How to Stay Productive With Your Writing

Book Binding - How to Stay Productive With Your Writing

The question I ask myself all the time, “Okay great, I have a project. Now, how do I stay productive and keep this project going on reasonable timeline?” I think everyone asks themselves this at some point. Here are a few ways I have come up with to stay productive on your writing project:

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3 Things You Need to Do When Your Hobby Begins to Feel like a Job

It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve actually stopped and enjoyed the process of writing. It came to a point where I would put things ahead of writing time. I had to prepare for my promotion, then I had to train once I received the promotion, then I had school, then I had tests, etc. Those things do take priority, but even during downtime, when none of those things were even happening, I still found myself saying, “It’s okay, I’ll write tomorrow.”

I became the one person I always blogged about, trying to avoid. I am the writer who talks about writing, but never actually does.

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Coming Back from a Hiatus

How this all started

Stack of Books on "Coming Back from a Hiatus"

I was in my senior year of high school, and I was trying my best to be a writer when being a writer had never been so accessible. Self-publishing was booming, and I wanted to boom right along with it. I read so many blogs, books, and articles on writing and publication. All of them suggested creating and cultivating a social media presence.

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Writing Topics for Creative Writers

Writing Topics - Notepad and Laptop

The struggle of every creative, fiction writer: coming up with new ideas. I constantly fear that the day will come where I have nothing new to write about, and while that is a valid fear, it probably won’t actually happen. There are countless blog posts with writing topics, story-idea-generators, and plenty of new fads that you can craft to fit into your own, unique universe. To help combat this fear, I am here with my own list of writing topics:

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6 Tips and Tricks for Strong Character Development

Strong, Developed Fictional Characters from a Manga

I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue against the idea that characters can make or break a story. In most cases, if not all, they are our guide through a story. More importantly, sometimes the story is their story. Regardless, your characters need to be compelling, or at the very least realistic in some manner. Now, when I say realistic, I don’t mean they have to be human, but they need to have depth. Much like ogres, your characters need to be like onions; they have many layers. Now, “how,” you may ask, “does a character get so onion-like?” Never fear, here are some tips and tricks to consider when developing your little onions… er, characters:

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Want to traditionally publish a fiction novel? Here are 10 things you need to know.

Here is a list of things every writer should consider/do/attempt when going for traditional publication:

The book needs to be finished before you start thinking about publication.
With memoirs and some non-fiction, you don’t necessarily have to have the book completed before you start querying. This is not the case at all with fiction. You have to have a finished, edited manuscript before you start querying for publication. Get that novel done.

Don’t post your work online.
I made this mistake, and I see many others make this mistake. If you want to send your work out to agents and traditional publishers, don’t post it online! It is considered previously published if you do so, and this includes on your own blog, etc. Granted, every publisher and agent have their own opinion as to what “previously published” means, but I find it best to avoid posting it all together. Want critiques? It is best to go through private channels (i.e. email, beta groups with a private setting, etc.). Better yet, just pass around physical copies to people you know. *Edit* Of course, as my dear friend Ann pointed out in the comment section, there is a chance you can remedy this mistake. You can edit. Edit your work to the point where there is little connecting the two pieces, thus, you have created something new. I have done this with a lot of older pieces. It works especially well when recycling works. Keep this in mind if you find a lot of your work fits into the “previously published” category. However, also keep in mind, this isn’t always a sure fix. Don’t rely too much on recycling. It’s always best just to keep the work off the web from the start.

Read the submission guidelines thoroughly.
The number one reason for rejection is because people did not read the submission guidelines. Don’t make this careless mistake when it is so easily avoided. Most people assume that if they follow the standard manuscript format, they’re in the clear, but every publisher works differently. Don’t assume the standard can just be passed around everywhere. Just read the guidelines.

