Writing + Day Job: How I Found the Time to Torture Fictional People

…to write a work of genius is almost always a feat of prodigious difficulty. Everything is against the likelihood that it will come from the writer’s mind whole and entire. Generally material circumstances are against it. Dogs will bark; people will interrupt; money must be made; health will break down. Further, accentuating all these difficulties and making them harder to bear is the world’s notorious indifference.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Writing is hard and it gets worse when Life grabs you by the throat and throws you around like some wild animal. This happened to me during my first two weeks at my day job. It was difficult to juggle my new schedule, college, and writing. I did something horrible and I stopped working on my writing projects because I believed I didn’t have the time to.

But there’s always time! All I had to do was change a few things in my routine.

I decided to sacrifice something

I needed to be honest with myself.  How bad did I want to write? Pretty freaking bad. What was I willing to give up? Hmmm…two hours of sleep?

Yep. I did something I NEVER thought I would do. I started waking up an hour or so before I needed to get to work and used the extra time to torture my characters. I felt pretty good about myself afterward. I’m not too sure what that says about my mental health, however.

I kept a notetaking tool on me at all times

Whenever a good idea pops into my head, my inner self says, “You don’t need to write this down. You’ll remember it.” Then, four hours later, the only thing I can remember was how awesome the idea was. Content be damned.

This is why I started using OneNote to jot down ideas or freewrite. I don’t have the luxury to write during my working hours, so I usually do this during my breaks.

I learned to suck it up and write after work

Like any other introverted weirdo, I feel mentally exhausted when I come home from work. All I want to do is kick back on the couch and rest my eyes for two seconds…which somehow turns into a three-hour power nap.

My art is important, so I do my best to push through the exhaustion and write anyways.

…Or that’s what I would do if I was a responsible writer. Instead, I work on my projects after I take my power naps. Don’t judge me!

I started making the most out of my off days

I know. Days off are sacred! It’s a time to relax, party, binge watch a new Netflix series and etc.. However, it’s a waste to squander a free day. So before I start a six-hour gaming session, I invest some time into my projects because they’re important to me.

 

Now, these are the strategies I use to work some writing time into my life, but it may not work for you. I suggest analyzing your day and habits. What can you give up / limit? Where can you squeeze some writing time?

Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is that there’s always time.

How do you find time to write around your day job / non-writing career? Share them in the comments below.

Stay Motivated to Write with these Four Tips

If you’re one of the many writers competing in Camp NaNo, good luck because NaNo will challenge your commitment. Wait, sorry, that’s not entirely true.

Writing will challenge your commitment — period. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, screenplay, comic script, or term paper you will reach a point where you’re motivation goes POOF! Gone.

It’s totally natural, but here’s four ways you can keep yourself motivated to write:

 

Make yourself accountable by telling others your writing goals

Letting others know about your writing goals is probably the most effective way to stay motivated. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable to tell those same people you gave up.

You can tell a writing buddy, family member, spouse or friend so long as they hold you to your goals and give you moral support.

Some bloggers, myself included, share their goals with their blog subscribers.

 

Diarize your writing journey

Writing down your problems can reduce the control they have on your emotions. 

Journaling brings you into that state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment.

Thai Nguyen

If something emotional is keeping you from focusing on your writing, journaling (keeping a diary) can help you evaluate or purge those negative feelings.

Maybe you thought you had writers block but you’re really suffering from impostor syndrome. Maybe you can’t focus on your writing because you had a nasty argument with your spouse. Whatever your problems are, try writing it down so that it doesn’t bother you as much.

You can journal your writing journey on your blog if you’re comfortable with that. Just be mindful about what you put on the Internet, okay?

 

Have a reward system

Pair a goal with a gift and you have a reward system.

During 2015’s NaNoWriMo I had a bunch of left over Halloween candy (no one was trick-or-treating where I lived). I set up a reward system where I got to eat candy only if I wrote 1700 words that day (it totally worked).

I think it’s only fair to warn you that reward systems require a ton of self-control. So, yeah, keep that in mind.

 

Time Travel

You read that right. No, I’m not crazy.

