Now, what was I talking about? 5 sure-shot methods for managing distractions.

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At the last brainstorming session, we bitches thought ‘Managing Distractions’ would be a great topic for the month of April. It was just the other day, amidst a few months of an uninterrupted, gale force work-icane, that my handy phone calendar dinged at me…

“Do wordbitches post,” it read. I promptly moved that ‘to-do’ item to the next day, a habit I have fallen into of late.

I’m sure those of us working two jobs, one to pay the bills and the other to pay the soul, will understand the pleasure of deferring action. After all, why do today when you can put it off until tomorrow.

The following day, my calendar dinged again… “Do wordbitches post” it nagged. And here I am, feeling fully qualified to expound on methods to manage distractions due to my ineptitude of doing just that.

  1. Do not put off today what you can do tomorrow. Do it now. Do it even if you don’t want to because, if you push it until tomorrow, you’ll start a pile up of things-to-do. A thousand word count day today, if pushed to tomorrow, becomes a two thousand-word count day.
  2. Use the tools. In my business and writing life, when things are flying fast and furious, I use my contact manager and calendar on my Apple devices to their fullest. In the busy times, I call these my brain because unloading tons of tasks and itemizing duties frees up brain space for other things. It also gives you defined goals. It feels good to cross things off the to-do list.
  3. Set the word goals and stick to them at all costs. In a previous post on wordbitches, the use of Scrivener was discussed. This is not just a great program for organizing plot, character and story, it has a motivating schedule (your daily word count goals) that can drive you to complete an otherwise floundering piece of writing.
  4. Turn off the phone and social media apps. Better yet, take social media off of mobile devices entirely. It’s much too tempting to take a five-minute break to catch up on the latest Facebook posts and Tweets. Half an hour later, you’re up to date on who is complaining about people’s driving habits and who got the wrong Starbucks order, sure, but you’re out a solid block of writing time and your flow is completely disrupted.
  5. Block separate times for your writing and your distractions. Prioritize your time into blocks. A half hour of solid writing is more valuable than an hour of writing time that’s interrupted by the phone and checking your favorite writing-themed websites.

 And on that note… isn’t there something you should be doing?

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Revise with Someone New

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I’m in the process of revising one manuscript while I’m beginning to write another.  Revising is a slow and painful process and I’d much rather spend my time watching Beverly Hills 90210.  I need deadlines.

Writing groups are wonderful for deadlines.  You need to write something for the other people to read.  I used to think I needed a writing group of five or six people to be official.  I couldn’t find five or six people to meet twice a month to exchange writing.  (Brenda and Kelly probably could have.)

I was frustrated until I realized that I train for races with just one other person.  When I make running or swimming dates, I keep them because I know someone else will be there.  In fact, I was more determined to get there when only one other person was waiting for me.  There would be no one to take my place if I just stayed home.  I decided the same could apply to writing.

Instead of looking for a whole group of people, I found one.  We meet every other week.  We enjoy each others’ writing and give helpful suggestions and criticism.  Just like with training, it’s actually more pressure to have something to share when there is just one other person.  In a group,  someone generally has something so you can slip under the radar and not share anything.   In my case, if I don’t write, my writing partner doesn’t read anything.  It puts more pressure on me to have something to give her.  She feels the same.

It’s helped immensely to force me to revise and rewrite.

It’s also easier to find one person instead of five or six.  I’ve found writing partners through NaNoWriMo, writing conferences, and writing classes.

In this springtime of renewal and rewriting, I suggest finding someone new to share your writing with and see what they have to say about it.   It will force you to write.  I guarantee it or your money back.

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How to Avoid Revision Hell

Spring Wordbees 1

Spring is almost here. Seriously, it’s supposed to be almost here. I’m writing this while wearing fingerless gloves and a shawl over my hoodie, and I’m practically sitting on an electric room heater. It’s -20 deg Celsius outside (without windchill) and my basement office tends to reflect those temperatures.

Springtime for most people is either about renewal of life or spring cleaning. I propose for us writers it should be about both. Renewing the life in your WIP and cleaning it up. What does this mean to me? You guessed it… Revision! Everyone’s favourite. Not.

At the moment I’m working on a shiny new project that I love and that I plan to Indie pub in the fall. (Yup, I’m gonna make that leap and I’ll drag you guys along with me.) I’m also working on revising a YA novel that’s dragging on forever. I always seem to be able to finish my first draft in a decent time, but the revising and rewriting kill me. It takes forever! I am truly in Revision Hell and I don’t know where the emergency exits are.

I’m a big proponent of writing a fast, hot, messy first draft and then polishing later. Or at least I have been until now. I still believe in writing fast and hot (no second guessing!) but messy is something that I don’t want to be anymore. If you write fast and hot then there will be days (weeks?) when you write utter crap. It’s unavoidable.  Or is it?

