Writing Tip: Kicking Procrastination to the Curb!

pro•cras•ti•nate – (prō-krăs′tə-nāt′); 1) To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness; 2) To postpone or delay needlessly.

I think the definitions should be reversed. I want to believe that more people are #2 than #1. Number 2 can happen to any of us at any time. It’s a fact. It’s reality. It could be a sick child. A sick spouse. Skinned knees. Parent/teacher conferences. Your friends invite you to lunch. Family and friends call. They come over unannounced. A faucet springs a leak or

Courtesy of hdwallpapers-3d.com
Courtesy of hdwallpapers-3d.com

the toilet overflows. Your dog swallows a child’s plastic golf ball. A tree limb falls on your house during a storm. You’ve gained new followers on Facebook and Twitter. And if you have a 9 to 5 job, that stress alone can drop a manhole cover on your well of creativity.

Life intrudes. It squeezes between good intentions, frays our nerves, and wrecks our plans. There’s no escape. Things pile up until we’re in over our heads. We’re in its clutches, and when that happens, we don’t know what to do. We can’t NOT address life’s challenges. Yet we freeze up. The more we think about it, the worse it gets. Pretty soon, our writing begins to suffer until the day comes when we realize it’s been weeks since we sat down for some serious writing.

So, how do we wear all the hats in our lives and still find time to write the next bestseller? Is there a miracle answer? No. And there’s no magic pill to set the minutes of our day on the course we want to go. If you’re having difficulties or know someone who is, I hope what I’m about to share will help you the way it helped me.

It’s time to kick procrastination to the curb! All of us have the power to put an end to the very thing that holds us back. Here are some things to think about:

1. How long can you devote to writing? Don’t think hours. Think minutes–10? 15?

2. Make an honest commitment to set aside time each day. Use a timer.

3. Stop thinking in terms of pages and word count. Think sentences.

Courtesy of Ulfbastel; commons.wikimedia.org
Courtesy of Ulfbastel; commons.wikimedia.org

You see, my grandson challenged me to a race. How many sentences could I write in an hour versus how many math problems he could solve. He usually has 25-28 math problems and he challenged me to write 35 sentences. I set the countdown timer and away we went. We got done about the same time. He did all his math problems and I had 35 sentences. When he asked me how many words I had, I was surprised to discover I had almost 400. Just for one hour! We’ve been doing it every day since then.

Select a time and a place. Use a timer. I can’t stress that enough. Be realistic in how many sentences you can complete in the time you’ve chosen. The number of sentences is based on an average sentence of narrative. If you’re writing dialogue, you’ll get more. Even the sentence “What?” counts. The following numbers are approximate:

• 1 hour = 30-35 sentences or 1 sentence every 2 minutes

• 30 minutes = 15-18 sentences

• 15 minutes = 7-8 sentences.

• Even a ten minute session can get you about 5-7 sentences.

Four hundred words a day doesn’t sound like much, but it is. If your plan is to write an 80,000 word novel, you can write the first draft (not counting the weekends) in about 200 days. For a 50,000 word novel, the first draft will take approximately 125 days. It’s doable.

Don’t worry if you have trouble. Last summer, when I was suffering with a bout of insomnia, I was lucky to get a few words a day, let alone a few sentences. In the six weeks it took to re-establish a regular sleeping pattern, I probably wrote about one page–not a page a day–just one page. I know what it’s like to sit there, staring at a blank page with the cursor blinking at me–mockingly.

Increase your time slowly. If you can consistently write for fifteen minutes, raise it by five minutes until you’re getting a full hour. After that you can decide if you want to increase the time more. Or, you may have to decrease it. But that’s okay. Writing is letting you inner muse out to play. It’s work, but it should be fun to create, too.

Courtesy of Ekko; commons.wikimedia.org
Courtesy of Ekko; commons.wikimedia.org

The whole idea is to get you back into the game gradually, without falling into the trap of beating yourself up for “failing.” There IS no fail. Repeat that! It’s all about taking the manhole cover off your well of creativity, not dropping it on your foot.

So, go ahead! Kick procrastination to the curb! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact, you might be writing a bestseller!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate each and every one of you. Please say hello, and if you’re interested in reading the original post about my grandson’s writing challenge, you’ll find The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge by following the link.

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The “Pantser” and the Snowflake

With thanks to ThinkingToInking.blogspot.com
With thanks to ThinkingToInking.blogspot.com

See the picture of the wigged out, frustrated, teeth gnashing, hair pulling author? That was me almost two years ago. There I sat, sick to my stomach. What had I been thinking? Publishing books without the benefit of professional editing? Was I daft? Did I eat soup with a fork? The answer to my questions was a resounding–

“YES!!!”

I confess. I’m a “pantser,” one of those writers who has some basic story ideas, like the opening sequence, a couple of plot points, and the ending. I’m also a nail biter, wondering how the story will unfold after the first chapter that I spent one month laboring over. No outline of any kind. Just some scribbled notes that didn’t amount to much.

Somehow, I got through it, but afterward, it required numerous rewrites, and when I was satisfied with it, I clicked submit and off it went. I did it for 3 books (Heart of A Rose Series). Suddenly, readers were finding problems and my heart sank. At that moment, I realized I wasn’t an editor, and I would never be an editor, no matter how hard I tried. I went on a hunt for an editor and with her help, I made it through some major rewrites on the first 3 books. Jennifer Quinlan is her name and her editorial business is called, Historical Editorial. )She also does beautiful book covers.)

I defined a “pantser” for those who don’t know what one is, AND I’ve confessed to being one. A lot of authors are. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It works for those who use it. For me, I could see the limitations, and the problems it caused, but I wasn’t sure if this leopard could change her spots. I decided I wanted more than continual rewrites and fixing plot holes AFTER I’d written the book. I wanted to find those problems BEFORE I finished writing the book.

