Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Setting Deadlines and Meeting Them!

One of the hardest parts of being a writer, or doing any type of creative work, is getting it finished.  Because we type away at our own pace, get distracted by the ding of Instant Messages, have friends and family that don't see our creativity as a "real job" and have no bosses breathing down our necks... it's really easy to put off the writing until tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or a month from now.

I've discovered that there are a few things that can help us to create our own deadlines, and help ourselves to actually stick to them.

Deadline Tip #1: Make A Goal
It doesn't matter if your goal is to submit articles to 10 magazines a month, rewrite 5 chapters of your manuscript or apply for a job in the writing/editing industry.  Take the time to figure out what it is you want to accomplish, and write it down.  I have a white-board above my monitor for such goals which makes it easy to edit them, check them off and then erase them once they've been met and new goals are ready to take their place.

Tell Someone About It
Call your mom and tell her that you are going to meet 3 writer's agents this quarter.  Tell your husband that if you chicken out on submitting an article to the weekly paper you'll wash his car once a week for a month.  Insist that your friends begin referring to you as "Author(ess)" when they call.  Give all of them permission to ask you about your project every time you see or talk to them.

Designate Rewards (and punishments)
When you make your goal, plan a reward for meeting it.  And a punishment for not.  Maybe when you sell your short-story you celebrate by buying a pair of killer-red heels.  Perhaps if you don't meet your word count for the the week you drag yourself to the gym for an hour with the personal trainer from hell.  Whatever they are, make the rewards something worth working towards - and the punishments something worth avoiding.

Give Yourself Performance Reviews
One of the most dreaded things when you do have a "real job" is the performance review.  Even when I do a GREAT job at work, when it's review time I wonder if the boss recognizes the extra time I'm putting in to finish the current "big project", or if they've noticed I've been siphoning off post-it notes for the last six months.  Luckily, giving yourself a review doesn't have to be so stressful. But it can be a great way for you to assess your weaknesses and strengths, take an honest look at what you are trying to accomplish and how well your present tactics are working and give you a chance to evaluate the direction your work is going.

At our core, when we work for ourselves we know what it is we need to be doing to be successful and unfortunately it is up to no one but us to get those things done so we can take a step forward into the next project.  Personally, I am in a goal-writing frenzy to catch up with the time lost due to "life" this summer and I sure as hell don't want to let myself down.

Currently Reading:
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Novel Is Upon Us

For the first time this summer I finally sat down and started on the project I swore was going to be finished by July 1st.  I began to edit the first draft of my novel.

Granted, family circumstances being what they are, I was only able to edit the first three pages (out of 150... I still have a looong way to go).  But those first three pages of work have been four months in the making.  Continuously this summer I have found the novel being shoved deeper and deeper on the list of things to do; falling into second, then fourth, then 100th on the growing list after family crisis, death, remodeling, moving and any other number of things that have taken priority.

Finally today when trying to figure out which of the remaining 1,000 tasks on the list should be accomplished I decided that come hell or high-water I was going to do something with the novel at the bottom of my book-bag.  If you're one of my friends or family, the red and white bag may have become very familiar to you as I have hauled to every meeting, family gathering and event this summer in hopes that somewhere along the line I would find 5 minutes to pick up a pen and start making notes.

As I began to work on the editing, I decided that I am finally ready to just do it.  It is going to take priority over other things now because I need... for my sanity and authenticity to myself as a "writer"... to complete it.  It is a project and process that has been looming in the background of my mind's eye for several years now, and I am ready to move on to something new.  

If you, like me, have been sitting on a piece forever and waiting for the opportune time to re-read, edit, or finish writing it then let's get going on these projects together.  Let's vow that we will pick up our pens, boot up our laptops and pour ourselves a strong cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and just get it done.

Currently Reading:
The Mistress's Daughter

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Standing On The Soapbox

There comes a time in each of our written lives when some injustice occurs that is just so outrageous that we are beside ourselves with emotion.  Be it rage, sympathy, hope or disdain; we writers deal with things in our own way.  We don't tend to go picketing and shouting in front of high-rise buildings, we don't raise our fists and aim for the chin, and we typically aren't found screaming red-faced at clerks or managers.  No, we writers take a different approach: we write.

Somewhere along the way we discovered that the written word can be even more crippling than a well-placed throw of the fist.  We understand that we can sometimes bring more awareness and help to a cause we feel is worthy simply by writing our feelings out on paper and sending it out into the world to take on a life of its own.  And often, far more often than losing our tempers and telling the S.O.B. behind the counter just what we think of him, we feel relief and vindication as throngs of readers grasp to our words and make them their own.  It is satisfying to know that a well circulated comment can (and will) eventually hit our opponents where it hurts the most - be it their pride, their reputation or their bank account.

This revelation has crept upon me these last few days in an occurrence that has made my inner Customer Service Representative cringe and left me with my hands flailing above my head in a rare moment of complete and utter exasperation.  It is appalling to me that even in a time of dire economic straights, big-name corporations still look down on us "little guys" as if our feelings, opinions and wallets don't matter.  Well, I have had enough of being cast aside as just another random soul marching towards the register.

I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, and rarely have ever had a business transaction go so far south that I felt it necessary to write a letter of complaint.  I do my best to work any issues I may have out with the staff and management of any establishment, and typically we part from the transaction as friends and with continued patronage.  However, lines in the concrete have been crossed and I finally had to put my frustration down on paper if for no other reason than to let other consumers know that they too may be in the process of being had.

Wyndham Garden Hotel Sells Property and Leaves Travelers Without a Bed is an article I wrote based on my experiences this week with Wyndham Hotel Group.  I still, even after submitting a letter of complaint and informing Wyndham that I would be writing an article reviewing them, have not received any response from the staff or management of Wyndham Garden Hotel, or Wyndham Hotel Group (corporate offices).  I ask that you pass the article link on to friends or family who may be travelling in the Atlanta area after August 16th, 2010 so that they do not end up in a situation of arriving at the hotel only to find that it is no longer open and so that they have the time they need to make other lodging arrangements.

I don't typically plug my paid works on my blogs and I will state here so that there is no confusion that yes, I do get paid by Associated Content based on the number of page views an article receives.  However, I did not write this article to get rich quick (any writer can tell you that writing anything for publication does not typically bring you gold-lined pockets).  I wrote it to inform readers and travelers of the pending closure of the hotel since Wyndham has not seen fit to notify lodgers themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rant and share in my frustration.  Here's to us "little guys"; together our voices do count!

Currently Reading: 
He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back: The True Story of the Year the King, Jaws, Earnhardt, and the Rest of NASCAR's Feudin', Fightin' Good Ol' Boys Put Stock Car Racing on the Map