Winning NaNo Eight Minutes at a Time

But first, an update. DH and I went to Tennessee again last weekend, this time to do a more detailed walk over the property we like, and then to decide if we wanted to put an offer in. DH mainly wanted to make sure there wasn’t a meth lab, toxic waste dump, or anything like that hidden back in the woods.

We didn’t find any of those things, but we did find a couple areas where people had dumped old tires, toys, and things like that. Nothing DH can’t clean up. We found more to like, too, like an even more fantastic view from the highest point on the property.

view from the top

There were also a couple of surprises, though luckily not bad ones. One was this lovely little clearing in the middle of the woods. It used to be used for farmland, as there’s a fallen down barn nearby.

Fairy Circle

It has sort of a magical-looking quality to it, doesn’t it? It sort of reminds me of a fairy circle. And yes, it really looks like that (though the position of the sun helped in the photo :)).

We knew from the aerial photos that there were two fallen-down farmhouses on the property, plus the aforementioned barn. One of the houses is right next to where we’d build our house, if we end up buying. The other one is close to the meadow above, and the fallen-down barn. Except that the house turned out to be still standing! Zillow thinks so too, and its listing on that part of the property (which is actually a separate plot from the one we’d build on), says there is a 1152 sq. ft, three bedroom, “- -” bathroom house there, built in 1905. We didn’t get any closer to it than this, as the woods were really thick. I’d be very leery of going inside, as I expect the floor (if there is any) is not structurally sound. But I will want to check it out more closely if we do get the property! I’d also like to talk to the seller and learn more details of its history, as this land has been in her family for over 100 years.

old farmhouse

After walking all over the property, we met one of the neighbors, who was amazingly nice and even invited us in. Talking to her made us feel better about the scuttled highway project (which would also have gone right through her property), and we decided to make an offer. Our Realtor is drawing up the paperwork, so we’ll wait and see!

grapevinespringsWhat I’ve been Reading: Smith’s Monthly #27 by Dean Wesley Smith. This issue contained a really good Poker Boy story (humorous superhero series) and a novel from his time travel series. This one was enjoyable enough to read, but didn’t draw me in the way these usually do. Thinking back, I realize it’s the same problem I face as a series writer: where to draw the line between giving enough background info on how the time travel works so a new reader isn’t confused, but not too much to bore the readers who’ve read all the other books. For me, this book crossed over onto the latter side. Still enjoyable, just not as good as the other books in this series.

I also had the opportunity to beta read a wonderful sci-fi novella that I would consider quintessential space opera. It ticked all the SO boxes: new tech, exploration, and yes, space battles. Plus some fun characters and references to the other books in the same world, but with not so much that it would feel like an inside joke to a reader new to this author. I especially liked the scientific explanations given for the tech, just enough to feel real to this reader, but not so much detail the eyes glaze over. My biggest challenge will be writing up a crit for the author, because I just couldn’t find much to criticize about it. I guess knowing you’ve done something well is also helpful!

8-minute writing habitROW80/Writing Update: The writing went ever so slowly the week before last. My goal was to write 500 words a day, five days. That only happened once. Not only did I have too much going on, I wasn’t focused. Something had to give.

I wasn’t planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I figured I’d see if I could hit a high (for me) word count the first day, and if so, join in the fun. I managed to write 1336 words Tuesday night–not the on-target 1667 to hit 50k, but a lot for me. So I’m in. This year, I’m not worried about hitting the 50,000 words required to “win,” but am instead focused on just increased production–for me. One thing the NaNo folks suggest is getting other responsibilities out of the way so you can focus on writing. I just can’t do that this time around–there’s too much going on, especially with the property purchase, and extra paperwork I need to do in preparation to sell another of our rental properties. Even so, I wrote five days this week and got over 7000 words. As far as I’m concerned, that’s already a win. Even if I don’t hit 50k, I’ll be “failing to success.” And I got that 7k eight minutes at a time. If you’re participating, I’d be glad to  have more Writing Buddies! My profile is here.

