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.

A Game of Writing Tag

I offer a sincere apology to Melissa Barker-Simpson. When I initially published this post, I inadvertently got her first name wrong. I guess my fingers weren’t attached to my brain at the time. It’s a lesson well learned. Always, ALWAYS check the person’s name at least twice before you hit the button!

I follow Melissa Barker-Simpson’s blog and she posted this:

“I  know I’ve posted enough today, but as I was visiting a few of the contributors to Stream of Consciousness Saturday, I couldn’t resist a challenge posed by Doobster over at Mindful Digressions. In response to the prompt (the incorporation of scene or seen), Doobster wrote a piece of flash fiction. Readers of the story were curious about what happened next and the challenge is simple – continue where the story left off and either complete the tale or keep it going. I’ve posted the original story below, and added an installment beneath. If you would like to carry it on, please feel free. It’s the kind of ‘game’ I can never resist!”

I decided to take the challenge and wrote Part 3 of the ongoing story. Here is a link to the first two parts of I Seen It All as presented by Doobster and Melissa Barker-Simpson. Be sure to read those first. Then come back and read Part 3 below:

I Seen It All, Part 3

How much could a little boy have seen? “Over here, please,” Detective Morrisey said, encouraging them to walk as far away from the crowd as they could. “No one will hear us. What did you see?”

Ralph felt the tug of Henry’s hand as he refused to let go. He had finally caught his breath but was clearly agitated. “I seen them with her.”

Detective Morrisey’s eyebrows went up. “How many people?”

“Two men,” Henry replied confidently. “I seen them.”

Ralph’s gaze snapped around, and he peered into the crowd, looking for guilty faces or bloodied hands and shirts. Would the murderers hang around, or would they have disappeared down a quiet alley?

Henry pointed to the body lying on the ground where police were taking pictures and gathering evidence. “They were walking and talking. She yelled—” he leaned toward Ralph – “like Mom yells at Dad when he don’t take his muddy boots off.” He looked up at the detective. “They grabbed her arms.”

The detective was growing increasingly concerned. “What did they do to next?”

“They had a knife and she seen it.”

Ralph listened to Henry’s description and felt more than the prickling on the back of his neck. He was afraid, the first tendrils knotting in his stomach. He and Henry could be in real danger.

Detective Morrisey glanced at the crime scene and his brow lowered. “This is real important—what did you say your name was?”

“Henry,” he said proudly, his chin lifting. “He’s Ralphie.”

“Now, Henry,” the detective said with a gentle tone, “this is very important. Think real hard. Could you hear what they were saying? Any words at all?”

Thinking, Henry went quiet for a moment before shaking his head. “She got scared and tried to run away.”

“Did she ever call out for help? No?”

Henry swallowed hard. “They stabbed her. I seen it. Like this,” he said, demonstrating with his hand the path of the knife through the woman’s white blouse into her heart.

Ralph began to shiver. What if the men had seen Henry? They had to go home eventually. What if they were followed? Would the two men lie in wait and kill them, too? He suddenly felt the urge to run away and turned his back to the crowd, as if having no interest at all.

“If you saw the two men again, would you recognize them?”

Henry nodded and wiggled a hooked finger for the detective to come closer. “They’re over there.”

Goosebumps rushed over Detective Morrisey, and he found himself whispering, too, with urgency. “Where?”

Henry brought up his hand up to shield his mouth as if sharing a prized secret. “By the hardware store . . .”

———————————————————————————————————–

Join in the fun! Write Part 4. Tell us what happens to the two cousins after they speak to Detective Morrisey.

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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NaNoWriMo: Know Your Weapons! by By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

I’m re-blogging a perfectly delicious post from Kirsten Lamb’s Blog about weapons for anyone who adds them to their stories and anyone who enjoys reading about them. For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where the brave attempt to write a complete first draft of a novel during the month of November. So far, I’m not that brave. And right now, I’m being treated for extremely painful pinched nerves in my neck that are impeding my ability to type. I can only type a sentence or two at a time–which is an improvement over three weeks ago.

