Talk Back: what is your writing plan?

February 4, 2013

On my Kindle: A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Do you have a writing plan? Do you have a good idea of where you are going with your writing? What will you be writing and where will you be submitting your stories next?

It’s been a long time since I have contributed to the blog and it feels so good to be back. I had to step away for a while as I went back to school then found myself a steady job as a science teacher, and kept my writing to just that -writing.

As I come back here, I am very curious to find out more about you all, wonderful readers and members our Musetracks community. I want to know more about your writing and how you survive this crazy endeavor that is stringing words together to delight others and perhaps make a bit of a little living out of it.

So I return here with a new feature to the blog. Please talk back to us by commenting below. I really want to know. Tell us here so we can all learn from each others.

This week I am very curious to know if you have a writing plan. Is it very organized or kind of loose? Do you have a plan A, B and C in case things don’t work out the way you want to? Are you writing your first novel? Your tenth? Are you submitting to New York or small presses? Or perhaps you have a solid self-publishing 5 year plan all laid out for you? Where are you going with this?

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Link of the Week – Freedom

October 16, 2012

One of my biggest distractions is the lure of the internet. I’ll be chugging along, writing the next masterpiece, when I hit a bump. It may be the need of a thesaurus, do a bit of research, or check the etymology of a word, and suddenly, I’ve popped on to the internet. You know what happens from there. Yep, I’ve got to check my email. While I’m at it, I might as well see what’s happening on my social media networks. Next thing I know, half an hour of my writing time has been sucked away- time I will never regain. Damn you, Facebook!

So, on that note, here is a handy, dandy tool to keep slackers like me from logging on.

Freedom is an app that blocks you from the internet for a predetermined amount of time. There is a one-time nominal fee for the app, but it just might be worth it for us writers.

All You Need Is A Tomato To Solve Your Problems

September 8, 2011

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.  ~Agatha Christie 

   TIME   William Shatner says space is the final frontier, but for me it is time. It is the frontier where most of my daily battles are played out against the enemy known as Sir Procrastination. The very mention of his name runs shivers up and down my spine. He is an insidious enemy, threatening to suck endless hours away from my grasp.

“Damn you, Sir Procrastination!”

Time is fleeting, at best. More often than not, we consider it an enemy that must be harnessed, conquered or made to bend to our will. Sadly, none of these things will happen. We can’t change the nature of time and Sir Procrastination will always be there lurking in the shadows, but what we can do is learn how to manage ourselves. In the face of the speeding time bullet, we can employ a simple method discovered by a university student in Italy. No kidding!

Let me introduce you to The Pomodoro.

If you do much cooking or travelling, then you know that the word Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. The creator, Francesco Cirillo, was a student at a university in Italy. He finished his first round of exams and took a good look at how he studied and organized himself. He was not happy with his discovery. Could he study, really study for a full 10 minutes? No distractions of any kind? He used the closest thing he had on hand to time himself- a tomato shaped kitchen timer. (Ahhh. The Pomodoro!) Unfortunately, he failed miserably.

With practice he trained himself until he could handle those 10 minutes and more. To make time an ally instead of the enemy takes practice. Francesco perfected his technique until we now have The Pomodoro Method used worldwide. The application to serious writers is wonderful!

He wanted to keep the process simple and not require any extra time dealing with a complex procedure or technology. (Thank you, Mr Cirillo!) For a period of 25 minutes, you are to work without distractions and then you take a 5 minute break. Congratulations! You’ve just completed one Pomodoro. You repeat this for four times and then you earn yourself a half hour break. This is the basic building block of this method. Sounds simple, right?

I tried it out today while I was writing and it is anything but simple. I finally read the accompanying free book that takes a more in depth look of the process. (When in doubt, read the directions!!)

There are forces of evil at work making your ripe, firm Pomodoro into greasy spaghetti sauce. These forces are called internal and external distractions. Internal distractions are the most difficult to overcome because we make them up as we go along. For instance, we start our timer and then BAM! We need to stand up, go to the bathroom, call a dear friend, or mend the back fence. For me, I needed to immediately research what it felt like to be on a boat near an island that experienced an earthquake… kidding. I re-started my Pomodoro three times before I made it through the whole 25 minutes. It did get easier and I did get more productive.

