Finding time for writing

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I’ve recently been having a hard time finding time to write, as the rest of my life intervenes. I’ve been going crazy over this issue for weeks, but have started calming down, because it’s not just my problem. Lots of people in this day and age want to just write for a living, but for most, that’s not a reality.

school1I mean, for me, there’s school and trying to find a job in my field, which is a struggle for a lot of people these days. University is very demanding, especially for people who are trying to keep their GPA high enough to go on to grad school. Some people work full time jobs, or have kids to look after. It’s tough to find time to write in between all these other things we have to do. Not to mention, if you’re too stressed out or anxious, you can throw that good writing vibe out the window.

There’s nothing I’d like more than to have no other job but writing, but for an indie author, that’s not feasible. Even authors with publications with big companies can’t really make a living on their writing.

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This is me on the floor with a stuffed sheep on top of me.

 

So if you’re stressed out because you haven’t been writing as much as you want to be, try not to get too worked up about it. It’s a problem that a lot of writers go through.

As to how to fix the problem, everyone’s different, and some ways just won’t work for certain people. I can suggest a few, though.

thewritera) Fit writing in around all those other things when you’re in one of those in-between spaces, like when you’re waiting in a boring line-up or riding on the bus. I carry around a notebook in my bag in case some idea hits me so that I can write it down. Other options are writing it down on a tablet, or even a smartphone. Once, I was sitting in a pub waiting for my lunch to arrive and I banged out a few lines on my phone and emailed them to myself. I know, it’s nice to have all your story in one place, but writing is a messy business. Sometimes you’ve got to adapt.

b) Start a writing group with some friends. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you need someone else to talk to and bounce ideas off of. You don’t have to meet often, even once every one to two weeks. Also, if you need a little motivation or support, your friends are there for you.

c) If meeting your friends in person isn’t feasible, use the digital world to help you connect. Find a time when you’re all free and agree to write at that time. You can text by phone, Skype, IM or anything you like. What use is all this tech we’ve got if we don’t use it?

writeclubd) Going off of the last one, you can join an online group on social media. I myself follow Friday Night Writes (#WriteClub), which is a group on Twitter that helps motivate people to write, because everyone writes at the same time. The mod tweets start and stop times, alternating writing times with break times. You can even tweet them how many words you’ve written.

There are probably lots of other ways to try and fit writing in around your busy life, these are just a few. The main thing is, don’t get discouraged if you’re behind on your writing projects. It isn’t a race!

Nothing Like Author Copies

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I just received my author copies for the Damsels in Distress collection!

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This is always one of the most exciting parts of getting published, at least for me. I just like having the physical manifestation of my work. There are lots of things one can do with author copies, especially since the writer usually receives at least two copies.

I don’t know what I will do with the extra copy I received. I have a shelf dedicated to my author copies, although there are only six so far. Those ones are mine, and I sort of collect them in a dragon-esque way, like a hoard.

The fun thing about writing for a collection is that you get a physical copy of your work, and OTHER people’s work as well. I’m already anticipating reading everyone else’s stories.

I have received five different anthologies of work so far. I find a different thing to do with all of them.

Three of them are in a library of queer books in Vancouver, because I donated them. If you live in Vancouver, QMUNITY has them.

One of them is at a friend’s house, because they wanted to read all the trans and genderqueer stories in the Geek Out collection.

To be honest, that’s probably what will happen to the second one too. That’s the fun thing about being a queer author of queer books with queer friends: everyone wants to read your stuff.

Anyway, that was just me gloating over my author copies. Sorry about that, but it’s the one thing I don’t mind showing off.

On Not Giving Up

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Okay, so your submission to a publisher came back with a rejection. Not only does it happen to the best of us, it happens to all of us. The vast majority of writers have publishers reject one of their works at some point or another.

It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer, necessarily. There are many reasons for a publisher to reject work.

One of them is that the work that you’ve submitted isn’t exactly what that publisher is looking for right at that instant. Sometimes it’s harder to figure out what a publisher is looking for when they have a general call out. Try again. Just because that publisher rejected it, it doesn’t mean every publisher will.

