Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: NaNoWriMo Material You Can Use Any Time Of The Year

Last week I discussed National Novel Writing Month as a temporal landmark. This temporal landmark is starting tomorrow, so I'm talking about it again today.

I stumbled upon editor Payton Hayes's free printable materials for NaNoWriMo. I have used forms similar to some of hers while starting my last few books. I think some type of formal
format like these is hugely helpful for those of us who are organic writers (I spit on the term "pantser") rather than plotters. Organic writers have difficulty separating plot from the whole of their story and therefore have to think about the entire story/organism at once. Formally working on characters, theme, and point-of-view before starting can help generate plot. It's a way of backing into plot.  

Admit it, some of you are thinking, Oh, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and you're telling me about this now? Thanks a lot, Gail.

Use these things any time you're starting a book, no matter what time of year!

You're welcome.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Weekend Writer: Some Great Writing Ideas Even If You Haven't Been Rejected Yet

Karen Jones, a flash writer and editor at New Flash Fiction Review has a terrific craft piece in its State of the Art Column called  Why You Might Not Have Placed That Brilliant Story (aka READ THE GUIDELINES). By terrific, I mean it's full of good stuff about writing even if you haven't been trying to get something published and not getting there with it. 

It's short and to the point and filled with things writers should be considering well before they start to submit.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Done List For October 27


I didn't do a great deal this work, but what I did was significant.

Goal 2. Work on Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • Submitted Some Thoughts on Your 800-Page Manuscript About a Couple of Bad Marriages to Jane Austen's Wastebasket.
  • Had the above accepted for publication.
  • Spent a couple of hours working on an improved illustration for the piece. The editor planned to submit Some Thoughts for Medium's boost program, and the quality of illustrations is a big factor in whether or not articles are accepted. It was two hours very well spent, because the humor piece was accepted, and I've been seeing a good respone as a result. Thank you JAW.
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

Goal 6. A New Project

  • Collected at least one new article for researching this.
  • Received a book this past week for researching this project.
  • Note, I haven't read this stuff, just collected or received it.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Thought On My Most Recent Humor Publication: Be Specific

It would be tough to be George Eliot today.
Today Jane Austen's Wastebasket, a humor site on the Medium platform that features literary humor,  published my piece Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission About a Couple of Bad Marriages: An internet editor's notes to George Eliot on Middlemarch. I like to think that over the last few years, while I've been writing what I call short-form humor, I've learned a little bit about how to do it. I can tell you exactly what I learned while writing Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission

Though George Eliot and Middlemarch feature prominently in the subtitle to this bit of writing, they were not part of the original idea. What I was first interested in writing about was readers (primarily this reader?) becoming very taken with shorter types of writing. This is probably a result of many of us doing a lot of our reading on-line. Medium and other sites categorize the articles they publish by the number of minutes it takes to read them. And I do find myself using that information to make decisions about how much time and energy I want to commit to reading about various topics or titles. 

Thus, I thought it would be funny to write about readers' willingness to read 10 minutes about X or 6 minutes about Y, but no way would they read more than 4 minutes about Z. And will anyone be willing to spend more than 20 minutes reading about anything?

Be Specific

Humor, I find, is a lot easier to write once you're found an angle. This might be the equivalent of voice, in fiction. Point-of-view characters are far easier to write once you have a voice for them. 

Early on, I was having trouble coming up with an angle for what I was calling my timed reading piece. Because that's what it was about, remember. Timed reading. There was no George Eliot.

Then I read somewhere to make humor specific. Stay away from generalizations. If you watch standup acts, comics don't talk about "boyfriends" as a generalized subject. They talk about their boyfriends. They don't talk about "travel." They talk about their awful trip to Niagara Falls. And to be more specific, they may add who they were traveling with. And when.

I needed to come up with something specific to use in my timed writing piece. Since I am a big fan of the incongruity theory of humor, I began thinking about the incongruity involved with short internet writing and nineteenth-century novels, which are notorious for being long. Since I'd just read about being specific with humor writing, I needed a specific, long nineteenth-century novel. I went with George Eliot's Middlemarch, because I've read it. 

Yes, I've read Middlemarch. Years ago. For a book club I belonged to. I was recovering from surgery, so I couldn't go anywhere. I have a vague recollection of unhappily married people. Don't anyone ask me any questions about it.