If you haven’t read Rachel Aaron’s blog post on how she went from Writing 2000 words/day to 10 000 then you must check it out. (Mind boggling word counts, eh?) But even if you’ve only got thirty minutes a day to write and you struggle to eek out 200 words, this post and her methods can help you. They’re helping me.

She details three things that you must have in order to achieve maximum word count. Knowledge, Enthusiam and Time. I’m going to talk about just one aspect today. Knowledge. This means knowing what you’re going to write before you start typing.

Having knowledge of the scene you’re going to write means writing longhand what the scene entails BEFORE YOU START WORD COUNT FOR THE DAY. And not the single sentence that we all use when we’re plotting, but exploring the ins and outs of the scene. Detail what’s going to happen step by step. Not only does this let the words flow faster when you’re writing because you know exactly what you’re doing, but it will also show you possible dead ends, it will let you explore those character conversations that you think might be a good idea but turn out to be shit, it will save you time later when it comes to… REVISION and REWRITING.

At least that’s what I’m hoping. I’m scheduled to be finished my new story at the end of the month. I’m hoping by using Rachel’s methods I won’t be stuck in Revision Hell with this story. It doesn’t mean I won’t revise, just that I’ll only be visiting hell and not occupying my permanent cell there.

So have you heard of her method’s? What do you think of them? What do you do to avoid Revision Hell?

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Top 9 Gifts for a Writer (or Things Marianne Likes)

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Today is my birthday.   How old am I, you ask?  I’m older than I look or act.  We’ll leave it at that.

So for today’s post, I thought it would only be appropriate to list the top nine gifts to give to a writer.  (Really this is just a list of things I want for my birthday.  Please forward it to my family.)

  1. Notepads—My personal favorites are Moleskin.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  (My goal is to have one of each.  I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do with the city planner ones but I figure owning a notebook for Paris is a GREAT reason to visit Paris.)
  2. Pens—This is a very personal choice.  Every writer has their favorite.  I switch between Uni-ball Vision Elite and Lamy fountain pens.  New pens make me happy  even when birthday cake can’t.
  3. Books—Writers need to read.  At least, that’s what all of my English teachers told me.  They could have had ulterior motives (like getting me to do my homework) but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe them.
  4. Chocolate— If you need an explanation for this, I’m not sure I can help you.
  5. Time to Write—It can be hard to choose to write when you have kids, laundry, work, groceries, life.
  6. Incredibly Funky Office Supplies—Who am I kidding?  Even totally boring office supplies are exciting.
  7. A new electronic gadget—It’s always fun to have the latest and greatest.  It’s not always a need, but it’s always fun.
  8. A New Car—See #4
  9. Cash—Also see #4

I could list one more to make an even 10 but once you get to cash, there’s really nowhere else to go.  Some people think it’s tacky to give cash.  I can honestly say, whenever I’ve opened a card with cash in it, I’ve never thought: “That’s so tacky.”

I hope this list comes in handy next time you want to buy something for a writer.

And if you don’t have a writer in your life to buy something for, it is my birthday…

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My Writing Space: Visuals That Inspire Me

February is the month of love. Being a reluctant romantic, I’m talking about candlelight dinners my bulletin board.

My favourite addition to my bulletin, which sits at eye level about my desk, is this:

Writing Inspiration

One other item that inspires me (and reminds me that I have deadlines) is this:

JillThis was my 2011 agent meeting with Jill Marr. Four hours later, a received an email with the subject line, “Offer of Representation,” which pretty much changed my life.

What’s above/on/near your writing space?

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5 Reasons to Love Being a Writer

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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and this month is all about Loooove. Romantic love. (BTW thanks Elena, for the awesome pic.) I decided today to post about a different type of love. My love for what I’ve chosen to do with my life. We writers are truly blessed, besides the respect from family and friends (and don’t forget strangers who tell us we should write a book like Hunger Games), we can expect fortunes to fall into our laps after our first novel is complete.

What?! You mean this isn’t true?

So, I decided to realistically write down five reasons why I love being a writer (to hold me over until the money starts rolling in.)

1. Working with Bed Head: Seriously, you can wear whatever you want and look however you want. Unless you’re working at Starbucks. They’ve been known to ask people to go home and change out of their pyjamas.

2. Lying for a Living: It is really cool to make shit up. I love testing my lies, I mean stories, on family members and strangers. It’s fun to see people’s reactions when I tell them I have the power to read their minds.

3. Goofing Off is a Necessity: Watching TV and reading books are a necessary part of this life. If you can’t spend hours watching full seasons of True Blood, or see yourself spending Sunday reading your favourite books rather than cleaning the house, then I have to doubt your commitment to this career.

4. Ignoring Problems: When confronted with an obstacle in our stories, or writer’s block, or our characters have decided to have a party instead of going on the quest, we as writers are encouraged to ignore these problems. We are continually being advised to forget them, to go for a walk, and to take our minds off these things. How great is that? Can you imagine a doctor confronted with a medical issue during surgery? And his coworkers saying… Gee, Dr. Bob, why don’t you take a walk and forget about this? The answer will come to you later. The patient’s only bleeding internally, he’ll keep until you get back.