Well…not legally.

You can “time travel” by sending an email to your future self via futureme.org.

Pick a due date, write yourself a congratulatory email, and send it. You’ll feel uber special because you’ve not only completed your goal, but you also received a well deserved pat on the back from your past self. And, lets face it, sometimes all you have is yourself to count on.

Seeking validation from others is a waste of time. All you need is determination and grit.

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What if you don’t meet your goal? Well, then you’ll feel like crap which will turn into determination for next time. No one likes feeling like crap.

 

I’m not saying any of these tips are foolproof, but they can help reduce discouragement. Motivation is a battle we writers face daily so maybe give one or two a try?

If you want more tips about keeping yourself motivated to write, I suggest reading this post I wrote during 2014’s NaNoWriMo.

Good luck out there!

Make Your Writing Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.!

Hey writers: is there a writing goal that plagues your to-do list? Do you repetitively set it but can never seem to finish it?

I know I do. Good news: it may not be your fault! Flawed writing goals are always difficult to do, but you can fix this my making them S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

Note: While this post is centered on writing goals, it can be re-purposed for any goal type.

 

What does S.M.A.R.T.E.R mean?

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound, Evaluate, and Re-do (whew!). It’s a variant of “S.M.A.R.T.” which is a criteria that helps make your goals accomplishable. The “E.R.” (Evaluate and Re-do) is what you do after putting your goals into action.

 

To make a goal S.M.A.R.T.E.R., you need a general goal.

General goals get a bad rep for putting too much focus on the end result. They seem harder than they really are and we feel like crap when we haven’t completed them. They’re just too darn broad.

But…you need a general goal before you can make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R.. Just make sure that your general goal isn’t focused on the end result. How? Break it down into increments.

My goal:

I want to be an author (too broad).

I want to finish a manuscript (better).

I want to write a 5k word short story (Great!).

 

Specific

A specifically stated goal mentions what you plan to do, how you’ll do it, and the due date. We can’t do much at this point since all we have is a general goal so the first order of business is to make it S.M.A.R.T.. Then we’ll make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R..

I promise this will all make sense.

 

Measurable

How do you know when you’re done? How can you track your progress?

You can track the progress of your writing project by word count, page count, chapters, and so on. Just make sure you have a number in mind!

My goal: I want to write 5,000 words.

 

Achievable

Do you have the resources necessary to achieve your goal?

A resource could be something tangible like a USB flash drive, notebook, or organizer. It can also be something non-tangible like a word processing software, commitment, or time.

Also, take into account every responsibility or distraction that could impact your goal (work, family obligations, school) and decide if it’s still achievable. If it’s not, you may need to adjust something.

My goal: I write in Scrivener, back up my work via a USB flashdrive, and use a planner to track my progress. That’s pretty much all I need for writing. I always write in the morning when I’m not too busy so time isn’t a problem. Writer’s block may wear down my commitment, but I can fight against it by outlining my short story ahead of time or relying on good ol’ fashioned grit.

 

Realistic

Why did you make this goal? Is it relevant to the life you have or want?

There needs to be a point to your goal or else its just valuable time wasted.

My goal: I want to be an author and writing something, like a short story, will help me get there. Balancing cups on my head or chugging ten gallons of maple syrup won’t help me (unless it’s for the sake of research).

 

Time-bound

When do you want your goal to be completed?

Set a due date! This keeps you motivated and prevents procrastination (hopefully).

My goal: I want to write my novel during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s 161 words a day–easy! In case life decides to be a jerk, I can stick to my original plan of getting it done by the end of the summer but I’m aiming for July 31st.

 

Revisit Specific

Now you can specifically state your S.M.A.R.T. goal.

My General Goal: Write a 5k word short story.

My S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Write a 5,000 word rough draft during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do this by writing 161 words a day and keep track of my progress via Scrivener and my planner. The due date is July 31st (or September 1st) at midnight.

Do you see the difference? The reason why I did the “Specific” step last is because I wanted to flesh out my original goal first.

