When Do You Sleep? – Anne Barwell

Now I’ve done a few monthly blog posts I’m starting to run out of topics. If anyone has any ideas for future topics you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

A big thanks to SJ Himes for today’s topic – a writer’s slice of life. I went for the title because it’s a question I often get asked, or a variation on that being ‘when do you have time to read?’

Because I work full time, as well as writing, and have family commitments, I tend to live on a fairly tight schedule or I’d get nothing done. In saying that, though, despite making plans I do need to be flexible and be prepared to throw everything I’ve planned to the wind. Family emergencies happen far too often, especially of late, and also sometimes I start my weekend and realise I need to walk away from everything I’d planned to do for a while just to keep what’s left of my state of mind.

I’d love to know how others manage their work/writing life, while ensuring they still get some time out.

I figure I’d outline a typical weekday, and then contrast with my weekend.

I work fulltime in a public library, so it’s a busy job and quite physical. I figure I’m about the only one on staff who loves working afternoons/late night and weekends! Many people shift onto weekdays and a regular 8.30 till 5pm as soon as they can. However, with trying to juggle writing—and everything attached to it—afternoons and evenings work well for me. As I don’t start work till 12.15 four days a week, it means I can set an alarm in the morning and get a couple of hours writing related work done beforehand. I usually get home around 9 onwards at night so that gives me time to check emails, post blog tour stuff, and then relax with an episode of a TV show, before reading in bed and turning my light out about midnight.

Saturdays—as we don’t open in the evenings—I work what could be termed a normal day, starting in the morning and finishing after we close at 5pm. Saturday mornings remind me why I prefer to work the hours I do. After three late nights, the early start is a bit of a shock to the system. I get emails read over breakfast and that’s about it, and by the time I get home I’m too tired to write. Most Saturday evenings are social time because of it, either classic movie night, and/or planned get-togethers with friends.

Weekends are all go. Yay for several hours of writing time, although it’s far from uninterrupted as I need to fit in all the other weekend jobs such as grocery shopping, cooking, and baking. Because I work three evenings a week I bulk cook on my weekends and freeze so I can grab a container of food to take to work for dinner. Ditto for the baking—it’s usually muffins to take to work etc. It’s sad when writing breaks are when I do my housework and the other stuff of that ilk, but that’s life.

This Week’s Baking – Blueberry Muffins

Mondays and Tuesdays are also time for any appointments, and other errands. Nevertheless I tend to multitask—despite the cats thinking my being home means they should get fed every time I shift in my chair—so on a good day I can get quite a bit done. As it’s the weekend I don’t set an alarm but I’m still at the computer by about 9.30 at the latest and checking emails over breakfast. It’s nice not to have to stop to get ready for work just as I’m getting into the writing zone though.

Graphic from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Monday and Tuesday evenings I take off for orchestra rehearsals and SF club meetings/movie nights. I’ve set my schedule that way because otherwise I tend to work until 10pm at night, which is what happens when orchestra takes a break on Monday nights. Ditto for any Saturday/Sundays I don’t make plans to meet up with friends.

Often I write in chunks of time, as I can grab them, and it’s great to see a novel growing slowly, a bit here and there. Sometimes I find myself looking at big picture stuff, but I’ve found it doesn’t pay to do that as it tends to be daunting. I’ve written 13 books in the past 7 years so I figure my system is working more-or-less, adding in annual leave when the deadlines push back.

It’s a busy life, but on the whole, one I enjoy. However, if you find a TARDIS—preferably with a Doctor—somewhere, please let me know. The idea of going off to see different worlds and times, and arriving back before I left is very appealing. Along with a few extra hours in my day.

To Blog or Not to Blog, or…

… Promo is Hell*

*With respect to Matt Groening.

Promotion is one of those necessary evils in publishing. Once upon a time, an author could write a book, send it to the publisher, approve edits (sometimes) and the rest was taken care of. The publisher promoted the work, did the advertising, and handled all that stuff.

Nooooot so much anymore. As I was working out what I wanted to write today, I was thinking about the dreaded B word again—blogging—and realized that, while it’s not the worst thing in the world for me, it is certainly not my favorite. So what am I doing on a blog here where I am voluntarily blogging?

Well, glad you asked! (Even if you didn’t really.)

Blogging is one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. The good news is… it’s not always necessary.

