Do you ever wish you had more time to read that latest craft book? Or that new release by your favorite author you haven’t had time to squeeze in? Or perhaps just some advice on writing?
I have found that commutes, random car rides, and trips to the grocery store, can be an excellent time to bone up on craft issues or catch the latest book I want to read. This would otherwise be “dead” time that I couldn’t use for writing, reading or furthering my craft. Since time is precious, especially if you’re a working writer or a writer with a family, finding a way to utilize this time can be priceless.
In the car…
On a jog…
Here’s a list of some of my favorite ways to use this “dead time”:
Audio Books: I commute twenty minutes to and from work each day and do a certain amount of shuffling kids here and there throughout the week in the car. I often read a book or two a month in this way (on audio), just in this caught time in the car–the pockets in between the things going on in the rest of my life. I check out audio books for free from my local library. By making use of their online reserve system, I always have a queue of books on waiting lists and they come in periodically throughout the month.
Audible: As an alternative to audio books from the local library, you can subscribe to Audible for a fee and stream books over your phone during your commute. I have, as of yet, been too cheap to pay for a monthly audible subscription, but because of the large variety there–many books which my library doesn’t have in its collection–I suspect I will finally cave and join at some point. Family–if you’re reading this: think Christmas present.
The “Writing Excuses Podcast”: This is hands-down, one of my favorite ways to pass the time in the grocery store, in waiting rooms, and at other random times. It is easy–and free–to stream these podcasts over your phone or iPod. I also will often eschew my daily dose of audio literature for a podcast from the guys and gals of Writing Excuses. All of the contributors are multi-published speculative fiction writers in the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, including Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Taylor and Dan Wells. Each podcast is only fifteen minutes long (“because you’re in a hurry and [they're] not that smart.” LOL) and focuses on a different aspect of craft or the publishing business. Guest authors are often featured on the podcasts. (Click here to visit the Writing Excuses Website). They are in their eighth season, so there is plenty to catch up on! And, if you couldn’t tell from my description, these are absolutely fabulous.
The Secrets: The Podcast for Serious Writers: I’ll have to admit that I haven’t listened to many of these yet. I’m not completely caught up on the Writing Excuses podcasts, and I plan to move to this one next–once I’m in the latest season. The creator of this podcast, Michael Stackpole, is a science fiction and fantasy writer. I first learned of his podcast when he made a guest apeparance on Writing Excuses. Good move, because I plan to devour these too! (Click here to visit The Secrets Website)
So those are my tips! I hope this post helps those of you like me who are pressed for time and need to find creative ways to keep writing, reading, and learning amidst the chaos of everyday life!
How do you find ways to fit in time for your writing life? I’d love to hear any tips you have in the comments.
I thought I’d share a post today for those of you that at times find yourselves lost on writing blogs when someone slips in an acronym like “WIP.” Today’s post is a primer on all the crazy terms we writers and writer-bloggers throw around.
Already an expert? Share some new ones in the comments! I’d love to hear.
WIP (Work in progress): Whatever you are currently working on
MS/MSS: MS means manuscript. MSS is the plural, manuscripts.
Partial: When an agent requests part of your manuscript, usually the first 30-50 pages
Full: When an agent requests your full manuscript to read
POV (Point of view): How you are telling your story and whose “head” you are in (first person, second person, third person limited, omniscient)
GMC (goal/motivation/conflict): Writers slang for the three main things you’ll need for a character in any story: goal, motivation, and conflict
MG (Middle Grade): generally speaking, readers between 8 and 12 years old
YA (Young Adult): generally speaking, readers between 12 and 18 years old
WC: The word count of your short story or manuscript
Beta: Aka, “beta reader” – a secondary reader who reads your MS and gives you their opinion
Query : The query letter is a concise pitch of your novel idea to an agent/publisher to entice them to request your marvelous MS (manuscript).
Slush (aka, the Slushpile): A pile of unsolicited manuscripts sent to a publisher, editor, or agent
SASE: This one’s almost a dinosaur now with email, but it stands for “self-addressed stamped envelope”
ARC: An “advance reading copy” of a novel that isn’t out yet –sent to book reviewers
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month – a month where people across the nation attempt to write a novel in a month (November).
Any other abbreviations you use that I haven’t listed? Any you hate or love?
Fall weather has come to Louisville–sunny blue skies, crisp air. I don’t know if it’s a holdover from college, but fall always feels like a time of new beginnings, new projects, and fresh ideas.
This Saturday I had the chance to workshop with my favorite writing gals, the women in my writing group. Here we are outside a retreat house graciously made available for women artists by the Kentucky Foundation for Women:
It was such a good feeling to reconnect and talk shop with everyone that I thought I’d post this week about how joining a writing group can help you grow as a writer.
Reasons Why You Should Join a Writing Group:
- Motivation: Attending monthly (or weekly, in some cases) meetings can motivate you to keep writing, to have new material to bring, and to kick those creative juices up a notch. Deadlines are good.