 

Evaluate

This step only happens after you’ve tried your S.M.A.R.T. goal. Take some time to analyze what’s working and what’s not. Check your performance. What did you struggle with? Do you need to lower the stakes or increase them?

For example, you may want to decrease your word count goal or extend the due date if you’re having trouble keeping up. Or maybe the hours in your job has changed and you have to adjust something.

 

Re-do

Detect a problem? Go back through the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and make a new goal. Put it into action and then evaluate how things are working for you. Going bad? Re-do it. Going good? You’re golden.

WARNING! You may be tempted to use the Evaluate and Re-do steps as excuses for procrastination. DO NOT DO THIS EVER! Only do it if you really really really need to. I suggest limiting yourself to one (OK, two) re-tries.

Surreal Fantasy and Elemental Magic with Crystin Goodwin

Hello, everyone!

I’m here with Crystin Goodwin to talk about her fantasy series The Blessings in Myrillia. Make sure to check out her books UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, and Ice Blessed after you’re done reading the interview.

Lets get started!

 

Crystin, can you give us a quick synopsis of your Blessings in Myrillia series?

In a world where magic dictates everything, one young girl struggles with her status as one of the distasteful unBlessed. Kisara is considered the lowest in Melior society, but at least she’s still superior to the savages that roam the wilds of Myrillia … or so she thought. Soon, Kisara discovers that not all is as it seems in her world, and the true source of the conflict between her race and the beastly Transeatur has been forgotten over the ages. She must uncover the truth and expose the dark secrets of the past before her people find themselves at the mercy of a monster.

Your series features a large cast of vibrant, complex, characters. Can you discuss this? What were some difficulties or lessons that you learned?

ebook cover - smallWell, originally I started out with three main characters – Kisara, Lucien, and Sebastian – who represented specific roles in society: the elite, the outcast, and the prejudiced.  However, as I developed the world and plot surrounding my little trio, a lot of my supporting cast took a life of their own. Lucien’s friend Marius started off as a simple sidekick, but thanks to a few changes I made to the end of UnBlessed, his role ended up being much more important … and complicated. The Transeatur shaman, Dominic, is another character who grew to be more influential than originally planned with his calm wise outlook. And don’t even get me started on the villain! Their story is fleshed out a lot more in Ice Blessed, and I honestly think it’s some of the best writing I’ve done to date.

While I might have a large cast of characters, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to create such a diverse pool of personalities. It makes it a lot more fun to write! I especially enjoy exploring how each character interacts with the others – especially when there are strong feelings involved.

As for difficulties or lessons, yes, I found a few. I started telling Kisara’s story when she was quite young: thirteen in fact. While I still feel this is important (it allows the reader to better understand her character arc) I also realize that almost no one wants to read about a thirteen-year-old, especially when they appear to be pretty typical, normal thirteen year-olds. Another lesson learned is to be very careful with your character names. I have a side character named Silvester as well as my main character Sebastian. I sometimes find myself switching the names by accident when talking about the characters. (Thank goodness I never make that error when writing!) However, it’s a good idea to try and keep names different.

I just have to ask this: which of your characters is your favorite?

Hands down, Marius Caleo. I know, I know: I shouldn’t have favorites, but seriously, Marius is my absolute favorite. Arrogant, sarcastic, handsome, wealthy … yet he still manages to do the right thing – good things – by accident. I like to call him my loveable jerk. Plus, who wouldn’t love a guy who can control fire?

I’ve read gushing reviews from readers who adore the elemental magic system in your series. Some say that your magic system is more captivating than the complex systems usually found within the fantasy genre. Can you comment on this? How do you feel about magic systems in general?

I love magic. My preferred reading genre is fantasy (of all types), and I appreciate the magic found in all sorts of media: cartoons, movies, goodreadsvideo games … even the magic of Disney theme parks!

When creating the magic systems for Myrillia, I wanted to incorporate some of my favorite elements to create something new. The elemental magic system my race the Melior use, is loosely based off the elementalist class and the shaman class from several video games I’ve played. In Myrillia, a Melior individual is gifted with an affinity with a specific element: fire for example. Fire Blessed are capable of conjuring flames out of nothing, can extinguish flames around them with a thought, have a higher tolerance for heat, and so on. There are multiple elements, many of which I haven’t fully explored in the existing books, but include Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Magic, along with many others.