With thanks to Randy Ingermanson at Advanced Fiction Writing.
With thanks to Randy Ingermanson at Advanced Fiction Writing.

Enter the Snowflake Method. Developed by Randy Ingermanson at Advanced Fiction Writing, it teaches the writer how to take a basic plot idea (a triangle) and gradually turn it into a complete synopsis (a six-sided snowflake). I was intrigued, so I read everything I could on his website and subscribed to his e-zine. Now, he doesn’t know me from Adam, and he isn’t even aware that I’m writing a review. I just wanted to share what I learned by giving the Snowflake Method an honest try. So . . .

Here goes! I took a stab at the method (just the basics) and wrote my fourth book, Forsaken. My editor had somewhat less to deal with and noted that the story seemed better put together. When it came time to write Pictures for Maddie, I went a little more into the story and characterizations, but didn’t go as far as I should have. When it came time to begin my, so far unnamed, Book 2 of the Majesta Landing series, I knew I wanted to keep it near 80,000 words. I knew I couldn’t wander around aimlessly. The story had to be concise.

So, I bought Randy’s book, How to Write a Novel using the Snowflake Method. It teaches while telling a story of its own. It’s filled with excellent tips and how to’s at the end of each chapter. So, I began, but I still felt like I was floundering around. It didn’t take me long to realize the book wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy my demands, which were a lot. Short of paying Randy Ingermanson for personal tutoring lessons, I did the only thing I could do.

I purchased the Snowflake Pro, Randy Ingermanson’s software package ($100). It was easy to download and install. My husband is the computer guru in the family (he works in the industry), but I wanted to do it myself. And I did. I didn’t know what to expect, but once I completed the installation process, I got to take my first look at it.

Snowflake Pro Software
Snowflake Pro Software

There are screen shots on the website, but now I filled in the boxes with my information and the story I wanted to write. It began with a welcome, where the Snowflake Method is explained. Then I entered my personal info which could be used at the end to write a query/proposal (the scariest part if you want to go with a traditional publisher). But that’s way down the road.

Next, I defined my project by filling in the info being requested. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, although I had to be prepared to go the distance and not just stop because I had an “urge” to write. Truth be told, I already had about 15,000 words, but I had to stop before I messed it up so bad that I’d have to start over. There was no choice.

I stopped.

Of course, the process begins with that pesky one liner that every author has to think about. On and on it goes, using the step tabs at the top, until I had a fully developed story, character synopses with charts and a section to plan your chapters, scene by scene. There’s also a nifty section for making notes on each chapter which I discovered comes in handy when needing to go back to fix something.

And that brings me to the reason for this blog post. Randy Ingermanson is quick to point out that one of the boons to taking the time to do all of this work beforehand is that you’ll likely find problems quicker and save weeks or months of heavy-duty rewriting later on. How do I know this? Because it’s already happened to me.

It all looked good, each snowflake page filled with info about the story and characters, but then, I realized I had a problem. I knew something was wrong but for a while, I couldn’t figure it out. I kept looking at all the work I did with the Snowflake Pro and I finally saw exactly where the problem was and how to address it. It was a sequencing/pacing issue. Best of all, I fixed the problem before I moved on. And more importantly, I won’t have to make changes in later chapters due to this issue because those pages haven’t been written yet. I believe it should help tighten the story, too, which (I hope) will make a better reading experience for anyone who’s kind enough to buy a copy.

Courtesy of http://www.clker.com/clipart-203922.html
Courtesy of http://www.clker.com/clipart-203922.html

So, I owe Randy Ingermanson and Advanced Fiction Writing a HUGE thank you for showing this “pantser” how to plan and plot a book differently. (Thanks, Randy!) There will always be a certain amount of “pantser-izing” for me, but I’m happier knowing where the story is going long before I get there. Plus, as ideas for new books come to mind, I can create a new file and dump info there. I didn’t agonize over the process which was new for me. It took about a month to work through it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that surprising things don’t happen—they do. I just had something pop up in the heroine’s past that made me go, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!” So I went with it. It didn’t change the plotting. It merely added another layer to the character.

The bottom line is, that for me, it works. Now I’m a happy woman, like the one in the picture above. If you’re looking for a new way to plot and plan–who knows, it might work for you, too. I only know that I won’t be writing any more books without the Snowflake Method.

I would love to know if anyone has tried the Snowflake Method. What are YOUR thoughts? Just add your comment below.

How Amanda Hocking sold 1.5 million on Amazon: I’m revealing the secret!

Here’s a wonderful blog post from Leona’s Blog of Shadows, where she discusses how Amanda Hocking sold 1.5 million on Amazon. Amanda Hocking is an indie author success story, one that many indies would love to duplicate. What the following blog post illustrates is the beauty of simplicity. Ms. Hocking wrote engaging blog posts, interacted with others, and made a place for herself on the internet. That’s the true secret of her success–along with writing books that people wanted to read. Enjoy!

Leona's Blog of Shadows

You might have heard of Amanda Hocking, the indie superstar who sold 1.5 million on Amazon and got picked up by a big house and signed a movie deal for her Trylle Trilogy.

This is the exact quote from her explaining how her sales exploded after the book bloggers spread the word:

Then in June, something truly magical happened. I discovered book bloggers. I had no idea such people existed. They just read books and write about them. And I don’t mean “just.” These people take times out of their busy lives to talk about books and have contests and connect with followers and writers and other readers.

These guys are honestly my heroes. I’m a little in love with all of them.

I asked several if they would be interested in reviewing my books, and most of them said yes, even if they didn’t generally review self-published work.
Then…

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