ROW80Logo175

You see, focus is still an issue. With all the stuff whirling around in my brain, getting to the computer and staying there is where I’ve been struggling. So I took a page from a book I read last year (that I highly recommend) and set my timer for eight minutes. I can manage to stay focused for that time, and usually get between 125-230 words in that eight minutes, unless I have to do a quick research on something. The Pomodoro Method (timing for 25 minutes) or Flylady’s “You can do anything for fifteen minutes” used to work really well for me, but lately, no. But eight minutes, I can do. When the timer goes off, I take a very short break to talk to the turtle or pet my dog or gerbil, then set the timer for eight minutes more. If you’ve struggled for focus as I have, I highly recommend this–as well as the book! This week, I’m hoping to best my wordcount, and hit at least 7500 words.

What about you–do you ever have trouble staying focused? What are some of your tricks to deal with that? If you’re a writer, are you doing NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Whether or not you’re a writer, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Frustrating

This has been one of those weeks with very little progress, as far as the writing goes. No life rolls or anything like that either, just no time and/or energy for it. And that’s with my adrenal fatigue being better lately.

For example, DH and I went out for dinner for our date night, as we do every week. We did our usual: go to a bar and grab something to eat, play trivia, and hang with friends. It was a good time. But I don’t get home from work until around 6, and barely had time to change clothes and do my after work routine before we left. We didn’t get home until after 10, and by then, I was too wiped out to write. I know, writing is just sitting at a computer and making stuff up, but that takes mental energy, and my fatigue is mental as well as physical.

The day after that, we finally got in all the rent checks from our apartments, so I had a good couple hours’ worth of paperwork to do in preparing the deposits. And after that was done, I had food prep to do, as I’m doing a cooking day today. This was also a work day, so by the time that was finished, it was again 10PM, and I was beat.

Yesterday was Saturday, and you’d think I’d be able to come up with some time to write. But noooooo, I had errands to run, some of which DH couldn’t do or he would have. Then I had to finish a few food prep things I didn’t do the night before. After that, I had two loads of laundry to do–normally, I do that on Sunday, but I’m cooking today so that won’t work. Then I spent about an hour doing my weekly Home Blessing, and just general tidy up because we had friends over for dinner. We had a great time (and some great food, which DH fixed), but by the time I’d cleaned up and our guests left, it was–you guessed it–10PM and tired.

I forced myself to spend 15 minutes or so writing, but it wasn’t fun or easy, because I was so tired. So this week, instead of the ten scenes I’d hoped to edit and fix? I got one and a half done. So frustrating!

StarNomadWhat I’ve been reading: I did have time to read, as that’s something I can do when I’m tired–it doesn’t take much mental energy to enjoy someone else’s creative work. This week I read Star Nomad, by Lindsay Buroker. I’ve been meaning to try her books for some time now, and this one’s the first by her I’ve read. It was a really good, fun, science fiction adventure. If you like Firefly, this is a must-read, because it really reminded me of that (though not in a rip-off sort of way).

I also finished a very long, nonfiction history book by my friend from high school, the one who gave me a copy of “my” yearbook for my birthday. He has not been able to find a publisher for it, and I’ll grant that it’s a niche topic (military aviation history), but it was very well-written and mostly kept my interest. I say “mostly” because it went into exhaustive detail–but I am not the primary audience for this book, and I believe those who are, will love this level of detail. I’ve been reading this book on my treadmill for the past six months, and I only use the treadmill when the weather’s too cold, hot, or rainy to walk the dog, so it’s taken a while. I am trying to get him to self-publish it, though he has a bit more work to do for that (finding pictures and getting permission for them, getting a Foreword written by someone known in the field, etc.).

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I didn’t even come close to meeting my goals last week. And this week doesn’t look to be much better, as I have a lot going on. So I’m going to shoot for getting one scene fixed/revised. Anything more than that will be a big win.

What about you–do you get frustrated when you don’t have the time (or energy) to do the things you want? What’s the one thing you don’t sacrifice? Have you read any good books lately? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

How I Saved 2 Hours Grocery Shopping

Anything that saves time in chores gives us more time to do the things we want to do, so when I saw that my local Meijer store was offering online ordering and curbside pickup, my husband and I said we definitely wanted to try it some time.

mattersmost_300x300-300x300I’m getting ready to do a big cooking day, so this week was that time.

