Articles on the art and craft of writing and industry news.

Do Less, With More Focus: Five Tools for Managing Your Distractions

I used to end my writing sessions feeling unproductive and defeated—like I had wasted so much time with nothing to show for it—until one day, I learned something about managing distractions that changed my writing career. It’s much easier to write about solving the problem of distractibility than it is to live out the process. With practice, we can take control of our writing time and complete each writing session with a sense of accomplishment. Rest assured—all successful writers face distractions and need a plan to fight them.     The Parable of the Distracted Baker Once upon a time, a girl decided to make a fresh blueberry and apple pie. Her neighbor across the street had a blueberry farm and an apple orchard divided by a wide river with a bridge connecting them. The girl crossed the street with two baskets in hand. She started at the blueberry farm because it was on her side of the river. She’d only picked a handful of blueberries when the wind blew in from the direction of the apple orchard. She inhaled deeply, relishing the sweet aroma. Her mouth watered as she thought, I want an apple. She set her blueberry basket beside the bush where she was picking and crossed the long bridge to the apple orchard. The orchard spread out as far as she could see. The girl picked a few apples for her basket and one to eat right away. Oh, it tastes delightful, she thought, the perfect blend [...]

Pomodoro Time!

    Pomodoro: denoting a sauce made from tomatoes, typically served with pasta; Italian - ‘tomato’ OR    A time management technique developed in the late 1980s by then-student Francesco Cirillo. If we’re honest, most of us—at one time or another—have trouble managing our time; life happens, and too often, daily distractions keep us from getting the OTHER important tasks accomplished that we want or need to do. Like writing. The Pomodoro Technique is here to help! Prepare to be amazed! While the Pomodoro Technique can help with many daily tasks—cleaning, study, music practice, etc.—using it for writing is a great way to see progress. Cirillo decided to call this technique Pomodoro—tomato—after the kitchen timer that looks like a tomato. The idea is that you work using the timer, breaking your work into manageable chunks of time. Cirillo recommends 25 minutes for each Pomodoro session, working without interruption for that allotted time. Once the timer goes off, you must stop what you’re doing for five minutes (set the timer for this time, also). When the timer buzzes, signaling that it’s time to work again, set it for 25 minutes and work diligently for that time, then take a five-minute break, and so forth. The key to success is that you schedule and work as many Pomodoros as possible during your day, with three or four sessions being the minimum. Your break time can be anywhere from five to fifteen or so minutes, depending on your day—but I have found that scheduling [...]

Outlines: What Every Writer Ought to Know

Outlines are like road maps. You can get to your destination without one, but you run the risk of chasing rabbit trails, or even worse, getting lost. It’s the same with writing a book. If we don’t know the end, how can we write the middle? Outlines solve that problem for us. Think of a book as a vacation destination. When my family goes on a trip, we Decide ahead of time where we want to go How long to stay What to do while we’re there. Your book has a final destination. You have imagined what you want your book to accomplish. You know what you want for your readers. What you want your readers to walk away with after reading your book is the thesis or goal. Every step, every chapter along the way ought to draw your reader closer to your imagined outcome for the book. Therefore, thinking this through ahead of time will make your writing time more efficient, enjoyable, and in the end, produce a high-quality product for your readers. What every writer ought to know about outlines Outlines make writing more efficient Planning and writing use different parts of the brain. Switching gears from planning to writing and back to planning isn't an inefficient use of our brain power. Since planning and creating use two different parts of the brain, we will save time if we spend time planning the logical progression of our book before creating the text. Creating is more fun this [...]

By | 2017-04-27T00:36:52+00:00 April 28th, 2017|The Art & Craft of Writing Toward Publication|Comments Off on Outlines: What Every Writer Ought to Know

