Scheduling Change for #FirstLineFriday

Good morning, Everyone!

I have come to the conclusion that my basic time management skills are rudimentary, at best, and possibly totally lacking altogether. I seem to have no realistic sense of how much I can accomplish in any given day or week. Or month. Or year. (I think you see where I’m going with this.)

Because I’ve fallen desperately behind on my current WIP, The Emissary 3, and because my readers are getting restless and emailing me regularly about the release of this one, I decided I have no choice but to cut back a bit on social media, at least until I finish this novella and get it published.

I’ve already slowed down on some of my regular features like #MondayMeme and #ShareAReviewDay Tuesdays, for which I apologize, but I’m still too far behind. So  I’ve decided to feature #FirstLineFridays every other Friday until I catch up a bit. I do plan to resume the regular weekly schedule of each of these things as soon as possible, but I hope you’ll understand that for the immediate future, I need to focus on my writing until I get TE3 finished.

This is a temporary situation, and I will be picking up the pace again when I’m more in control of my workload. HONEST. I enjoy this blog too much to disappear completely, so I will still be sharing some things here on the blog, as I’m able. But I think it will be much easier for me to manage if I don’t try to stick to a preset daily schedule. That just becomes a source of frustration when I fail to meet it. 

Thanks so much for your understanding, and rest assured I will be picking up where I left off as soon as possible. In the meantime, I have Jake, Dodger, and Azrael waiting for me to get on with their story, and that’s what I’ll be focusing on. 

 

DON’T WORRY!! Things will be back to normal before you know it! 

NOTE: Since it is a time-sensitive subject, I will continue my weekly Peace Talks Countdown posts, which are pretty much all set to go, already.

 

Happy News! #MondayBlogs #amwriting

Happy Monday, Everyone. That’s possibly contradiction in terms for some of you, but for me, this is a happy day, indeed.  I am finally feeling well enough to get back to my WIP, which I had hoped to send off to editing a week ago, but which is still (sadly) lacking a final chapter and epilogue. SO, feeling up to writing–looking forward to it, in fact–is a big step forward from where I’ve been for the last week.

When they tell you a blow to the head can scramble your brains, they aren’t kidding. While I didn’t have any memory lapses, I’ve had trouble concentrating and have done some really odd things over the last week. But finally, I seem to be able to organize my thoughts and think creatively. Maybe. 😀 

I do want to let you all know that I’m taking things one step at a time, with the first one being to finish this long-overdue book. I do have a guest scheduled tomorrow for #ShareAReviewDay, but I’m not ready to commit to any other specific blog features, like #FirstLineFriday. I might put that off another week. A tortoise once told me slow and steady wins the race. 🙂

As I return to my normal blogging routine, I’m planning to make a change or two. For some time, I’ve featured mostly writing-related memes on Mondays, but I’d like to expand that to include more than memes. Articles, tips, shared posts, etc, related to writing might become part of Mondays going forward. We’ll see how that goes. #ThorsDaySmiles will stay focused on anything I think might make you smile. Smiling is good. Laughing out loud is even better. And because I enjoy it so much,  #FirstLineFriday WILL resume, I’m just not sure when. 

So with those thoughts in mind, off I go to work on that last chapter of The Light, and to think about what I need to do to get this one “out there.” But I’ll be at least a bit more visible here from now on, I think. 

Thank you all for your support, healing thoughts, prayers, and encouraging words over the last week. I may or may not be able to respond to you individually, but please believe I read and appreciated every single comment! 

Hope you all have a great, productive week! Go get ’em, guys! ❤ ❤ ❤

(And btw, does anyone know why all our sweet little hearts turned black all of a sudden? I mean, it’s really pretty sinister looking now, isn’t it??? 😀 )

Listening to Your WIP – #WritingTip #amwriting

We’ve talked about this in the past, but as I avail myself of the process more and more, I now wonder how I wrote anything without stopping to hear my words now and then. At the very least, how did I dare submit my revised document to an editor, never having done so? And yet it’s SO easy.

Like many of you, I have a regular writing routine, even though it got a bit lost in the post-hurricane shuffle. I’m getting back to it again. I write every morning, immediately after taking care of any emails that won’t wait. I always plan to write at least two or three hours, but more often end up writing for longer periods of time. (Thank you, Fitbit, for reminding me to get up every hour and walk for a few minutes.)

