Creating Deadlines that Matter

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a publishing contract, or in a writing course with submission deadlines that if missed will cost you money, it can be difficult to set and stick to deadlines. Why? Because we don’t really have anything really at stake.

Perhaps a pitch session at a conference/convention you’re attending is coming up, or your critique group has it’s monthly submission deadline approaching and you want something ready for it, and you’re writing and editing furiously to make those deadlines. But there’s always that voice in the back of your mind, the voice of your Inner Saboteur, reminding you that if you miss it, it’s OK. You can alwasy submit to your writer’s group next month. You don’t have to pitch at the conference, you can always submit to the agent/editor any time, you’ll just socialize with them at the conference, it will make a better impression anyway.

Without concrete deadlines, we can take our sweet time in completing our wiritng projects. We can always find things to edit and change, and it will never, ever, be good enough to submit.

Here are 2 simple ways to create deadlines that matter:

  1. Have an accountability buddy with an ultimate reward you BOTH want. Give yourselves a three-month deadline to finish a draft or finish editing a manuscript. If you BOTH achieve that goal in the time alotted, you BOTH get a reward, such as a hotel stay at a local convention. Make it something that you wouldn’t normally spend on yourself, and something that will make an event far more enjoyable. It has to be something you both want. It works, because you will find that while it is easy and OK to disappoint yourself by not having your work completed in a given time-frame, you don’t want to disappoint your friend. You are counting on EACH OTHER.  Does it have to be a hotel stay? No, but it should be bigger than a meal out or a movie.
  2. Plan ahead. Look for grants, contests, scholarships, or other submission deadlines. They all have specific windows of opporuntiy. Be aware of what those submission windows are well in advance, mark them in your calendar and work towards them. If you miss them, not only do you have to wait another year before you can try again, you may also be missing out on a financial opportunity. So just like the publishing contract or the writing course deadlines, missing out on these deadlines could cost you money.

Contact your local writer’s organization, or national writer’s associations like the Romance Writers of America, or Horror Writers of America, visit www.savvyauthors.com, and check out the websites of any conventions you plan on attending in the next year. See what they have planned, if there any pitch sessions, or if they have any grant or scholarships coming up. Mark it in your calendar and break down all that you have to do to be ready for that deadline. Find an accountability buddy, and go for it.  Make that deadline matter to you.

Join the conversation! What will you be working towards over the next few months? I have two submission periods: the first is due by March 31, and the other is June 15. A lot of work to do! Better get to it!

Just Watch Me

I’m stubborn. If someone makes a suggestion to me or asks something of me, often my first response is “No.”

On the positive side, my stubbornness is called persistence. I refuse to quit. I won’t give up, or give in. There’s a saying something like persistence is more important than talent. So I figure I’ll keep submitting and someday I’ll have outlasted all the other writers.

I’ve always been that way.

I will never forget when one of my teachers kindly informed me that I wasn’t going to ever be as good as one of his other students Needless to say, I was stunned and hurt, but I was also royally teed off. I remember marching home that day thinking, “What does he know? I’ll show him!”

This attitude has come in handy when facing my writing fears.

I fear I won’t complete my novel. I fear that it won’t be good enough. I fear that I will fail, that I am a failure. I have a choice.

I have a choice. I can adopt these fears and let them control me, let them stop me from writing. I did this for a long time. I still do, sometimes. They are at the heart of it all on the days I procrastinate. OR, I can face these fears, acknowledge them, use them to push me, but saying to them, “Just Watch Me!”

Fear: “You’ll never finish.”

Me: “Then I’ll write until I do. Justt watch me!”

Fear: “You’re not good enough.”

Me: “Then I’ll keep learning and practicing and growing until I am. Just watch me!”

Fear: “You are a failure.”

Me: “Then I’ll work harder, submit more, until I succeed. Just watch me!”

Fear: “You’re a fake.”

Me: “Am I? Then I’ll have to just fake it until I make it! I’ll just have to keep on writing and working at it to mee the standards others already believe I’ve set. Just watch me!”

You too have a choice. You can allow your fears to slow you down, to stop you, or you can embrace them, use them to push you in the direction you want to go.

Join the conversation! What are your writing fears? How can you use them to push you forward?

 

 

Just Do It!

day light in room through open door on stairs towards field on black background

We’ve all had times like these, where we talk with our friends about how we can’t find the time to write, and we just want to write but it’s so hard, and we hate our jobs because we want to write, but we never actually do any writing. The same happens when it comes to making changes to our routines. We can talk about changing and taking action all we want, but until we actually make those changes, nothing is going to be different.