On the flip side, my other race – the Transeatur – are shapeshifters. They possess a guardian Animal Spirit and can change into that form at will. They’re not quite werewolves, as there isn’t any tie to lunar cycles and they don’t lose their ‘humanity’ while in animal form … but they are physically stronger and faster and possess keener senses than Melior. So again, I took the aspects of the magic I liked and adapted it for my own world.

The world of Myrillia is so rich and surreal. Can you discuss the inspiration behind it?

Ooh, good question! Honestly, it’s a lot like my magic systems: I took all the things that make up my idea of a perfect world and made it the setting. I love unspoiled nature, so there’s a lot of woodlands and pastures … lots of greenery and peaceful settings with minimal technology. After all, if you can do almost anything and everything with magic, why would you need gadgets to do the same? When it comes to the cities and settlements in Myrillia, I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Rome and medieval England, so I worked aspects of those cultures into Melior society. The Transeatur way of life is loosely based on Native American lifestyles and beliefs.

So basically, it’s a hodgepodge.

Is there a hidden message or theme present in your series?

ice_smallOh yes, many. Some aren’t hidden at all; at least, I feel they’re pretty obvious. Like the prejudice between the Melior and Transeatur: I use several characters to explore both the cause and effect of prejudice. In Fire Blessed, I have a character who embodies the self-esteem issues many teens face. And all throughout the series – in fact, the theme that drives the entire plot – is the message/saying: things are not always as they seem. I have dozens (honestly, I’ve lost count) of scenes that have vastly different meaning when reread through the eyes of another character.

I love working in hints and foreshadowing  reality versus what a character wants or is taught to see. I’m the type of reader that loves to reread books, and my favorite stories are the ones that feel like a different book the second time around. Sort of like the Sixth Sense – the movie with Bruce Willis. The first time you watch the movie, it’s just a thriller. But when you watch it a second time, knowing the crazy plot twist at the end, you notice hundreds of little clues that were there all along!  I wanted to try and do this with my books: because in my opinion, there’s nothing more flattering than having someone read your story twice.

If you could give three tips to aspiring authors, what would they be?

Three tips, hmm?

Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if it’s in the middle of your manuscript. Two of my most popular scenes came from my messing around when I didn’t know what to write. Stuff that I thought was really stupid and cheesy, but fun to write. At the time, I was aiming for daily word counts and I couldn’t figure out where I wanted my story to go, so I decided to just play around. I discovered that when you, the author, have fun writing something, it transfers to the reader. (I used this knowledge to my advantage with my second novel: I loved the central characters of that book so much and had a blast inventing things to put them through … and my enthusiasm shows in the writing.)

Get a reader to look over your work before you send it to an editor or critique group.  It can be a friend or random stranger (depending on your comfort level) but make sure they like to read your genre! You don’t want to ask someone who reads crime fiction to judge your romance novel … or vice versa. To add to this tip: make sure you invest in a quality editor. Trust me, next to a good cover, this is the most important thing for creating the best book possible.

Finally, take the time to network. Connect with readers, with blog visitors, and with other professionals. The creative community, especially the indie community, is full of generous and wonderful people. You might be surprised at who you might discover: I found both my editor and my cover designer through my blog comments. Not only that, but I’ve developed wonderful friendships with both of them, and with countless other visitors. There are lots of people out there willing to help you succeed: you just have to reach out to them.

Where can we find you on the Internet?

Website:   https://crystinlgoodwin.wordpress.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Crystin.Goodwin/
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8049970.Crystin_Goodwin
Twitter: @CrystinLGoodwin

Trying To Be A Poet: Five Tips To Writing Better Poems (Guest Post)

MeHello, Desiree here! I have a special guest post for all of you poets and aspiring poets out there. It was written by Carol Forrester, an amazing poet in my opinion. Enjoy the post and take some time to visit her blog!

