Top Blog Posts From 2015

I love getting the yearly report from WordPress.com about my website traffic, top posts, and yearly insights. The most interesting part to me is the top five blog posts. The reason? Its a thread informing me what people coming to this little corner on the web are interested in.

Here are the top five posts in order. Some of these may be familiar to you, one may not be. It’s from 2012 and is still one of my top posts year after year.

Firework

1. Why You Should Keep Writing Despite A Full House (2015) – This post was about the birth of my fourth child and why it’s important for kids to see their parents pursuing their passions. (Click HERE to read it)

2. Are You A Writer Or Interested In Writing? Come to Jot (2015)- Jot is the free writers conference my writing group The Weaklings hosts around West Michigan. If you live in Michigan or even northern Indiana, check out this post. (Click HERE to read it)

3. Worldbuilding 101- Let’s Build a World Together (2015) – This is part of my workshop on building nominal worlds. I’ve taught it at two separate writers conferences. It’s strange to type that but I love that I’ve had that opportunity. (Click HERE to read it)

4. Use Dialogue to Advance Your Plot (2012) – This post is from 2012 and is still one of my top blogs. I plan to clean it up a bit and make it stronger to add more value to those to keep coming back to it. As it is from 2012, it’s not a very strong post but I wanted to leave it unedited for now so you may see how this site has changed over the years. (Click HERE to read it)

5.  What Do Your Kids See When You Write? (2015) – I am glad this one made it because this was my favorite post from the year. I write that not because it was wonderfully crafted, but because I lived this post. Read it again. You’ll see why. (Click HERE to read it)

Thanks for making 2015 a great year for Part-Time Novel. Stop by Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for more posts.

Join my email list at the top right of this blog to stay connected.

Live well this year my friends.

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Writer -Let’s Go. Moving Out Of The Mucky Middle

The beginning and the end of writing a novel each has their own separate energy. In the beginning, we have the thrill of the new idea and fresh words on the page. We have the joy of saying we are a writer!

The end? We see the finish line. It’s no longer some vague hoped for ending over the distant hills. We can see it.

What about the middle? This is a place of wallowing, where books go to die. This is where novels unravel, life happens, and we just stop moving.

How do we get out of this? How do we keep going when we know the road ahead is still long, our ideas might not be worth anything and above all, we are tired.

Bubbling Mud

There is no simple answer for this. There is a reason I have three finished novels and umpteen half-written ones.

The main reason I stop is that love is easily lost. When we are in the middle of our work it is much easier to complain because the story has lost its luster and is now more difficult than ever.

Difficulty gets a bad reputation. Because something is hard, that may be the very reason to go after it in the first place.

The next time you find yourself in the mucky middle do what long distance runners do. Write the next ten thousand words. Then the next. Focus on the small, short-term objectives of your story arcs.

Doing this four times is much easier on your mind than trying to get to forty thousand words.

Focus on the next marker, not the end. And above all, keep writing. I promise the work will be worth it in the end.

MY Writing Update

Writing time is precious. Using it well and not getting lost on social media sites and email is important if you want to have daily traction in your work.

This past week I tried to balance that as I battled to keep my unread emails under 100. The good news is I finished my goal of writing a blog and 1000 words a day on my YA novel. If you were waiting for an email from me now you know why I was such a jerk and did not respond!

typewriter

On Monday, I revealed a hilarious typo I did on my 7000 words in a week challenge. Click here to see what I wrote and why I think it’s wonderful to laugh at yourself and not worry what the internet might think.

Writing a book can be a taxing thing, especially when we have a full life. On Tuesday, I asked if writing gives you joy or sucks the life out of you. It was my most popular post this week. Click here to read.

If you’ve been writing for a while and just feel like you are going no where, click here to read Wednesday’s post. I ask the question – What Do You Need To Take Your Writing To The Next Level?

If you are alive and not a zombie, sooner or later a life challenge will arise. A birth, a job change, a illness, etc. Click here to read What To Do When Life Happens To Your Book.

Self-Publishing carries with it the thrill of entrepreneurialship and for some, the stigma of typo-riddled garbage. Click here to read the discussion of Would You Self-Publish, Why Or Why Not? 

Saturday’s post was my pat on the back. I apologize if you feel I bragged but I was proud I wrote a blog a day and 1000 words a day on my book. At work it was the last full week of the fiscal, we had two of my daughters birthdays, a big birthday party, and had family in from out of town.

This was somehow balanced with a forty hour work week, sleep, and spending time with family. Okay brag over. Click here to read the completion of the My Novel Recomit 7000 words in 7 days challenge. 

If you are struggling with your book know that writing does not come easily. The muse is like a cat and shows up when they want to show up. Our job is to be there consistently and give that occasional magic the opportunity to be applied to the page.

7000 Words In 7 Days Completed

When I announced I was going to do a My Novel Recommit challenge to get back to writing every day again, I didn’t realize I’d selected one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a while at home and at work to do it.

