Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2012: What Does It Mean To You?

Do you see the changing of the calendar year as a chance for a new start, or a time to try something new? Maybe this year will be your year! Will you finish that book? Maybe actually sit down and start one?

Let's talk in January about goal-setting. Think about what you want to do, and just how you're going to do it. In the meantime, enjoy this holiday season with your family and friends. Recharge and refill your creative well. Read, watch movies. Get out and enjoy the outdoors. Have some fun! Relax and rest, because all too soon it'll be time to get back into routine.

So however you celebrate it, have a safe New Year's Eve and we'll get down to business in the New Year!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: Take a Break

As you're all aware, the holiday season is upon us. Suddenly our days seem to be filled with concerts, parties, shopping, baking and cleaning. During all this hustle and bustle it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with your daily or weekly writing goals*. And you know what? That's okay. Don't beat yourself up about missing a day or two of writing. You should be taking time to spend with your family and friends. Go sledding with the kids. Curl up in front of the TV with hot chocolate and watch a favorite family classic. Build a gingerbread house. Go look at Christmas lights.

In other words, look at these moments as refilling your creative well. Use the time you're not at your desk to take in the world around you and enjoy it. And if you really feel the need to add to your word count, ask for an hour or two of quiet time. Send the family out shopping or to the movies, and take advantage of that break.

As with goal-setting in general, it shouldn't be an "all or nothing" attitude. Flexibility is key, especially if you do have a family and commitments outside of the home. Keeping this sort of attitude will reduce your stress levels and help you to be more productive. After all, how creative can you be if you've continually got one eye on the calendar?

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

*Don't have goals or know about goal setting? We'll be talking about that in January!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Friday Reads

I'm starting a new series of posts on what I'm reading. On Fridays I'll talk about my current book (as applicable -- I don't read as much as I used to, thanks to my growing family), and I hope you'll tell me what's on your nightstand!

My ten-year-old and I have been reading the 39 Clues series together, and we've both really enjoyed it. We came in late to the series so we were able to do a good glut of the books as we got caught up to the publishing schedule. The most recent one we just completed was The Medusa Complex, which is the first book in a subsequent series called Cahills vs. Vespers (sounds horribly complicated, doesn't it?). There are 11 books in the original series, and thus far two in the second series. (Wikipedia shows slots for a total of six books in series two. Careful with that link! Spoilers abound!)

Siblings Amy and Dan Cahill inherit a mystery and a challenge: find the 39 clues before any other branches of their large family do.

I like to think of these books as Clive Cussler or John LeCarre lite. They're packed full of adventure (there tends to be quite a bit of disbelief suspension here, but they are kids' books, after all!) and the main characters are very likeable. There are a couple of deaths that take place in the first series (not graphically), as well as some rather scary moments, so I'd hesitate on giving them to readers much younger than 9 or 10. In some ways the books are much like a literary version of the TV show, The Amazing Race. The families (teams) must race from location to location, solving puzzles to find clues. The pace is screaming-fast, but the books are short so that's not really a surprise.

For adults, they're very easy reading, so most will be able to finish these within a couple of days. If you're looking for something fun to share with your child, these will fit the bill as well. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: The Idea File

Talk to any published author and they'll tell you that one of the most frequently asked questions they hear is "Where do you get your ideas?" And in many cases, the answer to that question will be: "Everywhere." Authors constantly gather new story ideas. They skim, file and store away snippets that may or may not be used again later.

But what are some of the ways they get these ideas? you might ask. Here are a few suggestions. Beyond that, you can use your imagination -- because that's what writers do, right?

  • Read. Everything. Inside of your genre and out.
  • Read non-fiction. Magazines are great sources of material, as are newspapers and professional journals. Maybe some little-known fact or scientific discovery will be a plot point in your next novel.
  • Listen. The world is full of conversation. The next time you're seated in a public location, take a moment to listen to what's happening around you. Great bits of conversation can lead to more.
  • Keep notes. Have a notebook and pen with you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike, so you'll want to be prepared. This is especially true at bedtime. Ideas always seem to pop up just as you're drifting off to sleep.
  • Play the 'What If' game. Ask yourself "What if?" over and over, always taking your answer one step farther. Who knows where you'll end up?
  • Climb up your family tree. Maybe you've got interesting ancestors or relatives who did amazing things.
  • Finally, Write. Keep writing. Many times the creativity of the writing process will feed upon itself. The more you exercise your brain, the stronger it will get. A number of authors will say that their own work will spark something new.
These are just a few of the ways to to get your creative juices flowing. I'm certain you can come up with even more. Good luck!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: Hobby or Career?

You want to write a book. You know desperately, deep down in your soul that that's what you're meant to do. You've got a notebook overflowing with story ideas, each one better than the last.

So what do you do with this ambition, those great ideas? Do you sit down at your computer every once in a while, when the mood strikes, and tap out a paragraph or two? Or do you have a daily routine that incorporates either page count or word count goals?

Which trait do you think is going to lead to greater success?

We all know people who've said that magical phrase, "Oh, I'm going to write a book someday." don't we? We might wonder if this magnificent piece of literature will ever see the light of day, especially when the author (to be) makes excuse after excuse for not having the book finished.

But the author who rises at 7:00AM every morning and steadfastly types away at the keyboard for two hours, or the mother who steals thirty minutes of time during her baby's nap, or the guy who stays up until midnight every night, steadily working -- they have a much greater chance of success, even though (for example, in the mother's case) the daily word count totals might be quite low.

What's the difference here?

It's the fact that the authors who are writing consistently and regularly, setting aside specific blocks of time to work, are treating their writing as a job, not a hobby. And this is what you need to do, especially if you are serious about writing books and making this your career or second source of income. Despite what you might believe, you *can* get up a half-hour earlier, or stay up a half-hour later. Or skip watching that sitcom. Or spend less time aimlessly surfing the internet. (Okay, I know, that one's easier said than done!) There *is* time out there -- you just need to find it and commit to using it productively. And if you can do that, you're a giant step ahead of all those who say "Oh, one day..."

Good luck!