And Just Like that, You Can’t Call Yourself a Writer…

Let’s begin with the obligatory cool photo that has nothing to do with the post except that THIS was the amazing sunset nature gave me (and a couple other people) tonight.

Haven’t posted here in a while, have I?

And my last post was (let’s face it), kinda lame. Right? I mean, does ANYONE even use pumice stones anymore?

Ha ha ha.

Hardly. There’s sandpaper and such, for that.

What have I been doing lately? Well, I’ve been stuck writing this BRILLIANT short story. It’s a sci-fi mystery. I mean, who even knew those two genres could be mixed?

But I’m stuck.

That’s right! The secret to writing and finishing books and stories is WRITING. So I’ve been violating my own personal rules about writing. By not writing. At least, not writing enough.

Let’s make this, then a PSA piece. My little gift to you, ME doling out advice about writing. Everyone loves PSAs and advice columns and writing advice about how to become the next GREAT WRITER.

Frame this. Frame it in giant black letters and hang it above your bed or your bathroom mirror and read it every day (I’m saying this because that’s what I’m doing right this minute–I’ve got one finger on my keyboard and one adjusting the level as I measure the wall thingy, nail. Or whatever it is.): WRITE EVERY DAY, YOU BASTARD.

I added “you bastard” in because you know that’s what you’re thinking when you’re walking around your office or your house or whatever, your building, like doing stuff that isn’t writing, and you’re like, “Damn. I still haven’t written my daily quota of 500 words/day.”

“You bastard,” you think to yourself.

Once you’ve written your quota, call yourself an AWESOME BASTARD.

“You got your word count, you awesome bastard.” Also you can insert other colorful descriptor words. For fun.

So basically I’ve been doing A Lot of Other Important Stuff that isn’t writing novels or writing short stories or blog posts. I mean, I’m trying.

But writing a book is like reading a book in certain ways.

Say you start reading a new book one evening, stretched out on your couch with a delicious bon-bon in your hand, and some nice quiet solitude around you. And then in the morning, your kids come back from sleeping over at nana’s, and you have no solitude for a solid week and don’t have a chance to read for 7 days, right? Well, on the 7th day, when you go back to the novel, you can barely remember what you read 7 days prior.

Right? I mean, that happens to you, doesn’t it? Oh. It doesn’t? Oh damn.

So anyway, ha ha, I don’t need to go to the neuropsychologist ha ha. My brain is FINE.

Writing a book is like reading a book. You have to be consistent and you can’t let up. Otherwise you forget the important elements making up the story. And to progress you’ve got to keep reviewing them, every time you spend too much time between writing cycles.

Great. Right? Easy enough.

Also, your imagination needs to be exercised every day. Writing a story does that. It takes practice to get your brain to a good spot when it comes to being able to make it do cool tricks and flips and crap.

I know this. I know this because I’m out of practice.

BUT NEVER AGAIN. I swear it. I’m going to start getting up at 6 a.m. just to get my daily word counts. I’ll totally do that.

New life goal: get up at 6 am to write. 6:30. Er. 7. I can totally do 7.

Here’s a clip from my sci-fi murder mystery (btw, I have no idea how to write a murder mystery. It’s coming out like a crime procedural. This is an experiment):

Usually a giant head wound meant it was murder, however.

Rising again, I dusted off my hands and pen.

I skulked around the room, looking for anything else I might have missed. I took out my own notebook and sketched out the layout of the place and the approximate locations of all the big items, including the big old dead body at the center. The fireplace. The gray-fabric couch. The console table against the far wall, near the door. There was an orrery on it, of Giganto and the six inhabited moons: Kota, Itzcap, Po, Joopa, Paradise, and Helo. It moved like an old clock, on gears that ticked softly, showing the orbital paths around the pale gas giant that filled our sky. The little machines were all the rage forty years ago, when the first trans-moon zeppelins began operation. The vic might have collected old oddities like that. “Something’s missing,” I said loudly to get Meiko’s attention.

Meiko came to stand beside me as I crouched to get a view of the dust coating the table like a light fur. She copied me. “It looks square, the empty spot. Maybe slightly rectangular.”

“What do you want to bet that whatever was right there, was the murder weapon?”

“Or maybe the vic threw it out. Or maybe it was just a box. And he finally moved it.”

“Unlikely. No one leaves an idle box on a table,” I said, straightening and swiping my fingertip across the empty spot, “and dusts around it.” I showed her. No dust on my finger.

She nodded.