Most publishers require a writer to be represented.
Publishers feel a writer needs to have representation to be considered for publication, which protects them as well as you. Think of agents as the gatekeepers to the publishers. If you can impress an agent, then a publisher will be more likely to take you on. Find agents, submit to them, then they will help you submit to publishers. Remember, agents think like publishers. Agents aren’t going to take on just anybody, and they have rules just like publishers, so read the submission guidelines and you may save yourself from a rejection.

Simultaneous submissions – to do it, or not to do it.
Simultaneous submission – a submission which has been sent to multiple organizations at the same time. There aren’t many publications (of the novel variety) that accept simultaneous submissions. It sucks, but they do it so they’re not wasting time on a manuscript that could be picked up any minute. Think of it this way. Let’s say I send you a manuscript for publication consideration. You’re in the middle of it and you think it is hella sweet. This is quite possibly the best manuscript you have ever read in your life (this may be a bit exaggerated, but work with me here), and right before you can tell me how much you love it, I send you this email:
Sorry, not sorry, I signed a contract with someone else. Peace.
Yeah, not cool. I know it sucks waiting around for, quite possibly, a rejection when you could be submitting to other places and increasing your chances, but there is a reason they do it. Don’t burn bridges by not following the rules.

Don’t lie about simultaneously submitting a manuscript, or its status as being previously published.
The worst thing you can do is lie (other than not following the submission guidelines, but we’ve already talked about that). It only takes a second for a publisher to find out if you’re lying. A quick google search of your manuscript, boom, there is your story posted for all the world to see. Those are potential customers they are missing out on because you’re just giving the work away for free. Why would someone pay for something they can get for free? Not a publisher or an agent. Don’t get yourself stuck by lying about simultaneously submitting.

It can take months before you hear back. Don’t pester. Be patient.
With the rapid advancement of technology, publishers have become more accessible to a much wider base of writers than when most submissions were solely through the mail. This means they’re getting mass amounts of submissions daily and sifting through that slush pile takes a long time, especially when they must find something worth publishing. Unfortunately, unless your name is Stephen King, your manuscript will be somewhere in that slush pile. Don’t be offended, Stephen King was in the slush pile at one point. JK Rowling, too. Many great writers have been rejected and trudged through the slush pile. Just wait it out. Most publishers will give you a general wait period in their submission guidelines, as well as a time you can inquire about your manuscript if you haven’t heard back — just one more reason to read the submission guidelines.

Sometimes, you just won’t hear back.
The way things are now, with such a large slush pile, you may never hear back. If you’ve inquired on your query and they’ve rejected your work, at least you heard back. If you wrote them and they still haven’t responded, just move on. There’s no point in dwelling on it.

If you are rejected, do not argue with the publisher/agent.
Just move on. There have been way too many horror stories involving writers fighting with publishers over being rejected. They took the time to reject you. They don’t even have to do that. It sounds strange, but you should be thankful they took the time to reject you. Don’t become one of those horror stories that gets passed around.

You read the guidelines, but you still aren’t sure if everything is right.
Give the publisher or agent a call. It can’t hurt. If anything, they will probably be happier you did. Not many people take the time to contact them about their guidelines. You aren’t wasting their time, trying to elevator pitch them over the phone/email, and you are saving them the trouble of rejecting you over small, stupid things. This could also help with your query letter, when filling that out.

So, are you trying your hand at traditional publication? Have you been successful? Have you experienced any of these things? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

Lissy

Where is “The End”

I’m at this point in my life where I am constantly looking back. Back at old videos, back at old photos, back at old posts, etc. So here I am, back at this post. This was the first post I ever wrote and published on my blog. How ironic is it that the beginning was about the end? Want to know what is even more ironic? I preached, repeatedly, in that old post that there is an end. You shouldn’t feel obligated to change things, to keep going, etc. Yet, here I am, going back to posts I thought were at one time finished, and keeping them going.

The reason I chose this post? I changed my mind. Simple as that.

There is an end, but it can always be changed, and here is why I changed my mind:

Fall of 2016, the last semester of my undergraduate degree. I only had my credit hour requirement to fill, so I had a chance to take classes I wanted, rather than¬†classes I¬†needed. I took an advanced creative writing class where the theme was “Ghosts.” Super cool, right? Anyway, we had one-on-one sessions with the professor. We were instructed to bring in a piece we wanted him to look over, and we’d spend the time talking about it. It was super generative and very helpful.

