Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When and Why Moonshade Writes

I wanted to start to a huge thank you to Dean for inviting me to be a guest, and for writing a guest post on my own blog.

I met Dean through the Speculative Fiction forum on Agent Query Connect, where he is my attitude sensei. No matter what life hurls his way, I’ve never seen him react with anything less than grace and cheer, and I’m trying to incorporate that into my own life, bit by bit.

I’m a college student, an aspiring professional storyteller, and the kind of writer that jump-ropes with that delicate line between sci-fi and fantasy. I’m also about as organized as the Sahara is wet, with a legendary talent for getting distracted. There’d be days when I set aside time for writing, and instead ended up using that time to catch up on a month of missed webcomics or Cracked articles, or I really needed to catch up with my buddies on the AQC chat room, or else a friend would walk into the room and start up a conversation. That’s one of the reasons I love Dean’s blog: it’s a cure for the common me. If anybody needs regular reminders on staying organized and on task, I do—though I still have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. I’ve gotten the first drafts down on two manuscripts, and I’ve got several others in various stages along the line. I’ve got a system, you see.

Growing up, my dad more or less made a living fixing and testing computers, and from the spare parts he made gaming computers for me and my siblings. All of them in the same corner of the basement so we could pretend to have quality family time while we played our games, and only one of them could connect to the internet. When my dad needed to run tests, the designated online computer was always the first to go.

During the day it was pretty hard to do anything that actually counted as writing. As entertaining as it is to watch two boys play Baldur’s Gate and Knights of the Old Republic, all those voices, explosions, screams and battle cries can get distracting, especially when you’re trying to write a steamy love scene between the elfin prince and the angsty American teenager (There are some amazingly talented thirteen-year-old writers in this world, and I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t one of them.)

One night, after years of suffering from insomnia, I finally got bored with staring at my ceiling and I went downstairs to the hub of computers. The internet computer had been stolen away so my dad could test a new firewall for a client. Nobody was awake to distract me. No extra voices, no screams, no battle cries. It was just me and Microsoft Word.

I clicked away at the keys as fast as my suddenly-unhindered mind could go, and I didn’t stop until I passed out on my keyboard. The next night I played video games with my brothers until they went to bed, and then the writing began anew, and I did the same the next night. I started volunteering at the school library during study hall, where I typed my heart out on the Library Assistant’s computer between bouts of actual work.

Once I got into the habit of writing, I got more-or-less addicted to it. I wrote because I had to, because I couldn’t sleep until I got that word/phrase/character/setting/scene on a page and out of my head. When I got married and moved out, that need didn’t go away. I couldn’t type in my bedroom without waking my husband, or in the living room without waking our resident couch surfer. So I piled up my dirty laundry in one corner of the closet, shut the door, and wrote until the scene/character/phrase got out of my system and I started nodding off again.

Sometimes I’ll write on the bus, or I’ll yank out my netbook during class and write down flashes of inspiration under the guise of taking notes. Those methods work, more or less, but I’ve found that the best way to write is to put yourself in a place where there are no distractions: where you can turn off the internet and the television, where people know not to talk to you until you’ve gotten your fix of the written word. I still find that my favorite time to write is in the middle of the night, when sleep-deprivation muffles your inhibitions and your pesky inner editor, and you’re free to write until you can’t see the letters on the screen anymore.

Granted, my system works best when you’ve got something nagging at your imagination, and sometimes you just don’t. Even worse, some days you just don’t want to write at all, and even the most heartfelt attempt turns out a steaming pile of blah. That’s when I turn to editing. Maybe it’s a short story I wrote for a friend’s blog post, maybe it’s the first draft of last year’s Nanowrimo project, maybe it’s that one piece that I’ve almost got polished to the point of not making me miserable. I go through it line by line, fixing the parts that sound wrong, rewriting the sections that sound like thirteen-year-old-me came back and attacked the keyboard while I was asleep. After the first dozen pages or so of editing I’ve finally got myself back in a literary groove, and maybe—just maybe—I can go back to writing again.

Thank you so much, Dean, for the opportunity to come here and share.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday’s Post Marathon Musing

For the last 12 weeks I’ve been participating in the Speculative Fiction Forum’s Summer Marathon over at AQC, it ran from early June to late August. The rules: post your work, no first drafts allowed. Critique one or two other peoples work. Post on Monday. Critiques start on Tuesday through Saturday. If your chapter got more yes votes than no votes you could post your next chapter the following week. If you received more no votes than yes votes, go back, fix things, and repost your chapter.

I think there was only one marathoner who was able to post 12 chapters. I may invite her to be a guest on my blog, but I digress.

