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Archive for the ‘Writer’s Zen’ Category

How to Become a Focused Writer – C. Hope Clark

Today we welcome a guest post from C. Hope Clark. She’s celebrating the release of her eighth mystery, Newberry Sin. Hope is a writer I admire and I’ve learned so much from her over the past few years. I began following her when I first began freelancing and discovered her weekly newsletter, Funds For Writers. Her book, The Shy Writer Reborn, soon joined my other writing books on my bookshelf – and is the one that’s most marked up, dog-eared, and highlighted.

Join us today as she shares her wisdom about becoming a focused writer. Then, hop on over and check out her mysteries. They’re excellent too!

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How to Become a Focused Writer

By C. Hope Clark

The faster this world revolves with the advent of technology, the more choices we have in everything we face. The speed of that information, and the resulting demands on our time due to all these opportunities thrown in front of us, the less we feel in control of our time.

For a writer, all that noise, tugging, and temptation takes a toll on concentration. So how is this writer supposed to pay attention to deadlines, much less the intricacies of storytelling, when hit from all sides with the busy-ness of life?

  1. Create Structure. Think of a child with autism or ADHD. One of the first suggestions to help them cope is to establish structure to their days. These children become flustered with too much stimulation, unable to process it all. Sound familiar? Same logic applies to a writer. Set a time and place to write if it does not come natural to you. When that time comes, and when you enter that space, your mind will ultimately adhere to the routine and kick into writing mode. If you cannot guarantee a place, at least adhere to the time wherever you are. Disorganization = enemy of focus.
  2. Have a Plan. What do you want to write? You cannot get into a car without a strong sense of where you’re going. Short stories? Poems? A novella? Make it practical because saying you want to become a writer then starting with a novel is like asking a new attorney fresh out of law school to represent a serial killer. It’s paralyzing. But if you are sure you want to tackle a book, then have a plan for the stages you’ll write it so that the project isn’t intimidating. Intimidation = enemy of focus.
  3. Have a Fun Backup Plan. You delve into your main plan, and you can’t make the words happen. Have three backup plans. First, write something short and fun. This might be all it takes to unclog things by making you enjoy putting words on paper. Second, write a letter to someone who has deserved it for a long time. Write it longhand, since this form of writing will tap a different part of your brain, giving the obstinate side a rest. . . maybe a chance to shake loose and want to go back to work again. Third, journal about your day. This exercise lets you fall naturally into a subject matter, freeing your writing, Do NOT let a sluggish attempt at writing give you permission to redirect to email, social media, or games. Distraction = enemy of focus.
  4. Keep Showing Up. The worst of days, when you hate the idea of sitting at the computer, are the days you need to show up most. That’s because you are demonstrating to your obstinate, pig-headed (maybe lazy) self that your writing is meaningful and important. Athletes hit the track. Swimmers hit the pool. Show up until the very act itself is as inherent as brushing your teeth. Irregularity = enemy of focus.
  5. Inform Family and Friends. Do not allow interruption. When you are in your place, in your time, you are at work no differently than if you’d commuted downtown, parked your car, and sat behind a desk with a boss looking over your shoulder. Once you give interruptions (and the interrupters) a palms-up stop-sign reaction, they’ll think twice about whether the interruption is necessary. Or they’ll leave a voice mail. Or they’ll come back later. Interruption = enemy of focus. Interruption = enemy of focus.
  6. See the End. How will you imagine the day you type the last word of the last chapter? How will it feel to send off the manuscript? Have a legitimate plan for a celebration or establish a reward system. No goals = the enemy of focus.
  7. Be the Writer First and Foremost. When your mind wanders, and you find the writing difficult, you do not have permission to start searching for editors, publishers, agents, or indie presses. This is a VERY COMMON tangent writers take when they cannot focus. They justify switching gears to the publishing side of the house with the argument that they need to understand how to publish so they can prepare. And the book never gets written. It’s easier to read blog posts, participate in discussion groups, and watch educational videos about publishing than it is to write. You have to become a habitual writer before you even think about publishing. Ignoring Craft = the enemy of focus.