Now, on to the WEAPONS!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 9.24.36 AM

I’m once again letting Piper hijack my blog to talk about a subject near and dear to me—GUNS. Chances are, many of you are writing thrillers or suspense or knitting books that involve FIREARMS. Piper and I are NOT the people you take with you to an action film unless you believe—like we do—most of these movies should be classified under “Comedy.”

We count rounds. Ooooh, I want THAT GUN. The one that NEVER runs out of ammo EVER! We also cringed in the Sherlock—A Game of Shadows movie. Remember? In the Arms Factory Scene, Col. Moran whips out the c96 Mauser pistol and loads it from the bottom, perhaps because this looked “cooler.” Historical Note: Good luck loading that gun from the BOTTOM. It loaded from the top.

I also love how movies have these LOOOONG shoot-out scenes with thousands and thousands of rounds fired. Afterward? No one…

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The Dangers of Tinkering – A Lesson Learned The Hard Way

Dear Reader,

I have a confession to make. I found myself in a pickle. Now, I like pickles, as a rule, but not this pickle. At the end of last year, my editor finished with the manuscript for Pictures for Maddie and I was happy with the outcome. The holidays were upon us and I knew I couldn’t do anything until the new year.

The new year came and I got sick. I get sick every January like clockwork. So, while I was huddling in my recliner with a warm blanket, tissues, thermometer, cough syrup, and comfort food, I did something a writer should NEVER do with a completed manuscript.

Photo by Menchi
Photo by Menchi

I started tinkering with it.

I shouldn’t have done it, I know, but there were things I felt needed showing rather than telling. So I tinkered away. I got well. It lasted two weeks. Then, in February, I got hit with round 2. There I was, trapped in my recliner again, feeling worse than I had in January. This time, I lost my voice. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to my family. Instead of working on a new project, I went back to Pictures for Maddie.

I tinkered with it some more.

Photo by Evan-Amos
Photo by Evan-Amos

By the time May rolled around, my deadline for the 31st was counting down. So, in my usual way, I began the final formatting and preparation for the book launch. One week into the month, I got sick again. (I’m beginning to think this isn’t my year.) I pushed hard to get everything ready for the book launch and came in just under the wire. It was time to celebrate.

Wrong!

Pictures for Maddie will be the first book to be offered in print. It’s shorter than the other four and seemed like the most logical book to start with. And that, dear reader, is where the pickle comes in. As I began to place the text into the template, I began to find mistakes. None were left by my editor. All of them were in the text I had added when I tinkered with the manuscript.

My heart sank. The book was already on Amazon and Smashwords and its distribution partners. Now I’m finding mistakes. Not serious mistakes, just enough to make a discerning reader wonder why my editor and I are incapable of finding mistakes.

1What have I learned from this fiasco? Well, for starters, I shouldn’t tinker with finished manuscripts, especially when I’m sick. My editor is very good at what she does and I don’t want anyone thinking she doesn’t perform her job well. I owe her a HUGE apology. I also owe all my readers an apology. The current mistakes are my fault. Tinkering in and of itself isn’t bad, but next time, I should let my editor have a go at it before I release it. And that is the end of the story, dear reader.

A Heroine By Any Other Name . . .

With Forsaken edited and available at online retailers, I thought it was time to answer a question that’s been asked, but one that I couldn’t answer. Until now. And the question is:

Why did I name the heroine in Forsaken MORYNHA?

I wasn’t sure how to answer it because I couldn’t locate the original information until recently and now that I’ve pieced the story together (again), I can share it with you.

Some years ago, we spent Christmas with my husband’s family at Indian Springs State Park in Georgia. Beautiful scenery. The cabins were wonderful. Crackling fire. Good food. Exceptional company. When we drove in, we noticed a stone wall enclosure with a gate, well shaded by a thick canopy of trees. Inside were headstones.

