This Writer's Life, Writing

What Would You Have Done Differently in 2018?

Towards the end of 2017, I concluded that if I could do it all again, I would have written more during that year. I needed to remove a lot of distractions, especially those that I could control, mainly the internet and social media.

So, what about this year? When it comes to 2018, I’ve done a few short writing courses, began setting some boundaries (which has been very liberating), joined the Romance Writers of Australia (where I think I’ve finally found my ‘tribe’) and stepped out of my comfort zone by writing an 80k paranormal romance.

And it is with that last point, the 80k novel, that gives me pause for thought. This novel (where I still need to come up with a title), I had basically spent the entire year writing, which in this era of instant gratification is far too long. Stephen King recommends about three months, which I think is reasonable, provided of-course you have your plot well sorted out beforehand. I thought I did, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I started all over again. I learned the hard way that this story idea needed more time to simmer.

So basically in 2018, I should have written faster. The only way I believe I can really achieve that is to work harder on those distractions, stop with my perfectionism as well as stop thinking so much and just do it! Our time is short enough as it is without worrying about the little things. Self-doubt has plagued me for so long, that there are times it can be crippling and that is why it was so good to remove some of those boundaries. It’s been a long, slow process, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere.

Of-course, I did not self-publish this year, however, I’ve been reading up about the subject, done a short course through RWA and have been looking into copy-editors and cover designers, as well as coming up with some kind of plan. There’s a lot to self-publishing and I want to make sure I make as few mistakes as possible (yes, that’s the perfectionist in me talking once again). Either way, I will be making the plunge in 2019 (takes deep breaths)!

So that’s the year that was and my hopes for the year ahead.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and enjoy your holidays. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my blogging community. I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Let’s make it a good one! 🙂

As you look back on 2018, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? What are your plans for 2019?

Images courtesy of Unsplash

This Writer's Life, Writing

Making Plans for the New Year.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s that time of year again. Christmas is almost upon us; it happened so fast in fact, that this year I was caught completely unaware. It was a good thing then that I had already begun to make plans as far as writing is concerned.

Looking back over 2017, this has been quite a personal journey for me. I have high hopes for 2018 and whether I accomplish all that I intend to remains to be seen, however, I have come to believe that small progress is still progress.

I seem to have become a slave to social media and the internet. I tend to spend a lot of time, if not on it, then thinking about it. Listening to all the advice of ‘experts’ telling us what we need to do makes one want to tear one’s hair out. My husband tells me to take these people’s advice with a grain of salt. Just go with your gut and do what works for you. I have seen other people lately take a back seat to social media and prioritise their writing, their families and their health. This will also be my plan for the coming year. I will continue to blog and be involved in other social media, but not quite so much.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and enjoy your holidays. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of the blogging community. You guys make this all worthwhile!

I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Let’s make it a good one! 🙂

What are your plans for 2018? Do you hope to have more time to write? Will you also be spending less time on the internet in the new year?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

This Writer's Life, Writing

What Would You Do Differently in 2017?

Looking back, 2017 has been quite a personal journey for me. It began with an operation that helped with a long-standing medical condition. Recovery took longer than I expected, but in the end, the result was well worth it. I went on a diet, lost a few kilos and still have a long way to go to reach my ideal goal, but I’ll get there! In more recent months, I have reached a milestone birthday, saw my favourite band as well as discovering that I may be a ‘sensitive’ and I’m keen to find out more about such things. 2017 was also the year when I came to the conclusion that I needed a change in direction when it comes to writing and will be going down the path of self-publishing.

In 2017, I did a couple of courses, found some helpful beta readers, submitted stories to competitions and tried my hand at writing a novella only for it to turn out to be a long short story (the longest I’ve ever written). I also have a clearer picture of my genre.

So what will I do differently?