I hate that rut, and I have a feeling you do too. Now is the time we take practical steps, we implement the changes we want, and we make our writing happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to make a list, to write down what you’re doing now in terms of writing, and where you would like to be. I asked you what the difference between the two was, and what needed to change for you to get to where you wanted to be. If you haven’t done it already, do it now.

I want you to be detailed. List the tasks and activities you do on a regular basis. This includes things like: coffee with a friend every week; house cleaning every Saturday, driving the kids to music lessons and hockey practice, going to the gym, shovelling the driveway/yard work, visiting parents, time with the nieces and nephews, helping the kids with homework, meal prep, watching The Good Wife and Blacklist. Write down all of it.

Beside each of the activities you list, mark off which ones you enjoy and which ones you don’t. Chances are, the activities you don’t enjoy, are the ones that are necessary to the survival of you and your family, such as work, cleaning, cooking, etc. However, of those activities, are there any of them you can delegate to someone else? Are the absolutely necessary that they get done as frequently as you do them?

For example: are your kids old enough to take on some of the household chores? What about your spouse/partner/roommate? Can they take over some of the duties? Are you in a position to hire a cleaning person to come in once a month to help out? What about the neighbours kids? Can you pay them to clean your driveway and do the yard work?

Is there a way you can use these activities to your advantage? If you’re taking your kids to music lessons or sporting practice, rather than gossiping with the other parents, can you use that time to write?

I have found that in order to make the changes necessary, it is important to start with one thing at a time, then add on. So start with one activity, the one easiest for you to eliminate, reduce, or delegate. I’ve done this by eliminating my specialty cable channels to reduce my TV watching time, though this still needs work; hired a cleaner to come in once a month to reduce the amount of time I spend cleaning because I hate it and take forever to do it; and I use my slow-cooker to make larger meals for left-overs. I also live in a Condo so while I’m not a fan of the maintenance fees, I don’t have to worry about snow removal or lawn-care.

So right now, I’m going to make a deal with you, a committment: I almost always write with the TV on, but I am far more productive without it. My promise to you, is that I’m going to watch less TV. A lot less TV. I’ll reduce the number of shows I record, and give myself at least 3 hours of writing time an evening without the TV on.

What is one activity you can eliminate, reduce, or delegate? Let me know in the comments, and we will hold each other accountable!

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 3)

Editing!

I’ve lost count of the number of writers who have said they loathe the editing process. I have a feeling a lot of this dislike for editing comes from our Inner Saboteur who continually ridicules us for not having perfect first drafts, convincing us that real writers don’t edit. Well, I hate to break it to you, but every writer edits their work. They may not enjoy it, but they do it.

I once read in a book on writing (I don’t remember which one, it was a long time ago), that said that no writer enjoys the editing process.

I do.

I love it.

There are times I enjoy it more than the first draft/creative exploration process of getting the words down on the page for the first time. And I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys editing. I have met a handful of other writers who love it too.

I want to share my thought process for drafting and editing, and the differences between the two. This isn’t the only way to enjoy editing.

The first draft: This is can include the outline, but essentially it is when we first have that enthusiasm for a story and get it onto the page. For me, this is very much an exploratory stage, getting to know the characters, the world, the plot, etc. This is when I get to immerse myself most in the story. It is new. It is shiney. It is mine. No one gets to see it yet. This is also usually a complete disaster with plot holes (even with outlining), and the most awkward sentences ever written. This is where I get to liberally spend my wordage expense account. I often find that as enjoyable as this stage is, it takes a lot out of me emotionally and mentally, in a very good way. This is often when I get that writer’s high as I’m writing. I get giddy after about an hour, and said giddiness can last a good 24 hours after. This is when I feel most productive as a writer because there are tangible results. An extra 1,000 or 2,000 words written.

Editing: I’m not talking specifically about fixing grammatical errors or typos here. I usually reserve that for the final polish. Editing for me often involves revising major chunks of the manuscript, filling in those plot holes, etc. The reason I love editing so much is simply this: when I edit, that’s when I get to develop and see the growth in my use of the craft of writing. This is where I get to play with the words, the sentences, to make each one say exactly what I want it to say in the most powerful way possible. Editing is where I get to really see the story take its true form, in all its beauty. This is where I get to take that rough piece of art and make it into a masterpiece. The structure, the core of it is all there. My creative self has done her job in coming up with a spectacular base. Now it is the true craftsman self that gets to truly bring it to life.

