Tag Archives: time management

I’m Back!

Did anybody miss me?

Seriously though, one of the reasons I was gone so long was that I was feeling depressed about my writing. I felt that nobody cared about anything I was doing and all the blog posts I wrote were simply masturbating out into the web, ejaculating my thoughts and ideas into a dark corner of the Internet where all they left was a sticky little stain and a funky smell.

Another of the reasons was that I was pouring all of my energy into my day job. A job that, sometimes, felt like no matter how much of my effort went into it, nobody cared much about it there, either. I was getting in long before anyone else showed up, 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be there, and staying late to make sure that everything got done. Nobody asked me to do this, but I was raised by a workaholic and that work ethic stuck with me, no matter how destructive it might be to my health and sanity.

So, combine depression with continually putting all of my energy into something other than writing, and that makes a sure-fire recipe for being completely burnt out. I didn’t feel like I had any time to write before work, and by the time I got home I was too tired to do anything more than crawl into bed. The only thing left was a feeling of failure as the days passed one after the other without anything getting on the page.

Which, of course, simply fed the cycle.

But now, dear reader(s) (if I have any of you left), I am going to try to start over. I am going to try to focus less on my job in order to save more of my energy for writing. My goals for the year have shifted as a result of this collapse, and I will no longer be trying to write a new novel this year. My main focus is not to simply continue to write, on whatever project I feel deserves the limited energy and attention I can give it. I can’t promise anything, but I will try to post whenever I can and give you an update on how things are moving along.

Speaking of projects, I thought of a new one over this last weekend. It was the opening day of WisCon, which, if you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you will remember I attend regularly. I was there in a last-ditch effort to regain my writing mojo, and, since I am currently blogging about it, I was successful in that effort. There were actually a few panels that I attended that helped me in this, from the Joy of Failure to Taking Care of the Writer’s Body. From Social Isolation to How to Not Give a &#@! All of these panels helped me to refocus my thinking on stuff that doesn’t really matter to the things that make me WANT to get out of bed in the morning.

Anyway, back to the project. There was a sign in the lobby with a title of “We All Met In A Tavern”. I’m not really sure what it was all about, but it reminded me of the old Thieves’ World anthologies, where several different writers all wrote stories set in the same world. It seemed like a good idea, and so, of course, that meant it was worth stealing. Not completely, mind you, but the general idea. So here it is:

The Liars Club

Let me explain. I want to get submissions from writers around the world (or, more specifically, the Internet) to send me stories that are essentially their favorite characters telling a lie. And not just any lie, but a big one. A profound prevarication. An immense insincerity. A fabulous falsehood.

Depending on the submissions, this could either be something simply posted online to the world for everyone to enjoy, or the tales could be collected into an anthology for sale to the gullible public. For now, I’m not sure if I would have the skills or energy to physically publish anything, and I have no idea whether or not anyone will even submit anything, so it will probably just be going online. We can revisit the publication aspect in the future if there is enough interest.

If YOU are interested, here are the rules:

  1. Use your own character. I’m not interested in fan fic or slash fic, so don’t kidnap another author’s brain child
  2. The story has to be told in the first person
  3. The story has to be something outlandish and/or outrageous. Something fantastic that really makes it hard to believe, but told in such a way that it maybe, possibly, could have potentially happened
  4. The story should be told as if it actually happened to the main character, and they should state why they are unloading this load of bullpuckey onto the listener. Whether they are telling the story to explain why they were late to their own wedding or why they have a terrible fear of wheelchairs doesn’t matter, but the story should start with a lead-in
  5. The story should end with the listener’s reaction. Do they believe this nonsense? Or were they smart enough to catch something in the story that revealed the lie?

That’s my idea. I would be interested to know what you think about it (if there are any of you still out there). And, like I said, if you want to participate, send me a story and spread the word!

I won’t bother telling you when I’ll be back with another post, as I don’t know myself. I have only turned on my laptop a few times in the last four months, and that was mostly just to check my e-mail before my inbox exploded. But I am going to try to be better at that starting this week, so hopefully I’ll have another post soon.

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Sacrificing for your Craft

Last week I wrote a story about a man who seduces a young woman, takes her to his luxury cabin in the woods, has his way with her, and then sacrifices her to the demons that keep him in his way of life. So I thought that this might be a good time to talk about making sacrifices as a writer.