Can you remember the first time you were asked to write a poem? Most of us have written one at some point, be it because the teacher set it as class task or we wanted to find a way to express ourselves in anger or joy. Poetry is one of the most versatile forms of writing, and even if you don’t like poetry very much, it finds a way into your life no matter what.

Honestly? I don’t remember the first poem I wrote. It was probably awful, it was probably clichéd, and if I read it back now, I would probably cringe. That isn’t saying much though since I cringe at poems I wrote only three years ago.

As with any other form of writing, we all improve over time. We learn new ways of putting words down on paper and we hear new poets who completely flip our perspectives over on their heads. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard people say to me that they don’t like poetry that doesn’t rhyme or that they don’t ‘get it’. That’s fine. Different people like different things and not everything that you write will be liked. However, since writing that first poem I have learnt a few things about how to write better ones and that is what I want to share with you today. So without further ado, here are my five tips for writing better poems.

 

1. Read and listen to every type of poetry that you can get your hands on. 

On my shelves are poems by authors such as Sarah Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Jim Clarkson, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare, T S Elliot, and Megan Falley. I have poems from hundreds of years ago and I have collections published months ago. They all write differently and about different topics. Some you will have heard of, some you won’t. The point is that different is good and if you’re writing poetry then you need to read it as well as the best way to find out what works for you is to read as much as you can and to try out as many styles as you can. Poetry BlogHops also provide an amazing space for this as you have numerous poets all responding to same prompt in a different way. When I first started writing poetry, I thought poems had to rhyme or they weren’t really poems. I have written fixed form, I have written free verse. I have written about what I know and sometimes, about stuff I didn’t have a clue about. Some poems were good and some weren’t. I learnt what my strengths were and where I found weakness I also found way to improve.

2. Redrafting is your friend.

I hate sitting down to redraft a piece of poetry. At times it makes my skin crawl and makes me want to throw my poems out of the nearest window. It is important thought and over time I have learnt that it makes me a better writer. A week ago, I pulled all my poems from the last three years off of my blog, off of half-forgotten pen drives and external hard drives and stuck them into one single word document. I am now working through all of them and redrafting them one by one to create a stronger collection of work. I am not perfect and I certainly don’t write a perfect poem on the first attempt. Everything takes work and I need to be prepared to put that work in.

3. Rejections are not the end of the world, and take compliments with a pinch of salt.

There will always be those that tell you your writing is horrible and there will always be those who tell you it is fantastic. Both sets of people must be handled with care. Those who tell you that the work is not good enough? Take them as a challenge to do better. To the other side of the spectrum, be grateful but don’t let it go to your head. Positive comments are great but they can make you lazy. I know this from personal experience. If some says a poem is good then yay! That’s lovely to hear. It doesn’t mean you can’t make it better though. Remember that you are your own goal setter and you can always strive for better because you are never done learning. Everything you hear should be able to drive you forward.

4. Always hold something back.

It’s very easy to hit that publish button and not think anything of it when you’re blogging. Unfortunately, quite a lot of competitions will not take entries that have already been published online or elsewhere. I publish a lot of stuff online but more recently I’ve tried keeping some back to use as the basis for works to be entered into competitions or as submissions for anthologies. This is a balance you will need to find for yourself but it is important to keep in mind when you’re writing.

5. Step away from the computer every now and again.

Now I am one of the worst people for spending most of my time on the internet or typing away at my laptop. However, it is important you get out and see the world as a writer and as a human being. Go to poetry nights in your local area; take a walk in the countryside. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you are away from your screen and taking in the world around you. It will help fuel your creativity and meeting up with people at poetry events can open doors you never expected. Reading open mic nights can really help with getting poems right. You can gauge an audience’s reaction for yourself instead of waiting for someone to hit the comment sections.

It will also help you from going too insane. Staring at a screen all the time is not good for you and your health should always come first.

 

So there we have my top five tips for writing poetry. If you have anything to add then please do. You can also find me on my site Writing and Works, twitter, facebook and tumblr.