I was able to post five chapters. To be fair I did sit out two weeks (not consecutive) to work on my chapters due to the no votes and I wanted to get a yes vote. I at least got a pass after I had to do reworks.

It was great to have peers evaluate my work. They found many things that needed work. (Obviously, with only five chapters in the marathon!)

The last week of the Marathon ended Saturday. Now it is over.

I’ll miss having critiques on my chapter each week.
I’ll miss reading and critiquing the other stories. There are several I really enjoyed. (I’ll have to contact those authors and volunteer to be a beta reader for them!)
I’ll miss posting a chapter.
I’ll miss all the banter about things in the forum.

What I am taking away is a huge reality check. I entered the marathon thinking my work was stellar and ready for publication. Alas, that was not to be the case.

I received several good comments on the book. The story is sound. I learned as a writer, I have a lot of work to do. That is a hard pill to swallow. Yet, if I am to be successful, I must continue. The book will not be published if I give up.

I am guest blogging this week on Moonshade’s blog. I’ll edit this and put the link up when she posts, because I give some advice on this point in that blog post.

Suffice it to say story first. There will always be set backs in life. It is how we deal with those setbacks that will determine if we succeed and achieve our goals or if we throw in the towel and quit.

I learned a lot on how to be a better critique in the marathon. I learned that writing is tough. I knew it was, but I learned I’m not as good as I thought I was. That can change, with a lot of work. I want to see my work published, I’ll have to take what I learned and apply it. I may not be ready to query an agent yet, my work isn’t ready, yet. But it will be…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How I Organize My Day to Keep Writing Creative and Happening

Today I've invited Marsha Moore to be my guest and talk about how she manages her time.

I met Marsha on Twitter. I don't remember who followed who first, but I kept retweeting things she had to say. She would always thank me for retweeting as well. Between her tweets, and thank you's I was impressed. So I sent her a message asking if she would be interested in being a guest on my blog. She replied back that yes she would, but could she post on the 25th of August. I asked her near the start of July. So wow, that was cool, this gal is organized! As promised she delivered her post and links on Tuesday, and I've had a chance to set things up to run today. I've enjoyed working with Marsha, and she has some great things to share. So this is as much a treat for me as I hope it will be for all of you.

Take it away Marsha!

Lots of folks have told me I’m highly organized and the topic of time management is something I do enjoy. I was especially pleased when Dean asked me to be his guest and share my personal time management tips.

As a full-time writer, without any job organizing my day, hours can easily get lost or claimed by friends/family. Probably the most important thing I do to maintain my productivity is exercise. I exercise at least an hour six or more days a week. It keeps my mind alert and reduces stress from problems which inhibit my creativity. Also, my body is much more willing to sit at a keyboard after activity, almost glad for the rest break. I cycle an average of thirty miles per week, kayak for 90 minutes, attend yoga classes twice a week at a local studio, and do various other types of yoga at home on the other days. Most shake their heads in disbelief where I get such motivation. Truth is, I’ve had severe fibromyalgia for eleven years. We moved south to Tampa to alleviate much of the associated muscle pain. But for many years we had to remain in Ohio for family reasons, and my pain management changed from meds to total management with exercise. Simply, it gave me my life back. I accepted daily exercise as a way of life, and although virtually unnecessary now for pain control, I still find the other benefits extremely worthwhile.

After that constant, my daily schedule is all about fitting tasks into the best time slots. I’d love to exercise first thing in the morning, but that’s prime time for social media activity. I spend an hour or two with that, depending on what I need to promote, then I’m out the door. I also have obligations to care for my elderly mother, who lives nearby. She wears out early in the day, so evening time with her won’t work. Time with her fills mid-day, along with household chores and errands. Through the afternoon, between re-checking social media interactions, I do short writing work: editing; reviewing chapters for my crit group; writing blogs.

I find I need long spans of time to accomplish productive writing, so after dinner until bedtime is my prime writing time. I’m not one who can write anything useful in fifteen-minute spans of time. I like to submerge in my story and the lives of my characters. Fifteen-minute intervals don’t give me that “high” which I’ve become addicted to.

Reading happens last thing for an hour in bed. Many nights I wake up to find my Nook dutifully shut itself off.

One of my coolest time management tricks I just discovered is that I can read my Nook and knit at the same time. Floppy books make that multi-tasking impossible, but an e reader sits nice and still, requiring no hands. I’ve been squeezing out time to construct a couple costumes for DragonCon, coming up next week, and the tops require some knitting. In the process, I’ve been able to scratch a couple books off my TBR list.