The other force of evil is the external distraction devil. The telephone is my number one offender. I get into a scene, the words start to flow and invariably the phone rings. Poof. There went Pomodoro number four. My phone also dings when I receive tweets or texts or voice mails. There went trials five, six and seven. Sigh. Finally, I went outside with no phone of any kind and twenty five minutes flew by and I had words written all across my screen!

Francesco Cirillo has developed a method I think all writers should try. It takes practice and an understanding of all the things waiting to de-rail you. He outlines his method in a free booklet offered on his web site, along with worksheets and guides. My goal tomorrow is to write Chapter Eight and critique my friend’s pages as well. I will do all the preliminary steps and discipline myself against those evils coming at me. Wish me luck…..

What do you think about his method? Do you do something different? Share some of your techniques for staying focused and productive.

Paying the TimeKeeper – Blogger’s Debt

July 27, 2011

Song of the Day: Paparazzi by Lady Gaga

So, let’s talk about author blogs. Commentaries, musings, chronicles, running narratives of a writer’s life, there are a bajillion out there. But are they effective in bringing in sales and new readers? Or are they another time sucking black hole?

The answer I’ve come up with – yes and no.

Blogs are great tools in developing a web presence, especially when following a few tips. Blogs should reflect the blogger’s personality, be entertaining, and offer something (education, advice, links, prizes, a good knee-slapping laugh, etc.) to readers.  Length can be whatever the blogger is comfortable with, but shorter is sometimes better, especially when blogging often. (Not today. Sorry.) The blogger should make every effort to reply to every commenter. Personal touches go a long way, showing the blogger is not a cold, unapproachable, one dimensional being.

There is no question blogs are important to writers, whether they write them or not. Commenting on blogs regularly is an easy way to gain name recognition. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say it takes seven times for a person to see a name before that name becomes recognizable. That’s what we want, right? To be recognizable? Okay, maybe we won’t walk outside and be blinded by dozens of paparazzi flash bulbs. But we do want people to remember us.

Let’s go back to my original question. Are blogs another chupacabra sucking us dry of our precious time?

A question to ask yourself is who is the target market for your blog? For many of us, our circles of followers are other authors. This is great because writers tend to form supportive, tight knit communities. And in this industry, we need to each other’s back. But how far will that go in terms of sales and readership? It goes back to becoming active in the blogosphere.

We want to expand from the bubble of friends. We want to draw in readers near AND far.

Many authors do blog tours. Any way you slice it, blog tours are time consuming. Consider the time spent looking for and corresponding with other bloggers for a guest spot. Also consider that the content posted will need to be fresh and unique for each site. Don’t forget the time spent replying to every commenter to your post.

If you have time for a blog tour, I say go for it. Got a couple of tips for you, too. Keep the blog tour to a manageable amount, be that 10, 25, or 50 stops. Offer prizes. People will likely ‘follow’ you (think Grateful Dead’s Deadheads) on your tour if they have a chance to win something. Have a boilerplate about yourself and your book’s information already prepared. The boilerplate can easily be copied and pasted into each blog written. Don’t just hit up all your writer buds for guest spots and interviews. There are endless blogging opportunities out there. Expand on blogs that have content you may be interested in. For example, if your book is about a dragon-slaying pastry chef who falls in love with a racecar-driving homicide detective. You might consider looking for blogs about Renaissance festivals, Nascar, baking, and law enforcement and write a blog relevant to those topics. And if you have a boilerplate at the end, you’ll be slipping in that PSA on your book, upcoming release, or YOU the future best-selling author.

Need help finding blogs to appear as a guest? You might try to get you started. Or try Googling ‘guest blogging sites’ or ‘guest bloggers wanted *topic*’. There is also The Cheap, a blog for authors and readers who welcome guest bloggers. Then there is MuseTracks.  That’s right. Want to do a guest blog here, contact one of us!

If tours aren’t your cup of ale, you can still use these blog tips to your advantage and at your leisure. Keep at it regularly and you will likely pick up a few loyal followers. That translates to readers and sales.

Just as with keeping up with the Joneses (damn you Jones- shaking fists in frustration) on social media sites, it goes back to managing your time to fit in a couple of blogs a day/week to visit, comment, and write.

For me, I recognize that my plate is full. I don’t have the time to do a blog tour. I will gladly do interviews, and I always try to put a fun spin on each one. But I am human and I know I can’t do more at this moment.

What about you? Do you blog? Love it? Hate it? Any advice to share? Let’s hear from you!