When writing by the seat of your pants needs a seatbelt…

I admit it, I write when I’m inspired. When the house is quiet, the kids aren’t at my feet, the dogs are fed and the cats are napping. This means I’m not writing nearly as much as I could. Definitely not as much as I should. I try to fix this by writing later in the afternoon, or after dinner, but the house is so crazy that it makes my brain want to melt. Creativity doesn’t easily find its way through when I’m distracted or tired or pissed. So my style of writing as much as I can when I find the time is not working. I need to write when I make the time.

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Sounds straightforward, right? It’s not…not for me. I loathe the word ‘schedule’ almost as much as the word ‘organized’ but the time has come to make this change. To be the person that works a 9-5 (times adjustable) with a calendar to keep track of work days and lists to keep track of my To-Do’s. Ugh. You know those people that write everything down, never forget calls, appointments or special dates like birthdays and anniversaries? I’m not that person. Maybe you are. If so, I’m totally jealous. Writing for me is a way to tame my inner (and outer…I mean, I have a teenager, people) chaos. I quiet the voices by giving them a platform to tell their story, and I know a lot of other writers do this as well. It’s part of the ‘process’ for many, but it’s no longer productive for ME. I feel as if I’ve been flying down the writing highway untethered and unsecured and hoping for the best, but it’s time to crank that down a notch and secure myself in. I need a seatbelt for this road, at least for now.

Today’s ‘work’ hours began 7 minutes ago, when I started writing this blog, because this is part of work, too. And then there’s a webinar to watch, and then there’s writing. I’ll end my work day with a brief stint visiting my social media pages, and come 5pm, I’ll take a break and make dinner and hang out with my kids and do some chores because life doesn’t stop because I want it to.

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I’d love to hear tips from those of you who were born with natural organization skills. Drop a comment below and I may try out your methods! 

Here’s to a super productive work day for all of us! *clinks coffee mug* Cheers!

– Trish 🙂

 

Wednesday Writing Tip

It’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a Writing Tip!

Today’s tip will be a personal observation I made after much trial and error on my part. See, my house is a busy one. We have three dogs (two still in their puppy stages) and a cat, and both of my children are home all day because we homeschool. In other words – it’s NEVER quiet here. In the past, I’ve drowned out the noise by wearing my headphones, leaving the TV on, etc…so there was constant background noise that would drown out everything else while writing, but that doesn’t seem to work long term. I know because I’ve been doing things this way for two years.

With all the distractions from television, music, family, cell phones, social pages online – you know…life – we are constantly inundated with SOUND. Surely this has an impact on our writing. So how about simplifying. To simplify means ‘to make easy’, to ‘cut down’, to ‘reduce’, to put something in ‘order’. And what better thing to do for yourself, and your writing??

So here are my tips on how to ‘simplify’ your writing time:

  • Write on a schedule, if at all possible. Yeah I know, some are saying ‘I can’t do that, I never know when I’ll have time to write,’ or ‘But my creativity isn’t on a schedule, so how can my writing be?’ Honestly, it is TOTALLY possible to create time in your day when your younger kids will be resting, or asleep, or when the older kids are at school. Or during soccer practice, or lunch, etc… There IS time. And if you schedule that hour or two every single day when things are at their calmest around you, you’ll find more time to sneak in quality writing time. And even if you don’t think your muse will show up at 1pm every day, if you get in the habit of showing up yourself, the story will follow.
  • Write an outline, even a basic one. Some of us write by the seat of our pants, with no regard to outlines. This might work on the first book, but it won’t work as well on the third of a series. ‘Did Jade have green eyes, or blue?’ ‘Did that guy in the market steal the wallet, or was it that guy standing on the corner?’ If you confuse facts from your story because you didn’t jot down the basics on an outline, not only can you piss off readers that might actually remember the color of Jade’s eyes, but you leave out the potential for great plot twists, or forget to tie up loose ends. I hate outlines, but I do them now – even if it’s only one page about the beginning, the middle and the end. And maybe one more page that lists the descriptions of the characters. It could take you five minutes or five weeks to work on an outline – but either way is going to make things easier down the road. And remember, a story is organic and quite possibly will change as you write it, so adjust that outline here and there, too.
  • Write now, edit later. I used to edit each prior chapter before starting on the next and even though I do find it helpful to read what I’ve previously written, editing takes up a lot and eats into writing time if you try to do both together. Write the story, fix only what must be fixed as you go along, and then edit the heck out of it later. It keeps your brain in writing mode longer and when you only have short bursts of time during the day available for writing, this is a much easier way to go.
  • Write everything down. You’re at lunch with friends and the couple next to you is having a heated discussion, one of which you don’t mean to be privy to, but you can’t help overhearing them and it sparks a story idea. You tell yourself to remember it later, and of course, you’ll forget it. Or a powerful dream wakes you in the middle of the night. You’re covered in sweat, trembling, thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, that was crazy/scary/intense,’…but you roll over and tell yourself you will jot it down in the morning. When the suns rises, that dream has nicely implanted itself in the dark corners of your subconscious, no longer dancing through the forefront of your thoughts. The mistake is telling yourself that you will remember those random thoughts, dreams or ideas, and NOT writing it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a few sentences or keywords on a napkin or a half-awake email you send yourself from your cell phone in the middle of the night – the point is, if you write it down somewhere, you can organize it later. One day you might write a story from those ideas that becomes your best book.
  • Write comfortably. By this I don’t necessarily mean lavishly strewn about the bed with dozens of pillows…though that doesn’t sound too bad. 😉 What I mean, is make sure your writing area is comfortable and accessible to your needs – a chair that won’t hurt your back, a desk at the right height, something to put your feet up on if you need it, a stash of chocolate or a mug of coffee within arm’s reach, the phone, a notebook, etc…you get the point. If you have to stop writing to organize your space, or search for something, that scattered state might follow you into the story.
  • Writing must be backed up. Either use a flash drive, or an online back up like Google Docs, but make sure to do this not just often, but seriously, all the time. It will simplify your life if you have back ups when you NEED them. If you have your work saved in one location and something happens to that lap top, computer or notebook – then what? Yeah, you’re screwed.
  • Writing takes time, have fun with it. Some people write to hit a certain word count goal for the day – others take their time. Regardless of how you write, have fun with it. If you don’t like the story your readers sure won’t be all that interested. Writing what you know is great, but research can be fun too.

Obviously, to each their own. No two writers are alike, but if you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling to get your writing time in, hopefully something on this list will help you!

Happy Writing!

Setting Weekly Writing Goals

There’s no sense trying to deny it any further – we are well into Monday now. It’s almost noon my time, but it’s never too late to put together a weekly goal for writing. I’m working on two projects right now, so it seems as if I’m making baby steps with my current word count, but if I add the two together, the words are all there.

 

This week I plan on getting out at least 10k total – that’s about 5k words for each book. Since I plan on taking the coming weekend ‘off’ to hang out with the family, and I don’t write in each story every day – this is about 2k for each day. Totally doable but will need structure. It’s time to schedule writing, friends. And I’m not all that fantastic at doing so. I have a 4th grader working on the last few weeks of homeschool before Summer officially starts, her on the Spectrum 4yr old brother who has been a challenge lately, animals that don’t understand they aren’t the center of the universe when I’m typing and a husband. Life, as I know it, will be busy this week. Thus, the schedule.

 

I know not every writer must do this. Some have children in school, outside of the home and write during the day – while others work full-time and write at night. There are so many varying degrees of schedules for a writer I could laugh. 🙂 There’s nothing ashamed about scheduling your creative time – though it often does not come to you on demand. Still, scheduling the time to BE creative is important for some. But this means the Muse must cooperate and show up on demand.

 

How, exactly, does one call on the Muse to arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at a specific time? What works for me is establishing a playlist for each book – that way when I turn it on, I’m already in the groove and read to go. I also read back the last chapter or section of my book, so I know exactly what mindset I was in before. If neither of these work – I jump to my other WIP’s for something different, or I work on jotting down plot ideas till the Muse sparks some sort of interest in sticking around. What’s important is that my scheduled writing time is spent writing. As any schedule – the more you follow it – the easier it will become habit.

 

So, now that I’ve sufficiently prolonged the inevitable, I must begin my writing block for the day. The goal: 2k words total. No playing around till it is met. See you on the other side!

 

Happy Reading!