The end. I mean, the end of that clip. Ha. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list and in return, receive a free ebook! Click here to get in the in-crowd!

Five Ways to Find Time to Write

Regularly, someone asks me how I have time to write, let alone write a book.

Look at what I’m doing now! I’m at my sister’s house, writing! CW is playing with his cousin and baby Z is in the exer-saucer! I shouldn’t be writing this post at the moment, I should be chatting with my sister and watching the kids play because it’s fun! And there are rainbows and unicorns and kittens prancing around the house because that’s what life is for a stay-at-home-mom/career mom/freelancer/author!

Right. So there is never time to write. That’s the key. There is always something else to do. If it’s not re-mopping the kitchen floor for the fiftieth time because SOMEone spilled their milk, it’s doing the laundry again because it never goes away. Something is always dirty, and it’s usually a pile of clothes, somehow (how? I just washed them!). It’s never just one item, it’s always like twenty shirts.

Anyway, this is a topic loads of writers have tackled. I am not the first. But I’ve been giving advice to a few people with aspirations of the writerly sort, so I want to put my thoughts into a blog post that I can quickly point them to.

When I say that you have to make time to write, that’s precisely what I mean! Here. I’ve boiled it down to a list of five very important things:

1) Figure out your distractions. Sometimes things are more important than writing, like being a parent, taking your kid to school, picking that same kid up from school (I have writer friends who sometimes forget to do this because they’re writing! Haha!) Showering, eating, paying the bills, possibly working. Those are all necessities. But other things, not so much. Playing Destiny or Grand Theft Auto V? A distraction. At least, for me. I love video games, but they suck the time away as well as the urge to tell a story. I get lost in those stories and lose that primal instinct to sit by the fire and weave a tale. Is it the same for you?

2) Get rid of things that qualify as a distraction. This is really part of number one, but it bears repeating because it’s so important! I recently deleted Facebook from my smartphone because I’d spend an irrational amount of time chasing links on it and commenting on other people’s life stories. I should be living life, not remarking about it from the sidelines. Right? Granted, some would think writing a book isn’t really living, but it is for me. I also had to shove aside my video game addiction. You might need to do that. Whatever your distractions are, figure out which is more important: writing or messing around.

3) Write when there’s downtime. For me, this just barely opened up as a possibility because my 3.5 year-old began going to preschool two days a week. Stoker drops him off on his way to work and baby Z takes a nap. I can potentially get 600 words in before she wakes up and I have to go pick up CW. When is YOUR downtime? Do you have a half-hour or hour lunch break everyday? When I was working as an editor, my lunch hour was my writing time. I snacked and scribbled. Figure out your free time and focus. Some nights I can work once the kids are in bed. Can you?

4) Think about what you’re going to write before you sit down to write. They say writers live two lives, the one they’re living and the one in their head, which is carefully taking stock of everything and caching it away for material later. Something like that. Whatever. I don’t remember exactly, but the point is, it’s helpful to be aware of your story all the time. For that scene with the characters in the rain? You really want to pay attention to the rain that’s happening today, right now, as you drive/walk to work. This way, when you finally sit down to write, you don’t waste a single minute searching for material. You’ve got it. Burn that keyboard up! Type! (Or scrawl it, if pen and paper is your thing.)

5) Write. Every. Day. Everyone always says this. They say it because it’s true. Getting a schedule is important because humans are creatures of habit. Our brains are tiny (everyone always says huge, but they’re lying). There are a few things that we don’t have to do habitually to remember, like riding a bike, reading words once we’re literate, etc. But things like remembering the details of a story? We forget. If you put aside a book you’re casually reading and don’t pick it up for a month, sometimes less, generally you won’t remember what the hell is going on in it. That same thing happens with the book you’re writing. You don’t want to waste writing time re-reading your entire story because you put it down for a year. So set a daily word limit. Make it simple at first–100 words, 300, 500. Whatever works. Make it reachable so that you have the pleasure of accomplishing the goal. That way you don’t give up immediately. If you write more than your goal, great. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t go significantly over it.

If you can follow at least four of these, you too can write a book. Or a short story. Or whatever it is you want to write. Like anything in life, you simply have to want it. The best advice? Take the Nike slogan to heart: “Just do it.”

Like most people, I don’t have time to write. I create time, then I make it work for me. Make time work for you! The above five steps have helped me manage to continue to work (for the most part) through having two kids. Babies are needy. Kids are needy. And of course my kids are of the utmost importance to me, but . . . so is my work. I actively create the time to do it. And you can as well, if it’s what you want.