Did I always enjoy editing? Hardly. I have a few manuscripts in my drawer that are very polished first drafts. I thought that’s what editing was. But then I was challenged as I learned more about writing, to really dig and find the beauty in the story and bring it out. My first thought wasn’t that I didn’t like it (though I wan’t crazy about it), but that I wasn’t capable of it. It didn’t take long for me to discover I did have the tools to make my writing even better. When I realized that, I embraced the process.

What do you dislike about editing? What do you love about it?

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 2)

The more we learn about the craft of writing, the more paranoid we become, worried that we are not going to get the wording just right. When we worry, we’re not enjoying the writing.’

I’ll talk about how this relates to the editing process in a later post. For today, I want to focus on the drafting process.

Everyone’s writing process differs. If you’re like me, you like to get everything down first, edit later. Some people edit as they go. Some people write a chapter or scene, edit it, then carry on. In all of these variaitions, at some point, the words need to get put on the page first.  It is when we are getting the words on the page that we can find the joy in writing.

How?

By extravagantly spending your word coinage.

You see, unlike our actual bank accounts, we can’t overspend our word coinage. That means there are no word limits when we are drafting. It doesn’t matter if you’re aiming for a 800 word flash piece or a 150,00 epic novel. Don’t be afraid to write down everything that comes to mind — description, conversation — everything that is relevant to the story. If you can’t come up with the exact perfect word at the moment, write down placeholders (make sure you note them so you can fix it when you edit).

When you feel free to play with the words, when you are free of word limits and restrictions, your creative self will relax and the creativity will flow. And isn’t writing more enjoyable when the words flow?

When we let the words flow, we are immersed in the story and the outside worries of what others will think, if it is publishable, if it is marketable, will fade.

When we are generous with our word coinage, we are more comfortable with allowing more of the necessary emotion into the story.

I’ll ask again, isn’t it more enjoyable then?

When you’ve finished getting the words down, you can edit to get the words just right and to take out unnecessary words.

Author Challenge:

How thrifty have you been with your word coinage account? Loosen up the purse strings and let the words flow. What difference does that make to writing the next scene or chapter in your Work in Progress?

Levelling Up

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a fantastic holiday break during which I spent my days being nothing but a writer. I finished a first draft of a novel, and have begun major edits on another. Before I started those edits, though, I sat down and took some time thinking about what I need to do to elevate my writing, to take it to the next level.

The publishing industry is in major flux, with mergers and the growing number of small presses and indie-authors. The reading public is also more demanding, requiring constant improvement by authors. The quality of writing that may have won a major award a few years ago is now what is expected of the average author. I love the challenge.

That’s why I enjoy the editing process so much. I have grown to love fine-tuning the prose, getting things just right, making sure the creative dream I had when I first wrote the story, becomes clear, vivid, real. But it isn’t enough any more. I’ve grown as a writer and so what I wrote a few years ago and thought was great, now needs a lot of work.

Facing that challenge can be daunting, but being the stubborn person that I am, I chose to take it on, to prove that it can be done. After all, growing and learing is a life-long process.

Where are you in your writing career? Are you satisfied or do you want to take it to the next level? What one thing will you do to challenge yourself in your growth as a writer?

Consider hiring a Coach to help stretch you, and get you to where you want to be. Not sure that coaching is for you? I offer a Complimentary 45 minute coaching session. It’s a great opportunity to explore what coaching is really like, and if it is the right thing for you. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at sherrypeters @ outlook . com.

 

Other notes:

I am Guest Blogger today over at The Fictorians, discussing the importance of attending your local fan convention.

Don’t forget to sign up for the following workshop:

Plan for Success
January 20, 2014 – February 16, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

It is easy to create lists of projects we want to complete and goals we want to achieve. How often do those projects and goals get abandoned part-way to completion or even before they are started? No matter how good our intentions are or how hard we work to complete the projects, something seems to get in the way. This workshop is an intensive look at the four stages of project completion and how to overcome the fears that stop us.

Upcoming Workshops

I’m ecstatic to let you all know that I will be offering the following workshops in 2014 through Savvy Authors. I will update the links to the registration pages as they become availabe, so stay tuned to the little box on the right-hand side of this page. In the meantime, below is some information about what you can expect in each workshop.

Plan for Success
January 20, 2014 – February 16, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

It is easy to create lists of projects we want to complete and goals we want to achieve. How often do those projects and goals get abandoned part-way to completion or even before they are started? No matter how good our intentions are or how hard we work to complete the projects, something seems to get in the way. This workshop is an intensive look at the four stages of project completion and how to overcome the fears that stop us.