I brought an older piece that I’ve been working on, on-and-off, for the past year or two. He read it over, silent, for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. He stopped and said “It was fun.” I was pleased. I thought the story was done. I was ready to start writing cover letters and send it off to publications. Then, he asked me, “Why did you bring it?” I sat there for a while, mulling that question over. Why? Why not? I wanted someone with experience to look it over? I wanted someone to say “yay” or “nay,” to it? I wanted a lot of things, but I didn’t know how to respond. He clarified, “There’s a reason you’re still looking this over. If it was done, you wouldn’t bring it.”

That was so true. I wouldn’t keep looking at it if I didn’t feel there was something more. If I didn’t feel there was something I was missing, why wait to send it off? I didn’t have a good answer. Then, I remembered this old post I wrote, this post where I said there comes a time that you just need to stop. There is an end, and sometimes you have to force yourself to put it away. While I do think there comes a point where you start over-editing, over-writing, etc. I also think you shouldn’t settle. If you feel like something isn’t right, don’t stop writing. Don’t stop editing. Keep going because you may eventually find a better end than you had ever imagined.

So, I’m going to keep working on this piece. I am also going to go back and edit some of these posts because, let’s face it, they are definitely not done.

Be proud. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Be writers.

Lissy

4 ways to change your work environment for the better

Since finding my first real job out of college, I’ve started working with some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. It truly is a privilege. Even so, we all are very strong in our beliefs, opinions, and ideas, and that, of course, bleeds into our work. As I’m sure you can imagine, this causes a bit of tension. However, like I said, I work with some brilliant people, and they have taught me a lot about how I can alter my work environment for the better. Here are a few of those:

Respond, don’t react
When you get a seemingly passive aggressive email, post-it, letter, etc. it’s very easy to take that shocked, hurt, angry feeling and throw it right back at the person. It will probably feel good for a second, but did that really help rectify the situation? When you coworker gets your response, how do you think they will react? Don’t be the one who reacts. Stop, reread it, think through the message, think through the voice you might have used to read it initially, then craft a response. Try to assume the best so you can, hopefully, avoid the worst.

People aren’t mind readers. Over explain.
We have a bunch of processes at work to help ensure everything gets done as close to perfect as possible. Of course, people want to take shortcuts and may not do everything 100%. This will probably make your job harder. It’s very easy to get angry, complain, gossip, etc. again, though, try to assume the best to avoid the worst. If you must request new paperwork, if you must ask for more information, whatever you need to request, or request be fixed, try to explain why this information is pertinent to the process. They may not understand the importance of something and assume it isn’t important at all. Really, if they have never done your job, how would they know what is/isn’t important? Over explain, open your world to them, and maybe they will be able to see it from your side and do better.

Remember, everyone’s a middle man
This line was so eye-opening for me because it is so true. Unless you are working right under the CEO, the founder, the sponsors, etc. chances are, they are doing something because they told to do it by a higher up. They more than likely aren’t trying to make your life harder, purposefully. Try to assume that whatever odd, inconvenient request that comes your way is only coming through this person because it was forced on them. Makes the whole situation much more palatable, I feel.

It’s all about perception, so change yours
Pretty much everything I suggested prior to this point has been all about changing your own perception on things. The reason for this? Let’s face it, you can’t make people change. You can’t control the people around you, but you can control yourself. Change starts with you. If you assume and perceive everything as negative, then everything is going to be negative. If you can alter your own perception, then your work environment will begin to change. Of course, this is easier said than done. It takes a lot of behavior changes and mental exercises, but you’d be surprised how much changes based on your attitude. Change can happen. Go for it.

What do you think? Do these seem a bit too obvious? Have you done anything like this before? Are you going to try any of these tips? Let me know, and comment below! Thank you so much for your time.

Lissy