I don’t mean that you need to go out and make a deal with the devil (although I wonder sometimes about Stephen King). What I mean is that in order to be a good writer you have to dedicate yourself to your craft. You will have to give up some things, like television, movies, even reading, in order to spend more time writing.

Now don’t get too discouraged. I’m not saying that you need to cut yourself off completely from the rest of the world. Books, movies, music, and  television shows can give you inspiration for your writing. Even the most pathetic sitcom can be a guide to how someone might react if they were put in a situation that spun out of control.

The idea, though, is that you need to be careful with how much time you spend away from your writing. When you decide to spend two hours watching a movie, consider first whether or not you will still be able to get some writing done that day. Or make sure you do your writing before you go to the movie.

Writing is a calling for some, and a job for others. The trick is to make it a little of both. Dedicate a part of every day to putting words on the page, and then you can make sure that you also have time for yourself as well.

That’s about it for today. I started a new story about a treaty between men and monsters today. Kind of a preparation for Halloween next week. I am also thinking about doing a true Halloween story next week as well, but I haven’t figured out yet what it will be. Tune in again next Sunday to find out!

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Trimming the Fat

There are several things that I could talk about with a title like this one. I could talk about starting a diet, which I certainly need to do. Somehow I managed to let myself gain back almost all of the weight that I lost a few years ago. It just kind of snuck up on me, a couple of pounds a week, until this week when I had to break out my XXXL shirts again. Naughty writer! I also need to cut back on driving in to work and commit to riding my bike more often. I mean, really! The main route I take is only three miles, with very few hills. The only excuse I have not to ride is when it is raining, and that’s a pretty flimsy excuse considering the number of times I rode my bike in bad weather when I didn’t have a car.

Another thing I could talk about is something all writers need to do, and most don’t enjoy—editing. Getting the first draft down on paper is good, and we all want to make it as good as we can get it the first time around, but any writer that tries to publish that first draft usually finds out that it isn’t as good as they might think it is. I recommend a second or even third draft before handing it over to a professional editor, who will tell you how much it still sucks, and give you a chance to redeem your failures before it goes public. Most of the stories that I have written so far are still in the first draft stage. The ones that I have spent more time on have only gone through a second or third draft, and none of them have gone to the pro. Not even the one that I got published, and believe me, I could kick myself for not doing so. The only excuse I have for not spending more time on it is that I had a deadline.

But let’s get away from that and start talking about what I really wanted to say tonight. In order to spend more time on my writing I need to trim out some of the other things that take up time in my busy life. For example, sleep. Actually, I’m kidding about that. What I have been cutting down on is watching television. I still record some of my favorite shows, but I confess that I have been letting them pile up on my DVR without watching them. Another thing that I have been considering cutting back on is this blog post. I am thinking about only posting one time per week, probably on Sunday. That way I will be able to give everyone an update on each of my latest Dirty Little Freaks stories right after they are finished, and I will have the rest of the week to write the next one without worrying about what I am going to post on my blog on Wednesday.

What kind of fat are you trimming from your life recently? What are your inspirations for doing so? Is there any way we might be able to help each other keep on the right track? I would love to hear your comments, and I’ll be back with another blog post next Sunday.

Oh, and by the way, my latest Dirty Little Freaks story (# 23) is finished. It may have been inspired by Hogan’s Heroes, but I’m not sure how well I captured the feel of the show. But that’s okay, because that is what editing is for, right?

See you next week!

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Quick and Dirty

I don’t have a lot to say today. I finished Dirty Little Freaks #14 yesterday. The morning was spent running a lot of errands, and the afternoon (after finishing the story) was mostly goofing off. Today too was not very productive, as you might be able to tell by the fact that this post isn’t going up until almost 2 PM. But that’s okay.

This week I think I might write another Alchemist story, which will almost wipe out my ideas for shorts on that line. It should bring the character through most of his origin story and get him into a place where I can start planning the novel. But that’s for another time.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my Sunday being lazy and watching a Warehouse 13 marathon.

I’ll check in on Wednesday and let you know how much I’m looking forward to seeing Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne at Odyssey Con next weekend. Hopefully I’ll have the majority of my next story done by then.

Catch you later!

