Tag Archives: writing

4 Tips For Making the Most Of Your Writing Sessions

Whether you’re writing a blog post or a book, staying focused during a writing session is notgirlwithlaptop_writingsessi easy. It is easy to check this and check that, frittering away valuable writing time. Most of us have other responsibilities, so it matters how you use the time you have to write.

Prioritize your projects or steps within a project. Sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked with less important projects or even aspects of a project and use all your writing time for that. I can have this problem when I’m having issues with my main WIP or I’m facing a more difficult/tedious part of my project. Keeping priorities straight and your goals in front of you, and reminding yourself of those frequently, will help keep you focused.

Idea: Write down your goals and the steps to reach them and keep them nearby when it’s time to write.

Plan what you’re working on ahead of time. Another time waster is figuring out what to write. Maybe you’re juggling multiple projects or just deciding what scene to work on next. Deciding ahead of time will let you get to work immediately so you use the entire time for actual writing. I usually decide the day before what I’m working on.

Idea: At the end of each writing session, take a few minutes to choose what you’ll write during the next session and make a note of it so you won’t forget.

Remove as many distractions as possible. If you have a place free of distractions, awesome. If not, pick your biggest problem and try to eliminate it. For example, maybe it’s checking email. Putting your phone out of sight or switching off the Internet on your computer while writing may help. Some writers like to take their work to coffee shops or parks. Whatever helps you focus, go for it.

Idea: If you don’t know what your biggest distraction is, spend one writing session analyzing how often you’re not writing (or thinking about what to write), and what activities are grabbing your attention. Then decide how best to remove those distractions, or tone them down.

Set a timer while you write. Finally, setting a timer can get you and keep you moving. Set it for as long as you have to write, or in shorter increments. I’m partial to 20 minute segments. I challenge myself to write as much as possible in that time. It often gets me moving and I’m on a roll beyond the timer. Other times, I keep setting it to keep momentum.

Idea: Set goals for how much you’re going to write within a given time-frame. For instance, write half of a scene in 20 minutes.

All writers need focus. Experiment to find what methods work for you, and stick with them. Most importantly, keep writing!

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing a Novel in a Month

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Writing a book in a month is like a crush and a high-speed car chase with a Fast & Furious-worthy explosion at the end – on drugs.

After a much-needed break this summer doing some fun things (including popping around Portside, er, Newport) and working on a side project, I start drafting book three of The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries, Drive-Bye, today!

I draft my books in a month. I don’t know why, but I’ve found it works best for me. And these are ten things I’ve learned about this crazy awesome way of writing a book.

1. Get excited.

Writing is fun!

Books are fun!

Writing a book in a month is fun!!!

2. Get ahead.

Make good on the first week because it’s always the easiest.

Write more on the days when you can and/or you’re on a roll.

Always aim for a few words more than you actually need.

3. Get chill.

What if something happens?!?

And something always happens!!!

Relax. Refer to #2. And just do what you can.

4. Get disciplined.

Stick to your schedule and daily word count goals.

On one of those days where the minimum is hard to reach, dig in your heels and push until you’ve exceeded it.

Whine and cry and stamp your feet, but make your word count goal!

5. Get balanced.

Writing is good.

Writing too much is not good.

Avoid word-comas by pacing yourself.

6. Get moving.

Exercise.

Move around.

Leave the house.

Outside stimuli keeps things fresh and keeps you refreshed.

7. Get help.

Use writing prompts at least once a week to add flavor and life to your book. And to your motivation.

Do a prompt with a friend to get out of your own head.

8. Get musing.

Stuck?

Yeah, we knew this would happen at some point.

Muse on the problem right before you go to sleep, while you do dishes, buy groceries, and pump gas. What’s next will come to you.

It will.

Promise.

But this doesn’t mean you stop writing.

Nope.

Good try.

But nope.

9. Get stubborn.

Writing is fun, you said. We’ll have a blast, you said.

Days will come when you hate this idea with a passion.

Channel that passion into your writing.

10. Get proud.

Writing a novel isn’t easy.

Finishing a novel isn’t easy.

Every day you move closer to your goal is an accomplishment. Enjoy it.

Skidding in Sideways on Jennifer Becton’s Blog

Hi all! You may remember that I interviewed mystery/historical-fiction author Jennifer Becton last month. Well, yesterday I guest posted on her blog, talking a little about finding an audience as a writer. I discuss three challenges I faced and how I overcame them. Read the post here.