The first thing I do when I sit down to write is to go over what I wrote the day before. I prefer to catch obvious errors and make little tweaks before moving  on. (It saves me lots of time in revision to start with a  fairly clean copy, plus it puts me back in the story for the day’s work ahead.) And for the last year or so, I don’t just read what I’m going over. I listen to it, as well. You can download several good apps to do this, but having tried a few, I prefer using the one that comes with Word. It’s free, and honestly, it sounds every bit as good. Plus, since I write my books in Word to begin with, it means I don’t have to open another program.

What’s that? You didn’t know Word would read your work back to you? Neither did I for a long time, but thanks to a post here some time ago, I found out it does, if you ask nicely.  😀  It’s EASY, and this is how you do it. First, open your WIP in Word. Take a look at the very top of the page, in what is called the Quick Access Toolbar. It looks like this:

The default setting for this toolbar includes the icons for Save (the disk), Undo/Redo (the arrows), and Speak (the speech bubble). If you have somehow removed that from your Quick Access Toolbar, click on the DOWNWARD pointing arrow to the right and scroll down to where it says More Commands. Click on that, and this is what you’ll see:

You can choose among the options in the left hand list to add them to the right hand list. Once they are in that right hand list, they will appear in your Quick Access toolbar. If you do NOT see “Speak” in that right hand list (note the red arrow), find it on the left side, and move it over. Click OK at the bottom, and when you close the menu, you should see the icon in your Quick Access Toolbar. See? Easy.

As for how you use it, just as simple. In your document, highlight the text you wish to hear and click on the speak bubble. (Be sure your speakers are on.) The voice will read what you have written. If you’ve never done this before, you may not realize this, but your ears will pick up lots of things your eyes miss. Double words ( to to, the the) and omitted words, for starters. That alone is worth using this. But you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll notice that a sentence you thought was fine is really quite clunky. Or perhaps you missed that it’s a run-on sentence, and hearing it aloud brings it to your attention. And phrases or character names that have been repeated far too often will positively jump out at you.

I often struggle with a tricky paragraph, and will stop to listen just to that before moving on. It’s amazing how hearing  it out loud immediately alerts me as to why I was having trouble with it. I can often fix the problem simply by reordering the sentences. And sometimes, when I hear the paragraph out loud, I realize it’s just dumb, and should be deleted at once. 😯

So there you have it folks. Whether you use this tool as you go along, like I do, or save it for final revisions, I bet you’ll find listening to your work a major help. I hope so, anyway. I sure do. Give it a try, at least. What have you got to lose? 🙂

 

Writers, have you discovered the Pomodoro technique? #amwriting #timemanagement

Are you a full time writer?

I’m not, so like a lot of others, I have to fit my writing time around my full time business. And my business is VERY full time – I train and judge competition dressage horses at National and International level. It’s a fabulous job, but very time consuming, not to mention sometimes exhausting.

This is me in my day job

When people glibly tell me that there is always time to be found in the work day, I know they have NO idea what my life is like. I can often be on the road by 7am, and not home until 10pm, having been either driving or working the entire time. Please tell me where I am supposed to find time to write in that schedule?

I’m not complaining, no sir, I’m just making a point. Not everybody’s life lends itself to a regular writing routine. Mine certainly doesn’t.

So what is my point?

Well, I recently followed a short writing course, largely because it had a great module on plotting (guess who is trying to learn more about plotting vs pantsing?). But what it also had, was a section on time management.

My first thought was, ‘here we go again, I’ve heard it all before’.

But I hadn’t! This course introduced me to the POMODORO TECHNIQUE.

If you haven’t come across it yet, it is a time management approach developed in the late 1980s, and named after the Pomodoro kitchen timer.

 The reason I found this so useful?

Because I have always felt that there was no point starting to write unless I had at least a clear hour available. Anything less than that seemed to me to be unproductive, and I hate to get started only to find I have to give up.

The nub of the Pomodoro technique, though, is that you work for exactly 25 minutes. Not more, and not less.

If you have that magic hour free, then you can fit two sessions in, with a small gap in the middle for coffee making or similar.

I guess, now I think about it, that this is at least partially based on the knowledge that we (humans) can only concentrate fully for 20 minutes at a time, so the 25 minutes stretches that just a touch, followed by the short break, and then back for another 20 (or 25) minutes work.

What it has meant for me, personally, is that my next book is coming along much quicker than previous ones, because I can often find 25 minutes spare, where I might have to wait days to find one of those precious hour gaps.

It has enabled me to give myself permission to write for just 25 minutes, and without guilt that I didn’t get that full hour of work in.

Crazy, huh? But it’s working for me.