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Distractions

I have to confess. I don’t have much written on my new story. I know that I said that I hoped that this one was going to go just as quickly as the last one, and it might actually happen that way, but first I have to start.

Instead, what I have been doing is archiving these blog posts. I have over 200 posts here, and I thought it would be a good idea to save them offline. So I have been copying them to Microsoft OneNote, along with some of my other writing notes.

While I normally write my stories in Scrivener, I like OneNote for this because it is searchable. It’s like a Wiki in that way. I can simply dump the info into the notebook, and then enter a search word or phrase later to find it again. I’m thinking that this might be a better way for me to organize my story notes as well, so I can quickly find details such as hair and eye color for my characters, as well as other minutiae that comes up as I write.

But all of this is a distraction from getting my words on the page. And that just won’t do.

I’m going to leave my book at home today and just take my netbook to work so I can concentrate on getting this story out. And tomorrow too, if I have to.

I’ll be back on Sunday. Hopefully with good news about finishing this story. See you then!

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Trying to find Balance

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is finding a balance. I’m not talking about balancing plot points and character development, although that is difficult as well as important. No, what I am speaking of is finding a balance between my writing and the rest of my life.

Part of being a writer is opening yourself up to the rest of the world. You have to share a vital part of yourself in order to engage the reader. The tricky part is figuring out which part, and how much you can show. Show too much, too soon, and people will think you are overeager. Show the wrong parts, and people will get bored, or angry.

Kind of like being an exotic dancer.

Think about it. If you went to a strip club and the dancer showed you the goods right off the bat, you would be a little disappointed, wouldn’t you? After all, part of the show is the “reveal”, and you can’t have a reveal if you never cover it up in the first place. And if the dancer never showed you anything, you would be just as upset. After all, you paid good money for this show, and there are certain expectations about what is going to happen when you get inside.

Okay, now this analogy is starting to get me off-balance. See what I mean?

What I am trying to say here is that I am having trouble reconciling my personal life with my writing. I have certain, deep-seated beliefs that frequently conflict with the things that I write. There are many times when the words that come out of my head make me uncomfortable, because they aren’t the kinds of things that I believe I should be writing. And yet, there they are.

I’ll come right out and say it. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Otherwise known as the Mormons. Yes, the same church that Mitt Romney belongs to (even though I think he’s a bad example of our faith).

One of the tenets of being a member of my church is living the law of chastity. That means so much more than just not having sex. It also means avoiding pornography and keeping your lustful passions confined to the marriage bed. And it means that when I start writing about sex and use four letter words in my stories I am either walking a fine line or stepping over the edge. And that’s what makes me uncomfortable.

This is tough for me. On the one hand, I’m not being unfaithful to my lovely wife. I’m not even looking at dirty pictures on the Internet. But when I write about other people having sex, it’s like letting a fantasy out of my head. And it’s probably not a fantasy I should be having in the first place, much less share with the rest of the world.

What makes it even more difficult is that I know for a fact that there is a huge market for erotica out there, and writing about sex would be an excellent way for me to make enough money to keep the hounds at bay. An important consideration in this economy.

Last week I announced my “Dirty Little Freaks” project, and I said that it would possibly contain some erotica. To be honest, I’m rethinking that decision, for the reasons I have just stated. I started the series with an introduction to the narrator, Boomer. I wrote it as a one-legged midget who uses his “other leg” to make up for the missing one. He used words that I would never use in public (or in private, for that matter).

I don’t think I like this guy. I think he needs to go away.

But that means that I need to come up with something to replace him. I kind of liked the idea of a dirty little freak introducing the stories as tales of the strange and unusual that he came across in his travels around the world. But that also means I would be limited to stories set in the modern age, and on this planet, and it may be better to open the floodgates a little wider and give myself some more room to play.

I was thinking that doing this series would be a good way to have some stories on file for possible submission to assorted magazines and anthologies. And the more different types of stories I have, the more options I have to present to editors.

Pardon my rambling. I find that I have a tendency to start on one topic and end on another. I hope you guys don’t mind. And this post is getting a bit long-winded, so I had better wrap it up anyway.

But first, a few other things that I need to say about my struggles with balance.

A few years ago I made a commitment to lose weight. I started at 320 pounds and by the time I was done (about a year and a half later), I was down to 175 pounds. I was proud of myself, and I swore I wouldn’t let myself get that fat again.