We forget the elementary, basic fact that we are just trying to write. Nothing more, nothing less. When we allow the obtrusive racket of people and Internet to interfere, and when we attempt to write without much thought to the direction, we have already decided not to focus.

Focus isn’t out of your control, on the contrary. But there isn’t a magic formula to put your fingers on the keys and type words on the screen, either.  We wish it were easier, but focus is self-imposed, and it’s so much simpler when infused with structure, planning, goals, and dedication.

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BIO: C. Hope Clark has just released her eighth mystery, titled Newberry Sin. She is also a freelancer and founder of FundsforWriters.com, and a frequent conference speaker, and podcast presenter for Writer’s Digest. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina with her dachshunds and federal agent husband. www.chopeclark.com

 

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IWSG – Making the Plan Isn’t the Problem

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. If we want to. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month we were asked, ‘What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?’

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Making the Plan Isn’t the Problem

Making a plan for my writing and publishing isn’t the problem. I’m a great planner. No – I’m a terrific planner. A planner like no other. I make plans for my plans. (Not really, but I think you know what I mean.) Making the plans isn’t what gives me any trouble.

The problems lie in implementing the plans!

Since I started freelancing in 2015, I’ve made a plan for what books to write, when to publish them, what blogs to write, what short stories to write, etc. I made my 2018 plans at the beginning of December. I planned which books to write, when I’ll publish, what classes I’m working on, what Vintage Daze Short Stories I’ll complete and publish, etc. I even made plans for what books will go on sale each month.

By the time we got to the first day of this brand new year, I’d already changed the 2018 plan…twice.

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And, in all truthfulness, a great deal of the plan for the New Year was already in place. It’s simply the tasks and milestones left over from 2017 that I didn’t make. And I think several of those items probably got pushed down the list from 2016.

Part of the difficulty I know is because when I’m sitting down planning where I want to go, I make very ambitious plans. And then with a part-time day job that becomes very needy with my time and energy at all the major holidays, I find that I don’t have the necessary resources to continue on as scheduled. And once I get behind…it’s downhill from there on.

Coupled with this is another malady I often fall victim to. The ‘Bright Shiny Object’ (BSO) Syndrome. Too often I find myself rushing about working on a brand new project – one that didn’t exist when the plan was made earlier in the year – but…it’s so fascinating.

I already added one BSO to 2018. That was the first change. The second was when I realized that I’d planned on spending most of December 2017 working on an old project from 2015, planning to release it in February. When I didn’t write a word to this old project, and it’s one that I need to spend some time with and get it right because there’s a corporate connection, I made the second change and pushed it off of 2018’s schedule and into 2019.

We’re on the third day of the New Year. And I haven’t made any other changes to the 2018 schedule. Now if I can just focus on completion for this year – and not adding anything new to the list – maybe I’ll make more progress towards what I actually plan. We’ll see. Update to come in 11 and a ½ months!

Check out more Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts here.

Plan Quote

Writing Humor

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I’m not sure who to credit for this, other than SJS. Thank you for the laugh!

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Wordless Wednesday

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I’m Hiring Myself

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Today, I got a new freelance job. For myself. It’s on a trial basis, for nine weeks. At the end of July, I’ll have a performance evaluation and see if I was up to par.

No. I haven’t gone crazy. (Although some days I wonder.)

I’m posting about this experimental hiring of myself for accountability. I’ll update occasionally throughout this testing period.

My checkbook prompted this new regimen. Or, should I say the diminishing numbers in the checkbook. I’ve been a full time freelancer for a little over a year now. I’ve made it through this far. Barely. But, between royalty checks being far less than I’d like, and a few assignments falling through, it seems that each month gets just a bit further behind. I didn’t have the money for a new tire last month. I’ve realized that it’s been a year since I made a trip to see my grandkids that are growing up far too quickly. And, I’m looking ahead and wondering how I’ll get to California in November for my mom’s eightieth birthday.

Looking at the financial aspects jockeying for attention, I decided to apply at local libraries for a part time summer position. I applied for four positions. All were from fourteen to nineteen hours a week. It would cut into my writing time, but the supplemental paychecks would add a few (very few) figures on my bank balance.