I made an account on Meijer.com, and started ordering. It was so much easier to just type what I wanted into the search bar, and then choose from all the choices, than to hunt for the item in the store! I also tried drilling down through the categories, as in Grocery –> Produce –> Vegetables, and that was also easy. Everything was pictured, so I knew what I was getting. It took me about an hour and a half to put together the massive shopping list that my cooking day required, over 80 different items. It takes me about half that long just to put together the shopping list for my husband, because it needs to be Very Specific. Then when he goes to the store, that takes 3-4 hours, plus a stop at Starbucks. That alone was a trade-off for the $4.95 pickup fee, plus my husband had one less super-sugary drink he didn’t need. 🙂

At the end of placing my order, I was able to select the exact pickup time my husband wanted, and it was ready when he drove up to the pickup area. We ordered two days ahead, but orders can be placed as little as three hours in advance, or one hour for 12 items or less. Store staff does all the loading–my husband didn’t even need to get out of his truck.

Overall, it was fantastic, and we will definitely do this again. My only complaint was regarding pre-packaged meats. Oh–as for quality, Meijer says they pick out the best meats and produce for curbside customers. I have no complaints there, but rather about the quantity. My cooking day required 11-1/8 lbs. of chicken breast, so I ordered two family packs that were supposed to be approx. 5 lbs. each, plus a single pack of approx. 1-1/8 lbs. I realize meat weights vary, so I noted in the comments box that I would rather have more than that, than less. But I got two 4-lb. family packs, plus a .8 lb. single. This is a new service, so I expect there to be some bugs to be worked out. They emailed me a survey link, so I put there that I’d like to be able to order meat by the pound, as I was able to do with produce, rather than by package. Luckily, I had some frozen at home, so I had enough for my cooking day without having to go back to the store.

snowdayWhat I’ve Been Reading: “Once Upon a Snow Day” by Kait Nolan. This short story is part of her “Meet-Cute” series, which aptly describes it. Not my usual fare, but I like something light and fun like this every now and then, and it fit the bill. Recommended!

gimmeshelterI also read Gimme Shelter by TS Hottle. This science fiction novella is set in the same universe as his prior release, The First One’s Free, which I read a few months ago. These books are the opposite of the one I almost put down in that he does a great job pulling the reader down into the characters, and making us interested in what happens to them, even those with less than charitable intentions. Like Free, this book is laced with evidence of his prior crime fiction work, full of characters with shifting and questionable loyalties and alliances in a complex, diverse, and well-developed universe. Definitely recommended!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I got a little done on my blurbs and cover, but they’re far from finished. Still, with all else I have going on, that’s a win. I did get the print book and cover for Mythical Press done, except for a few minor text tweaks from the author. I met with my writing group yesterday, which was fun as always. They are both among my first readers for my current WIP, and the one who got it back to me already had lots of changes to suggest. I agreed with most of them, but wasn’t sure how to implement them–actually, I was a bit overwhelmed–so she met with me to go over them. That helped tons, and now I have a plan for my revision. So this week’s plan is to write the two new scenes we identified.

How about you–what other strategies do you have to save time at the grocery store? Have you read any good books lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be, writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

ROT – Return on Time

As a writer who has a full-time job, helps with a spouse’s business, and has limited energy, how I spend my time is of great importance. Actually, I don’t know any writer who has enough time to do all the things they need and want to do, regardless of employment, health, kids, or whatever. So I often find myself evaluating the ROI–Return on Investment–of a given activity, the “investment” being my time. So maybe ROT–Return on Time–is a better way to describe it.

This is a concern for many writers especially when it comes to time spent on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. What do we get for our time spent on social media, and is it worth it? If one considers them fun, then that should definitely be taken into consideration. I don’t enjoy them, so for me, they’re low ROT, and the answer is to spend very little time there. I do like reading blogs, so I spend more of my time with them.

Other activities where I need to consider ROT is the time it takes to come up with a clever blog title, as well as what to write about. I’m not very good at titles, so I honestly don’t spend a lot of time on them. I am skeptical that I’d get many more pageviews if I did spend a lot more time with them, and anyway, this blog doesn’t sell books, so… not a good ROT.

I received a flyer in the mail saying that Meijer now offers order-ahead pickup. Order online, then go pick it up at a drive-thru area a few hours later. We can get our first order free (the pickup fee, not the purchases) if we order by Feb. 13. After that, it’s $4.95.

