Use Your Time Well – Know Your Peak Writing Time

We’ve all done it, had that hour or half hour window of writing time set aside, are full of inspiration from something that happened to us that day or a thought that finally made sense to us, grab our laptop or notebook, find our favorite spot with our favorite drink or snack, turn to the page or the keyboard and….nothing happens. The magical window has been slammed shut and your muse has turned in for the day. You are left forcing something awful out of the dry wells of your creativity and you and I both know that it will either be tossed, or need such thorough editing that it may seem pointless to have written at all. But remember, trying is never a bad idea but forcing your writing means writing with your mind shut off and this I do not recommend.

One thing that will help in this situation is knowing your peak time of productivity. I have found this to be vitally important in understanding how I write.  It is not so much knowing if you write better at night or during the day but understanding the reality of your schedule.

Probably not their peak time

Let me explain. As much as I enjoy the thought (you may view this differently) of getting up at 5am and using the quiet peaceful hours of the day to get a few pages in, I find at this point in my life I cannot trust myself to do so. With countless other obligations it is easier for me to stay up one or two more hours (okay, sometimes four!) to get the work done since I am already awake. If I try to get up early I am usually exhausted and typically my fingers fumble for the snooze button. So for me, writing at night is the best time for me to ensure I actually write that day.

Some suggest to get the hard pieces out during your peak time. I concur. As much as you would like to get four pages out during that time it might just be better to work through a particular problem you’ve encountered. But, I suggest do whatever you can to keep the work flowing. When you encounter a time where the stars align and everything is moving in the right direction think about why it was so, and repeat it as often and as much as possible in your busy life.

Keep going my friends! Don’t stop.

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5 Opening Sentences (Or Paragraphs) Of Books You Must Read

Looking for inspiration to start that novel or chapter? Look no further. Here are five opening lines of books you must read.

1. Aeneid – by Virgil – Translation Robert Fitzgerald

I sing of warfare and a man at war.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel – Susana Clarke

Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic.

3. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone – J.K Rowling

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

5.  Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago-never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on the shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

When Backward Is The Best Step Forward

Have you ever had a time in your life when you asked people for advice on something you already knew the answer to? Sometimes, saying it outloud is enough to realize the answer. Other times, it takes a lot of talking to circle back around to your original suspicion. The problem is the answer is hard, or it is not something you want to do but, in the end, you give up seeking validation and do the right or original thing you should have done all along.

As a writer, or in any area of life for that matter, it is sometimes hard to admit that you are stumped or wrong. For the last few weeks I have been at a crossroads. I have been frustrated. When I’ve sat down at the keyboard and dedicated an hour or so to my story I found all my energy sapped. I would try to write a few sentences and force my story onward but it came out so clunky and so incredibly misspelled that I scrapped it. This happened many, many times and many thousands of words were deleted trying to find the plot threads I knew that were there. In the end I felt defeated by my own work.

This cycle went on for several days. I even tried to convince a few of my friends that I was headed in the right direction and it would be great and trendy and new. Many of them were kind, per usual, and encouraged me. A few others told me that I was not being honest to my story and that it would require me to go back and edit the rest of it.

I now look back and see that when I came to this crossroads I chose the wrong path. This is one of the most difficult things in the writing process. Knowing when you are wrong and do what good ole William Faulkner says,“In writing, you must kill all your darlings,” And kill my darlings I did, all of them. I had to do it for the betterment of my story and, it worked.

"Kill Your Darlings!"

Fresh starts in writing, or life, are sometimes all you need. Last night, I started a new word document and began writing and found the path. It was so tremendously satisfying I wrote for only a half hour and finished over seven hundred words. This is not a pat on the back for me, this is me celebrating that I was a mouse in a maze that kept finding dead ends. Now, finally, I see the path and perhaps, I am nearly out. 

Have you ever experienced this? That one plot obstacle that kept popping up? How did you overcome it?

Keep writing my friends.

6 Writing Tools

Along with the long drawn out babble that will typically dominate my site, I wanted to include a few tools that I utilize to improve my writing that may help you. Please use them at your will. Here are sites and brief descriptions on why they are important.

Duotrope.com – Here’s the tagline from the site – Duotrope’s Digest is a free, online resource for writers of fiction and poetry. It is easy to sort through, and hopefully once I finish my novel I will use it more often to enter short story contests. I can track where all of my submissions are and what the status is. Please use this one if none of the others I suggest. It’s worth your time as many of the contests offer payment and publication.

HiWrite.com  – A list of how to’s and to do’s when you have a finished manuscript and want to see what the next steps are.

Translation.babylon.com  – Why use it? – Because you may need to include some Romanian in your next book. I know I do.  Hello = Buna ziua. Or, if you are writing some far flung tale that you need basic greetings in another language.