Also, you can still download my medieval mystery book The Jester’s Apprentice for free at Smashwords until March 10! Click here to get your copy.

I Write Because I Love Surprises

I started writing the first draft of my sci-fi mystery novel, Hybrid Theory, around the middle of September. I’m making good progress but it’s been a little stilted the last week or so. This morning I finally got on a roll, and in the process I rediscovered one of the reasons I love to write so much. Surprises.

I’ve never been much of a plotter in my writing. I used to write with absolutely no idea where I was headed, but to avoid unnecessary heartache during revisions, I’ve developed (or I should say I’m still developing) my own special blend of pantsing and plotting. So I tried something new this time around, a very bare-bones outline, the kind I use for non-fiction writing projects.

So far this has worked out great. When I get stuck, I look to my outline and move on to the next point. It’s keeping my focus level up, and my panic level down. But there’s still room to write between the lines and that’s what made this morning’s writing session so brilliant. I knew where I needed to go next (go outline!) but I had no thoughts on how to get there yet. The little happy-go-lucky pantser in me just started typing away, running with the first thing that came to mind.

I’m just writing along – la la la – when I stumble on something. I sit up straight and stare at the screen, asking myself, ‘Is this where you want to take things?’ Well, yeah, it’s the perfect transition into the next plot point! I’m still not sure how it happened but it is sliding the story into the next phase without even trying that hard.

So I’m all pleased with myself when it hits me – again – that I live for those moments. A day ago I was panicking that everything I’d already written up to that point was awful and I’d probably just have to start all over again! But today I’m confident that it will all turn out all right. Funny how that happens.

And there was a hawk outside my window while I wrote, which somehow completed the circle of happiness.

What other surprises await me in this story? We’ll see, but this one turning point has charged me up to find out!

How to Kill a Character in 5 Easy Steps Guest Post

So I’m blonde (not technically, but I certainly behave like it sometimes) and thought my 3-part guest series at The Hot Author Report was this weekend, but it already came and went last weekend. I had such a good time writing my guest post, How to Kill a Character in 5 Easy Steps, that I decided to share it today. There’s also an interview and 5 things you don’t know about me post, if you’re interested.

So that’s that. Bring on the weekend!

Photo by Brandie Heinel

Mathemat-itis

Today, we’re joined by YA sci-fi author, S.C. Harvey, who I interviewed a little while back about her debut novel, Sand Castles & Seashores. She talks about her love of math and how it affects, and coincides, with her passion for writing.

* * *

I find it funny when people are shocked to discover that I’m a writer as well as a math geek, it seems counterintuitive to some. But I think the opposite is true. There’s a lot of artistry in the field of mathematics. When you look at a mathematical proof and see it in its entirety, it’s a thing of beauty. Math isn’t just about numbers meshed together in a secret code intended to confuse the general public but a logical progression of steps and procedures in order to arrive at a solution for that problem. That goes beyond the realm of just math. It can be applied to most fields. Think of it as looking through a mathematical lens.

Before I write any story, I have firmly in place the characters. I know them inside and out, how they behave, how they react, what they would and wouldn’t do, what makes them tick. I think it’s important to the reader to see this. It’s usually seen when I do flashbacks into the character’s past just so the reader can see where the characters are coming from and what has happened to them to where they are now. A logical progression of procedures in order to arrive at a solution can be rewritten as a series of events that got them to where they are now. There should be a bell going off, (ding!), there it is.

For me, it’s fundamental that the characters are firmly established. It gives them believability and the reader can get behind them and cheer for them, if not empathize with their struggles and go on that journey with them.

Character creation is only half the equation. The other half is the story itself. I generally start by asking myself some important questions: What is the purpose of the story, thus the purpose of the characters? What is their mission? What struggles would be inherent to such a mission? What creative solution can they come up with to get them out? Why is it important to the characters to see it through? Is the journey compelling? Will this be as entertaining on paper as it is in my head? Gee, I hope so.

Because the plots are largely character driven, they’re unique to those characters. Character development is seen when I write. Each main character is morphed because of their experiences. They’ll change and grow, but not beyond recognition. I guess you can say there is a psychology to my story writing – that added depth as it were. I largely write with series in mind and so the element of depth is necessary otherwise you wouldn’t care enough to keep reading. I know I wouldn’t.