The only time my grocery store is this deserted is like at 3 AM... or during the Superbowl.

The only time my grocery store is this deserted is like at 3 AM… or during the Superbowl.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a totally killer deal. There’s no maximum or minimum, and instead of spending an hour+ grocery shopping–a chore I hate–I can order online and pickup. Even if I had a household employee to do this (LOL–right?) their hourly wage would be much more! So with this, grocery shopping is something else where I can consider ROT–and it’s definitely worth more than $4.95. That goes double for a big grocery haul in preparation for a once-a-month-cooking day. My husband normally does the shopping, but those take him three hours. The fee would be worth it to him, too, because a marathon shopping session like that requires a stop at Starbuck’s–which is about the same amount!

We have had crazy warm weather here in Ohio the past couple of days, so last night, my husband had a fire out back. I took some time away from writing to go sit with him, and that was time well-spent. Time with our family has a high ROT.

So what did I do this week where I was thinking about time spent? Of course I did some reading, because that’s something I enjoy a lot, and writers need to read. So reading is almost always worth the ROT for me. (I say “almost” because there is the occasional book I don’t enjoy and end up setting aside.) I didn’t finish yet, so I’ll go over that next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I did meet my goals this week, and finished the first draft of my WIP! I got that last scene written, and went through and added a few things I knew were missing. So this week’s plan is to proofread and correct, and get it to the beta readers. A bonus would be anything I get done on the cover or book description.

What about you–for what activities do you consider ROT? Whether or not you’re a writer, what’s worth your time, and what isn’t? Would you consider ordering your groceries online and saving the time shopping? What’s the weather like where you live? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

Working Toward Efficiency

Efficiency–that’s something most of us need now more than ever, with the holidays approaching fast, and that many more things to do, while none of the usual things to do go away. These past two weeks, I’ve been working on developing more focus while writing, so I can get more written in less time.

I’ve also been doing some website work–not for me, but for one of the Mythical Press editors and cover artists. Her sites were old, and slow, the latter for several reasons. One was that it was hosted on an old server, so a server move was in order. This is something that should be easy, but I’ve done several of these recently (including this site), and it always ends up being a big job. My client’s sites were also using old themes, which needed to be rewritten from the ground up (these are custom themes that she liked, so we didn’t want something new). They were also not mobile-friendly, so I added code to make them fit well and display quickly on mobile screens. And finally, we decided that she should have a separate site for her independent cover design business, so that’s now in progress.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it was. But the thing is, I enjoy doing this stuff (so much more fun than the ones for my day job!). So I didn’t mind spending my time doing this.

I’ve also been working toward more efficiency in my writing time. Often, I have trouble staying focused on the writing while I’m there. (Like a lot of writers, I have “OOOH SHINY!” syndrome.) Having a separate writing computer helps–a lot–but recently it’s still been a challenge. So I took what seems like a counter-intuitive step: I’m spending less time there now. Last week I spend only 15 minutes/day writing, and to my surprise, I got as many words done as I’d been getting spending 2-3 times that much time. This past week, I bumped it up to 20 minutes, and stayed the course. I think knowing that I have a limited amount of time makes me buckle down and do the writing. Next week, I’m going back to 25 minutes–the classic Pomodoro method time–so we’ll see how that goes.

hallowedWhat I read last week: Hallowed, by Monica Leonelle. I figured since I read a lot of her craft and business books, I might as well see what her fiction’s like, and this book was free, so what was there to lose? This YA contemporary fantasy was great! The only bad part was that it ended on a cliffhanger, and the rest of the series isn’t currently available. I believe it was at one time, but she’s reworking them, I seem to remember reading somewhere.

breakwritersblockI also read Break Writer’s Block Now by Jerrold Mundis. I don’t have writer’s block–in fact, one of the book’s main points is that there is no such thing–but I was hoping for some tips on staying focused. This is where I got the idea to spend only 15 minutes/day writing, then work up to more time. So it was very worthwhile!

smithsmonthly13This past week, I read the short stories and serial segments in Smith’s Monthly #13, by Dean Wesley Smith. I’m only a year behind on these now. 😀 As always, they were fun and entertaining.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I’m now about halfway through drafting my novella, thanks in large part to the tip in Break Writer’s Block Now. With the holidays and all the extra stuff to do that they entail, I don’t expect to speed up by much, so my goal is to complete at least one more scene, ideally, two.