Word Frequency Counter  – Simply drop your text in, hit submit, and gawk at often you use ‘that’ every five hundred words! This will help you see how often you use certain words and encourage you to diversify your vocabulary. When I feel a piece is particularly boring I paste the text here and, usually, I can see that I lack diversity, confirming my suspicions.

Writer’s Digest – A free site, with a download of 101 best websites for writers. Worthy of the perusal. They have a great print publication. I have a subscription to it and have referenced it quite often.

Writer’s Market – This is not a free site. However, sign up for the emails, they have some helpful tips. If you can afford the money this is a great site because it has literary agencies and will save you some time when sending out your query letters, so you don’t send your literary novel to a sci-fi only agency (no these do not exist).

If you have sites or tips that you refer to again and again, please share.

Don’t give up my friends. Challenge – 500 words done by tomorrow?

Keep Writing.

The Insurmountable

Have you ever thought of trying something new, something that required tremendous amounts of work like a new degree, remodeling the kitchen, or reading  Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ? I have, it’s called writing a novel.

Now imagine yourself diving into one of these, let’s say the new degree. After signing up for fall classes in a flurry you immediately begin dreaming about being the valedictorian of your year. Proudly you strut up the steps toward your classroom and sit down at the front of the class. Soon the professor begins talking and, to your horror…you understand nothing at all. This would not be that big of an issue  if you did not harbor the  feeling that you absolutely, unequivocally, must get an A or your life will be over!!

Unabridged Anyone??

Let’s take a step back. I am not sure how many people believe on their first day of classes at university that they will be valedictorian or even heap that sort of pressure on themselves. However, I submit to you, this is exactly what we do with our beloved infant novels.

We begin, like one would with the thrill of a new career, a bucket list cross-off, or our dream kitchen in mind (we will write not just the great American novel but one that will shake the foundations of the literary world!) only to have it come crashing down when we lose momentum as we stare at yet another blank page. Soon we scrap the idea, announce that we shall forever be a dog walker and sulk through life thinking we are a failure (if you are a dog walker, I mean no offense, but you want to be novelist remember?).

The reality is all along you were set up to fail — like having never climbed a little hill let alone a mountain, and one morning  you wake up and march to the foot of Everest with the idea of reaching the peak. You’ll probably die, and if not, your dream will.

If you are like me, when you finally have a scrumptious morsel of time to write, you sit down at your desk, table, car, wherever you write, and think you should be able to do five hundred words in thirty-two minutes and then edit them in five minutes and then write another five hundred words in the next sixteen minutes. But, in the end, you stump yourself.

I believe this is one of the big reasons people begin and then stop reading. This could be the reason you either struggle with your novel or have given up on it altogether. We place oppressive amounts of expectations on ourselves. If we don’t stop working, we sprint through it instead of allowing the story to come together leaving holes in our plots. Instead of enjoying getting to know our characters we cookie-cut them making them stale and boring. So the next time you take up your story, give yourself permission to take your time.

Think. Close your eyes and let the story unfold because giving yourself space to think and be creative may be all you need to overcome that all consuming blank page. Then begin.

What This Blog Is About

Five long years ago, I began writing, not because I had a novel in mind, it was merely an idea at that point. This idea has morphed into something quite different than from what I first intended but, an idea I have become more and more fond of. Now, I am here, five years later writing as hard and fast as possible to refine and polish that idea into the second draft of a novel before my second daughter is born in September.

While I would enjoy to prattle on and on about my own projects I am not here to tell you all about my work (though I will a little). The intention of this blog is to share  what I have learned with those who work full time, have children, are otherwise engaged, but still have the wild dream of publishing a novel someday. Thus, with all of the other responsibilities you and I juggle, I thought Parttimenovel would be a good title. I hope that through this site, my readers will be able to see my progress and triumphs as well as share their own. (Please do!)

For those beginning their work, you may be under the unfortunate impression that writing is something that comes easy and it sometimes does but, unfortunately, at such a rapid pace that it requires tremendous editing. It is more in the line of a job. For some it is a horrible job and you might soon discover it is not for you, having thought you could make a quick buck. For others it is a job occasionally but, more than that, a vocation, something we feel compelled to do. The enjoyment of words and the thrill of finishing a new chapter is something that cannot be subdued in our beings. We write, simple as that.

For a long time I struggled with the notion of calling myself a writer. I have not published anything (at least not in something that is still in circulation). I was not embarrassed of it, I just wanted to avoid the impending question that follows my response of acknowledging I am one which is, ‘so what are you writing about?’. I hated, and still do hate, the idea of conforming my novel that has been blooming and growing for five years into a one liner.

One of my good friends, who works in the publishing industry, always asks me to give him my pitch, the one liner that would define my work. When he asks, my mind swims with responses: I have to put hundreds and thousands of words into twelve words? Did I mention this is the first of several books? It’s not like other works, its… well… different! “How so?” he asks. That’s a good question. I hope to have that figured out before I am done.

Until next time, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing!!