It could be that the publisher has limited space, and that they can’t publish everything that comes their way, even if it is good. It might be just that they’ve decided to go with authors that they are already familiar with, or that your work is similar to another author’s, so they went with the other one. It happens.

And I know you dread to hear it, but sometimes it is because of the writing.

So, I have a couple of questions for you, if you suspect that this is the case.

How long have you been a writer, and how much are you practicing? I’ve been a writer since I actually could write, and I get feedback from fellow writers at regular intervals. Are you taking any writing courses or following any writing blogs? Getting advice from others who can give you critical feedback?

The only way to get better at writing is actually writing. I’ve looked at some of my old work, and it’s just horrendous. But that’s looking at it from now. You can only get better with practice. That, and reading. Please read as much as you possibly can, because that’s how you can tell if you’re improving.

Don’t give up on writing because you got one rejection letter.

Other questions to ask yourself:

  • is my story predictable or typical? What can I do to change it up a bit, to make it different from all the other stories?
  • did I revise my story? How is the pacing, are there unnecessary scenes, or did you leave any out?
  • how’s your opening chapter? Do you have a good hook? What kind of scene do you open with? A lot of editors judge a book by its first chapter, and if that doesn’t impress them, they won’t read any further.
  • did you edit properly? Remember when I said editors can tell if you didn’t edit it? Yeah, they really really can, and dislike it immensely.

Any way you look at it, you shouldn’t take a rejection letter as a cue to throw in the towel. It is not a sign of failure unless you give up afterward.

Never think that writers are born. Writers create themselves.

Submission to a Publisher

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Okay, this is it. My post on submitting to a publisher.

Since I’ve actually only submitted to one publisher, Less Than Three Press, that’s what my post will mostly draw on for experience. Make note: my publisher is chiefly an online publisher and receives everything by email. Some big publishers require an actual, physical copy of your manuscript, a cover letter, an agent, and any number of annoying things.

Okay, so you’ve finished actually writing your story. You’ve gotten it checked over by beta readers, you’ve done revisions and several rounds of editing.

If you haven’t done all these steps, then don’t bloody submit it yet. It’s not actually done if you haven’t done these things yet. And don’t come to me and say that you’re good enough that you don’t have to do one of these steps. This is your work of art that you want other people to read and enjoy. You want to do everything that you can to make this work as best as it can possibly be. Especially do not skip editing it, because editors can tell, and they will hate you.

Okay, so now you are definitely sure that you are ready to submit it.

Right, now the first thing you do is go to the publisher’s website and make sure that you’re following all of their guidelines. If you are submitting to a collection, anthology, or a specific submission call of any sort, you should have already been here to make sure you were following thematic guidelines. If you are submitting to a romance publisher, some of them have guidelines on content. Less Than Three Press in particular does not allow any rape/non con, bestiality, tragic endings, and underage sex, etc. Make doubly sure that you have not included any of these things in your story.

Next, make sure you have the correct formatting guidelines down. These are usually very basic and easy to follow. Some of these formatting rules might require you to do yet another round of quick editing. Most changes will require nothing more than a quick “find and replace,” adding or taking out an indent, paragraphing, font change, or something equally simple.

Now you actually have to submit the thing.

Some publishers absolutely require you to have an agent. I haven’t had to use an agent for my work so far, but if the publisher says in their submission guidelines that you need one, then they’re pretty serious about it.

Okay, this is the part where you have to actually talk to the editor that is going to look over your manuscript and decide if they like your work. I know. This is the hard part. Please bring back the boring formatting, because this is terrifying.

Usually, you have to include your name, pen name (if you have one), your contact info, a summary of your work, word count, and a completed manuscript. Make sure you know the name of the person you’re sending it to, and their email. For Less Than Three Press, depending on if you’re submitting to a general call, a collection call or an anthology call, you might be sending it to a different editor.