What about you–have you discovered a way to be more efficient with anything recently? If not, what would you like to do more of in less time? Whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing with any goals you may be working toward? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

How Routines can Free us from Guilt

One thing with my writing that has been a constant struggle is how to divide my time between marketing and writing new material. Some long-time pros advocate focusing on the new writing, as the best marketing is to publish a new book. I observe other authors who seem to publish a book (or two, or three), then spend all their time marketing and networking. Both approaches can work, but the former begs the question, what good is publishing another book if they’re all invisible? And the latter often makes us cranky, because we got into this because we love to write, not because we love to market.

Clearly, some balance is needed. But after seeing so many marketing ploys either not work for others, or work only when those others have many more books out than me, I sort of gave up on it and focused on learning and writing. And no one was finding my books. Which brought forth all kinds of unhappy thoughts: if no one’s reading, why am I bothering to publish? I really needed to do something to keep my books out there.

I switched gears into marketing this summer. It has helped. I wasn’t happy focusing on that, but I couldn’t mentally switch from new writing to doing marketing each evening.

Isis has no problem with guilt - but is good at inducing it in others!

Isis has no problem with guilt – but is good at inducing it in others!

Then it dawned on me that some advice I saw for balancing the publishing tasks with writing could also work for the marketing: set aside one day a week for that stuff, and write the rest of the week. I’ve been doing this for stuff around the house for years–for example, Monday nights are when I do bill paying and bookkeeping for my husband’s businesses. Anything that comes in during the week goes into my letter sorter, and stays there until Monday. It’s so much more efficient than dealing with each piece of paper the day it comes in–or putting it off, and being late. I’ve read variations of this before, so I don’t know why I never tried it–until now.

Last week, I devoted Sunday to writing my blog, doing website stuff, and getting through a couple things on my marketing list. I didn’t plan to write that day, so no guilt there. And I got a lot done, in addition to the usual household stuff I do on Sunday.

I also did no writing on Monday, which is typical since that’s bookkeeping day. But I did write every other day this week, and again–no guilt over not doing any of the other tasks.

So we’re going to stick with this plan for the time being, and adjust if it doesn’t work. One catch is that sometimes Sundays are taken up by other things, like family get-togethers. I have one of those coming up next week. So on those days, I’ll just pare down my usual list to maybe one item that can easily be done after I get home, and ditch the guilt.

What I read this week: I’m only about halfway through this novel, so I’ll blog about it after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Last week’s goal was to write 5,000 words on the novella, plus do 3-5 items on the marketing/website list. I added 7500 words to the novella (though admittedly, some of those were copy/paste from my outline), plus I updated my headers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and set up a special offer for my newsletter readers, and sent out a newsletter. Speaking of which, anyone is welcome to sign up for that, which you can do here. I also received my upcoming novel back from my editor, so making the edits is my writing priority for this week. In addition, I’ll complete another 3-5 items from my website/marketing list today.

What about you–do you have certain tasks you delegate to certain days? Or do you try to do a little each day? If you don’t, do you get a bad case of the “shoulds,” or is it just me? What are some routines or time-management tips that have helped you? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Pomodoro for the Win!

This has been a good week for the writing–enough to make up for the last, lousy week. I spent about two hours on Sunday trying out the Pomodoro method, as suggested in Write Better, Faster. One thing I liked about that book was that it also gave suggestions on applying the efficiencies therein to other aspects of writing beyond the first draft: outlining, editing, and publishing tasks like cover design and formatting.

Monday was Dog’s Nite Out at the ice cream shop. Isis was so eager for her doggy cup that she almost launched herself into the window when we went to order!

Isis orders ice cream

 

She also saw her Rottie friend there who we met last month:

Isis and rottie

And she made some new friends, a pair of Irish Wolfhounds, and an Ibizan (in back, in the photo below) who was also named Isis!