As a beginning writer, it was difficult to find the correct rhythm for my day. I tried several different arrangements until this one stuck. I hope some of my tips help those still searching for what works.
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. She is the author of the novel, TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE, the first in a trilogy. Part two, TORTUGA TREASURE is contracted for release in January, 2012. Look for her first of an epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available late autumn.

Links to Marsha:



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday's Time tip: Planning a week at a time.

As promised last week, I said I’d talk about planning a week at a time. True, we live a day at a time, but we work in weeks. We plan things for next week, or week after next, or later this week. And those infamous words from the old, old tv serials, “Last week as you will recall.”

So we should be able to plan out a week at a time. The “to do” list is still there, as well as your priorities, but it takes on a little different look. Instead of thinking what has to be done today, and what priorities there are, stop and take a look at your relationships and goals.

What are your roles? Mother/Father? Brother/Sister? Son/Daughter? Employer/Employee? Best friend? Adviser/Mentor? Student? Define your roles. Then think about who you need to see and what you need to do for someone else. Pick a day and time where those things will happen.

Lay out personal time for things you need to do for yourself.

So on a piece of paper write down your roles and what needs to be done this week. What needs to be strengthened? Projects for work and map out times for those. Work your way down the list and place those items on the day and time they need to be done. You’ll fill up your week, and with effort you’ll be able to accomplish what you need to do with those you need to be doing those things with.

I’ll cover more about this in future posts, but this is a brief overview of how to approach a week of planning.

The inescapable fact of both methods (daily and weekly) is you have to stop what you’re doing and think about your goals, and things that need to be done. You must take time to plan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A thought

Time = Life. Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.

- Alan Lakein

Friday, August 12, 2011

Crazy Time

I’ve invited A.M. Supinger to be a guest on my blog. She is another great friend I met over at AQC. (If you haven’t guessed AQC is one fantastic place for aspiring writers. Lots of great advice and help in the forums on just about any aspect of writing you need help with. Click on the link and go check it out; but after you read my blog.) She told me she has ADD. In a message to me she said, “I can write on that but I'm A.D.D. might be....odd” I assured her she would do fine. I mean she runs her own blog (the Inner Owlet and posts short stories! Besides the guests on my blog bring so much and add so much. I like the different perspectives. She is successful, if she keeps on the path she is traveling eventually she will see her work in print. So here is a different perspective on how she finds time to write. (or not)

So from somewhere in Texas, take it away AM!

Crazy Time

As a writer, few things are more important than finding the time to write. But I’m horrible at time management. I don’t have a job right now – I’m at a temporary military base with the hubster – and still I don’t find time to write every day. Pa-thet-ic.

I’m addicted to the written word, and that helps me on my quest to write a novel, but it’s only half the battle. Sitting down, staring at my computer screen, banging my head on the key board, and surfing social networking is most of the other half. A small minority of my time is actually spent with my characters.

Normally, my characters are all but screaming at me to set them free. That’s incentive to write, but sadly, most of my writing nowadays is editing. And rewrites. And more editing.


I hate the editing process. I want to write stories, not tweak existing ones. Sometimes I take naps just so I can see my characters and watch them go about their story. It is movie magic in my brain and I blog about it. (Google Inner Owlet for details). You read that right, by the way. I fall asleep thinking of my characters just so I can see them in my dreams. I have found that I take a lot of naps during the editing process. Otherwise I think my imagination – and all the voices begging for a story – would overload and my brain would explode. My hubby would have a hard time cleaning the carpets of that particular mess.

Today I happened to finish rewrites on my first novel. I started with a 106,000-word first draft and edited, slaved, napped, cut, and edited some more. Now I have 67,000 words and a much stronger novel. I also have about 50 short stories.

My advice? Do what works for you. My time management is terrible because my imagination – and my characters – practically write my stories for me. But if you’re a writer that has more control, uses clocks and other organizational tools with success, rock that method instead!

P.S. DC is awesome.

Thanks for the vote of confidence AM. Go check out her blog. She is also over at AQC and on twitter.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daily Aproach to Planning

As promised, here is my tip on daily planning.

The first thing you must do is have a commitment to planning your day, and then schedule a time for the planning. I suggest one of two times to accomplish this. Before you go to bed at night, or one of the first things in the morning.

Advantage of the night before: You are aware of your activities of the day and the status of what you are doing and wanting to accomplish. Things are on your mind and you can quickly organize and lay out what you’d like to accomplish.

Advantage of first thing in the morning: Hopefully you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Your mind is fresh and if you’re are a morning person you are alert and ready to go. You’ve the whole day ahead of you.