That got my attention—big time! The history buff and genealogist in me kicked into high gear and I vowed to see it before we left. When the chance came, I grabbed it! The gate was open and my husband and I went inside, not realizing that it was larger than the wall let on. It was an old cemetery and a lot of the stones were broken, some lying on the ground, others missing altogether. It was a place of whispering and quiet walking, a place to think about those who had lived in the area and now rested within the protective stone wall.

And then I saw it! Her name was Marhyna. Such an unusual name. She had been a daughter, a wife and a mother, remembered on a headstone placed by those who loved her. An idea exploded in my brain! Why not? I could do it. The name would be perfect in a story! What story? I didn’t know, but I didn’t care! We forgot the camera? What! No pencil or paper? I did my best to memorize the spelling and when we got back to the cabin, I wrote it down. Except that I wrote it wrong. I spelled it MORYNHA.

Within the last few weeks, I felt I needed to locate the original information and since I couldn’t remember where I put it, it seemed to take forever. After some intense searching, I finally found it online. Her name was Marhyna, NOT Morynha. It’s pronounced Marina and she was listed as Rena in one of the censuses. There was also a photo of the headstone.

Well, I get zero points for having a faulty memory, but I rather like the way I spelled it. Morynha – Mor-EYE-nuh. Hats off to the parents who gave their daughter a name spelled in an unusual way. I like to think, perhaps, that the real Marhyna would be proud to have been the inspiration for such a strong willed, yet loving heroine.

Forsaken is available at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other fine online book retailers.

The Characters are Shouting at Me!

I confess there are days I don’t feel like writing.  And way back when, if I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t.  It was always there, patiently waiting for me to sit down, take a deep breath, and put my fingers on the keyboard (though when I first started writing all I had was pencil and paper).  The stories were my secret place, a place to relax and unwind while I did dastardly things to my characters.  No one cared but me.  And I do enjoy the suffering and mayhem swirling around in my mind.

But they were my stories…unshared.

Things have changed.  It’s as if the characters know they’re more important than merely a hobby I pursue in my spare time.  I have given them flight by publishing, and the voices won’t be contained or pushed back into the closet in the deep recesses of my brain.  The characters (and their stories) want out!  The characters are screaming for me to type just a few more words, to complete a conversation or flesh out the surroundings in which I have placed them.  They don’t like to be frozen in a moment, sometimes in mid-sentence.  Who can blame them?  Real life doesn’t happen that way.  We don’t find ourselves stuck at an instant when we’re scolding the children, walking the dog, driving to the store—or myriads of things that claim our day.

The casual hobby has now morphed into work, albeit something I thoroughly enjoy.  I can set my own hours, be my own boss and I don’t have to get dressed if I don’t feel like it.  I don’t have to worry about getting to work on time, fighting traffic, or getting chewed out by an employer who is critical and doesn’t pay me what I think I’m worth.

But now, the stories are yelling at me

Of course, there is a flip-side to all the generous perks that go along with being self-employed.  Now that I’m the employer, I have to chew myself out for being late to work, for being distracted by the traffic of kids and dogs that often run amok, and for wondering every day if anyone will actually read what I write.  Perhaps, I could simply be a music composer or a starving artist in a garret who doesn’t become famous until after I’m dead.  Of course, being a puppet master who regularly thinks up dreadful things to do to perfectly good characters, I can picture myself lying dead on a chaise while clutching a masterpiece in my hand.  Thankfully, the tome I’d be clutching would be nothing more than a shiny disc that fits into my computer—but you get the idea.

And all the while, the characters are clamoring to be heard, and it goes something like this:

“I’ve been standing here for the last three days.  How about some food and a potty break?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!  The heroine just slapped my face and told me I was lower than dirt—and you haven’t decided how I should respond?  Really?

“Hello?”  Ping…ping…ping.  “Hello….?  Are you at the keyboard?  If you aren’t going to get me out of the cold, could you at least give me a warm blanket and a fire before you leave?”

“Hey!  I see you over there eating nachos and watching Pride and Prejudice.  I won’t go away.  You left me to drown in a flooded creek and if you don’t finish the scene, I”ll–I’ll drip on your carpet!”

Now, I could just ignore them, but how much fun would that be?