Write a heck of lot more than what I have been doing, that’s for sure! Unfortunately there are a couple of things that continually get in the way. One is called life, the other is time management. As a writer who has a family and household to maintain, there isn’t much I can do about the first one, but the other I can control. I’ve struggled with time management for a while now and I know that if I really want to get anywhere as a writer, especially on the self-publishing route, I have to lift my game and make some big changes.

One of those changes will be cutting back on time spent on the internet. Over the past few years I have become a political tragic (sad, I know), but with two teenage kids, I do worry about their future and that of the planet. Also, with social media lately, I have become a bit sporadic, so I have at least started to cut back on that and may need to start using a timer for this as well as my writing. Of-course I will continue to blog – it is still writing after all! 😉

Breaking some of those old habits is not going to be easy, but I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I have reached one of my goals; and for me right now, the biggest goal of all is publication.

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? Do you find yourself struggling with time management? What habits have you had to break to get more writing done?

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Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Books, This Writer's Life

Listening to Audio Books.

After finishing reading a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to try something a bit different. I wanted to read more books, but minus the hassle of physically reading one. I visited the library and grabbed a couple of audio books (okay, four to be exact).

I’ve listened to audio books once before, but they involved CDs, which made it a bit awkward when it comes to being portable. This time around, all I need to do it put in one AAA battery, my headphones and I’m off and running. Much easier to operate, so I guess it’s a matter of finding what kind of device is more suitable to our needs. What I also like about this new selection of audio books is that on one side it has all the play buttons, while the other has a book cover (so cute) – and it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

So, why audio? As I am currently working on re-writes of two of my own novels, as well as outlining and researching for a new short story which will pan out to become something bigger, I felt I needed to read a book that was easier on my time. With audio, I can either sit and listen, listen to it while I go for a walk or listen in while doing household chores. I enjoy the flexibility of audio, and as a writer there is also the added bonus of actually hearing the book being read. Using our sense of hearing, rather than continually seeing the written word helps with our own use of words, especially when it comes to imagery.

At the moment, I am still at the experimental stage when it comes to audio books, but so far I have found them to be a great alternative to physically reading a book. After all, Frank Zappa did say:

Do you listen to audio books? What do you like about them? As a writer, do you find listening to books helps with your own writing?

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Writing, Writing Process

Writing & Creating Change.

Recently, I began working on the re-writes of my first novel. By starting with the first chapter, I tried to get an idea of my main character. I sent the first couple of pages to some of my beta readers for feedback and all seemed fine. All was ready to go, but I quickly froze in my tracks.

Re-writes are not always a lot of fun and takes a fair amount of time and hard work. I have reworked my short stories so many times it has almost made my eyes bleed! My most recent short story is just over 8,000 words; the longest I’ve written so far, and my beta readers really like it. For something so ‘short’, it certainly took a fair amount of work. For some reason, the re-writing of my first novel was different. To help work around it, I printed my NaNoWriMo novel from last year (2016) and began re-writing.

I was now faced with a dilemma – do I really want to be re-working two novels simultaneously? It made me realise that this is pretty much how professional authors work – they alternate with writing a new WIP, re-write another novel and plan/outline another. It helps with their productivity. Taking a step back, I realised I had a problem with time management. I needed to work harder and smarter in order to achieve my goal of publication. Some things needed to change.

Trouble is, habits are hard to break and not all of them are good for us. Making any necessary changes takes both time and conscious effort. Continuously coming up with new ways to be productive can be very effective and helps us find new ways to improve. We really need to want the change if we want to succeed.

Perhaps I am too close to my first novel or it may still need some work; perhaps both. I can still chip away at it a bit at a time until I’ve reached a point where I am satisfied with it. Like an artist’s canvas, this is still a work in progress. Pretty much like myself, really. 😉

Do you have trouble with re-writes? Are you continuously coming up with new ways to be productive? Do you have problems with managing your time?

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Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Writing

Having a Writing Plan.

Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.

A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.

Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.

With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.

Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.

These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.

Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete? 

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Finding the Time to Write.

laptopYears ago there were many times I wished I could just spend my days writing full-time; where I didn’t have to worry about work and looking after kids and a household. Now that my kids are older, I’m no longer working and completed my University studies (yes, I did that too), I can finally say that I’m fortunate enough to write full-time. It’s every writer’s wish come true, right?

Sure, some days can be like this:

ktpngwhile other days it can be more like this:

secret-windowThe reality is that sometimes I think I wrote more when I had less time to write; I valued my time more and therefore spent it more wisely (and we didn’t have such things as social media as a distraction). Writing full-time, especially when you are unpublished, makes it very easy for one to goof off (yes, guilty as charged).

If there’s one thing my university studies taught me, though, it was to learn to become self-motivated. I studied, not for change in career, but because I wanted to. My studies were completely on-line; no need for me to attend a lecture once (much to my husband chagrin), for several years. I sat at my desk and at the keyboard day after day, forcing myself to get that work done. It’s the same when it comes to writing. Nobody is forcing us to write; we write because we want to. We need to make that time to write, no matter how small.

And as far as housework goes? Pft! Let those dust bunnies come – I’ll get rid of those once they become antiques. 😉

How do you find the time to write in your busy day? What do you do to stay motivated?

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Image courtesy Unsplash

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Social Media, Writing

3 Things Social Media Can Teach Writers.

social mediaLike many writers, I tend to get lost in the vortex that is social media. It can be an endless time waster, however, lately I have come to appreciate that social media has helped me as a writer in a couple of ways.

The two social networks that have opened my eyes the most are Facebook and Instagram. Here’s how:-

1. The Need to Get Out More

Instagram has been great in this regard. Instagram helps you to move away from your desk, out of your seat and moving. People don’t always want to see what’s going on at your writing desk. Get active and take photos of the great outdoors, whether it is a trip, your local coffee shop, out walking or just in your own backyard. Show what your life is like as a writer in more ways than one. Not only does this help you as a writer, but your readers/followers get to know you as a person through the pictures you take.

2. Learn to Get ‘Up Close & Personal’

As an introvert, Facebook has made me realise I need to learn to break down some barriers and get a bit more personal. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this to be the biggest challenge of all when it comes to social media. Of-course you need to set your own boundaries (I won’t show photos of my kids for example), and only post what you feel comfortable with. Again, your readers/followers will appreciate your efforts, pulling down that invisible barrier and making you more approachable.

3. Do What You Feel Comfortable With

Like getting up close and personal with what you post, you also need to feel comfortable with the social networks you are using. When told to start building a platform, many new writers tend to place themselves on numerous social networks. I did this myself, and speaking from my own experience I soon learned that (a) being on too many social networks can become overwhelming and (b) you get to learn which social networks you like best. It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally figured that all out, which goes to show that building a platform takes time.

What have you learned from social media? Which social media network/s do you like the most/least? Do you feel comfortable with being personal with strangers? 

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Writing, Writing Process

5 Tips for New Writers.

old-letters-436502_1280A few weeks ago, I talked about the pitfalls of social media and the pull of marketing as writers. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find these things a curse when you’re easily distracted (yeah, squirrel). Sometimes it can be hard to even get started.

Listed below are a few techniques I’ve used. Hopefully they will also help you focus and get you back on track with your own writing.

1. Write Every Day

This is an old piece of writing advice that I never really took to until recently. In order to help me with this, I began a writing journal; writing as much or as little as required. This then led to new story ideas developing or existing ones expanded. My writing process may have been slow to begin with, but since then, I have begun writing longer pieces. At the end of each day, I have felt a sense of accomplishment. Writing every day then becomes a habit, and a new routine that moves you forward towards your goals.

2. Write What You Want to Write

Years ago, I tried my hand at writing a romance, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. Trouble was I was too busy concentrating on trends. The only way to truly find your own voice is to write the stories you want to write, otherwise you’ll lose interest very quickly.