Isis makes new friends

Blind TemptationWhat I read this week: Blind Temptation, by Stacy McKitrick. I was mostly focused on my own writing, so have not yet finished this book, but close! This is a really different vampire story in that the vampire is a girl who was turned as a teen, so that’s what she looks like, even though she’s over 300 years old. The hero is blind–a totally capable and lovable guy, and a nice change from the typical “alpha” male that typically is found in vampire books. How his sightlessness works with the romance was well-done, and effectively demonstrates the theme. It is book 3 of a series, but these each stand alone and do not need to be read in order. If you like vampire romances but enjoy something a bit different, definitely get this one! Disclaimer: this was published by my publisher–hey, they have great taste! 🙂 But I bought my copy.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal was to finish writing in the revisions for three chapters–I did five and finished the book! So this week’s goal is to type in the changes, and complete this draft. This coming weekend will be a busy one, so I’m hoping to get 10 chapters. That may be a bit ambitious, but with the Pomodoro method to help me stay focused, is doable, I hope!

What about you–have you ever tried, or at least heard of–the Pomodoro technique, and if so, how did it work for you? Have you made any new friends this week, in person or otherwise? What would you do if that was looking in at you through an ice cream shop window? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might be working toward, whether writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Writing and Raiding

This week has mostly been about the writing, between times of fatigue and headaches. I got a ton done last Sunday, but after that, the week started out slow (as in, nonexistent) on the writing front.

I was mad, because I had no one to blame for that except me. You see, I was playing too much Clash of Clans, figuring “oh, I’ll just go do one raid, then write.”

Except I realized that usually turns into “just one more raid” and “huh, let’s check out the clan war” and “hmm, I wonder how he did that” and watching replays of other people’s battles. Then the next thing I know, it’s midnight.!

So I decided that writing must come first, then raiding, if at all. That worked out as long as I felt well. (This has not been a good week, but I’m thankful that today was an improvement.) And yes, I did get a couple of good writing days in throughout the week, in fact, I got to the writing computer before dinner a couple of times (that helped a lot).

FasterBetterWhat I read this week: Still not quite done with the novel (though I’m really enjoying it!), which I will wait again to go over, but I also picked up a craft book that ties in well with this week’s efforts in upping productivity: Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle. There were a ton of great ideas in there about how to more effectively use time tracking to gauge where you are, and where you want to be, and also went over how this author writes a first draft of each scene by going from outline to draft in four steps. So if you are a writer who’s vehemently opposed to outlining, this book will probably be a lot less useful for you than it was for me, but I think there will still be some good tips in there. I am an outliner, but I still find some useful tips in books that are geared toward not outlining. What was interesting about this book is my approach is similar to hers in that I first do a very brief outline, then I sketch in each scene before I write it in with full details. The main difference with this author is that she breaks the “sketch-in” into two steps, and sketches out the whole book at once. She also emphasizes that every author works differently, and analyzing our own process like she did will help us find what works for us, and do that. She is also a big proponent of the Pomodoro Method of focusing and keeping on task. I tried writing in 25-minute increments, and that helped me immensely.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I only wrote four days this week, but with what I did today (I counted last Sunday’s work for last week), I still managed to add over 2600 words, which would have been more since I also deleted a good bit here and there (some of the scenes I worked on were mostly revision). So I see that as a win! This week, I want to finish one short scene I broke out of another, and revise two more.

What about you–how has your week been? Do you ever find yourself having a hard time staying focused on a task? Have you found anything to help with that? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or not? Please drop me a note in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

More Time Tracking

After last week’s post, seeing where I spent only eight on my actual writing, made me think a bit. It seems I spend so much more than that! But it turns out, that’s mostly on other, related stuff. Granted, I have a full-time job, and that takes up most of my time. But still, eight hours in all the evenings and weekend doesn’t sounds like much.

This week was a fairly uneventful one. Which to be honest, is nice. Of course, there was still a lot of this:

OK, I brought you the ball. Now what?

OK, I brought you the ball. Now what?

And some of this:

Her head does not make a good window

Her head does not make a good window

And even a trip to the pet store, with a visit to Bunny friend:

Isis and Rabbit

But mostly, I just did writing-related stuff. And this week, I actually gave some conscious thought to how much time I spent on that:

I spent a couple of hours  reading a research book. Of course, that’s reading, and it’s an interesting book, so that’s also something fun.