There you have it – my basic approach to writing. My belief is we can be both left and right-brained with the right attitude because the two complement each other harmoniously. And we all possess a measure of both the logical and the beautiful. Both are needed to write a good story.

* * *

I was born during a time of unrest for Cambodia and my family fled to Thailand where we were detained. In time, we came to the United States and lived in Texas, but eventually my mother, brother and I settled in Southern California where I attended grade school and high school, which was where my love of learning began and flourished. Not long after graduation, I made my way to Massachusetts and have since married a wonderful husband. Married with one amazing daughter and a couple of cute pets, I continue to write.

Learn more about Sand Castles & Seashores and S.C. Harvey at her new Facebook page.

Music & Reading: An Interview With Songwriter/Producer Daphne Tetreault

Music and storytelling have always been friends. From minstrels to opera to modern-day movie scores, the two combined enhance and enrich each other. Along that line, I talked to songwriter/producer Daphne Tetreault who composed the music for my Dead Locked book trailer (we also happen to be sisters). She primarily writes and produces Top 40 pop tunes so I asked her what scoring for a book trailer was like and how reading affects her music. At the end of the interview, we have an exclusive free download of Daphne’s latest release with artist Brittany Hill!

The Dead Locked trailer was your first time scoring music. What was that like?

I was excited by the creative challenge and really enjoyed the process of letting the visual images evoke the music. It’s very different from my usual mode of working and I felt a bit nervous, wondering if I could get the right feelings across. Capturing the feeling of visual images is a whole other ball game, and I didn’t know where to start at first. But I started noodling, and ideas started flowing.

How did knowing the story affect the music? Did you get ideas as you were reading?

Yes, reading and knowing the story did affect the music. It helped me to inject the right level of excitement and mystery into the music. I don’t remember getting ideas as I was reading – I was too into the story! – but then when I saw the images for the trailer and knowing what was behind them, that’s when I got the ideas. Though I did have sort of a musical outline of how I wanted the music to build.

Music really affects my storytelling. Does reading fiction influence your songs at all?

Reading fiction has definitely influenced my songwriting. I’ve gotten ideas for song titles, concepts, phrases, even language and terminology from books. I’ve also translated the mood or feelings from different books I liked and turned it into a song.

What is the impact of a good score on a movie or TV show…or even a book trailer?

The visual arts, including trailers, wouldn’t have nearly the level of emotional impact without music. Music in non-verbal and can create fear, excitement, romance, mystery, unease…you name it. Even if the music is subtle or simple it can be very powerful. To quote Jack Black from the movie The Holiday – “with Jaws, John Williams created a villain in two notes!”

What do you like to read?

Jane Austen is one of my fav authors – my favorites by her are of course P&P and Persuasion; Elizabeth Gaskell – North & South; ah, yes- Amy Saunders author of Dead Locked! 😉 And I still have some favorites from when I was a kid. I’m all about the characters – I really have to get involved with them on a deep level to love a book.

What do you do as a songwriter/producer?

As a songwriter/producer I write lyrics and melodies, make demos, write, arrange and record tracks, coordinate musicians and vocalists, mix (which is adding effects, panning instruments in the audio field, EQ instruments so they don’t step on each other’s toes, and generally making it sound as good as possible) and sometimes I master it if it’s a demo. But if it’s a release I usually hire that out as it’s an art unto itself. Then I also pitch, pitch, pitch! Oh yeah, and network.

How long have you been doing this?

A while. 😉

What are you working on now?

I’m working with a few artists on album projects – mini-albums, which are 3- 5 songs long. Just had a couple of single releases with artists Miss Jess and Brittany Hill (available on iTunes and Amazon!) and have some more releases coming with other artists this summer.

You can hear Daphne’s current and past works at http://www.myspace.com/daphnetetreault and www.songbeat.net. Listen to full songs on her YouTube channel. Or contact her at daphne@songbeat.net.

Now about that free song download! Click here to go to the download page for the free MP3 of the pop/dance tune “Wish I May” by Brittany Hill and co-written and produced by Daphne (listen to the full track in the video below). You can download other tracks by Brittany Hill and Miss Jess on iTunes and Amazon (where they’re a steal for $.89 a piece). Enjoy!

Thanks to Daphne for joining us!