3 Ways to Avoid Writing RoadBlocks

No one ever said the writing life would be easy. Navigating my way around the roadblocks that get in my way is hard work! Self-discipline, determination, and confidence get me past the obstacles that bog down my progress. "The trick is not in becoming a writer; it is in staying a writer. Day after week after month after year, staying in there for the long haul.” — The Art of War For Writers, James Scott Bell, p. 12 Most writers know what it feels like to suffer from writer’s block, and we’ll talk about that another day. Today I want to take a look at the writer's roadblock and how it prevents aspiring writers from realizing their dreams. On some level, the idea of becoming a writer seems like it ought to be an easy career. We’re drawn to writing because it makes us feel happy when we do it. I feel at home when I put words on paper. Writing is simple; the words come effortlessly, and nothing stops me when I'm writing because the mood has struck me to write. However, a career as a writer can’t rest on whims. If you’re a newspaper reporter, your editor expects copy from you for the next addition. She has deadlines to meet. Therefore, you have deadlines to meet or get fired! Entrepreneurial writers, like authors, bloggers, and contracted writers need self-imposed goals. The hitch is that we must set our personal deadlines and treat them as seriously as an editor for a newspaper sets time limits for her [...]

By | 2017-04-24T03:12:38+00:00 April 21st, 2017|The Art & Craft of Writing Toward Publication|Comments Off on 3 Ways to Avoid Writing RoadBlocks

Never Give Up

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." When my children were school age and were in the throes of writing and reading, we drove a couple of hours away so they could take part in a writing workshop, given by authors who had written children's and youth literature—and who had been fairly successful. During one of the sessions about publishing (these were the days before self-publishing), the teacher commented that sometimes it takes awhile to get books published, but to never give up hope. He then mentioned a book we all knew very well; for ten years the author sent it to publisher after publisher, until one publishing house finally decided to take a chance. If he had not persevered, we might have never had Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. Mr. Peretti may not have known at the time that his book would be a best-selling novel, but he did believe in the words he'd written—enough to have the courage to keep trying. Never give up. Greatness might be just around the corner. I have a friend who once wrote a curriculum for a class she was teaching. She asked several friends to read it so she could get feedback, because she was considering putting it into book format, hoping to sell it to a wider audience. The content wasn't something I would have ever considered reading for pleasure or even education. But one [...]

By | 2017-04-27T00:49:08+00:00 April 18th, 2017|How to Publish Your Work, The Art & Craft of Writing Toward Publication|Comments Off on Never Give Up

What Keeps You From Writing?

I used to think writing a book would be just like writing a college essay or a creative writing assignment until I wrote my first book that was published in 2013. Granted, many aspects of the professional writing process were an uphill climb for me. However, setting limits on my time spent elsewhere to make room for writing was the most difficult step. Back then, I was homeschooling my two high school age sons, teaching a classical literature class, and managing my home. My days were filled with grading English papers or driving the boys to their math co-op on one side of a large city and to their lab science co-op class on the opposite side. We had an open door policy in our home—which meant people were in and out all the time. You may think, as I did dozens of times, "Why don’t you just set your writing aside and catch up when life slows down?" Guilt, exhaustion, thinking I needed time alone for me, or a phone call inviting me to coffee all interrupted my writing time on and off—until one day I made up my mind that the book was a priority. How do we mesh writing into our other responsibilities? When, if ever, should we say no to writing for the sake of another responsibility? In other words, how can I write my book without shirking my other obligations? These are the questions I had to answer for myself before writing my book could [...]

By | 2017-04-21T14:39:10+00:00 April 7th, 2017|The Art & Craft of Writing Toward Publication|Comments Off on What Keeps You From Writing?

Words…

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Proverbs 16:24 “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire..." James 3:5b I love words—I love reading them, writing them, teaching them, saying them. Words have power, and with them we bless or we curse. I teach writing to junior high and high school students, and one thing I stress to them is just how powerful words can be—that we should always measure what we say to others, whether in person, in a letter or email, when using social media, or whatever the situation. Our words should be used to encourage and build up—never to bully or tear down, because we can't take them back. Like Thumper and our mothers taught us, "If we can't say something nice, it's better to say nothing at all." God's words ~ Scripture tells us that God spoke the universe and all that is in it into existence! God's words created us! That is powerful! God's words are powerful! And He has given some of that creative power to us. As writers, we have a great responsibility to speak/write into people's lives words of grace and truth. But I'd take it a step further; we also have that responsibility as readers. Words are so powerful ~ what we write affects others and what we read affects us. How many times have you read something that stirred up emotion, made [...]

By | 2017-04-16T14:03:25+00:00 December 26th, 2016|The Art & Craft of Writing Toward Publication|Comments Off on Words…