I broke that promise. I am back up to 290 pounds, and I have to say that part of the reason for the weight gain is the hedonistic lifestyle of being a writer. I have splurged on unhealthy food and gone out to eat at restaurants when I should have been dining at home. I have enjoyed cake and candy when I should have been sticking to carrots and celery. I have stopped exercising, and my bike (which I used to rely on as my main mode of transportation) is rusting in my basement.

I’m sick of it. I hate what I have let myself become and I have made a resolution this year to get back on my diet and start dropping the pounds again. I have started logging my food intake again and I am trying to keep my calories under control. I plan on getting my bike to the shop for an overhaul this spring so I can start riding to work again.

The diet and exercise will also be taking time away from my writing, which will make it more difficult for me to meet my writing goals, but it is more important to me right now for me to get back to a healthy lifestyle.

This is the balance that I am trying to find. Balance between my faith and my words. Between my diet and my urges. Between my health and my writing.

Life is all about finding balance. I am working on finding some in my life. How are you doing in yours?

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August 29 – Finding the Time

I have been struggling recently with my writing career. The problem is that I can’t seem to find enough time to do everything that I know I should be doing. This includes both the actual writing as well as promoting my work.

The standard advice regarding this is that I need to prioritize my time. If my writing is that important to me I will put aside other distractions and make sure I spend my time on my writing instead of other stuff.

I believe this. I have done this in the past. And I have been very productive while I was focused on writing.

But then I got burned out and needed a break. I decided to watch a movie instead of writing. I decided to read some of the books stacking up in my To Be Read pile. I made a choice to start a new game on Facebook and Google+ (the game is called Zombie Lane if you are interested in being my neighbor). All of these things helped my mental state, but they didn’t help me get any writing done.

And all this time I have been thinking that I need to also work on promoting my work. I have this blog, but there is so much more that I could be doing with it that I haven’t made the time to do. For example, I really think I should put something on this site and my other social networking pages that link to the Amazon page for the book where my first short story was published. That includes Facebook, Google+, MySpace, and Goodreads. I know this needs to be done, but I haven’t made the time to do it.

The advice is right. Getting this all done is a simple matter of prioritization. If I focused all of my spare time on writing I am sure I could get a lot of work done. But I’m not built that way. Most of us aren’t.

If I focused all of my energy on one thing I would go nuts. I need a minimum level of distraction to keep my brain from shorting out. If I can’t take a break from my writing and do something else I will burn out and then I wouldn’t be able to get anything done. There has to be a balance. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

I need to get back to work on my writing. I need to finish the short story I am currently working on so I can submit it for publication. I need to figure out what my next project is going to be. I need to post those links on my various profiles. All of these things need to be done and somehow I am going to have to figure out how to do it all without going insane.

The alternative is to clone myself a few times. That way I could have one of me go to work to keep making the money at my day job, one to work on my writing, one to work on promotions and web development, and one to keep my wife happy.

So please leave a comment on how you manage to prioritize your time. Or a link to your favorite cloning service. Either way, I hope to see you back here on Thursday!

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Priorities

One of the reasons why it took me so long to write my first book was that I thought I didn’t have time to write. A common excuse. The problem with that excuse is that not having time to write means that you are making other things more important that writing. If you make writing a priority, then you will find the time.

I used to watch television a lot. I also read books, played Dungeons & Dragons, and played computer games. All of those things took up my time. Time that could have been spent writing instead. Of course, reading is something that can help your writing, but not if you spend all your time reading and no time writing. The other things are fun, but probably not so useful to a struggling author.

When I decided to start writing, I had to make a commitment to do my writing instead of those other activities. I rarely watch television anymore (I treat myself to Chuck and Castle on Mondays). I stopped playing computer games, and I only play Dungeons & Dragons for two hours once a week.

Of course, now I also have things like this blog and Twitter that take up a chunk of my time. They say that authors need to use these types of social media networks to “build a platform”. That means that the more people I connect with on these sites, the better chance I have of getting decent sales numbers when I actually publish.

This is all well and good, but recently I have started wondering whether or not I need to cut back on these things until I am closer to actually publishing. I’m finding that I am spending too much time tweeting, and too little time writing and editing. So I have decided to review my priorities.