Except…the positions begin next week…and no one has even called me for an interview.

I should have been perfect for them. I’ve worked in a library before. I’m a mother and grandmother – I know about dealing with children. And…I’m a writer.

Evidently they didn’t think I was as good of a fit as I thought I was.

When I stopped into the dollar store last week for some laundry soap, I noticed a ‘Help Wanted’ poster in the window. I debated about filling out an application, hoping for a ten to twelve hours a week job. At home I pulled up their website and was checking out the employee benefits page before I got a reality check.

For a rough guesstimate, ten hours a week at nine dollars an hour is three hundred and ninety dollars a month. Minus gas. Minus taxes. That brings me down to about three hundred dollars a month.

If I add in a half hour drive each way, probably twice a week, now I’m looking at twelve hours invested to get three hundred dollars. Surely, I thought, if I productively queried for twelve hours a week I could generate at least that much, if not far more.

I’m talking working for that whole time. Not blogging. Not connecting on social media. Not researching. Not adding to a novel that’s still far from complete. Not outlining a new book that tempts me from the netherlands.

Twelve hours a week of queries. Or, writing on said anticipated assignments.

I decided to run a trial period. Nine weeks. The period the library jobs would have run. I made myself a time card. I’m going to log in and out. I’m going to track my time. I’m committing to an aggressive twelve hours a week.

I looked back at the past four months. Three queries one month. Nine another. Four another. No wonder the acceptances aren’t rolling in. Three and four queries a month is pitiful. Did the 30 Days/30 Queries class I took from Mridu Khullar Relph last year not sink in? Did I learn nothing?

If I’m going to thrive in this career and make some good money, not muddling through at just over broke, then I’d better buckle down and treat it with the same respect and hard work that I’d give any other employer.

So I’m hiring myself and will track my progress, much as I’d have to prove to a boss that I’d accomplished the tasks they set forth for me.

Now I’m motivated. There’s nothing like a little challenge to bring out the contestant qualities lurking under my skin. I’ve got something to prove. I’m out to prove that investing the time in myself and my own career will be better financially than any other punch-the-timeclock job.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Writing from a Different Gender Perspective

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Writing from a Different Gender Perspective

I have to admit it, my easiest characters are women, usually in the thirty to fifty year age range. Writing POV from a male perspective? That becomes difficult. (And they usually end up being too close to my ex for comfort.)

I was excited to see this post, Gender Bending: Writing a Different Gender Than Your Own, by Janice Hardy. She has some excellent advice about writing rich, dimensional characters of the other gender. Here’s two of her tips. Go check out Jane Hardy’s Fiction University for the full article.

Focus on the character, not the gender.

If you try to “write a woman who…” you might get stuck trying to be “a woman.” But write about “a character who…” and you’ll find yourself thinking more about what that character will do and how they’ll act in ways that fit the story and the situation. They’re a person first, a gender second.
Remember no two people are alike, regardless of gender.

“Men are like X” or “women always Y” don’t apply. My husband breaks all kinds of those rules, and I’m not your typical gal. Avoid the stereotypes and even have fun with them a little. Have men that love shoes, women who are rabid for sports. Let your men (or women) be as different from each other as they are from the opposite sex. A group of men won’t all have the same feelings about things, same as a group of anything won’t have the same feelings.

How is it for you? Can you write from the opposite gender’s perspective?

Z: Zen in Writing (Affirmations)

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Z: Zen

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  • Peace infuses me as I write.
  • The words flow easily from my fingertips.
  • I am one with my writing.
  • I am connected to the energy around me. This is reflected in my prose.
  • Like ripples in the water – my writing radiates outward to the people that need to see it.
  • Contemplation and meditation focuses my insight and brings clarity to my writing.
  • My intuition strengthens and my writing improves.
  • I am mindful. I focus on my words and story.
  • I focus on today. One step, one word, one day at a time.
  • I write. I pursue goals and dreams. I put forth my best effort. I am at peace with the outcome.
  • I, and my writing, are where I need to be.

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