly (Shanine): the paper queen, her store features her beautiful paper creations (no store in real life, the paper creations are true)

Meg (Megan): Owns a ladybug farm nearby (No lady bug farm in real life, but she is a ladybug fanatic and would love to have a ladybug farm)

Faith (Connie Faye): Yes, here’s Connie again, now owning a bakery (In real life, no bakery, but she is an awesome cook, well known by all her friends and coworkers for her delectable goodies)

And then, about 30,000 words into the story (no, I never hit my 50,000 word goal that year), I discovered a major flaw. I’d let my friends all know about this group of ‘fictional’ friends. They knew it was about us, honoring our years of friendship. They were looking forward to reading the manuscript.

But, for the good of the story and the depth of the characters, we all need to have some flaws. All of us. My dilemma; how to portray the characters shortcoming without offending my friends.

Note to self: In the future, do NOT let your friends know that they are the inspiration behind certain characters. While they may provide the major impetus for the character’s development, when your friend reads the story, they may associate every word or action the character makes as a reflection of something you’ve seen in them. Bad idea!

Write your characters. Use the people you know – friend and foe – as your inspiration, just disguise them. Change the names, identifying characteristics, even change their sex if you wish.

We writer’s will have the ultimate revenge. Those we know and love, and those we don’t, will find themselves written into eternity by our words.

OUR WORDS HEAL, OUR WORDS HONOR

Today’s post is written to a weekly prompt from Tuesday Tales, ‘rough’. Previous posts have taken place in 1934 Iowa, in Calico Connections. However, since I’m now in the middle of another fiction for a contest submittal (I only need another 30,000 words in the next two weeks!), I don’t want to re-enter my Iowa make believe world yet. Here is my entry for the week in the memoir genre, for possible inclusion in another WIP, Planting Carrots. We’ll see.

Thanks for stopping by. Return to Tuesday Tales for more wondrous words from a wide range of talented authors.

OUR WORDS HEAL, OUR WORDS HONOR

DSC00201He entered my life late, he left it too soon, this third son of mine. He came into my life the easy way; already potty-trained, already driving. His leaving … not so easy.

People say that losing a child is one of the worst things to happen to a parent. They say it is difficult. They say it is rough. If you haven’t been there, you have no idea. You can’t imagine how this tragedy will affect your life in all aspects. Two friends lost children, years before I lost my stepson, Mark Gloyd. I did not fully understand the depth of their pain. I didn’t know the void left in their life. I could empathize with them.  I could cry with them. I couldn’t fully know the feelings and emotions a child’s death evoked.

December 27, 2005, two days after a joyless Christmas, I entered their world – a world consisting of bereaved parents in various stages of grief, denial, pain and recovery. I did not want to join their club. I held no sway with the nomination process. I had no say in the outcome.

Mark was one month past his 23rd birthday.

My sole consolation was that I was there for him at the end of his losing battle with cancer. I held his hand and stroked his brow. His mother sat on his other side. His father hovered around us all, encompassed in an enveloping grief and sorrow that permeated the room. I was there as he drew his last breath, as I was not when he drew his first.

So what do we do as writers? We write. We write about our life. Our world and experiences are transcribed into words. We write on paper; tablets, napkins, parchment, standard bond. We type on computers; click-clack-click-clack, keystrokes slowly etching our memories onto hard drives and flash drives.

We write. We journey through our souls. We heal. We honor. The memories of our loved ones become engraved in time, their footsteps on this earth memorialized by our words. Because that’s what we writers do. We write.

They watch over our shoulders. Smiling. They know they are loved. They know we remember.

RIP Mark Gloyd, my third son.
November 25, 1981 – December 27, 2004

Planting Carrots: Does Size Matter?

It’s SNEAK-PEEK SUNDAY!

The rules are simple. Six paragraphs and six paragraphs only; of any published work or WIP. No more. No less.

Planting Carrots: A Writers Garden is a WIP. In accordance with Sneak Peek Sunday’s rules, here are six paragraphs of the chapter entitled “Does Size Matter?’

Come back next week for more. Be sure to check out the other wonderful authors participating in Sneak-Peek Sunday.

***************************************************************************************************

p_carrots in basketWe plant the carrots (or words and queries if you prefer); we sow the seeds and hope for an abundant harvest. Despite our best efforts, our diligent attention to our writing garden, the consistent watering, feeding and weeding; not all carrots grow to the same size.

Does size matter? Harvest is harvest and whatever the size of the harvest, it’s all edible.

As writers, when we’re establishing a career, making contacts and getting our name out there, any carrot is a good carrot, even if it’s small, petite and one-bite-sized. We earnestly write away, striving for those first published clips. Those first clips are glorious and exciting – even if given away for free. If a small pittance was sent our way for them, life is even better.

Eventually though, we discover that while even the itty-bitty carrots are edible, it takes a whole slew of tiny carrots to fill the basket.

Three and five cent a word markets get us clips. We’re published, hooray! But to grow a career, we have to keep looking for larger carrots. There is a time and a place for those free and low paying writing gigs. Sometimes there are other non-monetary benefits we receive from these tiny markets. But, when I got a $300 contract for a national magazine feature, it registered how many three cents a word children stories I had to write to equal this one big carrot.

Here’s to carrots, small and large, as they all add up to equal a writing career. I’ll keep sowing my seeds and tending my garden. And if the harvest includes a crop of smaller carrots nestled in amongst the larger ones, I’ll take those too. Overall, size does matter if we want to pay the bills and make a living writing, but that doesn’t mean I’ll throw away tiny opportunities either. Because I’m a writer, that’s what we do – we write.

 

Planting Carrots: Battling the Elements, Part 2

It’s SNEAK-PEEK SUNDAY!

The rules are simple. Six paragraphs and six paragraphs only; of any published work or WIP. No more. No less.

Planting Carrots: A Writers Garden is a WIP. In accordance with Sneak Peek Sunday’s rules, here are the next six paragraphs of the chapter entitled “Battling the Elements.’

Come back next week for more. Be sure to check out the other wonderful authors participating in Sneak-Peek Sunday.

***************************************************************************************************

carrot pic 1Life happened. A friend I haven’t seen in twenty years was able to meet me for lunch. Naturally, this turned into a long lunch as we caught up on the past twenty years. Then, a three week old abandoned kitten was discovered in our car port. Consequently an emergency trip to the pet store ensued; bottles, milk replacement and necessary accouterments to care for a helpless, furry meowing creature. There went the rest of the night with nary a word written.

If these happenstances only occasionally interrupted my writing and plenty of words flowed from my fingertips, I would be content with the paragraphs and pages consistently adding up. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.

I think you know what I mean. I can hear your thoughts echoing from my keyboard. Dinners for the family, kids to run to soccer practice, homework to monitor, day jobs that consume all too much time and energy, older parents to shuttle on errands and to appointments, laundry to wash, gardens to weed and water; life happens to all of us, threatening to interfere with our inner writers.

Skip Press, in How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write, says, “I’ve never known a ‘big name’ writer who didn’t maintain strict discipline with his or her writing schedule …”

What? Strict discipline with my writing schedule? What is this concept you speak of master?

Much as nature’s unexpected disasters can wreck havoc on our gardens, so too do these unexpected winds and storms of ‘real life’ threaten to destroy our writing time. We must jealously guard our time and set aside pockets of time to write. Otherwise we risk frittering away the day or the week and then it dawns on us that a month has passed and we’ve spent very little time on our Great American Novel, or memoir, or queries or whatever our individual writing goals and dreams are.

Tag Cloud