5. Others Who Hear Voices: One of the best things about being a writer is being able to hang out with other writers. We ‘get’ each other. We…Complete… Each other.  Seriously, my real life writing friends are my rocks, my cheering section and my giggle buddies. (Yes, giggle buddy.) Who else can understand the craziness we have inside ourselves, but other crazy people?

And the bonus reason that I love being a writer?

6. Being Able to Write: Seriously, I love creating characters, stories and worlds. How cool is it that we can daydream and call it work? To be able to write our stories and share them with others? To have those people fall into our worlds and escape their mundane life? Way too cool for words actually.

This is a fantastic job and I hope you all love it as much as me. What’s the reason you love writing?

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10 Tips For Getting In The Mood

lovebackgroundFebruary is the month for love and romance, and since I’m the resident romance writing Wordbitch, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about sex. Writing sex scenes to be specific.

Not all my books have a sex scene in them, in fact, my Castle Mountain Lodge Books are considered ‘sweet romance’ which means there’s no sex ‘on screen’. However, some of my women’s fiction books have some heat and my new series, The Springs, is definitely steamier.

Writing sexy time can be a big hang up for a lot of people, but with a few tips, and plenty of practice, (I also use  red wine) you’ll be getting down and dirty in no time. Here are my top

1) Pretend no one will read it

This is important. If you’re constantly thinking about what your mom’s going to say when she reads your word, you’re probably not going to be able to let go. Just write. Don’t think. Get it out on the paper. You can worry about everything else later.

2) No one needs a how-to manual

Let’s be honest. Everyone who’s reading your book knows the basics of sex. They know what goes where and what happens. So please, drop the step by step instruction guide. If someone really wants to know how to do the dirty deed, there are books for that. It shouldn’t be in your novel.

3) Remember all the senses

This is good advice for any scene, but particularly in a sex scene. Obviously, your hero is going to be feeling and seeing things. A lot of things. But, they’re also going to smell the musky spice of their partner’s arousal, taste the slightly salty tang of her skin, and hear her moan of satisfaction. Your hero will be present with all five senses, let your reader in.

4) Let the characters decide how it plays out

You may think this one is slightly crazy, after all you’re the writer. You get to decide, right? Wrong. If you’ve done your job properly, your characters will be totally in control of thier own sexy time scene. The things they do, say and feel should all be in character. If you have a shy and timid heroine, it’s not likely that she’s going to be into getting busy with her guy at the public beach. Unless of course we know your heroine has secret proclivities towards exhibitionism, but if she does, the reader should already know that. The point is, even your sex scenes have to be in character.

5) No gratuitous sex

Unless you’re writing porn (note: I said porn, not erotica) there needs to be a reason for your characters hooking up. There’s nothing more annoying than a sex scene for the sake of it. The scene should move the story forward in some fashion.

6) Start the scene early on

I don’t mean you should write a three chapter sex scene. But hey, whatever does it for you. What I do mean is the sexual chemistry and tension needs to build from very early on. It doesn’t make any sense at all for two characters to simply fall into bed with each other if there hasn’t been any heat between them prior to that point. Build it, tease the reader with it. Make the reader want it as much as the characters do.

7) It doesn’t have to be sexy

Think of your own experiences. They’re not all straight from a movie. In fact, probably very few are. The point is, a sex scene doesn’t have to be sexy. It can be funny, or awkward, or messy or…fill in the blank. One of my favorite sex scenes of all time was written by fellow Wordbitch, Bradley Somer in his book Imperfections. Two bumbling teenagers, campfire, first time. Need I say more? I laughed until I cried and was totally incoherent. Great scene!

8) Talk to me, baby

I no, I don’t necessarily mean your hero and heroine have to talk dirty to each other. But if that fits into their character…go for it. But sexy time rarely happens in a quiet bubble. If she’s unsure about her first time with him, she might make little jokes, or nervous chatter. Maybe they’re having an argument, or bantering back and forth. Whatever it is, they’re probably saying something.

9) Don’t forget the after glow

This is crucial and also a perfect spot to move your story forward. (Of course your sex scene also should have also done this Remember #5?) What happens after their union? Are they embarrassed, angry, happy…what? Yes, it can be awkward, but the post coupling scene is when emotions are exposed and raw. Perfect for major action (if you know what I mean).

10) Red Wine

Okay, this isn’t totally necessary. But I do find that a little red wine loosens me up and lets me write uncensored. The point is, lower your inhibitions and get writing.

There are almost as many tips and tricks for writing sex scenes as there are positions. For some more great ideas, check out these links:
Twenty Steps to Writing Great Love Scenes
25 Humpalicious Steps for Writing Your First Sex Scene (This may be my favorite post on the subject)
Diana Gabaldon’s Advice

And don’t forget…have fun! It’s sex after all.
Elena

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