How to find the time to…

 

crop maze
Following one of my more delightful time-fillers as we explore the Crop Maze in Hagley, Tasmania 🙂

 

“How do you find the time to…?”

I’ve been asked this question quite a bit over the past few weeks – on Instagram in relation to my reading habits, and by a couple of different people at the recent Tamar Valley Writers Festival when discussing my writing.

I have three children; two I home-school (in grade 4 and 2 respectively). The youngest is an active toddler, at the stage of getting into anything and everything the moment my back is turned, and ever so full of mischief. We also have a large garden (mostly neglected, but still somehow providing us with an abundance of tomatoes and potatoes and apples), chickens, a sheep, a cat, a dog, and a goldfish (the animals are the children’s responsibility for the most part: feeding and collecting eggs are fairly easy chores, after all).

When I’ve been asked how I manage my reading/writing with such a menagerie, I tend to laugh it off, giving one of two ‘joke’ answers: that I neglect the children, or else bribe them with screen time. The latter is sometimes true – though screen time is usually a reward for completed school work and chores, so it fills two purposes (a reward for completed tasks, and giving me some free time for my own work). Other times I have a self-imposed deadline to meet and I need to finish something – so movies are a great way to entertain the kids for an hour or so. Even the toddler will sit quietly for the duration if Mary Poppins is playing – (well, except when she gets up to dance along with Mary and Bert and the chimney-sweeps). And I don’t only distract them with the screen. With around 4 acres of land – around half of which is bush – the older two have no problems entertaining themselves for hours at a time, and if I can align that with a toddler napping there’s plenty of time to make progress on whatever I’m working on.

But to answer in the above manner excludes two very important reasons why I can achieve so much reading/writing. The first is the most important of all – my husband. His support and encouragement has been a great motivator – along with his willingness to back up his words with actions by taking over the homeschooling/child care/housework on the days he doesn’t work while I hide away for the day to write/research/edit, and even whole weekends so I can attend writers festivals.

And the other important thing is making the most of what time time I have available. When I’m hanging about waiting for my kids outside dance or aikido, I’m reading, or editing, or working on my author platform, or jotting down story ideas. If I know I’ve only got a short space of time to myself, I make sure I use it in the best way possible (and yes, sometimes this means an afternoon nap if I need it).

But I think there is another factor at play here too, and I think it’s summed up best in a quote I found on my twitter feed the other day:

“Motivation comes from being committed to the path you are on.” Jeffrey Shaw

And there’s another quote that works here too:
If you really want to do something...

 

 

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Feel like your story isn’t ready?

So, I’ve finished a story. It’s been edited several times over, and is as good as I can get it, for this moment at least.  Sometimes I know a story is good when I send it out, most times I don’t – most times I feel embarrassed that I am sending out such drivel!! Sometimes those stories that I know are good, are accepted, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the stories that I feel are drivel are rejected but sometimes, much to my shock, sometimes they’re actually accepted, given honorary mentions in competitions even.

I just finished reading Orson Scott Wells “How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy”. He has some very interesting points, but the thing that struck me the most – (probably because it reminded me in some way of Nick Hornby’s comments – that as writers our job is to write, and not judge our writing) – was Orson’s chapter entitled “The Life and Business of Writing”.

His advice, on stories that may or may not be ready for publication goes something like this:

“When your story is finished, let it go do it’s work. Don’t wait for it to gather dust on your shelf. Sure, if you let it sit there for a year and pull it down and look at it again, you’ll find all kinds of dumb mistakes that you’d never make today because you’re so much better now. But then, if you had sent it out and it had been purchased by a magazine, it would be appearing in print right now, and while you would still find those flaws in it, at least you would have been paid for it and your story would be in print and – here’s the good part – your readers will like the story just fine the way it is.”

He goes on to say that he is NOT advocating that writers should send out second-rate work,

“But a year from now you should be writing the story that you care about and believe about at that time, not reworking this year’s story…”

“Because the more you fiddle with your story, rewriting this paragraph or that one, the more likely you are to make it worse. There are things you instinctively do when the story is in it’s first rush out of your head that are truer and better than anything you’ll come up with as you second-guess, revise, intellectualize.”