I probably spent a couple hours doing blog-related stuff (I didn’t track this very closely)–as in, getting last week’s blog up, visiting other blogs, responding to comments on my blog. Also stuff I enjoy, so no big deal. I actually read a lot more blogs, but I do some of that at work while I’m waiting for slow software to load and reload, so I don’t count it in my timekeeping.

I spent about three hours on a marketing workshop–there’s always something new to learn in this writing world, and this was some good stuff, worth the time. Just not actual writing.

I also did a book cover design this week. Before I was a software developer in my day job, I worked as a graphic designer for over 10 years, so it’s good to be able to put it to use once in a while. This was a project for a writing friend and one of my first readers. That took about seven hours–the model had pretty wild hair, which is tricky to work with when putting a person onto a different background. But taking the time to do it right is what makes the difference between a book cover that looks sort of (or very) amateur and “cut-and-paste”, and one that’s professional. She’s very happy with it, so it’s definitely a success. I’ll post it here when she’s ready to reveal it.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: In addition to the above, I managed to spend about nine hours finishing the revision markup on my WIP. Which is where I wanted to be. This week I have a few things going on in the evening, plus I need to start collecting tax stuff for the accountant, so backing off on the goals a bit: I’ll just shoot for getting the first three chapters revised. Even that may be ambitious; we’ll see.

What I read this week: Still the same novel as last week. It’s going slow not because it’s not good, but mostly because I spent so much more time with the book cover. I’m about 3/4 through it, so I’ll discuss next week.

What about you–do you think about how much time you spend doing various stuff throughout the week? Do you ever feel like you haven’t done much on a task, but when you give it some thought, you’ve done quite a bit? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Little Bits Add Up

This has felt like another busy week, even though I was home for most of it.

Monday was my daughter’s 19th birthday, so we took her out to dinner, and celebrated with presents (we’re having cake and family over today, and celebrating my brother’s birthday along with it). We got her a Nintendo Wii U, so of course spent time setting it up and playing.

That pushed paperwork, which is normally my Monday evening duty, off to Tuesday. Paperwork here is not trivial, as my husband and I own two small businesses in addition to my writing business. And the beginning of the month is always busiest for his businesses.

Wednesday, no one had gone to the grocery store, so we ended up going out to dinner–which I didn’t mind, except that it took a good bit of time, and once again, I didn’t get much writing done.

By Thursday, I was getting kind of twitchy. I wanted to write. I had that ending scene all blocked out, was excited about it, and wanted to just get it down, darn it, but I hadn’t had time, kept being pulled in different directions. That night, I retreated into my headphones while DH watched TV so I could make some progress. Yet I didn’t feel like I did, because there were still some lingering paperwork issues providing distraction. On Friday, DH was busy in the garage, but Isis was very insistent that I play tug-a-lamb with her, so not as much got done as I’d have liked. (That’s OK, a puppy’s worth it.)

It's hard to write when this is being shoved into your elbow...

It’s hard to write when this is being shoved into your elbow…

Saturday, having a whole day helped, but my adrenal fatigue was really kicking in and I didn’t feel like I did much, just a bit here, a bit there. I was also still not done with the ending scene, which had been my goal. Darn thing expanded into three scenes! (I consider it a separate scene when it’s a separate unit of conflict, or separated by time or place, which these all were).

Then I looked at my totals. I’d written over 3700 words this week!

A little bit here and a little bit there really does add up. Now if only I could do that with decluttering my house…

What I read this week: I finished Smith’s Monthly #5 (entertaining, as always!) and started a new book Friday night. I’ll have more to say about it when I’m further into it, so will discuss next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal for this week was to complete the ending scene, and while I didn’t accomplish that, I did get three other scenes written, so I consider this week a win. I’ve refined the plan for my ending scene, and now can see that it really is limited in time and place, so I think I’m finally there this time. So that’s once again my goal for the week: finish that ending scene. And again, as a bonus, list out what other scenes need to be inserted earlier in the ms.

What about you–ever had one of those weeks when it seemed like very little got done, but when you look back over it, a lot actually did? Can you believe Isis is 55 lbs (my husband got her weighed this week)? O.o  If you’re participating in ROW80, or even if you’re not, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.