April 13, 2015

Motivation Monday: Neil Gaiman

"This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard."

Neil Gaiman is arguably one of contemporary literature's most important authors--and definitely one of the most prolific. He's written tons of comics, screenplays for film and television, short stories, a video game, some non-fiction, and published a bunch of novels for adults and children, including some great ones like Coraline, American Gods, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He's only in his 50s, and he's still going strong!

Fun Facts about Neil Gaiman:
  • First author to win both the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same book (The Graveyard Book).
  • Started reading at age four and has been a voracious reader since. He loves comics and classics, and everything in between.
  • Grew up in a family of Scientologists, but is not religious. Says there's probably a 50/50 chance God exists, but he doesn't really care either way.
  • Famously has a writing shed where he retreats to enjoy the quiet of nature while he writes.
  • My favorite thing? He keeps bees!
  • He's expecting a baby with Amanda Palmer in September.
So What?
The best part about writing is writing. The worst part about writing is writing. If you want to be an author, you just have to do it, man. Put one word after another until it's done--best advice ever.

April 10, 2015

Making My Own Odds

I love this post on Kristen Lamb's blog. She talks about how only 5% of writers will ever make it as career authors. It might sound discouraging to some, but she broke it down to show how much of writing and publishing really is within each person's control. It's easy to forget that when you're in the trenches, but I love Lamb's reminder that it's about showing up and learning and improving.

Also, she didn't say it explicitly, but I was reminded that succeeding as a writer isn't a competition. It's only about my own willingness to sacrifice and work and be dedicated to my goals. That, I can handle!

Check out the post--especially her breakdown of the 5%. I think I may frame it and put it on my desk.

April 9, 2015

Spring Break!

Monday I blogged about "writing" while you're busy doing other things. This week, I'm putting it into practice. My kids are out of school for spring break, so we're wandering off into the forest with no internet access (or plumbing, if you must know!) and a whole lot of work projects we need to finish.

I'm taking my laptop, and during any downtime, I'm committed to finishing the last 10k words of my WIP. Manual labor, surviving the woods, and finishing my book are my only goals for the entire break. I can't wait!

See you on the other side!

April 6, 2015

Motivation Monday: Agatha Christie

"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes."

Agatha Christie wrote 66 detective/mystery novels (including my favorite mystery of all time: And Then Their Were None/Ten Little Indians/Ten Little Niggers), 6 romance novels under the pen-name Mary Westmacott, dozens of plays (both theater and radio), and innumerable short stories, poems, and unpublished works. She's considered the queen of plotting, and has influenced countless adaptations and inspired countless authors.

Fun Facts about Agatha Christie:
  • Best-selling novelist of all time, with roughly 2-4 billion books sold.
  • Third best-selling books of all time, ranked only behind The Bible and Shakespeare.
  • Made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
  • Her character, Hercule Poirot, is the only fictional character ever to have an obituary printed in The New York Times.
  • During WWI, she worked as the equivalent of a pharmacist assistant, thus the in-depth knowledge of poisons apparent in many of her novels.
  • She was deeply involved with theater, an accomplished photographer, a world traveler, and attended many archeological digs with her husband.
So What?
When Christie says to plan a book while doing dishes, I'm sure she meant it literally. However, based on the full and fascinating life she lived, I also believe she meant to have ideas churning in your head always, even while going about the mundane duties of life.

If you're a writer, you're always a writer--when you're noticing small details such as crunching leaves and sunshine filtering through trees on a fall day; when you're people watching and stealing snatches of interesting dialogue; when you're dozing off and an evasive plot point finally jumps into your head.

I think she's saying that when you're writing on a regular basis, it becomes part of everything you do. And as an added bonus? Washing the dishes just got more interesting!

April 2, 2015

Read Like It's Your Job

One of the main pieces of advice that we receive as writers is Read More Books!

Read widely in your genre. Read books on writing craft. Read books outside of your genre. Read diverse authors. READ ALL THE BOOKS!

I love to read. It's one of my favorite things to do, which is probably why it feels like a luxury that I allow myself to indulge in only after all the hard things are done. After the house is perfect and the day job is finished and church duties are completed and the kids are clean and fed and content.  

Reading is never a priority--it's my reward for completing obligations.

Which is why it rarely happens. Which is why my "to read" pile is a teetering stack next to an overstuffed bookcase of unread books that I only dream of cracking open.

People say if you want something bad enough, there's no excuse. I don't believe that. There are LOTS of excuses. Many of them are very valid ones. I literally never finish everything that needs to get done before I can "allow" myself to sit and read.

In addition to having a life, I work hard at writing. I write every singly day, I blog, I blog and edit for an e-zine, I read and write for a weekly writing group. I have a CP Mistress on the side, which requires working on a different project than my official group is working on. I read and critique manuscripts for friends. I query other projects.

So, yeah. I'm busy. Who isn't?

But, I also love this quote, and I believe in it:

Then where does that leave me?

I work hard at writing, but because of that, I don't have time to read as much as I'd like/as much as I should. I've tried audio books and other ways of getting it in, but with small children, that doesn't work as well as I would like.

Recently my husband sent me an article about how to read more books. It kinda changed my life. The article includes a few simple steps, but I only want to focus on one of them for now. Check out the article for the others.

The step that changed my life?

Read 10% of a book every day.

That's it. (Mostly).

In a standard book, 10% is only about 20-40 pages. Depending how dense the book is, I can usually do that in 15-45 minutes. It seemed easy enough, so I gave it a try.

It's great advice for anyone, but as a writer, here are my two take-aways from the experience:

1. Treat reading like a writing course. 

If there were a class that I could take every single day that only lasted a few minutes but could significantly improve my writing, wouldn't I take it? I think I would.

I believe reading has the same power as any good class. Even in the last few days, I've seen authors use techniques that have made a huge difference in my own WIP. I believe, as King said, that reading is giving me the tools I need to become a better writer.

2. Treat reading like a job.

We hear all the time that we need to treat writing like a job. Well, if reading is essential to improving at writing (my hopefully-someday-soon-job), then I should make time for it.

My schedule and workload haven't changed, but I'm making reading a priority. Some days it's a challenge to get through the minimum. Other days I can't put the book down and read much more than I'd planned. The difference is I use my time better. I get up a little earlier. I use social media a little less.

The changes are not significant enough to feel like I've sacrificed anything, but the benefits definitely feel like I've accomplished something important. And as an added bonus, I'm making time for the activity I love most.

How do you make time for reading in your busy life? Do you have any strategies you can share?