Hyrum Smith, CEO of the Franklin Covey Planners calls this time Planning and Solitude. Take five, to ten minutes to set your priorities. Make your “to do list”. Once that is accomplished go back and set A,B, or C next to each item. A if for Important, must be done. Then go to B items, need to be done, and finally C items. Then put 1, 2, 3, by each A then 1,2,3 for the B’s and so forth. Now you have a prioritized list.

Now comes the discipline part. Start with A1 check it off when done, then go to A2. Sometimes you may have three or four things going on at once. If something happens put a sideways arrow pointing to the item, that will need to be rescheduled. If you decide it isn’t going to happen and you will not do it put an X by it. Stick to your plan. Don’t jump down to the C items because they are easier, stay on task. It will take some work, but you’ll be able to get the things done you want.

At a future date I’ll discus important, vs urgent. There is a difference. Remember this: Ask yourself What Matters Most and focus on those items.

Next week I’ll discus a week’s planning.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interview with Amy Jarecki soon to be published author

I am pleased to introduce Amy Jarecki, a soon to be published author whom I met on Twitter. I’ve enjoyed her tweets and so I sent her a direct message asking if she would like to be a guest on The Write Time. To my delight, she agreed! You can see her blog here. She can also be found on twitter as @amyjarecki

So here is Amy:

What genre do you write?

That question is more difficult than you might think. Firstly, I write what moves me, and try to write about things I know. Aside from articles for the Chihuahua Connection Magazine, I only write fiction. I recently took an online author branding class offered by the Romance Writers of America, taught by Stephanie Bond. It made me take a hard look at my genre, and I came up with the tag line, “Adventure kissed by romance,” which is in the header of my blog. My debut novel, KOICTO, is a historical adventure with romantic elements. The book I’m working on now, CHIHUAHUA MOMMA, is a contemporary romance that takes place in the exclusive dog-show world. So, I would say that I write romantic adventures.

Where do you get your inspiration?

How much time do you have? To summarize, I try to always focus on the positive. My mantra – NEVER GIVE UP! I watch people and use life experiences to pull me through. I have a supportive critique group, and I recently attended Dave Farland’s Professional Writers Workshop where I met twenty-two aspiring writers. Every Monday we post our progress in a Yahoo Group – everyone is extremely supportive and encouraging.

In addition, my husband encourages me to follow my dreams. He patiently listens to my ramblings about my characters. He is the most positive influence in my life.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since the second grade. In the sixth grade I would write short stories in my spare time and hand them into the teacher for her editorial review. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and then got derailed by majoring in Accounting and pursuing an MBA because I thought it was more important to pay the bills than to follow my dream of writing. No regrets, here, however. There’s enough online & conference education out there to fill in the gaps that I missed in my college education.

Do you belong to any online or other writing communities?

Yes – I mentioned a few above – The RWA, my critique group and Farland’s writing support group. I am also a member of the League of Utah Writers and the San Francisco Writers University.

How did you find Beta Readers?

The thing about beta readers is that you have to be willing to pay them back. Other writers will read and critique your stuff if you repay the favor. I found a couple readers through Farland’s group, and I made a terrific friend – aspiring author, Mikko Azul, through the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. My mother and daughter read my stuff, but you can’t rely on feedback from family – they’re too close to you.

Did your query letter land you an agent?

Actually, my query letter landed me a publisher. KOICTO is a “niche” book, for which I had difficulty finding representation in New York. John Kremer, author of 1001 WAYS TO MARKET YOUR BOOKS, has a list of the top 101 independent publishers on his web site, where I found Sunstone Press. They specialize in the Southwest and Native American books. I mailed them my query, they asked for a full, and sent me a contract.

I will be sending out queries for CHIHUAHUA MOMMA when it’s ready. Wish me luck!

When will your book be published?

KOICTO is slated to be published in “late 2011.” I should have an exact date for the release soon. It will be available both in paperback and e-book.

When do you find time to write?

With a full-time job, I have to be very disciplined about my writing. I write at night for 2-4 hours and I get up early on weekends. My goal is 4-5,000 words per week, and I hit it every week.

How do you balance your writing with your “real” life?

My kids are in college, so that helps. I never write on Friday nights – that’s special time with my husband. Also, when he gets up on weekend mornings, we plan our day – hiking, golf, biking. You have to set aside time for the people in your life too.

How do you schedule your writing?

In addition to the schedule above - writing comes first before blogging, Twitter and FB.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Keep learning and working on your craft. Get as many people to look at your writing as possible, and stick with it. Practice makes perfect!

To what do you attribute your success?