Things you should not send to an editor because they are busy people and it will enrage them:

  1. an uncompleted manuscript
  2. an unedited manuscript
  3. ideas for a manuscript
  4. a manuscript that is already on submission to another publisher (unless the submission guidelines say that it’s okay)

┬áDouble and triple check that you have included all the information that the submission guidelines require and that you’re sending it to the right place.

Press send.

Wait. Be patient, because the wait length for finding out if you’ve been accepted can be anywhere from weeks to months. Some publishers will send you an automated message to assure you that they received your submission.

Don’t give up! Whatever the outcome is, you made it to this step, which means you’ve come pretty far, in terms of writing.

Outlining

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I don’t know about any of you, but one of the things that I’m most terrible at is organization. I can’t organize things in my head to save my life, and I have to write it down somewhere to get it all in order. Some of my more complicated plots require a very dedicated and colour-coded outline so that I can keep track of what’s supposed to be happening. I tend to accidentally forget subplot points and leave them out.

One thing that sometimes helps with that is Trello, which I made a post about here.

I need an outline. Some lucky people don’t need one, because they’re just that clever. I am not one of those people, so that’s why I’m talking about it in this post.

I tend to colour code things like plot, sub-plots, and character arcs. There’s always an over-arching plot of things that are happening, some of which the characters might not even be aware of. Then I tie in sub-plots to the main plot, because sub-plots that don’t support your main theme aren’t very strong sub-plots. Then I add in character arcs, so that I can tell when a character needs to do something in order for the story to progress.

For me, plot is usually the hardest thing to actually do, because it needs to incorporate everything you want to include in the story. This is more from an organization point of view, because I usually know what needs to happen, it’s just a question of when.

Once the plot is laid down, then I can overlay it with the sub-plot and character arcs.

I find it a very tiring process, to be honest, and it’s usually what takes me the most time. Even research doesn’t take as long as that. Also, I tend to enjoy researching, which makes it less tedious than forcing myself to sit down and make charts and such.

Some people can just sit down and write. One of my teachers calls it the “gardening vs architecture” style of writing. “Gardening” is supposed to be just letting things grow in your head, whereas “architecture” is my style, in which the writer makes a plan. My professor also told us that there was no set way of writing, and that either style could work just fine, depending on the writer.

I suppose, for those of us that have a very chaotic way of organizing things, an outline works best.

Happy writing!

I’m on Wattpad

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I recently signed up with Wattpad.

I’ll probably be adding writing odds and ends on there. Little drabbles that don’t make it into my novels, outside POVs, things like that. Maybe I’ll even do a full-length story on there, but for now, I’m still working on a novel I want to submit to Riptide Publishing for their submission calls.

So, just short stories and drabbles for now.

Anyway, that’s the latest news.

The Power of Organization

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Hey everyone!

I recently started a new job as a Social Media Assistant for an English school in Vancouver. But that’s not what I wanted to tell you guys. They use this online tool called Trello that does wonders for organization, and it’s been so easy to use that I’ve started using it at home as well as in the office.

It’s great for organizing a new project.

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See this? This is a board. You can create as many boards as you like for different projects. Each board is sorted into lines, as you can see in this pic, they are Basics, Intermediate and Advanced. You can call them whatever you like, and you can also make however many you need. Each line has different cards for different tasks you need to do.

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This is what a card looks like when you click on it. You can describe what the task is that you need done. If you look along the side, you can also see what else you can add to the card to keep it organized, including adding a checklist, a due date and other members if they also use Trello. You can also put in info like pictures, word docs from Google drive and links.

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This is a checklist so you can keep track of what you need to do and what you’ve already done.

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See? I’m using it for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project. The best part about it is that it’s absolutely free for what I’ve just shown you. I love it, because I’m terribly disorganized, and I always leave stacks of notes, need to always re-look up research and can’t keep track of characters. This has helped considerably. I thought about buying Scrivener to help with it, but Scrivener is over $40 and this is free.

Happy writing (and organizing)! Here’s the link again in case you don’t want to bother scrolling.