I will continue to post occasional tweets, but don’t expect me to carry on long conversations online. I have a lot of work to do on my two completed novels, and I am struggling a bit with my third. I’ll also continue to post my blogs on the same Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/Thursday schedule through the end of March, but then I intend to cut back to only twice a week.

How have you had to change your priorities to make time for your writing? Please share by leaving a comment below.

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ROW80 Status – Day 23 (Jan 25)

Not much to report since last time. I am still keeping up with my goals. Word counts are below:

  • Finding Valhalla – 53884
  • Six Days To Sabbath – 1659

A recent comment praised me on the ability to work on two novels at once. Maybe it’s weird, but I find myself not only thinking about the stories I am writing, but also considering what I might write about next. Years ago I had a time management seminar that warned against the “rabbit habit”, or the tendency to hop from one project to another. The problem is that doing that usually results in nothing getting finished. I want to finish my stories. I also want to go back and edit my first book, Dragons At Dawn. But I’m starting to get all these other ideas whispering in my ear, tempting me to just spend one night with them. And I know that, like a succubus, once they get their claws into me they won’t let go. And I won’t want them to.

Maybe what I need to do is start working on a story file. Something that I can use to put some of my ideas down until I finish what I already have going. Then I can pull one out and give it the attention it deserves. I have read about other authors doing this, and it sounds like a good idea.

What do you think? Do you have a story file? Do you have ideas begging for attention. Are you tempted?

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When to Write

So the first problem I had to deal with when I started my NaNoWriMo experience was figuring out when I could do my writing. I have a full time job, and a wife at home that wants at least a little attention from me on almost a daily basis. And I had a routine. Don’t get me wrong, a routine is fine as long as your routine fits in with the things you are trying to do. For me, it needed to change. My routine was pathetic. Let me break it down for you.

I am an early bird. I have my alarm set for five o’clock, but I tend to wake up between four and four thirty every day. And yes, I do mean EVERY day. My job starts at 7:45, so what do I do with those three hours every morning? When I was trying to find time to write the first thing I had to do was admit to myself that most of that time was wasted. I would get up and go to the bathroom, then sit down at my computer. Not to do anything productive, but to play several of the time-wasting games on Facebook. You know the ones I mean: Farmville, Frontierville, City of Wonder, Cafe World, etc. I had at least a dozen of those mind-numbing productivity killers that sucked up my time every day. And not just in the morning, but several times a day. They were the first things to go. Part of my preparation for NaNoWriMo was to block most of those games. I have to admit, though, that I still play a few of them, although I am trying to convince myself to drop those as well.

I don’t have a car, so I usually have to leave the house by 6:30 in order to ride my bike to work and take a shower. But I still managed to usually get to my desk by 7:15, leaving me half an hour without anything to do. Sometimes I would continue with the Facebook games, other times I would surf the web or check my e-mail. I needed to change my routine to let me use that half an hour to write instead.

Break times and lunch were also times that I could use to do some writing. Not so much for my fifteen minute breaks, as by the time I finished my snack and using the bathroom I didn’t have much time left for anything else. But my 45 minute lunch break gave me plenty of time to do some work on my story. And if I packed a cold lunch that meant that I had a few minutes more than I would if I had to heat something up in the microwave. So I started packing sandwiches and salads for lunch. I could even keep them at my desk instead of the refrigerator so I didn’t even have to get up at lunch time, and could just grab a bite and start writing.

After work was tricky. Usually I had plenty of time to write, but first I had to make dinner for me and my wife. Thankfully, I’m not much of a TV watcher, but there are a few shows that I enjoy. So Mondays were tough because of Chuck and Castle, and Fridays I watched Smallville. Wednesdays I would go to play Dungeons & Dragons from 5:30 until 8:30, which didn’t leavve alot of time for writing. My solution: work harder in the morning and during my breaks to make sure that I hit my goal before my other activities.

So that’s it. I had about two usable hours every morning, along with at least half an hour of productivity over lunch, and anywhere from one to four hours available in the evening. The only thing I had to do then was to kill the distractions and actually USE that time.

So my advice for the beginning author: check your schedule and figure out what your priorities are, and what you are doing that is just a waste of your time. Then drop the distractions and schedule your writing time. It helps to tell yourself that you are going to start writing at a certain time. At least, it worked for me.

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