3. Forget about Publication (for now)

Sometimes when we’re writing (or even before we even get started), we can be too busy thinking about the finished product. During my teenage years I wrote stories in serial form and let some of my friends read them. I certainly wasn’t thinking about publication back then. I wasn’t worried about perfection either. I wrote that mush simply for the pleasure of making things up. I was enjoying the process. As unpublished writers we don’t have to worry about deadlines either. Write for your own enjoyment. Experiment with different genres and styles of writing – take the time to work out what works for you. Have fun with it – worry about publication later.

4. Concentrate on One Thing at a Time

Some writers thrive on multi-tasking. I’ve tried it that way myself, for a while, yet found myself unable to focus and left a lot of work incomplete. Whenever a new idea pops up now, I write it down and let it simmer in the back of my mind for a while. I found this helps in two ways. It (a) allows you to work out characters, plot, etc for the new project instead of writing it up until you reach another dead end, and (b) my eagerness for starting the new project forces me to work faster on the current one.

5. Have a Plan

Think about what your ultimate writing goal is and consider the steps you need to take in order to make that goal possible. What kind of writing do you do other than novels, if any? In order to make a name for yourself, it helps to build up writing credits. Have a plan of what other types of writing you’d like to pursue, where they could be published and/or if you’d like to enter competitions. Every step you take can help you in building up a body of work.

Is there any advice that I’m missing? What advice do you have for other writers? What mistakes did you make when you first started writing?

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Writing

5 Discipline Techniques for New Writers.

Hourglass_Sand_CeremonyWhen I finished my University studies, I wanted to throw myself into writing, but I quickly found out that I was too mentally drained. I needed a break. That break turned into many months (yes, I know – hangs head in shame); my writing had become sporadic and I had accomplished little.

I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, that I had wasted too much time (Kristen Lamb has a recent post on this subject). I needed ways to manage my time better, come up with achievable, realistic goals and re-focus. It didn’t take long for me to realise I had a major problem with discipline.

Here are five techniques I’ve started using to help combat the issue.

1. Accountability buddy/writing group
As new writers, it’s great that we can write what we want, when we want. We are lucky that we have no boss to answer to, yet if we don’t get any writing done, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. We have to learn to be self-motivated and sometimes we could do with a little extra help. Find someone who is willing to become an accountability buddy – a fellow writer, a supportive friend or partner. I’ve made my husband my accountability buddy and ‘report in’ at the end of every week. Yes, I get the pep talk if I’ve been slack, but I also get the praise when I’m making progress. Writing groups can also be beneficial, especially those that meet regularly and set tasks for each session.

2. Deadlines
When studying for my University degree, I had numerous deadlines to meet. Once I knew when assignments were due for each subject, I planned accordingly. The closer to the deadline, the more effort I put in. As new writers, we have the luxury of not having to meet deadlines, however we can give ourselves self-imposed deadlines to make sure the writing gets done; otherwise we can slacken off. Give yourself realistic timeframes for each goal.

3. Daily Quotas
I’ve never really done well with these, which is one of the reasons why I have participated in NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Having to push yourself to reach a daily quota is very rewarding, especially when you manage to go over that quota. The more words you write, the more pages you produce (yes, starting small is still progress 🙂 ).

4. Time Yourself
Time can be the enemy for writers, even more so when you write against the clock. Use a timer to see how much you can write within a certain time frame. This also helps to determine whether you’re good at working under pressure or not.

5. Reward System
Hey, it works for kids and animals, right? Allow yourself to read that book, watch television, go on social media, or whatever it is you fancy once you’ve reached your daily quota. Treat yourself to something special when you’ve finished writing that novel draft. Every step is an accomplishment – you deserve the rewards.

Have you also struggled to get back into writing lately? Do you have a problem with discipline? What techniques do you use to make sure you get your writing done?

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