My favorite nineteenth century book is Jane Eyre, not Middlemarch. I went specifically with Middlemarch instead of Jane Eyre, because Middlemarch is longer. It would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

Middlemarch, specifically, would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: The Ultimate Temporal Landmark For Writers...NaNoWriMo!

The Off Campus Writers' Workshop in Chicago publishes an on-line column, About Write, on writing-related material. The most recent offering, by Susan Bearman, is  National Novel Writing Month: you should give NaNoWriMo a go   Sadly, I didn't give National Novel Writing Month a thought until I saw this article. Once I did give it a thought, I realized that I could use this temporal landmark this year.

Remember, temporal landmarks are special occasions and calendar dates that mark out a period of time that's different from what came before and creates an opportunity for a fresh start. For hundreds of thousands of writers over a number of years now, National Novel Writing Month has become that special occasion and calendar date that creates opportunities for starting to write a new book.

Or, you can become a rogue writer, as Susan describes herself, and use the NaNoWriMo period to write something other than a novel. She'll be working on short stories. I'm going to be going rogue, too, and working on what I'm calling a "tonal revision" of a book-length work I finished earlier this year. My plan at that time was to put the manuscript away for a while and then work on heightening intensity all the way through the book and revise the last chapter. But when? Time was passing. Then Susan Bearman reminded me that NaNoWriMo is coming up. And I immediately assigned that job to that month.   

While I'm a little late with this, I'm going to share that I have a number of blog posts on preparing for National Novel Writing Month. The more work you have done on the various elements of your story--characters, plot, setting, theme, voice--the easier it will be to get down to real work. I actually had the good luck last week to take a workshop that relates to next month's work. I'm also doing practical life prep--getting ahead on cooking. I do quite a bit of cooking but will be doing less next month.

Susan Bearman's article is not about prepping for NaNoWriMo but on encouraging people to try it at all. One of her reasons involves building writing community. I'm interested in paying attention to that next month. I'm shifting my writing interests from children's lit to short-form writing for adults. Dipping my foot into other communities would be a good idea for me.

 I'm also being careful about how I frame NaNoWriMo preparation. It was probably October 16th or 17th when I realized I could be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Instead of allowing myself to think that this was out of the question for me because an important planning month was half over, I thought that I had half a month to plan.

Today we have seven days left to plan. I'm going to submit two short-form manuscripts to editors and maybe rough out a few blog posts before the 31st. And then, of course, I'm going to do more cooking. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday Done List For October 20

First off, I just want to say that I've worked maybe three or four hours this week on cleaning up my   email in-box for just one of my three inboxes. No, I am not done. Not sure what goal that addresses. 

Goal 2. Work On Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • I finished revising the short story I mentioned the last time I did one of these posts, back on September 8.
  • Did some research on places to submit the aforementioned short story.
  • Received a rejection. I also received a rejection last week. Yes, I am bragging.

Goal 4. Submit Adult Books To Agents

  • Have a list started on new agents to research for a round of submissions on a new book.
  • Received a rejection a few weeks ago from an agent on another book. Yes, I am bragging
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Did two blog posts. Three counting this one.
  • Marketed those blog posts on social media.
  • Have some blog posts planned/started for next week.
  • Attended a Zoom workshop.
New Goal 6. A New Book Project
  • I don't want to say much about this, because I planned to give up novel writing and concentrate on shortform writing this year. It's historical. I'm enjoying spending a lot of time on shallow research. I don't have a blueprint. I have two chapters that I still keep tinkering with. 
  • I'm hoping to get deeply involved with other things so I leave this project alone. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

How Can I Keep From Singing Zoom's Praises?

Let's all pause so I can rave once again about how much I love Zoom workshops. At around 9:40 this morning, we decided we weren't going to do a hiking day. I raced down the hall to my laptop and registered for this morning's workshop with the Off Campus Writers' Workshop in Chicago. It was being held at 9:30 their time, 10:30 mine. It ended up being an excellent workshop led by Suzanna Calkins on a subject I can use next month.

You cannot turn on a dime like that and get to a workshop half a country away that's starting in 50 minutes without Zoom. Also, because I joined the OCWW this year, this morning's workshop only cost me $10.

I don't know if I'll ever get over being amazed by things like this.

But that's not all!