The lessons will cover:

Introduction
Fear of Dreaming
Fear of Failure
Fear of Upsetting People
Fear of Conflict
Wrap-Up and Q & A

Silencing Your Inner Saboteur Workshop 

June 9, 2014 – July 6, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

In this workshop, participants will identify the voice of your saboteur, recognize the tricks it uses to keep you from achieving your goals, and how to win the battle against it.

The workshop covers such topics as:
The source of the Saboteur
Identifying the Dominant Voice of the Saboteur
What the Saboteur Says
The Physical Manifestation or The Symptoms of the Saboteur in your life
Naming the Saboteur
Goal Setting
“Go away and never come back!”: Other ways to silence the Saboteur
But I have a Day Job
November 3, 2014 – November 14, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

Though we all dream of the day we can quit our day job to spend our days doing what we love, pursuing our passion, the reality is that for most of us, this may never happen, or it will not happen for years. So how do you find the time to do what you love, even change careers, when there are bills to pay, jobs to go to, kids to take care of, homes to clean, and so many other demands on our time? In this workshop, participants will look at the priorities in their lives and how to strike that work/life balance.

The lessons will cover:

Introduction
Is a work/life balance possible?
Prioritization
Goal Setting
Time Management
Wrap-Up and Q & A

For all workshops, supporting exercises reinforce the lessons, and I provide individual feedback to participants.

Coaching Conversations With. . .

In my other life I’m a Fantasy writer (Thus the reason for “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” being a tool for writers). I blame this imaginative side of me for what you’re about to read. Througout my trainging as a coach and now in my practice there is a lot of discussion about not judging the client or imposing my own values on them, which is all fabulous. But it makes the writer in me worry that one day I’ll have a client who needs help achieving their goal of becoming a serial killer. Now, given that the laws and my contract state that should I fear for someone’s safety, I can report the client, this shouldn’t be a worry. But then I get to thinking that maybe I shouldn’t judge the client and not impose my values on them. Then I began to imagine just what one of these coaching conversations would look like.

DISCLAIMER #1: This is not a real coaching conversation. Some of the questions asked might come up in an actual coaching session, but the structure and duration is much shorter than a real session.

DISCLAIMER #2: Any characters appearing in “Coaching Sessions With. . .” are fictional, I do not own the rights to these characters. This is my own interpretation of what they might say. This is not fan fiction. This is not, in any way, an attempt to alter or add to the canon of any given character’s story arc or the world of their creators.

DISCLAIMER #3: There may be spoilers ahead.

And now, I give you: Coaching Conversations With. . . Darth Vader

Me: Now, Lord Vader, we have 30 minutes together, what would be the BEST use ouf time together?

LV: I’m having trouble completing my Death Star. There are just so many distractions and demands on my time. And then there are these pesky rebels who want to blow it up. But I know that if I finish it, they will leave it alone. Why can’t I just finish it? There are just so many . . . Prioritization. I need to work on that. When to choke hold, when to plan tactical maneuvers, when to build.

Me: Priortization is the absolute most important goal for today?

LV: I think so. Maybe not. No. I’m just so frustrated.

Me: What would you like to feel instead?

LV: In control.

Me: And why is being in control important to you?

LV: If everyone would just listen to me and do what I tell them to, the Death Star would be finished already, and the rebels would be crushed.  Well maybe not crushed, my son and daughter are working with them. If they have half of my tenacity, they’ll be a challenge to destrly. But they’re my blood, for Palpatine’s sake! If the Empire would just listen to me, these rebels will be dealt with swiftly. I know how they think. I know what they’re up to.

Me: When you are in control, everyone is listening to you, doing what you tell them to do, who are you being?

LV: I’m actually a fun guy, you know. I don’t want to be all scary threatening with the choke hold and giving a lightsaber smack-down. When I’m in control, I can lauh a little, go for a drink with some of my underlings, regale them with stories of my pod-racing days.

Me: How would you know, at the end of this session, that you would be in control?

LV: You hear how raspy my breathing is? Everyone thinks it’s because of this mask. It isn’t. It’s because I’m so stressed out.

Me: So you’d breathe easier.

Lv: Yes. And I wouldn’t feel the need to kill so many for their incompetence.

Me: Breathing easy and calmer. On a scale of 1 to 10, how in control are you now?

LV: I’d say about a 4.

Me: And what makes it a 4?

LV: Not everything is a complete loss, I guess. My army, though they’re rather incompetent, at least they listen to me, and for the most part get done what needs to be done.