I find there are two different camps of authors when it comes to blogging. Most fit in one or the other, though a few hover in between. One camp is the “You must blog or you will never get anywhere!” camp. The idea being that the only way to keep up with the readership is to have regular posts to your blog and it’s the absolute end all-be all of promotion. These are the bloggers who post at least a few times a week, if not daily. Everything is bright and shiny with all the links working and everything in order.

The other camp consists of authors whose blogs haven’t been updated in a solid six to eight months and the last one was an announcement for their second-to-last release. It sits with cobwebs in the corners, a not-so-small family of spiders under the eaves and a solid coating of dust over all the surfaces. These guys often forget they even have a blog. *coughI’veDoneThatcough*

I tend to be somewhere in between. I get really excited about my blog, make all these plans to write a whole bunch of posts and ideas for different types of posts, then… I get busy or have health issues or something and I let it go. And then the only thing that goes up for months at a time is maybe a release announcement, my Friday fiction post, and a guest post here and there. I don’t quite get to the point of cobwebs (and spiders aren’t welcome in my blog any more than my house!), but I certainly let it get neglected.

Back when I was first published I, like many other new authors, muddled through, trying to force myself to do All The Things. I tried to blog, and Tweet, and post on Facebook, and even Tumblr and beyond. I went nuts trying to keep up with it all. Then I heard a piece of advice that stuck with me and I haven’t abandoned it since.

Find a couple of things that work and stick with them.

Well, then. Tweeting is (mostly) out. I have some followers and I retweet and share other tweets, but for the most part, I don’t try. Brevity has never been my talent and 140 characters is downright criminal for me. My tumblr is not for the faint of heart and, thus, not the most appropriate place to share everything. So what, then, do I do? I wasn’t sure I could blog—I drew a blank on topics and always thought I should basically be writing the next Epic Adventure (read: way too long) to make it worthwhile.

So I asked myself where do I spend most of my time? Well, duh. Facebook. Why not make what I already use work for me? I know how the algorithms work. I know what time of the day is good to post (early afternoon or late morning. Too late and people have gone home and too early and no one’s had coffee yet. And weekends are notoriously slow.). I know that pictures gain more attention than text and that links are outright suppressed (always post a picture and put the link in the description or comments).

Of course, the downside of using what I know—where I spend most of my time—is that I spend… way too much time on Facebook, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

So, then, to blog or not to blog? For me, that means… sometimes. I am not likely to let it go completely. I like posting my weekly fiction and I like hosting other authors. If I can ever get myself motivated (again), I will probably post a few other things here and there, but worry not, I’ll likely let it go again, as well.

Should you blog? Well… look at your habits, look at what you like to do and what you do best. That should tell you plenty.

And remember that if Promo is hell? Well, you’ll be in good company.

Writing Rituals… or the things I do to write a novel…the story bible

Happy one year to Authors Speak. My first post was a year ago this month! Thank you Lou Sylvre for all you do for this group.

One of the things I’m often asked as a writer is: how do you write a whole book?

I don’t have a concept of a life without creating a story and writing it down. I have, literally, done this in some form for my entire life. Writing is second nature and storytelling is ingrained to the point I can’t not write.

The drive and desire to write does not create books, screenplays and poetry. Telling the story is the end result but it’s only one part of the process.

We writers are a fickle lot and there are an infinite number of ways to create that product, a completed novel (or screenplay, etc). The simple fact is, however, the creation of all stories does have a few common elements. It’s how each writer goes about organizing and using those elements that is individual to each and every one of us.

So, since this article is about me, I’m going to talk about what I do—my rituals—to write a novel. Firstly, I write novels, not screenplays or other forms of written works, so that in itself dictates a number of my writing rituals and tools.

A book is a book, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction or part of a series. They’re all books, aren’t they?

Wrong.

Every so often I’m asked to write something for a friend or coworker that isn’t fiction. It’s sort of like training to compete in one sport then trying to switch for a day to another sport. Yeah, you can muddle on through and probably not embarrass yourself, but you won’t be in the best form.

Everything I do in the course of creating and writing a book centers around the fact that book is fiction and a novel.

The first thing that happens when I set about creating a new novel is the basic plot idea. For me, plot and title come first. After I have those I begin plugging in characters and locations.

My initial ritual with a new novel or series is making a list of plot points. The order doesn’t matter and is likely to change, but I want a general idea of major events in every story. If the initial story is going to be part of a series I make a separate list of major events I’d like to include in the series.