 

So there you go! If you have a story, sitting there, waiting to be sent out in the world – Be Brave! Send it off – you might be surprised! And if you’ve already been brave – feel free to share your story with the rest of us – were you successful when you thought you wouldn’t be, or vice versa?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Writer’s Program

 

I am thrilled to say that my 6 year old son is joining in the Young Writer’s Program this year. (http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/)

We signed him up on the site, and checked out the Word-Count Goal Calculator, a brilliant device to help Young Writer’s set a word goal for themselves. He typed away for 10 minutes, with lots of distractions, and ended up with 30 words. Focus is not really one of his strong points at the moment – his world is far too full of excitement to concentrate on any one thing for too long, so we’ve set him a daily goal of 50 words, 1500 words for the month. Personally, I think he’ll get that easily, but I wanted something small for him to aim for, in his first year.

Then we downloaded the Young Writer’s Program workbook for Elementary Students. It is brilliant! It asks him to think about novels that he likes and doesn’t like, and what it is he likes or not about them. Then he begins the planning for his own novel. So far we have a character, whose name he picked out from a baby name website after searching for a name that means warrior or fighter (it’s going to be an adventure story), and the character has now been fleshed out with likes/dislikes, where he lives, what he looks like, and what he does best.

Best of all is that my son is so keen to work on it. He is so excited about his story, he’s been bragging to all who will listen about how next month he’ll be doing the Young Writer’s Program.

And we’ve already discussed his prize should he succeed, a YWP “Nanowrimo Brain” t-shirt.

Looking forward to next month, novelling away with my boy!! 😀

20 Days to go….

It’s almost that time again!! Time for what you ask? NANOWRIMO of course!

I love it! I’ve been checking out the website today – there’s the Nano Video which has that awesome soundbite at the beginning and end. Let me tell you – that sound is one of my favourite sounds ever. Whenever I hear it I get so excited!!

I’m so happy to see Chris Baty will be back to give a Pep Talk this year! For those of you new to Nano, Chris Baty was actually the founder of Nanowrimo, as he and his friends decided to try and write a novel in 30 days, way back in 2000! I have been watching (via Nano Video) and reading all of Chris’s encouragement and motivation over the last 4 years of Nano. He retired at the end of last year to become a full-time writer, making millions of wrimos around the world very very sad. How could we possibly get through Nano, without him!!?? Thankfully we don’t need to, as he’ll be one of the authors sending wrimo participants a bit of pep throughout the month.

But probably my most favourite thing on this years website is something new. A list of all the authors whose published work began as a Nanowrimo novel. That’s right, Nanowrimo CAN lead to publication. I’ve been waiting and wishing for such a list ever since I learnt that Nano novels had been published. It’s a big list, and I want to print it out and show it to all those people who said writing a novel in 30 days was a waste of time and would never lead to anything! (Except, I didn’t have any of those people say that to me – but I think that’s just because I knew they would say it, so I never ever told them about Nano, because I didn’t want to hear it.)

My Nano planning has began, and I’m so excited about it this year.

Is anyone joining me? What do you like about the new website? And are you planning your novel or will you sit down on Nov 1 and just see what appears on the page?

NanoWrimo 2012 – who’s with me?

The people at National Novel Writing Month have released the Nanowrimo 2012 website today!!

Nanowrimo is brilliant, and this will be the third time this year I have participated – having joined in the June and August Camp Nano sessions.

If you’re thinking about Nano but not sure if you really want to commit to writing 50,ooo words in 30 days: check out these 10 reasons you should sign up!! (taken straight from the Office of Letters and Light’s blog (OLL are Nanowrimo’s parent company…) (http://blog.lettersandlight.org/post/32671611607/10-reasons-you-should-do-nanowrimo)

1. Because you get this deep down feeling in your bones after you read an amazing story; a need to drop everything right then and write something, too. Because every once in a while, while riding your bike, you mull over the dream you had last night and suddenly wish you were being chauffeured so you could whip out a pen and jot that bit of dialogue down and see where it takes you.

That feeling isn’t going away, is it? It’s because your spark of inspiration feeds off an inexhaustible fuel. There are people out there who think, ‘That would make a decent story,’ and then never bother themselves about it again. They are a credit to their parents in many other ways, but they don’t have the particular fire that burns in you. Don’t waste your light.

2. You’re afraid to try. Here’s the thing, ‘afraid to try’ is, like, the next-door neighbor of ‘want to try’. Heck, they’re basically roommates. ’Don’t want to try’ is actually four counties over.