But I did it. 7012 words in 7 days.

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Photo Credit: ®DS via Compfight cc

Many days I wrote until 1230am was up in the middle of the night with kids and then up at 630. It was rough. In the middle I knew I couldn’t do it. In the end I powered through. It’s always a thrill to meet a deadline.

If you joined me in the challenge, thank you. You helped me stay accountable. Special thanks to Maria Berg for competing.

I am going to put the books on the backburner for the next two weeks as I finish the preparations on my talk at the Breathe Writers Conference on Worldbuilding. I’ll tell you more about it later.

What I learned the most from this writing challenge is that no matter the tools or limited time that you have you must keep writing. That is the one and only key to being a writer and for some reason its the hardest thing to do.

I hope you find sometime this weekend to write. Create a challenge or be ready when I put another one up on my blog next month.

 

My Writing Update

I’m putting the finishing touches on my Jot Presentation and the organization that surrounds the conference. Not a lot of other writing time. Join me for this free conference in Three Rivers, MI on September 12th. If you have not signed up, please do so HERE. The sign up is for seats, not a charge. Again, the conference is absolutely free.

Next up is rounding out my Breathe Conference presentation on Worldbuilding. My books will have to wait, but I’ll submit a few short stories this week.

Photo Credit: mbshane via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mbshane via Compfight cc

BLOGS FROM THIS WEEK

With any project or career we get to the point that we ask ourselves Should You Throw In The Towel Or Try Harder? check out this blog if you are struggling with this question.

Blogging can suck up our time. In the blog Can’t Find The Time To Blog? Create A Blog Checklist I discuss how I have shaved twenty minutes off my blogging time.

On the journey to our writing we can get tired. This post discusses what to do when we feel exhausted and need to rest Do You Ever Get Writer’s Burnout?

We all want more of something. More of life, from our spouse, from our bodies, from our careers and our books. In Laziness and Fear The Two Roadblocks To Our Dream I offer up ways to overcome and succeed in these areas.

Our blogs can invade our lives like vines. They can grow into dinner time, steal the portion of our day we use for our books, and become something we loath not love. In Creating Boundaries For Our Blogs I show you how to reign in this invasive platform.

What Music Gets You Writing talks about the music that helps you paint your scenes or gets you in the mood to write. Please share the steaming service you use or music you enjoy while composing your novel in the comments section on this post.

Write well this week. Take advantage of any spare scrap if time!

Creating Boundaries For Our Blogs

I’m a novelist, but I’m attempting to reboot my blog. Because of this I occasionally skip my daily word count for my book to ensure I have a post. This has become my writing regiment – blog and then book.

But then I second guess myself. Should I build a platform for my book or write a book for my platform? This is the modern writers version of the cart before the horse.

It depends what you are trying to do. Are you trying to be a blogger or a novelist or both? If a writer, then make that the priority and create boundaries for your blog. If a blogger, focus on that and ditch the book.

Photo Credit: Arenamontanus via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Arenamontanus via Compfight cc

This question surfaced in my mind after I listened to a Simple Life Habits Podcast by Jonathan Milligan.

My desire is to be a published novelist. Mr. Milligan, in his simple brilliance, says to do the creative stuff first if this is the case. Work on your dream, book, piece of art, first. Then do the other things that surround it. Why? Because it builds momentum yes, but because this is why you are blogging in the first place. This is where joy comes from.

If you want to be a writer of books be wise with the limited time you have. Write what you desire to write, not what others say to write or what you feel obligated to write.

Work on the project you love, then sprinkle in the rest.

Do You Ever Get Writer’s Burnout?

We all get to that point. Where we are too exhausted to give any more to the world. We need sleep. Our eyes are blurry, our energy sapped, and our attitude irritable at best.

When I enter this territory, my mind will pose a question sooner or later.

Do I try harder? Or do I wait until tomorrow?

Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc

I have answered yes to tomorrow more often than I’d care to admit. But last night, I heard what that voice was really saying. You’re tired, do it another day. Even if it doesn’t get done tomorrow, it’s not a huge deal. You’re burnt out.

I have been staying up late and getting up early too much over the past two weeks. A lot of it was because of fun tasks I enjoy. I’d written a blog or two almost every day, posted on another blog twice a week, wrote on my novel, prepped for a talk at a conference in two weeks, and sent in a proposal for another talk in October.

Usually during a blitz of activity like this, I become a super hero and write like a maniac. Then, I become the super bum, and have little taste for it. How do you find that balance?

For me, the first thing to understand is that I cannot sustain this output. Something’s gotta give. Either my sky high expectations or projects. Often it was the expectations and I’d try to cram in everything. At times, I would stay up until midnight and then try to wake at five or six to get projects done before the kids woke up.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a robot. I need rest just like everyone else and I needed to figure out a way to get it.