The next step I take is to plan out where my story will take place. For that I use maps, books and the world’s best location explorer, the internet. Specifically, Google Earth and maps.

This is where the creation of my story/series bible begins. I have a bible for each series, and for every book within a series. I think all the authors I personally know have some form of bible for their works. For me, setting up my bible and organizing it, filling it with research, scene ideas and reference photos is one of my very most important writing rituals.

This is a page from the bible for Gone Away. There are personality traits for the two main characters, inspiration photos and links to research. This page is what I call my basic story board. It holds all my general ideas. Eventually I’ll create individual pages for the characters, plot, location and so on that has much more detail.

Some people use paper notebooks, I know others who employ index cards or journals. This is the digital age, and all of those tools have been recreated in the virtual world.

I use OneNote, which is a digital notebook system. It can be used on a computer, tablet or phone, so I have it with me wherever I go. At one time I figured out that if my OneNote notebooks for the Sentries series was somehow transformed to traditional paper notebooks each one would be hundreds of pages long and probably form a stack about three feet high.

I love my digital bibles. They are filled with photos, links and articles and become a scrapbook for every project. If I have an idea to use a waterfall or certain type of car in a story I can collect images and details, putting them on my digital pages. As I write it’s helpful to go back and refresh my memory with a visual image or check details from articles and links I’ve saved. If I’m planning a series I keep a list of what needs to be included in book #1 as foreshadowing for later books. On the reverse side of that I have other notebook pages with lists of events and characters from earlier books to reference in later books in a series.

This is one of the dozens of pages created for The Vampire Guard series and contains info on the organization featured in the series and some of the secondary characters.

Another nice feature of using a digital system is I can easily move pictures, information and links from one bible to another.

My final step before beginning the actual writing is characters. There is so much of a character that never makes it into a book. I know all sorts of details, childhood pets, favorite color and what kind of pizza they like! Every detail that comes to me about a character is recorded in case I need to use it. Images go in the character sections as well. Photos of people who look like my characters are a helpful reference when writing descriptions.

For me creation of my bible is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a novel. As I work on each bible the story begins to gel in my mind. The plot ideas and characters start to take on a life of their own and the story begins to play in my head. From there on it’s simply a matter of recording that story.

More on that another time.

http://www.elizabeth-noble.com/

Lou Sylvre on the Co-Writing Two-Step (Also Sunset at Pencarrow, Happy Pride, and a Giveaway!)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Lou Sylvre here for my monthly post on Authors Speak. Before I get to anything else, thanks everybody who entered the Merry May giveaway. Our winner has been contacted and will soon be the proud owner of a new Kindle Fire and a bunch of books. Next, I want to say happy Pride Month, everybody on the queer spectrum and all allies!

Next, I want to say, this post is short. I know you can see that for yourself, but let me explain. I wanted to write all about my experiences co-writing (something I’ve not done before) Sunset at Pencarrow with Anne Barwell, but I have been delayed getting this post done, and now I find out my grandsons have a band concert performance tonight, the final one of the school year, and for the oldest, the final one of before high school graduation! That means I need time to make myself presentable. Others have written about the juggling act that being a writer is, and I won’t add to that, but I will say, dang. The phrase “free time” is an oxymoron.

So here’s the brief, bare-bones, bullet-point version of my report on the adventures of co-writing:

  • We approached the task by each taking one character as our own, writing the scenes that called for their point of view. While we didn’t stick to this religiously, and we suggested tweaks to each other’s writing, this method worked out great, in my opinion. It wasn’t half the work, nor was it twice the work. The work, aside from the actual writing was just different.
  • Having a work partner helped keep things moving according to plan. Of course, I didn’t want to let my co-author down, nor did I want to hold Anne back. But, more than that, the input from outside my own brain stimulated my creativity like a second muse. When I read a scene she wrote, I felt a need to respond on “my” character’s behalf.
  • Sharing the character couple’s story with another writer made them and their romance all the more precious, and added to the rewards that came with getting to “The end.” All struggles along the way, the hours spent on chat hammering things out, the research to make sure the character world was as accurate as could be and matched between scenes—all that was more than worth it.

Long story short, Anne and I will write together again, and I’m looking forward to it.

Let me leave you with that, and with a little info about Sunset at Pencarrow. Here’s the blurb, some links, and the giveaway.

Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

Click right here for a link to our release tour schedule and blog links.

Your comments are welcome, as always, and don’t forget to enter the Sunset at Pencarrow giveaway!

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