Me: And where would you like to be on that scale at the end of this session?

LV: An 8.

Me: What do you need to get you to that 8?

LV: A better HR department.

Me: How do you see yourself making this change of HR personnel?

LV: The current staff are as good as dead unless they can prove themselves. I’m going to review all the applicants for a while, until the new HR people know what it is I”m looking for.

Me: What else do you need to get that control?

LV: Fear. I need them to fear me. Obviously I haven’t been as thorough in my discipline as I need to be.

Me: What are some changes to your discipline that you need to make?

LV: I can feed them to the trash compacter dwellers. They’ll obey before their baby toes are nibbled off.

Me: Of these actions, changing your HR department and your methods of discipline, which one are you most committed to over the next couple of weeks?

LV: The discipline is the easiest one, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The HR thing is going to take a lot more time. I don’t know if I can do anything on it right away.

Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to making the changes to employee discipline?

LV: 10

Me: And when are you going to make those changes?

LV: As soon as I get back to the ship.

Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how in control do you feel?

LV: A 9

Me: A 9. What would make it a 10?

LV: Actually putting my plans into effect.

Me: What was the win of this session for you?

LV: I really needed to come up with a plan and I feel like I have that now. You can tell, my breathing isn’t so raspy. It will help me sneek up on my victims. Thank you.

Me: Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you.

What’s stopping you from moving forward?

It’s that time of year again: The beginning of the school year. Even if you don’t have kids in school or are not a University student yourself, or work in the academic field, September is always the mark of a new year. Fall is in the air and day trips to the beach are numbered.

How does this time of the year make you feel? Is it tough to get back into a routine? Do you find yourself disorganized and maybe a little harried? Are you putting your goals and dreams aside because you don’t have the time to focus?

The beginning of September is a lot busier than the summer, and often requires a lot of our energy that needs to be focused in areas where we haven’t focused it on in a while. Does this mean you need to put your goals and dreams on hold? The longer we spend away from our goals and dreams, the more difficult it becomes to get back to them.

What’s stopping you from moving forward on your goals and dreams? Is it the feeling that you don’t have energy? Do you feel like you don’t have the time? Did you take the summer off from it thinking you would get back to it in September and now you think that because you’ve taken so much time away from it, there is no point in going back to it?

All of these thoughts are from what I like to call our Inner Saboteur., that voice of self-doubt that doees whatever it can to keep you from moving forward on your dreams and goals.

What if you were to take a few minutes a day for yourself and your dreams? What if you work on something related to your goals, maybe a side project that will help you achieve the end product?

What do I mean by a side project? As a writer, I might not have the energy or time to spend a few hours a day on writing, but I can do some research on the subject matter, or agents and editors. As a woodworker, maybe I don’t have the time it takes right now to make my masterpiece, but I can research material I might want to use and discover new techniques to the trade. If the goal is to take an exotic trip somewhere, maybe I could start with looking up locations, deciding what activities most interest me and which locations best suit those. Maybe I could set the budget for such a trip and start figuring out how I’m going to pay for it.

There are always small steps that can be taken even when your energy is at an all time low. If you take these small steps, you will feel your energy for that project grow and be ready to go in full when you do settle into your routine.

So what’s stopping you from moving forward on your goals? What step will you take to move forward?

The Importance of Networking

Last weekend I attended the amazing When Words Collide Festival in Calgary and it was a great reminder of the importance of networking.

Most often when we think of networking it is viewed as a means to finding a job or making sales. But there are other reasons to network.

Let me begin by defining networking. If it isn’t for job hunting or sales, what do I mean? Networking in this context means attending conferences, workshops, and social events, meeting new people and reacquainting yourself with old ones.

So often with our busy schedules of work and family commitments, we find our social circles narrowing and our connections with others not in our immediate workplace diminishing.

Stepping out to a conference, workshop, or attending social events has a few benefits:

1. Attending workshops challenges you in new ways, stimulating your creativity, innovation, and beliefs.

2. Attending conferences exposes you to what is new in your area of interest or your career, again stimulating creativity and re-inspiring you to refocus your efforts at work.

3. They allow you to interact with others you haven’t seen in a while, meaning you can rebuild and strengthen those relationships.

4. Is there anything as enjoyable as sharing something you love with others who enjoy it as much as you?

5. You will feel energized and refreshed when you return to your regularly scheduled routine.

6. You never know what opportunities might arise from these connections and challenges. Maybe an enjoyable dinner, life-long friendship, and adventure.

What other benefits do you received from networking?