- Inspiration and Ideas: Reading, listening to, and critiquing other writers’ work can give you new ideas for your own work. The way someone handled a fight scene, or used paragraphing to emphasize a point, or played with point of view, can inform your own writing when you get back home. Also, your fellow writers may suggest something about your work that starts you down the path to discovering something wonderful.
- Learning to Grow Your Writing Muscles: While it’s nice to get feedback from your spouse or family members, it’s likely you won’t be getting the focused sort of advice you need. (And let’s face it—they love you and they want to tell you it’s great). No one will point out the holes in a piece faster than a table full of writers. And remember, this is a GOOD thing. Especially early on, when you’re first beginning, there are many writing “rules” you may not be aware of. Once you know all the rules, you can figure out when and how to break them. Later on, after you’ve been writing for a while, there are craft issues regular readers would likely never pick up on. You will want someone who knows what “third person limited” means and who can distinguish “narrative summary” from “scene.”
- You’re Too Close to See Clearly: While you may think you’ve written the most fantabulous thing ever–and it could in fact be the most fantabulous thing ever– you might also want to consider the possibility that…just maybe…coughs…it might be an ugly baby that you adore because it’s your baby. When it comes to killing your darlings (parts of a story or MS that may not be working) you may have trouble spotting them and excising them on your own. You may even think the malign growth that has attached itself to your MS is cute. You’ll need feedback from others to tell you it’s a tumor that’s got to go.
- Developing a Thick Skin: Writers need hides as tough as dragon scales. You will be stepped on, put down, rejected, told that writing is nothing but a hobby, and have agents say your characters aren’t speaking to them and your pacing sucks. Learning to be critiqued by others will help. You will realize writing is a journey and you just have to keep moving forward. You write because you love it. You write because you have to. Remember that.
- The Publishing World is Crazy Complicated: Oh poor sweet darling if you have not yet had the illusion shattered that you can write a book and send it off to a publisher who will snap it up and have it in Barnes and Noble by next year. *hysterical laughter* It is NOTHING like that. I could write thirty posts on the topic, and I won’t even try to touch on it here, but trust me that you need other writers to tell you what the hell is up.
- Camaraderie: When the winds are blowing and the rain is coming down in sheets (and your inner critic is ripping your writer’s ego to shreds), it’s nice to have a group of people who can relate and buoy you back up. Sometimes there is no one who will understand what you’re going through like another writer will. And it doesn’t just have to be for the down times—they’re the ones that “get it” the most when there’s cause for celebration (finishing that MS, having a short story published, or finally figuring out that character).
Ready to join a group? There are many places to look to find like-minded writers, but the internet is a great place to start. A Google search for writer’s groups in your city or town should reveal regular groups open to new members. The “Meetup” site also lists writing groups. If you are a children’s writer, SCBWI has local chapters, as does RWA for romance writers, etc. Local libraries and bookstores often host groups and writing-related events. If all of this fails (likely meaning you live in a very small town), attending a writing conference in your genre is a great place to meet people interested in swapping work via email. My other group, besides the one pictured above, is a group of young adult writers I met at a writing conference in New York a couple years ago. We got to chatting at the conference, exchanged emails, and we’ve been swapping material ever since.
Already in a writing group? I’d love to hear what you LOVE about YOUR group in the comments.
Among the grammatically minded, you'll occasionally find heated debates on the Oxford comma. If you are unclear about what the Oxford comma, Dictionary.com describes it as "a comma between the final items in a list, often preceding the word `and' or `or', such as the final comma in the list newspapers, magazines, and books."
I fall squarely on the side that touts the awesomeness of the Oxford comma.
Currently playing on the iPod: Paper Planes by MIA
Currently drinking: A peppermint mocha (Mmmm)
Current attire: Pajamas (Damn straight!)
Current mental state: Thinking I’m seeing some of the forest, and not just trees. Caveat: It could just be something on my glasses
Currently reading this week: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Books I’ve read since I began my MFA program: 14
Goal this month: Try to get my head around the idea of “writing closer to the bone” and really getting deep into my characters. That’s lofty–”wrapping my head around”…. What’s the first step in a twelve step program? Ah yes, admitting you have a problem. Perhaps that is my goal this month. In which case, I’ve already met it. Wheeee!
Recent reads I would recommend: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff and Sabriel by Garth Nix
Queries agonized over and sent out: 0 (How do I feel about that? Great! I’m giving myself the next two years of complete freedom from all things publishing)
I hope you are all doing well! What’s going on in your lives this week? Any recent reads you recommend? Life realizations you’ve come too? Coffee drinks I really must try?
(Because, seriously, the toddler is not sleeping…)
Have you seen this floating around the blogosphere? Poems created by stacking books so the titles on the spines make a poem?
Here’s my go at it…
The Sweet Far Thing
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In other news, I just submitted my first packet (creative and critical work) in my MFA in Children’s Writing Program on Friday night!