As much as we talk about the guilt monkeys that will plague you during the month when you let your word count languish, if December 1 rolls around and you haven’t reached 50,000 words, they are surprisingly compassionate. They will pat you on the shoulder. They will point out that you’ve written 100 words more than you would have if you hadn’t bothered. They will stroke your hair.

That last one isn’t out of compassion, but hunger. Still, it’s nice.

3. You have an idea.

4. Everyone agrees that November is a totally boring month; worse than August. Mostly, there is absolutely nothing of worth happening. “What about Thanksgiving?” I hear many of you asking. Fun fact: the only other country that even celebrates Thanksgiving is Canada, and theirs is in October.

“But I’m so busy with school/work/other!” others of you cry out. I, too, used this reasoning once, to convince my mom that I had absolutely no spare time to play the piano at her dance class’ rehearsals.

Her reply? “Let’s talk about how little time you’d have if we sent you out to your cousins in Korea, and you were engaged in rigorous academic study from seven in the morning to nine at night.” Turns out I had a couple hours, actually, to plunk out waltzing triplets.

All joking aside, November can be a tough month to find the time to write, but the only way to guarantee that you will not have time to write a novel is to make no attempt to look for it.

5. You love writers. NaNoWriMo comes with a community of a quarter million creators like you, who will be breathing life into their characters by your side. On October 31, you can feel a collective inhale starting in New Zealand, and traveling west across the globe, and then a whoosh when November 1 hits. It is epic. It is awesome.

When I spend a lot of time with bro-ier friends, I start speaking the language, complete with a strong peppering of ‘dude’, ‘sick’, ‘swole’, etc. We are influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. Sometimes, this doesn’t work out for the better (as my example could demonstrate; your mileage may vary). With the right people, though, it can be very real and uniquely human magic power to compile individual resources of will into one giant pool to push each other to achieve the improbable.

6. Do you hate pep? Are encouragement and optimism and persistence distasteful to you? Do you wrinkle your nose at can-do spirit? Good news! We have a place for you over here in the quiet corner, where you can steadily write, consult your stats, and self-motivate to your heart’s content.

Everyone else, brace yourself for advice from published authors, tips and relevant anecdotes from NaNo HQ, word sprints run by your MLs, and pop culture references galore. (We cannot promise these references will be either up-to-date or cool. I will, however, spare you the rendition of ‘Write Me Maybe’ that we belt in the office.)

7. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and are hoping to avoid sunburn and the possibility of skin cancer, let me introduce you to the indoor sport we call NaNoWriMo!

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, and hoping to avoid snow, rain, general chilliness, haaave you met NaNo?

8. There are people out there who will say, “NaNoWriMo is a waste of your time.” Sometimes, they will go on to say, “You cannot write a novel in a month, and any first draft that comes out of a rush to pen it in 30 days will be completely useless to you.”

If you are a patient person who would like to engage these naysayers, there are two responses to this sort of person, which depends on how they answer the question: “Have you ever written a novel?”

  • If they say, “No, I have not completed a novel,” you are allowed, even encouraged, to pause, smile kindly and say, simply, “Interesting.”
  • If they say, “Yes, I have completed a novel,” you might say, “That’s fantastic. High five—come on, up top! I think this is how I’m going to push myself to do something I’ve always wanted to do, like you did. I don’t know if I’ll end up trying to publish a novel, but if I do, I know writing one is the first step towards doing that.”

If you are not patient, a pretty solid response is, “Cool, I think I’m going to do it anyway.” There’s a decent amount of satisfaction to be found in openly disregarding the haters.

9. Because you have a story worth telling. First, here is what we’re not entitled to: being listened to by the masses. The honest truth is that attention is earned. But there can be incredible epiphanies that come from telling yourself your story. There are so many possibilities inside you. It’s a worthy thing you do, exploring those paths.

Everybody starts with an audience of one, and nobody has the right to silence you, not even your own inner editor.

10. You love to write.

And I would add my own reasons: Because by trying something that seems completely insane you learn that you can, in fact, achieve the impossible, and upon achieving the impossible, that sense of satisfaction is absolutely brilliant! There is also the sense of community if you take an active part of the forums – even though you may be typing away all by yourself in your own little room, there are thousands of writers to chat to at the drop of a hat – so many people experiencing the same issues with their stories, or ready with advice and motivation to keep you on track!

(And I forgot to say – if you’re under 18, and would love to try this but don’t think you can make 50k there is always the Young Writer’s Program – Nano for youngsters! – where you can set your own word goal! Check it out here: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/)