I’ve finally realised that my one hour rule is yet another of those dreaded procrastinations we writers are often so prone to.

How about all of you, how do you manage your time?

Even if you are a full time writer, with all the guff that goes with it these days, how do you arrange your productive writing sessions?

Does anyone else have a favoured minimum writing time?

Deborah Jay

Mystery, magic and mayhem

Join me at:

http://deborahjayauthor.com/

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https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172608.Deborah_Jay

Amazon author page: http://viewAuthor.at/DeborahJay

 

 

 

 

The Single Most Useful Editing Tool I’ve Used – #NaturalReader

Let me preface this post by saying that in my opinion, there is no app anywhere that will ever replace a good editor. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think the writers out there who can get away with skipping a professional editing are few and far between. If you are one of them, I apologize, as I don’t mean to imply there are none. But generally, I believe in a final edit by a qualified human being, the two operative words being “qualified” and “human.” 🙂 Now, having gotten that out of the way, on to what I wanted to share with you today.

I use beta readers (9, actually on a private blog) and they read my draft, chapter by chapter, as I write. This lets me know when a chapter is doing what I need it to do, so I can make immediate tweaks or changes, if I’ve failed to get my points across. After my draft is complete, I submit my work to my editor, also chapter by chapter, because that’s how I like to work, and she accommodates me, thankfully. But between the completion of my draft, and any submissions to my editor, I revise each chapter myself, making any obvious corrections I spot, rephrasing here and there,  and running the chapter through editing software. I use SmartEdit most of the time, but there are quite a few out there.

The last thing I do before sending the chapter to my editor is listen to it on NaturalReader. A fellow local writer, Gerald Darnell, told me about this program, and I was astounded at how helpful it was to listen to someone else read the chapter aloud. Doing it myself just isn’t the same. Following along on my monitor as the chapter is read by NaturalReader has cut my typos, especially missed words like to, and, and the, down to next to nothing. And before I started using it, those would often get by all 11 sets of eyes checking the drafts!

I can also pick up on sentences that are too long, or simply don’t sound quite right, and words that have been used too often. Hearing the chapters aloud makes a HUGE difference.

I can’t say enough about how helpful NaturalReader has been to me, and I thought some of you might enjoy checking it out. I had the fully paid version (with assorted voices and other options) on my old computer, but lost it. I’m now using the free version, and frankly, I find it every bit as helpful. It does stop once or twice during a long chapter, to ask if I want to upgrade, but I just click the button to continue, and it’s not a big deal for me.

You can try NaturalReader out for free here. What have you got to lose? OR you can go to the main page, paste your text into the field, and listen to it there. If you like that option, go here.  And once you are anywhere on the site, you can compare the free version to the paid one and decide which is best for you. Or, while you are using the downloaded free version, you can click “OKAY” when prompted to upgrade.

I say, check it out. You might be surprised at what a handy tool it is. (BTW, it will also read web pages aloud for you, should that be of interest.) It is available for both Windows and Mac.

 

#GardenInspiration – Painted Bunting

It’s an absolutely picture perfect day here in central Florida today. Cool enough breeze to keep you from melting, but warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. And as if the weather isn’t enough reason to spend some time outside, this morning, a stunning male painted bunting visited our birdbath. He splashed and frolicked long enough for me to really enjoy his vivid orange, blue, and chartreuse coloring. I’m hoping he’ll be back later for a snack at the feeder, but when he finished his ablutions, he flew up into the bamboo, and became invisible.

You wouldn’t think a brightly colored bird like this, or our year round resident cardinals could vanish among solid green foliage, but they do. You can stand beneath, listening to the scarlet cardinals singing, and not see them to save your soul. Mother Nature is always interesting, and usually inspiring. Today, I was reminded of that once again.

Writers, when your muse has deserted you, go outside. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or a hike in the closest wooded area. Go for a canoe ride. Take an eco-tour. Or just sit on your patio with a  cup of tea, and see what flies or scampers by. You might be surprised. Even in a busy suburban area, with nearby shopping malls, and an interstate highway, I regularly see things like today’s painted bunting. And when I return to work, it’s with renewed energy and inspiration.

 

Central Florida Writers? #AmWriting

writer1

I am thinking about starting a Writer’s Group in my part of the world. There are a few in Central Florida, but none convenient to me, and several seem to be either way too large for my comfort level, or not very active. Do we have any writers or would-be writers closer to the Sanford area who would be interested in such an endeavor? If so, please email me at mmeara@cfl.rr.com so we can discuss the idea. Thanks!