Twitter: @caroljforrester

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolJForrester/

Tumblr: http://caroljforrester.tumblr.com/

 

Bio: Carol Forrester is a twenty-two year old writer trying to be a better one. Don’t ask her what her hobbies are because the list doesn’t get much beyond, reading, writing and talking about the same.

She has a 2:1 BA degree in history from Bath Spa University and various poems and stories scattered across the net. 

Her flash fiction story ‘Glorious Silence’ was named as River Ram Press’ short story of the month for August 2014 and her short story ‘A Visit From The Fortune Teller’ has been showcased on the literary site Ink Pantry’s. Most recently, her poem ‘Sunsets’ was featured on Eyes Plus Words, and her personal blog Writing and Works hosts a mass of writing from across the last five years.

With hopes of publishing a novel in the next five years and perhaps a collection or two of smaller works, Carol Forrester is nothing if not ambitious. Her writing tries to cover every theme in human life and a lot of her work pulls inspiration from her own eccentric family in the rural wonders of Shropshire life.  

3 Cheap Ways to Back-Up Your Writing Projects

Imagine you’re sitting at your computer writing a long awaited scene. Everything is going smoothly until your computer gives a high pitched squeal (Buzzut!) and shuts down. How do you react?

If you backed up your work, you’d probably freak out at first but would later calm down. All you lost was some illegally downloaded ebooks and those pointless cat videos you favorited. Your precious stories, however, are safe—Whew!

If you didn’t back up your work…well, you’re basically screwed. Cue tantrum.

I’m here to tell you about three cheap methods you could use to back up your writing so you wont have to experience such hardships. Not only that, but I’m also going to give you the pros and cons of each method. Keep in mind that there are other methods to backing up your work, but these are the ones that I’m most familiar with.

 

1. Scrivener ($40)

Scrivener automatically creates a back-up file on your computer’s hard drive (or wherever you want to save your back-ups) when you exit a project file. It also has an option where you can zip the file to reduce the amount of digital space it takes up.

The only downfall to having Scrivener zip your work is that it takes a few minutes for large files. Regardless, having your files zipped is uber helpful if you’re saving your backups on an external device with limited space like a flash drive or SD card.

To get the most out of this feature, I suggest combining Scrivener with one of the two methods below.

 

2. Flash Drives ($3.00 – $10 for our purposes)

Flash drives are small USB devices used to storage digital things. The price for one depends on the amount of space that’s installed on it. Generally the more space it has the more expensive it will be—but it’s a one-time investment.

Luckily, word documents are only a few hundred kilobytes so you don’t need to buy the most expensive flash drive you can find. For example, I used an 1gb flash drive that I got in the seventh grade until last year! The only reason I changed it out was because the connector was getting uncomfortably wobbly.

There are two ways you can use flash drives to back up your work. (1) Save a version of your novel on the device and update it every so often. (2) Create your novel on the device and work from there.

I set scrivener to save a zipped version of all my novels on my 8gb flash drive. The only thing I have to worry about is accidentally loosing the device (which would suck).

 

3. Online Options (FREE)

There are companies that allow its users to save their files on that company’s servers (aka “the Cloud”). Some even have apps that automatically update their servers with your files. A few of the most famous ones are OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

What’s really cool about saving your work on online servers is that you don’t have to clutter your computer or external devices with duplicate files. Heck, the only thing you do need is access to the Internet.

One of the downsides is that you’re limited to a certain amount of space (2gb for Dropbox and 15gb for Google). Again, word documents don’t take up a lot of space so it should be good for your writing purposes.

I’m compelled to mention this, but there’s also the possibility that the company could get hacked which puts your personal files at risk. I don’t know about you, but the thought of someone in my personal files is like discovering that a roommate went commando in my PJs.

Not fun…

 

There you have it! Now that you know these three cheap ways to backing up your work, you have no excuse not to. Unless, of course, I freaked you out with the hacker joke (oops).

If you liked this post, consider subscribing. I’m now offering free world building templates to new subscribers—so check it out! Also, help me serve you better by filling out this survey (you can also view the survey here).

 

What are some ways you guys back up your work?