I know that getting proper rest would make me more alert at work, more patient with my family, less irritable, and prone to working with a better attitude. I sat back and realized I cannot have both manic activity and sleeplessness.

Thus, I’ve recommitted to sleep and care of myself just like I did with my blog. I will wake early only if I go to bed on time. If I feel the push to finish something in the evening, I will refrain from rising early.

This is the best answer I have to burnout. Do you have any suggestions?

Can’t Find The Time To Blog? Create A Blog Checklist

Time. There is never enough of it. As sobering as that is to consider, you and I still have the same amount as Michelangelo, Charles Dickens, Homer, etc., an elusive twenty-four hour block.

And if we want to publisher to consider our work, we need to have a platform AND still have time for our books.

Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc

I sacrificed my blog this summer to work on my book because I could not find the time. But after revamping my writing goals, I committed to my platform once again. To do this, I created a game plan and tried to write faster by using a blog checklist.

What is a blog checklist? It’s the essential ingredients to most of my blogs.

  1. Strong opening paragraph, just above the posts image. This may sound prideful but it’s the cornerstone for the rest of the post. This is the hook, the question, or the issue.
  2. Solid image. Not something cheesy or overused or confusing. Just a good photo (I use free images from compfight with proper accreditation) pertaining to this post.
  3. Write in 2-4 sentence paragraphs. Keeps it clean, tight, and readable.
  4. Include personal or relative story. I’m a story teller, so it’s only natural I tell something about myself, family, or closely related story.
  5. Include Interlinks, I try to include at least one, this will help readers connect your ideas and get more familiar with your content.
  6. Closing statement, challenge, or call to action.

I put together this post in about forty minutes. A year ago it would have taken about an hour. This comes with practice and making sure you have a system, however, no system fits all.

If you have tips or tricks to write faster content please share below. I hope you find this posts helpful and encouraging. That, I hope, is always my intent.

How do you win the blog versus book battle?

If You Don’t Succeed Is The Journey Worth It? Lessons From A Failed Novel

Over ten years ago I had a grand vision for a book series. I still do. I wrote the first book over and over again until I had about seven drafts. After much toil I decided to lay the book to rest. It was hard but it was time to move on.

Have you ever experienced this? Great expectations followed by severe disappointment?

I ask this not just to writers or artists but to anyone in any walk of life.

Often we have a grand vision for how something should go, but all we end up with is a horrible mess.

This prompts a question that can only come from retrospect.

Was the journey worth it?

Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc

Leaving with high hopes and coming up with nothing may seem like failure. Perhaps it is the Top Five Strength of Positivity shining through right now, but I firmly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. We can have fresh restarts and life giving lessons from these experiences.

Take my novel for instance. I worked for over a decade on it and poured hundreds of thousands of words and thousands of hours all for a novel that ends terribly.

But I learned that finishing well is important. That a book cannot end openly, even for a series. I had outstanding critiques and input from friends that shaped it in a beautiful way and learned about the joy of community that every writer needs.

Most of all, failure made me a better writer.

Now, I have a new project. One that has a solid ending, good characters, and a focused POV from the start.

And I wouldn’t have any of this if I didn’t go on the previous novel writing journey.

So I’ll let you decide. Was it worth it?

How To Not Be Intimidated By The First (or Blank) Page Ever Again

Have you ever perused a gallery of half finished art? How about watched an unedited movie? Bought a book that has no ending?

Of course not. All of those things would be a waste of time. But this is what we do with our books. When we start, we think they are already on display and worry over every word.

We fret over the first line as if once it’s typed it’ll cure and we can never change it again. And then our book dies because of unfair expectation. But does it have to be like this?

Photo Credit: zetson via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: zetson via Compfight cc

Perfection on the first try is a myth. Or if it is perfect the first time it’s because the individual put in constant hours of play and practice out of the public eye. They tested new methods or perfected one and seemingly burst onto the scene.

But our pages, as well as a lump of clay or canvas, are places to grow and learn. They are what software developers call a sandbox. A place to test. A place to see what happens.

While it’s easier said than done to separate ourselves from our work like a software developer does, we’re doing the same thing and just need to change our mindset.

When you say to yourself that you’re creating a piece of art the pressure to be prefect shoots through the roof. What if you just call it a project or a product? Will this make your work cliché or a business rather than an expression of who you are?

I say do whatever you have to do to keep going. I trick myself all of the time to see where my latest project will go.

Put it this way, if you are backpacking across the Appalachian Trail mile marker one is not the place to gauge whether or not you are a professional hiker. If you stop there, you’d miss the bad weather and a possible bear encounter, sure, but also the views, other people who can share in your journey, and the joy of the distant finish.

So writer, don’t put too much pressure on yourself at the beginning. Writing is hard work as it is. Before you struggle to perfect the backstroke, there came the thrill and joy of just swimming. So just jump in and enjoy it.