After attending a two-and-a-half hour workshop--from Chicago, remember--we made another last-minute decision to do a one-hour walk this afternoon around a reservoir in eastern Connecticut. Not just any walk, a beautiful walk.

Look at these phragmites! We've never happened to see them at this time of year. Yes, they are an invasive species here that is destroying the native cat tails. But, man, I can't deny these were pretty spectacular looking.

As great as this walk was, it was better because I'd been to a workshop--and a good one--just a few hours before. How can I not love the technology that made this possible?

Then I got a rejection late in the afternoon. But that's how you know you're working, right?

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Manage Energy Instead Of Time

What I thought was going to be a one- or two-week break ended up lasting a month. This could have gone better. Or maybe it couldn't have.

At any rate, I am back at what passes for work for me. Sunday I went back to  attempting to rise for the day on a middle-school student schedule. I am feeling great joy at beginning the purge of my email inboxes each day at seven. Those boxes are a mess, because this past month I just didn't have the energy to do the skimming I needed to do each day or make the decisions I needed to make in order to deal with them.

It wasn't just a matter of not having the time. My energy was going elsewhere. 

The Difference Between Managing Energy And Managing Time

Last month I stumbled upon a Medium article by Kim Witten called Stop Trying To Manage Your Time: Do This Instead. Sadly, you won't be able to read her entire article, because Medium is no longer allowing three free reads per month. In the interests of staying on task, I'll spare you my thoughts on that subject. Nonetheless, Witten's article was very thought-provoking for me, and if you're part of Medium, anyway, give it a look.

By the way, you can also google "manage energy instead of time" and find other articles about the concept. Many of them advise doing things we've heard before--working in forty-five minute unit/segments of time, deep work, etc. 

Witten, though, very simply describes managing energy instead of time as responding more to the internal "I'm tired" signals over the external clock and calendar signals.

Personally, I think we often end up responding to internal signals over external clock and calendar signals whether we want to or not. There often comes a point where we don't have any choice. The energy is just not there. It's gone.

Small Energy Adjustments

Witten suggests a number of small things to do to help with energy, but something significant they all involve is being aware of your energy in the first place. Being aware that energy matters, not just time, creates a whole new mindset about work. As soon as you recognize and accept that, you can probably start picking up on small energy savers on your own--when to do high energy tasks versus low energy tasks, for instance. This past summer, I began starting to make dinner early in the day, leaving the end of the day for reading, something that required less physical energy but is necessary for me professionally. I thought I was managing my time, but I was managing my energy.

Larger Energy Adjustments

Treating to-do lists as menus: My second big takeaway from Witten's article, after the whole concept of managing energy, was using to-do lists as menus. She suggests looking at your list and being realistic about what you can actually do in a day.

Having just come off an energy-draining month, I'd even go further and suggest choosing tasks on the basis of the energy you have. If you want to plan ahead a little more, you could try predicting which tasks will require the most energy and when you think you're likely to have the energy required for them. Recognize your low energy times and save lower energy tasks for then. Witten has a chart to help you do this, assuming you can access enough of her article to find it.

As an example of working a low-energy time for all it's worth, I don't have that much energy when I get up on that middle school student schedule I mentioned earlier. Which is why I've been cleaning email boxes first thing in the morning. I rather enjoy doing that then and knowing that I'm freeing up better time later in the day for doing harder work. If I ever get my email in order, I could use that time for short-form professional reading, something I have trouble getting to.

I am probably attracted to this menu analogy because the main organizing element for my bullet journal is the week, not days and months, which is what are traditionally used. The only things I assign to days are appointments, workshops I'm attending, and things I'm doing away from home. Otherwise, I just keep slogging away at the week's tasks, noting with a slash that I've worked on something even if I haven't finished it until I get to the point when I can cross it off my week's list. In the future, I'm going to be thinking about whether or not I can stop the "slogging away" business and try using energy levels to determine what I work on. Could that eventually mean getting more done?

Situational energy management: For eleven years, I've been writing here about situational time management, how we can't expect to manage our time the same way throughout our lives. The situations we're living through--pressure from day jobs, no day job, children, no children, children out of the house, ill family members--have a huge impact on how we manage our time.

Our situations also have a huge impact on our energy. We have to think about our energy situationally, too. During X part of the year, I have to manage my energy this way. During Y part of the year, I have to manage it another.

I'm going to be thinking about managing energy a lot in the future, which means you may be seeing more about it here.