Archive for July, 2013

July 19, 2013

Writing tip: Don’t lose your timer

This is my office timer and, I suspect, home to Inspiration. (At least, she seems to come out more when I use this timer.)

This is (was) my dependable office timer.  I am currently experiencing a change in timer models, as described below.

I have this issue: I don’t want my toddler to play with my cell phone, but he loves it.

About two months ago, he wandered into my office, took the cell phone from my desk, sat down on the floor and started pushing buttons to make it beep. It was adorable, until he managed to get online. Then I had a terrific idea.

I traded the cell phone for my beloved kitchen timer, the one that gets me started on days when I need a boost.

I got back to work. I vaguely remember him standing up after a while and wandering out of the room with it, headed down the hall toward his own room.

It’s been two months now. Two months, and I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve looked all over the house, and I scoured his room. I’ve checked his toy box, his drawers, his book shelves, behind his bed and under the battered recliner in the corner of his room. I suspect I’ll find it in there someday. For now, I’m giving up.

 I finally broke down and bought a new kitchen timer. I have yet to warm up to it–and I’m amazed I feel so sentimental about my old timer–but I’m slowly getting used to the new one. Slowly. I’m making new memories. I will probably grow to love this one as much, given time and a few productive writing days that feel like successes.

Someday, I’ll look back and laugh and wonder why I was ever so dependent on a timer at all.

Meanwhile, I came across another interesting timer technique on Passive Guy. This one links back to author Ryan Casey and describes his experiences with something called the Pomodoro Technique. It allows him to write about 5,000 words a day.  I’m intrigued. I plan to try it one day early next week.

Also, if you’re interested in how Joss Whedon manages to be so prolific, you can read about it here at Fast Company.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned two important lessons: one, if I don’t want my toddler to play with my phone, I need to keep it out of reach–like on top of the filing cabinet–and two, if I want to use an office timer to stay productive, I really need to keep one around.


July 18, 2013

Thoughts on Million Dollar Outlines, by Dave Farland

The best marketing technique is still great writing.

The best marketing technique is still great writing.

Someone close to me recently encouraged me to read Million Dollar Outlines, by Dave Farland. I took the challenge, and I found some valuable ideas I feel like sharing.

In the beginning of the book, Farland addresses the difference between discovery writers, who don’t plot things out before they write, and writers who like to work from an organized outline.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I think I’m a hybrid. I really, really love discovery writing because it’s completely relaxing for me. On the other hand, plotting a book and then writing toward that plot feels like a game to me. It’s not as relaxing, but it’s very rewarding when I reach a goal I’ve set for myself.

I was intrigued by Dave Farland’s thoughts on how reading is an emotional exercise that allows readers to experience stress and de-stress in enjoyable ways.  According to Farland,  a writer’s job is to guide readers through balanced stress exercises, and de-stressing has to be done in the most powerful way possible. He wrote this:

My characters need to be more than relieved, they need to be almost giddy. Most of the time, I need to release my reader into a setting that is serene and at rest.

Also, because not every reader enjoys the same kind of stressful experiences, one story isn’t going to appeal to all audiences.

Here are some other helpful tips I picked up in this book:

  • Successful stories should have the protagonist trying to solve a particular problem at least three times.
  • Successful stories should be able to provide reasons why this particular plot is important, and stakes can be upped to help provide the why.
  • Verisimilitude=the sense that the story is really happening. I never knew this word before, but I like it. I also love the idea of creating verisimilitude in my stories.
  • If you want to sell books, it’s important to do your own market research. Find or make a list of books that sell well to the audience you’d like to target most, and find out what these books have in common. Take a look at everything from settings to the type of conflicts the protagonists face, and see what you come up with. Then incorporate those common threads into your own work. (In this book, Farland analyzes the movie industry, the television industry and walks readers through how to analyze a list of bestselling books. I found this very worth my time.)
  • Writing that invokes strong emotions tends to sell well.
  • Setting is extremely important–Farland wrote that an author’s success depends at least partly on his or her ability to transport readers to another time or place.
  • All characters, good or bad, should grow or change during the course of the story.
  • All characters are more powerful if parts of their personality or life ideals conflict another part. Farland called this duality.
  • Working with a large cast gives writers the opportunity to engage a wider audience, but it can be overwhelming. Farland gives some tips for managing a large cast.

In the second and third sections of the book, Farland gives several plotting tools and ideas to think about that  can deepen any story. Toward the end of this book, Farland walked through an actual outlining process that pulled the entire book together. I especially appreciated his advice on merging character conflicts onto a major plot chart, adjusting where the action is and then writing a sequential outline based on the major plot chart.

Overall, this is one of the best books on writing itself that I’ve read in a long, long time. While it’s not a marketing book, I believe it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to write for money.

July 2, 2013

Rome Construction Crew update for July

Canned Pineapple. Imaginary Hawaii still has a chance.

Canned Pineapple. Imaginary Hawaii still has a chance.

It’s a new month–time for new goals for my part in the Rome Construction Crew (join at this link, on the left side of the page). Or, at least, time to re-think the old ones. So here goes!

Health goal: progress is slow, and I’ve had some setbacks–but I’m still moving forward. I can now, very slowly, jog for as much time as I walk. This is a huge milestone for me. I hope to actually run more than I walk this month. Someday maybe I’ll even be fast. 🙂

Writing goal(s): I got as far as buying canned pineapple for my Hawaiian Editing Vacation in June. Wait, I take that back. I did have a Hawaiian DAY-cation with my daughter, although we both spent most of our time writing instead of editing. No tiki torches, but it was fun! For July, I’ll be more realistic: rather than shooting for a whole week in my imaginary Hawaii, I’ll shoot for four days. They don’t even need to be consecutive. They just need to be fun and full of editing-oriented hours.

For July, I’m adding three other small projects. I can’t even really term these goals, since I will only work on them as time permits…but here they are: I’ve picked up Magic Studies again with Madness Melody and will be doing some page-a-day writing on two other projects. One of these will be with BR Chaston and one with a sister-in-law. At this point, these are more daydreams than real goals, but they sound like a lot of fun, and I tend to spend time on things that are fun. We’ll see how much I actually get done. Maybe I’ll even post my progress here on the blog when I get my pages updated.

Volunteer goal (s):

With the wedding dress completed, I’m back to more local pursuits here. It’s amazing how many opportunities there are for helping people in the community. I have three goals here this month, but they’re all pretty small, so I won’t feel overwhelmed:

  1. Clean up the trash along the road behind my house. This idea was inspired by Green Embers and The Great Blogger Trash Cleanup. I’m not on time here, but I’m doing it anyway.
  2. For two weeks, I’ll be taking care of a dog for a friend who is travelling out of state.
  3. I have a manuscript for a friend to edit. I’m already really into the story, so this one should be fun.

I’m looking forward to a glorious July! Meanwhile, if you’re interested, here are some pix of the wedding dress:





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