I think people make their own success. The keys are to know your stuff and approach life with a positive attitude, be disciplined with your time, use every opportunity to advertise, and always realize there is more to learn.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I posted a preview of my book trailer for KOICTO on my blog on July 28th. I’d love to get feedback. I’m going to post it on YouTube once the book is out for pre-release. My blog is and you can find me on Twitter: @amyjarecki or Facebook: Amy Jarecki – I follow back!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday's Time Tip: Take Time to Plan

I’ve tried to keep my life organized. Sometimes I am more successful than other times. I’ve also read several books on time management, and tried to internalize what I’ve read. I’ve ran across two views on how to approach time management. I’ve tried both, and both work. So it becomes a point of personal preference. The two approaches are daily planning, and weekly planning. One approach focus on your values and goals the other approaches the roles you play in life and how to strengthen those roles.

What both approaches have in common is taking time to plan. Steven Covey’s book on Seven Habits of Highly Successful People talks about renewal. The story he tells also applies to taking time to plan.

I’ll paraphrase the story here. The person telling the story tells about seeing a lumberjack cutting and cutting on a tree. It took a long time to cut down the tree. Then he was getting set to cut then next tree.

“What is taking so long to cut down the trees?” he asks the lumberjack.

“My saw needs to be sharpened,” he replies.

“Why don’t you sharpen the saw?”

“I don’t have time; I need to cut down more trees.”

It is obvious that taking time out to sharpen the saw will save energy and be more productive. We need to take time to sharpen our saws. Renewal as Covey explains, or as I like to think of it, a few minutes at the start of the day to plan what needs to happen, or at the end of the day to map out what you want to accomplish tomorrow is very important.

The other approach is taking time to plan out a week. Pick a day and a time to plan. During your planning session look at your different roles, mother/father, boss/employee, friend. Look at your relationships and what needs to be done. List what needs to happen for the week and plan days, and times those things will happen.

Both approaches take some self discipline, commitment from yourself to yourself. However, the investment makes for achievement. Completing those things you want to accomplish. Delivering on your promises to others. Making deadlines. Those are the some of the keys to feeling fulfilled.

Take the time to plan. Next week I’ll look at the daily approach to planning.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger J Lea Lopez: Notes From a Procrastinator

I met J Lea Lopez at AQC. Yes AQC has been my go to place since February. She asked me to be a guest on her blog, and it turned into a great collaborative effort. So I asked if she would like to be one of my hall of fame guests, and she graciously agreed. She is the keeper of Jell-o World. She is also on twitter @JLeaLopez

So here is what she has to say about managing time.

Dean has become a great online writing friend through AQC(link here) and I was thrilled to have him offer my blog readers his tips on finding the time to maintain a blog. I don't have much sage advice in that department, so instead, here's my story:

Notes From a Procrastinator

When it comes to time management, I’m the last person to ask for advice. I seem to do well with it at work, but not so much when it comes to writing and personal life. (Just ask Dean how long it took me to get this post to him.) Maybe it's because I haven't fully embraced writing as a job or career, which I absolutely want it to be, eventually. Or maybe it's because at work I have a boss and coworkers relying on me to get stuff done on time. With writing, if I don't finish this chapter today, there's no one to swat me on the rear and send me to bed with no dessert.

Still, despite my penchant for procrastination, I do find time to write. Why? Because I love to write. I can't imagine not writing. I first started putting stories on paper in middle school. Partly as an outlet for all the what-if scenarios that bounced around in my head, and partly as an escape. I've always been introverted, so when the noise of life got to be too much, I would retreat into my head to see what stories I could tell. Being a teenager with no job and few responsibilities left me with plenty of time to write. Now, years later, I have a husband, a dog, two jobs, and the clutter of everyday life all vying to steal time away from writing. But I'm still that introverted girl who likes to people-watch, is fascinated by human interaction and relationships, and is continually wondering what-if? I still need an outlet.

So I write when I can, often at night, after I've exhausted my usual procrastination outlets (I'm lookin' at you, Facebook and Twitter!) and I've begrudgingly done the laundry or the dishes. I take my notebook everywhere, just in case – and yes, I mean a notebook with paper in it, not a notebook computer. I still write by hand. Every now and then I have to give myself permission to let the laundry or the dishes (or both) sit for one more day because I have to write today, no excuses – for the sake of forward progress, but also because I miss my characters after a while, as if they were real people. I miss digging into their lives, feeling what they feel, telling their stories.

I wish I could offer you more in the way of time management tips, but I'm afraid the badge of procrastination is indelibly imprinted on my forehead. Hopefully with Dean's advice, and the tips from his other blog guests, I'll be able to increase my productivity. Consider this my public plea to be held accountable! Just don't send me to bed without dessert if you catch me playing on Facebook, okay?